Ken Hutchinson watched his sable haired partner move with feral
grace through the chairs and tables of the restaurant. Twelve months ago, Dave Starsky had been at deaths door. Twelve months
ago some flake had paid hit men to gun him down in cold blood and his heart had stopped at the hospital. Twelve months ago
he’d…..Hutch grinned wryly. Enough of that! The explaining would come later. He smiled as the brunet sat down
at the candlelit table, waving the waiter away.
‘I ordered already, for the both of us’ he explained
to Starsky’s raised eyebrow. ‘I um….didn’t want to be disturbed’.
‘Why? Ya gonna propose to me or sumthin?’ Starsky
grinned, the smile lighting up his features and adding even more warmth to the handsome face.
Hutch drank in the sight, etching every line into his memory,
every nuance of the voice stored away for later. Would he still have his memories after? Would he still retain them once he’d……Well,
he’d soon find out.
‘If I was gonna propose, I’d find someone with
a prettier face than yours’ Hutch joked, trying to keep the moment light although his heart was the heaviest it had
The waiter brought them their steak and a bottle of wine, checked
their order, then left them alone and for a while, they ate in companionable silence. The candle flickered between them, the
mellow light reflected in Starsky’s ocean blue eyes. Eventually the curly haired man put his fork down and took the
napkin from where he’d tucked it into his collar. He sat back, took a sip of ruby red wine and regarded his best friend.
‘OK. Spill it’ he said directly.
Hutch looked up nonchalantly. ‘Spill what?’
‘Aww c’mon Blintz, ya can’t fool me. I’ve
seen that look a hundred times. There’s something on your mind. So tell. Why the fancy restaurant and the steak dinner
huh? What’s special about tonight?’ Starsky locked his indigo eyes on his partner’s crystal blues and planted
his elbows on the table.
‘Uh huh? It aint my birthday, an’ it aint yours.
Christmas and Thanksgiving are months away. Gimme a clue’.
‘Better ‘n Christmas’ Hutch said simply.
‘Its twelve months since you almost died in that hospital bed. Twelve months since you got a new lease of life. Well,
twelve months tomorrow actually. I wanted to celebrate an’ I still owed you the steak dinner, remember? You beat me
fare and square’.
A shadow fell over the well defined contours of the brunet’s
face. ‘You remembered?’
‘Hard to forget buddy. And Starsk, there’s something
else I have to tell you. Something you’re not gonna like, but I don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter’.
‘What?’ Starsky’s voice sounded brittle,
as though he’d known something bad was around the corner. ‘No. Don’t tell me. Don’t spoil this Hutch.
It’s too good a night’.
Outside the restaurant, the rain hammered down on the sidewalk
and a lightening flash lit up the road with an unearthly glow.
‘I have to buddy. I um…..I’m goin’
away tomorrow. For good. Don’t ask me where, you won’t be able to find me an’ you won’t be able to
Starsky’s face paled. ‘Say again. You’re
goin’ away and you just thought you’d drop it gently into a conversation? No! Ya can’t. I won’t let
ya. Where? Why? Blondie please…….I……don’t go’.
‘I don’t have a whole lot of choice Starsk. Believe
me, if I could avoid it I would. I kinda get the impression it aint gonna be no holiday camp, but I promised someone a while
ago an’…….well, I promised’.
The word was so quiet Hutch thought he’d imagined it.
Had she come early for him? That wasn’t the deal, but could you really trust the devil when you’d bartered your
soul for your best friend’s life?
‘It’s Van, isn’t it?’
Hutch looked over his shoulder as though expecting to see the
ravishing auburn haired woman stalking towards him through the crowd.
‘Don’t know what you mean’.
‘Yeah, you do. That day. At the hospital, when I….
I did die ya know. Did the whole followin’ the light thing. I could see my Dad in the distance an’ I was kinda
curious. Didn’t really want to die, but somehow it didn’t seem so bad. An’ then I saw ya. Just standing
by the side of the room watchin’. You had tears in your eyes an’ I was tryin’ to get back to tell you not
to be sad. And she was there, by your side, whisperin’ in your ear. I wondered then what was goin’ on. But the
I felt myself kinda pulled back an’ there was this searing pain in my chest, an’ after that I got kinda busy with
the whole breathin’ thing. Next thing I remember, you were dancin’ with my nurse’.
‘You were dreaming buddy’ Hutch said, his heart
in his throat as he relived the moment in crystal clarity.
‘No I wasn’t. It happened, didn’t it? ‘Cept
she was dead - Van. So, what gives? Explain it to me’.
Hutch sighed. ‘OK, but not here. Drive me home an’
I’ll tell you’.
‘Didn’t you bring your car?’ Starsky asked.
‘Yeah, but I don’t feel like drivin’. I feel…..dunno,
thin somehow, like I’m……oh hell. Just drive me home Gordo’.
Outside the storm raged unabated, somehow feeling fitting for
the occasion. So they drove through the rain drenched streets, Hutch thought wryly that he wouldn’t want to die on a
perfect summers night. The rain and the thunder and lightening seemed right and he wondered if it had been orchestrated that
Hutch walked up the steps to his apartment feeling distinctly
odd. He felt wired and spacey and for all the world as though his body was fading away. He looked at his watch. 11:30pm. Wow,
he thought he’d have more time, maybe the whole of that last day with Starsky before……before hell, brimstone
and eternal damnation. But that’s what he got for dealing with the Devil – the turkey was punctual if nothing
Starsky watched Hutch sit down heavily on his sofa and came
to sit by his side.
‘Hutch, tell me what happened. Why did I survive 5 bullets
an’ yet I can walk, talk, run, jump. I should be a cripple, or dead. They said I was a medical miracle, but I’m
not. Someone, somewhere had to be lookin’ out for me. It was you, wasn’t it?’
‘I couldn’t let ya die. I just couldn’t’
Hutch said softly. ‘I couldn’t have lived if you’d died. You’re my life Starsk. My reason for carrying
Starsky reached out and took a hold of Hutch’s hand.
It felt unnaturally cold and he tried to warm it between his own. ‘Oh my God Hutch! What did you do partner? Tell me.
It wasn’t really Van, was it?’
‘Starsk, you have to understand. This was my choice.
No-one forced me. I did it of my own free will. I did it coz I couldn’t bear to lose you. I was selfish’ Hutch
tried to explain desperately. He could feel himself slipping as midnight fast approached.
‘Hutch, you’re scarin’ me. Just tell me huh?’
‘You’re right. It wasn’t Van, or rather it
was, except…..oh hell’ Hutch snickered at the word. ‘It was the Devil’ he said, expecting his partner
to think he’d lost it completely. He should have known better. Starsky trusted Hutch implicitly. He’d trusted
him with his life all these years, so why not trust him with this outlandish, unbelievable explanation?
Starsky’s honest, concerned face stared back at him.
‘And she told me that I could save you. It was simple…..almost
Starsky gripped the blond’s cold hand all the harder.
‘No, Hutch, nooo. What did you do?’
‘I sold my soul’.
‘Sold your….shit! Why? Why do that huh? Blondie?’
‘I did it coz I love ya, mushbrain’.
‘I can’t believe it….I won’t believe
it. You’re here, walkin’ and talkin’. How can it be that you did that an’ yet you’re still here?’
Starsky asked, searching his partner’s face with his pained eyes.
‘The deal was your life for my soul and I had some more
time with you. It wasn’t a hard decision to make Gordo, honest’.
‘How much more time?’ the brunet asked softly.
‘A year. Times up tonight - at midnight. I never wanted
to tell ya, I just thought I could go away. Thought I could save us going through this, but I guess I was weak. I needed to
see you one more time an’ now it’s too late. And…..I’m scared’.
‘Aww Hutch! No, there must be something we can do. I
won’t let ya go. I’ll fight. It’s never too late. They can take me instead’ Starsky cried desperately.
Hutch snorted. ‘Great idea Starsk. I sell my soul to
save you, so ya want to die to save me? Nice thinkin’ Einstein!’
‘Well you think of sumthin rather than just sittin’
on your butt an’ acceptin’ it!’
‘I have accepted it Gordo. I don’t think you can
double deal the Devil. An’ anyway, I can feel it starting. She’ll come for me soon. Don’t argue away the
last few minutes huh?’
The brunet bounded up from the sofa and ran to the kitchen.
He started rummaging through his partner’s cupboards coming back a moment later with a string of garlic and some salt.
He handed a garlic bulb to his partner. ‘Here, put that on’.
‘I don’t think bad breath’s gonna scare her
away buddy’ Hutch chuckled. ‘And apart from that, garlic’s for vampires’.
‘Well there’s salt. The devil don’t like
salt. Stay still’ the brunet started to draw a line of salt around his friend, muttering under his breath. Hutch watched,
a cold hand gripping at his heart.
‘Starsk, don’t do this. Don’t make it harder.
I made the deal an’ we’ve had a great year. More than we should have had. Just let me go. Let me go buddy’.
He could feel the cold beginning to work its way up his arms and legs now and his sight was closing down, as though he were
looking at the world through a cardboard tube.
‘No. You aint goin’ nowhere’ Starsky yelled,
seeing a far away look in the crystal blue eyes. The brunet closed his eyes, frantic to find some way to help; some way to
stop what Hutch saw as the inevitable.
‘I’ll always be there when you need me.
If you’re scared, or your world seems to be falling apart . . . or just some dark night, when you’re all alone
. . . if you just close your eyes . . . if you try to remember me . . . I’ll always be there, I’ll be there waiting
. . . I promise.”
Terry! Oh my God Terry, if there was ever a
time honey when I needed you, it’s now. Help me? Please help me. I don’t want to lose him. I can’t lose
him. I’m him an’ he’s me – we’re intertwined, inseparable. We weren’t ever meant to be
Starsky sat close by his friend, willing something –
anything to happen to make this right. He heard a low moan and felt a weight by his side and in alarm he realised that Hutch
had slumped sideways and was now resting against him, eyes closed and a cold sweat on his brow. He moaned again and his lips
worked as though he were talking silently to someone
‘Hutch….c’mon buddy, fight this. Fight hard
Blondie. For us….for me. C’mon ya bugger. I said FIGHT!’
The clock at the back of the room clicked over to midnight
and the soft chimes started to sound. Starsky put his arm around Hutch’s shoulders and pulled him closer.
‘There aint no-one gonna take ya. Ya hear me? They’re
gonna have to come through me first’.
‘That can be arranged’. The silky smooth voice
sounded strange after the duologue of male voices and Starsky looked up into Van’s beautiful face, hating every perfect
feature and every strand of her auburn hair.
‘You aint takin’ him, he’s mine’.
‘Wrong bozo, he’s mine and he knows it. You can’t
argue with the deal we struck. You’ve had him for long enough, now it’s my turn. Move aside curly. I was always
sick of you! Our marriage was a sham once you appeared. There were three people in it and I wasn’t prepared to share
him. Now I can have him all to myself – for eternity’.
‘Take me instead’ Starsky yelled.
‘Why would I want to do that? I’ve looked forward
to this for a year. Now I’m taking what he promised me’. She advanced on the two men, arms outstretched and Starsky
felt Hutch’s body jerk convulsively. The blond groaned in pain and the sound tore at Starsky’s heart like no other.
‘Nooo. You keep away from him, ya hear?’ he yelled.
But Starsky too felt strange and a cold crept surreptitiously up his spine, sending shivers through his body.
‘Makes no odds to me. I could take you both. Kinda like
a twofer’ Van grinned, bending down over the duo.
‘Do they do “buy one get one free” in Hell?’
The third voice came from behind them and cut through the air
like a knife and for a moment Starsky thought he’d gone stark staring crazy. It couldn’t be! He’d only thought
about her a moment ago! Could she really be here?
With the spreading cold now clawing at his throat, Starsky
took a final look up at the two pale glowing forms above him. He smiled at them before clutching all the harder at his partner
as though he could never let the big blond go.
‘Utch…..don’t give up. Fight’ he whispered
into the flaxen hair. ‘It aint your time t’go yet. Won’t let ya’. The cold was cutting off his airway
now and his vision had narrowed to a slit through which he peered at the devil as she held out her hand, tempting them away.
‘Sssstarsk……love ya’ Hutch mumbled,
fighting to put a hand round his partner’s waist. It fell short and the blond hitched a weak breath. Using the last
reserves of his energy, the wheaten haired man opened his eyes and smiled. His eyes strayed past the sight of his partner,
instead looking up and over Starsky’s shoulder. The shadow of a smile coloured his lips. ‘Hey…..beautiful’
he whispered before his head dropped back to his partner’s lap.
Hutch awoke slowly, bracing himself for the inevitable red
and black corridor and wondering what Hell was going to be like. He’d envisioned pain and unending toil but nothing
shocked him more than the sight of the pretty face staring down at him. He braced himself for some pain, but none came. The
woman in white smiled and went away and weakly the blond closed his eyes. There were voices now and he heard a familiar one
arguing by his side. Oh God! Had she taken Starsky too? Had this whole deal thing had been for nothing? He cursed under his
breath and the sound came out as a breathy wheeze.
‘Carbon monoxide poisoning is nothing to be treated lightly
Mr Starsky. He’s had more of an exposure to it than you. If the emergency services hadn’t been called when they
had…..Well lets just say he’s very lucky. And so are you. A night in the hospital will be good for the both of
Hutch moved his arm weakly and tried to dislodge the oxygen
mask from his face.
The brunet disengaged himself from the conversation with the
doctor and walked unsteadily over to his partner. He too had been given oxygen therapy, but was now up and around and getting
under the nurses feet.
‘Hey buddy. Welcome back’ he said with a smile,
brushing a stray lock of silky flaxen hair from Hutch’s eyes.
‘Don’t ……understand’ the blond
‘City hospital buddy. Somehow the ambulance got called
an’ they found the two of us passed out on the sofa. Seems you’ve had a gas leak for weeks an’ it got worse
tonight. We both got an unhealthy dose of carbon monoxide’.
‘They don’t know. And stranger ‘n that. When
they got to your house, the telephone lines had been down for hours in the storm’.
Starsky sat down on the hard chair, pulling it closer to the
bed so that he could whisper to the blond without being overheard.
‘How’re ya doin’ buddy?’
‘M’good. Starsk….what time is it?’
‘Its 3:15 am. We did it Blondie. We beat ‘em’.
‘Van? Did I dream….?’
‘No, I saw her too. She was getting’ mean and it
was striking twelve and then I could swear I saw……nah, couldn’t have’.
‘I saw ‘em too’.
‘Yeah. They saved us’ Hutch said with conviction.
Starsky smiled at the memory. ‘They did didn’t
they? God love ‘em’.
‘He does Starsk, he does. Terry and Gillian. He loves
‘em and we always will’.
‘Yeah. How’re ya doin’ now?’
Hutch led back on the bed. ‘Great. For someone who should’a
been dead three hours ago, I feel great’.
‘Yeah? Well ya still look like death warmed over, so
stay put an’ let me look after you huh?’
‘No argument there. I’m just glad to be here buddy.
Aint goin’ nowhere’.
‘No you’re not. Leastways not without me. Rest
easy Hutch. I’m gonna go an’ call Dobey. With any luck he can smuggle us in a couple of beers an’ a pizza.
We still have a lot to celebrate’.
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