November 1976, Horizon Inn Motel, Starsky.
I stretched along the bed, patting my stomach and groaning.
The meal was too heavy. Both Hutch and I had ordered the same dish. Steak and potato; what's not to love. Except I was in my tightest denim jeans, all zipped up and buckled in case we had to dash away from the room if we were fired at. I would've considered something else if I had known we were going to be stuck in this measly motel all night. Hutch had it easy. His pants weren't this snug.
We have been targeted by Alex Drew. It was just another normal day; we had had a quick lunch after cruising our beat and returning to our precinct when we were called in to take control of a burglary in a jewelry shop. By the time we got involved, the criminals were running away with the goods, shooting at the police officers in pursuit.
Hutch and I were out of the Torino in no time. We managed to gun down the two thieves, but during the shooting that went back and forth, Special Agent Alex Drew's wife was killed. They were just in the wrong place. An unfortunate accident. But Alex Drew didn't think so. Before the ballistic results were out, Alex Drew had taken matters into his hands. He was assassinating the officers involved in the incident, blaming them for the death of his wife. He killed two police officers before coming after us.
Alex Drew didn't get us, of course. The Government Agency he worked for placed Hutch and me in a motel that could be guarded. We all knew that it wasn’t going to stop a man like Alex. He had never failed in any of his missions. Neither had we.
We settled in for the night. Not peacefully, but glad the day had ended with no one getting killed.
Hutch picked up his pillows and walked over to my bed. "Move over," he said.
I wasn't sure whether that'd be a good idea. True that we had slept together before; when one of us had a close call, and the other felt a bit more protective and possessive than the usual. Didn't know whether that was possible, but guess it was. Grunting and making noises to show that I didn't approve of his idea, I shifted to the other half of the bed, leaving ample space for Hutch.
Just lying beside me wasn't enough for the man. He pushed his arm underneath and pulled me closer.
"What're you doin'?" I asked.
Hutch got exasperated. "What do you think I am doing?"
It was my turn to snap at him, but couldn't. I just put my head on his shoulder, tossing ideas on how I could cover Hutch if Alex Drew came charging at us.
"Can you remember the first day we met?" Hutch asked.
Trust the man to get sentimental at a time like this. How could I forget?
August 1967, Los Angeles, Starsky
I couldn't remember when I was here the last time; it had been damn too long. I searched for a familiar face in the dimly lit bar, Red Planet, in downtown LA, hoping to catch someone I could spend some time before heading to Bay City. There should be at least one soldier in here who had served his time in Nam, struggling to forget the nightmares and drown himself in the momentarily peace a brew offered. Like me, not that long ago.
I turned towards the gruff voice that had originated from somewhere in a corner of the bar. I noticed a tall dark haired guy waving his hand like I was the one and only taxi that could take him home. I walked to him, allowing my eyes to adjust to the light. I recognized Ralph Rooney, one of my best buddies from high school.
"Son of a gun, you bastard!" Ralph almost knocked down a couple heading to the dance floor as he left his table. He walked up to me like he couldn't wait until I got to him.
Maybe he thought I was gonna disappear into thin air if he blinked. "Ralphie," I hollered as he got close to me. I was smiling all over.
He pulled me into a bear hug, knocking the wind out of me.
"Easy, easy" I breathed. It seemed that he wasn’t willing to let go of me. We were very tight in high school. Watched each other's backs from all the forces determined to see us fail. We were the unusual pair. I, a quick tempered bad-ass Jewish kid from Brooklyn, defensive back on the Bay City High football team. Ralph Rooney, tall, well-built athletic quarterback, the only son of a wealthy family, born and raised in Los Angeles. I’d enlisted in the army one year after High School graduation. Ralphie ended up at UCLA.
"When did you get back?" Allowing a little bit of space to call my own, Ralphie shouted in my ear over the loud music.
"Almost a year. I was in New York. Decided to come back to Bay City. How about you?"
"I'm here with some of the guys I've known since college. Come join us."
I looked over to his table and saw two more guys. "Sure."
"I thought I'd never see you again." Ralphie finally let go of me. "What were you doing in… Noo Yawk?" He always gave me a hard time on my Bronx accent.
I grinned. "Nothing much. Just odd jobs. Got tired of everything and thought of coming back."
"So you are heading to Bay City, then? Not staying in LA?"
"Have anything lined up?"
"Not yet." I had decided to apply to the Police academy. I was hoping to find work at Uncle Al's used car business until I could go, if I got selected. Or maybe I could work with Merle in his mechanic shop like I did before joining the army. "How about you?"
"Got my degree in finance. Now I'm an intern in Dad's company. Have to work my way up, you know. Dad doesn't believe in serving a ready-made career on a platter. "
"Good for you."
"I might be able to talk to Dad about getting you some work. He always liked you, God knows why." Ralphie bumped shoulders with me.
"I'll think about it." It was good to know that Ralphie still had my back. The only work I could get at a financial company would be a security guard position, and I that wasn't something I wanted to do.
"Guys…" Ralphie stood at the table and pulled me closer again. "Meet my best buddy from high school, Dave Starsky."
The other two guys turned towards me as Ralph introduced them. Kevin Thalken was a brown-eyed brunet, an accounting intern, who had graduated with Ralph and working in some accounting firm.
I shook his hand across the table.
The one who really caught my attention was this other guy; a blue-eyed blond. Ken Hutchinson was a biology graduate. He had been Ralphie's roommate in the same fraternity, and was now a first year medical student.
"Hello…" I extended my arm as Hutchinson smiled at me.
Good Lord, that smile could light up a room.
"Nice to meet you." Hutchinson gripped my hand. Strong and firm. Then he knocked his beer over the table and it dripped onto to his pants.
"Shit." Hutchinson pushed the chair back and got up in a hurry.
Kevin and Ralphie laughed uncontrollably while Hutchinson did his best to mop the wetness off his pants.
August 1967, Los Angeles, Hutch.
It was the day that I met the man who changed my whole life. I’ve never told Starsky the whole truth about how I ended up in the Police Academy. I was worried Starsky would take it the wrong way. My actions weren't very noble.
Ralph Rooney, my roommate at UCLA, introduced me to one of his high school football buddies when I met with him and Kevin for drinks one night. One look at Dave Starsky and I wanted to know everything about him. His smile could warm up the coldest days and the coldest nights… and the loneliest souls.
While shaking hands with him, I ended up getting soaked in cold beer all the way down to my underwear.
"Somethings never change." Kevin laughed.
I tried to lift the dampness into a napkin.
Dave Starsky just stood there, shaking his head. "That ain't gonna help ya, Blondie," he said. "You need a change of pants."
"Unless you can provide me with some of yours…" I stopped drying myself and looked him in the eye. He was still grinning.
"Sure!" Starsky's smile widened even more. "If you think mine would fit."
I couldn't help noticing his skin-tight faded denims. "Yeah, if I were one foot shorter and 50 pounds lighter," I challenged.
Instead of saying something abrasive, Starsky burst into a laughter and thumped me on my back. Good Lord, the man was strong. He could've knocked me onto the table if I hadn’t grabbed my chair.
"You're all right," Starsky said, still smiling. "Should be, if Ralphie kept you for this long." He winked at Ralph, pulling out the chair between Ralph and me to sit down.
Starsky ordered beer for the two of us. "It's on me because I’m responsible for Hutch here wetting his pants.”
He elbowed me while I was trying to figure out the best position to keep my legs to avoid the cold sensation.
"Hey." He grinned. "I'm sure your wife would clean your pants for ya." Starsky may have seen my wedding ring. "But, that is, of course," Starsky continued. "If you can convince her that it's a beer stain and nothing else."
The man had a way with words, I noticed. But what he didn't know was that my wife wasn't the kind of woman who'd take time to clean, darn or wash my clothes; even if it meant just dumping my slacks in the washing machine.
Ralph and Starsky talked about their high school life and football, non-stop. Kevin and I smiled at each other knowingly. Ralph loved football although he didn't play at college level.
"Why don't you stay in LA today and go back tomorrow?" Ralph asked Starsky.
"It's just an hour drive. I told Al and Rosie that I'd be coming today."
"Ah, come on, Davey. Just give them a call and let them know your plans changed. Hutch has a spare bedroom in his apartment and I'm sure you can stay there."
Ralph's words caught me by surprise.
"What about you?" Starsky asked, promptly. "You don't wanna put me up in your apartment?"
"I would, Davey, but Sandra- that's my girlfriend, she moved in with me last week, and-"
"Say no more-" Starsky held his arm up. "But how's Hutchinson's situation different?" Starsky turned around and faced me. "Your wife wouldn’t mind when you go home with me?"
"Oh, believe me, Vanessa would!" Kevin started to laugh. "Especially if Hutch goes home in wet pants."
I choked on my beer and there was no way to stop the cough. I was going to spill everything all over again.
Starsky quickly grabbed my beer and held it away from me. "Tsk tsk tsk…" He shook his head. "Take it easy, will ya? I wasn't planning to spend the night with you."
Kevin's and Ralph's roaring laughter wasn't going to stop anytime soon.
In the end… Starsky ended up spending the night in my apartment.
November 1976, Horizon Inn Motel, Starsky.
I got up from the bed and walked over to the window. I tugged at the curtains and skimmed the streets. We were too engrossed in our history. This wasn't the time to delve in the past and forget the dire current situation. There won't be a future if we lost focus now.
"We would not be sitting targets if we’d gotten to work late, like you said, you know?" I remembered about all the 'what ifs' I was thinking of that day.
"Yeah – and we would've joined the non-existents if you hadn't dropped the car keys," said Hutch.
If the keys hadn't slipped off my fingers and fallen onto the car floor, I would never see the bomb that was taped under the dashboard. Hutch and I would have been history by now.
"Come back to bed," Hutch ordered.
I should've said something to make his ears burn and become red, but I didn't. I went back to bed and lay close to him. There was something else going on in his mind. Something very different from the situation we had on our hands.
"What made you spend the night at my apartment that day?" Hutch asked.
"Well... It was late, and I was tired, I think," I replied. "I had been on the road for two days by then."
"Oh." Hutch sounded disappointed.
"Driving for another hour wasn't a big deal for me, Hutch. The real reason was you," I explained.
"Yeah?" Hutch got interested. "But you never tried to get in touch with me. I didn't hear from you after that day. Nothing… until we met at the Police academy."
Why Hutch went all the way back to that night made no sense. It was just a random event as far as I knew. We never saw each other or spoke to each other after that night until we met at the Police academy. Completely unplanned, unaware that each other had applied to the academy.
"For all I knew, Hutch, you and I were like the sky and earth. Our paths were never gonna cross, unless you became a doctor, I became a police officer and then you get to treat me when I got shot or somethin' – right?"
Hutch winced. "Is that why you never called me?"
I had my reasons. "I didn't see any good coming out of us forming a friendship," I said. "You were studying to be a doctor." And I didn't want to mess up his life.
However, somewhere in the next couple of months following our encounter, Hutch decided to drop out of medical school. He chose a career as a police officer over medicine.
"Out of everything you could've done, why did you chose to be a police officer?" I asked. "You always told me that you got tired of what you were doing and wanted to explore your options. But… why this?"
"Why not?" Hutch asked back.
I shrugged my shoulders. The Ken Hutchinson I met that night didn’t seem to be the kind of person who would think of a career in the police force.
August 1967, Los Angeles, Starsky.
Hutchinson's living quarters was not what I expected of the apartment of a newly married, first year medical student. It was too extravagant to my taste, and I couldn't imagine how Hutch could afford all this expensive furniture and décor.
"It's Hawaiian design era," Hutch said.
"Vanessa just changed the style. It was all blue and white last time. I liked it. Gave me the feeling I was trapped somewhere in the clouds."
I wanted to ask how the hell he paid for all of it, but on the other hand, wasn't my business. Why should I care what Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson were up to. I noticed a picture of the two of them on the mantel above the fire place. She was a beautiful brunette, but there was something cold and icy in her smile, unlike Hutch, who seem to wear his soul on his sleeve.
"Where is she?" I asked, putting my backpack on the floor and flopping down on the plush sofa.
"Uhh – She's visiting her parents, back in Chicago."
"If Vanessa was at home, do you think you would've still invited me?"
"We have a spare bedroom." Hutch was evading me. He looked uncomfortable and embarrassed.
"That's not what I asked." I felt sorry for the guy. He really looked miserable.
"Vanessa… she… she doesn't like to entertain strangers."
"So… in other words, you’re going to keep that I was here from her." I didn't want to get him in trouble. "I can drive back to Bay City, Hutch. I really don't hav'ta stay in LA today." I stood and picked up my bag.
"No." Hutch got to me in no time. He grabbed my bag away.
I was surprised and annoyed. It may have reflected in my face.
Hutch stepped back. "You don't have to leave," he said softly. "I- Vanessa- we… it's complicated."
Hutch looked like a five year old who had lost all his chocolates; and I was a sucker for sweetness, although, here, I was the bag of candy.
I sat back on the sofa. "You should stay away from people who could complicate your life even more, then."
"You said you've been driving all the way from New York. What were you doing back in the East?" Hutch asked, obviously wanting to re-direct our conversation into a different topic.
"The rest of my family is in New York. I spend some time with them after I got back from Nam. But decided it was time to come home."
I spared Hutch the depressing details of the six month-rehabilitation I underwent to get my leg fixed, and the other couple of months I wasted feeling sorry for myself. I spent a lot of time getting drunk, getting into fights and punching the hell out of others to forget the jungle, the non-stop rain, mud, mosquitoes, gunfire, dead bodies, and burning villages. I realized there was no place on earth I could go to get away from Nam. There was no man or woman on this earth capable of helping me get through this hell.
Then one day, Joseph Taylor, my father's partner from NYPD, cornered me at a bar. He gave me a pep talk and told me how disappointed Pa would be if he were alive to see his oldest son turn out to be a good for nothing bum; a disgrace to my father. Joe ended up with a split lip, black eye, and a bloody nose. I didn't look any different. 'I wouldn't be like this if Pa was alive', I yelled, and Joe yelled back, 'why should anything be different just because he's not around anymore? Do you need him to pick you up and pat you on your back?'
That's when I realized how pathetic I was.
A week later, I was on my way to Bay City, California where I’d grown up. Ma wasn't happy. She wanted to me to remain home. Home! New York didn't feel like home, especially after Ma sent me away to live with Uncle Al and Aunt Rosie in California when I was 13, right after Pa died.
Just an hour away from BayCity, I was spending the night at a stranger's place, on a hunch. He wasn't like anyone I had known before. Hutchinson had something pure and untouched in him.
"Why don't you go take a shower? I'll get the room ready for you." Hutch took my bag and walked away. "You'll find fresh towels in there."
He jerked his head towards a door; the bathroom, I assumed.
"What am I supposed to wear after the shower?" I asked.
Hutchinson stopped in his tracks.
"That's my night bag you are taking away from me," I explained further.
Hutch turned around and his ears were bright pink in color.
I smiled at him. "Hey… gimme that bag. I promise I won't run away." I held up three fingers pressed together. "Scouts honor."
Hutch reluctantly gave the bag back.
I pulled two items out of it and dropped the bag on the floor. "See- I'm still here." I winked.
Hutch smiled shyly, and my heart skipped a beat. My world was never going to be the same again. I had to get the hell out of Hutch's life just for that reason. Things would never end up well for him if I stuck around or if I allowed him to get close to me.
My hunch was correct. He was the kind of man I could spend the rest of my life with. If I got any closer, he'd be the man I wouldn't be able to spend the rest of my life without. But he was already taken.
I made my decision; this day would be locked up in a safety deposit forever.
August 1967, Los Angeles, Hutch.
I paced back and forth in the living room to get my bearings. I had no explanation for my actions or why I had a flutter in my chest since I saw Starsky.
Starsky. Was I making a fool of myself? I felt like some teenager on his first date. This wasn't even a woman. Hell! I'm a married man, and all of a sudden I've got a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach as if this ex-Vietnam soldier dumped a whole load of butterflies in there. I had no clear recollection of the events that had taken place since I met this dark haired, blue-eyed stranger. I pushed my fingers through my hair, hoping to gather my thoughts.
First things, first. I changed my clothes and threw the beer stained pants and some other dirty items that were in the hamper into the washer and got it running. I went back to the guestroom and removed a couple of my books from the night stand. I changed the sheets of the bed as well. Although it was a guest room, I used it frequently. When I studied late some nights, I'd sleep in the guest room to avoid disturbing Vanessa. She has trouble falling asleep if she wakes in the middle of the night.
By the time I finished making up the room, Starsky came out of the shower, wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of shorts.
"Would you like some coffee?" I asked.
"Sure!" said, Starsky, wiping his hair. He carried the clothes he’d been wearing earlier into the guestroom. "Is it all right if I use your closet?"
"Yeah. I have some hangers in there." I filled up the coffee maker with water.
In a few minutes, Starsky was back in the kitchen. He pulled a chair and sat at the dining table. "How long before you become a doctor?" he asked.
"Another four or five years." I answered. "It wasn't my idea." I wasn't sure why I told him that. But I felt that it was something he should know.
"Becoming a doctor. I – I just went along with my Dad's idea." I wasn't being completely honest with him, though. It was not only my father's wishes, but also my wife's.
I poured coffee into two mugs and placed one in front of Starsky, at the table. "Sugar? Milk?"
"Cream and sugar. Lots!" Starsky grinned.
"I have milk, but no cream." I pulled a carton of milk out of the fridge and the jar of sugar from the kitchen cupboard. Before I could bring them to Starsky, he got up and walked over to the kitchen. I left the items on the counter. He poured some milk and stirred in three teaspoons full of sugar.
"Jesus. Do you have any teeth left?" I asked.
"Some guys have all the luck," said Starsky, and dumped the spoon in the kitchen sink before returning to his chair. "So… what did you want to do- instead of a doctor?"
I thought for a while. I always wanted to work at my Grandfather's farm, take care of the horses. Whether I wanted to do that as a profession, I really wasn't sure. "I didn't have a reason to think beyond father's plans."
Starsky stared at me for a while, and tilted his head in a brief nod.
"What about you?" I asked, hoping Starsky would talk about his future plans. "Anything specific you want to do?"
"Nah," Starsky replied quickly, avoiding looking at me. "Haven't thought of anything. Maybe I'll drive a taxi."
Starsky was lying. Although I hadn't known this man for more than a few hours, I knew he was lying. But why?
November 1976, Horizon Inn Motel, Hutch.
Starsky was tensed up to a point where even a massage would only increase the tightness of his shoulders. This was one of those days where he resisted any physical contact.
I craved for his touch more than anything today. One way or the other, I would worm my way back into his thoughts before the end of the night. If I knew one thing about my partner, he would never say no to me. The man's like three of thousand–piece jigsaw puzzles put together.
Starsky leaned on a couple of pillows propped against the head board of the bed. Lines around his eyes were drawn tight, as he stared at the TV.
"Did you ever think we'd meet again? I mean after our first meeting at LA?" I asked. I had to get him to open up so that I could tell him what I’d kept from him all these years.
Starsky turned his head to face me and searched my eyes. Afraid he would read everything that was in my mind, I looked away. "Guess you didn't want to," I said what I had always known. "You knew where I lived. You knew my phone number, but you never called or tried to-"
"What's all this about, huh?" Starsky interrupted. "I told you- I didn't want to mess up a life of a married man."
"Why the hell did you think you'd mess up my life?" Why would Starsky be the one to blame for a marriage that was already in shambles?
"See what happened after you got to know me." Starsky's eyes glinted dangerously. "Vanessa filed for divorce right after you and I became partners."
God! Did Starsky really believe that he was the reason for my problems? After all these years? "You’ve got to be kidding me!"
"Am I?" Starsky challenged. "Sure, you had problems, but the divorce happened once you and I got together."
I loved Vanessa, and she, too may have loved me at the beginning, but it wasn't that eternal, forever yours, soul mate-like, true love one has with his or her spouse. "Starsk… the divorce was the second best thing that happened to me in my life," I told Starsky with conviction.
Starsky didn’t ask what the first best thing was.
"It would've happened one way or the other. I wouldn't have been happy being a doctor, had I stayed in med school," I explained something that I had explained or said a million times before. "I would've come to resent her for making me do something that I didn’t have a passion for. Our marriage would have ended up earlier, in my opinion, if I didn’t become a policeman." I thought for a while. There were times I tried to stay in the marriage just because I didn't want Starsky to see me as a failure.
Starsky sighed deeply. "When I saw you at the academy that first day, I- I couldn't believe my eyes," Starsky said softly. "I thought I was dreaming."
I couldn't have slowed down my heartbeat even if my life dependent on it. So… Starsky had been truly happy to see me. He really did like me from that first day. I wasn't imagining things. "You were roommates with Colby. But he quit so quickly. When was that?" I asked.
"Just about a month into the program, I think. And you got to be my roommate." Starsky's irritation about bringing up the past seemed to have vanished. "You remember that fundraiser?" he asked, smiling. "The one we had before you became my roommate?"
I knew which one Starsky was referring to. Like I would ever forget any run-ins I had with Starsky. This one occurred because I was distracted selling lemonade.
October 1968. Bay City Police Academy, Hutch.
Starsky was in charge of selling apple pies, and I was the lemonade guy. His stall was right across mine, and my eyes wondered towards him every second I was free of customers. He was something to watch. The way he charmed the hearts of those women. I noticed, most of his customers were old ladies, maybe in their seventies or eighties. All of them left his stall beaming happily, and I had a feeling that it had nothing to do with the apple pies they bought from him.
Whenever he was anywhere in the vicinity, my heartbeat accelerated as if I had just finished the hundred yard sprint across the field. I watched how he tipped his head and planted a kiss on the cheek of Mrs. Harmon, the grandmother of one of our instructors. He watched Mrs. Harmon until she walked up to the next stall to check out the chocolate chip cookies. I kept on watching him until he looked around. He caught me looking at him, flashed a thousand watt smile, and immediately pointed his finger at what seemed to be the left of my stall and mouthed something. It took me a good couple of seconds to realize that I had customers and that Starsky was pointing them at me.
Embarrassed, I turned towards the two little girls waiting impatiently to get a sip of the cold drinks.
I tried my best to keep my eyes away from Starsky for the rest of the day. However, he caught me watching him a couple of more times. When the day ended, just before leaving the grounds, he caught up with me.
"Have to say, Hutchinson," Starsky said, standing right in front of me, grinning mischievously. "You'll need a hell of a lot of lessons if you’re planning to go on undercover assignments."
"Huh?" I managed to ask, hoping it was something meaningful.
"You need to learn how to say a lot but give away nothing of what you have in here." Starsky said, tapping me on my chest. Then he left, grinning all over.
I stood there, wishing the ground would open up and swallow me completely.
November 1976, Horizon Inn Motel, Starsky.
It was getting late and we had to get some shuteye. "Go to your bed," I told Hutch. "You won't sleep here with me tossing and turning."
"I'm not going anywhere," Hutch said firmly and fiercely. "You know I sleep better when you are around, anyway."
Not that it wasn't the truth, but Hutch saying something like that surprised me. I would never be able to say no to the man. No matter what he wants, I'd give it to him. He only had to ask. But this was dangerous.
"This isn't a good idea," I said. Dobey and Cole could come up anytime, and nothing would escape Dobey's eyes. He always yelled at us when we worried about each other too much, saying we were like an old married couple. We were close. Very much. We didn't give a damn about what others said or thought of us. When it came to Captain Dobey, I wouldn’t want him to get the wrong idea; nor would Hutch.
But… rejection was not something Hutch would take easily. "Let me check the locks, again." I went to the door and turned the knob. "Don't want any surprises." I also made sure the chain lock was in place; not that it would stop Alex Drew, but to avoid Dobey coming in without warning. To think of it, having Hutch close to me would be the best way to protect him if Drew slipped through all security and got into the room.
As soon as I climbed into bed, Hutch pushed me onto my back and rested his head on my chest. He put his arm around my middle and held me tightly. "Don't say a thing," he warned.
Something serious was going on in his head. One way or the other, in the next couple of days, it would come out of him or I would get it out of him. For now, I let him do as he wished.
I kind of knew what it was all about. I’d know it from the very first day we met. The one and only reason I kept my plans of joining the police academy from him. We ended up together, anyway.
Ah, Hutch! What am I going to do with you?
I slid my arm around him and allowed my fingers to get lost in his hair.
Over the years, I've learned that Hutch always needs to have me close. To anyone who didn't know Hutch, he comes across as an aloof, cold, reserved man. I knew better. Hutch wanted to be loved and feel loved, just like anyone else. He’d been hurt too much in life by the ones he trusted and loved. But he had given all of him to me without even realizing what he was doing. I would never hurt the man.
I made sure Hutch knew how much I loved and needed him. I made it an art, I made it a habit. I could probably make a living out of showing people what a person should and should not do if you want to show that you care about them. It could be just a peck on the cheek, a squeeze on the shoulder, a pat on the knee. Or standing so close to him that our shoulders touch. A little physical contact could do wonders for the man. He would be all smiles, clear minded and ready to take on the whole world.
All his grumpiness and moodiness vanished into thin air when he sleeps somewhere close to me. Most of the time it is on the sofa, and maybe once or twice in the bed. Whether it's because it strengthens the trust we have for each other, or whether it's just knowing that he's not alone in this world… I really don't know.
November, 1976. Horizon Inn Motel, Hutch.
Starsky had no idea what his fingers could do to me.
It happened for the very first time right after my divorce proceedings were all complete. Vanessa had moved out of the house, and Starsky took me to his apartment.
We stretched on the sofa after dinner and a couple of beers, with the TV on, not paying attention to what was playing. I couldn't help but think what would happen if I had not met Starsky. Now that I had him… what'd happen if Starsky abandoned me?
"Get some sleep," said Starsky.
I grabbed a cushion off the sofa and threw it on to Starsky's lap. I let Starsky know what I wanted to do, and Starsky didn't need a second. He simply said 'okay'.
I stretched along the sofa, putting my head on his lap. Starsky curled his right arm around my stomach, supporting and preventing me from slipping onto the floor, and his left palm rested on my head.
"It'll never happen to us," Starsky said.
As always, he knew exactly what I was thinking.
I shut my eyes tightly, and turned my head away from Starsky. I didn’t want him to see the tears filling my eyes. My chest constricted as I fought to control my emotions. I entwined my fingers with Starsky's, and held on. I would never survive if Starsky left me.
After a few minutes, Starsky ran his fingers through my hair. It wasn't a real massage. He was just messing around.
I pictured what was going on between his fingers and my hair. It was as if he was first twisting a few strands slowly around his fingers. He kept on doing this because my hair wasn't long enough to make a tight wrap. Pieces of hair slipped away as he twirled his fingers.
I shivered. I had never experienced this sensation before- it was as if a puff of air moved around in my head, spreading a warm current from head to toe. Right when I thought it was over, Starsky began separating the strands of hair from one another, rolling, folding and spreading the hair between his fingers. Whoever concluded that hair has no nerve endings was absolutely wrong. I felt everything Starsky did to the surface of my hair. I stopped breathing because I didn't want to miss any of those tiny vibrations that started at my skull and spread all over my body.
He grabbed a hank of hair and traced it up to the roots.
Jesus Christ! I’d never experienced such a sensual feeling before. Pure bliss. Starsky could have made me come that moment. A heaven created just for me. Not wanting him to get distracted by what he was doing, I didn't move an inch. I must've fallen asleep and slept through the whole night because the next thing I remember, Starsky was telling me to wake up. We had to go to work.
Now, I lay on Starsky's chest, listening to his steady heartbeat. He started messing with my hair. Through the years, I had learned not to interrupt him because I had discovered the hard way that he wasn't doing this consciously. I can still recall the details clearly. Right after I moved into an apartment from the house I shared with Vanessa, a month after the divorce was final.
I lay my head on Starsky's shoulders, watching TV. He had his arm around me.
"Do that thing you do with my hair," I told him. I wanted the day and the shift to slip into oblivion.
"What thing?" Starsky asked.
"That thing you do- with your fingers?"
Starsky pushed me away and looked at me like I had grown horns. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh, come on Starsk. You know- that... that way you fiddle with my hair. I-I don't know what to call it, but you do it all the time when I- when you are-" I didn't even know how to explain it. "Don't you know what I mean?"
"No!" Starsky furrowed his brows. "Why would I do anything to your hair? Are you feeling all right?"
I felt like shaking Starsky until his curly hair stood up straight in his head.
"Forget it." I rested my head on the sofa. "Just forget it. It must've been a dream." I was disappointed that I wasn't getting my Starsky-fix that night.
Starsky tipped his head close to me. "What else do you dream about?" he asked.
I closed my eyes and settled into the couch. "You don't want to know," I said, satisfied at making Starsky exasperated, for a change.
I had to find a way to get Starsky to patch me up, unintentionally. I wasn't going to give up on something that made me melt into a pile of goo. With time, I’d discovered that all I had to do was get him to watch TV or read a book with his hand close to my head. As simple as that. I've never failed to get my shot of Starsky-ecstasy. It was the way he concentrated, and I was more than happy to oblige.
Starsky went on twirling my hair around his fingers. Today, even a double dose wasn't enough for me to get rid of the uneasy feeling about what had transpired with Alex Drew. He had taken the law into his hands, destroying all forces that were directly or indirectly responsible for the death of his loved one.
If Starsky got killed, wouldn't I try to take out everyone who had contributed in taking the man I loved away from me? What would keep me from turning into another Alex Drew?
The man I loved! I had to come clean with Starsky. Soon.
November 1976. Hutch's apartment, Starsky.
We closed Alex Drew's case two days ago. In my opinion, I had given Hutch enough time to come clean with what was bothering him. It seemed like Hutch had gone into hiding. Not away from Bay City but within himself. He had grown more thoughtful and quieter by the hour. I've had enough. This had to end.
Armed with a pizza and a case of beer, I invited myself to Hutch's apartment on Friday night. It had been another rough day. Things had gotten ugly during an arrest we made earlier and Hutch got punched in the jaw, pretty bad. To make things worse, the ballistic report claimed the bullet that killed Drew's wife had been fired from Hutch's piece. Everything came in torrents of rain to drown Hutch's spirits.
I planned to use that as an excuse to check on the man. I would work my magic and get him to admit what was eating him up. I knew how to cure all his ailments, especially when I had a clear mind.
I knocked on the door before unlocking it, using the key I had.
"What are you doing here?" Hutch asked.
He was trying to sound annoyed, but I knew better.
"You are welcome," I said, handing over the beer and sliding the pizza onto the dining table. "I'm starving. Have you eaten yet?" I asked, grabbing two plates out of the kitchen cupboard.
I tore away two pieces of pizza and put them onto a plate before placing it on the table. I pulled out a chair and signaled him to take a seat.
Hutch rolled his eyes, but did as he was asked to. I took the case of beer from him, opened up two bottles, and gave one to him. I sat facing him at the table and took a long swig of my beer. "Your jaw looks swollen."
"I'll live," said Hutch, taking a bite of his pizza. Damp hair curling at his temple, and a tinge of pink on his cheeks were telltale signs of a recent shower.
"I was thinking-" I started after emptying half of my beer. "What if we take a couple of days off during Christmas and go somewhere away from all of this?"
"You think Dobey'd let us off that easily? We always sign up to work during the holidays because we aren’t married, and family men need family time."
"Then we'll get married." I chuckled.
"Be serious, will you," Hutch snapped. "If not for me, Alex Drew would still have a wife to celebrate Christmas with."
"Did you aim to kill her?"
"That's not the point, Starsk. Decisions made at one point of our life could affect everything."
"Like what?" I asked.
"Like – like deciding to be a police officer."
"Ah!" Here we go. What I was looking forward to. "You know what would've happened if you became a doctor instead?"
"Alex Drew's wife would still have gotten shot by some other cop, maybe by me, and got transferred to your hospital. You would've had to operate on her, and she would've died during the surgery. You will still end up blaming yourself for her death."
I helped myself to a second slice of pizza. "Is it?"
"It's all my fault, Starsk. You don’t understand. It's all my fault." Hutch pushed his plate away and finished his beer.
I grabbed another bottle and left it beside him. I leaned my back against the table. "Help me understand," I said, laying my hand on his shoulder.
Hutch rested his chin on my hand, looking up at me. His eyes lingered on my lips, momentarily, before he blinked and looked away. "If I hadn’t agreed on you staying that night at my apartment, none of this may have happened. Or whatever happened would've taken another route," Hutch said, avoiding my eyes.
"That night at the bar had nothing to do with us meeting at the academy. You never knew I was going to apply, Hutch."
Hutch sighed deeply and tightened his lips together. "I did," he said in a barely audible voice.
"What?" I asked, surprised. How did he know? I hadn’t revealed my plans to anyone; not even Ralph.
"That day- when I asked what you wanted to do, you said you might be a taxi driver. I knew you were lying. I didn't know why, but I felt it in my bones. Later when you went to sleep, I noticed your backpack still on the floor, at the couch were you had dropped it." Hutch stopped and looked at me. "I'm sorry, Starsk. I'm not proud of what I did."
"You went through my bag?" I asked.
Hutch nodded. "I couldn't stop myself. I wanted to get know you, to understand what kind of a person you were. I wasn't sure what I was hoping to find out. It was wrong, but... That's how I found a neatly folded newspaper clipping, with one advertisement circled; an announcement on putting in applications for the Bay City Police academy."
Jesus! So Hutch wasn't just exploring his options. He’d known what he was searching for. He gave up being a doctor and applied specifically to the academy because of me? I took a deep breath and walked away from Hutch. So… it wasn't just fate. Our meeting had been deliberate.
Hutch gave up everything because of me?
"Starsk, I'm sorry. Please don’t hate me." Hutch looked as if he had lost everything in life.
"Hate you?" I asked. How the hell could I hate him for giving up everything and coming after me without even knowing whether I'd accept him as a friend? That is all he could've hoped for- just a friendship. "Did you feel that strongly about me?"
Hutch sighed. "I can't explain it, Starsk. Something changed in me. I tried to forget that day ever happened, and I tried to go back to the life I had, but I couldn't. One way or the other, I had to have you in my life."
"What if I hadn't applied to the Police Academy?"
"But you did."
It had taken eight years for Hutch to come clean with me. "Why did you decide to tell me all this now?" I asked.
"Seemed like a good idea."
In my honest opinion, it was the best damn idea he ever had!
November 1976. Hutch's apartment, Hutch.
I thought I'd feel relieved after revealing my dark secret to Starsky, but it seemed like nothing changed. A cold despair started to build up in the corner of my heart. What if Starsky thought I’d deceived him? Would he ever trust me? He couldn’t even stay near me anymore.
"Did you put something on it?" Starsky asked.
I noticed I was I rubbing my bruised jaw absent mindedly. I shook my head.
Starsky walked to the bathroom, and I heard him opening the medicine cabinet. He came back with the bottle of Tiger Balm. I was going to agree to whatever he wanted to do; as long as Starsky was near me. He sat on the table, facing me.
"Not that this would cure you, but it will at least help the pain." Starsky scooped some balm with two fingers and smoothed it over my left jaw.
I held my breath as my skin tingled. I knew as well as Starsky that there was no real need to tend to the bruise. I guess he needed to touch me as much I needed him to. Cupping my neck with his palm, Starsky rubbed his thumb over the area; I flinched as his finger brushed over a tender spot. "Easy now."
"It does hurt, doesn't it?" he asked.
"In some places," I said, enjoying all the attention he was giving me. His eyes looked liquid blue, heavy lidded and seductive. Was it my imagination? Was I seeing what I wanted to see? Suddenly it was all too much to bear; too hard to breathe, as if a tight band was cinched around my rib cage.
I swallowed hard before finding my voice. "Enough," I mumbled.
"I'm not done with you," Starsky said quietly.
My eyes stopped to his slightly parted, moist lips. God! This was too much. All my pent up feelings had gushed into my heart as soon as I confessed my crime. I've lost control of my thoughts.
Starsky took his hand away from my face and hopped off the table. "Need to wash this off," he said and went to the bathroom. "You were married when we met. You came after me, anyway,"
I wasn’t sure he wanted me to answer that.
"You were not planning to divorce her, either," Starsky went on. "You didn’t want to get divorced. I know you loved Vanessa."
"Then… she walked away from you. That was… three years ago."
I could barely hear him over the running water. What was Starsky getting at?
Starsky came back, wiping his hands dry with a towel. "Tell me, Hutch. Do you want us to continue like this or do you want something different?"
My mouth had gone dry. What was he asking? If I said I wanted a change, how would he take it? What if he didn't want what I wanted? "Can you change?" I asked.
"No," Starsky said, firmly.
My heart sank to the bottom of the Mariana trench.
Starsky threw the towel onto a nearby chair and leaned against the table, again and crossed his legs at the ankles, hands folded across his chest. "I won't change because there's nothing to change."
What the heck was that supposed to mean?
Starsky leaned forward, in slow motion, and rested his forehead on mine, without touching me anywhere else.
"Why do you think I never got in touch with you?" Starsky asked, rubbing his nose on mine.
I couldn't breathe at all. What was he saying? "Why?" I asked, or I think I asked. Not sure whether the word escaped my lips.
Starsky tilted his head and pressed his lips to mine. "That's why," he said.
Did he kiss me? Did Starsky kiss *me*? His words exploded through my ears. Was he implying that the same reason I went after him made him stay away from me? And that he had known about my feelings all this time?
Starsky moved away and pressed his back to the table. "Well?" he asked, his brows arching.
"Yes," I answered. I didn’t know what his question was but whatever it is, that was my answer! He better had the right question in mind.
Starsky's mouth widened into a smile. "Come here," he said, stretching his arms.
He didn’t have to ask twice. I got up, feeling as if I was dreaming. Starsky pulled me into a bear hug and I, automatically, fit into every plane, curve, nook and corner in his body.
"If we are going to do this, Hutch. We are going to do it right." Starsky pressed his lips against my neck. "Wasn't kidding when I said *we* should get married. I think we have to tell Dobey that we won't be available this Christmas."
I had no idea what Starsky had on his mind, but you bet your ass, I agreed with him.
After all, a partner knows best.
********************** END **************************************************