Co-written with Jan in VA
Chapter 1– 2004.
The morning was bright and sunny and even at 7:30 in the morning, there was an intense heat. It was going to be another hot Bay City day and the two men jogging around the path were already sweating into the towels wrapped around their necks, panting gently as they progressed.
The man on the left was just over six feet tall with pale, flaxen coloured, silky hair, just beginning to recede at the temples. His face was handsome, in a ‘boy next door’ way, and there were piercing ice blue eyes embedded in a lightly tanned face. The lines there added to the man’s character and a blond moustache completed the features, cut so that the sides drooped very slightly down the sides of his mouth. It too was pale blond with just a stray white bristle to mark the man’s age. Not that his 56 years showed on his body. It was still upright and muscular and the long legs that powered the body around the path still pumped up and down with the vitality of a thirty-year-old. Only the scars on the legs, the right shoulder and left upper arm gave anything away to the casual observer of the hard life he and his partner had experienced out on these same Bay City streets their feet now were pounding away on. He still couldn’t hold a pen particularly well with either hand and his fingers ached like the devil when it was cold – thank God for computers on days like those! His shooting ability, however was as keen as ever and the trusty Colt Python was a constant companion, its weight a source of comfort in an unsure world.
The man on the right was slightly shorter at 5’11”. His skin was tanned a much darker shade than his companion’s, and at this time in the morning, before his post exercise shower, he showed a day’s growth of dark bristles. His curly hair was still an unruly, thick mop although the intense mahogany colour it once was now had a sprinkling of grey hairs clustering at the temples and scattered across the curly head. His face was ruggedly handsome with almost Latin good looks – a gypsy prince on the lookout for damsels in distress, and his deep indigo eyes stared out from his face, still clear and with an irrepressible twinkle. The lines around his eyes and mouth were a testament to his sense of humour and the fact that laughter was never far away. He too was still muscular and fit, his stomach flat and toned, his chest muscles clearly defined, although the sweatshirt he wore covered a host of old silvery scars across his otherwise fur covered chest.
Those scars which once he had been embarrassed to show, he now wore as a badge. They were the symbol of his survival and his fight to regain the independence he’d had before the attack. They also marked the end of his old life and the start of his new one. The scars however, did not stop the man from keeping up with his blond companion as the two completed their customary two-mile daily jog, although over the years their pace had slowed a little and both men ached more than they cared to admit at the end of their sessions.
As they neared the end of the path, they both pulled off the running track and started to warm down, stretching limbs and breathing deeply before they settled down to relax on the sun-warmed grass, stretching out their legs and leaning back on their arms, enjoying the early morning quiet. They enjoyed this early hour when it was just the two of them again, a bit of mindless exercise and a chance to prove to themselves that they were still fit, healthy and ready for anything.
Hutch collapsed back onto his back, staring up at the cerulean blue sky, shading his eyes with his hands. For a moment, as they both got their breath back, there was silence before the blond spoke.
‘How’s it hanging buddy?’
‘Fine. Bit tight this morning. It ain’t the years it’s the mileage! You?’
‘Fine too. Nice morning, good weather. Gonna be another hot one. But that’s not what I meant and you know it’.
Starsky stopped rubbing absently at his chest and smiled a little. ‘You remembered?’
Hutch snorted. ‘How could I forget huh? Probably the worst day of my life’.
‘Worst day of your life?’ the brunette retorted. ‘Wasn’t exactly a picnic in the park for me pal’.
‘Yeah. I know’ Hutch said softly. ‘Who’d have thought after 25 years we’d make it this far?’
‘As I remember, you didn’t think I’d make it, period. Let alone this far’.
‘But you beat the odds. Typical! Had to have the last word and prove everyone wrong’ Hutch chuckled fondly.
Starsky chuckled too, then shook himself. ‘Hey, ya know how I feel about soapy. Just breathe the air, feel the sun and let’s be grateful huh? Race ya back to the cars?’ he stood, stretched once and set off back down the path at a steady trot as Hutch looked after him, then got up, eased a twinge in his leg and set off to catch up with his partner.
As they ran back towards their car Hutch couldn’t help thinking about that day 25 years ago. That day, on the orders of James Gunther, the brunette had been mowed down in a hail of machine gun fire. As he’d shot at the speeding car as it raced past, he’d hardly dared look at Starsky’s blood soaked body as it lay cuddled around the wheel arch of his Torino. He had stood back, frozen in horror as the paramedics had worked over the limp, bleeding form for what seemed like a thousand years and had followed mechanically as the ambulance whisked his partner off to the hospital.
There wasn’t room for Hutch in the ambulance with all the medical paraphernalia and medics so he’d followed closely behind in his car, hands and legs moving over the controls automatically as his mind played the scene in the police garage over and over like some macabre horror film. He felt helpless and so scared for Starsky as he pulled up outside the hospital and saw the white, still form being carried into the ER. He would be eternally grateful to Dobey and Huggy when they came to sit with him during his vigil as he probably would have gone crazy if he had to wait to hear of the outcome alone.
Hutch had never felt like that before. He’d never once, in all his years of working with Starsky given up in a situation. But as he sat straddled across the hard regulation hospital chair, chin resting on the back as he looked through the large observation window, his heart told him this time their luck had run out. This time his friend and partner wouldn’t make it. There was no psycho cult figure to decipher, no poison antidote to find. This time it was all up to the brunette. It never crossed the blonde’s mind that Starsky would give up. He would never ever do that, but he knew that sometimes the body could only take so much and with all the massive injuries his partner had sustained. Hutch knew it could only be a matter of time before Starsky’s lungs exhaled one last breath of air and his heart gave up its laboured pumping.
Hutch had been eternally grateful that Starsky had surprised them all and had lived through that first night and through the day after that, although it was always touch and go. Hutch had been desperate to stay at his partner’s bedside, but his heart burned with a fierce determination to bring Gunther to justice and finally, that thought, burning away at his soul won out. He’d left Dobey and Huggy to the vigil and had stood alone in the elevator replaying over and over again that stupid, crazy ping pong game, wishing he’d have the chance to buy the brunette one more steak dinner.
As Hutch had gone after Gunther, the doubt that his partner would survive was replaced by a cold hard lump of hatred for this man who could order the killing of someone he hardly knew. That Starsky was only in his early thirties was an irony in itself. He had so much to live for and his death would mean he’d miss out on so much that life could offer.
As Hutch sat in his car, alone with his thoughts, he idly toyed with his gun. It had been his only other constant companion over the years and a grim idea began to form in his flaxen head. He knew that there was no way he wanted to live if Starsky wasn’t going to be a part of that life. He had no doubt he’d never be able to police the streets again and so he deftly slipped one of the bullets from the chamber, and held it up to his eyes. He blew on it, removing a tiny speck of dust there and carefully rubbed it against his shirt, making the metal coating shine. He brought it to his lips and kissed it before placing it carefully in the breast pocket of his shirt, the pocket over his heart. If Starsky didn’t survive, neither would Hutch and, after he killed or arrested Gunther, he’d take himself away to a quiet corner somewhere. He would save that one bullet until he made the ultimate act of defiance against the injustice and stared down the barrel of his own gun. It had given him a measure of comfort, knowing there was at least something he could have done; something he could have control of, but whether the voice of the brunette inside his head would have eventually stopped him, he fortunately never had to find out.
After Gunther’s attempt on Hutch’s life in the parking lot of the hospital, and he’d gone to quiz Jenny Brown about the hit, he’d had a strange feeling that something wasn’t right. He’d gone back to the Metro, standing in the half painted squad room and had picked up the phone, a sixth sense telling him to check on his partner. The moment he heard Dobey’s voice on the telephone, I think you’d better get down here right away Hutch he dropped the small ping pong ball he’d found, stupidly, in the middle of the floor and had been playing with and raced as fast as his long athlete’s legs would carry him out of the office, into his car, then up the 3 flights of stairs and along the corridor to Starsky’s room. If a man could have given his own heart to his friend, that man would have been Hutch. In his panic the thoughts went over and over in his head as he sent out silent prayers. Please God don’t take my best friend now…come on legs, faster…please let me be on time…wait for me Starsk…I’m coming….don’t you dare leave me……please don’t leave me, I can’t cope without you, Gordo.
He’d skidded to a halt outside the room just as the doctor was coming out, “He’s alive. He’s still not out of it, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t still alive!” and as the doctor had walked away, still shaking his head in disbelief, he’d stood at the window, hand flat against the pane of glass and willed every scrap of his essence into that room to circle and penetrate the brunette’s body. The doctor had called it a miracle, and miracle it was. Again Starsky proved everyone wrong and once again pulled through, burns on his sternum and left side along his ribs from the defibrillator paddles now added to the catalogue of other injuries across his suffering body.
Some time after the code blue, Hutch had a phone call, drawing him away from his watch over his partner. He hated being away from the brunette. He hated the thought that something, good or bad, would happen to Starsky while he was away, as though Hutch’s very presence in the room would give the curly haired cop more strength to heal and get well. He took the call reluctantly, but when he heard the voice on the other end, asking for news of Starsky and could she do anything, his heart skipped with a renewed hope. He found himself answering with gratitude, making arrangements and knew at the end of the conversation that if salvation could be found, it was on its way.
Hutch had stayed at the brunette’s bedside throughout the next few days, leaving only to go to San Francisco to arrest Gunther, deal with the administration on Gunther’s arrest and pick up a quick change of clothes from his apartment. His time in that red carpeted, wood panelled room, facing James Marshall Gunther was one of the most satisfying Hutch had ever known. Seeing the dead body of Bates and the look of dejection and ruination on Gunther’s face as the white haired man pointed the small silver gun at him, the brief struggle they’d had as Gunther tried ineffectually to shoot him. They all paled into insignificance compared to the feeling of closure as Hutch had finally gone behind the desk, bent the man over it, cuffed him and read him his rights.
Although pleased that he’d avenged his partner, he’d never felt as alone as he had done at that time, even though Huggy had been at with him throughout most of the investigation. It just hadn’t been the same as having Starsky’s irrepressible presence at his side. He couldn’t explain to anyone just how broken he felt. As though when Gunther’s goons had shot Starsky, they had shot him too. He felt every one of those hot pieces of metal. Not as foreign object penetrating his skin, but as three alien intruders in the life he shared with the curly headed cop lying comatose in the bed he sat beside.
The first bullet had brutally intruded into the vitality it had taken away from Starsky. The brunette had always played up the ‘dumb cop’ to Hutch’s more cerebral presence. Only Hutch knew exactly how much of a pretence that was. Although the brunette had never had the college education Hutch had had, Starsky had been through the school of life and had learned its lessons the hard way, on the tough New York streets and in Vietnam. Although he hadn’t had the opportunity to read as many books as Hutch, he was by no means stupid and his astute, incisive brain often saw solutions to problems that Hutch’s more ordered mind never could. Starsky’s humour and his almost childlike wonder at the world around him also added a vulnerable quality to the total package that was the essence of his partner. It was on a totally unconscious level on the brunette’s part, but Hutch was always amazed at how that was the one thing about his partner that sent women wild for him.
The second bullet intruded on the duo’s very partnership now ripped apart so early in their careers. Hutch was in no doubt that Starsky would never ever recover fully from this injuries. He knew his partner well enough to know that Starsky would fight back with every ounce of determination and courage he possessed to get back out onto the street at his side, but he had seen the damage sustained and had heard the doctor’s reports and prognosis. Starsky had proved the medics wrong so many times before, but Hutch had known this time would be different. The blond never contemplated the idea of taking a new partner and Dobey only once broached the subject, to be met with anger, resentment and rejection by the blond. After the initial exchange on the subject in the room Dobey was setting up at the hospital as his office, he’d never again mentioned the possibility and Hutch liked that just fine. The legendary team of Starsky and Hutch would be together again, but on what level no one really knew, or they would leave the force together. Whatever Karma held for them, they would be inseparable. Time would tell, and until they were out there together again, Hutch had known he’d do anything, any job, to bide the time.
Finally, the third bullet had threatened to breakdown Hutch’s very mental sanity itself during that first night alone with the brunette in that oh so quiet hospital. Hutch had replayed the events of the shooting with a host of “what ifs” that continued for several days especially during the times he was alone with Starsky. Those were the times when the troubled fair haired cop counted the ticking of the seconds of the clock on the wall; when the beeps and clicks of the various machines in the room keeping time with his friend’s heart and breath sounds made Hutch even more introspective and guilt ridden. What if he had been about to drive? Hutch had known without a doubt that he would have preferred to have taken those bullets. If Hutch had been round the driver’s side of the car, he could have spared Starsky all the suffering he was going through in that bed, and all the pain and suffering he knew he’d have to go through when, and Hutch willed it to be “when” and not “if” he recovered.
What if they’d never pissed Gunther off to begin with? Then James Gunther would never have given the order to have them both killed and Starsky would be sitting eating a beef burrito, laughing and joking. But Hutch knew deep down that if not Gunther, it would have been someone else. It was the nature of the job, and the way the duo had always chosen to do it. They got the bad guys before the bad guys got them or anyone else. It went with the territory that sooner or later, one of the bad guys would want to get even. He’d remembered his talk with Huggy outside the attorney’s office ‘there’s someone up there laughing at this puny little cop trying to chip away at a mountain’. Hutch had seen it all before with other brother cops on the force. Dobey hadn’t escaped it, when his partner and friend, Elmo had been left hanging from a meat hook! Now he and Starsky had suffered a similar fate. NO, not similar. Starsky wasn’t dead, and he wasn’t going to die!
What if he and Starsky weren’t so close? Would that have made a difference? Well not in the shooting. Gunther didn’t care whether they were close or not. Hutch had thought that it would probably have given the business man an added perverse sort of thrill to learn that he could hurt both men together – one physically and the other mentally before Hutch finally bought it. It wouldn’t have stopped the shooting, though. Gunther wanted them both dead. They’d made too big a hole in his Californian enterprises. A man like that would never have taken a drop from being the fourth most powerful business empire in the States and just lain down and taken that with no repercussions on the men he perceived as the ones who were responsible.
Would it have stopped Hutch’s hurt? Possibly it could have watered it down some, but no one could see a young vital man gunned down in the prime of his life and not feel something, some small remorse or sadness.
Gunther could, but that was the thing. No ordinary person who came into contact with the curly headed whirlwind that was David Michael Starsky could ever go away with a lukewarm feeling about him. Felons hated him; there was no doubt about that, because Starsky and Hutch were a team to be reckoned with, but as much as felons hated him, Starsky had a magnetism about him that made just about everyone he came in contact with like and respect him.
Hutch remembered with fondness that was exactly what had drawn him towards David Starsky right from the moment they had introduced themselves at the Academy. Hutch was so thankful for having the man laid before in the bed now in his life, no matter what happened…as his best friend. And if men succumbed to Starsky’s boyish wit and intellect…the women!
Women fell almost at his feet, although that had always come as a shock to the brunette and a source of amusement to Hutch. Men enjoyed his company because he was easy and unassuming, but there was a passion for life beneath the surface. And Hutch? Hutch loved him as a brother, a friend, a companion, a soul mate, a partner and so much more. Their relationship, although strictly platonic, was a rich weaving of dimensions. While both men were definite red blooded, heterosexual males, they were both unafraid of their softer side and had never been ashamed to express their love for each other, to reach out for a touch, if that’s what was needed. Hutch had known that he could never do the tough job they both craved without that level of commitment and depth of understanding, and he had also known that it came along only once in a lifetime. Dobey had once said that although he’d loved the sharp end of the job, he’d only gone for promotions because he couldn’t bear to bond with a new partner. Hutch knew now exactly what the big black man had meant.
So, as Hutch kept his vigil, pictures of the men’s lives had gone like a slideshow through his head. They’d had plenty of trauma - poisonings, stabbings, plague and illnesses. God they both even had been shot before, but never on this scale. They’d both been taken away forcibly at one time or another and both had withstood torture in one form or another, but Hutch didn’t want to think about those dark times as he’d sat with his partner. He’d felt that if he could think of the happier times, those thoughts and feeling would somehow have penetrated through to the broken man at his side and helped him.
So instead, Hutch had thought about the wonderful times they’d had together, the meals they’d shared, the brunette’s penchant for spicy food, the women they’d known, dated, kissed, made love to. Then a small warm glow had come over the troubled blond. The women.
Laurel was on her way.
She’d seen the news on the local television station. Hell, it had even reached national news. A police detective gunned down in cold blood in the parking lot of his own HQ was newsworthy after all. Hutch had been asked for his comments by an unsuspecting fresh faced news man on the steps of the hospital and had answered with a smart right hook to the man’s chin, before the other reporters had learned to keep away from the angry blond.
Hutch had taken the call from Laurel when she’d seen that the shooting had taken place in Bay City. When the newsflash had given the name of the injured officer, a lover’s concern had taken over and she’d telephoned immediately. Hutch had given her as much information as he could, and Laurel had promised to come down to Bay City as soon as she had gotten off the phone.
So the blond had waited, his mind ping ponging between the “what if’s” and fond memories of Starsky and their friendship over the years. Hutch prayed like he hadn’t prayed since he was a small child that his friend would begin to turn the corner and start to improve…even a little.
Hutch was in the middle of another “what if” guilt ridden session when he had risen wearily and stiffly from his self imposed vigil to turn to actually look towards his partner and had seen the slightest glimmer of indigo under the smudge of the brunette’s dark eyelashes for the first time since the shooting.
“Starsk…?” he whispered in shock. “Starsk! He’s awake…ummm HE’S AWAKE,” to the nurse who was oblivious to the miracle that Hutch thought he was witnessing. He knocked the book she was reading out of the nurse’s hands in his zeal for her to confirm what he hoped he was seeing…that he wasn’t just seeing what he had wanted to see for days!
Even unfocused and in pain, Starsky couldn’t suppress a slight twinkle in his eyes as he watched his partner of all those years swing the poor nurse around and around the room in his utter and complete joy.
As the brunette drifted back to sleep, Laurel had come to the hospital and had held Hutch’s hand as he’d sat again by his friend. At some hour of the night, Sarah, Hutch’s girlfriend and a nurse at a nearby hospital also arrived. He had met the pretty, petite woman while he himself had lain severely injured in a hospital bed such as his partner was now in. Hutch made whispered introductions to the two women. As dawn broke, Starsky had once again stirred and Hutch had immediately been there, holding the warm hand that pulsed with life. The hand that, up until that moment, he’d been too afraid to touch.
‘Hey buddy, good to see those old blue eyes again’ he’d managed to say around the lump in his throat as a tear formed in his eye and had
trickled unashamedly down his cheek.
Starsky had been so weak he’d only managed to smile at the blond, locking eyes briefly and communicating in that one look more than words could ever have said. Then he’d seen another movement in the room and Hutch had moved to one side to let Laurel to the side of the bed. She’d leaned over and gently kissed the dark forehead.
Starsky’s eyes registered a brief moment of shock, before the shadow of a smile played across his face and as sleep took him again he’d managed to whisper ‘I love you’.
Chapter 3 - 1980
Ping pong, ping pong
The sound reverberated over and over in the brunette’s head and had been playing that way for as long as he could think. It annoyed him and distracted him from the thing he wanted to do most, and that was to wake up. The world had suddenly gone dark and fuzzy and he hadn’t been able to open his eyes to see what was going on.
The last things Starsky remembered was the stupid game of ping pong he’d been playing with his partner. No, wait. Not stupid. He’d won a three course dinner at a restaurant of his choosing over that so called stupid game! As he’d headed out to the parking lot with Hutch in hot pursuit he’d still been deciding what exactly he was going to eat, and where. Hutch’s offer of hamburger, fries and a chocolate shake just didn’t cut it and as he put the car keys in the door lock he was imagining lobster, steak, champagne. The works.
Hutch had then shouted for him to get down. He’d tried hard to get his left hand into his jacket to draw his gun, but before he could grab his trusty Smith and Wesson, he had heard a deafening noise, and a cold numbness was suddenly creeping through his body. A chaotic void then replaced the numbness for a moment as his body and mind tried desperately to comprehend what was happening around him.
Starsky vaguely remembered Hutch screaming his name as he hit the ground and he wondered how much it was going to cost to replace the glass in the Torino’s windows. Crazy what your mind thinks of when your life’s on the line, but for Starsky his life didn’t seem to be on the line. He felt sick to his stomach, and confused beyond belief that he couldn’t get up and help his partner. There was initially no pain, no feeling of life ebbing away. There was instead a cold, empty feeling and a need to reach out and touch his best friend who was suddenly in front of him…but Hutch didn’t come to him…didn’t touch him.
The flaxen haired cop seemed to be frozen in place, an indefinable edge in his voice as he said Starsky’s name again and again. Starsky wanted to comfort him and tell him that everything was OK, but then he realised it probably wasn’t OK when the paramedics came and started working over him. He heard words like “shock”, “bleeding out” and “cross match” and suddenly the pain of the foreign metal objects that had passed through his body hit him with a vengeance.
Starsky had no idea how long he’d been lying on the ground but suddenly he was aware of why Hutch sounded so fragile. The pains in his chest and back were crippling. He couldn’t breathe properly and the more he tried, the more he seemed to be sucking at nothingness. He tried to tell the people working over him where he hurt, but he couldn’t make a sound come from his mouth and there was no way his hands would obey the commands his brain was trying to give them. He knew then that he was well and truly screwed and in his pain and anguish he allowed himself to slip back into a haze of pain and drugs and let the professionals around him do their job. The only thing he was really sorry about was that he couldn’t find a way to let Hutch know that he’d fight this all the way.
There was a long period of nothing after that. It was like going under a general anaesthetic where he had no recollection of time or space, although his consciousness levels rose and fell. During his almost waking moments, he was aware of movement around him and sounds. They were unpleasant, annoying sounds for the most part. Beeping and whispers in the darkness that he could barely hear, but that kept him from sleeping peacefully. He had pain, but he somehow knew it was being chemically controlled and was glad for that.
Then during a period of being alone in the room, another pain took over. It was a crushing pain which seemed to Starsky to be like a vice wrapping around his chest and squeezing it until his very world was consumed in an agonised fight to draw in breath. The vice set up a deep thrumming pain in his chest and down his left arm until he felt like he had the worst bout of indigestion in the world and then some.
All of a sudden, there was nothing. No pain, no crushing sensation, but more ominously, no heartbeat. Up until that moment, Starsky had never realised that he did, in fact, feel the steady beating of that organ, minute after minute and day after day. It was there in the background, another part of the white noise that made up daily living, and now it was gone. In a final exhausted effort, his heart had decided that enough was enough and that it was time to call it a day.
The absence of the beating scared him more than the prospect of dying. He’d known all his life as a cop that one day, a gun might take him out, but he’d hoped it would be later on in his life. He fleeting thought what a waste it would be to go then, when there was still so much he wanted to do.
He had then thought of Hutch. Oh God, Hutch! He was letting his partner down and there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it. Hutch wasn’t there and Starsky needed him. He needed to be able to tell him in some way that he loved him, that he always would, that he’d always cherished working with the blond and being able to call him his friend. He tried hard to think of that blond face, hoping that if this was to be his last thought, it would be a happy one.
He wasn’t to be left in peace, though. Suddenly there were nurses and doctors crowding around him. For the first time he was aware somewhere in the nothingness that he had bandages around his middle and felt the cold steel of scissors as they were cut away. There was a feeling of cold on his chest, then a pain too awful to describe. It was like his mind played interference to the drama that was unfolding around him. It was as if he was watching the world on a badly tuned television and then for a brief moment he thought he was going to be OK. Then it happened again, another pain, more interference, before a final stabbing jolt went through his chest, a burning sensation and smell and blackness.
All the way through, and in the background like a comfort blanket, Starsky could feel Hutch’s presence with him. He felt the blonde on an unconscious, almost spiritual level and it gave him a measure of comfort but more importantly, it gave Starsky a burning desire to carry on and make one last titanic effort.
After that things got distinctly more painful as Starsky fought his way back to consciousness. During the next day or so he battled his demons as they came to him. All were painful and many were terrifying. His thoughts were a maelstrom in his head.
Ping pong, ping pong.
He wished he could stop thinking of that sound…thinking of that bloody game, but it was a thread of sanity through the chaos that was his world at that point. He thought of Terry, but her face melted into Rosey’s and then into Laurel’s before turning more frighteningly into Diana’s. In a more crazy moment, he convinced himself that she was his nurse and she’d do to him what she’d done to Hutch months before. He’d felt a hand on his head and had tried to knock it away, but his arms still wouldn’t work.
Then unseen hands came to take the trach. tube out of his throat. Subconsciously he knew they didn’t think he could feel anything, but the sensation of having the hose ripped from his chest was almost more than he could bear and he could feel tears welling in his eyes, annoying him even more when he knew he could do nothing about them.
He also knew that at times Hutch was there with him. He heard the soft velvety voice of his partner saying over and over again, “I don’t know what to do Starsk. What if?”
It held so much pain and anguish. He so desperately wanted to answer that voice, to be there for his flaxen haired partner, to feel the cool hand on his arm, but there was no way he could communicate. His body was too tied up with the healing process to do anything other than lie there like a piece of meat and rile at his confinement.
Hutch went away for a while and his presence was replaced by other familiar presences that he recognised as his long-time friend Huggy and his Captain, Dobey who both sat by and him and talked to him about everyday things. He knew it made them feel better and he was glad he wasn’t alone, but he desperately wanted the blond back at his side.
A lifetime later, he heard the voice that he had wanted to hear again. The voice of comfort and reassurance. The voice that made him want to listen. The voice that was his sole reason for fighting at that particular moment. With an enormous battle of will, he opened his eyes a fraction and was blessed with the sight of the big blond excitedly staring at him, wide eyed with what looked like shock. He saw Hutch notice he was awake and if it hadn’t hurt so damned much would have laughed out loud at the jig his partner danced with his surprised nurse. He wanted to say something, but his body was still too tired to do anything other than open his eyelids. He so much wanted Hutch to touch him, just to reassure himself that he wasn’t going anywhere, but Hutch was too caught up in the euphoria of the moment! So Starsky had had to content himself with listening to his friend’s cheers of rapture as he fell back to an exhausted sleep.
Later, he awoke, with Hutch again at his bedside. Starsky felt warm and cosy in the bed and even the flashes of pain from his wounds couldn’t stop the inexplicable happy feeling he had to have his partner once more in the room with him.
‘Hey buddy, good to see those old blue eyes again’ he heard Hutch say, but had hardly the strength to answer him. Instead Starsky gazed into his partner’s ice blue eyes, communicating as they sometimes did with looks rather than words. It was then Hutch had moved to one side and Starsky had seen another figure in the room.
For a moment he couldn’t believe that she was there with him. His mind went back to a similar time, high up on a mountainside above Sacramento, when he’d woken from a feverish nightmare expecting to see Hutch’s blue eyes staring down at him. This time, as then, he saw warm brown concerned eyes, surrounded by a sweet, beautiful heart shaped face.
Laurel moved to the side of his bed and reached up, smoothing a cool, tiny hand across Starsky’s forehead as she bent down to kiss it. She smiled down at him, not needing words to express her feelings for this man. She’d nursed him once before from injuries caused when he’d been run off the road. She’d helped him struggle down the mountain to find Hutch, nursing him back to health using her considerable knowledge of herbs and plants, and she had quickly fallen in love with this curly headed hellion whose stubbornness and sheer joie de vivre had set her heart dancing.
As they’d gone back to Sacramento, they’d both reluctantly realised that neither would fit into the other’s world and so they had parted a year ago. It was amicable, but heart breaking all the same and now he was here again, as vulnerable as ever, but it wasn’t his vulnerability that had caused her to travel the four hundred miles south. It was her love for this dark haired cop and as she looked into his eyes, he gathered all his strength and licked his dry cracked lips.
‘I love you’ he whispered painfully, as he drifted back to sleep with the shadow of a smile on his handsome face.
Laurel stayed with Starsky during that night allowing Hutch to go home and get some much needed rest.
She really didn’t know what she would see when she got to the hospital, and she’d braced herself, but she was aghast at the damage done to the man who had been her lover. As she came into the hospital room and had seen his still form back lit by the dim blue neon light over the bed, she’d taken a steadying breath. The bandages across his chest and abdomen and the pale, gaunt appearance of the strong vibrant man she’d known made her heart break. She spoke at some length with the doctor in charge of Starsky’s case. He’d heard of her and of her work at the hospital in Sacramento and was impressed at the results she’d achieved with her herbal remedies, but he was even more impressed at the small improvement that seemed to have come about in the curly haired cop’s progress after Laurel’s arrival.
Though he still was extremely weak and far from being out of the woods, Starsky’s vital signs had started to improve and his pain levels had seemed to be diminishing slightly, although he still required morphine every four hours to keep him reasonably comfortable. He woke once or twice during that night and smiled a little as he saw Laurel beside him.
‘Hey’ he whispered. ‘We gotta…….stop meeting like this’.
Laurel wiped his forehead with a cool cloth and chuckled. ‘Well, you just keep getting yourself into scrapes. You don’t have to go to such extreme lengths to get me to come see you, you know’.
‘Had to…..do something. …..forgetting me’.
‘No’, she said softly, kissing him lightly. ‘I could never forget you’.
‘Thought…..needed some attention’.
‘Oh yes? A telephone call would have been easier, crazy man,’ Laurel smiled.
‘S’pose…..Glad you’re here’ Starsky rasped, his voice thin and raw. ‘Missed you’.
‘I know. And I missed you too, but don’t talk now. You need to keep your strength…just rest and sleep. The more you sleep the quicker you’ll get well’ Laurel soothed as she took hold of the hand lying on the bed next to her. She was amazed when Starsky squeezed it and there was still just a little strength there, an echo of the strong vital man that Laurel felt sure he could be again.
Starsky was looking intently at her, his indigo eyes properly focussing for the first time since he’d woken. ‘Laurel….. don’t go’ he said with some urgency in his voice.
Laurel shook her head ‘I’m not going anywhere, my love. I won’t go anywhere ever again, if you don’t want me to’.
That seemed to appease the sick man and he seemed to settle a little easier against the white pillow. ‘Stay always?........sleep now…..just talk ta me awhile, huh?’
‘If you promise to try to sleep, of course I’ll talk’ she answered, slightly amused.
It was as though he was a little boy who had a nightmare and didn’t want his Mom to go away until he was asleep and the monster couldn’t get him. Laurel paused in those thoughts realising that the man that she was still very much in love with WAS indeed in a very real nightmare and some monster really had caught up with him! A monster with a gun and a head full of hatred So as Starsky’s eyelids drooped and he drifted into a less troubled, less painful sleep, Laurel started to talk.
She told him of the months she’d spent at the hospital in Sacramento. After she and Starsky had said goodbye the first time, she’d had watched from the window of the hospital as Hutch had given him the keys to the candy apple red Chevy Corvette she’d bought him, his Torino having been trashed on the mountain. She’d seen him as he came limping back into the building to find her, he’d taken her out for a spin in the car. She’d laughed for sheer joy as she saw the rapt look on his face as he drove her back up into the mountains. She’d taken him back into her cabin and they’d spent the afternoon not in lovemaking, but in sitting, talking and promising they’d be there for each other.
Her Granddaddy had sold the first Californian goldmine to the government and had invested the money. James Marshall had decided the mine had brought him nothing but bad luck, so he’d taken himself off to the mountains to live a simple life, salting his money away into a bank account, never once touching his investment. He’d told his son about the money, but by then the whole Marshal family had become accustomed to life in the small cabin on the mountain side. It was a simple life, away from most of civilisation with just nature and the animals for company. Three generations lived in that cabin with Laurel being the last living survivor of the family.
When she’d found Starsky in the forest by the side of the wreckage of his car, she’d struggled to get him back to the cabin and had doctored his substantial injuries and nursed him. After he’d persuaded her to help him down the mountain to find Hutch, Laurel had been offered a job at the hospital setting up and running an ‘alternative therapies’ clinic. It had, during the four months it had been fully open, had some remarkable successes and Laurel had taken on four more practitioners. The bigger the enterprise became; however, the more administration she had to do, and the more anxious she became. Laurel never wanted to be an administrator. Her talents and passion for medicine lay in treating the sick, and that was what she desperately wanted to get back to.
At the beginning of the time, she’d thrown herself wholeheartedly into the work as a way of trying to forget the curly haired, handsome cop who’d swept her off her feet. The moment that she and Starsky had made the joint decision to part had to have been one of the most heartbreaking of her life, but they both recognised that they were too independent to ever truly give up one life style to take on the other’s. They also loved each other enough to know they could not push the other into making that decision.
Each night for the first month or so after their parting, Laurel had had dreams about Starsky. In her sleep, she could feel his body move against hers and hear his soft voice in her ears as he whispered words of love and passion to her. She could taste him on her lips and more than once had woken up crying into the pillow next to her as she remembered their sensual lovemaking. Several times she had almost picked up the telephone longing to hear his voice one more time, but the sensible part of her mind told her that that would just prolong the agony; that the only way to get over him was to try to put him out of her life altogether.
She thought she might have been doing OK until one day she came into the surgical waiting room and saw a man with his back to her. He was dressed in a hooded sweater topping faded blue jeans, but it was the dark curly hair that had made her heart skip a beat. Quickly she came into the room and was just about to put her arms around the man when he turned at her approach. It wasn’t her David, but a complete stranger. The shock of the force of her emotions was such that she’d had to go and lock herself away in the bathroom until she could stop shaking and crying. At that point she had realised that, try as she might, she would never be able to get David Starsky out of her mind, and if she couldn’t do that, she’d have to find some other way to live with it.
Laurel had been talking now for over an hour. Telling the sleeping Starsky everything that had gone on in her life while they’d been apart, and now, as dawn was breaking, she stopped, suddenly tired beyond any feeling she’d had before. She pulled the white sheet a little higher up the sleeping man in the bed, careful not to disturb the bandages around him. She then put her head in her hands, resting them on the bed. When Starsky next awoke, he could see that Laurel was fast asleep at his side, her long blond hair cascading down her back. Slowly and stiffly, he reached out his hand and rested it on her head, carding his fingers slowly through her silky tresses…a sense of peacefulness falling over him as he stroked.
Across town, Hutch and Sarah had made it home. The blond was exhausted by his vigil at his friend’s bedside and the trips to San Francisco and had slept through the short journey back to his apartment, his flaxen head resting on Sarah’s shoulder as she drove.
Hutch had been so relieved when Laurel had come to the hospital for he knew then that his friend would have yet another reason to get well. Hutch had never believed for one minute that his partner would give up. He knew that Starsky would fight as hard as he could to get back at Hutch’s side, but the blond wondered if that incentive would be quite enough to get his friend through the devastating injuries. However, when Laurel had arrived and he’d seen the look in his partner’s unfocussed pain filled eyes, he’d known that Starsky now had that other reason. Starsky hadn’t spoken about Laurel very much since they’d parted, but Hutch understood that it wasn’t because Starsky had forgotten the beautiful blond woman. It was because it was just too painful to remember.
Hutch had his own lovely lady now too.
Sarah had been his nurse at the hospital when he’d been brought in after Diana Harmon and her two cronies had kidnapped and tortured him. He’d been in a bad way and the doctors had been worried that he wouldn’t survive, but Hutch had, like his partner, confounded them and made a good recovery, although his broken leg hadn’t healed as well as he would have liked
Harmon had dressed as a nurse while she’d held Hutch captive, so he had been terrified of any uniforms when he’d been brought into the hospital and Starsky had fought to tend to him at home, but the flaxen hared cop’s injuries had been just too severe. Sarah had dressed in street clothes while she’d nursed him. She’d been quiet and reserved, never startling the big fair-headed cop as he’d lain in the bed. Slowly Hutch had come to trust her to the extent where eventually Starsky had been able to leave the hospital for increasingly longer periods of time, so long as she was in Hutch’s company.
As Hutch’s convalescence had continued, his and Sarah’s relationship had grown. At first the young nurse had been reluctant, knowing as she did that patient/nurse relationships were usually flawed and never lasted. To that end, she’d tried very hard to keep her distance, but the Nordic cop’s character, his sense of humour and his vulnerable good looks finally captured her heart completely and she and Hutch had started to date.
As she drew Hutch’s car up outside his apartment she nudged him gently.
‘C’mon sleepy head, we’re here’ she whispered. Even now, so many months after his kidnapping, any sudden moves startled the blond more than he cared to admit, and Sarah was always careful.
Tiredly Hutch opened his eyes and groaned as the knots in the muscles round his neck and back made their presence felt. Gingerly he got out of the car and they both went into the apartment.
‘Sit down, honey’ Sarah said. ‘I’ll make you some tea, then it’s to bed’.
Hutch smiled. ‘You always did say the nicest things. Lets scrap tea and just jump to the bed part shall we?’
Sarah snorted. ‘In your condition? The most I’d get would be a peck on the cheek and a whole bunch of snoring!’ …but she came over to the blond cop as he sat on the couch and knelt in front of him. Deftly she unbuttoned the pale denim blue shirt he wore, noticing how it was almost the exact shade as his eyes.
Hutch groaned as Sarah pushed the shirt back over his shoulders, effectively pinning his arms behind him as she pushed him backwards and dotted small kisses over his lightly tanned, smooth muscular chest and kneading her fingers into his knotted muscles. She undid the buckle of his belt and slowly unbuttoned his waistband, allowing the zipper to slide down as she looked coyly up at him. Hutch sat up and took hold of her wrist, kissing the inside of her hand as he stood and silently lead her into the bedroom.
Once there, he stood still as she completed undressing him until she could push him back onto the bed, only his boxers between them. As he lay back, watching her intently, Sarah removed her clothes too and swiftly got onto the bed, nestling into his side as he stroked his big square shaped hands over her back.
She looked up and kissed him and he returned the kiss with enthusiasm as she continued kissing down the line of his neck, along his shoulders and down his chest. Closing her eyes, she rolled over and asked,
‘Hutch honey? Are you OK?’
There was no answer and she propped herself up on her elbow to look into his face.
‘Hmm’ he mumbled.
Sarah flopped down next to him, chuckling good naturedly.
“Typical man”, she thought to herself and then reminded herself why her lover was so tired and sent a silent prayer up to allow both men the peace and health they deserved.
She snuggled against the muscular tanned body and put her arm round Hutch’s chest.
‘Go to sleep, big guy. We can catch up tomorrow’.
‘Hmm…tomorrow,’ Hutch mumbled as he gently pulled her even closer towards him and started to snore.
From that moment on, Starsky’s recovery took an upward turn. Although not a fast recovery, the brunette confounded all the doctors by progressing reasonably steadily. That wasn’t to say that there weren’t set backs and Laurel and the doctor in charge of Starsky’s case talked frequently. Although Laurel had seen gunshot wounds before-after all her Daddy had hunted for food- she was unaware of the impact bullets had not only on the immediate area of the wound, but on the body in general.
The doctor had told her that the trauma of a bullet wound resulted from both direct and indirect effects and the radial forces of the impacting pieces of metal which caused small cavities to form alongside the path the bullet had taken through Starsky’s body. Those cavities resulted in areas of infection, which needed surgical intervention to clean out any bullet and bone fragments along with fragments of clothing in addition to treatment with strong antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection. While the bullets had left small entry and exit wounds due to the relatively small distance travelled from gun to target, the surgical scars the surgeons had to make were extensive because the internal damage was far worse than was reflected on the surface.
Starsky now had one large scar like an inverted Y, the tip starting at his sternum just below his throat, traveling down the center of his chest and splitting at the end of his sternum to go right and left under the line of his ribs. Fortunately, as he had told the surgeon, the hair on his chest should grow back and hide the worst of it. Until then, he’d just not leave his shirt unbuttoned!
The most severe damage was to Starsky’s heart, which had been grazed by one of the bullets, although his lungs and diaphragm had also suffered extensively. More than once the, the detective became sick with pneumonia, his body being weak and less able to fight off infection. Those times, both Laurel and Hutch remained at his bedside as his sweat soaked body battled the bacteria trying to invade his body. In his fever dreams, he cried out for Hutch and the blond was immediately at his side, holding his hand and talking to him soothingly, although it never seemed to register with the suffering man that his best friend was with him. His tormented cries tore at Laurel and Hutch’s hearts as they did their best to comfort their friend, but it was a difficult time for all.
It worried Hutch to see Starsky so very sick and Laurel had a hard time convincing him that although this was frightening, it was normal and to be expected. She tried her own remedies in conjunction with those the hospital used, but even with the combined powers of the treatments, it took a long time for the brunette to start recovering. It was during one of those times that Laurel and Starsky talked seriously about their future.
As he struggled with another bout of chest infection, he’d turned dulled pain filled eyes to her.
‘Why d’ya stay?’ he panted, as he fought to get enough air into his congested lungs.
The question took her by surprise. ‘What?’ she asked, stunned.
‘Why d’ya stay…..just a wash up…..no good to ya’ Starsky mumbled sorrowfully, the drugs and the infection making him feel heavy and depressed.
She smiled at him. ‘Because I love you, dummy’.
She knew there was more to it than that. Starsky had been sick now for almost two months and although his body was healing, it wasn’t as fast as he would have liked. This was the second bout with pneumonia he had in that time and the sickness was taking its toll on the curly haired cop’s spirits. It seemed that all the time she’d known him he’d been sick or injured and she knew that this man that she loved was wondering if she would love him as much when he was well again.
She tried again. ‘I’ll always love you, no matter what. I loved you from the first time I saw you’ she said softly as long held tears threatened to spill from her eyes.
Starsky reached for her hand and she couldn’t help noticing the ugly purple bruises along the inside of his arm from all the various IV lines. Vein after vein had blown as the medical staff had to pump more and more drugs into his abused body. It was getting harder to find areas to locate new lines.
‘Love you too’ he rasped, his voice husky with fever. ‘Don’t have to stay……don’t need you to pity me…,” He paused. ‘just needed to…’
‘I’m not giving you pity, you crazy man. I sit here day after day because I want to. Because you are the only person I want to be with, but you have to fight my love, because I can’t contemplate a world without you. So no more talk of pity. I want you to be strong enough to sweep me off my feet and carry me away’.
Starsky had a shadow of a smile on his face. ‘Maybe not.. ...today huh? Soon. …still be around?’
‘Of course I’ll still be around! Now shut up and sleep, or I’ll make you drink some more of my tea!’ Laurel said with mock severity as she saw the indigo eyes begin to close.
With one last attempt before sleep overtook him, he focussed on Laurel. ‘You want….be with me forever?’
She leaned forward and kissed him, feeling him kiss her back gently. ‘More then anything else, yes’ she told him meeting his eyes with her dark brown ones.
He snuggled his head into the pillow, a smile on his face for the first time in a while. ‘Hmm…..like that…..forever’.
As she watched this wonderful man of hers sleep, she wondered whether this time they really did have a future together or whether once he was well he would want to go back to his old life. Laurel was a pragmatist and deep down she knew that as hard as Starsky fought, there was going to come a time when he’d get as well as he was going to get. There was no way he could recover fully from this attack and she wondered how he would ever come to terms with his life if he couldn’t be at Hutch’s side on the streets once more. She only hoped that this time he’d allow her to be around to help him.
Laurel had made a clean break with her previous life, needing only to go back to Sacramento to pack up her things and select a replacement for her position at the clinic. Her mind was made up. This curly headed, handsome, stubborn man was the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with, but was Starsky ready to make that commitment?
From that moment on, though Starsky started to improve dramatically. It was as though the promise of a life after the hospital bed was the driving force he needed to spur him on. Three days later, with the help of Hutch, Laurel and a physiotherapist, David Starsky got out of bed for the first time. As he laid waiting for the big moment, Hutch could sense the apprehension his partner felt and tried to make light of it, in his own way helping his partner with the banter they’d shared on the streets.
‘You always were hard to get out of bed’ he joked as the brunette avoided his eyes. “How many times have I had to your carcass moving so that Dobey wouldn’t be on our case?
‘Yeah. An’ you’re always far too happy about making sure I’m up an’ ready,’ he grunted as he contemplated his feet. He’d lost about 25lbs in total since his injury and Starsky’s once muscular lithe body was a shadow of its former self. It frightened Starsky to see his ribs sticking out from his scarred chest. In his lower moments he doubted he’d ever truly be ‘normal’ again, but this would be the first step towards that goal.
With Hutch on one side and Laurel on the other, he shuffled towards the edge of the bed and sat panting, sweat beginning to bead on his forehead. Why should he suddenly be scared of getting up? Starsky couldn’t believe how getting out of the bed – something he’d fantasized about for days – would suddenly make him terrified. It was as though the bed had become a sort of security blanket. It was a safe island in a sea of the unknown, and for a moment, he desperately wanted that safety bubble back, but he pushed the irrational fear down deep inside him and with an enormous effort stood upright for the first time in almost seven weeks.
‘Oh shit’ he mumbled as the room started to spin around him and he clutched wildly at Hutch’s arm. Nausea threatened to make his breakfast put in a re-appearance and he swallowed hard as his legs shook under him.
‘You OK buddy’ Hutch asked, concern showing on his face. He’d seen his partner visibly pale and could feel the trembling as he held onto Starsky’s arm.
‘Oh, just a walk in the park, ya know’ the brunette said through gritted teeth and then added ‘Oh, sorry, that’s tomorrow, right?’
He stood a moment, getting his balance and then took a step forward. The movement, coupled with being upright again, pulled at his scars and sent pain lancing through his chest, but once up, it felt so damned good to be out of that bed.
The physio was looking concerned at the paleness of her patient, unaccustomed to the curly headed man’s resolve and stubbornness. ‘David I think you need to sit down. You’ve done very well for your first session’ she said, bringing up a chair in readiness, but Starsky was having none of it.
‘Hey, I’m up now. Gonna walk over to the window and look out. Haven’t seen outside for so long’. He took a faltering step, then another, gaining confidence as he made it the short way to the window, leaning heavily on Hutch and Laurel. Once there, he leaned his head against the cool glass and looked out at a world he hadn’t felt a part of for so long.
Hutch saw the longing in those indigo eyes. ’You’ll be out there soon buddy’ he said quietly, noticing the sweat trickling down the side of his partner’s face. ‘You had enough now? It’ll still be there for you, you know. Just a bit longer, that’s all. Ya gotta be patient’.
Starsky snorted. ‘Yeah, it’s only taken me five minutes to cover five yards. I’ll be running a marathon by the end of the week’, but he was quietly pleased that he’d taken that first step. He turned away from the window and suddenly the bed seemed five miles away. He was determined and as Hutch stood by his side, ready to take his arm again, he dismissed it.
‘Gonna do this on my own’ he grunted, ignoring the flashes of pain in his chest as he took the first step
Hutch knew better than to argue and he could see the look on the physio’s face, and motioned for her to keep back. With Laurel walking at one side, and Hutch at the other, Starsky made his weary, faltering but triumphant way back to his bed.
As he got to it, he sat down heavily, panting and clutching at his chest. Hutch instinctively reached out for his friend, but the smile on Starsky’s face told him that David Starsky was on his way back to the real world. He was moving forward!
That night Hutch went home to Sarah, leaving Laurel at the hospital. The staff there had become accustomed to one or the other of them staying the night with Starsky and had even moved a couch into the brunette’s room so that their patient’s overnight guest could get some rest.
Before Hutch left that evening, he’d seen the look of triumph in his partner’s eyes and in some small way, it made Hutch feel better to know that now Starsky was beginning to realize one of the goals that his independent, strong willed, stout hearted partner had for himself.. He’d taken his first real step back to the road to recovery and in the blonde’s mind, he could see them back out on the streets in the striped tomato, hunting down bad guys and working the streets.
When he got home, Sarah was waiting for him with supper on the table. As he came through the door, shrugging off his jacket and holster and hung them up behind the door of his closet, the petite nurse came to him and put her arms round his waist.
‘Was it a good day sweetie?’ she asked as she passed him a cold beer from the refrigerator.
‘One of the better ones, honey. Starsky made it out of bed and even walked by himself. You should have seen the look on his face. I could tell it hurt, but he was just so damned pleased with himself. You’d have thought he’d won the Olympic Marathon instead of tottering five yards to the window. …but it’s a start’ Hutch explained as he sat down on the settee next to Sarah.
The pretty nurse put her head on his shoulder. ‘It’ll be a long road to recovery yet’ she cautioned. ‘You’ve got to be prepared for him to have more set backs yet’.
Hutch cuddled her to him, still on a high from the visit. ‘You don’t know my partner. If anyone can make this work it’s Starsky. I’ve seen him battle back against the odds before. He’ll be fine’.
Sarah looked towards Hutch and gave him a small smile, noting how enthusiastic he was about this small but significant step that his best friend had accomplished today, but still she was troubled. She didn’t want Hutch to get too overconfident about the brunette’s chances, but at the same time she didn’t want to bring her man down from his euphoria. Hutch had been so tired since this all started that any news, however small, was good for him at the moment.
‘Do you think he’ll go back to work?’ she asked gently, not wanting to push the issue. It had been on her mind for the past month or so, since Starsky had made his recovery from the first bout of pneumonia.
‘Who Starsk?’ Hutch asked, his eyes still twinkling with enthusiasm. ‘He’ll be back at the precinct before you know it now. He’ll prove all the doctors wrong. You know that partner of mine will be running around and…” Hutch paused a moment and looked to the woman at his side, suddenly desperate to hear some confirmation from her.
“He’ll…..he’ll be fine…..Won’t he, Sarah?’
Sarah ran her hand up her man’s arm tenderly. ‘What makes you question it suddenly’ she asked.
Hutch’s shoulders slumped. ‘I was just so happy he was out of bed, but he DID look so ….so frail. He looked like one of those pictures of the guys at Belsen Concentration Camp, His ribs looked like furrows before planting back on my grandfather’s farm in Minnesota. They were sticking out so badly, and he trembled when he walked. I couldn’t see anything of the man that was my partner…my best friend there today. That wasn’t my friend, it was only a shadow of the man I know’ he finished, a slight hitch in his voice.
‘He’ll get stronger and he’ll get his muscle tone and stamina back’ Sarah said. ‘It was his first day up after a long time just being flat in bed! He’s bound to be weak and frail, but he’s still your partner…he’s STILL the best friend you’ve ever had, and he’ll improve every day. He needs you to be strong for him, sweetie, but you have to face the fact that he’ll probably never be quite the same. I’ve seen this sort of thing change a person in so many ways. It’ll probably make Dave stronger in a lot of ways too, but….’ She faltered, not sure how to continue.
‘But what?’ Hutch urged her on.
Sarah paused and took a deep breath. ‘…but he may never be strong enough to get back on the streets with you again’ she finished in a rush. She’d expected Hutch to be angry and to deny the possibility, but instead, he just gazed sadly into the distance.
‘I know’ he said softly. ‘I guess I’ve always known. I just didn’t want to face it until right now…this second. He just looked so…..I dunno…..so small so helpless today. Like it was only a part of David Starsky standing there at the window. I know I should be so pleased he’s on the way back…and I AM, but I couldn’t help looking at him and feel that this is the beginning of the end’. Hutch heaved a deep sigh.
‘I can’t go back out there on the streets without him, Sarah. I could never trust anyone the way I trust him. We’ve been through so much together. Did I tell you how he found me and dried me out when they got me strung out on heroin. He’s was so strong for me then. I tried to get out of that crummy room I was hurting so much, but he stood between me and the door. I remember slamming my fist into the door by his head and he never even flinched. Just pulled me to him, rubbed my back and told me we still had a way to go. Can I ever be that strong for him?’
Sarah took the blonde’s face in her hands and stared into his beautiful ice blue eyes, so troubled at that moment.
‘You’ll be as strong as it takes, because you’re his friend and his partner and because I’ve never seen two men love each other as much as you two do. …and remember, when you’re feeling lost and alone and feel like you can’t do this anymore, I’ll be here for you, always. You know that’ she told him seriously, then planted a tender kiss on his lips.
Hesitantly at first, then gaining momentum, Hutch kissed her back, twining his fingers in her thick dark hair. Pulling back he murmured ‘What would I ever do without you?’
‘Well, you never need to find out, do you?’ she answered as she got up and led him to the bedroom. Slowly they undressed each other, taking time and care and gently stroking each other’s bodies. They collapsed together onto the bed and Hutch propped himself on his elbow looking down at her.
‘What did I ever do to deserve a girl like you?’ he asked as she trailed her nails lightly down his back, raising goose bumps down his spine.
‘I don’t know’ she murmured. ‘Do you want to talk about it, or do you want to show me how much you love me?’
‘OK, you insanely beautiful woman, you asked for it’ he smiled sensuously as he pushed her back onto the pillows and started kissing the sensitive area where her neck joined her shoulder. She sighed against him as he moved lower and gently explored the rest of her body with his mouth.
Back at the hospital, Starsky’s adventures of the afternoon had taken every drop of his energy and he’d slept for quite some time, allowing Laurel also to get some much-needed rest. Later he awoke and turned his head to see her still asleep on the settee. He watched her sleeping for a while, admiring her long, luxurious hair and her trim figure. He marvelled that she would still want to be with him. He felt so useless.
She stirred and opened her eyes, seeing him looking at her. She gave him a questioning look.
‘I love watching you sleep’ he murmured, reaching out his hand for her to join him on his bed.
Laurel rose and came to lie down next to him, being careful not to jostle his chest too much. Gently she draped her arm over his body and looked up into his eyes. ‘I love watching you do anything’ she whispered. ‘You were wonderful this afternoon. It took me back to that journey down the mountain’.
Starsky’s eyes clouded. ‘Yeah, it was terrific’ he said without enthusiasm.
Laurel propped herself up to see him better. ‘Hey what’s the matter?” she asked, suddenly concerned.
‘You said it like I was a hero or somethin’ he said. ‘I walked five yards to the window. Big deal. How’s that gonna get me back to work, huh?
She looked at him sternly. ‘Now you listen to me David Starsky. What you did today was the equivalent of running a long distance race. You’ve been flat on your back for over seven weeks and seven weeks ago, you were at death’s door…one foot practically all the way through it I might add. This is NOT through any fault of yours. Some crazy evil man did this to you, and now you’re going to let those very men get you down and let them win? Because that’s what it will mean if you give up now you know’. She paused to gather breath even as Starsky held his.
The brunette had never seen Laurel so fierce and he felt in some way as though he’d let her and himself down. He looked crestfallen.
‘I’m sorry honey, I was just so disappointed that I couldn’t do more. I had visions of getting up an’ everything being fine. I’d be back at work in a month or so, and everything would be back to normal.” Starsky’s eyes shone with unshed tears as he looked at the beautiful woman lying beside him. “…but it won’t be, will it?’
Laurel caught the hint of despondency in his voice. ‘No’ she said softly, ‘It’ll never be quite the same, but you’ll move on and find ways to work around what you can’t do. I have no doubt you’ll work with that blond partner of yours, but maybe not in the centre of the city, perhaps a less rougher territory than you were before. …and this time you’ll have me as your backup too…always’ she finished.
Starsky held her to him and she felt a little of the strength he’d had before the shooting. ‘Yes, I’ll always have you’ he said gently. ‘Between you and Hutch, how can I fail?’
Chapter 7 – 2 months later
Starsky made slow but steady progress after that first day out of bed. He struggling through hours of painful physiotherapy until he was at a point where the doctors said he could do as much at home as they could do for him in the hospital. Having satisfied themselves that either Hutch or Laurel or both would be there for the curly haired cop, they had set a release date, cautioning their “miracle patient” against doing too much too fast and to avoid infections.
Starsky was standing at the end of the corridor at that moment, waiting for Hutch to come back from his apartment with his street clothes so that finally he could break out of what he felt had become a prison. He had prowled the small room and corridor all morning, cursing at the delay, looking out of the window at the sunny parking lot and watching for Hutch’s car to appear.
It had been four months since the brunette had last tasted freedom. In his rehabilitation, he and either Laurel or Hutch had taken walks outside in the hospital’s garden and they’d watched the kids playing in the school grounds across the way, but that was as far as his view of the ‘real world’ had taken him.
He’d been pale and wasted when he’d started going outside for short periods, but as his stamina increased, he found it relaxed him to be out in the fresh air. It gave him some small comfort to feel that he was away from the clutches of the doctors, nurses, physios and interminable tests.
Now, his once pale skin was sporting his more usual healthy tan, although he was still pitifully thin, his face still gaunt with a haunted look. Only his eyes, which had been dulled by pain for so long had taken on their accustomed twinkle, showing something of the old Starsky spirit. He had found a quiet corner of the garden he claimed as his own, away from the main thoroughfares and when he was certain no-one was around, he would take off his pyjama shirt and sit letting the sun’s rays pound against the healing scars on his chest and back.
He was very self-conscious of his scars. He felt as if they somehow marked him as an invalid, and that was a label he riled against day after day.
He drove himself on through the hours of exercises until the physios had to force him to stop. They didn’t want him to damage his still healing body, but the hard work was paying off. Now, he could walk all the way down to the garden on his own, although he often had to wipe the sweat from his eyes when he eventually sat down it hurt so much. Not that he would ever let that fact be known to anyone…even to his closest friends.
He’d been the guest of honour at a party the night before in his little room. Dobey, Huggy and Hutch had at various times during the evening smuggled food and drink into Starsky’s room as he lay in bed. He was feeling mellow and happy ‘Hey, four pain killers, feeling no pain’ he’d tittered as Hutch asked how he was.
That night would be one he would remember till his dying day. It summed up the friendship he had with these men…the journey they had all taken together since the shooting. In a moment of uncharacteristic emotion Starsky had proposed a toast ‘To four very heavy dudes’.
Of course, the emotional moment was interrupted by gales of laughter from the four men as the sprinkler in the room erupted, flooding them and the room with water. Yes, that would be a night that they all would remember always.
And of course, that moment of euphoria last night had evaporated with the morning. David Starsky could be a very patient person when he wanted to be, but as of this moment, he could truthfully say that he thought he had been patient enough for too long!
“Come on, Buddy! Where are you…”
Starsky walked dejectedly back to his room and stared once more at the clock on his wall. That clock had been his constant companion for the months of his incarceration as he called it.
It had counted down the seconds to the next dose of morphine, when the pain had been so bad he’d cried out and held onto Hutch’s hand until he drew blood from the nail marks he made. He’d watched its hands turn oh so slowly around the dial on the nights when he couldn’t sleep, and it counted down the minutes until either Hutch, or his beautiful Laurel would come back into his room and brighten his day. Now, the hands were doing their crawling trick again as he waited for his ticket out of Memorial.
He returned yet again to stare out of the window again and he saw what he had so longed to see all morning! Besides Laurel, Hutch’s mud coloured LTD and his partner pulling into the parking lot had to be the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen in his whole life.
Hutch took a small bag from the trunk, and looked up to the window, knowing his curly haired partner would be watching. He waved and smiled broadly.
Hutch too had waited for this day with longing. It had taken a lot out of the big blond. At first Dobey had given him compassionate leave to be with his partner during those early dark days of his recovery, but he knew that his captain could not allow him to spend as much time as he wanted with his partner forever. He’d been happy when Laurel had arrived and that they could share in taking care of this man that they both loved. They could support each other through Starsky’s highs and especially the lows in his roller coaster recovery too.
He’d managed to visit Starsky every day while still doing a full day’s work at Metro, but it had drained him to work eight hours, then sit with his partner during often desperate times. Not that he’d been out on the streets with anyone. He and Dobey had talked about what he could do, and Dobey had asked if he wanted time off, but Hutch knew he wanted to save that for when it would be needed when the brunette was home and needed care.
So the two had worked out that Hutch could complete a lot of the paper work on cases that were nearing conclusion. He could brief other members of the team about the jobs he and Starsky had been working on before the attack and then generally help out with interrogations, paperwork and the odd small ‘one man’ jobs which came up.
Starsky made his way back to the head of the stairs, waiting for the first sight of Hutch’s flaxen head coming to break him out, as if seeing him would make it happen faster. He felt excited, but there was another feeling churning in his gut too. One he couldn’t rationalise and one he decided to ignore for the moment. In this moment, he just wanted to savour better feelings.
‘Hey buddy’ Hutch said as he bounded up the final flight of stairs and saw his dark haired partner at the top.
‘Hey yourself’ Starsky replied, looking expectantly at the gym bag. ‘Ya got everything I asked ya to get?’
‘Yup, even down to the exact pair of crummy blue jeans you asked me to find’.
Both men made their way back to Starsky’s room. Hutch couldn’t hide his amusement as he watched his best friend eagerly dive into the bag Hutch placed on the bed. Starsky pulled out a pair of almost white jeans, washed so many times the colour had all but faded away, their material butter soft and velvety and his favourite red tee shirt with the small white square on the front. He added a pair of sports socks and his tennis shoes and disappeared into the bathroom.
Hutch looked around the room at the by now familiar walls and curtains. How many times had he stared at them over the months? He felt he knew every tile on the floor and every crack in the ceiling personally and his heart beat a little quicker as he allowed himself to feel excited for the first time about his friend’s discharge from the hospital.
Starsky seemed to be taking a long time getting dressed so Hutch started to pace the floor around the bed, then finally he knocked tentatively at the bathroom door.
‘Hey, you OK Gordo?’ he asked through the closed door.
There was a muffled noise then the door opened and a sweating Starsky stood in the doorway, holding onto his jeans with one hand.
‘I got ‘em on Ok’ he panted, ‘but look!’ Starsky pulled at the handful of waistband, the usually snug fitting material bagging around his hips.
‘Ya got a problem there buddy!’ Hutch smiled and took the belt from around his own waist, handing it to his partner. Starsky took it with a lopsided grin and tried to thread it through the loops of his jeans. He managed the first one, but the next involved turning slightly, and as he tried the manoeuvre he let out an involuntary yelp, his body unaccustomed to that particular movement.
Swiftly, Hutch took the belt and threaded it through the rest of the loops, allowing Starsky to buckle it tightly, a lot of the belt leather hanging uselessly down as he utilised the last hole on the belt. The usually tight fitting jeans hung from his hips and the tee shirt he wore, which usually hugged his muscled torso, was slack too.
The appearance didn’t escape either man and for a moment. Starsky felt uneasy. Hutch caught the look.
‘It’ll all come back pal,” Hutch said gently as he placed his hand on Starsky’s shoulder. “This is just the first step. How’s it feel?’
Starsky looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. ‘They fit where they touch, as Ma would say. I haven’t been this thin since Traff found me in that camp in Vietnam’. He lifted his shirt up. ‘Ya can play a tune on my ribs, they’re like a xylophone!’ He said, his voice small suddenly. Then he shook himself. ‘Hey, nothing a few burritos won’t cure, right?’.
“Right,” Hutch chuckled. ‘Ya gonna put your socks ‘n’ shoes on then?’
A cloud fell over the brunette’s face again. ‘Ah… would, but I can’t bend down that far yet. Sorry to ask but….’
‘No problem, sit down and I’ll do the honours.” Hutch finished dressing his partner and they exited the room without a backward glance.
Starsky waited impatiently at the nurse’s station for his discharge papers. All the nurses had fallen in love with the curly headed man. His courage and his miraculous recovery had made him something of a hero and his rugged good looks also added to his charisma. For the nurses, he made a fascinating and diverting change to nurse a young and handsome man rather than the usual middle aged sorts they dealt with. Starsky waited for the wheelchair. He hated the contraption but knew it was the only way the hospital would allow him off the premises, so he swallowed his pride and took the ride down to the exit.
As he got to the door, he rose stiffly from the wheelchair and took the pretty nurse in his arms giving her a kiss before saying goodbye. She had a tear in her eye as she left the two men and quickly went back to her work, glad he was well enough to go home, but sure they would all miss him terribly.
Starsky stood at the door and took a deep breath. His heart was doing a little jig in his chest and he felt dizzy and weak. He leaned against the side of the door a moment trying to get his emotions under control. After fantasising about going home for so many weeks, now the time had come to take that final step back into the world of the fit and active, and he found he was anxious and, dare he admit it, frightened.
While in the hospital, and especially toward the end of his stay he had been the most fit patient among the ones on his ward. Most of the other patients had a lot of healing still to do, and Starsky had felt almost normal in comparison to them. Now though, standing on the threshold with his vital blond partner, he was once again very much aware that he was very much the invalid still.
The hospital had cocooned him. If he needed anything there was a host of people there to answer his calls, and that was suddenly a very precious commodity that he didn't want to give up. He couldn’t believe himself. David Starsky was actually scared to go home.
Hutch watched his partner pause at the entrance, wondering what was going on inside that curly head of his partner. He knew from his extended stay in hospital the previous year that going home was a bitter sweet event and he suddenly had an idea what Starsky’s trouble was.
He took his partner’s arm and whispered in his ear conspiratorially ‘C’mon Starsk. Like always pal. Its Me and Thee against the world’.
Starsky clutched at Hutch’s arm for a moment, taking a deep steadying breath and together they took that massive step back out into reality once more.
Once home, Starsky’s elation at seeing his old familiar surroundings eased any fears he had about not having enough support. Laurel had moved in with him and he trusted her implicitly. He’d had sufficient time with her on her mountain to know that she was resourceful, strong and capable, but more than that, once his body had healed enough, she was also his lover.
Hutch was always there and Sarah helped as well. The two women were extremely fond of each other and had, over the past few months become firm friends. They were both cast in the same mould – caring and careful of their men and they had many conversations about how their respective partners were coping with Starsky’s incapacity. Sarah had confided to Laurel that Hutch was still of the opinion that his partner would be out on the streets as good as new within a few more weeks and she was concerned as to how the brunette was in fact progressing. Laurel had told her that although he was improving, it was a slow, steady affair. They both decided that the best way to support their men was to remain quiet and strong as the two detectives came to terms with what Starsky could and couldn’t do.
A week after the curly haired cop came home, he hit another milestone. He was still fairly weak, although it was amazing what a home environment could do for his spirits. The first few days he’d slept a lot and had still needed his full course of pain meds to see him through the day, but on this particular morning, he’d woken early, feeling energised and rested.
Starsky looked down carefully at the beautiful woman nestled against him. He needed the bathroom and he didn’t want to wake her, so, slowly so as not to disturb her, he wiggled to the side of the bed and got up. He still had a few of the lancing pains across his chest when he moved. They started in the centre of his chest and radiated round to his back, but this morning they didn’t seem quite so bad. The brunette stretched carefully and slowly so as not to disturb his healing injuries too much and then padded on bare feet into the bathroom. He switched on the light and looked at the bowed, scarred and emaciated figure in the mirror.
‘Well Davey boy, don’t you look like road kill?’ he said to himself as he took in the vivid red scar, the protruding bones and the long hair.
His mind took him back over ten years to a morning in Vietnam. Having been held prisoner by the Vietnamese for two months and maltreated every day of his imprisonment, Starsky had just about given up the will to live. In fact he prayed for death, such was the state of his mind and body. He’d been crouched in the small cage that had been his home for eight weeks, waiting for the next visit from his captors, when suddenly he’d heard gunfire on the perimeter of the small clearing. His mind was slow and he struggled to comprehend just what was going on. It wasn’t until he felt hands on his body that were neither punching nor whipping him, that he finally realised he was being liberated.
He’d forced his head up and looked right onto the bright green eyes of his friend and fellow officer, Tom Trafford. Traff knew his friend had probably been tortured but the look in the green depths of Traff’s eyes told Starsky how bad he really looked. He almost fainted in relief as Traff held his filthy, thin and damaged body to him.
‘Hey Curly, I got ya now. Don’t worry; we’ll get out of this just fine. Just need ya to be strong a little while longer. Can you do that for me, huh?’
There had been more gunfire and the two soldiers who had been with Traff had been killed outright. With a look of utter fury on his face, Traff had raised his machine gun and ploughed into the mêlée, screaming defiance and letting loose round after round until finally there was silence and the stench of death. Traff came down from his killing frenzy, pulled his friend to his feet, and together they limped out of the jungle clearing and into freedom.
It had taken almost a week to get out of the hot, damp jungle and back to their camp. Starsky had been weak and his fingers and toes had been infected. He’d had a high fever and their going had been slow and tortuous, but his feeling when he made it back to the camp with his friends, clean sheets and medical care almost deified description. In the weeks following his liberation, the brunette had had a feeling of peace and wellbeing, as though he knew he’d done his stint, and could finally rest.
This morning, as he looked in the mirror, instead of riling at the injustice of it all and seeing only the ruination of his once fit and active body, he started to feel at peace with himself. Not that he’d come to terms with the scar exactly, more that he’d finally found a certain acceptance of the way he’d gotten it.
He was a cop. He fought for justice each and every day on the streets. There was always the danger that sooner or later, one of the criminals that he and Hutch went after the “no holes barred” way they always did, would get the upper hand and shoot one of them. It suddenly occurred to Starsky that if it hadn’t been him in the way of those devastating pieces of lead, it would have been Hutch looking at HIMSELF like this. Gazing again at his now recovering physique, the dark haired detective realised that if this had to happen to anyone, he was glad it was him and not his partner. For an horrific moment, he had a vision of the blond lying in a hospital bed, pale and dying as he had a year ago before Laurel’s therapy had pulled him through. That single vision did more to spur the smaller detective on than anything that had been done or said to him in the past months.
Starsky took another good look at himself in the mirror and slowly straightened his body, easing out the kinks in his back, and ignoring the tight pains in his chest. He stood before the mirror straight and tall, and squared his shoulders. This was the David Michael Starsky that should face the world. Not a victim of a drive by shooting, not an invalid to be helped along, but a survivor, who proudly wore the scars that had been inflicted on him as a badge of honour. He smiled at his reflection and the pain lines on his handsome face, which had made him appear ten years older, lifted, revealing the man he’d always known beneath, the indigo eyes twinkling back at him in an echo of their former glory.
He turned from the mirror with a new resolve and decided that this day was going to be the first day of the rest of his life. Slowly, he reached over and turned on the shower, easing himself into the stream of hot water. It stung at his scar as the waves coursed down his chest, rippling over his ribs, but this was the first shower he’d managed to take on his own since the shooting and this one small act of independence made the brunette smile.
He stayed under the water for another few minutes savouring this feeling of achievement, then turning off the water, Starsky climbed slowly out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his slim hips. Carefully he made his way back into the bedroom and sat down on the bed as Laurel opened her eyes and smiled at him sleepily. Suddenly she realised that he’d been up and about without her. She saw the towel wrapped around him and the remains of the small water droplets shining on the hairs on his chest.
‘You had a shower?’ she asked, running her fingers along his bare legs.
‘That I have, and all on my own. No need for a nursemaid any more’ he said laughing at his little act of independence.
‘So you won’t want me to come in and shower with you any more’ she said, a little twinkle in her eye.
Starsky leaned over stiffly and planted a kiss on her lips. ‘Honey, what you can do with soap, I wouldn’t ever want to give up’ he wiggled his eyebrows at her and she tutted at him. ‘…but Laurel I managed. Know its only a shower, but it’s a start’ he said, obviously pleased with himself.
Laurel pulled him to her and carded her fingers through his wet curls. His hair had grown longer in the past few months and it gave him a wild, dangerous look that even his wasted body couldn’t hide. He truly looked like a gypsy prince and her emotions stirred within her.
They hadn’t made love since he’s been sick. Laurel hadn’t wanted to force him, knowing that any and every movement hurt her man to some extent, and secretly Starsky had held back, wondering if his injured body would ever respond as it once had. But this morning, he felt on top of the world and for the first time in so long he felt those familiar stirrings.
He lay down on the bed next to her, propping himself a little painfully on one elbow as she looked up at him with longing in her eyes.
‘I love you so much’ she told him putting her arms around his neck.
‘I love you too’ he growled as his hands started to explore her body, sending little shivers down her spine. She’d longed for his touch for so long and his hands wandering over her warm skin was the answer to her dreams.
Suddenly his faced creased in pain and he gave a small involuntary yelp as he felt as though a knife had stabbed through his chest. The position he’d gotten himself into had cramped his chest and it protested the movement. He paused a moment, clutching his hand protectively over his scar, panting as he rode out the pain. As it subsided, he relaxed back onto the bed and Laurel changed positions. With her mahogany haired lover on his back, she straddled his hips and started to play her hands down his chest and sides, ruffling the newly grown forest of hair which was partially hiding his scar as she began to rediscover her lover. His body responded to her touch and she could feel him growing hard beneath her as she continued her ministrations. She bent forward and kissed across the line of his chest, then lower to his belly.
The brunette growled in his throat as he closed his eyes and submitted to her exploration of his body. This was the one woman he need not be self conscious with and he abandoned himself to his feelings and emotions as he reached up to trail his fingers down between her breasts and further south.
‘Oh God Laurel, don’t stop. Please don’t stop’ he panted as her she adjusted her position and her small hand closed around his manhood. As she started to move it, he gritted his teeth, wanted and needed the feelings to last for ever, but at the same time craving release.
Laurel saw the look on his face and knew he would be unable to hold out much longer. Deftly, she positioned herself above him and slowly lowered herself onto his waiting member, sighing with contentment. As Starsky felt himself enter her, he began thrusting his hips, slowly at first then faster until almost in unison, they reached their climax. Laurel collapsed back onto the bed as they both lay panting with exertion. She stroked the brunette’s face and he turned his indigo eyes on her, glowing with desire, but showing a certain fatigue from the unaccustomed exercise.
Smiling he whispered ‘Laurel you’re wonderful’.
She returned the smile ‘and so are you, my love. How do you feel’?
He paused. ‘Terrific. No, more than terrific. Like I could go back out there and tell everyone I’m back! Why don’t they advocate that sort of therapy in hospital?” Starsky questioned slyly. “Hey, we may need to repeat that treatment soon. I think I may have a relapse some time real soon’ he grinned wolfishly.
Laurel chuckled. ‘Enough exercise for one day Mr Starsky. You’re going to need another shower now, and I don’t think you’ll be in any fit state to reach for the soap!’
Chapter 9 – 1 month later.
‘So, you ready to roll, buddy?” Hutch asked as he poked his fair-haired head round the apartment door and nodded a greeting to Laurel. She smiled in return as she slowly took a sip from the cup of coffee in her hand.
She began to chuckle. ‘Ready? He’s been ready for hours. He’s like a little kid going to the zoo! If he could have set off in the middle of the night he would have, I think’.
She lowered her voice, ‘Just take care of him huh? I don’t think that he couldn’t cope with a set back just at the moment’ she cautioned as Starsky came out of the bedroom. The doctor had finally given him the all clear to drive albeit carefully and today he was going to take his first drive in the corvette down to Metro to see everyone.
One of the questions Laurel had for him, when they’d finally been able to have a proper conversation together, was what he was doing standing by a Torino when he was shot. When she’d found him in the ravine the previous year, his beloved “tomato”, as Hutch had always called it, had been a write off so as a parting gift, she had bought him a candy apple red Corvette.
Starsky had chuckled more than a little as he began to explain how he had ended up with another Torino.
“Well, honey, the Bay City PD tends to frown upon us tying suspects to the back of our cars with no back seat and making them run back to the precinct for booking!”
After Laurel had revelled in Starsky’s long missed laughter, he had divulged the story about seeing an advertisement in the used cars columns for a red Torino. When he’d gone to look at it, he couldn’t believe that it was the same model as his old one had been. Ford had only made a limited number of those kinds of Torinos and he’d loved the original so much, he’d decided to blow his savings and buy a replacement. He’d now had come to believe that candy apple red Ford Gran Torinos must be bad omens for him and he’d vowed never to buy a Ford ever again.
He’d had plenty of visitors in the five months of his recuperation, and over that time he’d gotten stronger and stronger. He’d managed to put back some of the weight he’d lost over the past months and through daily exercises and physiotherapy, a good portion of his muscle tone had returned. Although still a few pounds under weight, he no longer looked like a refugee from a prison camp and with his tee shirt on, it was difficult for those who didn’t know him to see that there had been anything wrong.
He was self conscious still about his scars with anyone other than Hutch, Laurel and Sarah, and would only sunbathe on the beach if the area was quiet and there was no-one close by. He’d said he ‘didn’t want to scare the kids’ when Hutch had asked him about it, and the blond had made a joke of it, but deep down he knew his partner’s fear, though irrational, was very real.
Today was going to be a bittersweet experience for Starsky as he went back into his workplace. Sweet in that he was excited to see his colleagues and thank them for everything they had done for him and Hutch for the past five months, but bitter too as today he had a very important appointment. Today he had his evaluation with the police doctor who held his future in his hands.
If you judged by just Starsky’s appearance, the curly haired cop looked almost back to his old self. His jeans fit more snugly now and he’d had his hair cropped back to its usual collar length. He walked straight and tall, but a little slower than he used to, although the strut had definitely made a welcome return and only the occasional narrowing of his eyes gave any hint of the pain he still felt throughout his chest and back.
Hutch, however, knew better than to think that his partner was back to being the Starsky of old. They’d had a few heart to heart talks about his progress and prognosis and both had come to the conclusion that they’d just wait and see. The scars on the outside of the brunette’s body may have healed well, but even with all the physiotherapy, Starsky still got out of breath very easily. Then there were the mental and internal scars to consider. Hutch knew that they would be there for a long time to come.
The impatient cop picked up his keys from the small table by the closet and took a long, hungry look at his Smith and Wesson hung in its holster behind the door. Dismissing it, he pulled on the new black leather jacket that Laurel had bought him. His old familiar brown one having been consigned to the dump as it was full of bullet holes and carried with it too many memories that they all had rather be put in the past.
After giving Laurel a long luxurious parting kiss, he followed his flaxen haired partner out into the warm sun. Lifting the dust cover from the corvette, he opened the door and eased himself a little painfully into the driver’s seat, feeling the leather hug him as if to welcome him back.
Hutch inserted himself into the passenger seat and watched in amusement as Starsky lovingly fingered the steering wheel, savouring the moment. He finally put the key in the ignition and turned it, hearing the welcome throaty roar of the engine and with a screeching of tires, he gunned the engine and set off hell for leather down the road.
Hutch held on to the door and to the top of the windshield and yelled over the engine and wind noise,
‘Hey buddy, thought you were supposed to take it easy!’
Starsky snorted, his eyes still on the road ‘This is taking it easy Blintz. You’ve gotten soft while I’ve been away. Always used to drive like this’.
Hutch nodded, remembering his partner’s hellion style of driving and the number of bruises he’d had from being thrown around the interior of the old car. Yes, this probably was the way he drove before. He was thrown into the corner of the seat as the brunette executed a sharp right hand turn and he smiled as he rubbed his elbow. ‘Yeah, I remember now,’ he shouted without any hint of anger. He was just so pleased to have his partner looking happy, relaxed, and finally where he belonged, behind the wheel of a fast car.
As they drove through the traffic, Starsky slowed down some and they chatted quietly about the weekend and what they were going to do. The four, Hutch and Sarah and Starsky and Laurel had taken to spending weekends together at a beach house they had on long term lease, and they all looked forward to their time there. Hutch enjoyed the break from the humdrum work he’d resigned himself to undertaking until his partner was well enough to go back on the street, Starsky enjoyed his friend’s company and the two women welcomed the chance to get together and relax.
As they neared the Metro, the curly haired detective suddenly became quiet and introspective. Hutch noticed the change and as Starsky drew into the police garage and stopped the car, he saw those indigo blue eyes he knew so well as they scanned the area as if searching for the pool of blood he laid in all those months ago. Hutch reached over and patted his friend’s arm with concern.
‘You OK, Gordo?’ he asked softly.
Starsky shook himself as if from a dream. ‘What? Oh, yeah. S’pose it’s just a bit strange being back where it…..where I got…. shot, ya know?’
In his mind, he replayed the nightmares he had while he was in the hospital during the worst of his fever dreams.
There was always the screeching sound of tires…
The sharp rat-a-tat of the machine gun playing in the background…
The smell of the hot concrete under his head…
The icy numbness in his broken body…
…and then there was Hutch’s terrified voice yelling…
‘ STARSKY? STARSKY’.
It was that sound, the panic, terror and loneliness in Hutch’s voice as he screamed for backup that haunted Starsky’s dreams and increased his feelings of powerlessness. In that terrible moment, he couldn’t even summon up the strength to answer his partner and let him know he was alive and still there with him.
‘I know,’ the blond agreed. He too felt awkward to be back there with the brunette, as if he was in an action replay waiting for the action to begin all over again. He shivered involuntarily although it wasn’t cold in the garage, but quickly got a handle on his emotions. His partner needed him to be strong now.
‘You’re bound to feel weird, partner. I do too, but it’s all in the past pal. Gunther’s behind bars and the hearings are in a couple of weeks. Gotta move on’.
Starsky nodded and sighed, knowing his friend at his side was right. ‘Yep, gotta move on. …Ungh…..gotta get outa the stupid car first!’ he grunted as he struggled up and levered himself out from the low seat, hiding the tight pain in his chest that made the sweat break out on his forehead. Angrily he wiped it away, hoping Hutch hadn’t seen.
He didn’t want anything to mar this day and his first visit back to work. He’d dreamed about it last night, dreamed of sitting in the car with Hutch at his side in the middle of a high speed chase, or running full tilt down a sidewalk gun at the ready as he chased down some 211 suspect. In his heart of hearts, he knew that he couldn’t possibly run like that anymore, not even with all the determination in the world, but he believed that he could work around it.
Hutch chuckled, ‘You’d have no trouble getting outa the LTD ya know’.
The indigo eyes turned on his partner. ‘No, no way I’d have trouble getting’ out of it. Trouble getting in and being seen in it, maybe, but no problem getting out. I couldn’t do that fast enough, partner’.
He headed in to the building without a backward glance at his blond partner as Hutch followed, enjoying the small moment of familiar banter as they both went into Metro.
Once inside it took the two detectives over an hour to get up to the first floor, not because of any disability on the brunette’s part, but just because they couldn’t make much progress for all the well-wishers coming over to say ‘hi’. Most if the female employees were all too happy to give the popular detective a hug and/or a kiss and by the time they’d made it into the squad room, Starsky’s chest was aching from all the hugs and squeezes he’d had. Not that he complained. Even though his heart was taken, he still was a flirt to the core!
Starsky stood at the door of the squad room a moment, savouring this moment he has so longingly anticipated, then stepped inside and went to his desk. Sitting down in his familiar chair, he saw that nothing had changed. His desk was clean and tidy, whereas Hutch’s was a mess with open files and unwashed coffee mugs strewn all around. The pig stood sentinel in the middle and as the brunette opened his drawer, the blue fluffy dog peeked out as if to welcome him.
Lost in his daydream, he jumped as a loud gruff voice shouted, ‘Tyler, in my office now’. The long absent detective looked up to see the familiar bulk of his captain in the doorway.
‘Hi Cap. Glad to see some things haven’t changed’ he grinned as Tyler wove his way between the desks and into Dobey’s inner sanctum.
‘Hm’ Dobey grunted, ‘when you get your ass back in gear, THEN things’ll be more back to normal’ he grumped, then he smiled as he added, almost as an afterthought ‘Good to see you back.’ He then put on his best captain’s scowl, turned his back and stomped off into his office.
Starsky smiled ‘Hey, did ya hear that, I think he loves me.’
‘Don’t get too excited, he’s probably either feverish or he’s got his mind on other things’ Hutch said, scrabbling in his drawer for a pen.
‘…but he smiled at me!’ the brunette continued.
Hutch fixed him with a knowing glare. ‘Starsk, that wasn’t a smile, he’s eaten something that disagreed with him – it was wind’ he returned, going back to his search.
Starsky nodded ‘Ah’ he said, then realised he’d been had. ‘Thanks Blondie, I think he loves me anyway an; you’re just jealous’.
Their repartee was cut short at that moment by the phone ringing. Without thinking, the curly haired cop reached over with a little grimace, picked it up and punched the button.
‘Starsky,’ he said into the receiver, before he realised he was still on sick leave and couldn’t do a darned thing about the call anyway. It just felt so good to be back, but just as suddenly that feeling dissipated.
‘Ah, Detective Starsky, just the man I was hoping to catch,’ a female voice answered. ‘The surgeon will see you now. Third floor, room 211,’ and the line went dead.
The brunette stared at the phone as though it had bitten him, then heaved a steadying sigh.
‘Well, this is it Blintz. They want me upstairs,’ he said softly to his partner.
Hutch put down the pen he’d just found. ‘Ya want some company partner?’ he asked. There came a shaky nod from his friend in the affirmative as they stood together and they began to weave their way up to the third floor.
It was Starsky and Hutch again facing the world…together…just as it always had been.
The two detectives sat quietly waiting while the police surgeon rifled through the substantial pile of documents in front of him, making notes, underlining key phrases and making the usual doctor ‘Hm’ and ‘ah’ sounds as he read. Starsky fidgeted in his seat, hating the fact he was back with the medical brigade again, and knowing that this examination would spell the difference between going back to work or, God forbid, a disability discharge.
Hutch sat at his side, trying to be as calm as possible for his partner, but also feeling the stress and strain of the occasion. It wasn’t just his partner who would be affected by the surgeon’s decision. He too would have to consider his future if Starsky was deemed too incapacitated to continue in normal police work.
Finally, the middle aged doctor put down his pen and took off his black rimed glasses, taking a good look at the two veteran police officers in front of him for the first time.
‘Detective Starsky, my name is Dr Szewczuk. No-one can ever pronounce it, so please, call me Mark,’ he reached forward and shook the brunette’s hand. ‘Do you understand what this examination is about, detective?’ he asked, looking directly at Starsky.
‘Yes sir,’ the Starsky nervously answered, wishing the process would start, so that it would be over all the quicker.
‘Let me go over a few preliminaries with you, then we can go on to the examination and tests’ the doctor continued.
‘So, you’re David Michael Starsky, aged 32?’
‘Born in Brooklyn, New York. Are your parents still alive?’
‘Ma is, Dad’s dead. He was a cop. He had the same problem I had – he got shot’.
The doctor again made some notes. “Oh, I’m very sorry Detective Starsky,” sympathised the doctor.
“Ah…thanks Doc…but it happened a long time ago,” replied Starsky. “…and please just call me David or Dave,” Starsky added as he fidgeted in his seat for the umpteenth time. “Please continue, …Mark.”
Starsky shrugged. ‘Usual, chickenpox, measles, mumps. Glandular fever when I was a teenager. Nothing out of the ordinary’.
‘It says in your file that you had pneumonia at aged 22 along with a prolonged stay in the hospital and some…..hm…..fairly devastating injuries’.
‘I was a soldier in ‘Nam. I was taken prisoner by the Viet Cong. They weren’t exactly hospitable,’ the brunette said impatiently. He had always hated talking about that part of his life and not even Hutch had known about it until recently.
Mark ignored the jibe and was busy turning the file’s pages. ‘Its been five months since this incident, I see’.
‘Yeah, five months, two days and…’ he checked his wristwatch, ‘about five hours, but hey, who’s counting!’ Starsky tried to make light of the situation, but the doctor was astute and used to dealing with such cases.
‘…and you were hit by three .33 calibre bullets at quite close range’.
‘Yep, look can we just get on with this?’
‘I understand, Detective. It definitely marked a turning point in your life. For anyone to survive what you have is remarkable, and to be in such good condition only five months later is truly amazing’.
‘Hey, I’m a miracle, what can I say,’ the detective said dryly. ‘Now can we cut the crap? Yes, I know I’m lucky to be alive and please don’t misunderstand me, I thank God every day that I am, but this did not “mark a turning point in my life”. I’m not turning from anything. I’m a detective and a damned good one as my record shows. Whatever happens, whether it’s now or in a month or a year, I will be back on the streets again, so can we please just cut the congratulations and get on with this?’
Hutch looked at his partner and for the first time in a long time he saw the old Starsky fire surfacing. He’d longed for so long to see the hot headed part of his partner come back to the surface, because then he would know that his friend was truly back with him in the real world. Over the past months he’d seen Starsky tired, depressed, dejected, in pain, spaced out on meds, smiling and even laughing, but he’d never seen that flash of temper, and it did the blond good to hear his partner’s measured, careful and dangerous tones. He was back!
The doctor too was sitting up and taking notice. ‘What medications are you on at the moment?’ he asked evenly.
Starsky rattled off the drugs he took for infection control and for pain management. Those were the main ones thanks to Laurel and her herbs.
‘Right, well I can see we’ll need to cut to the chase then,’ Mark said finally. ‘Please remove your shirt,’ he smiled reassuringly. ‘Are you happy having your partner here while we do the examination?’ he asked.
‘Wouldn’t have it any other way Doc’ Starsky confirmed as he shrugged his shirt off for the doctor to start. As he sat bare chested, his eyes strayed over to Hutch’s, locking onto the ice blues seeking a little reassurance and comfort before he broke contact and closed his eyes as Mark started probing the long fading scar.
There were times when the Doctor delved too deep, or hit a particularly painful area and Starsky bit his lip and hissed as he tried not to jerk away from the examination. By the end of Mark’s preliminary exploration, he was sweating and panting as if he’d run a race. The doctor had examined not only the scar itself, but the various other wounds caused by the drainage tubes and the ribs which had had to be broken during the surgeries. He next went over the brunette’s back and chest with his stethoscope, muttering and making notes on a piece of paper before asking the detective to follow him through to another examination room. With a final look at his partner, Starsky reluctantly followed and lay down on a black leather examination couch.
He watched half heartedly as Mark fastened small sticky pads across his chest, on his wrists and ankles and then fastened small alligator clips to them. He’d had the ECG before and knew it didn’t hurt but he always felt disconcerted as he watched the small stylus jitter over the pages, tracing his life force on a sheet of graph paper. He lay still and studied the ceiling until the process had finished. Mark tore off the print out and studied it, making no comment, which made the curly haired detective feel all the more anxious and vulnerable.
‘OK, that’s fine David. Now, while you still have the leads attached I’d like you to do the stress test on the treadmill, then we’ll be done’.
Starsky wearily got himself down from the examination table and padded over to the treadmill, holding on to the rails at either side as the walkway began to move faster and faster until he was walking at a fast pace, almost a jog. In the past, at the gym, he could run for a half an hour on one of these devices, but today, after five minutes at a steady walk, he was sweating profusely and panting with exertion. After what seemed an like an eternity, Mark flipped the switch and the treadmill started to slow and when it finally stopped completely, the exhausted detective hung over the rail, panting hard and trying to ignore the pains lancing through his chest. He felt demoralised and defeated. How on earth was he going to get permission to get back on the streets when he couldn’t even walk fast for more than five minutes? He raised his head and looked at the doctor, expecting a look of sympathy or pity in Mark’s eyes. Instead, the man was smiling at him.
‘Well done Detective’ he applauded. ‘I’d never have believed you could have done that much so soon after the trauma you suffered!’
Starsky stared at him in disbelief. ‘What, you’re kidding me?’ he panted, wiping the sweat that was threatening to trickle into his eyes. ‘I could barely keep up an’ you say well done?’
Mark chuckled. ‘I can see why you’ve gotten as far as you have,’ he said. ‘I would expect a normal man to have managed perhaps a minute or so, you did seven. That’s remarkable. With your sense of urgency and your obvious inability to accept defeat, I think you should make a very good recovery, in time’.
‘What d’ya mean “in time” the panting man asked, not liking the direction this conversation had taken.
‘Put your shirt on and come back into the other room and sit down. We have a lot to discuss, you and I’. Mark walked back through the door, leaving Starsky to struggle back into his tee shirt and follow him.
As he walked in and sat down he smiled bravely at Hutch as he eased himself down and waited for Mark to start.
The doctor took his time going over his notes, scribbling extra observations, checking readings and scores against a book open on his desk and then he sat back, steepling his fingers and looked at Starsky directly.
The dark blue eyes stared levelly back at the doctor. ‘So, the suspense is killing me, what’s the verdict?’ he asked.
‘Well the suspense’ll do what the bullets couldn’t’ Mark chuckled before becoming more serious.
‘OK Detective, I’ve read through all your notes and have made certain observations myself. I’ve noted that before the incident you were a normal healthy 32 year old male of Caucasian background with normal childhood ailments, and judging by the reports from the doctors in Vietnam an exceedingly high tolerance for pain. The incident happened just over five months ago and post operatively you spent two months in Memorial Hospital recovering, suffering two periods of pneumonia treated conservatively by strong IV antibiotics’.
‘Today I’ve noted that the surgical incision is healing well and is tender in certain areas, although that is only to be expected. The ribs which were surgically broken have healed well. Your lung function is adequate although there should be more improvement over the coming months as you continue to exercise and build up your strength. Although your heart was damaged and shows some lateral ischemia, that should not unduly influence your day to day normal activities’.
‘In all you have made a remarkable recovery to date and that should continue over the coming months. I would expect that by the first anniversary of the incident, you will be as good as you will get and although you will by no means be an invalid, there will be certain things that I believe you will be unable to do. Running at speed for prolonged periods will be one of them.’
At that, Starsky sat up straighter in his chair. He had a nasty feeling he knew where this was going and didn’t want the doctor to speak the words out loud. Despite having recovered from his time on the treadmill, his heart started to hammer once again in his chest and his mouth went dry as he stared the doctor down, defying him to make the decision Starsky felt sure was coming.
‘So, what ya saying Doc?’ he asked both wanting and not wanting to know the answer.
Mark paused a moment, considering how exactly to tell this marvel of a man his conclusions. ‘Detective, while I consider you to be something of a medical miracle, and am amazed at the progress you have made so far, at this moment in time, I am unable to pass you fit for action. If you continue to improve at the rate you have over the next month, I feel sure that I will be able to give the review board assurances that you will be able to carry out the tasks allocated to a desk bound job. I’m sorry, Detective Starsky, but I am unable to recommend at this time to the board that you are fit enough again to be a Detective First Class’.
The pronouncement hung in the air, like a sword that came to cut Starsky’s life asunder as he stared open mouthed at the doctor.
Suddenly the fear that had had a grip on the dark haired detective moments before, lost its stranglehold on him. In its place, Starsky’s temper flared and he stood up, bent over the desk and looked the doctor in the eyes. ‘Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that you think I’m a wash up and the only thing I’m fit for is riding a desk? That don’t cut it, Doc. If I can’t be a detective then I’m finished. I can’t push paper for the rest of my life. I think you should re-evaluate that decision…Mark!” He brought his fist down on the desk, making the contents wobble.
The doctor had expected the outburst and was prepared. ‘Detective…David. No-one’s saying you’re a ‘wash-up’, but I have to report my findings to the police review board concerning your status, and I find that to put you back out on the streets would set you up to fail. In my professional opinion, it would put you…as well as your partner here at extreme risk. That would be against my better judgement and against my ethics. I won’t do it’.
Starsky wouldn’t be placated. ‘D’ya realise that by that decision, you are effectively RUINING my life?!” Starsky practically screamed.
“Please…Please Doc, just reconsider. You’ll see…in a couple of months. I’ll be so much better. You’ll see!” The brunette pleaded.
Mark closed the file with a sorrowful glance at the man before him. ‘I’m sorry David. I will be glad to see you in a couple of months, of course, but it is still my professional opinion that you will not be fit even then to resume your duties as a street cop,” the doctor revealed as he gathered his files and rose from his chair. “The sooner you begin to realise that, the sooner you will be able to get on with your life and what the future holds for you.”
With that, Doctor Szewczuk left the office, leaving the two men to stare after him.
There was silence in the small clinical room for a moment as both men let the doctor’s assessment sink in. A pin dropping would have sounded loud as neither man even breathed.
Dr. Szewczuk had beaten a hasty retreat, not wanting to face the mahogany haired detective once he’d given his decision. As Starsky stared at the closed door in disbelief, his face reddened in anger and he brought his fist down again on the desk as if that action itself could change the words the doctor had spoken. Angrily, he got up and flung the door open, heading off down the corridor at a run, ignoring the pains in his chest, his blond partner in hot pursuit.
‘Starsk? STARSKY’ Hutch shouted at the rapidly retreating back as he rushed to intercept his partner. He’d seen the look on his friend’s face and knew the hot headed detective had lost his temper completely. Starsky had always had a quick temper but had striven over the years to keep it under steely control. It surfaced when he saw injustice, or when he felt either he or his partner were being compromised. Now, as he made his way to the elevator that would take him down to the parking lot, Hutch could see Starsky was trembling with anger.
They stood together in the small elevator, the air palpable between them, but the big blond knew better than to try to speak to his partner while he was in this mood. As he saw Starsky reach for the car keys, however, he knew he had to say something, to stop either he or his partner from being hurt.
‘You’re not gonna drive while you’re like this!’ exclaimed Hutch as he tried to reach for the keys.
‘Like what? Like an invalid? Like a guy who’s too weak to hold down a proper job?’ Starsky yelled, walking toward the car.
‘No, not like an invalid. Like an idiot who’ll get his neck broken if he drives in this mood!’ Hutch countered, catching up with the brunette and placing a hand on his shoulder.
Starsky shrugged away the hand angrily. ‘Well I’m the “miracle patient” aren’t I? I can mend any injury, even a broken neck if I got one. I can come back from the dead and make the doctors dance with delight, but I can’t get my old job back. What’s the use, Hutch? What’s the point of me fighting all this time if I’m still treated like a wash-up?’ Starsky was red in the face, his lips white with anger as he turned on his friend.
‘Just leave it Hutch. Just leave me alone, otherwise I’ll say or do something I’ll regret’.
Hutch ignored him and reached for the keys, but Starsky was faster and whipped them out of his reach and pushed his partner away none too gently.
‘Starsky, will ya calm down and just take a minute?’ Hutch shouted back, ‘What’s the use of driving off like this? You’ll get yourself killed and you’ll probably take me with ya. Just give me the keys and I’ll drive’.
The curly haired cop was lost in his anger, and couldn’t seem to listen to the logic coming from his best friend. As he tried to put the keys in the door lock, Hutch lunged for them, pushing his partner out of the way. Starsky fell back and in his desperation, Hutch pushed him against the wall, his forearm across the brunette’s throat, leaning into his partner with his body, stopping him from moving while at the same time trying not to hurt the still healing cop.
‘Will ya listen to yourself? You’re angry, I understand that, but you need to take a step back buddy. Another few months, ya can try again, but if ya hurt yourself today, there’ll be no more healing. Now for God’s sake give me those keys and let me get us both home in one piece!’
He stared into the stormy indigo eyes, seeing the anger roiling below the surface as the brunette fought to get his temper under control. Starsky was still struggling beneath him and as Hutch let up on the pressure slightly, he fell back in surprise as the damaged detective’s not so damaged fist connected with his jaw, snapping his head sideways.
Slowly, Hutch reached up and wiped at the small trickle of blood at the corner of his mouth. Then locking eyes with his heavily breathing partner, ‘That make ya feel better huh?’ he asked, ‘Or d’ya want another go, just to get it out of your system once and for all?’
Starsky stared at him wordlessly then pushed Hutch away from him, throwing the keys at him as he walked around to the passenger side of the car and slowly and stiffly eased himself into the low seat. Hutch picked up the keys from the pavement and got into the driver’s seat, switched the engine on and pulled out of the parking lot, never once looking at the brooding brunette. They drove in silence for the twenty minutes it took to get back to Starsky’s apartment, the atmosphere between them tense. Neither man wanted to speak. There were no words to describe how they felt.
For Hutch, the doctor’s decision meant more months of boring routine paperwork and small jobs, or the heartbreaking decision to take another partner. Although he’d never even considered it before, Dr Szewczuk’s decision today had been like a pail of water in the face for the blond cop, illustrating just how far his partner still had to go on his long and painful road to recovery.
For the first time since the shooting, Hutch found himself wondering whether he could, in fact, get used to another man at his side. Angry at himself for even allowing himself to consider such a course of action, he mentally shook himself and vowed to keep on doing whatever it took to get Starsky back onto the force by his side.
For Starsky, the doctor’s words had reinforced what he knew deep down but had refused to accept; that at 32 his body was having a hard time healing from such devastating injuries. In the past, when he’d been shot or injured, he’d always made a good recovery and it had seemed, if not easy, then at least it was a fairly fast one. This recuperation was too slow for him to deal with and he wished desperately for a fairy godmother to come along with her magic wand and make everything all right again. He desperately wanted assurances from this blond detective sitting next to him that Hutch would wait for him, but then he’d gone and hit the one man in the world who’d stood by him through thick and thin.
What sort of a friend was he? Starsky felt depressed and foolish, but mostly he wished he could have turned the clock back and not laid into his friend and supporter with his fist. The feel of Hutch’s jaw throbbed on his knuckles as if to mock him and he closed his eyes, trying hard to shut out the world he felt was conspiring against him. All he saw though, was the hurt and understanding in those ice blue eyes back in the police garage moments before.
As Hutch pulled the car up outside the apartment and stopped, he got out and stood watching as his friend tried hard to pull himself out of the car, the day’s events having taken their toll on the brunette’s body. Eventually he walked round the car and wordlessly held out a hand. The curly head raised and sad deep blue eyes locked on the ice blue ones. Tentatively, Starsky reached for the big blond’s hand and grasped it. Hutch heaved him up and pulled the smaller man to him until the top of his partner’s mahogany head was resting under his chin. He rubbed the brunette’s back as Starsky leaned into him, refusing to cry but fighting back the tears angrily.
Starsky had built himself up for this day for so long. In his imagination, he’d seen the police surgeon shaking his hand and telling him he could start back at work as soon as he’d liked. Starsky had always known he wasn’t really ready, or fit enough to do that, but the goal had driven him on and now he felt he had nothing left to strive for. He’d never failed at anything he had full control over and although he knew he could go back for another assessment in a few months, he felt that he’d failed himself, his partner and Laurel.
‘M’sorry Hutch,’ he mumbled into the blonde’s collar.
Hutch sighed deeply. ‘Hey you once told me I had a way to go, when I was hurting from the heroin. Now it’s my turn to tell you. You’ve come such a long way in a short time, but we both gotta have patience, that’s all.”
“C’mon lets get inside. Laurel will be waiting,’ he pulled his friend away until he had him at arm’s length. ‘You gonna be OK, Gordo?’
Starsky didn’t answer. He just turned and struggled up the steps. He pushed open the door and without a word to Laurel, went into the bedroom, closed the door with a slam and simply collapsed face down on the bed, shutting out the world. His body felt heavy and low and he fought the waves of despondency that threatened to wash over him.
Hutch walked in and saw Laurel staring at the door to the bedroom. She raised questioning eyes to the blond.
‘Doc said he’s not fit and he can’t sign him back to work,’ he touched the blossoming bruise on his jaw. ‘He erm….he didn’t take it too well. Hasn’t really spoken since the Doc gave his verdict’.
Laurel pulled Hutch’s hand away from his face. ‘I see his fist said it all for him,’ she said wryly, hunting for a jar of Comfrey from under the sink. She quickly made a small poultice and carefully placed it against the bruised skin.
‘I don’t know what to do, Laurel,’ Hutch said despondently, sitting down heavily on the edge of the settee. ‘He was so angry and now it’s like he’s given up completely. …and what do I do? Do I wait for him to maybe get well enough to come back, or do I start considering my options? God, help me Laurel. Someone tell me what to do, please!” Hutch cried out in desperation, his head falling into his hands as if it were too heavy for him to hold upright any longer.
Laurel knelt down beside the hurting detective and put her hands over his. ‘Ken, you are an amazing friend. No one could have done more than you for Dave. He is incredibly lucky to have you by his side. He can’t go back on the streets at the moment, you both knew that deep down. If he did, he’d jeopardise both your lives and that can’t ever happen. Neither Sarah nor I could live without either one of you.”
“Only you know what to do,” Laurel continued as she moved her hand to rub up and down Hutch’s back in comfort, “…and if you consider long enough I know you’ll make the right decision, for you and for Dave. Have faith in yourself. Things will work out. Just give it time, and in the meanwhile, we both have to be here for him’.
Hutch looked at her lovingly. ‘He’s awfully lucky to have found you,’ he said, tracing his finger down her pretty face. ‘How’d ya get to be so wise?’
Laurel chuckled. ‘A year of living on your own half way up a mountain in the middle of nowhere will do that to a girl. Now away with you. You’re exhausted and Sarah will be waiting for news. Leave Dave to me. I’ll make sure he calls you later’.
Hutch kissed her lightly. ‘Yes ma’am, whatever you say,’ he said smiling. He knew his friend was in good hands. Just being in the same room as Laurel had made him feel somehow calmer and at peace.
‘Tell him to call huh? I’ll be waiting’.
After Hutch had gone, Laurel left Starsky alone for an hour or so. She needed to gather her thoughts and emotions to be able to both comfort her man and help him to cope with the decision that the police surgeon had made that day.
She had hoped that he would come out of the bedroom on his own, but after an hour had passed, she realised the brunette had taken the news even worse than she’d feared. She’d realised then that she needed to intervene.
Cautiously, she knocked on the bedroom door. There was no answer, so she cracked the door open and quietly entered. She saw Starsky sitting on the edge of the bed, his back toward her and the door, his shoulders hunched as he rested his head on his hands.
She crossed the room so that she could see him and as she came around the bed, and she saw the look of forlorn despondency in his eyes. He’d been sitting staring into space and he didn’t even seem to register that she was there. The buoyant, cheerful man of that morning had disappeared with one stroke of the doctor’s pen, to be replaced by this depressed shadow of the man she knew and loved. She sat down at his side, putting her arms around his shoulders. Gently she drew him to her and kissed the side of his face.
‘Do you want to tell me about it?’ she asked softly.
The broken man at her side let out a deep sigh and seemed to see her for the first time. ‘Not really,’ he said quietly. ‘Not much to tell. Doc says I’m through with the BCPD. End of story’.
‘Did he really say that?’ she pushed, knowing that wasn’t really the conclusion the medic had decided, but wanting Starsky to voice it for himself.
The brunette let out a brittle laugh. ‘Said I could go back in a month or so after riding a desk for the next few weeks an’ see if I’d improved more.” Starsky stated bitterly. “What’s that s’posed to mean huh? Let the cripple have another go an’ see what a fool he can make of himself next time?” He turned to look at the special woman by his side. “Laurel, I couldn’t even walk on the treadmill without almost passing out from exhaustion. How’m I supposed to run down the scum that’s out there on the street? I KNOW that here…” Starsky pointed to his head and then to his heart as he choked out the words, “…but I wanted it so much…here.’
Laurel squeezed him to her, feeling the slight tremble of his body next to hers. She could tell the tests and the emotion of the day had sapped a lot of his energy from him and she desperately wanted him to feel that this was not a ‘done deal’.
‘He meant that in a few more months you’ll have improved much more and may be ready to go back, my love. He doesn’t want to see you fail any more than any of us do. He just wants you and Hutch to be safe. What would happen if he let you go back to work and somehow Hutch was hurt because you weren’t fit enough to react quickly? Would you ever forgive yourself? I don’t think so, my love. You just have to give it more time. You’ve proved you can get this far. You just need to keep on trying,’ Laurel urged.
“…but don’t ya see Laurel, I can’t wait!” Starsky was inconsolable as he turned away from her. “Hutch can’t afford to wait any longer’.
She allowed the full measure of what Starsky was saying seep into her very being…the deafening silence speaking volumes more than the words he had just uttered.
‘That’s what this is really all about, isn’t it?” she said. You think that Hutch will get another partner and you’ll be left behind’.
She took hold of his hand and knelt in front of him so that she could look into his sad face. ‘What’s the better option, my love? You and Hutch both safe, but working apart, or working together but always with you both worrying that something will happen?’
The damaged detective’s face crumpled as the tears he’d refused to shed for such a long time finally trickled down his cheeks. ‘I can’t work without him there,’ he said quietly. ‘I can’t wrap my head around working with anyone else. Gunther wanted us both destroyed and if Hutch gets another partner and I can’t go back, then he’s got his wish, hasn’t he? After all this time the bastard got what he wanted. I can’t think about being a cop unless I’m partnered with Hutch and it’s not fair to Hutch to make him wait till I’m fit enough, if I ever AM fit enough! What am I gonna do, honey? I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place,’ he cried angrily as he wiped the salty tears from his face with the back of his hand and turned his troubled eyes on her.
Laurel could feel his pain and so desperately wanted to ease it, but she knew she couldn’t make a decision like this for either man. They would have to make their own peace with the situation. She enfolded her man in her arms, trying to make it all better, just by the physical act of her touch.
‘Gunther hasn’t won, Dave. He could never win while you’re alive!” Laurel said as she felt Starsky’s arms hold on to her as if his life depended on it. “You’ve proved him wrong, the both of you have. He wanted to kill you and had a damned good try at it, but you beat the odds and here you are today. He wanted to destroy you both, but Hutch finally arrested him and the trial that will finally put him behind bars forever is in three weeks. How can he have won?” she said as she cradled him to her.
“We have the most important thing in the world, you and I. We have each other, and you know whatever happens, Hutch will always be around. Even if he has to work with someone else, which I seriously doubt he’ll do, you’ll still be the best of friends. That ISN’T going to change!’
‘But it’s not the same’ Starsky mumbled into her shoulder. ‘When we’re out on the streets, we rely on each other every single day to keep safe. That creates such a strong bond with a partner. Just being friends…I dunno if it could ever be enough. I need to work with him, even if we’re not on the streets, I need to work with him every day…” Starsky released Laurel and put her at arm’s length, his eyes closed as he shook his head back and forth.
“Oh God, I can’t explain it’.
Laurel was nodding, though. ‘I know. You want to go back to how it was before you were shot and you feel that if its any less than that, it won’t be right, but you’re so wrong you know.” Laurel placed her small hand on his cheek, looking into his deep blue eyes.
“I’ve never seen two men so close. D’you think that if Hutch hadn’t felt the same way he’d have gotten himself a new partner by now? He needs you as much as you need him, and if you can’t both work the streets like you used to, there are other ways you can put your combined skills to good use’.
‘Yeah, how?’ the sceptical note in his voice making her bolder now.
‘I’ve been thinking about it for some time, actually.” Laurel replied. “What were you both good at before?’
A shadow of the old Starsky humour rose, ‘eating and shooting?’ he smiled.
‘OK, I concede that,’ she grinned. ‘But what else? Solving crimes; bringing the human side to the job?’
The brunette shrugged his shoulders. ‘I guess. So? What’re you driving at?’
‘You work so well together and you’ve always been a partnership. Does it have to be a partnership in BCPD?’ she asked excitedly.
‘It’s the only job I know, apart from going back to the Army, an’ I wouldn’t do that if they paid me a million bucks’.
Laurel sighed heavily. ‘You can be so dense sometimes! If you can’t be partners solving crimes with the police department, what about going private?’
Starsky knitted his eyebrows, ‘PI stuff. Who’d we work for?’
‘Yourselves, dummy. You could set up in business and work together. It would take a while to set up and by then you’d have gotten a lot stronger. You could still work together and you could fix your own hours. No more working 24 hours straight and never having a weekend off’.
‘I dunno. Where’d we get the money from? It’d cost so much and then who’d run it for us?’
Laurel smiled to herself. He’d taken the bait and was starting to think seriously about the whole idea. He hadn’t just dismissed it out right anyway. ‘Don’t you think that before you take on your first big case you should at least ask Hutch if he wants to do this?’ she asked with a slightly amused note in her voice.
‘What? Oh, erm yeah….Laurel, when did you think of this?’ he asked, suddenly realising they this wasn’t just a spur of the moment suggestion.
She smiled. ‘Doesn’t matter, just give Hutch a ring and invite him and Sarah over. We have a lot to discuss’.
Hutch arrived home tired, hot and angry. How could the doctor do this to his partner after all the struggling Starsky had done to get as far as he had? Sometimes it seemed that life in general was so unfair. He slammed the door of his battered car and took the steps up to his apartment two at a time, letting himself in quietly because Sarah had been working the night shift.
He shrugged out of his shoulder holster, threw it down on the settee, and unbuttoned his shirt as he headed for the bathroom. After the day he’d had he just wanted to stand under the hot water and let it wash away his trials and tribulations, then have a cold beer. He chuckled grimly to himself. Would that it was so simple. Wouldn’t it be great if just a shower and a beer could cure everything?
He turned on the water and got into the shower, standing with his back to the cool tile and let the full force of the water cascade down his neck and arms until finally it streamed down his legs. Hutch then ducked his face into the stream until his breath gave out. He turned and reached for the soap, but instead encountered a small warm hand.
Hutch opened his eyes in surprise as Sarah joined him in the shower, a glint in her eye. Slowly and without a word she began to rub the soap over his chest, feeling the muscles playing beneath his tanned skin. Hutch leaned back against the wall and enjoyed the feeling of her hands wandering over his body, closing his eyes and groaning with pleasure as they travelled lower and lower. He took hold of her wrists and pulled her to him as he kissed her almost brutally under the cascading water. He drew away breathlessly and looked into her intense green eyes, then pulled her back to him and wrapped his arms around her, seeking out comfort from her body.
They stayed under the water, playing soapy games until it started to run cool. Reluctantly, Sarah shut off the tap and Hutch gathered her up in his strong arms and carried her into the bedroom, laying her tenderly down on the bed.
‘I love you’ he murmured as he kissed in a line down her neck, then propped himself up on his elbow to look down at her.
Sarah returned his gaze. ‘So, how was it?’ she asked.
Hutch sighed. ‘Bad. The Doc said he’s not ready yet, and by the look on his face, he didn’t think he ever would be’.
‘How did Starsky take it?’
‘How’d ya think,’ Hutch said bitterly. ‘He just clammed up till we got to the parking lot then I had to stop him from driving off and probably killing himself’.
Sarah reached up and fingered the dark bruise marring her lover’s handsome face. ‘I can see he was quite adamant,’ she chuckled, then becoming serious. ‘Do you think that he’s going to be OK?’
Hutch shrugged. ‘Dunno. He was pretty torn up about it. When I got him back home, he shut himself away in the bedroom. I left him there. Hope Laurel’s OK with him’.
Sarah nodded. ‘Dave would sooner die than ever hurt Laurel you know that. Besides, I think if anyone can help him she can’.
‘You’re right. I just hate seeing him that way.” Hutch replied as he got a far away look in his eye. “…and then, I have to decide what I’m gonna do’.
‘What do you mean?’ she asked, seeing the change in his face.
‘If he can’t go back, where does that leave me? Do I resign and do something else, or do I take another partner?’ he said heavily.
The pretty nurse put her arms around him. ‘When do you have to make a decision?’ she asked as she nuzzled at his neck.
The big blond sighed against her as he turned onto his back. ‘Soon, but not while you’re doing that,’ he purred, allowing her hands to take his troubles away for a moment.
Hutch growled deep in his throat as Sarah kissed lower and lower on his belly, but then suddenly stopped as the phone rang. Sarah stopped her ministrations.
‘Leave it, she muttered, stroking Hutch’s hard flat belly, but Hutch turned over and reached for the phone.
‘Sorry Honey! That’s a tempting suggestion, but it could be work,’ he took the receiver. ‘Hutchinson’.
Sarah watched as her man took the call, and as he put the phone down, she saw a smile beginning on his face.
‘We’re needed at Starsky’s place’ he said, getting up from the bed.
‘Are he and Laurel OK?’ Sarah asked, concern in her voice
‘Seem to be. I haven’t heard him so excited in a long time. He wouldn’t say what it was about – just would we both go over there now’.
They both started to get dressed, as Sarah chuckled. ‘That’s what I like about the two of you. Always ready for each other night and day’.
‘So you’re saying we’d be business partners?’ Hutch asked, seeking clarification.
‘Yep, as well as partners out on the street. It’d take a few months to set everything up and by then I should be a lot stronger. I think that it would be great …for me and for you too! So what d’ya think?’
Hutch hadn’t seen Starsky so animated for months, since even before the shooting. He was happy to see his partner so much more upbeat and positive than he was when he had left him earlier that day, but Hutch was more than a little concerned that his partner hadn’t thought this whole thing through.
‘Don’t get me wrong, buddy, I think it’s a great idea and I’m behind it one hundred percent, but d’ya have any idea how much something like this would cost to set up? We’d need an office and an administrator and what would we live on if no-one employed us?’ The blond brow was knitted in concentration as his mind jumped through the hoops necessary to get this project off the ground.
Starsky was way ahead of him having talked a lot of it through with Laurel before Hutch and Sarah had arrived. Now it was just the two of them, sitting drinking beer and discussing their future as the two women had retreated, not wanting to crowd their men at this important juncture.
‘I know it’s a leap of faith and I know it’s a lot to ask of you coz you’ve still got a job. I have some savings, not much. Laurel offered us some of her money…’ he held his hand up as he saw his friend start to argue. ‘Don’t worry, Blondie. I know Laurel was just trying to help, but I don’t want to be beholden to her any more ‘n’ you do pal. If we do this, we do it ourselves. Just like always, Me and Thee.’
Hutch mulled it over. The concept of being a PI did appeal to him. There were too many times in the past that rules and regulations had gotten in the way of how he and Starsky had wanted to approach an investigation. It would be refreshing to be able to do things their own way for a change without any flak from their superiors. He’d lost count of the number of times either he or his partner had stormed out of Dobey’s office because they were forbidden to take a line of questioning, or because some idiot from Internal Affairs had gotten on their case about something they’d done.
Also, even though they had one of the highest arrest rates at Metro, and they were well liked by the other cops…their snitches too…and they got results; it was never reflected in their pay. They’d often joked that if they were on commission they’d be rich. Maybe going private would solve that little problem.
Then there was that comforting and comfortable thought that he could once again work with Starsky.
Over the ten years they’d worked together, he’d gotten used to the mahogany haired hellion’s MO. For Starsky, the direct approach was always the best one and it suited Hutch down to the ground. He’d never been one for reading between the lines. He liked things cut and dried and working with the brunette had given him that, plus a friendship that transcended all others. Starsky was his friend, his brother, his partner, and the voice of his conscience. He was the night to Hutch’s day and the perfect comic counterpoint to Hutch’s sobriety. Dobey had been known to say that the two should have been on the stage or on TV, they were the perfect comedy duo.
On the other hand, it scared him to death to think about giving up a steady, albeit dangerous, job to go into the self employed field.
The “what ifs” began coming thick and fast through Hutch’s brain.
What if he gave up his job, but the PI firm never took off?
What if he and Starsky did the unthinkable and had a big fall out? What if one of them was badly injured again or took sick?
Oh my God, what if one of them died?
His partner’s recent brush with death still held a very real and permanent place in Hutch’s mind. He had frequent nightmares about that day in the police garage and Sarah had repeatedly had to wake him, sweat soaked and trembling from another bad dream as he’d shouted Starsky’s name over and over again.
Starsky could see the thoughts flitting across his friend’s face and realised that he was asking a lot of his friend…maybe too much.
‘Hey, Hutch. If this is too much for you just now, leave it. It’s no big deal, really pal. Just wanted to see what you might think of the idea…but…I know it’s a whole lot to take in at once,” he said gently with a small apologetic smile. “I mean I’m the one with the job problem here not you…”
He’d been so fired up with enthusiasm that he’d forgotten that this was all new for Hutch. They inhabited two separate worlds at that moment. For Starsky, this marked a new beginning as he felt his old life had been wrenched brutally from him.
For Hutch, Starsky knew, it was a tremendous leap of faith on his part. A leap of faith not only in a new business venture, but also on him. Starsky knew he was going to work hard and try to get even better physically than what he was right now, but he couldn’t give his buddy any guarantees that would actually happen.
“What right do I have to ask Hutch to give up a steady job with a steady pay check on a chancy venture like this,” Starsky thought as his eyes cast their way downward.
Hutch ran his fingers over his lips in that oh so familiar way of his. ‘Its not that pal,’ he said equally softly reading his friend thoughts like a billboard. ‘I just need to get my head around it that’s all. I’ve got my savings too that Mom and Dad gave me as an inheritance, which I’ve never touched. Never wanted to spend it before because of what it represented. I didn’t want them to have that kind of hold over me, but this is different and I think they’d kinda approve’.
Starsky tented his eyebrows hardly daring to hope, ‘So what ya saying?’
The big blond stood and paced about the room. This was it. He was going to make the biggest decision of his life and he thought he should have felt more. More scared? More happy? More excited? But he just felt a warm contentment. This was a way back to being able to work with the one man he’d trust with his life in the entire world.
This just seemed so right…so perfect for him as well as for Starsky. The long months Hutch had spent working in that lonely office while his partner recovered had been the longest of his life. He knew now with certainty he could never settle into a desk job, so Lieutenant or eventually Captain was definitely out. That meant remaining a detective first class, but to do that he had to take on a partner and if he couldn’t have Starsky he didn’t want anyone. So, he heaved a deep, cleansing sigh and turned back to the expectant brunette.
‘Yeah, I think we can make a go of it,’ he said, seeing the grin crack across his partner’s handsome face.
‘Honest? God Hutch, I was so worried! I thought you might think it was stupid or too chancy!” Starsky excitedly exclaimed, then using a more serious tone, “You’ve got to be sure about this, though. I don’t want you to have any doubts and I don’t want you to feel you have to. I mean you’ve still got a job’.
Hutch grinned back. ‘Hey partner, what kind of job do you think I’d be leaving? In all the time you’ve been sick, have I taken a job on the street?’
‘Have I taken another partner?’
‘D’ya know why?’
‘Ya can’t live without me,’ the eyelashes fluttered in mock modesty as Starsky continued to grin.
Hutch grinned back. ‘You are such a……I didn’t do any of those things coz I couldn’t. And the reason I couldn’t is that the night I arrested Gunther, I was so angry, so incensed at the whole set up and you were so sick, I came back to Bay City and went down to the beach. I sat on the damp sand for over an hour….’
‘Didn’t your mother ever tell you you’ll get piles doing that?’ the brunette interjected.
Hutch gave him a withering look. ‘Shut up Gordo and hear me out huh? I sat looking out at the ocean wondering what the future was gonna hold, for you most of all, but for me too, and all I could think was that I couldn’t go on working at the Metro if you weren’t there. So in the end, I got up, went down to the water’s edge and threw my badge into the waves. Haven’t carried one since’.
Starsky looked at his partner with misty eyes, knowing how much he would have hurt if Hutch had been near to death, but he didn’t want to kill the mood. This night was one of celebration after such an awful day. So he gazed levelly back at his flaxen haired friend.
‘Ooo, Dobey’s gonna be so mad at you,’ he said chuckling. ‘So, we gonna tell the girls, or what?’
Sarah and Laurel had taken themselves down to the beach. They didn’t want to crowd their men and they had things to talk about themselves. As Laurel had explained her idea to the nurse, Sarah had nodded her head in approval.
‘Its perfect, Laurel. They can work together and Dave doesn’t have to be quite so fit and active as he used to be. How’s he doing now anyway?’
Laurel smiled. ‘Oh, he’s fit and active enough for me,’ she said as her friend chuckled knowingly. Then she turned more serious. ‘But he’ll never be the way he was before, I know that,” she confessed. “I know he’ll keep on improving but if you could have seen the look in his eyes when he came back from the police surgeon this afternoon. It was as if that doctor had taken a gun and had put another bullet into him. I was so scared for him, Sarah. I had to tell him of my idea. He needed something to boost his spirits otherwise I’m not sure what he’d have done. Do you think Ken will like the idea, though?’
Sarah paused a moment considering. ‘I think he will. He’s been lost this past few months while Dave’s been healing. He’s irritable when he gets home from work because he hates the desk job he’s been doing! I can’t deny it would be good to have him home at a sensible hour and comforting to know he hasn’t been in as much danger as he was on the streets, but that’s just it. They both thrive on the danger element of the job. I know he’d never take another partner, and I know he can’t be desk bound forever, so I’m sure he’ll jump at the chance,” Sarah responded then considering more of the details of a venture such as this, “How are they going to afford it? I know Hutch’ll ask Dave that because he’s so practical.’
Laurel grasped a handful of sand, letting it trickle through her fingers slowly back onto the beach. ‘I’ve told Dave he can have my money, but I really don’t know if either one of them will take it. They’re just too proud. Dave said he wouldn’t want a handout! He needed to work for the money and he needed the money to work for him.’
Suddenly Sarah stiffened. ‘That’s it! I have some savings, and I think this would be a wise investment. If they won’t accept a handout, why don’t we all go in as partners?’
‘…but I don’t know anything about detective work,’ Laurel said slowly.
Sarah was excitedly continuing. ‘No, I don’t either. We’ll be silent partners. We’d discuss everything, we could be there in the background giving support, but we’d not get involved in the running of the place. What do you think?’
Laurel smiled, the nurse’s excitement becoming infectious. ‘I think we need to get back to see whether they’ve made a decision or not,’ she said.
‘So, what’s it to be then?’ Sarah asked as they all sat around the kitchen table, beers in front of them.
‘It’s a go-er,’ the men said in unison.
‘We just need to sort out the money situation and I need to hand in my notice,’ Hutch said, happy now that things were beginning to happen.
Laurel put her drink down on the table. ‘Sarah and I did some talking of our own. I have some money you can use, and Sarah has some savings. We know you don’t want gifts, and we also know it will be hard enough to make money to begin with without thinking about paying loans back. So we’d like to come on board as silent partners. Will you have us?’
Starsky looked at Hutch. Hutch looked expectantly back at Starsky.
“If Laurel and Sarah were partners with us, that would make them investors and so the money wouldn’t be a gift,” considered Starsky carefully.
What d’ya think, Starsk?” asked Hutch with a small grin.
Together, the two detectives got up and put their arms around their respective women. ‘I kinda like the way that sounds…partners. I don’t think I would have it any other way honey, so long as you’re both sure,’ Starsky said, kissing Laurel tenderly. He looked over to Hutch, who also nodded his consent.
Sarah picked up her drink and held it up. ‘Then, as a one quarter partner, I propose a toast,’ she said as the others got their drinks too. ‘To Night and Day Investigations’.
Chapter 14 – 2 months later
‘We gonna go with the one we saw this afternoon, right?’
Starsky sat opposite his flaxen haired friend in a small café just off Main Street in the city. They’d spent the better part of four days trawling up and down the area looking at office space and this afternoon had hit upon what they thought was the perfect suite.
Not too big, it had a reception area, two offices, a small bathroom and a kitchen. It was located on the ground floor of the office block at 3845 Mandaley Boulevard, right in the heart of the city and came with parking for four cars in the reserved parking lot under the building. The rent was a little high, but as the two men reasoned, the city centre location should attract more high profile and so higher paying clients.
Over the past two months things had happened fast. Hutch had handed his notice in at Metro. Dobey had always known that if Starsky couldn’t go back to work there on his own terms, he wouldn’t return at all, so he wasn’t surprised that Hutch had left also to form this little partnership.
There had even been a small farewell celebration for the two of them. Nothing special, just a drink with the guys and promises to keep in touch. Every member of staff at Metro, from the cleaners to the Chief of Police had put some money into a collection, such were the two men’s popularity.
Now, because of their former colleagues generosity, they were the proud owners of a set of antique oak office furniture, consisting of two desks, two large matching chairs and two filing cabinets. As they wryly observed, they’d need the heavyweight clientele to use it now and an office to put it in.
So here they were, about to put a month’s rent down on their own suite of rooms to put that furniture in.
All four partners had had long discussions about how Night and Day Investigations was going to work. They needed a receptionist/administrator and at first Laurel had said she’d step in, but only in the interim, until a permanent solution could be found. It wasn't until they'd all gone down to the Pits one night for a drink and Huggy had been bemoaning the fact that he was getting too old to be running a bar that Starsky came up with the idea.
He had kept it to himself until the following day when he was sure it wasn’t just the beer getting to him, and then Starsky mentioned to Hutch that he thought Huggy may be the answer to their staffing problem.
Over the years they’d known him, Huggy had done everything from selling toys on street corners, to dabbling in the tourist trade to running the bar, with probably every job imaginable in between, but he’d always been self-employed and he’d always made a steady buck. So they’d gone back to the bar in the cold light of day and asked their friend outright if he would like to be office manager for their business. Huggy hadn’t needed much convincing and so terms, pay and vacation allowance were all agreed on over a bottle of wine and a “Huggy Special”…extra onions for Starsky’s.
Once money had changed hands on the office suite and papers had been signed, Hutch took the keys and let them both into their new domain. Although still empty of furniture, both men could see the potential. The two offices to the left and right of the reception area were of equal size with large windows looking out onto the sidewalk, and all the walls were simply and cleanly decorated in neutral colours. It was perfect to add paintings to make the place seem more homely. It was carpeted in a rich burgundy carpet that oozed personality.
“This is perfect isn’t it Starsk?” admired Hutch as he turned to his best friend only then realising that he wasn’t there. “Starsky?”
Hutch found his partner sitting on the floor in the office he’d chosen as his, cross legged, looking about him. Hutch joined him there on the floor, folding his long legs underneath him with a grimace. His previously broken leg had been hurting him again and for once he was glad to sit and rest a while.
‘I’ve been thinking,’ Starsky started, twiddling with a piece of fluff from the carpet.
‘Oh no, how much is this gonna cost me? It always does,’ Hutch teased as he smiled at his partner.
‘Hm, yeah, probably more ‘n’ you or I will ever know,’ the brunette said, turning his indigo eyes on his partner. Hutch saw only serious intent in them and stopped his joking. It was obvious his friend had something important to get off his chest.
‘So, what’s that great Starsky mind been mulling over then?’ the blond asked.
‘You like Laurel don’t ya?’
Hutch was taken by surprise. ‘Yeah, more than I can say. Why d’ya ask?’
Starsky paused, not knowing how to say what was on his mind. ‘I love her so damned much, Hutch. She means as much to me as you do and I know she loves me too. I want to make it permanent. For once in my life I want to do this right and have someone there for me at the end of everyday and in the morning when I wake up. It just feels like this is the right time. It’s like I’ve turned a corner and I’m on the home straight. I think…..erm….I wanna get married’.
‘Jeez Starsk! When did you get this epiphany?’ Hutch was bowled over by his friend’s admission and also by the fact that it had come almost like a bolt from the blue. He’d seen the way his friend was around the woman and couldn’t help seeing the love in both their eyes when they were together, but he’d been so used to his partner’s quick winks at other girls and whispered innuendoes, he’d never thought Starsky would ever settle down.
Hutch had had similar feelings for Sarah for some time and hadn’t known how to broach the subject, but now here was his partner telling him he too wanted marriage. Sarah had been there for Hutch throughout his recovery from his ordeal at Diana’s hands and they’d grown close, first as nurse and patient, then as friends and more recently as lovers. Hutch had found that special someone with whom he wanted to share the rest of his life and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
The brunette was looking out of the window. ‘It kinda happened slowly I s’pose’ he said. I always did love her and leaving her in Sacramento was one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever had to do in my life. When I came round in the hospital and she was there at my bedside it blew me away that she’d give everything up to look after me. At first, I didn’t want to ask her coz I thought she was only staying out of pity, but then we talked and I know she loves me for who I am and not what I used to be. That’s real special Hutch, ya know?’
The big blond was nodding. ‘I know what ya mean buddy, and believe it or not, I’ve been having similar thoughts about Sarah’.
‘Sure. You’re not the only one with a girl with healing in her hands you know. I’ve been feeling like I want to settle down for a while now, but with all this going on, I’ve just never given it enough thought. With you saying what you want to do, it’s just crystallised my ideas’.
‘So you haven’t asked her then?’
Hutch chuckled. ‘With the state of my knees post Diana, I don’t think I could do the whole proposal thing if I’d wanted to! Are ya really gonna pop the question?’
The brunette nodded his head. ‘I think today is the perfect time, it’s tonight or never. Ya gonna wish me luck?’
‘You KNOW I do, buddy, so long as you’ll wish the same for me! I think we might have a double celebration pal, in which case we have serious shopping to do’.
The two got up stiffly from the floor, locked the door of their empire behind them, and drove home via a jewellers, each lost in his own thoughts.
That night Starsky set the table for dinner with his best crockery and his Mom’s old silver candelabra, set with three red candles. With Barry White playing low on the record player and his favourite Paul Muni special simmering away in the oven, he checked around his clean and tidy apartment and waited for Laurel to come back from her shopping trip.
He heard her turn the handle on the door and as she walked in she stopped dead in her tracks.
‘What’s going on here?’ she asked as she took in the dimmed light, the romantic music and the wonderful smells drifting in from the kitchen.
Starsky came to great her and put his arms round her, pulling her into a deep, passionate kiss.
‘Can’t a man just be a romantic for once?’ he asked.
‘You’ve got another woman, around here somewhere,’ she teased, still in shock. ‘that’s it isn’t it?’
He laughed. ‘No, far from it! Come and sit down and we’ll eat’. He lead her to the table and pulled out her chair. He poured a glass of champagne and handed it to her.
‘Now I know something’s the matter,’ she said, taking the sparkling drink. Suddenly, she started to tremble. In front of her, Starsky had dropped to one knee and was fishing a small black velvet box from his jean pocket.
Solemnly he opened the box revealing a single emerald cut diamond mounted in a band of rose gold. The stone sparkled in the candlelight as he plucked it from the box and held it out to her.
‘Laurel, I love you more than I can possibly say. You would make me the happiest man on the planet if you would consent to be my wife. Will you marry me?’ he asked formally and with a twinkle in his eyes.
Her breath was taken away as Laurel looked down at the curly headed man on the floor, looking up at her. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the simple, beautiful…perfect proposal. If there was one thing about David Starsky it was that he never failed to surprise her with his thoughtfulness and his childlike quality.
Refuse this man that she loved with her whole being…not a chance!
Laurel stooped and took his face in her hands. As he stood, she kissed him on his beautiful lips, as she carded her fingers through his curls and whispered,
‘Of course I will’.
Across town in a small restaurant lit by candles and also with soft music playing in the background, Hutch and Sarah were dancing close together to the slow rhythm. As the music finished Hutch led her back to their table in a quiet alcove. He’d requested a private table because he too had something he wished to ask this wonderful woman.
As they sat down, Sarah looked expectantly as the waiter came over with a bottle of pink champagne and a dozen oysters. Hutch nodded to him and Sarah looked on as he carefully placed a shell on her plate and handed it to her.
As he watched she slowly opened the shell and gave a small gasp, lifting her beautiful green eyes to gaze into his ice blue ones.
‘What’s this?’ she asked as she picked up the white gold ring containing three sparkling diamonds.
Hutch watched her face, gauging her reaction. ‘I wondered if the future Mrs Hutchinson would like to wear this for the rest of her life?’ he asked softly.
Sarah’s eyes filled with tears as she looked at the beautiful ring. She held it out to him.
‘Only if the current Mr. Hutchinson will put it on her finger,’ she said as the tears of happiness ran unchecked down her cheek.
Hutch leaned across the table, putting the ring on the third finger of her left and hand kissed her tenderly. ‘I love you,’ he said.
Chapter 15 – 2 months later
After both women had accepted their men’s proposals of marriage, things moved on at quite a fast pace. By the beginning of the next month, all the papers had finally been signed on the office space and the two men had officially entered into a legally binding partnership, with Laurel and Sarah as one-quarter silent partners. Money had exchanged hands and marriage arrangements were well under way.
All four had decided that they would like to marry before opening the business, so that when they came back from their honeymoon, they could start their mutual partnership in every way possible, personally as well as on paper. So late one afternoon both women went shopping for their dresses and came back in the early evening having made their purchases.
There had been a great debate about the actual ceremony. There were many factors to consider. Hutch’s family unfortunately hadn’t been one of them. They had never really taken much of an interest in their only son once he’d decided not to pursue a life in medicine, although his Mother made quiet discrete phone calls to her son when his father wasn’t there. Still, even her contact was limited and stilted, so Hutch didn’t see the point of even considering them in his upcoming marriage plans. Starsky really only had his Mom now that Nicky had most definitely left the country. The curly haired detective’s younger brother had gotten into one too many scrapes with the IRS had he had finally skipped down to Argentina, taking his ill-gotten gains with him. Laurel, of course, had no one she could remotely call family and Sarah had such a massive family that she didn’t know where to start with the invitations.
Then, of course there was the nature of the ceremony itself. Starsky was Jewish and Hutch was Baptist by birth, but as he wryly pointed out, it was so long since he’s actually voluntarily attended a church service that it really didn’t matter to him where he got married. For Laurel, who was spiritual but not religious, the concept of making a commitment for life to her man was the most important thing, and Sarah, who was Catholic said she would happily fit in with what everyone else wanted to do. It was, of course, a foregone conclusion that it would be a double ceremony. No one had even thought to question that little snippet.
They decided that they would keep it simple yet still an occasion that would be unforgettable. Hutch had made a couple of telephone calls to a long time friend in England, someone he and Starsky had met before, and the decision was made to have a civil ceremony at a country house in the Lancashire countryside with a few hand picked and close guests. Sam had met Hutch originally at th3e police academy and when Starsky had been hurt by Ros, a woman he thought loved him, the blond had brought him to England to recuperate. (1)
As the day drew closer for their departure, both women became almost frantic with worry that the ceremony and the arrangements would not go exactly as they’d planned. Sarah had phoned Sam, Hutch’s friend in England, so many times that she knew Hutch didn’t want to think about the monthly bill…actually she didn’t either, but there she was yet again on the phone to England with Sam.
When she hung up the phone finally, she turned to Laurel with a beaming smile on her face.
‘It’s all organised!’ she exclaimed excitedly as she came to sit next to Laurel on the settee. ‘All we need now is for Dave to get the all clear, and we’re off!’
Starsky and his partner had, that afternoon, gone for a final consultation with the brunette’s surgeon and the two women were waiting at Starsky’s apartment for their return, fingers crossed that everything was OK. As time wore on, they chatted about the wedding arrangements, their dresses, the venue, but at the back of both their minds was the worry that the healing man would still be classed as unfit for the arduous flight.
There was a noise outside and the two women looked up expectantly as Starsky came back home. Laurel had braced herself for this day. She’d seen him work himself so hard and for so long that sometimes he’d shed tears of pain and frustration as his body refused to do as much as he asked of it. There was no question that he’d gotten stronger and better, but there was still the odd wheeze when he walked or jogged and she knew he had pains in his chest when he was tired or had over exerted himself. Several times, he’d had to lie back and let her massage his back until the crushing pains went away.
Laurel watched him expectantly as he came through the door, his blond partner right behind him. As he came into the room, she held her breath until that big, goofy lop sided grin showed itself and he produced a large bottle of champagne from behind his back.
‘S’ok,’ he pronounced. ‘I’m fit to fly and fit to work.’ He picked Laurel up in arms that had gained strength over the months, and twirled her round, ‘and I’m fit to marry you, you wonderful woman’.
“You bet you are, David Starsky,” Laurel giggled with joy, and then with deeper emotion, “I couldn’t love you more or be more proud of you than I am at this moment!”
He put her down and kissed her deeply as she smiled up at him, relief showing in her big brown eyes.
As they all sat down together, Starsky explained he’d done all the same tests he’d done for the police surgeon two months before, and had passed almost all of them with flying colours. He could jog at a steady pace on the treadmill now for over twenty minutes, he could do thirty sit ups without a rest and was bench pressing 100lbs. again without too much problem.
The doctor had confirmed that Starsky would still improve slightly, but that he would never again be quite so fit as he was before. He should go home, get on with his life and strive to enjoy every day as if it was his last. As that had always been the Starsky philosophy anyway, that was one piece of the doctor’s advice that he planned on following to the letter.
That night the four celebrated with their champagne and the next day, final preparations were made for their flight to England.
Starsky. Laurel, Hutch and Sarah sat in the middle four seats of the jumbo jet from LAX to Manchester, England. Behind them, taking up more rows on the plane were Dobey, who had agreed to be best man, Huggy, and Starsky’s Mom, who’d flown down from New York the day before because she couldn’t bear the thought of flying from JFK to Manchester on her own. Added to that was Sarah’s Mom and Dad and her kid sister who was to be a bridesmaid, along with Dobey’s wife Edith and Rosey, his daughter who was to act as ring bearer. Dobey’s” son Cal was in college and couldn’t come, but had rgansed a bottle of champagne to be in the newly weds room at the end of the ceremony. It was a small, select group, but the atmosphere on the plane was light and happy. Adding to their joy was the Captain’s unexpected announcement that he had two couples on board who were going to be married. More champagne flowed and the eleven-hour flight went quickly and happily.
At Manchester airport, Sam and her husband had arranged a minibus to pick up the wedding party and as the happy couples rounded the corner into the arrivals hall they were met by the sight of Sam holding wedding balloons and cheering them. Hutch made the formal introductions and once all the baggage had been stowed into the back of the vehicle, Sam drove them out of the airport and onto the motorway north.
For once the sun was shining as they drew up to the front of the country hotel that Sam had booked them into for the duration of their stay. The ivy climbing the walls of the old building and the roses round the door seemed to send their own greeting out to the wedding party.
The Dunkenhalgh Hotel was a large country house set in its own grounds, surrounded by pastureland and the two couples were shown up to their respective suites, the other members of the wedding party taking over the whole of the rooms in the converted stable block.
As Starsky and Laurel walked into their large corner room, their eyes took in the pale blue walls, deep blue carpet and the huge bed, piled high with fluffy pillows and dressed in pale blue satin covers. Laurel walked over to the bay window, looking out over the cow pasture down to the river meandering through the fields and sighed.
‘I never thought it would be so beautiful,’ she murmured as Starsky walked up behind her and put his arms round her waist, resting his chin on her shoulder.
‘Glad you like it, honey. Sam chose it for us. We can go look at the room for the ceremony afterwards if you like’.
Laurel leaned into her soon to be husband, resting her head on his chest as she continued to look out at the rolling countryside.
‘I’ve never seen such a shade of green,’ she said. ‘Everything looks so fresh and clear. Look, there are even mountains in the distance! Makes me feel right at home…like my family is somehow really here and happy for us’.
“Yeah…I feel that Pop is somehow here and smiling his blessings on us too,” Starsky replied as he cleared his throat that had began to constrict with emotion. He concentrated, trying to remember the geography of the place from the last time he and Hutch had stayed with Sam. Although he hadn’t been in a good frame of mind at the time, and Hutch had been sick, he could still remember something of what she’d told him. He pointed at the closest hill.
‘That’s Pendle Hill there, and at the back are three mountains, Phen Y Ghent, Whernside and Ingelborough,’ he told her.
‘Such romantic names’ she said dreamily. ‘It’s all so beautiful, let’s never leave’.
He chuckled. ‘We’ll never get the business off the ground that way,” Starsky joked as he gave Laurel a quick peck on the cheek. “Come on! Let’s go find Hutch and Sarah’.
They found their two partners in a mirror image of their room, along the red carpeted, oak-panelled corridor. Sarah was as bowled over by the place as Laurel had been as Hutch busily explaining where everything was, pointing out landmarks and explaining where they could go on their days out on the honeymoon. Hutch’s soon to be wife pulled at his hair, playfully.
‘Who says we’re ever going to leave this room,’ she asked, a wide smile on her face.
‘No complaints from me Ma’am, but I kinda thought you’d want to see just a little bit of the countryside…you know, to rest?’ he grinned as he quickly sneaked in a kiss.
They both looked up as Laurel and Starsky knocked and came in. They had unpacked everything but the wedding dresses.
Sarah was quite adamant about that. ‘No honey, its unlucky for you two to see them until the day of the wedding!”
The four of them then set off to explore the rest of the big house. They were the only people staying there at that time, so they had the whole place to themselves, as the stable block was a little further down the drive.
As they went from one grand room to the next they couldn’t contain their excitement. On the ground floor was an enormous reception room, decorated with scarlet carpet and drapes, the walls lined with windows and mirrors. Next to that was a large room where the wall was made entirely of glass, looking out on the sweeping lawn and down to the river where they could see swans and ducks. A label on the door proclaimed this to be The Orangery’ and through that room, another quieter room led back into the main house. This room was decorated in deep green, with comfortable green leather chairs and settees lining the walls and a full sized snooker table gracing its centre. Starsky walked over to it and brushed his hand gently over the green baize surface.
‘Wow. Fancy pool table,’ he murmured as he looked around for the cues and balls.
‘It’s snooker Starsk, not pool. They have snooker in England. Kinda like pool, but only one set of balls, not striped and solids. Same principle though. You put the little balls in the little pockets’.
Starsky wiggled his eyebrows at the innuendo and Hutch tutted and shook his head. ‘Down boy, later. OK?’ he smiled.
The exploration continued for the next hour as room after room opened up to them. Finally they found themselves in a small annex containing a weight room, sauna and swimming pool. Hutch eased himself down onto one of the poolside chairs with a sigh.
‘OK, I think I’ve died and gone to Heaven,’ he said as Sarah came to sit on his knee.
‘No, sweetie,’ she said. ‘Heaven’s tomorrow when I get to become Mrs. Kenneth Hutchinson’.
(1) – See Thou Shalt Not Kill
That night, as tradition dictated, Laurel and Sarah stayed at the hotel while the two men went back to Sam’s house to stay the night there. They, of course, were accompanied by Huggy, who had been given strict instructions by Laurel and Sarah to keep an eye on their ‘intendeds’.
It felt good for the two of them to be back at the James House and under far happier circumstances than the last time they’d stayed there. Plus they got the added advantage of meeting Andrew, Sam’s husband for the first time – he’d been away on business the last time they’d stayed. They all got on famously with the big burly man and after an early supper, he demanded that they walk with him to the ‘local’ for a drink. All three men looked blank.
‘Local? Local what?’ Hutch asked as he pulled his shoes back on, preparing for the walk. Andrew smiled as he saw the look on Huggy’s face. The one thing the lanky black man hated more than the countryside was having to walk in it.
‘You know, we’re both supposed to speak English, but we don’t speak the same language, do we? The local. Pub? Public House? Bar?’ he explained.
Light dawned on the three Americans and Huggy felt that he would be on home territory. ‘Oh bar! Why didn’t ya say so,’ Starsky mumbled as he followed Andrew back outside, expecting an English version of The Pits.
The evening was warm and bright and the dark haired man remembered his previous stay at the James House and the fact that it had been summer then and it hadn’t gone dark till way past eleven at night. He looked at his watch – 9:00pm and still light enough to be afternoon! He looked around surreptitiously, hoping to catch a glimpse of Hannah, but the friendly apparition was no-where to be seen. The brunette was a little disappointed – she’d helped him so much on his last visit, even though she was 400 years old!
The three set off down the hill from the house, following the narrow country lane as it wandered around the field boundaries past farms with old Saxon names like Red Shells, Rhoden, Oldfield and The Heyes.
At last they came to the main road through Oswaldtwistle and walked along it a little way, finally stopping at a big stone building. A brightly painted sign over the door, showing a large shire horse pulling a farm implement, announced that this was ‘The Plough’ and Andrew pushed the door open, standing aside to let them in. The heat from the open coal fire and the heady smell of beer and cigarette smoke immediately met them. Andrew pushed his way through the crowded room to the bar.
‘Evening Tom, how’s things? Four pints of bitter, please,’ Andrew ordered as Starsky, Huggy and Hutch found a corner table and sat down. They were surrounded by unfamiliar accents and could hardly believe they were hearing the English language spoken.
‘Nah, it weren’t a goer till a found out touch ‘ole were bunged up wi’ fluff and ‘t treddle were completely out o’ skew,’ one farmer sitting at their side was saying to his friend.
‘What didst’a do then? If I were thee I’d ‘a fettled it reight off,’ the man’s companion confided, tapping the side of his nose conspiratorially.
Hutch shrugged as he saw Starsky trying to decipher what had just been said and grinned up at Andrew as the Lancastrian came back with four barrel glasses of beer.
‘Get them down ya,’ Andrew laughed as he saw their confused faces. 'After three or four of those, you’ll understand 'em perfectly!'
The night passed pleasantly. The three men were something of a curiosity to the farmers drinking at The Plough that night. It was a parochial little community with few foreign visitors. There was a large Asian community in the nearby town, but they kept to themselves. Los Angeles, on the other hand was deemed to be very exotic and the three men were asked time and again whether they’d ever seen the ‘Hollywood’ sign and did they ever meet anyone famous. By the end of the evening they were being treated as celebrities themselves, helped in a small way by Huggy’s tall tales of movie stars frequenting his own bar in downtown Bay City.
As the landlord called, ‘Time gentlemen please’ signalling eleven o’clock and the end of their drinking time, Andrew and his three new best friends wove their way a little drunkenly and unsteadily back up the hill, singing and laughing as the cows and sheep looked on in surprise.
The following morning, Starsky awoke bright and early. Considering the amount he’d had to drink the night before and the unfamiliar brew he’d forced down, he felt surprisingly well. He lay in the small bed, gazing out of the little window at the green countryside, going over the previous night’s revelries when it suddenly struck him. Today he was going to get married! He sprang out of bed, hitting his head in the process on the sloping ceiling of the room and trotted down the corridor to Hutch’s room. He banged on the door, but as he was about to storm in, he met the blond coming up the stairs from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his hips and bright droplets hanging from the wet golden bangs falling over his forehead.
‘Well, good morning,’ Hutch said, still chewing his toothbrush.
‘Good morning to you too. You all set for the big day?’ Starsky asked, still coming to terms with the fact that it had finally arrived.
Hutch gave a big beaming smile, ‘Certainly am buddy. You?’
The brunette nodded. ‘If we can just get the Bear outta bed, we’ll be set,’ he chuckled.
The previous night, Huggy, who had prided himself on showing these “country bumpkins” how a “real American drinks”, had downed six pints of beer and they had to virtually carry the lanky barman back the house. They’d dumped him on his bed and left him, so they were not surprised when a crumpled face holding a sore head poked around the bedroom door.
‘Have some pity,’ Huggy mumbled, ‘Some of us are trying to catch some Zz’s here’.
The two men laughed ‘Yeah, and some of us are due to get married! Come on, move that scrawny carcass and get dressed. Things to do and places to be’. As the lanky vision disappeared back into his bedroom, both friends started to make their preparations.
After a relaxing breakfast, Hutch and Starsky got dressed in their best navy blue suits, crisp white shirts and pale blue ties. Their dress had been carefully chosen by their ladies and the ties were specifically pale blue to match (as Laurel and Sarah had both agreed) their men’s eyes perfectly. Starsky had even managed to wear smart black lace up shoes instead of his more customary blue Adidas, and moaned about blisters and aching feet even before they set off for the ceremony. With Sam and Andrew waving them off they got into the elegant deep maroon Rolls Royce that had negotiated the steep lane to take them back to the Dunkenhalgh. As they sat in the back of the luxurious car, uncomfortably fingering the tight collars of their shirts, they glanced at each other.
‘We’ve come a long way buddy,’ Hutch said softly, patting his friend’s knee.
Hutch’s mind went back over the previous months, comparing the sick, fragile, emaciated body in the hospital bed from just a few months ago with the fit and healthy man at his side today. The change in his curly haired partner was remarkable.
Gone was the gaunt, haunted appearance and the plough furrow ribs surrounding the livid surgical scars. In their place sat a man happy with life, his indigo eyes twinkling from a ruggedly handsome face. The body that had been ravaged by sickness and the three bullets was now back to its muscular and lithe self. Starsky had finally come to terms with the fact that he’d never be as fit as he once was and that there were certain limitations he would always have. Hutch sensed an air of peacefulness about his partner that he hadn’t detected in quite a while.
Starsky turned his deep blue eyes on his big blond friend too and smiled. He remembered a time that Hutch had been in the hospital. He’d never really gotten over seeing his usually self confident and brave partner cowering away from the medics as they patched him up after the Harmon incident. Starsky was so thankful to Sarah, the nurse and as it turned out the woman with whom his best friend would spend the rest of his life, who’d taken her time to care for his friend and bring his confidence and self esteem back.
Both men knew they were incredibly lucky to have met the women who were about to become their wives.
The Rolls Royce swept up the broad, elm tree lined driveway to the big hotel and as the chauffeur got out and held open the door for them, the two former detectives got out, to be greeted by their friends and family. Rachel Starsky wept a silent tear as she watched her son walking tall and proud towards her. He caught her up in his arms and planted an enormous kiss on her cheek, wiping away her tear with his thumb. ‘Hey you’re supposed to be happy for me Ma,’ he whispered in her ear.
Rachel couldn’t bring herself to speak, but held her son tight to her for a moment, feeling his healed body and thanking God for his recovery.
When she’d seen him in the hospital a week after the shooting she’d thought she would lose him forever. As he battled through the sickness, depression, and the months of rehabilitation, her heart had swelled in pride. Now, here he was, a dashing and handsome man, who had come to sweep the woman of his dreams off her feet. He reminded her so much of the man of her own dreams…Michael Starsky, David’s father.
Rachel thought to herself, “My David will make you such a happy woman, Laurel…just like his father made me.”
The whole wedding party made its way into the large, flower bedecked room and sat down. At the back of the room, Hutch, Dobey and Starsky fidgeted and waited nervously, before walking down the short red carpeted aisle and taking their seats at the front. As an opening chord played on the organ at the front of the room, all three sprang to their feet and the two grooms looked around as they saw their brides walk down the room toward them.
The two women simply glowed as they walked slowly down the aisle, both in long white dresses and accompanied by Sarah’s little sister and Rosey Dobey, dressed in long, bright blue dresses, carrying small posies of white roses.
While Laurel had chosen a simple figure hugging white satin dress, cut simply and accentuated only by a small rope of pearls at her neck, Sarah’s dress had a full skirted off the shoulder confection in lace, showing off her dark good looks to perfection. Sarah’s long dark hair was put up in a beautiful chignon and she wore a diamante tiara. Laurel’s even longer blond hair was brushed till it gleamed and was loose around her shoulders, cascading down her back to her waist, held back at the sides with small arrangements of white flowers.
As the two women came to stand by their men in front of the Registrar, Starsky’s mother thought they were the most beautiful vision in the world.
Both women gazed into their men’s eyes as they said ‘I do’ and Hutch had had to cough before trusting his voice to murmur his ascent to the marriage. Starsky, on the other hand said his ‘I do’ loud and clear, proclaiming to the world that David Michael Starsky was not only back, whole and well, but had claimed the hand of the most beautiful woman in the world. There was an air of ‘You can’t break me Gunther’ to his acceptance of this woman, and the sentiment was not lost on the new Mrs. Starsky who simply glowed in agreement.
After a beautiful month long honeymoon in the North of England countryside, taking in the Ribble Valley, a renowned beauty spot and the more well known Lake District, the four returned to Bay City to start work on Night and Day. Their vacation had been blessed by unseasonably warm weather and there were only two rain days to keep the couples indoors, but that didn’t mar their stay. Far from it. As Starsky pointed out, if the rain had fallen every day, he’d have had a relapse and would have had to take another month off just to recuperate from the honeymoon!
As it was they’d motored, as the English would say, around the area, staying in a spot if they found a hotel they liked, and moving on as the whim took them.
The mountains and the lakes had soothed them all. The peace and tranquillity of the place had lulled them into quiet days and passionate nights and at the end of the month all four were rested and ready to take on the hurly burly of the city again.
So bright and early on the morning of their second day back at home, the two former detectives made their way down to their office, letting themselves in quietly and stood in the foyer, looking around. Huggy had taken the plane back home the day after the wedding and had been hard at work getting the administration of the place up and running. As each man walked into their respective office, they saw on their desks framed certificates proclaiming David Michael Starsky and Kenneth Richard Hutchinson be registered private investigators in Bay City and the surrounding environ area. Each was accompanied by a neat handwritten note from the new office manager, telling them to look in the safe.
Hutch dialled the combination and opened the heavy door. There, nestled on the shelf were two guns, a Colt Python Magnum and a Smith and Wesson model 59. Both gleamed with gun oil and looked brand new, but as Hutch reached for the guns, he saw the familiar small deep scuff on the handle of the Colt.
It was his old weapon from the precinct!
He handed the Smith and Wesson to Starsky, realising that it too was the original. There was an envelope with them and opening it Hutch read aloud Dobey’s scrawling drunken writing.
There is no call for second hand weapons in my department. These are surplus to requirements. Please see attached signed and dated licences. Thought you might appreciate the gesture. Use them wisely!
Starsky weighed the gun in his hand. He and this chunk of metal had been through a lot together and when he’d finally handed in his shield and placed the weapon down on Dobey’s desk it had been as if he was leaving a member of his family behind. At the time, he had chided himself for feeling so soapy and stupid about an inanimate piece of metal, but he couldn’t shake the feeling.
Having it back now made him feel somehow whole again, as if this one gesture set the seal of approval on the whole business venture. He smiled happily at his partner.
‘Guess there’s a heart beating beneath that grumpy exterior after all,’ he laughed as he took off his jacket and slipped on the familiar worn holster that had accompanied his old friend. Hutch was just as happy and was shouldering into his holster too as Huggy walked in, bright and breezy.
‘Well, Sirs, now that you’ve made it back with your honeys, are you ready for your first big job?’
‘What already?” Hutch asked.
He’d expected to sit around the office for days or even weeks waiting for the work to start coming in, but of course he hadn’t taken into account Huggy and his connections to the various sectors of Bay City life.
‘Does the Bear hang around? Do I trawl the streets for my new masters?’ he stooped down in an exaggerated bow.
‘Ok Hug. Cut the crap. What ya got for us?’ Starsky asked, smiling.
Huggy stopped in his tracks. ‘I thought I’d never hear that again,’ he smiled at the old familiar voice and the tone the brunette used. ‘As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted’.
‘Huggy, so help me I’ll fire your bony ass if ya don’t start talkin,’ Starsky ground out good-naturedly.
The black man held up a conciliatory hand. ‘I’m getting there,’ he said, loftily. ‘Do you remember the country singer with the stalker from a few years ago?’ he asked as if the duo could forget. ‘Well, Sue Ann Grainger got married last year. She was real happy with her new husband to begin with, and she still is. Thing is, he was a real down and out when she met him. He was a big fan an’ used to meet her at her gigs every night. She knew he didn’t have any money, but he kinda swept her off her feet’.
‘Now you gentlemen wouldn’t know what that was like now, would you?” Huggy eyes twinkled good naturedly as the two men glanced at each other.
‘Ya know, talk like that will not earn you a renewal on your contract,’ Hutch said good-humouredly. ‘Go on’.
Huggy continued. ‘Well, like I said, he swept her off her feet and they got married. She was quite happy to have him as a ‘kept man’ but apparently he wasn’t and for the past few months he’s been spending big time on her. You know the score – mink coats, diamonds. Last week he drove a new car home for her. So, she suspicious. He’s getting money hand over fist and won't tell her where he's getting it. Our little blond country singer’s afraid that he's into drugs or something’.
‘If it’s illegal, she should be going to the pol…’ Starsky started to say, his previous life coming back at him straight on. He stopped himself with a smile. ‘Ok, maybe I’m not quite in the PI mindset yet. But why doesn’t she go to the authorities?’ he asked.
Huggy looked at him pityingly. ‘Starsky, my man, how ya ever gonna get this business up and running if ya just hand everything over to BCPD all the time? This is business! Besides, she’s afraid to go to the police. She has had connections with you two before...she trusts you and doesn't want to go to the police because she doesn't want the publicity that would surround it. She loves her husband and wants to know if he's doing anything illegal. She wants to know if you can investigate. Said somethin’ about the cute crooner?’
Hutch blushed as he remembered the frightening night on the stage. Somehow his partner and Sue Ann had persuaded him to sing a song at the club and at first he’d been all for it. Secretly he quite liked the idea of the country singing scene, but the reality scarred the proverbial crap out of him. As he’d stood looking out at the audience, he didn’t know what sounded louder in the microphone - the hammering of his heart in his chest, or the knocking of his knees.
‘Ok cute crooner,’ Starsky giggled. ‘Shall we have our administrator call Ms. Grainger and set up a meeting, partner or do ya wanna go sing outside her window?’
The blond gave him a withering look. ‘I think we’ll go with the meeting huh? Huggy, can ya give her a call and set it up?’
Two hours later they pulled up outside the country singer’s apartment on the Coast Road. Starsky had driven them in his corvette after seeing Hutch’s latest acquisition.
They’d had serious discussions before the wedding about the flaxen haired man’s vehicle and Starsky had pointed out quite reasonably, he thought, that if they were setting up in business, then their cars reflected their firm. Amazingly Hutch had taken the news quietly and had said he’d sort it out, especially as his old LTD had finally ‘died’ on the highway and not even Merle could get it going again.
Starsky had been itching to see his partner’s choice of motor vehicles, and had schooled him on his choice, showing him flashy glamorous brochures for sports cars or big four-wheel drive monsters. So, when they’d arrived back at LAX the previous day and Hutch said he’d had his new car delivered to the airport to drive them home, the brunette had been beyond excited.
As they’d gone out into the parking lot, Starsky had looked around for something long low and sleek in black, or maybe a subtle maroon or deep blue. He was, therefore, totally speechless when the wedding party was directed to an Oldsmobile in a sort of pale coffee colour, parked by the sidewalk.
‘What’s this? Its not….ya haven’t….For God’s sake Blintz, I said classy, to reflect the business! This should be driven by a..a..’ he was lost for words, but Hutch finished for him.
‘…by a good solid citizen who will look after his client’s interests,’ he said proudly, opening the door for the two ladies to get in as the smaller man reluctantly got into the comfortable staid interior.
So now, they were sitting in the bright candy apple red corvette staring up at the woman’s apartment.
‘How’s it feel Gordo? Our first case! Kinda momentous’.
The brunette glanced back at his partner, light shining in his indigo eyes. ‘Certainly is, partner. Night and Day Investigations is officially launched!’
He got out of the car, only a hint of stiffness in his limbs now. The hours of exercise and the month’s vacation had worked wonders and as Hutch watched, the smaller man strutted across the road, his jeans as tight as ever. Turning back Starsky nodded his head.
‘Ya comin’ Blintz?’
They headed up the steps and knocked on the door, which was eventually opened by Sue Anne’s manager, still dressed in his denim blue, country style suit. ‘Detectives. Welcome. Sue Ann’s been expecting you. Come in,’ he smiled, motioning them into the plush interior.
‘Thanks, but its just Starsky ‘n’ Hutch now. We ‘ve ah…gone private,’ Hutch still couldn’t get used to reaching for his shield and flipping it open. He walked into the lounge (is this like what we would call in America the living room?) and was welcomed with open arms by the blond woman.
‘Hutch, Starsky, thank ya’ll fer comin,’ she drawled motioning for them to sit down.
The duo sat next to each other as Starsky whispered in his partner’s ear, ‘The cute crooner couldn’t keep away!’ Out loud he said, ‘Hope we can be of service, Sue Ann. Huggy told us something about your problem. Care to fill us in?’
Hutch watched as his partner took over, the epitome of professionalism and knew there and then, that the brunette was back in top form.
Over the next half-hour, Sue Ann told them about her new husband and that he was starting to go out later and later at night. At first, he’d always gone to support her at her gigs, but recently he’d taken to going out alone, coming back late smelling of drink and cigarette smoke and with pockets full of cash. Her biggest fear was that he was into something illegal, or maybe having an affair.
Eventually, Hutch closed his notebook and with promises to report back, the two let themselves out and walked slowly back to the car.
‘What d’ya think?’ Starsky asked as they got into the corvette and set off. ‘Drugs? Another woman?’
The blond shook his head. ‘Why would he have another woman? She’s beautiful and loaded, so he doesn’t need the extra money or the extracurricular activity. Poker, maybe?’
‘Well, there’s only one way to find out. Find him ‘n’ tail him,’ Starsky said happily as he turned the car back toward the city.
After a swift phone call to their wives telling them they’d be late and not to worry, the two men set off down to the bar that Sue Ann had said her husband frequented during the day. She’d told them his name was Frank Marvin and had given them a picture of a big, burly handsome man in his early forties. His clear hazel eyes gleamed out of an open honest looking face topped off by a shaggy main of dark brown bushy hair. Sue Ann had told them he was about 6’3” tall weighing close on 200lbs, but that he was a gentle giant of a man and had a ‘sweet, sweet disposition’. Hutch had wryly commented to Starsky afterwards that he hoped this man mountain would still have a sweet, sweet disposition when he found out he had two PIs on his tail.
They found the bar down a back street near the docks area of the city. It was a standard type of drinking hole, frequented by average guys either working on the docks or on the nearby building yard. Dressed in their customary jeans and casual shirts, as they saw no reason to dress up for their new job, they fit in reasonably well with the current clientele. They both ordered a beer and hunkered down into a booth near the back of the room. From there they could both see the comings and goings of the establishment and for a while they sat in companiable silence, each drinking in the normality of it all. For both Hutch and his healed partner it felt just like old times – a dive of a bar, a beer, the weight of their guns beneath their jackets and the long wait for a suspect.
As they settled in they looked around the joint. It was the usual type of place. It had bare floorboards, a grimy bar and plain wooden chairs, which were dotted around chipped and worn tables. Not the sort of place they would have expected the husband of a rich country singer to hide out in, but as they knew from experience, it took all sorts!
As Starsky was about to order a second beer, Hutch nudged him, indicating the door.
‘Errant husband at twelve o’clock,’ he muttered into his drink as the brunette glanced up. Marvin walked casually up to the bar and ordered a drink, leaning nonchalantly against the woodwork looking around. He seemed at ease with his surroundings and nodded once or twice to men who the two PIs took to be regulars to the place. As they continued to watch, another man…a very familiar man in an out of place powder blue suit, with a dark blue shirt underneath walked into the bar and took up the space beside Sue Ann’s husband. The silver clasp of his black shoestring tie caught the dim light and twinkled, brightly.
“Will ya look who just walked in, Hutch,” Starsky observed in quiet surprise.
“Yeah!” responded Hutch as they both tried not to stare at Cal Claybourne, Sue Ann’s long time manager.
‘Wonder what the hell he’s doin’ here?’ Hutch asked as he watched the two men conversing, heads close together conspiratorially.
‘Well he’s obviously pally with Marvin,’ the brunette observed as he watched the two men laughing and joking. They stayed that way for another quarter of an hour, talking and drinking until the PIs saw Claybourne pass a small crumpled piece of paper to Marvin, nod a final goodbye, and leave quietly, leaving the country singer’s husband to finish his drink and follow.
The two men got up and followed slowly as they watched Marvin open the paper and read the contents before crumpling it up and pushing it into his pocket. As he walked towards his car, Hutch and Starsky got back into the corvette and as Marvin pulled out into traffic, they followed at a cautious distance.
The two men were intent on their quarry and had no reason to suspect that they too may be being followed. They didn’t see a dark green Lincoln pulled out behind them and completing the convoy as they wound their way through the sun soaked streets. It was an ordinary car and pulled easily into the traffic traveling at a steady pace and not bringing attention to itself, just like any other customer to the drinking hole would do.
Marvin wound his way home eventually after stopping off at the mall and calling at an expensive jewelers. As the blond PI watched from the window of the shop, noting the purchase, his partner stayed in the car. He in turn was watched from the green Lincoln. As Hutch returned to the corvette and they once again pulled out into traffic, Cal nodded his head. Oh yes, they were definitely onto Frank Marvin now and if he wasn’t careful, these two new business men would ruin his carefully laid plans.
After a protracted wait near Sue Ann’s apartment, at about 9:00pm, Starsky nudged his dosing friend and they set off again as Marvin made his way back down town.
Hutch tried to stretch his cramped shoulders and back in the confines of the compact car as his partner looked on, amused.
‘Ya know Starsk. I never thought I’d hear myself say it, but I miss the striped tomato. At least a man could get a decent kip in it! You sure ya don’t want to reconsider and maybe go for the Old….’ He was cut off by a playful poke in the ribs.
‘This, my friend is the original American babe magnet. Why would I want to get rid of it?’
Hutch chuckled. ‘Coz the car might be a babe magnet pal, but you’re no oil painting and you’re also a happily married man. No more playin’ the field for you!’
They followed the tall man through the darkened streets and out of town a ways, to a small bar on the top road out of Bay City towards Mandalay Heights. It too was a rough type of joint and Marvin looked out of place going into the bar, dressed as he was in clean suit and shiny shoes.
They waited a while, then both partners eased themselves out of the cramped car. ‘Next time we stake out, we take the Oldsmobile,’ Hutch grumbled easing the kinks out of his back finally and bending they long legs he’s had to fold to insert himself into the small car.
Starsky hated to agree with his tall partner, but the corvette was built for speed and definitely not for comfort. His back and chest ached too and he was beginning to feel the exhaustion from his first full day at work. Tiredly he followed the blond into the dark, smoky interior of the bar. Marvin was nowhere in sight.
The brunette felt slightly panicky as he looked around for the big guy. God, their first paying job and to lose their tail so soon. Had he lost his expertise so quickly? He hoped not. As he continued to examine the small bar, he realised there was a doorway in one corner, hidden as it was by tables and chairs. He nudged his partner and they started to walk towards it, threading their way through the various drinkers.
As they got towards the door, Hutch saw a shadow fall behind him and felt a sharp pain in his back, alongside his spine. He froze at the familiar feeling, causing his partner to stop, looking at him questioningly. There was recognition in the indigo eyes as he looked past the flaxen haired PI at the tall imposing figure of Cal Claybourne.
The country singer’s manager leaned forward to the blonde’s ear. ‘Out the back, nice and easy, now,’ he hissed, grinding the barrel of his gun into Hutch’s kidney again. Starsky saw the flash of pain cross his partner’s face, then turned on his heel and slowly made his way out of the bar and down the alley at the back. As the small party stopped, Hutch turned as both PIs put their hands in the air, waiting.
‘What’s your game Cal?’ Starsky asked evenly, his eyes never leaving the weapon trained on his friend.
Claybourne sniggered. ‘The game’s stopping two washed up detectives from ruining my life,’ he said slowly.
‘Ya wanna run that by us again?’ Hutch said. ‘Just exactly how are we ruining your life, huh?’
‘All my life I’ve been her manager. D’ya know how it is being round the woman ya love an’ never being able to tell her? …and then she goes an’ meets some back street guy from the wrong side of town. Just because he claps louder than the rest of the crowd she thinks she loves him. She don’t love him. She couldn’t. He’d never be good enough for my Sue Ann’. Claybourne’s usually passive face showed anger and resentment.
‘So what ya gonna do now. How’s shootin’ us gonna solve your little love triangle?’ the brunette asked, edging just a little closer to his partner.
‘Don’t need to do nothin’. He’s doin it all on his own’, the tall mansaid with evident satisfaction. ‘I just show him where the gambling’s at, an’ he does the rest. I can’t loose! He either looses big time an’ she’ll see he’s a no good loser who’s bleeding her dry, or he wins and spends all his money on her, and she thinks he’s cheatin’ on her! It’s perfect! Only fly in the ointment is her employin’ you two,’ his face hardened.
Hutch saw his partner’s movements. The two men locked eyes as in the old days and silently communicated their intent. Suddenly Starsky clutched his stomach, bending over and groaning loudly and convincingly. Claybourne was taken by surprise. He knew the brunette had been sick and just for a moment thought there was something really wrong with him. Cal Claybourned no professional hitman when all was said and done. He was a country singer’s manager, not some harden criminal and wasn’t used to holding men at gunpoint. As Starsky continued to groan, Claybourne looked from one man to the other, his gun wavering momentarily. Hutch saw his opportunity and in a flash had kicked out at the weapon, knocking it out of the inexperienced man’s hand. As the angry man started to round on the blond, Starsky drew back his fist and slammed a vicious left hook into the man’s cheek, knocking him out cold. As he watched the body fall limply to the pavement, nursing his bruised knuckles, Hutch saw the wide grin blossom on his friend’s face.
‘Now who ya calling a wash up?’ he growled at the unconscious prone body. He looked back up at his partner.
‘You enjoy that?’ Hutch asked amused.
‘More ‘n’ you’ll ever know. God its good to be back,’ the brunette panted. ‘So, now we go get Marvin?’
‘I’ll go get him. Slugger! You stay put an’ watch him’ the blond replied enjoying the look in his friend’s eyes. Starsky reached instinctively for his cuffs, realising he didn’t have them any more. He also realised the punch had sapped a little more of his energy than he cared to admit, so he did the only think he could think of to keep the powerful man on the ground. He bent down and sat on the carcass of the semi-conscious man as Hutch made his way back into the bar and discretely asked the barman to pass a message to Marvin in the back room. Minutes later, Frank Marvin appeared, wondering what was going on, and Hutch took him out and into the alley.
‘The dirty rotten rat,’ Marvin ground out angrily. ‘D’ya believe that guy? He said he was my friend! Said he wanted to make sure I had a good time and got some money of my own. I’m goin…’
Marvin made a fist and started toward the man beneath Starsky’s butt, but Hutch put a restraining hand on his shoulder. ‘S’ok Frank. My partner’s already taken care of him. He’s gonna have a shiner in the morning and an fair idea not to call my friend a wash up any time soon. I think you ought to get this sorted out with your wife…at home Frank,’ Hutch continued in a more sympathetic tone.
Marvin took a deep breath. ‘Yeah…What ya think? Is it worth telling Sue Ann how stupid I was just so I can be there to witness her firing Claybourne’s butt! Or will I loose her forever when she realises just what a crazy guy she’s hitched to?’
Marvin sighed deeply and suddenly looked sheepishly at the PIs. “Ah…d’we go home…now?” he asked tentatively.
‘Yeah Frank. I think we go home now,’ Starsky said, feeling drained and tired now the adrenaline had finally started to wear off. He got up and with Hutch’s help propped his ‘seat’ up against the alley wall before walking away with a pronounced strut to his step.
The following day, the four partners of Night and Day Investigations met together in their offices with a large bottle of champagne. True to her word, Sue Ann had paid her $2,500 bill promptly and had even come into town to celebrate the first paying job of the investigation company with the four. The previous night she’d listened as her husband had told her what a fool he’d been to listen to Cal and how much he loved her. She been beside herself that her manager of all those years had betrayed her trust like that, never suspecting that he actually loved her. She too felt foolish and grateful that the whole mess had finally been ironed out.
Now they were all standing together in the reception area as Huggy reverted to type and started handing around the glasses. With a loud ‘pop’ Hutch got the cork out of the bottle and poured the frothing contents into the six champagne flutes. He was about to prose a toast when his curly haired partner put out a hand and stopped him.
‘Allow me buddy. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,’ He checked that everyone had a full glass then raised his in the air, savoring the moment. The group looked expectantly at him as he gazed fondly at them all.
‘To Night and Day Investigations,’ his twinkling indigo eyes took in Hutch, Sarah and his beloved Laurel as he finished. ‘and to four very heavy dudes’.