Return to Never Saying Sorry, CHAPTER FOUR



Monday, February 27, 1978


8:21 p.m.


Hutch let himself into Starsky’s apartment quietly, just in case his partner was still sleeping. But when he glanced into the bedroom it was empty, the bedspread rumpled.




When there was no answer Hutch investigated further, walking toward the kitchen. The living room was a disaster area. The couch and coffee table were askew, the white chair and small table upended, and anything that had been on a nearby surface was now on the floor. Hutch felt a strange sense of dislocation as he surveyed the room; it wasn’t like Starsky to tolerate such as mess.


Hutch shook his head. What, do you still expect him to pick up after himself after everything that’s gone down? Get a grip, Hutchinson.


He glanced into the kitchen, but there was still no sign of Starsky. With increasing concern, he headed for the deck, hoping that he wouldn’t have to search all of Bay City for his errant partner. Starsky wouldn’t really go back to the hospital to finish Williamson off, would he?


As he passed by the overturned chair, Hutch noticed stains on the white upholstery. It took him longer than it should have to recognize it as blood spatter.


He opened the balcony door and, at the noise of metal and glass colliding, his first thought was that he’d broken one of the door’s panels. Looking down, he discovered the true cause of the clatter. An impressive array of empty beer cans and alcohol bottles littered the deck, some of which he had knocked over when opening the door.


The overall effect was of a teenaged party gone terribly wrong, but his former neat freak of a partner was alone. Starsky was leaning back in a lawn chair, eyes closed, his limbs akimbo. An amber liquor bottle with a festive green bow around its neck lay in his lap.


Hutch walked onto the deck, leaving the door open, and surveyed not only the number, but also the variety of empty alcohol containers he was wading through. He stopped beside Starsky’s chair and looked down at his partner with disapproval.


“I thought you were going to bed to get some sleep.”


“I did. Couple of hours, leastways, but can’t sleep much during the afternoon.”


“What the hell have you been drinking?”


Starsky didn’t bother opening his eyes. “Well, the beer was first. When I ran out of that, the vod-- no the rum was next, then the vodka. Then there was ‘bout quarter of a bottle left of the wine you brought over a while ago. And now,” he brandished the bottle with the ribbon, “the peppermint schnapps that Aunt Rosie gave me for Crish-Chris’mas . . .” Starsky paused, his face wrinkled in puzzlement. “Two years ago?”


Hutch raised his assessment of his partner’s intoxication level from moderately inebriated to hopelessly wrecked.


“So since this afternoon you’ve been systematically drinking your way through every ounce of alcohol in your apartment.”


Starsky opened his eyes and smirked at him. “Pretty much.”


Hutch counted to ten, suppressing the urge to smack his partner. “Great, this is sure to solve all of your problems.”


“You,” Starsky waved the bottle at him for punctuation, “need to relax, my friend. I’d offer you a drink but,” he took a pull from the schnapps and grimaced, “this is pretty goddamn awful stuff.”


Hutch grabbed the bottle away from him. “You have had enough.”


“Hey, gimme back my schlopps.” Starsky giggled at the slurring of his speech, and then started playing it up. “Ah, c’mon Otchicer Huffison.” He stood up, but had to clutch the back of the chair to steady himself. “Whoa, I don’t feel so hot.”


“Big surprise,” Hutch observed without sympathy. He found the cap of the bottle under Starsky’s chair, and screwed it back tight on the bottle. “Did you bother to eat anything during your drunken spree?”


“Probably,” Starsky shot back, indignant. He looked over the debris strewn across the deck. “I think I had some pretzels, anyway.” Starsky began to poke around in the chaos he’d created.


Hutch took a deep breath. This time he counted to twenty to make sure his temper was under control. “Drinking yourself sick isn’t going to make things better.” 


“Yes, ma.”


“Damn it, I’m serious, Starsky! When are going to start working with me instead of against me? This mess isn’t going to fix itself.”


His friend’s expression turned belligerent. “Why can’t you just leave it alone?”


Exasperated, Hutch shouted, “Because none of this makes any sense!” He resisted the urge to pull out his hair, running his free hand through it instead. “Williamson is saying you assaulted him without provocation, IA is hanging you out to dry, you’re facing multiple felony counts, and you won’t tell me a goddamn thing.” He shook the schnapps bottle at him. “Do you honestly expect me to believe you would haul off and attack a guy out of the blue?”


“Like I’ve never smacked around a scumball before.”


He suspected that Starsky was just being flippant, but this was the closest thing to an actual motivation his partner had yet to offer, and Hutch leapt on it. “Was Williamson a dirty cop?”


Starsky started to laugh like that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard, infuriating Hutch. 


“I swear Starsk, if you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’m going to beat you into a coma myself!”


Starsky only laughed harder.


In disgust, Hutch stormed through the door back into the apartment, only to be tackled from behind. The attack was clumsy, but he hadn’t expected it, and they both tumbled to the living room floor. Starsky lunged for the schnapps bottle, “Gimme that.”


Wincing from a jab to the ribs, Hutch barked, “Watch it!”


Another desperate scramble, and Starsky managed to grab the bottle’s base, but Hutch kept a strangle hold on its neck, his fingers tangled in the now tattered green ribbon. They both slammed into the overturned chair.


“Le’ go!”


“Look, you moron--!”


The doorbell rang, and Hutch froze, suddenly aware of how ridiculous they looked, sprawled on the floor engaged in a tug-of -war over a bottle of peppermint schnapps. Taking advantage of his distraction, Starsky yanked the bottle out of his grasp. He clumsily rolled out of Hutch’s reach and, with a huge grin, held the bottle aloft in triumph.


The bell rang again. “Aren’t you going to get that?” Hutch asked, his voice tight.


“You get it,” Starsky retorted, struggling to get the cap off the bottle.


Satisfied that the schnapps was currently Starsky-proof, Hutch got up and straightened his clothes. He’d almost reached the door when his partner called out, “Hey, if it’s a cop, beat him into a coma for me, will ya?”


Without thinking, Hutch spun around and stabbed his forefinger at him, this warning eliciting even more laughter from his unrepentant partner. Great, now he’s going to rag me about my “taking you to the woodshed” look.


Sure enough, Starsky crowed, “Oooh, I’m in trouble now!”


Doing his best to ignore him, Hutch opened the door. Shock robbed him of speech for several moments, but he finally managed to choke out, “Mrs. Starsky?”


Behind him, he could hear his partner’s confused mumble. “’m not married.”


“Kenneth, I thought I’d find you here.”


Hutch stared at Starsky’s mom.  She looked careworn but otherwise as he remembered her. Her long hair, dyed black, was pulled up in a bun, and a conservative dark blue dress was visible under her camel hair coat. No luggage was in evidence, beyond her oversized leather purse.


Abruptly, he realized he was blocking the doorway, and moved aside so she could enter the apartment.


“Please come in,” he mumbled.


Hutch was certain that the surprise on his face at seeing her was nothing to the expression on Starsky’s.


“Ma,” Starsky breathed, scrambling to his feet, still gripping the schnapps. He glanced at Hutch for an explanation, and then his whole body sagged. “Aw Ma, what are ya doin’ here?”


Hutch couldn’t get over the fact that she had flown all the way here on such short notice, instead of waiting at home. Then he realized that he’d expected Mrs. Starsky to stay clear until everything had settled down, because that’s what his mother would have done, if she’d bothered to come at all.


The thought of his mother brought with it the uncomfortable realization that he’d forgotten to offer to take Mrs. Starsky’s coat and bag. He moved forward to do it, but her attention was entirely focused on her son.


“Kenneth was good enough to call me and tell me what was happening.” She sounded worried, but there was a definite edge to her voice.


The look Starsky shot him was deadly.  “How thoughtful of Kenneth.”


Hutch returned the glare. He wasn’t sorry, not in the slightest.


Starsky retreated to the small dining table by the kitchen, and his mother followed, with Hutch close behind. The schnapps bottle was set on the table with a bang. Starsky kept his back to them, leaning against the table’s edge as if it was the only thing keeping him standing.


“Don’t blame Kenneth,” Mrs. Starsky said. “Was I supposed to wait for my Friday phone call to find out my son had been arrested?”


“I didn’t... I just didn’t want to involve you.” Starsky’s voice was subdued, but his shoulders radiated tension.


“Of course I’m involved, I’m your mother.”


Hutch was beginning to feel like an intruder.


“I’m not going to allow him to hurt you again, David.”


The response from Starsky was immediate. He reeled around to face her, his expression panicked. “Ma, shut--,” but even in his drunken state he knew better. He swallowed. “Just don’t, Ma, don’t.”


She knows what’s going on. Relief made Hutch feel lightheaded.


“Don’t what? Don’t help my son?” Her voice was like steel. “He almost ruined your life once, I’m supposed to stand by and let him succeed this time?”


Starsky moved back into the living room, clearly searching for an escape route. He stumbled over some of the debris on the floor, and Hutch moved closer to his partner in case he collapsed.


“Ma... just let me handle it, will ya?”


“I can see you’re doing a fine job so far.”


“I can handle it!” But Starsky was turning as green as the alcohol he’d been consuming, and a moment later he lurched toward the bathroom with surprising speed. Hutch heard painful-sounding retches, and then a very wobbly, “Oh hell, I missed . . . ”


With a glance at Mrs. Starsky, Hutch made his reluctant way over to the bathroom. The smell hit him with a palpable force, and he had to swallow once, to settle his own stomach. “Christ, Starsky, that’s foul!”


His only answer was more retching, and a moan. Pushing his way into the room, Hutch found his partner clinging white-knuckled to the toilet. Hutch hesitated for a moment, wondering if he should get a washcloth or a mop first.


Starsky lost his grip on the porcelain bowl and sagged backward onto his haunches. He listed to the side, suddenly in real danger of ending up face first in a puddle of his own vomit. Hutch lunged forward and grabbed him under the arms, hoisting Starsky back up over the toilet, just in time.


From somewhere deep in his gut, Starsky managed to heave up more of the noxious brew. Hutch turned his head away, gagging despite himself.


Somehow there had to be a special reward in heaven for police detectives who hold their partners while they puke their insides out after an all-afternoon drinking binge. Especially considering that he could now feel a fetid dampness soaking the right knee of his jeans.


Hutch felt a warning twinge in his back and settled down onto his heels, supporting Starsky against his chest. Starsky’s left hand flailed, eventually finding purchase on Hutch’s thigh, as he continued to retch into the toilet.


He was into the dry heaves now, his body still unwilling to abandon the effort to purge itself. Hutch reached forward and flushed the toilet, only then realizing that he’d been muttering reassuring words the entire time. “Easy, easy now, just relax . . . ”


Mrs. Starsky leaned through the doorway of the bathroom and handed Hutch a damp facecloth. He had just begun to apply it to Starsky’s sweating face, when another convulsion seized him. Starsky lurched forward, and gagged helplessly into the bowl.


A moment later he sagged back against Hutch’s chest, limp with exhaustion. “M’ a mess, Hutsh . . . ”


“It’s okay.” Hutch’s irritation vanished, replaced with something he suspected might be compassion, or possibly just pity. Starsky was shaking now and had broken out into a cold sweat. Knowing it would still be a while before his partner would be able to support his own weight, Hutch shifted slightly, trying to relieve the cramp in his back. Why can’t I ever stay angry with you?


Mrs. Starsky returned. “I’ve changed the sheets on his bed,” she said. “When he’s able to stand up, we can put him to bed.”


“Can you get him a large glass of water?” Hutch asked, knowing that the best way to prevent a crippling hangover was to get Starsky rehydrated as soon as possible.


“Good idea.” She nodded, and disappeared.




“What, pal?” Hutch looked down to find that Starsky’s eyes had opened a slit, staring up at him in bleary confusion.


“D’ya see her too?”


Hutch couldn’t help smiling. “You’re not hallucinating. Your mother is here.”


“ . . . ’kay,” but Starsky didn’t look terribly reassured.


A few minutes later, when Starsky’s shivering had subsided, Hutch asked, “How are you feeling?”


“Dying. Much too slowly.” He made a smacking sound. “Though doesn’t taste as bad as usual. Kinda minty.”


“Okay, time for bed.” Hutch got to his feet carefully, lifting Starsky up with him. They staggered together out of the bathroom, past Mrs. Starsky, who was waiting just beyond the doorway, mop and bucket in hand. Despite his aching back and Starsky’s lack of balance, Hutch managed to get his friend around the corner and into his bedroom without either of them falling down.


Fortunately, Mrs. Starsky had turned on the lamp nearest the door. By its light, Hutch saw that not only had she changed the sheets and pulled the covers back in preparation for tucking her son in, but she’d also found a pair of blue pajamas. A glass of water waited on the shelf behind the bed. Hutch decided that after all this was over, he was going to be the first WASP in history to nominate a Jewish mother for Catholic sainthood.


Starsky was determined to crash on the bed, but Hutch held him back with one hand, and began undoing the buttons of his shirt with the other. He wanted at least to get him into clean pajamas. A shower would have to wait until morning. The state his partner was in, he’d likely drown himself if he tried to take one now.


It took Starsky a moment, but once he realized what was going on he began to bat clumsily at Hutch’s hand. “Aw, no . . . .”


“Shut up, and let me get this off you. You stink,” said Hutch, ignoring Starsky’s incoherent protests. He pulled a limp arm out of one sleeve and then stopped, appalled.


Starsky’s chest and sides were covered with darkly mottled blotches, the more recent bruises overlapping the old. Wincing in sympathy, Hutch finished removing the shirt and felt for cracked or broken ribs. His first thought was that Williamson had put up more of a fight than he’d supposed, until he realized that these injuries were much more recent than the struggle with Williamson. I’m going to strangle Simonetti when I see him again.


A sharp intake of breath from the doorway caught Hutch’s attention. He glanced up to see Mrs. Starsky enter the room.


His thoroughly anaesthetized partner giggled at the feel of Hutch’s fingers exploring his ribs. He tipped his head back to give Hutch a bright, unfocused grin. “Ya should’a seen th’ other guy . . . uh, guys.” He swayed and Hutch had to abandon his inspection to grab Starsky’s shoulders again.


Mrs. Starsky examined her son with a critical eye. “That’s right, David. Just kill my last hope that you're ever going to grow up.”


“Ma . . . ,” he whined.


But she ignored him and began skinning his filthy jeans off him. Hutch continued to steady his partner as Mrs. Starsky dressed him in the blue pajamas.


Putting his semi-comatose partner to bed after a night of too much drinking was something Hutch had done before, and Starsky had returned the favor more than once, since it was an unspoken rule between them that only one of them at a time could get completely wasted. Huggy had even helped Hutch with the task on occasion, but it definitely felt weird to be doing this with a guy’s mother. Mrs. Starsky, however, appeared perfectly at ease, and it occurred to Hutch that she might have performed the same task for her husband.


Hutch was proud that he felt no bitterness in recalling that Vanessa had always just left him wherever he’d collapsed.


Once Starsky was dressed for bed, Hutch propped him up against the headboard and made him slowly sip the water until it was gone. Only when he was reasonably certain that the water wasn’t going to come right back up, Hutch let his partner slide down under the sheets, and pulled the blanket up over him. Starsky was completely out in seconds.


Mrs. Starsky bent over to brush back her son’s curls, and kissed him on the forehead. Then she whispered to Hutch, “I’ll go make some tea in the kitchen.” Hutch nodded, but didn’t follow immediately. Instead, he watched his unconscious partner breathing steadily for several moments. 


“It’ll be okay, pal, I promise,” he said quietly.