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My Secret is My Prisoner

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MY SECRET IS MY PRISONER

by SummerDaisy

(I own only my original characters. Starsky, Hutch and all other characters are borrowed. No profit here. Only fantasy and cocktails.)

 

CHAPTER ONE

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14th

Muffled sounds.

Like he was under water.

Voices were garbled and removed.

Cold. Then hot. Then cold again.

Pain. Pain in his chest and gut. His hip. And especially his head. His head felt like it had been run over by a Mack truck, the heavy double tires grinding against his scalp threatening to crush his skull. His hands felt tightly swollen and immobile – his fingers non-functional giving him the sensation that paddles were attached to his arms.

Nonsensical dreams of angry, hairy, purple butterflies, humanoid wild animals and sinking ships overlapped into the water laden voices.

Every time his consciousness was raised just enough to make him feel like he was waking up he had the distinct impression of being smothered – of weight pressing on his chest and his mouth being forced shut, his eager nose the only portal allowed for distant oxygen. If he could muster the strength he’d raise a hand to his face to push the pressure away, to let in some air. Inevitably, his arm was forcefully pulled away, air rushed over his swollen face into his mouth and nose, and a kind, soft hand stroked his cheek.

“Shhhh. Settle down now. You’re safe,” the voice reassured him. “You’re ok. OK. Just relax. Let us do the work for you.”

Over and over he had the feeling of being forced back, smothered and restrained against his will. Eventually the manifestations became dreams, and the dreams became just frightening memories as wakeful periods insinuated their way into his blurry world.

He wanted to punch the flat, plastic-like pillow to make it softer and create a fluffy valley for his aching head but his arms felt like cement dragging through mud.

His tongue was furry and dry, swollen and stuck slightly to the right behind his teeth that were tacky with days old grit. Occasionally someone swabbed the inside of his mouth with something lemony to take that dryness away, and a balm made it to his lips , but he didn’t like the flavor of it and would try to spit it, and the hand that held the balm, away.

“Ah…. What’s going on? Where am I? Please, if I could get something to drink…”

That’s what he thought he said. It’s what he meant to say, but what came out of his mouth was nothing more than gibberish and an abrupt surge of errant, thick saliva quickly mopped up by unseen hands.

He reached out for a familiar touch… the one touch that should be there and grabbed at nothing but air. From nowhere his stomach lurched. While flat on his back with only marginal awareness the burning vomit shot up his esophagus and out his mouth. While some of the sour liquid trailed down his cheeks and over his ears the rest pooled in the back of his mouth. Struggling to take a breath he felt the gurgling, rancid fluid insult his sinuses as well.

“….suction…. thanks…..”

“…charge nurse…”

“….he’s NPO….. should be minimal…”

Panic set in as he felt and heard the puke suctioned from his mouth and he reached to take the hand holding the tube polluting his mouth away from his face.

“Hey…” Reaching, grabbing with his useless, paddled hands, but still the touch was not there. The touch. His touch. “Where….?”

“…get Jeff…”

“….probably residual… opioid pain meds….”

His hands were abruptly pulled down to his sides on the bed and held there.

“….chart it at 13:45…”

“Got a bit of a mess here, hun.” That calming voice again. A hand stroking his worried forehead. “Just relax and let us get you cleaned up.”

A chill worked its way through his chest as the loose gown covering him was deftly removed and replaced by hands and wet cloths. Her calm voice was still there, and another… then a man’s. That’s the guy who showed up when he needed to be turned or lifted up when the sheets were changed. Or sometimes when he was taken care of… down there.

“…as long as we’re at it…”

“….got this side. Hey, check that line for redness….”

"….new intensivist will want a chest x-ray now… rule out aspiration…”

“…and more antibiotics…”

He was clearly naked and felt completely helpless yet, at the same time, disaffected letting the care and maintenance just happen. Activity was going on all around him. He may have been the subject of it but felt like nothing more than an inanimate object.

Eventually relative quiet came to his bed. His ass smarted from being in the same position for so long and he yearned to get into his favorite sleeping position on his side. His chest wall protested as he drew in a deep breath and for some reason when he attempted to turn on his side, a weight came down on his shoulder forcing him back.

“…10mg…”

“…hold on ….in the line?”

“…Flush it. There… on board…”

He continued to fight the assault while mumbling, his tongue refusing to keep in the surprise onslaught of puke flavored unwanted drool, until a blanket of sudden calm washed over him from the inside. Sleep enveloped his overwhelmed mind, for the moment.

He was disconnected. He knew activity was going on around him. Lights were always on – dusk seemed to never come. The only thing he was sure of was that time was passing: another day, a night, maybe more. The brief moments of awareness found him in the same bed, on his back or slightly tilted on his side, pillows behind him and between his knees, but his head still swam in confusing muck. Sometimes he was utterly alone with only the dull hum of equipment around his bed to keep him company. Other times he was surrounded by that cacophony of haphazard voices seemingly unmindful of his presence.

“…he ordered it during rounds….”

… half shift. I need more…”

“… PRN for now… Q12H…”

“…for the labs… hand that to me, please…”

“…worst movie ever…”

“…500mg titrated over six hours.”

“… Ted’s doing a transport for…”

"I hafta go.” His gut was giving him problems.

“What was that, honey?” The woman’s voice came closer. Placing her warm hand on his forehead she gently lifted his eyelids checking his responsiveness.

“Bathroom,” he slurred with a dry, gravelly voice pulling his head out of her grasp.

“Gotta go.”

“Go ahead. You have a tube in your bladder,” she told him softly in a private tone now closer to his ear. The voice of an angel, he decided. Older, motherly. He tried to tell her that he needed to go number two, not pee, but the words were stuck somewhere between his sleepy brain and his mouth.

“Don’t worry about it. You may have the sensation but your bladder is continuously draining through the tube.”

“Tube…?”

“A catheter, honey. In your penis. When the doctor reduces your sedation and you can sit up we’ll see about taking it out.”

“My partner,” he managed to release from his still slagging mouth, rough and banal. “Have to call him…”

“Not now, dear. Just lie back.”

“Phone…”

Like a repeat performance, he struggled to get out of the bed. Legs moving one way, arms the other. Blocked in every direction by side rails and stronger arms. He was on a mission, needing to get out of there. Go home. Get to the precinct. Find his partner. And, please God, take a shit.

“Gotta…. call… wha…. for…”

“Here we go again.” That was a newer voice, this one less comforting, more in control. “Can we get Jeff in here again?”

“Watch the leads.”

“Wait…. unplugged the infusion pump…”

“He’s persistent, isn’t he, doctor?” Definitely a young man.

Stop! Want to… need to …”

“Just calm down,” his angel continued, her hands now joined by others. His eyes were open but it was like looking through shadow framed Vaseline.

“…. 50mg IV…”

“….sharps, behind you…”

“As long as he’s under let’s change the dressing.”

“Does he know?”

“… by his Captain. Over on the…”

“Where? Have to… Get hands off o’ me… for… partner…”

“Just sleep, sweetie.” Soft, caring hands covered his forehead making the pressure she was using to hold his head down on the hard pillow less traumatic. When he settled himself and succumbed to the effects of the sedation, the hand moved to rhythmically stroke his hair. “Shhhh. It’s OK. You’ll be fine. Just sleep.”

More time passed. Useless, unused time. He figured at this point he was in a hospital. He could finally move his arms but tubes, bandages, tape and ID bracelets made him feel like an octopus in a shoe box. His battered body was still swimming in sludge, his brain sluggish, his mouth in slow motion.

More medication. Just when he felt like he was waking up, he’d fall back asleep either by choice or by drugs. He felt like he was simply an audience for the radio show going on around him, never catching full sentences or conversations. Instead, single words and half sentences floated to his ears in game show capacity. Only his angel-nurse presented to him as a whole entity.

Most of the time when his brain formed a question he tried to travel the words to his mouth, but they rarely made it there.

“When the doctors allow…”

Who was that?

“….have to ask him…”

“Not now.”

These voices were not the usual hospital staff.

“It’s not for you to decide.”

“…too upsetting …”

“… standard procedure…”

Stuff your procedure…. don’t have all the facts yet…”

Can you lift up your bottom?” His angel-nurse was back. “Dave, just lift up your bottom a bit so I can scoot this pad under you.”

“Pad?”

Once again she lowered her voice and moved to his ear to give their conversation some privacy…. Privacy from…. Men’s voices were in the room off to the side.

“Just an absorbent pad, Dave. In case you have some leaks down there. You had an enema a little while ago.”

He turned his head in humiliation as only a grown man would.

“Oh, hun, don’t even think about it. You’re a patient. I do this every day.” She cupped his face in her hands and turned his head back to center looking straight down at him. “You’re doing great. Listen, the doctors discontinued the sedation. No more as long as you cooperate, which I know you will, right Dave?”

He nodded and tried to give her a smile, unsuccessfully. “…my angel nurse,” he slurred, his eyelids weighing down from half-mast to fully closed.

“We’ll talk to him tomorrow.” This voice was familiar. More clear. “But I’ll talk to him first. You cocky wing nuts will just have to wait.

“Captain, with all due respect…”

“Don’t shovel that IA bullshit at me, Simonetti. The only thing you respect is your own dick. Now, you can have your turn tomorrow at 3pm, not a minute sooner.”

He heard the sound of the door closing, but knew his Captain was still there. He could feel it.

“Cap?”

“Starsky.” There was a pause as the Captain walked over to the bedside. “You just sleep for now.”

Starsky’s eyes focused on the stark, white surroundings a little better. Not great, but he could see his large supervisor standing - hands behind back - next to his bed. He looked on either side of the Captain expecting his tall blonde partner to emerge but was disappointed to see nothing but an empty room.

“Where… where’s Hutch?”

“We have a lot to talk about, Dave.” His large hand came around and rested on Starsky’s shoulder gently urging him back down, giving him a sympathetic pat and squeeze.

“Why isn’t he here?”

Captain Dobey’s warm hand stayed on Starsky’s shoulder, patting it occasionally. Unconsciously tapping a couple times with his finger as he looked off in search of the right answer. Then, finally, he pulled a chair over and sat as close to the bed as he could, again placing his reassuring hand on his injured detective’s shoulder.

“We, ah… We’ll talk tomorrow, son. You need…”

He wanted to protest, but sleep took him before Captain Dobey even finished his thought.


TBC

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO

FRIDAY, JUNE 16TH

“Look, Mary. I’m sitting up.”

Starsky sat on the edge of his bed, legs dangling over the side, feet not quite reaching the floor. “See?”

“Yes, I see that, Dave.” His angel nurse was standing over by the sink washing her hands after changing Starsky’s bandages. “And it must feel good to have the wrap off your left hand. The swelling has gone way down.”

“Uh huh. Need the left hand to hold on to something.”

“Aren’t you a fresh one, detective.”

Starsky winked at the older nurse as she dried her hands and then walked over to stand in front of her patient. Crossing her arms, she looked down at him waiting for the next sleepy sarcastic remark to slip out.

“And I’ve been a good boy, just like you wanted.”

“Mmm hmm. And…?”

And? And when can I get this garden hose taken out of my Johnson?”

“Well, young man, if you can walk to the bathroom and back with assistance I’ll put a good word in for you. Come on,” she encouraged putting a walker in front of him, “let’s give it a try.”

Mary unplugged the infusion pump housing all of the IV’s and wheeled it over next to Starsky, then unhooked the urine collection bag from the side of the bed and added it to the assortment of lines leading to the pump pole.

“Wait,” she cautioned before Starsky could get to his feet. “Safety first.” Out of her pocket she pulled a lovely pair of furry hospital socks with no-skid strips on the bottom. “Sorry about the color. It’s all I could find.”

“Purple. Something else to feed the gossip.” Starsky put the socks on and closed his eyes as a pinprick of memory hit him. I’ve got hairy legs. Purple. Hairy purple butterflies. What the hell? Eventually, he got up on his feet and paused for a minute while his head slowly reversed its spinning. “Whoa…. Ahh…”

“Slow down. You’ve been on your back for almost a week. Deep breaths.” She put one hand on his back, the other on his chest steadying him. “Nauseous?”

“Um…. Yeah. No. It’s Ok now. Just kind of….,” Starsky rubbed his lower abdomen. “…bound up.”

“I know. We started you on stool softeners. That should help. Opioid pain meds and everything else will do that to you.”

“What everything else? Can we just get this parade over with? I feel like a god damned float.”

“Hold on,” she said reaching behind him. “Let’s get a second gown on back here to cover your cute fanny. Don’t want to give a show to all those police officers coming and going. You are a popular guy.”

“Have you seen a tall, blonde, Nordic type one?”

“Dangerously good looking?” She returned Starsky’s wink.

“So they say. He’s been here?”

“Clearly, no. Because if he had, Dave, I sure as hell wouldn’t be here working a 12 hour shift.”


Three hours, two doctor exams and one more poke for blood by an overly talkative lab technician still in braces, and his catheter was finally removed.

“Starsky, settle down,” his Captain said for at least the third time that afternoon. “You’re going to walk the tile off the floor around your bed. You barely get in five steps before you’re out of breath as it is.”

“Thanks, Dad. Just want to get my legs back under me and get out of here. Why are you spending so much time here anyway? And where the hell is Hutch?”

“Since your mom can’t get here, ya know, because of that stroke she had in April, I told her I’d look out for you.”

“You talked to her?”

“Of course I did. Next of kin.”

“But Cap…” Starsky halted his pacing and sat on the edge of the bed facing Dobey. “Hutch is listed as my next of kin cuz he’s not on the other side of the country. My ma is my next of, next of kin. As long as he knows…”

“He knows,” Dobey abruptly answered.

“Then why are you here and not Hutch?”

“I told you… He can’t get here just yet. Starsky…,” he gave with a hopefully reassuring pat to the patient’s knee and much practiced calm voice, “…Dave, we need to talk about what happened to you.”

“Aw, jeez Cap. Don’t call me that.”

“What?”

Dave. Calling me Dave or, God forbid ‘son’, means bad stuff.”

“OK. Detective Starsky, what do you remember?”

“I told you. Can’t remember shit, Cap.” He threw his hands in the air in surrender, then closed his eyes to give it a try. “Ahhh… I had chili dogs for lunch that day with hot peppers and onions. German mustard, not yellow. Won’t make that mistake again. And deep fried cheese things with that marinara sauce stuff...”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”

“…and beef jerky. Root beer.”

“Start with lunch, then. After lunch, you guys spent the afternoon writing reports and following up some leads on a case.”

“Ok. I guess,” he said unconvincingly. “I think I saw Minnie. Yeah. She gave me something.”

“Probably some background on that cold case you guys have been throwing around.”

Starsky rubbed his head avoiding the parts with lumps and sutures. “I guess. Last thing… last thing… had to get something from the car. Then…” He laughed and then exhaled the tension building up before falling back on the bed staring up at the ceiling. “It’s stupid. I don’t know if I’m imagining it or what.”

“At this point, Starsky, real or imagined, it is a memory. Tell me, and we’ll work it out later as things come back to you.”

“Alright, but it’s crazy. I keep seeing hairy purple butterflies and sinking ships. And these half animal half human creatures. Aw shit, I am crazy.”

“No you’re not, Dave. You’re sick and injured. Your brain will catch up.”

“Cap, please. Where is Hutch?”

“Captain Dobey,” the new voice announced coming in the door. “It’s 3pm.”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Starsky whined. “Simonetti. This day keeps getting better.”

“Starsky! Check your language.”

“Sorry, Cap. Forgot your lack of love for the F-bomb is considerable.”

The insufferable Sargent Simonetti not only invited himself into the hospital room, but put himself at the head of the bed as close to the patient as possible. “Just need to talk to you.”

“Yeah, well, why don’t you go find someone in this hospital who gives a shit. I believe the morgue is in the basement.”

Behind the tall, thin arrogant Internal Affairs officer stood another man. Definitely not the tallest in the room, but certainly the most in shape. His larger, muscle bound frame was quite evident behind the dress shirt and suit coat. “Hal,” he said as he closed the door and made his way over to the bed, “thought Simonetti here might need some company.”

“Captain Schrader.” Dobey took on the more professional tone. “Haven’t seen you in a while. I see you’re sniffing your dogs’ asses every chance you get. Still can’t trust your men to work a case on their own?”

“Well, Hal. As usual, you’re babysitting your boy. Just want to make sure we don’t miss anything. Can never be too careful.”

Dobey was not about to let Schrader get the upper hand. “And I’m going to make sure Detective Starsky is treated fairly and respectfully given his condition.”

Starsky sat up straight in bed trying to actually be part of the conversation. “Since when does IA invite themselves to a simple case of assault and battery? Or robbery… or… what is it anyway?”

The IA Captain moved in front of Dobey next to his own man. “This is no simple A & B, detective. But none the less, an officer of the law was seriously injured and with questionable circumstances leading up to it…”

“What?” Starsky countered. “What was questionable? Captain Dobey?”

Uneasy stillness enveloped the room as answers were not offered and questions ceased.

Dobey intruded on the interrogators and pulled Schrader back a few feet hoping to talk Captain to Captain. “Schrader, look, his memory is limited. You were there when the docs said to let it come back naturally as his head clears. And you know that leading questions in this situation are not admissible. It’d be like planting information.”

Starsky scooted down the bed and got to his unsteady feet holding onto a surprised Simonetti for balance. “Admissible? Like in court? Am I a suspect?” He looked back and forth between his Captain and the Internal Affairs suits. “Am I? A… a suspect? What…. You think I did this to myself?”


NINE DAYS PREVIOUS
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7TH

“You two so-called veteran detectives are acting more immature than 6 year old Girl Scouts. And not just today. All damn week.”

“Brownies,” Hutch countered while tapping a pencil eraser on his teeth, deep in thought over his crossword puzzle.

“Come again?” his Captain asked.

Brownies.” Hutch put his feet up on Starsky’s desk only to have them swatted down by the desk’s tenant. “I believe the younger Brownies don’t fly up to become actual Girl Scouts until they’re ten years old.”

“You think I care?” Dobey countered.

“Pretty sure you don’t, Cap,” Starsky snarled. “But don’t let that stop Mr. Know-it-All from pandering his horseshit to the cowboys.”

“You done, Starsky?” Hutch tossed the pencil and folded newspaper across the desk as he stood to face his partner. “Cuz I’ve just about had it with you and your constant negativity.”

“Oh, I’m not done. Let’s talk about you and your need to be right all the time even when you’re far from it. You’re a fucking, relentless prick, Hutchinson.”

The two detectives were face to face as Starsky slowly stalked forward into Hutch’s space.

“Is that the best you got, Detective Starsky?” The tall blonde stood taller and almost egged his partner on. “You want relentless, I’ll give you some. A tall mug of low brow, cowardly, feckless, incompetent, relentless. I’ll even use short sentences with easy vocabulary words so you can comprehend it.”

“You all hear that?” Starsky turned around in a circle shaking his head, seeing if everyone else was hearing what he was. “Feckless,” he spit with a laugh. “Big word for a small, small man.”

“In my office,” Dobey shouted. “NOW.”

It was clear that both detectives were ignoring their Captain. It was clear to Dobey and the other uniforms and detectives in the room that this was quickly escalating into a big blow up.

“Looking for more trouble, Starsky? You are so full of shit.” Hutch baited, his voice low and methodically manipulative. “When the stork dropped you, you must have hit every branch of the moron tree. So, keep it up. Push me. Go ahead. Won’t take much. I’ve had it.”

The audience increased as staff, including those from the adjoining Internal Affairs office, gathered outside to watch through the large windows.

“Back off, Hutchinson,” Dobey ordered as a few of the other homicide detectives stepped towards the feuding men in a show of projected restraint.

That wasn’t going to happen as Hutch was on a roll. “Everyone is sick of you sponging off them. Their money, their hard work.” Hutch’s voice was no longer his own. It had turned into something malevolent and vile. “Hell, even your mother tossed your punk ass out and sent you across the country before you hit puberty.”

Starsky’s breathing ramped up, his face contorted into a pinched mess of resentment as he continued with a very purposeful placement of his open palm on Hutch’s chest. “I warned you, Hutch,” he menaced, his dark blue eyes squinting in anger. “You oughta know by now…”

“Know what, you son of a bitch? Huh?” Hutch looked down at Starsky’s well placed hand and gave a half grin. “That we’ve come to the end? Can’t cut it anymore? Finally figured out that I’m not gonna cover for you from now on? Yeah, Cap. You heard me. I’ve been doing his job and covering for him for years.” Hutch moved his fiery eyes from his superior back to his target in front of him. “YEARS, you mother fucker.”

“Shut up, Hutch.”

“Yeah. Now everyone knows. But the question is, do the women know? Mandy – Mindy… whatever your whore of the week is called...”

Starsky stood up straight, eyes wide with horror.

“Thought so. Do I need to cover for you in that department too? Again, hmmm? Like Kira?” Hutch watched as that old dig hit home. “Yeah. Remember her? Well find yourself another partner, Starsk. My women are very happy with me. I keep my dick up quite nice, thank you.”

Hutch gave Dobey a fake salute and headed to the squad room’s door eager for an escape on a winning note. But before the door could even be opened, Starsky became unhinged and bolted towards the blonde tackling him to the floor. Arms and legs tangled, heads thrashed, shirts came untucked and the foul language flourished. As chairs and office supplies clattered in every direction several men went to pull Starsky off of Hutch’s flailing body. The squad room was littered with furniture, files and tipped trash cans as two men each held Starsky and Hutch at bay.

“YOU are dangerous, Starsky,” the blonde accused with a finger pointed at his partner. “No more. I’m done with you.”

They both stood with fists at the ready, a man on each shoulder holding them back from each other, sweat pouring down their faces.

“You need to be taught a lesson,” Starsky spat back both figuratively and literally, “you fucking, arrogant asshole.”

“What? A behind-the-shed whipping?” Hutch laughed. “And that there is the level of intelligence I have been burdened with all these years. He’s nothing but a low life, dimwitted street thug.”

“Maybe you both need to be taught a lesson,” Dobey ordered. “Get them in my office. Simmons and Babcock join us. I can’t trust these two pack dogs not to maul each other.”

With two doors in Dobey’s office, each detective owned one. Hutch stood against the one leading to the hallway, arms crossed, back straight in a defensive posture. Starsky claimed the door going to the squad room. He maintained an offensive pose, fists so tight the knuckles were blood-deprived white. They stared each other down, mouths pursed shut, nostrils flared, anger oozing from their pores. Simmons and Babcock each stood close to their assigned problem child.

“I have had enough of your attitudes this week. You are rude, vulgar, obnoxious, inappropriate and now, apparently, violent.” The Captain forward leaned on his desk, his eyes furiously looking up at his detectives. “I will not have this in my squad room. WILL NOT,” he yelled slamming his palms on the desk so hard his cup of pens and pencils toppled to the floor. “Do you hear me?”

With no response from either man, Dobey came around the desk and stood between them. “Listen very carefully. I don’t care what has turned you two against each other, but it’s not productive and it is not safe. By allowing it I am validating it. It’s called creating a hostile work environment. The courts are having a field day with that bit of recreation.” The Captain looked back and forth between the men. “Well? You are both tracked to become leaders in the department. This kind of behavior is not what I expect out of senior detectives. Care to say something? Anything?”

Hutch turned his head and looked Starsky straight in the eyes. It was a dark look, one which said I hate you and everything you stand for. Just as quickly Starsky took one intimidating step forward stopped swiftly by Babcock’s straight arm nearly getting himself clotheslined.

“Nothing? Then you give me no choice. I’m suspending you both without pay for two weeks.” This got their attention as they looked squarely at their superior. “And you will not be reinstated until you get a pass from the department shrink. Got that?”

Each man turned to leave through their respective doors.

“Nope,” Dobey alerted giving Simmons and Babcock the sign to close the doors on the detectives. “Shields and weapons stay here.”

“Cap…” they both whined.

“I’ll tell you what I tell my children: You choose your consequences in life. Boys, you chose yours.” With that, he put out his hands taking the shields and guns each man begrudgingly surrendered. “Ken, Dave,” he spoke in his more temperate dad-voice, “work it out. Fix it. Look at the big picture here, not whatever, or whoever, got between you.”

Hutch opened his door, this time not barred by Simmons, but stopped halfway out. “There’s nothing left to fix, Cap,” he muttered with his forehead resting on the edge of the open door, unable to look at Dobey or Starsky. “He’s gone too far this time. It’s over.” With that, the blonde was gone leaving Dobey to wonder if he would ever see him again.

Before making it out his own door, Starsky was stopped by the Captain’s hand on his shoulder. “Five minutes, Dave. You’re going to park yourself at your desk for five minutes before charging out of here. I don’t need this continued in the parking lot.”

Starsky exhaled and dropped his chin down to his chest in seeming defeat.

“You OK, Starsky?” Babcock asked.

“Just tired.” He squeezed his eyes shut and rocked his head back and forth, the pain evident in his exhausted face. “Tired of….” The door opened and he made a bee line out of the room.

“Starsky,” Dobey bellowed, “I told you five minutes.”

“I’m suspended, remember?” A dismissive hand in the air and Starsky was gone leaving a stunned room of colleagues and one concerned Captain.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE THURSDAY JUNE 8TH

The day had been quiet, lonely and… what was the word he was looking for…. flat. He felt as though he’d used a week’s worth of adrenalin baiting, criticizing and insulting his partner the day before. He was spent. Hutch stood in his darkened apartment leaning against the window frame occasionally peering out at the street below looking for… looking for….

“Damned if I know,” he thought out loud with a sigh. The past week had made him jumpy and slightly paranoid, scrutinizing his surroundings, waiting for his world to fall out from under his feet. He didn’t like this.

“Hate this.” He raked his hand through his hair and tilted his head back letting out a breath of frustration. “God, I hate this.” The two self-imposed smacks to his head as he closed his eyes and tapped backwards only added to the ant hill of disdain within Hutch was building grain by grain.

His half eaten dinner of left over ‘whatever-the-hell-I-got-for-take-out-yesterday’ sat cold on the piano bench where he had picked at it for two hours pretending to be hungry. Pretending to care. The isolation away from the man who had been his best friend, brother and everything quickly proved to him just how few people he had allowed into his life over the years. It had become a very small club, albeit by personal choice.

His family was far away in the Midwest. They had distanced themselves from their son after he left the family business, moved to the west coast and entered, not Stanford Law School, but the Los Angeles County police academy. He’d start out directing traffic, not probating wills of the rich and famous. The anvil in that whole dysfunctional circus dropped when he divorced Vanessa…. the daughter of his hometown’s second most respected family, the Hutchinsons, of course, being the most respected family. Note: see previous traffic cop vs wills of millionaires.

But family drama like that tends to take a back burner when reality strikes a match. The flame in this instance was his father’s cancer diagnosis the previous year just a couple months after Gunther’s assassination attempt that nearly killed Starsky. Hutch made a few trips home to be with his parents when the rough chemo treatments started, when the surgery was scheduled and for Easter. He knew that would be the last. A year of lasts. They all knew. Hutch was making every effort to put things behind him, as were his parents. Well, they tried, even if only in carefully chosen words. During that trip home in April he even got rid of the mustache at his mother’s request. That garnered a week’s worth of stale jokes from the squad room when he got back. But not from Starsky. His partner just smiled and chuckled under his breath enjoying the ribbing from a distance.

Until one night on stake-out. Hours long forced seclusion in a car together always led to discussions they would otherwise never have. Hutch was convinced that he could write a book of Starsky-isms all based on stake-outs. They traded useless information and facts, never validated. Why validate that which will never be used or spoken of again? And they intellectually poked at each other. It almost always started with Starsky, but ended with Hutch.


“How many more dope heads do we have to see go in that night club before we raid it?” Hutch griped out loud.

Just waiting for the head honcho to show, then we call in the calvary, partner.”

Hutch rolled his eyes at the inevitable Starsky-western-impression.

That’s cavalry.”

“Huh?’

“I keep telling you – CAValry. The cavalry is the military on horseback, dummy. CALvary is a spiritual term.” Hutch absent mindedly wiped at his upper lip where the aforementioned mustache had been not one week previous.

“Ya know, I been telling you for months to get rid of that cookie duster,” Starsky joked, looking for justification. The cold, stale popcorn he was shoveling into his mouth by the handful left a residue on his hand which the curly haired detective dutifully wiped on his jeans, much to Hutch’s chagrin. “You’re back in Timbucktoo, Minnesota a total of four short days and get a shave and a haircut…”

“…two bits…,” Hutch sing-songed back.

“What?”

“Never mind. The difference here, buddy, is that my mother asked me. She didn’t tell me.” Hutch’s eyes followed the stray puffs of popcorn as they escaped his partner’s hand and pooled in Starsky’s crotch. “Starsk…”

I would have done it for you. But I have to admit, you look much more… dapper,” he joked grinning with a pop of the eyebrows. When his snack was gone, Starsky pitched the empty box over into the back seat and, without missing a beat, started scooping the orphaned popcorn from where it had collected between his upper thighs at his crotch, tossing it back in his still hungry mouth. “I mean, I’ll have to take on the more street smart undercover roles…”

“Starsk…,” Hutch grimaced, fingers now rubbing his irritated brow as he watched Starsky eat the popcorn from his jewel box.

“…cuz now you look too…. What’s that word they’re using? Preppy?”

"Starsky.”

Huh?”

Hutch’s mouth contorted into a combination frown, grimace and pre-puke pout. “You dropped that popcorn and now you’re eating it?”

“Huh? Yeah. Crotch corn. It’s kinda warm now,” he gave between open mouth chews. “The staleness is gone. Recycled freshness. Want some?”

“Crotch corn. Oh my God, Starsky. Really?”


“Crotch corn,” Hutch repeated aloud all these weeks later, hands in pockets, shoulders slumped forward. “My folks would have introduced me to the paddle for that,” he smiled. So much he kept from the Minnesota Hutchinsons, including those classless details of his partner that would have only reaped clucks, eye rolls and signs of impropriety. They would never understand David Starsky. Hutch knew that. Nor would they ever appreciate him - for him.

Clearly he shielded them from the horrors and controversies of his work as a homicide detective and spared them from any tales of his personal life in order to avoid judgements and insults. He’d had enough of that from Vanessa. Paper work and teaching at the academy. That’s all his parents knew of his job. He made it sound like he left for work every morning in a business suit carrying a standard briefcase and came back just after 5pm for cocktails and dinner. Golf on Wednesdays. Dinner at the club on Fridays. Church on Sunday. Not that he told them that, but that’s the lifestyle they assumed for him. Everything prim, proper and manly.


“Have to let my parents believe that my life is safe and happy right now,” he told Starsky one night. “Nothing but safe and happy. My father …. I want my dad to die believing that, and I want my mom to focus on him right now, not on how their son isn’t maintaining the blood lines or living up to the country club standards. Right or wrong, it’s just not about me right now.”

He avoided and secreted everything about his life as he slowly accepted his parents as they were, and they him, or at least what he let them think was him.

“If I maintain my silence about my secret it is my prisoner...if I let it slip from my tongue, I am ITS prisoner,” he quoted to Starsky one late night over Monopoly and several beers. “Arthur Schopenhauer, German philupher…. phlopeser…. Philosopher.”

Starsky snorted while rolling the dice. “Bet you were in the Honor Society.”

“Of course,” the blonde belched. “Weren’t you?”

“Fuckin’ Einstein,” the curly headed drunk cop chided. “Know what I know? I’ll tell ya. ‘Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides’. Andy Mixer,” he slurred, “Lower East Side bad dude.”

Hutch’s laugh turned into an uncontrollable giggle. “André Malraux. He was a French writer, dummy.”

“Yeah, well in my head he moved to Goerck Street and ran with the big boys.”

“Never heard of the place.”

“Good reason. It was loaded with tenements and run by criminals. Was so bad-ass they wiped it off the New York City maps when I was a kid and built over it. Talk about covering up secrets.” He looked over at his partner whose head was hanging in sorrow burdened inebriation. “Hey, babe, you know how I feel about secrets. I hate ‘em, Hutch. Despise ‘em. Secrets just breed more secrets. They always come back to bite ya in the ass. You’re great at it. That’s why you’re so good at going under cover. But, ya know… you’re also great at self-loathing. That’s the ass biting part. Do what you have to do with your family. Just don’t make me part of it.”


And that’s how they worked it out. Hutch kept his secrets from his family and in doing so kept secrets from his partner who wanted nothing to do with it.

“Goerck Street,” Hutch whispered as he poked his fork in a piece of unidentified meat, sniffed at it, then plopped it back down uneaten. “Feels like I live there. Too many secrets, Need to wipe it off the map.”

One day following a long month undercover with drug runners that culminated in an epic take down in an abandoned supermarket Hutch found that Starsky could play the game of secrets when put in that position. He would do it – for Hutch. They had lost one uniform and three of the perps in the manic gun battle that bloody Friday. When Hutch came home Saturday after his morning run, he found Starsky sitting at the kitchen table using Hutch’s gun oil to clean his gun – the gun that had taken down at least one of those perps.

Hutch smelled the gun oil as he quietly walked in the house. What he heard was his partner on the phone fielding a call from the senior Hutchinsons. His mother always spoke loudly on the phone thinking that California was so far from Minnesota that amplified speech was required for telephone conversations.


“But nobody to go home to, David,” Marilyn Hutchinson agonized to him over the phone. “What kind of life is that for Kenneth? Doesn’t he want to find a nice girl and settle down? She doesn’t even have to be Lutheran. She could be Episcopal. I suppose even Catholic. He’s not seeing one of those Hare Krishnas, is he David? Is that why he is so secretive about his love life?”

“No, no. He’s OK, Mrs. H. Really.” Starsky attempted to console the concerned mother as Hutch secretly looked on. “He’s had some great relationships. Wonderful women. But right now he’s focused on his mountain of paper work, students, maybe a promotion and all of you back home.”

The dichotomy of Starsky meticulously cleaning a gun that had killed someone the day before while simultaneously sewing a clean blanket of lies to Hutch’s mother was nothing short of brilliant… at least to Hutch.

“Maybe over the summer I can get him back on a healthy diet, lose some pounds and back into the dating scene.” And with that, Hutch choked and snorted the slug of cold water that was in progress. Starsky, concentrating on a healthy diet. Yarite…

Starsky…

Starsky…

The insults, words of incredible hurt and pure hate he spewed in the squad room that afternoon hung on to him like cat hair on a dry day. They were sharp and intentional. He hated himself. But…

“Had to happen, Hutchinson,” he mumbled to the curtain. “Gave me no choice.”

His veteran detective’s senses bolted on like military radar as a noise coming from the back of the building in the vicinity of the fire escape outside his greenhouse room swung him around. Habit put his right hand under his left arm where his gun normally rested in the holster, and found nothing but shirt. He’d momentarily forgotten – the Captain had taken it.

On his way to the kitchen he reached up on top of the bookcase and retrieved his back-up gun. It was smaller than his python, and certainly didn’t have the canon power of it, but in close quarters it could do the job. Safety off and a quick check to see that it was loaded and Hutch maneuvered quietly through the kitchen towards the greenhouse where the now obvious footsteps were coming from.

With both hands gripping the gun, Hutch kept his finger off the trigger resting it lengthwise on the barrel safely pointed at the floor for now. The restaurant, Chez Helene, downstairs was closed for at a least a month for renovations. And having stared out his front window for most of the evening he hadn’t yet seen the little old lady in the apartment next door, Mrs. Lewis, come home from her regular Thursday night card party. The wild broad usually stayed out past midnight anyway. No one should be in the building.

The entire proper gun safety protocol went out the window when the shadow of a figure moved into his line of sight between the rows of potted plants. Hutch’s cautious movements suddenly became defensive, gun pointed straight ahead at the darkened figure, eyes fixed, finger moving down to the trigger. Poised. Aiming for dead center.

“I’m a police officer. I have a gun,” he delivered convincingly.

Feet shuffled, then stopped. “Not supposed to.”

“Starsky?”

The dark, curly haired detective took a couple steps closer to Hutch then pulled the suspended chain-link above him illuminating the greenhouse with an eerily swinging low watt light bulb. “Yeah.”

“You alone?”

There was a poignant pause as Starsky shifted his weight from one leg to the other and struggled to find his partner’s blue eyes in the shifting shadow play of the swinging lightbulb. “As alone as you.”

“Thought I told you not to come here.”

Starsky finally moved closer to Hutch letting moonlight intruding through a corner of the adjoining kitchen window tease his dark curls. “Kind of don’t care anymore. And pretty sure we’re not done, partner.”

“You should go,” Hutch delivered with stark frankness.

“So that’s how you want to end this shit storm of a week,” he surmised looking down at the gun still in Hutch’s hand no longer pointed at center mass. “I’ll just come back. You know I will.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR
SATURDAY, JUNE 17TH

“Cap, there’s a uniform on the door,” Starsky complained as he sat on his hospital bed, legs crossed. “I ain’t blind.”

His Captain was reading the paper sitting in what had become his regular chair. The smaller, hard plastic one didn’t fit his larger frame and he had taken it upon himself to trade it out with one he found in the doctor’s lounge down the hall. So far, it had been left there. “He’s there for your own protection, Starsky.”

“Does this have anything to do with our little romp with Internal Affairs yesterday that you cut short?”

Dobey folded the paper into fourths and put it on the nightstand for later reading. “I told those turkeys to stay away until at least Monday, and not talk to you without me here.”

“I can handle those ass wipes, Cap.”

“Not on your own,” he countered. “Not in this situation. You know that with your memory being scattered those bozos would jump at a chance to play games with you. Especially Simonetti. He’d love to nail you two.”

“Pretty sure he’d choose that over a blow job from Farrah Fawcett.”

Dobey was good at presenting himself as disaffected, but even this joke resulted in a snort from him.

Starsky pulled the lone sheet over his legs while looking around the room avoiding the silence between the two. “Cap, that rookie do-gooder out there – and I do know he’s a wet behind the ears rookie. The creases on his bright blue, brand new uniform could crack an egg. Poor kid. You walk by him and he nearly pees his superman underpants.”

“Your point?”

“You don’t have to hang out here all the time. I need to stay in your wife’s good graces. Her monthly pot roast dinners keep me sane.”

“I eat the same pot roasts and I question my sanity daily,” he smirked hoping to get the slightest hint of consolation out of his detective. “But, anyway, I don’t think you have to worry about that.” The smile on the Captain’s face needed no explanation. His two top detectives were also fodder for his wife’s mother henning. “I just want to be here when you start remembering things.”

“I can write things down,” Starsky whined showing his boss a pencil and paper in front of him.

“I know. I read your reports, remember?” Eyes rolled with this announcement. “That’s why I’m here. Listen Starsky, let’s start with the basics. What cases were you guys working on?”

Starsky laid back and stared at the stark white ceiling while covering his forehead with his interlaced fingers as though magically rubbing the memories to fruition. “That cold case from six years ago – Hamlin. So far, we got very little. A couple of questionables that turned into natural deaths. We’ve been working with narcotics on several drug related murders. We closed four this month already. That leaves two open. Prepped with that cold fish, ADA Martha Davis, for the Weston trial…. and… and… ” Starsky closed his eyes as he suddenly remembered snippets of a conversation he’d had with Hutch.

“….every time… shit disappears.”

“….inside. Or infiltrated. Don’t know.”

“….party…..”

“…getting close…”

“…trust…”

“Me and thee…. Have to find the right time.”

“…no one… I’ll talk to… You got Dobey?”

“Cap?” Starsky opened his eyes and took a deep breath. “Did we talk to you before this happened? About something big?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Did someone else in the department?”

Captain Dobey shook his head.

Starsky felt so sure. SO sure. “No one talked to you?”

“Nobody. Starsky? What do you remember?”

“I don’t know,” he moaned. “I just know I need to be with Hutch. And I need to know what the fuck happened.”

They were both frustrated, tired, bolstered with anxiety and fear of the unknown, and nearly talking on top of one another. “It’s a process, Starsky, you know that.”

“No, I don’t know that. And why won’t you tell me about Hutch?”

Dobey scooted forward in his seat and rested his elbows on his knees. With a deep breath and reluctant hesitation, he pointedly looked up at Starsky eye to eye. “Son…”

“Here we go.”

“Dave… ”

“Told you not to do that.”

“I’m not supposed to tell you anything. There’s an ongoing investigation…”

What investigation?” He was done playing the patient with patience role. All bets were off as he bolted off the bed and wandered over to the window, his left hand holding his hospital gown closed at his naked rear end. “Geez, what the hell is going on here?” he pleaded with a shaky voice. “I have a right to know what put me here.”

“Yes…. Yes, you do. Just one thing at a time. Starsky, You were assaulted…”

“That’s obvious. What aren’t you telling me?”

Captain Dobey remained in his seat with arms crossed over his large chest clearly unsure of what direction this discussion would take: Continued beating around the bush, or the truth. He chose a variety of the latter. “You both were.”

“What?”

“A couple uniforms out on patrol found you…”

“…me?”

“Yes, just you… a couple blocks away from Hutch’s apartment. I was called to the scene because… well... that’s not important now.”

That brought Starsky back to the bed on the other side of his Captain. He leaned over the bed and demanded answers as his exasperated eyes locked onto Dobey’s.

“Where is he?”

“Slow down. The doctors wanted me to wait a few more days… until your head was clear.”

“Stop saying that. I’ve had my bell rung before and nobody gave a flying fuck… sorry Cap… nobody gave a shit how clear my head was. Well, its crystal clear now,” he said while pointing to the messy mop of curls. “NOW would be a good time to tell me everything.”

“But they want your memory to come back naturally, slowly, and definitely not all at once. Certainly it’s best for the investigation if you can remember the events without extraneous…”

Extraneous. Sounds like a word Hutch would use. He’s not extraneous, Cap. Not to me.”

I know. I know.”

Starsky entered the pacing mode now, walking in repeated patterns from the bed to the window and back. “Where is he?”

“He’s here too, in this hospital. Just in another part of it.”

“Is he OK?”

“Don’t you worry about him.” Dobey was back to the beating-around-the-bush answers. “I was just about to go over there…”

“I’m going too.”

“No. You’re just not ready.”

“But I’m not tied to those damn IVs anymore, Cap.” Starsky put his free arms up in the air and waved them in front of Dobey. “Look, Ma. Two hands.”

“No.”

“See… No more IV lines. They just have this little shunt thingy in my hand instead for those steroid injections they give me for my squashed squash. Mary calls it a happy locker.”

Hep lock, sugar”, Mary corrected him as she made her way into the room with a tray holding four syringes.

“Four?” Starsky whined at his nurse. Mary patted the bed directing him to sit down.

“First one’s a saline flush. The second one has the steroids. Saline flush again, then heparin to keep the line from clotting. Needles go in the line, not your tush, sweetie. Don’t worry.”

“Medicine still hurts when it goes in.”

“I know,” she said as she finished flushing the line then pushed the steroids. “Burns, I know. Sorry. Almost done.”

Starsky looked down and away towards Captain Dobey with a grimace as she completed her task. It just seemed wrong not to have Hutch there helping him through this. Don’t be a big baby, mushbrain, he would be scolding.

“Look, gorgeous,” Starsky delivered turning his attention back to the older lady he had come to trust but had yet not been able to coerce, “I need to make an escape. You know, blow this popsicle stand. Take a powder.”

“Such effort, Dave, and with passion too,” she answered with a twinkled smile. “But you’re barely on your feet.”

“A stroll around the hospital. Need to see a friend. Come on, darling,” he tried with his best Rico Suave mask, “these white walls are making me feel like a caged animal.”

“Oh, you’re an animal alright, but no unauthorized strolls just yet. Maybe you can go for a short spin around just the floor tonight in a wheelchair. But definitely not now. You need at least two good meals in you and some more sleep.”

She had done this before. She’d done this for a very long time, he was sure of it. There was no breaking Mary!

Please, Cap,” he begged, “we need…”

“You heard the boss lady. Not now.” Dobey then stooped over and talked very quietly to his detective as Mary deposited the empty syringes in the appropriate red Sharps container and stepped out. “Besides, visitors have been restricted.”

“Says who?”

“Says me. And your doctors. Your little colleague in the starched blues wearing a badge out there has been alerted to your potential for slipping out without permission, so don’t try anything… or I’ll pay Mary extra to sit next to your carcass 24/7.”

Starsky put his elbow up on the rolling tray over his bed and moped his chin into his hand. “Cap…”

“Look, Starsky, I’ll give Hutch your regards, OK?”

“He’s probably just as antsy to get out of here as me.”

“Excuse me, Captain, Dobey,” Mary said cracking the door open, “there’s a phone call for you at the nurse’s station. And they called from downstairs. I guess they’re waiting for you for some meeting.”

“I forgot. Thank you, Mary. You’re a gem,” he gave her with a polite smile as he stood to leave. “Starsky, I’ll be back tomorrow when your doctors stop in. They want to have a meet and greet about possibly discharging you, and… and, well, we have some things to talk about.”

“Is that where you’re going now? A meet and greet about Hutch’s discharge?”

“Something like that.”

Starsky settled back in his bed ready for a long nap before his bland hospital dinner arrived. “Hey, tell Hutch if he wants to get the sewer pipe disconnected from his plumbing he has to sit up in bed, walk to the bathroom by himself and be a good little boy. He’s a real shitty patient. Oh, and no enemas without prior approval. Tell him I’ll get there to see him as soon as I can. Tell him that, huh Cap? And Cap…. Tell him I miss him.”

Dobey stopped before exiting the room, the door propped half open. “You really don’t remember that day, do you?”

With his head planted firmly on the pillow, Starsky shook his head and slung an arm over his eyes to hide his spent feelings.

 


The tugging on his shoulder opened his eyes, but Starsky really woke up when he focused his eyes on who was doing the tugging.

“Detective…”

“Worst nightmare ever… Simonetti?”

The smug, brash Internal Affairs pain-in-the ass placed a grease laden paper bag on the bedside table. “Is that how you thank someone who brings you a Deluxe Bay City Burger from The Pits?”

Wiping his eyes from blurry to clear, Starsky propped himself up on one elbow. “Yeah, well Dobey said you turds get to stay in your shit house until Monday. I believe you’re two days early for the inquisition.”

“Late evening when you are your sleepiest is sometimes the best time to pull from your memory.”

“Go fuck yourself. Then wash the scum off your hands and do it again.”

Simonetti righted himself and looked over his shoulder at the doorway… at the suit there… at Schrader. “So tell me, Starsky, what do you remember?”

“You don’t quit.”

“Just doing my job. You would too.”

“There’s a question of work ethic here. Pretty sure I outplay you on that one.”

“Do you? Does Hutchinson?”

“Ask him.”

Again, Simonetti glanced at his superior.

“Stop looking at Daddy for support,” Starsky spit.

“Tell me about what you two were working on”

“It’s no secret. Cold case, court prep and a month of co-op work with Narcotics. Why?”

The IA cop was hammering away with no relief. “What brought you guys to the point you were at last Thursday?”

Point? What the hell are you talking about?” His level of frustration was building as he sat up and turned the light on over his head. “What point? Look, all I remember is talking to Hutch about missing shit, something about needing to talk to someone and trusting each other. Maybe planning something. It’s just snippets and the docs here say I should eventually remember everything, but… And, damn it, I needed to get something from the car.”

Before Starsky could finish, Simonetti walked over to have a conversation with Schrader in hushed voices.

“I’m right here, ya know. You realize that.” Starsky fell back onto his pillow exasperated. A few words later and Schrader left the room altogether.

“OK, look Detective,” Simonetti bolstered walking back to the bed, “you need to be frank with us.”

“I only know one language, maybe a little Yiddish, but I’m pretty sure fuck off is universally understood. So let me put it to you in your own language of Simple Dimwit… FUCK. OFF.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yiddish. Originated in the 9th century. Was the language of the Ashkenazi Jews. Pete down in the motor pool can help you with this…”

“You think you’re funny, don’t you.”

“Hutch thinks I’m hysterical.”

“Look, Starsky, you need to…”

“I know what I need to do, moron. And if I remember anything I’ll tell Hutch first.”

Simonetti sighed but not without a small, garish half-smile escaping.

“Where’d the burger come from anyway? Even Huggy hasn’t been allowed to visit.”

“I guess you could say Hutch sent it.”

“Yeah? Too bad I can’t thank him personally.”

“You want to see Hutch? I think I can arrange that.”

“Wait…. Now? You can get me to him now?”

“Yeah, sure, why not.”

As Simonetti left the room to get a wheelchair, Starsky giddily gathered some things to take to Hutch. “Those lemons swabs,” he mumbled looking in cupboards and finally finding his loot in the bedside nightstand. “Yes, these are awesome.” He held several of them like a bouquet of flowers. “And where’s that cherry lip balm Edith Dobey gave me instead of the one here that tastes like moldy butt…?” Getting his bathrobe on, he found the lip balm in the pocket. “Snap! I’m a genius.”

The last thing Starsky grabbed before sitting in the wheelchair with Simonetti in the driver’s seat, was the newspaper Dobey left behind. “He likes to read the stock market. He even makes notes in the margin. Dork.”

As they made a quick exit, Starsky reached over and plucked a pencil from the officer’s shirt pocket tucking it into the newspaper on his lap.

“Going for a ride, Sheriff,” he snickered. He didn’t see the nod shared between the officer and Simonetti.

David.” Mary’s soft but curt voice was unmistakable.

“Uh oh, Charlie Brown, we’re caught.”

“Sneaking out the bedroom window?” She asked in the voice of authority that reminded Starsky of his own mother. “What’s your destination, boys?”

“Just going for a spin with my… friend… ma’am,” Starsky gave like a guilt laden preteen boy. “Clearing the cob webs. Around the floor, Mary. Just like you said.” Seeing what was in her hands, he couldn’t help himself. “Mary, can I have those socks?” Mary looked down at her hands.

“What, you don’t like your purple ones?”

“Variety is the spice of life, right?” With that, Starsky added the pink socks to his collection of gifts for Hutch.

As colleagues gestured Mary towards another room for help, she pointed a finger at Starsky and shook it at him. “Five minutes, young man. I want you back in your room in five minutes.”

“Yes, Mom.”

As soon as the nurse was out of sight, Simonetti steered Starsky into an elevator. With a quick turnaround to face the mirrored doors, Starsky looked up at the buttons of floor numbers, several lit up. “What floor are we going to,” he mumbled doing everything he could not to look at his battered reflection.

Simonetti shrugged his shoulders. “Going down.”

“What floor,” he asked again not feeling comfortable with the close quarters amidst a cluster of strangers not to mention his own likeness.

“There’s always the basement.” Simonetti was a dirt ball through and through. He was looking for shock value yet Starsky played it cool, even though the current conditions didn’t quite allow for the beat down he wanted to give the jerk even from his vertically challenged spot.

Before the elevator doors even opened, Starsky started getting excited. He patted his bathrobe pocket to make sure the cherry lip balm was there. He held tightly onto the bouquet of lemon glycerin mouth swabs on top of the newspaper, a pencil tucked into a fold. The swabs were sure to get a laugh out of the blond.

The first thing Starsky noticed when they got out of the elevator on the fifth floor was the stark difference from his own floor. It was quiet and foot traffic was limited to a few tired looking visitors. They had to go through two sets of double doors and once they got to patient rooms, well, they weren’t really rooms. Passing by three before stopping, Starsky noticed from his seated position that they were just areas with curtains, sometimes a wall on each side of the bed, but no doors. In his mind they looked like work cubicles for sick people.

He looked up and over the nurse’s station and spotted a sign.

 

 

CICU
Visitors check in with unit desk first

 

“What…? Hey Tricky Dick,” he asked looking up at Simonetti, “what’s CICU?” He knew. He knew the gravity of it, but hoped, just hoped… “Not funny, asshole. This is not even…”

“Here we are,” was the non-answer as they turned into a patient area directly across from the main desk. “Hold on. Just going to angle your wheelchair…”

Starsky heard nothing else. He saw the dry erase board across from the end of the bed that said:

 

Ken Hutchinson
NPO Charge Nurse: Paola
Drs. Adams, Patel, Barken

 

But when he looked at the patient in the bed his head could not wrap around what he was seeing.

“No.”

The newspaper slipped to the floor as he rose from the wheelchair and walked to the bed. The pink socks ended up under a chair.

NO.”

Other than the hum of the machinery, the only sound came from the pencil rolling under the bed. Gravity dropped his hand down and he walked through the scattered lemon swabs that fell and bounced in several different directions.

“This isn’t him,” he said looking back at Simonetti. “This isn’t Hutch. It’s not.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE

“It’s not…,” Starsky pleaded looking around for anyone to validate him. “It’s not Hutch.”

The patient lay prone, lifeless with only a hospital gown spread over his pelvis and abdomen. The lower legs were propped with a pillow behind the knees, each with a special puffy stocking from toes to knees. A catheter sneaked out of one side of the gown to a hanging urine collection bag holding only a scant amount of brownish fluid. A larger line stretched out from the other side of the gown at the pelvis to a strange looking machine with pieces spinning and groaning. Starsky reached out tentatively to touch the exposed thigh but pulled back at the last minute realizing he shouldn’t be there.

“Starsky…”

“Not… no…. NO…”

He had to force himself to travel his eyes up above the patient’s hips, around the many IV lines, a cast on one arm, bandages on the other, to the face, but he couldn’t look at the face. Not just yet. Bandages sporadically covered the heavily bruised chest but stopped just before white pads which held the wire leads to monitors measuring his vital signs. Starsky instinctively looked up and to the right where the blips and beeps were displayed. Lots of lines and numbers. Numbers meant life. One large IV poked out from his chest near the collar bone and another on the side of the neck. The right side of his head was covered by yet more bandages, the left shaved and sporting a crude metal probe burrowed deep into the skull.

All plugged in like fucking Frankenstein,” he thought.

There was no movement. No indication that there was life beyond the electronics and multitudes of medications hanging in bags around the bed. He tried looking at the swollen and bruised face instead focusing on the odd placement of the breathing tube.

“Starsky?”

“Is this a joke, Simonetti? Huh?”

The tall, slender, nauseating IA detective wearing his personal uniform of a dull brown suit and matching shit-brown tie, stepped forward from where he had been taking it all in at the foot of the bed. “Now, let’s just take a moment to...”

“Who is this?”

“…try to remember…”

“Fucking bastard. You make me sick.”

“Starsky, sit down and let’s go over…”

“This isn’t a game… some, some sick way to get me to remember. That…,” he said pointing to the patient, “…whoever… he’s NOT my partner. That… that man is almost dea…. He’s not going to live. If it was Hutch I would have known. I would feel it,” he spit through gritted teeth inching his way into Simonetti’s face. “Something you wouldn’t know about. Wouldn’t understand, because in order to be capable of having those feelings you have to have a heart,” he said poking his finger into the taller cop’s chest, pushing him back into a metal tray stand clattering it to the floor.

Starsky moved to the only area of the room not taken up by machines and medical equipment and made the wall his new best friend.

A calming woman’s voice punctured the tension of sudden silence in the room. “David…”

The anger on Starsky’s face twisted as he squeezed his eyes shut willing reality to vanish.

“Oh, David… please sit down for us. Please...”

“Leave me alone,” he seethed through his teeth, eyes still closed, face to the wall. “Don’t need nurses or doctors.” He rolled his forehead on the stark white wall back and forth trying to formulate a reason for what… for everything… “I just want…”

“Look at me, David.”

“Mary?”

“Who? No…. please, dear, don’t make this harder than…”

“No. NO…”

Two hands… two tender and warm, soft and motherly hands found his balled up fists and held them from behind gently coaxing them to relax open. “You need to look at me, David. It’s OK to see what’s here. Hmmm? Just open your eyes.”

Reluctantly turning around, Starsky brought his hands up to hide his face but they were quickly brought down by the woman who desperately clasped them together in hers, almost as in prayer. He didn’t want to open his eyes, but he did. He did open them and it was like a rebirthing of that which he did not want to see: reality.

She stood in front of him, a tall, slender lady. One who some would call a ‘handsome woman’. She wore modestly high heels and a matching navy blue summer skirt. Her pink golf shirt and unbuttoned white cardigan sweater were clean and looked almost new, but were slightly wrinkled and out of place. Then the face… her ivory skin was soft, carefully aged, but tired. Her familiar face was framed by well-groomed silver hair.

“Mrs. H., what are you doing here?”

Simonetti took hold of Starsky’s upper arm and attempted to steer him back to the wheelchair. “Remember something? Hmmm? Try, Starsky…”

Starsky was oblivious to the IA detective’s manipulations just as he was to the sudden gathering of others in the room. “No… NO… NO…. this is n-n-not happening. That is NOT my partner. Y-you all have it wrong.” He put his unbandaged left hand up to his head and pulled haphazardly at his already mottled curls while struggling to keep his heart from jumping out of his chest. “That’s wrong,” he announced pointing wildly at the board with the patient’s name on it. “Please, Mrs. H., please… this can’t be…”

“Yes, David. It’s Ken. You know it is. Please, sit down…”

Noooo!” He paced the room avoiding the bed altogether, avoiding the truth. The tears flowed freely out of frustration, grief and an inescapable sense of heavy guilt forcing him to beat his own chest with his fist as though wishing the pain to insert itself on his psyche. Eventually the self-flagellation stopped and he stood up straight next to the bed looking down at the face, looking for the moles on his neck, the crease between his eyes and at that little valley he had on his chest just peeking out of the bandages. They were all there. It was all there. In front of him.

“Babe…. Hutch?” Starsky looked up and down the patient, from feet to blonde head, at least what was left of the hair. “I can’t even see his eyes. You got ‘em taped shut. I don’t understand. Why…? How can this be?”

“How ‘bout you tell me,” Simonetti growled only for Starsky to hear.

And with that, the rage that had been simmering in Starsky gloriously erupted. He may have been a recovering patient but the surprise alone caught Simonetti off guard as Starsky rammed himself against the other man’s body and out of the room shoving him hard against the CICU unit desk. Eventually Starsky could no longer stay vertical and their bodies dropped to the floor in a tangled mass of flailing limbs. Neither one had any reasonable ability to breath properly with Simonetti trying in vain to get away from his aggressor. He screamed, he growled, he moaned. Words failed to form properly through his gritted teeth with drool stringing down onto Simonetti’s desperate face. Somehow in the maelstrom Starsky’s nose sprouted a blood flow adding to the body fluids flowing south.

Stop. Bleeding. On. Me!”

Finally enough staff – nurses, orderlies, clerks and doctors – separated the two. Starsky continued to try to throw punches at the air while Simonetti crab walked back until he was halfway under another patient’s cubicle curtain.

The chill of the tile floor felt good against his back. The pain sliced through Starsky’s head and went unabated regardless of how tight his grip was on it. He heard voices but did not respond. He saw faces but could not comprehend their identity.

“….not allowed…”

“….whose patient…”

“…security…”

“…call Captain Dobey…”

“…clear area…”

“David, son…”

He thought he heard…. but, no. Couldn’t be.

“Son, let’s get up off the floor.”

He squinted into the brashness of the ceiling above the subject doing the talking. It wasn’t until another form blocked the light that he made out the figure of an older, frailer.… “Hutch?”

“No, David. It’s Richard. Ken’s father.” He looked concerned. Annoyed, but concerned. Must be genetic. “Pull yourself together.”

Starsky groaned again and turned over into a crouch, his head pounding out a code. As he hammered the palm of his left hand into the floor next to his head a comforting arm draped his shoulders.

“Dave… it’s Mary, sweetheart. You shouldn’t be here. It’s too much.” she said. “Can you roll over? Lie on your back, hun.”

He couldn’t do it on his own and remained face down, knees to chest, rocking, heaving in air while salt water pooled under his cheeks. “Tell them to get off of me,” he whimpered.

“Nobody is on you, Dave. I’m the only one touching you.”

“Can’t breathe…. They’re… suffocating me. Can’t breathe.”

“Yes you can. You’re OK. Dave, are you with me? Hmmm?”

“M-Mary? Where…?”

“You didn’t come home on time, sweetie,” the older nurse soothed recalling the humor they shared. “Had to go looking for you. Figured you’d come to this neighborhood.”

“Yeah? I… am I… am I grounded?”

“We’ll see. But let’s turn you over so I can see your face. OK? Come on.”

Finally he relented and painfully turned over onto his back. Mary kneeled next to him as close to his face as possible to block out the faces of those who dished out the anxiety. “Going to give you something to relax you. Right in your happy locker. OK?” With that she pulled a syringe from her pocket and swiftly injected the medication into the port.

He felt the veil of darkness come over him almost immediately and welcomed the numb blanket of nothingness as his limp body was lifted and placed on a soft, padded surface. He reached out and grabbed, but the hand that fell into his was not his partner’s.

“We’ll check on you later, David,” Marilyn Hutchinson whispered giving him a quick kiss on his forehead. Her voice wavered. Sadness in every direction.

“Mrs. H., please, tell him… tell him…”

“I will, dear. But he knows. He knows.”

The last thing he remembered was being wheeled into the mirrored elevator. This time he closed his eyes and didn’t look.

 

 

NINE DAYS PREVIOUS
THURSDAY, JUNE 8th

The heat of the day never waned making Hutch’s second floor apartment the proof that heat does indeed rise. The closest window to his bed was open but the scorching air was uselessly stagnant. When Starsky left the uninvited stifling temperatures had stayed. He was face down in bed, arms out to his side, the sheet barely covering his bare ass. Even the glistening sheen of sweat on his back seemed to never dry out. Every now and then he moved a limb searching out a cooler spot never actually finding one. He was exhausted in every sense of the word. Sore, sweaty, filthy, drained, hot and… hungry. Hungry for pie.

“Mmm… pie,” he muffled into the pillow.

The sound of feet on the stairs made him turn his face in the direction of the door. The drool spot under his cheek, he decided uncharacteristically, was refreshing. Then came the knocking. It was only eleven o’clock, too early for his elderly social butterfly neighbor to be home, but not unprecedented.

“Nosy broad,” the blonde laughed to himself. At least once a week she locked herself out of her apartment. Her need to talk his ear off while he handed over the spare key made him think she had ulterior motives. She always followed up these visits with a casserole the next day. Fair trade, he thought.

A second set of knocks pulled him to his feet. Groaning as he straightened his cramped back, he looked around and grabbed the blue jeans he had climbed out of earlier and pulled them on, sans underwear, not even zipping them up. He figured he could listen to her chatter with the door only half opened.

“It’s the 8th, Mrs. Lewis,” He spoke loudly as he opened the locks and grabbed her key out of the jar on top of the piano. “Thought you only locked yourself out on odd days.”

Before he knew it, he was pushed backwards by the door crashing open. He reached for the light switch but was stopped short by a fist to the face, kick to the side and body slam to the floor. He felt the shock of the air being forced from his lungs and struggled to find a rhythm for breathing again as he was hit, bashed and kicked relentlessly over and over. Even though he was kept from seeing who was doing this to him, they didn’t count on Hutch getting a glimpse of the face and arms in the floor length mirror propped up against the far wall. He let his guard down for just a few seconds at the realization of who was in the room with him, but it was long enough for him to lose any chance he had at fighting back.

When he reached to grab at the perpetrator’s leg, a great force met his right arm and Hutch knew immediately that his wrist was powder. Just as he attempted to scream, moan or cry out, hands grabbed his head and he was blindfolded, his head strangled by the material. It seemed as though each move he made was met with a more powerful assault. Every time he tried to get up, he got a hard kick to his back and sides.

He was dragged into the bedroom, knees scraping through his blue jeans, his hips battered by the floorboards. It was wet under him. Wet, warm and slick. His shoulder was nearly yanked apart as his left arm was grabbed and tied to the foot of a bedpost at the wrist. All he could do was turn from his back to his front on the floor. It wasn’t until a simultaneous bash to the chest and head that he mercifully blacked out.

TBC…..

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX

 

The lights were out. TV off. Door closed and window blinds drawn. Starsky had been laying on his side with his arm up over his head conveniently covering his ear and anchoring his head to the pillow as hard as it could since he was brought back from Hutch’s room. He had had so many drugs pumped through his body over the last week that the sedation Mary had given him was nothing more than benign baby aspirin. He was wide awake in a silent hospital room in the middle of the night.

If his eyes were open, he found himself focused on the mutant sounds of the floor staff as they walked past his room holding loud conversations outside his door. Didn’t they know patients needed to sleep? When he closed his eyes, his mind played tricks on him and gave him cerebral snapshots of what he was trying to remember. Ever since he became one with the floor after tackling Simonetti the memories had been flooding back, just not in the right order and sometimes not making much sense.

Fucking hairy purple butterflies, he thought.

But it was coming back. The cases. Their fight at the station. The horrible German mustard. Being at Hutch’s place. Needing to get something from the damn car. Sinking ships. Humanoid beasts.

“Shit. Fuck. Motherfucker,” he blurted out to himself. He brought his knees up into a fetal position and willed himself to disappear into the bed.

A slice of light briefly snuck into the room as the door quietly opened and then closed.

“Mary?”

“No, son.”

“Cap?”

Captain Dobey dragged his chair up to the bedside and reached out to pat Starsky’s hand only to have it pulled away as he turned over onto his back, his arm moving with him to cover his eyes.

“Dave, I got a call…”

“I know.”

“Told you not to go down there.” His voice matched the lighting and mood: dark but subtle.

“Can’t keep me away from my partner.”

“I can and I will.”

“Too late.”

Dobey knew he was cooked. There was no winning this conversation and with Starsky facing the unknown while slapped with a sudden need to grieve, he wasn’t quite willing to play supervisor.

“I spoke with Hutch’s folks,” he said, looking over, hoping to get some sort of reaction out of the unmoving patient. “They authorized the doctors to go over his condition with you.”

“It’s bad, isn’t it, Cap?”

Dobey remained stock still in his chair, arms crossed over his chest. His emotions were usually relegated to being either cloudy or stormy with only a slight chance of rain. With the reality that the inevitable had come and he’d have to help Starsky face the fact that he may lose his partner, and maybe his own soul, rain threatened as his eyes welled.

It’s bad, isn’t it, Cap?” Starsky repeated.

“Certainly seems that way. Yes.”

“Is he gonna live?”

“That’s a question for the docs. But...”

“But what?”

“He’s made it this far.”

They remained in their places, Starsky flat on his back in bed, arm draped over his eyes, and Dobey four square in his chair, arms crossed at his chest, for a good half hour before another word was spoken.

“Starsky, it’s almost midnight. I need to get back to the family, but I’ll be here first thing in the morning when your doctor comes in to talk to you about going home.”

“I can do that alone, Cap. You don’t need to be here.”

“They’re going to go over everything with you… about your injuries and, well, condition, when you were admitted. I think you’ll need support. It’s going to be hard to hear some things…”

“Alright, I guess.” He didn’t care anymore. Just. Didn’t. Care.

“Tomorrow’s going to be difficult. Internal Affairs will be talking to you. I’m sorry,” he confessed while leaning forward, elbows propped on knees looking at the floor. “I couldn’t hold them off any longer. They’re going to be asking a lot of questions and you need to answer them as truthfully and as completely as you can. And without a temper. Got that?”

Starsky nodded. “Whatever.”

“And I believe you’ll be taken back down to see Hutch and his doctor, if you think you can handle it.”

Starsky nodded again. Wasn’t much, but it was something.

“Have you remembered anything?”

“Yeah”

“Yes? Dave, do you remember that Wednesday at the precinct?”

“Said some horrible things to Hutch.”

Fucking, relentless prick.

Small, small man.

Arrogant asshole.

“Believe me. It was mutual. He said his piece and it wasn’t very kind.” In Dobey’s mind, Hutch had won the war of insults hands down. “And the next night… the night you two were found... Starsky, did you go over to Hutch’s apartment?”

“Yeah.”

“When did you leave?”

“Don’t know,” he sighed, not really giving two shits. “Maybe 10:30 or 11. Cap… please…”

“Ok, ok. You try and get some sleep.”

He was reluctant, but finally the large Captain headed for the door.

“Cap?” Starsky asked just as the door opened, “you said the uniform outside my door was for my own protection. I noticed Hutch doesn’t have one.” He waited for an explanation but figured he’d just have to ask. “They’re not posted out there to protect me.”

“No, son.”

“They’re there to keep track of me, aren’t they?”

The door closed reluctantly and Dobey stood in the darkened room wishing he didn’t have to continue with…. the truth.

“Something like that.”

“Am I a suspect, Cap?”

“There’s an investigation and evidence is…”

“AM I A SUSPECT?”

YES.” There. He said it. “At this point evidence is pointing to you.”

“They think I did that to my partner?” He pointed at the wall as if Hutch was on the other side. “…and then beat myself to a pulp?”

“Looks that way.”

“Do you believe that too?”

That one hurt, but the Captain’s hands were tied in how much he could say. Evidence was still being put together and forensics was “ongoing”. He gravitated back to the bed wishing that Starsky’s innocence was cut and dry.

“Don’t know what to believe yet, Dave.”

“Do the Hutchinsons know?”

Is anyone on my side? Do I have any allies… who aren’t comatose? He questioned to himself.

“No. Because the investigation involves police officers, the file is sealed. I’m not even ‘eyes first’. I get a second looksee after IA, at their pleasure.”

“Meaning what, Cap?”

“Meaning, if they feel like playing nice with me.”

Starsky broke his depressed composure for the first time as he put his hand over his mouth trying to stop the flood, then covered his eyes again.

“I didn’t do that to him, Cap.” His voice wavered with emotion. “He’s my partner. He’s my….”

“I know. Look, you’re not alone, Dave.” Dobey put his large hand on Starsky’s head and exhaled a world of stress. “Write down as much as you can as you remember it, ok?” He waited several minutes until Starsky’s eyes began to droop in sleep. “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

 ~~

It was 3am when Starsky started thrashing in half sleep as full memories came flooding back.

 

“This is like a stakeout except we can’t talk about shit and take naps,” Starsky whispered as he pretended to look through a case file while leaning against the door frame of the Active Case Evidence Lock-Up room for narcotics and homicide.

“Or eat constantly,” Hutch snorted. “You might actually get healthier on this stakeout, meathead.” Hutch had had the officer in charge of the room that day pull a box of tagged evidence from an irrelevant case and was leaning over it pretending to sort through the items.

“Hey, Hutch look at this here,” Starsky said blankly pointing to a paper in the file as two detectives walked close by.

The tall blonde pretended to look studiously at the open folder then, when their potential audience had disappeared, turned the file around. “It’s upside down, dummy.”

“Oh. Yeah,” he snickered. “Ya feel like we’re acting, Hutch? Like on a TV show or somethin’?”

“Huh? Um… no. I feel like we’re spying on our colleagues. And, by the way, pretty sure there’s no Emmy Award in this for you.”

“Oscar. I’d get an Oscar trophy thing.”

“Those are for movies. Emmy’s are for TV.”

“No, really… We’re cops pretending to do cop work while watching cops…”

“Spying, Starsky,” Hutch corrected him. “We’re spying on our friends and fellow officers. Don’t exactly feel good about it. Feels like we’re on a bridge to nowhere.”

“I know, blondie,” he quietly consoled with a light touch to the arm. “I’m just trying to lighten things up. We’ll get there.”

“Yeah, well…” The frustration in Hutch was peaking like mercury in a thermometer. “Every time we start to get close, the activity stops. I think whoever is doing it knows we’re looking for them.”

“At least we’ve narrowed it down to staff who work on this floor.” Starsky tossed the meaningless file to the side and took a book out of the box pretending to flip through it.

“So,” the blonde counted while looking up and down the hall at the name plates outside each door, “that leaves Homicide, Human Resources, Internal Affairs.”

“Hmmm…and all the uniforms who trek through on a regular basis. That’s narrow?”

Roger, the older uniformed sergeant in charge of the evidence room that day, interrupted the duo. “You two about done here? I’m taking off for lunch.”

“Yeah, sure,” Hutch answered as he placed the box and file on the desk and initialed the log book. “Hey Rog, who mans the shop when you step out?”

“Usually grab someone over at IA or HR. Half the time they’re sitting on their hands anyway,” he said while dropping the evidence on a cart with other boxes waiting to be put back in storage. “But this year I’ve started pulling from down in Booking too. Really need a uniform here at the desk, not a monkey suit.”

“Great,” Hutch whispered to Starsky when Roger’s back was turned. “Add Booking to the list of potentials.”

“Usually, though, if I ain’t here, detectives just wait and come back later. They’re used to me and I know where everything is. You guys want to hang here for a half hour? I’m hungry.”

“Sure. 10-4. Roger…. Roger,” Starsky joked. “Happy to help.”

“Like he’s never heard that one before, moron,” Hutch snorted.

Once Roger left it gave Starsky and Hutch a chance to get behind the desk and look at the log books without being so obvious.

“Anybody signing out evidence stick out?” Starsky asked as Hutch flipped through the book.

“Yeah. Everyone and no one. He must fill a book a week. Shit, Starsk. We’ll never catch them at this rate.”

“Unless they think we’re not here.”

“What are you getting at, Gordo?”

Starsky walked over to the door and closed it, leaning his back against the plate glass window to gain some privacy in their conversation. “They’re used to us. We’ve spent more time here on this floor than on the streets lately. Hutch, I’m pretty sure whoever is doing this knows we’re close to ‘em. We can’t be here anymore.”

“How can we not be here and still catch them?”

“Let me rephrase that, Shakespeare…. They need to assume we’re not on the job anymore.”

The gears in their heads were turning at warp speed as they connected their eyes and continued the planning. As usual they were on the same wave length.

Starsky tilted his head at his partner and raised his eyebrows. “ You thinking what I’m thinking?”

“They need to get complacent for a while. Not see us...”

“…and be convinced we’re out of the picture. Maybe even given up.”

“Completely. We,” Hutch said pointing his finger back and forth between each other, “need to be irrelevant to the precinct.”

“Yep. Gotta give ‘em a good reason, though.”

“Tell Dobey?”

“Nope.” Starsky grimaced a this. The Captain was not going to be pleased with them. “Not right away, at least.”

“You’re right,” Hutch exhaled as his eyebrows jumped a foot. “He’d never go for it.”

“Private party?”

That was a Dobey expression. ‘Private party’ was a term he made up just for his two top, rogue detectives when they went undercover or carried out investigations and arrests without departmental notification and approval.

“Yeah. Still should tell one person.” Hutch had his hand up on his chest where the top two buttons were undone. He unconsciously rubbed and pinched the skin there when worried. “Who would most likely go along with it and is least likely to be the one or ones taking the drugs from seizures?”

Both guys were momentarily introspective as they mulled around potential names.

“How about…. ‘Elmer Fudd’?” Starsky put out there.

Hutch nodded. “Ok. Yeah. That cartoon.”

There, that was set. But neither one jumped to volunteer to do the job.

Starsky moved back to the desk and hopped on top of it sitting in front of Hutch.

Finally…

I’ll go talk to him.” Hutch relented. “And tell him to give us a couple days before he clues Dobey in. That way if it’s someone in our squad on any of the shifts, Dobey won’t be getting any visitors right away to make them suspicious.”

“You sure? He’s not exactly one of your favorite people.” Starsky noticed a half sly smile on Hutch’s face. “What are you thinking, Blondie?”

“Well, kind of a trade.”

“Huh?”

Hutch leaned over the desk and rested on his elbows. “I’ll talk to the ‘Elmer Fudd’ if you take over and be Banker next time we play Monopoly.”

“But Hutch,” Starsky whined playfully, “I like it when you’re the Banker. You do all the work.”

“Yes, but I know that secretly you’ve wanted to be Banker for a long time.” Hutch tapped the top of his partner’s hand. “What do ya say?”

“I say, ok… if you’re ready to give up the bank, partner.”

“Oh, I think it’s time.”

 

The entire scenario played out in Starsky’s head over and over. It was the last work conversation he remembers having with Hutch before the bickering and fighting started.

I got to be Banker,” Starsky thought. “Just once.”

 ~~

Mary removed the shunt from the back of Starsky’s hand and taped a folded up gauze pad over the puncture site. “There. No more sticks, Dave.”

“Do I get a lollipop?”

“I’ll see what I can do, young man,” she said with a smile as she settled down in the chair next to the bed. “You don’t have much to take home with you. Do you have someone bringing clothes from home?”

“I guess my Captain stopped by my place. Hutch usually takes care of….” The thought of not being taken home by Hutch… the thought of walking away from the hospital and leaving his partner behind hit him hard. He leaned back on his pillow with his hand behind his head willing the hollow feeling of loneliness to wash away. “What are you doing, slacker?” he asked noticing that his nurse was parked quite comfortably in the chair by the bed.

“Doctor is coming in here with your Captain pretty soon to go over your discharge. Thought you could use a friend.”

As much as Starsky wanted to crawl in a hole and melt into the soil, Mary’s kind soul and mothering instinct made him smile. “I guess I could, gorgeous.”

She barely had a chance to pat his hand when the door opened and a line of bodies filed in.

“What is this? The Inquisition?” Starsky bitterly tossed out.

Two white coats, a couple of surgical scrub geared guys and Dobey paraded in and stood around Starsky’s bed. The door closed, then quickly opened again as Simonetti and Captain Schrader joined the crowd.

Choo choooo,” Starsky snottily sing-songed, “here comes the caboose and the clown car.”

Starsky!” Dobey’s stink eye stunk to high heaven. “I told you to can the temper.”

“That wasn’t temper, Cap. It was literature. Didn’t you ever read your kids The Little Red Caboose?”

This time Dobey’s finger pointed directly at his detective, eyes widened to painful limits and twisted mouth molded over clenched teeth.

“Oooh. Point taken, Cap. Ok,” he surrendered.

Dobey looked around for his chair he had hijacked earlier in the week and noticed the older nurse sitting in it, her hand on Starsky’s shoulder. He gave her a polite smile hoping she would vacate his throne but she simply nodded and smiled in return. His hands made their way behind his back where he could hide his frustration.

“Dave,” the head white coat started, “You know me, but for others in attendance let’s do introductions. I’m Dr. Tim Dorset, Dave’s primary physician while here. Next to me here is Dr. Rob Adams from Cardiology. He’s here as your partner’s primary, but I did consult with him when you were first admitted. Also these two monkeys in scrubs are surgical residents standing in for experience. They will also be removing your sutures before you go home. I believe the plan here is to go over your condition from the beginning of your journey up until now, and discharge instructions for going home.”

“And what medical school did those two children go to?” Starsky asked pointing at the two detectives standing against the door.

Before his Captain had a chance to answer, Simonetti tossed a packet of papers down in front of Starsky. “We have a warrant for complete medical records upon discharge. We’re here to make sure nothing is altered or omitted and we get them directly from the horse.”

“Horseshit, Cap.”

Dobey put his hand up in front of Starsky in a stop gesture. “My hands are tied, Dave. Let it go.”

“Can we get started?” Dr. Dorset gave with mild irritation. “Alright, Dave. I understand your memory is sluggish and that’s to be expected. You may or may not regain some of this time you lost. Let’s start at the beginning.” The doctor looked around the room and made sure attention was on him and mood was nothing but serious. “You were brought into the ER with abrasions and soft tissue contusions to your abdomen, chest, shoulders, face, hands and head. Lacerations to your hands, head, arms, left hip. None of this should be news to you, right?”

Starsky nodded.

“OK. We were certainly worried about internal bleeding. You had some small bleeding around your liver and spleen. Your crit remained stable and it did resolve on its own. So, no surgery. Now,” he took a step closer to the bed and looked down on his patient trying to make this as personal as possible, “when you were brought in you were extremely fractious – aggressive. You had an altered mental status - incoherent, unable to form sentences - and incontinent. These behaviors and symptoms are typical of head injuries. Although we ruled out a closed head injury and intracranial bleed, you did have a significant concussion. Eventually you lapsed into a state of unconsciousness which lasted a few days. Given your previous wounds and surgeries, your significant drop in blood pressure, pulse and respirations concerned us and I brought Dr. Adams on board.” He put his hand out to the other doctor inviting him into the conversation. “Rob?”

“Yes, well, certainly your vitals and cardiac involvement were at the top of our list. But once we ruled out obvious physiological abnormalities with your heart and lungs – they were intact and anatomically fine – we put together some of your other symptoms…”

“What other symptoms,” Starsky asked, almost confused at this new information.

“Vomiting, drooling, eyes flickering up and down, hallucinations, amnesia, seizures…”

“What?” The patient now sat up in the bed looking from the doctors to his Captain and Mary. “I didn’t have no seizures.”

“A series of them, actually,” Dr. Adams corrected him. “followed by vitals see-sawing up and down and a fever.”

“So what are you saying? Cap, you said you were called to the scene where I was found. What happened?”

“Like you, I don’t know everything, Dave,” Captain Dobey answered trying to maintain professional demeanor. “We’re still putting the pieces together. But when I got there you were wearing only a pair of blue jeans. You had bare feet and no shirt on and were in an extreme state of constant movement, in an unbelievable rage. You had apparently walked from your car parked behind a vacant laundromat to an alley where the uniforms found you. Luckily they recognized you and were able to keep you cornered until I got there. Between your car and that location there wasn’t a storefront with an intact window. You’d either shot them out or punched them in.”

“Shot them...? I didn’t have my piece, you know that, Cap.”

“Calm down, Dave,” Dobey coolly answered.

“Must have been your back up gun, Starsky,” Simonetti interrupted.

“I left my back up piece…” He knew where but something told him not to say. “I did not have my back up in the car. I didn’t have a gun, Cap.”

Simonetti stepped in front of Dobey and waved a file at Starsky. “The facts say differently.”

“Dave.” The large Captain pinched the bridge of his nose trying to stay calm. “Just…”

“You were paranoid,” the IA detective continued unaffected by Dobey’s attempt to referee, “and hallucinating. May still be…”

Shut up, you shit head,” Starsky spewed back, his middle finger doing just as much talking as his mouth. “I swear if you fucking say one more thing…”

Simonetti had the gall to smile. “Now, Starsky, we have a job to do.”

“That’s it,” Dobey yelled moving directly in front of Simonetti to block Starsky’s view. “You have done enough here, you mother fucker.” His face was on fire, his mouth an explosion. He was going to back up his bear cub come hell or high water. “After that stunt you pulled last night behind my back you are lucky you’re even still on the force today.”

“Detective Starsky assaulted me…”

I will assault you if you don’t shut your whining. So put your hands in your pockets, look at the floor and stay silent like the good rookie cop you’ll be if you cross me one more time, Simonetti.”

Schrader opened his mouth to protect his own cub but was met only by the flat of Dobey’s hand. “Don’t try to put out my fire right now, Schrader. All you’re going to get is smoke and I guarantee you will choke on it.”

“Captain Dobey,” Mary interjected quietly.

When he turned around he found Starsky sitting in the middle of the bed, his head buried in his hands.

“Son, I know this is a lot…”

“I’m a cop. I know where this is leading. And I just can’t believe…” He swallowed hard and reached out to the doctor. “Is that my medical record?”

Dr. Dorset nodded and handed over the large file. Looking through the first few pages, he stopped at the most recent report with his name on it.

“It can’t be,” he said amidst an exhale as he turned to look at Mary and Captain Dobey for validation. “Is this true?”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 7

Starsky had seen his fair share of medical records in his career. From victims, the medical examiner, Hutch’s, his own. He knew how to read them, what order the pages would be in and what information most pertinent to a case would look like. The page he was looking at now – pink paper, too, to make it stand out even more – told him more than he could have ever imagined.

“Cap…?” His voice faltered as lingering questions lagged behind what he was reading. “This says…” He turned the file towards Dobey seeking validation. “It says… Can’t be.

“I know. Doesn’t seem right, but it is, son.”

“Dave,” the short, spectacled and plump Dr. Dorset interjected, “we had strong suspicions. All the hallmarks were there. The preliminary tests we got back that night justified what we suspected. But the full toxicology screen came back yesterday – the one you’re looking at now with the specifics - and it leaves no question. None at all.”

“But I don’t do drugs. Never have. Even in Viet Nam, unless you count a couple joints.”

Dobey gently pushed Starsky’s hand down holding the records. “I didn’t need a blood test to tell me. I saw the results of it myself, on scene,” he said as his eyes traveled downwards along with his voice. “I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t,” he begged, eyes wide open and focused on his Captain, the file and papers in it shaking from his unsteady hand. “I have no reason to. Cap, I was healthy and fit…”

“Dave,” Mary said holding his arm to calm it down, “I know a little something about this. My daughter was involved with the wrong people and… well… Sometimes you need an escape and you choose the easiest way out. Anyway, Dave, were you happy at home? Hmm? Fulfilled?”

YES,” he indignantly blurted out, then closed his eyes ashamed at yelling at the nurse. “Yes. Mary, everything was good. So good,” he repeated to himself. “No reason…”

“Work?” She continued to help him find a reason, an excuse.

“No crazier than usual.”

“Must have been some reason, Starsky,” Simonetti added. “You were fucking high as a kite. And I’m pretty sure even the cafeteria lady in the basement heard the cat fight you two had the day before. We should have sold tickets.”

“Not now,” Dobey gave the IA team. “Lose the language and back off.”

With a hand to the shoulder, Schrader pulled Simonetti back away from the hospital bed. “I’m sorry, Dave,” Schrader said apologizing for his man, “that wasn’t called for.”

With the atmosphere pointedly becoming tense, the doctors gathered the hint and shooed the surgical residents out of the room to give Starsky a smaller audience. “Dave, it’s not so much that there were drugs in your system,” Dr. Adams finally summarized. “Three factors came together to nearly kill you. Your injuries… how you got them we don’t know, but nevertheless, your body took some significant blows. Next was the combination of drugs all of which could have been ingested or smoked, but most definitely snorted. There was a lot of residue around your nose and mouth. The combination set your body off in opposite directions. And, finally, the sheer quantity. You were lucky, Detective.”

“PCP and Cocaine?” He said reading the results again, then flipped to the next page. “Opiates?” Starsky’s mouth remained open looking from Dobey to the doctors unable to fathom the seriousness of the information. “Where would…?”

“You had a pretty good stash in your car,” Simonetti badgered. “Is that why you parked away from your partner’s place, behind the abandoned laundromat?”

“Schrader, your man is here in the capacity of an information gathering only. This is not an interrogation room,” Captain Dobey bellowed over the tall, annoying IA detective avoiding Simonetti altogether. “I suggest you reign him in before I have him removed from the case for harassing a witness.”

Suspect, Captain,” Simonetti corrected him.

Dobey walked over to the IA guys where they made themselves a nice little clubhouse of piss and tension. “Until I see an arrest warrant, Simonetti, he’s a person of interest.”

“Working on it as we speak. We’ve got enough on the drugs alone…”

Dobey moved directly over to the younger, snarky detective and placed his face a very uncomfortable inch away. “He is being discharged today,” he said protectively malicious. “You going to take him from here to Booking in his skivvies?”

“It sure would make my life easier. But it’s the weekend and the judge is taking his time. If I had my way…”

“Ok,” Schrader spoke up intervening, “Simonetti, that’s enough. This is not the place. Take a break,” he said, pointing to the door he held open. “We’ll catch up later. Dave, it’s no secret that the only evidence on scene points to you, but it’s just preliminary for now. So, until the Judge signs off on a warrant you are to remain within the county limits. Got it? You know the routine.”

Dr. Dorset took the medical record back from Starsky and walked towards the door. “Dave, I’m going to send the surgical peons back in to remove the sutures and reduce the bandages on your right hand – probably put on a soft cast. Should take about twenty minutes or so. Be kind to them. I think you’ve got them rattled,” he said with a wink. “Then how about we meet you down in your partner’s room. Ken’s parents have asked us to give you a courtesy review of his condition.”

“Is he getting any better?”

“No, I’m sorry. He’s the same. We’ll talk more later. Captain Schrader, if you follow me I’ll make sure you get whatever papers are outlined in your warrant. I believe the hospital attorney is waiting for us in her office. For now, I want my patient to have some privacy for treatment.”

That twenty minutes became an hour once the surgical residents removed all of the sutures and charted the process. His bruised and marked up right hand was still quite painful and they opted for more x-rays. A quick consult with orthopedics and it was decided that a hard cast was necessary. Before it was over, the cocky young residents procured a camera from the ER and took a before and after picture of their handy work. “Brats,” Starsky thought. “Reminds me of myself as a rookie.”

This time Starsky shunned the wheelchair and, instead, walked side by side with Captain Dobey down to the CICU. The two doctors were waiting at the nurse’s station when they pushed through the unit doors.

“Docs, Cap,” Starsky asked quietly, “can I have a moment alone with him first?”

As any good cop would do Starsky cased the room as soon as he walked in. He barely moved from the entrance as he scanned the perimeter, wall, to curtain, to wall. The cop inside him was looking for all possible points of ingress and egress. The experienced cop in him measured the distance from the room to the nearest back-up team at the desk. The partner in him landed his eyes on the face among the tubes and wires keeping it alive. He was… alive, that is. He knew because the numbers told him so.

“Hey, partner,” he said with trepidation. Could he hear? “Can you hear me?”

He reached down to take Hutch’s uninjured left hand but was stopped by an unusual splint holding his arm straight, hand flat, keeping his fingers from curling into a fist. He settled for laying his own hand down on Hutch’s forearm – the tender part just below the crook at the elbow and above the miles of tape holding the IV catheter in place.

He closed his eyes and thought about Hutch’s voice, how low and even it could be when he interrogated a suspect. Get him to giggle and it was high pitched and playful. But all he heard were the beeps of the monitor and infusion pumps, the ventilator huffing and puffing, and whoosh of the contraption lower down connected to his hip. All so mechanically technical.

“It’s fucking cold in here,” he said pulling a blanket that had been left on the chair over Hutch’s legs and hips.

Doctors Adams and Dorset finally came in followed by Captain Dobey… and the rattle trap caboose team of Simonetti and Schrader. Starsky threw his hands up in exasperation and sighed.

“Really? I’ll be taking a shit next. You two want to fight over who gets to wipe?”

“Detective,” Captain Schrader said, “we are here for the same reason you are: to be briefed on Hutchinson’s condition.”

“That,” Simonetti added with a hint of pleasure, “and there is no way we are leaving you in here with him when you’re a suspect.”

“What am I?” Dobey snapped with irritation. “A candy striper?”

They were talking on each other and over each other until, finally, Starsky was the one to tamp it down. “Can we knock it off and just get on with it? Docs?”

“Sure,” Dr. Dorset said, stepping forward. “Dave I’m here as your doctor. I only conferred with Ken’s team of specialists on a few matters. So, essentially, I’m here for you if you need me.”

“It’s Hutch,” Starsky muttered.

“What?”

“Hutch. Only his parents call him Ken, and he hates it.”

“Ok then,” Dr. Adams took over, “we’ll call him Hutch. Can we begin?” The tall too-handsome-for-his-own-good doctor with salt and pepper hair stood next to Starsky and made it quite clear that this conversation was going to be between the two of them with no outside interruptions. “So, do you want the flash card version or the book?”

“I want to know everything.” Starsky answered as he lightly skimmed over Hutch’s arm out of sight of the other cops in the room.

“Alright. There are three injuries that are causing the most damage. Most obvious to everyone here is the head injury. He sustained a skull fracture with subsequent bleeding and swelling of the brain. We’ve opted not to perform surgery because at this point he’s not stable enough and, honestly, the bleeding has not increased. Instead, he has an intracranial pressure monitor inserted through the skull to give us a continuous assessment of brain swelling. We want it to stay below 20 millimeters.”

“That spark plug thing?”

“Yeah, I guess it looks like that. It’s been stable for a several days so I think Neuro is going to remove it today or tomorrow.”

“That’s a good thing?” Starsky asked, never taking his eyes off of Hutch’s face. “Right?”

“Yep. Should be.”

“When are you going to reduce the sedation, like you did with me, so he can wake up?” Starsky bent over the head of the bed and spoke not so quietly to Hutch. “Gotta wake up and play by the rules, cowboy, so you can get the branding iron outa your pee pipe. Been there done that.”

The silence in the room was palatable as Dr. Dorset stepped forward. “Dave, in your case you were heavily sedated to get you through the worst of the drug overdose and into the physical healing period with regards to your injuries.” Dorset looked at Starsky and saw that he wasn’t picking up on the inference. “Rob?” he said giving the floor back to his colleague.

“That’s right. There was a very specific purpose for your sedation. In Ken’s… I mean in Hutch’s case he hasn’t required any sedation. His level of consciousness, or lack thereof, is his own body’s doing.”

Oh,” is all Starsky could come up with. “So, he hasn’t been awake at all?”

“No. There’s been no response to verbal commands or painful stimuli,” Dr. Dorset replied, which added only more worry to the great big box of despair.

Dr. Adams continued. “Next, the two injuries not so obvious… he suffered a crush injury to his chest. Now, normally, the sternum – or chest bone – would protect his heart. Have you ever noticed that Hutch’s chest dips in at that point?”

“Yeah. He calls it his valley. He’s a little self-conscious about it…” Starsky’s voice trailed off as he realized he was thinking out loud.

“It’s called pectus excavatum. Probably had a huge growth spurt in his teens and his chest bones dipped in. This doesn’t usually cause issues when it’s on the milder side. We’ve certainly seen worse, but in his case the dip in his sternum caused a slight right shift in his heart so when the injury occurred, the bones not only didn’t protect his heart adequately, but the inward angle of bones actually added to the damage to his pericardium – the protective sac around the heart – and the heart itself. So as his heart has been healing it has been underperforming and his other organs have suffered from it. And remember, all of these organs are driven by the brain which is dealing with its own damage.”

Still, even though he glanced at the blonde’s chest when the doctor pointed it out, he stared only at the pale face.

“He has moments when his heart rate sky rockets and his blood pressure plummets. That’s indicative of heart failure, possibly what we call multi system organ failure. Actually since we got in here this morning, looking at the monitor, this is the most stable I’ve seen his vitals.”

Starsky shut out all other presence in the room and only heard the doc’s report as a whisper of sorts. Reaching up he palmed Hutch’s cheek with his hand then removed the tape keeping his eyes closed. The lids lifted automatically just a bit, the ointment put in to keep his eyes moist oozing through the lashes.

“So, as you can see, he’s on a ventilator to help him get the oxygen he needs. We moved the tube from his mouth to a tracheotomy at the base of his neck since this is most likely going to be long term. Going further south here, I’m sure you’re wondering what this is all about,” he said pointing to the machine on the other side of the bed collecting and spinning blood.

Starsky scooted down the bed and lifted the blanket and gown to see the catheter connected to Hutch’s penis and then another large port and line sticking out of his groin. “What the hell is this?”

“That is a venous catheter we had to place quite quickly for hemodialysis. The third major injury. Apparently the blows he took to his back and abdomen caused severe bruising to both kidneys. Between his heart not working well, his brain injury and the assault, his kidneys stopped working. The swelling to his feet and ankles are due to his kidneys being unable to filter his blood. That machine there is doing the work for the kidneys and helping to draw off that fluid while the kidneys hopefully heal. I believe the folks from Nephrology want to get that port out of there soon. It clogs and gets infected too easily when placed in the groin, but it was the most immediate access we had at the time. If need be in the next day or two they’ll discontinue that and place a graft or fistula in his arm for more long term dialysis.”

Long term,” Starsky mumbled. “What about the rest of this stuff?”

“The red tube into his abdomen is called a J-tube. We just put that in last night. We’ll be able to push liquid nutrients directly into his digestive tract. You probably recognize the standard IV in his left arm for fluids, antibiotics and other medications. His right, as you can see, has a cast on it. He has a central line in his chest up under the collar bone. This lets us provide him with blood products, intravenous feedings and do blood draws so we aren’t poking him over and over. What you see in his neck is a jugular line. We’ve floated a nifty new gadget called a Swan-Ganz catheter down to the right side of his heart. That tells us what’s going on inside his heart in real time.”

“And this stuff,” Starsky asked motioning to Hutch’s legs and left arm.

“The splint on his arm keeps his atrophying, or shrinking muscles from contracting and pulling his wrist and fingers in. His lack of movement puts him at a high risk for blood clots. Those stockings keep the blood flow moving.”

“You’ve got this all planned out, don’t you? You’ve already decided his prognosis.”

“Dave, we’ve done this a long time. So many things are against him at this point. He has a traumatic brain injury. His organs are failing. It’s been ten days. The chance that he will survive is low. The likelihood that he will live without permanent brain damage is even lower.”

“But, he’s gotten this far. He’s strong…”

“He’s the sickest person we have in this unit, and the CICU is the highest level of care in this hospital.”

He wiped his hand down his face and exhaled a mountain of worry and grief. “He’s all taped up, hooked up, plugged in. What could possibly go wrong?”

He never heard Mary as she walked in and put her hand on his back. “Discharge papers are all done. How about we get you back upstairs? Feel like going home?”

“Not alone,” he mumbled.

As Starsky stood over his partner, softly stroking his arm, occasionally placing a gentle touch to his cheek, he wiped out any thought of other people in the room. He brought the forgotten lip balm out of his bathrobe pocket and put it on Hutch’s lips dried out from the course room air.

“Touch his face again,” Mary said bringing the doctors’ attention to the monitors.

“Huh?”

“When you touch his face, Dave, his heart rate increases without his other vitals becoming unstable.”

“Do it again, Dave,” Dr. Adams said. “Watch.”

Starsky reached up and cupped Hutch’s cheek and stroked it gently with his thumb. Looking up at the screen he saw Hutch’s heart rate climbed from 66 to a steady 80. Leaning over, he whispered in his ear. “Babe, you in there?”

Although his heart rate increased whenever Starsky touched Hutch’s face, everything else he was looking for wasn’t there. Eyes were still half open and flat. Nothing from his mouth, not that he would have been able to talk. Hands, arms, legs – no movement at all. Starsky’s hopes fell.

“Don’t lose hope,” Mary said to him as though reading his mind. “It’s something, right Dr. Adams?”

“It is. I’ve been in here with his parents. There has been zero response to them. The brain is a funny thing.”

Dobey chuckled as he pushed his hands in his pants pockets. “They teach you that in medical school, Doc?”

“On the job training,” Adams gave back with a smile. “But, seriously Dave, your presence here seems to have an effect on him. Look,” he said pointing to Hutch’s loosely splinted left hand. “We may have to incorporate you into our rehab plan if this keeps up.”

Starsky moved his own free hand from the blonde’s face and tentatively touched the slightly moving fingers. “Hutch? It’s… it’s me,” he said before gulping down a week’s worth of doubt and fear. “Come on. Move those fingers again. For me, babe.” This time he spoke the term of endearment loud and proud. To hell with everyone else. To hell with the rumors and bigoted comments they had endured all those years – the jokes and dirty, hurtful comments. The patient’s fingers did move and at that moment in time, it was just the two of them.

Oh, and the two Internal Affairs detectives who had been slowly marinating in the corner.

xXxXxXxXx

That good night’s sleep in his own bed didn’t really happen. As much as Starsky hated the hard box of a mattress at the hospital, the ability to raise and lower the head and knees helped him find a comfortable position during the night. Now, in his own bed, he not only ran out of pillows to stuff here and there to pad the deep bruises and still healing suture sites, the heavy cast on his right hand seemed to have a mind of its own crashing against the night stand, catching on the covers and even threatening another head injury as he brought it up over his eyes in sleep.

The 10am start of visiting hours for family in the CICU was four hours away by the time he rolled out of bed. There was no work to go to, seeing that he was on medical leave and a suspect in his own assault. Go figure.

“Damn Simonetti,” he sighed. “He’d arrest his own mother if the results meant getting revenge against us.”

He vacuumed. He napped on the couch. He did a load of laundry. He napped at the kitchen table. He took out the old, smelly garbage. He napped on the hammock outside. Then he napped in bed. A slightly productive morning overall, but it wasn’t until he arrived back in Hutch’s room at 10:01am that he felt the day had begun. Then he napped in the chair next to Hutch.

By noon, Hutch’s parents had come and gone. An hour at a time. That’s what the nurses said they were able to handle. Richard tired quite easily and with the cancer having spread to his spine, was quite uncomfortable in the chairs. Mrs. H. was just plain exhausted – mentally and physically.

Doctors came and went explaining what they were doing as they found time. The pressure monitor had been removed from Hutch’s head in the early morning hours, a new bandage in its place. No more spark plug. A Dr. Peckinow… Checkinoff… Pechenikov stopped in briefly to check his cranial handy work and banished Starsky from the room while reviewing the chart with the charge nurse. Dr. Peck and Paw is what Starsky decided he’d call him.

A “team” from Nephrology paraded in and surrounded the patient. When Starsky asked what they were talking about, he was escorted out to the waiting area next to the bank of elevators. Nobody came back to get him. He was forgotten. After an hour he just walked back in to his partner laid out alone among the machines.

By mid-afternoon the nurses came in to clean Hutch up and asked Starsky to leave during their ministrations. It was only after Starsky ran into Dr. Dorset at the cafeteria and had a come to Jesus meeting with him over bland chow mein that the atmosphere shifted somewhat and the staff stopped treating Starsky like a nosy neighbor.

“Wish you had a Mary down here, babe,” he said as he wiped Hutch’s brow with a cold cloth.

“Well, I’m here now, sweetie.”

There she was!

“My angel nurse. What in the world are you doing down here?”

“Your partner’s parents have hired me to be his full time day nurse. No getting rid of me now.”

“Mary, tell me, why the hell is it always so cold on this unit?”

“It’s an inside secret, but I’ll tell you,” she said as she pulled a blanket out of the wardrobe and draped it around Starsky’s shoulders. “If it were any warmer you would be complaining about the smells. Patients down here don’t have control of their bodily functions. Put that in your hat and chew on it.”

Starsky smiled at the older nurse and instantly felt like he finally had a friend in this mess.

“Have you been talking to him? I hear that he responds to you.”

“Um, no. Not really. He’s just… there.”

“Talk to him, Dave. Go ahead.”

Starsky moved to the head of the bed and put his hand on the only part of Hutch’s body that hadn’t been pirated by bandages, tape and tubes: his cheek. “Hutch. Hey. It’s time to wake up. Got cases to work on. Dobey’s waitin’ on us.”

The only movement came from the dialysis machine on the other side of the bed. Spinning and whirring, and the vent huffing and puffing through the tube in Hutch’s neck.

“Hutch, you got to be a good little soldier now. Mary’s your new chief and even though she’s a cool bean, she talks a mean game.”

He was so used to seeing his partner as still as a brick that the slight pull of his head from Starsky’s hand made him jolt two steps backwards. “Mary…. Mary. He moved his head. Look, he’s doing it again.”

“Hutch,” Mary gave with her soothing angel nurse voice, “Hutch, Dave is here…”

“Starsky,” she was corrected. “He calls me Starsky.”

“Hutch,” she started over again, “Hutch dear, Starsky is here. Your mom and dad are in town too. Can you open your eyes for me?”

His eyes didn’t open, but his right arm encased in the plaster cast did come up in panic, waving at the tape, bandages and tubes that were holding him down, coming dangerously close to the tracheotomy and vent tubes breathing for him.

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Mary said as she pressed the call button. “Slow down, hun.”

“What’s happening?”

“He’s responding. Having a wakeful moment. That’s good but he needs to slow down. Until his heart can handle it.”

“He’s waking up?” A new voice asked. “I thought he was gonna be a vegetable.”

Simonetti and Schrader had been standing at the entrance watching the goings on as nurses and doctors came in and out.

It felt like he was under water.

Voices were garbled.

The lights always on.

The pain always present.

Beep. Whoosh.

Voices were close yet distant. Familiar yet strange.

“…watch the monitor…”

“… BP is good…”

“…soft restraints…”

“…Just the right…”

“…TBI… probably left neglect…”

“…Rob Adams…”

“…babe…..Hutch…”

His eyes wouldn’t open amidst the artificial heaviness that cloaked the lids.

Hutch.”

Through a haze of an oil slick he could barely make out the image of…. of…. dark, curly hair. Five o’clock shadow. Dark blue eyes.

It was… It was… Starsky. He tried to say something. His lips moved. But his head was held tight. His hands wouldn’t move, his legs weighted down. Where he was, he didn’t know. But it wasn’t good, he knew that. Two things and two things only were working for him right now: Starsky and his hearing. He was the only thing that mattered to him right at that point, and his hearing was the only one of his senses he had left.

But suddenly, half of that was taken away.

“David Starsky. You are being arrested for possession of narcotics with intent to distribute…”

“What the hell…?” Hutch thought as he tried in vain to reach out for him.

“…and attempted murder of a police officer.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

Starsky found himself being pulled away from Hutch and pushed face first into the back wall as nurses and Dr. Adams filtered in to attend to Hutch.

“Jesus, Simonetti, what the hell are you doing?” Starsky managed to get out as his face was pushed against the sharp corners of the window frame and his body roughly pat down.

“You have the right to remain silent…”

“I didn’t do…”

“Anything you say can, and will, be used against you in a court of law.”

“I have a right to… watch it… hey, Ow!”

“You have the right to speak to an attorney…”

“Why do you…”

“…and to have an attorney present during any questioning.”

“Get out of here, you bastard.”

“If you cannot afford an attorney…”

“Where’s Dobey?”

“…one will be provided for you at no cost to you.”

“Here? You had to do this here?”

“Do you understand these rights as I’ve read them to you?”

“Go to hell, you prick.”

“Once again, Starsky, you have the right to shut the fuck up. I suggest you use it.”

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you? The audience good enough?”

“Been waiting a long time to do this right, Starsky. It’s just too bad I don’t have any evidence against your partner,” Simonetti said as he fumbled with his handcuffs. “But that’s a moot point now, isn’t it, seeing as he’ll be nothing but a jack ‘O’ lantern for the rest of his life. Christ, how the hell am I supposed to cuff you with this cast on?”

Starsky took advantage of the fumbling IA detective and spun around and put finger to face. “The only reason you need to put handcuffs on me is to get a standing ovation from the peanut gallery, ass licking moron. God damn it, I didn’t do anything.”

“Arrest warrant says otherwise.”

“David.” A new voice entered the circus house as Simonetti and Starsky argued at Hutch’s bedside. “David, what’s all the commotion? Is Kenneth alright?”

“Yes, Mrs. H.,” he sighed rubbing his forehead. One sharp look from the patient’s mother to a red faced, sweating Simonetti and they both backed down for the moment. “He started waking up. See?”

Totally ignoring the arresting detective, Starsky reached over and cupped Hutch’s face and bent over to speak in his ear. “Hey, Hutch. Come on, blondie. Can you move your fingers for me again? Do it for me, ba…” He stopped short of getting too personal considering the company in the room. “Come on…. Do the hokey pokey. Do it, or… or I’ll sing,” he threatened. When Hutch’s body remained still and unresponsive, Starsky quietly sang into his ear. “You put your left hand in, you put your left hand out…” Badly.

That did the trick, and like people running from an erupting volcano, Hutch moved his head in the opposite direction of the crooning. His mother, now lovingly rubbing her son’s feet, let out a gasp.

“Well, I’ll be darned,” Dr. Adams remarked as he took a pen light from the pocket of his white lab coat and went to shine it in Hutch’s eyes. “He really responds to you.”

With the insult of the bright light stabbing his pupil, Hutch pulled his head out of the doctor’s grasp and attempted to bring his casted arm out of Mary’s grip to swat the annoyance out of the way.

“Kenneth,” his father bellowed from the foot of the bed, “wake up for us and follow directions, son.” And that, alone, let the staff know that there was nothing wrong with his right leg as it thrashed at his father’s voice.

“Hutch… Hutch, it’s ok. I’m here, buddy. Settle down,” Starsky calmly voiced with a soft hand to forehead. “That’s it. Can you open your eyes? Look at me.”

At first it seemed like a false alarm as his lids fluttered and then settled again at half-mast. Then a subtle lick to his lips, a twitch of the nose, and his eyes did open. They opened wide and stared straight at Starsky’s voice totally oblivious to anyone else in the room, to any other’s voice or to his environment.

“That’s it. There ya go. See? Not so bad.” Starsky’s voice was composed and even as he hoped to get Hutch to focus solely on him and stay awake and alert. “Hutch, I’m here. Don’t move too much. Got lots of things connected to you and I don’t want ya to unplug anything.”

Hutch laid perfectly still staring at his partner with the exception of his right arm in the cast he gradually lifted up towards Starsky’s face planting his index finger on the end of Starsky’s nose.

“Yeah,” he laughed, “it’s me and my big nose, blintz.”

A sigh of relief seemed to domino around the room. Smiles, small talk, and even some sniffles.

“Why is he just staring at me? And his eyes are, like, wide open like he’s forcing it,” Starsky asked Dr. Adams. “Hutch, hey partner, you know where you’re at?” Still, he stared, eyes wide open. “Doc, it’s like nobody’s home.”

The doctor looked up from the three-ring binder holding Hutch’s medical records he’d been writing in. “That’s normal after prolonged unconsciousness following a head injury. He’s awake… but not really. The fact that he’s responding to you is huge, Dave. You seem to be a catalyst.”

“You think he’ll wake up… or is this it?”

“I think we’re moving in the right direction. This is what we call a minimally conscious state – one step better than a vegetative state, but not yet fully conscious. Now, he could remain in this state indefinitely, but we see that more with comas lasting a month or more. This is promising.”

“What do you mean?”

‘Well,” he said moving his pen light left to right then up and down in front of Hutch’s face only to observe the patient’s eyes focus only on Starsky, “he’s not tracking with his eyes yet, but they did open on command and he had some purposeful movement with his right hand. I’ve seen no movement on his left side yet which may indicate that he is dealing with something called Left Neglect where the brain doesn’t recognize that side of the body. But, I’m getting ahead of myself here. He’s at the beginning of his journey. I’ll have Neurology in today for an eval. I’m sure they’ll start a rehab regimen - OT and PT with simple goals for now.”

“Dr. Peck and Paw.”

“You mean Dr. Pechenikov?”

Starsky flushed a bit at the realization that his nickname for the doctor was heard.

“Yes, well Dave, I have a worse nickname for him. He can have a horrible bedside manner, but he’s the best when it comes to the noggin. Listen, we’ll see about weaning him off the vent. You keep working with him and there’s no reason to believe that within a couple days he’ll be following simple commands or better. But, there are no guarantees.”

“That’s it,” Simonetti interrupted completely stealing the focus, “Starsky has an appointment with a jail cell.”

“What? David?” Marilyn Hutchinson cried out moving up next to Starsky. “What jail? What does this man mean?”

“They think I did this to Hutch… Ken,” he corrected himself. “Because, clearly, I beat the crap out of him before I did the same to myself,” he spit out sarcastically.

“I don’t understand, David. They’re saying you tried to kill our son?”

And the snick of the handcuff going around his left wrist and the other to Simonetti’s pretty much told the story of where that day would be going.

“I didn’t do this to him. Please, you have to believe me, Mrs. H.”

“Of course we do, David. You wouldn’t hurt our Kenneth,” she said as he left the room. Then, barely out of Starsky’s earshot, but not quite… “He wouldn’t, would he, Richard?”

As he was paraded out of the CICU he averted his eyes from the curious hospital staff and patient visitors who slowed down or looked up from their duties to watch the handcuffed prisoner. It wasn’t until they stopped at the bank of elevators that he brought his head up and connected eyes with Captain Schrader who had been waiting on a bench under a sign that said, ‘Fever, cough or cold? Please put your visit on hold.’

“You good with this, Schrader? Is vengeance something you’re comfortable with?”

“Dave, of course I don’t feel good about this,” he said as he stood and took hold of Starsky’s right upper arm mirroring Simonetti’s posture on the other side, “but in this entire investigation, not one piece of evidence pointed to anyone other than you.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it. Since when do you close an incomplete investigation by arresting the most convenient person? You know I didn’t hurt Hutch.”

“Do you? Do you know that?” Schrader asked as they stepped into the empty elevator and punched the Lobby button. “You were so high – so drugged out of your mind – that you hallucinated, acted out in paranoia, and now have amnesia. All of this is validated by the medical findings. What am I supposed to do?”

“You’re supposed to back up fellow officers. You’re supposed to look at the big picture, not let this asshole play cowboys and Indians.”

Schrader loosened his grip a bit and released a heavy sigh. “I’m IA, Dave. I’m still IA and you know it. Let’s just get you downtown and processed.

xXx.XxXxXx

Starsky dutifully sat in the chair with his hands clasped on the table like any good prisoner would. He never realized how one leg of the table was shorter than the others making it rock with any movement at all. The interrogation room had a different feel to it with him as suspect and the tall, snipe nosed Simonetti the cop pacing the room. “Schrader on the other side of that two-way mirror waiting to play good cop? Cuz you sure ain’t the good one.”

“I don’t need a partner as a crutch like you do. I just haven’t figured out which one of you is the smart one,” he snorted with a laugh. “Guess it’s you by default now since your precious Hutch literally only has half a brain left.”

“That’s not what the docs say and you know it. What a shame you don’t know what it’s like to have a real partner. How about we get Schrader in here and get this over with. Good cop, bad cop. Good, bad. Smack me around. Threaten me with an ass pounding cell mate. My answers won’t change. I. Didn’t. Do. It.”

“I don’t need my Captain to hold my hand, unlike you.”

“Oh, it’s painfully obvious that the department doesn’t trust you to work alone since Dryden got busted down to family security detail.”

Simonetti pounded his fist on the table in front of Starsky, attempting to gain leverage. “A great cop is babysitting political dignitaries’ kids all because of your prank handcuffing him to Hutchinson’s table after the mysterious death of that asshole’s wife.”

“A great cop wouldn’t have fallen for that. And you know damn well Hutch didn’t kill his EX wife.”

“Innocent people don’t run,” Simonetti declared with a smug scowl.

“That case was closed – clean. Didn’t even go to trial. The real murderers took a plea it was so cut and dry.”

And my partner paid for your bullshit moves.”

“Is that what this is about?” Starsky said with self-control. He knew that shouting back was akin to admitting defeat. Instead he kept his voice exceptionally level and unemotional. “Are you playing the jilted lover revenge card?”

Simonetti’s anger seeped out of his pores as he grabbed Starsky’s shirt at the shoulders and roughly brought him to his feet. “We’re not fags. You fucking leave my partner out of this.”

Ex partner,” Starsky corrected him, calm, cool and collected just inches from the aggravated IA detective’s face. “Ex… See, I still got mine. He’s just sleeping.”

Simonetti dropped the prisoner back into the seat and walked to the wall putting his hand out and leaning into it to compose himself. “I want answers. One more time. What do you remember of that night?”

I already told you. The answers won’t change, Simonetti. What do you want from me?”

The truth,” he yelled, red faced and frustrated.

“Fuck you. Fuck you and everyone else too stupid to actually conduct an investigation.”

What. Do you. Remember?

“Hairy purple butterflies, sinking ships and half human animals.”

“Christ, Starsky. Think around the hallucinations. Those drugs really did a number.”

“Drugs I didn’t take.”

“You sure as hell did. You might as well stop beating that dead horse. Now, once more, let’s start at Hutchinson’s apartment. What time did you get there?”

“I told you. Around 8 o’clock.”

“And when did you leave?”

“Again, I told you, around 10:30 or 11.”

Why did you leave?”

“Don’t remember. I think I went to get something from the car.”

“So you were there for maybe three hours. What were you doing in that time?”

Starsky looked down at his cuffed hands and sighed unsure of how to…

“I said, what was going on in those three hours? Huh?”

Still, Starsky was stock still in the chair, cuffed hands palm down on the table, fingers spread, not answering.

“You were at each other’s throats for days leading up to it. Hell, you traded fists the day before and got your asses suspended. What were you doing at his house that night for three hours?”

“We… I wanted to… just…” In lieu of answering, he fell back to what worked. “I can’t remember.”

“Alright. The amnesia excuse. Then where did you get the drugs?”

What drugs?

Apparently, somebody had shown a gorilla to the precinct and the loud and large animal was making his way down the hallway towards interrogation room 3B. From the sound of the bellowing there was no mistaking that this gorilla’s name was Dobey.

“OUT.”

“Captain Dobey, this is my prisoner and I will be conducting this interrogation…”

“Get the hell out of here and leave me with my man.” Dobey was mad, and when he was mad, you did what he said. “You will vacate the observation room as well and leave us be until his attorney gets here. GOT IT?”

Before Dobey was finished talking, Simonetti was out of the room. With a finger in the air telling Starsky to be quiet, Dobey went next door to make sure the observation room was empty and no recording devices were on.

“I was not made aware that any of this was going on,” the Captain said as he came back in and drew a chair up across the table from Starsky. “I had to hear it from Hutch’s father and that was no fun. He makes me feel like a naughty kid at Sunday school.”

“Cap, something isn’t right.”

“You telling them everything you remember?”

“Yes. Absolutely. Most of it. Anything that has to do with the case, yes.”

“You have to tell them everything, Dave. Have you been up front with me?”

Starsky leaned back in the chair and dropped his hands into his lap looking around the small windowless room as if the solution to all his problems was his to find hidden in the cracks of the walls and holes in the ceiling.

“Cap… Cap… the fight Hutch and I had… that whole week leading up to it with us not getting along… it wasn’t real. I mean, we manufactured it so you’d suspend us.”

“YOU WHAT?”

“We were trying to figure out who was taking the drugs from the evidence room and mostly narrowed it down to someone on our floor, but we think that whoever was doing it was onto us. We figured if they thought we were out of the picture they would start up again.”

Dobey curled his lip and attempted to remain calm as he stood up and leaned over the table into his arms braced on the surface. “What have I told you about private parties?” he growled.

“I know, but we couldn’t tell you in case it was someone from homicide. We couldn’t go quietly or they’d know something was up. But we told…”

“Told who?”

“We told... someone,” he moaned to himself as he raked his cuffed hands through dark curls. “Can’t remember, but Hutch told someone who was supposed to tell you in a couple days. No one talked to you?”

“No, Starsky. No one talked to me. Now tell me what you were doing at Hutch’s place.”

“I can’t, Cap.”

“Starsky, this isn’t helping your cause,” the Captain said surrendering to the futile unknown as he dropped back down in his chair. “You know as well as I do, son, that when it comes to proving innocence secrets only point to guilt.”

“It’s not my secret to tell, Cap. It’s Hutch’s.”

xXxXxXxXx

 

Hate Schumann. Hate Schumann. Really hate the Piano Concerto in A minor, Opus 54. Where the hell is it coming from? Fucking nightmare and somewhere my mother is responsible for the entertainment.

“Make sure the radio stays on this station. Don’t touch the antenna. I remember when he played Schumann at his recital when he was twelve. Or was it thirteen, Richard?”

I puked in the trashcan just before they called my name. I remember that. Hate Schumann.

“Put the flowers over there, dear. No. On the window sill. I don’t care what the nurses said. ICU or not he needs flowers.”

Not flowers, Mom. Plants. Sustainable, long lasting, green plants.

“Sit down, dear. If you keep looking at him like that he won’t open his eyes.”

Not for you. Want to see Starsky. Only Starsky.

“Kenneth, this is your father. It’s time to wake up and get moving. Need to stop this foolishness.”

Don’t want to go to school today.

“Richard, leave him be, dear.”

Back hurts. Head. Neck hurts. Itch all over. Legs cold now…

“Look, Richard. See where they took his dialysis port out here? Does it look like it’s infected?”

NO. Mom. Please don’t look at me there. Stop.

“Let me see. We’ll tell Mary when she comes back in. I think it’s just red from the tape and where they shaved.”

Don’t touch me down there.

“Richard, do they ever change that catheter thing that goes in his bladder? It looks a little red there…”

Stop. PLEASE STOP.

“Looks ok to me. Get me a wet cloth, Marilyn, and I’ll clean up the residue from the adhesive on his groin.”

Not you. Don’t touch me there.

“Marilyn, is he moving his right…. Hey… Kenneth stop. We’re just cleaning you up.”

Fucking kick you. Stop touching me.

“Oh good. Mary’s back. He’s having leg spasms.”

Get away. Want….

“No, Mrs. Hutchinson. Not spasms. I think it’s quite purposeful. He’s trying to tell us something.”

Why? Don’t touch me. I want…

“He doesn’t want you taking care of his needs down there.”

Turn off that damn music.

“But he’s our boy.”

Go Away.

“Your boy is a grown man. I’m sure he doesn’t want his mother and father to be tending to his needs so close to his private area.”

Warm. Blanket feels warm. Sleep.

“Hutch, your parents have stepped out for a bit to get some air. I’m going to clean you up now that we’re alone. One little area at a time. I’ll keep you covered most of the time, ok?”

Angel nurse.

“I know it’s been a couple days since your partner was here. I don’t know what’s going on there, but you need to try and wake up…. There you go. There are those pretty blue eyes.”

And yours are brown. And Kind.

“You can’t talk yet. You have a breathing tube surgically placed at the base of your neck. But you’ve been breathing over the vent this morning. Maybe we can get you fitted with a speaking valve in a few days when you can go all day without the assistance.”

Where is… why… how… can’t talk…

“Hutch. I know you’re trying to talk. You have no voice for now, but I love that you’re trying to communicate.”

No voice? Won’t be able to sing?

“Shhh. You can kick all you want, but it won’t speed up your recovery. But… oh no you don’t. That cast is heavy and hard. I will do my best to help you, but… look at me, Hutch. Look at me.”

Want to see Starsky.

“You need to work with me, not against me. Ok?”

I’ll try.

“Good. Nodding is good. And, please, open your eyes for your parents. Give them a kernel of hope. Bless their hearts. They’re really trying.”

But they’re not…

“This is the first time I’ve seen your eyes since Dave was last here. Look at me again, Hutch. That’s good.”

Hands are soft.

“You need to work to get better. Just because Dave can’t get here doesn’t mean you can’t try.”

Don’t want to.

“Oh, honey, don’t cry. You’re getting better.”

Don’t look at me.

“Look at me, Hutch. What are you trying to say? Go ahead. I’m pretty good at reading lips. Elmer Fudd? Well, I can try and get a television in here, but… Yes, I know. Elmer Fudd. Not sure what you mean, but we can try this again some other time. Ok?”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE

(A/N: Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. Remember, give of yourself to someone in need without asking for qualification of need first. Give because it’s the right thing to do. Kindness lasts forever. So does hate. Choose wisely. ~SD)

He’d sat in the witness chair before. Back with the spectators, and once at the table. But never had he sat in the first row of chairs, arms shackled to his waist in a prison orange jumpsuit. Two hours… he sat there for two hours as the other prisoners in his group took their turn in front of the judge hearing whether or not they would be granted bail – they all did – and if their cases were ready for arraignment – some were.

The honorable Judge Walton Jeffers III presided with dignified, uninvested boredom as he waved through the tedium of cases, sticking to text book decisions and court assignments. Starsky figured the curt jowled man had to be hours away from retirement with bags packed, law books boxed and expensive, but meaningless, identical parting gifts lined up for his staff with hastily written index cards tucked under each store bought ribbon in lieu of a Hallmark greeting. He seemingly sided with the DA, and seldom with the defendants. It was beginning to look like his colleagues in orange next to him would be his best friends 4-ever.

“Next,” the haggard judge ordered with one half-assed tap of the gavel.

The attorney assigned to him by the police union, Tom Baldwin, motioned for Starsky to stand and approach the tables where the cold fished assistant district attorney Martha Davis was sitting with Simonetti. Before taking a seat, Starsky reflexively looked back into the courtroom expecting to see his partner, instead getting a nod from a just arriving Captain Dobey.

“Alright Ms. Davis, and…” The judge fumbled as he shuffled papers on his desk in search of what wasn’t there, then took the file from the bailiff who came to his aid. “…and Detective Simonetti? Since when is an Internal Affairs gumshoe the arresting officer in a drug case?”

Simonetti stood from the table and buttoned his suit coat. “When the drug dealer is…”

Alleged drug dealer, your honor,” the attorney interrupted. “And due to the sensitive nature of the case, I respectfully request that all court proceedings from here on out be closed to protect the defendant and witness.”

“Your honor, this case is solid,” ADA Davis countered as she, too, rose, “and certainly there is no reason to be giving the defendant special treatment.”

“Martha, you know as well as I do that the nature of the defendant’s occupation is exceptionally sensitive,” Baldwin fought leaving Starsky as the only one still in a chair. “And lacking an actual conviction, leaving it open to the public, not to mention the other prisoners in here waiting their turn, can be very dangerous to all who work in the public eye. Even you, Detective Simonetti.”

The verbal brawl that broke out in the courtroom at that moment, which included the now irate Captain Dobey and even a quietly appearing Captain Schrader, could have rivaled a dog fight in a small bathroom. The bailiff joined in, one of the Sheriff’s deputies at the door stepped up in case it became physical and prisoners cheered on the entertainment like fans at a boxing match. All the shouting from court staff that could have made a difference simply did not. Nothing quelled the disturbance until Judge Jeffers put fingers to mouth, produced a whistle heard ‘round the world and threw his well-worn gavel at the mob in suits hitting Simonetti soundly on the ass.

In all the commotion, Starsky never moved from his seated position as he stayed slouched down in defeat, wordless.

Knock it off,” the judge yelled. “You will NOT disrespect me and my courtroom in this manner. GOT IT?”

All parties involved quickly sat in the nearest chair, including the two Captains and the prisoners behind them, tails between their legs.

“I want to see all of you juvenile brats in my chambers immediately. That means,” he stood and pointed at each person sitting at the tables, “one, two, three, four, five and the defendant. If you can’t count that high, please turn to one of the spectators in orange for help.” The, now, very grumpy and angry judge made a hasty exit from the bench but stopped short in the doorway to his chambers. “Simonetti, find my gavel and bring it with you. Get on your hands and knees if you have to. I’m sure you’ve been there before.”

By the time they had all paraded into the large office, Judge Jeffers was sitting behind the over- sized desk sporting several mountains of files and newspapers on each corner. Clearly, his disorganization was not indicative of his experience and authority behind the bench.

Ms. Davis did not waste time making a case for herself. “Your honor…”

“Captain Dobey,” the judge nonchalantly said as he attended to paper work on his desk never looking up at the group of people standing in front of him, “you’re closest to the door. Could you please check and see whose name is on it?”

No answer was given, none expected, and all in attendance stood still having not been offered to sit as the judge ignored them and signed a few documents, stacking them up, giving them a shuffle then adding them to an anonymous pile. The awkwardness in the room was palpable and made by design, courtesy of Judge Walter Jeffers… the third.

“Now,” the seated man started, “I’m going to go down the line and you all have the opportunity to say something regarding this case. One sentence, keep it under twenty words starting with our esteemed assistant district attorney Ms. Davis. And….. GO.”

“Your honor,” she started with her head self-importantly held high, “I believe that the defendant in this case has had so much contact in this court as a police officer that the state cannot possibly be assured of a fair trial. Therefore, I believe a change of venue is in order to…”

“That’s two sentences. Take a seat, Martha,” the judge gave without pause. “Detective Simonetti?”

“Yes, um, I believe that the charges against Mr. Starsky are solid and the gravity of the evidence itself is very grave. He is a threat to the community and I suggest that no bail…”

Yes, um…” the judge mocked, “your own grave is about two wobbly steps away, Mr. Simonetti. Since you are lacking a law degree and D.A. after your annoying name, I suggest you keep your advice for me to the ponies and dietary aids. Dairy gives me gas. My wife is trying to get me on a dairy free diet and we’re at odds. So unless you can sympathize with my colon, take a seat.” More papers were added to another pile and he looked over his glasses at the room. “Mr. Baldwin, attorney extraordinaire.”

“Yes, your honor. Thank you for speaking to us in chambers.”

“Points for decorum, Mr. Baldwin. You get two sentences. Go.”

“Your honor, Dave Starsky is an extremely well known senior detective. He has worked numerous high profile homicides and vice cases. His own life was nearly taken by a crime lord, as I’m sure you remember. Not only is the evidence against him flawed, but it’s circumstantial at best.”

“That’s three sentences, your honor,” Simonetti whined.

“Four, actually. Your counting skills are remedial, detective.” The judge continued his benign paper work. “Foot in that grave, Simonetti.”

“But the sheer volume of drugs in his car…” Simonetti continued.

“All in plastic evidence bags from the precinct with absolutely no fingerprints. None,” Baldwin corrected him. “In fact, they were all originally logged in with fingerprints from the primary perps when locked up as evidence. Are you saying he stole all of it from the evidence room, snorted or ingested copious amounts of multiple illegal drugs to the point of overdose, then while reeling from hallucinations and paranoia, not to mention a serious head injury and broken bones paused to wipe all traces of fingerprints from the plastic bags? Really?”

The judge rolled his eyes and then squeezed them shut trying to maintain his composure. “Put your ass back in that high-chair, Simonetti. Christ, that name grates on me. Continue, Mr. Baldwin, without the evidence orgasm. We’re not trying the case today, although you certainly have done your homework.”

“Just one more thing, sir. Detective Starsky’s life is most certainly in danger behind bars. No matter what measures are taken, history tells us incarcerated cops are vulnerable targets in prison. And I would submit that he is responsible for putting away an awful lot of those hardened criminals inside that prison. He is not a flight risk. He has never committed a crime. This is a decorated senior detective who, I would contend, is being set up.”

“Thank you. Sit. That was an exhausting solo recital, Mr. Baldwin. Now… Captains….,” the judge offered waving his pen back and forth between the two larger men: one tall, black and wide, the other shorter, beefed up and white, “Fight if you must, but someone go first.”

“Your honor, I’m here as Detective Simonetti’s supervising Captain.”

The judged tilted his head at Schrader before taking his glasses off and rubbing voraciously at his weary eyes. “Babysitting again?”

“No sir. As you can imagine, this is a difficult case for the department. We just don’t want to miss anything.”

“I don’t imagine anything. If you think that’s what I do behind that bench you need to go back to directing crosswalks. I bet you look good in white gloves. Sit. Now, Captain Dobey?”

“Just like Captain Schrader, I’m here in a supportive role. Dave has been under my command for almost ten years. He has a spotless record and, together with his partner, the highest arrest records and closed cases ever seen in my department. I don’t know what muck is being stirred up in IA and the DA’s office. All I know is that the whole situation stinks.”

“You also went over the allotted one sentence, but you and I go back a long way, Hal. Sit.” The judge put all of his paper work aside, placed his glasses down in front of him and sat back leisurely in his high backed leather chair, elbow in the arm of it, chin resting in his hand. “This is not standard procedure, but, Detective Starsky, I will allow you to speak openly.”

Starsky was the only one still standing. He had been looking down at his feet during the entire process never expecting to be anything but an object. “Um… well… your honor…”

Ms. Davis stood and pointed at the judge with a pen she had taken from over her ear. “I want this on record that preferential treatment is being given to…”

Blah, blah, blah,” the judge moaned. “With a great big helping of kiss my judicial ass. Ms. Davis I am more than aware that you are whoring for the DA’s top spot given the current seat holder’s impending retirement. Let me be brutally honest with you,” he said lighting a cigarette and taking a long drag. “Your ass kissing talents are seriously deficient which sets the bullshit alarms off over your head. I heard the bells from the third men’s urinal this morning. You will not use my courtroom to stage a media circus for your own benefit.” The judge blew his nose into a handkerchief before looking back at the stone cold woman. “Why are you still standing? Plant your fanny. Detective Starsky, get on with it.”

“Thank you, sir. I didn’t do any of this. I understand the lab reports prove that there were drugs in my system, but I don’t take drugs. I’ve always been clean. Every mandatory department piss test… excuse me…. drug test that I’ve taken has been 100% clean. I have no reason to steal drugs or use them.”

“No?” Simonetti interjected. “And your partner? He’s always been clean?”

“Grave, Simonetti. Grave,” the judge admonished. “Continue, Detective.”

“That’s all I got. I don’t understand how the drugs got in my car or in me. I don’t know how I got injured, I don’t know how my partner was injured. I do know that I didn’t do it.”

“Alright, that’s enough. Sit.”

The judge looked around at his audience like a teacher monitoring detention. “Anything else?”

“Yes, your honor,” Dobey said, standing up. “I have a request from the hospital signed by all of Detective Hutchinson’s attending physicians asking for Dave to be released as soon as possible. This is the letter.”

Judge Jeffers took the letter from Dobey, put his glasses back on, and read it through. “Says here that the patient was making great improvements from a vegetative state to a minimally conscious state until Detective Starsky was removed from the hospital. Then,” he said reading from the letter, “…with the absence of Mr. Starsky, the patient’s progress, physiologically has improved, but in terms of his mental status and rehabilitation there has been no improvement and, in fact, measured regression. It is the professional opinion of the medical team and service providers that without Mr. Starsky’s presence, the patient’s will and want to become wakeful and to rehabilitate will continue to diminish and eventually extinguish. Since it has been three weeks since onset of injury, the window of opportunity for this to happen is closing within a week to ten days. And the rest is typical canned medical mumbo jumbo. Bailiff,” he said handing the letter to the uniformed man standing inside the door, “have my clerk outside make copies for the ADA and Mr. Baldwin. Return the original to the case file.”

Starsky turned his back to the others in the room and focused squarely on Dobey, “Cap? Cap, is that true. He’s not getting better?”

“I’m afraid so, son. I’m sorry.”

“There’s more,” Simonetti gave as he stood and walked over to the desk with the case file. “We have evidence that supports our belief that Mr. Starsky assaulted and attempted to take the life of his partner with special circumstances.”

Starsky shot up out of the chair, his handcuffs chained around the waste rattling against the wood. “Special circumstances? What the hell...” Before he could finish. Dobey had him sitting back down, this time with the reassuring large hand on his orange clothed shoulder.

“Is it complete?” Jeffers asked ignoring Starsky’s outburst. “Is it supported by forensics?”

“The medical records indicate…”

“Is it enough for a conviction?”

“It’s in the pipes, sir.”

“I don’t do in the pipes. I already removed those charges from the arrest warrant because you didn’t have enough evidence to support it, now you want me to reinstate them with the same half assed evidence?”

“New evidence has come to our attention. With special…”

Then light a fire under it and present it to the DA. Clearly the ADA isn’t doing her job properly,” he said staring down at the woman. “Refer back to the ass kissing advice, Ms. Davis.”

Simonetti and Schrader had been exchanging words when the muscled Captain, seeing how standing in front of the judge uninvited had been received, moved forward in his chair and calmly made a request. “Your honor, in light of the on-going investigation and the brutality of the attack on Detective Hutchinson, we would strongly suggest that a restraining order be placed against Mr. Starsky to protect the victim as well as keep any witness testimony of Mr. Hutchinson’s from being polluted.”

“Captain Schrader, I believe there are two victims here. I doubt Hutchinson will be making statements any time soon. As for a restraining order, until the patient requests one, or his family does, I will not entertain any such notion.”

Simonetti just couldn’t keep out of it. “But the evidence…”

“Too bad, so sad, Simonetti. You get the dunce cap. Sit. And shut it.” The judge released a sigh and sat up straight motioning to the bailiff stationed at the door to let the court stenographer in. “All set?” he asked the older woman as she took a seat next to the judge with her stenotype. “OK. Here we go. This is a continuation of the bail hearing for State versus David Michael Starsky. ADA Davis, as per your verbal request, no change of venue. You can submit a formal request, but the answer will be the same. I’m sure Detective Starsky has testified in my court before, but I have no direct recollection. Court proceedings will be closed to the public on a day to day basis. I agree that he is not a flight risk. Clearly he wants to be helping with his partner’s rehabilitation. But bail has to be set. You can’t just walk out of here with no guarantees. Bail is set at $100,000.”

Starsky slumped down in his chair knowing that there was no money in his bank account or his mother’s that would be sufficient for bail. “That means I gotta come up with ten thousand,” he grumbled.

“Got that covered,” Dobey whispered to Starsky, patting his back.

“What?”

“Don’t you worry about that, Dave.”

“Class is dismissed,” the judge ordered. “It’s time for all of you to get out to the playground for recess while I attend to the ne’er-do-wells in the courtroom.”

“He was out of line and certainly biased toward Starsky,” the ADA complained to Schrader and Simonetti on their way out. “I will be petitioning for a new judge tomorrow and filing a complaint.”

“I heard that, Ms. Davis,” The judge let out as he adjusted the waist band of his slacks through the black robe. “Make it good. I love to read smut.”

“I can assure you it will be thorough.”

“Martha, you have been in front of me representing quite a few cases this year giving me a fair idea of your abilities. Frankly, my advice to you is to go back to clerking for a small town Justice of the Peace. The games you play may work on TV, but won’t get you far in the real world.”

“With all due respect, Walt,” she said arrogantly, “I don’t serve at your pleasure.”

“Pretty sure you’ve never served anyone pleasure.”

 

xXxXxXxXx

Before Starsky even got to the door of Hutch’s new room on the long term care unit he could hear Mrs. Hutchinson’s frustrated voice.

“Kenny, come on now, you need to open your eyes and work with Robert. Just STOP!”

A loud crash preceded the exit of an exasperated tall, young man in scrubs carrying Hutch’s large binder of medical records, which he unceremoniously dumped at the nurse’s station mumbling something to the unit clerk who nodded in agreement.

Hutch’s mother came out of the room just as Starsky got to the door. She was disheveled, tired, and beginning to cry.

“Hey, HEY Mrs. H.,” he said laying his hand softly on her shoulder. “What’s going on?”

“Ken just kicked that rolling table at the physical therapist. That’s the second one who’s walked out this week.”

“Yeah, well, Hutch never has been one to take orders.”

“Oh, David.” She let out a sigh of relief and patted the hand still on her shoulder. “I’m so glad you’re here. He doesn’t care anymore. He’s shut down. I don’t know what to do.”

“Where is Mr. H.?”

“He’s down having a radiation treatment. Dr. Adams was kind enough to arrange oncology services for him while we’re here,” she said, her voice trailing away.

“OK. That’s good. Why don’t you see to him. I’ll deal with Mr. Grumpy in there.”

“Thank you, David. I know Richard will appreciate it. He gets so sick after these treatments. And, well, this hasn’t helped.”

He watched Mrs. Hutchinson pull herself together as she got on the elevator, then he turned to go in the room. It had been a week since he’d last seen his partner.

“Hey, buddy,” Starsky said as he walked in and placed a tall green plant next to the dead flowers on the window sill. Switching the radio station from the drone of sad classical music to James Taylor, he took in the surroundings and made note of the changes that been made in the time he was away. The scary looking port in Hutch’s neck was gone, as well as the central line in his chest. There were still monitor leads peeking out of the top of the hospital gown, bundled and attached to the monitor above the bed, but the beeping was turned off. The IV site on his left arm was gone, but a strange looking line was further up in his arm wrapped in gauze.

“Hi Mary,” Starsky gave the nurse with a big smile. "He hasn’t fired you yet?”

“Dave, if he could talk, I’m sure he would kick me out.”

“Other than that, how’s it been going?”

“Well, his mother treats him like he’s a three-year-old. His father is more like a coach. But when the old geezer thinks I’m not looking he’s actually quite tender with Hutch. I get the feeling this is a rather new thing.”

“Sure is. Hutch used to say…” He stopped as he realized that he was speaking in past tense. “…he says circumstances dictate emotion and emotions dictate actions. He and his father… well, they need this. Both of them. I guess it’s never too late to get a father. You know, Mary, his dad doesn’t have much time left.”

“Marilyn has told me some. They’re awfully private.”

“Oh yeah. They’re masters of the neurotically keep everything bottled up technique.” Starsky sat in the chair and slouched down wishing his damn cast was gone already, but worried that Hutch would never be the same again. “How am I supposed to talk to him? His right arm is broken, he doesn’t know the left one is there and he’s got that damn tube shoved into his neck.”

“He can mouth words when he wants to. Just not sure he’s putting them together properly,” the older nurse reported. “He keeps asking to watch cartoons, but just looks away when I find some on the TV.”

“Hutch? Cartoons?” Starsky snorted. “He hates cartoons. Says they’re my excuse to dumb down the brain and ratchet up my inner child.”

“And what do you say?”

“Hell, yeah!”

“Oh, and pie,” she laughed light heartedly, “he asks for pie.” She spotted Starsky’s confused look. “Again, not unusual as they start getting their language capabilities back. He may mean something else altogether.”

Starsky noticed that the room was much quieter without the humming of all the machines that he’d had in the CICU. Lifting up the sheet covering Hutch’s pelvis he saw that there were less needles there too. “No dialysis?”

Mary reached down on the right side of the bed and unhooked the urinary collection bag lifting it up for Starsky to see. “Liquid gold,” she marveled giving the yellow urine a slight jiggle.

“That is great.” He smiled and rubbed Hutch’s thigh through the sheet, but got no response. “He still has that trache thing in his neck.”

“Hasn’t quite mastered breathing on his own when he sleeps. He’s on the vent at night and occasionally during the day if it looks like he’s not getting oxygenated enough.”

“Before I left, you mentioned something about a talking plug or something for the trache.”

“Speaking valve, yes. Respiratory has tried to fit him with one and show him how to use it, but he fights it. He fights everything. When he’s not fighting, he’s sleeping deeply. He stopped caring when you left. As simple as that.”

“What’s that in his arm?” he asked pointing to the gauze netting on Hutch’s left bicep.

“A PICC line. Sort of like a more permanent IV. He’s still not swallowing well – not that he actually tries - so he’s getting fluids and meds through the PICC and feedings in the J-tube.”

“And his head?”

“Still has pain. Hasn’t had a seizure in a few days. I’m hoping those are resolving.”

“Does he know where I was?”

“I don’t think so. Just that you weren’t here.”

The half head of golden hair moved back and forth on the pillow and eyes fluttered open.

“Hutch,” Mary said, stroking his forehead. “Hey stud muffin, look who’s here.”

Starsky put his hand on the top of the unmoving fingers of Hutch’s left hand and gently stroked them. “Hey partner.”

Those familiar sky blue eyes scanned Starsky from head to waist, then up again stopping at the darker blues framed by the curly dark brown hair. Then…. he turned his head all the way to the right, furrowing his brow.

“OK, I get it. You mad at me, blondie?”

Hutch continued to stare at the wall then tried to turn on his side, attempting to turn his back on Starsky. It was an exercise in futility as his body had no idea that there was a left side. His right arm and leg made up for the lack of movement on his left side as the side rail was rattled, IV infusion pumps kicked and sheets tangled up.

“Hey… HEY, Hutch. Settle down. Come on, let me help, huh?”

Hutch’s mouth moved a little and spittle made its way down his chin quickly dabbed up by Mary. “You’re not going anywhere, young man. So you might as well just knock it off. Come on,” she said, “let’s get you tucked in again.”

When his bedding was straightened out and the patient comfortable with a couple of pillows propping his head, Mary took his chin and brought his face back to center. “I know. I know it’s frustrating, Ken.” She was in mother mode now, the caring and loving qualities of her voice -something he hadn’t had for so many years. “I’m going to step out for a few minutes and give you and this nice fella here a chance to catch up. Okay?”

Hutch squeezed his eyes shut and wished there was a way to catch that errant tear before it rolled down his cheek. Mary thoughtfully, and quite strategically, caught it with her thumb and took it with her.

Starsky worked the latches on the bedside rail and brought it down to allow him to move his chair closer to Hutch.

“I don’t know what people here told you, but it wasn’t my choice not to be here with you. You gotta believe that, Hutch.”

The blonde turned his head away from Starsky once again.

“I wanted… Hutch don’t do that, please.” His pleading went unanswered. “I wanted to be here, but I’m pretty sure my cellmate would have been jealous.”

The friction of the half head of hair on the hard, institutional pillow caught Starsky by surprise and Hutch not only turned his head back to his partner, but picked it up and moved it a few inches closer to him. His mouth moved but no words followed.

“Babe, you’ve got to let them work with you and get that speaking horn in that tube there…”

Hutch’s plaster cast encased arm came over and nearly whacked Starsky in the head before it was caught mid-air.

“Whoa. Hey, it’s okay,” Starsky said as he took the exposed fingers from that hand in his. “I’ve got you. What are you trying to say? Hmm? Jail? Yeah, got to spend a lovely six days in County lock-up while that bitch ADA Davis…”

Hutch saluted with the middle finger of his right hand…

“…and Simonetti played Hero and Wonderwoman.”

As Starsky chuckled and looked down between his hands, he noticed another middle finger sticking up in celebration of their not-so-favorite IA detective…. On Hutch’s left hand.”

“Hey, Hutch, you know what you’re doing?”

Hutch nodded as Starsky lifted the weighty left hand to show his partner. “Do it again for me.”

With what appeared to be great effort, Hutch looked down at his left hand and willed the middle finger straight up.

“See? You knew you could do it, partner,” Starsky said as he brought that same left hand to his forehead and then cheek to hide the wet eyes. “We’ll get through this. I was arraigned in front of Jeffers. You should have seen the show, Hutch. He sure has a way with words.”

They sat like that in silence – Hutch’s head turned to the far left, Starsky’s bent over – forehead to forehead for several silent minutes before Mary returned and they pulled back from each other.

“Hutch,” he said quietly as Mary readied a wash basin for a sponge bath, “you gotta promise me a couple things.” Hutch nodded. “First, you have to be a good little soldier and work with all these nice people in the hospital, like the physical therapists and speech people. I know it’ll be hard, but I’ll be here. I seem to have time to spare lately. Another thing, those clowns downtown are going to come in at some time to ask you about that night. Do you remember that week? How we pretended to fight and then stayed away from each other as if we had finally parted ways?”

Hutch nodded and mouthed, “Yes.”

“How about that night when I came over and then later when we both got beaten up? That’s the part that’s blank to me.”

Hutch nodded again.

“You remember how I came over and you said I shouldn’t have, even though I was careful and parked around the corner?”

“You remember what happened between when I got there and then left?”

“Yeah, me too. Just can’t remember why I left,” Starsky grumbled. “Had to get something.”

“Listen, buddy, when they ask, you have to be 100% honest about that night. Okay? Tell them everything. I know you don’t want to but it has to come from you.”

This time, Hutch was completely still and his eyes moved from Starsky at his side, to directly in front of him.

“Hutch…”

As Hutch moved his casted arm away from Starsky, and straightened himself as best as he could on the pillows, a pale and tired looking Richard Hutchinson walked in and stood on the other side of the bed.

“Hello, son. It’s good to see your eyes open,” the older version of Hutch said as he smoothed the blonde’s hair away from his forehead. “And David, I hope you don’t mind that I was the one to pay your bail. I’m sure you’re good for it.”

“I didn’t know it was you,” Starsky said. “Thank you. It means a lot to me.”

Hutch reached up and touched his father’s chest and mouthed, “Me too,” drawing out a wide smile from the older man.

“Did you see that, Mary?” Richard cajoled pointing at his son. “Look who decided to join us.” When he leaned over and gave Hutch a tender kiss on the forehead, the blonde startled just slightly, then looked at Starsky as if to say, “No shit! Who would have thought…,” then broke into a wide grin himself.

“Mr. H., he moved a finger on his left hand too. A very specific finger, if you know what I mean.”

“I bet I do,” the man chuckled. “I heard some of what you two were talking about, son. You remember that night? David’s memory is foggy. But do you remember what was going on at your apartment that night?”

Hutch stiffened and looked at his father, Mary, Starsky and then back at his father again before shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head.

Secrets, Hutch, Starsky thought as he stepped back and walked out of the room. God damned secrets. “I’ll leave you two for now,” he said fighting the frustration. “Hutch, please, get to work so you get out of here. I need my partner back.” With that he let the door fall shut and left the hospital with no more answers than he had and a partner willing to hide the truth rather than resolve the issue at hand.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TEN

 

Starsky was driving his partner around again, except he was pushing him in a wheelchair instead of racing around in the Torino. With the Hutchinsons hovering and a permanent duty nurse in the room, taking Hutch down to physical and occupational therapy every day was about the only time they got to themselves. The strange route was so familiar Starsky barely even paid attention anymore. A right to the elevators, up to the 7th floor, take a right, through two sets of doors and another right to the ‘bridge’ over the roadway connecting the two hospital buildings. Back onto elevators and down to the first floor, a left through the reception area and finally into the therapy rooms. It was a good day if Hutch let him get to the bridge before telling him to knock off the incessant humming. If no one was paying attention they’d detour outside to a garden patio for a few minutes before going back to the boring sterile hospital room. It’s the only thing Hutch looked forward to.

Just like every other OT session, they entered through the large door and went all the way to the back where Starsky parked him at the table shaped like a half circle. He had been cast free for a few days and used the excuse of stretching his right hand before bringing it down on the blonde head for a quick touch by the ear.

Looking around at the room decorated in primary colors and filled with manipulatives, toys and household objects, Hutch sighed and let his head fall forward in frustration. “Feel like a baby,” he growled.

“Yeah, well, with that speaking valve in you sound more like a dirty old man,” Starsky snuck into his ear from behind leaning on the handles of the wheelchair as the therapist got things ready. “Also known as my Uncle Marion. He died when he was hit over the head with a high heeled shoe by a lady he pinched at Macy’s in the hosiery department.”

“Thought that was Uncle Alphonse.”

“No. Uncle Al was killed by a backfiring Model T.”

“What about Uncle Myron?”

“Uh-uh. Battle of the Bulge got him. But come to think of it, Ma said he always had his hand down his pants. Kind of gives a new meaning to Battle of the Bulge, huh?”

“Guess you come by it honestly, Gordo,” Hutch croaked.

“Hey, when you got it…”

“Pervert,” Hutch chuckled. “Ought to get that tattooed on…. Um… you….” He let his head fall back and lean into Starsky’s warm midsection, eyes squeezed shut.

“What’s wrong? Headache?”

“No. Just… I don’t know. But details come back sometimes, when we talk. No other time. They come out of nowhere.”

“What do you remember?”

Hutch laughed through his half grin. “It’s stupid. Doesn’t make sense.”

“Try me.”

“Okay. Ha! Really…. Geez…. Oh boy.”

“Spill it, blondie.”

“Um… sinking ships. Butterflies. Just weird pictures in my head.”

Starsky put a hand on the remaining golden hair and looked away as he digested the information, then looked down into the blue eyes. “You’re not gonna believe this, but I’ve been seeing things like that in my head since I started waking up too.”

“What have you made of them?”

“Nothing until now. How can we be having the same hallucinations?” Starsky looked off in the distance while he pondered that and wondered what other memories they might have in common. “I remember everything until I left your place. Don’t even know why I left. Do you?”

“Nope. I know you left. Raced out of there. Can’t remember why. Up until then my memory is perfect, too, until… until I opened the door.”

“You opened it? Whoever did this didn’t break in?”

“No.”

“Well, why the hell would you open the door?”

“Someone was knocking, mushbrain. I thought it was my neighbor. Was so tired I didn’t even think to get my back-up gun. I mean, since when do thugs knock first?” Hutch exhaled sharply as he pondered his choice. “Shit, I shouldn’t have…”

Starsky sat in the occupational therapist’s chair next to his partner and picked up Hutch’s left hand stretching the fingers and flexing the hand muscles in preparation for the session. Taking his time. “You had no idea. Stop second guessing yourself.”

“I know. Habit. How are things going with the case?”

“No clue. I hate not being in on it. Ya know,” he said quietly almost into Hutch’s shoulder as he bent forward for more privacy, “I’m fucking bored… cleaned my fridge out three times already.”

“You threw out perfectly good, moldy food?”

“Shocking, I know. I kept the cheese. Can just cut that shit off.”

“Thanks for the heads up, pal. Don’t worry, partner. The evidence either doesn’t connect to you or is flawed in a big way. You’ll be back on the force in no time. Hey,” he said making sure they were eye to eye, “the guys are rooting for you. Not much would keep them from getting you back in the squad room.”

“Let’s hope so. You got a pretty face, Bozo, but I miss working cases, being on the street and even getting hell from Dobey. And the guys… other than you, they’re my only friends.”

“Simonetti still giving you a hard time?”

“They’ve been suspiciously quiet since I was released. Haven’t spoken to him, Schrader or the DA’s office since I was bailed out.”

“Blessing?” Hutch contemplated.

“I wish. Makes me nervous. Ma always said, quiet kids are always up to no good.”

“They know you have no memory, except for the time at my place. And that has nothing to do with what happened.”

“Yeah, well, for some reason they think it does. Or want to think it does.” Other patients and their family members passed by making them sit even closer as they talked. “Last I heard they were waiting for forensics. My attorney is supposed to be copied on all evidence and he hasn’t heard anything either. How about you?”

“They’ve been here three times.”

What?” Starsky sat back in his chair and crossed his arms in front of him not happy with this news. He had assumed that the department had been as silent with Hutch as they had been with him. Someone was playing games and keeping him way out of the loop.

“Yeah. Mary said they came twice at night. Guess they knew you wouldn’t be here. Or my parents.”

“What did you tell them?”

Nothing. I was out of it and on either the vent or supplemental oxygen over the trach. Mary… she’s something,” he laughed. “She told them I was nonverbal and unable to communicate. Technically it wasn’t a lie for right at that moment. Said they didn’t stick around.”

“You said they were there three times.”

“Yeah the other morning. Early. Guess they figured they’d have better luck in daylight. I was awake but Mary was doing maintenance on my trach and suctioning it. So I still couldn’t talk and it’s not pleasant to watch. They didn’t stick around then either.”

Now was time, Starsky thought, to bring up that which always stinks the atmosphere up with bitter awkwardness: Hutch’s family. It was a crap shoot, but he felt he needed to broach the subject. Hutch would never talk about it unless prompted. And he needed prompting. “So how are things going with your folks?”

Yep, that was an audible groan made with effort. “I think my dad sees time is very limited for him and wants to make up for it before… ya know. Feels like we’ve crammed a lifetime into a few short weeks. Too bad it took this for…”

“He’s trying.”

“Yeah, I know. There’s not much I can do for him now, but at least he’ll go with some sense of happiness and maybe even purpose. Know what he does when he sits in my room?” Starsky shook his head. “He talks about the people working on the unit as they walk back and forth, up and down the hall. Who he thinks is married, who is so young they should still be in grade school, who is simply working away the hours to get the paycheck – that really burns him. Ironic since he would have sold my mother’s soul to get me into a job I hated just to get a fat paycheck.” Both of them rolled their eyes. “Of course all the male nurses must be homos and the young lady nurses are only out to find a rich doctor to bed down. It gets old. My mother,” he gave with a snort-laugh, “oh God, Starsk…. She treats me like a helpless child. And she calls me Kenny.” He grimaced. “Kenny, eat more fiber so you can poo. Stop playing with your trach, Kenny. Kenny, do you need me to wash you?”

“Let it go. You’ve come a long way. I mean, really, other than that gross hole in your neck, you’re almost back to normal… if you were ever normal.”

“Thanks, moron. I’ll remember that.”

“Hey, you’re walking short distances on your own. The only problem with your left leg is the minor foot drop thing and as long as you have that oh-so-sexy splint on you don’t trip. I hear the girls really fall for that shit.”

“But my left hand…”

“Will be fine. The docs and therapists all agree that there’s a good chance you’ll get all of the use back in your arm and leg. Stop being so impatient.”

“Okay,” the therapist announced as she shooed Starsky out of the chair. “Time to get to work.”

“I’ll be right over here by the door,” Starsky gave with a slick smile on his face. “Let me know if you need anything… Kenny.”

These sessions always started out low key and benign. They usually ended with Hutch in a snit and frustrated. This day was no different when, just a half hour in, Hutch swept all of the small plastic manipulatives off the table after failing to pick most of them up with the fingers of his left hand and put them in a bowl. “Fuck,” he shouted. “Nomore.”

Starsky pushed himself away from the wall he’d been holding up and picked up the black and white objects off the floor. He showed no reaction, sympathy or otherwise, as he simply put them all back in front of his blonde partner.

“You done, Hutch? Feel better?”

“Already know how… to do this.”

“No, you remember being able to do it. Your brain just forgot how to get that message to your hand.”

“It’s…. stupid.”

“No, it’s practice. Retraining your brain. That’s all.”

Can’t.”

Hutch’s face pinched in a scowl definitely intended for Starsky. This was their silent communication they had with each other. In response, Starsky pointed his finger at Hutch’s face and shook it just a little. “You’re no quitter. I know you, Hutch. And you have never avoided hard work. Right?” He widened his eyes at Hutch who nodded back, slightly guilt ridden. “You’re the guy who broke Gunther.”

“Sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry for. Let’s start over, okay?”

 

xXxXxXxXx

 

“So, Ken, you have some decisions to make in the next couple days,” Dr. Adams said as he closed the large medical file and sat in the chair next to the bed. “Nephrology, Neurology and Cardiology are signing you off of their services. Orthopedics will be soon. You’re eating soft foods, off all IV meds and the PICC line is no more.”

That morning’s audience consisted of his parents, the doctor and Mary. Starsky didn’t usually get there until after lunch so he could stay as long as possible into the evening.

“Dr. Adams,” Mrs. Hutchinson hesitated before going on, “he’s still so frail. And has the trach to take care of.”

“It’s time for your son to move on. He’s walking with minimal assistance for the most part and communicating well. When that cast comes off his arm I don’t see why he can’t take care of most of his own needs himself.”

“You said a while ago that he’d be transferred to a rehabilitation facility,” Richard added. “Could that be at home? In Minnesota?”

Hutch was quick to wave his casted hand in front of him. “I am not going to Duluth.”

“But we could take care of you back home, dear,” his mother pined. “Your old pediatrician, Dr. Mattson, sent us brochures for a top of the line in-patient center in Minneapolis, only about three hours from home…”

“It’s not my home, Mom. I live here now, and as far as a rehab goes, you can forget that too.”

“Ken,” Dr. Adams interjected among the quarreling family, “there is no question that you aren’t sick enough to be hospitalized anymore. But without use of both arms, for now, you need assistance for even the easiest of tasks. And even though you’ve gone three nights without any supplemental oxygen, I hesitate to do a surgical take-down of the tracheostomy until you’re at least 30 days without a seizure – I believe we are at eighteen – and you’re able to completely swallow without impediment and cough up residual saliva, secretions or any potential choke hazard. Until then, it needs to be maintained. That means cleaning the stoma, suctioning it and caring for the valves. It takes two hands and you just don’t have the fine motor dexterity yet in your left hand to do that. You still need OT, PT and respiratory therapy. At a rehab facility for traumatic brain injuries you have all of that as well as medical supervision. The one I’m thinking of is only about a half hour from Bay City.”

“Rehab. Just another name for a nursing home. They smell like piss, shit and death. Not going.”

Dr. Adams stood with arms folded looking over his reading glasses at Hutch. “You were lucky, Ken. Very, very lucky.”

“I know,” he sighed.

“Do you?” the doctor asked. “Look Ken, if you follow our recommendations for rigorous rehabilitation I believe that there is a good chance you will regain all of your dexterity and strength. No guarantees, but you have to be positive, work hard and most of all, have ‘round the clock support, emotional and physical.”

“Kenneth,” Richard said with measured exasperation, “just what do you plan to do?”

“I’m going home. To my place. Dad, Starsky can take me where I need to go and he can learn how to do those things. Once this damn cast is off I’ll have use of my dominant hand.”

“Yes, well son, that’s all well and good, but you need family. We can stay with you…”

Hutch beamed his furious eyes straight into his father. “Starsky’s my family. He has been ever since… he is… is…”

“Of course he is. I didn’t mean… Son, I know your friend has been very good to you while you’ve been here. Just him being here has made all the difference in your recovery. David has been very useful…”

Useful? Really, Dad?”

“We want to help you, Kenneth,” Richard said in his seldom used fatherly voice. “We wouldn’t do anything to hurt you. I just think you need to listen to the professionals and not be so stubborn for once. Don’t know where you got that trait.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Dear,” Marilyn implored, “please listen. We’ll stay here for as long as you need us.”

Hutch sat on the bed in a meditation pose, head down, elbows on crossed knees, but he wasn’t meditating. Instead he was contemplating the moves he’d have to make to escape the insanity of his family.

“I think Ken could use a break,” Richard thankfully announced. “Could I have some time alone with my son?”

Hutch brought his head up and shot a toxic glare at Richard. Being alone with his father was not his idea of a break. It ran more along the lines of shoving acid dipped scissors into his eyeballs.

When Dr. Adams, his mother and Mary quietly left, Hutch pushed his legs under the sheet and leaned back into the propped up pillows for the impending talk. He looked around, even in back of him, but there was only one exit. Trapped. And held hostage, he thought.

“Ken, I understand that you and your partner are close friends…”

“You understand nothing.”

The verbal stab didn’t deter Richard as he simply pulled the chair over and sat next to the bed. “Well,” he said quietly, almost under his breath, “you sound just like me.”

Hutch’s head snapped over to his father with the pointed admonition. “You were a good teacher.”

“Touché.”

They sat in silence each waiting for the other to make the next move until, finally, Richard slid forward and reached over to put his aged fingers on his son’s immobile left hand. “Ken, I know I’ve been hard on you… No, that’s not what I’m trying to say,” he sighed. “I’ve been a deficient father…”

“You did your best,” Hutch said. It was an obligatory shut the hell up and move on response.

“Well, my best was horrible. The truth is, I’ve always been unhappy with myself and never was satisfied with my own accomplishments and, I suppose, took it out on you.”

“Dad, I figured that out a long time ago…”

“Please Ken, let me finish.” He pulled his hand back and put it in his lap with the other as if trying to contain himself, unable to look his son in the eye. “I’m not sure if it’s age, or the finality of life that is so close in front of me, but I’ve spent a lot of time recently assessing my past and, frankly, I’m ashamed at how I treated you.”

“You pushed, I pushed.”

“Yes, well, you shouldn’t have had to, son. I guess I tried to mold you and mold you… and when you fought back I let anger rule the day. I don’t know when it happened but at some point I think I decided to not like anything you chose in your life. When you divorced Vanessa…”

She divorced me.” And this example of domestic failure resurfaced yet again. “I was more than willing to make the effort,” Hutch explained for at least the fifteenth time since the end of the marriage, “but apparently my chosen occupation was not enough status for her.”

“I know. Her father told me.” Again, they sat in uncomfortable silence until Richard cleared his throat. “Look, I was willing to pay for whatever education you wanted but when you threw grad school away in favor of being a cop, it broke me. Ken,” he said followed with regret looking hard at his son’s face. “That was my doing, not yours. I was so wound up in wanting my children to be financially successful I lost sight of simple happiness. I guess by punishing you I was punishing myself. After that, I rarely saw you.”

“Not much to go home for. I flew back when I got my first commendation as a uniform beat cop but I never saw you or mom. You had something going on at the country club then stayed in Minneapolis for a golf event. You chose that over your son. The only reason I was there was to see you and you knew it. After that I gave up.”

Richard nodded his head in recognition of the oversight, but changed the course of the discussion. “Your sister and her husband are expecting their third baby. That’s why she couldn’t get out here.”

Hutch knew exactly where this was going tilting his head up to count the holes in the ceiling tiles. “I know.”

“You’re forty now…"

“Thirty-eight,” Hutch corrected him.

“Yes, I’m sorry. Thirty-eight. Don’t you want what your sister has? What we had?”

“What? A wife and kids? Or an unhappy marriage and miserable kids?”

“Someone to go home to. A commitment. And yes, children.”

“Because it worked out so well for you and Mom?” he spit out before catching himself. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t called for. Not sure I’m ever going to be a father. Dad I’m…” Hutch shifted in the bed, just not wanting to deal with this particular conversation. “Dad, I’m happy with my chosen place in life right now. I won’t…. I won’t marry again. The few people in my life are the ones I love, and that’s enough for me. I don’t need a country club or a huge bank account or even a wife to validate my worth.”

“You’re right.” His hand went back to his son’s. “I never told you, but I am so proud of you. I bragged to anyone at the club who would listen about my famous detective cop on the west coast. And when you were on 60 Minutes after the Gunther arrest…. Well, I got preferred tee time after that,” he smiled. “You know your mom has a scrap book of all your accomplishments on the force. The big cases you solved, your commendations and medals. I had my secretary get all the California based newspapers.”

Hutch sat up straight and turned his hand over so that his father could hold it palm to palm. “I didn’t know. I thought… I mean… why didn’t you…?”

Richard shook his head and let just one tear fall, quickly wiping it away. “I don’t have any answers. We almost lost you. My time is very short. I just need to make things right before it’s too late. Can we do that? Can we just have a couple months where nothing interferes?”

“It has to come from both of us for it to work, Dad. I’m willing. Are you?”

“Of course I am. I love you, son. Should have told you a long time ago.”

 

xXxXxXxXx

 

“I think if they had their way, they’d move in with me,” Hutch complained to Starsky sitting on the hospital bed next to him. “My mother said they would be here as long as I need them.”

“Sounds like they need you, not the other way around.”

“I think you’re right,” he said as he scraped his newly freed itchy right arm on the sheets. “You should have seen them, Starsk. I don’t know what it is…”

“Regret, fate, karma… loneliness.”

“Loneliness? They’ve got each other.”

“Do they? Some couples live parallel instead of percandipical. Remember,” he said tapping the blonde on the chest, “we talked about that at one time.”

Perpendicular, dummy.”

“Yeah, well, you’re gonna rub the skin off that arm if you keep it up. Stop.”

“It’s itchy. That plaster cast sucked my skin dry.”

“Yeah?” As Starsky moved in to whisper something private to his partner, Hutch smiled, his eyes wide then screwed his face in response. He stopped what he was about to say as Mary appeared with a tray of supplies.

“Okay, boys. School is in session.” Putting the tray down on the raised mayo stand, Mary washed her hands and then donned exam gloves. “If you have anything else to say, hot stuff, say it now. First lesson in daily trach maintenance is removing the speaking valve.”

“I just want to get rid of this altogether. Why can’t…?”

“Because, like it or not, you have a traumatic brain injury, Hutch,” she said very seriously. “You’ve made leaps and bounds and I have no doubt you will make a complete recovery. But sometimes complications happen and if your airway is compromised during a seizure, stroke, a fall or other event in any way, you will regress in your recovery and maybe stop completely. Got it?”

“You’re a regular Miss Mary Sunshine, you know that, old gal?” Hutch snapped.

“I take offense to that, Detective. I’m not always sunny,” she gave with a wink. “Now, Dave is going to wash his hands and put gloves on. Then out with the speaking valve and we’ll start with cleaning the stoma.”

 

xXxXxXxX

 

The Hutchinsons were going over the discharge papers with the charge nurse at the desk when they were approached by Detective Simonetti and Captain Schrader.

“Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson, how are you today?” Schrader shook both hands, noting that the patient’s father looked pale and weak. “Mr. Hutchinson, pardon me, but you don’t look well. Can I get you anything?”

“No thank you, Captain. I just had a treatment. It will pass. We haven’t seen you in a while. Has the investigation stalled?”

“No, not at all,” Schrader answered. “There was just a lot of evidence, most of it needing forensic analysis, which takes time, sometimes weeks. With their memories impeded, we may never solve it. This case may be a long term headache.”

Richard shifted his footing to lean against the unit reception desk. “Time is not always your friend. We know. These past weeks with our son have been tedious.”

“Yes. We heard he was being transferred to The Christopher Center for Brain Injured Patients.”

“Mmm. Well, he put a kibosh on that,” Marilyn droned.

This picked both detectives’ ears up and suddenly Simonetti seemed to care. “Wait. The message we got yesterday from Dr. Adams was that he was recommending the Christopher Center. Only the most severe cases go there,” he said. “Is he staying here? Has he had a set back?”

“Oh, dear, Detective Simons…,” Marilyn continued while her husband rubbed his temple as one of his post treatment headaches was coming on. Nausea was probably thirty minutes out.

“It’s Simonetti, ma’am.”

“Oh, yes, okay. Well, Kenneth decided he was going home.”

Both detectives looked towards Hutch’s room as Simonetti continued. “He wrote that down? He can communicate?”

“Oh, of course, dear,” Marilyn said with marked relief. “He’s been off the vent for a while now. He’s walking some and working with the therapists. And with a special thing in his trach he talks just fine. Sounds funny, but it gets things done.”

“I had no idea,” Simonetti said quietly as he shared a look with his Captain.

“Thanks to you and the rest of his colleagues who have been so supportive, Detective Sampson,” she said as Simonetti sneered again at the mutilation of his name, “Ken has made it farther than any of the doctors thought he would at this point.”

“Has he remembered anything?”

“In fact,” she replied enjoying giving good news for once, “he remarked yesterday that whenever he and David are together little bits of his memory come back, like a jigsaw puzzle.”

“David? Dave Starsky?”

“Why yes. He’s going to be staying at Kenneth’s place during the next few weeks until they can remove the trach and close up the opening. Oh good lord,” she laughed, “I’ll have to make some meals for the freezer. Hopefully in a couple months he’ll be able to get back to work on…. Oh, I think they call it limited duty.

Schrader and Simonetti stole glances at each other before the Captain handed the file over to his detective.

“This greatly concerns me,” Simonetti gave them in a lowered voice. “You see we have grave concerns about leaving Starsky alone with your son.”

Marilyn reached over and took a drinking straw and can of ginger ale off the desk. “Oh, now, you don’t still think David had something to do with Ken’s injuries. Ken doesn’t. And from what I understand the evidence doesn’t support it completely. Would either of you care for a soda pop or juice?”

“No. No thank you, ma’am. We’re working on the evidence. You are aware that Starsky had been taking illegal drugs. Large quantities, in fact.”

“Ken says he thinks it was forced on him,” Richard said coming to Starsky’s defense. “He never was a drug addict. You sure you’re not losing sight of the real perpetrators by focusing on David?”

“Yes, well, that’s not all.” Simonetti took the large file out from under his arm and opened it wide for the Hutchinsons to see… to see… lists of physical evidence, officers’ reports, medical evidence and photographs.

Marilyn tried to hide her gasp with a hand over her mouth, the open can of pop falling to the floor into a pool of fizz as close-up pictures of her son’s injuries, obviously taken within the first hours and days of his hospitalization, passed before them. Very graphic. Very personal. Very painful. Her husband gently put his arm around her shoulders but was too mesmerized by what he was reading to shield her from the horrors in front of them.

“Nobody said anything about…. I mean, David says he doesn’t remember,” she got out through tears. “How could he…? Is Kenny blocking it out? Richard? Richard…?

“Mrs. Hutchinson,” Captain Schrader advised, “it’s time to start thinking about asking for a restraining order. Here at the hospital they aren’t alone. But in an apartment…?”

 

xX

 

“And, pay attention here, Doctor Starsky,” Mary chided with a grin. “You’re going to turn this on here for suction. Test it first. Put the suction catheter in through the opening all the way to this line, but don’t force it. Suction as you pull out. Do it again, but this time tell him to cough. You won’t hear an actual cough since his larynx is disabled without the speaking valve in. It’s like a silent cough. You’ll hear the secretions. You’ve been here before when I’ve done it. Ready to try?”

Before Starsky could introduce the suction catheter into the stoma hole on Hutch’s neck, Richard Hutchinson barged in, red faced and furious.

“How could you do this to my son? Your best friend. Your partner?”

Starsky stood fully gloved as Mary took the suction catheter from his hand and tried to unsuccessfully get the uprising out of her patient’s room. “Let’s take this outside, folks.”

“What are you talking about?”

“We trusted you, David. We trusted you with our son.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Starsky saw who was behind the sudden change in temperature. “Simonetti, what the hell is going on?” With no answer forthcoming, he turned back to his partner. “Hutch?”

The blond sat in the bed completely unable to communicate with the tracheostomy half undone and the opening exposed to all.

Everything changed. Everything. Suddenly Starsky felt the earth being pulled out from under his feet. The up-to-that-point silent investigation and warming parents had turned on him. His partner silent and unable to defend him. Unable, or unwilling…?

“You will get out of our son’s life, starting now,” Richard Hutchinson demanded with a finger jabbing into Starsky’s chest. “And if the police don’t arrest you again, I will find a way to have your bail revoked.”

Somebody tell me what’s going on.”

“David,” Marilyn implored through tears from a safe distance, “How could you? How could you rape your best friend?”

"My... my son," Richard added through gritted teeth, "is no queer."

Rape? What? What the hell?” Starsky looked from one person to another until his eyes made it back to his partner. “Hutch. Tell them. I didn’t rape you.”

But Hutch couldn’t. And he didn’t. No shake of the head, no wave of the hand. He just sat immobile – frozen, looking from his pale father and crying mother, to his partner.

“Oh my God, Hutch. What are you doing? Tell them!

Richard leaned into the tall, metal Mayo stand that had been holding the materials used to clean the tracheostomy, eventually losing his composure, then his balance, then consciousness.

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

The knock on Starsky’s door was firm and purposeful.

“Starsky, open the door. Open it or so help me I’ll get a battering ram and take it down myself.”

“It’s open.”

Captain Dobey walked into a darkened apartment to find his detective sitting on the floor cross legged, back against the wall, drinking a beer.

“Anything left of that six-pack?” Dobey asked as he leaned against the door frame next to Starsky.

Starsky reached into the paper grocery bag at his feet and pulled another can out tossing it to his visitor without saying a word.

“Just came from the hospital.”

Starsky never looked up preferring to keep his words and thoughts to himself only relenting when he thought back to the last time he saw Hutch – in the bed, mouth open in shock reaching out to his father fallen on the floor of the hospital room. “He okay?”

“Mr. Hutchinson is fine.” Dobey knew that’s not who Starsky was asking about, but preferred to get that out of the way first. “Apparently he was overwhelmed from his cancer treatment and everything he, ya know, heard. It was a shock. Passed out.”

“Hutch?”

Dobey sighed and tilted his head as he opened the beer and took a swallow. “Put back his homecoming a bit.”

“What do you mean?”

“Seems after you were dragged out of the room and removed from the hospital as a result of backing Simonetti into a wall and threatening to kill him,” he said with a tinge of frustrated anger, “Hutch tried to reach his father on the floor and had some sort of breathing emergency with his trach undone. He hadn’t been suctioned yet, or somesuch…”

Starsky’s hand was shaking as he put the half can of warm beer on the floor then rubbed his sweating palms back and forth on his blue jean covered thighs. “What… I don’t know… Um… how is he?”

“He should be fine. They sedated him, took him back up to the ICU and on the vent until he’s stable. Few more days he’ll get home. But once again, Starsky, your impulsive actions have consequences. You have to control these outbursts through this process.”

Starsky nodded in agreement, then wiped his face from top to bottom and took a deep breath while itemizing plans out loud. “I… ah… have to get over to his place. Finish getting it ready. Buy some groceries. I figure if I…”

“You can’t, son.”

“What do you mean I can’t?

Dobey reached behind him and took out a packet of tri-folded papers. “Judge issued an emergency restraining order…”

Starsky furrowed his brow and grimaced. “You serving me, Cap?”

“Officially, yes. I didn’t want you getting this from someone else.”

“Hutch petitioned the court for this? He doesn’t want to see me?”

“I don’t know what he wants, Starsky. It was requested by Hutch’s parents.”

“He’s a grown man, Cap. They can’t just do that.

“They can and they did. It was granted based on Hutch’s current mental and physical condition.” When Starsky didn’t take the papers, Dobey dropped them into his lap. Serving the papers, confronting his detective about the charges – all a dirty, nasty side to his job. “And…and the evidence presented to him alleging that a sexual assault took place.” Again, Starsky didn’t look up and almost acted as though he hadn’t heard what Dobey said. “They’re saying rape, Dave.”

“I know. I heard it from the motherfucker IA pricks myself. Simonetti oughta get an award for that act.”

“You know I have to ask.” Dirty, dirty job.

“Really? Really, Cap?” Starsky pushed his legs out straight but maintained his downward stare. “Then ask. Might as well. Let me hear it from you too.”

The air thickened between them as Dobey shuffled his weight from one foot to the other in contemplative hope – hope that Starsky wouldn’t force the question, but the silence forced the issue. He sighed and swallowed hard before finally asking what needed to be asked for the record. “Did you rape him?”

Starsky finished the beer with a few large gulps, crushed the can with one hand and threw it across the room to a nonexistent trash can. “I didn’t rape my partner. But that’s not enough for you, is it?”

“Dave, I saw the file,” the investigator in Dobey pushed, needing Starsky to address the evidence in real time. “I saw the report from forensics. The lab results, medical findings…. Photos.”

“Yeah? So, guilty until proven innocent? Is that how it works for me?” But Dobey had no answers for the defensive snarkiness. “How about the victim’s statement, huh? You always say a case isn’t worth going before the judge without a cut and dry victim’s statement.”

“Clearly, after what happened today… and the medication… Look, Simonetti and Schrader said Hutch didn’t deny it and once his breathing was compromised he wasn’t able to talk. When I got to the hospital he was out of it.”

As Dobey put his empty can back in the paper bag he took the time to pat Starsky’s shoulder as a sign of… a sign of…. he didn’t know. Understanding? Support? Fatherly compassion? Whatever it was he needed, Dobey couldn’t give it to him. But he needed to prepare Starsky for the inquisition that would be coming his way.

“You think I raped my partner?” Starsky asked with a not so subtle hint of bitterness. “Huh? Do you, Cap?”

“I know that when I found you, you were stoned out of your mind. All you had on were your pants and you were half out of them.”

“You know everything then?”

“Starsky, clearly I don’t and you well know that.” He still was getting nothing concrete out of his detective. Nothing but attitude. “Do you have anything you want to tell me?”

“It doesn’t matter what I say. Your minds are made up…”

“Don’t paint me with the same brush as IA, Starsky. I’m just here to…”

“You haven’t said you believe me. Given that, I’d say the brush fits.”

One hot poker shoved up his ass. The Captain felt completely defeated. “Dave…”

“You should leave. The door is behind you.”

“As the main suspect in a felony of… in this case, don’t leave the county. No going to the hospital, his place or anywhere he may be.” He had to say it. He had to go down the list. “No calling him. No contacting him through a third party or mail…”

“But Cap we’ll never find out who did this if we can’t work together. And you know…”

“This is not your case. You don’t have any cases. You’re suspended and an order of protection has been issues against you. You know the drill.”

“I know the drill.”

“Starsky, I have the best detectives on this. The best.”

“Used to be your best was us.”

He was right and the Captain knew it. His best detectives were suspended. One barely recovering from life threatening injuries and the other charged with inflicting those injuries as well as other horrific atrocities. “Don’t interfere, Starsky. Please. You’ll just make it worse for the both of you. And I don’t think it’s safe for you to be anywhere near the station. The guys… they know.”

Starsky snorted as he opened his next can. “Yeah, I’m sure minds have been made up there too. Simonetti must have a perpetual hard-on over this.” He laughed as he wiped an errant dribble of beer from his chin and sensed his Captain’s unease at the joke. “What... too soon?”

“I can’t tell you how serious this is.”

Starsky stood up and pointed his finger accusingly at his Captain’s large chest. “You don’t think I know? You don’t think that being kept from my…” He stopped abruptly and kicked the now empty grocery bag away from him. “Apparently only the great Detective Hutchinson can clear me and it seems unlikely, doesn’t it?”

“Give him time.”

“Time,” he snorted. “I have a feeling time is in the hands of his father.”

“What do you mean?”

“Doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. I don’t matter. Hutch doesn’t matter. We don’t matter.” He put his weight into his back as he slid down the wall and back to the floor. “Good night, Captain. Give my regards to Edith and the kids.”

“Dave, I’ll do what I can. You know that.”

“Do I?”

“I hope so, son.”

Dobey didn’t say another word as he exited the apartment. The door was closed with such care that the latch barely made a noise. Once again Starsky was sitting alone in his darkened apartment, only now his hope of Hutch calling or walking through the door was utterly and painfully gone.

He knew that Hutch remembered most of that night. They’d talked about it in the hospital garden the few times they had a few minutes to themselves. Although they were both missing pieces, once together they were good at putting the puzzle together.

“You should leave.”

Those words had cut through Starsky’s soul.

“You should leave.”

They were meant as a warning… as concern for Starsky’s safety, but at this point in rewinding to that night, he only felt misplaced rejection.

“I didn’t leave,” he said out loud to no one. “Couldn’t leave. Can’t leave you, Hutch.”

“But you paid Helene’s nephew, Tony, to watch the place while you’ve been out all week, right?”

Hutch nodded. “Place hasn’t been empty for a minute.”

“Did a sweep for bugs?”

“Yep. Nothing.”

“See… stop the Worry Train and hop off, babe.”

Hutch laughed out loud. “Okay Huggy Bear.” He reached out and let the fingertips of his hand barely touch Starsky’s elbow as a silent affirmation of understanding. “Tony said he did see a car do slow passes a few times. Basic black four-door sedan. Was out on my run this morning and think I saw the same one. Got a partial on the plate.”

“Did you run it?”

“Not yet. Figured I’d wait until tomorrow when Dobey is brought in on this whole thing. Wrote it down though. Pretty sure I’m being watched. That’s why I didn’t want you coming around.”

“Don’t worry. I parked around the corner behind that old closed up laundromat.”

Hutch took a deep breath, let it out and shoved his hands in his pockets. “You know when we came up with this plan I didn’t think it would go this far. Didn’t think we were this close to finding out who’s taking the drugs from lock-up. It’s a lot hotter than we predicted.” Hutch nervously shifted his feet back and forth then looked around finally letting his eyes find their way back to his partner. “I said some pretty shitty things to you yesterday.”

“It was an act, Hutch. I didn’t take it as anything but.”

“I just kept digging and digging. Even used your mother…”

Stop. Just stop.” Starsky shook his head and smiled to ease the tension. “You always do this with us. You don’t need to take on the guilt. We had to say those things to make people believe we hated each other. I just didn’t think we’d get suspended without pay. Guess we threw out too many F-Bombs. Dobey really hates that.”

“Yeah, no shit. I’ve got a car payment due next week.”

Starsky snorted as he laughed. “You’re… do NOT tell me you took a loan out for that junker.”

“Don’t start.”

“Okay,” he relented leaving the jokes for another time. “Look, Hutch, I know we’ve put our personal life on hold until we get through this case, but I stopped by Renaldo’s today and picked these up.” Pulling a box out of his pocket, Starsky paused to gauge Hutch’s surprised look. “I didn’t want to wait and, frankly, I got nothing else to do.”

He held out the black box and when Hutch didn’t reach for it Starsky opened it himself and took out the two gold ID bracelets.

“The engraving is done?” Hutch asked taking the one with an ‘H’ on top.

“Yep. Just like we asked. Look.” Turning the one over in Hutch’s hand he read the inscription out loud. “Love does not delight in evil….”

Hutch took the other gold bracelet topped with an ‘S’ from the box and turned it over placing it side by side with the other one. “…but rejoices with the truth.”

They both kept their heads down mesmerized by the personalized sentiment they had chosen for each other.

“Rejoices with the truth,” Starsky repeated. “Seems like the more serious we get, the deeper we hide the truth.”

“Don’t look at me like that, Starsk. You say it like I’m the only one hiding who we are.”

“No. That’s not true. The minute the department gets a whiff, we’re unemployed. But, ya know, we could tell a select few. At least our families.”

Hutch shook his head at the gist of the discussion that had taken place time and time again. “Don’t give me that. You haven’t told your mother.”

“Not yet. I’ve come close though. And if she asked I wouldn’t hide it. You, on the other hand, have been getting more and more creative with the lies to your folks. I’m in the room when you’re on the phone with them.”

“My dad needs time, you know that. What purpose would it serve to come right out and tell my parents? Mom, Dad,” Hutch mocked, “I am so happy to tell you that I am fucking my partner up the ass on a regular basis. Mom, enjoy bridge club. Oh, and die happy, Dad.”

“Hutch… don’t start.” Starsky brought his hand up and gently palmed the side of the blonde’s face. “I’ve missed you all week. Hate staying away from you. I hated pretending to fight with you. I hate that we have to hide US from the world.” Dropping the bracelets back in the box and putting it on the bookcase shelf, he took Hutch’s face in both hands and gently brought their foreheads together. “And I hate that you are carrying a hundred pounds of guilt in your heart over something that wasn’t real.”

Hutch felt Starsky’s warm breath as it poured onto his cheek followed by a sweep of lips. “I know. I know. I just… I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You didn’t. You haven’t, babe.”

Hutch’s sad eyes finally focused forward and connected with his partner’s sky blue orbs. He nodded. Whether Starsky believed the implied understanding was certainly debatable.

“So,” Starsky said with a twinkle, “should I call you Mindy or Mandy?”

 

xXxXxXxX

 

“He’s just not up to seeing anyone, Captain Dobey. I’m sorry you wasted a trip,” Richard Hutchinson said as they stood outside on the sidewalk. “Please understand. He’s had a shock. He refuses to be in a rehab. Won’t let us take him home…”

“With all due respect, Mr. Hutchinson, this is his home.”

“Yes, he’s said that. But it has become painfully obvious that he has very few friends here. No family.”

“I’m here. His fellow officers all care.”

“His work colleagues. Yes, that’s true, but with the most recent, ah, sensitive information that has come to light, you’re the only one to stop by or call. And Mr. Starsky, well, we don’t even mention his name. Ken barely talks as it is and if we bring him up he completely shuts down. So we just avoid it.”           

“He’s been home a full week now,” Dobey said while still trying to make headway. “The assistant D.A. will want to talk to him soon.”

“He won’t.”

“He’ll be ordered by a judge. I’d rather the interview take place with his cooperation and not under force.” Dobey took his card out and tried to give it to Richard. “Please call me so we can set something up here or at my office. Or even my home if it would be more comfortable.” The card was ignored and returned to the pocket it came from. “Talk to him.”

“We’ve tried, Captain. He just becomes mute. The doctors finally threatened him with a feeding tube if he didn’t start eating. Thank God we haven’t had to resort to that.”

“And tell him… tell him that Starsky is asking about him.” Dobey knew this would be treading in deep water, but it needed to be said. “Richard, please tell him. Things don’t add up. Starsky would never hurt your son. Being kept from Hutch is killing him.”

The elder Hutchinson stood still and looked passed the Captain, almost as though willing this part of the conversation to evaporate.

Captain Dobey had a sudden feeling that something was missing. “Richard, does your son know about the restraining order against David?” Still, the man avoided the topic. “Richard…?”

“We have chosen not to broach the subject with him at this time. He’s fragile. Still recovering from his brain injury. The news about the… the evidence … with his lapse in memory some things are just too disturbing for him right now. He can’t afford a setback. As far as he knows the suspect in his… his… his attack has no more use for him.”

Dobey cringed and pinched the bridge of his nose at the words thrown at Starsky by way of Hutch’s overprotective, arrogant father. “I don’t think he’s as incapacitated as you want him to be.” He’d said his piece and it wasn’t pretty. Nor was it accepted.

It was a slap in the face. An insult and insinuation of misplaced parenting of which Richard Hutchinson would not admit or concede to. “I’m sorry that keeping my son safe is inconvenient to the animal who raped…” A red faced Richard took a deep breath and tamped down his anger for the moment.

Dobey knew when to back out of a burning building and this one was a 4-alarm fire. But he wasn’t going to leave without trying. “Let him know. Please. Tell him that Starsky desperately wants this to end so he can see Ken again.”

Richard put his hands behind his back and resumed a proud, if not weary, posture. “Duly noted,” he said with about as much worth as a pile of sun dried dog shit.

“Alright then. Please tell him that Edith and I are thinking of him. And,” he added as he walked back to his car, “I will keep stopping by until he sees me.”

Richard stood on the sidewalk, the reflected heat of the early morning sun rising up to uncomfortably warm his legs, and watched Dobey drive off. All the way back up the stairs to Hutch’s apartment he contemplated the now predictable plot of the day. They would suction and clean their son’s trach site after his shower. His wife would attempt to get him to eat some sort of breakfast and then be happy with toast and juice. Morning medications. Hutch would nap until lunch when he would watch his parents eat while he picked at the food and eat just enough to ward off criticism. The argument about going to therapy would start off with gentle prodding and end with doors slamming, ice cold glares and no therapy.

They would read the papers – Hutch would pretend to – then the pacing would start. He would wander around the apartment, stop to putter about the plants in the greenhouse where a hospital bed had been placed for him, afternoon meds, then following a nap, he’d start the pacing again until dinner. Another round of Marilyn begging him to eat, evening meds and trach care, then bed. All in silence. Richard figured that his son had shrunk two inches from continuous moped stooping.

“Who was that?” Marilyn asked tightening the sash around her bathrobe. “It’s awful early for visitors.”

Before Richard could tell her about his conversation with the Captain, Hutch came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel.

“Was that Starsky?” Hutch asked as he towel dried his hair with his right hand. “Did Starsky stop by?” His left remained at his side, his half useless, ignored hand in an involuntary loose fist.

“Ken, no.” Richard sat down on the sofa with his back to his son and pretended to read a book. It was easier to lie that way. “That ship has sailed, son. You need to stop concerning yourself with him. He’s not going to call. He won’t be stopping by just like every other day since you got back here.”

Marilyn walked over to the sofa and shooed Richard’s feet off the coffee table. “Who were you talking to out there, dear?”

“Just someone selling magazines.”

“They’re relentless out here. At least back home no means no. Kenny, let me check the scars on your head. They still look tender.”

Hutch waved his mother’s hands off as she attempted to part his newly grown back hair and look at the pink scars on his scalp. A dirty look, snap of the head and he was off to get dressed.

“Hurry up dear. It’s time to clean your trach. Maybe I can make you a pie today. Would you like that? A pie?”

Pie.

Hutch stood stock still at the entrance to the kitchen, his back to his doting mother and closed his eyes.

Starsky said something about pie.

Starsky. He hadn’t come over. Hadn’t called. It’s like he had fallen off the face of the earth or, worse, completely erased Hutch from his life. With everything that had happened – the name calling and secrets – he couldn’t blame him.

Pie.

Somehow they had made it to the bed that night. How, Hutch couldn’t recall. But he vividly remembered Starsky’s face as the curly haired brunette smiled wide and said, “I thought you wanted to play Monopoly, Blintz.”

“I suppose I could arrange that. We haven’t played in at least a week.”

“Been a long, lonely week. I’ll play and even take it easy on you.”

“Want you to be the Banker, remember?” Hutch said as he nodded to affirm his request. “And I don’t want you to take it easy on me.”

Joking was put aside as Starsky backed away from his lover and sat cross legged on the bed. “Babe, I don’t mind you being Banker. In fact, I love when you take control of… of the currency.”

Hutch reached out and took hold of both of Starsky’s hands turning them over and stroking the palms with his thumbs. “What does it feel like when I’m inside of you?”

“Feels like… like it’s the closest you can ever get to me. I love you so much that sometimes I feel like we’re one person. When you’re in me we’re one.” Starsky chuckled. “Sounds corny, but it’s true.”

I want to feel that.”

Starsky tilted his head and stroked his own thumbs over Hutch’s. “Remember when we tried that before? Didn’t go well.”

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t ready. I was scared to death. I’m not now. I want you Starsk. I want you in me. I want you to leave part of yourself inside of me.”

Starsky sat motionless staring down at their hands. He was excited about the prospect of turning the tables but hesitant. Very hesitant. “Hutch, I hurt you last time and stopped, really, before we got anywhere. It’s still gonna hurt, at least at first.”

“I know that. But it’s you. I want you inside me.”

“Yeah, well not that I’m bragging, mind you, but I’m kind of bigger than you.”

“Been measuring in centimeters again?”

Starsky gave a half smile for the joke, then pulled back to serious. “You sure, Hutch? I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Starsky, you know how you’re always telling me I talk too much?”

“Yeah.”

“Shut up.”

“Hutch, at work you’re motivated and driven,” Starsky said as he tried to make his case. “Strong when you need to be strong. Convincing, coercive, fast, authoritative. And, God help me, heavy handed and damn near deadly when situations call for it. But when we are… when we make love you are gentle and soft. Slow and caring.”

“What’s your point, Gordo? I know you have a fantasy. You told me, ya dope.”

“Yeah, but…”

Hutch pushed his face into Starsky’s space and lowered his voice to a near growl. “You want to take me hard. You want to be in charge and make me almost beg you to stop. Your words.”

“Yeah. You forgot the part about us being on a deserted island and tying you between two palm trees. It’s a fantasy, babe. Just a fantasy. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You keep saying that. Maybe I have a fantasy too.”

“It ain’t broke, Hutch. What are you trying to fix? I just want to love you. Are you saying that isn’t enough for you?”

“No. NO.” Hutch grabbed both of Starsky’s wrists and held them rather tightly. “I just… Look, after this week, after everything… and, I don’t know. I guess I want something different. Need it.”

“You need to be treated like that? Aren’t you worth more?”

“Okay, Mother Theresa,” Hutch said waving Starsky off in surrender, “I’m tired. Gonna take a shower and hit the sack. You can stay or go. Doesn’t matter to me.”

Hutch looked back at the bed his parents had commandeered – the soft, luscious, cozy of warmth that used to be that which had enveloped him and his private lover in moments of pure, raw and undeniable passion – and saw only… an empty bed.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve

No.”

Starsky walked back into the kitchen and took his foul mood with him.

“Look my man, Dobey don’t call me out of the polluted sky blue unless it’s mucho important, ya dig?”

Huggy Bear Brown, informant turned best friend to both detectives parked his tall, lean, dark frame against the back of the sofa and crossed his arms in front of him. He’d been going rounds with Starsky and hadn’t won one yet.

“You don’t go in for an official chit chat, they gonna come grab your ass and haul you in,” he begged. “You know that. Times a wasting.”

Starsky stepped out of Huggy’s sight and leaned his head against the refrigerator willing himself to stay calm, even and lucid. More beer would help. “Want a beer, Hug? Or a few shots? I got a bottle of Johnny Walker courtesy of my police brethren in honor of my fourth commendation in March.” He grabbed the bottle from the back of a cupboard and two shot glasses. “I think it’s only fitting that we break the seal and get hammered considering those same brother cops want to beat me senseless now.”

Starsky walked around Huggy and dropped down into the sofa with a sigh. “Join me,” he said as he poured a shot, downed it, then filled both glasses. “A man shouldn’t drink alone. Know who said that?”

Huggy sat in the chair at the end of the coffee table and shook his head.

“My partner. Drink up, buddy.” Starsky pushed the filled shot glass towards Huggy. “Of course, he can’t – or won’t – validate that he said that either, so bottoms up.” The second shot burned its way down his throat as he wasted no time pouring a third. “Ooh. Pun intended.”

“Come on, man, don’t get yourself all plastered. Again.” This had been a repeating theme the past couple of weeks and was only getting worse. Turning his head to trace a strange noise he finally reached under the chair and pulled out the phone with the receiver off the hook. “Maybe you’ll feel less lonely if you keep your telephone in one piece,” he said putting it back together. “Reach out and touch someone, mi amigo.”

“Fucking sick and tired of the crank calls, my guess from the assholes in Vice.”

“Then go in and set them straight, bro.” He looked down at the shot, but ignored it hoping he’d get to designate drive his friend to the station for the official questioning.

“Not feeling it?” Starsky asked reaching over and taking Huggy’s glass. “Fine. Waste not, want not. There are sober people in China.” He raised the glass in a mock toast, then poured it down his throat.

“Call him,” Huggy said while taking the shot glasses and protectively holding them away from Starsky.

“No can do.” He exaggerated while waving his hand in front of him. “Been ordered by a judge. No contact. Seems I’ve been grounded.”

“I know that, but honestly you got nothing to lose.”

“If he wanted to talk, he’d make the effort. Truth be told, Hug, he’s being forced to choose between me and his dying father. The Keeper of the Guilt clearly chose his dictator father. Don’t tell me you don’t get the creepy vibes when you’re over there.”

“Don’t know. He won’t see me. Won’t see anyone. I can’t get past the Wicked Witch or the Wizard to even talk to our blonde scarecrow.” He waited for Starsky to explain more about the mystery of Hutch’s parents but got nothing but an inebriated stare. “What’s wrong with those people?”

The fact that the shot glasses were in Huggy’s custody phased Starsky not one bit as he put bottle to mouth and continued his journey to Blotto. “Well, buddy, that would take a flow chart to explain.” The brown liquor sloshed over his chin and dripped down onto Starsky’s lap. “But, you see, those people are just his tools. If he really cared about… if he really wanted to…” He stopped midsentence unable to complete the thought.

“What?” Huggy asked. “If he really wanted to clear his lover’s name he would?”

Starsky raised surprised eyebrows at his friend sitting across from him. “Hug…”

“Oh, come on. You didn’t think I knew? How long has it been? Six months?”

“Almost seven. New Year’s Eve.” Starsky looked straight at his friend. “…when we left your party… early.” No avoiding the eyes. No skirting the issues. But his eyes also gave away trepidation.

“Don’t worry, my white bro from another mo. Your secret is safe with me.”

“It’s not my secret. For work maybe. I promised him I’d keep us completely quiet, but Hutch is… Hutch has everything all bottled up.”

“Yeah. I noticed. When he’s at my bar he almost goes out of his way to look like he’s hot for the ladies.”

Starsky sat with his elbows on his knees holding the booze between his knees. “That was our cover. Worked well.” A couple more slugs and the contents of the bottle decreased.

“Too well?”

“Not jealous, Hug. Just tired of being under cover in our personal lives, I guess.”

“And tired of Hutch hiding you.”

The booze was reaching its final destination one brain cell at a time. The bottle, half gone, was finally rested from his hands before Starsky could down any more of it.

“That’s enough of the golden poison. I’m gonna make you some coffee. Black java from your jivin’ java amigo.” He looked back over his shoulder concerned as Starsky continued to sit in the same spot looking down between his knees. “How about you go shower, shave that scruff that’s been festering on that face of yours, and I’ll rustle up some grub too.”

A knock propelled Starsky in a weaving gate towards the door.

“Shit… don’t even want to…”

He turned the knob but hadn’t even pulled the door open before Simonetti barged in.

“What the…? What’s this all about?”

“Nice to see you too, Starsky. Noticed a car out front. You have company?” He helped himself to Starsky’s apartment peeking around corners. “We know it’s not Hutchinson. He’s avoiding you like the plague. Christ, you’re pickled. Smell like the floor of a bar at last call. Look like it too.”

Huggy walked in the living room drying his hands on a dish towel. He knew who the visitor was. Starsky and Hutch had bitched about him and his former partner for years.

Simonetti pointed at the tall, black visitor. “Who’s your friend, Starsky? Hmmm? Should I run wants and warrants?”

Starsky’s ire was rising and his fists weren’t too far behind. “Fuck off, Simonetti. I never asked you in.”

Simonetti ignored the drunk retort and confronted Huggy. “What’s your name?”

“Winnie the Fuckin’ Pooh. I brought honey and good will. Now, why don’t you make like Tigger and bounce on out of here.”

Simonetti laughed loudly while turning a cold shoulder to Huggy. “Scraping the bottom of the barrel, Starsky.”

“Fuck off.”

“You sure like that word. In fact, speaking of fuck, and various versions, methods and positions of fuck, I’ve been sent to retrieve you.”

“Talk to my lawyer. I got nothing to say to you.”

“Well, see, that’s where we disagree. This paper here,” he said producing an envelope from his jacket pocket, “is a subpoena ordering you to a formal questioning by the police and district attorney. Now, we can go peacefully and walk into the station like long lost buddies, or I can charge you with disorderly conduct – because we both know that’s your style – and slap on the bracelets.”

“Again, fuck off.”

“Let me remind you that if we have to do this your way the subsequent charge will mean automatic revocation of your bail.”

Starsky remained tall and stiff, arms crossed defensively in front of him. He looked from the door to Huggy who nodded as though his approval was needed. Finally, Starsky grabbed his leather coat from the wicker chair it had been previously tossed into and opened the door. He figured if he had to do this he would take the lead and go with head held high.

Huggy moved quickly to make sure that Starsky wouldn’t turn around and lock himself up in the apartment. Just as he closed the door behind him and headed down the stairs, he heard the phone ring inside. He paused, a foot in midair, thinking he should answer it, but Starsky’s demeanor at the landing refocused his attention.

There, parked in the driveway behind the Torino was a standard issued department car with Captain Schrader leaning against it.

“Well, well,” Starsky smirked as he covered a drunken stumble by leaning on the hood of his red car, “Daddy came to walk you home from school, I see.”

“Keep walking,” Simonetti answered giving Starsky an ill-advised shove in the back.

Starsky stopped abruptly and turned to give the IA detective a lesson in manners when two black and whites suddenly pulled up and four determined looking, large, uniformed officers exited and hastily made their way to the detectives. They were definitely here for Starsky, that much was obvious, and he was having none of it.

“This is not how you said it would go down,” he said as he backed away from Simonetti and looked around for his absent partner to back him up. “I was going in voluntarily, asshole.”

“They’re just here to help,” the tall detective quietly said.

“Uh huh, and Richard Nixon is a saint.”

He had moments to think. Seconds to make a decision. And in that time he decided that playing their game would mean certain bad news. But if he ran…

Two detectives and four uniformed officers gave chase as Starsky bolted down the street and ducked between two buildings.

 

xXxXxXxXx

 

“….and then Harriet Burgess – you remember Mrs. Burgess, don’t you Kenny – well, she showed up with the back of her skirt tucked up into her underwear. And her pink lace panties had a big hole in them like this…”

Hutch sat at the kitchen table while his mother finished suctioning and cleaning his trach. Her old stories were better suited to her lady friends than her grown son. But he held his vacant eyes steady and day dreamed to get through the torture.

“There,” she said replacing the strap around his neck and putting the speaking valve back into the opening. “I bet you’ll be happy when they get rid of this tomorrow.”

“More surgery,” he grunted.

“Yes, dear, but if everything goes well you’ll just be in the hospital for the day and home for dinner. Won’t that be nice? Hey, how about I pick up a nice salmon steak on my way home from Dad’s treatment this afternoon?”

Hutch barely got out a mild “Hmph”.

“Then tonight we can all watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island together. Your father gets a kick out of the little man… ‘da plane, da plane’.” She laughed loudly enjoying her impersonation.

Hutch thought that humoring Starsky’s obsession with old sci-fi shows and cartoons was smothering. But compared to family viewing with his parents his choices of entertainment were high-brow.

As his mother went about puttering around the small apartment – getting smaller by the day – Hutch reached for the phone and dialed the familiar number. He expected the same busy signal he’d gotten every day. He couldn’t understand why Starsky had stayed away, why there were no phone calls, no notes, cards or letters. In fact, why no one had come by. Surely the investigation had progressed enough, by now, that Starsky would have been ruled out. He’d been doing exactly what he was advised to do: let the investigators go through the motions and everything would be weeded out in the process. With all the sleeping and schedule keeping his parents dictated, staying out of whatever was going on with the ‘process’ wasn’t hard.

This time it was ringing. And ringing. By the tenth jingle he surrendered and hung up.

“Who are you calling, son.”

“My partner,” he answered drably.

“We’ve talked about this, Ken. He isn’t coming over. He won’t be calling or taking your calls. I’m sure of it.”

“What do you mean, you’re sure of it?”

“This isn’t healthy for you to keep expecting something that just won’t happen.” His father flipped the top of the newspaper over so he could see his son over his reading glasses. “Did you forget that we talked about this yesterday? Maybe we should mention these memory lapses to the doctors tomorrow.”

“No, Dad, I didn’t forget.”

“And I’m hoping that after this weekend we can talk about your future. It appears that you don’t have one here, I’m afraid. Can’t be a police officer…”

“Detective.”

“…one handed with a neurological deficit.”

“I have two hands.”

“Not if you keep refusing therapy.”

“And there is nothing wrong with my head.” Hutch tried to walk out on his father but stopped in the doorway to the kitchen realizing there was nowhere to go in the small apartment to attain any kind of privacy except the bathroom. So he stood there with his back to his father and took the verbal condescension like a good child hoping it would just go away.

“That’s something that can only be determined in the long term now, isn’t it? When we get back home to Duluth I’ll bring in the finest doctors from Minneapolis to take a look and set up a therapy routine. Maybe in time you can get an easy paced office job. How about at a bank? You were always good with numbers.”

“Handing dog biscuits out through the drive up window,” he gave with special Hutch snark. “Don’t need two hands for that. Or a brain either.”

“Now, Ken, no need to be rude.”

“We already talked about this. Have you forgotten, Dad? Maybe we should talk to your doctors about that.”

“Kenneth,” his mother scolded, “don’t talk to your father like that.”

“I am not going back there.”

“Nonsense,” Richard dismissed knowingly. “You’re too close to everything bad in your life to stay here. You’ll become an imbecile hermit if we leave you to your own devices.”

“Don’t,” Hutch pleaded now standing sideways leaning against the door frame, still not looking at his father. “Just don’t!” Confrontation not being a Hutchinson gold medal trait led them to a painfully silent intermission. It was only when Hutch heard the newspaper being folded and dropped on the coffee table that he turned around and decided to do more than just walk away. “I’m sorry, Dad, but this fantasy you have of me coming home and living with you is just not going to happen. I have a life here, friends, a home. Starsky and I have…”

“Son, you and… the two of you do not have anything. He saw to that when he raped you.”

“He didn’t rape me. He didn’t. He couldn’t. I don’t know who did, or if anyone did, but it wasn’t him.”

“How do you know, Ken. How can you be so sure? You remember everything else from that night. The medical evidence shows that you were raped and yet that’s the only thing you’re conveniently blocking out. I’m sure that you’re repressing that event because as a virile, straight man, the thought of your own partner violating you in such a disgusting manner horrifies you.”

Hutch held his left limp hand in front of him pulsing it with intense squeezes. He was just barely managing to keep himself sane and not bolt through the door. He wanted nothing more than to get to the sidewalk and run. Run as fast and as far as he could. Run away. Run to oblivion. He needed to exhaust himself in a manner that didn’t involve his overbearing parents. He was so lost in thought he didn’t catch the gasp of frustration that had escaped him.

“It’s alright, son,” Richard said as fatherly as he was capable of being. “You can tell me anything no matter how revolting it is.”

Hutch let out a huge sigh and sat down on the sofa. “Dad… Dad, there’s nothing to tell you. Look, we were working on a case involving dirty cops. We’re not sure who they are, but we were so close. SO close. Apparently too close. And now everything has changed. In case you’ve forgotten, Starsky was almost as seriously injured as me. He didn’t do that to himself.”

“Drugs can make people do things they’re not normally capable of. You know…”

“I know he didn’t do anything. Dad,” Hutch pleaded as he threw his head back on the sofa. “He didn’t do anything. Stop. Please.”

Richard Hutchinson stood up and walked from the room into the bedroom alcove. “You’re not thinking clearly yet, my son. I will look past your insolence for now. Eventually you will have to face the… face the…”

Hearing the hitch in his father’s tired voice, Hutch rushed to the bedside and guided his failing father down onto the mattress. “Dad, what’s wrong? Hmm?” The older man’s face was drawn and pale, his hands shaking. “Mom? MOM?”

“I’m coming, dear. He’ll be fine. He gets this way when he’s stressed.” Marilyn took over for her son and put her husband’s legs up onto the bed before covering him with an afghan she had grabbed from the sofa. “Why don’t you go get him a glass of orange juice. He needs some quick sugar.”

Having brought the juice back and nervously handing it to his mother, Hutch stood back and watched his mother do what she had probably been doing for some time now. It was so easy to forget how sick his father was when they were arguing and now the son blamed himself for his father’s painful reminder of the inevitable death to come.

“I’m so sorry, Mom. I shouldn’t have raised my voice.”

“You let him get to you. He let you get to him, Kenneth. Don’t blame yourself.” She brought a cool, moist cloth to her husband’s pasty face and lovingly pushed the wet gray strands of hair off his forehead. “He makes his own choices in life just as you do.” Looking up at her tall, blond son standing helplessly at the end of the bed, she smiled. “What did we used to tell you kids about choices?”

“Choices have consequences,” Hutch repeated returning the smile. “You choose your consequences in life, good, bad or ugly.”

Leaving her now sleeping husband, Marilyn walked over to Hutch and reached up to push the blond strands of hair off his forehead just as she had done for her husband. “That’s right. You can’t regret your decisions when you know the consequences. That’s why secrets are so dangerous. They only benefit the keeper of the secret. Do you have any secrets, Ken?”

Hutch let his mother continue stroking his face just as she did when he was a boy. He let her, but it wasn’t a stretch. He needed that affirmation of love.

“No. No secrets, Mom.”

“Good. Now, how about a piece of that yummy apple pie out there before I take your father to the clinic for his treatment?”

Marilyn stopped half way to the kitchen as she realized her son was still standing in the same place by the bed having not moved an inch. “Kenny? What’s wrong?”

“Pie.”

“What?”

“I have to… have to see Captain Dobey.” He followed his mother to the kitchen and frantically looked on the table, in the large bowl on the counter and in the pockets of his leather jacket hanging on the back of a chair.

“What are you looking for, dear?”

“My car keys. Where are they?”

“You can’t drive yet. You haven’t been cleared,” she pleaded as Hutch continued his search.

“Like hell I can’t.”

“Like hell I’ll let you,” she countered standing within an inch of his face with an apple pie smeared knife. “Now sit, eat something, and maybe after your father and I get back we will drive you over to Captain Dobey’s house.” Her eyes meant it. Rarely did Marilyn Hutchinson use the upper hand but when she did Hutch gave it to her. “Okay? Hmm? Pie, afternoon meds, you rest while we’re gone, then we get you where you need to go. Deal?”

“Yes ma’am.”

The phone started ringing startling both of them.

“Good choice.” On the third ring she reached for the phone. “Now sit,” she whispered to her son as she put the phone to her ear. “Hutchinson residence. Yes, how are you? He’s resting but I suppose I could get the phone to him. One moment please.” She took the phone and stretched the chord into the bedroom. “Business call for your father, dear. Pie is on the table.”

Hutch sat down and dutifully put fork to plate. As usual, his father’s business dealings took precedence over family.

 

xXxXxXxXx

 

Even though he was one of the best foot chasers on the force, Starsky forgot that the six cops chasing him were just as versed in the geography of Bay City as he was. They knew the nuances of the businesses, the street people and patterned traffic. They knew the tight corners and pockets behind dumpsters and at the end of alleys. It was in one of these pockets that Starsky found himself cut off by Schrader as the black car roared up from the side street and cornered him in a desolate, unused service road leading to a shuttered deli.

As Schrader bolted from the car to confront him, Starsky’s head exploded with memories, every one of his five senses on fire. He could taste the blood in his mouth that night he nearly lost his life. He could smell the rotting garbage from the overturned trash cans and hear voices as they rolled over him like turgid ocean waters. He felt his body betray him as the drugs cursed through his blood and into brain tissue. And he saw… he saw…. fucking butterflies and weird animals. The images flashed before him like a slide show gone wild. He grabbed his pained head and let out a guttural scream that likely alerted neighbors within a ten block radius.

Schrader didn’t need to take him down like a perp. Starsky was already on the ground his arms wrapped around his head, babbling, whimpering. By the time Simonetti and the four uniforms arrived on the scene Starsky had pushed his prone body against the side of the building as he writhed in agony.

“What the hell did you do?” Simonetti asked.

“Not a thing. Found him like this.”

“Should we call an ambulance?”

“Hell no. It’s probably some weird drug flashback. Cuff him and get him to the precinct.”

“Where do you want him?” one of the uniforms asked. “Booking?”

“No. Interrogation room. I have to make a call,” Schrader said quietly to Simonetti. “I made a promise I have to keep.”

 

xXxXxXx

 

By mid-afternoon Hutch had had enough of staring at the walls and stretching the fingers on his left hand. He could clench his hand and had some range of motion from the shoulder but the entire hand and arm usually just hung at his side like a wet noodle.

The wall clock ticked and tocked incessantly and he tapped the fork on his plate of half eaten pie to kill time. Tick, tap, tock, tap…. He pined for a better rhythm section and maybe a base beat. His parents weren’t due back from the cancer treatment clinic for a while and the longer he looked at the pie the antsier he got. With determination he set out to find his car keys that had been hidden by his well-intentioned mother. She was predictable at best. There they were in the freezer next to the six pounds of butter she’d bought on sale at the A & P. Saved two dollars.

The fact that his old beater even turned over after weeks hugging the curb was a Pope directed miracle in and of itself. Hutch even blurted out an ‘amen’, half sarcastic, half hopeful. It felt good to get to drive himself somewhere and he didn’t even mind the smell of the dead lunch that lurked in the back seat.

Out of habit, he scanned the parking lot at the precinct for Starsky’s red and white car. He knew it wouldn’t be there but desperately wanted time to go backwards and see his partner’s face at their desk in the squad room.

From the moment he walked in the main door, the hush that surrounded him made him feel like the obvious elephant in the room. Finally, detectives and officers he knew walked up to him and gave him pats on the back, handshakes and warm smiles. Others stood at a distance obviously not wanting to touch the ‘abused’ colleague. The obvious tracheotomy at the base of his neck didn’t help any. No one asked specific questions but he knew what they were thinking. Poor Hutch. His partner raped and tried to kill him. Poor, Poor Hutch. It made his stomach turn. He took the stairs two at a time up to the third floor hoping to get to Dobey before any more well-wishers descended on him.

“Hutch?”

“Hey Roger.”

The officer heading the evidence room leaned over the counter at the door and gave Hutch a good pat on the shoulder. “How ya been? We all been thinking of you.”

“Been better.” He didn’t lie as he averted his eyes and looked at his feet. “But I’m alive.” That was said with little conviction and half assed.

“Yeah. That’s something. Hey, listen I really need…”

“Hutchinson, what are you doing here?” Simonetti stood in the doorway of the Internal affairs offices.

“Came to see Dobey.”

Schrader rounded the corner from the staircase. “Ready to get back to work?”

“Ah, no,” he said with his left hand still secure in the pocket that had become its home. “Not sure when I’ll get medical clearance. May be a good while.”

“Well, take your time,” Schrader gave him. “Not sure anyone else would have survived those injuries.”

“Starsky got me through the worst of it.”

The people who had gathered in the hall to see the decorated cop turned victim, all looked away from the blonde at the mention of his partner’s name. It was awkward and frustrating.

“Roger,” he said trying to change the direction of the conversation, “how’s that granddaughter of yours doing?”

“My daughter moved in with the baby. The house is alive again.”

“How old is she now?”

“Just turned a year. In to everything.” Roger felt that eyes were on him as he wrapped up their talk with the IA guys glaring at him. “Becky’s no good husband left her high and dry.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah. When you have dirty people stinking things up, you have to get rid of them. Had to tell her.” Roger held onto Hutch’s wrist securely and stared into his eyes. “You know what I mean?”

“Sure.”

“Call me, Hutch, okay? I got some pictures to show you.”

“Yeah, okay. I bet she’s gotten big.” He felt Roger squeeze his wrist firmly two time before letting go. Before turning to the IA detectives, Roger gave him a single nod.

“Getting crowded out here,” Schrader whispered, “let’s get you in my office so you can have some privacy. Okay?”

“What about Dobey?

“I think he’s tied up in booking. Homicide is helping the Gang Enforcement unit. They broke up a huge turf battle today between the Crips and the Bloods. In fact, it may be getting interesting up here as they’ve run out of room down in Booking. Come on,” he said guiding Hutch into the IA Captain’s large office.

Although he didn’t relish the thought of parking himself in IA chairs, Hutch did appreciate being given a chance to dodge the well-meaning but intrusive stares. Leather chairs with high backs. He sat down and looked behind the chair wondering if there was punch line for the joke. Dobey’s office had thirty-year old dented up chairs all with one leg shorter than the rest. He even tried to rock this one to see if it was genuine. It was stable. Everything in the office was stable.

“What can we do for you, Hutch?” Schrader asked as he sat behind his own desk across from him. “You know we have questions for you but your parents have kept us away.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know that. My father has been sick. He has end stage cancer.” Hutch felt uncomfortable making excuses for his parents. “But I really have nothing to tell you.”

“I’m sorry about your father. He’s a decent man.” Schrader sat forward and clasped his hands in the middle of the ornate desk. “Can we arrange to do this officially someday soon? Even if your answer is I don’t know, we need to have it witnessed and recorded. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can close the case.”

“Yeah, okay. Listen, I know what you’re looking for and Starsky didn’t do anything to me.”

“So you remember everything?”

“No, of course not, but…”

The noise from a loud commotion in the hall made its way into the office and startled Hutch.

“Sounds like some of the children from our situation have been brought upstairs. If you’ll excuse me.” Schrader left the office and closed the door behind him leaving Hutch alone with Simonetti.

“Look, Hutchinson, I know there’s no love loss between us so I won’t paint daisies and blow smoke up your ass.”

“You’re a real poet.”

“Can’t you tell us anything new since we spoke in the hospital?”

No.” Hutch rested his head against the back of the chair and closed his eyes. “Look, Starsky came over, we… we socialized and then later in the evening he went to the car to get a pie.”

“What? What pie?”

“I don’t know. He said he had a pie in the car. I was hungry and he went to get it.” It was trivial and meant nothing but it’s the only detail he remembered that was new. “At some point after that someone knocked on the door. I don’t remember much except there was a man – I think more than one – who just… just… beat the hell out of me.”

“Anything else?”

“Hairy, purple butterflies. Ships and weird creatures.”

“I don’t even know what to say to that.”

“You don’t? I don’t!”

More noise in the hall prompted Simonetti to exit the office and leave Hutch alone. He wondered if he should try and track down Dobey himself but soon came to the conclusion that he didn’t want to be the subject of more misplaced sympathy and lingering eyes. Just as it seemed to quiet down outside the door opened.

“Well, look who we have here. One of our own nasty boys.” Officer Minnie Kaplan smiled from ear to ear as she quickly threw her arms around Hutch who had stood up to greet her. “You are looking just fine, Hutch. Mmmm Mmmm. Just fine.”

“It’s good to see you, too, Minnie. How have things been around here?”

“Not quite as exciting without you two. And the eye candy has definitely been lacking. How is your fine partner’s backside? Haven’t seen him either.”

This he avoided with precision. “You haven’t changed a bit, my dear.” Finally, it felt a little bit like home.

“Oh, you keep it up and I may have to go with you. But for now, your mother called looking for you and said you needed to get home ASAP. Something about your father.”

Hutch stood and made his way to the door. At least the call came from his place and not a hospital. But it was still worrisome. “Thanks Minnie. Please tell Captain Dobey I came to see him.” He left and moved at light speed to get to his car not stopping for any of the well-wishers who tried to talk to him.

 

xXxXxXx

 

By the time the uniforms got Starsky to the station his jeans were torn at the knees from being dragged and his face was scraped and bleeding. His hands were tingling from the too-tight cuffs and twice the uniforms shoved him in the crotch with a heavy shoe when he was on the ground. The treatment was typical of how some of the cops he knew dealt with rapists and molesters. And it would only get worse. He knew it.

He was shoved and pressed against a wall so hard air barely moved in and out of his lungs. The one cop was struggling to unlock the storage room door and Starsky knew that things were about to go very wrong. This was not an interrogation room or holding cell. It was an out of the way, off the map room where these cops could do anything they wanted with no oversight. He’d seen it before from dirty cops with a grudge. Beat the handcuffed prisoner senseless and claim that’s how they found him.

Finally the lock clicked and the door swung open.

“Get in,” he was ordered with a strong hand at the back of his neck. “We’re gonna show you what happens when one of our own fucks his partner.”

Chapter Text

(A/N: Warning for language in this chapter.)

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

As his face was getting more and more familiar with the wall, Starsky was trying to figure out ways to get away from the two uniformed, cops – one named Cooper. The other one’s name tag - the guy restraining with strong arms and muscle massed body - had so far eluded Starsky. He thinks he heard him referred to as Mitchell. No matter, he’d eventually find out.

The door to the outside was only eight, maybe ten, feet away. All he needed was one person to open that door and then maybe he could knee one of the thug cops and get away. He’d had prisoners of his own try it before, though none ever successfully. But, he figured he had more experience than these clowns which would give him a leg up.

“You getting hard, sweetheart?”

Mitchell’s vile tinged sarcasm laced with the odor of last night’s cigarettes and bourbon slid down Starsky’s days old five o’clock shadow leaving him with an undeniable urge to vomit.

“Can’t wait to frisk you,” he said with a guttural groan. “See if your tool is as big as the queens on the corner of Lincoln and Vine say it is.”

The best Starsky could do was pool as much snot, spit and blood in his compressed mouth as he could and hock it into the unrelenting smirk. But the animal barely flinched. Instead, he slowly and methodically wiped his face across the back of the prisoner’s neck stopping once to release his own collection of saliva over Starsky’s right hear.

“Is that the best you can do, fag hag? I would have pegged you as using twink boys, not fucking the likes of Hutchinson. Maybe that’s why you had to rape him, huh? He wouldn’t give it up?”

Starsky grunted and tried to moved back against the cop, but was restrained too forcefully. A knee came up between his legs and stopped just short of his crotch.

“Careful, Davey. I get to decide which one of your three legs gets broken first. Choose wisely.”

Just as Cooper came out of the storage room and declared it to be ready, the outside door opened with a whoosh of heavy summer air. The cop holding him against the wall let up just enough to redirect the prisoner into the small, darkened room giving Starsky just enough leverage to spin around and plant a shoulder into Mitchell’s solar plexus rendering him unable to catch a breath.

One step…. another…. another…. a fourth…. And then his face very ungracefully met the cold tile floor. The object holding his head down was unmistakably a large knee with enough force behind it, Starsky surmised, to crush his skull. He could feel each body part as it held him down, all taught at the academy, all applied by the book… and then some. Knee on head, hand on back of neck, knee on small of back grinding his cuffed hands into his kidneys, and, finally, he was pretty sure there was an entire body or two on his legs. The price one pays when trying to escape custody.

Blood came from, and pooled under his nose and mouth. With his mouth and side of his face crushed down by a large hand, his only way to breath, through his nose, was now impeded by his own blood. At first, it bubbled, then as the pressure against his face got heavier, his attempt to take in air only resulted in snorting the heavy, red fluid. In short, he was suffocating.

“Where are the IA guys?” he heard one ask.

“Upstairs. Said we could have an hour.”

No more air came with his gasps. He could feel his face flushing from the pressure and his lungs burn with need. As feet shuffled past him Starsky wanted so badly to reach out and grab just one. Help me, his brain begged. But they moved only in one direction without stopping, except for one large pair of worn, brown, leather loafers.

“What the hell is going on here?”

“Tried to make a run for it.”

“If it takes four of you to hold down one man in handcuffs in an enclosed setting, it doesn’t say much about your strength… or technique.”

The pressure on his head let up just enough for Starsky to take in a couple of wet, ragged breaths. His lungs appreciated it but his head repelled the sudden intake of oxygen with the feeling of well-placed daggers through the eye balls.

“There’s blood under him. Let him up and get him where he needs to go.”

One by one, the body parts released him, the last being his lower legs. He was grabbed by the upper arms and quickly pulled to his feet.

“Starsky?”

He was dazed, confused and exhausted, his head hung low as breathing fought to return to normal, blood tinged saliva stringing to the floor below.

“Who’s responsible for this prisoner?”

The response was staggeringly and utterly silent.

“Well?”

“Cap,” Starsky finally spit out, “help, please. Please…”

“I want answers,” Dobey angrily released, “and I want them NOW.”

The two additional uniforms who had joined in on the take down of the attempted escapee suddenly found somewhere else to be leaving the two arresting officers holding Starsky up to take on the homicide Captain.

“Um, we were assigned the arrest,” Cooper answered.

“By whom?”

“IA. Captain Schrader and Detective Simonetti.”

“And you were going to do what with him in that storage room?”

Again, no answer came with the feet shuffling around as the uniforms started sweating profusely.

“Last time I checked, the storage room was not a scheduled layover for prisoners in transit.”

“Yes sir,” they both replied.

“Take him up to the third floor away from all this gang related bullshit. Tell Schrader I’ll meet him up there pronto. Got it?”

As the uniforms escorted their prisoner towards the elevator, a spent and bedraggled Starsky looked over his shoulder at Captain Dobey who gave him a reassuring nod. A lot can happen in an elevator, he thought as the doors opened and they stepped in alone. Again, his mind went into escape and protect mode as the doors started to close. How long would it take for help to get there if the uniforms punched the emergency stop button? How much damage could be done in that time? Just when his heart started racing and he braced himself for the worst, a foot made its way between the doors and a bumbling clerk scooted in with a stack of files. When she pressed the button for the fifth floor, Starsky let out a relieved shaky breath. He could feel the tension of the officers’ grips on each arm loosen as the woman took in the condition of the prisoner’s face.

Finally, as they walked down the third floor hallway, past homicide, past the evidence room towards the IA offices, Starsky felt slightly less vulnerable. The staff up there may be mad at him for what they think he did, but at least they knew him. He had worked with some of them for many years and attended their family functions. He wasn’t a faceless prisoner.

But when one of the goon cops motioned the other towards the stairwell around the corner, Starsky stopped walking and refused to go further.

“No,” he balked. “No. Dobey said…”

“Dobey said to take you to the third floor. We took you to the third floor. Now, it’s time to leave.”

And now was the time to make a scene, Starsky thought knowing how accidents can happen in stairwells. He flailed out of their grip and took a couple steps only to be taken down by them again with help from another officer who stepped in. His head was held down, back was kneed, and legs pinned. Every pain center and nerve ending screamed. He could feel his hips being man handled as he wiggled around out of reflex more than anything.

Need to talk to you,” a new voice whispered in his ear. “Call me.” The man was so close he could feel his breath on his ear and smell his recent cup of over-brewed coffee.

Starsky turned his head as best he could towards the voice but was met with a wide hand against his cheek.

Check your pocket,” was the last thing he heard before other voices joined the commotion, first Schrader, and then Simonetti.

He couldn’t hear any of the words being thrown around as so many were talking at the same time. He was still on the floor, face down, but the weight and strength keeping him there was nothing like what he had experienced downstairs. But with his face pressed in a vice-like grip, he still couldn’t talk. And he doubted anyone could tell he was the perp being restrained.

A woman’s voice was the only one that stood out. He could identify a few words, but no clear sentences.

“…heard he’s up herecall from his mother…”

“In there,” Simonetti answered.

“…alive and well…”

Seeing the woman’s shoes walk away he was pulled to his feet by Dobey himself and guided away. A quick look back and he was sure that the woman disappearing into Schrader’s office was Minnie Kaplan.

“In my office NOW,” Dobey bellowed. “I don’t care what your agenda is over in IA, this is MY detective and I am going to make sure he’s taken care of in this precinct. Got that, Simonetti?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Schrader?”

“Hal, this is not your case, and it’s not even your concern anymore.”

The hell it isn’t.”

It was as if someone woke Papa Bear up from mid-hibernation. Dobey’s eyes were bugged out wide, his dark face redder than red, and fists blood deprived white from lack of circulation. With the door closed behind him, uniformed officers abandoned outside, Dobey turned around and generously loosened his neck tie before removing his suit coat and throwing it over the top of the file cabinet.

“Better start talking fast Simonetti and Schrader before I completely lose it.”

“Starsky is here for an official interview,” Simonetti said. “Went to pick him up with a subpoena and he split.”

“Considering the treatment he’s getting I can’t say I blame him,” Dobey said as he moved in front of Starsky to take a good look at his bloodied face. “Can you, Schrader? Huh?”

Schrader and Simonetti stood silent as Dobey took a handkerchief out of his pocket and pressed it against a cut on Starsky’s head. “Get these cuffs off,” he ordered.

“He’s a flight risk,” Simonetti countered. “Clearly.”

“My ass,” Dobey muttered. He looked straight into his detective’s face almost dismissing the presence of the other two men in the room. “Dave, if these cuffs come off, you gonna run?”

Starsky was coming down from an adrenalin rush as well as a good drunk, his body shaking, breathing labored, his battered mouth refusing to form words. He felt safe there in the Captain’s office. Safe. Home. He shook his head.

“Get ‘em off. NOW.”

After Simonetti took the handcuffs off, Starsky pulled his sore and swollen hands around front and alternated rubbing his sore wrists.

“Take deep breaths, Dave,” Dobey gave him quietly with a hand on his shoulder. “Take a minute and get yourself together, then we’ll all sit down for an overdue talk.”

He wanted nothing more than to walk away from the circus. Walk out the door just as he had done thousands of times over the years. Out the door, down the hallway, skipping the elevators he’d take the stairs at a gallop, through the main entrance and to his Torino. He wanted to run away. But that wasn’t his thing.

I’m fight, you’re flight,” he’d told Hutch. “It’s just who we are, babe.”

In lieu of having the freedom to do that, he moved to the window behind Dobey’s desk and looked out over the parking lot as the other men were engaged in a three-way argument on the other side of the room. His eyes went immediately to the tall blonde walking away from the building towards a beat up brown car.

Hutch.

Putting his left hand to the window leaving bloody fingerprints he opened his mouth wishing he could say something – anything, but knew it was impossible. Just as he leaned his forehead against the cool glass, Hutch turned around and looked up.

His whisper left a trail of fog on the glass. “What should I do, Hutch?”

 

xXxXxXx

 

He still had to focus hard to plant his left foot and pick it up completely when he walked which gave Hutch a good reason to focus at the floor as he left the building. Hearing that his mother was looking for him and had actually gone to the trouble of calling the precinct to leave a message that his father needed him, concerned Hutch.

His mother called him at work. He had to chuckle at that just a little as he pushed open the main doors and walked through the parking lot. Still, the thought that his father needed him – his father never needed him – put his mind in fast motion as he formulated a multitude of reasons for his father to need him. Picturing more time spent in a hospital was not a pleasant one.

He stopped as he got to the first row of cars and put his right hand on the trunk of the parked black and white to gently steady himself. He felt slightly winded and a little fuzzy, but it was the pull in his chest that made him turn around and squint up at the bank of windows where Captain Dobey’s office sat. The golden glow of the late day sun reflecting off the wall of glass poked his eyes and forced his head to turn back in the direction of his car. He moved forward again but looked back just one more time as he unlocked the driver’s door. It was as if the flash of light that came from the windows was pushing him away, shielding him from harm.

When he parked in front of Venice Place his mother was waiting for him outside, wringing her hands.

“What’s wrong, Mom?” His voice was nearly normal with only a slight gravelly feature but he still felt the hardware of the tracheotomy with each word he spoke.

“It’s your father, Ken. He’s… he’s…”

Hutch took his mother by the elbow and steered her to the door. “He’s what, Mom? Is he sick? Do we need to get him to the hospital?”

He was two steps up when she grabbed the back of his shirt and stopped him. “Ken. Slow down. Don’t go up there yet. You should know…”

He was exasperated now and frustrated at her stalling. “What? Why did you get me back here if you don’t want me to go upstairs?” He studied the worried look on her face. He’d never seen her look so helpless. His father was in trouble and she didn’t want him to go upstairs. That could only mean…

Not hearing his mother’s pleading to stop, Hutch took the stairs two at a time catching himself twice as his weaker left foot caught on the lip of the risers. By the time he opened the door he was out of breath, his throat raw from shouting at his mother around the speaking valve in his neck and panting on the race up the steps. Bent over resting his hands on his knees he expected to find his father’s body on the floor but instead saw his feet as he stood in the doorway to the bedroom alcove.

“Dad?” he asked gaining his breath. “What is it? Mom called me at the precinct. You okay? What’s wrong?”

Richard Hutchinson stood tall, his face raw with anger. He said nothing at first, instead staring his son down like a lion meeting his prey.

“Dad?”

“Kenneth. Why? Why?”

Hutch instinctively looked around his apartment trying to figure out the context of his father’s mysterious question. “I don’t know what you mean. Why what?”

“How could you do this to us?”

“What are you talking about?” Hutch drew his fingers through his awkwardly grown hair, longer on one side than the other from his injury. “I don’t understand…”

I do. I understand,” Richard spewed through his teeth. “I finally understand.”

“Help me out here, Dad.”

“I think you know.”

“Stop playing games. I’m not up to it. Neither are you.” Hutch studied his father from top to bottom. Other than the stern look on his pinched face, the only thing out of place was his hand holding a small box. “What is it. What’s that?” he asked gesturing to the black box.

Richard opened it and took out the contents, dropping the box to the floor. “Found this when I was looking for a book to read.” The metal of the gold bracelets clanked together as he turned them over. “Love does not delight in evil,” he read from the back of the first one, “…but rejoices with the truth.”

Hutch reflexively took a step back as his brain muddled what his father was implying.

“Your mother was slow on the uptake and couldn’t see the truth. Thought you had misplaced this potential gift for a lady friend, as she called it, coincidentally with the initial S’, and went to put them in your dresser drawer, where she found that.”

He pointed to the top of the sofa where a framed photograph sat.

“It’s just a picture, Dad,” Hutch softly said, unconvincingly.

“Just a picture? Of you sitting behind your police partner with your arms around him kissing his ear?”

The black and white photo was a picture Starsky had taken with the new camera Hutch had given him on Valentine’s Day. He’d wanted to try the timer feature. Hutch cherished that picture. They were a month into their relationship. It was fresh and sweet. The picture posed, yet not posed capturing love in its raw simplicity. But for the sake of their jobs they couldn’t keep it out in the open. Hutch had put it in his dresser drawer to keep it from visitors’ eyes, namely Captain Dobey’s, as he came by once in a while to go over cases with pizza and beer.

“Corinthians, chapter 13, verses 6 and 7,” Richard said, his head down but his spearing blue-gray eyes glaring up under his brow, accusingly, at his son.

“What?”

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. You used the bible… to… to justify your disgusting lust with another man? My son is a homo? A queer? A faggot?”

The derogatory terms were startling to Hutch, but coming from his father, not a shock. “The only label we use is love.”

He did this to you?”

“What? NO. He didn’t do anything to me. We fell in love.”

“He has violated you for how long now?”

“No, Dad. Nobody violated me. In fact, if you have to know, I fucked him first. There, is that what you want to hear?”

“I didn’t raise my son to lie in repulsive sin with a man.”

“Let’s speak the truth here, Dad,” Hutch said around the hurt. “You never raised me. You scheduled discussions like annual employee evaluations and demanded that goals be met. You wanted a billboard for the family name, not a son.”

“I won’t have this,” he said as he crushed the ID bracelets in his fist as though he could erase the discovery. “Won’t have this in my family. I. Will. NOT.”

It was at this point that Hutch realized nothing he said could possibly be heard or appreciated by his father. His father was in consequences mode. “Or what, Dad?”

Richard had no immediate answer as he dropped the gold bracelets to the floor like useless garbage.

“Dad, I love you. And I know you love me. You have been there for me this month in every way a parent should be. And at my age you didn’t have to be, especially with what you’re dealing with. But you have, and I… I treasure that.” Hutch’s voice cracked with pain. “I waited my whole life to hear you say you loved me and I heard you. I heard you before I could open my eyes. I heard you and Mom sit by me and beg me to wake up. I heard you cry. I heard you tell me that you… that you love me.”

The tears trickled freely down Hutch’s tired face, his fists clenched, his heart empty and aching. A car horn sounded outside breaking the moment. “My whole life,” he whispered to himself. Then, specifically to Richard - “Does a father’s love have conditions?”

“That’s our cab. Your mother and I are going to a hotel for a few days while I complete this round of treatment, then we’re going home.” Richard was back to running his life – and family – as a business. “I’ve arranged for a car service to pick you up tomorrow morning for your procedure and get you back here.”

Richard moved around the apartment as he coldly picked up the last of their belongings. Hutch followed him, always a few steps behind, not content in letting his father write the ending.

Hutch wiped his face clean of emotion and decided to fight fire with fire. “Are you going to tell me, Dad, that because I’m in love with a man instead of a woman that it changes your feelings for me as your son?” His father never acknowledged hearing Hutch speak as he continued reaching for items and putting them in a bag. “You know what else Corinthians says about love? It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

“Kenneth,” his father managed, just barely, “please let me collect our things.”

“Hmmm? Father? Always protects. You done protecting your son? Are you quitting?”

Richard moved into the bathroom and put a handful of items in a small black case. Hutch followed but was received no better than a ghost.

Always trusts. Is that gone now?”

Richard opened the suitcase on the bed and added the black case.

“Always hopes. We just got that back. Are you throwing it away?”

His father took the suitcase and carried it down the stairs adding it to the two others on the sidewalk Hutch hadn’t even seen in the panic of his arrival. His mother stood silently next to the cab. Silently detached from her son. Silent as a dutiful wife.

Always perseveres, Dad. Always perseveres. ALWAYS,” he yelled his hands clenching his head in despair.

“The car will be here at 6am. It’s paid for including a generous tip.”

“Mom?”

Hutch’s face was streaked with the salt of pain, of loss and hopelessness.

“I’m sorry, Ken,” was all she said as she sat in the back seat of the cab next to her husband. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw her cover her face with a hand as the cab pulled away from the curb.

He didn’t know how long he stood on the sidewalk looking north in the direction his parents drove off. Eventually he walked back upstairs into his apartment. As he slammed the door in anger, the framed picture slipped off the sofa face down onto the floor.

Squatting down he picked up the frame and turned it over noticing the glass shattered over Starsky’s face. Using his left arm to hold it close to his chest he then picked up the bracelets and turned them over in his hand wanting to feel the warmth of Starsky’s hands who were the last to hold them.

The apartment was achingly quiet. There was no more life left in it. No energy. No love. He knew what he needed. With great effort, Hutch willed himself back to his feet. And over to the side table where the phone sat. Sitting on the floor, back to the wall, he dialed Starsky’s number. His heart skipped a beat as it rang. It rang.

And rang.

And rang.

He let it ring until his ear could no longer take it. Nothing.

“What have I done?”

Chapter Text

(A/N: This chapter describes an adult consensual act of sex and love, some in explicit detail. It is not written to be pointless or gratuitous. Remember, it was hell being a gay man in the 70s and 80s when this is set. Being a cop and gay was not an option. If this offends you or is just, frankly, not your cup of tea, please move on.)

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

He sat against the wall with his legs stretched out, phone at his side, his right hand holding the bracelets resting on his lap until the golden glow of the setting sun moved from left to right through the kitchen window and the apartment eventually went dark. Now in addition to nothing to hear, there was nothing to see.

Awkwardly getting to his feet, he turned a light on and began the process of reclaiming his apartment. He numbly went through the motions of stripping the sheets off, first the hospital bed he’d been using on the sunporch, then the bed in the alcove his parents had been sleeping in. He stared down at the naked mattress thinking that it was the last place he and Starsky made love. It was tainted now – slept in by his bigoted parents, the people who called him names and still assumed that Starsky had somehow raped him or, at the very least, “violated” their precious Midwestern perfect boy. Wonder if they noticed the stains we left them, he thought.

With bedding bagged and set by the door to be sent out, Hutch went in the bathroom and put together a small overnight bag for his procedure the next day. Toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, prescription medications, lotions and mouthwash. He threw his wallet in there as well just so he wouldn’t forget it.

He snorted to himself at the absurdity of the promise they made to each other with the bracelets. It was like it was backwards. Love does not delight in the truth, but rejoices in evil. Closing his eyes, he remembered how hard that week was that culminated with the attacks. They had pretended to have an epic fight worthy of Shakespearian accolades. Pretended, but the words still hurt. They were so convincing they earned themselves the suspension they were looking for, but without pay. They were being watched and followed which meant they had to keep up the charade without seeing each other just as if they had been fighting. Until Starsky showed up at his apartment.

Hutch made a request. That request. For the first time in their intimate relationship he wanted Starsky to make love to him – to be inside him. Well, second time since Hutch had tapped out of the first time. But Starsky was hesitant, not wanting to hurt his partner.

“I’m tired. Gonna take a shower and hit the sack,” Hutch said with an air of emotional exhaustion. “You can stay or go. Doesn’t matter to me.”

He closed the bathroom door and divested himself of his clothes before emptying his bladder. Putting the lid down on the toilet he sat on it and reached in the shower to turn on the water to get warm. Leaning over, elbows on knees, Hutch sighed and shook his head wondering what was happening to them.

The blonde took his time and lingered in the steam of the shower while thinking about the journey the week had been. It started out as something that should have blown over in a day or two after the case was solved but, instead, had steamrolled into consequences imposed by the Captain.

Consequences.

He laughed into the spray of the shower as he recycled the speech Dobey gave them when he thought they were at each other’s throats. His parents and his boss have the same philosophy on making good choices.

Consequences.

His injured brain had been slow to catch up to life and in the meantime he’d let his parents run his life hoping that by keeping his mouth shut and marking off the days on the calendar his father would die happy, he’d heal enough to get back to work, and Dobey would find the attackers absolving Starsky of any of the bogus charges.

But where was Starsky? He walked into the kitchen and looked at that marked off calendar suddenly realizing just how much time had passed without seeing him. More than two weeks. Why couldn’t he ever get him on the phone? And why had he stayed away? Why did he want to stay away?

Hutch felt empty of love and filled with guilt over his dying father’s discovery of his son’s homosexuality and the alienation of his lover to fulfill unattainable respect and misplaced love from his parents.

“Should have known,” he said out loud to no one. “Now what do I have?’

He wanted nothing more than to get in his car and drive up the coast until he ran out of gas, but needed to do this one last thing before he could escape and swill in his own guilt. The tracheotomy was an obvious reminder of the tragic and violent end of his relationship with the only person who ever loved him unconditionally. It had to go.

“Don’t have a family,” he murmured as he zipped up his bag.

“No job.” He looked at his half functioning left hand. He could lift his arm up to his chest and move his index and middle fingers, but that was about it. Holding the bag in his right hand, he stuffed his left fist into a pocket to keep it from getting banged up against something. It was something he did most of the time now. Two pair of pants had already been thrown away because they didn’t have any pockets. No pockets – no place to hide the hand.

“No friends.” As far as he knew, Huggy, the Dobeys, and his work colleagues had all stayed away during his recovery at home. No visits and no calls, no doubt, because he was a pitiful victim of perceived rape and physically an incomplete man.

“And no Starsky.”

The truth, unbeknownst to Hutch, was that his parents had sought a restraining order against Starsky, and had also kept anyone from visiting. He’d been isolated out of love, overprotectiveness, hoarding… who knew? There were two patients that had occupied that small apartment, as well as an overworked, overprotective mother doubling as an ever faithful wife. All three going through the motions trying to keep each other alive. All with good intentions. All unknowingly and devastatingly hurting others. As Hutch’s brain slowly healed, his emotions just as slowly decompensated.

He scanned over the pre-op papers from the surgeon, took his night time meds and drank his last glass of water for the night. Taking the bag of medical implements into the bathroom he stood in front of the mirror and did a half assed job of suctioning and cleaning his trach. Not that he cared much. It would be gone the next day anyway. He wasn’t much concerned about choking on mucus or secretions that night. He didn’t really care much about anything.

The sofa would be his bed for the night, and the next. Then… well, then he’d decide where to go in the world. Laying down he put his arm over his eyes and then slowly opened his fist, the chain of one of the bracelets tickling his forehead.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Hutch loved long showers. He didn’t consider it complete until the hot water was good and gone. Starsky had to have left by then. Certainly he’d given him reason enough to walk out. Arguing about sex. That was always the tipping point in his previous failed relationships. He knew. When he and the lady started planning, designing and arguing about sex, the love for one of them was out the window. The sex was just an excuse. He and his ex-wife, Vanessa, argued about sex the entire marriage. Alarm bells should have been going off across the country.

So, now, Starsky had gotten to his end.

Hutch wiped the steamy fog off the mirror with a hand towel and looked at his dripping face.

“One fucked up week,” he whispered to his reflection.

He shaved his two day old whiskers, brushed his teeth and put some lotion on his dry arms and chest before flushing the toilet and putting on a pair of baggy sweat pants. Same as last night. And the night before. Wash, rinse, repeat. He would climb into bed, try to read a chapter or two of the book on the nightstand and then fall asleep. Okay. He wouldn’t fall asleep. He’d lay in the bed and listen to the clock next to the sofa tick, the refrigerator cycle on and off and cars as they drove by.

He finished towel drying his hair and turned the light off before leaving the bathroom. It was still early. Nine o’clock. Maybe he’d get a good eight hours’ sleep. “Yeah, right,” he said aloud with a snort.

“Yeah?”

Hutch looked through the shards of moonlight filtering in around the half drawn window shade to see Starsky sitting on the edge of the bed, hands stuffed into his coat pockets.

Hutched stopped in the doorway. “Thought you were leaving.”

“Is that hello or good-bye?”

No answer came from the blonde as he leaned against the door frame holding the towel around his neck.

I’m fight, you’re flight,” Starsky said looking up from where he’d been staring at the floor. “You’re the one who runs away hoping the world will fix itself in your absence. I stay and fight. It’s just who we are.”

“You’re here to fight?”

“I don’t want to fight with you. But I’ll fight for us.”

“Sorry,” Hutch said as he moved towards the bed. “I just… I don’t… Arguing about sex means…”

“Means what, Hutch? That we need to communicate better? That we don’t want to hurt each other? What?”

“I don’t know. In the past it was always the beginning of the end.”

“Not in my book, blondie.” Starsky released a heavy sigh and took his hands out of the pockets. “We haven’t been together in almost a week. I miss you. I need you. And I don’t want to talk about sex like it’s a spread sheet with goals and achievements. I just want to go to bed, hold you, and hopefully make love with you.” He slipped off the bed and walked over to his partner putting his hands on each side of Hutch’s face. “Is that too much to ask?”

Hutch’s smile was slow to form, still unsure of himself.

“Look, Hutch, when you make love to me you’re gentle and warm. You take your time with those big hands of yours and put off your own pleasure until you’re sure I’ve had mine. You know what I want, when I want it, and how I want it. And you never, ever hurt me. You’ve set the bar pretty high, partner.”

“I don’t expect you to be me.”

“I know. I know, babe. I guess I’m just scared. Never done this, ya know.”

“Wait, never?” Hutch asked with a grin as he took Starsky’s hands and held them at his chest. “You have never…?”

“Knocked on a girl’s back door? Nope.”

“Really? I mean, you – Don Juan Starsky of Brooklyn – have never made a rear entry?”

“NO. Geez, give me some credit here. I’m a respectful date.”

Hutch chuckled while wiping his eyes of the tears that found their way out compliments of the now hysterical laughing.

“Stop! C’mon.”

“I’m sorry, Starsk. It’s just…” He had to look down and away while composing himself, “…just, you, ah… you have performance anxiety.”

Do not! Well, maybe just a little. It’s not that I don’t wanna do it. You know that. You know what my fantasy is. Just… just… I want to love you, not hurt you.”

They moved towards each other unconsciously taking turns touching one another, a hand to shoulder, lips to cheek, fingers to elbow. Awkward yet familiar. Like finding each other for the first time.

“Awfully quiet, partner. Maybe I should sing.” Starsky cleared his throat and searched for the right starting note, then: “Ya put your left foot in, ya put your left foot out, ya put your left foot in and you shake it all about. Ya do the hokey pokey and…”

“STOP. God, that’s awful.”

“Yes, it is.” Starsky leaned in for a soft, quick kiss still holding Hutch’s face. “And I promise not to victimize you with it again if you come to bed with me because tonight I get to be Banker.”

Hutch’s eyebrows raised as he put his hands on Starsky’s waist and pushed him backwards to the bed. “Is that a promise?”

I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring,” Starsky said sprinkled with giggles as he walked backwards. “How’s that for a quote, Mr. College Boy?”

“Quote?” Hutch wrinkled his worry line between his eyes. “Who the hell said that?”

“David Bowie.”

Hutch stopped in his tracks just short of the bed and tilted his head to the side not sure if Starsky really knew that or if he was blowing shit for facts.

“What? You don’t believe me?” Starsky made an attempt to pull away towards the door. “I can go find the exact quote…”

“Uh-uh, don’t you dare.” Hutch pulled his lover roughly to the bed and pushed him onto his back with a hand to the chest. “You. Are staying. Right. Here,” a kiss to the left cheek, “with me,” a kiss to the right cheek, “and tend to my financial needs.” Hutch straddled Starsky’s hips and put his forearms on the bed on each side of the dark curls leaning down to press lips to lips in an agonizingly sensuous kiss. “Because I am in need of a big, big loan.”

Any other time he’d reminisced like this he would have had hand to cock in record speed, but the emptiness he felt without Starsky overshadowed any desire to have sex, solo or otherwise.

Hutch remembered every detail of the last time they made love. It was everything he wanted and more. He even missed Starsky blabbering at the most inappropriate times.

As they undressed each other, Starsky looked down at Hutch’s growing member. “Hey, how come you don’t get morning wood anymore?”

“I do too,” Hutch gave as a rebuttal. “You mean like you? Gordo, you get a hard-on peeling a carrot.”

“Only when you’re the carrot,” he murmured with a sultry, naughty voice as he took Hutch’s cock from the tented sweat pants and held on. “Seems like when I reach over to wish you a proper good morning your wood is like a pussy willow.”

“Considering you tap my tree every night, sometimes more than once, you gotta understand, Starsk, that the branch needs a little time to recover. Needs a little TLC…. Watering and raking, feeding and nurturing.”

“High maintenance, babe.”

“Are you up to it?”

“Like a one man Audubon Society.”

They sat on the bed, both naked, taking turns tending to each other with gentle ministrations, some touches barely even noticeable.

Hutch closed his eyes and laughed.

“Ticklish?” Starsky asked pulling his hands away.

“No, just remembered something from when I was a kid.”

“And this has something to do with what we’re doing now?”

“Morning wood, buddy. I must have been thirteen or so. Was late getting up for school. Rolled out of bed and went across the hall to the bathroom but ran into my little sister in the process. She looked down and saw my healthy pecker sticking straight out from my pajamas and ran to my mother, screaming, ‘something’s wrong with Kenny’. I don’t know what my mother said to her but Kathleen never looked at me the same again.”

Hutch treasured moments like this. Just the two of them, alone in space, alone in spirit, one in soul. Touching, talking, each second counting for something with no outside intrusions. And naked didn’t hurt. At all.

He turned onto his side on the lumpy sofa still clutching the bracelets willing time to fast forward. Closing his eyes, he went back to that night. Remembering how Starsky’s body felt against his, how they took turns holding each other, stroking one another, and tasting.

“Still want me to, ya know, do you?” Starsky asked taking a break from treating Hutch’s cock like a popsicle while teasing his anus with slicked up fingers.

Do you?” Hutch repeated in mockery. “You make it sound like a chore.”

“Hutch, I just want…”

“I want you to do me, Starsk. I want you inside me. All of you. I want you to be as close to my heart as you can get. And if you don’t quite understand the gist of my request, babe, I want…” Hutch gasped as Starsky breached his hole with two fingers while sucking hard on the sensitive cleft of his cock head. “…aaahhhh, um…”

“Yes?” Starsky asked coming up for air.

“I want… I want you to fuck me. Hard. I want you to come as close to fulfilling that fantasy of yours as you can. I want you to… ahhhhh… oh my God…. I want you to take me hard and pound me. Make me remember tonight for always. Be my first and only, babe.”

“That’s a tall order, blondie. Can you handle me?”

Hutch looked down as Starsky got up on his knees and stroked his own cock. His huge cock. “I want you.”

“Okay then. Turn over and show me what’s mine.”

Hutch turned over onto his knees with a couple of pillows under his hips. Resting his face on his hands he immediately felt the lubed head of Starsky’s rock hard cock at his entrance.

“Hutch, babe,” Starsky asked, his voice shaking with need and trepidation, “you ready? I’ll go slow at first but it’s gonna hurt.”

“Uh-huh.”

Hutch felt the stretch and burn as Starsky pushed in through the first ring of muscle. He drew in a deep breath and lifted his head reacting to the pain and fullness.

“Breathe, babe. Deep breaths. Is that okay?”

“It fits,” Hutch grunted as he reflexively arched his back against the sting and burn.

Holding the shaft of his cock with his left hand, Starsky tenderly put his other hand on Hutch’s back both calming him and urging him to stay down. “Don’t move, Hutch. If you pull away it’ll hurt more than you ever want to know.”

“Please, don’t stop.”

“Okay. Push back, you can move at your own pace.”

When Hutch didn’t move, Starsky decided to take control just as Hutch had asked. “You gonna give it to me, babe, or are you gonna make me take it?”

A few strokes on the blonde’s back and Starsky gave him what he wanted. Moving both hands to the hips to use as handles, he pushed his entire large length all the way in not stopping until his balls tapped against Hutch’s perineum. The feeling was incredible and tight. He had to concentrate on breathing himself as he fell over Hutch’s back and nibbled the back of his lover’s neck. “You okay? I know it hurts, babe. We can just…”

“I love you, Starsk. I love you. Please,” he said knowing he was just about to sound like a chick, “please take me. Hard.”

With that, Starsky unleashed a furry of pumping in and out, pounding with grunts and groans. Sweat poured off his head and chest onto Hutch’s backside.

Starsky eventually turned his partner onto his back. “Want to see your face when I cum,” he said as he drew his hands down the sweat slick, smooth chest from neck to hips. He took Hutch’s hand and pulled it down towards his groin and softened cock. “Cup your balls and cock, babe.”

“Huh?”

“Pull them back a little. I’m so close and, believe me, you don’t want your stuff to get in the way.”

Hutch did as he was asked as Starsky put his lover’s legs over his shoulders. Several strong thrusts later and Starsky stiffened and cried out over and over, his face alternating between severe concentration and utter contentment. Hutch reached up and put his hand flat on Starsky’s heaving chest feeling the tumultuous heartbeat.

Starsky kept moving in and out gently feeling the tight channel around him as his sensitive cock very slowly softened.

“Hutch, I’m gonna, um…” he was still out of breath, “…I’m gonna pull out now but just so you know, the cum is probably gonna make it sting, and…”

Hutch sucked in his breath and trembled with an obvious guttural grunt as Starsky move to his side. “Yep. Called that one right. Ouch.”

“Sorry. Holy shit. Feel like I left a gallon in there.” Starsky ran his fingers up, down and around Hutch’s slick chest. “You have a virtual pool of sweat in your valley, babe.” He dipped his fingers in the fluid that had accumulated in the subtle dip of the blonde’s chest.

“Yours or mine?”

“Joint effort. How’d I do?”

“I think you kept your dick up just fine.”

“Not feckless?” Starsky asked, an ode to their choreographed argument.

“Babe, I don’t even know what that means.” Hutch ran his hand through the dark curls as Starsky lay at his side curled around his lover.

“You, ah, you didn’t cum, babe.”

“Starsk, it was great. I love you and loved seeing your fantasy come true. Believe me. It was just a bit much for me this time. Besides, cumming together only happen in pornos.”

“I guess.” Post coital cuddling was something Starsky never enjoyed or appreciated with his previous lovers, but Hutch was different. They held each other, stroked, kissed, and even talked. Sometimes they just slept, but they were always wrapped around each other. “Hutch, you suppose straight couples love each other as much as we do? I mean, I never felt this way about a woman.”

“I’m sure there are perfect matches out there in the straight world. Not as perfect as ours, mind you. Pretty sure my parents live parallel lives. Nothing like what we have.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Some people live, and love, parallel instead of perpendicular,” he said while moving just the tips of his fingers up and down Starsky’s arm. “They live together, raise kids together, eat together, age together… but they do it parallel. We, on the other hand, are perpendicular. Everything we do and feel is perpendicular – we connect. Always, even when we’re apart.”

By that point Starsky was up on elbows staring intently at his lover. “You’re a fucking armchair philosopher, you know that? I have no idea what you mean.”

“You will. Just let it ruminate, buddy.”

As they folded into each other, the sweat cooling between them, Starsky reached down and fondled Hutch’s semi-erect cock. A single finger up and down the back side vein, a tickle of the ball sack, and an occasional polish of the head with the palm of his hand. It was a familiar, playful fondling.

“You still look at girls, Starsk?”

“Sure. Don’t you?”

“Guess so.” Hutch felt like he was admitting a sin. “Doesn’t bother you?”

“Nope. I love you. I trust you. And at the end of the day, you come home with me, ya big lug.”

“My mother was always on my dad about him looking at chicks,” Hutch mumbled into the head of curls now tucked up under his chin. “She was always elbowing him and giving him dirty looks. School events were always a treat with all the other moms around.”

“That’s sad. Did he ever do something to make her lose trust like that?”

“Dunno. They never really talked to us much.”

“My pop loved the ladies. I’d always catch him checking them out, giving them a wink. He’d say to me – now there’s a looker.”

Hutch resumed the stroking, this time on Starsky’s ribs. “Your mom put up with that?”

“She knew he didn’t stray. When I was older I asked her about it. Know what she told me?” Hutch shook his head. “She said, the day your father stops looking at pretty women is the day he stops looking at me.

“She’s quite a lady,” Hutch said with an ounce of envy. “Bet they didn’t have any secrets.”

“Nope. Just like us, babe.”

Hutch was more than ready at 6am to leave the lonely apartment and get to the hospital. When the hired car came he drew down the window shades, put the garbage out, turned out the lights and placed the bag of bedding outside on the landing before locking the doors.

 

xXxXxXx

 

Starsky stood at the large window behind Dobey’s desk staring out at anything and everything but taking notice of nothing. He was closed off with his arms crossed in front of him, his voice completely silent as Dobey, Schrader and Simonetti argued behind him. His head pounded from the pummeling he’d taken from the uniforms, certainly not helped by the healthy dose of booze earlier.

“No. You are not conducting anything official until his attorney gets here.”

“He’s tied up in court in Sacramento, Hal.”

“He said if he couldn’t fly out tomorrow he’d get someone here in his place in a couple days.”

“Fine, then he gets booked and stews in County.”

“You know full well he’s not safe there. Is that what you were hoping for, Simonetti? Part of your agenda?”

“Look, we want answers. Crimes were committed and a dirty cop…”

A scuffle erupted behind Starsky who continued to stand unaffected while in shut down mode.

“How about a compromise,” Dobey offered. “An unofficial discussion here in my office. No recording. No stenographer. Treated as a person of interest, not a suspect. He’s released on his own without charges seeing as your uniforms broke at least eight regulations and numerous laws getting him here. Starsky, are you up to it or do you want to do it their way? Starsky?”

“I got nothing to say. No, wait. I do. I didn’t hurt Hutch. I did not steal drugs. I did not sell drugs. I did not take drugs.”

Dobey walked up behind him, still facing the windows, and put his hand on his shoulder. “Son, it’s in your own best interest to answer questions.”

“I told them everything they need to know that relates to the case. They can fill in the blanks by doing an actual investigation.”

“Dave, please. Just hear them out, answer their questions and then we’ll see about getting you out of here. Okay?”

Starsky sighed and threw his arms in the air as he turned around to face the accusers. “Fine. What do you want to know?”

Simonetti opened the file in front of him and started making notes. “Starsky, you want to tell us about the large purchase you made at Renaldo’s Fine Jewels on the day you two suffered injuries?”

“It’s personal. Next.”

“You paid $734 and change, in cash, for two gold bracelets. You didn’t have that kind of money in your bank account, your rent was due, electric bill late and paycheck a week away. Where did you get the cash?”

“Saved up, moron. You should try it someday.”

“Where is the jewelry now?”

“None of your business. It’s personal.”

An audible sigh came from both IA detectives.

“Okay, what were you doing at Hutchinson’s place in the two to three hours you were there?” Simonetti continued. “Without saying it’s personal.”

“Socialized.”

“Specifically.”

“None of your business.” He was not going to reveal their personal life to them. He promised Hutch. This was not something one side of the relationship got to divulge. They had kept this private for so many reasons. If work knew, they’d be done. If Hutch’s family knew, he’d be cast out.

“Fine. Why did you leave.”

“Had to get something from my car.”

“What?”

“I told you, I don’t remember.”

“Let’s go over the evidence, then.” Simonetti flipped through the file stopping when he got to the papers with hospital letterhead at the top. “Hutchinson, Kenneth R.: Findings on initial exam of patient:” Simonetti flipped another page until he got to the part that pertained to this part of the case. “Here we go… Numerous small bruises in the shape of fingers on each hip. Bruising or light ligature marks on right and left wrist, more pronounced on the left. Genital region:” he read, “soft tissue swelling, minor abrasions and minor tearing at the entrance to the rectum consistent with forced penetration.”

Starsky turned and maintained his stare out the windows.

Bleeding from the injured tissue was evident. Tissue did not require suturing. Results of internal exam found semen deposited throughout the rectal canal. No other semen was present on the patient’s body.”

Still, Starsky did not move.

Schrader moved closer to Starsky. “You have anything to say about that, Starsky?”

“No.”

Schrader took the file and flipped a few pages. “These are the findings from the exam we asked doctors to do on you when it was discovered that Hutchinson may have been raped,” he said as he drew in a deep breath. “Patient shows no signs of physical trauma in the urogenital region or rectal area. No evidence of semen. However, traces of blood were found on his penis, at the base of his penis and in his pubic hair.”

The room was eerily quiet.

“Detective Starsky, Forensics typed the blood found on you as a match to Hutchinson. The semen found in Hutchinson matched you. Did you rape Ken Hutchinson?”

Starsky leaned on the desk, his back to the other men. He had no answers.

Even Dobey tried. “Dave?”

“Starsky,” Schrader went on in full IA Captain mode, “your semen was left in your partner who suffered torn tissue and abrasions. His blood was left on you. There was no evidence of his ejaculate. Seems one sided.”

“Now, wait a minute,” Dobey started as Starsky sat on his desk taking up his stare out the window again. “You’re going too far now…”

The arguing continued as Starsky closed his eyes and thought back to that night, Hutch’s hands raking through the dark curls of the head that nestled down into the center of the blonde’s body. His mouth…

…gently grazed the satiny skin of the hardening organ. “Want to make it good for you, babe,” Starsky growled as his fingers and tongue danced over every nerve ending. “Did you save it up Hutch?”

Hutch laughed as he moaned through the exquisite sensations. “Um, yeah, all week. Oh…. God…, Starsk…”

Starsky spent the next half hour, at least, teasing his partner, bringing him to the edge, then backing off just as Hutch neared orgasm, keeping him at excruciating bay.

“Please, please, Starsky… Now…. Gonna cum now… ooohh…..” Starsky released the huge, rock hard cock and backed away looking at his partner’s face, eyes rolling back, fists clenching in the restraint of the necktie he’d tied around his wrists over his head to prevent him from interfering. “NO. NO!” He kicked out at Starsky who held the knee down with one hand while settling the blonde’s hips with the other.

“Not yet, babe.”

“Oh my God, please.”

“Getting awful religious, partner.”

He couldn’t keep Hutch from reaching his peak of pleasure much longer. He could, technically, but not tonight. Finally, he pumped the cock with his left hand and with his right he rubbed the tightening balls and tender tissue around his opening. As the taut, purple head readied to explode Starsky replaced his hand with his mouth gently moving up and down, tonguing the smooth skin.

It was like Hutch had flown to another world filled with bright colored lights, peace, exquisite happiness and love as he arched his back, trembled from head to toe and grunted out every stream of exploding cum into his lover’s mouth.

 It seemed like Starsky swallowed copious quantities as he continued to lap at Hutch’s stretched cock. As he came up for air and gave the ultra-sensitive glans a long lick, Hutch shuttered and reared back.

“No, Starsk, too… Ohhhh… sensitive.”

Sitting up, Starsky bent over to give his lover a sweet, almost chaste kiss on the lips. “Bet you got more, lover,” he said with an evil grin.

Hutch could do nothing as Starsky started aggressively pumping his cock again, stopping every so often to pay special attention to the super delicate glans already over sensitized. “Oh…. Shit…. NO.”

“More. I want more,” Starsky demanded. “You said you wanted it rough. I don’t want to disappoint you.” The pumping, squeezing the balls and now the intrusion of a finger in his battered and tender hole put him over the top as he continued to toss and flail in the bed. But when pressure descended on his prostate he felt an amazing sense of release.

“Look down, babe,” Starsky said as he squeezed the shaft hard and pulled up to the head. Hutch grunted one last time as he came again, this time a smaller amount of very thick, very white cum oozed out, down and around Starsky’s fist. “Looks like you did have more.” Starsky bent over and licked every last drop of it up before gently placing the severely used organ back onto Hutch’s heaving abdomen.

Reaching over Hutch’s head, Starsky untied the necktie from the headboard and released the right hand leaving the tie loosely bound around the left wrist.

“You are insatiable,” Hutch laughed while getting his breath back. “Where the hell did that come from?”

“A stewardess named Candy,” he chuckled. “She wasn’t as sweet as it sounds.”

“Apparently not.” Hutch closed his eyes and concentrated on breath control. “You’re crazy, but I love you. You know that. Right?”

Scooting up the bed, Starsky planted a long, leisurely kiss on his lover’s mouth then trailed his lips over the chin to the curve of Hutch’s lusty neck, stopping to nibble and taste before pulling him into a full body hug on their sides facing each other. “Can’t live without you, Blintze. You’re everything to me. Everything.”

“Starsky.”

“Detective.”

Captain Dobey came around the desk and looked down into Starsky’s face trying to give them some semblance of privacy. “Dave. You okay?”

“Huh? Yeah.”

“Just put up with the questions for a few more minutes, son. Simmons and Babcock tracked down those two uniforms who brought you in. They’re in the process of dropping the ‘resisting arrest’ charges. Just hang on and we’ll get you home.”

“Yeah.” He was hungover. Exhausted. Emotionally spent. Flat. “Whatever.”

“Starsky,” Simonetti blathered on, “In light of all you have heard today…”

“Cut out the Perry Mason act,” Starsky spit at him, “you’re not an attorney.”

“In light of the evidence you’ve heard today,” the frustrated, arrogant IA detective repeated, “I ask you again. Did you or did you not rape Ken Hutchinson?

“No.”

“What?” he asked as though he didn’t hear, or hadn’t heard, this same answer before.

“I’ve told you over and over again. NO. Jesus fuck, don’t you guys ever write anything down?”

“Then what were you doing…”

“None of your business…”

Simonetti and Starsky were doing nothing more now than talking on top of each other, Simonetti pacing the room, Starsky still sitting on the desk looking out the window. It was becoming a verbally intense and vehement argument with voices screaming at walls and glass.

“…and you admit you were there…”

“He’s my partner…”

“…who you were at odds with the day before. Who you threatened…”

“You want to know why? I’ll tell you why we were arguing…”

“…you ejaculated inside the victim…”

“…not a victim…”

“Not a mark on you. Just his blood…”

Starsky finally stood and walked directly up to Simonetti’s face. “Leave this alone, will ya…”

“…all over your genitals. And no evidence of his semen. One sided sex. One guy gets bruised, beaten, sexually molested, raped and you walk away…”

Shouting. Yelling. Hands talking with voices. No one listening to the other.

“Walk away? Simonetti, did you see me almost dying in the hospital, asshole? Huh?”

The hallway door to Dobey’s office opened, the scant sliver of light from the corridor pointing at Starsky like an arrow. The figure stood there without notice.

“Admit it Starsky. You raped your partner.”

“I did NOT rape my partner.”

“So you injured his genital area and deposited semen in him. If that’s not rape, what is it?”

“Maybe it was mutual.”

“If it was mutual where was Hutchinson’s semen?”

I swallowed it. Holy shit, Simonetti. Haven’t you ever had sex?”

The room went silent as a whole new scenario was born.

Dobey was the first to say something, awkwardly. Uncomfortably. “I think we need to put this to bed for now.” He audibly grimaced at the unintended pun. “I mean, let’s just wait until the attorney gets back in town. Starsky’s not going anywhere.”

Like hell he’s not,” came a voice from the doorway. “I’m revoking his bail as we speak.”

 

 xxxxxxxxxxxxx  

(A/N: For the record, the chapter was written prior to the sad news of David Bowie’s death. I left in the quotation in his memory. RIP)

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen

 

Four voices talking on top of each other, hands flying, faces contorting in anger while personal space was deliberately collapsing, came to an abrupt halt.

“What was that?” Captain Schrader asked the man at the door.

“I said, I have begun the process of having David Starsky’s bail revoked.”

Starsky let out a boulder sized sigh as he plopped himself into a chair for the first time that afternoon. “This can’t be happening,” he said with head in hands.

Dobey gave him a quick pat on the shoulder. “Just… hang tight, Dave,” he quietly told his detective.

Before Dobey took another step, Starsky grabbed the bottom of his suit coat and looked up at his Captain, eyes dark with desperation and need. “Can’t keep doing this.”

Dobey took hold of Starsky’s hand and pulled it away from his coat with some force, but still held onto it. “Gotta get through this first, son.” He raised a cautious hand, raised eyebrows and nod of understanding before moving to the doorway.

The tall, thin man stood holding the door wide open, looking like he was either ready to barge in or take off running. Either way, he had a look of sheer determination on his face.

“I want this low life piece of…. I want you to put him in jail with the other animals. Put. Him. AWAY.”

“Mr. Hutchinson… Richard,” Dobey started with a calm voice, “let me have my secretary show you to a more private area where we can have a talk.”

“My mind is made up.”

“I’m sure it is,” Dobey muttered as he looked past him to the outer office. “Carol, show Mr. Hutchinson to Captain Schrader’s office. We’ll be in shortly.”

Once the door was closed, Dobey turned back to the other three men in his office. “Okay, we’re done here for now.”

“You think you’re funny, Starsky, don’t you,” Simonetti said with a smug lilt in his voice. “Trying to confuse us? Joke around? The I’m no rapist. We’re homos defense? Did Hutchinson get the memo?”

“Shut the fuck up.”

“Keep digging that hole. Dig, dig, dig. What is it? Are you a faggot cop or a rapist with a fetish for pretty blonde boys?”

Starsky sat straight in the chair, his hands holding onto the metal and fake wood arm rests in a death grip, this time looking up at his accuser. He was trying. He was really trying.

“You’re so stupid,” Simonetti spewed. “You don’t know which way you want to get your ass kicked. Way I see it you’re done on the force. Rapist or fag – and I’m leaning towards rapist cuz I know Hutch and he’s no pansy – you’ll either be fodder for the queens in prison or you’ll get your pretty little ass kicked by your raging brother cops and bitter ex-cons with a score to settle on the street.”

Starsky’s breathing was at a fever pitch. His face hard, twisted and clearly close to exploding.

“Pick your poison. Stand up, Starsky,” Simonetti ordered. “Time to go visit your friends at the County Jail again.”

That was it. He shot out of his chair like a souped up rocket, arms outstretched and aimed for Simonetti’s neck. It took both Dobey and Schrader, one on each side, to drag Starsky back and hold him against the far wall. His arms were held up and back, an elbow pushing his already sore face to the side - hard, feet between his, all preventing him from moving an inch. He grunted and groaned. Knew he was screaming something, but nothing intelligible came out of his mouth smashed against the wall.

“Starsky,” Dobey commanded. “Starsky. Not doing this. Not now. Calm down. Just calm down, son.”

He still forced out breaths and inane sounds, but relaxed his body enough to allow the two Captains to back off somewhat. Back off, but not let go.

“Look at me, Dave,” Dobey ordered. “We’re going to do this my way. Okay?”

Nod.

“Captain Schrader is going to take his man back to IA. You and I are going to have a talk. Okay?”

Nod.

“Alright,” Dobey said, relieved.

Simonetti stood up and reached around to the back of his waist grabbing his handcuffs. “That’s all well and good, but bail is revoked which means…” Simonetti took advantage of Starsky’s exhaustion and spun him around pasting him up against the wall. “Assume the position.” He pulled Starsky’s shirt out of the waistband of his pants, then started frisking him plunging a hand in each pocket. As he pulled a piece of paper out Starsky turned around and grabbed it. He didn’t know what it was – maybe an old receipt – but it didn’t matter. He wouldn’t give anything to him. When the paper ripped, Simonetti handed his half off to Schrader out of habit as he kept frisking his prisoner.

Starsky abruptly turned and pulled his arm back, fist at the ready.

Not yet.” Dobey moved quickly to get between the men. He grabbed the fist and fish-eyed Simonetti at the same time. “His status has not officially changed yet,” he said with fire in his voice. “He stays here for now.”

“Not in my…”

He stays here for now,” Dobey repeated loudly enough for the entire floor to hear. “And you don’t. If you two will go make sure Mr. Hutchinson is comfortable, I will be down soon. Remember, the man is not well. Do NOT say anything to alarm him.”

Looks were exchanged but finally Schrader took his man from the office and closed the door behind them leaving Starsky and Captain Dobey alone in stone cold, awkward silence.

Starsky remained against the wall as though still held against his will. In a sense, he was: by IA, by Richard Hutchinson, by all of his brother cops, and, he felt, even by Hutch. And… himself.

“Take a seat, Dave.”

He did. Right on the floor where he stood. Sliding down the wall he buried his head in his hands propped on knees.

“How much more?”

Dobey sat in an office chair next to Starsky’s side, wiped the accumulated sweat from his face, then leaned over with a hand on Starsky’s shoulder. “I don’t know, son. Come on. Get yourself off the floor. We need to have a talk.”

Getting back on his feet felt like pushing a ton of bricks up over his head in a pouring rain storm. He definitely wanted to throw something, hit something, hit someone. His fists remained clenched as he took a chair across from Dobey.

“Need to talk about what was said today,” Dobey started. “Lots of accusations. Lots of evidence. And there is NO room for you to be making light of this situation. No more joking around. Now, you can keep your secrets all you want, but it’s not going to help you or Hutch.”

Starsky took in a deep breath and sat back clasping his hands together and putting them over his forehead tilted back.

“You really got into it with that clown. Now, I understand your frustration, but you can’t go after the coyotes in the hen house without making them madder,” he said in typical Dobey fashion. “Look here, Starsky, the evidence they laid out was cut and dry. You know that. I’m asking you as a friend, not your boss. What happened that night?”

“Can’t remember, Cap.”

“Not when you were attacked. Before. How do you explain the evidence?”

Starsky stood and put his hands in his pockets, head down, folding into himself, and stalked over to the window. He aimlessly fiddled with the piece of paper stuffed in the bottom of the pocket.

“Dave… you can’t keep this trapped inside forever.”

“Doesn’t matter, Cap. Keep my mouth shut and I go to jail for rape. Tell the truth and…” His breath was shaky as he kept his face turned to the window.

“And what?”

“And lose everything. Job, friends…”

The heavy silence in the room was palpable.

“Not that it matters. I’ve lost Hutch already. Got nothing.”

“Dave, prove your innocence and you’ll be back on the job the next day. You know that.”

“Come on, Cap.” Starsky shook his head as he took in Dobey’s continued look of confusion on his face. “Come on.” Still no acknowledgment of understanding. “No room for fags on the force,” he shouted across the room. “You know that.” He shut his mouth with a sudden intake of oxygen. He hadn’t meant to let that out, but now that he had…

The frown lines on Dobey’s forehead multiplied as he digested what Starsky had said. “No, Dave, if you’re innocent…”

“You’re not hearing me. I didn’t rape Hutch. I made love to him. The evidence isn’t flawed, Cap. Just interpreted wrong.”

Dobey sat at his desk leaning forward into his folded hands, obviously trying to get his head around what Starsky was saying.

“No, no, I mean…,” Captain Dobey scratched his head with the eraser end of a pencil, “…what you and… um…”

“Cap, since Gunther, over a year ago, you’ve had to call us when we’re off duty, how many times? Thirty? Fifty?”

Nod.

“Have you ever, in those calls, found us apart?”

The large black man simply looked at Starsky. In his eyes. His very serious eyes. “How long?”

“Since New Year’s, officially, I guess.”

“Don’t know what to say.”

“I don’t care what people think of me. I’m pretty much fucked whatever I do. But ya gotta promise me, Cap, that you won’t think bad of Hutch. He looks up to you, thinks the world of you. He’ll be back on the job some day and I don’t think he could stand it if you thought less of him because of what we… what we had.”

Dobey leaned back in his large office chair and stared down at the large hands in his lap. The chair creaked as its owner shifted restlessly back and forth trying to find comfort in so many ways.

“Hutch is the best cop on the force. You know that, Cap. This is all he’s wanted to do. I’m done. There’s no question about that. I’ll either be in prison or… or I suppose back in New York. But don’t take this away from him. Please.”

Dobey remained still as a statue.

“Say something, Cap.”

“What am I supposed to say? That I approve of this? That you have nothing to worry about? Truth is, I don’t know what to think.”

Starsky nodded but maintained his aimless view out the window. “Fair enough.”

“Look, as far as I know, you were brought in for an informal interview. It’s over and you’re free to go.”

“But the bail revocation…”

“Nothing has crossed my desk. Go home, Starsky. Call your attorney and get your ducks in a row. I have no control over what is or is not going to happen after you walk out of here.”

Starsky cautiously moved to the door afraid of what would pounce on him once he walked out.

“Dave,” Dobey said, his eyes turned up from his hands clasped together in worry, “go home for now. Watch your back, son. I’ll do what I can, but I gotta tell ya, something stinks in this precinct and I’m pretty sure you guys are being set up to take the fall. I feel it in my bones.”

“Tell me something I don’t already know.”

 

xXxXxXxXx

 

He admitted himself to outpatient surgery by himself, went through all the pre-op testing by himself, waited for two hours for an OR to open up by himself, then recovered in a room all day… by himself. The only conversation Hutch had was with the nurses and doctors and even then he kept it to a minimum.

By early afternoon after being taken to radiology for a CT scan as a follow up to his surgery and previous injuries, he was left alone in his room. He had eaten some soft food and his homework was to prove he could keep it down before he was released. The nurse turned off the lights and closed the door so he could rest.

Heavy sleep came easily despite the damn flat, institutional pillow under his head. And dreams… dreams of Starsky. Of work. Of his family. Of Duluth and his grandfather’s farm. Then he was being chased. Just when he felt like he had run far enough, whoever was trying to get him would catch up and he’d have to take off again. Over and over again he would run for his life, trip up curbs, clip walls going around corners, his heart galloping in his chest.

“Hutch.”

He was finally safe and sat on the ground to catch his breath. Then heavy footsteps came at him and he was up and at it again.

“Hutch.”

“Starsky.”

“Hutch, wake up. You’re not alone.”

“Starsky?”

“No, hun. It’s Mary. Open your eyes.”

He heard a click and squinted up against the light the nurse had turned on over his bed.

“Mary?”

“In the flesh, Sunshine.”

He cleared his newly sutured throat and sat up in the bed. “What are you doing here?”

“Came down to chat with a friend and saw your name on the board. You’re a handsome man without that neck choker, Ken Hutchinson.”

“I missed your flirting,” Hutch said with a genuine smile, albeit a brief one. As the smile distinguished he exhaled and looked around the quiet room taking in the stark emptiness. So did Mary.

“How ya feeling, sweetie?”

Hutch stretched his chin outward testing the feeling of his pieced together neck where the tracheotomy and assorted straps, tape and valves had been. “Feels tight. Kind of scratchy inside.”

“Yeah, that will fade. When the local wears off you’ll be quite tender.”

“Already there,” he said quietly as he absent-mindedly fiddled with the tape and small bandage at the base of his neck. “I’ll get over it.”

“Who’s here with you, Hutch?”

“No one.”

“No one? Your parents?”

“No. They’re, um… gone.”

“Dave?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

Hutch shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. “Gone too.”

“Oh, Hutch, I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, well, shit happens.” Hutch fiddled with the sheet covering his legs as Mary gave his back a reassuring rub. “Mary, can you get me out of here, please?”

 

xXxXxXxXx

 

Starsky did go home. He even slept all night without getting up and checking to see who was watching him. He figured stalking his stalkers would serve no purpose, nor would it keep the hawks at bay.

By mid-day Starsky had secured a non-descript brown 4-door Ford from one of Huggy’s cousins. The right side windshield wiper was missing, passenger side rear door handle broken and license plate – legal or not – barely pasted on at the corner by a bumper sticker: God Created Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve. And, as an added bonus, something had died and was growing tentacles in the cup holder. Hutch would love this heap, he thought.

He looked over his shoulder all day expecting uniforms, U.S. marshals or bail bondsmen and their bounty hunters to roll up on him. When is the anvil going to drop? He figured the best thing to do to stretch out his freedom was to just drive around… in the ugly car… wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He looked like he had something to hide. He looked like most men his age in that part of town. Brilliant.

Eventually he found himself in Venice Beach, someplace he hadn’t been to in almost two months, and with that, Hutch’s place. He drove by three times looking for tell-tale signs of anyone who would want him face down in a prison shower room, but each time he passed in front of Venice Place he saw only Hutch’s car. He slowed, glanced in all mirrors – at least those that were still attached to the car – and figured that nothing seemed out of place in the neighborhood. But he still parked around the corner.

It worked before, so why not try it again. But this time the rickety door covered in peeling paint at the top of Hutch’s back staircase leading to the sunporch was locked.

“It’s shimmy time,” he mumbled to himself as he took out a few tools of the trade… well, of the breaking and entering trade… and worked his magic on the seldom used door. “His doors are like his cars. Old, unreliable and fucking ugly.”

It hardly took any effort to gain entrance to the sunporch. It had been Hutch’s spot of solitude where he could isolate himself and take his mind off of things by tending to his ridiculous collection of plants organized by classification, all labeled and all named. But when he turned the light on Starsky had to look around to make sure he was in the right place. Very few plants were alive anymore. The typical smell of potting soil was replaced with antiseptic overwash.

He barely made it around the hospital bed squeezed tightly between the narrow walls. Clearly, the plants had been sacrificed for the bed. Starsky ran his hand down the cold, bare mattress. It looked like it had been abandoned. And felt like it too. Cold. Plastic. Emotionless.

The detective inside him cased the apartment. First the perimeter of each room paying close attention to any points of ingress and egress - windows and doors. Then top to bottom, cupboards to floors, paying close attention to surface areas. Clean. No clutter. Everything in its place. All beds stripped and not made up. Trash cans empty, curtains drawn. And when he got to the bathroom and opened up the cupboard next to the sink, the shelf with all of Hutch’s personal care items was bare.

Starsky took off the constricting hoodie and fanned himself with a paper he grabbed from the kitchen table. The summer air was oppressive but the windows were shut, fans off and the one A/C unit unplugged. As hot and stuffy as it was, the atmosphere was cold.

Empty. Sanitized. Devoid of life.

“He’s gone.”

 

xXxXxXxXx

 

He sat in the back of the shiny black luxury hired car. A Lincoln Town Car. Everything was perfect about it. Tinted windows, fine imported leather seats, chrome trim, and a console in front of him holding a phone, champagne, vodka and bourbon. Not a beer in sight. It reeked of newness.

There was a smooth and choreographed feeling underneath him. It practically lulled Hutch to sleep as the car maneuvered the super highways around Los Angeles and Bay City. Proper shocks, he assumed. Novel idea. Too perfect.

He missed his old life pre-attack. Needed to get back to work, to his routine, to the people he knew. He missed the little things about work. Minnie’s saucy remarks. Simmons’ and Babcock’s bantering. The ladies from HR and their weekly crock pot competitions. Everybody benefited from that. Being chosen as a judge, always a plus. Deacon down in the motor pool always asking him if he’d been to church that week. The answer was always the same - nope. The question never changed. Roger and his updates on his retirement, family and what football team had a chance.

“Excuse me, driver, I’d like to take a detour at the next exit.”

After a few turns and painfully long red lights, the car pulled up outside a small, brown, cedar shingled house. A single row of purple flowers framed the bushes under the windows sporting window boxes on the sills with the same flowers. The porch was quaint – just large enough for two chairs and a small playpen.

Hutch got out of the car and walked up to the man stooped over weeding around the flowers.

“Hey Roger,” he said patting the man’s back as he turned to look up at the visitor. “Kitty got you playing gardener?”

The older man stood up squinting against the bright, hot sun behind the blond head. “Well, Ken Hutchinson. Miss you at the station, Hutch. Looks like you got that god damned plug removed, huh?”

“Yeah. Today. Was on my way home and remembered you said you needed to talk to me.”

“Ken Hutchinson, is that you?” The woman’s voice carried from the porch as Roger’s wife quickly came down into the yard with a wiggly toddler in her arms.

“It’s good to see you, Kitty,” Hutch said as the little one reached out and grabbed his nose. “Ouch. The kid has nails,” he laughed.

“What’s the skinny on the upcoming football season, Roger?

“Bengals look strong. So do the 49-ers. The sleepers are San Diego and Buffalo. I think a Cali team could go to the Super Bowl.”

“If you say so, Roger,” he said, sticking to the small talk. “But you know I have to stay with my Vikings.”

What? I wouldn’t put any money on those turkeys. Since I postponed my retirement I might as well put some dollars down against the Vikings. Get some spending money that way.”

“Postponed?” Hutch couldn't remember if Roger had mentioned this before.

“Well, since our daughter moved in and went back to school, Kitty left her job at in the school cafeteria so she could stay home with the baby. I don’t mind a couple more years on the job. Things are good here. Being a grandparent is better than I could have imagined.” Roger’s smile was as wide as his pride. “Honey,” he said, “why don’t you give me and Hutch a few minutes to talk shop.”

“Sure,” she playfully scolded giving him a quick kiss on the cheek, “but we got company coming and you still have to get cleaned up.”

After the front door closed behind his wife, Roger’s face turned serious. “Hutch, bad shit is going on down at the precinct. It’s still under the radar, but I’ve noticed a lot of activity and discrepancies with newly logged evidence.”

“Any names?”

“Not yet. Who else knows about what you guys were doing?”

“I told someone after we had that staged fight but I can’t remember who.”

“I’m going to…”

A triple tap of a car horn ended their conversation.

“Company?” Hutch asked.

“Yep. We go back to the academy. I was his instructor in crime scene evidence."

Stepping out of the red Chevy was Captain Schrader and his wife. Two sullen teenage boys followed suit.

“Hutch. My God you look good without that thing in your neck,” Schrader said.

Hutch shook the outstretched hand while keeping his left stuffed in the well-worn pocket.

“When are you back on the job?”

“Not sure. It’s not a…. well, we’ll see.”

“Ken,” his wife added, “Morrie has kept me up-to-date with your recovery. So glad to see you out and about.”

Hutch leaned into her half hug and kissed her cheek. “Thanks Donna. How are those boys?”

“Bitter victims. They grunt and sigh, a lot. I’m sure this, too, shall pass.” Donna walked around to the back of the house after hearing Kitty laugh on the patio.

“Hutch, I’m doing my best to wrap up the investigation. We’ll need to do that official questioning at some time. Give me a call sometime next week when you feel up to it.”

“Does Simonetti have to be there?”

“No. Absolutely not. Look, I’m not happy with his cowboy attitude lately. I’ll do my best to reign him in.”

“Hey guys,” Kitty yelled from the front door, “Beer is chilled and meat needs to get on the grill. Bring that tall blonde hunk with you.”

Hutch gave Kitty a polite wave and turned to go to the car. “Another time, Roger. Thank Kitty for me.”

“Hutch,” Roger said as he grabbed an elbow, “call me. Okay?”

Nodding at Roger and waving to Schrader, Hutch got back in the black car and continued on home.

 

xXxXxXxXx

 

Starsky took one more stroll through Hutch’s apartment putting his hands on things that brought back good memories. Ollie the teddy bear, an old battered paper back of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hutch’s guitar still in its dusty case leaning against the wall.

The only thing out of place was a pillow from the bed sitting askew on the sofa. Starsky sat down and pulled it on to his lap feeling the soft familiar light blue pillow case. Putting it to his face he inhaled the scent of his lover, still there. Starsky did everything in the half hour he was there as though it was the last time he would have anything to remember Hutch by. It was only a matter of time before he was arrested and tried for rape. Even Hutch’s denial wouldn’t be enough to off-set the overwhelming evidence. And if a miracle erased the chance of a trial he could never work or live in Bay City again. Dobey was right, he thought. Someone was setting him up and doing a damn good job.

Sighing with his head in his hands he saw something shiny on the floor. The bracelets. He picked both of them up and turned them over in his hands. Thrown on the floor. He shook his head and put them both on the coffee table before relenting to his emotions and pocketing the one with his initial. He’d take just one memento.

“Time for me to go, partner.”

Hearing a car out front, Starsky pulled the window shade aside and looked down on a black luxury car with tinted windows.

“They looking for me or Hutch?” he asked no one. “Not good.”

Starsky left the same way he came in, careful to close the sunporch door and lock it behind him. His Adidas sneakers kept the pitch of his footsteps to a minimum as he descended the rickety stairs and walked to his car, hoodie back in place. Being bold, he decided to drive around the front and check out the black car on his own, but by the time he got there, the car was gone and front room lights were on up in the apartment. He stopped the car right there, in the street, feeling the pull to go back up.

“What are they doing up there?”

Chapter Text

(A/N: Sorry for the delay. Guess who had to go to NYC this past weekend and got stranded in the storm of the century?!)

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

Hutch spent the next two days rattling around his apartment. After seeing a black and white slowly coast by a few times, then another dark car do the same – both slowing down right in front of Venice Place as though looking for something, or someone – he drew down every blind and kept most of the lights out. He was on medical leave, hadn’t been back to the precinct regularly, had had no contact with anyone from the force, yet still felt like whoever was on to them before the attack was still on his tail.

So he wandered the lonely, dark apartment half bored, half skin-crawling nervous. Every time the ticking clock sounded like it was getting louder and following him from room to room, he picked up the phone and dialed Starsky’s place, but there was no answer. But he kept trying, hoping that the next try would be different.

It wasn’t.

He carried the burden of guilt around thinking about his parents finding out about his secret relationship with Starsky. His father was going to die, probably sooner rather than later, and that one thing he could give him – a successful, hero cop for a son… manly, strong, virile… was now nothing more than a painful, living lie thrown in the face of a dying man.

Hurt put its arms around him and crushed the air from his lungs as he kept regurgitating the fact that the entire time he was home recuperating with his parents not one colleague stopped in or called. Especially Starsky. He’d been left alone, he thought, to swill in the body that was betraying him.

“Fucking shrink was right,” he said to Ollie the teddy bear sitting across the room on top of the piano as he downed a post-surgical antibiotic with a slug of beer. “Weasel with the big glasses totally pegged me.”

It was a mandatory series of sessions following the Gunther shooting. Took him four weeks of appointments before the doc cleared him for the streets and even then Hutch had to lie himself out of it.

“Abandonment issues,” he said, putting back the remainder of the can. “Ya think?”

He stretched against the tight sutures in his neck and cleared his raspy throat wondering if he’d be able to sing again. “Probably lost that too.” The beer can met an untimely demise as Hutch dropped it on the floor and kicked it as hard as he could out into the dark abyss of the sunporch, the tin clattering against the legs of the vacated temporary hospital bed.

“Where the hell are you, Starsk?”

He finally called the one person who kept regular tabs on each of them.

“You’ve reached the Pits,” the voice announced on the other end of the phone. “Our food is divine and drinks oh so fine. Name your pleasure and I’ll serve you forever.”

“Hug…”

“Speak up caller. Your dime, my time.”

Hutch cleared his throat and raised his voice a bit. “Huggy…” He closed his eyes and shook his head at the realization that his friend didn’t recognize his voice. “…it’s Hutch. I was wondering if…”

“Hutch, my man. How are things going? Where you been?”

“Same place I’ve been for three weeks. Home.”

“I know that, my blonde friend. Everyone tried…”

“Huggy, do you know where Starsky is?”

There was an unusual pause. Huggy Bear Brown rarely left negative space for others to speak. “Now that’s a good question,” he said lacking his usual swag. His voice had turned serious. “See, I’m not supposed to tell you, Hutch. I think you can understand how it works.”

“How what works, Hug? No, never mind. Just tell me where I can find him.”

“Can’t tell you for a couple reasons. One being I don’t know where he is, specifically. But listen, Hutch, let me come over…”

“No.” He was impatient as yet more doors were slammed in his face. “Don’t want anything. Never mind.”

“Hutch…?”

Feeling defeated, Hutch hung up the phone.

“Okay, Starsky. You want to play street ball? I’ll find me a team too.”

With that, Hutch got in his car and made his way to the bar scene next to skid row – or “the skids”. Down there was where he’d be able to find enough snitches to get what he wanted. He didn’t have to look far when one of the greasiest crumbs on the plate rounded a corner headed to Captain Jack’s Bar and Grill, a brick and mortar small boxed building with glass blocks for windows straight out of the 1930’s. No actual grill and very little other than beer and whisky at the bar, but it was a regular watering hole for Mickey.

Hutch parked on the street behind where Mickey was staggering in a not so straight line. Stuffing his left hand into his pocket, Hutch closed his car door without much of a noise and walked up behind the seldom sober man surprising him with a hand to the shoulder.

“Been a good boy, Mickey?”

“Hey. Hey there Hutch,” the man said with bloodshot eyes and shaky hand. He’d been without a drink for at least 24 hours. Perfect. “What… what are ya doin’ down here? I heard you was crippled or something.”

Hutch sighed for a short moment as he looked away gathering himself and slipping back into cop mode. “Do I look cri… do I look sick? Huh?”

Mickey looked the detective up and down a couple times, then stepped forward a few inches and pointed at Hutch’s bandage. “Got yourself hurt in the neck?”

“No, Mickey. Cut myself shaving. Now, listen to me very carefully. You listening?”

Mickey’s cigarette dangled between his finger, the ash lazily falling to the ground. “Yeah. Yeah, sure Hutch.”

“Good. Good.” He had to keep it simple. Real simple. “Now, I need you to get word out on the street that I need to meet up with Starsky.”

“Whatya mean, meet up with Starsky? Ain’t he your partner?”

Hutch rolled his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose willing himself to maintain some semblance of sanity. “Yes, he is. We’re playing a little game, Mickey, and I need you to do this for me, okay?”

“Yeah, sure Hutch. But I gotta get somethin’ in return, ya know.”

“Ten bucks now. Another twenty after I meet with Starsky,” he said to a shaky nod. “Get the word out to anyone to tell Starsky that I need to meet him tomorrow at noon where Colby took me down. Got it?” He wasn’t about to announce their whereabouts to the world.

“Colby. Like the cheese?”

Hutch wondered what the hell he was getting into. “Yes, Mickey. Like the cheese.”

“Okay, then. Where Colby took you down. Like the cheese.”

“Can I trust you, Mickey?” He immediately thought that was a dumb question.

“Yeah, sure Hutch. Have I ever done you wrong?”

“You want me to give you a list?”

“Okay. Okay. You promise me the money?”

“Mickey, if any other cop finds out, I’m gonna come find you and put you in County Lock Up,” Hutch said in a low, quiet menacing voice, his pointed finger making himself very clear. “It’s not like the drunk tank. You’ll get no help for the DT’s. You will stay at least a week until you see a judge giving your cell mates plenty of time to molly whop you into a willing june bug.” The snitch’s eyes widened with fear knowing exactly what those prison terms meant having taken up residence in one before. “Got it?”

“You can count on me, Hutch.”

“I’ll pray on it,” he mocked. When he handed the ten-dollar bill over to Mickey, he grabbed the snitch’s wrist, unable to move.

“Hey, you okay Hutch? Huh?”

“Yeah. I, ah…” He stared at the small tattoo on the side of his arm. “I never saw that prison ink before, Mick.” It suddenly felt like little people were tapping on the inside of his head with hammers.

“Yeah, sure. Stupid kid shit a long time ago.”

“The ink or the crime, Mickey?” Hutch didn’t wait for an answer and regretted the entire transaction by the time he got in the car, but it was all he had. He sat for a moment gripping the steering wheel piecing together the channels Mickey was most surely going to be going through to get the message to Starsky…. after ten dollars’ worth of cheap beer. Snickering to himself as he imagined Starsky scolding him for paying up front he looked to his left and saw a black and white sitting across the street. Before he could get a read on who the uniforms were sitting in the police car, it drove off.

Coincidence? Probably. This, being The Skids, warranted almost constant police presence just to keep the crime to a manageable lull, but Hutch didn’t know who to trust anymore. Fucking fire hydrants make me jump, he thought as he pulled away from the curb and headed home.

 

xXxXxXxXx

 

Starsky was taken aback when Bean-Pole Sherman, the Skid’s resident bookie, cornered him at the food truck in front of the steel mill and told him Hutch was looking for him. But when two more barely known snitches and Mickey told him the same thing, he knew there had to be some validity to it.

“He’s still in town, Mick? You sure it was him?”

“Yeah, see he wants to meet up with ya, Starsky.”

“I know, Mickey, but where and when? You didn’t tell the others where and when.”

The snitch put a hand to his head and tapped it with his dirty, unkempt fingernails. “Let’s see. What did he say? Hmmm.” With that he not so subtly offered his other hand, palm up, to Starsky.

“Uh-huh. You and I both know that Hutch gave you an ill-advised down payment. As foolish as that is, you ain’t gettin’ anything else from me. Now, spit it out.”

“Yeah, okay,” he said, his voice shaking and face reddening. “He said, um, meet him at noon. Yeah, that’s it.”

“All of it. Where, Mickey?”

“Where the cheese man took him down.”

“The who?” Starsky asked with pained effort. Hutch was so much better dealing with the snitches. “What are you talking about?” Starsky walked up to Mickey’s beer soaked breath. “This is no good.”

“I’m sorry Starsky. You made me nervous. I ain’t no good when I’m nervous. The name was cheese, that’s all I remember.”

“Cheese? Like cheddar, American, gouda, Colby, Swiss…”

“Colby, that’s it. Yeah. Where Colby took him down. Tomorrow at noon. Is that good, Starsky?”

xXxXx

He arrived at the busy plaza housing a variety of shops a half hour early and stood at the corner of the rear building where he could see the entire perimeter. Starsky scoped out his surroundings and made mental notes of anyone not on continuous move – anyone who could be looking for him. The scruffy looking man leaning against the telephone booth, finally picked up by a taxi cab. The two men looking under the hood of a car, finally closing it and going into a store. And a woman with a stroller sitting on a bench outside Malibu Footwear. She was there the longest not leaving until a series of cries prompted her to jiggle the stroller, then move on down the sidewalk. Nothing else struck him as odd or suspicious.

The mention of Colby secured the authenticity of Mickey’s message but he couldn’t figure out why Hutch wanted to meet in broad daylight in this place until just before noon when the parking lot started filling up with cars. It was lunch time and the restaurants in the plaza had a definite lunch clientele from area business. They’d hide in plain sight.

At 11:58 Hutch pulled in the parking lot. Starsky could see from his vantage point that the blonde was looking for him before driving around back – Starsky’s predictable location.

Hutch sat in the car after turning the engine off and stared at his partner leaning against the cement wall, hands behind him, left foot propped up flat against the structure. He didn’t know why he was there, except for maybe curiosity. Starsky never left the wall, never acknowledged Hutch’s presence, with the exception of his downcast eyes shifting upward momentarily at the sound of the creaky car door opening and closing.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

They both stood still, shoulders square, a measurable amount of personal space between them.

“Don’t look so good, Hutch.”

“Doesn’t look like you’ve hit the showers lately yourself.”

“You’re pale. Thin. Isn’t Mom feeding you?”

“Don’t start…”

“How’s PT and OT going?”

“Fine…”

“Really? Is that why your left hand is glued in your pocket?”

“Shut up.”

“Huh?” Starsky reached over and yanked the shirt sleeve hard enough for the half fisted, useless hand to tumble out of its blanket of security. “You give up on getting better? Or maybe life is just easier with Mommy and Daddy wiping your ass for you.”

“Fuck you, Starsky.”

“Yeah. No, I think we’re past that. When’s the Hutchinson station wagon leave for Minnesota? Gonna sleep in your old bed? Polish the old high school trophies… help Mom address invitations for Sunday brunch?”

“I didn’t come here for this.” Hutch didn’t know why, but he was just letting Starsky vent. He’d take it. It was temporary.

“No? You’ve already thrown me under the bus. And your dad… he’s a piece of work.”

“Leave him out of this.”

“Oh, he’s right in the middle of it.”

“He’s dying.”

“And going out in a blaze of glory.”

And… he was done taking it. Starsky caught the fist before Hutch could connect it with facial bones. In his weakened state, Hutch found himself on his ass.

Starsky squatted down in front of Hutch. “Why did you do it? Simonetti accused me of raping you – fucking arrested me - and you said nothing.”

“My parents were there…”

Rape, Hutch.”

“Mary was cleaning my trach. I couldn’t speak.”

“For the last three weeks? I see you got that hole buttoned up for good,” he said pointing to the bandage. “Talking fine. In all that time IA and the DA have been building a case against me and the medical evidence is rock solid. Doesn’t matter what I say. You see… the victim isn’t talking.”

“Th…that’s not true. No one c..c…came to see me. No one called.” His brain was working faster than his mouth. A couple deep breaths and he tried to slow down enough to get his thoughts out. “How was I to know…? I mean you… I never saw you. You never called. Not even a fucking card in the mail. How… I mean…”

Starsky sat back on his butt and held his knees close. “You’re kidding me, right?”

I called you, Starsky. The line was always busy or it just rang. I didn’t give up…”

Give up?”

“Yeah. Give up. What part of my broken body turns your stomach so much that you can’t stand to be near me? My floppy foot? Crippled hand? Squashed brain?”

“What the hell are…?”

“My brain may still be scrambled and I forget some things, but… but… I never forgot about what we have.”

“What we had was a secret,” Starsky announced as he took his place against the wall again. “Your secret, and clearly you are more than willing to sacrifice my freedom and our love for the sake of your bigoted, hateful parents.”

“Shouldn’t have come here,” Hutch mumbled as he stood and shoved his hand back in its pocket. “I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again, and I’m sorry I can’t magically fix that. But I will never not love you.”

Starsky was the first to walk away and he did so without even acknowledging Hutch’s declaration.

“Where you going?” Hutch asked.

“Don’t know,” he said looking over his shoulder at the patrol car slowly going through the parking lot, “but I can’t be here anymore.”

 

xXxXx

Hutch spent the next twenty-four hours on his sofa staring at the walls and ceiling. He used to love his apartment. He and Starsky had made so many wonderful memories there even long before they became lovers. They had healed there, laughed there… cried, talked, partied, celebrated… and loved. From their first kiss at the door to the entire night of exploring each other’s bodies for the first time in the bedroom, Hutch felt that his life really began when the two met in the Academy and then finally partnered almost ten years ago.

Now? Starsky was gone. He’d never barge in the door again. No more incessant rambling about some frivolous subject festering within his partner to make him cringe. He could spend as much time in the shower without having to save hot water. Dirty dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor, leaving the bed unmade… all things he was now free to do without the wrath of Starsky to take him down. He was free. He was released.

He was alone.

Weren’t we together just….? The sun had been up for almost two hours when Hutch finally lifted himself off the sofa and walked to the kitchen to look at the calendar. He knew the day they were attacked: Thursday June 8th. The days had been marked off with a big red ‘X’ by his mother up until the previous Thursday when his parents stormed out. Hutch took the red marker from the kitchen junk drawer and finished marking off the days up to Tuesday July 25th. He stepped back and looked at the length of time that had passed and was stunned by the seven weeks of crimson laid out in front of him. He was disturbed by the missing time.

What the hell happened? His brain was catching up with him but the last almost 2 months was a blur of days mashed together.

The bracelets.

Hutch walked back into the living room and searched under, in and around the sofa where he remembered dropping the bracelets they had had engraved. But they weren’t there. He looked around the apartment on every shelf and drawer, under tables, behind furniture and even in trash cans to no avail. Finally, as he grabbed his car keys intent on trying to right a wrong, he saw a glint of gold on top of the piano.

There he found just his bracelet with the engraved ‘H’ on the top side draped over Ollie the Teddy Bear’s plush leg. But just that one. It was the last tangible object of love the two had touched together. He put it on his left wrist and snapped the clasp shut before leaving and heading to the precinct.

From the moment he walked in the building he felt out of place. It was only the second time he’d been there since the attacks. His trach had been removed and the only reminder was a small bandage at the base of his throat covering the sutures. The officers and staff workers looked at him, smiled and nodded but the novelty of his appearance had apparently worn off, thankfully.

The elevator doors opened and he stepped in taking a spot in the middle between two uniformed officers. As the door closed the light above him started flickering. It was just a light, he knew it, but the enclosed space and the super close proximity to others made him feel crowded, watched and very vulnerable. When the doors opened just one floor up, Hutch bolted from the confines and headed for the stairwell where he leaned against the wall, heavy breath shaking and head pounding with fear. What the hell?

His left hand was securely in his pants pocket, his bent elbow shaking and knocking against the glass cover of the firehose box in back of him.

In case of Emergency Break Glass, it said.

A few deep breaths, sweat wiped from his brow and shirt tucked in to look put together and he pushed himself away from the wall to continue up the stairs to the third floor.

Dobey’s office was at the end of the hall. All he had to do was get there. He’d done it thousands of times. Walking by the evidence room he turned his head to the left hoping to see a familiar face behind the counter. But it wasn’t Roger.

Almost there.

When staffers walked towards him and glared at the bandaged neck he avoided having to talk to them by pretending to look to his right. The aversion served to only draw his attention to the Internal Affairs department.

The nameplate on the door read, Captain E. Schrader.

Time to pick up the pace. Time, but he wasn’t quick enough.

“Hutchinson,” the voice announced, “aren’t you still on medical leave?”

“I’m sure you know I am, Simonetti.” The two stood in the middle of the hall. The small talk was painfully forced. “Where’s your minder? He let you take a shit on your own these days?”

“Schrader’s out in the field. I don’t think we need to trade insults, do we?”

“Seems to be your currency.”

Just when it looked as though the verbal brawl was going to explode, a calmer voice prevailed.

“You dirty boys in need of another pie, Hutch?” Minnie Kaplan was a beautiful sight even in her dowdy lady’s police uniform. “Haven’t made you two one of my famous pies since… when was that?”

“Um…,” Hutch closed his eyes to think back. “Ah… I think the day that we were attacked.”

“That’s right. I forgot about that, baby,” she said lovingly, a hand patting his back. “I was worried about you two bad boys having a fight so I took one over to Starsky’s place that morning. Did you ever have it?”

“Um, no. He… he went over to…”

Standing at the evidence room, backs to the counter staring at Hutch were two uniformed officers he’d seen before. With the hot days of summer, they were in short sleeves. One of them had a series of tattoos on his forearm. Babcock came out of the Homicide squad room to greet Hutch and when he reached out to give a welcome pat to his colleague, Hutch’s eyes went right to an old tattoo on Babcock’s wrist triggering a sharp pain to stab him from the front to the back of his head.

Tattoos, IA, uniforms, the evidence room, closed dark spaces, pie….

His freed right hand went to his head as Hutch fell to his knees groaning in pain.

“Nooooo,” he spit from his gritted teeth. He felt like he couldn’t catch his breath, saliva stringing down to the floor. He pulled his left hand from its confines and put it out to unsuccessfully catch his body before it slammed to the floor. Images of that night after he opened the door flashed in his head like a slide show on speed. Tattooed arms holding him. Booted feet plowing into him, fists pummeling his head. He covered his exposed ear as he laid on the floor of the hallway in a fetal position protecting himself as best he could... from memories.

The well-meaning hands of Babcock, Minnie and even Simonetti only exacerbated his panic as Hutch wrapped his head in his arms and tried to force the pictures and painful memories out. Voices were muffled and when he opened his eyes he saw only flashes of light.

Hutchinson…

“Get… get… them off… of me,” he managed.

Should we call an ambulance?”

S…s…stop!”

No. Not yet.”

“Starsky? Starsky? Help, please.”

Hutchinson?”

“Oh God… please make it stop,” he begged.

“Son, let’s get you into my office.” Dobey’s voice was the only one he heard clearly. It was calm and welcoming. But it wasn’t who he wanted. “Everyone get back to work. Babcock, help me out.”

xXx

He was sitting in a chair with his head on his arms folded atop Dobey’s desk when conscious thought returned. The noise was gone, the horrid memories of the attack muted, and the burning pain in his head was down to a low simmer.

“Created quite a scene, didn’t I?” he shamefully asked his Captain, unable to look at him yet.

“Don’t worry about it. You’ve been through a lot, Hutch. I think everybody understands.” Dobey put a glass of water and two aspirin in front of him. “Take these. If you want something stronger, Carol is getting Doc Bradshaw. I’m sure he can give you something if you need it.”

The nosey, bespectacled department shrink. “Oh boy,” he said not so quietly.

Dobey dragged his larger office chair from around his desk and sat next to his wary detective, hand on shoulder. “Hutch, I’ve seen this before from cops that were in the war, Korea and Viet Nam. They call it a flashback and it’s terrifying.”

“Yeah. Okay.” Hutch finally relaxed and slouched down in his chair, his left hand cradled in his lap. “I just came here to get something off my chest and then… and then…”

“And then what, Hutch?”

“I just… I don’t think I’ll ever be able to…” He looked around the room and then back down to his lap unable to look Dobey in the eye. This precinct… this job had been his home for so long. “There’s nothing left to heal, Cap. I’m never going…”

“Hal, you have an emergency?” The short man with horn rimmed glasses, bow tie and perpetual sweat on his upper lip was shown into the office by Carol, the secretary.

“Yes, Doc. Take my seat.” Dobey stood and relinquished his chair to the doctor who, Hutch felt, sat way too close for his comfort. “Carol, please ask Detective Simonetti to join us with his case file. He’ll know which one. Thank you.”

“Cap, no. Not him.”

“Hutch, I’m not a shrink… pardon me, Doc… but that flashback you just had, as painful as it was, means you’re capable of remembering that night. Right Doc?”

“It’s certainly a possibility.”

Hutch tried to convey his discomfort to Dobey without saying anything, but unlike with Starsky, Dobey either didn’t get it, or looked past it.

“I want Dr. Bradshaw to see if he can draw out some of those memories. There are two objectives here: Find out who did this to you, and clear Starsky. Okay?”

The mention of clearing Starsky was the only reason he no longer objected. He wanted to do what he should have done weeks ago but couldn’t think through the fog of recovering and dealing with his parents. He would do this, talk to Dobey, and then walk out of the precinct for the last time.

Dobey stepped away from the two other men and took up a spot against the back wall with Simonetti who had quietly stepped in. Before the shrink could even begin, Hutch looked around nervously. “It’s okay, Hutch,” Dobey reassured him, “I’m just going to stay out of the way, but I won’t leave.”

“Alright, Detective,” Bradshaw started, “we’ve talked to each other before. We can skip the formalities, right?” His weasel chuckle grated on Hutch’s nerves. “I am very aware of the circumstances of the case. I actually visited with both you and Detective Starsky when you were first hospitalized but neither one of you were conscious at the time.” Hutch shifted nervously in the chair at the mention of the time when he was closer to death than life. “As painful as this may be, I need you to think about what made you have that flashback. What brought it on?”

“I, ah… I don’t know exactly.”

“It’s usually not just one thing. Use your senses. Was it something you saw, smelled, felt, heard…?”

“Okay. Well, the elevator made me feel… I don’t know. Too close to those uniforms in there. Too crowded.”

“And…?” the shrink prompted.

“Then Minnie mentioned the pie, I saw tattoos…”

“What pie? Close your eyes and take yourself back to that night. What do you see?”

He had mulled over the events of the night almost every day in the last few weeks. Hutch fiddled with the gold bracelet on his left wrist as he remembered that last night of intimacy. He’d keep that to himself. The shrink didn’t need to know that. And Simonetti definitely didn’t deserve to know.

“Can’t live without you, Blintze. You’re everything to me. Everything.”

Starsky kissed him repeatedly on his neck, forehead, his chest, cheek, nose and then back to his lips hungrily dipping his tongue into Hutch’s mouth and nibbling on the lower lip while stroking and petting the heavy cock trying to return to its normal state.

“Babe,” Hutch said between nibbles, “hey, slow down. Ahhhh…. Sensitive,” he giggled as Starsky’s hand stroked around the head and glans. It was Starsky’s ‘thing’ after love making to caress, hold and coddle that which had given so much pleasure.

“Sorry. Habit.”

Before he could let go, Hutch put his hand on top of Starsky’s. “Don’t stop. Just let the soldier’s head settle down a bit before you touch it again. You’re something,” he glowed. “I love you so much.”

“I understand Starsky was at your place that night. He was there for quite some time.”

“Hmmm? Oh, yes.”

“What were you doing in that time before he left?”

“Socializing. It’s… personal.”

An audible sigh came from the back of the room. Simonetti.

“Hutch, think about the time just before Starsky left. You said you were socializing. What exactly were you talking about?”

“Starsk, is that your stomach growling?”

“Probably.”

Starsky was half laying on top of his partner, his arm draped across and holding tightly to Hutch’s chest, leg up and over hooked around his hips.

“There it goes again,” Hutch added. “I felt that one. I’m surprised that shit you ate for lunch yesterday has actually digested.”

“Oh man, everything about that lunch was great. Except the mustard. I ask you, what the hell is wrong with plain old American yellow mustard? Ya know, brown mustard, German mustard, honey mustard… they ain’t mustard. Hey...” Starsky leaned up on an elbow and put his hand on Hutch’s abdomen, “that was your stomach this time.”

“Yeah. I’m starving.”

Starsky gave him a sly half grin. “Pie.”

“What?”

“Pie. Minnie came over to my place this morning. She was worried about us fighting. Made us a pie.”

“Really? One of her famous pies? What kind?”

“Strawberry rhubarb.”

“Where is it?” Hutch pulled back a little and looked at Starsky’s face. “You ate it, didn’t you?”

“No, I didn’t eat it,” he answered in mock defensiveness. “It’s in my car. I left it in my car.”

“I want pie,” Hutch teased with eyebrows waggling. “I’d do anything for pie right now.”

“It’s after ten o’clock, we’re naked, and you want me to go get a pie from my car?”

“I’d do anything,” Hutch grinned with an evil tease.

“Hutch,” Bradshaw asked reaching out to gently tap Hutch’s elbow, “are you okay? Do you want to go on?”

“Yeah. I’m okay. Just remembering.”

“What were you two talking about?”

“Um… food. I believe we were talking about food.” He smiled to himself as he remembered Starsky making an audible list of illicit sex acts he’d fantasized about as he scrambled out of bed.

“…like in a handstand with your legs hooked over my shoulders.”

“No way you could hold my weight, dummy.”

“And on my car, outside, up in the mountains.”

“Mosquitoes and bats. You’d go limp before I got my pants off.”

“Where are my pants? Can’t find ‘em.”

“The faster you get the pie, the faster we can get in the shower and play soap on a rope.”

Hutch had turned over on his stomach and hugged two pillows when a thud and series of curse words came in from the darkened living room.

“Shit, fuck. Huuuutch. Why can’t you put your damn tennis racket away?”

“Soap on a rope, buddy. Time is ticking,” Hutch joked as he yawned and closed his eyes. “Tick and tock.”

“Where the hell are my shoes? Never mind…”

“And why did he leave?”

“Huh? Oh, he went to get a pie from his car.”

“What pie?”

“Minnie Kaplan made a pie for us,” he said trying to sound less flat than he really did. “Took it to him that morning. Starsky had forgotten to bring it in when he first got there.”

“And what were you doing while he was gone?”

“Fell asleep.”

“How long was he gone before the attack?”

The questions were coming one after another, Bradshaw pulling on the memories he could see dancing in Hutch’s head.

“I don’t know. I was sleeping pretty deeply when I heard someone knocking at the door.”

“It wasn’t Starsky?”

“No, of course not. He would have just walked in. Or he would have used the key I keep up on top of the door frame.”

“Who was at the door?”

“I thought it might be the old lady who lives next door. She forgets her keys. I went over to the piano and grabbed the spare before I opened…” Hutch’s eyes tracked back and forth in mid sentence.

“What is it?”

“There was a clock on the piano. I think he’d been gone an hour. The clock on the piano when I grabbed the key said it was almost 11:30. Cap, he was gone a whole hour?” Panic was rising in the blonde as he stood and walked over to the window. When he got there his right hand reached up and grabbed at nothing. “Oh my god.”

“Hutch?” Dobey and Simonetti closed in on him as he seemed to remember something important. “Son, what is it?”

“Starsky’s keys. They were on top of the piano. Cap, he’d forgotten his keys. An… an hour! Whoever did this probably attacked him first, then came for me.”

“Who was at the door,” Bradshaw asked in a quiet, deliberate tone. “Close your eyes and think about who came in the door.”

“The lights were out. I know it was more than one. I saw pictures… um, tattoos? I got slammed before I could even make out who it was. Wasn’t on my feet for long and then tied, or…” Hutch’s hands started shaking, his breathing became labored. “I tried. I tried to fight them. But my right arm…” He winced and brought his arm into his chest as though protecting it. “…and then they tied my left arm to the bed. It happened so fast and then I guess I blacked out.”

“Who was first on the scene?” the shrink asked turning to the other detectives.

Dobey clasped his hands behind his back as he stood at his desk and detailed the crime scene with long practiced detached emotion. “Me. After I left Starsky with the rescue personnel, I went to Detective Hutchinson’s apartment. There was no answer at the door, which was unlocked. No forced entry. I walked in and turned the light on. Nothing was out of place in the living room, but starting at the bedroom doorway there was a trail of blood that lead to Hutch. He was laying on his left side, his left wrist tied to the leg of the bed with a necktie. He wasn’t at all responsive to me. Barely a pulse. Lots of gurgling so I cleared his mouth of blood and vomit before calling it in.”

The occupants of the room all looked off in different directions as Dobey listed the uncomfortable and disturbing details of the crime scene and injuries.

“Paramedics came and started IVs. Bandaged lacerations. Splinted his arm. Lots of blood and vomit from his mouth so they put in the breathing tube. Barely recognized his face.”

“What was he wearing,” Simonetti asked.

“Um… just pants. No shirt, shoes or socks.”

“Just like Starsky.”

Dobey rubbed the annoyance from his forehead. “It was hotter than hell that night.”

Simonetti flipped through the file. “And no underwear on either.”

Hutch isn’t on trial here,” the Captain gave Simonetti, his eyes telegraphing exact meaning.

“Okay. You’re right.” Although he closed the file he continued to take notes on loose leaf paper.

When Hutch took a couple of deep, shuddering breaths, Dobey immediately noticed his pale complexion. “Hutch?”

“Yeah. Just feel kind of sick. I’m okay.”

 “I think we’re done here for now.” Dobey walked over to the hall door and opened it. Simonetti, Doc, I’d like some time alone with my detective.

It was just the two of them in the office now. The awkward silence was as thick as strained peas.

“Hutch. I had a long talk with Starsky the other day,” Dobey said barely getting a reaction from his detective. “He told me about you. About you two.” He waited, but got nothing. “Your relationship.”

Hutch drew in a contemplative breath and shakily let it out as he realized what was about to be brought up.

“How about you tell me,” Dobey continued. “What is it you can tell me that would clear him of some of these charges. Can you confirm what Starsky told me?”

“Starsky and I are… we had a…” He swallowed hard against the slight rise of nervous bile. “We were lovers.”

“And the evidence?”

“The sex happened. The evidence was right, but he didn’t rape me,” he said looking down and away, not wanting to be ashamed, but ashamed nonetheless, not of the sex, but that he had held onto that information for so long and put Starsky in a position of probably being sent to jail.

“Okay. That’s what he said. You need to repeat that to IA so charges can be dropped.”

Hutch nodded.

“You said ‘were’. Aren’t the two of you…?”

Hutch wandered the office tossing around the concept of this part of his life being opened up to Dobey. He’d never even practiced it in his head. Hell, he’d never even talked about sex with his parents. Jack Mitchell told him how babies were made when they were twelve.

Finally, he sat back in the chair he’d started out in. “He doesn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore. I deserve it for not defending him right off. Cap, how could I have ever not defended him?”

“Hutch, I don’t think you realize how seriously injured you were. Your brain was damaged. You almost died. And when you did wake up your brain was weeks behind.”

“I think it’s just catching up.”

“And, I’m sorry, but Hutch, your parents controlled every second of your life the minute Starsky was taken in. They wouldn’t let anyone visit. Wouldn’t even let us talk to you on the phone.”

“Cap, nobody came over. No one called.”

“Of course we did. Me, Edith, Huggy, Babcock, Simmons, Roger, Minnie, even Simonetti and Schrader. Maybe that part was to your benefit, but we all tried. There was no getting by your father.”

Hutch shook his head finally putting the pieces of the puzzle together. “I didn’t know. Cap, I didn’t know. I thought Starsky gave up on me. Oh God, I accused him of not caring anymore. I thought he abandoned me,” he sulked as he put his head down in disgrace.

Dobey again pulled his chair close to Hutch and put a fatherly hand on his arm knowing that this part of the conversation was going to hit hard. “Ken, did you know that your parents took a restraining order out on him?”

“What? NO.”

“He was being watched from stem to stern. If he had violated that order he’d have gone to jail, and you know how that would have turned out. It’s not that he didn’t want to see you. He couldn’t.”

“I wouldn’t have wanted that, Cap. Never. Why? Why would they do that?”

Dobey shrugged. “Misplaced love. I don’t know. But the other day when Starsky was in here your father came by and threatened to revoke his bail. And he almost did. Luckily I talked him out of it after Starsky left.”

“When was that?”

“Last Thursday.”

Hutch bolted up from the chair and paced the office. “That’s the day my dad found out about our relationship. He was beyond angry. They left and I haven’t heard from them since.”

“I’m sorry about that, Hutch. I’m sorry about this whole damn thing. But I have to be honest… I don’t know what to think about you two. This is so new…”

“I don’t either. I’ve never loved anyone like this or been loved like this before…” Hutch stopped thinking out loud when he saw the awkward look on Dobey’s face. “Doesn’t matter. You won’t have to deal with it professionally. I’ll never requalify, clearly. And Starsky’s reputation here is down the shitter. And… he doesn’t want to be around me anyway.”

“How do you know that?”

“I saw him yesterday. It wasn’t pretty. Last thing he said was that he can’t be here anymore.”

“Not because of you,” Dobey corrected him. “He doesn’t know that his bail wasn’t revoked.”

The virtual light bulb went on over Hutch’s head. “He thinks he’s a fugitive? Oh my God. He’s out there thinking he needs to run from the law… oh fuck and hide from me. Cap, if I’m still being watched – and I am – then what’s Starsky dealing with?”

Hutch raced to the door but was met by Dobey before he could get out.

“Hutch, you’re still on the force. As far as I’m concerned you are still one of my men.” Their eyes met and some of the Dobey gumption transferred to Hutch. “Get out there and find your partner. We’ve got work to do.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Seventeen

 

Pretzel rods.

Five cents each at Junior’s Corner Store. “A quarter gets you six,” Starsky guffawed as he sat in his car and sucked the salt off the last rod before taking a bite. Junior was a non-entity. The store was actually owned by Belle Delfey, a middle aged, Louisiana bred former madam, current perpetually horny middle aged ding bat. What Miss Belle lacked in common sense and tact, she made up for in cunning street smarts and wile.

She was handing out apples and day old bread to a few of the local homeless men when he’d met up with her at the back door a few steps from his parked car earlier after making his ‘dinner’ purchase.

xXx

“You’re a fine specimen, Detective Starsky,” she said with satin smooth delivery as Starsky started in on his dinner. “I wouldn’t mind licking your rod some time.” After shooing away the loiterers, she swept the relentless dirt away from her back door with great purpose and wide grin on her face.

“I’m sure you wouldn’t. And I will take that as a compliment.”

Belle Delfey, aka Ma Belle, was a small, portly lady. At first glance she looked like a standard, hard working mother or grandmother. She wore a man’s oversized polo shirt over stretch knit pants highlighting her proud rolls, an apron to her knees and sensible shoes. Not your everyday retired whorehouse madam. “Why don’t you tell me what’s got you hanging around my fine establishment these last few days. Somethin’ tells me you be hidin’.”

“Ah, Miss Belle, my fine, fine chocolate lady, as usual you can read me like the label of a cheap near-beer from two shacks away.”

“Mmm hmm. Spill it.”

“First, I’m going to remind you that you have more outstanding traffic citations and arrests for marijuana possession than hash marks on your headboard.”

“Ooh, I love your metaphors, Sargent.”

“I bet you do.” She never failed to pull a smile out of him. “I need your help, Ma. This is serious. Can you be serious?”

“Whatchoo need, baby doll?” Belle propped her broom against the building and crossed her arms in front of her. She was a sketchy character, but also a shrewd business woman. Above all, she was loyal. Starsky and Hutch knew who to trust on the streets better than in their own police department.

“I’m being set up by other cops. Dirty cops. It’s bad… maybe dangerous. Can I count on you to look the other way when I’m around?”

“Well, sweet child, I ain’t never looking the other way when you waggle your sexy fanny in my direction, but I promise to not tell no one you been here. And you can come in my back door whenever you need to.” They both smiled at that one. “I mean that… serious, baby.”

Starsky reached out and cupped her cheek with his hand. “You are a queen.”

“Don’t I know it.” She put a hand on his arm, her touch barely there. “Mr. David, you always done me right and I remember that. Now, what about that fine partner of yours? He a cowboy or Indian?”

Starsky drew his hand back and plunged it in his pocket casting his eyes down. “He won’t be around, Belle.”

xXx

The rat trap of a car he was driving had one good feature: the soft, clean back seat. It had been his bed for five nights. Unlike Hutch’s, the springs actually remained where they were designed. His kidneys were safe.

It wasn’t even dark yet. He had time to roam and make himself invisible. During daylight he was safer disappearing into crowds. Once darkness fell, he went into hiding. He’d changed cars once. Tomorrow he’d change again. And when he could find a way to get some cash wired from his mother, he’d take off and disappear for good. Maybe the remote mountains of Utah, a border town in Texas, or the fucking nothing of North Dakota.

For now, he would find an inconspicuous parking lot where he could fall into the backseat and get some sleep. Maybe at the all night movie theater, or the Blacksburg Boat yard where the lack of security guards played in his favor during third shift.

Starsky circled the city, cruised the main drags and steered clear of well-known cop spots all while checking his rear view mirror for a tail and taking several deliberate right turns when a vehicle shadowed him long enough for the hairs to stand up on his arms. He was hungry, filthy, exhausted.

Spent.

On the third circle around his apartment on Ridgeway he broke his own rule and parked a few houses away, donned his LA Rams sweatshirt with the hood pulled up and walked to his place, head down and hands in pockets. He walked right past it to see if anyone was watching, but the curve on the street at the dip gave his apartment a remote feeling. There were very few places for people to watch the building without being noticed.

Secure in the feeling that he was alone Starsky bound up the steps and quickly entered. He couldn’t stay the night. He knew that. As a fugitive bail jumper he’d be on the radar of, not just the cops, but bail bondsmen looking for reward. There were few boundaries for them and they were sure to cover his home through the night.

He walked the perimeter of each room careful not to move any curtains or turn lights on. At first glance, everything was as he’d left it including the dirty coffee mug in the sink and half dozen eggs left on the counter in his rush to leave. Tossing them in the garbage, he tied the trash bag and left it out on the back porch. Even his pet peeve of leaving the garbage to rot took precedence. Blindly reaching under the sink in the dark to get a new can liner his hand touched a bottle of Jack Daniels long thought lost.

“Huh,” he chuckled, “Kumbaya and l’chaim.” Grabbing a glass from the dish rack, Starsky clanked it next to the bottle in one hand and took them into the bedroom along with a duffel bag from the closet.

Using just the scant glow of the moon and street light through the windows, he opened drawers and took out clothes throwing them next to the bag on the bed. Shirts, jeans, underwear, socks. He took his leather coat from the back of a chair and put that out as well. The summer months were hot, but depending on where he’d go, Starsky would eventually need the jacket. Two good shots of Jack and the night was looking less lonely. The burn as the liquid made its way down his throat was the first pain he allowed himself to feel in days.

He’d give himself one last act of comfort and take a shower. Making sure the door was locked and blinds drawn, Starsky walked in the bathroom and quickly shed his clothes, kicking them into the corner as the rank smell made itself known. The weathered face in the mirror looked years older than it was. Beaten down in spirit he chose to look away while getting a few personal items out of the medicine cabinet to take with him. The jangle on his wrist stopped him mid-air. He stared at the ID bracelet until the steam from the shower curled over the curtain rod and invited him in. The bracelet came off and found a home on the back of the sink.

Finally, he jumped in the shower. He scrubbed, brushed his teeth and shaved all without stepping out of the tub. Time was of the essence and his heart pounding inside his chest made him move that much quicker. While he put on a somewhat clean pair of jeans and semi clean shirt - he smelled them first – Starsky mentally made a list of things he needed to do before getting out of town.

He started with another shot of Jack.

He finished with his back-up gun.

He just had to find it first. He never had an opportunity to turn it in to Dobey. In fact, hadn’t one of those IA assholes mentioned something about him having his back-up piece when he was found?

“If I had my gun on me,” he asked out loud in the bedroom, “and I know I didn’t, how is it some thugs beat the shit out of me?” If it had been in his night stand, the weight of it when he opened it would have shifted all the items in there. Instead the drawer was super light. His neatly placed items – hand cream, lube, address book and pen – were oddly shoved in the back. He left his bag unpacked and headed into the kitchen. When he opened the top cupboard to look behind in the far corner, the salad bowl he always kept in the middle was off to the side.

“Someone was here.”

A look in his closet and he saw that his hanging clothes had been pushed all the way to the left. A tie was on the floor and the pillow usually on the top shelf sat on the lower shelf.

Who?”

Finally, he made his way through the kitchen to the entry way. The flood light outside illuminated the little area making him squint, but at least he could see. Between the inner door and back door he worked the rusty knob of an electrical box mounted on the wall. What looked like it held fuses for the property was actually a dummy box where he kept spare keys, passport and, yes, there is was… his back up gun.

As he crept back into the kitchen a noise in the front room caught his attention. Walking out through the back door was not an option. Not only was it hard to open, but it squeaked like two cats in heat. Instead of putting the gun in the back of his waistband, Starsky checked to see that it was loaded and gripped it purposefully with the barrel pointed down. He’d have to sneak up on whoever was there and take them by surprise. He just hoped it wasn’t more than one.

After standing in the bright light at the back door for so long, the apartment seemed darker than before. Starsky felt blinded, but he knew the layout better than any intruder or would-be burglar. He kept his back against the wall peeking around corners as he advanced. He needed the element of surprise.

The footsteps stopped as he got to the doorway between the living room and kitchen. Before he could look around the doorframe, a sizable hand reached in and grabbed his shirt and him with it. He was thrown to the floor, hard, the gun sliding across the slick hardwood into oblivion. He squeezed his eyes open and shut a few times desperate to adjust to the darkened room as he threw his fists up connecting at least once. A forearm came down on his neck and whoever it belonged to quickly lost balance giving Starsky the chance to roll him over and get on top. It was then that the sliver of light coming through the window pane caught the golden locks of hair. “What the fuck?”

A hand came up and touched Starsky’s face then raked through his semi damp hair.

“Starsk?”

“Oh my God, Hutch… your head. What the fuck are you doing here? Your head injury…”

Hutch fought the desire to pull Starsky into an earth shattering embrace and, instead, pushed himself out from underneath and scooted over to sit with his back against the sofa.

“Head’s okay. Didn’t know you w..w..were here.” He pulled his left hand into his lap as he struggled to stay upright and catch his breath. “I.. i.. it was dark. Didn’t look like anyone… was home.”

“That was kind of the point. You’re stuttering. Is that a thing now?”

“Don’t.” Hutch pulled at his left elbow to keep the hand in his lap away from Starsky’s sour bite.

Both men sat in their spots regaining their breath while coming down from the adrenalin rush.

“Answer the question, Hutch. What are you doing here?”

“Been looking for you.”

“Yeah, you and half the city. You win,” Starsky said while rubbing his face of the sweat. “And now you can leave.”

Hutch stood and walked towards the door catching his weaker left foot on the small area rug in the entry. He used the slight stumble to look over his shoulder at Starsky who was clearly looking in another direction neither welcoming or celebrating his presence. He wasn’t going to wait for another insult, deserved or not.

“Here,” he said taking a key out of his pocket and throwing it towards Starsky. “You’ll be needing this for your new partner.” He let the door swing shut on its own as he left.

“Shit.” Starsky pounded his fist on the floor then got to his feet to look around for the missing gun. “Batting a thousand and striking out. All over.” He was on his hands and knees reaching under the sofa for the solid shine of the gun barrel when the ceiling light went on over his head.

“Easier when you can see, dummy.”

“Jesus, Hutch. What the hell are you doing?” Starsky stood and raced to the front door throwing the light switch off in record time. “Why don’t you just sound an alarm? Shout out – he’s over here.”

“Starsk…”

Hands to chest, Starsky shoved his partner back into the closed door, shoulders connecting solidly with the wood. “Fuck you.”

“Starsky…”

Fuck you.”

“I know…”

“You don’t know nothing. Nothing.” His finger was inches from Hutch’s face, blue eyes connecting to blue with razor sharp seriousness. “So, get out.”

Hutch took a deep breath and for a moment – just a moment – he considered turning and walking out of Starsky’s life forever. For good. Right then.

For a moment.

He rubbed the worry line between his eyes willing himself to choose the right words before Starsky exploded again. “Before I leave here, and you, forever…. Hear me out.”

The pointed finger retracted and Starsky took an involuntary step back at the finality of Hutch’s words. His eyes disconnected from the blonde’s as emotional gravity spun him around in a sidestep from reality.

“You’re not yelling,” Hutch said in the same quiet voice he had worn since coming home from the hospital, “or trying to beat my face. Thank you for that. I guess.” He looked up to gauge Starsky’s reaction but found only the back of his head. “Dobey sent me.”

“You told him? About us?”

“No. He knew. He told me you spoke to him. I didn’t have to tell him.”

“You told your folks?”

He didn’t want to go there. Wasn’t ready. But… “No. They figured it out themselves. They’re gone.”

Starsky snorted as his fists collected his anger and firmed up. “You tell IA and clear me?”

“Not...”

“Nothing’s changed,” he said turning back to Hutch with arms in the air. “Nothing. Has. Changed.”

“Starsky…”

“You choose your secret over me. You choose your parents who have done nothing but hurt you your whole life over me. You choose your job over me. You CHOOSE all of that over me, my freedom, my… love…” His voice cracked as one lone silver tear streaked down his cheek. “No more. No more.”

Starsky opened the front door wide leaving it as an invitation for exit, and walked away into the bedroom. He was defeated. In his eyes and his heart there was no further he could go backwards. “How much worse can it get?” he thought as he sat on the bed. It couldn’t get worse. He was ready to leave now that he admitted out loud what and who got him to this point.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do to make it right, Starsk.”

“I told you to leave, Hutch. Not follow me into the bedroom.” Starsky caught sight of Hutch wiping blood from his nose. “Must have clocked ya. Nose is bleeding.”

Hutch went in the bathroom and reached for a washcloth avoiding the mirror as he had been for weeks. He couldn’t even bare to look at himself. The nose wasn’t bleeding too bad. “He’s lost his touch”, he thought putting the washcloth down on the sink. There, laying behind the cold water faucet, was the matching gold ID bracelet. He looked at it and lightly ran his finger over the engraved S’ and then his own on his left wrist with the engraved H’. Starsky had been in his apartment. Obviously. He didn’t know why he did it, but in that moment Hutch felt entitled and pocketed it.

When he came out of the bathroom he saw Starsky lying back on the bed, one arm over his eyes, the other crucified to the side too tired and spent to fight any longer.

“Listen, I’ll never be a cop again,” Hutch said matter-of-factly, sitting on the bed away from Starsky on the opposite side of the pile of clothes. “I lost my family. Don’t have any friends left.” He was talking more to his hands now than Starsky. “Lost you,” he whispered. “Before I leave Bay City I want to make things right. I’ll do whatever it takes to clear your name.”

“Kind of late to the circus, Hutch, don’t you think?” The ceiling was fast becoming a good friend. “The clown car’s already left.”

“Hope not.” Hutch sat forward, elbows on knees, and looked down at the floor between his feet. They couldn’t have been further apart while sitting a foot away from each other. “Starsky, my head has been all mixed up for almost two months now. Two months. It’s like my brain is one marble in a jar of thousands being shaken up and just this week things are coming together.”

Hutch looked over at his partner and saw no movement.

“My parents… whatever their motive was, I don’t know… but Dobey told me they kept everyone away from me. No visitors. No phone calls. I didn’t want to go to therapy and they didn’t force me. My mom was doing everything she could to take care of me and my dad. It’s all a blur to me. One day just morphed into another and suddenly three weeks at home flew by. I didn’t know anything was going on with the case. Figured it was just dropped.” He closed his eyes as he rubbed an invisible spot on the back of his hand and exhaled a shaky breath. “Know what I found after my folks left?”

Still no movement from the ceiling-staring-Starsky.

“Found a notebook by the bed. She’d been keeping track of my dad’s favorite sleeping positions so that when he’s no longer able to talk she can make sure he’s comfortable when he dies.” Hutch huffed a sob away. “That is so fucked up.”

Hutch looked over his shoulder again. He couldn’t tell if Starsky was even listening. Didn’t matter. He hadn’t had anyone to talk to for so long that it almost felt comfortable sharing his most personal thoughts with the walls.

“I had no idea… Starsk, I had no idea that they took a restraining order out against you. I thought you were just done with me. Gone.”

“What was it?” Starsky asked.

“What?”

“His favorite sleeping position.”

“On his right side. Right arm under the pillow,” he said very softly, eyes closed in thought. “Just like you…” Even quieter.

They remained in their solitary positions as the quiet ticked precious moments away.

“So, Dobey sent me,” Hutch finally repeated. “Just so you know, my father didn’t revoke your bail. You don’t need to be running or hiding. Dobey talked him out of it.”

“But not you.”

“I didn’t even know, Starsky. I can’t stop what I don’t know.”

“But you knew I didn’t rape you.”

Hutch continued to sit on the bed leaning into his propped elbows. He knew Starsky was right. What more could he say? He’d sit there and take it. He knew he deserved it.

The bed creaked as Starsky pulled himself up and out of the bed. “You just gonna sit there? Say nothing?”

“I can leave,” he said, still looking down at the floor. “I’ll leave.” He stood and walked out of the bedroom catching his left foot on the damn area rug again.

Starsky stood between the door and Hutch, this time not letting him leave. “What is it with you? You… you never raise your voice anymore. Your family abandons you. Everything we had is gone. Our brother cops are setting us up,” he continued, his voice getting louder and louder. “You’re almost beat to death, Hutch… beat to DEATH… and you act like it’s all just another day at the laundromat.”

Hutch turned his head away from his partner as the litany of obvious continued, yet Starsky followed it, moving from side to side to keep his face directly pinned to Hutch’s.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Hutch. Why aren’t you angry? Huh? The Hutch I know would have flipped the switch a long time ago. Heads would be rolling by now.” Starsky’s eyes were wide with frustration as he slammed the palm of his hand on the wall next to Hutch’s ear. The blonde barely flinched. “WHY? Why aren’t you angry?

“I think you’re plenty angry for both of us.” Hutch exhaled and averted his eyes yet again. “I’ll make an official statement tomorrow. Whatever I have to do. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

With that, he was gone leaving Starsky leaning against the wall he had just pounded, still in the dark.

Now what?

He took the opportunity to slam his hand against the wall a few more times until the burn on the heel and palm teetered on injury. He needed to feel again and the finality of his relationship with Hutch, emotionally and professionally, numbed him so much that lightning wouldn’t have been enough.

He chose to remain in the silent dark contemplating his future. Arraignment. Hearings. Jury selection. Trial. Sentencing. Prison. Appeals. Wash, rinse, repeat. The next time he’d see Hutch would be at trial. Hutch said he would make an official statement and tell the truth, but the case was beyond the truth. He was being railroaded into a crime he never committed and he was convinced that manipulation was being used somehow on Hutch’s end. Everything was being tied up with nice, neat string.

Turning the lights on he picked the gun up and took it into the bedroom. He’d pack it with everything else. Might need it wherever he ends up in Bumfuck, USA. Leaving was the best thing he could do. Without the bail revocation hanging over his head, he had time to drain his savings in the morning, gas up the Torino and disappear. Just disappear.

Starsky picked up the most faded pair of jeans. He’d had them since the academy. Hutch’s favorite. Tight on the ass and frayed in the package, he used to say. As he folded them, a piece of torn paper came out of the pocket.

me

2781

nger

ow

who

He closed his eyes and went back to the confrontation with IA in Dobey’s office. He’d been frisked. But he’d had a couple opportunities before that with the two uniforms who took him into custody for shenanigans to go on. Face down on the floor and against a wall or two. Where… where had the note come from?

He took his duffel bag down to the Torino and threw it in his trunk. The gun remained tucked into the back of his waistband under his shirt. He stood at the car, fingers tapping on the roof as he thought about the piece of paper, gun and what he didn’t know – what happened to him that night. The calm of the warm summer night on Ridgeway was interrupted by a patrol car that cruised by with headlights suspiciously off, followed by another dark, plain car, both driving very slowly but picking up speed when Starsky was obviously spotted out front.

BKL… he got the first digits on the plate.

Something clicked in his head. He wanted answers. He didn’t want to be stalked anymore. So Starsky did what came naturally to him. Leaving the recognizable Torino at home, he jumped in his borrowed rattle trap of a car and drove over to Venice Place. “BKL,” he said out loud to himself as he drove. “BKL… like buckle.”

He reached up over the doorframe for the spare key but stopped short remembering their strained relationship, so he knocked. And knocked again. It took three cycles of knocks before Hutch opened the door a crack, at first to see who it was, then a bit more.

“I told you I’d straighten things out with IA tomorrow,” he said, not yet opening the door. “I promise. Go home. Go to bed.”

Before he could close the door, Starsky stuck his foot, and then leg, in the opening. “Not yet, Hutch. Got some things to talk about.” Hutch didn’t resist when Starsky pushed his way in and closed the door behind him.

“Don’t know what more I can say,” Hutch said calmly. He was almost agonizingly and chronically remorseful. “I’ll tell the truth. About us. What w..w..we had,” he said with a frustrated sigh. “Shit.”

“Hutch, we can walk away from each other. Or run. I can go into hiding. You can start your life over someplace without your queer past to fuck things up.”

“Stop…”

“But don’t you see? That’s what they want. Whoever they are… we’ve been playing their game just like they planned.”

Hutch stared at his partner trying to get ahead of his thinking.

“Someone or some people are trying to keep us away from the precinct. Away from police work. Away from what we were investigating. This happened to us because we were getting too close, not because we had a… because we were lovers. We know the truth about us – our secret, and that was just frosting on their cake. That part of us just fell into their hands. But there’s a higher truth out there, Hutch. A higher truth about the case. About us. Don’t you want to know what that is?”

“Doesn’t matter anymore,” Hutch said with resigned apathy. “Pretty sure Dobey will keep our secret, but once I give my statement the whole precinct will know. You won’t be labeled a rapist anymore, but we’ll both be fags. Homos. Queers. A liability to the department. We can’t solve the case without being active on the force. You’d requalify physically, but IA will chase you off the force on morals charges. They’d do the same to me but I’ll never requalify anyway. Don’t you see? It doesn’t matter, Starsky.”

“It matters. It does matter, Hutch.”

“But we’ve got nothing. All the evidence, our notes, everything is out of our hands.”

Starsky pulled his gun from the back of his pants and put it on the back of the sofa where they were standing. “My back-up piece.”

“So?”

“So? Either IA or Dobey said I was waving it around when they found me. Now, how can my gun be locked up in evidence while it’s still at my place? Hmm? Hutch, someone searched my place. They didn’t find it. Can’t imagine they found anything.”

“So whose gun did you have?”

“Don’t know. I don’t remember. Maybe it was a throw down. But it wasn’t mine.” Starsky pulled the paper from his pocket. “And this. Somehow the day I was taken into custody this was put in my pocket. I remember someone telling me to call, I think. I don’t know. And then I was frisked a couple times.”

“Only half of it.” Hutch walked over to his desk and rummaged through a drawer of wadded up papers and bills, finally coming up with a folded piece of paper. “Before the attack I took down the license plate of a car that was making passes out front. BKL 736 or 786”

“I remember that. Listen, a car did a drive-by on my place just before I came over tonight. I caught the BKL. You never ran the plate?”

Hutch shook his head. “Just remembered I had it.” The gears were finally turning in Detective Hutchinson’s head. “Let me see that note.”

me

2781

nger

ow

who

“The left side is torn off,” Starsky noted looking over Hutch’s shoulder. “Looks like a partial phone number.”

Something me, then a number,” Hutch thought out loud. “Phone me? Call me?”

“Makes sense.”

“…nger… hunger, anger, danger…,” Hutch continued. “Danger, then I think know who, or I know who.”

Call me. Danger. I know who.” Starsky put together. “Somebody wanted me to know they had information. Maybe even knew the dirty cops.”

“Hold on,” Hutch said as he went back to the same drawer and reached back pulling out his worn notebook he used for phone numbers. He flipped through a few pages before finally stopping and putting his finger on a name. “555-2781” He picked up the phone and dialed.

“Hutch, who…?”

“Shhh. Hello, yes…. Hi Roger, it’s Ken Hutchinson. I know it’s late, I’m sorry. Hope I’m not disturbing Kitty and the family.”

“Roger, from evidence?” Starsky whispered.

Hutch nodded. “Listen, Starsky found a note in his pants pocket and we think…. What?... Then don’t say anything on the phone. I understand it’s not safe. Can you come over to my place?”

Starsky grabbed the phone from Hutch. “Hey Roger, it’s Starsky. Can you meet us tonight? Not here. Remember where I helped you tag all those stolen watermelons that one time? Don’t say it. Just wait for us there.… yeah, leaving now. No. No uniform. Can you run a California plate for us first? It’s gonna be BKL – 736 or 786. That’s right: Bravo Kilo Lima. Okay. On our way.”

Starsky put the gun back in his waistband and headed for the door completely missing the look of irritation on Hutch’s face. “I’m driving. Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?” Hutch asked curtly while holding onto the Jesus-bar over the passenger window.

“You’ll know when we get there.”

He rolled his eyes and waited a few minutes before daring to say anything else. “Where’d you get this heap? Looks like you stole Grandma’s make-out car.”

“It’ll get us there. Quicker than your piece of crap.”

It was almost midnight when Starsky pulled up at Junior’s Corner Store. On weeknights Miss Belle closed at ten o-clock. She lived in a small apartment in back of the store attached to the storage room. The store was always closed on time, but Miss Belle was always ‘open’.

Junior’s was on a corner in the industrial district. With one steel mill recently shut down and the docks at the start of the third shift, the neighborhood was eerily quiet. Roger’s car was parked around back off the street in the damp darkness of the ally. A mewing cat stood on its back legs pucking at the makeshift wood framed screen door begging to get in. No doubt Ma Belle was feeding the stray cats as well as the stray bums. The light was on in the back of the store. “He’s probably inside getting his ear talked off,” Starsky whispered. “And an estimate for a blow job.”

Hutch gave him a weak, but welcome smile. “Our Miss Belle is probably propositioning him as we speak.”

When Starsky knocked, the fragile door wiggled on its hinges bouncing wood against wood. “Hello, Miss Belle? Ma?”

The silence was overwhelming.

Starsky pulled the gun from his waistband and took the lead in front of an unarmed Hutch as they entered the building. They used eyes, head tilts and hand signals. Their language.

They didn’t have to go far before they found Belle Delfey on the floor in a pool of blood and brain matter. She still had a box of unopened oatmeal in her hand.

Oh God. Not Ma Belle.” Starsky swallowed hard as he squatted down and checked for a pulse. It was standard operating procedure. Clearly, she didn’t survive the shooting. “Fuck.”

“Starsky?” Hutch had been checking the store out. No one was there, but getting back to the body he nearly tripped on something at Belle’s feet. “Starsk, look.”

Starsky leaned over and picked up the brick-like bundle. “Weed? A kilo of weed? What the....? She was never a heavy dealer. Just small time dime bags.”

Hutch turned the package over. “It’s from evidence lock-up.”

They looked at each other and at the same time…

Roger.”

The cat was happily lapping at a bowl of milk as they ran out the door, down and around back to Roger’s car. Again, with gun drawn, Starsky approached the station wagon with his senses wide open. They cleared a dumpster and a palette of bound, flattened cardboard boxes before making it to the car. Passenger side was clear, but on the driver’s side they found Roger.

His hands and feet were tied. He’d been executed.

“Back of the head,” Starsky mumbled as he uselessly checked for a pulse on Roger too. “Hutch?”

The blonde stood staring down at the man unable to talk. Unable to hear, feel or see anything around except Roger’s body lying at his feet.

“Hutch?”

“What…?” Hutch’s mouth gaped open and left hand thoughtlessly fell out of the pocket as he leaned down touching the dead man’s face as if to convince himself of the facts. He was still warm. “What are… Why?

A warm summer breeze picked up and whipped the broken antenna on the parked car. The tapping it made on the windshield drew Starsky to his feet. The window to the back seat was open making the two large packages of white powder next to the infant seat more than obvious.

“Hutch. This isn’t looking good for us,” he said as he picked up the bags with BCPD evidence tags on them and showed his partner.

Multiple sirens barely sounded in the distance as Hutch pushed Roger’s elbow to the side with his foot. “Starsk. I… I think that’s my back-up gun.”

“What? But it’s at your place.”

“I left it on top of the bookcase. But I haven’t even looked for it since that night. Two months ago. I forgot…”

The sirens were getting closer. They had two bodies, stolen drugs from the BCPD evidence room, and Hutch’s registered gun at the scene.

 

(A/N: I can’t believe I’m actually putting this in ‘print’, but a few people have actually asked me what music I’m listening to for inspiration. I’ve never been asked before and I’ve never been one to assign myself music since I listen to an eclectic collection. But with this fic I’ve found myself during times of non-writing – like when driving – to think about our guys and the progress of the story, both the emotions between them and the mystery listening to Chris Cornell’s new EP ‘Higher Truth’. (yeah, I went there. Stole the words) The track “Misery Chain’ speaks to the angst and lost love between them. This Chapter as they begin on their journey to finding the truth between themselves as well as who did this to them, ‘Higher Truth’. So… there’s that. Hmmm.)

Chapter Text

Chapter Eighteen

 

The balmy summer breeze picked up, pushing the grimy smells of the gray masked industrial zone between them and over Roger’s inert body. Fragments of his shattered head – tissue, blood, bone and hair – littered the pavement and gummed onto the side of his car. Lightning pierced the shocked silence they’d held onto. Starsky held the bags of drugs at his side. Hutch stared down at the gun on the ground suspended in a pool of leaching blood.

“Um… ah…” Starsky drew in an uncertain breath and looked around, taking in his surroundings. It was bare naked, desolate. Not a soul in sight. Only the distant sirens and crash of thunder kept them company. “Don’t know if those black and whites are coming for us, but we better get out of here.”

“Who called it in? No one is within a mile.”

Starsky just stared into Hutch’s eyes with that look of you know. Clearly it was whoever did it.

Starsky stuffed the two bags inside his shirt away from the impending rain and started for the store. “I’m grabbing the kilo. No way is Ma gonna die a lie. Get the gun, Hutch,” he gave the blonde as he ran to the back door.

Hutch picked the gun up, wiped the blood off on his pants, then stuffed it in the back of his waist band. Roger was gone, no doubt about that. With the hands and feet tied it was obvious that he’d known what was to come. Hutch wondered what was said to him - if he had been taunted with words or, worse, with silence, before the final gunshot blew the back of his head away.

The fresh and sudden raindrops watered down the viscous pool of blood soaking into the knees of his pants as he sat back on his heels. With one hand on Roger’s back, Hutch looked up into the storm brewed skies and silently cursed the god, gods, spirits or whatever entity was directing the misery that had befallen him, and now his friends. Kitty, his daughter, granddaughter – none of them knew, yet, what had happened to this big, gentle, loving man.

He ran his fingers over the now soaked blue Boys Club of America t-shirt Roger had on eventually making it to the ropes around the bound wrists. He’d touched and handled dead bodies before, but this was different. “Shit.” Using his left forearm to anchor the body, Hutch tried to untie the ropes with his only working hand. He was now soaked to the bone in the raging rain storm, his blonde locks pasted to his scalp.

“Hutch.” Starsky pulled up in the car, engine racing. “Hutch, come on. Let’s go.”

The wet ropes wouldn’t budge and it seemed like the harder he pulled, the tighter they clenched.

“Hutch? Come on. Let’s go.”

Maybe if he worked at the knots and pushed the ends through instead of pulling...

“Get up, we gotta go.” Starsky was now behind him tapping him on the shoulder, then yanking at his sleeve.

Hutch pulled out of the tug at his arm, then wrenched his whole body away from Starsky as he continued trying to get the ropes free.

“STOP,” Starsky finally yelled as he reached under Hutch’s arms and lifted him up and away from the body. “They’re getting closer. We have to go.”

NO. Give me your knife.” Hutch stood fully drenched, Roger’s diluted blood rinsed by the rain from his clothes. There was so much of it. “Give me your jack knife.”

“No time, Hutch. Let’s go.”

“Just…” He closed his eyes and reached up to wipe the hair from his eyes. “Give it to me.”

“Why…?”

JUST DO IT.”

Hutch’s wide eyes burned into Starsky with incredible intention… and fear. Starsky didn’t budge until Hutch reached for the pockets himself looking for the knife only to have his hand slapped away. Starsky swiveled his head in the direction of the sirens closing in on them. “Hutch, there’s no time. Leave it.”

“The knife.” His hand was out and he wasn’t asking so much as demanding.

Starsky reached into his front pocket and produced the knife and squatted down. “I can do it faster myself,” he said making quick work of the ropes. He put the knife away and pushed Hutch towards the car. “Now, let’s go.”

“Wait.”

What the fuck? Hutch… We have to GO.”

“You don’t get it, do you?” Hutch said while bending down to pick up the discarded rope.

With the gun, drugs and ropes in the car, the two sped off down the alley and eventually turned on the main road that paralleled the factories blending in with all of the other beat up cars. In his rear view mirror Starsky saw an army of police vehicles descending on Junior’s Corner Store.

“Where are we going?” Hutch waited for several minutes and several miles to break the tension laden silence.

“Don’t know yet.”

“Where?”

I don’t know.” Starsky wiped the combined rain and sweat from his face as he struggled to drive in a calm and unassuming manner so as not to draw attention to them. “Just… just… give me a minute.” They had made it out of the immediate area without anyone following them. Starsky nervously looked in the rear view mirror and over his shoulder almost constantly between glances at his partner.

Hutch picked up on it. “Maybe… maybe we should swing by Huggy’s and…”

“No. We are not involving him in this.”

“Canyon River turn off. We’ve used that…”

“Too isolated. If someone is tailing us we’d never be seen again.”

“We can hide in the open for a while,” Hutch offered. He was reserved and almost just going through the motions of trying to problem solve – be part of the ‘team’. “The Moonlight Demolition Derby at the fairgrounds…”

No, Hutch.” Starsky slammed his palms on the steering wheel in frustration, anger, resentment. “That place is crawling with cops. Jesus, just shut up, will ya?”

Hutch raised his hands in mock surrender as he resumed his gaze out the window trying to put as much space between himself and Starsky as possible. “We can always just walk in the station,” he gave to his lap, then the side window with subtle exasperation, “and book the drugs back into the evidence room. Would that work for you?”

Hutch braced himself against the dashboard as Starsky cranked the car into a shuttered housing complex’s parking lot and stood on the brakes.

“Hutch, I’m not playing games with you.”

“Who says I’m playing games? I’m just trying to talk to you,” he said again in his same reserved voice. “And decide what we should do. WE should do, Starsky, not just you.”

Starsky remained wordless looking down at his lap, out the window, in the mirror… anywhere but at Hutch. The rumbling engine was the only sound in their confines. Starsky worried that it would die if he shut it off.

“I’m getting a cab,” Hutch finally grunted. “Do what you want.”

Hutch left the car and walked away with his left hand back in its pocket, head down, left foot occasionally stumbling ever so slightly on a pebble or cement edge. He eyed the street left and right looking for the nearest hotel where a door man would get him a cab. He took a few steps left and realized the nearest hotel in that direction was an hourly squatter’s hell hole. The ‘door man’ there was probably bent over sharing his liquid dinner and hepatitis with the bushes.

He stopped, turned around and looked down the street in the direction he’d started in forgetting momentarily what he was looking for, but walked that way nonetheless. He knew there were shops and bars down there. Maybe bus stops. There was a bus stop not too far up. But what was he looking for again? He was drained, unhappy, alone, and his brain felt disjointed. The edge of a cracked sidewalk caught the toe of his shoe…

Starsky watched as the tall blonde walked away, then stopped, changed directions, stopped again, turned around and paused with an utter look of confusion on his face before setting off again, shoulders slumped and head bowed. The rain was coming down in sheets by then and even though the simultaneous blinding lightning and crash of thunder shook Starsky out of his seat, Hutch didn’t seem to react as he continued on his way. He gripped the steering wheel hard enough to feel the semi healed injuries to his knuckles and blew out a world of weariness.

Starsky looked left to get out into traffic, then right just in time to see Hutch face plant onto the sidewalk. “Oh boy.” He cranked the steering wheel and drove the few feet to where Hutch was getting back up covered in mud.

He got to his knees first, then with some effort Hutch was able stand. He leaned his head back and let the rain batter his face as he felt embarrassed and weak. “Fuck.” His balance still had moments of inebriation and tilted him to his left threatening to take him down again when a hand caught his elbow.

“Get in the car, Hutch.”

“Gonna get a cab.”

“You’re soaked. I’m not arguing with you.”

“Don’t need help,” Hutch said as he pulled out of Starsky’s clutch, not so daintily.

Just get in the car.”

“Don’t need… don’t need you.”

That stung as he was sure it was intended. Starsky squeezed his eyes shut at the barb remembering what was still in the car. “Hutch, stop running away. Please.”

“Stop fighting.”

Starsky let go of the elbow and put his hands on his head gripping at the drenched curls. He walked in circles unable to find what he needed to say. “Hutch, I’m sorry. Okay? I am sorry. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to you. I just don’t know…”

“I am trying to… but you don’t…”

“What, Hutch? Huh?”

“Is it so hard?” Hutch begged as he walked backwards a few steps to move away from the impending furry that had become Starsky’s hallmark. “If you would just… I… I…”

“What?” Starsky begged back. “Help me out here.”

Hutch had resumed his stiff stance, head thrown back with his face catching the rain. He was struggling to maintain his dignity. His sanity. His simple being. Instead he simply looked at his partner and shook his head unable to find what he wanted to say.

“Huh? Hutch? What…,” Starsky’s gears were grinding into an inevitable roar. “What do you want from me?

For the first time Hutch let his emotions go as he wiped his face of the rain but could not hide the scant sob and muffled anguish. “I want… I want you to trust me,” he said with a voice so reserved that it was almost unheard.

Instead of relenting and taking the pained man in his arms, Starsky walked back to the car and put his outstretched hands on the roof, his head hanging down between his braced elbows.

Neither one moved, both in their self-imposed isolation, albeit several feet apart. Cars sped by, one honking at Starsky’s idling car at the curb. He stayed there for what felt like an eternity before he turned around half thinking Hutch would be gone.

He was gone, but not far. He had moved to the sheltered M34 bus stop and sat stoically on the bench. Starsky walked in and sat next to him pointing at the sign on the post. “Says the bus on this route doesn’t run at night.”

Hutch gave a slight nod.

“It’ll be a long wait ‘til morning.” Still nothing. “Hutch, there’s nothing I don’t know about you. I know what vitamins make you sick on an empty stomach and which ones bind you up. You should really leave the iron to the ladies,” he said as an aside. “I know what you’re going to say before you say it and read you like a cheap dime store novel.”

“You’re so sure,” he said with more than a hint of sarcasm.

Starsky sighed and stretched his neck left and right until it popped. “That brain of yours stews guilt and self-loathing,” he said out loud not really intending to share the thought. “Ya know, Hutch, I don’t know how to fix this. I can’t seem to stop being angry. You… I don’t know. You have yet to get angry. You’re just so disconnected. Why is that?”

All he got was a shrug of the shoulders.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Starsky sighed as he reached over and placed a tentative hand on Hutch’s cold, shivering knee. “Come on. You’re gonna catch a cold. And we gotta figure out what we’re gonna do with this stuff.” He stood and left the shelter and got in the car hoping… just hoping… that the passenger door would open and Hutch would slide in, like the old days.

It did.

And he did.

 

The stillness of the car was what woke Hutch up. He was sitting askew in the seat, his head tilted back facing the window. As he sat up straight he wiped the scant sleep-drool from his cheek and grunted the sludge from his throat. He was alone but voices drew his attention to the back door of… he wiped the blurriness from his eyes… the back door of The Pits.

“Come on, oh blonde one,” Huggy pitched as he opened the door, “I’m taking you home.”

“What?”

“Home. Food. Piss. Bed. In that order. Here,” he said handing him a take-out box. “This is the food part. The piss and bed is all on you.”

“Where’s Starsky?”

“Waiting for us in the Caddy. Let’s go.”

Hutch righted himself and walked a few feet to Huggy’s garish white Cadillac. Starsky was already in the back seat. Hutch looked around, still getting his bearings, before sliding into the front passenger seat.

The car lurched forward and nudged the curb as Huggy took a hard right onto the street.

“Funny seeing you, Hug,” Hutch said hopefully loud enough for the backseat passenger to hear. “Could have sworn Starsky didn’t want to involve you in our evening activities.”

The only response from the back was a sigh and shuffle of wet pants on vinyl.

“Here,” the tall slender friend said as he passed a paper bag to Hutch, “you two are wet and chilled to the bone. Need some of Huggy’s famous old time medicine.”

Hutch opened the bag and pulled out a bottle of bourbon. “Wild Turkey?”

“It will warm you up and chase away the cold willies, my man.”

“Works for me,” Hutch mumbled as he unscrewed the cap.

“Not for you.” Starsky leaned forward and reached for the bottle before Hutch could even get it close enough to smell the potent booze. “Can’t mix this shit with your anti-seizure meds.”

The blonde gave Starsky a sharp look of scorn as he wrenched his arm away and took a good healthy slug.

Hey, don’t do that.”

“You know me, huh?” Hutch snorted as he opened his throat and put down another very healthy dose of the ‘medicine’.

“Hutch, you can hate me all you want, but at least care enough not to put yourself back in the hospital.”

“Haven’t had to take any of those meds since I left the hospital,” he said between slugs. “A lot has changed.”

Starsky dropped his hands back down in his lap and slouched back in the seat. He was hearing his own words back at the bus stop. There’s nothing I don’t know about you. Apparently not true. Clearly.

“You too, curley,” Huggy said. “Need you to put some of that golden sunshine down the gullet to shore up the alibi.”

“What alibi?” Hutch asked.

“Our cars are still sitting in front of each of our apartments,” Starsky explained. “We could say we were at home all night, but no one can back it up. So the story goes that we both got hammered at The Pits and Huggy had to drive us home.”

“That’s right, my friends,” Huggy added pointing towards the back seat. “Get that bottle back there. If we get stopped, you two need to look and smell the part. You both look like hell warmed over, all I had to do was provide the liquid pleasure.”

“What about the… um… evidence?” Hutch asked as he passed the bottle back.

Huggy kept looking in his mirrors and driving at the speed limit to not draw attention to them. “Safely in my walk-in freezer behind my private stash of vodka.”

Hutch was the first to get dropped off. With Mrs. Lewis peering out her window, Huggy made good on the alibi and ‘helped’ Hutch in the door and up the stairs making sure she could hear his recommendations for Hutch to drink some strong coffee and get to bed.

They both spent the night in their own beds, though sleep was elusive. By the time morning came, they each got the expected phone call from Captain Dobey notifying them of Roger’s death and played along feigning shock but with genuine grief all the time knowing that one, or more, of their own had done it and that their phone call had put him there in harm’s way.

By late morning Hutch had driven over to Roger’s house but sat in his car for almost an hour watching other grieving family members, neighbors and cops come and go. The cop in him made mental notes of the brethren who stopped in, uniforms and plain clothes alike. Some he knew, some he recognized but didn’t know, and others were strangers in uniform. There was never a time when black and white units were not parked outside the house. When one of their own was taken, the entire force gathered together to provide support for the family. The police cars were almost scheduled to ‘stand guard’ outside the house as a show of strength in numbers. As long as Roger had been on the force, and with the number of contacts he had made supervising the evidence room, the population in that neighborhood was near capacity.

It’s true…. Hutch was observing the situation. But he was really waiting for a lull in the action to avoid the well-meaning cops and their spouses heaping the pity and well wishes on him. Finally, just before noon, the people parading in and out of the house had ebbed giving him an opening. The left hand went in the pocket, he focused on keeping his left foot in line, and he walked up to the house. The door opened as a group of Vice detectives and their wives exited the house.

“Hey Hutchinson,” Mark Conklin gave him with a pat on the shoulder, “good to see you out and about. How are you doing?”

“Fine. Doing well, thanks Mark.”

“We, ah, we were all sorry to hear about what happened to you, and…”

The pity party continued as Hutch ignored it and looked at the people standing around him on the porch. Each set of eyes looked away uncomfortably as he attempted to nod with thanks. He knew what they were thinking. Another detective he barely knew rubbed his back and talked loudly… and slowly… as if his injuries had dumbed him down and made him deaf.

And they stared.

His hair was still longer on the right than the left side on his head. The bandage was gone from his neck but the sutures stood out like Frankenstein. And he knew he carried himself in a down trodden manner. He gave them every reason to pity him.

And they stared.

“…and if there’s anything we can do for you…”

“Thanks, Mark. I’m good. Just going to pop in and see Kitty.”

He made a hasty entrance into the house glad to get the phalanx of people away from him.

“Oh, Ken…”

Arms wrapped around his large frame as Kitty rested her tired head on his chest. He stayed where he was and allowed the grieving widow to have her moment and direct the conversation. He’d done this before. Unfortunately.

“I’m so sorry, Kitty. Wish there was something I could do.” He was sorry. And he did wish there was something he could do starting with never having involved Roger to begin with.

“I’m glad you’re here. I just don’t understand.”

“Kitty,” he said in his calm, assuring voice, “what did they tell you? The detectives.”

“Roger left here late last night,” she said almost as though not hearing Hutch’s question. She probably didn’t. “Said he was going out to get cigarettes. I don’t understand.”

He let his right hand hold her head into his chest ever so gently. “Don’t understand what, Kitty?”

“He hasn’t smoked in six years.”

Hutch understood. He knew that Roger had used that as an excuse to leave the house close to midnight. Cops didn’t share work with their spouses.

“Kitty, who’s on the case?”

“Captain Dobey has Jeff Simmons and Drew Babcock on it. I think the whole department is on the case, ya know? Everyone has been so nice. Even Detective Simonetti is following up on it.”

“Internal Affairs…. Simonetti? Why?”

“I guess because Roger was a cop. I don’t know. He brought by a lovely box of Italian cookies from Biviano’s Bakery.”

“Yeah, I guess it’s because a cop was killed. Kitty, what have they told you?”

“Not much. They think maybe he accidently interrupted a robbery at a store where the shop owner was killed. But it was so far from here. Why wouldn’t he go down to the 7-11 at the end of Prospect?”

“Don’t know, Kitty. He knew Ma Belle, the other lady that was shot. Maybe he wanted to check up on her.”

“That would be just like him, wouldn’t it?” she said muffled into his chest. “When he was a beat cop he’d give the lunch I made him to a bum on the street. I got so mad at him, but that’s the kind of man he was.”

“I know. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Just you being here is nice, Ken. Becky is taking it awful hard. She took the baby to a friend’s house to get away from all the company. I don’t know how we’re going to make it. She’ll have to leave school.”

“We’ll figure something out. I promise.” He was amazed that she still had tears to wet his shirt.

“David called earlier. It was nice to hear his voice.”

“Starsky? He didn’t come over?”

“Oh, no. He said the others here would probably have made a scene. You know, I don’t believe what they’re saying about him. Should I?”

“No, Kitty. Not at all.”

“Ken, can’t you and David find out who did this? For me?” When she looked up into Hutch’s eyes, he saw the young girl Roger had fallen for all those years ago. Pretty, innocent and so convincing. “You two should just walk back in that precinct like nothing happened. Stop letting them define you. You show them that you can’t be beat,” she said punctuating her words with a finger to his chest.

 

Hutch found himself in front of Starsky’s place questioning how he even got there. He’d have given anything to have a couple shots of that Wild Turkey. They had thrown the real murderers off for now, but it was only a matter of time before everything would come back to them. Their actions had progressed and evolved from simple drug larceny and assault and battery to murder. They were getting bolder.

He knocked and the door opened quickly.

“Saw your car down there. Was wondering how long you were going to sit your ass in it.”

“Just came from seeing Kitty.”

“How is she?”

Hutch raked his hand through his blonde locks and exhaled. “You know.”

“Yeah.”

“She wants us on the case, Starsk.” Hutch grunted and shook his head. “Us. We’re the ones who sent him to Ma’s.”

Starsky simply nodded and shoved his hands in his pockets. They stood in silence, neither one willing or able to move forward in conversation or life.

“Don’t know what to do, Hutch. What are we now? Friends? Ex-lovers? Acquaintances?”

“That’s a big word, buddy.” Hutch smiled. He tried.

“Is that what we are? Buddies?”

Hutch left that unanswered as he resumed his detached silence.

“What are you doing here, Hutch? I hear flights leave every day for Minnesota.”

“And what about our problem behind the vodka?”

“It’ll be taken care of.”

Hutch nodded his understanding. “Just don’t tell Hutch. Can’t trust him yet. Is that it?”

“…Hutch…”

“You and Huggy partnering up now?”

Starsky shook his head in frustration and dropped down onto the sofa. “Hutch… you think this is all about you? I don’t see you facing life in prison. You can get a job, have a life, find love again.”

Hutch remained at the closed door and leaned back against it, his hands behind his back. He didn’t want to answer any of that.

“We can both run away,” Starsky said into his lap. “You to a great life, me to jail. I suggest you leave now while Daddy and your trust fund are still alive.” He knew that was meant as a jibe to get a reaction, but he didn’t get one. Wasn’t long ago that Hutch would have given him a black eye over that kind of insult. “But I’m gonna fight it. Not going down without a fight.”

“What is it you’re fighting for, Starsky? Your job? Macho reputation? Huh?” Hutch swallowed hard as he stood up and directed his quiet voice to the sofa. “But not me.” That was a statement, not a question. “Yes, you can fight this on your own. Take on the whole system. I’m sure you think it can work. But it can’t. You know that.”

“What else is there?”

“Kitty said that we should walk in the precinct together like nothing happened and show them that they can’t beat us. Look, you can’t do this on your own, but maybe we can together. Is that such a bad idea?”

Starsky rubbed his forehead as if trying to chase everything away. “Hutch, why’d you take the rope from the crime scene? What did it matter?”

“Didn’t want him found that way. It’s a lousy way for Kitty to remember her husband’s last breaths. And… and I figured without the ropes maybe it would look like he stepped into a robbery and maybe tried to stop it.”

“And you didn’t want those assholes to use Roger to win again?”

“Something like that.”

The silence from the sofa was overwhelming. As Starsky contemplated the proposal he rubbed his hands back and forth on his denim covered thighs. Going up against the department wasn’t as daunting as the anxiety anvil of walking into the station and coming face to face with those who believed the accusations of him being a rapist. A cop rapist.

“Starsky, we know that the perpetrators are inside the department. They probably started out keeping some drugs for themselves – dime bags and joints - maybe to use, maybe just as a power trip. Then they found they could turn a buck selling them. Eventually they needed bricks and kilos. It just kept getting bigger and bigger for them. We got close and they beat the shit out of us. Enough for me to probably never return to police work. And, God, with the evidence of our sex life falling in their laps like a gift, they took it to the bank to railroad you from the force as well. And if attention turns to them again, they’ve trumped enough up to make us take the fall for their crimes.”

Starsky had turned on the sofa and was processing Hutch’s thoughts as they were laid out succinctly. “And now,” Starsky added catching on, “they’re getting scared cuz we’re not gone yet. This hobby of theirs is out of control. They’ve resorted to murder.”

“And making mistakes.”

“Yeah. But Hutch, what if these mistakes aren’t new? What if they started making mistakes a couple months ago?”

They stared at each other with gears turning in their heads for several minutes. A tilt of the head, eyebrows raised and the electrical current of their former detectives’ brains started firing.

“We gotta do this, Hutch.”

The blonde nodded with determination. “Have to walk in the place today. Talk to Dobey. See our file. Unannounced so they don’t have time to selectively edit it.”

“Dobey,” Starsky started but had to stop as he couldn’t contain a giggle, “…Dobey called Simonetti a motherfucker.”

“No way. He dropped the f-bomb?” Hutch threw his head back and let loose with an honest to goodness howl of laughter as he sat down on the sofa. “I would love to have been there.”

“It was incredible. Yeah. A little nugget of joy in the fucking day of hell.” He looked to his left and notice Hutch had crossed his arms, his left hand buried under the other arm. “Hey,” he said pulling the hand out, “why do you keep hiding this?” Starsky stretched the curled fingers out from their normal loose fist and stretched the fingers back much like he had done when Hutch was still in the hospital. “Doing those exercises and stretches?”

“No.” Hutch’s voice was barely heard.

“No PT or OT?”

He shook his head.

“Why not?”

“Why bother?” Suddenly Hutch realized that Starsky was touching him and pulled his arm back as he stood and walked back to the door, leaning against it.

“Hutch, don’t give up.”

He wanted to say that he had nothing, or no one, to rehab for, but just didn’t go there.

“And that hair,” Starsky said getting up to tussle the blonde mess. “Christ almighty, Hutch. You look like one of those modern art things you made me go see at that Cuba Art exhibit.”

“Cubism, Starsk. Not Cuba.”

“Yeah, well, I’m getting my Cuban scissors. Gonna even out that mess.”

“No, really, it’s fine.”

“Hutch,” he said as he came back from the kitchen with a towel and silver shears, “We’re going to walk in the station today together. But you… we… need to look put together, healthy, confident and strong. That starts with a haircut for you, or at least half of one.”

He didn’t argue. Didn’t fight it. Instead, Hutch let Starsky drag him into the kitchen and plop him in a chair. Fifteen minutes later, golden snippets of hair scattered on the floor, and Starsky declared his masterpiece finished.

“Ta-da!” The towel came off with grandeur and smacked Hutch in the nose, the stray hairs making him sneeze. “Now, in the shower. I think there’s still some of that shampoo you like under the sink. And don’t forget to shave.” Hutch hadn’t moved from the chair and sat looking at the floor. “What is it?”

“Um, I’ll, ah, go home and shower.”

“If we want to catch Dobey before he leaves we don’t have time for you to go all the way to Venice and back. Just use my shower.”

“No.”

“Jeez, Hutch. I’m not gonna take advantage of you. Your virtue is safe with me.”

“It’s… It’s n..n..not that.” He blew out a frustrated breath. “Shit.” He detested the stammer. Since the head injury it came out when he was tired or frustrated.

“The zipper on your neck there? It’s almost been a week, right? The stitches can get wet.”

“No. I, ah…” Already at the door with his hand on the knob, Hutch was primed to flee.

“Please, Hutch. Tell me.”

“When I close my eyes or put my head back I lose my balance. My dad put a grab bar in my shower. And I keep a…” He wiped his face and put his head back on the door looking up. “…I keep a walker in front of me so I can hold on when I wash my hair and stuff.” Not exactly a picture he wanted to leave with his former lover.

“Still? Time to leave the crutch of your parents behind. Hutch, I’ll stand next to you if you want, but you gotta try this on your own.”

“No. I… don’t want you…”

“Try. I’ll be right outside if you need me. Okay?”

He was a sucker for doing what Starsky asked of him, when it was done nicely with that mother hen voice, so Hutch moved into the bathroom and, with the exception of a couple near slips, he completed his task and even got a shave in, the first one since his mother left.

“Don’t put your pants on yet, Hutch.”

“What? What?” He walked into the living room in his shirt and underwear, pants over an arm. “Why?”

“Found that athletic tape we used when we played league basketball. Sit down.” Before Hutch could argue, Starsky was expertly taping up his left ankle and foot. “Now… that lazy foot shouldn’t be misbehaving.” His proud, smug grin was enough to get a return smile from Hutch.

“Thanks. I think that’ll work.”

“And the hand? Ya know that Senator Dole? Bob Dole?” Hutch nodded. “He lost the use of one arm in World War Two and his hand is a permanent fist. Yours isn’t as bad, but you keep hiding it. You might think it’s a weakness, but I don’t. So,” he said as Hutch zipped up his pants, “do what Dole does and keep a pen in it to give it purpose. Okay?” He stuffed a pen in the fist and pat him on the back as they walked out the door. It felt right and the fresh air on the hand as opposed to the confines of a pocket felt refreshing.

Hutch automatically walked to his brown beater car but stopped when he heard the door to the Torino close. Starsky sat in the front seat and ran his hands over the dash as if welcoming himself back home. Hutch got in the passenger seat and questioned Starsky’s choice of vehicle. “We’re going to stick out in this soup can. With our part time stalkers checking on our every move, don’t you want to fly under the radar?”

“Nope. Not at all,” he said starting up the engine and giving it a roar. “We are going to drive to the station and walk in with our pride intact. If they want to follow us, we’re gonna let them. And if they lose us, we’ll get in their face and give ‘em directions. No more hiding, partner. Time to find that higher truth. This is our time.”

 

(A/N: Homework: Our Time in the Universe (remix), from album Higher Truth, Chris Cornell)

Chapter Text

Chapter Nineteen


They were three blocks into their drive when Hutch noticed the black and white three car lengths back.

“Take a right up here,” he told Starsky without taking his eyes off the side view mirror.

“We got company?”

“Maybe.”

Starsky took a right at the next light, then a quick left onto a seldom used side street. “Still there?”

“Like snot on a baby.” Hutch shifted nervously forcing himself not to turn around in his seat to look out of the rear window and give them away. “Want to shake them?”

“Nope. We’re just going to play along for now.” Starsky gunned his engine out of habit and pulled back onto the main drag. “Let’s give them something to make notes about.”

They made several benign stops that included getting a newspaper at Anthony’s Magazine Stand, mints at the drug store and a mindless walk through for show at the Happy Booker book store while never letting on that they saw the black and white. The locations were chosen by design - the shops were not on any cop’s radar for any reason.

“We should stop in at the local women’s health center,” Hutch said.

“Yeah, imagine their notes,” Starsky chuckled. “Newspaper, books, drugstore and gynecologist. Clearly these two are up to no good. Let’s get some coffee before we face the music.”

They pulled up in front of the Rise and Grind Coffee Shop for the first time in two months. The Grind was a popular local haunt on a busy corner just a few blocks from the precinct. They sat in the car for a couple minutes waiting to see where their tail was going to park. As predicted, they pulled into the parking lot on the other side of the building.

“When will they learn,” Hutch tsk tsk’ed. “Somebody forgot to tell them to always drive past the parked perp and go around the block to stake them out from behind. Who are these bozos?”

“I have an idea who they are and they don’t play nice.” Starsky grimaced as he shut the car door and walked with his partner into the shop. “Two coffees to go,” he ordered.

“Make it four.”

Starsky scrunched his face. “Gonna have to scrape you off the roof of the Torino after you down that much caffeine.”

Hutch dipped his head and smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m paying. Just work with me here.”

While Starsky doctored his coffee with cream and sugar, Hutch flirted with the young girl behind the counter just long enough to gain entrance to the back room.

“Where we going, Hutch?”

“Back door.”

They were just through the door when Starsky realized what they were going to do. The uniforms were so focused on watching the front door that they didn’t notice the two detectives coming up on each side of the patrol car from behind.

“Hello boys,” Hutch gave them as he leaned down into the open window on the driver’s side and smugly smiled. “We got a few more stops to make so thought you could use some coffee.” He passed the cup carrier with the two coffees in it through the window and followed it quickly with packets of sugar and creamer, purposely jostling the cups. “Oops, sorry there. Spilled a little.” He used a napkin to get up close and personal with the cop wiping a small spot on his chest next to the nametag. “There you go Officer Mitchell. Wouldn’t want the little lady to think you’re cheating.”

The cops sat stunned not quite sure what they were supposed to do.

“So, Cooper, Mitchell… let’s make this easier on all of us,” Starsky said as he leaned onto his arms on the passenger side window. The two detectives were all smiles and Miss Prissy manners. They were laying it on good. “We’ve got a few more errands to run today. Next we’re gonna go to PaPa Chan’s dry cleaners on West Ermine Street. Now, it’s almost time for the schools to let out so you’re gonna want to go down this way about eight blocks to avoid the buses,” he said pointing to his right and making sure the uniforms were paying attention – they were, “then hang a right on Talbot. At the roundabout three lights down…”

“Pretty sure it’s four lights, partner,” Hutch politely corrected him.

“No it’s four lights to the on-ramp for the 405. Three to the statue in the middle of that roundabout.”

The uniforms looked back and forth at the bickering detectives like watching the ball at a tennis match.

Hutch scratched his head in mock thought. “You counting that new blinking light at Chester?”

“…which would make it four. Yeah. Okay, go four lights and then take the third exit in the roundabout onto Copeland...”

As Starsky continued to give his convoluted directions, Hutch kept himself leaning on the open window very uncomfortably close to Officer Mitchell’s face. “Oh, missed a spot here on your tie,” he said licking a napkin and using it to blot away the spot of coffee with a smile. Ever so helpful, that Detective Hutchinson.

“….and then cut over onto West Ermine through that alley behind Biviano’s Bakery. Watch out for Loose Larry the bum. He likes to take a siesta under newspapers next to the dumpster pretty close to the street. When ya leave, skip that roundabout altogether. It bottles up by four o’clock. Jeez I hate those. Don’t you Hutch?” His blonde partner agreed with a hearty nod. “Ever have to go on a pursuit around one of them things? Hutch, there…. He puked once on our third time around chasing a cross dressing drunk driver.”

“True story,” Hutch continued. “Now, after the dry cleaners we promised to pick up a package for Detective Simonetti at Good Vibrations sex shop on Wilshire.”

Starsky winked at the cop on his side. “I hear the wife likes it kinky, ya know what I mean?” As Cooper was taking a sip of Coffee, Starsky guffawed and gave him a playful punch on the shoulder spilling a good bit down his shirt and probably burning his mouth a bit. “I’m sure we don’t need to tell you how to get there, so…

“Hey Starsk, are we supposed to go to the old Good Vibrations or the new Good Vibrations Back Door place? I forgot.”

“You’ll have to forgive my partner’s memory. See, someone squashed his brain recently. Hasn’t been the same since.” He looked left and right as if to check for privacy. “You should see him when he gets his temper going,” he whispered loudly. “Wow. He could take on a moose by himself and still sleep well at night. Know what I’m saying?

“What’s that you said, partner?”

The cops looked between the two with widened eyes.

“Nothing, Hutch. Nothing at all. We really should be on our way now.”

“Keep up the good work, boys,” Hutch said giving Mitchell a much harder pat on the shoulder that needed. “We’ll put a good word in for you.”

As soon as they stood up away from the patrol car, Mitchell put it in gear and drove off leaving Starsky and Hutch to walk back to the Torino.

Starsky went back into the coffee shop and came out with a bag of goodies.

“Whatcha got there,” Hutch asked getting in the car.

“A hunch. Just a hunch.”

xXx

The Torino made its way into the precinct parking lot as though driving on memory fumes. Starsky didn’t even have to look for an open spot – there was one close to the entrance as if it knew they were coming.

Neither one made the first move to get out of the car, each staring out the window at the tall, boxy building and the people coming and going. Uniformed officers, detectives – some UC, others in cheap suits, - attorneys in fine tailored suits, public defenders wearing wrinkled white shirts, bad ties and ill-fitting slacks. Civilian employees, visitors and maintenance men. It was like any other day.

Only it wasn’t.

“What are you thinking?” Hutch asked as he studied the uncommon worried look on his partner’s face.

Starsky shrugged his shoulders. “I guess… I mean… I don’t know.”

“Tell me.”

“Been a long time since I’ve had a pleasant experience here.”

“Last time…?”

“Yeah, right,” he huffed to himself. “Last time I was in hand cuffs. Cops – those two assholes we just shared coffee with – introduced me to a few walls and floors face first. And tried to give me my own personal punishment in a storage room for raping you.”

“You didn’t ra…”

“I know. But the accusation alone is a guilty verdict. They couldn’t wait to get me in there, close the door and…”

“Did they…?”

“No. Dobey walked into it. But they enjoyed parading me through the precinct. Got spit on, sworn at… the looks alone from people I had called my friends was enough to…”

“I know. You should have seen those same faces when I was there. You’d think someone threw a kid’s puppy in the pond. Pity seeped from them. Poor, poor Hutch. Attacked, violated and now brain damaged.” He snorted with a sarcastic laugh. “I was so mortified I’m sure I looked the part.”

“You’re the same Hutch I know,” Starsky gave him with a smirk. “Well, gettin’ there, anyway.”

“Look, Starsk, it’s different this time. No cuffs. We’re gonna go in there as a team with our heads held high and flip ‘em all off, right?”

Starsky finally turned to Hutch and looked him in the eyes. For reassurance. For strength. For…

“Let’s go,” Hutch said getting out of the car. “Time to get to work.” He was half way to the entrance when he realized that the familiar warm presence of his partner wasn’t there. He turned around and went back to the car and knocked on the window. “I’ll go do this alone if you want, but it won’t pack the punch that it could without my rapist by my side.”

With that, Starsky had to smile just at the absurdity alone. “Okay, partner, let’s go turn some heads.”

As they ascended the steps to the main entrance Hutch caught the toe of his foot on a step and stopped, his hand gripping the railing.

“What’s wrong, Hutch?”

The blonde stood on the offending step and stared down at his feet as he thought ahead and pictured himself planting his ass right in the middle of the corridor as they made their grand entrance. “Um, what if I fall?” He looked over at Starsky and then around hoping no one else heard him.

“You won’t. Mind over matter. Besides, you tripped up these steps before your head got squashed, right?” Starsky moved in closer as he saw the look of panic in his partner’s face. “Focus and will your foot to keep up. The tape is helping, I can tell.”

“But what if I fall?”

“Then I’ll catch you, dummy,” Starsky said with comforting smile and hand to the back of the neck. “Now…. let’s go.”

This time it was Hutch who smiled and nodded. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

It felt like a slow motion cold opening to a bad western. Starsky and Hutch each pushed open one of the doors, left and right, then strolled in with smiles on their faces and heads, indeed, held high. Shoulders were back, arms at their sides – a pen in Hutch’s exposed left fist. The officers manning the desk looked up and did a double take seeing the suspended detectives. The one up on felony charges for doing unspeakable things to his partner, walking side by side…. with his partner.

“Hey Calvin,” Starsky enthusiastically said giving the large desk sergeant a hefty clap on the back. “How ya doing? That boy of yours still giving you problems? Let me know. I’ll come talk to him.”

Hutch stopped to get a drink from the fountain just as he always did before leaning into the Records room to give Minnie a wave. “Hey lady, if you’ve got another pie in you, I could sure use one.”

Without waiting for an answer, Hutch gave the policewoman a playful wink and jogged up the hall to catch up with Starsky who was handing out smiles and handshakes to puzzled officers and office workers every chance he got. There was no way their sudden appearance at the precinct was meant to be anything other than business as usual. Well sort of. There was no missing them.

At the base of the stairs, Starsky gave Hutch a tug on the sleeve as he kept walking straight ahead to the back of the building. There he stood with his back against the wall next to the door – the door that was next to the storage room he had been threatened with previously.

“What are you doing, Starsk?”

“Waiting.”

“For what?”

“My hunch.”

Hutch held up the other wall next to the storage room knowing that Starsky’s hunch needed to play out on its own. When a worm got in that curly head it was no use trying to extract it. It needed to work its way out on its own.

A few, minutes passed as officers came and went. And then, finally, the door opened and Starsky pushed away from the wall.

“Well, hello boys. Figured we’d meet you here,” he said to Mitchell and Cooper, both stunned to see the detectives they had been following waiting at the precinct. “Forgot to give you these,” he said shoving the bag into the larger officer’s hand. “Donuts. Powdered donuts, so watch what you touch. You might leave your prints somewhere you hadn’t planned on.”

Before the handoff was complete, Hutch looked at Mitchell’s outstretched arm and the tattoo on the inside of the forearm. “Are you ex-navy, Mitchell?”

“Huh?”

Hutch grabbed Mitchell’s wrist and turned it laterally exposing the tattoo of a sinking ship to his partner. “Ever see something like that, Starsky?”

Starsky whistled feigning interest but not giving away what he was really feeling inside. “That’s something. Tattoo that big must be like wearing a dog tag.”

Hutch was still holding onto Mitchell’s wrist long after he needed to… with a steel grip. “Well, we should probably let you get back to work. Your asses must be sore, what with all the stake outs you’ve been stuck doing. Or maybe they’re sore for some other reason.” His grip loosened up as he stroked his thumb suggestively over the officer’s pulse point and put his face close enough to the other’s for his breath to be felt and heard. “Mitchell, the way I see it, you have two choices. You can continue on doing whatever it is you’re doing with whoever it is and visit the special Karma that will blow you apart eventually. Or, you can sit down with us and have a talk. Your choice.”

Fuck you.”

Hutch put his face right next to Mitchell’s ear and whispered seductively, his lips nearly touching the lobe. “No thanks. You’re not my type. But you should leave your number with Starsky. He suffers from sexual frustration when he doesn’t get any. And take it from me…. If you like it rough, and I know you do, he’s good.”

Mitchell forcefully pulled his arm away from Hutch and pushed him to the side as he stormed down the hall, Cooper tagging along like a puppy. The bag of donuts was on the floor where they’d been deposited.

“Well,” Starsky said with his arms behind his back, “that went well. You haven’t lost your touch, partner.”

“Did you see the…?”

“Yep. Was it the same…?”

“Pretty sure. Want to…?”

“Filing it up here,” Starsky said tapping his head, “in my brain trust.”

“In that case, leave me the key for when you forget where you put it.” Hutch took the steps two at a time with a wide grin getting ahead of Starsky who tried but failed to swat him. Hutch never even noticed that he made every step without a fault.

On the third floor they looked down the length of the hallway and each had their own trepidations about making the journey. Every time a person gave Hutch a sad look, he gave back a big smile. When officers rolled their eyes at Starsky or shook their heads in disgust, Hutch put his arm around Starsky’s shoulders and gave him an obvious squeeze.

Passing by Internal Affairs they both took note of the sign: Captain E. Schrader, and glanced in the open door. No one was home. Good. Several more steps and Hutch went to tap Starsky’s arm when he saw a familiar face, but he wasn’t there. He turned around at least twice to finally see his partner strolling towards him, his face wide with a smile.

“It’s a good day, partner,” Starsky gave him in a low stifled voice.

“What?”

“Good day." The feeling in the Homicide squad room was less tense. Most of the detectives on second shift were out in the field or on patrol. A couple of new faces barely gave them a second look. Their replacements, probably. Very young replacements.

“Can I help you?” one asked as Starsky went to open Captain Dobey’s door.

“Thanks kid,” he said. “We work here.” Starsky walked in the Captain’s office unannounced and parked his ass on the arm of a chair Hutch had taken up residence. They both grinned at Dobey who sat at his desk, sleeves rolled up, phone to ear.

“I’ll get back to you tomorrow, sir,” he gave to the person on the other end of the phone before hanging up and staring at the two detective. “Did all this time off sitting on your ass make you forget how to knock?”

“Good to see you too, Cap,” Starsky said. “Aren’t you happy to see your two favorite detectives?”

Dobey stared at his men…well, mostly Hutch.

“Starsky,” Hutch said looking up at his partner, “I do believe he is overcome with emotion.”

“You know what you’ve stirred up by coming in the building like nothing’s happened? That was the Chief on the phone. Apparently people downstairs are feeling threatened by your presence. And what the hell happened to your hair, Hutchinson?”

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other, then back at the Captain.

“I cut it for him,” Starsky said. “He was looking a little lopsided.”

“Well now he looks like a lopsided Dennis the Menace.”

Hutch put his hand to the blonde locks and felt around looking at Starsky for reassurance.

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” Starsky whined. “Hutch, you look terrific. Really.”

Not really,” the Captain guffed. “Fix it before you requalify.”

“Yeah, Cap…” Hutch shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “About that…”

“I got the papers here somewhere,” the Captain said before finding the requalification forms on his desk under a stack of files. “I’ll sign off. Then you need your doctor’s signature who treated you in the hospital and the department doc, which will mostly be a formality by then.” He was patting his shirt and pants looking for… “Where the hell is a pen?”

Both men shrugged their shoulders and watched as their Captain continued to look for a pen on his desk.

“Oh, never mind,” he said grabbing the prop pen from Hutch’s left fist and signing the form. “Here you go. Now, hurry up and get back here. Those two children you met out there are just taking up air. One of them has a nervous tick in his face. Always looks like he’s about to sneeze. And the other one whistles incessantly.”

“Yeah, Cap,” Hutch put his empty fist in his lap and hid it under his other hand. “Um, listen, I won’t be requalifying.”

“No, Cap, what Hutch means is that he has a little more rehab to get through before he’s tip top. But he will requalify. Right Hutch?”

“That’s certainly the goal,” Hutch said, rather noncommittally.

“Look,” the Captain said while rubbing his forehead, “you’ve really stirred the pot here today. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this was your intention.”

“Well,” Starsky answered, “don’t suggest it when you can just say it.”

“Uh huh. That’s what I thought. What’s going on here? And I don’t want a smart ass Starsky answer. Hutch?”

“We just came down here to get what belongs to us,” Hutch said in his newly acquired very quiet, reserved voice.

“And what would that be?”

“Answers.”

“I don’t know how much more I can tell you two. Honestly, the case file has been kept from me since…”

While Dobey was talking, Starsky was unzipping his windbreaker to reveal a thick manila file. “Nobody said I couldn’t see it.”

Dobey stood from his seat and made a beeline for the door to the squad room still half open giving a good thunk and checking to see it was latched. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Can you believe those turkeys in IA just left this file out on a desk? So irresponsible. Had my name on it, so I took it for safe keeping.”

“Starsky?” Hutch’s eyes were wide. “What…? How…?”

Dobey pulled his chair around to sit next to his men without the desk between them. “Oh boy. I’m not sure either one of you are ready to see that yet.”

“Cap, you know as well as I do that if the victims were anyone else, this,” Starsky said waving the file, “would be an open book. Now, I see myself as a victim of a horrible crime. IA knows I didn’t beat myself up. I just want to be anyone else.”

“You are also a suspect,” Dobey reminded him. “Do you know what they could do to you if they find out you have the file?”

“What? Suspend me?” Starsky pontificated as he walked around the room before sitting in the second chair next to Hutch. “Done. Ruin my reputation? Done. Destroy my personal life? Done.”

Hutch reached over and gently placed his hand on Starsky’s arm for just a moment. The reflexive touch came as a welcome throwback to when contact between the two came in the form of brief touches of assurance, friendship and, yes, love. At this point, Starsky put this one in the category of assurance.

“Is it?” Dobey asked looking shyly at the floor before connecting very pointedly with Starsky’s blue orbs. “Is it destroyed?”

Neither man answered and the question remain auspiciously up in the air… in the still, silent air. You could have put a wall between the two and never noticed it.

Dobey looked between the detectives, back and forth, with just his eyes, not sure how to help out in a situation he was only recently apprised of and left him with an uncomfortable, awkward feeling. He’d hated being put in the position of marriage counselor in his career as Captain, even though he could count on one hand how many times one of his detectives had sought out marriage advice from him. And those were men married to women – a subject he felt he knew something about. But this… “I don’t know what to say, except to not let the shit in the cat box come between you.” He grimaced at his stupid metaphor.

“That’s very heartfelt, Cap. Thanks, I guess,” Starsky said with a half grin. “But right now we’re concentrating on this shit.”

The case file was dropped on the desk and opened up, all three heads looking over the stacks of papers: Officers’ reports, medical findings, evidence, forensics, witness statements, photos.

“Starsky,” Dobey said as he closed the file, “before you go through all this, let me tell you what happened when I found you. In detail. That way, what you read won’t be such a shock. Hopefully.”

The two men sat back and Dobey parked himself against the corner of the desk.

“The call came to me at home around 10:50. Told me that you were in trouble and had a gun.”

“Why would they call you?” Starsky asked. “Who was it?”

Dobey thought carefully before thinking out loud. “I don’t know. Dispatcher just said that Detective Starsky was armed and dangerous and making threats. Gave me the location of the laundromat but I drove around the corner to where I saw the patrol car lights and found you there.”

“That was quick,” Hutch deduced. “He left my place around 10:30. In twenty minutes time he was beaten, drugged, and had supposedly confronted cops. The station was notified of Starsky’s ID, the dispatcher put two and two together and then called you. All in twenty minutes.”

“Okay,” Dobey said getting a clue, “let’s keep that in mind. It took me probably fifteen minutes to get there and another ten minutes to talk you down. Then I went to Hutch’s place.”

Starsky was carefully processing the information. “When you found me…?”

“You were high as a kite. There’s no doubt about it, Starsky. You had your back-up gun…”

“Wasn’t mine. My BUG is at my apartment and has been.”

Hutch looked through the list of logged evidence. “It says: one firearm, Walther PPK. Detective Starsky’s back-up gun.” He flipped the page over, then back again. “No serial number listed. No copy of Starsky’s permit for his BUG as a match.”

“And mine is a PPK/S. Either a kid filled this out or this was all fucked up on purpose. Any cop would know the difference.”

“Well, add it to the growing list. Anyway, you had a gun. Waving it around and hallucinating something fierce. You’d broken out the glass of several shops. You had obvious physical injuries and blood…. well, you were very injured, son. I finally was able to get close enough to get the gun away from you. And in a few minutes you were mostly incoherent.”

“Who did you give the gun to?” Hutch asked.

“Don’t know. Whoever the officers were on scene. Starsky, what do you remember?”

Starsky stood and walked around before settling against the wall by the window. “Sinking ships…”

“…hairy purple butterflies and humanoid animals,” Hutch added. “We both had those hallucinations. But they had to be memories.”

“Pretty sure they’re tattoos,” Starsky added. “Officer Mitchell – one of the uniforms that’s been stalking us, I assume under direction of IA, has a tattoo of a navy ship going down on his forearm.”

“Doesn’t mean anything.” Dobey was taking notes. “You know how many of our ranks are ex-military.”

Finally, Dobey opened the file and the three detectives went after it like they would any case, each taking different sections to study. Hutch zeroed in on the photos. Dobey looked at forensics, and Starsky read the officers’ reports.

“Starsk, there’s a photo of the back of my hand with a boot print on it. Must be they took it before they set it.”

“There was a boot print on my right hand too. Somebody likes to stand on hands.”

Hutch rifled through the file and carefully organized the photos on the desk, as gruesome as some of them were. “I don’t see a picture here. They took pictures of your head, face, left hand, hips, both legs… Jesus… even your pelvic area. But not your right hand.”

“You were a victim and a suspect.” Dobey added. “Why would they miss that?”

“Did they miss it or is it just conveniently missing from the file?” Hutch looked at the other two waiting for someone to brainstorm. “I mean, if we have the same boot print on our hands, it could prove that the same person is the perpetrator. And it wasn’t Starsky. He was barefoot.”

“There is a picture,” Starsky remembered. “The student docs took a picture at the hospital before they changed my cast. It’s there somewhere.”

Dobey picked up the phone and began to dial. “We need the DA’s office to get a warrant for that picture.”

NO.” Starsky and Hutch said at the same time as Hutch reached over and hung the phone up.

“Listen, Cap, someone with access to that file removed that picture.” Starsky could tell he was shifting Dobey away from his loyalty to the department and towards their search for the truth. “We need to find the negatives from that night. The ADA has as much access to this file as IA. How do we know she’s not in on it? After all, she’s the one responsible for sharing evidence with defendant’s attorney. I’ll go find those kid doctors myself.”

Starsky resumed reading the responding officer’s report filed by an Officer Brian Pendergast and finally read it out loud.

While on patrol the sound of breaking glass drew us to the area of Lincoln and West Maple at approximately 10:48pm. We found an individual later identified at David Starsky wearing only a pair of blue jeans with an unzipped fly. He had on no shirt, socks or shoes. Subject was exhibiting erratic behavior typical of heavy drug use. He was covered in blood from recently sustained injuries and had evidence of white powder around the nose and mouth. The subject was very vocal and most of what he shouted was unintelligible. He was hallucinating and at times, when we could understand him, claimed that people were following him and was being attacked by butterflies. A gun was in his left hand which he waved around threatening to shoot. He was in obvious pain but refused our commands to release his gun or surrender. Shortly after 11:00pm we were joined by Captain H. Dobey from BCPD who is the subject’s immediate supervisor. As he spoke to the subject we were able to call for an ambulance. Captain Dobey was able to relieve the subject of the gun and restrain him. By the time an ambulance arrived the subject was no longer conscious.”

All three men remained silent as Hutch reached for the report and read it to himself. “Nowhere in here does it say they made contact with the dispatcher. Not until after you arrived, Cap. In fact, they got on the scene only two minutes before you got the call. They didn’t know it was Starsky until…” he paused as he found the exact quote, “…later identified as David Starsky. Cap, responding officers didn’t know it was Starsky. And Dispatch didn’t know it was Starsky.”

“Someone called me almost at the same time the patrol car came on the scene. I need to check Dispatch records. I don’t like getting played.” Dobey picked up the phone and dialed. “This is Captain Dobey in Homicide. I want a complete copy of the dispatch records and all communications made in and out of Dispatch for the evening of,” he grabbed the file and read the date, “June 8th of this year. Yes. Zero eight June. I want those yesterday,” he howled before hanging up.

Hutch and Dobey were oblivious to Starsky leaning against the window sill, his head against the glass, eyes closed. Butterflies. Sinking ships. A gun. Powder around the mouth and nose. Boot on hand. He sucked in a breath as he remembered that feeling he got in the hospital of being held down, but it wasn’t in the hospital. It was in the alley by his car. The cold of the window pane felt just like the dead cold of the cement his face was pushed into. The weight on his body, pained from injuries already inflicted on him, threatened to cut off his air.

“Cap, look at the Torino,” Hutch said still looking at the crime scene photos. “Here. This one showing the bags of drugs in the back seat. The window is smashed in. We know Starsky forgot his keys, but he would never break the window when he could have just come back for the keys. Shit. If I hadn’t fallen asleep I would have gone looking for him. He should have been back in five minutes.”

“Not your fault, Ken. You couldn’t have known. Sounds like this was well planned out.”

“Still…”

“They, um,” Starsky drew in a deep breath then let it out heavily as he spoke with his eyes closed. “I saw lots of tattoos. But no faces. They beat the shit out of me. Slammed my head into the pavement then held it down and covered my face so I couldn’t breathe.” His voice was steady and even. Somehow he had adopted Hutch’s quiet demeanor as he was relaying his horrifying attack. It was a dichotomy not lost on Dobey.

“What else, son,” Dobey said just as quietly.

“Thought I was going to suffocate. Their voices started to fade as things went black. And then the hand on my mouth and nose was gone and when I sucked in air I remember feeling like I was choking on something,” he said putting his hand over his throat. “And as much as I tried to breathe it felt like I was in a dust storm. Think I rolled over on my back and heard someone say something like shoot him. Didn’t hear a gun, though, but I felt a needle in my hand or wrist or something. That’s all I remember.”

“Maybe that’s why the photo of that hand is missing. The boot and needle mark.” Dobey looked through the file until he got to the medical report. “PCP-angel dust, cocaine, opiates, benzodiazepines. So they forced you to inhale the PCP and coke. Probably injected the benzos and opiates. Jesus Christ.”

The memories were screaming at Starsky like a movie in fast motion. Keeping his back to the other two, he continued the stare out the window as he avoided them. He was doing everything he could to keep it together.

By this time Dobey was dissecting the file with an experienced detective’s precision. “There’s a witness statement from two people who said they saw a car with three people leave the alley the Torino was in at approximately 10:45. Why is this the first I’ve heard of it? Starsky?”

“Yeah, um, pretty sure my attorney hasn’t seen that. Or the photos. He would have picked up on the missing picture.”

“And Dispatch records aren’t copied into the evidence. Let me see…. There is definitely a copy of your attorney’s request for copies of evidence per discovery rules. Signed by the judge. Something stinks here.”

A knock on the door and his secretary stuck her head in. “Excuse me, Captain. Dispatch called and said that the records you asked for are not available.”

“Not available?”

“Apparently they’re missing.”

“Heads. Will. Roll.”

No one could have stopped the bull called “Dobey” who charged out of the office and strung together a collection of vulgar words as he charged downstairs to Dispatch.

“Think I heard fuck, fuckwits and a couple motherfuckers,” Starsky said standing in the doorway. “He’s making history.” He leaned against the doorframe and enjoyed watching people move out of the Captain’s tornado as he turned to go down the stairs. Finally, he pushed away from the wall and turned his attention to Hutch in the middle of the room.

The blonde stood over the desk, arms folded in front of him, studying the organized stacks of papers and photos, back and forth, always going back to the large 8 X 10 glossy color photos of a severely injured, bloodied Starsky.

“Hutch?”

He picked up the picture of Starsky lying unconscious, the ventilator ET tube sticking out of his mouth, a tube up his bloodied nose, unseeing eyes open to a vacant slit.

Alone.

“Hutch?”

“They planned this. Watched my place knowing you wouldn’t spend the night. Then followed you to your car.”

“Yeah, sounds like it.”

“They beat you. And…and forced you to nearly suffocate to get that shit into you.”

“Yeah.” Starsky walked over to Hutch, but before he could get there, Hutch picked up one of the chairs and threw it across the room. The bookcase never had a chance. “Hutch…”

“…and then planted the drugs in your car. Palmed a gun in your hand and left you to die. TO DIE.”

“Babe…”

That wasn’t enough so they’re railroading you into attempted murder of a police officer and rape by falsifying evidence.” Hutch raked his hand through the butchered blonde locks while pacing the room, his fury building with every step.

“Sit down, Hutch.” Starsky righted a chair previously toppled to the floor and not so gently pushed Hutch’s shoulder down into it. “I know I wanted you to be angry, but not here, huh?”

Hutch nodded and wiped the sweat from his face. “Yeah. Sorry.”

“Now, let’s just look over all of the evidence just like we always did and fire up that brain of yours. You have a knack for stringing things together,” he said handing him a stack of papers. “Now, start stringing.”

Hutch read through all of the statements and made notes of dates, times and names, but he kept going back to the pictures. As disturbing as it was for him to see Starsky’s injuries, he was focused on his own pictures. Strange to have missing time documented like that. By the time he awoke from the coma and started have meaningful memories, his injuries were mostly healed. With lacerations, heavy bruising, fractures, shaved head and additional medical equipment it was like he was looking at a stranger. What he really wanted to see was sinking ships, hairy purple butterflies and humanoid animals. Although those images kept popping into his head since they got to the precinct, he had yet to actually see them… except for the ship tattoo on Officer Mitchell.

Hutch stood and grabbed the papers from Starsky’s hands. “Hey, what are you…?”

“I knew it,” Hutch spouted.

“What?”

“God damned son of a bitch.” One page after another was laid out in front of them with Hutch pointing at the bottom of them – at the signature line. “That fucker. I’m gonna tear him to pieces.”

Starsky’s eyes widened. When the big blonde Norwegian steamed with fury it was best to move out of his way. This was the old Hutch. Unfortunately.

As Hutch slammed open the door to the hallway and stormed off down the corridor, he very nearly ran over Captain Dobey returning from Dispatch.

“Where’s he off to?” The Captain asked.

“I don’t know, but we better get there ahead of him if we want to save a life."

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty

 

The silent but deadly Viking rage: Just over six feet tall topped with unruly blonde hair and motored by size 13 feet. Last seen marching south on the third floor of the precinct. Huffing. Puffing. Large feet pounding. Everybody get out of his way. No, really, clear the hall.

Hutch’s gate was wide with purpose as he seethed through clamped teeth, red faced, straight to Internal Affairs. Both hands were tight in fist – one by involuntary design, the other with exacting intention. He didn’t see anyone ahead or beside him. If they didn’t see him first he simply walked through them. He saw only one solution.

He stopped at the open door to Captain Schrader’s office just long enough to see that it was as empty as when they first walked by, so he went on to the small room of cubicles the IA detectives called home. It was small, crowded and oozed with secrecy. Everything had walls including the library-like carols that made up the desks. Hutch sniffed loudly as he opened the door and made himself known.

“Where are you, coward?” he growled in a low voice rarely heard from the blonde… at least outside of a perp take-down. He pushed the empty desks aside and toppled chairs. It was already after five o’clock making it likely that the 9 to 5 suit and tie detectives were probably on their way home for the day.

“Hutch…”

“Fucking asshole.”

“Hutch, just let Dobey handle this.”

Finding the room vacant, Hutch pushed Starsky aside like disposed of waste and moved back into the hall. Finally, his target exited the evidence room ten feet away. It took Hutch four steps to get to Simonetti.

Starsky grabbed his sleeve by the second step. “Hutch, come on. Just let Dobey…”

Like a windmill, Hutch pulled his arm up and away from his partner as though he hadn’t heard a word that was said. Instead he went for the tall, thin, curly headed IA detective and slammed him against the wall with a strong right forearm to the chest.

“You - son of a bitch...”

“What the hell…?”

“You falsified evidence. You removed evidence. You signed off on altered and incomplete findings. And you prevented testimony and evidence from getting to his attorney that would clear my partner.”

“I… what are you…?”

“What am I? What am I? I am the victim in this crime who wants answers and the only reason you would want to cover up who the true criminals are in this case is because maybe you know who they are. Or maybe it’s even you.”

“Get your hands off me. You are… not stable.” Finally, Simonetti was able to take advantage of Hutch’s still recovering strength and pushed him away. “Jesus, you’re like a playground bully. Two can play, ya know.”

“Come on, partner,” Starsky said, taking Hutch’s elbow, “Let’s go back to Dobey’s office and…” It was then that the force of Simonetti’s punch aimed for a stumbling Hutch went off course and met Starsky’s face with the power of one pissed off cop.

Starsky went down hard and managed to stay on his hands and knees as he cupped his face to catch the pool of blood pouring red hot from his nose. He gurgled and choked at first before managing to spit the congealed mess of blood, and mucus onto the cold tile.

Hutch’s eyes were wide with ire. Watching his partner go down, he pulled his right shoulder back and down in preparation for throwing the hardest and most devastating return punch he could manage. His fist came forward like a World Series pitcher delivering the game winning pitch, only Simonetti caught the fist in his hand before it could connect.

“Some punches, landed just right, can kill a guy, Hutchinson,” Simonetti said, his eyes fierce with wrath. “But you know that, don’t you?”

Hutch continued to press his right fist into Simonetti’s palm with as much force as he could muster, his rage spilling from between his mashed teeth in heavy breath.

“What’s the matter?” Simonetti said pointing down to Hutch’s hanging, useless left hand with his eyes, “Cripple boy run out of options?”

“What the hell is going on here, Hal?” Schrader said racing down the hall. “I got a call down in records that one of my men was being attacked.”

As Dobey tended to Starsky, Schrader moved in back of Hutch and gently put his hands on his shoulders. “Hutchinson, just back down. Let’s take this out of the hallway. Okay?”

Nobody moved. Fist remained anchored mid throw, eyes on eyes. Not a lick of trust anywhere.

“Simonetti, let him go,” Schrader ordered over Hutch’s shoulder at his detective. “Chuck. Back off.”

Simonetti let go of Hutch’s fist and put up both hands in mock surrender. “I just want it on record that I was not the aggressor. I was defending myself and Starsky got in the way. That’s all.”

Hutch took a deep breath and swayed on his feet in the oxygen rush before leaning over to put his hand on his knees.

“Whoa, Ken.” Schrader kept his hands on the blonde’s shoulders to keep him from falling over. “Is it your head? You need to go to the hospital?”

“No,” Hutch finally said before standing and moving away from Schrader’s interfering touch. He was never a man who let others touch him. His parents raised him much like a seasonal paid employee. It wasn’t until he met Starsky that touch became something he craved and needed. But even that wasn’t there anymore. In fact, Hutch was avoiding it not sure of who to trust and how to cope. “Just, leave me alone.” He took a few steps and leaned heavily against the wall as the stars in his peripheral vision slowly abated.

Dobey was squatting next to Starsky holding a towel to his nose and an ice pack someone had retrieved to the back of the detective’s neck. “Morrie, we have a real mess on our hands and I’m not just talking about this incident here. I want all of us in my office now. Starsky, Hutchinson, you, me and Simonetti.”

His head pounded. His nose felt like a spike had been hammered into it. Starsky was only hearing every third word. “I…beel lide I gonna buke…”

“What?” Dobey asked looking at Starsky’s eyes.

“Puke,” Hutch repeated. “He said he’s going to puke.”

A trash can somehow got under Starsky’s chin just in time as his meager lunch made its way up and out of not only his mouth, but his sore and swollen nose. Starsky kicked his foot out as the burn of bile on top of the already angered nasal tissue insulted him. “Buck.”

“What was that, son?” Dobey asked patting his back.

Hutch remained against the wall, Schrader and Simonetti between him and his partner. “He said fuck.” Dobey threw him a dirty look. “What? He said fuck. You asked.”

A parade of anger and exasperation, on the offense and defense, paraded back down the hallway towards Dobey’s office, brought up in the rear by Starsky and his just as indignant scarlet oozing sinuses.

The door closed behind the Starsky caboose and all five stood without looking at each other not sure who should begin the bitch fest. Finally, Hutch put a chair behind Starsky. “Sit down, Starsk,” he whispered in his hear to his barely there partner. As the injured man leaned his head back onto his partner’s midsection, Dobey placed the icepack over the swelling nose.

Buck… OW!”

“Curb your language, Starsky.” Before Starsky could complain, the Captain held his hand out to him in a stop motion. He knew him too well. “Okay,” Dobey began, “where should we start?”

“How about we start with why you are in possession of an active IA file,” Schrader said pointing behind Dobey to the desk and the file wide open, papers and photos spread out north to south, east to west.

Hutch turned to the IA Captain. “It was…”

“It’s not classified. Not even close,” Dobey interjected. “I went to ask to see it and you weren’t in your office, Morrie. However, you did leave the file out for all to see, so I relieved your desk of it.”

With the realization that Dobey was lying for them, and essentially, taking the fall for them, Starsky sat up straight and inserted himself into the impending implosion. “Cap, you don’t have to…”

“Detective Starsky,” Dobey continued trying to convey something with his eyes, “I think you and your partner have done enough today. How about you let the higher ups deal with this mess now?”

In the ten seconds of lingered silence among the men, Starsky, Hutch and Dobey eyeballed each other in what could only be considered a foreign language. Things were evolving in a way that finally made the two homicide detectives feel as though they weren’t facing the multitude of barriers and uphill climbs alone. So, for what might have been the first time in their professional lives, they kept quiet. For the time being.

“Hal, you just can’t…”

“Oh, I can, and I did. And now you and your people have a lot of explaining to do.”

Simonetti stepped forward and attempted to get behind Dobey’s desk but was stopped by a large arm. “The evidence in that file…”

“Is flawed at best,” Dobey gave him with a not so subtle stink-eye. Message received as Simonetti slinked back to the file cabinet he’d been holding up.

“Morrie, this case wreaks of greenboot, sloppy detective work. It’s a file they could use at the Academy to teach how not to gather and log evidence for an airtight case. Your man Simonetti here has signed off on every submission. I can’t believe the DA’s office is on board with this.”

“I admit I’ve stepped back on this to give Chuck and the ADA a chance to wrap it up before going over it with a fine toothed comb.”

“Captain Schrader,” Simonetti whined pointing at Starsky and Hutch, “they haven’t cooperated since…”

“Back off, Chuck.”

“…day one. It’s like they’re trying to manipulate…”

“Considering we were fighting for our lives on day one,” Starsky said, finger pointed at Simonetti’s smug face, “you’re lucky you’ve gotten anything from us.”

“You looking for sympathy, faggot?”

Starsky moved in front of the IA detective. “Oh, I want something from you, but not what you think.”

“Raping your partner wasn’t enough?”

“Make up your mind.” Starsky inserted himself within an eyelash of Simonetti’s face, intentionally uncomfortable. “Am I a faggot or a rapist? What do you prefer?”

“As far as I’m concerned they’re interchangeable.”

Schrader pulled Simonetti away from Starsky and very purposely pushed him back against the wall. “Knock it off, Chuck. Shut it. Insults are not evidence. Never bring that shit into a superior’s office.”

“You know the seriousness of this case, Morrie,” Dobey said. “My man here could spend the rest of his life in prison and I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I don’t believe he’s guilty for one minute.”

“Hal, you and I should talk. Alone. I’ll give you all the time you need to make your case.”

Dobey and Schrader moved over to the window. “Gotta tell you, Morrie. I expected more from you. This is your department. You earned that position just like I did here.”

As the two Captains continued their discussion, Starsky walked over to the corner ostensibly to toss out his bloodied tissue, but really to get under Simonetti’s skin. “How do those bus tires feel, Chuckie?” he asked while lightly brushing invisible lint from the shoulder of the man’s white dress shirt. “Huh?”

Starsky snorted with a grin as Simonetti stormed out of the office.

“You’re a walking hazard, buddy,” Hutch said putting another tissue up to Starsky’s dripping nose. “Try to keep the medical waste in check.”

A knock on the door interrupted the meeting as the pencil necked department shrink, Dr. Bradshaw let himself in. “Captain Dobey, I heard that you were having issues up here.”

Issues,” Starsky guffed.

“To be honest, when I heard it was you, Dave and Ken, I thought it would be good if we took advantage of you being together to have a discussion.”

“No thanks, Doc,” Starsky snarked. “My pop already gave me the talk. Drew pictures too. Ya know, to this day I can’t figure out how a two-legged cat and robot with boobs make a baby.”

“That’s enough, Starsky,” Dobey scolded.

“I will give you men some time alone.” Schrader walked to the door but stopped before leaving. “I’ll do whatever it takes to make this right. I should have handled this myself. Starsky, Hutchinson, please feel free to come to me personally with any questions or concerns. I’ll be an open book. And Simonetti will be…. handled. Hal, I’ll speak to you tomorrow. Looks like I have matters to take care of.”

Dr. Bradshaw stood in front of Starsky giving his nose the once over, pinching the bone top to bottom. “Doesn’t feel broken.” He then walked his fingertips equally across each cheek bone around the eye sockets. “Don’t feel any step-offs. Should get an X-ray, I guess. But you probably won’t.”

“Nope.”

The door continued to revolve as Carol poked her head in. “Captain, you have a call from the DA’s office. ADA Martha Davis.”

“This day keeps getting better,” the Captain grumbled. “I’ll take the call in the squad room at Babcock’s desk, Carol. Boys, use my office for as long as you like. I’m heading home after I hang up on Ms. Davis.”

“Give my regards to the dragon lady.” Starsky’s insult never even made the Captain flinch.

“So, how are you two doing?” Bradshaw asked looking between the two.

Hutch pounced first. “Hunky dory.”

“Peachy keen.”

“Couldn’t be better.”

“Over the Rainbow.”

“Giddy with joy.”

“Fucking barrel of sunshine.” Starsky stretched his arms over his head. “Your turn, Hutch.”

“Haven’t watched Dinah Shore lately. I’ve run out of happiness metaphors. You?”

“Fresh out. Wanna go get something to eat?”

“Nah. Need to get home and finish the needlepoint I started in the hospital.”

Oh, the one with the little yellow flower thingies?”

Hutch pointed at his nose then back at Starsky. “Bingo. That’s the one.”

“Okay, okay.” Bradshaw relented moving to sit on Dobey’s desk to position himself above the sitting detectives. “I get your point which, I believe, is somewhere between the towns of Avoidance and Don’t-Give-A-Shit.”

The guys tossed looks back and forth to each other, nodded, then eventually surrendered to the shrink.

“I’ll be candid. Carol, Dobey’s ultra-efficient secretary, called and told me that you two were in the middle of a physical confrontation. She said you in particular, Hutchinson, had… gone off the deep end. Those are the words she used.”

“I thought my actions were very appropriate considering the circumstances,” Hutch answered into his hands folded on his lap.

“Aren’t you two still on suspension or medical leave?” They nodded in the affirmative. “So why are you here?”

Hutch tapped his chin while feigning seriousness. “I believe we’re looking for the higher truth. Isn’t that right, Detective Starsky?”

“I believe it is, Detective Hutchinson.”

“And you’re both recovering well? Coping with the effects of the attacks?”

“Uh huh,” Starsky said to the wall practicing the already mentioned avoidance. “Sure.”

“Yeah? That’s not what the twenty feet of blood trail, your remodeled face and the pile of lumber over there, formerly known as a bookcase, tells me.” For the first time since stepping in the office, the doctor had the upper hand as both detectives clammed up. “Ken, last time we spoke you were withdrawn, depressed, resistant to discussion. Fragile.” Hutch pushed his left fist back into its pocket and sighed as he looked away from both men. “And Dave, the walls have been talking. I hear you haven’t missed a chance to let your anger be known around here.”

Starsky stood and walked over to the familiar window, leaning against the pane with folded arms. Hutch remained in his seat rarely bringing his head up from a slump. Neither one spoke. What little power they had had been removed leaving their emotions naked and vulnerable. They resorted to their usual defense mechanism: folding into themselves.

“Ken, you’ve gone from confused depression to impulsive rage. Not unusual for a traumatic brain injury patient, but I suspect there’s more going on here. What changed?”

“Starsky wanted me to get angry. So I got angry.”

Bradshaw got the humor and returned Hutch’s attempted smile before getting back to business. “There are two ways anger is processed: through withdrawal, which is passive, and through acting out, which is aggressive.”

“You telling me I’m passive aggressive?”

Starsky snorted a chuckle. “Nothing new there. I think that’s what you medical types call his baseline.”

“Look,” the doctor continued satisfied that, although the detectives were using humor to cover their discomfort, they were listening, “what you two are going through is very much like the stages of grief. I don’t know what you feel you’ve lost, mostly because I do most of the talking when I see you. That alone is exhausting. The stages of grief are shock, denial, anger, depression and acceptance. I’d say you’ve hit most of them. Acceptance is well down the road.”

Again, he looked at the two cops and found they were lost in their own thoughts.

Depression is an appropriate response to loss in life. You feel hopeless and have a hard time seeing a positive outcome.”

Both men remembered when they dealt with that. Starsky at the hospital watching Hutch linger between death and a vegetative state. Hutch lived in a fog of depression as soon as Starsky was separated from him and his parents divested him from their lives.

Denial helps us to cope and it also makes survival possible by putting depression in the back seat so we can just get through the day. It becomes a bridge to the now suppressed anger, and eventually, overt anger.”

Starsky knew that he swam in denial while sitting at home under the umbrella of the restraining order. Hutch…. he was still there.

“And anger. Here we are, aren’t we? Believe it or not, you need to feel it to allow yourself to know you’re alive.” He talked with his hands gesturing back and forth between the detectives. “It may seem endless. During anger you can feel lost and disconnected. It’s projected onto others you care about. Anger is your first hope for strength finding its way back in your being.”

Comprehending and identifying with everything the department shrink was saying, both men were now looking at the doctor.

“Dave, you’ve been physically recovered longer than Ken and you have had to deal with what happened to you openly and with accusation. I would bet that you’ve been in anger mode for much longer and maybe it’s even beginning to recede.”

Starsky nodded after looking at Hutch for validation.

“Acceptance may not be far off for you.”

Starsky spoke quietly almost not wanting to know. “Accepting what?”

“What you’ve lost as a result of what happened to you. Your job, your freedom, your personal life. Perhaps you’ve started accepting the reality of what’s to come, or not to come.”

Hutch continued to looked down between his feet and study the floor tiles.

“Ken, your head injury puts you way behind the eight ball. You’ve been hospitalized, isolated by your parents and now even they’ve left. After seeing your medical records, I don’t know how you’re even here. How’s your memory been these last two months?”

“Getting better, but it feels like it’s only been a couple weeks. The missing time… is…”

“Yeah. I know. You won’t get it back. You just have to be satisfied with moving forward. So,” he said raising his voice so they could both hear him, “the two of you are talking. Clearly spending some time together. Good. But I get the impression that you’re not really communicating with each other, right?”

Turning his head back to the window to watch the goings on outside, Starsky validated Bradshaw’s assumption quite clearly, as did Hutch who still focused more on the floor than at the other two in the room.

“The grief issue is something you’re both dealing with. Starsky, you have to also focus on your defense in the case. But Ken is fighting his own battle on his own that you may not realize.” Bradshaw pulled a chair over to Hutch and sat down facing the blonde. “Let me tell you something you may or may not have been told or realized. Head injury recovery is a very, very slow process. The brain deals with your physical as well as emotional well-being. When the brain is severely injured those two areas heal at very different rates.” Bradshaw stopped to speak quietly so as not to sound insulting. “Ken… Hutch… even with your accelerated rate of physical recovery – and it has been remarkable, even if you don’t think so - I imagine you have had, or are having, periods of emotional immaturity. Times when you can’t cope with more than one concept at a time. You may have had an inability to empathize with others or see beyond your own needs and pain. Some patients are even referred to as childish in nature: whining, crying, anxiety attacks...”

“This is stupid.” Hutch rubbed his forehead a few times before settling on the worry line between his eyes, leaning his head into his fingers pressed into it.

Starsky turned away from the window and started to walk towards his partner but stopped, instead leaning back against the sill. “Hutch… just listen. Please.”

“Hutch, it’s important to understand that this is temporary. Your ability to make the right choices based on possible consequences will come back. And your emotions will level out. And Dave,” he said looking over at the brunette at the window, “it’s just as important not to force this on him. Manage your expectations accordingly. Things will come, eventually. But at the same time you really don’t need to treat him as anything but a grown man. Okay?”

Starsky nodded while watching Hutch intently hoping that this wasn’t too much for him.

“Is any of this really a surprise to either of you?”

Starsky shook his head while Hutch remained motionless in the chair.

“It’s a lot to hear, I know,” Bradshaw said with a hand to Hutch’s knee. “Give it time.”

“Doc?” Starsky asked, “what we’ve… um, what we’ve lost because of all of this, is it possible for us to even get it back?”

“I assume you’re talking about your partnership. Your friendship. You’ll both have to work at it and understand that it can never be the same. But you could start fresh from the beginning and build new memories. You have to work at it, I suppose, like a marriage.”

xXXx

The drive back to Starsky’s place was quiet as a mouse. They didn’t want to talk about what happened, what was said or what was going on in their heads. Starsky pulled the Torino up next to Hutch’s car but didn’t get out.

“I was proud of you today, Blintz.”

Hutch snapped his head towards Starsky with that revelation.

“You charged down that hallway and didn’t stumble or trip once. Believe me. You parted the Red Sea, buddy. Never even stuttered. Bet you didn’t know that, did you?”

Hutch furrowed his brow thinking back. It hadn’t even occurred to him.

“Give me your hand,” he said holding his right hand out, palm up. Hutch paused in thought, but finally turned a bit in his seat and reached across with his right hand. “Not that one, dummy. Your bum hand. Come on.”

Hutch pulled the left fist out of its safe pocket and reluctantly placed it in Starsky’s hand. Relaxing it, he could feel his partner reach down and pull the fingers out straight to stretch the tight tendons and flatten the palm, but he looked away out the window not wanting to see Starsky, or show how much it really hurt.

“Wearing that splint at night to keep the hand flat?”

Hutch shook his head.

“Doing the stretches?”

“No.”

“The OT exercises… the picking up little things and stuff?”

“Why bother?”

Why bother? Jeez Hutch, don’t you want to get better?”

Hutch mumbled something as he pulled his hand back and put it back in its pocket.

“What?”

“I said I don’t have anything to get better for.”

“How do you know?” Starsky exhaled a world of frustration and put the Torino in reverse. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” he said, clear that he wasn’t going in the house.

“Where you going?”

“Got things to do.”

That was it. Nothing else.

Secrets.

Hutch wanted to say something snarky, but the shrink’s words loomed over him. “Okay.” Immature. Childish. “See ya.”

He seamlessly slipped out of Starsky’s car and into his own, not even looking back as he drove towards home, barely avoiding an accident as he mindlessly drove through a stop sign. His mind was stuck on everything he’d done that day. Everything he’d heard.

Playground bully.

Whining.

He had been very self-centered. Hadn’t given one thought to what Starsky was going through. He wanted things to be the way they were before the attack. Before he lost a chunk of his life. Before he lost his job, his body… his lover.

The sun was setting as Hutch parked in front of Venice Place and he thought about what Starsky had said. It hurt to stretch out his hand, the unused tendons and muscles shortened in atrophy. Every time he’d tried, the pain made him think about the attack. Kick to the head. Punch to his ribs. Body slam on his kidneys. Kick here, punch there, slam everywhere. So he just stopped trying. He missed Starsky’s soft touch.

“How do you know?”

His index and middle fingers had more flexibility than the others. He started with them, then added the others until the pain took over and he dropped his hand in his lap. Gave up again.

Hutch was almost to his building’s door when a taxi cab pulled up. He considered ignoring the visitor and locking himself in his apartment. “Gotta be a grown up,” he said to himself with a little laugh.

“Kenneth,” the voice called after him. “Ken…”

“Mom.”

Marilyn Hutchinson was dressed in atypical attire for her: knit pants and a t-shirt. Her hair was slightly out of place and although she was wearing her signature Revlon Crimson Rose red lipstick, her face was make-up free. It was apparent through her artificial smile, that her once well run, regimented life, was not in balance.

As a black and white patrol car slowly rolled by, Marilyn excitedly waved at the two occupants – Mitchell and Cooper – who looked puzzled, then reluctantly gave a half assed wave back to the older lady.

“Oh, look, Kenny. Your friends are checking on you. Isn’t that nice?” She waved again as they turned the corner. “Such nice boys.”

“They sure are,” Hutch gave with a sarcastic grimace. “Mom, what is it?”

“We’re going home. It’s time.”

“Where’s dad?” he asked looking past her into the empty back seat of the idling cab.

“Waiting at the airport. I told him I was picking up his medicine. He doesn’t know I’m here,” she said avoiding her son’s face.

“What’s wrong, mom?”

“He’s had a setback. This last round of treatment weakened him to the point he can’t keep food down, can’t get out of bed, and the pain... Oh dear. So, well, he decided to stop treatment, Ken.”

“But, there are other options, Mom.”

“He’s done. He wants to go home.”

“The best doctors are here. Right here in LA.”

“Ken…”

“No, mom, there are different treatments that have shown promise in Europe. And… and… I can ask…”

Kenneth… honey… he wants to die at home.”

Hutch stopped in mid- sentence unsure of what he heard.

“He wants to die at home,” she repeated. “Vice President Mondale arranged to have a private jet with a medical team take us home. Isn’t that nice of him? Fritz and Joan have always been so good to our family.”

“Give me five minutes to pack a bag. I’ll, um…”

No, Kenny. Please. It’s best if you stay here. I’ll come for a visit after…”

“Mom…”

“After…” She paused to put herself back together, but failed, her voice cracking. “You have work to do,” she said picking up his left fist and playing with the curled fingers. “And David is here for you. At home, our home, you’d be alone. You know that. Your father… Well, this is your home, Kenny.”

Before things got more personal – or, as Hutch believed, more family-like (heaven forbid) – Marilyn gave her son’s hand a loving squeeze while looking up into his blue eyes – the same as hers. “Promise me you’ll work on getting better. Think of it like when you were training for track and cross country. No pain, no gain, right?” She reached up to run her fingers through his golden locks. “And honey, put a comb through your hair. It looks so… disorganized.” Only his mother would think about hair like office supplies. “Don’t worry about David. Your father won’t interfere anymore.” A kiss on his cheek and she was back in the cab, this time waving at him through the back window as it drove away.

xXXx

Starsky didn’t go upstairs and barge into Hutch’s apartment like he used to do. He sat in the car and waited after he blared the horn. It was after lunch, he had called and told Hutch he’d pick him up earlier in the day but had been held up while doing things. Truth be told, he didn’t want to spend hours on end in a car with Hutch. The brooding and self-flagellation reminded him of the several months leading up to Gunther.

Hutch opened the door and bent down, checking out Huggy’s latest non-descript loaner as though buying a house. “And you make fun of my car?”

“Get in ya big lug. We got work to do. Don’t want to be recognized.”

Hutch did a double take when Starsky looked over his shoulder to back out. “You wear black and blue well,” he said pointing to the bruises under Starsky’s eyes.

The car lurched twice as Starsky backed up, then stalled in the middle of the street. “Come on, Deborah.”

“You named her?”

I didn’t name her, Huggy’s cousin did. Said she responds better if you call her by her rightful name.”

“Does Deborah have life insurance?”

Before Starsky could comment, Deborah roared to life and they were on their way.

“Where have you been? Thought you were picking me up this morning.” Hutch finally asked.

“Had stuff to do.”

“So you said.”

Secrets.

Starsky nodded, but said no more on the subject. “Feel like turning the tables?”

Hutch shrugged, curious about what his partner had planned. As Starsky pulled into a parking spot on Buffalo Street he pointed to a white house in the middle of the block. “The one with the American flag painted mailbox. Simonetti’s abode.”

“He’s a real patriot, isn’t he?”

“Been here all morning. Came out for his mail. Opened the door for the cat twice. But seems to be taking the day off from work.”

“You’ve been here all morning?”

“Off and on.”

Hutch wanted to bitch about being left out but decided to just let it go. He was trying.

Just as they settled in for a long afternoon of house sitting, Simonetti jogged down the front steps and got in his car.

“And he’s on the move,” Hutch said as he reflexively reached for the radio mic to call in the position change, then stopped, realizing they weren’t official cops. Starsky noticed, but pretended not to.

They kept themselves at least two car lengths back at all times as Simonetti made stops to gas up the car and buy a newspaper. They nearly drove past his next stop: the library.

“Look, Hutch. Assholes really can read.”

They drove around the block before finding a spot to park on the street where they could see his car in the library’s parking lot. It was another hot day.

“You might want to open your window, Hutch. Deborah’s an old fashioned girl. No A/C.”

Some things never change. Starsky grabbed a bag from the back seat and took out two cans of root beer and a bag of salted cashews. Hutch put his can down on the dashboard unopened while keeping watch on the library’s front door. Starsky tossed the cashews in his mouth, making a game at how far away he could throw it up in the air and make a basket. At least every fourth one dropped in his crotch nesting on the seat.

Crotch corn, Hutch remembered as Starsky reached down and picked the cashews up to try again. “Starsk, that’s disgusting.”

“What? They’re warm. Like boiled peanuts. Ya know, when I was a kid my pop would drive us down south in the summer. Road side stands sold boiled peanuts, except they said berled peanuts,” he declared with a bad southern accent.

Hutch rolled his eyes.

“Want some?”

“Gross. No.”

“I remember when you used to like my nuts,” Starsky said with a waggle of the eyebrows.

Hutch’s smile faded as he went back to watching the library.

Starsky took Hutch’s left fist from the pocket and started stretching the fingers like the occupational therapist had shown him. “They’re a little looser today. Did you wear the splint to bed?”

“Yeah.”

“What made you change your mind?”

“My mother.”

Starsky stopped bending the fingers and rubbing the tendons to let Hutch speak, but still held onto his wrist.

“She came by last night. Took my father home to die. Her words.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

Hutch shrugged his shoulders.

“Want to talk about it?”

“Nothing more to say.”

“Want to pick up my nuts?” He got a half smile from Hutch. “Have to use your left hand though. Therapy.”

That got a laugh from the blonde. A high pitched giggle, eyes sparkling, with that Hutchinson head tilt. The kind of laugh that did it for Starsky.

The tap, tap, tap of metal on metal pulled their attention to the passenger window next to Hutch’s head where the barrel of a gun was aimed squarely at the blonde.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

 

The round, cold hollow of the gun’s muzzle pressed into Hutch’s temple hard enough to leave a deep impression on the pale skin. Starsky still held onto his partner’s hand he’d been stretching, both of them in a moment of contemplation. Move and Hutch’s head could be blown off. Don’t move and… Hutch’s head could be blown off.

“Well, ladies,” the sarcastic voice seethed just out of sight, “seems you forgot the classic rule of staking out a perp. See, you go around the block and park in the rear site of the target. That library has a children’s reading room with an exit out the back. Now, if you two horny queens hadn’t decided to hold hands, maybe you would have seen me come up from behind. You fags are an impairment to the department. Someone’s gonna get killed on your watch.”

“Yeah, well Chuck,” Starsky gave back, “seems you’ve forgotten the three rules of a take down.” Starsky looked to his right at Hutch who sat statue still, his head not moving an inch. “One…” Hutch’s eyes shifted left to look at his partner, “…never waste time with talking. Yammering away will impair the element of surprise. They taught us that at the Academy. See, I paid attention that day. Two…” Eyes still on Hutch this time giving him an ever so slight nod. “…when outnumbered, always keep two arm lengths away to avoid being overtaken. And…” They both took a deep breath. “…THREE…”

With that Hutch threw his head sharply to the right into Simonetti’s face while grabbing the shirt collar at the back of his neck and bodily pulling the IA detective as far in through the window as possible. For his part, Starsky grabbed the wrist holding the gun and slammed it at a right angle into the roof of the car. The exclamation point came when he jammed his thumb as hard as he could into the pressure point of bundled tendons above the pulse point. The gun dropped effortlessly into Starsky’s lap like a leaf from a tree.

Hutch maintained a good grip on the man’s hair. Simonetti was half inside the car, face down between Starsky, still painfully holding the wrist, and Hutch who put his left arm to use and anchored it like a crow bar up under Simonetti’s chin keeping his head just high enough to see Starsky.

“Way I see it, Simonetti… or is it Chuck?” Starsky paused to wait for the answer he knew wouldn’t come from the compromised detective. “I’ll just call you Chuckie. Okay, Chuckie, way I see it, you underestimated my partner’s abilities. How’s his crippled hand working for you now?” The only answer he got was a panicked garble. “What? You having trouble down there?” Starsky raised his right hand and pet the hair not fisted by his partner. “Hutch, darling, perhaps you should let up a little so he can... oh… I don’t know… breathe.”

Hutch struggled with the squirming Simonetti finally slamming his face to the side into the AM radio on the dash. “That’s for hitting my partner yesterday. Wanna try for another?” As the IA detective stilled himself, Hutch loosened his arm rammed up against the throat but still held onto the hair. “Oh, hey now, he’s bleeding on your car seat, Starsk.”

“Well, that’s just not right.”

“Very perturbing,” Hutch agreed. “And icky.”

“Hey, Chuck, ya know anyone walking by might get the wrong idea about you like this.”

“Starsk,” Hutch said while wiggling his pelvis under Simonetti, “can’t tell if he’s trying to get to your cock or mine. You don’t bite, Chuck, do you?”

Before Starsky let go of the wrist to empty the gun of its ammunition he pushed Simonetti’s shirt sleeve up and examined his right arm. Hutch took notice and did the same with the left.

“Huh,” Hutch said to his partner both looking at all angles of the arms and exchanging looks. “That’s interesting.”

The IA nemesis pulled his arms away the few inches allotted. “What the fuck?”

“Hutch here has a thing for pretty arms.” Starsky gave as his lack of answer. “Now, how ‘bout you tell us why you’re playing hooky today.”

“You fuckers…”

“Hey,” Hutch scolded, pulling the hair again, “watch your language. There are ladies present.”

Starsky smiled at his partner, getting just a little corner of the old Hutch back again.

“You got me suspended.”

“No, moron,” Hutch corrected him, “you got you suspended as any of us would have had we managed a case file like that.”

“Fuck you. Both of you. OW,” he balked as Hutch yanked his head back by the hair. “You don’t know. You. Don’t. Know.”

Starsky tilted his head to get as close to Simonetti’s eyes as possible, difficult as it was in the confines of the front seat of the car with their target hanging half in and half out of the passenger window over Hutch. “Then why don’t you enlighten us.”

Let me go.”

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other with raised eyebrows, hand gestures, grimaces and sighs before they both pulled their hands back in surrender. Simonetti couldn’t scooch himself in reverse out the window quick enough.

“My gun,” he demanded, his hand out.

“You’re suspended. Not supposed to have your service piece.”

“Just like you, I have a BUG, except yours is in Evidence Lock-Up.”

“You sure about that? The file doesn’t corroborate your assumption.” Starsky reached over Hutch passing the unloaded gun out to Simonetti first, then the handful of bullets. “Now, what is it we don’t know?”

“Fuck off. I value my life.” Simonetti put his gun in the back of his waist band under his shirt, the ammo in the pocket before wiping the last of the blood from his nose.

Hutch glanced down between the seats and picked something up. “Forgot this,” he said, putting it in Simonetti’s hand.

The IA detective stepped away from the curb before heading to his car. “Watch your backs.” His voice was dark. “Trust no one.”

“Did you notice his arms?” Hutch asked once Simonetti was out of earshot.

“Yep. Makes me think. By the way, what was that?” Starsky asked his partner.

“What?”

“What you gave him.”

“Oh. A tooth.”

“Just one?” Starsky asked starting up the engine. “We’re rusty, partner.”

xXXx

When Starsky picked him up the next morning he drove the Torino.

“What’s the occasion?” Hutch asked adjusting his dress blues and tie. “Thought we were going to try and blend in with all the other uniforms.”

“No blending in with the blinding reflection of your hair, blondie. Besides, I think we need to let Kitty and our brothers in blue know that we’re there and we’re proud.”

“Glad we skipped the church service.” Hutch stopped fidgeting with his collar and put his restless hands in his lap. “Could have caused a scene.”

“Yeah. Hey,” Starsky said reaching over and putting his hand on top of his partner’s, “it’ll be hard, I know. He was a good man. He got a raw deal.”

Starsky drove the fifteen miles to the cemetery without putting his right hand back on the steering wheel. The warm skin to skin contact felt good, and Hutch didn’t seem to mind.

They turned from the paved road into the small Baptist cemetery just outside the city. One side of the main gate was missing. The remaining half of the iron structure stood rusted open against the moss laden rock wall in disrepair. The pavement gave way to a dirt roadway – two century old ruts permanently etched into the soil molded by an assortment of tires. They wound up the hill of headstones, unmarked plots and larger ornate family markers, many tilting with neglect, others obviously cared for and surrounded by flags or flowers. Large trees all nearing their end of life formed a protective canopy over the resting souls keeping out the tentacles of the harsh heat of the sun. The summer breeze scraped the hanging branches over the larger monuments bestowing sounds of crackling and scratches between random musical whistles the whooshing created among the sea of headstones and limbs. It should have been off putting and scary, but instead the cemetery felt like the back yard of a grand southern home.

Starsky came to a stop and pulled to the side in an area out of the way at the top of the hill where a pristine grassy area waited to be claimed for future residents. Looking down they spied the tent and chairs over the brass rail lined open hole. A dozen or so old wooden, rickety, folding chairs lined one side. A raised platform for the casket on the other. Official looking black cars had already arrived with funeral home personnel removing flower arrangements - big, small, roses, carnations and lots of mums. A wreath was placed on a standing wire easel with Roger’s official police department picture in the middle, a black sash draped over the top corner of the frame. Sitting to the side waiting for the casket was a large white spray of flowers. A banner laid across it reading Pop Pop. And there on the ground nestled in the delicate flowers was a small teddy bear sitting at attention wearing a police uniform. When a gust of wind toppled it over, one of the funeral directors gently righted him back on his bottom.

“We’re early,” he said pulling up behind a few other parked cars. “Don’t think we should get too close to the… ah… the plot.”

“We can stand with the other uniforms lining the drive.”

Starsky sighed heavily and wiped his face top to bottom. “Pop Pop. Jeez, Hutch.”

“I know.”

A knock above Hutch’s open window made them both reach for the non-existent shoulder holsters out of reflex.

“Hey, Larry and Moe. Good to see you two side by side again.”

Huggy leaned into the window and put a hand on Hutch’s head, mussing up the blonde locks. “Whatchoo do with that hair of yours? Looks like it’s been in the middle of two whoring cats brawling over a horny tom.”

Starsky scrunched his face up. “I cut it for him. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

Hutch skewed the mirror and worked to put his hair back in place. “Didn’t know you knew the family, Hug.”

“They’re my people. And we go to the same church.”

Starsky and Hutch shared puzzled looks.

“Um,” Starsky asked, “you go to church?”

Go to church? I’ll have you know I’m a deacon. Where you think all them prayers came from when you was both lying in that hospital waitin’ in line to have Sunday supper with Jesus?”

“Okay,” Hutch gave with a hint of sarcasm. “Um… thank you?”

“Uh-huh. Listen, my brothers in blue, why don’t you come by the Pits tonight for dinner on me. Say, around 6. We have some catching up to do.”

Hutch nodded his RSVP.

Starsky shifted in his seat. “I have to be somewhere later today, but I think I can get there.”

The look of curiosity from the blonde couldn’t be missed as Starsky looked out his window avoiding his partner.

“What’s so important?”

“Got things to do, but I’ll try to get there.”

“Things to do,” Hutch repeated in a low voice. “Things.”

The internment at the cemetery was as heartrending as they predicted. Law enforcement vehicles lined the road leading up to the cemetery, the hundreds of red and blue rack lights seen for miles.

As Starsky and Hutch made their way through the reception line to give their condolences to Kitty and the family, Dobey took Hutch aside and gave him a long handshake in a mock greeting. “Need to talk to you two ASAP. Uniforms and detectives are being stretched thin on the street because of the service this afternoon. They’ll be too busy to babysit you. Can you get to my house in an hour?”

Hutch simply nodded and moved on in the line to not bring attention to the exchange.

The other police attendees gave Hutch what had become their signature attaboy pity party with a pat on the back. Not a hard slap like when they’re at the station. More like a barely there, obligatory ‘let the poor guy know you know he was (whisper whisper) violated’, then wipe the hand on their jacket as if soiled. They either shunned Starsky or gave him dirty looks and threw him off handed filthy remarks. When they realized that the ‘rapist’ and the ‘victim’ were there together – as partners and friends – they both got the cold shoulder.

Kitty was shaking hands and accepting light kisses on the cheek from the BCPD attendees, but it wasn’t until Starsky and Hutch got up to her that she threw her arms wide and gave each of them long, tender hugs. It was both endearing as well as an obvious elbow at the unknown accusers on her part.

“The department auxiliary is having a reception at City West Middle School today overlapping shifts from four to seven, but I know you won’t go.” This got her two nods. “Won’t you please come by the church for lunch after we’re done here? It will be just family and friends. The ladies have put on quite a spread.”

Hutch gave the widow another hug while reaching out to pat her granddaughter’s head in Becky’s arms. “We’d love to, Kitty, but unfortunately we have a meeting to attend that can’t be put off.”

As the reception line moved along the guys stepped out of it to head to their car away from the sea of blue. Before he could get in the car, a gentle hand on Starsky’s shoulder stopped him.

“David,” Kitty said inconspicuously giving him an envelope, “I found this in Roger’s uniform jacket last night when I was packing up some of his stuff. I figured it was for you. I don’t know what it is, but I hope it helps your case.”

Starsky discreetly took the envelope labeled ‘S & H’ and cupped her face with his hand before giving her a kiss on the forehead. “Thanks sweetheart. We’ll be in touch. I promise.” With his back to the Torino, he folded the envelope and stuffed it in his pocket before getting in the car next to his partner waiting for him.

“What was that about?” Hutch asked already working to loosen buttons on the restrictive, seldom used formal uniform.

“Kitty just wanted to make sure we were okay, I guess.”

xXXx

They changed clothes and took Hutch’s car over to the Dobey’s. The red Torino would have been too much of an announcement of their presence at the Captain’s house.

“Edith and the kids are over at the church helping out with the luncheon,” Dobey said taking off his tie and opening his shirt by two buttons. “For the first time in more than two months we have absolute privacy. Time to talk, men. Have a seat.”

It was obvious that the Captain had chosen the small family den in the back of the house for two reasons: No windows facing the street inviting prying eyes, and it had a window air conditioner. The kid’s toys cluttering the floor and shelves conflicted with the very adult topic of conversation.

Hutch bounced back from the sofa when his ass burped a squeak from a rubber duck. “Hello to you too,” he said tossing the toy into a nearby basket.

“Heard Simonetti got suspended,” Starsky started.

“Where’d you hear that?”

“Word on the street,” he lied. Well, sort of lied.

“Schrader is on the war path. Took Simonetti off the case, suspended him, and has a team of three detectives from three departments – Major Crimes, Homicide and IA – starting the case from scratch. You guys really stirred the pot. Morrie is under the microscope and my guess is that there are so many inconsistencies that they’ll just close it.”

Starsky sat forward on the sofa, elbows on knees. “I talked with my attorney. He said that he never got the evidence he requested.”

“The official requests are in the file,” Dobey confirmed, “but there is no signed Acknowledgment of Receipt of Supplemental Discovery for any of it.”

“So just closing it doesn’t exonerate me, does it?”

“No, Dave, it doesn’t.”

“Doesn’t get my job back. Or life. Can’t even transfer back to New York.”

Hutch sharply turned his head to look at his partner. Transfer back to New York. When had that become an option?

“The only way I can see that we clear your name is by going backwards and solving what you two had started out investigating to begin with.”

“The missing drugs from evidence?” Hutch asked.

“If there is tampering going on inside the department to keep you two away from each other and away from the precinct, they must be covering up the on-going missing drugs from the Evidence Room.”

“On-going?” Starsky repeated. “It’s still happening?”

“You bet. The day Roger was killed, two bags of uncut coke and a brick of weed went missing. Roger’s murder kind of over shadowed it, but it has yet to show up.”

The two detectives looked at each other knowingly. We know where it is, they thought. Behind Huggy’s Vodka.

“Look, I’m not convinced that the sloppy case file against you, Starsky, is a coincidence. If there’s not enough evidence, you fall off the radar and are cleared. Obviously they have a boat load of evidence, so that’s not gonna happen,” Dobey said as he started listing the possibilities. “If you go to court it could go either way depending on the flavor of the jury and competency of your attorney. There’s a chance you’re found innocent after a couple years… or not. By rag tagging your file they can throw their arms up in defeat and just let it sit. That makes you stagnant. Don’t go to jail, but can’t ever get your life back, personally or professionally. Once a primary suspect, always a primary suspect. This may be exactly what they want and it still diverts attention from the missing evidence.”

Both detectives nodded. They agreed with Dobey’s theory.

Starsky stood and walked to the sliding glass door that led to the small yard. A wading pool sat a few feet away from the large glass window. A plastic cowboy holster with toy gun was draped across an over turned red wagon. Evidence of gardening sat to the side, a bag of white powdered lime was open in the wheelbarrow next to lilac trees. Water, gun, white powder…

“…if we can. Don’t you think, Starsk?”

His fingers tapped on the glass as his eyes moved over each of those items. Water, gun, white powder…

“Starsk?”

He closed his eyes and released a fierce grunt while wiping his face as if trying to rid it of something.

“Starsky, what’s wrong?” Hutch stood behind him taking the hand down doing the incessant tapping. “Hmm? Flashback?”

“They held me down in a puddle of water and… I don’t know…. piss for all I know. And put that god damned bag of powder in my face and made me snort it. They suffocated me until I sucked in as much air as I could and the shit with it. I can fucking taste it, Hutch.”

“Let’s sit down,” Hutch said as he guided his partner back to the sofa.

“Cap, you gotta tell me more. I hate not knowing.”

Dobey moved forward in the oversized chair and leaned into his elbows, close to his detectives. Even though he didn’t need to speak in hushed tones in the privacy of his own house, what he was going to discuss was so uncomfortable and disturbing there was no other way to speak.

“It was hotter than hell that night. Rosey had some friends over for a slumber party. Edith and I were getting them settled in when I got the call. All that little girl giggling and shrieking made it hard for me to hear. But I got that they were calling from Dispatch and there was a crisis with you at that laundromat. When I got there…”

Dobey took advantage of the lighter traffic just before 11pm and made it to the address in record time. As he drove past Venice Place he took note that the abandoned laundromat was just around the corner. But as he turned onto the street he drove beyond the boarded up building and parked a block down and around where two police cars were blocking off traffic with the rack lights on.

Starsky was standing with his back to a broken out window, almost naked save for a pair of blue jeans just barely sitting on his hips with the zipper all the way down. His face was battered, bloodied and in a rage. The two cops stood behind their cruisers with guns drawn thankful that no civilians were around to get in the way. As long as their perp was contained, they were in no hurry to shoot.

“Captain Dobey, Homicide,” he said flashing his badge to the uniforms. “That’s one of my men there. What’s going on?”

“We were just leaving the diner a couple blocks away when someone flagged us down at the corner of Ocean and 16th. Said this guy here was going crazy and shooting out windows. He’s high on something, sir.”

He sure was. Starsky’s eyes darted back and forth as he walked first in one direction, then turned and tried the other way, both times stopped by a black and white or some unseen force. His breathing was rapid and body seemed to have an overall tremble. Blood streaked down his face and mingled with the strings of saliva off of his chin.

“Gonna fucking kill you,” he yelled pointing the gun haphazardly at nothing in particular. “Fucking butterflies think you’re gonna get me, but I’m… I’m gonna get you first.”

His incoherent rambling continued as did his pacing and gun waving, stopping only to rub at his eyes or imaginary bugs on his chest.

“Did you call an ambulance?”

“Yes, sir. They’re staging over on 14th at the Cavalier Hotel until the scene is secure.”

“Okay, good. Listen, I’m gonna go talk to him. I don’t think he’ll shoot me. Even if he tries he doesn’t have the coordination to find a target. So, long story short, finger off the trigger for now.”

He took very slow steps towards his detective from the side careful not to make any sudden or jerky movements. It was obvious that Starsky was having a hard time focusing his glassy, dilated eyes. His neck vein pounded at an unbelievable rate that Dobey swore could be seen ten feet away. One arm remained injured at his side while his left held the gun like a natural extension of his arm.

“Dave, can you put the gun down?” Dobey asked in his fatherly voice. “Just you and me. Let’s talk.”

Starsky grunted and whined, his emotions as erratic as his state of mind and being. “Get down,” he seemingly ordered his Captain. “They’re back there.”

“Who?”

“Fucking VC. They followed us from Dong Ha,” he said, his eyes darting back and forth, occasionally ducking, waiting for something to come that wouldn’t be coming.

“Son, you’re in Bay City now, and…”

“Fuckin’…”

Starsky aimed the gun a few feet away and shot at an imaginary enemy on the ground. Both uniformed cops stood from behind their cars, on alert, with guns pointed at him ready to shoot until Dobey waved them off.

“Fuckin’ jungle snakes.” Drool strung down from his slack mouth. His words were becoming slurred and barely put together. “Use your knife, Sarge. Gotta save ammo until resupply gets here.”

The drugs had taken him back to the most prolonged frightening time of his life, one which Starsky had never, ever discussed with the Captain, or anyone in the precinct as far as he knew. Dobey had done time in Korea and had dealt with enough Viet Nam vets to handle the lingo. It would be worthless to fight the man out of his flashback hallucination so working with it was the only solution.

“Starsky, what are you doing here?”

“Recon. Trying to find a good LZ. Too many… ah… The jungle is…”

“Son, where’s the rest of your squad?” What he really wanted to know was Hutch’s location.

“Hanging on the perimeter of the village. Had to use a Zippo and…and… toss flames. Left a...” His hands went to his head and held it like a vice. “…left a lot of crispy critters. Not a hoo… hooch left standing.” His eyes splayed open as the blood drained from his knuckles above his eyes. “Get them out of… my head,” he yelled.

One of the uniforms startled and swung his gun in the direction of Starsky serving only to increase the paranoia of the drugged out man. Dobey noticed and gently moved himself in front of Starsky, blocking his view of the cop and putting himself in even more danger.

“Where’s your LT? Huh?”

“Dead. You’re the man now, Sarge.”

“What about casualties?”

Starsky stared blankly, his hand still gripping the gun.

“Come on, soldier,” Dobey commanded. “Give me a report. Casualties…”

“At least five. Mostly grunts. FNG’s. I… I… called for a dust-off, but choppers are grounded at base.” Starsky’s left hand started wiping at his chest, the irrationally held gun giving Dobey plenty reason to panic. “God damned spiders. Jesus!”

“Soldier, looks like your right arm is injured. Hand me your gun so I can reload it for you.”

Starsky never flinched, never moved to follow orders. He wasn’t Detective Starsky. He wasn’t Private Starsky.

“Come on, Dave. You need help. Give me your gun. You’re tired. Not thinking straight.”

“Sarge, you… you think I’m Dinky Dau?”

“No. No, you’re not crazy. But we need to move.” Dobey took a deep breath, closed his eyes to become the superior in Starsky’s state of mind he was living in and held out his hand. “That’s an order, soldier. Hand over your side arm.” Starsky’s shoulders slacked just enough to let Dobey know that he was beginning to stand down. “Now, soldier. Di di mau.”

Starsky tilted to the right, stumbled and leaned against the building. “Can’t feel my hands, Cap… I can’t… can’t feel…”

With that, Dobey reached forward and easily relieved Starsky of the handgun, passing it back to the uniform. Starsky’s eyes darted back and forth as he made one last fruitless move to escape. Dobey’s larger body was on top of him in seconds restraining him while the other officer applied handcuffs.

“Dave, I gotta know. Where’s Hutch?”

“Wha…?”

“His place is right around the corner. Is he hurt too?”

“Hutch? Oh shit… Cap. What happened? Why…? Ah…”

His eyes rolled up into his head as the ambulance pulled up and FD paramedics tended to the unconscious Starsky.

“Cap, I’m sorry… I didn’t know that I…”

“Don’t apologize, Dave. Those drugs made you dig up what you buried a long time ago.”

Starsky slumped back on the sofa and closed his eyes. He never talked about Nam. Not with family, cops, friends – especially not with Hutch. He never wanted to soil their relationship with the horrors of the nine months he spent in-country. He looked down at the warm pressure he felt on his chest. Hutch’s hand. He didn’t need to say anything.

“Captain,” Hutch finally managed, “what made you go to my place?”

“I don’t know. Call it intuition. I figured as close as we were to your apartment, if you weren’t with Starsky while he was in a crisis, you must have been incapacitated.”

“How long were you dealing with me?” Starsky asked.

“I was there, maybe, twenty minutes. Once you were in the hands of paramedics, Dave, I got in my car and drove back to Venice Place. As chaotic as the scene was back there, when I parked in front of Hutch’s building…”

What stood out to Dobey was the stilled quiet of the darkness. The streets had been blocked off because of the “active shooter” in the area – Starsky. No traffic drove by. No pedestrians. It was ghost-town-quiet.

He wasn’t sure what it was, but something made him reach over to his radio and request back-up and medical. And after a pause, to expedite the response, declared ‘officer down’.

But he didn’t wait for that back-up. Dobey drew his gun out of the holster and held it down to his side before ascending the staircase. Most people wouldn’t have noticed, but the Captain saw the partial shoe prints of blood tattooing a couple of the risers. He flipped off the safety and raised the gun at a right angle while standing next to the doorway, then knocked.

“Hutchinson?”

He waited and listened intently for any sign of intruder… or life.

He knocked again, this time with his fist. “Hutch? It’s Dobey.”

Still no answer. He turned the doorknob and pushed the unlocked door open, still standing to the side away from any potential gunshots. “Police officer.” No answer again. “Bay City PD.”

He peered around the door frame into the apartment leading with his gun. Just like outside, there was nothing to hear. He’d been there enough times to know where the light switch was and flipped it up shedding light to most of the living room. He scanned the perimeter, peaked into the kitchen and sun room, then holstered his gun when he was satisfied there was no one there.

His last look was into the sleeping alcove where he immediately saw a bare foot sticking out from the shadows. Pulling the chain on the floor lamp, the sudden light revealed a horror that took his breath away.

Hutch was lying on his back, Dobey thought, like Jesus on a cross. His left hand was tied to the bed frame with a necktie so tightly that the fingers were darkened. The right arm was extended all the way out, swollen and ugly. Hutch’s golden hair was brown and red with blood, his face swollen and bruised almost beyond recognition. His chest was a map of early bruises and unnatural indentations. Blood splattered the hanging bedspread and pooled on the floor. Like Starsky, he was clad only in a pair of jeans, unzipped. The struggle had shifted them off his hips exposing his genitals and one butt cheek.

Dobey shook his head in disbelief then kneeled next to his fallen detective and made quick work of removing the necktie from the bed post. At first he thought he heard traffic driving by but realized that it was actually blood gurgling from Hutch’s mouth. His face was turning dark from lack of oxygen, the blood bubbling through the lips. Dobey quickly turned Hutch on his side to let the free flowing coagulated blood spill out only to smell the addition of vomit and then urine. He did his best to clear the blonde’s mouth using fingers as a scoop thinking about how he would have to do mouth to mouth when, finally, the clatter of feet on the stairs gave him some relief. Before he knew it, the apartment was filled with uniforms and detectives. ‘Officer down’ lights a fire under everyone who drives an emergency vehicle. Paramedics were able to get an endotracheal tube inserted into Hutch’s mouth and throat establishing an airway when the first of many seizures rocked him.

The two medics worked ferociously fast, called doctors on the phone and seemed relieved when a third member, a paramedic supervisor, joined the efforts surrounding Hutch. They spoke their own language in abbreviations and almost read each other, just like Starsky and Hutch were known to do.

“Diazepam on board… 10mg IV…got another 10 on deck…”

“Cyanotic before intubation, color is improving…”

“BP is now 90 over 60, heart rate 40...”

“Start another IV, large bore. I want D5W in one, Ringers wide open on the other. Push it… push it…”

“…C-spine and backboard...”

“Need pressure on those bleeders…”

IVs, an NG tube threaded up the nose to the stomach to empty contents, leads on the chest to monitor the heart, BP cuff, bandages, splints, and multitudes of IV bags and injected medications.

“Aspirated… damn jaw is clenched on the tube… need a spacer…”

“Push 5 more migs diazepam… that should help…”

“I got striders… shit, tension pneumo…”

“Get me a 16 gauge angiocath…”

“Decompress that.”

At some point the Captain noticed that Hutch’s pants had been removed and he lay naked, exposed, and gravely injured on his own floor. Even his testicles hadn’t been spared as one of the paramedics lifted them and took note of the bruises and swelling. This beating was made personal.

“Put it in the notes.”

“They’ll check for testicular torsion once he’s stable.”

He looked so vulnerable. ‘Who do I call?’ Dobey asked himself. ‘Starsky is fighting his own battle.’

“He needs a chest tube...”

“Leave the angiocath in the chest. It’ll have to do until we get to the ER...”

“Shit… can’t get a vein. Gonna have to go for the neck.”

“He’s supine with a pneumo. Veins too flat in his neck. Find one in the leg.”

One firefighter did nothing but kneel at Hutch’s head and squeeze the ambu bag putting air into the lungs.

“Shouldn’t you get to the hospital?” Dobey asked the familiar fire Captain who responded with the paramedics.

“It’s not a scoop and run, Hal. They have to stabilize him first and it looks like he keeps giving them trouble.”

Finally, they made their way to the door surrounded by fire department personnel holding up the IVs and carrying the stretcher and multitude of equipment keeping Hutch alive down the stairs.

“He gonna be okay?” he asked as they loaded Hutch in the back of the ambulance.

One of the paramedics talked while he walked… quickly. “Can’t make that call, sir. But, frankly, I’m not sure he’ll make it to the hospital.”

“They must have been working Hutch over while I was out playing war games,” Starsky said while watching his Captain repeatedly rub his hands on pants to dry the nervous sweat.

“I’m sorry you had to see that.” Hutch’s voice was soft. Almost not heard.

“I still see it. Both of you. I don’t dream anymore. I just have nightmares of the both of you.”

“Cap,” Hutch paused as if he had a thousand words to arrange, but settled for just two. “Thank you. Would have died if… ya know…”

Dobey stood and clapped his hands together. “Okay, enough of reminiscing,” he said. “First thing’s first…. Not sure where you two are in your, um… relationship…” He scratched his head, looked around the room, and rocked back and forth on his feet. All signs that he was thoroughly, and completely…. not comfortable at all.

“Captain,” Hutch gave sarcastically, “didn’t know you cared.”

“I’m trying to be serious, Hutchinson.”

Starsky put his hand out in front of Hutch to back him down. “It’s okay, Cap. Honestly, we’re still trying to figure that out. We’re talking to each other. That’s about it. Not sure when this is over if we’ll even…”

“Even what?” Hutch asked incredulously as if Dobey wasn’t even there. “Even work together again? Even live in the same state?”

Starsky exhaled and sulked his head down giving up. “Not now, Hutch. Please?”

“Men, I don’t need to know about your personal life. I just think until we formulate a plan you should stick to your same routine living separate. They’re still surveilling you just like before, I suspect. It wasn’t until you were together that they were able to take you down. Strength in numbers. When you’re apart you stretch their resources.”

They both nodded in agreement.

“Stretch them enough,” the Captain continued, “and they’re bound to get sloppy and make mistakes.”

“Sounds about right,” Starsky agreed.

“The question is,” Dobey asked, “what are we going to do?”

“In all fairness, Cap,” Starsky said, “this is my problem. There’s no reason to draw you into it and risk your job too.”

“You two are my men, and on a good day I consider you friends.” Dobey stared out the same sliding glass door Starsky had parked himself at earlier staring at the same nothing. “I have every reason to back you up. Now, what are we going to do?”

“I have an idea,” Starsky said not looking at either man, “but I need to see about a few things first before I say anything.”

“Starsk…”

“Trust me, partner.”

Trust me, Hutch thought. Trust me, Starsky says. But he doesn’t trust me.

Trust no one.

The ride back to Starsky’s place was about twenty cards short of a deadly silent full deck. Starsky was sure that Hutch would choose to get T-boned rather than look to his right past his partner to check for traffic.

“Can you at least put the car in park,” Starsky asked when they pulled into his drive, “so we can talk?”

The car jerked forward as Hutch roughly threw the gear stick to the top.

“Dinner at the Pits?” Starsky asked Tall, Blonde and Silent. “At six?” He got no answer. “Hutch, please. I miss you. I miss us. You’ve come a long way since you got out of the hospital.”

“Stop treating me like a child.”

“Stop acting like a child.” He regretted it as soon as Starsky said it. “I’m sorry. I just…”

“No, you’re right. I get so overwhelmed sometimes. Feel like I can’t do anything.”

“You’re the strongest guy I know, Hutch. You think too much sometimes, but there’s no one I trust more with my life... And my love.”

Trust no one.

“Do you? Do you trust me?”

“I love you. There’s no love without trust, babe.” He was hoping for a better response than Hutch turning and looking away from him out the window. “Hutch, do you know when it was that I first wanted you?”

Hutch was surprised by the line of questioning but still averted his eyes.

“It was that night with my date, Lucy Strumpf.”

“Who?”

“Lucy. You know, Loose Lips Lucy.”

Hutch frowned in thought before finally smiling. “Oh yeah,” he giggled. “Loose Lips Lucy. With the bare naked… um…”

“Yeah, bare naked pussy, but there wasn’t much loose about her pussy.”

“Man, was she tight.”

“You would know, partner. That night she invited you into our bed and it took me hours to convince you.”

“Not hours, Starsk.”

“Felt like it. But, man, that night… we were both on our knees. She was sucking me off and you were taking her from behind doggy style… hard. I mean, every time you pounded into her she gave this high pitched shriek I could feel on my dick. Watching you with your head thrown back and sweat pouring down that golden chest of yours got me so excited. I finally pulled out of her mouth cuz I wanted to cum in her pussy after you. I couldn’t stop thinking about your cum on my cock inside of her.”

Hutch blushed, the heat rising from his neck.

“After you came… loudly, might I add… I put her on her back, did the whole legs over my shoulders thing, and had to go real slow into her cuz even though you’re big, I’m, ya know, bigger and…”

“Uh huh. You think so?”

“Know so, Tarzan. God she was tight. And her pussy was all red and swollen from the pounding you gave her, but I wasn’t focused on her. It was you. You were bending over her playing with her tits and talking to her telling her to relax. You said, ‘Just relax, baby. Let him in. He’ll make it feel so good.’ And your heavy cock, I swear, was still hard, slick from your cum and her pussy juices. I just wanted to reach over and hold onto it. The whole time I’m fucking her I’m looking at your cock and then I felt it.”

“Um, what?”

“Your fingers. You reached down to play with her clit. When she came she lifted her ass off the bed and your fingers touched my cock. That was it and I exploded. God...'' Starsky's breath stuttered as he exhaled. "...it was earth shattering.”

“I didn’t realize. I mean, I’ve always wanted you. Just didn’t know I could have you until after last Christmas.” Hutch smiled at the memory of their first kiss in the car just before they left for Huggy’s New Year’s Eve party, that they exited early. As everyone was ringing in the New Year with each other at the bar, Starsky and Hutch were jerking each other off in the shower.

“It was the beginning of the end. Or so I thought,” Starsky said. “We spent the next several months doing everything we could to piss each other off. And you grew that damn mustache.”

“And Kira,” Hutch mumbled. “Still don’t know why I slept with her.” The bitch who played them against each other was still hanging over them like a dusty cobweb.

“All history, Hutch. We’re in a different place now.”

Hutch had long ago turned the engine off and now sat on the car’s bench seat turned sideways, his right leg bent up under his butt, his arm in back of Starsky’s shoulders. “The shrink says we have to start all over. I don’t know if I can do that. Don’t know if I want to do that.”

“Our beginning was in your car on December thirty-first at 9:12pm. It was pretty simple,” Starsky said as he leaned into the blonde and tilted his head. “Simple as…” He moved in and pressed his lips into Hutch’s relishing the soft warmth. It was a simple kiss. Simple and chaste.

Hutch caught his breath as Starsky’s lips were taken away. There was no thinking, no discussion and no analyzing as he, himself, pushed forward and rejoined their mouths, this time making it long, sensual, open and hot. He cupped the back of Starsky’s head with his hand to keep him from pulling away. He wanted more. He wanted more than just lips, he wanted…. Trust…. And with that, the air between them returned. “S-s-sorry. I j-just wanted to… I mean…”

“You apologizing for a kiss? Babe?”

Hutch closed his eyes feeling his heart beating out of control. Starsky cupped his face and stroked just under the eye with his thumb catching a lone tear.

“Hutch, it’s okay. I know you’re scared. Confused. I don’t want to make it worse.”

“Just… too fast.”

Starsky turned the blonde’s face towards him and smiled. “Dinner at the Pits. You, me and Huggy. Okay? Six?”

“Yeah, okay.”

xXXx

Business at the Pits was unusually busy for a weeknight. While Huggy helped tend the bar and get dinner orders out, Hutch sat at a table by himself and worked on his second beer. By 7 o’clock he was getting antsy. Starsky said he’d be there but had things to do. He’d been having things to do for a few days. He got up and walked behind the bar ignoring the guy at the end who asked him for another Rob Roy. He dialed Starsky’s number but got no answer.

“Need more ice up here, Hug,” Diane, the waitress, called over Hutch’s shoulder.

“I’m gettin’ drinks for an 8-top, honey. It’ll have to wait.”

“I got it,” Hutch said. “Not doing anything anyway.”

Grabbing the bucket next to the bar, Hutch trudged to the back, through the short narrow hallway, to the humming ice machine. He wouldn’t be able to hold the bucket up with his left hand to scoop in the ice so opted instead to grab the bags of ice Huggy kept in the walk-in freezer in case of emergency. As he lifted up the large bag his eyes went to the corner where Huggy kept his private stash of Vodka. The ice went back on the shelf as Hutch walked over and moved the four bottles of clear liquid. All he saw was a bare spot where the bags of drugs had been placed.

He left the freezer without the ice but with a Hutch full of worry and rage.

“Where is it, Hug?”

“Where is what?”

“The dessert you were keeping for us in the freezer.”

“I told you. In back of the vodka.”

“Uh-uh. Not there.”

Huggy froze momentarily and stared into the blue eyes before putting the glasses down he was washing. He practically ran back to the freezer, Hutch on his heels.

“It was right here yesterday. Here,” he said pointing in back of the vodka. “No fucking way. Fuck!”

The two of them went through the freezer and then the cooler as well. Huggy even checked the bar area. “I don’t understand.”

“Something’s not right here, Hug.” I just tried Starsky’s place again. No answer. He was supposed to be here well over an hour ago.

“Blondie,” Huggy said quietly into Hutch’s ears as his staff rushed around, “looks like we got problems. Big problems.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Two

(A/N: Sorry for the additional week. Way too much life got in the way. Enjoy!)

 

Hutch’s eyes were pointed like arrows down the narrow hallway from Huggy’s bar to the walk-in cooler where they had just come from. Finally, by the tenth ring he hung up the phone. Clearly, Starsky wasn’t home. It was 7:30 – an hour and a half past when he was supposed to meet Hutch at the Pits. He was missing. The drugs were missing.

“What’s the word?” Huggy asked quietly over Hutch’s shoulder. “You find him?”

“Not home. Not here. I don’t know, Hug.”

“It’s not like him. He tells you everything.”

Hutch snorted and rolled his eyes. “Not lately. I’m beginning to think there’s a whole side to my partner he doesn’t want anyone to know about.”

“He was in here yesterday, and…”

“What?”

“Yeah. Came in and talked to a couple people. Used the phone and bathroom.”

“Who? And what were they talking about?”

“I don’t know, blondie. I got a job to do. I ain’t got no time to eves drop like a dried up horny woman at Wednesday Bingo.”

Shit.”

Huggy followed Hutch as the tall blonde made another bee line for the cooler. “Ain’t in there, I tell ya,” Huggy said barely catching up to him. “I been through this cooler three times top to bottom, left to right. Gonna take a couple portly sisters in a steam room to warm me up again.”

Hutch finally gave up and leaned back against the wall, his hands in the small of his back, head bowed down in defeat. They stood there for at least ten minutes – although it felt like an eternity - each backed to a wall facing the other. They cycled and recycled possible scenarios in their heads. Were the three packages of drugs moved by an unknowing employee? Did someone happen on the drugs and steal them? Maybe Starsky was kidnapped and forced to give up the drugs. “Don’t know what to do, Hug.”

“He’ll turn up. You know he will.”

“It’s more than that. We had… we had everything… before, ya know.”

“I hear ya.”

“We’ve been accused of so much, sometimes I don’t know what the truth is anymore.”

“You two have something most couples married fifty years never find.”

Hutch’s head shot up as he went eye to eye with Huggy knowing exactly what he was inferring but was unable to come up with words.

“What? You think I didn’t know? I’m a bartender. I read people for a living,” Huggy said trying to lighten the mood somewhat. “You ain’t the only DE-tectives ‘round here.” He watched as Hutch maintained his quizzical stare. “Who you think kept everyone away from the back office at my New Year’s Eve party? Hmmm? You know… the hard-to-get-an-invite-to, biggest bash in town, my two best friends took an early powder from. Now, you two may be cops, but you is lousy at hidin’. If I’m looking for either one of you, you’re always together. Guy friends don’t do that. When one of you ain’t feeling right, the other one is nurse maidin’ and keepin’ people away like it’s the end of the world. Guy friends don’t do that. And you sit next to each other in the back booth. When you think no one is looking you touch each other under the table. Guy friends…”

“Yeah, I know. Guy friends don’t do that,” Hutch answered dropping his head back down.

“You don’t have to hide around me, Hutch. I don’t give a poodle’s piddle what you two do in your bed. But I tell ya, since you got out of the hospital, it’s real easy for anyone to see that something’s missing.”

“Yep. Starsky. In more ways than one.”

“So the question remains, oh blonde one. What’s the plan?”

“Plan? Plan for what?”

Starsky stood just inside the back door, his keys dangling in his left hand, the right in the pocket of the leather jacket. The late summer night air was experiencing an odd coolness that pushed in the screen of the door and whipped Hutch in the face snapping him out of his funk.

Hutch and Huggy looked at each other, then back at Starsky, then back at each other again. “Where the hell have you been?” they both asked at the same time.

“Wow. Concern and worry in stereo. I feel loved.”

“Curly, I don’t think you’re grasping the seriousness of the situation here.”

“Oh, come on, Huggy.” Starsky laughed them off as he slid by and walked to the bar. “I’m a big boy here. I had things to do.”

He was leaning at the end of the bar as the other two stared at him from a few feet away, the bar left unmanned. “Is it self-serve night, Hug?” Without getting an answer, Starsky walked behind the bar, grabbed a glass and pulled a beer from the tap. “Did ya already eat, Hutch? I’m starving.”

Hutch remained where he was, jaw clenched shut, not sure where he should start. Or if he even should.

“Kitchen’s closed,” Huggy answered. “We expected you almost two hours ago.”

“What?” Starsky said checking his watch. “It’s only 7:45. Kitchen is open until nine. Right?”

Huggy stepped behind the bar and started pulling glasses out of the dishwater to dry. “How about you give us some answers and I’ll see if the cook is feeling generous tonight.”

“Answers? I’m late. Shit happens. I had…”

“Things to do,” Hutch finally said. “Been doing a lot of things lately.”

Starsky sat on a stool and turned his back to Hutch. “I’m just late. It’s no big deal.”

“Yeah. No big deal,” Hutch said as he snatched his jacket from the end of the bar. “By the way, our three packages behind the vodka are missing.”

Starsky thunked his chest with his fist producing a healthy belch before taking another swig. “Yeah, I know. I made ‘em go missing.”

“Just like that? All in a day’s work, no need to tell us?” Hutch shook his head and stormed out the front door.

Starsky pulled a couple dollars from his pocket and tossed it on the bar before following his partner out the door. “Thanks, Hug.”

“Yeah, sure Starsky,” Huggy said mostly to himself as he was drying the glasses. “Let’s not do this again some time.”

He had to walk double time to reach Hutch’s car before the blonde got in the driver’s side. “Hey, Hutch. Don’t walk away.”

“You’re fight. I’m flight, remember?”

Starsky closed the door before Hutch could get in. “Come on. I was late. Isn’t the first time.”

“Secrets, Starsky. It’s like you have another life you’re hiding from me. Who are you?”

“You’re a good one to talk about secrets, partner,” he said putting a pointed finger straight into Hutch’s chest.

Hutch waited, but no real answers came. He shifted his jaw back and forth attempting to retain his anger. Finally, with a slow look down at his chest he brought his hand up and pushed Starsky’s finger away. “I have things to do,” he said mocking Starsky’s pat answer of late.

Hutch pulled the door open forcing Starsky to step away. That ugly excuse for a car had never seen such a quick start and peel-out.

The night was long, restless and harvested little sleep. He knew there were fences to be mended. Starsky just wasn’t sure if Hutch was willing to, or was even capable of, listening. Opposite as day and night, Starsky was a night owl while Hutch functioned better at the break of dawn. With that in mind, following two cups of strong coffee, Starsky decided to descend on Venice Place bright and early at 7am. He stopped short of putting his key in the lock, figuring it was best not to surprise an irate lion.

He paused with inches between his knuckles and the door, even turning to look down the stairs as if to make a run for it. “Nervous as a pig in a bacon factory,” he whispered to himself before taking a deep breath and forcing himself to rap his standard knock, knock-knock.

No answer. Hutch’s car was out front, but no sound came from the apartment.

Knock, knock-knock.

“Hutch?”

Still no answer. Out came the key.

He poked his head in the door while taking the key out of the lock all the time keeping his feet on the welcome mat outside just in case he was unwelcome. But the living room was empty.

“Hutch?”

He could see from the edge of the room into the sleeping alcove. The bed had been stripped to the bare mattress, naked pillows neatly stacked on a chair. The room otherwise looked unlived in. In the living room, the sofa was covered in a sheet and afghan, just as it looked when Starsky spent the night before they had become lovers.

An empty coffee mug, half-filled juice glass and the hand splint he wore at night littered the table top.

Must be out on his morning run, he thought.

The kitchen was typical Hutchinson. Starsky wondered if maybe there was a required 24-hour waiting period in Minnesota for washing dishes. Hutch always had yesterday’s dishes piled in the sink. He couldn’t help himself as he picked up the teetering plate on top of the glass and placed it down flat in the pile of dirty dishes.

He was about to walk back into the living room to wait for his partner when he spied papers spread out on the kitchen table. The curiosity factor of his detective’s persona drove him over to the table to see what Hutch had been reading. It looked like he’d been to the library and maybe an employment office. Job listings for San Diego, Portland and Duluth. College course catalogs from UCLA and the University of Minnesota with bookmarks slipped in the sections for graduate courses. Blue pen circled options and opportunities. Security position in Portland. Health Insurance investigator in San Diego. And in Minnesota, a supervisory teaching position at the State Police academy in Minneapolis.

Starsky tapped his finger on that last one. With his undergraduate degree and experience with the BCPD with numerous awards and commendations, Hutch would be a shoe-in for that job. And with the Gunther arrest, his name should ring a bell at any law enforcement agency.

Hutch’s pessimistic outlook for reinstatement wasn’t surprising. But moving away and completely changing his life – on his own – was.

A noise from the back of the sunporch turned his attention away. He had to shimmy by the no longer used hospital bed, past the plants and to the back door. There he spied his blonde partner in shorts and t-shirt, sitting on the small deck area at the top of the steps, his legs dangling over the side.

The squeak of the rusty springs on the wooden screen door gave Hutch a start as he turned to see who was there.

“Don’t you have something to do this morning?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Starsky answered. “Be here with you.”

Hutch returned to his slumped posture and said nothing.

“You go for a run?”

“Was going to. Can’t tie my sneakers,” he mumbled getting to his feet.

“I can do that for you.”

“No thanks.”

“Hutch…”

The door clapped shut before Starsky could say anything. “Great.”

Starsky found his partner in the living room oddly sitting in the chair. Odd, because they usually sat together on the sofa. Odd, but very intentional on Hutch’s part.

“Hutch, you don’t have to do everything by yourself. I can…”

“Yes, I do.”

Starsky let it rest before trying a different topic. “What’s wrong with your bed?” he asked looking at the morning mess of twisted sheets and pillows on the cushions.

“I like the sofa.”

“I’m calling bullshit on that one, partner.” Hutch looked away. “Again, what’s wrong with your bed?”

“My parents polluted it. Next?”

Small talk was getting him nowhere, so Starsky just dove in the deep end. “You want to talk about last night?”

“I don’t want to be played by you anymore.”

“Played…? I’m not playing you. Come on.” Starsky sat down hard on the sofa and rubbed the frustration out of his forehead. “When are you going back to Minnesota?”

“When you going to New York?”

The look of false confusion on Starsky’s face did nothing to assuage Hutch’s assumptions. “My hand is fucked,” he said waving his left fist at Starsky, “not my hearing.”

“Hutch, IF I shake these bogus charges, the only place I can go where I might not be weighed down by the already cemented labels of ‘rapist’ and ‘fag cop’ is New York.” Starsky slinked his head back into the sofa with a sigh. “If…”

“We used to tell each other everything.” Hutch unconsciously started stretching the tight tendons and muscles of his left hand. He liked it better when Starsky did it. “Now you’re keeping everything to yourself. It’s like you’re moving away from me step by step. One day you just won’t be there. These secrets…”

“We both have secrets, Hutch. Yours kept your lily white, gay ass from embarrassment with your family and anyone else who thought you were Mr. Macho. Mine? Yeah, I got secrets. Both our secrets served one purpose: to protect you.”

“Me? How the hell can you justify…?”

“Just listen to me. If this bullshit goes to court and I’m convicted, I go to jail. If I’m acquitted, I still won’t get my job back. IA will make sure of that, not to mention there are guys on the force who would make life hell for me anyway. But you… you only have to rehab that hand and you’re back on the job. I don’t care about me anymore. But I’m not gonna let you go down with me. That’s why I moved the drugs. You have a life ahead of you. And Huggy too.”

Hutch stood and walked away from Starsky, his hands on his head.

“Hutch…?”

“Just… give me a minute.” Hutch walked the perimeter of the small living, then went out through the sun porch to the small landing above the fire escape where they had started this conversation. Starsky gave him five minutes before joining him.

“Whatya wanna know?”

“Huh?”

“Blondie, ya got that look you get when you want to ask somethin’ but feel like all you’ll get in return is a bloody nose. You pinch your eyebrows together ‘til that worry line reaches your scalp. Pretty sure you’re clenching your ass. And you rub your chest like that,” he said pointing to Hutch’s fingers rubbing the top of his chest raw in a spot. “You can stop now before I gotta take ya to the hospital for stitches or something.”

Hutch turned around and leaned back against the railing self-consciously folding his arms across his chest. “Okay. Where were you last night?”

Starsky spent a good minute trying to figure out if he wanted to tell Hutch everything, or walk away and let everything play out as he’d already intended. He took a breath, opened his mouth, closed it, took another breath…

“Forget it.” Hutch blew by his partner back into the apartment, Starsky hot on his heels.

“Hutch…”

“Nope. I’m done,” he said slipping his feet into a pair of sandals. He couldn’t walk out and go home. He was home. But he could get in his car and drive until he ran out of gas. Always a good option. That is if he could find his car keys. The fourth spot, on top of the piano, was pay dirt, but before he could reach the door, Starsky ripped the keys from his hand.

You want answers? Hear me out.”

Hutch pulled the door open only to have Starsky kick it shut – hard.

“You want the truth, Hutch? Fine.”

Hutch backed away from the doors with his surrendered hands in the air for a moment before folding them defensively in front of him again.

“I was late because… because after my scheduled check-in with the bail bondsman, on my way to Huggy’s, he sent his bounty hunters to grab me off the street for a spot drug test.”

He… who’s he?”

“Marvin.”

“Marvin ‘The Weasel’ Clapsmith?”

“Yeah. Your father sure knows how to pick ‘em. Sorry Hutch. I didn’t want you to know.”

“Fucking dirtbag.”

“Yep. All the bail bondsmen in Bay City and Los Angeles County and Richard Hutchinson finds the dirtiest one.”

Hutch snorted. “Well, I’m not surprised. AAA American Bail Bonds. First one in the phone book. My dad never did like wasting time.”

“They took me down like a perp in front of about a dozen ex-cons who know exactly who I am. Cuffed me. Dragged me back to his hole-in-the-wall office and gave me a cup to piss in.”

“They can’t do that.”

“Oh, yes they can, and they did. Except I refused to drain the snake, so they took me to a clinic for a blood draw. Took a lot of time and their money.”

“My father. Every damn time something happens in my life it seems like it goes back to him. And yet…”

“And yet? Hutch? You still love him, maybe?”

Hutch didn’t answer. Instead he started stretching his hand again.

“It’s okay to love your dad, even if he is a flaming asshole. Look, when this is all over you can fly out there and tell him everything you need to. You know, my ma used to say that we never want people to die with regrets but it’s the people they leave behind who end up wishing they said something.” Starsky wanted to reach out and take Hutch in his arms just like they’d done for each other so many times when they only had each other, but he couldn’t get through the wall they’d built between them.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Hutch asked, trying to pretend the topic of his father was not overtly painful.

“About what?”

“What happened with The Weasel, Marvin.”

“Hutch…” Starsky reached over and ran his fingers ever so lightly down Hutch’s bare arm. “I’m just trying to keep all the worries and problems away from you. You got so much going on…”

“Stop.”

Starsky stuffed his hands in his pockets and dropped his head down to stare at his feet.

“Starsk, I don’t want to be left out of your life. Without me, you feel like you’re going down - whatever happens. With me, you may go down, but I think we have a chance for both of us to come out of this pile of shit smelling like roses if we work together.”

“But if we go down…”

“We go down together. But I don’t think we will.”

“Whatya have in mind?”

“Well, we’ve been looking over our shoulders and hiding from whoever’s been setting us up since this started and nothing has changed. Right?”

“Right.”

“How about we play their own game? They want to make us look like we’re stealing drugs to sell on the street. Starsky, we’ve got enough stoolies and snitches out there who owe us. We can get the streets chattering. Marvin may have already planted the first seed last night with the show of his boys roughing you up. Don’t you see? We can make the dirty cops, whoever they are, think we really are dealing.”

“With what?”

“They planted the weed and coke on Roger, remember? Pretty sure they think we have it.”

“Holy shit. So we go undercover as ourselves. If they think we’re taking business away from them with their merchandise and a low ball price, they’re bound to fuck up and slip out of the cracks.”

“Right in front of us.”

“Partner, pretty sure your brain has jumped back on the IQ train. Choo chooo.”

Starsky moved in, and with a hand on each side of Hutch’s face, leaned in for a celebratory basic kiss. “You are brilliant,” he said with a pat on the cheek before moving into the kitchen. “Have any OJ, or did your parents only leave champagne?”

Hutch closed his eyes and held his breath for a moment hoping that the quick kiss was going to lead to another one higher up on the scale of seduction, but when he opened his eyes all he saw was Starsky, sitting on the kitchen counter, drinking from the carton of juice eyeing a plate of muffins.

“We should get to Dobey and clue him in,” Hutch said from the same spot behind the sofa.

“He’s probably being watched like a hawk like us. Going to see him or even calling him might put him in danger.”

“True. We need him to act like part of the good guys. Not us bad guys. He’ll figure it out. Let him come find us.”

“Hey Hutch, we ain’t gonna have to wear any of your stupid disguises, are we?”

“Um, no. We’re going under as ourselves, remember?” Hutch ran his hand through his hair. “Need a real haircut, though.”

“Nothing wrong with the one I gave ya.”

“Except that everyone disagrees, Starsky.”

“Alright. Please tell me you’re not gonna grow back that cookie duster. Cuz, if ya are, I’m gonna grow me some mutton chops. Look real down and dirty. Like Elvis.”

“Yeah, well he’s dead.” Hutch finally walked into the kitchen and began making a pot of coffee.

“Buddy,” Starsky mumbled with a mouthful of stale oat bran muffin, “leth make thure we have all our duckth in a woe… holy cwap,” he spewed, spitting the dry remnants out into a napkin. “How do you eat this stuff? Tastes like that shit you line hamster cages with.”

“You’ve eaten wood shavings?”

“Ha ha. You’re a regular Jerry Lewis. Yuck. What’s wrong with a regular old American breakfast burrito?” Starsky made a show of scraping his tongue with a spoon from the sink rack. “Okay…. What do we know…. We both remember sinking ships, hairy purple butterflies and something like half human/half animal pictures.”

“Tattoos. Mitchell has the sinking ship one and he’s been front and center.”

“But Simonetti…”

“Yeah, not a square inch of ink on his arms. I know.”

“Alright, blintze, so maybe the other pictures aren’t tattoos. They’re something else.”

Hutch shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows in agreement.

“You were going to give a heads up to someone in the department. You remember who, Hutch?”

“Nope. Pretty sure I did, but don’t remember who.”

“Yeah, well, whoever it was has been suspiciously silent.”

“That’s it? That’s all we have?”

“No. We got pictures, Hutch. Something I didn’t tell you.”

More secrets. “Starsky, why?”

“Didn’t want to get your hopes up. Kitty gave me an envelope with a picture in it. Apparently Roger had it. Said he found it in the trash after someone had returned my case file. It’s the missing picture of your right hand from the hospital… with the boot print.”

“When did she give it to you?”

“At the cemetery.”

Hutch just held it in. “What’s that prove?”

“I found those interns from the hospital that took care of my arm. They took a picture of the top of my hand before they put the cast on. There was a faint boot print. Hutch, it matches the boot print on your hand.”

“So the same person did this to both of us. You certainly didn’t step on your own hand and bust it.”

“Yep. It’s something in my favor, Hutch. Something.”

“Huggy said you were at his place yesterday.”

“Yeah. So?”

“Is that when you moved the drugs?”

“You should be a detective when you grow up, little boy.”

“He said you were talking to a couple people,” Hutch stated in his interrogator’s voice. “Who were they?”

Starsky pushed himself off the counter and walked to the corner next to the trash can. His demeanor changed. His lighthearted humor crushed like a tin can. “No one important.”

“Do they have the…”

Starsky remained leaning against the door frame with one hand, his back turned to his partner. “Just leave it, Hutch.”

“Why the hell can’t you trust me? Huh? You don’t think I’m smart enough to understand? That I’ll start using? Or is it you think I’ll turn on you?”

“Stop it. We’re working together…”

“…on your terms. Only your terms, right? Well fuck that, Starsky. Either you tell me everything or I’m out.”

Starsky whipped around while pitching the empty carton into the trash like a torpedo. “You know what, Hutch? Yeah, on my terms. Because I got the most to lose. So I’m not telling you where the packages are. They’re insurance. As long as you don’t have knowledge of them, if this goes sour, you can’t be connected to them. Let me do this much to protect you, babe.” The look on Starsky’s face was not anger or frustration. He looked desperate… and afraid. “Please?”

He couldn’t walk away from that face. Hutch couldn’t say no to it either. It’s the look Starsky gave him after he was discharged from the hospital post-Gunther shooting and Hutch said he was ready to stay alone at night. He just couldn’t say no.

“Okay, Starsk, but you’ve gotta stop treating me like a fragile child.”

Starsky finally started breathing again and color returned to his face. “Hutch, I do trust you. It’s everyone else who scares me. And it goes both ways. You gotta trust me too.” He strolled the four feet over to his partner and gently picked up the deficient left hand, stretching the fingers all the way back to make the palm flat. “It’s getting better.”

Hutch knew. It was an excuse to touch him. To hold his hand. “Yeah.”

“Flex the fingers for me.”

The index and middle fingers were the only ones to curl in and out, but the other three were at least relaxed.

“Looks like you’re pulling a trigger, blondie.”

“Except I can’t hold anything yet.”

“You will.” Starsky cupped the hand in both of his, making no mistake if the intention. “I miss you, babe,” he said stepping in so close the buttons on their shirts clacked together ever so slightly. “I just want to…”

“Not… not yet,” Hutch said, his voice hitching as he backed away. “I’m… I’m…”

“You’re what, Hutch? What are you afraid of?” There it was: the ability to read each other.

“Losing you.”

“Well, you gotta have me to lose me, dummy. Don’t you wanna have me? I’m already yours.”

Wrenching his hands out of Starsky’s was like pulling apart a completed jigsaw puzzle.

“I’m just scared, Starsk. Scared that the closer we get – again – the more it’ll hurt when… if something happens. And I… I… just can’t…”

“You’re getting ahead of yourself, Hutch.” Starsky was obviously reluctant as he left the kitchen and headed for the door. He knew that he couldn’t push a brick wall. “Come on. Let’s get your shoes on. Need to see a barber about a haircut.”

xXXx

Over the next few days, Starsky and Hutch worked the streets just like when they were cops… except on the flip side. Every snitch, pimp and hustler was fed information with a ten-dollar bill to spread the word that if they needed weed, coke or angel dust Starsky and Hutch, ex-cops, could get it for them with the promise of protection. They knew that eventually the addicts would come looking for them. They had to balance being seen with the undesirables on the streets and getting the word out, with disappearing because, clearly, they didn’t have the merchandise to sell. Well, Starsky knew where it was, but they could never, ever, do anything the cops could use against them in court. Peak their curiosity and stir up rumors, yes. But give them a reason to throw them in jail, no.

They hit every dirty street corner. Every single one they knew that had been double covered by uniforms and UC cops alike as an area ‘most in need of clean up’. There had been stings and reverse stings. Random searches and targeted arrests.

Always outdoors, always where they could be seen, always looking like they were trading product for money. One of them doing the deed, the other acting as a look-out. What the observant cops and snitches didn’t know was that Starsky and Hutch were putting on a show for them with their homeless acquaintances. What looked like drugs being given to these dirty, unkempt individuals was actually a few dollars and food in a paper bag. The guys gave them some words of encouragement and a handshake, nothing more.

On the fourth day they decided to take their new show on the road to The Pits.

For lunch.

Their entrance through the front door was very different than before their transformation. The street chatter had done the trick. The unseemly types turned their heads with a smile. The other patrons who had heard the gossip grimaced. One couple at the bar paid their tab and left, their drinks untouched.

“Reservation for two, Hug,” Starsky announced.

“Well, if it ain’t the new pushers on the block. At least you called first,” Huggy announced, though not with his usual bravado. “If I lose any more customers over you, you’ll have to make all your meals to-go.”

“Who said we’re eating?” Hutch asked with a smirk.

“Who said your hair meets street regs? Jesus, Josephine and Mary, Hutch… Why can’t you get your hair right? You look like you is goin’ to boot camp now.” Huggy leaned in over the bar as though trading a secret. “I thought you people were real good at the hairstyle and fashion thing?”

Hutch tipped his chin and stifled the laugh.

“You people?” Starsky asked, elbowing Hutch.

“He knows, Starsk.”

“Knows...?”

Huggy took the money left on the bar by the couple that had exited prematurely and put it in the till. “You have company in my back office. I suggest you take your punk ass selves back there before I lose any more paying clientele.”

On their way to the office, Starsky tapped Hutch on the shoulder. “What did he mean… knows?”

“About us, Starsk. That we are… were lovers.”

Starsky’s mouth hung open as they walked in Huggy’s private office and sat down in front of their guest.

“Starsky. Hutchinson. Took me a couple days to figure out what you were up to.”

“You ought to go to cop school,” Starsky joked.

“Were you two seen coming in here?”

“Yep,” Starsky said reaching for a roll on the plate across from him only to have his hand slapped away. “Ouch. By everybody on their lunch hour including at least one black and white, a beat cop and pretty sure Simonetti is lurking behind the newsstand across the street. Good lord he’s useless. You?”

“No. Borrowed a cab. Parked it out back.” When Starsky moved to steal the little packet of soup crackers, he earned his second hand slap. “Get your own lunch, Starsky. Don’t you feed him anymore, Hutch?”

“Sorry, Cap. I’ll get him a bowl of kibble on the way out.”

Dobey continued talking while enjoying his meal. There was always enjoyment for him at a meal. “Huggy filled me in, and I gotta say, it’s a bold plan, but it may be your only chance. I think you’re right about the dirty cops. I’m no psychic, but since the talk on the streets has been about you being the new kingpins, the vibe on the 3rd floor has been dark and tense.”

“Someone’s bound to make mistakes.” Hutch said as he peaked out the door to make sure they were being left alone.

“You ready to shakes things up some?”

“What do you have in mind, Captain?”

“Bring you in for questioning.” There was little to no evidence of food on the plate now as Dobey mopped up the last of the gravy with the recovered dinner roll. “It’ll be in broad daylight, at shift change to get you as much of an audience as possible.”

Hutch nodded. “It’ll give us a chance to check in and exchange information. And Starsky has some pictures to get back into his case file.”

“No,” Dobey countered. “You’ll be frisked. Leave them with Huggy. I’ll have my secretary come down for some take-out.”

“We shouldn’t wait too long to do this,” Starsky said. “Word is out on the street. Dealers are getting antsy. Users are beginning to shop around for us and we definitely don’t want to get between them.”

“No time like the present,” the Captain said as he took the napkin from the top of his shirt and wiped his mouth. “Be somewhere in the vicinity of Lincoln and Eagle Street between 3 and 3:30. I’ll have a couple uniforms take you down. You know the dance. Be a little resistant, but don’t make ‘em work too hard. They’ll have to bring you in with cuffs on. I’ll have them put you in an interrogation room together supposedly for questioning on a drug dealer’s murder from last week. Okay? Questions?”

“Should stir up some shit at the precinct,” Hutch said.

“You know what?” Starsky added. “Last week on that new show, Hill Street Blues…”

“Starsk…” Hutch rolled his eyes.

“I think it was a repeat...”

Starsky…”

“…Furillo – he’s the Captain – he used this corrupt cop turned informant…”

Starsky!” Hutch pointed in Starsky’s face then used his eyes to direct his partner’s attention back to an unamused Captain Dobey.

“Oh, sorry Cap.”

“Thank you. Now, make it look good,” Dobey warned with a finger. “But not too good. This is not a TV show. Got it, Starsky? Go along with the uniforms but with a little attitude.” Both men nodded. “Leave your back-up guns at home. No knives. Nothing that can land you behind bars. There’s a team subbing in from Westside I’ll use. One’s a female. Oh, and Hutchinson. Do something with that hair of yours. You look like a damn Swedish Boy Scout, not a drug dealer.”

“Norwegian. I’m Norwegian, Cap.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind. I’ll wear a hat.

xXXx

Most of the shops were vacant, boarded up or being used as ‘massage’ parlors on the corner of Lincoln and Eagle. Even the church across the street was abandoned. There were more people hanging out on the steps that afternoon than when it was the center of family activity of the former Irish-Catholic neighborhood.

“Hey, Hutch, did you know that during its lifetime, an oyster changes its sex from male to female and back several times?”

“Huh?”

“Maybe that’s why they’re aphrodisical.”

“Aphrodisiac, dummy.” Hutch stuffed his left hand in his hip pocket while glancing up at the sky. “Gonna rain. Damn.”

“And, a regular raindrop falls at seven miles per hour. How cool is that?”

“Starsk, how is it you retain such useless information but you can’t remember penal codes?”

“They ain’t interesting.”

“They’re your job.”

“Yeah, well…. Here comes Left Leg Larry and that new one…”

“Think his name is Bill,” Hutch said quietly, bending over to get a couple bags from the small box at their feet. “Saw him in front of the Salvation Army last week.”

Two disheveled men walked up to Starsky and Hutch, one pushing a shopping cart filled with useless looking trash, the other on crutches, his right leg not present and accounted for.

“Heard you got stuff to share,” Larry said to Starsky.

“Sure do.” Starsky handed over a brown paper bag. “Larry, you and your friend have to do us a favor. Can you kind of mention that Hutch and I are dealing the hard stuff?”

The man looked down at the bag and back at the two detectives with an air of distrust. “But you’re the good guys.”

“We are, Larry.” Hutch gave him with a pat to the back. “But we’re playing a game. Can you help us out? Just put the word out there that we have pure coke, dust and weed. Okay? We’re selling it at rock bottom prices.” He slipped each man a ten-dollar bill for good measure.

“Okay.”

“But make it real, Larry,” Starsky added. “We need users, dealers and even the cops to know, okay?”

The two men looked uncertain as they held the bags and money.

“We’ll owe ya,” Starsky said as the men shuffled away.

“See their faces?” Hutch asked. “Us owing them seemed to be more valuable than the food and money. We’re gonna be poor in more ways than one when this is over.” Hutch reached down and turned Starsky’s wrist around. “It’s 2:50, still early,” he said as he jutted his chin out towards the corner. “Company is here already.”

Two black and white patrol cars came into view and quickly stopped in front of boarded up shop they were standing in front of.

“Pretty sure neither one is a female,” Hutch said remembering Dobey’s promise to assign subs from out of the precinct to pick them up.

“Nope, and two cars. They’re separating us.”

Both cops got out of their cars and quickly approached Starsky and Hutch, their hands on their guns holsters ready for a quick take down.

“Hutch, this isn’t right. It’s Mitchell and Cooper.” Starsky backed up against the building and started looking around for the easiest route of exit. “Mitchell’s got it in for me.”

“I think you’re right, partner. Something stinks.”

Mitchell went right for Starsky, as predicted. “Up against the wall, dirty cop. You and me’s got a date with a storage room.” The larger man didn’t waste time spinning Starsky around and planting him face first into the brick. The rain started falling in earnest producing a slight rising steam on the hot pavement.

Cooper did the same with Hutch but with less gusto. Mitchell was certainly the leader of this small pack.

“Leave him alone,” Hutch demanded earning him a forearm to the back of the head pushing it even harder into the wall. Both men were being aggressively searched.

“What have we got here,” Mitchell said handing two paper bags to Cooper.

“An apple and sandwich. In both bags,” Cooper said.

“Peanut butter and jelly,” Starsky corrected him. “Strawberry. See, gotta be thorough in your reports.”

“Shut the hell up.” Mitchel handcuffed Starsky and turned him around pushing him against the wall, his cuffed hands in the small of his back painfully digging into the brick. He went through all of Starsky’s pockets, lifted his shirt up to make sure nothing was in the waistband, then pat down each leg making sure to check for the ever present ankle holster undercover cops sported. “Dealing is a dangerous hobby. Don’t you have anything for protection?”

“Got him,” Starsky said tipping his head toward Hutch. “Funny how a brain injury makes an already dangerous man unstable.”

“Like you said,” Mitchell said while sliding his hand over Starsky’s genitals, “gotta be thorough.” The officer gave Starsky’s balls a hard squeeze before unzipping the fly. “This is a good look for you. I’ve seen it before,” he whispered in his ear.

“Leave him alone,” Hutch warned.

Leave him alone,” Mitchell mocked in a childish voice. “Or what?”

Hutch spoke loud enough for the small crowd gathering to hear. “You don’t want to do this, Mitchell.”

“Hutch,” Starsky quietly pleaded, “don’t. Just leave it. I’ll deal with him.”

“Cooper, put this asshole in my car.” He passed Starsky off while walking over to Hutch, not yet cuffed. “Gimme your cuffs.” He never took his eyes off the blonde while reaching for Cooper’s cuffs. “Are you the top or bottom, sweet cheeks? Huh?” Hutch didn’t answer as Mitchell brushed the back of his hand down the front of Hutch’s shirt, catching on his nipple. “I’m sorry I asked that, Hutchinson. See, I already know. I’ve seen your asshole close up, all bloody and used.”

Starsky turned and looked over his shoulder as Cooper stuffed him into the backseat of the car. “Hutch, shut up,” he shouted. “Just shut up for once.” With the door closed, he could only watch as Hutch and Mitchell continued to spar with words. Then, as Mitchell attempted to turn Hutch around to cuff him, a long, strong leg made its way to Mitchell’s side.

Hutch added one more swift kick and took off on foot around the corner, Mitchell in pursuit, both eventually out of sight. When another police cruiser drove down the street, Starsky noticing the male/female partners as Dobey had planned, Cooper got behind the wheel of his black and white and drove off with Starsky in the back desperately trying to kick out the door.

 

(A/N: Hill Street Blues “Fecund Hand Rose” ep 1-13: Homework: “Already Yours”, Honor By August)

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Three

(A/N: Warning – this chapter contains strong offensive language and violence. If this offends you, please stop here.)

 

Nothing… Nothing….

Splash… splash… splash… splash…

He heard nothing except the slap of the puddles as his feet slapped them, evenly at first. Then as his weak left foot began to falter…

Splash… drag… splash… drag…

He heard nothing else but the puddles, well that, and the heavy bobbing and rattle of Mitchell’s leather utility belt holding his gun, nightstick and handcuffs.

And now his own ragged, desperate breathing. That was unmistakable as it roared in his ears alongside his thudding heartbeat.

Splash… drag… splash... drag.

…And the nasty laugh from the cop’s mouth as Hutch tripped and fell onto all fours. Over and over he ran, tripped, got back up, ran, tripped, got back up. Mitchell stayed back just far enough to maintain chase and enjoy Hutch’s wipe outs. He could have easily caught up to him. But he didn’t.

“Whatsa matter, queen? Your third leg tripping you up?”

After the third fall, Hutch righted himself, out of breath, and leaned against a brick building. His palms were scratched and bloodied with small pebbles embedded under the skin. The knees of both pant legs torn, the rain water soaking through his back side. He had drawn Mitchell away from Starsky. He felt good knowing that, but now he was the subject of a police foot pursuit. He knew full well that the odds were not in his favor. Not even close.

“Here faggy, faggy, faggy,” Mitchell sing-songed as he came into sight behind a flower delivery van. He was walking with deliberate purpose and swagger, taunting Hutch like hunter to prey. “Just wait there, Hutchinson. Let Daddy come to you.”

Sweat mingled with the fast falling rain pasting Hutch’s hair to his head and dribbling down his neck into his shirt. His throat was raw. This was the first time he’d been running in more than two months. Pushing himself away from the wall he continued his sprint down Eagle Street before taking a sharp turn onto a side street hoping to make the cop think harder and move faster. Mitchell may have been bigger and stronger, but Hutch was banking on him being just to the left of average IQ.

Splash… drag… splash... drag.

He made it two blocks before skidding to the pavement for a fourth time, then turned down an alley, back onto a side street, then another alley – a mistake he regretted immediately. There was no outlet except a few locked doors. He could only hope that he’d lost Mitchell in the maze of turns he’d made, though he’d actually just gone in a circle.

“Bet you’re a good cocksucker.”

By the time Hutch saw Mitchell, he was cornered between the building and a dumpster. If he was going to get out of this one he’d have to put up the fight of his life. The cop pulled his night stick and warmed it up by patting an even staccato rhythm into his other hand over and over. His vile half-smile lingered as he wandered into the caged animal’s breathing space.

“Didn’t learn your lesson the first time, fag-cop, did you?” Hutch refused to answer. “Huh? What’s the matter? Cock got your tongue?” Mitchell laughed at the sick joke not caring in the least that he was his own audience.

Hutch backed up as far as he could go, his back against the wall, his right shoulder getting intimate with the empty dumpster. As the rain picked up it thrummed like fingers on a drum against the metal container. His eyes scoped out the limited perimeter as he tried to formulate plans in his head only half hearing what Mitchell was saying.

“…take longer this time...”

He’d have to use the element of surprise.

“…enjoy myself with this fine piece of meat...”

Stay near the dumpster. Any collision with it will make a lot of noise.

“You’ll thank me when I’m done with you, pervert.”

He’d use his head. No, really use his head.

“…call it an introductory course to prison life.”

Hutch bent over and speared Mitchell in the middle knocking the breath out of him. With every action, there is a reaction. Simple physics lesson from junior high science. The cop shot backwards bending to hold his middle giving Hutch the window of opportunity to slip around him. His target was the opening onto the street at the end of the alley. He made it three steps before he was grabbed from behind.

Mitchell dropped the smug humor as he held the nightstick against Hutch’s throat cutting off oxygen.

“Pretty boy can’t breathe?” he asked from behind pulling Hutch into his chest. “Just had some surgery there, huh. Might have to rework that, sweetheart.”

Hutch had both hands up on the rigid wooden beating stick but could only grasp with his right hand. There was no way he could pull it away. The pain against the rings of his trachea was excruciating. As his strength waned and knees started to give out, the stick was replaced with the crook of Mitchell’s very muscular arm, his other hand anchoring it in place at the wrist. The classic choke hold. Meant to incapacitate. More often than not, used to kill.

“I hear the rent-boys down on the boulevard get more money from the Johns when they put up a fight,” Mitchell said, his putrid breath stabbing Hutch in the ear with each loathsome word. “Is that what you’re doing, Hutchinson? Pitching a fit for more dough?”

His hearing was the first to malfunction. The blood attempting to rush to his brain was being cut off at the juncture of neck meets head. It whooshed and pounded like a jackhammer around the raspy gurgle seeping through his clenched teeth.

While maintaining the choke hold, Mitchell’s left hand fell down to Hutch’s waist where the blonde immediately knew that the sensation of pulling and jerking down there was definitely his pants being opened and shoved down off his hips.

“Too many people at the last party to enjoy myself.” His voice seemed to rise up in excitement. “But now…”

As the gray in his peripheral vision morphed into wavy stars, the last thing Hutch felt was a large hand on his lax genitals in the open air. Then… blackness.

xXx

Starsky laid on his handcuffed wrists in the back seat of the police cruiser and kicked the locked, prisoner proof door as hard as he could with both feet.

Kick. Kick. KICK.

He knew that Hutch wasn’t yet back to full strength and they hadn’t taped his ankle in days.

KICK.

Being chased down by a young, armed, extremely strong uniformed cop in the pouring rain was not going to end well for his partner.

When the door didn’t budge, he turned his attention to the back of Cooper’s seat.

Bam. Bam. BAM.

This is not who Dobey sent. The Captain knew that these two had roughed him up before. Was this it? Was this when the dirty cops fall apart and show their cards?

BAM.

“Knock it off, Starsky, or I swear I will come back there and hog tie you.”

“Oooh, he speaks,” Starsky mocked. “Whatsa matter? Hutch ruin the plan with your little friend? Poor baby. Whatya gonna do now?”

Fuck you.”

To add a punctuation mark to that, Cooper put on the brakes while taking a corner hard. Starsky slid head first into the opposite door, his scalp kissing the door handle in a very unnatural way producing a sluice of blood plowing down his face by way of his left eye. Now he was cuffed, dinged and slightly sight impaired. As he tried to sit up while on his back lying across the bench seat – not an easy feat with hands pinned behind him by his own weight – the car came to an abrupt stop.

The door flew open and Cooper pounced in, his knee strategically in Starsky’s crotch on the offense, and one hand around Starsky’s neck.

“Look, you fucking asshole, we’re gonna do this my way, and my way keeps you alive. Got it?”

Starsky never averted his eyes burning them into Cooper’s dead brown orbs just inches away. “Is that your idea or Mitchell’s?” When the cop didn’t flinch, he decided to push it just a little. “Or Simonetti’s orders?”

“You don’t quit, do you? You’re nothing but a fucking maggot to me.”

“Seems appropriate. Maggots feed off of dead, rotting flesh.” Starsky made a munching noise earning him a very hard back hand across the face. The stream of congealed blood on his cheek splattered against the back of the seat. Starsky sucked in the fresh blood from a new cut on his lip and hocked it along with spoiled spit towards Cooper’s face, missing and instead landing it on his neck. “Oops. Missed.”

With Cooper forcefully holding him down, when the knee nailed his man candy Starsky couldn’t even recoil. The pain shot straight up his torso, his gut twisting in revolt. His unintended muted scream was met only by Cooper’s edgy, ragged breathing.

“That’s just a friendly pat.” Cooper’s words slipped out like pus from a festering wound. “Now, I’m gonna get back up there and drive. And you’re gonna sit back here like a good little perp.”

xXx

He felt like he was drowning, his head pounding in cadence with the rolling thunder above. As the wind pulled all of the breathable air from the alley, the insistent rain poured like water from a pitcher onto his face. Hutch turned on his side and found no comfort in the rank stink of the sodden, broken pavement beneath him. It only served to expedite the sour vomit and bile up and out as he disgorged it onto the muddy, wet garbage his face had found home on.

Movement was like trying to run through sludge. He couldn’t get his knees under him and when he tried to use his raw hands to get up he found them handcuffed, stretched out above his head.

“What the hell…?”

When he finally managed to get face down again, this time on his knees, it was obvious that the draft on his midsection was due to his jeans pulled down to his thighs. He groaned at the thought of Mitchell manhandling his cock and balls.

His neck felt like it had been pierced by a tree limb and something foreign was stuck in his throat. Hutch could see the end of the alley opening to the street but when he tried to crawl a few feet in anticipation of eventually standing up his effort was met with the slap of a bare hand hard across his equally bare ass.

“You play the part well, Hutchinson,” Mitchell gleefully seethed as he rubbed the sole of his filthy boot roughly across Hutch’s back side. “Are you a little pain slut? Into the bondage kink?”

Hutch continued to pull himself forward, dragging himself on his hip to prevent his bare midsection from scraping on the pavement. Even though his heart felt like it was trying to beat itself out of his chest he had no energy, no strength and any time he tried to focus his eyes, the image split in two.

“Like a fucking dessert animal. Keep going, queer boy.”

Eventually Hutch was able to get a foot under him, stand, and lean back against the wall. His head was floating while his body was encased in cement. He avoided any thought of what happened while he was unconscious as he pulled his pants and boxers back up to his waist. He struggled with the fly and eventually left it open all while Mitchell stood back and laughed.

“Starsky likes ‘em big and cut, huh? How about you? That Jew boy’s cock enough for you?”

“Fuck…,” he struggled to take in air, spitting a nasty sour taste from his mouth, “…fuck… you,” Hutch barely managed as he rolled his head from side to side trying to find an opportunity.

“What are you looking for?” Mitchell asked. “No one’s coming for you.” His voice was condescendingly raw. “Look at you. A junkie hooker dealing to keep his habit going. Even propositioned me for a ten spot.”

Hutch gulped in a deep breath before pushing off the wall and continuing toward the street, unsteady, barely upright. He wanted to talk or call for help, but his brain seemed to be misfiring. The words were there but his mouth wasn’t cooperating. As he got to the end of the alley he looked down at his bound hands and shook them hard to rid them of the spiders and fruit flies that settled on them, dragging on his skin like pins and needles. Hundreds of them emerged from his pores and ravenously fed on his skin.

“You tolerate the shit like you’ve done it before.”

Before? He did not have the euphoric feel of heroin. Instead he felt paranoid, agitated, anxious… and hunted. Eyes closed, head stretching back to stop the buzzing in his ears, Hutch put his hands on top of his golden hair stirring up a guttural scream buried deep in his gut. Mitchell took that opportunity to spin him around and paste him up against the wall face first, his large hand powerfully over Hutch’s mouth and nose cutting off the oxygen. As the rough brick scraped the skin from his cheekbone, the only thing he could see was the family of snakes winding their way up the wall towards his eyeballs.

No. NO. Can’t be…. NO.

Once again, Hutch’s lungs were prevented from functioning, except this time he surrendered hoping the impending blackout would stop the snakes, erase the parade of insects crawling up his arms and put an end to the trapped voices in his head. But just as his world seemed to disappear, the hand was removed from just his nose and his body sucked in desperate life-saving air through flared nostrils as if he’d been trapped under water and suddenly freed. But with that welcome gulp of oxygen he felt the rush of powder up through his sinuses and down the back of his throat.

This.

This is what they’d done to Starsky.

Hutch choked back the breath and laid his teeth into Mitchell’s hand earning him a face plant into the bricks before being let go. This time he ran. He fumbled. He felt a boot to his ribs, the same boot pushing his ass down when he tried to get up. Over and over as he got to his knees that foot shoved his ass back down punctuated with a hearty laugh.

“Whatsa matter, you homo. Can’t get it up?”

As an out of breath Hutch curled into a ball with his arms over his head he felt a hand stroke his head pushing the wet curls behind his ear.

“You think this is bad?” Mitchell asked in a soft, contradictorily paternal voice. “Huh? We haven’t even begun, fagot.”

He stretched his cuffed hands as far out above his head as he could, reaching for something, anything. An unmistakable knee nailed him in the small of his back forcing him onto his stomach as a bare hand made its way into his pants, his ass cheek pulled, stroked and scratched hard. But he had to be quiet. The voices in his head were telling him to let the snakes in his mouth. If he screamed they’d slither in. For now, they were wrapping themselves around his arms. He could deal with that as long as they…

“Tell me where my shit is, Hutchinson. So help me you’re gonna tell me or I’ll tell my partner to put a bullet between Starsky’s eyes. One phone call. That’s all it takes. Where are you hiding the stuff?”

The weight on his back was unbearable and as he looked up he saw the giant spiders running down the street sideways, coming for him. He couldn’t… wouldn’t….

Deep down inside, Hutch felt a sudden surge of remarkable strength. With a twist and a howl, he turned over and threw Mitchell from his body while standing up. He balled his hands into white hot fists and dropped his jaw letting out a blood curdling scream before turning and running up Eagle Street towards Lincoln.

He spun and fell. Got back up, stumbled, slammed against a building. An elbow painlessly slammed against the hanging remnants of a metal fire escape, his shoes pointlessly kicked off in the escape. He no longer felt pain, or anything. He stumbled towards Eagle street hoping to run into the unit that Dobey had sent. His only… his only…. What was he… How… Who… Fucking snakes….

xXx

His head pulsed in pain… both of them. Starsky sat with his head resting on the seat back in front of him trying to get relief from the pressure on his wrists cuffed behind him. Everything about his body needed pain relief, from his head to his balls. Shift to his left and his crotch ached. Shift to his right, his shoulders spasmed. Lean back and his arms screamed out. Surprisingly his head registered the least amount of pain.

Cooper was back to his uncommunicative self. Starsky didn’t know much about this cop who, up until now, had been playing the silent straight man to Mitchell. He seemed to be driving aimlessly with no lights or sirens. Clearly, this dog without his handler could not formulate a plan for his prey. But dogs could be unpredictable.

Talking his way out of this was the only solution, Starsky figured. This is Hutch’s hustle, he thought. Hutch is the intellectual talker. But what did he know about this uniform? Definitely an open book but he’d been trained and rewarded by the dirtiest cop on the force. His only choice was to lull the young cop over to the good side and use him.

“So, when Mitchell tells you to roll over, do you make like a good puppy and present your belly?”

Cooper didn’t budge. He drove as though alone in the car, but Starsky could tell the guy was conflicted. And lost.

“Come on, kid. It’s just you and me here. I know you’re too low on the food chain to be running this dog and pony show.”

Again – crickets.

“You telling me ya like being used by Mitchell? And you know he’s being used by Simonetti, right?”

“You don’t know,” came a quiet, almost unintelligible, voice from the front seat.

“Hmm? What are they offering you? Money? Promotion? Job security?”

Cooper snorted as he turned onto Plaza Boulevard for the third time.

“What is it?” Starsky turned on his calm, good guy, sympathetic voice. The one he used when Hutch was playing the bad ass in interrogations. “Have you been threatened? Your family?”

Looking over the cop’s shoulder, Starsky could see Cooper’s hand shaking ever so slightly on the steering wheel. He just showed his hand. “That’s it, isn’t it? What have they got on you?”

Cooper unbuttoned the top of his uniform to give air to his sweat covered neck and pulled a silver chain from his t-shirt nervously playing with the pendant.

“Who’s blackmailing you, kid? How bad is it?”

“You. Don’t. Know.”

“I do. I do know, Cooper. My partner and I were nearly killed. I’ve been framed for that. Drugs have been planted on me. And for dessert, everyone thinks I’m a rapist. You think I don’t know?”

Starsky could tell that something was getting through. The kid was quiet as dog shit on a sidewalk.

“Look, Cooper, you don’t have to do this. Whatever it is they’re holding over your head I’ll back you up. Depending on how deep you are, my partner and I will go to bat for you if you just tell the truth.”

“You don’t understand.”

“What? What don’t I understand?”

He could see the cop’s hands turning white from the tight grip he had on the steering wheel. He was close. So close.

“I know you’re scared, kid. Hell, I’m scared. But ya gotta believe me when I tell you that I can help you.”

You wouldn’t understand.”

Then tell me.”

Once again they were turning down the boulevard. He was driving in circles. Starsky supposed that the kid was finally saying something only because he didn’t have to look at anything or anyone but the street ahead of him through the tempo of the windshield wipers slapping away the rain.

“I… I, um, cheated to get through the academy.”

Starsky snickered to himself. “That’s it? I bet half your class cheated at some point. They got nothing on you.”

“You don’t get it. I cheated all the time. I got a reading problem. I’m not stupid. I just can’t read good. Letters are backwards. I paid someone off in my class to do most my written work for me.” His confession stalled as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “It was… it was Mitchell’s brother-in-law.”

“Again, not the end of the world. That guy would be in just as much trouble as you.”

“That’s not all. My wife is gonna have a baby in a couple months. If I lose my job, or even get suspended, I got nothing. I can’t support her or the baby.”

“What about your families?”

Cooper laughed, hitched a breath and laughed again. It was an awkward laugh of personal pain. “Yeah, no. Her family won’t talk to her. And my mom barely gives us the time of day. See, I’m white and she’s black. Forget it. You wouldn’t…”

“Understand?” he finished for him. “In case you haven’t noticed, my girlfriend is a guy, so I might know something about that.”

And like that, the door labeled trust opened for Starsky.

“She’s an interpreter. Worked at an international investment firm. When she told her boss she was pregnant she lost her job.” Cooper sounded ten years younger and five shades of scared.

“It’s 1981. They can’t do that.”

“They can and they did.”

“First of all,” Starsky said, “you don’t know that you’d lose your job. All you have to do is…”

“Snitch? Yeah, that would go over well.”

“What about your father?”

“And this is where it gets interesting,” Cooper said while taking a deep breath. “My dad died in Nam in ’65. I was only seven years old. Hardly remember him. Mom remarried a couple years later. My step father is Gordon Ketterling.”

A few moments of silence crept in just as Cooper predicted after dropping his family bomb.

“Ketterling? The police commissioner in San Francisco? The one who cleaned up the force?” He remembered the name from Gunther’s arrest up there. Hutch had mentioned it.

“The one and only. What I’ve done… Just being associated with… He’d lose everything. Other than my wife, he’s the only member of my family who came to my graduation at the Academy. Felt like it was the first time he was proud of me. He’s impossible to please, but I love him.”

“Sounds like another father I know,” Starsky mumbled thinking about Richard Hutchinson. “Were you there, Cooper? When I was beaten and drugged? When Hutch was almost killed?”

“Yeah. They made me hold you down. I hated it. All of it.”

“Who was with you?”

“Mitchell. We were all dressed in black with hoods and masks. I don’t know who the third guy was. He brought the drugs and took us to both of you. But only talked to Mitchell.”

Cooper was singing like a canary.

“What was it you were supposed to do with us today?”

“I don’t know. Mitchell was supposed to get you. He told me to take Hutchinson and wait for directions. But I heard…”

“What?”

“I heard Mitchell on the phone. He said…” Cooper dropped his voice to almost a whisper even though there was no one else in the car to hear them. “…said something like Starsky’s a dead man.” He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the cuff of his uniform sleeve over and over, very nervously, extremely afraid. “I don’t want to do this anymore. I can’t… I can’t… I don’t know how…”

“Stop. Just stop, Cooper. You’re driving in a panic. Not a good thing. Let’s pull over, okay?”

The black and white pulled over to the shoulder of the busy boulevard. The rain had let up to a gentle sprinkle as lightning from the moving storm lashed out in the distance.

“Get out, kid. Get these cuffs off me,” Starsky ordered in his best senior detective’s voice he could muster. He’d channeled Hutch as best he could and was pretty sure he had pulled Cooper – definitely a follower – over to his side. “Come on, I won’t let you down. I promise.”

Cooper thought for a moment while holding onto the pendant around his neck before getting out and opening the back door, pulling Starsky out and turning him around. As soon as the cuffs were off, Starsky rubbed at the wrists and stretched his shoulders out, then dabbed at the residual blood hanging out at the corner of his mouth.

“Yeah, hey,” Cooper said with a grimace, “I’m sorry about that.”

“Forget about it, kid. Okay, listen,” Starsky began, “clearly I can’t go back to the precinct. Can’t go home or anywhere I’m known to visit.” He looked around and his face fell. “Well, this isn’t the best neighborhood.” In fact, it was an area of the city run by gang members Starsky and Hutch weren’t associated with. They were brutal with no conscience. So in charge and unafraid that a secretive federal task force and a select few hard core undercovers from Vice were in the middle of a fourteen-month investigation. Homicide and Major Crimes had been told to stay away to maintain the UC covers. “Well, when hiding from the cops, this might be the best place to do it,” he said with hesitation. “Or worst.”

“Three blocks down on South Roberts there’s an old abandoned building. Sign out front says Dudley Textiles.” Cooper said slightly less rigid than he had been. “I know for a fact that it was swept of squatters and junkies a couple days ago. That shit goes on all the time, but it’s so hot it takes a couple weeks before they go back in. Should be safe for you… for now.”

“You know what this means?” Starsky asked, arms deliberately crossed in front of him, speaking to the young cop as his new mentor. “Means you have to pretend to go along with Mitchell and his buddies. Give us a couple days and we’ll get out of it and take you with us. Hang around, make like you’re still in his camp. Keep your mouth shut, just like you’ve been doing. I guarantee you Mitchell thinks you aren’t capable of being anything but his dog. He’ll never suspect that you’re with us now.”

Cooper’s eyes were wide with fear.

“You can do this, kid.” Starsky put his hands on the cop’s shoulders and looked at him square in the eyes. “I know you can. You know you can.”

Cooper’s head nodded, unsure at first, but eventually with confidence.

Starsky gave him a reassuring squeeze on the arm, like his dad used to do to him when he needed a pep talk. “Yeah? Okay, give me something to write with and paper.” Cooper handed over a pen and a sheet of paper from his small notebook. Starsky spoke as he wrote. “I need you to call this number and tell them that Davey is in trouble. Have them send someone to that building.”

“Who is it?”

“Don’t ask, kid. You don’t want to know.”

“What makes you think they’ll believe me?”

“Because you will say that I said that the milk is sour.” He shoved the pen in the cop’s front chest pocket along with the folded up piece of paper. “Get word to my partner and Captain Dobey. Make that call. Don’t hesitate. You want this to end, this is the only way. Okay?”

Just as Cooper started to answer a speeding car narrowly missed the cruiser. Starsky grabbed Cooper and pulled him around the back of the car just in time with only inches to spare.

Holy shit,” the cop shouted. “That asshole almost killed us.”

“Happens to the best of us, kid. Traffic stops are dangerous for cops.” Starsky smiled and gave Cooper a confidence building pat on the back. “Get in that car and go do your job. It was a two door, yellow VW Rabbit. Probably heading for the 405 on-ramp four miles up. And just tell Mitchel I made a run for it when you pulled the VW over."

Cooper was behind the wheel with lights and sirens blaring before Starsky realized he had the cop’s chain and pendant in his fist. “Must have pulled it off,” he said to himself as he headed towards South Roberts Street.

xXx

“Detective Hutchinson?”

He sat on the ground, struggling to catch his breath, his back against a city curb side trash can. The insistent rain was beginning to let up as lightning continued to flash above him.

“Detective Hutchinson?”

A woman’s voice. Fucking voices.

“Are you hurt?”

Get away from me,” he screamed, his neck veins bulging against the rain slicked skin. “Not… not gonna l-l-let the s-s-snakes inside of… of me.”

“Detective? My name is Sergeant Marilyn Cole. I have my partner, Ed, with me. He’s a rookie in training but we’re both here to help you.”

“Marilyn?” Hutch repeated as his body began tremoring, the loosely bolted trash can rattling from the violent shaking. The noise was unbearable and he put his cuffed arms over his head, elbows on ears to keep it at bay. “Marilyn…” Like his mother.

“Hutch… they call you Hutch? Your Captain Dobey sent me to get you and your partner. What the hell happened? Are you under cover?”

“Mom?”

“No, Hutch. My name is Marilyn.”

Help me,” he whispered in mental agony, his desperate pleading eyes finally reaching the Sergeant. “Please… Mom.”

“Ed,” her voice called out to the car behind her, “call for an ambulance first. We’re at Lincoln and Eagle. Then have Dispatch notify Captain Dobey that we have the subjects. He’s in the area somewhere. Correction – we’ve got just one of them.”

“Get. Them. Off of me,” he screamed as he rocked back and forth occasionally kicking out at nothing on the sidewalk. “Need… I need...”

“What? What is it you need, Hutch?” Her voice was calm and soothing. “What happened? You’re hurt.”

A hand pulled his shirt up and touched his sore ribs.

“No. No. Please, no more,” he begged and cried as he started to bang the back of his head against the trash can. “Mom?”

“Why are you cuffed, Detective? Whose cuffs are these?”

“They’re mine.”

The voice was low, demanding and very familiar to Hutch.

“Did you cuff him, officer? You know he’s one of your precinct’s detectives?”

“I know who he is and he’s not on the force anymore.”

“Not exactly the story I got.” The sergeant reached into her pocket and produced a key, then reached up over Hutch’s head to take the cuffs off of the bruised wrists.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, missy.”

Throwing Mitchell a disgusted look, she opened one cuff and then the other slowly bringing Hutch’s hands down in front of him all the while rubbing his wrists. “You’ll be okay, Hutch. We’re gonna take care of you.” He trusted her. He didn’t know why, he just did.

“You don’t know what you’re doing.”

“Ed, come here and sit with the detective.” As the two switched places, the sergeant stood and went face to face with Mitchell, albeit a foot below his beady eyes.

“This is a strung out, low level drug dealing, hooker, sweetheart.” The condescending words oozed effortlessly from Mitchell’s mouth. “Former cop or not, he’s dangerous.”

“I have a rank and I’m pretty sure according to these stripes,” she said pointing at her sleeve, “It’s sergeant to your… let me see…” She made a show of looking over Mitchell’s uniform, “…huh… not a stripe to be seen. So that makes me a sergeant to your lowly officer. You will address me as Sergeant or ma’am, nothing less. Got it?”

“Yes ma’am,” he half mocked.

“You’re a fucking piece of work, aren’t you? He’s seriously injured. Care to explain that to me?”

“How am I supposed to know? I found him walking in the street, pants half off, drugged out of his mind. Probably got rolled by a John, or maybe his pimp.”

“Okay.” There was no belief in her affirmative response. “Where is Detective Starsky?”

“No idea. I was driving my beat when I almost ran the junkie over. Starsky’s probably the one who did this to him. His pimp.”

“And you handcuffed him because…?”

“To protect him from himself.”

As sirens came at them from both directions Hutch began to panic. His eyes bugged out of his head, saliva stringing down to the pavement, but couldn’t get his limbs under him. Still on his knees, he collapsed onto his face, ass skyward trying to crawl away from the many hands holding him down. “Oh God… They’re coming. Keep ‘em away.”

“Who, Hutch?” the voice asked as he was turned onto his back by more hands.

He finally looked up through the rain and saw a face he recognized, raising a hand to the dark brown skin. “The… the… snakes. And spiders. And… and… please, Captain, make the voices stop.

As paramedics moved in to assess the patient, Hutch panicked pushing them both away as he got to his feet.

He ran.

He ran as fast as his body would let him barreling through uniforms and skirting a phone booth, the corner of which nailed his hip and spun him around.

“You… uniform,” Dobey yelled, “stop him.”

With Dobey and the paramedics in tow, Mitchell set off as directed by the senior most cop on the scene.

All around him, snakes, spiders and insects came at him making him change directions. And worse than that, drops of blood began falling from the sky. His arms over his head deflected the blood and as long as he kept running he crushed the insects below. But the snakes were getting closer, climbing the building’s walls, wrapping themselves around lampposts and taunting the agitated blonde.

And the voices. They were merciless. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, all talking at once. Except one very frightening one.

“Give it up, fag. You’re mine now.”

He was tackled with the veracity of a 300-pound offensive lineman pounding his solar plexus. The raspy sucking of air failed to drown out the voices and hiss of the snakes.

“Isn’t it sweet. Calling for your mommy. Now, fucking tell me where you put my shit, Hutchinson.”

That voice was loud and clear.

Hutch tried in vain to swing his left hand at the encroaching snakes terribly afraid they’d get to his mouth.

“Fucking cripple,” Mitchell whispered in his ear just before the others got to them. “Shoulda had that arm cut off in the hospital when you had the chance.”

He was turned over onto his back, his chin held in place by the larger uniformed cop. He felt a multitude of hands on his body now holding down his legs and hips, trying to get to his flailing arms.

“…. carotid pulse is storming. Look at his neck…”

“…. he’s gonna crash if we don’t sedate…”

“…. restraints…”

“…. the hell is he on….?”

“…. get a line. Set up beta blockers…”

“Son. Just settle down. You’re safe now, Ken.”

With his one free and functioning hand, Hutch balled up his fist and aimed it for the faceless voice.

“Captain? Holy shit,” one of the paramedics called out. “One of you get over here and see to your Captain.”

“Hey, Detective… stay with me.”

Cold hands pat his face.

Expedite that ambulance.”

His eyes are rolling up.”

He’s going out.”

Cut off his shirt. Get those leads on.”

… more hands here. NOW.”

I need the ambu bag and defibrillator from the rig.”

 

xXx

The building was floor to ceiling cement. Given the heat of the day, the cool naked infrastructure was a pleasant relief for an overheated Starsky. He’d made an inconspicuous stop at the corner store and bought a loaf of bread and some salami while ignoring the roaches scurrying around his feet.

Getting in was a challenge. Two newly erected fences had to be scaled before he walked the perimeter looking for just one opportunity for entry. The cops had done a good job of sealing up the building. Good, but not perfect. Climbing up on top of some barrels he found a window that, from a distance, looked like it was intact. But the late day sun cheating westward revealed the loose plywood over the empty window frame. A couple of good tugs and he was in.

The place had been stripped of anything useful by the previous tenants leaving a shell of concrete columns, empty trash containers and spliced wiring hanging in tendrils from the ceiling. While some rooms were cavernous echo producers, others held stacked office furniture and old, yellowed, paper ledgers in 3-ring binders.

Strategically, Starsky scoped out every avenue of egress and made sure that each corner of the building – north, south, east and west – had an inconspicuous window or door secured from the outside, but easily opened from within with peep holes to surveille the outside. The only thing missing was his partner.

Finally, on the second floor, he found what must have been a supervisor’s office. After moving boxes and papers, he found sofa cushions. The frame was gone, but the leather cushions would make sleeping a little less uncomfortable.

After several hours of wandering, eating two sandwiches and dancing around a few scurrying mice, Starsky began to wonder if anyone would come. No Hutch, no Dobey and his contacts had not arrived. He was beginning to wonder if Cooper would come through for him. Regardless, he had to solve the lack of water problem and snuck out the way he had come in to go back to the little store.

The streets had the false appearance of desolation, but Starsky knew better. The quieter the atmosphere, the more danger lurked in the shadows, especially in high drug trafficking neighborhoods. It was only 8:30. He had time before the hookers, pimps and dealers came to work and Johns would begin scoping the streets like slow moving tomcats on the prowl.

He carried back the two large bottles of water in a paper bag under right arm where his holster normally sat. Its absence made him feel that much more vulnerable. He only had two short blocks to walk before he had to disappeared into his own shadow and slip into the textile building. Walking to the store was quiet and unremarkable. Coming back was a different story.

Tall young men in pairs decorated the corners of buildings giving them the ability to run in several different directions if need be. At least ten feet from each pair of dealers a young kid hung out – the ‘lookout’, also known as the street dealer in training. They all wore sweatshirts and jackets with hoods even though it would be a hot, muggy night. The only reason for the outer wear was to conceal guns. Big guns.

He was a block away when four of these ‘businessmen’ stepped in front of him… and behind him.

“Heard about you,” the larger guy said menacingly. He looked like a bad ass school teacher wearing thick glasses. Tattoos covered his neck. “We don’t take kindly to strangers coming into our territory and stealing our clients, if you know what I mean.”

“Gentlemen,” Starsky answered trying to keep his cool, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just doing some shopping.” He raised his hand up as if giving a friendly good-bye and took a step forward but was stopped with a stiff-arm to the chest.

“Don’t give us that shit, pig. We know who you are.” This one was as skinny as they come. “Everyone knows Starsky and Hutch. And everyone knows how you flipped sides and are fuckin’ undercutting us hard working distributers.”

The ‘teacher’ pushed the other dude aside to get right in Starsky’s face. His breath was bad, his manners, worse. “And you is snitches. Don’t look all dumb. You was seen talking to a cop today. Now, our suppliers ain’t happy. They say you gotta be taught a lesson. And if we don’t do it, they will. And they don’t teach lessons. They close school.” He grabbed Starsky’s chin and turned it up to get a good look at his split lip. “Looks like you already been thunked today.”

“Before you do something you’ll regret, think first,” Starsky said while looking at each one of them in the eyes. “Have you actually lost business? Come on, you don’t want to…”

Whack!

The pain behind his kidney was excruciating and was met with an equally crushing pain to his head as he was pushed to the ground, his face pressed into the warm pavement. Kicks and punches rained down on him while being kept in place by a large, healthy knee. He’d long since lost track of his store purchase and reach out trying to grab at anything to use to defend himself, but there was nothing but a sea of legs.

Finally, the sound of a car screeching to a stop caught his attackers off guard.

“Well, dirty cop, seems like you’re about to get fired from this job too. See that BMW over there?” The leader of the group pointed to a black sports car, all shiny and new. “That’s my supplier. And he don’t play well with others.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Four

 

There’s a sensation of surrender that comes with unconsciousness. Limbs are heavy and numb from idle use. The body waivers from feeling light as a feather to being held down by a flat of bricks. You care, but not very much. Pain hovers and drives the body’s needs, but you just don’t really care anymore.

Except when one’s medical condition requires that sedation and appropriate pain medications be withheld. Then you care.

A lot.

The shivering is what made him wake up for short spurts. The whole bed shuddered as he tried in vain to scratch at the bugs crawling up his chest and over his arms, but his hands were anchored at his sides.

“Get them off of me.”

Nobody listened to him as he begged and pleaded for help.

Please, can you… can you help? Please?”

“My hands are stuck. If someone could just move whatever is holding them down…”

“Why doesn’t anyone help me? They’re getting closer to my mouth.”

“Ken…”

“Hurry. The snakes will follow them.”

Hutch. Slow down. You’re breathing too fast. I don’t like…”

“I don’t give a fuck if you don’t like spiders. Just… get them off of me.”

“Hutch. Open your eyes. Look at me. I know you think you’re talking, but nothing is making sense yet.”

Gentle hands held his face at an angle on the hard, flat pillow forcing him to look directly at those pretty brown eyes. His brain strung the sentences together but he heard only garbled noises coming out of his own mouth.

“That’s right. Slow… breaths,” she said while wiping the spittle off his chin. “Calm… down…”

“But you aren’t hearing me.”

“You’re expending all your energy thrashing around. The words will come, Ken. You gotta be patient as the drugs work through your system. Just focus. Slow down.”

“Mar… Mary.”

“That’s right, handsome. Mary. You were admitted to the ICU yesterday at the end of my shift.”

“N-n-no… go… find…”

“Doesn’t matter, sweetie.”

“Spi… spi… ders…”

“What? Spiders?” Mary looked over his body then back at Hutch’s face. “There are no spiders here.”

“Crawl… crawling…” His eyes were big blue saucers.

“Uh-uh. I know you think bugs are on you. I know you feel them, but it’s the drugs, baby.” Mary rubbed her hand over his bare chest. “See, nothing here but you.”

“Cold.”

“I know. Hot and cold. Back and forth. Had to take the gown off. I think the feeling of it against your skin makes you anxious.”

“N-n-naked?”

“As a jaybird, except the towel covering your privates. Look, Hutch, your heart is playing games with us. If it doesn’t settle down in a week or so the doctor will want to put a pace maker in. But for now we’re keeping you somewhat sedated. I think by tomorrow you’ll start feeling good enough to…”

In a week? Tomorrow? Not what Hutch wanted to hear. He kicked his legs out, the heels connecting hard with the mattress while the towel slipped to the floor. He was going to get up out of bed come hell or high water.

“Not going anywhere, Ken. Hey…”

“What’s going on?” A familiar voice entered the room. “Need help?”

“Thinks he’s going for a walk.”

“Hutch? Son? Look at me.” Captain Dobey physically restrained the blonde’s legs while Mary held his head down against the pillow and struggled to hit a button on the wall behind the bed.

Ken,” she managed trying to sound assertive, “you’re going to pull that catheter out if you move too much and I guarantee you won’t like how that feels.”

He yanked at the restraints attaching his wrists to the bed mercilessly with no results. “Up… find him…”

As his tossing head pulled the nasal cannula from his face, Mary grabbed the oxygen masked from the wall mount and slipped it over his mouth and nose, pulling the elastic tight in place.

“Sir,” a new voice said as several people entered the room, “we’ve got it from here if you’d step out for a bit.”

Strange faces. Lots of hands.

“Soft leg restraints.”

“Standing orders?”

“10mg lorazepam IV.”

“Let’s get an order for Haldol too, please.”

How does one float and drown at the same time? As the voices soon sounded as though they were traveling through water, Hutch allowed his body to relax to the point of numbness while letting his brain completely detach from the world.

“…. set of vitals…”

“…a blanket…”

xXx

“Holy shit.”

Tiny jack hammers were pounding away inside his head, specifically behind his eyeballs and at the top of his brain. His knees, hip and palms of his hands felt like they’d been through a meat grinder.

“Mother fucker.” His voice puckered with exhaustion. “Ohhh…. Hey, um…”

“Hutch. It’s okay. Just stay still.”

“Don’t really wanna move.”

“That’s understandable. You’ve been through a lot. Can I get you anything?” Captain Dobey got out of his chair and moved to the head of the bed placing a comforting hand on Hutch’s shoulder.

Hutch kept his eyes closed to ward off the stabbing light. “Where’s Starsky?”

“When Mary wasn’t looking I got one of those hospital gown dresses on you. You kept kicking that little towel off your middle and with Edith stopping by, well, you know…”

“Thanks, Cap. I’m sure she appreciated it.”

When Dobey turned the light off on the bedside table, Hutch finally opened his eyes just enough to see and looked up at his Captain.

“Hey, Cap, that’s some black eye. Edith finally lay down the law?”

Dobey smiled and chuckled nervously as he rubbed the side of his face. “Not yet. I, ah… I ran into something.”

“So, where’s Starsky?”

“Why don’t we start with telling me what you remember?”

Hutch closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead, then quickly pulled his hand back to look at it. “Hands aren’t tied down anymore. Or cuffed. Guess that’s a good thing.”

“Yeah. I think you’re over the worst of it.”

“We were waiting for you. At Lincoln and Eagle, just like you said, for the male/female team.”

“Yeah, Cole and a rookie she had out training.”

“Okay. I ah… they didn’t show. But it wasn’t 3 o’clock yet when…”

“There were others, Hutch?”

“He… he came after me, and… and…”

“Who?”

“Why isn’t Starsky here?”

“When Sergeant Cole found you, Hutch, you were handcuffed. And just like Starsky two months ago you were high as a kite. They found pretty dangerous levels of PCP and cocaine in your system.”

“Um… yeah… made me snort it by cutting off breathing almost to the point of blacking out. Then had to suck in air.”

“I believe you. Unlike before, you had no evidence on you. None.”

“So, no charges?”

“Nothing to charge.”

“Can you get me home, Cap?”

“Huggy will be by later on,” Dobey said trying to change the subject. “Hutch, you’ve been here for three days. Almost four. Been pretty sick. You realize you’re in the ICU?”

The loss of time was slow to resonate with him as he fought to clear his head. “Cap…?”

“Okay, good looking, let’s see if you can sit up for me,” Mary said as she made her way to the head of the bed. “If you can do that without getting too dizzy and keep some clear liquids down, I’ll petition the evil doctors to take out the catheter and remove that NG tube from your nose.”

As he sat on the side of the bed looking down at his bare feet the untied gown slipped off his shoulders revealing his chest covered with a multitude of scabbed over scratches. “What? Who did this?”

“Did that to yourself, Ken,” She said quietly. “Lots of hallucinations and delusions.”

“Spiders…”

“Mm hmm.”

“Thank God they’re gone. Not much of a fan.”

“Ken, don’t be surprised if these hallucinations make occasional visits. Substance induced psychotic events can happen for anywhere from a few days to several months after overdose.”

“That’s comforting,” he huffed. “So what’s keeping me here?”

“Drugs really messed with your heart, but you’ve been pretty stable for the last twenty-four hours.”

“So I can go.” It was definitely a statement, not a question.

“Not quite,” she said while changing out one of his IV solutions. “Docs were talking about doing a cardiac catheterization and repeat an echocardiogram tomorrow.”

“Drugs are out of me, right?”

“Yes, but they quite possibly caused some damage. And, listen cowboy, you’re going to feel like sludge for a few days.”

“Feels like a bus ran me over.”

“That too,” she said guiding him back down to his pillow as he quickly started falling asleep. “Get some sleep. I’m going to get some chicken broth and maybe see if we can take the urinary catheter out of you.”

“When Starsky gets here will you make sure he wakes me up?”

“Sure.”

xXx

Mary nearly jumped out of her seat at the nurse’s station when the alarm from the heart monitor screeched and red light over Hutch’s bed flashed. She had just clocked in for her noon to midnight shift and wasn’t quite ready to run a full code.

She was the first of many to get to the doorway, the crash cart following right behind her, but she didn’t find a patient in cardiac arrest. Instead, she found a tall blonde detective struggling to get the adhesive pads holding the leads off his chest.

“Ken, what the hell are you doing?”

“Sorry to cut my visit short, Mary, but I’ve gotta go.”

“You’re in no shape to leave here, detective. You’ve only been having wakeful periods for well, not even 24 hours.” As fast as he ripped at tape and tags, Mary struggled to keep him in bed. It was a lost cause. “Ken, you have tests scheduled this afternoon.”

“Take ‘em for me. Can’t stay. Have to get to Starsky.”

“You’ve barely walked more than a few feet back and forth to the bathroom.”

His pale tush peaked through the gape of the hospital gown as he rummaged through a gym bag Huggy had brought by the night before. “I feel good, thanks. But need you to take this IV out of my arm.”

“How about you see the doctor first, then we’ll talk about that.”

“How about you take it out or I will,” he said pulling the tape off his forearm.

Stop,” she said while taking his arm firmly in her own and doing it herself. “Do it wrong and you could be in big trouble.”

He dressed in record speed not caring who watched, but the ten minutes of self-created chaos wore on him forcing him to sit on the end of the bed.

“Ken, I hear you’ve asked our good Mary here for a divorce.” Dr. Dorset’s presence helped to eliminate the clutter of extra staff, leaving just Mary by Hutch’s side. “I’d like it if you’d stay with us a few more days until we’re confident that your heart is going to be stable and those pesky seizures you had a couple months back won’t be triggered.”

“I’m good, but I have to get to the precinct.”

“You can call him,” Mary said. “Right out at the nurse’s station. Or use the doctor’s lounge if you need more privacy.”

“Thanks gorgeous,” he said with a wink, “but this can’t wait.”

The doctor put a piece of paper on the tray table in front of Hutch. “You’ll need to sign this. It’s a verification of leaving against medical advice. You are leaving acknowledging that we believe you are not stable enough yet. You are vulnerable to seizures, cardiac abnormalities and fever. There’s a chance that the hallucinations will return. You will be extremely fatigued and suffer from everything that goes along with it.”

“Or not.” Hutch interjected. “Right?”

“Maybe.”

Hutch hastily signed the form, grabbed his bag, then left the hospital catching a cab at the curb.

xXx

“Hey. Hey, mister.” The cab driver had to turn around and reach over his seat to give the blonde a hard slap on the knee. “Wake up. We’re here.”

Hutch pulled a five-dollar bill from his wallet and handed it to the driver, not really cognizant of the $1.95 charge. “Keep the change.”

“Gee, thanks for the tip.” Probably his biggest tip that day.

He didn’t have an issue with walking. His joints and muscles were sore and clothing rubbed against his healing raw skin. Temporary discomfort, he knew. It wasn’t until he got to the steps that he felt like sitting down to take a nap. Thankfully, he arrived at the precinct’s back door and only had to manage a few steps up to the entrance, then get in the elevator.

Pressing the third floor button he moved to the back of the elevator away from the two large spiders hanging out by the ladies up front. Were they real? No. Too large. Unless they were scorpions. Could they be scorpions?

The doors opened on the third floor. The only other person on the elevator by then was an office worker headed up another floor. By process of elimination she knew that the panicked looking, pale blonde pasted against the back wall was supposed to get off there.

“Hey. Your floor? You okay?”

Hutch recognized the hallway ahead of him – the Internal Affairs squad room, and main office with the name plate: Captain E. Schrader - and gulped down a much needed breath as he nodded. “Yeah. Um… thanks. Sorry.”

The lady tilted her head in unanswered questions as the man carefully stepped around…. absolutely nothing as he exited the elevator.

All he had to do was get from where he was in front of IA down to Dobey’s office at the end of the hall. So far the walls were free of snakes. He could do this. He brought his head back up after staring at the floor to see Simonetti just inside the IA office looking back at him. He seemed to be knee deep in paper work but paused just long enough to connect with Hutch. His eyes widened a few times and, if Hutch wasn’t mistaken, he distinctly, but subtly shook his head back and forth in a ‘no’ gesture. With several other detectives milling around between them, the meaning was lost.

“Excuse me, Detective Hutchinson…?” The unfamiliar man in uniform grabbed his shoulder as Hutch started down the hall. “Could I…?”

“Huh?” Hutch couldn’t be bothered by the officer. “Not now.”

“But I need to… could I talk to you?”

“Look, Officer…” Hutch looked at the name tag on the breast pocket of the kid’s uniform, “…Cooper, find someone else to help you. I’m not on duty.” His eyes were focused on the end of the hall and the spider hanging off the water fountain waiting for him.

“But, I have…”

Not now.” Hutch was beginning to doubt his ability to make it to the end without being stared at when a hand fell on his arm and gently propelled him forward.

“Hutch, what the hell are you doing here?” Captain Dobey was quick to lead him by the resistant arm into his office. “You look like you just saw a ghost.”

“Spider. Same thing.”

Hutch sat in the chair and wiped the sweat from his face trying to look normal. Trying.

“They discharged you?”

I discharged me.”

“Was that smart?”

“Look, Captain, someone put me in that hospital. Someone wanted me there, out of the way. I am not going to give them that.”

“And who would that someone be?” A new voice proffered from the doorway.

Hutch looked back and forth from Dobey to Captain Schrader. “If I knew that I’d be on the streets busting them.”

“Morrie, come on in. Close the door,” Dobey said in a quieter voice as he rolled the cuffs up on his dress shirt then came around and sat on the corner of his desk. “Hutch, what exactly do you remember?”

“Ah…. Fucking hallucinations,” he said periodically glancing over at the waste basket where a snake peered out from behind it. “And running. Running from someone.” He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead willing answers to come and snakes to go away. “That big uniform. He, ah…. He chased me. Pounded me good. And, um… he…” Hutch waved his hand around trying to find the words.

Schrader pulled a chair up next to Hutch and gently put his hand to shoulder. “Did what, Hutch?”

“Ah… he groped me,” he said self-consciously as he let out a breath pointing at his crotch. “Down there.” The snake was still behind the garbage can. He kept checking.

“That complicates things,” Schrader mumbled.

“He sexually assaulted you?” Dobey crossed his arms in front of him.

“No, more like sexually insulted me. May be his way of intimidating. I don’t think he got further than that. Pretty sure he could never get it up with another man much less a woman.”

“We’re talking about Officer Mitchell,” Schrader inserted. “Terrance Mitchell.”

“Pardon me for asking,” Hutch said while turning in his chair to face Schrader. “But why are you here?”

Schrader ignored the question and, instead, posed his own to Dobey. “He doesn’t know?”

Dobey simply shook his head.

“Know what? You’re IA. You only nose in when a cop is in trouble. Cap, you said I’m not facing charges.”

“You’re not, Hutch.”

“Then why….” He swallowed hard, then checked for snakes as he stood up and paced the room trying to get a handle on the tremors beginning to hit him. There were two snakes now. “Where’s Starsky? Is he back in jail?”

“No, son,” Dobey said in his best dad voice. “Why don’t you sit down?”

Son. Not good. Not… So where is he?”

“Ken, Starsky has gone missing. The last place he was seen was on the Boulevard the same day you… well, the same day you were admitted to the hospital.” Dobey was having a hard time keeping his own composure. “That was four days ago.”

What?

“He… we heard that…” Dobey looked at Schrader to finish. “He was just too close.

“Word on the street,” Schrader continued with as much of a sympathetic Captain’s voice as he could muster, “is that Detective Starsky was caught dealing drugs in someone else’s territory.”

“No. NO. He’s not dealing. We circulated that rumor to flush out the dirty cops. That’s it. It’s Mitchell. Has to be. And Simonetti stinks just as bad.”

“Mitchell has been suspended pending investigation of your apprehension. His story didn’t set well with Sergeant Cole. Unfortunately,” Schrader said as an afterthought, “suspending him takes him off our radar if we need to keep tabs on him. And Simonetti is right where he can be monitored, driving a desk for now. Those two will probably be going down hard once my investigation is complete. I’ve taken your case over and it’s a mess. But listen, Hutch,” Schrader said squirming in his seat, “street chatter in the district is that the main supplier for the BC Kings gang… ah… they say that he killed Starsky and disposed of his body where it will never be found.”

Hutch was standing as far away from the garbage can as humanly possible, his back plastered against the wall next to the squad room door, hands in pockets. “No. Uh-uh.”

Captain Dobey moved to get in front of his detective oddly staring at nothing in particular. “Hutch, We’re just telling you what we know, and that’s it. Starsky is missing. Hasn’t been seen in four days. I’ve got everyone on it that I can spare. Even had Major Crimes and Vice in here last night. They’ve got ears to the ground down there but haven’t heard anything more than we have.”

“No. I’d know. I would know!”

Schrader tried to back Dobey up. “Chatter from multiple sources – low level dealers, hookers, pimps, addicts, homeless, and even snitches – verify each other. They say…”

“I know what they said. I KNOW…. WHAT THEY SAID.” His fists bulged in the pockets, neck veins stood out like a relief map, and face contorted in pain. “But they’re wrong, Cap. I know it. I... know…” His pleading eyes puddled with tears. “Please.”

“Morrie, can you give us some time…”

“Sure. I’m sorry, Hutch.”

The hall door gently closed behind Schrader leaving Dobey and Hutch alone in the office. The squad room on the other side of the door yielded only silence as, surely, Starky and Hutch’s coworkers were working on fumes and potential grief themselves. Hutch’s outburst most certainly put a damper on any conversation.

“Ken, let’s sit down.”

As Dobey tried to pull the body away from the wall, Hutch solidly remained where he stood.

“Come on. The wall doesn’t need you.”

“Cap?”

“Hmm.”

His voice shook with fear laced grief. “Can you tell me…”

“What?”

“Do you see snakes next to the garbage can over there?” he asked jutting his chin out towards the side of the desk.

Dobey had to pause a moment while taking in the query. Snakes? Eventually he did make an obvious effort of looking over to where Hutch had been staring. “No, Hutch. No snakes.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

“You don’t sound convinced. Come on, sit down and we’ll talk about where we can go from here.”

“No. I have to get out of here.”

Hutch skirted the perimeter of Dobey’s office to get to the hall door. The snakes would just have to find someone else to torture.

“Hutch, I’m having a uniform drive you home. Okay?” The blonde didn’t move in the open doorway. Didn’t even acknowledge his Captain. “Son?” He grabbed the first uniform that walked by. “Officer Casterline, take Detective Hutchinson home. He’s not feeling well.”

Hutch finally let out a big breath and nodded. “Thank you. Ah… Cap…”

“Eat something. Get some sleep. I’ll be by later tonight and we’ll talk then. I’m sure Edith will send me with a casserole.”

All the way out to the back parking lot, Hutch didn’t say a word. He just mindlessly followed the uniformed officer. Four days. It had been four days since Starsky was seen. Word on the street is that he’d been murdered by a gang boss. Their plan had backfired in the worst possible way.

His apartment was as he left it, messy bedding and all on the sofa. He still couldn’t stomach sleeping in his bed. Especially without Starsky. He resumed his previous position at the window watching cars drive by.

“Kill my partner and the party’s over.” He said out loud watching his dewy breath fog up the window pane. “Drugs are gone. Main witness is eliminated, his partner fucked in the head. We lose. They win.”

As if the thought of the entire charade had handed him everything he ever loved to him on a blood red platter, he took note of a car that was making its third pass by Venice Place in the last hour alone.

The previous rule was to stay put and let them think they were running the show. But Hutch was out of betting money and decided to throw his cards on the table.

“Fuck it.”

Reaching on top of the piano where he kept his keys, he felt nothing but flat surface. His keys were gone. Closing his eyes, he thought back and realized his car had been left at Starsky’s. Knowing they were going to be “arrested” they had taken a cab to Lincoln and Eagle.

“Shit.”

He still ran down the stairs, out the door and into the street. His breath racing, hands on knees, he looked around and realized he’d been lucky not to get hit by a car and stepped back to the curb never taking his eyes away from the direction the car had driven off in. He’d missed his opportunity. Aggravated, he leaned back against the phone booth on the corner weighing his options of which there weren’t many.

Before going back up the stairs something made him look over his shoulder. Coming around the corner was that car again. Instead of prowling by Venice Place, it stopped several feet away, the engine idling in a taunt.

Hutch checked for traffic and walked into the street stalking his tall frame directly over to the car where he parked himself directly in front of it.

Game on.

xXx

Four Days Previous

“Well, well, T-Bone. What have we got here?”

Chatter amongst the gang members ceased almost in unison giving the faceless man who exited the black BMW center stage. Starsky was laying prone on the ground, not by choice. Knees and hands weighed down his body. A large booted foot fit smugly on the side of his face. Painfully so.

“Know why we call him T-Bone?” the snide voice asked. “You look like a low class hot dog man to me, so let me explain,” he said squatting down, coaxing the boot an inch or two on Starsky’s face to free up his ear. “See, a T-Bone steak is cut from the cow’s vertebrae. Our T-Bone here is my backbone on the streets.” Adding slime to his arrogance, he pet the detective’s head like a dog, then leaned over to whisper in his ear. “Big, expensive and worth every bite. He answers to me.”

“And who do you answer to?” Starsky managed through gritted teeth.

The supplier – gang leader - laughed first, then the gang members joined in. “Who do I answer to, he asks. Well, some people believe in a god, or gods. I prefer to think of myself as one of them. Now, I hear that you’re trying to sell your Girl Scout cookies in my neighborhood. That’s just plain bad manners and not very Christian of you. Or is it Jewish? Pretty sure we have a kike half-dick here. Should we check?”

Clearing only a few inches between mouth and victim, the gang leader noisily gathered spit and snot in his mouth then let the gob string down onto Starsky’s face. “Yeah, filthy pigs like you need cleaning. Kind of funny – pork and Jew-cop. Must have broken all kinds of religious shit there.”

Starsky could think of five ways to Sunday to be snarky to the guy but listened to his inner Hutch and kept his mouth shut. That lasted all of about thirty seconds.

“Your mother must be so proud of you.”

“That old whore is dead. Choked on a sausage, as fate would have it.” With a parental pat on the head, the leader stood back up. Things were about to change. “Get him on his feet, boys. Let’s see if he squeals.”

All the work was done for him as he felt his body being pulled away from the pavement, face scraped against the raw cement, and then pitched vertical, arms held tight, head pulled back into a chest and the unmistakable cold steel mouth of a gun pressed confidently under his ear. He finally got a look at the leader who was very tall, very well dressed in black slacks, button down dress shirt and, even on the warm summer night, wore a black leather jacket and matching gloves. Starsky knew that dress code. It was all to hide things, like weapons, and to not leave evidence, like fingerprints.

“What… um…” Starsky swallowed the hated fear climbing up his throat. “What do they call you?”

“Isn’t that nice, boys,” he laughed. “Piggy wants to get to know me. For now, you can call me Sir. As in yes, sir. No, sir. And thank you, sir.”

The leader took something from his pocket and thumbed a tab on it – the unmistakable sound of a switchblade. The long, sharp metal blade glinted in the illumination of the lone flickering street lamp as he menacingly waved it in Starsky’s face.

Starsky’s eyes were glued to the switchblade. “Just so you know… sir… I have people on the way. My partner will be…”

“Your partner? Piggy, your partner won’t be coming here. He doesn’t know where you are. He won’t get here. He can’t get here. There’s nothing we don’t know. Nothing. And that pathetic excuse for a partner won’t be looking for you.” The pointed end of the blade traveled down his neck stopping as it was twirled in a circle then continued to his chest, pushing in to leave a trickle of blood inside Starsky’s shirt. The snide creep stepped into Starsky’s space and leveled his mouth against the detective’s left ear – the one without the gun accessory. “You have desecrated my alter. You’ve shit on the wrong lawn, son, and I’m gonna have to bury your nose in that shit to teach you a lesson.”

Starsky closed his eyes and drew from deep down in his soul to the training he had in the army. It was a week’s worth of how to survive being taken prisoner in Viet Nam. Although his breathing was jumpy, he did everything he could to appear as though he was keeping his cool. The last thing he wanted to do was make these gang members jumpy.

“Got nothing to say, pig?”

“You haven’t asked me anything.” Immediately, he regretted baiting the guy. Especially when the fist connected with his gut and he was kneed from behind. If he weren’t being held up he’d be flat on the ground.

“You got a lot to learn.”

Before another fist could connect, all heads turned towards the end of the block and the even rumble of a sports car gunning its engine as it turned the corner finally stopping in front of the group. When the leader stepped away to go over to the car, Starsky took note of what little he could see: A red Chevy Camaro Z/28. The leader was leaning on the roof of the car talking to the driver. It wasn’t until the car started off again that Starsky noticed the arm of the driver propped on the open window and the distinct tattoo of a purple butterfly.

“Well, well, well, piggy. You wanted to know who I answer to?” The leader put his finger to his lips as if in deep thought. “It’s him. That is God,” he said very seriously as he pointed to the end of the street where the Camaro had disappeared. “And when he saw who fell into our pig pen, he made himself very clear.” He stepped back and made eye contact with a few of the gang members.

“Eighty-six him?” T-Bone asked.

The leader simply nodded and tilted his head to the right drawing T-Bone away from Starsky. “He’s sending a man,” he said assuming Starsky couldn’t hear. Unfortunately, he could. “They’ll do it clean and disappear the body.”

Putting his switchblade back in his pocket, the leader gave Starsky a mock salute. “Well, pig, it was nice talking to you,” he said as though he hadn’t a care in the world while pulling off his gloves and pocketing them. “Say hello to my mother.”

As evil as that man was, Starsky was more scared when his BMW was gone and he was alone with the unpredictable gang members, outnumbered, out muscled and out weaponed. Nothing had changed. He was still held tightly on each arm, with the gun on his neck.

“You guys don’t have to be a part of this,” Starsky said trying anything he could. “Just let me go. Tell them you killed me while I was running. They’ll never know…”

“Shut the fuck up, cop.” T-Bone stepped in front of Starsky and grabbed his neck choking him, but only hard enough to keep him in place. “This ain’t your show.”

From out of nowhere, a white panel van with darkened headlights pulled up to the crowd and discharged four men, all heavily armed, and all wearing the face of seasoned killers.

“Thank you,” the one out front said. “He’s ours now, soldiers. You can get back to work.”

With that, a dark hood was pulled over Starsky’s head and tied around his neck. Arms were secured behind him and he was roughly dragged to the van. It unfolded in seconds. No time to say anything. No time to react. Doors opened. He was thrown inside. Doors closed.

Closed.

(Homework: "Off the Ground" - The Record Company.... Listen... it fits!)

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Five

 

If it was the wild, wild west, Hutch would be standing ten paces from the filth covered man in black who was dismounting his faithful steed. He’d be wearing worn leather chaps, shit covered cowboy boots, a ten-gallon hat and long duster coat pulled back and tucked behind the hip sidled gun holster, trigger hungry hand at the ready waiting for old Black Jack Ketchum to flinch.

Except he didn’t have a gun, he was wearing Earth Shoes, and the horse he was staring down was an old gray primer painted Chevy Nova on its last legs before being put down.

The car jerked forward a foot or two, the driver clearly intending to get the blonde out of the way, but Hutch stood his ground eventually moving up and leaning over the car, hands firmly planted on the warm hood, his eyes assertively and fiercely aimed at the driver.

He was just waiting for the flinch.

The tinted windows fought with the glaring sun to fruitlessly reveal the identity of the stalker behind the wheel. Hutch could only see the outline of the figure – definitely a male.

Two cars came up behind it and finally drove around what must have appeared like a car having mechanical trouble completely not fazing Hutch who maintained his menacing stare while leaning on the hood covered engine. It was definitely a stand-off.

Finally, he regained his tall form and moved around to the driver’s side feeling fortunate that the window was already rolled down.

“Turn it off.”

His demand went unheeded as the driver continued to stare forward, both hands gripping the steering wheel at the 10-2 position. But Hutch was a master at reading people and the tiny drop of sweat that slipped down the driver’s temple coupled with the increased respirations and white knuckles shouted ‘young and easily intimidated’.

Slamming his large, open hand down on the car roof over the driver, Hutch took the opportunity to gain the upper hand. “I said turn off the engine!”

The driver’s shaky hands rattled the key chain as the engine was cut.

“Give me the keys.”

Hutch took the keychain as it was handed out the window and opened the door. “Move over. I’m driving.”

He took off and headed south on Ocean Boulevard waiting for the guy to say something. Anything. “Why have you been checking out my place? Are you keeping tabs on me? Huh?”

“I, um…”

“Who are you working for?” He was handling it like an interrogation: keep the questions coming hard and fast until he breaks.

“It’s not that. I, uh…” He stopped mid thought as he nervously scanned the streets seemingly for other vehicles.

“But you were looking for me,” Hutch surmised out loud.

“Hey, can you drive the other way, out of our district?”

Our district? You a cop?”

“Yeah.”

Hutch glanced to his side quickly and then again, taking his time when he stopped for a red light. He looked familiar. “Do I know you? Have we worked together?” The guy was out of uniform and not in a black and white but something told Hutch that he’d seen him before at work.

“No. I mean I’ve seen you around the precinct,” he lied, conveniently leaving out the part about being the lookout when Hutch was nearly killed earlier in the summer. “My partner and I have been assigned a lot lately to Major Crimes and IA.”

“Since when does IA poach uniforms? And a rookie?” The car behind them gave a friendly tap when Hutch didn’t move forward at the green. Taking a right to move out of the district, Hutch let his mind get in gear. “Did I see you there this afternoon?”

“Yeah. I tried to talk to you, but I guess you were busy or something.”

“Cooper, right?”

“Uh-huh. Thomas Cooper.” He sure looked younger than he probably was. “Everyone calls me Tommy.”

Yep. Young.

“Alright, Officer Tommy Cooper. Why the drive arounds? And how do you know where I live?”

“We were assigned by IA this past month to watch you. Sometimes in a police cruiser. Other times we dressed in civies and drove a department sedan.”

“And now? Today?”

“I’m here on my own, and if anyone sees me… um…” The kid became restless, squirmed in his seat and nervously brushed his fingers through his short, barely-there hair. “This is bad. I can’t be seen with you.”

“Why not, Tommy? I’m not gonna do anything to you.”

“It’s not you. It’s Mitchell and whoever he takes orders from. It’s bad, sir. There are some dirty cops in our department and all of the sudden it feels like shit’s gonna hit the fan.”

“I got news for you, kid. The shit blew through that fan a long time ago. Made a big stinking splatter right about the time Roger was murdered.”

“Roger? From Evidence? You think that was an inside job?”

“I know it was.”

How much does this kid know?’, Hutch wondered.

Both hands raked through his hair now as the young officer sunk down in his seat.

“Cooper, hey, don’t flip out on me.”

“I just… I never wanted this. You gotta believe me.”

“It’s a little too late for regret. Are we gonna keep checking out the scenery or are you going to tell me what you know?” Hutch rubbed back and forth across his forehead trying to quell the stabbing pain, hoping to get the kid to talk. His fingers stopped short of the freshly shaved patch that created a fairway from temple to ear. The sutures felt like a zipper. Open it up and his wobbly brain would fall out.

“Sir? Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “Fucking Frankenstein. Come on, kid. Spill it.”

Cooper looked genuinely skeeved out. “What’s gonna happen to me?”

Hutch had to be careful. Delicate. Go too soft on him and the rookie would stay clammed up. Push too hard and he was sure to take off and stay away. “I can’t make any guarantees, but if you help us out we’ll go to bat for you. We’re a good team to be on, Tommy. You know who’s dirty and it’s not us, right?”

“Yeah. I guess.”

Having entered the industrial district, the car came to a stop in the parking lot of an abandoned shop.

“What is this place?” Cooper asked as he checked out the area.

“You don’t know?”

The young officer shook his head. “A closed up market. A neighborhood bodega I guess. But not much of a neighborhood.”

“Ever been here before?”

“Don’t think so,” Cooper said as he turned in his seat taking in the general gray drab of the ghost town of a neighborhood. “Just outside our district.”

He knew his district. They established that.

Hutch stared at the old antique metal Pepsi sign by the back door with a caricature of a fat policeman under the slogan: ‘Buy Pepsi-Cola Today’. It always drew his attention. “Junior’s Corner Store. Belle Delfey was the owner,” he said with melancholy.

“Looks like it shut down.”

“Hard to run a business from the grave.”

Cooper was terrible at hiding anxiety and nervously bit the edges of his fingernail as he put the clues together. “This was… this was Ma Belle’s place? Where… where Roger was murdered?”

Hutch figured the kid had passed the test. He was mixed up with Mitchell, but wasn’t present at the murders.

“So you’re Mitchell’s whipping boy?”

“What?”

Hutch rolled his eyes at the naïve rookie. “He’s got dirt on you, doesn’t he?”

Cooper simply nodded and stared down at his hands.

“Figures.” Hutch squeezed his eyes and torqued his neck to each side trying to work out the stiffness. “So tell me, why are you and I doing this?”

“The other day when Mitchell ran after you and… and Detective Starsky was… I think… I think…”

“You think what, kid?”

“I think I was the last one to see him before he went missing.”

Against his pain receptor’s protests, Hutch’s eyes flew open and shot a glare to his right. “You cuffed him, and drove off. Where? Where did you take him?”

“On the Boulevard, sir. I told him about an abandoned building on South Roberts that was just swept and should be clean for a couple weeks. He told me to tell you and Captain Dobey.”

Christ.”

“I’ve been trying to, ya know, tell you and the Captain, but I heard you were in the hospital. I checked all of them and you hadn’t been admitted.”

“They registered me under an assumed name. Dobey was worried about gang retaliation.”

“And I looked for him… for Captain Dobey. He must have been with you or out looking for Detective Starsky. I was on my way to his office this afternoon when I saw you. Boy, that’s some shiner you gave him.”

“What?”

“Dobey. The black eye?”

“What are you talking about? I did that?”

“Um, yeah. I heard you were hallucinating or something.”

“Great,” Hutch said as he exhaled trying to tamp down nausea creeping up on him. It hit hard side by side with an urgent need to fall asleep. His head tipped into the hard pillow of the window where it settled and…

“Hey, what’s wrong? Sir?”

“Hmm? Ah…. sick,” he mumbled as he opened the door and tumbled out onto the pavement.

Cooper got out of the car and circled around to the driver’s side finding Hutch on all fours emptying his stomach. The blonde eventually stretched a hand up for support as he rose making it as far as the car trunk. He leaned his ass against the car and straddled the over-sized spiders crawling between his feet… or not.

“Sorry, kid.”

“No, it’s okay. I understand. Here,” he said taking his denim jacket off, “take this. You’re shivering and it’s supposed to cool down tonight.”

His body was shaking, but not because he was cold. Wasn’t worth explaining to the young cop. “Thanks. Appreciate it,” he said putting it on. “Let’s get in. You’re driving.”

“Where to?”

“That building. You’re gonna take me there.”

“How do you know he’s there?”

“I don’t.”

“You think he’s still alive?”

“I can feel it.” Hutch glanced at the kid as he drove off toward the Boulevard. Cooper looked like he was three chapters behind the rest of the class. “Someday you might have a partner who’s like a missing limb and you’ll understand.”

“If I’m still a cop.”

“Don’t worry. You got this.” Hutch reached over and gave the young off duty officer a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. “Tommy, you were out on the streets looking for my partner, right?” The kid nodded. “What did you hear?”

The rookie kept his eyes on the road ahead of him feigning concentration, but he really just couldn’t look at Hutch. “Well, just that the number one of the BC Kings gang killed Starsky and that his body would never be found.”

“That’s what everyone said?”

“Pretty much word for word, yeah.”

“It sounds managed. Almost scripted.”

They pulled up to a corner next to a large abandoned building.

“It’s that one,” Cooper said pointing to the brick structure. “Dudley Textiles.”

“Okay, kid. Listen, go tell Dobey and Schrader what you told me, or at least tell them I sent you with the message that I’m here and that Starsky may be here too. Make sure Simonetti is not in the picture. At all.”

“What makes you think they’ll believe me?’

Hutch reached around his neck and took off his choker with the moon and stars. “Give this to Dobey. He knows I would never take it off unless it was for something very serious. Okay?”

Cooper held the necklace in one hand while reaching into the backseat with the other “Here,” he said passing a paper bag over to a pale and exhausted Hutch. “Crackers and root beer. My wife hasn’t been feeling well. Settles the stomach.”

“Root beer,” Hutch repeated with a chuckle. “Starsky would love it.” He got out of the car with the bag and turned around one last time, leaning in through the car window. “Do what I said, Officer. That’s an order. You’ll do just fine. I know it.”

“Detective Hutchinson? What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to be fight this time. Gonna make somebody else flight.”

xXx

Four Days Previous

When the humidity of one’s breath marries with the tight weave of burlap, the resulting offspring of noxious breath, dirt and body odor clings to the hairs in the nose and unwiped, snot mingling on the upper lip.

Starsky had been pulled from the van and dragged into a building with less dignity than a meat eater gives a crate of brussel sprouts. The only relief he was afforded was when his bound arms were untied and brought back around front only to be attached around a steel pole.

He spoke words, but received no answers. He kicked out but found nothing but the pole and his other foot. And when he exhausted himself from the kicking and talking he laid down on his side and surrendered to light sleep forced to hug his new best friend: the damn steel pole.

There was nothing to see save the brown burlap but he could feel and smell the encroachment of dawn. He could also feel his bladder threatening to burst.

“Gotta pee here,” he pleaded. Over and over again he made his case as he shifted from side to side trying to free up a fraction of space within to make more room for urine. Just when he resolved to soil himself he was pulled up to his feet and led to a doorway. Two men held him vertical while his pants were undone and pulled down to his knees. They unceremoniously leaned him forward until he thought he would fall.

“Take a piss now, scum. Make it good. It’s probably your last chance.”

He couldn’t hold his cock and aim, thus he supposed that’s why they were leaning him forward. So he just let it flow, the cool morning mist pushing against his bare middle and thighs. When the streamed stopped, his pants were pulled back up but not zipped. Then he was dragged back to the pole, dumped and reattached.

A few more hours passed with no change in scenery. Instead his stomach rumbled, lips cracked from lack of fluids and headache threatened to reach gold medal status.

“How about some water, huh?” As had been the case through the night, his questions and pleas were ignored. “Food? Breakfast? I don’t need much.”

“Fuckin’ A….”

He was getting through to at least one of them.

“Hey. I know you’re there. You know I’m here.”

“Shut the fuck up. I ain’t getting you nothing. Dead men don’t need to eat.”

“If you were gonna kill me, don’t you think it would have happened already?”

Shoes scuffled over to him and he sensed the owner of the feet squat down in front of him.

“Seems you’re special. Our boss man wants to have a little meeting with you first.”

“The way I see it…”

WHACK!

“You don’t get to see nothing, asshole.”

The only thing that kept Starsky from not being repelled to the other side of the room by the blow to the side of his face was the steel pole his arms were tied to. Instead his body jerked backwards, his arms pulling sharply at his shoulders. The sack was pulled up only far enough for his mouth to be stuffed with a cloth and sealed by a thick piece of tape. He had to maneuver the cloth around with his tongue just to keep from choking on it. The pounding to his face started the flow of snot and blood through his nose again forcing him to snort it up or blow it out to keep his sinuses open for oxygen.

It seemed as though he went hours without hearing a soul, though he felt the presence of someone close by. He’d exhausted himself trying to get free but found his efforts to be wasted. Eventually, a room or two away, he heard snippets of voices.

“…T-Bone’s main man…”

“…fast contract…”

“…told us to wait…”

“…got this family picnic thing at noon…”

“… burgers, steaks, pie…”

“…selling on our turf too…”

“…wants to make sure he’s the only one…”

“…could be more…”

“…beat it out of him…”

His head and ribs were already tender, but he knew his legs had at least been spared. Starsky didn’t have it in him to just give up so he spent the time, arms tied around the post and head covered in the sack, planning ways to overtake his captors. Wait until only one was around. Or at least until he assumed only one was there. Beg for help, water, food or bathroom break again. Then take the legs out from under one of them with his own.

Watch too many cartoons, moron,’ he said to himself.

He shifted back up onto his knees and then onto his left hip trying to get comfortable when he heard several feet walking into the area.

“Where you been, Eddie?”

“Was out looking for someone. This is the guy T-Bone’s man wants disappeared?”

They were talking off to the side. Starsky could make out the words but the burlap sack, his exhaustion, dehydration and hunger didn’t allow him to identify voices or number of voices.

Yeah. He’s undercutting the street dealers.”

“So I hear. Not very polite.”

“Apparently he has a partner.”

“Location?”

“No clue. Probably dead. Heard another supplier caught him dealing over on Lincoln and Eagle. Took it personally.”

“What’s the word?”

“Our people down there say he was almost dead when ambulance took him away.”

No. NO. Starsky gasped at the thought. He saw Mitchell with Hutch. Saw him chase his partner out of sight.

“Ambulance means a beating heart. Let’s see if our friend here can tell us who this mystery partner is.”

The toe of a boot tapped Starsky’s knee.

“Time to sit up and answer some questions,” the voice asked. “Who is your business partner?”

How? How could he answer with his mouth gagged and taped shut under the burlap sack?

Laughter mocked Starsky’s silence as the man seemingly in charge squatted down in front of him.

Now, we can make this easy on you or… well…. I think you know how this works.” He was so close to Starsky’s face the burlap moved with the guy’s breathy words.

Again, he was helpless and could only sit back on his heels, his arms in front of him hooked around the pole. He thought if he could only talk to him, make himself human to them, not just a body, he had a chance.

The man grabbed Starsky’s hair through the sack and roughly pulled him to his feet.

“You’re not helping yourself here.”

Starsky’s labored breathing through just his nose was beginning to catch up to him as he struggled to not drown on his own saliva pooling at the back of his mouth, and his nose started to clog up with the now coagulating blood and mucus.

Cold air hit his skin almost as rudely as the sunlight smacked him in the eyes as the sack was pulled off. He struggled to focus on the man before him who looked at him straight on in a stare that seemed to go on forever.

“Tape, guys? That’s original.”

“He wouldn’t shut the fuck up.”

“Some never learn. Fucking amateur.”

“You want us to take him out to the gravel pit?”

“No. I got this one myself. Mike, I’m pretty sure you have a family function to get to. Take him out to the Buick you guys lifted last month and introduce him to the trunk. You know the drill. Hog tie him. I’ll put one between his eyes and dump the car at the bottom of the canal.”

“Thanks boss,” the large brute said as he untied Starsky’s hands and kneed him to the cement floor face first. “Means a lot to the wife and my sex life, if you know what I mean.”

They all laughed as though it was just another day. It took at least three of them to tie Starsky’s hands behind his back, then tie his crossed ankles and bring them together with his hands in the small of his back. They’d done this before.

He was carried face down out to the car while the men continued their discussion about the upcoming football season and who they were going to place bets on. And their kids.

“Guess what… my kid took his first steps yesterday,” one of them said as they carried Starsky like a bale of hay.

“Yeah? Pretty cool, Mike.”

The third one chimed in too. “Wait until he’s a teenager. I got all girls. With a boy, you only got one dick to worry about. I gotta worry about thousands of them.”

Jeez, he’s heavier than he looks. Hey Mike,” the first guy said as they lifted Starsky’s hog tied body into the trunk of the car, “you really having steak at a damn picnic? Whatever happened to hot dogs and burgers?”

“Mother in-law insisted. She invited the parish priest.”

xXx

By the time the car stopped, Starsky’s energy was zapped from struggling to get enough air in through his clogged nose in the insane oven of a car trunk. His hips and shoulders were screaming from the unnatural cramped position his limbs had been restrained in. Every time the old car hit a pot hole the lack of shock absorbers slammed his knee caps into the lug wrench. Three sets of speed bumps slid his spine into the car jack. And he hoped against hope that he wouldn’t puke, because that would mean certain choking to death but the mildewed lining of the trunk was fighting against him.

A whoosh of fresh air passed over him as the trunk popped up thankfully taking the stinking mold and mildew with it.

“Don’t move, wise guy. I got a knife. It’s big and it’s sharp.”

His heels sprung away from his back as the ropes were cut, then his arms were freed. As hands pulled him up and out, Starsky’s legs buckled toppling his ass back onto the edge of the open trunk. With no time to spare the tape was pulled off and the gagging rag pulled from his mouth allowing for seconds to pass before vomit splattered into the trunk. Arms circled him from around back to keep him from falling into the acrid mess.

“Nice touch, douchebag,” his captor remarked. “You okay?”

“Hate Buicks. Want to tell me what that was all about, Pat?”

The man drew his hands down his facial hair as he stepped back to look Starsky over. “Yeah, sorry about that. Had no idea the guy I was supposed to waste was you until I took the sack off your head.”

“Could have taken the tape off. Jesus, I coulda choked in there.”

“You got fucking diarrhea of the mouth, Davey. I couldn’t risk you blowing my cover. Hey… got any sour milk?” He was a tall, thin man with long scraggily brown hair, mutton chops, oversized green army coat and torn jeans. His face gave way a man who was years younger than he looked.

“So you got a call from the kid.” Starsky looked around and realized they were in a garage with the windowless door securely shut. “Cooper. He’s a green boot with a baby face.”

“His voice shook like jelly on a table saw. Follow me.” They went into the house through the attached door and made their way upstairs into a bedroom. “Went down to that building he told me you’d be at but couldn’t find you. Now I know why.”

“Go figure. Mob boss Joe Durniak’s nephew a Fed. Damn, Pat. I remember when you were a pasty teenager asking your Uncle Joe for a ten spot for the movies.”

“Yeah. And he made me caddy for his lawyer to get it and then only gave me five bucks.”

“But we both know you weren’t going to the movies, Patrick. Right? You had an affection for the weed.”

A mischievous half smile appeared on the undercover agent. “Yeah, me and every other kid back then in the five boroughs. Even you, if I recall correctly.” He opened what looked like a simple closet door, albeit with three deadbolts, and ushered Starsky inside. “Being part of him makes me cringe,” he mumbled to himself, but just loud enough to be heard. Putting hands on each side of Starsky's face he tilted it back to look up his bloodied nose, then felt for lumps and bumps in his bushy head of curls. "Sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. Thanks. I'm sure you've seen worse." Starsky moved quickly to change the subject. "How's the wife, Pat?"

“Like all federal agents who go deep under cover for months at a time, the only thing we leave at home are ex-wives.”

“Ooh. Well, sorry about that, Agent Durniak. Geez Louise, that’s hard to say.”

“Name’s not Durniak out here. It’s Eddie Martin. And until we take down the major players of a few organizations, one in particular, I ain’t Patrick.”

“Roger that. One in particular… who?”

The agent sat on the bed and pulled his left pant leg up revealing a small revolver in an ankle holster. Taking it out he checked to see that it was loaded, then re-holstered it. “Don’t know but he seems to have an unlimited supply. Drives a red Chevy Camaro. Stays in the shadows.”

“I saw that car back there with the T-Bone guy. Pretty sure he’s the one who ordered my hit. Now, you gonna tell me where I’m at?”

Pat’s right pant leg was pulled up and the knife strapped back into its hidden home. “My own personal safe house. No one knows about this. Gangs, cops, feds…”

“Rich man, poor man, beggerman, thief?”

“Huh?”

“Nah. Never mind. Just a Hutch thing.”

“Davey, I gotta lock you in here for your own safety and mine.” The room inside the house was sparse. A single cot, small radio, some magazines and a bathroom. No windows. “Small fridge there has sandwich meat, bread, juice and fruit. Bathroom is in there. Take a shower. Please. Couple extra t-shirts on the bed.”

“Pat… Eddie… whoever the hell you are… you still got my packages?”

“Yeah. They’re safe,” he said, taking a few aspirin from the bottle in the bathroom and dry swallowing them. “Kilo each of PCP, coke and a healthy brick of grass all with BCPD evidence stickers on them, tucked away dark and cozy.”

“Thanks for sending your men to pick them up. It’s safer for everybody.” Starsky paced the small room wishing he had a window to look out of to avoid eye to eye contact. He felt like hiding what could be the accidental spilling of emotion. Instead, he leaned his shoulder against the wall and stared at the floor. “Pat, what about my partner? I gotta find him.”

“I’m gonna get on the streets and see what I can sniff out. What’s his name? Hudson? Huttleston?”

“Hutchinson. Ken. About 6’1”, 190 pounds, blonde Nordic type. The guys back there said…”

I know what they said, but it’s street scuttle, Davey, and can’t be trusted. You know that. Sometimes they just blow wind to smell their own farts.”

Starsky took three steps to the door attempting to leave but met Pat Durniak’s outstretched hands instead. “Then let me out there so I can look for him.” He drove forward and achieved nothing more than being pushed back the previous three steps.

“Uh-uh. No way. If you show up anywhere, my cover is blown, yours is blown and everyone you know will be marked for retaliation.”

“But…”

“Is that what you want, Davey? I don’t know how you got wrapped up in this shit storm, but from what I hear you’ve pissed off a lot of people from low level street dealers up to some pretty important suppliers and they all want you and your partner dead. I hope who you’re after is worth all this shaking up. Now, you stay here.” The larger hands guided him to the cot where Starsky allowed himself to be pushed onto his butt. “Let the streets calm the fuck down for a while. I will do everything I can to find Hutchinson.”

“Thanks, Pat. I owe you. Don’t know how I can repay you.”

“Nah. We’re good. But maybe I can think of something. Look, I have to take off for a couple days. If something happens to me, I have a contact that checks this room every Sunday. She’s a little old lady. Don’t clock her. It’s bad juju.” He bent down and gave Starsky a reassuring rub on the back of the head before locking the door behind him from the outside.

He missed TV. He missed root beer and pizza. Fresh air, grass and the beach. He longed for Hutch. Starsky knew that his partner needed him and it roiled his insides not to be able to get to him. He was out there somewhere and yet Starsky was locked in a glorified closet.

He hadn’t worn his watch and if it hadn’t been for the radio he wouldn’t even know what time it was. Playing with the radio he only found a few stations that came in. Country music. No. Teeny bopper music. No. Talk radio with endless lessons on how to either crochet or golf. No.

Polka.

Fuck no.

By midnight they had all signed off with the Star Spangled Banner. Except the god damned polka music. Starsky signed off for them and pulled the plug.

“Aw, Hutch. Where are you?”

He tossed and turned on the cot. He turned on his left side and put his arm out looking for body warmth and found just air. Turned on his right and reached out again, finding air again. So he dropped his hand over the edge to the floor tapping his fingers on the carpet’s tight weave. The silence was deafening.

He had bologna for dinner, bologna for late snack, bologna for breakfast…

Two days later he opened up the fridge and found himself doing what he had accustomed himself to doing: Talking to himself. “Wash, rinse, repeat. Hey boys and girls, guess what’s for lunch.”

The rattle of deadbolts turning and keys jangling pointed his attention to the door a few feet away. Pat Durniak’s face was a welcome gift.

“Where the hell have you been? Pat, please tell me I can get out of here.”

“Take a seat.”

“Gotta get out of here. This is worse than jail.”

Sit. Please, Davey.” The look on the federal agent’s face masquerading as a hard core drug dealer was stone cold serious, and exhausted. “First, I spread word that the contract on you was carried out. That should take some of the heat off. At least no one will be actively looking for you or targeting people you know to draw you in. Next, I talked to everyone I could about Hutchinson without raising suspicion.”

“And?”

“And I don’t know much more today than I did before, except...”

“Except what?”

Durniak took a seat on the cot next to Starsky. “I, um, had a trusted contact call every hospital within a forty-five mile radius and your partner is not listed as a patient in any of them.”

Starsky fidgeted as he ran through the steps of finding a missing person. “Morgues?” It killed him to ask but it was the next logical place to check.

“No unidentified bodies matching his description.” It was a technically delivered answer.

“So he’s not in the hospital. Then he’s probably out there looking for me. Not in the morgue.”

“We don’t know that. His body could have been identified and claimed…. Shit, Davey, I’m sorry, but I’ve hit a wall.”

“In your professional experience, you would conclude…?”

“That there’s a good chance your partner is no longer with us.”

He must have rubbed his face a dozen times trying to hold back the combined anger and grief, finally allowing one short sob to slide by.

“I’m sorry, Davey.”

“Gotta get outa here. Get me outa here, Pat.” Starsky was pleading as a friend, now. Not a cop. “Please. I can feel him. I have to get back to that building. He knows…”

“Knows what?”

“Hutch. He knows to look for me there. Cooper told him. He told Dobey, and Schrader. Please. He knows.”

“Can’t let you go yet. It’s just too dangerous for…”

NOW.”

Starsky’s desperately furious demand brought all discussion to a dead stop while sweeping in an air of commanding awkward silence between the two.

They worked for different agencies, but Durniak understood his fellow officer and childhood friend and part of him believed that Starsky had a feeling that couldn’t be ignored. “Alright. Alright. Give me a few hours to pacify some of those BC Kings boys and direct T-Bone’s soldiers away from that block. The junkies will follow. I’ll get you there tonight. Okay? Just sit tight.”

 

It was after midnight when Pat Durniak made his way to the old Dudley Textile building on South Roberts. He drove a nondescript four door dark blue Ford – one of thousands in the city. Starsky was lying down in the back seat the entire half hour ride it took to get there.

Pat chuckled as he listened to Starsky try to get comfortable in the awkward position. “Reminds me of the time when you were hiding from your mother.”

“Holy shit, that’s right.” Starsky laughed as he looked up at the roof of the car above him. “I was on leave after boot camp just before I shipped out to Nam and Ma found a joint in my coat pocket. One joint.”

“Yeah. But she blamed me. I hadn’t even seen you yet.”

“She…. she said…” Laughing, Starsky put on his best Ma-voice, “that Patrick Durniak is a baaaad influence.” The memory gave Starsky a nice break from the train wreck going through his head. “Do ya remember the next day, we were in your car around the corner from Ma’s and we were just about to light up a Mary Jane when she came pounding on your window?”

“Oh my god, Davey, you barreled over into the back seat just in time and hid on the floor boards. I remember I pushed you over and your shoe came off in my hand.”

“Man, she reamed you a new one.”

“Yeah, all while I was holding your shoe.” Pat held his hand up just like he had when being scolded curb side by Mrs. Starsky, but this time without her son’s shoe.

“Ma said she was gonna go tell Uncle Joe. And no way was her good Davey smoking those funny cigarettes. Was a different time, buddy.”

“Sure was.” Pat pulled the car into a darkened spot behind the textile building and turned off the engine. “Okay. We’re here.”

With years of experience exiting a vehicle without making a sound, Starsky slipped out of the back seat and closed the door, barely catching the latch. Through the open front passenger window Pat passed out a brown paper bag.

“Here. Leftovers from the fridge.”

Starsky’s face fell. “Let me guess. Bologna?”

“You always were the smart one,” Pat gave with a hint of a sarcastic smile. “One more thing. Take this.” The silver handle of the small revolver Starsky knew had been Pat’s back up gun in the ankle holster made its way out the window towards him. “Six bullets. That’s all you got there, man. No serial numbers. It’s a clean, untraceable piece.”

“Thanks. I’ll ration the ammo.”

“Hope you never have to use it. And Davey? I’ll try to check up on you, but no promises. I’ve kept this all on the down low.”

“My Captain… Dobey would call this a private party. He hates that shit. But, hey, I really appreciate it, Patrick. Your uncle, he was… well you know. He orchestrated some horrible things. But he always took care of family, blood or not. It’s okay to have that part of him. Don’t regret that.”

Durniak nodded, then looked away before putting the car back in gear. “I hope you find your partner. Take care of yourself, Detective Starsky. Always loved you like a brother.”

Before Starsky could return the compliment, the tires crunched over the gravel and back onto the street leaving him alone on the darkened corner at the back of the building.

From that side, the entrance he had discovered four days before was just a quick fence climb over. He was inside the building in under a minute, replaced the boards to conceal the opening and began a general sweep of the structure before hoping to settle in for the night on the sofa cushions up in the abandoned office.

Pat had made good on his promise to get the drug dealers to move business out of the area. There was not a sound to be heard with the exception of the occasional critter scurrying in the walls and distant car tires and loud mufflers. He walked the perimeter of each large room on the first floor, his back to the wall to increase his peripheral sight line. Making his way to the back staircase he tip toed up the first set of risers, turning and ascending the second set until he got to the second floor. Putting the paper bag of food on a pile of notebooks just inside the office door, he heard the sound of a voice coming from the factory floor around the corner.

Voice.

Tapping.

Voice.

Footsteps.

Voice.

Shuffling.

Loud slam.

Starsky reached into the back of his waistband and took out the gun Pat had given him, raising it into position and cocking the hammer back.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Six

Starsky kept his back against the wall as he skirted around the office and into the large, mostly empty work area where he’d heard the sounds. Shooting the gun would most certainly draw attention to the abandoned building and reveal his hiding place. It was a last resort, but maybe his only resort.

While the first floor was poured concrete, the second floor was very old hardwood. Look close enough and you could see old forgotten sewing machine needles that had fallen in the cracks of the floor boards probably a hundred years previously. Starsky used his skill at sneaking around an old creaky house as a kid to manage the walk as quietly as possible. He had no idea how many people he was up against, but was determined to either take control of them, or – if there were too many – quietly slip out and find another safe place.

The moon was almost full allowing for just enough light to pass through the glass block windows to see a few feet ahead of him. The design of the factory windows allowed in the light while hiding their presence from the outside world.

The lone figure was all the way in the corner flanked by widows on either side. The golden locks haloed by the refracted moonlight was unmistakable. When Starsky accidently kicked an old metal tool box the figure never even reacted.

“Hutch? Hutch, you alone?”

The blonde was standing almost at attention flush against the wall seemingly afraid of something near him. His head was leaning back with eyes closed. Slamming his right hand against the wall, he muttered incoherently. His demeanor and lack of answer made Starsky swing around in anticipation of a firefight but found no one else.

“Hutch? Buddy?” Starsky put the gun back into his waistband and walked towards his partner. Hutch’s eyes suddenly opened into a wide stare. “Hey,” Starsky said putting his hands out in front of him, “it’s just me, babe. What’s going on, huh?”

“You… you’re alive?”

“As alive as you,” he said taking a few more steps towards Hutch. “God, I thought I’d lost you. If you had…”

Stop!” Hutch pushed his hands out in front of him. Even with an unusual late summer chilly breeze, sweat poured down his face as his body shivered. “Starsk, stand…. s-s-stand still.”

Starsky heeded the warning and stood several feet away from Hutch. “Wha…. I don’t understand, Hutch.” He looked around him and down at the floor. “Is there a booby-trap or something?”

“S-s-snakes.”

“There are no snakes, babe.”

“No snakes?”

“No.” Starsky made his way over to his partner and pried him away from the wall and into a gentle hug. “What’s going on, Hutch?”

“You’re alive.” Hutch said into the brown curls validating what he had seen with his own eyes.

“I’m alive. You’re alive.” Starsky couldn’t help but feel the thunder coming through Hutch’s chest. “You’re certainly alive, partner. Come on. Come with me into the office area. Your heart is really pounding.”

“Yeah, okay. Just give me a minute. It’ll settle down.”

Hutch followed Starsky to the back of the building and into the office. He stopped at the door to scope out the floor and walls. Just in case.

“Come on, blondie.” Starsky put his hand out. “In here. With me.”

Hutch nodded, closed his eyes while letting out a deep breath then stepped into the room without looking down. Well, okay, he did anyway. No snakes in here. All clear.

Starsky nearly fell over a pile of things that weren’t there the day he was taken. His eyes had adjusted to the dark enough to make out the camping equipment he thought he had seen the other day in a certain garage. “Fuckin’ Pat Durniak,” he chuckled as he squatted down to rifle through the treasures. Sleeping bag, blanket, pillows, water canteens – filled, and a battery operated lantern. “Cool. Look what we’ve got,” he said turning the lantern on and bringing up to Hutch’s face.

Hutch grimaced as he saw his partner’s face lit up for the first time. “Starsk, what happened to your face?”

“What happened to your hair? Shit. Looks like you got a fairway mowed over your ear.”

Hutch raised his hand to the stitches poking out. “Yeah. Yet another new hairstyle.” He laughed it off while reaching out and taking Starsky’s face in his large hands. “Does it hurt?” he asked while thumbing over the bruise on the cheekbone.

“Not as much.”

“What else?”

“Huh?”

“What else hurts?”

“Hutch… don’t….” He couldn’t deny him. “Okay. Ribs. And my hip.”

Hutch instantly lifted up Starsky’s shirt to look at both sides of his chest stopping to put his hand on a resolving bruise on the right side.

Ouch. Enough already, Hutch. What about you, huh? I see the head crease. Pretty sure that’s a bruise on your jaw. And one right here,” he said stroking his hand twice across the blonde’s throat.

“Stop, p-p-please.” Hutch took the hand and lowered it, not releasing it. Not just yet.

“And why do you keep looking around like something’s here.”

“Nothing’s here.” Hutch answered unconvincingly. “Nope.”

“You’re sweating and shivering at the same time. Stammering’s a thing again. And it doesn’t look like you’ve eaten or slept in days. So, what do you think is here.”

The accusation was clear to Hutch as he released the hand and stepped away. “D-d-do you think I’m on something?” Starsky said nothing as he stared into Hutch’s eyes. “You want… you want to check for track marks?” Hutch started to push the sleeve up his arm but was caught by Starsky’s own hands.

“Babe, no. I don’t think you’re shooting up. But I know you were taken to the hospital.”

“Who…?”

“The streets talk, ya know. What happened?”

“Mitchell happened. That’s what.” Hutch swallowed hard as he shoved his useless left hand into its pocket. “I…I don’t remember everything but I know he made comments like he was there the first time. He, uh…. He got the best of me. Fuckin’ groped me while throwing insults. Typical schoolyard bullshit.”

“Jeez, that’s just…” He wanted to blow his top and throw his anger at anything he could find, but knew that would shut Hutch down. “The neck?” Starsky asked pointing at the straight line bruise across Hutch’s throat.

“His billy club, I think.” The attack was running through his head folding him back into his previously insecure self. “He’s been suspended pending IA investigation according to Schrader.” Even with that news, Hutch winced as though he’d been attacked one more time.

Starsky pulled the folded left hand out of the pocket. “Don’t hide it, Hutch.”

“He, ah,” Hutch stumbled through a false laugh. “He called me a cripple. Nice guy. Right?”

“A real prince.” Starsky still held Hutch’s left hand flattening the palm and stretching the muscle and tendons of the fingers. “And the hallucinations?” Hutch continued his floor gazing skills. “Hutch… snakes? We’re on the second floor here.”

“Yeah. Those. Mitchell had a repeat performance of forced PCP and coke with me. Just like with you, but I think he left out the opiates this time. You got the grand treatment,” he smirked.

“Yeah. I was out a good week in the hospital before I got my wits about me.”

“What a bargain. It’s only been four or five days for me.”

Hutch looked down at his hand, still being stretched and massaged, though less therapeutically so. “Tired.”

“How about you lie down on those sofa cushions over there. I’ll take the sleeping bag. It’s 2am. Maybe we can get a few hours in. You eaten anything?”

“Can’t keep much down.”

“Probably should have stayed in the hospital.”

“Yeah, well, neither one of us is good at riding the hospital horse.”

“Give it time.”

As they were settling into their make-shift beds Hutch pulled a transistor radio out of the pillowcase. “Hey, look what I found.”

“Leave it to Pat,” Starsky chuckled while Hutch fiddled with the radio, finally finding a station that came in clearly.

“Who?”

“Never mind. I’ll tell you later. Wait,” he said taking the radio from Hutch, “is that polka music?”

“Yeah. Isn’t that great?” With a smile, Hutch took the radio back, turned up the volume, and put it next to his pillow as he laid down.

“Terrific.” Starsky was sure his eyes made a grating noise when he rolled them back in loathing.

“Polka music is making a come-back, ya know.”

“Fuck that.”

They were only a couple hours into slumber when Starsky was awoken by a thrashing Hutch. By the time he’d slithered out of the sleeping bag Hutch was sitting up furiously swiping at his arms and chest, legs kicking out at nothing.

Get them off of me,” he screamed.

“What?”

“Get… get the bugs… off of me.”

Starsky sat down behind Hutch, his legs hugging the blonde’s hips, arms encircling the chest in the tightest hug he could manage, in a modified restraint hold, grimacing at the pressure against his own sore ribs. Once again, his heart was frantically pounding away. “No bugs, Hutch. No bugs on you, or anywhere. Okay?”

Hutch’s ragged breath hitched as he raised his hands to hold onto Starsky’s arms. Squeezing his eyes shut he tried to get his brain to stop seeing what wasn’t there.

“Come on, partner. Put your head back on me. Just relax.”

“Can’t do this anymore.”

“Give it another day or two. I promise they’ll go away.”

Starsky reached out and put one of the sofa cushions behind him against the wall and leaned them both back in a slight recline. “I’m right here, babe. Not gonna let anything happen to you. We’re just gonna go back to sleep. ‘kay?”

He used all of his strength to hold Hutch against him, absorbing the shudders while holding the blonde’s wrists tight against his own sore chest to keep him from scratching a layer of skin off.

“That’s right, ya big lug. Just relax. Go to sleep. I got ya.”

xXx

A windowless work space was once the standard design for factories. The less workers could see the change of day outside, the more they produced. After all, distractions were counterproductive. But for two supposedly dead detectives it provided hours of sleep while maintaining their… deadness.

For someone who was anal about having a watch on him, Starsky was beside himself with a bare wrist. The diffuse light peeking around the corner from the factory floor at least let him know that morning had come at some point.

Starsky’s body ached from sitting up with Hutch’s dead weight against him. He put the flat of his hand against Hutch’s chest where he felt a heartbeat, strong and steady, but definitely not bugged out at a hundred miles an hour. His breathing was deep and eyes darted back and forth under the lids in a relaxed dream state.

As for Starsky’s bladder, that was a different story.

Getting his legs under him, Starsky got to his feet and gently placed Hutch down on the sofa cushions before going across the hall to use the bathroom. Surprisingly the plumbing still worked. The old bathroom reminded him of the boy’s lavatory at his old school, P.S. 142 in Brooklyn. Small, white octagonal mosaic tiles in the floor, a few sinks with the hot and cold taps to each side, and a linen towel that simply rotated up and down in a dispenser. Next to the window was a cast iron tray bolted to the ledge with a large key chained to it used to crank open the large panes on a hot day. In the heat before air conditioning, it must have been necessary to air out the factory bathroom. The toilet stalls were made of very dark stained, heavy wood, sparsely covered in carved names and messages.

“Tutino = Devil”. And “Call Tutino’s wife for a good time”.

Must have been an outstanding boss’, Starsky thought as he zipped his pants up.

He walked back in the office and squatted down next to Hutch sound asleep on the cushions. As he covered him with the blanket he couldn’t help but think how peaceful his former lover looked and reached down to run his fingers through the sleep-damp blonde curls at the base of his neck. The sound that came from downstairs jerked him back to reality.

Keys.

Keys?

Starsky grabbed the gun from the floor next to where they had been sleeping and moved to the top of the staircase, his stocking feet giving him the advantage of stealth silence. Once again pasting his back against the wall, he slipped down the staircase stopping just before he got to the bottom.

He heard footsteps guessing there to be at least two people. When the footsteps became more feint and Starsky figured they were at the far end of the building, he stepped around the corner and made his way to them stopping every few feet to hide behind columns or the occasional crate.

“…a lot of square footage…”

“…should check out the second floor…”

“…here somewhere…”

Before he knew it, the voices were on top of him, rounding the column he had become one with. It was now or never…

“Freeze. Police. Hands where I can see them,” he shouted at the two men as he stood in a wide stance in front of them, gun pointed at center mass.

“Jesus H. Christ, Starsky. Gonna give a brother a heart attack.”

“Huggy?”

“Yeah, it’s me. I think you can put the gun down now. Ya dig?”

Starsky quickly dropped his left arm and gun to his side and drew in a deep breath.

“Son,” came the other voice, “you okay?”

“Fine and dandy ‘til you two dropped by for a visit. Captain, please tell me you did not squeeze in through that window.”

Dobey smiled, then screwed his face up as he realized the insult. “I have more dignity than that, Sergeant. I don’t do windows. I use the front door,” he huffed. “Huggy’s cousin works for the real estate company trying to unload this beast. He got keys and their handsome yellow company blazers for us to keep any wise acres out there from getting ideas. Since we’re visiting in broad daylight, it’s a plausible cover.”

“Well,” Starsky stuffed the gun back into his waistband, “applause, applause. Come upstairs to our humble abode. But keep quiet. Hutch is still sleeping. And by the way, you two look like mustard covered sausages, one more than the other.”

“Mustard?” Huggy spit. “They’re chartreuse.”

Starsky guffawed. “Chartreuse? I believe she works at the corner of Temple and Vine, Hug.”

Dobey pulled on Starsky’s elbow as he took a few steps. “Starsky, I need to talk to Hutch. How is he?”

Starsky looked at his Captain and tried to read him. “What do ya need to talk to him about? What could possibly be more important than us playing dead?”

His question ignored, Dobey repeated himself. “How is he?”

“He’s coming down from an OD. I think you know that, Cap, but it’s…” He grabbed his boss’s wrist and looked at the watch, “…almost noon. We’ve both gotten some much needed sleep. I hope you have Mitchell behind bars.”

“Mitchell. Yeah, well, Schrader’s on him. He’s being watched.”

Watched? How about in jail. They couldn’t wait to put me away for life based on false accusations, but this guy tortures and nearly kills a cop and he’s watched?”

Huggy moved up and put his hand on Starsky’s chest providing just enough of a clue to get him to back off of his Captain. “Starsky, compadre, we have to chit chat with Hutch. It’s important. I wouldn’t be here in this armpit of a neighborhood if it wasn’t. Believe me, there are people here who have long standing bitter feelings about me. They wouldn’t hesitate to introduce me to a vat of boiling water.”

“Boiling water? Shit, Huggy. That’s a New York thing. They did that down at the Five Points until not too long ago.”

“A tradition obviously stilled practiced on the west coast, my friend. Now, what about Hutch?”

Starsky lowered his voice. “Look, he’ll be okay in time, but right now he’s exhausted, hungry, dealing with some hallucinations…”

“Spiders and snakes?” Dobey stated more than asked. “I know what he’s been going through, Dave. I was with him every day in the hospital.”

Huggy moved his hand from Starsky’s chest to his shoulder. “You don’t look all that great yourself, amigo.”

“What’s going on?”

All three men turned to look at the base of the staircase where Hutch stood, combing fingers through his mussed hair.

“Cap? Hug? What’s with those awful mustard blazers? Looks like you’re both shilling for the circus.”

Chartreuse, my man. Chartreuse. Don’t neither of you have any couth?”

The four of them made their way to the second floor office area. Dobey took in the surroundings with every step.

“Pretty large space we have here,” he said. “Not a lot of room for concealment if you need it.”

“Exactly,” Starsky countered. “For them either… whoever they are.”

While the first floor factory area was mostly cleaned out, the second floor was littered with stacks of piled up papers and abandoned office furniture clearly left behind due to difficulty of getting it outside with ease.

“Careful, boys,” the Captain warned pushing at an awkwardly filled, tipping file cabinet. “Could be an obstacle course up here.”

Dobey took the only chair in the office – an antique looking wooden executive’s chair on wheeled casters with a torn green leather seat. Starsky sat on the cluttered desk with Huggy leaning against the other end. Hutch sat down on his ‘bed’ of sofa cushions.

“Hope you don’t mind the housekeeping, Cap,” Starsky joked. “We gave the maid the day off.”

“You forget I have a teenage son at home. Cal’s room doesn’t look much better and smells worse.” Dobey leaned back and placed his hands – fingers interlaced – over his formidable belly. “Finding out you are both alive came as a pleasant surprise. Can’t tell you how relieved I was to get that news.”

Starsky smiled. “So that kid, Cooper, get to you?”

Dobey nodded. “He’s scared, and for good reason. Talked to his superior and we made up a reason for him to be on paid leave. Told him to lay low. You two seemed to have made quite an impression on him.”

Hutch groaned as he stretched his neck side to side covering up his constant glances off to the side. “Yeah, well, he’s impressionable, that’s for sure. It’s just too bad that we weren’t the ones to make an impression on him first.”

“He’s a good kid,” Starsky chimed in. “Too good. Could have gone either way with me. He probably saved my life. The kid has a good heart. Just needs guidance.”

“Sounds about right. Hutch, tell me how you’re doing.”

“Had a good night’s sleep and I actually feel hungry for the first time.” Hutch kept looking over at the sleeping bag on the floor. “Uh… Cap? Tell me something. Are there spiders over there on the sleeping bag?”

Dobey turned around and looked over his shoulder. “No, son. No spiders. Still seeing things?”

“Not as often. And the funny thing is, the spiders and snakes look at me and back off now.”

“It’ll go away, blondie,” Huggy added. “Sleep and good food.”

Dobey remembered what he had brought with him and opened his fake realtor’s briefcase on his lap. “Speaking of which, Edith made you some sandwiches.” He took out two paper lunch bags and handed them to an eager Starsky. “Share,” he scolded Starsky with a smile. Starsky tossed one to Hutch who quickly opened it up and took out the sandwich.

The blonde looked like he won a jackpot. “I’m starving. Please thank Edith for us.” He took the sandwich from the plastic wrap and practically inhaled it. “Boy, it tastes good,” he said enthusiastically with a mouthful.

Starsky sat looking at his sandwich, face drawn down, not even taking a bite.

“What’s wrong, Starsk?” Hutch asked.

“It’s bologna.”

“I know. Isn’t it great?”

“I hate bologna.”

“Since when? You love it.”

“There’s plenty more in Huggy’s briefcase,” Dobey exclaimed as Huggy emptied the food onto the desk. “A couple meals worth, at least.” Hutch smiled wide at the sight of the four additional sandwiches and two apples next to the sullen Starsky.

“Starsk, what is it?”

The bite Starsky took sat in his cheek like a squirrel’s nutty find. “I could really use some liquid lubrication about now.” When Hutch held out the canteen, Starsky rolled his eyes at his smiling partner and pushed it away. “Not that kind. So, Cap, what’s the word at the station?”

“Well, you’re a wanted fugitive now, Starsky. Your bondsman jumped at a chance to file the papers when you didn’t check in. So there’s an APB out on you even with your rumored death.”

“No surprise there.”

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” Hutch announced with a finger in the air.

“Samuel Clemens,” Huggy added. “AKA Mark Twain.” All three men looked at him, puzzled. “What? I’m a student of literature I’ll have you know.”

“What about me?” Hutch asked still contemplating Huggy Bear Brown as a literary genius.

“You are a different story. You’re officially listed as still out on medical leave. However, even though Mitchell is suspended while IA investigates, he’s done considerable damage. While the detectives and plainclothes side with you, Hutch, the uniforms are being coerced into believing Mitchell’s version.”

“Let me guess,” Hutch said. “I’m a cop gone bad, stealing drugs from Evidence and selling on the street. Mitchell happened on me after I overdosed. Ya know, we manufactured most of that ourselves.”

“There’s more. In his version, in the act of saving your life, you attacked Mitchell.”

“Oh, so he’s the hero and victim now.”

“And he’s playing it for all its worth. So, long story short, you two have to remain disappeared for your own safety. I can get you into a safe house, but that will blow the cover that Starsky’s been taken out by the gang. And, frankly, I don’t know who to trust in the department.”

“Cap,” Starsky stood and paced the room, “I have a contact in the feds. He’s deep under cover. He knows I’m here. I’m sure in time he’ll send someone to check on us. I can ask him to get us out, but that will blow almost a year of UC work for him down here. And I think he’s after the same person we are.”

“No, keep him out of it. And I don’t even want to know who it is.” Dobey exchanged looks with Huggy. “Give me a day or two and I’ll figure something out. You can’t stay here safely for long. I’ll send Huggy with word. In the meantime…. ahh…. I have news on the personal front.”

“What?” Starsky asked walking over to sit next to Hutch. “One of the blintze’s ferns die?”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Gordo?”

“Wouldn’t want them to suffer the big, green death.”

The two detectives bantered like college roommates, shoulder to shoulder, until they realized that the Captain and Huggy were stone cold serious.

Hutch cleared his throat. “Cap, what is it?”

“Got a call from Minnesota. Son, your dad passed away at home.”

Hutch’s flinch was barely noticeable except to Starsky. “Oh. Okay. Well,” Hutch’s voice was quiet but calm, “at least he got to die at home like he wanted.” Starsky reached over and unashamedly put his hand on top of Hutch’s to stop the absent minded rubbing back and forth he was doing on his thigh. “I suppose the funeral will happen this weekend,” he said never taking his eyes off the century-old hardwood floor.

“It was yesterday, Ken. He died sometime late last week.”

“Yesterday?” Hutch’s head shot up at Dobey. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Just found out myself when your sister called this morning. Said you weren’t answering your phone. Apparently your mother thought your presence at the funeral would be a… a distraction. I’m sorry, son.”

Hutch shook his head and let out a slight snort. “Not surprised.”

“You okay, blondie?” Huggy asked while walking over to lay a concerned hand on his shoulder.

“Yep. He got what he wanted. He wins.” He turned his hand over and grasped Starsky’s fingers before getting up and walking to the bathroom. “Gotta hit the head.”

“I don’t like this,” Starsky said in almost a whisper when Hutch was out of sight.

You think I do?” Dobey shot back, eyes wide open and staring through Starsky. “I got two detectives marked for death by gangs, drug suppliers and maybe even fellow cops. This all started with your private party and now we have to clean up after you.”

“I know. I’m sorry, Cap.”

Dobey stood and hitched his pants up. Leaving the room, he gave his detective a hearty pat on the back. “Take care of your partner. I’m sure he’ll take care of you. We’ll figure something out, Dave.”

xXx

He found Hutch in the empty bathroom leaning against the window fiddling with the chained key.

“I think it’s for cranking the window open,” Starsky said from a distance as he took in his partner.

“Chained it to the wall. Why would anyone want to steal it,” he attempted to joke.

“Sorry about your dad.”

“He was never my dad. My father, technically. But never my dad.”

“Well, it was shitty how your parental units went about this.”

“You know, there was a time when I was in the hospital dealing with the head injury, and when I was recovering at home, that I thought he’d changed. He told me he loved me. I felt like he was really taking care of me. Cared about me. But he wasn’t the one who changed. I was. I allowed him to manipulate me because essentially I was a child again. He was in his element. Once he figured out he couldn’t do that to me anymore through hurt and sneaking around, he left.”

“I’d say that’s a pretty accurate assessment.”

Hutch nodded and walked out of the bathroom and back into the office to pick up the mess from their night and recent meal. “So what’s our plan?”

“Hutch… it’s okay to grieve.”

“Hard to grieve for something you never had.”

“Dr. Joyce-Brothers would say that you should grieve for the loss of what you never had so you can move on.”

“Dr. Joyce-Brothers?”

“I had a lot of time to watch TV waitin’ for you to get better.”

Hutch sat down hard on the cushions and wrapped his arms around his drawn up knees as he leaned against the wall. “I’m okay, Starsk. Really. I guess when this is all over I’ll have time to process my father. That’s what my mother would tell me to do,” he laughed. “But I have…”

“You have me,” Starsky said as he sat next to Hutch and took his chin in hand turning his face to look at him. “I got you, Hutch. You got me?”

“I got you, partner. Me and thee. Always.”

They sat just like that, side by side, slightly turned towards each other, the heat from each other slowly meeting in the middle when Hutch leaned forward and softly, gently touched his lips to Starsky’s. The pressure was met and returned, then lips parted as Starsky pushed in to nip Hutch’s lower lip before pulling away.

“Ow, my ribs”, Hutch muttered before changing his angle and leaning in for another, this time pushing Starsky against the wall for leverage.

Ahh, my hip.” Starsky jolted sideways. “Hip.”

“Seems we’re a matched set.”

Starsky couldn’t help move his fingers from Hutch’s shoulder, chest, side and then back to the face. To touch him was to be with him. “Hutch, I don’t know if…”

“I miss you. I miss us. It’s my fault that…”

“Babe, we did nothing to deserve being divided. It’s not our fault. This was done to us. I just think that maybe we need some time. Maybe we should start over.”

“Sorry,” Hutch said leaning back away from Starsky. “I thought…”

Starsky purposely took Hutch’s hand and held it lightly stroking the palm with his thumb. “I didn’t say no. Just… here isn’t exactly where memories should be made, if you know what I mean.”

Hutch dipped his head with just a hint of a blush and smiled. “Guess so. Still hungry?”

“No offense, but you taste like bologna.”

“What’s with you and bologna? You love it.”

“I have been eating that shit for going on five days now. Pat Durniak…”

“Durniak?” Hutch jumped, sitting back a couple feet to get a good look at his partner.

“Just settle down, cowboy. He’s Joe Durniak’s nephew. We grew up together. Get this… he’s a federal agent. One of the best out there. Deep under cover here in southern California right now. I think he’s looking for our guys too. He’s the one who I hid our stash with. Anyway, he housed me while smoothing things over on the street and looking for you. Only had bologna. Done with that, babe.”

“I got something else for you.” Hutch leaned over and grabbed the bag he came in with. “Maybe this will make you feel better.”

Starsky looked in the bag and immediately sprouted a big grin. “Crackers and… root beer. Root Beer, Hutch. Lickety split! Where’d you get this?”

“Cooper had it in his car for his wife, I guess. Said she wasn’t feeling well.”

“Well, yeah. She’s pregnant.” Starsky took a stack of saltine crackers out of the plastic sleeve and set them down in his lap. “Guess she’s had a lot of problems.” The bottle hissed as he opened it.

“Sounds like you got to know him a little better than I did. What’s your take?”

“He’s a mixed up kid. Got blackmailed into going along with Mitchell ‘cuz he cheated in the Academy. Something about a learning disability.” He started licking the salt off the crackers one at a time. “That creep, Mitchell, totally held that over his head.”

Hutch’s face screwed up as he watched his partner strip the salt off the crackers one at a time then line them up on his leg like a train. “Starsky, that’s gross.”

“Want some?” he asked offering the plastic sleeve to his partner.

“Gordo, you know how much sodium is in those?”

Starsky looked from the sleeve of fresh crackers to the licked ones on his lap and offered Hutch a few of the wet ones that had been resolved of the sodium issue. “Here, sodium free. Right up your alley.”

Hutch looked away and grabbed one of the apples Edith had sent them instead. “No thanks. I’m good.” There was no changing Starsky’s eating habits. Not at this stage of the game. “Back to Tommy Cooper.”

“Tommy, huh? Fits him. His step father’s name is Gordon Ketterling. Ring a bell?”

Hutch’s head shot up. “Ketterling. San Fran’s commissioner?” Starsky nodded. “I met him when I was up there taking Gunther into custody. He spent the seventies cleaning house up there. Was a real stand-up guy with me.”

“Yep. Apparently he’s a tough one to impress according to our Officer Cooper. This thing blows wide open that kid will lose his job, reputation, family and dad’s respect.”

“Jeez. He’s one scared kid too. When this shit is over…”

“I know. I like the guy. We need to see what we can do for him. He feels like the world is against him. Kind of reminds me a little bit of someone else I know with his father.”

Hutch nodded as he patted down the pockets of the denim jacket looking for something to wipe Starsky’s face with. “Dribble.”

“Huh?”

“You have root beer on your chin.” From the breast pocket he took out a wallet photo and studied it before showing Starsky. “This… this his wife?”

Taking the photo, Starsky nodded at the picture of a beautiful, young, pregnant lady. “Must be.”

“He has a black wife? As much as interracial marriage is starting to be a non-issue in some places, you and I both know what an obstacle it can be. Wow. Well, at least there’s not much to cover up if all he’s done is ride along with Mitchell.”

Starsky took a couple of deep breaths and considered whether or not he wanted to divulge Cooper’s secret of his actual involvement with the attacks. Finally, he took the crackers off his crossed legs and stood up to retrieve his jacket on the desk. Taking out Cooper’s chain and pendant that inadvertently made its way into Starsky’s hands, he sat back down next to Hutch and dropped it in his hand.

“What’s this?”

“It’s Cooper’s. Somehow during a scuffle, I ended up with it.”

Hutch shrugged as he looked over the chain and oblong pendant. “And…?”

Starsky turned the pendant over to reveal the image. “What do you think when you see that?”

It took a few moments, but Hutch quickly recognized the image of a horse body with a human torso and head, the human of it shooting an arrow. “A centaur?” Closing his eyes, he jolted a little as the night of the attack came back to him and the flashbacks to the image of a half animal, half human. “This is it, Starsk.”

Starsky nodded. “Must be a Sagittarius. Symbolism means either warlike or courageous. Sometimes means they are law unto themselves. But I doubt the kid knows that. Maybe his wife gave it to him.”

“I’m impressed you know all that,” Hutch mumbled. “So… s-s-so he was there. That night.”

“Says he helped hold me down when Mitchell and the third person made me snort the shit. Then was a look-out when you…. Ya know.”

“He must have been the first one in the door. Think I saw this around his neck.”

“He hates it, Hutch. Hated every minute of it.”

“You believe him?”

Starsky nodded. “Yeah. I do.”

“Who was the third person?”

“He doesn’t know,” Starsky said with a shrug. “Wore a mask. Never spoke. But definitely ran the show.”

“Fucking Simonetti.”

“Maybe, but does he really have the balls for something like that? He’s always struck me as a follower, not a leader.”

xXx

 

By the next morning they had – reluctantly – finished off the bologna sandwiches, crackers and root beer. They were bored. Bored beyond reason.

“Starsk,” Hutch said as he attempted, while propped on an elbow, to ignore the two big spiders from his hallucinations crawling over Starsky’s belly as he laid on his back staring at the ceiling, “when we get out of here I’m gonna make you a fabulous dinner.”

“Yeah? Like what?” Starsky licked his lips. He wished he was looking up at clouds, not a plaster ceiling.

“Something buttery and fried.

“Yeah?”

The fake spiders were slowly walking up towards Starsky’s chest.

“Greasy, salty, with onions…”

Starsky rubbed his hands together, his tongue coming out in anticipation. “Yeah?”

“Gonna need a big old fry pan.”

“What? Come on, Hutch.”

“Fried bologna. Lots of it.”

Starsky looked like a kid who just found out Santa Claus is a lie. “You are a cruel, cruel little man, Hutchinson.”

Hutch laughed as he reached over and lovingly wiggled Starsky’s sneakered foot. “Fried bologna, bologna salad, deviled bologna…”

As though a bomb had gone off in the room, Starsky shot to his feet and bellowed the howl of a banshee. “Holy shit, Hutch. Why didn’t you say something?”

Hutch sat up and looked around, perplexed at Starsky’s sudden accusation. “What? What are you talking about?”

“Two fucking spiders walked right up my chest lookin’ for my neck so they could bite me like vampires. Jesus.” He continued to brush absolutely nothing off his shirt.

He couldn’t catch a breath between laughing and choking at the same time. Hutch finally just spread himself out on the floor, arms and legs wide out, then tipped his head back at Starsky. “They were real?”

Yes, they’re real. Oh my God! You knew?”

“Yeah, but I thought maybe they were, ya know, those hallucinations. Didn’t want to scare you.”

“Didn’t want to…. Do me a favor, Kenny, please share the knowledge when spiders are looking to make a meal out of me.”

Kenny? Please.” Hutch made a dramatic show of shuddering. “Don’t go there. Ken, Kenny, Kenneth. Hate it all.”

“Maybe you should just go by your first initial: K. Hutchinson.”

“Like the name plates at the precinct. H. Dobey, C. Simonetti, E. Schrader, D. Starsky…”

Without saying another word Hutch shot up and sat on the floor with his eyes closed.

“Hutch, what’s wrong…”

“Shhhh.” Hutch rubbed his forehead and squeezed his eyes shut in deep concentrated thought. “I think I remember…”

“What, buddy? What is it?”

“Do you… do you remember before all this… before the attack, and the fake fight… Do you remember when we were in the Evidence room planning how we were going to play it out?”

“Ah…. some of it. Not all.”

“We said that we were going to tell one person, but not Dobey yet. And I did. I know I did.”

The two sat cross legged, facing each other as though the United Nations had convened in a preschool classroom.

“Hutch, that person would have known all along that this plan of ours was part of the investigation into the stolen drugs,” Starsky added. “They would have been able to clear us immediately after the attacks.”

“Mm hmm. That’s right. Unless he had something to hide.”

“I would have never been arrested. We’d be at work now, not,” he said pointing around the room, “here.”

Hutch knew exactly where Starsky was heading with this information. “So, by keeping it to himself and not clearing us…?”

“Means he’s part of the inside job. Maybe the lead player. But, Hutch… who?”

“Elmer Fudd.”

Starsky took in a deep breath as his eyes darted around the room putting pieces of the puzzle together all too well. “Holy shit. Holy…”

Hutch swung his head around to the office doorway and dashed out to the top of the stairs. “You hear that?” he whispered.

Starsky joined him, just as they heard the unmistakable clatter of wood downstairs near the window they used, and then footsteps.

 

(Homework: “Lover Come Back to Me”, City and Colour)

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Seven

 

Back in the days of too-tight, scratchy collared uniforms, officers Starsky and Hutchinson both impressed and annoyed their superiors and fellow police officers with their petulant silent communication with each other. All they had to do was look at each other, tilt a head, widen the eyes, point a finger or a set of fingers and magic happened. Unfortunately, this same silent communication also tended to leave their back-up behind as they waited for more modern forms of communication, like antiquated spoken complete sentences. Writing up their reports was an art.

By 1981 with several years as detective sergeants, they had racked up an impressive arrest and conviction record, enough that they were left alone to do their thing – albeit with heads shaking around the precinct.

“I don’t know how you two talk to each other out there,” Dobey once complained, “and I don’t want any of your convoluted explanations, Starsky. As long as east meets west when you go to court, I don’t want to know.”

Starsky pulled Pat’s loaner gun from his waistband and, checking for the loaded six bullets, raised it in the air next to his head at the ready. Instinctively, Hutch went for his back pocket finding it missing the handcuffs that normally sat where they’d made an impression in the denim. One look and eyes shifting around to Starsky’s backside, the brunette shook his head knowing that his partner was wondering if he had cuffs.

They both looked around the large space for something to help them restrain whoever was making their way to the stairs when Starsky walked over near the corner and reached into the old tool box he had kicked before.

The silver roll of duct tape would have to do.

As the footsteps encroached on the staircase, the two detectives backed away and to the sides – Hutch standing just inside the bathroom on one side and Starsky squatting down behind the column at the top of the stairs on the other side. They were hoping that the element of surprise was on their side.

The falling of feet changed from the plod of shoes to the tap of feet coming up stairs, stopping every three to four steps, the owner of said feet ostensibly checking the environment and potential for danger from above. Starsky had been up and down the very wide staircase enough that he knew there were somewhere around twenty steps. He counted each tap readying himself to pounce. He just hoped that the perpetrator took a right at the top of the stairs toward the column and his gun and not a left toward Hutch, his bum hand and no gun.

He took a left.

Hutch stretched his right hand out, fingers spread wide before pulling it into a fist. He looked down at the bulge in his left hip pocket – his left hand – and pulled out the balled up fist. When he tried to stretch that hand by itself, like he’d just done with his right, only his index and middle fingers uncurled on demand, his thumb coming in a lazy third place. At least my arm works fine, he thought.

He could hear the shuffle of feet, then the man’s breathing before he actually saw the tall, slender form walk past the door. Before he had a chance to glance into the bathroom, Hutch reached around the man and put him in a tight choke hold with the crook of his left arm, his right hand reinforcing it tight like a vice.

The perp struggled and dragged Hutch towards the staircase before they both dropped to the floor at the top step. Starsky bolted from behind the column and grabbed the back of Hutch’s jacket pulling them back. He kept the two from falling down the stairs and didn’t pay any mind, at the moment, to a gym bag that did take the tumble.

“Don’t even move, dirtbag,” Starsky spat, pointing the gun quite obviously between the eyes.

The perp’s hand’s let go of Hutch’s arms and came up in surrender mode giving Starsky just enough of an opportunity to grab the duct tape and wrap it around the wrists.

The perp was red in the face, barely able to breath and trying in vain to get some words out. Starsky tilted his head to get a better look at the guy as Hutch pulled him back into the safety away from the staircase and into a slice of sunlight shooting through an absent glass block of a window.

“Well, lookee who we got here, partner,” Starsky said with a smile. “Jackpot.”

Hutch let up just enough to curl his head around and take a look at the face. “Winner, winner, chicken dinner,” he maliciously whispered into the fire hot ear next to his cheek. “You think we didn’t know it was you, Chuck?”

Hutch suddenly let go of Simonetti who dropped to the floor gasping for air. “Come on, Chuckie,” Starsky whined pulling Simonetti by his coat collar on his back across the floor, “looks like it’s our game now.” With not much thought, Starsky parked the seated IA detective’s body against a large column in the middle of the room.

“God… damned….” Simonetti struggled to regain his composure, his breath and wits. “…damned… fags… I’m trying to tell ya…”

“That’s it,” Starsky interrupted tearing a piece of duct tape off the roll, “we don’t want to hear no more insults out of you. Insults, accusations, lies, manipulations, pot roast recipes, or mapping of warts on your fugly feet.” He slapped the eight-inch piece of tape over Simonetti’s mouth as Hutch used a long piece of telephone cord to tie his legs together at the ankles and then divested the man of his gun from the shoulder holster dumping it on top of the metal file cabinets. One last piece of orphaned rope attached his taped wrists to the column over his head.

“Wow, Starsk. He looks better already. Imagine… he’s still on that homosexual kick.”

“You know what, sweetheart?” Starsky gave with snot and vinegar, “I bet he wants to know details like who’s the top and who’s the bottom.”

They were playing him like a two-bit perp in an interrogation room. Intimidation of the weakest springs forth the snitch of tomorrow.

No,” Hutch said, playing along. “Ya really think… darling? Huh. Well, ok. See Chuck, we usually trade off. I get to fuck his brains out on even days, he screws me into the floor on odd days. We’re democratic queers.”

“Yeah, and on months with thirty-one days,” Starsky said just a few inches from Simonetti’s face as he patted the cheek like a wise guy, “I get to nail him two days in a row. Bet you’re jealous.”

“We’re just messing with you, Chuck,” Hutch said sitting down next to Starsky. “I don’t let him near my ass very often. You should see the size of his sausage.” He held his hands out as though showing off the size of a large mouthed bass he caught. “Ouch. Show him, Starsk,” he said matter-of-factly with a gentle tap to the arm.

“Here? Now?”

Hutch looked around then pointed at the taped wrists. “Babe, look at him. He’s all tied up. If we only had our leather harnesses, whips and biker boots with us….”

Simonetti’s cheeks puffed out as he started hyperventilating, eyes bugging out.

Hutch rolled his eyes as he pat the bound feet. “Relax, asshole. We’re not the perverts you think we are. You believe everything the guys gossip about at the station?” In a momentary glance he was sure he saw a look of disappointing deception on Starsky’s face. You always have your secrets, Hutch. Am I your secret too? It gnawed at him.

The hilarity of playing mind games with Simonetti had resulted only in bringing up that old scab for Starsky. Hutch, always burying their relationship, always rationalizing it to others. As he leaned back against the tottering overstuffed file cabinets, an old glass ash tray fell to the floor and shattered.

“Aw, Starsky,” Hutch screwed his face up in jest, “that was the ashtray your mother gave us as a wedding present. This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Starsky paused for dramatic effect. “You’re not gonna tell Ma, are ya?” He’d play along. For Hutch.

The two detectives were enjoying themselves but not without motive. They had Simonetti right where they wanted him and this time they had nothing to lose to get the answers they deserved even if they had to intimidate and manipulate them out of their prisoner.

Hutch lifted the bound ankles and pointed the soles of the shoes awkwardly towards his partner forcing Simonetti into an unnatural position with his taped arms tied to the column over his head. “Whadya think, Starsk? Does the shoe fit?”

Starsky looked at the back of his hand pretending to see if the shoe fit his memory of the boot print. “Could be, partner. We’ll have to get Cinderella here to Forensics for comparison with the photos that had been previously hidden from the official file. They were lost and now, abracadabra, they’ve been found. Amazing, huh?”

Simonetti shook his head voraciously and mumbled behind the tape on his mouth.

“What was that, Chuck?” Hutch asked as he leaned forward and went face to face with the IA detective. “Speak up. Can’t quite hear you.”

“Seems he’s tongue tied, Hutch. Could it be we make him nervous?”

Hutch stood and pulled Starsky over to the wall where they whispered to each other and stole obvious glances at their prisoner.

“Starsk, I’ll bet you twenty bucks the Vikings make the playoffs this year and your Giants don’t break even.”

“Get outta here,” Starsky said pointing over at Simonetti who had no idea what they were talking about but could see them quite well. “I got two teams in New York and they’re both gonna be playing in the off-season.”

Both guys made gestures and grimaces to make it look like they were planning evil doings while actually sharing football side chatter out of ear shot.

“See, you’re wrong there.” Hutch threw his hands in the air and violently kicked a trash can across the room. Simonetti’s anxiety was ramping up by the minutes. “You have three New York teams. You forgot Buffalo.”

“Yeah, well, they’re forgettable.” Starsky turned his back on Simonetti, crossing his arms in front of him looking as though he was fed up. “Closer to Detroit than Manhattan. We real New Yorkers don’t count them.”

“Maybe you should. They got the Joes: Ferguson and Cribbs.”

“They ain’t Phil Simms,” Starsky countered while ticking his chin to the side motioning Hutch to look over at their ‘package’. “And your Vikings don’t have a chance in hell. I’ll take that bet. Think we’ve strung him along enough?”

“Looks paranoid and ready to pop. I’d say yes.”

Starsky strolled back over to Simonetti, whose ass was to the ground, hands taped together and around the column over his head, and squatted down in front of him. Starsky put his finger to his lips in thought before finally turning it on Simonetti and tapping his forehead. “Chuckie, we know. We know your involvement with the missing drugs, with nearly killing us and manipulating evidence in my case.” His finger stayed on Simonetti’s head, fruitlessly shaking back and forth in denial, where he poked it a few times before trailing it down his nose to the cheek, pausing before pushing the other man’s face to the side towards Hutch. “See that man over there? He almost died. Not once, but twice. Now, I take that personally and I’m thinking that if you don’t spill the beans when we take this tape off, we’ll go find my friend T-Bone and his gang of friends to teach you a lesson.”

Suddenly, Simonetti became agitated and flailed his limbs about as best he could until his bound feet made deep contact with Starsky’s crotch sending him backwards in a painful, rolling fetal position.

Hutch was immediately at his side with hands on shoulders attempting to console the agonized Starsky whose hands double-cupped his pummeled genitals. “Starsk, babe, hey… breathe.” He looked over menacingly at Simonetti who now had a different kind of fear on his face. “Fuck you, Simonetti. You didn’t have to do that.”

Eventually, the color of Starsky’s face faded from purple to red and he was able to get to all fours, head pasted to the floor between his arms, while setting his breathing back to normal.

“Oh shit, Gordo. Oh man.” Hutch went down on one knee and placed a gentle hand between Starsky’s shoulder blades. “I’m sorry. I did not see that coming. You okay?”

“Define okay.”

“Right.” Hutch tried to hide his own twisted face, a combination of I feel so bad for him and glad as hell it wasn’t me (insert guilt here). “Can you stand up?”

The growl that came from the brunette only served to pitch the level of fear in Simonetti into extra innings as he attempted to, but was unable to, scooch back as far as possible.

“Come on, partner,” Hutch said helping him to his feet. “Up we go.”

Starsky’s face was set rigid.

“Want me to, ah, take a look down there?”

The rigid face was unmoved. Hutch could have forced it, but knew better. This is just something a guy doesn’t want to share, even with his ex-lover.

“Alright, why don’t you go in the bathroom and have a… have a look. I’ll babysit the place kicker over there. Think you can do that?”

“Hmmph urbm…”

He’d managed to get to his feet faster after a night of hard liquor than at this point with the bruised gonads. Starsky took a few unsteady steps before Hutch turned his shoulders and pointed him in the right direction, pushing him towards the bathroom. “There you go, cowboy. Just… yep, you got it.”

“Fucking, god damn, sonofabitch…”

“Got your speech back, Starsk. Getting better.”

Starsky did his best to walk over to the bathroom as though nothing had happened, but his best clearly wasn’t good enough. Shoulders stooped, head cocked with a pinched face, and left hand holding the kibbles and bits dead center to his body made anyone who would have watched cross their own legs in utter sympathetic pain.

After peeling off his jeans and checking the goods and rearranging them back in his pants, Starsky splashed his face with cold water and practiced putting on a good face in the mirror. There would be no ‘pulling the pope’ in the near future.

It took a few steps before he felt comfortable enough not to be stooped over like an eighty-year old man hiking a volcano. Stopping to take a breather at the top of the stairs, he noticed a gym bag sitting on a step half way down.

“You’re a disappointment, Simonetti,” Hutch said standing against the wall stretching his hand. “You were such a good brown-noser.”

“Hey, Hutch. Look what I found.” Starsky dropped the heavy black bag at Simonetti’s feet and opened it. The detail of the dark objects at the bottom of the bag couldn’t be seen, but as to what they were in general… “Got a couple guns here.”

The lighter air of menacing jokes suddenly became dark as Hutch squatted down in front of Simonetti. “Guns? So you found out where we’re staying and sneaked in with guns. Now why would you do that, Simonetti? Huh?”

Chuck Simonetti – Detective Sergeant with Internal Affairs – would have shit his pants at that point if he could. Hutch harbored the look of one pissed off cop. Simonetti had seen it before during the hunt for Gunther somewhere between Starsky’s heart stopping and the flight to San Francisco Hutchinson boarded to take Gunther into custody. All he could do was persist in his head shaking and widen his eyes. The mumbling behind the duct tape wasn’t doing any good either.

Hutch hung his head, then turned it to his partner. “Starsky, maybe we should let him say something before his execution.”

“Oh, alright. No beheading would be complete without a scream or two anyway.”

Simonetti reared his head back as Hutch ripped the tape from his mouth. “Ow. Shit. Not mine. They’re not mine, damn it. Ow.”

“Of course they’re not yours,” Starsky countered. “You probably lifted them from the evidence room to plant on us. We weren’t born in yesterday’s cornfield, ya know.”

Just look at ‘em.”

Starsky reached in and pulled out the first gun. “A Magnum.” Then, squinting his eyes as though he was buying a clue, he retrieved the second one.

“A Python,” Hutch said as he took it from Starsky and turned it over in his hands. “My Python. Starsky, these are our guns.”

“What the hell are you doing with our pieces, Simonetti?”

“I’ve been trying to tell you. But you’ve been too busy playing Abbott and Costello to…”

Just spill it,” Hutch yelled into the man’s face.

“Fuckin’ untie me first.”

As Starsky worked to undo the phone cord from around Simonetti’s ankles, Hutch used the knife he’d taken from Starsky’s pocket to release his arms from the column leaving his wrists taped together for the moment as insurance.

“Now,” Hutch said with little patience left, “the guns?”

“He knows where you are.”

Starsky rubbed his forehead. “Who?”

“Something about Cooper and a necklace. I overheard him talking to Mitchell.”

“Mitchell is suspended. Cooper is talking to Mitchell?”

“NO. Schrader. Apparently Cooper talked to him. Told him where you were. I already knew. I followed Dobey and that Huggy Bear guy yesterday.”

“Schrader?” Starsky looked back and forth between Hutch and Simonetti.

“Elmer Fudd, Starsk.” Hutch put his hands on his head and paced back and forth. “E. Schrader. Elmore Schrader is Elmer Fudd. Remember?”

“Oh my God. Shit. Schrader has known all along.”

“Starsky, I told Cooper to tell Dobey and Schrader where we are. God damn it. I told him.”

“Listen, you two, I am not part of this. I’ve been doing my job… doing what Schrader’s told me to do. I had no idea he was the one taking the drugs and using Mitchell and Cooper. But when you were in the hospital this second time, Hutchinson, and I was stuck on desk duty, I had the chance to go through the file from the first attack. Nothing was adding up. Everything pointed to someone in our department, and other than me, the only person who had access to your file is Schrader. I tried to get your attention Hutch, when you walked by our office the other day, but your mind was elsewhere.”

“Spiders,” Hutch mumbled remembering Simonetti looking intently at him through the office window shaking his head. Yes, he was trying to get his attention.

“When I saw the two of them, Schrader and Mitchell, talking outside of the precinct today behind the back retaining wall, I got as close as I could and listened in.”

“And?”

“And, they’re planning on coming here today or tonight to take you out. I couldn’t find Dobey. I’m on modified suspension so pretty sure nobody would take my word over Schrader’s so getting your guns to you with a warning is the best I could do. I left a message with the bartender at Huggy’s.”

“Schrader is stealing the drugs and selling them?” Starsky wondered out loud.

“Starsk, when I was still getting my brain back in order – the day I had my outpatient surgery on my trach site – I stopped by Roger’s house. Schrader showed up with his wife in a new car. A red Chevy. It didn’t register at the time, but I remember now it was a Camaro Z/28.”

Starsky’s eyes shot open extra wide as they both said together, “With a black stripe.”

“At the time my thinking was foggy, my parents had just…. And you…. Anyway, what cop can afford that kind of car? His wife doesn’t work and he’s got two spoiled kids.”

“Both in private prep school,” Simonetti added. “Penfield Academy.”

“Hutch, I saw that car the other night. Simonetti, I only ever see Schrader wearing long sleeves. Does he have tattoos?”

“Yeah, a real weird purple butterfly on his arm. Says he got it on a dare when he was in college.”

“He’s the one. Hutch, the guy who ordered my murder was in a red Z/28 with a black stripe and had a purple butterfly tattoo.”

“That was in the report, wasn’t it?” Simonetti asked. “You guys both said you had identical hallucinations. Something about hairy purple butterflies…”

“Schrader…”

“…and sinking ships.”

“Mitchell.”

Starsky and Hutch took their guns and checked that they were loaded before sticking them in the waistband of their pants.

“A python,” Hutch snickered uncomfortably. “Go figure.”

“Whadya mean, buddy?” Starsky asked trying to keep their exchange private.

“A Python. A snake…?”

Starsky finally caught the irony and gently pat the side of Hutch’s blonde head.

“Hutch, I’m gonna take the piece Pat gave me and hide it outside in case we have to take off and get relieved of our guns. Then I’m gonna go to the pay phone about three blocks from here and call Dobey and Pat. Chuck, did they see you?”

Simonetti swallowed hard and hitched a breath before nodding. “Think so. I grabbed a take-out bag from the trash and pretended to be walking in the back door of the building when they looked at me, but my gut tells me they know.”

“Better stay here with Hutch for now.” Starsky gave Hutch’s elbow a squeeze and gave a nod of assurance before turning around to leave. He only made it a few feet before he felt a large hand on his shoulder.

“Starsk, be careful. Please.” Hutch’s smile went from nervous worry to lovingly playful before he took Starsky’s face in both hands and drew it to him planting a warm, moist kiss on his lips. That one was for Simonetti. “I love you,” he said knowing that Starsky was raptly watching their audience of one. When Starsky brought his eyes back to him, embellished with a glint and gleam, Hutch moved in on those lips with furious passion. Lips parted, tongues tangled and breathing ceased.

Starsky decided to throw caution to the wind and moved his hand seductively down Hutch’s back only stopping when the perfect round globe of ass was efficiently installed in his palm. Hutch pulled away just enough to giggle, then nipped Starsky’s lower lip, drawing it back before letting go. “I mean it. Be careful.”

Starsky’s hand had not moved from the south pole and made sure Hutch, and maybe even Simonetti, noticed by giving it a good squeeze and then drew exceptionally lusty strokes down the coin slot. “Always, babe. We have things to do. I might need some first aid. And my bed’s cold, ya know.”

“Need to fix that.”

They looked at each other in silence forgetting for the moment that Internal Affairs Detective Simonetti had a front row seat taking mental notes. But just for a moment. The fact was, they didn’t really care anymore.

“Won’t be gone long,” Starsky said as he walked towards the staircase. He kept Hutch’s hand in his until the very last minute when distance alone separated them. “Hang tight.”

Once Starsky was out of sight, Hutch turned and to find Simonetti looking on, mouth wide open.

“Close your mouth, Chuck. It’s unbecoming.”

“Um… I…. you…”

“You should be so lucky.”

With no need or want for small talk Simonetti and Hutch stood in uncomfortable silence.

“How about my hands? The tape…?”

“Yeah, what of it?”

“Come on, Hutchinson. I know you have a grudge against me, but don’t you think I might need my hands?”

“A grudge? You couldn’t wait to book me on murder-one charges even after evidence cleared me of my ex’s murder.”

“That was a long time ago.”

“Really? Well, it wasn’t that long ago you were accusing my partner of raping me and trying to kill me.”

“Schrader fed me all kinds of false information. Said things to me like he was sorry to see such great cops turn dirty, but we had a job to do.”

“The name calling. Fag, queer, homo, pervert? You get the point.”

“If the name fits….”

“Chuck, do we ever question what you do with your wife in the bedroom?” Hutch waited for an answer but didn’t get one. “Does your sex life effect your police work?”

“What?”

“You seem to be focusing awfully hard on our sex life. If that’s all you think about, you might have a problem. It’s real perverted.”

“Maybe you’re both perverts.”

The new, deep voice hurled at them jolting them back a couple steps.

“Simonetti, you are so predictable. And dumb as a stump.”

Mitchell walked towards them from the top of the staircase. He was an imposing figure in stature. Stocky, muscled and he generally carried a dark cloud around with him. He wore black pants, a white t-shirt and black wind breaker jacket making him look like the stereotypical bad guy.

“Fuck you, Mitchell,” Hutch said as he moved his right hand very slowly around his back towards the Python.

“Cripple boy has a voice. I’m surprised you can even talk after the party you had the other night.” He brought his gun up in front of him and aimed it straight at Hutch’s head. “I know you have your gun back. I had someone check and they both went missing today. Surprise, surprise. Very carefully take it out, put it on the floor and kick it over to me. Go on now. Do as you’re told, crip.”

Hutch did just that hoping Starsky would come back up the stairs in moments.

“Now reach over and fondle Simonetti’s ass. You know how to do that. Take his handcuffs and cuff the two of you together: your right wrist to his left.”

Hutch found Simonetti’s handcuffs on the leather pouch snapped to the back of his belt and took them out. Cuffing them together wasn’t easy with his left hand that had limited use, but he accomplished it.

“Toss me the key you just palmed.”

There went that idea. Hutch tossed the key to Mitchell. Now he was cuffed to Simonetti who was rendered completely useless with the duct tape around both of his wrists, and Hutch had only his left hand free.

Mitchell tracked Hutch’s eyes to the top of the double file cabinet where he’d put Simonetti’s gun and in the race to get it, Mitchell skidded on the pieces of the shattered glass ashtray barreling into the weighed down cabinets. They tipped over, but not in the direction Hutch was hoping.

A few hundred pounds of loaded file cabinets fell on top of Hutch and Simonetti pinning them to the floor as Mitchell stood up and laughed into the echo of the large building. He watched as Hutch tried, and failed, to push the old steel cabinets off of them while Simonetti remained motionless. Simonetti took the brunt of the steel, his bloodied head being the only body part visible under the double cabinets. Hutch’s right leg, hip and cuffed hand felt as though they were nailed to the floor. No particular pain, as such, but he couldn’t move at all and had little ability to pull himself out from under it.

Mitchell gathered up the Python, Simonetti’s piece and his own. “One, two, three… Damn, it’s like finding buried treasure. If I only had a fourth…. Wait… look what I have here,” he said pulling a small gun from his coat pocket. “Acquired this little gem with the serial number filed off on my way in.”

Hutch’s eyes widened as he realized that Mitchell had the gun Pat Durniak gave to Starsky. “Where… Where is…?”

“Chuck looks like he got his bell rung. Ding dong the witch is… well, maybe not yet. So, seeing as you two are sufficiently restrained, I’m gonna go meet up with Morrie. Seems we have some business to attend to.” The dirty cop made his way down the stairs with a parting comment. “Don’t go no place, ya hear? I’ll be back.”

(A/N: Hutch would have lost the bet. The Vikings finished that season 7-9 and didn't make the playoffs. On the other hand, both the Giants (9-7) and the Bills (10-6) made the playoffs that year, but didn't get far. The author, by the way, is a long time Bills season ticket holder.... wink, wink)

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

His mother said this would happen someday.

You keep fooling around in Grandpa’s storage barn and one day you’re going to get in big trouble,” she said while scolding nine-year old Kenny and his cousin while swatting their butts out of the enormous barn rotting away in the back pasture. He could smell the rich aroma of fresh cut hay and alfalfa while the impulsively incessant buzzing of excited cicadas took his mind off the hot August sun beating down on his fair haired head.

Kenneth and Andrew, you boys are always getting into trouble,” she continued while alternating between pinching their ear lobes to make them listen and popping them on the back side to get them moving faster towards their grandparent’s house. Kenny wondered why the stiff, thirsty, dry blades of grass slapped and cut into his bare legs and feet, but his mother, wearing a dress and kitchen apron, never seemed to suffer a blemish from Mother Nature’s harsh hand. “Too many things in there can fall on you. Grandpa doesn’t need to find you dead under the tractor or hanging by the neck in the hay loft. How many times do I have to tell you…?”

“Sorry, Mom.”

“What’d you call me?”

“Shut up, Drew.”

“Hutchinson. Hey, Hutchinson…”

“Yeah.” He hated being pinned to the floor. He hated sharing the floor like a bed with Simonetti even more. “What?”

“You called me Drew.”

“What? Kind of dozed off, I guess.” He brought his left hand up to wipe the sweat from his brow before cranking his head to take a look at his floor mate.

Simonetti shook his head trying to clear his vision. “Who’s Drew?” A nasty cut just above his receding hairline gaped open, the dribbling blood having finally slowed down after covering Simonetti’s eyes.

“Andrew. My cousin.”

“He live in L.A.?”

“Nope. He went head first into a tree downhill skiing when we were seventeen.”

“Sorry about that.”

Hutch cracked a half smile. “He used to say life isn’t worth living if you don’t take risks.” His chest was tight making breathing a job. “Drew spent that year trying to figure out how to sneak his way out of the draft. Was thrown out of public school. Flunked out of boarding school. So college was out. Said he was going to hop a bus to Mexico when he turned eighteen. Solved that problem,” he mumbled to himself. Hutch had limited mobility while stuck under the fully loaded, ages old steel file cabinets while handcuffed to Simonetti. “Can you move at all?

“Yeah, right. I’m handcuffed to you with my wrists still duct taped together, thank you very much.” All that got was a Hutchinson eye roll. “I tried moving. This shit is flat on top of me. Hurt all over. Can’t see.”

“Yeah, well, that’s temporary,” he said grimacing at the sight of Simonetti’s eyes swimming in blood from the scalp wound.

Off in the distance they could hear a parade of sirens. Their trained ears could differentiate between the sound of each type of emergency vehicle – local PD, sheriffs, fire, ambulance – and they knew that what they were hearing was a conglomeration of all of the above. They also knew, as the sounds never got closer, that they weren’t coming for them.

Hutch test drove his limbs under the weight. “My right side is completely pinned. But I’ve got room to move my left leg a little and my left arm is free.” Hutch used all of his will power to push the mass of weight off of him but failed miserably. “Chuck, just try. Do everything you can to move your arms and legs. Maybe if you can just jostle the weight I can slide out from underneath. Ready? And…”

Simonetti’s bloodied head was mere inches from Hutch’s ear. The scream that came from him pierced the blonde’s ear drum.

Ow. What? What’s wrong, Chuck?”

“My….my knee. Shit.” His face sported a jelly colored shade of reddish purple as he fought the pain. “It’s really jacked. Damn.”

“Alright, just…” A clattering of noise and then footsteps on the stairs drew the pair’s eyes to each other. “Shhh. Mitchell’s back. Just… Just…” Hutch didn’t know. He didn’t know what he could do. He only had his bum left hand to defend himself and he couldn’t even grab at Mitchell’s leg if he had to.

“Hutch?”

The voice wasn’t Mitchell’s.

“Hutch, what the hell…?” Starsky scrambled over to the toppled mess of cabinets. “What are you doing?”

“I’m looking for last year’s tax return, dummy. What does it look like I’m doing?”

Starsky walked around the two taking in the mass of metal hiding the majority of their bodies. “Jesus, what happened?”

“Mitchell happened. Cuffed us, tucked us in and took our guns. Get this shit off of us.”

Starsky tried lifting the cabinets from several different angles, barely able to make them budge. “I can’t get them up. And probably making it worse,” he said holding his right side. “Jeez, my ribs are still pretty bad. Simonetti? You okay?”

“My leg’s out of commission. Head hurts like a son of a bitch. And I can’t see. Other than that, I feel just peachy.”

“Yeah, well, I think I can cure you, asshole.” Starsky ran back to the office area and retrieved the blanket, tearing it into strips. Using the water from the canteens he wet the cloth and wiped the stagnant blood off Simonetti’s face.”

“Thanks. That’s better,” he said, blinking his eyes while getting a focus.

“Yeah, well, don’t get used to it.”

Starsky moved his attention to Hutch. “How about you, partner? You okay?”

“Yeah. Don’t think I’m hurt. Just stuck. And the pressure is making it… making it hard to breath.” He let out a relieved short breath as Starsky raked his hand through the golden locks. “You didn’t see Mitchell out there?”

“No. Someone ripped out the pay phone. I have to go find another one.”

“Starsky, what’s with the sirens?”

“Yeah. I hear them too. I don’t know, but it sounds bad. Really bad. And it’s on the other side of the district. Look, I gotta go find a phone and get to Dobey and Pat. Take my gun,” he said pulling his magnum out of his waistband.

“Starsky, I can’t.”

“Can’t what?” Looking down at Hutch’s only free hand, he squeezed his eyes shut in a wince. “Sorry, babe. I forgot.” He reached out and took Hutch’s hand, kissing the partial fist. “I can’t just leave you here without some sort of protection.”

“I can’t hold a gun, Starsky.”

“But you can pull the trigger,” he said making a motion with index and middle fingers just as Hutch had done during stretching exercises.

“I can’t HOLD the damn gun.”

“Then I’ll do it for you.” Starsky stood up and looked around the expansive space until he found the roll of duct tape. “Give me your hand,” he said squatting down at Hutch’s side.

“What are you…”

Starsky carefully opened Hutch’s hand up and put the gun in the palm as if he was holding it, all the fingers in their proper place. Then, he tore pieces of tape off the roll and wrapped it around Hutch’s hand and gun. “See? Just like you’re holding it. Now, before I take off the safety, show me how you can pull the trigger with the good finger.”

Hutch looked at the primitive and nonconformist’s weapon arrangement and willed his finger to work. “It’s not my dominant hand. I’m not sure I can do it quickly.”

“You can do it if you have to, Hutch. Your brain will tell you to do it,” he said tapping his own head. “And there’s nothing wrong with your brain. I know you can. You know you can. Right?”

The two looked in each other’s eyes and held the gaze before Starsky placed his palm warmly on Hutch’s cheek, giving the soft skin a few gentle strokes with his thumb, then clicked off the gun’s safety.

“You two aren’t gonna kiss, are you?” Simonetti asked totally ruining the moment. “I’ll have to write up my report and it’s already gonna read like a cheap foreign porn movie.”

“Really, Simonetti?” Starsky was ready to stuff the cloth in the IA detective’s mouth. “For once can’t you just do the right thing?”

Before Simonetti could answer, Starsky was on his feet heading towards the staircase. “Gotta find another phone. I’ll be back before you can…”

His voice trailed off as Hutch pictured him running to the makeshift exit. “The gun,” Hutch remembered. “Starsky…” He screamed as loud as he could, which came out as an air deprived muffled pitch. “Mitchell took the gun you hid outside. Starsky…”

xXx

I can shoot the gun alright, Starsky,” he barely heard from upstairs as he climbed through the window once again. He’d done this so many times already there was a path worn through the littered back alley where his sneakers had crushed the paper cups, worn newspapers and chewed-through bags of garbage – garbage that was so old and petrified it didn’t stink anymore.

He needed a phone, one where he could call Dobey or Pat in relative privacy. This wasn’t a district they were terribly familiar with. Normally his feet ran on auto pilot ahead of his brain knowing exactly where he was going, but on these streets he only had an inkling of the layout, landmarks and regulars. As for snitches… there were none. They were all in the pockets of the BC Kings, who thought he was dead. As long as no one saw his face, he was just another anonymous junkie or vagrant. If anyone from the gang recognized him, he’d be targeted with a vengeance and Pat’s cover, as well as all of his other UC agents, would be dangerously blown.

Donning a ball cap left atop a stack of discarded boxes, Starsky pulled the collar up around his face and dipped his chin down, hands in pockets, and headed down the street towards a cross street with heavier traffic – any traffic. So far, no cars had passed him by. The small bodegas and storefronts were oddly shuttered like it was a holiday. Lights off, doors locked and security gates pulled down. In the distance he could hear several sirens fading in and out both going towards, and away, from billowing of smoke in what looked like the outside Bay City districts.

As he turned the corner to head up Warner Street he spied a group of familiar faces walking in the other direction across the street. Before they could recognize the man they had kicked and punched earlier in the week, he ducked into a doorway of a ‘massage parlor’ and got familiar with the green paint peeling on the ill attached mail slot ordering: No Solicitation. He chuckled at the irony.

After waiting a good ten minutes or more, Starsky headed back out trekking four more blocks until he nearly ran into a man leaving a shop walking hastily away from him. Starsky pitched his head up out of its hiding long enough to see that the store was open, lit up and doing business as though it had nothing to do with whatever was going on in the city to scare people inside.

Pistol Pete’s Pawn Palace

Stepping inside he recognized the bones of a typical pawn broker’s storefront: Old vacuum cleaners, several television sets, radios, china, silver and three glass cabinets of just watches and jewelry. But no pistols. At least none to be seen.

Starsky immediately identified Pete as one Peter Piper, A/K/A Dominick Weston, A/K/A Philip Smith. He and Hutch had history with this weasel. He’d moved up the chain of command from stoolie to snitch, to now, apparently, shop owner. But they had lost track of him over a year ago.

“Hey, A/K/A Shifty Sherman,” Starsky delivered in his very low, concealed detective’s voice to the back of the man behind the counter, “you’re gonna help the good guys, namely me, or I will blow this shop wide open.”

The short statured, pencil necked, bald man didn’t need to turn around from his cash register to recognize the voice. “I thought you were at the bottom of the canal.”

“Word travels fast. I see you’re still as gullible as ever.”

“You and Hutch get demoted?” he asked continuing his coin counting, his back to Starsky. “Ain’t never seen you around this part of town.”

“Is that why you moved here, Sherman?”

“The name’s Pete.”

“Tsk, tsk, Sherm. Your mother must be heartbroken. Your mother and the pimp that fathered you, A/K/A Sherman Sr.”

The last of the coins slowly plopped into the plastic cash drawer before it was closed with the ding of a bell.

Ding.

As he turned around, the man’s right eye blinked excessively pulling the corner of his mouth up with it. Balls of sweat dribbled down his nose and hung on the precipice of the nose tip before one of the blinks toppled it to the glass counter below. Blink, dribble, blink, plop.

“Gimme your phone, Sherm.”

“I got customers.”

“I see. And they’re all going past the curtain into a back room. Now, unless you want me joining that little party, you’ll hand me the phone.”

After reaching for the old rotary phone himself and dialing, Starsky didn’t see the shop owner pressing a button under the counter as he left a message with Pat’s people and another with Edith Dobey. He needed help at the textile building as soon as possible.

“Now, Sherman, you need to turn over two guns with ammo for at least two reloads.”

“Not falling for it, Starsky.”

“This isn’t a set-up,” Starsky gave him quite sternly. “You’re gonna do as I asked. Call it aiding a police officer during crisis. Poof, you’re a hero.”

The man didn’t move an inch, even as loud noises came from the back room. Someone was getting a beating. The curtain was out of reach, specifically because of the very large men that appeared brandishing their own weapons.

“You pricks made life hell for me for years over in your district. Every time I started doing well for myself you busted me. Then when I got out of jail you were right there blackmailing me into being a snitch. Now,” he said with another ball of sweat wiggling back and forth on his nose threatening to fall, “it’s my turn.”

The noise continued as the large men walked Starsky backwards towards the door that held the neon sign that now blinked closed.

xXx

Hutch shifted his head from left to right to give the sore spots up there a change in scenery. The only other part of his body he could move was his left hand, the gun bound to it with duct tape. It was heavy and with the safety off, he was scared to even move his arm. It stayed by his side partially covered by an over turned chair pointed away from them. Starsky had been gone at least a half hour. The sirens continued in the distance. Simonetti was still right next to him.

“Christ, Chuck, how much garlic did you have for lunch?”

“That’s rude. Thought you came from a well-bred family.”

“My family is none of your business.”

“I met your father.” Simonetti’s tone softened. “He’s a nice man. Seems to care about you a lot.”

“He should have been an actor. Always put on a good show. It was all about propriety and morals.”

“Was?”

“Bastard died last week,” Hutch said without missing a beat. It was his new reality, after all. “They didn’t even tell me.”

“But they came out here when you were in the hospital. Stayed…”

“…until they found out I was in a gay relationship. I ruined the family name, ya know. They had to run home and do damage control.”

Hutch was glad for the silence. This was surely more than he ever wanted to divulge about his family to anyone, especially Simonetti, who was known for using cop’s own words against them. But at this point, with all that they had revealed to him, what did it really matter? “What about your family, Chuck? We’ve worked in the same precinct together – same floor even – for years and I don’t know anything about you. I only know you’re married because you wear a ring.”

“Not much to tell. Married. No kids. Never will be. We can’t…. Well, doesn’t matter.”

“It does if you want them.” The information stopped. That was it. Hutch wondered if he had ever talked about this with anyone before. “How’s the wife handling it?”

“She has her moments. It’s hard for her to see babies, strollers, pregnant ladies. It’s getting better, but she stays home a lot. We both do.”

Thinking back to department functions as well as the usual weddings, barbecues and parties, Hutch realized he had rarely, if ever, seen Simonetti at any of them. They remained without words for a few moments until Hutch couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Starsky and I can’t have children either.”

For the first time in probably ever, the two shared a laugh.

“I’m sorry,” Hutch finally said. “It must be heartbreaking for her. For both of you. Nobody deserves this. I bet you would have been a very… a very… efficient father.”

“I know I would have better than my dad. He was military through and through. We attended no less than seven school districts in three countries. He was an excellent drill sergeant on base and, clearly, at home.”

“He was hard on you?”

“Guess you’d call him a bully.” Simonetti swallowed hard before turning his head to spit out a hock of collected snot and blood, then stilled as his ears keened in on a noise. “Feet. Hutch, he’s here.”

“I’m here, kids,” Mitchell gleefully validated as he squatted down behind the two men and tapped their foreheads with the barrel of a gun – Hutch’s gun. “I’m beginning to like this monstrosity. Heavier than the department issued Magnum, but really packs a punch. Fits my hand like a glove.”

All three heads turned toward the outside wall of the building as the sirens in the distance started up again.

“They’re not coming for you,” Mitchell seethed. “Gangs are at it again in two Bay City Districts and most of the neighboring east LA downtown area. Gang warfare has increased 70% this year, boys. Buildings are on fire, stores getting looted, all kinds of shootings. It’s like a thug carnival out there. Couldn’t have planned it better myself!” The large man sat down now as if he was in a circle of friends around a camp fire. “Our precinct has emptied out. Our calls are being covered by Highway patrol. Even if you could reach them, it would be hours before someone could get here.”

“Hutch… Hutch.” The louder Starsky’s voice got, the harder Mitchell pressed the muzzle of the gun into Hutch’s temple to keep him quiet. “I had to leave a message with Edith. I can’t even get through to the station. Something big is going on.” Starsky’s voice got louder as he ascended the staircase. “The piece I put outside is gone. I think one of those gang kids…”

“Hail, hail, the gang’s all here.” Mitchell got to his feet and walked around the two men under the anchor of fallen office equipment. His right hand held Hutch’s Python aimed at the downed men. In his left he held his own back up gun pointed center mass at Starsky. “I watched you stash it myself. Rookie mistake, asshole. Schrader is using it right now, since it’s conveniently untraceable. Seems our friend, Tommy Cooper, is something of a snitch.”

“What happened to you, Mitchell?” Starsky asked holding his hands out in front of him in surrender. “Your mother put too much whiskey in your milk?”

“You laugh at those lame jokes, Hutchinson?” Mitchell looked back and forth between Starsky and Hutch. “Why am I asking? Of course you do. Gotta do something to get a blow job from that kike.”

“Shut up,” Hutch spit.

“Or what, you fucking cripple. What’ll you do? Flip me the bird? That’s about all you can do with that hand after I shoved my steel toed boot into your brain. I’ll tell you what… this is my plan, blonde queen. First I’ll take out Simonetti with your gun. Then, your fag lover. Then… oh this is gonna be good… then I’ll use Starsky’s gun on you. It’ll be like a ménage à trois gone horribly wrong. A real bang.” He turned his attention from Hutch back to Starsky. “Reach behind and slowly take out your gun, Starsky.”

“I don’t have it.”

“Bullshit. You always have it. You probably fuck Hutchinson with it.”

“I told you, I don’t have it.”

Mitchell sauntered in back of the two men again and pointed the Python point blank at Simonetti’s head. “I can take out two at once. Make your blonde lover watch it all. But I think I’ll take my time and savor the moment. You first Simonetti.”

As Mitchell pulled back a couple of feet to stay clear of blood and brain splatter, Hutch put all his energy into lifting his weighed down left hand up as high as possible and aimed it at Mitchell. “Look. Found his gun,” Hutch groaned through a clenched jaw.

“What… what the hell is that?” the large man asked with a laugh. “You think you can actually do something with that hand? You taped it? Is that how fag cops roll?”

With Mitchell discounting Hutch’s ability to defend them, he cocked the gun and took off the safety. “Say good night, Simonetti.”

Gunshots roared through the vacant building as Hutch got off at least three shots. Starsky lunged towards Mitchell’s feet, Simonetti let out a mostly silent scream, and Hutch gave a gasp as his hand fell to the side, the gun discharging into the brick wall one more time as it made contact with the floor.

Hutch and Simonetti both let out blood curdling screams as the loaded down file cabinets shifted under the weight of Starsky and Mitchell. Starsky quickly rolled off the body and skirted around Hutch’s head, cradling it in one hand as he used the other to wipe the blood, tissue and brain matter from the pale face.

“Hutch? Babe? Are you hit?”

“I don’t think so. Just… I think I can get out now if you move Mitchell.”

The force of Mitchell hitting the cabinets shifted them enough to free up most of Hutch’s upper body. With Starsky’s help he was able to get himself out from under the weight, and then they extricated Simonetti. Hutch searched Mitchell’s body for the handcuff key avoiding the result of his marksmanship. “Not here.” He tried to hide the slight gag as he turned away from the head missing half a face. “Shit. No key.” Hutch’s lunch came up anyway and pooled next to his knees.

“You alright, babe?” Starsky asked with a calming hand to Hutch’s back. He got a nod. Didn’t need to make any more of it.

Simonetti sighed and grabbed at his knee with his hands pulling Hutch along. “Of course. Like a fucking rookie.”

“Yeah, well, you got your own problems, Chuckie.” Starsky unwrapped bound hands, then reached over and pulled Simonetti’s pant leg up. “Ooh. Wow. Um, your knee cap seems to have moved to the side there. Ouch,” he grimaced.

“Thanks for your expert medical opinion,” Simonetti said as he slapped Starsky’s hand away and stood on his good leg.

Starsky found Hutch’s gun a few feet away from the body and worked it over checking all the working parts. “Buddy, I think one of your shots took out the Python. The trigger and mainspring are crap.” He pinched Hutch’s chin and pulled their faces towards each other. “Stop lookin’ at him, Blintze. He’s not gonna get any deader.”

Hutch pulled in a deep breath as well as invisible strength from his partner. “What about his other gun? You see it anywhere?”

The three detectives scoured the area and came up with nothing.

“Must be under this mess,” Simonetti said.

Hutch held up the magnum still heavily taped to his hand, the safety now in place. “Guess this will have to cover all three of us.”

“Let’s just get you guys out of here.” Starsky said as he pulled the duct tape off of his partner’s hand and took the gun back. “You okay, Hutch?” The nod was enough for the time. “Missing some hair there now. Sorry ‘bout that. We need to get some help. There’s a pawn shop two blocks down and four blocks east that’s still open. Guess who the proprietor is.” Hutch gave him a blank look. “Pistol Pete.”

“Shifty Sherman?” Hutch asked. “The winking snake?”

“The one and only. Pistol Pete’s Pawn Palace.”

“A lonely mouse of a turd,” Hutch chuckled as he prepared to tandem walk down the stairs with Simonetti.

“Not anymore. He has hired goons.” Starsky leaned in to let Hutch’s free left arm take him around the waist as an anchor in their journey. “Not sure if he’s on Pat’s radar or not,” he said in a lowered voice next to the blonde’s ear. “Could be the missing cog in the fed’s wheel.”

“Great. How’d you get away?”

Starsky shrugged. “Just walked out of there. Something’s up with him, just can’t put my finger on it. Hutch, here’s the weird part… he’s got the only shop that’s open. I don’t know what the hell is going on,” Starsky said as he checked to see that all three of them were ready to descend as a team, “but everyone is locking their doors. Except Sherman.”

“Guns, Starsky.”

“Huh?”

“Mitchell said L.A. and the outside districts of Bay City have erupted in gang warfare.” Hutch made the best of his bound situation and held Simonetti’s lower left arm as the IA detective hobbled down the staircase leaning his other side on the railing. “Our new and improved Sherman, A/K/A Pistol Pete, probably thinks he can make a killing, so to say.”

“Can we get a move on?” Simonetti whined. “Someone here is injured. A/K/A shitload of pain.”

Starsky huffed his aggravation as they continued to brace Simonetti against them down the steep staircase. “Can’t get ahold of Dobey,” he said by the third step down, “and I don’t know if the messages are getting to Pat. There’s only one other person we can trust.”

“Huggy?” Hutch didn’t need validation. It was more of a statement.

Ten steps down. Halfway there.

Hutch and Simonetti watched their feet on each step knowing if one went down, they both went down. Starsky watched both of them hoping he wouldn’t have to catch a double tumble.

Captain Elmore Schrader watched all three as he stood in the middle of the large, empty first floor straddling the well displayed body of Officer Thomas Cooper.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Nine

 

Starsky, Simonetti and Hutch stopped cold on the landing.

“Gentlemen.” Schrader was dressed in all black: t-shirt, pants, shoes. Even his belt. Neat, crisp and freshly laundered. His purple butterfly tattoo stood out like a neon sign on his hairy arm. “Good afternoon. The forecast calls for a brilliant sunset.”

Starsky followed the thick streak of blood from Cooper’s battered body to the door’s main building, the Captain’s large bloody handprint standing out in relief on the rookie’s khaki pants at the ankle he had used as a handle. The ‘kid’ was laid out, distorted face up, his arms spread eagle to the side just over his head reaching lifelessly to the door.

The image of Cooper being dragged by the ankle like a sack of dirt across the floor looped endlessly through the detectives’ heads.

Starsky finally closed his eyes for a couple of beats to find his focus. “How did you get in here, Elmer?”

“Cute, Starsky. Elmer Fudd. Real juvenile. Like I’ve never heard that around the station before.”

Starsky stayed in place, his hands on hips, inches from the gun in the back of his waistband. He glanced sideways at Simonetti, exhausted and pained sagging against Hutch who leaned against the center column to accommodate the attached and injured detective. Although outnumbering Schrader, they were severely handicapped. “Again, how did you get in?” He needed to buy some time.

“Key. It’s quite simple. I’m a Captain in the police department. In a time of crisis, a realtor will hand over any key you ask for. Now,” he said while pointing his own gun at Hutch and propping a foot on a gasping Cooper’s neck threatening to stand on it, “take out the gun I know you have, put it on the floor and kick it over to me. Now.”

There was no doubt in Starsky’s head that Schrader was a marksman. Starsky was a quick draw, but all Schrader had to do was touch the trigger and Hutch would be dead. So with one hand palm up and stretched out towards Schrader in surrender, he used the other to pull the Magnum from his back side and placed it on the floor. A stitch of helpless panic coursed through him as he toed it across the floor with his blue Adidas.

“Now, wasn’t that easy?” Schrader smiled easily with smarmy confidence as he bent down to pick up the Magnum with his free hand while never veering away from his focus on the trio. “I always liked you two. Can’t tell you how many times I ran interference for you with Simonetti. Did you know that?”

Starsky squinted into the glare and haze of the late day sun spearing through the door left open a crack.

“I mean, he could have canned your asses so many times, what with your unconventional tactics and questionable relationship, but then who would have drawn attention away from my side business?”

As Starsky swallowed down the bitterness of Schrader’s pompous laugh, he reached over to give Hutch a pat of reassurance behind Simonetti’s back.

“See, you two played an almost flawless game. So technically proficient. Distracting. And oh so stupid. In fact, you played right into my hands. And your memory loss from the beatings was a great bonus for me.”

They only heard half of the dramatic diatribe while stealing glances at each other and looking around the expansive first floor. A sidelong slide of eyes, tilt of the chin, a head dip…

“How about you two quit playing Hellen Keller and keep eyes on me,” Schrader finally said as he waved the guns between Starsky and Hutch. “Christ. Everyone knows you have this Amazing Kreskin language between you two. Oh yeah,” he said using a finger to pull something from his pocket, “apparently our young Officer Cooper here had something of yours, Hutchinson.” Hutch’s star and moon necklace landed at his feet with a patter against the cement floor. “Was gonna pawn it with our friend, Pistol Pete, but I had my hands full. Didn’t I, Starsky?”

Starsky closed his eyes for the moment it took to let out a deep breath. He was there. He’d heard what was happening behind that curtain but had no idea it was Schrader, and probably Mitchell, beating the life out of the kid. Cooper was right there and he didn’t know it. Cooper’s head rolled to the side as blood bubbled up through his teeth. The first indication that he was alive.

Maybe.

Barely.

“Now, we’re just going to stay here until Mitchell shows up.”

“Um, well,” Starsky gave with a sense of enjoyment, scratching his head. “He’s already come…. And gone.”

“Oh, yeah. He’s definitely gone,” Hutch added. “Wouldn’t you concur, Detective Simonetti?”

“Yep. He came.” He could play along. Just couldn’t look his superior in the eyes. “He went.”

“Went fast,” Starsky added with a snark. “Bang, gone. Just like that.”

“Shut up. Is everything a game to you?” Getting no response from the detectives who were looking at their feet, Schrader straddled Cooper’s body maintaining his self-aggrandizing superiority as if advertising his lack of conscience and willingness to continue on the same path. “He’ll be back. Then, we’ll decide what to do with you. Pretty sure, Starsky, we’ll just finish what T-Bone’s men didn’t accomplish.”

“How did it happen, Schrader?” Starsky asked. “Slip a few joints in your pocket making an arrest back when you were still in uniform? Graduate to baggies of dope when you made detective?”

“Keep it up Starsky.”

“Gladly. When you made Captain is that when you graduated to stealing from the evidence room? It all worked out so well for you, didn’t it?”

“It’s lucrative. By the time the stuff is brought in as evidence it’s usually already cut, sometimes packaged. All I have to do is get it to my dealers. David, if you and that lover of yours hadn’t interfered, we could have been partners. Imagine how much geography we could have covered working together.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so. You got sloppy with my case file. Even Simonetti here found the glaring errors.”

Hutch’s cuffed arm was jerked hard as Simonetti tried to defend himself against the insult by pointing his finger at Starsky.

“Chuck,” Starsky said without taking his eyes off Schrader, “it was a compliment. Down boy.” Starsky took a couple slow steps to the right as shadows from the outside occasionally danced on the floor. “You’re a dirty cop, Schrader. I’ve looked the other way once or twice at the petty stuff that runs through the department. But murder? Why Roger?”

“He knew. He went over evidence files and figured things out. He knew too much and was about to go to you. He was…” The man wiped his brow with the back of the armed left hand. “…expendable.”

“What is it you want from us, Schrader? Huh?” Starsky asked putting on his negotiator’s cap. “You’ve falsified every single piece of evidence in the case against me. I’m as good as convicted. We’ll both be embarrassed and banished from the department with the whole gay thing. Let us go. Nobody believes a word we have to say lately anyway.”

“You know too much. You, especially, Starsky. You’ve seen my men, know names. From my boys on the corner, to the dealers, Pistol Pete, even my cleaner, who is apparently inept seeing that you’re still alive. You could testify my entire dynasty into the Pen for life.”

The slivered light peeking through the partially opened door behind Schrader widened ever so slightly catching Hutch’s attention. A familiar tall, thin figure insinuated himself halfway through the door.

“Come on. Wouldn’t take much for you to spin the story against Mitchell and Cooper. Lay it all on them.” Hutch said throwing a look Starsky’s way. “You could put this whole thing behind you, Schrader. Hell, just say Simonetti got in the door and discovered that they were the ones taking the drugs and he had to take Cooper down. You’d like that Chuckie. You’d get a real good attaboy from the department.”

“Nice try,” Schrader said through his smarmy smile. “But would put me out of business and I’ve got a good thing going.”

“Hutch, are you suggesting we take the fall for him?” Starsky asked, eyes wide open telegraphing a plan. “You don’t want to fight for what’s right? You’re a son of a bitch.”

“Don’t start,” Hutch gave back with dramatic indignation. If they were going to act their way out of this, he’d put on a real show. Helping out in the wings, was not only Huggy, peeking through the door, but also Captain Dobey looking in through a broken side window. “You’re always walking out the door on me. Waiting for me to look through the window. Well, I am sick and tired of not having back up any more, buddy.”

The two pretended to totally disregard Schrader and Simonetti as they came together, fingers poking into chests, talking over each other, voices raised. Derogatory names, foul language… anything to keep Schrader focused on them and not the people that were gathering outside, occasionally making their shadows known ever so slightly through the cracked boards and broken windows all behind and out of view of Elmore Schrader.

“When is it you don’t need back up, Hutch? You couldn’t arrest a simple jaywalker without back up.”

“I wouldn’t be here cuffed to this fool, asshole, if you hadn’t run off to play super hero.”

“You always wanted to try out cuffs,” Starsky said, trying not to grin. “Was it good for you, Chuck?”

“Hey, HEY,” Simonetti yelled in a panicked upturned voice.

“Shut up, Simonetti,” the blonde answered between sparring words with his partner.

“I’m right here attached to you, Hutchinson.”

“He said to shut up.” This time it was Starsky’s turn.

“You throw a punch and I’ll probably get it.”

“Yeah?” Starsky and Hutch both said at the same time. “Then take this… NOW!”

Hutch went high for Schrader’s chest, Starsky went low, at his legs, taking the large well-armed man down flat on his back the guns in his hands firing in the process. The howls from an injured and attached Simonetti ripped through empty space as he landed on top of all three of the men.

Starsky hadn’t seen this many guns, faces and chaos since Viet Nam as, not only Huggy and Dobey showed up, but then strange men wearing gang style clothing broke through every conceptual space, windows, cracks and doors. It was clear that the gang wars on the outskirts of the district had traveled to them.

Starsky and Hutch each took a second to glance at the other for reassurance that the bullets from Schrader’s gun hadn’t made direct hits. Seeing no blood other than what Mitchell’s demise had previously splattered on them, they got to work using knees, elbows and functioning hands to pin Schrader down and get the guns, but before they could even try restrain the man, a smoke bomb was released immediately blinding them.

A nasty side effect of the smoke bomb was a fire, well fueled by the abundance of dry timber and strewn papers. With all of the voices and, now distant sirens, Starsky and Hutch no longer heard each other’s voice. Most left in the building were busy hacking up lungs as they worked to pull each other out of the flames. They couldn’t see, they couldn’t breathe and the flames were spreading.

“Get out, Hutch,” Starsky ordered.

“Where… where are you going? Starsky?”

“I left… I left the kid’s necklace upstairs. I’ll be right back, Hutch.” His voice became distant, the coughing fiercer. “Get Chuck out of here.”

In the chaos of the sudden intrusion of what they could only assume was gang members and other neighborhood misfits – in the cacophony of voices, boots, boards being pulled from doors and windows, and obvious fighting among the new arrivals - Hutch lost track of Schrader. He called out for Starsky repeatedly with no answer as he was dragged across the filthy floor towards fresh air and light by a hobbled Simonetti. But Hutch would have none of it.

Starsky,” he yelled, over and over, his voice cracking and becoming less intelligible as smoke replaced oxygen. “Starsky…

“Shut up, Hutchinson. Jesus, help me out here.” Simonetti was half lying, half sitting on the floor dragging his own injured leg while trying in vain to pull a quickly fading Hutch towards the rush of fresher air and light where they assumed the door was located. “Come on. Fuck me,” he grunted as their exposed skin scraped and ground against the fractured cement and years of grime. “You die, I die. God damned handcuffs.” He tried pulling at the blonde’s shoulders, his arms, even his clothes, but Hutch was too big for him and his now dead weight was too much for the injured man. Simonetti cursed until breathing alone took all he had. His head finally hit the floor and as he drew both arms up to cover his mouth in a futile attempt to staunch the invasion of smoke, Hutch’s limp hand came with it.

 

“...fully engulfed now….”

“…third alarm….”

“...close off surrounding streets….”

“…are almost normal now…. BP’s a little high…”

“…got paged out of a movie. Again! Woe…. Here he goes…”

“…on his side…”

What woke him wasn’t the incessant chatter around him. Nor was it the sirens of the arriving fire trucks. It was, however, the burning acidic vomit strafing his raw, smoke damaged throat as it erupted and splashed on the ground next to him.

“That’s it, son. Let it go. You’re in good hands.”

The pat on his back became a squeeze to his shoulder as the last of the vomit shot out from his body. Hutch looked on each side of him expecting to see his chained companion.

“Simonetti?” he croaked out looking at his raised right hand and the bandage circling his wrist.

“On his way to Memorial. Ambulance will be back for you. Emergency vehicles are hard to come by tonight.” Dobey gently pulled Hutch’s gauze covered arm back down to the tarp they had laid the patient on. “The handcuff got hot and burned you there,” Dobey said pointing to Hutch’s arm. “You hurt anywhere else?”

He shook his head not wanting to talk, until his thoughts went to… “Starsky!” His struggles to sit up were met with Dobey’s hands and then a paramedic’s.

“Detective, you’re not going anywhere except the hospital.”

“No. NO.”

“Now, Ken, you go get yourself checked out. We’ll be right here looking for Starsky.”

“You don’t know where he is?”

“No, son. We haven’t seen him. But that doesn’t mean anything. There must have been thirty people in that building. When the fire started they ran in every direction. Huggy is out on the streets looking for him right now.”

“He went upstairs.”

“No, I believe Huggy is calling in some favors with the locals and checking with the gangs.”

“Not Huggy. Starsky. He went back upstairs when the fire started. Cap… Oh, God. Cap, he….he…”

He tried getting to his feet, but the inability to catch his breath exacerbated by the weight of his pounding head pulled him back down. On all fours, he finally plastered his forehead to the ground with elbows on each side. “Not going…”

Like hell you’re not.” Dobey turned on his Captain’s voice as he waved over the newly arrived ambulance crew. “Take him now, before he gets to his feet and falls down like a redwood tree,” Dobey ordered. And then, in his father’s voice, “I’ll meet you there, son. Now go on and get checked out. There’s nothing more you can do here.”

 

Four hours, two blood tests, a chest xray and two breathing treatments later, Hutch was leaving the ER.

Alone.

The cabbie drove faster than usual given the stench of burning wood, a smoke bomb and stale vomit that his passenger exuded. Once in his apartment, he stripped and took a quick shower forgetting about the burned wrist until the hot water soaked through the gauze. He went about the washing and scrubbing in a fog, thinking only about Starsky.

When he emerged from the bathroom donning sweat pants and t-shirt, the stillness of the apartment was not lost on him. No game blaring on the TV. No Starsky rattling around the kitchen looking for food and bitching about the lack of real food among the wheat germ, oats and plethora of vitamins. He kept looking at the door expecting to see the blue sneakers bound across the threshold. Instead…

Knock, knock, knock…

Starsky never knocked. Not anymore. Not since women exited the picture.

Knock, knock, knock…

Part of him didn’t want to answer the door afraid that he’d see his captain and the department chaplain. The chaplain only went to officers’ houses with bad news. And the shrink. They would probably bring that pencil necked creep.

Very bad news.

Knock, knock…. “Hutch. Hey Hutch. It’s me. Huggy.”

Of course they’d bring Huggy with them. Closest thing to family they had in California.

His shaking hand stopped inches from the doorknob. If he stopped… if he didn’t open the door… if he didn’t hear those words, there would still be hope. So he stood there and leaned against the door, letting his flushed cheek lay against the cool of the wood.

“Hutch. Open the door. I know you’re in there.” Huggy was speaking as close to the door on his side as he could. “I can hear ya, my brother.”

His hand made its way to the door knob and stayed there curled around the brass handle.

“It’s just me Hutch,” he said with quiet empathy as if answering Hutch’s unspoken question.

With a deep breath Hutch unlocked the door and opened it just far enough to ascertain that Huggy was, indeed, alone, then let him in the rest of the way.

“How ya doin’? Dobey said you sucked in a lot of smoke.”

“I’m okay.”

“You don’t look okay. I seen pastier looking dead jackrabbits.”

Normally quick with a retort, Hutch just stared blankly at his feet. “Hug, what about Starsky?”

“That’s why I’m here. Your captain sent me. Seems he can’t get away from the station. Says to tell you he’s sorry he didn’t get to the hospital. I hung around long enough to hear him get his ass reamed by the Chief. Something about those Internal Affairs clowns, missing drugs, a couple beat cops, a dirty chick from the DA’s office, you guys and dead bodies…”

Hutch picked his head up and immediately went for Huggy, grabbing him by the collar and pushing him up against the door. “What do you know about Starsky? Huh? Tell me.” As quickly as he manhandled Huggy, he recognized what he’d done and let go. “I’m… I’m sorry Hug.” He took two steps back and rubbed at his face. “I didn’t mean to… ya know.”

“I get it, man. I know you’re hurtin’.”

Hutch dropped down onto the sofa and leaned his head back. “What do you know?”

“Fire department rescued four people from the downstairs. You, that Simonetti character, Captain Schrader and another man. You and Simonetti were taken to the hospital. Schrader was arrested, I believe. And I don’t know anything about that fourth one. Mum’s the word on him.”

“Cooper.”

“Who?”

“Doesn’t matter. Is he alive?”

“No idea. It didn’t sound good. One other thing. They had to wait for the building to burn itself out. But they found evidence of a body, or bodies, in what was left. That’s all I was told. I’m sorry, Hutch.”

Hutch didn’t react except to close his eyes. The crushing volume of silence between them gave rise to the voices in Hutch’s head telling him the possible scenarios of Starsky’s location. Four strides is all it took to get him to the armoire that housed his back up gun, but before he could open it, Huggy inserted his arm to keep it closed.

“Dobey says for you to stay put here.”

“Has anyone checked his place? Maybe… maybe he’s at your house, or… or the bridge overpass at Hoskin’s Gorge,” he said in desperation. “We meet snitches there sometimes. Or… or…”

“No, Hutch. Sit down.”

“Can’t. I have to… I gotta go look…”

“You don’t gotta do nothin’. Shit’s real out there right now and Dobey said you’re not safe.”

“Huggy…”

“Hutch, your boss said either you stay here tonight or go into protective custody. Ain’t nothing you can do that I ain’t already done. Now, the cops are looking for him. Fire department. And every snitch that ever got something from you guys is sniffing asses and digging for bones.”

“I know.” He gave a couple nods. “Thanks for looking for him.” His voice was tentative and hopeless.

“What good are you gonna be to him if you go and get yourself killed tonight, huh? The good guys are looking for Starsky, but Dobey is pretty sure that the bad ones are lookin’ for you since they think Starsky is dead. They still loyal to Schrader and his heart still be beating. Ya dig?”

The only thing keeping him on his feet was his outreached arm leaning heavily against the armoire. His exhaustion was only topped by the pounding in his head. “Yeah, okay.”

“Now, how about you get to bed. I’ll take the sofa here.”

“You don’t have to stay.”

“Captain Dobey done ordered me to be your roommate tonight.”

“He’s not your captain.”

“He scares me just the same. I ain’t goin’ nowhere, compadre. And neither is that unmarked car outside with two of your fellow detectives working overtime to keep your ass in here alive.”

“Simmons and Babcock?” The obvious choice.

“They be the ones. Everyone’s been called in. Between this and the gang wars and looting, there’s not a cop sleeping in their own bed tonight. ‘Cept you. Now get in there. You’re the whitest shade of honky I ever seen.”

He didn’t need to validate what Huggy told him, but Hutch looked out the front window just the same only to see Simmons and Babcock parked right out front under the street light.

Sleep came in frantic spurts. An hour of deep sleep followed by a startled awakening, tossing and turning, then another short period of sleep. None of it productive or useful. All of it covered in a blanket of worry, dread and fear of the unknown. Twice Hutch had made it all the way to the door, fully clothed, intending to at least talk to his colleagues outside, at most hoping to skirt around them and work the streets looking for Starsky. But each time he was met by a stubborn Huggy Bear Brown who turned him around and put him back to bed.

They had only been officially up and into their second cup of morning coffee when Huggy, standing at the window, noticed two cars double parked in the street behind a black and white.

“Hutch, we got company.”

Heading to the armoire to grab his back up gun, Hutch was already on the defensive. “What kind of company?”

“Don’t think you’re gonna need your piece,” he said waving him over to the window. “Looks like your Captain, four other suits and two uniforms. Official business, I’d say.”

Hutch pulled the opposite curtain panel back and counted the men with briefcases congregated on the sidewalk below in deep conversation.

“Who are they, Hutch?”

“Don’t know. Not from our precinct. Higher ups, probably. Maybe feds. Whoever it is, it’s not good.”

“Might be best if I give you some privacy with them.”

No. No, Huggy. Stay here.” The door at the bottom of the stairs creaked open and gallop of heavy shoes on the wooden steps grew louder as they reached the top. “Please don’t go, Huggy.”

Knock, Knock, Knock…”

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty

 

“Hutch?” the gentle hand Huggy placed on the blonde’s shoulder was purposely tentative. “Gotta let them in.”

“Yeah. I know. I just…. Okay.”

Captain Dobey led the mass of suits into the small apartment. One after another they filed past Hutch forming a semi-circle in front of him. Was this Judgement Day or bad news delivery?

After the last was in the living room, Huggy took a step outside the door and looked to make sure the foot traffic had ceased finding two police officers parked at the bottom of the stairs. “Shoulda sold tickets,” he snarked.

Hutch closed the door and parked his mouth next to the tall man’s ear. “Not now, Huggy.”

The closed room suddenly felt pressurized with no movement of air but plenty of walled up unease. Hutch turned to his audience of suited men and noticed the obvious: They all wore bullet proof vests under their coats and were heavily armed, one visibly brandishing a modified military semi-automatic weapon. The first through the door dumped two additional vests on the coffee table where they landed with a thunk.

“Sir…” Tall-Dark Skinned-and-Quite-Handsome wearing a navy blue windbreaker with FBI in large letters on the back quickly pushed Hutch over against the wall by the bathroom, “stay away from the windows.” He then gave a hand signal through that window down below, then to the roof top across the street. “We need you to pack while we talk, sir.”

They knew him, but he didn’t know them. Not too unsettling, he thought with a hefty dose of sarcasm. “You don’t have to call me ‘sir’.”

“Yes, sir.”

As Windbreaker took up his soldiered position at the door, the blue suited tall one spoke while looking around Hutch’s small apartment then grabbed a duffle bag by the closet door, dumping out the load of dirty towels and underwear destined for the laundromat. “Just the necessaries,” he said, holding it out to Hutch. “What you don’t have will be provided for you.”

“Wait a minute.” Refusing the bag, Hutch closed his eyes and shook his head of the confusing cobwebs. “Just hold on…”

“No time, Ken.”

Dobey was going for the first name right off. Not good. Next will be….

“Son…”

Yep. Not good at all.

“…we just got word that a contract has been put out on you and it’s not just one or two factions. The dealers have banded together and we still don’t know who else in the department is dirty.”

“Bringing Schrader in put all kinds of bullshit in motion we never anticipated,” the dowdy brown suit interjected.

Anticipated?” Hutch asked as he watched Huggy nervously throw some random clothes and available bathroom items in the duffel bag for him. “Just who are you and what do you know about Schrader?”

“Hutch, these men are FBI and DEA.”

“Feds. The feds knew what was going on?”

“We’ve had our people in deep for a while now establishing identities and covers,” Blue Suit said peeking around the curtain at the street below. “We’ve been occasionally watching you from a distance. Just didn’t know if you were as dirty as Schrader. We were 75% there when you two entered the picture and really stirred the pot. Had to fast forward logistics.”

“What about my partner. Do you know anything about Starsky?”

“You’re a primary witness to Schrader’s activities as well as his confession of sorts in the building,” Brown Suit said as he walked around the perimeter of the apartment checking the windows. “But there are at least a dozen more key figures here on the west coast as well as Mexico we’re wrapping evidence up on for warrants and extradition to get off the streets for life, and maybe up to sixty-three lower level peons across four states we’d like to grab and turn as well.” The man retreated into the bathroom and then the sun porch before coming back into the living room. With skill and sense of predictable forethought, he opened up the armoire successfully finding the detective’s back-up gun and proceeded to unload and pocket it. “Any more of these?” he asked as Hutch shook his head in the negative. “It’s a real international shit storm. We knew it was big. But until you two stuck your feet in the door and contacted our own undercover, we had no direct intel on Schrader.”

Hutch caught Dobey’s cross look. “I know,” Hutch admitted in a guilty whisper to his captain. “Private parties.”

“Our UC knew your wayward IA ‘dick’ by an alias only and hadn’t been able to ID him,” Blue Suit continued. “He was the missing piece of the puzzle that linked cartels all the way to Mexico. We’ve got a few long days of debriefing to do with you. And Hutchinson… I won’t kid you, it’s gonna be thorough. Witnesses who are still alive are few and far between and we need these charges to stick.”

“Then what?” Hutch asked following the nosey fed with his eyes refusing to leave his anchored spot in the living room.

“Then you’re going to be in protective custody, in seclusion, until the threats are extinguished or maybe until Schrader’s trial ends, whichever comes first.”

“How long exactly?”

“Two weeks. A month. Maybe indefinitely if we can’t tie it up with a neat bow.”

“I was hoping to get back to work. Maybe requalify for the streets. Starsky and I…”

Brown Suit leaned against the armoire across from Hutch and tried to squint away the distraction. “Look, I understand that there are controversial and unfortunate circumstances which may mean the end to your career, Hutchinson, but frankly your future employment in the police department is not our concern. You and your buddy, Starsky,…”

“Partner. He’s my partner.” Hutch bolted forward and fisted Brown Suit’s lapels before shoving him hard into the wall. “David Starsky is my partner,” he spat wired and red faced. “We’re cops. We’re the best cops on the force…”

Before he could finish, Windbreaker and Huggy pulled Hutch off the fed and held him by each shoulder several safe feet away from the man.

“…and we’ll be back on the force together. As partners.”

“Let him go,” Dobey order standing between the two men. “Hutch, this about keeping you alive. Everything else right now, today, is just fluff. Hear them out.”

“Cap, please… where’s Starsky?”

“It’s a real mess. You guys really blew things up,” Blue Suit said while ignoring Hutch’s question and turning to his colleagues. “And this one,” he said, pointing to Huggy, “he was privy to Schrader’s words as well, right?”

“As far as I know, none of the perps are aware of it, but just in case, he should be sequestered through questioning.” Brown Suit roughly handled Hutch as the extra vests were put on him and Huggy Bear.

“I’ll clear it with command. Might be easier to just keep a tail on him. Less suspicion that way.”

“Alright,” Brown Suit said while picking up the duffel bag. “Let’s head out and…”

Wait!” Hutch put his back to the door. “I am not going anywhere until you tell me where… tell me about Starsky. Please, Cap.”

The fourth suit, the quiet one who had stood to the side wearing blue jeans and a tan corduroy suit coat, sat on the arm of the sofa and put his hands on his knees in contemplative authoritativeness. “Gentleman, we have three patrol cars, six uniforms, four UC’s and one sniper watching us and this building. I think we can sit down and give the detective here some answers.”

All eyes were ominously on Hutch, the impending gravity of what was to be talked about not lost on him as he followed Dobey’s directing hand over to the sofa where he took a seat.

“Tell me, Cap.”

“I’m afraid there’s not a lot to tell you, Hutch.”

“I’ll take this.” Corduroy Jacket parked himself in front of Hutch in one of the wooden chairs he’d dragged in from the kitchen. “Give us some space,” he said to the other three men hovering nearby. “Step outside the door and radio down to give us five minutes. Woodford,” he said pointing to Wind Breaker, “you stay.”

When the door snicked closed, Dobey relaxed forward into his elbows on his knees. Huggy sat on the corner of the sofa on the other side of Hutch. Corduroy Jacket scratched his head before releasing a breath. “Well… you know as well as the rest of us that the scene was chaotic at best.” Hutch nodded. “Captain Dobey arrived with your friend, Huggy Bear, just before me and my men. SWAT was occupied elsewhere, as were uniforms from all precincts. We weren’t prepared, didn’t have on identification. Couldn’t tell who was who. We stayed back until we heard gunshots and had no choice but to lob the smoke bomb for distraction.”

“And the fire?”

“Not intentional. We hadn’t cased it yet and had no idea it was a tinderbox. When we entered from the front, gang members and a hoard of unknowns busted in from all other angles. Eventually the smoke and flames chased everyone out.”

“Please, can we get to Starsky?”

“Detective, the only casualties we recovered – three - were you, Detective Simonetti and an Officer Cooper.”

Hutch’s head flit up with the math and lack of one more name. “Cap?”

Dobey cleared his throat and took over. “The building was too hot for Fire to enter by the time they got there. They had to let it burn itself out. We found one body in the ashes. Preliminary COD was a GSW.”

“Mitchell,” Hutch added with unavoidable disgust. “Schrader’s number one.”

“Care to tell us what you know?” Corduroy Jacket asked. “…about his demise?”

“Mitchell ambushed us upstairs. Cuffed me to Simonetti. We were, ah… trapped under some heavy cabinets and he put a gun to Chuck’s head. He was gonna take us both out, just like that. No hesitation. I managed to free a hand up and get off a few rounds.”

“Just for validation, Hutchinson, can you tell me where the fatal round hit?”

“His head. About a quarter of his head just….”

“Okay, that’s enough for now. Simonetti told us the same story and it’s been corroborated in the preliminary coroner’s report.”

“Cap… Starsky?”

“We don’t know, Ken.”

“He’s not the only one missing.” Corduroy was visibly tired as he rubbed his eyes thoroughly. “We haven’t been able to locate three of my UCs, including my primary agent. Now, it may be intentional. Sometimes communication has to be silenced to maintain cover as well as lives. The entire case is very fluid right now with details changing by the minute.”

“Can’t do this,” Hutch said into his lap as he hung his head downward. “I need…”

“I know blondie,” Huggy said with an arm around the shoulder. “You gotta trust that Starsky knows what he’s doing. There wasn’t another body in that building. Maybe he’s on the run.”

“Or maybe the gang members took him.”

“Time to go,” Corduroy said getting to his feet and pointing at Woodford to grab the duffel bag. “Meet Greg Woodford,” he said as Wind Breaker nodded once at Hutch. “You two are going to be spending a lot of time together. Hope you have complimentary hobbies.”

“How long?” Hutch asked again.

“Afraid I can’t answer that. Okay then, we’re going to perp walk the two of you in the middle of everyone else, heads down, quickly, directly to the van. It’s right out front. We’ll caravan to the Federal Building with the black and whites and unmarked cars all around us with full rack lights. Between here and there we’re going to hide in plain sight. Then, after the debriefing, we play our version of hide ‘n’ seek.”

 

xXXx

 

He’d had no choice but to piss his pants and if the delivery van that Starsky had been bound, gagged and blindfolded inside of didn’t stop soon he was pretty sure he was going to choke to death on the vomit that was threatening an uprising. At least he assumed it was a van.

The duct tape not only covered his mouth, but it also held rags in place over his ears. He was devoid of sight and sound leaving the only senses available, taste – the adhesive tasted like grain alcohol and rodent ass, smell – the fumes from the van and smoke from the driver’s nasty nicotine habit added to the nausea, and touch – he touched alright. He touched everything in the back of that empty van as he slid and slammed from one side to the other. No part of his bruised body was spared from the collision it made with the sides and hard floor each time they took a turn.

Three times they had come to a stop and each time Starsky feared the worst as the rear doors opened and the rush of fresh air slapped him in the face. He was at the mercy of his captors who man handled him quickly from one vehicle to another, strong hands on his hog tied arms and legs. Then, another interminable ride.

Police work scared him every day. Not much. Just a smidgen. Enough to get him on edge and on point. It was a necessary fear, for without it a cop gets arrogant, sloppy and complacent. Starsky and his partner were none of those.

But now? Now he was scared to death. Not having control, living with nothing but the unknown – barely living - utterly alone, scared him even more than when Simon Marcus’ creeps kidnapped him. He reached out with his soul – the only part of him not restrained – and tried to feel Hutch.

Hutch.

The one person in his life who had always been there for him. Hutch had saved his life from bad guys and bullets, to love and heartbreak. And through all of Starsky’s games and misadventures, Hutch always maintained his allegiance to his partner, even the last few months as others manipulated them.

Hutch was his compass, always pointing him in the right direction, eventually. Oh, he’d let his brash Brooklyn born partner stumble and carry on when he got a bee stuck in his bonnet, and he’d pretend to get irritated at Starsky’s antics, but he secretly enjoyed the show and eventually set Starsky straight. And it worked both ways. When Hutch needed support, friendship, family…. Starsky was there for him, no questions asked.

And then they found love. Not with one of the many ladies who they test drove through the years. But with each other. It was unconventional, unusual, against societal norms and even potentially career ending.

It was also pure, natural and electric. The only thing that came between them was the damn secret. As their love drew them together, it also pulled them apart. In Starsky’s eyes, secrets were like rabbits: add one to another and they just multiply.

But he couldn’t feel Hutch anymore. He was so far away from him. So far.

The last time he saw the blonde, he was still cuffed to Simonetti in the smoke filled textile building. They were near that open door and hands were reaching for them. He assumed they got out. Starsky had run upstairs and grabbed Cooper’s pendant and chain, but before he got to the bottom of the stairs, hands grabbed him through the thick smoke and dragged him outside into an awaiting car. He’d barely rubbed the grit from his eyes when the world went dark and silent with the duct tape and blindfold.

Now, a fourth stop. This time was different. No one came to get him. He was left inside, the stench of stale cigarette smoke and putrefied urine permeating the enclosed space. Just when the heat of the heavy rancid air threatened to suppress what little oxygen was left, the van lurched forward, then took a sharp turn around a corner on an irregular unpaved surface. This time when the doors opened the unseen hands cut the tape at his ankles and he was roughly pulled upright and pushed forward, his feet barely touching the ground. As the surface under his feet changed from rutted, dry earth to a smooth, flat flooring, he knew his thoughts of being thrown in a river or off a cliff were somehow, perhaps, premature.

He was let go and, just like that, he knew he was alone. His hands taped behind his back, he was an involuntary Helen Keller left to bob around the very small room like a cue ball on a bumper pool table. Eight steps in one direction slammed him into a wall. A ninety degree turn and the wall met his face twelve steps in. This information netted him the useless knowledge that he was in a ninety-four square foot room. It was hot. Extremely hot. The kind of heat that never abates when the sun goes down. He guessed that considering he had been in transport all through the night, he must be somewhere down south, probably within a state or two of Texas.

Eventually, sliding his feet in front of him in small increments, he found some old bedding on the floor to curl up on. He was dehydrated. His hunger had long passed into nausea. And his head pounded like an old church bell.

Starsky didn’t know how long he had been lying there when he was pulled up to a sitting position and the tape brutally yanked from his mouth and ears. A plastic cup was put to his lips.

“Drink.”

One word. It was a man’s voice. Gruff, practiced – not young.

“Hey, drink.”

Two. Progress.

Starsky eventually greedily drank the lukewarm water until his stomach lurched with the sudden onslaught. The hands turned his head to the side and down into what seemed like a bucket or trash can. The puked water and acrid heat of the stomach acids burned his throat and leaked out of his nostrils accompanied by errant mucous. He sat there bound and blindfolded with thick saliva, vomitus remnants and snot spilling down over his mouth and chin.

“Who are you?” he asked not expecting, or getting, an answer. “Where am I?”

“Drink,” a voice said again with the same cup to Starsky’s mouth, but this time it belonged to a woman. “Sips.”

His hands were still taped behind his back, the blindfold now wet with sweat. This time the water stayed down. The cup returned a few more times, then… not. But this time he heard more feet enter the room.

“You sure?”

“Waiting to hear from Dog Man.”

“How are we supposed to dispose of this package?”

“Hey, I’m right here, ya know.”

“Have to sit tight.”

“Fucking hate these.”

“I got someplace to be myself.”

Although weakened, Starsky wriggled himself onto his knees then tried to stand before being pushed over onto his side by a big boot that didn’t leave his shoulder.

“No more instructions?”

“Just to wait on Dog Man’s say so.”

“Can someone please talk to me?”

The sound of inconvenienced sighs accompanied the hands that brought him back to a seated position, then took the blindfold off. Starsky wanted so badly to wipe the blur from his eyes but had to settle for squeezing them shut, then opening one lid at a time. Squatting in front of him were two men dressed in denim and leather. One had a multitude of tattoos up both arms, and covering his bald head. Tattoo Man had an entire paragraph inked on his neck in Old English lettering with matching knuckles that he cracked one at a time as he looked Starsky over from stem to stern.

“Keep quiet and we won’t introduce the duct tape to your mouth again.”

The other’s head was covered in a blue bandana. He wore a full beard that reached down to the top of his shirt, a leather duster coat and boots with spurs. Crumbs from his breakfast lingered in the graying facial hairs.

“He fucking stinks. Pissed himself.” Beard Man stood and backed away with a scowl. “Why do they always do that?”

Starsky opened both eyes and squinted to his right against the sunlight poking in through a very small window. The woman was small in stature with studded…. well… studded everything: Jacket, gloves, leather pants and boots. Piercings dotted her face and around both ears, a chain running from her nose to her left ear. When she turned around to close the door behind them, his eyes widened as he saw that the silver studs on the back of her jacket spelled out: R.A.B.I.D. C.U.N.T.

Starsky cleared his still parched throat before nervously laughing. “Is this hell?”

 

 

(Homework: “Kingdom Underground”, Matt Duke)

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-One

 

Captain Dobey guessed that the gargantuan conference room table was at least twenty feet long, almost big enough to hold Edith’s side of the family at Thanksgiving. He tilted his head around the shard of sunlight that glanced off the shiny dark surface looking for any hint that the table had been used at some point in recent history. No fingerprints, crumbs, gouges, or water marks. It looked shiny enough to skate on. When the door opened he sat back in the fancy leather high back chair pulling his elbows off the surface like a ten-year-old kid caught in the act.

“Captain,” the young man in a black suit said while holding the door open, “Alpha team has entered the building and will be making their way here shortly.”

“Thank you, young man.”

“Package number two is ten to twelve minutes out.”

The door closed and Dobey leaned on his elbows once again and stared at the large telephone system and recording unit anchored in the middle of the table. The chairs were leather, new and had all their working parts. Along the east wall was a tall black walnut sideboard topped in marble adorned with a plate of cheese and crackers, bowls of fruit, a pitcher of ice water and the makings for tea and coffee. An observation window took up a third of the west wall, into what Dobey assumed was an interrogation room.

He took stock of what meeting rooms in the federal building looked like compared to his own precinct. His conclusion was that the feds were the spoiled children in the family and the BCPD was clearly the ugly step child.

He heard the footsteps – heavy footsteps, chains rattling, deep voices - and knew they were coming his way before the door opened. It had been almost fourteen weeks and the first face in the door was almost unrecognizable.

“Hey, Captain. How’s the family?”

Dobey visibly skewed his head at an angle as if trying to turn what he was seeing in front of him into something he could comprehend.

“Cap? Hey, you okay?”

Carrying a skull cap helmet, the man wore faded blue jeans covered in tight leather riding chaps, wide chunky heeled biker boots, ripped t-shirt, denim sleeveless vest embroidered with Hells Angels TX on the back, fingerless leather gloves exposing hands with several silver rings and a black bandana with white skull and crossbones draped over and tied to his head. Chains were attached to his boots, his pocketed wallet to a belt loop, and draped over his right shoulder.

Well-developed biceps glowed under the deep tan and gave hint to what had to be rippled abs and defined pecs under the too-tight worn through t-shirt. The aviator sunglasses hid the familiar blue eyes Dobey knew were there but he wasn’t too sure of the face behind the dark mutton chops connected to a fiercely grown thick mustache.

“Ah, Starsky…. is that you?”

“In the flesh Cap.”

“Cow flesh, maybe.” Dobey’s attention turned to the biker colleagues on either side of his detective. “And your herd?”

“Oh, yeah. Meet Lizard Man. And this here is Lana, my bitch.”

The three of them exchanged looks with each other amid snickers and grins, then took seats on one side of the table across from Dobey looking as out of place as fish in a forest. Lizard Man with his long beard and hardened sun punished face pushed back just far enough to prop his heeled boots up on the table, while Lana draped her arm across Starsky’s shoulder. When she swiveled in her barely-there bikini top half covered with the biker jacket to check out the clock on the wall behind her, Dobey’s head tilted sideways and eyebrows lifted as he read the vulgar message on the back of the denim. To cover for what he knew was the un-Captain-like look of shock on his face, he immediately stood and turned his back on the crew, grabbing a cup from the sideboard.

“We’ve been straddling the road since 4am to get to this mandatory meeting,” Starsky said while stretching his back and rubbing his midsection. “Any vending machines around?”

Dobey thumbed at the fancy fruit and cheese to the side as he sat back down with hot coffee.

“Cheese?” Starsky frowned. “Hell no. It’s raw. Don’t like raw cheese.”

“Raw…? It’s not meat, Starsky,” Dobey countered.

“Cheese is meant to be melted. You know… like a cheeseburger, a grilled cheese sandwich, or Cheez Whiz.”

“We got about twenty of our patriots four blocks away, baby.” Lana threaded her fingers through Starsky’s tweaked curls just peeking out of the bandana. “How ‘bout we get them to find some of that good and dead barbecue you like?”

Dobey wasn’t used to being ignored as he took it all in.

Lizard laughed as he stroked his beard top to bottom. “Send them out for barbecue and those mouth breathing fuckers would come back shit faced on Thunderbird with a box of Milk Duds.”

Dobey rubbed the increasing wrinkles of his forehead as his controlled steam rose. “Starsky…”

“Nah… it’s Butcher.”

“What??”

“My handle is Butcher, cuz I’m the only one among the UC’s that eats meat.”

Lizard put his hands with interlaced fingers behind his head as he stretched and crossed his legs at the ankles on the table. “Butcher is bad ass, my man.”

They all laughed at what must have been an inside joke when Lana leaned across Starsky and mumbled to the two biker men, “Yeah, a nice meaty ass.”

“I am not your man,” Dobey threw back pointing his finger in Lizard’s face. “Get your feet off the furniture. Check your language. And someone tell me what the hell is going on here.

Lizard immediately put his feet on the floor and sat up straighter as Lana turned forward in her seat and removed her hand from Starsky’s hair.

“Sorry Cap. When you’re under for so long, it’s hard to break it. Um, I probably should have introduced you to Special Agents Norman Lizowski and Lanore Beach. To keep my cover of missing and presumed dead, the feds thought it wise to relocate me someplace the bad guys were least likely to look. Or survive.”

“Captain Dobey,” Lizard’s voice changed drastically from biker thug to well-educated agent, “the transport of Detective Starsky out of Bay City, I understand, was extremely dangerous. Apparently our people were followed for quite some time by gang members who thought we were transporting drugs, not human cargo. Our lead agent, Pat Durniak, eventually hung back and was able to throw them off at great danger to himself.”

“At first we didn’t know if we were harboring a fugitive or a witness,” Lana added. “He was kept isolated for a couple weeks until we could build an identity for him. We eventually outfitted him as you see here with a backstory of being my old man from back east. We travel in large numbers, heavily armed. Even though Norman and I, as well as two others are undercover investigating this biker gang, we were able to kill two birds with one stone and hide Dave in plain sight. He fit in well. Believe me, no one was going to get to him through the feds or the gang members. He ended up being a key addition to the team. Being a new arrival, he was able to make connections with the east coast members that had, up until then, remained very tight lipped. They love him.”

“Thought you were in a safe house.”

“I’m sure that’s what Schrader’s men thought too, since he knows I’m very much alive. But I’ve been a working man, Cap. Busy as a bee.”

“Just can’t get used to this…” Dobey waved his hand up and down, head to foot, in front of Starsky, “… this… look.”

“It’s just a cover.”

“Well, you sound like Dave Starsky. Don’t quite look like him. The Starsky I know couldn’t sit still for long and definitely couldn’t keep his mouth shut.”

Our Butcher?” Lana gave with a crooked smile.

Dobey snorted. “He has the uncanny, and annoying ability to retain useless information.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s all useless, Cap.”

The Captain rolled his eyes as he blew on his coffee before taking a sip.

“For instance, did you know that the average speed of ejaculation is 28mph?”

With that, Dobey snorted the coffee he’d finally managed to drink and spit it over the rim of the cup. “Starsky! Why do you always do that?”

“And Lana,” Starsky said thoroughly enjoying himself, “you’ll appreciate this - whales ejaculate something like 2- gallons of semen at one time.”

As Lizard and Lana each looked elsewhere to contain the giggles, Dobey grabbed a napkin from the sideboard and wiped at his newly stained tie. “Guess I didn’t miss you so much after all.”

“Aw, Captain Dobey… I missed you.”

“I have to admit, when the feds told me they offered to bring you back here two months ago when most of the major players had been rounded up, I was looking forward to maybe getting you back on the force. Of course, the charges against you were still pending. But when you chose to remain, well, wherever it is that you were, I was surprised.”

An undisclosed location, probably a hotel room downtown, is what I heard. I would have gone batshit crazy and you know it, Cap. I was making a lot of progress with these monkeys here and got to be outside and ride.”

“I guess so.”

“Besides, if I had just up and disappeared, it would have stirred up all kinds of suspicion and jeopardized the entire operation. As for being a cop again, guilty or not, you know as well as me that that case file is loaded with information that has ‘ex-cop’ written all over it. For both of us. Speaking of which, what about Hutch? What’s his status?”

Dobey paused for a moment before putting his coffee cup down and leaning in towards Starsky, lowering his voice. “Dave, when he found out that you decided not to come back here with him…”

“I wasn’t told that was an option – being in a safe house… together.”

“I’m sure you were kept in the dark about a lot of things, given the situation you were in.”

“So, Cap, where is…”

“Captain Dobey?” The young man in the black suit was back. “Your presence has been requested next door when you’re ready.”

“Thank you. Starsky, I’ll be right back.” Before Dobey got out the door, he looked back one more time. “Please try not to trash the room. I don’t want to get a bill.”

As soon as the door clicked shut they heard the door in the room next to them do the same. Lizard walked over to the two-way mirror and flicked a switch letting them see in without being seen on the other side.

Starsky kept his back to the mirror while popping cashews into his mouth. “Hey, don’t listen in on my Captain.”

“Not listening,” Lizard said. “Just watching. Didn’t turn the sound on. Give me some credit.”

“Holy shit and knock me up,” Lana exclaimed. “If I shopped in his produce department I’m pretty sure I’d be licking his carrots and berries.”

“Lana,” Starsky leaned back and slouched in his seat, “you really shouldn’t be snooping.”

“I’m not snooping. I’m investigating. It’s what I do. Besides, I’m positive that that is the prettiest man I have ever seen.”

This peaked Starsky’s curiosity and he spun around in the chair to take a look. When he saw who Dobey was talking to he stood up and walked over to the window not taking his eyes off the three people on the other side.

“Hey, Dave,” Lizard asked, “any chance that’s your partner?”

It was as if he was looking at a reborn Ken Hutchinson. His golden hair had all grown back in and was cut short in a very professional style. His skin had its color back, he’d gained a few healthy pounds and his left hand was obviously working as it held onto a leather briefcase. His former lover wore an expensive black suit – pleated pants, imported shoes, dark maroon shirt with cuff links, a black and maroon tie with a gold tie bar and gold Rolex watch. He looked five years younger. Hutch held himself tall and seemed very comfortable in his own skin… something Starsky hadn’t seen in a couple years.

“Yeah.” His voice was so quiet he wasn’t sure they heard and cleared his throat before repeating himself. “Yeah. That’s Hutch. Not sure who the other one is.”

“That,” Lizard said pointing to the tall, good looking black man, “is the one and only Greg Woodford. Transferred out here from DC last year. He’s one sharp cookie. Great guy. Excellent agent. Super smart, even if he is fruity.”

Lana popped him on the shoulder. “Hey. You don’t need to go there.”

“Wonder what they’re talking about,” Starsky lamented.

He didn’t have to wonder much longer as Lizard flipped another switch and they suddenly could hear the conversation.

“…and two weeks straight of rain,” Dobey said. “Waited all year for it and it wouldn’t stop.”

“Could be worse. It started snowing back home on Halloween.”

“This whole time he’s been in Minnesota?” Starsky was talking to himself.

“Hutchinson, it’s good to see that you’re alive and well. Quite well it seems.”

“It’s nice to be away from the streets and danger. Not seeing bodies has been good for me. And finding a purpose in life… well, I’m sure you can understand, Cap.”

“You bet. It’s good to see you happy, son. I’m going downstairs to meet the Chief and Simonetti. I’ll see you in a few minutes. They’ll bring you to the conference room as soon as they clear the hallway. They don’t want anyone to see you walk in the same room as Starsky.”

After Dobey left the room, Hutch put his briefcase down and took a few steps closer to the tall, black man.

“I don’t know what to say, Greg.”

“Say you’ll change your mind.”

“I haven’t made up my mind yet. Stop projecting your insecurities.”

“Projecting?” Greg put his palm on Hutch’s cheek and gently thumbed the tender skin under the eye, just as Starsky had done many times. “I’m not projecting. Hoping, maybe.”

Hutch’s eyes dipped down as he took a deep breath and gently took Greg’s hand in his own. “I can’t thank you enough. What you’ve done for me… What you put up with,” he said in a breathy laugh. “It’s more than I deserve.”

“I thought you were over that whole self-pity thing. You deserve everything and more… more than I could ever give you.”

“You’ve already given me too much.”

“I’m not done yet. You know that.” Woodford couldn’t help reach out and straighten Hutch’s tie. “We have a lot of plans and I intend on following through on my word. Everything we… I mean… These last three months have been an eye opener for me. It’s made me see the truth.”

“A higher truth, maybe. I know. Me too.” Hutch looked down at the darker hand that had stayed on his chest and smiled. “For the first time in my adult life I feel whole. It’s like I’ve done something meaningful. And you were there every step of the way.”

“You made me a happy man, Ken. And… you made me a promise.”

At first Hutch looked puzzled, but as Greg grinned and locked eyes with him, he returned the smile and stepped forward. He put his two hands on each side of Greg’s face then leaned in pressing their lips together.

“Stop. Just stop,” Starsky angrily spit out while flipping both switches off and ending their viewing party.

“Hey,” Lana whined trying to reach past Starsky to get to the switches, “that was some good stuff.”

Starsky’s hand grabbed her wrist with fierce intent. “It’s not stuff. Back off.” His eyes burned into hers enough for her to twist out of his grip and step away.

“Alright. Geez, loosen up.”

“Lana,” Lizard quietly scolded, “leave it alone.”

Starsky walked to the back of the room and leaned against the wall staring up at the ceiling.

“Hey, Dave, I’m sorry,” she said walking towards him.

“It’s not your fault, honey. Come here.” He held his arms out and brought her to his chest propping his chin on her head. “I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

“That’s okay. There’s not a whole lot I don’t know about you. You’ve been through a lot. I understand.” She pulled back and looked up into his eyes. “Everybody needs to pop off once in a while.”

The three of them never noticed the young man in the dark suit who opened the door and silently ushered Hutch in.

“And that, Lana, is why you’re my old lady.”

“I love straddling your seat, baby.” Lana laughed as she accepted a quick kiss. “That hug was so good I’m goin’ in for another.”

As Starsky and Lana hugged it out Hutch opened and closed his mouth, clearly not sure what to say at the appearance of his partner and the other two.

“Ooh, baby,” she sing songed while in the hug, “know what I feel here, on your gorgeous ass? I think you’re packing heat.”

“I’m always packing heat for my best bitch,” he said reaching back and pulling out his gun.

“Mmm hmmm. They don’t allow unsecured weapons inside the building,” she said, unloading the gun and popping a round from the chamber. “I think you got a few pounds to give me.”

With that, Starsky took another gun from a shoulder holster, and a knife from a leather holder up each pant leg handing both to Lana. “See, sweetheart, now I feel naked,” he spouted as he leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek.

“Not quite, sweet cheeks.” She put a hand out, palm up. “All of it.”

“All of it? Geez.” Next out was an ice pick cradled inside a boot, and then finally a set of brass knuckles in a pocket. “I want the knuckles back. They were a gift.”

“From who?”

“Dog-Breath Yoder, the ex-Amish dude.”

“You mean the Amish killer. Hand ‘em over, babe. Now they’re evidence. Sorry. Stop pouting or I’ll take away your midnight kitchen privileges and I know how much you love to eat in bed.”

“Ah, Dave, Lana,” Lizard announced pointing at the new attendee at the end of the table, “company.”

The thick cloud of silence between Starsky and Hutch slowly settled between them but did nothing to ease the awkwardness of the room.

“You must be Ken,” Lizard started as he reached out to shake Hutch’s hand. “I’m Norm Lizowski. This is Lanore Beach. We’re both agents assigned to your partner.”

“Norm?”

“Norm. Or Lizard. It’s my current UC handle. It kind of stuck.”

“Well, it fits, I guess,” Hutch said dropping the hand and turning his attention to the briefcase he put on the table in front of him slowly opening it. He looked through papers and documents. Looked everywhere but at Starsky. And certainly not the girl. “Looks like you got Starsky in uniform,” he said to Lizard while still barely acknowledging his partner.

“Oh, that. Yeah, well he’s been earning his keep, I guess you could say. Did Greg take good care of you?”

“His care was exceptional.”

“Yep, saw that exceptional care, buddy,” Starsky thought.

The ice was slick and sharp. “Lana and I are gonna go find Agent Woodford and catch up on old times before getting your new safe houses stocked. You two have a lot to talk about, I’m sure.”

Before leaving, Lana leaned into Starsky and patted his firm belly. “We won’t be far. You need anything, find that over achieving kid in the dark suit. He’ll get us.”

When they were alone in the large room, Starsky let out a breath and made the first move. “Hey.”

“Hey yourself.”

Starsky nodded and walked over to Hutch with his arms folded in front of him. “You look like an important guy with your suit and all. Don’t think I ever saw you wear a black suit before. Somebody must have picked it out for you. And a fancy briefcase.” He whistled and reached down lifting Hutch’s wrist. “A watch! That’s a step up from the old pocket watch. You sure you know how to use one of those?”

Hutch’s head was still down, pretending to look inside his briefcase, but he couldn’t hide the chuckle. “Comes with an instruction manual, in five languages. It was a… it was a gift.”

Starsky nodded, acknowledging either the improvement in time keeping or the fact that tall-dark-and-handsome was clearly someone to him. “You look good, Hutch.”

“You look… dangerous.”

“Yeah, well, when in Rome…”

“Been a long time, Starsk.

“They kept us apart for three months.”

“Did they?” Hutch asked with a hint of annoyance. “Seems to me I remember an offer to come back two months ago. But you…”

“Okay gentlemen,” a voice boomed as one suit after another filed into the room, “time to get down to business. We have a lot to talk about.”

Yes, they did have a lot to talk about.

Starsky walked to the other end of the table and pulled a chair out.

“Nope,” Dobey scolded. “You two sit next to each other, since we’re all here for you. Let’s do introductions.”

“Thank you, Hal.” This was the only unfamiliar face in the room. “Please start recording. Okay? Let’s start. My name is Scott Collier. I am the FBI Deputy Director for this side of the country. To my left is Special Agent Patrick Durniak. He represents the agents assigned to the investigations surrounding the drug cases that you two fell into. Then from your neck of the woods we have Bay City Police Chief Pete Ryan, Captain Harold Dobey and Detective Sergeant Charles Simonetti from Internal Affairs. For the record,” he said pointing to Hutch, “the gentleman in the fine suit is Detective Sergeant Kenneth Hutchinson and his partner Detective Sergeant David Starsky from Bay City PD. Taking up the rest of the seats are a smattering of recording secretaries and assistants from the FBI, DEA and your own PD. This shouldn’t take long…”

“Shouldn’t take long?” Starsky said interrupting Collier. “That mean the charges against me have been reinstated?”

Dobey put a hand on Starsky’s arm gentling him. “Not now, Dave.”

“Let’s start at the end,” Collier said, pointing his pen at Durniak.

“Thank you, Scott. Well, as most of you know, we were in the middle of a large scale international investigation into drug trafficking. Case file 81-62997SG7/50. Also known as Operation Street Gold. Two years of being undercover in Mexico, Nevada and Arizona finally brought us here. All the pieces of the puzzle fell as they should have and fit perfectly like any other case we’d covered. Until one supplier showed up out of nowhere. He was elusive, sporadic, unpredictable, and had untraceable dope, most of it uncut and pure. Eventually he started slipping up and I found one of his bags with a partial BCPD evidence sticker on it. That’s when you two entered the picture. He was just another player until I believe you got too close. Then he became dangerous and deadly. In the end we arrested Captain Elmore Schrader at the textile building. We’ve built a big enough case against him between, trafficking, grand larceny of police evidence, attempted murder of a police officer times three, murder of a police officer and on and on… to put him away for life. Keeping you two out of the area for the last three months gave us the ability to round everyone else up and get them to sing sealing the evidence against him.”

“So we can go home?” Hutch asked.

“Not yet.” Collier continued. “The next two weeks we have pretrial and discovery hearings. Your testimony may be key in these hearings. But we’re also hoping that the defendants, seeing you both suddenly alive, well and present, will turn more players over to get reduced sentences in return for plea deals. However, besides Schrader, Mitchell, Cooper and Schrader’s mistress in the DA’s office, we’re not sure if anyone else in the department is complicit. There could be a ghost lurking that might want to take you out if he or she feels that you have information on them. I think it’s unlikely, but we can’t take that risk. So after this meeting, it’s back to local safe houses and protection, boys. At least for a couple weeks,”

“Cap,” Starsky asked, “what happened to the kid? Cooper?”

“His injuries were severe and because of it, his recovery in the hospital was touch and go. He will never be physically fit to be a cop again. But that’s a moot point. Cooper was given immunity from prosecution to turn state’s evidence. On the up side, his wife had a baby girl while he was in the hospital and they’ve moved up to San Francisco to live with family. Unfortunately, he’ll be disabled in some capacity for the rest of his life.”

Both detectives breathed a sigh of relief finding out that Cooper was at least alive.

“Now, we get to the case against you Detective Starsky,” Collier said. “For that, I hand things over to your Chief Ryan.”

“Thank you, Deputy Director Collier. Starsky, Hutchinson – it’s no secret that I have never been a fan of your methods of law enforcement. You’re always balancing on that bubble of impropriety and unprofessionalism. However, I am a fan of your results. But when you two were nearly killed and the rumors flew around about your relationship and possibly being dirty, I put my best man on the case.”

“Schrader.” Hutch assumed out loud.

“Schrader. Yep. He promised me, personally, that he’d have his best men on it. Now we know that everyone but Simonetti was in on it. Chuck was used as cover. The case against you, Starsky, was devastating, but with more holes than Swiss cheese, I imagine on purpose to keep it in permanent limbo and keep you off the force. But when Chuck came back from knee surgery and asked to take the file out of cold storage, what he found after plugging those holes was only to your benefit. Chuck?”

“Yes, thank you, Chief,” Simonetti said opening the file on top of a stack of records. “Most of what Schrader documented in the case was manufactured. None of it married up with timelines or even rationale. It certainly clears you of the stolen drugs.”

Over an hour’s time, Simonetti outlined the case from the initial attack to the night at the warehouse. Photos were displayed, spreadsheets explained, evidence reviewed and witness statements considered. It was all standard and all pointed away from Starsky. But in his head, he remembered the file containing graphic pictures of Hutch’s body supporting evidence of a rape that didn’t happen and the notes from the interviews where he admitted their sexual relationship.

“Where was Hutchinson’s semen,” Simonetti hammered at him back then. “If it was mutual, where was his ejaculate?

“I swallowed it. Haven’t you ever had sex, Chuck??”

That exchange was the final blow at that moment. But there was no mention of it. Starsky took the file and leafed through it not finding…. A lot of what had been in there before.

“Chuck, what about the kilos of Cocaine, PCP and weed stolen the night Roger was murdered? Schrader tried to pin that on us too.” Starsky knew he had taken the drugs from Roger’s car and stashed them with Durniak for safe keeping.

“Interesting you should ask,” Simonetti answered. “The PCP and coke was found in Schrader’s car the night of the fire with the labels from evidence lock-up intact. That was huge evidence against him.”

Starsky immediately shot a look at Durniak knowing that his childhood friend must have planted the drugs in Schrader’s car that night. Well, two of the three packages. “And the weed?” he asked not moving his eyes from Durniak who simply shrugged and cracked a slight grin.

“Wasn’t there,” Simonetti said looking through another file. “Probably moved it out through his dealers.

“Uh-huh. And what about the…” Starsky swallowed hard. “…about the assault of my partner?”

“While Captain Dobey was trying to get you help while you were high on the drugs that we know now were forced on you, Schrader and Mitchell were committing the assault on Hutchinson. You couldn’t possibly be in two places at once.”

“I was singing that song all along,” Starsky mumbled.

“Mitchell…?” Hutch asked. “I shot him, and…”

“Simonetti validated the clean shot,” Ryan replied. “It was justified.”

The room took on a quiet calm as though everything had been wrapped up with a bow.

“Questions?” Collier asked. “Nobody leaves until everything is answered.”

Starsky shifted in his seat while starting to talk, then stopping before he finally asked with his eyes closed, “What about the rape charges, sexual assault and… and…”

“And the rumors of homosexuality?” Simonetti asked matter-of-factly while a few in the room jolted in awkwardness. “I didn’t see any evidence in the file. Schrader invented the rumor to add a layer of insurance to his charges against you. I think he figured if the charges didn’t stick then the rumors against both of you would drum you off the force on morals charges.”

“But the pictures in evidence…. The physical evidence…” The admission he made in front of Schrader, Simonetti, Dobey and the department shrink of the love affair, he wanted to say.

“What pictures?” Simonetti asked feigning puzzlement. “The only photos in evidence document the injuries incurred from the assault by Schrader and Mitchell. Nothing in this file even suggests a relationship other than a professional police partnership.”

Simonetti could be a weasel, but he always looked them in the eyes when he was doing it. Now, as he as good as admitted he falsified the case file to omit any evidence of alleged sexual assault or admission from them of a sexual relationship, he stared down at the file pretending to read something. He’d be a terrible poker player, Starsky thought.

“Starsky, Hutchinson, I’ve closed the case myself,” the Chief explained. “Department heads have been briefed on the entire case including the manufactured rape charges and rumors. As far as I know your colleagues are relieved about the lifting of charges and happy to get you back soon. I have put in for a commendation for both of you and back pay starting from the first day of the assault. Raises and promotions are not out of the question, but I leave that to your Captain.”

“Well deserved. And let me add,” Dobey said with a smile, “I can’t wait to get you back in the squad room. We need you.”

“Yeah, well, Cap…” Starsky tried to say as the Chief and Collier stood up.

“We’re done here. You can stop the recording.” Collier announced. “You two get your things. I believe you’ll be taken to your next temporary homes by Woodford and those two biker yo-yo’s – best yo-yo’s I’ve got, by the way. Good afternoon everybody. Thanks for taking the time. Make sure transcripts are shared between agencies ASAP. And I remind everyone, absolutely no talking to the media. We have people for that.” The line of suits filed past them leaving them alone with Dobey and Simonetti.

As the IA detective got up to leave, Starsky stopped him and leaned in with a question. “What was that all about? You know. You know.”

Simonetti shrugged. “Someone once told me that life isn’t worth living if you don’t take risks. It was time to take a risk, I guess.”

“Hutch,” Starsky jokingly lamented, “what has happened to our once sour, bitter and rough around the edges favorite IA dick?”

“Don’t get used to it, Starsky,” Simonetti said while picking up his box of files, “I’ll be watching you two. Can’t hide queer forever.”

“And…. There it is,” Hutch grunted as the IA officer left the room. “He never disappoints. Thank you, Chuck, anyway.”

“I need to know what your plans are,” Dobey said while inserting himself between the two. “In a couple weeks or so this will all be behind you until the trials. Don’t expect those for a year or two. Starsky?”

“Well, Cap,” Starsky started as he shifted from one foot to the other, “I don’t really know. Getting to be a cop again was never even on my radar until just now. The Bureau has offered me a job entering as a senior agent. I’d go right back to the case I’ve been working on in Texas.”

“That’s a life that appeals to you?”

“It’s a life. The pay and benefits are better than I could ever hope for as a cop. I have friends in the agency now.”

“But you would be leaving your life here.”

“What life?”

The only sign of Hutch having heard that was a wrinkling of his brow deepening the worry line between his eyes. He shifted his attention to his briefcase as he hurried to get his things together. Clearly, he wanted out.

Dobey sensed the uneasiness. “Hutch?”

“I need to get hold of a moving company. My lease is up at the end of next month. No reason to have a place here anymore.”

“Son, what you have back in Minnesota is permanent?”

Hutch nodded slowly at first, then with more confidence as he looked at Starsky. “A successful business, family, friends.”

“Are you happy, Hutch?” Starsky asked pointedly.

“I learned how to be happy again.”

And there it was. When one learns, there’s a teacher.

Young Dark Suit interrupted yet again. “Excuse me, Mr. Hutchinson. Agent Woodford is waiting for you.”

“Thank you for everything, Captain,” Hutch said reaching out to shake Dobey’s hand. “Thank you for believing in us again.”

“I never stopped believing in you two,” Dobey said, only half heard as Hutch quickly left the room and, eventually, the building.

 

 

(A/N: Homework – “Bad Guy”, Tony Lucca; Album - Shotgun)

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-Two

 

Some days are harder than others. Some months are so draining that the human body goes on robotic automatic pilot, and everyone knows robots have no emotion and no spirit. As yet another door opened in the game of musical safe houses, Hutch felt the warm breath he exhaled in frustrated exhaustion scrape his throat before it hit the open air.

The tall blonde removed the tie pin and pulled the silk tie loose from his neck before the door closed behind him. He was sick and tired of changing locations to bed down. This would be the fifth since the night of the fire at the textile building fourteen weeks previous.

“What’s this one called?” he asked without even looking around. However the space appeared, whatever accoutrements were or were not there, mattered not one bit. Like all the others, there were no plants, no fish tank, no pets, no incoming mail or newspaper deliveries. Visitors might not notice, but the lack of framed pictures, certificates, diplomas and photo albums were glaringly obvious to him. No signs of life. In the end, they were all as dead as he felt.

“Excuse me?” The monotone bore of a voice trailed him as Hutch moved through the apartment.

He didn’t feel this numb when he flew out of Minnesota that morning. That all changed after the meeting at the federal building. Anticipation of hope fulfilled was all but gone.

“Every place I’ve been put in has had a godawful code name. Pine Ridge Estates, Camden Yard, Big Caboose, and my favorite so far… Patty’s Pink Pony.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but this is just called the safe house.” Young Man in the Dark Suit always stood a domestic three paces behind Hutch polluting his shadow.

Hutch walked through the kitchen, open to the very large living room, and checked out the refrigerator. The shelves were stocked with fresh vegetables, a few steaks, cheap beer, juices and milk. He picked up an out of place jar between the beets and carrots. Horseradish pickles. The sight of them made him gag. Starsky would love this shit, he thought before closing his eyes and wishing the thought away. Not the pickles…. Starsky.

Dark Suit continued to stalk him through the apartment and back into the living room paying no mind to what Hutch was doing. “Sometimes it’s The Safe House in Laguna. Just Laguna. Or, The Beach House. I guess you could call it…”

Alright.” Hutch put out his left hand in a stop sign while rubbing the tension from his forehead with his right. He’d been stuck with the virgin FBI agent since leaving the feds. Two depositions, one evidentiary review and several confined car rides later and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was starting to sound like an exciting step up in the world of personal communication. And how are you today, boys and girls? “I get it. What did you say your name was?”

“Giancarlo D’adamio.”

“Okay, look John…”

Giancarlo, sir.”

“One, two, three, four, five…”

“Sir?”

“…six, seven, eight, nine, ten.” Hutch cleared his throat and walked over to a generously stocked bar. “Don’t talk for a minute. Just give me a moment.” He considered counting to ten again as he dropped ice cubes in the glass one at a time. One, two, three…. Then poured scotch from the decanter… four, five, six. “This is the longest Monday I can remember, Giancarlo. I flew in to Burbank Airport and sat in traffic for an hour. Was debriefed by your superior. Had a long meeting. Way too many sit-downs and interrogations. You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t deal with you or anyone else being assigned as my country club hostess.”

“Host.”

“What?”

“Host. I’m a man, so…”

Hutch snorted and opened his throat taking the entire contents of the glass in one gulp. “Shoot me now.” The second pour was more generous.

“Yes, sir. I have a…”

“Do you have to babysit me all night too?”

“No, sir. The building has covert agents either inside or in the vicinity. Dial 9 on the phone to get one. You can’t leave without official escort, but you do have complete privacy in the apartment.”

“No cameras inside,” he asked looking up at each corner, “… recording or listening devices?’

“No. None at all.”

“Good. Then please understand when I tell you that it’s time for you to go home now.”

“I’m sorry, but I have some notes from Agent Woodford I’m supposed to go over with you first.”

“Of course you do.” Hutch sat down in the plush chair facing the wall of windows and waved the young man on as he took his first sip.

“Number one, he says there’s food to your liking already stocked in the kitchen. If you need anything else, dial 9. Number two, Woodford left a box of the documents you needed to work from here in the private study. A bag of your clothes and several garment bags are in the closet of the south bedroom.”

South bedroom,” Hutch chuckled under his breath.

“Number three, don’t forget to call your mother before ten o’clock central time – that’s 8 o’clock here…”

Hutch rolled his eyes and spun a finger in the air hoping the kid would speed up.

“You have a conference call tomorrow morning at seven o’clock our time with the fiduciary team. He says you will need the Bank of America file as well as the financial ratio spreadsheet prepared by the international corporate legal team. He will bring the overnight stock reports from London. You’re not due at the courthouse until after lunch. Your partner goes in first at 10am. And finally… um… he says to, um….”

Hutch looked over his shoulder and noticed the sweat beading up on the kid’s lip. “Spit it out, kid.”

“Yes, um… he says to make sure you use the hydrocortisone cream on that… ah… rash,” he said as his voice quieted in awkwardness. “Not… not just, um, aloe.” When Hutch didn’t acknowledge the last task, the kid stepped forward and leaned over the table next to the chair. “I… I’ll just leave this here,” he said tapping the long note written on yellow legal paper.

Hutch nodded as he stood up and walked back over to the bar. For a moment he wondered if he could just abscond to his bedroom with the entire decanter and drink straight from the bottle. Instead, he polished off another shot in silence and put the glass back down on the mirrored surface before turning and walking away to the left.

“Sir…?”

“I’m going to the south bedroom, kid. See yourself out.”

xXx

“Dave… Dave, wake up.” At some point between the large interagency meeting and sundown, Pat Durniak had cleaned up. Gone was the inner city looking thug with long scraggily hair and chronically barely shaved face. In its place was a well-manicured federal agent in a standard FBI suit and tie, clean shaven with stylish short haircut. “Come on, asshole. We’re almost there.”

Laying down across the back seat, Starsky stared up at the roof of the car taking a few seconds to re-orient himself. He’d been riding a tricked out chopper for the last three months. Riding in a car felt foreign to him. And quiet. “Okay, I hear you. Don’t yell, Ma.”

“Almost there. Norm and Lana went to your place today and picked up some of your clothes. I got you a suit, too.”

“How is my place?”

“I hear it’s quite cozy. Small by LA standards. Would be enormous in Manhattan.”

“Never thought I’d miss that place.”

“We’ve staged it to look like someone else is living there. Station wagon out front. A couple toys on the porch. Different name on the mailbox. We even mail stuff there in another name.” The car came to a brief stop, then went down a dark ramp. “You can get up. We’re here.”

Durniak parked the car in front of a bank of elevators. Once inside, he used a key to get the elevator up to the floor marked PH. “We use this building for witnesses just before trials. It’s staffed by covert agents inside and out.”

When the elevator door opened to the hallway it looked like any other hotel or apartment building. But when Pat Durniak unlocked one of the large double doors and they walked inside, Starsky thought he was in a palace.

Holy shit, Pat. Is this what my taxes pay for?”

“Dead men don’t pay taxes.”

To his right was a kitchen with finishes he had never seen in person. The large open living area in front of him had two different seating areas with enough furniture to fill his apartment five times over. Starsky ran his fingertips over the smooth soft leather surface of the large sofa in the middle of the room on his way to the wall of floor to ceiling windows that comprised the entire back side of the penthouse.

Jesus…. I’ve babysat plenty perps in safe houses and not only did they rarely have windows, but we couldn’t let anyone get near them.”

“Yeah, well, we’re sixteen floors up facing the ocean. Impossible to get a clean shot at anyone even from a boat.”

Bookcases held rare book collections, vases, crystal knick knacks and trinkets that had to have had some value. He looked inside a vase or two, then under the tables.

“What are you looking for, Dave?”

“Oh, I think you know, Paddy boy,” he answered pretending to be serious.

“Buy me a clue.”

“You know, a square package, like so,” he said forming a shape with his hands. “Taped up. Brownish-green contents, some might call weedy…”

“Hmmm, yeah. That. I figured the PCP and coke needed to get back to its rightful owner and Schrader’s car was right there. I guess I forgot about the weed,” he said with a sly smile.

“Uh huh. Where’s my clothes? I’ve been in this outfit since yesterday morning when we left Texas. Even camped out in ‘em overnight.”

“Bedroom’s to the right. Everything is in there.”

“Who picked this place out? I gotta be honest with you. I’ve been living in a small room behind a chop shop for over three months. I don’t exactly belong here.”

Durniak shook his head. “Don’t know. Usually the primary agents are in charge of getting witnesses settled. That would be Norm and Lana. I’m just your driver tonight. If you’d rather, I can see if we can get a room at the St. Francis hotel downtown. The hourly rate is probably pretty good this time of year.”

“Oh, I think I can handle this.” Spying the high end liquor, he picked up a crystal glass and held it up to the light, giving it a whistle. “Wow. Beats paper cups. All I want is a beer.” He continued touring the penthouse touching things as though they’d all break. “Damn, it’s quiet. Holy fuck. Haven’t heard peace and quiet in a long time. Or been alone.”

“Being alone ain’t so bad, buddy. Look, I gotta go.”

Starsky moved into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator hoping to find something to snack on. “Horseradish pickles. Hey, Lana does care,” he laughed taking the jar out.

“Davey, you need anything dial 9. You’ll always get an agent. To other residents, he or she is just the personal concierge assigned to the penthouse. It won’t stir up any suspicion.” Watching Starsky fill his arms with bags of chips and bottles of root beer… and horseradish pickles… on his way to the bedroom, Durniak opened the door and stepped out. “Nighty-night, Davey boy.”

 

xXx

 

Paper work and detailed phone calls into the night had become Hutch’s reality. Calls to the west coast and Hawaii into the evening, then he was up at 4am to begin calls to his European counter parts. Back in Minnesota he had assistants and secretaries to keep him organized, but unfortunately they weren’t part of the federal protection program. Abandoning the cold reminder of his childhood only seeing his father behind a desk, he took all of his work from the study and moved his business into the bedroom. The king sized bed became a deconstructed file cabinet of files, papers, spreadsheets, charts and graphs. The pillows were dotted with piles of paper clips with the one calculator and ever disappearing pencil currently sitting in the middle. By midnight his eyes were crossed and work backfired as exhaustion derailed his short term memory.

“No wonder my father was a cold fish,” he mumbled to himself. With the cuffs of his shirt rolled to the elbows and the top four buttons undone, Hutch shucked his socks one at a time on his way to the living room.

“Bartender,” he said to absolutely no one while refilling the glass he had left behind with scotch, “uno mas, por favor.”

Before he could take a drink, a noise in the kitchen jolted his head up. Instinct drew his right hand to the non-existent shoulder holster on his left side finding only a sweat stain. He grabbed the next best weapon… a half empty bottle of gin sitting in the back of the bar.

His back against the wall, Hutch skirted sideways to the kitchen entryway, bottle of Beefeater 24 at the ready just above shoulder height. When the perpetrator’s shadow shifted, Hutch took a chance and peaked around the corner. Apparently in this neighborhood burglars targeted refrigerators.

He’d recognize that tight ass anywhere.

“Shit tasting pickles are next to the carrots, Gordo.”

The top shelf poked Starsky just above the ear as he jumped a foot. “What the…?” Hand to sore head, Starsky turned around while dropping a plate of cold cuts. “Hutch?”

“In the flesh. Didn’t realize they were putting us together.”

“Me neither. Since when do you drink the hard stuff? Doesn’t gin made you sick?”

Hutch looked up at his arm holding the bottle high, then put it on the kitchen counter. “It does,” he said holding his crystal glass up in a mock toast before taking a sip. “But scotch doesn’t”

“You really are an adult now, huh? You just get in?”

“Few hours ago. Been getting some work done. Pretty big place.”

“Pretty expensive place.” Starsky picked the cold cuts up and resumed his late night snack escapade. “Got here an hour ago.”

“You look…” Hutch paused as he tried to find the right word to describe his now very biker gang looking partner. “…tired.”

“Yeah. Two-day ride from mid Texas. Then all these meetings and depositions and stuff.”

“And you still look dangerous.” Hutch couldn’t help but notice the prominent arms and shoulders. “Where did you find the muscles?”

“The compound we live in is like a prison yard. Lots of weight equipment. Have to fit in,” he shrugged.

“Don’t look much like the Starsky I knew. Has your mother seen this?”

Hell no.”

“Ladies must be lining up.”

Starsky ignored the verbal wedge. The deep breath he took resulted in a huge yawn.

“Did you get a nap?”

Starsky nodded. “Somewhere between ‘where were you the night of June 8th?’ and ‘Detective Starsky, please tells us the exact nature of your relationship with Detective Kenneth Hutchinson.

“And your answer?”

“I’ve had no contact with him for the last 14 weeks,” he said with little to no emotion as if reading rehearsed facts. “Prior to that we were partners in the homicide division of the BCPD.”

“That was bland.”

“That was the point.”

Hutch nodded in mutual agreement, then looked around awkwardly as silence settled between them. “Where’s your old lady?”

“Lana?” Starsky raised his eyebrows. “I, ah… Hutch…”

“I guess we should keep our voices down.” Hutch swallowed down the scotch in one gulp and put the glass in the sink before turning and walking out of the kitchen. “Gotta get some sleep anyway. 4am comes pretty quick. See ya around.”

“Hutch…? She’s not here.”

As Hutch’s door snicked shut, Starsky stared at it as he wallowed in the deafening quiet of the penthouse.

 

xXx

 

She’s not here.”

That registered with Hutch as he lay in bed staring at the ceiling. He’d barely heard it has he turned and took flight. I’m fight, you’re flight, Starsky had said. He was right. Hutch was flight.

He got up and grabbed the white bathrobe provided for him on the hook in the bathroom and walked out of his room, across the length of the penthouse straight to Starsky’s bedroom. Since they had reunited at the Federal Building the only words they’d exchanged had been generic small talk. He wanted to change that.

He got as far as the kitchen when the sound of his partner’s voice slowed him down. He considered turning around and abandoning the effort, but took a few more steps getting him to the open doorway before making up his mind.

“I know. I miss you too.”

Starsky was sitting on his bed talking on the phone, his back to the doorway.

“Yes. I will get all cleaned up, just for you. I promise.”

His voice was intentionally hushed. Then as if to get even more privacy, he stood with the phone receiver to his ear, the base in his left hand and walked over to the doorway leading into the sitting area.

“We both need our sleep. I guess I have a habit of waking you up.”

Hutch dipped his head, then turned and went back to the safety of his bedroom.

“Love you too…”

 

xXx

It’s funny how sometimes our own reflection doesn’t always reveal the true inner self. That’s what Starsky thought as he wiped the steam from the bathroom mirror with a wash cloth. It had been months since his face felt a razor and after clipping the length of whiskers as close to the skin as he could, he slathered on the shave cream and got to work. First off were the mutton chops. His cheeks felt a pound lighter. He laughed at the horseshoe mustache that went from one side of his mouth at the chin, up and over to the other side. A final once over to catch the strays and he splashed a few rounds of cold water over his smooth face. He tilted his head with curiosity as he stared at himself wondering who he had become. Had he changed, or had Hutch?

He was first up at the evidentiary hearing. Hutch would face the suits after lunch. In 24 hours his life had flipped. He went from angry looking, dangerous biker felon to clean cut, smartly dressed police detective. Out of habit he reached down into his dress slacks and started to ‘adjust’ his gonads as if preparing to straddle his chopper. He’d be getting picked up in an overly comfortable state vehicle. No need to rearrange the furniture down there. He chuckled as he buckled his belt and grabbed his suit coat on the way to the kitchen.

The smell of fresh brewed coffee drew him into the dining room where a tray of bagels, fruit and a coffee press met him.

“What the fuck is this?” he asked under his breath still hanging on to the rough language he’d grown accustom to over the last few months. He played with the fancy parts before finally pouring himself a cup and adding way too much sugar. “Wow. Not bad.”

Hearing voices from Hutch’s room, he grabbed a bagel and wandered in that direction.

“…was the best thing I ever did…”

Hutch sounded happy.

“It means so much to me that you were there. That you are here now.”

“Sometimes fate shows its hand at the most unusual and inopportune times.”

A second voice. He wasn’t alone. Starsky leaned against the doorway leading to the rooms on that side of the penthouse. Hutch’s bedroom door was open ajar.

“Greg, I need to know if you’ll be there for me.”

“Then you’ve made up your mind, Ken?”

“I have. I could do this alone and be happy. So could you. But together, we can do great things.”

The sound of a hand on a doorknob drove Starsky several steps back into the living room where he parked himself next to the wall of windows ostensibly looking out at the ocean, but in reality he was numb.

“Starsky, you’re up.” Hutch was tucking his dress shirt into his pants.

“I’m up.”

Hutch flipped his collar up and draped the light blue silk tie around it expertly tying it albeit with a bit of a crooked result. Out of old habit Starsky stepped forward to straighten the knot but not before Agent Woodford came out of the same bedroom behind the blonde and reached up to do it himself before flipping the collar down as well.

“Oh, thanks Greg. Um, Starsky, I guess I should introduce you to Greg Woodford.”

Hands were extended and politely shaken. “Nice to meet you, Greg. Looks like you’ve taken good care of my partner.”

“Kind of took care of each other.”

“I can see that.”

Hutch slipped into his suitcoat as he checked the time on his watch. “Greg, any word on wheels up?”

“Thursday night. Your company jet will be waiting for us. Flight plan has you leaving at 11pm. Refuel in New York, then wheels down about 5pm local time.”

“Flight plan?” Starsky asked incredulously. “You can’t leave.”

“I’ve got pressing business in London,” Hutch said as he put his cufflinks on. Starsky was lucky if he remembered to button the cuffs on his Montgomery Ward sale shirt. “The feds have moved up the portion of the hearings involving me so I can get going. Looks like you’ll have the place to yourself after Thursday night.”

“Because of it, these next three days are going to be back to back meetings and hearings, Ken,” Greg reminded him while handing Hutch his briefcase. “Don’t expect many breaks.”

Starsky’s mouth barely closed. “Don’t you have… have… people that could go for you?”

“I suppose, but what’s the point of staying here?”

As Starsky moved away feeling that sting, Hutch hung back, standing in the doorway leaning against the doorframe. “Sleep well, Starsk?”

“Not bad. You?”

Hutch shrugged his shoulders. Starsky nodded in return. As Greg went to meet the elevator dinging an arrival, Hutch pushed himself away from the doorframe and walked past Starsky.

“Looks like you found Superman’s phone booth,” he glibly gave waving his finger up and down in front of Starsky. “Good to see you won’t be scaring little kids anymore.”

“Just trying to keep up with you, Mr. GQ.”

“Well, I think we’ve mastered small talk here.”

Whoa,” a woman’s voice announced. “You got all cleaned up. Look at you, baby!”

“Hey, you two look pretty spit polished yourselves, ya know.” Starsky walked over to Norm and Lana and gave them both quick hugs. Norm still had his beard but they had shed all of their biker gear in favor of the drab dark agency suits.

Lana stroked Starsky’s cheek before planting a kiss on it. “Mmm… you smell good too.”

“Au de Harley Davidson,” he joked. “How did you explain my absence to the guys?”

“Told them you got picked up on warrants. If you join the agency and come back to Texas, we tell them you served a couple weeks and paid a fine. Made you shave your face for mug shots. If you don’t, then the excuse is you got sent to the pen for a long spell. Either way, badge of honor.”

“Happy to serve,” Starsky sarcastically gave. “Looks like we’ll be going with the first story.” If there was nothing here in California for him… “Better get going.”

“Change in plans,” Norm said. “Gotta keep our own cover for the Texas case. Cant’ have the three of us seen together all normal looking. So, Greg here gets to escort you to official business, and one or both us get to hang with your partner. Greg?”

“Sounds like a plan. Dave, let’s get a move on.”

As Starsky moved past Lana in the doorway, she reached out and took his hand. “You’ll do fine, babe.”

Hutch pretended not to notice as he poured a coffee and turned his back on the guests. He pretended not to notice.

 

xXx

In the three days since they had crossed paths at the penthouse, Starsky and Hutch didn’t see each other. With Hutch’s hearing and interview schedule doubled in order for him to get to London, he got back to the ‘Beach House’ after Starsky went to bed, and left before sunrise. They were strangers in the night.

Until the Thursday pretrial hearing for Schrader.

Sitting in the DA’s holding room next to the courtroom, Starsky leaned his elbows onto his restless knees to maintain some sort of stillness. He’d spent the last three days sitting and waiting. Answering redundant questions. Sitting and waiting. Driving in strange cars. Sitting and waiting.

This, he didn’t do well.

“We can leave as soon as I get the call,” Woodford said giving Starsky’s shoulder a gentle pat. “Just us, a lead car and tail. When they’re ready we’ll walk the underground tunnel to the parking garage and get out of here. I can tell you really love sitting around marinating.” Starsky registered the entire conversation with just a slight nod. “Ken didn’t tell me you were a man of so few words.”

Ken. When did that happen? “I’m sorry, Greg. I guess we just don’t have much to talk about. It’s not like we have anything in common.”

“We have Ken in common.”

Starsky stood and paced the small, dark paneled room. “No windows. Why don’t these god damned offices ever have windows? And it smells like a parochial school… all musty...”

“Dave, why are you joining the Bureau?”

“Always wanted to be a J. Edgar.” He lied. Starsky didn’t know why, but he just needed something to say.

“I’m calling bullshit on that one. Seems more like you’re running away from something. Or someone.”

“And Hutch is running to something or someone, right?”

Greg sat on the corner of the desk and folded his arms in front of him. “I think you should sit down, Dave.”

“Why?”

“Because I get the distinct impression that you are making huge assumptions about your partner.”

Starsky certainly didn’t need a lesson. “Listen, Woodford...”

“Dave, what do you think is going on with Hutch?”

The fact that he referred to his partner as Hutch, got Starsky to actually listen. “What you two have going on is your own business. I won’t interfere.”

“What we have going on…? And what would that be?”

Starsky snorted and plopped down in the chair looking at the floor. “It’s obvious, Greg. The way you touch each other. Talk. Know what each other is thinking…”

“You’re not describing me and Ken,” Greg said almost remorsefully. “You’re describing what you and Hutch have with each other. Look, It’s not like… I mean…. I love Ken, I’ve never hidden that. But I’m not the one he loves. I wanted what I couldn’t have and, believe me, he didn’t let me have it, no matter what you think.”

Starsky picked his head up from the consistent glare at the floor and looked Greg in the dark eyes for the first time. “You mean the two of you…?”

“Nope. Not like you and Lana.”

“He thinks that…?”

Three knocks and the bailiff opened the door from the outside. “Sir, next witness is here. Going to have to ask you to wait downstairs in the security office so the assistant DA can brief him.”

As they stepped into the hallway, the ADA walked in with Hutch who merely nodded his head at Starsky.

“Hutch?”

“Yeah.”

“Before your flight tonight, I think we should talk.”

“Won’t be time.”

“When will you be back?”

“I won’t. Going back to Minnesota. I was told that my part here was done until trial. Apparently you have a lot more to go over since I spent so much time in the hospital.”

“But we can talk?”

“If there’s time.” There was nothing believable about the way Hutch spoke. “I’ll try, but no promises.”

“Yeah. Okay.” He could beg, but those games turned Hutch off. Starsky could talk to him on the spot, but too many people were around. “Have a safe flight,” was all that came out. Maybe… maybe it was too late.

Three steps out the door, Starsky felt a draw from behind. Turning around he found Hutch still in the doorway looking back at him.

“Where you off to, Gordo?”

Maybe he did want to talk.

“Another holding room. Then my chariot awaits in the parking garage.”

“Thrilling life.”

“Yeah. Terrific.”

The impatient DA closed the door on the two abruptly ending the exchange.

xXx

He was getting all too familiar with the table in this particular courtroom. Each scratch was cataloged in his head and when proceedings became boring he had an incredible urge to add to them.

“What’s the delay?” he asked the District Attorney. All of the other hearing were handled by one of the higher assistants. Why the head honcho decided to preside over this particular one puzzled Hutch.

“I’m not sure yet, but I think…”

All rise. Court is in session. The Honorable Judge Walton Jeffers presiding.”

The judge in his long black robe made an entrance from a door behind the bench – a journey he’d made hundreds, if not thousands, of times. A few steps up and he was seated behind the large desk. “Be seated. This is a continuation of the pretrial hearing for the State of California vs. Elmore Schrader. Mr. Hutchinson has already been questioned by the state. It’s now the defense’s turn.” The judge looked over his glasses at the defendant’s table and the two attorneys seated in almost identical dark suits. “Mr. Prader, am I to understand that the defendant will be joining us this afternoon?”

Hutch shot a look at the DA and then back at the defendant’s table.

“Yes, your honor. Just waiting for him to clear security with deputies.”

“Well, it’s unusual to have defendants here for these mundane tasks, but given his occupation in law enforcement I guess I can understand. Let’s just make this understood, Attorney Prader.” The gavel was now pointed at the straight backed attorneys. “The witness is also a police officer. My courtroom will not be a circus and you are not the ringleader. That, would be me.”

A door next to the empty jury box opened and Morrie Schrader, escorted by two Sheriff’s Deputies, shuffled in wearing prison orange, shackled at the ankles with wrists chained to his waist. Clearly this was a well-staged event as he paraded in front of Hutch with a smirk on his face.

“Let’s get on with this,” the judge announced. “My wife wants me to go Christmas shopping with her. That’s a crime in itself.”

The bailiff called Hutch to the witness stand. After taking the oath, Hutch sat down, poured himself a glass of water and settled in to answer the same questions he’s gone over several times already.

“Good afternoon, Sergeant Hutchinson.”

“Good afternoon.”

“Please tell the court the exact nature of your relationship with Detective David Starsky.” Prader was hitting fast and hard.

“I’ve not had contact with him prior to this week for more than three months. Before that we were partners in the homicide division of the BCPD.” There, just as Starsky had stated. He looked forward to getting on that jet and getting to another continent.

“The night of Thursday June 8th you were at home?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“And who was with you?”

“Detective Starsky.”

“What was the nature of his visit?”

“We were talking about work. And socializing.” No lies there.

“At some point he left. Is that correct?”

“Yes. We were hungry. He went to his car to get a pie that another officer had made him.”

“Wearing only pants?”

“Excuse me?”

The DA abruptly stood up. “Your honor…”

“Mr. Prader…” The judge wiped his brow with a handkerchief before putting his glasses back on. “…this hearing is evidentiary in nature. Talking about Detective Hutchinson’s private time with a coworker has nothing to do with the evidence in the trial.”

“I beg to differ, your honor.”

“Don’t beg, Prader. It’s unbecoming. Explain.”

“The evidence against my client involves Detective Starsky who was initially accused of the assault with an abundance of evidence. The level of doubt is tremendous.”

Judge Jeffers huffed as he made his decision. “Alright, I will entertain the line of questioning but only so far. Carry on.”

“Detective, when you and Mr. Starsky were found in separate locations, both of you were scantily clad in just pants.”

Scantilly?” Hutch was beginning to let his ire out. “It was 94 degrees after sunset and I don’t have central air in my apartment. We took our shirts off just like I bet you do when you get hot at home.”

The attorney nodded, but knew the idea had been planted. “And when Detective Starsky sexually assaulted you…”

“He did not assault me, sexually or otherwise,” Hutch said pounding a pointed finger down on the desk in front of him. “If you look in the case file I believe you won’t find any evidence to corroborate your accusations.”

“The medical records tell a very different story. Let me refresh your memory since you seem to have lost it.” The man picked up a stack of papers and turned until he found the page that had been flagged. “Let’s see…. Yes, here… abrasions and tearing with bleeding of the anus indicative of forceful penetration. Semen deposits in the rectal canal.”

“Starsky… Detective Starsky did NOT rape me.” Hutch pulled his anger back and decided to go another route. “I do know that Morrie Schrader and Officer Mitchell entered my apartment and physically assaulted me. At some point I lost consciousness. What those two did to my body after that is not something I remember and most assuredly,” he said looking straight at Schrader, “was documented in the medical findings.”

Schrader’s horrified look on his face as their game was turned around on them was priceless.

“Your honor,” the DA announced as he stood, “the witness and his partner are not on trial here.”

“I want all attorneys and the DA to approach the bench,” the judge said with just a smattering of disgust.

As the suits congregated at the bench and argued, Hutch looked behind him and saw Norm and Lana sitting near the door giving him a thumbs up. Swiveling back in his seat he couldn’t help notice Schrader looking at the clock on the wall, then turning to the window just as an enormous explosion vibrated through the now shattered glass panes and shook the building at its foundation. Every single person in the room had instinctively thrown themselves to the floor.

After the dust settled, a deputy, weapon drawn and back to the wall, peeked around the window frame to see where the explosion had originated from. “Parking garage. The parking garage is gone.”

Hutch flew to his feet as he realized that was to be Starsky’s next destination. “Starsky. Starsky!”

Before he could get to the courtroom doors he was tackled by several men. His arms flailing, he found strength he never knew he had and tossed at least two of the bodies off of him before another body laid across his legs, his wrists handcuffed behind his back.

Hutch,” Norm yelled, his large hand holding the blonde’s face to the floor. “Hutch, you can’t leave. For your own safety, man. Don’t do this.”

 

There you were
Standing in the doorway

There you were
Come Closer
Come on Closer
Let me see you tonight

I’m Holding on to the memory I created of you

 

(A/N: Homework – “There You Were”, Honor by August)

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-Three

 

Don’t do this.” Norm had a blunt knee in Hutch’s back and a large hand on the side of his face pasting his head to the floor. A sheriff’s deputy sat on his legs and leaned a forearm into his hips solidly anchoring him down. The severely tight handcuffs shackling him at the wrists bound at the small of his back made his fingers throb for blood flow, yet he still struggled against the restraints to get up, to get out, and make it to...

St… Get to… Star…”

“Just stop, Hutch.” Norm shouted. “Stop!”

Hutch could feel the tight weave of the aged courtroom’s institutional carpet dig into his cheek. The saliva that spilled out of the corner of his mouth as he struggled, pulled out the mildewed stench of carpet cleaner and years of dormant, fetid shoe muck. His head was being held down so tightly that the only things in his line of vision were the metal chair legs bolted to the floor and the feet of people skirting around them to get outside. The door was only feet away. If he could just get to….

“Gotta get you out of here, detective.” With one ear cemented to the floor, Lana’s voice was muffled. It wasn’t until she got down on her hands and knees and looked Hutch in the eyes that he heard what she was saying. She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. Finally, he stilled. “Sorry about the cuffs, Hutch, but we can’t let you run into the chaos. We’re gonna get you up and out of here as fast as possible. Okay?” He just stared at her with wild, panicked eyes sure that he had just seen his lover – ex-lover – vaporized in front of him. “Understand?”

“Starsky…” His voice was almost childlike in a pleading tone.

“Not our problem right now. He has his own team with him. We have to trust that they’re taking care of things. We have to move you to...”

Hutch squeezed his eyes shut a few times trying with all of his retained will to stay somewhat coherent. “Stars…”

“Hutch? Listen. Look. At. Me,” she commanded, her eyes directed at his like laser beams. “You listening to me? One thing at a time.” Gone was the rough biker chick he’d met and in her place was a very professional, by-the-book, veteran FBI agent. “Let us do this our way and I promise, later, we’ll find out what we can about your partner. Okay?”

As Norm let up on his head, he managed a slight nod. “Okay Hutch,” the big guy said as he bent down and calmly talked in the blonde’s ear, “we’re going to stand you up and these two deputies here are gonna perp walk you out of here through the secure doors with all the other prisoners...” The pressure on his legs and hips let up as the larger than life deputy got to his own unsteady feet. “…and blend you in with the masses. Lana here is going with you looking all like a county employee. Up we go.” As Hutch was placed on his feet, strong hands tightly holding him above each elbow, he shook his head to get the cobwebs out. “Here we go kids. When you get outdoors, throw my suit coat over his head,” he said as he pulled his arms free of the coat and handed it to Lana. “We always have something on the back burner in case of disaster. If Operation Exodus goes as designed, I’ve got an agent in a black and white out back waiting for us. I’ll meet you at the destination.”

Hutch turned his head as they moved through the door behind the jury box and spat a grimy hock into the corner of the stairwell. “Lana, please, we’re going out back. I need to get to the parking garage. To Starsky.” Norm had disappeared leaving him with the two deputies and Lana.

“I understand, Detective.” They stopped just inside the final set of doors as the deputies and Lana waited for the assigned car to pull up. “Look, Hutch, I don’t know what happened out there or who is responsible. What I do know is that if Starsky is a target then so are you. Whoever they are, they’re looking for you to leave the building the same way you came in: right through the front doors. We’re going to make them wait and watch. For now, you’re just another defendant in a case going back to prison.”

“What’s Operation Exodus?”

“We’re moving up your late night plans,” she said while dutifully scoping out the scenery in all directions, finally spotting their ride. “Hopefully your jet, piloted by an agency birdman and crew, is cranking its engines as we speak.”

“Starsky…?”

His question was never answered as they opened the exterior door and converged with a mass of orange jump-suited prisoners being cattle called into a county corrections bus. Just before the suit coat was thrown over his head and he was pushed into the back of the cop car, a familiar form cuffed and shackled in the line of prisoners turned around and smiled at him.

“I do love a good fireworks display, Detective,” Schrader said smugly. “Don’t you? Have a safe flight.”

 

xXx

 

“You and Hutch… you two spend a lot of time together back in Minnesota?”

“We did.” Greg tugged on Starsky’s shoulder to get him to stop while the deputies escorting them went beyond another set of unlocked doors and left them to wait in the private tunnel leading to the parking garage. “Just like you did with your primaries, Lana and Norm.”

“Touché.” Starsky pulled the tie loose at his neck and opened his shirt by three buttons to gain some air. “But when the opportunity came up to go back to Bay City, he decided to stay… with you… in Minnesota.”

“Because he heard you chose not to return. Just because you don’t know the answers doesn’t mean you can make up the facts, Dave. Don’t make assumptions.”

 

Starsky stuffed his hands in his pants pocket in defeat. “We almost there yet, Dad?”

“As soon as the deputies come back and let us know that the cars are ready, we’ll…”

At that exact moment, an enormous explosion rocked the foundation they were standing on toppling them to the ground. Once the shaking stopped, Greg and Starsky looked up where the double doors had been and found them misshapen, half blown out, and a billowing of debris laden smoke charging their way from the direction of the parking garage.

Up,” Greg shouted. “Up. Get out now.”

Starsky felt hands grabbing him under his arms and yank him vertical as the lights flickered several times before going out completely. “Shit, Greg.”

“Wait,” he said in total blackness. “Just wait.”

They stood alone for a few tense moments before large flood lights stationed several yards apart illuminated with intense beams.

“Emergency lights,” Greg said as he looked around, “But won’t matter when the smoke gets here. And…” He pointed at the doors. “…here it comes.”

They ran in the direction from where they came, only stopping when grabbed by uniformed police officers at an emergency exit and physically thrown out doors onto pavement without a second to spare as the cement and rebar from the collapsing tunnel created a large roar behind them. Greg grabbed Starsky swinging him around and to the ground just barely missing a corrections bus and a pair of squad cars hurriedly leaving the parking lot.

Both on hands and knees hacking up half a lung, Greg managed to pull his ID from his pocket and flash it at the closest officer. “FBI special agent. I’m protecting a federal witness and need immediate unmarked transportation.”

“Don’t know what to tell you, sir. Just need to get everyone to safety. I don’t have the resources at the moment.”

“Yeah, well, officer, this man here is a fellow cop marked for assassination. I don’t doubt that explosion was meant for him. Find me wheels, and find them now.”

“Can’t help you sir. I have to get these prisoners secured until the next bus gets here so they can get back to Lock Up. Maybe one of the volunteer fire police guys can help you out.”

“Greg, I gotta find Hutch.”

“Can’t right now.”

NOW, Greg.”

“Dave, he was in the courthouse,” he said pointing to his right away from the explosion. “I’m sure he’s fine. They’ll take care of him.”

“Find him for me. I need to talk to him.”

Greg ignored him as they walked through the mobs of shackled prisoners, deputies and courthouse employees. They were all doing the same thing: looking for loved ones and looking to get out of there.

Greg, I need to get to him.”

Sirens from all directions punctured the deafening silence of panic which had fallen over the crowd of victims.

“No. Can’t do it,” he said matter-of-factly as he scanned the crowd looking for any familiar agency face. “Separately, you’re two small targets. Together you’re a huge one.”

“Greg…”

He spun around and gripped Starsky’s shoulders – hard. “NO. Just…” He released the shoulders, backing off. “Just, no.”

They were getting nowhere in the chaos. The only undamaged vehicles were empty cop cars and arriving fire engines. The longer they were exposed outdoors, the bigger Starsky’s target got.

Finally…

“Okay, cowboy,” Starsky said pulling Greg between two buildings, “we’ve tried this your way. Now I get to be team captain. Come on.”

Starsky led them down two separate alleys away from the pandemonium before stopping behind a large dumpster. “Give me your back up piece,” he said leaning over with hands on knees catching his breath.

“What?”

“Don’t give me that, Greg. I’ve been playing undercover agent for the last three months. I happen to know you have more hardware strapped to your Ivy School educated body than an army ranger.” Hand out, palm up, Starsky opened his eyes wide. “Your secondary gun. Hand it over.”

“Dave, we have to get to the federal building. I have to make calls.”

The outstretched hand didn’t move. “Greg, you trust Hutch?”

“Completely.” The answer came without hesitation.

“Then you have to trust me.” Starsky nodded while looking in the darker eyes. “Trust me, Greg. The gun, please.”

“You’ll make a great agent,” Greg reluctantly said while bending over and wrestling the gun from a holster strapped to his lower leg. “I want it back. It was a gift.”

“Bet it came with a bow.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing. Don’t make assumptions.” Starsky put the gun in the back waistband of his pants before grabbing Greg by the arm. “Put your track shoes on, buddy. We’re going for gold.”

“Not yet,” Greg said crossing the street and stepping into a phone booth. By the time Starsky caught up to him he was hanging up the phone. “No answer at the federal building. Tried another secure line there and it was busy. I don’t like this.”

“Feds put their feet up on their desks, so it’s my turn. Let’s go.”

Starsky took off without looking back to see if the agent was bringing up the rear, and frankly, didn’t care. Nearly out running the younger man, maybe on purpose, they zig zagged down alleys only hitting streets to make a connection to another alley before Starsky stopped suddenly at a corner.

“Why are we stopping?”

“Our wheels are here.” Starsky pointed at the city Metro bus pulling up to the curb. “Welcome to Bay City. Ride’s on me,” he said handing a dollar bill to the driver. “We’re getting off at Columbia and East 4th.”

The seats in the rear of the bus gave them the advantage of being able to see everyone who got on and off. Starsky had to sit forward a bit, the hard molded plastic seat pushing the gun hiding above his rump into the small of his back as the bus jolted forward, took corners and made several stops. After the second stop, they had the bus to themselves.

“Ken means a lot to you,” Greg surmised out loud in a hushed voice. “I can tell.”

“How long have you known?”

“Couple months. I made advances, ya know, but he told me he was in a serious relationship.”

“How’d you know it was me?”

Greg laughed as he leaned back to spread his arms over the tops of the seats on both sides. “Process of elimination. He never asked to make a personal phone call back to Bay City. Never mentioned a woman and never looked at any. Didn’t have any pictures of young ladies other than his sister. But whenever your name came up he fidgeted and paced, and looked at the phone.”

The hint of blush crept up Starsky’s neck to his face making him look down at the bus floor to hide the crimson. “That first day back in Bay City at the federal building, I saw him kiss you, and…”

“The two-way mirror,” Greg guessed correctly. “Yeah, that. You know, he never rebuffed my advances. He always let me touch him. Not sexually. But, like, pat his back, touch his arm, a quick hug. The man gets tense, sometimes doubts himself. But when he gets just a little support like that it validates his own self-worth and then… success, look out!”

“What, did you get a degree in psychology?”

“Dual degrees in Criminal Justice and Social Psychology. Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in International Finance and Economic Policy.”

“That’s a lot of word salad.”

Greg chuckled with a nod. “How about you? What did you study?”

“Got my undergraduate degree in Brooklyn Street Survival and a Dual Masters in Jungle Warfare and North Vietnamese Torture. Earned a scholarship. Graduated with honors.”

Greg gave him a half smile and short nod of understanding. He knew when not to cultivate what he couldn’t harvest.

“Greg… the kiss?”

“Not what you think. I’ll let Hutch tell you.”

“He… you know, he’s like my other half. Half big teddy bear, half relentless scary cop, half brilliant investigator…”

“That’s three halves, dummy,” Greg counted. “Only two halves make a whole.”

Starsky stood as the bus slowed at their stop and gave the FBI agent a slap on the back. “I might like you after all. You sound just like him.”

Starsky led them on a short three ally, two block jog before entering the backdoor of a building through a rusted, squeaky screen door. The door slapped shut behind the agent giving him a slight jolt.

“Hope you know what you’re doing, detective,” Greg said keeping his hand on the butt of the gun under his arm.

“Well, well, well… look who graced me with his presence,” a voice said coming from the narrow hallway in front of them. “Curley, where you been, my man?”

“Hey Hug. Took a job in Texas for a while.” Starsky pulled Huggy Bear’s head into his shoulder. It was warm. Good. Familiar. Genuine. “How you been?”

“Lonely. Lonely’s how I been. Where’s your better half, the blonde tower of goodness and self-loathing?” Huggy reached inside the refrigerator against the wall around the corner and took out three bottles of beer, cracking off the lids on the wall mounted opener.

“Listen, Hug, I don’t have a lot of time. We need wheels. Non-descript.” Starsky handed one of the bottles to Greg as he downed a good third of his in one thirsty swallow.

“You mean, not like your candy cane soup can.”

Starsky ignored the insult for the time being. “Yeah. Okay. We have to get to the federal building…”

No,” Greg interrupted. “Security and communications may have been compromised. We can’t risk being lured there.”

“Compromised?” Huggy said screwing up his face. “Only thing I know about gettin’ compromised is having my lovely lady’s husband walk in on us when I am takin’ her somewhere over the rainbow, if you know what I mean.” Huggy looked Greg up and down taking in the stranger who obviously was working with Starsky. “Man, you are the honkiest brother I ever done meet.”

Starsky thought how Hutch would have loved the Huggy Show and would have egged him on. “I guess I should introduce you two. FBI Special Agent Greg Woodford meet Huggy Bear Brown, best friend, entrepreneur, therapist and all around good source of information.”

“Your snitch?” Greg asked.

Snitch?” Huggy jolted back at the slur. “I prefer High Priest and Debonair Duke of Useful Material Facts.”

“Hug… the wheels?”

“Starsky, you in trouble?”

“Something like that.”

Huggy put his finger in the air, then turned and went back into the bar. “Pause your official asses here.”

“Greg, where is he?”

“There are a couple possibilities. The first being they hightailed it back to the safe house.”

“And the second?”

“The OE.”

“What’s that?”

“Every day with our witnesses there is an itinerary. We know where you go, what the ETA’s are, transportation and routes. But there is also an escape chute. That’s a plan we make based on the day’s itinerary in case of catastrophe. Operation Exodus. The OE”

“And what is that?”

Huggy rambled back down the hallway with another figure in tow. “Okay, here ya go, Starsky. My cousin here, LeRoy, has a cab sittin’ outside. He’s gonna let you drive it for a day or so.”

The new tall black man took in a breath of surprise and opened his mouth to argue.

“Now, LeRoy has a few outstanding tickets and I believe a ‘failure to appear’ warrant in his name, don’t you, cuz?”

The man simply nodded in defeat.

“Okay, you two brothers, exchange clothes. Go on now. No black cabbie wears a $500 suit and fancy shoes.”

It only took ten minutes for LeRoy and Greg to exchange outfits. Each looked, and felt, uncomfortable in the other man’s clothes. Starsky couldn’t resist ribbing Greg as he slid into the backseat of the cab behind the agent.

“You dress down real good, Agent Woodford.”

A groan is about all he got in return.

For the twenty-five minutes it took to get to the high rise in Laguna Beach Starsky stayed slumped in the back seat, his head down, his mind on Hutch. He was pretty sure that his original notions about Greg and Hutch were wrong. Hutch wanted Starsky, Greg made that clear. But what had they been doing in Minnesota? Why did they talk as though they had shared something intimate? And why was Hutch going back now?

“We got trouble,” Greg said as he maintained his forward attention. “Building is just ahead but streets are loaded with Fire and Police. SWAT’s in the parking lot too. And… now we have cops turning cars around. Stay down,” he said as he rolled his window down.

The fresh air hit Starsky’s face as he put the hat on he’d found on the seat earlier, and pretended to be bored.

“Afternoon Officer sir,” Greg said out the window. “What’s goin’ down, my man?”

Starsky smiled. Someone was channeling Huggy Bear.

“No traffic past this point,” the faceless uniform said. “Have to turn around.”

“Someone put a match to that Taj Majal? Anybody hurt?”

“Nothing to worry about. Everyone’s out. Just investigating a threat.”

As Greg followed the other cars in the mass U-turn, Starsky sat up straight and took in the scene. “Hey Greg, you see that?”

“Yeah. Bomb squad is on the scene. He’s not in there. I gotta get you out of here.”

“What’s my OE?”

“Hopping a military cargo plane out of San Diego to Fort Dix.”

This news did not sit well with Starsky. “Jersey? Oh, hell no. Not Jersey. Come on, Woodford. Take me to Hutch. Take me to whatever the hell this Operation Exodus.”

“I can’t.”

Why not? Huh? Little target, big target. What does it matter? I don’t care anymore. Just get me to him. Stop being an agent for once. Please. Do what’s right.”

I. Can’t.”

Why not?”

Because I don’t… I don’t know where he is.”

“What the hell…?” Starsky sat forward in the seat trying to get a look at the FBI agent driving the cab. “Whadya mean, you don’t know where he is? You said yourself there’s a plan. The OE.”

“I know.” He was uncomfortable and a bit out of his skin for the first time. “Operation Exodus for today is expediting Hutch’s scheduled flight out. There’s an FBI crew and pilots on stand-by to put the Hutchinson corporate jet in the air at a moment’s notice.”

“London.” No answer came from the agent prompting Starsky to lean even further over the seat. “London, right?”

“I don’t know.”

What?”

I said I don’t know.”

“How could you not know? Jesus Christ, what the hell are you assholes doing? I thought… I thought you actually worked together. I thought Hutch meant something…”

“Shut the fuck up, Starsky.” Greg’s knuckles pained from the grip he had on the steering wheel. “You have no idea…”

Then tell me.”

A couple of false starts and one deep breath later, Greg finally let it out. “They think I’ve gotten too close to your partner. Too emotionally involved. That’s why they switched primaries and assigned Norm and Lana to him. I’m no longer allowed to be attached to Ken.”

So something did happen between them, he thought. Starsky slid back in his seat and rested his head on the top of the seat-back staring up at the ceiling realizing he was slipping further and further from his partner. Secrets. So many entities working to keep them apart. Secrets, always. “So, have you?”

“Have I what?”

“Gotten too close to Hutch?”

He didn’t answer that one, but did choose that moment to answer the previous question. “All I know is that the corporate jet’s normal crew would be changed out and replaced by agency pilots with a new destination only known by the primaries, pilots and a couple very high-ups. Even Hutch wouldn’t know until wheels down. Could be anywhere in the world. I wish I knew.”

When they got to the next intersection, Greg paused, garnering him a slew of car horns behind him, before he cranked the wheel and crossed over lanes of traffic to get on the 405.

Starsky had to hold on with both hands to keep from sliding down the bench seat and slamming against the door. “Where are we going?”

“Burbank airport. If I’m going out, might as well be with a bang.”

They listened to the cab’s radio for the half hour drive to the corporate airport. The station aired a police press conference that did nothing but state the obvious: explosion at the parking garage next to the courthouse. Unknown if it was from gas lines or an act of terrorism. Injured numbered thirty-six and counting. Dead – four. Missing – two. Victims were interviewed as were family members of the dead and missing. Lists of closures were announced and expanded as the time went on.

“Airport at three o’clock,” Greg announced while thumbing out the passenger window as they made a right angle turn onto a service road leading up to cargo flights and small private jets. “I don’t see the jet yet.”

“What’s it look like?”

“White with a blue tail. Says Global HE on the fuselage. Tail number N-26HE3.”

As they pulled up to the small terminal building, Starsky got out of the cab and followed the jet with his eyes that was barreling down the runway, finally nosing up skyward. “Son of a bitch. We’re too late,” he pleaded, slamming his fist on the roof of the cab. “We’re too late.”

 

A/N: Homework – “I Won’t Give Up”, Jason Mraz

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty-Four

 

As the landing gear tucked up into the ascending aircraft rapidly disappearing into the clouds, Starsky sunk down next to the cab and parked his butt on the curb, head in hands.

“I had a chance. Probably my last chance. And he’s gone.”

Agent Greg Woodford, dressed down as an inner city taxi driver, got out of the cab and walked around to the rear stopping in front of the seated Starsky. “Maybe he wasn’t on the plane,” he said sounding more like he was trying to convince himself. “Maybe… maybe they scuttled the aircraft to get it out of here.”

“He’ll never know.” Starsky wasn’t having any attempts of placation. “I’ll never get to tell him…”

Greg leaned back against the trunk of the car with arms folded in front of him. “I’m sorry, Dave. I tried. I know how you feel…”

Agent Woodford had no warning from Starsky when the angered cop rose up and charged him, pinning him on his back against the solid car trunk.

“It… It… It…. It’s not fucking about you, Woodford. And, NO, you don’t know how I feel.”

Starsky stayed half on top of the agent, his feet barely touching the ground as the death grip he had on the other man’s jacket lapels threatened to cut off all feeling to his hands.

“Let go of the cabbie, mister,” a voice came from behind, “or I’ll have to introduce you to the inside of a jail cell.”

Greg and Starsky never took their exasperated eyes from each other as the agent reached into his back pocket and pulled out his FBI badge and ID. “FBI special agents,” he said with a pitched voice trying to sound calm and in control. “We got this. You can move on, officer.”

“You sure, sir? Looks like this punk has other ideas.”

With what felt like hours of breath held prisoner in his lungs, Starsky exhaled as he pushed away from Greg and put his hands in the air in surrender, walking away from both men, finally coming to a stop at the same curb he had started from, hands on hips in an attempt to hold in his angered grief.

“Officer, I’d appreciate it if you just walk away. We’re both working under cover,” Woodford said waving at Starsky and then back at himself. “We need to get back to work.”

The officer looked back and forth between the two, then pointed at the airfield. “You must be part of that whole entourage that was here earlier. About six big black cars, Highway Patrol lead and tail cars with full rack lights. Must have been someone pretty important.”

That caught Starsky’s attention. “Yeah, we were supposed to be here. Got caught up in traffic,” he expertly lied. “You saw who got in that private jet? Did they get out of those cars?”

“Yeah. Sure. I was on the detail securing traffic on and off the tarmac.”

Greg pushed away from the cab and joined Starsky. “What did you see?”

“Not much. It was fast. We were only given a twenty minute heads up. Cars drove right up to the jet.”

“Who boarded?” Greg continued.

“I don’t know. Maybe three, four people.”

Starsky wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the answers but pushed forward anyway. “What’d they look like?” He di