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The plane touched down at LaGuardia with a thump. Grimacing, Dave Starsky glanced at the elderly lady sitting next to him by the window. She was eighty years old, first time flier. Her nerves were all over the place and he had engaged her in conversation to keep her calm. She reminded him so much of his grandmother that he had taken to her immediately.

Her name was Beatrice Agnes O’Rourke and she was moving to New York to live with her granddaughter Francine O’Rourke Mattingly. Beatrice was feisty and no-nonsense except for when the plane hit turbulence or the engines now and then changed their usual growl and he would simply hold her hand and bring up a new topic of conversation.

So far he had learned she was Irish-Catholic, her husband had died fifteen years earlier and she was determined to keep her home in Bay City, California until slight memory disturbances started and her eye-sight started to fail her. She had raised eight children and had thirty-five grandchildren and too many great-grandchildren to count. She loved to knit and play Chess. Her beautiful, professional granddaughter and husband Anthony were welcoming her to their home that had more room than the two of them needed.

“My goodness, that was a little thump was it not?” Beatrice commented, leaning forward to peer out the tiny window.

“Yes, Captain Kangaroo thought those who were sleeping needed a little wake-up jolt,” Starsky smiled warmly. Around them, passengers started unbuckling their seat belts with many loud clicks and became more mobile in their seats.

“David, I thank you so much for being my travel partner,” Beatrice smiled, reaching her hand up and placing it gently beside his cheek. “It has been most enjoyable. Being a first time flier, I am glad God gave me you as a seat partner.”

“My pleasure, Mrs. O’Rourke,” Starsky beamed, patting her hand on his cheek lovingly.
“I have to say, during our talks, if I closed my eyes it was like I was talking to my own grandmother, minus the Irish accent.”

“Ahh,” Beatrice grinned. “That’s nice.”

“I loved her so much.” Starsky sighed. “I’ve only got my mother now and that is where I am going, to spend two weeks with her.”

“You’re a good son,” Beatrice folded her hands in her lap. “But not to stereotype you, but aren’t all Jewish boys a good son to their mothers?”

“Yes,” Starsky laughed. “I have to claim that one. In my mother’s eyes, I do no wrong. Now my younger brother Nicky…” He only winked and shook his head.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to New York. Please remain seated and seat belted until the plane reaches the terminal. Weather today is clear, sunny skies with a temperature of 85’. Thank you for flying American Airlines and have a safe and pleasant stay in New York. Please remain seated while our elderly passengers and parents with children disembark fist.”

Starsky stood up and gently guided Beatrice O’Rourke out of her seat. He reached for the over-head bin and lifted the handle. Grabbing his carry-on and hers, he gripped both in one hand while gently taking her hand and guiding her towards the exit.

The stewardesses smiled and wished them well and Starsky walked slowly down the concourse with Beatrice’s soft, wrinkly hand in his arm.

“Now Mrs. O’Rourke,” Starsky said with a grin. “I am going to miss you. This is the best date I’ve ever been on.”

“Well, David,” Beatrice smiled, squeezing his elbow. “I feel like you are family. Isn’t it amazing how when you meet someone you have an instant connection that cannot be explained?”

Starsky almost miss-stepped but caught himself. He felt his heart hitch a little, and he recovered quickly. “Yes m’am,” he said quietly. “I know the feeling.”

There was a squeal and a crowd of people holding “Welcome, Granny” and “Beatrice O’Rourke family here” signs were jumping up and down laughing and making happy noises.

“That’s my family, David.” Beatrice smiled, hobbling along slowly. “I’d like for them to meet you.”

Starsky smiled as when they cleared the concourse the crowd surrounded them noisily.

“Please, please!” Beatrice said. They quietened down instantly. “I’d like for you all to meet my travel companion, David Starsky. He is a policeman in Bay City. His mother lives in New York. He has taken great care of me while traveling. He is one of us.”

Many hands patted his back, shook his hands, and smiling faces thanked him profusely for keeping their matriarch safe and comfortable while flying.

“It was my pleasure,” Starsky said honestly. He faced Beatrice and smiled. Bending down so she could gently cup his face he kissed her cheek. “Thank you, Mrs. O’Rourke. That had to be the most enjoyable flight I’ve ever taken.”

As he stood there watching her family surround her, he felt a tug in his heart as the memory of another elderly lady he had met in the hospital dying of cancer many, many years ago danced across his memory. To lighten his suddenly melancholy mood he sighed, “I’m just a chick magnet.” He turned, hurrying down to luggage to claim is suitcase.

The taxi-cab driver swerved expertly in and out of traffic and Starsky relaxed in the back seat. He watched as the dark brownstone buildings sped past and once they got off of the turnpike he was feeling more and more at home as they got closer to his neighborhood.

The cab pulled up outside his mother’s apartment and the cabbie got out, unlocking the trunk and grabbing the single suitcase.

“Enjoy your stay,” he smiled as Starsky pressed some bills into his hand.

“Thanks.” Starsky watched as the man hopped back in his cab and drove away. Glancing up to the fourth-floor set of windows that was the kitchen/dining area of his mother’s apartment, he hunched his shoulders and climbed the damp marble steps. Oh how many nights as a child had he sat on this stoop trying to catch a cool breeze with his father? The sidewalk where he learned to play hopscotch with Mildred Hurl? Marbles in the tiny patch of dirt near the trash bins with Mikey Prahl? Running to the corner store with Nicky to buy a popcicle? Candy bar? Bottled soda? He climbed to the top wearily and paused to look down the street. The bus stop was still there, and he shook his head and went inside the vestibule.

The old rickety elevator was still in use and he paused frowning. He prayed it was still in good working order and he stepped inside, pressing the number 4. It rattled, creaked, then began its slow movement upwards.

When it stopped, he yanked the cage door open and stepped into the same hallway he had each time he visited. He glanced towards his destination and trudged slowly towards it. Pausing outside his mother’s door, he smiled as he saw in a child’s scrawl with a pen knife: DMS and NMS. How his father had sternly explained to them about defacing property that wasn’t theirs. But he hadn’t sanded it out and re-painted it and he never recalled the super of the building getting mad.

He knocked twice then turned the door knob, frowning when he found it unlocked. Stepping into the apartment threw him instantly back to his childhood. The wooden floors were clean but worn, the furniture the same, the arms of the couch and two chairs covered in doilies to hide the worn places where many hands had rested. The coffee and end tables out of date and had lost their shine years and years ago, but also polished and clean. Photos of him and his brother framed on the wall from birth to a few as they grew older. His father’s police graduation portrait framed and displayed proudly in the living room on the wall near the TV. Their 8x10 wedding photo in a silver frame on the shelf near the kitchen door.

“David, is that you my son?” Miriam Starsky wobbled from the kitchen into the living room, adjusting her tiny frameless glasses.

“Yes, Ma,” Starsky smiled, dropping his suitcase and carry on the floor just inside the door. “Your door wasn’t locked again, Ma. How many times do I have to tell you to keep it locked?”

“Shh, shh,” Miriam shook her head with a smile. “Don’t scold your elderly mother the second you enter! I’m so happy to see you, David.”

“I’m happy to be here, Ma.” He closed his eyes as his soft-as-cotton mother hugged him tightly.

“My goodness, anymore when you come home through that door it is like Michael coming home.” She left the embrace, heading back to the kitchen shaking her head slowly. “You are your father’s twin, David.”

Starsky sighed, pushing the suitcase and carry-on closer to the wall so they wouldn’t be tripped over. He’d take them to his old room later. Smells coming from the tiny kitchen made his mouth water.

“Are we having an early dinner?” he asked hopefully. The plane hadn’t really served anything filling.

“Yes,” Miriam smiled, grabbing a towel and opening the oven door. “Pot roast with root vegetables, homemade biscuits, blackberry pie with vanilla ice cream.”

“You spoil me, Ma.” Starsky wrapped his arms around his mother’s waist and kissed the side of her cheek.

“It’s what I do.” She patted his hand, breaking away from the hug.

Starsky sat at the kitchen table and watched as his mother brought him a porcelain saucer and cup. She poured the tea and placed the sugar bowl and creamer next to him.

“Thanks, Ma.”

“It is a shame that Kenneth couldn’t make this trip with you.”

Starsky spooned three heaps of sugar and a splash of cream into his teacup. He sighed heavily and gently tapped the spoon on the side of the cup before placing it on the saucer.

“He’s busy, Ma.” He sipped the sweet tea and closed his eyes.

“You lie to your mother. Shame, David.” Miriam faced the sink, washing and rinsing what few cups and dishes she had and then placed them carefully on the plastic drain.

Starsky closed his eyes, shaking his head. He took a deep breath and then shrugged.

“He is busy, Ma. I’m not lying to you.”

“You need to go to temple, David. That’s twice now within seconds.”

“Ma!” He turned sideways in his chair and faced her back. “He is busy!”

“With what?” she asked, looking out the window to the street below. “You’ve been friends for many years. Partners as many. He’s always….always come home with you.”

“I know.” Starsky fought to keep his replies neutral. “He is finishing up some paperwork and then he is taking a trip to his grandfather’s cabin in Montana to unwind and do some fishing. I didn’t want to go fishing. So I came here.”

“Such a good boy.” Miriam turned, wiping her hands on her worn, stained apron. “Whatever is going on between you and Kenneth, I pray it is resolved quickly and without scars.”

“Ma.” Starsky sighed quietly.

“Okay, okay,” Miriam smiled, placing her hand on his shoulder and kissing his ear gently. “I love you, David. And I love Kenneth. I won’t bother you anymore about him.”

“Thank you,” Starsky smiled weakly. “So…what is on the agenda for tonight?”

*oo0oo*

 

Ken Hutchinson leaned back in his chair, winking at Anita as she glanced his way. She smiled back, grabbing a pilsner glass and filling it to the brim with beer. She hurried over to the table, placing it down with a thud, making the foamy suds trickle down the side.

“Where’s your better half?” Anita asked teasingly. “It’s weird seeing you without each other. Like y’all are lopsided without the other.”

“He’s in New York, visiting his mother,” Hutch answered, wiping the foam off of his moustache. “I’m getting ready to head to Montana to do some fishing.”

“I see,” Anita said, her hands on her hips. “Everything alright between you two?”

Hutch looked up quickly, his eyebrows vanishing in his bangs. “What? Of course it is! Why is everyone so concerned that we are on separate vacations? It isn’t like we’re married or going steady or anything!”

“Yeah, alright,” Anita rolled her eyes as she walked away. “We’ll play it your way.”

 

“Hey, brother!”

He glanced up and smiled as Huggy sat down beside him, in the chair Starsky would have occupied.

“Hey, what’s up?” Hutch smiled.

“Oh, same ol’ same ol’ just a different day,” Huggy said, leaning forward and folding his long brown fingers together. “What time are you flyin’ this town?”

“Oh…in another five hours,” Hutch said. “Already called ahead and let the caretaker know I’m on my way for a week of fishing. Can’t wait.”

“I bet.” Huggy said. He wasn’t full of conversation and eyed his friend quietly.

“Alright, out with it.” Hutch said with a sigh.

“What? Just enjoying your company.” Huggy narrowed his eyes. “Why, something stewing?”

“No.” Hutch shook his head. “It’s just that for the past two days everyone is freaking out that me ‘n Starsk are taking separate vacations.”

“It’s unnatural.” Huggy shrugged.

“How?”

“You’re always together unless one of youse is in the hospital.” Huggy looked him in the eyes. “An’ with the relationship takin’ it’s natural course….”

“Enough.” Hutch groaned. “Please…enough already.”

“Hey, I know it ain’t public knowledge but hey…just a concerned friend.” Huggy placed both hands in front of him in protection mode. “I love you guys. Just want y’all to be happy an’ all’a that.”

“Well, we are.” Hutch lowered his eyes, trying to hide the lie in his voice.

“Well alrighty then,” Huggy stood up. “An’ I am the Pope. Gotta bounce. Place needs my attention.”

“Catch you later, Hug.” Hutch finished his beer in four gulps and stood up, heading for the door.

The drive back to Venice Place was quiet except for the hum of his tires on the freeway and other vehicles racing by him. He merged into the turning lane for his exit and eased to a stop at the foot of the ramp. Looking both ways, he pulled across the intersection and headed towards his apartment.

Parking in the back lot of Chez Helene’s, he walked casually around the pink building and paused at the double doors that both the restaurant and apartment shared. Two couples thanked him with a smile, and he took the stairs two at a time and entered his apartment.

Checking his answering machine for messages, he sighed. The red light was solid, not blinking. He walked into his bedroom, grabbed his weekender luggage and a carry on and began packing.

After making sure his plants were well watered and the apartment tidy, he left a short note for the cleaning lady on what he needed her to do while he was away and the number he could be reached at in case of an emergency. He had already cleared everything with Captain Dobey, he had all the information on how to reach him if he was needed for anything.

Grabbing the two pieces of luggage, he closed the door behind him and locked it, leaving the spare key with Chef Lorenzo in the restaurant below.

By the time he got to the airport, he had mixed emotions. Happy and eager to be in Montana in the little cabin by the creek his grandfather had willed to him when he died and enjoy some down time and fishing, but sad and lost without his partner. Just the thought of Starsky caused him to inhale sharply, and swallow hard. Jesus. He’d never had it this bad before.

He looked up as his flight was called, and he got in line with countless other passengers eager to start their journey. He smiled at the stewardesses, thankful they were none that he knew and had dated. Finding his seat, he stowed his carry on and plopped down wearily, already irritated that his long legs had nowhere to go.

As the plane got in line to taxi, he was already done with this part of his trip. The woman sitting in the window seat began to bite her nails, spitting them to the floor. Tapping her knees together, she kept glancing out the window, then around her. Her eyes were wide and full of fear. The person in the middle was an older woman, she reminded Hutch of a teacher he once had in private school: her facial features pinched in irritation, her lips a straight line. Her hands were folded neatly in her lap and she occasionally glanced at him and the girl next to her, barely silencing her sighs.

“It’s always me,” he muttered as suddenly the airliner jolted forward and he watched as the front of the plane began to nose up, then he glanced out the window to see the buildings and ground start to fall away. The girl gasped, slamming the plastic visor shut. He groaned and leaned his head back in defeat.

Snacks and drinks were served, and the window seat lady must have gotten up twenty times to use the bathroom. Finally, completely losing it, the middle matron snapped sharply, “Young lady. There is no way in Heaven you have to use the bathroom that many times. You reek of cigarette smoke. There is no smoking on this flight. Now, sit down and relax before I call the captain.”

Hutch opened one eye to a mere slit to see the reaction of the window lady only to see her stuff a finger in her mouth, turn sideways towards the window, and rip another section of nail off and spit it on the floor. He shuddered and groaned, praying for the jet to pick up speed so he could end this miserable adventure.

By the time they started descending, Hutch’s nerves were bow-string tight. The woman in the middle and the window seat girl had exchanged sharp words and he was just waiting for the claws and teeth to start gnashing. The stewardess must have picked up on the tension and seemed to walk by more often, glancing their way. Hutch sat up straighter, smiling faintly at the two, knowing they’d soon touch down and he’d be on his way to complete this part of the trip.

By the time the plane landed, everyone was shoving to get off first. He calmly stood up, stretched, and grabbed his carry-on. He exited the plane, not looking back. The luggage carousel churned noisily, and he saw his bag, grabbed it, and hurried out to the bright sunshine and heat of the day. He luckily found the rental car kiosk easily, smiling bright for the young attendant.

“Good afternoon,” he grinned, leaning in. “I need to rent a mid-sized car.”

“We have many to choose from,” the girl blushed, smiling back. “Take your pick.”

He glanced out past her to the lot and smiled. “That Charger looks nice.” He produced his ID, driver’s license and the girl saw the gold police badge and smiled wider.

“My daddy is a cop,” she grinned.

“Well, tell your father a brother cop said hello.”

“I shall.” The girl quickly copied the license and ID, shoving the paperwork towards him to finish filling out and sign. “You have family here in Montana?”

“No,” Hutch said, scribbling his name at the bottom of the form. “I’m heading up to Coon’s Creek for some fishing. My grandfather has a cabin up there.”

“Oh my…that is really out there,” the girl said. “I hope you have brought protection.”

“Oh, don’t leave home without my side arm,” Hutch smiled. “Plus I know where my grandpa kept his guns and ammunition hidden and locked away.”

“Well, just be careful. Plenty of bears and coyotes and such out there.” She seemed genuinely concerned.

“I will be careful,” Hutch smiled, and as she handed him the keys, he let his finger linger just a little too long. Grimacing, he quickly winked. Old habits die hard. He could not afford to get caught up in something as messy as a weekend fling or one-night stand. He owed Starsky that much. This was one relationship that if it ended, it surely wouldn’t be because he couldn’t control his dick. Starsky meant too much to him to fuck it up.

By the time he left the airport and made it half-way to the cabin, he had to stop for gas and something to eat. Mildred’s was always a go-to that he and his grandpa had stopped at for both.

Mildred’s was nothing much to look at, and Hutch had noted that the uppity vacationers would simply cruise on by, not realizing what a gem they had passed up. Mildred’s was an old, rustic building with a crooked front door and a screen door that made your teeth ache when you opened it. The floorboards to the porch were gapped and chipped, the handrail rotting. He always wondered why the health department and building inspectors didn’t give them a citation for the rickety handrail but shrugged it off.

Inside was like stepping back in time. There was a long bar that took up one side of the building with a huge plate glass mirror etched in deer, bear, raccoon, possum, squirrel, and different kinds of fish along with frosted etching of whiskey brands and beer. The stools were red plastic, cracked and worn from many rear-ends planted there. The foot rests at the bottom of the bar were even worn from many boots and shoes scuffing it.

Mildred Danner looked up when he walked in, her face splitting into a toothless grin.

“Why, Little Kenny Hutchinson!” she said, her lips flapping where teeth should have been. “I am so happy to see you!” He dutifully bent down so the short woman could reach up and squeeze his neck, leaving a spittle-ridden wet kiss on the side of his cheek. When she turned to head back to the bar, he quickly wiped it clean with the sleeve of his shirt.

“Mildred!” he blushed. “It’s Ken now. Not Little Kenny.”

“I know, I know.” Mildred placed her hands on her plump hips and grinned. “God, I miss your grandpaw. Lord the stories and flirtations that man could sling!”

Hutch slid onto a bar stool, smiling at the memories. “Yeah, he was something else.”

“I swear I had my time with him more ‘n once,” Mildred giggled, shaking her head.

Hutch grimaced, wishing that vision hadn’t flashed in his mind. But, she was honest: Grandpa Gregory Richard Hutchinson sure was a lady’s man back in his day. Lord, the day they laid him in the ground, traffic to the funeral home and cemetery clogged the streets for miles. He sure had been a well-liked man. He knew everyone and everyone knew him and towards the end of his life, had more people doing for him and checking on him than Hutch would even begin to remember.

“Okay, Mildred,” Hutch glanced around shyly. “Let’s not bring up Grandpa’s conquests, eh?”

“Sure thing, sonny.” He watched as Mildred automatically poured him a mug of beer and then leaned against the counter. “Eatin’ anything?”

“Whatcha got cooking?” Hutch smiled.

“You name it, we go it.” Mildred glanced around. “Bison steaks, any type of deer meat…then the usual fare: chicken, pork, quail, goose, duck…”

“Mmmm,” Hutch licked his lips. “Let’s have a steak medium, turnip greens, carrots, and a slice of your rhubarb pie.”

“Gotcha.” Mildred waddled to the kitchen door, opened it and yelled “Steak! Medium! Turnips! Carrots! Rhubarb extra wide!” People nearest them jumped, then settled down to continue eating.

“Jesus, Mildred.” Hutch laughed. “Still got it.”

“Hey, livin’ out here, you gotta be loud to alert neighbors incase something happens.” She reached over, lighting up a cigar. She puffed slowly, squinting at him. “You going to the cabin by y’self?”

“Yep.” Hutch smiled. “Gonna do some fishing and relaxing.”

“Well, make sure your radios have fresh batteries.” She waddled over a wall of shelves and reached up on tip-toes and grabbed a box of batteries. She grabbed a handful and shuffled back, placing them on the bar top with a bang. “No charge, sweetie.”

“Why, thanks.” Hutch smiled, stacking the three packs of four batteries on top of each other. He sipped his beer, looking around and smiling at those he made eye contact with. His meal arrived and his jaw dropped. There was more food on front of him than he knew what to do with. Even Starsky would have been hard to finish any of it. There was enough there for three men.

“Eat up, baby.” Mildred sniffed, tapping the cigar ash on the floor. “Didja call ahead of time and have the cabin stocked?”

“Yes, Eldridge assured me everything was aired out and cleaned up and stocked.” Hutch bit into his steak, his eyes rolling back in his head. “Jesus, Mildred. No one cooks a steak like Herbie!”

“He’s an excellent cook.” Mildred looked around, pleased with the crowd in her crooked little establishment. She saw something that caught her eye and waddled away.

Hutch was surprised at how much he had eaten by the time Mildred came back by his stool and glanced up to see her plop a metal tray on the counter, filled with dirty dishes and used glasses.

“Pedro didn’t come in today,” she offered aimlessly. “Gotta cover for him. And Bootie is home with a sick baby. I swear that kid is always sick.”

Pedro was almost as old as Mildred and had been working for her since he dropped out of school. They had grown up together and pretty much called each other brother and sister.
Bootie was the local charity case: pregnant at sixteen and living in an old shack at the edge of town, accepting kindness from townsfolk and neighbors to survive. Her family had long since died off, and she was left to raise three kids by herself, her oldest was eleven, the second seven and the youngest one was four. Mildred had let Bootie work for her sweeping, stocking, washing dishes here and there to help supplement her state checks.

“There before the grace of God go I,” Hutch muttered, wiping his mouth on a paper napkin. He stood up, digging his wallet out of his hip pocket. Mildred slapped the ticket on the counter and he peered at it, nodding in acceptance. “Delicious as always, Mildred.”

“Expect nothing less.” Mildred blew cigar smoke out the side of her mouth as Hutch fanned it away with a frown.

The drive to the cabin took almost another hour winding through beautiful picturesque scenery. Mountains, meadows, and rolling highways. Eagles and hawks flew overhead screeching, and he smiled. God, how he loved being here. He grew wistful when the memories of being with his grandpa crowded his mind.

His grandpa had taught him to fish and hunt. Prepare for winter by chopping wood and stacking it in the two wood houses and three wood piles out near the old smoke house. He taught him to skin and salt meat to preserve for later use just like their ancestors had done. If he had to, he could survive at the cabin for a year or more if he were careful about his cupboards. Grandma had taught him how to can fruits and vegetables and how to dig out a root cellar for tubers like sweet potatoes, russets, onions, carrots, parsnips and such. He fancied himself a survivalist. He was pretty certain he could make it with no problem. This was the place to be: secure in a cabin with just yourself to depend on.

He started to get a little excited when he came upon the dirt road with the crooked mailbox leaning dangerously to the earth. He put his right turn blinker on out of habit as he was the only person on the entire road since leaving the lop-sided eatery. He bumped along, the thick dust cloud hiding him as he made his way down the lane. He grinned as he started to go through the single-lane rutted dirt road through a thick forest. The sun was hidden, and he felt the sudden change of temperature on his arm as it rested on the open window.

Another mile through the thick woods and he found himself breaking the clearing. A mountain sloped gently to his right, and a large flat bit of land with bright yellow flowers was to his left. In the clearing sat a pristine little cabin, weathered but taken well care of. He parked the car and sat back, breathing in the sweet air and eyeing the property.

The cabin sat back a little way to give it an air that the front yard was huge. The cabin was dark brown, Grandpa had never painted it. The roof was metal, Hutch had loved it when it rained and would always put him to sleep listening to the music of nature. A front porch took up the entire front of the house, with no less than six rocking chairs that were turned up against the house. The large window to the right was the dining room, the large window to the left the living room with one wall nothing but huge stones stacked with a fireplace so big when Hutch was a little boy he could stand up in it with no problem.

He climbed out of the car and popped the trunk, grabbing his weekender and carry-on. Unlocking the front door, he went in. His smile couldn’t be contained. He inhaled the stuffy smell and closed his eyes when he caught a faint smell of pipe tobacco. His grandfather always smoked Cherry Cavendish. It soothed him like nothing else in the world.

Turning to the right, he opened the dining room window about ten inches and then went into the living room and did the same. A warm breeze fluttered the curtains. He went down the hall past the stairs into a large eat-in kitchen and opened the window above the sink. He turned and went into the mud room and opened the tiny window there.

He came back through the kitchen, opening cabinets to find canned and boxed goods and when he opened the ice box, he smiled seeing lunch meat, cheeses, milk, eggs, bacon, sausages, soda and beer. Eldridge had thought of everything.

Grabbing his bags he had sat inside the front door, he hurried up the wooden stairs. To his right was the biggest of two bedrooms with its own bathroom and he plopped his bags on the bed. He opened the two windows facing the back yard, then went into the bathroom and did the same. He wanted air flow to chase away the stuffiness. The second bedroom, which had been his growing up, had not changed at all. It still had cowboy curtains and matching bedspread that his grandmother had made him. His twin bed with dull brass headboard was still against the window where he’d lay at night and listen to the creatures around them and watch the stars twinkle. He opened the window, leaning on it as he took a deep breath of fresh air. Turning, he saw his old desk which he’d never in a million years be able to sit at now with his height. Old books about the wild west and cowboys sat on the top bookshelf and stacked neatly were his old journals that he had written in dutifully detailing and immortalizing his childhood day to day activities and experiences to be read when older. Grandpa had got him started on journals.

He skipped back down the stairs and opened the back door, stepping onto the covered porch. Here is where grandmother had shelled peas, shucked corn, knitted and sewed. He saw himself as a lanky boy leaning up against the post as Grandpa read the Bible and sometimes Grandmother would sing hymns. God, he missed those days. So innocent and free and unburdened.

The ghosts of his grandparents were on every inch of the property and in every corner of the cabin.

There was a noise and he turned, realizing Eldridge had started the generator. Of course he did. How else would he have electric to run the fridge? He reached in his pocket and fingered the three packs of batteries. Hurrying back inside, he opened the pantry and reached up and brought down two black military walkie-talkies. He popped the old batteries out and inserted the new ones, clicking twice.

“Hutchinson, is that you?” a voice crackled loudly and made him jump. Laughing nervously and looking around, he clicked the handle.

“Hutchinson here,” he smiled. “That you, Tiko?”

“Si,” the voice crackled again. “I was told you’d be up this way for a spell. Just hit me up if you want company or need anything.”

“Will do.” Hutch turned the squelch down and placed the radio on the counter. Opening the ice box door, he grabbed two beers and then went out on the front porch, turned a rocker right side up and sat down to enjoy the quiet scenery.

 

*oo0oo*

Starsky blinked, watching the color TV Nicky had gotten their mother one year for her birthday. It was a newer model and had more channels now than what they had growing up. He sipped his long-neck bottle of beer and sighed. His stocking feet were propped up on the coffee table, his mother sitting quietly in her armchair knitting.

“Whatcha makin’, Ma?” he asked with a heavy sigh.

“Ramona…your cousin,” Miriam began, “remember her?”

“Yes, Ma.”

“She is having another baby.” Miriam made a tsk, tsk sound and blinked.

“Is that a bad thing?” Starsky asked, already bored with the conversation. He stared at the TV without knowing what the show was about.

“I guess not.” The click of Miriam’s knitting needles rapidly working together. Starsky secretly wondered if they’d spark and catch the yarn on fire. He chuckled softly at his silly imagination.

“How many children does she have?” Starsky sipped his beer.

“This will be Stoffer baby number six,” Miriam sniffed.

“Good Lord!” Starsky gasped, then closed his mouth. “That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Are they still living over on 84th?”

“Yes.” Miriam tutted some more. “I honestly do not know how they fit so many in such a small apartment.”

“Doesn’t concern us,” Starsky said tilting the beer bottle towards his mother. “We did fine with the four of us here and then when grandmother had to move in with us for a spell until she got that place over the Italian joint.”

“We did okay.” Miriam agreed. “But that is a three bedroom for eight people. I am surprised, that is all.”

“No privacy for sure.” Starsky sighed, slinking lower onto the couch. He glanced at the clock and then did some mental calculations. It was seven o’clock in New York so that made it three o’clock where Hutch was at. He glanced at the phone and sighed.

“Call him.” Miriam said, leaning forward to glance at the pattern instructions in front of her. She never really followed any given plan, she always made up her own.

“Who?” Starsky grunted, a faint smile tugging at his lips.

“Kenneth.” Miriam shook her head. “Who, he asks. Who else?”

“Ma,” Starsky sighed. “You just don’t give up, do you?”

“No.” Miriam glanced up. “Now when it concerns my two boys.”

Starsky dozed off and on, nothing holding his interest. He sighed, finally standing up and stretching. He padded into the kitchen and rinsed the beer bottle and placed it in the garbage chute. Yawning, he leaned out the kitchen window, searching the streets below.

Memories of kids out on the streets yelling up at him to come out and play. Kids playing stick ball, scattering when cars approached. Old men standing on the corner, leaning on lamp posts talking. Men sitting in front of store fronts on folding chairs, smoking, whistling at pretty women and speaking Italian. Girls walking by, coyly glancing up to see if he was at the window, watching.

“I’m gonna go in, Ma.” He leaned into kiss her cheek. “We’ll do something tomorrow, huh?”

“Alright, David.” Miriam smiled. “Sleep well.”

He grabbed his grooming kit and closed the bathroom door. He took a quick shower and brushed his teeth, placing the kit on the back of toilet. Climbing into flannel pajama bottoms, he crossed the hall to his old bedroom.

It hadn’t changed. Two twin beds flanked the window, almost touching there was hardly any room between them that you had to walk sideways. At the foot of each twin bed was a four-drawer dresser. Shelving nailed to the walls held trophies from sports he and Nicky had played in school. Some model race cars, hot rods, and an airplane or two. He grunted, pulling back the sheets and crawled in. The mattress was new, and beings it had hardly been slept on, was stiff and felt hard. He turned on his left side, scooting up so his head rested on the wall and his cheek on the windowsill.

Traffic still made its way up and down the street. Ladies yelled in their apartments, babies cried. Nothing had changed, only the people. The Garrison’s had moved, their children married and gone. The Fillmore family across the hall moved ten years ago. The only neighbors who stayed from his childhood was old man Loftus and old Mrs. Orchello. He remembered the day he had been sent to California how Mrs. Orchello cried and hugged and kissed him endlessly and old man Loftus simply pressed a five dollar bill in his hand and said, “Don’t spend it all in one place.” Laughing as if it was the funniest joke he had ever told.

Resting his chin on his hands, he sighed. What was Hutch doing? Was he already in bed too? No, too early. Unless he had gotten up early and gone fishing. He hoped Hutch remembered sun block. His skin was so fair and he burned easily. He closed his eyes shaking his head. Sheesh, he was starting to sound like his mother.

Turning over on his back, he folded his arms behind his head, nestling his head in his open hands. Sighing, he closed his eyes and wished his visit was almost over. He hated that he and Hutch had taken separate vacations, but without putting it into words, they both knew it was the best thing to do.

He smiled, re-living their jaw-dropping earth-shattering, heart-bursting realization that their relationship had taken a new level. They knew they loved each other. They were always together. But that one night…that one night…it was short of an atomic explosion and when the atoms settled and dust finally cleared, they had stared at each other in complete and total shock and wonder.

The day had been hot, humid, and the case they had been working on for three months came to a climatic close…but before they could take a step back and take a deep breath, they had gotten a call about a hostage situation. A drugged-out mother had grabbed her two small children and taken them to the roof of their seven-story apartment building and had them dangerously close to the ledge which was only three feet wide. When they had gotten there, it was a horrific sight. Racing to the top of the building, the woman screamed and cried that her children were the devil’s spawn and that the devil himself had told her they were to be killed to be reunited with him in hell.

Many neighbors had opened their apartments to the rescue units and police hoping they could talk the woman down. Starsky and Hutch huddled together, whispering a plan. By the time the fire department got on scene and more police officers, Starsky had climbed precariously out on the ledge as the woman backed up to the brick wall, her ankles even with the ledge. In each arm, she held a toddler who screamed and cried in fright.

But, no matter how great a plan they had worked out with the help of fellow officers, in the time Starsky grabbed one child and the cop who climbed out the neighboring window grabbed the other, Hutch grabbed the woman’s shirt as she fought wildly, the woman fell to her death. Hutch simply looked on in horror as the woman’s shirt danced in the wind like a flag as he clutched it with his fists.

That night, as Hutch roamed his apartment completely fraught with anguish at the young life lost, Starsky sipped his beer watching him. They had saved the lives of her two children, but losing their mother weighted heavily on the tall blond.

Finally, Starsky had gotten up, grabbed his partner in a hug and simply held on while Hutch mourned. How it happened, was of no matter. Starsky had simply held the man while he cried, whispering words of comfort and support. Without thinking, he had brushed Hutch’s neck and jaw with little kisses when suddenly, Hutch turned his face and their lips met. Freezing in place, they looked at each other with wide eyes and then, ever so slowly, their heads bent and they kissed slowly, exploring gently, in awe.

The next day, Captain Dobey gave them each two weeks off to re-group after the three month stake out ending in triumph and then the call that ended badly. They had shyly met up in Hutch’s apartment, suddenly at a loss for words. After a couple of beers, they had decided their two weeks off they should go somewhere. They couldn’t agree on where, so Hutch announced he was going fishing in Montana and Starsky would go visit his mother. They’d keep in touch by telephone when “things settled.”

They had discussed the need to sit down, hash out what went down with both cases, but stayed with the idea of self-imposed separation to dig down deep and come to terms with that the kiss and then more kisses meant to each of them.

Smiling, he gently touched his lips as if the kiss had just happened. He heard his mother moving about the apartment, the click of lamps as they were turned off, and then her soft footsteps as she passed his door to go to her own room. Moments later, he heard the bathroom door snap shut softly as she began her nightly ritual of getting ready for bed.

*oo0oo*

Hutch stood in the cold water, his rubber waders keeping him dry. The straps that held them up cut into his shoulders, and he had to wear two shirts to ease the irritation. He had his wicker basket cross-ways on his chest and his fly rod had new lures and string. He cast out, tugged gently, bringing it back in. By the time he called it quits an hour later, he had four beautiful trout to clean and have for dinner.

Wading carefully back to shore, he shucked off his waders and hung them on a low branch of a tree to dry and then went over to the old wooden table near the back of the cabin to gut and clean the fish. He grabbed the scraps and bagged them, walking back to the water to rinse the cleaned fillets in the clear, cool water.

Inside, he wrapped the fresh fish in paper towels and clear wrap and placed them on a shelf in the fridge. Back outside, he grabbed the scrap bag and began to walk a great distance into the woods. He dug a rough hole with the heel of his boot, dumped the bag carefully and then covered it back up. He was far enough away from the cabin that if a wild animal smelled the entrails they wouldn’t come to his place looking for scraps.

Back in the kitchen, he happily got out the old black iron skillet and greased it generously. He set out potatoes and onions and made some cornbread in a pan. While it baked in the oven, he fried the potatoes and onions, placed them in a warming tray and then fried the fish.

His dinner was simple, and he had enough for two more meals. Taking his beer out onto the back porch, he put his feet up on the handrail and sighed. This wasn’t working. He was missing his partner tremendously and felt that they should have hunkered down and dissected this new thing between them.

Hell, they were always close. They knew the second they shook hands at the police academy that something incredible happened between them. They could never put it into words but realized they had something special that needed no discussion but they protected and nurtured it with their lives. People around them teased them, made crude remarks and whispered behind their backs. But they had always ignored the rumors, knowing the truth. But now? How could they ignore what had happened between them?

He closed his eyes, examining the situation that led them to the kiss. They had been working a case that literally drove them insane with paperwork, under-cover work, and sleep deprivation. Of course, their emotions were running everywhere and of course they always comforted each other when their jobs beat them down or they were hurt.

But this was different and they both knew it. Shit. He grimaced, knowing they should be together right now, hashing it out like they did when things seemed confusing. They always bounced thoughts and ideas and suggestions off each other. That is how they always worked.

He heard a noise and stood up, leaning over the rail to try and see out front but couldn’t get a clear view. Sighing, he entered the cabin and headed to the front door. Opening it, he smiled. A dark-skinned man climbed out of an old ’57 Ford pick-up truck and turned, breaking into a big smile.

“Ahh, bueno verte de nuevo, mi amigo!” The man smiled broadly.

“Good to see you again, my friend!” Hutch grinned, stomping down the steps to wrap his arms around his childhood friend. “How have you been?”

“Cannot complain.” Tiko Morales smiled warmly. “It has been a while.”

“Busy with work.” Hutch turned, arm still around Tiko’s shoulders, guiding him to the cabin. “Have a beer with me.”

“That would be nice.”

The two men sat on the front stoop, drinking beer, reminiscing, and telling jokes. Hutch felt the weight of the world lift off of him and he relaxed, leaning against the porch post.

“So, have you had enough of this place already?” Tiko asked with a grin. “I mean…big city boy like you now alone in the country…”

“Never get enough of this place,” Hutch shook his head with a smile. “If I could, this would be my primary residence.”

“Maybe one day.” Tiko said.

As it grew darker, the two men went inside and Hutch pulled out a couple of board games and they played checkers, chess, and Life. When it got close to midnight, Tiko stood up, stretched, and saw himself out the door.

Left alone to pick up the games and empty beer cans and bottles, Hutch locked up and headed upstairs.

Laying across his bed, Hutch sighed. Maybe this was not a good thing, this being separated when they had so much to talk about that was seemingly new to them. Who had suggested the separation? Why had they agreed to it? This was not how they operated. Talking things out, heart to hearts, and listening was what they were about. He sighed again, rolling onto his stomach and looking out the window into the dark yard.

Smiling, and enjoying the warm, giddy feeling thrumming through his body of a new love being born…so new in its infancy full of wonder, promise, and plans.

“Guess we’re gonna have a sit down to end all sit downs in a couple ‘a weeks.” He mused softly.

Waking up the next morning, he grunted. He had fallen asleep completely dressed. Leaning out the open window, he inhaled deeply and smiled. There was nothing like fresh country air and absolutely nothing to do but enjoy the day doing whatever it was he wanted to do.

He skipped downstairs after a quick wash up and shave and teeth brushing to begin the morning ritual of preparing scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. The coffee pot had already been programmed and the robust scent floated through the cabin.

He grabbed his mug of coffee and headed out to the back stoop, chewing on a triangle-shaped slice of toast with butter and thickly spread apple jam. Sitting down, he squinted off to the tree line of the thick woods. He absently hoped the entrails from yesterday’s fish gutting were still buried, toying with the idea of wandering up that way just to check. But then again, he argued with himself what if a coyote or bear had gotten wind of the scent and were nearby? He shrugged at himself, knowing he’d make it up there before nightfall.

He spent the day wandering around the property, picking up limbs and twigs that had fallen from the trees, stacking them outside the woodsheds to use as kindling. He cleaned up the dusty rocking chairs and swept them free of cobwebs, sitting them upright and spaced neatly. Going back into the cabin, he went upstairs and unpacked, neatly stacking his under clothes, socks, and tee shirts in the dresser and hanging up his jeans and shirts.
Standing in the middle of the bedroom, he looked around. Boredom was never his thing, and he went back downstairs and grabbed a book from the huge bookcase, easing himself into a comfy armchair, and began to read.

*oo0oo*

Starsky stood beside his mother as she stood talking to Mr. Fleishman, the butcher. Some things never changed in his neighborhood. It was if time stood still, and he was once again a little boy hiding behind his mother’s skirts as the two adults chatted away. Mr. Fleishman had owned the butcher shop/grocery store ever since he could remember and now Mr. Fleishman’s son Peter was in charge. Mr. Fleishman was a little older than his mother, and how the two of them could stand and chat every single day amazed him. But then again, he and Hutch did the same thing. And they saw each other way more than his mother and the butcher saw each other.

“And Davey,” Mr. Fleishman said, looking up and over his black eyeglasses. “You still living in California?”

“Yessir,” Starsky replied politely.

“And still liking it a lot?” the old man turned away, reaching for his huge cleaver.

“Yessir.”

“You gonna move back and take care of your momma?”

“No, sir. I come back three times a year when I can.” He watched as the old man grabbed a huge slab of meat and dropped it with a thud on the chopping block. Blood spurted onto his greasy apron and some got on the tiled wall and glass meat case. He grunted and glanced at his mother.

“Now, Joshia,” Miriam said, reaching into her purse for her meager grocery list. “Please trim as much fat off as possible and try not to leave any bone. I’m paying for meat, not fat and bones.”

“Yes, Miriam.” Mr. Fleishman sighed, grabbing the thick strap that hung at the side of the chopping block and began to swipe the cleaver back and forth. Then, as if slicing through butter, began to hack off two nice-sized steaks and wrapped them in brown paper. He slapped a sticker on the paper and shoved it forward, sighing when Starsky reached out to receive them. “Now, Davey. I hear you still aren’t married.”

“No, sir.” Starsky began to jiggle the packaged meat in his hands. It always came to this whenever he came home to visit. If not from his family, then it was neighbors and friends of his mother’s.

“But he is seeing someone,” Miriam cut in quickly, eyeing the fresh cabbages and turnips in the brown crate on display.

“Ahh,” Mr. Fleishman smiled warmly. “That’s nice. But Davey, you are same age as my Peter. He is married with four children. You aren’t gonna give your momma any grandchildren?”

“He is seeing a nice blond haired, blue-eyed sweetie,” Miriam smiled. Starsky felt his face flush and beads of sweat break out on his forehead.

“Ma!” he hissed.

“Hush, David.” Miriam scowled, closing her purse and touching the tomatoes to her right. “I know these things. I am not an old, backwards woman. I am up with the times and understand these things.”

“But Ma!” Starsky squirmed. “Can we talk about this at home, please?”

“Certainly.” Miriam smiled at Mr. Fleishman and turned to wander down another aisle.

They checked out the freshly baked bread and grabbed a crusty loaf and placed it in the plastic basket Starsky carried in his left hand. She also picked up four carrots, three potatoes, two onions, and then headed down another aisle to get a container of oatmeal, cereal, and waffle/pancake mix. Maple syrup rounded out her needs for that particular aisle and then she headed down the “junk” aisle. She grabbed some chocolate chip cookies, breakfast pastries, and little single-serve pies and cakes.

Peter Fleishman waited on them at the check-out, grinning.

“Davey!” he smiled, reaching over the counter to shake his hand. “I heard you were in town. How long you here for?”

“About seven more days,” Starsky smiled. “How’ve you been?”

“Busy.” Peter began to bag everything in Miriam’s two canvas bags and then reached out to give her change and her receipt. “Ramona is well. She is taking night courses to become a CPA. Kids are growing like weeds.”

Starsky grimaced each time any conversation gravitated towards children and grandchildren, painfully aware that he didn’t provide those things for his mother.

“That’s nice,” Starsky smiled politely.

“Mark is now fifteen,” Peter went on. “Marsha is thirteen, Melissa eleven, and Micha is eight. They are doing well, playing sports and bringing home Honors in school.”

“That’s the life,” Starsky nodded. He suddenly wanted to get out of the store.

“So, you married yet?” Peter asked with a sly grin.

“Now Peter,” Starsky said a little irritated. “You know damn well I’m not. If I were, you’d have heard by now.”

“Testy!” Peter teased, putting both hands up in front of him in surrender. “Must be nice to be free ‘n single.”

“He’s neither,” Miriam grabbed the lighter of the two bags and waited until her son grabbed the heavier one. “One day, one day.”

Starsky ushered his mother out the front door gently, shaking his head.

“Ma…what’s gotten into you?” he asked in exasperation.

“What do you mean?” Miriam asked, slowly making her way back to the old brownstone.

“You talk like me ‘n Hutch are….” He floundered, glancing around.

“Well, if the two of you after all these years haven’t figured it out, you never will.” Miriam huffed, glancing her son with a frown. “Davy, I saw the two of you the second time you brought Kenneth home. And the ladies that came never stayed in your lives for long. Like I said, I am up with the times and love is love. I am sure you understand what I am saying.”

“Ma.” Starsky sighed heavily. He just wasn’t ready to have that discussion with her. Walking back to the apartment, his mother went in the little optometrist store to have her glasses adjusted and then by the cobbler’s to check on the shoes she had dropped off to be re-soled. Starsky smiled, missing how in their neighborhood everything you’d ever need was within a two or three block radius. Not like California where you have to drive here and there for different stores.

In the kitchen, they emptied the canvas bags and Starsky began to put away the boxed and canned goods. Miriam took the two slabs of meat, seasoned them and then stuck them in the fridge until they were ready to cook. She grabbed her sheet pan, lined it with parchment paper and washed and diced the carrots, onions, potatoes and parsnips. She sprinkled them with olive oil, salt and pepper and some other spices and covered it with foil to season.

“Ma,” Starsky said, sitting down as she began to prepare her daily ritual of serving tea.

“Yes, David?” she filled the kettle with water and grabbed the two sets of porcelain cups and saucers, placing them on the table.

“We’ve gotta talk.” He sighed.

*oo0oo*

Hutch climbed a steep, sandy slope in the side of the mountain and carefully tugged at each bush that served as a grip to help him advance. He didn’t want to assume just because the bush was big and growing out the side of the mountain that it would automatically hold his weight. When he finally reached the top, he paused to take a drink of ice water from his leather canteen strapped to his back. He wiped the sweat from his face and glanced around.

It was so beautiful and standing on the little trail he glanced around with pride. The land was simply pristine with lush green grass, dark, rich soil and the mountain rose above him like a giant lion protecting the land. Meadowland stretched out beneath him, and his cabin was a tiny brown dot in the clearing. He leaned against the slope of the mountain, kicking the mud and dirt off of his hiking boots.

“Man, Starsk would really have loved this,” he mused. He closed his eyes. Only a few more days before the both of them would be heading back home to Bay City. He felt his heart leap at the mere thought. He had spent more nights than he cared to admit trying to picture in his mind how their reunion would unfold. It literally made him feel like a child on Christmas Eve. Smiling, he shoved off the slope and stretched, looking to his right where his hike would take him further into the mountain and the thick woods.

As he walked, the canteen on his back swayed with the movement of his body, and the weight of the rifle next to it. In a holster on his hip was his magnum he kept at the cabin in the gun safe. Both were loaded with added ammunition in case he came across a bear or other wild animal. So far, he had seen none…a quail, a fox with her two cubs, and some snakes that didn’t bother him. He had checked the buried entrails from his fish and it was still covered. Making his way deeper into the woods, he felt the subtle change in temperature as the sun was hidden from the thick canopy of trees. The different shades of green and browns and the scent of decaying vegetation and dirt filled his senses. He loved being outdoors and remembered fondly his father’s ranch and the many cattle and horses he helped to maintain. The strong pungent smell of animal dung that was scattered as fertilizer on the fields in the spring and the musty smell of horses, cattle and pigs often brought back strong memories simply from a scent.

The days when his mother would bake pies and fresh bread. Always had time for her baking, quilting, book club and other social gatherings but never time for him. His own father treated him as if he were just another hired hand on the farm.

But grandpa and grandmother let him know that he was their universe. From the age of eight until he graduated high school, he had stayed on this little plot of land every summer. He grew tanned and strong, his white-blond hair bleached by the sun and his eyes twinkling blue and alive with each day’s adventure.

He forged onwards, sliding down a steep path, tiny rocks and stones following his trail. When he hit the bottom, he paused to brush his hands off on his pants. He was shocked to realize he was almost back to his cabin…he had hiked the entire side of the mountain. He didn’t have his pocket watch on him, so he glanced up at the sky to see where the sun was. The treetops were too thick, so he pressed on, staying on the narrow strip of dirt trail.

Just as he crested the last hill, he looked down on the property and frowned. There was an old brown truck he had never seen before but he didn’t see anyone wandering around the grounds. Reaching for his magnum and checking the barrel, he carefully stayed in the tree line and advanced silently.

*oo0oo*

Starsky helped his mother wash the last remaining dishes from the delicious meal she had prepared. She had made coffee, placing it on a tray with two mugs, cream and sugar and some little cakes. While Starsky dried his hands on the towel, she carried the tray into the living room slowly.

“So you have it all figured out, huh?” he smiled as she sat down.

“Yes, David. I saw it every time the two of you came to visit,” Miriam said. “Am I wrong?”

“No, Ma. I don’t think so.” Starsky sighed. “But…it wasn’t so then…”

“And it is now?” Miriam looked up, hope in her eyes. “Everyone has someone to love, David. It doesn’t matter what package they come in.”

“Ma!” Starsky said, shaking his head. “You are freaking me out with how calm you are. I don’t even know…I mean…Ma!

“It’s not so hard.” Miriam soothed. “Have you talked?”

“No, Ma. We had a bad case that lasted a long time,” Starsky sighed. “Then immediately had a situation where a young mother died, leaving behind two small children. Hutch was trying to hold onto her while she was kicking and screaming on the ledge of her apartment building. Hutch had her by her shirt, and when she lunged forward, the shirt came off in Hutch’s hands and she fell to her death.”

“Oh, my goodness! David!” Miriam’s frail hand went up to her mouth, her eyes wide in shock. “Poor Kenneth! You should never have left him!”

“He’s okay, Ma.” Starsky smiled. “But…in the…whatever of the moment…I was comforting him…hugging him….and…and…we kinda…kissed.”

“I don’t need details, David.” Miriam smiled fondly, leaning forward to accept the cup of coffee her son had poured for her. “You do not need to explain to me. I just want you to be happy. And if it is with Kenneth, then I am happy.” She sipped the hot beverage carefully, eyeing her son as he shyly added cream and sugar to his mug. “Was Kenneth alright with this kiss? Is this something he wants with you, also?”

“I…I believe so, Ma.” Starsky kept his eyes on his Adidas sneakers, his cheeks red.

“You can look at me, David.” Miriam spoke softly. “It is nothing to be ashamed of. Love is love.”

“I can’t believe me, a grown man, is talking to you…my mother…about this,” he had to chuckle nervously.

“Well. Enough talk.” Miriam placed her mug on the tray and reached for a small chocolate cake. “Go…eat! When we finish this we shall visit some more, then retire. You have an early flight to catch in the morning.”

“Where am I going?” Starsky asked in wonder.

“Montana!” Miriam laughed. “Where your Kenneth is!”

*oo0oo*

Hutch walked around the truck cautiously, glancing around to see if anyone was hiding. He eyed the cabin warily, straining to listen for any movement or noise. He heard nothing. Leaning into the cab of the truck, he searched for anything that would identify the owner. A loud slam of a door whirled him around, and he drew his gun.

Creeping up the steps onto the porch, he flattened himself against the dark wood and listened. Someone was walking around inside the cabin and he took the safety off of his magnum. Gently opening the screen door, he stepped inside quietly. Daylight was fading fast, and he kicked himself for not locking the cabin before he left. He heard a noise in the kitchen and moved forward carefully. He peered around the doorjamb and then sighed in relief. There, at the stove getting ready to boil water for tea was a tall, thin woman with long, jet-black hair. He cleared his throat noisily and she jumped with a scream.

Whirling around, her brown eyes flashed dangerously as she grabbed a butcher knife from the knife rack above the stove. When she finally registered who he was, she lowered the knife and sank against the stove.

“Damn you, Kenneth Hutchinson!” she said, shoving away from the appliance and nestling in his open arms. “Damn you!”

“There ought to be a law about people simply entering someone else’s home without permission,” Hutch smiled, burying his face in the thick, curly mane of hair. It smelled of lemons. “Charity, how are you?”

“I am well,” Charity Longfeather smiled. “And how about my cowboy? How are you?”

Hutch felt the warmth creep up his neck and into his cheeks. Charity was his first sexual conquest. They had booth been thirteen years old and up in her father’s barn way in the back where the stacks of hay had been piled high, they shyly explored each other’s body. The hot, humid, summer’s day had them swimming in the creek and then racing around playing hide and seek and tag. They had climbed into the hayloft to wrestle and the wrestling became a little more than play. He remembered how Charity had paused, then leaned in to softly kiss his lips. He was no slouch. He had seen more than one girlie magazine in the bunk house on his father’s farm and had read every article he could find. At thirteen, his hormones were in high gear. Their first coupling had been clumsy and over before it began. He had his hand down her panties and she was stroking his cock. He came in no time, and panting and feeling like he had been put through his grandmother’s wringer washing machine, watched as she rubbed off on her hand. It had become almost an everyday thing to hide in the hayloft once a day until one day she came to him and said, “We gotta be careful. I’ve started my periods and I can get pregnant now.”

The very word “pregnant” had scared him to death. So afterwards, he had shyly produced condoms and their sexual trysts continued.

Charity was pressed up against him, her long arms around his back. She was so beautiful, and he felt her hot breath that smelled of peppermint gently caress his face.

“I am well,” Hutch smiled, his own arms around her waist, his hands locked together. “I didn’t know you were still around these parts.”

“I’m not.” Charity looked into his eyes. “I’m home visiting for a bit. Heard through the grapevine that you were here for a vacation. Thought I’d drive over to say hello.”

“Well, that is nice,” Hutch smiled. “I just got back from a hike. I need a shower and fresh clothes. I must be rank.”

“Smell good to me.” Charity leaned in and sniffed with a grin. “So…are we still single?”

“In a way,” Hutch said coyly. “There is someone I would like to have a relationship with. Will find out more when I get back to California.”

“Lucky,” Charity said. “So…that means…you are taken?”

“Have I committed my heart to someone?” Hutch grinned. “The answer to that is yes. Just need to see if the other person is interested.”

“So…does that mean we can’t play?” Charity pouted.

“Oh, Charity.” Hutch groaned as she pressed against him firmly, wiggling her hips against his groin.

“I miss you, Kenny,” Charity smiled. “Thought we could pass the time like the old days.”

“I’m sorry,” Hutch said gently. “But…I want to go into this new relationship with a clear mind and heart.”

“You’ve always been such a good man,” Charity leaned back with a smile. “You have an honest heart. Grandfather always liked you a lot.”

“We can still visit,” Hutch said, starting to shrug off his water canteen and rifle from his back. “Let me go take a shower and I’ll be down. I’ll fix us something to eat, alright?”

“I will get it started,” Charity offered.

Hutch hurried upstairs after locking the guns away in the gun safe and stripped down, stepping into the hot shower. It felt good, and by the time he was finished and dressed, he entered the kitchen just as Charity was placing two plates on the table.

“Nothing fancy or heavy,” Charity said as he sat down. She leaned over him, placing a gentle kiss on his forehead. “Tuna sandwiches, sliced tomatoes, carrot sticks, and tomato soup.”

“This is delicious,” Hutch said.

The two sat, ate their meal, and talked about old times. They laughed and told jokes, Charity’s eyes twinkling with merriment.

“Kenny,” Charity said after pushing her plate away. “I have something to tell you.”

“And what is that?” Hutch asked. He wiped his mouth with a napkin and leaned back in his chair.

“I am getting married.” Charity blushed.

“What?” Hutch gasped. “Are you, really? I thought you were always against marriage.”

“I was.” Charity stood up, grabbing their plates and glasses and took them to the sink. “I met someone in Kansas and we work together. We party a lot together. I got pregnant. I am about four months along.”

Hutch immediately looked at her flat belly, barely a swell showing. “Wow.” He felt a twinge, a little ribbon of jealousy sneaking its way up his back.

“I’m at peace with this.” Charity went on. “Nolan and I love each other, we’re just not in love. We’re good friends, like to have a good time. When we get lonely, we call on each other for companionship and sex. This happened without meaning but I am keeping this child.”

“You’ve always been strong,” Hutch said with admiration.

“We’ll get married so the child will have a name,” Charity continued. “The tribe is not happy. But, it is my decision. I’m having a boy.”

“Congratulations!” Hutch grinned. “I pray he will have more of your genes than this Nolan guy.”

“I just wanted to stop by and say hello.” Charity sighed.

“But you also wanted to have sex with me,” Hutch frowned. “Knowing you are pregnant.”

“I’ve always loved you,” Charity leaned against the sink, her arms folded across her breasts. “I’ve always dreamed of having your child. And sex with you is like nothing I’ve experienced ever.”

Hutch didn’t know what to say to that, so he kept quiet. The rest of her visit was spent on the porch, talking about their lives and work. Around ten o’clock Charity stood up, embraced him in a gentle hug, and kissed his lips softly.

“I love you, Kenny.” She whispered. “I am so glad we have always been friends.”

“Love you, too.” Hutch murmured in her ear. “I’ll always be your friend. I will always be there for you.”

That night, as he laid in bed, he hashed out the visit and began questioning Charity’s motives. He had always been the one to over-think conversations and situations, it drove Starsky insane. But he couldn’t help it tonight. Charity had wanted to go to bed with him, knowing she was pregnant with another man’s baby. Why? To maybe later on say the child was his? He hated how his thought process took weird, hurtful scenarios and he turned over on his stomach and fell asleep.

*oo0oo*

 

The plane touched down smoothly and taxied to the terminal. Starsky glanced out the tiny window, his left leg bouncing with anticipation. Montana was a beautiful state and he had been to the cabin in Coon’s Creek many times with Hutch. Hustling off the plane and into the concourse, he glanced up looking for the baggage claim terminal where he could gather his luggage. He bounced on the balls of his feet nervously, wishing he had called ahead to let Hutch know he was in route. He mused that neither of them had contacted each other by phone as they had promised. Hopefully, Hutch wouldn’t be upset that he would suddenly show up interrupting his seclusion. Starsky knew how Hutch cherished the peace and quiet of the cabin and the solitude it gave him to recharge his spirit.

Grabbing his suitcase roughly, he headed to the sliding doors outside. Walking the length of the glass front of the building, he stopped at the rental car kiosk and greeted the woman with a cheery smile. Filling out the paperwork and stuffing his ID back in his wallet, he took the keys and hurried to the parking spot printed on the key fob. Throwing his luggage in the back seat, he hopped in the newer model Chrysler and backed it out carefully.

“Ain’t the Torino, but this’ll do.” He mumbled, carefully looking both ways before pulling out of the parking lot into heavy airport traffic. He crept along until he came to a large parking lot and then pulled in and inhaled deeply. Reaching for the map he scanned it briefly and then smiled, merging back into traffic.

*oo0oo*

Hutch slept soundly. The exercise hiking and fresh air simply did him in. The sheets were cool to the touch and the gentle breeze floated through the window, caressing him and making him drift deeper into slumber. He had nothing to do today and sleeping in was on the agenda.

*oo0oo*

Starsky pulled into “Mildred’s” causing dust to rise sharply around the car. He hopped out, quickly entering the little eatery/store. He had to use the bathroom and wanted to grab a sandwich and water. After exiting the restroom, he leaned against the bar and smiled. The owner waddled up to him, squinting through half-opened eyes.

“I know you.” Mildred said, eyeing him up and down. “I’ve seen you before. You’re not from around here.”

“No, I’m David, Ken Hutchinson’s friend.” He grinned. “I would like a sandwich and a water to go, please.”

“City folk.” Mildred shook her head, shuffling to the door. “What kind ‘a sandwich, hon?”

“Anything…roast beef…turkey…” Starsky glanced around.

“It’s still mornin’,” Mildred drawled. “How about an egg on rye?”

“No,” Starsky made a face. “Just a water, then.”

“Lemme see what I can do.” Mildred disappeared through the swinging doors, mumbling.
Twenty minutes later she came out with a white paper sack and dropped it on the counter in front of him along side a Styrofoam of ice water with a plastic lid and straw. “Ham and cheese and one roast beef. Chips and dill pickle.”

“Excellent!” Starsky beamed, reaching for his wallet.

“Later. I will put it on Kenny’s tab.” Mildred disappeared through the swinging doors and he sat there, mouth hanging open. Grabbing his bag and water, he hurried back to the car.

Driving down the two-lane highway he reached in the sack and eyed the ham and cheese. Biting into the thick sandwich, he closed his eyes in bliss. He chewed while admiring the scenery. God, it was beautiful. His mind wandered to the past visits with Hutch and the hiking, fishing, and endless conversations sitting on the front porch drinking beers that had deepened their bond and friendship. He felt the tingle of excitement seeing Hutch again…it hadn’t really been two full weeks and he prayed that Hutch wouldn’t be too angry at his sudden appearance.

Then he felt a little twinge. What if Hutch had a lady friend staying with him? He groaned, suddenly unsure of himself. From that kiss held a promise that he took seriously. To him, the kiss meant something beautiful was starting to bloom and grow. From that kiss on, he had really backed off of searching for female companionship. He had plenty of ladies back in New York that he could have had casual dates with but kept his mind on his partner. Not like leading up to the kiss he had any female action like in the old days. He seemed more picky with his women after Terry…and if it happened, it happened and if it didn’t, he wasn’t concerned.

He cursed, missing the turn onto the dirt road that led to Hutch’s cabin. He drove another mile before he could find a place to turn around where tractors could enter a field. Backing out carefully, he gunned the Chrysler back to the missed turn.

The long lane jostled him in his seat and he eyed the thick forest around him warily. He still didn’t like the idea of wild creatures possibly being so close. After all, this was their home and he was an intruder.

The clearing finally came into view and he smiled at the dark blue Charger sitting in front of the porch. He pulled up beside it, cutting the engine and simply sitting there, looking around. All the windows facing the front of the cabin were wide open and he saw curtains moving with the early morning breeze. He opened the car door and quietly closed it. He shook his cup of ice water, taking a hefty swallow, swirling it around his mouth and then spit it out. He climbed the wooden steps and placed the cup on a table near the door. Reaching out, he gripped the screen door handle and tugged at it. It was unlocked and he shook his head. Doesn’t anyone lock their damn doors anymore? Who cares if you were in a busy city or clear out in the wilderness? Doors needed to be locked for God’s sake!

He stepped inside the cabin and cocked his head, listening. Everything was still and quiet. He walked softly towards the kitchen and saw the blue light blinking on the coffee maker. Hutch had set the timer and soon the machine would be filling the downstairs with the heavenly scent of the strong brew.

Smiling, he quietly climbed the stairs, knowing which way to turn to find his partner.
He made it to the door and softly pushed it open and then stood there as his chest filled with so much affection for the man sprawled out under the sheets that he thought he was going to pass out. He smiled fondly, his eyes raking over his partner’s still form in sleep. Hutch’s hair was sticking up everywhere and his face relaxed, his mouth open slightly. It was almost fully light outside and he walked over to the side of the bed and quietly knelt down.

Hutch slept on, unaware that someone was in his cabin. Starsky watched as his partner’s eyes moved underneath closed lids, a memory hitting him from another time when his partner was unconscious and the only movement was his eyes under heavily sedated eyelids. Reaching out carefully, he gently touched each eyelid with his thumb.

“Wake up, buddy.” He whispered softly.

“Uggg,” Hutch said breathlessly. He frowned, turning slightly away from Starsky.

“Hey,” Starsky smiled. He leaned in, his lips gently brushing Hutch’s forehead. “Wake up, Hutch.”

Hutch groaned, his arm plopping across his eyes, his right hand reaching for his morning erection. He gripped it, his right foot bracing his right leg as it bent. He licked his lips and groaned in his sleep.

Starsky rested his chin on his hand, and smiled. “Startin’ this party without me, Blintz? Lemme help you with that.”

He carefully reached out with his left hand and gently gripped his partner’s penis. Hutch moaned again, extending both legs straight out on the mattress.

Starsky boldly checked his naked partner out: pale, athletic body, tanned arms, neck, face and legs. Baby fine blond hair sparse on his chest, but a thick thatch around his penis that was a little darker. Hutch’s large hand curled around his penis, stroking slowly.

“Feels good, huh?” Starsky whispered. “You’re beautiful, Hutch. My God, so beautiful.”

Hutch muttered something and raised his hips slowly, then nestled back down on the mattress, pulling his cock straight up.

“Easy,” Starsky admonished, “Treat ‘im easy…don’t hurt him.” Starsky felt his own erection straining in his jeans, and he was shocked to find watching his partner stroke himself so hot and erotic.

Hutch sighed, starting at the base of his cock and pulling up, to where his finger and thumb met at the tip, pre-cum coating his fingers as lubrication on the way back down.

“Jesus,” Starsky groaned, unbuckling his belt and squirming out of his jeans. His bikini briefs barely contained his monster erection and he shucked off his jacket and shirt. “Here I come.” He grinned, sliding into the small space between Hutch and the edge of the bed.

Hutch instantly jerked awake, bolting into a sitting position, ready to strike with his fist in the air.

“Whoa! Stop!” Starsky said quickly. “Hutch…it’s me…stop!”

Hutch’s confusion slowly turned to amazement when he finally realized who was crawling in bed beside him.

“Starsk?” He blinked, swallowing.

“Who else would be crawling in bed with you out here?” Starsky smiled, stroking his own erection. “Thought I’d join the party.”

Hutch looked down, then smiled slowly. “Good lord.”

“Is that what you call him?” Starsky teased. “Mine’s Lil’ Davy….guess Lord Kenny isn’t too bad.”

Hutch fell against the mattress laughing, dry washing his face with both hands.

“You scared the shit out of me,” Hutch breathed. “I’m still trying to gather myself.”

“Lemme gather yourself for you,” Starsky reached down, gently taking Hutch’s cock into his hand, watching his friend’s face. “So…we gonna do this then talk…or talk first then do this?”

“If you let go now,” Hutch said quietly, “I’ll kill you and they’ll never find your body.”

Starsky laughed, leaning in to kiss the pink lips in front of him.

Staring at his partner in wonder, Hutch copied Starsky’s movements. Listening to Starsky’s breathing change, how his body seemed so tense, then relaxed, how is eyes looked hooded and smoky, the low rumbling in his chest simply turned him on like no one ever had.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Hutch whispered, moving up on his arms, nestling his groin against Starsky’s as he pushed Starsky’s thighs farther apart.

“Feels good, eh?” Starsky said quietly, reaching up to bring Hutch’s face closer to his.

As they both stroked, licked, kissed, and rubbed against each other, Starsky suddenly growled low and pulled Hutch tighter against him. Hutch instinctively moved a little faster, causing the friction between their cocks to burn hotter, then Starsky whimpered and gasped out loud, screwing his eyes closed as if in pain.

“Hutch….” He whispered through clenched teeth.

Hutch felt the hot wetness spread between them, and that alone for him pulled him over. His orgasm hit with such force that he thought his balls would fly out through the tip of his cock. The pain that came afterwards gave him slight concern, but as he laid on his back gasping for air, he felt the pain slowly subside.

“Jesus.” Hutch sighed, turning to stare at his partner.

“Gimme a sec,” Starsky swallowed. He reached down and touched himself gingerly, sighing. “For a minute there I thought the ol’ boy detatched himself and went into orbit.”

Hutch couldn’t help but laugh, shaking his head. “God, I love you. You know that.”

“Huh,” Starsky licked his lips. “After what we just did, I sure hope so.”

Gathering Starsky into his arms, he planted a kiss on the side of his forehead.

“You aren’t mad that I simply showed up without a phone call then,” Starsky murmured sleepily.

“Absolutely not.” Hutch grinned.

“I gotta tell ya,” Starsky drawled. “Ma was driving me nuts. She is the one who told me to get my butt here. She made the airline reservations before I even knew I was leaving her early.”

Seeing Hutch’s puzzled face, he went on to tell Hutch how his mother acted and what conversations they had had.

Looking simply amazed, Hutch grinned and said, “At least your mother is on board with us. Wonder how it will be when we tell my family?”

“Well, I’ll be by your side when the time comes,” Starsky said, turning to gather his partner against his chest. “By your side. Like I’m supposed to be. Nowhere else.”

End