(c) April 2014 by Charlotte Frost


A Sequel to Cycles



Hutch regarded his mother, Lorraine, as he leaned back against the kitchen counter.  She was sitting at the table, eating crackers with cheese spread.  He reminded himself that he had internally declared that he was going to be exceedingly patient with anything she said.  She had arrived yesterday afternoon, a Tuesday, and now, after a mere 24 hours, he was finding his patience thinning.

Lorraine took a bite of cracker, and chewed deliberately.

It was her turn to speak, but since she was chewing -- oh, so slowly -- Hutch tried again.  "You'll want to visit Lannie's stores, at least.  She got them up and running so quickly, after moving out here, that they're already well established in that area of town.  You should be proud."

Lorraine swallowed.  "Of course, I'd like to see her stores.  But she talked like she has to spend all day there.  I don't want to spend all day, with nothing to do."

"How about if I drive you out there, tomorrow morning, and when you're ready to leave, we'll go wherever you want, and then maybe go back by there and pick her and Nick up for lunch or something."

She sighed.  "I suppose that'll do.  I did bring a book with me to read while I'm here, but I can't seem to focus on it."

Hutch took his opportunity.  "Well, Mom, if you want to try reading something that might be a little more meaningful to you, you can read David's manuscript.  He's written a story about our lives together.  About how we came to be together. A lot of the significant cases we did when we were cops, and how we were always there for each other."

She said, "I didn't know he was a writer."

Hutch felt she'd missed the point.  "He's not, in the general sense.  But I think he's done a really lovely job.  But more importantly, you know, it's about us.  It could give you an understanding of what my life has been like, since I first moved out here, and why David and I fell in love."  It did feel odd, using that phrase in his mother's presence.

She looked away.  "I'm not sure I'm up to reading about your lovers."

It was her tone that twisted his stomach.  Forcing his voice to be level, Hutch clarified, "You mean male lovers?"

Her eyes darted to him, and then darted away.  "I'm sorry, Ken, but I'm just not able to feel that casual about it.  I just can't feel that homosexuality is normal."

Hutch held back a long, weary sigh.  When his parents had first visited, over two years ago, he'd had a frank discussion with his father, and felt they'd reached a tentative understanding.  It seemed apparent that Richard hadn't shared any of that conversation, or subsequent ones, with his wife.

Hutch felt the tightness of his jaw, as he spoke.  "Mother, David is the only male lover I've ever had.  I've never wanted anyone else.  He and I both only dated girls.  David's book isn't about homosexuality or bisexuality.  It's about two people that love each other, and all the things which brought that love about."

She looked at him with sad eyes.  "Then why did you end up with him?  End up with someone you can't have children with?"

If Lorraine had her druthers, Hutch supposed that he and Lannie would burn forever in hell for depriving their mother of grandchildren.

Hutch spoke distinctly.  "If you read even just a few chapters of David's book, you might be able to understand why he became the love of my life, and the only person I want to be with."

She shook her head.  "I just don't understand it.  How a person can become like that."

Hutch challenged, "Do you want to understand it?  If you want to try, the answers are in David's book."

She picked up a knife and spread cheese over another cracker.

Hutch sighed and pushed away from the counter.  "Excuse me, I need to make a phone call."  He went into the office, closed the thick oak doors, and then dialed Starsky's car phone.


"Where are you?"

"Headed back to the office to drop off the paperwork I picked up from the Tomlinson and Parks firm, and then I'll be headed home."

Tightly, Hutch said, "That can wait until tomorrow.  Nobody is going to be able to work on it today, anyway.  I need you to hurry up and get here."

"What's wrong?"

"I'm about to commit a murder."

"Oh.  It's going that badly?"

"For starters, she doesn't want to read your book, because she doesn't want to read about all my past male lovers."

There was a pause, and then a glum, "Oh."

"Yeah.  Try as I might to explain, it's talking to a brick wall."

"All right, all right.  Try to stay cool.  I can be there within fifteen minutes, okay?"

Hutch felt a calm come over him.  "Yeah.  Thanks."


Starsky wasn't sure what to expect when he entered the house twelve minutes later.  He was relieved that Lorraine was sitting at the table, drinking a glass of iced tea, while Hutch seemed reasonably calm, as he leaned back against the counter.

"Hey, there," Starsky greeted.

Lorraine gave him a tight smile.  "Hi, David.  How was work?"

Starsky assumed a similar position as Hutch, next to him, and clasped his love's hand.  "It was fine.  What have you two been doing all day?"  Hutch had gone into work for just a couple of hours in the morning.

Hutch said, "Mom wanted to spruce up the flower garden again."  She had done that her prior visit, when accompanied by Richard.  "So, I took her to the plant store, and she messed around in the yard, though it was kind of chilly."

Starsky brightened.  "Did you tell her about the new addition we intend to do?"


Lorraine said, "I still don't know why someone would get rid of their swimming pool."

Starsky sensed Hutch's impatience beside him, so he responded, "We just haven't ever used it.  Pools take a lot of maintenance and care, and we have the exercise equipment in the back room, and a personal trainer that comes Monday mornings, so we haven't ever really felt a need to get the pool up and running."

She said, "It seems like it would hurt the value of the house, to have a greenhouse, instead of a swimming pool.  Who would want a greenhouse, and not a pool?"

"Well," Starsky answered, while turning to reach for a glass from the cabinet, "we really like this house, and plan to be here a good ten years, at least.  It's paid off, you know."  He sat down at the table, and reached for the pitcher of iced tea.

Lorraine said thoughtfully, "You just never know when you're going to want to sell.  I expected to live my entire life in my house.  Now, I'm not so sure.  It seems so big... and empty."

Starsky was glad to have her talking about something meaningful.  "The condo market is really hot right now.  Maybe you ought to sell your house and get into a condo.  It'll be a lot smaller, and there won't be a yard to worry about."  He glanced back at Hutch, wondering if they'd already talked about this.

Hutch sat down next to Starsky.  "First, Mom would need to decide whether she's staying in Duluth or not."

Starsky turned his attention back to Lorraine.  "You think you might want to move out here, to be closer to Lanette and Hutch?"

"Oh, I don't know.  I don't know what I'd do out here.  I wouldn't have any friends...."

"Well, then, maybe a condo back in Duluth."  Starsky realized he was relieved that she apparently wasn't thinking of moving their way.  He'd looked forward to her visit, but had been quickly reminded of how distant she could be.  Plus, he definitely didn't want her around on a regular basis, if she so easily irritated Hutch.  "You know, Hutch and I would do everything we can to make the transition easier, whatever you decide."

She now looked at Starsky.  "I didn't know you were a writer."

He was surprised at the change in subject matter.   "Well, just the one book.  It's not like I intend to write anything else."

"Like I told you," Hutch said to his mother with forced patience.

Starsky said, "You're welcome to read the manuscript.  Just a few chapters, if you want.  You'll find out a whole lot of amazing things about your son that you never knew before."

"Dad read it," Hutch put in.  "I think it meant a lot to him, to read it."

Lorraine tilted her head.  "Why, he never mentioned anything to me about it."

Starsky quickly said, "We were kind of hush-hush about it, because we weren't sure we were ready for anybody to read it."  He tried to inject humor in his voice.  "My original intent was just to write about Hutch's and my relationship, but just leave it around for somebody to find, in case we ever got killed in car wreck or something."  He reached to slide his arm around Hutch's waist.  "So many people misunderstand us, that I wanted there to be a way for others to see how your son and I came to love each other so much."

She shifted with discomfort.  "It goes against nature."

Starsky said, "I don't see how anybody can call love being against nature."  He couldn't help but press, "Aren't you glad that Hutch has someone who loves him so very much?"

Dryly, Hutch added, "Yeah, mother, aren't you glad that I have so much love in my life?"

Now, they were making fun of her, and that didn't give Starsky a good feeling.  Still, he didn't see how any mother wouldn't want her children to feel loved. 

She waved a hand.  "There's nothing I can do about it, so that's fine.  I just don't understand why you're all right about not having children."

Hutch now spoke with sarcasm.  "Sure, I'll go out and have a baby with someone, and then the child can be raised by parents who don't love each other.  What a great life that would be for the child."

Starsky quickly reached for Hutch's hand beneath the table, and squeezed it, before Hutch added something to the effect of having spoken from experience.  Calmly, he said to Lorraine, "Tell you what, I'll leave the manuscript for my book in your room, and if you choose to read some of it, great.  If not, that's fine, too.  I just think you'd understand us a whole lot more, if you knew our history together."

"Maybe I will," she said, as though to close the subject.

Hutch stood.  "I need the little boy's room".  He went toward the hall.

Starsky asked Lorraine, "Have you two talked about what we're going to do for dinner?"

The bathroom door was heard closing.

Lorraine looked Starsky in the eye.  "Do you think it's something that happens in childhood that makes someone homosexual?"

Starsky gazed at her, considering various ways to answer.  "I doubt it, because Hutch and I had completely different upbringings.  If it makes you feel better, I always thought that homosexuals were weird and strange, and I didn't understand how someone could be like that.  But you can't always tell.  I grew up next door to a man that was sort of a father figure to me, and a cop.  I didn't found out until a five or six years ago, after he was murdered, that he saw men on the side."

"Murdered?" she repeated.

"Yes.  But the reason he was murdered was because he was a cop, not because he was gay.  Anyway," Starsky shrugged, "I've never felt like that.  I don't know why.  I always knew I loved Hutch, but not, you know, that way.  Not until just a few years ago.  Now, it just seems natural.  I'd never give up the tremendous love Hutch and I have for each other, just to appease some kind of life that society exists upon.  What good is following society's rules, when it leaves you feeling unhappy?" 

She said, "I think happiness is over-emphasized.  Or, rather, I think it's one of those things that people reach for, but never actually achieve.  Sometimes, I thinks it's the quest itself -- that's never going to be fulfilled -- that makes people unhappy."

Starsky gazed at her.  "It can be fulfilled," he said firmly.  "I didn't have any complaints about my life before Hutch.  I just believed in taking each day as it comes.  But once he was in my life, the world was a better place.  And then once we were partners in every sense of the word," he met her eye, "there's nothing like it.  I didn't know it was possible to be so intimate with another person.  I'm not sure I knew what love was, until I met Hutch."  Boldly, he challenged, "Maybe you don't, either, and since you can't believe in it, you don't understand how Hutch and I be happy."

She looked away.  "Well," she said dismissively, "I think there's something to be said for leading a responsible and upstanding life, and contributing to society, rather than being worried about being happy."

Starsky wondered how a life of extra-marital affairs could be considered "upstanding", but decided not to question her about it.


On Thursday, Hutch stopped at a light, and glanced over to his right.  A large hobby store dominated the street.  He wasn't eager to return to the office, since Lois had said a client had left a message, upset about how much they were charged on their invoice.  That was a call Hutch was more than happy to put off returning.  He certainly had never had to deal with such problems as a cop.

After the light was green, Hutch looked for the entrance to the parking lot of the hobby store, and turned right.  He was pleased with himself for having already considered something for Starsky's birthday, which was still three weeks away.  The man himself was taking Lorraine shopping this morning, after she had spent most of yesterday with Lannie and Nick.  

Hutch entered the hobby store, and was amazed at how large it was.  This would be a great place to get Starsky a gift certificate, so he could start buying things for the train track he was going to eventually have in the new addition.  Of course, their money belonged to the both of them, but a gift certificate would be Hutch's way of showing how agreeable he was to his love spending money on his own hobby.  Granted, the addition to the house wouldn't likely be finished until the end of summer.  The first contractor that was going to give an estimate had an appointment to come out tomorrow morning.

Both clerks at the counter were busy with other customers, so Hutch thought he'd look at the model trains, though he didn't know much about them.  He turned down an aisle, and realized he was looking at an array of jigsaw puzzles.  His mind flashed back to childhood.  He remembered, when he was seven or eight, being in his aunt's home, from his father's side of the family.  While the men were away, the women sat at a card table and put together a large jigsaw puzzle.  Hutch and his cousins played with toys nearby.  Thinking about it now, Hutch remembered how content the atmosphere felt, his mother and his aunt talking casually about various things, as they worked on the puzzle.  Occasionally, Hutch and his cousins would try to place a few pieces, but they quickly got bored and returned to their more masculine endeavors.

Hutch reached for a box that held a thousand piece puzzle of a colorful flower garden.

He smiled to himself.  Since his mother had admitted she couldn't focus much the book she'd brought, and she hadn't given any indication of reading any of Starsky's book, which had been left in the guest bedroom, she had been in an almost constant state of restlessness.

Now, she would have something to devote her attention to.


Later that morning, Hutch hung up the phone and sighed.  As cops, he and Starsky had always wanted to land on top as the toughest, when dealing with suspects.  Now, as owners of a company, it was in their best interest to take the attitude that the customer was always right.  He'd agreed to cut the supposedly over-priced invoice by twenty percent, and the customer seemed happy, as though all he'd wanted was for Hutch to give in and admit that he'd charged too much for looking into the background of a few attorneys that the man's firm was considering hiring.

Hopefully, the "customer is always right" approach was going to work when they gathered estimates from contractors that were interested in building the new addition to the house.

Hutch heard the door to their office suite open and Lois ask, "May I help you?"  It was quiet in the office, as both Carlos and Kenny were out on assignments.  Starsky and Lorraine were expected to arrive at the suite within the hour, so Hutch could join them for lunch.

A distantly-familiar Texas drawl replied in bright, friendly manner.  "Yes, I'm here to see Starsky and Hutchinson."

Hutch heard the puzzlement in Lois's voice.  "What's your name?  They don't have any appointments until later this afternoon."

"They're so fancy now that they need an appointment?" the man asked with amusement.

Hutch's curiosity got the best of him.  He rose from his desk and came to the office doorway.  He didn't immediately recognize the seventyish man, who carried a cowboy hat in his hand, and was dressed in jeans and a western-style shirt, but felt that he should know him.

Hutch approached, holding out his hand.  "I'm Ken Hutchinson.  May I help you?"

The man turned to him and reached to shake his hand.  "Your Hutchinson?  I'm afraid I couldn't ever remember which was which."

Hutch smiled at the nostalgic reminder.  "Yes, Hutchinson.  Hutch.   I admit I don't remember your name."

"Dexter Riley.  Nice to see you again."

"Oh, yes."  Hutch grinned widely.  "A pleasure."  He turned to Lois.  "During our cop days, we were undercover as stunt men on a western that starred Steve Hanson.  Dexter Riley here had one of the supporting roles in the movie."

Lois blushed and held out her hand.  "Mr. Riley, I didn't recognize you!  I love your movies, especially the one where you saved that sick boy.  Nice to meet you."

Riley shook her hand.  "Well, thanks, Ma'am.  That one is a big favorite with the fans.  They don't do many westerns these days, so I guess you could say that I'm mostly retired.  Not many people recognize me anymore.  I don't take offense."

Hutch said, "Come into my office, so you can tell me how we can help you."  He turned to lead the way.

They sat down at the small, round conference table.  Riley said, "I didn't realize you had such fancy digs, or I would have called ahead."

"We just kept getting busier and busier," Hutch said with a smile.  "I assume that Hanson told you all about us being undercover."

"Yes.  That was such a shame about Wally Stone, and then Steve dying a couple of years ago.  He was a dear friend.  He spoke highly of your work, both on the movie, and then, the last time I saw him at a party, he said you two were helping him with the racing partnerships he was involved in.  I was involved in one of the early ones, myself, but me and missus -- God rest her soul -- never seemed to get around to going to see any of the races, so there didn't seem to be much point."

Hutch nodded agreeably, while reaching to grab a notepad from the corner of his desk.  "I can understand that."  He refrained from mentioning Darla, so they could get past the small talk before Starsky and Lorraine arrived.

Hutch flipped the notepad to a new sheet.  "So, Mr. Riley, how can I help you?"

"Dexter, please."  The man shifted in his chair.  "I'm afraid this is nothing near as serious as murder."

"I'm glad to hear that," Hutch said sincerely.  "We deal with all kinds of cases.  Thankfully, now that we're P.I.s, it's rare to get something that concerns murder."  He smiled.  "This job isn't much like what you see on TV."

Dexter grunted.  "I suppose not.  Anyway, I had a son out of wedlock, over twenty years ago.  My wife knew about it, and things were able to be kept pretty quiet and out of the press.  Through our lawyers, I agreed to pay child support, and didn't see my son, Wesley, until he was old enough to make his own decisions, since his mother wanted it that way."  Dexter sat back.  "I care about him a great deal.  Since I was never around when he was little, I don't expect him to treat me much like a father.  He does talk to me, but not about the important things." 

Dexter shifted heavily in his chair and met Hutch's eye.  "I hope I'm not being too forward, but Steve Hanson told me that you and Starsky are in a relationship together."

Hutch felt his heart quicken, wondering where this was leading.  He nodded.  "David Starsky is the love of my life."

Dexter smiled softly.  "I guess he'd have to be, for you two to both live and work together."  He glanced away.  "'We see all kinds of eccentricities in Hollywood.  Homosexuality is just one of many.  You and the rest of the public would be shocked at some of the leading men in the movies that prefer the company of other men."  He shrugged.  "Mostly, it doesn't bother anybody.  It certainly doesn't me, and it didn't bother Steve Hanson."  Dexter met Hutch's eye again.  "I'm hoping your situation might be helpful, with what I need."

Hutch felt the inclination to launch into the usual spiel about his and Starsky's particular relationship, and how he felt that to simply refer to them as homosexuals didn't explain it, by a longshot.

Does it really matter?  The back of his mind wondered.  Do I really need to keep making those distinctions?  Maybe all homosexuals have their own story.  He prompted, "What is it you need?"

"I think my son might be a homosexual.  I keep waiting for him to tell me.  I try to give him openings, but he doesn't take them.  If you can find out if it's true, then I can confront him with evidence, and tell him that it's all right.  That I'm still proud of him."

Hutch realized that he trusted the well-meaning sincerity of Dexter's words.  Still, he felt reluctant, as he asked, "You want him placed under surveillance?"

"If you feel that would be the best way to find evidence.  I assume, if it's true, you'll be able to get indisputable proof."

Hutch's stomach twisted.  "You want pictures of him in bed with another man?"

Dexter seemed to consider his words.

Hutch continued, "We don't do that, even for cheating spouse cases.  Getting them coming in and out of a hotel room together, or the mistress's apartment, suffices as evidence."

Dexter said, "But then he could just say it was a friend's apartment, and he spent the night on the sofa."

"Have you considered what he'll say when he finds out you've had him tailed?  If your relationship isn't particularly great now, you can damage it irrevocably.  Maybe you should just ask him directly."

Dexter muttered, "What if he isn't a homosexual?  Then he'll wonder why I'm asking.  Like, maybe I feel he's different, and that'll make him self-conscious."

"Well," Hutch relented, "I'm suggesting we just do the usual surveillance, at least for now.  Maybe we can get a photo of him holding hands with someone, when he thinks they're having a private moment.  Do you think he has a particular boyfriend?"

"I don't know that much about his life.  The only name I have is someone that he likes to go to movies with.  That friend is a critic for a local paper, and he's always happy to have Wesley come to the movies with him.  That's Darren Rook."

Hutch was taking notes.  "Are you wanting us to start with twenty-four hour surveillance?  That can get expensive.  Or do you know his routines well enough that you can give us timeframes of when he should be tailed?"

"I don't know anything about his routines.  He's trying to be a freelance screen writer.  He doesn't have to worry about money, because he got his leg tore up in a car crash that wasn't his fault, when he was a teenager.  He got a big settlement."

Hutch furrowed his brow at the thought that came to mind.  "Dexter, with a young person like that, who has plenty of money and time at his disposal, drugs can frequently be a problem.  That might be what he's hiding, rather than his sexuality."

Dexter drew a heavy breath.  "I guess I haven't wanted to think about that.  But he just seems -- I don't know -- like there's something different about him.  I still thinks it's homosexuality.  I guess, now they call it being gay.  Anyway, whatever you charge, I can't imagine that it'll be as expensive as keeping up the maintenance on my million dollar home.  Damn thing has something major go wrong with it every single month."

Hutch managed a smile, and then said.  "I need you to give me all the names and addresses you know, concerning Wesley."

While Hutch took down the information, which Dexter relayed from a note paper he'd kept in his wallet, he heard voices outside his closed office door, and recognized Starsky's.  As he finished, Hutch said, "My partner's here.  My mother should be out there, too.  She's visiting from Minnesota."

Dexter put the paper back in his wallet.  "Her husband isn't with her?"

"Dad died last spring."

"Oh.  Sorry to hear that."

"Thanks."  Hutch smiled.  "I'm sure my mother will want to meet you."

"I'd love to meet her," Dexter replied politely. 

Hutch glanced over his notepad, with the various names, addresses, and phone numbers, as well as a few other notations.  "I think this is enough to get us started.  If you don't mind, you'll need to fill out a basic fact sheet with Lois, for our files."


They left the office a moment later, and Starsky and Lorraine were hovering over Lois's desk, while she was obviously telling them about the once-famous actor that was in their suite.

They looked up as Hutch and Dexter approached.

Hutch said, "Starsk, you remember Dexter Riley from that western we did?"

Starsky held out his hand.  "Of course!  How are you?"

As Starsky shook hands with Dexter, Hutch said, "I'll fill you in on the case later.  Dexter, this is my mother, Lorraine Hutchinson.  Mom, Dexter Riley."

She blushed as he took her hand and bowed slightly.  "Mrs. Hutchinson, your son did not inform me of what a stunningly beautiful woman you are."

Starsky and Hutch exchanged a grin.

Lorraine stammered, "I-I'm afraid my best years are behind me."

"Nonsense."  He straightened.  "If you weren't still in a period of grieving, I would invite you to dinner some evening."

Hutch hadn't expected that.

She said, "My husband's death wasn't sudden.  I'm well past grieving."

"Well, then, if it's not too forward of me," Dexter glanced back at Hutch, "I'd love to call on you, for the opportunity to share your company at dinner, while you're still in town."

Starsky quickly put in, "She's in town for an indefinite time."

Hutch took one of his cards from Lois's desk.  "Here, let me write down our home phone number for you."  Being flattered by an old movie actor would surely get his mother out of her funk about no longer being attractive.

Lorraine had her hand to her chest.  "Well, I don't know what to say."

Dexter replied with a large smile.  "Say yes when I call on you.  It could be this Saturday evening, but I'll need to check with my secretary."

"Why, that would be wonderful."

Lois was holding out a clipboard, trying to get Dexter's attention.  Hutch took it from her.  "Dexter, we all need to be on our way.  But here's the information sheet we need you to fill out before you leave."

Dexter accepted it, with a smile at Lois.  "Certainly."

As they made their way out the door, Hutch wondered if Dexter was going to charm Lois as thoroughly as he had Lorraine.

"What a charming man," Lorraine gushed, as they made their way to the elevator.

"Yeah," Starsky agreed eagerly.

"What was he needing your services for?"

Hutch firmly said, "We can't discuss our clients' business, Mom.  If he wants to tell you about it himself, that's up to him."

Once they were in the LeBaron, with Lorraine sitting in the back seat, Hutch noticed her distracted smile.  He waited a few minutes while they were driving to the restaurant they'd decided upon, and then said, "Mom, you're welcome to look in the sack, there on the seat next to you.  I bought you something."

He watched in the rearview mirror, as she reached into the large sack.

Starsky looked back between the seats.  "What is it?"

Lorraine pulled out one of the boxes and gazed at it.  "A jigsaw puzzle?"

"Yes.  I thought it might give you something to do, when you're at the house."

She smiled as she looked at the picture on the box.  "What a lovely garden."

"That one is a thousand pieces.  If that's too ambitious, I also got you a five hundred piece one."

She handed the box to Starsky, and then pulled the next one out of the sack. 

As Starsky looked at the box, he asked Hutch, "You thinking we can put it together on the kitchen table?"

"I bought a folding table, big enough for it.  It's in the trunk.  We can set it up in the living room, so anyone can work on the puzzle while watching TV."


Hutch looked in the rearview mirror again, as his mother studied the second box, which was of the yard of a country farmhouse.  She was still smiling.  "Thank you, Ken.  It's been years since I've put together a puzzle."

"I remember when you used to put them together at Aunt Rebecca's house.  You always seemed to enjoy them."

Starsky handed the box back to her.  "Even with a thousand pieces, this should be do-able, because there's so many different colors."  Then he reached to squeeze Hutch's leg behind his knee.

Hutch knew that gesture meant, good idea.


The puzzles were a hit.  They spent all evening on the thousand piece one, putting the edge pieces together, and sorting the other pieces by color.  Talking about the puzzle, or about whatever was on the television, kept the conversation going in a relaxed manner.

When Starsky had his head on Hutch's shoulder that night in bed, he said with satisfaction, "What a great day this has been for your mother.  She's now got something to keep her busy, and she's been flattered by a once-famous movie actor."

"Yep.  I hope Dexter wasn't just bullshitting her.  He sure knows how to turn on the charm, when he wants to."

"Still, it surely made her feel good, to get that kind of attention.  I hope he follows through with wanting to take her to dinner.  I guess he's not married, huh?"

"He made reference to his 'late wife', but I don't know the details."

"Huh." Starsky shifted, so that he was more on his side, facing Hutch.  "So, he's wanting us to tail his son?"  Hutch had managed to slip him a few details about the case, during the afternoon.

"Yeah.  Wants us to confirm that Wesley is a homosexual.  That's why he came to us, since Hanson had told him about our relationship.  I guess he thought we'd be able to find out something like that more easily than other detectives."

Starsky grunted.  "I'm not sure about that."

"Yeah."  Hutch realized there was something he wanted to talk about.  "You know, how when people talk about the gay thing, we always feel like we need to explain how unique our situation is?"


"I felt like I wanted to go into that whole story with Dexter about how we're different from other homosexuals.  But then, in the back of my mind, I started wondering what difference does it make.  You know?  Probably everybody that is gay -- or has something else that is unusual about them -- has their own unique story to tell."  He hugged Starsky closer against him.  "So, I didn't bother.  Just let him assume we were 'like that'."

Starsky was silent a moment.  "Yeah," he muttered off-handedly.  Then, with puzzlement, "You mean, like there's really no point to my book?"

"No, no," Hutch quickly assured.  "More like, if someone cares to know about our particular story, then they could read the book, if it was published.  Otherwise, I'm just kind of tired of going into the whole thing about how we're different from other relationships between men, especially when now I'm starting to realize that it doesn't really matter.  If other people we meet in everyday life assume we're like other gay guys, then so be it."

"I guess I can sort of see that."

Hutch hugged him again.  "You give any more thought to publishing your book?"

Starsky drew a breath.  "I want to find somebody else who will read the whole thing, which probably means paying another consulting fee.  I think I don't want to tell the next person what the first person, Stella Livingston, said.  Otherwise, that might influence what they think."

Hutch kissed the top of Starsky's head.  "I think that's a good idea."

Dryly, Starsky said, "At least, this time,  I won't be thinking they might tell me it's wonderful."

"It is wonderful," Hutch declared.  "More and more, I'm liking the idea of it being published, in some form.  Even if that means we have to pay somebody to publish it, and we have a few thousand copies sitting around our house."

Starsky snorted, and his hand rubbed along Hutch's stomach.  "Maybe we could leave some copies out for clients, at the office."

Hutch considered that.  "It's hard to know how much of a risk that would be.  Even with most of the people that matter, knowing about our relationship, you know some things, like the heroin thing -- let alone the alien thing -- might make people think differently about us."

"Yeah.  If we really start thinking seriously about publishing it, maybe we ought to leave out some of the chapters.  Maybe just include paper copes for family and close friends, when we send out the book."

"Yeah.  I guess we'll definitely want to talk about it, when the time comes.  Maybe get some input from people we trust."

"Yeah."  They were silent a moment, and then Starsky asked, "So, one of the contractor people is coming out tomorrow?"

"Yes, at eleven.  I'll need to meet them here for that, and I guess have lunch with Mom.  Maybe you can come, too.  There's another that might be coming at three, but they weren't sure if they could get somebody out then.  If so, they'll call ahead."

"I don't know if I'll be back from meeting with the Laughton firm.  How many estimates are you planning on getting?"

"I'd like to get four or five.  I put Carlos on tailing Wesley tomorrow morning, and maybe you can take over in the afternoon?"

"Yeah.  Then Kenny will do the evening, and we might have to take back over early Saturday morning?"

"Yep."  Hopefully, Hutch said, "We might give Nick a call and see if he's interested."

"Has he done anything about getting his own company started?"

"I think he applied for a federal tax ID number, and applied with the state.  He won't be able to get an ad in the phone directory until next fall, and the book won't come out until early the following year, so it's going to be hard to advertise before then."

"Yeah.  He might be ready to make some good money from us, doing a middle-of-the-night surveillance.  Of course, that's assuming Lanette has someone else running the shop Nick was managing."

Hutch decided, "Let's call him first thing in the morning, and see where things stand."


Starsky sipped his soft drink from a fast food store.

He had the Corvette parked at the curb in an upper class neighborhood.  A few houses ahead, Wesley had driven his BMW out through the private gate.  He had left his home with a thick satchel, so Starsky assumed it was a business meeting.  Since Wesley was wanting to be a screen writer, perhaps he was meeting with some fancy Hollywood producer. 

The car phone rang, and he picked up the receiver.  "Hello?"

Lois said, "David, Milton Bloomberg said that he'd like to treat you to lunch on Saturday to discuss your manuscript."

"Wow, that was fast."  Starsky had left a long-winded message this morning, with a few literary agents listed in the phone directory, emphasizing that he was trying to find someone who was willing to read his entire book, before making a judgment.  He'd rapidly relayed that it concerned their lives as cops, and how they'd grown to being in a relationship together. 

"He said, if you're free tomorrow, he'd like to meet with you at the Blue Bird Cafe on Seventeenth.  He said to bring the manuscript with you."

"Okay.  Tell him I'll be there.  Tell him that Hutch might be there, too."

"I'll do that."

"Thanks, Lois."

Starsky felt heartened that somebody was so interested, especially after his rapid explanation.  He expected his inference of the homosexual angle to turn some people off.

His mind wandered to his and Hutch's conversation last night.  How Hutch had reached the conclusion that he no longer wanted to go into an explanation about them, when someone referred to them being "like that";  Starsky wondered at his own self, at how he'd never felt a desire or need to analyze who he was, from a sexual preference standpoint.  He supposed that he didn't believe that his love for Hutch had to do with gender.  He loved Hutch because he was Hutch, and he just happened to come in a male package.  As he mentally acknowledged that, he also felt a kinship with what Hutch had said about the subject.  He really didn't want to go around defending his feelings for Hutch, and distinguishing them from people who were outright homosexual.

For that matter, he also knew that he and Hutch had been insulated, to a large degree, from the prejudice that most homosexuals faced, starting with living in the most liberal area of the country.  Being self-employed, and having day-to-day business dealings with professionals, kept them in an atmosphere of polite respect.  There had occasionally been times when Starsky had sensed disapproval, when dealing with a client, or a vendor, who had reason to know about the manner of his and Hutch's relationship, but they tended not to comment on it.  That's how he and Hutch had learned to function concerning the subject:  If the other person didn't ask, then they probably didn't want to know, and Starsky wasn't going to offer up information that didn't need to be stated.  If the other person did outright ask about the nature of their relationship, then Starsky didn't feel responsible for any appalled feelings that might result from his answer.

All of which made it ironic that he was sitting here in his car, spying on a young man just because he might be homosexual.  He suspected that Hutch wouldn't have taken the job, if he'd felt that Dexter Riley had wanted the information for unsavory purposes, such as to manipulate or degrade his son.  Supposedly, this surveillance job was for the good of the all, and a better father-son relationship would be forged from it. 

It was another half an hour when the BMW emerged from the gate.  Short meeting.  It made Starsky wonder about Hutch's concern -- that perhaps the reason Wesley was so reticent with his father was because he was involved in drugs.  Still, this hardly seemed the setting where one would go to buy drugs, so Starsky doubted that, at this time.

He let the BMW get a couple of blocks ahead, and then pulled away from the curb to follow.  When he stopped at the first light away from the neighborhood, Starsky ended up directly behind it.  He saw Wesley's dark head turn to his right, as though talking to someone else.  Starsky couldn't see anyone in the passenger seat, so assumed it was a short person that was seated there.

While waiting at the light, Starsky glanced at his note sheet.  Wesley frequently went to the movies with movie critic Darren Rook, but Rook lived in a neighborhood a few miles away.  This address hadn't come up in the initial consultation with Dexter. 

After driving another ten minutes, the BMW pulled over to the curb, coming to a stop next to a park.  Starsky was fortunate to pull over a few cars behind it.  He watched as a short, young woman, with long dark hair, got out of the passenger seat.  Starsky grabbed his 35mm and began to take pictures, until the pair entered the main park area.

Starsky followed discreetly, and casually went behind trees and other obstructions to snap more photographs.  The pair bought pretzels from a sidewalk vendor, and though they seemed to be laughing with each other, and gave each other an occasional nudge, they never held hands, or otherwise gave any indication of being lovers.  Starsky also couldn't make any judgments about Wesley likely being a homosexual, based upon his mannerisms.

They spent some time, sitting on a bench before a pond, and throwing pretzel crumbs to the ducks and other fowl.  Eventually, they made their way back to their BMW.  The car then pulled up next to a parking meter.  After inserting change, the pair went into a clothing store.  It was too small for Starsky to follow inside, so he observed from outside the window.  There was some playfulness between the two, as they looked around the racks at both women's and men's clothes, but Starsky still didn't believe that they were boyfriend and girlfriend.  There wasn't any kind of intimate touching or sense of one's person also belonging to the other.

The woman ended up buying a stylish hat, and then they returned to the car, which drove back to what was apparently the young woman's house.  After Starsky parked at the curb, outside the gate of the house, he logged his recent observations.

He was interrupted by the ringing of his phone.  "Hello?"

"How's it going?"

"I just tailed him and a young woman, going to a park and stopping by a clothes store.  I didn't see any women listed on his sheet of contacts."

Hutch said, "Yeah, I guess Dexter didn't mention any women.  Do you think it's a girlfriend?"

"Nah.  I don't get that vibe.  But really good friends, or something like that.  They've gone back to the house where he picked her up.  It's a really wealthy neighborhood."

"Nick called back.  He'll be relieving you at six.  And then he'll take an eight-hour shift, and then Carlos wants to take an eight-hour shift, so he can get the overtime.  Then Kenny can take over.  We'll have to figure out what we want to do from there.  It'll be a Saturday night, so Wesley could be out and about."

"Yeah," Starsky sighed.  "Did the contractor come?"

"Yeah.  He's gone back to his office to put together a price.  He was here a good hour.  Then the other one is coming at three.  Oh, and," Hutch's voice brightened, "Dexter called for a date with Mom.  He's taking her out to dinner tomorrow night.  She's really excited."  Hutch chuckled softly.  "Wants to go to the mall tonight to make sure she has something decent to wear."

Starsky grinned.  "Good for her.  We can take her, after I get back there."

"I'll have dinner waiting."


"Mom is ready to go out to the stables to meet Poncho, so I'm thinking maybe we can on Sunday, depending on what we're able to find out about Wesley."

"Yeah.  We're probably going to have to put in some long shifts ourselves."  Starsky suddenly remembered, "Oh, hey, I got an appointment tomorrow with a book agent.  We're meeting for lunch, and he wants me to bring the manuscript.  Maybe you can come?"

Subdued, Hutch said, "I think I'll probably be tailing Wesley then.  Maybe you can join me after your meeting.  Who is it?"

"I just called a few agents listed in the phone book, earlier today.  I guess he called back after I left the office.  Either he's not very busy, or he's impressed with what I said about it in my message."

"That's good, partner.  We'll have to see how the day goes tomorrow."



It was going on two on Saturday afternoon.  Hutch was sitting in the LeBaron, down the street from a massage parlor that Wesley had entered.  Considering the part of town, Hutch was certain it was genuinely for massages.  Just to be sure, he'd called Information for the phone number to the parlor, and then dialed their number, posing as a homosexual who hoped for fringe benefits.  The woman who answered the phone firmly said, "We give massages here, and nothing more" and hung up.

He heard a brief honk behind him and looked in the rearview mirror.  Starsky's yellow Corvette had pulled to the curb, a few parking spots back.

Hutch smiled.  Now he'd have company to while away the afternoon.  No doubt, Starsky was bringing refreshments, as well.

When he saw Starsky approach, Hutch hit the button that unlocked the passenger door. 

Starsky lowered himself to the seat, his arms full of sacks.  "Got you a burger."

"Great, thanks."  Hutch waited until the sacks were sorted out, and then accepted what Starsky handed him.  He unwrapped it, and then bit into it appreciatively.

As he chewed, Starsky asked, "Your mom all ready for her date tonight?"

"Yeah, she's pretty excited.  I left our car phone numbers on the counter, so if he calls for directions and he got lost, she can tell him to call us."

"Hm.  Anything happening with Wesley?"

"Not since you called," Hutch replied.  "So, how did it go with that agent guy?"

"Milton?" Starsky said with a grin.  "I think I know why he was so eager to meet with me."


"He's pretty swishy.  Older, chunky guy.  But he seems pretty eager to read a manuscript about a couple of homos."

Hutch grunted.  He wasn't sure he liked the thought of that being the book's main appeal.

"I liked him though," Starsky said.  "He seemed like he was listening to what my intentions are with the book.  It was really hard to keep myself from saying what Stella had said.  He asked if anyone else had read it, and I said just a relative had, but I think he knew I was lying.  He didn't press me on it."

"So, did you sign some kind of agreement or something with him?"

"I signed it, but instead of giving it back to him, I dropped it off at David Placing's office before coming here.  I told Placing if he didn't have any problems with it, to let Milton know, and to have it couriered to Milton's house, and put the charge on our account.  Milton sounded like he was wanting to dive write in, so I expect to hear from him in a week or so.

Hutch felt better having their attorney involved, since the publishing business was so foreign to them.  He did clarify, "Milton, huh?"

"Yep.  Milton Bloomberg.  Dresses fancy.  Greasy hair, like he's trying to hide how bald he is.  But like I said, it was pretty cool how he seemed to really be listening to me."  Starsky released a heavy sigh.  "So, if he has some complaints about how it's written, I'm determined to swallow my medicine this time, and not be so bummed out about it."

"It'll be interesting to see what he says."


As Hutch enjoyed his burger and fries, he noticed that Starsky pulled some magazines from one of the sacks he'd brought.  Starsky began leafing through one that looked like it was for train hobbyists.

Hutch smiled to himself.

When he turned his attention back to the massage parlor, he saw Wesley coming out.

Hutch quickly swallowed the remainder of the burger.  "Here we go."

Starsky looked up, and put the magazine aside.


They spent the next two hours, tailing Wesley during a myriad of brief errands, ranging from the gas station to grocery shopping.

Now, they stood parked down the block from Wesley's home.  It wasn't gated, but it was a large two-story home that stood on a half-acre, well-manicured, unfenced lot, that was surrounded by similar dwellings.

Starsky sighed.  "Let's hope he has a more exciting evening life than day life, especially considering it's a Saturday."

"Yeah."  Hutch mused, "If he sees a lot of friends that live in gated communities, like the one yesterday, we might have a problem getting anything definitive.  When I talked to Dexter, it sounded like he was wanting us to get pictures of him actually in bed with a guy."


"Yeah.  I put the brakes on that, right away."

"Yeah," Starsky grunted.  "I'm hardly up to competing with the tabloids for who can get the sleaziest photographs."

"It would be virtually impossible, anyway, in these secure neighborhoods."

"Yeah."  A moment later, Starsky said with quiet amusement, "Look at that."

Hutch turned his head to the opposite side of the block, where an elderly woman was walking behind a little red wagon, which a toddler was sitting in.  A young child, probably an older sister, was pulling the wagon.

Hutch smiled at the scene.

Starsky said, "I can see why it upsets your mother to be losing out on moments like this."

Hutch drew a quiet breath, as his smile went away.  He debated about revealing what was on his mind.  Abruptly, he asked, "Are you sure you're just talking about my mother?"

Starsky turned to look at Hutch.  "What do you mean?"

Hutch snorted, "You've been talking about the 'having a baby' thing for quite a while now, partner."

Starsky smiled.  "We are having a baby.  Or, Darla is, anyway."

Hutch hardly felt appeased, with that pat reply.

After a moment, Starsky asked, "What's wrong?"

"How do you think it makes me feel?" Hutch quietly demanded, shifting restlessly.  "I want to give you anything you want.  But I can't give you that."

Starsky appeared perplexed.  "I'm not asking you to.  Of course, you can't."

"Yeah, but you'd like Nick and Lannie to give you a baby instead."

Starsky shrugged.  "Well, if it happened to work out that way that they have a child... sure, I think that would be great, being its uncles."

Hutch sighed, bowing his head.  "I can't fix this for you."

More congenial, Starsky said, "Nothing needs to be fixed for me, Hutch.  I'm living the best life ever."  Then he admitted, "Sure, I'd like us to have a little whippersnapper in or lives.  Or two.  But like you said, if we have our therapeutic center some day, we'll be around a whole bunch of kids."

Hutch only felt a little bit better.

Starsky asked, "Wouldn't you be excited if Lanette got pregnant?"

Tightly, Hutch said, "She's not going to.  She's never wanted kids.  I hate seeing you get your hopes up like this."

After a beat, Starsky pointed out, "I wasn't asking if you ever thought she would or not.  I was just asking if you'd be excited, if you knew there would be a child in the family."

Flustered, Hutch said, "I can't indulge in hypotheticals like that.  She's not going to have a baby, to please us or anybody else, so why ponder it?"

Now Starsky sighed loudly.

Subdued, Hutch said, "It just gets to me, knowing you're excited about the idea of it, and there's nothing I can do to make it happen for you."

After an extended silence, Starsky reached to clasp Hutch's hand.  He squeezed it.  "I don't mean to make you feel that way, that there's something you can't provide for me."  He swallowed.  "You give me everything, Hutch."

Hutch realized that his throat felt tight.  He squeezed back. 

Quietly, Starsky said, "I guess that's why I wrote the book.  That's like a legacy we're leaving behind.  Most people have descendants.  We'll have the book."


It was dark and turning into a long night.  Wesley had gone out to a nightclub.  Starsky went in as a patron, to see who he was socializing with.  He was at a table with both men and women.  There was laughing and pats-on-backs, but Starsky couldn't tell that there was anything overly-affectionate about any of the touches.  It was too dark to take pictures.  After relieving himself in the men's room, he went back out to the LeBaron, so Hutch could go in and get the same relief, and a refreshment, and make his own observations.

Hutch returned after nearly an hour.  "If he's going home with anybody, that'll be a surprise to me."

"Yeah."  Starsky released a heavy sigh.  "This has been a hell of a long day.  Maybe we ought to pack it in.  Kenny's taking over tomorrow morning, right?"

"Yeah.  But I say let's give it another hour.  The conversation looked like it was starting to wind down."

"Hopefully, he's not much of a night owl.  We can't get any proof, if we can't get pictures."


After twenty minutes, they saw Wesley leave the club, alone.  He went to his car and drove home.


"Who's car is that?" Starsky asked, as they drove up to their own house.  It was going on midnight.

"Looks like a Cadillac," Hutch said, as he waited for their garage door to open.   "Maybe it's Dexter's?"

Starsky snickered.  "Surely, he's not spending the night."

Hutch was grinning, too.  "An old fashioned guy like that?  Not hardly."

"I bet your mom wouldn't be shy about inviting him into bed."

"I don't think she's that forward."   Hutch was glad that they had a diversion from thinking about how fruitless the long day of stakeout had been.

Moments later, they entered the house through the garage.  The kitchen lights were on, as well as lamps in the living room.  There, both Lorraine and Dexter were sitting at the card table, where the 1000 piece puzzle was.

Dexter looked up while holding a puzzle piece.  He was dressed in a western suit, but had removed his tie.  There was a bottle of wine and a pair of glasses on the table.  "Hello, there.  I hope you don't mind your mother inviting me to help her with the puzzle."

"Not at all," Starsky and Hutch both replied.

"We've been having a great conversation," Lorraine said.  She glanced at the clock.  "I didn't realize it was so late.  I had no idea you were going to be out so long."

Quietly, Hutch said, "Surveillance cases are sometimes like that."

Dexter said to Lorraine.  "Excuse me."  He stood and took a couple of steps toward them, where they stood at the edge of the kitchen.  "That wouldn't happen to be my case, would it?"

Hutch's eyes darted nervously to his mother.

Dexter said, "Oh, it's quite all right.  I told Lorraine what I needed your services for."  His voice dropped slightly.  "I felt she would understand."

Lorraine eyes remained on the puzzle, as she appeared to consider where to place the next piece.

Hutch pushed down the feelings that wanted to well up.  So, mother, did you act understanding?  Pretend to be?

Starsky said, "Well, we've spent all day tailing him.  Can't say we've found out anything at all, yet.  He was hanging out at a night club with men and women both.  At the office, we'll have some photos to show you, of him spending time with a young woman yesterday.  Maybe you can identify her."

"I will make a point of dropping by some time this coming week.  I'll be sure and call ahead first."

Hutch nodded.  "Great.  Maybe we'll have more news for you by then."

"In the meantime," Dexter reached to take his hat from the sofa arm, and turned toward Lorraine, "I think I need to say my goodbyes to this lovely evening."

Starsky said, "You don't need to leave on our account.  We're headed to bed."

"It's time for me to get going."  Dexter turned to Lorraine and took her hand, and directed his words at her.  "Lest I be tempted to not remain a gentleman."  He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it.  "Thank you for a lovely evening."

Starsky quickly said, "We're going to bed.  Goodnight."

"Goodnight," Hutch said, and then gratefully accompanied Starsky down the hall to their bedroom.  He didn't want to linger with the goodbyes, and wasn't in the mood for conversation with his mother.

They heard Dexter leave, just as they were crawling beneath the covers.

As they curled up together, Starsky muttered, "I'm surprised he'd share that information about his son with her, when he hardly knows her."

"Yeah.  I can imagine that was a subject matter they had in common:  our sons, the queers.  How much you want to bet that she acted all understanding about his son's situation?"

Starsky shrugged.  "Maybe.  Surely, she wouldn't have bad-mouthed you to him."

"That's exactly what I mean.  She probably put on a big act about how she was a-okay about her son being queer, so he wouldn't be put off by her."

Starsky snuggled closer, and his hand rubbed along Hutch's bare stomach.  "Easy.  We don't know what was said.  And maybe this is a good thing, because she can see another parent's point of view, and how Dexter is sympathetic about Wesley being gay -- if he is gay."

Hutch took a deliberate deep, relaxing breath.

Starsky's hand rubbed.  "Relax, baby.  You're all tense."

"Sorry," Hutch muttered.

The hand rubbed a while longer, and Hutch felt himself drift into sleep.


Starsky was glad that Hutch was in a better mood the next morning, a Sunday.  Lorraine chattered on about what a delightful evening she'd had with Dexter, and how he'd said he'd be calling on her again.

They were pleasantly surprised when Nick and Lanette agreed to join the rest of the family for a trip to the stables to see Poncho.  Everyone made all the right noises about what a beautiful horse he was, and asked questions about his upkeep and the time Hutch spent at the stables.

Afterward, they had lunch at a cafeteria-style restaurant.

Later in the afternoon, when Starsky and Hutch were alone, Starsky said, "'Wasn't it great to have the whole family together today, and enjoy being with each other?"

Hutch shrugged.  "Sure."  He loosely placed his arm around Starsky's shoulders.  "Let's plan on doing it again for your birthday.  That's next Sunday, isn't it?"

Starsky grinned widely.  "Yeah, that'll be great."


On Tuesday, Dexter was sitting with them at the round table in Hutch's office.  His breath smelled heavily of mints. He glanced at a photograph.  "That's Ellen, Wesley's cousin.  They've always been close.  I think she gives her opinion on his screenplays."  He glanced at each of them.  "Sorry that I forgot to mention her before."

"No problem," Hutch said.  "Like I said the other night, we haven't got anything near approaching proof that your son is gay."

"I'm not in any hurry," he said.

"That's great.  We've put in a lot of hours these first few days, but we'll back off that, as we establish his routines, and only tail him when it makes sense."

"That'll be fine.  I appreciate you trying to keep the expenses down."

Starsky gathered the photographs of Dexter and Ellen and started to put them back in their manila envelope.

To Hutch, Dexter said, "I hope you don't mind if I call on your mother again."

Hutch felt bashful.  "Of course not.  And it's not, you know, like you need my permission.  We don't have that kind of relationship."  He wondered how that sounded, and wondered, too, what his mother might have said to Dexter about him.  Or, if he'd even come up during their conversations.  He quickly amended, "She's always been an independent woman.  I mean, self-sufficient."  He didn't want Dexter to think that Lorraine didn't need a man in her life.

Dexter smiled congenially.  "She seems like quite a fascinating woman.  I'm looking forward to getting to know her more."

"'That's great," Starsky put in chuckling.

"Well," Dexter stood, "I guess I need to be going.  I was glad I was out this way and could drop in."

"So are we," Hutch said, as he also stood.

When Starsky opened the office door, Lois said, "David?  Milton Bloomberg is on line two."

"I'll take it," Starsky said, opening the door between their offices, and quickly slipping through it.

Hutch tried to remember who Milton Bloomberg was, as he went through the motions of escorting Dexter to the main door the suite.

Dexter went into his usual gentlemanly spiel with Lois, and Hutch heard his name in a distant voice.

"Later," Hutch waved at Dexter, and then moved back to his office.

Starsky was standing in the doorway between their office, his hand over the telephone, which was stretched out on its cord from his desk.  "Hutch, Milton Bloomberg wants to meet with us, as soon as possible."  He helpfully added, "He's the book agent."

Hutch nodded.  "Oh, right."

"Yeah.  He's ready to meet with us.  Anytime.  He sounds eager, Hutch."

Hutch wondered what that meant for Starsky's book.  "Does he have a time?"  He moved around his desk to his appointment book.

"He says the sooner, the better.  My appointments tomorrow can be easily moved.  I don't have anything major."

After studying the next day's page, Hutch said, "It would be easiest for me around ten."

Starsky put the phone to his ear.  "Milton?  Thanks for waiting.  We could do ten tomorrow.... Okay?... At that same cafe?... Oh, okay."  Hutch followed while Starsky moved back to his desk and wrote on a notepad.  "Sure.  Tenth and Delaware.  Hutch and I will both be there at ten.  Looking forward to it.... thanks."  Starsky hung and looked at Hutch with wide eyes.  "Man.  He said he wanted to meet somewhere more private than the cafe, so he's reserving a booth at a restaurant at Tenth and Delaware, so we can have brunch."

Hutch was glad to see Starsky so eager.  "So, he read it?"

"I guess.  He didn't say.  Just said he wanted to talk to us about it.  You know, discuss it."

Hutch smiled.  "Sounds encouraging, buddy."

"Yeah."  Starsky then plopped into his desk chair.  "Man.  What if this is like, the real thing?  Like, if he thinks it's publishable?"

"Then that would be good, wouldn't it?"

"Yeah.  I guess.  Kind of scary, too."

Hutch moved behind Starsky and squeezed his shoulders.  "Well, let's see what he has to say."


That evening, Starsky and Lorraine had gone to the grocery store with a long list.

Hutch picked up around the house and oversaw the laundry that Starsky had started.

He placed fresh towels in the hall bathroom that his mother was using.  As he walked past the guest bedroom, something caught the corner of his eye.  He entered and turned on the light.

On the nearest nightstand were computer pages, obviously from Starsky's manuscript.  Hutch moved to pick up the pages.  They appeared to be a couple of chapters.

Hutch once faked amnesia.  Now, I'm not talking for an hour or so.  I'm talking for a couple of days.

We were chasing a suspect, like we normally do, in my Torino.  I don't remember much of what happened.  Apparently, I crashed it into some kind of wooden shed.  We were both unconscious.

I woke up in the hospital with all sorts of bumps and bruises, but nothing broken.  They said I had to stay for observation.  I was so out of it, that once I was placed in a room, it took me a moment to realize that the second bed was empty... and I had no idea what had happened to Hutch.  So, I panicked and summoned the nurses, with that call button thing.  They didn't know anything and got the doctor to talk to me.  He said Hutch had amnesia -- a complete and total "blackout".  He hadn't even known his own name.  So, they wheel Hutch in, and he's all bandaged and bruised -- sprained neck and sprained elbow -- and, boy, was he in a sour mood.  He showed no recognition of who I was.  Even pronounced my name wrong.  Made it clear that he wasn't at all happy to have to share a room with me.

Once I saw him in the flesh, I was never really worried.  I mean, I never believed that he wasn't ever going to regain his memory.  We'd always been able to heal each other.  I spent the next couple of days, despite his mostly foul mood, relaying some major events in our lives together, trying to jog his memory.  Most all of those events have been detailed in these pages.  At one point, I remember him thanking me for "being there", even though he still claimed not to remember any of it.

Finally, the second evening, I told him about Terry Roberts.  When I got to the part about the gifts she'd left us, after she died, I mentioned the Monopoly book, and said something about how I hadn't needed a book on playing Monopoly better.  Hutch always has to be right about everything.  He couldn't help but correct me that I was lousy at playing Monopoly.  So, that cat was out of the bag, and he had to fess up that he'd been faking all along.  Claimed that it was to teach me a lesson about driving recklessly.  That was ridiculous.  We both have sped all over the streets in Bay City, and roughed up our cars, in the name of catching the bad guys.  Maybe Hutch believed that was the reason for him pulling a stunt like amnesia, which he at least had the grace to feel embarrassed about, but my instincts told me different.

After Hutch's confession about faking, I couldn't stay mad longer than two minutes.  I just couldn't.  However much Hutch exasperates me at times. I can't help it that I know he has his own reasons for doing the things that he does.  And when you understand somebody, it's hard not to feel compassionate toward them.  Heck, I felt so compassionate about it, that I even played along with him the next time our captain came to visit, because Hutch had said some awful things to our captain while being pretending to not know who Dobey was.

For a few days after we were released from the hospital, I sort of mulled around in my head why I couldn't be mad at Hutch for pulling such a childish prank, and having such a ridiculous reason for it.  It wasn't long before I figured out the real reason, but I kept it to myself.

See, Hutch has the tendency to play "prove to me you love me" games.  Granted, he'd never taken them to this extreme, but he needs ongoing reassurance that those who love him, really do love him, and aren't ever going to leave him -- even when he does something as unforgivable (to some) as faking amnesia.  It's a quirk of his.  It's hard to feel mad at somebody you love, when you know they have to always question how loveable they are, which is a result of a hole in their own soul, rather than any shortcomings on the part of others.  I'd loved and loved and loved Hutch -- showed it as outwardly as was humanly possible -- and Hutch seemed to still not be able to quite believe it, at times.  So, he did things to test me, in a sense.

Of course, I know none of this was with his conscious intent. He didn't know he was playing "prove to me you love me" games.  That's why I never talked to him about it.  It was just yet another case for the mental dossier that I kept on Hutch, which was more information for how to keep loving him.  If he needed it proven throughout eternity, then I was willing to do that.

He hasn't played those games in a long, long time, however.  I think he's figured out, by now, that I'm not going to leave him -- stop loving him -- no matter what he does.  So, his subconscious has stopped trying to figure out ways to sabotage us, to test us. Thankfully.  I don't miss those odd quirks of his, but do value the information they've given me on this man that I love so much.     

Hutch had felt a flush of shame upon reading the early part, and then felt warmed by Starsky's loving point-of-view.

But now he felt shame again, as he wondered what his mother had thought, upon reading this.   Of all the chapters in the book, this was hardly one that he'd preferred that she read.  Or anybody read, for that matter.

He took the next group of continuous pages, and started to read.

Kate Larrabee was a stunningly beautiful model from Sweden.  Of all the women Hutch had dated, once divorced from Vanessa, she was the one that seemed to be in his class.  Truly worthy of him.  She was his equal.  And I guess, maybe, that was why they both never seemed to get serious about each other.  They each knew they were career people, and weren't prepared to trade in those careers for marriage, and needing to put someone else first.

I never actually met Kate when he was dating her.  I guess, back then, Hutch and me weren't quite so into detailing every little moment of our off-duty time when we were away from each other. 

Anyway, those good looks were apparently the reason she couldn't bear to think of herself wasting away from leukemia.  As astounding as the thought was, she paid someone to put a hit on herself.  That was one for the record books.  A part of me feels that it was a courageous act, though I know most view suicide as cowardly.  But then she found out from her doctor that her leukemia was in remission -- perhaps forever -- she wanted the hit called off, but the middleman had no way of getting hold of the hit man.  That's when she came to see Hutch for help, and we saved her in the nick of time, from being blown up by a bomb in her house.

Hutch and Kate were beautiful together.  Hutch had dated lots of beautiful women -- those golden-boy looks of his always seem to attract same -- but Kate was in a whole 'nother class.  Of course, Vanessa had been classy, too, but in a manipulative, vixen-like way.  Kate had a genuineness about her.

I enjoyed seeing Hutch with Kate.  He was playful with her.  Laughing.  Happy.  Perhaps, even then, I was able to enjoy them together because I knew it wasn't leading anywhere.  I knew I wasn't in any danger of losing Hutch as my partner, and as my most frequent after-work companion.  That was still a couple of years before we figured out where our own relationship was headed.

Just a few of years ago, after we were living together, we got word that Kate had died in Sweden, as her leukemia had indeed returned.  This time, she had faced death head-on, peacefully. She left Hutch a really sweet note, which the law firm that handled Kate's estate had forwarded on to him.

You know, I'm glad Hutch and I have had so many relationships with women -- of various durations and intensities.  We don't ever have to look back and wonder "what if"... what if we'd each taken the road to a more conventional way of life?  We've both had quite a taste of what it feels like to live what most people would call normalcy.  And still, we were the ones that ended up being together forever.

Hutch released a calming breath.  This chapter was one he was glad that his mother had apparently read.  Hopefully, it helped to realize that her son hadn't been lusting after men most of his adult life.  That his relationship with Starsky was something truly unique.

Hutch glanced around, and found the rest of the manuscript stacked on the floor.  Apparently, Lorraine had leafed through the chapters and, for whatever reason, and chosen these to read.  Or, had she read others, and put them back in the stack, before reading these two?

He was unlikely to ever know.  With a sigh, Hutch turned off the light and left the room.


When he and Starsky were in bed that night, Hutch relayed his findings.  He couldn't help but grumble, "I'm not sure the book really needed that amnesia chapter.  It hardly shows me in the best light."

Starsky was silent a moment, and then said, "But I think it shows that you're human.  You know?  So many chapters in the book show how heroic you are.  Maybe it's good that that reader will see that you have your flaws, too.  We all do."  He rubbed his hand along Hutch's stomach, soothing.  "You know, you're welcome to write a chapter on my less noble traits."  Now a hint of humor.  "I guess I have one or two.  Maybe."

Hutch muttered, "Don't flatter yourself."  But he was smiling.

He wondered why he truly had no wish to figure out what Starsky's biggest flaws were.

Maybe he'd gotten so used to them, he didn't see them as flaws, anymore.


Hutch realized that he was just as nervous as Starsky, when they entered the restaurant at the corner of Tenth and Delaware.  They both were wearing crisp, dark jeans and button shirts.  Since it was the middle of the morning, the place was sparsely populated.

Starsky told the maitre'd, "We're here to see Milton Bloomberg."

"He's already been seated, gentlemen.  Right this way." 

They followed him to a large dining area, and then to a second room, which was smaller and unoccupied, save for a somewhat heavy set man, dressed in a suit without a tie, in a plush corner booth.

The man stood as they approached, and held out his hand.

"David," he shook Starsky's hand.  "So nice to see you again."  He moved to Hutch.  "And you must be Ken Hutchinson.  Hutch?"

"Yes," Hutch shook his hand.  "It's fine to call me Hutch."

"Milton Bloomberg.  You are indeed as handsome as David's words have described."

Hutch grinned bashfully.  Despite the man's obvious homosexuality, he didn't feel threatened by it.

They all sat down, with Starsky deliberately placing himself in the middle.

Bloomberg picked up his menu.  "I encourage you to look over the menu, and order something fine for yourselves.  My treat, of course.  I recommend the skillet meals, as well the delicious crepes, which come in various flavors."

Hutch quickly glanced through the skillet meals.  "The Santa Fe skillet dish sounds fine to me."

"An excellent choice."

Starsky muttered, "Think I'll try the French toast.  Haven't had that in a long time."  He patted his stomach.  "Our fitness trainer won't approve, but he doesn't need to know."

"Ah, a rebel to the core."  Milton nodded toward the doorway, and a waiter approached.

After their orders were taken, Milton sat back.  "Obviously, I've read your manuscript."

Starsky nodded.

"I'm quite taken with it, with reservations."

"What reservations?" Hutch asked.

"Know that there's my opinion.  And then there's the opinion of the publishing world, which feels they represent the public at large, however true or untrue that might be.  At the very least, they have sales data to back up their point of view, I'm afraid."

"Yeah?" Starsky said.

"I've represented gay literature before, both fiction and non-fiction.  I never intended that to be a specialty, but that's how my career seems to have coalesced, to this point.  I've worked with a few publishers in the past, that tend to publish works outside the mainstream.  Of course, being outside the mainstream means that circulation is lower, and you aren't going to get rich off the book."

Starsky shook his head.  "That's never been my intent.  Or my fantasy."

"So, you've led me to believe.  Yes, I understand that you want you story told, to whoever chooses to read it, and that will satisfy you."

Hutch nodded when Bloomberg's eyes went to him.

The man drew a careful breath.  "You have that fascinating chapter about the alien abduction, and it curing you," he looked at Starsky, "of the virus in your system."  When they didn't respond, he went on, "You can't include that in the book.  It'll totally invalidate the rest of it, in most people's minds."

Starsky muttered, "Yeah, we're pretty much resigned to that."

Hutch placed his hand on Starsky's leg, beneath the table.

Bloomberg said, "But if you want that part of your lives told to the public, I have an idea."

Starsky perked up.  "Yeah?"

Bloomberg shifted.  "I represent an author who has had a few books published on unusual subjects.  Some would call supernatural.  He's currently working on a book that is going to have separate chapters for various unusual events in the world's history that have never been explained.  The Loch Ness monster, a famous Big Foot sighting, things of that nature.  He wants to present a completely unbiased point-of-view on each event.  He wants to present the miracle of the event, so to speak, as well as any scientific opinions that might explain how the event was an ordinary occurrence -- assuming any witnesses correctly described what they saw.  He wants the reader to be able to draw their own conclusions."  He paused, and then said, "I would like to show him that chapter from your book, with your permission, and see if he wants to include it.  My thought is, if it's included in his book, you'll have aliases.  But anyone you want to know it's really yourselves that had that alien experience, you can tell them to buy that book, and read that chapter.  Then your own book can proceed, without that chapter sticking out like an oddity."

Hutch sensed the excitement in Starsky's body.

"Man," Starsky said, glancing back at Hutch, "I think that would be really something."

"Yeah," Hutch said, amazed at the thought Bloomberg had put into their story.

"This author -- Daniel Wildenstein -- already has chapters planned on spontaneous healing, and on an alien abduction.  I think your story would be even more interesting to him, since it combines both.  But he'd want to examine any records you have about it, get your permission to talk to your doctor, etc."

Starsky nodded his head.  "Yeah, sure."

"Certainly," Hutch agreed.  "We have a tape recording of when Starsky was hypnotized by a therapist."

Starsky said, "It's just that my doctor doesn't know anything about the alien abduction.  We weren't going to tell him that.  Almost nobody knows about it."

Bloomberg wrote on his notepad.  "I doubt it would be necessary to mention it to him. Daniel would be looking to simply verify the truth of your medical situation, and get the doctor's professional opinion on it.  In any case," he looked up, "I'll call Daniel this afternoon, and make sure he's agreeable to reading the chapter, and see what he thinks."

"Terrific," Starsky said.

Hutch squeezed Starsky's leg, thinking this meeting had already gone way better than they had hoped.

Bloomberg sat back again.  "As for the rest of it, I've given a lot of thought as to how best to proceed."  He looked directly at Starsky.  "I feel you've got two story arcs going.  One is primarily about your lives as detectives, the other about your personal relationship.  Of course, both dovetail in many of the chapters."

Guess Stella Livingston was right, Hutch thought with an internal sigh.

Bloomberg doodled on his notepad, as he spoke.  "I'm thinking that what would make the book most readable, would be if we broke those out more, into two specific arcs.  The even numbered chapters could be about your cop lives.  The major cases you worked on.  Those would build up, and end when you were so severely wounded."

Almost exactly what Stella Livingston thought, Hutch thought, amazed.  Yet, Bloomberg was sounding very positive.

"The odd numbered chapters could be more about your personal lives, and work backwards.  In other words, it could start with the lives you have now, as private detectives, and your reflection on personal matters, and work back to when you entered into an intimate relationship together.  And then back to having had the virus, and back farther still, and end up at that critical shooting.  So, both story arcs would end up at the same climax, but the cop arc would be chronological, and the personal arc would be more a loose reverse chronology."

Starsky quickly nodded.  "Yeah, I guess I can see that."  He sighed.  "It's just, if you're wanting me to rewrite it, I'm not sure --"

Bloomberg assured, "I'll read through it all again, and make notes on structuring.  On how you can move some of the contents of the chapters around.  Also, some chapters can probably be taken out completely."

"Like what?" Starsky asked.

Gently, Bloomberg said, "You have to understand, you're too close to your own life to be able to see what's genuinely interesting to someone who doesn't know you at all, and doesn't have any reason to be interested in you.  That's where you have to trust me, as someone who is a publishing professional.  All authors -- even the great ones -- have their original manuscripts edited.  The bane of authors is that they always want to include more than is necessary."

That explanation made Hutch feel better.  The amnesia chapter can be the first one to go, he thought with satisfaction.

"Therefore," Bloomberg continued, "I'll re-read the manuscript in the next few days, and make notes as to how it needs to be rewritten."  Soothingly, he added, "Mostly, you won't have to come up with any new words.  Just re-arrange what you've already written, and take some things out.  Since you obviously know how to use a computer, that will be a lot easier than it normally would be, with a typewriter."

Hutch asked, "Then what happens?"

"Once I'm satisfied with the manuscript -- which will probably take more than one re-write, which I assure you is quite a normal thing -- then I will try shopping it to some publishers."

Delicately, Starsky asked, "How likely are they to be interested?"

The waiter brought their food.  While dishes were placed on the table, Bloomberg replied, "It's difficult to say.  The freshness of your manuscript is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness.  I love the uniqueness of your story, and the fresh style in which it's been told.  However, if is ultimately published with a company that caters mostly to gay literature, then that's going to be your primary audience.  While some might also love all the unusual aspects of it, I'd also expect there to be a backlash."

The waiter left, and they all took bites of their food.

After swallowing the first bite, Hutch asked worriedly, "What sort of backlash?"

Bloomberg dabbed at his mouth, upon swallowing.  "The gay community is fighting for acceptance, which is all the harder with this AIDS virus.  They're not going to be too keen on a couple of homosexuals living such a nice, accepted life, and parading out all the relationships they've had with women, as though to prove how normal they are.  They consider it trying to pretend to be heterosexuals, while being gay."

Starsky protested, "But our story is our story.  What?  We're supposed to make something up that isn't true?"

Bloomberg held up a hand.  "I agree with you.  As I said, that's what I enjoyed most about your manuscript.  It is a truly unique story. But some in the gay community feel strongly that it's the responsibility of all gays, or even bisexuals, to declare themselves as such.  A segment of the gay community has even resorted to trying to out Hollywood actors who don't want to be outed.  I completely disagree with that point of view.  If all of us should be able to love and cherish whom we choose, then I feel that celebrities should also have a right to choose what to reveal about their personal lives."  He dabbed at his mouth again.  "In any case, gentlemen, we're getting ahead of ourselves.  I can't guarantee that even the more abstract publishers are going to want to publish your book.  But I certainly think it's worth making an effort, once its been restructured."

Subdued, Starsky said, "If not, then aren't there publishers that one can pay to publish their book?"

"Certainly."  Bloomberg smiled.  "But there's no reason to consider that route, at this point."

Hutch felt heartened.

They ate in silence for a few moments.  Then Bloomberg said, "I don't want to give you false hope about your book, but I don't see any reason why you can't be cautiously optimistic.  Your biggest chore, in the near future, will be to do the rewrites.  That process alone is probably going to be a few months, depending on how quickly you get the rewrites back to me.  Even if your book is later accepted by a publishers, they might require further rewrites, still."  He smiled at Starsky.  "That's the difficult part about being an author.  Writing is a joy, for most, which is why they've undertaken it as a profession or hobby.  But the rewrites are the inglorious, despised part."

Hutch squeezed Starsky's leg.  "I guess needing rewrites makes you a real author, then."

Starsky glanced back at Hutch when an appreciative smile.

Bloomberg pushed his plate away, "A publisher will also edit it way down, and take out a lot of excess words.  Again, that's quite normal.  But the more you can take out yourself, the less surprised you'll be at what got deleted."

Starsky muttered, "I'm not sure I'd even know how to do that."

"I might edit one of the short chapters, to give you an idea of what words and phrases in sentences are commonly unnecessary.  But I don't want you focused on that, as much as I want you focused on getting the chapters into a more logical presentation.  As I said, I'll get you started on that, when I give you the manuscript back, with my comments."

Starsky gave a firm nod.  "Okay."


They returned to the Corvette fifteen minutes later. 

"This is going to be incredible!" Starsky gushed, as he started the motor.

"Yeah, partner, he really had a lot of great ideas.  Funny, though, that so much of what he said was in line with what Stella Livingston told you."

"Yeah, but she just seemed so formal about it all."  Starsky pulled away from the curb.   "I felt sort of hopeless after meeting with her.  Milton sounds like he's truly interested in our story, and getting us published.  I mean, like him saying that it's normal for writers to do re-writes.  Stella didn't say anything like that.  I felt like I'd failed at telling our story, since she found so much at fault about it."  Starsky snapped his fingers.  "And man, him having the idea of putting the one chapter in that other guy's book.  That's so great, that he took it seriously enough to want to find a way to publish it."

"Yeah," Hutch said with enthusiasm.

After a moment, Starsky said, "I guess we need to go relieve Kenny, huh?"

Kenny had tailed Wesley Riley this morning.  "Yeah."  Hutch shifted with a sigh.  He wasn't looking forward to another long stakeout.  "Hopefully, we'll observe something noteworthy today."  He reached for Starsky's car phone.  "I'll give him a call and find out where he's at."  They had provided all their employees with car phones.

Hutch called and found out that Kenny had followed Wesley to a movie theater with a male companion, and gotten pictures.  Hutch told Starsky, "It's a new theater at Winston and Heidi."

"Would that guy with him be Darren Rook, the movie critic?" Starsky asked.  "Dexter said he was a good friend of Wesley's."

Hutch shook his head.  "Kenny says he doesn't meet Rook's description."


They drove in silence for ten minutes.  Then Starsky slowed the Corvette and leaned toward the windshield.  "Is this Winston?"

"No," Hutch said, noting the street sign, "Tulane.  I think Winston is a few more blocks."

Starsky drove a few more blocks, his eyes squinting as he studied the street signs.

Hutch couldn't stay quiet.  "Are you not able to read the street signs?"

Starsky didn't reply.

"It's right here," Hutch said, seeing the street sign that said Winston.  "You need to see an eye doctor, buddy."  Actually, he thought Starsky had gone a while back.

Starsky turned right.  "I'm not familiar with this area," he muttered.

"Neither am I.  But I can read the street signs."

Starsky nodded at a large building a few blocks away.  "I think that's the theater."

Hutch thought so, too.  They turned a corner, and found themselves at the entrance to a large parking lot.  It was a huge megaplex.  "Kenny said he was on the southeast side."

They drove around the outer areas of the parking lot, until they spotted Kenny Martin's blue Toyota. 

Kenny got out as they parked beside them.  He was about Starsky's height, with sandy-colored hair, parted sharply on one side.  He leaned in Starsky's window.  "He went into the theater with the man he was with.  Freckle-faced young guy, hair sort of like mine.  I followed and they went in to see Police Academy.  Should be over in within an hour."

Starsky asked, "Did you get pictures?"

"Yep, as they were getting out of their car.  I didn't see any overt behavior between them, but," Kenny glanced around, "it's a pretty open area, even considering it's not very crowded, since it's just the matinee showings."

"Yeah.  Thanks, Kenny.  We've got it from here."

"I'll drop off the film, and then head back to the office to work on the Parks case."

"Great," Hutch said.

 As Kenny drove off, Starsky said, "An hour shouldn't be too bad.  Hopefully, it sticks."

"Yep.  And hopefully they don't decide to see another movie, after Police Academy.

"One of us probably needs to go in when it's about to be over, and see if we can catch them leaving the theater.  They'd have to get back in line to get another ticket."

"Yeah."  Hutch studied a little strip mall, on the street opposite the theater.  "Hey.  Can you tell what that little shop is, next to the craft store?"

Starsky looked over at the strip mall.   "Na, I can't read was it says, either.  Why?"

"Because I can read it," Hutch said worriedly.  "It's a tobacco shop."


 "If you can't read that sign, you've got a problem with your eyesight, buddy.  How long has this been going on?"

Starsky drew a breath, and then released a heavy sigh.  "I've been to the eye doctor," he muttered.

"Yeah?  When?"

Starsky wouldn't look at him.  "Couple of months ago."

Hutch gazed at him, wondering at the distant demeanor.  "And?"

Starsky was still looking away.  "He says I need glasses.  Or contacts.  He gave me a prescription."

Hutch wondered how pissed off he wanted to get.  "Is there a particular reason why I wasn't allowed to know this?"

"I didn't want to know it."  Starsky glanced toward him.  "I've avoided thinking about it.  Okay?"  He finally looked at Hutch.  "The idea of getting glasses... makes me feel like an old fart."

Hutch shifted his feet against the floorboard. "Oh, come on, buddy.  What's the big deal?  Lots of young people wear glasses.  And if you get contacts, nobody will even notice."

"I'll notice," Starsky muttered, his head bowed.

Though he was still feeling annoyed, Hutch reached to briefly clasp Starsky's hand.  "What?  You think I'm going to go and get interested in somebody who's not wearing glasses?"

"It's just the idea of not being able to go back, and recapture lost youth.  You know?"

"We've had youth, buddy.  Now we have middle-age.  Why can't we age gracefully, together?  What good does it do to fight it?  It's not like you need to worry about being alone, as you get older, and you need to go out and attract somebody."

Starsky drew a quiet breath.  "You're right."

"Besides, it's as safety issue.  You can't be driving around, if you can't read the road signs."

"Yeah.  My driver's license expires on my birthday.  I'll have a thirty day grace period, but the doctor says that I won't be able to pass the vision test, unless I have glasses."

"So, you need to get glasses.  Or contacts."  Hutch felt relieved that Starsky was going to be forced to confront the issue.

"If I get contacts, I have to get glasses, too, in case I lose one of the contacts, or have a hard time adjusting or whatever.  Doc says contact wearers should always have a pair of glasses around."

"Then I'll help you pick something out.  Maybe we can do that this Saturday.  Before your birthday on Sunday."  Lorraine and Lanette had volunteered to do dinner and bake a cake at Lanette and Nick's condominium on Sunday evening. "It'll still probably take them a few days to have your glasses and contacts ready, after you order them."

"Yeah."  Starsky nudged Hutch's leg.  "You probably need to go inside, to make sure you catch them leaving the theater.  I'll drive around, closer to the entrance, and wait there."


Wesley Riley and his male companion left the theater after the movie.  Starsky and Hutch followed them to an unfamiliar home, in a quiet, middle class block with small, older houses.  They parked a few houses down, in front of a residence with a large, shady tree, and watched as the two young men talked while leaving their car.  Hutch had the camera to his eye, and rolled down the window, and began taking pictures, as the two walked slowly toward the front door, holding hands.

They paused at the front porch, and then kissed.

"All right," Starsky approved in a whisper.

Hutch hoped that the shadow of the porch didn't hurt the quality of the pictures he was taking.  He thought it rather bold of them to kiss in public like this, when they could just walk inside the house.  But once parting, and briefly nuzzling each other, Wesley turned away.  The other man walked into the house, without needing to unlock it.

"Huh," Starsky said, as Hutch lowered the camera.  "Maybe somebody's inside, who can't know about them?"

"If so, they're taking a risk to kiss just outside the door."

"Well, hopefully we got some good shots, and Dexter can maybe identify the guy."

Hutch was writing on his pad.  "We can run housing records, too, and see who owns this property.  Too bad there isn't a car out front that we can check plates for."


Wesley drove off, and the Corvette followed. 

"Hmm," Hutch said.  "They certainly didn't act like guys who just want to bang each other."


"I wonder if maybe Wesley's in love with the guy, and that's why he doesn't go hang out with other guys."

"Could be."

Hutch contemplated that young love, as they continued to follow Wesley.  How difficult it must be for Wesley and his companion, to have to hide their relationship, while he and Starsky lived the same type of relationship, but had avoided suffering most of the consequences that others had to deal with.

From the corner of his eye, Hutch watched Starsky, so carefully focused on the car in front of them.  Thankfully, an object as large as a car wasn't difficult to follow.

Did Starsky really feeling such an encroachment of age, that he wanted to resist whatever natural toll the process would take on his body?

I'm always going to love you, buddy.  I don't know how not to.

A few minutes later, Wesley turned into the driveway of his home.

Starsky rubbed at his lip, while stopped a few houses down the block.  "Hmm.  Wonder why Wesley didn't bring that guy home with him."

"Maybe that guy needed to be somewhere else."

"Yeah, but if you've got a few hours to spend together, why spend it at a movie, instead of making love?"

Pointedly, Hutch said, "Maybe they have the kind of love where sex is only one component of it."

Starsky glanced a him.  "But horny, young guys like that...."

Hutch shrugged.  "Come on, let's go.  We've hopefully got some valuable pictures, so let's see if Dexter will want to come in and take a look."

The Corvette moved forward, and after a few blocks, they were in the neighborhood's urban area.

Hutch was still thinking about Starsky's phrase, "Horny, young guys".  He might not be young anymore, but he was capable of being horny.  And he was still finding it hard to believe that Starsky felt like an "old fart", just because he needed glasses.

Starsky asked, "Do you want to bypass the office, and drop off the film to be developed?"

Hutch spotted a sign ahead.  "Pull in there."

Starsky glanced at him.  "What?  At the motel?"

"Yeah.  Pull in."

Starsky braked, and then made the sharp right, to turn into the entrance.  "Why?"

Hutch muttered, "Let's get a room."


Hutch really didn't want to have to explain much.  "Mom might be back at the house.  So, let's get a room."

"A room?"

Starsky couldn't possibly be that dense.  In a low, gruff voice, while avoiding looking at Starsky, Hutch said, "I'm in the mood to eat some ass."

Starsky released a heavy breath.  "Okay.  When you put it like that...."  He found a parking space.


Hutch had taken charge of Starsky in the shower, soaping him to the degree that he liked, which meant that Starsky still smelled like Starsky, rather than like soap.  He also was careful not to get their hair more than minimally wet, since they didn't have a blow dryer handy.

He brought Starsky to the side of the bed and kissed him, their erections bobbing against each other.

"Mmm," Starsky approved.

Hutch nuzzled at Starsky's ear, "I could feast on you all afternoon."  Then he pushed on a shoulder.  "Down you go."

Starsky sat on the bed, and then rolled over.

"Good choice," Hutch approved, eyeing the twin globes.  He turned and looked at the coat rack, and found a couple of pillows on the top shelf.  He pulled off the fluffier one, and turned back to the bed.  "Place your ass over this."  He placed the pillow near the end of the bed.

Grinning, Starsky did as he was told, which left his legs spread out along the edge of the bed.

Hutch stepped forward and grabbed well-shaped buttocks.  He kneaded... and kneaded.  "This is the finest almost-forty-one-year-old ass I've ever felt in my life."

"Just how many forty-one-year-old asses have you felt in your time, Hutchinson?"

Hutch grinned at the comeback.  Then, more seriously, he said, "I've got the only one I want, right here."  His hands squeezed harder.

Starsky groaned and writhed.

"Relax," Hutch commanded.  "I'm going to be busy for a while."  Though the words were firm, he felt a touch of humor.  Starsky was never able to lie still during his attentions to his read end.

Hutch knelt on the floor, and pulled Starsky closer, which caused Starsky to shift his legs, in an attempt to keep them on the mattress.

Hutch pulled Starsky's butt cheeks as far apart as he could.  Then he leaned forward and ran his tongue along the orifice revealed.  Then he deliberately waited.

Starsky growled.  "Oh, God, don't tease me like this."

Hutch ducked to the scrotal pouch against the pillow, and the tongued the back of it.  Then he bit into a butt cheek.

Starsky quivered.

Hutch settled into tonguing Starsky's center.  He made loud, wet smacking noises, and groaned appreciatively at having the privilege of pleasuring this man that he loved so much.  When he had his target sopping wet, he sucked in all the spit, and then sucked in part of the tender membrane.

Starsky shuddered.

Hutch used his tongue a while longer, pushing at the entrance, until Starsky opened for him.

Starsky gasped, "Can't take much more, baby."

Hutch couldn't, either.  His cock was throbbing.  He drooled liberally on the opening, and then stood.  He took the pillow from beneath Starsky and tossed it aside.  "Up," he prompted, grabbing Starsky by the hip.

Starsky rose up on his knees.

Hutch spit into his palm.  He cupped his hand over his cockhead, coating it.  With his other hand, he pushed at Starsky's shoulders.  "Down."

He throbbed all the more, as Starsky stretched his arms out in front of him, completely submissive.

He put his spit-dripping cockhead against the spit-smeared opening that awaited.  Then he pushed.

Starsky's only reaction was a deep, relaxing breath.

Hutch relished the welcoming walls that enclosed him.  He spit into his hand again, and then reached around to grab Starsky's cock.

It was with a well-practiced motion that Hutch began to thrust, and simultaneously loved Starsky's cock the way he knew it relished.

For long moments, there was only the sound of their mutual grunts and groans.

Then Starsky climaxed.

Hutch paused, enjoying the feeling of muscles trying to contract around his cock, as well as the noises of release from his partner.

"God, Hutch," Starsky gasped.  "God."

Hutch released Starsky's cock, and then grabbed his hips with both hands.  He thrust powerfully, giving himself over to the sensations that built.  He managed to bellow, "You're the best fuck I've ever had."  His fingertips dug into revered flesh, and then release was upon him.

He threw his head back as the fluid burst forth.

As he slowly came back to himself, both hands rested on Starsky's back.  Then he purred, and brought one hand down to a buttock.  "Easy."  He stepped back, and slipped out.

Breathing hard, Hutch gathered up the bedspread and loosely placed it over Starsky, who was curling up on his side, showing that he wanted him to stay put.  Then he stepped to the sink and cleaned himself to a reasonable degree.  He came back to the bed, and collapsed beside Starsky.

They dozed for a while. 

When Hutch's eyes opened, he saw Starsky sleepily grinning at him.

Hutch smiled back.  Then he moved to touch his lips to the ones across from him.  The feelings were so nice, that he pushed, until Starsky rolled over onto his back.

Hutch followed, still kissing, and crawled on top of Starsky.

When they pulled apart, Hutch dropped to one side.  Starsky released an airy breath and said, "You always make my ass so happy to be an ass."

Hutch got up on an elbow, and rubbed along Starsky's torso.  The only words he could find were, "I love you."

Starsky sighed.  "With talk like that, it's gonna make me think you're wanting a round two."

Hutch decided to nod.  "I'd love a good pounding before we leave here today."

Starsky looked down at himself, where his hand held limp flesh.  "That might take a while."

Hutch rubbed up into Starsky's chest hair.  "So?"  With that, Hutch lowered his head once again.

The kissed long and lazily for a while.  Then Hutch propped his head in his hand, studying the forty-one-year-old features of this man he loved so much.  "I'm so proud of you."


"Yeah."  Hutch's hand was rubbing again.  "You've always amazed me, with the ideas you get, and the projects you do.  You started your book, thinking that it was just something you were going to type up, and maybe somebody would find it, after we're gone.  Now, you've got somebody genuinely interested in publishing it, when we're still very much alive."

Starsky appeared thoughtful.  "Yeah.  Still kind of a scary thought.  But it seems like the next natural step, doesn't it, after actually finishing it?"

"Yeah.  Just that, not everyone would have had the courage to take that step."

"Your enthusiasm and support has helped a lot."  Starsky shifted to circle his arm around Hutch's waist.  "Knowing you're behind me, for something totally foreign to me like writing a book... that's meant everything."  He gazed at Hutch.  "We're so damn good together.  I love that about us.  Always have."

"Yeah."  Hutch shifted to rest back against the headboard of the bed, and was gratified when Starsky joined him.  He slipped his arm around Starsky's shoulders.  "You know, if Wesley and that other guy are in love with each other... I hope they're able to have something together."  He then realized, "I wish everyone who loves could have what we have."

Starsky tilted his head.  "That's what made you want to come here?  Thinking about Wesley?"

Hutch felt himself soften as he looked at Starsky.  "Maybe a little.  But also, you feeling so down about the idea of your vision going bad.  The idea of me thinking less of you...," Hutch shook his head, "for any reason...."

"I didn't think you would," Starsky quickly said.  "It's just the symbolism of it." He shrugged.  "I'll get used to it, I'm sure."  He drew a breath, and then looked at Hutch, his mouth corner switching.  "In any case, we make beautiful music together, Hutch.  No matter how many times we do it, I still love doing it so much with you."  He shook his head.  "Back in our cop days... I had no idea, after all we'd been through together, that there was yet another level of love still, waiting in our future."

Hutch placed his head on Starsky's shoulder, and let it take his weight.  He was looking down at Starsky's lap.  He moved his hand near, and stroked along the top of the less-soft flesh.

Starsky grunted.

Hutch continued to fondle it.  While doing so, he looked up at Starsky.

They kissed, and Hutch's handling grew more purposeful.


On Friday, Dexter Riley shook his head back and forth, while studying a few photographs.  "Nope.  Don't recognize him."

Hutch noticed that there was a slight reaction of dismay, at seeing his son kissing another man on the lips.  He also wondered how many mints Dexter had on him, since his breath smelled so strongly of them.  "We checked with the county about the property.  It's listed in the name of Anita Shaw.  We don't know if she occupies the house, or if a renter does.  If she does occupy it, maybe she's the young man's mother?  We can only guess at this point."

"In any case," Starsky said, "there's no doubt that the kiss we witnessed was a lover's kiss.  So, if you'd like, we can conclude things right here, and you now have the evidence you wanted to talk to your son."

Dexter rubbed at his chin.  "I think I'd like you to find out who the young man is."

Hutch shifted in his chair.  He and Starsky had already talked about the best way to discuss this with their client. "Dexter, we'll do whatever you want us to do.  But, at the risk of being too forward, I don't think that further surveillance is the best approach.  I, for one, would be very upset to know that a parent had me spied upon.  Why not ask Wesley yourself who the man is?"

Starsky said, "That would be a way of you and he continuing the conversation, if he feels comfortable admitting his homosexuality."

Dexter grimaced.  "And if he doesn't ever admit it?"

"He's a grown man," Hutch emphasized.  "It's not like you can force him to let you into his personal life.  If that turns out to be the case, I'd suggest respecting his wishes.  You showing that you're willing to play things his way would surely set the groundwork for him being able to trust you, as a father."

Calmly, but firmly, Starsky said, "Invading his privacy more that it's been already, isn't the way to go about this."

Dexter grunted.  "Well, maybe I'm just looking for ways to hold off confronting him about it.  I don't know how to bring up the subject.  I mean, like I've said before, I've tried to leave openings.  Asking him if he's seeing anyone, and that sort of thing.  I've mentioned people I've known who were gay and what great guys I thought they were.  He just lets it blow over."

Hutch said, "It's hard to know for certain how he'll react.  But maybe you should just say that you've wondered if he's gay, and if he is, that's okay.  If he denies it, let it slide, until he decides he's ready to tell you."

Dexter nodded.  "I'll think about it.  Thanks, gentlemen."  He pushed the photos back toward them.  "I guess I shouldn't have these with me, in case he or anyone else happens to see them.  I won't let on that I've had him tailed."

"We'll keep them in your file," Starsky said, as he gathered them up.

Dexter looked at Hutch.  "Not to change the subject, but I'm taking your mother out again tomorrow night."   

Hutch grinned.  "That's all she's talked about, since you called her."

"You know," Starsky put in, "it's not like her days are very busy.  You don't have to wait until weekend evenings to take her out.  I haven't heard her say anything yet about when she might be returning to Minnesota."

"Hmm," Dexter mused, "I've always liked going to the zoo.  Maybe I'll suggest taking her there some day next week."

"I'm sure she'd appreciate that," Hutch said.

He nodded at them.  "I'll see myself out.  Have a good day."

Hutch shared an expression of relief with Starsky, that Dexter hadn't wanted them to pursue surveillance on the boyfriend.

Starsky pushed the envelope with the photos aside, and said, "Hey, Nick called a little while ago."


"His P.I. firm has gotten it's first customer.  I guess he left some flyers around."

Hutch grinned.  "That's great.  Cheating spouse?"

"Yep.  So, it's going to be a double celebration on Sunday."

Hutch was thoughtful a moment, and then said, "What about a triple celebration?"

"What do you mean?"

"Maybe it's time to outright tell Lannie and Nick about the book."

Starsky furrowed his brow.  "Don't they already sort of know?"

"I mentioned it to Lannie a long time ago.  And, you know, there was that one time when we overhead them at the mall, and Lannie mentioned something about it to Nick, but Nick was more interested in talking about them, so I think it flew past his head.  Anyway, they wouldn't know, nor does my mother know, that we're trying to get it published.  So, maybe it's time to put that on the table."

Starsky shrugged.  "Yeah.  I guess it's time," he said with a sigh.  "What if one of them wants to read it?"

"I guess we should let them, since we're letting my mother read it, if she's interested."

"Yeah, but maybe we'll want to suggest that they wait until it's published.  It'll be a real book then."

Hutch's phone buzzed.  "David?"

"Yeah?" Starsky said.

"Milton Bloomberg is on line one."


Hutch moved to his phone.  "I'll put it on speaker."  He hit the speaker button and answered the line.  "Milton?  Hutch and David are both here.  We have you on the speaker phone."

"Good afternoon, gentlemen.  Let me update you.  The other author I told you about, Daniel Wildenstein, is highly interested in your chapter, but he's leaving for vacation in Europe tomorrow.  So, it'll be a few weeks before he can get back in touch about it."

"Good enough," Hutch said, while watching Starsky grin.

"David, I'm still working on my notes on restructuring the manuscript.  I have quite a number of appointments next week, so it might be the week after that, before I'm back in touch."

"Okay," Starsky said levelly.

"I just wanted to update you.  Have a good day."

"Thanks," Hutch said.

"Thanks a lot," Starsky chimed in, just before Hutch cut the line.  The he smiled at Hutch.  "At least that Wildenstein guy is 'highly interested'."

"Yeah.  We'll just have to sit tight for a few weeks, huh?"


The birthday dinner on Sunday consisted of roasted chicken, stuffed bell peppers, and macaroni.  The small condo was crowded, but the conversation between family members was lively, with there being so many subjects to talk about.  Lorraine couldn't stop talking about Dexter Riley's attentions, and that he was taking her to the zoo on Tuesday afternoon,  Lanette gushed about Nick's first customer, Hutch talked about Starsky perhaps getting his book published, and Starsky talked about needing to get glasses. 

After cake had been served, and gifts opened, the two women were cleaning up the kitchen.  Hutch was leafing through Starsky's gifts, which was mostly clothing. 

Dusk was falling and Nick said, "Hey, older brother, there's a guy in this complex that has this cool Thunderbird.  Why don't you come see it, before it gets too dark?"

"Uh, sure."  Starsky stood and looked at Hutch. 

Hutch seemed to take in the fact that he wasn't invited, which meant Nick preferred some time with Starsky alone.  He waved a hand.  "You two go on.  I've seen enough souped-up cars in my life."

Nick said to the kitchen occupants, "We'll be back soon."

They went down the stairs from the second-story condominium.  "It's a couple of blocks over," Nick said as they walked the narrow streets which bordered the many buildings that all looked alike.  Then he asked, "So, what was with the gift certificate for the hobby store?"

Starsky grinned fondly, while thinking about Hutch's gift.  "When we do the add-on to the house, we're going to make room on the floor for me to have a train running.  It was Hutch's idea.  So, he got me this gift certificate to buy train stuff.  Even though it'll be months before the addition is done.  We still haven't gotten enough estimates yet.  Those contractor types never seem to arrive on time, and it's hard for Hutch or I to get off work to meet with them, and then have them not show up."

"I didn't know you still liked trains, after all this time."

Starsky had always had some models as a child and teenager.  "I used to have something running at my various apartments.  And then when Hutch and I moved in together, I gave all my stuff away to charity.  Thought it was time to let that hobby go.  Like I said, Hutch was the one who brought it up.  He wanted me to be able to have that hobby again."

Nick paused and indicated a couple of empty parking lots, with signs that said they were for guests.  "Oh, darn.  It's not here.  It was here, just yesterday."

"Maybe the condo association towed it.  Aren't there rules that the main occupants aren't supposed to use the guest parking lots?"

"Yeah, but it was here so long.  Huh."

There was a park nearby, and Starsky began walking toward it.  "So, how are things with you and Lanette?  You both seem pretty happy."

"Things are good," Nick said.  Then he added with an odd emphasis, "Really good."



"Then how come you don't sound that happy?"

"I don't?"

Starsky shrugged, chuckling briefly.  "Happy with reservations?"

Nick sought the nearest bench, and sat down with a heavy sigh.  "Maybe it sounds stupid, but I'm so used to Lan and I going back and forth about things, and arguing about things, that now that things seem calm and happy... it's hard to trust it.  You know?"

"I guess I can understand that," Starsky said after a moment.  "Hutch and I were so used to running on adrenaline, for so many years, that I guess things felt a little odd when they got peaceful and ordinary."

"So, what did you do?"

Starsky decided to be forthright.  "Loved each other.  When I got over the virus, and Hutch and I decided to start our own business, there really wasn't much to do but wait for the new telephone directory to come out with our ad.  So, we didn't have much to do during the day."  He smiled fondly. "Believe me, we put that time to good use.  Learned how to love each other.  We both wanted the rest of our time together on this Earth to be the best it could possibly be, and so we weren't the least bit shy about educating each other on what brought the most pleasure."

Nick drew a cautious breath.  "I love loving Lan.  But, throughout history, couples have made love to each other, and then decide years later that they don't want to be together anymore.  How can you stop that from happening?  How can you know that the one you love right now, is the one you're always going to love?"

"You can't know," Starsky decided.  "But I don't think you're doing your relationship any favors by looking for things to go bad.  That's asking for trouble.  Why not just enjoy the good times?  Then, you'll have that as something to shoot for -- to return to -- when things aren't so good."

"Do you and Hutch ever have bad times?"

"None as bad as before we were living together.  Don't get me wrong, we've gone through phases where we've sniped at each other more than usual.  Because we were both worried about business being slow, or whatever.  But we've always known how to get back to things being good."

Nick nodded.  "Because you put each other first."

Starsky tilted his head.  "No, it's not putting each other first.  We both put our relationship first.  What we have together is more important than either of us individually.  That's what we're both committed to.  When you both have the health of your relationship as the primary goal, then you're motivated to work out problems, for the sake of the relationship."

Nick was contemplative for a long moment.  Then his voice dropped an octave.  "Don't you ever want to do it with somebody else?  I mean, I'm not interested in anyone else.  I can't imagine wanting to be with anyone else.  But, you know, after being with Hutch for so long, don't you want something different, every once in a while?  Like, to experience a girl again?"

Starsky considered how to answer.  "Sure, I'd love to hump a girl, just for the heck of it.  Suck on a pair of nice tits for a while.  But having those moments isn't worth jeopardizing what Hutch and I have.  Some kind of fling like that would be just a momentary thing.  Why would I want to jeopardize everything Hutch and I are together, for a few moments of pleasure?"  He realized, "And the pleasure wouldn't even be that great, I don't think."  Firmly, Starsky said, "'There's nobody on this earth who can make me feel the way Hutch does, from the standpoint of pure technique.  We probably have a thousand hours invested in pleasuring each other.  No fling can match that."

"What if Hutch told you that he wanted to do with girls again, but he still loved you.  What would you do?"

Starsky thought it was a purely academic question, but he felt obligated, as the older, more experienced brother, to answer Nick's curiosity.  "If it really mattered that much to him, we'd have to talk about it.  Hell, I don't know, maybe I'd agree to bring a girl into our bed.  Maybe when we're old and both looking for something new, we'd agree to something like that.  I'd have to consider it, if it meant that much to him."

When Nick was silent, Starsky went on, "I think one of the biggest problems I'd have with the idea of Hutch having sex with somebody else -- even if we both agreed to it -- is that they wouldn't know how to pleasure him, like I do.  They couldn't learn the things I know within just a few sessions."  Proudly, he boasted, "I can make Hutch almost pass out, from pure pleasure.  Where he's just a pile of mush.  Nobody else knows how to do that to him.  And he knows it."  With his masculine pride front and center, it was all Starsky could do to stop himself from adding that such a technique was called a Triple Whammy.  That was something exclusive between himself and Hutch.

After a long moment, Nick said, "Even so, just seems like it would get boring with the same person, year after year."

More gently, Starsky said, "'There's ways to keep it from being boring.  You can still be spontaneous, without planning to be spontaneous."  Starsky couldn't help but grin, thinking about the motel room, a few days ago.

Nick glanced at him, and then shook his head with a smile.  "I'm not asking what you're thinking about right now."

"I wouldn't tell you, anyway."  Starsky then sobered.  "Besides, when a relationship has a whole lot more going on than the sex, the sex isn't the defining factor.  I love that about Hutch and me.  That it was never about exterior attraction.  That we had a whole lot of other reasons for loving each other, before sex entered the picture.  Sex was just the icing.  And, man, what delicious icing that's been.  But it's, you know, reassuring, as we get older, that we don't have to worry about stuff like losing our looks.  We see so many women, in our offices, who talk about doing all this stuff to keep themselves attractive for their husbands, as they age, and the husbands still go out and cheat, anyway.  To me, that says there's a whole lot more to relationships than thinking each other is good looking."

"Yeah.  I do have lots of feelings for Lan, beyond the sex.  I guess I'm just worried that I can't hang onto it, the good that's going on in our relationship.  It's like, now that things are good, what if they later aren't, anymore?"

"Look, I think, when two people really love each other, they adapt to each other's growth and changes.  They know that people change, and develop different interests and priorities in life.  The relationship can absorb that, as long as the relationship is always first.  I've heard a lot of unhappy spouses talk about the husband -- occasionally, the husband about the wife -- having changed, like that in and of itself is a sin against the marriage.  That's crazy.  People can't go through life and not be affected by the major events of their lives.  But they have to be willing to talk to each other, in order for each to realize what events are going on, and how they each are handling it."

"That's gotten better between Lan and me," Nick said.  "We talk about more stuff.  She was less willing to talk, than I was.  But I made a point of not judging her, or picking at things she says that I find it hard to be on board with.  And if I feel she's being judgmental toward me, I try to just point it out, without getting defensive."

Starsky nodded.  "Communication is good.  Sometimes, I think it's everything.  I couldn't stand it, if i didn't know what was going on with Hutch's day.  If I'm not with him, then I want to hear about it later."  Having said that, he felt a small stab of guilt, about having not mentioned to Hutch a couple of months ago, what the eye doctor had said.  Not that Hutch had held any grudges.  Yesterday, they had gone to an eyeglass store and ordered contacts, and Hutch had helped Starsky pick are a pair of gold wire-framed glasses.  "They make you look distinguished," Hutch had said with approval.  They would be ready for him next week, and the contacts would arrive later still.

Nick muttered, "I don't think I'd like Lan checking up on me, to that degree."

"It's not about checking up on Hutch," Starsky corrected quickly.  "It's about checking in with him.  I care about him.  I'm interested in what he's experienced during the day, if I don't already know about it.  I like hearing him talk about stuff that I wasn't around for.  From what I've seen from all our cheating spouse cases, it's when couples stop talking to each other, that secrets start taking place, deliberate hiding of things.  And then suspicions and distrust are the result.  I'd think it would be very hard for a marriage to completely recover, once things get to that level."

It was now dark.  Starsky nudged Nick's hand.  "Like I said, quit looking for bad stuff as being normal for you and Lan.  I'm sure you'll both go through enough trials and tribulations in the normal course of life, without deliberately looking for it."  He stood. 

Nick did, as well.  "Yeah, I see your point."


Starsky, Hutch, and Lorraine returned home that evening.

Once in curled up in bed, Hutch said, "You and Nick were gone a while, considering the Thunderbird wasn't there any more."

"Nick wanted to talk."

"Yeah?  Trouble in paradise?"

"No.  Things are going well."  Starsky snorted.  "That has Nick sort of edgy.  I guess things haven't gone well between him and Lanette very often."  He shrugged.  "He was just looking for some big brotherly advice."

"Hmm."  Hutch sounded like he was preparing to settle into sleep.

Starsky realized that he had a confession.  "Hutch?"


"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about the eye doctor.  I should have."

"Well, you had your reasons."

"None of which excuses my not telling you.  If you'd gone to the doctor, and he'd said you needed glasses, I would have been mad if you felt you didn't want to tell me about it."

He felt his shoulder squeezed, while Hutch muttered, "If that's the biggest sin you ever commit, I can live with it."

With that assurance, Starsky was ready to settle into sleep.


The next evening, Hutch was grocery shopping, and Lorraine was in her room, picking up. 

Starsky had decided it was bugging him, to have somebody read his manuscript, when he now knew that it was going to be structured differently, and might end up being a real book.  Lorraine had never said anything about it, though Hutch was convinced that she'd read at least a couple of chapters.  So, it didn't seem that she would be bothered if Starsky retracted his offer.

He appeared at the doorway to the guest room.  "Hey, Lorraine, do you mind if I take the manuscript for my book?"

She glanced up from where she was running a dust cloth over the bed frame.  "Oh, I haven't read it all yet."

He wondered if that was just a placid answer, or a protest.  "Well, if you think you might read it all, I'll let it stay here.  But the thing is, our agent is talking about restructuring it and editing it and...," he shrugged, "now I feel sort of funny about somebody reading it, when it's in such a rough format."

She straightened.  "Oh, well, then, I can hardly refuse to give it back to you."  She bent to the floor next to the dresser, and started to gather the large stack of paper.

Starsky quickly stepped forward.  "Here, let me get that.  It's heavy."  He lifted the stack from the floor.  He glanced around, since Hutch had mentioned the two chapters he'd found setting out.  "Is this all of it?"

"Yes.  I only read a chapter or two at a time.  It's all there."

Starsky didn't want to miss his chance to discuss it, and didn't care if he was blatantly fishing.  "So, which chapters did you read?"  He further prompted, "Maybe you can give me some pointers."

She waved a hand, and then went back to her dusting.  "Oh, I read a few of them.  David, I can't help you with something like that.  Writing isn't anything I was ever any good at, except for formal things, like invitations."

Starsky knew he was being dismissed, but wanted to try a little harder.  "Did any of it help you know Hutch a little better?  You know, maybe surprise you about him?"

She set the cloth down and bent to straighten the covers on the bed.  "I've never known much about his life, once he left home.  I'd get greeting cards on occasion, mostly from Vanessa.  He didn't seem to want to have much contact with home."

"Well," Starsky said, placing the heavy stack on the dresser, "he was getting settled into a new life, with his wife.  Getting to know a new city, a job.  Even married men tend to want to be independent, at that age."  Starsky leaned back against the wall.  "Lorraine, your son is the most courageous person I've ever known.  I've tried to tell about that, in all those pages I've written."  Starsky had to swallow, because he felt a roughness in his throat.  "I hope you can see a little bit of that."

She briefly glanced at him, and then went back to her dusting.  "Well, of course cops are courageous.  But I don't know anything about cop life.  It's hard to understand."

Starsky pressed, "Did I really do such a bad job of showing some of the cases we deal with, and stuff like that?"

She shrugged, and then straightened to look at him.  "Well, I browsed through a lot of that.  That didn't really interest me."  She smiled brightly.  "Oh, I loved that chapter on when you two were working on that western.  I've read that twice."  She seemed puzzled.  "But Dexter's name never came up."

Starsky felt foolish, for trying so hard to get her to focus on Hutch, when she obviously wasn't interested.  "Well, he just had a few scenes, and we had very little contact with him.  The whole point of the chapter was how interesting it was, getting to work on the picture, and how it had a happy ending, so to speak, with Wally Stone letting his next victim go."  He gathered up the pages.

She brushed her hair back with her hand.  "That's a shame, that you didn't get to know him better, back then."

"Yeah."  With a sigh, Starsky took the stack and left.


That night, Starsky pressed his moist eyes against Hutch's chest.  "I keep thinking I can get through to her, you know?  What mother wouldn't want to know that her son has done so many amazing, courageous, heroic things?"

Hutch's voice was calm and gentle.  "Neither of my parents were ones to be very impressed by anything."  His hand ran lazily along Starsky's back.

"Except by being in a movie," Starsky muttered.  Then he scoffed, "She can't even invest a little emotion in your life?"

Hutch was silent a moment.  Then he said, "Remember when we saw that movie about teenage suicide a few years ago?  Robert Redford directed it."

"Ordinary People," Starsky recalled.

"Yeah.  There was that scene where the teenager was complaining about his mother.  And the psychiatrist tells him, 'Don't expect her to be more than she is.'  That made sense to me."

Starsky was amazed at how calm and accepting Hutch was.  "Just think you got short-changed, in the parenting department.  You didn't deserve that."

"It's an old notion, buddy.  I'm okay with it.  I sort of understand her, you know?  I don't want anything from her.  I definitely don't need anything from her."  Hutch laughed briefly.  "I think I'd crap my pants, if she actually showed any interest in your book.  I wouldn't know how to deal with it."

Starsky rose, turning to face Hutch.  "Okay.  I'll try to make a point of letting this go, and not holding it against her.  Especially since we don't know how long she's planning on staying here."  He collapsed back down to Hutch's chest.

A hand settled in his hair, as Hutch said, "I bet she's not giving any thought to returning home, as long as Dexter is paying attention to her."

"Do you really think he's interested in her?" Starsky asked incredulously.

"It's hard to say.  They're from the same generation, where people don't emote about much."

Starsky grunted.  "A match made in heaven."

Hutch shifted to get more comfortable.  "Just like us, buddy."



On Tuesday evening, Hutch was sitting on the sofa, an array of papers spread about.  Starsky was having a hard time resisting putting in more puzzle pieces, since the 1000-piece puzzle was close to being complete.  He didn't think Lorraine would appreciate him finishing it.

Hutch glanced at him.  "I saw you place that."

Starsky purposely moved away from the card table.  "They must have gone to dinner after the zoo, huh?"

""Probably."  Hutch indicated a group of papers in his hand.  "I've decided.  We're going with Lane's Construction.  If we sign the contract by Friday, they'll commit to having the work done by the end of May.  Then we can have all summer to build the interior, though I hope it doesn't take near that long."

Starsky shrugged, not feeling any need to challenge Hutch's reasoning.  "Just wish we would have had more than three estimates."

"That was going to take forever," Hutch muttered, "with the way these places operate.  The whole construction industry ought to take a course in customer service."

They heard noises at the front door, and then it was opening.

Starsky moved to look across the kitchen to the foyer.  "Hello, there.  How was the zoo?"

Lorraine allowed Dexter to remove her sweater, where the coat closet was.  "We had a wonderful time.  A lot of walking, but it was wonderful."

As Dexter hung up the sweater, he said, "I offered to take one of those tour buses, but she wasn't having any of it."

Lorraine entered the kitchen.  "Walking is good for the figure."

"Did you guys eat?" Starsky asked.

"Yes, I took Lorraine to dinner," Dexter replied.  "We assumed you wouldn't be waiting for us."  He and Lorraine entered the living room.

"No, not at all," Hutch glanced up from the sofa.

Dexter said, "I wanted to take your mother dancing, but she was eager to finish her puzzle."

As Lorraine sat down at the card table, Starsky confessed, "I put in a few pieces.  Just a few."

She said, "You can go ahead and tell them, Dexter."

Dexter seemed uncertain, and Hutch said, "How about a beer?  We can go on the back patio, if you want."

"Yes, on the beer," Dexter said.  He looked at Lorraine, and she prompted, "That's fine.  I want to finish this."

Starsky wondered what Dexter was going to tell them, as he moved to the refrigerator.  He took three beers, thinking the subject matter was likely to be Lorraine, or Dexter's son, Wesley.

The three men all moved to the back patio.  Starsky sat in a patio chair, next to the grill, which was facing chairs on either side of a small table, which Hutch and Dexter sat in.  As he took a sip, he relished the flavor.  For as long as they'd been together, he and Hutch had cut back on their beer intake, in the name of fewer calories.

"It feels good to sit down," Dexter sighed.  "I forget all the walking that's required at a zoo."

"Yeah?" Hutch said in a prompting tone.

Dexter took a couple of sips.  Then, flatly, he said, "I talked to Wesley.  He admitted he's gay.  That young man is somebody he met through Darren Rook, the movie critic.    I guess he's some distant relative of Rook's."

"So, how did it go?" Starsky asked.

"A bit wooden.  All the right things were said."

Hutch said, "You don't sound very happy about it."

Dexter took another sip.  Then, "Ah, hell, I guess I was kidding myself.  It didn't bother me that much, just thinking about it.  But now that it's out there -- is something real -- I admit it's been harder to absorb than I thought."

"In what way?" Hutch asked, while looking at Starsky with concern.

"You know, I guess I just sort of imagined him seeing guys in the Hollywood circle.  That's an industry I understand.  There's all kinds of odd relationships in Hollywood, both sexually and otherwise."  Dexter shook his head.  "But knowing he's seeing this lower middle class boy -- he's in love with him.  Is smitten with him.  The boy lives with his mother, who doesn't approve, by the way, and he doesn't have a car....  I'm not sure he's headed anywhere good."

Puzzled, Starsky asked, "Has the boyfriend ever been arrested?"

"I wouldn't know," Dexter admitted gruffly.  "It just surprises me, that's all.  Not what I was expecting from Wesley."

There was a tense silence, and Starsky said, "Well, all kinds of people fall in love that others wouldn't expect.  Believe me, neither of our families would have anticipated Hutch and I being in this relationship.  We didn't anticipate it, back when we were cops."  His voice softened, "But that doesn't detract from our feelings for each other, the relationship that we've built together."

"You're in the same class," Dexter said, still gruff.  "Relationships outside of one's class... they're just a lot of heartache."  He threw his head back and took a large swallow.

Starsky felt his stomach start to knot.  While Hutch gave him an uneasy look, Starsky squared his jaw.  "You're making an awful lot of assumptions, Dexter.  I didn't grow up poor.  But my family was hardly well off, back in New York.  Nothing like Hutch's family, economically.  That hasn't interfered with how much we love each other."

"Yeah," Hutch added, frowning.  "'Our backgrounds have never been a problem for us, going back to the very beginning.  In fact," his voice firmed, "the only problems our relationship has had, concerning family, is the lack of approval on the Hutchinson side."

Dexter looked at him, perplexed.  "Your mother doesn't disapprove.  I mean," he relented, "I know she wants grandchildren, but it's not like she's wanted to cut you out of the family."

Starsky felt they probably shouldn't continue this conversation, but he couldn't help it.  He snapped, "She has a hell of a way of showing it.  My family, for all their lack of economic success, had ten times more warmth than the Hutchinsons."  He brought his beer to his lips and paused.  "Damned unbelievable to me, sometimes, how little the Hutchinsons have been interested in all the incredible things Hutch has done."

Hutch briefly shook his head at Starsky, as though to say Don't get into all this.

Dexter's eyes hesitantly moved to Hutch.  "Well, you have been rather distant from the family."

"With good reason," Starsky emphasized, knowing that Dexter could only base his opinions on whatever Lorraine had told him.

Hutch managed a smile.  "Anyway," he said to Dexter, "when you say relationships outside one's class causes heartache... it sounds like you were speaking from experience."

While Starsky admired the way Hutch had lightened the mood, Dexter admitted, "Ah, hell, I had an affair with a fan once.  Long time ago.  Fell in love.  It never had a chance.  But I spent all kinds of money on her, trying to make her life better.  Kept thinking I was going to fix her, fix her life."

"Were you married?" Starsky couldn't help but ask, while amazed at how much Dexter wanted to share his personal life with them.  He doubted that Dexter had shared all this with Lorraine.

"Yes.  But, you know, wives of Hollywood actors know that a man can't be expected to always fight off all those beautiful women lusting after him.  I got in way too deep.  Was a hell of a mess.  The girl -- she was twenty, I guess -- eventually committed suicide, after I ended the affair."

After a lengthy silence, Starsky said, "I wouldn't hold your past against your son, Dexter.  There's something to be said for real love, that goes beyond classes and social stature, and all that.  Hutch and me speak from experience.  It doesn't have to be all gloom and doom."

"You know," Hutch said gently, "the best thing you can do for Wesley his welcome his boyfriend with open arms.  Otherwise, he'll just turn away from you."

Dexter growled, "I'm not interested in bringing that little faggot into my life with my son."

Starsky saw that Hutch's shock was as profound as his own.

From inside the house, came an enthusiastic, "Finished!"

Dexter grunted.  "Your mother has finished her puzzle."  To Starsky, he sounded almost sour.  He took a final swig of beer.  "I suppose we should go and take a look."  They all stood, and Dexter indicated the beer.  "I hope you have another one of these."  He opened the sliding glass door.

Starsky looked at Hutch uneasily, while he replied, "Sorry, we're out."  It seemed to him, that in the matter a few minutes, Dexter had lost all his charm.

Dexter looked back at him.  "What about some other booze?"

Hutch shook his head.  "We're cutting back."

Starsky felt that was such a vague statement as to be meaningless, as well as a lie, since they did have whiskey and wine.

Dexter said, "Well, lookkee here," as he approached the card table.  Hutch closed the sliding glass door, while still on the patio, and said in a low voice, "I could smell his breath, as soon as he sat down.  He must have been drinking all through dinner, if not before then."  He nudged Starsky.  "And he's always smelled of mints, at the office.  I bet he was trying to cover up that he'd been drinking."

Starsky muttered, "Let's get him to leave as fast as possible."

From inside the house, Dexter said, overly loud, "Come see your mother's puzzle."

Hutch opened the door and smiled at the puzzle.  "It looks great.  You've been working on it for a long time."

Lorraine took her admiring gaze away from the table, and looked up at Hutch.  "Were you able to give him some advice about his son?"

"Yeah," Starsky replied bluntly.  "Love him.  Accept him.  Accept whomever he loves."

She looked at him with a blank expression, as though that wasn't what she'd meant.

Hutch was gathering papers up from the sofa.  "Uh, Dexter, I'm sure you're tired after a long day.  And we've got something to discuss with my mother."  He indicated the papers he was holding. 

Lorraine looked from Hutch to Starsky, and then to Dexter.  "He doesn't need to leave just yet."

"Yeah, he does," Starsky said simply.  "We have something to discuss with you."  That wasn't true, but the papers on the sofa were a great excuse.

"I can't imagine what about," she said.

Dexter smiled charmingly at Lorraine.  "I'll say my goodbyes then."  He reached for her hand, and then bent to kiss it.   He looked from Starsky to Hutch.  "I'll see my way out."

"Have a good evening," Starsky called after him, relieved.

After the door was closed, Lorraine said, "You didn't need to rush him out of here, like that."

Starsky said, "He wanted to rush out, because we told him we were out of booze."


Hutch asked, "Mother, how much has he had to drink tonight?"

"What our you talking about?  We had wine at dinner.  There's nothing wrong with that."

"No there isn't," Starsky said, sitting down at the card table.  "But he was getting awfully loose-tongued out there," he indicated the patio.  "Was starting to undergo a personality shift."

"He might have a drinking problem," Hutch said quietly. 

"What?" Lorraine looked at him.  "No, he doesn't.  Just because he had some wine."

"He could have been drinking when you were looking, like when you were at the zoo."

"Maybe he doesn't indulge often," Starsky relented.  "But if that's the case, then liquor sure effects him when he is drinking.  We didn't want him hanging around any longer, when he was telling us more about his personal life, and feelings, than we wanted to know."

She was completely perplexed.  "I thought you could help him with his son."

"Help him in what way?" Starsky asked quietly.  "He all of a sudden wasn't a-okay about his son being gay.  And especially not about his 'faggot' boyfriend."

"If we'd known that," Hutch said, "I don't think we would have taken the case."

"What do you expect?" Lorraine demanded.  "You think it's easy for parents to have children that are outcast by society?"

"We aren't outcast," Starsky said, puzzled.

"Well, you certainly aren't normal."

Starsky watched Hutch's jaw harden.  As slowly, and as distinctly as he could, Starsky said, "I am so sorry for you, Lorraine, that you can't see how much love your son has in his life, despite his family, and how full of love he is.  He's the most loving person I've ever known."  She stared at him.  "I'm so sorry for you, that you don't believe that about him."  He sighed.  "I'm turning in."  He moved into the kitchen, and heard Hutch say, "Excuse me, I need to make a phone call."

Hutch went past him to grab their address book from the kitchen counter, and squeezed his arm, then moved to the office and flipped on the light.

Starsky followed.

As Hutch closed the oak doors, he said, "I want to call Dobey.  Find out if Dexter has a record."

Starsky glanced at his watch.  "It's going on nine."

"This is important."  Hutch sat in the lone office chair and opened the address book.  "Boy, was I getting a bad feeling about him."

"Yeah.  A little booze, and all of a sudden, he's not so charming.  You think he's an alcoholic, or that there's something else going on?"

Hutch ran his finger down a page in the book.  "Whether he's a full blown alcoholic, or just somebody that undergoes a personality change when they drink, I bet he can get mean."  He picked up the telephone receiver, while keeping his finger on the book.  "The last thing I want to see happen is my mother getting involved with somebody like that."

Starsky's mouth corner twitched as he watched Hutch dial.   "I guess it's nice that you care about her, despite everything."

Hutch looked up with the receiver to his ear.  "I hate when you try standing up for me, when talking to her.  It isn't necessary.  I know what she is.  It's all right."

Remembering Hutch's firm jaw, Starsky quietly defended, "She can still hurt you.  I can't stand that."

"Edith?" Hutch said into the phone.  "It's Ken Hutchinson, and David.  How are you?.... Great.  We haven't seen Rosie in a while.  Maybe you all would like to drive out with us sometime and see Darla.  She's pregnant."  After more small talk, he asked for Dobey.

When Dobey was on the line, Hutch gave him Dexter Riley's name -- yes, Dexter Riley, the old western movie actor -- and that they'd appreciate the favor of his arrest record.

Hutch hung up.  "He doesn't think it'll be a problem.  He knows a captain in the Hollywood area."

"Good."  Starsky sat on the desk.  "Of course, if there's anything worrisome that Dobey finds out, I don't know how we're going to break it to Lorraine.  And it's not like we can forbade her to see him, in any case."

Hutch was thoughtful.  "No.  But it won't be a problem if she returns to Minnesota."  He suddenly smiled, "I have an idea."  He stood and led the way out of the office.

Lorraine was still sitting at the card table, and looking at the box for the 500-piece puzzle, that hadn't yet been opened.

"Mother," Hutch said, grabbing contract pages that had been left on the coffee table, "we need to talk to you."  He sat in a chair across from her.

Starsky indicated the kitchen.  "Anyone want coffee?"

"I'm fine, thank you," she said.

Starsky was relieved, though also amazed, that she didn't seem bothered by the prior conversation.  But then, she'd had a lifetime of practice at putting on a proper front.

Hutch said, "We're going to be signing a contract tomorrow with a construction company, to start on the new addition.  They can probably get started by next week.  There's going to be a lot of noise, and construction workers hanging around.  I'm worried that that's going to be a problem."

Starsky realized where Hutch was headed.  "We're sort of uncomfortable with the idea of you being here alone, with strange men working in the yard.  The construction industry has a lot of migrant workers.  Shady types."

Gently, Hutch asked, "Have you given any further thought to what you want to do, as far as the house in Minnesota?  If you stay out here, when the construction starts, we wonder if you might be better off staying with Lannie and Nick."

Starsky quickly put in, "If you think you still might want to be out here for a while -- which would be great -- maybe we can find a place you could rent, month-to-month.  That way, you'll have your own space, without all the noise."

She gazed at the completed puzzle, tilting her head with a satisfied smile.  She ran her hand over the surface.

Starsky said, "You know, we'll have to tear the puzzle up.  But when you come back, after the construction, you can put it together again."

"Or we can get more," Hutch offered.

She said, still gazing at the puzzle, "I was talking with Dexter about it today, wondering what would be best."

"Yeah?" Starsky prompted, feeling uneasy.

"He felt I should go back home, for a few weeks, and figure out what I want to do with the house.  He felt it wasn't fair that seeing him should interfere with my decision."

Starsky nodded, relieved.  "Good for him."

Hutch said, "We think that's a good idea, too.  It's hard to know what his intentions are.  If you two miss each other a lot, then that'll tell you something about where your friendship is at."

She looked at Hutch.  "He promised to call when I get back to Minnesota."

Hutch nodded.  "Good," he replied hesitantly.

They were all silent, and Starsky said, "Would you like us to help with travel arrangements?"

She ran her hand over the puzzle again.  "I can handle those myself.  I guess I'll fly back this Saturday."

Starsky felt compelled to add, "If you're sure you're ready to leave...."

She looked at him and nodded.  "Yes.  It's time."

There was another silence, and then Hutch said cheerfully,  "I'll call Lannie and Nick in the morning, and let them know, so they can be sure to squeeze in more time with you, before you leave."


When they were in their bathroom, preparing for bed, Starsky said, "Man, is it me, or did tonight feel like the twilight zone?"

Hutch was brushing his teeth, with a robe loosely tied around his nudity.  After spitting, he said, "It was weird how Dexter seemed so different."

Starsky stood before his own sink, in his underwear, and put toothpaste on his toothbrush.  "Your mother, too, though.  She just seemed so... disconnected.  The way she was running her hand along that puzzle and stuff.  Despite everything, I feel sorry for her.  It's like she doesn't belong anywhere.  Like she's displaced."  He inserted the toothbrush into his mouth.

Hutch spit again.  "I'm not sure if she meant something else, when she was talking about Dexter talking to us about Wesley."

Around a mouthful a toothpaste, Starsky muttered, "I know.  It's like they meant different things.  But then, Dexter wasn't wanting any kind of advice from us.  He just wanted to bad-mouth the boyfriend."

Hutch picked up a glass from the sink, and filled it with water.  "I really thought Dexter was sincere about wanting to help his son, when he first visited with me.  Now, I'm sorry we took his case."

Starsky spit.   Then, "I still think he cares about Wesley.  He just doesn't like who he's fallen in love with."

Hutch rinsed, and then spit out the water.  "I saw his reaction when we first showed him those photographs of them kissing.  I could tell he wasn't happy, though he'd been acting like, up to that point, that he was all right about Wesley.  So, his disapproval can't all be about him drinking tonight."

Starsky snorted.  "He talks like he'd be fine about Wesley having a boyfriend, as long as that boyfriend was some big Hollywood producer, or something."

Hutch wiped his mouth with a hand towel.  "Yeah.  Weird."

After Starsky spit a final time, he said, "I just feel bad that your mother didn't seem to resolve anything, while she's been out here.  Seems like a wasted trip."

"I don't think so," Hutch said, while hanging his robe on the hook behind the bathroom door.  "Surely, she feels attractive again, after getting Dexter's attention.  Now, she can go back to Minnesota and tell her friends all about dating a western movie star.  And look for other men."

Starsky spent a few moments rinsing.  Then he looked up at Hutch, who was getting into bed.  "Do you think that's what their relationship -- if one can call it that -- is really about?  Him feeling like he got to spend time with an attractive, mature woman, and her getting to spend time with a movie star?"  Starsky wiped his mouth, and then tossed the towel aside.  He shut off the bathroom light, so that the room was dark.

"Look, buddy, nothing about my mother is very deep.  She's pretty much a simple, surface person."

Starsky quickly removed his underwear, and then crawled into bed, maneuvering over Hutch.  "I need you to hold me, baby.  I'm feeling all off balance, and like nothing's making sense."

Hutch held out his arm, and Starsky gratefully snuggled up next to him, and then was glad to feel the covers being settled more closely around them both.

Hutch had both arms around Starsky, beneath the covers.  "Better?"

"Mm-hm.  I'm just so, so glad that we make sense to us, even if we don't to others."

One of Hutch's hands went down to Starsky's buttocks, and held him closer.  "Yeah."

Starsky rubbed his cheek against smooth skin.  "Love you so, so, so much."  In a near whisper, he added, "I feel so sorry for everyone else, because they don't have you."

Hutch snorted.  "You're laying it on a little thick there, partner."

"It feels good," Starsky insisted, "loving you so much."  He couldn't help but add, "It seems so sad, people like your mother, never knowing love like this."

"People can't miss what they've never had.  Besides, I think people tend to get settled in their ways, and they don't want things to be different, even in a better way."

Starsky mused, "Do you think Dexter will really call your mother in Minnesota?"

"Don't know.  I'm surprised she agreed so quickly to go back.  Maybe they were just having a shallow time together and, on some level, they both knew it.  Hell," Hutch said suddenly, "maybe he was interested in her because she had a gay son, like he does.  Maybe he was wanting some kind of answers or insight from her, and realized today that he wasn't going to get any.  Maybe he wasn't ever really interested in her, as a woman."

"Hmm," Starsky considered, "that sort of makes sense."

"We're just guessing," Hutch cautioned.  "We'll have to see if they show any further interest in each other.  We were wrong, at first, about Nick and Lannie."

"Yeah.  I wonder, though, what Dobey will find out about Dexter."

"If there's anything serious, it'll be hard to know if we should tell her or not."

"I guess if Dexter has no further contact with her, then we won't need to worry about it."

Hutch rubbed along Starsky's arm.  "You doing better?"

"Yeah."  Then Starsky decided, "Kisses would be better, still."  He knew where that was likely to lead.  "Being gently impaled, while being held, would be nice, too."

Hutch started to shift.  "Your wish is my command."


"I like them." Lois sounded sincere.

Starsky pushed the gold, wire-framed glasses higher on his nose, as he stood before Lois's desk.  "Yeah?"

"They make you look more... sophisticated, I think."

"Well, I won't look sophisticated for long.  I'm just wearing them until my contacts arrive.  The doctor said I should get used to seeing through the corrected vision, so I'll have already adjusted when I get my contacts.  I'll just keep these in the car, in case I loose one of my contacts, or something."

Hutch entered from where he'd stopped at the men's room.

Starsky said, "Lois thinks I look sophisticated."

Hutch squeezed Starsky's arm.  "You start getting too many compliments, you might forget about the contacts."  He moved toward his office.

Starsky muttered, "That's not going to happen."

The phone rang, and Lois picked it up.  "Starsky and Hutchinson."  She listened a moment, "Oh, yes, Captain Dobey."

Starsky pointed to Hutch's office.  As he moved toward it, he heard her say, "I'll put you through to Ken's phone." 

He entered Hutch's office, just as the phone rang.  "That's Dobey."  He closed the door behind him.

Hutch hit the speaker.  "Hi, Captain.  Starsky's here, too."

"Hi, Cap'n."

"Good morning.  I've got some information on Dexter Riley."

"Yeah?" Starsky said.

"Most of this is quite a long time ago.  I'll work backwards."

Hutch grabbed a notepad and pen.  "Shoot."

"October 1974, shots fired at his residence.  Both he and his wife insisted it was an accident.  She had called police upon hearing the shots, then found out Dexter had accidentally discharged his gun, while cleaning it.  The responding officers felt there was more to it, especially since they smelled alcohol on Dexter's breath, but they didn't have anything to go on.  August 1974.  DUI.  He had his driver's license taken away for a year.  Then it goes back to May 1969.  Domestic dispute, called in by witnesses at a shopping mall.  No charges were filed.  March 1969.  The wife called police to the residence, for a domestic dispute, but refused to press charges.  That's a lot more of these domestic disputes, going back a few years.  No, wait.  There's a couple of DUIs in there, too.  He was never sent to jail.  There's other minor stuff.  Excessive traffic tickets, and the like."

"Nothing later than 1974?" Hutch asked.

"Not in the file.  But the chief I know gave me the name of a cop who had retired the past few years.  Riley's residence was his beat for a long time.  I called him and he said a lot of stuff was never written up.  The Rileys contributed a lot of money to various law enforcement charities, so nobody ever wanted to take him in.  He remembers one time, after Mrs. Riley had died, that Dexter was weaving on the road, about a mile from home.  He made Riley park the car, and he gave him a lift home.  But, mostly, they got called out for domestic disputes.  They felt it was mostly just arguing, spurred on by alcohol, and didn't believe it ever got physical.  He thought the wife called the cops so much, because she had a nephew that worked at a nearby precinct.  So, she felt calling the cops was like calling family members, in a sense."

Starsky wondered, "Do you know when Mrs. Riley died?"

"There's nothing in the file about that, but I seem to recall the retired copy saying something about it being five or six years ago.  1977, or something like that."

"How far back does the file go?" Hutch asked.

"Uhhh... the first reported incident is in February 1966.  They reported their cat missing.  According to the report, they had just moved into the neighborhood a few weeks prior, so they haven't always lived there.  It doesn't say where they moved from.  The next incident is in April 1967, and it's a domestic dispute.  Then there's a rash of domestics for a few years."

After Dobey fell silent, Hutch said, "This is great information.  We really appreciate it."

"Sure thing.  Oh, and, I mentioned to Rosie about Darla being pregnant.  She wants to go out and see the foal."

Starsky chuckled, and resettled his glasses on his nose.  "She's not due for nearly a year.  Early next February, to be exact.  So, it's going to be a while."

"Oh.  Okay.  I'll tell her that."

Hutch noted, "You all are welcome to come out and see Darla before then.  She's at a really great place.  It's huge.  You can see some of this year's foals.  They probably have quite a few that have been born, by now."

"We might do that.  I'll talk to the wife."

"Okay, Cap'n," Starsky said.  "Good hearing from you."

"Same here.  I'll be in touch."

Hutch cut the line.  He looked at his notepad and muttered, "Makes you wonder how many more incidences there were that never made it into the file."

"Yeah, and the gun discharge thing is pretty scary."

"Sounds like alcohol is usually a factor."

"Yep.  Dexter has to be an alcoholic, plain and simple."

"Well, there's no need to talk to Mom, since she's leaving tomorrow.  But if they stay in touch -- especially if she ever intends to see him again -- we'll have to figure out what to do about it."


Hutch looked up, and then smiled with affection.  "Those glasses really aren't a bad look for you."

Starsky was touched, but protested, "You think I want to go around with these sitting on my face?"

Hutch shrugged.  "If the contacts don't work out, for some reason, at least it won't be such a bad thing for you to wear the glasses."

Starsky started to protest, but remembered something else.  "So, the construction company is set to start Monday?"

"Yeah.  We need to make sure one of us is there, as much as possible, in case they need to discuss something, and to keep them working.  I've heard lots of horror stories about construction companies dragging out jobs way past the agreed deadline."

"Well," Starsky said, "at least, we don't have a need for it to be done by a certain time."  He looked at the dry erase board mounted on Hutch's wall.  "And our jobs seem to be pretty much under control."

"Hopefully, it'll stay that way, until the construction is done."

Starsky stood, "If not, I guess we shouldn't complain too much."

Hutch snorted with amusement.  Then, as Starsky stepped toward his office, Hutch asked warmly, "What have you ever had to complain about, the past few years?"

Starsky turned to face Hutch from his doorway feeling his heart beat softly, as he smiled.  "Nothing.  Nothing at all."




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