(c) April 2015 by Charlotte Frost


A sequel to Whirlwind


On Monday morning, Starsky entered the office and stopped at Lois's desk, while noticing a man working on the copy machine, which was against the far wall.  "Someone finally came?"

"Yes," Lois replied.  "Hopefully, he'll have it running before long.  It's inconvenient to have to keep going down the hall to Dr. Patterson's office, to make copies."

That was a dentist on their same floor, and Lois sometimes went to lunch with the girls in the office.

Starsky grinned widely as he reached for his wallet.  "I've got something to show you."  He pulled out the small photo and placed it before Lois.  "That's Melinda Loretta Starsky, at six weeks.  Already."  He beamed with pride, even as he was amazed how quickly time was flying by.  It seemed like she'd been born just yesterday.

"Oh, my goodness!" Lois exclaimed, as she bent over the small photo.  "Look at that hair!"

Starsky's grin widened even more, wanting to burst with feeling.  "Yeah, everyone who knows babies says that she's going to have thick, curly blonde hair."  Starsky thought it was so perfect that Melinda had arrived with the best of both of the Starsky and Hutchinson worlds -- at least, when it came to hair texture and coloring.

Lois continued to study the photo, smiling warmly.  "Such big blue eyes, too."  She looked up.  "She's adorable."

"Yep.  More and more so, every day."  He and Hutch had never gone longer than a week without seeing Melinda, since she'd been born.

Lois handed the photo back.  "So, how is Ken's sister handling motherhood?"

As Starsky put it in his wallet, he said, "Lanette is a really attentive mother.  We've offered to babysit for a couple of hours, so she and Nick can spend some time alone together, but so far, they haven't taken us up on it."

"She's got her mother to help, too, right?"

"Yeah.  Lorraine has been a big help to Lanette."  Starsky shifted nervously, as he prepared to change the subject.  "Hey, uh, when you get a chance today, can you call the farm in Kentucky, and ask when they're going to check Darla?"  Darla had been bred three different heat cycles to Storm Bird, since mid March, and it was now the tenth of June.  After the first two times, she'd come back into heat within a few weeks, which indicated she hadn't conceived.  Since breeding season would end next week, Starsky desperately hoped that the mating last month had been successful.  Otherwise, he and Hutch would be out the $20,000 stud fee, and Darla wouldn't be having a foal next spring.

Lois moved some papers aside and pointed to her desk calendar.  "David, it's been less than a month since she was last bred.  They don't check them until about six weeks afterward.  I really don't think it'll do much good to call them, since they'll just say it's too early to tell yet."

"Yeah, okay," Starsky relented unhappily. 

"When is Hutch expected in?"

"He had to stop at the McKinney law firm.  He'll probably be another half hour or so."  Starsky moved toward his office.

He'd apparently left his desk a mess on Friday, because it was still a mess now.  He moved some papers aside, and uncovered a brochure that said New Ideas Publishing on the front.  It was a company started in the past year by Liz Felton, an old friend of his agent, Milton Bloomberg.  Liz wanted her company to focus on books with a more liberal subjects, hence her being interested in Starsky's book, which Bloomberg had pitched to her.  After all his and Hutch's mulling over the consequences of actually having their story published, once it got down to it, they had both agreed that Starsky sign the contract with New Ideas, with little fuss, after lawyer Tom Placing had given his stamp of approval.  They found it comforting that the book would be published by a small company with a narrow focus, making it likely it would take it a while to get traction, if it ever developed any traction at all.  Therefore, they wouldn't have to worry much about "the public" thinking badly of their relationship, since most of the public wouldn't be reading it.  Starsky had been given a pitifully small advance, in line with the expected tiny circulation, and he wondered if, when the book actually was in print, he'd start getting more anxious for it to be more widely read.  For now, being printed by a small, upstart publisher seemed like a good idea.

Still, he wasn't sure when the book would actually see print.  At first, it had been "around the end of the year".  That had quickly become an even more vague "next spring".  He and Hutch were starting to suspect that New Ideas was having trouble getting the financing to support the actual printing costs of their first books.  Yet, Bloomberg continued to speak highly of Liz Felton and her company.  So, they had been determined to be patient, at least for the time being.

In any case, the idea of being actually published felt rather anti-climatic.  Starsky supposed he would feel a lot more celebratory when he actually held his very own book, cover and all, in his hands.


Hutch's eyes drifted open, as he recognized the grayness of dawn.  He glanced at the clock, and decided that he might be able to sleep another twenty minutes or so before they had to get up, and closed his eyes once more.

He realized that he wasn't feeling a customary warmth beside him, and abruptly turned over.

Starsky's side of the bed was empty.

Hutch listened, and then glanced down the hall through the open bedroom door, and saw that the foyer had light shining from the kitchen.

He got up and threw on his robe.  While moving down the hall, he heard pages being sharply turned.

He found Starsky sitting at the kitchen table, in his robe, turning the detailed blue pages of the thick Stallion Register.  "What are you doing?"

Without looking up, Starsky hurriedly replied, "The pedigree charts on each of these stallions include the color of the father and mother."  He turned another page, gazed at it a moment, and then turned another.

Hutch was baffled.  "The colors."

"Yes.  I need to know if it's possible for bay and dark bay parents to have a chestnut foal."

Hutch blinked.  "Why?"

Starsky looked up.  "Hutch, I had this dream.  It was so... intense.  So vivid.  There was this chestnut horse -- a filly, I think.  She had a blaze down her face, and one of her front ankles was white."

Hutch blinked again.  "And?"

"I-I don't know," Starsky admitted.  "It was a really short dream.  But she was, like, at a racetrack, I guess.  There were barns in the background.  But the background was like... faded.  Like, black and white.  But she was this bright, red chestnut.  With this white blaze down her face."  Starsky's gaze returned to the Register, and he turned more pages.

"What happened?" Hutch prompted.

Starsky barely glanced up.  "Nothing, I guess.  I mean, she was just standing there.  I guess a groom was holding her lead shank, though I didn't see a groom.  There wasn't anybody around.  But I was feeling this really strong sense of satisfaction.  Like, everything turned out like it was supposed to."  Starsky turned another page.  Then his breath caught.  "Secretariat."

Hutch moved closer, looking at the book.  "What?"

Starsky pointed to the pedigree chart.  "Secretariat's sire, Bold Ruler, was a dark bay, like Darla.  And his dam, Somethingroyal, was a bay, like Storm Bird.  But Secretariat is a chestnut.  So, it is possible for bay horses to have a chestnut offspring."  He looked up at Hutch.  "What was that name we thought of, before we came up with Depth Charge, but we agreed it would be better for a filly?"

Hutch was still puzzled, but he thought back.  "We were trying to cross the names Flying Paster and Deep Waters."

Starsky snapped his fingers.  "Flying Waters.  Wasn't that it?"

"Uh, yeah.  I think so."

Starsky's expression grew distant, as he slowly nodded.  "I think the filly in my dream was named Flying Waters."

"You think?"

Starsky tilted his head, and then admitted, "I can't be totally sure though."

"So, did she like win a big race or something?"

Starsky shook his head.  "I don't think so.  There wasn't any feeling of a race.  But, like I said, I was looking at her and feeling this really strong sense of satisfaction, like everything worked out -- as though, for a while, it had seemed that it wouldn't.  But it did."

Hutch rubbed at his forehead, and moved to the coffee maker, which Starsky hadn't started yet.  "But, buddy, that couldn't have been any kind of premonition, right?  I mean, we were thinking of a name for a foal by Flying Paster.  So, unless we're going to breed Darla back to him, in a future year...."  Hutch glanced at Starsky, while pulling a filter from the cupboard.

Starsky watched him a moment.  "Hutch, storm birds fly.  So, a name like Flying Waters would work just as well for a foal by Storm Bird and Deep Waters.  Especially a filly, since water is more associated with femininity."

Hutch scooped coffee into the filter.  Then he admitted, "Yeah, I guess so."  Once he had switched on the percolator, he leaned back against the counter.  "So, do you really think it was a premonition?"

"I don't know," Starsky relented, while closing the book.  "It was just so intense.  But really short."  He looked at Hutch with a shrug and a rye smile.

Hutch said, "Guess we'll find out some day, huh?"


A few days later, Starsky was sweating in the June afternoon heat, considering the Corvette's badly operating air conditioner, and swearing to himself as he pulled into a parking lot.  He never seemed to have the time to take the car in to get it serviced.   He grabbed a note page on the seat beside him.  3562 Westcliff Street.  This was fucking Westcliff.  There wasn't any 3562 around here -- but, instead, a large manufacturing plant with 3568 East Westcliff on its sign.

The car phone rang.  Starsky picked it.  "Yeah?" he grumbled.

"Where are you?" Hutch demanded.  "We need to leave in a few minutes, to make it up to Ridgecrest in time for the meeting."

Starsky released a heavy sigh.  The McKinney law firm, one of their regular customers, had referred them to another firm in Ridgecrest, about an hour away.  The principles of the referral had decided to take them out for happy hour, to discuss how they could best work together.  They needed to leave by three, to make it to Ridgecrest in time for their appointment.  Starsky tersely said, "I can't find this fucking address for this Mr. Franklin I'm supposed to meet with.  3562 East Westcliff Street."  Franklin was supposed to have information on a witness for a case being handled by yet another law firm client.

There was a long pause on the other end, where papers were heard.  Then Hutch said, with exasperation, "It's Westcliff Street, stupid.  Not East Westcliff Street.  You must be on the wrong fucking side of town."

Starsky flung the notepaper down.  "Goddamnit."

Hutch sputtered, "It's going to take you too long to get back here, especially with that construction on Wesley.  We'll be over an hour late."   He sighed heavily.  "Look, I'll just go.  Otherwise, we'll have to cancel, and I don't want to do that, especially on such short notice.   You go ahead and get to the other side of town to meet with Franklin.  I'll see you later tonight."

Starsky hated the idea of Hutch handling the meeting with new clients by himself.  "I'm sorry, Hutch."

Calmer, Hutch said, "There's nothing we can do about it now.  I'll just tell them something came up that couldn't be helped, so you couldn't make it."

"All right," Starsky said unhappily.  "Tell Lois to call Franklin, and let him know that I'm going to be over an hour late."

"Yeah, all right."  Hutch hung up.

Starsky released a heavy sigh, and then put the Corvette in gear.


The afternoon was fruitless all the way around.  Mr. Franklin had minimal information, which Starsky didn't think would be very useful.  It was especially annoying that he'd spent so much time trying to meet the man in person, when his skimpy information could have been handled over the phone.

Since Hutch was going to be eating with the lawyers, Starsky decided to stop at a favorite deli, to take something home with him.  He parked at the curb, in front of an ice cream shop, and moved toward the deli.  As he passed by the window of the ice cream establishment, he saw a familiar looking head of thick curly hair, sitting at a small table, talking to an unfamiliar woman.

Starsky stopped and furrowed his brow.  Who could Nick be talking to?

Perhaps she was a client.  Nick was helping them with ancestry jobs, which he could mostly handle via phone calls or correspondence from home, but he still did simple jobs for his own business, while referring the others to Starsky and Hutchinson Inc.  Was it possible that the thirtyish brunette-haired woman was a client?

They both were sipping cups of coffee, and then leaned toward each other, as they laughed.

They're being too lovey-dovey for her to be a client, Starsky thought with alarm.  He knew Nick had complained a while back about Lanette not being as attentive to him, once she'd gotten pregnant.  She was probably even less attentive, now that she had little Melinda to fuss over.  Still, the very idea that Nick might have a woman on the side sent Starsky's blood boiling.

In the ice cream parlor, the pair stood, and Starsky quickly moved back from the window, and turned away.  He ducked into the deli shop, and then watched out the window.

The woman was at her car, the driver's door open, and Nick stood close beside her.  They were both smiling.  Nick put his arm around her waist and hugged her, while kissing her on the cheek.  A moment later, he closed her car door, and then stepped back with a wave.  After watching her pull away from the curb, he moved toward his white Ford.

Starsky marched out of the deli.  He distantly noted that Nick hadn't unlocked his door, before getting in.  Hopefully, that meant that passenger side was also left unlocked.  Just as Nick inserted his keys into the ignition, Starsky yanked open the passenger door and slid into the seat.

Nick gasped in surprise.  "What the --"  And then, as Starsky slammed his door shut, "What are you doing here!"

Jaw firm, Starsky nodded up the street.  "Just came to get something from my favorite deli.  What the fuck were you doing with that woman, little brother?"

Nick's eyes widened in surprise.  Then narrowed in anger.  "What the fuck business is it of yours?"

Starsky shook his finger at him.  "You've got a wife and a little baby at home.  How dare you!"

Nick sputtered, "What do you mean?"

"Who is she, Nick?"

Exasperated, Nick replied, "She somebody I used to work with, when I had the airline job, in the complaint office.  We ran into each other a week or so back, and thought we'd get a coffee together.  So, we did.  What's the big deal?"

Starsky shook his head.  "You were acting way more cozy than former co-workers catching up with each other."

Voice raised, Nick said, "It's not like we're sleeping together!"

"Not yet."

Nick's mouth fell open.

Starsky pressed, "You start acting like that with someone, it's opening the door for something else to happen.  Why risk it, Nick?  Why risk ruining your family?  Our family?"

Nick's head jerked and he looked out the windshield a moment.  Then, voice low and seething, he turned toward Starsky and said, "Oh, you're a fine one to talk."

Starsky blinked.  "What are you talking about?"

"I have coffee with a woman, and I'm risking ruining our family?  While you consider yourself married to another man?"

Starsky blinked again, his own mouth falling open.

Nick added, "And you even act like there's something normal about that." 

Starsky felt a sense of shock and betrayal setting in.

"When Melinda gets older, goes to school," Nick continued, "and she gets teased by the other kids, because she innocently mentions that her two uncles are married to each other... just how the hell am I ever supposed to explain that to her?"

Starsky found himself breathing hard, as the realization of his brother's feelings sunk in.  He stammered, "I-I thought you'd accepted Hutch and I."

Nick waved a hand.  "I've got no problem with Hutch.  I think he's a great guy.  But I just can't understand -- "  He rubbed at the bridge of his nose.  Then he lowered his hand and demanded, "Why can't you guys be great pals, and get married to women, like normal people, and have kids, so that Melinda can have cousins to play with?"  His teeth grit, as his voice raised once again.  "Why can't you just be normal?  So, then we could all have a normal family?"

Starsky realized he couldn't deal with this, and it gave him an excuse to get back to the original subject.  Firmly, he said, "We can argue all that another day, Nick.  But, right now, I'm telling you that you don't want to be playing with fire.  Why risk it?"

Nick gazed at the steering wheel, and then released a heavy breath.  Calmly, he said, "It was just coffee.  And then we started talking, catching each other up... and she was gazing at me, showing interest in everything I was saying."  He looked over at Starsky.  "Lan can't focus on me for more than fifteen seconds.  All she thinks about is Melinda.  I mean, I adore Melinda, too -- would give my life for her -- but it feels pretty damn good to have someone showing an interest in me."

Starsky relented, "Look, I can't say I know what you're going through.  But I do know that the answer to being ignored, isn't to let yourself get lovey-dovey with someone else.  It's inevitable that if you do, it's going to lead to a bedroom somewhere.   Surely, you don't want that."  Nick appeared thoughtful, so Starsky pressed, "With all the cheating spouse cases we've both dealt with, surely you can't think there won't be any harm done to go down that road.  Please don't see that woman again."

Nick sighed and sat quietly for a long moment.  Then he said, in an apologetic tone, "I know you and Hutch can't help how you feel about each other.  It's just that no one in Melinda's life is under thirty-five.  It would just be nice to know that she could grow up with kids her own age."

Starsky felt a tad bit better, now that his brother didn't seem so accusatory.  "Come on, Nick, just because there aren't any young children around her now, won't mean there won't be as she grows up.  She'll eventually start school and making friends.  What's to say that some other couple won't move into your condo complex, who have a young baby?  You don't know what's going to happen."


Starsky firmed his voice.  "But I do know that forming relations with the opposite sex -- no matter how innocent it seems on the surface -- isn't the way to solve being ignored.  You've got to tell Lan how you feel."

Nick made a small shrug motion.  "Sometimes, I get the feeling that she'd prefer that I see other women.  Then, she doesn't feel responsible for having to be attentive to me."

Starsky scoffed, "No way, can she be feeling like that."

Nick looked over at him.  "You and I have discussed before about how her parents spent their whole marriage cheating on each other.  Maybe Lan doesn't expect anything else.  I sometimes wonder if she's deliberately pushing me in that direction."

Starsky felt alarmed.  "Even if that's true, don't play into it.  Don't let that be your excuse for risking everything.  Show her that you can be a better man than her expectations." 

Nick fell silent, and Starsky knew there was nothing to gain by belaboring the subject.  "See you around," he muttered, and then left the car.


Hutch was dead tired, and was relieved to pull into the garage. 

He didn't even know if the evening's socializing had been fruitful.  He couldn't tell if this trio of lawyers in Ridgecrest intended to use their services, since they'd never come out and said such.  What Hutch did know was that they liked to drink, and that since he didn't drink near as much as when he was younger, he couldn't hold his liquor like he used to.  Therefore, he'd hung around with the partners longer than he'd wanted, in the name of nursing his drinks slowly, and snacking on plenty of appetizers, so he could safely drive home.  Drunk driving laws had gotten tougher this year, and the last thing he would have needed was to be pulled over and fail a Breathalyzer.

It was going on eleven, and he entered the darkened house, save for the light over the stove.  He began unbuttoning his shirt, as he moved down the hall to the bedroom. 

"Hey," he greeted softly, as he paused beside the bed he could barely see, and continued to undress.

"You're finally home," Starsky muttered.

"Yeah, sorry.  Those guys really like to pack away the booze."

There was a soft snort.

Hutch pushed his pants and underwear down his legs, and then stepped out of them.  He wasn't interested in freshening up before bed, especially since he'd used the men's room when stopping for gas.  Naked, he crawled under the covers with a grateful sigh.  "I couldn't even tell if they were impressed with me or not.  Guess we'll have to see if they ever send us any business."


It was when Hutch slid over to Starsky that he realized that an aura of discontent surrounded him.  "What's wrong?"

There was an audible swallow.  Then the covers were pushed aside, and Starsky sat naked on the edge of the bed, his back to Hutch.

Hutch waited, wondering if Starsky was upset with him for going to Ridgecrest alone.

In a low voice, Starsky said, "I happened to see Nick in an ice cream shop.  He was with another woman."

Oh, no.

"They were being affectionate toward each other.  He kissed her on the cheek when they left.  Sort of had his arm around her.  After she drove off, I confronted him."

Hutch remained silent.

"He said it was all innocent.  I lit into him about playing with fire."  There was another thick swallow.

Quietly, Hutch asked, "Do you think you got through to him?"

"Don't know."  Starsky's voice softened even more.  "But he had a few words to say to me."

Hutch sat up in the bed.  "What do you mean?"

Starsky drew a long breath, and then released it.  "Hutch, all this time I've been writing the book, I've been thinking that it would explain about us to people."

That seemed to be off the subject.  "Yeah?"

"I realize, now, how naive that is.  To think that the book is going to change anyone's mind about relationships like ours."

Worriedly, Hutch asked, "What's brought this on?"

Starsky's voice was unsteady.  "Nick -- he lashed out at me, when I yelled at him about ruining our family.  He sort of acted like I'd already ruined it.  By being in a relationship with you.  Not as anything against you.  But he seemed angry that we weren't 'normal', and he was wondering how he was going to explain to Melinda when she's older...."

Hutch felt his heart ache.  "Ah, buddy."  He very much wanted to hold Starsky.  "Come back to bed."  Then, "Please?"

He was relieved to feel the mattress shift, and then Starsky was getting beneath the covers.  Hutch circled his arms around him, and pulled him close, so that Starsky's head rested on his shoulder.  "Do you think that, maybe, since he was embarrassed about being caught, that he was just trying to find a way to attack you?"

"Yeah.  But words like that don't just come out of nowhere.  It's like it was something buried inside him.  And now that he's a father...."  Muttering, Starsky added, "I think he had a point."

Hutch quickly said, "Buddy, there's lots of things that kids are told they shouldn't talk about with other kids.  When Melinda is old enough, it'll just have to be explained to her that other people won't be able to understand about her uncles."

After a long silence, Starsky said, "We enjoy our lives together so much, that it's easy for us to forget how our relationship affects other people."

That statement brought forth a memory that made Hutch's stomach churn.  In a heavy voice, he said, "I remember when you got injured a few months back, and you had that really rough first day.  One of the things you said to me was wondering if, when we get our therapeutic riding center, what if nobody comes because we're fags."  That last word was particularly bothersome to say out loud.

Starsky swallowed thickly.

Hutch confessed, "What bothered me most about that, was that I'd never known you'd had that concern."

"I try not to think about it," Starsky said with discomfort, "but you know it's true.  Sometimes, people just can't deal with a situation like ours.  We've been talking, for a few years now, about how the book will explain everything, but," his voice became small, "I don't think it will.  It's not going to turn us from abnormal into normal, in other people's eyes."

"Maybe.  But we can't stop living our lives because of it.  We could have made the same argument about people using our P.I. services.  Why would somebody choose us, when they can go down the street to another firm with a 'normal' owner?  Yet, look how successful we've been.  When clients have reason to ask about our relationship, they're almost never bothered by it.  I guess because, usually, by then, they've already decided they like us.  We've got to take the same approach with the therapy riding center.  We've got to focus on what we can offer kids who have underprivileged circumstances, and let the other chips fall where they may."

Starsky rubbed his cheek against Hutch's shoulder.  "Yeah."

"We can't fight prejudice, buddy.  All we can do is lead by example.  Do what we can do, and not fight against those things that we can't change."  His voice brightened as he hugged Starsky closer.  "Your book may not change the thinking of some people that we'd like it to change, but as the saying goes, if it makes a difference for just one person, in a positive way, then it was worthwhile."

Starsky rested his hand on Hutch's stomach.  "I'm so glad we talk to each other, Hutch.  It means so much."

Hutch lightened his voice.  "Yeah.  I guess if we were normal, then we wouldn't, huh?  So, what's so great about being normal?"

Starsky's snort held humor.  Then, he said, with wonder, "We've always listened to each other.  Maybe we shut down with each other every once in a while, but it never lasts very long.  Even when we were cops, we couldn't stay mad at each other for more than a day, if that."

Hutch decided, "It's hard to be mad at someone when you understand them.  When you talk things out, it's a lot easier to understand them."

"Yeah."  More troubled, Starsky said, "That's what so frustrating about Nick.  He's been complaining about Lanette ignoring him, ever since she got pregnant.  I keep telling him that he's got to tell her how he feels, but he's never indicated that he's tried.  He even said that he thinks Lannie is actually wanting him to see other women.  You know, your parents were always so unfaithful, like that's what seems normal to her."

Hutch muttered, "How noble of him to give himself that excuse."

"I know.  That's what I told him.  I told him that even if Lannie has been hinting at something like that, because of her background, that doesn't mean he's doing a good thing by acting on it."  Starsky sighed heavily.  "I just wish those two would talk to each other.  Melinda deserves to grow up in a home where her parents love each other and our attentive to each other.  Otherwise, she'll grow up with the same twisted ideas about what makes a good relationship."

"I don't question that Nick and Lannie love other.  It's just that Nick only had your mother, and Lan had Mom and Dad's contorted view of a good relationship.  So, it's not like either of them have a good guidebook."

Starsky said, "They have us -- if they could get past thinking of us being something odd."

Hutch rolled toward Starsky.  "Well, if we're odd, I for one am not enamored of the idea of losing that label."  He lowered his mouth.  He kissed Starsky slowly, lovingly... for a long time.  He eventually decided that the booze hadn't completely wiped him out.

After Hutch pulled back, Starsky said mildly, "You taste like liquor."

"Had more than I've had in a while.  That's why I was so late.  Didn't think I'd pass a Breathalyzer."

"I'm glad you were smart about it, even though I've felt lonely all night."

Hutch whispered, "What me to help you forget about being lonely?"

Starsky's arms circled around Hutch's shoulders.  "Very much so."

Hutch lowered his head once more.


Starsky was in his office a few days later when his phone buzzed. "David, it's Captain Dobey on one.  He only wanted me to put you through if Ken wasn't here."

Starsky furrowed his brow.  He and Hutch hadn't talked to Dobey in months.  Hutch was out seeing a client, and he picked up the phone.  "Cap'n, hello."

"Hi, Starsky."  Dobey's voice was subdued.  "You're alone?"

Puzzled, Starsky replied, "Uh, yeah.  Hutch isn't here."

"Is his mother named Lorraine Hutchinson?"

"Yeah."  Starsky's heart beat faster.  "What's going on?"

Dobey drew a breath.  "Well, I remembered that you and Hutch asked me to find out what I could about that old movie actor, Dexter Riley."

Starsky's trepidation increased.  "Yeah?"

"I didn't know why you were asking, of course.  Yesterday, I just happened to be down in the department with the patrol cops.  I overhead one of them saying something about 'some old movie actor.'  I asked the sergeant what they were talking about, and he showed me the paperwork.  Someone called from a senior citizen community last week, when they heard angry noises coming from the unit next door.  They called the cops.  It was written up as a domestic dispute, though both the male, Dexter Riley, and the female, Lorraine Hutchinson, said that nothing had gone on, other than a minor argument, and they were sorry that their voices had gotten so loud.  So, nothing came of it."

When Dobey stopped talking, Starsky said softly, "Oh, no."

"Yeah.  I wasn't sure that I knew Hutch's mother's name, but I had a feeling it was related, since you two had asked me to look into Dexter Riley.  I didn't know she was out here."

Starsky said, "Yeah, she moved out here after the first of the year, since Hutch's sister was having a baby, and there really wasn't any immediate family left in Minnesota."  He sighed.  "Man, I don't like the sound of this.  Hutch and I don't like Dexter.  But she's all enamored of the fact that he's a movie star, and he can be very flattering.  You know, for an elderly widow like her...."

Dobey said, "Hopefully, it isn't that serious, and it was really nothing."

"I hope so, too."  Yet, with Dexter's history of many disturbances involving his late wife, Starsky knew that there was, unfortunately, likely more to it that neither Dexter nor Lorraine was willing to admit to.

Apologetically, Dobey said, "I thought I should run it by you first."

"Yeah, appreciate it.  I'll let Hutch know, and we'll do what we can, from this end, to find out what we can."

"If I hear anything more, I'll let you know."

"Thanks, Cap'n."


Starsky didn't see Hutch the remainder of the day, with them each having their own appointments.  He wasn't looking forward to telling Hutch what Dobey had said, but he had to.  He kept wondering how they should deal with it.  Lorraine had made it clear that she didn't appreciate her son butting into her social life.  But now, it was looking like things could become dangerous for Lorraine, if she kept seeing Dexter.  Still, Starsky didn't know how he or Hutch could dissuade her from dating the once famous movie star.

Starsky got home that evening, an hour before Hutch did.  He hadn't bothered trying to make dinner, since he'd been too distracted with trying to figure out what he and Hutch should do.  Unfortunately, he hadn't reached any helpful conclusions by the time he heard Hutch's car pull into the garage.

Hutch entered the house with a tired but pleasant smile.  "Hey."

Starsky barely managed to make his mouth corner twitch in greeting.  He reached for Hutch's hand.  "We need to talk about something, baby."

"What?" Hutch asked worriedly.

Starsky led him toward the living room.  "Come sit down, so I can tell you something.  Dobey called this morning."

"Dobey?" Hutch said, as they sat on the sofa.

"Yeah."  Starsky told him what Dobey had said.

Hutch's hand curled into a fist.  "If he's dared hurt her...."

Starsky sighed.  "Hutch, it may have just been a loud argument."

"You don't believe that, and neither do I."

"No, but I doubt he's gotten physical.  There wasn't any indication of that, with all those records there was of the cops being called out to Dexter's house, when he lived with his wife."

Hutch shook his head, jaw firm.  "It could just be a matter of time.  And even if it isn't getting physical, he can't be treating her like that."

"I just don't know what to do about it.  How to convince her to stop seeing him."

"I'd like to get him alone and give him a piece of my mind."

"I've thought about that," Starsky admitted.  "Somehow, I doubt if we threaten him in any way, that'll it'll make any kind of dent.  If anything, it might embolden him to get all the closer to her.  I mean, it's not like we can threaten to ruin his career, since he doesn't really get work anymore, anyway.  And if drinking is causing his behavior, it'll give him a false sense of courage to get closer to her, even if just to spite us."

Hutch was thoughtful a long moment.  "I wonder if we can get Nick and Lannie to side with us, and maybe if we confront Mom together, and point out that he's not a good potential step grandparent for Melinda."

Starsky nodded.  "It could be worth a try to talk to Nick and Lanette.  I know Nick doesn't particularly like Dexter."

Hutch said, "We'll have to make sure we can talk to them when Mom isn't around.  I'll try to stop by there tomorrow.  Maybe offer to take Lan out to lunch, along with Nick, to talk about something concerning work, while Mom watches Melinda.  And then you can join us."

"Yeah."  Starsky felt better, now that they had a plan. 


It was a couple of days before they had it arranged for Lorraine to babysit Melinda, while Starsky, Hutch, and Nick met with Lannie in the office of one of her shops.  After Starsky and Hutch had explained their concerns about Dexter Riley, Lanette said, "I don't see how we can tell Mom who she can and can't see."

Starsky asked, "But do you at least agree that it's not a good situation for her?"

"We can't know that," she replied.  "We're making a lot of assumptions.  Couples have loud arguments lots of times."

Quietly, Hutch said, "Usually not loud enough to get the police involved.  Especially not in a senior community where the residents are often hard of hearing."

Nick said to Lanette, "Maybe you can talk to your mother one-on-one.  Maybe she'd listen to you."

"I doubt it.  Especially if she knows my information is coming from you."  She nodded at Starsky and Hutch.  "She's never talked to me about Dexter.  Just like she never talked to us about anything meaningful concerning Dad, when we were little.  She pretty much keeps to herself, when it comes to the important stuff."

Nick shifted with discomfort.  "I'm with them, Lan.  If she keeps seeing Dexter, and they eventually get married or something, I don't exactly like the idea of him being a step grandfather to Melinda."

"Well, it's not like he pays much attention to Melinda, anyway.  If that were to happen -- and it seems rather far-fetched, at this point -- I don't think he'd particularly care about being around her."

"Yeah, but if your Mom keeps babysitting her, he'll be around her."

Starsky asked, "Do you have any idea how serious things might have gotten between her and Riley?"

Lanette shrugged.  "I don't think she sees anyone else.  But it's not like they see each other all the time, considering how much time Mom spends with Melinda."

Hutch suggested, "Maybe you can sort of gently lead Mom into talking to you about Dexter.  Maybe you can say that David and I said we heard about the police report, and we're worried, and you can say that you doubt it's all that serious.  Then, you know, maybe Mom will say something to you about him.  About how often they argue, or how serious they are, or something like that.  And that might be an opening for you to say that you hope she'll tell you, if she ever gets worried for her safety around him."

Nick slid his arm around Lanette's shoulders.  "Yeah, that might be the best way to approach it.  Then your Mom won't feel ganged up on, and if she has started to become worried about Riley's behavior, maybe she'll feel she can talk to you about it."

Lanette sighed.  "I doubt she'll tell me much, but I can try.  I'll give it a few days though.  Otherwise, she'll get defensive if she knows we all met to talk about her."

Hutch nodded with a satisfied sigh.  "Good.  At least, at that point, we'll have an idea of where things stand."


On Saturday, Hutch came home around noon, with a bag of groceries in each hand.

Starsky was just hanging up the phone, a guilty look on his face

"What's wrong?" Hutch demanded, as he placed the sacks on the counter.

Starsky's gaze was lowered.  "That was the farm in Kentucky," he muttered.  Then he looked up.  "Darla's come back into heat."

Hutch felt like his stomach had been punched.  "Oh, no."  Twenty thousand dollars gone.

"Yeah," Starsky said with a heavy sigh.

"So, today's -- what?  The 15th?  So, they aren't breeding anymore?"

Starsky shifted.  "Well, they said the June 15th deadline is just a guideline they shoot for, to shut down breeding for the season.  They'll go ahead and breed her this cycle.  They said the good news is that, because they're pretty much done and the stallions aren't very busy, they'll probably be able to breed Darla every day for the few days she's in heat, and maybe even do a double one or two days."

Hutch was puzzled about Starsky's glum expression.  "Well, that's good then, right?"

"Yeah."  Starsky's gaze was lowered again.  "It's just that, he also said, in his experience, when a mare hasn't taken the first three heat cycles, then she's unlikely to conceive the fourth time around.  But they'll try."

"Oh."  Hutch tried to balance out Starsky's depression.  "Maybe the fourth time will be the charm then, huh?"

Starsky barely managed a grunt, no doubt thinking they'd tried to be encouraging to each other last month with the assurance that the third time would be the charm.  Then he said, "I told them that, when they're finished breeding her, to plan on shipping her and her foal back here."  He shrugged,  "I mean, the farm here can check her after six weeks, just as easily as they can there."

"Yeah."  Hutch smiled.  "It'll be good to have her back here, huh?  I bet Danny's grown up quite a bit since we last saw him."  That was the nickname for Darla's foal.

"Yeah."  Starsky looked up.  "Whatever happens, I don't want to ship her away like this again.  We took our shot, huh?"

Hutch smiled and slipped his arm around Starsky, hugging him.  "Yeah, we did.  And who knows, it still might work out okay."

Starsky leaned against him.  He muttered apologetically, "I get wild ideas sometimes, don't I?"

"Well, your wild ideas helps keep life fun."

Starsky circled his arms around Hutch.  "I'm glad you're not mad."

"Hey, when I said I was on board, I meant it.  We tried, buddy.  And, you know, there's still a chance.  After all, you had that dream, didn't you?  Where everything worked out?"

Starsky snorted.  "I'm not sure that was about this particular situation."

"Well, we'll just have to see what happens."

Starsky turned back to the phone.  "I'm going to call the farm here and let them know Darla and Danny will probably be back in a week or so."


A few days later, Hutch came home in the evening, after having stopped for a haircut after leaving work.  Since he and Starsky had had a late lunch with a client, he wasn't surprised that Starsky had bypassed the thought of dinner, and nothing was waiting for him in the kitchen.

"Starsk?" he called, moving toward the living room.

"In here," came a distant voice.

Hutch entered the living room, to the sound of a train circling the track.  He went to the far side of the room, stepped over the tracks, and moved through the open door that led to the greenhouse.

Starsky was sitting Indian style on a throw rug, at the foot of a padded wooden bench in the center of the room, and facing the train tracks.  He was watching the train go around the outer edges of the room, before disappearing into the living room.

Hutch went to the bench, and then leaned down to squeeze Starsky's shoulder.  "You can sit like that, huh?"  While Starsky had been walking normally for at least a month, his groin injury still bothered him at times, in certain positions.  As such, some things were now off limits in their bedroom.

Starsky touched his hand to an inner thigh.  "I can still feel it, but I wouldn't say that it hurts.  Doc said I might always feel it, a little bit."

As Hutch sat on the bench, he said with humor, "At least, you didn't get fat."  That had been a concern of Starsky's, since he could barely walk after suffering the severely pulled groin muscle.  He ended up compensating by exercising his upper body as much as possible.  Therefore, he now was very muscular on top, and was in the process of trying tone his muscles below his waist. 

Hutch asked, "What did Kyeesha say?"  Starsky had planned on calling her for an update, since she'd been essentially living in the Midwest, while tracing the family history of a client.

Starsky carefully turned on his rear, so that he was facing Hutch.  "She thinks she had a major breakthrough with finding something on a distant uncle.  She has to do some double-checking to be sure, though."

Hutch stretched an arm along the back of the bench.  "She still sound like she's enjoying it?"

"Yeah," Starsky replied emphatically.  "I said that I assumed the travel and such was making it really hard for her to have a social life.  She said she wasn't trying to have a social life, because she's so involved in the work.  She likes knowing that she's spending her days doing something that matters to the client."  He shrugged.  "She's always been a real independent type."

"Yeah," Hutch said with a sigh.  "I just hope this job isn't to her detriment.  You know?"

"Yeah."  Starsky brightened.  "Oh, hey.  As soon as I hung up with her, your cousin Patricia called.  Said Julie's been bugging her about coming out this way to see Darla's foal.  Plus, they'd like to see Melinda.   She thought they might come out for a few days at the beginning of August.  I told them that would be great."

"Oh, good," Hutch said.  "'That'll be good that she gets to see Danny before he's weaned in September."

Starsky carefully got to his knees, and Hutch help him rise further, so that he could sit beside him on the bench.  "Yeah.  Wonder if we'll know if Darla might have gotten pregnant, by then."

"Maybe," Hutch said thoughtfully.  "It would be 45 days, so that should be about right."

"Oh, and, she wondered if we'd invite Rosie Dobey to join us, when they're here.  I told her I'd call Dobey tomorrow, and see if Rosie is interested."

"Great.  I'm glad they offered to invite her.  I wonder if Edith, or even Dobey, might be interested in joining us for a day or two, as well."

They heard a phone ring.

Hutch furrowed his brow, as they both rose.  "That sounds like the office phone."   They rarely got calls on that line.

He reached the office first and grabbed the phone.  "Hello?"

"Hi, Kenny," Lanette said.  "I called this number, because Nick says it has a speaker phone.  I talked to Mom."

"Hang on."  Hutch said to Starsky, "It's Lannie," as he punched a button and hung up the receiver.  Then he said toward the phone, "David's here, and we've got you on speaker."

"Oh, okay," she said.

In the background, Nick said, "You guys need to hear this."

"What's up?" Starsky asked.

Lanette sighed.  "Well, I talked to Mom a little while ago, about Dexter.  I was straightforward and told her that you guys had access to information at the police station, and you knew that concerned neighbors had called about a loud argument she and Dexter had.  I asked her what was going on."

"Yeah?" Starsky prompted.

"Well, first she started going off on how you, Kenny, butt too much into her life.  I pointed out to her that an argument loud enough to disturb the neighbors was something that any caring relative would be concerned about.  That made her stop and pause.  Then I tried to press her about her relationship with Dexter, and if she was really sure that he was a man that she wanted to be serious with.  She started in with how he was a movie star and all that, and I asked her what difference that made, if he didn't treat her well.  She said he did treat her well, but I wasn't buying it, and I asked her outright if he had a drinking problem.  She then started in about how you, Kenny, must have been the one that told me that, and you and David have it in for Dexter -- David didn't even include him in your book chapter about working on some movie -- and -- "

While Hutch released a heavy sigh, Lanette went on, "And then I told her that I hoped she wasn't going to get more serious about him, because I wasn't comfortable with the idea of him being a future step grandfather to Melinda, if he gets loud and argumentative, and drinks too much."

While Lanette drew a long breath, Starsky asked, "What did she say to that?"

More hesitant, Lanette replied, "She said that she finally had somebody important in her life, and she didn't understand why her family couldn't accept Dexter.  And I asked her if she really wanted to make Dexter more important than her granddaughter.  And then she looked at me in shock and asked, 'Are you going to make me choose?  How dare you.'  And then she said, 'I didn't move out here to have my family turn on me.'  Then she stomped off and left."

Hutch rubbed at his forehead.  "Oh, boy."

Starsky repeated, "Somebody important in her life?"

"Yes.  You know, a movie star."

Hutch felt a hand squeeze his shoulder, while Starsky asked, "Are you okay, Lanette?"  There was an awkward pause, and Starsky clarified, "I mean, has your mother ever walked out on you like this before?"

"Sort of, I guess.  When I was a teenager and she didn't like what I was doing."

Nick's voice came closer.  "But this is the first time Lorraine has acted like Lan hurt her."

Hutch released a heavy breath.  "I guess we really didn't accomplish much, did we?"

Nick apparently took the phone from Lanette, for his voice was louder.  "Maybe.  Maybe Lorraine will think about it.  Once she gets past being mad, maybe she'll consider what Lan said."

Lanette's distant voice said, "Being reflective isn't Mom's style."

Hutch soothed, "You tried.  It's the best we can do for now, I guess.  We'll have to give Mom some space and see if anything changes."

"I wouldn't count on it," Lanette said.

In the background, there was the sound of Melinda crying.

The call ended a few moments later, and when Hutch cut off the speaker, he looked at Starsky.  "Damn."


The following week, Starsky came out of his office with a piece of paper in hand.  He turned to the copy machine, placed the paper on the glass, and lowered the lid.  He pushed the big green button, and there was the noise of the copy machine processing a copy, and then it abruptly stopped.  Starsky turned to Lois, who was at her desk.  "Dammit!  How come this thing never works?"

She rose.  "It jammed again?"

Starsky stepped back, at a loss as to what to do about a paper jam.  While watching Lois open the machine, he said, "We need to get a new one."

From his open office door, Hutch called, "Not while we still have another year to pay on the lease.  Them coming out to fix it is part of the lease contract."

Starsky shot back, "What good does it do for them to keep coming out, when it's never fixed?"

Lois pulled a paper from inside the machine, and then slammed the top of the machine down.  "Let's try it again."  She opened the lid to make sure Starsky's paper was square on the glass, and then lowered it.  She pushed the green button.

The machine again stopped in mid-copy.

Starsky threw up his hands.  "This is impossible!  We need a new copy machine, end of story."

She removed Starsky's paper from the glass.  "I'll take this down to Dr. Patterson's office to copy it, along with some others I have.  The last guy that was out said that this isn't a big enough machine to do the number of copies we do.  That's why it keeps having problems."

From inside his office, Hutch said, "It was the machine they recommended to us, based on asking us all sorts of questions."

Starsky huffed, "Whatever anybody said, it's obvious that this machine sucks, and we need a new one."  More loudly, to make sure Hutch heard, he asked, "Why would we keep paying on something that doesn't ever work?"

"Why don't I call them," Lois said, "and see if they'll re-do the lease with a better machine."  While Starsky nodded, she turned to face Hutch's office.  "Is that all right with you, Ken?"

"Yeah, go ahead," Hutch muttered.

Jaw firm, Starsky said, "Just make sure they know that we're pissed off, and that they'd better give us a damn good deal on a new one."  He turned on his heal and went back to his office.


The broodmare manager, Joe, patted Darla's neck, where she stood in the aisle of the broodmare barn, as he held the lead shank.  "Yeah, she doesn't seem too worse for the wear."  He nodded at Danny.  "And he returned with even better manners, so they obviously took good care of him."

Danny had grown more than Starsky and Hutch expected, while in Kentucky.  He had a halter on, but no lead shank, since he wasn't expect to move far from his mother.

"Yeah?" Starsky said.

Joe handed Darla's lead shank to Hutch, and then reached for Danny's halter.

Hutch noted, "They should have gotten good care, considering how high all board and vet bills were.  Everything is more expensive out there."

"I'm sure," Joe said, holding Danny's halter with one hand, while shifting Danny's weight with the other.  "A lot of people in the racing industry have deep pockets in Kentucky."  Joe stroked Danny's neck as he stood squarely on all four legs.  "See, he'll stand real good now.  And he leads without any problem."

Starsky reached to stroke Danny's neck, and Danny didn't shy away.  "Yeah, he's really different."  His foal coat had a different texture of softness than Darla's.

Joe nodded.  "They're real pros out there.  They shipped back all her breeding records with her."

Hutch asked, "So when will we know if she's in foal?"

"We've got a couple of other mares here that were still being bred in mid June.  I figure if we have the vet out the first week in August, he'll be able to ultrasound them all at once."

"Ah, maybe we can coordinate, then.  We'll have some relatives visiting, including a couple of horse crazy teenagers.  Maybe they can be here when the ultrasound is done."

Starsky patted Danny's head, and then stepped away.  "I bet Julie and Rosie would really love to be here for that."  In the distance, he heard a frantic whinny, that had been going on since they drove up.

"That's fine," Joe said.  "Just make sure you call me at the end of this month, so I can schedule the vet when you'll be able to make it out.  Otherwise, I might forget that you're coming."

"We can do that," Hutch said.  He glanced around, as more whinnying was heard.

Starsky gazed at Danny, wondering what the future would bring.  "Man, I certainly hope that he's going to be a real runner."

Joe gave Danny a final pat, and then released his halter.  Danny celebrated with a partial buck, as he moved to his mother's udder.  "It's impossible to tell at this age," Joe said.  They all watched as Darla turned her head to nuzzle Danny.  "They can mature at different ages, so even after they go into training, you aren't always sure of what you've got.  Sometimes the ones that seem behind the group suddenly have a growth spurt, either mental or physical, and they show some talent, and others that look like they're going to be something, end up going backwards, and are just never able to show something in an actual race."

Hutch said, "I guess you don't know until you know."

"That pretty much covers it.  But at least he's on the right track, with having been born with straight legs and healthy."  Joe nodded toward the side of the barn.  "That mare you hear out there is calling for her foal.  He died this morning."

Starsky gasped.  "Really?"

"Oh, God," Hutch said sorrowfully.

"Yeah, he got sick a few days ago," Joe said.  "When the little ones start to go downhill, they can go really fast.  So, we removed his body from her stall, and then turned her out to a paddock.  She's still wondering what happened to him."

"Horses grieve?" Starsky asked, intrigued.

"They sure do.  Mares are as protective of their foals as any mammal, if not more so."

Worriedly, Starsky asked, "So, Darla's going to whinnying like that, when Danny is weaned?"

"Probably not to that extent," Joe replied with a smile.  "By the time we wean them in September, the mares are usually getting pretty tired of their foals wanting to nurse from them.  Since she's a first time mother, Darla might react a little more badly than the others, when her foal is taken away from her, but she'll be in the pasture with all the other mares that have also had their foals weaned, so the older, experienced ones should have a calming affect on her.  Weaning is normally more traumatic for the foals, but they all already know each other, so, when they get turned out in a big pasture a couple of miles away, they usually take comfort from each other."

They all fell silent, and Hutch gave Darla a final pat.  "I'm sure you've got work to do." He handed her lead shank over to Joe.  "Thanks for spending some time with us."

"Sure thing."

Starsky said, "We'll be in touch about the ultrasound appointment."  He and Hutch moved out of the barn.

They stopped to watch the grieving mare, who trotted rapidly back and forth along the paddock fence, whinnying loudly.

"Man," Starsky said, "'that's so sad.  Her owners must be devastated, too.  Waiting all that time for a foal, and to then have it die when it's really young."

"Yeah," Hutch said.  "I guess that would be worse than your mare not getting pregnant at all."


Hutch was alone in the office one day, around lunch hour, when he heard the outer suite door open.  He got up from his desk and came to his office doorway.

A vaguely familiar petite young woman, with a form fitting short dress, walked in with papers in her hand.  She appeared perplexed at the lack of personnel, and then approached the copy machine.

"Can I help you?" Hutch asked with a smile.

She looked up.  "Oh, hi.  I'm from Dr. Patterson's office, and our copy machine is broke down, so I hope you don't mind if I use yours."  Without waiting for an answer, she opened the lid of the different copier than had been there before.

"Certainly," Hutch said, stepping closer.  "After all, your office has accommodated us numerous times."

She studied the copier.  "Is this new?"

"Yes.  It's a loaner.  Lois picked out a new one, but it's on backorder for a few weeks.  So, they gave us this in the meantime.  It still jams sometimes, though." 

She put a sheet of paper on the glass, and then glanced at him.  "As I see it, copy machines are both the great wonder and the great aggravation of the modern office."  She pushed the large green button, and the machine made appropriate noises, and then a copy spewed out at the opposite end.  She picked it up and looked at it.  "Nice and clear."

Hutch thought she was too focused on the copy machine.  "I'm Ken, by the way."

She glanced up with a quick smile.  "I'm Valerie."  She placed the next paper on the glass.  "I read somewhere that fifty percent of all copies go into the trash.  Because they're too light or too dark, or the wrong side of the paper got copied."

Hutch noticed that she wasn't wearing a ring.  "How interesting.  And they say that forests are being depleted to make enough paper for society."

She kept to her task.  "Some places are trying to recycle paper.  We have a box for recycling, next to our copy machine.  Not that we can get most of the employees to use it."

She was refusing to show an interest in anything other than making her copies.  Well aware that he was tapping into an old habit, Hutch decided to try all the harder.  He took a step closer, so that he was almost next to her.  "Still, it's a noble intent -- wanting to recycle.  So, how long have you worked at Dr. Patterson's office?"

She shrugged, as she pushed the Copy button again.  "I guess it's going on a year.  Hard to believe.  Seems like I just started yesterday."

Pointedly, Hutch said, "It must be a busy place, to keep you so intent on making copies." 

Just as Hutch wondered why he'd said that, he realized his words were successful, for she looked up.  She had bright green, pretty eyes.

She seemed less self-assured, when she replied, "We do stay busy."  She quickly replaced one paper on the glass with another. 

He wondered if he should shave his mustache, so he would look younger.  Perhaps if he appeared dorky, then she might find him charming.  "Well," he said, leaning against the edge of the copier, "it's always good to stay busy.  At work, anyway."

She glanced around.  "Everyone must be at lunch, huh?"  She placed her final paper on the glass.  "Excuse me."

Hutch realized his arm was stopping her from lowering the machine's cover.  "Oh.  Sorry."  He quickly straightened.  "Uh, yes, the rest of the office is out for a while.  Lois had some errands to do, and the others are out, working hard."  He realized his cheerfulness was overblown.

She looked squarely at him.  And smiled.

Just as he was trying to decipher the smile -- if it was indulgent, or friendly, or perhaps even trying to tell him something -- the office door opened.  Starsky entered with a white sack that smelled of fresh sandwiches.  He stopped and gazed at them.

Hutch and Valerie gazed back.

"Am I interrupting something?" Starsky asked, his voice carefully level.

"Not hardly," Valerie replied, gathering up her copies from the end of the machine.  Then, toward Hutch, "Thanks for letting me use your copier."

"Any time," Hutch called to her retreating figure.

She nodded at Starsky, and then left.

Starsky moved to Hutch's office.  "What was that about?"

"Nothing," Hutch replied, following.  "She was just using the copy machine.  She's from Dr. Patterson's office.  Their copy machine is out."

Starsky sat down in a chair at the round conference table, and began removing the wrapped food from the sack.  "What's her name?"


Starsky gave Hutch a scolding look. 

"What?" Hutch demanded, while unwrapping the sandwich that Starsky pushed toward him.  "Can't I ask her name? I was just being friendly."

"She's a knockout," Starsky said, with admiration.

"Yes.  I noticed."

"You try to come onto her?"

Hutch shrugged.  "What can I say?  Old habits die hard, when a looker like her walks into the room."  He bit into his tuna sandwich.  He chewed a moment, and then, after swallowing, said, "I think I'm going to shave my mustache."

"Why?"  Starsky was unwrapping his own sandwich.

"Just feel like it.  I'm getting old enough that I don't want to look older than necessary."

Starsky gazed at him a moment, and then returned his attention to his sandwich.  He muttered, "If you do, make sure it's on a weekend, so I can indulge to my heart's content."

Hutch blinked, and then recalled what Starsky was saying.  A few years ago, he had shaved his mustache.  Upon first seeing his bare upper lip, Starsky had emphatically said, "I want to go home right now and fuck all that naked innocence."  The simple fact that his lip was bare had added a lot of spice to their sex life.

That memory was all the more reason to shave it again.

Starsky said, "I'll make you forget all about Valerie."  He bit into his sandwich.

Hutch wondered if he should try to flirt with women more often.  It brought out a possessiveness in his love, and, most days, he relished being treated as such.

Their sandwiches were halfway eaten when they heard the outer office door open.  A moment later, Nick's voice loudly asked, "Is anybody here?"

"Hutch's office," Starsky called out.  He opened a bag of chips.

A moment later, Nick entered with a thick manila folder.  "Hey."

"What's up?" Hutch asked.

Nick indicated the folder.  "This is all the stuff I've gathered from the calls I've made the past week, and the questionnaires I've gotten back."

Starsky reached to take the folder.  "Great.  I'll have Lois add this stuff their notebooks this week.  You need something else to work on?"

"I've still got all the Logan family stuff," Nick replied.  He shifted nervously.  "Hey, uh, I need to talk to you guys."

Starsky pulled out a chair at the table.  "Have a seat.  What's going on?"  He pushed Hutch's unopened bag of chips at him.  "Have some chips."

Hutch gave him a baleful look, but didn't bother complaining, since he was interested in what was on Nick's mind.

Nick sat down and tore open the bag.  "I ran into Lorraine at the grocery store."

"Yeah?" Starsky said.

"I can't be sure, but it looked like she'd been crying."

"When was this?" Hutch asked worriedly.

"This morning.  She didn't see me, but I went up to her and said hello.  She's been real short with Lan, ever since... you know.  I was hoping she'd at least talk to me."

"Did she?"

"Well, yeah.  I think she forgot she was in a public place.  She started going on about how she missed her friends in Minnesota, and her home.  And how the only thing for her out here is Melinda."

Starsky asked, "She didn't mention Dexter Riley?"

"No.  At least, not right then.  But I said that she has family here that cares about her, and she seemed annoyed and said that her family was against her.  But then she kind of took back, and said that she supposed it was natural that her children would resent another man in her life."

Hutch groaned.  "That's why she thinks we don't like Dexter?"

"I pointed out that Lan wasn't the least bit close to her father, and that didn't have anything to do with your and Lan's concern that Dexter might be a drunk and have a tendency to mistreat his women.  I mentioned that you and David had heard some stuff about all sorts of domestic disputes with his wife, when she was alive."

"How to did that go over?"

"She just looked sort of sad.  And then she looked like she was going to cry and said, 'My life is a mess.  I'm too old to be dealing with a mess.'"

Hutch's heart sank.

Nick went on, "That freaked me out, and I asked her what she meant. And she said, 'I don't want to talk about it right now.'  Then she was looking at her watch, and saying how she needed to get to the checkout, so she could make her hair appointment.  I tried to stay with her, but she said she just wanted to be alone."  Nick released a heavy sigh.  "I sort of wish we hadn't had Lan confront her about Dexter.  It doesn't seem like anything good has come from it."

Starsky asked, "What do you think she meant about her life being a mess?"

Nick shrugged.  "I guess, like she said, she feels her family has betrayed her, and she uprooted her whole life to be with her family."

Hutch didn't want to believe his mother truly believed such.  "But she made that comment about her life being a mess after you mentioned Dexter's domestic disputes with his wife.  That's when you said that Mom got really sad.  Maybe she was talking about Dexter.  Maybe that's why she feels so misplaced.  Maybe she's not really happy with him, but she doesn't see a way out, considering her age and his movie star status, and all that."

Starsky crumbled up his potato chip bag.  "We've need to go over there and talk to her, Hutch.  Let her say what she has to say, and maybe it'll clear the air.  And then maybe she'll talk to us about what's really upsetting her."

Hutch wished it was that simple.  "She already feels that we've butted too much into her life.  And now she's mad at Lannie, and I've never known her to be hold a grudge against Lannie before."  With frustration, he added, "She just has such a surface, simplistic view of life.  She doesn't deal well with things when she's not sure of what to do.  If Dexter is mistreating her -- and I know Dad was never abusive to her -- she probably has no idea what to do about it, and no where to turn."

Starsky asked, "So, what do you want to do?"

Hutch rubbed his hand over his face.  "I don't know."

Starsky leaned forward on the table.  "I still say being direct is the way to go.  Let's apologize to her, Hutch.  Let's tell her that it was us who put Lanette up to talking to her about Dexter, and we really want her to be a part of our lives, and Melinda's life."

Hutch challenged, "And what if she says 'fine, as long as you promise to never bring up Dexter again', or something like that?"

Starsky grimaced.  "Then I guess we'll have to agree to never bring up Dexter again. But let her know she's always welcome to talk about anything."  He abruptly looked at his brother.  "What do you think, Nick?"

"Yeah, I think I'd feel better if someone talks to her.  I tried, but she seems to shut down when it comes to anything heavy."  His mouth corner twitched.  "Just like Lan.  I know Lorraine adores Melinda, and I want Melinda to grow up with her only living grandparent in her life."

Hutch asked, "She's still been babysitting Melinda, hasn't she?"

"Oh, yeah, of course.  She just coos at Melinda, but won't say anything more than absolutely necessary to Lan.  Lan just shrugged if off for a while, but now she's starting to get irritated by Lorraine's behavior."

Starsky's attention went back to Hutch.  "Come on, what do you say?  I think it's our responsibility to try to settle Lorraine's issues with the family.  Let's go over there, the first chance we get, when we know she's going to be at her condo."

"All right," Hutch agreed with a sigh.  "I just don't think this is going to go as well as you'd like to believe."


The opportunity to visit Lorraine came a couple of afternoons later.  Starsky dropped by the house to pick up Hutch, who had to be there for the air conditioning repairman to come by and service their unit, which had stopped functioning the day before.

"Well?" Starsky asked, after Hutch had gotten in the car, and they drove away from the curb.

"He fixed it, but said he wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't last the remainder of the summer.  We need to get a new one."

"Great," Starsky grumbled.

"Oh, hey, I got a hold of my cousin, Patricia."


"Yeah.  I told her that the vet is supposed to be out to check Darla and two other mares on Saturday, August 3rd.  So, she plans on her and Julie flying out that Thursday night, and staying for a three-day weekend, and flying back first thing Monday morning."

"Oh, that'll be great."

"Yeah.  And Edith wants to come that Saturday, along with Rosie, to the farm.  She's not sure yet if Rosie will be able to hang out the other days.  Edith says Rosie has been rebellious a lot, and she's had to ground her a time or two."

"Ah.  Well, hopefully doing horse stuff is interesting enough to Rosie, that she'll behave herself."

"I thought I'd call Clint at the stables, and see if maybe he'll let the girls ride Sunday afternoon.  He has lesson horses.  Since it'll be just a one-time thing, I'll have to pay him well to make it worth the trouble."

"I bet the girls would love that."  Starsky thought.  "So that's... what?  Three weeks from this coming weekend?"


Starsky sighed.  "Man, I sure hope Darla got pregnant."

"Whether she is or she isn't, let's not let on to our visitors how disappointing it's going to be, if she's not."

"Yeah."  Starsky then considered, "I sure hope Storm Bird was good to her.  You got to figure that they mated probably at least a half dozen times, through the spring.  I hope she liked him."

Hutch deadpanned, "I guess she'll never let us know."  Then, "And to think that Flying Paster only did it with her the once."

"Yeah. Funny how she took so quickly the first time, but she didn't seem to want to make a baby this year."

They fell silent for a few moments, and then Hutch asked, "Am I a fool for hoping that Mom will be glad to see us?"

Starsky assured, "If you are, then I am, too."


They arrived at the senior condo complex twenty minutes later.

"Her car is here," Starsky noted, as they entered the lot that had parking for her wing of the complex.

"Too bad we don't know what Dexter drives." 

"Yeah, just our luck that he'll be here."

"Lan didn't think so."  Hutch hoped so much that his mother was alone right now.  They hadn't called ahead, since they didn't want Lorraine to have a chance to find reasons to put them off.

Starsky pulled into a parking spot with a "Visitor" sign.  The complex consisted of over a dozen one-story buildings, which each contained four units.

Starsky and Hutch went up to Lorraine's unit and rang the doorbell.  They heard feet against the hardwood flooring, then a pause, as Lorraine was no doubt looking out the peephole, and then the chain being pulled back.

"David and Ken, what are you doing here?"  For a moment, she seemed pleasantly surprise.  Then her expression became carefully neutral.

"Mom, we'd like to talk to you, if you don't mind."

"About what?"

While Hutch was perturbed that she wasn't inviting them in, Starsky said, "We've come to apologize."


"Yes. Can we come in?"

She hesitated, and then stepped back.  "Certainly."  As they entered, she asked, "Would you like something?"

They both shook their heads, and sat on the sofa.

She sat in an easy chair at an angle to the sofa.

As Hutch considered what to say -- his mentally rehearsed words having left him -- Starsky said, "Lorraine, we feel it's our fault that there's trouble in the family.  We're the ones that suggested that Lanette talk to you about Dexter.  It's not her fault."

Dryly, Lorraine responded, "I figured it was all your doing, since you have your cop records on Dexter."

Hutch asked, "Then why are you giving Lannie the cold shoulder?"

"She shouldn't have let you bully her into siding with you."

"Bully?" Starsky asked, before Hutch could.  "That's not what I would call it."  His voice softened, as he shifted on the sofa.  "Look, our actions were based on being concerned about you.  It's important to all of us that our family remain intact, especially with little Melinda in the picture.  She deserves to grow up on a family that cares about each other.  That's the only reason Hutch and I have been worried about your relationship with Dexter, because we know there's police records of his past relationship with his wife, and then with the police having come here...."

Hutch felt he should say something.  "But that's all water under the bridge.  We're concerned, but we know we can't tell you who you can socialize with.  We're sorry, Mom.  We want you to be happy here.  We don't want there to be bad feelings within the family."

She was studying them both, but didn't seem inclined to respond.

Starsky said, "Nick and I spent most of our youth growing up on different sides of the continent.  We've never really had much family around us before.  Now, we do.  It really means a lot to us to have you here, along with the people we've chosen to spend our lives with.  And we all want Melinda to have a close relationship with her only grandparent."

"That's not something you need to worry about," Lorraine said.  "I adore my granddaughter, and I want her in my life."

Starsky nodded.  "Good.  We just would like you to have a good life here, too.  We're sorry if we've complicated things for you.  I hope you can understand that we meant well, and that you can forgive us.  All of us."

Hutch was grateful for his love's ability to be so forthright.

Lorraine was suddenly uncomfortable.  Then her eyes went to Hutch.  "I'm not sure I'll ever understand you.  You left home and seemed to wash your hands of the family.  Then you fall in love with another man.  Then you get your sister to marry your lover's brother, and then you want to find fault with the man I fall in love with."

Hutch felt a sudden swirl of emotion, that varied from extreme anger for her assumptions, to the old hopelessness that he and his mother would never have a meaningful connection.  He felt Starsky bristle beside him.

Starsky firmly countered, "Hutch didn't get his sister to do any such thing.  Nick is the one who pursued Lanette, not the other way around.  In fact, Hutch was against them being together from the start.  I wasn't thrilled about it, either.  But we both eventually saw how good they were for each other, and that they loved each other.  Can't you see it, too?"

Lorraine shook her head.  "I've never expected my life to turn out like this.  I never would have guessed, when I started my family, that when I reached the age of sixty-seven, that I'd have a homosexual son, a husband that had died of cancer, a daughter that married the brother of her brother's lover, and have the attention of a movie star that's been rejected by the family."

While Hutch struggled for something to say, that might matter, Starsky calmly responded, "And you also wanted grandchildren.  Now you have a grandchild.  I'd hope that, for you, that makes all the rest worth putting up with."

Hutch managed to keep his voice equally calm.  "Mother, I don't think anybody's life turns out the way they expected.  I certainly didn't foresee that I'd be here, in this moment, at the age of forty-two, begging my mother's forgiveness."  He didn't see the point in detailing all the wonderful things his life now was, that he'd never expected.

There was an extended silence, and then Starsky said, "Hutch's cousin, Patricia, and her daughter, Julie, are coming out to visit the first weekend in August, for a three-day weekend.  They'll want to come visit Melinda, and they'll want to see you, too.  So, can we assume that we'll all be getting together one of those days?"

Levelly, Lorraine replied, "Of course, I'd like to see Patricia and Julie."

Starsky nodded, as he stood, and Hutch automatically followed.  Starsky said, "Good, then we'll let you know when we know exactly what day it is.  We won't keep you.  We hope you won't stay mad at us, and especially that you won't stay mad at Lanette."

Lorraine rose from her chair.  "Thank you for stopping by," she said woodenly.

After the door had closed behind them, Starsky asked, "Did we accomplish anything at all?"

"Who knows," Hutch replied, as they moved toward their car.  Then, warmly, "You certainly said all the right things."

"That was a challenge, when she suddenly started to attack you, for no reason."

Hutch sighed.  "I guess it was her way of turning things away from herself.  I'm glad you didn't attack her back."

"I wanted to.  But I knew you wouldn't want me to.  Still," Starsky looked at Hutch, and paused to brush his hand along Hutch's chest, "that hurt, didn't it?"

Hutch shrugged.  "A little.  But we knew this wasn't going to end up with hugs all around."  He shook his head with a snort.  "It doesn't matter.  We tried."

They reached the car and Starsky got out his keys.  "It almost seems like she's behaving like a pouty child.  Maybe old people tend to get like that, huh?"

Hutch shrugged again, not wanting to analyze it.

Once they were seated, Starsky said, "She didn't sound like she was going to lay off Lanette, either."

Needing to summon some hope, Hutch said, "Still, it's not like her to stay mad about something forever."


They were able to get a hold of Nick later that afternoon, and relay the conversation.

When they got into bed, Starsky held his arm out, and Hutch came over to him, resting his head on Starsky's shoulder.

Starsky ran his hand up and down Hutch's arm.  "You sure you're okay about what your mother said?"

Pointedly, Hutch replied, "I'd forgotten about it, until now."

Starsky got the point, but couldn't let it go.  "It's like she's held a grudge against you, all this time."  He sighed.  "She knows nothing of your life.  And I know it's not going to do any good to tell her to read my book, because she'll just be mad again that Dexter isn't mentioned anywhere."

Hutch snorted, rubbing his cheek against Starsky's shoulder.  "You've got to let it go, buddy.  I have."

"Yeah, well, if it starts to gnaw at you, maybe you should see that Judith person, the psychologist."

Hutch's voice held amusement, as he fondly recalled the relative from a case the prior autumn.  "Thanks for your permission."

"Well, I just figure that, if you think I'm too close to the situation, and you want to talk to somebody else."

"I think you need to read your own book."

Hutch had sounded serious.  "Huh?" Starsky asked.

"However much I may have felt unloved and misunderstood at any point in time, you've filled up those recesses time and time again.  Sometimes, I think I must be the most loved person on Earth."

Starsky hugged Hutch closer, while his heart flipped over.  "Ah, Hutch."  Then, "It goes both ways, buddy."  Still, he felt inclined to say, "It just sounded like your mother sees you as the root source of all her problems with her family.  That makes me a little crazy."

There was a long silence, and then Hutch seriously said, "If you need me to say ouch, I will."

Starsky hugged him again.  "I love you for trying to be above it all.  But if my mother said something to me, like what Lorraine said to you today... I'd be devastated."

"What good does it do for me to be devastated?  I don't want anything from her, Starsk.  I've long since stopped expecting or needing anything from her."  Then, "I wish you would stop thinking about it.  We all need to move forward, and not look back."

Starsky shifted to prepare to sleep.  "Yeah.  You're right."


All five employees of Starsky & Hutchinson Inc. stood and watched as the large copy machine spewed out paper after paper into a row of 20 trays.

The man from the vendor proudly declared., "It can collate up to twenty copies nicely.  This is a state of the art machine you're buying."

Hutch decided not to mention that they could only afford it, due to some hard-nosed tactics in the form of a few tongue lashings by Lois.  She was able to convince the store to sell the machine to them for a heavily discounted price, and roll it into a new lease, while getting them out of the old one on the lesser machine that had been breaking down regularly.

As he watched it collate, Hutch also knew that he was far too much machine for their little office, but he wasn't complaining.  Most likely, other offices on their floor would catch wind of it quickly, and then be wanting to use the collating features.  Maybe he'd see Valerie again.

Hutch smiled to himself.  He hadn't shaved his mustache yet.  With Patricia and Julie visiting next weekend, it would have to wait until the right time.  Get his love all riled and ready for something new and different....

The machine stopped, and the man grabbed the copies in the first slot.  "And now, once you have a nicely collated set of copies, you can staple it."  He pushed the corner of the stack beneath a stapler attached to the machine, and pressed down.  He held up the stapled set.  "So, now you have a machine that not only makes excellent copies, it's also a great time saver."

Starsky muttered, "As long as it doesn't break down every week."

"You shouldn't have any such problems.  If you do, call our firm immediately.  It's in your purchase agreement that a technician will be out once a month to maintain the machine, and keep it running in optimum condition."

Hutch couldn't help but think of something at home that he wanted to keep in 'optimum condition'.  I need to get to work, he quickly decided.  Lest he get so distracted that the man with the "optimum" flesh might notice at an inopportune time.

Kenny nudged Carlos.  "I bet you'll be the first one to get a paper jam."

I can think of something else I'd like to 'jammed'.

The salesman began to demonstrate how to clear a simple paper jam.

Hutch turned toward his office.


A few days later, Starsky met Nick for lunch.

Nick said, "Yeah, I think Lorraine is softening a bit.  Little by little."

Starsky shook his head.  "Can't believe she wants to be so petty, especially when she admitted that she knew that Lanette mentioning Dexter was something the rest of us put her up to."

"Lan wouldn't have done it, if she wasn't agreeable."

"Exactly.  Yet, Lorraine acted like we'd 'bullied' her into it."

"Really?" Nick asked, unhappily.

"Yeah.  She's a piece of work.  And then she started in on Hutch, like he was where all her unhappiness in the family started."

"Is he all right?"

Starsky shrugged.  "More all right than I am about it.  He knows the only way to move past this situation is to go forward."

Nick was suddenly uncomfortable.  "Hey, look, David.  I know I jumped on you a while back, about you being in a relationship with Hutch. I-I had no right to do that."

Starsky felt himself smile, and the world suddenly seemed so much brighter.  "Well, I took you by surprise that day, so I can understand that you felt you had to lash back."

Nick waved a hand.  "I've never claimed to understand how you could want to sleep with another man, but I'm not interested in judging you for it.  I just feel so protective of little Melinda.  And thinking about all the things she might have to deal with, as she grows."

Starsky's smiled broadened.  "It's forgotten.  Okay?"

"Thanks," Nick said, with a bashful nod.

"Besides," Starsky said, "maybe whenever my book is finally published, if you read it, and all the things Hutch and I have been through together, you'll should at least be able to understand a little."  Still, Starsky couldn't believe that as whole-heartedly as he used to.

"So, when's it supposed to be published?"

"Last I heard, next spring.  But I'm not holding my breath.  They've already pushed the date back once.  It's a new little publishing firm that specializes in offbeat topics.  Hutch and I are thinking that maybe the company is having financial problems."

After a moment, Nick said, "I did finally talk to Lan about feeling neglected."

Starsky was surprised.  "You did?"

"Yeah.  Well, at first, I tried to hint things to her.  Like, how maybe if I was completely dependent on her, I'd get almost as much attention as Melinda.  Didn't seem to make a dent.  Finally, I outright told her that I was feeling completely neglected."  A small smile formed at Nick's mouth corner.  "She said 'sorry'."  He grinned at Starsky.  "Maybe I'm a fool, but that one word made me feel so much better.  And then, after Melinda was sleeping... well, we sort of got reacquainted."

Starsky nodded vigorously.  "Glad to hear it."

"Don't know how long it might last, but for the moment, I'm not feeling neglected."

"See, I keep telling you, little brother, communication is everything.  I couldn't stand it if I had to keep things from Hutch, including when I'm irritated with him.  That's a big reason why we're so good together."

"So, you keep saying."

They focused on finishing their meals, and then Starsky said, "I don't think we've told you that some big law firm out in Ridgecrest has started using our services."

"Really?  Why would somebody out there be interested in you?"

"They used to have offices in town.  So, they have a lot of clients in this area, but they moved out there for various reasons.  They thought it would be good to have a P.I. firm on hand that's in town.  Plus, we were referred to them.  They gave us their first case yesterday.  Hunting down witnesses for a big car wreck that happened a couple of weeks ago, that included a fatality, and a few severe injuries."

"Oh, that's great."


"So, Lan and Hutch's cousin Patricia, and her teenage daughter, are flying out at the end of next week?"

"Thursday night.  We'll spend Friday going to the stables where Hutch kept Poncho.  Dobey's teenage daughter, Rosie, will be joining us, because she had a good time with Julie when they visited last time.  She's horse crazy, too, but has only ridden a couple of times.  So, they'll get a lesson at the stable.  And on Saturday, we'll go out to the farm where Darla is at, because they'll do an ultrasound to see if she's pregnant, and they'll see her foal.  Both Dobey's wife and daughter will be coming for that.  And then on Sunday, Hutch and I will take the family out for a big lunch, and we thought we might take everyone to play some miniature golf afterward.  So, you'll need to get a sitter for Melinda."

"That shouldn't be a problem.  There's some women and older teenagers in our complex, who have met Melinda and offered to sit for her."

"Great.  Hopefully, we'll all have a wonderful afternoon together."


They ended up borrowing Dobey's Chrysler New Yorker to make the trip out to the farm on Saturday, since it had bench seats and could accommodate six.  They had tried to talk Dobey into joining them, though that would have meant taking two cars, but Dobey said he wasn't up to a long drive, and he'd hear all about the trip from his wife and daughter.

Hutch drove to the farm, with Starsky next to him, and Patricia near the passenger door.  Edith, Rosie, and Julie were in the back.  Hutch couldn't say anything, but he realized that he hadn't seen Dobey in well over a year, and his hair had become more grayish-white than black, in the interim.  He also still carried as much weight as before, and Hutch didn't think he looked healthy.

The trip out to the riding stable had gone well yesterday.  Clint kept telling Hutch about various horses that were for sale, and Hutch realized that Clint had accommodated Hutch's request to give the girls lessons, because he was hoping Hutch would decide to get another horse.  Though Hutch missed riding at times, he knew he didn't indulge often enough to justify the extravagant cost of his own horse.

Now, Rosie spent a lot of the morning talking about how sore her legs were, after riding for an hour the day before.  Julie enjoyed responding with, "But it's a good hurt."  Rosie didn't disagree.

Once the backseat had fallen silent, Hutch looked in the rearview mirror and said, "I'm glad you're joining us today, Edith.  The farm where we're going is a completely different atmosphere than a riding stable.  They don't ride there.  They just breed and raise racehorses."

"I thought it would be good to get away for a day," she responded.  "Giving a horse an ultrasound test sounded interesting."

Patricia turned her head toward the back.  "Does everybody know how ultrasound is done on horses?"

There was silence, and Starsky muttered, "Don't they rub that wand thing along their stomach?"

Obviously enjoying her moment of being able to shock everyone, Patricia said, "They do it rectally."

Both girls giggled.

"They do?" Edith asked.

"They do?" Starsky repeated.

"I knew that," Julie said bashfully.  "I just didn't want to say anything."

Rosie laughed again.

"Oh, man."  Starsky looked at Hutch.  "Did you know that?"

Hutch sidestepped, "I guess it makes sense, since they rectally palpate them to see when they're about to ovulate each heat cycle, and can determine the optimum time for breeding."

"I'm not so sure I want to watch, in that case," Starsky said.

The girls laughed again.

The next surprise was upon arriving at the broodmare barn of the farm.  There was a vet truck outside, and a thirtyish woman with shoulder-length brown hair, pulled back in a pony tail, was setting up a small TV screen on a cart, in the aisle of the barn.

Joe, the broodmare manager, nodded at Starsky and Hutch, and said, "This is Dr. Tellis.  She'll be doing the ultrasounds today."  Since she busy with her equipment, she merely nodded at them. 

"Nice to meet you," Starsky said.  "We've brought a crew with us."

She straightened a moment and smiled pleasantly.  "So, Joe told me.  I brought some instructional materials with me, so everyone can understand what we're doing today."

Starsky moved down a few stalls, which were mostly empty, and Hutch automatically followed.  Starsky came close to him and whispered, "I really don't think I can watch this in mixed company."

It was on the tip of Hutch's tongue to say, "Grow up", but he wasn't sure he wanted to watch in mixed company, either.

Starsky continued, "The idea of them messing with Darla's private parts, with everyone looking on."

"Well, maybe we can play with Danny."

Joe moved in their direction, and Starsky asked, "Are all the other mares out at pasture?"

"Yes.  We've just got the three that are getting the ultrasound today."  He nodded across the aisle.  "Darla is right there."

They both moved where Darla was standing at the back of her stall, and Danny was nursing.  Starsky said, "Wow, he's grown so much more than last time."  He called down the aisle.  "Hey, everyone, you want to see Darla's foal?"

The women and girls began to move eagerly in their direction, and Joe said, "I'll go ahead and bring them out."

"Just a sec," Starsky said, to halt the entourage.  "Joe is going to bring them out." 

Joe grabbed two lead shanks that were looped around the metal bars of the upper half of the stall.   He held one out.  "Do one of you want to take the foal?"

Hutch accepted the leather strap.  "I can do that."

They both went into the stall.  Joe clipped the lead shank onto Darla's halter, and Hutch did likewise with Danny.  After Darla was led out, Hutch followed with Danny, and there were immediate squeals and gushes from the onlookers.  "He's so cute!"  "Look at those long legs!"  "What's his name?"

"Everyone," Starsky said, "This is Danny.  He's right about six months old now.  He'll be weaned next month."

Joe said, "They generally get weaned before they're this old, but he's one of the earlier babies, and we want him to be weaned with the rest, so it'll be less traumatizing. That'll be early next month."  He started to lead Darla to where the vet was, and called over his shoulder, "You don't have to keep him with his mother.  We've been leading the foals away from their mothers quite a bit, to prepare them for weaning."

The foal nickered after Darla, but didn't try to follow, as Hutch held him with an arm around his chest.  Darla didn't respond.

Hutch stroked Danny and said to their guests, "Just be real calm around him, so he doesn't spook.  Don't make any sudden movements, but you can pet him."

Everyone did, and when the foal started to rear up Hutch suggested, "Why don't you watch the vet for now, and we'll walk him around the barn, so he can stretch his legs.  You can spend time with him afterward."

The others obeyed, and Hutch began to lead Danny down the opposite end of the barn, which was open, at a brisk walk, Starsky at Danny's other side.

As they exited the barn, Starsky said, "I bet he's not too happy about not getting turned out to pasture with everyone else this morning."


Once they turned the corner to go around the outside of the barn, Danny let out a nicker.  From inside the barn, they heard an answering whinny, but it didn't sound frantic.

Starsky reached to pat Danny's neck.  "Your momma's just inside.  You can be a big boy now."

Hutch suddenly stopped, and put a downward pressure on the lead shank.  "Whoa," he said firmly.

Danny halted, other than shifting his back feet.

"Good boy."  Hutch patted his neck.  "I've seen youngsters at the riding stable that aren't anywhere near this well trained."

"Yeah, they do a nice job here.  And like Joe said, he got more education in Kentucky, too."

Hutch began to lead Danny forward again.  "Hopefully, he'll be this obedient when he gets trained to be ridden and break from a starting gate."

"Yeah," Starsky replied with enthusiasm.

When they were approaching the end of the barn where they had parked, Hutch led Danny over to where grass was growing.  Danny put his head down to graze.

Hutch and Starsky both patted along his body.

After a few minutes, Patricia poked her head around the barn.  "She's ready to do the ultrasound."

"Okay," Hutch said.  Then to Starsky, "Come on, I guess we don't want to miss this."

They led Danny to just inside the entrance of the barn, where everyone was gathered.  The women and girls were holding colorful brochures and looking at them.  Joe held Darla's lead shank.  There was a pile of manure at Darla's hind feet, and the vet had a soiled plastic glove on her right hand, that went all the way to her upper arm.

Hutch led Danny around the group, so he could be near Darla's head.

Dr. Tellis hand a device with a long cord attached to it, in the gloved hand.  "Okay, I'm going to put the wand in now, and you can watch the television screen.  Things can be hard to make out, when you aren't used to looking at the images, but I'll show you what I'm looking at."

She inserted her arm, with the device, into Darla's rectum.  She pointed to the screen, "You can see the outline of her uterus there."

Hutch moved to see the little TV screen, but it just looked like a bunch of black, with intermittent white streaks.

"...and I'm moving it around," Tellis continued.  Then she said, "She's got good tone in her uterus, so that's a good sign."  She fell silent as she watched the screen, with her arm fully inserted.  Then she said, "There.  There's something in there.  See?"

While Hutch's heart beat with excitement, he looked closer at the screen, but he couldn't tell anything meaningful.

Edith stepped closer.  "Where is it?"

The doctor pointed with her left hand.  "See that whitish shape in the middle?  That's a fetus."

Suddenly, there was a vise-like grip on Hutch's arm, as Starsky happily said, "Oh, man, Hutch."

Julie excitedly declared, "She's going to have a baby by Storm Bird?"

"Oh, I see it now," Edith said.   She pointed and circled her finger around.  "Can you see the outline?"

"Yes!" Rosie said.  Then to Dr. Tellis, "Can you tell if it's a boy or a girl?"

"No, I'm afraid the equipment isn't that sophisticated.  The manufacturer tells us that they hope to be able to have the images more detailed, when they get the technology figured out.  That could be another ten or twenty years down the line."

Patricia smiled, "This is great news then?"

"The best," Hutch said, surprised at the gruffness of his own voice.

Starsky reached to stroke Darla's neck.  His voice, too, was unsteady.  "All those dates with Storm Bird paid off.  Maybe you were just wanting to spend more time with him."

There were a few chuckles.

The doctor removed her arm with the wand.  As she began to shed the plastic sleeve, she asked, "When was she last bred?"

Joe bent to pick up a clipboard, that he'd propped against the nearest stall.  He flipped up a couple of pages.  "She was bred June 15th, 16th, and 17th, with a double on the 16th."

Tellis said, "Let's call it the 16th.  Go forward eleven months to May 16th, and add five days.  That'll put her due date at May 21st. "  She looked at Starsky and Hutch.  "I assume you're breeding her babies to race?"

"Yes," Starsky said.

"After she foals next year, she'll probably only get one heat cycle in, before breeding season is over.  And that'll be her foal heat, which tend to not be very productive, anyway.  So, I suggest skipping breeding her next year, especially since it took her so long to get pregnant this year.  That'll give her system a chance to recover, and then the following year, you can breed her early in the season."

Hutch nodded, appreciating her input.  "Okay, thanks for the advice."

Tellis said to Joe, "All done here.  We're ready for the next one."

Some spent more time with Danny, as others watched the next two mares get ultrasounded, with one being empty and the other being pregnant.  One of the mares also had a foal at her side, which was a couple of months younger than Danny, and their guests enjoyed giving him some attention, as well.

After the vet was done, Julie and Rosie each took a turn leading Danny around.  Darla had been put back in her stall, and didn't seem to miss him.

Joe came to stand beside Starsky and Hutch, clipboard in hand, as they watched Julie give Danny a firm command to halt.  "He's really been very tolerant of all this, for his age.  He's got a good head on his shoulders."

Starsky said, "Just like his mom.  Hopefully, that'll bode well for him when he gets trained to race."

"I wanted to mention that we're going to be filling out the registration papers and taking photographs of all the foals next week.  Did you want to give me up to three names to submit for him?  You don't have to choose a name now, but if you have some in mind...."

"Just one," Starsky said.  "Depth Charge."

Joe wrote on the clipboard.

Hutch asked, "You do photographs?"

"Yes.  We send them in with the registration papers.  We get one from both sides, front and back.  And take close-ups of any white markings.  Any information to ID a horse is very important.  There's some fifty thousand foals a year being born, and racing officials need to be able to tell one from the other, since a lot of horses can look alike."

Starsky grunted, "Like when we were cops.  We wanted all the identifying information we could get on suspects."

"I didn't know you two were police officers."  Joe presented his clipboard to them.  "Did I spell Depth Charge correctly?"

Hutch read the name.  "Sure did."

"Okay, I'll submit it with Danny's registration papers.  It can take up to ninety days before the Jockey Club mails them back, and we know if they accepted the name or not."  He moved away.

Hutch noticed that Patricia was watching them, while standing to one side  He went over to his cousin.  "We'll need to wrap this up soon, so Joe can get back to work."

In a low voice, she asked, "Does he know about you and David?"

Hutch was taken aback.  "You mean Joe?"


"Not that I know of.  He's never asked."  Perplexed, Hutch asked, "Why would he?"

"You don't think he's picked up... you know, a vibe between you two?"

Hutch sighed.  "Maybe he has.  What difference would it make, whom the owners of the horses he cares for sleeps with?  It's not his job to wonder about things like that."

She bit her lower lip.  Then, simply, "I'm glad nobody hassles you."

Hutch suspected that she was more puzzled than pleased.  Firmly, while keeping his voice low, he said, "What I've come to realize is that, if we don't make a big deal out of it, other people don't make a big deal of it.  And we never make a big deal out of it.  We don't go around telling people that we're in a relationship together, so they have to decide how they feel about it.  But we don't sidestep it, either, if we're asked about it.  Usually, even then, it isn't a problem.  And if it is a problem -- such as a potential client deciding they don't want to use our services -- we didn't need them that badly, anyway."  He concluded, "It's not a big deal.  Unless someone decides that it is.  And then it's their problem, not ours."

She drew a breath.  "I guess things are more... open... out here."

"That's true.  But we haven't been hassled anywhere.  Like I said, we don't rub other people's noses in our private business, and force them to have to deal with it."

She nodded, as though suddenly uncomfortable with the subject that she herself had presented.  "I'm glad."

"One thing I'm pretty certain of, is that some people you know back home are homosexual or bisexual, and you've just never known about it.  Plus, there's more famous people than you can imagine, throughout history, that were homosexuals."

She said, with discomfort, "Yes, this whole Rock Hudson AIDS thing is a real shocker."

"It's the tip of the iceberg," Hutch said with confidence.  The fact that Rock Hudson had AIDS had been in the news the past couple of weeks, though Hudson had known for a year.  Hutch went on, "There's exterior society.  And then there's reality.  They don't mesh all that often.   Thank goodness.  If I was somehow prevented from loving David with all my heart.... I don't think I could tolerate life."

"I'm glad things have worked out so well for you two.  I really am."

Hutch felt bad for her, that she seemed to want to find problems in their relationship where none existed.


That night, Patricia and Julie slept in the guest room. 

Upon closing their own bedroom door behind them, Hutch headed for the bathroom.

Starsky rushed up behind him, grabbing him around the waist.  "Man," he said gleefully, "I'm so happy Darla is going to have a Storm Bird baby."

Hutch paused in Starsky's arms, grinning.  "Yeah."  He didn't think that fact had sunk in to his own brain yet.

"Her having a foal by a fancy Kentucky stallion... it's like a dream come true, just like we wanted."

Like you wanted, Hutch mentally corrected, with fondness.  He cautioned, "She's still got to carry it to term, and hopefully it'll be born healthy, just like Danny."

"Don't be getting doubts now."

"I'm not."  Hutch moved to the bathroom and stood before his sink.

Starsky leaned against the edge of the doorway, and crossed his arms.  He watched Hutch pick up his toothbrush.  "You've never shaved your mustache."

Hutch shrugged.  "Hardly going to do it now, with guests in the house."

"Next weekend," Starsky said firmly.  "Do it next weekend."

"Or what?" Hutch challenged, thinking that he might mention Valerie's name a few times, during the week, to keep his love feeling possessive.

Starsky's voice hardened even more.  "Or I'll do it for you.  Who knows," he threatened, "I might get carried away, and shave some other areas, too."    He turned away and began to undress.

Hutch swallowed.  Thickly.  And then began to brush his teeth.




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