A Time To Heal
By Maquis Leader
Rated: R for language
Author’s note: Post Sweet Revenge, August 1981.
“Come on already, we’re gonna be late!”
“Just give me a minute, will you!”
“I gave you a minute five minutes ago.” Starsky sat down on the sofa. “Dobey’s going to chew us out, and I’m telling him it’s your fault we’re late.”
“The water went off in the middle of my shower.” Hutch grabbed a clean shirt out of his closet. “Some guy hit the fire hydrant outside – how is that my fault?”
“If you had taken your shower ten minutes earlier, you’d have been rinsed and out.” Starsky chuckled. When he’d arrived to pick his partner up for work, he’d found the water department trying to cap off a geyser just down from Venice Place, and Hutch sitting in his robe with shampoo caked in his hair. “You have bad karma.”
“Have you been reading again?” The blonde pulled on a pair of pants. “I told you to stop that.”
“I’m just saying – ten minutes here or five there – and your life could be completely different.”
“Yeah, if my last name started with a G instead of an H, I’d have roomed with Bob Turrell at the Academy.“
“Who later flunked out. See that’s where my karma kicked in.” Propping his feet up on the coffee table, Starsky counted off on his fingers. “S being eight letters from the end of the alphabet and H being eight letters from the beginning of the alphabet – and eight’s a magical number you know – my karma put us together.”
“Seven is a magical number, Starsk, not eight.” Hutch walked out of the bedroom, buttoning his shirt as he went. “Where’s my boots?”
“How should I know?" Hutch glared at him and he pointed to where Hutch’s boots lay under the kitchen table. "Over there.”
“What put us together – “ Sitting down at the table, he pulled on his boots. “Was an instructor who didn’t believe in going alphabetically. Or I’d have been roomed with Tom Hudson.”
“Who later got run over while directing traffic at a baseball game.”
“So you’re saying your karma set you up with me as a partner?” Hutch got to his feet and walked over to the sofa. “Or did it set me up with you as a partner?”
“Either way – “ Starsky grinned up at him. “You win.”
The little boy grin made it impossible to keep a straight face. Smiling, Hutch reached down and slapped Starsky lightly on the cheek. “Your karma’s going to get you killed if you don’t get your dirty feet off my mail.”
“What?” He looked and sure enough, his tennis shoes were resting on a pile of envelopes. “Sorry.”
“Come on, we’re going to be late.” Slipping into his holster, Hutch checked to be sure the Magnum was secure.
“Now you wanna hurry?” Starsky got up and grabbed the envelopes. “Don’t forget to put your mail out.”
“I need to buy stamps.”
“I’ve got some in the car.” Stuffing the envelopes into his inside jacket pocket, Starsky opened the front door. “Get your coat, let’s go.”
“We’re taking my car – I’m not riding in that tomato.” He shrugged his coat on.
“You’re gonna have to. Your windows are down.”
“That makes it easier for the air to get in, Starsk. Thus cooling us as we ride along.”
“True.” Starsky shut the door to Hutch’s apartment and followed his partner down the stairs. “But it also made it easier for the water to get in.”
“Water? What – oh, no – “ Stepping outside, Hutch saw the wet sidewalk and pavement all around his equally wet car.
“But hey – “ Starsky patted him on the shoulder as he went past on the way to his perfectly dry car. “With the windows down, the seats should be dry in say… three or four days.”
“I need a new karma.”
“Where do you want to have lunch?”
“Anywhere that’s not greasy, spicy, or has a cook named Paco or Larry.”
“Well, that covers most of the places we usually eat.” Starsky shifted as something inside his jacket scratched him.
“Let’s go to Huggy’s. At least I can get a decent salad there.”
“You keep eating goat food and you’re going to grow hooves.” Something jabbed his side as he turned the Torino toward Huggy’s, and he reached inside his jacket to scratch at it.
“You’re acting like you’ve got fleas, Starsky.” Hutch smiled. “I told you I thought they were serving dog food at your favorite taco stand.”
“At least it’s meat and not straw and ground up seeds.” Spotting a mailbox, Starsky pulled over to the curb and took the envelopes out of his pocket. “Mail this stuff, will you?”
“I forgot you had those.” Hutch rummaged through the glove compartment until he located the book of stamps. “And here I was going to buy you a pretty flea collar.”
“You’re a laugh a minute, you know that?” He tossed the envelopes in Hutch’s lap. Sitting back, he watched Hutch put stamps on the envelopes. “That one to your sister? The pretty one?”
“I only have one sister, Starsk, so she’d have to be the pretty one.” Hutch chuckled as he put a stamp on a pale blue envelope.
“Nobody’s going to mistake you for the pretty one, smartass.”
“It’s a birthday card for my nephew.” He pulled another stamp out of the book and licked it before sticking it on his credit card bill. He grimaced at the taste. “Why can’t they make stamps a person doesn’t have to lick?”
“A card? And you didn’t let me sign it?”
Starsky sounded so hurt that Hutch didn’t tease him. “Here, I haven’t sealed it yet. Just don’t write something stupid. He’s at an impressionable age.”
“He’s a baby.” Taking the card out of the envelope, Starsky read it aloud. “’For a big boy who’s two.’ Aww, that’s sweet. Hey, look at the cute bear!”
“I’ll get you one just like it for your next birthday.”
“Really?” Reaching into his jacket pocket in search of a pen, Starsky found an envelope he’d missed. “Here’s another one.”
Hutch reached absently for the envelope while he put a stamp on another bill. After a moment, he looked up, annoyed that Starsky hadn’t put it into his hand. “What?”
Starsky stared at the address on the envelope. Hutch’s handwriting, nice and neat as always. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
“Starsky, give me – “ He saw the address. “Oh, uh, let me have that and uh, I’ll put a stamp on it.”
“Why are you sending them money?”
“Well, um… why not?” Hutch tried to take the envelope, but Starsky pulled it away.
“Why?” Starsky shifted around in his seat to look at his partner. “Why are you giving them money?”
“It’s – there’s no memorial – “ The baby blue eyes looked anywhere but at Starsky. “It’s a good cause.”
“Hutch, you didn’t go to Vietnam.”
“I know it.” His voice was soft, and he finally met Starsky’s gaze. “You did.”
“So this is guilt money? Which of us has the Jewish background again?”
“It’s not guilt money.” Hutch insisted. “And Jewish people don’t have a lock on the market when it comes to guilt.”
“Hutch.” He turned the envelope over and over. “Why?”
“Because – “ A car horn right behind them made Hutch jump, and the pile of envelopes fell onto the floorboard.
“Keep your shirt on!” Starsky yelled out the window. “Look, go mail those and – “ Another honk from the car behind them. “Hey, I’m a cop!”
“Give me that one.” Hutch tried to take the envelope Starsky had, but it was snatched away.
“Mail those.” He put the envelope in his pocket. “Then we’ll go to Huggy’s, and you can tell me about this.”
“Starsky.” There was a look in his partner’s eye that Hutch recognized. Starsky was not budging on this one. Sighing, he got out and dropped the rest of his mail into the mailbox.
The blue envelope was still lying on his leg, and Starsky searched his pocket for a pen. Opening the card, he wrote carefully. I hope you have a great birthday and grow up to be like your Uncle Ken. He signed “Uncle Dave” under that and slid the card back in the envelope before sealing it shut.
Just as Hutch reached the car door, he leaned over and waved the blue envelope at him. “You forgot one.”
“Damn.” Grabbing it, Hutch turned and went back to the mailbox, shooting the driver of the other car a dirty look when they honked again. “Yeah, yeah, I’m hurrying!”
As he walked back to the Torino, the car that had pulled up behind them honked once more. Irritated, Hutch pulled his badge out and flashed it. The driver flashed his own sign in return.
“Did you see that?” He slid into his seat and shut the door.
“Maybe he’s your number one fan?”
“Maybe I should’ve shown him my gun instead?” Hutch snorted.
At Huggy’s, Starsky waited until Anita had brought their lunch to bring up the donation again.
“So tell me – “ He poured ketchup onto his onion rings. “Why are you giving money to the Vietnam Vets thing?”
“Why does it matter?”
“It doesn’t, but I want to know.”
“Starsky – “ Hutch pushed a slice of cucumber around with his fork. “It’s just – “
“You know, this should have taken about ten seconds. I’d ask why, you’d say it’s a good cause, and we’re done.” Picking up his hamburger, he bit into it.
“I did say it was for a good cause!”
“After you were evasive about it.”
“I was not evasive!”
“You were.” Starsky pointed an onion ring at Hutch. “And you looked guilty. I’m a detective, I know what guilty looks like.”
“This is an insane conversation.” Spearing a forkful of lettuce, Hutch lifted it to his mouth. “Na – unus – wif – you – “
“Didn’t your mother teach you not to talk with your mouth full?” Starsky laughed at the glare Hutch gave him. “Will you just tell me.”
Wiping his mouth with his napkin, Hutch laid it down next to his bowl. “You’ll just laugh at me.”
The sparkle went out of the sapphire eyes, and the boyish smile faded. “You don’t think you can tell me? Fine.” He pitched the envelope across the table.
Hutch saw real hurt on Starsky’s face. “Starsky, I’m sorry – “
“Just forget it. Eat your lunch, we’ve got work to do.”
“Starsky.” Hutch reached across the table and laid a hand on Starsky’s arm. “I’m sorry.”
“I’ve never laughed at you – not over serious stuff.”
“I know, I know.” He sighed. “Remember last week we brought in the guy who was putting the pipe bombs in the sewer tunnels?”
“The guy who thought they were VC tunnels?” Starsky nodded. “Yeah, I remember him.”
“When I was cuffing him, and he kept giving me his name, rank, and serial number – I kept thinking how you could have come back that way.”
“But I didn’t.” Other than a few nightmares right after he’d come home, Starsky rarely thought about where he’d been or what he’d done.
“I know, and I’m grateful, Starsk.” Hutch took a drink of his iced tea. “We’ve picked up guys – vets – who were confused, crazy, lost – and I’ve always thought ‘thank God this didn’t happen to Starsky.’”
“Not everyone came back screwed up. And it’s not just ‘Nam vets that had trouble adjusting.” Starsky reminded him. “That’s just what the press would like everyone to think. What about – oh, Sonny, remember him? Still thinking it’s World War Two?”
“I have to wonder what terrible things a man would have to see – or do – for them to be like that. To make them hide from the world in the very place that made them crazy.” Hutch remembered Sonny a lot less fondly than Starsky did. The old man had nearly shot him and then had left him pinned under his car.
“I didn’t see a lot of the things they talk about on the news. I’m not saying they didn’t happen.” He held his hands out. “But I never saw any of it. Of course, my CO ran a tight ship. Said he was going to make ‘men out of you babies before I send you home to your mommas.’”
Hutch laughed at Starsky’s impersonation of his CO. “Tough guy, was he?”
“World War Two and Korean War vet.” He nodded, a fond smile on his face. “He didn’t let us get away with anything. Worked us hard. But a lot of us made it home – and a lot of guys in other companies didn’t.”
“Yeah.” Hutch said softly.
“So that made you decide to write out a check? Arresting some poor guy who’s still fighting the war?”
“That and a couple of nights ago, there was something on the news about the memorial they’re trying to build.” Hutch tapped the envelope. “They need donations.”
Starsky tilted his head to one side as he studied his partner. “And?”
Damn it. The steady gaze was unnerving, and Hutch wondered if this was how the creeps they arrested felt when Starsky was questioning them. “This – it’s a long story.”
“I got time.” Starsky waved at Anita. “Bring me another soda, sweetheart, and more tea for Blondie.”
“You know I quit college.” Hutch blurted out.
“Yeah, you didn’t like the things you saw lawyers doing.”
“I loved the law, and I didn’t want to twist and bend it like my father and his partners were doing.” He smiled at Anita as she poured fresh tea into his glass. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.” She sauntered away. “Don’t forget to tip.”
“You were saying?” Starsky said after Hutch had taken a drink.
“I was against the war. I didn’t go out and protest or anything. Just a few sit ins.” A smile crossed his face. “There was music and girls.”
“You’re such an activist.”
“Young and horny.” He admitted cheerfully. “Then a friend of mine got a draft notice, and he was saying his father would get him out of it. I started thinking what would I do if I got one.”
Starsky settled back in the booth, happy that Hutch was finally opening up. Now that he’d started, it would only take the occasional poke to keep him spilling his guts.
“Would I take off to Canada or go ahead and go to Vietnam or see if my father could get me out of it.” Hutch laughed softly. “And one of my friends pops up and tells me that my father had probably already fixed it.”
“You’d already gotten your notice?”
“No.” He shook his head. “He said there was no way my father would let me be drafted, and he’d probably already paid off someone on the draft board.”
Thinking about that, Starsky supposed that was possible. Money could do a lot of things, and as far as he’d been able to tell, Hutch’s family had some cash. Hell, he could have gotten out of being drafted if he’d have let Uncle Joey have his way. A visit from a couple of Joe Durniak’s goons would have gotten him off scot free.
“I blew it off. Or I tried to, anyway. But it kept bugging me. So I went to see my father and I asked him. He said not to worry about it. That I wouldn’t be drafted. His son wasn’t going over there.”
“Well… that sounds like he cared.” Starsky said weakly, trying to offer support for Hutch’s ego. He’d met Hutch’s parents twice and both times had come away wondering how his friend had managed to turn out to be as kind and caring as he was.
“Oh, he cared.” Bitterness laced Hutch’s words. “His son was important. ‘Let someone else go’ – that’s what he said to me.”
There was pain in the baby blue eyes, even though it had been years since this conversation. Starsky shifted and put his feet up on Hutch’s seat, resting his lower leg and ankle against his partner’s leg. Hutch was a toucher and even the small gesture would make him feel better.
Hutch smiled and patted Starsky’s leg. “Luke Huntley was in town visiting family – did I tell you that Luke went to school with my father?”
“No.” He’d wondered how Luke was a family friend, but he’d figured Hutch would tell him eventually.
“They grew up together, went to school together, then Luke’s family moved out here to Bay City. Luke’s father ‘made poor business decisions’ according to my father.”
“In other words, he lost his shirt and wasn’t rich anymore?”
“I guess.” Swirling the ice in his glass of tea, Hutch took a sip before continuing. “I ran into Luke and we had a few drinks. I told him what my father had said, and he wasn’t surprised. Said it sounded typical.”
Starsky had to agree but kept his mouth shut.
“I spilled my guts about hating what I was learning in law school and what my father and his partners were doing in the name of the law. Paying off someone so they don’t sue a client’s drunken son – that isn’t helping people.”
The smile popped out before Starsky could stop it; luckily, Hutch was still staring into his tea like the Lost Ark was hiding in there. The first day at the Academy, all the new recruits had had to stand and say why they were there. Hutch had stood up and rather nervously said he wanted to help people.
There’d been some snickers, but Starsky had thought that it was better than what he’d been going to say, which was that being a cop had to beat driving a cab. When his turn came, he’d stood up and said ‘I’m gonna help him help people’. Hutch had turned and smiled gratefully at him, and their friendship had been born in that instant.
“Luke told me that if I really wanted to help people, I should become a cop.” Hutch smiled as he looked up at his partner. “He told me about taking pushers off the streets and catching killers – helping people. He said if I’d come out here and apply to the Academy, he would write a letter of recommendation for me.”
“He’d been a detective for what, fifteen years then?” Starsky’s eyebrows went up. “That had to look good.”
“And so I told my father I was quitting law school and leaving for Bay City to become a cop.” There was a little boy grin on the blonde’s face. “After my hangover went away.”
“I can imagine that scene.” He grinned back.
“It was one of the few times my father ever raised his voice. You’ve met my father, Starsk – everything is calm, cool, level.” Hutch made a flat motion with his hands. “He never – never gets upset. He told me ‘you will not quit school – you will not join the police force!’”
Starsky laughed as Hutch pointed his finger at him as he mimicked his father. “I know how well being told you can’t do something sits with you.”
“It was one of the most satisfying moments of my life to be able to look my father in the eye and say ‘yes, I am’.” Another smile, big and movie star bright. “He gave me this puffed up speech about family and duty and responsibility. How important it was for me to uphold the Hutchinson name. What’s so special about my name?”
“Well, I like it.” Starsky pretended to think it over. “I’m not sure I’d like you so much if your name was Smith.”
“You know what a Hutchinson is? We’re farmers.” Hutch picked up a piece of lettuce from his bowl and shook it before tossing it back in the bowl. “We came over here and we farmed. Now over time we ended up with a lot of land – branched out – built up some money – but we’re just farmers. And how are we better than anybody else? You’re a Starsky and I’m a Hutchinson – am I better than you?”
In a million ways, buddy. Not that he suffered from an inferiority complex, but Starsky had always seen Hutch as a better person than he was. Hutch was kind and compassionate to hookers and junkies and people he wouldn’t have given a second look.
“I came out here and applied, took the test and I was in. and I thought if I get a draft notice, well I’ll just go.” Hutch laughed suddenly. “This crazy roommate I got stuck with kept me too busy to worry about the war.”
“Hey, if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t be able to hit the broad side of a barn – from the inside.” Starsky protested. “You didn’t even know how to handle a gun.”
“I was a great shot!”
“With a shotgun – we don’t use too many of those.” He winked. “Not unless we get attacked by wascally wabbits.”
“If memory serves me correctly – and it always does – we traded your teaching me how to fire a handgun with my helping you to study. For everything.”
“True, true.” He admitted. “The important thing is we both made it.”
“Yeah.” Hutch smiled, remembering helping Starsky learn to take notes and study for their exams. “Then John was drafted and I was back to the same question. What would I do if I were drafted? I remember you trying to talk him out of going.”
“He should’ve listened. He was in the Academy, he coulda got out of going.” A frown crossed Starsky’s face as it always did when he thought of John Colby. “Whatever happened to him over there – I dunno.”
“I’ve wondered if you would have tried to talk me out of going.” Hutch drew his finger through the water rings on the table, not trusting himself to look his partner in the eye. In his heart, he was almost a hundred percent sure of the answer, but that one little fraction of a percent nibbled at his confidence.
“You I would have knocked in the head and driven to Canada.”
“I bet you would have.” Laughing, he reached across the table and slapped Starsky on the arm. From the beginning he and Starsky had had a connection. It was true that he and Starsky and John had been dubbed the Three Corsicans – but John had merely been a third wheel. He’d fit in comfortably enough, but they’d barely noticed he was gone.
“We’d have had to learn French.” Starsky pretended to twirl a long moustache. “Oui oui, monsieur.”
“That’s just in Quebec, Starsk.” Hutch leaned his elbows on the table. “Ah, Starsk… I guess it all comes down to guilt after all. Did my father pull strings and keep my number from coming up? Did someone else go in my place if he did? If I had gone, would I have come back like John?”
“Don’t you ever compare yourself to John.” Starsky said fiercely. “The war didn’t make him that way. Somewhere – somebody – gave him a choice and he made it. He took the easy way out.”
“You think killing is the easy way out?”
“Isn’t it?” He leaned on the table, lowering his voice so that no one could overhear. “We’ve killed people, Hutch. We know how easy it is. Point the gun – pull the trigger – walk away.”
“Only in self defense.” Hutch countered, bending his head down closer to his partner’s to look into Starsky’s eyes. “Or defending someone else.”
“But we made the choice and it wasn’t very hard. Your life or some scumbag pointing at gun at you?” He leaned back again. “The point is, John just did it for the wrong reasons.”
“It’s never easy, Starsky.”
For a moment, he held Hutch’s earnest gaze. Maybe for Hutch it wasn’t, but he’d long ago put it into two categories. Shoot or get shot. And he didn’t like the get shot category the times he’d been in it. Starsky broke eye contact by looking down at the envelope. Picking it up, he peeled it open.
“Starsky!” Hutch grabbed at the envelope. “What the hell – that’s a federal offense! If you don’t want me to send a donation, I won’t!”
“I thought I’d add to it.” He snatched the envelope out of reach. “Is that all right with you?”
“Oh – uh – sure.”
“What’s this?” A piece of folded paper came out with the check.
“Don’t read that!” He reached for the paper, but Starsky snatched it up before he could get his hands on it. “Please – Starsky – don’t – “
There was panic in the baby blue eyes. Panic and something else. Starsky tucked the paper back inside the envelope. “I won’t read it.”
“Let me put a check in here.” Starsky patted his pockets. “My checkbook’s in the car.”
“I keep telling you someone’s going to break into the car and steal it.”
“They break into my car – “ Tucking the envelope into his jacket pocket, he slid out of the booth. “And a stolen checkbook is the least of my worries. I’ll be right back.”
Starsky was gone long enough that Hutch wondered if he’d been stuck with the check. Just as he reached the end of his patience, Starsky came back and slid into the booth again. He was panting and out of breath.
“What the hell took you so long?”
“Pretty girl – a little flirting.” Starsky grinned. Taking the envelope out of his pocket, he pulled Hutch’s check out. “I’ll just match – Christ!”
“Uh – it’s – “ Hutch’s face grew hot. He had never intended for Starsky to see the check he was sending.
“Two thousand dollars? How do you come up with two thousand dollars?”
“I added up how long we’ve known each other, plus how long you were in Vietnam, plus how long John was a POW and everything – “
“If he really was.”
“If he really was.” Hutch conceded the point. “I took the total times one hundred and that equaled two thousand.”
“Can you afford that?” He held the check up. “That’s a lot of money.”
“I’ve got a lot of guilt?” Realizing that Starsky had no idea how much money he’d saved up from his careful investments, Hutch shrugged; it was the best he could offer as an explanation.
There were too many zeroes. But Hutch wouldn’t spend money he didn’t have, Starsky was confident of that. “I don’t have that much to spare.”
“Starsky, you don’t have to give anything. You were there – you gave up part of your life.”
“And some guys gave all of theirs.” Opening his checkbook, Starsky looked at the balance. There went the chrome tappet covers he’d been saving for. “I can do ten percent – that’s two hundred.”
“Two hundred dollars?” While Starsky had been recovering, Hutch had taken care of his finances. He knew that Starsky had enough of a cushion for most emergencies, but it wasn’t a huge cushion. “Starsk, are you sure?”
“Sure, I’m sure.” He made out the check with a flourish. “You just won’t get a Christmas present this year.”
“Deal.” Hutch smiled at the outraged look on Starsky’s face.
“Jerk.” He tossed the envelope back to Hutch. “Get some tape.”
The envelope was taped shut again, a stamp was affixed to the front, and it was dropped into a mailbox just up the street from Huggy’s.
“That feels good.” Hutch said as he got back into the car. “Doesn’t that feel good?”
“Feels great.” Like a big hole in my pocket. And under my hood. He patted the steering wheel. Sorry, baby.
“When it’s done – the memorial, I mean – I want to go see it. You want to go?”
“No? But, Starsky – “ Turning in his seat, Hutch looked at his partner.
“You want to go – go. Tell me about it when you get back.” Starsky turned to look at him, the sapphire eyes hidden behind the dark sunglasses.
“Sure.” He turned back to sit straight, laying his arm along the back of the seat, his fingertips resting on Starsky’s shoulder as the Torino pulled away from the curb.
Booming sounds intruded into his sleep, and Starsky curled into a tight ball. Another boom and then a hand grabbed his arm, shaking him.
“Hey, wake up!”
“Starsky, I swear you could sleep through anything!”
“Quit!” He batted at the hand. “Knock it off, Hutch, ‘m sleepy!”
“Hutch? Who the fuck are you dreaming about, and is she pretty?”
“Wha’?” Opening his eyes, Starsky found himself looking down at a dirty, sweaty face. Dark brown eyes peered out from under a mostly green helmet. “Bernie?”
“Wake up, Dorothy – “ He pulled Starsky down to his knees. “We ain’t in Kansas no more.”
“I – I don’t – “ Looking around, Starsky spotted other figures in green camo crawling slowly through the trees.
“We stop for two seconds and you’re out. I knew you could sleep anywhere – but standing up?” Bernie laughed. “Wish I could do that.”
“You gotta train yourself, Bernie.” Starsky frowned. Something wasn’t quite right. The M16 felt heavy in his hands, and the air was too thick and wet. And Bernie… What was it about Bernie?
The ground shook, and dirt sprayed up into the air a few yards away. A second round hit close enough for the dirt to shower over them.
“Take cover!” Starsky crawled behind a fallen tree. Scant protection but better than none. Bullets zipped from the jungle like enraged bees, tearing holes in leaves and branches. And men. “Get down!”
At the edge of his vision, Starsky saw a figure standing and staring into the jungle.
“Get down!” He yelled, but the man didn’t move. “Get the fuck down!”
“Oh man, damn FNG!” Bernie said as he crawled up next to him. “Some dumb farm boy from Minnesota.”
“I said get down, you dumb ass!” Starsky got up and ran toward him, crouching as much as he could. Bullets ripped the ground up one step behind him.
There was a whisper that built into a chatter. Choppers. Starsky could hear Bernie yelling at him over the sound. But the FNG just stood and stared into the jungle.
“Get down!” Starsky screamed at him.
There was a whump and the trees around the FNG exploded, flinging his body backwards.
Starsky stumbled and crawled the final yards to where the body lay. Behind him he could hear the choppers landing and Bernie screaming at him to forget it and come on.
“I ain’t leaving you behind, buddy.” Starsky grabbed a handful of tattered jacket and rolled the kid over. The helmet rolled away, revealing pale blond hair. Baby blue eyes stared lifelessly up at him. “No…”
“Come on, Starsky!”
“Hutch? No – you’re not supposed to be here!” There was a hand on his arm, pulling him away from Hutch’s body.
“Let’s go! Leave him!”
“Get your fucking hands off me!” Starsky shoved Bernie away. “Hutch – why – how – you’re not here – “ Pulling Hutch up, Starsky cradled the limp body. “You’re not supposed to be here!”
“The choppers are leaving!”
Starsky turned to see Bernie crawling away. Crawling because his legs were gone.
Rotors and screams faded until there was only Starsky and the still body in his arms. Blue eyes staring up at him. Why didn’t you save me?
A loud boom and the world shook.
Starsky sat up, gasping for air. Outside, lighting flashed and a loud crack of thunder made the windows rattle.
“Hutch!” Feeling around in the darkness, he couldn’t find Hutch’s body. “Hutch! Where are you?”
His hand hit the lamp by the bed, and he caught it before it fell over. Switching it on, he stared at the empty room. His bedroom. In his house. In Bay City. Not in Vietnam.
“A dream – it was a dream – “ Leaning back against the headboard, Starsky ran a shaking hand over his face. “Oh, Jesus – just a dream – thank you – “
It had been years since he’d dreamed of the war. Since before he entered the Academy. Once he’d been home for a few months, the nightmares had faded away.
Thunder shook the house again, and Starsky jumped. “Must have been that damn memorial thing. Why can’t they just bury the damn past?”
He shut off the light, sliding back down into the bed and trying to go back to sleep.
“Dumb farm boy from Minnesota…”
“Damn it!” Picking up the phone, Starsky dialed the number by touch in the dark. By the fourth ring, he was nervous. By the sixth, he’d turned the lamp back on and was reaching for his jeans.
“S’body better be dead…”
“That’s a hell of a way to answer your phone!” Starsky exploded.
“It’s the middle of the damn night, Starsky.” Hutch yawned. “I was dreaming of a pretty little thing in a bikini, and she was taking the top off.”
“Yeah, well, I was dreaming – “ Of you being dead. “Dreaming too. And the storm – and you’re okay?”
“Am I – are you okay?” Hutch rolled over and switched on the bedside lamp.
“Yeah, sure, I’m fine.”
“You sound a little shaky.”
“I just had this bad dream and, uh… you know.” He wound the cord around his fingers. “It was vivid. I woke up thinking I was somewhere else.”
“You want to talk about it?”
“No. I don’t need to talk about it.” Starsky said quickly.
Hutch looked at the clock. Four twenty-two and Starsky sounded as if he’d just seen a ghost. “Why don’t you make some coffee and I’ll be over there in a few minutes.”
“Hutch, it’s pouring outside. You go back to sleep, I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
“It’s letting up.” Rolling out of bed, he grabbed a pair of jeans from the dresser. “I’ll get us some fresh danishes on the way over, and we’ll just get an early start on the day.”
“It is not letting up.” Rain was pouring down the windows, the guttering clearly having lost the battle. “And where are you going to get danish this early?”
“Danishes, Starsky, danishes plural. How long have you been out here from New York?” The phone cord stretched just far enough for him to reach into his closet and grab a clean shirt. “I can stop at Haskils.”
“All right, all right.” The little shop started baking at three and it wasn’t unusual for regulars, including themselves, to stop in before the shop opened, to get fresh pastries. Starsky kicked the blankets back and sat up again. “Just drive careful, huh? It’s raining like hell, and I know you need new tires on that hunk of junk.”
“Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll put on my rubbers.”
“Galoshes, Hutch.” He laughed softly. “How long have you been out here from Duluth?”
“Shut up and make the coffee. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“’Kay.” Setting the phone down, Starsky got up and wandered naked into the kitchen. After measuring coffee and water into the coffee maker, he unlocked the deadbolt on the front door. Hutch had a key, but if the door was already open for him, he wouldn’t have to stand in the rain trying to unlock it. And the danish wouldn’t get wet.
The drive was normally about ten minutes. Add in the rain, the stop for breakfast – Starsky figured he had time enough for a shower. The nightmare had left him feeling sweaty and dirty.
Turning the water on good and hot, Starsky let it soothe the kinked muscles in his shoulders and neck. His left shoulder was especially knotted up, the damn thing taking any excuse to bother him.
It wasn’t often that he had nightmares; he dealt with whatever crap life handed him and moved on. The only one that popped up from time to time was the one where Simon Marcus and his crazy followers killed Hutch while he was helpless to stop them. Even that one didn’t come around much anymore since Marcus had died in prison last year.
Why one about ‘Nam, and why was Hutch there? “Why not one with a pretty girl on the beach?”
Pouring shampoo into his hand, Starsky cursed whatever ancestor had given him the genes for thick, curly hair as he worked the soap down to his scalp.
“Hey, are you going to stay in there all day?” Hutch laughed as he heard Starsky yelp in surprise. “Not too bad, buddy, if they remake Psycho – you might get a part.”
“Damn it, Hutch – you scared the hell out of me!” Starsky leaned against the tile wall, clutching his chest. His heart had nearly jumped up his throat when he heard Hutch’s voice. Shampoo took advantage of the opportunity and ran down his face and into his eyes. “Ow! Ow! I’m gonna get you for this! I ought to drown you!”
“You got wet?” He slid the sprayer out of its holder and rinsed his hair out.
“Soaked to the bone.”
“Actually, I’m more Swedish.” Chuckling, Hutch wiped his wet hair back out of his face. “They’re safe; I wrapped the bag in my coat. They’re in the kitchen.”
“Uh huh. Damn soap!”
“Are you okay?” There was no answer, and Hutch warily eyed the shadowy form through the glass shower door. It looked as if Starsky had dropped to his knees. “Starsky?”
The shower door opened slowly and Starsky turned the water on his unsuspecting partner. Starting at the knees, he sprayed up until water hit Hutch in the face. “That’s for scaring the hell out of me!” He stood up, laughing at the expression on Hutch’s face.
“I’m – going – to – “ Hutch blinked water out of his eyes as Starsky lowered the sprayer. “Kill – you – “
He backed up as Hutch took a step toward him. Suddenly it occurred to him that he was completely vulnerable – naked and trapped in the shower. “Hutch – come on – joke?”
“You’re going to die.” Hutch reached in and shut the water off as Starsky raised the sprayer again.
His only weapon drizzled away. Grabbing the bottle of conditioner, Starsky pointed it at Hutch. “You don’t want any of this!”
There was a momentary stand off, and then Hutch smiled and laughed. Turning, he took Starsky’s robe off the back of the door and wiped his face off. “Hurry up, the danishes are getting cold.” He rubbed the robe over his dripping hair as he left the bathroom.
Setting his unconventional weapon aside, Starsky stepped out of the shower and toweled off. He wrapped a towel around his waist and grabbed another to dry his hair with.
In the bedroom, he found Hutch wrestling his wet jeans off. Shoes, socks and shirt were already puddling on the floor.
“Here.” Starsky tossed him the towel he’d been drying his hair with. “You know, your mustache droops when you’re wet. You look like a drowned cat.”
“I’m not shaving it – “ Hutch finally worked the heavy denim off and threw the jeans onto the pile of wet clothes. “So shut up. You want to see a drowned cat – look in the mirror.”
“No thanks.” His hair was hanging in long wet curls, mostly around his face. Pulling open dresser drawers, he located clean clothes for himself and Hutch. “It’s not like I can do anything about my hair.”
“You could shave it off.” He caught the clean jeans Starsky threw at him.
“I would, but the ladies like the curls – what can I say?” Starsky glanced down at his chest, running his fingers over the scars there. “Not that I get too close to many ladies these days.”
“Starsk – “ The majority of the scars were fairly well hidden by the hair on Starsky’s chest and stomach, but they were noticeable if you were looking closely or touching. “One woman – who was shallow and brainless – told you they felt different. Just one.”
“She said they felt weird.” Starsky pulled his jeans on. “Not different – weird. And the others noticed, they were just more polite about it.”
“So you’re giving up sex for the rest of your life?” It had been a week since Huggy had called him to pick up a very drunk and rejected Starsky, which was just about as long as his partner had ever gone without getting laid. Not counting the time it took him to heal from the shooting, and even then Starsky had had half the nurses on the floor wrapped around his little finger. Can I get a bet down on how long this lasts?
“No.” He buttoned up his shirt. “Just haven’t figured out what to do yet. Shoulda showed her my back, bet she’d have screamed.”
Hutch pulled on the dry clothes, watching as Starsky picked up his wet pants from the floor and emptied the pockets out before taking them and the other wet clothes to the laundry room. He was certain that time would cure Starsky’s sensitivity to his appearance. How much time, he wasn’t sure.
Starsky was already in the kitchen and pouring two cups of coffee by the time Hutch finished dressing. Sitting down at the table, he opened the box of danishes and took one out. “Do you want to tell me about your dream?”
“No.” Starsky sat down, sliding a cup of coffee over to his partner. “But I suppose you’re gonna make me anyway.”
“Starsk, you called me at four o’clock in the morning just to see if I was okay – because you had a bad dream.” He took a sip of his coffee. “So, yeah, I want to hear about it.”
“It was – it was about – I was – “ Tearing the danish into pieces, Starsky tried to find a way to start. “This is hard.”
“I know, buddy, but let’s drag it out into the open and deal with it.” Starsky wasn’t the type to have nightmares – that was more his problem. “You know that helps me.”
“I know, I know.” Taking a deep breath, he began to replay the dream.
Once he was past telling Hutch where he’d dreamed he was, Starsky found the rest was easy. He described the dream like he would a crime scene, breaking it down in detail.
Hutch sat quietly, picking out a few things to question Starsky about in further detail once he’d finished. He wasn’t surprised to hear that Starsky had dreamed that he was the dead soldier. The ‘farm boy from Minnesota’ gave it away. That, and he’d dreamed those same dreams himself. Starsky dying in his arms after he’d been helpless to save him was a common theme to his nightmares.
“That’s it.” Starsky finished and smiled lamely. “Pretty stupid, huh?”
“No.” Hutch got up from the table and went to the sink. He ran warm water over a kitchen towel, wringing it out before he brought it back to Starsky. “Wash your hands.”
“What?” Looking down at his hands, Starsky was surprised to find he’d crushed the danish between them. His fingers were covered with sticky icing and pineapple jam. “Why didn’t you say something?”
“I didn’t want to interrupt.” He sat back down. “FNG?”
“FNG – oh – fucking new guy.” Starsky wiped the sticky mess off his hands. “If someone was going to screw up and get you killed, it was the – “
“Fucking new guy.” Hutch finished. “Starsk, you put me in where I didn’t belong. I was the new guy, and I screwed up.”
“And died. Considering what we talked about today, it’s not surprising. And it’s not stupid.”
“It is to me.” Tossing the dishtowel into the sink, he slumped back into his chair. “Hutch, I don’t dream about ‘Nam.”
“No, not never, but not in years. Are there danish left?”
“Danishes.” Hutch pushed the box to him. “You do that just to irritate me.”
“Do not. ‘S the way I learned to say it.” He took a pastry from the box.
“I’m curious about Bernie. He was really the only other person in your dream.”
“Bernie Malkowski. He was from Wisconsin – talked kinda funny. He was a great guy. Took me under his wing.” A sad smile crossed his face. “He took a lot of new guys under his wing.”
“What happened to him?”
“He – he lost his legs. Both of ‘em from the knee down.” Starsky took a bite and chewed slowly.
“Was he trying to get on one of the choppers?”
Starsky shook his head. “No, he was trying to help this new guy, 'cos the kid wasn’t really watching where he was walking. Then – he stepped on a landmine – Bernie was close enough that the blast caught him, too.”
“In your dream, he was warning you not to help me – do you think that’s why?”
“Maybe.” He looked up into Hutch’s eyes, warmed by the comfort offered there. “Maybe my mind was just trying to tell me I didn’t want to see who the new guy was. Which is weird ‘cos my mind is what put you there.”
“It sounds like your subconscious had a field day with your fears.” Reaching out, Hutch clasped Starsky’s hand for a moment before letting go.
“That your expert opinion, Doctor Hutchinson?” He grinned.
“My expert opinion is that our discussion about my not going to Vietnam and the guilt I have about it – plus your own experiences there – “ Hutch waved his hands in the air. “Created a scenario where I was the FNG who died. And possibly caused your friend Bernie to lose his legs.”
“That’s a lot of subconscious stuff going on.”
“Although…” Hutch stroked his thumb and fingers over his mustache thoughtfully. “He may have already been wounded. If he was crawling at the start of the dream…”
“You really get into this stuff, don’t you?” Starsky added a book on interpreting dreams to the list of possible birthday gifts this year.
“You were standing, right?” At Starsky’s nod, Hutch continued eagerly. “He pulled you down – he never got up anywhere during the dream. So he was hurt already and trying to keep you from getting hurt by going to help me.”
“Sounds logical.” He thought about it for a moment. “Like he was a symbol of what happens when you help the new guy?”
“Exactly!” Hutch sat back and took a drink of his coffee, satisfied that they’d unraveled Starsky’s dream.
“Do I have to pay you for this?”
“You can buy lunch.”
“How about I give you a nickel?”
“That’s what Lucy charges Charlie Brown.” He laughed at the look on Hutch’s face.
“She gets to yank the football away before he kicks it, too.” Hutch shot back.
“Come on, Doctor, we’d better get to work.” Getting up, Starsky put his coffee cup in the sink. “I’ll take you to Huggy’s for lunch, buy you one of those rabbit food salads you like.”
Hutch didn’t answer as he put his cup in the sink next to Starsky’s. He walked over to where his coat was hanging from the back of one of the kitchen chairs. The leather was a bit soft from getting wet, but the inside of the coat was dry.
Starsky leaned against the counter and watched Hutch check the Magnum to see if it had gotten wet before slipping the holster on. The good feelings from working through his dream seemed to have faded away, and Hutch now looked depressed.
“Hey, Hutch, don’t get all gloomy on me. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I dragged up things better left buried.” His eyes were shadowed. “That’s why I didn’t want to tell you about it.”
“I made you.” Walking to him, Starsky laid a hand on Hutch’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “Like you said, my unconscious made up things to scare me and now that we dragged it out into the light – it won’t come back.”
“Yeah, sure.” He ducked his head down as he smiled. “If it does, Doctor Hutchinson will make another house call.”
“Okay, now that sounded dirty. I don’t want my subconscious to even go in that direction.” Starsky slapped him on the back as he walked away. “Which reminds me, that cute little blonde we met at After Dark – remember her?”
“At After Dark?” Hutch frowned, thinking, and then his eyes lit up and he snapped his fingers. “The one with the little red dress and the cute little mole?”
“That’s her.” He grinned a wicked grin as he went into the bedroom. “She’d like to see us again.”
They’d met Cynthia, a pretty, long-legged blonde at After Dark on a night out a few weeks ago. They’d had a friendly competition for her attention until she’d made it clear that she didn’t want to choose.
“I don’t know, Starsky.” Hutch smiled. “I don’t know if I can take that much wild sex in one night again.”
Starsky poked his head around the edge of the bedroom door. “Don’t worry, partner. I’ll be there to take up the slack if you can’t handle it.”
“I’ll just bet you will.” It hadn’t taken long for Starsky’s ego to bounce back after all. Hutch smiled as he pulled on his jacket. Luckily, his buddy didn’t dwell on things like he did. And Cynthia hadn’t minded Starsky’s scars at all – or she’d been too busy to mention it if she had.
“Come on, let’s go.” Pulling his blue windbreaker on, Starsky grabbed his car keys out of the bowl on the end of the kitchen bar.
“Nag, nag, nag.” He slapped Starsky on the back as he followed him outside. The rain had finally slacked off to a drizzle. “Open the door, will you?”
“Yeah, yeah.” He reached over and unlocked the passenger door. He started the engine, smiling as the Torino roared to life.
Hutch leaned back in his seat, his arm lying along the back of the seat, his fingertips barely brushing Starsky’s shoulder. He was happy to ride in the Torino for once. His heater fan wasn’t working, and it was a pain in the ass to keep wiping the fog off of the windshield.
“Hmm?” He brought his attention from the gray streets to his partner.
“If you want to go – “ Starsky slid his fingers along the steering wheel. “When this memorial thing is finished.”
“If you want – I could go along.” His fingers continued their nervous slide around the steering wheel. “You know? If you really want me to.”
“Yeah, that’ll be good.” Hutch rubbed Starsky’s shoulder for a moment before letting his fingers rest on the seat back once again. “I’d like that.”
“’Kay. That’s settled.” Starsky nodded.
“All units – all units in the vicinity of Mercer and Fifteenth.” The radio grabbed their attention. “Two eleven in progress. Shots fired. Officer needs assistance.”
Hutch grabbed the mic even as Starsky floored the gas pedal. “This is Zebra Three, we are in the area and are responding.”
“Roger, Zebra Three.” There was a smile behind the voice. “Should I log you in, or is this one on the house?”
“Smart ass.” Starsky muttered.
“Do be so kind as to log us in, Mildred.” Hutch laughed. “And Starsky sends his love.”
“I’ll bet.” Her voice returned to business as usual as she repeated the call for backup to any units in the area.
“Never a dull moment.” Hanging up the mic, he tossed the mars light up on the roof.
“Business as usual, partner.” Starsky grinned and gave the Torino more freedom to run. “And watch the paint, will ya?”
Washington – November 13, 1982
“I didn’t think there’d be this many people here.”
“Hutch, people donated tons of money to build this thing.” Starsky chided his partner. “You should’ve known it’d be packed.”
“I thought there would be a lot of people, but not this many.”
There were people everywhere Hutch looked. Men in faded old fatigues and men in crisp new fatigues. Women and children, elderly people and teenagers. The green grass all around the monument was packed with people.
“Wow. I didn’t think there’d be this many people here.”
“Starsky, it’s the first day.” Hutch elbowed him, delighted to get the chance to get back at Starsky. “Of course there’s going to be a lot of people here.”
“Hey, you’re the one who wanted to be here today.”
“Today is the day to be here. This is history.” Making a gesture that included the crowd and the long black wall, he smacked Starsky in the chest. “We’re a part of history today.”
“You’re such a nerd.”
“Is there anyone you want to look up?” Opening the booklet that he’d been given earlier, Hutch looked over the long list of names.
“Not really.” Starsky shrugged. “Most of my buddies made it out.”
“Yeah. Some guys weren’t so lucky, you know?” He scanned through his own booklet for lack of anything else to do. “They – holy shit!”
“What?” Glancing up, Hutch saw that Starsky’s face had gone white. “You okay?”
“Yeah, sure – fine.” The booklet snapped shut, and Starsky shoved it into his pocket. “No Starskys – whew – that’s good. We’re pretty sharp – hearty peasant stock and – can we go now?”
“Starsky, we came over twenty five hundred miles and you want to leave after five minutes?”
“We came to see it – oh look, it’s an ugly black wall – see, we saw it – “ He took Hutch’s arm and pulled him away from the memorial. “Let’s go home now.”
“Starsky!” Shaking his arm free, Hutch paged through the booklet trying to find what had upset Starsky so much. There were no Starskys on the wall; he’d already checked, not even the ‘ski’ kind. But what about...
“Hutch, come on, let’s go.” It was tempting to grab the book and run. But he knew how stubborn his buddy could be. Hutch would just get another one. Or run him down and take it back. “Please?”
Hutch glanced up and saw worry and a hint of fear in the sapphire eyes. Whatever was in here, Starsky definitely didn’t want him to see it. “In a minute.” Dropping his gaze back to the book, he skimmed down a page. “Oh my God…”
“Why don’t you listen to me?” Starsky watched Hutch’s face drain of color and wondered if that’s what his own had looked like. “It doesn’t mean nothin’. It doesn’t.”
“Hutchinson, Kenneth P.” The booklet trembled in his hands before it tumbled to the ground.
“Hey, you okay?” Reaching out first to steady Hutch, Starsky then leaned down and snatched the booklet up before leading Hutch toward a shady spot under some nearby trees. “Let's go sit down a minute.”
“That could be me.” Numb, he let Starsky pull him through the crowd.
“It’s not.” He edged them around a group of teenagers. “’Scuse us.”
“I want to know who he was – I need to know – “ Finding his own name on the list, right down to the middle initial, was unnerving. “Who was he?”
“You can look up someone in one of those books.” A young woman they were passing pointed out a thick book that a group of people were paging through. Then she pointed at a small kiosk at the back of the crowd. “It has information on everyone on the wall. You can buy one down there, and they have paper so you can make a rubbing, too.”
“Thank you.” Starsky tugged Hutch past her.
“A rubbing?” Hutch stopped and looked at the paper she held.
“See?” She handed him the paper.
Pencil or charcoal had been used to rub the letters from the wall onto the paper. A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “Just like in the old detective movies.”
“Let me see.” Looking over Hutch’s shoulder, Starsky read the name and then looked at the girl. “Your father?”
“Yes.” She smiled sadly as she accepted the paper back from Hutch. “I don’t really remember him.”
“I’m sorry.” Guilt washed over Hutch.
“It’s okay.” Tucking the paper inside her booklet she smiled again, happier this time. “He’s here for everybody to see now, and I have this.”
“Come on.” Starsky took Hutch’s arm again as the girl walked away. “Let’s sit down.”
When they reached the calm shade of the trees, Starsky found them a spot to sit down where they could talk. Hutch dropped down and stared off into the crowd.
“You know, it’s weird.” Starsky leaned back against the tree. “I never really got hurt in ‘Nam.”
Hutch turned and focused on him. “What?”
“Hurt. In the war?” He shrugged. “Guess I was lucky. Took some shrapnel from the mine that got Bernie’s legs.”
“You were hurt?” Hutch started to reach for Starsky and then drew back. “I didn’t know that. How could I not know that?”
“Because I didn’t tell you.” Reaching out, he patted Hutch’s shoulder. “It wasn’t much, but I got a few days at a hospital with a very cute nurse. What was her name? Mc something. Irish, brown hair, very sweet. Anyway, I was fine and they sent me back and gave me a shiny medal Ma has in a box.”
“I’m glad you weren’t hurt, Starsk.”
“Then I come home and I get shot and stabbed and poisoned and hit in the head and – feel free to add to the list.” He grinned. “Home turned out to be more dangerous than the war.”
“Especially in the Metro parking lot.” He shook his head at the irony of Starsky coming home virtually untouched from a war zone and being shot numerous times right in front of a police station.
“I didn’t have nightmares, not really. Mostly they were that I wasn’t really home.” It was Starsky’s turn to look away and out into the crowd. “I’d get up and then Ma would get up to see what I was doing up. After a few nights she told me to come get in bed with her instead so she could get some sleep.”
Laughing, Starsky looked back at Hutch. “Can you imagine? A twenty two year old man creeping in to lay down with his mother in the middle of the night?”
“Did it help?” With anyone else he might think it was more than odd, but having met Starsky’s mother, Hutch didn’t doubt that it wasn’t perfectly acceptable for him to sleep with her to chase away a nightmare.
“Yeah. They went away after a few months. Uncle Al said he had some dreams like that too – of course, he had Aunt Rosie to hang onto.” He smiled, and then it faded. “Joe didn’t have nightmares. Didn’t bother him any. He said my father was different, though. Quieter.”
“Durniak? He and your father knew each other then?” There was a big mystery to how Joe Durniak was tied to Starsky’s father. This was the first glimpse he’d had into that since the cryptic comments the old mobster had made when Hutch had first met him.
“They grew up together. Enlisted together.” Starsky shrugged. “Ma said Pop had some bad dreams, but he wouldn’t tell her about what.”
“I’d think going to war would have to give a person nightmares.” Hutch huffed out a short laugh. “Not that I know. I shouldn’t be here. I don’t deserve to be here.”
“That’s not true.” Starsky waved an arm. “Look at all these people. Why do you think they’re here? You think there’s not guys out there with the same guilt you got?”
“You don’t think that there’s guys who came back from Canada or wherever they were once the pardon was done?” Sitting up, he smacked Hutch’s arm. “At least you were in college, and then you were a cop. Some guys just took off or changed their names. Bet right now some of them are wandering around here looking at those names and feeling like shit.”
“And your point?”
“I dunno. Just that you deserve to be here the same as they do. Maybe more.”
“Why, because I wrote a check?” He didn’t bother to hide the bitterness. “There’s over fifty thousand names up there and what did I do? I wrote a check!”
Starsky didn’t answer. Instead, he reached inside his jacket and pulled a folded paper from his pocket. “And you wrote this. Let’s see what it says.”
“What the hell is that?”
“Whatever you wrote and put in with the check.” He unfolded it and began to read aloud.
I’m sending this check in honor of my friend, David Starsky. While I didn’t go to Vietnam, he did. We’ve never talked about it. I’ve never asked, and he’s never mentioned it.
He came back from the war and became a cop in Bay City, California, and a damn good one. We’ve been friends and partners for over ten years now, and he’s saved my life many times over.
Looking up, Starsky reached out and cuffed Hutch affectionately on the shoulder. “Like you’ve never saved me?”
“Starsky – give me that – “ He tried to take the letter.
“Quit!” Starsky pulled the letter away and began reading again.
I’m grateful that Starsky came home alive. He’s my partner and best friend – he’s closer to me than any brother could ever be, and I love him. I would give my life for his without a moment’s hesitation.
Starsky blinked away the sudden burn of tears and cleared his throat so he could continue.
I’m sending this check because I’m eternally grateful that his name is not going to be on the memorial. Yours respectfully, Kenneth Hutchinson, Detective Sergeant 1st Class, BCPD.
“Well – “ He cleared his throat again. “I was thinking you said ‘don’t cash it till after payday.’”
“Starsky, I never meant for you to read that.” A sudden thought dawned on Hutch. “You took that out of the envelope and kept it?”
“What’dya take me for? I went and made a copy at that little shop just down the block from the Pits. Had to run like hell. But – “ Folding the paper again, Starsky stuck it back in his pocket. “I didn’t read it till now. Because you asked me to.”
“I asked – I didn’t ask you to copy it – or read it!” Hutch sputtered. “Ever!”
“You’re a – you’re – “ Sighing, Hutch shoved Starsky over so he could lean back against the tree next to him. “You’re just you.”
They sat quietly for awhile, watching the people milling around the memorial. Hutch was once again struck by the diversity of the crowd. There were people of all ages and backgrounds mingling as they moved toward the stark monument.
“Why are they all here?”
“What?” He turned to look at Starsky.
“I mean look at that guy.” Starsky pointed at a man in faded and torn fatigues who was crying heartbrokenly. “Why is he here?”
“Maybe this is helping him.”
Two men standing nearby moved to comfort the man, and Hutch nudged his partner. “Maybe this is the first time he’s cried? This might be years of grief that’s been locked away coming out. And do those two even know him? Or are they just helping a fellow human being?”
“They could be picking his pockets, you don’t know – ouch!” He yelped as Hutch elbowed him.
“Look at the people crying and smiling. It’s – “ Searching the faces around them, he looked for the common thread. Laughter here, tears there, hugs and hand holding, people leaving things, others getting rubbings of names. “They’re here to heal, Starsk.”
“You think so?” There did seem to be a peaceful feel in the air. Starsky decided the wall didn’t look so ugly after all.
“I think so.”
“Do you really love me?”
“Thanks, Minnie, I knew you could track her down. You’re the best. I do not say that to all the girls.” Hutch smiled. “And hey, this is just between you and me, okay? Don’t tell Starsky. Thanks. See you in a week, and I’ll buy you the best dinner you’ve ever had.”
Hanging up the phone, Hutch walked out of his room and into the main room of the hotel suite. He opened the door leading into Starsky’s room and peered in. Starsky was asleep, calm and peaceful, and sprawled out on the bed in typical style.
Hutch pulled a chair to where he could see into Starsky’s room and using Gideon’s bible for a desk, began to write.
You don’t know me, and I never met your husband...
“What is that?”
“It’s Kenny’s name.” She held up the piece of paper that had been inside the letter. “It’s from the new memorial.”
“Where did it come from?” Her mother took the paper and carefully ran a finger over the shadowy letters of her son-in-law’s name. “Who in the world sent this?”
“A friend in California.” Smiling, she folded the letter up and put it away. “A couple of friends.”
There is a Kenneth P. Hutchinson on the wall, which almost made me fall out of my seat. There are however, no Starskys or Starskis. Here is a link to the main page, as it won’t let me link to the page specifically for him. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall page.
I’m not sure that a booklet of any kind was actually handed out at the opening ceremony, but there should have been, and for the purposes of this story there was.
There is a book that can be purchased that has the names and details about the people listed on the wall. Recently the info was put into a data base so that names could be looked up easier, as the book listed names by date of death and not alphabetically. Small handhelds are used instead of the five pound book. Thank you, Ralkana, for finding that information!
Opening day was November 13, 1982, and there was quite a crowd as some of the pictures will attest. The statue of the soldiers was unveiled on November 8, 1984 and a flagpole was also added as some believed the wall lacked the traditional look of a war memorial.