Hutch grabbed the polish and proceeded to apply the final coat to the wooden hatch which led down to the bowels of the boat. The sun was warm and the perspiration dripped from his forehead as he worked the polish into the woodwork.
This first year with he and Starsky as a couple was approaching and Hutch wanted something memorable. Normally, Hutch would’ve found tasteful and sedate gift, but this being their first was special. He wanted everything that came with sweeping his partner off his feet. Envisioning Starsky’s reaction, Hutch smiled.
He knew Starsky would initially view this boat with some trepidation, but was confident when he showed the advantages of taking a boat out into the open water. After finding a private cove, Hutch was confident his lover would jump in with both feet with Starsky style.
A shadow covered his hands and when Hutch looked up, a tall figure loomed over him. He got to his feet and stepped off the cutter onto the dock.
“Here, you look like you could use this.”
Hutch grabbed the beer in appreciation. Kyle was someone who befriended him a few days after Hutch started working on the boat. The man was fairly average looking with light brown hair reaching his collar. Every time Hutch saw him in the three months since their first meeting, the wavy hair looked to be finger-combed. The sharp brown eyes were studious and piercing.
He took a long drink from the bottle and sighed in relief. “Thanks, Kyle. I needed this.”
Kyle smiled in return. “You looked it.” He stepped aside and ran his gaze over the white cutter. “Hard to believe how decrepit this boat looked when you first bought her. She looks brand new.”
“I’ve still got a few weeks to go before she’s ready.”
“You should be pleased, Ken. Your hard work is certainly paying off. Have you told your friend?”
Hutch shook his head. “No, I want to keep it a surprise. It’s been tough to do. He’s got a nose like a bloodhound.”
“He’ll love you for it,” Kyle said with an appreciative look.
Hutch froze in place and stared at Kyle. “I wasn’t…” The words stumbled from his mouth unsure of what to say.
“Relax, Ken. I don’t have a strong urge for the opposite sex myself. I’m gay.”
“I didn’t know.”
“You know how it is. Don’t advertise.”
Hutch studied the boat and noted the need to look for new rigging. “It’s tough. You want to live your life openly without fear of retribution. Makes me wonder if it’ll ever change.”
“Someday. I guess it’ll just take time for the world to catch up to the rest of us,” Kyle replied with a grin.
Hutch smiled back and lifted the bottle to his lips. After he finished, he glanced down at his watch. “Shit. I’m late.” Hutch handed the bottle off and grabbed his jacket sitting at the stern of the boat.
Kyle watched Hutch hurry away. When he was out of sight, he turned to head back to his own boat docked not far away.
Hutch rushed into his apartment and stripped off his sweaty shirt. He tossed it aside as he made his way to the bathroom. After a quick, he quickly dressed and cursed hearing the familiar growl of the Torino from the open window. Hutch searched for a pair of clean socks and grabbed his shoes. By the time, he sat down to put them on, Starsky strolled in and observed Hutch slipping the socks on.
“And I thought I was going to make us late.”
Hutch glanced at Starsky then turned his attention back to tying his shoe. “I got held up today.”
Starsky ambled over to his partner and leaned down. He ran a finger along Hutch’s chin and turned the blond head towards him. Starsky’s mouth met Hutch’s with his insistent tongue making its way inside. The kiss was a sensual hello with a promise of what’s to come later.
When Starsky finished, Hutch was breathless and his face was flushed. Starsky smiled in satisfaction at what he could do to his partner with just one kiss. “Like that, did ya’?”
After a faint smile and a breath, Hutch said, “You just like hearing me say I do just to feed your ego.”
With a knowing grin, Starsky sat down in the chair. “Did you get any sleep today?”
“I hope enough. These late night stakeouts are gonna catch up to you.”
“Not, really. You haven’t been sleeping good since we started this stakeout. It shows.”
“I’ll catch a wink or two tonight.”
Starsky pushed himself up from the chair and Hutch was relieved his partner didn’t question him any further. This was a special surprise and Hutch hoped he could manage to keep it to himself for another few weeks in time for their anniversary.
The next few days were uneventful and Hutch managed some time away to finish his surprise for Starsky. He was thankful he wasn’t questioned over his disappearances even when it meant some time he’d rather spend with his lover. His confidence in this idea grew more when he thought about the wondrous times to be had.
He looked in the mirror as he combed his hair and shook his head. Looking into his tired eyes, Hutch said, “Hutchinson, you look like hell.”
The knock at the door brought his attention back to the fact Starsky would be arriving soon. He was looking forward to a relaxing evening with his partner since they weren’t as together as much as he liked.
Hutch opened the door and his eyes widened in surprise. “Kyle!”
Kyle’s smile was tentative. He gripped the box in his hand. “I hope I didn’t come at a bad time.”
Hutch held the door open for him. “Starsky won’t be here for a few minutes yet. Come on in.”
Kyle walked inside and his eyes scanned the interior of the apartment taking in the overall look. “This is nice.”
“I thought the boat was one item short and I didn’t want to wait till the next time I saw you.” Kyle held the wooden box out to Hutch.
Hutch didn’t know what to make of it. He didn’t feel like he knew Kyle well enough to take it, but rather than make an issue of it, he did. “You shouldn’t have, Kyle.”
Kyle smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “Think of it as a housewarming gift of sorts. Something for her christening.”
Hutch lifted the lid and when he saw the gift, he was stunned. A golden brass bell rested in the midnight blue velvet. “My god. This is too much.”
“The boat deserves it, wouldn’t you say?” Kyle smiled. “The ship's clock strikes in a half-hour sequence based on the four-hour ship's watch system.”
Hutch closed the box and shook his head. “I can’t take this. It must’ve cost you a small fortune.”
“Come on, Ken. It’s special and so is the boat. From the sounds of it, so is he.” Kyle walked over to Hutch and put a gentle hand on his arm. “Please. I insist.”
Hutch still wasn’t comfortable with accepting such a gift, but look in Kyle’s eyes convinced him. “Thank you. She’ll look great.”
With a beaming smile Kyle watched Hutch put the box away. “I never did tell you how much I like the name you gave her.” He followed him to the couch and gazed at the tall man slipping his jacket on. “It seemed fitting. I sure would like to know how you came up with it.”
At that moment, the door opened and Starsky walked in. He paused upon seeing Kyle. Hutch met him halfway keeping his nervousness in check. “Starsk, this is Kyle.”
Starsky eyed Kyle and he held his hand out. Kyle’s smile seemed genuine enough, but he was unaccustomed to not knowing Hutch’s acquaintances. “Dave Starsky.”
“How do you two know each other?” Starsky asked looking from one to the other.
Hutch’s breath caught and he glanced at Kyle who slid his hands in his pockets. “Ken was having motor problems and I offered him some help.”
While it wasn’t an outright lie, it wasn’t the complete truth either. When Hutch first bought the boat, the motor was at the top of the list of items to fix. Kyle offered help and he was more than happy to accept because of his own frustration at the time. He looked at Starsky to study his partner’s reaction.
Starsky chuckled and grinned. “It’s no wonder with that crate on wheels. I keep telling him to upgrade, but he won’t hear it.”
“It’s always hard to let go,” Kyle joked back.
Hutch laughed a little as he slipped on his jacket. “If you two are finished insulting my car, I think it’s time to go.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Kyle said. “I only meant to stay briefly.” He turned towards Hutch. “If you have any problems, give me a holler, Ken. Dave, it was nice meeting you.”
Kyle left and Starsky turned towards Hutch who was busy straightening his jacket. “Seems like a nice enough guy,” Starsky observed.
“Yeah, he is, I guess.”
“How long have you known him?”
“Couple of months.”
Starsky wasn’t pleased with the short answers Hutch was giving him. “He live around here?”
“At the docks. He has a boat there.” Hutch turned towards Starsky. “You’re not jealous, are you?”
“No,” Starsky immediately denied. Then after a thought said, “Yes…a little, I guess.”
Hutch gave Starsky a tender smile and stepped close to him. “You trust me, Starsk?”
“Always will, Blondie. I guess I’m feelin’ a little possessive right now. Don’t wanna share you.”
Hutch raised his hand and gently caressed Starsky’s face. His eyes locked onto Starsky’s. “You’re probably feeling more neglected than anything. I haven’t been there enough for you.”
Starsky’s soft smile made Hutch’s heart melt.
“Hutch, you’ve always been there for me. I just like to keep you near me as much as I can. The last few weeks seems like we’re apart more than together unless it’s on the job.”
“Guess it’s time for me to remedy that,” Hutch whispered. He leaned in and tenderly kissed Starsky. The loving kiss soon turned more ardent and both wrapped their arms around one another.
Hutch left Starsky’s mouth seeking more territory to conquer. His tongue found Starsky’s ear and gently moistened with tender nips.
The sensations shot to Starsky’s groin and he moaned his want. His body tightened up and he gripped Hutch’s waist. “Hutch,” Starsky whispered. “Keep it up and we’ll never get out the door.”
Hutch’s deep chuckle rumbling along Starsky’s sensitive skin made him shiver with desire. “Then let me finish what I started,” Hutch breathed into Starsky’s ear.
He led Starsky to the bedroom and Hutch’s heart hammered with crazy want. They stood at the foot of the bed and he pushed the jacket off of Starsky’s shoulders allowing it to drop to the floor.
Undressing Starsky was like unwrapping a precious gift. Hutch never got enough of his partner’s body and each time they were together, he swore he learned something new each time. It was still new territory to him and he intended to discover every secret his lover’s body had to offer.
When they were completely nude, Hutch brought Starsky on the bed with him. He rolled on top of his lover plunging his tongue deep into the wanting mouth. Their hard erections settled comfortably next to each bringing both men up tightly together.
Hutch ran his wet tongue down to Starsky’s neck and proceeded to work his way down. The prize was close and he grasped it in his hand. Hutch’s smile was a greedy one when he heard Starsky’s moan.
Reaching for Starsky’s groin, the sweet gift beckoned to him wantonly. He grasped the hardness and pumped on it thrilled by the sounds of desire echoing around the room. Starsky’s need brought his own body alive and Hutch gave a thankful groan when his partner gripped his tight erection.
Hutch lowered his head and enveloped the object of his hunger with his entire mouth. Starsky’s scent was strong and pure. He inhaled and the heady aroma wound its way to his innermost self with complete satisfaction. He groaned in protest when Starsky shifted and an involuntary moan escaped him when his partner’s hot mouth found his center.
Trying to concentrate on giving Starsky pleasure was a heavy task for Hutch. His own body was wound up tight and responsive to Starsky’s ministrations. He was a raging storm of sensations that threatened to overwhelm him.
Hutch moved his mouth down further till Starsky’s curls tickled his nose. He swallowed relishing the uncontrollable moans coming from his lover. Hutch’s heart smiled in glee when Starsky’s mouth finally released him. “Shit, Hutch,” Starsky exclaimed in breaths. “I’m gonna come.”
You’re supposed to, Hutch bragged to himself.
Hutch felt Starsky hand on his arm pulling on him. He reluctantly released his prize and glanced at Starsky. Hutch saw the wantonness and desire on his partner’s sweat-covered face. He was proud of the effect he had on his partner.
“I want you close to me, babe.”
Hutch moved to cover Starsky’s body with his own. He started to reach for the nightstand when Starsky’s hand stopped him. “Not this time. Want you as close to me as possible.”
Starsky moved his hips to show Hutch what he meant. Hutch was more than happy to oblige his partner. This was after all, about Starsky. He leaned in kissed him then looked into his lover’s face. “For you, babe. Only you.”
Hutch reached down and grabbed both erections. The moisture from the attentions given to each other allowed them to slide against each other as one. Their movements steadily increased and Hutch kept his hold. The crescendo of their pace and need quickened. They yearned and reached for that higher orgasmic plane together.
Hutch’s mouth went to Starsky’s and they met in a hot-blooded kiss. They humped hungrily against each other and in this erotic moment exploded together. Their essence released as one and tasted the moans of each other’s pleasure.
The kiss continued into the lovemaking aftermath. Finally, they released each other and Hutch relaxed his head on Starsky’s shoulder taking deep breaths. He heard Starsky’s low chuckle and smiled when his partner’s arms surrounded him.
“Damn, partner,” Starsky said with a sated smile. “That felt like the first time.”
Breathless with excitement from the passionate session, Hutch replied, “Always is with me.”
Starsky reached for a nearby towel they kept close-by for such wonderful events. He moved Hutch to his back and proceeded to wipe the moisture from the golden body. Starsky loved the lazy smile on Hutch’s face and it was one he wanted to see more of. In the months following his shooting, it was a rare occurrence. Seeing it now, reminded Starsky of the Hutch from their early days. I was head over heals in love with you then, partner, Starsky thought happily.
He tossed the towel aside and pulled Hutch close. Their bodies close together brought Starsky fulfillment. “Staying like this sounds better than going out.”
Hutch closed his eyes and moved in closer to Starsky. “Thought you wanted to go out tonight?”
Starsky gave Hutch’s shoulder a tender kiss. “This is much more appealing than a horror flick.”
Hutch snickered. “I hate to think I’d rank second to ‘The Howling’.”
“Don’t worry, Hutch,” Starsky grinned. “You’ll make it up to me tomorrow night. We’ll go then.”
Hutch groaned knowing how bad Starsky wanted to see this movie, but not really minding it. The last horror movie they saw kept Starsky at his place and in his bed for over a week.
Hutch moved to straighten and placed his hands on his sore back. The muscles screamed in protest as he stretched. He stood on the on the bow sprit and looked down at the shiny metal. It took almost two hours of hard work to bring the shine out.
Hutch moved starboard and his eyes caught Kyle walking towards him away from his much larger boat docked not far. He observed the plate of sandwiches and the soda’s Kyle was carrying.
“Permission to come aboard?” Kyle asked with an easy smile.
“Sure,” Hutch answered.
Kyle held the plate out to Hutch. “I’ve watched you go for almost three hours without a break. Eat up.”
“Kyle, I really appreciate this, but it’s not necessary. I was getting ready to take a break.”
“If you don’t eat, it’ll just go to waste,” Kyle said with a wink.
Hutch relented and took a sandwich from the plate. He sat down and took the soda offered to him.
After making himself comfortable, Kyle reached for a sandwich. “When will she be ready?”
“I have to be done in ten days.”
“She looks ready for presentation now, Ken.”
Hutch shook his head. “I still have to repair the staysail and the canvas covers all need replaced.”
“I could help, you know. Get it done that much faster.”
“That’s fine, Kyle. It’s something I want to do on my own.”
Hutch took a bite of the sandwich, then a drink from the soda. He observed Kyle briefly. “You don’t seem like you get out much.”
“Not really. I like the solitude plus it’s always hard to find someplace I feel comfortable socializing in.”
“Do you work?”
Kyle shook his head. “My father owns a manufacturing company back east. Even though we’re not on the best footing, he did allow me to keep my trust fund. I came out west and bought a boat.”
“You should get out and meet other people, Kyle. It’d be good for you.”
“Congregating in some places doesn’t exactly offer the type of companion I’m looking for.”
“There’s a club on Broadway called the ‘Palomino’. You should check it out.”
“You’ve been there?”
Hutch nodded. “A few times. The people for the most part are pretty good and some aren’t into one-night stands. They’re looking for the same thing you are, I imagine.”
“I don’t know, Ken. I’d wind up being a wallflower. No pun intended,” Kyle chuckled.
“If I didn’t think it’d work for you, I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Kyle looked at Hutch thoughtfully for a moment and then down at the soda in his hand. “Why don’t you introduce me to your friends there?”
Hutch paused and looked at him with trepidation. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m already in a relationship.”
“Bring him along. It might be fun.”
“The ‘Palomino’ isn’t exactly Starsky’s scene. He’s comfortable with our relationship, but he’s also a very private person.”
“I’d feel better about going if someone I trusted to introduce me to the right people and pointed out the wrong ones.”
“Going there without Starsky is not an option, Kyle.” Hutch shifted in his seat. “I’m not going to make him go someplace that he doesn’t feel comfortable in.”
“I understand, Ken. Don’t worry about it.”
It was then Hutch realized Kyle’s friendship was now becoming a problem. One he knew he had to nip in the bud. He could almost envision the man being more of a nuisance than anything once he and Starsky started coming out here together. He wanted to be nice to Kyle, but he knew if he didn’t do something the pleasantries would come to an end.
“I tell you what, Kyle. I’ll talk to Starsky about it and if he’s okay with it, we’ll go.”
Kyle smiled at the decision. “That’s great, Ken.”
“It’ll make us even if you meet someone,” Hutch added.
Starsky took a sip of his beer and barely noticed its warmth. His eyes scanned the club and settled on Hutch near the bar with Kyle and a friend they both knew. He wasn’t thrilled about coming, but Hutch explained that Kyle needed to socialize. Starsky suspected there was more to it, but didn’t push the issue. He needed the time with Hutch and Starsky conceded that his partner rarely asked to go anywhere in particular these days.
What kept Starsky’s attention was Kyle. He had a gnawing in his gut that ached. Whenever he watched him, he could see the affection in the dark brown eyes for Hutch. Starsky gripped the glass when he saw Kyle’s light touch on Hutch’s forearm. It wasn’t anything that constituted more than friendship, but Starsky’s instinct told him otherwise. If Hutch had any knowledge, he certainly didn’t show it.
The drive back to Starsky’s place was quiet and as they undressed for bed, Starsky glanced over at Hutch who was removing his shirt. “You think Kyle met anyone?”
“Maybe,” Hutch replied tossing the shirt aside. “He stayed after we left.”
Starsky stripped his jeans off and slipped in between the sheets. “Hope so.”
Hutch unbuttoned his pants and gave Starsky a curious glance. “Didn’t think it mattered to you.”
Starsky put his arms behind his head and relaxed. “To be honest, it don’t.”
After Hutch was undressed he got into bed and scooted in close to Starsky. “So why did you ask?”
Starsky was hesitant to answer and Hutch pushed his fingers into the dark curls sighing at the soft texture. “You’re jealous still.”
“Hutch, I know I’m probably a little jealous and I can deal with that. But he likes you. I can tell.”
“Even if he does, why does it bother you?”
“Cause I don’t want him around hoping for something he’ll never have.” Starsky looked into Hutch’s eyes. “What I won’t let him have.”
“If this doesn’t do it, Starsk, I’ll talk to him and tell him that I’ve got my hands full, with you,” Hutch said affectionately. He ran his hands down to Starsky’s firm backside for emphasis.
Starsky growled as he moved in closer to Hutch. Running his hands along the smooth body, he leaned in close. “If you don’t, I’ll do it my way.”
With a leering smile, Hutch looked into Starsky’s sex-filled eyes. “I’ve been waiting for you to do it your way all night.”
Starsky moved on top of Hutch with just that intention.
Hutch flipped through the cookbook searching for the perfect meal. Their anniversary was only days away and Hutch wanted to celebrate it on the boat. Starsky got the unpleasant duty of working late tonight and Hutch had a precious three hours to finalize the details of the celebration.
He absently wondered what Starsky had in mind. Knowing his partner, Hutch expected something special. Starsky was dropping hints from time to time, but Hutch barely acknowledged them. He smiled wondering if his lover thought he forgot the special day. The look on Starsky’s face was worth all the effort Hutch was making. It was his intention to make it an unforgettable day and night.
The knock at the door brought an irritated sigh from Hutch. He pulled himself away and hurried to the door. Kyle stood in the doorway when Hutch opened it.
Hutch forced a smile to his face as he looked at Kyle. “I wasn’t expecting to see you so soon.”
Waving a bottle of champagne in front of Hutch, Kyle said, “I made a decision and I feel so good about it, that I wanted to celebrate it with you and Dave.”
“Starsky’s working late. What decision?”
“Is it okay if I come in, Ken?”
“Oh.” Hutch held the door open and Kyle came inside. “So what’s this great decision?”
“I’m shoving off tomorrow morning.”
Hutch was surprised at the sudden news and he smiled in relief. “You are? Where?”
“I thought I’d take the boat up the coast for a leisurely trip to San Francisco. I talked to a few people and it sounds like my kind of town.”
“That’s great, Kyle. I’m really pleased for you. Maybe San Francisco is the place for you.”
“Yeah, I think it is.” Kyle paraded the bottle in front of Hutch. “Why not a few drinks with a friend before he parts for hopefully fairer waters?”
Hutch saw no reason to deny him and headed to the kitchen for the glasses. Kyle came up behind Hutch startling him. “Ken, let me. Go have a seat.”
“I can do this one thing for you, Kyle.”
Kyle popped the cork from the champagne and grinned. “Waiting on you is a pleasure in itself. I’d like to take this opportunity to do it again.”
Sticking his hands in his pockets, Hutch hesitated. Since it was Kyle’s last night, he saw no reason to argue. “Sure, I’ll be in the living room.”
Hutch started for the living room and paused briefly to see Kyle pouring the champagne. He turned back and went to the chair in the living room. Less than a minute later, Kyle handed him the glass filled with champagne.
After getting setting the bottle on the coffee table, Kyle got comfortable on the couch. He turned his body facing Hutch with one knee relaxing on the cushion. If Hutch noticed his close proximity, he didn’t show it.
With a raised glass, Kyle smiled. “Here’s to the future. May it bring the best for everyone.”
Hutch tapped his glass to Kyle’s and took a drink. The champagne was sweet and he suddenly remembered he hadn’t eaten yet. Hutch made a mental note to take it easy on the alcohol. “Sounds like this move is something you’re really looking forward to?”
“I’ve been thinking about it off and on. Now seems as good as time as any.”
“I really hope it all works out for you, Kyle. You deserve it.”
Kyle’s smile was filled with pleasure looking at Hutch. “It will. I have no doubt.”
He watched Hutch take another drink and seeing the glass almost empty Kyle reached for the bottle on the coffee table. He pulled it over knocking the ashtray onto the floor. When Hutch’s attention was diverted, he tipped the glass pouring the champagne on his shirt.
“Damn,” Kyle said.
Hutch held the ashtray and saw Kyle’s wet shirt.
“Can’t believe my own stupidity. I just had this cleaned.”
Getting to his feet, Hutch started out of the room. “I’ll get you a towel. I’ve got a spare shirt you can use.”
“That’d be great,” Kyle said standing up. He watched Hutch leave and sighed in satisfaction as he removed the drenched shirt. This was easier than he thought.
Kyle grabbed the bottle and poured more into Hutch’s glass. He added some to his own and stood just as Hutch walked into the room. Kyle took the towel and wiped his chest dry. He smiled at the dark green t-shirt Hutch was holding out for him.
“Thanks. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“Sure.” Hutch grabbed Kyle’s shirt and draped it over a chair. “The shirt will be fine and it should air-dry rather quickly.”
Kyle observed Hutch as he retrieved his glass. “I’m normally not so clumsy.”
A chuckle and a shy smile left him and Hutch looked down into the champagne. “You should’ve seen my more stellar moments.”
“Really? Sounds like a story.”
“More like several stories,” Hutch replied.
“Don’t keep me in suspense. I’d love to hear them if you don’t mind.”
Hutch leaned back and relaxed against the soft cushions. He smiled and began telling Kyle of his more infamous moments of clumsiness. It was so easy to get caught up in the warm memories of his early days with Starsky. Kyle was leaving tomorrow and knowing that, Hutch mellowed and let his guard down.
After half an hour of drinking the champagne, Hutch’s vision was starting to blur. His mind was muddled and he didn’t know why. His thinking was fragmenting and when he looked at Kyle, the smile blurred. Hutch’s eyelids were heavy and keeping them open was nearly impossible.
Kyle watched Hutch sluggishly push himself to a standing position. He stood and moved in close to Hutch. “Hey, you okay?”
“Champagne,” Hutch mumbled.
When Hutch reached for something to steady himself, Kyle grabbed onto his arm. “This stuff will really hit you if you’re not a heavy drinker.” He pulled Hutch towards the bedroom. “Let’s get you to bed, Ken.”
Groggy, Hutch held onto Kyle unaware of the pleased look in his eyes. As he was led to the bedroom, everything felt warm and close. The room was darkening and it tilted. Hutch had the distinct sensation of freefalling. When the soft bed was beneath him, Hutch closed his eyes.
Kyle stood over Hutch with a satisfied smile. He spent over a month planning for this opportunity. He used his trust fund to delve into the most intimate moments of Hutch’s life by use of a less-than-ethical private investigator. Upon discovering Hutch’s partner, Kyle had no qualms about investigating Starsky as well. Kyle knew he had his work cut out for him when he learned more about the team.
Nothing was left to chance as he investigated their working hours, where they went and what they did during their on and off time. Kyle’s time with Hutch at the dock gave him into an insight into the detective’s thinking and in their conversations, he knew what he would have to do to make Hutch his.
It was an all-consuming need for Kyle and his obsession for Hutch had only grown in the months since their first meeting. He was well aware of his sharp intellect and made a point of treading carefully. One slipup and Kyle knew any chances with Hutch would be lost. He saw the guarded looks in the man’s eyes. Waiting was no longer an option.
The only one standing in his way was Dave Starsky. Kyle knew conventional means wouldn’t work with a man such as this. It would have to be done in the most convincing way possible to make sure Hutch remained with him. He had no reservations at all going to these lengths to separate Hutch from the one person who would fight tooth and nail to keep Kyle from his objective.
Kyle undressed Hutch and after removing his own clothes went to the other side of the bed and moved in between the sheets. He pulled Hutch’s body to its side and draped a heavy arm across his chest. Kyle sighed with pleasure and imagined the scenario playing out in his mind while he waited.
Starsky maneuvered the Torino behind Hutch’s car and jumped out. After the last few difficult hours of work, he couldn’t wait to have his partner next to him in bed. The times he wanted to be the closest to Hutch, was when outside factors didn’t permit it.
As Starsky headed up the stairs, his mind wandered their first anniversary which was quickly approaching. He struggled for over two months trying to find that perfect gift for Hutch. Starsky settled on an elegant gold chain necklace which he new would look fabulous on his lover.
Starsky grinned as he approached the door. He opened it and stepped inside mildly surprised not to see Hutch waiting for him. Starsky glanced over at the chair to see the unfamiliar shirt casually draped over the back. The bottle and glasses on the coffee table held his attention briefly before Starsky moved on.
“Hutch.” Starsky edged forward and when he reached the bedroom his stomach lurched and his head swum from the sight.
Hutch’s body was facing away from him. A naked leg and arm lay on top of Kyle who was quietly lying with his eyes closed. Starsky stumbled back at the sight of the obscene revelation and his arm struck the nearby lamp on the dresser.
The shattering sound brought Hutch’s eyes opened and for a brief moment as he shifted around on the bed, he didn’t know where he was. The drug in his system was still affecting him and when he turned, his blurred vision started to focus on the dark figure standing not far from the bed.
Still groggy, Hutch pushed himself up and he rubbed his eyes. His vision cleared and he saw the pale disbelief on Starsky’s face. “Starsk?” Hutch asked hoarsely.
He managed to stand up and searched for something to grab to control the dizziness and churning stomach. Hutch repeated Starsky’s name again and upon hearing the rustling of the sheets behind him, he turned to see a very naked Kyle reaching for some underwear.
The fear in Hutch’s chest hammered uncontrollably when he realized what Starsky had walked into. “Jesus.”
He focused on Starsky who was moving away from him. “Starsky, please,” Hutch said trying to reach him.
Starsky was oblivious to everything but the horrendous sight. The smell of alcohol was thick and threatened to overwhelm him. Seeing Hutch’s nakedness and disarray spoke volumes to Starsky. All he could think of was getting out.
Seeing Starsky stumbling to the door, Hutch turned and grabbed a pair of shorts which lay nearby. He quickly slipped them on and followed his partner out the door ignoring Kyle calling his name.
By the time Hutch reached the street, Starsky was already speeding away in the Torino. “Oh, god,” Hutch moaned as he watched the fiery red car disappear down the dark street.
He turned and hurried back inside. Hutch went to the bedroom and searched for clean clothes. He looked to Kyle who was dressing. “What the hell happened, Kyle?”
Kyle looked back at Hutch with wide-eyed innocence. “We were just drinking and having a good time, Ken. One thing led to another, we drank more and then the next thing I know…”
Hutch fumbled for his pants trying to get them on. “This can’t have happened. Goddamn it!”
Hutch jerked a shirt off a hanger and swung his head at Kyle. “I have to know, Kyle. Did we have sex?”
Kyle wanted to jump up and down in glee at the question. He kept a solemn look on his face as he gazed at Hutch. “Yeah, I remember some of it. We both wanted it.”
“Jesus Christ!” Hutch swore. “I’ve got to talk to Starsky. Get this mess straightened out somehow.”
It was when Hutch started putting on the shirt that the guilt started weighing him down. He didn’t know how or why it happened, but the evidence of it was all over him. He hurried to the bathroom and cleaned up.
Hutch emerged to see Kyle in the living room. “Kyle, you’ll understand if I tell you that’s it’s for the best if you stay away. Don’t come back.”
Not waiting for an answer, Hutch turned and when he reached the door, his head throbbed. He took a moment to catch his breath ignoring the body aches and the trembling of his hands. Hutch furiously chastised himself for allowing himself to drink the way he did. As he left, he still had no clue of what had truly taken place.
Gripping the steering wheel until his knuckles whitened, Starsky lay on the accelerator and sped down the darkened street. With the sickening image still clear, the simmering anger was slowly building into a raging fury. Starsky swung the car around a corner with the tires squealing through the night.
His rage refused to subside and Starsky pulled the car to the curb while slamming on the brakes. He jumped out and his dangerous eyes caught site of the abandoned wreckage of a house on a desolate corner of the street. The naked body of Hutch intertwined with Kyle was forever imprinted on Starsky’s heart and his furious black wrath seethed just under the surface. Starsky headed into the decrepit residence and once inside, a two-by-four lay on the broken wooden floor.
Starsky snatched the board with his hand and swung around like he was stepping up to the plate. The tormenting visions tightly wound themselves in his mind and his swinging grew wilder. Hutch standing nude before him with Kyle searching for his own clothing taunted Starsky.
With a wrath Starsky had never known in his life, he swung the two-by-four violently as a stormy cry exploded from his throat. Not a wall, not a window and not the decaying furniture was immune from his wrath. The crazed maniacal rampage continued on as the brittle wood escaped his hands. With nothing to expel the torrent of fiery emotions, he balled up his hands and hit the walls as hard as he could. Energy depleted, the fists tired, Starsky slid down to the floor with head hung low.
His breathing finally slowed and a tear dropped to the top of his blood streaked hand. Starsky wrapped his hands around his stomach and leaning onto the dirtied floor, nothing held back the rainstorm of pain as it escaped in an uncontrollable cry.
When Starsky finally arrived at his place, Hutch was parked across the street waiting. His gut told him to keep going, but instead parked the Torino in the drive. Starsky didn’t even look in Hutch’s direction as he stepped out of the car.
They met at the foot of the stairs and Hutch was taken aback by the ferocity of betrayal written across Starsky’s face. With his heart pounding in dreaded fear, Hutch touched his arm. Starsky flinched as if he’d been burned and flung the stinging touch away. He then hurried up the steps and Hutch, aching from Starsky’s furious rejection, stood almost afraid to breathe.
No, not like this, Hutch swore. He turned and followed Starsky’s steps needing to make right what he had torn apart. Standing in front of the closed door, Hutch closed his eyes. God, please, Hutch prayed as he set his hand on the door knob.
Starsky stood in the kitchen with his back to Hutch. “Knocking is customary.”
Hutch remained silent as he watched Starsky down a half-filled glass of what he thought to be bourbon. In the time since the shooting, Starsky and Hutch’s intake of alcohol had greatly diminished. Hutch thought it ironic they would make up for the lack of it in this way.
“We have to talk.” Hutch was surprised at the almost begging sound his voice made. He never was this desperate before.
Starsky gripped the glass and whirled around at Hutch. “Talk! Is that what you think we ought to do, Hutch? Talk? You sure as hell weren’t interested in talking about anything before you decided to hit the sack with Kyle!”
The site of Starsky’s bloodied fingers startled Hutch and he stepped forward. He was about to reach for Starsky and halted. He looked from one hand to the other. “What happened to your hands?”
“I did what everybody does when they get kicked in the fucking gut!” Starsky bit out.
“Starsk, please,” Hutch pleaded.
Starsky took ominous steps towards Hutch with his fury building as he moved closer. “Did you say please to him? You said it to me often enough when we’re together. How ‘bout ‘only you’? Did you say that to him, too?”
“Just let me explain.” Hutch’s eyes were burning from the onslaught of tears which were trying to push themselves free.
“You think you can explain what I saw?” Starsky yelled. “There’s no way in hell you can talk yourself out of it, Hutch, and you goddamn well know it!”
“Starsk, for the last few months…”
“I don’t give a shit about the last fucking months! It doesn’t matter! None of it! Anything you tell me won’t make a goddamn bit of difference because of what you did!”
Hutch hung his head in shame and his heart tore from the truth being hurled at him. He stood silently and allowed Starsky to release his wrath.
Starsky shook his head and gave Hutch a contemptuous look before walking to the living room. “When you fucked Kira, I thought that was about you and me, Hutch. I thought none of it had a damn thing to do with her. Just us. Guess I was wrong, wasn’t I? It’s about you and what you wanted. To hell with me.”
Desperate, Hutch followed him. “That’s not true, Starsky. I love you. I swear it.”
Starsky stood trying to get a handle on the wildfire of emotions running through him. The image of Hutch in bed with Kyle wouldn’t release its hold on him. “All the years we’ve been together were everything, Hutch. Even as much as I loved Terry, you still got the best part of me. It’s been that way since the beginning.”
Hutch’s pain-filled eyes met Starsky’s. “We can work this out, Starsk. Just give it some time.”
Visions of Hutch and Kyle moving as one forced themselves to the forefront of Starsky’s eyes and the gut-wrenching ache began all over again. “Damn you!” Starsky swore. “Damn you, for making me love you!”
“I’m sorry,” Hutch sorrowfully whispered. “God, I’m so sorry.”
Averting his eyes, Starsky couldn’t bear to see the misery in Hutch’s eyes. He moved around him and headed for the kitchen. “It don’t matter anymore,” he replied in a low voice.
A panic grabbed a hold of Hutch’s chest and he reached for Starsky only to be violently shoved away. Hutch’s eyes were wide seeing the hurt and outrage in Starsky’s eyes. “A second chance, Starsk. That’s all I’m asking for!”
With a bitter and harsh laugh, Starsky shook his head. “Your second chances are used up, partner.”
The emphasis on ‘partner’ hit as hard as blow to the gut. What was now happening, Hutch couldn’t stop. He searched for something, anything, to hold onto. With a soft and low voice, he said, “I love you more than my own life.”
Starsky adamantly shook his head. “It’s over, Hutch. All of it. Think I can even be partners with you on the job?” He vehemently asked.
Still with disbelief, it took a moment for the finality of Starsky’s words to sink in. He rushed to Starsky and grabbed onto his arm in a feeble attempt to grab onto what he was losing. Hutch was met with a violent shove and thrown back against the couch almost losing his balance.
Sparked by outrage and a venomous wrath, Starsky clenched his fists and yelled, “No! You and me are through, Hutchinson! Get out and don’t come back!”
Hutch stood in the middle of the room as Starsky rushed past him. He jumped at the vicious slamming of the door. Hutch slowly turned away, completely shattered at losing the only person in his life that held any real meaning for him. The tears on his cheeks fell and Hutch staggered from Starsky’s apartment. After finding his way to his car, he looked up at the window.
Starsky was still dressed lying on his bed. A lazy arm slung over his eyes trying to keep the agonizing images at bay. Apparitions of Hutch begging for his forgiveness crossed with the nauseating replay of him lying in Kyle’s arms fought for supremacy. The pit of Starsky’s gut churned with a mixture of revulsion and black rage.
The ringing phone blared and Starsky moved his arm away from his face. The bright sun streamed through the window reminding him of a new day. He wished it was as dark and thunderous as he felt.
After sitting up, Starsky grabbed the phone and brought it to his ear. “Yeah,” he said more roughly than intended.
“Starsky, its Dobey. Where’s your partner?”
Starsky rubbed the moisture from his cheek and closed his eyes. “Don’t know, Cap.”
“I suggest you get your ass in gear and get him in here,” Dobey ordered.
“Cap, it’s for the best that you just get Hutch a new partner. We’re finished.”
“I would if he didn’t resign this morning,” Dobey stated.
Starsky opened his eyes in surprise. “What?”
“I came in this morning to find his resignation, badge and gun sitting on my desk, Starsky!”
“He didn’t give anyone a chance to talk him out of it!” Dobey took a deep breath and expelled it in frustration. “Go find him and work out whatever’s going on with the two of you, then get back here to work.”
“I won’t be in, Cap and it’s not to go find Hutch.” Starsky didn’t give Dobey a chance to reply. He set the phone down on the receiver and sat on the bed. He had no idea if he could ever return to work without Hutch at his side.
In the berth of the boat, Hutch arranged the liquor bottles according to size, then changed his mind and rearranged them alphabetically. He grabbed the bourbon and slumped down on the small settee. After removing the cap, took a long heavy drink. The liquor quickly settled in his stomach and the slight burning sensation reminded him he had yet to eat.
All Hutch cared about was ridding himself of the accusing face of his best friend, his partner, his lover-his mate. Starsky was everything to him. In their years together Starsky was a brother, a father, a son and everything anyone could possibly be.
He lifted the bottle to his lips allowing the strong alcohol splash against his throat and burn a heated path inside. Hutch knew the betrayal written all over Starsky’s face would remain with him no matter how much he obliterated himself. He could only hope the hard liquor would at the very least diminish his own pain at losing someone who was so vitally important to his own sanity.
A self-deprecating smile formed on Hutch’s face. Maybe I’ll just drink myself to death, he thought. It’s the least I deserve.
It was almost one in the afternoon and Starsky stared down into the beer sitting in front of him. He motioned for the waitress who quickly made her way over to him. “Tequila,” Starsky ordered.
He followed her with his eyes and Starsky’s mouth firmly tightened as she instead made her way to Huggy. As he watched her speaking with him, Starsky knew he wouldn’t get his shot of tequila.
Starsky sighed and took a drink from his beer as Huggy approached him. He kept his focus on his beer as Huggy slid into the seat across from him.
“You’re making my customers morose, Starsky. What gives?”
“Just wanna sit here, Huggy. You want me to leave?”
“Why don’t you tell me where your beautiful blond is instead?”
Rather than answer the question, Starsky took another drink from the glass. Huggy’s sharp brown eyes studied him and he leaned forward. “Two of you have it out or something?”
“How long did it take you to figure that one out?” Starsky bitterly asked.
“So go after the man, work it out, kiss and make-up.”
“You think that’s all it takes.” The sarcasm rolled out easy like smooth liquor. He held the beer up and took another large drink. “Sorry, pal. Not this time. Hutch and me are over. I would imagine criminals all over the street will jump for joy at the news. Start spreading the word, Hug. It’s a new day on the mean streets of Bay City.”
“Come on, Starsky. It can’t be so bad that the two of you can’t work it out.”
Starsky’s low chuckle was bitter. “Huggy, there are some things that a person can’t forgive another for. Ain’t no fixing this.”
Huggy was confused. This was something he never imagined happening or even witnessing for that matter. “What’s so bad that you two won’t put your relationship back into working order?”
Starsky raised his eyebrows at Huggy. “You didn’t see a knife the size of Cincinnati in my back when I walked in?”
“You’re telling me Hutch let you down?”
Starsky lifted the glass and took a long drink before answering. “Much worse, Hug. Something that people in love with each other, don’t do.”
It took a moment for the truth to soak in and when it did, Huggy’s eyes widened. He couldn’t believe it. “No way, Starsky. Hutch would never cheat on you.”
“You would believe that, Hug. But it just ain’t so. In fact, I walked in on the middle of it.”
“What?” Huggy blurted out. “You caught Hutch going at it with someone else?”
“It wasn’t long after the dirty deed was done.” Starsky set his glass down and turned in his chair to squarely face Huggy. “If it was a woman, I think I could deal with it.”
“Wait,” Huggy said holding his hand up. “You’re saying Hutch took a roll in the hay with some dude.”
“Someone he’s known for a while from the looks of it.”
“Starsky, that don’t make any sense. Hutch would never screw you over like that!”
“You’re forgetting the Kira fiasco, Hug. Hutch has got a history.”
“Apples and oranges, my friend. There ain’t no comparing the two.”
Starsky ignored the obvious and reached for his glass. “Makes me wonder how many others there’ve been since we’ve been together.”
“No one,” Huggy insisted. “Hutch wouldn’t do it.”
Starsky slammed the glass down on the table and his blazing eyes met Huggy’s. “If you saw what I saw, you’d believe it, Hug! Think I’d lie about something like this?”
“No, man. I don’t. But I do think there’s something going on. Hutch just wouldn’t do you like that. He loves you too much.”
“Get real, Huggy! Hutch even admitted it to my face!”
“What’d he say?”
Starsky shifted in his seat turning away from him. “It don’t matter.”
“What you mean it doesn’t matter?” Huggy asked incredulously. “You didn’t even give him a chance to explain?”
“Why should I? He fucked me over and two times in a lifetime’s enough!”
“Starsky,” Huggy said in a soft voice. “You should at least go hear him out. Maybe there’s more going on than you realize.”
“And make myself a sucker once again. No thanks.”
“If you don’t, you’ll regret it. Trust me on this.”
Starsky’s heart softened even with the pain it felt. Huggy was right. He had to know the reasons behind Hutch’s actions. Maybe it would at the very least give him some closure. Starsky gave him a nod and slowly rose from the chair. He reached into his pocket and Huggy stopped him. “It’s on the house along with my friendship.”
He gave Huggy a sad thankful smile before leaving the bar in search of Hutch.
Starsky eased the door to Hutch’s apartment open. As he walked in, the emptiness surrounded and enveloped him. He felt as lonely as the apartment looked.
The memories of his last visit taunted him as he moved through with some trepidation. Starsky noticed the glasses and the bottle on the coffee table gone. He wandered around noting how much cleaner the place looked.
He paused at Hutch’s bedroom taking in the bed which had been stripped of its sheets. He was haunted by the memory of seeing Hutch with Kyle. Starsky blinked back the tears and turned away.
There was nothing he could find to give any indication where Hutch went off to. Starsky picked up the phone and dialed the precinct. After asking for Minnie’s extension, he waited. “Minnie…yeah, it’s me…I need an address…Kyle Ashland…sure, I’ll wait.” Starsky rubbed his tired eyes he brought his head up when she returned. He reached for the tablet and pencil on the coffee table. “Yeah, I’m ready.” Starsky scribbled the address down and ripped the paper from the tablet. “Listen, run that name through the computer and see what spits out…I will…thanks.”
Starsky hung up the phone and headed out the door. When he arrived at the docks, he had to park illegally behind another car. The place was packed with vacationers seeking their escape out onto the ocean.
He found the dock and parked at the end was a large boat. Starsky took notice of the boats docked not far from it and he walked past a fisherman who was fitting his pole with a reel.
He paused at the large boat to ready himself to face the man he saw in bed with Hutch. Starsky took a breath and stepped on board. He walked around taking note of the torn canvas and unwound rope on the deck at the stern of the boat. He started forward when Kyle stepped out of the cockpit.
“Dave,” Kyle said stiffly. “What brings you by?”
“Where’s Hutch?” Starsky demanded.
Kyle shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t know.”
Stepping over the canvas, Kyle headed to the rear of the boat. He opened up the hatch leading to the motor. He grabbed the gas can and started filling up the tank. “If you hadn’t noticed, I’m getting ready to shove off.”
“I want to know what the hell happened last night!” Starsky demanded. He took a threatening step forward and Kyle immediately stood.
“It wasn’t obvious?” Kyle taunted.
Starsky clenched his fists tightly wondering how long it was going to take him to beat the man to a bloody pulp. The image flashed like a lightening strike and Hutch’s limp form was foremost in his mind.
“It happened and nothing will change it. Maybe if you’d been taking care of business, he wouldn’t have looked elsewhere,” Kyle said with a smirk.
Starsky growled and grabbed Kyle by the shirt. He shoved him against the thick mast and leveled his heated gaze into Kyle’s worried eyes. “I’m going to find, Hutch,” Starsky whispered angrily. “If I find out you did something to him, I’ll forget I’m a cop.”
He pushed Kyle away with disgust and stormed from the boat. Starsky’s determined pace increased as he walked down the dock headed towards his car.
Kyle straightened and watched Starsky’s back until he was sure the cop was long gone. He jumped from the boat and hurried to Hutch’s boat. When Kyle walked inside, he found Hutch half passed out from the alcohol.
He took the bottle from Hutch’s limp hand and set it aside. Kyle pulled him to a sitting position. “Time to go, Ken. I’ve worn out my welcome.”
Hutch mumbled a protest as Kyle pulled the lethargic body up and leaned it against him. He managed to walk Hutch out and get him outside the boat. After some difficulty, Kyle got him off the boat and headed to his own. He had one arm around his neck and Kyle kept a firm grip on Hutch’s waist as he pulled him along.
Kyle strained to get Hutch onto his boat and after struggling for a few minutes, he finally managed. Hutch’s head rolled back and a garbled ‘no’ broke from his lips, but Kyle would not be deterred. He brought him inside the large berth and dropped him down on the bed.
“Sleep it off, Ken. By the time you wake up, we’ll be long gone. It’ll be just you and me.” Kyle looked over Hutch with appreciation of the lean form. “I’ll take care of you. No one else can, but me.”
Kyle turned away from Hutch who was now in a deep alcohol-induced sleep. He went to the deck and began preparations for leaving.
Dobey looked up at his anxious detective pacing back and forth in front of him. “So you think something happened now.”
Starsky slumped into the chair and shook his head. “Just a feeling, Cap’n. Something’s just not right.”
“I don’t doubt your hunches, Starsky, but I need more. It hasn’t even been twelve hours.” Dobey saw the worried frustration cross Starsky’s face and leaned forward. “You two must’ve had a hell of a fight for you not to know where he could’ve gone.”
Looking down at his hands, Starsky debated on telling his captain everything. Their partnership was too important and for all he knew Hutch could be sitting on top of a mountain somewhere. He pushed up from the chair and moved to the window. The uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach was knotting up. “’Bout a year ago, not long after I got shot, Hutch and me…” Starsky took a breath to gather his courage. “Our partnership turned into something more, Cap’n. Maybe it was there all along, I don’t know. I know I love Hutch more than anything in this world.”
Uncertain of Captain Dobey’s response, Starsky could only watch him out of the corner of his eye. Even with the large man’s silence, Starsky couldn’t gage Dobey’s reaction.
Dobey moved to stand next to Starsky. “And there was a fight.”
“Yeah,” Starsky admitted. The pain still tore into him and he was ashamed of his own behavior. “I walked into Hutch’s and he was in bed with some guy.”
Dobey’s expression remained neutral. “Who?” he gently prodded.
“Some jerk named Ashland. Hutch knew him.” Starsky backed away from the window and stood in the middle of the room. “Guess they met a few months back.”
Watching the various emotions cross Starsky’s face, Dobey could see a realization coming to his detective. “What?”
“Hutch has been taking off and not telling me where he’s been going.”
“You think he’s been seeing this guy behind your back? Starsky, that doesn’t sound like Hutch at all.”
“It’s not that, Cap’n. I went to the guy’s boat and he was taunting me. It was like he wanted me to know that he took Hutch from me.”
“He was almost gloating.”
Starsky moved closer to Dobey’s desk. “Don’t you see, Cap’n? He wanted Hutch. I knew that. I think he set me and Hutch up.”
“In order to prove it…”
“Yeah, I’ve got to find Hutch first.”
Both turned to the opening of the door and Minnie walked in carrying a file. She handed it off to Starsky. “Sorry this took so long, honey.”
“Thanks,” Starsky replied. He opened the record and sat down in the chair after she left. “Says here that Kyle Ashland is from Terre Haute, Indiana. Trust fund baby,” Starsky added.
Dobey watched Starsky patiently read and when the expression changed to alarm, he said, “Starsky, you better start talking.”
“He walked off the grounds of a mental hospital six months ago. Seems that his folks committed him after an assault on one of their employees.” Starsky tossed the record on Dobey’s desk and headed for the door.
He stopped and turned. “Ashland’s got Hutch, Cap’n. I bet my badge on it.”
“I’ll get units to the dock.”
After Starsky dashed from the office, Dobey grabbed the phone.
With siren blaring and wheels squealing, Starsky sped to the docks in record time. He stopped the car in the middle of the parking lot and jumped out. Breaking into a sprint, Starsky ran down the long dock. He came to an abrupt stop at the absence of Kyle’s boat.
Cursing under his breath, Starsky’s eyes scanned the empty horizon. He turned and saw the same grizzly old fisherman tossing a thick rope onto his boat. “Hey.” Starsky rushed over and pulled his wallet out. He pulled out Hutch’s picture and held it up. “I’m looking for this guy. Seen him?”
Gnarled fingers took the photo and Starsky waited impatiently as the man fumbled with is glasses. Finally the old sailor took a gander. “Oh, yeah, I seen him. He’s been comin’ out for goin’ on three months now. Nice young fella.”
Betrayal cut into Starsky’s chest and he took a painful breath. “To that boat at the end of the dock?”
The old man’s grey eyes went to the empty space and he shook his head. “Naw, he’d been workin’ on the worst lookin’ boat these waters have seen for fifty years or more.”
“Huh?” Starsky could have sworn he heard the man wrong.
The old man pointed towards a much smaller boat sitting on the other side. “Never saw a man work harder on a boat.” He roughly smiled and Starsky almost grimaced at the crooked teeth. “Was a piece of shit if you ask me. By all rights it should’ve been sunk, but that fella fixed her up right nice.”
Starsky’s eyes went to the boat. It almost sparkled under the bright sun. “Don’t go nowhere. I’ll be right back.”
He never heard the grumblings of the old man as he went to small cutter. Starsky paused at the entrance before finally getting on the boat. The ropes and canvas were neatly folded and wrapped. He could smell the brand new paint and the sparkling silver banisters shown brightly under the hot sun.
Starsky slowly moved to the cockpit. The pristine condition of the once decrepit boat spoke volumes to him. Hutch had spent hardworking hours and it explained the absences and the secrecy. This was their anniversary gift.
He searched the papers, but nothing indicated Hutch’s possible location. Starsky left the cockpit and he headed bellow. Upon seeing the liquor bottles and rumbled bed, Starsky painfully bit his lip. Hutch would crawl into a bottle to relieve his guilt, Starsky knew.
With all of the evidence before him, Starsky had no doubts Kyle’s duplicity and machinations was responsible. With renewed determination, Starsky left the boat. He was halfway across the dock and stopped. Starsky slowly turned and moved to the rear. ‘Dreamcatcher’ was painted in bold black with great care and precision. So much love and patience had gone into the once decaying vessel. He turned and went to the old fisherman fumbling with the canvas at his boat. “I need to know where that boat went.”
“I’m not information, sonny.”
“Listen,” Starsky said trying to get a handle on his slipping temper. “I’m trying to find my partner and the owner of that boat might know.”
“The blond kid?” At Starsky’s nod, the old man roughly chuckled. “He left on that boat.”
“Hutch got on that boat?” Starsky incredulously asked.
“Wasn’t much in a condition to walk. Had some help…carry was more like it.”
“Why in the hell didn’t you tell me?” Starsky practically yelled.
With a toothy smile, the old man answered, “You didn’t ask, son.”
Starsky resisted the urge to put his hands around the old man’s neck by clenching them. “You’ve been a seaman for a while?”
“Hell, yeah. Sea’s all I’ve done since before the depression.”
“Could you figure out where it’s headed?”
The old man thoughtfully looked up. “Given tide, speed and the piss poor wind, it’d take a good two hours to even catch up to him…hard to say.”
“Boy, that thing out on the water got enough motor to give most a run for her money!”
“Beings that you’re a man of the sea, you could catch up to it.” Starsky carefully watched the old man’s reaction and when the pride crossed his face, he almost smiled.
“Might at that.”
“Good.” Starsky pulled out his badge and showed it. “I wanna go after that boat and I want you to take me.”
A bark of laughter escaped him and he shook his head. “Guess even an old buzzard like me never gets enough of a good old fashioned sea adventure.”
The old man got onto the boat and Starsky followed. He was stopped by the arthritis ridden hand before he could take another step. “Now, son, I don’t know if you just let anybody in your home, but I would like to get a name before we take another step.”
Starsky held out his hand. “Dave Starsky.”
“Clancy O’Brian.” Clancy proudly shook his hand. “Welcome aboard, son.”
“Thanks, Cap’n.” Starsky stepped onto the boat and helped prepare the boat to shove off.
The gentle rocking was anything but on Hutch’s nauseated stomach and throbbing head. His moan was barely audible and when he finally urged his eyes open, gray and black shadows was all he could see through his blurred vision.
Hutch finally oriented himself and realized he was lying on his back. As his vision cleared, it dawned on him that he was in unfamiliar surroundings. The swaying of the room played havoc with his unsteady stomach and as the growl of the motor became familiar, Hutch comprehended that he was on a boat.
He managed to push himself upright and settled his head into his hands. His excruciating headache mixed with dizziness almost unsettled his churning gut. When the sound of the motor stopped, Hutch forced his aching head up. He looked to the small window to his left. Getting to his feet was a task within itself and Hutch chastised himself for his enormous alcohol intake.
The click of the door got Hutch’s attention and he froze. The hairs on the back of his neck went upright as it opened and he was shocked to see Kyle walking in. “Kyle?”
Kyle gave Hutch a large smile and moved close to him. “How are you feeling?”
“What am I doing here? Is this your boat?”
Kyle ignored Hutch’s questions and moved to the small bar in the corner. “I’ve got something here that’ll help with the hangover.” He grabbed a bottle and glass. “A tad more of the hair of the dog that bit you.” Kyle was unaware of the astonished look on Hutch’s face and went on with his task as if he did it on a regular basis. “I have to admit, Ken, you really know how to put away the liquor.”
The rocking and rolling of the boat teased and played with Hutch’s insides until they began to knot together in protest. Watching Kyle proceed as if nothing was wrong alarmed Hutch and his heart pounded in response. When the glass was held out to him, Hutch took a moment to find his words. “What’s going on here?”
“Isn’t it obvious? We’re going to San Francisco.”
“Kyle,” Hutch said. He took a breath to get a grip on his panic. “I’m not going to San Francisco with you. I want you to take me back.”
Seeing that Hutch wasn’t going to take the drink, Kyle set it aside. “You don’t know what you’re saying, Ken. You’re mixed up and after a few days you’ll see that coming with me is the right thing to do.”
“No,” Hutch denied. “Take me back. Starsky will come looking for me.”
Kyle took a step closer to Hutch and looked into his eyes. “Will he?” When he couldn’t answer, Kyle continued. “You belong here, Ken. With me. He never cared about you, but I do.”
At Kyle’s hand reaching out to touch him, Hutch moved back. “Kyle, no matter what Starsky’s said or done, I still love him. I could never care for you like I do him.”
“You will,” Kyle confidently answered. “Ken, I love you more than anyone on this planet and I will do anything to make you happy. All you have to do is go along and you’ll see.”
It was obvious Kyle believed his own words given the adoration and possessiveness in his eyes. Hutch took an easy breath and steadied himself. His stomach and head continued to war with each other. “You can’t force anyone to love you. You have to let me go.”
The green eyes flared with determination. “I’m the only one that really loves you, Ken. You just don’t see it because you’re blinded by Dave’s so-called love. He hates you and won’t touch you again. Once you see how much I love you, you’ll change your mind.”
“I won’t,” Hutch firmly replied. “Take me back now, Kyle, or I’ll forget that I called you friend.”
“I can’t do that.” Kyle started to turn away and Hutch grabbed his arm.
The action Hutch took brought about a violent explosion from his kidnapper. Kyle struck out with a vicious fist to the side of Hutch’s face. He reeled in agonizing pain and Hutch fell to his knees, his hands grabbing onto the bedspread. His skull throbbed without mercy and Hutch almost lost consciousness. The hurried movements around him were secondary to the tortuous pain splitting his head in half.
When a hand grabbed his wrist and a rope began to loop it, Hutch kicked back as hard as he could. A painful expletive broke from Kyle’s lips and Hutch’s minor victory was short-lived when a hard strike landed in his ribs. The air left his lungs and a bitter taste of bile burned the back of his throat. His hands were bound behind his back then Hutch was dragged onto the bed and thrown to his stomach.
Feeling hot breath on his cheek, Hutch’s eyes came open. Kyle’s eyes sharpened like daggers. He grabbed Hutch’s hair and yanked. He grimaced in pain and his focus remained on the unbalanced man leaning over him. “I do love you, Ken, but I’m not a man that can be pushed. You ever touch me in violence again and I swear, you’ll pay for it!” Kyle released his grip then caressed Hutch’s hair. “In time, you’ll thank me.”
When Kyle moved away from him, Hutch closed his eyes. As his feet were tied together, he prayed for someone he knew would never come.
With a resigned sigh, Starsky set the microphone on top of the radio. After explaining the situation to his captain, Dobey had proceeded to read him the riot act about acting without backup. In the end, Dobey instructed Starsky to watch himself and assured him that the Coast Guard would be alerted.
He picked up the binoculars and scanned the horizon in hopes of finding his partner. His gut was as tight as the insides of a golf ball and almost ready to snap. Starsky brought them down and moved to another part of the boat.
“How long you been partners?” Clancy asked.
He peered through the binoculars again. “Over nine years. Been best friends since the academy.” Frustrated, Starsky tossed the instrument aside and moved to the front of the boat. “How in the hell is anyone expected to find a boat in the middle of the ocean?”
Clancy toothily smiled and the chuckle was a deep one. “These new fangled boats the rich folk have got every kind of nautical instrument you could imagine. Spent a shiny penny or two just so’s they could find the primo fishin’ spots. They’re looking for a trophy to brag about to their fancy friends.” Clancy adjusted the boat then glanced at Starsky out of the corner of his eye. “They do what I spent my life doin’ for the wrong reasons. You’ve got to love it so it’ll love ya’ right back. You get to knowin’ how the sea moves. I could tell ya’ how hard the undertow runs just by the feel of it against the belly of my boat and I know what the tuna’s gonna do before they do.”
Starsky gave Clancy a questioning look.
“Boy, don’t ya’ see? Sailor’s gut works just as good as you coppers.”
Instinct, Starsky realized. “Yeah, I see.”
“Get those glasses and start lookin’, son. We ain’t done yet.”
Feeling better about the captain of this rugged vessel, Starsky picked up the binoculars. Even with Clancy’s knowledge of seafaring, Starsky was initially skeptical, but hearing the man talk now, his confidence was bolstered. He prayed to find Hutch soon.
Off in the far distance, the binoculars found something. Starsky wasn’t sure what it was. It could’ve been a boat, but the waves obstructed the faraway object. He held the glasses out to Clancy. “What is that?”
Clancy took the binoculars and peered through them. “Where?”
Starsky motioned with his hand. “Just off to your left about twenty degrees.”
After a moment of studying, Clancy said, “It’s a boat alright, and it’s that upstart’s.”
“How can you be sure of that?” Starsky protested. “It’s too far away.”
“Main mast’s sail’s got a four foot tear.” Clancy lowered the binoculars. “It’s his alright.”
Starsky didn’t argue as Clancy turned the boat towards the other. After a few minutes, the old captain stopped several hundred feet away and carefully maneuvered so they wouldn’t be seen.
Picking up the binoculars once again, Starsky searched for Hutch. He lowered them and set them aside. “Hutch must be inside somewhere. Didn’t see Ashland either.” He slipped off his holster and put it on the seat. Starsky stripped off his shirt and looked at Clancy. “Call the coast guard and let them know where we are. No matter what, don’t let that boat out of your sight.”
The old man watched Starsky remove his shoes and socks. He then went to the cockpit and pulled a flare gun from the drawer. “Take this. It’ll hold up a hell of a lot better in the salt water than that piece you’ve got. Flares are waterproof.”
Starsky nodded and stuck the weapon in his jeans. He put an extra flair in the front pocket before stepping to the side of the boat. He looked over at Clancy who gave him a nod of support.
He eased into the water and began the long swim to Hutch.
Hutch raised his head at the sound of the door. His eyes settled on Kyle who moved about the room with calculated precision. He pulled on the ropes around his wrists and his breath caught in his throat as Kyle approached.
The hangover still lingered and Hutch struggled to keep control of his queasiness. His head continued to throb, but it was soon forgotten as Kyle roughly rolled him back to his stomach.
“Kyle,” Hutch breathed.
A hot breath hit Hutch’s ear. “You have to know, Ken. If you knew how much I love you, then you won’t fight me so hard.”
The weight on the bed shifted and Hutch tried to turn his head to see what Kyle was doing. Before he could, the ominous figure was leaning over him again. “Just relax, Ken. You’ll see.”
When the cold metal first touched Hutch’s skin, he started to struggle. The heavy weight of Kyle’s arm leaned against the back of his neck almost cutting off his oxygen. “You’d do better to be still, Ken,” Kyle warned. “I don’t want to cut your beautiful skin.”
“Jesus!” Hutch’s whispered cry fell on deaf ears as the first cut into his shirt was made.
It took several minutes to cut away the clothing from Hutch’s secured body and with each touch of the icy metal his breath seemed to hold for an eternity. With every pull of the clothing, the cool air hitting Hutch’s skin grimly reminded him of what was to come.
When he was completely nude, Hutch wanted to crawl inside to escape Kyle’s leering smile. He tightly closed his eyes and tried to force his mind anywhere other than where he was at.
“God, you’re beautiful, Ken,” Kyle admired.
At Kyle’s touch, Hutch flinched. He tried to move away but with his restraints there was no getting away from the chilling hands. Kyle’s fingers started at the back of his neck gliding appreciatively and slowly along his back before settling on his buttocks. The wintry stroke filled Hutch with a frozen dread inside.
A slight lurch to the boat ceased Kyle’s intentions. He moved his clothed body over Hutch’s and whispered in his ear. “I have to check something, lover.”
Hutch turned away in revulsion when Kyle licked his ear. He breathed a small sigh of relief at the sound of the door closing and the click of the lock.
Starsky’s bare feet touched the deck soundlessly. As he scanned the open deck, his pulled the flare gun from the waist of his jeans. The water trailed down him onto the dry floor and Starsky moved to the nearby wall. Keeping his back to the wall, he inched along to the open door.
Taking a steadying breath, Starsky held the weapon out in front of him and slowly stepped inside. The sudden blunt impact of a wooden shaft the size of a baseball bat hit him squarely on the chest. Starsky was thrown back and the flare gun fell from his hand and slid across the deck.
As he worked to catch his breath, Starsky looked up to see Kyle carrying the wooden baton with malicious intent on his face. “I won’t allow you to get in the way, Dave. Ken is mine.”
Even getting the wind knocked out of him wasn’t enough to deter Starsky from getting to his feet. “Where is he?” Starsky demanded.
Kyle’s venomously chuckled and swung the baton around. “It was easy to set up and you almost bought it.”
“Your history caught up with you. It was all a lie. Even Hutch doesn’t know the truth.”
“You won’t get in the way again. You’ll be dead and Ken and I will forget you ever existed.”
“Think again, asshole.” Starsky broke into a sudden run and tackled Kyle to the hard floor. He brought his fist down on Kyle’s face as hard as he could. The hit temporarily startled Kyle, but it was enough for Starsky to reach for the flare gun which lay not far.
Kyle landed on top of him and Starsky managed to throw him off. He grasped onto the flare gun and by the time Starsky got to his feet, Kyle was running at him. Starsky didn’t realize how close he stood to the railing until Kyle’s arms were around him. Both men toppled over to the side into the cold depths of the ocean.
With his lungs burning for air, Starsky struggled for control of the flare gun. Kyle’s free hand went into the thick curls and yanked back. Even with the blinding pain, Starsky knew he couldn’t go much longer. He was tiring and with one last desperate act, he found the trigger and pulled.
Kyle’s unrelenting grip loosened and Starsky looked up at the faraway sun shining through the blue water. He pushed Kyle away and began the trek to free air. Starsky was desperate to breathe once again and just as he was reaching the surface, a tight grip on his ankle yanked him back.
Seeing the sun begin to diminish as he was pulled down, Starsky struggled against the merciless hold and finally after a minute of panicked thrashing, the grip slowly released his ankle. Starsky watched as Kyle’s body sank into the dark depths.
He hurried to the surface and once there, Starsky took in deep breaths of fresh air. He swam to the boat and pulled himself over the ledge. He collapsed on the deck. His body hurting and his lungs still trying to compensate for the lack of oxygen, Starsky took a moment to gather himself.
The sound of the helicopter got his attention and Starsky saw it in the far off distance. He got to his feet and staggered to the stairs and went into the belly of the boat. Finding a locked door, Starsky opened it and seeing Hutch’s tied naked body on the bed, brought another kick to the gut.
He hurried to him and the moment he touched Hutch, the flinching reaction made him reflexively pull back. “Hutch,” Starsky said. “It’s me.”
The turn of the blond head and eyes meeting, almost brought a smile to Starsky. “Starsk?”
Starsky pushed the strands from Hutch’s face and nodded. “Let’s get you untied.” After a moment of searching, Starsky found a small knife and cut the ropes away.
He sat him up and pulled the spread up to wrap Hutch’s shaking form.
Starsky sat next to him and vigorously rubbed his shoulders. “It’ll be okay, Hutch.”
So much regret was on the tip of his tongue and Starsky wanted nothing more than to tell Hutch how sorry he was. Before he could get a word out, footsteps could be heard. Two corpsmen walked inside and immediately went to Hutch.
Starsky moved away and watched as they began caring for his partner. He heard his name called and after a moment of looking on, he was forced to leave in order to explain the situation.
Three hours later, Starsky was in dry clothes and sat in a waiting room with Captain Dobey and Huggy. Their words of comfort had little effect on him. He needed it from Hutch and given his abominable behavior, he didn’t expect any forgiveness.
Starsky almost smiled as he remembered the firm talk Hutch had given him about his guilt and how he handled it. It was much easier to let it go once the circumstances was made clear, but this time there was no getting around it. He should have…
“There’s the doctor,” Dobey stated.
He stood at the doctor’s approach.
“How is he?” Starsky asked.
“A few contusions. The x-rays showed no abnormalities. The blood tests indicated a minute amount of rohypnol.”
“What’s that?” Huggy asked.
“It’s a depressant and has been used in Latin America and Europe as treatment for insomnia. It’s being smuggled across the border and has been used on victims for the purpose of rape.”
“Rape!” Starsky exclaimed.
“We did a complete exam and there’s nothing to indicate any forced penetration took place,” The doctor calmly explained. “From what we’ve learned so far, there was at one time enough in Detective Hutchinson’s system to have completely incapacitated him. He was in no condition to participate or even fight back if that were the case. With no evidence of penetration or semen, there is nothing to indicate he was even an unwilling participant. You can rest easy, Detective.”
Starsky breathed a small sigh of relief. “Can I see him?”
With an understanding smile, the doctor nodded. “I’ll have the nurse direct you to his room. He was resting when I left him, but he may be up and around.”
Huggy held out the small bag and Starsky gratefully took it. He followed the nurse and she motioned towards the room where Hutch was at. He cracked open the door and saw Hutch lying comfortable on the bed with his eyes closed. He debated on whether to go in or not. His partner needed rest, but he didn’t want him to wake up alone.
Starsky eased into the room and closed the door. He gently set the bag down in the chair. He turned his full attention on Hutch and took his time looking the man over. A small bruise on the corner of Hutch’s left eye was the only evidence he could see of Kyle’s abuse.
He wondered if Hutch was still feeling the excruciating pain in his ribs. Starsky remembered him complaining of the pain during the transfer from one boat to the other. He absently ran his hand over his chest. Hutch bruised easy and Starsky hoped the signs of Hutch’s abuse weren’t too bad.
Hutch’s eyes flittered open and Starsky’s breath held.
“You’re here?” Hutch hoarsely said with surprise.
Starsky motioned towards the chair. “I figured you wouldn’t appreciate the hospital gown. Huggy picked up some clothes from your place.”
Hutch pushed the covers away and grimaced as he sat up. “Shit, that hurts,” he groaned.
Rather than shoot off with one of his more infamous comebacks, Starsky picked up the bag and set it on the bed next to Hutch. “Need any help?”
“I can manage.”
Hutch opened the bag while Starsky moved to the window. Keeping his back to Hutch, Starsky said, “Kyle’s dead.”
Lowering his head, Hutch couldn’t help but be glad. “I thought he was.” He removed the gown and started to dress. “How did you find me?”
“The help of an old sea dog,” Starsky wryly replied. He made a mental note to pay the old fisherman a visit.
Hutch kept his silence and slipped his blue sweatpants on. He glanced at Starsky’s stiff form still at the window. “Thanks.”
Starsky turned and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Nothing ever happened with you and Kyle. He drugged you, Hutch.”
Sitting on the bed, the relief flowed from him. “Everything was such a blur and I…Jesus, thank God.”
With even more guilt settling on his shoulders, Starsky rubbed his eyes trying to hold the tears back. “You want a ride home?”
The normalcy was starting to return and for that Hutch was glad. He wanted it more than anything after all that had happened. He grabbed his t-shirt and slipped it on. “I sure do. Let me get my shoes on and we’ll be on our way.”
When Hutch finished, Starsky wordlessly followed him out of the room. Hutch headed to the nurses’ station to sign out. Starsky met Huggy and Dobey in the lobby.
“The Coast Guard found evidence on the boat that Kyle Ashland had the two of you in his sights for some time. He hired a private eye and managed to gather enough information to set everything in motion,” Dobey explained.
Starsky nodded. “Did you get the P.I.?”
“Simmons and Babcock are bringing him in for questioning. When they turn over what they found, we’ll send it to the D.A. and determine if there’s enough for charges to be filed.”
“Cap’n,” Starsky softly began. “About what I told you earlier…”
“Dave,” Dobey interrupted. “Conversations between friends stay there.”
With a thankful smile, Starsky was relieved. He glanced at Hutch who joined them. “You ready to get out of here?”
“Yeah. Home is the only place I want to be right now.”
“You two take a few days off,” Dobey ordered.
“Thanks, Cap’n,” Hutch replied.
The ride to Hutch’s was quiet and the atmosphere tense. His raging hangover had finally subsided to a dull throbbing headache. It was just enough to be a nuisance. Even with the ache in his side, Hutch was thankful for Starsky’s just-in-time rescue.
They arrived at Venice Place and once safely inside his apartment; Hutch headed to the kitchen and retrieved a glass of water. “You want a beer?” he asked over his shoulder.
Starsky stood awkwardly near the door. “Sure.” He moved into the kitchen and started to take the beer Hutch was holding out.
Hutch kept his grip on the can. “What’s wrong?”
Serious blue eyes locked with his and Starsky took the beer and set it down on the table. Rather than keep facing Hutch, he escaped to the greenhouse. He ran his fingers over the lush greenery and barely noticed Hutch’s approach.
“Starsk,” Hutch said softly. “Talk to me, partner.”
He lowered his head and struggled for the words. “It’s…” They just wouldn’t come. The emotion was caught in his throat and nothing could escape.
Hutch moved in closer and settled his hands on Starsky’s shoulders. “Easy,” he whispered. “Take your time.”
Leaving the comforting touch, Starsky turned to look into Hutch’s eyes. “I didn’t trust you.”
“Starsk,” Hutch began.
“I didn’t trust us, Hutch.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“How can you say that?” Starsky blurted out. “After what I said to you…”
“Because of what Kyle did. He set us up.”
“If I had only listened to you rather than playing judge and jury,” Starsky regretfully stated.
“You reacted as you did because…”
“Because Ashland knew what I was going to do.” Starsky swung away from Hutch and remorsefully shook his head. “He knew I wouldn’t listen to anything you had to say. He knew I’d end it without giving you a chance.”
Hutch moved closer to Starsky and turned him around. “There’s one thing he didn’t know, Starsky.”
“What’s that?” Starsky challenged in a low voice.
“Even though he completely underestimated my stubborn and very loving partner, he didn’t know you would come after me.” Hutch ran his fingers through the dark locks and smiled. “My prayers were answered when you did come after me even though I didn’t think I deserved it.”
“I love you, Hutch.”
He kissed Starsky’s cheek in answer to the declaration. “Even at our worst, we’ve never let go of each other. I don’t see it changing anytime soon.”
Starsky leaned into Hutch’s arms. Once inside their safe confines, his body relaxed in the comforting arms. He breathed in taking in Hutch’s strong scent. The completeness Starsky felt was as satisfying as it was right.
Two weeks later the Dreamcatcher gently rocked in the easy waters of the private cove. The sun was high overhead and Starsky lay on his back near the stern of the cutter. With his eyes closed and a pleasing grin, he relished the warm sun drying his nude body.
“You’ll turn into a roasted Starsky if you lay out much longer,” Hutch said.
Starsky’s grin widened when he opened his eyes. Leaning against the banister, Hutch was just as naked as he. “I just get darker, Blondie. If you’ll notice, this body’s in better shape than it’s been in years.”
Hutch nodded in appreciation as his eyes moved over the well-toned body. “I can’t argue that.”
Starsky partially leaned over and rested on one elbow. “I’ve got to say, Hutch. You really outdid yourself with this boat. Where’d you come up with the name? I forgot to ask.”
“If you must know.” Hutch pulled Starsky to his feet and pulled him close. He laid a sensual kiss along Starsky’s bare shoulder. “It’s to remember all our dreams.”
“The ones to come, too.” Starsky leaned his head back and enjoyed Hutch’s loving attention to his neck.”
Hutch murmured his agreement and nibbled at Starsky’s skin. The next thing he knew he was freefalling and hit cold water. He surfaced and looked up at Starsky who stood at the edge and grinning. “Starsky! What the…”
“I got an idea.”
“To push me overboard!” Hutch blustered.
“You wanna know what my dream is, Hutch?”
He almost laughed, but instead Hutch asked, “What’s that?”
“Sex on the beach, partner.” Starsky dived into the water and came up next to Hutch. “Last one there’s got sanitation duty for the rest of our vacation.”
Hutch eyed the not-so-distant shore. “You’re on.”