The Darkest Night of the Year
Night has become painful for me. It brings to light the regrets of the day. ~Grey Livingston
Hutch had only one thing to say after he’d been uncuffed from the bed and it was all over.
“She was a lousy lay.” He gave Starsky a grin that was all teeth and no humor.
Andrews, a few feet away bagging the corpse, let out a too-loud bark of laughter. Starsky blinked and tried a smile of his
own, but Hutch wasn’t looking at him anymore. He was staring at the yellow hair caught in the zipper of the body bag.
Starsky started to reach for Hutch’s arm, and then caught himself. He shoved his fists into his pockets, and rocked
back on his heels instead. “I had to shoot her,” he said. “She had a gun.”
Hutch ducked his head and rubbed the back of his neck, his movements jerky. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s
get out of here.”
For once, Starsky didn’t mind the paperwork. The squad room was humming with the ordinary business of policing. It
was easy to lose himself in the hunt-and-peck of typing the report, words lining up like little black soldiers on the paper,
a story of a blown cover, a missing partner, a last minute rescue... All of it safely removed from the present.
A cheerful voice interrupted his concentration.
“Chicks can’t resist you, blondie, can they?”
Starsky looked up in time to see Fogerty slap Hutch’s back, chuckling loudly. Hutch winced, and then smiled stiffly.
“Hey, get your paws off him!” Starsky glared up at the beefy redhead.
Fogerty guffawed. “You know, ‘lady-killer’ doesn’t mean...”
Starsky was halfway out of his seat when Hutch spoke.
“Back off, Fogerty,” he said, looking at Starsky. “It’s been a long day. We’re tired and my
shoulders are sore.”
Fogerty shrugged, clearly unimpressed. “Merry fucking Christmas,” he said as he moved off.
Starsky sat back down, scowling. Somehow his neat lines of text had become jumbled and he couldn’t remember where he
was in the report. Did he need to write that Hutch had been naked as well as bound when he’d found him? Was that relevant
to the case? Probably... when the medical examiner did the autopsy, he’d find evidence of intercourse. So, naked.
Bound. Gun to his head. No need to write the rest. Fear does some strange things to a guy, and she was a real looker, if
you got past the twisted expression on her face. The whole deal was like something straight out of a porno...
That’s what all the other guys seemed to think, anyway. Hutch didn’t seem particularly bothered by what had happened
to him, either. So Starsky guessed he was the only one with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“I’m going home,” said Hutch, pulling his own report out of the typewriter and dropping it on Starsky’s
Starsky looked up. He wanted to say, “Let’s grab dinner,” but Hutch seemed to be miles away, his expression
remote. Starsky watched him collect his jacket and leave the squad room without a backward glance. Even “good night”
got jammed in Starsky’s throat and sat there like a miserable lump, unspoken.
It was the reindeer on his dashboard, looking at him with accusatory eyes, that reminded him of what he’d forgotten.
Tonight was Christmas Eve.
Starsky twisted around in his seat. There was Hutch’s present, wrapped and sitting in the back where he’d tossed
it almost forty-eight hours earlier. A bootleg copy of “The Night Before XXX-mas,” snagged from the evidence
room. Somehow a movie about a scantily clad and extraordinarily well-endowed Mrs. Claus who breaks into lonely men’s
homes to ravish them in the middle of the night just didn’t seem like the right kind of gift anymore.
Starsky groaned and started the car. The supermarket was closed. Everything was closed... except the all-night drugstore
Another year of Superman toothbrushes, wrapped in a bow. Hilarious.
Maybe he could claim it was a new tradition? “Hutch,” said Starsky to the empty seat beside him. “You’ll
never have to buy a toothbrush ever again. I’ll keep you supplied for the rest of your life.”
He didn’t have to see Hutch to know what his response would be. The long-suffering smile and the heavenward roll of
the eyes – Starsky found the vision almost reassuring as he pulled into the parking lot.
On his way to the checkout, Starsky grabbed a pair of green socks with red snowflakes, and a bubblegum scented bottle of pink
“Forget someone?” asked the girl behind the register.
“No,” said Starsky, curtly.
Her eyes widened slightly at his tone and then she shrugged. “Merry fucking Christmas,” she said as he left.
The streets were nearly empty, and the trip to Venice Place was quicker than Starsky liked. He stopped on the street below
and looked up at Hutch’s window. The lights were on, but that didn’t mean he was awake. He could have gone to
Starsky drummed on the steering wheel with his fingertips, feeling the impatient vibration of the idling car. He didn’t
want to disturb Hutch. Or make him mad.
But Hutch was already mad, wasn’t he? He was angry at Starsky. Never mind that the woman had been holding a gun to
his head, or that she’d been about to kill him. They’d had sex – were having sex – and that
kind of thing makes a guy feel affectionate and protective toward a woman, no matter the circumstances. Right?
It made perfect sense.
On any other night, Starsky would have driven away. He almost drove away now. But it was Christmas Eve, so he killed the
Starsky never had a chance to knock. A crash and the sound of breaking glass sent him bursting through Hutch’s door
with his gun drawn, heart pounding.
It took him a moment to make sense of the scene in front of him. A red stain running down the far wall and soaking into the
rug resolved into a splash of wine, and the green fragments on the floor had to be the remains of a bottle.
Hutch stood up slowly from the couch and just looked at him for a moment. Then he said, “You’re going to fix
Starsky turned around and saw the door hanging off one hinge. He holstered his weapon, dropped his shopping bag, and used
both hands to straighten the door and jam it back into the frame. Then, retrieving his purchases, he followed Hutch into
“I thought,” he started.
“I know,” said Hutch.
Starsky glanced over his shoulder at the broken bottle. “Why did you...?” He gestured wordlessly. He felt breathless
and off balance.
Hutch shrugged. He was leaning back against the sink, his arms crossed over his chest. Starsky couldn’t read his expression.
“I’m sorry,” he ventured. If he could just get Hutch to forgive him, maybe everything could go back to
A small frown appeared between Hutch’s eyebrows. “What for?”
“I’m sorry I killed her. I guess you...” Starsky trailed off, lost. He could feel a sudden tension in
the room, but he didn’t know what he’d said to cause it.
“You guess what?” asked Hutch.
“You... felt sorry for her?” tried Starsky. He winced. It had all seemed clear in the car, but now, facing this
remote, dangerous Hutch, he wasn’t so sure. Hutch couldn’t have been in love with her, could he?
“Oh, Christ!” said Hutch, suddenly.
Hutch’s bitter laugh scared Starsky more than any display of anger could ever have.
“I don’t understand.”
Hutch leaned back and rubbed his face with both hands. “I think there’s a bottle of cognac under the sink. You
want to get it?”
Grateful for something to do, Starsky dropped the drugstore bag on the kitchen table. He found the cognac easily enough,
and as he was brushing the dust off, he asked, “Are you going to throw this one at the wall, too?”
Hutch shook his head. “Get a glass for yourself, too.”
Starsky obeyed, finding two clean coffee mugs over the sink and filling them both nearly to the brim. Hutch smirked a little
as he took his, but didn’t say anything.
It wasn’t until much later, when they were sitting on the couch watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on
TV, that Hutch said out of the blue, “I’m glad you killed her.”
Starsky was well into his half of the bottle, a warm alcoholic haze blunting the edges of his anxiety. “Yeah?”
“I’d have killed her myself, if I'd had a hand free.” A fierce note in Hutch’s voice caught Starsky’s
“It’s... not a joke,” said Starsky, slowly.
“I didn’t like her,” said Hutch.
“I didn’t want her doing that to me.”
“Embarrassing,” said Starsky. No one likes to be naked and helpless. Probably a good thing he’d been the
first one on the scene, for Hutch’s sake.
“Humiliating,” corrected Hutch.
“She used you.” Starsky stopped, an unexpected thought occurring to him. “She raped you!”
There was a sudden crack as Hutch slammed his mug down. Starsky jumped and looked over, wide-eyed. Hutch stared at his hand,
which still gripped the handle. Cognac dripped down his wrist and soaked the sleeve of his shirt. The rest of the mug was
on the coffee table.
“You broke it,” said Starsky.
Hutch put the ceramic handle down next to the mug and rubbed his knuckles. “I wasn’t raped.”
Starsky heard the low snarl beneath Hutch’s words. He licked his lips, and said cautiously, “It can happen to
guys, you know.”
“Not to me.” The conviction in Hutch’s voice was absolute.
“I guess not,” said Starsky. Hutch was right. Guys like him didn’t get raped. Not by halfway attractive
women, anyway. He looked over at the TV and realized that the credits were rolling down the screen. The movie was over.
“I must have given her the idea, somehow,” said Hutch.
Starsky nodded. “I figured you were trying to seduce her,” he suggested. “You know, to get her on your
side, so she’d let you go.”
“Pretty clever of me, huh?”
Starsky nodded again.
“So why do I feel so bad?”
Hutch’s eyes were begging for an answer, but Starsky didn’t have one. He reached over, and brushed an invisible
bit of lint of Hutch’s sleeve instead. Hutch let his head fall back on the couch and closed his eyes.
Starsky watched him for a moment and then slapped his cheek lightly, letting his fingers linger a little longer than strictly
necessary. “Hey, wake up,” he said, forcing deliberate cheer into his voice.
“Why should I?”
“It’s Christmas morning! Don’t you want to see what I got you?”
“Is it a toothbrush?”
Hutch’s laugh sounded almost genuine. Starsky gave his shoulder a squeeze as he levered himself up from the couch.
“Merry Christmas,” Starsky said.