The Sandman

© August 2011 by Charlotte Frost


A Sequel to Adventure




Hutch spit toothpaste into the sink, and then rinsed his mouth.  He ran his toothbrush under a stream of water before placing it in its holder over his sink, which was located next to Starsky’s sink.  The large bathroom that attached to the master bedroom was a blessing, especially since it was designed for two people.  Of course, he and Starsky had gotten a chuckle out of the idea that the “his and her” sink design had turned out, for them, to be “his and his” sinks.  At least both sinks were the same beige color, so neither had to be stuck with pink while the other got blue.


Hutch wiped his mouth and his mustache with a towel, and then left the bathroom.


The office phone had rung a while ago, and Starsky had gone to answer it.  It was a bit of trek to the office from the master bedroom, considering the house’s 2200 square feet was all on one floor, but they had decided that the office phone would be a separate telephone line from the rest of the house.  That had been an attempt to keep the office an area of professionalism, so they wouldn’t be answering a phone call from a client while in bed together.  For that matter, the office was the one area of the house that was off limits to any sexual activity.


They didn’t expect to be seeing many clients in their house, but in the rare cases when that might be necessary, they had converted the bedroom just inside the front doorway into an office which, unlike much of the rest of the house, was fully furnished and ready to launch Starsky and Hutchinson, Inc. into action as a private investigation firm.  Problem was, the new phone directory with their ad had just come out a week ago, and the only clients they had managed to pick up in the meantime was a few modest corporations who needed their firm to do background checks on potential new employees.  To be competitive with more established PI firms, they couldn’t charge very much for that sort of mundane activity, so they had been operating at a severe loss since considering themselves open for business two months ago.  Not that they had expected otherwise.  They’d always known their biggest challenge was going to be developing a client base.


Hutch was fully dressed when he walked down the hallway, and moved beyond the kitchen on the right to round the corner at the left that led to the office and foyer.  He entered through the double oak doors they had installed, noting from the wall clock that it was going on nine.


Starsky, dressed in his blue robe, but otherwise naked underneath and with his hair still damp from showering, had just hung up the phone.  “That’s Mrs. Anderson.  She needed to change our appointment to eleven-thirty this morning.”


She was with the personnel department of one of their corporate clients.  Hutch reminded, “We’re supposed to meet Dobey for lunch at noon.”


“I know, but Mrs. Anderson sounded like her schedule is really tight, so I didn’t want to put her off.  Maybe we can get Dobey to push it back half an hour?”


Hutch considered.  “Maybe we should just split up, since they’re on opposite sides of town.  You can meet with Mrs. Anderson, and I’ll meet with Dobey.  You can join us if you make it in time.”


Starsky was thoughtful, and then said, “Yeah, I guess that’ll work.  I’d really love to see Dobey, too, but I don’t want to ask him to reschedule, especially if he actually has some business for us.”


That’s what their former Captain had insinuated when he had set up the lunch meeting.




Starsky then said, “I was going to take the Corvette in this morning for its thousand mile check.”


Hutch nodded, glad Starsky was finally getting that done, since the yellow Corvette already had quite a bit more mileage on it than a mere thousand.  Both that car, and Hutch’s dark blue four-door LeBaron sedan, were bought as spanking new 1981 models a few months ago.  It was quite a cash outlay, but they felt it was necessary to drive vehicles that were appropriate for the higher class clientele they hoped to eventually attract.


Starsky was looking at their desk calendar.  “You need to pick up the business cards.”


“Right.”  They had had handed out so many business cards that they’d already run out of the original batch, and had ordered a reprint.  Since he was dressed and ready to go, Hutch said, “I’ll do that now.”  He leaned over Starsky’s desk, and Starsky met him with a chaste kiss.


“See you later,” Starsky said.


Hutch grabbed his black leather jacket from the hall closet.  As he put it on, he questioned whether it was really necessary, considering the reasonably warm April weather.  As cops, he and Starsky had always worn jackets, or at least loose outer shirts, to conceal their weapons.  They had had to turn in those weapons when they resigned, but had since purchased new handguns.  So far, the few jobs they’d taken had been entirely benevolent in nature, and merely concerned paperwork and research, so they hadn’t yet felt a need to arm themselves in their new occupation.


Hutch left the house, still wearing his jacket.  But his mind started considering the firearms situation while he began his morning.



The restaurant Dobey had chosen was packed when Hutch arrived ten minutes after noon.  The waitress led Hutch to the table where Dobey was seated at a corner booth. 


Hutch broke into a fond smile as he held out his hand.  Dobey rose, grinning hugely.  “Hutchinson, good to see you,” he said, shaking Hutch’s hand vigorously.


“Same to you, Captain.  I’m sorry, but Starsky had some other appointments.  He might join us later.”


“Sir,” the waitress said to Hutch, “can I get you something to drink?”


Dobey already had an iced tea.  Hutch nodded at the glass.  “An iced tea will be fine.”


She left him a menu and moved away.


Dobey’s smile still dominated his face.  “My God, Hutchinson, you look fantastic.”


Though he and Starsky had talked on the phone with Dobey quite a bit since their resignations, they hadn’t seen their former superior since he and the family had been invited to their new house shortly after purchasing it.


Hutch had to glance away at the statement.  He knew, at least in part, why he looked so good.  He suspected that ninety-nine percent of the human beings on planet Earth did not get to experience the base carnal pleasure he was subjected to on a regular basis, thanks to the extreme patience, skill, and sheer love of his life partner. 


Well, you see, Captain, at least once a week, I get a triple whammy.  That’s when Starsky deep throats me, so my entire cock is inside his mouth, and the head is lodged down his throat.  And he’s got two fingers up my ass, massaging my prostate, and his other hand is fondling and squeezing my balls in a way you wouldn’t believe.


It had taken Starsky a while to learn how to coordinate it all, after having been determined to get the deep throat skill down to perfection.  Once he was able to pleasure Hutch three ways at once, he’d then worked on slowing down the tempo, so Hutch stopped coming within seconds.  Now, Starsky controlled him completely, and Hutch swore that sometimes the triple whammy would go on for a full fifteen minutes, before Starsky stimulated him to ejaculation.


The pleasure was so intense that Hutch sometimes felt that he no longer had a body, had no sense of himself on a physical level.  There was only sensation, and when those sensations climaxed, Hutch collapsed completely, just this side of passing out.  And then he was pure mush, for Starsky to do with as he pleased.


With such experiences on a regular basis, what was there not to be enormously happy about?


He also had to reluctantly admit that there was probably another reason he looked good.  After having been fully recovered from two near-fatal situations, Starsky had started putting on weight a little too easily.  Hutch had taken charge of their fitness routines at Starsky’s request, always being the one that pushed and badgered to go to the gym.  While he couldn’t change his partner’s food preferences, Hutch had declared that an easy way to drop at least a few hundred daily calories was to stop drinking so much beer.  Starsky hadn’t disagreed.  So, while they indulged occasionally when out, they didn’t keep beer in the house.  Hutch had noticed, after a time, that he himself seemed to have a clearer head.  He just plain felt better.


“I feel great,” Hutch said in answer to Dobey’s statement. 


Dobey studied him for a long moment.  “I guess you don’t miss the police work, then?”


“No,” Hutch replied honestly.  “Granted, things are a little mundane right now, but Starsk and I both seem to stay plenty busy.”


The waitress brought Hutch’s iced tea.  “Are you gentlemen ready to order?”


Hutch hadn’t had a chance to look at the menu.  “What do you recommend, Captain?”


“I’m having the linguini and blackened shrimp.”


“That works for me,” Hutch said, handing the waitress his menu.


After she turned away, Dobey said, “You know, Hutchinson, you can stop calling me Captain.”


Hutch supposed that was true, but it was hard to imagine calling his former superior Harold, or Dobey directly.  So, he shrugged and said, “It’s a habit.  Why change?  Unless it bothers you?”


A small shrug of the broad shoulders.  “Doesn’t really matter to me.”


Hutch picked up his iced tea with his left hand and took a sip.


Dobey leaned over the table, his focus on Hutch’s hand.  “Is that… a wedding band?” he asked softly.


“Sort of,” Hutch replied, feeling bashful under the older man’s scrutiny.  “We didn’t do a ceremony or anything like that.”  Dobey’s family would have been invited to any such event.  “After all the years we’ve been partnered, it seemed silly to make a big deal out of it.  The only reason we decided to get the bands was to discourage inquiries.”


Dobey smiled, and seemed relieved that there wasn’t a ceremony that he hadn’t been invited to.   “I can imagine that you get plenty of inquiries.”


Hutch didn’t reply, not being entirely comfortable with the subject.  Though he and Starsky both liked to look at and admire the opposite sex, having interest expressed in either of them tended to be an annoyance, more so than flattering.  Hutch supposed there might come a day when they would be interested in flirting, merely for the innocent enjoyment of it, but they were still too new to each other, in that sense, to be anything other than wrapped completely in each other.


“You have matching bands?” Dobey asked, and was plainly also not comfortable with this particular subject.  But apparently, he couldn’t contain his curiosity.


“Uh-huh.  If anyone notices, we don’t see any reason to hide the truth.”  After a pause, he said, “Which is all the more reason why it’s a good thing we resigned.”


“The ironic thing is that I think the Department is just a few years away from having a policy of not discriminating against applicants based upon sexual preference.”


“The world is changing,” Hutch mused.  Though not fast enough.


“So, how is Starsky?”


Hutch replied softly, “He’s still the same.  Just really serious about getting our PI agency off the ground.  You know, it’s something that’s ours.  Something that we’re doing together, creating together.”


“I certainly hope it works out for you.  And on that note,” Dobey picked up a thin file folder that was lying beside him, and handed it over to Hutch, “here’s what I wanted to talk to you about.  These are all copies, so you can keep them.”


Hutch accepted the file, but then the waitress brought their meals.  He set it aside so he could focus on eating.


After taking a few bites, Dobey said, “You can see how thin the file is.  We don’t have much information, which is why I think it would be a good idea for the insurance firm to hire you and Starsky.”


“Insurance firm?”


“Yes.  It’s a large California firm that handles all sorts of assets, but it’s the equine division that contacted the police.”


“Equine division?” Hutch repeated, all the more interested.  Insured horses meant expensive horses, which meant wealthy owners.  That was just the type of clientele he and Starsky were hoping to break into.


“Yes.  They’ve had four recent horse deaths in the same area.  Healthy horses.  They’ve paid off on them, because they have a lot of clients in the area, and don’t want to get a reputation of being stingy with payments.  They’re concerned that the deaths might not be as they seem, and worry that owners are killing the horses just to get the insurance money, but they have virtually no evidence.  That’s why our fraud division can’t do anything about it.  A couple of detectives went out and asked questions, but the case doesn’t have anything more to go on.”


“I assume we’re talking about racehorses.”


Dobey shook his head.  “That’s what I thought, but, turns out, it’s some kind of show horses.  You know, they jump fences in competitions?”


Hutch nodded.  “Starsk and I have seen a little bit of that type of thing on that new ESPN sports cable channel.  We never could figure out how they score the rounds.”


Dobey grinned.  “I bet that’s fun to watch with that giant TV screen.”


Hutch grinned back.  A big screen TV was an expensive new toy that Starsky had insisted upon and whined over until Hutch relented.  But only with the promise that it was the last unnecessary large item they were going to buy until their company made its first monthly profit.


“The jumping horses are the only type they insure?” Hutch asked.


“No, they do all kinds.  Racehorses, etcetera.  That’s why the insurance company is getting suspicious.  These mysterious deaths are all the show jumping horses.”


“No autopsy is done?”


“Their policies don’t require an autopsy, as long as a veterinarian gives a cause of death.”


“Then the veterinarian must be in on it,” Hutch said.  “What’s the cause of death?”


“No, it hasn’t been the same veterinarian each time.  The cause of death is always assumed to be colic.  The owner finds the horse dead in the morning, after it was perfectly healthy the night before.  Since colic is the leading cause of horses dying – and colic can have a wide variety of causes, I’m told – it’s sort of the natural assumption, in the absence of any other logical explanation.  So, the veterinarian says the horse died of colic, and the insurance company pays up.”


Hutch was thoughtful.  Then, “They think it’s the owners doing the killing?”


“I don’t know the insurance company’s thoughts on that, but I personally doubt it.  Rich people usually aren’t going to get their hands dirty.  They must be hiring somebody.”


Hutch nodded.  “Intriguing case.  This would be a great one for Starsky and I to sink our teeth into.”


“I thought it might be just what you needed.  I wanted to make sure you were interested before I gave the insurance company your phone number.  The head of the equine division is Ronald Harrington.  So, be expecting a call from him in the next few days.”


Hutch grinned and felt an inner excitement at having a genuine case to follow up on.  “Thanks, Captain.  We really appreciate this.”



By the time he had completed the meeting with Mrs. Anderson, and taken a handful of files of potential new employees to investigate, Starsky decided it didn’t make sense to drive across town to have lunch with Hutch and Dobey, because it would be late enough that they might not even be there.


Instead, he decided to visit the Pits, since he was still in the mood to dine with an old friend.  He was able to coax Huggy into sitting down with him, and the two caught each other up on what was going on in their lives.


It was early afternoon when Starsky arrived home.  He parked in his side of the driveway, next to Hutch’s LeBaron, and entered the house.  From the foyer, he saw Hutch sitting out on the covered back patio.  On the table beside him was a glass of what might be lemonade, a can of nuts… and his gun.


Puzzled, Starsky approached the kitchen, which had one of two sliding glass doors that led to the patio that ran the length of the house.  As he came closer, he saw that Hutch was staring out at their small swimming pool, which was covered with a tarp, because they had yet to do anything about getting it properly maintained and updated for use.  They didn’t intend to bother with that expense until summer approached.  It was now mid April.


“Hutch?” Starsky said worriedly, as he stepped out onto the patio.  He closed the sliding glass door behind him.  “What’s going on?”  He nodded at Hutch’s gun as he sat down in a chair beside him.


“I’ve been thinking,” Hutch said softly.


“Yeah?  What about?”


Hutch glanced at him briefly.  “I’m thirty-seven years old.”  He slowly shook his head.  “It’s occurred to me that, with the exception of the last few months or so, I’ve been scared to death my entire life.”


Starsky waited for the elaboration, having no idea where Hutch’s words were leading.


“You know, as a kid I was scared of not measuring up, of my parents or teachers or coaches disapproving of me.  And then when I was an adult, I decided to take the road I wanted and become a cop, and I was scared then, too.  Of not being good enough.  And I was always scared of not pleasing Vanessa.  Was always afraid she’d leave me.”  Hutch bowed his head, and said very softly, “Of course, she eventually did.”


Starsky was unable to have any thoughts about Vanessa except acknowledging the fact that he’d hated her.


After a long moment, Hutch shook his head.  “And then when we were on the streets, I was always terrified.  Of everything.  But everything I was afraid of came down to one thing:  losing you.  Everything that mattered was all tied up in the fact that you were in my life.  If I lost that, what would I have?”  He barely glanced Starsky’s way.  “Nothing.”  He took a sip of lemonade.


Hutch’s expression softened as his head cocked to one side.  “I’m not afraid anymore.”  He was thoughtful a long moment.  “And I don’t know why.”   He picked up the can of nuts, popped a couple in his mouth, and then held it out to Starsky.


Starsky scooped out a handful and sat back.


Hutch put the can back on the table.  He shifted his legs so that they stretched out in front of him.  “I like not being afraid, but it feels… different.  It’s taken some getting used to, but more than that, I wonder why the fear left.”  He glanced at Starsky.  “Is it because I was certain – twice – that I was losing you, and you survived anyway?  Is it because of what happened in Virginia?  Or is it just because I have reasons to feel wonderful every day, and if that feeling of wonderfulness goes away, the fear will come right back?”


Starsky sat silently, chewing the nuts.  He didn’t know what this had to do with Hutch’s gun sitting out, but he was always interested in anything Hutch had to say about himself. 


Hutch said, “I know that, any day, you can walk out that front door and not come back.  You can get run over by a car or whatever.  And if that happened, I have no idea how I’d deal with it, but I’m not worried about that happening.”  He looked squarely at Starsky.  “I’m not afraid of living anymore.”


Starsky released a breath.  He’d always known, of course, that Hutch in the past had a problem with his life in a way that Starsky couldn’t even begin to fathom.  Hutch had a mean streak a mile long that could manifest into blatant cruelty, however briefly.  He could get moody and difficult, and he had always had a very strong need to control everything around him.  Including his partner.


Starsky had simply played along, because that’s what you did when you loved someone.  You allowed them their various quirks and didn’t try to change them.  The truth was never lost on him that, when he allowed Hutch to be in control, that he himself was actually the one at the steering wheel in their partnership, because he was so conscious of how the mechanics of their relationship worked and what Hutch needed.


None of which changed the fact that he had sometimes wished that Hutch could be happy.  Not just contented for a while, until something inevitably squashed that contentment, but deep down, genuinely happy.


And now he was.


Hutch had been silent a while, and Starsky ventured, “I’ve been really scared in the past, too, you know.”


Hutch shook his head.  “Your fear was always situational.  You were always scared in specific situations.  But you were never scared just because you were alive.”  He sipped his lemonade.


Starsky bowed his head and thought about that.  He supposed it was true.  To him, their differences in that regard made perfect sense.  Though he didn’t like dragging out the ancient past, he wanted to share his thoughts.  “It’s really not that surprising, is it?  I mean, considering where we both came from.  I came into this life knowing I was loved.  I never had to prove to anyone that I was loveable.”  Though it pained him to say it, he said, “From everything you’ve told me over the years, you never had the privilege of feeling you were loved.  You always had to prove that you were lovable.  In your eyes, you were never able to prove it enough.”  There wouldn’t be any point in launching into a lecture about how rotten it was that child Hutch hadn’t felt he had a right to be loved, just because he was alive, rather than because of what he accomplished.


“Until you,” Hutch said quietly, staring at the tarp over the pool.


“Until me.”


“And because you were the only one, I was scared to death of losing you.”  Then, sounding very casual, Hutch looked at Starsky and said, “But for some reason, I’m not anymore.”


Starsky took a deep breath, knowing he was bringing up something that they had stopped talking about.  “Well, for me, I’ve definitely felt a greater peace of late, and I really think it’s because of what happened in Virginia.  We went through something terrifying Hutch, even though we didn’t remember it, except through dreams.  But, after all that, not only was everything okay afterward, but we emerged even better than before.  So, after having gone through that, and surviving it with flying colors, what’s there to be afraid of?  What’s there to worry about?”


Hutch sat silent, reflective.


Starsky said, “I admit that, even now, sometimes I find myself shying away from the idea that it really happened, especially as time goes on and it becomes more and more distant.  But I know at anytime, I can play that tape from the hypnotist to bring it all back.  Or all I have to do is look at my file in the doctor’s office, that shows my blood with the antibodies before Virginia, and completely free of the virus afterward.”


Starsky considered the broader subject a while more.  Then he said in a lighter tone, “Of course, not being out on the streets and being shot at, and having my partner shot at, probably has something to do with feeling more peaceful, too.  How about some lemonade?”


Hutch handed him the glass. 


Starsky sipped it.  When he gave the glass back, he asked, “How come you have your gun out?”


Hutch picked at a fingernail.  “I’ve been thinking about that, too.”




Hutch looked back at the swimming pool.  “I’ve been sitting here, thinking about the lives I’ve taken.  I can’t even remember them all.”


Starsky swallowed, not liking the sound of this.


“Some I can remember very clearly.  But I know there’s others that I don’t even remember.  One life I didn’t take was that teenager, Vivian.  She shot me – could have killed me – but I’m not sorry that I don’t have an image in my head of a bullet going from my gun and ripping into her body.”


Starsky instantly thought of Lonnie Craig.  That was a young life he had taken. 


Hutch shifted in his chair.  “Most people in this world can claim that they’ve never taken another’s life.  I’ll never be able to make that claim.”


Starsky quickly said, “And most people can never say that they’ve saved lives.  You’ve saved many, including mine, including your own, because of the lives you’ve taken.”


Hutch was silent for a long time.  Then he said, “I’m not interested in rationalizing it.  I don’t feel guilty about the past.  I don’t need to go back and re-examine that.  I know I did what made sense at the time.”


After an extended moment, Starsky carefully ventured, “But…?”


Hutch cocked his head.  “But I don’t want to do it anymore.  I’m not afraid anymore.”  He looked at Starsky.  “I don’t want to take another life.  Ever again.”


Starsky blinked, having had no idea this was coming.  “Not even to prevent someone from taking yours?  Or taking mine?”


Hutch leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.  “What are the chances that either of us are going to be in that situation, with what we’re doing now?  Sure, it could happen.  But either of us could also be in a fatal car wreck any day.  That’s not going to stop us from driving our cars.  So, why should the remote possibility of needing to defend our lives mean that we have to carry guns?”


Starsky searched for words that would bring the conversation back to a reasonable level – a level he could deal with.  “Well, what about just as a deterrent?  You know, it can be pretty intimidating to others to know that they’re dealing with someone who’s armed.”


“If someone wants to harm us, and they know we’re armed, then they’re just going to be motivated to come up with that much more fire power to take us down.”


Starsky shifted his logic.  “Hutch, I know that we aren’t dealing with anything right now that would give us reason to need weapons.  But if we eventually do some real investigative work, we could run into some pretty shady people.  I just want to know we can defend ourselves, that’s all.  I mean, just because you carry a weapon doesn’t mean you have to use it.”


Hutch looked at him.  “I’ll tell you in a minute about the case Dobey has given us.  It concerns money and greed amongst the wealthy.  Things could get sticky.  If they do, I’d like to think that we could find other ways of getting out of a delicate situation than firing off our guns.”  He looked away.  “And possibly killing somebody.”


Starsky drew a breath.  He didn’t know how to deal with this new side of himself that Hutch was demonstrating, but since Hutch seemed so sure of his feelings, Starsky didn’t want to get into an argument that wasn’t going to be won.  “Well,” he relented, “I know I can’t tell you what to do.  But I’m going to carry if I think it’s necessary.”


Hutch nodded, accepting.


Starsky said, “The thing that really bothers me about you not carrying is that we’re used to working off of each other a certain way.  If we get into a tight situation, my instincts are going to expect you to be in a certain position, and firing at a certain time.  If you aren’t able to fire, then that’s going to make me shift my whole way of thinking.”


Hutch’s mouth corner twitched.  “You’ll be able to adjust, right?”


Starsky had always prided himself in being adaptable.  He just wondered why it was necessary.  And besides that….  “What brought this on?  I mean, how come you didn’t bring it up when we bought our new pieces?”


“I just hadn’t thought about it before.  You know, it just seemed automatic, that since we had permits, we should get new weapons.”  Hutch shook his head.  “Now I realize it doesn’t have to be that way.”  He met Starsky’s eye.  “For myself, I don’t want it to be that way.”


Starsky knew that he was going to have to leave it at that for now.  “So, tell me about the case Dobey gave us.”



I swear he’s trying to impregnate me.  It wasn’t the first time the thought had crossed Hutch’s mind. 


Hutch was lying on the waterbed, in a the “bottoms up” position, a plush pillow beneath his hips, and Starsky had ejaculated a short time ago, pressing himself against Hutch’s rear as much as possible, and staying there for a very long time.  As though he had wanted to make sure that every last swimmer was released into Hutch.


Starsky didn’t like ejaculating anywhere except down Hutch’s throat or up his ass.  Once, at the culmination of a blowjob, Hutch’s mouth had released Starsky and he held his cock at his own face, and sprayed himself with the semen that shot from it, thinking it was sexy.  But with the honesty that dominated their bed during their earliest explorations and cataloging of pleasures, Starsky had instead been dismayed, and muttered something about not wanting to waste it like that.


Indeed, despite being the same late thirties age as Hutch, and despite having survived two near-death health crisis’s in recent years, Starsky had an amazingly youthful refractory period.  It wasn’t that uncommon for him to ejaculate into Hutch, not withdraw, and then eventually work himself up to a second orgasm.


Hutch had asked Starsky about it once – his insatiable need to ejaculate inside him – and Starsky had seriously replied, “I like thinking of your insides being soaked with my cum.”  Hutch hadn’t asked why.  Besides, he was aware that, eventually, their lives would get busy and they would come home tired, and probably have to settle for quickies, or no sex at all.   Now, nearly every evening of getting into bed was a carnal adventure all its own.  So, he didn’t want to begrudge either of them their current freedom to indulge their physical senses to the max.


Still, Hutch thought it could be stated as a fact, at various times, that he had more of Starsky’s semen inside his alimentary canal, than he had of his own semen inside of his own balls.


He now felt the softest, gentlest of kisses being applied in a line along the back of his shoulders.


A hand settled in his hair.  Then a tender, “Easy, babe,” and a steadying hand was at his waist.  Finally, Starsky staggered to his knees, carefully withdrawing in the process.


They rolled apart, gently panting, and Hutch grabbed towels and tossed one to Starsky.  They spent a moment wiping at semen and lube on various parts of their bodies.  Hutch shifted to wipe at the wet spot he’d left on the waterbed, knowing the towel could only do a partial job, but he didn’t mind lying in wet spots.  Such minor inconveniences were a regular part of their lives.


They tossed the towels aside, and then met in the center of the king-sized waterbed.  Hutch was partially sitting up against the pillows, and Starsky put his arms around Hutch’s waist and rested his head in Hutch’s naked lap.  “Mmm,” he murmured contentedly.


Hutch dozed for a few brief moments, and then Starsky turned to lie on his back, his head still in Hutch’s lap.  He quietly said, “So, you think this case is going to be the one that really gets the firm going?”


They had an appointment with Ronald Harrington tomorrow morning. 


Hutch furrowed his fingers through Starsky’s hair.  “Sounds like it could be.  It could have all the ingredients of what we’ve been looking for.”


“Good ol’ Dobey,” Starsky said fondly.




“He still putting on weight?”


Hutch sighed.  “I didn’t really notice.  He ran a hand lovingly along Starsky’s torso.  “You seem to be holding your own.”


“Yeah.  I hate to admit it, but getting rid of the beer helped a lot.”  After a moment, he added, “I don’t miss it as much now.”


“Me, neither.  But I wouldn’t want to do completely without.”


Starsky grunted.  He reached up to Hutch with both hands.  “Sleep?”


Hutch leaned down so that his face could be taken in Starsky’s hands.  He leaned farther until his lips met the tender ones waiting for him.


They kissed long and lovingly, appreciative “mmms” emerging from them both.


Finally, Starsky shifted away from Hutch and snuggled under the covers.


Hutch spooned around Starsky, his arm loosely hugging him.


Sated, they drifted into sleep.



Ronald Harrington was tall, slender, and fiftyish, with graying sideburns.  Starsky and Hutch met him in his downtown office, which was ornate with expensive furniture and paintings.  They had dressed in three-piece suits for the occasion.


After Starsky and Hutch had reviewed with Harrington what they had learned from Dobey, the head of the equine division of Golden State Insurance said, “I don’t know how you two want to go about approaching this.  But, frankly, even if you asking questions on behalf of the company scares people enough that it discourages any further fraudulent claims, then that will accomplish something.  Right now, we’ve paid out less than a million on the four horses that recently met their demise.  Our company can absorb that kind of loss, even if the deaths weren’t legit.  But we need to stop the bleeding, or it’s going to become a real problem for the firm.”


Hutch asked, “Just how much are each of these horses insured for?”


“In most cases, anywhere from fifty-thousand to five times that much.”


Starsky whistled.  “They’re worth that much, even though they’re just show horses?”


“We’re talking Grand Prix jumping,” Harrington noted.  “If you have cable, you can sometimes see some of the shows on that new ESPN sports channel.   There can be a lot of money in it for horses that can compete for many years.”


Hutch said, “I suppose there’s also stud value to increase their worth.”


“Actually, not so much.  The horses that have the greatest longevity of success tend to be geldings.  You know, castrated horses.  Occasionally, there’s a stallion or mare that reaches the top level, but usually it’s hard for them to focus on jumping.  The stallions in particular can lose interest in jumping when they’ve gotten accustomed to breeding mares.  It’s that way with racehorses and the other equine sports, too.  Once a horse starts being used as a breeding animal, it’s rare to put him back into competition, because his whole mindset is about romancing the mares.”


Starsky considered how to ask what was on his mind.  Then he said, “Doesn’t it take a lot of money to be involved in a sport like Grand Prix show jumping?  I mean, don’t people have to be wealthy to get involved at all?”


“Yes, it’s a sport that caters to the wealthy.”


“So, if someone has a big farm and these top level show horses, how would they get so financially desperate that a hundred thousand or so in insurance money is going to make so much difference to them, that they’d be willing to off one of their best horses?”


Harrington was thoughtful before answering.  Then he sat back in his chair and said, “I have a few theories, but I can’t be certain about any of them.  For one thing, you never know what’s going on behind closed doors, and someone who appears to have massive wealth on the outside, can actually be hurting financially, and maybe a six figure check is what will get them through the next few mortgage payments before they figure out something else.  I also think that easy money can be addictive, and that’s what worries me about this case, if the deaths are indeed because of fraud.  If someone suspects that another competitor’s horse was deliberately killed and the insurance company paid up without asking many questions, then they might start thinking, ‘I pay out all these premiums in insurance money for all these horses, it’s about time I get some of it back.’”


Starsky shifted with discomfort.  “But still, to kill one’s best horse….  It just seems so cold-blooded.”


Hutch looked over at him, while Harrington said, “You have to realize that horses are considered property in the eyes of the law.  And most equine operations are run with the intent to make a profit.  These horses aren’t pets.  There’s not a lot of room for sentiment.”


Hutch gently said, more to Starsky than to Harrington, “I had a great aunt that raised Standard Poodles.  She had a pretty big kennel.  As a kid, visiting, it was pretty daunting how many of those dogs and puppies died from natural causes, or were simply put to sleep because they didn’t have the correct conformation or whatever.  She didn’t seem particularly attached to any of them.  Except, you know, maybe her champion stud dog.”


“Man,” Starsky said, finding that concept so hard to swallow.  He was also surprised about Hutch’s aunt, because his partner had never before mentioned anything about a relative being a dog breeder.


Harrington said, “He’s right.  I’ve been in various aspects of the livestock industry throughout my career.  When one deals with animals on a large scale, there’s always a certain amount of death.  Owners can’t afford to get too torn up about it, or they shouldn’t be in the business in the first place.”


Thoughtfully, Hutch asked, “What about autopsies on the dead horses?  Sentiment or not, wouldn’t an owner want to know what killed his prize show horse, if he just up and found him dead one morning?”


Harrington shook his head.  “It’s just not that common to perform an autopsy.  For one thing, the bodies are often picked up by a rendering company within a matter of hours after death.  For another, it’s an expensive undertaking to autopsy a horse, and autopsies often aren’t conclusive. The only time someone might be motivated to do any autopsy if they were afraid the horse died from some sort of contagious disease that could jeopardize the entire stable.”


“So instead,” Starsky pursued, “these deaths are mostly attributable to colic.”


“Yes.  Colic is the number one killer of horses, and it’s not an ailment itself as much as a symptom of any number of things.  Colic can be a very mild bellyache, which passes within a matter of hours, or it can be something as severe as a twisted intestine, which the horse can rupture if he tries to roll in an attempt to ease the pain.  There’s all kinds of variations in between those two extremes.  So, it’s kind of the ‘catch all’ reason for a death, when nothing else is obvious.”


Hutch asked, “Do you think the veterinarians might be in on it, if these deaths were deliberate?”


“I doubt it.  There’s any number of veterinarian clinics throughout the region, and it was vets from different clinics that signed off on each of the four deaths.  The vets naturally want to please their clients, so they probably aren’t going to ask a lot of questions if all that’s needed is a signature for the insurance claim form.  But that’s a far cry from, say, actually being on the take and receiving part of the insurance money for their cooperation.”


“What about the ages of the horses?” Hutch went on.  “I remember seeing one of those show jumping events, and Starsky and I were surprised that one of the horses was fourteen years old.”


Harrington nodded.  “Show horses aren’t like racehorses.  Most racehorses are washed up by the time they’re five.  A five-year-old jumper is still pretty green.  They tend to reach their prime from ages eight to twelve.  But horses as old as twenty have competed in the Olympics.”


“Really?” Starsky asked on a high note.


“Yes.  That’s why a really good jumper can earn a lot of purse money, even though Grand Prix purses aren’t anything like top racehorses can make.  However, added up over many years, a top jumper can earn a lot of money.”

“So, how old were the four horses we’re talking about?” Hutch asked.


“The youngest was six.  The oldest was fourteen.  Our premiums and payouts are on a sliding scale, the older a horse gets, because even if they get better with age, they’re insured for less, since they have fewer years of useful life left.”


“Man,” Starsky said with discomfort, “that seems so sad.  A horse being competitive and giving his all for so many years, just to be killed for insurance money.”


Harrington said, “It’s always possible these deaths are entirely on the level, and there’s no fraud involved, but my instincts say that something’s up.”  He paused, looking from one to the other.  “So, gentleman, do you want this case?”


They glanced at each other and nodded.  Hutch said, “As I told you on the phone, we’ll need a two thousand dollar retainer to get started.”


Starsky schooled his face to impassivity.  He was glad Hutch was handling the money part.  He couldn’t imagine asking someone for that much money when they hadn’t done any work yet.


Harrington seemed unfazed.  “I’ll run this by the Board, but I’m not expecting any problems.  Otherwise, you can pick up a check the day after tomorrow.   And then you can get started.”


As they all stood, Starsky said, “I know you said that if us asking questions deters owners from killing their own horses, then that would be enough.  But what if we get evidence that can be taken to the DA, so the owners who have falsely collected insurance can be prosecuted?”


“Then all the better,” Harrington replied.



By the time they returned home, Starsky and Hutch had mapped out an initial plan.  They had decided to play it straight, for the most part.  They would visit the owners of each of the recently deceased horses, and say that they were an outside PI firm that was auditing the procedures of the insurance company, at the insurance company’s request, and had selected files randomly for review.  While the owners wouldn’t have any motivation to talk to them, since they’d already received payouts on the dead horses, Starsky and Hutch wanted to keep their eyes and ears open to anything that was said, however brief the conversations.  What’s more, they decided to let their ignorance of the sport of show jumping be known, so hopefully that might loosen some tongues by those who enjoyed dispensing information.  They hoped presenting an air of charm and wide-eyed naiveté would help such information flow more easily in their direction.


Then, after that, they would decide how to proceed further.  However, they first had to wait until they picked up their retainer check, and Hutch decided he would visit the library the next day to find some books about show jumping.


Their discussion wound down, as they sat on the sofa, both their heads resting against the back, so they could each stare at the ceiling.


Starsky reached over and furrowed his fingers through Hutch’s hair.  “You never told me about the aunt that raised the poodles.”


“Great aunt,” Hutch corrected.  “I was only at her place a few times when I was a kid.  I think she died when I was ten.”


“So, you saw a lot of dogs die at her place?”


Hutch continued to gaze at the ceiling.  “I remember being there one weekend when I was five.  A bitch gave birth to a litter of puppies.  There was something like eight puppies, and one was stillborn, and I think another died within a matter of hours.”  He glanced briefly at Starsky.  “I was all excited, you know, about the puppies.  I remember being so puzzled at how nonchalant all the adults were being about the dead ones.”  Long pause.  “I think I cried, especially when the one died later.”


Starsky stroked Hutch’s cheek, eager for as much information as he could get on child Hutch.   “Death is hard on a kid.”  Then he recalled, “I cried when I was five and my goldfish died.”


Hutch looked over at him and grinned.  “Really?”


“Yeah.  I was real attached to Smitty.”


“Smitty?” Hutch said with a chuckle.


“Yep, he was named Smitty.  And then my parents sat me down and tried to explain about death.”  He shrugged.  “I didn’t really understand what they were saying.”


“Yeah,” Hutch said thoughtfully, “I got the whole ‘the puppies are in heaven’ lecture from my mother and my aunt.  Didn’t make me feel any better though.”


“How did your dad react?” Starsky wondered, knowing that was the parent that Hutch had the strongest feelings about.


“He wasn’t there.  I doubt my mother told him that I’d cried, because I tend to think I would have heard something from him about it.”


Starsky blinked.  “Even when you were just five?”


Hutch snorted.  “Yeah.  I can remember him being on my case about emotion, even when I was that young.”


Starsky’s hand dropped to Hutch’s shoulder and squeezed.  “You turned out okay.”


Hutch’s gaze was back on the ceiling.  “Think so, huh?”


Starsky grinned.  “Yep.”


“I remember a few years later, maybe when I was eight, and I was at my aunt’s.  She was taking a couple of the dogs to the vet to have them put to sleep.  They were perfectly healthy, but she didn’t want them for some reason.  She didn’t consider them good representatives of her breeding program.”  Hutch shook his head.  “I remember feeling so angry, so outraged.  I didn’t say anything, but just remembered thinking to myself that I’d never do something like that to an innocent animal.”  Hutch suddenly furrowed his brow.


Starsky took his hand away and waited a moment.  “What were you thinking just now?”


Hutch snorted.  “I just – I just can remember the thought crossing my mind, wondering what it would be like to be put to sleep.  To just drift off and not have to ever wake up.”


Starsky felt his stomach tighten, and made a point of not over-reacting.  Hutch was talking about something from thirty years ago.  “Why did you feel like it would be nice not to ever have to wake up?”


Hutch closed his eyes and glanced away.  “Just thought that something was wrong with me.  I felt too strongly, and I didn’t know what to do about it.  I was so tired of having to constantly catch myself.  Of course, I learned how to say the right things out loud, but saying the right things didn’t make my true thoughts and emotions disappear.”


Starsky moved to Hutch then, wrapping his arms around his waist, laying his head on Hutch’s shoulder.  “I’m so glad that you didn’t let those precious parts of yourself be destroyed.”


“There almost were, or at least were shut down.”  Hutch put his arm around Starsky.  “Until you came along,” he said cheerfully.  “And then I knew I was okay.  It was okay that I’d ever been born.  I had a place where I belonged.”


Sometimes, Starsky felt that Hutch gave him too much credit.  For all the strength of their partnership – professional and otherwise – they were each still very much their own person.


Hutch abruptly asked, “How did we get on this subject?”


“I was asking about your great aunt’s kennel, because that was something you’d never mentioned before.”  Starsky sighed.  “If it’s true that these owners are having their own horses killed, that just twists my stomach into knots.  I don’t care about the law and the fact that the horses are property and all that shit.  They don’t deserve to die when they haven’t done anything wrong, but especially when they’ve done a whole lot that was right.”


Hutch’s arm tightened around Starsky.  “We’ll put a stop to it, buddy.  At the very least.  And maybe we’ll even find enough evidence to get them prosecuted.”



The next day, Starsky was in the kitchen trying to rearrange the pantry where all the various boxed foodstuffs were kept.  He was tired of having to constantly move boxes out of the way to find what he was looking for, so he decided to put some kind of order to the shelf.


The house phone rang, and he reached to the wall phone at the entrance of the kitchen.  He had to take a moment to remind himself that this would be a personal call, rather than a business one which came in through the office phone, and he answered, “Hello?”


A mature female voice said, “This must be… David?”


“Yes, this is David Starsky.  Who is this?”


“This is Lorraine Hutchinson, Ken’s mother.”


As Starsky smiled, he couldn’t help but think it ironic, since there had been recent discussions of Hutch’s childhood.  Before then, he couldn’t remember the last time Hutch’s parents had been discussed.  He did well remember the one time he had met them – when Hutch was in the hospital, recovering from the plague.  They had stayed for two days, and Starsky had met them only briefly, because he himself was suffering from exhaustion.  In fact, Dr. Judith Kaufman had given him something to insure that he got some genuine sleep, after he collapsed on a cot in a doctor’s lounge.


“Hi, Mrs. Hutchinson.  How are you?”


“I’m fine, David.  Is Ken around?”


“No, I’m sorry he’s not.”  I pumped a gallon of cum into him this morning, while bending him over the breakfast table.  Then I sent him on his way to do errands.   “He’ll probably be back in an hour or so.  Is there anything I can help you with, or should I just have him call you?”


It occurred to Starsky that he had no idea if Hutch’s parents knew of the nature of their relationship.  They knew that they had moved in together, but Hutch had never come out and said if he’d outright told them or not.


“Having him call will be fine.”  She hesitated a moment.  “But I’ll go ahead and tell you, David, why I’m calling.  Richard and I will be coming out that way to visit Ken’s cousin Peter in San Diego.  There’s going to be some other relatives there, as well.  We thought we might first drop in and see you and Ken, if that’s all right.  It would be a week from now.”


“Certainly,” Starsky said automatically.  “That’s fine.  In fact, if you want to stay a couple of days, we’ve got plenty of room here.”


“You know,” she said, “we just might do that.  I’ll talk to Richard, and please do have Ken call me.”


“I’ll do that.”


“Thank you, David.  Goodbye.”




Starsky hung up the phone, grinning.  Because of Hutch’s weakened condition when Hutch’s parents had visited at the hospital, he really hadn’t been able to witness how Hutch and his parents interacted.  Now, he would have that chance.  


He was eager for all the information he could get concerning the love of his life.


He wondered what Hutch would think about the upcoming visit.  Hutch didn’t have a bad relationship with his parents, just not a particularly good one.  He had been raised in an entirely different environment than Starsky had, one where accomplishment and material things were stressed far more than love.  Hutch seemed to have decided, early on in their partnership, that Starsky had gotten the better deal when it came to happy childhoods. That was something Starsky didn’t disagree with.  Over the course of time, he had come to understand that a lot of Hutch’s less flattering behaviors were the result of a need to compensate for the insecurity that he never quite measured up, and to over-compensate from never having felt genuinely lovable.


The latter is what twisted like a knife around Starsky’s own heart.  Still, he knew that many family behaviors were passed down for many generations, so it’s not like Hutch’s parents had set out to make their son feel unloved.  They had obviously raised him in a way they had thought was best, however faulty their basic premise.


Starsky sat in the nearest kitchen chair, his mind going back to the one visit in the hospital.


He had emerged from a deep, drug-induced sleep in the doctor’s lounge.  He had checked on Hutch, who was sleeping with his parents at his side.  Richard Hutchinson, CPA, had light grey hair and was dressed in a suit, less a tie.  He was a little bit taller than Hutch, and had surprisingly broad shoulders, and a little paunch around his middle.  Lorraine Hutchinson was in a dress, and she’d been able to maintain an attractive figure.  She was on the short side, probably less than five-five.   


Starsky had introduced himself, and the Hutchinsons had been polite but seemed somewhat puzzled by him.  Since Hutch was in a deep sleep, Starsky had excused himself to spend some of the first hours at home since the crisis with the plague had begun.


After more sleep and some food, he’d stopped by the station and got caught up in helping Simmons and Babcock bring down a fleeing suspect.  Starsky had gone on to the hospital without bothering to shower or change out of his sweaty clothes, since he was anxious to see how Hutch was doing, and to spend time with his partner and his parents.


When he’d entered Hutch’s private room, his partner’s fatigued eyes had darted to him with an anxious expression.  Both parents were sitting by his side, his mother holding his hand, but there was restlessness about Hutch that couldn’t be explained by extreme muscle soreness or extreme weakness.  His parents were carrying on a conversation about hospitals, the food and nurses, their daughter’s extended trip in Europe, and Hutch seemed to be trying to participate, or at least listen attentively.  Starsky had said a few words after entering, but as he tried to stay in the background of the family unit, and move about the room unobtrusively, Hutch’s eyes kept following him, a plea in their depths.


It was a while before it dawned on Starsky what his partner was trying to tell him.  These were the people that Hutch had felt a need to prove himself to.  And now he was far too weak, needy, and vulnerable to prove much of anything, except how low he could sink on the weak, needy, and vulnerable scale.


On some level, that concern hadn’t made sense to Starsky.  If one was in a hospital bed, one was likely to be weak, needy, and vulnerable.  So any visitors would understand such, and Hutch’s parents seemed pleasant enough.  Caring enough.  Granted, the handholding had a bit of a distant feel to it, but he’d known that Hutch’s parents weren’t the most demonstrative people to begin with.


In any event, his partner needed him, and Starsky knew how he wanted to help.  He moved to the side of the bed opposite Hutch’s parents, and gently cupped Hutch’s cheek.  “Hey, buddy,” he said softly, “I’m just going to wash up a bit, and then I’ll be right back. ’Kay?”  He moved off to the restroom without waiting for an answer.


After closing the door behind him, he removed his holster, outer shirt and undershirt.  He stood at the sink and washed up, and then decided to just put his outer shirt back on, for the t-shirt was too rank with sweat.  He carried his gun and holster, and the t-shirt back out with him, and sat them on a rolling stool beside the bed.


He nudged off his Adidas, and with Hutch’s parents watching him with puzzlement, while making an obvious effort not to stare, Starsky carefully knelt on the bed, and then leaned his right side against the headboard, facing Hutch’s parents.  “Hey there, buddy,” he said in his softest tone, taking Hutch by the shoulders.


Hutch curled toward Starsky, his back to his parents, and his head landed heavily on Starsky’s chest.  His arm, with an IV attached, just managed to rest across Starsky’s mid section, losing the clasp of his mother’s hand.  Starsky pulled the covers up over his charge as best he could.


Hutch relaxed then, his breath coming in soft pants, and Starsky closed his eyes gratefully, while resting a hand against the back of Hutch’s bowed head.  He tilted his mouth closer and whispered, “That’s better for you, huh?”


In answer, Hutch’s breathing lost its harsh edge and his weight grew heavier.


Starsky didn’t want Hutch’s parents to feel rejected, because his shifting had been a movement toward Starsky, more than a movement away from his parents.  While his free hand stroked slowly along Hutch’s back and shoulders, he said quietly to Richard and Lorraine, “He’s had a lot taken out of him, fighting to stay alive.  He needs to let go now.”  He leaned closer to Hutch’s ear for a moment.  “Right, buddy?  You wouldn’t give up.  So, now it’s the tough guy’s turn to get some rest.”


He could see Richard about to say something, and Starsky could guess that they might feel they should be leaving.  He didn’t want them to have to feel that way.  As long as Hutch had Starsky as a sanctuary, and could find his peace there, he didn’t think it was necessary that they leave.       


Conversationally, Starsky said, “I don’t know if the doctors told you, but he was in isolation until just a couple of days ago.  The only people who could go in were hospital personnel, and they had to be all suited up so they didn’t catch his germs.”  Starsky swallowed thickly.  “Anyone else had to watch from a window.  That was really rough.”  He had to swallow again before he muttered, “They did let me in once, when I insisted.”


He made a point of stopping, waiting to see if Richard or Lorraine wanted to say anything, or had questions about what their son had been through.


“At least he’s not there now,” Lorraine noted cheerfully.


Richard said, “You must be tired, David, from taking care of him so much.”


“I’ve been exhausted,” Starsky admitted, “but not from taking care of him.  I haven’t had much chance yet.  Between him being in isolation, and me trying to find the one guy in the whole city who had antibodies in his blood, this is the first chance I’ve gotten to really be with him.”  He tilted his head down to Hutch.  “Right, buddy?”


In answer, the hand across Starsky’s middle loosely grasped his shirt.


“Gonna make up for it now,” Starsky told him, feeling his throat thicken.  He decided to lighten the mood, and said to Hutch’s parents, “What do you think of him growing a mustache?  He’s been talking about it.”


Lorraine glanced away.  “I’ve never been one for facial hair.  It’s so hard to keep it well groomed.”


Starsky grinned.  “He says he thinks it’ll add character.”


Richard said, “I suppose he can always shave it off, if it doesn’t look right on him.”


Brisk footsteps were heard from the hallway.  An exhausted, but cheerful, Dr. Judith Kaufman entered.  She nodded at Lorraine and Richard, and then moved to Starsky’s side of the bed.  “How’s our favorite patient?”  She put her stethoscope in her ears. 


Starsky looked down at Hutch.  “I think he’s wanting to be disturbed as little as possible.”  He was surprised that Hutch hadn’t roused at Dr. Kaufman’s voice, considering the deep fondness the two had for each other, and he knew that Hutch wasn’t asleep.


“I’ll try not to demand too much of him,” she said as she warmed the end of the stethoscope against the palm of her hand.  She put it inside his hospital smock and listened for an extended moment.  Then she said, “Hutch?  Can you try to give me a deep breath?”


Starsky said, “Deep breath, Hutch.  Whatever you can.”


Without otherwise moving, Hutch drew in a large, if somewhat wimpy breath.


“Let it out,” Judith directed. 


They watched Hutch obey.


When Judith moved away, she nodded with approval.  “That’s sounding better.  Let me get his blood pressure.” 


She reached for the equipment that hung on the wall and then looked down at the stool beside the bed.


“Oh, sorry,” Starsky said.  He had to release his hold on Hutch to grab the holster with his gun.  He hung it on the headboard of the bed, and then took the t-shirt and placed it next to his leg, on the mattress.


“Thanks.”  Judith sat on the stool and then pushed the covers away from the arm that was stretched across Starsky’s middle.  “I’m just doing your blood pressure, Hutch,” she said soothingly, and then patted him.


“I think he’s too weak to talk,” Starsky noted.


As Judith pumped the blood pressure sleeve, she looked over at Hutch’s parents.  “He’s going to be extremely weak for quite a while.  His body is thoroughly exhausted from fighting the virus.”


Starsky grinned fondly while looking down at Hutch.  “How can anyone tell?”


There were brief, if somewhat uncomfortable chuckles from the pair on the opposite side of the bed.


Judith glanced up at Starsky, and their eyes met.  They smiled at each other, sharing their blessings that Hutch had lived long enough to earn the privilege of being exhausted while no longer having to fight for his life.


Judith released the pressure of the sleeve, watching the numerical scale.  She seemed satisfied when she began to unwrap the sleeve.  After putting the equipment aside, she squeezed Hutch’s arm.  “Hutch?  Do you need a urinal?”  She glanced up at Starsky.  “We removed his catheter a while ago.”


Starsky bent down to Hutch’s ear and asked softly,  “You need to pee, buddy?”  He was watching his language, due to the company in the room.


Hutch made a grunting noise, while still keeping his face tilted downward, and Starsky realized that, with his partner’s lethargy, he was going to have to learn a whole new grunt vocabulary.   He decided that this noise meant no.  He assured, “You just let me know, if you need to.”  Then he looked up at Judith.   “I’ll help him when the time comes.”


 “Good enough,” Judith said, straightening.   After a moment, she leaned down to Hutch’s hand and squeezed it.  Warmly, she said, “Hutch, sleep, if you want.  Don’t try to stay awake and keep everyone company.  You need to let yourself rest.”


Starsky watched while Hutch gave a little squeeze to Judith’s hand.


She released him, patted his shoulder, and then said to all of them present, “I’ll be back to check on him later this evening.”


“Thanks, Judith.”  Starsky watched her leave.


Richard watched her walk away, and then he said quietly, “She seems fond of him.”


Starsky couldn’t tell if he was glad or disapproved.  With equal softness, he said, “They hit it off right away.  We were working with Judith initially to try to track down everyone who had been infected.  They didn’t know Hutch had been infected until later.”


Starsky gently furrowed through Hutch’s hair with his fingers.  His other hand rubbed periodic circles along Hutch’s back and shoulder.


“I thought hospitals had rules against that sort of thing,” Richard said.


Disapproving then.  Starsky kept his voice level.  “We were all too busy for it to be anything other than purely innocent.”  His voice hardened slightly.  “I wouldn’t want anyone else working Hutch’s case.  Judith has been relentless.  I consider her a lifelong friend, because of what she’s done for Hutch.”


After silence had fallen, Starsky said, “How long are you planning on staying out here?”


“We fly back tomorrow morning,” Richard said.  “Now that we know he’s going to be okay, we might as well head back.”


Starsky nodded.  He would have liked to have had some additional assistance with taking care of Hutch, but since his parents’ presence only made Hutch more agitated, because he didn’t feel free to be vulnerable with them, then their being here wasn’t really very helpful.


“It’s so good to know that he’s going to be all right,” Lorraine said.


Richard nodded at Hutch.  “How long are you going to stay with him like that?”


Again, Starsky couldn’t tell if Hutch’s father disapproved or not.


“As long as he needs me to.  Until he falls asleep.”  Starsky felt a wetness begin to spread across his shirt.  “Which I think might be….”  Starsky bent his head low, and caught sight of the moisture coming from Hutch’s mouth.  He looked up at the Hutchinsons with a grin.  “Right now.  He just drooled on me.”


Lorraine put her hand to her mouth.  “Oh, my.”


Richard appeared uncomfortable.


Starsky said, “Mr. Hutchinson, can you give me a hand here?  I want to get up with disturbing him as little as possible.”


Richard stood and leaned over the bed, waiting for instructions.


“Just sort of support him, maybe put your arm around his waist, so I can slide out from under him.”


“Easy does it, Hutch,” Starsky soothed, though he hoped Hutch couldn’t hear him.  He gently pushed Hutch’s upper body over to the pillows against the headboard, while scooting to the edge of the mattress.


Richard looked very uncomfortable, but determined to be helpful, as he had a dubious grip on Hutch’s sides.


When Starsky was off the bed, Hutch grunted, still facing toward him, and Starsky turned back to the bed, and settled Hutch more comfortably against the pillows.  “Yeah, I know, grunt, grunt,” he admonished with affection.  He reached for a tissue beside the bed, and then wiped briefly at the saliva around Hutch’s mouth. 


As he drew the covers more snugly around Hutch, he saw the barely open eyes.  “You need to sleep, Hutch,” he said gently, patting his head.  “It’s all okay now.  You’ve turned the corner and everything is fine.  I’ll be back in a little bit, but I want you to sleep now.  That’ll make me really happy.  Okay?”  He watched the blue eyes close gratefully, and waited for a few even breaths.


Starsky reached for his holster and gun and picked them up. He didn’t know what had happened to his discarded t-shirt, but assumed it had gotten lost in the bedding.  He didn’t want to disturb Hutch, so didn’t bother looking for it.


He moved toward the doorway, and the Hutchinsons joined him.


Starsky turned off the light and quietly said, “Maybe that’ll help him sleep for a while.”


They stepped into the hall, but kept the door partway open, so passing nurses would be able to see if Hutch needed anything.


Starsky said tiredly, “He’s been through so much.  Hopefully, he can just rest for a few days now.”


Lorraine asked pleasantly, “Are you going to go home now?”


“No.  I’ll go to the cafeteria and get some food – you’re welcome to join me – but I’ll be back up here after that.”  He looked squarely at them and admitted, “It was so hard, watching him suffer so much with this thing, and having him in that damn isolation room where I couldn’t touch him.”  He managed a crooked grin.  “I intend to make up for it now.  He’s a big baby when he’s hurting, and he responds best to a lotta contact.”


They didn’t say anything, and as though to break the awkwardness, Richard nodded at the wet spot on Starsky’s shirt.  “Sorry about that.”


It seemed an odd thing to apologize for.  “I’m not.  It was proof that he was actually falling asleep.”  Then he shrugged with another grin, quoting a line that Hutch had said to him once.  “What’s a little drool amongst friends?”


The Hutchinsons seemed distinctly uncomfortable then.  After some discussion, they indicated they were going to choose a fine restaurant for lunch, and invited Starsky, but Starsky turned them down because he was reluctant to get too far from the hospital, even though he had no reason to think Hutch’s health was going to suffer any setbacks.


He came back later and spent a few hours with Hutch, and the Hutchinsons didn’t return. 


Starsky went home and slept a long time, returning in mid morning.  Judith Kaufman met him as he was coming down the hall.  “Were you missing a shirt yesterday?” she asked.


“Yeah, I left a t-shirt in his room.  Why?”


She smiled with affection.  “He’s been sleeping with it on his pillow.”


“Oh,” Starsky said, feeling a fondness wash through him.  “Maybe his sense of smell has been affected.  It needed to be washed.”


Her smile widened.  “I don’t think he minded, considering how well he slept.”


Starsky nodded, and started to move toward Hutch’s room, but Judith reached to stop him.  She looked him in the eye.  “It’s a good thing that I’ll have to return to Alabama, isn’t it?”


Yes.  She didn’t have a chance at a long-term relationship with Hutch – nobody did – so no purpose would be served in trying to start something. 


Starsky hoped his silence was answer enough, and he continued his way to Hutch’s room.


Now, some three years later, Starsky moved from the kitchen, down the hall, and into the master bedroom.  He went to the walk-in closet where the hamper was.  He and Hutch went through phases where they used the hamper, and other phases where they just left clothes hanging over furniture or even on the floor.   They were currently in a “use the hamper” phase, and Starsky reached in and grabbed some clothing.  He separated out some of Hutch’s t-shirts and started sniffing the armpits.  When he found one that smelled particularly strong – Hutch must have been wearing it when they played tennis at the neighborhood park a few days ago – he took it and dumped the rest back into the hamper.


Starsky lay down on the bed, bringing the bunched shirt to his face, and inhaled the scents that rose from it.  He closed his eyes, thinking of this morning.  He hadn’t meant to take Hutch over the breakfast table.  But Hutch had been puttering around the kitchen, naked beneath his robe, and Starsky had felt a familiar fondness for how perfect their lives were, and he didn’t like wasting a moment of loving.  He tended to get aroused more easily and frequently than Hutch did, so he was the one who initiated most of their lovemaking.  He particularly liked the thought of Hutch driving around the city with a whole bunch of Starsky’s fresh cum inside of him.  Once, Hutch had stated reasonably, “I’m just going to crap it out sooner or later, you know.”  That stark note hadn’t kept Starsky from enjoying the fantasy.


Now, the smelling the shirt, and thinking of the unusually brief lovemaking interlude, coalesced into the phone call with Lorraine Hutchinson, which led to the memory of Hutch’s illness and long recovery.  Richard and Lorraine were the ones who had brought this so-special person into the world.  How strange to think back to the unease with taking care of their son when he was exceedingly weak – to the point where Hutch had found it necessary to try to act as normal as possible, and keep up his side of the conversation.  Until Starsky had rescued him, and given him a refuge to hide in and let himself yield to the exhaustion.


He wondered what they would think now, of him and Hutch being all things to each other.



Hutch came home with an armful of library books.  He placed them on his desk in the office.


“Starsk?” he called when he didn’t see his partner anywhere that was visible from the centrally located kitchen.


“In here,” Starsky replied from down the hall.


Hutch moved off toward the bedroom.  He found his partner lying on Hutch’s side of the bed, his nose resting in one of Hutch’s t-shirts.  He appeared very relaxed, which curbed Hutch’s trepidation that his love was horny yet again.


“What’re you doing?” Hutch asked, sitting next to him.


“Remembering when you were sick with the plague.”  Starsky waited a moment, and then asked, “Remember when you wanted to keep my stinky shirt with you while you slept?”


Of course, he remembered.   He hadn’t been interested in analyzing it, though.


Starsky smiled tenderly.  “Hard to believe we were so innocent back then.”


Hutch snorted.  “Yeah.”  Then he rested a hand on Starsky’s thigh.  “How come you’re thinking about that?”


“Because it’s the one time I met your parents.”




“Yeah.  Your mom called a little while ago.  She and your dad are going to San Diego to meet with a cousin or something, next week.  They want to come by here first.  I invited them to stay a couple of days, and it sounded like she was agreeable, though she has to run it by your dad first.”


Hutch released a breath.  He didn’t consider his family to be a part of his life, simply because he’d never felt very close to them, or had any desire to share much of his life with them.


“We have plenty of room,” Starsky went on.


“Except for the not-so-minor fact that none of the other bedrooms are furnished.”


“Then we’ll have to furnish one of them.”


Hutch released a breath.  “A decent mattress alone is going to cost hundreds.  And then there will be all the furniture.”


“Don’t worry about it,” Starsky scolded.  “We have a real money-making case now.”


“We hope.”


“So, do your parents know about us, Hutch?  Or do they think we’re roomies just to share expenses?”


Hutch bowed his head.  “I never came out and said it.  I just figured they put two and two together.”


“Maybe you should just tell them, before they get here.  You know, so they aren’t shocked or anything that we’re sleeping in the same bed.”


“Actually,” Hutch said, “I think they might have assumed we were… like that… before we were actually like that.”


“Did they say something to you?  Like after you were out of the hospital?”


“No.”  Hutch tilted his head thoughtfully.  “I just got the feeling, whenever I’d talked to either of them on the phone, that they were trying to be careful about how they stated things.  So, I just assumed that they thought we were doing it.  I didn’t feel any need to try to correct their impression.”


Starsky said cheerfully, “Then they must have been okay with it.”


Hutch shrugged, not really caring.  “I think it was probably more a matter of ‘Let’s not piss him off or he might disown us completely and not even bother sending a card at Christmas.’”


“That’s sad, Hutch.  I mean, that they feel they have to walk on eggshells and not piss you off.”


Hutch thought about that.  “I guess turnabout is fair play.  That’s how I felt as a kid – walking around on eggshells.  Never knew when I was going to get reprimanded for fucking something up.  Or simply not being good enough.”


“You aren’t a kid anymore.”


Hutch pulled a knee up on the bed and rested his arm across it.  “No.  And I’m not afraid of my father anymore, either, but nor do I want or need anything from him.  If he said something now, like ‘I’m proud of you’, it would just piss me off because it would be, like, him taking credit that I’d owned up to his standards, when I don’t give a rat’s ass about his standards.  I also don’t feel that he should get credit for anything good that’s happened in my life.”  Hutch grinned faintly at Starsky.  “And now it’s all good.”


Starsky studied him a long moment, and then he said, “Your feelings are still so strong about them.”


Hutch shrugged.  He felt he’d come a long way in being okay about his parents, if only because he didn’t have reason to give them much thought the vast majority of the time.


“You okay with them coming here?” Starsky asked.


“Sure.  That’s fine.  Like I said, I’m not afraid anymore.”


Starsky grinned.  “Well, I for one am looking forward to seeing what they have to say about you.  I only know about the first twenty years or so of your life from you.  They might have a completely different perspective.”


Hutch released a breath.  “No doubt they will.”  But he was glad Starsky was so enthused.


“I told your mother you would call her back.”


“Okay,” Hutch said, and then he sighed.  “There goes our retainer money.”



The next day, they picked up the retainer check and the files on the four horses from Golden State Insurance.  Then they went shopping for bedroom furniture, plus a queen-sized mattress, and picked out an arrangement that would be delivered in two days.  Lorraine Hutchinson had confirmed that they would indeed be staying a couple of nights when they visited.   They would get a rental car at the airport and didn’t need to be picked up, since they would to drive to San Diego afterward.


In the evening, Starsky and Hutch spent some time browsing through the library books, and discussing with each other what they were learning about the world of show jumping horses.



They decided to visit two farms the following day, as they were within twenty miles of each other.  They again dressed well, Starsky wearing crisp, dark blue jeans, with a button down shirt and sports jacket.  Hutch wore beige corduroy slacks with matching jacket.  When they got out of the city, Starsky put the Corvette’s top down so they could enjoy the fresh country air.


When they reached the first farm, it was a large, sprawling estate, with numerous pastures and large, airy barns, plus various arenas, some which had jumps in them.


The entrance to the property led them to one of the large barns.  As soon as they parked the car and got out, a man who appeared too well dressed to be a groom walked up to them.  “Can I help you, gentlemen?”


Hutch said, “We’re looking for Anita Livingston.”


“Is she expecting you?”


“No.  We didn’t call ahead.  But if she’s available, we’d like to talk to her.”


“I’ll call her from the barn phone.  What’s it concerning?”


Hutch took out a card and handed it to him.  “Tell her Starsky and Hutchinson are here on behalf of Golden State Insurance to review the death of a horse named Poppycock.”


The man reacted.  “She’s already received a check for him.  Why would you be reviewing it?”


Starsky stepped forward.  “We’re conducting a routine in-house audit on the procedures at Golden State Insurance.  We just need to ask a few questions.  Probably won’t take more than five minutes.”


The man furrowed his brow.  “Can’t you do that on the phone?”


“We’d prefer to speak in person,” Hutch said, trying to appear as friendly as possible.  He looked around.  “This is quite a place you have here.  We wouldn’t mind being able to look around a bit.”


“Who might you be?” Starsky asked.


The man replied, “Tom Hill.  I’m the foreman here for the show jumping division.”


Starsky held out his hand, and Hutch did likewise.  “Nice to meet you.”


“The phone is this way,” Tom said in a more friendly manner, turning toward the barn.


They entered a well-kept office.  Tom picked up the phone and dialed.  After speaking to someone about talking to Mrs. Livingston, he then apparently reached the woman herself.  “Mrs. Livingston, there’s two gentlemen here from Golden State Insurance.  They’re doing some kind of routine audit and have a few standard questions they would like to ask you in person about Poppycock.  They say it won’t take long at all.”  He listened for a moment, and then said, “Good enough.”  He hung up the phone.  “She’s driving down from the house.  It’ll be just a few minutes.  You can have a seat, if you want.”


Starsky and Hutch both looked around.  There were a few chairs scattered about the office.  They each selected one and sat down.


Hutch asked, “Were you here when Poppycock was found dead?”


“Yeah,” Tom replied.  “It was such a shock.  He was such a big, stout, healthy horse.  And then to see him lying there in that stall, dead.”


Starsky glanced around.  “For a farm as big as this, it’s a wonder you don’t have a night watchman.”


“We do, but just during breeding season and to watch the mares.  There isn’t any other reason to worry about somebody getting on the property.”


Hutch shifted in his seat, and rested his elbows on his knees, trying to appear casual.  “I admit that my partner and I don’t know much about colic, but I have heard that sometimes horses thrash around when they’re in a lot of pain.  Were there any signs that Poppycock had thrashed around before he died?”


Tom shook his head, appearing thoughtful.  “No, that’s what seemed so eerie about it.  He almost seemed…,” he suddenly shrugged, “peaceful.”  He abruptly looked up.  “At least I can feel pretty good about that fact that he didn’t seem to be in any pain when he left us.”


Starsky sat back and crossed one leg over the other.  “Isn’t colic, by definition, a reference to pain?  I mean, some kind of stomach ache or intestinal problem?”


“Sure.  But some types cause more pain than others.  It was just weird, that’s all.”


Hutch also sat back.  “You ever see anything like that before?  I ask because our firm is new at the equine angle, and it would help to know if we come across anything like this in the future.”


“I’ve seen a lot of weird deaths,” Tom said.  “Both painful and peaceful.  At another place I used to work at, I went out to the broodmare barn one morning and found the farm’s top mare dead with her foal halfway out of her, also dead.  She hadn’t given any signs of foaling in the near future when I had checked her the night before.  That was rough.”  He brightened.  “But I’ve also come to the barn in the morning and found an old horse dead in his stall, and nothing seems amiss.  Sometimes they just die of old age – sooner than you’d think – but we all have to go sometime.”


There was a car motor that got louder, and then was abruptly switched off.  “Mrs. Livingston is here,” Tom said.


Starsky and Hutch both stood, and then a slender, aging, petite woman appeared, dressed in well-fitting slacks and a blouse.  She wore sunglasses, and as she entered, she asked in puzzlement, “You’re here from Golden State Insurance?”


“Actually,” Hutch said, holding out his hand, “I’m Kenneth Hutchinson and my partner here, David Starsky, are private investigators hired by Golden State to due a routine internal audit of their procedures.  We pick a certain number of random files and review the cases, just to make sure the employees at the firm are following all the correct procedures.”


Finally, she held out her hand to shake his, and then shake Starsky’s.


“What do you need to know about Poppycock?” she asked.  “I would think that everything about his case would be in Golden State’s file.”


“That’s what we’re verifying,” Starsky said in a friendly manner.  “Maybe, for starters, you can show us where he was found?”


She seemed puzzled at the request, but then said, “Certainly.”  She led the way out of the office and down the aisle barn.  Tom followed behind.


They passed many horses in their stalls.  Hutch had never been around such tall horses before.  When they crossed an aisle, it led to the inner part of the barn, which revealed a large, well-lighted indoor arena, which had jumps set about.


There was the sound of hooves, and Starsky briefly tugged on Hutch’s arm.  “Hey, look at that.”  Inside the arena, a horse was being cantered around, and then took one of the jumps, leaping over it with seemingly little effort.


Mrs. Livingston frowned, but she joined them in stepping up to the railing of the indoor arena.


Hutch said, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Livingston, but my partner and I have never seen a facility like this, or been around such impressive horseflesh.  I’m afraid we’re feeling a bit like tourists.”


She seemed to soften then.  The tall liver chestnut, with a wide blaze down his face, took another jump, his male rider barely shifting in the saddle as he cleared the fence easily.  Mrs. Livingston said, “That’s Robotics.  He’s only six, but we think he’s going to be our next super star.”


“What breed is he?” Starsky asked.


“He’s part Hanoverian and part Thoroughbred.  His dam was a racehorse for a short time.  Not a very good one, but she’s thrown some good jumpers.”


“When is his next show?” Hutch asked.


“This weekend.  There’s one in Pasadena.  After a couple of days, it’ll probably be airing on that new ESPN cable channel, if you get cable.”


“We do,” they said in unison.


Hutch definitely wanted to see the blazed-faced youngster perform, and he knew Starsky would, too.


After they watched Robotics clear a few more fences, Mrs. Livingston turned away toward the aisle of stalls.  “Let me show you Poppycock’s stall.”


A few minutes later she gestured to the stall that had iron bars on the upper half, so one could see the entire stall.  “I’m afraid there’s not much to see.  Tom found him dead that morning.  Just collapsed on his side.  Colic, the vet said.  Such a shame.”


Her voice didn’t have much emotion.  Hutch made sure his voice had plenty, as he gently said, “I’m sorry for your loss.  From everything we were able to research, he was a highly accomplished horse.”


She snorted.  “It always seems that the best ones are the ones that sometimes reach the worst kind of fate.”  She suddenly looked at her foreman.  “Remember that chestnut yearling, Tom?  He was the most expensive horse we’d ever purchased.  Two days later, he got a foreleg caught in a fence and crippled himself.  We didn’t even have a chance to get him insured.  A fifty-thousand dollar loss, just like that.”  She snapped her fingers.


“I imagine it’s a tough business,” Starsky said.  “You know, considering that horses are living creatures and no one can be sure what they’re going to do.”


“Yes, it is,” Mrs. Livingston said with a sigh, and Tom made a noise of agreement.


Starsky pressed, “And losing one of your top performers… that’s got to hurt all the more.  I mean,” he said, playing his naivety to the hilt, in a way that Hutch admired, “I imagine it’s hard not to get emotionally attached to the horses that are performing the best.”


She gazed at Starsky a long moment, through her dark sunglasses, her mouth corner twitching, as though trying to decide whether or not to be annoyed.  “Our operation is a business.  You can’t afford to get too attached.  When I was fourteen, I was very attached to my first horse that won me some blue ribbons.  The second year I had him, he got colic and died.”  Her mouth hardened.  “I didn’t bother getting attached after that.”


Hutch exchanged a glance with his partner.


“I love horses,” Mrs. Livingston went on, “but getting attached to any particular horse is something only a fool would do.”


After an awkward silence, Starsky asked, “Do you still compete?”


Hutch was curious about that himself.  Mrs. Livingston appeared to be somewhat elderly, but he didn’t think there was an age limit for equine events. 


“Oh, no, those days are well behind me.  I ride occasionally, for pleasure, but that’s it.  Roger Peterson rides all the big events for the stable.”


“He rode Poppycock?” Starsky asked.




“Is he the one riding Robotics now?”




Hutch exchanged another glance with Starsky.  They very much wanted to talk to Roger.  Preferably alone.


Hutch held out his hand.  “Thank you, Mrs. Livingston.  I think that’s all we require.”


She seemed relieved, and she quickly shook Starsky’s hand, and then headed out of the barn.


Tom started to walk back toward the office, and Starsky and Hutch followed.  When they came to the cross aisle that led to the arena, Hutch asked, “Do you mind if we watch Robotics a little more?”


Tom glanced in the arena.  “I think he’s done.  Roger’s dismounted.”  He paused, and then said, “Would you like me to introduce you?”


“That would be great,” Starsky said.   They could see Roger running up his stirrups.  “Do you think it would be okay if we pet Robotics?”


Tom shrugged.  “I think so.”  He opened a gate and led the way into the arena.  “Hey, Roger?  Let me introduce you to these two gentlemen.”


Hutch noticed how thick and soft the dirt was in the arena.  Up close, the fences looked huge and it amazed Hutch that any horse could get his massive body over them so smoothly. 


They all moved to the center where horse and rider were.  Tom did the introductions.


Roger appeared to be in his thirties, and had an aura about him that was just the tolerable side of arrogant.  He said, “I don’t know what you want me to tell you about Poppycock.  I wasn’t even here when he died.  I was out of state, looking at some mares.”


“Actually,” Hutch said bashfully, “we weren’t really wanting to ask you anything about him.”  He stroked Robotic’s face.  “We just wanted to say hello and see if we could pet this guy.  Mrs. Livingston said he’s the upcoming star, and my partner and I have been enjoying watching the show jumping on ESPN.”


“Yeah,” Starsky piped up enthusiastically, “we even got a big screen TV and everything.”


Tom said, “I need to make some phone calls.  Nice meeting you both.”  He stepped away and left the arena.


Roger seemed to relax, when he realized he wasn’t being formally questioned.  “I think that ESPN channel is going to do a lot for the sport.  It’ll be good to get more exposure.”


Starsky raised a hand.  “Is it all right if I pet him?”


Roger took a step back.  “Sure.”


Starsky stroked the sleek neck, while Hutch continued to stroke Robotic’s face.  The horse looked like he was going to drift off to sleep.


“That must have been tough,” Starsky said. “Losing a horse like Poppycock.”


Roger shrugged.  “You take the bad with the good.  You have to keep looking forward.  Bleed too much for the misfortunes, and you won’t last long in this business.”


Hutch said, “He was really good though, wasn’t he?  Poppycock?”


Roger nodded.  “He was at his peak.  Was at that point where I really felt like I knew him and could anticipate his every action and reaction.  It takes years to get to a point like that with a horse.”


While still stroking the sleek neck, Starsky casually said, “Seems like, in that kind of situation, the insurance money for his death would hardly make up for that kind of special relationship.”


Roger shrugged.  “It’s not like I see any of that money.  I didn’t own him.”


Hutch said, with compassion, “Then it’s a loss for you all the way around.”


Starsky finally took his hand away from Robotics.  “Do you see that happen often?  Where a horse is just found dead in the morning, of colic?  Looking like he went real peacefully?”


Another shrug.  “I never heard anyone say he went peacefully.  Just that it was colic.  Unfortunately, colic kills a lot of horses.  You can do any number of things to prevent it, but it still happens.  Horses have very delicate digestive systems.  And because their stomachs are located so far away from their mouths, they can’t throw up to relieve a stomach ache.” 


Hutch found that to be an interesting bit of information.


Roger abruptly took Robotic’s bridle and stepped forward.  “Sorry to be rude, but I’ve got a whole lot more horses to exercise today.”


“Sorry to have held you up,” Hutch said, stepping aside, “Thanks.”


As Roger led Robotics away, Starsky said, “We’ll be rooting for you when we watch on TV.”


Roger raised a hand in acknowledgment, but didn’t look back.



As they drove to the next farm, Starsky said, “I can see Mrs. Livingston being willing to have Poppycock killed, but we certainly didn’t pick up anything that would be evidence.”


Hutch soothed, “We’re just starting this case.  We knew it was going to be a challenge to find out anything merely from asking questions, but we’ve got to give it time.  If we keep our eyes and ears open, something will pop eventually.”


“I don’t think Tom or Roger were in on Poppycock.  Tom seemed too perturbed by his death, and Roger wouldn’t gain anything.”


Hutch thought about that.  “Doesn’t mean that either one wasn’t being paid part of the insurance money under the table.”


Starsky was thoughtful for a long moment.  “If Poppycock was deliberately killed, I wonder how it happened.  Weird, the way Tom was emphasizing how peaceful he looked.”


“Almost like he was put to sleep,” Hutch continued the thought.  “Except, if he was euthanized, there would have been an injection site that the vet would have seen.  And that surely would have prompted an autopsy and some kind of blood analysis.”


Before long, they reached the second farm, where a horse named Woodstick had met an untimely demise.  The second farm wasn’t as large as the first, and the atmosphere was more casual.   The owner wasn’t around, but no one seemed to care that Starsky and Hutch were milling about.


Finally, a thirty-ish bleach blonde woman with a slim figure in jeans and a sweater approached them, after being informed by other stable hands as to why Starsky and Hutch were there.


Her eyes fastened on Hutch immediately, as she approached with a smile.  “I’m Lisa Gibbons, the general manager,” she said, shaking Hutch’s hand.  “What can I do for you?”


“Dave Starsky,” Starsky stepped forward, and she politely shook his hand before turning her attention back to Hutch. 


Hutch was aware of being scrutinized, in a way that would have once flattered him.  He had to remind himself that being friendly could only help their cause.  “We’re private investigators conducting an internal audit for Golden Rule Insurance.  We’ve randomly pulled some case files and are reviewing them, to make sure all the I’s are getting dotted and T’s crossed, as per company policy.”


“Then you’re here about Woodstick?”


“Yes,” Starsky said.  “We’d just like to verify what’s in the file.”


“So, if you don’t mind answering some questions,” Hutch said.


She shrugged.  “Shoot.”


Starsky asked, “Were you here when Woodstick was found dead?”


“Yes.  But there’s not much to tell.  He was lying in on his side, in his stall.  Just one of those things.”


“You ever see anything like that happen before?” Hutch asked.  “Sorry, but I haven’t been around horses.  I don’t know how common it is to find a horse dead like that.”


“It happens,” she said.  “We used to have a night-watchman, but it became an unnecessary expense.  Maybe if we’d still had one, he would have noticed something and called the vet.”


Starsky asked, “Did Woodstick look like he’d been in distress before he died?”


She shook her head.  “No, but that doesn’t mean anything.  I’ve been around horses all my life, and I’ve seen colic deaths first hand.  Sometimes the horse just lies there, like he’s given up.  Other times, they’re thrashing around, in horrendous pain.”


While Hutch considered what to ask next, Starsky said, “I’m going to check the file in the car.  I feel like there’s something I’m forgetting to ask about.”  He moved off to the Corvette.


Hutch knew that Starsky had noted Lisa’s interest, and was hoping she might loosen her tongue if she were alone with Hutch.


He turned away to drape his hands over the railing of the outdoor arena.  There were jumps, but no horses were present.


She stayed at his side, then nodded toward his left hand.  “You’re married?”


“Happily,” Hutch emphasized.


She glanced away a moment, and then turned to look at him fully.  “If you’re interested in any side action, look me up.”


He was a bit put off by her forwardness, and it was on the tip of his tongue to firmly say, “I’m not interested,” but he thought a hopeful witness might be more forthcoming.  He merely ducked his head bashfully, then gently said, “Let’s try to stay on the subject at hand.”


She seemed sincere when she replied, “I don’t know how else I can help you.”


“Whose decision was it to do away with the night watchman?”


“It’s my job to watch over the farm’s finances, so I talked about it with Mr. Samson, and he agreed that it was an unnecessary expense.”


Hutch knew that Mr. Samson and his wife owned the farm.  “It must have been quite a blow to them, losing a horse like Woodstick.”


She nodded.  “He’s the best they’d ever had.  Really, the only horse they’ve ever had of Grand Prix quality.  But at least he was insured.”


“Do they have any others that they think might replace him?”


Lisa shook her head.  “This is a relatively small operation, compared to a lot of the people that compete in the Grand Prix circuit.  I doubt they’ll ever have a chance to have a horse like him again.  Everything keeps getting more expensive, and it takes a few hundred thousand anymore to get a horse with some proven talent.  The Samsons don’t have that kind of money to spend on one horse.”


Casually, Hutch said, “Sounds like the insurance money really can’t make up for that kind of loss.”


“No, but at least it’s something to help the Samsons out.”


“Sounds like it might be a bit of a struggle for them to keep this operation going.”


“It’s always a struggle, any place I’ve ever been employed.  Horses suck up a lot of cash.  And when you need money, it’s not like you can simply put some horse up for sale and get what you paid for them, let alone make a profit.  It’s a hard business to be successful at.  Horses are expensive to maintain, you need room to keep them, and then they’re not always easy to get rid of when you don’t want them anymore.” 


Starsky approached from the car.  When he came to stand beside them, he said, “I just wanted to verify that the annual renewal period for the insurance coverage is February.”


“That sounds right,” Lisa said.


“Then the owners lucked out that Woodstick died when he did.   It was mid January, and he had turned fifteen.  Golden State won’t insure horses for more than twenty-thousand, once they reach fifteen years of age.”


“I guess then,” Lisa said, “that was a blessing in this.  If we had to lose him, at least it was when he was still covered for six figures.  The Samsons would have been wiped out, if they would have lost him and not had all that insurance money.”


Hutch reached to squeeze her shoulder.  “That’s why Golden State is there,” he said in a reassuring voice, feeling he was quoting a commercial.  “We work independently of them, but we know they’re a good company.”


“Speaking of company.” Lisa smiled, reaching into her back pocket and producing a pen.  “Do you have a business card?”


“Certainly,” Hutch said, taking out his wallet.  He handed her one.


She took it and laid it on the railing, and then wrote a phone number.  She smiled widely at Hutch.  “Here’s my number.  Just in case you want somebody to talk to sometime.”


“Thanks,” Hutch said levelly, stuffing the card into his shirt pocket.


They departed shortly thereafter.  As they headed back to the car, Starsky asked, “What did you find out?”


Hutch sighed.  “Sounds like the owners could have used the insurance money.  But it also sounds like Woodstick was the only truly great horse they’ve had, so it would have been hard to lose him.  Yet,” he shrugged, “the fact that he was killed right before the insurance premium renewed is pretty suspicious.”


“Guess we’ll have to see what tomorrow brings at the other farms.”



They visited the remaining two farms the next day.  They didn’t get anywhere at one of them, which had owned a deceased horse named Winter Freeze, as the only people around were grooms, and they didn’t appear interested to talk to people they didn’t know.


The final farm owned the fourth horse, Billiard, but he had died while stabled overnight at a show, rather than at the farm.  The owners were out of the country, and the head groom who was willing to answer their questions didn’t have anything useful to say, especially since he hadn’t attended the show where Billiard died.


They decided to attend the Grand Prix event being held in Pasadena on Saturday and snoop around.  On Monday morning, Hutch’s parents would be arriving.



Friday evening, Hutch was browsing through a library book, while in bed with the lamp on.  He was freshly showered and waiting for Starsky to finish his own shower and join him.


He was engrossed in reading how jumping competitions were scored, when the waterbed rocked with a naked and enthusiastic Starsky jumping onto the mattress. 


“Lights out,” Starsky demanded.


Hutch put the book on the end table, and then reached to turn off the lamp.  The room went dark.  He turned toward Starsky and began the kissing that usually kicked off their nightly activities.


Starsky pulled back after a short time.  Enticingly, he whispered, “I’d love a big favor, Hutch.”


Hutch stroked the furred chest.  “What would that be?” he asked tenderly, always willing to please.


Starsky briefly ran his tongue along Hutch’s lips.  Then he said, “I’d like you to do that real slow lick thing that you do.”


Hutch grinned, liking the sound of this.  Eagerly, he asked, “And then I get to fuck afterwards?”


“Uh-huh,” Starsky said breathlessly.


“Oh, goodie,” Hutch said sincerely.  He hadn’t had an opportunity to top in quite some time.


Starsky chuckled.  “Just, you know, take care of me in between.”


Hutch knew that Starsky didn’t want to come when Hutch was inside him, because that would be “wasting” his ejaculate.


Hutch sat up and pushed the covers away. 


Starsky was already lying facedown in the center of the bed.


Hutch got between his legs and grabbed the fleshy buttocks in each hand.


“Oh, God,” Starsky gasped.


“I love your ass,” Hutch growled, kneading firmly.


Starsky squirmed.  “Man, that’s something.”  Then, “I’m leaking already.”


Which meant he didn’t like that his semen was being wasted on the sheets.  Hutch reached over the bed to grab a towel from the supply they kept on hand.  He placed it beneath Starsky’s groin, and then assured, “I’ll lick all the cum from the towel later, if you want.”


Starsky sighed with relief, and Hutch shifted to lie next to Starsky, facing his butt.  He propped his elbow along Starsky’s back, and rested his chin in his hand.  With his free hand, he rubbed leisurely along Starsky’s rear, loving the feel of his beloved’s flesh.


Keeping his voice light and loving, Hutch said, “You’ve got to admit, buddy, that your obsession with your own cum is just a tad bit strange.”  He dipped his hand between Starsky’s legs and scratched at the back of his balls.


“Like filling you with it,” Starsky said breathlessly, his voice appreciative of the motion of Hutch’s hand.


“I know, but no matter how much of it I take inside myself, it’s not like I’m ever going to get pregnant.”


A soft chuckle answered him.  “I’m not trying to get you pregnant, babe.  Just want to fill you up with the proof of my passion.”


Hutch gently fondled the ovals in his hands.  “It’s amazing how much of it this factory of yours can produce.”


“That’s ’cause my ‘factory’ loves you so much.”  Abruptly, Starsky asked, “When is your tongue going to get to work?”


“So impatient,” Hutch scolded, moving his hand to rub along an inner thigh.  “I just want to play for a while first.”  Deliberate pause.  “And then I’m going to have me some ass.”


Starsky squirmed. 


Hutch’s roaming hand moved back to rounded buttocks and began squeezing bits of flesh and releasing.  The squeezes became firmer each time.


Starsky gasped.  “Ah, man.  You’re making me crazy.”  His hips writhed.


“Hold still.” Hutch drooled along his fingers, and then lightly massaged the saliva into the top of Starsky’s ass crack.


“Ah, yeah,” Starsky continued to writhe, “I love that wet feel of spit.”


Hutch shifted until his head was poised over Starsky’s balls.  He worked up a good helping of spit, and then let it splash from his mouth onto the delicate flesh.


Starsky squirmed harder.  “Oh, man, oh, man.”


With his fingers, Hutch spread the saliva along the scrotal pouch.  Then he dipped his forefinger in it, and moved it slowly up Starsky’s perineum, and then to the bottom of his ass crack.


Starsky spread his legs wide.  “Tongue,” he demanded.


“I’m still playing,” Hutch protested.  He drooled on his fingers some more, and then, ever so gently, brushed past Starsky’s recess.  “Besides, once my tongue gets started, its going to want to love you so much that it’s not going to stop until you say you want your blow job.”


“That’s going to be a while,” Starsky boasted.


Hutch grunted, loving the challenge.  “We’ll see.”  He was good with his tongue.  Starsky was going to be a sobbing lump of flesh before Hutch would even consider stopping.


Hutch scooted more toward Starsky’s rear, while still resting his weight on Starsky’s back, and then laved at a buttock.  He bit into the flesh, applying gentle pressure with his teeth.


Starsky gasped loudly.   


Hutch shifted and squirmed, his own erection getting uncomfortable, as he moved to give the other buttock a similar treatment.


He finally hoisted himself to his knees, and moved to get between his love’s widely spread legs.  He settled between them, lying with his legs stretched out behind him, his feet falling off the end of the bed.  He grabbed Starsky’s buttocks in both hands, squeezed possessively, and then pulled them apart.


He applied a wide tongue across the opening revealed.


Starsky writhed and muttered, “Holymotherfuckingcock.”


Hutch kissed gently around the wrinkled area.  Then he buried his face between those enticing hemispheres and inhaled deeply.


“Aargh!” Starsky exclaimed with a quiver.


“Mmmmmm,” Hutch said from deep within his chest, feeling his mouth vibrate against Starsky’s ass crack, causing a renewed fit of squirming.


Hutch released the breath he’d been holding, exhaling against Starsky’s skin.


Starsky broke out into goosebumps, gasping heavily.


Hutch raised his head to take a few breaths, and then he bent to lick leisurely at Starsky’s anus. He licked… and licked… and licked.  Slowly.  Casually.  Up and down strokes.  Then circling.  Occasionally, stopping to plant gentle kisses.  He made loud smacking noises, and kept up a litany of appreciative “Mmm” sounds.


Starsky was trying to thrash, but the hands grasping his buttocks kept the movement minimal.


“Damn you!” he finally cried in a loving tone.  “Damn.  Damn.  Damn.”


The sphincter muscle began to flex convulsively, and Hutch tried to push his tongue in. 


“Suck me!  Suck me!”


Hutch was disappointed that Starsky couldn’t last longer.  He would have loved to have snaked him tongue up inside him, but it had been too long since they had last done this, and Starsky was over-stimulated. 


Hutch hoisted himself up, and reached for the lube on the nightstand.  He spread it along a pair of fingers.  Without preamble, he inserted the two fingers into Starsky’s ass and found his magic spot.


Starsky groaned, loud and long. 


Hutch didn’t think Starsky needed any further stimulation, but he massaged his prostate, because doing so created a bigger load of ejaculate.  Since that was so important to Starsky, Hutch knew he wouldn’t want him to skip this step.


Hutch lay back down, his fingers still inserted, and moved the hand towel out of the way.  Then he maneuvered beneath Starsky, and took his thick, turgid erection in hand, guiding it to his mouth, and pressed with both hands to encourage Starsky to thrust into him.


He’d never learned the deep throat technique, but he made up for it by paying special attention to the ultra sensitive area beneath Starsky’s cock, just behind the head.  He applied the most consistent suction there, continued to massage with his inserted fingers, and grabbed Starsky’s scrotal pouch with his free hand, rolling the ovals there.


The cry was sudden, loud and long.  Starsky erupted into Hutch’s mouth in the midst of it.


“Mmmmm,” Hutch approved as the fluid coated the inside of his mouth.  He swallowed carefully, and then let his mouth rest loosely around the shrinking organ, knowing that Starsky wouldn’t move away until he was sure all the cum had been released.


After a long time, Starsky exhaled a heavy breath, and then gripped his cock and rubbed the tip against Hutch’s tongue to clean it.  Then he withdrew, collapsing on his back, breathing with gentle pants.


Hutch waited until Starsky showed some signs of stirring.  Then he took the hand towel and spread it out next to Starsky.  When his partner eyed him, he stuck his tongue out and lapped along the terry cloth, licking at the precum that had been absorbed into the threads.


“Ah, man,” Starsky gasped, watching him.  “That incredible tongue of yours ought to be patented.”


Hutch kept at it until the towel lost all of its flavor.  Then he straightened and reached for the lube.


Now breathing normally, Starsky asked, “How do you want me, baby?”


Hutch stroked his erection with a dry hand.  “In a crouch at the end of the bed, your arms stretched out in front of you.”


As he watched Starsky move and get into position, Hutch applied the gel to his straining phallus.  Then he got to his feet and stood at the end of the bed.


Oh, yes, this was nice.  His love in such an enticing crouch, his arms stretched out in front of him, completely yielding.


Hutch stood behind Starsky, a hand resting on his hip, and inserted the two fingers that still had remnants of lube.   “Do you want to be stretched out more?” he whispered.  He felt around, and thought the muscle was reasonably yielding.


“Just a sec,” Starsky said.  A moment later, he was squeezing tightly around Hutch’s fingers.  And then he relaxed


Hutch waited, his cock throbbing, as Starsky repeated the exercise a few more times.  Then Starsky drew a deep breath, held it, and released it slowly.


“I’m all ready for that massive thing of yours.  Plunge it into me, lover.”


Hutch stroked himself lovingly.  Then he bought his cock up to the recess that he’d so carefully prepared.  He took a moment to stroke Starsky’s buttocks.  And then he adjusted his aim and thrust.


He went partway in, and he paused to pay homage to the sensation.  Then he grabbed Starsky’s shoulders and gave a steady push, feeling himself sink.


And then his pubic hairs were pressed against Starsky’s ass.


He lay along Starsky’s back as his hands moved from his love’s shoulders, down his arms, and then to the outstretched hands.  Hutch gripped them by the wrists and held them down, loving the feeling of dominance.


He then pulled back as far as he could, while still holding Starsky down, which was just a few inches.  He undulated for a while, feeling the sensation build.  Then he abruptly straightened and grabbed Starsky’s hips, plunging deeply into his ass, making the waterbed rock.


He thrust earnestly now, loving the feel of his cock up that tight channel, and the sensation of his scrotal pouch slapping against Starsky’s.  He gasped loudly, the trigger threatening to pull from inside his lower regions.


And then he was crying out his ecstasy as semen shot from his body.


Eventually, Hutch collapsed against Starsky’s back, residual sensation still making itself known.  Slowly, he pulled back, slipped out, and then collapsed onto the bed.


Starsky massaged Hutch’s hip with fingers that were gentle and patient.  After a moment, he said, “You need to fuck me more often.  I love feeling that huge thing of yours.”


Hutch drowsily rolled toward him.  “I think so, too.  It’s just hard to find an opportunity amidst all the times you want to shoot me full of cum.”


“Maybe we should do me after I do you, or vice versa.”


“I don’t think either of us is up to that kind of energy on a regular basis.”  Then Hutch said, gently, “It’s all right.  It’s all the more special when I don’t have it that often.  We don’t need to keep score.”


They loosely put their arms around each other, and Starsky said, “How did I get so lucky that I get to have you?”  He leaned closer for a kiss.


Hutch felt warm and fuzzy all over as they kissed a while, before settling into sleep.



Saturday was seasonably warm and sunny at the Pasadena fairgrounds.  There was a large crowd and TV cameras around the arena.  The stable area for the horses was huge, with long row after long row of stalls, enclosing some of the equine world’s finest jumpers.


Starsky and Hutch had hoped to have spotted Robotics and his human connections, but the aisles between the stalls were full of activity to prepare the horses for the various jumping classes.  They didn’t want to disturb anyone during such preparation.


They moved on to the exhibition center, where various booths, most selling equine and related wares, were in long rows.  Starsky’s attention was drawn to a photographer’s booth.  He tugged Hutch’s sleeve and headed that way.


The booth had various 8x10 glossies of horses jumping over fences.


“Hello,” the young woman at the booth greeted.  “Can I help you gentlemen?”


Starsky put on his most charming grin as he leaned on the counter.  “Hi, how are you?”


She indicated the crowd.  “A little bored because there’s not much business yet.  There will be more when the Grand Prix classes start later this afternoon.”


“Yeah?  Your company photographs the horses?”


“Yep.  And then try to sell them to the owners.”


“What about to fans?”


Her face brightened.  “Sure!  Who are you interested in?”


“Actually, I was a big fan of Poppycock.  Do you have any of him?”


Her expression softened.  “Such a shame what happened to him.”  She reached beneath the counter and pulled out a photo album.  “We’ve got some of him from a variety of shows.  Is there any particular event you’re interested in?”


“How about if we just browse through them?”  Starsky’s glance included Hutch. 


“Sure.”  She opened the album, and leafed through it.  “I think he was at the Camden show.”  She tapped a picture.  “Yes, here’s one of him taking the water jump.”


Hutch leaned closer to also look at the pictures.  “Are you the photographer?”


“No, my uncle is.  I just help out in the booth.”


Starsky smiled warmly at her.  “What’s your name?”


“Shelley.  What’s yours?”


“Dave and,” he jerked a thumb at Hutch, “Ken.”


“Don’t recall seeing you two at any of the shows before.”


“This is our first,” Starsky admitted, and presented the first thought that came to mind.  “We’ve got one of those big screen TVs, and recently got cable, so we sort of got interested in the sport from watching the Grand Prix events on ESPN.”


She looked from one to the other.  “You don’t look like horse people.”


Starsky laughed self-consciously.  “Looks can be deceiving.”  He indicated the photo of Poppycock.  “I’d like to buy that.  How much?”


She pulled an extra copy from the sleeve it was in.  “Twelve dollars.”


Starsky took out his wallet.


Hutch said, “We heard about a horse named Woodstick, who was said to be really good.  You have any of him?  I admit that I don’t know what he looks like.”


She began leafing through the album, but her voice was subdued.  “He’s dead, too.  Died of colic just a couple of months ago, I heard.”


Starsky decided to risk taking a plunge.  “And then there’s Billiard.  He’s really fantastic, isn’t he?”


Her mouth dropped open and she looked uncomfortable.  “You guys are really freaking me out.  You’re wanting photographs of horses that are all dead.”


Starsky and Hutch glanced at each other, reaching a silent agreement that they needed to risk trusting someone.  Hutch took out his wallet and pulled out a business card.  “We’re private investigators, looking into the deaths.  They all died recently, right?”


“As far as I know,” she said warily.  “Are you guys really wanting photographs, or are you just snooping around?”


Starsky presented his friendliest smile.  “Both.”  He took out his credit card.  “How about one photograph each of Poppycock, Woodstick, Billiard, and Winter Freeze?”


She focused on finding the individual photographs from the book.


Hutch asked, “Does your uncle travel all over the country to photograph the Grand Prix events?

“All over North America,” she corrected.


“Do you get to go with him?” Starsky asked.


Shelley shook her head.  “I go to the University.  I only help out at the few local events.  Though I do travel with him more during the summer.”


Hutch took on a casual stance.  “Do you ever hear anyone talking about how odd it is that these four horses died of similar causes, and so close together?  And all being local?”


She had four 8x10 glossies in hand and placed them in a sack.  In a low voice, she said, “Look, I hear things.  But my uncle is well known on the circuit, and I can’t get him into trouble.  The Grand Prix circuit is pretty tight knit.  He could lose his whole business.”


“We’re not cops,” Starsky pointed out.  Gently he said, “You can tell us what you’ve heard.  It can’t be traced back to you.”  He handed her his credit card.  “We’re just looking to see if there’s any way to tie the deaths of these poor horses together.”


She ran his card through the credit machine.  When she gave it back, and placed the slip on the counter for him to sign, she looked around warily and leaned closer.  Nearly whispering, she said, “I’ve heard a reference here and there about The Sandman.”


“Who is that?” Hutch asked, voice equally soft.


She shrugged.  “I don’t know.  But once I was in the barn area and I overheard somebody saying something about The Sandman being in town.  And whoever he was talking to just sort of laughed and said, ‘I wonder who it’ll be this time.’  I didn’t know what it meant.  A few days later, I heard that Winter Freeze had died of colic.  He was the top horse on the circuit last year, and as soon as the season was over, he up and dies of colic.”  She lowered her voice even more.  “I heard he was insured for a lot of money.”


Starsky and Hutch exchanged glances.  Finally, they were getting somewhere. 


Hutch gently asked, “Is that the only time you’ve heard reference to The Sandman?”


“I’m not sure.  Last summer, I was at a show in Illinois, and somebody said something about, ‘They always die of colic’.  Like they were laughing about it.  I just thought it was a little odd, and sort of mean, since a Grand Prix horse had recently died of colic.”


“Do you know the horse’s name?” Hutch asked.


“Grey Gazelle.”


“That was last summer in Illinois?” Starsky asked, wondering if this case was a lot bigger than they had thought.


She nodded.


Some other people came up to the counter at the other end of the booth, and were pointing to the photographs on the wall.


Shelley said, “I’ve got to get back to work.  Please don’t tell anybody.”


Starsky nodded at her.  “We’ll keep your secret if you keep ours.”


“Deal,” she said with a timid smile.


Hutch said, “You have our card.  Please call if you think of anything else that could be helpful.”


She nodded and moved off. 


They strolled through the booths until they emerged into the sunshine.  “You thinking what I’m thinking?” Starsky said, stopping.


Hutch nodded.  “This might not just be local.  It could be happening all over, and other insurance companies besides Golden State are getting scammed.”


They walked a while longer until they were well away from the crowds.


Hutch said, “It’s sounding like quite a few people on the circuit might know who The Sandman is.  I mean, even if they don’t use his services, maybe they still know and aren’t going to squeal.”


“But who is he?” Starsky wondered.


Hutch sighed.  “We’re going to have to figure out some way of finding that out.  In the meantime, we need to call Harrington on Monday and see what he knows about Grey Gazelle.  Maybe some other insurance companies have been suspicious, too, and need to compare notes with each other.”


Starsky nodded.  “Wouldn’t this Sandman guy get nervous about offing so many horses at once?  I mean, the four in this area happened within a few months of each other.”


“Maybe he’s gotten greedy.”


Starsky wondered if that was all it was.  He looked around.  “What do you want to do now?”


“Did you want to stay here and watch Robotics compete?”


“It could be all day before he has his chance in the ring.  We can watch on ESPN when they air it.  I’d rather leave and discuss how we might be able to catch this guy.”  Starsky frowned.  “I just wonder how he’s doing it.  From what Shelley overhead, it’s sounding like the colic thing is a well-known joke.”


After leaving the grounds, they talked for hours about ideas for how to contact The Sandman, and set up a situation where they had a horse for him to kill.  Such an undercover operation would take months, and Harrington was unlikely to fund such a long-term endeavor.  Instead, they decided to wait until Monday to talk to Harrington to see what he could find out about Grey Gazelle, and if he had any ideas for how they could get an “in” into the show jumping world, in order to get the word out that they had a horse they wanted killed.



It turned out that they would have to wait a while longer.  Harrington was on vacation for the week.


They instead turned their full attention to the arrival of Hutch’s parents, early on Monday afternoon.  The Hutchinsons had said they would stop for lunch on the way, so Starsky and Hutch wouldn’t be expected to feed them as soon as they arrived.


“The in-laws are here,” Starsky announced when he saw the rental car come to a stop in front of their house.   He kept watching Hutch to see how nervous he was, but Hutch had seemed very calm about the whole visit.  As though he really does think that all the old uncomfortable feelings are behind him.  We’ll see.


What Starsky himself was most anxious about was the tour of the house.  Despite his partner’s nonchalance on the subject, things could get tense in a hurry if the Hutchinsons had no idea that their son was sleeping with his partner.  Still, Hutch had insisted that, even if that turned out to be the case – though he thought it highly unlikely – his parents weren’t going to leave in a shocked huff.  That would be showing too much emotion, and they wouldn’t dare be caught displaying such dramatics.


Hutch went out the front walk to greet his parents, and Starsky quickly followed behind.


Richard Hutchinson emerged from the car.  “Hello, son.”


“Dad,” Hutch greeted, but then turned his attention to opening the passenger door and taking his mother’s hand.


Starsky moved around the car to hold out his hand.  “Mr. Hutchinson, good to see you again.”


Richard shook it.  “Nice to see you again.”


They both turned to see Lorraine now on her feet, and Hutch loosely hugged his mother.  “Mom, I’m glad you’ve come.”


She hugged him back.  “It’s good to finally arrive.  Our flight was nearly an hour late.”


“How was your drive down?” Starsky asked as Richard took out a key and opened the trunk.


“Pretty decent,” he said, drawing out a large suitcase.  Starsky took the smaller suitcase that was obviously Lorraine’s, and Hutch quickly reached in to take the miniature suitcase for toiletries.


“You grew the mustache,” Lorraine said as they all moved up the sidewalk.


“Huh?” Hutch said.


Starsky told him, “I mentioned it when you were in the hospital – that you had thought about growing one.  Took you a while to ever actually do it, as I remember.”  Starsky opened the front door and led the way inside.


After everyone was in the foyer, Starsky grinned and asked, “Do you think it gives him character?  God knows he needed it.”


“Hmph,” Hutch snorted.


Lorraine seemed to study it for a long time.  “It looks all right,” she said mildly.


Richard didn’t comment, so Starsky gestured to the right, where the oak doors were pulled back.  “Here to your right is the office of Starsky and Hutchinson Incorporated.  As you can see, it’s not yet run over with paperwork, but we’re trying.”


“We’ve got us a good case,” Hutch said.  “It’s paying well and keeping us busy.”


“Plus,” Starsky said, “we have some mundane small stuff, too.” 


He pointed opposite the front door.  “There’s the kitchen.  But first, let’s see the bedrooms.”  He moved past the office to turn right and go down the hall.  “And yours is the first one here on the right.”  He stood aside and let the Hutchinsons enter.


“This looks new,” Lorraine said.


“It is,” Starsky and Hutch said at the same time, and then moved in to put the suitcases down.


Richard ran his hand along the top of the dresser.


Starsky said, “You’ll have your own bathroom, just right next door.  So, feel free to spread your things around in it.  We have it stocked with fresh towels.”


Lorraine sat on the bed and deliberately bounced, as though testing it.  “This is nice and firm, Richard.” She said to her hosts, “His back has been bothering him.”


“It’s not that serious,” Richard corrected.  But he did sit down on the bed.


Starsky asked, “Did you want a chance to settle in, or would you like to see the rest of the house?”


Lorraine was immediately on her feet.  “Let’s see the rest.”


They all moved into the hall and Starsky said, “Your bathroom is right here,” he gestured to the right.  And then to the left.  “This is another bedroom, but we haven’t done anything to furnish it, because we don’t know what we’re going to do with it yet.”


His stomach tightened as he moved through the open door of the bedroom at the end of the hall.  “And this is the master bedroom.”  He stepped well to the side.


Lorraine and Richard entered, looking around.


“That’s a waterbed,” Hutch noted.


“Feel free to snoop,” Starsky said, wondering if The Question was going to be asked.  “We made sure we cleaned up everything.”


Lorraine took a few more steps into the room.  “Waterbeds used to be all the rage.”  She looked at Starsky.  “How does it sleep?”


“Nice,” Starsky replied sincerely.


“Seems like it would feel odd,” she said.


“It doesn’t really feel that different,” Hutch pointed out.  “You can sit on it, if you want.”


But Lorraine was moving off toward the master bath.  “Oh, how cute.  His and her sinks.  Richard, look at these.  This is what I’d like to have if we ever get around to remodeling.”


Richard moved past them, as though indulging his wife.


Starsky exchanged a glance with Hutch, and Hutch’s expression clearly said told you.


Starsky shrugged with a grin.


“Very nice,” she said, and then moved back to the bed, and then to the opposite side.  “Oh, what a nice closet.”  She stood at the entrance of the walk-in. 


Hutch moved to the closet and switched on the light, revealing clothes arranged neatly on hangers.


“Can you both fit all your clothes in here?” she asked.


“Yep,” Hutch said.


“Not that it’s always that neat,” Starsky admitted.  “It helps that Hutch and I can wear the same size shirt.”


He glanced at Richard, who was hanging back and was expressionless.  His eyes darted away from Starsky’s to study the bed.


He’s imagining us banging each other on it.  And probably not too happy about the image.


Hutch said, “Let’s show you the rest.”  He briskly led the way back down the hall, and then turned right into the kitchen.  “The kitchen is so large that is also serves as the dining area.  Through here,” he made another right, “is the living room.”


“My, look at that TV screen,” Lorraine said as she and her husband entered.


The living room was large and fully furnished, but the TV screen still dominated the room.


“Yeah,” Starsky said proudly. “I insisted.  That was a toy that I just couldn’t live without, so I overruled your son’s objections to spending so much money unnecessarily, quote unquote.”


Lorraine said to her husband, “I bet you would love watching Sunday football games on such a large screen.”


“It definitely makes it easier to see the action,” Starsky said.


Richard asked, “How much does one of those cost?”


“Uh, about twenty-two hundred, I think,” Starsky replied delicately.


Lorraine looked up at her son as she walked by him.  “I bet you enjoy it, even if you didn’t want it.”


“Oh, sure,” Hutch said with a smile.  “I damn well enjoy it, after spending so much.”


“Just a little bit more to show you,” Starsky said, leading the way back to the kitchen.  He moved to the area off the foyer, opposite the office.  “Here’s the laundry area.  And then,” he opened the door to the garage, “here’s the garage and our two vehicles.”  He switched on the light, and then stepped back.


Both older Hutchinsons peered into the garage.   


“The yellow Corvette is mine,” Starsky said.


Richard said blandly, “Your taste in cars has improved, son.”


Starsky chuckled.  “I’ll say.”


Hutch shrugged from where he stood back, his hands in the back pockets of his jeans.  “Yeah, well, we thought it best to get upper level vehicles, because we’re mingling somewhat with upper level clients.”


“The best kind of clients to have,” Lorraine said.


“So, there you have it,” Starsky said.  “That’s our quaint home.”  He led the way back toward the living room.


“It’s very nice,” Lorraine said.


“What kind of interest rate did you get?” Richard wondered.


Hutch replied, “Fifteen point two.  We were able to reduce it a couple of points with more down money.”


“You didn’t show us the yard,” Lorraine said, opening the sliding glass door.


“Well, we haven’t done much with it,” Starsky noted.  “We haven’t even given any thought yet to getting the pool operational.”


Lorraine stepped out and the men followed.  She nodded.  “It’s got a lot of potential.”  Then she pointed to an area in the yard.  “Look, it seems that the prior owners had a flower bed of some sort.  I’d love to have something like that to plant flowers in.”


“So, it is,” Starsky said.  “It just hasn’t been a priority for us to do anything with the yard yet.”


“I’m sure Ken has told you how much I love planting flowers.”


Actually, he hadn’t, so Starsky merely smiled.


Lorraine looked up at Hutch.  “Would you consider me a terrible meddler if I planted some flowers there?”


“You’re on vacation,” Starsky reminded, looking at Hutch.


“Nothing more relaxing than gardening,” she insisted.


Hutch shrugged.  “Fine with me.  If that’s really want you want to do.”


To Starsky, she said, “I just need someone to drive me to a place where I can buy some plants and other materials.”


“We’ll pay for everything,” Starsky said firmly.  “I can drive you to the shopette that has an outdoor store.”  He looked up at Hutch, gauging his reaction.   This would be a great opportunity for his partner and his dad to have some time alone together.


Hutch seemed to think so, as well.  “That’s fine,” he said.  “I’ll keep Dad entertained.”



“Want a beer, Dad?”


“Sure.  Do you have Coors?”


“Yep.”  Hutch took a bottle and handed it to his father, for he’d remembered that he liked that brand.  He took a carbonated fruit soda for himself.  “Would you like to sit on the back patio?”


“Sure.  You aren’t having a beer?”


Hutch opened the sliding glass door.  “I might later.  Starsk and I decided to cut back.  He was needing to watch his calories, and since I suggested he cut out the beer, it was only fair that I did, too.”  They sat in chairs on opposite sides of the table.


“You still call him by his last name?”


Hutch shrugged.  “He’s always been Starsky to me.  Starsk.”  That one word means so much.


Richard looked uneasy for a moment.  “How long have you been together now?”


“I’ve known him more than a decade, and we were partners of some kind for all that time.”  Hutch made a decision to be frank, because he wanted that kind of relationship with his father.  Softly, he said, “The sex didn’t come until much later.  Not until last summer.”


His father looked over at him and blinked.  “You and he… not until recently?”


Hutch shook his head.


Richard studied the tarp over the pool.  “That’s hard to believe,” he said in a quiet tone.


“Why?” Hutch asked simply.  It seemed a fair question, since his father had met Starsky only once.


“The way he behaved with you at the hospital, the last time your mother and I were out.”  Then, with discomfort, “The intimacy….”


Hutch didn’t remember much of anything from his parent’s visit three years ago.  “We’ve always had that, Dad.  Almost from the start.  Intimacy on a level that most people don’t get to ever experience.  It didn’t have a damn thing to do with sex.”


Richard was silent.


Hutch stated emphatically, “I’m so glad I got to experience that.”  Then, more softly, “When it gets down to it, it’s all that there is.  All that’s important.”


Richard took a sip of beer.  “Then why did the sex need to come later?”


Hutch couldn’t detect judgment in his father’s tone, only a bland curiosity.  He relaxed back in his chair, stretching his legs out in front of him.  “It didn’t need to.  It wasn’t something either of us sought, though that seems kind of odd now, looking back.”  Hutch let himself think back to that night in the motel near Kittihawk, North Carolina.  “We almost had to talk ourselves into it.  It had just been a matter of realizing that our partnership was so fulfilling to each of us, that sex was the only thing that we needed to go outside of it for.  So, we decided that we would give each other the sex, too.”


His father looked over at him.  “Are you saying you’re not a homosexual?  But, more accurately, a heterosexual involved in a homosexual relationship?”


Hutch blinked.  He knew he shouldn’t be upset that his father was trying to understand him, via the comfort of labels and categories, but he still felt exasperated.  “I don’t know how to categorize it, Dad.  I don’t have a need to do that.  If you want to call me gay or a homosexual, that’s fine.  If you want to call me bisexual, I’m not going to argue.  If I’m a heterosexual having a homosexual relationship, then that works, too.  I don’t think of myself, or of our relationship, in terms of a category.  The title of the category doesn’t change what we are to each other.”


His father held his gaze.  “What are you to each other?”


“Everything,” Hutch said with heavy softness, bowing his head at the enormity of the word.  Then, “Starsky is pure Love.  Love in human form.  He doesn’t know how else to be.  Just watch him, Dad.  If you get a chance to be alone with him while you’re here, watch how he so thoroughly embraces life.”  Hutch shook his head.  “I needed that so badly when he and I first met.”  It occurred to him that his father wouldn’t know what he meant, so he clarified, “I needed so much to have contact with someone who was so certain of who they were.  Who didn’t apologize for how they thought or felt.  Because, for years, I’d been playing a role.  Trying to please my family, and then trying to please Vanessa.  When all throughout my childhood and young adulthood, I’d really been someone else altogether.  Starsky was the first person that accepted who I was.  Who saw me for me.  And he so whole-heartedly loved the person that I was.”


After a silence, Richard said, with a slight hint of defensiveness “I did everything I could to prepare you for the real world.”


Hutch reacted quickly.  “You did everything you could to turn me into a cardboard cutout that was like a robot that didn’t have any feelings at all.  Or thoughts of his own.”  He sipped his soda.


“When you show your feelings, others see your weakness.  They can then exploit you.”


Without menace, Hutch said, “You’re a fool, Dad.  There’s a whole wonderful realm of existence out there that you know absolutely nothing about.”  He stopped himself from saying that he pitied his father, for he didn’t want to get into games of one-upmanship, regarding who had the better life.


His father was silent.


Hutch looked over at him.  “Why are human beings born with feelings, if it’s supposed to be so wrong to have them?”


His father appeared contemplative.


“That was the greatest gift Starsky ever gave me,” Hutch went on.  “I could be at my most weakest when I was in his presence.  And rather than taking advantage, or being disgusted, he would love me until I was strong again.  Didn’t matter if it was a physical weakness, or an emotional one, or a spiritual one.  From the very beginning, we showed each other our hurts.”  Emphatically, Hutch said, “It was the most beautiful thing imaginable.  I felt happiness, for the first time in my life, when I met Starsky.  Because he loved all of me, and he didn’t have any interest in the cardboard cutout facade.”


When his father still hadn’t spoken, Hutch asked, “When I was in the hospital when you last visited, did my weakness disgust you?”


“No,” Richard said quickly.  “You were sick.”


Hutch shook his head as he thought back.  “I barely remember you and Mom being there.  I know Starsky was there.  Almost every minute.  He was sanctuary.  I could truly rest when he was there, because I knew I didn’t have to present myself as anything other than I was, and he’d watch over me.”


“He got into the bed with you,” Richard said, as though trying to unravel a puzzle.  “At the hospital.  He held you, like you were a baby almost.  And that woman doctor didn’t seem to think anything of it.”


“It’s called love, Dad.  Dr. Kaufman understood that and how healing it can be.”


“Your mother and I discussed it over lunch.  We thought you and he were….”  He trailed off.


“Love doesn’t have to have anything to do with sex.”  Hutch thought it would be fair to add, “But don’t feel bad about misreading us.  There had been rumors about me and Starsky for years.”  Hutch smiled affectionately.  “We are always very physical with each other.  That’s why he wouldn’t think it anything unusual to get into that hospital bed with me.  I did the same thing with him, the following year when he was so badly hurt.  It didn’t have a damn thing to do with sex.”


After a long moment, Richard asked, “Were you really so unhappy growing up?”


It was tempting to lie, but Hutch wanted to hang onto this moment of honesty, because he was so tired of pretenses with his family.  “A few days ago, I remembered being at my great Aunt Stella’s house.  You know, she raised those poodle dogs?”




“When I was eight and I was visiting the weekend there with Mom, Aunt Stella took two dogs to the vet to have them put to sleep.  For no reason, except that she didn’t want them anymore.  I was pissed off that a person could do that, but more than that…,” Hutch trailed off, and for a moment questioned whether he really wanted to share this with his father.  He did.  “I wondered what it would be like to be put to sleep.  I wasn’t blatantly suicidal or anything, but I was intrigued by the idea of never having to wake up again.  Because I hated my life and myself so much.”


Richard took a sip of beer.  “Ken, I think your memory is exaggerating how it was.  You never acted miserable.”


“Of course, I didn’t,” Hutch snapped.  “I was a good little cardboard cutout, and didn’t show what I was really thinking or feeling, but I knew full well that I had feelings inside of me.  And I thought that meant that there was something very wrong with me.  I thought that maybe I wasn’t supposed to have ever been born.  If God can make mistakes with puppies and they’re stillborn, then maybe He made a mistake by having me be born at all.”


Richard bowed his head.  In a soft, hoarse tone, he said, “I never wanted to hurt you.”


“Then why the constant reprimands, if you didn’t want to hurt?  You think that didn’t hurt?  To be constantly told what you were doing wrong, but to never be told that you were doing right, but instead silence is your reward?  To never be allowed to feel that you were loveable, just because you were alive?  But to always question why you even exist on this Earth?”


“I thought I was doing the right thing,” Richard said helplessly.  “I don’t know what good it would do now to apologize.”


“I don’t want your apology.”  That was one thing Hutch was absolutely certain of.  “I can’t be sorry for any of it.  I didn’t like it, and wouldn’t wish that kind of family life on anyone.  But how things were is what led to everything that’s happened since.”  His voiced softened.  “I’m grateful for every day that I’m alive, since Starsky came into my life.”


Richard wet his lips.  He seemed to be searching within himself, and then looked over at Hutch.  “Son, I’m not belittling your love for Starsky.  But he’s only one person.  To have so much of your life only be about one person….”


Hutch considered reassuring his father that they did indeed have others in their lives, though none quite so close.  But he decided it was more important to say something else.  “Yeah, well, who else is there?” he emphasized.  “I know most people have biological family to fall back on, but I don’t have that.”


His father looked appalled.  “Of course, you do.”


“Yeah?” Hutch challenged.  “Since when would you welcome hearing from me when I’m at anything other than my most successful?  You only want to hear from me when I’ve won a commendation or something.”


In a low voice, Richard said, “You don’t call to tell us about that, either.  You might mention something about commendation in passing, or in a Christmas card.”


Hutch sipped his soda and shifted in his chair.  “Why would I be eager to share the good things with you, when I also can’t share the bad?  Love is about the total package, Dad.  Not picking and choosing what you’re willing to put up with.”


When his father didn’t seem to know what to say, Hutch pressed, “In the past two years, Starsky has nearly lost his life.  Twice.  Once when he was gunned down, and another when he got severely sick.  Both times, the doctors were trying to tell me that he wasn’t going to make it.  Would you have wanted me to call you then, Dad?”  Hutch verbally imagined, “‘Hey, Dad.  Ken here.  I’m sitting on the floor of my apartment, unshaven and I smell like something that walked out of the sewer, because I haven’t changed my clothes in days.  I can’t even stand up because I feel so helpless.  I can’t see my own hands in front of me because I’ve been crying so much that everything is permanently blurry and I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know what to do, Dad.  He’s gonna die and I know I’m going to stop functioning.  Please come and give me a shoulder to cry on.  Give me a safe place where I can collapse into a puddle of worthless goo.  Take care of me until, somehow, I manage to find an interest in living again.’”  He looked over at his father with challenging eyes.  “You would have wanted to hear that from me?”


Richard swallowed and tilted his head to one side, as though trying to decide what to say.


When no words came for an extended moment, Hutch answered for him.  “Of course, you wouldn’t have.  That would have been way too much emotion for you to have any idea of what to do with.  You would have been disgusted at my weakness, that I loved somebody so much that losing them could devastate me like that.  You would have rather heard about me eating my gun after the fact, than having to put up with dealing with the messiness of my wounds.”


Finally, Richard said, with a hint of puzzlement, “I’ve never thought of you as weak, son.”


“Really,” Hutch said, not believing.


“No.  I-I wanted to make sure that you grew up strong, but that didn’t mean I thought you were weak to begin with.”


Hutch decided to not pick apart his father’s statement.  He was actually quite pleased with them both, that they’d managed to have this conversation in a civilized way.


Finally, in a hesitant voice, Richard asked, “What do you want from me?”  He took a slow sip of his beer.


“Nothing,” Hutch answered sincerely.  “I learned early on how to survive without family support.  I got really good at it, so I don’t need it now.”  He took a calming breath.  “Our lives now are better than they’ve ever been.  Starsk and I were burning at both ends for quite a few years, working on the streets.  We got into some pretty hairy situations.  I’m glad now that we can still do good work, helping others, but we don’t expect to be in the line of fire anymore."


“I’m glad,” Richard said softly.  “I’m glad about all of it.  That you’ve made your life work for you.”  After a moment, he added, “Despite whatever handicaps you had growing up.”


Hutch said quietly, “It doesn’t matter now.”  He realized how incongruous that might sound in light of everything he’d said that past few minutes.  “I just felt, you know, if you have any interest in knowing me, understanding me, then you needed to know how I feel about the past.”


Richard stared off into the distance.  “I admire your honesty,” he said simply.  Then, with puzzlement, “There’s something different about you now.”


Hutch nodded, knowing what his father meant.  I’m not afraid of living anymore. 


Richard looked over at him, and in a lighter tone of merely seeking information, he asked, “So, is it really so perfect now with you and Starsky?”


“Yes.”  But Hutch didn’t want to sound all-powerful.  “But… you know, Starsk and I had our stumbling blocks.  We had a period of time when we’d gotten a little bit distant with each other.”  Softly, Hutch said, “We’d reached a point of learning how to hurt each other.”  How he had played that to the max, when he realized how thoroughly he could push Starsky’s buttons, sometimes to the point of abject cruelty.  “But we were always able to work through the bad times.  Ultimately, we both knew that each other was what was most important to us.  We always came back to that.”


“You don’t miss girls?”


“No.  There’s no need left unfilled.  Starsky is Love, Dad.  You should really try to get to know him.”


“That’s kind of hard to do with your mother having whisked him away.”


They both chuckled.


After that, their conversation became more mundane.



When Starsky and Lorraine returned, Starsky was eager to catch Hutch’s eye.  Hutch gave a smile and a nod, indicating that all was well.  Lorraine went right to work with planting in the flowerbed, while the three men sat on the back patio and talked of landscaping, sports, and finances.


Later, there was a steak dinner, and Starsky asked the Hutchinsons to sketch out Hutch’s family tree, which Lorraine in particular was eager to comply with, so Starsky could at least become familiar with the names of the most recent generations of relatives.



That night, Starsky and Hutch crawled into bed in the darkness, in their usual state of nudity, and met in the middle of the mattress.  They were partially reclined against the pillows, Starsky’s arm around Hutch, and Hutch’s head resting against Starsky’s shoulder.


Starsky said, “So, it went okay with you and your dad?”


“Yeah, I think so.  I said some pretty blunt things to him, and he seemed to take it okay.  I don’t think I hurt his feelings or anything.”  He snorted softly.  “Not that he’d let me know if I had.”


Starsky slowly rubbed up and down Hutch’s arm.  “Did he hurt yours?”


“No, not at all.  I don’t think I can be hurt by him anymore.”  Hutch tilted his face up.  “How did it go with you and my mom?”


Starsky chuckled.  “Well, let’s see.  She wanted to know the worst fight we’d ever had.  Not the good times, mind you, but the worst fight.”


Hutch laughed softly.  “That sounds like her.  It makes for more interesting gossip.”  He tried to recall what the answer to that question would be.  “What did you tell her?”


“I guess the worst was concerning Kira?  Anyway, I wasn’t going to share that with her.  So, I just told her that I loved you so much that I couldn’t stay mad at you for very long, so it was hard to say that we really ever fought.”  He squeezed Hutch’s shoulders.  “I’m not sure she was happy with the answer, but what else could I say without making something up?”


“Yeah,” Hutch agreed, amazed that he and Starsky had never had any really bad, prolonged conflicts.


“And then she kept asking, in so many words, which one of us was the wife in our relationship.”


Hutch groaned.


“Yeah.  So, I just told her that we tended to take turns at the ‘wifely’ duties.  I really think she was looking for a more dramatic answer.”


“I think she’s bored,” Hutch said.  “Why else would she be so eager to make us a flower garden within a few minutes of arriving?”


“Came out nice though,” Starsky said.  Then he asked, “You know what she spent most of the time talking about, though?”


“No.  What?”


“Guess.  A few years ago.  What subject would any mother be most interested in about her son?”


The answer came to mind almost immediately.  Hutch groaned again.  “That Steve Hanson western?”


“Yep,” Starsky said with a chuckle.  “She wouldn’t stop talking about it.”  He mimicked a woman’s voice.  “ ‘I just don’t understand why they would have taken out his scene where he actually spoke.’  And ‘How come they didn’t do any close-ups of his face?  He’s such a handsome man, you know.’”  Starsky snickered.  “Didn’t matter how much I kept trying to tell her that the whole point of a stunt stand-in was to be in the background so the audience couldn’t tell it wasn’t really the star actor.”


Hutch laughed.


“I kept pointing out to her that I was in the movie, too, but it seemed to go right over her head.  She didn’t care.  Just kept going on and on about how rotten it was that they cut your speaking scene.  I finally told her that I could probably get Dobey to give me the number of the production company, and she could call them if she wanted and raise hell.”  He laughed again.  “Of course, I also pointed out that it’s been a few years now since the picture was made, and I can’t imagine that anyone would be willing to go back and put that scene back in.”  Starsky grunted with amusement.  “Especially since they no longer have the cut footage.”


Hutch laughed again, remembering Starsky having taken possession of the negative with his ‘bit’ and then giving it to him.  He wasn’t sure if it was still somewhere in his possessions.


After sobering, Starsky said, “She’s wanting to see some movie that Richard isn’t interested in seeing.  It’s called the Golden Water – something like that.  I told her you would take her tomorrow.”


Hutch said, “On Golden Pond.  Funny she hasn’t mentioned anything about it.”


“She probably forgot, but I want you to take her, and then I can spend some time with your dad.  He said something about needing new golfing shoes, so I’ll take him to a sporting goods store, and then he and I can have lunch together.”


Hutch closed his eyes.  “Sounds good,” he said drowsily.


He lowered himself to the mattress, put his arms around Starsky’s waist, and then began to doze off.


Starsky’s whispered voice said, “Hutch?”


“Hm?”  Hutch hoped Starsky wasn’t going to suggest what Hutch was too comfortable to be interested in.


“My balls have been building up a load all day long.  They’re all ready to deliver.”


Hutch kept his eyes closed and patted Starsky’s hip.  “Not tonight, okay?”  He started to drift again.


After a few moments, Starsky said softly, “Really want to.”  His hand petted along Hutch’s hair.


Hutch furrowed his brow.  Trying to maintain his comfortable position, while also being reasonable, he said, “They’ll keep.  Your balls will keep your cum nice and toasty for another day.”


The room went quiet, and Hutch knew that Starsky was trying to come up with a more persuasive argument.


Eventually, there was a plaintive, “I don’t have to disturb you.  Just give me access.”


Hutch quietly released a breath.  “You know, in the past we’ve gone quite a few days without doing it.  And you used to sometimes ejaculate on the sheets or on yourself or me or whatever.  It’s not like anything horrible is going to happen if you actually go a day without spraying my insides.”


More silence, and the stroking of his hair grew more tender.


Why does it mean so much to him?  Hutch was wondering more and more often.  It was starting to feel like it wasn’t even making love, but more a necessary task that Starsky felt he had to accomplish.


He wasn’t in the mood to analyze it right now, but he was determined to do so in the near future.


In the meantime, he took the path of least resistance.  After all, Starsky had given him a triple whammy last night.  That always made him feel that he’d been subjected to enormous generosity on his partner’s part, to say nothing of the preliminaries, including his being on the receiving end of an enticing ass lick. 


Hutch asked, “Which end do your balls want to deliver to?”


The fingers moved from his hair to stroke his cheek.  “You won’t have to do much if we fuck.  Except, I need to get hard enough first.”


That was all the more puzzling.  Hutch roused himself enough to shift back from Starsky’s lap, and then took the semi-erect phallus into his mouth.  If Starsky’s desire wasn’t that strong to begin with, then why was he still so determined to empty his cum into him?


Determined to be loving, despite his errant thoughts, Hutch sucked leisurely, and then tugged backward, trying to make it grow.  He held his hand up in the air, and Starsky took it and shifted to grab a tube of lube.  Hutch waited to feel the smooth substance coat his fingers, and then he brought them down to Starsky’s groin.  He inserted them between the buttocks beneath where his mouth was working. 


He felt for the recess, and then gently pushed a finger in, and the other followed quickly.  Starsky spread his legs helpfully, and Hutch massaged his prostate while continuing to suck his cock.


“You’re the best, Hutch,” Starsky gasped, stroking the blond strands faster.  “I love how you’re getting me all ready to shoot my load into you.”


Hutch was starting to get aroused from listening to his partner’s husky voice.  He had considered finishing him orally, but now decided he didn’t want his own cock to be left out of the activities.  He pulled off and announced, “You’re hard enough.”  He removed his fingers.


Gently, Starsky said, “On your side, baby.”


After Hutch complied and brought his knee up, their joining was established quickly.  Starsky took hold of Hutch’s lengthening erection and joyfully said, “Look what I’ve got.”




Hutch’s concerns disappeared as pleasure took over.



Starsky found Richard Hutchinson rather boring to be around, but he also felt compassion for the other’s man’s reticent nature.  He appreciated the opportunity to stand back and observe him, looking for signs that, despite Hutch’s brief version of their conversation, he may have been rattled by his son’s words yesterday.  But, true to the form Hutch had always talked about, Richard didn’t show any indication of having been disturbed.


Richard bought new golf shoes and other recreational supplies at the sporting goods store Starsky took him to.  It was a pleasant spring day, and Richard was agreeable to walking down the sidewalk to an outdoor deli for lunch.


With proper manners, Richard didn’t object when Starsky took it on himself, as host, to pay for their food. 


They sat down at a nearby table and spent a few minutes focusing on eating.


Starsky had tried to ask the Hutchinsons at dinner last night what Hutch had been like as a child.  Apparently, it was such a broad question there wasn’t much of an answer from either parent and the subject quickly changed to topics more conducive to dinner conversation.


Now, he decided that he might get Richard to open up by approaching the topic from the other direction.


Richard spoke first, looking around.  “Nice little neighborhood.”


“Yeah,” Starsky agreed.  “This part of town doesn’t have near the crime rate that is in the areas where we used to live, and work.”  It then occurred to Starsky why they were able to live in this neighborhood.  “You know, it was really great of you and Lorraine to keep Hutch’s trust fund, after he rejected it initially, instead of giving it to charity like he’d asked.  Because of that money, it’s made things a lot more comfortable after we decided to leave the force.”


Richard seemed to smile distantly.  “I just thought he was being rebellious.”


“He was.”


“I assumed he would change his mind.  Though I didn’t have any idea it would take so many years.”


With admiration, Starsky said, “It was always important to him to work for what he had.  And he was also wary of an emphasis on materialism.”


“Obviously, that concern wasn’t permanent.”


Starsky considered the blunt statement.  “I think he’d proven what he needed to.  And after I got seriously ill, so shortly after taking so long to recover from being just this side of mortally wounded, he really, really wanted to give us a choice for a different kind of life.  The money is what made that a lot more possible than it otherwise would have been.  By that point, he was grateful for it.  And so am I.”


Richard nodded, as though accepting the roundabout compliment.  Then he said, “He was talking yesterday like you two have been tight for a long time.  But… not until recently…,” he trailed off uncomfortably.


Starsky understood the difficulty and looked out into the distance.  “We’ve just always had this bond.  This incredible caring for each other.  We were never concerned with what other people thought, and they’ve thought a lot of different things about us over the years.  But….” Starsky tried to find the right words. “We never felt a need to consummate it, I guess you could say.  Until we figured out one day that there really wasn’t any reason not to.”


Delicately, Richard said, “It’s almost like you’re saying it’s still platonic.”  His tone was distantly hopeful.


“Not hardly.  Once we realized how we could be together, we went all out.  It just seemed like the most incredible icing on an already perfect cake.”


Firmly, Starsky added, “I’ve never loved anybody in my life the way I love your son.  And because of our history together, I don’t ever feel a need to question the security of that.”  Softer, he said, “We’ve always been there for each other.  That’s been the constant, no matter whatever else was going on around us.”


Richard gazed down at the remnants of his lunch.  “When did you first meet?”


Starsky was intrigued that Richard was interested.  “At the police academy.  There was a party at a night club on a Saturday night for all the new students.  Classes were going to start the following Monday.”  Starsky’s mind drifted back to that time, realizing he probably hadn’t even thought about it in all the years since.  “I was making small talk with people, but not really feeling that I fit in.  And then I spotted Hutch at the bar.  Even then, I could admit in an objective way that he was drop dead gorgeous.  My first thought was how jealous I was.  He was going to be the guy that got all the girls and probably be the favored pet of all the instructors.”


Richard watched him carefully, waiting for more.


“And then I saw him sort of frown, while he was sipping his drink at the bar.  And that intrigued me.  I went over to him, thinking I was going to make him my special project, in that I was going to razz him in class, and pull jokes on him to get him into trouble.  So, I introduced myself, knowing full well that I was going to use whatever conversation we struck up as ammunition to manipulate him.  When we were shaking hands, I saw his wedding ring.  I mentioned something about it, and he just shrugged and casually said something about his wife having not wanted to join him.  I’ve always had good instincts, and I knew right then that thinking of his wife was the reason he’d been frowning.”


Starsky found it hard to fit back into the skin of the person he was then.  “I was completely fascinated by him.  Here he was – handsome, classy, obviously with some kind of money behind him, married – and yet there seemed to be vulnerability about him.  And why would somebody like that want to become a cop?”


“That’s something I’ve never understood,” Richard said with frown.


Starsky let that go.  “I myself grew up in a neighborhood where you had to fight to stay alive.  My dad was a cop, and he was killed when I was ten.”


Richard looked alarmed, and Starsky went on.  “I was very careful about who I trusted.  I had friends, but none that I was really tight with.  I learned to get along with people, when it was to my advantage, but in an arms-length way.  I had a real hard edge to me.”  He paused a long moment.  “What I found out really fast was that Hutch had a hard edge, too.  In a completely different way and for completely different reasons, but, man, when he let his temper get the best of him, watch out.  Those first days, I saw him attack somebody that had offended him – some big guy – and get him pinned before the rest of us even knew what had happened.  I think all of us were kind of stunned.  When Hutch realized that his good looks made the rest of us think he was soft, he started carrying that hard edge around, displaying it.  And the other students kept him at a respectful distance.”


Starsky suddenly grinned.  “But I was all the more intrigued by the combination he presented.  He became my special project for a different reason.  I decided I wanted him as my friend.  I started trying to chip away at his hard edge by using humor, so he’d stop frowning so much.  When I could get him to smile… man, it was like my whole world lit up.  So, I decided I wanted a smiling friend moreso than a frowning one.”


Richard asked, “That’s how you became friends?  You made him laugh?”


Starsky was amazed at how clear things seemed, in retrospect.  “No.  That wasn’t it.  I wanted him to be my friend so much that I started behaving sort of possessive.  I mean, I’d slap him on the back, squeeze his shoulder, smack him on the rear… that kind of thing.  He responded whole-heartedly.  I could see how starved he was for affection.  Here he had a wife and everything, and yet he hungered for affection.  For someone to put their arms around him… just because… without wanting anything from him.”  Starsky came back to the present and looked at Richard.  “And then he started returning it – all that physical stuff.  And it sort of became the way we were together.  Like our trademark.  We got friendly with another cadet there, John Colby, and sort of became a triad.  Still, it was really Hutch and me that always had the tightest bond.  Even Colby called us ‘Husky and Starch’ because we came across as a single, blended entity.  John Colby eventually went into the military.”  Starsky didn’t see any point in detailing Colby’s eventual fate.


“And then,” Starsky went on, when Richard appeared thoughtful but didn’t say anything, “I started trusting Hutch so much, that I realized I could let my guard down around him.  In a lot of ways, I had felt robbed of my childhood.  I had always felt very loved, but I didn’t get to have the innocent fun that kids are supposed to have, after my dad was killed.  With Hutch having a need to be bossy and take control of things, for his own reasons, and always be the one with all the answers, that freed me up to be playful.  Frivolous.  So, when I was in his presence, I was able to let that part of me have free rein.  I didn’t mind letting him pretend to be the one with all the control, because finally, as an adult, I got to play and really embrace life.”  Funny, how he’d never thought of that particular interaction with Hutch in those particular terms before.


Starsky said firmly, “The one thing, though, that I always respected most about Hutch was his sheer toughness.”  He waited until Richard looked up so he could meet his eye.  Starsky spoke with slow, distinct words.  “Your son is… hands down… the strongest person… I have ever known… in my life.  He’s survived things you can’t even imagine.  Things that it’s not my place to talk about.  When he was sick with the plague, that was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what he’s recovered from.” 


Starsky was thinking of the heroin withdrawal, the alien abduction and how Hutch inspired his being cured of the Herpes-B virus, the botulism, having saved everyone in the Italian restaurant when Starsky couldn’t help, how Hutch had to survive so many hours of standing vigil at Starsky’s side, expecting him to die.  He concluded, levelly, “Perhaps you’re the one to thank for that.”


Richard shifted with discomfort.  “Maybe so, but I don’t think he can appreciate it.”


I appreciate it,” Starsky emphasized.  “There’s nothing like walking into a situation where there’s going to be gunfire, and know that someone as strong and capable as Hutch is the one covering my back.  That kind of trust is something you don’t come by casually.”


“You seem to be that for him, as well.  He talks like you walk on water, almost.  Like he’d be nobody, if it weren’t for you.”  After a moment, Richard bowed his head and admitted, “I don’t want to believe that.  I wish he wouldn’t.”


Starsky gently said, “If it makes you feel better, I agree with you.  He has his own strength.”  He waited a beat.  “I don’t think it really matters now.  I don’t pretend to know enough about the grand scheme of things to say if it was fated, or whatever, but Hutch and me have always been a package deal.  That’s not ever going to change.”


Richard gazed off into the distance.


“One thing I do know,” Starsky said, wanting to reassure, “is that Hutch is deep, down, genuinely happy now.  In a way that he’s never been before.”


Richard nodded slowly.  “Yes.  I’ve noticed that there’s something different about him.  Like a confidence... something.  Something that wasn’t there before, even just a few years ago.”


He’s not afraid anymore.  Starsky wasn’t sure if it was his place to say that.


Instead, he tried to excuse himself from doing all the talking.  “Are you surprised that he’s turned out to be the man that he is?”


Richard appeared a bit unbalanced by the personal question.  He considered for a moment, and then said, “Yes.  In a number of ways.  But not that he’s been successful at his life.  He seems to think that I’ve thought little of him and his abilities.”


Starsky quietly said, “When you grow up and expand your circle of acquaintances and associates and friends, you start seeing how life has been for other people.  It’s hard not to compare oneself to that.  It was inevitable that he was going to figure out that most parents openly love their children – show it in some way.”


Richard shifted with discomfort.  “I thought giving him opportunity, and a strength to survive in the real world, was giving him everything.  Obviously, I missed the board somewhere.  He’s been real clear about that.”


That last sentence was stated with as much emotion – as much complaint – as Starsky had ever heard from the man, mild as it was.


Starsky presented a tiny smile.  “You did the best you could, with the tools you had to work with.  You could only go by what you knew from your own experience.  Anyway,” he said with a pleased sigh, “Hutch doesn’t want for anything now.  I hope you can take some comfort in that.  All he wants to do is help people.  And so do I.”


Richard nodded.


Starsky continued, “I realize that finding out that your mid-thirties son is in a homosexual relationship, when he’s always liked girls, can be challenging, especially for someone from your generation.  I’m grateful – for both of us – that you and Lorraine are so accepting of it.”


“It’s not like there’s anything we could do about it.  We can’t tell him how to live.”


Starsky nodded once, realizing that not complaining about Hutch’s life was quite different from embracing it.


Richard looked around the table, and gathered up the trash from their meal.  “Thank you.  That was good.”


Starsky didn’t move from where he sat.  “There’s just one thing that puzzles me.”


Richard settled in his chair a moment, pausing.


“You’ve been here pretty close to forty-eight hours, and I don’t know one thing more about Hutch’s past than I did before you arrived.”  Starsky tilted his head.  “I just find that kind of odd.  I mean, most parents with grown children enjoy reflecting back on the innocence of their children’s lives, and detailing all the funny things and trouble they got into.  But it’s like neither you nor Lorraine have any interest in remembering back to when Hutch was your child.”


Starsky gazed at Hutch’s father, his eyes holding a challenge as well as revealing his disappointment.


Richard released a sigh.  “Ken pretty much blew us off as soon as he left home.  I guess, in a sense, we blew him off, too, and were focused on our own lives.  For better or worse, we’d done all we could for him.  His life was his own from that point forward.”  He stood.  “The movie ought to be over now, and they’ll probably be getting home soon.”


Starsky realized that that was all that was going to be said on the subject.  And now he better understood why Hutch had dismissed his parents from his life.



For dinner, Starsky and Hutch had made reservations for four at an expensive seafood restaurant.  When they still had an hour to kill before needing to leave, everyone was gathered in the living room, watching the large TV screen.  When a movie ended, Hutch started flipping through channels, looking for something else that they all could agree on.


The next time he pressed the channel changer on the remote, a horse went flying over a fence in an outdoor arena.


“Ah!” Starsky exclaimed.  “Horse jumping!  Leave it here.” 


“We’re working on a case in the world of horse jumping,” Hutch said quietly. 


“This is the Pasadena show,” Starsky said with excitement.  “I wonder if we can see Robotics.”


Hutch watched for a few moments, while listening to the announcer.  Then he said, “They’re already at the jump-off.”  With an apologetic aside to his parents, “This is down to the last few minutes.  They just have four horses to go.”


A grey horse cantered out into the arena to begin his round.


“They’re such beautiful horses,” Lorraine noted.


“They’re really tall, too,” Starsky said.  “We’ve seen them up close.”


“How do they score this?” Richard asked.


Hutch replied, “The jump off only has the horses that jumped clean in the first round, within the allotted time.  In the jump off, they also have to clear all the fences, which are higher, without knocking a pole down. But of all the horses that go clean, the fastest horse wins, so they have to go as fast as possible, while being as careful as possible.”


“Darn,” Starsky said, when the grey knocked a pole down while moving over an obstacle.


The announcer noted that only one horse had a clean round in the jump off, and his time was 52.67 seconds.


The grey left the arena with four faults, and a blazed-faced liver chestnut entered.


The announcer said, “And next up is the six-year-old Robotics, a Hanoverian/Thoroughbred cross, ridden by the veteran Roger Peterson.”


“Robotics!” Starsky exclaimed.  “We got to pet him last week.”


The leading time of 52.67 was at the top left of the television screen.  As Robotics cantered past the automatic timers, his elapsing time was showing on the right side.  He galloped strongly over the first fence, and Peterson guided him into a sharp turn, much to the gasp of the crowd, to take the shortest route to the next fence.


“How do they know what to jump next?” Lorraine asked.


“The riders have to memorize the course,” Hutch quickly answered, realizing how badly he wanted Robotics to win.


Robotics cleared the next obstacle, though it was only two strides after having made the sharp turn.  Peterson’s arms moved in a strong urging motion as Robotics landed, and he cleared the next one, and the next, and then made another sharp turn.


“Watch the time!” Starsky said.


Robotics flew over the final fence, and a rail bounced.


“Oh, no!” Starsky said.


After the crowd gasped, Robotics landed, and after two more strides and going through another pair of timers, Peterson began pulling him up.  The announcer said, “The last rail was struck, but it stays up, and Robotics is our new leader, with a time of 52.33.”


“All right!”  Starsky said, and Hutch laughed happily when his partner looked at him.


The broadcast showed in slow motion the sharp turn that Peterson had steered Robotics into making between the first and second fences, which is what had allowed him to be faster than the prior leader.


Lorraine asked, “Why didn’t he jump all the fences in the arena?”


Hutch said, “Those were used in the first round, which is a lot longer.  In the jump off, the fences are higher, but the course is a lot shorter.  They only have to jump certain ones.”


“I can’t imagine the riders having to memorize the course.”


The next to last horse came out, but he knocked down a rail on the first fence.  Finally, the last horse came out, but it was obvious the rider was more interested in getting a clear round from him, than rushing him and risking making a mistake.  That would virtually guarantee a third place finish, since only Robotics and one other horse had jumped clean.


Robotics was the winner.


Starsky clapped.  “That was really cool!  And they say that six is young for a jumping horse.  He’s got a great career ahead of him.”


There was a ringing of a telephone, and Hutch muted the television and looked at Starsky.


“That’s the office phone,” Starsky said when it rang again.


Since he was closer, Hutch moved out of the living room, handing the remote to his father in passing.


He rushed through the kitchen, into the hallway, and finally into the office.  “Starsky and Hutchinson,” he answered.


A woman’s voice said, “Yes, I saw your ad in the new phone directory.  I’m trying to find someone to spy on my husband.  I believe he’s having an affair.”


Starsky came to the office doorway and Hutch smiled at him while saying into the phone, “You’ve called the right place.”  He met his partner’s eye.  “Our services include spying on cheating spouses.”



Richard and Lorraine left early the following morning.


Starsky and Hutch waved as the rental car moved down the block, where it made a right turn and then disappeared.


Starsky slung his arm across Hutch’s shoulders.  “That was a pretty decent visit from the in-laws, huh?”


“Yeah,” Hutch replied simply.


“They’re pretty harmless.”


As they moved back toward the front door, their arms around each other, Hutch said, “I sense a but.”


Starsky paused on the porch step.  “But… I almost wish they weren’t harmless.”  He drew a breath.  “Hutch, I was pretty happy about them coming out, because I thought it might mean I’d know you better than I already do.”


Hutch looked at him, willing to stall as long as possible the conversation he and his partner needed to have.  “Yeah?”


“Yeah.  But, I didn’t learn anything.”  He shrugged.  “How weird is that?  It’s like they’ve blocked out of their minds that they’ve raised a son.  I mean, they treat you as this… person… they have in their lives now.  They’re cordial about that.  But, it’s like raising you was some kind of duty – like maybe they never even wanted children – and now that you’re grown, it’s like they don’t want to look back and remember the chore they had to put up with.”


Hutch quietly sighed.  He wished Starsky wasn’t making this particular analogy, using these particular words.  He pushed open the screen door.  “Maybe that’s a good way of putting it.  Doesn’t really matter now.”


“I know.  But… are your parents any different with your sister?”


They stepped inside the foyer.  “A little bit, mainly because she’s always lived in the area.  I think she’s felt a duty to be the proper daughter.  You know, she’s more like them.”  Hutch closed the front door.


Starsky turned to face Hutch and put his arms around his neck.  He smiled warmly.  “I’m so glad you aren’t like them.”


Hutch wanted to return the warmth, but he felt it could lead to something that he absolutely did not want right now.  In a softer, more serious tone, “Hey, uh, buddy, I need to talk to you.”


Starsky’s brow furrowed in puzzlement.  “About your parents?”


Hutch released a heavy breath, his cheeks billowing as he stepped out of Starsky’s embrace.  “No, nothing to do with them.  I’ve just been waiting until they were gone to talk to you about something.”  He looked to one side.


“What is it?” Starsky asked cautiously.


Hutch tugged briefly on Starsky’s wrist, and then turned toward the kitchen. “Come ‘ere.”


“This sounds serious,” Starsky said as he followed Hutch through the kitchen and into the living room.


“It doesn’t have to be that serious,” Hutch said hopefully.  He selected an easy chair and sat in it.  Then he patted his thigh.  “Come sit down so I can talk to you about something.”  He took pity on the thoroughly puzzled look on Starsky’s face as Starsky maneuvered himself down onto Hutch’s lap, his arms casually going around Hutch’s neck.


“Was is it?” Starsky asked worriedly.


Hutch patted Starsky’s hip.  “I need you to listen to me for a minute.”




“I need to be really, really honest with you about something.”


“We’ve been honest with each other,” Starsky said, his voice carrying the distant hint of a question.


“I know.  But I’ve been on the verge of being dishonest, and I want to make sure it doesn’t go that far.”  Hutch stroked his thumb along Starsky’s cheek.  “I don’t want you to question how much I love you, or how much I know you love me.  That’s not what this is about.”


Starsky searched his eyes.  “What is it about?”


Hutch swallowed.  In a low, regretful voice, he said, “About our sex life, buddy.”


“What about it?”


Hutch briefly closed his eyes.  When they opened, he said, “I’m starting to feel like it’s more about fulfilling some kind of quota than it is about making love.”


Starsky stared at him.


Hutch rubbed his hand along the front of Starsky’s shirt.  He kept his voice as gentle as possible.  “This… thing… you have about coming inside of me has gotten out of hand, buddy.  Even when you’re not aroused, you seem obsessed about shooting your load into me.  That obsession has gotten worse the past few weeks, and it’s, you know, not feeling very fun.  And I’m starting to feel that I’m being dishonest with you when I go along with it anyway.”


Starsky blinked, and then looked away.


Hutch continued the gentle motion along Starsky’s shirt.  “What’s that all about, partner?”  His voice grew more tender.  “Can you tell me that?  Help me to understand?”


Starsky shifted so that he could press his face against Hutch’s neck and shoulder.


Hutch couldn’t remember the last time that his partner had seemed this vulnerable, and it made him feel all the more protective.


His hand now included a larger area, moving up to Starsky’s shoulder and arm, in what he hoped was a soothing gesture.  “You can tell me anything, you know.”


Starsky didn’t react, and Hutch tried to help him out.  Keeping his voice non-judgmental, he said, “You weren’t always like that.  When we first started making love to each other, you could climax anywhere.  But somewhere along the line, it started mattering to you that everything you produce goes into me.  And lately it’s almost felt like you’ve been on some kind of schedule, like you’re afraid of me going a certain amount of time without fresh cum.”  He lowered his voice.  “What’s behind that, buddy?”


Starsky’s head moved so that it was bowed against Hutch’s chest.  In a small, barely-audible voice, he said, “It’s because of what happened.”


“In Virginia?”


Starsky nodded against his chest.


Hutch had been able to put that unbelievable incident out of his mind most of the time, and just enjoy the fact that Starsky no longer had the virus in his system that had nearly killed him.  Thanks to some other-worldly intervention that Hutch chose not to contemplate beyond the facts told during Starsky’s session with a hypnotist.


“Can you explain in what away?” Hutch prompted, hoping he was up to whatever bizarre explanations might come forth.


Starsky swallowed audibly, his arms reaching up to go back around Hutch’s neck.  Almost mumbling, Starsky said, “I want to mark you.”


Hutch bent his ear closer.  “Mark me?”


“Yeah,” Starsky said softly.   Then more clearly, “So if anything like that ever happens again, they’ll know you’re mine.  And leave you alone.”


Hutch felt some relief that, in Starsky’s own mind, he had a concrete reason for his actions.  But Hutch couldn’t help but point out, “The chances of something like that happening to us again are pretty remote, buddy.”


“I know,” Starsky said in another low voice.


Hutch tried to remember what was said during the hypnosis session.  He didn’t understand how being full of Starsky’s semen would in any way prevent the events that had happened to them.  What’s more….  “Buddy?  I thought we’d more or less concluded that, as terrifying as that all was, they were the good guys.”  They cured you, after all.


“There could be others,” Starsky said softly, he head still bowed.  “They might not be as friendly.”


Hutch blinked, hating what he next wanted to ask.  “If by some bizarre circumstance we did get abducted again, and they weren’t ‘friendly’, how is a lot of your cum in my body supposed to deter them from anything?”


“Don’t know,” Starsky admitted in the same plaintive tone.  “Have to try.  Don’t want them to hurt you.  If you belong to me, maybe they’ll somehow see that and not use you for samples and experiments, because they’ll reject you as not a good specimen.  You’ll be tainted.”


Starsky swallowed loudly and his arms tightened around Hutch neck.


Hutch’s relief at an explanation, however irrational, was tempered by his concern that Starsky’s obsession had escalated in recent weeks.  He hoped that it wasn’t turning into some kind of compulsive disorder that Starsky was unable to control.  Instead, he hoped that, faced with having to confront what he was doing, and Hutch’s displeasure, that would be enough for Starsky to stop the behavior.


He placed his hand on Starsky’s cheek and turned his face up, so he could look into his partner’s hesitant eyes.  Firmly, Hutch said, “Buddy, I don’t need to be protected.  We’ve always watched out for each other, and we always will, but I don’t need any special protection.  Any more than you do.  I love you for the thought,” he added sincerely, “but it isn’t necessary.”


Starsky swallowed again, while gazing up at Hutch.


Hutch noted, “What bothers me the most about what you’ve said, is that it makes our sex life more about fear – fearing what could happen – than about loving each other.”  He concluded, as gently as possible, “There’s no reason for there to be fear in our lives, and certainly not in our bedroom.”


Those large blue eyes gazed up at him for a long moment, and then Starsky closed them and nodded.


“Now that we’ve talked about it, do you think you can stop feeling like you need to do that?”


Starsky shrugged.


Hutch would have preferred a solid yes.  He fervently hoped that this was all there was to solving the problem.  “Why don’t we agree to not do anything for a while?  And then see how you’re coping with not being able to indulge the habit?”


In answer, Starsky shifted to rest his cheek against Hutch’s.  “I’m sorry,” he said in a more normal voice.


“You don’t need to be sorry.”  Hutch stroked the back of his head.  “I know you meant well, but let’s see if we can get things back to being a little more spontaneous… and normal.”


After a moment of silence, Starsky asked, “Do you want me to get up?”


Hutch smiled warmly.  “No.  I like it just like this, since we haven’t done it in so long.  Just cuddling each other, without it needing to lead to anything.”


“Mmm.”  Starsky agreed.  Then he said, “That lady with the cheating husband will be coming in for her appointment.”


Hutch glanced at wall clock.  “That’s not for another hour.  Let’s just do this for a while.”  He tightened his arms around Starsky and held him close.  “I love you so much, you big lug.”



They spent the rest of the week on tailing the cheating husband, and sure enough they had pictures of him going out with his mistress, and returning to her apartment, on Thursday night.  Their client had said she only needed enough evidence to confront her husband with the truth, so they got the photos developed at a twenty-four-hour photo booth and handed them over to their client on Saturday morning.  She paid them for their hours of work, and the case was closed.


On Tuesday morning, they were back in the Golden State Insurance office of Ronald Harrington.  He said he had never heard of any reference to The Sandman.  He would find out which firm the deceased horse Grey Gazelle had been insured with in Illinois.


Hutch said, “Starsky and I feel that the next step is to try to set up some way of getting in contact with The Sandman and telling him that we have a horse we want killed.  But we don’t own any horses, and the few Grand Prix people who know us know we’re associated with Golden State.  So, we would have to involve a third party.  Do you know of anybody who owns some horses who is totally trustworthy, and would be willing to pretend that they have a horse they’d like to have killed?”


Starsky put in, “We’d really like to get this guy.  We need proof.  We need to catch him in the act.”


Harrington asked, “How can you get proof without observing a horse actually being killed?”


Starsky sighed and admitted, “We haven’t figured that part out yet.”


Hutch said, “But if we can catch this guy – or at least scare him enough into believing that we have evidence against him – then the police will likely offer him immunity in exchange for rolling over on his clients.”  Hutch felt very odd saying ‘the police’ in the third person.  “That would be the most ideal situation.”


“I’ll give it some thought,” Harrington said after a moment.  “But I think it’s going to be a tough thing to arrange.”  He smiled.  “But good work, gentlemen.  The possibility of actually finding the individual who is doing all these killings is an exciting step.”



The next day, after they had both been through their morning routines, Hutch saw Starsky suddenly pause before the bureau in the bedroom that held underclothes for them both, which he’d just pulled on.


Hutch, who was already dressed, came up next to him.  “What’s wrong?”


Starsky said, with lowered eyes, “I really want to do it.”  He drew a deep breath.


Hutch studied him for a moment.  “You’re not even aroused.”


“I know, but the urge is really strong.”  Starsky ran his hand back through his hair.


So, this was more than a matter of intellectual acknowledgment.  Starsky was having some kind of anxiety associated with being denied giving Hutch his “protection”.  If Starsky had been aroused, Hutch could have at least blamed it partly, if not wholly, on them having agreed to a period of abstinence, and it wouldn’t have necessarily even meant anything was wrong.


On the other hand, the good news was that it had taken a full week for Starsky to have any kind of problem.


“Why don’t you try to think of something else,” Hutch suggested reasonably.  “We need to get the last batch of employee background checks done.  Let’s split up the files and get to it.”


Starsky seemed irritable throughout the morning, but with them both working the files, they had completed their task by noon.



Later in the afternoon, the office phone rang.  Hutch answered.  “Starsky and Hutchinson.”


A female voice said, “Uh, which one is this?”


“The blond one,” Hutch replied, catching his partner’s attention as Starsky approached the office.  “Ken Hutchinson.  Who’s this?”


“This is Shelley with Lumberton Photography?  You came to my booth a week or so ago at the Pasadena show?”


“Yes, Shelley, I remember you,” Hutch said, holding the phone slightly away from his ear, so Starsky could put his head close.  “What’s going on?”


“Were you serious about investigating those horse deaths?”


“Very,” Hutch said.


She released a breath.  “I was delivering some photos to a farm.  I overheard someone saying something about The Sandman.”


Hutch quickly said, “We’d like to meet with you.  Where are you?”


“Not here,” she said worriedly. “Not at my uncle’s studio.”


“What about in town somewhere?”


“Uh, there’s a coffee ship in Silverton, between my uncle’s shop and the University.”


“What street is it on?”


“It’s at the corner of Natch and Filmore.  Little Coffee Shop, it’s called.”


Starsky was writing it down.


“Starsky and I can be there in… say…,” he watched Starsky mouth the words at him, “… forty-five minutes.”


“Okay, I’ll be there.”


Hutch hung up the phone as Starsky said, “This could be the break that we’ve been waiting for.”



They took the Corvette because, as when they used to work the streets and took the Torino by default, it seemed automatic to take Starsky’s convertible, unless there was a reason not to.


As they drove with the top down, they eventually came to a more rural area.  Hutch spent a while enjoying the scenery, then looked over at his partner.  “Hey, you, uh, okay with your, you know, problem?”  He was relieved that Starsky had seemed to respond to distraction, but he didn’t want him to think he was being insensitive to his urges.


Starsky’s mouth hardened as he focused on the curves in the road.  Then he said, “I’d still like to bend you over somewhere and pump ten gallons of cum into you.”


Hutch appreciated the honesty, though he wasn’t sure how to respond to such a statement.  Finally, he questioned doubtfully, “Ten gallons, huh?”


“Yeah.  Make up for lost time.”


Hutch was missing their lovemaking.  But he wanted to be sure that taking a step forward wasn’t actually going to be a few steps back, and enable the anxiety Starsky was suffering from.   He hated to talk about their lovemaking so seriously, but he wanted to ask his next question.  “If we did it tonight, and I topped while giving you a hand job, do you think you could come on the bed?  Or would it still upset you to be ‘wasting’ it?”


Starsky seemed to soften.  Perhaps it was the suggestion that they might start having sex again.  “I’m not going to be upset about coming.  I already know I can’t keep going on how I was before.”  He looked over at Hutch.  “I’m sorry it got so out of hand.”


Hutch felt fuzzy with relief.  “I don’t need you to be sorry, buddy.  I just hope you can understand this thing and overcome it.  Why do you think the urge was so strong this morning, all of a sudden?”


Starsky shrugged.  “Just habit, I guess.  Going so many days without being allowed to indulge my habit.”  He snorted.  “I guess it was getting to be like an addiction.”


Hutch was glad that Starsky was able to admit that.  He placed his hand on his love’s knee.  “Let’s get back at it tonight.  I want to love you so much, I can hardly stand it.”  Now that he’d said so out loud, he realized how badly he wanted that.


“First things first,” Starsky said, as they reached Silverton’s city limits.



They recognized Shelley in a corner table where she was sipping a drink.  They sat down.


“Hi Shelley,” Starsky greeted first.  “It was great of you to call.”


“I hope it’s going to help,” she said, “though I admit I’m pretty nervous about getting involved.”


“Like we said before,” Hutch noted, “we aren’t the police.  If we can get some evidence of our own on what’s going on, you won’t be needed to testify if anything comes of this.”


Starsky said, “Tell us what you heard.”


“Well, I had a few photos to deliver to Windborn Farm, outside of Perry Creek.  They’re a regular customer and use the photos for their ads in magazines and brochures, because they always have some of their horses for sale.”


She sipped her drink, and then said, “I went out there this morning and delivered them to the main office where the farm manager, Russ, is.  While he was writing a check for the invoice I’d brought, I told him I had to use the restroom, which I knew was located out where the horses are – you know, down the aisle a bit where the stalls are.”


They nodded at her to continue.


“When I came out of the restroom and approached the door to the office, I could hear Russ saying, ‘I’ve got a photo so you can see what he looks like.  It’ll be pinned to the office wall, where my chair is.’  He was talking on the phone.  I waited outside the office and heard him say, ’I’ll let him know that it’s all arranged.  You’ll get your money when the insurance pays up.  Shouldn’t take longer than ten days.’”


She drew a deep breath.  “Then I heard him dial the phone again, and he said, ‘The Sandman is set for Thursday night.’  Then he hung up.”


Hutch exchanged a hopeful glance with his partner.  Today was Monday.  This was more than they could have ever hoped for.


Shelley said, “I felt really scared.  So, I moved away so he wouldn’t come out and see me there.  Instead, I started petting one of the horses, acting like that’s why I hadn’t returned to the office.  Russ came out and handed me the check and he acted completely normal.  I tried to, too.”


“You did the right thing,” Starsky assured, and gave her a wink.  “It sounds like you didn’t do anything to make him suspicious.”


Hutch asked, “So, who is the horse that’s being targeted?”


She pulled a photo out of a sack.  “I brought another copy for you.  His name is Badgered.”  He was a deep red chestnut without any white markings.  “He really isn’t all that well known; I mean, it’s not like he’s won much.”  Her voice quavered.  “Why would they want to kill him?”


Hutch hated to see her so upset.


Starsky gently said, “He’s probably insured for more than he’s worth.  What can you tell us about the owner?”


“Not much,” she shrugged.  “Dirk Tyson owns Windborn Farm.  I don’t think I’ve ever even seen him at the shows.  I’ve always worked with Russ.  He’s the one that runs the farm.”


Hutch had a lot of things he wanted to discuss with his partner, but not in front of Shelley.  She had done enough.


Worriedly, she asked, “Are you going to stop Badgered from being killed?”


“We’ll do our best,” Starsky said.


As they stood, Hutch gave her a tender smile and clasped her hand.  “Thank you so much.  This is the break we’ve been waiting for.”


Her eyes gazed into his for an extended moment, and Hutch released her hand and took the photo.  “Thank you for this.  We’ll be in touch.”


As soon as they left the coffee shop, Hutch said, “We need to call Harrington.”


Starsky indicated the gas station across the street.  “There’s a pay phone there.” 


As they moved across the street, while wary of traffic, Starsky said, “Maybe we can just lie in wait, and take The Sandman down when he arrives, before he causes any harm.”


Hutch grabbed Starsky’s arm when they reached the pay phone.  “Wait a minute, partner.  You’re forgetting something.  We aren’t cops anymore.  We can’t arrest him.  You can’t pull your gun on him, unless it’s in self defense.”


Starsky’s expression showed his attempt to digest what Hutch was saying.


“Legally, horses are property,” Hutch reminded.  “As awful as it is, we have no legal right to stop somebody from killing a horse at the owner’s request.  Even if there’s cruelty involved, it’s just a misdemeanor.  It’s collecting the insurance that’s a felony, and we won’t be witness to that.”


Starsky released a heavy breath.  “I hadn’t even thought of that.”


“Yeah,” Hutch nodded.  “It’s tough to not have the authority that cops have for something like this.”


“I wonder if we can set up a sting with the Fraud Department of the local PD.”


“They aren’t going to put up that kind of manpower unless they have enough evidence to make it a case worth prosecuting.  They won’t be interested in saving one horse.”


“We need The Sandman to turn on everyone who has hired him,” Starsky said thoughtfully.


“We have to give him motivation,” Hutch went on.  “If we can catch him in the act – maybe film him – and convince him that we’ll take the evidence to the police, so it’s in his best interest to turn himself in and roll over on everybody else.”


Starsky grimaced.  “That’s being awfully optimistic.”  He leaned back against the building, next to the phone.  “We don’t even know how he’s going about it.  How he’s doing the actual killing.  And, for all we know, he could have a buddy with him.  Or two.  Or three.”


All those factors had also been running through Hutch’s mind.  “We need to catch him in the act, but without Badgered getting killed, hopefully.”


Their brainstorming momentarily at a standstill, Hutch reached into his pocket for some coins, and picked up the receiver of the pay phone.



After a long conversation, Harrington had indicated that it would be best to contact the California Bureau of Investigation, since the deaths extended to multiple counties. 


Therefore, Starsky and Hutch weren’t surprised when agent Mark Johnson was introduced to them when they entered Harrington’s office later that afternoon.  Harrington had in the meantime researched the fact that Badgered was insured with Golden State Insurance for $50,000.


“That’s one of the smaller sums for these suspicious deaths,” Harrington noted.


“What we’re hearing,” Starsky said, “is that the horse isn’t all that good.  He can compete, but he doesn’t win much.”


Hutch asked Harrington, “Did you ever find out anything about Grey Gazelle in Illinois?”


“Yes.  Interesting case.  He was insured by Equine Insurance Specialists, a national insurance company, and they felt suspicious about it, but they couldn’t prove anything, so they paid the full two hundred thousand that he was insured for.  They’ve had suspicions about other deaths, too, but also haven’t been able to prove anything.”


Mark Johnson said, “If this turns out to extend across state lines, we’ll have to get the FBI involved.  But they’ll need more proof.”


“What about you?” Starsky asked.  “Are you willing to arrest this guy on Thursday night?”


Johnson shook his head.  “We don’t have anywhere near enough to go on.  Killing a horse is one thing.  It’s collecting the insurance money after purposely killing the horse that’s the crime, and the point in which an arrest would need to be made.”


Hutch said, “We want this Sandman guy to roll over on everyone who hired him.  We want to try to catch him in the act on Thursday and convince him of that.  We’ll try to get film of it.  But since we don’t know if he works alone, and exactly how he goes about it, we can’t be sure of what we’ll get.” 


“If you can get him to roll over, that would be quite a feat.  It could save years of investigations by law enforcement.”


“We intend to do our best,” Starsky said.



They realized that the first thing they need to do after leaving Harrington’s office was to drive to Windborn Farm that very night, so they could hopefully get on the grounds and see what the situation was like after nightfall, and figure out how they wanted to play it on Thursday.  The farm was over an hour away.  After stopping for dinner, they headed out as dusk was falling.


The farm entrance was difficult to identify in the dark.  Once certain they were at the right place, they parked on the roadside, a quarter of a mile away, and got out to walk.  If they were caught snooping around, they would say that they were looking for a phone to contact their auto club, because their car had broken down.


The entrance lane led up to a large barn, with a house farther in the distance.  They cut across the lush grass, crouching down, and made their way to the barn as stealthily as possible.


Some secondary lights were on inside the barn, but just enough to make one’s way around.  They slowly went in a side door, which was open, that led into an office.  After looking down two aisles, and into an indoor arena, they ascertained that they were alone.


Hutch turned on a desk lamp in the office and found a photograph identical to the one that Shelley had given them, pinned to the wall behind the office chair.  “That’s Badgered,” Hutch said.  He took the photo.  “Let’s see if we can find him.”


He was a chestnut without any white markings.  They were able to eliminate most of the horses, and found a plain chestnut in a stall that was right before the cross aisle that led to the indoor arena.


“You sure that’s him?” Starsky asked.


Hutch carefully undid the latch to the stall door, and then walked inside.  He stroked the horse’s face, and then grabbed his halter.  “Yep.  The name plate says Badgered.”  He stroked the horse’s face some more, then petted his neck.  “I hope to God we can save his life on Thursday.”  He left the stall and re-latched the door.


Starsky looked at his watch.  “It’s only seven-thirty.  So, we know that, say, any time after seven, the stables are going to be empty.  The Sandman could arrive any time between then and maybe five a.m.”


“Yeah,” Hutch sighed.  “It could be a very long stakeout.”


Starsky said, “Let’s lay this out.  Let’s start with the most simple premise.  Let’s say he’s alone, and he parks his vehicle out there in the lot.  Walks in the office door like we did.”  He looked around, and then pointed across the hall to a stall four down from the one directly across from Badgered.  “That stall is empty.  Maybe one of us can hide in there, with the camera.”


They stayed for over an hour, talking about possibilities and backup plans.  Starsky intended to carry his gun.  In the most ideal situation, they would both emerge from their hiding spots just when it looked like The Sandman was going to enter Badgered’s stall, and since they didn’t have any powers to conduct an arrest, simply hope The Sandman would be surprised enough, and cowered enough with threats of video tapes being turned over to the authorities, that he’d be willing to turn himself in.  Mark Johnson and Harrington had both given their home phone numbers to Starsky and Hutch, as they wanted to be contacted if something occurred that needed to be dealt with immediately.


Before leaving, Hutch pinned the picture of Badgered back in its spot.  He and Starsky made their way back through the grass, now less concerned about being seen, since nobody was at the barn. 


Hutch nudged his partner.  “You know what I think we should do?”




“We need to go to a photography store tomorrow and buy some of that fancy new video equipment.  They have those cassette tapes now, where you can get a camera where the cassette tape can be immediately viewed in a VCR.”


“Nothing like waiting until the last minute,” Starsky muttered.  He had wanted to get all sorts of fancy equipment after they bought their house, but Hutch had put his foot down that it was an unnecessary cost until they had a case that actually warranted it.


Now they had that case.


He said, “I’m not sure there’s enough light in there for the film to come out.”


“We’ll have to do the best we can.  They main thing is that The Sandman believes that he’s been caught in the act.”


When they reached the Corvette, Starsky said, “Hey,” and tossed his keys to Hutch.


Hutch got in the driver’s seat, knowing that Starsky wanted to sit back and contemplate what could happen on Thursday night.


For a while, they discussed it some more, and then Starsky seemed to wind down.  As Hutch maneuvered the Corvette in the dark, his thoughts eventually drifted to his plans for this evening.  He was so grateful, and relieved, that Starsky had been so accepting of Hutch’s gentle criticism of their sex life.  It had started to grate that Starsky was so in charge of that aspect of their togetherness, but the minute Hutch had been firm about what he wanted, Starsky had immediately yielded.


Now, Hutch just wanted things to be normal again.


After silence had reigned for a while, Starsky asked, “What do you think we should do next?”


Hutch looked over at him and replied, “Go home, so I can ravish you.”



Hutch’s bangs were plastered to his forehead.  He felt tremendous pride in his skill, and ran his hand up Starsky’s cock once more, knowing just where to squeeze the firmest.


“God almighty,” Starsky gasped.  He was on all fours, Hutch kneeling behind him.


Hutch’s cock throbbed where it was lodged deep inside Starsky, and he undulated with a small motion, trying to soothe it while not tripping over the edge.


“Come with me,” Hutch encouraged, continuing to stroke.  “Tell me when you’re close.”  He thrust with a stronger motion, while keeping his hand working.


Starsky growled, “I love fucking your hand.”  Then, softer, “You beautiful thing, you.”


“Come all over my hand,” Hutch gasped.  He felt himself coming to the precipice and tried to hold back.


“Alllmost there….”


Hutch worked the head expertly, pressing up against the underside.


Starsky threw his head back.


Hutch thrust once more and yielded to the building explosion.


Their cries melted together as they expressed their mutual pleasure.


Hutch felt the liquid coating his fingers.  After a time, he sighed happily, and collapsed onto Starsky’s back.


Starsky grunted, and then sighed airily.  He lowered his upper body to the bed.


Hutch rose up and gripped a beloved buttock.  “Easy.”  He slowly pulled out, and then collapsed beside Starsky.


Eventually towels were produced, and they worked at cleaning themselves.


Starsky rested with his hand behind his head.  “I guess there’s something to be said for a period of abstinence.”  He looked over at Hutch.  “Man, that hand of yours ought to be sculpted and bronzed.”


Hutch resisted the temptation to point out that it had always been available, in those times when Starsky had been so concerned about ‘not wasting it’.  Instead, he squeezed Starsky’s hand and said, “Thanks for, you know, being okay about everything when I said something.”


Starsky shifted and rested his cheek against Hutch’s side.  “I can’t be mad at you when you’re sharing your feelings with me.”


Hutch also shifted, making it so that their faces were close enough to kiss.  Their lips came together tenderly, time and time again.


Eventually, Hutch asked quietly, “You okay that your juice ended up on the sheets?”


Starsky squeezed his thigh.  “Yeah, especially with you making it feel so good.  I’m okay, Hutch.  I got carried away before… just because I could, I guess.”


“Okay,” Hutch replied in a matching tone.  “I won’t say anything more about it.”  Then he leaned over for a final kiss.  “Love you so much.”  Kiss.  “Love making love to you so much.”


They snuggled down into the covers and eventually fell asleep.



The next day, they spent hours at a camera shop, and finally came away with nearly three thousand dollars worth of equipment.


They spent the rest of Tuesday, as well as Wednesday, practicing filming with the camera and playing the tapes back in the VCR, to make sure everything was working.


They also bought bulletproof vests to wear during the surveillance, in case their prey was armed.


Finally, it was Thursday.



It was a painfully long day until dusk finally began to settle.  Then they made the drive out to Windborn Farm, and parked the Corvette in the same spot as before.  They decided to stick to the same story about their car breaking down, if they were spotted by the farm’s owner or an employee.  If anyone asked why they had video equipment, they’d say it was too valuable to keep in an unoccupied car.


It was night when they made their way to the barn.  As with before, they couldn’t see any indications of anyone being around.  Upon entering, they checked to make sure that Badgered was in the same stall.  Then they hung out in the office together, since the window had a clear view of the lane leading to the barn from the road.  Plus, if it turned out that somebody showed up, being in the office would support their story of simply needing to use a telephone to call their auto club.


They knew the could be in for a very long wait, and Hutch sat in the office chair and tried to doze, while Starsky kept watch out the window.   They traded places at midnight.


It was after one a.m. when Hutch said, “Starsky, headlights.”


Starsky was immediately alert, and they silently took the places they had agreed on, various contingency plans having been memorized by both, depending upon how many people showed up, how aggressive they appeared, and the method that might be used for killing.


Hutch took his place in the empty stall that was down the aisle, and facing Badgered’s stall.  He placed the video camera against his eye, ready to begin shooting.


He knew that Starsky had gone outside of the barn, in order to, first, get the license plate number of The Sandman’s vehicle, as soon as it was safe.


Hutch heard the slamming of a car door.  There were footsteps on the gravel of the parking lot, moving away, and Hutch assumed that The Sandman was going to the office to get the photo of Badgered. 


A blondish, fortyish man with a Beatle’s haircut began walking down the aisle, looking at the horses with the photograph in hand.


Hutch started filming, knowing he was in a vulnerable position if The Sandman happened to look his way.  But so far, the man was focused on going down the stalls and glancing at the colors of the horses.


When he came to Badgered, he said almost gently. “I think it’s you.”  As Hutch had done a few days before, the man went into the stall and checked the nameplate on the halter.  He patted the horse’s neck, and then exited the stall.


Hutch let out a breath.  One possibility was that The Sandman injected the horses with something, in an odd place on the body that the veterinarians wouldn’t think to look for.  But there had been no time to take a syringe out of a pocket and do an injection.  Instead, The Sandman walked back to the office.  And then his footsteps were heard at his vehicle.


Hutch hoped that Starsky had gotten the license plate number, and was using various pre-designated places to hide in as The Sandman moved around.  


The man came back down the aisle, carrying a black bag.  Hutch began filming again.  He could see no indication that the man was armed, though he could have a weapon in the bag.


The Sandman put the bag down in front of Badgered’s stall.  He looked around the corner, seemed satisfied with what he saw, and then went back to kneeling at his black bag.  He pulled out some long wires.  He stretched them out and did some untangling. 


There was an electric plug at the end of the wire, and The Sandman went around the corner and placed the plug near an electrical outlet, letting it rest on the ground.


He’s electrocuting them!  Hutch realized.  That had never crossed his or Starsky’s minds.  Nor Harrington’s.


At the other end of the wire, which split off, there were metal clips at each split end.


The Sandman stood and, with the wire clips in hand, opened the stall door.


Starsky appeared from near the office, walked briskly down the aisle.  “Hold it right there!” he called, pushing back his jacket to expose his gun.


The Sandman stumbled back in surprise, landing on his knees near the bag.


Hutch stopped filming and emerged from the stall, carefully placing the camera on the ground, so it wouldn’t impede him if sudden movement were necessary.


“What do you think you’re doing?” Starsky asked forcefully.


The man’s mouth hung open in shock.


Hutch made his stance aggressive.  “You weren’t expecting anyone, were you?”


Even in the muted lighting, Hutch could see the man’s face turn white.  Then, as though defeated, he said, “This is the end of the line then.”


“Yes,” Hutch nodded, “the end of the line.”


The Sandman’s eyes were on Starsky’s exposed holster.  He swallowed thickly.  In a choking voice, he said, “Please, I have a grown daughter.  Please… leave me… somewhere where someone can find me.  So she won’t wonder what happened to me.  Please.”


Hutch furrowed his brow, and a glance at Starsky showed his partner’s matching confusion.


“Who do you think we are?” Starsky finally asked.


The man blinked.  Whispering in a shaking voice, he said, “Hit men?”


Hutch asked incredulously, “You think we’re here to kill you?”  He realized he was starting to feel sympathy for their prey.


The man finally looked over at him, and appeared more confused than ever. 


“Why would there be a hit on you?” Starsky demanded.  “Aren’t you here to kill a horse?”


The man seemed too confused to answer.  Finally, he asked, “Who are you?”


Hutch reached for his wallet.  He pulled out a business card and handed it to the man.  “We’re private investigators, acting on behalf of Golden State Insurance.”  He gestured toward the video camera.  “We’ve got footage of you in action.”


As though to himself, The Sandman said, “Somebody is trying to put a stop to this?”  He seemed to slump with relief.


Hutch exchanged a glance of surprise with his partner.


Starsky repeated his question in a kinder voice.  “Why would somebody want to put a hit on you?”


The man looked up at him, and still seemed overwhelmed with relief.  “That bitch.  She called me last night and said she wanted me to cripple a horse.  I’m not into that.”


“Cripple him?” Hutch said.  “Why?”


“Because he’s had colic in the past and can’t be insured against colic.  So, she wanted him crippled so that it would look like an accident.  He would be useless and the vet would have to put him down.”  Firmly, he said, “I told her I don’t do that kind of thing.  The electrocutions are painless.  She was wanting me to do something barbaric.  She started getting upset, and I realized that I might have signed my own death warrant.  I then told her that I’d find someone to do it and not to worry about it.”


Starsky knelt down next to The Sandman.  Gently, he said, “You’re in way over your head, aren’t you?”


He closed his eyes and bowed his head, nodding.


“Okay,” Starsky continued in the same tone.  “We can get you protection, save your life.  Come with us, and we’ll take you to the California Bureau of Investigation, where an agent there has been prepped on this case.  Get yourself a damn good lawyer, and get him to cut a deal for you, in exchange for your naming names and telling everything you know about what’s been going on.”


Hutch also knelt down.  “What’s your name?” he asked softly.


The man drew a breath, and then released it.  “Scott Mann.”  He said it as though revealing it was permanently closing a door.


Starsky said, “Scott Mann, are you ready to get out of here, before somebody comes down to see if Badgered is dead yet?”


He closed his eyes again.  “Yeah.”


“Come on,” Hutch said, standing.  “Get your equipment.”


As Scott started gathering up the wire, Hutch asked, “Where do the clips go?”


Matter-of-factly, Scott replied, “One on an ear, the other inside his ass.”  He shrugged.  “Just plug it in to a wall socket and the horse drops.”  He looked up at Hutch.  “Quick and painless.  No different than being euthanized by a vet.”


Hutch had many more questions, and he knew Starsky did, too, but they were going to have to wait.  He was just relieved that this was going so smoothly, and they had such a submissive suspect.  He said to Starsky, “I’m going to run ahead and bring the car closer.” 






Within twenty minutes, they had Scott Mann in the back seat of the Corvette.  Hutch buckled the seatbelt around Scott, so he’d have some warning if The Sandman had second thoughts and tried to make a run for it.


Hutch got in the backseat with him, and Starsky began the long drive to the CBI building.  They would have to stop at a pay phone to give both agent Mark Johnson and Harrington a call, so the former, at least, could meet them when they arrived.


“How long as this been going on?” Hutch asked when they were moving.


“Seven years,” Scott replied with a sigh.


Hutch was amazed.  “How many horses?”


“I don’t know.  I didn’t keep records.  The first year, it was just a couple.  I just saw it as an easy way to make a few extra bucks.  Gradually, it started being more and more, because more owners and managers started realizing how easy it was to get an insurance payout.  Somewhere along the line, it was more a matter of people telling me to kill their horses, rather than asking me if I would.”  He looked at Hutch abruptly.  “I’ve been threatened, whenever I’ve hesitated.”


“You’ve been wanting to get out?” Hutch asked.


“Yes.  For a couple of years now.  Just never figured out how I could go about it without risking my life.”  Abruptly, he said, “These people are crazy.  Greedy.  You’d think they have all this property and all these fantastic horses, and all this money, and it would be enough.  But it isn’t.”


“How many states?” Starsky asked, looking in his rearview mirror.


“I’m not sure.  I’ve been all over.  Probably a dozen.”


“The CBI will surely be turning you over to the FBI then,” Hutch said.  “You might have to go into a witness protection program.”  After a moment, he said, “Who was the lady who called you last night about crippling the horse?”


“Anita Livingston.”


Hutch blinked, remembering the file.  “The owner of Poppycock?”


“Yeah.  She’s had me kill a couple of others, too, a few years back.  She was dead set that she wanted this one horse of hers crippled, because she wouldn’t get the insurance payout if it looked like colic.”


“Which horse?”  Starsky asked.


“I don’t know.  The conversation didn’t get that far.”


To Hutch, Starsky said, “She owns Robotics.”


“Oh, right,” Scott said.  “She did mention the name, I guess.  Robotics.  She wanted him crippled, since he wasn’t covered for colic.”


Agitated, Starsky said, “Why?  He’s only six!  He just won the show in Pasadena.”


Hutch reached forward and squeezed Starsky’s shoulder.  “Easy, buddy.”


“I don’t know,” Scott replied, flustered.  “I don’t ask the reasons.  I’m telling you, these people are crazy.  I was just doing it for the money.  At least at first.  I had a daughter to put through college.  And then I was doing it because I was afraid for my life, if I didn’t.”


“Yeah, well,” Starsky continued, “consider us your saviors.  And, in return, you better sing like a canary and not hold anything back.  This whole thing is despicable.”


“Anybody directly threaten your life?” Hutch asked.


“Yeah.  When I started getting tired of it a few years back, I sort of said something to someone – Doug Daniels, a leading rider from South Carolina – hinting that I could get him in a lot of trouble if I decided to talk.  He told me he’d kill me if I ever did anything that hurt him or his family.”


Hutch remembered a Doug Daniels from some of the ESPN telecasts.  He was starting to feel appalled at how deep these insurance scams ran.  “How many horses did you off for him?”


“Six or seven.  I don’t even remember anymore.”


Starsky said, “You’re going to have to try to piece these seven years back together.  The FBI isn’t going to give you a deal if you start saying ‘I don’t remember.’”  Then, more gently, “Once you start talking, it’ll probably start coming back to you easier.”


Hutch asked, “Did anybody ever consider that killing so many horses was going to start looking suspicious?”


“No.  I brought that point up once, and was told that it’s no different than getting in a fender bender, and expecting the insurance company to cover other dents on your car, even if they weren’t part of the accident.  So, you fudge a little with the details.  The insurance companies know that kind of thing goes on.  They just have to decide if it’s worth losing clients by making it too difficult to get a payout.  Somebody even showed me the math once – about how the insurance company comes out ahead financially, even if they pay out unnecessarily, because they get premiums on so many horses.”  Abruptly, he looked up at Hutch.  “Who are you with again?”


“We’re private investigators, but we’ve been working for the equine division of Golden State Insurance.  They noticed the four recent deaths in this area, all inconclusively from colic, and got suspicious.”


“Good for them,” Scott said sincerely.


Starsky asked, “What gave you the idea to use electrocution?”


Scott snorted.  “A lawyer told me how to do it.  He actually worked for an insurance company before his death, fighting fraudulent claims on their behalf, if you can believe that.  He wanted his teenage daughter’s horse killed, so he could collect the insurance.  Paid me ten grand.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was.”  More quietly, he said, “That was the first time.”


“Jeezus God,” Starsky said with disgust.  “An insurance company’s lawyer, of all people, is the one who got this whole thing rolling?”


Scott shrugged.  “Yeah.”


Hutch released a sigh.  He wondered if the people involved in this case could get any more pathetic.



When they reached the CBI building, Mark Johnson was there to take Scott Mann into custody.  Hutch handed over the video tape as evidence.  It was almost dawn when they finally arrived home.


When they entered the house through the garage, Starsky said, “I don’t know about you, but I need a drink.”  He moved to the kitchen, and reached to an overhead cabinet.


“Sounds good.”  Hutch plopped into a kitchen chair.


“Man,” Starsky said, pouring each of them a shot glass of whiskey, “I just can’t believe these people.  It’s a wonder if any of them have a compassionate bone in their entire bodies.”  He sat across from Hutch.


“Yeah,” Hutch sighed tiredly.  He tossed the glass back and felt the burn down to his stomach.  “Scott mentioned the rider Doug Daniels.  I know we’ve seen him on some of the ESPN telecasts.”


“It makes you wonder if everyone in the entire sport is involved to some extent.”


“Guess we’ll find out soon enough, when they start making arrests and the press gets a hold of it.”  Hutch waited until Starsky met his eye.  Then he smiled.  “Felt good to do some real investigative work, didn’t it?”


Starsky shrugged.  “Yeah, it has felt good.  But we’d be nowhere if it wasn’t for Shelley.”


“Something else would have turned eventually,” Hutch assured.  “She just made everything happen a lot faster.”


“To say nothing of Scott being so ready to pack it in.  Poor guy.  Thinking we were there to off him, and wanting us to make sure we left his body somewhere that would be easy to find.”


“Yeah.  And him having no conscience about electrocuting horses, but being appalled at the idea of crippling one.”


Worriedly, Starsky said, “I hope Robotics is going to be all right.”


“They’ll be making arrests within a few days.  Surely, Anita Livingston won’t find somebody else to do the job that quickly.”


“In the meantime,” Starsky said with a sudden smile, “it’ll keep everyone buzzing to find out that Scott’s car was left at Windborn Farm, but there isn’t any sign of him.  And the horse he was supposed to off is still alive.  That’ll give them all something to puzzle over.”  He muttered, “Serves them all right to sweat for a while.”


Hutch returned the smile.  “We did good, buddy.”


Starsky held up his now empty glass.  “Yeah.  We did.”

Hutch stood wearily and held out his arm.  “Come on, let’s put ourselves to bed.”



Ten days later, Starsky had gone out on errands, and Hutch was dusting furniture while watching to a twenty-four-hour news cable channel called CNN.  Since they needed news to fill up a full day, every day, the network spent more time on current stories than the standard free television networks.  That meant the story of equine insurance fraud in the jumping horse industry was getting a lot of extended coverage on the channel.  Nearly thirty people had been arrested, including some major names on the Grand Prix circuit.  Hutch and Starsky were glad that Robotic’s rider, Roger Peterson, hadn’t been named.


Robotics himself was alive and well, and he’d won his next competition.


A decision hadn’t yet been made on whether it would be necessary to put Scott Mann in the witness protection program.  For the time being, he was being held at an undisclosed location.


The house phone rang, and Hutch moved to answer the one in the kitchen.  “Hello?”




It was a moment before Hutch connected the subdued voice with the word.  “Dad?”


Hesitantly, Richard said, “I’ve got some news.”




“I’ve got cancer.  Prostate cancer.”


Oh, no.   “Dad, my God.”


He could hear heavy breathing across the line.  Then, “I’m-I’m scared, Ken.  I’m scared.”



Starsky drove up the driveway and cut the engine.  He grabbed the sack with his purchases of new underwear and socks, and carried it into the house.


“Starsk?” came from down the hallway.


Starsky moved toward their bedroom.  Through the open door, he could see Hutch urgently packing a suitcase. 


Starsky’s mouth fell open as he entered.  Hutch is leaving?  He placed his sack on a bureau.


Hutch glanced at him as he continued to pack.  “My father has prostate cancer.  A flight to Minnesota leaves in less than ninety minutes.  I was going to leave you a note if you didn’t get back before I left.”


“Prostate cancer?”  Oh, no.


“Yeah,” Hutch said, grabbing some underclothes from a drawer.  “I don’t know much.  I didn’t want to press him with a bunch of questions, you know?”  He tossed the clothing into the suitcase.  “I’ll find out how things are when I get there.  See how long I think I need to stay.  You’ll have to hold down things here.”


Starsky nodded.  “Of course.”  Then he asked, as Hutch closed the suitcase, “It was your dad who called?”


“Yeah.”  Hutch swallowed.  “He said he was scared, Starsk.  I-I can hardly lecture him about feelings, and then turn my back on him when he actually admits to having them.”


Starsky felt himself soften.  “Of course, you can’t.”  He moved to Hutch and put his arms around him, pulling snug.  “I’m glad you’re going.”  He rubbed Hutch’s back.  “I’m proud of you.”


Hutch squeezed back.  “I don’t want him to have to go through this.”


“I know.”


“Despite everything, I’ve never wanted him to hurt.”


“Of course, you don’t.”  Starsky patted Hutch again.  “He needs you to be a rock for him, and be somebody he can admit his real feelings to.”


Hutch abruptly pulled back.  “We need to get going.  You can take me, right?”  He picked up the suitcase.


“Yeah.”  Starsky loosely put his arm around Hutch’s waist as they moved down the hall.  “Come on.”



Hutch had called when he reached Duluth.  But it wasn’t until the next night that he had information.


Subdued, he said, “There’s a few treatments to try, but it sounds like they’re mostly short-term fixes that really aren’t going to help in the long run.”  He sighed.  “It’s sounding like it’s eventually going to end his life.  Hopefully, he can still have a few good years.”


“That’s something, at least.”


“Yeah, the cancer itself really isn’t giving him problems, in terms of pain, but some of the treatments can.  He’s trying some less invasive stuff, like hormone therapy.  But I think he’d rather let nature take its course than try to fight it with more extreme treatments, like radiation.”


“How do you feel about that?” Starsky asked.


“I support whatever he wants to do.  It’s his life.  And death.”


“How’s your mom doing?”


“Dealing with it the only way she knows how.  She’s good with detail stuff.  Talking to the doctors and doing what they tell her to do, and all that.  But this isn’t really something that he can share with her.  Or with my sister.”


“Thank God he has you.”


“Yeah,” Hutch said with an ironic snort.  “I’ll encourage him to call me regularly after I leave.  I’ll hang around here another day or two.  There’s not much else I can do.”


“Okay.  It’ll be good to get you back.  It’s been lonely around here.”


“Yeah,” Hutch said with compassion.  “Anything interesting going on?”


“I picked up our check from Golden State.  Can’t believe it’s over seven thousand.   I didn’t realize you’d made out the invoice for that much.”


“We put in a lot of hours, buddy.  Plus some expenses.  They got their money’s worth.  Besides, it’s just a drop in the bucket to a big organization like that, especially for work that’s saving them up to millions of dollars in the long run, considering that all the owners in the sport will now think twice about filing a claim.”  Starsky could imagine Hutch’s smile when the latter said, “Kind of makes up for not being able to do the actual arrests, huh?”


“I’ll say,” Starsky chuckled.  “And then some.  It feels like we’re living the good life.”


“Of course, we are,” Hutch said lovingly.


“I’m taking Dobey to a nice lunch tomorrow to thank him.”


“That’s great.  Tell him I said hello.”


“I will.  Maybe, if we’re lucky, he’ll have something else for us.”


“If not, something will turn.”  Then, “I have to get off the phone.  Mom wants to update my sister.”


“I love you, Hutch.”


“I love you too, pal.  Take care and I’ll be home soon.”




Starsky hung up the phone, relieved that Hutch was taking his father’s terminal condition so well.


But then, Hutch seemed to take everything well these days.




“I’m glad it worked out for you,” Dobey said as he buttered a roll.


“Not just us.  But the insurance company, the horses, even the guy that was doing the killings.  He felt he was a part of something that was growing way beyond his control, and he was ready for it to end.”


“Sounds like it all concluded rather peacefully.”


“Yeah.  Hutch and I had a whole maze of plans figured out, depending on what would happen when we were waiting for the guy, who went by the name of The Sandman.  We didn’t know if he was armed, or worked alone, or what, but it went even easier than either of us could have ever imagined.”


“I guess it’s been a while since you two have been in a tight spot with the bad guys.”


Starsky nodded, considering.  Then he sighed, thinking the subject on his mind was something that would be good to bounce off of Dobey.  “Hutch is so convinced that things won’t ever get as bad as they were on the streets, that he refuses to carry a gun.”


Dobey furrowed his brow as he sipped his iced tea.  “I though you both kept up your permits.”


“We did.  And we both bought new handguns.  Then one day, a while back, Hutch just up and decided he didn’t want to be in a position of killing anybody anymore.  He couldn’t see any reason why we would be in that situation.”


Dobey paused in his eating and gazed at Starsky a long moment.  Then he asked, “How do you feel about it?”


“I wasn’t happy.  I had my gun with me when we confronted The Sandman, but it was weird not being able to pull it, not being able to make an arrest.  Hutch was right, in a sense.  That was by far the most dangerous case we’ve had, and it really wasn’t very dangerous.”


“You know,” Dobey said around a mouth full of salad, “when I last saw Hutchinson and told him about the case, he looked fantastic.  Better than I’d ever seen him.  Fit, confident, happy.  Peaceful.”


Starsky felt his mouth corner twitch into a fond smile.  “Yeah.”


“So, I guess however he decides he feels about certain things, it would be hard to argue with him.”  Dobey shrugged and muttered, “I for one would love for there to be fewer guns in the world.”


“Well, I’m keeping mine.  At least for the time being.”


“By the way,” Dobey glanced up at him, “you don’t look so bad yourself.”


Starsky patted his stomach.  “Been working at it,” he admitted.  “The pounds seem to cling more easily than they used to.”


Dobey chuckled.  “Wait until you get even older.”



As they drove home from the airport, Hutch thought that Starsky seemed rather quiet, and his expression grew increasingly intense.


Hutch waited.


Eventually, Starsky said, “It’s not fair, Hutch.”




“That I got cured of my disease, but your dad can’t be cured of his.”


Hutch had any number of things to say to that.  He tried for that one that he thought would address Starsky’s feelings most directly.  “You mean because you got the benefit of other-worldly intervention?”




“For one thing, you’re selling yourself way too short.  For all we know, that Herpes-B virus would have remained dormant the rest of your life.  The reason you lived when it attacked your system is because you fought for your life.  Just like you did when you got gunned down.”


Starsky furrowed a brow.  “Are you saying your dad isn’t fighting?”


Hutch shrugged.  “He could try more aggressive treatments, and suffer a lot more pain.  The odds aren’t good, but he could try.”


“You mean you think he’s already given up?  He told you he was scared.  If he was scared, wouldn’t he try everything possible?”


Hutch considered how to answer.  “I’m not sure that it’s dying that he’s afraid of.  I think it’s more going through an ordeal where the ending is going to be the same as the choice not to go through it.”


Starsky looked over at him.  “Do you wish he would try harder to fight it?”


“No,” Hutch answered immediately.  “I want for him whatever he wants.”  He realized that, being the fighter that he was, Starsky would have a difficult time understanding such an outlook.  “I think, you know, that it’s possible that he feels he’s lived his life and, maybe, he just sees this as an eventual end that he’s willing to accept.”


“It’s not like he’s all that old,” Starsky protested.  “He’s not even seventy, is he?”




“So, why would he already be ready for his life to be over?”


Trying not to feel agitated at the bombardment of questions, Hutch said, “It’s not for us to say for another person when they should be ready for their life to end, you know?  Maybe, to him, it just seems like a natural conclusion, and cancer is simply the form that ending is going to take.”


Starsky drew a deep breath, and then released it.  “You’ve always been a fighter, Hutch.  You’ve defeated the heroin addiction, the plague, the botulism….  Don’t see how you can be so calm about the idea of just letting death come for you.”


“It’s not my call, buddy.”


“I’m talking about your own life,” Starsky said.  “You’ve changed a lot the past year.  If you were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, would you turn away painful treatments if there was the slightest possibility that they could cure you?”


“No,” Hutch answered immediately.  He decided not to point out that, in such a situation, he wouldn’t be able to separate his own desire to keep living – however painful that existence was – from Starsky’s desire for him to keep living.


But he really didn’t think he was addressing the greater issue that Starsky was trying to tap into.  Hutch shifted in his seat as Starsky exited the highway to the ramp that was near their neighborhood.  “You know, I can’t explain it.  But I just – I just have this feeling that, ultimately, everything is all right.  I don’t know what the grand plan of it all is.  I don’t know if there’s a God.  I don’t know why what happened to us in Virginia happened.  But my gut tells me that… everything is okay.  It’s okay that your virus-tainted blood got ‘fixed’, and it’s okay that my father is facing his physical mortality.”


Starsky released a breath and muttered, “The next thing I know, you’re going to be meditating on some mountaintop, and doling out spiritual advice to those who are questioning their existence.”


Seriously, Hutch said, “I hope you don’t count yourself as one of those questioning your existence.”  He quickly added, “If you feel guilty about no longer having that deadly virus in your system, I’m going to kick your ass.”


Starsky’s mouth corner twitched into a smile.  Then he softly said, “It’s not guilt.  I just want more for your father, that’s all.  Just seems like he and everyone else ailing in the world should have the same opportunity that I had to get cured.”


“I don’t see the point in contemplating something that neither you nor I have any control over.”  They pulled into the driveway of their house.  “And as far as meditating on a mountaintop, I’d much rather be working some other case that we can really sink our teeth into.  That’s what gets my juices flowing.”  He allowed a small smile as they got out of the car.  “Besides, you know.”


Starsky grinned as he selected the house key from his key chain, and went to the door.  “Speaking of ‘you know’, it’s time for you to receive a proper welcome home.”


Inside, they heard the office phone ringing.  After Starsky pushed the door open, Hutch rushed inside.  He pressed the speaker button on the telephone and answered, “Starsky and Hutchinson.”


A man’s unsteady voice said.  “Yes, I need someone to try to find my son.  We had a big fight six months ago, and he’s disappeared.  There’s no trace of him.”


“We handle missing persons,” Hutch said soothingly.


“I don’t care if he never wants to see me again,” the troubled voice continued, “I just need to know that he’s all right, wherever he is.  I need somebody to find him.”


Hutch exchanged a sympathetic glance with his partner.  He said, “You’re talking to Ken Hutchinson, and my partner, Dave Starsky, can hear on you on the speaker phone.  We’d love to help you out, sir.  How old is your son?”




“Where are you located?” Starsky asked.


“In Arlington Heights.”


That was a wealthy area of town. 


Hutch grabbed a pen.  “If you give us your name and address, we can meet with you this afternoon.”


The voice was full of relief.  “That’s terrific that you can meet me so quickly.  Any time you name, I’ll be here.”


Hutch looked at Starsky.  “Three-thirty?”  Starsky nodded.


“Three-thirty,” the man said.  “Thank you.  Thank you so much.”  He gave them the address.


“We’ll see you then.”  Hutch cut the line.  He smiled at Starsky.  “I think this might be our next big case.”


Starsky smiled back.







Author’s Note:  Unfortunately, the main case in this novella was inspired by true events, which reached a climax with U.S. law enforcement in the early 1990s. 



Thanks to Keri T. for proofreading and suggestions.

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