It was the longest hour Starsky had ever experienced.
He paced the lobby of surgery as Kendra held Lola who had fallen asleep in her arms. Layla was on her other side watching the TV that was on a stand in the wall. She wasn’t interested in what was playing (she didn’t like Bonanza), but it was all she could do to keep from staring at her Uncle Davey as he took deeps breaths and sat against the wall in between paces.
Officer Sanchez was standing guard over the little family that might have seemed strange to most, but she recognized it as a loving one. Starsky wore the same expression that her girlfriend had worn when Sanchez was shot in the leg while on a call. Her girlfriend had to lie and tell the head nurse that she was her sister in order to see her after surgery.
It was different with Starsky and Hutch. They didn’t have to lie because they had always been partners.
She approached Kendra and asked if she wanted a cup of coffee.
She replied with a shake of her head, but Layla said, “Mommy, can I get something to drink? I’m thirsty.”
Starsky, who was sitting against the wall for the third time, stood and pulled out his wallet, handing Sanchez a couple of dollars.
“Layla, honey, why don’t you go with Officer Sanchez to the snack machine?”
She slid out of the plastic chair as Starsky handed over the money.
“I got it, sir,” Sanchez told him.
Starsky smirked. “You’ve helped a lot tonight. It’s the least I can do.”
She took the money. “Would you like anything?”
He looked at her for a moment and shook his head. “I’m okay…”
He sat next to Kendra after they left the lobby and put his arm around her.
“Your brother’s strong,” he said. “He’ll be okay.”
She sighed. “I know. He’s always been stubborn.”
Starsky chuckled. “Tell me about it.” He reached over and stroked Lola’s cheek. “The nurses should examine her.”
Kendra raised her eyes to him. “You don’t think they…”
“She said they didn’t, and I believe her. Still…she needs her vitals checked and she’s got a small bruise on her head.”
Kendra stroked her forehead. “She said it was from a Lincoln Log.”
He nodded, knowing the conversation was over.
The double doors opened, and the surgeon appeared. He was taking off his gloves and discarding them into a bin as he went to the lobby to meet them.
Kendra stood as she still clutched Lola and went to stand beside her brother-in-law.
“You his partner?” the surgeon asked in a solemn voice.
Starsky folded his arms. “Yeah. How is he, doc?”
He nodded. “He’s fine. We were able to stop the bleeding just in time.” He smiled as they both sighed with relief and hugged each other. “He’s just coming out of anesthesia so give him a couple of minutes before you see him. Room Four-D.”
Starsky shook his hand. “Thank you…ah, God, thank you so much.”
The surgeon left and Lola woke up as they continued hugging.
“What’s going on?” she said. “Is Uncle Ken okay?”
Starsky kissed her forehead. “Yeah, baby. He’s okay. We can go see him in a bit.”
Kendra held his arm. “You go first, hon. I’ll go get Layla.”
Dobey made it to the hospital and Edith followed him as she held Hutch’s baseball jacket over her arm. He had called her at her behest; she wanted to know what happened immediately regardless of the outcome. She left Rosie with Cal who was playing video games with a friend and told them to call the neighbor if they needed anything. Cal was old enough to watch his sister, but Edith’s heart was too cautious tonight. She left the phone number on the fridge.
She had taken the coat from her husband and tears filled her eyes.
He hugged her. “He’s in surgery. A stab wound.”
So she followed him to the second floor, but on their way there, Dobey spotted Layla and Lola with a blonde woman and Officer Sanchez.
Edith gasped when she saw the state of Lola’s clothes and dirty feet. “Oh, sweet Lord.”
“Honey, please,” her husband assured her. “She’s just fine.”
Layla and Officer Sanchez were smiling, and Lola ran up to them.
“Uncle Dobey! Uncle Ken is okay!”
Edith finally cried as she pulled Lola to her and hugged her.
Dobey smiled as he quickly wiped the corner of his right eye. “Good…” He put his hands on his hips. Edith took his hand and squeezed it and Dobey finally exhaled the breath he had held since the ambulance left.
Hutch groaned as his eyes fluttered open to a dimly lit white room. He suddenly flashed back to when he was severely ill, under plastic and struggling to breathe.
But his lungs were clear, and he felt lucid, at least. There was a humming in his ears, and he shut his eyes as he looked up at the light above his bed.
He felt fingers caress his forehead.
He felt the mattress shift as his husband sat on the edge.
“Take it easy, baby,” he said. “You’re on a lot of meds right now and you’ll need your strength when they wear off.”
Hutch lifted his bedsheet and saw that his torso was wrapped in white bandages. He noticed the specks of blood soaking through and lent back his head with a sigh.
“Hey. You fuckin’ scared me tonight, you know?”
Hutch grunted. “Baby…”
“You had me believin’ what you were believin’. That you were gonna die. Just like that.”
“I knew you wouldn’t let it happen…”
Hutch squeezed his hand. “Forgive me?”
Starsky stared at him and then laughed. “Of course I do…ya big dummy.”
He leaned in and kissed him. Hutch’s lips were soft, yielding, and no longer trembling.
“Are you okay for more visitors?” asked Starsky. “The girls are in the lobby.”
Hutch gave him a big smile and Starsky felt a rush of love warming his body. He thought he would never see that smile again.
“Yeah…but we need to talk.”
Hutch tried to sit up, but his husband stopped him. He sighed as he settled on his back again, taking Starsky’s hand.
“Remember…when we told Dobey that were engaged?”
Starsky laughed again. “You have it wrong, Blondie. I told him we were dating, and you blurted out that we were engaged. Even though we agreed we wouldn’t mention that part.”
“Honey, come on. I’m trying to talk to you.”
He noticed his cheeky grin and continued.
“Anyway, I couldn’t sleep that night. I thought I had messed everything up. You said it didn’t matter…we could elope…drive off in a Winnebago…stop wherever and whenever. Only the road following us…you said that, remember?”
Hutch pulled his hand to him and kissed it.
“Let’s get that Winnebago.”
Starsky blinked. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah…like you said, we never had a honeymoon. And since we’re leaving the force…”
“We’ll have all the time in the world.” He looked down at their hands. “You still wanna leave, huh?”
Hutch nodded. “I’m tired, Starsk. I know I’ll miss it, but…it’s time for a change. I can’t keep putting you through this.”
Starsky climbed into the bed and stroked his cheek. “I love you, Kenneth Hutchinson. It’s me and thee, baby. Always has been.”
“It has…sometimes I wish…I could have realized it sooner.”
“Better late than never, hon.” He kissed his cheek. “So…that’s a go on the Bago? Still wanna hide out in your grandpa’s cabin. No offense, doll, but given my experience with cabins, I think a hotel would be better.”
Hutch lightly giggled, the pain slowly returning to his injured side. “No Satanists in Two Harbors, Minnesota. The only thing you gotta worry about are phantom kangaroos.”
Starsky paused in stroking his cheek. “Excuse me?”
“You’ve never heard of them?”
“No such thing.”
“But you believe in Bigfoot.”
“Bigfoot’s been seen.”
“I’ve seen the kangaroos.”
Starsky frowned as they stared at each other. “I’m gonna tell the nurse to go easy on the morphine.”
“I saw one go into my grandpa’s chicken coop. Its eyes were glowing.”
“The locals call it ‘Big Bunny.’”
“Hutch, don’t make me press the button.”
Three Months Later
Starsky found Hutch in the kitchen chopping lettuce for the burgers.
“Babe, I told you to sit down. I got this.”
“I’m not an invalid, Starsk.”
Kendra and Edith were on the beach with the twins and Rosie and Cal. Kendra decided that she needed to spend time with the twins before flying back to Duluth, so she put in a Leave of Absence to the firm citing “family matters.” They stayed in the beach house and helped Starsky keep his head when he stressed about Hutch’s recovery.
When Kendra gave him a break, Starsky would teach the girls simple painting, and they would practice sketching or painting bowls of fruit or pictures from books. When Hutch got the stitches out from his surgery, Kendra drove him to his physical therapy appointments in his beat-up lemon so that Starsky could go to work. When he completed his sessions, he was given a cane to use for at least two weeks, but Hutch only used it for a few days before chucking it in the closet. His side got stiff sometimes but he was still able to keep his balance.
Dobey watched the water from the patio of the beach house. He was grinning to himself as the sun shone on his skin and the can of beer grew wet in his hand, but then he heard Starsky scolding his husband again and decided to intervene.
“Need any help?” he asked as he went inside.
“Yeah,” said Starsky. “Cuff him to the radiator so he doesn’t move.”
“Babe, I’m fine. I’m not even that stiff today.”
“You’re still recovering from a broken rib.”
Dobey smirked. “Are we grillin’ burgers or aren’t we?”
Starsky nudged Hutch. “See what happens when you feed the grizzlies?”
“Nothin’.” He passed by him with a tray of burgers, hot dogs, and chicken breasts. “Hey, Hutch?”
“Yeah, hon?” He started slicing a tomato.
“You gonna tell him?”
Dobey looked between his two men. “Tell me what?”
Starsky was already out the door and tossing food onto the grill, so Dobey went into the kitchen and stood across the island from Hutch.
“We, uh…” Hutch put down the kitchen knife. “We weren’t gonna do this until I was fully healed but, um…Starsky and I are…”
His eyes suddenly burned but he blinked back the tears.
“We’re leaving the force. At the end of the year.”
Hutch wiped his hands with a sheet of paper towel and raised his eyes to his captain.
Dobey was actually grinning.
“I had a feeling that was coming,” he said and took a sip of his beer.
“It’s just time for us to move on, you know.”
“You don’t have to explain yourself. In fact…maybe it’s time I told you anyway. I’m retiring next year, in March. The kids are growing up and I want to be there for them more…and for Edith, too. We have enough saved, and the pension won’t be so bad, so Edith and I are gonna plan a second honeymoon. You know we went to Vegas for our first?”
Hutch laughed. “Never would have guessed Edith to be a gambler.”
“Her father would be rolling in his grave. No she wanted to go see a show. We ended up going to a magic show and ate too much buffet food. Don’t tell her I told you, but I snuck down to the casino and won fifty dollars. Quick game of Blackjack. That fifty dollars started our first savings account.”
Hutch picked up his beer and tapped Dobey’s. “Thanks, Captain. For everything. And I mean…everything.”
They drank and Dobey asked, “What about the two of you?”
“Starsky’s looking into a Winnebago. Gonna road trip across the country. First honeymoon.”
Dobey frowned. “Yeah…you never had one, I forgot. Sorry about that.”
Hutch laughed again and finished slicing the tomatoes.
“Lewis! You got a visitor!”
He was cuffed and escorted to the visitor’s lounge of San Quentin. The guard sat him at the round table in the middle of the room where he was the only one sat amongst empty seats. It made Lewis feel cold in his thin prisoner’s garb.
A door squealed open, and another guard walked in with a girl with a short haircut that was dyed jet black. She wore high-waisted yellow and black plaid trousers with a torn Misfits t-shirt. Her black leather jacket was too big for her as she walked into the cold, empty room in her Doc Martens.
Lewis stood as his eyes brimmed with tears. “Janie?”
His sister walked to him as she cried, and they hesitated before hugging. Lewis glanced at one of the guards, who turned his head.
They embraced and held hands as they caught up. Janie was nineteen now and had never run away to Boston. Instead she hitchhiked with her girlfriend up to Portland, Oregon and they were crashing with the girl’s cousin. She got a job at a coffee shop and was playing bass in an underground lesbian metal band.
Lewis asked how she had found him, and she told him that a guy named David called her from Bay City Police Department.
“I never got to meet him to thank him for calling me,” she said. “But here we are.” Her eyes welled with tears again. “I’m sorry I never told you where I was.”
“It’s okay,” he said. “I’m sorry you had to find out where I was.”
Nathan Lewis was able to arrange a plea deal since he fully cooperated in the rescue of Lola Hutchinson-Larsen. He would serve nine months and then perform one year of community service. He was grateful for the sentence, and he found out that his service would be in a local soup kitchen where Starsky and Hutch volunteered every Thursday night. It was their idea, they told him, just to be absolutely sure he was serious about a second chance.
April 1984, Four Months after retirement
Fourth Wedding Anniversary
Grand Canyon, Arizona
The horse was named Butterscotch and she was a beauty of a golden mare with a blondish-white mane and tail, and Hutch eased her beside his husband who was riding a painted gelding named Caesar.
“Don’t grip the reins too tight, hon,” he told him. “Give him a little slack.”
“I still can’t believe you talked me into this.”
Hutch smiled. “Babe, come on, look around you. We’re at the Grand Canyon! One of the many natural wonders of the world and you’re sulking.”
“I’m not sulking.” He paused to straighten his black cowboy hat again as the horse bounced. “He keeps hopping like he wants to take off.”
“Then pull the reins a bit to slow him down.”
“You just said not to grip them!”
“Don’t grip them too tight, is what I said. You’re the one in control.”
Starsky smirked at him. “Apparently I’m not since I’m on a horse against my will.”
Hutch rolled his eyes. “You promised…”
“I know…I know,” he sighed.
They heard the light rush of water and turned a curve in the trail, and Hutch stopped his horse.
“Whoa, girl,” he muttered. Starsky tried to stop his horse, but Hutch reach over and pulled his reins, too.
“Thanks.” He looked out toward the blue that was snaking through the red soil. “What’s this?”
Hutch smiled. “That’s the Colorado River, Starsk.”
They shared a drink of water from Hutch’s canteen as they watched the river.
Hutch said, “Hey…you can pick the stop when he get to New Mexico.”
“Okay, then. Where are we going?
“I’ll give you a hint.” He ceremoniously cleared his throat. “In the late forties, an Air Force balloon crashed under mysterious circumstances. Those circumstances ended up being…”
Hutch let him have his dramatic pause.
He laughed and clicked his tongue, making Butterscotch continue down the trail.
“Yeah, it’s true! There’s pictures.” Starsky flopped the reins against the horse’s neck. “How do you start this thing?”
Hutch whistled and Caesar let out a grumpy huff as he bounced on his front legs before following them.
“We’re gonna go to Roswell on a conspiracy? What makes you think they’ll let us in, Starsk?”
“I was thinking of parking the Winnebago under the stars so we can make contact.”
“Contact?! I think the heat’s getting to you, hon.”
“Oh, so aliens don’t exist, but Minnesota ghost kangaroos do?”