By Mystic Whim
Senator Stephen Drexell was seated at his office desk when the ringing of the telephone startled him. Absently he grabbed at the receiver without stopping the sentence he was writing. "Senator Drexell."
"Honey? I need you to come home."
He immediately put down his pen at the sound of her voice. "What's wrong?" The alarm was sending prickly tingles down his spine. Jessie would never call him when he was working, unless it was an emergency. Especially not when he was working on a Saturday.
"There's been a break in..." she began.
"Are you all right?" Steve demanded, knowing she must have been in the house at the time.
"Yes, yes, I'm fine. But Steve, they broke into your office."
Her words frightened him. "I'll be right there. Where's Bennie?"
"I called him. He's coming right over."
"Good. I'll be right home."
Steve entered his home and was immediately greeted by his wife Jessie, and his Security Adviser and friend, Ben Pierson. He embraced his wife, asking worriedly, "Jess, you're not hurt?"
"No, no. I was outside, at the pool. I never even saw them." He visibly relaxed.
He turned on Ben. "How the hell did this happen?! How could they get in here, with your ‘state of the art' security system? You're supposed to protect her, goddamnit!" Ben looked away.
Jessie stepped in from of Steve, placing her hands calmingly on his chest. "It's not Bennie's fault," she defended quickly. "It's mine. I, um, forgot to set the alarm." She cringed guiltily. "I'm so sorry, hon."
She nodded. "I know I'm supposed to set it when I go outside, but I didn't think I'd be out there that long..."
Steve walked over to his security adviser, and put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Bennie. I didn't mean to take your head off. I was just worried about Jessie."
Bennie nodded to acknowledge his apology. "We need to go over the office and see what they got."
"Did you call the police?"
"Not yet. I wanted to wait until you got here." The two men started down the hall to Steve's home office. "Looks like they targeted your desk and the safe."
Steve froze at the office door, the blood draining from his face. "The safe?"
"Yeah, they took the safe you had behind your desk. All the desk drawers have been dumped out. It's a mess. Should we be worried about anything in here?"
Steve grabbed his arm. "Bennie, if they got the safe, they got the pictures!"
"What pictures?" Bennie asked. Then the thought must have dawned on him. "Wait, you're not talking about--" Steve nodded. "Not those pictures from Oak Street!"
"They were in the safe."
"Fucking shit!" Bennie exclaimed. "I thought I told you to destroy those!"
Steve walked over to where the safe was once encased behind a portrait behind his desk. All that remained was the gaping hole in the wall where it had lived. "Bennie, you have to get those pictures back. I don't care what it costs."
"Steve, I'll do what I can, you know that. But I don't know if I can fix this!"
Steve turned around and faced him. "If those pictures get out..."
"You should've destroyed them like I told you!"
"Yes, I should've! But I didn't!" He looked sadly at Bennie. "I couldn't," he added quietly.
Bennie grabbed the phone on the desk. "I'll call the police. Then I'll call the team in. We've got our work cut out for us." He gestured around the room. "Look around. See if there's anything compromising in here."
Steve shook his head. "They got the only thing in here that was dangerous."
"Who knew about the pic--" He cut off to speak to the police. After finishing the call, he returned to his original question. "Who knew those pictures existed?"
"Me and you. And the security camera tech knew they existed, but he also knew I intended to shred them."
"We know he was trustworthy," Bennie murmured. "He came to us to begin with." He started dialing again. "Whoever got that safe may not even realize what they've got. If we act quickly, we may have a slight chance."
"I'd better warn Jessie," Steve said quietly.
"Good luck," Bennie offered.
"I'm going to need it."
"They got WHAT?!" Jessie shouted.
Steve took her hands. "Jess, forgive me."
"Oh my God!" She paced away from him. "Steve, if those get out, that's it. You're done."
"You don't need to tell me."
"Shit! How could you keep those? Why would you, of all people, do something so foolish?"
"I meant to throw them away. I couldn't do it."
Jessie walked over to her husband and took his face in her hands. "I know." She put her arms around him.
"Jess, when this hits the press, you'll have to leave me."
She squeezed tighter. "I'm not going to leave you, Stephen. I love you. I'm not going to abandon you. You'll need me."
"If you stay, it would drag you down, too." He turned her face up. "You have to walk away. America would be behind you. You could even go into politics yourself. The people love you."
She smiled at him. "It wouldn't be the same without you. I've had a good ride. If it's over, it's over. But I swore I'd stand by you, no matter what. I'm not breaking that promise now."
"I'm releasing you from that promise."
"I'm not releasing you," she assured him, hugging him. "I'm more than your wife, Steve. I'm your friend, too."
Bennie burst into Drexell's office, out of breath. The senator had been behind his desk, an intern scribbling notes in a steno pad seated across from him. The pair both jumped at the abrupt interruption. "Excuse me, Senator. I need to speak with you immediately."
Drexell dismissed the intern with some quick parting instructions. As soon as she was out the door, Bennie shut it quickly behind her and strode up to the senator's desk, slapping both hands down on it. "The pictures have surfaced."
Steve exhaled. "How bad? Did they hit the press?"
"No," Bennie straightened. "The police have them." He paused, letting that sink in.
"Oh my God. Can you get them back?"
Bennie shook his head. "The team tried. But they're already in the hands of Internal Affairs. Johnson's sister works in the IA office. She saw the files. She's getting us copies this afternoon. Whoever did this was smart. They knew the photos of you weren't clear. But the photos of him were very clear. If they give them to the cops, there will be an investigation, and you'll be implicated. By the time this hits the press, it will come from the cops, and no one will question its validity. It won't matter if the pictures aren't clear. It will be police evidence. Indisputable. It would be gold for the opposing party. And it wouldn't even look like mudslinging, because it originated from the police."
"Can't Johnson's sister get the pictures?"
Bennie shook his head. "They've already started the investigation. They're conducting a probe into him for professional misconduct. All of the IA officials involved in the probe have copies of the pictures. She can get us copies of the file, but there's no way for her to remove the photos now."
"I've got to warn him," Steve whispered.
"NO!" Bennie shouted. "You will NOT go near him!" He thought for a moment. "I'll find a way to get word to him. But you two can't be seen in public together."
"Help him, Bennie!" Steve ordered.
"I'm already on it," Bennie confirmed. "He's my friend, too," he reminded his boss. "I've contacted Lee."
"Excellent. He'll need a good lawyer."
"Steve, I've got to tell you something," Bennie began, hesitantly. "Lee indicated he would sacrifice him in order to save your career if he had to. I...I told him not to do that."
Steve stood up and faced Bennie. Bennie swallowed uncertainly. Then Steve wrapped his arms around him and embraced him gratefully. "Thank you, Bennie. You're a good friend."
Hutch toweled his wet hair, then ran a quick comb through the tangled strands. A glance at his alarm clock warned him to quicken his morning preparations or he'd be late for work. He went into the kitchen and poured the ingredients into the blender for a healthy breakfast drink. Once chugged, he grabbed a granola bar for later.
There was a knock at the door. Hutch looked at the clock again, surprised. It was awfully early, and Starsky was going to meet him at work. Curious, he pulled the door open.
On his doorstep stood a man he recognized from Internal Affairs. "Uh, Reichert, isn't it? What brings you here?" Hutch asked.
Reichert extended an envelope to him. "Detective Hutchinson."
Hutch warily took the envelope from the man, who abruptly turned and left. Hutch closed the door, and let his eyes quickly scan the document.
"The Office of Internal Affairs is conducting a probe...You are being investigated for Professional Misconduct," he read. What? He sank onto his couch. "You will be notified of the proceedings...an informal hearing...Due to the serious nature of the charges being investigated, you are advised to consult with an attorney and have said attorney present during questioning... this investigation could result in legal charges being pressed..."
Stunned, Hutch wracked his brain to think of what this could be about. This has got to be a mistake!
He thought of the forced heroin addiction. Son of a bitch! After all this time, could it finally have gotten back to IA?
Then another thought occurred to him.
Hutch was sitting on the white cabinet in front of the window that overlooked his green house. His shoulders slumped under the weight of his concern. He leaned into the glass, allowing the coolness of it to work against the anger that heated his face.
The scratchy noise of the key being snatched from the doorframe outside alerted him to Starsky's arrival. The speed with which the man opened and entered the door told him of Starsky's worry. Hutch knew he should have answered the phone when it rang earlier, but he couldn't bring himself to move, still stunned from the alarming news he'd just received. He'd ignored the phone, unable to talk to anyone just yet. Should have known it was his partner, and that his inability to answer the phone would be like a summons to command his friend's presence. If he'd have answered, he could have played it cool, and preserved the solace he desperately needed right now to process what was happening. But he didn't have the ability to play it cool. Maybe it was just as well. He wasn't so sure he should be alone anyway. He sighed deeply.
Starsky called his name, but Hutch didn't answer, knowing he'd see him in a second anyway. Hutch saw the cop wariness vanish from his partner's eyes as soon as he spotted him. He turned away from the man again, not really seeing anything outside the window, but unable to face anyone.
"Hutch?" Starsky stopped in his tracks. Hutch could imagine the onslaught of questions bouncing around in his friend's head right now, but his partner knew to hold back. Hutch didn't bother to look at him. Didn't bother to reply, either.
Starsky came closer, examining him like he was a crime scene. Hutch could feel the penetrating eyes, absorbing every minute detail. "You okay?" the man finally asked, probably satisfied there was no apparent physical injury or ailment. "Dobey's looking for you. Wants to be informed the minute you walk in the door. He looks pretty worried."
Hutch just held out the paper without looking at the man, absently dangling the letter in Starsky's direction. Starsky snatched it out of his fingers before he let the damned thing flitter off to the floor where it belonged.
"What the--" He must have recognized the embossed insignia of Internal Affairs. It would be hard to miss at the top of the official notification.
Here we go, Hutch braced himself. Decision time. No more putting it off. Either tell him now, or he'll hear it from those bastards in IA.
Starsky finished the letter. "You're the subject of an Internal Affairs probe? For ‘Professional Misconduct'? What the hell for?" His voice held all the indignation Hutch had felt when he first saw the letter. The same anger, too. Until it hit him. Until it sank in. That's when the dread hit him.
Still not looking in Starsky's direction, Hutch answered quietly, hopelessly. "You know what I know."
He could almost hear the wheels turning in Starsky's head. "This has Simonetti's fingerprints all over it," he said with disgust. "He's always had a stick up his ass about us. He couldn't have anything on you. Just trying to fuck with you."
Hutch sighed inwardly. Starsky was echoing his own first reaction. If only it were true. "I can think of a couple things," he replied with finality.
Starsky froze for a second as he tried to guess what Hutch's words meant. He snorted indignantly. "What? The heroin? Shit, Hutch. So what if IA found out. That was so long ago! And blood tests or urine tests will prove your innocence. You're not really worried about that, are ya?"
"What do you mean a couple things? What're you thinking?"
Hutch took a deep breath and looked at his friend. Starsky knew him well. The man's expression changed the minute he saw Hutch's eyes. The smirk faded.
Might as well get this over with. Hutch studied his friend's face. "They could have found out I'm gay."
Starsky didn't register the statement. His expression was blank. "What?" he asked, as if he hadn't heard the remark. Hutch knew he'd heard it.
"They could have found out I'm a homosexual," he repeated flatly.
Watching, Hutch could see the moment the words registered. Starsky blinked, then a confused smile turned up one corner. He gave an almost imperceptible laugh. "Gay? That doesn't make sense! What the hell are you talking about?" The weird little smile vanished.
Hutch continued to watch his partner as the truth sank in. "I'm gay, Starsk." He stated again. Firmly, this time. Deal with it, buddy, he mentally commanded his friend.
That weird little smile returned. "You're not gay," Starsky denied. "I've known you half my life. I knew your wives! Hell, I've shared women with you! What the hell are you talking about? Nancy, Vanessa, Gillian, Abby, Diane-"
"Starsk!" Hutch cut him off unceremoniously. "I'm telling you, I'm gay. Not everything is as it appears."
Starsky was still holding the letter, but his hand sank to his side. Hutch felt like he could breathe again. The words are getting through, the brain is clicking again. Nothing more to do now but brace for the reaction.
"You're gay..." Starsky said slowly. Hutch just continued to watch him. "And the women - are you telling me that was an act? Cover?" His eyes glittered with challenge, disbelief.
"No, of course not." He struggled for words. "Technically I'm bisexual," He conceded. "But I've come to realize over the years that I'm far more attracted to men than women. I don't even consider myself bisexual anymore." Then he added, "Think about it, Starsk. When was the last time you saw me seriously involved with a woman. What's it been? Ten years?"
Starsky shook his head, confused. "Yeah, I guess. Probably before Gunther. But you date all the time..." he added, obviously unwilling to let go of his perspective.
"Some of it was show, " Hutch admitted. "Some of it was just friendship. Some of it was real, especially with my wives. But none of it erases the fact that I'm gay, that I'm homosexual. "
"Since when!" Starsky blurted, looking angry now.
"Since birth!" Hutch snarled back. "Or conception. Take your pick." He glared at his friend. "Look, I'm not gonna argue with you about this! Accept it or not!" He stood defiantly
Starsky turned away, yanking his jacket off angrily. He threw it roughly at Hutch's bed. Back still turned on Hutch, he stood with his hands on his hips, looking at the floor. Hutch waited, for once unsure of his friend's next move. He was afraid to hope, but the fact that Starsky didn't bolt, and threw down his jacket, made Hutch's heart pound in buoyed trust. But when Starsky finally spoke, the dread returned.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Starsky demanded, his back still turned.
The defiance left Hutch. Good question. "I couldn't," he replied lamely. The grief rose up inside him. He knew this would be the one thing Starsky might never get past. "I couldn't." He felt the last syllable fade in his throat, strangled by his awareness of how flimsy his words were and the pain they would cause them both. He should have told him. He tried, so many times, to bring the subject up. But there were always excuses to let the secret lay, always time to put it off, always that damned fear of this very moment.
"Fuck you, Hutchinson."
Hutch frowned and looked up. What the hell was this? No anger. No fight. No heat. Just a ‘fuck you,' said as quietly and as simply as one would state ‘you've been a dope.' Starsky was facing him again, hands no longer on his hips, but hanging helpless at his sides. His eyes no longer sparkled with rage, his stance more relaxed. Hutch was baffled.
Starsky walked up to him slowly, looking almost sheepish. He stopped and shrugged, "So what do you think they've got on you? How do you want to play this?"
Hutch blinked at his friend. That's it? Hutch could only stare at him, completely speechless.
Taking a deep breath, Starsky continued. "Look, you should have told me," he stated firmly.
Nodding, Hutch answered softly, "Yeah. I should've..."
Without allowing him to continue, Starsky chimed in, "Good! Just so we're clear on that." He sat on the edge of the bed and kicked off his sneakers, sliding his butt to the middle of the bed. "Get me a Coke, will you? I can't think when I'm thirsty."
A smile spread on Hutch's face. "Sure." He shook his head as he went to fetch his partner a soft drink, wondering if he would ever really figure this man out. He handed it to him, seating himself on the bed as well. "You're not mad?" he asked.
Starsky chugged down several gulps then looked at Hutch. "Oh, mad as hell," he corrected. "But that's not gonna get us anywhere. " He gave Hutch a wary look, "You don't have any other skeletons in your closet, do you? Anything else I need to know about? ‘Cause now would be the time. "
Hutch chuckled. "Not that I can think of."
"And you had your reasons for not telling me, right?"
Hutch shook his head. His smile faded. "Not a single one. I'm sorry. I don't know why I never told you."
A crooked grin spread on Starsky's face. "Good answer. " Then Starsky's face sobered. "I'm really pissed you kept this from me. But I'm not gonna go there right now. You're telling me I gotta deal with it, and that's what I'm gonna do. But gimme a break. You hit me with this out of the blue, and my head is spinning." Hutch nodded guiltily. "I'm your friend, Hutch. I'm not going anywhere."
Hutch inhaled sharply. "Maybe you should, Starsk," he replied thoughtfully. "This could get bad for you. Guilt by association. The shit's going to hit the fan, and I don't want you in its path. Maybe if the word gets out, you ought to walk away. Disassociate yourself from me. "
The glint was back in Starsky's eyes. "I'm not going anywhere, Hutch."
Hutch reached out and squeezed his shoulder.
Starsky shook his head. "Something doesn't feel right. Why a full blown probe, if all they have is evidence that you're gay? Why not just call you in and question you? Have they ever gone this far before?"
Hutch frowned. He had thought of that earlier, but couldn't imagine what else they would have. "I don't know. I don't remember anything like this with Phillips or Hendricks."
"I suppose they'd feel the necessity for a full probe if they found out about the heroin and the homosexuality," Hutch reasoned. "But they could just be trying to identify me as gay. They don't have to actually find me guilty of anything to destroy my career. Remember that gay conference in San Francisco last year? IA sent out a notice to all the precincts, informing them of every cop who attended. It pissed off a lot of people who were still in the closet. They had to deal with a hell of a lot of backlash from that little stunt. Many quit the force. This could be something along those lines. Maybe they're just trying to out me?"
"I don't buy it," Starsky said with finality. "There's more going on here. " He waved at the letter from Internal Affairs. "That's a hell of a lot of trouble to go through, with a probe and a hearing, just for some bullshit." He thought for a minute. "We need to find out for sure what the hell this is all about. My gut tells me this is big. We'd have gotten word of it, don't you think? Dobey didn't know about it until today, I'm sure of it. He was pretty pissed off and looking all over for you. He's worried about you. He didn't see this coming either. "
"So we head down to Parker?" Hutch suggested.
"No. You lay low. I'm going back, and I'll see if I can talk to the Cap privately."
Starsky pulled up at Parker Center. He sat in his car a few minutes and tried to sort things out. Pulling out his notebook, he started to jot down facts, to help organize his thoughts.
It was hard to concentrate. Hutch's revelation was pretty shocking to him. Gay? How the hell could he not know?
Even more troubling to the man was the realization that this was not the first time someone he cared about had lied to him about their homosexuality. Was it something about himself that encouraged Hutch to keep this secret? Had his words or actions pushed Hutch away? Hutch couldn't be forthright with him, couldn't trust him, couldn't rely on him. Starsky's stomach knotted at the thought. He was angry that Hutch didn't confide in him, but he also blamed himself for Hutch's silence.
Starsky pulled himself away from his troubled thoughts. He wasn't going to come up with any resolution to that issue. He might as well make himself useful and see what he could find out about the IA probe. Tossing his notebook into the glove compartment, he headed into the building.
The station was busy today, and there were lots of people milling about. It was easy to scoot through reasonably invisible. He didn't feel very sociable at the moment, so he was grateful to go unnoticed by his coworkers.
Just before he hit the stairwell leading up to his squad room, he heard Dobey's commanding voice. "Starsky!" Starsky made an abrupt turn, and headed into the office.
The office should have been vacant, Starsky noted. Burns had been transferred a couple weeks ago, and no replacement had been selected. Starsky was surprised to be called into the office he expected to be empty.
Dobey was seated behind the desk, and another man was across from him. The stranger wore a black suit, dark sunglasses, and hair far too short to be stylish. "Close the door, son, and have a seat," Dobey instructed in a low voice. He appeared relieved to see him, and his quiet voice made Starsky suspect that this little meeting was not exactly public knowledge. Perhaps that explained the use of the vacant office? "Have you seen Hutch?" the Captain asked anxiously.
Starsky glanced at the other man, and wondered if the man was to be trusted. Starsky wasn't taking any chances. "What's going on, Cap? Hutch should be here by now, and he's not answering his phone or his door. You know something I don't?" He hoped Dobey knew him well enough to read between the lines, and realize that Starsky wouldn't be sitting there if Hutch were truly MIA.
Dobey seemed distracted. "I have some difficult news, son. Hutch is being investigated by Internal Affairs. There are some pretty serious accusations that have been made against him."
Starsky clenched and unclenched his teeth. "What kinda accusations?" There was no hiding the anger in his voice. He turned to the man seated next to him. "I take it you're from IA?" Starsky questioned.
"Starsky, this is Mr. Smith," Dobey interrupted. "He's here to help Hutch."
"Hutch doesn't need any help," Starsky ground out. "He hasn't done anything wrong." He turned back to the mysterious Mr. Smith. "Smith, huh? Original. First name's John, I suppose."
The suited man smiled a humorless smile. "Yes, John will do nicely. Thank you for the suggestion. I'd prefer to be on more casual terms."
"Dave, Mr. Smith here is on our side. He's brought information to me that I'll discuss with you later. What's important is that we find Hutch as soon as possible."
"Why? So IA can conduct an investigation into trumped up charges against a good man and a great cop?" Starsky spat the words.
Mr. Smith pulled off his dark sunglasses. He looked at Starsky with large clear blue eyes that showed compassion for the angry officer. "Detective, there's no need to defend your partner to me. I'm not from Internal Affairs. I am well aware of your partner's innocence. I know Detective Hutchinson, and I am offering my assistance to you to aid in his defense."
Starsky eyed the man critically. "Who the hell are you? If you know Hutch, then why the alias?"
Mr. Smith glanced at the shut door, seemingly comfortable with the privacy. "Detective, do you know Senator Stephen Drexell?"
"I don't know him personally," Starsky replied. "My partner knows him. Hutch met with him several times after he brought down Gunther. Acted as a consultant about the criminal element in California."
Mr. Smith nodded. "The senator is my employer. We'd like to keep my involvement as discreet as possible. I've brought information that will be helpful in defending your partner. You also have the Senator's and Mrs. Drexell's full cooperation in this matter. I can act as a go-between, when you need to meet with the senator."
Starsky's eyebrows rose. What the hell did the senator have to do with all of this?
Mr. Smith reached down and pulled a briefcase onto his lap. "Detective Starsky, it is imperative that I meet with your partner immediately. I have documents in here that are extremely sensitive, and crucial in preparing him for his defense. But they are for your partner's eyes alone."
Starsky eyed his Captain, who nodded almost imperceptibly. He looked back at Mr. Smith and concluded that the man could be trusted, to a point, anyway. "You want me to call him in?"
Dobey shook his head. "No, I think we need to keep Hutch out of here, at least until he gets a chance to meet with Mr. Smith."
"Arrange for a meeting," Mr. Smith offered. "Tell your partner I'll be at the park. He'll know what that means." He stood up and slipped his sunglasses back into place. "Detective, perhaps I will see you there?" He extended his hand.
Starsky shook the man's hand. "We'll be there," he replied uncertainly. "Thanks, John."
Mr. Smith smiled and turned to Dobey. "Captain." He shook his hand as well, then turned and quickly exited the room.
Starsky shut the door and put his back against it, turning to his superior. "Okay, what the hell was that all about!"
Dobey ran a handkerchief over his perspiring face. "Hutch is in some serious trouble, son. There's a list of accusations against him that you wouldn't believe. I've been getting phone calls all morning, from IA, to the Commissioner's office, to the Mayor's office. IA is threatening to involve the FBI. Then Mr. Smith pops in."
"What are they accusing him of?" Starsky demanded.
"You name it. Professional misconduct. Prostitution. Gay prostitution. Accepting bribes. Sodomy. Corruption. Blackmail. That's just what I've heard so far. Nobody has any details. They've clamped a lid down tight on it."
Starsky sank into the chair. "Who's behind this?"
The captain shook his head. "I have no idea. I'm not even supposed to know all this. Most of what I know I got from Mr. Smith. Internal Affairs isn't saying a word. The Mayor's office and the Commissioner's office are calling me to find out what's going on. What's Hutch say about it all?"
"Hutch doesn't know all this," Starsky shook his head. "I told him to lay low until I could talk to you. He just got some letter from the IA that they were conducting a probe into professional misconduct, and that he would be summoned in for questioning. He doesn't even know the charges yet."
"What does the senator have to do with it?" Dobey asked. "And how did he know about all this?"
"No clue," Starsky answered thoughtfully. "He and Hutch are friends. I guess he got wind of it and wants to help. What struck me as odd was his mention of the Senator and Mrs. Drexell...Why mention the senator's wife if he's offering some kind of professional aid?"
"Go get him, son. Let me know what you find out."
Starsky was out the door in a flash.
Starsky raced back to Venice Place. Hutch was coming out the front door as Starsky arrived, and hopped in. "I was going to run for coffee."
"No time," Starsky replied. "I met a friend of yours at the precinct. He goes by the name of Mr. Smith. He said to tell you he has information for you that will help your defense. He said to meet him at the park. Do you know who he is, what he's talking about?"
Hutch's eyes widened and his face paled. "Did you say the park?"
"Hutch, who the hell is that guy?"
"Starsk, we need to get to Flamingo Park. He's a friend of a friend, and that's a code we used a long time ago." Hutch's voice faded as he contemplated this unexpected turn.
"Yeah, well, would that friend happen to be a senator?" Starsky asked.
Hutch swallowed hard. "The senator and I, we have a history," Hutch said quietly.
"I was afraid you'd say that," Starsky replied darkly. "Hutch, the IA probe is investigating you for corruption, gay prostitution, sodomy, accepting bribes, blackmail, and God knows what else."
"That's absurd!" Hutch shouted. "What could they possibly have for evidence? This is insane!"
"I'm starting to suspect this has more to do with Drexell's enemies than ours," Starsky stated. "IA may be eager to swallow this load of crap because they'd love to find dirt on us, but it may be fed to them by Drexell's enemies. All they need is for IA to make it look credible, and leak it to the press, and his re-election is toast."
Starsky pulled into a parking spot near the entrance of the park. The two men walked in, Hutch leading the way. "Take the path to the left. There's a fountain past that grove of trees. We need to go to the third bench."
"What's so special about this place?" Starsky inquired. He looked around, but saw nothing to set this park apart from any other park.
"It's private, in this grove of trees. And there's nothing but grass leading up to it, so it's easy to see anyone approach. I used to meet Steve here." Hutch's eyes had a nostalgic look in them, and his voice was softer.
"How long did you guys go out?" Starsky asked.
"About six years," Hutch replied. There was a sadness in his voice.
"He ended it?"
"No," Hutch answered. "I did."
The two men stepped into the grove of trees, and Hutch stopped. He looked around with a hint of a smile, giving Starsky the impression that he was fond of this park, and the memories it contained.
Starsky looked around. This park was unfamiliar to him. He rather liked the area, though. Off in the distance there was a good sized pond with an arched bridge over it, that was home to a few large and lovely swans. There were brightly colored flowers, mostly red, that ringed the pond and the fountain. Butterflies flitted among the blossoms, and the air was perfumed with the floral scent. It appeared this area of the park was dedicated as a sanctuary for birds, and the park patrons were encouraged to hang homemade birdfeeders and birdhouses from the branches of the trees. It was a peaceful place, and very private.
Hutch seemed to break from his reverie, and walked slowly to the familiar bench. "They'll be here soon," Hutch stated. "They would've been watching for us."
"Who's they?" Starsky asked, but Hutch stood up and rushed forward. The man Starsky knew as John Smith had come into the clearing and Hutch hurried to meet him. He grabbed the man in a tight embrace, lifting him right off his feet.
"Bennie!" Hutch exclaimed. "Damn, it's good to see you again!"
"Hello, Ken," the man replied smiling broadly. "You are a sight for sore eyes."
Starsky marveled at how much younger the man appeared without the dark shades, and when he smiled. He took on a more boyish look, and appeared far more approachable. He walked arm and arm back to the bench with Hutch, the mysterious briefcase in tow, the two looking like very close chums.
Starsky stood up and awkwardly extended his hand to the man. "Hi John," he greeted him.
"Bennie," the man winked at Starsky. "I'm sorry for the secrecy, but there is a great deal at stake, and I have to be very careful," he explained.
He sat down on the bench and looked up to Hutch. "Ken, I wish this could have been under more pleasant circumstances," he announced sympathetically. "I can't tell you how sorry I am that you've been implicated. You know that we're all behind you, and we'll do whatever we can to help."
Hutch sat down beside Bennie. "Thanks, Bennie. I think I'm going to need all the help I can get."
Bennie clicked open the briefcase, but did not fully raise the lid. With a quick glance to Starsky, he looked warily to Hutch. "The information I have for you is rather, um, delicate. Would you rather have me get the more... intimate items to you by messenger?"
Hutch looked pointedly at Bennie. "We can trust Starsky with anything. I trust him with my life."
Bennie accepted this and raised the lid. He removed the large envelope and passed it to Hutch. Starsky took a seat on the other side of Hutch. "These are copies of the evidence the Internal Affairs office has on you, Ken. Most if it is circumstantial. I don't think you'll have trouble with the majority of the charges. However..." He watched Hutch flip through the papers until he came to the photos. "The photos will be very damning, I'm afraid. We're getting you a top notch lawyer. And we have our best spin people burning the midnight oil on it. As you can see, this will not be easy. "
Hutch gasped. The photos were of him and the senator, naked, engaging in intercourse, Hutch bottoming for the politician. The photos were poor quality, black and white and very grainy. Unfortunately, Hutch was very clear in the photos, as his face was up-raised. The senator's face was more obscured, since he was looking down and his hair provided some cover, and the other photos were from odd angles. Hutch passed the pictures to Starsky, who cringed at the explicit photos.
"Are these from a security camera?" He questioned. Bennie nodded in response. "I know this place," Starsky murmured. "Is this Oak Street?" Starsky recognized the home they had rented during his rehab.
"Yes," Hutch answered hoarsely. "When we first moved in, there had been a security system in place. Steve had it dismantled shortly after. I knew we had accidentally triggered the cameras one night, but he assured me the photos had been destroyed."
Bennie reached out and clasped Hutch's hand. "He never meant for this to hurt you, Ken. He's devastated that you're in trouble. He kept the photos for sentimental reasons..." He lowered his voice. "You know how hard the break up was on him. He meant to destroy the photos, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. They were locked in his safe, but there was a break-in last week..."
"Then why didn't these photos hit the press? Why IA?" Starsky demanded.
"The photos are not very clear of the senator," Bennie noted. "If this was Steve's political rivals, the photos alone wouldn't be good enough to condemn him. But if it comes out in the investigation of Ken, and he identifies the senator in his testimony, then that would give the photos validity."
"Damn, Bennie," Hutch shook his head in despair, "It's over. I'm fucked. Even if I get cleared of the charges, those photos will kill my career."
"Don't give up, Ken," Bennie encouraged. "He's getting you the best legal counsel money can buy. They may be able to discredit the photos, suppress them... "
"I'm a cop, Bennie. It only takes a rumor. They'll turn on me so fast it'll make your head spin."
"I didn't," Starsky countered.
Hutch turned to face him. "No, you didn't."
"We've worked with other cops that we knew were gay. It's not over ‘til the fat lady sings, buddy. I say we fight. We got nothing to lose."
Hutch smiled sadly.
"You have a lot more support than you realize," Bennie added. "We've got a hell of a team working on your behalf. And if you still lose your job in the end, you know we'll take care of you."
"I need this job, Bennie. Do what you can, will you?"
Bennie smiled. "Anything for you, Ken." He looked at his watch. "I need to clear out. Stay here. Give it ten minutes. Ten minutes." When Hutch nodded, he snapped the briefcase shut and hurried off, without so much as a farewell.
Starsky had been scanning the written pages in the envelope. "They're claiming that the senator paid you for sex, Hutch. That he gave you money, either for sex or for your silence, and that he put you up in a house. They think you turned around and blackmailed him, threatened to reveal his homosexual affairs. They're even saying that the senator's aide was arrested last July, and you let the aide off because of your relationship with the senator."
Hutch shook his head. "I haven't seen Daniel in four years. How the hell did I let him off?" Suddenly a jogger came into the clearing, and Starsky raised his hand to silence Hutch. He closed the envelope, twisting the string between the two circular fasteners on the flap. When he looked up again, Hutch sprang to his feet and stepped into the arms of the jogger. Hutch kissed the man on the cheek, hugging him tightly. His enthusiastic hug accidentally knocked the baseball hat from the other man's head. Starsky recognized the thick brown curls of the man in Hutch's arms. Senator Stephen Drexell. "I've missed you," Hutch smiled warmly.
Starsky reached over and snagged the errant baseball cap and handed it to the handsome man. Steve smiled and extended a hand to Starsky. "You must be Dave Starsky. I've heard a great deal about you," the man smiled.
Starsky nodded back. "Senator Drexell."
The senator removed his sunglasses, revealing beautiful, green eyes with long fringing eyelashes. He was a striking man. Starsky could see why Hutch had been smitten with him. He was hard to tear your eyes off of. He again took Hutch's face in his hands and kissed his forehead. "I'm so sorry, Ken. If I had the power to undo all of this, you know I would."
"I can't stay," he said regretfully. "It's too risky for you. But I had to see you. I had to tell you how sorry I am. I'm going to do anything it takes to help you. Every resource I have is at your beck and call." He smiled and added, "Jessie sends her love. She said to tell you she loves you."
Hutch grinned. "She's such a sweetheart. Give her my love. Tell her I miss her southern fried chicken and her pecan pie."
Steve laughed heartily. "She'll love hearing that." His smile faded as he studied Hutch's face. He ran his fingertips along Hutch's jaw. "I wish to God I'd destroyed those photos."
Hutch nodded. "Me too. But what's done is done. I'll get through it, with your help."
"Do you forgive me, babe?"
"There's nothing to forgive," Hutch assured him. "I know you didn't mean for this to happen." He stepped back from the embrace. "You better run. Bennie will have your ass if you don't get out of here."
Steve smiled. "Yes, some things never change. Thank you, Ken. You know how to reach me if you need me." He turned to Starsky. "Thank you, Dave." He said goodbye, and squeezed Hutch's hand one final time before continuing on the path.
"You let him off easy," Starsky mused.
Hutch shrugged. "I wasn't going to let him tear himself up over it. He didn't mean for this to happen. And I've hurt him enough for one lifetime."
The two men returned to the car and Starsky unlocked the door. On the front seat lay a pale green envelope, completely unmarked. "Hutch!" Starsky warned.
"It's okay," Hutch assured him, reaching for the envelope. "It's for me."
"The car was locked, Hutch," Starsky cautioned.
"It's from Mr. Smith. " Hutch smiled. "A little thing like a car lock means nothing to them." He ripped open the envelope carelessly. Two sets of keys fell into his lap. "By the end of the day your apartments will no longer be private. 622 Crescent Parkway #6. Not associated in any way." He looked to Starsky. "He's provided us with a safe house."
"I'm taking you there now," Starsky announced. "I'll go back with Huggy later and get some things."
Starsky's car pulled up in front of the Crescent Parkway apartment building. The two men emerged, taking in the surroundings, familiarizing themselves with the area. "With any luck, we'll be off the first floor. There ya go, Hutch. Rabbit food," Starsky pointed out. He indicated a healthy fast food establishment kiddy-corner to the building. Hutch nodded, trying to look pleased, but he was apprehensive about this whole arrangement. It made him uncomfortable to have Steve putting him up in an apartment and providing his legal counsel. He wanted to keep the past in the past where it belonged, and not feel like some kind of kept lover. Correction: kept ex-lover.
"Let's go up," he suggested. It was depressing to be chased out of his own home, and holed up like a fugitive. It only seemed to underscore his aloneness.
As they came upon the door to apartment #6, the two men heard guitar music. They both recognized it immediately and looked at each other. The music wafting through the apartment door was a recording of Hutch singing. Hutch unlocked the door quickly and stepped through. "Jessie?" He called out.
A beautiful woman with rich auburn hair came out of the kitchen and smiled broadly at Hutch. Without a word, she stepped into his embrace, squeezing him tightly. Without pulling away, she reached up and cupped his face, and looked at him joyfully. "Oh honey, I can't tell you how good it is to see you again," she announced in a thick southern drawl. "When you two split up, it was like losing a member of my own family."
"I've missed you, Jess," Hutch replied affectionately.
She turned to Starsky with a big smile. "And you must be Dave." She shook her head. "You surprised me when I first laid eyes on you. You resemble my husband! I had to look twice," she chuckled. "Same size, same build, same dark curls."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Drexell," Starsky greeted her.
"Jessie," she insisted. "Come on in and I'll show you around. I've been stocking your kitchen. " She turned to Hutch and laid a hand on his shoulder, "Steve tells me you miss my fried chicken. Is that true, or were you just being nice?"
"Absolutely true," Hutch assured her. "Starsk, this woman makes the most incredible fried chicken you've ever tasted!"
Jessie laughed. "It's not hard to impress you, now is it, darlin'? I'll whip up a batch one of these days. And that pecan pie you asked for, and I'll feed you boys right. Would you like that?"
"We'd love that," Starsky quickly answered, apparently afraid his partner would decline.
She turned to Hutch. "Do you remember this?" she asked, her finger pointing to the air, indicating the music playing on the stereo.
Hutch rolled his eyes. "Sure I do. I can't believe you still have this tape."
"Honey, I love this tape," she cooed. "But I can't play it at home, so I listen to it in my car." Hutch's smile faded. He knew why the tape of him singing wouldn't be welcome at home. "I've nearly worn that tape out." She looked from one man to the other. "You two look tired, " she noted. "Let me show you around, then I'll get out of your hair. I'll come back another time, after you've had a chance to settle in." She gave them the grand tour of the apartment. It was larger than Hutch expected, with two bedrooms, a dining room, and a large living room, though the décor was rather bland for Hutch's taste.
"Who owns this place?" Starsky asked.
"It's my college roommate's sister's place" she grinned. "She's in the Peace Corp, and won't be back for several months. I'm sure your Internal Affairs office would have difficulty finding you, or making the connection back to my husband." Starsky nodded in satisfaction. Jessie turned to Hutch. "Ken, Steve and the lawyer will be coming by tonight to go over some of the details. They expect you to receive your summons tomorrow. The lawyer is already breathing down their necks to speed this up, and to keep everything behind closed doors. The longer this drags on, the higher the risk of information getting out. He's really working to protect your privacy, and to plug any potential leaks. We can't promise this won't get out at all, but we're working very hard to minimize the damage."
"I appreciate that, Jess," Hutch said sadly.
"I've gotta warn you," she said conspiratorially, "IA hates your lawyer." Her eyes twinkled mischievously. "They're afraid of him. He's got quite a killer reputation."
Hutch kissed her on the forehead appreciatively. "You're a good friend."
"You have a lot of friends on your side," she told him. "Remember that." She hugged him and left the apartment. "I'll be back."
Starsky shook his head disbelievingly. "What's a girl like that doing mixed up with a guy like Drexell?"
Hutch raised his eyebrows. "A guy like Drexell?"
"Hutch, she's a beautiful gal! What's she doing with a gay husband?"
Hutch smiled. "She knows exactly what she's doing, believe me. In fact, she's the one that suggested the marriage. They've been friends since they were kids, and she knew all about his homosexuality. Everything's out in the open, and it's an arrangement that suits them both nicely. They both wanted the same things in life. They actually love each other very much, just not physically. They're probably the happiest couple I've ever met. Wait'll you see them together. You'll see what I mean."
"I've seen them on tv," Starsky said thoughtfully, "and I never would've guessed. They do come across like the perfect couple."
"What you see on tv is genuine. It's just not what you'd expect."
"She had no problem with you sleeping with her husband?"
Hutch grinned. "None at all. She approved of me. She was pretty upset that we split up."
"He's still nuts about you, isn't he?" Starsky observed.
Hutch looked at his partner. He nodded his head. This wasn't a conversation he intended to have with Starsky.
Starsky seemed to take the hint, because he picked up his jacket. "I'm gonna go grab some clothes and stuff. You need anything?"
Hutch was glad he was staying at the apartment. He hadn't been so sure. "No, I'm good. Just grab the usual. On second thought," he absently rubbed his temple, "grab some aspirin while you're there."
He waited until Starsky was well out of the building then reached for the envelope again. His head pounded, and he scrubbed at his forehead. Dumping the contents of the envelope out, he shoved aside the pages of notes, until the photos spilled across the coffee table. It was rather like seeing life as he knew it being flushed down the toilet. There's no escaping the naked truth staring up at him in black and white. The rest of the charges would be easy enough to clear. They were mostly circumstantial, and Hutch could prove his innocence in every charge. All but the pictures.
It was hard to swallow, that after so many years of being so careful, that it all came down to this. Now he'd come out to his friend, his job was hanging by a thread, and his ex-lover was scrambling to limit collateral damage, trying to salvage his political career. Now he could look forward to naked pictures of himself having sex plastered all over the squad room at best, and all over the evening news at worst. Not just outed from the closet, but dragged from it with clawing nails, alone and vulnerable.
And Steve was a sort of loose cannon at this point. Obviously still pining for him, or he wouldn't have hung on to scandalous pictures like some kind of pinless hand grenade. The last thing he needed was to be trapped into working this crisis out side by side with him, one big invitation to walk down memory lane. He wanted distance from this man, lots of distance. Not holed up, a rat in a cage, while Steve fixes everything with his magic band of spin masters.
Damn, his head hurt. Hutch crushed the heels of his hands into his temples, trying to stop the throbbing. In a way, he was grateful for his weariness, or he might have been tempted to throw something. A hand touched his shoulder, squeezing comfortingly, and Hutch jumped at the unexpected touch. His move knocked Starsky's hand away, but he replaced it quickly. "Hey, come here," the soft voice coaxed. Hutch felt himself pulled into Starsky's hug, tight and strong. He ducked his head and buried it in the crook of his neck. A cool palm pushed the hair back from his forehead. Hutch felt his own tenseness dissolve, and he sighed.
Hutch opened his eyes, unsure of where he was. He smelled warm leather and Old Spice, felt soft cotton against his cheek. There was a lulling heartbeat, a faint breath barely stirring his hair. He didn't want to move, something in the back of his brain warning him that the disconnection would be more desirable than awareness. The grogginess dissipated too quickly, and he realized that he'd fallen asleep on Starsky's chest. As his eyes refocused on the room before him, his gaze fell on the photos strewn across the table.
Fully awake now, he tried to assess his position, and Starsky's level of sleep. "Good morning," Starsky said quietly, a hint of amusement in his voice.
Hutch sat up. His head pounded a complaint against the quick move. "Morning?"
"Not really. You haven't been out that long. Maybe an hour. Just seemed like the right thing to say to a guy that just woke up."
Hutch dragged a hand down his face. "Sorry."
Hutch looked toward the window and the light shut him down. "No. But it's receded. How'd you know?"
"I didn't, at first. I stopped for gas, and I got to thinking. You had a funny look in your eyes when I left. I thought I'd better head back and just see if you were okay. I called Huggy from the gas station. He's going to get our stuff." He studied Hutch's face. "You take aspirin?"
"No, it kind of snuck up on me."
Starsky disappeared into the bathroom, then headed into the kitchen. "Is there any coffee?" Hutch called after him.
A cold can of soda was thrust into one hand, a couple Excedrin into the other. Hutch turned up his nose.
"The coffee's brewing. Drink the aspirin down with the Mountain Dew. It's got more caffeine." Hutch obeyed, knowing the combination of aspirin and caffeine had proved helpful before. He leaned back against the couch, his head tilted back. He felt Starsky slide carefully into the couch beside him, and once again drag him onto his chest. Hutch again obeyed.
This time a damp cloth swiped over his face and into his hairline. "Damn, that feels good," he murmured. Once again, he slipped into unconsciousness against Starsky's chest.
He awoke clear headed this time, knowing it hadn't been long. The clock confirmed he'd been out less than a half hour. Hutch didn't move. He continued to lay there, Starsky's arm across his chest.
"You gonna get up, Rip Van Winkle? Or ya gonna sleep your life away?"
Damn. "Nothing to wake up for," he grumbled.
"Yeah, hiding under a rock always solves everything."
Hutch sat up and turned a harsh glare on his partner. "Anyone ever tell you you're as irritating as hell?"
"Good, you're feeling better," Starsky smiled. "I'll go get that coffee." He got up and started to side step along the too-close coffee table. Hutch reached up and snagged his hand, give it a firm squeeze. Starsky squeezed back.
He returned a moment later, placing a large mug of the steaming brew in front of Hutch. A plate with a sandwich on it soon followed. "What's this?"
Hutch turned up a lip at the idea of food. But Starsky came back and plopped the sandwich in his hand. "I'll shove it down your throat if I hafta," he warned.
Hutch reluctantly took a bite, Starsky standing over him. Hutch looked up. "It's good," he admitted. He was hungrier than he thought.
"You haven't eaten all day. No wonder you're getting headaches."
"Yeah, I'm sure the stress had nothing to do with it."
"Eat." Starsky didn't leave until half the sandwich had been consumed. "You don't look so green around the gills anymore."
"I feel better," he confessed. He looked at Starsky a long moment. "What are you doing here, Starsk?"
"Told you. You didn't look right when I left, so I came back."
Hutch shook his head. "No. I mean, why are you still here?"
Starsky eyes showed understanding this time. "I coulda walked away," Starsky shrugged, "but I thought it would torture more, sitting here wondering why I didn't walk out." He gave a impish wink. Hutch continued to stare at him, waiting for an answer.
"You know why I stayed," he said firmly. When Hutch didn't respond, he continued. "I'm your friend, Hutch. Nothing's going to change that. Who you hit the hay with has nothing to do with why we're friends. " He looked at Hutch pointedly. "I don't expect to have to explain myself again."
"And my homosexuality," he questioned carefully, "are you going to be okay with this?"
Starsky shrugged. "Apparently I've been okay with it since I met you, since nothing about you has changed. I don't think it's gonna make any difference, unless you're telling me differently." He sat back, stretching his arms across the back of the couch. "You're still the same loveable guy you were yesterday, aren't you?"
Hutch didn't feel amused. "Of course it will make a difference, pal. Once this gets out, I'm going to be an outcast at the precinct. It's going to get ugly."
"You don't know that," Starsky chided.
"Don't I? Think about it. What happened with Phillips? The name-calling, the ridicule..."
"We can handle it," Starsky insisted. "Half of them think we're gay already," he reminded Hutch.
"And Hendricks? He called for backup and no one responded."
"Hendricks was a dirty cop, Hutch. No one wanted to help that bastard, even before they knew. You don't know how this will go down! You're afraid they're gonna talk? Since when? They've had plenty to say about us since we joined the force. I don't give a shit what they say! Let ‘em talk. Jokes, pranks, harassment? Shit, it don't bother me." He shook his head dismissively. "And I've never relied on any backup but you."
Hutch looked at him affectionately. "You know, I could kiss you right now."
"The hell you will," Starsky snorted. "I'm not that easy."
Steve arrived with an entourage. He came with several bottles of wine in his arms, followed closely by Jessie carrying a huge pan of hot fried chicken. Closely on her heels was Bennie, also carrying a bag of food.
An older, stately gentleman followed Bennie, toting a briefcase and a leather portfolio. Hutch recognized Lee Vander from the evening news, and felt amazement that such a high profile attorney would take on his case.
There were two younger men and a woman, all carting in more food, or boxes of files. Bennie introduced them as Lee's paralegals.
Hutch's head was spinning. Since the group arrived, he'd done nothing but answer questions. It wasn't much fun being on this end of an interrogation, and he was feeling irritable. Jessie took on the role of hostess to the group, and finally called them in to dinner. The food was as good as Hutch remembered, and they all ate ravenously.
Lee Vander wiped his lips with a linen napkin, and raised his wine glass in Jessie's direction. "Miss Jessie, you have outdone yourself tonight. The dinner was exceptional."
"You're welcome at my table anytime, Lee, you know that," Jessie smiled.
"If you're half as good a witness as you are a cook, I'll have that IA panel eating from the palm of my hand."
Hutch's head snapped up. "Jessie's testifying?" There was alarm in his voice. "Is that necessary?"
"Of course it's necessary," Lee asserted. "She's like the first lady of California. Do you have any idea of how that will look, to have her testifying on your behalf? Not to mention that she'll charm the living shit out of them."
"Ken, honey, please don't tell me you're worried about my testimony," Jessie implored. "I do have a bit of experience handling probing questions and political landmines."
Steve squeezed Jessie's hand. "Jessie has the ability to tell a man to go to hell, so that he will look forward to making the trip."
"I'm not worried about her fielding the questions," Hutch sighed. "I don't want everyone I know dragged into this circus!" He appealed to Steve. "You know they'll shove those pictures in her face."
"Oh please," she waived her hand. "I'm not some demure little flower that's going to pale at the sight of two men drilling for oil on the moon." She reached for the photos that had been forgotten on the sideboard and laid them in front of her on the table, much to Hutch's horror. She studied them for a bit before she murmured, "The human body is the best picture of the human soul." She then looked directly at Hutch. "You, dear boy, are an angel."
Hutch's cheeks burned. "Jess!"
"If I'd have realized you had a body like that, sugar, I would come down to enjoy the view when you guys went on your late night skinny dipping excursions." Hutch flipped a napkin at her grinning face.
"And you," she directed at her amused husband, "are..." Jessie's words died in her throat. "Hey, wait a sec--" she mumbled as she grabbed all of the photos. She shuffled through them one by one. "That's odd!"
"What is it, honey?" Steve asked.
She shuffled slowly through the stack again, then laid the photos out side by side on the table. "Look at these pictures, Steve. What's missing?" Puzzled, Steve studied them. The rest of the group watched curiously. "Look at your hip."
"Huh! I can't see it!" Steve declared, scooping up the photos and shuffling through them himself. "Ken, take a look at these. Can you see my scar?"
Hutch came around the table and looked over their shoulders. He searched for the familiar scar, but it was missing from every picture. "It's gone."
"It's got to be the lighting," Jessie surmised. "Lee, check this out. Can you see it in these photos?"
Lee jumped up and snatched the photos excitedly. "Jessie, dear, I think you might just have struck the jackpot!" he grinned.
Starsky elbowed Hutch questioningly. "Steve has a long scar on his hip from when he was injured in Viet Nam," Hutch explained. "It's very prominent. For some reason, it's not showing up in these pictures at all."
Starsky plucked a photo from the stack to see for himself. None of the pictures of Steve had been very clear to begin with, but without the scar, it would be difficult to positively identify the man as the senator. All Lee had to do was establish a reasonable doubt.
Hutch faded back from the others. The rest of the group was now in a celebratory mood. Steve would likely walk away from all this unscathed. And Hutch would likely avoid the legal charges that would have been pressed at the conclusion of the investigation. The only thing that the spin masters hadn't been able to do was to save him from the repercussions of all this on his career. Even if he were cleared of the worst of the accusations, the photographic evidence of his homosexuality would ignite the passions of his homophobic brothers in blue. Gay cops did not last in Bay City. They were either killed in the line of duty, or they were forced out by bigotry and harassment. It was not unheard of for a gay police officer to find himself stranded without backup in life threatening situations.
Lee came over and sat beside Hutch. "Ken, I'll assume that your lack of confidence is due to your unfamiliarity with my reputation."
"No, I'm quite familiar with your reputation," Hutch chuckled.
Lee smiled evilly. "I'm very good at my job. And I love a good challenge."
"I'm wondering if I'll have a job when this is all through," Hutch admitted. "Or if I'll be able to work there anymore, now that they know I'm gay. They can make my life hell."
"When this is through, they'll wish they'd never picked this fight." He winked at Hutch, but it was more of a promise than a reassurance.
Starsky was worn out.
The group worked for a couple more hours before finally winding things up. Lee looked to his team. "Tina, you're on Internal Affairs. Get me protocol, and get the precinct's employee handbook, anything you can find on misconduct. Are the records accessible? Can we get decisions on previous investigations? I want precise definitions, examples, etc. You know the drill. Kevin, you take the sodomy charge. Get me everything on state and city books, decisions, whatever. Cross check with Tina and get her info from the employee guidelines. Phil, cover the corruption, blackmail, bribery, prostitution. We've already shot down most of it, so this should be a piece of cake for you. Work with Jessie on the bribery, get all the specs on the housing and the reno arrangement. Fill her in on how the interrogation is likely to go. Give her worst case scenarios; she'll need to know what to expect. Everyone clear on what we need? Good. We've cranked through a lot of this already, so we just need the home stretch grunt work."
"You want me to interview Mindy, was it? About the corruption?" Phil inquired.
"Minnie," Starsky corrected.
"Steve, that reminds me. What are they saying about me getting Daniel off on charges? I haven't seen him in years. Do you know what that's about?"
"I've got something on that here," Lee stated, flipping through a file that had been set aside for Phil.
"Couldn't be Daniel," Steve stated. "He's not with us any longer. He moved to Connecticut about two or three years ago. Megan is my aide now."
"Here it is," Lee announced. He scanned the document. "Megan Faulkner. Arrested July 4th, drunk driving. They say Hutch insisted she be released."
Hutch shook his head. "That name doesn't mean anything to me. Does it give any details?"
"Nothing on here. Phil, anything in that file I gave you before dinner?"
"But that's impossible," Steve asserted. "Megan doesn't drink. She's diabetic. I've never seen her take a drink."
"I do remember her!" Hutch snapped his fingers. He explained the circumstances of her arrest and his role in the release.
"Well that should be easy to document," Phil grinned, gathering his assignments.
"You got the short stack," Tina observed. "Will you give me a hand if you finish up before I do?"
"Give me your parking spot next week?" He bargained.
She shook her head. "In your dreams."
He shrugged. "Let me get through the shit about the house with Jessie, then I see what I can do." He earned a smile from Tina.
The crew packed up and Lee led the troop out as Jessie and Steve and Bennie helped clean up. As they couple was loading the dishwasher, Bennie sidled up to Starsky. "What do you think Hutch's chances are?" the detective asked.
"None of the legal charges will stick," Bennie shook his head. "I think we can clear up most of the employment accusations. The only thing that's going to be a bitch are the photos. Kinda hard to argue with a Polaroid. But we've just gotten started. If anyone can shoot holes in evidence, Lee can."
"That's what I want to hear," Starsky replied. "Hey, you never said how you got wind of all this."
Bennie smiled. "Yes, that's right. I didn't." He eyed Starsky. "Let's just say that, as an officer of the law, you might not appreciate the way we glean our information."
Starsky grinned. "As Hutch's friend, I appreciate what you're doing for him."
"I'm doing my job," Bennie shrugged. "I protect Steve and Jessie. It's an added bonus that I can help an old friend in the process." He looked over to see Hutch laughing with Jessie. "Starsky, is Ken seeing anybody?"
Starsky turned slowly to face Bennie. He didn't respond, he just looked at him critically. Bennie looked uncomfortable.
"I'm not asking for me..." Bennie started.
"No," Starsky said slowly. "You're asking for Steve."
"Forget I asked," Bennie replied apologetically. "I can see you have a vested interest."
Starsky smiled coolly. "A vested interest. You could say that. But I doubt we both mean the same thing." He paused, and then added, "You can tell Steve this; If he ain't man enough, or direct enough, to find out for himself, then he don't deserve Hutch." Starsky detected a hint of approval in Bennie's eyes.
Starsky walked over to Hutch and helped him pick up glasses from around the living room. Hutch nodded subtly in Bennie's direction. "I saw you talking to Bennie. Things looked a little tense there for a minute."
"He's scoping you out for Steve," Starsky told him. "I just told him to tell Steve he ought to handle it himself." He grinned. "Bennie thinks I'm competition."
Hutch grinned back. "I'm sure you straightened him out on that."
Starsky shrugged. "Not really. He'll figure it out eventually. I'm not going to make it easy for him."
Bennie slipped into the back seat beside Steve and Jessie. They chatted about the progress made, and their relief over Jessie's discovery of the invisible scar. Finally Steve leaned forward to peer around his wife and asked Bennie, "Did you ever get a chance to talk to Starsky?"
Bennie clenched his teeth. "Uh yeah..." he hesitated.
Steve was impatient. "So what did he say?"
Bennie sighed. "He said, ‘Tell your dickhead boss to get his head out of his ass and get his own fucking dates!'"
Steve hissed in amusement at the burn.
Jessie burst out laughing. "Did he really say that?" she giggled.
Bennie shrugged. "I paraphrased. A little."
She covered her mouth, snickering behind her hand. Steve grinned good naturedly, but he also flipped the bird to his employee and friend.
"He got pretty territorial," Bennie mused. "I think you've got some competition on your hands."
"Starsky's no competition, " Steve snorted. "He's as straight as they come."
Bennie found this puzzling. "You sure about that?"
Suddenly Jessie held up an angry finger. "Wait just a minute!" She glared at her husband. "Did you really send Bennie off to question Starsky about Ken?" Steve didn't answer, glancing the opposite direction out the car window in avoidance. "Stephen John Drexell! Don't you ignore me!" Steve chuckled at her irritation.
"You've done it now," Bennie accused.
"Look at me! You will leave that man alone! Do you hear me?"
"Yes dear," he cajoled.
"It's over! Get over it already! Now if he comes to you, and wants to start something, I will shut my mouth and leave you be. But until then..."
"I thought you liked Ken," Steve smiled.
"I adore Ken! But you can't make someone feel something they don't! Y'all need to get over it!"
Steve looked at her sideways. "Honey, your drawl's getting stronger."
"Don't you change the subject! You will leave Ken be!"
Bennie snickered, quietly enjoying seeing his boss taken down a notch by a hundred pound southern belle. Jessie heard his amusement and turned on him. "And YOU!" she continued , the angry finger now in his face. "Benjamin Joseph, you will NOT be acting like some teenage girl quizzing a boy about his friend!" Bennie cringed at the dressing down.
"Yes, Miss Jessie."
"If Steve gives you orders like that again, you come get me! I'll not have this sophomoric behavior from two grown men, do you hear me?" She turned on her husband again. "You tell him he has your permission to report to me if you do anything this childish again!"
"Go for it, Benjamin Joseph," Steve surrendered laughingly. He looked apologetically to his wife, batting his eyes flirtatiously. "Don't be mad at me, Jess. You know I lose my head around Ken."
"Don't be giving me those puppy dog eyes," she muttered, somewhat calmer. Steve leaned in and kissed her cheek. Exasperated, she exclaimed under her breath, "We have got to get you a boyfriend. You're a pain in the ass when you're horny."
"You can say that again," Bennie whispered, too loudly, under his breath. His remark earned him a sharp jab in the ribs from the woman on his left. He yelped.
A loud knock interrupted the finally quiet apartment. Starsky looked at Hutch. "Huggy," he reminded. Looking relieved, Hutch went to get the door.
Huggy sauntered in carrying two small suitcases. "I waited ‘til you're party cleared out," he announced. "I brought your clothes. Picked up a tail when I left, but I shook it." He sniffed. "Coupla amateurs."
"Thanks, Hug," Starsky took the bags and stashed them out of the way.
"If I'da known Steve, Jessie and Ben were here, I'd have come on up. Next time you see the senator and his charming wife, tell them I said hi."
Starsky was stunned and hurt. "Huggy knows you're gay?" he accused Hutch.
Hutch glared at Starsky. "He does now."
"Oops," Starsky gave Hutch a pained look. "Sorry."
Huggy walked past the two men to the center of the room. "Shit, you're not telling me nothin' I didn't know. I've known pretty much from day one."
Hutch's eyes widened. "You've known all along? Why didn't you say anything?"
Thumbing his jacket with pride, Huggy proclaimed, "I know everything that goes down. I even knew you and the illustrious senator were putting the hotdog in the bun."
Hutch just stared back at him, speechless. Finally Hutch seemed to regain himself. "Just once today I'd like to feel like I actually have some say..." He growled under his breath as he went into the kitchen for coffee.
Starsky sank into the couch unhappily. Am I the only one who was in the dark?
Huggy joined him on the couch, sitting forward with his hands folded. He turned to Starsky. "I know Drexell and his bunch from his last campaign. He's done a lot to rebuild my neighborhood, and the area around The Pits, so I volunteered down at the headquarters to help him get re-elected." He looked to see if Hutch was returning yet. Satisfied the man was still busy in the kitchen, he added, "And as for Hutch...He likes to frequent a certain establishment. Happens to be owned by a good friend of mine. I've seen him there, in action. I never said nothin'. Figure a man's got a right to his own secrets."
"Yeah. Apparently even from his best friend."
"Bigotry's a real ugly thing," Huggy quietly commented. "It's pure hatred. Last place you wanna see it is in the eyes of a friend. Sometimes the fear of that can be a real powerful force."
"He's gotta know I couldn't ever hate him."
"Homosexuality's a part of him. Do you hate that part? You hate part of ‘em, you might as well hate all of ‘em. You don't get one without the other. You don't get Hutch without the homosexuality."
"I never said I hated homosexuality. I guess I can't really wrap my brain around it. I don't know that much about it. Doesn't mean I hate anyone who chooses it."
"It ain't a choice," Huggy shook his head. "Hutch didn't choose to be gay, anymore than I chose being black, or you chose to have blue eyes or curly hair. And if you don't know much about it, it makes you risky to tell. Lots of people hate what they don't understand."
Starsky grew thoughtful. He'd been taking it very personally that Hutch hadn't been open with him, but after hearing Huggy's insights, he could sense a growing awareness of Hutch's perspective. The entire day had been a shocking example of how Hutch would need to protect himself, in ways that Starsky never had to consider. It was rather staggering to realize you could face fierce hatred because of who you were attracted to.
The morning brought little enthusiasm for Hutch. He awoke to the awareness that he would probably be slapped with a summons the moment he stepped into the precinct. It wasn't much of a consolation to know that his lawyer had already made huge gains in shooting down the evidence. It would still be damaging, whether they continued on to press legal charges against him or not. His job was still at stake, he still faced being ostracized by his fellow officers even if he wasn't fired, and he still looked forward to the humiliation of the photos being made public.
Hutch was glad Steve could be cleared. He was a good man, and a hard working politician. He didn't deserve any of this, any more than Hutch himself did. Just because he no longer slept with the man, didn't mean he had lost any respect, admiration or fondness for him.
He went into the kitchen and found that Starsky had already made coffee. He poured himself a cup and said good morning to his partner.
"You sure you want to go in today?" Starsky queried.
"No," Hutch admitted. "I don't. But I might as well go in and get slapped with the summons. The sooner we get this over with, the better." Starsky nodded in agreement.
The two headed down to the precinct. As they were walking past the front counter near the entrance, Minnie crashed into Hutch as she tried to hurry along with a stack of files in her arms. Her bundle crashed to the linoleum floor.
"I'm so sorry!" Minnie flustered. "I didn't even see you."
Hutch knelt down to help her scoop up the scattered papers. "I hit you pretty hard, Minnie. You okay?"
Minnie grabbed his arm. In a hushed voice, she exclaimed, "Hutch, I am so glad to see you!" She glanced at the door behind the counter, then continued. "There's a man here, questioning me about you! He's from that big law firm, Vander, Stinton and Levi."
"It's okay, Minnie," Hutch assured her. "I know."
"I haven't told them anything, but I don't know how much I can put them off. They have authorization to pick up a bunch of files about an arrest from last July." She glanced nervously at the doorway again, and whispered, "You know what they call them, don't you? Vander, Stinton, Levi and Satan."
Hutch grinned. "It's okay. Vander is my lawyer, Minnie. Go ahead and tell them anything they want to know. I've done nothing wrong."
Minnie sagged with relief. "Oh, thank goodness. What the hell is going on, Hutch? Everybody's been looking for you, and nobody's saying anything."
He helped her to her feet, handing the stack of files back to her. "IA is investigating me. Just do me a favor, and don't believe everything you hear."
She looked at Hutch with a dismissive look. "Honey, it'll be a cold day in hell before I believe a bad word about you." She adjusted the files in her arms and scurried back through the doorway behind the counter. The door closed quietly.
Hutch looked at Starsky, the sadness clear in his eyes. Starsky grabbed his arm and squeezed. "Let's check in," his partner suggested.
Dobey was waiting for them when they walked into the squad room. He nodded silently in the direction of his office, and the two men followed. Once seated behind his desk, he gestured at the chairs in front of him and said, "Fill me in."
Starsky turned the chair around and sat in it backwards. "It sounds like Drexell's political enemies are behind this."
Hutch sat on the edge of his chair, rubbing his hands nervously in front of him. "They turned in pictures to IA, of the senator and I having sexual intercourse." He saw shock then concern flicker though the captain's face.
"The pictures are faked, I presume?"
Hutch sat up straighter and faced his captain directly. "No, sir."
The captain only paused for a second. "What about the other accusations?"
"The rest of it is mostly bogus, and we can fight it," Starsky answered. "It's the photos that'll kill us."
"What were you thinking, son?" Dobey said softly, with concern. "How could you let yourself be photographed?"
"Cap'n, Hutch couldn't have known," Starsky defended. He relayed what he had heard from Bennie and Steve. "There were security cameras that were supposed to have been disconnected. They accidentally tripped them one night, before I moved in. The cameras were disconnected right after that. The security camera tech brought the photos to Drexell, afraid that if he destroyed them, and the senator realized that they had been taken, he'd have nothing but his word that they were destroyed. He didn't want to be liable. He gave them to the senator instead. The senator's home was burglarized recently, and the pictures were stolen."
"Can the photos be discredited?" Dobey suggested.
"We can probably cast doubt on the senator's identity," Starsky replied. "He's not real clear, and he's in the shadows." he shook his head and added, "but the pictures of Hutch are pretty clear. There's no mistaking him."
Dobey rubbed a hand down his face. "The corruption, the prostitution, the bribery...all that is false."
"Of course!" Starsky answered for Hutch, the annoyance audible in his tone.
His supervisor looked at him with compassion in his eyes. "Hutch, I don't know if I'll be able to help you. I'll go to bat for you, and I'll protect you as best I can, but I don't know how much my support will help you with Internal Affairs."
Hutch took in a sharp breath. Dobey's support meant the world to him, whether or not it affected the outcome of the IA investigation. "Thank you, sir."
"Let me know if there's anything I can do," Dobey said to them both.
As Hutch stepped out of Dobey's office, a uniformed officer stepped up to him. "Detective Kenneth Hutchinson?" he inquired.
He handed Hutch an envelope. "You've been summoned." He vanished as quickly as he appeared.
Hutch tore open the envelope. "The hearing before the IA board is Tuesday," he told Starsky.
"Call Vander," Starsky instructed.
"Use the phone in my office," Dobey suggested quietly. "You'll have more privacy."
Hutch nodded his appreciation, then returned to Dobey's desk and picked up the phone while Starsky shut the door. They spoke for a few minutes.
"He already received the notification," Hutch told Starsky. "He said he was pushing to get it arranged quickly."
"Are we ready?" Starsky asked.
Hutch shrugged. "Vander seems to be. I don't know if I'm ready for this."
Hutch stood beside Vander as judge Collis walked in. She took her place behind the podium in the center front of the courtroom. Off to Hutch's right was a table with an attorney representing the IA board. The judge addressed the room. "This is an informal arraignment. Information has come to light that warranted investigation by Internal Affairs regarding an alleged relationship between Detective Hutchinson and Senator Drexell involving professional misconduct, corruption, prostitution, bribery, blackmail, and sodomy. Because of the seriousness of the issues coming to light, the probe was initiated, and this hearing was called. These proceedings will be closed to the public. Detective Hutchinson, you were advised to have an attorney present, as this hearing could lead to an indictment based on the evidence presented. Is your lawyer present?"
"Yes, Your Honor. Mr. Vander is representing me."
"Mr. Vander, always a pleasure," Judge Collins said dryly. She looked at the other table. "Mr. Bastian, you are representing the Office of Internal Affairs?"
"Yes, Your Honor."
"Fine, let's proceed."
"Your Honor, I'd like to call Dominique Kaplan to the stand."
Minnie took the stand and gave Hutch an encouraging smile. Bastian ran through some questions regarding her name and position. "Thank you, Minnie. I'd like to ask you some questions about an arrest that was made last July of Megan Faulkner." He handed her an arrest sheet. "Do you recall this arrest?"
"Yes, I do." Minnie replied.
"According to this record, Officer Logan brought Miss Faulkner into the station for drunk driving. Is that correct?"
He looked over the paperwork filed by Officer Logan. "According to Logan's report, Miss Faulkner was driving erratically, smelled of alcohol, slurring her speech, and acting very aggressively. Do you recall any of these behaviors that night?"
"Yes, I remember very well," Minnie replied. "Miss Faulkner was quite loud, swearing at Officer Logan, and striking him. It would be hard to forget. Detective Hutchinson went to help him get her in the door."
"Miss Kaplan, are you aware that Miss Faulkner is an aide to Senator Stephen Drexell?"
"No, I didn't know that," Minnie assured him.
"Were charges pressed against Miss Faulkner that night for driving under the influence?"
"No they were not."
"Do you know why Miss Faulkner was not charged?"
"Yes sir. Detective Hutchinson instructed me to refer her to the care of Doctor Harvard."
"Was Miss Faulkner injured?" he asked.
"No further questions," Mr. Bastian stated.
Lee Vander approached Minnie. "Miss Kaplan, can you tell us why Detective Hutchinson instructed you to refer Miss Faulkner to the physician on duty?"
"Yes, sir. Detective Hutchinson was scratched by Miss Faulkner's bracelet when he tried to help Officer Logan bring her in. He checked the bracelet and found that it was a medical alert bracelet, which indicated Miss Faulkner was diabetic."
"Is it common procedure, to call a doctor any time a person with diabetes is arrested, Miss Kaplan?"
"No sir. But Detective Hutchinson explained that a diabetic reaction can sometimes mimic the behavior of drunkenness. He wanted to have a doctor check her out, just in case."
"Did Detective Hutchinson tell you how he knew this?"
"Yes sir. He said his father is diabetic. He said the blood sugar can drop very low, and cause the person to appear drunk. Even their breath smells sweet like alcohol, but it's caused by the low blood sugar. He said it could be a very dangerous thing for the diabetic."
"Was Detective Hutchinson's assessment correct, Miss Kaplan?"
"Yes, sir. Dr. Harvard checked her blood sugar, and it was dangerously low. She called an ambulance for Miss Faulkner. She said if Detective Hutchinson had not realized the woman was diabetic, she could have died. The blood test and the breath test also proved negative for alcohol."
"Thank you, Miss Kaplan. No further questions, Your Honor."
Lee Vander addressed the younger man on the stand. "Mr. Welton, could you please explain how you know Detective Kenneth Hutchinson?"
"I am an accountant. I manage the financial affairs of Kenneth Hutchinson, and his father, Richard Hutchinson. "
"Can you explain to us how Detective Hutchinson would have deposited $50,000 into his account on June 30th, 1979?"
"Oh yes. I managed that transaction. This was money that I transferred from Kenneth's trust fund to his bank in Bay City. He needed the money to help set up rehabilitation and nursing care for his injured friend."
"Is there any kind of receipt of this transaction, Mr. Welton?"
"Absolutely. Here is the receipt of the withdrawal from the trust fund. And here is the receipt for the deposit into his savings account."
"Thank you, Mr. Welton. No more questions, Your Honor."
"Your honor, we'd like to call Jessica Drexell to the stand."
Jessie walked in, drawing the whispered attention of the people in the room. She was a celebrity in their midst, and all heads turned to see the charming and beautiful senator's wife.
Bastian questioned her regarding the home on Oak Street that Hutch had lived in. Hutch noticed with amusement that her southern drawl seemed even more pronounced, adding to her charm. "Mrs. Drexell, do you and Senator Drexell own the home at 321 Oak Street?"
"Not any longer," Jessie replied. "We did own that home. We own several homes and real estate properties. The Oak Street home was actually in my name."
"Did Detective Hutchinson live in the house on Oak Street when you owned the home?"
"Yes, he did."
"And how long did he live in that home?"
"For three years, I believe."
"Did Detective Hutchinson pay you rent to live in that home?"
"No he did not."
Mr. Bastian walked back to the table and pulled a photograph from it. He brought it to Jessie.
"Mrs. Drexell, could you please tell me the identity of the two men in this photograph?"
Jessie took the photo and appeared startled by the photo. She handed it back to the lawyer. "The blond gentleman is Detective Hutchinson," she answered quietly. She looked apologetically to Hutch.
"And the other gentleman?" Bastian pressed her.
"I don't know," Jessie replied.
Bastian's head whipped up. "Mrs. Drexell, are you saying you don't recognize the other man in the photo?"
"That is correct," she answered clearly.
He handed the photo back to her. "Mrs. Drexell, are you telling me that you don't recognize the other man in this photo as your husband?"
Jessie gave a lilting laugh. "No, that is not my husband," Jessie smiled. "I must admit, when I first glanced at the photo, it did give me a start. That man does bear some resemblance to my husband. But that is not Stephen," she assured him, shaking her head.
"Do you recognize the room the men are in?" the lawyer pressed.
"Yes, that is the study in my Oak Street home."
"No further questions."
Lee Vander approached Jessie. "Mrs. Drexell, you say the man in the photo bears some resemblance to your husband. The photo is not clear. How do you know that is not Stephen Drexell?"
"Steve has a scar on his hip that he got in Viet Nam," Jessie stated. "Anyone who has attended one of his campaign speeches can attest to that. They show it in the photos on the screen behind him as he gives his speech. It's quite pronounced. The man in that photo does not have a scar." She smiled sweetly at Lee Vander. "And my husband is a very committed and faithful man."
"Can you show me on a photo where your husband's scar would be?"
She pointed to where the scar would start and end. "From here to here," she indicated. "I have a picture of Steve in my wallet if you would like to see it. It's the same one they use on the screen during the speeches."
"Yes, that would be helpful," Lee smiled. The judge called for her purse to be brought into the courtroom. Jessie took out the photo, which was then shown about the courtroom.
Lee continued his questioning. "Mrs. Drexell, was it the senator's idea for Detective Hutchinson to live in the Oak Street home rent free?"
"No, that was my idea," Jessica replied. "The detective was at our home so my husband could consult with him regarding the organized crime in California. Detective Hutchinson had been instrumental in bringing down James Gunther, a terrible crime lord. Mr. Gunther was also responsible for shooting the partner of Detective Hutchinson. He was telling us of how badly the man had been injured, and how he looked forward to many months of physical therapy. He was being released from the hospital, and Detective Hutchinson was going to assist him until he could live on his own. However, both of their apartments had long staircases, and would not be suitable for a man with such extensive injuries. I heard his story, and my heart went out to the two struggling police officers that have sacrificed so much for Bay City, so I offered my Oak Street home, which is a one story home." She smiled at Hutch. "He refused at first. He didn't want to accept because he said it was too generous an offer. So I suggested that he could do me a favor by living there. I had been trying to sell the home, but it is more difficult to sell a home that is empty. And the house had been rather neglected. I asked if he would be willing to help fix the place up, do some handyman jobs around the house, help with landscaping, things like that."
"So the living arrangement was more of a barter arrangement. Would that be an accurate assessment?"
"Yes. That's correct. My real estate agent said he had drastically increased the value of the home with the work that he did."
"What sort of work did Detective Hutchinson do around the house?"
"Well, he told me he had a green thumb, so I thought he would be able to spruce up the landscaping a bit. He did a wonderful job! The yard had never looked better. He trimmed trees, planted lovely perennials, and kept an immaculate yard. Then there were the hardwood floors. He was concerned that his partner was expected to come home with a wheelchair, and the house was carpeted. He asked if it would be all right to tear up the carpeting. I had thought about laying new hardwood floors, at my real estate agent's suggestion, but the detective said there were hardwood floors under the carpeting already. He offered to stain and refinish them for me. They were stunning! And he got me an amazing deal on restaurant grade kitchen appliances from a friend of his that owns a food establishment. He painted all the rooms, and stripped all the wood trim in the house. It looked amazing when he got done with it. I relisted the home and sold it for $40,000 more than I initially listed it for. It was certainly an arrangement that was beneficial to each of us."
"Thank you, Mrs. Drexell."
Hutch looked over at the pad of paper in front of Lee Vander. Lee had made a list of all the charges made against him, and had been crossing them off one by one as the evidence was shot down. The list was dwindling, when Bastian called Starsky to the stand.
Bastian ran through numerous questions regarding Starsky's rehabilitation expenses, confirming the information that was provided by Hutch's accountant. He then picked one of the photographs and handed it to Starsky.
"Detective Starsky, do you recognize the men in this photo?"
"Yes, I do."
Bastian had a glint in his eye. Starsky glared at the man, knowing he was trying to finally have the senator identified. "Could you please tell us the name of the blond man?"
"Detective Kenneth Hutchinson."
Bastian smiled. He glanced triumphantly around the room. "And the dark haired man. Can you tell us his name please?"
"Detective David Starsky."
"NO!" Hutch cried out. Starsky tried not to look in his direction, but he could see Lee grab Hutch's arm and snarl something whispered into his ear. He hoped Vander could silence his partner.
There were gasps and murmurs throughout the room. Bastian turned back to Starsky angrily, demanding, "Detective Starsky, are you trying to tell us that's you in the photo?"
"Yes, it's me," Starsky reiterated. He grabbed the photo and flipped it up beside his own face. "See?"
Bastian's jaw dropped, then he snapped his mouth shut.
Judge Collins asked, "Detective Starsky, could you turn this way, please?"
Starsky obliged, turning to face the judge, still holding the photo right next to his face. He looked to be the man in the photo.
"Thank you," she stated. "Please continue, counselor."
"Detective Starsky, are you a homosexual?" Bastian asked.
"No sir, I don't consider myself homosexual."
"Detective, either you are homosexual or you are not! Which is it? Is that you in the photo or not?"
"Yes, it's me. Do you believe one sexual encounter with a man defines me as a homosexual?"
Bastian glared at Starsky. "No further questions, Your Honor."
Lee walked up. Starsky could tell by the look in his eyes that he was very pleased with this turn of events. "May I see the photo?" Vander asked Starsky. He handed the photo to the lawyer. The lawyer inspected the photo, then looked at Starsky's face. He slid his glasses down his nose to peer over them. "Detective Starsky, did you pay Detective Hutchinson for sex?"
Starsky clenched his jaw. "No," he ground out.
"Did Detective Hutchinson pay you for sex?" he asked.
Lee flipped the photo around to show it to Starsky again. "Detective, can you tell me where this photo was taken?"
"Yeah. It was in the study at our place on Oak Street."
"Did the two of you engage in any sexual activities outside that home?"
"Detective Starsky, would you say that you love Detective Hutchinson?"
Starsky swallowed. He looked at Hutch as he answered. "Yes, I do."
"You say this encounter was a one-time event. Can you explain to me how it came about?"
Starsky continued to look at Hutch while he answered. "Hutch and I are very close. I sometimes tell people he's like a brother to me, but that's not really true. He's closer to me than my brother. There really isn't a word for what we are." He looked back to Vander. "I'm not very good with words. I don't think I'm saying this very well."
"You're doing fine, Detective. Please continue," Vander encouraged gently.
Starsky looked down for a second, then looked back to Hutch. "Hutch and I are as close as two people can get. Sometimes I wish there was some way to express that, to share it...." He looked helplessly back at Vander. "Just once, I wished I could make love to him, show him how I felt."
"Thank you, Detective Starsky," Vander replied quietly. "No more questions, Your Honor."
Starsky got up from the stand, paused and looked at Hutch, then walked quickly out of the courtroom.
"Your Honor," Vander announced, "I move that all charges against Detective Hutchinson be dismissed."
Bastian was on his feet. "Objection, Your Honor! We have Detective Starsky's testimony that he engaged in sodomy with Detective Hutchinson..."
"Your honor, according to the California Constitution, sodomy between two consenting adults is a protected constitutional right. The participants are over the age of 18, no money exchanged hands, no prostitution was involved, and no sexual acts took place in public. I move that the photos be returned to Detective Hutchinson, and their right to privacy be upheld."
Judge Collins held up her hand. "Gentlemen, please return to your seats." The two men sat down. The judge picked up her papers and reviewed them. As she was reading, Vander picked up his pen, and crossed sodomy off the list. In the margin, he wrote the word Checkmate!
"I remind you all that this is an informal hearing," Judge Collins announced. "The purpose of this hearing was to review the charges against Detective Kenneth Hutchinson. After thorough review of the evidence provided, I find Detective Hutchinson innocent of all charges. You will return all photos to the detective in a sealed envelope within two days. I am also ordering that the events of this hearing are to be sealed. I am instructing you not to discuss this case outside of this room. Even though this is an informal hearing, I remind you that I am a Superior Court Judge of Los Angeles County, and I will hold you in contempt of court if any of this evidence is revealed outside of this courtroom!" She stood and exited the room.
Hutch embraced Lee. "You did it! Thank you!"
Lee grinned. "You can thank your partner for that. When he turned it from prostitution and corruption with a government official to a private, loving act between two consenting adults, they had no case left. And your privacy became protected under the constitution."
Hutch walked out of the courtroom and saw Captain Dobey waiting for him. Dobey pulled Hutch into a conference room and closed the door. "How did it go?" he asked Hutch.
"I've been cleared of all charges, "Hutch grinned. "Vander got the board effectively gagged and the photos are being returned to me."
"That's great news, son." Dobey patted him on the back. "I'm happy to hear that. You know, if any of this gets out, and someone gives you a hard time, I want you to come to me. I won't stand for it, Ken."
"Thanks, Captain," Hutch was touched. "Your support means the world to me."
"Take the next few days off, Hutch. I'm sure you want to go celebrate." He patted Hutch on the back.
"Cap, do you know where Starsky is? I didn't see him when I came out."
"He just walked straight out the door when he finished his testimony. He told me he was going to the park."
Hutch smiled. "Thanks, Captain."
He returned to the lobby in front of the courtroom. He saw Lee, chatting amiably with Bastian. Outside of the courtroom, the two looked like old friends. Hutch walked up to the pair. "Lee, could I ask for a favor?"
"Sure, Ken. What can I do for you?"
"Could you give me a lift? I came in with Starsky, and now I'm left without a car."
The two men left the building and slid into the leather seats of Lee's Mercedes. "Where to?" Lee asked.
"Flamingo Park," Hutch said.
Hutch walked through the trees at Flamingo Park and came into the clearing with the large fountain. He saw Starsky at the regular bench, seated on the very edge of the seat. His worry was evident. Starsky saw him, and rose to his feet.
Hutch walked up and smiled. "You did it. I was cleared of all charges."
Starsky was relieved, but still had concerns. "What about the professional misconduct? The sodomy?"
"Everything," Hutch told him. "After hearing your testimony, Lee was able to get all charges dismissed. He was even able to get the judge to return the photos to me, and to threaten the board with contempt of court if they discuss the hearing outside of the courtroom."
"You're shittin' me," Starsky smiled. He shook his head. "How the hell did he do that?"
"You did it," Hutch said. "Once you stepped forward and said you were the other man in the photo, it destroyed all evidence they had tying me back to Steve. So they had no corruption. And when you testified there was no money exchanged, that it was an act of love between two consulting adults, and it was not out in public, well then our privacy was protected by the constitution." Hutch smiled as Starsky visibly sagged in relief. "Lee says he'll never play you in poker. He thinks you're the best liar he's ever seen." He critically watched Starsky's eyes. It did not escape Hutch's notice that Starsky looked away, unable to meet his gaze. "What you said toward the end, it wasn't a lie, was it."
Starsky didn't look at him. "Come on, Hutch. You know how I feel about you."
"Starsk, look at me."
Starsky looked up and Hutch took his face in his hands and moved close to kiss him, stopping inches from his lips. "Are you sure about this?" Hutch whispered against his lips.
Starsky wrapped his arms around him, one hand pulling Hutch into his body, the other hand burying into his hair, closing the last couple inches until their lips met. Hutch smiled when he felt Starsky's tongue flicker against his mustache, testing the feel of it, then plunging that tongue deep into his mouth. Hutch groaned. He could feel Starsky breathing get quicker, his kisses more demanding. Hutch started to pull back, but Starsky then just kissed down his cheek, his jaw, his throat. "Starsky."
Starsky pulled back and looked at Hutch, his eyes dark. He smiled. "I like kissing you."
Hutch laughed, still holding him tight. "I like kissing you, too." Hutch stared into his eyes, remarking, "Your eyes are so dark, they're like midnight."
"Um, Hutch? We've got company," Starsky nodded behind Hutch.
Hutch loosened his hold on his partner and turned to see Steve, Bennie and Jessie coming through the trees. Steve had stopped in his tracks, and Jessie was speaking quietly to him. Starsky and Hutch stepped apart from each other, but Hutch grabbed Starsky's hand and would not let go. The trio came toward them. Steve pretended not to be hurt by the sight of Hutch kissing Starsky, and he extended his hand, smiling to Starsky. Starsky shook his hand.
"Dave, I can't tell you how much I appreciate what you did back there."
"Thanks, but I did that for Hutch. I figured they couldn't get him for corruption, if he wasn't with a politician."
"Yes, I can see why you did it," Steve nodded. "But your actions still helped me a great deal. I'm indebted to you. If there's anything I can do for you..."
"No," Starsky interrupted, smiling pointedly. "It's not a good idea for a cop to accept rewards from politicians. Kind got that message loud and clear in court." He winked. "Besides, you hired Vander, which got Hutch off, so I'd say we're more than even."
"How about I cook you dinner when all this blows over?" Jessie suggested.
"I'd like that," Starsky answered enthusiastically.
They all chatted about the hearing, relaying their experiences and their reactions. "I loved the look on Bastian's face when I told him that wasn't my husband," Jessie giggled. "I wish I could've seen his face when you told him it was you!"
"Actually," Starsky laughed, "I think Hutch's expression was better. I thought he was going to jump right over the table."
Hutch chuckled, feeling the heat in his cheeks. "I almost flipped that damn table." He shook his head. "Lee kept whispering in my ear to shut the fuck up, that you just saved my ass." He glanced at Starsky, who just smiled.
Finally the group parted company, and Starsky and Hutch returned to the safe house to pack up their things. The work of cleaning up and clearing out seemed a little daunting after their stressful day. "You wanna just stay here tonight, and put this off ‘til tomorrow?" Starsky suggested.
"Sounds like a plan." Hutch collapsed on the couch, stretching out his full length.
Starsky grinned down on him. He sat at the edge of the couch, and looked at Hutch rather shyly. "We could pick up where we left off in the park."
Hutch reached out and touched his fingertips to Starsky's lips. He ached to kiss him. Starsky grinned and let his tongue dart out to teasingly lick at Hutch's fingertips. "I don't know, Starsk," Hutch said quietly.
Starsky looked puzzled. "You don't want this?"
Hutch sat up, adjusting his position so he sat beside Starsky. "It's not that I don't want you. I do. But..."
"Hutch, I just want a chance to share something special with you. I love you. Just once, I want to be able to express that."
"That's the problem. I don't just want a moment, or a night. I want you. It would kill me to have you, and then go back to what we had."
Starsky looked at him with understanding. "I don't know if I can do that. I'd like to think I could, but I can't tell you if I can even handle this. I've never gone down this road before." He looked sad. "I love you. I wish I could give you promises..."
"Maybe this would be a mistake, "Hutch said resolutely. He studied Starsky's face, then reached over and took his hand. "I love that you told me, and that you bared your soul to that courtroom for me, and you were willing to take the fall with me." Hutch leaned in an pressed his lips to Starsky's , clutching his friend's hand to his heart. Still holding his hand tight to his chest, he said, "I'm really touched, Starsk. I'll never forget what you did for me."
Starsky pulled him into a tight embrace. "Love you." He said in a tight voice.
Starsky pulled from the hug and stepped away from the couch. He turned and looked back to Hutch. "Hutch, do you mind if I kiss you now and then? It means something to me, to be able to kiss you."
"Sure, Starsk. You can kiss me." He smiled at Starsky, feeling that familiar ache in his own heart. He wondered if it would ever get easier, to spend so much of his life with a man who could never love him like that in return.
Starsky took full advantage of Hutch's acceptance of his kisses. He kissed Hutch farewell as they parted company each night, he kissed him hello if they were not at work, he kissed him any time the mood struck him, whether in the presence of close friends or not. The only time Starsky held back was when they were in dangerous circumstances that required more discretion.
Hutch wasn't sure how he felt about this new element of their relationship. While he loved the ability to share this level of affection with Starsky, he also felt that tear at his heart every time those cherished lips touched his own. Hutch finally resigned himself to the fact that it would hurt him either way, and he offered no resistance to the kisses, accepting them as a given in his relationship with the man.
However, it came as a great shock to him, when Starsky's mother was in town for a visit, and Starsky kissed Hutch goodnight, as he always did, in the presence of his mother. Hutch was so startled, he hadn't even been able to react. He found himself standing outside Starsky's threshold, feeling like he'd just been hit in the face with a bucket of water. He returned to his apartment, and walked straight to his phone.
"Starsky, what the hell were you thinking, kissing me in front of your mother?"
"What's the matter?"
"What's she going to think, seeing her son slip his friend some tongue? Are you out of your mind?"
Starsky's voice sounded a bit amused. "I guess she'll think I kiss you."
Hutch ran his hand through his hair. "Starsky!" he exclaimed, exasperated.
"Relax, Hutch. If she's okay with it, why aren't you?"
He didn't know how to respond to that. "We'll talk about this tomorrow," He growled, hanging up the phone.
The next day proved rather eye-opening to Hutch. He spent the day with Starsky and his mother, and the woman seemed completely unfazed by the witnessed affection. Hutch found he had little to complain to Starsky about, since his mother was completely accepting of the kisses. Starsky refused to show more discretion, and seemed greatly entertained by Hutch's discomfort.
Something about this demonstrativeness felt very good to Hutch. He had allowed secrecy to be so engrained into his head that it was very freeing to now be open with his friends, and even Starsky's mother. It was a gift that Starsky had given him, to not only be more open with matters of the heart, but to give trust to his friends that he never imagined possible.
He stopped by Starsky's one Sunday morning, 12-pack in the trunk, to see if his partner wanted to take in the football game. Starsky was outside washing his car. Hutch backed into a parking spot, and faced his friend as he continued with his task. He could hardly tear his eyes away from him, and found the sight to be enormously exciting.
Starsky was wearing old, worn cut off jeans, that were very short, and very fitting. They left nothing to the imagination, and were worn thin enough to be nearly transparent in places. Tempting places. The fringe along the cut edge just begged for fingers to explore. Starsky had taken off his shirt, and the perspiration glistened his skin. Water from the spray had trapped in his curls, adding a glitter of sparkling light to the soft strands. And watching him bend over the car was tantalizing.
Hutch's mouth went dry. Everything in him screamed to press the heel of his palm into that worn denim around the fly, to feel the man come to life in his hand.
Starsky looked up and stared at Hutch for a moment, apparently trying to figure out why he didn't come over to him. He threw the sponge in his bucket and turned off the water, and trotted over to Hutch. He seemed completely unaware of the vision of raw sexuality he represented to his friend. When Starsky would dress to impress, he never considered dressing casually. It was a shame, really. He had no idea how much more evocative the raggedy, old cut offs were.
He leaned his crossed arms on the car door. "Hey. What's up?"
"Just watching you wash the car."
"Can't talk you into helping, huh? Not even for a beer? Got some in the cooler." He pointed to the small red and white container off on the pavement.
Hutch looked up at him, not bothering to hide the lust in his eyes. "Thought it would be wiser to sit here and admire from afar."
Starsky's eyes twinkled. "You're not getting out of it that easy. Out." He pulled open the car door and waited until he saw Hutch move to exit the vehicle. Then he walked back to his car.
Hutch took the beer from the trunk and followed Starsky, watching him walk. Starsky had a cocky strut that always made him crazy, but even more so in those sexy cut offs. "Why don't you change?" Starsky called to him. "You've got some shorts upstairs. I was going to take a break anyway. I need a beer."
"Yeah, be right back," Hutch replied, grateful for the time and distance to regain himself. By the time he returned to the car, he was feeling more in control. That is, until he got close to Starsky, and got a whiff of the suntan oil he'd used. Shit. Knowing he was covered in oil was sure as hell not helping him tame his libido. And he smelled delicious; a combination of coconut and soap and that uniquely Starsky scent. It hit his senses like an aphrodisiac.
"You know, I should go," he said abruptly. He didn't give Starsky the opportunity to object. He turned on his heels and headed for the car, relieved that he'd transferred his wallet and keys to the shorts. He stopped dead in his tracks, however, when an icy cold blast of water from the hose doused him from shoulders to feet.
He turned around slowly and angrily, ready to spring. Starsky smiled crookedly. "Can't get into your car like that," Starsky declared. "Might as well give me a hand." The spray hit Hutch again, in the front this time, soaking his clothes to the skin. "Oops. Never could get used to this thing." Starsky feigned clumsiness with the spray attachment.
Hutch walked back to Starsky threateningly, but realized it was having no effect on the other man. His partner was enjoying this too much. He walked right up and yanked the hose from his hands.
"Come on, Hutch. Where's your sense of humor?"
Hutch grabbed Starsky by the biceps, and shoved him backwards roughly until he pinned him against the car. Hutch leaned into him, crushing his body into Starsky's, grinding his groin into Starsky's well worn fly. The man finally gasped in understanding. "You're going to let me leave," Hutch warned. "You're making me insane with the way you look in those goddamn shorts. You wouldn't believe how incredibly fuckable your ass looks right now." He knew his voice was harsh and his expression wild, and he didn't give a shit. He slid his hand down Starsky's chest, thumbing his nipples, gliding down that oiled flesh until he hit the waistband of his jeans. "It's taking everything I've got not to rip these damn things off of you." He yanked at the waistband to illustrate his point, shoving himself away from Starsky and turning his back on him. He bent down and snagged Starsky's tshirt from the ground, using the cloth as a towel. He headed back towards his car.
Suddenly a large, soaking wet and soapy sponge slapped him right between the shoulder blades. He whirled around to see Starsky casually leaning against his car door, wearing a devilish smirk. "I asked you to give me a hand," he asserted suggestively.
Hutch grabbed the sponge and returned to Starsky. He dunked the sponge in the bucket near the man's feet and slapped the soapy thing against Starsky's chest, squeezing tightly. The water cascaded down the man's body, Hutch watching the trail of drops streaking down the muscular thighs. He was breathing hard, seeing little reason through the haze of lust that possessed him. Starsky stole the opportunity and bolted, scrambling up the stairs to his apartment, Hutch right on his heels. Hutch tackled him mercilessly near the top of the stairs. He picked up his partner and carried him unceremoniously to his apartment, Hutch's adrenaline making the task appear effortless. He all but jumped on the bed, crushing Starsky into the mattress with his weight. Starsky wrapped his arms around Hutch's neck, his legs around Hutch's hips, kissing him with the same wild intensity. Hutch ground into him, the pressure not enough to ease the throbbing in his veins. He abruptly pulled back, burying his face against Starsky's chest. "Stop me! Goddamnit! Stop me!" Hutch cried into the man's heart.
"Hutch." Starsky took Hutch's hand and moved it to cover his erection. Hutch's hand crushed against the hardness. He growled and moved back, ripping open the man's fly in one yank. He reached under his ass, squeezing indulgently, then gripped the edges of the pockets like handles, ripping he fabric down his legs. When he wrapped his hand around Starsky's shaft, he cried his name again. "Hutch!" The want in Starsky's voice flared his own passion even further.
Hutch sucked the head into his mouth, finally regaining some control. He took his time now, savoring the taste and feel of Starsky's cock in his mouth, snaking his tongue to play against the ridges of his shaft. Starsky's fingers were threading into his hair, his touches tender, his moans intoxicating.
Hutch dragged this out as long as he could, backing off when Starsky got close, making him crazy and backing off again. When he knew the man couldn't last much longer, he took him deeper into his throat, taking all of him, and began to work his shaft in his throat, stroking his perineum as he did so, drawing playful circle pattern in the man's pubic hair with the tip of his nose. The wild cry from Starsky was like a reward. Starsky's orgasm rocked his body dramatically. Hutch pulled away carefully, and leapt from the bed. He returned quickly, smearing something onto his hand, and began to stroke Starsky, circling his anus. Starsky instinctively wrapped his leg over Hutch's hip, pulling into the man's body. Hutch kissed him, gently, softly, sweetly. Starsky touched his face. "Starsky, I want you, " Hutch whispered.
"You got me," Starsky smiled back, kissing him again.
"Tell me to stop, " Hutch whispered. "Say the word and I'll stop now."
"Stop hedging and get to it," the man grinned. "Show me some man love. What's a guy gotta do to get you to shut up and start enjoying yourself?'
Hutch laughed and kissed him again, pushing his finger in. Starsky gasped into his mouth, and Hutch was satisfied that it was a pleasured sound. He continued with the teasing foreplay, readying the man for his lovemaking.
Starsky was exploring his body now, and Hutch thrilled at his touch. His hands were everywhere, apparently trying to memorize every inch of his body within reach. Hutch finally positioned himself to enter Starsky, looking searchingly into Starsky's eyes. "Love you," Starsky said.
Hutch kissed him gently, finally pushing himself inside his body. Starsky arched roughly beneath him, and Hutch stilled to prevent further pain. "Breathe, babe, breathe." He saw Starsky take a deep shaky breath and then another. He could feel his body relax some beneath him. Hutch nuzzled him apologetically. Starsky grabbed Hutch's hip, firmly pressing him closer. Hutch accepted the encouragement and slid a little deeper. He felt no pained resistance this time. He was trembling from the effort of holding back, gentling his movements, and the perspiration beaded across his skin. He began to move a little more, sinking into the sweet heat with little pumping gestures, until he was fully sheathed within his lover. Hutch's heart sang with joy. He could feel no hesitance from Starsky, sensed no pain in him, and moved now with more determination.
When Starsky grabbed his ass, with a hungry desperation, Hutch let go. He did not hold back any longer, and moved with full earnest. Starsky's hands clawed eagerly at his flesh, the man's kiss making him crazy in its depth. His orgasm hit with powerful intensity. Hutch crumpled into Starsky's arms, the emotion hitting him as hard as the pleasure had.
Hutch lay enfolded in Starsky's arms until his heart calmed and his body recovered. He looked to Starsky's face, and found him staring up at the ceiling, absentmindedly drawing soothing circles on Hutch's back. "You okay?" Hutch softly queried.
"I feel like I've never made love before today," Starsky whispered in awe. "Like everything before was artificial. Diluted. Like this is what love is supposed to feel like."
Hutch felt his emotions overpowering him again, and he averted his eyes. He didn't want Starsky to see it. But Starsky touched his cheek, demanding, "You're not crying are you? God, don't!"
"Not crying," Hutch replied, his voice belying his words. "The emotion - I'm just overwhelmed."
"Me too," Starsky whispered. He stroked Hutch's hair. After several minutes, he said, "Now I understand what you meant."
Hutch looked up at him questioningly.
"You said you couldn't make love to me, then go back to the way things were."
Hutch winced at the heartache that rose up again and looked away. He didn't want to think about it. Not now.
"Hey." Starsky turned Hutch's face back to him. "I understand. I can't go back either."
"I love you," Hutch said, his vision blurring from the dampness in his eyes.
"Damn it, Hutch," Starsky chided him, "If you don't knock of this crying bullshit, I'll take it back."
Hutch chuckled. "I'd like to see you try."
"Yeah, that probably wasn't much of a threat after I just told you I couldn't go back. I'll have to work on that."
"Probably not the best way to start out," Hutch mused, "with your lover trying to think up new threats to use against you."
"I've got a better way. How about you whip us up a Denver omelet," Starsky suggested. "I've got all the stuff for it."
Hutch eyed him disapprovingly. "Why do I have to cook? Why don't you make them?"
"You took my virginity. The least you can do is make me an omelet."
Hutch laughed. "You're no virgin, Starsk."
"You know what I mean."
Hutch sighed. This was an argument he didn't mind losing. "Omelet it is."