(c) March 2012 by Charlotte Frost


A Sequel to Virgin


"And stretch," Ronnie prompted, holding her arm out, as far as it could reach.  She was dressed in a purple leotard and tights.  She had long, black hair that went a few inches down her back, and was tied in a loose pony tail.

Starsky followed her motion, grateful that his semi-weekly workout session was coming to an end.

"Deep breath," she instructed, pulling her arm back, and watching Starsky do the same.  She smiled.  "And we're done.  Very good, David."

Starsky grinned, patting his flat stomach.  "Thanks."  He'd put a lot of work into trimming down and building up more muscle the past few months.  He felt that having such an attractive trainer had gone a long way toward motivating him, as he didn't want someone like Ronnie thinking that he was a lazy slouch.  He'd changed a lot of his eating habits, with Hutch's help, and while he still snacked on his favorite junk food, his indulgences were more limited..

"Okay then," she said.  "I'll see you on Tuesday."

Starsky nodded.  Fridays and Tuesdays were his regularly scheduled days.  He used to work out three days a week, but that was no longer necessary since he was merely looking to maintain the fitness he'd already achieved.

He gathered his gym bag, which he really hadn't used this time, and headed for the exit.  The gym was close enough to home that, if he didn't have any other errands after a workout, he preferred to drive home to shower.  Besides, depending on what Hutch was doing if he was home when Starsky arrived, his big blond sometimes found his partner's rich, musky scent all the more stimulating, and they could enjoy a quickie before Starsky cleaned up.

Starsky got out his keys and reached to unlock the Corvette. 

"Hey, David?"

Starsky looked up to see Ronnie approaching.  "Yeah?"

"Hey, I wanted to ask you something."

Starsky turned to face her.  Her voice was softer than normal.  He'd never had a conversation with her outside of her role as his personal trainer.  She did make it known, at various times, that she had a husband who used to play college football, as though to dissuade any of the clients at the gym, which were mostly male, from thinking they might get their paws on her.  Starsky didn't know if the husband statements were genuine, or just for show.

"Sure," he told her.

She stood before him and hesitated.  "Um, I really hope I don't offend you with this question, but I wasn't sure...."

All the more intrigued, he asked levelly, "What question is that?"

"That blond man you've introduced me to.... Ken?"

"Uh-huh?"  Hutch occasionally worked out independently while Starsky was having his session.

"You've said he's your partner."

"That's right."

Still hesitant, she said, "Partner... as in....?"

Starsky held up his left hand with his wedding band.  "Yes.  He's my life partner.  Love partner.  Former partner on the police force.  Everything."

She seemed to relax slightly.  "Well, my husband and I would like to invite you both to dinner at our house on Monday."

Starsky blinked.  That was the last thing he'd expected.  "Uh, yeah.  I think that would work.  I mean, I'll have to check with Hutch.  Ken."

She smiled warmly.  "That's good."  She handed him her card.  "Our home number is on the back, so you can let us know one way or the other.  Say, at seven?  If not this Monday, then maybe the next one.  I'm so busy at the gym on weekends, and my husband, Bob, works a lot of nights, so Monday is really the only evening we can do." 

Starsky smiled.  "Okay, that's fine.  Thanks, Ronnie. I'll let you know."

"Great."  She turned to go back into the gym.

As Starsky unlocked the car, he wondered why he didn't feel more jubilant about he and Hutch being invited to dinner.


Hutch grabbed the receiver from the ringing kitchen phone.  "Hello?"


"Mom?" Is Dad okay?

"Yes.  How are you?" 

"David and I are fine.  What's new?"

She drew a breath.  "Kenneth, I want to talk you about something.  Something important."

Hutch's heart beat faster.  "Is Dad okay?"

"Oh, yes, he's fine.  He's doing just fine."

Hutch relaxed.  "Then what is it?"

He heard her draw another breath.  "Have you been keeping up with the news?"

"About what?"  As soon as Hutch asked, he knew.

"Homosexuals are dying from some sort of disease."

Hutch sighed heavily.  "Yes, I know.  But I don't think Starsk and I need to worry."

"Why not?"

With forced patience, Hutch replied, "We're in an exclusive relationship."

"How do you know?"

Hutch blinked at the plaintive question.  He felt annoyed that he had to explain his and Starsky's private life to his mother.  "Because I just know.  We can't hide stuff from each other.  We're too good at reading each other, because reading each other used to be a matter of life and death when we were cops."  Trying to add humor, though it came out flat, Hutch said, "We can't ever throw surprise birthday parties for each other, because we can't keep secrets from each other."  Unlike you and Dad.

"Ken, they don't know just exactly what it is that's causing this disease, that's making it spread."

"I know.  Mother, it's not like we're hanging out in bath houses.  We don't even know any other people that are in a gay relationship together.  So, we don't have any more of a chance of catching it than you and Dad do."  In fact, considering all your affairs over the years, maybe you and Dad have a higher chance than Starsk and I of catching it. 

She snorted.  "It's homosexuals that are getting it."

"That's not what I heard the other night.  Other people have gotten it from what they think are blood transfusions.  Whatever this disease or virus is, I bet it's going to end up affecting a whole lot more people than just homosexuals.  They're going to have to find a cure."

"You should get tested, to make sure you don't have it."

Hutch tried to convince himself that his mother was simply worried and not trying to be nosy.  "I've never had sex with a man other than Starsky."  He couldn't believe he was having this conversation with her.

"Well, how do you know who he's had sex with throughout his life?"

Hutch chuckled, though again couldn't feel the humor.  Why don't you ask yourself the same question about your various 'boyfriends'?   "Because I'd always hear about his sexual exploits the next morning."

She was silent, as though not understanding what he'd meant.

"Mom, Starsky and I aren't at any further risk than heterosexual couples."

Her voice dropped slightly.  "Well, maybe you should, you know, just do things orally until more is known about this disease."

Hutch rolled his eyes.  His mother getting into specifics of their sex life was going too far.  "Mother, I'm not going to discuss this any further with you."

She quickly said, "I tried to get your father to talk to you about it, but he's too embarrassed."

"You and he don't have anything to worry about," Hutch said firmly.  He heard the garage door open.  "Starsky just got home, so I need to hang up."  Please.

"All right," she said unhappily.  "I just wish you and he would get tested."

"We will at our next physical."  Not that they went in for regular physicals, now that they were no longer employed by the police force.  "All right?"  Hutch softened his voice.  "I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"All right.  Goodbye."

Starsky entered the house, and a moment later emerged from the laundry area into the foyer.  His expression was contemplative.

"Bye," Hutch said, rolling his eyes at Starsky, and hanging up the phone.

"Who was that?" Starsky asked as he grabbed a soft drink from the refrigerator.

They both sat down at the table.

"You smell rank," Hutch noted levelly.

Starsky grinned as he popped the lid of his soda.   "Interested?"

"Na," Hutch admitted.  Though he might be if he stuck his nose in a sweaty armpit.  He gestured to the phone.  "My mother's all worried about that homosexual disease."  He snorted.  "Wants to know how I can be so sure that you haven't been fooling around."

"Oh.  That must have been a cheery conversation."

Hutch muttered, "It was all I could do to not point out that she and Dad ought to get tested as much as you and I should."  Starsky was gazing at him with an open expression, and Hutch clarified, "All the affairs they've had."

Gently, Starsky said, "You never talk about that much.  In fact, the first time I ever heard about it was when Lanette happened to mention it."

That did indeed surprise Hutch, that he'd never mentioned it.  He shrugged, "Well, you know, I guess it's always seemed like an ordinary thing.  One of those things you never talk about.  Besides, it's not like either of my parents ever had any of their lovers come to the house."

"Yeah, but you and Lanette obviously figured out what was going on, at some point."

"Yeah.  Put two and two together, I guess.  I mean, I remember once," Hutch said distantly, as the images played before his mind, "I was with my father when he stopped at some shop.  He told me to wait in the car, but I saw some model airplane in the window of a hobby store next door, and I got out to look at it.  I happened to glance in the window of the shop my Dad walked in, and I saw him kiss a woman there."  His gaze went back to Starsky.  "Little things like that."  He shifted in his chair, "And I remember one summer day, when my Dad was at work, my mother got some package delivered for her birthday that had a scarf in it.  She was all excited that it was from 'Michael', and going on about what a nice gift it was.  But when our Dad came home, and we celebrated her birthday, she'd put the scarf away and never mentioned it to him."

Starsky grunted.  "It's a wonder she, or your father, wasn't worried that you or Lanette might say something, even innocently."

"I think they always knew that we knew and that it wasn't something anybody ever supposed to talk about out loud."

Starsky sipped his soda.  "Well, if my mother or my father ever had an affair, it's something Nick and I are totally clueless about.  And I'm grateful that."

Hutch gazed at Starsky a long moment, while smelling his sweat from across the table, and his mouth corner twitched.  "I assured my mother that if you ever had sex with anybody else, I'd know because we can't hide things from each other."

"Well," Starsky said playfully, "I admit that I've had a fantasy or two cross my mind about Ronnie."  He suddenly sobered.  "But not anymore."

Hutch remembered Starsky's serious expression when he entered the house.  "What happened?"

"Nothing bad," Starsky assured.  "In fact, she and her husband, Bob, have invited us to their house for dinner on Monday night."



"They know about us?"

"She wasn't sure, so she first asked me what it meant that you and I were partners.  And when I told her straight out, she seemed completely fine about it and said she and her husband would like to have us over for dinner."

"Oh."  What a pleasant thought that was, that ordinary people could accept their relationship so easily.  They were accustomed to their wealthy clients, who often had their own eccentricities, to not be put off by the nature of their relationship, if they happened to ask about it. 

Hutch was puzzled by his partner's expression.  "You don't seem happy about it."

Starsky shrugged.  "I don't know.  It's really nice of her and Bob to do that, but I wonder if socializing together is going to interfere with our relationship at the gym.  I mean," Starsky patted his stomach, "she's been great and really helpful to me.  I just hope I'm not jeopardizing that by agreeing to have dinner with them."

"We don't have to say yes."

"I know."  Starsky shifted in his chair.  "But, really, Hutch, I think it would be good for you and I to socialize with other people, start making new friends.  It's like everyone we know is from our cop days.  Being self-employed and working from home, we don't have many opportunities to interact with other people, besides our clients."

Hutch shrugged.  "Then let's have dinner.  See how it goes.  We've had dinner with the Dobey's when we were cops, and that didn't keep him from chewing our asses about something the next day."

Starsky grinned.  "Good point."

"What does her husband do?"

Starsky shrugged.  "Don't know.  She said he works a lot of nights, and since she's so busy at the gym on weekends, that's why it needs to be a Monday night."

Hutch got up to head for the office.  "I'll mark our calendar."

"Okay."  Starsky pulled Ronnie's card from the pocket of his shorts.  "I'll call and tell her it's a go."


"This salmon is delicious," Hutch said sincerely.  He and Starsky were dressed in fresh jeans and V-necked sweaters over buttoned-shirts.  Their hosts lived in a standard middle class neighborhood, and dinner had been served almost immediately, after receiving a tour of the house.

"Thank you," Ronnie said.  "I can give you the recipe before you leave."

"I would love it."

"These lima beans are great, too," Starsky said, inserting a spoonful into his mouth.  After a moment, he said, "So, Bob, you spend most of your nights at the church?"

They had been surprised to find that Bob was a pastor, if a rather muscular one.  He didn't seem like the kind of man that a hot, fit babe like Ronnie would be married to.  Or who would invite homosexuals into his house.

He said, "My primary responsibility is coordinating social events.  So, there's a lot planning and rehearsals and such that go on during the evenings."

Hutch said, "You two must not see each other much."

Their hosts shared a glance and Ronnie said, "We do what we can to spend my days off together."  After a moment, she asked, "So, Hutch, are you the one who does most of the cooking?"

"Most, but not all."  He sipped his wine.  "And sometimes we don't have a real dinner, since it's just the two of us."

Bob relaxed back in his chair.  He looked a little older than Ronnie.  "This economy is sure getting worrisome.  I've got some business owners in my church.  When they put an ad in the paper for a new employee, they get overwhelmed with phone calls and requests for applications.  People are losing their jobs left and right.  One guy had an ad for a part time job at four dollars an hour.  He had a corporate executive call, wanting that job, because he has four kids and had been laid off."

Hutch nodded.  "Our line of work is that of a luxury service.  Hiring a private detective isn't the kind of thing the average person is going to consider.  We're definitely feeling the lack of people willing to pay for our services."

Starsky pointed out, "Hutch and me figure the bad economy has to force the mortgage rate down, but they haven't dropped yet.  We keep hoping we can refinance the house."

"So, what was it like for you two when you were on the police force, being together?"

Starsky answered, "We were just... partners.  You know, in the usual sense."

Hutch wondered if there would ever come a time when people would be interested in them beyond the uniqueness of their relationship.  It seemed most ordinary people were highly fascinated as to what it was like for two men to live together.  He offered, "We didn't live together until after we were off the force.  It's just the way things worked out."

Ronnie asked, "Neither of you have ever wanted children?"

"Well, obviously," Hutch said, "it's not on the radar now."

"And wasn't really before," Starsky said, "considering the danger of our jobs.  I mean, the idea of getting married and settling down and having a family, when you're getting shot at every day, really isn't being very fair."  He softly added.  "Not that we weren't both tempted by the dream at times."

"So," Bob prompted, "how long have you two been together?"

"In what sense?" Starsky asked.

"We've known each other for over a dozen years," Hutch said.  "We were partnered on the force, as detectives for over half of that time.  We've been living together for about a year a half, and have had our detective agency for most of that time."  He knew what Bob was really trying to ask was How long have you been fucking?  But Hutch didn't think that made for appropriate dinner conversation.

"What about you two?" Starsky asked smoothly.  "How did you meet?"

Ronnie picked up the story of how she and Bob had met at a library, even though neither of them were avid library users.

"What about children?" Hutch asked, since she had mentioned that they'd been married for four years.

Ronnie glanced at Bob.  "We keep trying."

He shifted with discomfort.  "What's that like, being private detectives?"

"Well, it can be really boring a good part of the time," Starsky replied.  "There's a lot of mundane stuff.  Verifying information from applicants who want to work at large corporate firms, and tailing spouses suspected of cheating."

"We even got paid to find a woman's lost dog," Hutch chuckled.

"Yeah," Starsky piped up.  "That had a happy ending, at least.  But, occasionally, we get thrown a bone and get a case that goes on for a long time and makes us feel like real detectives, because we have to do a lot of legwork and talk to a lot of different people."

Hutch pushed his plate away.  "That was excellent, Ronnie."


"No, no.  No, thanks.  Otherwise, I'll have to be working out at the gym with you and Starsky."

"Believe it or not," Starsky said, "Hutch used to be the health nut between us.  He was always nagging on me about what I ate and being the one that badgered about working out and eating right."  He grinned widely.  "Now I'm in better shape than him, thanks to Ronnie's excellent instruction."  He tilted his wine glass toward her. 

"Thanks, but you've been an excellent student.  Extremely motivated."

"Yeah, well," Starsky said a bit bashfully, "it seemed like after I went through two really bad years, health-wise, one of recovering from being shot multiple times, and another recovering from a really bad virus that almost killed me, it's like my body chemistry changed and all of sudden, I started packing on weight.  And that's something I never had to worry about before."

Bob deadpanned, "I think that's called age."

They all chuckled.  Starsky then said, "Yeah, but Hutch is the same age as me, and he hasn't had to worry about his weight, even though he doesn't eat as healthy or exercise as much as he used to."

They all seemed to be finished eating.  Ronnie glanced nervously at her husband, and then reached for the wine bottle, and began to top off everyone's glass.

Bob asked, "Are you two worried about that homosexual disease?"

Hutch said, "No more so than anyone else.  It's scary that they don't understand what's causing it and that it's spreading so fast, but we don't have any reason to be more concerned about it than anyone else."

Starsky put in firmly, "We're in an exclusive relationship.  We have less to worry about than when we used to be single and dated lots of different girls."

Bob said, "I'm a religious man, obviously, and there's no doubt in my mind what's going on here."

"What do you mean?" Hutch asked in puzzlement.

"Look, Christianity recognizes that we're all sinners.  And all sinners deserve forgiveness.  But society has reached the point of being more and more accepting of homosexuality.  It's obvious to me that God needed to do something to show His disapproval and remind everyone how wrong it is."

Hutch felt his full stomach tighten into knots, and he sensed Starsky's tension, beside him.  Trying to keep his voice calm, because he had enjoyed the dinner very much up until now, Hutch said, "My father has terminal cancer.  What has he done that he's being punished for?"

"That's between him and God.  I'm just saying that it can't be a coincidence that more and more people are choosing to participate in homosexual relations, and now this disease is starting to kill them off."

"Then what are you worried about?" Starsky demanded.  "If the disease is going to kill all the homosexuals, then you and nobody else has to worry about how they're going to taint your otherwise pristine society."

Beneath the table, Hutch reached for Starsky's hand and clasped it.

"David," Ronnie said gently, "this is the whole reason we're talking to you about this.  We don't want you or Hutch to get this disease."  She looked from one to the other.  "You're good people.  We know that.  We want to help you with this sin that has befallen you." 

Hutch brought his napkin to his mouth with his free hand and coughed.  He was amazed at the calmness of his voice when he said, "I don't let anyone to dictate to me how to live a spiritual life, and most especially not how I'm supposed to show my love for David."  He squeezed Starsky's hand.

With exaggerated calmness, Starsky said, "If this is the real reason you've wanted us to come here, then I'm sorry we accepted your invitation."

Bob and Ronnie sat looking at them, and didn't appear interested in changing the subject. 

Starsky squeezed Hutch's hand back and started to rise.  "Let's go, Hutch."

"No, don't go," Ronnie pleaded.  "Please let us help you come to terms with your sinful urges and work through them."

Hutch stood, still holding Starsky's hand.  "I think you two are the ones that need help."  He tossed his napkin down and said sincerely, "I'm sorry you ruined such a great dinner.  We'll see ourselves out."

They quickly moved to the front door.  As Starsky turned the knob, Bob called out, "This disease is going to kill one of  you.  And the other will come crawling back to God."

Starsky paused.  Hutch squeezed his shoulder, wanting to discourage him from a pointless retort, and pulled the door open.

As they left the house and trotted down the steps of the sidewalk, in the darkness, Starsky pushed his key ring into Hutch's hands, and then headed for the passenger side of the Corvette.

Ah, buddy, Hutch thought, realizing that Starsky was too upset to drive.

Once they were in the car, Hutch started the motor and pulled away from the curb.  After a moment, he said flippantly, "Well, it was really nice up until the religion part."

Starsky snorted harshly, and then reached to put his hand on Hutch's leg.  "I guess there was a reason I had a bad feeling about this."

Hutch looked over at him.  "Guess we should have known something was up when we found out Bob was a pastor."

Starsky grimaced.  "People can be pastors and priests and rabbis and such without feeling they have to lecture their dinner guests."  He paused.  "What pisses me off most is that Ronnie waited until I'd confirmed that I was in a relationship with you before she invited us.  Like, 'Oh, goodie.  Some fresh meat to try to convert.'  Otherwise, why bother?"

Hutch wasn't ready yet to go home.  "How about we take a drive up the coast?"

"Sounds good."

Hutch waited until they were out of the city, and then stepped on the gas.  He enjoyed the way the Corvette handled the curves of the road.

"You know something?" Starsky asked.


"People are going to keep reacting like this, until they figure something out about this disease, or find a cure for it.  I mean, if things keep going like they are, and more gays keep dying, people are going to start thinking we're infected just because we're in one of those relationships."

Hutch sighed and grudgingly admitted, "You're probably right.  So much for trying to expand our circle of friends, huh?"

"How weird is it that it's the sometimes-snobbish rich people who are okay about us?"

"Yeah, but let's not look that gift horse in the mouth.  Their willingness to spend money for the simplest of investigations is what keeps our bills paid."

"We need another big case."

"That we do."  It was now March, and they were back to doing menial employment background checks and spying on spouses suspected of cheating.  Occasionally, another job came along, such as surveying a traveling employee who was suspected of making side deals, but those usually didn't last very long.

After a while of driving in silence, Starsky said, "My Tuesday session with Ronnie is tomorrow.  That's going to be fun.  If I decide to actually go."

"Maybe she'll apologize."

"Yeah, maybe.  I supposed maybe we can continue, if she does.  I'll just feel weird, knowing that she's constantly thinking how sinful I am."

"Doesn't it seem kind of strange that she's such a looker, and dresses in those snug tights, working in that gym with all those men around, and she's married to a pastor?"

Starsky mused, "It guess it takes all kinds to make up this big world of ours."

Hutch grunted.  "And religious nuts get to pick and choose what they think is acceptable, and try to put that on everyone else."

"Never would have figured her for an obsessive religious freak," Starsky muttered.

"I got the impression that this dinner idea was more her husband's doing."

"Maybe.  But she's still got a lot to apologize for, if she wants me to continue as her client."

After a time, Hutch pulled the car over to a little inlet in the road.

"Why are we stopping?" Starsky asked.

Hutch nodded at the sky.  "It's a beautiful moonlit night.  Let's take a walk on the beach."

"We'll need jackets.  I think we left some in the trunk."

Hutch pulled the lever to pop the trunk, and they got out of the car.  The breeze did indeed have a nip to it.  Thankfully, they found that they each had left jackets in the trunk, from some earlier outing when it was warm enough to have abandoned them.

After locking the car, they crossed the road to the steps that led down to the beach.  They left their shoes and rolled up their pant legs. 

They started walking, holding hands.  They spotted a few people in the moonlight, but most appeared to be minding their own business.

Starsky suddenly wrapped his arm around Hutch and leaned against him.  "I love you so much, Hutch."

Hutch put his own arm around him.

Starsky continued, "You're so stabilizing.  You calm everything down."

Hutch was touched by the words.  "Think so, huh?"

"Yeah.  If I was by myself, I'd be fuming."

"Well, we always knew that we might not be accepted by people who don't know us."

"But that's just it.  Ronnie has worked with me all these weeks.  Seen how hard I've tried.  Seen my sense of humor.  Am I really such an ogre to her because someone with a cock owns my heart?"

"You know this is an argument that can't be won."  Hutch gentled his voice. "We've just got to focus on us and what's important to us, you know?"

Starsky snorted, "And then get accused of being self-centered and self-absorbed."  He quoted the words from their siblings a number of months ago.

Hutch chuckled softly.  The humor felt good.  "You try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody.  So, let's forget everyone else and just please ourselves.  That's pretty much what we've always done.  And it's mostly worked out, huh?"  He hugged Starsky closer.

"Yeah.  But I still wish we'd join a bowling league or something.  If we get in with a group of pot-bellied, balding guys with an intent to bowl, it's not like they're going to get snoopy and ask a bunch of questions.  Especially if we bowl good."

"Maybe not," Hutch mused.  "And if they do, maybe they'll be okay about it.  Do you really want to join a bowling league?"

"I think it'd be fun."

"It does sound fun.  Let's look into that."

They'd never been able to join a league as cops, because their demanding jobs had made it impossible to commit to a specific night each week.

Starsky abruptly said, "Let's stop and watch the waves a while."  He knelt down to the sand, facing the water.

Hutch knelt behind him, and then sat with his legs outside of Starsky's.  He wrapped his arms around his love and rested his cheek against his neck.

After a time, Starsky asked, "Hutch?  Do you ever think about what happened in Virginia?"

Hutch drew a careful breath.  "I try not to, buddy.  It makes my head spin.  I'd rather deal with tangible things that I can understand.  Sometimes," he admitted, shaking his head, "I even question if that really happened."

"We know that it did."

"I know."  The Herpes-B virus that mysteriously disappeared from Starsky's system was proof that something inexplicable had happened.  Hutch tightened his embrace.  "Why are you thinking about that?"

"Just wondered if someone out there in the universe knows how to cure this homosexual disease."

"Even if so, it's not like we have any way of summoning them."

Quietly, Starsky said, "I wonder sometimes if they're somehow able to watch us.  If they know what's going on with us."

"If so, it's not like we'd ever know about it, so I don't see any point in thinking about it."

Starsky intertwined his arms with Hutch's.  "My practical Hutch."

"That's me," Hutch said with a touch of humor.  Then he noted, "There's enough to worry about here on planet Earth, that I don't see much point in worrying about things I have no control over."

The sat quietly for a while.  Then Hutch said, "My mother wants us to just suck each other cocks."

"What?" Starsky asked in disbelief.

Hutch chuckled.  He'd known that would get a rise out of Starsky.  "She suggested that we just do things orally."

"Your mother said that?"

"Yeah.  In so many words.  At least until the scientists understand what's going on with that disease and exactly how it's transmitted."

"Well, you should have pointed out that any dirty germs we might transmit was given to each other a long time ago."

Hutch burrowed his cheek into Starsky's neck.  "Mm-hmm."

"Can't believe your mother would actually say something that... personal."

"I couldn't believe it either.  She said she'd wanted my father to talk to me, but he was too embarrassed."

"As he should be."  Then Starsky relented, "She's just worried.  I suppose we'll start hearing from others pretty soon, too.  Nicky.  Dobey.  Huggy."  Then he asked, "How come nobody believes that we're in an exclusive relationship?"

"The people who really know us believe it."

"That seems like such a small group," Starsky muttered.

"Who knows, maybe we'll turn out to be good buddies with some of the guys in the bowling league."

Starsky chuckled, "That does seem a little far-fetched."

"You never know."

A strong wind blew across them.

Hutch laid his cheek on top of Starsky's shoulder.  "I love you so much, buddy.  You're my everything."

"Mm.  I like the sound of that."

"If we could just get ourselves another good case, life would be perfect, huh?"

He heard Starsky's smile in his reply.  "Yeah."  Then Starsky asked, "Do you believe in reincarnation?"

Such a philosopher Starsky was tonight.  "I don't know.  It's another one of those things I won't know the answer to in this life, so I don't see much point in contemplating it.  I accept that it's a possibility, but that's as far as I can go with it.  Why?"

"Doesn't it feel like, sometimes, that we've been together so much longer than we have?  Like our souls met eons ago?"

Hutch whispered, "Yeah, it does feel like that sometimes."  In fact, he was feeling such right at this moment.

"Isn't that a nice thought?  That we've been there for each other for as long as mankind has existed?"

"Yeah."  Hutch pressed his nose against Starsky's neck.  "But it's an equally appealing thought that we're always going to be there for each other in this lifetime, even if it's the only one there is."

Starsky raised his shoulder, as though to press Hutch's face closer.  "Yeah."  Then he said, "I feel so close to you right now, and I don't even feel the need to make love to you."

"It was like that for us for a lot of years.  I guess it's an old habit, huh?"  Hutch had to struggle to remember why they were even here.  A coastal drive to escape their pain... a pain that now seemed rather distant and unimportant.

"You know something, Hutch?  We have a really unique story."

"Hm?  What do you mean?"

"Just how things have turned out for us.  Not that we're any more special than anybody else, but I know you get as frustrated as I do when we try to explain to others about us -- about how we are together, and how that came about -- and it seems like they don't 'get it'."

Hutch rubbed his cheek along the top of Starsky's shoulder.  "Ah, buddy, it's not like there's anything we can do about that."

"I know.  But still...."

Starsky sounded like he had an idea.  "What?" Hutch prompted.

Starsky sighed.  "I feel like I want to tell our story.  Like write it down.  Like a book, but not one that's published.  So if, you know, you and I get killed in a car wreck or something, somebody can find it, and our story will be known somehow."

Hutch furrowed his brow.  "That would be a lot of writing.  And I hope our stories aren't anywhere near being over yet.  We're not even forty."

"That wouldn't matter.  Once I got caught up to the present time, then I could just add stuff, when it seems appropriate."

"That's something that would certainly keep you occupied, depending on how far back you want to go."  Hutch wondered if this was something Starsky would forget about in the morning.

"Yeah.  At least it's not something that would have any kind of deadline.  I could just work on it whenever I feel like it."  Starsky suddenly squeezed one of the hands that were around him.  "I'm ready to go."

The breeze was getting colder.  They helped each other up.


When they arrived home, Hutch switched on the light in the laundry area, and noticed that a blinking light was coming from the office, across the foyer.  "Hmm. We have a message."  They rarely got business calls in the evening.

They moved to the office and Hutch put the telephone on speaker mode.  He dialed the voice messaging number, and keyed in their codes until the message was heard.  "Hey, fellas," Huggy's voice said, "you didn't answer your home phone, so I thought I'd leave a message at your business number, in case you're out.  There's a man here who would like to talk with you guys about a job.  Says he knows you from before.  He plans on hanging around a while, so you might give me call when you get this, and see if he's still here.  Oh, it's almost eighty-thirty right now."  A beep was heard, indicating the end of the message.

"It's about ninety-thirty now," Starsky said.  "Let's check it out."

With the phone still on speaker, Hutch dialed Huggy's number. 

"Huggy speaking."

"Hey, Hug," Starsky said, "we just got in.  What's up?"

"That cat who wanted to see you guys is still here.  When can you get here?  I'll tell him to wait."

"Who is it?" Hutch asked.

"He didn't give a name.  Just said Dobey directed him here, and he knows you guys from a prior case.  He wears a cowboy hat.  Seems sort of sophisticated, in an old-fashioned kind of way."

Starsky and Hutch exchanged puzzled glances.  "Sure," Hutch said.  "We can be there in about a half hour."

"I'll tell him you're on the way."

Hutch hung up the phone.  "You have any idea who that could be?"

"Nope.  But let's hope he's got a juicy case for us."

That's what Hutch hoped, too.


Since they were no longer cops, when Hutch walked into a bar like The Pits, he found himself put off by the degree of smoke.  It was interesting the life he had led.  One where he was raised in a relatively pristine upper-middle classic suburb, only to move to southern California to work the seedy and impoverished streets, and then find himself having returned to an upper-middle class neighborhood -- and feel grateful for it.

He wondered if Starsky's dual biography, if he ever actually got around to writing it, would examine the psychology of that.

"So, where is he?" Starsky blurted out above the noise , as they came to the end of the bar where Huggy was.

"Good evening to you, too," Huggy said pointedly.  Then he nodded.  "He wanted a private, corner booth.  Since he assured me he'd spend plenty of money, I obliged the gentleman.  For that matter, what would you like?  He said to put it on his tab."

"Just a beer," Starsky said.

"Me, too."

They moved over to the booth that was in a darkened corner, Hutch eager to have this mystery solved.  A man was sitting in the middle of it, head lowered over his beer and nachos.  Hutch thought the profile and gesture appeared vaguely familiar.

Just as the man raised his head, his beer to his lips, Starsky slapped Hutch's back.  "Hey!  That's Steve Hanson!"

So, it was.  The actor that had starred in and funded the movie he and Starsky had been undercover stuntmen for. 

"Hey, fellas," Hanson greeted.  "Come on, sit down.  Order yourselves a beer."

"We already did," Starsky assured, as he slid in the booth on one side of Hanson, turning sideways to face him. 

Hutch followed behind his partner.  "How the heck are you?" he greeted, holding out his hand.

"Doing pretty good, actually, considering I'm about to age out of having any screen appeal."  Hanson shook both their hands.

"Ah, come on," Starsky said, "look how long John Wayne was popular."

"I'm not a legend like John Wayne."

Huggy brought their beers.  As he placed them on the table, Starsky scolded, "Huggy, you don't know who this guy is?"

"He never introduced himself," Huggy defended.

"He's Steve Hanson," Hutch said,  "The western movie actor."

Huggy nodded politely.  "Nice to meet you.  No offense, but westerns aren't exactly my bag.  You dig?"

Hanson grinned widely.  "That's quite all right.  I'm actually enjoying being in a crowded place where nobody seems to notice me."

After Huggy left, Hutch sipped his beer and asked, "What's going on, Steve?  This is hardly your neck of the woods."

"Well, I remembered you two from that picture you worked on.  I stopped by to see your Captain Dobey, because I was hoping I'd be able to get a hold of you two, and see if it would be okay for you to work a job independently for me, in your off hours.  He told me that you'd left the force a over a year ago, and had started your own detective agency.  That fit into my plans even better, so since he was about to take off for a vacation, he told me it might be easiest to reach you through Huggy."

"So, what kind of job is it?" Starsky prompted.  "Things are kind of slow for us.  The recession and all."

Hanson leaned back and regarded them for a long moment.  Then he asked, "How would you two like to both be racehorse owners for a while -- without actually having to pay for the horses?"

Hutch blinked, letting the unexpected question sink in.  Starsky glanced back at him, while chuckling, "Sure, sounds terrific."

"What's the catch?" Hutch asked.

Hanson leaned toward them.  "I've been involved in various racehorse partnerships for a couple of decades now.  I've also gotten a lot friends to join in.  We've always approach it as an investment, for tax purposes, but we've just broken even on a few of them through the years.  It's more for the fun of it.  We don't expect much else."

Hutch asked, "So, what's the problem?"

Hanson shook his head.  "More and more, the charges for the expenses aren't looking right.  They're higher than what they should be.  See, I've had this friend that I've known forever, David Brooks.  He used to be an actor way back when, but never got hired much.  Anyway, he made it big in oil and other types of investments, and then got interested in racehorses as something of a hobby, and got me and a few others involved.  What he does is, toward the beginning of every year, his bloodstock company buys three or four two-year-old racehorses in training, and then re-sells them as a package to whatever partnership he's been able to form for that year.  Sometimes it might be me and two or three friends of mine, sometimes six or seven.  The size of the partnerships vary.  Anyway, he might pay a total of two hundred thousand for five horses.  He'll sell that package of five horses for two hundred and fifty thousand to the partnership, of which he's the largest shareholder.  With that extra fifty grand, he takes five thousand per horse right off the top for one-time management fee.  By that, I mean he's the official partner who acts as a go-between between the trainer and the partners.  All the bills for the partnership go to him, and he handles paying them. In rare cases when a horse is doing well enough to earn some money, he's the one who cuts checks to the partners."

Hanson took a moment to sip his beer.  "Anyway, in this example, he'd get twenty-five thousand in income for management fees.  Then the remaining twenty-five thousand would be put in an expense account for the horses.  Ideally, at least one or two of the horses will earn enough money to cover their own expenses and that of the others that don't earn anything.  When there's a deficit -- as there often is -- expenses are paid from the fund.  If the expense fund runs out, then owners have to put in more cash to keep the horses going.  When there's no reason to think the horses will perform any better, then they're sold for whatever we can get.  So, ultimately, the partnership ends anywhere from two or three years down the line, when all the horses have been sold or given away, because they no longer have any racing value."  He paused.  "Are you with me so far?"

Hutch nodded along with Starsky.  "So, you're thinking the expense reserve fund is drying up faster than it should?"

"Yes.  In recent years, the expenses seem higher than they should be.  The partners get mailed a quarterly statement that shows all the accounting, but the numbers keep creeping up.  I admit I haven't owned a riding horse in a long time, but it doesn't make sense that it costs $75 to shoe a horse, when a few years back it was only $35."

Starsky said, "Have you asked David Brooks about it?"

"Just casually.  He just shrugs it off to inflation and everything costing more.  See, I'm in a delicate spot, because I've known Brooks so long, and I'm the one responsible for bringing in all these other partners.  It looks bad if I'm asking a lot of questions.  I need someone without any direct ties to me to do some snooping around.  To actually look at original invoices and see if they can get some proof of what's going on.  To see if they can get a handle on how deep this scam is, if that's what it is."

"You think he's padding all the expenses?" Hutch asked.

Hanson nodded.  "That's my guess.  For example, he started having an acupuncturist coming by and seeing all the horses once a month.  It's on every quarterly statement.  I'm too busy to hang out at the track much, but I'm suspicious if there's any such person actually doing acupuncture on racehorses.  And every month, at that."

Starsky asked,  "If he is padding, how much money do you think we're talking about?"

Hanson smiled wryly.  "Probably not enough to justify paying two private detectives to get to the bottom of it.  But, for me, it's about the principle of the thing.  I don't want to think that Brooks is ripping off me and my other pals.  But if I have hard evidence, I won't hesitate to confront him about it, and threaten to press charges if he doesn't put things right."

Starsky sat back and nodded toward Hutch.  "Interesting case."

"Yeah."  Hutch said to Steve, "It sounds like you have an idea about how you want us to approach it."

"Yep, I've given it a lot of thought.  I've already told Brooks that I've got money tied up in too many other projects this year, and with the current economy, my usual friends aren't wanting to invest in another package of horses this spring.  But," his eyes shone with amusement, "I did tell him that I thought there might be two acquaintances of mine that don't know a darn thing about horse racing, but are as excited as heck about the idea of owning a few real, live racehorses.  So, with whatever package he puts together this year, you two can be the only two partners in those horses, along with him.  Now," his voice sobered, "in actuality, I'll give you all the money to buy the horses.  You'll have to be licensed with the California Horse Racing Board, which means fingerprints and a background check.  When you're licensed as owners, you'll buy the horses for whatever Brooks says is needed to cover the cost, his management fees, and establish a expense reserve.  Once you've done everything you can to find out any information about bogus expenses, you'll sell your shares in the partnership to me for $1 each to make it legal, plus the rights to whatever money might be in the expense reserve."

Starsky said, "You've really put a lot of thought into this."

"I figure the only way somebody like yourselves are going to be able to find out anything is if you have the same rights of any other owner, and can hang around at the stables of racetrack and such.  Plus, as partners in the horses, you have every right to ask questions about the accounting, and demand to see proof.  If you come off as being dumb as rocks about the sport of horse racing, you won't be very threatening.  So, hopefully that'll free you up to snoop around."

Hutch asked, "Who's the trainer?"

"The trainer we've always used is Clyde Clausen.  For all I know, he might be in on it.  He's in Barn 37 at Hollywood Park.  Brooks himself keeps an office a few miles away, where he has a couple of part time office workers.  That's where the records on the partnerships are kept, along with records for his other investments..  There's currently two other partnerships going, that were formed each of the last couple of years.  I'll give you the name of the horses and the partners, so if you can find out anything concerning those expenses, that would help a lot."  Hanson looked from one to the other.  "I expect this is going to be a long-term project, if you're interested."

"We're interested," Starsky and Hutch said in unison.  Hutch asked, "What's the timeline?"

"Well, the 2yo auction is this weekend.  That's where Brooks and Clausen go to buy the horses.  The auction is for horses that are anywhere from 30 to 90 days from being race ready.  But," Hanson's eyes narrowed at them in warning, "there's a dozen things that can go wrong to set back a horse.  Not the least of which is injury.  So, don't get your hopes up that, within a month or so, you're going to get to be owners at a racetrack, cheering on your horse.  Consider yourself lucky if any of the horses are racing by the end of June.  In the meantime, you need to get licensed as quickly as possible, because there's no point in Brooks reselling the horses to a newly formed partnership, unless you're licensed.  Otherwise, the horses can't race, and you can't hang around the backside, where the stables are, because you have to have a license to get access."

"Man," Starsky said, almost bouncing on the seat, "this is going to be cool.  Being racehorse owners."

"Another thing you need to do, as quickly as possible, is set up a money market account, so I can wire you a few hundred thousand dollars that you can use to buy into the partnership.  Any excess money can sit there, in case there's a need for more cash.  Once this thing is over and done with, you can give any money left in the account back to me."

"Uhh," Hutch said, "did you want to put this down in writing?"

"A handshake has always been good enough for me," Hanson said.  "You both know, and I know, that your shares in the horse partnership are actually owned by me, and any money in the money market account is owned by me.  Any purse money the horses earn will go in the expense fund.  On the off chance that one of the horses does very well, and there's more than a year's worth of expenses in reserve, Brooks will issue each of you a check.  You would put that in the money market fund.  The same for any of the horses that might be sold or claimed."

"Claimed?" Starsky asked.

"Yes.  Lower level horses run in claiming races, which means they're for sale to any other licensed owner or trainer for the claiming price.  If someone claims a horse out of a claiming race, the horse becomes the property of the new owner as soon as the race is over.  But any purse money, plus the claiming price, goes to the prior owner."

Hutch knew a little bit about types of races.  He squeezed Starsky's shoulder.  "Don't worry, buddy.  I'll keep you filled in."

Hanson said, "Let me know as soon as you're both licensed and have a money market account set up.  Then I'll let Brooks know I've go two falling-all-over-themselves greenhorns completely hooked and eager to spend their money.  I'll introduce you to him, and you'll all sign the papers that will make you part of the partnership, along with Brooks, that's going to buy whatever group of horses he picks up at the sale this weekend."  He paused.  "Any questions?"

Hutch asked, "What's our backstory going to be?  How do we know you?"

Hanson drew a breath.  "The less you have to lie, the easier it will be.  You can go ahead and say that you used to be cops, and we stayed in touch after you did the undercover job for that movie.  A couple of years back, you were vacationing in Canada and happened to buy a winning lottery ticket.  So, you quit the force and have been looking for something fun to invest in, and once I mentioned racehorses to you, you jumped all over the idea, and have been waiting for me to bring you in on the Brook's 1982 partnership."  Hanson shifted.  "Don't say anything about having made prior investments in things like oil or minerals, because Brooks dabbles in that kind of stuff all the time, and he'll catch on right away that you don't know much, and that could make him suspicious." 

Starsky grinned.  "Winning the lottery in Canada sounds like a great way to come into a lot of money."

Hanson said, "I assume you charge a day rate, plus expenses."

"Yes," Hutch said.  "And we usually ask for a retainer up front for a long-term case like this."

Before Hutch could mention the standard amount of two thousand dollars, Hanson said, "Take five thousand out of the money market account when I wire the money.  That'll be your retainer."

Hutch decided not to argue the amount, considering how hard it had been to pay bills of late.  "Appreciate it.  We'll invoice you monthly after that, with a thorough accounting of our time and expenses."

"Sounds good." 

Hutch said, "Are you sure you don't want to put something down in writing?  I mean, once our names our on the partnership papers, if Starsk and I happened to get killed in a car accident, nobody would know that the horses or the money in the money market account belongs to you."

"Geez, Hutch," Starsky said with a chuckle.

Hanson responded, "Na, I hate getting lawyers involved in things.  Look, if something unfortunate like that were to happen, it would be a very small drop in the pool of lousy investments I've made in my life."  He chuckled.  "Losing out on a few hundred thousand is nothing like losing millions, like I've done before with some of the pictures I've backed."

"Okay," Hutch said with sigh, "if that's what you prefer."

"That's what I prefer."  Hanson suddenly shifted and lowered his voice.  "Hey, uh, I assumed you guys were single.  But I see that you're both wearing wedding bands. I hope the scope of this case isn't going to be a problem, if you've got wives at home."

Hutch shifted closer to Starsky and circled his arm around him.  "We're together."  He waited, wondering how an old-fashioned western style actor would react.

"Oh."  Hanson tilted his head.  "I didn't know that.  We see all kinds in my industry.  I guess it's naive of me to be surprised to see that kind of relationship elsewhere."  He smiled.  "I guess that'll make this case that much easier then."

While Hutch relaxed, Starsky asked,  "What do you think Brooks would say?"

Hanson shrugged.  "What can he say?  As long as your money's good, he's not going to turn you away, or make any snide comments to you directly, if it bothers him."

"Great," Starsky said.

Hanson furrowed his brow.  "Are you guys worried about that disease the news keeps talking about?"

Hutch replied, "Not any more than anyone else.  We're only with each other."  He was getting tired of explaining that.

"It's none of my business.  I would just have to think anyone in that kind of relationship would be really scared right now."

"Well," Starsky said, "if Hutch and me were going to catch anything from each other, it would have happened well before now."

Hanson repeated, "None of my business."  He grabbed his glass and raised it.  "Shall we drink to this new venture?"

Starsky and Hutch raised their glasses.


The next afternoon, Hutch was cleaning out the refrigerator, because he'd spilled a pitcher of fruit punch. 

It amazed him how quickly the tides of life could turn.  For a couple of months now, he and Starsky had suffered from a scarcity of work, just like the rest of the country.  Then they had gone to what they hoped to be a nice dinner with Bob and Ronnie, only to find themselves offended enough to leave early.  Then they'd had a nice, intimate, soul-affirming walk on the beach.  After coming home, they'd found out they were wanted at Huggy's.  By the time they left Huggy's, they'd not only taken on a case that could last many months, but sounded like it could be far more fun for them personally than any case they'd had before.

They'd both been tired after their long evening, and had readily fallen asleep upon arriving home.  But Starsky in particular had woken up this morning feeling refreshed and eager to get going on the case.  They had opened up a new money market account, first thing.  Then they called the California Horse Racing Board, and found out that the fingerprints that had been necessary for their gun permits a year ago was current enough to satisfy the fingerprint requirements for a racehorse owner's license.  So, all they had to do tomorrow was go to the track and fill out an application. 

Over an hour ago, Starsky had left for his session at the gym with Ronnie.  He was so excited about the Hanson case, that he couldn't bring himself to feel very angry about the prior evening's dinner.  Still, he was aware that it could be his last exercise session with Ronnie, depending on her demeanor and if she was willing to apologize.

In the meantime, Hutch had pulled out the yellow pages, and began calling around to various equine establishments and vendors, including veterinarians and blacksmiths, saying he was thinking about buying a racehorse, and needed to know how much he could expect the regular upkeep to cost on a monthly basis.  He even called a few racehorse training farms, and got more information from there.  He now had a long list of accurate expenses that a racehorse owner could be expected to pay, and now felt much more educated on the subject, though he didn't intend to let David Brooks or trainer Clyde Clausen know how well researched he was.

Hutch now had the mess cleaned up in the refrigerator, and he was starting to return the prior contents to it when he heard the garage door opening.  A few moments later, Starsky entered, dressed in his gym shorts, and asked, "What are you doing?"

"I spilled the punch."  Hutch put the last of the items into the refrigerator, and then shut the door.  "So, what's the verdict?"

Starsky plopped down at the table.  "We're done."

"Ah, buddy, I'm sorry." 

"When I got there, she said, 'I hope we can get past last night.'  I said, 'I hope so, too.'  We started our session, and it was tense as hell.  I kept thinking it was silly for us not to talk it out, but every time I almost said something, I'd remind myself that it was her place to apologize and make the first move.  She didn't."  Starsky sighed.  "Maybe it's just as well, Hutch.  I mean, she's been an incredible to me, but I think her value has sort of leveled out, and if I'm going to stay in shape, I should probably mix up my routine, anyway."  Starsky was gazing past Hutch, at the sliding glass door to the backyard.

"And?" Hutch prompted, glancing back over his shoulder to the backyard.

"You aren't going to like it."

Hutch's cheeks billowed.  "Let me guess.  You want to buy something expensive."  Hutch had already said No a month ago, when Starsky had insisted that they both needed telephones in their cars. 

Starsky nodded. "I think we should get the swimming pool operational this spring."

Hutch groaned.  "Starsky, it's going to cost a fortune to get it cleaned up, and then require a hell of a lot more maintenance than you or I are going to want to do."

Starsky shrugged.  "Can't we pay somebody to keep it maintained?  I see pool maintenance vans around here all the time in the summer."

"And pay for it with what?" Hutch countered.

Feebly, Starsky muttered, "Now we've got this case...."

"Which hasn't even started yet," Hutch reminded.  "I mean, for all we know, Steve Hanson could find out tomorrow from his tax accountant that he's going to owe the IRS a huge tax bill this year, and he could up and change his mind about hiring us."

"I'm just thinking how I could swim every day.  That would be really good exercise.  A different kind of exercise."

"The pool isn't that big for doing laps," Hutch protested.

"Better than nothing."

Hutch sighed.  "Starsky, we aren't buying anything new until we've got enough money coming into this place to pay the household bills, and still have something left over."

Starsky lowered his gaze. "I want something else, too."

"What?" Hutch demanded.

"A computer."


"Hutch, you can type on them a lot of faster.  I mean, I was serious last night when I said I wanted to write our story.  With a computer, I wouldn't have to worry about paper or ribbon or carbon paper to make a copy.  I could even make mistakes and not have to use a messy eraser or white-out fluid to correct it.  I could just type.  As much as I wanted.  Those Commodore 64 computers that we've seen advertised on TV only cost $595."


"It's a computer, Hutch.  They're the wave of the future.  Just think how fast you could type up an invoice on one."

"We don't need all this crap."

"It's not crap.  The swimming pool is for my personal health.  The computer would be as much for our business as it would be for me to write our story."

Hutch asked, "When are you going to have time to write our story when we're working on this case?"

"We aren't going to be working on it every hour of every day.  Besides, if we were, that means we would be charging a fortune."  Starsky smoothly completed his earlier thought.  "And the car phones are probably one of the smartest things we can do for ourselves.  Just think how it'll be if we're interviewing different witnesses for the same case, and we can call each other and update each other."

"Which we could do just as easily when we arrive home."

"Or," Starsky gestured to the refrigerator, unfazed, "after you spilled the punch, you could call me on my car phone and say, 'Hey, Starsk, I need you to stop and pick up some fruit punch on the way home.'"

Hutch shook his head.  "Being out of fruit punch is not a household crisis."

Starsky pouted.

"Buddy," Hutch pleaded, "it would be different if we were making enough money to pay our bills.  But we aren't now.  I had to take money out of savings again this month to cover the mortgage.  Maybe we can buy new toys once we start working this case, but first it's got to actually get rolling, and we've got to get a feel for how involved it's going to be.  For all we know, we might be so good at finding answers, it'll be over in a month."

Starsky asked, "Well, what about refinancing the mortgage so our payment is lower?  When is that going to happen?"

Flustered, Hutch said, "When the interest rates drop!  They've barely moved.  The economists keep talking like the interest rates have to fall because this recession is getting so bad, but it's not happening.  And once they start falling, they'll probably keep falling.  So, we'll still want to wait awhile so we can get the lowest possible rate, before they rise again."

Starsky bowed his head and picked at a fingernail.  In a low voice, he said, "My birthday is next week."

Hutch knew he was defenseless when Starsky put his foot down about something, even in a passively manipulative way.  Trying to be reasonable, he said, "That doesn't change the financial facts."  Then, curious, Hutch said, "Besides, if you could just get one of the items you want, which would it be?"

Starsky raised his head and looked toward the yard.  "Well, if we don't get the pool working, I guess we can just ride our bikes a lot this summer.  Or I can sign up with another gym, which will cost money.  And you're right about the phones.  Since we see each other at home so much, there's not much chance of us having a crucial need to get a hold of each other in our cars.  So...." Starsky looked up and met Hutch's eye.  He smiled.  "I'd like a computer for my birthday, please."


Starsky was so excited he could hardly contain himself.  It didn't matter that the three horses weren't really his and Hutch's horses; or rather, that the shares in Blue Team Limited weren't really theirs.  Each year, David Brooks gave the year's partnership a different color-coded name.  Brooks owned 51%, while Starsky and Hutch together owned 49% of Blue Team Limited.

Now, it was Monday, just two weeks after Hanson had first told them about the case, and they were in Brooks' office, and had signed the paperwork that transferred the ownership of the three horses from David Brooks Bloodstock Agency to Blue Team Limited.  Steve Hanson sat in a chair that was a few feet back from the desk, letting Starsky and Hutch have center stage across from Brooks.

Hutch shifted in his chair.  Nervously, he said, "Just so I'm clear, let's go over the numbers again."  He took out a pencil and pad.

Brooks was sixtyish with short, dark hair and a mustache.  He was dressed in a blazer and sweater . "You'll get a statement by mid April with details of all first quarter expenses, in which there will be very little activity, since the horses were purchased the last few days of the quarter."

"I'll still like the numbers right now," Hutch insisted, "just so I'm clear."

Starsky rolled his eyes toward Brooks, as though to say He's so fussy about everything.

Brooks' mouth corner twitched.  He said, "The filly was the most expensive.  She cost $98,000.  The chestnut colt cost $62,000 and the grey colt cot $38,000.  That's $198,000, and your share is $97,020.  I've charged you $15,000 in management fees -- five for each horse.  So, that's $112,020 you've invested so far.  Since you've given me a check for $150,000, that means that there's $37,980 left over for your share of expenses.  That'll get those three horses through for close to a year, if they don't bring in any money.  But hopefully they'll be earning purses by the end of that time."

Starsky glanced at Hutch.  "Does that satisfy you that the numbers make sense?"

Hutch nodded.

Starsky rubbed his hands together.  "Okay, now that we officially own three racehorses, when can we actually see them?"

Hanson piped up, "I'll drive them over to the stables and introduce them to Clyde, and give them a feel for how to get around the barn area."

"That sounds good," Brooks said.  After Starsky and Hutch stood, he said, "If you two are serious about the racing business, the best favor you can do for yourself is learn about pedigrees."  He held out a thick, paperback book.  "Here's the sales catalog from the auction.  That's a good place to start.  There's also weekly trade magazines, like The Blood-Horse and The Thoroughbred Record.  I recommend subscribing to one of them.  And then the Daily Racing Form, of course."

Hutch accepted the catalog, and reached to shake Brooks' hand.  "Thank you so much."

Starsky also shook Brooks' hand.  "This is going to be incredible!"


Starsky had browsed at the sales catalog while sitting in the backseat of Hanson's car, but he couldn't make sense of the information.  There was regular print, bold print, and staggered columns of names and racing records in sentence form.  He decided that it was fine with him if Hutch became the pedigree expert on their behalf.

After driving a few miles, they reached Hollywood Park.  They passed the grandstand, until they were on the other side of the track, where the barns were.  They entered a gated access road, and stopped at the guard, who said, "Hello, Mr. Hanson."

"Hello.  I've got two new owners with me.  They're licensed."  He took Starsky and Hutch's licenses and presented them to the guard.

After the guard looked at them, he said, "Have a good day."


Hanson drove slowly, as the barns were full of various activities, with people milling about.

"Man, look at this place," Starsky said.

"It's actually quiet now," Hanson noted.  "There's no racing on Mondays, and most all the training activity happens in the mornings.  Things are buzzing then."

They stopped at a barn that had a big 34 on the side.  "This is Clyde Clausen's barn.  His horses are all along the west side.  There's another trainer that has horses on the other side."

"How many horses does Clausen have total?" Hutch asked.

"About twenty.  In addition to my partnerships, he has a few for other owners."

A heavyset man with a round face and short, gray beard, that matched his hair, appeared from inside the barn.  "Hi, Steve.  These must be the new greenhorns you've told me about."

"Yes, they're green, but they're eager to learn everything they can."

A while was spent on introductions.  Then Clausen led the way inside the barn, which had high ceiling and was well lighted.  Fresh straw was piled up in each horses stall, which had vertical metal bars along the upper halves so the horses were easily seen.

"Todd," Clausen called to a groom, "bring out Darla."

The groom, who appeared to be in his early twenties and had a sun bleached hair, entered a nearby stall with a lead shank.

"Darla?" Starsky asked.

"It's the filly," Hanson said.  "They all get stable names, in addition to their official, registered names."

Hutch took the sales catalog from Starsky.  "What's her real name?"

"Deep Waters," Clausen replied.

A dark bay horse, with no white markings, stepped out of the stall.  The groom stopped her before Starsky and Hutch.  "Ho," he said.  She started to take a step forward, he snapped the lead shank.  "Ho."

She stood still, her ears pricked, and looked about the barn.

Starsky thought she was the most magnificent animal he'd ever seen in his life.

"She's got a really nice pedigree," Clausen said.  "I was surprised we got her for the price."

Hutch was flipping through the catalog.  "I can't find her page."

Hanson said, "They're listed alphabetically by dam.  Look in the index for her sire, Forli."

"Can I pet her?" Starsky asked, breathless.

"Sure.  Just stay away from her mouth.  Horses can bite, though the colts are more apt to than the fillies."

Starsky stood next to Darla's shoulder, and then reached to stroke her neck.  "Hutch!  She feels like silk."

Hutch hooked his thumb between pages of the catalog, and joined Starsky in petting her.  "I've never seen a horse this clean before.  It's like she doesn't have a drop of dust on her."

"They go all out for the auction horses," Clausen said.  "Nobody wants to sell a bad-looking horse at auction.  In fact, the biggest problem with training horses purchased at an auction is they usually need to lose a couple of hundred pounds before they're fit to race."

"When do you think she can race?" Starsky asked.  Hutch had stepped away and given his attention back to the catalog, while Starsky continued to pet the ultra sleek neck.  He was amazed at how Darla continued to look around, as though interested in everything around her.

Hutch said, "Here she is.  If I'm reading this right, her mother is by a son of Northern Dancer."  He held the catalog toward Hanson.

"That's right," Hanson said, looking at the catalog.  "Northern Dancer is one of the greatest sires of this century.  And her own sire, Forli, has sired Forego, one of the greatest geldings to ever race.  He finally retired at the age of eight a few years ago.  He earned a couple of million."  Hanson pointed at the page.  "Her dam is a young mother, but the second dam, see here, produced a winner of the Hollywood Oaks.  The bold black type is for stakes winners.  So, when you look at a catalog page, you want to see a lot of names in bold black type, because that means there's a lot of stakes winners in the pedigree."

A gust of wind kicked up outside, and the barn rattled. 

Darla snorted and gracefully pranced to one side.

Clausen said to Todd, "Put her away and get Tyke."  As the groom turned Darla toward her stall, Clausen said to Starsky and Hutch, "Don't you two ever enter the stalls of the horses.  Don't ever get near the horses without a groom being around.  These are high strung racehorses, and you could get yourself or one of the horses injured if you don't know what you're doing."

"When will Darla be ready to race?" Starsky asked again.

"If all goes well, in about three months.  We've got to get the auction weight off of them first."

The groom went into another stall, and led out a chestnut horse that was shorter than Darla.  He had a wide blaze down his face.

"Which one is he?" Hutch stepped closer to Hansen with the catalog.

Hansen asked, "Who's he by?"

"What a Pleasure," Clausen replied.

Hutch muttered, "That name sounds familiar, even to me."

Hansen said, "A horse named Foolish Pleasure won the Kentucky Derby in 1975, and the next year Honest Pleasure was the big favorite for the Triple Crown races, but didn't win any of them.  They're both sons of What a Pleasure.  And their trainer, LeRoy Jolley?  He did a beer commercial and used the phrase 'what a pleasure'."

"Tyke" was fidgeting much more than Darla had, and Todd kept snapping on the lead shank.

Starsky was more nervous about petting him, since he kept baring his teeth.

"He's just being studdish," Hanson said, holding open a catalog page for Hutch. "The colts are like that."

"How come they call them colts?" Starsky asked.  "I thought colts are baby horses."

"He is a baby," Hanson replied with a chuckle.  "Horses aren't full grown until they're five.  That's when they have their full set of teeth."

Clausen put in, "A colt is a 'whole' male horse.  A gelding is a castrated horse.  A filly is a female horse.  At the age of five, a filly becomes a mare.  A colt becomes a horse.  A gelding is always a gelding."

Starsky gave Tyke's slick neck a quick pat, and then stepped back so he was beside Hutch.  "What's his real name?"

Hutch pointed to the name at the top of the page.  "Taken for Granted."  He chuckled, and then said to Hanson, "His page doesn't have near as much black type as Darla's."

Clausen said, "I really like this guy's conformation.  He's very well balanced throughout his body.  The type of horse that's less likely to get injured.  So, in my book, that makes up some for the lack of impressive family."

Hansen said, "When racing people talk about family, they're referring to the female side of the pedigree."

"You can put him up, Todd, and get Ghost."

"Ghost?" Starsky chuckled.

"He's a light gray," Clausen pointed out.  "He's the cheap one of the group, but I think that's more because he was offered early in the auction, when people are sitting on their money and waiting for other horses.  He's by Relaunch out of Native Dancer mare, so he's got gray on both sides of the pedigree."

Starsky couldn't imagine ever knowing so many names, let alone the colors of the horses.

Hutch had already found the page, as Ghost was lead out, looking much more relaxed and much less studdish than Tyke.  "His real name is Launched First."  Hutch chuckled and nodded toward Hanson.  "Am I reading this right?  He's the first foal from his dam?  So, because his sire was named Relaunch, that's why they named him Launched First?" 

Hanson looked at the catalog.  "That might very well be how he got the name."

As Todd brought Ghost to a halt, Starsky reached to pet him.  "He sure is relaxed."

"Yeah," Clausen acknowledged with a chuckle, "I trained the mother when she was two.  She was pretty easy-going.  She had a pretty good turn of foot, though.  A real quick sprinter that was hard to catch when she got the lead right out of the gate."  He moved to Ghost and stroked his face.  "I think this one is likely to be the first one ready to race.  He doesn't have as much extra paunch on him that the other two do.  That's probably another reason he went for a lower price."

Hansen said, "Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew only sold for $17,500 when he was a yearling."

"Really?" Starsky asked.

"And Foolish Pleasure I mentioned before?  I think he sold for less than $25,000 as a yearling."

"Man," Starsky mused, stroking the sleek neck faster, "to think I could be petting the next Kentucky Derby winner."

Hanson chuckled.  "Dream on.  I've been in this game twenty years, and the closest I've ever gotten to a Kentucky Derby as an owner, was when we had a horse finish third in the Santa Anita Derby.  That's a major Derby prep, and we threw the idea around a while of going to Kentucky for the Derby, but in the end, we decided not to, which was smart.  That was the year of Secretariat.  We would have been clobbered.  And that horse never amounted to much after that big third place finish."

Clausen nodded at Todd, who led the horse away, and then said, "This is a sport that's built on hope.  That's what has to keep you interested most of the time.  Because these horses will make liars out of you, as soon as you start thinking they're something special.  There's close to fifty thousand Thoroughbreds born every year.  Only one of those is going to win the Kentucky Derby."

Starsky noted, "That's pretty daunting when you say it like that."

"Just try to have as much fun as you can, and not get burned financially.  Don't spend more money than you can afford to lose.  Just like gambling."

They left a short time later, with Clausen saying that any time they wanted to get to the barn by six AM, they could watch the horses get their routine exercise of galloping slowly around the track for two miles.  It would be a few more weeks before there would be any timed workouts. 

As Steve drove them back to Brooks' office building, where the Corvette was parked, Starsky said, "Man, that filly Darla was something else.  She was so beautiful.  I think she's going to be the best one of the group."

Hutch teased, "Never mind that you don't know anything about racehorses?"

Starsky seriously said, "I just know she's the most gorgeous thing on four legs that I've ever seen in my life."

Hanson chuckled.  "I hate to tell you this, Starsky, but you've already broken rule number one of owning racehorses."

"Rule number one.  What's that?"

"Never fall in love with your horses."

Hutch laughed.


When they arrived home, Starsky's computer looked ostentatious as it sat on the kitchen table.  The intent had been to have it in the office, but Starsky had quickly realized that it would mean spending a lot of time alone there, and he hadn't liked that idea.  They considered putting it in the living room, but Hutch wasn't enamored of the idea of the constant clatter of the keyboard interfering with his enjoyment of the television.  So, for the time being, the computer had ended up on the kitchen table.  Starsky unplugged it every time after he shut it off, so the electrical cord wouldn't remain stretched across the kitchen to an outlet over the counter. 

In actuality, Starsky had yet to start the task of writing their life stories.  He'd only used the computer for playing games, which Hutch also joined in, on occasion. 

The house phone rang, and Hutch reached to answer it.  "Hello?"

"Hey, Hutch?"

He thought he recognized the female voice.  "Kyeesha?" he said happily, noting that Starsky looked up.  It had been a month since they'd last heard from her.

"Yeah.  Hi."

Hutch nodded at Starsky, who quickly trotted down the hall.  He said, "Starsky's going to pick up the phone in the bedroom, so he can be on the line."


A moment later, Starsky greeted, "Hey, Ky, how are ya?"

"I'm doing pretty good.  The job at the halfway house is pretty interesting.  It's just hard, now, finding jobs for the inmates, because the economy is so bad."

"Yeah," Hutch said, "we've been feeling it, too."

Starsky put in, "But we've got us a really neat case.  We're undercover as racehorse owners."  He chuckled.


"Yep.  We just need to do some snooping around to find why the expenses keep getting so high, because there's a guy that manages partnerships, and he might be doing something shady."

"Wow, that sounds like fun."

"We hope so," Hutch said.  "What's going on with you?"

"Well," Kyeesha drew a deep breath, "I've decided to take the plunge and buy a car.  I've driven a friend's car to get my license."

"What kind of car do you want?" Starsky asked.

"That's why I'm calling," she said.  "I don't know anything about cars.  It'll be a used one, of course.  But hopefully something reliable.  I was wondering if you can give me some tips, and tell me what to look out for."

Starsky's voice was serious.  "Oh, man, Kyeesha, you're going to get eaten alive.  Used car salesmen are sharks.  It's hard enough for a man to buy a used car and not get ripped off.  They see a single woman walk into a dealership...."

Hutch asked, "What price range are you looking for?"

"I was thinking around $2500 to $3000.  You know, I'd pay for it outright, so I don't have to do financing."  She had told them before that the only thing she'd thus far used the ten thousand they gave her was to get into a decent apartment.

Starsky said, "That should get you a reliable car, but you've got to know what you're doing.  Look, don't do anything yet.  Let me and Hutch make some calls and we'll get back to you.  I just don't want to see you waste your money on a lemon."

"I don't either."

The conversation turned to more casual subjects for a few minutes, and then they promised Kyeesha they'd get back to her within a couple of days.

After hanging up, Hutch leaned back against the counter and watched Starsky return to the kitchen.  "What are you planning?"

Starsky sat down at kitchen table.  "I'm thinking I want at least one of us to fly out there and help her buy a car."

"To North Carolina?  That's a bit extreme."

"Do you want her to get suckered into buying a piece of crap that's going to break down after a couple of weeks?"

"Of course not.  But surely she knows some male friends that can go with her."

"Male friends who are likely black.  You know as well as I do that a black person is going to be taken advantage of more than a white person."

Hutch grimaced at the truth of that.

Starsky's expression was still serious.  "There's another reason I want to go to North Carolina."


Now Starsky softened.  "It's, you know, where we got married, in a manner of speaking."

Hutch felt himself soften, too.  But he asked, "For what purpose?"

"Well, we could go back to that motel where our present lives got started."

"Ah, buddy, I don't think it would mean as much.  I mean, I'm more a believer that you can't go home again, and all that."  He shrugged, feeling reasonable.  "It was just a motel.  It could have been anywhere that we consummated our relationship.  It just happened to be your basic, everyday motel on the beach."

Starsky gazed at the tabletop for a long moment.  More quietly, he said, "There's another reason I want to go out there."  He looked up with trepidation.

Hutch's stomach tightened.  "Why?"

"Because then we could drive up to Virginia.  Find that road where we got lost."  Starsky swallowed thickly.

Hutch sat down next to Starsky.  "Buddy, why?"

"I just need to see it.  I'm serious about writing our life stories.  I know I haven't started yet, but I've been thinking about it a lot.  That was a major event in our lives.  I want to see where it happened."

Hutch sputtered, "But we don't even know exactly where it happened.  We just know that we took a wrong turn and got lost, and then hours later we stopped at a motel in the nearest town.  And even if we did know exactly where, it's not like there's going to be any evidence left."

"I know.  I don't expect to see anything.  I just need to go.  I need to, Hutch.  I'll fly out there by myself, if you want."

Hutch felt alarmed and quickly shook his head.  "No, no.  If you're driving to Virginia, I want to be there.  Otherwise, I'll be worried sick about you.  Besides, it'll be good to see Ky."

Starsky nodded.  "Good, I'm glad you're coming."  He was thoughtful.  "Let's go out within the next couple of days.  Maybe spend two days finding a car for Kyeesha?  Then drive to the beach, if we want.  Or go straight to Virginia.  That would be just a half a day, probably.  So, it might be a four-day trip, total.  Nothing's going to happen with the racehorse case before then, that's for sure."

"Yeah," Hutch agreed with a sigh.

They were silent for a long moment, and then Starsky asked, "Are you mad?  That I want to go to Virginia?"

"No, of course not.  Just... concerned."  Hutch shifted with discomfort.  "Like I've told you before, I don't know how to think about what happened to us, so I try not to think about it.  I don't see the point.  There's nothing to be gained."

"Well, when I actually start writing, I know I'm going to want to write about that first and get it out of my system.  Since I'm not trying to make it like a book book, that's ever going to be published, but more like a retrospective journal, I'm not going to start first with our family histories or something like that.  I'll fill in that stuff later.  I just intend to do chapters as I'm in the mood.  And right now, getting it all down on paper about what happened to us is what I'm most in the mood for."

Hutch quietly asked, "Are you going to listen to the hypnosis tape?"  Neither of them had ever considered listening to the tape recording of Starsky's session with a hypnotist that told of what had happened that one fateful night.

Starsky's mouth corner twitched.  "I'm not sure.  A part of me just wants to just sort of paraphrase what I remember I said when I was hypnotized."  He lowered his gaze.  "I guess a part of me is afraid to listen to it."

"Yeah, me too."

Starsky met Hutch's eye.  "But there's really no reason to be afraid, is there?"

Hutch considered, "Maybe it's just the idea of making it real again, when we've both so happily moved on."

Starsky's voice was suddenly gruff.  "I got cured because of what happened.  Because of that, I'll never be able to shrug it off or be dismissive of it."

Hutch leaned forward so he could rest his forehead against Starsky's.  "Yeah," he said softly.

After a long moment, Starsky said cheerfully, "So, let's call Kyeesha back and schedule a flight."


Kyeesha could only be off work on the weekend, so they flew in to Raleigh-Durham on Friday night.  She lived and worked in Greenville.  They spent all day Saturday going with her to visit various used car lots, but while a couple of cars looked like good possibilities, Starsky didn't feel fully comfortable about any of them.  They bought a newspaper in the evening and perused the classified ads and made a few phone calls.  On Sunday morning, they visited a man who had come into an inheritance and had bought an expensive new car.  He was therefore ready to depart with his prior car, a beloved 1978 green Dodge Colt.  He let them take the car to a mechanic, where Starsky and Hutch hovered while it was on the lift.  The conclusion was that it was in need of a good tune-up, and the front tires were in dire need of replacing.  After Kyeesha paid for those two details to be taken care of, Starsky declared the car to be a good purchase for the negotiated price of $2750, and the deal was complete.

They took Kyeesha to an early seafood dinner to celebrate.  After most of their meal was finished, Kyeesha said with amusement, "So, you guys are going to visit some old motel on the beach where you first, you know, got together?"

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other.  Hutch replied, "We'll have to talk tonight about exactly what we're going to do when we leave tomorrow.  But that's a possibility."

"Seems kind of odd that you would travel to the other side of the country, just to -- what? -- consummate a relationship that you'd always had together, in a sense, back on the other coast."

Starsky grinned.  "I guess there's never been anything about us that people would consider normal or ordinary."

Hutch softened his voice.  "You know, Ky, when you used to ask things about our lives, including how other people treat us?"


"Well, we ran smack into our first real experience with prejudice a few weeks back."

"Really?" she asked worriedly.

"Yeah," Starsky said.  "And it came from such an unlikely source.  My personal fitness trainer."

"She and her husband invited us over to dinner.  We had a wonderful time eating.  And then her husband, who is a pastor, started throwing the religion thing at us, and how they wanted to help us overcome our need to sin, and how he had no doubt that this homosexual disease was brought about because God was punishing society for becoming more accepting of homosexuality."

"That's terrible!"

"Yeah," Starsky said, "we left early."

"I'm so sorry.  You guys don't deserve being treated like that."

"Thanks," Hutch said, "but we got over it pretty fast.  It was actually that same night that we picked up the racehorse case."

"Yeah, that was a lot more fun to think about, than how ignorant some people can be."

When the conversation waned, Hutch said, "Hey, Ky, I know it's really none of our business.  But I hope, you know, that you're seeing a psychologist or something."

She seemed unusually bashful.  "Oh, I'm so sorry about what I did.  I'm all right.  Really.  I mean, I saw somebody for awhile, but after a few visits, I couldn't see how it was helping.  And I've been pretty happy with how my life is going."

Starsky asked, "What about a social life?"

"I sometimes get together after work with some of the other ladies that work for the state."

"Any potential boyfriends?" Hutch prompted.

"No."  She shifted with discomfort.  "There is this one guy at my apartment complex that I've noticed.  But I don't know anything about him.  Maybe he has a girlfriend already."

Starsky said, "Or maybe not."

Hutch prompted, "Have you said hello to him?  Made any effort to be friendly?"

"I don't really know what to say."

"Just say hello.  That's a clue that you have an interest.  Then he can say hello back.  Ask you your name.  Who knows, it could go from there."

Starsky said, "It's hard for guys to know when a girl might be interested.  So, they usually have to make the first move and risk all the rejection.  That gets tiring.  And in your case," he added with a wink, "I'm thinking that most guys can tell that you're real smart and have a whole lot going for you.   So, that can make you seem all the scarier to approach.  You might have to be the one to make the first move."

Hutch said, "You never know when it might lead to something special.  And if it doesn't, no harm done.  At least you know you gave it a chance."

She smirked.  "Okay.  Maybe I'll give it a try."


They parted ways when they left the restaurant, Kyeesha getting into her new car, and Starsky and Hutch in their rental.

They watched her drive off.  Starsky still hadn't started the motor, and he said, "Rather than going back to our hotel, I'm thinking we should go straight to Kittihawk.  It should just be a couple of hours.  Then we can spend the night, maybe in that same motel, and get an early start in the morning to Virginia."

"Yeah, okay," Hutch said.  "That's fine by me."  He opened the glove compartment and removed the map.  "Let's figure out how to get there."


They found the motel they had stayed at nearly two years before.  They didn't remember what room they had been in, but decided it didn't matter.  The room they'd gotten was close enough.

It was around eight o'clock when they put on their jackets and walked down to the beach, walking barefoot in the darkness while holding hands.  After a time, Starsky beckoned them to move to a bench high up on the beach, where they sat close enough that their shoulders touched, and watched the water.

The sky was clear, the breeze soft, if a bit nippy.

After sitting in silence for a while, Starsky said, "It's so hard to believe everything we've been through.  Before we first came here, and after.  And after all of that, I get to have the best life ever, living it with you."  His head rested on Hutch's shoulder.

Hutch shifted to put his arm around Starsky.  "Maybe that's because having the best life ever mattered so much, to both of us.  It certainly hasn't been for lack of caring."

After a moment, Starsky replied, "We cared a lot before.  But it seemed that bad things kept happening to us."

"And we cared enough to keep moving past whatever bad stuff life threw at us.  We always knew we could count on each other, and that's what's always saved us.  Maybe life gave up trying to throw bad things at us."

Starsky snorted softly.  "I'd really like to believe that."

Hutch squeezed his shoulder.

After a few moments of silence, Starsky asked, "What are you going to do when I'm writing?  I have a feeling that once I start, I'm going to be spending a lot of time at it."

"I don't know," Hutch said, hearing the determination in his love's voice.  "Maybe I'll read a lot.  Maybe I'll have an affair, and you'll be so busy, you won't notice.  So, no harm done."

Starsky snorted again.  "You told your mother that we can't keep secrets from each other.  We read each other too well."

"Maybe you won't notice that there's any secret to be known, so it'll be the same as if there's nothing to tell."

"This is a dumb conversation."

"You started it, silly."  Hutch furrowed his fingers through Starsky's curls.

"I might need to have some conversations with your mother, to dig into more of your past.  From what I know now, a chapter on your childhood would be very sparse."

Hutch had known that had always bugged Starsky.

Starsky went on, "Maybe we can fly to Minnesota some time in the near future.  You can visit with your dad, and I can look at your photo albums and stuff."

"Yeah," Hutch mused, still playing with strands of hair, "I suppose it's about time you see where I grew up.  But, trust me, you won't want to visit there until summer.  The cold is unlike anything you've ever known in New York."

"Sounds good."

A thought suddenly occurred to Hutch.  "You plan on mentioning to other people that you're writing a book that will never be published?"

Starsky raised his head from Hutch's shoulder.  "Don't know.  What do you think?"

"Don't know."

"I mean, if I mention it to people, some of them might say they want to read it.  And I don't think I'd want them reading some of the stuff while we're alive.  But people are going to wonder why I'm asking a bunch of questions and want to see old photos and things like that."

"Maybe you can just tell them that you're putting together a scrapbook or something, and that won't sound as intriguing."

Starsky grunted non-committedly.

After more silence, Hutch said, "I think I'm ready to turn in.  It's been a long day."  He made a point of yawning.  "I'm not sure I'm going to be up to re-enacting our consummation."

Starsky grinned.  "That's fine.  You're right -- it's not the same, anyway.  But I'm glad we came."


By mid morning the next day, they had reached the gas station outside of Richmond, where they both remembered stopping two years ago, before making a wrong turn.  Now, in daylight, they could clearly see the turn they should have taken.  Instead, they started down the road that they had turned down inadvertently... and which had such life-changing consequences, though they wouldn't know it until days later.

Sunshine was abundant as they drove, emphasizing the beauty of the farmland, trees, and semi-rural houses. 

After they had been driving for forty minutes, with Hutch at the wheel, he said, "It could have happened anywhere, Starsk.  We have no idea exactly where."

"Yeah.  Let's just stop somewhere that seems somewhat isolated."

When the road entered another section of heavy forest, Hutch pulled the car into a rural drive that had a locked gate stretched across it.  Beyond the forest was open farmland.

They both got out of the car.

Hutch drew a deep breath, remembering how he had enjoyed the smell of the country air that fateful night.  He decided to stay back and watch, while Starsky went to a fence on the opposite side of the road, and leaned on it.  He looked around at the trees, and up into the blue sky.

They still hadn't listened to the tape recording of the hypnosis session.  Hutch realized that, for himself, it wasn't so much fear, as that he felt no need.  He had taken whatever he was going to take from that experience, which was mainly his joy -- following a form of emotional breakdown from extreme relief -- that Starsky no longer had the Herpes-B virus in his bloodstream, and therefore they would no longer need to worry that it might one day attack his system again.

Starsky had been silent, so Hutch decided to cross the road and join him.

"You know," Starsky said, still looking up at the sky, "a part of me is starting to question it all over again.  If it really happened.  If I'm really cured.  Which is silly, because I know I am.  I feel fantastic."

Hutch circled his arms around him, and pressed his cheek close.  "Let's not go there," he pleaded gruffly.  "I wouldn't be able to stand thinking of you being sick again, after finally having you back perfectly healthy, after I was so scared for so long."

Starsky turned in Hutch's arms and looked into his eyes.  With admiration, he said, "You've been through so much because of me."

Hutch tightened his arms and closed his eyes.  "It's been so worth it."  He swayed them back and forth.  "God, it's been so worth it."  He was aware of the sound of a car approaching.  He thought about quickly separating, but then decided that he didn't care.

The car slowed somewhat.  As it came behind them, they heard young voices shout, "Faggots!"  And then it sped up and quickly passed.

After giving each other a final squeeze, they pulled back and Hutch found himself chuckling as he looked into Starsky's smiling eyes. 

Starsky said, "I guess this place is pretty normal and mundane."  Then he took Hutch's hand and squeezed it.  "Let's go.  I got what I came for, and I'm ready to fly home."


A week later, Starsky entered the house with a grocery bag in his arm, and found Hutch sitting at the kitchen table with an eager, happy expression on his face.  The computer was no longer there, as they had finally decided to go ahead and set it up at one corner of the living room, and agreed that Hutch could turn up the sound on the TV, if he found the clicking of the keyboard too intrusive.  Starsky had started writing as soon as they returned from North Carolina.

"What's up?" Starsky asked suspiciously, placing the sack on the counter.

 Hutch's smile widened.  "I've got a surprise, buddy."

Starsky grinned at Hutch's smile.  "What's that?"

Hutch picked up a pamphlet and held it out.  "We're official members of the Stoneridge Couples Bowling League."

"Really?" Starsky asked on a high note, while sitting across from Hutch.

"Yep.  I called down there the other day and asked if they were okay with a gay couple joining.  They said they were as long as it was okay with the couple we were paired with.  Turns out," Hutch glanced at a paper inside the pamphlet, "the Williams have a relative who is gay, so they don't have any problem with it.  In fact, the manager said that there's even a lesbian couple in the league."

"That's great!" Starsky said.  "When do we start?"

"It's every Tuesday night at seven, starting the week after next, for ten weeks.  We bowl three games each night.  There's prizes for the highest number of strikes and spares during the night.  And then after the ten weeks, they have a big banquet for all the leagues, where they give awards for the teams with the overall highest scores."

Starsky felt a grin light the side of his face.  "This is fantastic!"

Hutch nodded.  "So, what do you say we go tonight and play a few games to get ourselves back in the groove?"


Hutch shifted on the waterbed in the darkness.  The digital clock said that it was ten minutes past one am.

He was alone.  Again.

The bedroom door was closed, and he knew that was Starsky's intent to be considerate, so Hutch wouldn't be awakened by the clatter of a computer keyboard. 

Hutch wasn't hearing noise.  He had woken up, as he often had recent nights, because his subconscious alerted him that he was alone in bed. 

He didn't like that.

The honeymoon is over.

He tested that thought, turning it over in his mind. 

He was surprised to find that there was a feeling of security that accompanied the otherwise less than ideal realization.  Besides, What a hell of a honeymoon it was.  It lasted something like two years.

Life is changing, he decided.

Three days ago, he and Starsky had played their first set of league games with Daryl and Sue Williams, and had eaten dinner with them at the lounge, along with many of the other couples, afterward.  They seemed a nice enough fiftyish couple.    Daryl's younger brother was a homosexual, and they had expressed their concern that he might have the AIDS disease, because he was standoffish when they asked about his health, and sounded unwell at times.  Despite that grim news, he and Starsky had enjoyed socializing with the Williams, and having them as bowling partners.

They intended to get up early in the morning and see Ghost have a timed workout at the track.  They had yet to put in many hours on the case, but they'd finally gotten their first statement in the mail regarding Blue Team Limited's finances, and they intended to be nosey and obnoxious and ask a lot of questions.

Kyeesha had called and, in a rare, giggly voice, had told them that she was going on her first date with the man at her apartment complex that she'd had her eye on.

As for Starsky's book, he had put in quite a number of hours on it, since returning from North Carolina.  Hutch had sometimes looked over his shoulder to see what he was writing, but that had been an awkward undertaking to sustain for very long.  He found himself wishing at times that Starsky would use a typewriter, because then there would be pieces of paper that Hutch could pick up and read.  And then he could feel that it was a project he was a part of, instead of merely a distant observer.  There was a printer that came with the computer, but Starsky hadn't wanted to bother with trying to figure out how to set it up.

He understood now why Starsky had asked what he intended to do while Starsky was writing.

As Hutch laid there, contemplating that he had nothing of his own that he was interested in doing without Starsky, he decided that he was tired of his own self-pity.  He got out of bed and found his robe. 

When he entered the living room, Starsky looked up worriedly.  "Is the keyboard too noisy?"

Hutch shook his head.  "No.  I just got lonely."  He flopped down on the sofa and picked up the remote to turn on the TV.

"Ah, babe, I'm going to be done in a few minutes.  I just wanted to finish this section while it's so on my mind."

Hutch realized his was looking at an old rerun of Mary Tyler Moore.  "What's it about?"

Starsky hesitated, and then said, "The Ben Forest thing."

Oh.  "Why are you into that, in particular?"  Hutch muted the TV.

Starsky gave him a tired smile.  "Because it was a major part of our lives, dummy."

Hutch muttered, "It's something I'd rather forget."  Still, he wondered what Starsky had written about it.

"If anyone who reads my book wants to understand us, they need to know about the incidents that are as important as that one was."

"I want you to hook up the printer and print each chapter as you finish it.  I want to be able to read it."

Starsky sighed.  "Why don't I just hire that kid from the computer store to come out and do it?  That way, we don't have to worry about setting it up wrong."

"Let's call them tomorrow."  Hutch then said, "Speaking of tomorrow, in just a few hours we need to leave for the track, if we're going to see Ghost's workout."

"I know.  I just need to finish a few more paragraphs, and then I'm going back to bed."  Starsky began typing.

Hutch clicked the sound back on and watched the TV without registering what he was seeing.  After a while, he asked, "Are you backing up everything, like they showed you?"

"Of course."  Starsky continued to type.  "If I lost everything that I've written so far, I'd slit my wrists."

"You aren't planning on writing about our entire past all at once, are you?"

Starsky glanced up.  "No.  In fact, once I get these final paragraphs down, I'll probably stop for a while.  I just needed to get these first few chapters out of my system, Hutch.  I figure that's how it'll go:  I just get in the mood and need to write a lot, and then go for spells where I'll hardly think about it."

Hutch muttered, "I'm glad this spell is about over."

Starsky stopped typing.  "Baby, why don't you go back to bed?  I promise I'll be there within fifteen minutes.  And I'll curl up with you, okay?"

Hutch clicked off the TV.  "Okay."

He got up and went back to the bedroom, dropping his robe to the floor.  He left the door open, so he would know when Starsky had finally stopped.

He'd managed to slip into a light doze when he was aware of lights going off in the other parts of the house.  Eventually, Starsky got into bed in his usual nude state, as Hutch was, and curled around him.

"Mmm," Hutch said, though he noted, "Your feet are cold."

Starsky pushed a foot between Hutch's legs.  "Then let's warm them up."

Hutch spent a moment relishing the contact against his back.  Then he said, "Do you realize that next year we're going to be forty?"  Starsky had turned thirty-nine a few weeks ago.

"Yep.  That tends to be what comes after thirty-nine."

Hutch mused, "It seems like we've lived so much already.  And yet, hopefully, our lives are only halfway over."

"If we reach eighty, that would mean that we'd spent something like -- what? -- fifty-five years of our lives together?"

Hutch smiled to himself.  "Something like that."

"How many times do you think we've fucked?"

"Hundreds, at least."

"How many times do you think we will have by the time we're eighty?"

Hutch grunted.  "At the rate we're starting to spend time apart, maybe not that much more."

Starsky rubbed his hand along the front of Hutch's torso.  "Ah, babe, don't be like that.  I love you so much.  That's why I want to tell about us.  I want others to know, some day, just how much we loved each other."

More amiably, Hutch said, "Yeah, I know."

"I want you to read it, too.  After we get back from the track tomorrow, I'll call the computer store to set up the printer."

"Sounds good."

Starsky began to shift.  "Hey, come on.  Put your head on my shoulder."

"I'm not mad, buddy." 

"I know.  But I still want to hold you.  Come on."

They shifted until Starsky was on his back, with Hutch curled at his side, his head on Starsky's shoulder.  He relished the hand that rubbed leisurely along his back, and then down over his buttocks, pausing to give them an affectionate squeeze.

Starsky released a sigh of contentment, and then said, "So, tomorrow, we see our first racehorse go through his paces."  He chuckled.  "Racehorse owners.  Who would have ever believed it."

Just to keep the conversation going, Hutch drowsily countered, "They aren't really our horses."

"It's in the best interest of the case that we pretend wholeheartedly that they are."

Hutch snorted.  And then he drifted into sleep.




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