17

I can't believe you love me,

I never thought you'd come,

I guess I misjudged love

Between a father and his son.

 

 

The Hutchinsons packed their rented Cadillac and prepared to head for the airport on the 27th of December. Marion and John had a staggering list of open houses and other galas to attend New Year's Eve, and both wanted a little time to settle back home before the next holiday.

With the flight leaving early in the morning, Hutch didn't expect to have much time to visit with his parents after they said their good-nights the previous evening. Both he and Starsky were due in to work, and their guests were bustling around with final packing. He was surprised to see his father knocking at his open bedroom door as he fastened his holster and reached for his jacket.

"Ken, do you have minute?''

"Sure, Dad. How about you?'' Hutch checked his watch, as there appeared to be precious little spare time between that moment and when the elder Hutchinsons should be leaving for the airport.

"A couple,'' he responded, smiling slightly, and taking a seat on the edge of the overstuffed chair in the corner of the room. Within moments, he spotted the new photo of Sandra. "May I?'' He stood up and reached for it, and Hutch shrugged. His father took the photo off the shelf to look it over more carefully. "She was a beautiful girl, Ken.''

"Yes, she was.'' Hutch sat on the foot of the bed and watched his father standing there, examining the photo as if he were trying to become acquainted with Sandra by staring at her face long enough. "Starsky took that photo and then got it framed for me,'' he added.

"He does pretty well with his camera, doesn't he?'' John set the photo back on the shelf and returned to his chair.

"Yeah, very well. He's been into photography for quite a few years now.''

"I've never been good at beating around the bush...I'm sorry we missed the funeral, son.''

"Why bring that up now?'' Hutch asked, his voice neutral. He was beyond wanting to pick fights with his father. He was still curious why the other man felt it was worth discussing at this late date.

"I didn't realize it would have any special meaning to you for us to be here.'' He exhaled a little loudly. "I figured you'd want us here for the wedding and all, but I didn't think it would be much help to you to have us here for the funeral.''

"And you were closing an important deal on a thoroughbred, right? Please don't lie to me. Hey, if that was your priority over Sandra's funeral, that's your choice, and my choice to live with it or not. I'm living with it. I would just appreciate it if you didn't lie to me about it.''

"How did you find out about that?'' His father didn't even attempt to deny it, or to bury himself more deeply in the lie of omission.

"Sally let something slip about the horse. Congratulations. I understand it was quite a coup...outbidding a bunch of other breeders for it.'' Hutch's tone again was not bitter or malicious, but almost conversational. He found himself strangely resilient when it came to his father's ability to slight him or hurt his feelings. Maybe because they're not my only family anymore. Maybe because I don't think of Duluth as home anymore.

"It was.'' John rubbed his chin, contemplating his next statement. "I admit that the business deal was part of it, Ken. But only insofar as I didn't think it would console you that much to have us here. I figured Dave would be there for you, and--''

"He always is. I wouldn't have made it through losing Sandra without him. But it would have been damned nice to see you guys show up there. I think it hit me harder...not having family there...because of Elizabeth.'' His father's face was temporarily blank and then the recognition came. Elizabeth Marie Hutchinson--the unborn child who would have been his first grandchild. "It's strange how you can embrace a concept in a few hours, own it, make it part of your life...'' Hutch took a deep breath and released it slowly. "From the moment she told me that day, in my mind, we were a family--not just a couple anymore.'' He smiled and walked over to the dresser and picked up the stuffed rabbit that always sat there. "Starsky got this for Elizabeth that night--before it happened. I told him right after she told me, and he bought this that night.'' Suddenly thoughts of a giggling baby amidst what would have been an absurd bonanza of Christmas gifts, Sandra sitting near the tree, holding their daughter and making her smile for the camera flooded into his mind...Hutch felt the shudder from deep within somewhere, and was stunned that he could still find tears to shed for his lost family. It seemed like he'd used up all there were. "I'm sorry.'' He pulled himself together, not surprised to see his father look as uncomfortable as he did sympathetic. Men crying wasn't a concept John Hutchinson was ever comfortable with, and he couldn't expect him to have changed much in recent years.

"Are you all right?''

"Yeah, I'm fine,'' Hutch lied, pulling himself together quickly. I feel wonderful, Dad. My fiancee's dead, my child is gone, and I just went through the first set of holidays thinking about everything I've lost...I feel great. He suddenly realized how spoiled he'd become from Starsky's immediate, sensitive reactions to his grief.

"I don't know as I can ever say anything to make up for that...for not being here. But that's not to say we didn't care, son. If I'd realized it was important to you for us to come--''

"You'd have dropped everything? Come on, Dad, I know what a deal like that means to you.''

"Well, maybe I've realigned a few of my priorities on this trip.'' He shifted in his chair a little uneasily. "Look, I'm a businessman. I'm not going to lie to you that closing a deal like that is what drives me, motivates me. Your life is here, separate from ours. You haven't exactly visited often--and we sure as hell don't get many invitations from you to come out here. Do you know how it feels to know your son nearly died and you only heard about it after the fact?'' John referred back to Hutch's brush with both the plague and botulism from contaminated soup. In both cases, Starsky had been discouraged by Hutch to call his parents. Hutch either didn't call them at all, as in the case of the botulism, or only called them when he was up and around again, as he had when he was released from the hospital following the plague.

"There wasn't much point in upsetting you for nothing.''

"Nothing? Look, those were your calls to make, but it was obvious that when a crisis arose in your life, you leaned on Dave to get through it. And that's fine. But why would we think you'd need us this time when you never did before?''

"Things are...complicated with us. When I was sick, I wasn't up to it. I came close to dying both times, and it was quite a few days before I got my strength back. I couldn't argue about my job and my lifestyle and how much of a crushing disappointment I was.''

"Where in the hell do you get this half-assed notion of yours that you're some kind of disappointment to us?''

"Maybe because I never made it to number one!'' Hutch shot back. "I'm not a lawyer or a corporate big shot or taking over the family ranch. I divorced my socially-acceptable wife--''

"Vanessa?'' John replied, raising his eyebrows. "If you hadn't divorced that bitch I'd'a killed her. Hell, I'd rather you'd married Dave.'' John looked up at his son, and suddenly both laughed a little. His socially correct father suggesting that having his son marry another man would be preferable to bringing Vanessa home illustrated what he really thought of the vituperous witch Hutch had attempted to build a life with in his earlier years.

"I've asked but he keeps turning me down,'' Hutch replied, still laughing.

"Holdin' out for one with better legs, huh?'' John retorted, seeming to relax into the joke now, a little of the tension leaving his large frame.

"And he doesn't like my cooking.''

"What about Cecile?''

"I like Cecile. I'll probably keep seeing her as long as she's interested. I guess I just don't have the feeling back yet. I can't...let go of Sandra just yet.''

"That's understandable.'' John paused for a moment, and there was a slightly uneasy silence before he continued. "There's something we need to get straight here,'' John began, his tone serious. "You have this notion that you're a disappointment. Maybe there was a time when you were. I can't lie that I've always wanted the best for you. The best education, the best career, the best future--and in my opinion, you weren't getting that. Weren't even going for it. I guess the old habit of prodding your kids to succeed dies hard. But I am very proud of what you've achieved, and proud of your courage. I know I wouldn't have the nerve to strap one of those things on my body and go poking around the inner city,'' John concluded, gesturing toward the gun in Hutch's holster.

"You mean that? You're seriously proud of me--this isn't something Mom put you up to?''

"A lot of people who know your mother might be shocked to hear this, but I do still have a functional mind of my own,'' John replied, smiling a little. "No, son, I'm just telling you the truth. Maybe I'm learning that you're not a kid anymore, so it's up to me to get to know my son, the man, and quit trying to raise you.''

"I wish you didn't have to go back so soon.''

"Well, you know your mother and her parties.'' John stood and straightened to his full height. Hutch rose from his perch on the end of the bed, his own stature falling only an inch below his father's. He pulled his father into a bear hug, not knowing if that was what the older man would want, but not caring. It seemed they'd been miscommunicating and not communicating long enough.

"Thanks for coming,'' he said quietly, not sure how to put all of it into words. Thanks for saying you're proud of me, and really meaning it...and for accepting me the way I am, where I am...for not putting me down anymore because I'm not as rich and influential as some of your friends' kids.

"I'm glad you asked,'' John responded, returning the pressure briefly before pulling back. "You be careful out there. Don't be a dead hero, son.'' He patted the side where the gun rested, and then turned and walked briskly out of the room.

 

 

Spring came early in 1982. Nowhere else on Cherry Street was the arrival of the season more immediately evident that it was at the old Oliver house. Nursery trucks delivered the items Starsky selected with the gift certificate from Hutch's parents, working diligently at building his garden, complete with the little fountain. He replaced rotting wood and slathered white paint on the aged gazebo. In his spare time, he joined Mel Pomeroy in the arduous task of repainting the large house next door, helping Mel convince Sally that yellow would be as agreeable a color as peach. For this, Mel was eternally grateful.

Hutch took over the landscaping of shrubs and plantings around the house. With the book Starsky had given him for Christmas close at hand, he also established an herb and vegetable garden near Starsky's more ornate but less edible garden.

The new lawn was finally put in during the month of May, and while the second floor still needed decorating and the attic was far from being cleaned out or finished as planned, the garage was still leaning precariously to one side and the plumbing was now commencing an interesting symphony of banging pipes, Starsky and Hutch were fairly pleased with themselves at their progress with their "investment property''. Hutch had ceased even discussing resale values, much to Starsky's infinite relief.

Simonetti continued running Internal Affairs with an iron hand, but he never brought up the subject of the photo or Hutch's addiction again. Dryden still worked in the division, with a different partner while he worked toward his own promotion goals. Hutch wondered if it was a curse or a blessing to be able to dissolve a partnership that way and not care anymore than those two seemed to care. And is it a curse or a blessing to care too much?

Just then, the squad room doors burst open and Starsky raced to his desk, waving a business envelope under his nose.

"Read it and weep!'' he announced triumphantly.

Hutch immediately noticed the return address from the university where Starsky had started classes during the Winter semester. These had to be the much anticipated grades. His partner had been making runs home to check the mailbox ever since he'd taken the final exams for his psychology class and required biology class. The psychology class had given him few problems outside of finding the time to do the required reading, but the biology class, a general education requirement for all students seeking degrees, had hit on one of Starsky's worst subjects. Hutch had been enlisted for many hours of tutoring and study assistance, an activity which had caused the chess set to be evicted from the table in the library for most of the semester, replaced by textbooks and reams of notes.

Hutch opened the envelope now, judging by Starsky's demeanor that it must be good news. He'd gone into the final exam with a C average in the class, so the final would be either his undoing or his salvation.

The psychology class was an "A'', which didn't surprise Hutch at all. The biology class had yielded a "B''.

"Congratulations, partner! Guess that all-nighter paid off on the final.'' Hutch tucked the paper back in the envelope and handed it back to Starsky.

"Couldn't'a done it without my tutor,'' Starsky said happily, tucking the envelope in his jacket pocket. "I guess I only have about 100 credits to go now,'' he added, snorting a little laugh.

"You'll get there, buddy. This is a hell of a start.''

"My GPA looks pretty good now--I got A's in those Criminology classes I took a couple years ago, and my advisor said those'll go toward my degree too.''

"I think we ougtta celebrate. Unless you wanted to do something with Christine tonight.''

"Don't think that'll be happening again soon. Guess I'll have to settle for the cute brunette in my psychology class--she's signed up for the same class I am next semester.''

"Back up. What happened with Christine?''

"Well, I'm not supposed to tell anybody, but I guess things got a little, ah, interesting during her last stakeout with Shemanski.''

"You mean they're...''

"Until Dobey catches them, they are--why do you think they volunteer for all those dead-end stakeouts? Christine told me this morning.''

"Whew. Oh, well, I guess it beats five hours of card tricks to pass the time.''

"Yeah, but you keep tellin' me I'm not a good kisser, remember?'' Starsky teased, amused at Hutch's sweeping scan of the squadroom to determine who might have heard the remark.

"And you don't exactly fill out your sweaters the way Christine does, either.'' Hutch was grinning a little as he stacked up the papers on his desk in preparation to leave. "How about steak and lobster--pull all the stops--my treat,'' Hutch stated, rising and leading the way to the door, which he ultimately held for his partner as he passed through it. Together, they walked down the hall and toward the exit.

"Don't toy with me that way,'' Starsky admonished, laughing a little. He noticed Hutch's expression was still sincere. "You're going to treat me to steak and lobster? What gives?'' he asked, incredulous.

Hutch flopped an arm over his partner's shoulders.

"Let's just say I'm counting my blessings, huh?''

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna make it home again,

It's so far and out of sight,

I really need someone to talk to and nobody else

Knows how to comfort me tonight.

Snow is cold, rain is wet,

Chills my soul right to the marrow,

I won't be happy 'til I see you again,

'Til I'm home again and feeling right.