Return to Never Saying Sorry, CHAPTER SIX



Tuesday, February 28, 1978


5:03 a.m.


Hutch woke to the sound of a flushing toilet. Ignoring his cramped muscles, he pulled himself up off the couch and headed to the kitchen. He had a glass of water ready when Starsky stumbled out of the bathroom, clutching a bottle of aspirin. Wordlessly, Hutch exchanged the water for the bottle, opened it, and shook out two tablets for him.


As Starsky leaned against the bathroom doorway, swallowing the pills, Hutch looked him over. Mildly hung over, he concluded, but otherwise not much worse for wear. You mean, he doesn’t look like he was raped as a kid.


As he took back the glass, Starsky glared at him. “Fuck.”


Startled by his vehemence, Hutch took a step back.


“She told you.” Starsky spat. It wasn’t a question.


“What?” Hutch asked, but the protest sounded unconvincing even to him. He tried going on the defensive. “What makes you think your mom told me anything?”


“Because you’re looking at me like I’m a puppy that’s been hit by a Mack truck, that’s how the fuck I know.”


He stormed past Hutch into the living room. “What’s with you anyway? Is there something about your pretty face that makes women spill their guts to you?”


“Starsk, I --,” Hutch tried, but he was cut off.


“I don’t wanna hear it!” Starsky rammed into the wicker chair, knocking it to the floor. The lamp on the nearby end table rattled but stayed standing.


“Starsk, please,” he tried again.


“Not going to talk about it.”


“I understand.” The moment the words slipped out, Hutch knew he’d screwed up. He barely ducked in time as the lamp careened past his head and smashed against the wall.


“No, you fuckin’ don’t understand! I already dealt with this!”


This time Hutch stayed silent, watching as his wild-eyed partner grabbed a small Peruvian pot off the shelf and pitched it against the wall, no longer aiming at him.


“Don’t ya fuckin’ get it? It was over twenty years ago!” The books were cleared from a shelf, and the bookends went flying. “Over, done with, out of my fuckin’ life!”


As Starsky grabbed the plant from the next shelf, Hutch couldn’t stop himself from protesting, “Not the philodendron, Starsk!”


He tensed for an explosion, but instead, Starsky let loose a bitter laugh. “Jeez, Hutch you can’t even stand to see a plant get hurt, how’d the hell you cope when you saw what I did to Williamson's face?”


Still holding the plant, Starsky waded through the new detritus to the couch. He pointed at the overturned white chair. “The bastard was sittin’ right there when I came home. As cool as a cucumber, like he had every right to be there, like he’d be welcomed.” He ground out the last words.  Starsky’s hands tensed around the philodendron, but he still didn’t throw it. Hutch resisted the impulse to try to take it from him.


“And he’s kidding me about leaving my door unlocked,” Starsky continued, his voice softer now, far deadlier in tone, “like we’re long lost pals. Then he started goin’ on about how proud he is of me, like he was my mentor or something.” His voice gained in volume. “John Blaine mentored me, not that sick fuck. John --.” He looked down, and for a moment, misery predominating over fury in his expression. “Oh god, if I’d known about John . . .”


The lost look on his partner’s face made Hutch’s insides twist. “But John . . .” he began, but Starsky shouted him down, the plant trembling in his grip.


“John never touched me! He was good to me!” His voice broke, and the rest was a hoarse whisper. “He was a good man.”


Hutch silently agreed, remembering how Maggie Blaine had used the exact same words to defend her husband.


Starsky cleared his throat, and returned to recounting Saturday night. “And what am I doin’? I’m standing right here like a useless fuck. I can’t move, can’t say a goddamn word while that piece of garbage brags about what a great role model he must have been. And all I’m thinkin’ is what the hell’s wrong with me?” 


Starsky took a deep breath. “Then the bastard stood up, walked over and put his hand on my shoulder.” He paused, and bewilderment crept into his voice. “And I completely lost it.” Starsky looked at his partner, and shook his head. “I know I’ve lost it on perps before, but this time I really went off. I still can’t remember -- one moment I’m frozen solid, the next thing I know, I’ve got the bastard pinned down by his neck, and I’m pounding his face into hamburger.” The tension left his body, and genuine satisfaction imbued his voice. “And it felt so damn good.”


Starsky collapsed onto the couch, all of his energy gone. He rotated the plant in his hands, as if seeing if for the first time. “You know what, Hutch? Even when I thought I’d put him in the ground, it still felt damn good.”


Hutch couldn’t stop himself from asking, “Why did you call for the ambulance, Starsk?” I would have got out my gun and finished the bastard off.


Starsky shook his head, as if the answer was obvious. “Cause it’s what you would have done.”


Hutch closed his eyes. Shit, partner, what did I ever do to deserve your belief in me?


“Just go home, Hutch. You don’t need to hang out here with me.”


Hutch opened his eyes, and stared at the pain etched into Starsky's features, the certainty of rejection in his eyes. A dozen things occurred to him to say, but he couldn’t open his mouth. Don’t be an idiot, Hutchinson; you know what you need to do.


Picking his way across the living room, Hutch sat down on the couch beside Starsky. He took the plant from him, and placed it out of harm’s way, and then, without hesitation, he reached over and pulled him into his arms. Starsky’s body tensed, trying to pull away, but Hutch held on, stubbornly. Eventually his partner stopped resisting the embrace, and with a long shuddering sigh Starsky relaxed against Hutch’s chest.


Hutch felt the tension drain out of his own body as well—he needed this as much as Starsky did. So many assumptions had been shattered last night; it felt like the world he knew was slipping out of his grasp. What Starsky had gone through growing up was too much for Hutch to process all at once. And if he couldn’t bear to think about it, what must it be like for Starsky?


Hutch’s arms tightened, Starsky’s fierce avowals that it was all in the past echoing in his head. He wished it were true, but even if Williamson had never shown up, Starsky hadn’t dealt with the abuse, he’d only buried it out of sight. He took a deep breath, trying to figure out how the hell he could help his partner, when a soft snore startled him out of his thoughts.


Starsky had fallen asleep again. Hutch felt a sudden hysterical urge to laugh. It was so much like Starsky to just blow up, get it out of his system, and move on. Hutch rested his head against the back of the sofa and let himself drift, content for the moment to stop thinking, to simply feel the warm, living weight of his partner in his arms.


After a while his leg went to sleep and his back began to ache, but Hutch remained where he was until sunlight filtered through the windows, and the sound of traffic drifted in from the streets outside.




9:15 a.m.


Hutch pushed open the door, letting Williamson get a good look at him before he entered the hospital room. The nervousness in the man’s eyes was satisfying, but Hutch was far too focused on controlling his rage to enjoy it. Remaining silent, he stepped aside and allowed Esther Starsky to enter the room.


Williamson's eyes widened in shock. “Esther?”


“Gene.” She coolly evaluated the damage her eldest son had wrought. “I don’t think I’ve seen you look better.”


“Your boy always did have a mean left hook.” Williamson tried to smile, but the effort lapsed as he realized his charms were wasted on this audience. 


Hutch pulled one of the chairs over to the bedside for Mrs. Starsky, and lowered himself into a seat against the wall facing Williamson, so he could observe both of them. Hutch's shoulders and back were still cramped from the night before, and he tried to ease them, but the tension refused to dissipate. He still had no idea what Esther had planned, and he wasn’t certain what he would do if she failed.


The familiar weight of his gun under his shoulder was both comforting and disturbing. Starsky was so sure he’d always do the right thing, and here he was nursing fantasies about shooting an unarmed old man. Simple assault wouldn’t count for much, weighed against murder one.


Damn, Vanessa was right. I really do have a martyr complex.


Mrs. Starsky had settled into the chair by the bed. Her purse rested on her lap, and her hands clasped the leather bag. She cleared her throat. “You’re going to drop the charges against my son, Gene.”


The certainty in her voice was intimidating, but Williamson rallied. “Now, Esther --.”


“I no longer take advice from you about what is best for my son.” The chill in her voice intensified.


“Now, I don’t know where you ever got that idea, Esther, but I never once hurt Davy --.”


Hutch released the safety on his Magnum.


“Kenneth . . .”


Starsky had always teased him about being too slow on the draw. “It’s ’cause ya think too much, college boy,” he’d laughed. Holding the gun in his hand, with no memory of making the decision to draw it, Hutch finally understood what Starsky had meant.




Hutch met Mrs. Starsky’s eyes and took a deep breath. Reluctantly, he lowered the Magnum, engaged the safety, and rested it against one knee.


Esther returned her gaze to Williamson who looked on the verge of fainting. “I’m afraid Kenneth really hates liars.” 


Hutch directed a cold smile at Williamson, willingly taking the role of bad cop to support her. She was Starsky’s mom, and deserved first crack at this bastard. He wouldn’t break his promise and deny her that privilege. 


“Now, Gene, listen very carefully to me.” Her voice was steady. “Twenty years ago, you were the respected police officer and David was just a punk kid that no one would have believed. But things are different now. David is the decorated police officer, and you’re just a sad, washed up retiree with a drinking problem.”


She leaned in closer. “If you allow David’s assault on you to go to trial, every single thing you did to my boy will come out into the open.”


Williamson opened his mouth, and Hutch watched with interest as the man visibly rejected numerous defenses, apparently having learned better than to lie. Unfortunately, the truth he spoke was far more worrisome. “Davy won’t say a thing.”


Undeterred, Esther shook her head at him. “You don’t understand. He’s not going to be the one on the witness stand. It will be his frail, little, old mother up there in front of the jury, crying her eyes out. And by the time I’m through telling them all about my poor boy and how the trusted friend of his dead father brutalized him, there won’t be a dry eye in the courtroom.”


Esther Starsky was one of the least frail people Hutch had ever met.  He had no doubt that she’d pull it off. Damn, I’m glad she’s on our side.


Williamson swallowed. He glanced at Hutch, who just stared at him coldly, until the man looked down at the hospital sheets.


“You’d ruin us both.” Williamson whispered.


Esther shook her head again. “No, David will be ruined if I allow you to send him to jail. He may be willing to sacrifice his life to preserve his macho reputation, but I’m not. I know that David will be loved by friends and family regardless of what the rest of the world thinks of him, and because of that he’ll survive. You, on the other hand—I’ll make sure you end up in prison. As a cop and a child molester, I don’t rate your chances of survival terribly high.” She took a deep breath, and added with a chilling sincerity, “And I hope whoever does my family that service really takes his time while doing it.”


Hutch had stopped breathing, impressed to his core. However this went down, he thought, he’d back her to the hilt, for she was right. Last night he’d been so damned worried about how the rest of the world would react, but when had that ever mattered to them before? Those who really loved Starsky would never abandon him. I don’t care if we have to go to Bolivia to build you a new life, partner, we’ll do it.


The tense stalemate between Mrs. Starsky and Williamson lengthened, fraying Hutch’s nerves.  He was seriously wondering if he needed to contact a travel agent after all, when the man broke. “What do – do you want me to do?”


Esther turned to Hutch, handing him the lead.


Hutch nodded, accepting it. “You’re going to pick up the phone and call the ADA’s office, and tell them you’re dropping the charges.”


“Yes, okay.” Williamson agreed eagerly, like the cowed bully he was. “I’ll do it.”


“You’ll do it right now.” Hutch indicated the phone by the man’s bedside, and rattled off the number to the ADA’s office.


Williamson picked up the hand receiver, but then hesitated. Hutch leaned forward, and pressed the gun against his leg, resisting the powerful urge to lift it. Williamson cleared his throat, and asked, “What do I say?”


Hutch’s smile was icy. “Say it was all a terrible misunderstanding. Starsky came home, and found a guy he didn’t recognize sitting in the dark. He thought you were a burglar or a hit man, but when he realized his mistake, he stopped and called the ambulance. Due to your head injuries, you were confused, but now you remember how it went down.”


Meekly, Williamson did as he was told, but Hutch didn’t holster his gun until the man was through convincing the ADA. He imagined Simonetti’s face as he found out that Williamson had changed his mind, and the image caused a pleasurable rush.


When Williamson hung up the phone, Mrs. Starsky stood up, and Hutch automatically rose to his feet. She regarded the man on the hospital bed, her expression one of contempt. “Don’t change your mind once we’ve left. I meant every word I said.” 


Mrs. Starsky headed for the door, but as she opened it, he began, “Esther, I’m --.”


She turned back, and snapped at Williamson, “Don’t you dare. Any apology from you would be as worthless as your soul.” The door swung shut behind her.


Williamson watched, his eyes opening wider, as Hutch approached his bedside. Hutch leaned over him, pushing his forearm down against Williamson’s splinted right hand, pinning it to the bed. 


“Soon as the hospital lets you go, Williamson, you’re changing your ticket and catching the next flight out. And you’ll never set foot in this city again, because if you do,” Hutch pressed harder against the injured hand, “you won’t be waking up in a hospital. You won’t be waking up at all. Do you understand?”


Williamson nodded, his eyes glazing from the pain.


“I didn’t catch that,” Hutch prompted, increasing the pressure on Williamson's right hand. You’re right, Starsk, hurting this scumball feels damn good.


“Yes. I -- understand.”


“Good.” Hutch released Williamson, and straightened up. With a deep breath, he forced himself to leave the hospital room, knowing he couldn’t trust his self-control for much longer.


Once in the hall, he looked for Mrs. Starsky, and found her seated near the closest nurse's station. When she didn’t rise at his approach, he sat down beside her.


She smiled at him. “I didn’t hear a gun shot, so I assume we’re not on the lam.”


Hutch smiled back; for the first time in days it felt genuine. “Are you all right?”


Mrs. Starsky nodded. “I just need a moment.”


She looked a little shaky. “I’ll get you something to drink.” 


Hutch fetched a coffee from the nearby machine, but before he could sit back down beside her, she said, “I’m curious, Kenneth, why does that nurse over there keep giving you the evil eye?”


He turned his head. Oh shit, Carol. Hutch realized that not only hadn’t he noticed the aggrieved nurse, he hadn’t even thought to keep an eye out for her.


He dropped his head. “We, um, dated.”


“Ah.” Mrs. Starsky exhaled as she accepted the coffee from him.


The understanding in Esther’s tone made Hutch wonder just what Starsky told his mom when he wasn’t around to listen in on their Friday phone calls. He didn’t have time to plot his revenge, however, because without warning Mrs. Starsky stood up and faced him.


“Officer Hutchinson,” she announced, her ability to project as excellent as her son’s, “you saved my boy’s life this past weekend.”


Hutch stared at her, stunned. Officer wha--?


“They say the police in this town only care about themselves, but you’ve proved them wrong. I won’t forget your selfless sacrifice on behalf of my family.” 


“'kay,” he mumbled. 


“Now,” she whispered, “escort me to the car.”


Still thrown by Esther’s behavior, Hutch offered his arm. As they walked down the corridor, he risked a glance back at Carol, and noticed that she looked uncertain, but a lot less hostile. 


Once they reached his car, Hutch could no longer restrain himself. “Why’d you do that, Mrs. Starsky?”


“Esther.” She corrected. “The way you two boys go around foolishly risking your lives, I can’t risk having the nurses of this hospital disconnecting the life support on you, now can I?”


Hutch knew that the proper thing to do would be to thank her, but he couldn’t help asking, “You think police work is foolish?”


Mrs. Starsky rolled her eyes. “No, what’s foolish is driving around with my son behind the wheel of that hotrod he loves so much.”


He smiled again as they climbed into the car. They were silent during the drive to Starsky's place, both of them lost in their own thoughts.


Hutch parked the car. “I’d like a list of any charities Williamson is still involved in.” A police officer’s warning, Hutch knew, even from one calling from out of state, would be taken seriously.


Mrs. Starsky nodded. “I’ll get the information to you.” She reached for the door handle.


Hutch felt foolish for his concern, but he had to ask. “Mrs. -- Esther, do you want me to . . .”


“Don’t worry, he’s not going to shoot me. I’m his mother.”


Before letting herself out of the car, she surprised him again by leaning over and kissing him on the cheek. She disappeared inside Starsky's apartment building, and Hutch pulled away from the curb.


I wish you’d been mine.