HE HEARD the obscenely cheerful voice before the key was even rattling
in the lock. "Hutch, c'mon! The day's a wastin', there's wrongs to right, and justice to serve, and bad guys, I mean, low-down
stinkin' varmints to catch!"
Hutch winced, belatedly remembering that last evening there'd been an all-night
Western movie marathon on ABC. Which was why he hadn't felt particularly guilty about--
"Get yer butt in gear, we got law-manly duties to perform!" Starsky bounced
into the room and then stopped. "Hey, how come you're still in your bathrobe? Those twins last night must've been something
"I'm calling in sick."
"You're sick?" Starsky stalked forward, forcing Hutch back against the couch.
His eyes narrowed, as he took in all the visible evidence. Hutch had suspiciously pink cheeks, and his hair was slicked back
as if he'd just been in the shower. He was holding his bathrobe oddly, as if he didn't want it to touch his skin. Starsky
reached out to feel Hutch's forehead, only to have his partner dodge his touch.
Was he limping?
"Yeah, I'm sick," snapped Hutch, irritably. "Will you get out of here already?"
The back of his knees hit the couch. He dropped down abruptly, and Starsky noted the wince of pain that crossed his face.
Strolling around the coffee table, Starsky leaned forward and braced himself
on the arm of the couch, his face a few inches away from Hutch's. "So, the twins were pretty hot, huh?"
Hutch glared at him. "Go away."
"I was really impressed, how you managed to get them both to go home
with you last night. Especially after the week we've had. Are you sure you didn't just wear yourself out?" Starsky's voice
was mild, his tone friendly. Hutch knew better than to trust it. When you betray your partner, there's always a price to pay.
What Starsky didn't realize, was that he was already paying. In spades.
He had just opened his mouth to try to make up some excuse that would get Starsky out
of his house, when the phone rang with a startling jangle. Hutch jumped and then lunged for the phone, at the same time as
Starsky flung himself over the arm of the couch, knocking him to the side.
Hutch caught a blue Adidas sneaker in the chin as Starsky tackled the phone
and rolled off the coffee table and onto the carpet with it. Lying on his back, tangled in the cord with the phone clutched
to his chest, he picked up the handset and pressed it to his ear. Cheerfully, he offered, "House of Hutches..."
A strident voice on the other end cut him off. Hutch watched apprehensively
as Starsky's dark eyebrows slowly began to climb up his forehead. The words on the other end grew louder, and he ended up
holding the phone several inches away from his ear as he continued to listen. His eyes flicked speculatively over at Hutch,
and his mouth pursed into a thoughtful frown. After several minutes, he sat up and carefully replaced the receiver, cutting
off the voice.
"That was Candi, I think," said Starsky. "Or it might have been Brandi."
Hutch had been feeling the heat building in his cheeks throughout the course
of the phone conversation. He now jumped to his feet and limped towards his bedroom. "I'm... I, I think I need to go lie down."
"Don't you think you did enough of that last night? Among other things?"
Starsky climbed to his feet, and followed Hutch. "It seems the girls are a little upset."
Realizing that escape was impossible, Hutch turned to face his partner.
Starsky noted with satisfaction that Hutch was looking thoroughly spooked.
He moved closer, deliberately crowding the other man, getting inside his space. "It seems they're suffering from a painful
rash this morning, which they're blaming on a cream, or perhaps it was a lube--"
Hutch groaned and sagged backwards against the post of the dividing wall.
The front of his robe settled against his groin and he straightened with a hiss of pain.
Starsky let his eyes travel down the whole length of his partner, pausing
significantly, before returning to look him in the eye once more. "What did you do to yourself, Hutch?"
"It was supposed to be safe," said Hutch, pathetically. "Herbal. All natural
There was a pause, and then Starsky snapped his fingers. "You stopped at
that pharmacy in Chinatown yesterday afternoon. You said you were looking for that snitch, but you came out with a small bag..."
Hutch nodded miserably. "Because, well... there are two of them. And I thought...
The guy said it would, ah, sort of make things last longer, to give me more time... It seemed like a good idea!"
"Now just hold on one dang minute, pardner!"
It occurred to Hutch that he might have to lodge a protest against the television
network, for carrying the sort of all night movie marathons that turn New York Jewish police detectives into cowboys with
terrible Western accents.
Then again, it wasn't even half of what he deserved at the moment.
"What you're telling me," said Starsky. "Is that it wasn't just coincidence
that both Candi and Brandi chose to go home with you last night, leaving me high and dry. When we made that double
date, you had no intention of sharing!" He stepped back and propped his hands on his hips, regarding his partner with
grim satisfaction. "Well, I'd say you got your just desserts."
In his heart Hutch agreed, unreservedly. For Starsky's benefit, however,
he maintained a stubborn scowl.
Starsky paused, and looked at the ceiling thoughtfully. Then he gave Hutch
a wicked grin. "I can't wait to hear what you're going to tell Dobey."
"Somehow, I don't think God's gonna help you out on this one." Starsky turned
and snagged the phone off of the floor. Speaking to the dial tone, he said, "Hey, Cap? Hutch's favorite little policeman has
fallen down, and it looks like he won't be getting up for a long, long time."
"Asshole!" snapped Hutch, in an agony of embarrassment.
Starsky dropped the phone and moved forward. Jabbing his finger into Hutch's
chest, he said, "No, ol' buddy, ol' pal. I'd say the real ass here is the guy who, with malice aforethought, hogged two beautiful
ladies all to himself, leaving his partner with nothing but some cowboy movies to keep him company in the long, cold, lonely
"I'll buy you a harmonica," snarled Hutch, miserably. He started to turn
back towards his bedroom, wanting nothing more than to crawl in, pull the covers over his head, and hide from the world.
He was only a few steps away when he heard Starsky pick up the phone and
begin dialing for real. Alarmed, he tried to intercept the call, but it was too late.
"Cap?" said Starsky. "Hutch is going to have to take some sick days. Yeah,
he's not feeling well."
Hutch made a grab for the phone, but Starsky tucked it under his arm and
held his panicked partner off with a firm hand on his chest. Hutch's robe slipped and Starsky's eyes widened in shock at he
caught a brief glimpse of the ugly rash. He looked away quickly, and continued to speak into the phone, grimacing in silent
sympathy. "It's... poison ivy. He's got the worst case of it you've ever seen, Cap."
Hutch straightened his robe, and tried to communicate with Starsky through
desperate hand signals. Starsky ignored him, listening intently to the deep rumble on the other end of the line.
"Yeah, I'm sure he would come in anyway, but it's on kind of a sensitive
area of his anatomy."
Hutch's hand gesture this time was unintentionally illustrative, and Starsky
had to suppress a snort of laughter. Dobey's voice rose in query.
"Well, you know Hutch. He's our nature boy." Starsky rolled his eyes, smirking.
"Yep, okay. Calamine lotion. Right." He hung up and placed the phone neatly back on the table.
"Great," said Hutch, throwing up a hand in frustration. "Now Dobey's going
to think I've been running bare-assed through the park."
Starsky shrugged. "Better that than he finds out you got yourself bit by
the mean Asian cousin of the Spanish fly."
Hutch scowled at him.
"If he knew your... um, condition, was self-inflicted, he'd probably make
you come in anyway. I can just see it now..." Starsky laughed, and mimicked a woman's high falsetto. "Why hello, Officer Hutchinson,
is that a gun in your pocket or are just happy to... oh dear God in Heaven, what is that thing?"
"Alright!" Hutch cut Starsky off before he could have any more fun at his
expense. "I can live with poison ivy. Did Dobey say how long I could have off?"
"Three days, because that's how long it took Cal to feel better, after he
rolled in the stuff at camp last summer. I'll pick you up some calamine lotion, when I get back from, ah, consoling Candi
and Brandi." Starsky raised his eyebrows suggestively.
"You're all heart."
"You better believe it!" Starsky had a satisfied grin on his face as he headed
for the door. He had been gone only a minute before he popped his head back in again. "Hey, do you still have that stuff around
Hutch tried to recall if he'd tossed it in the garbage yet. No, it was still
in the drawer of his bedside table. "Yeah, why?"
"I was thinking of tying a pink bow around it and leaving it in Simonetti's
Hutch laughed. "Make sure you wipe off the prints."
"Of course!" Starsky was heading out the door a second time, the tube of
lotion tucked into his jacket pocket, when Hutch stopped him.
Starsky turned, and gave him a quizzical look. "Yeah?"
There was silence. Hutch was turning pink again.
Starsky patted him once on the cheek, affectionately. "Hey, what are
partners for?" He was whistling the theme to Bonanza, as he headed down the stairs to the street.
Hutch waited until he heard the deep rumble of the Torino pulling away from
the curb. Then he sat down gingerly on the couch and reached for the phone. Propping it on his knee, he dialed Frankie's Discount
Music Emporium. "Hi, do you still have that silver harmonica? The one with the picture of Roy Rogers on the box? Mm, hmm.
And does it come with instructions? There's a book? Oh, How to Become a Harmonica Virtuoso in Just 100 Easy Lessons." Hutch
winced, wondering if he really wanted to pursue this.
Sighing and knowing full well that he was going to end up regretting the
purchase, he said, "Alright, do you take American Express?" After a little more thought, he asked, "If I was willing to pay
a bit more, could I get it delivered? Yeah? Okay, you want to send it to Sergeant Dave Starsky, Metropolitan Division..."
Because, after all, what are partners for?