The Present

The tall blond man sat down heavily on the sofa by the side of the fireplace and the couple of flames dwelling there. This year more than any other he couldn’t really be bothered with all the trappings of Christmas – nothing mattered any more. And yet a small spark of the old Hutchinson refused to give up completely. If he had given up, he’d simply have not laid the fire and would have frozen to death in the cold, draughty old house on the edge of the Lancashire moors and maybe his neighbours would have found his body when they came to wish the strange American Happy New Year. He heard footsteps and without turning he knew who his companion was. The same companion who’d stayed with him throughout this sad period of his life.

‘Hey Starsky’ the voice was weak and feeble and the hand held out to Starsky was shaking. ‘Are ya gonna come and sit down huh, you’ve been prowling all morning? C’mon by the fire an’ keep warm, you always did like to bake your brains in front of the fire. We aren’t as young as we used to be huh?’ Hutch coughed a hacking cough and wiped the back of his hand over his forehead. It came back glazed with sweat and he sighed and rested his head on the cushion propped against the chair arm.

Bright indigo blue eyes regarded him levelly, but his friend said nothing, merely padded into the room and walked over to sit by the side of the blond giving wordless support.

Hutch spoke softly. ‘Still cold out there? Looks windy still. I swear that big tree by the gate’s gonna blow down one of these days. She always wanted me to fix it, but I kinda liked it. Its so big ‘n’ kinda characterful, ya know? Looks like maybe she was right buddy. It’s gonna come down in this storm. Maybe it’ll take me out too huh? Stop the hurt some? But then what would you do?’ again, the blond coughed and clutched at his chest.

Hutch reached out a weary hand and stroked down the side of his buddy’s cheek and still the blue eyed one said nothing. There was just the same quiet, dignified friendship there ever had been. The same unquestioning love that Hutch had always known.

The moment was shattered by a sound at the back door and those indigo eyes that had regarded him calmly now lifted to look over his shoulder as Starsky got up, ready to challenge the person stood in the doorway behind Hutch’s back.

‘Wassup Starsky? Starsk?’ Hutch croaked as he saw his companion’s body tense. He hadn’t the energy to get up and close the door again. It’s faulty catch had allowed the wind to blow the door open all morning long and now he was unequal to the challenge of having to get up and close it again. He was just about to pull the blanket closer round him when the unexpected happened.

‘Jeez Hutch. I’m flattered an’ all, but couldn’t ya have found another name for the damned dog?’ a familiar voice sounded from behind him.

The flaxen haired man froze, not believing his ears. He didn’t want to turn round in case he was hearing things. It couldn’t be. No. Surely not! And yet the big Malmut Husky with the beautiful blue eyes was going wild, barking and wagging its tail and so there was definitely someone there.

Hutch turned slowly and his face blanched as though he’d seen a ghost.

‘S Starsky! Is it really you? What’re you doing here? What’s…I….Oh thank god’ the blond said and slumped down heavily again on the settee.

The tall curly haired man walked into the room, the years having done nothing to diminish the strut in the slim hips. He closed the door behind him and looked around. The small house on the moors stood alone and brooding in the lee of a small hill. During the summer it was a cheerful place with roses growing round the door and a heather scented breeze coming in from the high country. But now, with the bleak, icy north wind blowing and the skeletal, bare branches on the trees tap tapping at the window frames, the place had an old, tired and forgotten presence. Starsky shivered involuntarily and crossed to the small fire.

It leant virtually no heat to the small room and as he spoke a halo of pale breath hung around him. The greying man bent down and tossed anther log onto the fire, stepping back as it spat viciously at him before settling to take on a pleasant red glow on its underside. At 63, David Starsky was still lean, muscular and handsome, his chocolate coloured curls shorter these days and spattered with grey hairs that, if anything, made him look even more good looking and distinguished.

Suddenly the room took on a more cheerful glow and Starsky reached out to flick on the small table lamp in the corner, its mellow warm light illuminating the gloom from the early winter afternoon gloom. Hutch narrowed his eyes against the light with a quiet hiss. The lamp banished the shadows and as his namesake settled down with a sigh in front of the fire, the curly haired man went to sit by his friend.

‘I can’t believe you’re here. Why are ya here?’ Hutch mumbled again and pulled the blanket closer around his shoulders against the lingering chill. Ken Hutchinson’s hair was also worn shorter these days and the moustache, which he’d grown years ago now had silvery white highlights. But Hutch’s usually crystal blue eyes were now dark rimmed and he looked old beyond his years and the muscular frame, which had always had the healthy glow of an outdoor enthusiast now seemed wasted and thin.

‘Hmm lemme see. There’s a guy I know, an actor. You remember Paul? He’s got a play near London. Thought I’d come an’ heckle….. Oh hell, Hutch! Why d’ya think I’m here, ya dope! Would I stay away? KD was worried for you. Laurel said I should come over here an’ make sure you’re ok’ Starsky said softly, recalling Hutch’s son’s conversation on the phone.

Dave, I’m really worried about Dad. I’ve tried phoning but he just mumbled that he’s ok, an’ I know he isn’t. He took Mom’s death hard, but I didn’t think he’d be like this. He needs someone, but Mike ‘n’ me are so busy with Night and Day, we just can’t….Can you go see him? Please?’

Course I can, but do you think he’ll want me chargin’ over there like some kinda guardian angel? Maybe he just needs to be alone huh? He always was one for his own company. Give him a potted plant an’ a power shake an’ he’d be happy for hours’.

This is different. I’m…I hate to say this, but I think he may do something crazy. He loved Mom so much, an’ he’s hurtin’.

OK, Keith. Let me make the arrangements. I’ll get right out there’.

When Sarah and Hutch had moved to Lancashire to be close to Sarah’s parents, it had been the single biggest change in Starsky or Hutch’s lives and the parting had not been easy. But their careers were coming to an end. Their investigation agency, Night and Day, formed after Starsky was told Gunther’s bullets had cost him his police career, had gone from strength to strength and they had now signed over the company to their sons, Keith David (KD) Hutchinson and Michael (Mike) Starsky.

With the takeover by the two young men, Starsky had devoted himself to helping his wife Laurel and daughter Hazel with their work at the clinic Laurel had founded and Hutch had moved lock stock and barrel to England.

And then, earlier that year, 2007, Starsky and Laurel had come over to be with Hutch when Sarah had suddenly taken sick and died. Hutch had been a devoted husband to the woman who had nursed him from near death after the mad woman Diana Harmon had taken him hostage. At the time of the funeral, Hutch had assured them that he would be fine and that he had new friends around him who would look after him. And to begin with, Starsky had believed him, but somehow the phone call from KD hadn’t been a surprise and he’d taken the first plane out from LAX to Manchester, hiring a car at the airport to drive over to Oswaldtwistle. He thanked God that their years of hard work with the business had at least afforded them the comfort of being able to afford to travel whenever they wanted, but still, the flight had been long and uncomfortable and filled with dread at what state he’d friend his friend in when he got there.

Starsky shivered again, but the room was beginning to heat up a little and he pulled the curtains against the gloom of the wind and driving rain outside.

‘Why didn’t ya tell me you were so bad huh?’

‘Didn’t want to worry you. An’ apart from that, what could you do 8000 miles away?’

‘Aww Jeez Hutch. I could’a come over an’ been with ya sooner’.

‘Ya got your own family to think about buddy. Ya don’t need me swimming in your soup’.

‘So ya want me to go? Is that it?’

Hutch raised his head and took his first good look at his old partner. ‘Oh God no. Please don’t go’.

‘Then shudup. I’m here coz I want to be. How can I enjoy Christmas with my folks when I know my buddy is sick in some godforsaken corner of a cold, windy, rainy little country like this?’

‘Starsk, it’s England, not Siberia’ the blond retorted with a shadow of his former wit’ He doubled over again as another bout of coughing caught him.

‘Well you’d think it was Siberia with all the warmth in this room. Hutch its December 24th and there’s no sign of anything warm or comfortable or remotely Christmassy in the whole place. What can I get ya buddy? You look too sick to be here on your own. D’ya need a doctor, or maybe a hospital?’

‘No, no hospital. I just need some sleep’ Hutch rasped at his friend. Now that Starsky was here, suddenly he felt a little better. The tightness in his chest was less and the ache in his head had alleviated somewhat.

‘Well have ya got some meds? You look like ya have a fever there pal’ Starsky ran his hand over Hutch’s forehead and felt it hot beneath him. He sighed. ‘How long have you been like this?’

‘Dunno. What day is it?’ Hutch asked with a crooked smile.

‘Christmas Eve partner, but you’d never tell from the state of this place’.

‘Hey, you were the one who always wanted to over-Christmas Christmas. I never really went a bundle on the whole “yo ho ho” thing’.

‘Well, ok, I’ll give ya that. When we were younger you were Scrooge. But once KD and Erin came along you seemed to have a change of heart’.

‘Well they’re not here now, and neither is Sarah, so there didn’t seem much point’ the blond replied with a deep sigh.

Starsky looked at his old friend trying to remember the times back in Bay City when he’d cruised the streets with Hutch. Then, they had never seemed to have a care in the world other than where the next chick was going to turn up. That and Starsky’s unbridled passion for a Christmas celebration. He smiled fondly at all the times he hounded Hutch for what the blond had bought him for Christmas, and although Hutch always said “nothing” there was always some small but thoughtful gift for him to open, even if it was given in a “bah humbug” manner. And then came some flake called Gunther and all that stopped and they had had to grow up, stop being daredevil hero cops and start taking life seriously.

Fortunately they both had good women by them and after the formation of Day and Night Investigations and the birth of their kids, things became easier and they both admitted that they’d earned more money than they ever would have if they’d both stayed on the force, to the point where they could say they were comfortable. And in all that time, through all the stresses that life and health had thrown at them, Hutch had stayed by Starsky, through thick and thin. He needed to repay the favour.

‘It was always gonna be a crap time Blondie, but she had a good life and you were always happy together. I know she’s gone, but you’ve still got your kids. Now ya have to look after yourself’.

‘And you think they want me around there lookin’ like death’s head at the feast? No, I don’t want to spoil their holidays’.

‘Oh for pete’s sake! Stop it!

Hutch looked up sharply, then his face softened slightly. ‘I’m sorry, I guess me ‘n’ Star….the dog have been here too long on our own. I’m glad you’re here buddy. How long’re ya stayin?’

‘As long as ya need me’.

‘I always need ya’ the supine man mumbled, head in his hands. He looked up. ‘I have nothing in the house to eat, ‘cept for his dog food’.

Starsky wrinkled his nose. ‘Not quite the same as turkey with all the trimmings. Where’s the nearest store?’

‘Down in the town, but by the looks of the weather you’ll never get down there and back again’.

Starsky turned to look out of the window at the leaden sky. The rain which had pelted down earlier had now changed to snow and the world had dissolved into a grey, swirling nothingness as each flake was taken and whipped around into a dervish dance before falling silently to the ground. The wind seemed to have redoubled it’s force and even though it had only been snowing for a little while, small drifts had started to mount up against the uneven stones of Hutch’s path. He sighed. Why did he always go for the showy sports car at the rental place instead of getting a good, practical four-by? Coz he still loved cars, that’s why, and the Merc seemed so much more interesting to drive than the boring Rav4. But there again, the Merc was low slung and would never deal with the ice and snow. Damn!

‘Ok, well lets go see what you’ve got in the fridge huh and we’ll feed St…the dog’.

Hutch lay still on the settee by the fire, letting the welcome blaze thaw out his chilled bones. He listened happily to the sounds of domesticity in the kitchen – his kitchen. Was that what he missed? Was it not having Sarah around to share his life or was it…..? He hated to be disloyal to his wife’s memory, and he did miss her more than almost anything on earth. But the one thing he had missed as much as Sarah was right here with him now. Starsky.

The curly head popped around the door. ‘I can do you scrambled eggs on toast?’

‘Sounds fine……what about linguini with clams?’

‘Don’t push it shweetheart! If we went with the linguini, as memory serves, it’d be me lyin’ on the settee’.

‘Oh, ah, yeah. Well fine. Scrambled eggs are good’.

Starsky disappeared back into the kitchen and Hutch was once again left alone with his memories. Starsky in the back room of the restaurant with the bullet in his back. Not something he wanted to remember. No. Think of happier times huh? Think of the Christmases they’d had. They were always good….and sunny! Not like here. But Sarah had loved this little house and Hutch too liked the way it had wrapped them both in warmth and love. Until she wasn’t there any more and now it felt like he was an alien entity. He had no right to be here. No right to still be around when she wasn’t.

‘Penny for ‘em?’

‘Huh?’ Hutch jumped slightly and looked up as his friend offered him a glass with hot, amber coloured liquid in it.

‘You were miles away. I just wondered what you were thinking about’.

‘Oh, just how it used to be. Maudlin aren’t I?’

‘Ya got a degree in it babe! Drink that’.

‘What is it?’

‘Well I couldn’t find any stuff for your cough so it’s the next best thing. Honey, lemon, hot water an’ a couple’a jiggers of whisky’.

‘Starsk! Not the 20 year old Scotch from the cupboard next to the window. That’s sacrilege!’

‘No, its Talisker…..that’s what it says on the bottle’.

Hutch gave him a look. ‘I meant that to add anything other than a dash of springwater to a 20 year old malt is like…like….’

‘Like calling your dog after your best friend?’

‘That’s different’.

‘Fine, next time, we have the Malt unaccompanied. No problem there’ the curly guy finished and with a flourish handed Hutch a plate of scrambled eggs and toast. ‘Eat up, or you’ll never get rid of that cough’.

There was silence for a while as both men ate, the light from the fire’s flames sending welcoming patterns around the room as the dog came back and lay across the blond’s feet with a sigh.

The night wore on and the wind howled louder around the small house as the level on the Malt bottle got lower and lower. And the conversation never waned as both men sunk deeper into their seats in front of the fire and talked of past times. It was a comfortable time – a time for reflection. Hutch had Sarah’s memories with him, but it was as though she was sat at the back of the room, nodded and smiling her approval of the two friends getting together again – a benign acknowledgement of the troubles, fun and love they had shared over the years. The wind continued to whistle around the small house, pulling at the doors and windows as if trying to join the men in the comfort of the warm living room, but the doors were bolted against it and so it moaned balefully outside, whipping the still falling snow into tornados of white and then throwing it artfully against the stone walls of the house.

Inside, Hutch’s eyes could hardly keep open and he could feel a slight fever running through his body, but for the first time since Sarah’s death, he felt warm and at peace and as though he belonged. The settee had never seemed more comfortable, not the fire quite so cheery and although he knew things could never get back to how they were before, for a small time, he had Starsky to himself.

Just before midnight Starsky pushed himself up from the chair with a stretch, his still flat belly rippling beneath his sweater. ‘Santa Claus’ll never come if ya don’t go to bed like a good little Blondie’ he slurred slightly, the whisky having taken it’s toll.

‘I don’t think I can get off of the couch. S’too comfy’.

‘Here. I’ll help ya’. The brunet put strong arms round his partner’s waist and pulled him to his feet, aiming him towards the stairs. Somehow they managed to get drunkenly up to the bedroom and Starsky dumped Hutch’s painfully thin frame onto the bed. Hutch looked up at him and grinned idiotically.


‘For what?’

‘For bein’ here’.

‘S’what friends’re for’.

‘I know. But still…..thanks’.

The blond tried to pull the sweater off over his head, got half way and stopped, the effort to much. He stayed with his arms out of the sleeves, but with the neck of the garment swathed around his head and a single tear rolled down his cheek.

Starsky knelt in front of him and looked up into his face, all trace of alcohol and reverie gone for a moment as he saw his friend’s deep hurt. ‘Aww babe. Don’t. What can I do for ya, huh?’

‘Dunno….I didn’t even put a tree up. Didn’t decorate. An’ she loved Christmas’ Hutch said softly.

Starsky pulled the sweater off all the way and eased Hutch back down into the bed, covering him with the big fluffy duvet and tucking it round the blond’s chin. ‘S’ok Blintz. She’d understand. Go t’sleep huh? You’ll feel better in the morning’.

But the hand reached out and took hold of his. ‘Don’t go Starsk. Sounds soapy, but…just ……?’


‘Just a while…..?’

The greying man smiled his familiar, lopsided smile. ‘Sure thing buddy. Just go to sleep. I’m not goin’ anywhere’.

Throughout the night the storm raged on and Starsky kept vigil by Hutch’s bed. He’d seen his friend sicker, for sure, but never so…fragile. And throughout the night, Hutch tossed and turned on his pillow, occasionally shouting out for Sarah and sometimes for Starsky, but towards morning, as the storm died down outside, his fever broke and he slept more calmly, his dreams now of days in the sun with an indigo eyed man at his side as they chased down perps and drove high speed through far distant city.

Hutch didn’t know what time it was when he awoke, but a bright white light was seeping through the crack in the heavy curtains at the window. With a grimace, he got out of bed and padded over to them, easing them open slightly.

The moors had been transformed into a fairy wonderland of white and silver. The snow lay deep around the house, hugging it in its own fluffy white blanket and evening out the humps and hollows in the fields opposite until it looked as though he was looking from a plane window down at the clouds beneath. Where there was less snow, close to his path, the tips of grasses and bushed poked through the white blanket, each tipped with it’s own diamante crown sparkling in the fresh morning air. The sky was the clearest cerulean blue he’d ever seen with not a cloud to mar its perfection and far off he could hear the Church of Immanuel ringing it’s bells.

The door to his bedroom opened and the two Starsky’s appeared, once wagging his tail to show his appreciation, the other grinning widely.

‘How’re ya feelin’, Blondie? Feel up to getting up an’ celebratin’ Christmas?’

Hutch nodded, and stretched lazily in the warm bed. He felt relaxed for the first time in months and happy to be awake and with his old friend. He got out of the bed and walked over to the wardrobe and took out a thick sweater, pulling it over his head. ‘Much better. Better than last night thanks. How’re you? How come you’re up so early? Don’t tell me Laurel finally made you into an early riser’.

‘Uh huh, not even my beautiful wife can make David Starsky enjoy stupid o’clock. No, haven’t’ really been to bed. I’m still on LA time. Besides’ he added with a grin ‘I had to look after a sick friend’.

‘Thanks buddy, ‘preciate it. So. Breakfast?’

‘Well now, there’s the thing. Before ya go downstairs, I have some good news and some bad news for ya. Which d’ya want first?’

‘Neither. I hate surprises. You know that’.

‘Well you’re gonna get one whether ya want it or not. So which is it to be?’

Hutch followed his partner out of the bedroom and down the stairs. They paused before going into the living room and Starsky looked expectantly.

‘Ok ok, the bad news I guess. Get it out the way’.

‘Well ya know that big tree at the side of your gate?’

‘Uh huh’.

‘Well it aint at the side of your gate any more. It’s kinda…..in the living room…..through the window. It came down in the storm’.

‘Oh shit Starsk! It’s through my window. Well what the hell’s the good news?’

Starsky opened the door with a flourish. ‘Ya got your Christmas tree’.

Hutch looked in at the top of the big fir tree now poking through the living room window. But his partner hadn’t lied. When he’d heard the crash in the middle of the night, he’d come down the stairs, quietly cleaned up the shards of glass and stuffed up the hole in the window with a spare blanket. And then he had what others called a madcap Starsky idea and he called a brainwave. He looked at the tip of the tree lying drunkenly through the window and wondered. Wandering quietly round the dark house, he found the Hutchinson’s Christmas decorations in the spare room. And for the next few hours he’d transported himself back to his childhood as he decorated the tip of the tree. Hutch marvelled now as he saw that his friend had decorated it artfully with the multi coloured baubles and tinsel and although there were no lights on it, the fireside glow made the tree dance with sparkle.

Hutch stood stock still, mesmerised. Only the child that was Starsky could make something so wonderful out of such a disaster. He put an arm around his friend’s shoulders and pulled him close.

‘You did all that for me?’

‘Well, I wanted Christmas too ya know…..but yeah. I did it for you’.

Hutch hitched a breath, refusing to cry, but feeling stupidly like a little boy who’d just seen Santa Claus for the first time. He pulled Starsky into a bear hug. ‘You’re beautiful, ya know that?’

‘Aw shucks’.

‘What can I do for you? I didn’t get ya anything’.

The brunet snorted. ‘No change there then. But there is one thing’.

‘Tell me. Anything’.

‘Careful! Making promises like that can be dangerous’.

‘I trust ya’

‘Ok, well there’s two things’.

‘First, I want ya to sell up an’ come back to bay City. I miss ya too much buddy and that’d be the best Christmas present of all’.

‘Not a hard one Starsk. I’d already kinda decided that while we were talking last night. Its too cold for me here, an’ all my family are still back there. So in the New Year, Me ‘n’ the dog’ll come back with you an’ put this place in the hands of the estate agents. But you said there were two things. What’s the other?’

‘Tell me. Why did ya call the dog Starsky?’

The blond turned away to go to the kitchen. ‘Coz I couldn’t bear to be without ya’ he said softy. ‘How’s that for soapy huh?’