(c) March 2012 by Charlotte Frost


A Sequel to Starlight


It was going on five o'clock in the morning, and Hutch was sitting at Starsky's computer, wearing his robe, scrolling through the words on the screen.  Hutch had showered first, and he'd asked Starsky to set up the computer, with whatever was necessary with those floppy disk things, so that he could read what his partner had written about the Ben Forest incident, while Starsky took his own shower.

As Hutch watched the words move by, he realized that he really didn't want to read about how much he'd stunk, how weak and helpless he'd been, or Starsky's horror upon seeing him in the alley.  Hutch had lived it, and he didn't need a review, even through Starsky's loving eyes.  So, he quickly moved past all that, wondering if there was anything about the incident that he really had any desire to look back on, all these years later.

Then he slowed his scrolling, as something more interesting caught his attention.

As I write this, something dawns on me that I never thought I'd feel, or hear myself saying.  But I can't deny this fact:  I'm glad that the incident with Forest -- "the heroin thing" -- happened.  No, of course, I didn't want Hutch to feel all that pain.  There's nothing worse in my life than seeing Hutch suffer any kind of pain.  But considering that the fates decreed that he did go through all that pain, I'm glad that it's something that our partnership experienced.

See, Hutch and me had always vowed, in so many words, that we would always be there for each other.  We took seriously that we were "me and thee" and it was us against the world.  But up until that time, me and thee had been a concept.  An intention.  A promise.  After what happened with Ben Forest, it was no longer an intangible idea.  It was something real.  I was always going to be there for Hutch.  I'd shown it.  I'd proven it.  There was nothing that could ever be thrown at Hutch, that he could ever become, that would make me turn my back on him.

He realized it, too, for something in Hutch changed after that.  I'll go into a whole chapter on it later, but Hutch had been one of those people who spent his whole life waking up in the morning, wondering if he was going to be able to prove that day that it was okay that he was alive.  That he had a right to exist.  Like a lot of people, especially boys, he had this authoritative figure in his mind -- his father, his God, his coach, his Captain, whoever -- that he had to please, to prove that he was a worthwhile member of society. 

After the heroin incident, Hutch had indisputable proof that he was loved.  He could sink as low as a person could sink, be as physically weak as a person could be, throw up on me, attack me, lose control of his bowels, and I still loved him.  His subconscious could no longer deny that fact.  I wasn't an authority figure, but an equal.  And I think a part of him figured out that it was more important to have that unconditional love from me than from anyone else.

Hutch still retained some of his less flattering qualities after that, but they'd lost a lot of harshness around the edges.  He still needed to be bossy, still needed to demonstrate that he was the smartest, still needed to remind me of how much more he knew about things than I did, still played jokes on me, like tying my shoelaces together and watching me trip.  But there was more of a playfulness to those aspects of his personality, after going through what he had those horrible weeks in the fall of 1975.  

There was a bonus for me, as well.  People who recover from something like heroin addiction often speak of flashbacks, sometimes for years in the future, where they suddenly get a craving for whatever drug they're addicted to, after thinking they were over it.  With Hutch, those incidents never happened when one might expect.  I always kept an extra eye on him, and I suppose he kept an extra eye on himself, whenever we had to do busts concerning large quantities of opiates.  But he never had a problem.  Instead, it was at unlikely times that he'd suddenly get the chills, start scratching at him arms, break out into a sweat, get nauseated, or something like that.  And -- it makes my throat tight, just thinking about it -- Hutch never hid those times from me.  He never tried to pretend that he wasn't in need, when the urge for a hit suddenly came upon him.  Hutch is as proud a man as any of the rest of us.  But he trusted me enough to tell me when he hurt, so I could help and make sure he never went looking for a needle.

You can't put a price on trust like that.

It's an unfortunate fact that a lot of police officers turn to liquor to help themselves cope with life.  Cops see people at their worst, see the horrible atrocities human beings can commit upon each other.  See corpses that have been rotting in the sun for days.  See bodies ripped open by weapons, accompanied by a hate so intense that it's enough to make one believe in the devil.  Hutch and I never turned to liquor to ease our pain.  We never had to. 

Whenever one of us reached out to the other, love always answered back.

That's what we always counted on each other for.  That gave us our strength.  That's what allowed us to retain our sanity, no matter what degree of pain we witnessed, or experienced directly. 

Thank you, Ben Forest.  You're a fucking creep and I hope you've gotten what's coming to you in prison.  I'll never forgive you for doing what you did to Hutch.  But I'll also never forget how you made the sought relationship between Hutch and I into something real.  Turned our platonic puppy love into something so strong that no one could ever take it away from us.

What you did to Hutch cemented a solid foundation for everything that came after.


Hutch felt hands on his shoulders, and jolted in startlement.

"Hey."  Starsky squeezed.  "You need to get dressed."  He was dressed in jeans and a button shirt, and smelling of aftershave.

Hutch released a breath.  "Yeah, okay.  I don't know how to shut this thing down."  He rose from the chair.

"I'll do it."  Starsky sat down.  "Did you read the whole thing?"  He started punching keys.

"Uh, no."  Hutch squeezed his love's shoulder.  "I didn't want to read about how gross it all was, you know?  I lived it.  I read the later parts."

Starsky removed a floppy disk from the computer, and then reached to the side and turned it off.  "Do you agree that it was a beginning for us?"  He looked up.

Hutch felt helplessly vulnerable and exposed as those intense blue eyes met his.  "I-I-I hadn't really thought about it."  He felt his eyes water.

Starsky grinned.  "I hadn't really, either.  But that's why this has taken so long. It's like I start writing about something, and the more I write, the more thoughts keep pouring into my head, so I write even more."  Starsky continued to gaze at him, and then reached to grip Hutch's robed arm.  "Do you need something?" he asked gently.

Hutch answered as honestly as he could.  "I just want to be with you.  Every moment that I possibly can."  He knew he sounded like a hopeless romantic.

Starsky rose and they wrapped their arms around each other.

Hutch closed his eyes, relishing the feel of the hands rubbing up and down his back.  He squeezed Starsky tightly, and swayed them back and forth.

As they parted, they started out of the living room.  Starsky said, "If there's some parts that you want to write yourself, that's fine with me."

Hutch quickly shook his head as they moved from the kitchen into the hall.  "I could never turn an ugly situation like that into something so beautifully expressed like you've done."  He sniffed, realizing his nose was running.

"So, you think I'm writing it okay?" 

They entered the bedroom and Hutch turned to face Starsky.  He brushed his fingers along Starsky's cheek and asked with affection, "Are you fishing, or are you really worried?"

Starsky grinned.  "Both."  Then he sobered.  "It's hard to know how it might read to somebody else."  Then, gazing into Hutch's watery eyes, he said, "I guess it's coming across okay.  How I wanted."

Hutch replaced his fingers with his lips, nuzzling along Starsky's cheek.  Then he whispered, "If you wanted to write a love story, I don't think you have anything to worry about."


"Man," Starsky said, as the sun rose along the boulevard, "hard to believe that racing people get up this early, every single day."

Hutch was driving the LeBaron.  "Yeah, and remember what Steve Hanson said?  Trainers never get to take a day off?  The horses have to be fed every day, so they have to show up every day."

"That's seems so weird.  I mean, what's the use of having a great horse and making millions of dollars, if you still have to work just as hard as before?"

"I guess it takes a certain type of person to be involved in the business, huh?"

Instead of answering, Starsky looked over and asked, "Did you remember to bring the statement from Brooks?"

Hutch patted the pocket of his black leather jacket.  "Yep."

"So, we're clear on our strategy?  I'm going to ask all the stupid questions about the horses, and you're going to ask all the stupid questions about the expenses?"

"Something like that.  Only, I can't go to Brooks' office until nine.  I can't imagine that it would be open before then."

"Then at least you'll get to see Ghost's workout."

Hutch chuckled softly.  "I really don't care about his workout, buddy.  I mean, it's just a horse going around the track by himself.  What's the thrill in that?"

"Isn't it important how fast he runs?"

"I suppose.  But I don't have a stopwatch.  I'm sure Clausen will have one."

"They must have official timers or something, huh?  Workouts get published in the Racing Form, right?"

"Yeah, so I suppose there must be some kind of official person clocking the works, in addition to the trainers.  Anyway, those are the questions you're supposed to be asking Clausen and whoever else's attention you can get."


After arriving at Clausen's barn, they spent a lot of time just standing around outside and watching the activity.  Clausen said that he generally worked his horses around seven, and the first hour of the morning's activity were reserved for the rest of the horses, most of whom would be doing their standard daily slow gallop of two miles.

Clausen explained, "It's the long, slow gallops that builds up stamina and puts the bottom on a horse.  It's the workouts that fine tune him for speed."

A tall, dark bay, lean horse was lead out of the barn, saddled and bridled, looking regal.  "There's my lady," Starsky said.

"That's Darla?" Hutch asked Clausen, because he figured there were a lot of dark bay horses in the barn.

 "Yep.  She's going out for her morning gallop, as soon as Swanson comes back with the horse he has out right now."


"Matt Swanson, the exercise rider."

Starsky asked, "Can I pet Darla?"  She was rubbing he head against Todd.

"Yeah.  Just stay away from her mouth."

Starsky went over to her, where she now looked up and gazed off into the distance.   He petted her sleek neck, and was disappointed that she didn't seem to notice his attentions.

A bay horse came walking around the corner on a relaxed rein.  "Clyde, he needs to be looked at," the rider said. 

Clausen approached the bay.  "What's a matter?"

"I pulled him up after a mile.  He started roaring, like he couldn't get his breath."  The rider smoothly dismounted, as a groom came up to the horse.

"All right," Clausen said unhappily, "I'll have the doc take a look. "  He nodded toward Darla.  "Take the filly."

"Ah," the man said happily.  He went over to her, and Starsky stepped out of the way, as Clausen gave him a leg up.

The groom unsnapped the lead shank, and Swanson turned the filly toward the track.

Starsky asked Clausen, "Is he her jockey?"

"No, Swanson's an exercise rider," the trainer replied with forced patience.  "Exercise riders weigh more than jockeys.  I only put a jock up for a workout."

"Where's the best place to watch her gallop?'

Clausen gestured toward the track.  "Anywhere along the rail.  The horses that are galloping stay along the outside.  That leaves the inner rail open for horses that are doing workouts."

The track was about a half mile in the distance, and Starsky could see dozens of horses moving along it.  "How do I know which one is her?"

Clausen almost seemed to roll his eyes.  He nodded toward the bay, whose groom was untacking him.  "Look for the red saddle cloths with a white diamond that say CC in the center.  All the horses from my barn wear the same saddle cloth.  That's how it is with all the barns.  That way, everybody knows which barn a horse belongs to, in case it gets loose.  So, when you're at the track, look for the big dark bay filly with no markings that has the red saddlecloth with the CC diamond.  I don't have any other horses in the barn that look like her."

"Okay.  Thanks."  Starsky was eager to get to the track to watch Darla, and hoped Hutch was going to join him, but since the busy Clausen seemed irritated with him, he thought he'd push another button.  "When is she going to have acupuncture?"

"What?  Acupuncture?"

"Yeah.  Steve Hanson said all the horses get acupuncture once a month."

Hutch put a hand on Starsky's shoulder.  "Ease up with the questions.  Clyde has a busy stable to run."

Starsky knew that Hutch didn't really mean it.  He whined, "I want to watch.  That would be cool."

"It's a bunch of Chinaman crap," Clausen snarled.  "I only had an acupuncturist out once.  Some quack that wasn't worth the money.  If Hanson told you that we were having that nitwit out here every month, he's mistaken."

Paydirt, Starsky thought.  Hanson had said that there was a monthly charge for acupuncture on every quarterly bill.

Clausen nodded in the direction of the track.  "Go watch the filly gallop.  When she comes back, ask Swanson how she went.  He really likes her."

Starsky knew that Clausen was trying to get rid of him, but he was heartened by that last sentence.

Hutch had their binoculars and removed them from his neck.  He handed them to Starsky.  "I'll catch up with you later."

"Okay."  Starsky quickly moved off, knowing that Hutch wanted to hang behind to try to bond with Clausen over how annoying Starsky could be.

He moved briskly, avoiding running, because horses were walking along the wide pathway between the barns, going to and from the track, and he knew better than to spook them.

Once he reached a railing he could rest against, with various other horseman scattered about, he trained his binoculars on the track.  It took a long time, and was difficult being at the same elevation as the track, but he finally spotted Darla on the far side, standing along the outer rail, looking off into the distance.  Swanson reached to pat her neck.  Then, after along moment, he seemed to nudge her, and she began to jog along the outside rail.  He stood in his stirrups, and then she broke into a canter.   Starsky kept his binoculars on her, and she seemed to settle into a easy gallop, staying near the outer rail.

Starsky lowered the binoculars when she approached, and grinned hugely with admiration when she passed by him.  He heard someone say, "That's that Forli filly.  Clausen got her for less than a hundred grand."  Another man said to the first, "Her dam is a half sister to the Oaks winner, right?"  "Yep.  I would have been there to bid on her if I knew she was going to get away that cheap."

Starsky found it hard to imagine $98,000 being considered "cheap".  But his chest swelled with pride.  He spent a while focusing his binoculars until he found her again.  She made two rounds of the racetrack before she was eased back down to a jog.  Then, as she approached the chute that led to the barn area, Swanson slowed her to a walk.  He let the reins loose and she stretched out her neck.

Starsky waited for horse and rider to leave the track and start walking along the pathway.  He moved briskly beside Darla to keep up with her long stride, and looked up at her rider.  "Swanson, right?"

"Yes, sir.  Matt Swanson.  Who might you be?"

"Dave Starsky.  I'm one of her owners."  He decided to admit, "I've never owned a racehorse before."

Swanson nodded.  "Nice to meet you."

Starsky beamed.  "So, how did she go?"

"She did fine, like she always does.  Nice filly."

"Yeah?  What makes her nice?"

"She's real focused.  Real professional.  That's unusual for a youngster like her."

"She really looks around a lot."

Swanson chuckled.  "Yeah, she does.  I like to be as patient with her as I can.  But once she moves into her gallop, she doesn't think about anything else."

"So, how good do you think she is?"

Swanson scoffed good-naturedly.  "That's not for me to say.  You need to talk to Clyde about that.  All I can say is that she's doing everything right in her training."

"Yeah?  Have you ridden our other two horses?  Ghost and Tyke?"

"Ghost is doing fine.  He's being worked out today by Tartan."

Starsky assumed Tartan was a jockey.  "Yeah.  What about Tyke?"

"He can be kind of fussy.  He can try to buck some and toss his head around.  Things like that.  But that's not unusual for a youngster."

Starsky was surprised to realize that they were already at Barn 34.  And that he was out of breath.  Todd came up and snapped a lead shank onto Darla's bridle and brought her to a halt.  Swanson dismounted. 


Starsky looked over to see Hutch halfway in the passenger side of a station wagon. 

"Come on, Clausen's driving us over to the grandstand to watch Ghost's workout."

Starsky got in the backseat of the station wagon.

Hutch turned to look at him as the car eased away from the barn.  "How come you're out of breath?"

"I was walking beside Darla, talking to Swanson.  It was hard keeping up with her."

Clausen asked, "He like how she went?"

"Yeah, he said really nice things about her.  Said she was real professional, especially considering how young she is.  And you know what?" Starsky took a breath.  "I heard somebody behind me saying they wished they would have bid on her, because she went cheaper than expected."

"Yeah, I mentioned that before," Clausen said.  "She's a nice filly."

"When do you think she can race?"

"She should have her first breeze in a couple of weeks.  And then two more a week to ten days apart.  Horses have to have three published workouts before they can race."

Hutch asked, "What are you expecting from Ghost today?"

"He's having a half mile breeze.  That's where the jockey will let him loose and see what he wants to do.  He won't be pressed much.  It's more a matter of him telling us how fast he's willing to go.  And that'll tell me where he's at."

Starsky asked, "So, this will be his first published work?"


"Man, I don't see how people can stand waiting so long for their horses to race, after spending so much money on them."

Clausen grunted.  "You know who Gene Klein is?  The owner of the San Diego Chargers football team?"

"Yes," they both replied.

"He's recently gotten into racing, in a big way.  He's already figured out that the biggest favor owners can do for themselves is have some other hobby besides racing.  If all you think about are your horses, you'll go nuts.  There's so much about the sport that is out of your control. You've got to have other interesting things going on in your life."

"What about trainers?" Hutch asked.  "What's the best thing trainers can do for themselves?"

"Have owners who leave them alone and let them do their jobs."


It seemed a long wait, after they parked at the grandstand, and climbed the seats to get a good view of the track, before Ghost was finally out jogging on the track.  At least he was easy to follow, because his gray coat was lighter than all the other gray horses on the track.

Starsky offered Hutch the binoculars, but he declined.  So, Starsky kept Ghost in his sights and asked, "When will the workout start?"

Clausen replied, "You'll know when the workout is about to start when the jock puts him on the inner rail.  He'll let him get into a good strong gallop, and then at the half mile pole, the workout will start and he'll have him going full speed -- or as fast as the horse feels like he wants to go."

"Where's the half mile pole?" Hutch asked.

"The green and white pole near the end of the backstretch.  It's a half mile from that pole to the finish line."

"He's getting ready!" Starsky said excitedly.  Ghost was now galloping fast along the rail.  Without taking the his eyes away, Starsky asked, "Do you see him, Hutch?"  He's the light gray horse going down the backstretch, on the rail."

"Yeah, I can see him."

Starsky watched the jockey moving his hands along Ghost's neck, urging him on.  And then has he entered the turn, he sat still.

"You like how he's moving?" Hutch asked.

"He's doing fine," Clausen replied with forced patience.

Starsky took the binoculars from his eyes, as Ghost approached the middle of the homestretch, as he was now easy to see.

Clausen had his stopwatch out.  He snapped the button when Ghost moved across the finish line.  "48.4," he reported.

"Is that good?" Starsky asked.

Clausen shrugged.  "It's fine for being his first breeze."

Starsky couldn't help but think there was a hint of disappointment in Clausen's voice.

Hutch asked, "What does that tell you about him?"

"That I'll have the jock push him more the next time.  He might just be a horse that needs more urging from the rider.  Or he might just need a few more works underneath him, before he really feels like running.  The important thing is how he cools out this morning.  Hopefully, there won't be any kind of soreness."

Starsky pressed, "What would that mean?"

"If he cools out sore, it could mean bucked shins."

"What's that?" Hutch asked.

"It's a common ailment that two year olds get.  It's like shin splints in people.  The front shins get too much pressure and the bone is effected.  It's not a big deal, and once a horse shin bucks, it almost never happens again.  The horse is just sore for a while, and it's treated, and after a couple of months or so, they're back on schedule.  But I'm not expecting anything like that with Ghost.  He was moving fine at the end."


Clausen drove them back to the barn, and then Starsky and Hutch found the track kitchen and had breakfast.  Starsky decided he would hang around the barns awhile, watching all the activity and keeping his ears open, while Hutch drove the few miles to David Brook's office, to see that he could find out about expenses.  They discussed the red flag about what Clausen had said about their having been only one acupuncture treatment.

When Hutch entered Brook's suite, he found a secretary, who looked at least fiftyish, and with dark hair and sharp-rimmed glasses, sitting in the outer office, typing.  "Hello," she greeted.

"Hi, I'm Ken Hutchinson.  I don't think I met you the last time I was here, but I'm one of the owners in Blue Team."

She smiled.  "Nice to meet you.  I'm Mable.  What can I help you with?"

"Is David Brooks in?"  The door to the back office was closed.

"No, I'm sorry, he's not expected until close to noon."

Hutch thought that might be just as well.  He pulled out the quarterly statement from his pocket and unfolded it.   "Uhm, I just have a few questions on my statement here.  My sister is a CPA and handles the taxes for David Starsky and I, and she was rather appalled when I told her the statement was just a summary.  She insisted that I get copies of all the original invoices."  He laughed nervously, batting his eyes.  "She said that, when it comes to money, no one should ever trust anybody.  So, I have to follow her orders, since she handles the finances for David and I."  Hutch hoped he'd made it clear that he and Starsky were in a relationship.

"Well, I don't see a problem with that," Mabel said, getting up from her desk.  "I would normally ask Mr. Brooks for permission to make copies of anything for the purpose of leaving this office, but that seems a harmless enough request."  She moved over to a wall that had a row of filing cabinets.  "Here's the drawer for the racing partnerships.  Ah, yes, I have all the first quarter invoices in a folder here."

Delicately, Hutch asked, "Do you mind making a copy of everything in there?"

"Certainly, I can do that."  She moved to the copy machine.

"I hate to take up so much of your time."

"Oh, that's all right."

Hutch hovered near her shoulder, watching her pull each invoice out of the file and place is face-down in the copier.  The file was thin.

"There you go."  She handed him the copies, and then moved back to the file cabinet where the open drawer was.

"Uhm, I'm afraid I have one other favor to ask."

She smiled at him as she placed the file back.  "What would that be?"

"Well, my sister asked me how much we could expect to pay each month for our racehorses, and I told her I have no idea."  Another nervous laugh.  "She wasn't very pleased that David and I had invested all this money in something that we had no idea of what the costs would be.  And this quarterly statement," he indicated the sheet in his hand, "doesn't really help, since the horses were purchased at the end of March, so there isn't a full month of expenses, let alone a full quarter of expenses.  So, I was wondering if you might be able to let me see some of the expenses from some of the other partnerships."  While she hesitated, he quickly added, "Just so I can let her know that David and I aren't completely clueless."  He paused.  "Even though we really are."

Mabel turned back to the filing cabinet.  "We wouldn't want your sister to think badly of you."

"No, we wouldn't."

"How about if I copy the invoices for the full first quarter for the Yellow Team partnership?"

"Oh," Hutch said with relief, "that would be so kind of you."

As she leafed through the file drawer, her voice dropped to a whisper, even though they were the only ones in the suite.  "My son is a homosexual."

"Oh, really," Hutch said.  He wondered where she was going with that statement.

She pulled a much thicker folder from the file cabinet and, still whispering, said, "His name is Grant.  Would you like to meet him?"

Hutch laughed nervously.  "Uh, I don't think my dear David would appreciate that."  He held up his left hand with the wedding band, and whispered back, "We're married."

"Oh," she smiled indulgently.  "I didn't know that you, you know, could have a ceremony like that."  She moved to the copy machine.

Hutch followed close behind.  "It wasn't a ceremony.  We just...."

She nodded, finishing in a whisper, "....decided that you were married."

"That's right," Hutch said, feigning relief at her understanding. 

She began placing invoices down on the face of the copy machine.  "Well, I wasn't talking about any hanky-panky.  Grant's just a very lonely boy."


"Oh," she reached up to squeeze his arm, chuckling, "he'll always be a boy to me.  He's thirty-two."


She turned back to making copies.  "He has hardly any friends.  Keeps to himself way too much.  I just thought, if someone of his own kind would just be willing to spend a little time with him, maybe take him to lunch.  Who knows, you and David might develop a friendship with him."

Hutch wasn't the least bit interested, but he realized that Grant might possibly be a way of obtaining future information.  "Well, I'll tell you what.  The next time David and I are in the area -- which I admit isn't that often -- we'll give you a call and see if we can have lunch with Grant."

She smiled sincerely.  "Oh, that would be wonderful."

Hutch nodded.

As she continued making copies, her voice dropped to a whisper again.  "I've told him, very sternly, that he needs to be practicing safe sex."

"Uh-huh."  Hutch wondered why a "lonely" gay man would need to worry about safe sex.

She continued in a whisper, "I bought him a huge supply of condoms for his birthday last month.  You just never know, with this deadly disease...."

Hutch felt his cheeks turning bright red.  He managed a nod.  "Right."

She made a few copies and looked up again, still whispering.  "I hope you and your David are practicing safe sex."

Hutch blinked.  "Uh....,"  he held up his left hand again, "we're exclusive."

"Ohh," she said in a scolding manner, "I know how your kind likes to play.  You have a whole different outlook on the definition of exclusivity."

Firmly, Hutch said, "Not David and I."  He laughed nervously again.  "If David ever caught me... well, let's just say I'd be missing a few delicate body parts."

She handed Hutch another set of copies.  "Then you'll just have to make sure he doesn't find out about anything, won't you?"

"Now, Mabel," Hutch said with delicate sternness, "you did say we would only be expected to have lunch with Grant.  That's what I'm counting on the next time we're out this way."

She smile was exaggerated.  "Yes.  Of course."

Hutch was desperate to make his exit.  "Thank you so much for this."  He held up the two sets of papers and headed for the door.  "Have a nice day." 


"This is a goldmine," Hutch said from the passenger seat of the LeBaron.  They were headed back home, and Starsky was driving, while Hutch leafed through the invoice copies.

Starsky glanced over at him.  "Yeah?"

"Yep.  There's three monthly invoices for acupuncture for the Yellow Team."

"There's no way Clausen is in on this.  He wouldn't have just outright told us that acupuncture was done only once."

"Right.  But something doesn't make sense."

"What's that?"

"The invoices all match up to the statements.  I mean, the statement say acupuncture at $40 per horse per month, and that's exactly what the invoices say.  The other charges are like that, too."

"Then the invoices are bogus."

"Yeah, but they come from different vendors.  There's the acupuncturist, the vet, the shipping company, and of course Clausen's invoices, which his daily rate, plus blacksmith charges."

"Hmm," Starsky said.  Then, "Well, the acupuncturist at least has to be bogus.  We need to call the number on the invoice and see who it is."

"Can't wait to see where that leads us."  Hutch was thoughtful a long moment.  "Is it possible that Brooks could be in cahoots with all these vendors and getting them to pad the invoices, or make up bogus invoices altogether, and then giving them a kickback?"

"That doesn't make sense," Starsky said.  "I mean, the Yellow Team has what, four horses?"


"Four horses at $40 each for acupuncture.  We're only talking $160 a month.  What kind of kickback would make it worth a company risking their reputation and making up bogus charges?  I mean, we have to be talking about a lot of money for Brooks or the vendors to bother with a scam like this."

"Not necessarily.  Hanson has been involved with these racing partnerships for twenty years.  If say, the scam started ten years ago, that's close to $1000 a year just for acupuncture, if say the vendor got a 50% kickback.  If all the other expenses are padded,  that could be maybe thousands a year."

Skeptically, Starsky asked, "Is it possible that none of the other partners have ever noticed that nobody was actually giving the horses acupuncture?"

Hutch shrugged.  "Clausen did say that trainers prefer owners who stay out of their way.  Maybe the other partners just come to the track for the races, and otherwise don't hang around.  Hanson said it was a hobby to them, and none of them have ever taken it very seriously."

"Well, I guess we should quit speculating until we find out what the acupuncturist's office has to say."

After a moment, Hutch glumly said, "That could be a real problem."

Starsky looked over at him.  "Why?"

Hutch held up a sheet of paper.  "The invoices for the acupuncturist don't include a phone number."


A couple of hours later, they had Steve Hanson on the speaker phone in their office.

Hutch said, "We're on the verge of a big discovery, but we want to clarify something with you first."


"You specifically told us that you'd seen charges for acupuncture on the horses every month."

"Yes, for a couple of the partnerships."

"I've got the first quarter invoices for the Yellow Team that verifies that."

Starsky said, "But when I asked Clausen when Darla was going to get acupuncture, because I wanted to watch, he scoffed at me and said that he'd only had acupuncture done once and he thought it was all a big 'Chinaman scam'."  

"Dammit," Hanson muttered.

"What's more," Hutch said, "is I have the copies of the actual acupuncture invoices, and its Wong's Equine Services, and there's no phone number.  Starsk and I have spent the past hour on the phone, trying to find any way to contact Wong's, and there's no evidence that any such business has ever existed."

Starsky said, "So, we're thinking that, with the acupuncture at least, it's a complete scam on Brook's part.  He's pocketing all those forty dollar payments himself."

"But what's interesting," Hutch went on, "is that because of what Clausen said about it only happening once, we think he's not in on the scam.  Yet, when we look at his monthly training bill, it includes the blacksmith charge for one of the horses at $75.  But we called the blacksmith directly, pretending to just be calling around for information, and he said he only charges $45.  So, maybe Clausen is on it."

"Yeah," Starsky said, "and maybe he forgot to watch what he said about the acupuncture.  But he seemed to have a lot of disdain for it."

Hanson asked, "What's the daily training rate on Clausen's bill?"

"$35 a day," Hutch replied.

"That's accurate.  I know that's what he charges.  The day rate of each trainer is pretty common knowledge."

"Wow," Starsky said, "I didn't know it cost that much just to have a racehorse with a trainer."

"Clausen is actually on the cheap side," Hanson said with a soft chuckle.  "He's never had the big name horse to give him a reputation."

Hutch mused, "If the day rate is common knowledge, then maybe that's why Brooks hasn't messed with it."  Hutch noticed something along the top edge of the training bill.  "Hey, wait a minute."

"What'?" Starsky asked.

"What?" Hanson echoed.

Hutch brought the bill close to his face.  "I just noticed something.  I had Mabel make me a copy of all the original invoices.  But now that I look real close at the training bill, there's another line along the top, like this is a copy from a copy.  And when I look at the line for the blacksmith charges, the $75 is kind of fuzzy.  I'm wondering if it originally said $45 for the blacksmith, and it was whited out, and replaced with $75, and then copied so the change wouldn't be obvious."

"If that's the case," Starsky said, "then it's likely Clausen is in the clear, and all this fraud is going on in Brooks' office.  But Brooks has to be getting help.  This is too much effort for him to be doing it on his own."

Hutch said, "But Mable didn't hesitate much about giving me the copies.  If she's helping bloat the charges, she doesn't seem nervous about it."

Hanson said, "Maybe that's because she only keeps the altered invoices in the files, and she doesn't see any way for there to be a problem.  Plus, she didn't know you were looking for altered invoices, right?"

"Right," Hutch replied.  "I told her that my sister was handling the finances for Starsk and I, and she was real insistent that we have original invoices to back up all the charges on the quarterly statement."

"That sounds like a legit story," Hanson said with approval.

"Who else works in Brooks' office?" Starsky asked.

"There's usually a second part time gal," Hanson said, "but he's gone through a few of him.  I've been there so infrequently of late, that I haven't paid much attention."  He sighed heavily.  "Now it looks like I'm paying for being too trusting and not keeping an eye on things."

Starsky assured, "It's not all your fault.  All your other partners have a right to ask questions, and it's doesn't look like anybody has ever bothered."

Hanson sounded thoughtful.  "Somebody questioned something once, a couple of years back, and it seemed like an innocent mistake, so we all forgot about it, as soon as it was rectified."

"What was that?" Hutch asked.

"We were thinking of shipping a horse to Phoenix for a race.  At the last minute, we changed our minds.  On the quarterly statement, a shipping charge showed up, and one of the partners questioned why there was a shipping charge when none of the horses shipped anywhere.  Brooks said he'd look into and then later said it was an understandable error on the shipping company's part, since it was a last minute cancellation.  The next quarter, there was a credit on the statement."

Hutch leafed through the stack of invoices.  "Steve, did any of the Yellow Team horses ship anywhere last quarter?"

"Not that I recall."

"I've got a shipping invoice here for the horse Nellie Love, saying she went from Hollywood Park to Meadow Hills Farm."

"Oh, right, that's legit.  That's the farm where Clausen sends horses that are laid up."

"It says $450 for the ship.  Would that be right?"

"No," Hansen growled.  "Something like that ought to be about half that much."

"We'll call the shipping company directly and find out how much they'd charge for a trip like that."

Starsky took the invoice from Hutch.  "I'll call on the other line."  He left the office.

"Starsky's calling right now on another line."

"Goddammit.  That damn Brooks.  It really steams me that he could do this to a buddy."

"You know, Steve, if we can get some more solid paperwork evidence, this could be a really easy case for the DA to prosecute.  It's pretty straightforward."

"I'm still not convinced that it adds up to enough money that anyone would bother."

"Then maybe a civil suit."

Hanson's voice was still caustic.  "This is the type of thing I'd like to settle, man to man."

"Now, don't be talking like that," Hutch soothed.

"Oh, I don't mean that.  I just mean I want to sit down across the table with Brooks, have him look me in the eye, and try to explain why there's nothing wrong with him doing what he's doing.  He takes five thousand in management fees for each horse right off the top.  He could just make a case for raising his fee, rather than going about it this way."

"That is an odd puzzle piece," Hutch said.  "Starsky and I considered the idea of maybe the vendors getting some kind of kickback for inflated invoices, but if so, the blacksmith wouldn't have told us outright what he charges, and that wouldn't explain the acupuncture invoices being completely imaginary."

"There's a lot of gossip around the racetrack," Hanson said. "Vendors can't be jerking around with different customers like that.  No, this is all Brooks.  He's not racetracker.  He's not a horse guy.  He's a wheeler and dealer.  I think maybe he's just gotten fed up that none of our horses over the years have ever accomplished much.  So, maybe he's making the rest of the owners pay for it, even though they've all been just as disappointed."

There was the sound of the kitchen wall phone slamming down.

"$280 to ship from Hollywood Park to Meadow Hills Farm, " Starsky reported as he trotted back into office with the invoice in hand.  "Not $450.  And look, Hutch, this invoice looks double-copied, too."

"Well, God damn it," Hansen grumbled from the speaker phone.

"Brooks is a criminal," Hutch said simply.  "He needs to be prosecuted.  What I'd really like to do, at this point, is figure out some way to get into his office and go through all his file cabinets.  See how many blank invoices I can find for various bogus vendors.  The acupuncturist might not be the only one.  Mabel took a liking to me, because her son is gay.  Maybe I can work that angle."

"That sounds good," Hanson said.  "In the meantime, I'm going to put the wheels in motion to start shutting down the Yellow and Green Team partnerships.  It's the same guys in both.  Our best horse got claimed the other day, so we really haven't got much left that's going to give us much enjoyment, with Nellie Love being laid up for six months or more.  I think the others will be relieved and are ready to close it all down.  After that, I'll figure out how I want to deal with Brooks.  In the meantime, keep finding whatever solid evidence that you can."

"We'll do that," Hutch said.

"You've done a hell of a job all ready.  I'm impressed."

"Thanks," Starsky said.  Then, "Hey, Steve?  Have you been keeping up with the Blue Team horses?"

"No, I admit I haven't taken much interest."

"Ghost had his first work this morning.  I think it was kind of disappointing, though Clausen tried to play it down."  Starsky brightened.  "And Darla?  Oh, man, I was talking to the rider who galloped her.  He really likes her.  Says she's professional and focused.  Not goofy like most young horses."

Hanson chuckled.  "Tell you what.  After this is all over, if you two want to buy into a small piece of her, that'll be fine with me."

"Really?" Starsky asked with a big grin.

"Sure.  The more the merrier."

"Wait," Hutch said, "let's not assume anything.  Even just ten percent of a hundred grand horse is ten thousand dollars."

"You're no fun," Starsky said good-naturedly.

Hanson laughed again.  "Well, we can all cross that bridge when we come to it.  For now, I just want to dissolve the other two partnerships and get my buddies out, before they're bled any further.  Keep me posted, fellas."

"We'll do that.  Thanks for everything, Steve."  Hutch cut the line.

Starsky sighed.  "Man, this is really involved."

"Yeah.  I'm going to have to figure out how I want to deal with Mabel and her son, Grant.  I pretty much promised her that we'd take him to lunch or something.  I wonder what the chances are that he might know anything about his mother's job."

"I guess we won't know until we ask."

"Yeah."  Hutch put his hand to his forehead.  "There was another call we needed to make today.  I can't remember what it was.  I don't think it was work related."

Starsky snapped his fingers.  "We were going to call the computer guy about the printer."

"Oh, right."  Hutch picked up the phone.


A few days later, on a Saturday, Starsky was out running errands in mid afternoon, while Hutch sat on the sofa with a big stack of computer paper, with holes at the perforated sides.

Hutch lay back and held up some of the continuous sheets.  He quickly browsed past what he already knew and remembered of the situation in this particular chapter.  Then he slowed down.

That morning, after it happened and the doctor had told me about Terry's gloomy future, Hutch was driving me away from the hospital.  When it finally occurred to my muddled brain that I didn't know where we were going, I asked him.  He said he wanted to go to his place and get some sleep.  I told him I didn't want to.  After all, I thought, how could I deserve -- or even accomplish -- something as blissful as sleep, when the woman I loved was facing a short term future, all because of some twisted perp's hatred for me?  He said, "Come on, Starsk, you aren't doing anybody any good walking around like a zombie."  And then I realized that he was walking around like a zombie, too.  See, while I had been at the hospital, waiting to hear the verdict on Terry's condition, Hutch had been out doing police work.  Turned out, his footwork that night ended up being pretty important to finding out that Prudholm was involved.

Anyway, I realized Hutch was saying he needed sleep as badly as I did, so I agreed to the plan.  I don't even remember walking up the stairs to his apartment.  In addition to fatigue, my heart hurt like I can't explain.  I do remember being in Hutch's bedroom.  I'm pretty sure he helped take off my outer clothes.  And then he encouraged me to lie on the bed.  I plopped down so heavily that he couldn't even pull back the covers.  So, instead, he wrapped the bed coverings around me, while I lay curled up on my side, my back to him.

I remember thinking it was nice of him to let me have the bed, though I knew there was no way I was going to sleep.  After a short time, I felt him get into bed and curl himself around me.  I remember thinking how nice and warm the fleece of his sweats felt against my back.  And then I thought I didn't deserve that warmth.  But I also noticed that Hutch was silent.  I knew that he wasn't sure what to say.  And that was the best part -- he didn't say anything.  He didn't try to pep talk me.  He didn't try to tell me it was going to be all right.  He didn't try to badger me about how important it was that I get some sleep.

I don't know how long it took me to react.  But I knew that whenever one of us reaches for the other, love always reaches back.  And even though I didn't feel I deserved it, I couldn't resist what awaited.  So, I managed to roll over, and my head landed against his chest.  His arms came around me.  I particularly remember how his hand rested against the back of my head, holding me against him.

He still didn't say anything. 

I knew he was providing a sanctuary for me.  A safe place where I could fall apart and never have to answer for it.  I'm pretty sure there were tears, eventually.  I wanted to be mad and rail against the world, but in the strength and comfort of his arms, I couldn't feel that rage.  I could only sob like a child.  He never said a word.  He only held me.  And eventually I fell asleep.

I woke up sometime in mid afternoon.  He was still holding me.  I didn't even know if he was awake.  But once I was conscious of the devastation of my reality, I cried again.  I remember his hand slowly moving along my back, and I knew he was awake then.  After a time, I realized I couldn't stay like this with him forever, though I wanted to, where everything felt so safe and secure.  I tried to remember which parts of us belonged to me, and which to him.  I realized that my knee was pressed up against his groin.  I think he might have even had a natural reaction to that contact.  I wasn't sure, and it didn't matter.

We'd always been like that with each other.  I know it seems strange now, considering how things turned out, that we could be so physical, and not take those physical sensations to what many would call an inevitable conclusion.  But we weren't in that kind of mindset back then.  Yet, my mind was always fully aware of how much pride I took in the idea that we could be like that with each other.  That we had no physical boundaries where each other was concerned.  Being able to love each other openly -- even if not sexually -- was so important to us that we wouldn't let anything interfere with our need to seek out that contact.

 Hutch read through the parts about living with Terry in her final days, his heart heavy.

And then, finally, we knew where Prudholm was.  Holed up in a warehouse with a goon, and a couple of hostages.  Hutch came and got me.  Finding Prudholm was about the only thing that could give me the motivation to put one foot in front of the other.

We were silent on the way to the warehouse.  And when we got there It didn't look good.  No back exit.  Just one way going in, barricaded, and there was sure to be gunfire.  All Prudholm wanted to release the hostages was me, of course.

I don't remember even being scared.  I just remember thinking that this whole situation with Prudholm was finally going to reach its inevitable conclusion, and I was going to lose my life, just like he wanted.  I didn't want to think that he'd won, but my fuzzy, devastated brain couldn't think in terms of options. 

And then Hutch oh-so-casually said that he had an idea.  He told Dobey to get Prudholm back on the phone, so it would be a distraction.  Then he went and got on a motorcycle.  I knew instantly what he was thinking, because we'd always had that kind of communication.  We could crash the barricade with the motorcycle.  And I thought it was a cool idea.  But Prudholm wanted me, and there was Hutch sitting at the front of the bike, which would put him in the most direct line of fire.  I said, "You think you're going first?"  He said, "Right."  I said, "Uh-huh.  This one's mine.  Come on."  He then looked right at me, with the most beautiful blue eyes God ever created, and said, "This is ours, partner."

I remember staring into those eyes.  And the thought crossed my mind that I didn't want him to watch me die.  I had lost Terry.  But Hutch had had to deal with my intense pain, as well as the loss of Terry.  He'd had to quietly maneuver in the background, watching the catastrophe between loved ones unfold.  He was helpless to do anything about it, so he didn't try.  He was just there, being an ever-present stabilizing factor. 

I didn't want him to have to deal with the loss of me.  And, in that moment, I think it could be said that I fell in love with him.  With his gentle, unassuming courage.  With the pureness of his nobility. 

I jumped on the back of the bike, so he would be the one to risk taking the first shots, and the fallout of crashing through the barricade.  That was my way of honoring all that he was, and all that he'd meant to me.

And honoring the fact that, despite everything that had happened, Starsky and Hutch were still about Starsky and Hutch.  The senseless death of a beloved wasn't going to take that way.  It wasn't going to nullify me and thee.

It all worked out okay, of course.  I still wrestled with the idea of quitting the force.  Hutch didn't try to talk me out of it.  He played right along.  All the way to the point of calling some relative, two or three family branches removed, to get the phone number of the Vancouver Lions Canadian football team.  We were drunk then.  And pathetically trying to play Monopoly at my apartment.

We got maudlin when we opened Terry's final gifts for us.   

But now, when I think of Terry, I think of Hutch on the phone, at midnight, with the front office of the Vancouver Lions, trying -- and failing -- to get us recruited.  And I smile. 

That's the most wonderful gift of all that I was left with from that time.

Here's to Hutch.


Hutch brushed at his eyes, and let his head flop back to a sofa pillow, the pages resting on his lap.

He wasn't used to seeing Starsky's feelings so open.  He was accustomed to Starsky showing how he felt, much more so than talking about it.

I didn't know all this was inside you, buddy.

But he was glad it was.   And that it had an opportunity now to come out.

Hutch sat up and leafed through more of the pages, which he hadn't bothered tearing apart from the perforations.  He was looking for something less heavy  Eventually, he found a short chapter.

I was in the army.

I admit I've been low-key about that pretty much my whole adult life.  See, if you say you've been in the army, and you're my age, people tend to assume that you've served on the front in Vietnam.

I didn't.  Though it seemed for a while that I probably would.

I got drafted when I was twenty.  After I went through training, my unit was waiting to be deployed to the jungle.  But then a U.S. base in Germany had a major outbreak of influenza.  Some guys actually died.  The base was down to a skeleton crew, so some of us got chosen to be flown over there, though just temporarily.  I have no idea how we were chosen, but I was one of those who took a detour to Germany.  We were only there a few weeks, before they told us we would be shipping out to Asia in a few days.

Two evenings before we were scheduled to leave Germany, I was in the backseat of a jeep, being driven by another private, Branson.  He was drunk.  I hadn't been stern enough about trying to take the wheel from him, so I was in the back, feeling trepidation, while he had the jeep rolling through a back road at a wreckless speed.  I remember the thought crossing my mind that it would be ironic that, while my loved ones back home were so worried that I might be killed in the war, I would instead end up getting killed in a stupid automobile wreck in Germany.

That's all I remember from that jeep ride.  I woke up in the hospital, recovering from surgery.  The jeep had been overturned, killing Branson.  My right leg was a mess.  They told me I'd never be able to walk without a limp, and even then it would be many months before I could walk without some kind of assistance from a walker or cane.  I received an honorable discharge.

I was devastated.  Assuming I didn't get killed in the war, I very much wanted to be a cop when I returned home.  That wasn't going to be possible with a bum leg.  So, I decided that I didn't have a bum leg.  I had a leg that was injured and needed time, treatment, and therapy to get better.

I've been called stubborn and rebellious.  Those qualities certainly helped me in the year and a half year it took for my leg to recover enough that I didn't walk with a limp, and no one could tell that a major injury had happened to my leg, unless they looked at the x-rays.  When you recover from something like that, you no longer need faith that you can overcome anything.  It's something you know.  Whenever I've been befallen by some kind of injury, I've never doubted that I could get better.  And I always have.

As I write this, it occurs to me that Hutch will probably be surprised when he reads this.  He knew that I was drafted into the army, of course.  He knew that I never served on the front, due to a serious injury before I was ever shipped out to Vietnam.  But I think that's about all he knows.  I've never had a need to say much else about it, and he's never had reason to ask for more details.

As for Hutch himself, the blond golden boy managed to escape the scheduling of the draft, as a small percentage of the male population always does.  Sometimes it's hard not to believe in fate.  My being in that jeep wreck, and him being able to attend college without being disrupted by going to war, was what allowed us to meet one night in a bar, the weekend before our first term at the police academy.

Sometimes I wonder about reincarnation.  I've told Hutch recently that sometimes it feels to me like we've known each other so much longer than can be measured in the years of our biological ages.  Though he's not too keen on the reincarnation idea, he's admitted that he's sometimes felt that, too.  If reincarnation is true, I'd have to think that our souls always manage to find each other.  I mean, why didn't I push harder for Branson to give control of the jeep over to me when I knew he was drunk?  I can still see myself sitting in the back seat, the jeep bucking wildly as it went too fast over the bumps in the road, and having such a strong feeling that something was about to happen.  Not so much a feeling of terror -- though terror was present -- but feeling that something was about to happen that was going to be life-altering.  And something did.  Something good, though it seemed for a very long time that the wreck was something bad.

I'll always have the military to thank for my physical strength.  For the opportunity it gave me to take control of my own life, and not let anyone else, even highly experienced doctors, try to tell me what I can and can't do.  I badly needed to draw on that knowledge and belief many years later, when my body was wounded much more seriously than my leg was.  Those wounds had nothing to do with the Vietnam war.  But another kind of war altogether, to be told in another chapter.


The garage door opened, and a moment later Starsky entered the house, with a sack from a shoe store.

Hutch greeted him in the kitchen and quietly said, "I can't believe I've known you all these years, and I never knew how serious the injury was to your leg."

Starsky gave him a shrug and a wry smile.  "Like I said, there just never seemed to be much reason to mention it.  By the time I knew you, I was glad to have it behind me."

Hutch gave a small nod.  "I understand so much now about your determination after Gunther.  And after you got sick."  Hutch stepped closer and laid his hand against Starsky's chest.  "I'm so proud of you.  The young man you were back then.  I'm kind of sorry that I never knew him."

Starsky reach up and briefly cupped Hutch's cheek.  "You knew him when it mattered."

The ringing of the wall phone was intrusive.

Hutch stepped away and grabbed the receiver.  "Hello?"  He watched Starsky remove a shoe box from the sack.

A quiet, gruff voice said, "Uh... Hutchinson?"

Hutch furrowed his brow at the subdued tone.  "Captain?"

Starsky looked up.

"Yeah.  Uh...,"

"What's wrong?" Hutch demanded.

Starsky stepped closer.

"Hey, look, uh, Edith asked me to leave."

"What?" Hutch asked in disbelief.  He quickly covered the mouth piece of the receiver.  "Edith threw him out," he whispered to Starsky.

Starsky's eyes widened.

"Yeah, and, uh...."

Hutch had never heard his former boss sound so unsure of himself.  He quickly offered, "Do you need a place to stay?  You're welcome to come here, no questions asked."

Starsky nodded vigorously.  "There's fresh sheets on the bed."

Hutch said, "The guest bedroom is all set up.  There's fresh sheets on the bed."

"Well," Dobey drawled, "I guess... yeah...."

"Captain, just get over here.  Come on.  We're you friends and it sounds like you need friends right now.  You can say as little or as much as you want when you get here.  It's not any trouble at all."

"Well, if you're sure...."  Dobey's relief was palatable. 

"Of course, we're sure.  Starsk is right here and he's nodding his head.  We want you here.  We want to help in any way."

"All right."  Heavy sigh.  "I'll pack a suitcase."

"Bring an appetite.  Starsk is making his famous lasagna."

"Uh, thanks, Hutch."

"Sure, don't mention it.  Just get here."

As soon as Hutch hung up the phone, he said, "He doesn't sound good."

"Yeah?  Why did Edith throw him out?"

"I don't know.  And, you know, I don't want to badger him with a bunch of questions when he gets here, unless he wants to talk."

"Of course, he wants to talk.  Otherwise, he just would have gone to a motel."

"Maybe," Hutch relented with a sigh.  "Unless he really expects this to be long term.  Or maybe he wouldn't feel comfortable at a motel, in case anyone recognizes him as a police captain."

"Man," Starsky said, "he and Edith have always seemed to have the perfect, nuclear family.  This has got to be something serious.  Do you think he's having an affair and she found out about it?"

Hutch shrugged.  "Kind of hard to believe, but you never know."

"Just seems like he wouldn't risk everything for a little fling."

"Let's not assume anything," Hutch cautioned.

"Yeah."  Starsky moved to the stove and turned on the oven to preheat.  "I guess I ought to get the lasagna going."  He'd already prepared the pan and had it in the refrigerator.  Then, with satisfaction, "At least, we know none of it will go to waste."

"I'll clean up the hall bathroom.  Buddy, you probably need to make sure your book is put away."

"Oh.  Right."


Dobey arrived over an hour later.  His embarrassment was palatable as he hauled his large suitcase into the guest bedroom, and then set up toiletries in the hall bathroom.

In the kitchen, Starsky said quietly to Hutch, "It looks like he's thinking he's going to stay awhile."

Hutch soothed, "I bet they work this out faster than he thinks.  Things like this happens all the time to couples."

Starsky blinked at Hutch, thinking, Not us.  But he wondered if, some day, it could be him hauling a suitcase to some friend's house, because he and Hutch couldn't bear to be under the same roof together.

I just can't imagine....

As Dobey came down the hall, having changed into a dark blue sweat suit, Hutch gestured toward the office.  "Captain, any time you need to make a private call, you're welcome to use the office phone.  It's a separate line, and the double doors are oak."

"Thanks," Dobey muttered.

Cheerfully, Starsky said, "Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes."  He reached to the cabinet for plates.

Dobey sat down at the kitchen table.  Gaze lowered, he muttered, "I suppose you two are wondering what happened."

Hutch opened the silverware drawer.  "You don't need to say anything if you don't want to."

Starsky set dishes on the table.  "But if you'd like to talk it out, we're here to help."

"I did something really stupid."

Starsky and Hutch both tried to keep the clattering of dishes and silverware to a minimum as they set the table in a more formal manner than they normally would have for just the two of them.

After an extended silence, Hutch prompted, "It happens to the best of us." 

Starsky turned his attention to the green beans on the stove.  Over his shoulder, he asked, "Did it have something to do with another woman?"

"Nothing happened," Dobey said immediately.

Starsky ventured, "But Edith assumed something did?"

Dobey grumbled, "I think she knows better than that.  But...."  He released a heavy sigh.  "I had lunch a couple of times with this gal.  And then I gave her money to help her out.  She was having all kinds of car trouble, and...."  Another sigh.  Finally, he straightened in his chair and looked up.  "Edith happened to look in my check register, and saw that I'd written a check to a woman.  At first, I lied, because I was afraid she'd get the wrong idea, and finally I had to admit what it was for, and then the fact that I'd lied initially made her think it was something more serious than it was...."  He trailed off.

Hutch asked, "What do you want to drink?  We don't have any beer.  Wine?"

"Water or iced tea will be fine."

"How about lemonade?"


Hutch began to prepare three glasses with ice for the lemonade. 

Starsky turned around to face Dobey.  "So, who is this gal?"

He ran his hand back through his hair.  "She works at the dry cleaner, where I usually stop each week to pick up the clothes."  He presented a distant smile.  "She's always been friendly to me.  Pretty young thing.  A white girl.  And then she asked me one day if I'd like to go to lunch that week."  He shrugged.  "I thought it would be a harmless thing.  Just lunch.  So, I took her to lunch the next day, and really enjoyed talking to her.  Then we went again the following week."

The stove timer beeped, and Starsky turned to shut it off.  He also turned off the burner with the green beans.  Quietly, he said to Hutch, "Why don't you slice up the garlic bread."

Hutch grabbed a pot holder and removed the garlic bread from the oven.

Starsky worked with the green beans, glancing over his shoulder.  "And then?"

"Well, the second lunch, she was talking about all these financial troubles she was having, especially with her car, and," Dobey sighed heavily, "I wrote her a check for a couple of hundred.  I know it was stupid, but she seemed so grateful."

As Hutch cut the garlic bread, he said dryly, "I bet she wanted to go to more lunches after that."

"Yeah," Dobey muttered, "we were supposed to go again on Tuesday."

"Did you cancel it?" Starsky wondered.  He put the green beans on the table, and then turned to remove the lasagna from the oven.

"Not yet," Dobey admitted.

The next few minutes, the focus was getting the food on the table.  Then Starsky and Hutch sat down.

"Dig in," Hutch prompted.

For a while, the three focused on eating.  "This is delicious," Dobey said sincerely.

"Yeah," Hutch agreed, "Starsk has always made a mean lasagna.  Once I found out about it, however many years ago, I quit wanting to do all the cooking whenever we got together."

After the biggest curb had been taken off his hunger, Starsky asked, "So, what's this girl's name?"


"It's got to be more than just a casual thing, if you haven't canceled lunch with her yet, and don't sound like you really want to."

Dobey shifted with discomfort.  "What do you want me to say?" he muttered.  "She's a young gal.  It's flattering getting attention from her."  He stared at the table for a long moment, and then admitted, "It felt good to feel... desirable."

Starsky exchanged a glance with Hutch.  Then he said, "But if you want to get back with Edith, you know it can't go anywhere."

"I know," Dobey muttered with his mouth full.

Quietly, Hutch asked, "Is this the first time anything like this has happened?"

"Yeah."  Dobey released a heavy breath, and then brushed his napkin across his mouth.  "Of course, I want to patch things up with Edith.  I just guess I'm feeling a midlife crisis, or whatever it's called, and it's hard to think about letting go of something that seems so... nice."

Starsky said hopefully, "Surely, Edith just needs a day or two to cool off."

Hutch said, "You know it's not going to help matters if you keep seeing Cheryl.  And things are unlikely to stay innocent."  He quickly added, "Not that it's any of our business."

Dobey sat back in his chair.  "Well, I figured you two would be pretty neutral about the whole thing."

Starsky said, "We don't want you and Edith to break up, mainly because we're sure that you don't want you two to break up."

"How are the kids?" Hutch asked.

"I think Calvin's angry and Rosie is sad.  They don't really have any way of understanding why Edith wanted me out.  I'm not sure what she's telling them."

"Does she know you're here?" Starsky wondered.


Starsky wasn't sure what else to say, without coming across as badgering or judgmental.

After a few moments of them all eating in silence, Hutch said, "Just know that you're welcome to stay as long as you need to.  It's not a problem for us."

Dobey presented a smile that almost came out like a grimace.  "Appreciate it.  I'm not sure what's going to happen."  He suddenly looked squarely at Starsky.  Then he smiled.  "You look like you've lost weight."

Starsky felt pride go through him, and he patted his stomach.  "Yep.  Lost about twenty pounds the past six months or so, and I turned a few more from fat into muscle.  I feel better than I ever have, since Gunther."

Dobey then looked at Hutch.  "And you shaved your mustache."

"Yeah," Hutch said with a soft chuckle, "it was sort of an accident.  I might grow it back.  I hate shaving my upper lip, after going a few years when I didn't have to."

Starsky decided to refrain from crass conversation about how appealing he'd found Hutch's bare upper lip, when it was new.  Instead, he wondered what the next few days were going to be like, with Dobey staying with them.  He and Hutch already had at least a half day of work scheduled for tomorrow.  With that thought, Starsky snapped his fingers.  "Hey!  How would you like to go with Hutch and me to the horse track tomorrow morning?"

Hutch brightened.  "Yeah, come with us.  It'll be good for you to get out and be in a different atmosphere."

"Horse track?" Dobey asked in puzzlement.

They both then proceeded to tell him about the case.


Since they intended to get up early to go to the racetrack, they turned in early.  When Starsky and Hutch snuggled up together, Starsky said, "It seems weird, doesn't it, that he hasn't already dropped Cheryl like a hot potato?"

"Yeah.  Hopefully, he'll realize soon enough that he can't play both sides, if he's serious about holding his marriage together."

"And I'll bet that Cheryl is looking for a sugar daddy.  She might just be stringing him along to get money from him."

"Maybe.  But it's not really for us to judge."

Starsky decided not to comment on his love's ever-present practicality.  Instead, he addressed the very idea that such a solid couple as Edith and Dobey could have these types of problems.  "Babe?"

"Hm?"  Hutch sounded like he was already dozing.

"I want us to promise each other something."

Hutch sounded puzzled.  "What?"

"That when we're mad at each other, we'll always give ourselves a chance to work it out.  Before bed."

"We do that anyway."

"So far."  Starsky snuggled down further under the covers.  "I just want us to always care enough about us, that no matter how mad one of us gets, we promise each other that we'll at least try to talk it out.  Before bed."

"Of course we will, buddy."

"It seems so impossible now, that anything between us could ever be seriously wrong.  But couples assume that all the time, and if a relationship as solid as Edith and Dobey can start down the wrong path -- to the point where she can't stand for him to be there -- I just... I just don't want to think that could ever happen to us.  I want you to know you can always talk to me, no matter how pissed off I am at you.  And I want to feel that you'll always be open to communication, no matter how fed up with me you are about something."

Hutch squeezed his hand.  "Yeah.  Okay."

Starsky snuggled closer, laying his head on Hutch's bare chest and resting an arm across his stomach.  "Just want us to always stay strong together."

Fingers stroked the back of his hair.  Hutch said, "I can't ever lose you, buddy.  I'd never have the courage to walk out on you.  'Kay?"

"Hm-mm," Starsky said, wanting to believe it with all his heart.

The fingers dropped down to the top of his shoulders.  "Love you."

Starsky smiled and rubbed his cheek against Hutch's chest.  "Mm."


They left early enough that they were able to stop at a Dennys for breakfast before arriving at the track.

While they downed coffee, eggs, and pancakes, Hutch asked, "So, you're going to go into work tomorrow morning as usual?"  Today was Sunday.

Dobey grunted.  "Guess so."

Starsky said, "Maybe you ought to take some sick days.  Give yourself a chance to figure things out.  The job is stressful enough without you having all the pressure at home, on top of it."  It was all he could do not to say something about the stress of Dobey's weight.  The man had never been on a successful diet, and it wasn't for lack of trying.  Starsky didn't think badgering him about it was going to help anything.

"I'd like to," Dobey admitted.  "It's just hard to leave things to somebody else.  We've got the murder of a couple of co-eds that we're working on."

Hutch said, "There's always murders to be solved, Captain.  That's not you responsibility.  It's not like there's ever a good time to take a break."

"Yeah," Dobey muttered, "guess you're right."

Starsky mused, "I don't think I could ever go back to having a regular job, after being self-employed.  I really like having this freedom."

"I envy you that," Dobey admitted, "but you certainly worked hard enough for it.  Me, I've got too many years in this job to give up on it now, though it's been tempting at times.  My pension is about all Edith and I will have in retirement."

Hutch said, "If you live that long to collect it.  I'm worried about you, Captain.  You don't look well.  I'm with Starsk.  I think  you really ought to give yourself some guilt-free days off, and give yourself a chance to think things through, without stressful distractions."

Starsky pressed, "Why don't you give yourself a vacation week?  I bet if you go to your doctor, he'd give you a medical leave."

"I don't know," Dobey muttered, pushing his empty plate away.  He released a heavy sigh and rubbed at his face.  "I'm just so tired of everything."

Starsky exchanged a worried glance with Hutch.  "What do you mean by everything?"

"Just everything."  Dobey rubbed at his face again.  "My life."  He pulled his hand away.  "The kids are getting grown.  That's what's always held Edith and me together.  And now Cal thinks I'm an asshole, and that I don't understand anything about him or his world.  And he's too old to put over my knee."

Starsky quickly assured, "We're all like that when we're teenagers.  We're feeling our oats don't want to listen to anybody older than us."

Dobey continued, "Edith and me just always seem to have the same routine.  There's never anything new.  And the job is as frustrating as it's ever been.  Not even with the endless murders and rapes, but everything is so political now.  Even in the short time since you two have been gone, it's like there's so many masters to please."  He released another long, heavy breath.  "I'm just tired.  Wore out."

Seriously, Starsky said, "You shouldn't have to get gunned down to get a medical leave.  I really think you should try to get some time off.  Come on, you're owed that."

"First thing tomorrow," Hutch said, "call in sick and then call your doctor and push to get in right away.  One of us can go with you, if that would help."

"Well," Dobey said more congeniality, "I'll see what I want to do tomorrow morning."  He began to gather his coat.  "Thanks for listening."

Starsky and Hutch exchanged another worried glance.



As the chestnut horse approached the finish line, with the rider perched low over his neck, Clyde Clausen pressed his stop watch.  "47.2."

Starsky tried to recall, "That's faster than Ghost was."

"Yes.  Hopefully, not too fast.  I didn't expect him to go that quick for his first work."

"Going fast is a problem?" Dobey asked.  He'd perked up considerably after getting to the track.  There were so many unusual sights, sounds, and smells that claimed his attention.

Clausen muttered, "It can be if he wasn't ready for it.  I just hope he cools out okay.  The jock should have gone a little easier with him."

Hutch released a sigh as he looked at Starsky, and Starsky shrugged.  Now that Ghost and Tyke had their first works behind him, Starsky asked, "So, when is Darla's turn?"  He'd watched her gallop again, earlier this morning.  Even to his unpracticed eye, he thought she moved with a greater strength than before, and Swanson had to work harder at keeping her pace leisurely.  He'd reported to Clausen afterward, "She almost got away from me.  She's wanting to go."

"A few days," Clausen replied.

Hutch said, "Make sure you let us now.  We'd like to be here for it."

Starsky smiled to himself, for he knew Hutch had said that solely for his sake.

"I'll probably give Ghost his second work that same day.  So, you can see both of them.  Probably on Wednesday, but I'll let Brooks know for sure."

Starsky really hated that Brooks was the official liaison for the partnership.  He could understand why, for Clausen, it made sense to only deal with one of the partners, but as an owner, he felt he had a right to direct information regarding everything going on.

They hung around the grandstand, as Clausen had a few more horses working for other owners.   Then they returned to the barn area, and watched all the activity with the horses, getting their baths and being cooled out. 

Dobey was sitting in an offered patio chair, grinning as he watched the activity.  Hutch came up to him and slapped him on the back.  "You seem a lot more relaxed."

"Yeah," he replied with enthusiasm, "this is fun.  Different.  It all seems so... innocent and pure."

Starsky muttered, "I doubt that, when you start looking at the underbelly, but it is nice being out of the office, isn't it?"

Hutch said, "Like we told you, we're going to have to meet later on with someone for lunch."

"That's fine.  Just drop me off at the grandstand after it opens, and I'll buy a Racing Form and handicap the horses.  We are staying for this afternoon's races, aren't we?"

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other.  Neither of them and previously considered it, but they both shrugged.  "Sure."


Hutch really hoped the lunch with Grant, Mabel's homosexual son, was going to be of some benefit to them.  Because he wasn't finding Grant particularly likable.  He was tall, skinny, and unrefined.  He seemed a little nerdy.  And rather immature for a 32yo.

Since it was Hutch that Mabel herself had taken a liking too, Starsky had suggested that maybe Hutch should go to lunch alone with Grant, and Starsky could keep Dobey company.  But Hutch had nixed that idea.  For one thing, he didn't want Grant getting any ideas that he could expect any hanky panky.  For another, he always appreciated Starsky's insight when trying to get information from a potential witness.

They had agreed to meet at a modest restaurant about ten miles from Brooks office.  They ended up in a corner booth, and once they had all ordered, Starsky said, "So, Grant, are you involved in the racing business at all?"

He scoffed.  "You kidding?  It's a dumb sport with a lot of greed."

Hutch asked, "Why do you say that?"

"People counting on helpless animals to make them rich and famous.  It's stupid."

Starsky asked, "Well, then, what about Brook's investment firm that your mother works at?  You know anything about her job?"

He scoffed again.  "I know that stupid Brooks treats her like shit."

Hutch furrowed his brow.  "Really?  When I was over there a while back, she seemed pleasant enough.  Usually, people who hate their jobs aren't pleasant."

Grant shifted with discomfort.  "For all I know, he's banging her.  I've outright asked her, and she denies it, but that's what I think is really happening."

With feigned complacency, Starsky said, "Well, it's not like it's anybody's business but theirs."

"She won't see how badly he treats her," Grant went on.

"What do you mean?" Hutch prompted.

"He talks down to her.  Yells at her.  He always sounds mad."

Starsky presented a crooked grin.  "Sounds like our boss back when we were cops."

Grant shook his head.  "She doesn't have to work there.  She gets enough money from Social Security, and from the pension Dad left.  But she says she likes having something meaningful to do."  Grant suddenly brightened.  "Oh, hey, I'm sorry to start things off talking about something like that.  So, how do you know my mother?"

"She didn't tell you?" Hutch asked.

"She said she knew a couple of gays who were interested in meeting other gays."

Hutch shifted with discomfort.  "It wasn't exactly like that.  David and I are in an exclusive relationship.  She just thought it would be good for you to get out, since she's concerned about how much you keep to yourself, and we thought it might be nice to take you to lunch."

Grant looked from one to the other, and levelly asked, "You guys aren't interested in anything else?"

They both shook her heads.

Grant rolled his eyes.  "That's not the impression she gave me."

Starsky shrugged.  "Can't we at least enjoy lunch together?"

Sourly, he said, "I don't know how having lunch with a couple of homos is supposed to be different from lunch with anybody else, if all it is lunch."

No wonder he doesn't have any friends, Hutch thought.  Congenially, he said, "Sorry for the misunderstanding."

"She misunderstood on purpose," Grant decided.

"Perhaps."  That was certainly the impression Hutch had gotten.

Starsky cocked an eye at Hutch, and then leaned forward on the table.  "How about we talk some more about your mother and her job?"


Starsky watched Hutch again, and Hutch nodded his agreement.  "Because we might be able to cause things to happen so that she doesn't have that job anymore, because Brooks will be out of business."

Slowly, Grant grinned.  He said, "I'm all ears."


They had revealed as little as possible to Grant, while still relaying that they were private investigators who were working on a case that could put Brooks out of business, or even send him to prison.  At their request, Grant said that he would try to get an extra office key made from his mother's key.  They left him their card, so he could call them when he had the extra key.

When they arrived back at the track, the first race had been run.  They found Dobey inside the grandstand, grinning broadly.

"What are you so happy about?" Starsky asked.

Dobey chuckled.  "I had the winner in the first race, at seven to one."

"Congratulations," Hutch said.  "We didn't know you were into handicapping the horses."

"I'm not," Dobey admitted, "but I know how to read a Form.  Just had a feeling."

Starsky suggested, "Maybe you should quit while you're ahead."

"No way, fellas.  I've already got horses picked out for the next five races, so we've got to stay at least that long."

Starsky and Hutch were willing to indulge him.


They arrived home late in the afternoon.  Being at the track had required a lot more walking than any of them were accustomed to.  They all plopped down on the couch and turned on the afternoon sports programs.

The house phone rang, and Starsky groaned when getting to his tired legs to answer it.  "Hello?"

A young female voice asked, "Is Harold there?"

"Uh.  Yeah.  Can I tell him who's calling?"

"It's Cheryl."

"Okay.  Hang on."

Starsky put the phone down on the kitchen counter, since there wasn't a hold button, and trotted back to the living room.  When Dobey and Hutch looked up, Starsky said quietly, "It's Cheryl.  Do you want to call her back on the office phone?"

Dobey struggled to his feet.  "Yeah."

"Do you have the number?"


"Okay."  Starsky moved back into the kitchen and picked up the receiver.  "Cheryl?  He's calling you back from another line."

"Okay.  Thanks."

Starsky hung up, and then watched Dobey go into the office, and close the oak doors.  He moved back into the living room and plopped down on the sofa next to Hutch.

Hutch lowered the volume on the TV.  "How did Cheryl get our house number?"

"I don't know.  Maybe he called her from the track.  Maybe he called her last night before he came over, and let her know where he was going to be."

Hutch drew a deep breath.  "He's got to be really smitten.  I'll bet anything that he's going to lunch with her on Tuesday."

"Yeah, I bet so, too."  Starsky shrugged.  "Guess it's really none of our business, huh?"

The house phone rang again.

"Grand Central Station," Starsky muttered, as he again struggled to his tired feet. 

He picked up the phone in the kitchen.  "Hello?"

A familiar female voice said, "This sounds like David."

"Yes, it is."  Starsky felt his stomach tighten.

"This is Edith Dobey.  Is Harold there?"

  "Uh.  He went for a walk, Edith.  I'll tell him you called as soon as he gets back."

"A walk?  I wish he'd do that here."

Starsky cringed at the visibility of the lie.  And felt he had to tell another.  "Well, Hutch was nagging him to get some fresh air.  So, they both went."

Hutch appeared from the living room, looking at Starsky questioningly.

"Okay.  Please tell him I'm expecting his call."

Starsky looked at Hutch.  "I'll do that, Edith.  Take care."  He hung up.  "Geez, Hutch.  This is nuts.  I'm lying for him now."

Hutch came to stand next to Starsky.  "Weird, them both calling at the same time like that."

"I swear, women have a sixth sense about this stuff."

They were silent as they watched the closed oak doors.  Then Hutch said, "No telling how long he's going to be mooning over Cheryl on the phone."

"Yeah, maybe we should slip him a note that says Edith is waiting for him to call her."

Hutch grabbed the notepad beside the phone.  He wrote Edith called.  Is waiting for you to call her back.  She thinks you and Hutch went for a walk.

Starsky nodded his approval.  He watched Hutch go over to the closed, double oak doors, and then knock.  After a moment, he turned the handle and leaned in just long enough to hand Dobey the note.  Then he closed the doors behind him.

When Hutch was back in the kitchen, he said in a low voice, "He's talking all lovey-dovey to Cheryl."

"Man, he needs to get himself together.  In more ways than one.  I sure hope he takes some days off.  I'm scared to death he's going to have a heart attack."

"Yeah.  But maybe if he did, the good thing is that it would probably bring him and Edith back together."

"If he lived through it," Starsky muttered.  Then he wondered "Maybe he doesn't want them to get back together.  He's sure not behaving like he does."

"I guess I can sort of see, you know, for a man like him, getting attention from a young, pretty woman like that."

"Yeah, but he's risking throwing away his whole family."

Hutch shrugged.  "Maybe he's really serious about wanting a change."

"Yeah.  But, you know, even with all the cheating spouse cases we've taken, it seems like the couples almost always end up staying together."

"I'm not sure that's necessarily a good thing," Hutch said wryly.

Starsky sighed, realizing what he was in the mood for most right now.  "I'm going to turn on the computer and do some writing.  If he comes out and wants to know what I'm doing, I'll just tell him I'm writing a book as a hobby.  I can't imagine he'll be all that curious about it.  He's got other things on his mind."

"Yeah."  Hutch yawned and stretched out his arms.  "Guess I'll fall asleep in front of the TV."

When Dobey emerged nearly an hour later, he muttered, "Thanks for the message.  I called her back."  But he otherwise didn't say anything.


On Monday morning, Dobey called in sick.  Then he made an appointment with his doctor for Thursday that week.

On Tuesday, he called in sick again, but left late in the morning.

Hutch had no doubt that Dobey was meeting Cheryl for lunch. 

Starsky was also gone for a workout at the new gym he'd joined, since leaving his personal trainer, Ronnie.

Hutch went to the bookcase beside where the computer was, and searched through the stack of computer paper, looking for what Starsky had most recently written.  He found it after a few moments.

It seems like, my whole life, I've felt I haven't had a right to have an opinion about marriage.  Whenever I'd hear someone complaining about their spouse, or whatever, I'd think, "Since I've never been married, I can't say I know what it's like."  So, I'd keep my mouth shut.  That was a real challenge when Hutch was married to Vanessa.  I'd support him, of course, but never say anything about the marriage itself.  I had plenty of thoughts about it, though.  But that's for another chapter.

I no longer feel that I can't speak up about marriage.  I have as much right as anybody.

It's funny how things happened with me and Hutch.  A few months after we'd started having sex, and started our PI business, we decided to get wedding bands.  It wasn't because we decided we wanted to be Married.  I think we'd felt for years, way before the sex, that we were already married, in a sense.  I think most cops would agree that a long-term partnership is like a marriage.  Anyway, Hutch and me sometimes had girls eyeballing us, or even making inquiries, so we thought getting wedding bands would show that we were unavailable.

So, when we went to a jeweler and picked out matching bands, it wasn't any big deal.  It didn't mean anything special to us.  And yet, once we were wearing them, it seemed that both of us found ourselves taking the concept of marriage more seriously.  We started outright referring to ourselves as married.  And I guess, by default, that first night in Kittihawk became what we thought of as our wedding night. 

That day that we got the bands, we started tossing around the idea of having a ceremony, even though that hadn't been in our original plans.  I think we both felt the cultural pull to do something formal in front of friends and family to cement our relationship.  Though I think we both felt funny about the idea.  More importantly, when we started tossing around the possibility of vows, the whole thing got sort of ridiculous.  I mean, just what exactly were we supposed to promise each other?  To love and cherish each other?  We'd been doing that for years.  To honor and obey?  Check.  In sickness and in health?  Check.  Been there, done that.  Until death do we part?  Well, I technically died once, and I'm still with Hutch.

So, we sort of reached the realization at the same time that there was absolutely nothing left for us to promise each other.  Making vows and promises to each other would be totally meaningless -- irrelevant words after the fact.  We didn't need to promise each other anything.  We'd already lived it.  We'd already been through all the stuff that couples can go through.  And we're still together.  As solid as ever.

It seems so ironic to me that the big issue in most marriages is fidelity.  Couples are said to fight most about money, but it's infidelity that tears marriages apart, that brings out the most intense feelings.

I know this is going to sound weird, but the one thing I'd never expect Hutch to swear to me is fidelity.  And I don't see how I could swear it to him.  It's not that I ever expect us to be unfaithful to each other.  I know we both want very much to be faithful.  But there's also the reality of male biology.  If a willing woman brushes up against a man in just the right way, the man has maybe a ten second window in which to extract himself from the situation.  After that, he's no longer thinking with the head on his shoulders, and biology is going to play itself out.  Something is going to happen, no matter how much he might be thinking afterwards that he wishes that it hadn't.

I know a situation like that could happen to Hutch.  I know a situation like that could happen to me.  The trick is to not let oneself get into those situations.  I suppose that's the definition of a gentleman.  A gentleman doesn't' t put himself in compromising positions, where he or the woman might end up doing something that they didn't mean to let happen. 

So, I have no intention of letting myself get put in a compromising situation, and I know that Hutch doesn't either.  But I also know that sometimes things happen.  Sometimes they sneak up on you.  If Hutch ever did something like that, I would be mad as hell, and demand to know how he let himself get put in a position where his instinctive male urges had an opportunity to take over.  I'd probably be hurt to a degree that I don't even know how to imagine.  But one thing I'm certain of:  it wouldn't be a deal breaker.  It wouldn't be the end of us.  I'd never throw away everything we've built together, just because Hutch got stupid for five minutes. 

I suppose some might think that such an outlook gives Hutch and I permission to be unfaithful.  But I don't see it that way at all.  The reality that sometimes things happen doesn't negate our intentions for ourselves, and what we want our marriage to be.

In our line of work as private investigators, we've seen a lot of unhappy wives, wanting us to spy on their husbands and get evidence of cheating.  Usually, we do get such evidence, and usually the cheating isn't a one-time fling, but a long-term relationship.  Sometimes I can't help but wonder if marriage is set up in a way that promotes suspicions of cheating.  And once the suspicions are there, it seems the fantasies are going to turn into reality.  After all, you can't have a concept of tall unless you know what it means to be short.  You can't conceptualize the idea of wealth unless you can also conceptualize the idea of being impoverished.  And you can't have a concept of fidelity, unless you know that infidelity exists.  I sometimes think too many married people focus on the fidelity part.  They fret and worry about it.  Perhaps, subconsciously, they bring it about, just by harping so much on the concept of faithfulness.  I mean, if a wife constantly worries about her husband cheating, it seems the husband would think, "Since she thinks I'm cheating anyway, I may as well do it."

I don't ever worry about Hutch cheating.  A big part of it is that we spend so much time together, it would be difficult for either of us to find some private space in which a innocuous coupling could take place.  Another reason I don't worry is because I would know about it pretty quickly.  There's no way Hutch would be able to hide his shame and guilt.  I wouldn't either.  It's the kind of thing that we would have to fess up to right away, and take our lumps, if either of us happened to get lost down that road.

Still, while I feel such solidity about Hutch and me, it's really hard to see other marriages go through a difficult time.  Especially where cheating is involved.  It makes me wonder how Hutch and me have gotten away with being so fortunate.  Maybe it's that we have such a long history of always returning to each other.  We've both had more couplings than can be counted back when we were single.  And we always returned to each other.  No matter how serious either of us might get about a particular woman, it was always me and Hutch who ended up being together.  Our relationship was the one that had all the strength.

So, maybe that's why we seem so much luckier than other couples.  We've always returned to each other.  And since that pattern is so long established, what would be the point of straying in the first place?


Hutch felt himself smile as he put the connected computer pages back in a neat stack.  Touché, buddy. 

Unfortunately, it didn't appear that any of Starsky's musings were going to solve the problems between Dobey and Edith.  Not our problem to solve, Hutch reminded himself.  Again.

The office phone rang, and Hutch hurried to answer it.


Starsky entered the house, feeling the stickiness of his body.  He hadn't bothered showering at the gym.

Hutch was sitting in his office chair, and said across the foyer.  "Guess what?"

"What?" Starsky asked as he approached.

"Brooks just called.  Tyke has bucked shins, so his training has been set back two or three months."

"Dammit," Starsky said.  "So, I guess that workout on Sunday was too fast for him to handle."


"Did Brooks sound upset?"

"No.  Quite nonchalant."

Starsky sat in a "guest" chair across from Hutch.  "No doubt, he's planning on padding the vet bill, so he's probably in a good mood."

Hutch snorted with agreement.

"Man, wasn't Tyke the horse that Clausen said he liked because his conformation was so good that he was unlikely to be injured?"

"Yeah, but from talking with Brooks, and what Clausen said to us a couple of weeks ago, it sounds like bucked shins is such a common two year old ailment, that it hardly even comes under the category of an injury."

Starsky shook his head.  "I don't understand how anyone can want to be a racehorse owner.  Everything takes so long, and it's just one thing after another.  And then," he added, thinking of their Sunday at Hollywood Park, "after all that waiting, it's like the horse runs in a race that lasts just a minute or two."

Hutch shrugged.  "I suppose it's the same as like a track star in the Olympics.  All those years of hard work, just to climax in one race that last only ten seconds or so."

"Guess so."

"But there is some good news."

Starsky perked up.  "Yeah?"

"Yep.  Ghost and Darla are both scheduled to have workouts Wednesday morning.  I know you'll want to be there for that."

Starsky rubbed his hands together.  "For sure.  Man, I hope she doesn't get bucked shins, too.  Seems like, if it's such a common injury, horsemen would have figured out how to prevent it."

Hutch said, "I was doing some reading."  Starsky knew that Hutch had picked up a stack of books on racing from the track gift shop on Sunday.  "It's kind of delicate thing.  You want to put condition on the horse to strengthen their bones.  It's not natural for horses to run as fast as they do in racing.  So, their bones need to remodel to handle the stress of so much of speed.  They buck their shins because their bones can't handle it.  But, by recovering from bucked shins, it causes the bone to remodel, so one theory is that bucked shins are actually beneficial to horses, because it forces their bones to strengthen, even though it's an annoying setback of a few months.  I even read where some trainers purposely work their horses too fast, so they'll hurry up and buck their shins and get it out of the way."

Starsky furrowed his brow at such an idea.  "You said that was one theory."

Hutch shrugged.  "Well, others say that racing is so steeped in tradition that it's a backwards sport, and a lot of horseman refuse to consider anything that modern studies have shown.  I mean, common sense would dictate that if you bring a horse along slowly enough, his bones should be strong enough to handle speed when he's finally asked for it.  So, there's no reason why bucked shins have to happen.  And still others are of the strong belief that it's just plain wrong to race two year olds, because it's impossible for a horse that young to have bones strong enough to handle that kind of speed."

Starsky absorbed Hutch's words.  "But, still, it's not like a hundred percent of horses buck their shins.  So, obviously some two year olds do okay, racing when they're that young."

 "I don't really have an opinion about it.  That's just some of the stuff I was reading."

Starsky said, "I wonder what the chances are that Grant might have been able to get a copy of his mother's key by Wednesday, so we can pick it up while we're out there."

"That would be convenient."  Hutch paused.  "I do wonder if he might just blow us off, since we weren't interested in anything besides lunch."

Starsky snorted.  "Even if I was outright gay, I can't imagine wanting to do it with someone like him.  Sheesh."

Hutch batted his eyes.  "Well gee, partner, since you brought it up, what man would you consider having sex with, if you were 'outright gay'?"

Starsky pretended to give it serious thought.  He considered a favorite movie.  "Robert Redford.  Because he's almost as good looking as you."

"You love me only for my looks?"

"Well, I think his mannerisms, especially as Sundance, is sort of like yours."

Hutch chuckled.  Then he said, more seriously, "I read your last chapter."

Starsky perked up again.  "Oh?  Did you like it?"

The office phone rang, and Hutch picked it up.  "Starsky and Hutchinson."  He listened a moment, and then looked up at Starsky with a grin.  "Hello, Grant."


In the grandstand, Starsky was nearly jumping up and down, he was so eager to see Darla's first work.  He said, "It's like waiting to see how your kid's first day at preschool turned out."

Hutch merely smiled, and Clausen seemed to ignore Starsky, other than pointing out that Ghost would be working first.

Dobey had ended up going into the station, since he'd had have to take the next morning off for his doctor's appointment.  He still wasn't saying much of anything about his marital situation.

Hutch watched with only minimal interest as the gray Ghost came galloping down the homestretch.  He could see the rider urging strongly with his hands.

Clausen pushed his stop watch as Ghost moved under the finish line.  "48.2"

Starsky asked, "Was that faster than before?"

"Little bit."  Clausen didn't sound happy.

Hutch wondered, "Is the same rider going to be on Darla?"

"No.  I got a real experienced jock on Darla.  She's real full of herself right now, and she needs a strong rider that can hold her together, and not let her do more than she's ready for."  Clausen raised his binoculars and pointed.  "She's on the track now."

Starsky quickly pick up his binoculars, and then asked, "Is she going to also work a half mile?"

"She needs to warm up a few minutes first.  The work will officially be a half mile, but I told the jock to let her blow out another furlong past the finish line.  In other words, not try to wrestle her down, but let her go on for another furlong as he gradually pulls her up."

Hutch noted, "Ghost seemed real easy to pull up.  Like he was glad it was over."

"Yeah," Clausen muttered, "he's just a horse.  He'll be starting out in maiden claiming company with the other slowpokes."

Hutch muttered back, "That's encouraging."

Clausen lowered his binoculars.  Testily, he said, "You want a top class horse, go to the Keeneland yearling sales in Kentucky and spend a few hundred thousand.  Or a few million.  Then you'll have a right to be disappointed in slowpokes.  We trainers can only do what we can do with quality of the stock that owners give to us, or the limited amount of money they give us to spend.  It's just like with jockeys.  You can be the greatest rider in the world, but if you have only slow horses underneath you, no one is ever going to know it."

Hutch was silently grateful that it really wasn't he and Starsky's money that had bought these horses.  And he wondered where Clausen's defensiveness was coming from.  He thought of Dobey having said, I'm tired of my life.

Clausen sounded like that, too.

Thankfully, Starsky was just the opposite.  His hands kept flexing on the binoculars as he watched Darla.  "She's on the rail now, around the first turn.  See her, Hutch?"

"Yeah, buddy."  The large, dark filly was moving into the backstretch, along the inside rail, gradually galloping faster and faster.

When she reached the green and white half mile pole near the end of the backstretch, Clausen made a motion with his hand, indicating he'd started his watch.

As Hutch watched with his naked eyes, he felt he could see the strength and power of her, compared to how Ghost had just run, and even Tyke a few days ago. 

"Man, she looks so strong," Starsky said.

"The jock has a good hold on her," Clausen said with satisfaction.  "She's well within herself.  She's letting herself be controlled, and that's a good thing."

Binoculars had been lowered as Darla ran through the stretch.  She crossed the finish line and kept going just as strongly.

"Easy," Clausen whispered under his breath. 

Darla made it around the first turn before the jock finally stood high in the stirrups and guided her toward the outside rail.

"What was her time?" Starsky asked.

"47.2  And she went the extra furlong in just under twelve seconds.  That's just what I wanted to see."

Starsky released a breath, "So, she did great?"

"Yep.  She's coming along just fine."

Starsky beamed at Hutch.  "Oh, man, it's going to be so cool when she finally races."


Late that afternoon, after having returned home, they had Steve Hanson on the speaker phone in the office.

"We've got a key to Brooks' office," Hutch told him.  "Mabel's son, Grant, hates Brooks, so he took the key from Mabel's keychain and had a copy made, without her knowing anything about it."

"Terrific," Hanson said, though he sounded subdued.  "What's the plan now?"

"One night, pretty soon here, we're going to sneak into Brooks' office and get into his file cabinets and check registers, and see what we can find out, as far as blank bogus invoices, and checks written, and stuff like that.  We'll have to use flashlights and keep the lights off, so it might be a few hours.  But we don't intend to leave until we're sure we've found everything we can that's incriminating.  We'll take copies of stuff, since the copy machine is right there."

"That should put the nail in his coffin then?"

"We hope so.  How's it going with shutting down the other partnerships?"

"It's going fast.  We were able to give a couple of horses away, and we have one filly with decent breeding that we think we can sell cheap."

Starsky asked, "Do you know yet what you want to do about Brooks?"

"I admit I've avoided thinking about it."

Hutch suggested, "Maybe the three of us can take the evidence to the police, and let them handle it as they see fit.  You know darn well that if Brooks is ripping off his racing partners, he's surely doing the same thing in his oil and other investments.  They might want to launch their own investigation into the other parts of his dealings before they take him down."

Hanson sighed.  "Well, let's see what you come up with when you go into his office."

"Okay, Steve.  Be expecting to hear from us in a few days."

"Sounds good.  Bye, fellas."

Hutch cut the line and said to Starsky, "I thought he'd be a little more excited."

"Yeah.  He sounds like he really doesn't want to deal with it."

"I guess I can understand that.  It's not like he's getting anything out of it, other than proof that he's been partners with an old friend for twenty years who has turned out to be a crook.  I mean, it's not like he or his partners are going to get any of their money back for the bloated expenses."

"Still, I thought he'd take more satisfaction in the principle of the thing."

There was the noise of a car outside.  "Is that Dobey?"

Starsky went to the foyer and looked at the peephole.  He saw Dobey's station wagon pull up at the curb.  "Yep.  Hmm.  This is a little early for him to be getting off of work."

They had moved to the kitchen when Dobey entered the house.

"You're home early," Starsky pointed out cheerfully.

"Yeah."  Dobey plopped into a kitchen chair.  "The chief ordered me to take the rest of the week and all of next week off."

"So, you told him what was going on?"

"Yeah.  By the way, he says hello to you two."

Hutch asked, "What about your doctor's appointment tomorrow?"

"That's part of the agreement, that the doctor submit a written report."

"Do you need a ride?  If it's a thorough physical, those can be exhausting."

"No, no.  I'll be fine."

They all sat silently, and Starsky ventured, "How about barbecuing burgers for dinner?"

"Sounds good," Hutch said.  Then he asked, "Buddy, how about how take care of getting the grill going?  I think our Captain and I should take a walk."

"Take a walk?" Dobey asked.  "I don't want to take a walk."

Hutch was already standing.  "Come on, Captain.  It'll do you good to have a little exercise.  Indulge me."

Starsky figured it would be good for Hutch to talk to Dobey about his marital situation, though he didn't know exactly what Hutch had in mind.  Dobey might be more forthcoming if he didn't feel double-teamed. 

Starsky said, "Yeah, I'll get the grill going."


Hutch made sure he kept their pace leisurely as he walked with his hands stuffed in his lightweight tan jacket.  "There's a nice park just a couple of blocks up."

Dobey grunted.  He was wearing a red sweater, where the buttons were pulled tight across his middle.

Hutch ventured, "Is there anything you would like to talk about?"

"Well, Edith and I met for coffee this afternoon."

"Oh.  Good."

Dobey  shrugged.  "Or not.  She wants us to see a marriage counselor."

"You don't want to?"

"I don't know what good it's supposed to do."

Hutch decided to be forthright.  "You now, from where I stand, it sounds like you aren't interested in keeping your marriage together."

Dobey looked up.  "I have no idea what I'm interested in, or what I want.  There.  I've said it."

"Look, I know I haven't walked in your shoes.  But what really scares me, is that Edith is going to get fed up, and she's not going to want you back.  There where will you be?"

Dobey shrugged.  "I guess with Cheryl."

"What if she doesn't want you?"

Another shrug.  "She seems interested."

"Come on, Captain, you aren't some twenty year old, wide-eyed greenhorn.  Things like this happen all the time.  Husband leaves his wife for someone younger and more thrilling.  Then the someone younger and more thrilling loses their luster after a while, or was only using the older man for his money or something along that line, then husband wants to get back with wife.  But wife has moved on and wants nothing further to do with him.  And then he's out of choices."  When Dobey was silent, Hutch prompted, "Surely, you'd rather make some decisions while you still have choices."

"You don't know what it's like, Hutchinson.  You've got your good looks.  For a man like me, you just don't go throwing away someone who shows an interest."

"Edith seems to be showing plenty of interest.  And she's been your loyal companion all these years.  The mother of your children."  Hutch hesitated.  "I know I'm getting really personal here, but is there something about her that's suddenly become a lot less appealing of late?"

 They'd reached the park and Dobey gestured to a bench.  "Let's sit down."

They both sat on the bench.  Hutch tried another tactic. "If you won't see a marriage counselor, what about a therapist just for yourself?"

"Maybe," he said off-handedly.

Hutch took an inventory of his instincts.  He realized he was going out on a limb, but he decided to ask, "What is it you're so angry about?"

"Angry?" Dobey echoed without looking at him.

"Yes.  I keep getting the feeling that you're really mad about something.  You're behaving completely different than I've ever seen you before.  Everything inside me says that you're holding something in.  Something important."

Dobey stared off into the distance.

Hutch waited.

Finally, without moving his head, Dobey said, "Edith doesn't know that I know."

Even as he was relieved that they were getting somewhere, Hutch also felt trepidation.  "Know what?"

"She's been having an affair with somebody.  Someone from our church."

Hutch felt a rock fall to the pit of his stomach.  "Oh."

Dobey still kept his gaze on the distance.  "A couple of months ago, I just happened to drop by the house to pick up something I'd left.  Just as I was coming up the block, I happened to see a man from our church approach the house.   I parked a little ways back and watched, because it seemed so odd.  Then Edith came out and got in his car.  They went to a motel and stayed less than two hours.  He dropped her back off."  He released a long sigh.  "It had obviously been going on a long time.  They seemed to have the routine down."

"I-I-I don't what to say."

"I decided not to say anything.  Who could blame her, for wanting to make love to somebody a lot more exciting and attractive than I am."

Hutch quietly asked, "You haven't told anybody else?"


Hutch rubbed at his face.  "God, I'm sorry.  I can't imagine what that must be like."

Dobey continued in an even tone.  "And then, after I was resigned to it, Cheryl started flirting with me at the dry cleaner.  So, why not take advantage?"

Hutch gave himself a moment to get over his shock about Edith.  Then he drew a long breath, and released it.  "Despite everything, it sounds like Edith still cares enough to want you back."

Dobey shrugged.  "Why go back?"

He sounded so defeated.  Hutch wondered if anything he said would really matter.  "You have to tell her, Captain.  You have to tell Edith what you know.  And maybe that'll open up the lines of communication and the both of you can start to heal."

Dobey bowed his head, staring at the ground.  "Maybe I don't want it to heal."

Hutch said with compassion, "I can hear in your voice how wounded you are.  Nobody can blame you for that.  But surely, after all these years and raising two wonderful kids, you don't want to walk away from your marriage without at least trying to repair it."

Dobey was silent. 

Hutch prompted, "Do you want to walk away, and then look back years from now and wonder what would have happened if you'd at least tried to give your marriage another chance?"

Dobey sighed heavily.  "It's hard to think in terms of future anymore, Hutchinson.  I'm just trying to make it through the present, day by day."

Hutch found himself hoping that tomorrow Dobey's doctor would order him to see a psychiatrist.

Dobey suddenly looked at him.  "What would you do if you found out that Starsky had been seeing someone else?  For months?"

Hutch fumbled, "I-I-I can't even imagine that."


"But one reason I can't imagine it is we're so forthright about everything with each other.  We take honesty very seriously.  And we keep reiterating to each other how seriously we take it.  I truly believe that, if Starsk had a moment of indiscretion, he'd tell me about it right away.  He wouldn't be able to hide his guilt and shame."

"I don't think Edith feels guilt and shame.  I think she feels justified.  I never would have known, had I not caught her.  I spend way too many hours on the job, and then I come home thinking about the job.  She doesn't get enough attention from me.  She feels she's had to raise the kids practically by herself.  And she's right."

"Don't sell yourself so short," Hutch pleaded.  "Maybe she's given up trying to improve things because you haven't been listening.  But if you show that you're willing to listen, and are open to improving things, such as by going to a marriage counselor, that could be the start that sets everything back in motion.  If she's calling you and talking about a marriage counselor, she's trying.  She obviously doesn't want to lose you.  Maybe she's even gotten rid of the man she was seeing.  But you've got to meet her halfway."  More quietly, Hutch said, "I don't see how it can help things to punish her by trying to get even with your own fling."

"I'm not trying to get even."  But Dobey's voice didn't hold much conviction.  "The thing with Cheryl just happened.  But it's been purely platonic."

"So far," Hutch emphasized. 

Dobey sighed.  "I'm getting hungry.  Let's go back."

They both stood in the falling dusk, and then Dobey briefly squeezed Hutch's arm.  "I'm sorry to dump the soap opera of my life on you and Starsky.  But it's helped to have told someone about Edith."


Of course, Starsky knew right away that something heavy had been revealed, and once they sat down to eat, Dobey said to Hutch, "You can go ahead and tell him."

So, they went through the gory details once more.

After having gotten up so early that morning to see the workouts, Starsky and Hutch found it easy to excuse themselves to bed at an early hour.  They eagerly sought each other's comfort in the darkness, their arms around each other's waists.

"He hurts so much inside," Hutch said sadly.  "And he excuses it, like he wasn't ever worth Edith's faithfulness, anyway."

"Man, that's so hard to believe about Edith."

"I guess for him, too.  When he first told us about Edith throwing him out, he never gave a hint that there was a whole 'nother side to the story.  It's like he'd completely blocked it out."


"I want to believe, so much, that they can work this out.  But he sounds like he doesn't want to even try."

"He's like a broken man.  In a lot ways."

"I know.  He doesn't deserve this, after all the years he's put in the Department."

"Maybe his doctor can do something for him."

"Let's hope so.  Because I don't think there's much we can do."

They gave each other reassuring nuzzles and kisses, time and time again, before eventually falling asleep.


When Dobey returned from the doctor the following afternoon, he didn't appear to be in any different of a mood, and answered most of Starsky and Hutch's inquiries with vague grunts, beyond saying that the doctor had given him a medical leave of two weeks, pending  a re-evaluation at that time.

Starsky and Hutch had to accept that they didn't have a right to question Dobey further.


Starsky and Hutch had been inside Brook's dark office, save each of their flashlights, for nearly two hours late on Friday evening.  They had found not only a stack of blank invoices for the Wong's Equine Services, but a few other equine businesses, plus blank invoices and rubber stamps with various other equine names and addresses.  It was apparent that Brooks was making up invoices at various times, stamping them with whatever fake vendor suited his fancy, and creating a bogus invoice that he could then charge to one of the partnerships.

Hutch had found a key to unlock a desk drawer that held various check registers.  Each one had a name of a different partnership, some equine, and some belonging to other types of investments.

Hutch took out the checkbook for Yellow Team Limited, and began trying to match up checks written with the first quarter invoices that Mabel had given him a few weeks ago. 

"Starsk?  Look at this."

Starsky left the filing cabinets he'd been snooping through and came to stand by Hutch.

"This is the best evidence yet.  I've got an invoice here from Hudson Horse Trailering for $450, but the check written to pay Hudson was only the $280 that they quoted you on the phone.  I've calculated that all the invoices were bloated by a total of $642 for the first quarter, and look, here's a check that Steve Brooks wrote to himself for exactly that amount.  On the memo line, he put 'partner draw'.  So, he's been bloating the invoices, and then writing himself a check for the difference between the real invoices and the fake invoices."

Starsky said, "I still can't believe he'd put in all this work for just $642 for the entire quarter."

"If he's doing it to a lot of other partnerships, beyond just the racehorse ones, it could maybe add up to a few thousand a month.  Plus, my guess is that he's hurting for money.  So, he's desperate for every little bit he can get.  He's just disciplined enough to not get too greedy at once, because then somebody would probably question it, and then he'd be caught."

"Well, he's going to be caught now."

"Yeah.  I want to copy this whole check register, and some more of the Yellow Team invoices.  If we focus on just that partnership, that should be enough evidence to go to the police with."

Starsky muttered, "If that's what Hanson wants to do .  He certainly sounded wishy-washy when we last talked to him."

"Yeah.  But maybe he'll feel more motivated when we present him with this new evidence."

 They spent another hour copying documents, and then carefully left everything as they'd found it.


On Saturday, they left a message for Hanson on his voicemail, but didn't hear back from him.

On Sunday, they came back from playing tennis at the park, and found a message on the kitchen table.


Thanks for putting me up.  I know this probably won't make sense to you, but I've been invited by Cheryl to move in with her, and I've decided to do that.  I think I managed to get all my belongings without leaving anything behind. 

Thanks again.  Depending on how things go, I might be back before long. (Ha.)

I'll be in touch.  Thanks for all your caring.

H. Dobey


Hutch tossed the note to the table and sighed.  "Damn."

"Yeah," Starsky said.  "Why do I get the feeling this Cheryl gal is bad news?"  He then moved across the foyer and glanced into the office.  "There aren't any messages for us.  Maybe Hanson has gone out of town for the weekend or something, huh?"

"Or maybe he just didn't feel right calling us back on a Sunday, even though we assured him it was okay."

Starsky had a bad feeling about Hanson not calling back, but he couldn't say why.


Late Monday morning, Starsky shut off the motor of the Corvette and grabbed the sack from the computer supply store.  He was going through a lot of floppy disks, backing everything up, and a lot of computer paper, for the purpose of Hutch being able to read his writing.  But it was all worth it.  He enjoyed thinking about he and Hutch, and all the past trials and tribulations that had made their relationship into what it was today. 

While holding the sack in one hand, he went back to the trunk that he'd popped open, and pulled out a box of computer paper.  He grunted at its weight as he lifted it, and then closed the trunk with his elbow.  He moved to the door that led to the house, and managed to turn the knob with the hand that held the sack.

Upon entering, he saw Hutch sitting in the office with a stunned look on his face.

Starsky quickly hoisted his purchases upon the washer and dryer, and then moved swiftly across the foyer.  "Hutch, what's wrong?"

Hutch blinked.  Then he said, "A representative from Steve Hanson's office called a little while ago."


Hutch met Starsky's eye.  "Steve Hanson died last night from a heart attack."

"What?" Starsky gasped.

"Yeah.  He had a heart attack Saturday morning, and they rushed him to the hospital.  They were waiting for him to stabilize before doing surgery.  And then he had another heart attack last night and died."

Starsky put a hand to his forehead and plopped into the chair opposite Hutch's desk.  "Oh, my God.  No wonder he sounded so disinterested in what we found out.  He was probably feeling lousy."  Starsky looked up at Hutch.  "What's going to happen with this case?"

Hutch shook his head back and forth.  "Buddy, we've got a lot bigger problem than the case."

Starsky blinked.  "What do you mean?"

"Starsky, we're the legal owners of three racehorses.  Our names are on their registration papers, along with Brooks.  And Brooks is a crook."

"Oh.  Right."

"Exactly.  And we've got over forty thousand sitting in a money market account in our names that doesn't belong to us."

"Well, we'll have to give the money and the horses back.  Right?"  Even as Starsky said the words, he inwardly resisted the idea of losing Darla.

"Back to who?" Hutch demanded.  "This was handshake deal.  There's nothing in writing that says Hanson was going to take the horses and the money back over from us, as soon as the case was over."

"Well... surely his estate will take them back."

"Let's hope so.  I mean, there's one horse that's injured and another that's a slowpoke.  Darla is the only one with a chance to amount to anything, and the jury is still out, since she hasn't actually run.  What if whoever is in charge of Hanson's estate doesn't want the horses?"

Starsky's eyes widened.  "I don't know.  What do you think we should do?"

"I called Emerson, our accountant, and asked him to refer us to a good lawyer.  We need legal advice, buddy.  This could turn into a hell of a mess."   


Ten days later, in late afternoon, Starsky and Hutch sat across from the large mahogany desk of Milton Summers.  He was a fortyish man who projected an air of confidence that was just shy of arrogant.  They'd met with him a week prior, and explained all the details of their case with Hanson.  As their representative, Summers had said he would get in touch with Steve Hanson's estate and see what he could find out.  Now, he'd made another appointment to reveal his findings.

Summers said, "I got a hold of the attorney that is handling Hanson's estate and have had a few conversations with him.  The just of it is that Hanson's relatives have no interest in any of the racehorses.  They considered Hanson's investments in the horses to be a joke, because none of the horses ever amounted to anything."

Hutch's stomach tightened.  That's just what he'd been afraid of. 

"Of course, they were very interested in the forty thousand in the money market account.  But I told them that since the money market account was intended to support the horses, as well as your PI fees, they couldn't have the money in the account, if they didn't also take the horses back.  So, they decided to decline all the way around."

Hutch asked, "Are they willing to put that in writing?"

"There isn't anything to put in writing.  Your names are on the money market account.  And your names are on the partnership papers for Blue Team Limited.  You rightfully own the shares in the horse partnership, and rightfully own the money in the money market account."

Hutch protested, "But we know none of it is really ours.  This is serious moral dilemma for us."

Starsky said, "Just for the sake of argument, what if one of the three horses becomes rich and famous?  Then what happens?  What if the estate decided they want to get the horses back, after all?"

"I can't imagine that happening," Summers replied.  "For one thing, I was careful not to mention the registered names of any of the horses, for that very reason.  They don't even know your names.  So, tracing any of the horses back to this situation would be virtually impossible.  You would have to outright mention it in the press or something.  Even then, it's doubtful anybody in the Hanson clan would be interested."

Hutch glanced at Starsky and saw that his partner's skepticism matched his own.

Summers looked from one to the other, and then sat back in his high-backed leather chair.  "Look, gentlemen, Hanson's attorney told me a few things off the record.  Therefore, I can't quote him exactly.  But what I can tell you is that Steve Hanson was stubborn about going against legal advice and doing handshake deals.  It's just that most of his deals were in the movie industry and concerned millions of dollars.  This situation with the racehorses is peanuts, compared to that.  There's going to be legal battles going on for many years, as people line up to make claims against the estate, saying that Hanson owed them for this or that, because of something he promised them about a movie deal.  When somebody figures out that a $200,000 check went into a money market account in the names of David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson, it's going to get written off as some kind of small-potatoes movie deal.  At the very worst, somebody might call you and ask you about it.  If that were to happen, you just tell them to talk to your attorney and give them my number."

Hutch still couldn't find it within himself to believe that Summers' words were good news.  "What the fuck are we supposed to do with three racehorses?  Do you have any idea how much it costs just to have one racehorse with a trainer?  We aren't that well off."

Summers shrugged.  "Then why not sell them?"

Hutch snorted.  "I doubt Brooks would be agreeable to that.  Then he loses his ability to bloat invoices and overcharge us.  Plus, at least two of the horses are probably worth quite a bit less than what we paid for them, so it's unlikely we'd get our money back out of them.  Starsk and I won't care, because it wasn't really our money that bought them in the first place.  But Brooks is the controlling partner.  We can't make him sell."

Starsky said, "Hutch and me are planning on going to the police with our evidence against Brooks.  I wonder how that might influence things."

Summers quickly shook his head.  "If you want to dissolve the partnership or otherwise get the horses sold, you want to do it before you go to the police.  If Brooks gets arrested, it's unlikely he'll be making any deals from a jail cell, and this situation could drag out for years.  No, if you want to get out from underneath these horses, you need to do it as quickly as possible.  And then go to the police."

Hutch asked, "What do you recommend, since we would indeed like to get out from under them as quickly as possible?"

"I know another attorney that has some experience in the racing business.  I'd suggest you get him to act as your agent in trying to arrange a deal with Brooks.  Maybe you can get Brooks to buy out your shares for whatever you can get, under the guise of no longer being interested, since Hanson has passed away, and he was the only reason you got interested in racing."

Starsky abruptly said, "Mr. Summers, I need to speak with Hutch alone for a few minutes."

Hutch looked over at Starsky in surprise.

Summers stood.  "That's no problem.  I need to make a trip down the hall anyway.  Just stick your head out the door when you're ready for me."

"Thank you," Starsky said.

Summers left the office and closed the door behind him.

"What?" Hutch asked with trepidation.

Starsky took a breath.  Then, quietly, he said, "I want to keep Darla."

"Starsky, no."

"I don't care about the other two.  But I want her."

"Buddy we can't afford a racehorse.  That's nuts."

Starsky frowned.  "Hutch, how come everything with you always comes down to money?  When did that happen?"

Hutch felt his throat tighten as his mouth fell open.  He gave himself a moment, and then said, "I know you think that she's going to be the next Secretariat, but everybody thinks that about horses that haven't raced yet."

"This isn't about that.  I don't have any delusions that she's going to make us rich and famous."

"Then why do you want her so much?"

Starsky briefly closed his eyes, and then opened them.  "Hutch, has it ever occurred to you that having a racehorse could be fun?  I mean, how many people get an opportunity like this?  Why can't we just take advantage of what life has dropped in our laps and see where it takes us?"

The latter sentences barely registered, for Hutch's mind went back a number of months.  He was driving his sister, Lannie, to the airport, and she indirectly justified spending so much time with Starsky's brother, Nick, by saying, "I didn't know someone as fun as Nick was going to be there."  Inferring that Nick was a lot more fun than her brother to spend time with.

Hutch swallowed past the lump in his throat.  "How can we get Brooks to agree to keep the other two, when Darla is clearly the best of the trio?  It's not like he'd be willing to trade the other two for her."

"No," Starsky agreed, obviously enthused that Hutch had stopped being contrary.  "But we've been thinking that Brooks is desperate for money, and has nickeled and dimed the invoices to scrape some off the top.  But remember, the Blue Team partnership has an expense fund with tens of thousands of dollars in it.  If we offer him the whole fund, as well as the two colts, in exchange for Darla, he won't be able to say no.  That would be like Christmas to him."

Feeling self-conscious that he was talking money again, Hutch said, "But then there won't be any reserve for Darla's expenses.  We can't afford an extra twelve or fifteen hundred in monthly expenses when some months we can't even pay the mortgage without stealing from savings."

"But we have over forty thousand in the money market account.  That'll keep Darla in oats for two or three years.  Longer, if she earns purse money.  If the whole forty thousand gets used up, then we sell her for whatever we can get for her.  If she ends up costing us that much, I promise I'll be completely agreeable to selling her.  By that time, her racing career will probably be over anyway."

Hutch released a breath, his cheeks billowing.  "Yeah, I guess that could work.  I just feel funny about the forty thousand.  It's not our money."

"It is legally.  Besides, Hanson gave us that extra padding to support the horses.  And, remember, he even offered to let us buy into Darla once the case was over, because he knew how crazy in love with her I was.  So, we're using the money for its intended purpose."

Hutch felt defeated, but also relieved that Starsky was getting what he so desperately wanted.  Blandly, he said, "Yeah, okay.  Let's bring Summers back in."

Starsky leaned toward Hutch.  "You sure, baby?  We need to be on the same page about this."

Hutch quickly nodded, but couldn't meet Starsky's eye.  "Yeah.  It makes sense."

Starsky stood and went to the door.


Summers called the other attorney he knew, Tom Placing, and made an appointment for Starsky and Hutch to meet with him three days hence.

Hutch drove the LeBaron as they left Summers' office.    

Starsky babbled excitedly about the possibility of owning Darla outright.

Hutch remained silent.  In his mind, he kept hearing his sister saying "I didn't know someone as fun as Nick was going to be there." And Starsky saying "How come everything with you always come down to money?" and "Has it ever occurred to you that owning a racehorse might be fun?"


Hutch barely glanced in Starsky's direction.

"I'm sorry if I came on a little strong back there.  I know you're just doing what you think is best, and you have good reason to be concerned about how much things cost."

The words made Hutch feel better, but he still felt a thickness in his throat.  He managed a small shrug.

"Okay, babe?"

Hutch quickly nodded, wishing Starsky would leave him alone.

The car was silent for a couple of minutes.

"Pull over," Starsky said.

Hutch grunted a protest.

"Pull over.  Now."

Hutch sighed and pulled into a vacant parking lot.  He put the car in "park".

Starsky reached to clasp Hutch behind his neck.  "I know I hurt your feelings.  I'm sorry, Hutch."

"I'll live."

"I know you will.  But I'm really, really sorry.  Don't think I don't appreciate all the effort you make paying the bills and stuff like that.  It's not fair that you get stuck with all the stress associated with it."

"Yeah, okay."  Hutch nodded.  He managed a tight smile as he glanced in Starsky's direction.

"I think I should help out more.  Be more aware of what we're spending."

Hutch forced his voice to be placating.  "Whatever.  I can handle the bills fine."  He shifted into "Drive" and eased out of the lot.

"I know you can.  That's not the point.  It's not fair that you get stuck with everything.  The only time you get grumpy is where money is concerned."

Hutch quickly defended, "And the only time you get pouty is when you want something expensive and I say No."

With a hint of amusement, Starsky said, "Guess that means I'm spoiled."

Hutch snorted.  "I'll say."

More seriously, Starsky said, "I'm really sorry I hurt you.  I wasn't trying to."

Aggravated again, Hutch said, "It's not like it's unforgivable."

"You're still mad."


Starsky seemed to give up and looked out his side window.

Ten minutes later, Hutch halted the LeBaron in front of their house and kept the motor running.

"What are you doing?" Starsky asked.

"Go on.  I just want to be alone for a bit."

"Ah, Hutch, come on."

"Starsky, damn it!  Just give me some space, will ya?"  So I can pout without being disturbed.

Starsky opened the car door, sighing heavily.  "If you're going to be longer than an hour, call me, okay?"

Hutch grunted non-commitally.

"Please?" Starsky insisted, and closed the door.

Hutch drove off without replying.


Over two hours later, with darkness having fallen, Hutch entered the house through the garage.  The light was on in the foyer, and a lamp was on in the living room.  Otherwise, the house was dark.  Obviously, Starsky had gone to bed, though Hutch knew there was no way his partner was sleeping.

Hutch moved into the living room, where a row of paper extended from the printer.  He tore off the last page, and started reading the connected sheets from the top.

I remember the exact moment when it crossed my mind that Hutch didn't know what happiness was.  When we were driving along one morning, he said, so happily, "Our second wedding anniversary is the day after tomorrow.  I need to get Van a gift."

I bet my mouth dropped open to the floor.  I'd been watching those two practically kill each other -- I mean, really, there was no such thing as peace in their household -- and Hutch was oh-so-sincere that the fact that they were coming upon their two-year milestone was something to be happy about?  As in, "Gee, we're both still alive and walking this Earth.  Isn't that great, Starsk?  I can't wait to pick out a beautiful gift for her."

See, to Hutch, happiness meant that you're a good boy and follow all the rules.  And part of the rules of adulthood means that you stay married, even when both people in the marriage are miserable every moment that they're together.  But, you know, the D word would mean failure.  And with failure comes misery -- never mind how present misery was before the D.

To Hutch, happiness had nothing to do with emotion.  It had nothing to do with joy.  It had nothing to do with letting your spirit fly free.

Call me pompous if you want, but one thing I taught Hutch good was rebellion.  Rebellion as in not just automatically doing what your boss tells you to do, just because good boys do what their boss says.  Not just automatically doing what your wife says, just because good husbands try to keep their wives happy.  Not just automatically following society's rules, especially when the rules don't make any sense and make you miserable. 

One thing I will always appreciate Vanessa for is that she left Hutch.  She left a pile of misery in her wake, but I really don't think Hutch ever would have considered breaking his marriage vows, no matter how bad it got.  So, thankfully she's the one that did, for both their sakes.

But for me, the bigger goal became to tickle Hutch's funny bone.  Make him laugh.  Hutch feels secure and at peace when he's in charge.  So, I've always tried to let him be in charge as much as possible.  He likes playing borderline mean jokes.  Sometimes downright mean jokes.  So, even when I knew full well he was setting me up for a fall, whether literally or otherwise, I'd go along.  I'd play stupid.  I'd fall on my rear, or drop my greasy hamburger into my lap, because he'd think it was funny.  Most of the time, I was fully aware of what he was up to.  But I didn't let on, because I wanted him to feel clever.

I've had various women tell me before that they don't understand why I put up with Hutch being "mean" to me.  I'm surprised I can write this as calmly as I am right now, because I've gotten pretty livid about those kinds of questions.  For one thing, women often don't get how guys are together.  We trip each other and smash beer cans on each other's heads.  We like doing things like that.  It's fun.  (Don't ask me how women have fun, because whatever the answer is, I don't understand it.  I mean, browsing through clothes racks for hours on end is fun?)    

See, I've never thought of Hutch doing things to me as being anything more grim than simply giving me attention.  I love attention from Hutch.  I don't care how someone might want to analyze psychologically what that says about me.  I've just always loved it when Hutch has stood back to watch me.  When Hutch looks at me, it feels like this golden light is shining on me.  I've always felt that way.  It feels like a glow at my shoulder.  Or a glow from a distance. 

And at the same time that he's giving me attention, he's fulfilling whatever need he has to be in charge. I mean, when we were done interviewing a witness or whatever, I'd usually be the one asking him, "What do you want to do now?"  So, he could be the boss.  In some ways, it was like he was in charge of me, though he had no official authority over me.  He was never really in charge of me, but we both often pretended that he was.  It kept our partnership calm and stable, fulfilling a need in both of  us.  His need to control his environment, and my need to give him whatever he wanted, so he'd keep standing back and watching me with that tender, loving smile of his.

He is truly the most tender, loving human being on this earth when you're hurting.  But those moments are/will be detailed in other chapters.  And then of course, there's the bedroom, where I have no interest in trying to find words to express the degree of love and tenderness that goes on there, in both directions.

I feel confident that, all these years later, Hutch does know what happiness is.  He no longer has the feeling that an authority figure is looking over his shoulder, judging him.  He can find pleasure in lots of things, but a necessary factor is still that he's able to control what's going on around him.  That's why he likes handling our finances.  If I want something that costs a lot of money, I have to ask permission from him.  He gets all anxious if we're going to buy something that he doesn't understand.  Before we bought a big screen TV, he had to spend two hours, going over and over things with the salesman, trying to understand how to set it up -- even though part of the price was the electronics company sending someone out to set it up -- because he gets all jittery at the idea of spending a lot of money on something he doesn't know how to control.

Not that that's a bad thing.  It just makes it difficult for him to be impulsive at times.  So, I do my best from that end.  Thankfully, when it gets down to it, he has a hard time saying No to me, just like I have hard to saying it to him.  It's just that, with him, he has to say No two or three times, before he comes around to doing whatever I wanted in the first place.  I guess it makes him feel like he's not being told what to do, so that when he comes around to saying Yes he can feel like it was his idea all along.

I suppose I'm making Hutch sound complicated.  He really isn't.  Not at all.  Or maybe I just figured things out about him pretty early on in our friendship, because I was so fascinated by him.  And once you understand how he functions, and go along with his quirks instead of fighting against them, he's a pretty fantastic guy to be around.


Hutch put the paper aside and turned off the lamp.  Then he moved through the kitchen and turned off the light above the foyer.  With the house in total darkness, he moved down the hall to the open door of their bedroom.

He entered and waited, standing beside the bed.

Levelly, Starsky asked, "Are you all right?"


"I wish you would have called me."

"I didn't feel like obeying something that sounded like an order."

"Okay," Starsky said with a sigh.

Hutch was relieved that Starsky was willing to let it go.  He plopped down on the bed, on his stomach, and wrapped his arm around Starsky's covered form, his cheek resting against what felt like the vicinity of a hip bone.

A hand reached out, the fingers brushing through Hutch's hair.  "Where did you go?"


"Just drove around?"


"All this time?"


"I'd never intentionally hurt your feelings, Hutch."

"I know.  And if you apologize one more time, I'm going to get mad."

There was a gentle snort.  And then, "I'm serious about the bills.  The next time you pay them, I want to sit with you while you do it, so I have to see just how much we're spending."


"Babe?  I know you're just looking out for our future.  I appreciate that you do such a good job at it.  If you were like me about money, we would probably have hardly anything left."

Hutch relished the feel of the fingers that continued to gently furrow through his hair.  "Sometimes I think we made a mistake with mortgaging most of this house.  We might have been better off just buying it outright."

"But I remember discussing it.  We would have been left with less than a hundred thousand, after we bought furniture and the cars and everything."

"I know.  But we wouldn't have to come up with that big mortgage payment every month.  That's where all the pressure is."

"Well, we can always pay off the mortgage any time we decide to, right?  I still don't think it's a good idea to spend our savings down that low.  Plus, we get the tax deduction from the interest.  Remember, Emerson also thought we should finance most of it."

"We need to refinance the mortgage.  The interest rates have been slowly dropping for a while now.  If we can reduce our payment by a few hundred, that will help a lot."

"Let's get started on calling around to the banks then."

 Hutch closed his eyes, enjoying the warmth of Starsky's form against his cheek.

After a time Starsky asked, "When are you going to get undressed and get under the covers, so I know that we're okay?"

"I will in a minute."  Hutch waited a beat.  "We agreed that we'd always try to work things out before bed.  So, I'm making sure things are all worked out before I get into bed."

He heard Starsky smirk.  And then say, "I love you so much, baby."

Hutch now felt the back of Starsky's fingers brush along his hair.

Starsky whispered, "I love you so much for caring so much about us.  For not letting us hurt like Edith and Dobey and thousands of other couples."

Hutch silently sighed at the mention of the Dobeys.  He and Starsky hadn't heard anything further.  They'd called Dobey's office once, and been told by the switchboard that he was on an extended leave.

He didn't like thinking about things he couldn't do anything about.  "I read your latest chapter."

"Yeah?  What did you think?"

"Sometimes it's weird seeing yourself through someone else's eyes."

"I'm sure it is.  I still sort of wish you would write a chapter.  So, I could see how I look through your eyes."

"I wouldn't have your poetic flair."

"Poetic?" Starsky said with a soft chuckle.

Hutch seriously said, "You write beautifully, buddy."

"You're biased."

"Am not."

"Will you please come to bed now?"

Hutch gathered the energy to stagger to his feet.  He made quick work of undressing and dropping his clothes to the floor.  Then he crawled beneath the covers that were held open for him.

After they'd snuggled up together, Starsky said, "So, you're really okay about us being the full and complete owners of Darla?"

"I hope it works out that way, buddy."

"You know how I wrote in the one chapter about my leg being torn up in the jeep accident, and how I just decided that my leg was going to get better?  And it did?"


"That's how I feel about Darla.  We're going to own her, Hutch.  I can see it right in front of me.  It's like I won't let any other thought enter my mind concerning her, except that she's going to be ours."

"I don't doubt that's how this whole thing is going to turn out then."  Hutch nuzzled along Starsky's forehead.  "I'm glad, buddy.  I really am.  I know how much she means to you."

"I want to get a different trainer for her.  Somebody we're comfortable with."

"Yeah, I definitely agree with that.  If Clausen's been training for at least twenty years, and has never had a good horse, I think that says something about his training skills, however much he wants to blame it on the quality of horses that are brought to his barn."

"Maybe this new attorney we're seeing will be able to recommend somebody."

"Yeah, he'd probably be good to ask about a referral."

Starsky mused, "It's funny how things work out, isn't it?  How this whole thing just dropped into our laps?"


"Remember how we got this case with Hanson?  It was that same night that Ronnie and her husband wanted to cure us of our sins."  Starsky chuckled.

Hutch grinned.  "Yeah.  That was a wild night, huh?  So much happening.  That was even the same night you decided to write our life stories."

"Yeah."  Starsky moved down the mattress and kissed gently along Hutch's chest.  He murmured, "You ready for some warm and tender lovemaking?"

Hutch felt himself respond to the suggestion, and the enticement of his love's gentle kisses.  He wondered if he was being selfish when he said, "I'd really love a triple whammy."  They hadn't done that in a while.

Starsky said, "What a coincidence.  My throat has been aching for some thick, juicy Hutchinson cockhead."

Hutch quickly lost his ability to think, and eagerly yielded to Starsky's attentions.


That Tuesday, Starsky and Hutch bowled with the Williams for their league and noticed that the couple seemed unusually subdued.  Hutch won a gift certificate for having the most spares, but the congratulations he received from their teammates seemed low-key.

Finally, after they sat down in the lounge for a hamburger afterward, Starsky asked, "Is there something wrong?"

Sue looked her husband, who said glumly, "My brother has AIDS.  He's in the hospital."

"Oh," Hutch said, "we're so sorry.  Is he in town?"

"No, in Michigan."  Daryl swallowed thickly.  "They don't think he's going to make it."

"We're so sorry," Starsky said, uncertain of how to be soothing.

Hutch asked, "Are you going to be able to make it out to see him?"

"The family is discouraging it.  They don't entirely trust that the doctors know yet how this thing spreads.  They're afraid of other family members being infected.  But I feel I should go anyway."

Starsky couldn't help but think of when Hutch had been in the hospital with the plague, and being told he couldn't go in the room to see his dying partner.  He said, "You should go."

Hutch nodded.  "Yeah.  You'd hate for him to pass, and not having had a chance to see him a final time."

Sue squeezed her husband's hand.  "I think so, too."

Daryl nodded, while releasing a shaky breath.  "Thanks, guys."



I feel that Hutch has always gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to the caretaking between us.

There's nothing like having Hutch as your ally when you're hurting.  He knows the right moment when to do gentle teasing, the right moment to hold your hand or your back for support, the right moment to squeeze your shoulder or your knee, the right moment when to apply pressure to stop the bleeding, the right moment to sound positive and reassuring. 

When I was recovering from being gunned down, there was one point when I got really depressed.  I was just so tired of the hospital walls and all the needles and not being able to care for myself.  I knew I was going to get better.  I wouldn't let myself believe otherwise.  But the journey to recovery seemed never-ending.  And I remember one evening, when Hutch came to see me after his shift, I felt like I'd reached my limit of being cheerful and strong.  I looked at him, and he could see my distress, and he asked what I needed.  I said something that I could only have ever, ever said to Hutch.  No one else.  Not the kindest of nurses, the most understanding of clergy, or the best intentioned of friends or relatives. 

I said I wanted him to hold me.

He didn't hesitate, didn't ask for an explanation.  He just lowered the railing down on the bed.  And then he carefully started to gather me up, just to slip his arms beneath me.  He was very slow about it, letting me give him signals when something hurt.  Of course, it pretty much all hurt, but there's a difference between blatant pain, and mere discomfort.

He leaned down, pressing as much of himself as he could against me, while his hands were between my body and the mattress.  He pressed his cheek against my cheek.

That human warmth meant everything.  I was Somebody.  Not just a name on a clipboard at the end of my bed.  Or a case for interns to study and ponder.  Or a potential solution for doctors and nurses to discover. 

At one point, Hutch whispered, "Can't wait to get my buddy back."  And that made me smile.

It seemed like we stayed like that, pressed together, for a long time.  A nurse came in and said worriedly, "Don't raise him up like that."

Hutch's answer was fast and firm.  He said, "Leave us alone."  And she did.

I loved Hutch so much for that night.  For giving me what I needed most right then.  He started doing it regularly when he came in, without asking or waiting for me to ask.  He finally stopped when I giggled about it -- that people were going to start talking about us.  That let him know that I was feeling much better and was no longer as needy.

He's always been my greatest caretaker.  I just don't feel like I've been able to return in kind.  Or rather, I can be pretty good at taking care of Hutch when I know what needs to be done... which is usually after the immediate crisis has passed.  But in that moment of crisis -- the moment that injury happens -- I don't feel I'm much help to him.  I tend to babble "itsgonnabeokay" over and over again.  I know my fear shows in my voice, and I doubt that's very soothing to someone who is wrestling with their own fears of mortality.

The worst time I ever had with taking care of Hutch was when I couldn't take care of him.  The problem was two-fold:  He is was in an isolation ward, because he had the highly contagious plague that hit our city a few years back, and I couldn't hang around the hospital much, because I needed to find the one man -- a murderer, no less -- who had the antibodies to create a serum that would save Hutch's life, and everyone else's that had been infected.

So, once I'd done what I could on my end, and the serum had been created, I tried to make up for all those days Hutch had been in isolation.  He had a lengthy recovery, because fighting to stay alive had zapped all the strength out of him.  And it seemed the worst sort of affront that he'd had to suffer all that pain and misery without any human touch.  I mean, for all that incredibly kind, gentle, and tender loving care Hutch had given me, it was just plain wrong that when it was him suffering, he had to be treated with latex gloves and sterile masks. 

So, I gave him some super, duper, extra large Starsky doses of physical contact while he slowly got better.  I held him, and rubbed, and nuzzled, and just did everything I could to try to make up for it.  Though I'm not sure anything could ever make up for it.

In fact, after all was said and done, and I brought him home for the first time in weeks, it was still me who got the best end of the deal.  I broke down and had a major crying fest.  After all that pressure of being worried he was going to die, and all that pressure of finding the one man in the entire city with antibodies, and then feeling such intense relief that Hutch was going to be okay... I couldn't deal with it.  I bawled my eyes out.  And Hutch laid down with me, and pulled me to him, and just let me have my moment.  It was sort of like when I found out that my lady Terry was terminal -- Hutch didn't try to shush me or placate me.  He just let the emotion pour out of my system.  And when I finally felt drained, and then renewed, I didn't feel at all embarrassed about what had just happened.  Neither of us said anything about it.  Ever.  We didn't need to.

Here's to all the ways that Hutch and I have said "I love you." 

He's always said it best. 

Lucky me.


Attorney Tom Placing was quite a bit younger than Milton Summers had been, with dark hair and a clean-cut look, and his office was more modest, and wasn't located far from the track or Brooks' office. He sat with Starsky and Hutch at a small round table, away from his desk.

Starsky was impressed with how well Placing seemed to know the racing business.

Placing warned, "You never want to show your hand during the first round of a negotiation.  So, I'll call Brooks and tell him you want to do a straight deal to dissolve the partnership, where you take Darla and he takes the two colts.  Based on everything you've told me, he'll say No.  He'll say he wants the two colts plus a certain sum of money, which will probably be more than you're willing to pay.  So, we'll counter offer.  We don't want to offer him the expense fund until we're at the end of negotiations."

Starsky shifted nervously.  "We just need this to happen pretty fast.  For one thing, Darla has her third work in a couple of days, and then she's ready to race.  We want her to be ours before she races.  For another, the son of Brooks' secretary hates Brooks, and he helped us get some information from the office.  We had told him we might be able to put Brooks away."

Hutch piped up, "But he apparently didn't hear the word 'might'.  He called us yesterday and wanted to know why nothing's happened yet, as far as getting Brooks arrested.  We're worried that he's going to end up letting something slip to his mother about giving us a key to the office, and she's going to tip off Brooks.  And then Brooks might baulk at dissolving the partnership, if he's suspicious that something's up."

Placing nodded.  "I hear you.  But if we push too much too soon, he's going to be tipped off anyway.  So, let me do my job and get things started.  I'll call him this afternoon, and if I talk to him, I'll call you tonight.  I've got both your numbers."

Hutch nodded.  "Okay.  Try the office number first, because it has a speaker phone."

Starsky said, "We just want Darla to hurry up and be ours.  Oh, and we'd like to get her another trainer.  We're sure Clausen isn't in on the dirty dealings, but we don't have much confidence in him.  Can you recommend somebody?"

Hutch said with a smile, "We can be kind of annoying as owners, because we're new at this and don't know much.  We ask a lot of questions."

Placing was thoughtful a long moment.  Then he said, "Actually, I do have someone to recommend.  He's recently struck out on his own, after working as an assistant under Wayne Lukas."

"Wayne Lukas?" Hutch said.  "I know that name.  I'm sure we've seen him on television."

Starsky thought so, too.

"Oh, yeah," Placing said, "he's at the top of the sport.  He runs a top class outfit.  This trainer, Mike Hawkins, comes from a family that's always had racehorses.  He wanted to work under Lukas a couple of years to get to know the business end of the sport.  If you want clients with deep pockets to buy expensive horses, you have to act like a professional, rather than a country bumpkin, and he's taken the business end of it very serious.  But don't mistake the fact that he's a born horseman.  I think he's going to go a long way.  He just needs more horses.  He only has about a dozen now, which is why I think he'll be able to give new guys like you the patience and attention you need."

Hutch asked, "What's his day rate?"

"I'm pretty sure it's $42.  It's likely to go up, as soon as he gets that first major stakes win.  He's got it discounted, because he needs to attract more owners, since he just recently struck out on his own."

Starsky asked Hutch, "How much was Clausen?"


Placings said, "$35 is cheap for this region.  Most of the guys charge around $50, and some of the top guys even more than that."

Starsky nodded when Hutch looked at him.  Hutch said, "Sure, we'd like to meet him."

"Tell you what.  I'll give Mike a call right now and see if he's at the track, so you can drive over there."


"Man, look at this place, " Starsky said excitedly as the Corvette approached Barn 12. 

The stalls were freshly painted, a halter hanging at the front of each exterior door, and a blanket hanging next to each stall.  Planters with flowers were placed a various points along the shedrow, and off one side was a patch of green grass.  The entire area appeared immaculate.

Hutch said, "I guess we've just found out what the word professional means when it comes to horse trainers."

Starsky snorted.  "And it sure ain't Clausen."

Hutch laughed. 

"Do you think that's him?" A tall dark-haired man, neatly dressed, was saying something to a heavy-set, older man, who was obviously a groom and filling a bucket of water from a hose.

"Think so.  Geez.  He looks young, like a kid."

The tall man spotted the Corvette and began walking toward them.

"Maybe thirty," Hutch said.

As they got out of the car, the tall man extended his hand to Hutch.  "You must be Mr. Starsky and Mr. Hutchinson."

Hutch said, "I'm Hutch.  He's David."

"Hutch and David.  Nice to meet you.  I'm Mike Hawkins."

Starsky said, "We just came by to meet with you, because we expect to take full ownership of a filly in a few days."

"Yeah, after I hung up the phone with Tom Placing, I made a few calls to some pals to check into Deep Waters."  Mike nodded vigorously.  "I really hope the deal works out, because I'd love to have her in my barn."

"Really?" Starsky said.  He had to remind himself that Deep Waters was Darla's official name.

"Yep.  My buddy that works in the clocker's box said that he's already planning to put a lot of money on her when she debuts.  He said the times of her workouts don't reveal how strong she is.  She's got a lot of bottom to her.  Not the kind of youngster that is going to bulldoze to the front and then suddenly tire."

Starsky rubbed his hands.  "Man, I can't wait until this is all over with and we can take possession of her."

Hutch said, "So Mike, tell us what you can do for us that would make your barn a better one than Clausen's."

Mike shook his head.  "I'm not interested in bad-mouthing anybody.  But I can tell you what I do.  Placing said you guys are new at this.  Anytime after ten o'clock, you're welcome to hang around, feed your horse carrots, and stuff like that.  Before ten, you're welcome to be here, but you've got understand that I'm focused on the horses that are training that morning, and the grooms are busy with tacking horses up and giving baths,.  I don't like interruptions in the routine."

"Fair enough," Hutch said.

"I call all my owners on Tuesday mornings, usually between ten and noon.  I'll call you every Tuesday, even if it's just to say that there's no news.  Of course, if something more immediate is going on, such as your horse getting entered in a race, I'll let you know that by the end of the day that I get the information.  On race days when any of my horses are running, you're welcome to be in my box at the clubhouse.  When your horse is running, you're welcome, of course, to be in the paddock before her race, but don't talk to the jockey except to say hello.  It's my job to give him instructions.  If the horse wins, of course you'll be in the winner's circle.  If the horse loses, don't come out onto the track with me and the groom when I get feedback from the jockey.  Things are too chaotic and emotions are usually high right after race, and the jock doesn't need three or four different people babbling at him."

It was now the midldle of June, and Starsky couldn't believe that someone was finally talking about Darla actually being in a race.  It was all he could do to not jump up and down.

Hutch nodded at Mike.  "We appreciate your frankness."

Mike said, "The best time to ask all your questions are on Tuesdays when I call.  That's when I give my full attention to the owners."

"Okay," Starsky said.

"You need to understand that we trainers appreciate that it's the owners who are paying for everything.  But when you hire someone to do a job, you've got to let them do their job.  I'll be the one who decides who rides her, and what races the filly enters -- what's her stable name?"

"Darla," Starsky said.

Mike nodded.  "A lot of times, owners don't understand why horses are put into certain races, but you've got to trust that I'm placing her where my expertise tells me she has the best chance at success.  If you can't trust my decisions, you'll need to hire someone else."

"Sounds good," Hutch said.  "Just understand that we've come from a situation where some numbers were being messed with, and expenses were higher than they should have been.  We're going to want to understand where all the money is going."

"Oh, sure.  If you get a vet bill or something, you can always go over it with me when I call, or bring it to the barn here and I'll go through each item with you.  Just not before ten."

Hutch looked at Starsky.  "I guess that's it for now."

Starsky nodded.  He sighed heavily.  "I'm just so excited about everything.  I sure hope we can call you in a few days and tell you that we're full owners in her."

"I hope so, too."  Mike reached into his shirt pocket and produced a card.  "Here's my card.  You're welcome to call if you think of anymore questions."

"Okay, thanks," Hutch said, and they all shook hands.

After they were in the Corvette and easing away from the barn, Starsky said, "Man, I'm impressed.  Even with him laying down all those rules.  It's like he knows what he wants."

"Yeah.  Did you want to stop by Clausen's barn and see Darla?"

Starsky sighed.  "No.  That would be too much like torture.  I just want her out of there."

"You know, Clausen must be doing something right, if the clockers are talking Darla up.  I mean, she didn't get fast and strong on her own."

"Yeah.  He just has such a grumpy attitude.  I mean, even that first day when we were at his barn, he was talking about how much the horses disappoint you.  It's like he has a loser's mentality."

"I bet he won't be happy to lose Darla.  He's only said good things about her."

"Yeah, now that I think about it, it's pretty rotten that he's done all this work to get her ready to race, and just when she's ready to race, she's going to get taken to another barn."

"Yeah, but it's out of his control.  In a sense, it's out of our control.  We fell into this situation with Brooks and Clausen, and no one can fault us for wanting to get a fresh start with our own horse."

Starsky kept running Hawkins' words over in his mind.  "You know what, Hutch?"


"If everyone thinks Darla is so wonderful, what if Brooks decides he wants her, too?  He may only dissolve the partnership if he gets to take Darla."

Hutch shook his head.  "Won't happen.  From everything we've learned about Brooks, there's no way he's going to turn down a deal that includes cash.  Plus, remember what Hanson said?  His theory as to why Brooks might be justifying the bloated expenses is because he's been so disappointed that none of the horses have ever amounted to much over twenty years.  So, he probably considers Darla another big disappointment waiting to happen.  He's not going to want her, Starsk."

Starsky felt relief at Hutch's reassurance, and reached over to squeeze his love's knee.  "Thanks."

More gently, Hutch said, "You know, buddy, she could very well turn out to be a big disappointment.  I'd have to think that most horses are."

"Right, it could happen."  Starsky smiled broadly.  "But until then, she's the most beautiful creature on this earth."


They'd been home an hour when the house phone rang.

Hutch answered, "Hello?"

"This is Clyde Clausen."

Hutch's stomach tightened.  "Hi, Clyde."

Starsky came to stand closer to the phone.

"I'm sure you'll be happy to know that Ghost is in the third race on Friday.  A maiden claimer going five furlongs."

"Oh."  Hutch realized how unexcited he was.  "That's great.  Maybe Starsk and I can make it out."  He quickly put his hand over the receiver.  "Ghost is racing on Friday."

"Oh," Starsky muttered.

Clausen seemed puzzled.  "My box in the clubhouse is 32A.  You're welcome to watch from there."

"Thanks.  Thanks a lot.  We aren't sure if we have anything else going on that day."  That was a lie, but Hutch felt very uncomfortable with the idea of hanging around Clausen, while Darla's fate was being negotiated behind his back.

"Okay.  Maybe I'll see you then."

Hutch hung up.  "I don't want to watch Ghost's race.  Even if he were to win, which I doubt, I don't really care."

"Yeah," Starsky said.  "Geez.  It seems like it's taken forever waiting for any of these horses to race.  And now that one is finally racing, it doesn't seem to matter."

The office phone rang.

They both moved into the office.  Starsky switched on the overhead light, while Hutch pushed the speaker button and said, "Starsky and Hutchinson."

"Hi, this is Tom Placing."

"Hi, Tom," Hutch greeted.  "We have you on the speaker phone."

"I got a hold of Brooks.  Told him you guys want to dissolve Blue Team and he said fine, but it's going to cost you.  I suggested the trade of the two colts for the filly.  He said he wants $75,000 in cash for you to get the filly."

Hutch said, "That's not going to happen."

"Right.  So, I think I'll call him in the morning and say you're offering $10,000 cash.  If we're lucky, he'll take it.  But more likely, he'll come back with a counter offer of maybe fifty grand."

Starsky said, "Tom?  What's the chances of this deal being sealed by Friday morning?  One of the horses -- the slowpoke, Ghost -- is racing Friday.  If he does poorly, that could make Brooks feel justified in demanding more cash, since he'll know one of the horses he's getting is worthless."

"But that was already pretty much a fact that Ghost wasn't doing well, right?"

"Guess so," Starsky said.

"I don't think it's going to effect things much.  I wouldn't consider that a factor."

"Okay," Hutch said, "but we hope things can move quickly.  We met with Mike Hawkins and really like him.  He's eager to get Darla in his barn, and we're eager for that, too."

"I know.  Sit tight, you two.  If I call Brooks back tonight, that'll be pushing things.  Let me call him in the morning.  He instantly made the counter offer today, without wanting to talk to his own counsel.  So, I bet he comes up with an immediate counter offer tomorrow, too, and I can get right back you."

Starsky released a heavy breath.  "Okay, thanks.  We know we're being really jumpy, but we have good reasons."

"I know you do.  I'm sure we'll be talking tomorrow morning."

Hutch said, "Thanks, Tom," and cut line.

"Man," Starsky said, "it's like all of a sudden there's too much happening."

Hutch put his arm around Starsky as they moved into the foyer.  "I don't think either of us were cut out to be wheelers and dealers."

"Ain't that the truth."

"It's good that we have someone like Tom Placing on our side."

"I'm hungry, but it's hard to think about fixing anything.  Why don't we order pizza?"

Hutch shrugged.  "Works for me."


While they waited for the pizza, the house phone rang.  Starsky answered it this time.  "Hello?"



Hutch stepped closer.

"Yeah, uh, sorry I've been out of touch."

"What's going on?"

Dobey released a heavy sigh.  "Edith and I are trying to work things out."

Starsky looked at Hutch.  "That's great that you and Edith are trying to work things out.  Hey, do you want to come over here and fill us in?  We've ordered pizza.  Lots of pepperoni."

"Uh.  Yeah.  Okay."

"Hurry, because it should be here within fifteen minutes and we're really hungry."

Dobey chuckled softly.  "Maybe I'll try to run some yellow lights."

"Okay.  See you in a bit."  Starsky hung up and said to Hutch.  "He sounds better, at least."


Forty-five minutes later, they were all shoving pizza slices into their mouths.

When he finally paused, Dobey said, "Edith says that the affair was only going on a few weeks.  She said she knew it was wrong, and kept thinking she was going to end it.  But then when she saw that check I'd written to Cheryl, she felt justified."

Hutch gently asked, "So, are you back at home?"

"No.  I moved out of Cheryl's after just a few days.  It didn't feel right.  I got a room at a motel."

Starsky asked, "Why didn't you come back here?  It's no trouble."

"I just felt like I needed some space to be alone.  No offense, but at least one of you guys seems to always be here."

"The offers always open," Hutch said.

"Don't think I don't appreciate it.  But I'm hoping I'll be back home soon."

Starsky asked, "So, what are you doing to patch things up?"

"Well, we're seeing a marriage counselor, twice a week, starting out."

"Do you think it's helping?"

"We've only been a few times.  It's more a matter of the therapist keeping things on neutral ground, so neither of us can get wrapped up too much in our own point of view."  And," he glanced at Hutch, "you're right, Hutchinson.  Just the fact that I'm willing to go has shown Edith that I'm trying to make an effort."

 Hutch said, "From what I've seen from our clients and observing other relationships, there's really no substitute for communication."  More gently, he added, "It you would have talked to Edith sooner, you would have learned that her situation hadn't been going on very long, and then you wouldn't have gotten so caught up in thinking that she had little use for you in her life."

Dobey wiped his mouth with a napkin.  "Well, seeing your wife leaving the house with another man... that's a pretty soul-crushing experience."

"I admit I haven't been there," Hutch said.

Starsky pointed out, "You sure seem a lot cheerier, Cap'n.  Hutch and I were really, really worried about you."

"I guess the worst of it is not knowing what to do," Dobey muttered.  "It's easy to get wrapped up in your own head, and there's nothing to lead the way back."

"So, what made the difference for you?" Starsky asked.  "What got you out of that paralyzed mode?"

Dobey suddenly put his elbows on the table and folded his hands.  He sniffed.  "Rosie said she wanted me to come home."

"That would do it," Starsky said.

Hutch asked, "What happened with Cheryl?"

Dobey sighed with his gaze lowered.  "I'm not seeing her anymore.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I moved in with her and I'd forgotten how different living together would be from just having a few lunches together.  And she kept telling me about things she needed money for."  He looked away and muttered, "Edith and I changed dry cleaners."  Dobey cleared his throat.  "Sorry to have put you two through all my adolescent meanderings."

"Your reasons made sense to you at the time," Starsky soothed.

Hutch asked, "Are you back at work?"

"Yeah.  My second checkup was better than the first one.  Of course, the doctor's all over my case about losing weight."

"Cap'n," I'm sure you're sick of hearing about diets and stuff, but I have to tell you that getting a personal trainer worked wonders for me.  It really helps to have somebody who is a professional that knows how to help you succeed.  And, of course, exercise is going to help any diet go a lot of farther."

Dobey grunted.

Starsky looked over at Hutch.  "I knew that wouldn't go over well."

Hutch grinned.

Dobey shifted, "So, what's new with you two?"

"Well, our lives have gotten very complicated of late, but nothing as grim as what you and Edith have been through."

"Oh, yeah?"


Hutch said, "You heard that Steven Hanson died?"

"Yeah."  Dobey's expression changed.  "Oh, right, he's the one who got you involved in the racehorse case.  I didn't make the connection at the time."

Starsky rose and began to clear the table, since they'd all stopped eating.  "Yeah.  So, all of a sudden, Hutch and me are the official part owners in three racehorses, and the other partner is a crook.  So, we get a lawyer at $150 an hour to advise us on what we need to do, because we have these horses and extra money in an account that was supposed to be given back to Hanson at the end of the case.  But he's dead, and then our lawyer tells us that the lawyer for Hanson's estate said nobody wants the horses back.  So, Hutch and me are stuck with these three horses, one of which is worthless, and another of which is on injured reserve, and we know for a fact that our partner is committing fraud.  So, the lawyer refers us to another lawyer to help in the deal, because I decide I really, really want us to keep the third horse, the filly.  So, now we've got this lawyer acting as our agent, trying to work out a deal with a crook, so that we can let him have the two lesser horses, and we get the filly."

Hutch piped up, "Yeah, and as soon as we can close the deal and the filly is ours, we're going to the police in that precinct and turning over all our evidence of the fraud that's been going on."

Starsky put the remaining pizza slices on a plate and pulled out the tin foil.  "So, we're sitting on pins and needles, because we want this transaction to hurry up and take place, where the filly is ours, before the crooked partner gets wise that he's about to go down."

Hutch said, "And in the meantime, we've got one of the horses racing on Friday, but now we don't really care, because he's not going to be our horse for long.  And we're changing trainers to a real professional guy, but now we're feeling sort of bad that we're taking the filly away from the guy who helped pick her out of the auction and got her all ready to run."

"But we don't really like him, and we made ourselves obnoxious because of the case, so he doesn't like us that much, either."  Starsky patted the tin foil tight around the plate with the leftover pizza.

Dobey grunted with amusement.  "Sounds like it's been quite a roller coaster."

"Quite a different experience, that's for sure," Hutch said.

Starsky stood behind Hutch and patted his shoulders, then squeezed.  "But through it all, Hutch and me just keep loving each other."  He bent to put his arms around Hutch's chest, and pressed his cheek against Hutch's cheek.  To Dobey, he said, "Just can't get this blond blintz out of my hair.  I think I'm stuck with him."

Hutch chuckled bashfully. 

Dobey grinned and said, "I think that's another reason I can't stay here.  You two are too-frequent reminders of the fallibility of my own marriage.  I hope you know how lucky you are."

Starsky moved to sit down next to Hutch.  He said, more seriously, "I don't know that it's luck, Cap'n.  Hutch and I have always put our relationship first, going way back, when you really stop and think about it.  And in more recent years, we've tried really hard not to get complacent about what we have together.  We make a point of telling each other day-to-day things that go on when we've been apart for a few hours.  And we try really hard not to go to bed mad, when we've had a disagreement.  The little things like that."

Hutch said, "And he's gotten mushier with age.  Tells me he loves me all the time."  He ducked his head.

Starsky decided, "I like saying that.  It makes my heart feel good.  Can you imagine not having anybody you can say that to?"

After Dobey chuckled fondly, Hutch said, "We've seen too often, especially with some of our clients who have cheating spouses, how when you take just one step down that road of keeping things to yourself, or not speaking up when one of you is upset with the other about something, it's really hard to turn back.  And then the pattern starts repeating itself, and it keeps getting all the more difficult to get back on track.  We make a point of not ever starting down that road." 

Starsky nodded.  "Communication is everything.  Even when you know you're going to say something hurtful.  It's better than not speaking up at all."

Dobey shifted with a sigh.  "Well, I suppose you two could write a book on how to go about it the right way.  Whether being partners on the job or personal partners.  Even partners in a business venture, I guess."

Starsky and Hutch exchanged a glance at the mention of "a book", but didn't say anything.

Dobey went on.  "I guess I just need to give Edith more of my attention."

"It goes both way," Starsky soothed.  "We know it's hard with your job, but I guess you have to learn how to not take it home with you.  Still wouldn't hurt you to take more leave, maybe, so you can just focus on each other for a while."

Dobey muttered, "Yeah, my physician is wanting me to see a psychiatrist.  I don't really see much point.  But maybe I will, just so maybe hopefully he can recommend some extended R&R."

"We've already told you that we think it would be a good idea," Hutch said.  "Sometimes, when you get so used to being in the trenches, you don't realize how much more life there is out there that you're missing out on."  He reached to loosely wrap his arm around Starsky.  "There's something to be said for peace and stability."

Dobey grunted.  "Well, I've always thought that going to church every Sunday was my way of staying connected.  But now knowing that he's there...."

"You've got to change churches," Starsky said.  "No matter how long you've been going to the same one, it's not fair to you to have to be subjected to that every weekend."

"Yeah," Dobey said with a heavy sigh, "I intend to bring that up at our next counseling session."  He stood, "Thanks for the pizza, fellas.  And the talk.  I hope things turn out well for you with your horse."

"Thanks, Captain."  Starsky stood slapped Dobey's back, and Hutch did likewise.  "Stay in touch."


"The phone!" Starsky exclaimed the next morning, as soon as it started to ring in their office.

They both rushed to it, and Hutch hit the speaker button.  "Starsky and Hutchinson."

"Tom Placing here.  I've got some good news."

"Yeah?" Starsky prompted.

"I called Brooks and gave him your offer of ten thousand.  He said No.  Then he hemmed and hawed for a while, and muttered a few things, and then pointed out that you guys were already out the expense money that was sitting in the expense fund.  He said that your share of the expense fund is about $20,000."

"It should be more than that," Hutch said firmly.

"Well, he's not admitting it, if true.  And I guess he doesn't think you're capable of estimating how much has been spent so far.  Anyway, he suggested that if he can take over the whole expense fund while agreeing to take the two colts, you can have the filly."

Breathlessly, Starsky asked, "So, did you say Yes?"

"No, no.  I told him I had to get back to you to, to see if you agree."

"We agree," Hutch said.

"Of course, we agree," Starsky echoed.  "That was plan all along, to give him the expense fund."

"I didn't want him to know that he'd fallen into our line of thinking.  What's more, I'd still like to have some leverage.  Since you two are so eager for this to be a done deal, I suggest getting back to him and saying he can have the entire expense fund, but only if he agrees to sign all the paperwork by, say, Thursday afternoon."

"That would be before Ghost races," Starsky mentioned.

"Right.  So, I suggest still sitting tight and not getting overly eager, and instead let him be the one who's so eager to get his hands on all the expense money, that he'll agree to anything."

Hutch asked, "But if we're pushing for Thursday, won't that seem eager?"

"If he questions the rush, I can tell him that you're chafing at the bit to move the filly to Mike Hawkin's barn, before she races, since you're wanting to go off and do your own thing and break ties with the people you got initiated into, via Steve Hanson.  I don't think he'll find that odd.  If he presses further, I can just talk like you're a couple of greenhorns who don't know crap about what you're doing.  That ought to soothe his ego."

Hutch grimaced.  "I bet that, as soon as you call him back, he starts writing all kinds of checks to himself out of the expense account, since he's expecting it to be his money.  We'd better stick to a tight timeline, in case he uses up all the money, and decides to demand more money still."

"That's what I intend to do."

Starsky asked, "So, are you going to call him back right now?"

"No, no.  Stay cool, guys.  I'll give it a couple of hours.  Let him sweat a little, waiting by the phone."

Hutch said, "Okay, we're trusting your expertise."

"That's what you're paying me for.   I'll call you one way or another by, say, two o'clock."

"Thanks, Tom."  Hutch cut the line.

Starsky rubbed his hands together.  "Man, I can't wait until this is over.  What are we supposed to do with ourselves to the next few hours?"

Hutch picked up the notepad they kept by the phone.  "I need to see this lady about a cheating fiancé.  You want to come?"

Starsky considered, and then said, "Nah.  I think what'll calm me down the most is doing some more writing."


I went through a pretty rough time with my broken leg from the jeep accident when I was in the army.  Hutch has been through a rough time with a broken leg, too, though in a completely different way.

Thankfully, Hutch's recovery was a lot faster, and he had a lot fewer complications than I'd had.

But Hutch suffered a hell of a lot more immediately after the injury.  I was unconscious when I broke my leg, and I woke up after the surgery.  Hutch suffered for more than two days.  All alone.

Hutch quickly browsed past the paragraphs that recalled the events of the case, for he well remembered them. 

There's one thing I still feel really guilty about, though I know it's silly.  Once I had parked the Torino, I ran down that hill to where Hutch's car was.  I had to take care of Humphries.  Thankfully, it took only one punch to put him out.  And then I scrambled to Hutch, who had his leg trapped under his overturned car.

For a split second, I thought he might be dead, because of the way he was lying so still with his eyes open.  But then I saw movement of his head as I slid beside him.

You aren't supposed to move accident victims.  But I think I subconsciously took in the fact that the scene had signs of movement from Hutch, such as him having messed with the radio in his car.  So, I tried to raise his head, just to let him know I was there.  He gave a little smile, and I about broke down, I was so relieved.

But here's the thing I feel guilty about.  I had no supplies.  Nothing.  No way to get help. So, after having finally come to Hutch's rescue, I knew I had to leave him to climb back up that hill and call for help.  But all I wanted to do was press myself against him, let him know I was there.  Hold his head and murmur encouraging words to him.

I had to leave him.  He was too weak to protest.  But, man, I hated that more than anything.  In some ways, I feel it's the worst thing I've ever done to Hutch in all our years together.  Leaving him -- even just for a few minutes -- when I knew he needed me so badly.

So I left him.

Thank God, just as I reached my car, a black and white drove by and I waved it down.  That got us faster help, and the patrol cop could take care of Humphries.  I grabbed the blanket from the patrol car and hurried back down to Hutch.  I wanted to hold him so bad, that I slowly lifted him up and let him rest back against me.  And I kept murmuring every reassuring word I could think of, and rubbing at his arms, once I was sure they weren't injured.

Later, in the hospital, he told me how he had spent those many, many hours, as best he could recall.  I had asked him to tell me what it was like to help take his mind off his immediate post-surgical pain.  He was still pretty uncomfortable and needy then.  But at least he had the official assurances from the doctors that he was going to recover the use of his leg completely.

Anyway, he never mentioned anything about me leaving him for those few minutes.  I guess he was too out of it to know much of what was going on around him.  But he had known I was there.  He told me that he thought he'd died, because I was holding him.  He said that, if we didn't go out together in a hail of bullets, he hoped that, when he died, it would happen while I was holding him.  So, he thought he'd died because I was holding him, and that meant he was in heaven.  I know that doesn't make sense -- if I was with him in heaven, then that would mean I'd died, too -- but Blondie wasn't operating on a full set of thrusters right then.

Okay, I'm sniveling a little as I write these words.  It's instinctive for me to give Hutch anything he wants.  I hope that when we're in our eighties or nineties, if we can't go out together, I'll be holding him when he dies.  I'm willing to be the one left behind, for his sake.

It was a tortuous time, waiting for all the rescue units to get the crane in place so they could lift the car off Hutch's leg.  Thank God he'd been trapped in such a way that the circulation hadn't been cut off.  Otherwise, the rest of our lives would have been a completely different story, with him losing the leg.

But the waiting was agonizing.  The paramedics went right to work with getting Hutch on IVs, since he was so severely dehydrated.  That's when Hutch started becoming more alert, and the unfortunate thing about that was that he became all the more conscious of the pain.

It was so hard to soothe him.  The paramedics preferred that he be sitting up, so he could breathe easier, so they didn't hassle me about having him propped up from behind.  But I kept rubbing my hands along Hutch's arms, along his face, just trying to keep feeding Hutch the message that, "I'm here, I'm here."  And he'd grab onto my arm and hold it, especially when the pain was particularly bad.  And then the paramedics were sort of annoyed that there were so many limbs in the way, making it hard for them to do other types of procedures, such has feeding him oxygen, and getting an EKG, and things along that line.

At one point, Hutch started crying.  I think it's when the fact penetrated his brain that he was being rescued.  As a patrol cop, I had come across a few victims that had been in a traumatic situation and had to wait a long time for rescue.  They cried, too.  After wishing so much that you'll be saved, and then sometimes losing hope that you'll be saved, it's like the emotions can't handle it when the rescue actually happens. 

Of course, when I say Hutch cried, I'm not talking about tears.  He was way too dehydrated for there to be tears.  He was just sobbing and shaking all over.  And sometimes crying out in pain.  Thankfully, the paramedics didn't seem to think much of it, since it was a normal reaction.  But it was rough, wanting so much to make it all better for Hutch, and seeing him in such distress, both physically and emotionally, and not being able to do anything about it.

I felt like I couldn't get myself close enough to him, to give him the reassurances he needed, no matter how tight I was holding him, and how much I was babbling soothing words to him.

And then, at one point, it's like he had exhausted himself, and he went completely quiet and let his weight rest against me.  I still stroked his cheek and petted his hair, and did things like that.  But I remember how a calm came over me, after it came over Hutch.  Because when we're both stressed at the same time, that's bad news.  Our partnership works best when we balance each other.  I was so agitated about Hutch's agitation that I'm not sure how much I was helping him.

But once he went quiet, I calmed way down.  I swear, it's like he knew what I needed.  He was comforting me, even though he was the one severely injured.  So, I was able to get my wits about me, after that.  I still held and petted him and rubbed on him, but my voice had lost its fear.  I felt a lot more stable, and so was able to give him some genuine, confident reassurances.

And then they lifted the car off his leg.

I don't really want to talk about that.  It was awful.  It was awful to watch.  Hutch passed out, which I'm grateful for.  It scared the hell out of me to see his leg, even after everything I'd been through with my own leg.

The first few days in the hospital were really rough on him.  I felt helpless sometimes, since I couldn't make it better.

It brightened my spirits when I got the idea to get him a new car.  That gave me something positive and fun to focus on. 


"Hey," Starsky said, moving into the living room.  "I assume Placing hasn't called back yet?"

Hutch shook his head, from where he lay on the sofa.  Starsky had been out in the garage and surely would have heard the phone ring.  "How come you were writing about this today?"

Starsky sat on the sofa, next to Hutch's bare feet, and shrugged.  "Just felt like it was time to tell that particular story."

"You know, buddy, it's always meant everything to me, when you were there.  Even when you weren't physically there, but I knew you were trying to find me, or get me help, such as when I was sick."

Starsky shrugged again.  "Still, sometimes, it's so hard seeing you hurting.  Especially when you were the one who always took such good of me."  He swallowed thickly.

"I don't think you should doubt yourself."

Starsky presented a gentle smile.  "These are my memories of all the things that have happened between us.  It's what I remember thinking and feeling.  It's not really about being right or wrong."

"Yeah, I guess," Hutch relented, putting the sheets of continuous paper onto the coffee table.

"You know, you can always tell your side."

"So you keep saying.  I just don't have this kind of writing technique inside me, buddy.  I would just say, 'And then I realized that I'd been rescued, and I was so glad Starsky was there.  And even though everything hurt like hell, I knew it was going to be all right.'"  Hutch shrugged.  "Not too terribly interesting.  Not like the way you write it."

Starsky looked at him shyly.  "Funny that Dobey said we should write a book about how to have successful relationships."

"Yeah.  I guess that's what you're doing, in a sense."

"One successful relationship, anyway."

Hutch reached for him.  "Come 'ere."

Starsky stretched out to lie partially on top of Hutch.

Hutch rubbed along Starsky's back.  "You know what I remember from that time?  When I was being rescued?"


"I do remember that things were kind of hazy."  He pulled at Starsky's shirt until it came out of his jeans, and then rubbed up beneath the clothing and felt the warm flesh.  "But I knew you were there.  I knew you were worried.  I do remember it suddenly hitting me that I was being rescued, rather than having died."

Starsky swallowed audibly. 

"I remember all the activity with the rescue personnel.  And suddenly I'd be aware of the pain in my leg.  And you'd be whispering in my ear and squeezing me.  That's when I lost it.  I was being rescued, and you were there, holding me.  It's what I had wanted, more than anything, all those hours of waiting for someone to come.  Just for you to hold me.  Because then that would mean it was all right.  The state of my mortality wouldn't matter."

Starsky kissed his neck.  "Ah, Hutch. 

Hutch tilted his head thoughtfully, and rested his chin against Starsky's hair.  He whispered, "Sometimes, it feels like you're God to me."

Starsky shifted restlessly.  "Come on, Hutch, don't lay that on me.  I'm no god."

Hutch placed both arms on Starsky's shoulders, prompting him to raise up.  When they met each other's eyes, Hutch said, "You're the person who loves me.  Same thing."

Starsky almost seem to collapse, his face pressing against Hutch's neck.  After a few moments, he said, "And you told Dobey that I was the mushy one."

Hutch didn't feel a need to comment, and closed his eyes as he stroked the back of Starsky's head.

The phone rang.

Starsky was off the sofa in an instant.  "That's the office phone," he muttered, hurrying through the kitchen.

Hutch followed in a jog,

Starsky hit the speaker phone.  "Starsky and Hutchinson."

A familiar voice said, "Do you guys have your schedules clear for tomorrow at ten?"

"Yeah?" Starsky said in answer.

"Tom?" Hutch verified.

"Yep.  Brooks is ready for it to happen at ten.  My office is putting together the documents to dissolve the partnership.  Brooks will represent himself, and he's perfectly comfortable meeting in my office.  All the appropriate papers will be signed.  He'll walk away with his Brooks Bloodstock Agency as the sole owner of the two colts, and keep all the money in the expense fund; and you'll walk away with the names David Starsky and Kenneth Hutchinson being on the registration papers as the owners of the filly, Deep Waters."

"Wow!" Starsky exclaimed.

Hutch chuckled, "That's terrific, Tom.  We're so happy."

"So, be in my office at ten o'clock.  Brooks will bring the registration papers of the three horses.  I'll have the documents in triplicate for the dissolution of the partnership."

"And then Darla is ours?" Starsky asked on a high note.

"Yes, as soon as all the paperwork is finished.  You should probably call Mike Hawkins now and let him know that he should have a stall ready for her by mid morning.  Once the papers are signed, you can tell him to go over to Clausen's barn and get her."

"Okay," Starsky said breathlessly, "we'll see you tomorrow at ten."  He cut the line.  Then he quickly came around the desk with his arms open.  "We're gonna own a racehorse!"

They threw their arms around each other, laughing.

Starsky said, "Oh man, I can't believe she's gonna be ours."  He snapped his fingers.  "Hey!  Let's bring the video camera tomorrow, so we can get some footage of her, and then have copies made and send it around to our friends and relatives."

"Sure.  If Mike allows it.  I don't know how stressful it might be to horses to change barns.  Maybe he'll want her to not be bothered until she gets settled in."

"Then let's just bring the camera and play it by ear."

"Yeah.  Maybe once she starts racing, we can put a bunch of footage together in one tape, and send it out."

Starsky hugged Hutch again.  "I'm so glad you're on board with this, Hutch.  Hopefully, she can give us a new kind of fun and excitement for a while.  We can invite friends out to watch her races and stuff."

"Hopefully, she'll keep moving forward.  And not get one of those bucked shin injuries or something."

"Bite your tongue," Starsky laughed.  Then he sobered.  "Boy, do we ever owe Steve Hanson."

"Yeah.  The best thing we can do in his memory is try to get Brooks put away.  Right after we call Mike, let's call the police in that precinct and see if we can get an appointment to talk to their chief and the DA."

Starsky lightly clasped Hutch's wrist and turned back to the office.  "Sounds good."


Starsky's heart pounded as he signed the last sheet of paper.  He passed it to Hutch, who also signed it.

Placing handed the sheet to Brooks, who added his signature.  They were all sitting at one end of a large table in a conference room.

"Okay," Placing said, "that completes it."  He spent a moment straightening three sets of papers.  He handed one set to Brooks.  "Here's your copies and the papers on the two colts."

"Thank you," Brooks said levelly.

Placing pushed another set between Starsky and Hutch. "Here's your copies and the papers on the filly."

"That does it then?" Brooks asked, putting away his pen in his sports jacket.

"One more thing," Placing said.  He stood and took a telephone from a corner table and brought it over to the large conference table.  "You need to call Clyde Clausen and let him know that Mike Hawkins will be coming over within an hour or so to get Darla."

Brooks cleared his throat.  "All right."  He picked up the receiver.

As Starsky watched Brooks, it was all he could do to not hint at what they knew about him, now that he and Hutch owned Darla.

"Clyde, it's Brooks," Brooks said into the receiver.  "Listen, there's been a lot happening since Steve Hanson died.  Those two new guys weren't interested in staying in the Blue Team partnership, so we've just dissolved it.... Yes, dissolved it.  I'm in the lawyer's office now.  The deal is that I get Ghost and the colt with bucked shins, and they're getting Darla.  They want to move her to Mike Hawkins barn."

Starsky looked at Hutch as Clausen's animated voice could be heard through the line.  They shared a grin.

"I know she was the best of the trio," Brooks said.  "But there was some cash that changed hands, too, so I think it was a fair deal."  He listened a moment longer, while Clausen's voice could still be heard.  "Look, Clyde, I know you don't want to lose her, but this is business, and I'm a business man first."  After another pause, Brooks said, "It wouldn't have mattered if I'd talked to you first, because I still would have let them have the filly.  I've got to make a profit just like anybody else."  Then, wryly, "I hope you haven't given up on the colts, especially since now I'm their sole owner.  In fact, you might put out some feelers to see if any of your other owners want to buy into them."

The conversation ended a few moments later, and Brooks hung up. 

He gathered up his stack up papers.  "I guess that'll be all, gentleman.  Good luck with the filly."  He shifted the papers under one arm, and then reached to shake each of their hands.

Starsky made a point of not reacting, even as he knew the sliminess he felt was his imagination.

As soon as Brooks left, Starsky moved to the phone, and dialed the number that was on Mike Hawkins' card. 


An hour later, they were in another conference room, this one dirtier and more crowded with file cabinets, where Detective Martin Saunders and DA Melissa Snow were going through the documents that Starsky and Hutch had handed them regarding the Yellow Team expenses.

Saunders had a heavily lined face and dark, dyed hair.  He said, "We'll have to put somebody undercover to figure out what's going on with his mineral and gas investments.  And then we'll see how big the scope of this is."

"That's all we can ask," Hutch said.  "I don't know if you want to try to get something from Grant, the son of Brooks' secretary, Mabel.  He hates Brooks and thinks Brooks and his mother are having an affair.  He helped us out with getting a duplicate key to the building, and was disappointed that's nothing has happened yet regarding Brooks.   He doesn't seem to have much going on in his life, so he might be willing and able to help.  Or better yet, he might be able to talk his mother into turning on Brooks."

Saunders made a note.  "We'll look into that."

DA Snow said, "You say this goes back twenty years?"

Starsky replied, "The partnerships do.  Hanson didn't notice anything unusual with the expenses until the past few years.  We can't be sure how long the padding of expenses has been going on."

She looked at her watch.  "I've got to get to another appointment.  Thanks for bringing this in.  We'll let you know if we need anything else from you."

"Thanks.  Appreciate it."

After she left, Saunders sat back in his chair.  "So, you're the famous Starsky and Hutchinson."

"Yep," Starsky said.  "Once famous, anyway."

Saunders looked from one to the other, his mouth grim.  "Are the rumors true?"

Hutch asked, "Which rumor would that be?"  Though he suspected he knew.

"You guys shacked up together?  In a homo relationship?"

Hutch really wasn't in the mood for this.  So he was happy to let Starsky answer. 

"I guess that depends on your definition of 'shacked up'."

Saunders glanced away with a grimace.  Then he said, "I'd think someone in a relationship like yours would be really worried about that AIDS disease."

"We aren't worried," Starsky said simply.  Then he noted, "Considering how some cops look the other way for whores that will do them favors, I'd say that those cops are the ones who ought to be worried."

Hutch couldn't help but retain a smirk.

"Funny," Saunders said without humor.  Then, "I guess it's a good thing for everyone that you left the force."

Hutch decided to shrug.  "Guess that's a matter of opinion and which side of the fence you're on.  We certainly haven't missed it though."

Starsky said casually, "We paid our dues."  Then, as he absently leafed through some of their documents, "How about you?"

"What?  Paying my dues?"


"I've taken a bullet in my leg."

"And Hutch and me have collectively taken quite a few.  Anytime you want to take a scar inventory, just let us know."  He suddenly eyed Saunders.  "The bad guys never seemed to care who we were banging when they shot at us.  Funny that you would care, bein' on the right side of the law and all."

"I think we're done here," Hutch said, standing. 

Starsky also stood.  "Yeah.  I think we are, too."


Starsky held the video camera in front of Darla's stall.  "Come on, lady friend, turn around."  All he could see was her rear end.

Mike Hawkins had been on the phone, and he now walked along the shedrow and approached Darla's stall.  "Would you like to graze her?"

"Graze her?" Starsky repeated, lowering the camera.

"Yeah.  Hold the lead shank while she eats some grass."


Hutch took the camera from Starsky while Blinks, a fiftyish black-skinned man, went into Darla's stall with a lead shank. 

Hawkins said, "Let Blinks bring her out to the grass."

Starsky looked behind him to a patch of grass that was about twenty feet square.

Darla moved briskly to the grassy area and put her head down.

Blinks held out the lead to Starsky.  "Want to hold her?"

Starsky moved to take hold of the lead shank.

Hawkins said, "She won't move away from the grass.  Just hold it loosely and don't try to control her.  You've got to treat racehorses with finesse.  You don't manhandle them."

"I can pet her, right?"

"Certainly.  Did you bring carrots for her?"

"No, we didn't think of that.  Next time."

Hutch put the video camera to his eye.  "Smile, buddy."

Starsky looked up, grinning broadly.  He was on the other side of Darla, and patted along her lowered neck.  He said to the camera, "I'm petting our own horse!"

Hutch chuckled.  "She's liking that grass."

Hawkins stepped next to Hutch.  "Want me to get the both of you? I know how to operate one of those."

"Great, thanks."  Hutch handed the camera to him.  He moved to Darla, on the near side, opposite Starsky, and patted along her back and sides.  "Can't believe how soft and smooth and clean her coat is."

Darla suddenly raised her head and looked off into the distance, her ears pricked.

With the camera rolling, Hawkins said, "Ah, the look of eagles."

"What's that mean?" Starsky asked.

"When a horse looks off into the distance like that, looking so noble and confident, it's called the look of eagles.  Some people think it separates the classier horses from the lesser horses."

Starsky patted her neck.  "That's her all right.  Classy."

Darla put her head back down to the grass.

Hutch let himself rest against her side, his arm slung across her back.  "So, what's the immediate plan, Mike?"

Hawkins put the camera down.  "She had another good work yesterday morning.  I want to give her blowout on Tuesday, just give her a quick three-eighths to tighten the screws, and then she'll be ready to race a few days after that.  She'll start out in a maiden special weight." 

"What's that?" Starsky asked.

"All horses that haven't won a race are maidens, so horses that haven't raced yet are maidens.  She'll be running in a maiden race against other maiden fillies."

"What does the special weight mean?"

"It's just a fancy term that's sort of archaic now.  A layman would call it a maiden allowance race, as opposed to a maiden claimer."

Hutch said, "I'll show you a book I have, buddy.  It'll explain about the different types of races."

Starsky asked, "So, she could racing by next weekend?"


"Oh, man.  I'm nervous already."

Darla reached the end of the grass patch and started walking over the dirt, away from the barn, moving strongly, so that Hutch had to step away.  "Grab her, Starsk."

"Whoa."  Starsky quickly took up more sharply on the shank, but it had too much slack.

Blinks came up quickly and took the shank from Starsky, much closer to her halter.  "Easy, big girl," he said softly, turning her back.

Hawkins chuckled.  "Looks like she wanted to explore more of the barn area.  You can put her up, Blinks."

Starsky and Hutch stood side by side, their arms loosely around each other, as they watched Darla being led into her stall, and then turned around to face the front.

Starsky said, "Man, I never thought in a million years that we'd own a horse, let alone a racehorse."  He chuckled.  "Let alone a $98,000 racehorse."

"Yep.  Now she's all our responsibility.  Let's hope we're up to it."

"We are, Hutch.  She's special.  I just know it."

Hutch hugged Starsky against him.




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