(c) September 2014 by Charlotte Frost


A sequel to Jigsaw



Starsky became awake just enough to realize that it was Sunday, and there wasn't any reason to waken further.  He burrowed back down into the covers, his subconscious registering that Hutch had already gotten up.

"Starsk?" came an intrusion, from down the hall.  "Get up.  I've made you an omelet."

Starsky silent grumped to himself that he wasn't in the mood for an omelet.  Just as he was deciding to ignore the voice, some part of his mind recalled an article he'd read at the dentist's office last week.  According to the article, one of the keys to a healthy marriage was appreciating the little things that one's spouse did for them.

Starsky let out a sigh and opened his eyes.  He weighed the idea of blissfully sleeping in on a Sunday morning, with the idea of making Hutch feel that he didn't appreciate the effort to cook him an omelet.  Not that he felt him and Hutch's relationship had any problems along that line.

He threw the covers aside and sat up, while reaching for his glasses on the nightstand.  He didn't have the patience to bother with his contacts, unless he was going to leave the house.  Since it was the middle of summer, he merely pulled on some briefs.

Just as Starsky started down the hall, Hutch appeared in the foyer, dressed in a robe that loosely covered his nudity.

"I'm comin', I'm comin'," Starsky assured.  His hands rubbed all about his hair, as he tried to stimulate his circulation.  Just as he moved through the foyer to the kitchen, Hutch put a plate with an omelet at Starsky's spot on the table, and then sat down with his own plate.

Starsky picked up his fork and muttered, "You have something against sleeping in on a Sunday, especially when we've been working so damn hard?"  They had taken on a large case, reminiscent of the embezzlement case that Hutch's dad had helped with a couple of years ago.  Most of the effort concerned going through a large volume of paperwork, and the long hours of intense concentration and data compilation was wearing.  Since they in particular were experienced with this type of thing, they were sending the help out to do smaller surveillance and similar jobs, leaving them to work closely together in their offices.

Hutch got up to pour himself a fresh cup of coffee.  As he sat back down, he said, "The lumber store is having a big discount sale, so I want to get the wood we need for the shelving."

The work they were doing on the new addition to the house was something Starsky was grateful that Hutch was in charge of, so he didn't have to think about it.  All the exterior work had been done.  They had had a splurge of enthusiasm when putting up the interior drywall last month.   But since then, things had moved more slowly, especially with such long days spent at the office.

Starsky furrowed his brow.  "You going to load the lumber into your car?"

"No.  If I buy enough, they should deliver."

"I hope you aren't planning on diving right into that, later today."

"The delivery would surely be tomorrow, at the soonest.  No, I want to ride Poncho this afternoon."

Hutch hadn't been out to ride very often this summer, and it was already well into August.  Starsky nodded, glad that Hutch was going to get in a ride.  Still, he muttered, "We haven't had sex in a week."

Hutch frowned at him.  "Who's counting?  You don't look like you want to, anyway."

Starsky shrugged.  "I just remember that the last time was last Sunday, when we didn't have any need to be up and at 'em, first thing."  He realized that he sounded accusing.

Hutch's voice hardened.  "Well, I certainly don't want to do it, just to fulfill some kind of artificial quota.  The summer's getting away from us.  I'd like to be done with the new addition by fall.  And I want to enjoy a ride on Poncho.  Finally."

Starsky found a smile.  "Good.  I'm glad.  In the meantime, I'll turn on the TV to some sports and fall asleep on the couch."  His smile widened triumphantly.


Starsky had done just that when the sound of a ringing phone startled him awake.  With a heavy sigh, he pushed himself off the sofa, had the presence of mind to mute the TV, where a baseball game was on, and moved to the kitchen.  He reached for the wall phone.  "Hello?"

An elderly female voice asked, "Is this David?"

"Yes.  Lorraine?"

"Yes, hello, David.  Is Ken around?"

"No, he's out doing errands.  How are you?"

"I'm fine, thank you.  Maybe you can have him call me, when he gets back.  I'd like to talk to him about something."

Starsky furrowed his brow.  The old western actor, Dexter Riley, still kept in touch with Lorraine.  As far as they knew, it was only by phone, since the two senior citizens lived in different parts of the country, but a relationship of any kind made both himself and Hutch uneasy.  "I'll tell him.  Is there anything I can help with?"

"I don't think so.  Please have him call me."

"All right." Starsky grabbed a notepad.  "I'm writing a message now, so I don't forget."

"Thank you, David.  Goodbye."

"Bye."  Starsky hung up.

He made sure the message was legible, and then turned away from the counter, and back toward the living room.  The sofa beckoned once again.

The phone rang.

With a pitiful sigh, Starsky returned to the kitchen.  He picked up the receiver.  "Hello?"

An unfamiliar female voice asked, "Is David Starsky there, please?"

"This is David Starsky."

"David, I'm Muriel Bingston.  I don't know if you remember me.  I'm your Aunt Rosie's cousin.  I think I saw you once, when you were a teenager."

Starsky tried to bring a face into view, as he wondered why she would be calling.  "Uh, yeah, Muriel, I think I remember you."

Her voice lowered.  "David, I'm afraid I've got some terrible news."


Hutch turned up their block.  Though it was Sunday, his mind kept straying to his desk at the office.  Had he returned all the necessary messages before leaving for the weekend?  He thought he had.  He remembered Starsky returning the one to Daniel Wildenstein, the author of the supernatural books, who had Milton Bloomberg as his agent, as Starsky did.  Wildenstein had read Starsky's alien abduction chapter and very much wanted to include it in his own book.   He kept intending to meet with them, along with Bloomberg, but they all were having a hard time coming up with an appropriate opening in their schedules.  As for Starsky's book, he was dragging his feet on the re-writes.  As Bloomberg had warned, such a task did indeed feel like a chore, and Starsky rarely seemed to be in the mood.

After pulling into the garage, Hutch grabbed a paper sack of carpentry supplies.  The lumber would be delivered late afternoon on Monday.  He wondered if he should have gone directly to the riding stable before it got too hot, but home was on the way, so he thought he might indulge in a mid morning snack.

After walking into the laundry area of the house, and moving on to the foyer, Hutch stopped.

Starsky sat at the kitchen table, still only dressed in briefs, his glasses lying beside him  He wore a melancholy, almost-shocked expression.  His sad eyes looked up.

"What's wrong?" Hutch asked.  He placed the sack on the counter, and then leaned over the table.

"My Uncle Al died this morning."

"What?"  Hutch's mind flashed to Starsky's Uncle Alvin, who had helped raise him.  A mostly humorous man, though the stress of running his used car dealership seemed to have made him more grim in later years.  He and his wife, Rosie, had moved to Florida to retire, where she had lots of family.

"They're saying that it's a brain aneurysm.  He was just reading the newspaper this morning, in his easy chair, and he stood up and -- " Starsky snapped his fingers, "he keeled over.  Was gone in an instant."

"Ah, buddy."  Hutch moved into the chair next to Starsky, turning to face him, and grasped his arm.  "How are you doing?"

Starsky drew a breath.  Sorrowfully, he said, "I'm thinking about how I only called them twice, I think, since we moved in together."

Hutch didn't want to come off as overly placating.  Still, he noted, "Well, that works both ways.  They could have called here, any time, and I don't think they did."

Starsky shrugged.  "Well, you know, they were mostly involved in Rosie's family, once moving."  He swallowed thickly.  "He was like a father to me, Hutch."

Hutch firmly squeezed Starsky's shoulder.  "I know.  I always enjoyed when we visited them, for dinner and holidays or whatever."  Of course, that had been back when they were merely cop partners.

Starsky bowed his head.  "I guess Rosie's taking it really hard.  Losing her husband of forty-two years like that.  Her cousin is the one that called me. "

"Yeah."  Hutch waited a moment, and then asked, "Do they know anything yet about the funeral?"

"It'll be Wednesday."  Starsky straightened.  "I'm going to go out there, Hutch.  There's a flight that leaves in a few hours.  I've already called Nicky, and he'll take me to the airport."

Hutch blinked.  "I can take you, and drop you both off."

"No, he's not going.  He's got a lot going on with his own company.  Besides, he hardly knew our Uncle Al.  He probably won't make the funeral, and that's okay."  Starsky looked directly at Hutch, and brushed his fingers across Hutch's forehead.  "I don't think you should try to make it, either.  We've got so much going on, and having to fly across the country...."

Hutch opened his mouth, but was uncertain of what to say.

Starsky managed a semblance of a smile.  "I think I'm understanding now, about how you felt when your dad was dying, and you were trying to take care of things with your family."

Hutch quickly reminded, "And I ended up feeling I'd been wrong to have told you to stay away until the funeral.  But work can wait.  This is too important."

Starsky gentled his tone.  "I'm wanting to be inside my own head.  It'll make things harder for me, to have you hanging around with all those people that you don't know -- and that I barely know -- and trying to keep from being totally bored."  More firmly, he said, "You don't need to come, Hutch.  Not even for the funeral, unless you really want to take a five hour flight when we've got this big case going."

Hutch wasn't sure how he felt about that, one way or the other.  "I can at least take you to the airport."

Starsky settled his hand on Hutch's cheek.  "Nick will take me.  I want you to ride Poncho.  You enjoy that so much, and you've hardly gone out lately.  It'll make me feel better, to know that you're doing something you enjoy."

Hutch started to protest once again, but then gave in.  He moved to wrap his arms around Starsky, drawing the other to him.  "Ah, buddy."  His hand pressed at the back of Starsky's head.  "I'm so sorry.  He was a good man."

Starsky relaxed in his arms.  Hutch kissed his hair.

They were silent a long moment.

Hutch sighed.  "I guess, as we keep getting older, more and more people we know are going to be dying."

Starsky muttered, "'That's a cheery thought.  Thanks."

Hutch snorted, and felt grateful for the humor.

"I hate leaving you with this big case," Starsky said, "but I feel I should get out there right away."

"Of course.  I'm sure it'll mean a lot to your Aunt Rosie to have you there.  I'll manage without you."  Hutch resisted trying to figure out how he was going to do that.

Starsky abruptly straightened and slapped his hand against Hutch's side.  "Go on.  Out to the stables, before it gets too hot.  I want you to.  I don't need you to help me pack.  Besides, Nick should be here, before long."

Hutch sighed, knowing from losing his own father how Starsky wanted some space in which to gather his own thoughts and memories.  He nodded.  "Yeah.  Okay."  But it was still a long moment before he could bring himself to turn away.


Hutch shifted his cowboy hat on his head, as he and Poncho emerged from the trees along the trail, and into the open pasture that led back to the stables.  It was damned hot.

Initially, his attention had been focused on Poncho, for his normally dependable mount had been skittish and eager, which Hutch knew was from a lack of steady riding.  He'd called the barn regularly to have Poncho turned out to pasture, since Hutch wasn't getting out much, but he knew that while that gave Poncho exercise, it also made him feel more like a free horse, rather than a domesticated animal, and he seemed to resent being reminded of the latter.  For the first fifteen minutes or so of this morning's ride, that is.  He'd eventually given in to the inevitability that he was going to have to carry Hutch on a trail ride, and returned to his usual status of being a well-trained companion.

Now, Hutch had the reins loose, since Poncho was eager to get back to the comfort of the stables, and needed little guidance from his rider.  Which left Hutch free to think.

When he got back home, Starsky wouldn't be there.  In fact, he likely wouldn't see Starsky until Thursday, which was when he would return from Florida.

Hutch tried to think of things he could take advantage of while Starsky was away.  Such as watching movies with a more cerebral bent, that Starsky tended to frown upon.  But then, Starsky usually relented if Hutch insisted, and watched with Hutch, anyway. 

Hutch wasn't looking forward to eating alone every meal, to say nothing of sleeping alone.

He considered what Starsky had said this morning about sex, or the lack thereof.  He himself hadn't given sex much thought lately.  There were so many things on his mind, with trying to work on the new addition, and being so busy at the office.  He didn't mind a lack of sex when he wasn't thinking about sex.  Starsky had seemed to be complaining, albeit mildly.  Hutch supposed that, if the bad news hadn't happened, then after his ride, he'd go home and make love to Starsky, before launching into another busy week.

Work was something else he was going to have to figure out, in terms of how to do without Starsky's help on the embezzlement case.  Starsky was doing a lot of computer input.  Hutch would have to get the already-busy Lois to help with that.

Hutch wondered how things would be for Starsky in Florida.  If Starsky wanted him there, he'd have to drop everything to fly out.  He doubted that would happen.  Starsky hadn't been as close to his Uncle Al and Aunt Rosie since they'd moved to Florida, which had occurred in that final year when they were still cops.  Which meant that the elderly couple had never been around him and Starsky since they became partners in every sense of the word.  They'd only talked on the phone.  Hutch also knew that Starsky had written them a letter at some point, explaining about their relationship, and hoping they could understand.  He'd received a reply back from his Aunt Rosie, which had seemed pleasant enough.  But then, it was easy to put on a cheerful front when one wasn't confronted with an uncomfortable reality on a regular basis.  Hutch knew that Al and Rosie had genuinely liked him at Starsky's cop partner, but now that he thought about it, he wasn't really sure what they had thought about what their relationship had grown into.

Hutch removed his cowboy hat to wipe the sweat from his forehead.


Hutch was already pulling off his shirt, when he walked into the house, nearly two hours later.  He was looking forward to a cool, cleansing shower. 

The phone rang.

Hutch reached to the wall phone in the kitchen.  "Hello?"



"I was wondering why you hadn't called me back.  Didn't David tell you I'd called?"  She sounded irritated. 

"No."  Hutch's eyes went to the various scribbling on notepaper, on the kitchen counter, much of it with flight information.  "Oh, here it is.  I see that he left me a note.  Mother, Starsky's uncle died this morning, so he's had other things on his mind."

Her voice softened.  "His uncle?"

"Yes, the one that he lived with during most of his teen and pre-teen years.  They had moved to Florida, so he's flying out there.  So, forgive him for forgetting to tell me that you'd called."

"I see.  I didn't know."

"What did you need?"

She drew a breath.  "I've decided to put this house up for sale."

Hutch felt it was good that she'd finally made a decision about the house, but he was also surprised at the nostalgia that drifted through him, that his childhood home would no longer be in the family.  Neutrally, he asked, "Do you have a  realtor?"

"Not yet.  But I've gotten some names from friends.  I'll call someone tomorrow."  She hesitated.  "I would like to stay in the house until it sells, especially if it takes a while.  But I also know that it'll show better and be easier to keep clean, if I move out."

Her hesitation was unusual.  Hutch asked, "Do you know where you would move to?"

"I've been thinking about one of those condominiums."

"I think that would be a good idea.  It would be a lot smaller, and there wouldn't be a yard to worry about.  Do you have something in mind out there?"

"I've seen some brochures.  They have senior ones, out here.  I'm not sure I'm ready to be in a home."

Hutch quickly said, "Mom, it wouldn't be like an old folk's home.  You'd have your own individual unit, that you own. We did a case a year or so ago that involved a senior community, and those are really nice places.  You can be around other people your own age, and activities geared toward seniors, and they have staff always available to help with anything you need.  But you can be completely independent, too, inside your own condo unit.  I think that would be a great idea for you."

There was a long silence.  Then she said, "I'm not sure I'd want to stay up here, though.  I wouldn't want to buy something, and then have to sell it in a short time later, after the house sells."

Hutch asked, "You mean you might like to move out here, instead?"


All of Hutch's detective instincts were in gear.  She wasn't telling him everything that was on her mind.  Unfortunately, he felt he knew why.  "Mom, are you thinking you might move out here because of Dexter Riley?"

"Well," she hedged, "the only immediate family I have left is out there.  And, yes, there's Dexter."

Hutch drew a breath.  He and Starsky had never shared with Lorraine what they'd found out about Dexter a few months ago.  They had hoped it wouldn't be necessary.  Now, he wished they simply would have mentioned it before she returned to Minnesota, back then.  Still, he asked, "Is he asking you to move out here, for him?"

"Well, no," she said, though she didn't sound certain.  "He's just made it clear that he's available, if I'm interested."

Hutch didn't try to keep the terseness out of his voice.  "Mom, don't you think that the main reason you're interested in him is because he was once a famous movie star?  You wouldn't have any interest in him at all, if it weren't for that."

She sounded puzzled.  "But he is a movie star.  He's enjoyable to be around."

Hutch took the plunge.  "Look, Mom, in our business, we have access to certain information.  I've found out some things about Dexter that makes me think you shouldn't get more involved with him."

"What things?"

"He's had dozens of past incidents for drinking-related issues, and lots of domestic disturbances at his house, when he was married.   The few times I met him, it's obvious that he's a heavy drinker.  He chews all those mints to try to cover it up.  He was outright drunk that last time he was at our house -- and saying some pretty harsh things about his son's boyfriend."

Lorraine huffed, "I think you're exaggerating all that.  You haven't spent the time with him that I have."

"Mother, you don't know him all that well.  I'm just saying, if you're going to move out here because of him, I think you're going to get your heart broken."  Hutch's voice softened.  "I don't want to see you hurt."

Firmly, she said, "I can handle my own private affairs, thank you."

Hutch knew that he'd obviously crossed a line that he'd been trying not to cross.  "Look, Mom, whatever you decide to do, we'll help you with anything you need.  I just really wish you'd reconsider continuing to see Dexter.  If he's been calling you as much as you've indicated the last few months, it sounds to me like he's trying to push you."

She countered, "He's the one who suggested I return to Minnesota to figure out what to do with the house, because he didn't want my being with him to interfere with my decision."

"But it sounds like it wasn't long before he started calling you.  That influenced your decision, didn't it?"

"Well, I -- "

Hutch deliberately softened, "Look, Mom, I'm just trying to look out for you, that's all.  I want you to be happy.  You deserve to enjoy your senior years.  I know you need someone in your life.  I just think you can do a whole lot better than Dexter Riley.  Have you been seeing anyone, up there?"

Dismissively, she replied, "I've had a few dates, but none have impressed me much."

Because they aren't Hollywood stars, Hutch silently added.  His mother had always been one to be impressed by exterior trappings.  What was going to impress her more than a Hollywood movie actor?  He relented, "If you do move out here, where do you think you would live?"

"Lanette is keeping an eye out for units opening in her complex, including those for rent."

Hutch wondered if Lannie had been encouraging their mother to come out, as well.  It made sense, in a lot of ways, for Lorraine to be here with the rest of the family.  "What about getting into a senior community out here?  It would be good to be so close to Lannie and Nick, but don't you think you'd rather be in a complex with people your own age?"

"I don't know of any out there."

"I'll see what I can find out, all right?  I'll have our secretary call around for some brochures.  That way, you'll have more options."

 "All right, Ken.  I'll call a realtor tomorrow, and at least get the ball rolling on selling the house."


The taxi pulled up at a block with brick houses, in a middle class suburb outside of Tallahassee.  "Here it is, sir.  That'll be fifteen dollars and sixty cents."

Starsky took a twenty out of his billfold, and handed it to the driver.  "Thanks.  Keep the change."  He opened the door and got out, bringing his suitcase with him.

The red house with lush shrubs in front had many vehicles parked along the block, which surely belonged to Aunt Rosie's many relatives.

Feeling somewhat self-conscious, being in such a foreign environment -- helped by the fact that it was damned hot -- Starsky moved up the cement walk.  Just as he reached the porch, a middle aged woman appeared at the door.  "Hi.  Are you David Starsky?"


She opened the door.  "Come on in."  Then, she yelled to the interior, "David's here!"  She held out her hand, as Starsky entered the living room.  "I'm Linda Saunters.  I'm Rosie's second generation niece -- great niece, I guess."

"Hi."  Starsky shook her hand.

His Aunt Rosie entered the living room.  Her peppered hair was now totally white, and she'd probably added thirty pounds to her modestly round waist line, since he'd last seen her.  She held out her arms.  "David!"

He went to her.  "Aunt Rosie."  As she enclosed him in a bear hug, which he returned, he continued, "It's so good to see you."

"I wish you could have seen your Uncle Al before he died.  He loved you so much."

Starsky swallowed thickly.  "I loved him, too."

When they parted, she straightened and said around the room, "Everyone this is my nephew, David Starsky, from Al's side of the family.  He stayed with us in California during his later years, after his dad died."  There were murmured greetings while she added, "You can all introduce yourselves to him, as you get the chance." She hugged him tightly again.  "It's so good to see you."

He clasped her hand, not yet ready to being released to the dozen or so people that were immediately seen inside the house.  "How are you doing?"

She led him toward the small kitchen, and others seemed to move respectfully out of the way.  "It was such a shock," she said sorrowfully, "losing him so suddenly like that.  And yet, I'm glad it happened so fast, for him."  She sniffed.  "I just wasn't prepared."

Gently, Starsky said, "I don't think we ever can be.  I'm so sorry, Aunt Rosie."

"I don't think it's hit me yet that he's gone.  One minute I think I'm doing okay about it, and then the next...." she bowed her head and wiped at her eyes.

"Of course," Starsky said.

After a moment of silence, someone said, "We were planning on going out to dinner somewhere, that can handle a group of us."

Someone else appeared and said, "I've just got reservations for seven-thirty.  It's at a place called The Grand Tucket."

Rosie nodded.  "That'll be good.  They have all kinds of food."

Rosie sat down at the table for six, where a man with a pipe, and a woman who appeared to be his wife, sat.  She beckoned Starsky to sit next to her.

The man asked, "So, David, are you married?"

Quickly, Rosie said, "He lives with a roommate, his cop partner.  He's a very nice man.  Ken Hutchinson."

Starsky felt himself go numb.  Hutch was his "roommate"?

The man with the pipe nodded at Starsky's hand.  "Oh, I thought that looked like a wedding band."

Starsky wondered how to play this.  Go along with his Aunt Rosie telling everyone that he and Hutch were merely roommates?  Or risk embarrassing her in front her relatives with the truth?  He decided on neutral ground.  "Hutch is my partner."

Rosie said with enthusiasm, "They were such brave police detectives, too.  We had Hutch over for dinner quite a number of times, when we lived there.   They always had lots of stories to tell of how they'd saved each other's lives."

"Hutch wanted to come out, but we've got a huge case at work, so I told him that he needed to stay home and work on it."

"I would loved to have seen him again," Rosie said, "but I understand.  That's what your brother Nicky said, as well."

"Yeah.  He just recently started his own firm, and it's just himself, so he has to handle all the clients."

The man with the pipe asked, "You and your roommate are cops together?"

Starsky evaded, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."

Rosie said, "Oh, how rude of me.  David, this is Mitchell Klassen, He's my brother-in-law, married to my sister, Rachel.  And this here is Margaret.  She's a cousin of mine."

They all said hello, and Starsky took his opportunity to change the subject.  "Do they have Uncle Al ready for viewing yet?"

"They said it'll be tomorrow sometime.  Don't know if I'll be ready for that."

Starsky squeezed her hand.  "We're all here for you."

The woman, Linda, that had greeted him entered the kitchen.  "David, I put your suitcase in the bedroom where you'll be staying."

"Thanks."  Then to his aunt, "I hope I'm not putting you out."

"Nonsense!  Everyone else lives somewhat close by.  So, you and Rachel will be the only one's staying.  Mitchell will go ahead and drive back home, so he can go to work in the morning."

"Where is that?"

"About an hour away."

Mitchell asked again, "Your roommate is also your partner on the police force?"

Starsky wondered how long he could keep up the ruse, for his aunt's sake.  "We used to be on the police force.  Then I got badly wounded, and then seriously ill, and we resigned.  We now have our own detective agency."

In disbelief, Mitchell asked, "You live and work together?"

"He's my partner," Starsky said again.  He felt Rosie becoming uncomfortable, beside him.  It occurred to him that she obviously wasn't okay about the relationship between him and Hutch, and he wondered why he had assumed otherwise.  Just because she'd never stated anything against it in their occasional correspondence and rarer phone calls, obviously didn't mean that she was accepting of it.

He wondered what Uncle Al had thought.

Somebody said, "We need to be heading down to the restaurant for dinner."


"Okay, that does it for today."

Hutch gratefully collapsed back on the exercise machine, where he had been using the weight lifter.  He grabbed a nearby towel and wiped at the sweat on his forehead.

When Joey -- a substitute for his and Starsky's regular fitness coach, who was on vacation -- had rang the doorbell at 6:00 AM this Monday morning, Hutch had silently cursed himself for forgetting to cancel the weekly session.  After all, Starsky seemed to need these sessions more than himself, to keep trim.  Now, Hutch had to admit that he was grateful for the workout, and how it had taken his mind off other things.

Joey, a young, muscular, dark-haired man, made notations on a clipboard.  "Remember, I'll be the one coaching you next week, as well.  You said that David will be back then?"

"Yeah."  Hutch hoisted himself into a sitting position.  Starsky had called him from Tallahassee airport yesterday evening to let him know he'd arrived safely, and that it was "fucking hot".  He wasn't sure when he'd have a chance to call again, once getting to Aunt Rosie's house, and indeed he hadn't.

With the clipboard perched on his hip, Joey watched while Hutch hauled himself to his feet.

"Thanks," Hutch said pointedly, eager to have this stranger out of their house, so he could catch a shower and start an extremely busy work week.

Joey didn't respond to the dismissal.  Instead, he asked, "So, do you guys like to do parties, or anything like that?"

Hutch quickly shook his head.  "No.  Not our thing."

Joey moved to his duffle bag and shoved the clipboard inside.  "I don't have another appointment for a few hours."  His eyes ran over Hutch.  "Would you maybe like to get some breakfast?"

Hutch shook his head again, wondering if he should have been more attentive and seen this coming.  "Not interested."  He hoped he'd stated it firmly enough that the double meaning was clear.

Joey shrugged.  "Well, if you want any 'coaching' mid week, let me know.  I've enjoyed watching you."

Hutch frowned at the idea of Joey have an interest in observing his workout for a reason other than Hutch's health.  "You can see yourself out."

Joey appeared surprised at his client's brusque tone.  Then, amiably, "Okay."  He zipped up his duffle bag.  "Don't hesitate to give me a call if you change your mind."

Hutch glared at him, so Joey left the exercise room.,

As he heard the footsteps in the hall, Hutch stepped into the doorway.  "Joey?"

Joey paused and turned, a hopeful look on his face.

Hutch made sure his voice was stern.  "Don't bother coming back next Monday.  Consider that session cancelled."

Joey quickly continued down the hall, an incredulous, "Sheesh," emerging from him.


Hutch was engrossed in his office computer, less than an hour later.  He heard the outer door to the suite open.  A glance at the clock showed that it was 7:45 AM.  He rolled his chair to see outside his office door.  "Lois?"

She approached his office.  "Ken!  You're here awfully early."  She stopped in his doorway.

"I wanted to get going on this case.  David is out of town most of the week.  His uncle passed away in Florida."

Lois put a hand to her mouth.  "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.  Were they close?"

"That's the uncle that helped raise him."  They had shared various aspects of their pasts with Lois over the fifteen months she'd been working for them, and vice versa.

"Oh, dear.  I'm so sorry."  Then, "When is the funeral?"

"On Wednesday.  I'm probably not going to fly out for it.  Too much going on here.  Speaking of which," Hutch nodded toward Starsky's office, "I'm hoping you can help with some of the computer input that David was doing.  We've got five years of data compilation to do on this case.  I'm working on one year, and David was working on another.  He was inputting detail from all the checks written."

She nodded.  "I've got some things I need to clear off my desk first, but then I should be able to help."


Starsky leaned on the bridge railing, that was built over the little canal that ran through the neighborhood park.  The stream of water offered little relief from the sweltering heat.

There had been enough relatives that three cars were required to go to dinner last night.  It was obvious that the occupants in the two cars Starsky hadn't been in had spent some time pondering the marital situation of  Rosie's nephew.  Since there had only been a few people in the kitchen during the conversation, gossip must have spread through the family clan fairly quickly.  After all, Starsky had to admit, if anyone spoke of a fortyish man having a "roommate", he himself would suspect that there was more going on than innocently sharing rent.  To say nothing of them also working together.

So, at dinner, while everyone had been outwardly pleasant, he could see the suspicious glances cast his way.  Because there were so many of them, requiring tables to be pushed together at the restaurant to accommodate the large gathering, the silverware had been mixed up.  Starsky had simply touched the napkin near him, with silverware enclosed, and pulled it closer.  He then apologized when he realized it belonged to the woman next to him -- another cousin of his aunt -- and she had quickly said, "Keep it."  His hand had brushed hers, and she'd darted it away.  A moment later, she excused herself to the ladies room.  Starsky assumed it was to wash and soap her hands.  After all, if he was "one of those", he might have the AIDS disease.  For that matter, she had seemed uncomfortable, sitting next to him, the entire night.

Starsky wondered if there was any chance, with all these relatives hovering about, of being able to talk to his aunt alone.  Surely, she didn't think him and Hutch were just roommates.  But he hadn't gotten an opportunity, for she had been the first to retire to bed last night. 

Mostly, he wanted to find out what his Uncle Al had thought about them.


Starsky looked up.  A fiftyish man, with short grey hair, was approaching.  Starsky had seen him at the house, but hadn't had any direct contact with him.

The man stopped next to him.  "So, you needed some fresh air, too."

Starsky shrugged, leaning back on the railing, as he really didn't feel up to conversation with a stranger.  "Not sure how fresh it is, in this heat."

The man snorted.  "Yeah."  He held out his hand.  "I'm Michael, by the way.  I'm married to your aunt's cousin, Muriel."

Starsky shook his hand.  "Nice to meet you.  Finally."

"Yeah, that's quite a crowd of people in that house.  I told Muriel that we didn't need to come back until the funeral, but she insists that Rosie needs lots of people around her, until then.  For me, it's just a lot of boredom.  Still," he said with a touch of humor, "It was an excuse to take a few days off from work."  A pause, then. "Looks like it's rather boring for you, too."

"Well," Starsky sidestepped, "Al and Rosie were a really big part of my youth."   He decided to admit, "I was going down a wrong path, after my father was killed, where we lived in New York, and I feel it saved me, in a sense, when my mother made me go back with them one summer.  It helped me get my life back on track."

Michael shook a finger at him.  "I thought I was hearing some New York in your accent."

Starsky didn't comment, not sure if he was up to a conversation.

Michael stepped noticeably closer, and also leaned on the railing.  Quietly, he said, "I know somewhere we could go, so we're alone."

Starsky quickly rifled through various meanings of that sentence, combined with the accompanying tone, and could only come up with one.  He watched the flowing water beneath the bridge, but made his voice firm.  "If you're suggesting what I think you're suggesting, I'm not interested."

 "You're restless, bored, and thousands of miles away from home.  He doesn't have to know."

Starsky abruptly faced him and snapped, "Don't you dare try to tell me what I can or can't tell the person I share my life with.  Not interested."

Michael took a step back, his hands up.  "Okay, okay.  My mistake."  His hands lowered.  "I was just so happy when you arrived, and things were being said about you having a 'roommate', and you're darned handsome, and...."  He then said, "Anyway, you don't really think Rosie believes that you guys are just roommates, do you?"

Starsky turned back to the railing. This was not a subject he wanted to discuss with Michael.  Sourly, he asked, "Does Muriel know that you like to bang guys on the side?" 

Michael snorted.  "She knows I'm no saint.  Any woman who thinks her man isn't ever going to look for something else is either a fool, or has a husband too ugly to attract anyone else."

Starsky's expression hardened.  "Or has a liar for a husband."

"Okay.  I hear the hostility.   Have a nice day."  Michael turned on his heel and left.

Starsky released a heavy sigh.

Maybe he hadn't needed to come on so strong. 


Starsky had walked the three blocks in the heat to reach the little merchant area of town.  He indulged in an ice cream treat, eating it slowly to pass the time.

He then went out to the sidewalk and looked for a phone booth.  He was relieved to spot one in the shade, thanks to a nearby tree.

He picked up the receiver and pushed 0.

"This is the operator," said a woman in a tight, formal voice.  "How can I assist you?"

"I'd like to make a collect call to Bay City, California."

"What's the number?"

Starsky gave her the number to the office.

"What is your name?"

"David Starsky." 

"Who are you calling for?"

"Ken Hutchinson."

"I'll try it now."

Starsky listened to a phone ring.  It was two in the afternoon here.  That meant it would be eleven AM in Bay City.  Please be there, Hutch.

Lois's voice greeted, "Starsky and Hutchinson."

The operator said, "I have a collect call from David Starsky for Ken Hutchinson.  Will you accept the charges?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Go ahead," the operator said.

"Hi, Lois."

"David, hello.  I'm so sorry to hear about your uncle."

"Thanks.  Is Hutch there?"

He heard her call out, "Ken?  It's David on one." 

Thank you, God.

A moment later, Hutch said, "Hey.  How's it going?"

"It's fucking one hundred and two degrees, that's how it's going."

"Where are you calling from?"

"A phone booth."


"Yeah.  I just needed to get some alone time, you know?"

"Yeah," Hutch said with sympathy.

"Would you believe it?  Some husband of one of Rosie's relatives wanted to have sex with me."


"Yeah.  I was alone at the park, and he came walking up to me, and mentioned that he knew somewhere we could be alone together."  Then, with a touch of humor, "I guess I must have said something to hurt his feelings, because he stormed off."

Hutch said, "That happened to me, too."


"Yeah.  Wallace is on vacation, so his substitute is this young guy.  After the session this morning, which he told me he enjoyed watching, he wanted to know if we liked to party, and if I wanted to get some breakfast with him.  I told him to not bother coming back next week."

"Oh," Starsky said, bristling at the idea of somebody behaving like that toward Hutch.  "It'll be good to have Wallace back."

"Yeah.  So, how is Rosie doing?"

Starsky sighed.  "Okay, all things considered."  He drew another breath.  "I think I miscalculated this whole thing."

"What do you mean?" Hutch asked with concern.

"I probably should have just come out Tuesday, to be at the funeral Wednesday.  I mean, everyone at the house is Rosie's family.  I didn't expect otherwise, but I just don't hardly know any of those people, and I don't really have much in common with anyone."  Starsky wasn't sure if he should mention it now, but since he had Hutch's ear, he said, "She's told people that you and I are roommates."


"Yeah.  So, I'm trying not to embarrass her by correcting her, but I'm sure everyone else can put two and two together. So, I'm like the weirdo because I'm from Al's side of the family, and I'm also the weirdo because I'm a homo.  People are wanting to keep their distance from me.  You know, I might have AIDS."

"Ah, buddy.  Do you want me to come out?"

"No."  Then Starsky admitted, "I do, but I don't.  Really, Hutch, it would be two of us that feel bored, and that's not going to improve things.  Except, you know, it might raise my clout somewhat if the others saw how drop-dead gorgeous you are."

Hutch snorted.

"No, I really don't want you to, Hutch.  I am hoping I can get Aunt Rosie alone, to talk with her some, but I don't know if that's going to be possible.  There's like fifteen to twenty people around at any given time."

Hutch clarified, "But not all staying at the house?"

"No, no.  That's just me and her sister, Rachel.  Everyone else lives somewhat close by."

"Then maybe, after everyone leaves for the evening, you can have some time with her." 

"Yeah, maybe.  Last night, she went to bed before I had a chance."


Starsky wanted to change the subject.  "How's the case going?"

"I'm still pounding in data.  Lois is working on the year that you were working on."

"Oh, good."

With amusement, Hutch said, "I think she's quite a bit faster than you are."

"Oh.  Thanks."

Hutch made a noise of humor.

Heartened, Starsky asked, "Anything else going on there?"

"Uhh... oh, I talked to my mother."

Starsky snapped his fingers.  "I forgot to tell you that she called yesterday!"

"Yeah, she called back.  She's finally decided to sell the house."

"That's good then, huh?"

"Yeah.  But she's not sure where she's going to move to.  Could be a condo complex up there, or one out here.  Lannie is keeping an eye out for openings in their complex, though I think Mom would be happier in a place specifically for seniors."

"Well, if she moves where Nick and Lannie are, that would be good, too."

"Yeah."  Hutch hesitated, then, "I outright told her about Dexter's police record."

"You did?"

"Yeah.  It seems like her main reason to move out here, is because of him.  I told her I didn't think it would be a good idea, and why.  I think she was annoyed with me for butting into her business."

"Maybe you should point out that you're concerned about her."

"I did.  Not only about Dexter not exactly being a great catch, but also that I thought she was enamored about him having once been a movie star, than the kind of person he is."

Starsky was surprised that Hutch had been that forthright.  "I bet that didn't go over well."

"Right.  Anyway, she's still thinking it over, but at least she was going to call a realtor today and get things rolling on the house."

Reluctantly, Starsky said, "This call is probably costing a fortune."  Then, more softly, "I really miss you, Hutch."

"Yeah.  Me, too.  I could hardly sleep last night.  Felt so weird."

"Yeah.  I'll call you again when I can, baby."

"Okay.  Love you."

Starsky made kissing noises into the phone, and then hung up.


The wonderful thing about a mortuary, Starsky decided that evening, was that it was nicely air conditioned.

Uncle Al was laid out in a tuxedo, which Starsky had never seen him wear in life.  Various family members came in and out of the viewing room, as did friends and acquaintances.

Starsky sat quietly, in the front row before the coffin, and nodded politely at people when Aunt Rosie introduced him.  He sometimes listened as people shared their various recollections, many of which Starsky couldn't relate to, since Al had lived a different kind of life, after moving to Florida.  What Starsky remembered was the man that had been firm with house rules, so Starsky knew what was expected of him, which had been a relief after the inner chaos he'd felt, following his father's murder.  He also remembered the man who loved a good car, especially when he could sell it for a premium, despite prior wear.  A Jewish man that had married a Christian wife and hadn't seemed interested in religion one way or another, and yet had his own sense of right and wrong about things.  A man that liked a good laugh, drank in moderation, and was warm toward his wife and nephew when the occasion called for it.  But a man who also worried and fretted over the hassle of running his business, whether it was financial concerns, disgruntled employees, customers complaining that they'd been ripped off, or the income taxes that (according to Uncle Al and Aunt Rosie both) took an overly large portion of all the profits from the business.

Starsky wondered how Uncle Al had felt about being retired.  It surely would have been a relief to be out from under all the stress of running his own dealership, but Starsky also found it hard to believe that his Uncle Al could find much pleasure in not doing something useful.  It was nice to hear his contemporary friends share humorous anecdotes during golf games in recent years, or when he'd traveled to Atlanta for baseball games to watch the Braves play, which was the team he'd embraced since relocating.  Certainly, the man had enjoyed some well-deserved recreation in his final years.

Starsky also wondered what Uncle Al had thought of him and Hutch.


Hutch felt liked a caged tiger on Monday evening.  He couldn't get interested in a book.  He couldn't get interested in anything on TV.  He knew he should expend his energy doing something physical, like starting on the shelving for the new addition, but he didn't want to have to do a task that required concentration for correctly measuring, sawing, and hammering.

He admitted to himself that he felt lonely, which seemed foolish.  He knew that Starsky was all right, if hot and bored.  He felt that he should be taking advantage of the opportunity to be thoroughly self-indulgent, and wondered how pathetic it was that he didn't seem to have anything to do that he wouldn't rather be doing with Starsky.  Riding Poncho was the one thing that he did on his own, but he'd ridden Poncho yesterday.  If he drove out to the stables now, he wouldn't be able to ride long, before the lights were turned off in the indoor arena.

Hutch picked up the newspaper and found the Entertainment section, thinking he'd look for a movie to go to.

He threw the paper aside, not wanting to think that hard.

He grabbed his keys.  He'd go to the theater and look at the posters, and decide what to watch.  Hopefully, he could become mindlessly lost in an entertaining story.

It was well past nine when Rachel drove Starsky and Rosie from the mortuary to the house, which was empty upon arrival.

Rosie sighed as they all got out in the darkness.  "I've been trying to put together a grocery list.  I know we're out of milk for breakfast tomorrow."  As they moved to the front porch from the driveway, she said, "David, if I finish the list, would you mind taking my car to the grocery store?"

Starsky hesitated, because he'd really hoped to have a conversation with Aunt Rosie.  Then he decided, "Sure, I'll go, but first I'd like to talk to you, Aunt Rosie, if you don't mind."  He tried to inject humor into his voice.  "I haven't had you all to myself yet."

As Rosie unlocked the front door, Rachel said pleasantly, "Why don't I go?  Then that'll give you time to spend alone together."

"Rachel," Rosie protested, pushing the door open, "you've already done so much."

Starsky swallowed, wondering if Rosie was trying to avoid being alone with him.  Such a thought made him sad.

"I'd like to go," Rachel said firmly.  "Really."

"Well, all right then."  Rosie moved to the kitchen.  "Let me see how quickly I can get a list together."

Starsky was still in the living room, and when he caught Rachel's eye as she moved to the kitchen, he mouthed Thank you.

She nodded and joined Rosie in the kitchen.

It was another ten minutes before Rachel was headed for the door, list in hand.  "I'll be back in a bit."

After she was gone, Rosie sat in an easy chair with a heavy sigh, which was across from the sofa where Starsky sat.  "So, David, how do you think Nicky likes being in California?"

Starsky smiled.  "I'm sure he's there to say.  I don't think I've mentioned yet that he's in love with Hutch's sister.  They're planning on being married in the fall.  I don't remember the exact date."

"Married?  To Hutch's sister?"

"Yeah.  I know, it seems sort of weird, but Hutch and I have gotten used to it.  They really do love each other, and we like having them around us."

"Imagine that."

Starsky brushed at imaginary lint along his dark jeans.  Then he forced himself to look up.  "Aunt Rosie, I hope you know that Hutch and I aren't merely roommates."

She looked away.  "I know what you wrote in your letter.  I had hoped it was just some kind of phase you were going through."  She gazed at an end table for a long moment. Then she looked back toward Starsky.  "Your uncle and I knew you went through so much, when you'd been shot, and then you got so sick.  We weren't able to get back there, after we'd moved here."

"That's all right," Starsky quickly assured.  "I never felt badly about you not coming out.  I know Uncle Al had his gall bladder surgery, and you had stuff going on with your relatives then."

She nodded.  "Yes.  We were so grateful that you had Hutch.  He's such a fine young man."  She drew a heavy breath.  "We just thought, with him having to spend so much time helping you, that you just.... That things just must have gotten confused between you two."

Starsky firmly shook his head.  "It wasn't anything like that.  There wasn't confusion.  It wasn't until I'd recovered from my illness, and we were both fully sound of mind, that we decided that we wanted to be together, in every way possible.  Us being together wasn't because of something that happened accidentally, or anything like that."

Hopefully she said, "But maybe if you started seeing girls again, and you could go back to being the friends that you were...."

Starsky leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.  "Aunt Rosie, Hutch is my dearest friend, my most loyal partner, the love of my life.  I've had plenty of girlfriends in my life, as has he, and we've never experienced the kind of love we share with anybody else.  It's beyond anything I've ever known or even thought was possible."  He softened his voice.  "I'm so happy with him, Aunt Rosie.  I didn't know it was possible to be this happy.  To feel so full of love and life, all the time.  Right now, just talking about him, I feel full of love."

She shook her head, gazing at the floor.  "Al and I talked about it.  We tried to remember any signs that you were 'like that'.  We couldn't remember any."

"There weren't any signs to remember," Starsky said firmly.  "This isn't about me growing up, liking boys more than girls.  I always liked girls, always imagined myself being with girls.  So did Hutch.  But when your heart tells you who you love the most is the person that's always been right beside you... well, I guess you have to decide that gender doesn't matter.  Only the love."  His stomach tightening, Starsky forced himself to ask, "Were you and Uncle Al ashamed of me?"

She looked up.  "Ashamed?  Oh, goodness, no, David.  Not ashamed.  Never ashamed.  We just couldn't understand...."

Hopefully, Starsky said, "I've been writing a book.  About Hutch and me.  We have an agent.  I've been working on some re-writes he suggested, and," Starsky decided not to mention how it had been weeks since he'd worked on those, and resolved that finishing the book was going to be his priority, upon returning home, "... and I'm hoping that, when it's published, people will be able to read it and understand about us.  About how we came to mean so much to each other."

"A book?  My, that would be something."  Then she abruptly asked, "Aren't you worried about getting that AIDS disease?"

"No," Starsky said firmly.  "Aunt Rosie, Hutch and I are as married as any too people can possibly be.  We don't have it -- we've been tested -- and we're in an exclusive relationship.  Neither of us is interested in going outside of our marriage.  We're as committed to each other as any two people who have ever exchanged vows in front of a congregation."

She sighed heavily and looked at him.  "I'm so glad you're happy, David.  If you're going to be in a relationship like that, then I guess I'm glad that it's with Hutch.  It just seems that it would be so much more difficult."

Starsky relaxed back against the sofa.  "Only occasionally.  Our clients are interested in us doing a good job, not who we're sleeping with.  People who knew us back in our cops days know how unusually close we were, so it hasn't been that hard for most people to swallow."

Rosie seemed to have relaxed, as well.  "I guess Nick must be all right about it."

Starsky nodded.  "It took some getting used to for him, like it is for some people.  But when people are around us, they can see how much we love each other, and nurture each other, and take care of each other.  Even Hutch's dad, who was kind of a hard-nosed, unemotional type of guy when Hutch was growing up, ended up being okay about it, before he died of cancer last year."

They were silent a moment, and then Aunt Rosie said, "I'm sorry, David, if I've made you feel uncomfortable.  That wasn't my intent.  People can be harsh and cruel, when it comes to a subject like this, and I didn't want anyone in the family being mean toward you."

Starsky assured, "I understand.  It's okay.  But if anybody says anything to me about being married, I'm going to tell them the truth."

She nodded.

Starsky smiled warmly.  "I'm glad we had this talk.  You know, when Muriel first called me," his voice became unsteady, "the first thing that crossed my mind was how little contact I'd had with you and Uncle Al, since you moved.  I'm sorry about that."

"Oh, David, we haven't made much effort to stay in touch, either, I guess.  We always seem to have a lot of things going on, especially with their being so many relatives around.  Birthdays and anniversaries, and births and deaths."

"I guess Uncle Al had a pretty full life then, in retirement?"

"He was enjoying himself.  Of course, sometimes he missed being in charge of something productive, like his business.  But he wasn't often bored."

"Good.  I'm so glad to hear that.  You certainly seem to doing well, with all your family around."

They heard a car pull into the driveway, indicating that Rachel had returned.

"Yes," Rosie said.  "I don't know what I'd do without Rachel.  We used to fight like cats and dogs when we were kids.  Even into adulthood.  I guess, now that we're old ladies, we've sort of become good friends."

Starsky smiled broadly.  "Funny how that happens, I guess."

Silently, he wondered how Rosie would feel, if she knew that her cousin Muriel's husband, Michael, had come onto him.  For that matter, he wondered how Muriel would feel.  Or if she even would be surprised.


Hutch entered the house, which seemed as mundane now, as when he'd left it a couple of hours ago.

He'd laughed at various spots of Cannonball Run II, but he wasn't sure he was staying focused on the plot.  Plus, he thought it was sort of a dumb movie.

He wondered if Starsky had called.  He moved into the office, which Starsky would have left a message, since the house phone didn't have voice mail.  There wasn't a blinking light on the office phone, which was a bummer.  Still, Hutch turned on the overhead light.

All about the desk, on which a computer dominated, were loose computer pages.  Some scribbling was in the margins of the printed typeface. 

Hutch sat down and picked up some pages that were stapled together.  He recalled that this set was instructions from Milton Bloomberg, giving an overview of what Starsky needed to do.  Within the instructions, Bloomberg said he realized that Starsky probably felt like his entire book had to be rewritten, but Bloomberg assured him that, once he got into the actual details, he'd find that the many requested changes were actually minor, and wouldn't take much effort.

Still, Starsky hadn't gotten far, which Hutch well understood.  He once tried to help, by going through some of the instructions in the margins of specific chapters, and reading them while Starsky typed the changes on the computer, and the whole process had seemed unbearably boring.  They both had been eager to quit that evening, within an hour.

Hutch moved the pages around, and came across a chapter he was sure he'd read a long time ago, but found himself reading parts of it again.

Guy Mayer was a sweet little boy.  It was so hard to swallow that he so readily put up with the cruelty that his mother bestowed upon him.  The youth division detective on the case said that Guy likely thought it was normal to be treated that way.  It's so incomprehensible to me.  There's lots of parents that are neglectful in various ways, but they still love their children.  And they usually don't realize that they're being neglectful, and certainly don't intend to be.  But there's no way I'll ever believe that Janet Mayer had any love whatsoever for her son.  I get that, per her ex-husband and Guy's father, that she'd had her own harsh childhood.  Still, that's no excuse. 

Sometimes, I wonder what happened to little Guy.  If he'll grow up to believe that being beaten is being loved.  That if, when he goes on to get married and have children, he'll think it's normal to physically punish them in as severe a manner, as he was punished.  I absolutely don't want to believe that.  But I suppose his horrible mother was once an adorable little girl, subjected to cruelty that she had no defense against.  She grew up, not knowing how to love.

The only happy thing I can find about this subject is how much it makes me admire Hutch.  He wasn't treated cruelly as a kid.  Just emotionally neglected, which can be a more subtle form of cruelty.  But he found ways to reach out to others, to find his place in the world.  Even when he was married to Vanessa, and miserable, he was still able to come away from that, feeling justifiably that he was a worthwhile person.

Hutch has always found his own strength.  I hope that Guy can find that, too. 


Hutch read the comment in the margins.  "You can take this whole section out.  The part about Hutch is somewhat repetitious with other chapters, and the part about the child isn't particularly important, in the grand scheme of the book."

Hutch felt offended.  Poor little Guy wasn't important?  Child abuse wasn't important?

Why were they even letting someone else tell them what should be included in the book, and how it should be written?  He answered his own self.  Because we want to publish it, and it has to be in a format that a publisher will want.  Supposedly, Milton Bloomberg was the expert on what publishers wanted.  Still....

Hutch switched off the light and left the office, determined to think of something else.

He wondered if, after leaving the theater, he should have given into his fanciful thought of stopping by an X-rated store.  He could have picked up some video tapes, and then made himself happy while watching them.  He could tell Starsky about it later, and then maybe they both could enjoy watching.  After all, it would be fun to see some naked women.

Hutch sighed as he switched off other lights in the house.  Truth was, he wasn't in the mood to jerk off.  He couldn't imagine being able to sustain a fantasy, even with the help of video images.

He knew he was facing yet another long day of intense concentration on the computer tomorrow.  At least, he felt that some patterns were starting to emerge, which indeed suggested embezzlement.

Hutch went to bed.


In the darkness, Starsky lay on top of the twin bed, in his briefs.  The air conditioning in the house felt woefully inadequate.   He wished he had a fan.  Maybe he'd buy one tomorrow, though it would only get a couple of nights of use.  Surely, though, anyone else who slept in this guest room in a future summer would appreciate it.

He would have liked to have called Hutch tonight, but he wouldn't have had privacy, since the only phone was in the dining room.

He was relieved that he and Aunt Rosie had been able to talk.  He felt that he'd mostly gotten her to understand about him and Hutch, or at least be okay about them.  Still, he wondered about his Uncle Al.  What he'd thought.  Maybe he hadn't been ashamed of the nephew he'd help raise, but it also sounded like he hadn't been necessarily okay about it.

Uncle Al was gone.  Starsky would never know for certain what his point of view had been.

Somehow, he was going to have to find a peace about that.


Uncle Al received considerably fewer visitors at the mortuary on Tuesday.  By late morning, Starsky and his Aunt Rosie were there alone. 

Starsky and Rosie sat a few feet from each other, in the front row before the coffin.  Rosie said, "David, if you and Hutch are together, then I suppose you aren't planning on ever having children."

Starsky was resigned to the topic, though he'd have preferred to avoid it.  "No, that's not in the cards."  He decided not to mention their plans for a therapeutic riding center, because he knew that was hardly the same thing as having a son to carry on the line.

Rosie mused, "Your Uncle Al took it well, after we were married, and we found out that I couldn't have children.  He never seemed upset about it."

Starsky had never known for certain why they didn't have any offspring.

"But now it's looking like your father's line might die out.  I hope that your brother Nick and Hutch's sister are planning on having a family."

Starsky drew a long breath.  "Hutch's sister, Lanette, has said that she never wanted children."

Rosie looked sharply at him.  "How can a woman not want to have children?"

Starsky muttered, "She and Hutch didn't have the happiest of childhoods.  She's always found her own way.  She's very independent.  Very successful with running retail stores.  And, you know," he shrugged, "she's already in her late thirties."

Rosie shook her head.  "That's such a shame, to think that your family line isn't going to continue on.  Doesn't that bother you?"

"A little bit," Starsky admitted.  "But it bothers me a lot more to think of people marrying someone they don't love, just to have a child.  I mean," he decided to reveal, "I think Hutch's parents didn't particularly love each other.  They each had lots of affairs and stuff.  Their daughter, Lanette, grew up to be really pragmatic about marriage and relationships.  Hutch was a lot more hopeful, but he wasn't ever really happy with anyone, except me."  Starsky shook his head, to enforce his own conclusion to himself.  "There's nothing to be gained by bringing children into the world, who don't have the benefit of parents who love each other."

"But still," Rosie protested, "Hutch's parents brought Hutch into the world.  And he's a fine young man."

Starsky smiled warmly.  "Yes, he is.  Everything has worked out fine for him, and hopefully it's worked out fine for Lanette."  He sighed.  "I'm not going to butt into Nick's and Lanette's personal business and try to tell them what to do.  We've both already gotten an earful from Hutch's mother about denying her grandchildren."  He decided to try to change the subject by saying, with humor, "Hutch isn't exactly a young man anymore, you know.  He and I are both forty-one this year."

Her expression softened, as she studied him.  "My goodness, my dear David, I guess I didn't realize that.  Time sure flies, doesn't it?"

"Yes, it does."  He added, "Which makes it all the more important to not waste time on people you don't really love.  I'm so glad that Hutch and I figured out, a few years back, that we wanted to always be together."

Rosie gazed at the coffin.  "Your uncle and I had a full life, even without children.  My health is excellent, except for being overweight."  She sighed.  "But I don't know what I'm going to do without him."

Starsky moved closer and clasped her hand.  "You'll adjust, after a time.  I'm sure you'll find things that interest you, and show you that life still has a lot more to offer."

She squeezed his hand.  "I hope you're right."


On Wednesday, Hutch hung up the phone with a sigh.  He quickly scribbled a note for Lois that the caller had said their firm would pay their overdue bill within the next ten days.

Lois was at lunch, and since Hutch was the only one in the office, he'd gotten stuck answering the phone.

Hutch tried to focus back on his computer terminal. 

The phone rang again.

"Fuck," he muttered.  He picked up the receiver, pushed line one, and tried to sound pleasant.  "Starsky and Hutchinson."

"I have a collect call from David Starsky for Ken Hutchinson.  Will you accept the charges?"

Hutch's afternoon was looking up.  "Yes, certainly."

"Thank you.  Go ahead, sir."

Starsky asked, "How come you're answering the phone?"

"Lois is still at lunch, and I'm the only one here.  She's bringing me back something.  How was the funeral?"

"It was nice.  Lots of people.  Then everybody came over to the house.  Tons of food around.  I volunteered to take Rosie's and Al's cars in for a thorough cleaning and fill them up with gas, so I could get away."

It should be the middle of the afternoon there.  "Has the weather improved?"

A snort.  "I suppose one could say that.  It's ninety-four today.  How's it going with the case?"

"We've got four of the five years in.  This is looking big, Starsk.  With the pattern of the checks that we think are fake, it looks like there's more involved than just the office clerk.  I'm thinking there might be four employees involved, who were working together to steal from the company.  It's not just buying things like fake office supplies, but it's looking like there were some fake timesheets turned in for payroll checks."


"Yeah, I've updated Mr. Lideker.  He's happy, but not happy.  Happy that we're finding proof of stuff he was getting suspicious about.  And not happy that it's looking like he has four employees that he should never have trusted."


"He's chomping at the bit to call the police, but I said he may as well hold off until we get all five years in a database, and we can summarize our findings in a way that will make it easy for the DA to go through."

"Well, good.  This has been a good case for us, even if you were short-handed."

"So, are you ready to head back?"

"Yeah, I've got my flight information for tomorrow, if you're ready to write it down."

Hutch grabbed a notepad.  "Shoot."

"I'll be leaving Tallahassee on a United Flight 1347 at 8:30 AM.  That gets into Dallas at about 9:45 in the morning.  So, I lose an hour, with the time change."

"Gain an hour," Hutch automatically corrected.

"Oh. Yeah, I guess.  Um, and then I've got a frigging layover in Dallas of over three hours.  Then I take Western Airlines flight 1063 at about 1:05 PM to Bay City, and that's a three hour flight.  So, I'm supposed to land about 2:15PM, so that's a two-hour difference from Dallas."

"Okay.  I'll start calling the airline early tomorrow afternoon, to make sure it's going to land on time."

"It's going to be a long fucking day," Starsky grumbled.  "I'll get in at 2:15, but it'll seem like 5:15, Florida time."

Hutch soothed, "I'll take you right home.  In fact, I'll try to get enough done in the office tomorrow, that I won't feel I need to come back, after taking you home."

Starsky's voice was warm.  "That would be nice."


After a moment, Starsky said, "Guess I'd better hang up, before I start getting horny for you."

"Same here," Hutch assured.

"I'm going to try calling Nick at home, though I know he's probably out doing surveillance.  I know those car phones can't take collect calls."

"Okay.  See you tomorrow, buddy."

"I love you, Hutch.  Bye."


Feeling heartened that he and Starsky would be reunited by the middle of the afternoon tomorrow, Hutch felt motivated to work on the new addition, that evening.  He spent some time sawing boards to the correct length, and then put up the first corner shelf.  Feeling a sense of accomplishment, he'd gone to bed and slept straight through to morning.


With Lois's help, Hutch got the fifth year for the embezzlement case pounded into the computer.  He was gathering all the suspicious cancelled checks that needed copies when Lois reminded him that he needed to go to the camera supply store for more film.  Lois had too much going on at the office, including making all the copies for the case, and Carlos and Kenny were out on jobs, and each were down to their last rolls of film.

"All right, all right," Hutch said as he stood, while actually looking forward to having an excuse to be away from the office, "I'm leaving."

Hutch drove to his favorite camera shop.  It also had other types of household equipment, such as televisions and VCRs. 

Hutch had just taken his sack of film from the counter, when he noticed a crowd of people gathered around the TV sets, all with the volume on low and set to the same CNN cable news channel.  There were noises of concern.

Hutch came to stand before one of the TVs.  "What's going on?" he asked the man beside him.  On the screen, the newscaster was talking.

"Plane crash in Dallas," the man replied.

Hutch felt the blood drain from his face.  "Dallas?" That's where Starsky was scheduled to fly into this morning, before switching to another flight.

"Yeah."  There was now film of a smoldering plane on a runway.  "Apparently, some people got out.  They showed them going down the emergency chutes."

His chest and stomach tightening, Hutch asked, "Where was the plane coming from?"  Dallas surely handled hundreds of flights a day.

"Florida, I think," someone else replied.  "It was landing, and the gear collapsed, and it slid down the runway and caught on fire."

No.  Hutch quickly asked, "Have they said the flight number?"

"Probably.  Not sure what it is.  It's hard to hear everything."

Hutch blinked.  The information he'd written down from Starsky was still back at the office.  He didn't remember the flight numbers.

He tried to swallow and couldn't. 

He strained his ears to listen to the TV, and then heard the flight number, but he couldn't make out the words.  He caught "United", and thought he heard "dozens of fatalities".

Starsky might have been on that plane. 

But he couldn't have been. 

He couldn't have been.

Hutch couldn't be returning to an empty house that was going to be empty forever.

He took a deep, steadying breath.

Starsky wasn't on the flight.   The odds against it had to be many hundreds, if not thousands, to one.  Yet, he couldn't remember exactly when Starsky was landing in Dallas, only that he was going to be spending a few hours there, before his connecting flight to Bay City.

He had to find out for sure.  Get out to his car phone, call Lois, and have her read the information off Hutch's note, and then call the airline to verify which plane it was that had crashed.

He continued to watch the TV screen, as they repeated film of the smoldering plane on the runway. 

Hutch forced himself to turn away.  He felt like he was moving in slow motion as he left the shop.  He found the LeBaron down the street.  He watched the people move along the sidewalk, oblivious.

Hutch got in the car.  He took a few steadying breaths.  Then he swallowed and picked up the phone.  He decided he wanted to sound normal, and not particularly concerned.

He dialed the office.

"Starsky and Hutchinson," Lois answered.

"It's Ken."

"Ken!  Thank goodness!  I've been trying to call you.  David called just a little while ago."

Hutch felt his heart flutter with relief.

She went on, "There was a crash at the Dallas airport. A bad one, apparently, and they aren't allowing any flights out.  He's renting a car and driving to Austin, to see if he can get a flight out of there.  He said it should take about three hours to reach Austin, but he thought it would be faster than waiting for the runways to open back up."

"Okay," Hutch said, trying to follow along.

"He said he'll call you as soon as he gets to Austin and knows anything."

"Okay.  Thanks, Lois."

Hutch hung up the phone.

He sagged in his seat, his forehead resting against the steering wheel.

Thank you, God.


It had felt weird to Starsky, to see an event like a plane crash with survivors, and not be able to do anything to help.  There were emergency vehicles trained for just this type of thing.

He hadn't witnessed the crash itself, but instead heard rumblings through the airport, as where it had happened was quite a ways away from his terminal, in the opposite direction.  And then some of the TVs at the airport, turned to the news, started talking about it.

Thankfully, Starsky had quickly reached the point of being less interested in something he could do nothing about, and more interested in something he could.  Once he overhead some of the airlines staff say something about needing to start cancelling flights, Starsky knew that there was likely to be a mass migration of delayed passengers to the rental car desks, for those who couldn't tolerate the idea of having to wait until tomorrow to get out, and all the available cars would likely be snatched up before long.

He'd been among the first to rent a car, and left the terminal with a long line of people standing behind him.

Now, he just had to get to Austin, and hopefully get a flight out tonight.


"I can't leave tonight," Starsky said sorrowfully.

Hutch sat at his desk with the phone to his ear.  "Damn."

"Yep.  I'd have to fly to Seattle.  And then to Bay City and arrive about midnight.  It makes more sense to just get a room and, then take a direct flight out at 7:30 tomorrow morning."

"Yeah," Hutch agreed reluctantly.

"Sorry, baby.  For me and for you."

"Well, I've put in enough hours here, that I'll take tomorrow off."

"Oh, good."

"Yeah.  I've got the case pretty much summarized.  I'll make an appointment with Mr. Lideker for next week, so we can give him all his stuff back, and present him with our report."

"And our invoice."


Starsky muttered, "Guess I'll try to buy a book or something, to keep me occupied tonight.  What are you going to do?"

"I got some of the shelving put up.  But I think I'm going to head out and ride Poncho a little bit."

"Great.  I'm glad to hear it."

Hutch lowered his voice.  "If you get bored, call me, okay?  I should be back by eight o'clock or so.'"

"Okay, lover boy."

Hutch smirked.


Finally, Hutch was on his way to pick up Starsky Friday morning.  The airline had confirmed that the flight from Austin was on time.

Starsky had called late last night, and they didn't talk about anything in particular.  Hutch kept thinking about bringing up the idea of phone sex, but he wasn't sure Starsky was in a playful enough mood.  They were both tired -- Starsky of traveling, and Hutch of working on the case.  Plus, they were tired of being away from each other.


When Starsky emerged into the airport terminal, he gave a warm smile, after spotting Hutch.  After a prolonged, full body hug, they walked with their arms loosely around each other, until reaching the baggage section.

During the drive home, Starsky mostly complained about the screaming child that had been behind his seat, and how there hadn't been any peace during the flight.

Once entering the foyer of their house, Hutch turned to Starsky and wrapped his arms around him.  They embraced for a long moment, and then shared a loving kiss.

Hutch said, "I want to make love to you."

Starsky muttered, "I don't think I can right now."  He rested his head on Hutch's shoulder.  "Just want you to hold me for a while."

"All right," Hutch whispered, eager to please.  He squeezed Starsky tightly once more, and then let go, so he could lead him down the hall.

Once in their bedroom, they both stripped naked.

Starsky got in the center of the bed, and rolled onto his side, away from Hutch.

Hutch moved onto the bed, and spooned himself around Starsky.  With his arms, he circled Starsky's chest, and then nuzzled against his neck.

Starsky wriggled his upper body back against Hutch, as though trying to get closer.

Hutch squeezed tighter.  He murmured, "Okay?"

"Just stay here," Starsky replied.

Hutch relaxed. 

Starsky did, as well.

Hutch wondered, "Is there something you want to tell me?"


Whatever was on Starsky's mind, it would have to wait.

Hutch rubbed his cheek along Starsky's neck.  His partial erection kept trying to explore the crevice between Starsky's buttocks.  Eventually, though, Hutch dozed off.

He was awakened when Starsky abruptly rolled over, facing him.

Hutch held him close, and then planted gentle kisses along his face.

Finally, those lips were too irresistible, so Hutch planted his own upon them.  He was grateful that Starsky didn't resist, but relaxed into the kiss.

It felt so good, kissing this man that he loved so much.

His hand automatically reached down, and found the growing flesh.


Starsky never wanted this to end.

He was on his back, his hips hoisted by the high end of their wedge pillow.  Hutch was inside him, as deep as the helpful pillow would allow, and staying mostly still, as Starsky had requested.  Hutch's arms were extended on either side of Starsky, while hovering over him.

Starsky was curled back on himself, a position he was proud of himself for still being able to accomplish, at his age.

He reached up with both hands, to briefly enclose Hutch's face.  Then his hands moved into thin, blond hair, mussing it to a satisfying degree.

Breathless, Hutch asked, "Is there anything else you need?"

Starsky managed a swallow.  "Yeah.  When you can't hold back anymore, throw me against the wall and fuck me.  Just not yet."

Hutch gazed at him lovingly, and Starsky added, "Don't want this to be over.  It's too perfect, you filling me up with your gorgeous self."  He reached up to his hoisted crotch, and felt for where they were connected.  Starsky closed his eyes in worship and muttered, "Can't believe how perfectly you love me."

There were noises of spitting, and Starsky opened his eyes.  Hutch brought his lubricated hand down to Starsky's cock, and gripped it.

It flared, and Starsky groaned.

Hutch gazed down at it, while now rubbing his thumb along the sensitive underside.  He ran his tongue along his lips.  "You look good enough to eat.  It's been awhile." Hutch glanced up. "Sure you don't want me to pull out, and nurse on you a while?"

Starsky's cock flared again, but he warned, "Don't you dare move from where you are.  I'm not letting go of this magnificent thing I'm impaled with."

Hutch undulated slightly, obviously needing his own relief, or to soothe his desire.

Starsky declared, "Tomorrow's Saturday.  We're not going anywhere, the entire morning.  I'm going to suck on your cock all morning long.  Miss having that huge thing down my throat."  He watched with satisfaction as Hutch's eyes narrowed, while his teeth grit.  "For that matter, I want to fall asleep tonight, with it stuffed in my mouth.  I got aroused on the plane, thinking about sucking you for hours."

Hutch growled.  Abruptly, he pulled out.

Starsky rolled away from the pillow, and was just getting to his feet, when Hutch slammed him from behind, forcing him against the wall beside the bed.

Starsky had his cheek pressed against the paint, his arms flat against the wall.  He spread his legs helpfully, but Hutch had grabbed his hips with both hands, pulling them closer.

Starsky let himself be manipulated, and then loved the feel of Hutch's cock ramming up inside his well-stretched ass.

Hutch pumped in earnest, slamming against Starsky with satisfying grunts.  He reached around Starsky and squeezed along his cockhead.

Just as the noises from Hutch reached a crescendo, he moved his hand in just the right way, and Starsky felt the joy of climax start in his groin area, and then shoot through his male organs.

They both cried out as their bodies shuddered.  Then they sagged in unison.

Starsky felt Hutch slip out, while gasping airily, and felt a caressing hand along his back.

He staggered away from the wall, and moved to collapse on the bed.

Hutch grabbed a towel, running it along himself, while grinning.

Starsky draped his arm across his sweaty forehead.  With his other hand, he caught the towel Hutch tossed him, and rubbed it along his belly.  He assumed some of his spunk had gotten on the wall, but he didn't plan on cleaning it any time soon.

Hutch left the room for a few minutes, and then returned with glasses of iced tea for each of them.

Starsky drank gratefully.  Once placing his glass on the nightstand, he adjusted pillows behind him, so he could sit next to Hutch.  He rested his head on Hutch's shoulder

Hutch patted Starsky's knee.  After a moment, he gently asked, "Did you see that plane crash?"

"Na.  I'd already been in Dallas nearly an hour.  The terminal I was in was facing away from where the crash was.  People just started talking about it, and then they were showing it on the news."

Hutch glanced away.  "I was at Mulligan's, picking up more film, and the TVs were turned to the news.  I saw them talking about it, and that it was in Dallas, and somebody said they thought the plane was from Florida."

"Miami," Starsky said, watching as Hutch grabbed his iced tea and took a sip.

Hutch placed the glass back on the night stand, then gazed at the bed clothes.  "I didn't know that.  Somebody just said Florida.  I didn't have your flight information with me, I just knew you were flying into Dallas that morning."

It hit Starsky why Hutch was talking about this.  "Hutch, you thought I was on that plane?"

Hutch shrugged.  "I didn't know.  There wasn't enough information.  I didn't know if you were or not."

Starsky wrapped his arms around Hutch's waist.  "Ah, Hutch."  He rested his head on the smooth shoulder.

"It was just a few minutes that I wasn't sure," Hutch clarified, his hand on Starsky's back.  "You know, I was thinking that maybe I'd always be returning to an empty house...," he swallowed thickly, "forever."

Starsky raised up and beckoned Hutch's head against his chest.  "I hate that you went through that.  You've already been through a few lifetimes of worry, because of me."

Hutch looked up at him.  "It wasn't anything you did.  As soon as I got back to my car, I called the office, because I'd left the flight information there, and Lois said you'd just called and were driving to Austin."

Looking into those moist, blue eyes now, Starsky lowered his head and planted butterfly kisses across pale eyelids.

Hutch said, "Just took me a moment to collect myself, I was so relieved.  And then I was fine."

Starsky settled down against the pillows again, and encouraged Hutch to rest his head on his chest.  "At least, most of the people survived that plane crash.  Like two-thirds, or something."

"Yeah."  Hutch got up on an elbow, and brushed his fingers against Starsky's cheek.  "Hey, what did you want to talk to me about?"

Starsky wasn't sure he wanted to get into this now, but it wasn't fair to keep Hutch wondering.  "I did get a chance to talk to Aunt Rosie.  She told me that she and Uncle Al had thought, when I wrote her that letter, that maybe it was just a phase I was going through, and that maybe things had gotten 'confused' between us, because of you having to take care of me for so long.  I'm pretty sure that I convinced her otherwise, but Uncle Al -- " Starsky swallowed thickly.  "I never talked to him directly about it.  She assured me that they never felt ashamed of me, but still....  I mean," his voice trembled, "what if he went to his grave, feeling disappointed in me?"

Starsky was now pulled against Hutch's chest.

"Ah, buddy."  Hutch arms squeezed firmly.  "There's no way he could have been disappointed in you.  Not with all he knew about what a great cop you were, and how you overcame your injuries and your illness.  He may not have understood how things got between us, but that's a far cry from being disappointed in you."

Starsky felt a weight fall from his shoulders.  "Yeah.  I guess maybe you're right.  I just wish I would have called him and made sure he was okay with it, you know?  Just picked up the phone and called him."

"Well," Hutch said more gently, "if you believe that Terry Roberts can see what's going on with us, to the point where she can visit your dreams, then surely your Uncle Al can now, too.  If so, he knows how much we love each other."

Starsky managed a smile.  "Yeah."  Then he settled back down against Hutch's chest.  "Thanks."  He took a relaxing breath, and then said, "This really makes me want to finish the book, more than ever.  I want to spend all my spare time on it, so people we know don't start dying off, before they have a chance to read it.  So, I guess you're probably going to be doing the carpentry alone."

"Speaking of the book, I was in our office the other day, and I was reading some of that chapter on little Guy Mayer."


"I saw where Bloomberg wants to take that part out.  I don't understand that."

Starsky muttered, "That's how I feel about everything he wants to take out.  So, if I tried to argue with him, I'd basically be saying I don't want to trim any of it.  You know, he said that it's normal for writers to want to include stuff that won't matter as much to the reader.  We have to trust him, Hutch.  He's the expert.  Besides, I'll still have copies of everything that gets deleted.  If it doesn't work out, going about it his way, then I can keep it the way it was originally, and pay to run off a bunch of copies at some copy service place.  And hand them out to everybody."

Hutch ran his fingers along Starsky's arm.  "Yeah, okay.  I guess, in a sense, you still have control over it."

They lay quietly together for a few moments.  Then Starsky recalled, "Aunt Rosie gave me the 'Starsky line is going to die out' lecture."


"Yeah."  Then he admitted, "It really wasn't a lecture.  She just couldn't understand why Lanette and Nick wouldn't want to have children, especially since we aren't."

"I think they have other priorities."

Starsky grunted.  "Yeah."   Then he moved away from Hutch and snuggled down into the covers.  "Speaking of priorities, I say we take a nap, and then see if we're in the mood for a round two."

Hutch also stretched out beneath the covers.  "Sounds good to me."


Hutch had finally left to run some household errands.  As he had promised yesterday, Starsky had spent a considerable amount of time this morning happily sucking on Hutch's cock.  Hutch had left the house sated and grinning -- just how Starsky liked sending him on his way.

Starsky had made some progress on editing his book last night, and now he sat down at his desk, determined to dive in once again.

The house phone rang.

"Dang it," he muttered.  He was tempted to ignore it, but when it rang again, he got up with a sigh and went into the kitchen.  "Hello?"

Nick said, "David, hi.  So, you finally got in yesterday?"

"Yeah, finally.  What's up with you?"

Nick's voice became anxious.  "Look, I've got a really big secret to tell you.   But you can't tell anybody.  Swear.  I know you'll tell Hutch, be you guys can't let anybody else know."

"What are you talking about?"

"She doesn't want me to tell anyone else, but this is too big to keep to myself.  But you have to swear, older brother, that you won't tell anyone else."

With annoyance, Starsky said, "Just tell me!"


"I swear.  Sheesh."

"Okay, here it is.  Don't you dare tell anybody, or Lan will have my balls on a platter."

Starsky rolled his eyes.  "Just fucking tell me, Nick."

"Lan thinks she's pregnant."




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