They were going on holiday, alone for the first time in years. They weren't going far, only to a cabin up in the mountains an hour's drive from Bay City.
Starsky had tried to convince Hutch that they should maybe go somewhere a little more exotic but Hutch wouldn't hear of it.
"We can't go too far away," his partner had argued. "What if Pete and Robbie need us?"
"Do teenagers ever admit they need their parents? Mrs V's right next door." Starsky did his best to reassure Hutch. But in the end he capitulated, because he knew that Hutch's anxiety over their sons would ruin their holiday no matter how exotic the location. Being close to home would mean less reason for Hutch to feel any anxiety, and Starsky above all else wanted his partner to feel less anxious.
Of course Hutch being Hutch they couldn't leave until he had written numerous lists for the boys.
"And Uncle Huggy says he'll drop by every day just in case you need anything. And Mrs V will be cooking for you, so---"
"Papa." It was Robbie who interrupted. "We'll be fine."
"You see?" Starsky turned to Hutch, eyebrows raised. "Can we go now?"
Hutch smiled. "Yes." Then he paused. "Pete, I nearly forgot---"
"C'mon," Starsky growled, tugging Hutch through the door.
For a cabin tucked away in the middle of nowhere it was quite luxurious, not that Starsky would have minded had it been more basic. Being alone with Hutch, that was what was important.
He laid and lit a fire and then, once Hutch had brought in the last of their things from the Torino, he pulled Hutch down onto the thick rug in front of the fireplace and proceeded to make love to him, paying great attention to all of Hutch's most sensitive areas, and making Hutch cry out.
Later, in bed, Starsky was just about to fall asleep when Hutch asked him a question.
"Do you think the boys are all right?"
Starsky sighed. "They're fine, Hutch. Asleep in their beds, just like we should be."
There was a moment or two of silence and Starsky wondered if Hutch had fallen asleep.
"Thanks for insisting we do this. I love you, Starsk."
"And I love you. Now go to sleep and stop worrying."
The next morning Starsky sent Hutch out for a run, while he cooked breakfast. But he had to step in and perform an intervention when he noticed Hutch's hand hovering over the telephone.
"It's 8am, Hutch."
"You told the boys you'd call at 8PM. They'll still be in bed."
"Oh." Hutch looked a bit lost and Starsky stepped forward to kiss him. "They're fine. Now, go run, and stop cluttering up my kitchen."
So Hutch ran. He took an uphill path that cut through a large section of forest, where there was no sound apart from the thud of his feet on the path and the breath whooshing in and out of his lungs.
He had just arrived at the point where he could see beyond the trees and he knew that the path would soon split in two and he would be able to follow the downhill path back to the cabin.
Hutch stopped and bent over, breath coming hard. Ten years ago he would have done the run without needing to pause. Movement under the trees a short distance away caught his attention and Hutch straightened up to get a better look.
There was a woman, long brown hair caught up in a braid down her back. To Hutch it looked like she was digging.
He'd stepped off the path to get a better look and one foot kicked through a small patch of gravel. The woman turned, she looked startled and then, when she saw Hutch, she smiled.
"Hi." She practically bounced across the space between them.
"Hello." Hutch smiled, but he moved back onto the path. Early thirties, he thought, looking at her with a policeman's eye. Married, he noted the gold band on her finger and definitely no children, she wouldn't be so damn perky if she had kids. Hutch loved Pete and Robbie more than anything, well except for Starsky, but there was no denying that children drained your energy like nothing else.
"Are you staying nearby?" She stuck out her hand. "I'm Sally Pulaski."
"Ken Hutchinson." Hutch shook her hand and the woman beamed at him. "And yes, my partner and I are staying at one of the cabins."
There was a thoughtful look on her face but when she noticed his scrutiny she smiled. "We've got a cabin too. The upper path leads you right there. Say, would you like to come for a meal? Tomorrow? It's always nice to meet the neighbours, don't you think?"
Hutch mumbled something but found himself agreeing. It was only one evening after all.
"My husband likes to eat early, so shall we say six?"
Hutch nodded and agreed. The timing was great, they could eat, make their excuses and get back to the cabin in time to ring the boys and then the rest of the evening would be theirs. He grinned, waved a goodbye to Sally, and resumed his run.
"We're doing what?" Starsky exclaimed, when Hutch told him what he'd agreed to.
"It'll just be for an hour or so," Hutch countered. "It won't hurt us to be sociable. And it's not today but tomorrow."
"Good." Starsky pulled Hutch into his arms. "Cos I've got plans for today, that involve just you and me and absolutely no clothing."
They hadn't brought any really smart clothes with them, but they did the best with what they had. Hutch, smiling, reached across to do up a couple more of Starsky's buttons.
"Just means more buttons for you to have to undo later."
Hutch laughed and lent forward to kiss Starsky. "I intend to do just that."
The two men decided to walk to the Pulaski's cabin. It wasn't a long walk and, Hutch thought, it would give them a good excuse to get away at a reasonable time.
Hand in hand they walked along the path, enjoying the sunshine and each other. It was a walk they should do again, Hutch thought, smiling at his handsome partner.
"I was so afraid you would get lost." Sally came out of the cabin before they had even made it to the top of the path.
The two men were holding hands and Hutch saw the small look of surprise on Sally's face, but it was gone in the next moment.
"You must come and meet Drew." She beckoned them in through the door.
As they went up to the door Hutch noticed the small garden that had been laid out around the margins of the cabin. A multitude of colourful flowers vied for space and he could see that the flowerbeds went all the way to the back, to where a large blue pick-up truck was parked.
As they walked through the door the smell of cooking wafted towards Hutch and when he heard Starsky's stomach rumble, he grinned.
"That smells wonderful, Sally."
"Thanks, but it's Drew who's the cook."
Drew was short and wide, with a smile that was almost as broad as he was. "Hey, fellas."
He seemed disinclined to shake their hands, so Hutch gave a brief nod. "Ken Hutchinson."
"I'm Dave Starsky." Starsky grinned at Drew and shook Sally's hand. She giggled at him and Hutch had to stop himself from rolling his eyes.
"You both drink, don't you?" Sally held out two glasses of wine.
"Thanks." Hutch raised his to his lips and then his hand stopped. Discreetly he sniffed the wine and then placed the glass down on a nearby table. "Starsk." He put his hand on his lover's arm, just as Starsky was raising the glass to his lips, and shook his head.
"We could do with some more fire wood." Sally said, looking at Drew, and not seeing the fact that both Hutch and Starsky had abandoned their glasses.
"Why don't we get it?" Hutch suggested. "We don't want that food to burn, do we?"
Drew's smile was immediate. "That would be great, fellas. Wood shed's round the back."
Starsky opened his mouth but Hutch put a hand on his arm. /Not here, Starsk./
The two men headed outside, Hutch carrying the wood basket. Once outside, Hutch drew Starsky aside.
"I think we should go."
"But we haven't eaten yet," Starsky protested.
"They dosed the wine with something. It's likely they'll dose the food as well."
Starsky was looking puzzled. "What do you mean they dosed the wine?"
"You didn't smell it?"
Starsky shook his head.
"The wine smelt of almonds."
Starsky looked at Hutch with a startled expression. "Cyanide?"
Hutch nodded. "Let's go, shall we?"
"And they seemed like such a nice couple too," Starsky grumbled. "And I was really looking forward to that casserole."
"I'll make it up to you," Hutch promised. "C'mon, let's go before they realise we're not coming back."
"Too late for that."
The voice came from behind them and Starsky and Hutch spun round, fists raised, but the voice had been right, it was too late, and the world went black.
"You're gonna miss the best bit." Robbie looked over to the living room door where Pete was standing. His brother was tapping his fingers against his legs and he kept glancing across to where the telephone sat.
"Maybe it's stopped working." Ignoring Robbie, Pete walked across the room and picked up the handset. The dialling tone sounded loud and distinct in his ear and he hurriedly hung up. What if Papa had chosen that exact moment to ring them?
Robbie twisted round on the couch. "You're the one who wanted to watch this, remember? And now you're missing it."
Pete glared at the telephone and then turned and glared at his younger brother. "What time is it?"
"Time you learnt to tell the time. All right," Robbie said as his brother shook a fist at him. "Jeez, it's 8:05. Happy?"
"Then why hasn't Papa called?" Pete stared at the telephone as though that would make it ring. "8PM, every night, on the dot, that's what he said."
"Maybe his watch has stopped, maybe he and Dad are caught up doing something else."
"Or maybe something's happened, Robbie. Maybe there's been an accident."
"You're worse than Papa for imagining what can go wrong. Dad and Papa can handle themselves. They used to be cops."
Pete let his worry show in his voice when he said, "I know they were cops. You think bad things can't happen to cops? I should think that bad things happen to cops all the time."
"That's not what I'm saying, idiot." Robbie leapt to his feet. "What I meant was they can handle themselves."
"Papa said 8PM." Pete glared at Robbie. "He hasn't phoned, that means there's something wrong."
"For crying out loud, Pete. It doesn't mean that at all."
Just when it seemed that the two boys would come to blows, they were distracted by a knock on the door.
"It's only me." It was Mrs V, carrying a large plastic box. "I was baking this afternoon and I thought you two might like some of the cookies."
The woman glanced from boy to boy. "Is something wrong?"
Pete turned to Mrs V with a frown. "Papa hasn't called yet."
Robbie sighed and threw himself back down onto the couch. "Will you tell Pete that they probably just got caught up doing something else."
Mrs V looked up at the clock. "It does seem odd that he hasn't phoned."
"Thank you." Pete gave Robbie a triumphant look.
"I suppose now you think we should go racing off to rescue them?"
Mrs V shook her head. "We can't possibly drive all that way in the dark. Why don't we call the Police?"
Mrs V made the call, giving the details in a calm precise voice. She frowned as she listened to the voice at the other end of the line and then passed the telephone to Pete.
"Hello? Are you going to send someone to check on them?"
The voice that replied was male, formal and sounded bored. "Look, kid. I understand you're worried about your parents but did you ever think that they might just have forgotten?"
"Papa would never forget. Please."
A long sigh. "Okay. What are the names again?"
"David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson, but Dad always calls him Hutch."
"Starsky and Hutch?" Now the voice sounded a little overawed.
"You've heard of them?"
"Kid, I don't think there's a cop in Bay City who hasn't heard of them. Let me see what I can do, okay? You and your brother hang tight by the phone."
Pete put the handset back onto the cradle with a sigh of relief. "They're gonna go look for them."
Wherever they were it was dark and cramped. When he tried to move Hutch realised his hands were tied.
"Hutch. Where do you think we are?"
Oh his head was aching but at least he and Starsky were still together, at least he and Starsky were still alive. "We are still alive, aren't we?"
"I doubt heaven is quite this cramped." Starsky was beginning to fidget. "I can feel a wheel arch."
"We must be in the back of that pick-up." Hutch groaned. "So much for our holiday."
Even though he couldn't see, Hutch knew his lover was grinning. "Just like old times."
"Too much like old times." Hutch twisted his wrists, could he break free of these ropes? "We've got responsibilities now." Pete and Robbie, what were they doing right now? How would they cope if their fathers didn't come home?
"Don't think like that, Hutch. We'll get out of this, we always do." There was an edge to Starsky's voice. "They haven't killed us yet, so we're winning."
Hutch gave his wrists one last futile twist. "You call this winning?"
"Better than dying of cyanide poisoning. Can you get your hands free?"
"No, Hutch. We are not doing that. We're not saying goodbye."
"Ssssh. I can hear something."
The something was muted voices, slamming vehicle doors, and an engine starting up.
"Wonder where they're taking us."
The pick-up rolled and jolted as it went on its way and, lying bound in the back as they were, the two men found themselves being tossed around.
"Did you feel that?" Hutch asked, as the pick-up went over a particularly large pothole.
"It seems familiar."
"That's the pothole on the road leading to our cabin."
"That can't be good," Starsky groaned.
The men waited in anticipation of whatever awful fate was about to befall them. But, both men thought, at least if they were facing the end they were facing it together.
Jake Smith, a deputy for all of six months, parked his car halfway up the rutted track leading to the cabin he had been told to visit. He would have driven all the way but his low headlights had picked out a rather large pothole ahead and he didn't want to damage his suspension by driving over it.
He held his gun in one hand and his torch in the other, and he swished the beam of light from one side of the road to the other, although he had no idea what he was looking for.
The cabin was set back a short distance from where the road terminated. A large pick-up was parked somewhat haphazardly on the verge and, walking around that, he could see an old Gran Torino, candy apple red with a white stripe. It was an attractive looking car and Jake stood and admired it, until he recalled what he was meant to be doing.
The cabin was dark. Jake checked his watch, 8.36, a bit early for the inhabitants to have gone to bed.
A noise to his left and he spun round, just in time to see two figures, both short, one decidedly rounder than the other, crashing their way through the trees.
He was just about to take off after them when he realised he could hear voices.
"Get us out of here."
They were coming from the pick-up, and Jake advanced towards it, holding his gun out in front of him as he went although his hand was shaking so much he likely wouldn't get a good shot if he needed to.
He felt around the edge of the flatbed to find the fixing for the cover. Once he'd pulled it back he found himself looking at two men, one blond, one dark. Both men had their hands tied behind their backs and both men looked furious.
"Could you untie us maybe?" the blond asked in an acid tone of voice.
"Give the kid a break, Hutch." The dark man was calmer, and he smiled at Jake. "How long have you been a deputy for?"
"Six months," Jake replied, deciding that the first pair of hands he was going to untie belonged to the man with the curly hair.
Once both men were free Jake holstered his gun and pulled a notebook from his back pocket. He held his torch and read back his own notes. "Are you David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson?"
Hutch scowled. "This is not the time for introductions. You need to get on your radio and call in a search team."
"Sir?" Jake was a little confused, he'd been expecting two civilians, but the confident authoritarian manner in which he was being addressed suggested otherwise.
"There are two dangerous criminals in these woods. They tried to kill me and my partner, and there's every reason to believe that if they're not caught they will kill someone else."
Jake thought about possible responses to this for all of ten seconds, then he saluted. "Yes, sir."
Once the young deputy had gone Hutch turned to Starsky. "What do you want to do?"
"Pack up and leave as soon as possible. This place has lost its appeal."
"Need to phone Pete and Robbie first. Let them know we're all right."
Starsky nodded. "Okay, but first things first." And he pulled Hutch in for a kiss.
It was two days later when a Bay City Police detective knocked on the door and introduced herself as Detective Rosie Dobey.
"Rosie." Hutch gave the woman a hug. "It's good to see you."
"It's good to see you two Uncle Hutch, Uncle Starsky. But I'm not here for a social visit."
"Of course not," Starsky said, but he still insisted on a hug. "You want to meet our boys?"
Rosie was smiling but she winced when Starsky suddenly bellowed, "Pete! Robbie!"
The teenagers arrived and there were introductions and handshakes.
Starsky put a hand on Pete's shoulder. "It's him we have to thank for alerting the police."
Rosie looked at Pete. "That must feel pretty good, that you saved your dads lives."
Pete blushed and mumbled something and Rosie smiled.
"You have great instincts, you know. Cop instincts."
Hutch shuddered as a cold chill washed over him and for the briefest of moments it seemed as though a mist were swirling around Pete.
"It's nothing, Robbie, really." But Hutch, despite his words, kept his gaze on Pete for a long time.
"The reason I came," Rosie said, finally managing to get to the point of her visit. "Was to let you know about the Pulaskis."
"We know they were apprehended only a couple of hours after they ran into the woods." The men had not waited around for the outcome to the chase, but when Jake Smith called to take their statements next morning he had told them that the fugitives had been captured.
"What you don't know and what you didn't hear from me is that you weren't their first victims." Rosie crossed her arms over her chest. "They killed five people before they came after you two."
"Five?" Starsky looked at Hutch.
"It seems they didn't appreciate what they saw as their land being invaded by holidaymakers. At first they were just frightening people away. Only recently did they move on to murder."
Hutch looked at Starsky. "We got off lightly then."
"Seems that way." Starsky draped an arm across Hutch's shoulders. "Maybe next time we go on holiday we should go somewhere a little less dangerous."
"Like Las Vegas, you mean?"