Hutch walked into the used bookstore, setting off the warning jingle of the bell above the door. An elderly woman raised herself slowly from her stool behind the cluttered counter. Peering over stacks of books, she smiled at her favorite customer.
“Detective Ken! How lovely to see you. It’s been too long. I thought you might have started shopping at one of those big, gaudy bookstores at the mall.”
“And miss seeing my favorite bookworm? Never! Never!”
Hutch waited for the woman to make it around the counter and moved in for a brief hug. “How are you, Mindy?”
She patted his back in a motherly fashion. “Oh, just fine, Detective Ken. I take my herbals and keep on truckin’. I wish I knew you were coming, I just dried a bunch of lemon balm, great for the nerves.”
Mindy stepped back and looked Hutch over.
“You are way too thin. And your skin is shallow from worry and stress. What am I going to do with you? How is Detective Dave doing now?”
“He’s fine, Mindy. Really fine. He’s recovered from the shooting and back to work.”
“So that’s what you’ve been doing. Caring for him, getting him back on his feet. And making yourself sick in the process. You two are not back on the street, I hope.”
“No. The new Chief of Police got the Mayor’s blessing and made us both Lieutenants. He gave us our own department to run. We do neighborhood outreach and teach sensitivity courses to new recruits among other things. Starsky gets to teach driving maneuvers at the academy every Thursday. I think he lives for Thursdays.”
“And you visit my humble shop on a Thursday. Detective Ken, I mean Lieutenant Ken, you need some help, don’t you. Is it your love life? I have some ginseng gum in my purse, good for… you know, stamina.”
Hutch laughed and waved his hand.
“No, I’m good, Mindy.”
“Then tell me your troubles, Lieutenant Ken.”
Hutch had known the sixty-plus woman since he first moved to Bay City. She always had a cup of herbal tea and a good book to recommend for whatever ailed you. He treasured her like a rare first edition and sought her company when he was anxious and worried. Hutch trusted her.
“Mindy, it’s complicated. I hardly have it worked out myself. When Starsky was shot, his heart stopped.”
“Oh, my God! You poor boy. You must have been devastated at the time.”
Hutch nodded. He closed his eyes and he was back to the moment when his Starsky had left him. When his own heart was torn from him only to be slammed back into his body when Starsky’s heartbeat began again. Mindy touched his arm lightly. He opened his eyes and took a deep breath.
“It was horrible. But Starsky, being Starsky, ended up looking at it as a positive thing. Like a new start on life. I admire him so much for that.”
Mindy tipped her head to the side, she played with the red ribbon at the end of her long gray braid.
“But something about him changed that you never imagined could change.”
Mindy chuckled as Hutch’s baby blues flashed.
“How did you know? How do you always know?”
“People are like books. Some are easy to read and delight the senses. You and Dave have been a favorite series of mine for a while.”
Hutch gave her a sweet smile, which she returned.
“Starsky has decided.. well… no...discovered is more like it, that he is bisexual. He’s started seeing his physical therapist, Andy Nolan. And I think Police Chief Saunders has a crush on him!”
“Lieutenant Ken! You are not against this!”
“No! No! I’m happy for him. I’ve never seen him happier in a budding relationship! He died, Mindy. I want him to live life to the fullest. I want him to have everything he deserves. I want…”
“You want him. You’re in love with him.”
Hutch hung his head, looked at the old hardwood floor and nodded.
Mindy reached up and lifted his head tenderly. The sky blue eyes were dull and grayed by the pain of unrequited love.
“Mindy, I don’t know what to do. I love him, but he sees me as just a friend. To be fair, he sees me as a brother and I know he loves me deeply. He’s just not attracted to me. He told me all about his changes, asked me if he should date. We talked about what it meant to be a man. He even said that if his actions bothered me in any way, he would hold off. He told me nothing was more important to him than our friendship and partnership.”
“And what did you tell him about your feelings? Did you tell him you have been attracted to him for years?”
“Of course not.”
“Why, of course not, Ken?”
“Because I’m not good enough for him. I’m just boring old Hutch. I have nothing to offer a wonderful man like Starsk. Nothing to see here folks, might as well move on.”
“Lieutenant Ken! You are so wrong! I see the way he looks at you. I know how he feels about you. Remember when you were in the hospital with a broken leg? He came in here and bought books by all your favorite authors. He knew just what you liked and disliked. And he was floating on a cloud because you were aware enough to concentrate and read. That is love, Ken. I know love when I see it.”
“It’s too late, Mindy. I should have said something before this. Starsky likes this Andy guy. I have no right to interfere at this late date.”
“Is Dave in love with this man?”
“No. He would tell me. He’s just trying out the waters, so to speak. I don’t think they’ve even kissed yet.”
“Are you jealous of this Andy?”
Hutch wiped his face with his hand.
Mindy chuckled and took Hutch’s hand.
“It is never too late for true love, Ken.”
“No. No buts. You must woo him. You must romance him. Show him how good it will be with you!. Don’t worry. I can help.”
Mindy pulled the lanky blond into the romance section of her store.
“Oh! God! Mindy, no!” Hutch turned an interesting shade of light purple and tried to back away.
“Shush, you silly! You will use these books as a guide.”
Mindy pulled down off the shelf a choice Harlequin Historical Romance, “Passion In The Pines.”
“This is for background. Sort of like an appetizer. Once you’ve read one, you’ve read them all.”
She shoved the book into Hutch’s hand and dragged him to the classic section.
“Now we have the meat and potatoes.”
Hutch sighed as she placed books in a pile. She was literally in her element.
“Let’s see, “Jane Eyre,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Dr Zhivago,” and... Oh! This one was written in ‘73 but it will be a classic someday, “The Princess Bride.””
Hutch carried the books to the counter then set them down, awkwardly and reached for his wallet.
“Darling, boy! There is no charge,” Mindy insisted. “Just let me know when true love conquers all.”