Simple, final and to the point. Starsky’s eyes were gentle and not a spark of anger or resentment was there which is why it confused Hutch. He had laid it out with his heart and he was sure of the sense of it. The natural step was upon them and knowing his partner as well as he did, he didn’t expect this reaction.
They sat on Starsky’s couch with Hutch close. He could just reach over and touch his partner’s face. So tempting was the idea, Hutch stuffed his hand under his knee instead. “You made up your mind there pretty quick, partner.”
“You think you’re the only one in this partnership that’s had those same thoughts?” Starsky tilted his head and leaned in. “Hutch, since I got out of the hospital, you’ve all I’ve been thinking about. I love bein’ so close to you. It’s easy to want you.”
Hutch shook his head in confusion. “Wait. You’re saying you do want me, but the answer is no?”
“We’ve been best friends since before the academy, Hutch. After we partnered up, we got even closer. I suppose it’s only natural after everything we’ve been through.”
“Have I been reading you wrong all this time?”
“No.” Starsky turned closer to Hutch. “I’ve seen it a million times. Friends become lovers and when it doesn’t work out, there’s nothing left of the relationship. It’s over.”
“You think it would happen to us.”
“I don’t know.” Starsky shrugged his shoulders. “You’re too important to me to risk it.”
“Starsk,” Hutch began.
“Listen to me,” Starsky interrupted. “I’ve thought about us being together a lot…more in the last six months than ever before. You are a big part of my heart, Hutch, and losing that…well, if that were to happen, I would have rather died and not come back.”
“But we’d be better than we are now,” Hutch implored. “We love each other, Starsky, and we owe it to ourselves to take full advantage and be happy.”
“I’m happy with what we’ve got right now. If we did this, and it didn’t work out…” Starsky shook his head. “I can’t take this kind of chance with us.”
Starsky watched Hutch get to his feet and go to the window. “Hutch, I’m not rejecting you.”
“I know.” Hutch watched a bird land on the electrical line outside. “You feel the same as I do, but you don’t want to do anything about it.” He turned around. “I was fully prepared to hear you didn’t feel the same, Starsk, but this…”
Pushing up from the couch, Starsky moved to Hutch and stood close to him. “Does this change things with us now?”
Hutch took a deep breath then let it out. “I don’t know. I’m a little pissed right now. I don’t want this to turn into full blown resentment later on.”
“We’ll work it out like we always do. Even if we don’t, you’re not getting rid of me that easy.”
With the Starsky half-smile, Hutch managed a weak one. “Yeah, I know.” The anger inside evaporated and Hutch pulled Starsky close. “I never want to lose you.”
Starsky relished Hutch’s warmth and returned the comforting hug. “You won’t,” he promised.
The rest of the evening was finished with a movie on TV and when Hutch got back to his place he poured a glass of wine and went to the greenhouse. It was a rejection, Hutch thought. Albeit not one he expected, but it was small comfort knowing Starsky’s feelings were the same as his.
New arguments formed in his mind, but Hutch had no doubt Starsky would not change his mind in the foreseeable future. It was understandable. In their years together, they watched friends become lovers only to see it not last. Friends divorcing and remarrying was almost commonplace and it was understandable Starsky wouldn’t want to suffer that especially when it came to their relationship.
He wasn’t worried about Starsky finding a new love. Far from it. Starsky had accepted the fact he would never marry. His partner would never have gotten to ‘I do’ with Kira even if he hadn’t slept with the woman. Hutch still regretted his actions. While it had exposed Kira for what she was, he had hurt his partner and after that fiasco, Hutch swore he would never set himself between Starsky and happiness, even if it had been a lie.
But what they had was far from a lie. It was a truth and one that couldn’t be ignored. At least, Hutch knew he couldn’t ignore it. Starsky wasn’t ignoring it all. In fact, he faced it head on. He wondered how long it took for his partner to come to this conclusion about furthering their relationship.
After the intense conversation, they both slid into their standard roles as easy as getting into bed. Hutch almost laughed aloud at the metaphor. He still wanted more. He always would, and Hutch was confident Starsky would change his mind. They needed time and being the patient man he was, Hutch would give it.
The next morning Starsky headed up the backstairs into Hutch’s apartment. They had talked twice since the conversation at his place and every indication was that Hutch seemed to be dealing okay with his decision. Starsky knew it hurt, but he was convinced Hutch would see the right of it in time.
He poured two cups of coffee while Hutch showered. Starsky set both cups on the table and went to the radio. He grimaced at the AM talk radio station and turned to one more of his liking. KC and the Sunshine Band blared and he moved his hips while he fixed toast.
When Starsky turned, Hutch was standing near the table with a grin on his face. “Sit down and drink your coffee, Blondie.”
The smile never left Hutch as he took a seat. “You’re here early.”
“Checking up on you is all it is.” Starsky found a spoon and sat down across from Hutch. “I figured I owed you a day of letting you get your way after last night.”
The loud disco on the radio didn’t bother Hutch in the least. Most days he would gripe until his partner shut off the annoying music. “I’m okay, Starsk. Really.”
“Today’ll be a judge of that.” Starsky stirred the sugar into the coffee, then grabbed the jelly. “A visit to the tofu joint will cure what ails you.”
Hutch chuckled and watched Starsky load the toast with a pile of jelly. “Sounds good. Tonight, I treat.”
After smearing the fruit onto the bread, Starsky looked up. “What?”
“Did you check the fridge, buddy?”
Starsky scooted the chair back and reached for the refrigerator handle. He pulled and sitting at the bottom were the two largest T-bone steaks he had ever seen. They were covered with marinade and decorated with onions. “Oh, Hutch!”
The pleasure on Starsky’s face, Hutch never tired of. “I started them last night. I figured by tonight they’ll be tender enough to cut with a fork.”
The vision made Starsky’s mouth water. He closed the door and looked at the beaming smile on Hutch’s face. “I’ll bring the good wine.”
They finished their small breakfast and went out the back to the alley where Starsky’s Torino and Hutch’s latest vehicle sat. When Hutch started for his car, Starsky halted.
“Forget it, Hutch.”
“You haven’t cleaned that crate out in weeks and the seat hurts my ass.”
“It’s a hell of a lot safer than that coke can…”
Starsky held his hand up. “Not another word. Coke can on wheels, strawberry with a chalk line, tomato with bird shit…you could write a book with all the names you’ve called her. She’s held up a lot longer than your others.”
“Hutch, she’s a part of us,” Starsky pleaded. He went to his car and put his hand on the hood. “This is our signature car.”
“And every bad guy out there knows it.” Seeing the imploring look on his partner’s face, Hutch shook his head. “I thought today was supposed to be my day.”
“Just this one time, Hutch. Please!”
With a dramatic heavy sigh, Hutch went to the eyesore. “Next week we take mine. I’ll clean it out and have the seat fixed.”
Hutch kept his smile to himself as he watched Starsky saunter with happiness to the driver’s side of the car. He almost always let Starsky have his way and this was no exception. If it made his partner happy, he was ready to give it.
The mundane matters of police work continued on for the remainder of the week. Starsky and Hutch spent less time on the street which was fine. Both were growing weary of the harsh life and more often than not, younger officers with brash enthusiasm were taking over their old beat and old ways.
They spent the weekend at the beach and a car show. It was almost dark Saturday when Starsky dropped Hutch off at his place. Sundays were for time apart and preparing for the week ahead. With laundry, grocery shopping and other more commonplace matters of day to day living, that was one of the few days off they spent apart from one another.
Hutch tossed his jacket on the couch and stripped off the holster. After hanging it up, he went to the kitchen and got a beer from the fridge. He stripped off his shirt as he drank it and by the time he reached the bathroom, the beer was half drunk.
The hot shower felt good and Hutch welcomed the massage on his back. The constant walking from the car show had shown itself by way of the growing ache. When Hutch finished he slipped on his sweats.
He spent the remainder of the evening eating a sandwich and caring for his plants. Hutch stopped at one and the deadened leaves sent the message. It couldn’t be saved. He found the trashcan and carried it to the greenhouse. Hutch pulled the plant out of the pot and set it on top of the trash. He pushed down and when it refused to go any farther, Hutch pulled the bag out.
After tying the ends together, he headed out the back door, down the stairs to the alley. Hutch started for the garbage bin and stopped near his car. He peered inside and saw the clutter.
Since he was already here, he figured he’d get started on the job. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about it tomorrow. Hutch opened the passenger door and pulled out several newspapers sitting on the floor.
“What a pretty blond.”
The snide comment froze Hutch for a moment. He was slow to straighten and when he did all he saw was the outline of a figure in the darkened alley. Unease was filling his chest and his heart pounded in response. “You better get out of here,” Hutch warned. “You don’t want my kind of trouble.”
Low chuckles erupted not far from him and Hutch turned his head. On the other side of the car, near the stairs leading to his apartment stood another. Two against one, Hutch thought. He might have a chance.
Hearing the shuffling of steps coming closer, Hutch almost closed his eyes. Three. This wasn’t good. Instinct kicked in and Hutch ran towards the one that had come in his direction. Like a football player, he plowed over the man and almost lost his footing.
He managed to start running, but was soon tackled down to the hard cement. The wind was knocked from him and Hutch grimaced at the scraping of gravel against his cheek. He fought with everything he had and every struggle was met with two or more fists.
One punch landed in the back of his head and he was stunned from the impact. His hands were yanked behind his back and a rope wrapped around his wrists. The hands came off of him and when Hutch tried to get to his feet, a kick to the ribs felled him again.
“Look at, Blondie!” one jeered.
Their taunts meant nothing to Hutch as he struggled to catch his breath. He looked up at his attackers, but his vision was blurred with dirt and pain. He was kicked down again and one of the assailants put a knee to his back. A cloth was placed in his mouth and another over his eyes.
“Go get the car,” one ordered.
Hutch lowered his head to the ground and took even breaths. He had to stop them from taking him anywhere. He couldn’t count the dead bodies he’d seen when the victim went with their killer out of fear rather than fight.
Struggling to get to his feet, he heard more taunts and jeers. There was a kick to his lower back and Hutch fell to his knees. His right knee screamed in agony and Hutch wondered if he had done more damage than the attempt on his life done to it some years ago.
The rolling of tires across the gravel of the alley got his attention and Hutch’s fear grew. He couldn’t find the footing to get up. Every sound was acute with the blindfold over his eyes. The footsteps came near him and when the rough hands grabbed his arms, Hutch tried to kick at them. He was given a hit to the ribs for his struggle then thrown into the trunk of the car.
Time lost its meaning. Blind, gagged and tied, Hutch had no concept of where he was being taken or why. Starsky usually called by noon on Sundays and that was still hours away. No plans had been made to meet. He could only hope when the car did stop and the trunk opened, he had enough strength to somehow fight them off.
Hutch had to see them in order to do it and to identify his kidnappers. He turned his head sideways and rubbed it along the bottom of the trunk. It took some doing but he got it above his eyes.
He was still blind in the dark trunk, but his feet were free. The car was slowing and Hutch maneuvered to his back and in the tight space readied to attack. Once it stopped, he held his breath.
It seemed to take forever for the lid to open and once it did, Hutch kicked out at the first form he saw. He heard a loud curse upon the impact and before he could go after another he was yanked out of the trunk and thrown to the ground.
He got a hard kick to the back and Hutch rolled in agony. The blindfold was straightened and he was dragged away from the car. Where they went, Hutch had no idea.
The strength was leaving him and he was hurting from the assault. Hutch was tossed on an old cot. He could tell from the feel and the sounds. The horrid odor of old urine and mold hit him and he turned his head away from the offensive smells.
“Turn on the radio.”
Loud disco blared in Hutch’s ears and the distinctive voices soon became apparent. “Remember, no names, fellas.”
Hutch heard liquid being poured into a glass. The chug from the bottle told him it was probably liquor.
“We ain’t killin’ him?”
“Man, I told you. Murder gets heat. This is better.”
The snorting Hutch heard sent a message of drugs. Cocaine, probably.
“Damn, this is some righteous shit!”
“Pass it over, man. I’m ready to fucking party.”
The sharing of the drugs wasn’t lost on Hutch and he started working at getting the blindfold off his eyes again. If he was getting out of here, he needed to see where he was going.
A dip in the mattress and Hutch’s heart froze. Someone was there and he tried to scoot away.
“We got you, Blondie,” was the taunt. “You ain’t going nowhere.”
The blade brought to his throat stilled Hutch. It was dragged along his neck and he winced at the small slice across his skin. His shirt was grabbed and the knife tore into the material.
Too afraid to move and fearful of what happened if he stayed warred in Hutch’s mind. He did the only thing he could as his sliced shirt was pulled away. “I’m a cop. You don’t want to do this.”
The man stilled, then laughed. It chilled Hutch more than the cold air on his skin. “Even if you are a cop.” Hutch felt a hand slide up his thigh and settle on his backside. “Where’s your badge?”
“Jesus,” Hutch breathed. Panic was starting to set in and he struggled to move away.
“Think he’d tell his brother pigs?”
A barrage of laughter echoed around Hutch. The knife started on his pants and Hutch began resisting even more. He was nicked several times during the process and when his underwear was cut away, Hutch almost started crying. He sucked it in determined not to show his fear to these animals.
More footsteps came over and Hutch was rolled to his back. He tried kicking out at the men, but they avoided his feet with ease.
“Man, you need to relax,” chuckled one.
The cold splash of liquor landed on his face and his body. The alcohol seeped into the cuts made from the knife. Hutch tried to move away from because of the stinging, but cold hard hands held him still. The slow growl of a zipper got his attention and Hutch renewed his struggles.
“Damn, this some fucking wild blond!”
The lewd laughter continued and Hutch got a punch to the face for his trouble. One grabbed the back of his head and took a handful of hair. “Okay, Blondie! You’re gonna take this and if you bite down, I’ll punch out every fucking tooth you’ve got in that pretty head. If you don’t open your mouth, I’ll do the same. It’s easier to fuck a mouth with no teeth.”
When a hard erection was rubbed across his closed mouth, Hutch recoiled. He tried to pull away, but his head was yanked back by the hair. “Open your mouth, bitch!”
Hands held Hutch down and the next punch across the face left him dazed and seeing stars behind the blindfold.
The penis was pushed into his mouth and Hutch gagged as it was shoved almost to the back of his throat. The smell was vile, his mouth was stretched wide until his lips hurt and as the battering continued his jaw began to ache.
“Fuck, yeah!” said Hutch’s rapist.
“Look like he’s been doing that for years,” one said.
“I wanna try something. Come on and help.” Another body moved in next to Hutch and his legs were grabbed. When his limp penis was taken in hand, Hutch thrashed about.
The man raping his mouth stopped. “No teeth! Goddamn it!”
The yank on Hutch’s head was brutal and he was slowly losing consciousness from the gaps of lost oxygen. As his limp organ was played with, it started to grow. No! Hutch screamed internally.
When the hard prick left his mouth, Hutch took in large gulps of air. The ropes on his wrists tore into the tender skin as he fought against what was happening to him. His penis had grown to full size against his wishes.
How could he could enjoy what was happening to him? The hands still had their grip on his body to keep him restrained while forcing this pleasure. “Don’t!” Hutch whispered.
Vulgar chuckles permeated his brain as they took turns masturbating him. Tears were stinging his eyes under the blinding wrap as the orgasm took hold. Hot semen landed on his stomach and after one scooped it up, it was rubbed across his mouth. He moved his head away from the humiliating taunts.
“Blondie, you’re a horny bitch.”
With a loud yell, Hutch’s wrath erupted and he lashed out with his feet. They landed on one of the assailants and Hutch rolled to his stomach. He didn’t get anywhere as several fists hit him all over.
They stopped and he groaned in agony. He was turned face down and the ropes left his bleeding wrists. Hutch’s arms were stretched out and soon bound to the rails of the cot. The ropes cut into the tender skin and when Hutch’s legs were pulled apart he groaned. They were given the same treatment as his other limbs.
The rapists left him and helplessness overtook Hutch. There was no stopping what was about to happen. He heard their exchanges of who was going to be first and the obscene laughter that followed.
Every sense was alive. The course cloth over his face felt like sandpaper, the ropes bit deeper into his wrists as he pulled on them. The cool air on his skin seeped into every pore and with his legs spread wide, the chill on his ass made him shiver. Hutch tried to swallow, but the inside of his mouth and throat hurt. It was ragged pain from the raping of his mouth.
‘Three Dog Night’ blasted from the radio singing ‘Shambala’. More drinking and snorting of drugs came from the trio of rapists. The bodies came too close too soon. A smack on his backside startled Hutch and he buried his face into the moldy mattress.
His ass cheeks were pried apart so far it hurt. There was no preparation and no warning. The pressure lasted only a second, but the agonizing pain tore through his anus to his lower back and down his legs. Hutch screamed as the onslaught of horror was forced inside of him.
The tearing into his body seemed to last forever and Hutch could only lay there and take what was being shoved into him. Hands clenched his hips for leverage and even with the rape happening at this very instant he fought to find a way to control what was happening to him. Sobs tore through his heart and Hutch inwardly begged to find Starsky to ask for forgiveness.
He was determined not to let them know how broken he was feeling inside and Hutch yelled his anger. “Fucking bastards!”
The brutal pumping continued. “Yeah,” one breathed with heavy power over him. “We’re all gonna fuck the shit out of you.”
The rapist finished his assault and ejaculated into Hutch’s bowels. He was soon replaced by another and when the hard prick was pushed inside, Hutch groaned. In the midst of the second assault, he realized Starsky wasn’t coming. He didn’t want him to.
Hutch wanted to die and envisioning Starsky seeing him so degraded and broken brought him lower than he’d ever known. He prayed for death as the battering continued. Hutch gave up the fight and let them do what they wanted.
How much time had passed, he didn’t know. He didn’t care. They each took their turn and in between the alcohol and the drugs, they used him more than once. Sometimes two at a time.
At one point, Hutch heard them discussing double penetration, but voted against it. They didn’t want to risk untying him. He hoped they would. He’d fight enough so they could kill him. Hutch had no intention of coming out of it alive.
In the end, they cleaned up their mess and left him tied to the small cot.
The loud ringing telephone forced Starsky’s eyes open and he considered throwing it against the wall for good measure. Instead, he picked up the receiver and brought it under the covers with him. “Yeah,” he mumbled.
“Cap’n, it’s Sunday. You don’t own me until tomorrow.”
“Dave, you need to get over to Hutch’s.”
The seriousness in Dobey’s voice got Starsky’s attention and he sat up. “What’s wrong?”
Starsky slammed the phone down and was dressed, out the door and at Hutch’s in record time. Yellow tape blocked off the alley behind Hutch’s apartment and Starsky didn’t have to flash his badge as he ducked under it. He found Dobey near the car.
The bagged trash sat near the open car door along with newspapers on the cement. Starsky’s eyes scanned the remnants of the paper which had blown partway down the alley. “What happened?”
“One of the neighbors came down and found this. She went to Hutch’s and he wasn’t home.”
“Vicky whatshername.” Starsky struggled to put a last name to the middle-aged divorced woman.
“Walsh,” Dobey corrected. “It alarmed her enough to call it in.”
Several scenarios played out in Starsky’s mind. “Witnesses?”
“So far we’ve got a guy who walks his dog out front spotting a slow-moving mustang about eleven last night.” Dobey’s eyes went from one end of the alley to the other. “We put out an APB, but it’s not much to go on.”
The lump in Starsky’s throat hurt and he had a tough time swallowing it. “Cross-reference that with our past cases and it’ll help narrow down the search.”
“I’ve got a team on it already.” Dobey put his hand on Starsky’s arms. “This may have been random, Dave.”
“Snatching a cop isn’t random.” Starsky started towards his car. “I’m going to see Huggy and start putting the word out.”
Once inside, Starsky set his hands on the steering wheel. His grip tightened until his knuckles turn white. He got a handle on the raging panic and turned on the ignition.
Old Joe shuffled along the busy sidewalk mumbling to himself. He kept his eyes down and rubbed his long beard with a dirty hand. He was glad to see the sidewalk was mostly empty of people. They were in their churches praying for who knows what for whatever it was they didn’t deserve.
All Old Joe wanted was his bed. The night before empty bottles and cans were thrown at him. One bottle had hit in the middle of his back as he tried to get away. His fifty-plus years of hard living made it difficult to move fast enough. He cursed under his breath at the ache he still felt.
Crossing the street was a task within itself. Old Joe couldn’t hurry like he wanted and wound up spewing several epitaphs at the drivers who honked their horns at him. Once there he found his old building where he had left it.
Old Joe’s tooth hurt when he grinned. He patted the cheap wine bottle in his coat pocket and knew the pain would soon pass. Lowering his head, Old Joe cut through the alley behind the abandoned office and he pushed opened the stiff back door.
Muttering his pleasure at finding the place empty, Old Joe scurried down the hallway and once in the large room, he headed to the far side. He stopped in his tracks. Bound and naked laying face-first was a man.
“Goddamn!” Old Joe swore. In his bed was a trespasser and it appeared the squatter wasn’t about to move.
He did an about face and left. Old Joe went back out to the street and spent half an hour begging for a dime only to remember he didn’t need one. He got to the phone booth and pushed zero.
“Get me the coppers!....Goddamn it, right now!” He scratched his beard and mumbled some more. “You a copper?...Trespasser stole my bed!...He’s lyin’ right in it!...I don’t care he broke in! Get him out of my bed!...Palm Avenue and 52nd Street…I expect you to cart him off to jail!...I’ll be there.”
Old Joe hung up the phone and headed away from the building. He wasn’t coming back until the bastard was gone.
Starsky finished the black coffee off and tossed the cup in the back seat. It had been over two hours since finding Hutch’s car. The best he could figure Hutch had been missing at least ten hours…maybe longer.
Any scenario which gave a negative outcome, Starsky outright dismissed it. He wasn’t about to entertain anything that didn’t bring Hutch home alive. He rubbed his tired eyes and continued the drive. Nothing was coming from the investigation into their past cases and Starsky had a couple more snitches to put the screws to.
The call over the radio was annoying and Starsky reached for the microphone. He was about to order calls related to Hutch to be directed to another channel when he heard the details. An anonymous caller had phoned in a complaint about a stolen bed.
The perpetrator had not stolen the bed, but was in it. A few jokes were made by fellow cops until the order came from the watch commander to cut it out. The address was half a mile from Hutch’s apartment.
The chance it was anything was remote. Starsky leaned back in the seat and he wondered how much he’d have to pay Hooter for information. While he mulled over his approach with the snitch, Starsky turned the car towards the address given over the radio.
He arrived just ahead of another patrol car and parked in front of the building. The two patrolmen were laughing about the call up until they saw Starsky. There was no doubt they knew about his missing partner.
While they went inside, Starsky opened up his billfold and counted the money. Hooter was an expensive snitch and Starsky rarely used him unless there was no other alternative. There was none now, but he doubted he had enough cash. Starsky shoved the wallet in his back pocket and devised a new method to put the screws to him.
One of the cops appeared and his face was ghost white. Starsky straightened. “What is it?”
“Sarge.” The young officer took a deep breath. “You better get in there.”
Starsky went inside and after searching a few rooms he found the other uniformed officer kneeling down. All he saw where bare legs on the cot with a few small cuts. Dark bruising was beginning to appear.
Dread began to spread like burning lava through his chest and Starsky halted at the blond head. The eyes were covered with a blindfold, but there was no doubt. Frozen with shock, the sight almost sent him to his knees.
Hutch was lying on his stomach, naked and all four limbs tied to the cot. His body was covered in bruises. It was hard to see where one began and the other ended. Several small cuts on his body seeped blood. The battered and broken body before him was barely recognizable.
Starsky pushed the cop aside and got on his knees. “Hutch,” he whispered.
A blanket covered Hutch and Starsky looked up at both officers. “Get an ambulance and call Dobey.”
“Already have, Sarge,” one of them answered.
He leaned in close and touched Hutch’s arm. The body flinched and Starsky pulled back. “Leave.”
The patrolmen didn’t move and Starsky raised his eyes. “I said leave,” he ordered. “Don’t let anyone through that door except for Dobey and the paramedics.”
“Yes, sir,” one answered.
He couldn’t let anyone see Hutch like this. It was bad enough Dobey would. His captain would insist. The horrific scene told him what had happened, but Starsky wouldn’t allow his brain to digest it.
Starsky got up on one knee and fished the knife from his pocket. After opening it, he took hold of Hutch’s wrist.
“No!” was the whispered plea.
“Easy, Hutch. It’s me.” Starsky leaned in and took great care as he removed the blindfold. The defeated and broken eyes staring back at him hurt far more than any physical pain he could recall. Starsky swallowed the sob in his throat. He caressed Hutch’s hair. “I’m going to cut these ropes away. Okay?”
The eyes closed and Starsky saw the tense body relax. He had no idea if that was a good thing or not. Gentle as not to inflict anymore pain, Starsky cut away the ropes. His eyes moistened at the wounds on Hutch’s wrists. The skin was raw and bleeding.
It was no different with his feet and when he finished, Starsky moved to the head of the cot. He looked up at the sound of footsteps and saw Dobey enter the room.
Even with the blanket covering Hutch, Dobey’s hand went to a nearby wall to steady him. There was enough to tell the story of torture and pain.
Starsky kneeled in front of Hutch. He glanced at Dobey. “The ambulance here, yet?”
“ETA’s less than a minute. Was anyone around?”
“No.” Starsky’s eyes never left Hutch and it appeared his partner was sleeping. He couldn’t be sure. Maybe rest was what he needed. “Found him like this. It was some anonymous caller.”
“Is he conscious?”
“I think so. He had his eyes open.” Starsky bit his lip. “This is mine, Cap’n.”
Starsky’s eyes met Dobey’s resolute ones and he nodded. They were family and he wouldn’t deny his Captain the pleasure of nailing whoever was responsible for Hutch’s condition.
The paramedics entered with a gurney and crouched down. Starsky was forced to step back as they began looking him over. No reaction came from Hutch even after his eyes opened. It scared Starsky to hear not even a sound from his partner as they checked his wounds and vitals. They questioned Hutch, but no words came.
It was when they started to move him to the gurney when a gasp of pain erupted from Hutch. Starsky started over and stopped when Hutch helped to transfer himself off the cot. His eyes went straight to the dark blood stain on the old mattress.
After Hutch was covered and strapped down, they pulled it towards the door and Starsky followed. He stopped in front of Dobey. “Cap’n.”
“It’ll be done by the book. The case will be so damn airtight not even a fly will get out of it.” Dobey held out his hand and Starsky gave him the keys to his car.
When they left the room, Dobey went outside. The crime lab stood waiting. He motioned them inside and watched Starsky crawl into the back of the ambulance.
Once at the hospital, Starsky stayed close to Hutch and after a quick exam by the physician, he ordered the patient to X-Ray. Starsky started to follow, and the doctor stepped in front of him. “You’re his partner?”
The doctor’s eyes were grim. “Give us some time and space. We’ll take good care of him. You’ve got my word on that, officer.”
“As soon as…”
“You’ll see him as soon as possible.”
Starsky nodded and went out to the hallway. He found the lobby and bought a cup of coffee. The exhaustion was catching up and by the time he sat down, Huggy arrived.
“Dobey called me.” Huggy sat down next to him. “What happened?”
“I don’t know.” He sipped the hot drink. “He was snatched and tortured.”
“Will he make it?”
He couldn’t meet Huggy’s eyes. His brain still couldn’t absorb the scene still in his mind. “I think so. Just waiting to find out how much damage was done.”
An hour passed before Dobey showed and another went by before a different doctor emerged to talk to them. He was much younger than Starsky expected. He couldn’t be no older than thirty.
“Are you gentlemen here for Detective Hutchinson?”
“Yeah.” Starsky stood. “This is Captain Dobey and Huggy.”
“As close as any could get, Doc,” Huggy told him.
It seemed to satisfy the young physician and he directed them to a private lounge. When all were seated, he put his hands together. “I’m Dr. Collins. The ER physician turned Sergeant Hutchinson’s case over to me.”
“How is he?” Starsky asked.
“There are no broken ribs and other than a bruised kidney and a possible concussion, he’s as well as can be expected. He needed several stitches. There were a variety of cuts made on his body. Most of them needed it. He did suffer significant tearing in the rectal area and needed stitches there as well.”
Huggy was floored. “What?”
Starsky grabbed Huggy’s arm to silence him. “What else?”
“They will dissolve on their own. We’ve started him on a regimen of antibiotics.” The doctor leaned forward and his solemn eyes went to each of the men. “We believe there was more than one attacker given the semen samples we’ve recovered.”
“Hutch was…” Huggy could barely comprehend it.
“He’ll recover, then,” Starsky stated.
“We’ve also tested him for sexually transmitted diseases and those tests will need to be repeated in six weeks.” He looked at Dobey. “If you don’t feel the police have an adequate counselor we have several I can recommend.”
“We’ve got the best, Doc,” Dobey assured him.
“The physical abuse will heal. The rest…” Dr. Collins sighed. “It will take time.”
“Get those reports to my office immediately, Doctor.” Dobey got to his feet. “Huggy, come on. Let Starsky and the doctor have the room.”
When they were gone, Starsky lowered his head and rubbed his eyes. “Why haven’t you said it?”
Dr. Collins’ eyes never left Starsky. “You need to first. Once you accept it, then you can help him heal.”
The tears fell unhindered on Starsky’s cheeks. He didn’t want to say it, but the young doctor was right. He had to accept it and deal with what happened to Hutch before he could help him. “Hutch was raped.”
Pain tore through him and Starsky covered his eyes. The cry came out and he let it. As the sobs escaped Starsky, Hutch’s shattered eyes came back to him. It took a few more minutes before he got his bearings. “How did you know?”
“I’ve heard the stories about you two…you’re close. You’re almost as much a victim as he is, Sergeant. Don’t forget that.”
Starsky wiped his eyes and took a deep breath. “When can I see him?”
Dr. Collins stood. “Now.”
They stood outside Hutch’s room and Starsky was already having doubts. This was his partner, his best friend and the one person who had been his inspiration, his caretaker, his life-giver and everything else a human being could be to another. Could he help Hutch as much as he helped him through his own trials?
“I’ve given him a light sedative to help him sleep. When he wakes, let the nurse know. He’ll be in a lot of pain and will need something for it.”
“Call me if you need anything, Sergeant.”
Starsky nodded and when the doctor left, he took a deep breath. He pushed on the door and took his time in opening it. Starsky looked through the crack and saw Hutch lying on the bed with his eyes closed. Careful not to wake him, Starsky was quiet in closing the door and walking across the room.
Standing over him, Hutch had an almost peaceful look on his face. Both sides of his face were bruised and swollen. Dry blood was on the corner of Hutch’s mouth and Starsky wondered if that was a sign of internal bleeding. No, he thought. They would have checked for that.
The cut on Hutch’s neck had five stitches and Starsky wondered which others needed the same treatment. He knew where some were already and he closed his eyes at the thought. When he opened them, Starsky’s eyes went to the thick bandages on Hutch’s wrists. He remembered how they looked and he was curious if they had wrapped the ankles as well.
He went to the chair next to the bed and sat down. A part of him wanted to hunt down the animals responsible, but Hutch needed him more. His need to unleash the violence just under the surface would have to play second fiddle to Hutch’s recovery.
Starsky laid his head back and allowed his eyes to close.
Every muscle in his body screamed in retaliation at moving. Hutch thought he was still tied to the cot, but when he realized his hands were at his sides, he opened his eyes. The bright ceiling glared back at him. A hospital room, Hutch realized.
He turned his head and saw Starsky sleeping in the chair. Hutch looked away and back to where he was. When he moved to sit up, he groaned at the response of his entire body.
Starsky’s eyes flew open at the sound and seeing Hutch trying to sit up, he moved to him. “Easy, babe.”
Hutch closed his eyes. “Hurts all over.”
“I’ll get the nurse. The doc said you’d need something for pain.” Starsky stuck his head out the door and motioned for the nurse. When he finished relaying Hutch’s need, he walked back over.
“I’ll raise your head.” Starsky found the controls for the bed and raised the head until Hutch held his hand up. “You want something to drink?”
After seeing a slow nod, Starsky poured some in a cup and grabbed a straw. He held it in front of his partner who took several large gulps before waving it away. The nurse walked in with a hypodermic and gave Hutch the shot in upper arm. Starsky breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t sure if he could take seeing the signs of the horrific abuse again.
When she was gone, he saw Hutch trying to get comfortable in the bed. Starsky went to the closet and retrieved a second pillow and helped Hutch position himself better. It was on the tip of his tongue to start asking questions, but Starsky changed his mind. There would be plenty of that later.
It was late afternoon by the time Starsky headed to the cafeteria. He found a few items still left over from the earlier lunch service and forced it down. Hutch still wasn’t saying much and he didn’t expect anything so early. He figured his partner would break down and start talking once they got home.
When Starsky arrived at Hutch’s room, he eyed two plainclothes walking in while Dobey stood outside the door. “Cap’n, are they here for Hutch’s statement?”
“Yes.” Dobey stopped Starsky from going in. “He asked that you not be there, Starsky.”
“What?” Starsky was floored. “Did he say why?”
“It’s not unheard of.”
“I know, but…” He nodded. “Hutch probably wants to tell me in his own way. I’ll wait.”
Over an hour later, the detectives finally left and Starsky went in the room. Hutch was sitting up in bed accepting a pill from the nurse. When she left, Starsky sat down in the chair. “How’d it go?”
“Fine.” Hutch straightened the pillows and rested his head.
Starsky watched him get comfortable. “Want to talk about it?”
“I’m really tired. The pain medicine’s already starting to kick in.”
And with that, ended the conversation. Hutch closed his eyes and Starsky sat watching him. A hospital was a lousy place to talk about the worst thing that could happen to anyone. Starsky could accept it and he accepted the Hutch foibles this would present him. When his partner was ready, he’d talk it out. Hutch was the king of communication and working things out.
The following afternoon Hutch was released from the hospital. Starsky got everything together from the nurse’s station while his partner dressed. Dr. Collins was concerned since Hutch hadn’t set foot outside the hospital room, but conceded it was too early in this stage of Hutch’s recovery to expect much.
This first step would propel Hutch forward whether he liked it or not. Starsky planned on taking Hutch to his place and was surprised his partner insisted on his own apartment. Without argument, Starsky drove to Venice Place.
He followed Hutch up the stairs and halted. Hutch froze in front of the door. He watched him take a deep breath, take the key off the lintel and unlock it. Starsky was given another surprise when Hutch slipped the key into his pocket.
Inside, Starsky carried Hutch’s bag to his bedroom. He headed to the kitchen with the medication and sorted through the bottles at the counter. There was one sedative, two antibiotics, a stool softener, one for pain and another for anxiety. He didn’t expect his partner to take that one. Hutch was never the type, but given his ordeal, he might.
Starsky looked over at his shoulder at Hutch who was on the sofa removing his socks and shoes. “It’s almost time for one of the antibiotics.”
“I know.” Hutch pulled off a sock and examined the rope burn around his ankle.
“You need to eat something with it. What do you want?”
“Glass of milk is fine.” Hutch stood and went towards the bathroom. “I’m getting a shower.”
Starsky set the bottle down and met Hutch at the bathroom door. “The doctor said you should wait.”
“I haven’t had one in two days. I’m not waiting.”
The door closed in his face and Starsky took a deep breath then let it out. Hutch still needed to get his bearings. This wasn’t a conk on the head or a busted up knee like before, Starsky realized.
He went back to the kitchen and fixed a couple of sandwiches with hope Hutch would eat one. If he didn’t, Starsky had an appetite big enough for the both of them.
The bathroom door opened and Hutch appeared with his robe wrapped up to his neck. Starsky stood on his toes and followed Hutch with his eyes. His partner went into the bedroom and moved far enough away he couldn’t see him from the kitchen.
A few minutes later Hutch appeared wearing pajamas under the orange robe. “I made sandwiches in case you were hungry.”
“Thanks.” Hutch sat down and took the pill waiting for him. He downed it with the milk.
Starsky took a large bite of his and watched Hutch checking what was under the bread. They ate without saying a word and Starsky struggled with some words to break the silence. Hutch pushed his plate away after only eating half and stood. “I’m bushed.”
“Go get some rest. I’ll clean up.”
If Hutch heard him, he didn’t acknowledge it. Starsky kept his eyes on him until he disappeared in the bedroom. After doing the dishes, Starsky settled on the couch and started on a book, but was soon asleep. As it overtook him, he wondered why he was feeling as tired as his partner was.
What woke him up, Starsky had no clue. Just that he was awake. The sun was setting and the apartment was darkening with an orange glow. It was pretty.
A noise from the bedroom got him sitting up and remembering Hutch, he got to his feet and made his way there. Starsky stopped at seeing Hutch in a fitful sleep covered in sweat. The grip the nightmare had on his partner was painful to watch. Not a sound came from Hutch. Just the anguish on his face was enough to convince Starsky it was time to step in.
He went to the bed and sat on the edge. Starsky put a hand on Hutch’s shoulder. “Hutch.” He kept his voice low as not to startle his already fragile partner. After a small shake, Starsky said his name again. “Hutch.”
The eyes flew open and upon seeing Starsky sitting next to him and feeling the low dip of the bed, Hutch scrambled away to the other side and got to his feet.
Starsky stood and held his hands out. “It’s okay, buddy. You had a nightmare. It’s over.”
Hutch’s hands shook and the perspiration was running down his face. It took him a few moments to remember where he was at. He pushed the hair away from his face. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Starsky moved around the bed. Hutch’s hands still shook. “Want to tell me about it?”
Hutch’s eyes darted around the room and he began to wonder if anyone else was here. After determining it was just he and Starsky, Hutch shook his head. He grabbed the robe off the end of the bed and put it on.
“I’m going to make some coffee.” Hutch walked past Starsky to the kitchen.
Starsky followed and said, “Why don’t you sit down and I’ll fix it.”
“I can do it.” Hutch found the coffee and the pot. He could feel Starsky’s eyes at his back as he spooned the granules into the filter. “Why don’t you head home? I’ll be up for a while.”
“What?” Starsky was sure he had misunderstood. “I thought I’d fix you something to eat.”
“I’m not hungry and besides, I’ve got a few things around here that need taken care of.” Hutch continued with his task. “If I get hungry, I’m more than capable of taking care of my own meal.”
“I know, but…I thought you’d want to talk about what happened.” Starsky’s focus on Hutch never wavered. He watched every movement and even the lowering of Hutch’s eyes weren’t lost on him.
To say he expected more was an understatement. Starsky couldn’t understand. His normally expressive partner was as closed off as anyone could get. Considering the devastating trauma, Starsky then figured it would take more time. “I can come back tonight.”
“How about tomorrow?” Hutch refused to get anymore specific. He could find other ways to dissuade his insistent partner.
“You sure, Hutch? I really didn’t want to leave you alone.”
Hutch stopped what he was doing and looked over his shoulder. “I don’t need a babysitter.”
Agreement was on the tip of Starsky’s tongue, but he held back. He wasn’t sure if Hutch needed one or not. “It’s not that, Hutch…I just…”
Holding the pot in his hand, Hutch turned around. “Starsky, I want to be alone for a while. You don’t need to worry.”
The gnawing in Starsky’s gut told him not to leave Hutch alone, but his partner was obstinate in his stance. Rather than risk an argument and further hurting Hutch, Starsky nodded. “Promise you’ll call if you need anything.”
“Sure.” Hutch turned back to the stove and set the pot down.
“I’ll call you before I go to sleep.”
The wave from Hutch hurt a little. Starsky wanted more, but he didn’t know what to expect. With great reluctance, he left.
A sigh of relief escaped Hutch and he planted his hands on the counter. Leaning forward, he took a breath. While the coffee brewed, Hutch walked to the front door and checked the lock. He did the same with all the windows and stopped at the threshold leading out to the greenhouse. Shadows had already formed and rather than the comfort zone he had sought out on many occasions, it was ominous and dangerous. Hutch closed the door and locked it. He grabbed a chair and put it in front of the door. Hutch made a mental note to call and have the door replaced with a sturdier one.
He went to the kitchen and got a cup down. After filling it halfway, Hutch found his bottle of brandy and filled the remainder. He carried the coffee/brandy mixture into the living room and sat on the couch. Seeing the open book on the table, Hutch leaned over and picked it up.
It was Dickens. He’d read it several times already and as he opened it, Hutch knew he wouldn’t be sleeping this night. He brought the cup to his lips and the smell of alcohol assailed his nostrils. The cup dropped from his hand onto the floor and Hutch ran to the bathroom.
Hunched over the toilet, he vomited up everything he had taken in. His already aching body was wracked with spasms and the pain brought tears to his eyes. Once he finished, Hutch collapsed on the floor of the bathroom and took a few moments to get his bearings.
Laughter screamed in his ears and Hutch wiped the wetness off his face. He took a deep breath and got to his feet. This time he wouldn’t use as much brandy. The smell of it was awful.
Starsky was almost home when he changed his mind. He turned the car around and headed for the station. He would go crazy just sitting there thinking and wondering about Hutch. He needed more.
He walked through the doors of the squadroom and headed for his desk. Starsky searched through the files and found nothing. He moved to the other desks and moved papers around.
He looked up at Babcock who was at his desk. “What?”
“Dobey’s got it.”
“Thanks.” Starsky went to Dobey’s door and opened it. Sitting in a chair across from him was a woman with her back to him.
“Come on in, Starsky,” Dobey said.
After closing the door behind him, Starsky moved forward. “I was looking for a report.”
“I’ve got it.” Dobey stood up. “Starsky, this is Grace Kinsey. She’s the department psychiatrist.”
When he was close to Dobey’s desk, Starsky looked at her. She was attractive with brown hair. She stood and he was startled to find that the top of the woman’s head barely reached his shoulder. While her clothes were casual, she had a sense of style. It was a simple beige business suit, but decorated with a scarf around her neck. Her eyes were friendly enough.
Starsky held his hand out. “You’re new.”
Grace shook his hand. “Two weeks. I’ve heard a lot about you and your partner since I’ve been here.”
“You’re here about Hutch.”
“I was assigned to counsel the both of you.”
Taken aback by the statement, Starsky’s eyes went to Dobey’s.
Grace folded her arms. “It’s standard, Sergeant. You are his partner and the both of you will need it.”
“Hutch might need it more than me.”
The sharp hazel eyes didn’t miss a thing and seemed to narrow slightly at the statement. “Might? Sergeant, I read your partner’s statement and the report from the physician. This was a brutal attack and his recovery could take months…maybe longer and there are no guarantees.”
“Hutch will be fine. He just needs some time.”
Grace motioned to the chair. “Will you please have a seat?”
After sitting, Starsky looked over at Dobey. He’d been far quieter than he expected. “You don’t think he’ll be fine?”
She sat and crossed her legs. “It depends on your definition of ‘fine’.”
“Well, I expect Hutch will take some time off, probably talk to you, me and come back to work.”
“May I call you Dave?”
“Dave, the fact you need to face right now is there is a strong chance Detective Hutchinson may never be fit for the street again after this.”
The statement was the last thing Starsky ever expected to hear. “I thought your job was to help get cops back on their feet.”
“It is, but in many cases of severe trauma the officer rarely ever goes back to same kind of work…especially street work given its harshness and unforgiving nature.” Seeing the mix of emotions run across Starsky’s face, Grace leaned forward. “Dave, has your partner said anything to you about what happened?”
It took Starsky a moment to answer her. “No, he’s been resting. He took a long nap today.”
“Nothing at all?” she pressed.
“Not a word. Why?”
Grace looked at Dobey, then back to Starsky. “Tell me about his reactions.”
Starsky shook his head. “Nothing…well, unless you count the dream.”
“Nightmare,” Starsky corrected. “I expect he’ll have a few of those.”
Grace pulled on a strand of hair and twisted it around her finger. “It’s been over 48 hours since he was found and he’s given a statement, but hasn’t talked about it.”
“He probably needs more time,” Starsky explained.
She shook her head. “More than likely he’s firming his defenses. I won’t know more until I talk to him.”
Starsky got to his feet. “Listen, I know you mean well, but Hutch is my partner and I know him better than anybody. When he gets his feet under him, he’ll be fine. It’ll just take some time.”
Grace stood as well and looked to Dobey. “Captain, if you’ll fill my requests I would appreciate it and I’ll let you know when your officers need to be in my office.”
“It’ll be done, Ms. Kinsey.”
She started for the door and stopped. “Oh, and Dave. Where is your partner’s weapon?”
“What?” Starsky exclaimed. “You’re not taking Hutch’s gun!”
“It’s for his own good and those around him.”
Even her firm tone had no effect on Starsky. “Hutch would never take his life so get that idea out of your head, lady!”
“Really?” Grace folded her arms and gave him a steady look. “Nothing like this has ever happened to your partner before, Detective Starsky. None of us…not me, not Captain Dobey and not you have any idea how he’ll react in the coming weeks.”
“How many cops do you know who have committed suicide, Dave? How many of those would you have swore wouldn’t take their own lives? Just the little I know tells me your partner may be in the early stages of PTSD. I shouldn’t have to remind you how dangerous that particular disorder can get. Not just for your partner, but for those around him no matter how unintentional it might be. That may be a chance you’re willing to take, Dave, but I won’t. I expect you to retrieve your partner’s weapon first thing in the morning.”
Dobey saw the turmoil on Starsky’s face. “Starsky, it’s an order. What she says goes and I don’t even get a say in the matter.”
Grace took a step closer to Starsky and put a hand on his arm. “There’s a punching bag in the weight room. Take your partner’s statement there and read it. No where else.”
Starsky sank into the chair after she was gone and rested his head in his hand. He was tired again. “You sure about this shrink, Cap’n?”
“She’s the best there is, Starsky. The city paid a hell of a lot of money to buy out her contract in Philadelphia. The cops here need her and I think you and Hutch do, too.”
“I hope you’re right, Cap’n. If that woman causes Hutch one ounce of harm, I won’t be responsible for my actions.”
“She’s tough as nails and her record is top notch.” Dobey leaned back in the chair and ran his hand over his face. “I have to admit, I don’t like the idea of taking Hutch’s gun, but I don’t think it’s a bad one.”
“Cap’n.” Starsky raised his head. “The last time Hutch got his piece taken away he was the prime suspect for Vanessa’s murder. Now, he’s a victim and she treats him like he’s a goddamn basket case.”
Dobey closed the file in front of him and held out to Starsky. “Do what she said, Starsky. Go to the weight room and read it. If there’s anything in there to convince you she’s wrong, I’ll go to bat for you.”
Starsky still wasn’t convinced and didn’t see how he would be. He took the file and left the office. Once in the weight room, Starsky flipped open the file and as he read he moved to a bench. He sat down and started at the beginning.
The first report he read was the physician’s describing in graphic detail Hutch’s injuries. There were defensive wounds indicating his partner’s fight. The report seemed to go on forever through ever single stitch, abrasion and the worst of the trauma where the most damage had been inflicted. Starsky was nauseous and shoved the medical report aside. He was glad his captain had seen fit not to include the crime photos.
Hutch’s statement was next and Starsky took a deep breath before reading. There were three of them. His partner had been caught unaware just outside his home. Descriptions were vague and the best Hutch had been able to do was to guess their height. Two of them were almost as tall as his partner.
Starsky winced at the description of the beatings Hutch had taken. The few comments from the assailants started angering Starsky, but he kept the emotion in careful check. He worked to stay in a cop mode, but when use of a knife to cutting away his partner’s clothing came to his eyes, Starsky flashed back to the remnants of fabric tossed all over the floor. He rubbed his eyes.
The horrific acts of rape described in excruciating detail tore into Starsky’s gut. He couldn’t help but suffer the mental images placed before him. The fury was building with each individual trauma piled one on top of the other.
Victims and their loved ones rarely see statements or medical reports exposing the damage forced onto them. It was policy. It helped prevent the possibility of revenge being taken out on a perpetrator. Maybe they felt it was safer since Hutch’s descriptions were so vague.
It could also be that everyone knew Starsky would insist on seeing them. If denied, he had his own way of gaining access whether anyone liked it or not. Grace had sent him here for the very reason of cold-blooded vengeance.
Starsky’s blood was boiling and he clenched the file in his hand. With raging fury, he threw the papers across the room. In front of him was the punching bag and using the boiling anger rolling through him, Starsky attacked it with all the violence that had been simmering since he had found Hutch blindfolded and tied to a cot.
The battered and bloodied body of his partner stayed in his mind. It didn’t take much to imagine the cries coming from Hutch at such a ruthless attack. Seeing the rapists in his mind’s eye, Starsky focused every bit of energy he had beating their imaginary faces to a bloody pulp with his bare hands. A bullet to the brain was too good for them. They had to suffer the way his partner had and worse.
Exhausted with no more tears and anger left in him, Starsky sank to his knees. His arms hung onto the punching bag and he rested his head against it. Tears fell from his eyes.
Starsky managed to get his feet under him and stood. He went to the locker room to the sink. Thankful for the solitude he ran cold water over his face. Starsky looked down at his hands and shook his head. There was nothing to show how he had expended the violence he had kept in check.
He walked back to the weight room and gathered the reports. Starsky tried to iron the wrinkled papers, but quit. There seemed to be no point in hiding his reaction from the rest of the world. He headed back to Dobey’s office and returned the file without saying a word. None were needed.
On his way to the car, Starsky considered going to Hutch’s, but decided against it. He needed to maintain Hutch’s trust and by showing up when he wasn’t expected could do more harm than the good he intended.
Once Starsky got home, he got a beer from the fridge and took a long drink. Starsky debated on something stronger, but rather than cover up the strong emotions with liquor he stuck with the beer.
Starsky went to his bedroom and sat down on the bed. He picked up the phone and dialed Hutch’s number. It took four rings for his partner to answer. “Hey.”
“What are you doing?” Asking how seemed repetitive and Starsky would press it more in the morning.
“Reading. I started on the Dickens you didn’t finish.”
Starsky almost smiled. “It was boring. I thought you were going to get some sleep.”
“I am. This book is making me tired.”
The visit with Dobey and Grace came to mind and Starsky decided to wait until tomorrow to mention it. “You want me to bring anything in the morning? There’s a fruit stand not far I could stop off at.”
“Just your appetite. I plan on fixing a big breakfast.”
“Hutch, don’t worry about it. I’ll grab a donut or something.”
“Pancakes and the works. Your favorite. I insist.”
“Sure,” Starsky relented.
“I’ll see you in the morning. Night.”
Hutch had hung up before he had a chance to respond. Unsatisfied with his partner’s attempt at small talk, Starsky set the receiver down. He lay back on the bed and remembered he had yet to take a shower. Starsky was asleep before he knew what hit him.
Surprised by Hutch’s door being locked, Starsky knocked. He had slept straight through the night and after a refreshing shower, he was prepared to meet the day. The door opened and Hutch still wore the robe and pajamas.
“How you doing?” Starsky walked through the door and noted the apartment’s cleanliness.
“Fine.” Hutch headed back to the kitchen and took the bacon out of the skillet.
Starsky eyed the large breakfast. A large stack of pancakes, scrambled eggs, juice, milk and sliced fruit covered the table. He watched Hutch add a platter of bacon. “You really outdid yourself, Hutch.”
“Have a seat.” He turned to the stove and picked up the coffee pot. Hutch filled his cup and after putting it back, sat across from Starsky.
With as little as Starsky had eaten the last few days, his appetite was enormous. He filled his plate and dived in. He eyed Hutch who was sipping on coffee. “What about you? There’s plenty here for the both of us.”
“I ate while I was cooking. The rest I’ll have later.”
“How’d you sleep?”
I didn’t. “Fine.”
The definition of ‘fine’ came to mind and Starsky took a large drink of milk. “I talked to Dobey last night.”
Hutch kept his silence and waited for Starsky to wash down the food in his mouth.
“I guess you’ll be talking to some hotshot shrink with the department.”
“I know. Dobey called just before you got here. I have to be there at one.”
Starsky picked at the eggs. “Want me to pick you up?”
After eating several more bites, Starsky finally filled up and pushed the plate away. “That was good.” He finished off the juice. “There’s something else, Hutch.” Starsky shifted in his seat. “I have to turn your piece in to Dobey.”
A flare of anger shot through Hutch and he clenched his teeth. “Why?”
“This shrink’s idea. I guess it’s standard policy when…” Starsky steeled himself. “When a cop is traumatized.”
“It’s bad enough I’m not on duty.” Hutch set the cup down and leaned forward. “Taking my gun away is practically grounding me.”
“That’s not what it is.”
“Maybe not, but it sure as hell feels like I’m the bad guy.”
The resentment was in Hutch’s eyes and Starsky searched for a way to drive it away. “It’s only for a little while. Once you talk to the shrink, she’ll see there’s no reason for you not to have it. You’ll be back fulltime before you know it.”
Starsky had trouble believing his own words. Hutch had been through hell and he couldn’t imagine anyone’s sanity being stretched so far without breaking. Even with his doubts, he was determined to prove himself and everyone else wrong about his partner.
Hutch got out of his seat and went to the living room. On the table was the un-holstered Magnum. He opened it up and emptied the rounds into the palm of his hand. When he looked up, Starsky was standing with worried eyes. He held the gun out.
If Hutch had slept, Starsky didn’t know. It was obvious he had stayed on the couch. The placement of the weapon told him that. Hutch always kept the gun holstered and hanging. This was so out of character that Starsky was rattled to his core. His partner had kept a loaded weapon the entire night within arms reach.
“You’ll get it back real soon.” Hutch didn’t believe him and Starsky knew it. “I better go. Dobey’ll have me scrubbing out the back of patrol cars if I’m late.”
Hutch went to the kitchen and picked up his coffee cup. “See you later.”
“I’ll call you.” Starsky left the apartment and once in the car, he gripped Hutch’s gun.
The nameplate on the office door told Hutch he was at the right place. He had dreaded this appointment all day long and had no choice but to be here. If he was going to get back out on the street, Hutch had to convince this woman he was fit. Having to turn over his gun was hard to swallow.
It had taken everything he had just to walk out the door of the apartment. Once outside of it, Hutch rushed to the car and got inside. Starsky chatted about the mundane while Hutch’s eyes shot around at the passing traffic.
After the struggle of getting from his apartment to the front of this door, Hutch’s anxiety grew. Somewhere in the back of his mind was a fitting Shakespeare quote. He finally knocked.
When it opened he was surprised to find a very short and pretty woman standing in front of him. “Detective Hutchinson, I presume.”
Grace held open the door for him. “Call me Grace.”
Hutch walked through and took in the stylish office. It wasn’t expensive, he noted. Just well decorated.
She closed the door and moved to her desk. “May I call you Ken?”
After finding the steno pad, Grace picked up an ink pen and motioned to the chair and sofa in the corner. “Make yourself comfortable.”
“It seems rather cliché to lie on a couch.”
Grace smiled and nodded. “It is, but I prefer my patients to be at ease. It’s your choice.”
Hutch wouldn’t be so it didn’t matter where or how he sat. He considered being rebellious and take the chair, but decided against antagonizing the doctor on the first visit. He sat on the sofa.
Grace got comfortable in the chair and crossed her legs. She opened up the steno notebook and removed the cap from the pen. “You understand why you’re here, don’t you, Ken?”
“You’ll determine if I can go back out on the street.”
“Partly. I’ll help get you there if it’s possible. You’ll be doing most of the work.” Grace took a deep breath and her eyes locked with Hutch’s. “You were raped by three men and given the injuries and emotional trauma you’ve sustained this won’t be an easy time for you. Expect it to get much harder before you come to terms with it.”
“I know what happened to me. I don’t need you to tell me.”
The resentment had shown itself earlier than she expected. “You still have to live with it, Ken. This is now a part of your daily life. What will make the healing more difficult isn’t that you’re a man who was raped. It’s the fact you are a cop who was raped. That in itself will make the work we need to do more difficult.” Grace watched his reaction and noted the thin sheen of perspiration across his forehead. “Let’s start with some basic questions and go from there.”
He watched Grace scribble on the notepad. She was left-handed like Starsky. Hutch hated the reminder.
“Have you ever been the victim of a crime outside of your job prior to this?”
Her eyes went to his. “Weren’t you kidnapped some time ago?”
Hutch did not like this woman already. “What do you know?”
“Captain Dobey was very frank about your abduction four years ago.”
“He told you?”
“Why’d you ask if you already knew?”
“Ken, it’s important you tell me these things. Second hand doesn’t help either of us. My concern is how well you recovered from it in order to make sure it doesn’t interfere with this.” She saw the uneasy look in his eyes. “Your superiors will get my recommendation, but they won’t get the gory details. Your confidentiality comes first. How do you feel about it now?”
“It was a physical addiction. My body took less time to recover than it would if I had been addicted much longer or of my own will. Starsky was with me and after some time off I got back to work.”
“So you dealt with it.”
“Your record indicates that much from what I could see.” Grace made more notes. “Have you ever had issues with intimacy or impotence?”
“Aside from what happened to you, have you ever been treated for drug or alcohol abuse?”
“Okay, Ken. Now, I want you to tell me what happened. Take your time and don’t rush through it.”
Grace studied Hutch as he began the story. She watched his eyes, his hand movements, listened to the lilt of his voice and every other mannerism. There was no visible emotional reaction and Hutch was a matter-of-fact in his descriptions. She was looking at a cop relaying a crime and not a traumatized victim. This troubled her.
She pointed a few questions, but kept it simple. Going into it deeper would come later. Right now she needed a basic evaluation to guide her. When Hutch finished, Grace put down her notepad. “That’s a good start.”
“Sure, we just started, Ken. Don’t put the cart before the horse.” Grace stood and went to her desk. She found the doctor’s report and skimmed through it. “The doctor prescribed a light sedative to help you sleep. Is it helping?”
She arched an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything. “The others?”
Hutch nodded and watched as Grace moved behind her desk.
When she was seated, Grace took her appointment book and opened it up. “We’ll have sessions twice a week and later on scale them back to once a week depending on your progress.”
“How long will this take?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Hutch stood and walked to her. “How long will this take?”
“There’s no way of knowing right now. It’ll depend on you.” Grace ignored Hutch’s hard stance and found a time. “I’ll see you at three on Friday. I think Tuesdays and Fridays will work.”
Grace found her card and scribbled her number on the back. She held it up. “If you have any problems, Ken, call me night or day. Don’t be a hero and don’t try to handle it all on your own.”
“Sure.” Hutch took the card and put in the front pocket of his pants. “Anything else?”
“Nope.” She leaned back in her chair as Hutch left the office. Grace grabbed the copy of Hutch’s statement and her notes. Comparing the two, she shook her head. “You are one tough nut to crack.”
Starsky took the backstairs to Hutch’s greenhouse and when he got to the door, he found it locked. He peered through the window and saw his partner on the couch. Starsky knocked.
Hutch got to his feet and unlocked the door. “I forgot you were coming over.”
Rather than letting the door close, Starsky caught it with his hand. “This new?”
“Yeah, the other one was nothing more than a screen.” Hutch poured a cup of coffee. He held up the pot. “You want one?”
Folding his arms, Starsky didn’t like seeing his partner back in the pajamas and robe. “Beer if you’ve got it.”
“Help yourself.” Hutch left the kitchen and once in the living room, sat on the couch.
After Starsky got the bottle, he followed Hutch and stopped at the two large stacks of books on the coffee table. “Looks like some heavy reading there, partner.”
Hutch set the cup down and picked up a thick book. “Huggy called and asked what I needed. I mentioned reading and this is what I got.”
Starsky leafed through one and set it aside. “Oh, I almost forgot.” He pulled out the paper and gave it to Hutch. “You got a parking ticket. You haven’t moved your car.”
Not even giving the ticket a second thought, Hutch opened up his book. “I’ll get it later.”
“I’ll do it before you get another one.” Starsky found Hutch’s keys.
When Starsky was out the door, Hutch went to the kitchen and found the brandy. He added some to his coffee and by the time he heard his partner’s footsteps he was back on the couch.
Starsky slowed at the sight of the plants. Leaves were starting to wilt and he tested the soil with his fingers. Starsky went to the kitchen and found the watering pot. “You’re neglecting the plants, buddy.”
Hutch didn’t look up from his book. “I plan on watering them tonight.” He didn’t have to look to know Starsky was already handling it.
Starsky came back to the living room when he finished and picked up the beer. “How’d it go with Grace today?”
He hated that word. “She’s something else. I see her tomorrow.”
“What?” Hutch looked up from the book. “Why?”
“We’re partners. I guess they think I need it, too.” Seeing Hutch’s thoughtful look, Starsky sat next to him. “Something wrong?”
“No, I was just surprised. If it helps you, I don’t see why not.”
“Listen…there’s a new Italian place near the beach. Banning said it was good and we can eat outside, too. What do you say?”
“I already ate, Starsk. Why don’t you go ahead and tell me about it later?”
Starsky tore at the label on the bottle. “Don’t you want to get out?”
“Not really.” Hutch opened up the book and searched for the place where he left off. He couldn’t remember where it was and reached for the coffee cup.
Starsky’s eyes went to the rope burns on Hutch’s wrist. “What time did you want to go the hospital to get the stitches out?”
“I have some things I need to get done.” Hutch folded the book and set it aside. “Eight too early?”
“No, it’s fine.”
“I’m getting a shower and making an early night of it.” Hutch stood with his cup.
If Starsky didn’t know better, Hutch was trying to get rid of him. “Yeah, you want me to bring something for breakfast?”
The closing of the bathroom door sent the message and Starsky hated it. He finished off the bottle and was on his way out the back door when he stopped to examine it. It was reinforced with a deadbolt. Two keys would be needed.
After a thought, Starsky went through the living room to the front door. A new deadbolt had been put in as well along with a new lock. Not only Hutch hadn’t said a word, he also didn’t give Starsky keys to either door.
Hutch toyed with the paper on the examining table thankful his partner didn’t argue about wanting to come with him to see the doctor. He wasn’t up to dissuading him and Hutch was impatient and ready to go back home.
The door opened and he straightened. The too-young Dr. Collins walked in carrying Hutch’s file. “Detective Hutchinson, how are you this morning?”
Collins opened the file and read through the notes. “You’ve been taking your meds?”
“Haven’t missed a day.” Hutch tried to be upbeat, but it was difficult.
“Good. Did your partner explain you’ll need another round of tests next month?”
Hutch nodded and stuck a hand in his pocket. He watched the doctor cross the room and open up a small cabinet. A gown was set on the table.
“Get undressed and we’ll get the examination out of the way before the stitches come out.”
After he was gone, Hutch took a steadying breath. Instinct told him to run as far away as possible. His hands started to shake as he unbuttoned his shirt.
By the time Dr. Collins returned, Hutch had a chill running along his body. The thin gown provided little in the way of warmth. His nervousness grew as the doctor slipped on the latex gloves.
Seeing the growing anxiousness, Collins met his eyes. “Let’s start with the stitches first.”
Normally, Collins would have a nurse see to the matter, but he needed Hutch more comfortable. It wouldn’t happen with an unnerving exam right at the start. He walked over and pulled the gown off Hutch’s shoulders.
“They’re ready to come out. The ones in your neck need to stay another day or two.” He looked at Hutch. “You’ve been showering?”
“Can’t very well go without.”
“They took a little longer as a result, but I can’t say as I blame you.” The doctor lifted Hutch’s hands and examined the wrists. “I’ll write a prescription for these. There’s an aloe salve out now. It’ll speed the healing.”
Collins spent the next half hour removing the stitches over Hutch’s body. He chatted about work, news, weather and sports in the process. An interesting discussion about fishing up and both found a hobby they shared.
“Go ahead and bend over and we’ll get this out of the way.”
There was no getting around it and Hutch closed his eyes as he leaned over the table. He jumped the second a hand rested on his backside.
“I’ll be quick,” Collins assured him.
The pain wasn’t there, but the degradation and humiliation remained. Hutch closed his eyes and took even breaths during the examination. It seemed to last an eternity and the taunts in his ears thundered. A voice boomed over them and Hutch opened his eyes.
“Detective Hutchinson?” Collins was staring at him. “Are you okay?”
“Fine.” Hutch straightened and pulled the gown closed.
Collins stripped off the gloves and tossed them in the trash. He picked up the file and pulled a pen from his pocket. “Are you seeing a counselor?”
“Yes.” Hutch found his clothes and set them on the exam table.
“Physically, you are doing well. I think you’re ready to stop to the stool softener. Keep with the high fiber and it should minimize pain during bowel movements.” He watched Hutch for a moment and folded his arms. “You really hate being here.”
“Hospitals have never been a bright spot.”
“Never are for most people, but in this case it’s different. There’s a medical supply shop not far. You can get what you need to remove the stitches in your neck rather than subjecting yourself another once over by me or anyone else. You’re partner can take them out.”
“I appreciate that.”
“Detective Starsky has my card. Don’t hesitate to call if anything arises…whether it’s a medical reason or not,” he added.
Once Hutch was alone, he hurried to get his clothes on. He marched out of the exam room heading to the lobby.
Starsky got to his feet when Hutch appeared and had to do a fast walk to keep up. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Hutch needed to get to the car.
“What’d the doctor say?”
“He said I’m fine.
How easy the lies spilled from Hutch’s lips and once in the car, he took a deep breath to get the raging hurt under control.
Starsky looked at him from the driver’s side. “Huggy wants to show off that new grill he bought. He invited us over for steaks.”
“Go ahead, Starsky. I have some work at home to do.”
He didn’t want to without Hutch and the way his partner said it, Hutch expected him to go. Starsky started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.
“There’s something I forgot to tell you. I don’t want you mad because I didn’t.”
“What is it?”
“Your folks know a little about what happened.”
“You told them?” Hutch was incredulous.
“They called me when they found out you were in the hospital, Hutch. You didn’t return their calls and they were worried.” He stole an uneasy look at his partner. “They’ll be here day after tomorrow.”
“Jesus.” Hutch shook his head. “I’ll cancel my appointment with Grace.”
“You don’t need to do that. Reschedule it. I’m sure she’ll understand.”
“What time is their flight?”
“It arrives at three.”
“There’s no way to make it. I don’t see one appointment being that big of a deal.”
Starsky tightened his grip on the steering wheel. Everything in his gut told him this was wrong, but with every reasonable request he came up with, Hutch would have an equal deterrent to do what he deemed necessary.
After dropping Hutch at home, Starsky went back to the station. His appointment with Grace came too soon. He needed to think…not talk.
Grace watched Starsky take in the room as she got comfortable in her chair. The notebook rested in her lap.
He wasn’t ready to sit and wasn’t sure if he could. The morning still weighed on him and Starsky was having difficulty trying to figure out his partner.
“I take it things aren’t going well,” she observed.
“I have no idea.” Starsky threw his hands up in frustration. “One minute…” He stopped and looked at her. “Now I get it.”
“Why you wanted me here.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Starsky walked over to her and put his hands on his hips. “Hutch isn’t talking and you need me to tell you what’s going on with him like I’m a damn spy or something!”
“Dave, this is entirely about you. What happened to your partner has affected you in more ways than you realize. What you choose to tell me or not tell me in regards to Ken is entirely up to you. What you tell me or what he tells me stays in these sessions. If you both choose to discuss it amongst yourselves, that’s fine. I don’t expect you to tell me about your partner. He’ll do that when he’s ready.”
A tired sigh escaped and Starsky sat on the couch. “Sorry. Right now I’m trying to figure him out.”
“Let’s start with you first.” Grace leaned forward. “How have you been sleeping?”
“It’s about all I do,” Starsky admitted. “I see Hutch in the mornings, work, see him after and by the time I get home I’m exhausted. I’m getting plenty of sleep.”
“Sometimes spouses of victims will take on some of the symptoms. It’s not unheard of. Get whatever rest your body demands.”
Starsky nodded and leaned back. “I didn’t like you making me take his gun away. He didn’t deserve that.”
“Do you still believe it was a punishment?”
Grace kept her smile to herself. He wasn’t going to explain further and the protection of his partner was foremost in his mind. That much was obvious. “How long did it take for you to admit what happened to him?”
“My gut told me when I found him. I’d seen it before.” Starsky played with the folds of his jacket. “I just wish I…” He clamped his mouth shut.
“How much do you tell the brass?”
“My recommendations. They usually don’t need the details.”
“Some details they won’t ignore,” Starsky muttered.
“My sole motivation is helping you and Ken the best I can. I tell them what they need to know in order for them to understand my recommendations. Nothing more.”
“Well, the brass would certainly want to know this.”
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that?” Seeing his reluctance, Grace continued. “We have to have a certain amount of trust between us.”
Starsky sat up and covered his eyes. “A week before it happened, Hutch was at my place. We had dinner and watched a movie…and we had a talk.”
“Hutch and me…we’ve been through so much together over the years.”
“I know. I studied your case histories and it didn’t take much to see that you two mean a great deal to one another.”
“After I got shot, Hutch didn’t want another minute to pass by until he told me how he felt. He waited until he thought I was ready and told me.” Starsky looked up and saw nothing but openness and understanding in Grace’s eyes.
“And how did you feel about that?”
“I told him we shouldn’t, because…”
“Dave, that’s not what I asked.”
A tear splashed on Starsky’s cheek and it took a moment for the words to come. “I love Hutch more than I’ve ever loved another soul.” He stood up and paced the room. “When Hutch loves somebody he doesn’t do it in half-measures and he just doesn’t pick anyone. He’s careful with it…like a Chinese vase. Anyone in the world would be damn lucky to have a tenth of Hutch’s love.”
“And he picked you.”
Starsky’s sigh was a ragged one. “I didn’t want to risk what we already had for something more. I was so fucking stupid.”
“You believe if you had agreed to further your relationship with him that this may not have happened?”
“I don’t know. I just shouldn’t have been so goddamn selfish.” Starsky went back to the sofa and sat.
“Dave, what happened to Ken was no more your fault than it was his or anyone else’s other than the ones responsible. You are one of the least selfish people I’ve ever met. Your decision wasn’t one of selfishness.” Grace reached over and touched his knee. “It was to preserve a relationship that means the world to you and to Ken.”
“He was right, you know.” Starsky shook his head. “It’s not even possible now.”
“Why isn’t it? You’ve been a cop for a long time and you of all people know that rape isn’t about sex.”
“I know. I haven’t even touched him since this happen. It’s like having your favorite food waved under your nose. You’re so damn hungry for it and then it’s taken away. I want to go after it, but I’m afraid I won’t get there in time.”
“In time for what?”
“I’m not sure.” Starsky’s look was thoughtful. “I just feel it…you know.”
“Trust your instincts, Dave. You do know him better than anyone and even though we can’t predict what’ll happen, your gut will tell you what to do.”
The session didn’t last much longer and by the time Starsky finished he felt much better. Grace’s counsel was far more valuable than he had believed. What he liked most of all was her outside observer way of dealing. She didn’t tell him what to do or how to handle Hutch. She asked questions and offered opinions. The rest was up to him and Hutch.
When Starsky picked up Hutch’s parents from the airport, he saw the disappointment in their eyes at not seeing their son. Starsky hated making the excuse, but he did.
Once in the car, Richard Hutchinson in the backseat and his wife in the front, Starsky started towards Venice Place.
“How’s he doing, David?”
“Okay,” Starsky answered. “He’s still getting his feet under him. He’ll be okay.”
‘Fine’ was a word Starsky swore never to use again and every time it came from Hutch’s mouth it took everything he had not spew a few four letter words of his own choosing.
“I just hope you catch whoever is responsible.” Margaret opened her purse and took out a handkerchief. “They hurt him…”
Seeing her dab away the tears, Richard leaned forward and put a comforting hand on his wife’s shoulders. “Remember what we promised on the plane, honey. Kenneth will see strong supportive parents.”
“I know.” She patted his hand.
While Margaret checked her makeup, Starsky looked in his rearview mirror at Richard. “How long are you here for?”
“The firm is in the middle of a class action lawsuit. There were fits when I announced this trip. We can only stay a few days.”
Starsky watched him straighten his suit. Hutch would joke and call his father Richard ‘the Stoic’ Hutchinson. Weakness was never a Hutchinson trait and even with Hutch’s wealthy family, he never held the stoicism his father did. Family loyalty, support and love were the foundation, but the control his father kept over his emotions had never settled well with Hutch. Ironic, Starsky thought.
Once through Hutch’s front door, Starsky watched Margaret walk into Hutch’s open arms. A pang of jealousy ran through him. He missed the closeness so much it hurt.
Richard and Hutch exchanged hugs. Afterwards it was agreed they would check in at the hotel and go eat at the restaurant Hutch had picked out. Starsky was a little surprised. He expected them to eat at Venice Place since Hutch had refused all other invitations.
It wasn’t until they arrived that he wondered how long it had taken for Hutch to find it. The restaurant was located almost on the other side of town and took over half an hour to get there. Starsky pulled into the parking lot and stole a glance at Hutch.
“Is it even open?” Margaret asked.
“Sure it is. I made reservations.” Hutch pointed to a parking spot. “Over there, Starsk.”
Starsky kept quiet and after parking the car, he followed the group inside. It was a nice enough place, but with few people. It was quiet and very subdued. Given how off the beaten track it was, Starsky wasn’t surprised at the lack of customers.
The waiter directed them to a secluded table in the far corner of the restaurant. The more Starsky saw, the more he didn’t like it. His gut told him Hutch had planned the evening down to every detail.
Other visits were usually based on the moods of his parents, but Hutch didn’t even take that into consideration. It was still early and by the time everyone finished eating, they would grow tired…maybe. A counter-move was already playing in Starsky’s mind.
Hutch hated the restaurant. He had spent several hours hunting for one he could feel comfortable in, but phone calls only told so much. This one was the closest that fit his requirements.
He had to prove to his parents he was fine and taking the initiative right from the beginning was the best way to show he had control over his life. Once their fears were allayed, they’d go home.
After ordering the wine, Hutch glanced at Starsky who was discussing his latest photos with his mother. His partner was suspicious. Hutch was sure of it. His father asked him a question and Hutch forced a smile to his face. As he answered, the waiter served the wine and poured glasses for the group.
Hutch began questioning his father about the large class action lawsuit. His father loved his work and while it never interested Hutch, it would do enough to deflect attention away from him.
Margaret reached for her glass and was distracted by a question from Starsky. It tipped and the red wine spilled across the table.
Vile alcohol hit Hutch in the face and he raised his hand to wipe it off. Laughter and taunts echoed around him and the cold ran over his bare skin. He shivered.
“What?” He looked at Starsky.
“Fine.” Hutch took the napkin from his lap.
Margaret leaned forward. “Have you decided on what you wanted, Kenneth?”
Hutch set the napkin on the table and stood. “Go ahead and order for me. Excuse me.”
Before Starsky could say another word, Hutch was headed to the bathroom. He looked across the table at Hutch’s parents, then down at his menu.
It took several deep breaths to put the panic back in place and once there, Hutch walked to the sink. He turned on the water and threw cold water on his face. He was drying it when Starsky walked in.
“Hold on.” Hutch finished with the paper towels and tossed them away. “What?”
“What happened back there?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
Starsky hated the lying, but how could he accuse Hutch of something only his gut told him. “Something’s wrong. I can tell.”
“It’s the first time out in public, Starsk. I got thrown a little and now I’m fine.”
An easy and acceptable explanation, Starsky thought. The truth, but then it wasn’t. He stepped closer to Hutch and touched his arm. “Hutch…” He stopped when cold anger slid over Hutch’s face. His eyes darkened and the mouth tightened.
The jerk from his touch was subtle and small, but powerful enough to hit Starsky in the gut. It was the rejection of the worst kind and when Hutch left him alone, he leaned against the wall. The few minutes it took for Starsky to get it together, he realized the changes in his partner were now too profound to ignore.
He stepped out of the bathroom and by the time he got to the table, his walk slowed. Laughter came from the Hutchinson family and Starsky’s eyes went straight to Hutch.
Hutch pulled out the chair. “Have a seat, buddy. I was telling Mom and Dad about a few of our undercover escapades.”
If there was any indication of the encounter in the bathroom in Hutch, Starsky couldn’t see it. He took the chair and proceeded with the plan to outmaneuver his partner.
After an enjoyable meal Starsky drove to his place and showed off the apartment to Hutch’s parents. Hutch didn’t show his displeasure in any way, but Starsky had no doubt it was there.
He found the photo album and opened it for Margaret to see. He watched Hutch scoot over and both went through the various photos. Starsky saw Richard with a cigar and heading out to the patio.
Starsky went outside and sat on top of the table while Richard lit the cigar. He looked over at him as he pulled another from his pocket.
“These are the nicer ones from Spain. A friend sends me a box or two on occasion. I know you enjoy one from time to time.”
“Thanks.” Starsky took it and inhaled the heady aroma. “Hutch hates them.”
“When he was a boy, he and a friend took two of my best Cubans out to the barn. By the time they finished both were throwing up in one of the stalls. I guess that’s why the habit never took.” Richard looked at the lit cigar in his hand and clenched his teeth. “He’s not my son.”
Starsky was shocked by the last statement. He stood and looked into Richard’s eyes. Rage was on the man’s face, but the eyes were filling with tears. “I don’t know who that is, but he’s not the man I know.”
He looked through the windows at Hutch and Margaret still flipping through the album. “He needs time.”
“You didn’t tell me the whole story, David. What really happened?”
Starsky moved near the tree and Richard followed until they were hidden. “There were three of them.”
“Jesus.” The new information was a blow to the veteran attorney.
“They had him for a while and inflicted a hell of a lot of damage.”
Richard grabbed onto a branch to steady himself. “And now? Physically?”
“He’s healed.” Starsky stuck the cigar in his pocket. “He’s seeing a good shrink.”
“Any chance of catching these bastards?”
Starsky sighed and shook his head. “Even if their prints match and Hutch is able to somehow ID them, there’s enough to make a conviction unlikely.”
“No way of determining one way or the other without a shadow of a doubt. Rapes are tough to prosecute as it is. Male rapes are even more difficult and problematic.”
Richard took a drag from the cigar and exhaled the smoke. “You’ve known me for a while and you are closer to Kenneth than anyone I know, David. He won’t give you an easy time of it. What I’ve seen tonight is an indication of that.”
After his eyes dropped the ground, Starsky said, “He’s doing it already. It’s like a well-choreographed dance just to keep me and everyone else at bay.”
“And he’ll keep it up as long as you let him.” Richard slipped his hand in his pocket and pulled out a key. “I wasn’t sure if this was necessary, but it might be. This goes to the beach house we rent when we come out for vacation. It’s paid up for the next six months.”
“It hasn’t even been a week, yet. It’s still too early to know anything.”
“If he’s as stubborn as I am, you’ll have your work cut out for you, David.” Richard held out the key. “Just in case…take it.”
Starsky did. “I’ll do my best.”
“As far as Margaret and I are concerned, you’re family. We trust you to do what’s right for our son.”
A few hours later, Hutch’s parents left Starsky’s in a cab back to their hotel. Hutch debated going with them, but his place was farther away. They would get dropped first and then he’d have to face the ride alone.
He picked up his jacket and looked at Starsky. “I’m bushed. We better get going.”
“You could spend the night here. We’ll go see your folks in the morning.”
Hutch shook his head. “I promised them a big breakfast and when I checked your fridge it was looking bare. Besides, they’ll be coming to my place.”
With Hutch already headed to the door, Starsky saw no reason to argue.
A week after Hutch’s rape his parents went back to Minnesota. There was no viable excuse Hutch could come up with as to not see them off from the airport and he was forced to go. Starsky saw it in every movement of his partner.
He drove Hutch home and the excuse was made of needing Sunday to handle more humdrum matters of day-to-day living. Starsky went back to his own place and spent the remainder of the day dwelling on the last week.
It was late the following Friday afternoon when he and Dobey met with Grace. She sat behind her desk while Starsky and Dobey were in the chairs in front of her.
“I’m concerned,” Grace told them. “Ken is not progressing as well as he should.”
“Edith and I stopped by two days ago. Hutch was doing great,” Dobey insisted.
“He wants you to think so, but by now we should have already made some headway. He’s no better than he was at the start.”
Starsky looked down at his hands. “Hutch has put on a good show, Cap’n, but she’s right.”
“Most officers would be working at a desk by now and I hoped Ken would as well.”
“He has asked to go back to work.” Dobey smoothed his tie. “Is he ready?”
Grace shook her head. “Not for the street and I think it’s too much for him to even be at a desk full time.”
Starsky looked up. “What about part-time?”
“I don’t know, Dave. If he was an accountant or janitor, there’d be no reason. But police officers, whether it’s behind a desk or in a patrol car, face the ugly side of life on a regular basis. I’m not sure if he’s ready for it.”
“You and I both know Hutch has been doing his damndest to sidestep any real confrontation,” Starsky told her.
Grace leaned forward. “You’re talking about setting him up, Dave.”
“He’s been doing it with everyone else and whenever I get too close he gets around it as easy as walking around your desk.”
“This is Hutch we’re talking about,” Dobey said. “I can’t see him pulling the wool, or even wanting to, over anyone’s eyes…most especially yours, Starsky.”
“There’s a reason why he’s a good undercover cop, Cap’n. He’s got a reasonable explanation for everything I question.”
Grace nodded. “He probably has several filed away and pulls out the most logical one when necessary.”
Dobey pushed up from the chair and glared at Starsky and Grace. “The two of you are talking like Hutch planned all this!”
Starsky stood and met his eyes. “Cap’n, this isn’t the Hutch we know! The changes are like night and day!”
“I doubt he’s even aware of most of what he’s doing. This trauma is what’s controlling him,” Grace added. “On the other hand, Ken is determined to stay the course he’s on and he’s too smart for us to put him on the spot. He’d talk his way out of it as Dave said.” She leaned back in the chair and looked at both men. “Next Wednesday he can start behind the desk part-time. He is to have no contact with suspects or take part in any investigations. This is strictly routine paperwork and the more mundane, the better. I don’t want him confronted with the ugliness of your work right now.”
“How do you expect this to help Hutch?” Dobey asked.
“In most cases, getting back into the swing of things would put a person back to the world of the living,” Grace explained. “In Ken’s case, this might be what he needs to put his recovery on track.”
After a look at Starsky, Dobey’s eyes went to Grace. “And if it does more damage?”
“It’s a risk.” She looked at Starsky. “Do you think it’s a worthwhile one?”
“I don’t see what anyone’s got to lose at this point,” Starsky said. “Either way, it’s time to get one step ahead of him.”
It was a relief to be at work. Hutch hoped it was a first step in getting back to where he was supposed to be. Upon learning the news, he steeled himself for the grind of ugly reports and telephoning witnesses. Instead, he was categorizing the new SOP manual and ordering office supplies.
Starsky on the other hand was at his desk more, but was wrapping up two important investigations with Dobey and another detective. Hutch was forced to admit his jealousy, but as long as he did what they wanted, he’d get back on the job that much quicker.
The dull routine continued for another two weeks. Three afternoons a week, Hutch arrived at his desk with more tedious tasks awaiting him. Two of those days, he met with Grace for an hour before reporting in.
On a late Friday afternoon, the officers in the squadroom were upbeat with the weekend ahead of them. As with any Friday, most were checking the clock, making plans and joking back and forth over the previous week’s antics.
Hutch sat at his desk trying to concentrate on the latest request form he was filling out. The joking was distracting and Hutch swore under his breath when he had written on the wrong line. The music from the radio was turned up a notch and Hutch wadded up the paper and tossed it into his already full trash can.
“Look at the pretty blond.”
When Hutch looked up, his attackers were already on him and he retaliated with the swinging of his fist. Their hands bit into his arms and even with their jeering and taunting, he continued to fight as hard as he could.
He threw one off and when the dark haired one came at him, Hutch punched him as hard as he could. More hands grabbed and he continued to struggle for his life. Words screamed at him and he shook his head to fight off the humiliating mocking.
His eyes came open and Starsky stood in front of him. Blood was running from his nose and when Hutch looked around the squadroom was in shambles. Desks were knocked over and papers scattered. Officers stood with wide eyes directed at him.
“Dave, get him out of here now!”
Hearing Grace’s command, Hutch’s eyes went to the woman standing not far away.
Starsky pulled on Hutch’s arm and walked him around the upturned desks. He got him to Dobey’s office and sat Hutch down in the chair. He looked up at Grace closing the door behind her. He turned his attention back to Hutch.
“Hutch? Talk to me, babe.”
Hutch moistened his lips. “Your nose is bleeding.”
Grace moved in front of Hutch and kneeled. “Ken, do you know where you are?”
“What?” Why is she asking me that?
“Where are you right now?”
He looked around the room. “Dobey’s office.”
“Do you know what happened?”
Hutch shook his head. “Something happened?” He looked at Starsky. “Is that why your nose is bleeding?”
After a sigh, Grace got to her feet and turned to Starsky. “He’s still confused. His mind hasn’t had a chance to assimilate it, yet. Go ahead and take him home.”
“You sure?” Starsky asked.
She nodded. “It’s the best place for him right now.”
Starsky helped Hutch to his feet and took him out the back way of the station. Not a word passed between them the entire time and once at Venice Place, Starsky guided Hutch to his bed.
Once under the covers, Hutch’s eyes closed and he was fast asleep much to Starsky’s relief. He didn’t know if the exhaustion was from the lack of sleep his partner was getting or from the ugly incident in the squadroom.
Thinking about it scared the hell out of Starsky. He’d been out in the hallway with Dobey discussing a case when the commotion in the squadroom erupted. When he came through the door, Hutch had turned into a wild man swinging and kicking at everyone who came near him.
Starsky had gotten a heavy punch in the face for his efforts, but after ordering his fellow cops to get hold of Hutch’s arms and legs was he able to snap his partner out of it. It was clear Hutch had no idea of what had happened.
He was already regretting the idea of Hutch working part-time. The damage was done and Hutch was facing a review board if he wanted to keep his job.
Leaving his sleeping partner, Starsky went to the living room and picked up the phone. He dialed Dobey’s number and while he waited, rubbed his eyes. “It’s me…he’s sleeping…no, he won’t, Cap’n…maybe this had to happen. I don’t know…I was hoping to stick around the rest of the day…” Starsky grimaced at the order. “Yeah, and I’m the only one he’ll talk to…hold on.”
Starsky looked around the room and he eyed Hutch’s roll-top desk in the corner by the window. He set the phone down and searched for pen and paper. Starsky opened up the top drawer and found a pen.
He went to the second one and once open, he froze. Almost to top of it was all shapes and sizes of papers. They were mostly the size of receipts. Starsky pulled out a handful and looked through them. The reality washed over him and when he remembered Dobey waiting on the phone, he grabbed one.
Using it for the address, Starsky scribbled on it. After the call was over, he put the papers back where he found them except for the one he needed. It would have been easy to confront Hutch, but Starsky was more worried about even more damage being done to their already fragile relationship.
Starsky went into the kitchen and opened the fridge. It was well-stocked with many of Hutch’s favorites as well as some of his. His eyes went to the medication on the counter and Starsky picked them up. Only a few pills remained of the antibiotics, but when he opened up the sedative it was still full. Starsky read the bottle and found there had been no refills and it was the same one he had picked up from the pharmacy. The story was no different with the others.
Looking around, Starsky wondered what else there was to discover. He saw the locked door leading to the greenhouse and walked over. Once on the other side, Starsky got a better look at the plants. Their sore neglect was obvious. Many would be lost and several were well on their way.
He moved to the balcony and leaned against it. Without thinking, Starsky looked down and saw three full trash bags lying in the alley. Starsky went down the stairs and when he picked one up, it had a large hole. He raised his head to Hutch’s balcony.
It would have been too obvious for Hutch to ask Starsky to take out the trash on a daily basis. Starsky remembered Hutch telling him they had started towing cars out of the alley left too long. It was just a few days after the ticket Hutch got.
Everything he had discovered was a calculated move on Hutch’s part to stay in the apartment as much as possible. The times his partner did get out were just enough to show the world he was getting on with life.
Furious, Starsky ran up the stairs into Hutch’s apartment, grabbed a pill bottle and went out the front without missing a beat. He drove back to the station and once inside, he headed to Grace’s office.
Starsky knocked on the door and after hearing her invitation he walked inside. He stood in front of her desk and dropped the pill bottle in front of her.
“What’s this?” She picked it up and looked at it.
“Hutch’s sedatives. I counted them. He hasn’t taken one.” Starsky began pacing back and forth. “Did you know you can have everything done by delivery and pickup? You can have groceries delivered, clothes from a catalog, booze and whatever else you care to name.” With each statement, Starsky’s voice grew louder. “They’ll pick up your dirty laundry and bring it right back clean and folded! They’ll even pick up the goddamn trash from the alley after you throw it from the back door over the balcony!”
Grace set the bottle down and looked at Starsky. “Home is safety, Dave.”
“It’s more than that.” Starsky leaned down on her desk. “Hutch put in a new back door. Not even the Rams could barrel their way through it. There are two locks each on the front and the back.”
She leaned back in the chair and folded her arms. “If that’s not it, then tell me. You know him best.”
Starsky collapsed in the chair and took a shaky breath. “I don’t have the keys, Grace. We’ve always had the keys to each other’s places. He’s locking me out not just out of his home, but out of everything else.”
“What do you think it means?”
“It’s not just me he’s doing it with. It’s like he’s locking out the rest of the world, but still putting on that damn act.” Starsky shook his head. “I feel like he’s lied to me for almost a month now. My gut says there’s a part of him that knows he’s lying even though it’s because of the rape.”
“He’s got to be rationalizing every step of the way. It’s the only way he could go through with it.”
“There’s a reason,” Starsky told her. “I can’t see Hutch going to all this trouble for nothing. He didn’t do anything like this after Forest got his hands on him.”
“I agree. We have to find it.”
“I don’t know what to do, Grace. I have no idea how to help him.”
The pain on Starsky’s face tore at her heart. “When a patient becomes ill with a serious disease such as cancer they will tell their doctor everything in order to fight it. The patient is willing and wants the help. Ken is willing up to the wall he has built. Anything beyond that are hands off with no exceptions.”
“What do you suggest we do? He’ll rationalize, explain like you said.”
“Keep doing what we’ve been doing. I know it’s not much, Dave, but right now it’s all we’ve got until we find the way in.”
Back at Hutch’s apartment, Starsky was glad to find his partner still sleeping. He went to the couch, kicked off his shoes and stretched out. Nothing new came to mind to help his partner and Starsky closed his eyes. Sleep came quickly.
Much to Starsky’s displeasure, Hutch reverted to the standard operating procedure he had taken on since the rape. The weekend was filled with the same words and other methods Hutch used to keep him at bay. Out of frustration, Starsky left on Saturday night and didn’t return until Tuesday for Hutch’s session with Grace.
Hutch sat on Grace’s sofa and rubbed the palms of his hands across his jeans. He knew what the session would be about, but there was no other recourse but to talk about it. He would, but he didn’t have to like it.
“We have to talk about Friday.”
Grace fingered the notebook. Hutch’s body language didn’t match his agreement. “What were you doing before it started.”
“Paperwork. Requisitions.” Hutch shrugged his shoulders. “It just happened.”
“It was a flashback, Ken.”
“I thought it was something like that.”
“We need to figure out what triggered it. That way if it happens again, you’ll be more prepared and able to either stop it or extricate yourself before it gets out of hand.”
“I told you. I was doing paperwork. Who is to say it’ll happen again?”
She watched Hutch rise and cross the room. He looked back at her. “Why don’t you have windows?”
“They’re a distraction. Sometimes patients will use the view to avoid their issues.” Grace watched Hutch move about the room. “How many have you had?”
“Flashbacks. How many?”
“You think there were more?”
“There usually are. Flashbacks are manifestations of trauma. More often than not most people aren’t aware it’s happening to someone close to them until well after the fact. On occasion they will be as severe as the one on Friday and if no preparation is made, the results can be disastrous.”
Hutch walked to a painting on the wall. “What about this? You have two similar paintings. Aren’t those distractions?”
Grace smiled. “They can be, but not for long. I chose them for their warm and relaxing colors. Most people find abstract art boring plus I had to have something on the walls. So tell me, Ken. How many?”
Folding his arms in front of him, Hutch kept his attention away from Grace. “Do I have to count the one in the squadroom?”
“Four, including the squadroom.”
Getting it out of Hutch was far easier than Grace had counted on. She wrote in her notebook. “Keep going.”
“At home, a restaurant and at the hospital.”
Grace looked up at him. “You think I’m letting you off that easy?”
Hutch couldn’t answer the smile with one of his own. “At home was after I threw up because of bad smelling alcohol. The restaurant was spilled wine.”
“How did that bring one about?”
He continued to study the painting even with the ordinary colors and lack of interest on his part. “Liquor was poured on me when I was tied up.”
“Was anyone with you?”
“My parents and Starsky.”
“Did they notice anything?”
With his arms still folded, Hutch turned around. “Starsky did. I told him it was nothing more than ‘first time being in public’ jitters. He seemed to accept it.”
Grace doubted it, but kept her thought private. “And the last one?”
“When the doctor examined me. Need I go on?”
“No.” Grace wrote some more on the pad. “What about the squadroom?”
Hutch crossed the room and sat back down. “I told you. I was filling out requisitions.”
“Sometimes a smell, a noise or even an innocent comment can bring on a flashback, Ken. You need to be more specific.”
“It was late in the afternoon and everyone was ready to go home for the weekend.” Hutch sighed. “You know how it is. Friday rolls around and you’re damn happy about it.”
“So there was some excitement and laughter. What else?”
He was growing to loathe Grace’s intuition. “Music. Someone turned up the radio and I made a mistake on the form. I had to throw the damn thing away and start over.”
“In the trash?”
“Of course!” Hutch was growing impatient. “Where else would it go?”
“Ken, you were taking the trash out that night.”
“That’s what did it?”
“Given the severity, I’d say it was a combination of factors. The other ones were mild and went mostly unnoticed.”
“Makes sense.” Hutch hoped that was the end of the flashback conversation.
“I want you to think back to the instant it started. What is the first thing you remember?”
Hutch shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“Come on, Ken. It’s there.”
“Someone said something.”
He pushed from the couch and paced the room. “I don’t know.”
“Take your time and think about it.”
Hutch whirled on Grace. “You think it’s so goddamn easy you do it!”
Grace shot to her feet and the notebook fell to the floor. “I have done it! I was raped by two men when I was twenty years old! And for the record my father, who was a decorated police officer, committed suicide when I was fifteen after seeing a dog get ran over by a car, but what drove him to it happened seven years earlier. I don’t do this for the money, Ken. If I did I would be in Beverly Hills or Manhattan listening to wives’ complaints about their philandering husbands. I have unique qualifications and I’m not talking about my degrees.”
The anger slipped away. “I’m sorry, Grace. I didn’t know.”
“It’s not something I like advertised. I keep your secrets and I expect you to keep mine.” Grace bent down and picked up her notebook. She got back in the chair and took a breath. “You ready to try this again?”
Hutch nodded. “The trash can was full.” He moved back to the sofa and sat. “Just like it was that night. I went to take it out and I heard one of them.”
“He said something to you?”
“Yes.” He clenched his fists. “He said ‘What a pretty blond’,” Hutch spat.
Grace gazed at Hutch for a moment then wrote in the notebook. “Then they came after you?”
“I tried running. I knew I didn’t have much of a chance against all three.”
“And you thought that’s where you were at in the squadroom. You ran and when the fist person came to you, you fought back.”
“It was so real.” Hutch looked at her. “How can it be so real that it all comes
back like that? It’s never the same
“You suffered one trauma after another, Ken. Each one worse than the one before. Different moments of the rape will come back to you in this form and it’ll take a while before they stop. Some people go years without one and then when they least expect it, it’ll happen.”
Hutch leaned back. “Great.”
“I’ll show you some techniques to help you identify them before they start.”
The remainder of the session Grace instructed Hutch on what to look for and how best to deal with the flashbacks. When he left, Grace went to her desk and found Hutch’s statement of the rape. She read through it, then looked at her notes. Grace searched her notebook and found the notes from her first visit with Hutch. After the comparisons, Grace looked at the closed door. “What else are you keeping to yourself, Ken?”
A week and half after the incident in the squadroom, Hutch’s progress came to an almost complete stop. From Starsky’s perspective, his partner had given a flashback for him and Grace to chew on. He was growing weary of the routine and Hutch’s frustrating reasoning.
Starsky continued to mull over the situation in the passenger side of another detective’s car. They were on their way to interview a cantankerous witness who was considering revoking his statement.
He tried to piece everything he knew together. Hutch was a logical person and whether his partner realized it or not, there was a reason for everything he was doing and saying. His gut told him Hutch was holding back.
Starsky had read Hutch’s statement another two times in the last month. Nothing stood out to explain away his partner’s behavior since the rape. Not unless something was left out. He shook his head. It didn’t make sense.
Hutch was a top cop who did reports by the book. Leaving out any detail, no matter how minor, went against Hutch’s nature. But Hutch’s nature had undergone tremendous changes. Starsky’s mind rebelled against the idea, but he wasn’t able to let go of it.
A hard jolt to the car got his attention and when Starsky looked up, the vehicle suffered a second head-on hit.
The ringing of the telephone interrupted Hutch’s reading and he reached over to the table to answer it. “Hello.”
“Hutch, it’s Captain Dobey.”
“Just thought you should know. Starsky had to go to the hospital to get checked out.”
Hutch got to his feet. “Is he okay?”
“He’s fine. He’ll be back to work as soon as he checks on Anderson. They were on their way to see a witness when a car broadsided them. It’s a good thing the department started requiring the officers to wear seatbelts.”
Hutch slammed the phone down and headed out the front door. He hurried down the stairs and got behind the wheel of his car. Hutch sped to the station and after parking, he went inside and found Grace’s office. He flung open the door and marched inside.
“Knocking is customary.”
“I want back on duty fulltime and on the street right now!”
Grace folded the file in front of her and stood. “You know that’s not going to happen, Ken.”
“Don’t feed me your psychoanalytical bullshit!” Hutch yelled. “Starsky was damn near killed today and I was at home when I should be out on the street with him!”
While Hutch continued, Grace went to the door and closed it. She went to him and folded her arms. “The street is the last place you should be right now, Detective. Remember what happened last time you were on duty and that was routine paperwork.”
“I am a cop and Starsky is my partner! We were together a hell of a long time before you came along! We’ll handle it!”
“A cop!” Grace shook her head and went to her desk. She searched through the papers and found Hutch’s statement and the notes she’d been taking during their sessions. She set them in front of him. “Take a thorough reading of both of those, Detective Hutchinson! You’ll find your statement to the investigating officers and what you told me during our first session is almost verbatim! Our last session, after the flashback in the squadroom, you had no problem remembering what one of the rapists said to you just prior to your abduction! It’s nowhere in your statement and I would bet you never told anyone else! Cops usually don’t leave out details like this!”
“This has nothing to do with that!”
“It has everything to do with it!” Grace yelled back. “If it didn’t, you’d be in Captain Dobey’s office and not mine!”
“You’re not making any sense! I forget one thing and you’re ready to turn it into a federal case!”
“Don’t play the victim card now when you’ve worked so hard at being anything but for the past month, Detective,” Grace said in a hard voice. “You’ve used everything at your disposal to build a wall not just around you, but also around the rape. What’s happening is now you’re locked in with the rape.”
“Stop it!” Hutch screamed. “Goddamn, lady! Not everything is about what happened to me! I want back to duty fulltime right now!”
Grace folded her arms and tightened her mouth. Hutch was too furious to listen to any reason at this point. “No.”
Incensed beyond anything he’d ever known, Hutch clenched his fists.
“Look at you, Detective. Your self-esteem is through the floor, you have mood swings from one extreme to the other, you’ve had four flashbacks and one of those you tore the hell out of the squadroom. Now, you’re in my office making demands to go back to work because your partner was in a minor traffic accident. If you think I’m going to put a loaded weapon in your hand and let you police the public in your condition, you’re worse off than you realize.”
The facts rolled through Hutch like a storm and with his fists clenching until his knuckles whitened, he was about ready to snap. He took two steps and towered over the short woman. “All you want to do is to fucking control me! Every time you use one of your stupid notions you’re hoping I’ll just go along with it and not say a fucking word! I’m not one of your fucking science experiments so don’t play these fucking games with me!”
Grace’s eyes grew wide during Hutch’s tirade and she looked over at the door coming open. Starsky rushed in and put himself between her and Hutch.
Starsky put his hands on Hutch’s arms. “Hutch.”
Hutch threw Starsky’s touch off and screamed, “Keep your damn hands off me!” He stepped back and ran both his hands through his hair. Without saying another word, Hutch stormed from the office.
Starsky turned. “You okay?”
“Go after him, Dave. Don’t let him out of your sight.”
Starsky didn’t need to be told twice. He ran out, down the hallway and hurried to the parking garage. He arrived just as Hutch sped away. Starsky dug his keys out and jumped in the Torino. He lit out after his partner and even though Hutch’s car was nowhere to be seen, Starsky knew where he was going.
As expected, Hutch’s car was in front of Venice Place. Starsky went inside the building and at the door, he knocked. It opened almost immediately. “It’s about time you showed up,” Hutch said.
Starsky walked inside and followed Hutch to the kitchen. “Why?”
Hutch picked up the coffee can and spooned out three heaps for the pot. “We need to talk to Dobey. The department made a mistake in hiring that woman.”
Standing near the table, Starsky watched Hutch turn on the stove and set the pot on top.
“My guess is she has some vendetta against you, me or maybe the both of us.” Hutch took a coffee cup and set it on the counter.
“She’s been there less than two months, Hutch.”
“It could be someone she knew. I don’t know, but the sooner we find someone else, the better. It’s a good thing we figured this out before any real damage was done.”
Starsky’s heart pounded and he was barely able to catch his breath. He was almost dizzy and placed his hand on the table in case he needed to keep himself steady. “No.”
Hutch halted and turned. “What did you say?”
“I said no, Hutch. Even if I thought it was the right thing to do, the department won’t go along with it.”
“What are you talking about? The right thing to do?”
“This isn’t about her, Hutch, and I think you know that.”
“Let me get this straight.” Hutch walked over to Starsky. “You’re not backing me up on this.”
“That’s not what I’m saying.”
“I don’t get what you are saying, partner! You’re ready to take her side against me!”
“Hutch, this isn’t about taking sides…” Starsky tried to explain.
“What the hell is it then?” Hutch said with a raised voice. “We’re supposed to take care of each other and it’s because of her that I couldn’t today!”
Starsky shook his head. “No, that was because a guy ran a red light and you haven’t let anyone take care of you for a month now.”
Hutch turned back to the stove. “I’ll talk to Dobey myself.”
“Don’t you see we’re all trying to help you, Hutch?” Starsky took a step closer. “You’ve worked damn hard to keep everyone away and you can’t see beyond the wall you’ve built.”
After tossing the spoon on the counter, Hutch turned away from Starsky and went into the living room. “You’re starting to sound like that woman.”
Starsky followed him. “That’s exactly what you’ve done since you were raped. From the new locks on the doors to how you take out the trash. The rest of it was just for show.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You know I do and frankly I’m getting tired of the Hutchinson bullshit you keep flinging.”
“What’s with you?” Hutch was incredulous. “You’re attacking me like I’m the bad guy! If you’ll remember, partner, it wasn’t you tied to that fucking cot!”
“Now you’re using it as an excuse!” Starsky yelled. “I don’t know what the hell you’re trying to do, but it ends right now!”
Starsky stalked to Hutch’s bedroom and got down on his knees near the bed. He pulled out Hutch’s overnight bag and tossed it on the bed.
Hutch watched him. “What are you doing?”
“We’re getting the hell out of here.” Starsky opened up a drawer and grabbed some clothes. “Your Dad gave me the key to the beach house your folks rent.”
Starsky tossed them into the bag. “It’s this goddamn prison you’re living in. You’ve been calling the shots since day one and like an idiot, I let you.”
He brushed past Hutch and went to the bathroom. Starsky opened the medicine cabinet and took several items out. He carried them to the bedroom with no care of what Hutch thought. He put them in the bag and zipped it up. Starsky threw it over his shoulder and stopped in front of Hutch.
“No more, Hutch. You’re not using me, your folks, this apartment, the rape or anything else as battering ram to force everyone to walk on eggshells around you. We’re going to the beach house whether you like it or not. Make sure I didn’t forget anything. I’ll be waiting in the car.”
Stunned by the order, Hutch stood in shock. He couldn’t believe it. His partner had made a decision without asking what he wanted. When Hutch did move, it was to the window. He looked down at the Torino near the curb and stared. Five minutes must have passed, but it didn’t appear Starsky was going to give up and drive away.
Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, Starsky wondered if he had pushed Hutch too hard. His obstinate partner could very well lock the doors and refuse to come out. Where it had come from, he didn’t know. He was sick of the decoys Hutch had thrown out.
The door to Venice Place got his attention and Starsky was sure his sigh of relief could be heard by the city. Hutch walked to the car and got inside. Starsky put the car into gear and drove.
As he headed to his apartment, Starsky picked up the microphone. “Mildred, this is Zebra-Three.”
“Go ahead Zebra-Three.”
“Patch me through to Captain Dobey.”
A moment passed. “Dobey.”
“Cap’n, it’s Starsky. Hutch and I are taking off for a couple of days.” Starsky stole a look at his partner who was trying to ignore him. “It could be longer.”
“Take what you need and call me when you get back.”
“Thanks, Cap’n. Zebra-Three out.”
Starsky replaced the microphone and once at his apartment, he jumped out of the car and went inside. Hutch remained in the vehicle while he rushed to get his things together. Starsky came out and tossed his bag in the backseat.
The beach house was located in a suburban area of the city. Starsky remembered how much he had liked it the first time he visited. Though small, with two bedrooms, the privacy would offer them a chance to hash everything out. Even with the opportunity, there were no guarantees anything would come of it.
He parked in the drive and stepped out of the car. Starsky reached in the backseat and grabbed his bag. He got the key out and glanced over his shoulder. Hutch was getting his things.
Inside, Starsky headed to the living room and set the bag on the floor. He crossed to the kitchen and took a look through the fridge and cabinets. There was enough for a decent meal, but a shopping trip was needed.
Hutch walked through the living room to the hallway. Starsky stood in the small kitchen and heard the slamming of a bedroom door. He found the telephone and dialed. “Grace Kinsey…she went home?...This is Detective Dave Starsky. Any chance you could give me the number?” Starsky picked up the nearby pencil and wrote it down on the small pad near the phone. “Thanks.”
Grace stepped out the bathroom with a towel on her head wearing a robe. The hot shower had done the job in relieving the tension from the hard day. Two of her children ran down the hallway past her. “Slow down.”
The ringing telephone got her attention and she answered it in her bedroom. “Hello.”
“Grace, it’s Dave.”
She sat on the edge of the bed. “How is he?”
“I don’t know. I brought him to a house his parents rent when they come for vacation.”
A thirteen year old came into the bedroom. “Mom, Bobby stole my bra!”
Grace covered the receiver with her hand. “I’ll be there in a minute. Close the door.”
Less than pleased, the teen did as her mother instructed. “I apologize, Dave.”
“It seemed to make sense to take him away from his apartment.”
“You’re probably right, but keep this in mind. Forcing him to talk could make matters worse.”
“That’s the only thing I don’t expect to change. Just don’t expect to see Hutch for a few days.”
“Your instinct could pay off, too. Taking away the tools he uses to build the walls might give you the in you need.”
“Call if you need anything, Dave.”
Grace set the phone down and smiled. Dave Starsky would make a great shrink, she thought. When she saw her six year old run in front of the door with a bra tied to his head, she stood and followed him.
When Hutch emerged from the bedroom two hours later, he found Starsky in the kitchen. “What are you doing?”
“Dinner.” Starsky carried a platter of chicken to the already set table. “Grilled chicken, salad and rice. Tomorrow you’ll fix me what I like.”
Hutch stood watching his partner retrieve the milk from the fridge and filling two large glasses. He turned after putting it away.
“Sit down and eat.”
It wasn’t a request. It was an order. Hutch moved to the chair and took a seat. Starsky set the glasses down and got in the one across from him.
Hutch stabbed at his salad. “It’s not going to work.”
“What’s not going to work?”
“Bringing me here. You can practice whatever tricks Grace taught you on someone else.”
Starsky cut into the chicken. “I don’t know what’s going to work with you. By the way, you owe her an apology.”
After swallowing the bite of food, Starsky took a drink of milk. “You probably scared the hell out of her today.”
Hutch had to concede that much. “She’s barely tall enough to pass for a teenager.”
“She’ll forgive you, but don’t let her appearance fool you. She’s got a black belt and a Philadelphia Eagle for a husband.”
“You can’t be serious.”
Starsky nodded. “He’s working to get traded out here. They’ve got six kids to boot.”
“Explains why not much rattles her.” Hutch ate a few more bites and took a look at Starsky who didn’t appear the least bit concerned.
They finished the meal in silence and afterwards Starsky told Hutch to help with dishes. Hutch did and when the kitchen was clean, he went to the living room and perused the shelf filled with books.
Starsky wasn’t surprised. Hutch was trying to get his footing in this new place, but removing the means to do it would be taking it too far. There was time and he was a patient man.
By the time Hutch had settled on the couch with his nose in a book, Starsky was in the bedroom watching TV. After an hour or so, he shut it off and went to the living room.
Hutch was stretched out on the couch with an open book on his chest, and sleeping. Starsky lifted it and shook Hutch until he woke. “Hey, go hit the sack.”
Rubbing his eyes, Hutch nodded. He was too sleepy to argue and was soon under the covers much to Starsky’s relief. Back in the living room, Starsky put the book back and went to the patio door.
He opened it and stepped out on the deck. The cool ocean breeze felt good on his face and the rolling ocean waves relaxed him even more. Hutch had gotten behind the wheel of his car today. It was the first time in over a month.
Starsky wondered if he should have refused to be Hutch’s chauffer at some point, but shook his head. His partner would have devised another means of transportation if necessary.
Maybe this thing had to run its course. He remembered the first time his father brought him to the bakery he owned. As a boy, his father had shown how to make the bread and to test it in order to determine if it was done. It couldn’t be in for too long or too short.
It was a lousy analogy, but one that made sense to Starsky. The question now was how to make any real progress. Over the last month Hutch had called the shots in almost everything. Starsky first thought it was to gain some sort of control over his life after losing it all the night of the rape.
There was no doubt in his mind Hutch was doing it for other reasons. The appearance of recovery was enough to convince him of that. Starsky had to take the control from Hutch. Coming here was a start and while he couldn’t force his partner to open up about that night, he could lay the groundwork relieving much of the pressure from his partner.
This life Hutch had been living was taking its toll. Hutch’s confrontation with Grace told him that. It was time for intervention. Decision made, Starsky went back inside and found how easy it was to go to sleep.
The following morning, Starsky was up and setting fruit and toast on the table when Hutch walked in. “Didn’t you make coffee?”
“Milk and juice is better.” Starsky sat and started eating.
Hutch came over and did the same without saying another word. After breakfast, Starsky got Hutch outside and they took a short walk on the beach. Back at the house, Hutch started reading.
Starsky went through the cabinets and fridge while Hutch read. He made a list of needed items and got his keys. He walked over to the couch. “We need to run to the store. Let’s go.”
Hutch sat while Starsky headed out the door. His normally flexible partner didn’t even ask if he wanted to go. It was annoying. Hutch put the book aside and walked out the door. Starsky sat waiting for him in the car.
Once inside, Starsky put the car into gear and off they went. Several cars were in the parking lot of the grocery store and Starsky found one not far from the front. It didn’t appear too busy for mid-morning.
He glanced at Hutch who was starting to tense up. “You ready, Hutch?”
Hutch’s nod was a shaky one.
They got out of the car and walked inside. Starsky grabbed a cart and with Hutch following started in the vegetable section. While he picked out items for a fruit salad, Starsky looked back at Hutch who was eyeing the asparagus.
Two children ran past Hutch and started munching on nearby grapes. Starsky could see the struggle with his partner. He was starting to sweat and the hands were beginning to shake. He hadn’t given Hutch any preparation for the trip.
The mother hurried to her children and took them away as she scolded them for their behavior. Starsky came over and put his hand on Hutch’s waist. “We need to get some bread.”
The touch was comforting and Hutch took a deep breath and nodded. He began to relax and trailed behind Starsky towards the aisle. Hutch didn’t like that Starsky was picking out items without his input. He didn’t say anything, but the annoyance was there.
In the frozen food section, Hutch stopped at the chocolate covered popsicles. He couldn’t remember the last time he had one.
“Those look good.” Starsky opened up the door and took out a box. “We’ll have some later.”
Exasperated, Hutch continued to follow Starsky. It was the coffee section that Hutch was glad to see. He started looking through the brands while his partner was further down near the tea.
Starsky walked past Hutch and without missing a beat said, “We don’t need coffee, Hutch.”
Hutch had every intention of giving Starsky what for when they got to the car. They spent another half hour in the store and during the checkout Hutch was more than ready to get out. He kept looking at the door and didn’t notice the few additional items his partner had tossed in the cart.
Once the groceries were paid for and bagged, they went to the parking lot. As they emptied the cart, Starsky almost smiled. It was obvious Hutch had forgotten about the public place they were in due to his unilateral decision-making. It was a small victory, but an important one.
By mid afternoon, Starsky opted for another walk on the beach and rather than take Hutch with him, he went alone. There was only so much he could accomplish and at this early juncture he had no idea what to do next. All that came to mind was to play it by ear.
After an hour he headed back and was surprised to find Hutch in the kitchen standing over a pot. He wasn’t surprised at the initiative. “What are you making?”
“Chili.” Hutch added more cayenne pepper after a taste then moved to the cutting board where he worked on more onions.
“It’s not even winter and you’re making chili?”
Hutch looked at Starsky out of the corner of his eye. “Since when does your stomach distinguish between seasons?”
Starsky chuckled and headed for the fridge. He opened the door. “Never does, Blondie.”
The cutting board and everything on it flung across the counter and crashed into a wall. Starsky was stunned at the viciousness of the unexpected act.
Hutch’s stiff body stood with hands planted on the countertop. “Don’t call me that!” he yelled. His head dropped and the tears fell on his cheeks.
“Hutch,” Starsky whispered.
“They called me that.” Hutch stepped away from the counter and stood in the middle of the kitchen. “Those damn bastards called me that!” He looked at his shocked partner. “They took it away from me! Don’t you see? They stole it along with everything else!”
Sobs were tearing through Hutch and on his face was the shattered reality of what his partner had suffered. Starsky was frozen in place.
“Everything I was, they took! Everything I had, they took! Even you. They took you from me and I have nothing.” The cries continued to rip from Hutch and he stumbled against the cabinets.
Starsky went to Hutch and took his arms. As Hutch slid to the floor, Starsky went with him. The broken man continued to release the bottled up anguish and through the tears asked the only question Starsky couldn’t answer. “Why? God, why?”
How long Hutch clung to him and let loose the pain, Starsky didn’t know. He sat with Hutch on the kitchen floor while a month’s worth of control poured out. When the sobs began to subside, Starsky got Hutch to his feet and led him to the sofa.
After getting him seated, Starsky put hot water on to boil and went to the bathroom. He wet a washcloth and took it to Hutch. Hearing the kettle start whistling, Starsky left Hutch wiping his face and made the tea.
He carried a cup and saucer over and handed it to his partner. Starsky sat on the coffee table and waited.
“This is good.”
“Aunt Rose’s special blend.” Seeing Hutch’s nod, Starsky leaned forward. “What they called you, Hutch…it wasn’t in your statement.”
Hutch set the tea aside. “It was like they were using you against me. That name belonged to me and they took it…used it like they did me.”
“You think they singled you out because of me?”
“That’s all I could come up with.”
“Hutch.” Starsky scooted closer. “Dobey thinks they staked out your place for an hour…maybe two at the most.”
“Dobey says?” Hutch was confused. “What do you say? What leads do you have?”
The truth time was getting more awkward and Starsky steeled himself. “I had myself taken off the case.”
“You. I may be able to keep a level head on a lot of things, but not with you. If we had caught the animals that did this, I don’t honestly know if they would’ve gotten to the station in one piece to be booked.” Starsky touched Hutch’s knee. “You left out what they called you because of me.”
“I just couldn’t, Starsk. I couldn’t bear you knowing.”
Seeing the tears on Hutch’s face again, Starsky put both hands on his knees. “It’s okay.”
Hutch wiped them away and nodded.
“Was there anything else you didn’t tell?” Starsky knew there was the way Hutch tightened his mouth together. Another tear streamed down his cheek and he waited…patient for his partner.
The dread in Hutch’s chest felt like it weighed a ton and he pushed from the couch. Walking over to the mantel, he kept his back to Starsky. He leaned on it and ran his finger over a small figurine. “Remember that night at your place when I told you I wanted more for us.”
“Yeah.” Starsky wondered where this was leading.
“I guess it’s not just you I want. Fact is, I liked what they did to me.”
Starsky’s mouth fell open and he stood. “Whatever gave you that idea? The last month says otherwise.”
The muscles in Hutch’s jaw worked back and forth. “Don’t be dense, Starsky.”
He walked around the coffee table and got in front of Hutch. “I don’t buy it. They kidnapped you, tortured the hell out of you and raped you, Hutch. There’s nothing you can say that’ll convince me you wanted any of it.”
“How about the fact I got a hard-on?” Hutch straightened. “What does that tell you about me?”
When Hutch started to walk away, Starsky moved in front of him. “It tells me they used whatever they could to control and humiliate you. That’s all it was, Hutch.”
“That’s all it was?” Hutch repeated with incredulity. “I had a goddamn orgasm after having a dick shoved into my mouth!”
“You’re overrating your bodily functions. The number one thing we’re taught about rape victims is that it’s never about sex. It’s control of another person’s body, Hutch. That’s exactly what happened to you.”
The defensive posture Hutch had carried for so long slipped away and his shoulders sank. “The only person I wanted to share it with was you, Starsk. What they said and did seemed to be designed around taking you from me.”
“That’s the one thing they never could do and never will.” Starsky moved closer. “What happened to you was one of the worst things that can happen to anyone, but the only one who ever had that power was you, Hutch. Whether you intended to or not, the very thing you thought was going to drive me away, you used to push me away because you were too scared of what would happen if I found out.” He put his hands on Hutch’s face. “I love you and I’m not going anywhere.”
Hutch wrapped his arms around Starsky and held him close. It was tears of relief on his face rather than ones of pain. “God, Starsk, I love you, too.”
The rest of the day and into the night, Starsky and Hutch took their time in talking about the last month. There were few details other than what Hutch had intentionally kept to himself not known, but the results of his actions had repercussions either man wasn’t aware of until their talk.
Much to Hutch’s dismay, he was unaware of the lengths he had gone to keep those around him at bay. While he acknowledged his own efforts as far as the dinner out with his parents and Starsky for one, Hutch had no idea other aspects of his behavior had served to isolate him further. Starsky’s frankness drove it home.
What was even harder for Hutch was how his rape had impacted his partner. He had been so blinded by his struggle that he never knew Starsky was dealing with his own turmoil. Learning of Starsky’s guilt, helplessness and the utter frustration as a result of Hutch’s actions was the hardest.
After dinner, the conversation turned to more relaxing talk. The much needed break from the already emotionally draining day allowed both men to get back in the normalcy of light banter, teasing and other unrelated discussion.
They parted to their own rooms at the end of the night and the following morning had a casual breakfast out on the deck. The rest of the morning was spent with a long walk and more talking.
Hutch was feeling better than he had since the rape. Their relationship was getting back on track and the future much brighter than it had been less than 24 hours ago. He sat on the deck with the sun in his face, catching a cool ocean breeze and eating a popsicle.
Starsky came out and stood next to Hutch. He ran his fingers through his partner’s hair before sitting in the chair next to him. “We have to go back and see Grace.”
Hutch finished off the snack and tossed the stick on the table. “Why?”
“Because there’s still work to do.”
“You told her everything.”
“No,” Starsky said. “That’s what you have to do.”
With a sigh, Hutch shook his head. “We got this far, Starsky. We can do the rest ourselves.”
“Not this, Hutch. This is different and you know it.”
“Yeah, I know,” Hutch admitted. “I just want it to stop. I want the life I had before…”
Starsky reached over and took Hutch’s hand in his. Their closeness was more than it ever was even before the rape. He couldn’t get enough of touching Hutch and Starsky was fearful of losing it again. “I know.”
“I take it we have to leave now.”
“She has some time this afternoon for us.”
Hutch looked at him. “Us?”
“Yeah.” Starsky smiled. “Us.”
Knowing that, Hutch got up from the chair and headed inside.
With great interest, Grace listened to Hutch open up about the details he had kept to himself. It answered a host of questions and she was pleased with the breakthrough. She was even more pleased at seeing Starsky sitting close to Hutch.
“You understand, Ken, this was a means of control and humiliation.”
Hutch nodded. “Yes.” He rested his elbows on his knees and leaned forward. “Before this happened, I had been celibate for some time…several months.”
“Why?” Grace asked.
The muscles in Hutch’s jaw worked back and forth. It took a moment for him to answer. “Call it saving myself.” He glanced at Starsky. “For the person I love.”
“That’s what you meant when you said they took me from you,” Starsky said. “I didn’t really understand it until now.”
“I know it’s not sexual,” Hutch emphasized to Grace. He got to his feet and started for one of the paintings, then stopped and turned to Starsky. “I was sure you would change your mind about us, Starsk. I knew in time you would understand the risk for us to go farther was worth it.”
“And when you were raped you thought even if he did change his mind, you wouldn’t be able to be intimate because of the forced orgasm,” Grace observed. “You were afraid of what Dave would think of you if he found out. Since you wanted your first moments of intimacy to be with him, they took something you treasured and only wanted to share with him and used it as a weapon against you.”
Seeing the truth of it in Hutch’s face, Grace got to her feet and went to him. “It’s still there, Ken. The love for Dave is still within you. To get to the point of wanting to be with him again will take time and you’ve overcome the biggest hurdle.”
Hutch watched her go back to the chair. “This may be presumptuous on my part, but I would like to start back to work.”
“I think that can be arranged in the next few weeks. We’ll have a few more sessions and I’ll have a better idea.”
“That’s great.” Starsky looked at Hutch and saw he wasn’t pleased with Grace’s answer.
She saw it, too. “Ken, you still have a road ahead of you. You’ll make far more headway and much faster now.”
“You don’t understand,” Hutch said. “After I told Starsky everything, we talked. For the first time since this happened, our relationship is almost back to where it was.”
“Your relationship with Dave will never be what it was. Your rape changed that. I think it’ll be better, but there is no going back to what you had with him before. Even then, Ken, you still have to contend with this on a daily basis and living with it won’t be easy. There will be good days and bad days. Before you know it, the good ones will far outweigh the bad.”
Everything Grace said made perfect sense and Hutch nodded. While he was hoping for more from her, one look at Starsky told him it was enough…for now. Hutch went back to sit next to Starsky.
Grace stood and went to her desk. “Since you two plan on going back to the beach house for another few days, I’ll wait until you return before scheduling anymore sessions.” She found her prescription pad. “Ken, I’m giving you a new prescription for Buspar. It’s a mild anti-depressant. The dosage will be a low one and I expect you take it religiously. In a few months you may not need it anymore.”
Hutch took the prescription slip and looked at it. “You think I still need it?”
“Yes. It’s inevitable that situations will arise and could bring about symptoms of your PTSD when you least expect it. The medication will help alleviate them. A positive breakthrough doesn’t mean they’ll go away.”
Grace gave Starsky and Hutch a smile. “I think that’s enough for today. I’ll see you two when you get back.”
They got to their feet and when Hutch was out the door, Starsky walked over to her. “He’ll get better now thanks to you.”
“Oh, don’t give me all the credit.” Grace laughed a little. “You did a hell of a job without any help from me.”
“Just the same.” Starsky gave her a peck on the cheek.
Grace smiled as he hurried out of the office to catch up with Hutch.
In the few days since seeing Grace, Starsky and Hutch continued to relish the closeness they had missed. Rarely a moment went by when a show of affection didn’t happen. They sat close to one another, put their arms around each other’s waists and held hands. It was as if a lifetime had been spent apart.
Late one evening, Starsky was stretched out on the bed watching TV and Hutch was resting his head on his partner’s stomach while reading a National Geographic article. Starsky’s left arm rested across Hutch’s shoulder with his hand lying on his chest.
He picked up the remote and turned off the TV and looked at Hutch. “Hey.”
“Hmm.” Hutch didn’t look up from his reading.
“Whether this happened or not, I would’ve changed my mind.”
Hutch lowered the magazine and turned his head to look at Starsky. “What?”
“I don’t want you thinking it’s why I changed my mind, Hutch. It’s because you are the most important person in my life.”
“Starsk, I don’t know if I can…”
“I’m patient and I love you.” Starsky leaned in and gave Hutch a tender kiss on the lips.
Pure love flowed through them in the brief moment and when it ended, Hutch set the magazine aside and moved into Starsky’s arms. No words were needed as they held each other and it wasn’t until much later they slept in peace.