A rhythmic thumping noise diverted Hutch’s
attention from the expressway traffic. He glanced over at Starsky and noted that he was once again slumped against the window,
so deeply asleep he seemed almost boneless, his head bouncing against the glass. Reaching over, Hutch took hold of a fistful
of his shirt and pulled him back to a more or less upright position. Then he had to let go, as the vehicles ahead slowed to
a crawl and he saw an opportunity to change lanes. Starsky slumped back against the window.
Thump, thump, thump…
couldn’t they have finished surfacing this road? For that matter, why was it there always seemed to be some portion
of the expressway under construction at any given time?
Hutch couldn’t stand it anymore. Grabbing
Starsky’s shirt again, he pulled him down to lie across the seat, his curly head landing with a soft thud on Hutch’s
thigh. Starsky stirred, mumbled something mostly indecipherable but definitely containing the words “my virtue”,
and then relaxed back into sleep.
The source of the traffic slowdown finally
came into sight. It looked to be nothing more exciting than a station wagon, which had chosen to breathe its last steaming
breaths on this godforsaken stretch of road. A tow truck and a patrol car were already on scene. Still, every damn driver
going by had to rubber-neck for all he was worth. Hutch wondered what they were hoping to see. Carnage?
He looked down at his partner. Starsky’s
shirt had ridden up, and Hutch glimpsed the edge of what looked like an angry red welt. Carefully, keeping one eye on the
road, he reached over and pulled up the tail of his friend’s shirt.
What he saw made him clench his jaw and tighten
his fist around the steering wheel. The marks of the coarse rope Starsky had twisted around his waist crisscrossed each other,
plainly printed in the reddened, rapidly darkening skin encircling his midsection. In a few places, bloody droplets had oozed
to the surface.
Starsky was vaguely aware of a sudden tension
in the muscled leg beneath his cheek. Without opening his eyes, he batted at Hutch’s exploring hand and mumbled, “Stop
‘at. Not your fault.”
Hutch glanced down at his partner, surprised.
How does he do that? How was it that Starsky
always seemed to know what he was thinking before he knew it himself?
Releasing a long and deliberate breath, he
tried to let some of the tension ebb away. Starsky was right. No one was to blame except the guy who’d come close to
ending a cop’s career all over the floor of that warehouse, and possibly his jackrabbit friend. It hurt though, to know
that he’d been almost within touching distance of a murder suspect, only to let him get away because he hadn’t
seen the other guy. A flash of light reflected off a passing Volvo and Hutch winced as it seemed to spear right through his
head. His headache was shaping up to be a real contender for the title.
was washing dishes when she heard the door open, followed by Dave’s voice saying, drunkenly, “I still don’t
think this is such a great idea…”
“Starsky,” said her husband,
in that tone of infinite patience that she had learned really meant he had no patience left at all. “You need to rest,
I need a shower, and then I’ve got to go to the precinct. Your place is too far, and I’m not going to leave you
in the car.”
“Yeah, but what’s Dawn gonna
“It’s my house, damn it!”
snapped Hutch, his head pounding and his temper thoroughly frayed.
There was a short silence. Then Starsky said,
“Boy, she sure puts up with a lot. Doesn’t she?”
“What do you mean by that?” growled
Starsky’s answer was very deliberate,
each word clearly enunciated. “You. Are. A. Bully.”
Dawn turned away from the sink and froze
at the sight of the two of them, her dishrag still in her hands, dripping on the floor, forgotten for the moment.
Dave was looking wobbly, as bad as she’d
ever seen him. However, she barely gave him a moment’s thought, her gaze riveted by the alarming sight of her husband.
He’d left for work less than two hours ago. How had he managed to get himself into such a state in that short a time?
His hair was alternately standing on end over his forehead and stuck down around his ears with… was that blood? There were darkening bruises underneath both his eyes. More blood had dried on the front of his shirt,
and he was favoring one leg.
It took her several tries before she could
find the words. “What happened to you?”
Ken’s attention had been entirely focused
on his partner. Now he squinted up at her, as if surprised to see her standing there.
Dave gave her a loopy grin, and jerked a
thumb at the disheveled man beside him. “That’s not my fault.”
He freed himself from Hutch’s protective
grip and tried to stagger over to the couch, but Hutch grabbed the back of his shirt and steered him toward the bedroom instead.
“Dawn, I’ll explain later. Starsky, you’re sleeping in the bed.”
“What?” Dawn asked, as they moved
past her and around the kitchen divider towards the bedroom. She was still too puzzled to be angry… yet.
Hutch ignored her, and pushed Starsky down
to sit on the side of the bed. He knelt and then grabbed for one blue Adidas. Starsky tried to shove him away, his hand landing
clumsily on the side of his partner’s forehead. “Hutch, stop. I can take off my own shoes.”
Hutch sat back on his heels and crossed his
arms. “Okay. Do it.”
Starsky leaned forward, nearly colliding
with Hutch’s face, and reached for his sneaker. He missed by about a foot and almost toppled off the bed. Concentrating
intently, he was about to try again, when Hutch’s hand on his chest stopped him. “Starsky, don’t push it.”
“It doesn’t hurt.” He frowned
briefly, and then added, “Much.”
“That’s because you’re
doped to the gills right now, dummy.” Hutch snagged an ankle, and quickly unlaced the shoe. “I shouldn’t
have doubled that dose.” Looking over his shoulder, he saw Dawn standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips. The baffled expression on her face was sliding towards ‘mad as hell’ in
“There’s a tube of antibiotic
ointment in the medicine cupboard. Go get it,” said Hutch curtly.
Starsky flopped backward onto the bed and
stared up at the ceiling as Hutch removed his other shoe. “See what I mean,” he said to no one in particular.
“He’s bossy, too.”
As she retrieved the ointment from the bathroom,
Dawn had to revise her earlier assessment of the situation. Dave wasn’t drunk. He was clearly on some of his stronger
prescription meds, a fact that explained both his behavior and Ken’s protectiveness. What it didn’t explain was
what in the world had happened in the last two hours to put the pair of them into such a state.
And, she thought. This
is also supposed to be my apartment and my bed. Clearly there was an issue of boundaries here that needed sorting out.
But it would have to wait. Dawn looked at the tube in her hand. Wound ointment, huh?
She retrieved a basin from under the sink and filled it with warm water. Tucking some clean cloths under her arm, she headed
back to the bedroom.
felt moderately better after his shower. His headache had receded with the help of a handful of aspirin, though that had brought
the throbbing in his nose more to the forefront of his attention. He examined this appendage in the mirror, prodding it gingerly
with a finger. It looked as if Starsky had been right. It wasn’t broken. However, those two blossoming black eyes were
going to have him looking like an oversized raccoon in very short order.
am I going to explain this to Dobey? He’s going to kill me.
Then there was the matter of what to do with
Starsky. Hutch had given him too large a dose of the muscle relaxant, and there wasn’t nearly enough time for him to
sleep off the effects before the funeral. They were going to be quite the disreputable pair, no doubt securing everyone’s
opinion on the incompetence of the Bay City police department.
a promise is a promise. I just hope he forgives me after he sobers up.
Stepping out of the bathroom with a towel
wrapped around his waist, he turned to find his wife sitting on the couch, her arms crossed and a dangerous expression on
She said, “Sit.”
Hutch gestured towards his bedroom, and his
clothes, “I was just…” He stopped. The look in her eyes made
the futility of protest perfectly clear. He felt a confused mix of emotions, mostly guilt, with a dash of resentment at feeling
guilty when he knew perfectly well he had done nothing wrong.
Her cool dark gaze examined him with unsettling
intensity. It lingered for a moment on his arm and leg, and he was suddenly acutely aware of the scrapes the rope and cables
had left behind on his own skin.
She said, “You need ointment on those
cuts, just as much as he did. You also need to tell me what happened. So, sit!”
Dawn took his arm in her hand, and gently
began spreading the salve on his scrapes, her fingers tracing the lines the rope had left behind in his skin.
The small hairs on Hutch’s arms rose
and he shivered as his body reacted to her touch. Guilt and resentment were now uncomfortably entangled with a keen awareness
of how very beautiful and desirable this woman was. All of the arguments he had marshaled in his own defense dissipated like
so much mist in the morning.
does she always manage to do this to me?
She glanced up at his face to find him looking
at her with that look. The one that said, I know I’m in trouble, but you still
love me, don’t you? The bruises around his eyes made the appeal disconcertingly effective.
“Stop that,” she said, sternly.
“Stop what?” he asked.
“You know what I mean. Stop looking
so pitiful, and just tell me what happened.” She finished up on his arm, and tugged on his leg. He lifted it and rested
the long length of it across her lap.
“I got punched in the nose,”
he said, matter-of-factly. “Then I fell off a catwalk, got tangled in some ropes, and hung there for awhile until Starsky
got me down.”
“And all that blood?”
“Oh, is that all?’
Hutch looked at her sharply. Hadn’t Starsky said those same words, in almost that same tone, not that long ago? The observation led nowhere,
as he was at that moment thoroughly distracted by her hands working their way up his leg. Her long graceful fingers massaged
the lotion into the sensitive skin behind his knee. Pretty lady… Settle down,
Hutchinson. There’s no time for that now.
Not to mention, Starsky was in the bed, and
there really wasn’t anywhere private in the apartment, except possibly the bathroom… Belatedly he realized that
she was still talking.
She abruptly pushed his leg off her lap,
and pulled away from him with her arms crossed back over her chest and storm clouds in her eyes. Oh, damn, he thought ruefully. I should have been paying attention.
“I asked, Mr. This-Is-My-Apartment, whether you remember that this apartment now also belongs to a certain someone else;
fifty percent, by law.” Her voice was sharp.
Resentment abruptly took the upper hand,
and Hutch began to bristle. “If you…”
She cut him off. “I’m not done
He stiffened, and the look in his eye almost
made her regret bringing up the topic. He was a man accustomed to being in charge, and normally she was willing to allow that,
but this issue was too important to let slide.
“I know how much Dave means to you,”
she said, trying to make him hear her sincerity. “I’ll never tell you that you can’t bring him over. He
can eat out of my fridge, and he can sleep in my bed, and I’ll never tell either you or him that he can’t. But,
would it be so very much of an imposition, if the two of you could maybe just try
to maintain the fiction of occasionally asking me first?”
Hutch was outraged. “I’m not
going to ask you permission to use my own house!”
Dawn bit her lip, frustrated. She wanted
to scream that it was her house too, but shouting wouldn’t get either of them anywhere.
“It’s not asking permission,
it’s being polite!” She could see by the stubborn set of his jaw that she wasn’t getting through to him.
Speaking with deliberate control, she said,
“Ken, when you walked in that door just now, it was as if I didn’t exist. You barely acknowledged me at all, except
to order me to get you that antibiotic ointment. I might as well have been invisible!”
His head snapped up at that final sentence.
She had unknowingly echoed the words of the last rookie he’d been partnered with, his parting remark just before he’d
asked for a transfer.
Realizing that she was finally getting a
response, though unaware of exactly what she’d said to alarm him so thoroughly, Dawn was mollified enough to say, “I
know it’s not been easy. I moved in with you… What has it been? Not even two months now? I walked into your life
and took down your football poster, and made you shave off that ridiculous mustache, and cluttered up your shelves with my
“They make good pots for my plants,”
said Hutch. It was a peace offering of sorts, though he was not quite prepared to admit wrongdoing just yet. Ridiculous? My mustache wasn’t ridiculous.
“They’re ugly pots, and I know
it.” She was also willing to consider a truce. Suddenly, an odd expression crossed her face, and she was no longer focused
on him, her gaze turned inward.
Worried, he leaned forward. “What is
“I don’t know… Maybe nothing…”
she said slowly. Then, “There it is again!” She had her hands on her belly, but her smile eased his anxiety. She
looked up and took his hand. Lifting her shirt, she placed it on the side of her stomach, just above her belly button. “Feel
He shook his head.
“Wait,” she said, with a smile
very different from her usual sarcastic grin.
And after a minute he did feel… something.
It was so faint a sensation in the palm of his hand that he almost doubted whether it had been there at all, but then it happened
again. He looked up, in wonderment.
“I think someone else wants in on the
discussion,” said Dawn, gently. She had been experiencing these sensations for a few days now, but never as distinct
as they were at this moment. The first few she’d dismissed as either imagination or nerves, but it was unmistakable
now. The baby was moving.
He cupped his hand around her side, appreciating
the feel of her smooth warm skin. Life fluttered under his fingertips. “We shouldn’t be arguing where the little
guy can hear.”
She looked up at her husband seriously. “Have
we accomplished anything today?”
He pulled her into his arms and leaned back
against the arm of the couch, so that she rested against his chest. “I think,” he said, with his face buried in
her hair, “That we’ve established that you aren’t invisible.”
“And that I’ve been an ass.”
“You could make it up to me,”
“Later,” he said, his lips doing
not particularly later-ish things to her shoulder.
She stiffened, then placed both of her palms
against his chest and pushed herself upright. “You’re right,” she said briskly. “After all, we have a guest.” There was a glint in her eye that told him quite clearly that he’d better not push
the matter any further. Reparations for crimes committed would have to wait until they were alone.
Disappointed, he stood up to go get dressed,
so that he could head down to the precinct. Where, no doubt, Dobey would be happy to fill him in on any of his failings that
Starsky and Dawn had failed to mention.
Ken left, Dawn went back to the dishes, now sitting in cold water. Draining the sink, she glanced over her shoulder at the
dividing wall which screened the bedroom from the kitchen. A moment later, she walked over and paused in the entrance.
Dave had fallen asleep sprawled at an angle
across the bed, one arm flung out to the side, the other carelessly draped over his head. With his dark curly hair and long
lashes, he looked like nothing so much as a little boy who had played too long and too hard one endless summer day.
Ken hadn’t told her more than the bare
bones of what had happened that morning, but the rope burns on both men told their own tale. After a moment, Dawn shook her
head, feeling a reluctant sense of gratitude towards the unconscious figure on her bed.
still don’t like you, she thought, but I’m glad he’s got you looking out for him.