Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction created solely for the entertainment of fellow fans. No infringement on anyone's copyright(s) is intended. No money is being made from this story.
This is a What If? story, taking Starsky and Hutch are Guilty as its launch pad.
Written By Sue David
Where did you go when I safely tucked you away?
Your loss much too heavy for my heart and mind to bear.
I'm glad that you came back to me today.
Once again I see you standing there.
I remember you now in shades of blue and gold.
Your heart was warm, your friendship treasured.
For too many years the memory was cold.
But time has helped me see how love is measured.
Starsky and Hutch had been drawing unpleasant cases all week. They started off with a drowning victim who had been in the ocean for several days. The rest of the week slid downhill from there. This was the last day of the workweek for them and they had already put in 55 hours each. They were tired and their nerves were a little frayed. Thank God they had a few days off coming.
The two men were seated at a coffee shop. Hutch was finishing at least his tenth cup of the day, Starsky nursing his fifth. The passable lunch they had shared had been cleared away and they were deep in conversation about the lack of interesting cases, the state of their respective love lives, what teams were likely to make it to the playoffs, and any other number of fascinating topics.
Starsky noticed Hutch's hands were starting to shake just a little. "Enough caffeine for you, buddy."
"Your hands are starting to shake. If you have to pull that cannon of yours I don't want you accidentally shooting me – or your own foot." He smiled slyly.
"Dirtball." Hutch knew he was right, though.
Since their lunch break was over, they paid the bill and headed back out to the car. The day was warm and Hutch shrugged off his letterman's jacket and tossed it into the back of the Torino. They cruised around their beat for another hour when they got a report of a dead body, probable suicide. Starsky pointed the Torino in the right direction. He hated the suicides and he wondered how this one did it.
When they pulled up to the front of a small house, a uniformed officer led them inside to talk to the next-of-kin. She was a nice looking lady of about 40 and she was sobbing uncontrollably. The victim was her 17-year-old son, Jason. His mother told the officers her son was in his room, first door on the left at the top of the stairs. Hutch left Starsky and the other officer to talk with the mother while he went upstairs to the boy's bedroom. As he walked up the stairs, he started to break out in a cold sweat. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. You're right, Starsk. Gotta drink less coffee.
Hutch was unprepared for what he saw when he opened the bedroom door. The young man was hanging by his neck from a heavy beam in the middle of the room. His once handsome face was now purple and his head lolled to the side at an unnatural angle. The boy's light blond hair hung over his still open blue eyes. He was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a black letterman's jacket with white sleeves. Hutch walked closer and looked into the still eyes. He started to shake and it felt like all the blood had sunk to his feet.
Starsky got the mother to sit down and had the uniform bring her a glass of water.
"What happened here, ma'am?"
"Oh, God. Oh, God." Was all the distraught mother could say.
Before Starsky could go any further with his questioning, he heard a heavy thud on the floor above them. He excused himself and rushed up the stairs to check on his partner.
When he reached the boy's bedroom, he took in the same sight Hutch had. Only now, Hutch lay spread out on the floor beneath the dead boy.
"Hutch!" He quickly knelt beside his fallen friend. He felt for a pulse, which he thankfully found. Hutch's heartbeat was racing. His breathing was fast and shallow. His pale face was covered in perspiration and his skin was cold. "Hey, buddy. Snap out of it." Starsky said patting Hutch on the cheek. "Come back to me. "
Hutch’s eyes opened for a few seconds and he looked up at his partner’s face. He said only one word before he passed out again. “Peter.” I thought this kid’s name was Jason.
Starsky could not revive him again. He was as still as death, a thought that sent cold shivers up Starsky's spine. "I'm gonna get you some help, buddy. Don't you go away now. I'll be right back, I promise." Starsky raced down the stairs and told the uniform to call an ambulance, his partner had collapsed upstairs. He apologized to the boy’s mother and said they’d take care of her son then he ran back upstairs to keep an eye on Hutch while he waited for the ambulance.
The paramedics asked him question after question.
“Has your partner been sick?” “No”
“Is he a diabetic?” “No”
“Anything like this ever happen to him before today?” “No”
They loaded his still unresponsive partner into their ambulance and whisked him off to Memorial. Starsky instructed the uniformed officer to call for a Coroner’s wagon and another detective unit to finish the investigation. After he expressed his condolences to the mother, he rushed to the hospital to find out what was going on with Hutch. When he reached Memorial, he realized he needed to do something with Hutch’s gun. He’d taken it from his partner along with his badge so the Emergency Room staff wouldn’t have to deal with them. He decided to put them in the pocket of Hutch’s jacket and to throw that in the trunk. Starsky put the gun in the inside pocket and saw something that intrigued him. Although he’d never noticed before, an embroidered label was sewn into the jacket near the inside pocket. That label bore two initials, PH.
A doctor was in with Hutch when Starsky arrived and the staff wouldn’t let him inside. He decided to save the fight for a while and go call Captain Dobey to fill him in on the situation.
“I’m tellin’ you, Cap, I don’t know what happened. He seemed fine today, and then he just collapsed.”
Dobey could hear the tension and worry in Starsky’s voice.
“I have to be in court in thirty minutes. As soon as I’m through, I’ll come down there.”
“Try not to worry. He probably just got a bug or something.”
Starsky hung up and started for the nurses’ station when he heard someone say, “For Kenneth Hutchinson?”
“Right here,” he said as he walked toward the speaker.
The man held his hand out to Starsky and said, “I’m Doctor Benson, your relationship to the patient?”
“He’s my partner, I’m Detective David Starsky. How’s he doing?”
“I need to ask you some questions, Detective.” He indicated for Starsky to go into a patient conference room. The doctor hadn’t answered his question, increasing Starsky’s apprehension.
“He’s still unconscious and I may need your help to figure out why.”
Dr. Benson had ordered Hutch’s chart but it had not arrived from central records yet. His comprehensive questions covered as much of Hutch’s medical history as Starsky knew. He also wanted to know how Hutch had been over the past few days. Was he feeling okay, what about his stress level, had he been eating and drinking, what had he been eating and drinking? Starsky was dizzy by the time the doctor was finished.
“Doc, how worried should I be?”
“I can’t answer that yet, I’m sorry. I’ll let you know as soon as I can.”
“I want to see him.”
“Not right now. He’s going to need a series of tests, but I’ll send someone out for you when you can see him.”
With that, the doctor left Starsky to his pacing and worrying. He was not happy that they wouldn’t let him be with Hutch but he decided not to push it just yet. He’d give them another hour, then start pushing. If still another hour went by, he’d switch to shoving.
Starsky always had a tough time waiting. This time, though, he had no idea why he was waiting and it made things infinitely worse. By the time Captain Dobey arrived, Starsky had paced himself into a high state of nervousness. Dobey could see his first task this time was going to be to get the worried man to calm down a little before he blasted into orbit. He ordered Starsky to sit down for a few minutes while he tried to find out what was happening.
When the doctor came out to speak with them again he looked grim. “Gentlemen, I have no answers for you yet. I’m sending him up to the ICU while we wait for some test results. Does he have any family you should call?”
Starsky paled and asked, “It’s not that serious is it?”
The doctor answered him by saying, “I’m sorry, but an unexplained loss of consciousness is a matter of serious concern. He’s in a coma. He’ll be settled in the ICU in a little while. Give us about half an hour, then you can go up and see him.”
After the doctor left, Starsky stood and stared into space for long enough to worry his captain. He put is hand on Starsky’s arm and said, “Dave, please sit down for a while.” He guided his shaken detective to a chair and asked him if he knew the number for Hutch’s parents.
“I’ll do it, Cap. They should hear it from me.” Dobey watched as Starsky slowly made his way down the hall to a bank of phones.
When he heard Mrs. Hutchinson’s voice on the other end of the line, Starsky said, “Hi, ma’am, it’s Dave Starsky.”
He heard the intake of a breath and she replied, “David, what’s wrong? Has something happened to Kenny?” She knew there was probably no other reason her son’s partner would call in the middle of a workday like this.
“He hasn’t been shot or anything, but he is in trouble. I wish I could tell you more, but he just collapsed today while we were on a case.”
“Collapsed? What do you mean?”
“We were called to the scene of a probable suicide. A teenage boy had hung himself. I was downstairs talking to the mother when I heard him fall. By the time I got upstairs to him, he was unconscious.”
He could hear Hutch’s dad in the background. “Helen, what’s wrong?” Then he heard the sound of the phone being dropped. Oh God, did she faint?
Richard Hutchinson picked up the phone, “David, is this you?”
“Yes, sir, is she all right?”
“I think so. She’s sitting down now. I’m sorry but you’d better tell me what you just said to her.”
Starsky repeated the information.
“David, did he say anything to you?”
“No, sir. Wait, he did say a name. Peter, but the dead boy’s name was Jason. I don’t know what it means.”
Mr. Hutchinson was quiet. Starsky waited a little while and said, “Sir?”
“David, I’ll be there on the next flight. Where are you?”
"I'll see you in few hours."
Starsky was sitting in the ICU, watching over his comatose partner when Richard Hutchinson walked in behind him. He stood and shook the man's hand. Mr. Hutchinson walked closer to the bed, looking at his son with concern. After a couple of minutes, he motioned for Starsky to follow him out into the hall.
Starsky squeezed his partner's hand and said "I'm gonna be right back, buddy."
When they were seated in a waiting area down the hall, Starsky caught Hutch's father up on what was happening with is son. No, the doctors still didn't have any answers. No, Starsky couldn't offer any explanation. Yes, the doctors said it was serious. No, Hutch hadn't improved at all in the hours they had been in the hospital.
"When I mentioned on the phone that Hutch had said someone's name, Peter, I had a funny feeling that meant something to you. Did it?"
Richard Hutchinson could see his son's partner was using his detective's instincts on him. That was fine. Ken needed him to do just that.
"David, I know you and I haven't always seen eye-to-eye. My answer to that question is complicated and I want you to just listen to me. Can you do that?"
Starsky nodded and waited for the man to start.
"That name does mean something to me, Ken too. I have something to give you." Mr. Hutchinson handed Starsky two envelopes – a large manila one, and a smaller one. "The smaller envelope contains a round trip ticket for you to Minnesota." He could see Starsky was about to object so he put his hand up and reminded him, "You said you would listen. Please, David. This is important."
"I'm sorry, go ahead."
"I want you to wait until you’re on the plane to open the other one. Some of the information you are seeking is in there. Unfortunately, the one person who could most help you or my son is not able to do that right now. You need to talk to my wife. She is waiting for you at our home. I told her you would be coming. She won't talk to me, but she might to you."
"Sir, I don't understand how anything Mrs. Hutchinson could have to say is involved with what's happening to Hutch. You know I can't go anywhere when he is like this. What if I lost him? God, I don't know what to think!" Starsky ran his hand down his face and looked at Hutch's father with despair.
"David, I know this is confusing and I know you’re upset. As hard as it may be for you to believe, I am, too. I'm going to stay with Ken while you are gone. I'm asking you to trust me on this. Ken needs you to go to Minnesota worse than he needs you here right now. Please do it for his sake."
Starsky didn't know what to say. His heart was telling him not to leave, but his instincts were telling him there was something to what Mr. Hutchinson was saying. "You really think my goin' there will help Hutch?"
"I think it may be the only thing that helps him."
Wishing the man would explain more, but seeing he would not, Starsky reluctantly agreed. His plane was leaving in just 2 hours. "You'll stay with him all the time for me or I won't go."
"I promise, David. I won't leave him. I don't want to lose him any more than you do. I hope you believe that."
Starsky wanted to believe it. Hutch and his father had a strained relationship. The older Hutchinson had wanted his son to be a doctor or an attorney. A cop wasn't good enough in his eyes. The source of their conflict had started years before Hutch became a cop, though. Starsky wasn't even sure when. Maybe they had never been close. This was not a subject Hutch enjoyed discussing.
He returned to Hutch's side, aware that he didn't have much time before he had to leave. Mr. Hutchinson had gone to the nurses’ station to ask when he could speak to the doctor so Starsky had a few minutes alone with his friend.
He took Hutch's hand and said, "Hey, buddy. Your dad is here. He's really worried about you. We both want you to get better and wake up soon. I don't know if you can hear me, but I have to go for a while. I'm sorry. I don't want to, but your dad seems to think I should. I'll be back in a day or two and I expect you to be awake and hassling the nurses."
Starsky wished he could tell if his partner could hear him. The thought of leaving was tearing him up but he was afraid not to go. The doctors had no answers for them. Maybe he could find some in Minnesota. "I promise I'll be back as soon as I can, buddy." He brushed his fingers through his partner's hair and then walked out before he lost his resolve. He stopped Mr. Hutchinson on his way back to the room and said, "You contact me immediately if anything happens to him. I'm gonna have Captain Dobey keep an eye on things. I appreciate that you're trying to help, but I would be liar if I told you I trusted you. I haven't forgotten the last time Hutch was hurt. Your interference that time caused him to give me his Power of Attorney, so don't make any major decisions without talkin' to me first."
Richard Hutchinson looked at his son's best friend and nodded his understanding. He might have been wrong about David Starsky. If nothing else, he could not fault the man for his dedication and loyalty.
Starsky drove home and packed a few things in a small bag to take on the plane. Thank God it’s June, not January! He was determined to be gone for no more than a day, two at the most. He called Captain Dobey and explained the situation to him. Dobey agreed to keep an eye on things at the hospital and he said he would head over there right away. "Good luck, Starsky. Don't be gone long."
When Starsky was settled in his seat and on his way to Minnesota he opened the other envelope. This all seemed so mysterious. Why was Mr. H playing this Mission Impossible game with him? What could be so important in Minnesota that it could help Hutch now?
The envelope contained three items. The first was a class ring that tumbled out into Starsky's hand. The gold ring with a red stone was from the Class of 1959. The school was Hutch's high school. Hutch was class of 1961, though. Interesting. The next item was a black and white photo, one of the old style ones with the scalloped edges and the year in black letters in the border. The year printed on the photo was 1958. The picture was of Hutch, standing with his arm around a taller, older looking young man. The resemblance between Hutch and the other boy amazed Starsky. They were both smiling, and both had those piercing eyes, even in black and white. He thought it must be one of Hutch's many cousins. He looked at the back of the photo and found in handwriting, "Peter and Kenny at the lake, summer 1958." Peter! Something about the other boy in the photo was bothering him and he finally realized what. Peter was wearing a dark letterman’s jacket with light sleeves. Oh my, God! Hutch's jacket? Starsky breathed a little faster as he started to put the pieces together in his head. He looked inside the ring for an inscription and found one reading, "Peter Hutchinson."
Starsky's heart nearly stopped beating when he pulled the last item out of the envelope. A newspaper clipping. An obituary!
"Hutchinson, Peter, 17. Son of Richard and Helen Hutchinson. Killed December 25, 1958 in a tragic skiing accident. Peter is survived by his parents and a younger brother and sister. Services to be held at Lakemount Lutheran Church, Monday, December 29."
Starsky could not believe what he was reading. Hutch had a brother who had died a long time ago! In all the years he had known his partner, Hutch had never said a word about having a brother. He remembered the time when they caught those imposters who were making them look bad. One of the uniforms had pointed out that the Hutch lookalike could be his brother and Hutch had replied, "I don't have a brother." Why would Hutch have kept such a big secret from him?
He was tired and his head was pounding. Starsky put everything back in the envelope and settled in his seat to grab some sleep before he arrived in Minnesota. When he stepped off the plane, he saw a uniformed driver standing with the people waiting to greet the passengers. The man was holding up a sign that said "Starsky." Great, a limo ride. More time to sleep!
Before they went out to the car, Starsky stopped to call the hospital. Mr. Hutchinson assured him there had been no change yet. He felt guilty about lying, but he knew he had to do it. If he didn't Starsky would never have gone on to the house.
The Hutchinson estate was large, with an impressive manor house at the end of the long driveway. The house resembled a Titan-sized mountain chalet. Starsky was shown into a darkened study near the front door where he found Mrs. Hutchinson lying on a leather sofa. Her eyes were closed and even in the dim light he could see her face was drawn and that she had been crying. He knelt next to her and spoke softly.
"Mrs. Hutchinson, it's David, are you awake?"
She didn't open her eyes, but Hutch's mother answered him, "Yes, David. Thank you for coming."
"Ma'am, I can see you're not feeling good, but we need to talk."
"I'm going to lose them both, David. I can't bear it."
He took hold of her hand and said, "I'm not going to let you lose your son. I need you to help me understand this situation, though. Your husband gave me some information. I think Hutch's collapse may have something to do with Peter."
Just the mention of her first born son's name caused the poor woman to shake. She turned away from David and said, "Don't. I can't talk about this."
"You have to if you want me to help. Ken's life could depend on it. I'm not sure how, but I need to figure it out before we really do lose him."
Mrs. Hutchinson turned his hand over and placed a key in it. "Go to the top of the stairs. First door on the left. When you are finished, I'll try to answer your questions." Thinking how this was getting stranger by the minute, Starsky climbed the stairs in search of the door that fit the key.
Hutch was lying in the ICU of Bay City's Memorial Hospital, but his mind was somewhere else. He had traveled back in his mind to 1958. Completely unaware of his physical surroundings, Hutch had gone back inside his own mind to that awful Christmas vacation and the events leading up to it.
Peter and Ken Hutchinson were close brothers. They were only two years apart in age and they spent a lot of time together. Where Peter went, his little brother followed. The young Hutch looked up to his brother and Peter never minded his company. Where Ken was shy and quiet, Peter was gregarious and had a dry sense of humor. He had many friends. The brothers shared their intelligence and athletic ability. The things they had in common and the things that made them different created a pair of boys who were not just brothers, they were best friends. Unfortunately the boys also shared a tendency to be brooding and moody at times. They were both sensitive and quick to take the world's responsibilities on their shoulders.
Growing up, Peter had spent a lot of time squirming under his father's expectations. As the oldest son he was expected to do great things. His father disapproved of the boy's outgoing, emotional nature and constant silly pranks. Their battles of wills were frequent and increasingly nasty as Peter grew older. Hutch did his best to stay out of the crossfire, but he was in his brother's corner all the way. This did nothing to strengthen his own relationship with the senior Hutchinson. To make matters worse, their younger sister was the perfect child. Their father approved of everything she did and she delighted in lording that over her brothers. As a result, neither boy was close to her.
The summer of 1958 was the worst ever for the Hutchinson boys. Peter had turned seventeen and was heading into his senior year of high school. The family had gone up to the lake to spend the first week of summer vacation as they always had. A massive storm had been brewing for several weeks at the end of the school year and it was about to hit.
As Peter was nearing the end of high school, his father was deeply involved in planning out the rest of Peter's life. He had determined that Peter would go east to Harvard for college and eventually become an attorney. Peter had no intention of carrying out that plan. He wanted to attend a Minnesota college, become a high school history teacher, and maybe become a track coach. He didn't want to go to a high profile school like Harvard. That much pressure to succeed didn't interest him. The constant bickering and pressure from his father had taken a toll on the sensitive boy. During his junior year, he had started drinking. A lot. His grades were slipping and Peter had started hanging out with some boys Mr. Hutchinson did not approve of at all. The boys in question were getting a reputation at the high school. The rumor was that they might be homosexuals. Everything would come to a head during the summer of 1958.
Hutch could see the blowup play out in his head just like it did that summer day. The conversation had started when the brothers returned from catching some fish on the lake. Their mother had taken their picture together standing on the porch, happy. While they were out, their father had been brooding all morning about things he needed to say to his oldest son.
The fight had started out quietly, with their father trying to talk to Peter about his behavior and performance in school over the previous year. Peter had barely passed the eleventh grade. He was going to have to work hard this next year if he expected to make it into Harvard. Peter lost it and started yelling at his father that he didn't want to be an attorney and he didn't want to go to Harvard. Then his father was screaming at Peter, railing about his friends, accusing him of being a drunk, and demanding to know what his relationship was with two of his friends. When his father became angry enough to strike Peter, something he had never done before, Hutch couldn't stand by anymore.
At seventeen, Peter was a lot bigger than his fifteen-year-old brother. He was already a little over six feet tall to Hutch's five foot seven. Their father was even bigger at six feet two inches. He and his oldest son were now in a physical brawl that was tearing Hutch apart to watch so he jumped in the middle of it, trying to break up the fight. He was undersized by too much to have any physical effect on either of the combatants and all he got for his trouble was a punch in the face by his father.
Seeing his youngest son sprawled on the floor with blood coming out of his mouth was too much for the furious man to bear. Hutch could hear the angry words between his father and Peter ringing in his head, twenty years after they were spoken.
"You stay out of this, Kenny. This isn't your fight."
Ken Hutchinson may have been a quiet, sensitive boy, but a pushover he wasn't. He stood up and got between the other two again trying in vain to push Peter back from hitting their father. Seeing he couldn't stop them physically, he tried to break them up with words.
"Stop it!" he shouted. "Are you both crazy?"
"Kenny, get out of here. You are not involved in this."
"The hell I'm not, Dad! Can't you see what this is doing to Peter? To me?"
Hutch had never revealed his feelings to his father directly. He showed him his opinion by his approval and love of his brother. For the first time he had told his father he was wrong about something. His heart was racing, afraid his father would hit him again, but unwilling to step down and let him continue to hurt Peter.
Richard Hutchinson pushed his younger son out of the way. He ordered him out of the room then whirled on his oldest, not noticing that his younger son remained. His face and voice filled with blind fury, he stepped closer to Peter and said, "This is the last straw, Peter. You may want to mess up your life, but I'm not going to let you do it. I'm also not going to let you ruin Kenny's chances. I'm sending you away to school for your senior year. A year in a military school should cure you of your rebelliousness. You'll be far from your 'friends' and far enough from Kenny to keep you from influencing him any more than you already have."
Peter was in shock. He did not know what to say to his father. He stood there shaking. He looked at his brother, then at his father and screamed, "If I'm such a disappointment, why don't you just kill me and put me out of your misery!" With that he ran from the house. Peter didn't come back that night, or the next. He ran away for the best part of two months, coming back home just in time to be packed off to that military school under protest. Hutch never found out where he had gone.
The day he left for school, Peter had pulled his brother aside for a private conversation. "Hey, I know how hard it was on you when I wasn't here this summer. I’m sorry I made you worry." To say Hutch had been worried didn't come close to covering how he had felt. "They won't let me wear my letterman's jacket at school and I know you love it. Why don't you hang onto it for me?" Hutch had taken it from him, honored that his brother trusted him to take good care of it. The jacket was one of his prized possessions. He had earned a letter in track, but didn't sew it on the jacket because he liked it plain better. Hutch didn't care that the jacket was much too big for him. He would wear it every day so he could feel closer to Peter.
Hutch threw his arms around his brother and cried. "God, Peter, what am I gonna do here without you? I'm not sure I can stand it. I hate him for this."
"I know, Kenny. Try not to let him get to you. I'll be back at Christmas. You'll see, the months will go so fast you won't have time to miss me!" Peter ruffled his brother's fine hair and hugged him again. "I'm gonna miss you too, buddy. Try to stay out of his way, huh? I love you, Kenny."
"I love you too, Peter."
The limo driver was waiting for him. Their father was already in the car; intent on making the trip with his son to be sure he arrived at his destination. As he climbed into the car, Peter turned and waved at his sobbing brother who was standing on the porch to watch him go. "I'll write!" Then he disappeared into the car and out of Hutch's life for almost four months.
Hutch had shoved his hands in the pockets of his brother's coat. When he did that he found Peter's class ring in one of the pockets. Hutch tossed it in the air and caught it. He said out loud to the departing limousine, "You get this back when you come home, brother."
Starsky had to try several times before the key would turn in the stiff lock. He was afraid it would break off and he'd have to kick in the door. Nothing was going to stop him from getting to the bottom of this. When he finally felt the lock give way to the key, he pushed the door open and stepped through it. The room was dark so he reached for the light switch. Nothing happened when he flicked it up and down repeatedly. "Terrific." He carefully crossed the room to the shutters and opened them to let daylight into the room. When he turned around he was surprised to see a room that had obviously not been touched for many years.
A thick coating of dust lay on everything in the room and cobwebs hung from the ceiling.
The large bedroom had obviously belonged to a teenaged boy. Pennants and sports pictures hung on the walls. The bookshelves contained a collection of trophies, ribbons, and medals. Starsky walked over to look at them.
Peter Hutchinson was an accomplished athlete. He had trophies from playing hockey and basketball. His medals were for track and field, and cross-country events. The ribbons were for academic work. Looked like the kid had everything going for him, just like his younger brother. Starksy stood thinking what a shame it was for a kid like that to die so young. As he continued to look at the things on the bookshelf he noticed a photo album. Taking it with him over to the dusty bed, Starsky sat down, opened it and looked through its contents.
The album was full of family photos. Lots of them were of Peter and Hutch. They looked happy together. He knew his partner well enough to recognize the love he held in his eyes in all of those photos. How could Hutch have kept this a secret from him for all these years? Peter had obviously been important to him. No time to think about that now, he’d just have to ask Hutch when he was better.
Next, Starsky turned his attention to a group of boxes sitting in the corner of the room. The first two contained little of interest. Clothing, ice skates, school papers – all of the trappings of a teenager's life. The last box yielded much more interesting contents.
The box was full of letters. Although a few were addressed to Mrs. Hutchinson, most were to Hutch. Starsky felt guilty as he started to read the letters. He thought this was a violation of Hutch's privacy, especially since his partner had kept his brother a secret from him. However, he knew he had to read them if he was going to have any answers.
The letters were about his life at a military school. Peter was miserable. Starsky couldn't help but think about how torn up it must have made his best friend to read these letters. Peter hated his classmates and they hated him. He was the victim of hazing and he recounted how some of the guys had accused him of being "queer." That just made him angry enough to get into fights. The fights got him in trouble with the school's commander. He was caught in a vicious cycle of being teased and tormented, fighting back, getting in trouble, serving detention, then getting into more trouble. The school had shaved his head in a tight military cut. He hated it. Peter was allergic to wool and he was forced to wear an itchy, sneeze-producing wool uniform every day. Letter after letter told Hutch how unhappy he was, how much he missed his brother, how he wished he could go back and finish his senior year at their local high school, and how he longed for it to be Christmas. Peter had planned to beg their father to let him come home while he was back for Christmas break. He wanted Hutch to help him by bringing it up occasionally.
Peter had not been allowed to come home for Thanksgiving. The letters he wrote to Hutch during that time sounded even worse. He was so unhappy he said he wished he could just get sick and die there at the school. At least he wouldn't have to be there anymore. The last letter told Hutch he would not go back to the school after Christmas no matter what their father said.
While Starsky was in Minnesota trying to piece together the mystery of his partner's relationship with his brother, Mr. Hutchinson sat in helpless silence as he watched his remaining son slip ever farther from him. He had lied to Starsky when he said there was no change. His son was getting worse. His heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration had deteriorated since Starsky left. The doctors still couldn't explain it and they were concerned. That day's tests were to include a brain scan. Hutch's doctor wanted to rule out a tumor.
When Captain Dobey asked if he had told Starsky about Hutch's condition, Mr. Hutchinson had lied to him too. Not exactly a lie, he just nodded and said they had spoken a few hours ago. Dobey was suspicious of the man. Starsky didn't trust him and that was good enough for his captain. He let it slide then, but made a decision to contact Starsky at the Hutchinson home if his partner's conditioned worsened.
Richard Hutchinson had no gift for comfort. He sat next to his son, silent, not touching him. He did not know how to convey that he really did love Hutch and that he wanted him to wake up soon. For a while, he tried to talk to Hutch, but when he did the monitors showed further drops in his heartbeat. As hard as it was for him to accept, he was afraid his presence was making his son worse. He had promised Starsky that he would stay with Hutch all the time. Although he might be a cold man, he was a man of his word. He would stay. Hurry, David. If you don't, I'm going to lose him too. He was a powerful man, but not where his son was concerned. Richard Hutchinson had lost his power over Hutch twenty years ago. He had never wanted to turn the clock back more than he did at that moment. If he had known what was happening inside Hutch's mind, he would have been even more worried.
The months between when Peter left and when he was to come home for Christmas break had dragged interminably for Hutch. He was sad all the time and had shown little interest in his friends or his normal activities. The only thing he seemed to be keeping up was his schoolwork. He could get away with giving up his other activities, but any downward trend in his grades would not escape his father's notice. Hutch worried that Peter would somehow take the blame if he failed, so he maintained his grades.
The day Peter arrived was the happiest Hutch had been since he had left. He teased his brother about the buzz cut hair and Peter teased him back about getting taller and impossibly skinnier while he was away. He really was a little worried.
"Hey, little brother, you been eating?"
"Yeah, I just got taller, that's all."
"Sure, pal. That jacket is hanging on you like you were a sack of bones. Let's go down to the kitchen and see what Mom has to eat."
"You could use a few extra pounds too, big brother. Looks like I'm not the only one who has been off his feed." Hutch smiled and accompanied his brother to the kitchen. His appetite had improved along with his mood when Peter came home. While they sat at the kitchen table eating some pilfered ice cream, Hutch told his brother to hold out his hand. When he did, Hutch put the class ring in it. "Peter, put it on for me. I'm glad you gave me the jacket, but you should keep the ring." His brother smiled and slipped it on his finger.
The days passed quickly. Peter and Hutch spent most of their time together. They skied and took the horses for rides. Their father had been in a bad mood since Peter arrived. While they had initially hoped to get on his good side in preparation for asking if Peter could come back home for good, the older man’s sullen behavior changed that plan. Instead, their favorite activity was snubbing their father. Both boys made a big deal of talking to their mother. Every night they went into the den and hugged her goodnight, telling her they loved her. Then they walked out without a word to their father. He was doing his best to ignore them, too.
On Christmas Eve, the senior Hutchinson had withstood his sons' silent treatment for long enough. He pulled them both into the den and sat them down for a stern discussion.
Hadn't military school changed Peter at all? What was the matter with Kenny behaving this way?
Peter started, "I'm sorry, Dad. I just don't know what to say to you. You've sent me away to a school I hate and I'm having a hard time not being mad at you."
"You have no right to be angry. The military school was for your own good, and your brother's. You know that."
Hutch screwed up enough courage to say, "But, Dad, I don't see how it helps me to lose my brother for months on end."
Their father glared at them both. This was not going well. "I expect you both to meet my standards. Peter, your behavior has had a negative influence on your brother. I can't have that."
"Dad, please, I want to come home. I know you're mad, but I hate it at the Academy. Please don't send me back after Christmas."
Mr. Hutchinson stared at his children in disbelief. Weren't they listening to him? Why couldn't either one see that he was doing what was best for them? "Kenny, I want to talk to your brother alone."
Hutch didn't want to leave the room. He was afraid they would get into another fight if he did. "No, sir. I want to stay."
His father glared at him in that way that told Hutch he was getting angry. "Kenneth, I didn't ask you what you wanted. I told you to go, now do it." The wordless exchange between brothers that followed only served to make him angrier. He hated that they were so close and he was shut out of that relationship, probably forever. Hutch understood his brother wanted him to go. This was something he had to do alone.
He left the room, but he didn't go far. Hutch could hear Peter and his father through the door. First the sound was muffled and he couldn't make out the words. He stood in front of the heavy wooden doors and rested his head on one of them straining to eavesdrop. Soon, he could hear every word.
"I've had many conversations with the Academy's administrators. You haven't changed a bit."
"Did they tell you how many times I let them beat me up before I started to fight back, Dad? Bet they didn't!"
"You aren't supposed to be fighting. You're supposed to be working on your grades and behavior. I've had to pull a lot of strings, but I've secured your place in next year's class at Harvard, now don't throw away that chance."
"Dammit, Dad! Why can't you listen to me!? I don't want the life you have planned for me. I want to be a teacher and I want to go to school here in Minnesota."
Hutch could hear his father pacing back and forth across the room with heavy steps. He would never understand why his father wanted to control their lives like he did. Why couldn’t he let them live the lives they wanted? Everything had to be perfect; everything had to be his way. His father hadn't revealed his plans for Hutch's life yet and he was dreading it.
"Peter, you are just a kid. You don't know what is best. I am older than you and I know what the world is like. You will do as you're told. In a few days, you're going back to the Academy and that's that."
"Don't you care that I can't live like that? I won't go back and you can't force me!"
Hutch flinched at those words, knowing his father would never let them pass. He heard the sound of a hard slap and he gasped. How had things gotten this bad? When they were younger, his father never hit them. For a few agonizing seconds there was silence. Then he heard his father say, "Peter, I...."
"Go to hell!" Peter shouted. Hutch stood back as he heard footsteps approaching the door. His brother flung the door open and darted through it. Hutch reached for him, but Peter easily pushed him aside and then he ran upstairs.
Hutch walked into the den to face his father. He was trembling when he said, "How could you hit him again? Can't you see what this is doing to both of you?" Tears were streaming down his face. He was not sure how things had ever gotten this bad and he wanted it to stop.
His father looked at him and said, "Your brother's attitude is the problem. I can see that having him here for Christmas was a bad idea. I had hoped he wouldn't influence you this much. I won't make this mistake again. I'll be keeping you apart for the rest of the school year. This is for your sake as well as Peter's." Then he stormed out of the room.
Hutch was devastated. He couldn't believe his father would do this to them and he was blaming himself. He slowly walked out of the den and right into his mother. She was looking at him with pain in her eyes.
He sobbed and asked her, "Where are you when they have these fights, Mom? Can't you talk to him? Why don't you stop him?"
She tried to put her arms around her youngest son, but he pushed away from her. "I'm sorry, Kenny. I can't interfere. I hope you'll understand someday, but this is between your father and Peter."
"I don't understand, Mom. I never will." Hutch turned away from her and ran up the stairs to find his brother. He knocked on Peter's door, but got a "Go away" for his trouble. "Peter, I'm coming in there," he replied. He tried the knob, but Peter had locked the door.
"Kenny, leave me alone."
"No, you open this door. I need to see you. Please, Peter." He waited a few seconds, then heard footsteps, and the key turning in the lock. The door opened and his brother said, "Suit yourself."
Peter 's cheek was bright red where their father had slapped him. Hutch felt himself getting angrier. His brother had been crying. He put his hand on Peter's shoulder and felt it stiffen. His eyes were pleading with his brother to let him into his pain. "Please, big brother, let me help."
Peter allowed his brother to pull him into an embrace and he cried on his shoulder. "Oh God, I can't stand it, Kenny. I just can't live like this anymore. You don't know what it's like for me there."
Hutch had held his brother for a long time and let him talk. He sounded so depressed. "I wish there really was something I could do. You have to hang on, Peter. The school year will be over and you can do what you want then. You'll be eighteen in May. After that, he can't make you do anything."
"I know, but where can I go? When I ran away in the summer, I had a place to go. I'm not gonna tell you where, you'll be better off if you don't know. Let's just say that isn't an option for me now. I have no choice but to do what he says. I wish I were dead."
That scared Hutch and he shook his brother by the shoulders and said, "What kind of thing is that to say? You trying to scare the shit out of me? Stop it. You just have to be strong."
"I'm sorry, Kenny. You just don't really understand how it is. I can never be good enough for him. Doesn't matter how much I try. Why don't you go now, huh? I just want to be alone for a while. Tomorrow is Christmas. Everyone will be up early. Go get some sleep."
"I think I'll stay with you, okay?"
"No, I don't want you to, Kenny. I just want to be alone. Please, it's okay."
Hutch hadn't wanted to believe his brother. He wanted to stay and make sure he was okay. He knew he was losing this one, though, and he really was just across the hall. "If you need me, come and get me, okay?"
"I will. Goodnight, Kenny. I love you."
"I love you, too. See you in the morning. I got you a really neat Christmas present!"
That at least got his brother to smile a little. Hutch could tell it wasn’t enough, but at least he had smiled. He turned away and went to his own room. That was the last time he saw his brother alive.
Starsky put down the last letter with a sigh. This was not looking good. The box contained a few letters to Mr. Hutchinson. All of them were unopened. Poor Hutch. Poor Peter. He knew their father could be a wall of ice, but how could he ignore his own son that way?
The bottom of the box contained a small wooden container. The initials PH were carved in the top. He opened the box and found two envelopes. One had “Mom and Dad” written on it. That one had been opened. The other had “Kenny” written on it and it was still sealed. Starsky did not like where he thought this was going. He thought back to the obituary he had read. People who died in skiing accidents did not leave notes. With trembling hands, he opened the letter to the Hutchinsons and started to read.
Dear Mom and Dad –
I'm sorry. I can't live like this anymore. You hate me and I hate myself.
I know that nothing I could ever do will make you love me. Dad, I told you I wouldn't go back there. Now, maybe you'll believe me. Don't let Kenny take this too hard.
Oh my God, Peter didn't die in a skiing accident, he killed himself! The signs had all been there and Starsky couldn't believe he didn't catch on sooner. He thought back to the morning they were at Jason's suicide scene. Hutch had collapsed when he saw the boy hanging there. Starsky walked to the middle of the room. Looking up at the ceiling, he was appalled at what he saw. A heavy beam stretched across the length of the bedroom and there was a fragment of a rope tied around it. The end was frayed as if someone had cut it. He sat down in the middle of the floor, his knees suddenly feeling shaky.
"Oh, God, Hutch. My God, did you find him?" he said to the empty room. A chill ran up and down his back and he felt a breeze rushing through the room. The letter he had found addressed to Hutch fluttered up on that breeze and landed in his lap.
Starsky put it in his pocket and said aloud, "All right, Peter. I'll make sure he gets it."
Then he rushed from the room to talk to Mrs. Hutchinson.
He found her still lying on the couch in the den. When she heard him rush in she said, "You know, don't you?"
"Yes, and I need answers. Hutch found Peter hanging in his room didn't he?"
When the woman refused to look at him, he grabbed her by the shoulders and gave her a gentle shake saying, "Didn't he?"
Hutch was reliving that Christmas morning in his mind. He had woken up early and gone to get his brother. When he knocked on the door, he didn't get any response. He tried to open it, but the door was locked. Hutch was starting to worry. The house had the old style skeleton-key type locks. When he tried to peek through the hole, he could tell the key was still in the door. Hutch went into his own room and got his pocketknife and piece of paper. He returned to the door, slid the paper underneath and poked at the lock with the thinnest implement on his pocketknife. After a few minutes of effort, he heard the key drop onto the paper. He slid it out under the door and used it to open the lock.
When he opened the door and stepped inside he couldn't believe what he was seeing. His brother was hanging from the heavy beam in the center of the room, an overturned chair underneath him. He stumbled closer. After several seconds he screamed in agony "Peter!" then collapsed to the floor, overcome by what he had found. As that scream from twenty years ago echoed in his mind, Hutch slid deeper into the darkness that was crowding in on him. No more images came to him, now only the blackness remained.
Mr. Hutchinson reached a hand over to touch his son. The hours of silent watching were taking their toll on him. He started to speak, "Ken, it's Dad. I don't know if you can hear me, but I hope you can. You need to wake up so we can talk. I have to explain. This is all about Peter. I know it is. I can't lose you both. Please wake up so we can talk about Peter." He brushed at his son's hair with his fingers and said again, "Please, Ken. Wake up for Peter." He looked up with alarm as Hutch's heart monitor began to go crazy. His heartbeats started to come in rapid, short pulses, then the monitor line went flat and alarms started to scream. Captain Dobey had walked in behind him just seconds before the heart monitor went nuts. He heard the “code blue” announced, followed by the sound of the crash team rushing toward the room from down the hall. Seeing that Hutch was in a full arrest, he dragged Mr. Hutchinson out of the room to give the ICU staff room to try and save him.
"Come with me. We're going to call Starsky. He needs to know what’s happening here. If he gets through this, you' re going to tell his doctors and me what you think is goin' on with Hutch. My instincts tell me you know and you're going to talk!"
When the phone rang at the Hutchinson home, Starsky had just gotten Hutch's mother to start opening up to him. She handed the phone to Starsky and said, "It's your Captain Dobey." Starsky's heart began to pound as he took the receiver.
"Cap, what's wrong?"
"Starsky, you need to come back now. He's much worse. I just walked into the ICU and his heart had stopped. They're working on him now."
"Oh, God. I'm on my way, and Cap, keep Mr. Hutchinson away from him. I think he’s at the bottom of all of this somehow and I’m afraid it could be harmful to Hutch if he’s around him."
"Okay, Starsky. Hurry."
He hung up the phone and said, "Grab a few things, we're going to the airport."
"No, David. I can't face him."
"He's dying and I still need information from you. Get your things or I'll have to drag you out of here just like you are." Starsky had no time to baby her; he needed her to move.
She reluctantly obeyed him, just taking long enough to put a few things in a small suitcase. Then she called for the driver to pick them up and take them to the airport. Hearing that her remaining son might be dying opened the floodgates and she started to talk to Starsky. He was getting the awful story from her at the same time Captain Dobey and the doctors where getting it from Mr. Hutchinson.
The doctors had managed to revive Hutch, but the situation was critical. They were concerned they would not be able to get him back if he crashed again. They needed answers and Captain Dobey was determined Mr. Hutchinson would give them all the information he had. The doctor explained, "We can't seem to find a cause for Ken's condition. From all appearances, he has retreated into his mind and is allowing himself to slip away. I have seen this before, but I don't know how to explain it. Whatever you know, you'd better tell us or we won't be able to save him."
Mr. Hutchinson sat across from the doctor with his head in his hands. "I'm so ashamed of what we did to him. You have to understand this was twenty years ago. His mother wanted it done and I went along with it. Oh God, my poor son!"
Captain Dobey was getting angry, "Dammit, tell us what you did! Help us to help him before it's too late!"
After a few seconds of silence, Mr. Hutchinson admitted the truth of what had happened. Once he started, he couldn't stop. "Kenny had an older brother, Peter. When Peter was seventeen and Kenny was fifteen, our family went through some rough times. I made a lot of bad decisions back then and they led to Peter committing suicide. He hung himself and God help him, Kenny found him on Christmas morning."
Captain Dobey interrupted him, "Why hasn't he ever said anything about having a brother? I've known him for years and he has never mentioned it."
Richard Hutchinson took a deep breath and said, "That's because he forgot."
"Forgot! How can that be?" Dobey bellowed.
The doctor put a hand up and said, "No, Captain, that's possible. If the situation was too much for him to handle, especially because he was only fifteen at the time, he may have tucked it away in his mind. So deep he didn't know it was there. His partner told me he had collapsed at the scene of a young boy's suicide by hanging. Seeing that may have triggered that tucked away memory. If it came crashing in on him suddenly, he might have reacted the same way he did when he found his brother. What happened then Mr. Hutchinson?"
"When Kenny found his brother, he collapsed. We were devastated by what Peter had done, but we were also extremely worried about Kenny. When he didn't snap out of it after a few days his mother made a decision. That's what I am so ashamed of to this day. She called a psychiatrist out to the house. Do you know what electroshock therapy is?"
The doctor turned pale, "Oh, God, they didn't do that to him, did they?"
"Yes, God forgive us. I went along with it for his mother's sake. The treatments did bring him back to us, but he had no memory of what had happened or of his brother. We were embarrassed that our child had committed suicide. I had already pulled strings to get it declared an accidental death while skiing. When Kenny couldn't remember anything, I packed every trace of his brother up in his room and locked the door. The only thing I couldn't put away was the letterman's jacket. Kenny had put that on the morning I locked everything away. I couldn't take it from him and he didn't seem to remember that it had been Peter's anyway. That room hasn't been touched in twenty years. Kenny never remembered and I thought that was best. After all this time, I had no idea something like this could happen. What can we do?"
Captain Dobey said to the doctor, "I don't understand. I know what electroshock therapy is, but explain to me what happened because of it?"
"We call it Electroconvulsive Therapy today. As barbaric as it sounds, the treatment was commonly used in the 1950s and 1960s for everything from depression to schizophrenia. I'm sure Ken's doctor thought he was doing the right thing for him. One of the problems with it is that zapping the brain with that much electricity can cause retrograde amnesia. A patient can forget an event, a person, or everything. The treatment probably helped Ken to tuck away this painful memory, but now it's killing him. At least I know what has caused this now. We'll keep treating him with medication and monitoring his condition, but I'm afraid it's up to him if he comes back to us or not. I know his partner would want to be here, in case we lose him. Has someone called him?"
Captain Dobey assured him Starsky was on his way and the meeting ended. After the doctor left them, Mr. Hutchinson announced that he had better return to Hutch's room.
The captain put a hand on his arm, shook his head and said, "No. You'd better go take a break now. I'll go stay with him until Starsky arrives."
"Captain Dobey, I appreciate your concern, but he is my son. I need to be with him."
"Mr. Hutchinson, Starsky specifically asked me to keep you out of there. He said he thought you were to blame for this and that it might be harmful to your son to have you there. I'm sorry, but I think we should honor Starsky's wishes. He knows your son better than you do. He knows him better than anyone else on Earth and you'd be wise to listen."
"Very well. I'll be in the cafeteria. Call me if anything happens."
When Mrs. Hutchinson admitted to Starsky what they had done, including the electroshock therapy, he was even more panicked about his partner. At the hospital he hurried her into an elevator, unwilling to leave her to go up to the ICU alone while he ran up the stairs.
Walking into Hutch's room, they found Captain Dobey maintaining a tense vigil. Hutch was not doing well, though he had not coded again. Starsky went in and touched his partner; as if he needed to be sure he was still there. Then he motioned for Captain Dobey to step outside the room with him, leaving Hutch alone with his mother.
"I'm glad you're here. He's been the same since they got his heart started again. Dave, did his mother tell you what they did to him?"
Starsky was still enraged by her revelation. "Yes, dammit. I know it was a long time ago, but, my God! She said their family never was any good at handling anything emotional."
He reached into his jacket and pulled out the letter. "Cap, Peter left this for Hutch. He never opened it and they must have packed it away with the rest of Peter's things. I think I should open it and read it. If it would help, I could read it to him. What do you think?"
Dobey thought about it for a moment. "Maybe, but it could also make matters worse. When his heart stopped, I had just walked into the room. Mr. Hutchinson was talking to him, telling him how he wanted Hutch to wake up so they could talk about Peter. I just wish they could have told us about this in the beginning instead of pulling the whole Cloak and Dagger number!"
One of the nurses looked up from her desk and shushed them. They waved at her apologetically and moved farther away from the patient area.
"Starsky, open it up and let's see if it will help."
"Okay. I feel like I'm steppin’ into somethin’ very private in this whole situation, especially reading this letter, but it has to be done."
He carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the letter inside. He also found a small photo of Peter and Hutch together in the envelope.
Dear Kenny –
By the time you read this I’ll be gone. I'm really sorry I had to leave you. I locked the door so you couldn't just walk in here. I want Dad to find me and he has the only other key. I hope you can forgive me for this and I want you to know that Dad is wrong. None of this has ever had anything to do with you. I know how you are. You take things to heart too much. You blame yourself for everything. Well, little brother, you can't blame yourself for my death. I just can't live this way anymore. He has my whole life planned for me and I feel like I can't ever be enough for him. I'll just fail if I try to do what he wants. I can't live with that. Maybe he'll see that you can't make people be who you want them to be. When you do that, maybe there's nothing left for them to hold onto. That's how I feel. Well, he can't hurt me anymore.
I love you, Kenny. Please be strong and don't let him push you around like he did me. Live your life like you want. I'll be watching you.
Starsky was crying quietly when he folded it up and put it back in the envelope. Dobey had tears in his eyes, thinking of his own young son and how he would feel if something happened to Cal.
"You know, Starsky, suicide is not that uncommon for teenagers. They’re young and impetuous. Sometimes they do things on the spur of the moment that can't be undone. If only they had let Hutch deal with it then."
Both men stood in somber silence for a few moments while Starsky decided what to do next.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Hutchinson was sitting next to her son in his room. She was holding his hand and it felt much too cold. "Kenny, it's Mom. Honey, can you hear me? Oh, Kenny, what have I done to you? I'm so sorry. I know I should have let you deal with things. This is my fault." She hung her head, ashamed of herself and afraid of what her actions all those years ago were doing to her son.
Then Starsky and Captain Dobey were standing in the doorway. "Mrs. Hutchinson, Captain Dobey is going to take you down to the cafeteria. Mr. Hutchinson is down there. I need some time alone with my partner."
She didn't want to leave, but she agreed. How could she say no to the man who had looked after her son for so many years? She knew she needed to trust him.
After she left, Starsky took her place beside his best friend. He held his hand and started to speak. "Hey, buddy, I'm here. I'm sorry I was gone for a while, but I'm back now. Took me a little while to figure out what’s goin' on here but I think I know."
While he was talking, Starsky looked up at the monitors to watch for any changes. He was worried when Captain Dobey told him Mr. Hutchinson had just said something about Peter when Hutch crashed the last time.
"Buddy, I have some things to tell you. I believe you can hear me. First, I love you. That never changes. I need you and I want you to get better. This thing that happened was a long time ago. That don't make it any easier, I know. When you wake up and you're feelin' better we can work together to get through this. I'll help you. Hutch, I know all about Peter. I know about what happened. Please come back to me so I can help you understand it, too."
Hutch had drifted in darkness since his mind had replayed the morning he found his brother dead. Now he felt a gentle tug, pulling him up toward life and light. The dark was safer, but the tug was a comfortable voice. Was the voice Peter? No, Peter was gone. He turned away from the voice back toward the darkness.
The heart monitor was showing a drop in Hutch's heart rate and Starsky was scared. "Hutch, listen to me, don't you go nowhere! I mean it. I can't let you. You have so much to do and Peter wouldn't want you to die. I swear he wouldn't. He loved you, maybe as much as I do. I know he didn't mean to hurt you like this, he was just in a lot of pain himself. Peter was a kid, confused, hurt, and scared. You couldn't have done anything to help him through that. You were just a kid too. If anyone is to blame it's your parents. They know it, too. They feel terrible."
Starsky just kept talking and holding tightly onto Hutch's hand, stroking his hair and willing him back to consciousness. He was crying and he put his head down on the bed next to Hutch's hand. "Oh God, Hutch, I don't know how to help you. Please don't die on me. You can't. Please, God, don't die." He had never felt more helpless. If Hutch slipped away from him how could he stop it? How could he stand it if he lost his partner to something that happened twenty years in the past?
He picked his head up, making the split second decision that he had to read Hutch Peter's letter. "I have somethin' for you. This is a letter your parents didn't let you see. Peter left it for you. I'm gonna read it to you. Don't know if that's the right thing to do, but I'm takin' a chance here, buddy."
Starsky took a deep breath and read the letter to his best friend. Please, God, let this be the right thing. I need your help!
When he was done reading, he stared at his best friend's face. He put his hand on Hutch's chest and said, "I'm right here, buddy. Give me a sign, huh? Please?" That's when he saw tears slide out from under Hutch's closed eyes. "Oh, God, you can hear me! Come on, buddy. Wake up, I'll be right here. I swear I'm not goin' nowhere. I'll be with you every step of the way."
Hutch's heart rate was coming back up and his breathing seemed a little less shallow. Starsky was afraid to hope he had made a difference, but it looked like he had. He sat and waited for his friend to come back to him. He put his head down on the bed again and slipped into a restless sleep.
He never heard anyone come into the room, but Starsky was roused from his sleep by a hand on his shoulder. Captain Dobey gave his shoulder a gentle shake and said, "Dave, wake up."
Starsky's head shot up and he said, "Damn, I fell asleep. He okay?" When he looked over at his partner, he was rewarded by two bright blue eyes looking back at him. "You're awake! Thank God!" He smiled at Hutch, but Hutch didn't smile back. He just stared past him.
"Hutch, talk to me, buddy." No answer. "Hey, Blondie, you're scarin' me. Answer me, will ya? I've been here waiting for ya for a long time now." Hutch just continued to stare. He was awake, but he wasn't there.
"Cap, get a doctor in here."
The doctor sat a larger group down to discuss Hutch’s condition this time. The group included Starsky, Captain Dobey, the Hutchinsons, and Huggy Bear. Poor Huggy had been away from home for a few days. When he returned he had tried to call both Starsky and Hutch at their homes and at work with no response. When he called the precinct to ask for Captain Dobey, he was told the captain was at the hospital. Huggy didn’t have to ask whom he was seeing, he knew and headed straight down there.
“I am happy to report his physical condition is stable for now. He's very weak and I'd like his lab numbers to be better, but I'm pleased overall."
Huggy interrupted him, "I'm sorry doc, maybe it ain't my place to say, but why is he just starin' into space like that? When will he really wake up?"
The doctor sighed and looked at the worried faces of the man's extended family. What a diverse group of people loved this patient. He was saddened by the thought that Ken Hutchinson must be a special person and he was still slipping away from his loved ones.
"I wish I could tell you that. I can help keep him stable, but as for the other... I'm open to suggestions."
The group sat in silence for a few moments. Hutch's mother sniffing and occasionally blotting her reddened eyes with a handkerchief, his father sullen and stoic, Captain Dobey looking tired and lost, Huggy staring at the doctor willing him to tell them what to do, and Starsky fidgeting in his seat. Starsky looked weary and had dark circles under his eyes. He had been going almost nonstop without any real rest since his partner collapsed. The days of sleeping in chairs and airplane seats were wearing on him and his nerves were raw.
He snapped everyone back to reality when he said, "We can't just sit here! Hutch needs our help. He's come a long way back and now we need to help him come all the way home." On that last word Starsky stopped abruptly. "Home. That's it! Doc, Hutch needs to go home."
The doctor shook his head and replied, "I don't recommend that. He has just stabilized from a serious state, leaving the hospital too soon could kill him."
"Leaving him like this will kill him, Doc. Don't you see? Maybe if Hutch went back to his parent's house, he could work through it in his mind and come back to us."
The doctor shook his head. "I understand what you're getting at, David. I just don't know how much he can withstand physically. You might be right but you might be making it worse."
The Hutchinsons looked at each other and nodded. His dad said, "I think David is right, Doctor. We should have let him deal with this loss twenty years ago. We will take him home and see if we can help him do it now."
Starsky snapped at him, "Glad you agree with me, but you're not goin' without me."
"David, this is a family matter. We'll handle it."
"Oh, no you don't! First off, 'cause you can't. I know you're next of kin and all, but I have Power of Attorney. Hutch would want me there. After everything you've done to him, if you think I'd let you take him out of here without me you're both out of your minds. I'm coming or he isn't."
Everyone was shocked at the vehemence of Starsky's words. No one doubted that he would do anything to protect Hutch, even if it meant defying his parents’ wishes. He continued, "I'm not done yet. If this doesn't work, Hutch comes back here with me. I'll take care of him and get him back on his feet, no matter how long it takes. You agree, or I still won't let him go."
Mr. Hutchinson looked angry, but resolved. "David seems to have his mind made up, so I guess we have no choice but to agree."
Starsky nodded and stood up, "You have some arrangements to make, and I need to get back to my partner. I'll be in Hutch's room. Let me know what you decide." He looked at Huggy and Dobey, hoping they would read his unspoken thoughts like Hutch would have. Starsky wanted them to stay and make sure Mr. Hutchinson kept up his part of the agreement. His Captain nodded at him and Huggy smiled, the message was received.
When he returned to Hutch's side, Starsky found his partner asleep. He sat down with him and patted him on the hand. "Hutch? Buddy? You okay?" Even though Starsky could tell the difference between unconscious and sleeping, seeing Hutch so still unnerved him. He wanted desperately for the blond to wake up and say anything to him. He hoped he was doing the right thing, but he somehow knew Hutch could not make it all the way back from the brink until he had stood on its precipice. That meant going back to Minnesota, and standing in Peter's room.
Some time later, Mr. Hutchinson appeared in the doorway, motioning for Starsky to join him there. He was still keeping his distance from his son. "Everything is arranged, David. You, Helen, and I will take him on a chartered plane tomorrow morning. The doctor is arranging for a nurse to go with us, just in case something happens." He didn't look angry anymore.
Starsky nodded and returned to Hutch's side. Huggy came and sat with Hutch for a while so Starsky could go home to shower and get some clean clothes, then he swung by Hutch's place and picked up some clothes for him. On a hunch, he stuffed the letterman's jacket in his own bag. When he returned to the hospital, he managed to get in a few hours of upright sleep, sitting in the chair next to Hutch's bed.
Hutch's doctor did not approve of checking his fragile patient out of the hospital directly from the ICU for a long plane ride. He also knew he didn't have a better plan, so he had agreed to it. Starsky had promised him he would let him know what happened. He watched in worried silence as Detective Starsky and Mr. Hutchinson helped his patient into the waiting limousine. He hoped they knew what they were doing.
The flight to Minnesota was tense. The Hutchinsons didn't speak a word the entire time. Starsky sat next to his best friend, his arm around his shoulders speaking quiet, comforting words to him when he was awake. Mr. Hutchinson glared at him most of the time, but Starsky ignored it.
The nurse checked Hutch frequently. He seemed to be maintaining. Starsky thought he was too cold and he did his best to warm him up by putting an extra blanket on him and rubbing his arms while he talked. More glares from Mr. Hutchinson. After what seemed like an eternity of worry and shared intimidation between Hutch's father and Starsky, the plane landed and they were climbing into another limousine for the long ride out to the estate. Starsky kept himself between Hutch and his parents all the time. He didn't care how angry they were. He would not permit them to do anything else to hurt his best friend. Not that it looked like they would, but Starsky was ready for them if they tried anything.
Hutch stared out the window in silence. His eyes were blank, glazed. Starsky had never seen his friend look so far away. When they pulled up to the house, he started watching Hutch even closer, ready to step in if things started to get to be too much for him. So far though, his friend had barely blinked, much less shown any signs of recognition or distress.
Starsky put Hutch's arm over his shoulders and helped him out of the car and onto his feet. Hutch stood beside him, Starsky's arm around his waist supporting his weight. "Come on, buddy. We need to go inside now. Try to walk with me."
Hutch's face didn't change at all, but he obeyed his partner. He started to walk on very unsteady legs toward his childhood home. They made it across the drive and up the stairs to the porch before Starsky sensed a change in Hutch. When they walked in through the front door he started to tremble and sag against Starsky.
Starsky scanned the room for a chair and mostly carried his partner to it. Gently putting Hutch down in the chair, he stood back while the nurse checked him. His face was flush, perspiration breaking out on it and his skin was clammy. She was ready to ask for a phone to call the doctor, putting an end to this dangerous stunt, but Starsky argued with her. "No, we can't stop now. Please, just let it go awhile. I'm watching him. Please, I'm afraid he'll never come back if we don't finish this." She stood back but still told Starsky he didn't have much time before she would have to give Hutch a sedative to calm him down again. He might not be moving much, but he was agitated. She was afraid his heart couldn't take the strain.
Starsky watched Hutch look around the room. His breathing was shallow and fast. Whatever his friend was looking at, Starsky knew it was not in the present. His face paled perceptibly and he struggled to regain his feet. Starsky helped him up, supporting his weight but letting Hutch lead the way. He found himself walking toward the den. The dark wooden doors were closed and Hutch stopped in front of them, laying his hands on the wood and leaning his head down as if he were listening to something.
Hutch's parents had hung back so far, almost afraid to say anything. They wanted their son back and they knew his partner didn't trust them in this situation. His mother wanted to take her son in her arms and make everything go away. She knew she couldn't.
Mr. Hutchinson couldn't stand being shut out like this one more minute. He wanted to help and he knew what his son must be remembering. He stepped toward them and said, "Kenny...." The instant he heard his father's voice, Hutch's head turned toward him with a look of anger and fear in his eyes. He struggled free from Starsky's grasp and pushed past his father, stumbling toward the staircase. Starsky had no idea where that burst of energy had come from but it frightened him. Richard Hutchinson was a much larger man than Starsky. That didn't stop him from getting right in his face and yelling "Stay away from him! I'll handle this!"
Starsky ran after Hutch who had only made it up a few steps before he tripped and slid back down to the bottom of the staircase. The nurse was asking Mrs. Hutchinson for the phone, but Mr. Hutchinson ran toward the nurse and threatened to lock her in a room if she attempted to interfere. He was frightened by what he had just seen, and angry that Starsky was so forcefully shutting him out in his own home, but he knew in his heart that they had to finish. He stood between the nurse and his wife and said, "Let them go. David is right."
Starsky reached for his best friend and said, "I'm right here buddy, I'll help you. Come on Hutch, let me help you up." He got no response again and on a hunch he decided to try a different tack, "Kenny, let me help you."
His hunch was sound, Hutch wasn't Hutch when these events took place, he was Kenny. Starsky realized he was talking to his best friend when he was a scared fifteen-year-old. Hutch looked up at him and let Starsky help him to his feet. Together, they turned and started to climb the stairs. By the time they reached the top, Hutch had used up almost every bit of strength he had. He was barely able to move when he reached the door to Peter's room. His hand reached for it, shaking so badly Starsky knew he'd never be able to turn the knob. Starsky reached over and turned it, but he let Hutch push the door open himself. He said a silent prayer as he helped Hutch walk into the room Dear God, please help me. If this is too much for him I'll never forgive myself. Please, God. Help him.
The room was as cold as an igloo. Soft afternoon light filtered through the still open shutters but the windows where all closed. Starsky thought he could feel a presence in the room, but couldn't concentrate on that, he had to watch his partner. Hutch took a few hesitant steps into the room, his eyes riveted on the beam in the ceiling. He was shaking his head back and forth and tears where streaming down his face. Several seconds went by and then he screamed his brother's name. He hadn't made a sound since he had regained consciousness and it took Starsky by surprise. He watched helplessly as Hutch's eyes rolled up and he collapsed. This time, Starsky was there to catch him and gently ease him down to the floor.
“Oh, God, Hutch, what have I done?” Starsky laid Hutch’s head on his lap and yelled for the nurse to come upstairs. He felt for Hutch’s pulse and found it rapid, but stronger than he had feared. He held onto his partner and said, "Please be okay, buddy. Stay with me now." Hutch's parents and the nurse entered the room. The nurse knelt down beside them, taking Hutch’s vital signs. “He’s okay,” she said. “Looks like he just fainted. Is there somewhere comfortable we can take him to lie down?”
Hutch's father nodded, "Let's take him into his old room." While Mrs. Hutchinson went to open the room, Mr. Hutchinson knelt down next to the two younger men. Starsky glared at him, ready to wave him off, but he stopped when the older man put a hand on his shoulder. "David, you're exhausted. Please let me help. I'll be careful with him."
Starsky nodded and watched as Mr. Hutchinson picked his partner up off the floor and carried him out of the room. He couldn't help but be impressed at the older man's strength. Must be those Viking genes. He also thought that Hutch's dad possibly could clean his clock if he wanted to, despite the fact he was nearly 30 years Starsky's senior.
After wearily climbing to his feet, Starsky followed Mr. Hutchinson into Hutch's old room across the hall. The nurse was getting ready to give Hutch a sedative injection when Starsky objected. "Hey, do ya have to do that?"
"The doctor wrote orders for me to give the patient a sedative if he became too agitated or his pulse rate was too fast. Maybe a few hours of deep sleep will help."
Starsky nodded his okay and she gave the injection. The nurse could not remember ever seeing a family member more protective of a loved one. She couldn't help but think that these two men must share an extraordinary friendship and she hoped things would be okay.
This day had taken an emotional toll on Starsky. Hutch's father looked over at him, seeing the pale face and shaking hands. "David, come with me. We'll go down to the kitchen and get something for you to eat." Starsky shook his head, ready to object that he couldn't leave Hutch, but Mr. Hutchinson put his finger up in the same gesture his partner used as a warning or "back off" sign. "David, come on now. The nurse said Ken would be sleeping for a few hours. Come with me before you collapse too. Helen will stay with Ken. We need to talk, and we can't do it here."
Starsky looked at Hutch's mother, settling herself on the edge of the bed and taking Hutch's hand. She glanced up at him and told him with her eyes that it was okay for him to go. Okay, so he gets the strength from his dad and that psychic empathy thing from his mom. "I'll be back in a little while. Come and get me if he needs me."
Hutch's father was afraid Starsky might fall down the stairs he was so exhausted by everything that had happened. He knew the dark-haired man wouldn't accept his help, so he just positioned himself in front of Starsky on the stairs in case he fell.
When they were seated at the kitchen table, Starsky attempting to eat the roast beef sandwich Mr. Hutchinson had made him, the older man began to speak.
"David, I have some things to tell you. I know you figured out what happened so long ago on your own, using the clues I gave you and the things in Peter's room. I'm sorry I couldn't just tell you about it, but until this past few days I have been unable to face what happened. Unlike Ken, the memory of that horrible time was not denied me. I just chose to ignore it. You probably think that's terrible, but it is the only way I knew how to deal with it. My wife wouldn't talk to me about it and Kenny couldn't. Incredibly, Kenny's sister showed little grief or feeling when Peter died. I couldn't talk to her either."
Mr. Hutchinson continued at length, explaining to Starsky about Peter's problems in school, his drinking, the fight at the lake house, and how Peter ran away for several weeks in the summer before he sent him to the military school.
Starsky listened with interest. Some things he just hadn't been able to work out with the clues at hand. As Hutch's father talked, Starsky began to see some of the pieces of the puzzle of Hutch's life begin to click. After Mr. Hutchinson explained about Peter's "questionable" friends, he thought he understood why the man had such unfounded concerns about his relationship with Hutch. No wonder he has always questioned Hutch so pointedly about the nature of our relationship. Starsky didn't have the energy to be angry with him for that. He found himself feeling sorry for this man whose feelings were so well controlled most of the time he might as well have had a heart of ice. He wondered how painful that must be.
As Hutch's father continued to speak, Starsky became aware of some new impressions of the man. His words were logical, considered, and evenly paced. Starsky was a savvy investigator, though, and an expert at reading between the lines in someone's testimony about an event. The man sitting opposite from him felt guilty. He was almost overcome with the guilt, even though it didn't show in the same way it would on an outwardly emotional person.
"David, I owe you an apology on several levels. Until this incident, I never realized why Ken cares so deeply for you. I have never seen anyone more devoted to a friend than what I have seen in you over the past few days. Even still, you don't want to sleep or leave my son's side for a minute in case he needs you."
He went on to explain how he had come to realize that he was jealous of Ken and Peter's relationship. They were close to each other, but not to him. The brothers shared that same unspoken communication and bond that his son now shared with Starsky.
"David, I'm afraid I haven't been a good father. I destroyed Peter's life, God forgive me. I hope you believe me when I tell you how much I loved my son. My own father was never demonstrative and I wasn't either. My children were afraid of me and I'm sure I never thought I could or should change that. I lost my chance with Peter by driving him to the brink of disaster only I couldn't see it. Dear God how many nights I have lain awake thinking about what I might have done differently. I thought about the pressure I had always put on Peter, but I never seemed to worry about how that pressure affected Ken. When Peter died, I transferred all of my hopes for him onto Ken. That wasn't right and I am amazed at my own stupidity for not learning from my mistake. Maybe that's the way it is when you can never believe you are wrong."
Starsky sat absent-mindedly playing with the ice cubes floating in the glass of soda he was drinking. He could barely stand to look at Hutch's father as he opened up to him. The man may never have poured his heart out to anyone like this.
"I know I was not very nice to you on the way here. I hope you understand how angry I was at you for being able to help my son when I couldn't. Do you have any idea how it felt to know that my presence might have pushed him into cardiac arrest? My words hurting him so badly he almost died right in front of me? Then, you were there and you seemed to know what was the best thing to do for him. I wished it could be me and I was angry with you for knowing him better than I do. He seemed more at peace as soon as you were with him. I envy you that."
Starsky couldn't bear to let the man think it was entirely his fault. He had been on the edge, too. "Please, sir, you weren't the only one who was angry. I won't lie to you, I'm furious over this entire incident. What you and your wife did was foolish, even if it was twenty years ago. I'm sorry if that seems harsh, but you see I am a little overprotective where your son is concerned. I would do anything for him – even die to protect him. He and I lay our lives on the line for each other every time we show up for work. As much as it would hurt me to lose him, if it happened on the street, doing what we do, that'd be easier to take than this. I'm afraid we are still not out of it with him. We don't know what's gonna happen when he wakes up this time. I just pray I didn't make it worse. That might kill me."
The two men regarded each other with a new sense of tolerance and understanding. Mr. Hutchinson continued, "David, I love my son. I'm making you two promises. The first is that I'll never underestimate you again. No matter what happens, you did your best and I am grateful for it. Second, if he gets through this, I'm going to make peace with my son. I really do want him to know that I love him. I'd like us to be friends."
This was probably the most reflective and self-revealing conversation Mr. Hutchinson had ever had. Starsky extended his hand to him. They shook hands in a silent pact to do what was best for Hutch. Starsky could live with that.
When Starsky tried to stand, he found he had stiffened up while sitting there. "David, why don't you let me help you get up to the guest room? You could use some sleep."
"No, just help me get back to Hutch. I'll sleep there."
Starsky allowed Hutch's father to help him up the stairs. Then he waited while Mr. Hutchinson brought him a sleeping bag, some blankets, and some pillows so he could stake out a spot on the floor next to Hutch's bed. Starsky was almost asleep before he lay down on the makeshift bed. Mr. Hutchinson collected his wife, asked the nurse to keep an eye on Starsky too and left the two younger men to sleep.
Both men slept for hours. Starsky woke late in the evening and immediately checked on his partner. Hutch was still sleeping, but it was a restless sleep. He was talking in his sleep while he tossed and turned. The only thing he said was repeated every few minutes, “Why?”
Starsky was hoping to coax his best friend awake. He sat down next to Hutch and took his hand. “Hey, buddy, why don’t you wake up for me now?” Hutch seemed like he might be responding. His eyelids fluttered a little and then he gave Starsky’s hand an almost imperceptible squeeze. “Hutch, come on now. Open your eyes, buddy.”
Hutch’s eyes opened and he looked at his partner. Starsky was relieved to see recognition in those eyes. After several long blinks, Hutch quietly said, “Starsk?”
Starsky smiled at him and said, “Do you know where you are, buddy?”
Hutch shook his head from side to side. Then he looked around the room, the realization that he was in his old room at his parent’s home hitting him hard. He had a shocked look on his face. “Why are we here, Starsk?”
Mr. Hutchinson had brought Starsky’s bag up to the room while he was sleeping. He got into the bag, bringing out the letterman’s jacket. He laid it on his partner’s chest and said, “Don’t you remember, Hutch?” Starsky was nervous. What if Hutch had just forgotten again? This whole exercise would be worthless and Hutch would still be in danger. He was hoping the jacket would bring things back to his partner.
Starsky knew he had hit his mark when Hutch turned pale and said, “Oh, God, Peter!” He closed his eyes and Starsky was afraid he was retreating again. “Hey! Don’t you drop out on me again. Open your eyes, buddy.”
Hutch obeyed him. Then he weakly put his arms up for Starsky to hold him. When he was safely in his partner’s embrace, Hutch sobbed as if his heart was broken. Starsky hadn’t seen him so upset since Gillian died. He cried and said things like, “How could I forget my own brother, Starsky? I loved him, he was everything to me when I was a kid. How could I?” Starsky just held onto him and let him talk. He said a silent prayer of thanks that it looked like they were on the road to recovery for Hutch.
In a while, Hutch wound down a little and was lying back against the headboard. He held the jacket against his chest, his intense blue eyes reflecting a deep level of anguish. Starsky read sadness and confusion in his eyes.
The nurse touched Starsky’s shoulder, “Why don’t you let me check him out. I’ll only be a minute.”
Starsky moved and let the nurse take Hutch’s pulse and blood pressure. She seemed satisfied as she turned to him with a smile and said, “Better. Much better.” She went back to her chair and her book, letting the two friends get back to their conversation.
“I don’t understand, Starsk? What’s happening to me? What are we doing here?”
Starsky fidgeted a little, unsure of what his next move should be. Deciding it would be best to let Hutch take the lead, he asked, “What’s the last thing you remember?”
Hutch looked down at the jacket in his hands and said, “I remember walking out of the coffee shop. I tossed my jacket into the back of your car. I remember cruising our beat and that we went to answer a call. That’s it.” He shook his head as if he was trying to clear the cobwebs from his memory.
Starsky gently explained everything that had happened since they walked into the scene at that young man’s suicide. Hutch listened intently, visibly struggling to comprehend it all. “The doc thought you seein’ that kid hangin’ there like that must have sorta unstuck the memory of what happened with Peter.”
The reality of what had happened in the past few days was almost too much for Hutch to hear. Starsky had been running for days trying to solve the mystery of what was happening to him. “You mean you’ve been running back and forth between home and Minnesota trying to figure all of this out since I went into the hospital? No wonder you look so tired.”
Starsky smiled at him, “Don’t worry about that, Blintz. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
“Thanks, partner. Now, I want to go back to Peter’s room. Help me up, okay?”
Starsky didn’t want his friend to have a setback when he was finally awake and coherent. “Uh, are you sure that’s a good idea? You didn’t react too good the first time we went in there.”
Of course, Hutch didn’t remember that. He knew he had to go back in there and face it, though. “I’m okay now, buddy. I need to do it. Please?”
“Sure, you’re at your peak. Still, I’m sure you won’t mind if I keep and eye on you in there.”
Hutch nodded his agreement. Starsky helped him up and they went across the hall to Peter’s room. Thankfully, this time Hutch was able to go in without any negative consequences. The pain was still there, but he was in control again. He looked at Peter’s things, a flood of memories returning as a result. The photo album provided many clues to Hutch’s missing past. “Starsk, I can’t believe I forgot all about him when I loved him so much.”
“Buddy, you didn’t just forget, more like those memories where stolen from you. None of this is your fault.”
When Hutch finished looking at the photos, Starsky decided it was time for his friend to get some food into his system. He was looking pretty shaky and Starsky wanted him to regain some strength. “Hutch, you gotta eat something, buddy. Come on, I’m gonna help you downstairs to the kitchen so we can see if there’s something you can eat.” Hutch nodded, unsure he could keep anything down but feeling hungry anyway.
Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson were sitting at the kitchen table when Starsky walked Hutch into the room. Hutch stopped in the doorway, seemingly unsure whether or not to go forward. A part of him wanted Starsky to take him out of the house and he’d never look back again. He stood there silently looking at his parents until his mother got up, walked over to him, and put her arms around him. When he returned her hug, Starsky finally began to relax a little. He watched her lead Hutch to a chair next to his father and then get to work heating up some soup for her son.
Richard Hutchinson put a hand on his son’s shoulder and said, “It’s good to see you awake, son. You gave us quite a scare. How do you feel?”
Starsky was glad to see Hutch accept his father’s gesture without flinching or pulling away from him. He simply answered, “Tired.” He closed his eyes and put his head down a little.
Knowing what had to happen next and wanting to allow it to happen were conflicting things for Starsky. Hutch and his parents needed to talk, alone. He looked at the three of them and said, “I don’t know how you do this in your family, but mine always hashed things out at the kitchen table. I think maybe you three need to talk alone for a while.”
Hutch looked up at him with pleading eyes. Starsky returned his glance and said, “You okay, buddy?” His eyes were sending a reassuring message to his partner. “I’m gonna go back upstairs now. I’ll be right up there if you need me.” Hutch nodded. Starsky swallowed his trepidation and left the room.
Hutch and his parents had a long, serious talk. He couldn’t remember his father ever admitting to him that he had been wrong about something. His tone was full of remorse. Hutch’s heart went out to him, imagining what it must have been like to know he had driven his own son to such a desperate act. Then, years later, he almost lost his other son to the same set of events. For the first time in his adult life, he saw his father as a person with feelings, a history, and issues of his own. The long process of healing and forgiveness was begun between them that night.
As for his mother, she felt so guilty about things she could barely speak to her son. He loved her and he knew she must have thought letting him forget Peter was the right thing to do, even if her actions had terrible consequences.
At first, Starsky didn’t make it up the stairs. Instead, he sat at the bottom listening to the conversation in the kitchen. He wanted to be close to Hutch in case he needed him. As the minutes ticked by he realized everything would be okay and he went on up to get a little more sleep.
The next day, Mr. Hutchinson arranged a flight for Starsky, Hutch, and the nurse to return to Bay City that afternoon. Starsky spoke with the doctor who was happy to hear that things had worked out for his patient. He advised Starsky to keep Hutch quiet and resting for another week and asked him to bring Hutch by his office when they returned from Minnesota. Starsky also called Huggy to let him know everything was going to be fine, and Captain Dobey to fill him in and ask for some time off for Hutch to recuperate. Starsky promised to come by the precinct and pick up some paperwork he could take home to work on while he kept an eye on his partner.
Before they went to the airport, Hutch asked his father to take them to the cemetery. He wanted to see Peter’s grave. He read the simple grave marker out loud:
He was comforted by it. A small bouquet of flowers was setting there at the grave. Mr. Hutchinson told Starsky that his wife had made sure there were flowers there every week for the past twenty years.
The ride to the airport was just as quiet as the ride in had been. Hutch seemed okay, but still sad and lost in his own thoughts. The Hutchinsons looked relieved that everything was out in the open and that Hutch was going to be all right. Starsky was still tired and anxious to get his best friend home where he could have some peaceful rest for a few days. He knew it would take a long time for Hutch to heal from this ordeal.
Hutch’s parents hugged him goodbye, wishing him well and asking him to please not be a stranger. They agreed to come out to California for Thanksgiving that year. That would be much less painful for Hutch than if he came to Minnesota.
Mr. Hutchinson held out his hand to Starsky, but he didn’t stop at a handshake. He pulled Starsky into a hug, completely taking him by surprise. He whispered to him, “Thank you for saving my son, David. I know I’ve been given another chance with him and I promise you I won’t blow it.” Starsky returned his hug and said, “You’re welcome and I’m glad you feel that way.”
The doctor said Hutch was getting better and he should be fine in a few days. He suggested Hutch see a counselor for the psychological part of his healing. Hutch smiled at him and told him his partner was good for that.
Starsky took his partner home and stayed with him while he was off work. He made sure Hutch rested enough and got him to start eating again. Huggy brought them dinner every night for the first few days. Then Hutch felt good enough to come down to The Pits for some pool and conversation. Starsky dropped Hutch off, telling him he’d be back in a few minutes. He needed to go to the precinct and drop off the files he’d been working on that day. Huggy was happy to keep Hutch company for a while. He was glad his friend was on the mend.
When Starsky got back to The Pits, the three men shared a relaxing dinner. Starsky even eased up on his mother hen routine enough to let Hutch have a beer. Later in the evening, Hutch and Huggy sat back watching Starsky hustle some kid in a game of pool. Hutch smiled, glad his friend was having some fun for the first time in almost two weeks.
“You know, Hug, he amazes me. He’s always there for me, but this time, he really had a mystery on his hands.”
“When it comes to you, Blondie, that man would go to any length. You know that.”
When they returned to Venice Place, Starsky put his hand on Hutch’s shoulder as he opened the front door and said, “Uh, I made some home improvements a while ago when I said I went to the precinct. I hope you approve.”
Hutch was curious. When he opened the door he looked around for what his partner was getting at. He noticed right away that Starsky had come back to the apartment and put up some pictures of Peter and Hutch in nice wooden frames. “Your mom sent them, they came in the mail today. She thought you should have them and I wanted to surprise you. Is it okay?”
Hutch smiled and said, “Yeah, buddy, it’s more than okay. This really means a lot to me. Thanks.”
Hutch’s mom had also sent the photo album. He was glad she had given it to him. Now at least he’d have something to look at when he was missing his brother.
“Starsky, you would have liked Peter. He was a lot like you.”
Puzzled, Starsky replied, “Oh yeah, how?”
“Oh, in a lotta ways. He was a prankster and he had a good sense of humor. But mostly because he and I had that connection, like we do. We didn’t even have to talk a lot of the time. We just knew what each other was thinking.”
Starsky knew how much Hutch had loved his brother. He felt honored to be compared to him. This past two weeks had revealed some things to him about Hutch. Now he knew why Hutch hated Christmas so much. He made a promise to himself to make Christmas special for Hutch this year. He also knew why Hutch’s father seemed to resent him so much and they had made their peace. These revelations had come at a heavy price, but he was glad he knew.
They had to be at work the next day and it was getting late. Hutch said, “Starsk, we have to be at work early tomorrow and it's my first day back so I want us both to be rested. Why don’t you go home and get a good night’s sleep in your own bed tonight?”
“You sure you’ll be okay tonight?”
“I’m fine now. I promise. Go on home, ‘kay?”
Starsky agreed, thinking it really would be nice after almost two weeks of sleeping in chairs, on floors, and then on Hutch’s couch. “You call me if you need anything.”
Hutch stood at the window and watched Starsky pull away in the Torino. He smiled to himself and said out loud, “Well, Peter, I can’t think of him as the brother I never had anymore. Now I have to think of him as being like the brother I did have. I miss you.” He turned and walked over to the couch where he sat down and looked through the photo album again. As he looked at the pictures he thought about a favorite poem by Robert Frost called “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” He went to his bookshelf to find it in one of his poetry books. He read it out loud for himself, and for Peter.
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Hutch closed the book with a sigh. His heart was still heavy, but it was getting better. He turned out the lights and headed off to sleep.