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ANOTHER LIFE

 

 

Co written with Cristina Pereira.

NOTE  This story was written purely for entertainment and is not for profit, and is not meant to trespass in any way on the holders of the rights to Starsky and Hutch.

(*) All my gratitude to our beta reader Annie for all her hard work in this story.

 

 

It had been a tough year, so Starsky kept nagging about starting their holiday plans.

 

 “Come on Hutch we still haven't done what we´d planned and soon we’ll be too old to do those kind of things”

 

“WHAT kind of things Starsk? Drive miles and more miles, to get to the East Coast, half-dying from tiredness and heat? Really, partner, call me a dummy if you want, but I don't get the point…planes were invented quite a few years ago. They do the same distance but in just a few hours and more comfortably. Besides they are filled with nice and beautiful stewardesses.”

 

“Yeah and it can crash in the middle of nowhere…Or even worse. In the ocean…Look Hutch. Can you guess how many terrific pictures we’ll take back home.” Starsky got to his feet to describe with his hands an imaginary landscape, looking at Hutch with his infallible puppy look…again. “And how many nice girls we’ll meet on the way? And how many picturesque towns we’ll see before we get to New York if we’re driving? But we’ll lose that chance if we’re going there in a lousy plane. Pleeease Hutch!”

 

Hutch rolled his eyes. Why am I always letting him talk me into these things... “Okay, okay Starsk. We’ll do it your way.”

 

“With my car, I guess?”

 

“Yeah partner…With your car. I won't be able to stand your endless moans and complaints if my car breaks down in the middle of some desolate road.”

 

“Great! We’ll have a terrific vacation.” Once his mission was accomplished, Starsky, smiling with a childlike expression, went back to his seat and got back to his paperwork until the end of their shift.

 

Both detectives needed a break. And that well-deserved break was about to start. They would have a month's vacation after two years without one, and Starsky and Hutch had decided to cross the States to pay a surprise visit to Rachel Starsky in New York, finally agreeing, as Starsky wanted, to taking the Torino.

 

They had a very good time stopping off in a lot of towns and cities to spend the night there, or simply to have a good lunch. They drank some beers and danced in some country clubs while they were still in the west, they ate huge and delicious beefsteaks in some semi-remote diners along the road and in little towns, and met a few nice ladies.

 

After some days at Starsky´s mom's place, who spoiled them rotten, feeding her oldest son and his best friend with lots of homemade meals and cakes, they were finally coming back home.

 

By the time they were on their way back, both men were looking visibly tired and their enjoyment wasn’t as evident as in the beginning of their travel, though miles of road were being covered quickly and for now, without any problems. The travelling was finally about to end.

 

They were already in California, and in some hours they would reach Bay City.

 

This morning Hutch was driving, as Starsky was taking a nap, leaning his head against the car window. He'd driven all night and now was completely dead to the world in the passenger seat.

 

Hutch had begun having increasing difficulties to driving since about some minutes earlier, when an unexpected summer storm began to strike that particular region. He was looking for some place to call a halt until the storm subsided, when, suddenly, near a little city called Three Rivers, in Tulare County, over the sound of the thunder and rain, a huge noise, like an explosion, startled both men.

 

Hutch was unaware it was a blowout, and lost control of the steering wheel. The last thing he remembered before the entire world went black was hearing his own voice calling Starsky´s name.

 

***

 

 Starsky was soaked to the bone, his temples were throbbing and he felt as if the whole world were spinning like a top. He dragged himself slowly and painfully up to cover the distance between himself and the road.

 

Just a short while earlier, he had been sleeping, while Hutch was driving, when suddenly, in just a second all hell broke loose. First had come the noise of a loud explosion, and then, the Torino was out of control and threatening to leave the road and fall down the cliff, despite Hutch's efforts to get control of the car. The Torino rolled over a couple of times, ending up on its roof on the very edge of the cliff.

 

Hutch had crashed against the windshield, a thin thread of blood running down his forehead, while Starsky fell out of the car, rolling down and hitting his head in the fall, ending up in the river’s cold waters. The coolness of the water stopped him from passing out and he had to use all his will to fight against the strong current and his dreadful headache. Eventually after swimming for what seemed like forever, he reached the river’s bank totally exhausted.

 

Once out the water, Starsky gave way to the wave of exhaustion that washed over him, falling into a deep sleep on the damp ground. He was too out of it to notice the man who crept up on him, and stole his wallet, holster and gun, breaking into a run later.

 

Starsky awoke a long time later, startled by a truck’s horn. A violent downpour was still falling down, his clothes were totally drenched, all his body was hurting and an awful thirst was burning his throat. He knew he had to try to get out of there on his own, knowing that it was his only chance to get help. He fought stubbornly to climb the slippery slope, falling down and having to try again many times to reach the road, then getting unsteadily to his feet, and almost running into a van that luckily wasn’t driving too fast.

 

On seeing the man staggering over his vehicle's hood, the driver, a blond man in his mid 30´s braked sharply, jumping down from his seat. “For God sake! I could have killed you! Are you okay sir?”

 

Starsky gasped for air, resting against the van with closed eyes, before being able to answer. “Ye-yeah...I’m fine…” Looking at the blond man, a vague memory came into his head but he couldn't seem to make it any clearer. 

 

“I don’t think so. Did you have an accident? Can I take you to the hospital?”

 

“No…I don’t need go to the hospital…I’m okay, just drenched and a little bruised, I guess. I just need to get warm.”

 

“And catch your breath too. Let me help you.” The driver was already helping Starsky to sit down in the vehicle, then hurrying to get into the driver's seat. “Jack Wallace, by the way.” He reached his hand out to Starsky.

 

Upon hearing the man introducing himself, Starsky was suddenly struck by the terrifying thought that he couldn’t remember anything. Not his name and surname, nor why he was there, so without a second thought, he shook hands with Jack, and said the first name that came into his mind “Huh? Oh! I’m Mike…Mike Skyler…Nice to meet you…”

 

“Okay Mike…Are you hurt?”

 

Starsky shook his head, despite feeling drained and the fact that his whole body was aching.

 

“What I can do for you? Can I take you any place?”

 

“Whe-where are we?”

 

Jack looked a little surprised by the oddness of the question, but simply answered. “We’re a couple miles north from Lakeplace.”

 

Starsky just nodded, feeling that the place's name was as unknown to him as any Chinese town’s name would be.

“Listen, Jack is there some place nearby where I can dry my clothes, and get some food and a room to rest?”

 

“Yeah, sure…In the main street there’s a pretty comfortable hostel where you can stay. I’ll take you there.” Jack answered.

 

But Starsky hardly heard his words. In that moment he was just staring at a water bottle that was resting in the van’s back seat.

 

“Are you thirsty Mike?” Jack asked noticing Starsky's eager look,  already holding the bottle out to him before starting the engine.

 

“Yeah…If you don’t mind…”

 

“Sure, help yourself” Starsky took the bottle, drinking most of  the liquid in huge gulps.

 

“Yeah…I bet you were thirsty…”

 

Both men were silent for a few minutes: Jack just driving and wondering what had happened to this man who had seemed to come out of nowhere; Starsky trying to find any memory in his suddenly locked mind. In that moment, he suddenly realized something. He should have a wallet… there it would be a driver's license, credit cards...some kind of ID. He searched frantically in all his shirt and pants pockets but found nothing.

 

“What’s the matter Mike? Are you okay?” Jack asked looking at Starsky out of the corner of his eye.

 

“My-My wallet…Surely I should have a wallet… But I haven’t…I haven’t any ID or money…Damn!”

 

“Hey, take it easy friend… Somebody robbed you?”

 

“No…I mean, I don’t know… Listen Jack, don’t ask me why, but I think I can trust you.”

 

Jack look at Starsky bracing himself for the strange story that he knew this man was about to tell him.

 

“I can’t remember… A only thing… Not even my name… Mike Skyler sounds familiar to me, but right now I couldn’t swear that it’s my name… Obviously, something happened to me… But I haven’t a clue what. I don’t know who I am, where I came from, or where I was going”

 

“Wow, friend! That’s a hell of a mess… Listen. I think that you should get to the hospital. Really, I mean it. If you wanna, I can take you to Exeter…”

 

“NO! No please… I’m not hurt that badly, and I hope my memory will come back soon….”

 

“Listen, Mike. You sure you're not in trouble with the law? Cause if you are, I wouldn’t want be involved in anything like that." The blond man looked distrustfully at Starsky.

 

“No Jack…I don’t think so… Really. It’s just that I don’t wanna go to the hospital. But if it will make you feel safer, just stop here and I’ll leave.”

 

Jack sighed deeply looking at the stormy sky out the windshield and thinking before answering. Damn it Jack...Don’t be paranoid! The poor guy is asking me to stop to let him out. What mugger would do that? You can’t leave him in the middle of nowhere, without money, and in this downpour… “Okay, Mike. Forget it. I believe you. We’ll do what you want. I just hope I’m doing the right thing. But I can’t blame you for not wanting to go to the hospital...I hate hospitals too. The most usual way to get out of there is in a wooden coffin.” Jack joked.

 

“What should I do now Jack?” Starsky asked looking totally lost. “I don’t know where my home is, or even if I have one. And I haven’t a lousy buck to even get a sandwich or a bed to spend the night”.

 

Jack knew that it was probably a pretty imprudent decision, but he couldn’t help himself. Something impelled him to say “Don’t worry Mike. You can stay at my house until you can work things out. I’m living alone and my place will be big enough for both of us. Stay there a few days, and later… Well, maybe your memory will come back.”

 

“It’s very thoughtful of you...And I’m very grateful, but you don’t know me. I can’t accept.”

 

“Really? And what you’ll do then? Look, Mike. Right now, apparently you haven’t too many choices. And, you’re right, I don’t know you. But you don’t know me either. If you can trust me, I can trust you, I guess. I know that you're a good guy. I have a gut feeling.”

 

“Thanks Jack…Thank you very much. I will not disappoint you.”

 

A while later, they were at the entrance of Jack’s place, a well-cared farm on the outskirts of the town, surrounded by a yard in which some red, yellow, and white rose bushes shared the place with two ancient oaks. There, leaning his legs on the white wood fence, a huge black sheepdog was waiting for Jack, wagging his tail vigorously and barking a welcome.

 

“Hey Johnny, friend, shut up! You will scare our guest!” Jack scratched the dog's head and unlocked his front door. “Come in Mike.” Both men stepped into a clean and tidy living room. “This is a pretty big house, and I have a guestroom upstairs. You should feel pretty comfortable there.”

 

“Thank you so much Jack. Right now I would be in big trouble without your help.”

 

 “Never mind. And now, how about a shower and some dry clothes? You’ll catch a bad cold in those drenched ones. I'd guess that mine would fit you perfectly. Meanwhile I’ll fix some lunch, and later, I think that we should go see the town’s doctor and Sheriff Masterson as well. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be lucky and somebody is already looking for you."

 

***

 

Hutch opened his eyes, and immediately became aware of his headache.

 

A soft voice called his name…. “Mr. Hutchinson? Mr. Hutchinson, I will call the doctor to tell him that you finally woke up.”

 

The owner of the sweet voice disappeared and he looked around. He was definitely in a hospital. He looked at himself. He seemed to be okay. No broken bones that he was aware of. But his head and his whole body were sore and aching. He felt his throat burning up with thirst. Probably he had a lot of bruises and cuts too. He raised his hand to his head and noticed that it was wrapped in bandages. An IV entered the crook of his elbow.

 

He tried to remember what had happened…the car…the noise like an explosion... “Starsky!”

 

At that moment, Dobey entered the room looking drained and in a gloomy mood. “Hutch, son… We've been very worried about you for a while. How are you feeling?”

 

“Not so good.” He looked at a doctor in his mid-forties who had entered with Dobey and was at his bedside smiling in a friendly fashion.

 

“Well. It could be worse. It was a bad accident, Detective. You were wearing a seat belt. That probably saved your life.”

 

“Where am I? And where is Starsky?” Hutch asked, feeling a little dizzy and sick.

 

“Calm down detective. You’re in San Juan Health Center, in Exeter. Your car crashed on the road, near Three Rivers, and the ambulance brought you here. I’m Doctor Clayton by the way. Listen, Detective, you’re suffering from a concussion, two cracked ribs, and quite a few cuts and grazes all over your body, and these past couple of days we were very worried about you, but now everything seems to be healing nicely. Now I will run some routine checks on you, to make sure that your concussion isn't likely to get worse in the next few hours, and later I want you to get as much rest as possible. You must have a terrible headache. Unfortunately, I can’t do much to ease your pain, only offer you some mild analgesics. I already talked with Doctor Preston from Memorial. He will be your Doctor there, and you’ll have to go see him once you get back home. He’s already been informed about your condition.”

 

“And my partner? Where’s he? Why isn't Starsky here?” Hutch looked around, becoming increasingly anxious, with the sudden feeling that something was wrong... terribly wrong.

 

Dobey swallowed hard before answering. “I’m sorry, son. I’m really sorry. The rescue team did all they could to find Starsky. But... his body is missing, Hutch. The accident happened near the Kaweah River, and they searched for him for days in that area, but Starsky´s body wasn’t anywhere. I’m sorry.”

 

“But... They... Do you mean that they stopped searching? How long I have been here, Cap?”

 

“Three days, Hutchinson. You've spent the last three days going in and out of consciousness ” Dobey had a hard time telling one of his best friends the news, news that he felt would destroy him.

 

“They can’t stop looking for him! He's there, Cap! Someplace, and they have to find him!” Hutch shouted out, getting increasingly upset.

 

“Mr. Hutchinson...” The doctor spoke in calming tone. “I understand what you are feeling, but there were a lot of people out there looking for your friend. The police did all they could and even called in reinforcements. They were looking for him as soon as they knew he was travelling in the car with you, and they kept up their search until yesterday . But they were unsuccessful. The river is very deep and turbulent and the current probably caught the body. In that case, we will never be sure where...”

 

“As soon as they knew that he was travelling in the car with me?...What the hell does that mean?” Hutch broke into the doctor’s words.

 

“At first, the police thought that you were the only occupant of the crashed car. It was only after they got in touch with Captain Dobey that they knew that there was somebody else, and began the search for your friend."

 

“My God! So, they were abandoning Starsky to his fate for HOURS…!!I can’t stay here lying in bed! And, you can’t stop looking for him!!” Hutch tried to rise from the bed, but Dobey, pushed him back down firmly.

 

“I’m sorry detective. There’s nothing more to do. They looked for your friend for two days, but they didn’t find him. They found you and the car, but the other detective’s body wasn’t anywhere.”

 

“DAMN IT!!...YOU MUST KEEP UP THE SEARCH!!” At that moment Hutch was struggling fiercely against the Doctor's and Dobey´s hold to get out of bed, until a sharp pain in his head forced him to lie down with his eyes tightly closed.

 

“I will give you a sedative Detective Hutchinson. Being so upset will not help you and you could hurt yourself…I will be back in a minute.”

 

The doctor left the room and Dobey stayed on, keeping Hutch company and offering as much comfort as possible to his detective and friend. Despite all his protests and already weakening struggle, a nurse gave Hutch a shot of sedative, and in the middle of a heartbreaking sadness, he finally fell asleep mumbling Starsky´s name.

 

 

***

 

 

 Life in Lakeplace was spent slowly and peacefully, in a very different cadence in comparison with the big city’s way of life. On the first day, and after a much needed shower, in which Starsky´s aching muscles found a little ease under the warm water, and two aspirins for his headache, he and Jack had an abundant lunch, made up of a huge beefsteak, fries, carrots and peas and ended by a portion of apple pie. At first, Starsky felt pretty strange in that unknown house with this unknown man, and being still unable to remember anything, though he hoped he would soon, but the cordiality of the young farmer did make him feel a little more comfortable.

 

 “Are you hungry, Mike?”

 

“A little...I guess”

 

“You’re knackered, huh?...Well, no wonder, if you fell down into the river and had to swim to get out. Are you sure that you don't want go to the hospital?”

 

“No…no Jack. I guess that I don't have any broken bones. In a while I’m sure I'll feel better. "

 

“Okay. So try to eat a little. It’ll make you feel better. Later, I’ll take you to Doctor Grant's surgery.”

 

A short while later, Starsky was in the Doctor’s office. There, everything seemed to be as old as the doctor was: the building, the furniture, the diplomas hanging in wood frames on the walls, and even the nurse assistant.

 

 “Let’s see, young man. According the X-rays results, you haven’t any broken or cracked bones, just some grazes and bruises, but you can't remember anything about what happened to you, or even about yourself?”

 

 Starsky nodded, feeling uncomfortable in the face of the old man's inquisitive gaze, who obviously wasn’t used to treating amnesiac outsiders often.

 

 “I’m sorry my dear boy, but I’m afraid that the only place where you could get some help, is in a hospital…I’m not a psychiatrist, so the only thing I can do is prescribe you some pain pills for your contusions, and much rest in the next two or three days.”

 

Starsky needed to know what he could do to get his memory back, but he was still adamant about not going to the hospital. In fact he felt an incomprehensible fear at the idea of going there, so taking the prescription for the pills, he moodily left the surgery.

 

After their visit to Doctor Grant, and to get the pills in the drugstore Jack took Starsky to the little town’s police station. Sheriff Masterson wasn’t there at that moment and Starsky spoke with a young, fat officer, who heard him out with a deadpan expression on his face, forcing the curly-haired detective to repeat the story more than once.

 

“Let’s see if I can get this straight. You are saying that you’re lost…But you’re here, and you know what place this is, so you aren’t lost. Right? And you are saying that you don't remember anything…But right now, you’re telling me that you are lost…So obviously, you remember that this is not the place where you should be…I´m sorry sir, but I can't understand much of what you're telling me.”

 

 

“DAMNIT CHARLIE!” Jack shouted out aiming his forefinger towards the young officer’s nose, reminding Starsky vaguely of someone else, “My cows would understand this faster than you do…This poor guy doesn't remember from where he came from, why he ended up swimming fully dressed in the Kaweah, or even his own name, and we want to know if you got any notifications on him...can you understand that?” Jack was about to reach the end of his patience.

 

 “Okay, okay…I got it Jack! You don't need to be mad at me…” Charlie said nervously, pouring himself a cup of coffee, and spilling part of the liquid all over his desk. “SHIT! You make me nervous! Listen Jack. We haven't had any missing person reports in the last couple of days, okay?”

 

 “Alright Charlie…But we’ll come back tomorrow to speak with Sheriff Masterson anyway. Meanwhile if he comes back here, tell him about it. Have a nice day! Come on, Mike.” Jack was already storming out to the street with Starsky in tow, as Charlie was cleaning up the spilled coffee with a piece of paper, throwing it into the wastepaper basket after using it, without looking at it. If the young officer had taken the trouble to read it, he would have seen that it was a search report on a police officer, missing since some hours earlier in a car accident: Detective Sergeant David Michael Starsky from the Bay City Police Department…

 

“For Pete’s sake! That guy drives me mad…” Jack complained, heading to the van.

 

 “Yeah...He doesn’t seem to be too smart really.”

 

 Both men were climbing into the vehicle, and Jack started the engine telling Starsky, “Well, Charlie is here, because the Sheriff, who by the way is a real son of a bitch, is his uncle. And because nobody took him to a nuthouse...yet.”

 

Starsky smiled, but his in eyes, sadness and confusion were showing painfully, and Jack noticed it. “Hey.Come on...Don't worry Mike. Everything will be okay” the blonde one said,squeezing Starsky´s arm gently.

 

Jack's warmth and joking around reminded Starsky of something, but he was totally unable to fit together the pieces of the puzzle that his life was right now.

 

The rest of the day went fast. Starsky and Jack went back home, ate some sandwiches and talked calmly, sitting on the porch, as an owl was hooting in the distance. One more day was about to end. The first day in which David Michael Starsky was a man without memories, without a past...without a name.

 

***

 

 Moonlight bathed the hospital room softly where Hutch was alone. A while earlier, Dobey had gone back to his hotel room after making sure that the head nurse would call him if something was happening to his detective during the night.

 

His body aching, Hutch got out of bed to look from the window across the now lonely hospital yard and at the darkness of the starry sky, his mind trying to find any sense in what had happened. We were having a good time Starsk…a damned good time! Everything was going fine. We were close to home…So close! Damn it Starsky! You’re not dead…You can't be…Not this way! …Unnoticed tears were rolling down Hutch cheeks, as he got an idea into his head.

 

Maybe they can't find you, but I will.

 

Without a second thought, Hutch, still feeling weak and dizzy, pulled the IV line out of his arm and without turning on the light, went to the little wardrobe searching for his clothes that luckily were still there, in a plastic bag. Torn and bloodstained, but still there. It took a long time and lots of willpower to get dressed. His whole body was hurting and his head throbbed while a wave of nausea wanted to rise up from his stomach, but despite it, he opened the door, carefully looking left and right to be sure that nobody could see him, before creeping silently to the elevators.

 

The next thing he saw was Doctor Clayton looking at him worriedly, as Dobey stood at his bedside, rubbing his face tiredly.

 

“How are you feeling Detective?”

 

“Don't ask” Hutch mumbled bitterly. He couldn’t remember it, but he had passed out just when he was about to reach the hospital exit.

 

“You did a really stupid thing, Detective…You’re not in any shape to leave the hospital. Do you have any idea what could have happened to you out there?”

 

“Sta-Starsky…”

 

“THAT´S ENOUGH HUTCHINSON!” Dobey barked “I thought you had more common sense in that thick skull of yours!”

 

“I have to…”

 

“You have to stay here, in bed, until Doctor Clayton says that you can come back home, Hutchinson! Or I’ll make sure they restrain you...Is that clear?”

 

“I have to find Starsky, Cap. You don't understand!”

 

“You’re wrong son. I understand perfectly·” Dobey’s voice was now calm and soft. “You can’t admit the truth yet. But a lot of people have been looking for Starsky over the past few days and they didn’t find him. Listen, Hutch, sooner or later you must face the facts. Starsky is gone…”

***

 

Starsky returned to see the sheriff, but it was a useless exercise. Masterson was a man about 50 years old, red-haired, thickset, and owner of piercing small green eyes, that were looking at Starsky with mistrust. He confirmed, as Charlie said the day before, that no one was looking for anybody called Mike, Michael or Mark Skyler. Finally, in front of Starsky´s insistence, Sheriff Masterson took his fingerprints and a picture to send to the Exeter Police Department, though he didn’t allow Jack and Starsky to look through the missing persons’ reports, saying that they were police documents and none of the civilians’ business. He treated Starsky with an almost palpable scorn and mistrust, acting defensively in front of him, and asking him a lot of questions that did made him feel like some kind of suspicious criminal, to end with a warning that made it perfectly clear that he wasn’t much fond of outsiders.

 

“Listen young man. I don't know who you are, and really I don’t care at all about. But I care about the safety of this town´s citizens so I’ll keep a close eye on you, and if I see, or anybody tells me that you’re overstepping your boundaries, you’ll regret the day you landed your ass here.”

 

At that moment, Starsky wanted nothing more than to punch the face of the man that was standing in front of him, and it took a huge effort to keep his anger at bay.

 

“Come on Sheriff! Give the guy a break!” Jack snapped back.

 

“And you should be more careful with the people you let stay in your home, Wallace…If things turn out wrong with this outsider later, don't complain.”

 

Starsky left the police station feeling angry and powerless in the face of the sheriff’s arrogance. “Is he always like this, or is he just having a bad day today?”

 

“Masterson? Well. As matter of fact he’s a real jerk…He, and Charlie too, by the way. It must be genetic I guess. And the worst thing is the power that he has in this town. Nobody dares to go against him and the only law here is the sheriff’s law. Really that guy and his nephew drive me crazy…but the people here are a bunch of cowards. We have never had anyone with guts enough to stand up against him.  And I know that on my own, I’d be an easy target for Masterson and his friends.”

 

 “His friends?”

 

“Yeah, some of the people in this town, as mean and despicable as him…But I don't think you should be worried about them, anyway. Just try to keep as far as possible from that poor excuse for an upholder of the law, and everything will be alright.”

 

 Over the next few days, Starsky´s bruises healed nicely and he felt increasingly comfortable in the little city and with his new life, despite trying unsuccessfully to open the locked box of his lost memories.

 

There were a lot of everyday occurrences that seemed to tease at something buried in the depths of his mind, but again and again his memories remained unreachable.

 

 On the other hand, Jack was a really good guy and they both spent the days working from dawn to dusk on his farm. Both men took care of the animals, the truck farm, and going to the town to sell milk, eggs, vegetables, chickens and all the other farm produce as summer went on.

 

It was exhausting work and Starsky did all he could to learn about all these things that were unknown to him. The best part of it all was the good times they had working together.

 

“Hey Mike! What the hell are you doing? Hens don't eat sausages!”

 

“Really? Well, they don't know it’s sausage!” Starsky was in the poultry yard, squatting down in front of some hens that were pecking voraciously at a sausage that remained from the breakfast that he held out for them.

 

 “Oh man!” Jack rolled his eyes, shaking his head “If they turn into psycho, carnivorous, bloodthirsty hens, don't blame me.”

 

 Starsky stood up abruptly, letting the piece of sausage fall from his hand and looked at his own fingers, as Jack burst into laughter. “Know something, friend? I haven’t the least idea about what you did before for a living, but one thing is sure. You weren’t a farmer.”

 

***

 

 After ten more days in the hospital, Hutch was finally discharged and went back to Bay City, with orders to get as much rest as possible at home for the next couple of weeks.

 

For the first few days, Hutch stayed at Dobey’s house, partly because he needed someone to keep an eye on him in this early stage of his recovery, and partly because Dobey and his family feared that being alone wouldn’t be any good for him. Hutch’s grief was obvious. He was sad beyond words. Even Rosie, was unable of making her dearest uncle Hutch smile, watch TV or read a book for her. Edith tried all in her power to cheer up her family and Hutch, but Dobey was deeply sad and the kids missed their favorite Uncle David.

 

One night, Rosie went to their visitor’s room. She needed to talk with Hutch. She was sad too and didn’t understand why all this had happened. Hutch was resting in bed, looking thoughtful when Rosie put her head into his bedroom. “Uncle Hutch…. can I have a talk with you?”

 

Rosie wasn’t a little girl anymore. The last time she felt this scared and confused her father and all her family were being threatened and her uncle Hutch and Uncle Dave caught the bad guys. That time, sitting on the stairs of this same house, in Hutch’s protective arms, she had asked them to not let the bad guys hurt her father. Now, she had grown up a little, but it was still difficult to understand why God had taken her Uncle Dave from her.

 

 “Hi sweetie, come here. I’m being a lousy friend to you and your family. I’m sorry, but I’m just so sad and I miss Uncle Dave so much.”

 

She sat beside him resting her head on his chest. “Don’t worry…I miss him too…I don’t understand why God did it?”

 

“God…? It’s difficult to say, Rosie. When I was a kid my parents taught me that God has His own ways to show us things and sometimes things that we think are good for us, aren’t. I would be a liar if I told you that I understand what happened to Starsky.”

 

 

“Mommy said that you think that he is still alive and that‘s why you are so sad, but that you need to accept that Uncle Dave is already in heaven…I wish you were right. I don’t wanna think that I will never see Uncle Dave again too.”

 

Rosie began to cry and Hutch just held her and they stayed there until both fell

asleep. When Dobey and Edith came up to their room, they saw Rosie and Hutch. They smiled to each other and carefully Dobey took the child in his arms and carried her to bed. Hutch didn’t notice the movement. He was deeply asleep, completely drained from sadness. Edith put a blanket over him and left the room.

 

Soon, Hutch was feeling better and ready to move back to his own apartment. Huggy promised Dobey and his family that he would keep a close eye on “his blond brother” and would take care of the food, just to be sure that Hutch ate every day. So Hutch went home. But before he did, he stopped off at Starsky´s place. Everything was so quiet. In his heart, Hutch felt the loss of the noise and happiness that had always seemed to accompany his partner wherever he went.

 

A thick layer of dust now covered the apartment’s furniture, previously always clean.

He remembered affectionately how his partner had worked so hard, before starting out on the trip, to leave his house as the cleanest apartment in the city, as he’d said.

Starsky always wanted his place to be clean and tidy when he came home from a trip.

 

“No stress after a trip, Hutch,” he’d grinned.

 

“No stress? There’s worse stress that to know that you’ve been declared dead, Starsk?” He looked at each photo, opened the closet and took a look at the clothes…Starsky´s belongings…suddenly he felt a wave of sickness and ran to the bathroom just in time to empty his stomach contents.

 

Good one Hutch! Here you are, messing everything up! Clean up all this mess. Starsky worked hard to keep his place up. He washed himself and the bathroom. He dusted the furniture too, and after more than two hours working, he felt satisfied and sure that the place looked again like Starsky liked it.

 

As he left the apartment, Hutch was sure that sooner or later he would be there again with Starsky and nothing would change his mind on that.

 

More days went by, but Hutch still wasn’t ready to accept the idea that his friend wouldn't come back, though to the rest of the world, Detective first class, Sergeant David Michael Starsky was declared officially missing. In other words, he was dead, so the Bay City 9th precinct began the preparations to give a last good bye to one of their most loved and respected members.

 

 

From the beginning Hutch was insistent that he wouldn't be there at what he called the biggest mistake that his department had ever made. When the day came, he remained adamant about not attending the funeral service, or even seeing Rachel Starsky. He simply couldn’t do it. He couldn’t accept the idea of spending the rest of his life without Starsky. In his heart, his partner was alive, somewhere, out there…but alive.

 

 “WHAT? What the hell are you saying, Hutchinson!” Dobey barked. “This is over the top, even in such painful circumstances! What do you mean that you won’t attend Starsky´s funeral?”

 

 “Exactly that Captain...I’ll won't go to mourn an alive man.”

 

 Dobey tiredly dried his sweaty forehead with his handkerchief. “Hutch…Son… Starsky was your best friend…”

 

 “No Captain. You’re wrong. Starsky IS my best friend,” Hutch snapped back.

 

 “I wouldn't want see you doing something that you’ll regret the rest of your life. You have to be there, paying a last tribute to Starsky´s memory, telling everybody how special he was, how much he meant to you. He was a good man, Hutchinson. And he doesn't deserve this.”

 

 “What Starsky doesn't deserve is a bunch of idiots giving up and mourning him while he’s lost and probably hurt and scared some place!”

 

Dobey sighed defeatedly. “So, you won't go to his service, will you?”

 

 “No,” Hutch answered looking straight into Dobey´s eyes.

 

 “Hutch, I can't force you to go, but your partner’s mother is hoping you’ll be there. She is flying to Bay City to be at the memorial service that the precinct organized in honor of her son. She will be unable to understand you, and probably to forgive you, if you aren’t there. You were her best friend’s son, his partner, like a brother to Starsky, for God Sake!!”

 

“All this is a mistake Cap. A big mistake. You don’t have a body, because Starsky is not dead. Captain, he never gave up looking for me when I was lost and trapped in my car a while ago. Do you remember that? I haven’t seen his body, so, for all I know, he’s not dead. No matter what people say or you say. Starsky is alive and I will not stop looking for him.”

 

With that Hutch stormed out of Dobey’s office slamming the door. Dobey sighed heavily and gave up, feeling tired as never before in his life, and unable to cope with the situation.

 

Finally, the most painful day for the Dobey family and for Rachel Starsky came. The ceremony was simple, but beautiful. Captain Dobey was the first one to speak.

 

“Today is one of the most painful days of my life, and one of the saddest days for all of us, all the police officers of the 9th Precinct. As a Captain of our precinct, I had the chance to work with several police officers. But, the detective that we are remembering today was without doubt, one of the best. Not just as a cop, but as a man. He gave us important lessons. His courage as a police officer, his dedication to that difficult, dangerous and at times even unthankful work, was a lesson that he left to all of us. He was a cop’s son. He always wanted to be the best cop of all. It was his dream. His brother, Nick and mother, Rachel, who unfortunately are here at such a painful moment of their lives can be sure that David Michael Starsky had that dream come true. Sometimes, he drove me crazy with his weird ideas and hot temper, but I had so many moments of pride in his achievements and ideals. He was a loyal fellow cop, a wonderful partner and friend. Detective Hutchinson, his partner, can’t be here but, if he could, I’m sure that he would say that no one in this precinct had the luck that he had. Their journey together was blessed. I hope that all of us here will keep the memory of David as a man full of the joy of life and a man who lived to fight for justice. I will never forget that as I’m sure that you won’t either. Thank you.”

 

 Rachel Starsky was the next. She still was a very beautiful lady. But that day she felt half dead too. Her biggest fear, to mourn her cop son, exactly as she did with her husband, dead in the line of duty, was already a reality.

 

“On this sad day, we are here to pay our respects to the memory of someone that all of us loved and respected. First, I would like to thank you, each one of you, for all the love and support that the Police Department gave me in this last week. Second, I would like to thank each one of you, for all the love that you gave to my son. David wasn’t the easiest person to deal with. He could be stubborn…” She stopped to regain control and smiled a little. “But he also knew how to show us what love meant. My oldest son was my pride and my joy. Sometimes, it’s not easy to love someone. But he knew how to love unconditionally. I never knew where he got this ability. My husband and I taught him to love people, but he taught us how to love unconditionally. He was a man who knew how to forgive, a man who was always giving. He was born to love people, to help people, to protect people, to be friends with them, and to be the best friend that someone could wish for. He had the best friend. Detective Hutchinson, my dear Ken, who was much more than a partner to my son. And I want to thank him for it, although he isn’t here today. He has his reasons for it. I’m sure that David would understand. He always understood his partner and brother Hutch. I just want each one of you to keep these values, things that David firmly believed were the most important in life. Nothing would be more important to my son than this. Thank you.”

 

After the service, and before going  back to New York, Rachel went to see Hutch. Nick, stayed in the cab.  In spite of everything, he was unable to like his brother’s partner and not even Starsky´s death could put an end to that. And the last straw was the absence of Hutch at the service. The young man was unable to understand and forgive the fact that Hutch wasn’t there.

 

Hutch’s apartment was almost totally dark. Rachel rang the bell and waited, thinking Hutch must be out, when a very tired, drained and sad Hutch opened the door.

 

“Hi Ken, I needed to see you before I went back home.” Rachel seemed suddenly older, as if in just a few hours she had aged ten or twenty years.

 

“Um, come in Rachel did you come alone?” Hutch’s voice was low and sad. He almost didn’t recognize his partner’s mother. The joy for life and cheerful mood that she had always had was gone.

 

“No, Nick is in the cab. He rather prefers to wait there.” Rachel entered, and reached out her arms. Immediately, Hutch was surrounded by her love, care and understanding. They stayed that way for some minutes, both trying to give some comfort to each other without words. Finally, Rachel said sweetly. “I missed you at the service today Ken. It was very beautiful. But I understood. You can’t accept it yet, right? Probably, my David would have been like you, or even worse. He needed you to keep his balance more than you know, Ken.”

 

 “I’m sorry Rachel. I know that you were there, alone. But I can’t… I just can’t. I know that it seems stupid to everybody, but I keep thinking that Starsky is alive. I couldn’t attend his funeral.  I simply couldn’t” Tears were running down from Hutch’s eyes.

 

 Rachel went to the sofa and sat there, cuddling her son’s best friend, who was as her own son in her heart. After some minutes, Hutch got control of his emotions again. Rachel stayed lovingly fingering his hair.

 

“Hutch…there’s nothing I can say to you…or people can say to me to ease our pain. I already lost my husband so I understand perfectly well what I’m saying. But I will tell you the same thing that I told David, when he was sad and lost after his father’s death. No one has a recipe or a magic formula to deal with something like this. The secret is to simply accept our loss and try to find our own way to deal with our sadness. But never let tragedies stop your life. David is dead. I wish you were right, but my son is dead. This is a terrible truth for me to accept too. I lived always fearing this day. But I will never stop living. David was a man full of the joy of life. He wouldn’t like to see us giving up. He never gave up, remember? So…try to go on with your life, to find the best way to do it. Listen to your heart and follow it. “

 

 “I’m feeling so lonely now. I can’t accept that my best friend will not come in that door smiling and saying those silly things that were always driving me crazy.” Hutch smiled almost seeing the memory.

 

 “I know. I’m going to miss his calls every Friday, his adorable and cheerful voice, even when things weren’t going so well. I knew it, but I pretended not to notice that he was sad, or worried, or in pain. He didn’t want me to know. He wanted to make me happy with his calls. “

 

 “I’m sorry Rachel. I know that today I disappointed you by not being there at the service” He held her firmly.

 

 “No, you didn’t disappoint me. You just need time to get your feelings back under control again. Take your time Ken. If you want you can stay with me in New York for a while. You will be always my son too. I will be always there. My house is your house too. You know that, don’t you?” Rachel was crying too, but she was trying to be brave, exactly as her son always had been in the hardest moments.

 

“I’ll think about it, and I’ll always be here and if you don’t mind, I’d like to call you every Friday night as Starsky did, ok? I need to know that you are safe and doing well.”

 

 She nodded smiling sweetly. “Hutch, I need to ask you something real important too. When you feel well enough, please go to my son’s place and pick up everything you want. I mean, maybe you want to keep some photos, some clothes, and his belongings. There’s only one thing that I want for myself. His menorah. It was my gift to him when he came to LA and I’d like to have it back now. Will you look for a place to give his clothes and furniture please? There are a lot of poor people, who could use them. You can give back the keys to the landlord, I guess. Could you do this for me? I’m trying to be brave, but… “

 

 “Sure, Rachel, I’ll do it. But, what about Nick? Doesn’t he want something too?“

 

“Apparently not.” she smiled sadly. “But it doesn't matter. David always did have love enough for both of them. And that love will stay into our hearts even if he is not here any more. Okay, sweetheart, I will be there waiting for your calls. Take care of yourself, please. Eat properly, rest, keep your life moving on and try to be happy. That’s what David would want for you. Now I have to go. I’m catching a flight tomorrow morning.” She rose from the couch, kissing and hugging Hutch warmly. “Good night Ken.”

 

 “Good night, Rachel.”

 

***

 

 Starsky quickly got used to his new life, and to the idea that nobody was missing him away from the little but nice rural town. Lakeplace inhabitants often saw Jack Wallace around with the outsider, doing some shopping, selling his produce in the town or drinking beer in the town bar in the evenings, where they spent some time with Jack’s friends that soon became Starsky´s friends too. He felt totally comfortable with that good-natured and kind man, who really took care of him, though not everybody there was so nice and open-minded as Jack and his friends with the newcomer. In fact, at times, a couple of guys were in the bar- tall, sturdy, and angry-looking -the Masterson thugs- as Jack and his friends called them. Since Starsky´s arrival in Lakeplace, their favorite hobby was provoke him, though Starsky was doing his best to not play their game. Up until this day, anyway.

 

 “Hey! Look who we have here Joe?”

 

 Starsky puffed tiredly, exchanging a ‘here we go’ look with Jack as some patrons left the bar, and others got a better place, ready to see what promised to be a great bar fight.

 

 “Yeah. The happy couple. It seems that our old friend Jack has found a good friend to spend some veeeeryy funny nights with!”

 

 Starsky and Jack just kept staring at their beers.

 

 “Wonder what they’ll make together on that farm, hey, Ben?”

 

“Yeah. Sure. But it don’t seem to be just a one-night affair. Look at this. Curly’s even got a ring.”

 

Then, all the hell broke loose. One of the goons tried to grab Starsky´s hand to look at the ring on his pinkie, Starsky´s fist flew towards his stomach, and just a second later, four men were involved in a tremendous row in which bottles, chairs, punches and finally the two biggest men were flying all over the room up to end lying stunned behind the bar to the sound of the patrons’ cheers and whistles. Despite the obvious physical superiority of his adversaries, Jack and Starsky were much faster and more flexible. Though they took some punches and Jack’s eye was bruised and Starsky´s knuckles were bleeding, they left the bar merely gasping for air while the Masterson’s friends were dragged to the door by some customers, still unable get to their feet.

 

A while later, back at Jack’s place, both men were laughing between ‘Ows!’ and ‘Ouches!’ as they put ice bags over Jack’s black eye and Starsky´s bruised knuckles.

 

The only trouble in Starsky´s new life was the apparent delay in Sheriff Masterson taking the necessary steps to help Starsky find out his real identity. As more days went by, he grew impatient to recover his memories and so become a real person again. It was that, and the visions, strange visions that came into his mind at the most unexpected moments. Pieces of images and voices which he couldn’t identify clearly, but that obviously had some meaning for him. The form of a blond man; a man’s soft voice; the streets of a city…and then, nothing. His mind covered again by a thick cloak of oblivion.

 

That night Sheriff Masterson was about to end his day’s work, when he got a telex from Exeter Police Department. It was the report about the identity of the missing  man that had been asked for the day before. He wasn’t in a hurry to know the outsider’s identity. In fact, he didn’t care at all about it, but the guy was becoming pretty repetitive about the matter, and finally, he’d sent the request. He wasn’t very happy with the answer he got back.

 

“Look what we got here. David Michael Starsky. 35 years old, Detective Sergeant in the 9th precinct of Bay City Police Department. Interesting. Yeees sir! Very interesting. So you’re one of those pretentious and know-it-all big city cops. I’m sorry my dear boy, but it will be better for all of us, if we keep you in the dark. At least until I work out what to do with you.”

 

***

 

Hutch had returned to work some weeks ago, once he was totally recovered from the car accident. That morning, as soon as he stepped into the squad room, Hutch saw Dobey at his office door waiting for him.

 

“Hutchinson. Come to my office, please.”

 

 Hutch entered, silently lighting a cigarette. It was one of his most recent habits, along with going to bed totally drunk each night.

 

“What’s the matter, cap?”

 

 “Sit down Hutchinson. We need to have a talk.”

 

Hutch refused to take a seat and stayed near the window as Dobey looked at him concernedly. The older man had grown increasingly worried trying to work out what to say to the detective. “Hutchinson… Ken… son. I wish I didn’t have to do it but…”

 

 “Do what, cap?”

 

Dobey sighed before answering. “Withdraw Starsky officially from service. I’m sorry, Hutch.”

 

 “YOU CAN'T DO IT!! Hutch barked furiously, hitting Dobey’s table with his fist.

 

“Hutch, try to understand! The commissioner is pushing me!”

 

 “And what will happen when Starsky comes back. Huh?”

 

“He won’t be coming back, Hutch. You know it. And soon you’re going to have to go back to working the streets again with Barret.”

 

 “No, Captain Dobey. I won’t do it.”

 

“Have you got a problem with Barret, Hutch?”

 

 “I haven’t any problem with him, Cap. He does his work and I do mine. But he’s not gonna be my partner. That’s all.”

 

 “Look, Hutch. I know that that you’ve been pretty nasty with that poor guy lately, but if he lets you get away with it, it’s none of my business. Anyway, from Monday you and he are leaving desk duty to go back to the streets.”

 

 “No, cap! No way!” Hutch’s eyes shone with defiance.

 

 “Stop acting like a kid, Hutchinson! You have to go on with your life son. I know how you are feeling, you know that. Do you think this is any less painful for me than it is for you? But you shouldn’t give up on your dreams. Being a cop was the most important thing for Starsky and for you. He wouldn't want see you acting like this. He would like to see you going on with your life!”

 

Hutch remained in a sullen silence, staring at his cigarette, as Dobey kept speaking.

 

“Would you please, at least, try it? Barret is a very good detective and a good man. You know that, right?”

 

The truth was that Steve Barret was a real good guy, and Hutch knew that he was behaving like a real bastard to him, but he couldn’t stand the idea of having any one but Starsky as a back up. And thinking of hitting the streets with a man who wasn’t Starsky was out of the question.

 

“Come on, Hutch. Barret is not the responsible for what happened to your former partner.”

 

 “Starsky is not an former partner.”

 

“Yes Hutchinson, he is. You can accept it or not, but he is. His body’s been missing for weeks now. We tried everything in our power to find him. He was officially declared dead. He IS dead.” Dobey’s voice choked a little. He stopped to take a breath and pull his emotions together before speaking again.

 

“Please, son. Help me with this. I can't do anything else. This precinct can't afford to have any detective wasting all his time here and not on the streets, and my hands are tied. Barret is a good man, but he is already upset with your hostile behavior.”

 

 “It’s an order, I guess.”

 

 “If you want to put it that way. Yes, Hutchinson, it's an order. Monday at 7 o’clock you and Barret go back on the streets.”

 

 Hutch nodded moodily and left the room.

 

 Monday, at seven o’clock, Barret was there. Since they’d been assigned to work together, Barret had never used Starsky´s desk, but he needed some room to work. He even began to get teasing from the other cops every time he asked to use one of their desks to write or read a report. That morning he came and sat quietly at Starsky´s desk. All Starsky’s personal belongings were still there. No one had dared to move a thing, without Hutch’s permission.

 

 When Hutch entered the squad room, the tense silence spoke volumes. Suddenly, all the cops were very busy.

 

“Hi Hutch, good morning” Barret greeted, trying to be friendly.

 

 “Hi.” Hutch gave a sidelong look and went directly to the coffee machine. He poured himself a cup and sat at his desk. He stayed there, chilly and trying to keep his increasing anger at bay. That bastard is sitting at Starsky´s desk.

 

“Hutchinson, we need to talk seriously and right now. Stop treating me like scum! I’m not a newbie. I’m a detective first class, like you are. I have my history here too. I knew and respected a lot about Starsky´s career here, and believe it or not, I liked that guy. He was a good companion, a good man and a valiant cop, but the fact is…he’s dead, Hutchinson. We got a direct command from Dobey to work together. We need to watch each other’s backs on the streets and the way things are going; most likely we’ll save the bad guys a lot of hard work out there. We’ll kill each other in a week!”

 

 “You don’t need to tell me what I need to do, Barret. I’m well aware of my obligations. And now, if you don’t mind I will clean up my partner’s desk to give you some room to work.” Hutch voice was cold and a silent anger was drawing in his features.

 

Barret rose and waited patiently while Hutch opened each drawer and moved all of Starsky´s stuff to his own desk. Meanwhile Dobey crossed the room and took a look at the scene. He felt his heart sink, but he knew as well, that sooner or later that it had to be done.

 

When Hutch finished his painful task, Barret brought all his things and sat at the desk.

 

“We have to interrogate that guy who was caught stealing from a jewelry shop. He’s in the interrogation room seven,”

 

“Let’s go.” Barret said.

 

 Hutch got to his feet and headed toward the door, trying to hang on fervently to all his memories of Starsky that now amounted to nothing more than some stuff stored away in one of his drawers.

 

***

 

On a beautiful morning, Jack drove to the city with Starsky to run some errands.  Once there, Jack stopped his van, and while Starsky went to do shopping for groceries in the only grocery store the little town had, Jack headed to the nearby post office.

 

In the small shop, Starsky was welcomed by Maggie. She was a shy and pretty brunette, and Starsky immediately liked her. He’d been feeling very lonely lately.

 

“Good morning sir. May I help you?”

 

 “Morning, I’m Mike Skyler, Jack Wallace’s friend. He gave me this shopping list…”

 

“Oh, the outsider.”

 

 “Outsider?”

 

 “Yeah, you know…” she smiled shyly. “It’s a small town and everybody knows everything about what happens here. People say that Jack has a new friend.”

 

“Oh well, I…” he smiled back, as the girl thought how attractive the outsider was…What a nice guy. He´s very handsome

 

 Really after days of hard work on the farm under the summer sun, Starsky was looking muscular, tanned and in shape as never before, and his dark blue eyes shone like sapphires in his face. His brown curls and his snow-white smile instantly attracted the attention of the young woman.

 

“My name is Maggie.” They shook hands. “My father was the owner of this store but he died last year, so now I’m the boss.” She smiled sadly.

 

 “Oh, I’m sorry. But you have some help with all of this, I guess?”

 

 “The truth? No. I’m my own boss and the only employee here.”

 

Starsky looked at Maggie appreciatively “I’m sure your father would be very proud of you. Must be difficult to take care of a store alone.”

 

 “Yeah, but I manage. He was taught me a lot and I like to work here. It’s a way to always be close to my father.”

 

 “I see…” Hearing the young woman talking about following in her father’s footsteps brought another memory pushing into his mind. Something apparently meaningful to him, but what did it mean?

 

“Give me your list and I’ll help you.”

 

 He held out the list to the woman and together they put all the items in brown paper bags. After he paid the bill, she helped him put the groceries in the van.

 

Sheriff Masterson was on the front sidewalk leaning against his patrol car roof and watching the smiling and chatter between Starsky and Maggie.

 

…No, no, young outsider. You’d better be more careful. You’ve just got here and already you’re acting right at home in my town. And picking up one of our ladies. Wrong decision, friend. Our women aren’t for strangers.

 

Starsky saw the sheriff watching him; though he pretended not to notice it. He saw too that Maggie stopped smiling when she saw Masterson, but he didn’t say anything about it.

 

“Well, thanks Maggie. You helped me out a lot here.”

 

“You’re welcome, Mr. Skyler.”

 

“Mike, okay? Just call me Mike.”

 

“Okay Mike. Give my regards to Jack and have a nice day. “

 

Starsky left the shop and took a sidelong look. The sheriff was still there. “Morning, sheriff” Starsky greeted him politely, as the man just nodded a greeting.

 

By then Jack was already striding towards the van.

 

“You got everything, Mike?”

 

 “I think so.”

 

 “Okay, so let’s go home.” Jack started the engine and drove back to the farm.

 

 At night, after dinner, Jack and Starsky were outside the house, talking and drinking some beers while sitting down on the entrance steps, as Jack scratched Johnny’s ears. Jack told Starsky about how his wife left him and the town to look for a new life in L.A. They’d been having troubles for some time, and the miscarriage of their baby in her sixth month of pregnancy was the last straw to their already ruined relationship.

 

The blond man told Starsky too about his childhood in the town, how he and his friends would swim in the nearby Kaweah Lake after school in the spring and summer afternoons.

 

They spoke about a lot of things and Starsky felt totally comfortable with his new friend, knowing that the good feelings were reciprocal. He could have sworn he had known Jack for a long time. Starsky watched his blue eyes staring into the distance while he was talking about his failed marriage, and remembered his support when Starsky got especially discouraged about not being able to remember, the long hours they shared working together on the farm, or taking a break to drink a beer under some tree’s shadow. Everything Jack did seemed to be the key to Starsky recovering a memory about somebody especially important in his life. But the truth was that he couldn’t remember a single thing, and nobody was missing him outside of Lakeplace.

 

“Jack, what do you know about Maggie? You know, the girl at the store.”

 

 “Oh, she’s really a nice girl. We grew up together. My dad was a good friend of her father and she’s like a little sister to me. She’s a brave lady.” He looked at Starsky noticing that his eyes were shining with a new light.

 

“Hey, boy, I guess that Maggie has a new fan in town!”

 

Starsky smiled shyly. “Well, she seems to be very nice.”

 

“Mike, do you think that you’re single? Or perhaps you have family out there.”

 

 “I don’t know, Jack. I’ve even looked at my left hand to look for some trace of a ring there. I would do anything to know, but my mind is still a big dark hole. Sometimes people say something that sounds familiar to me, but I don’t understand why. It’s kind of discouraging, you know?”

 

“I can imagine. But look; we tried the police. There’s no one looking for you. Probably, you are like Maggie, without a family.”

 

“Is she single?” Starsky’s interest in the young lady was more than obvious to Jack.

 

“Widow. Her husband was found dead the day after their wedding, roughly four years ago in very strange circumstances. Hanged in a tree.”

 

“The day after their wedding? God! What an awful thing! It was a suicide?”

 

 “Well. The forensic report said so, but I don't believe it. Sam was a happy man. He loved his work as a teacher. His pupils and everybody in this town loved him, he and Maggie were in love, and they wanted to have kids. It was a big loss. Sam was a hell of a good guy. Yes, sir. A very good guy.” Jack eyes darkened with the memory and Starsky, respectfully silent, just squeezed his shoulder, not wanting to disturb his melancholic memories.

 

Next morning as both men were fixing their breakfast, Starsky spoke, “Jack, I was thinking. I need to do something for a living. You know, I like to help here, but I need get some money, buy some clothes. I’m still wearing yours. Besides, I can’t stay here for ever.”

 

 “Hey, man, don’t worry. You’re helping me a lot here, I mean it. Besides, this house can be pretty lonely at times, and you’re a real good housemate. Don't be in a hurry to find a new place to live.”

 

 “I feel at home here too. Sure, but…”

 

“It's okay, Mike, I understand. Do you know something that you can do; I mean, what kind of skills you have?”

 

“I can’t remember that either, but do you remember last night, when you had trouble with your van ignition? It was pretty easy for me to fix it. And, I don’t know, but I have the sensation, the feeling that I know how to deal with cars.  Maybe I could do something related to cars?” Starsky´s eyes were full of anxiety.

 

 “Hmm. Let me think… I have a friend, he is getting old and he needs help in his business. He has the only garage in the town, and with the cars, motorbikes and tractors that people are taking there to get fixed, lately the poor man can't keep up with everything. How about it?”

 

“Are you sure he needs help? And that he would want me?”

 

 “Well. If you can do good work, I don’t see any problem here. Old Dan is good folk.”

 

 “But, I’m…”

 

 “Yeah, I know. The outsider. Listen, Mike. Not everyone here is like that bastard Masterson and his friends.”

 

 “Yeah, I’ve noticed. Well, let’s try it. I need to do something besides laying around here looking the stars.”

 

 “And feeding my hens with sausages and my cows with tinned beans, right?” Both laughed.

 

Before going to ask for the job at old Dan’s garage, Jack tried to convince Starsky again that he needed to get treatment for his amnesia, and that the best thing he could do, was get an appointment in some hospital or clinic, where probably some doctor could help him. But Starsky refused stubbornly one more time. He didn’t know why, but the idea of going to a hospital gave him the shivers and an odd feeling of distress, so despite his concern about his new friend, Jack had no other choice but give up.

 

He and Starsky went to pay a visit to Dan. In the garage, three cars, a van and a tractor were waiting to be fixed, and some spare parts and tools were spread around on an old table. Dan was a thin and old looking man who really needed some help.

 

 When Jack called him out, he came from the back room, smiling gently. “Hey, Dan, how are you doing?”

 

 “As tired as my old bones.  How can I help you Jack? Is your van giving you problems again?”

 

 “I guess so, but I’m coming here for another reason. Listen, Dan, I want introduce you to my friend, Mike Skyler. He’s looking for some employment.”

 

 As Jack was speaking, Dan was very supportive, listening attentively to the sad story of the young man who didn’t know who he was or where he came from.

 

“I don't wanna lie to you, boy. Some help here would be great, but I can’t pay you a big salary.”

 

 “Never mind Mr. Sheldon. I just want to get a job.”

 

“Well, that’s great. Most young people are not very fond of work these days. Okay. Let’s try it. You’ll be here on trial until the end of the month. Then if you’re a good worker and an honest guy, you can stay. Deal?”

 

“Deal, Mr. Sheldon.” Both men shook hands as a huge smile split Starsky´s face.

 

Next morning, Starsky started his new job as a car repairman. In the first week, he had improved the service notably. Starsky didn’t understand where the good feeling of working with cars and talking all day with the old man was coming from. He was unable to remember the faraway days in which, when he was just a kid, he’d spent long hours helping his Uncle Al in his garage after school. But something in his mind was telling him that at some time, he had lived this kind of life. Maybe he was a car repairman, after all.

 

Every day, at lunchtime, Starsky went to the grocery to see Maggie. He was growing fond of the pretty and sweet woman, and she seemed visibly pleased to see the newcomer every day.

 

Two weeks after to starting his new routine of popping over to Maggie’s grocery store each noon, Starsky asked her to have a picnic in the woods, near the river the next Sunday. At first she had been a little shy with Starsky, but, as the days went by, Maggie felt more comfortable with this kind man, as her trust in him grew. She accepted, so on Sunday morning they were both sitting on the grass. The sun was shining and Starsky and Maggie had a perfect day. They enjoyed the sunshine, the lunch fixed by the girl and the heat of that sunny August day drinking two glasses of white and aromatic wine and resting in the grass looking at the blue sky.

 

“Guess what, Mike? since I lost my husband, I have never felt so good and happy.” She paused for a moment. “I don't know who you are, and that scares me, more than I can say. Maybe you have a wife and children missing or even mourning you some place.”

 

 “Or maybe I’m single. Listen Maggie. When I came to this town, I was lost, hurt and I had no idea what would happen to me. I was very scared. But Jack helped me, without asking anything in return. He’s a good friend, and helped me to get used to my new life and my new home. But was only after getting to know you that I could see that maybe my happiness is here. Now I’m working, I have friends. And I’m here with the most beautiful girl in the whole town. Really the guys here are pretty dumb. You are a very special lady and I can’t understand why nobody noticed it before.”

 

“Well, maybe they did. But I was waiting. Waiting to meet somebody special.”

 

 He gave her his charming smile.

 

 “And I must say that I never thought I would meet someone as special as you, Mike.”

 

Starsky looked deeply into her eyes and leaned forward very slowly, kissing her, softly at first, then more passionately. They were so lost in their private universe, that none of them noticed Charlie watching them from behind a tree.

 

The rest of the day was spent slowly. They both enjoyed the simple joy of being together, getting to know each other, and kissing each other until the sun began to hide behind the mountains.

 

When they were back at Maggie’s house, before Starsky left, Maggie thanked him for such a wonderful day kissing his lips softly. The young woman couldn’t help herself. She was falling in love with this mysterious and gentle man, and her heart knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was felt something for her too.

 

When Starsky got home, Jack was in the front yard, swearing at himself, his upper body plunged into the opened hood of the van.

 

“Hey man! What’s the problem?”

 

“Guess? This damned piece of junk is driving me nuts again.”

 

“Let me try.” Starsky bent towards the vehicle engine trying to fix it as he was speaking.

 

“I have something to tell you, Jack. I know how much you care about Maggie, and, well, you know I feel something special for her.”

 

“Hey boy, I’m not dumb! I already noticed it. Your eyes are always shining when you talk about her ever since the day you met her. I’m really happy, Mike, for you and for Maggie too. But, don’t you think that you should try to look for more information about yourself. I mean, you never went to a hospital or psychiatrist. I know that you don’t like to talk about it…” Jack said, knowing that it was a sore point, “but, don’t you think that if someone was out there looking for you, surely this person would have gone to the nearby hospitals and police stations? Don’t you think that before making any decisions that could have an important impact on your life you should…”

 

Starsky broke into Jack’s words immediately. “Look, Jack, if no one took the trouble to look for me, and the police said that, it means just one thing. That I had nobody important to remember, right? Maybe, the smartest thing to do now, is start my life again here and leave the past there, whatever it was. Soon, the police investigation will be over, and I’ll be able to know who I really am. Then I’ll get my identification documents, my driver’s license and, if I haven’t any family as I think might be the case, well, then I’ll simply start over. And who knows? Maybe with Maggie by my side.”

 

 “All right.” Jack sighed heavily. “I was just trying to help you. I wouldn’t want to see you or Maggie hurt, or being unhappy. But if you’re sure…be happy, man! Maggie is a wonderful girl and deserves to be happy and so do you. If she likes you, and I think she does…” Jack smiled, letting his sentence hang in the air.

 

 “She asked about me, didn’t she?” Starsky asked, as a spark of hope burned in his eyes.

 

“Yeah, she did. At first she was scared of the outsider. But I told her that you’re a nice guy, a decent man. I’ve backed you from the very first day, Mike, despite the opinions of some folk in this town. Don't disappoint me. Okay? That girl is like a sister to me…She have had already her share of pain in her life. Sam was a very gentle and caring man, and she suffered more than I can tell you with his loss. Now she seems to have a new dream in her life, and I’m happy for her. Really, I am. But the only thing I’ll accept for that girl is a good man, like Sam was. A true white knight.”

 

On hearing the words, ‘white knight’ a bell rang in Starsky´s mind. It was just the sparkle of a memory, a man without face. Just a form, and the echo of a soft and well-known, though unidentifiable voice. Starsky had felt the same sensation from flashbacks at other times, but this time it was so strong that he stepped back stumbling, ending up with his back against an oak trunk, trembling visibly.

 

 “MIKE!” Jack hurried to his side, helping him to sit down on the grass. “Mike, boy, What happened?”

 

Starsky was mortally pale and apparently unaware of Jack’s presence.

 

“Mike, come on, friend. You’re scaring me.” Jack patted Starsky´s face gently. “Are you okay, boy? Should I take you to Doctor Grant’s?”

 

 “Huh?”

 

“Mike, it's me, Jack. Take it easy. What happened, friend?”

 

 “A-A memory. A little bit…or something.”

 

 “What?”

 

 “I don't know. It was too blurry. A blond man…a voice. When you said those words…white knight, something exploded in my head…A part of a memory, I guess. I’ve had it before, but not as strong as now…and…I don't know what it means.”

 

“Okay, friend. Calm down. Surely that is a sign that your memory is coming back. But you mustn’t get upset. Can you walk inside?” Jack was already helping Starsky to get to his feet and taking him into the house.

 

 “I’m…I’m fine, Jack. Sure. Don't worry about me.”

 

 “Yeah. You’re fine. But you’ll go to bed, and I’ll make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Is that clear?” Jack said, in the way a father would talk to his kid

 

“I’m okay, Jack. Honest.”

 

“Never mind. I’ll get you into bed anyway. Old Dan is so glad to have you working in his garage that the poor devil could suffer a heart attack if you have to go on sick leave.”

 

 Both men were already entering Starsky´s room, and he plopped onto his bed as Jack sat in the nearby chair.

 

 

“Hu-Hutch…Hutch…”

 

 “What? Mike, boy. What are you saying?” Jack’s eyes were filled with concern.

 

 “I don't know. A word, or a name. It popped into my mind just now.”

 

“And do you know what it means?”

 

 “No. Probably nothing.”

 

 “Okay, friend. Do you want a tip? I’m not a shrink, just a farmer. However, I think that you mustn’t push things. Since you don't want medical help, I think the best thing that you can do is not to force your brain to make an effort that might still be too hard for you. Memories will come, if they must. But in their own time. Only then, and not before. Now how about taking a nap, huh? In a while I’ll bring you something to eat.”

 

Starsky was looking blankly at his surroundings as if it was the first time he’d seen them.

 

“Jack?” The blond man, already at the door of the room, turned his head to look at Starsky.

 

“Thanks Jack. You’re a good friend.”

 

“Rest Mike, okay? Just rest. Everything is gonna be okay.”

 

***

 

 Weeks passed uneventfully. Against everybody’s advice Hutch wasn’t giving away any of Starsky´s stuff and he was still paying the apartment’s rent and making sure that it was kept tidy and spotless. Meanwhile Starsky’s beloved Torino, once it had been fixed after the accident was parked in its usual spot. Dobey kept telling Hutch that it wasn’t a good idea, and sooner or later he should get rid of all Starsky’s belongings that could only bring him painful memories, but he was only thinking of the day when Starsky would come home. He wouldn’t allow that when that happened, his friend would not have anything to resume his life.

 

Finally, summer was over, and despite the sadness that was hanging over the precinct since Starsky´s disappearance, life went on. In fact Hutch was the only one still unable to accept his partner’s death despite the already overwhelming evidence of it. The blond detective was feeling weaker every day and unsure of his strength. He didn’t have the inner peace to fight against his demons, his anger, and his loneliness. At least, not at this time.

 

Hutch did his best to do his work, but he was still behaving impatiently and aggressively in the precinct.

 

Finally Barret, at the end of his patience made another complaint to Dobey.

 

“Captain Dobey, I’m sorry, but things are getting worse every passing day with Hutchinson.”

 

 Dobey looked at Barret worriedly, tired of Hutch’s irrational demeanor.

 

“What’s the matter now Barret?”

 

“Hutchinson is driving me mad! That’s what the matter is, Captain. This guy will get both of us killed any day now. This morning he had such a bad hangover that he almost got us killed crossing an intersection against a red light. Look, Captain, I hate to say something like this of a buddy, but I’m sure that Hutchinson is not emotionally fit enough to keep working. He’s always tired, moody and distracted. Right now I think that he’s a danger to him and others as well.”

 

Dobey didn't answer. In fact, he didn’t have much to say. He knew Hutchinson wasn’t in any condition to keep working. Barret knew it, he knew it, and even Huggy knew it. The Captain remembered how a couple of days earlier, Huggy had told him that Hutch came into The Pits every night staying there until the last customer left, drinking till he did fall sleep or getting involved in some fight with somebody for the pettiest reason until it reached the point where Huggy refused to serve him any more alcohol. So by this stage and seeing clearly that Hutch’s behavior was putting at risk his own safety, as well as that of his new partner, Dobey felt he had no other choice but to relieve him of duty. He did his best to remain calm and firm, though his heart ached for his friend’s misery, as he told Hutch to take a few weeks’ sick leave.

 

“I’m sorry, son. I’m so sorry, but I haven’t any other choice. I think that I’m doing the best thing for you. Get some rest; try to come to terms with Starsky´s loss. Take as much time as you need, and later we’ll talk.”

 

Hutch just nodded with his now ever-present cigarette between his lips “That’s all Cap?”

 

“Yeah son. That’s all. But listen, Hutch. Sometime in the future, when you’re feeling better, you’ll come back and…”

 

 “Sorry, Captain, if you don't mind, I think I could really use a drink. Excuse me.” With that, he headed back to the squad room, grabbing his jacket and storming out to the street as Barret stared speechlessly after him.

 

On leaving the precinct, he drove to the suburbs of the city, far enough away to be sure that he wouldn’t run into anyone he knew. He didn’t want to see anybody. He didn’t want anybody’s pity. The only thing he wanted was to drink, to forget, to sleep and not wake up again. He didn’t know how many whiskies he had downed in the last few hours. But one thing was sure. He had enough to get totally drunk in a vain attempt to drown his heartbreaking sorrow, until forget even who he was. But he couldn’t forget the pain that was tearing apart his whole soul.

 

When the last bar closed in the wee hours, Hutch found himself walking without direction. In fact, he didn’t even know where he had parked his car, where he was, or if he would be able to find a cab to get back home. He only knew that he had touched bottom. He walked unsteadily along a dark and lonely alley, stumbling, then fell flat on his face, and stayed there, to fall into a restless sleep, curled up on the cold pavement with some stray cats as the only eyewitnesses of his misery.

 

Some hours later, the sun was already shining in the city sky, when Hutch awoke, feeling sick, dirty and miserable as never before in his life. He got to his feet and leaned against a wall waiting for his headache to diminish to a more tolerable level, as fragments of memories from the past weeks pounded pitilessly into his mind. He was turning into an embittered, worthless and violent man. He didn’t know himself any more, and suddenly he knew that Starsky would be ashamed of him, as ashamed as he felt of himself. There, alone, in that dark and stinking alley, with his heart flooding in self-pity he knew that he was missing the old Hutch almost as much as he was missing Starsky. And that he had to get them back…both of them.

 

***

 

Starsky and Maggie kept dating frequently and within a month of their meeting, their relationship was growing stronger every day.

 

Maggie wanted to tell Mike about her life. She had a sad story, a tragic and hidden secret from her past, but if this kind and gentle stranger was going to be somebody important in her life, she knew she needed to be honest with him from the first.

 

Tonight, Starsky was coming to have dinner at her house, and she was already finalizing the last details of an evening she was hoping would be special. Punctually, at eight o’clock, Starsky was at her door giving her a smile, a bouquet of red roses and a kiss.

 

“Happy anniversary, my beautiful lady.”

 

“Oh Mike. You remembered!”

 

 “Of course, sweetheart. Our first month together. Maybe I don’t remember most of my life. But I wouldn’t forget something like that.”

 

It was a special night. They had dinner, they danced to the soft music of her records, and they began getting lost in each other’s kisses and the arousal of their bodies. It was a very important moment for Maggie. She knew that something beautiful and special was growing up between her and Mike. But Maggie knew as well that the time to share her secret with this wonderful man had come. Whether he could accept her and her sincere love after he knew, or whether he would leave her, wasn’t in her hands.

 

 Hand-in-hand Maggie led Starsky to the couch, and with their hands still entwined and looking deeply into his blue eyes, she began to speak.

 

“Mike, I must tell you something very important to me, and I want let you know that I’ll understand if after tonight, you don’t want to see me again.”

 

“Maggie, I don’t understand. We have something beautiful, special, and nothing that you can tell me will change it.”

 

 Softly, Maggie placed her forefinger over Starsky´s mouth and began to speak again.

 

“There’s a reason I don’t like Sheriff Masterson, Mike. He always was a bastard, and he always liked me. Though, of course, there was never anything between us, and I never gave him the least hope that there would be. In fact I tried to avoid him as much as I could.” Making a visible effort to not burst into tears, Maggie kept talking. “I met Sam, we began to date, and finally, after two years of being engaged, we got married, and, well, my marriage was more than Masterson could stand, I guess. So the day before my wedding, he finally found the moment to take what he’d wanted for so long.”

 

Starsky’s anger was growing, as he could already guess what he was about to hear.

 

“That evening, I was coming home alone after running some errands in Three Rivers, and he ran me off the road. He grabbed me and…raped me in the woods. At the time I was still a virgin, and Masterson stole from me the most beautiful moment that I wanted to share only with Sam. He warned me that if I told anyone in town he’d kill me.”

 

 “I’m sorry, Maggie.” Starsky held her gently in his arms and her trembling eased a little.

 

“Next day Sam and I were getting married. As you can imagine, I didn’t say anything to him. But our first night as husband and wife, the night that should have been the most beautiful for us, was simply awful. Finally, I had no other choice but to tell him the truth. My husband was out of his mind with anger, and despite my efforts to convince him to leave things alone, he left to look for the sheriff. That was the last time I saw him alive. Some hours later, at dawn, Mr. Martin found my husband’s body hanging from a tree. I can’t prove it, but I know that it was the sheriff who killed him! Him and his friends!”

 

Maggie burst into convulsive weeping as Starsky tried to comfort her, holding the distressed woman in his arms, as his blood began to boil.

 

“How dare he…How could that bastard do such a thing? Don’t have you anything, any bit of proof to use against him?”

 

“No. It would be my word against his. In this town, no one would dare to say anything against him. Besides, I know that I don’t have strength enough to rake up that nightmare and get involved in a trial. Please, forget it Mike. I’ve already lost Sam because of it! Forget it. It’s in the past. They are dangerous people…you don’t know them… they’re the law here...” she said, still crying.

 

 Maggie was scared. Scared of losing this man who was becoming so important to her, and the only thing she wanted was to convince him to leave the past where it belonged. But an unquenchable wish to get Sheriff Masterson the punishment he deserved began to grow in Starsky´s mind and he could not let it go.

 

***

 

Hutch was a man on a mission. Despite all the odds being against it, he knew that Starsky was alive and he wouldn’t go back at home without him. If he had to search even in the smallest town in the States, he would do it. He was willing to spend the rest of his life and even the last dollar of his savings to find Starsky, and nothing would get that idea out of his mind.

 

At first he didn’t know where or how to start. So he simply grabbed Starsky’s picture, packed some clothes in a travel bag, then climbed in his car and began driving towards Tulare County, where the entire nightmare had begun.

 

He went to the place where the accident had happened. Once there, he got out his car looking out across the turbulent waters of the Kaweah River, where Starsky supposedly had lost his life.

 

They keep saying that you’re dead, Starsk, and that your body is lost somewhere in this river. But they’re wrong, all of them. You’re alive. Everybody gave up. But not me. I’m looking for you, friend. And I will find you.

 

Hutch had read the rescue team’s reports. They had conducted an exhaustive search across the area, finding nothing. But he couldn’t believe yet that his partner of more than 10 years was dead.

 

After a few minutes, he headed back to the car, driving to Three Rivers. Once there, he spent uncountable hours showing Starsky´s picture and questioning people in shops and passersby, getting nothing. Nobody had seen the man who smiled out from the photo. Hutch didn’t ask in the police station, since Exeter Police Department had said they would send the missing person’s report to all the county police stations and hospitals.

 

By evening, tired, frustrated and hungry, he stopped in a little diner to eat a burger and drink a soda, before going to a hotel to get some sleep before starting his search again, the next day. That night he didn’t get drunk. In fact he swore to himself he wouldn’t drink any more. His head needed to be clear to carry out the most important mission of his life.

 

Over the following days he stopped in Visalia, Tulare, Kaweah and all the cities, towns and villages throughout Tulare County and neighboring counties as well. One day in a  grocery in Tipton, seeing a customer who was standing with his back to him, Hutch’s heart missed a beat…same curly head, same brown leather jacket, same crummy jeans…

 

“STARSKY!” Hutch’s voice came out loud and piercing and customers and the salesman turned startled heads towards him.

 

“Oh! I’m sorry…I…” The man obviously wasn’t Starsky, and Hutch was looked so defeated that the old salesman approached him concernedly.

 

“Are you okay, sir? Can I help you? Would you like some water?”

 

 “Oh, no, I’m okay. I’m looking for my friend. His name is David Starsky. Maybe some of your customers have seen him?” The people in the shop looked the picture that Hutch held in his hand. His heart pounded as heard an old lady say:

 

“I have seen that guy. Though right now he doesn’t look as well as in this picture, in fact he’s pretty frightening.”

 

 “Wha-what do you mean lady?” Hutch stuttered “Where is he?”

 

 “Well, he came here some weeks ago, from somewhere. He’s not always in the same spot, but it’s usual to find him, sleeping it off in that back alley…” The woman pointed with her forefinger at a nearby dark alley.  “Most of the time he’s there, holding a bottle, and getting drunk…and his leg…oh God,  the poor guy!”

 

“Hi-his leg? What happened to his leg?” Hutch asked in faltering voice.

 

“He’s got a horrible wound there. Becoming gangrenous, I’d say!”

 

By then Hutch was already storming down to the alley. Once there, he didn´t have too trouble to find him A man in his mid 30’s with brown curly hair, was snoozing with his back leaning against a dirty wall. Through a rip in his pants, Hutch could see a wound in his thigh that was looking really bad. The man’s whole appearance was awful: dirty and worn out, though he did really look a lot like Starsky. Hutch sighed, half-relieved, half-frustrated to see that the man wasn’t Starsky. After leaving a $20 bill in the homeless man’s shirt pocket, and making a phone call to the police, to get some help for him, Hutch headed back to his car.

 

He drove miles and more miles, stopping in towns and cities, asking everybody he met if they had seen Starsky and growing more distressed as the people’s answers were invariably the same ones.

 

“No, I’m sorry, I haven’t seen him.”

 

“Sorry sir…Not”

 

“Not…I haven’t see this man…”

That afternoon, near a small town named Lakeplace, Hutch’s old LTD engine, began to misfire. 

“Damn it! Fucking car…” Hutch hit furiously the steering wheel. “Come on! You can’t let me down here in the middle of nowhere!”

Driving on, he saw the name of the next town, Lakeplace, and drove carefully, looking for help. A couple of miles forward, he saw a small, well-cared farm. In the driveway, a man was lying under a van, apparently fixing it.

 

Hutch stopped his beaten LTD and called out to him. “Hey, good afternoon, sir!”

 

The man climbed out from under the van, getting to his feet and smiling in a friendly way to the visitor, while cleaning his hands on a dirty cloth. He didn’t notice it, but as he walked towards him, Hutch’s heart missed a beat.

 

“Good afternoon. May I help you?” Starsky stopped in his tracks. He knew this man…The image of the blond man that he saw in his visions crossed his mind.

 

“Jesus…” Hutch whispered, becoming pale.

 

 “Sir, are you okay?” Starsky felt his heart pounding almost audibly, though he couldn’t understand the reason for the sensation.

 

 “It´s…you…Starsky…” Hutch approached Starsky. He seemed about to pass out any moment. His eyes were full of tears as he grabbed his friend in a tight hug.

 

Starsky didn’t push away, but stayed there. The odd behavior of that stranger wasn’t making the least sense, but though his mind didn’t understand, his heart seemed to. He felt a long missed warmth and protection in those arms. He closed his eyes feeling that HE KNEW that embrace, those big hands, and those strong and yet so gentle arms…

 

“Starsk, Starsky, you’re alive. I knew it, damn it, I knew it!” The blond man was crying. Not tears of sadness though, but tears of happiness.

 

Starsky pulled away a little looking directly into his eyes. He knew this man, definitively knew him. Suddenly, a host of images rushed into his mind. A red car… guns…a bar…laughter and the blond man always by his side.

 

 “Are you okay Starsky? You’re really not hurt?”

 

 “Hurt? No, I’m fine. But, who are you? And what were you calling me?” he asked, fighting his conflicting emotions.

 

 “What?”

 

 “Who are you sir? I know you? I know you, don’t I?”

 

 “What do you mean, Starsk? You don’t know me? I’m Hutch, your partner.”

 

 “Partner?” Starsky asked confused.

 

 “Yeah, partner! It’s me… Hutch…God, Starsky!” Hutch couldn’t help himself. He hugged his friend again. He needed the contact to be sure that it wasn’t an illusion caused by his mind, stupefied by too much grief. He didn’t know if he wanted to laugh or cry.

 

Starsky was very confused, and pulled away again. “Wait…wait a minute, sir, I’m sorry. I don’t understand what all this means, what you’re saying or doing. Sorry, but I don't know who you are.” Starsky looked deeply into Hutch’s eyes sensing that his words were hurting the unknown man

 

“What? Starsk…Don’t you know me? Really? You aren’t kidding me, right?” Hutch was growing desperate. He had lost his partner for weeks and now that he had found him, Starsky didn’t know him. It was as simple as that.

 

 “I’m sorry. Really, I-I don’t know who you are, but I don’t know who I am either.” Starsky confessed.

 

 “You don’t know who you are? What do you mean? “ Hutch asked in amazement.

 

 “I told you. I don’t know who I am. I woke up after some kind of accident or whatever it was, and I couldn’t remember anything. My mind was totally blank. And I didn’t have any ID.”

 

 “But why didn’t you go to a hospital?”

 

 “Oh no! I didn't get hurt. Just a lump on my head, some bruises and grazes, and

Doctor Grant, the doctor who works in the town, checked me over. I just needed some pain pills and rest, and a couple of days later I was fine again. Don't ask me why, but the idea of going to the hospital, gives me the shivers, and I thought that my memory would come back sooner or later,” Starsky replied.

 

“Great! You didn’t go to a hospital in spite of being unable to remember your own name! And meanwhile your family, your friends…I! All of us were mourning you! Oh Starsk! How you could do something so stupid! You should have gone to the hospital, for Christ sake! Surely, when they saw that you were unable to remember your name, or where you came from, they would have called the police.”

 

 “I’m sorry, I’m really sorry…I didn´t know…” Starsky ducked his head, looking like an embarrassed kid.

 

Hutch shook his head, rolling his eyes, knowing that right now he was couldn’t be angry with Starsky. He had found him, healthy, alive. Nothing else mattered.

 

“How did you get here, Starsky?” Hutch asked.

 

“Jack helped me. He brought me to his house and since then, I’ve been living here. I’ve been trying to find out who I am, but the police don’t have a clue about it. I thought that my name might be Mike, Mike Skyler. But you’re calling me...Starsky? That is my real surname, right?”

 

 “Yeah. Your full name is David Michael Starsky.”

 

 “David?” He frowned in a vain attempt to remember it.

 

“Yeah, and you’re a detective, a good one.” Hutch smiled affectionately. “And my partner too. I’m Kenneth Hutchinson, Hutch. My name doesn’t ring any bells?” Hutch was worried that he was giving more information than Starsky could assimilate.

 

 “I…I don’t remember. Detective?”

 

Hutch nodded. “In the Bay City Police Department. By the way, where’s your gun, Starsky?”

 

“Gun? I…I don’t know. With my ID, I guess. You’re sure that I had a gun?”

 

 “Totally sure, partner.”

 

 “Everything that you’re telling me is so strange,” Starsky said, thoughtfully.

 

 “You got hurt in the accident, Starsky. You didn’t think so, but almost certainly the hit on your head caused your amnesia. We had a car crash. You fell down into the river, and you got lost. The rescue team couldn’t find you.”

 

 “Car crash?” A flash of an image of the accident crossed Starsky´s mind.

 

“Starsk, are you all right?” Hutch asked, concerned, noticing the absentminded expression on his friend’s face.

 

 “Hey, Mike! How about a break?” Jack came out of the house with a glass of fresh lemonade in his hand. He stopped when he saw the man near his new friend, who was looking a little upset. “Is something wrong, Mike?”

 

Hutch  felt a twinge of uneasiness as he noticed the protective manner the man showed toward Starsky. Unsure if he liked the man, he decided to introduce himself.

 

“Hi. I’m Kenneth Hutchinson. Starsky´s friend. Well...Mike’s friend, as he said to me.”

 

“Jack Wallace. Nice to meet you.” Smiling politely, Jack reached out his hand to Hutch, who shook it. “Do you know Mike?” he asked, looking Hutch over from top to toe.

 

“Yes, he’s my partner. We’re cops in Bay City. We were in a car accident.”

 

“I don’t remember anything Jack. But something about this guy…”

 

“Me and thee, Starsky, that’s what you’re remembering.” Hutch looked deeply into Starsky´s eyes.

 

“Me and thee…” Starsky repeated in a whisper.

 

“Yeah, do you remember?” Hutch’s eyes were filled with hope.

 

Suddenly a wave of uncontrollable emotion flooded Starsky´s mind. At that moment he was doing his best not to cry. He approached the stranger and staring into Hutch’s eyes, he touched his arm. “You saved my life before, right? You are someone very important to me, aren’t you?”

 

“Yeah, we’re like brothers.” Hutch’s eyes were shining with unshed tears.

 

Apparently both men had completely forgotten Jack’s presence. It was as if he wasn’t even there. 

 

“Guys, I don’t know what is happening here, but I thought that it might be better to continue this talk inside. I’ve fixed some delicious and refreshing lemonade and I’m sure that you, Mike, and your friend, could use some.”

 

Jack’s voice startled Starsky and Hutch. They walked in silence to the house. Starsky went to the bathroom to wash up and Jack asked Hutch to have a seat. Holding the lemonade glass in his hands, Hutch sat on the sofa. Starsky, with his emotions under control again, sat on the other side, close to Jack.

 

 “So, you know who Mike is?” Jack asked, still suspicious and protective.

 

Hutch himself still felt a mixture of emotions about this, guessing that Starsky had received all the help he’d needed from this man in the past months.

 

“Starsky is my best friend.” Hutch couldn’t help himself. He needed to make it clear to Jack, how much he and Starsky meant to each other. “We’re cops in the 9th precinct, in the Bay City Police Department. We were in a car accident when we were coming back from a long vacation trip.”

 

“I found Mike on the road, near here.”

 

“His name is David. David Starsky. Detective Sergeant David Starsky.” Hutch corrected feeling a little upset.

 

“When Jack found me, I didn’t remember anything. I only had the idea that my name could be Mike Skyler, but I didn’t know why.”

 

Hutch laughed softly. “Oh man! Mike, probably was a remembrance of your father’s name or your middle name. Your father’s name was Michael, too.”

 

“Was?” Starsky asked, uneasily.

 

“Yeah, he died when you were just a kid. He was a cop too. And you followed in his footsteps.” Hutch smiled sweetly.

 

“Jack, do you remember the first time I talked to Maggie and she told me that she had followed in her father’s footsteps, taking care of his business?”

 

“Yes, I remember.”

 

“This thought gave me a feeling of déjà vu, a pretty weird feeling, but I didn’t know why. Maybe that’s the reason. It was my memory trying to recall something.”

Starsky said, excitedly.

 

“Who’s Maggie, Starsky?” Hutch didn’t want to seem inquisitive but he wanted to know as much as possible about Starsky´s new friends.

 

“My girlfriend, since about a month ago. A terrific girl. You should meet her someday. It’s just the beginning, but I think it could turn into something more serious.” Then a frightening idea came into Starsky´s mind. “I’m…I’m not married, right?”

 

“No, Starsk. You’re not married. And you haven’t another girlfriend, fiancée nor kids either.” Girlfriend…he has a girlfriend. God! He’s talking as if he wants to spend the rest of his life here! Hutch thought, amazed.

 

“And Skyler? Who’s he? Does Mi… Does know David somebody called Skyler?” Jack asked bringing Hutch back again to the conversation.

 

“We were working an undercover case, before the vacation. On this case Starsky was undercover as a patient in a mental institution, and his name was Skyler. The name must still be in your memory,” Hutch said, hoping that this explanation would bring back some other recalls to his friend. “It seems that Starsky´s memory mixed real with unreal names.”

 

Jack looked at Starsky, waiting to see if he remembered. But he remained in a thoughtful silence.

 

“And you have a mother, Rachel, and a brother, Nick. They will be very happy knowing that I found you!”  In fact just knowing that you’re alive. Hutch thought, while his mind was racing to find the right way to tell Starsky that he was officially a dead man, and to tell Rachel that her son was alive. Luckily, for the moment Starsky was just listening speechlessly to Hutch’s explanations and Jack didn’t make any comment about calling them. “You have a car. A big tomato on wheels with a white stripe that you love like a son by the way. ‘The striped tomato’, as Captain Dobey called it once.” Hutch smiled, amused.

 

“Mike, I mean, David, likes cars. It’s something that he could remember, but he didn’t know why. Right now he’s working as a repairman in a garage in the town. He’s becoming famous. There’s no one here with car or truck problems he can’t fix since he began work. He fixes it in a blink of the eye.”

 

Jack was proud of Starsky and Hutch noticed it, as an annoying pinch of jealousy squeezed his heart again.

 

“You got a job here?” Hutch asked increasingly surprised. He seemed to forget that his partner had been living in the town for more than two months.

 

“Yeah, in the town’s garage and I help Jack here with the animals and all the other farm stuff too. Soon I’ll be the best farmer in the whole town,” Starsky joked.

 

You’re living on a farm? And you’re working as a car repairman? God, partner! Are you going nuts? Hutch thought. It was all too much for him. He was growing increasingly bewildered, unable to understand how somebody so fond of the big city way of life had seemed to adjust so easily to the idea of living in a dead end place like this; though he had to admit that Starsky was looking good. In fact, he was looking undoubtedly happy.

 

“Starsk, didn’t you ask the police to find out who you were, or if someone was looking for you?”

 

“I did, but the sheriff said that there wasn’t any missing person with my description, or name, so, I just moved on. To me it seemed obvious that no one was looking for me, and probably I was alone in the world.” Starsky drank a swallow of lemonade, before speaking again. “Sheriff Masterson sent my picture and fingerprints to Exeter police department, but they haven’t sent any information about me yet. He says that I have to be patient, that they are very busy, but sooner or later the information will turn up.”

 

 “My ass, they’re very busy!” Hutch snapped back. “Starsky, for God sake you should know how these things work!”

 

“I wish I could know how these things work, Hutch. But right now I’m afraid that the only thing I know is how to fix cars and milk cows.”

 

 “I’m sorry, Starsky. That comment wasn’t very smart,” Hutch answered, ashamed of his outburst. “We did put an APB out on you. You were listed as a missing person. Your name, description and picture were distributed to all the major police stations in the whole country, and they sent it to even the smallest cities and towns! The police are never too busy to do that kind of stuff. It is our job! Fuck! We aren’t talking about a stray cat here but about a man! A police detective!” Hutch lost his temper again, thinking how much useless pain could have been avoided.

 

“Wait…wait a moment. I was…? Do you mean that I’m not listed as missing person any longer?” Starsky asked, getting scared.

 

Hutch looked at Jack, who was listening silently to the conversation. He breathed deeply before answering…

 

Okay. The moment of truth. “Uh, well, since last month, you are listed as officially dead.” Hutch almost choked on his own words.

 

“Dead? My mother and brother… we have to call them, Hutch! God! I don’t remember them. But I must call them anyway! NOW!” Starsky got to his feet feeling very upset.

 

“Okay, Starsk. Take it easy. We’ll call them. Jack, if you don’t mind?” Hutch asked pointing the telephone with a nod of his head.

 

“Sure, Ken. Call them.”

 

Hutch began to dial Rachel’s number, when suddenly Starsky grabbed his arm with a frightened expression on his face.

 

“I…I can’t do it, Hutch.”

 

“What?” Hutch hung up the receiver.

 

“I can’t talk with them…with a mother and a brother that I don’t remember. I DON´T KNOW THEM, DAMN IT!”

 

“Starsky, for God’s sake! They think you’re dead! Your mother is dying from grief!”

 

“Can you call them? Please. I can’t do it. Not yet.” In fact, for Hutch it wouldn’t be an easy task either, but he knew that somebody had to do it, so, sighing, he took up the receiver again, while Starsky, unable to be there, went out to the cowshed to ease his nervousness doing some work, and Jack headed to the kitchen to give Hutch some privacy to make the call.

 

Hutch was about to call Rachel, when he realized that to tell she something like that by phone was not the best way to do it, so, changing his mind, he dialed Dobey´s number in the 9th precinct, bracing himself for the reaction of his boss. A reaction that he knew wouldn’t be quiet at all.

 

“WHAT!! Wait…wait a moment Hutchinson. Are you drunk, son?”

 

“No, Cap. I´m not drunk, and Starsky is alive.”

 

On the other end of the line a plop sounded. After that, nothing, just silence.

 

“Cap? Captain Dobey? Are you okay?”

 

“CHRIST ALMIGHTY! That damned boy will kill me from a heart attack…but how? Where?”

 

Smiling softly, Hutch pictured Dobey drying his forehead with his white handkerchief. He’d need a long while to fill his captain in on all that happened to Starsky, since he went missing, so he ended the call asking him to pay a visit to Rachel Starsky in New York.

 

“But, be careful, Cap, please and explain to her that Starsky is too upset and disconcerted to speak with her right now, but he’s fine. That I’m doing my best to help him get his memory back, and soon we’ll go to New York to see her.” Hutch said, relieved when he was able to hang up the phone after a few more words.

 

Then, he rose, heading to the front yard to meet Starsky.

 

“Okay, Starsk. I talked with Dobey, our Captain. He’ll go to New York to talk with your mother and…”

 

“But…does people really think I’m dead?” Starsky broke into Hutch’s words.

 

“Yeah, I´m sorry Starsky. I was kept insisting that you were alive somewhere, but nobody believed me. All the odds were against me, I guess.”

 

“Dead. I´m dead to the rest of the world,” Starsky mumbled, going back into the house with Hutch behind him.

 

“They had a funeral for me or something?” Hearing the answer would give him the creeps, but he needed to know it anyway.

 

“We did. It was a beautiful memorial service in your honor and your mother and brother were there. But I wasn’t, despite everybody’s disapproval. I knew that you weren’t dead.”

 

Hutch’s eyes filled with tears again, and Jack left silently, squeezing Starsky´s shoulder with an affection that didn't go unnoticed by Hutch, as he went, giving the friends some time on his own. Hutch was so upset that he dragged a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, putting one to his lips and lighting it

 

“When did you start smoking?” Starsky asked, not knowing where the question came from.

 

“I do now. Since you went missing, I guess. I began to do a lot of dumb things. Smoke, get drunk… Right now I’m on medical leave. Lately I haven’t done anything but cause problems. For everybody.  Dobey, the poor guy that Dobey assigned to work with me and especially myself.”

 

“I’m so sorry, Hutch. But see? I’m fine. I don’t remember everything…well, in fact, I don't remember anything, but I feel that you are very important to me, and I don’t want to see you hurting like this. I’m alive, and happy.” Tears wanted to fall from Starsky´s eyes, and he had to make an effort to stop them.

 

Damn it! Why am I so emotional lately? The brunet thought in dismay.

 

“Hey man! It’s all right, come here.” Jack, coming back from the kitchen had noticed Starsky´s distress, and surrounded his shoulders protectively with his arm, taking him to sit down again on the sofa. “So much news in so little time, uh? It’s normal if you feel overemotional.”

 

Starsky smiled a little embarrassedly as Hutch took in the scene feeling increasingly jealous. Starsky seemed as comfortable with the stranger as he used to be only with him. How he wished that Starsky would get his memory back! All he wanted was their past together to come back.

 

“You need time Starsk. Just time to assimilate all this news, and allow your memory to come back again,” Hutch reassured him.

 

“Yeah, I wish I could remember everything about you and my old life, my family, my work,” Starsky said in a barely audible voice, looking totally helpless.

 

“I’ll fix my famous fried chicken and after dinner you’ll feel better Mi-David, ok? Will you have dinner with us, Kenneth?”

 

“It will be a pleasure. Thanks for asking.”

 

Jack smiled and left them alone. A silence filled the room.

 

While Jack was fixing dinner, he was kept an eye on his friend, Mike or David, as it seemed to be his real name. Hutch seemed to be a trustworthy guy, but…

 

“Usually, after eating you feel and think better.” Hutch smiled, amused with the memory and approaching Starsky, he sat down near him on the couch. “Starsky, what do you want to know about yourself? Maybe there’s some detail that if I mentioned it to you, could help your memory?”

 

“You’ve already told me so much. Names…my family, my car, my work, my career but I only have images that I can’t put together. It’s like a movie in my head, just mixed up scenes, you know what I mean?”

 

“Yeah…You should go to a hospital; they’ll know how to help you. They have treatments for amnesia.”

 

“A shrink, you mean? No, Hutch, I won’t go to any damned shrink. I´m not nuts!”

 

“Starsky, I don’t mean…”

 

Starsky raised his hand to stop Hutch’s words. “I’m sure that eventually, I will remember things, but let me say you that leaving this place is something out of the question. I´m happy here. I even found somebody special. I’m in love with a wonderful lady. My relationship with her is turning into something very strong.”

 

“You can’t simply deny your past, Starsk. Leave your career behind. You are one of the best cops in Bay City. You can leave that all behind you, and spend the rest of your life here in this hole of the world.”

 

“This is a great place, Hutch.” Starsky was annoyed by the way Hutch spoke about

Lakeplace.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m real sorry. I didn’t have any right. You’ve got a life here, and I can understand it, I really do. But you can’t deny your past. You have a PAST! “

 

“What past do I have? I don’t remember this past you’re talking about”

 

“You said that you did...”

 

 “Feelings, sensations. Just that! No one can live with only those things. Mike Skyler has much more than that.”

 

“You’re not Mike Skyler! That’s just a fiction! You’re David Starsky!” Jack, who looked into the living room, but stayed out of the argument, heard the shout.

 

“Look, I was fixing a car, then you turn up and tell me that my name is not my name, that I have family, friends, an job in another city, that I know you, but I don’t remember any of that! I feel that I know you, but I don’t remember why or from when, from where. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m Mike Skyler! And Mike Skyler has his life, his work, his lady, his friends, and his memories in Lakeplace!”

 

“Wait. Wait a moment here, Starsky. Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you saying seriously what I think? That you aren’t coming back home?”

 

“No, Hutch. You aren’t wrong. You understood perfectly! I’m not going back home, BECAUSE I’M ALREADY HOME!” Starsky was upset. He strode out to the front yard slamming the door like an angry teenager, and began to furiously cut some logs for firewood with an axe.

 

Hutch sighed heavily resting his head on the back of the sofa.

 

“Dinner is almost ready. It seems that David is pretty upset with all of this.”

 

“Looks like it,” Hutch answered, feeling suddenly drained.

 

“Well. I can’t blame him. When I found him; he was scared, exhausted and hurt. I gave him a place to live, food and a warm bed to rest. Now he has a job, friends and a girlfriend. He’s building a new life. He tried to find out if anyone was looking for him, but the police here didn’t have any notification about it. So, he moved on, and if you want my opinion, I think that he did the right thing. He wasn’t the kind of person to sit around and cry. He’s a fighter,” Jack said, and in his words Hutch could hear admiration, affection and respect.

 

Minutes later, a silent Starsky came to the table. None of them commented about his outburst, but simply began to eat chatting about trivial matters. The dinner went nicely, and Hutch talked more about their life in Bay City, their academy days, their captain, some of their most impressive cases, and showed his badge to Starsky, who looked it thoughtfully. Jack asked all the questions, as Starsky remained silent most of the time.

 

When they were finished Jack offered to let Hutch sleep on the couch for the night. “Tomorrow you can find some place to stay. But I think that for a night my couch will be okay.”

 

“Thanks Jack. It’ll be fine.”

 

Starsky excused himself, going to bed right after dinner. Jack and Hutch chatted a little more until Hutch began to yawn and they called it a night.

 

Starsky couldn’t help but lie awake most of the night, thinking. About Hutch, about all the things he’d told him, and especially why Sheriff Masterson didn’t have any information about his identity yet. ´The police are never too busy to do that kind of stuff. It is our work! Fuck! We aren’t talking about a stray cat here but about a man! A police detective!’ Hutch’s words kept playing over and over in his head. Damn it! Hutch is right! What he said makes sense. Why the hell doesn’t that jerk of a guy, Masterson still have any information about me? Starsky got an idea into his head…In the morning he would pay a visit to Masterson.

 

Starsky woke up early and despite not being sure of his feelings about all that Hutch had told him last night, he felt a strange need to be near the LTD. He took a look at the car and it wasn’t difficult to fix the problem with the old engine. Starsky kept thinking that he had fixed that car more than once before.

 

When Hutch woke up, the house was silent. He headed to the kitchen, seeing Jack and Starsky out in the yard, through the window. He poured himself a cup of fresh coffee and went outside.

 

“Good morning, Hutch. We already had breakfast. You have eggs, bacon, juice and fresh coffee waiting for you in the kitchen.”

 

“Thanks Jack, but I’m not hungry. I’ve already got myself some coffee. I hope you don’t mind.”

 

“Sure. Help yourself. We’re going into town. Mike… oh, sorry! I mean, David fixed your car early this morning. Actually, he let all my animals starve waiting for him to finish with your car before he fed them,” Jack joked. “You can come into town with us and find a hotel to stay in. It’ll be an easy task for a detective, there is only one in the entire town. My couch isn’t too comfortable, and you told us that you had some sort of back trouble, right?”

 

“My car?” Hutch was surprised and glad knowing Starsky cared enough about his car to wake up early just to fix it.

 

“See, David is a great guy, a little stubborn, hot-headed maybe, but he has a big heart.” Jack gave a friendly smile.

 

“You can be sure I know that, Jack. No one in this world know that as well as I do.”

 

Starsky was already getting into the van, looking moody and waiting for Jack. He hadn’t spoken to Hutch since dinner the night before, but obviously, Hutch had been in his mind and heart from the moment he met him again.

 

“Give him some time, Hutch. He will talk to you, but he needs time.” Jack smiled and went to the van. He waved his hand to Hutch, who climbed into his car.

 

Hutch followed Jack’s van into town. Starsky asked Jack to leave him at the police station.

 

“Something strange is going on here, Jack and I have to find out what it is.”

 

“Okay, friend, but be careful. It’s not a good idea to piss that guy off.”

 

“Don’t worry! See you later, Jack!” Starsky got out of the van and climbed the station stairs with resolute steps.

 

Masterson wasn’t there yet, but just ten minutes later he came into the building looking surprised when he saw Starsky.

 

“My dear boy! What a surprise! What can I do for you?”

 

“How about doing your work properly?” Starsky´s eyes stared defiantly at Masterson.

 

“Mike, son, I don’t understand. What’s the matter?”

 

“David…David Michael Starsky, if you don’t mind. Detective Sergeant in the Bay City Police Department, by the way.”

 

Masterson looked at Starsky unable to react.

 

“It’s a shame that you couldn’t find out faster. But I understand it. Exeter Police Department is very busy, right? Good morning, Sheriff” Without another word, Starsky strode out of the police station, heading for the garage, as Sheriff Masterson watched him go.

 

“So you managed to find out who you are. Wrong decision, my dear boy. Now I’ll have to do something to stop you from sticking your meddling nose in my business. And soon.”

 

That morning Jack went to Maggie’s store. If Starsky had another life, he thought that the girl needed to know about it before she could make plans for a future with

him.

 

“Hi Maggie!”

 

“Hi Jack!”

 

“Um, Maggie. Yesterday we had a visitor. A man stopped there with car troubles and guess what? He’s a friend of Mike, well, David, as he called him.”

 

“What? Are you saying that Mike finally found somebody related with his past? A friend of his?” She seemed happy but scared as well.

 

“It seems so. I think that the guy is good folk. He worked with Mike, well, David, and they’re cops in Bay City. ”

 

“Cops?” Maggie asked, nervously.

 

“Yeah, he had the badge to prove it. They’re detectives. They had a car accident. That’s why Mi-David…Damn, I have to remember his real name! Well, it seems that David fell into the river and the current carried him near the road where I found him. They were looking for him, but recently, the police declared him officially dead.”

 

“Oh my God! And does he have a family? “ Maggie was afraid of asking, but she needed to know.

 

“Mother and brother, but not wife, fiancée or kids.” Jack could see the relief etched on the young woman’s features.

 

“Does Mike…or David…does he remember anything of that?”

 

“Not much, fragments…images. But he really feels something special for this guy. They had a special bond, no doubt about that. And he got very emotional. But David is scared too. He doesn’t know what to believe. His life in the city, according to his friend, is completely different from his life here. At the moment he doesn’t seem too willing to exchange what he has here, for his old life. But, some day his memory will come back, and there’s always the possibility that he’ll change his mind. You have to be ready to face it. I don’t want to see you hurt, Maggie.”

 

“Thanks, Jack. But I’m sure that Mike…or David will never hurt me. He is a good man. He’ll be honest with me. I know it! That’s why he’s so special to me. It’s the first time I’ve met someone who cared about me and my feelings since Sam died. He would never leave me, just because one day he woke up and remembered something. He’s not that kind of man. I know it”

 

“Okay, Maggie. Just be careful. I like you two and I’m already wondering if David

isn’t going to get hurt by all of this. I don’t want to see you suffering too. ” Jack embraced her briefly before leaving.

 

 Maggie walked with him towards the front door. In the street, he saw Hutch parking his car. “Hey, how is the hotel?”

 

“Oh, It´s nice. Simple, but it has clean sheets and a bathroom. Who was the beautiful girl over there? Your girlfriend?”

 

“No. She’s Maggie, David’s girlfriend.”

 

 “Oh.”

 

“I told her about you and all the news. I love that girl like a sister and she’s suffered a lot already. I talked to her about the possibility that David could change his mind and leave town. He could decide to go back to his real life. Don’t you agree?”

 

“Maybe it’s Starsky who should speak to her about that. Don’t you think that it’s none of your business?” Hutch asked, visibly upset.

 

“Hey, take it easy! I’m not trying to put my nose in David’s business, but I really care about Maggie. I had to tell her what’s going on.”

 

“I’m sure that if Starsky decided to leave, he’d talk with her first. Listen, Jack. Maybe you don’t know him that well, but Starsky is a good man. He won't hurt your friend. Never. You can be sure of that,” Hutch assured, feeling a little offended by the idea that Starsky would simply run off from the town without a word to Maggie.

 

“Sorry, Hutch. I didn’t mean it like that. I know that he’s a good man, but you know how women can be? Maggie could build a castle in the air and suddenly…” Jack left the sentence unfinished.

 

“No. Starsky would never give her false hopes.”

 

“I know that, man. I’m not talking about him, but about her. She’s a very romantic girl. And it seems that David knows how to make a girl fall in love with him, that's for sure. Maggie is a widow, Hutch, and after her husband’s death, which happened almost four years ago, she never looked another man, until our friend came along. I don’t know what it is, but he definitely has a way with the ladies.” He gave a friendly laugh and Hutch felt less defensive. “I have an idea. Why you two don’t have a private dinner tonight, just you and David. It will be better. With me around, I’m sure that David feels a little embarrassed. I’ll stay at home and have dinner with my cows and hens.” He smiled, amused.

 

“Maybe it would be a good idea. I’ll ask Starsky about it.”

 

“Of course. By the way, David can’t drive, because he hasn’t got a driver license yet, but if he wants to have dinner with you, I can give him a ride up here. How about it? At seven o’clock in front of the hotel?”

 

“For me it´s fine. Let’s see what Starsky says. And Jack, thanks. For everything. You took care of my friend, you trusted him, and you gave him a place to live, a life. I’m very grateful.”

 

“No problem. I’m sure he’d do the same for me. We are in this world to help each other. Besides, our friend is a terrific guy. Don’t you think so?” Jack’s smile was

sincere and trusting. “Okay, Hutch. See you,” Jack got into the van and started the engine then drove away, as Hutch left the LTD parked and walked towards Dan’s garage to ask Starsky about having dinner together.

 

Dan’s Garage was a really old place, pretty typical of a small town like Lakeplace. Hutch was amazed with the idea of his energetic partner working, living and feeling happy in such a quiet town. No night clubs, no big city sounds, no neighborhood fights, bright lights or pollution. Well, maybe the scientists were right when they said that men are the products of their environment. Mike Skyler doesn’t know any other place, so, he likes this town and its peaceful lifestyle. Hutch thought bitterly.

 

Entering the garage, he saw his partner working on a truck hood. “Starsk?”

 

Starsky looked up and Hutch could swear that he saw a glimpse of a smile in his eyes.

 

“Hi, hotel okay?”

 

“Fine. Just fine…

 

“Know something? I went to pay a visit to Sheriff Masterson a while earlier.”

 

“And what did you say to him?”

 

“Oh, nothing, just how odd seems that he didn’t have any information about me yet and that now he could save himself the trouble of doing it.”

 

A sudden thought crossed Hutch’s mind. Oh, shit, Starsk. Sometimes, you just don’t think. Maybe that wasn’t the smartest thing to do but he didn’t say anything, and changed the subject. “I saw your girlfriend, she’s very beautiful.”

 

“Did you go to the store? Say something to her?”

 

“Of course not. I wouldn’t say anything to her. It’s a private matter between you and your girl. But your friend Jack did. He talked to her.” Hutch didn’t like what he was doing. But he did it anyway. His feelings towards Jack were wavering between gratitude and jealousy, and he couldn’t help himself.

 

“He’s probably worried for Maggie. I’ll talk with her in my lunch break.”

 

“What are you going to tell her?”

 

“The truth. That you found me, and told me my name and what my other life was like, that I’m pretty confused because I don’t remember a thing about it all.”

 

“Thanks for fixing my car, Starsky. I thought that after our talk yesterday you wouldn’t want to look at me for years.”

 

“Why? You aren’t guilty of anything. It was a car accident, Hutch…and it’s my problem if I can’t remember anything.”

 

“Not just your problem, buddy, but OUR Problem…Me and thee, just like always.”

 

“Hutch. Don´t push me to remember things that I can’t. Okay? Everything is upsetting me enough, as it is.”

 

“Sorry, Starsky. I didn’t want…”

 

Starsky raised his hand to stop Hutch’s apology. “Hutch, I wanna thank you for your help with the thing about my mom and brother. Although I don’t remember them, I’m feeling better, knowing that they are about to find out the truth. Though I’m not sure what I’ll do with my life from now on.” Starsky’s eyes were full of anguish.

 

“Anytime, Starsk. I know that Dobey will explain the whole thing the right way. Look, I think that we need to have a talk, a long talk. How about dinner tonight? Jack said that he can give you a ride and we can have dinner at seven. How about it? It’d be nice have dinner with my partner again, like the old days,” Hutch stuttered nervously, showing his emotions again.

 

“You’re kind of mushy, you know?“ Starsky teased him, but he turned around to avoid Hutch’s eyes. “Alright, it looks like you and Jack already have everything worked out. Seven will be okay.” Starsky went back to the truck. 

 

Hutch realized that he didn’t want to talk anymore. “Okay, seven. See you!”

 

***

 

In his lunch break, Starsky went to see Maggie. “Hey, sweetheart, how was your morning?”

 

“Hi, honey.” They kissed each other.

 

“Jack was here this morning and told me about your friend from Bay City. That’s where he’s from, right?”

 

“Yeah. I was fixing Jack’s van when he came asking for help for his car. You know, Maggie? When I looked at him, I did feel something. I don’t know what it was, but I felt that I knew him.“

 

“Come here, I fixed something to eat. We can talk while we have some lunch.” She took his hand and led him to the little apartment that she had in back of the store.

 

“So, you were saying that you know him?” asked Maggie, taking two plates from a cupboard.

 

“Yeah, but he told a lot of things that apparently I ought to know. Only I can’t remember. He told me about my relatives, our job, my car, and he told me that everybody thinks that I’m dead”

 

“What? They thought you were dead?”

 

“Yeah, they even had a memorial service for me.” Starsky smiled bitterly.

 

“I’m so sorry, Mike.” Maggie hugged him.

 

“He… Hutch said my real name is David. David Michael Starsky.”

 

“Never mind, Mike or David, you’re the same special man to me.”

 

They spent some moments in the warmth of each other’s arms, until Starsky pulled back.

 

“Maggie, I’ve thinking about all this mess. I can’t remember anything. At times, some images come into my head, and some things that Hutch told me, make sense, but I can’t remember them. I can’t remember him, or who my mother is, or my dad either where my house was. But I do remember that now I have a home on Jack’s farm, and that you came into my life. I will not give up the happiness that I found here. If Hutch and my family love me, they’ll understand that. I wanna stay here and be happy here with you. That doesn’t mean that I won’t see them any more. Hutch can come back here, and I can go to Bay City to see him. Besides, he told me that my mom and my brother are living in New York. So, basically I’m a lonely man. Or maybe I should say that I was a lonely man.” Starsky smiled, his eyes filled with desire.

 

They kissed, getting lost in the taste of each other’s mouths and their lunch was forgotten.

***

 

At seven o’clock sharp Jack’s old van stopped in front of the hotel. Hutch was waiting. Starsky got out of the vehicle and Hutch’s heart almost stopped. He was wearing his jacket. The same one he had on the day of their accident.

 

“Hi, partner,” Hutch greeted Starsky cheerily

 

“Hi.” Starsky was visibly nervous.

 

“Ok, guys. Have fun. Hey, David, behave yourself and don’t get home too late!” Jack teased his friend and laughed, heading home.

 

“He’s really something!” Starsky smiled “How about this place over there? Jack told me that it’s a great restaurant. Good food.”

 

 “Okay! Let’s go there.”

 

After sit down at a table at the end of the restaurant, slightly removed from the other tables, they ordered a couple of beers. The place was really nice and it wasn’t too busy. They drank their beers a little unsure of how to break the ice, though luckily, Starsky´s anecdotes about his new life in Lakeplace gave them enough to talk about to get them through to the end of dinner nicely. Hutch’s heart ached, though, missing the old complicity between him and Starsky.

 

***

 

The sheriff, his nephew Charlie and two of the Sheriff friends were very busy that night. They put six gallons of kerosene in Masterson’s van and drove in the direction of Jack’s farm. They got there by driving across a narrow path into the woods. Once near Jack’s farm, they stopped.

 

“Now, it’s just matter of being patient and waiting for the right moment.”

 

“Uncle Jeremy, maybe this isn’t such a good idea. Somebody could see us. It´s dangerous.”

 

“Shut up! What are you afraid of? I AM the law here. Who’s gonna dare to say anything against me? Who’s gonna suspect the sheriff? They’re a bunch of cowards, the only one with any guts here in this town is Jack, but in a couple of hours he and that fucking outsider will be history. “

 

“Are you sure that everything will work out the way you’ve planned, Masterson?” one of his men asked.

 

“Of course I am. They always go to bed early. Lights are turned off about nine or half past, and I bet that an hour later not even the sound of a truck could wake up them. Now, shut up everybody. In a while we can get to work.”

 

All four men looked at each other in silence.

 

***

 

A while later, as they were eating their portions of chocolate cake, Starsky finally got to the heart of the matter.

“Hutch, I talked with Maggie today. She is a little scared by all that’s happened, but I assured her that I’m not thinking of changing what I have here. My life here is good, and I want to get married someday.”

 

“Wow! You can forget your whole life, but you’re still the same man. You don’t like to waste time. You’ve already made your decision, haven’t you?”

 

“I didn’t have anything to decide.” Starsky stared at his plate. He didn’t want to look at Hutch’s eyes. He knew that in those eyes there was something that was stronger than his own inner force.

 

“Look at me Starsky” But Starsky wouldn’t do it.

 

“Starsky, please, look at me…I TOLD YOU TO LOOK AT ME, DAMN IT!!” All the customers raised their heads in heard Hutch´s shout.

 

“Do you have any idea how many people have suffered in these past months because of you? Do you have any idea how your mother and all your family will suffer knowing that you simply gave up on your life and decided to be another person? Do you have any idea much how the department needs you? How much I need you?” Hutch shouted, really upset.

 

“And you? Huh? Do you have any idea that I don’t know these people who you say are suffering because of me? That I don’t know my family anymore, that I don’t know anything about any of it?” Starsky answered in a low and defiant voice.

 

“Starsky, you need medical help. I could talk to you for hours...and I would be willing to do it, if I was sure that this would be enough to bring you back to me, to your life, to your family, but I don’t think it is.” Hutch’s voice was calmer now.

 

“Maybe you’re forgetting something. Have you ever wondered if I really want to know who I was? Where I lived? What I did for a living? You came here and began to talk and talk. ‘You’re not Mike Skyler but David Starsky; you’re not a mechanic but a police officer. You kept telling me more and more things. But you never asked me if I wanted to know all that!” Starsky´s eyes were shining with anger.

 

“I’m sorry, maybe I was pushing you too much. I was so desperate thinking that I had lost you that when I saw you here, alive I just wanted to tell you everything you didn’t remember. I know everything about your life, our life for the last 10 years, Starsky. We have a long history together. You can’t deny your past so easily!”

 

“Why not? Maybe I don’t care at all whether I remember the fucking PAST! MY PAST! Maybe the only important thing for me now is my present. And my future. Can’t you understand that?”

 

“Bellamy…the poison…we were trying to find the man who poisoned you. To save my life, you killed the only man who knew his name. Do you remember?”

 

“No, Hutch, I don’t remember.”

 

“Gillian, my girlfriend. You found her dead...I punched you. I needed to punch someone. You were there, and you paid for my anger. Do you remember that?”

 

“Shut up, Hutch…Please.”

 

“Or when I needed a fix. Only one more. The last one I kept saying. But you helped me, you helped me get free of all that crap. Don´t you remember that? Don´t you remember Terry? She was killed. By Prudholm. Remember?”

 

“STOP IT!!!”

 

Starsky got to his feet as Hutch firmly held his wrist. “You remember something, don’t you? You remember, but you are afraid of the memories. You are afraid of losing the safe life you’ve got here so you don’t want to face the reality of your life in Bay City, do you?”

 

Starsky tried to get free of the hold, but Hutch was determined to keep him there.

 

“Yes! I’m afraid of what I was. I don’t know how to be David Starsky anymore. I don’t have his past. His background, all the things we experience during our lives and that give us the path to live the present. I can’t remember my childhood; my high school days, my friends! I only have what you told me about our friendship and our work together. But I don’t remember my dad. You said that I loved him, that I wanted to follow in his steps. I know that. I’ve felt it since the day Maggie talked about her dad and his business, but I don’t know who my dad was, I don’t remember his face. I don’t remember what his touch felt like. I don’t remember who David Starsky was…who I was.” He stormed to the street so he wouldn’t burst into tears in front of all the customers in the restaurant.

 

Leaving some bills on the table, Hutch rushed out to the street. Suddenly, he felt so selfish. He was thinking only of his need to find his best friend and bring him back to his world again, but what price would Starsky have to pay for it? What if he really didn’t want come back to his old life? He was not David Starsky anymore. Actually, when Jack found him in the middle of the road, he was nobody. A man without a name, family, home, or friends, without a life. It was like he was born in the middle of that road.

 

Hutch waited patiently for Starsky to get a hold of his emotions. When smaller man looked at him, sniffing and with red and sad eyes, he tried to speak calmly.

 

“Okay. You are confused and I understand it. And I’m sorry because I can’t help you in any way. I’m just making you more and more upset. I’m sure that you just need time, and I’ll give you that time. Now I know that you’re alive, and happy. That’s enough for me. Tomorrow morning, I´ll go back to Bay City.”

 

“But…”

 

“If you want to come back to your life, I´ll be waiting for you or if you just want to see me again, I´ll come here, or you can go to Bay City if you want. But tomorrow morning, I´ll go. Right now it’s the best thing that I can do. I didn’t have the right to come here and tell you who you are and what you have to do. You have to decide it by yourself. You have a life here and although I think it’s strange to see you handling cows and hens, that’s what you want to do, and somehow, you managed to find a place here. Anyway, I’m sure that now that you know who you are, all your memories will come back and you won’t be able to deny your real life any longer. That’s what really worries me. But you can be sure that if you need me, I´ll come back. Okay?” Hutch spoke, knowing for first time in weeks, what was the right thing to do.

 

“Thanks Hutch, I’m sorry, I didn’t want to yell at you or lose my temper this way…Hutch, I’m happy here, really happy. And I don’t wanna come back to a city and a career as a cop that I can’t remember. However, I do want regain your friendship. But without pressure. Simply here and now…Hutch, when I say that you mean a lot to me, I mean it. I don’t remember you. But in some way I know that you are somebody very important in my life. Can we be friends again?”

 

“We never stopped being friends, Starsky. We were friends. And we ARE friends, best friends.” Starsky hated soapy scenes, but at that moment, he couldn’t help himself, and simply asked.

 

“Can I hug you, Hutch?”

 

“You need to ask?” Both men fused together in an embrace and Hutch felt that he was at home again. Starsky did feel that his mind was empty of memories, but his soul was filled with love.

 

After some minutes simply holding each other, Hutch pulled back, his eyes damp with tears.

 

“Come on, you big sap, I’ll give you a ride back to the farm.” Starsky smiled silently as they both headed to the LTD.

 

***

 

Masterson and his friends were in the final stages of his evil mission. With extreme caution, the six gallons of kerosene were poured onto the walls of the house, the yard, the poultry yard and the cowshed. Before he could start barking, Masterson shot Jack’s sheep dog, using a gun with a silencer and killing it instantaneously. By then Jack was deeply asleep, unable to hear the cow’s moos, the hens cackling or see their terrified eyes as the four men moved among the shadows.

The Sheriff and his accomplices ran to the van, and at a sign from his uncle, Charlie lit a fire near the house and ran to the vehicle. They disappeared in a cloud of dust.

 

The night was too warm for autumn, and a strong, hot wind shook the branches of the trees. Hutch was driving silently while Starsky stared at the dark road, lit only by the headlights of the car, when near Jack’s farm, the smell of smoke and the unmistakable brightness of the fire broke the night’s peace.

 

“HUTCH! It´s Jack’s place! Fire!!” Hutch was already grabbing the radio to call for the firemen while his foot pushed down on the gas pedal.

 

By the time the smoke prickled Jack’s nose and a strange heat made him wake drenched in sweat, it was too late. He ran from his bedroom, to see, with terror that the whole house was in flames. Dodging it, he ran to Starsky´s bedroom, calling out for him, relieved when he saw Starsky wasn’t home yet. Then, Jack ran outside to try to save his animals. As he descended the wooden stairs, the last thing he heard, was an ominous creak, then the steps crumbled under his feet and part of the ceiling fell in on his head.

 

Hutch’s car pulled to a halt as he and Starsky jumped out of it, running to the burning farm, while cars began to pull up nearby and some men ran towards the burning house.

 

“HUTCH! LOOK OVER THERE! I´LL LOOK HERE! JAAAACK!!” Starsky shouted out over the noise of the flames, as he tipped a bucket of water from the drinking through over himself before covering his mouth and nose with his arm and rushing into the burning house. Hutch did the same as he ran into the cowshed looking for Jack and managing to get out the only alive cow that was left.

 

Meanwhile, some of the neighbors were helping to look for Jack, filling water buckets, trying fruitlessly to extinguish the nightmarish fire. In the distance, sirens were heard, approaching.

 

Starsky looked frantically around the smoke filled hallway, heading to the destroyed stairs and shouting out for Jack, until under a pile of wood and rubble, he saw the limp hand of his friend. Unaware that his hands were getting burned, he began to remove the almost red-hot rubble, coughing and shouting out for help with a husky voice.

 

“OVER HERE!! HELP ME HERE! I FOUND JAAAACK!!”

 

People outside were unable to hear Starsky´s shouts over the cacophony of sound around them, and he kept desperately removing the rubble over Jack’s body, as smoke began to suffocate him and his vision became increasingly blurred.

 

Neither Hutch nor the other neighbors and firemen could find any sign of Jack, and Hutch noticed worriedly that too much time had gone by, and Starsky was still out of sight as well. Without a second thought, he ran towards the house, which seemed to be about to crumble any moment, just as Starsky came out, carrying Jack’s unconscious body in his arms, with difficulty, and coughing painfully.

 

“STARSKY!” Hutch just had time to take Jack’s body from his arms before Starsky toppled to the ground. Paramedics and some of the neighbors ran towards them while the firemen were putting out the last of the flames.

 

 But it was too late… Jack looked badly injured and his house, most of the animals, the cowshed and poultry were burnt to cinders. All his life, belongings, dreams and years of hard work were totally destroyed.

 

Back in the town, Sheriff Masterson, his nephew and friends were celebrating the success of their mission over a few beers.

 

***

 

As soon as the ambulance arrived at the hospital, two orderlies wheeled Jack to the ER and Starsky and Hutch began a long wait.

 

Hutch looked worriedly at Starsky’s burned hands.

 

“Starsky, your hands are burned, too. We should get a doctor to look at them.”

 

“No, I’m okay. I don’t need a doctor, I just need to know how Jack is.”

 

“God, Starsk. Why the hell are you so stubborn? Come here!” Hutch lost his patience, grabbing Starsky by his arm, and asked a nurse to get a doctor to take a look at his friend.

 

Minutes later, Starsky was sitting on a gurney, in a cubicle while a doctor took care of his burned hands. The doctor cleaned up his wounds, covering them with antiseptic cream before bandaging them, giving Starsky some pain pills before he left.

 

“Okay. It’s over. They are just first-degree burns, and will heal nicely. However, they can be pretty painful. An analgesic pill each four hours will help. Now, you can stay here resting a while. A nurse will bring you some juice to take the first pill.”

 

The doctor left while Starsky stayed sitting on the gurney, looking far away, as Hutch looked at him concernedly.

 

“Are you ok, Starsky? Does it hurt much?”

 

“No, I’m okay. It’s just this place. I was remembering…”

 

“What? What are you remembering?”

 

“I was laying on a gurney or bed and I had trouble breathing. There were doctors and nurses around me. You were looking at me, saying that you had to go. I wanted to say so many things to you, but I couldn’t. I was too weak…but words…words weren’t needed. Our eyes were speaking.“ He looked amazed at his own words.

 

A nurse came in that moment, interrupting them, to give Starsky a glass of juice and a pain pill. Once she was gone, Starsky and Hutch left the ER cubicle, heading back to the waiting room.

 

Then, Hutch spoke again. “Come here and sit down on this sofa. We can talk while we are waiting for news about Jack.” Hutch led Starsky to the sofa in the little waiting room.

 

“You’re remembering the day that you were poisoned by Bellamy.”

 

“And I remember I shot somebody. A man…on a roof. I was cold, sick. So sick…” Starsky stared at the wall in front of them, as if it was a movie screen.

 

“Yes. Your memory is coming back. Pieces of it, at least.” Hutch’s hope was growing. Starsky´s memories were coming back. Maybe he would have a chance to find all the pieces of the puzzle that his life had become.

 

“I remember something else. You trapped under a car. You hurt your leg. I rescued you and we went to the hospital. And a girl. A girl dying in a hospital. I can see the room…her body, she was so pale and cold. I can remember being sad. But I don’t know who she was.”

 

“She was Terry, Starsk. A girl that you loved dearly.” Starsky looked questioningly at Hutch.

 

“I´ll tell you about her if you want. But now, the important thing is that you’re remembering. Just some recollections related to hospitals. But that’s okay. It means that you can recover your memory. Everything is there, hiding into your mind, buddy. Waiting for the right moment to come out.

 

“Yeah,” Starsky smiled nervously. “Hutch, you don’t know how much I want to feel and think normally. How much I want to be David Starsky again, so that then, I can make the right decisions about what I wanna do with my life, but I can’t.  I want to be the friend I used to be for you, but…”

 

“Sshht, it’s okay, Starsk. It’s just matter of time. Don’t push yourself. I already did it enough.” Hutch smiled looking into Starsky´s eyes.

 

For the first twenty-four hours Starsky wasn’t willing to leave the hospital waiting room even to get something to eat. Jack’s condition was very serious, according to doctor’s diagnosis. The young man was in a coma. The worst injuries weren’t the burns, but smoke inhalation, and internal bleeding, as well as fractures of his skull, ribs, and legs, besides several minor injuries. If he could make it through the next twenty-four hours, he would have some chance, but the road to recovery would be long. Very long and hard.

 

Throughout that first day in the hospital, Jack’s friend and other townspeople stopped by, to offer blood or anything else he might need. Hutch stayed beside Starsky the whole time, feeling a strange sensation.

 

He’s here, in a hospital, waiting and worrying for a friend. As at other times he did for me. But this time he’s not worried for me. This time he wasn’t risking his life to save mine. Oh God! Stop it, Hutchinson. I’m feeling jealous of a poor guy that might not make it through the night. What kind of heartless bastard am I turning into?

 

Hutch’s thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Maggie, who rushed tearfully into Starsky´s arms.

 

“Oh God, David! How’s Jack doing?” Starsky told Maggie what the doctors had said about Jack’s condition.

 

“But, you’re hurt too.” Maggie looked worriedly at Starsky´s bandaged hands.

 

 “It’s just some slight burns sweetheart. Nothing important. I got them getting Jack out the house.” At that moment, Starsky saw Hutch looking at them from over by the coffee machine. “By the way, Maggie. I wanna introduce you to Ken Hutchinson. He was my partner in the Police Department. And he’s a good friend. “

 

“Hutch, call me Hutch, Maggie.” 

 

Well, I’m a good friend. It’s a beginning. Okay, Starsk. I can wait. Take your time, Hutch thought as he was shaking Maggie’s hand and exchanging with her the usual polite phrases.

 

Just then, Maggie became suddenly pale as she saw Sheriff Masterson coming into the hospital waiting room. Despite all the years that had passed since the day in which he raped her, the girl still felt scared each time the man was close to her.

 

“For Christ sake! What happened?”

 

“Come on Sheriff! What do you mean! Everybody in the town knows what happened. Jack’s farm burnt to cinders, and right now he’s fighting to stay alive!” Starsky answered in a louder voice than he wanted.

 

“Hey! Take it easy, boy. You don’t need to shout at me, it wasn’t my fault.”

 

“Nobody’s saying anything like that, Sheriff. But, where the hell you were while most of the town’s men were trying to save Jack’s life and his farm?”

 

Starsky and Maggie looked speechless at Hutch in cop mode, glaring at the stocky and shorter sheriff from his six-foot height.

 

“Excuse me. Have we been introduced, sir?” Masterson asked with the utmost assurance.

 

“Hutchinson. Detective Sergeant Ken Hutchinson of the Bay City Police Department.”

 

“Oh, well. A police detective from the big city. I’m pleased to give you a most warm welcome to Lakeplace.”

 

Both men shook hands, then Sheriff Masterson left the hospital, offering his excuses.

 

“I’m sorry, but I have to leave. I wanted just drop by here to offer anything that Jack might need. But now I have to get back to work. This town’s safety gives me more worries than you can imagine.”

 

 “We’re sure about that.” Hutch said ,defiantly, to Starsky’s amazement. He may have been unable to remember all that Hutch and he had done together in the past, but one thing was sure. He could see clearly the dislike that Hutch did feel for Sheriff Masterson.

 

Once Masterson was gone, Maggie became a little more relaxed. Starsky, knowing perfectly well why the man scared her, embraced the trembling girl. “Come on, honey. He’s gone.”

 

Hutch was unaware about what had happened in Maggie’s past, but her fear on seeing the Sheriff was perfectly clear to him.

 

Twenty four hours later Jack was still hanging on, and Hutch, in view of recent events set aside for a while his idea of going back to Bay City. He was feeling very disappointed with Starsky’s wish to leave the force and stay in Lakeplace. He knew, without a doubt, that he couldn’t be a cop anymore without Starsky as a partner, but Hutch had to accept that he had a new life, and the only thing he wanted was to remain a part of that life.

 

Starsky moved to Maggie’s place. Since the farm was burned he hadn’t any place to live and though his first thought was to get lodging in the town’s hotel or in Dan’s garage backroom, Maggie convinced him to live at her house. The tragedy bonded them even closer, and as days went by his love for Maggie and his desire to share his life with the sweet, caring woman were increasing.

 

“David, your memory…sometimes you talk as if you remember much more than you say.”

 

“Yes, Maggie, some memories of my life in Bay City are coming back since the day of the fire. Maybe it was the shock, or being in a hospital, I don’t know, but I remembered some flashes and images. I’m even remembering Hutch and me working as a cops, but now, that seems so strange to me.”

 

“Did you talk with Hutch about it?”

 

 “Yes, a little. But I don’t want to give him false hopes. All what he wants is for me to go back to Bay City and our old life, but I’m afraid that I can’t do that anymore. I like Hutch. He’s a very dear friend to me, and I don’t wanna lose him, but in spite of that, each day I’m more certain that my life is here, with you by my side.”

 

“David, are you sure about that? Do you really want to live here and forget all your past?"

 

“Not forget my past, but build my future. My future with you. Maybe I used to love to be a cop, but not anymore. Not since the day I found this place, these people. Since I met you.”

 

“But, you’ll have to resign from the force.”

 

“I know. Once Jack gets better, I’ll travel to Bay City to do it” Starsky hugged Maggie warmly, kissing the tip of her nose, affectionately before leaving for work.

 

Sheriff Masterson didn’t take long to find out that Starsky was living with Maggie, causing a sinister and wild hate to burn within him at the young couple. Most days he wasn’t in his office or patrolling Lakeplace streets but alone in his old house getting drunk and burning in his own resentment, picturing Maggie kissing Starsky, hugging Starsky, making love with Starsky .

 

So you didn’t die in the farm fire, hey? And now you stole my Maggie, and you’re living happily with her? It’s okay, outsider. No problem. Enjoy your happiness while you can, because next time I won’t fail. You can bet on it.

 

Finally Starsky got his identification documents and driver license as David Michael Starsky, and though he was still unable to remember more than some images and moments, step by step, his life was returning to normal.

 

Over the next few days, Starsky, Maggie, even Hutch and Jack’s other friends as well, went night and day to the hospital to ensure that Jack would never be alone.

He had no family, but he was a much-loved man in the community and most of Lakeplace’s inhabitants did their best to help him through his misfortune. Finally, since Jack was a healthy and strong young man, despite the severity of his injuries, two weeks after the fire, he was definitely out of the woods, and his hard road to recovery was about to start. He would need more surgery and long weeks of therapy, but doctors were hoping for a total recovery. Starsky never missed even a day of spending a while with Jack, and he was doing all in his power to encourage the discouraged man. Jack already knew that the farm, a legacy from his parents, was nothing but ashes. He knew that he had lost everything, and that he would need months of treatment before he would, once again, be the strong, healthy man that he used to be.

 

One evening, once Starsky finished his day’s work in Dan’s garage, he and Hutch went to the hospital and found Jack looking especially sad.

 

“Hi Jack, how are you doing today?” Starsky smiled and sat carefully beside his friend. Hutch greeted him with a nod.

 

“Hi guys, I’m going nuts here. I miss my land, taking care of the animals, my life as a farmer, you know. It was the only thing I did all my life. But now it’s over. Even if I get out of here totally recovered, and I’m not sure about that, the only thing I’ll have to start over, is a handful of cinders, dead animals and the ruin of my house. What am I gonna do, David? What?” Jack said, thoughtfully.

 

Starsky looked into Hutch’s eyes expressing silently, just with a look, his sorrow for his friend. As in the old times, he was able to show his fears and feelings to Hutch with just a look Starsky didn’t notice it. But Hutch did.

 

“Jack, you must keep your strength up to get better, and don’t worry about anything. You’ll need to be strong. Try not to think too much about the past, but about the future. You have friends here. You know that you are not alone. You helped me once and now I will do as much as possible to help you. You don’t need to ask. Just trust me. Everything is going to be okay.”

 

Jack listened, moved, to Starsky’s sincere words as tears burnished his vision. By the time Starsky and Hutch left the hospital, Jack was feeling more optimistic. He promised Starsky that he would concentrate on getting better and be ready for the surgery and weeks of physical therapy he would need.

Heading to the hospital exit, Starsky knew that he couldn’t just accept that Jack had lost everything and he came up with an idea. He’d promised Jack his help. And that was what he would do.

 

“Hutch. We can do something and we will!”

 

“What?”

 

“Help Jack. I mean really help him. We’ll rebuild his farm.”

 

“Starsky, partner! What are you saying? Your idea is laudable, beautiful…"As beautiful as your great heart.Hutch thought.“But, we can’t do it! It’s simply impossible! How…how do you suppose two guys can build a house, a cowshed, buy all the stuff, the animals, and pay for a construction team is just out of the question! No way, Starsky. We can’t do it!”

 

“Maybe not you and me alone…”

 

“Maybe? Just maybe? Starsky, please…”

 

Starsky raised his hands in surrender, looking like a naughty kid. “Okay, okay. We, on our own can’t do it. But how about with the help of all the townspeople? Huh?”

 

The next thing Hutch knew was that he was sitting beside a farmer, huge as a Bigfoot, in the town bar.

 

The man was nodding appreciatively, clapping and cheering noisily as Starsky, standing near the bar, his eyes shining, was enthusiastically asking all his neighbors to help. Hutch was making a list of all the things they needed to do, his heart flooded with gratitude to have as a friend, the best man in the whole world.

 

Life went on. Starsky, Hutch and the townsfolk began to work hectically to rebuild Jack’s farm in time for the day that he would be discharged from the hospital. Everybody knew exactly what to do and, just a couple of weeks since the day  they began, the new house’s framework, with its walls made by the love, compassion and effort of a lot of people was standing proudly under the blue fall sky.

 

Then, Starsky knew that the moment to make a decision had come, and he was ready to go to Bay City to resign from the force.

 

The trip to Bay City wasn’t easy. Although Starsky already called Dobey, preparing him for the news, a powerful uneasiness was squeezing both men’s hearts as Hutch’s LTD approached the city.

 

When Starsky walked into the 9th precinct building, he felt a lump in his throat. A lot of images, good and bad moments, laughs, jokes and discussions, a lot of sensations and fragments of memories crossed his mind. People around looked at Starsky as if he was a ghost. Most of them, greeted him with a warm hug, others, especially the younger rookies, shook his hand respectfully. The women looked at him with a mixture of happiness seeing him alive and handsome as ever, and sadness at his decision to leave the force.

 

When he entered the squad room, he looked directly at his desk, although Hutch had never told him which one was his. He absent-mindedly touched the items sitting there. Unknown things belonging to unknown people.

 

Hutch stayed back, just looking and realized that with each passing day, Starsky was recovering more memories, although he didn’t talk much about it, and Hutch had sworn to himself he wouldn’t push his friend again.

 

Dobey called them into his office. Starsky stayed standing. Hutch sat down in a chair, looking unsettled. He’d had to sit down before his legs gave way. Dobey stared at his detectives in a silent amazement for some seconds before speaking. I cried for the death of one of them and for the heartbreaking sadness of the other. And now here they are, though apparently something has changed irremediably.

 

Starsky, Dobey observed, was looking fine. Actually, he seemed happy and healthy.

 

“Starsky, have a seat, son. We have to talk.”

 

“Thanks.” Starsky smiled, looking around.

 

“Hutch, first off, I think that I and all of us here in this precinct, must ask your forgiveness. You were the only one who never gave up and you stuck with the idea, the feeling that your partner was alive. Then, it seemed madness, but, well, it’s pretty clear that you really knew what you were talking about.”

 

“It’s ok, cap. I was driving you nuts with my bad temper and outbursts. Poor old Barret; he must still hate me, and I can’t blame him.” Hutch smiled sadly.

 

“Starsky, are you sure about the reason that brought you here today? Are you sure that it is what you want to do? Quit the force? Leave all your past behind, everything that you were fighting for? You have one of the brightest careers here in Bay City. You and your work are important to this city, son. “

 

“Sir, Captain. With all due respect, if I’m not wrong, right now I’m already out of the force. For the police department, for everybody in fact, I was until a few weeks ago a dead man.” Starsky´s voice held no sarcasm or anger. He was just talking about something he knew was true.

 

“Yes, Starsky. You’re right. Some weeks ago you were dropped from the force, for obvious reasons. However, the Commissioner has already informed about…well, about what really happened to you, and in view of the special circumstances, he is willing to give you your job back, when you make a complete recovery, and after a check with the review board.”

 

“To make sure that I’m not a zombie, I guess,” Starsky mocked, snidely.

 

“You would come back with same rank and salary of course.” Dobey kept talking, pretending he hadn't noticed Starsky´s comment.

 

“Captain Dobey, you were speaking about my career. You were telling me that it was brilliant, but I don’t remember that career the way you do. I only know what Hutch told me and I have some memories…some blurred memories…”

 

“But that doesn’t mean that you didn’t live what you lived. That you didn’t make what you did.”

 

 No, but now I have a future to build, a new life with new goals to achieve.”

 

Hutch couldn’t control himself any longer. “What the hell are these goals, Starsky?

Fixing old cars and tractors for farmers? Raising cows and chickens on your own farm? Taking care of Maggie’s store?” The blond detective snapped, sarcastically. “Months ago, the simple thought that David Starsky could live this way, doing these kind of things would be a bad joke, and if you want to know, I still think that it is a bad joke.”

 

“Hutch, you are talking about MY LIFE! If that’s a bad joke to you, I’m sorry,” Starsky answered feeling offended.

 

“Starsky! Hutchinson! Shut up! Keep your opinion about Starsky’s life to yourself, Hutch and you, Starsky, we’re here to talk about your future but don’t forget that your future includes Hutch. If you quit the force, you are giving up your partnership, too.”

 

“I know, damn it! Or maybe you think that this is easy for me? I know what this means, but I have a new life. I want to get married, build a new life with Maggie, and help her to take care of her business. I don’t understand why this seems so strange? Is David Starsky so dumb that all he can do is run after the bad guys on the streets?” Starsky shouted out, getting angrily to his feet.

 

“I never said that, Starsk. I never said that you didn’t know how to do anything else. But being a cop was your dream, since you were a kid.” Hutch glared at him.

 

“Starsky, this argument is not going to get us anywhere. If you’ve thought this over carefully, then it’s okay. I can understand that you’ve changed your goals. These things happen to cops too, but, I’m making a decision. I will wait for your return for three months. Then, if you still want to start a new life and not be a cop any more, it’ll be okay. I won't try to change your mind. It's your choice,” Dobey said. “And as for you Hutchinson, since without Starsky watching your ass you seem unable to keep out of trouble, the same time off will be valid for you. Three months. Later, we’ll speak. Deal?”

 

“Okay…Deal.”

 

Dobey and Hutch felt odd about Starsky´s apparent calm at his Captain’s decision. Maybe you are not so sure buddy…or your heart trembled a little being here again? “Deal, Captain Dobey,” Hutch smiled.

 

“Thanks captain, I feel that, maybe I gave you a lot of hassles but I feel the need to thank you for all those years…” unshed tears were prickling behind his eyelids, and Starsky left the room quickly, without a backward look.

 

Next stop before leaving Bay City was Starsky´s apartment, to collect his clothes and some belongings. There, parked in his usual spot, was his red Torino, already repaired after the accident, as if waiting for his owner to come back.

On seeing it, Starsky, looking mesmerized at the car shining under the afternoon sun, headed silently towards it, and caressing the cold red metal, with something that Hutch couldn’t define with any other word but love.

 

“Do you remember it, Starsk? It’s your car. ”

 

Starsky answered, still staring in the Torino, his words causing Hutch to stop in his tracks.

 

“I’m scared, Hutch. I give up.”

 

“Huh?...I’m sorry, Starsk, but I don’t…”

 

“I remember Hutch, everything. The hours that I spent being a prisoner of those Marcus nuts, how I was about to be killed at dawn. I remember, too, when I was about to lose you, when you were lost and trapped under your car, as well as all the other times in which our lives were in danger during the past years. I remember that stormy night when I got shot in Giovanni´s. The fear of losing you, of being unable to help you. That twenty-four hours when my life was about to end and the poison was tearing at my guts. Everything.”

 

“I was thought that your memory was about to come back, Starsk.”

 

But Starsky, apparently unaware of Hutch’s words, kept speaking. “I remember, too how I was always losing people I loved. My dad, bleeding to death on the sidewalk in front of our house when I was just a kid. My life in L.A The academy days, Terry asking me to hold her hand before she died. I remember each one of the things that were happened in my life with an amazing clarity. I don’t know when or how it happened. Probably it was happening slowly, but a few days ago, when I was about to go to Maggie’s place to have lunch after work, I knew that I couldn’t come back here. I couldn’t be a cop any more.”

 

Hutch was just listening silently to everything Starsky was saying.

 

“Hutch. In Lakeplace there are no pimps, hookers or drug dealers, no shots in an alley between rival gangs, frightening serial killers, or bank robberies with hostages, and especially not the possibility of losing my best friend or getting killed myself any minute. I remember, Hutch. I’m a cop, I wanted to be a cop since I was a kid, but now, I don’t know why, I’m a scared cop. More than that. A terrified cop! Damn it! I feel ashamed but it’s the truth! I didn’t tell you when all the memories came back, because with the memories the fear came, too. A fear that I didn’t understand. But it’s stronger and more powerful than you can imagine. Know something?...When I was in the precinct and those young rookies, those kids greeted me, as if I was some kind of hero back from the Great Beyond, I wanted to tell them, leave all this crap! Our work is too dangerous, and useless. We catch a bad guy, but out there are a hundred more! No, Hutch, I won’t be a cop any more. I´ll go back to Lakeplace, I´ll fix cars for a living. I´ll live among hardworking, down to earth people. I´ll help Maggie with the store, maybe we’ll get married and we’ll have kids, I don’t know, but one thing is sure, I won’t put my life on the line again, and I would do anything to see you off the streets as well…”

 

Feeling as if his last spark of strength was ebbing away after his confession, Starsky began to tiredly climb the stairs up to his apartment. He sat down on the couch, covering his face with his hands.

 

Hutch was angry. But he knew, as well, that Starsky needed his help. He went to the couch and still standing, stared into his friend’s eyes.

 

“Do you think that what you’re doing to me is fair? You’re pushing me to give up too. You know if you quit the force I´ll do it too. You’re being damned selfish here, Starsky.”

 

Starsky lift his head, yelling out “I KNOW!!! Selfish and cowardly and anything else that you want to call it! But I’m being honest. I can’t go on with this farce anymore.”

 

“What do you expect me to say now?”

 

Apparently  not hearing Hutch’s question Starsky kept speaking. “When Jack found me, I couldn’t remember anything, but not long after, maybe a few weeks, some images were coming to mind. Just flashes at first. At times scenes, at times a blond man, fear, pain...  It was only later, once you found me, when I began to understand them. Seeing and hearing you, in front of me, talking to me about my past, my life, I understood that the blond man in my visions was you, and with that realization, slowly, all the memories began to come. Each one of the terrifying moments that we’d lived together, and all the pain that we’d felt.

Since that first day, Jack asked me, more than once, to go to a hospital, but I was so scared, though I didn’t know why then. Later, you found me, and all the puzzle pieces began to fit. The frightening pieces of memories were parts of our lives together as cops. I thought that I could convince you that life in Lakeplace is great. After all, you’re the country boy. You love birds, trees, the calm nights, and the friendly country folk. But you seemed so desperate to get me into action again, into my old life… that life that now scares me so much.”

 

“And now what? Huh? What can I say? Okay, I finally found you and now I’ll give up my life as a cop, too? Okay, we’ll live another life there and we will be safe and happy forever. Shit, Starsk! It’s a lie and you know it! You’re scared; you have some sort of problem, stress or whatever it is. But to hide yourself and live a life that is not your life is not solving anything! Did you think that you were fooling me? That at any time I’d believe that you would be happy living in a village out of the city, raising cows and hens, fixing cars and selling flour, soap and eggs to farmers’ wives, in a store smaller than your living room?” After a pause, Hutch asked. “And what about Maggie? Huh? Do you love her?”

 

“Yeah Hutch. I love her. That’s the only thing I am sure of.”

 

Hutch sighed. “Okay, you love her. But you know that it’s almost certain she won’t want to leave Lakeplace.”

 

Starsky didn’t answer.

 

“You know, Starsky? I knew that you were remembering more than you were telling me, but I didn’t want to push you. And now you’re telling me that you remembered everything, since God only knows how long ago. You were lying me, pretending not to have a clue about what your real life was! Oh, for crying out loud! Tell me something? How long ago did you start remembering, huh? A week? Two weeks? Since the day I found you?”

 

“I DON´T KNOW HUTCH! DAMN, I DON´T KNOW!! The only thing I know is that despite the fact that I would be happy if you did it, I can’t understand why the hell you’ll leave the force if I do! For God sake, Hutch. You aren’t a kid! Maybe you’re too weak to face changes?” Starsky asked, regretting his words the minute he said them, as the two friends stared into each other’s eyes. In that look was anger, fear, regret, friendship.

 

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. I’m so sorry, Hutch. You’re not weak.” Starsky tried to touch Hutch’s arm, but he jerked back.

 

“My weakness is our friendship, Starsky. I don’t think that being loyal to our friendship is such a terrible thing. I’ve seen men with worse weaknesses than that in my life,” Hutch answered, feeling hurt.

 

“I know, I-I didn’t mean it. I’m… Damn it!” Starsky hit his hand against the bookcase.

 

“Break your stuff, destroy your apartment. Do whatever you want. I will be out there waiting for you.” Hutch opened the door, but Starsky held it firmly.

 

“Hutch, please, Can’t you see? I’m completely lost and I need you to help me. Maybe you’re right, and I’m lying to myself, but I just want to live a normal life. I don’t want to see you hurt. I’m being selfish, I know it. But I only want to see you safe. Both of us safe! And because that, I’m pushing you to leave the force. I made my decision knowing that this would change your life, too, but I didn’t know how to do it any other way. It’s a chance to change everything in our lives, to make sure that both of us grow old together, and don’t get killed any time, somewhere. Hutch, forgive me. Please. There’s no man in this world that I respect more than I do you. Let’s deal with it. Let’s talk and get through it.” His pleading eyes were too much for Hutch.

 

“Okay. There’s nothing to forgive. Forget it. I understand. But manipulation isn’t the best way to deal with problems, Starsk.”

 

 “I know. I’m sorry.” Starsky´s voice was just a whisper.

 

“Let’s get your stuff, see your mother in New York and then, we can think about it. Think about our future and about what you really want to do. Now that I know why you want to live in Lakeplace, it’ll be easiest to decide what we want for the future. But Starsky, never, never try to lie me again. Because you can’t do it, and you never will be able to.”

 

Starsky stared into Hutch’s eyes, saying again “I’m sorry, Hutch. I’m sorry.”

 

***

 

Maggie was fixing her dinner. The young woman was thinking dreamily of how everything had changed for her since Starsky came to Lakeplace. Now her life was filled with a new dream. She hadn’t been so happy since Sam’s death and she knew that it was time to leave the memories to rest where they belonged, and start a new life beside the man she loved. Starsky was in Bay City and later he would go to New York to see his mother, to explain to her all the changes that had taken place in his life, all his new projects and dreams as well. He had already phoned her a few times, though he knew that she wished more than anything to hold him in her arms. And, now, at last, he was ready to see her. Soon, he would be back by Maggie’s side and a happy future full of love would begin for both of them.

 

A loud noise woke her, brusquely, from her thoughts.

 

“OPEN THE DOOR! COME ON, DAMNED COWARD!”

 

On hearing Sheriff Masterson’s voice, yelling from the front door, Maggie, terrified, rushed out in a vain attempt to lock the door, but it was too late. The sheriff, possessed by an alcoholic rage had battered down the door and was striding with staggering steps towards her.

 

“WHERE IS HE?...WHERE´S THAT FUCKING OUTSIDER, UH? MAYBE HE´S TOO MUCH OF A COWARD TO FACE ME?”

 

“Get out, Sheriff Masterson, please.”

 

“Oh no, my dear Maggie, not on your life! I’m here to throw that bastard out of town, and I´ll do it!” He seized Maggie, shouting, as he stood at the foot of the stairs,

 

“STARSKYYY!! I have your ladyyyy!! Come here, or I´ll kill her. I swear to you that I´ll do it!”

 

“Sheriff… Please… Let me go.”

 

“Why? Because you know that he’s too much of a coward to defend you? Where is him right now? Maybe scared and trembling, hiding under the bed? Huh? STARSKYYY!! Come here, coward! I know him, Maggie. That fucking guy is just a waste, but now I´ll deal with him.”

 

Masterson held Maggie by her hair, close up against him, his alcohol-tainted breath making her nauseated.

 

“Well, as I can see, your outsider is a true hero.” A sinister guffaw left Masterson’s lips as he continued, “Unfortunately, when we set fire to Jack’s farm, he wasn’t there.”

 

“WHAT? What are you saying? The fire at Jack’s farm? Oh, damn you! Damn you, you son of a bitch! “ Maggie shouted out, becoming angry despite her fear, and striking Masterson’s chest with her small fists.

 

“SHUT UP, DAMNED HOOKER!” The sheriff, released his hold on her hair, slapping her face with such strength that Maggie stumbled back, losing her balance and hit the back of her neck against a table in her fall.  She died instantaneously.

 

Sheriff Masterson hadn’t wanted kill the girl. It was just an unlucky accident. He only wanted to scare that damned outsider enough to force him to leave Lakeplace and Maggie, as he was hoping he would do. In fact, he wanted to see the outsider dead. But not Maggie. Now everything had gone wrong.

 

When he tried to wake up the girl, Masterson was stunned to see that the girl was dead, that he had killed her. Unsure of what to do, scared out his mind, and too drunk to think clearly, Sheriff Masterson just ran, out the house, tripping over Maggie’s rose bushes, becoming entangled in them, and jerking frantically to get free from the thorns. Unaware of the scratches on his arms and hands and that some threads of his shirt sleeve remained hooked there, he hurried to hide in the darkness of the nearby forest, throwing up, and trembling and crying like a terrified kid. He stayed there a long while, until he was able to get his terror under control.

Then, suddenly, he understood the absurdity of the whole situation. He had gone to Maggie´s with a thought in his head; to force Starsky to leave town, but he was too drunk, too blinded by his seething hatred, to notice that Starsky wasn’t there…

 

Becoming calmer, he looked around to make sure that nobody could see him, then Masterson headed back to the house. He had to wipe out his fingerprints that were spread around the hall and make sure that not one trace of his visit remained in Maggie’s house.

 

***

 

The next morning, Starsky and Hutch were about to go to the airport to take a flight to New York, when the phone rang in Starsky´s apartment.

 

“Hello?”

 

“David? David Starsky?”

 

“Yeah. That’s me. ”

 

“Oh, thank God I found you. It’s Pete, Jack’s friend.”

 

“Pete? Is Jack alright?” Starsky asked, alarm reflected in his face.”

 

“Jack’s okay, but… Maggie… I’m sorry, David…”

 

 

The next hours passed in a blur. Starsky didn’t know for sure how he got there,but there he was.In Lakeplace cemetery, surrounded by Maggie’s heartbroken friends and relatives. Most of Lakeplace’s population were there, even Sheriff Masterson and Charlie, looking sorrowful and giving their condolences to Maggie´s aunts, uncles,and cousins. Jack, who had got a special authorization from the doctors to leave the hospital for a couple of hours, joined the mourning group, as well, staying supportively beside Starsky, and looking distressed, pale and aged in his wheelchair.

 

The silence was broken only by some soft weeping, as the coffin containing Maggie’s body was buried in the ground where she would rest forever. There, with her body, all her dreams, her love for Starsky and the life that they dreamed of starting together were buried as well.

 

Slowly and quietly everybody left the cemetery while Starsky lingered behind.

 

“Come on, Starsk. It’s over.” Hutch said, as he stood beside Jack.

 

“Give me a minute, okay?”

 

“David,” This time it was Jack who spoke, tearful and unable to find the right words.

 

“I’m okay, Jack, really, I just need some time, but I’m okay.” Starsky stayed there as Hutch, wheeling Jack’s wheelchair, walked to the cemetery exit, where an ambulance was waiting to take him back to the hospital. Once Jack was gone, Hutch waited for Starsky until he saw him approaching, with tired steps and reddened eyes.

 

Just then, old Dan walked towards them looking as if he had seen a ghost. “Da-David,

son, I must tell you something.”

 

“Not now, Dan, please. If you don’t mind, I’m very tired. I’m sure that whatever it is can wait.”

 

But old Dan, ignoring Starsky´s request, kept spluttering. “This-this morning… This morning Masterson’s nephew, Charlie, brought me his car…”

 

“Please, Dan, this isn’t the right moment…” Hutch said softly, but Dan didn’t stop.

 

“In the trunk, there were some empty cans of kerosene…”

 

“WHAT?” Starsky and Hutch asked in one voice.

 

“Yeah, David. Kerosene cans. Maybe he needed it for…I don’t know, for something. But the fire at Jack’s farm was so strange. Probably, it was just an accident, but I’ve known Jack since he was just a kid. And I know that he’s a very responsible and careful man, David. It’s probably just the suspicions of a silly old man, but I thought that…well, you had to know about it.” After to speak, Dan, squeezed gently Starsky´s shoulder, then, he head to his garage.

 

“God! Could it be possible? Could Masterson have wanted to kill Jack?” Hutch asked.

 

“Or me? Maybe he wanted kill Jack and  me too” Starsky said, thoughtfully.

 

“What are you thinking, Starsky?”

 

“He didn’t like Jack, but he never did anything to him all the years they lived in Lakeplace. Think, Hutch. Think! Why right now? Huh? Masterson doesn’t like me either. And, just a couple of hours before the fire I went to tell him that I wouldn’t buy that bullshit about the Exeter police department being too busy to investigate my identity. ”

 

“Yeah. And I didn’t think that was a very good idea, by the way.”

 

“I was angry, damn it! I’d had enough of that asshole. If I find out that he tried to kill Jack…”

 

“What will you do, Starsk, huh? Kill him, maybe? Starsky, you’re a cop, not a vigilante.” Hutch’s voice was calm.

 

“I don’t know yet. But from now, Masterson will have more things to do than to chase flies in his fucking office. GOD, HUTCH!” Starsky seized Hutch’s arm as a realization popped into his mind. 

 

“What?” Hutch asked, startled by Starsky´s shout.

 

“Maggie, Hutch! Maggie´s death. For Christ sake! That bastard! We have to start an investigation Hutch! We need to get a forensic team to search Jack’s farm and Maggie’s house. Now!”

 

“Starsky, we can’t do that. We’re off duty. And Masterson won’t allow us to interfere in his jurisdiction. Besides we haven’t anything to start a search with. Jack’s property was totally cleaned up before starting the rebuilding of the farm, and Maggie’s place is sealed off by the police. If that guy finds us breaking in, we will be in hot water. We don’t have anything, Starsky, not even the slightest piece of evidence to start an investigation. The kerosene could be for a stove or something like that.”

 

Starsky listened to Hutch’s words, broodingly, until an idea lit his eyes with a new determination.

 

“Come on, Hutch, we’ve got something to do.”

 

***

 

“Starsky, this is simply disgusting, and ridiculous too! I don’t know how I let you convince me to…”

 

“Shut up and keep digging,” Starsky answered, gasping. Both of them were in the part of the farm where the Jack’s animals were buried, using gloves, masks and hoes, and digging to find the corpses.

 

“If somebody entered Jack’s property, Johnny, his dog would have barked and woken him, but Jack told us that the dog didn’t bark. Think about it, Hutch. What you would do to break into a private property if there is a guard dog in the yard?”

 

“Yeah,” Hutch answered, panting “Kill the dog, but I’m still saying that it’s a fool’s game, to be here, disinterring corpses like Boris Karloff in that movie… what was its name?”

 

“Aha! We got it! Help me, Hutch!” Starsky exclaimed on finding the sheepdog’s corpse. Luckily, since it was burned, it was, weeks after the fire, only bones, and in the skull of the unfortunate animal a perfectly visible bullet hole could be seen. The next thing to do was send the dog’s corpse to a laboratory, to get the bullet out.

 

Starsky and Hutch put it into a big rubbish bag and covered it with an old blanket. Then it was placed into the trunk of the Torino ready to be taken to Bay City.

 

“I’m going to Maggie’s place, Hutch. Tonight.”

 

“No, Starsk. No way.”

 

“You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to. Either way, I’m going there to search for any possible evidence to incriminate that fucking son of a bitch.”

 

“Starsk, we don’t know if Masterson is related to this. For all we know, Maggie´s death was an accident.”

 

“Yeah, and cows can fly! Hutch, for God sake! That guy was crazy for Maggie, to the point of raping her four years ago!”

 

“Starsk, oh God, I didn’t know. Masterson did that?”

 

“Yeah. It’s a sad story. He raped Maggie the day before she married Sam. He also said that he would kill her if Maggie said anything. Next day Sam and Maggie got married, and finally, she told her husband what had happened. When Sam found out, he went to have it out with the sheriff. Next morning his corpse was found hanging in a tree. The pathologist said that the poor guy committed suicide. But neither Maggie nor Jack believed it,” Starsky explained, sadly.

 

“That’s awful, Starsky. I’m sorry.”

 

“So now, with or without your help, I’ll do all in my power to unmask that man once and for ever.”

 

“Okay, okay partner, I´ll go with you.”

 

 

Starsky and Hutch went to Bay City to take the dog’s corpse to the ballistics laboratory. They knew that it would be impossible to get their help without questions being asked. However, one of the technicians was a young woman who Starsky had dated a few times in the past, and who still had a soft spot for him, so she promised she would help them, even though she was off duty.”

 

“Okay, Dave. Once the laboratory is closed, I´ll extract the bullet and I´ll analyze it. In a couple of hours I´ll have the results. But if somebody sees me…”

 

“That’s not gonna happen, Linda. You’re a smart girl. Thanks, honey, I owe you one.”

 

The lab results were ready just when Linda had said they would be. The bullet was a 38´caliber and it was shot from a Smith and Wesson like Sheriff Masterson´s gun.

 

“Okay. The dog was shot with a firearm like the sheriff’s, now what?” Hutch asked, sighing tiredly.

 

“I don’t know, damn it! I don’t know! But maybe we’ll find something in Maggie’s place.”

 

“I don’t know why, but I guess that this night can be seen as very funny, Starsk. Two police detectives off duty, out of their jurisdiction, breaking into a sealed off house. And with a killer sheriff on the loose. Dobey could have our heads for this… if Masterson doesn’t get us first.”

 

“Come on Hutch, we have to do it, for Maggie and Jack.”

 

By midnight they were already slipping silently into Maggie’s house. Starsky´s determination hitched for a moment when he entered the place so filled with sweet memories and the young woman’s essence.

 

“Are you okay, partner?” Hutch asked knowing perfectly well that Starsky wasn’t okay at all.

 

“Huh? Oh, yeah…It’s just…Well, never mind. Look upstairs, Hutch. I´ll look here.”

 

They searched every inch of the house, finding nothing out of place. The entire place looked as tidy and clean as usual. Besides, they couldn’t look for fingerprints, because Sheriff Masterson and his nephew had already done it. About two hours later, they were leaving Maggie’s house discouraged and tired, when Hutch, using his flashlight, noticed something.

 

“Starsk, the rose bushes…”

 

“What?”

 

“They’re pruned.”

 

“Yeah. What about it?”

 

“It’s not pruning season, and I’m sure Maggie knew it. Her garden is wonderful.”

 

“Hutch, please. I don’t get the point.”

 

“You don’t understand? Maggie´s death wasn’t an accident. And here we have the proof. Somebody got into the house, and killed her, and at some time the killer, or Maggie or maybe both fell into the rose bushes, crushing them. Later, the killer cut the broken branches, so as to leave no left any evidence of it…Did you notice the scratches Masterson got in his hands?...

 

Very clever, city cop! Very clever!” Masterson said, his voice slurred by alcohol as he appeared from the shadows and aimed at them with a rifle. In a reflex action Hutch tried to get his gun.

 

“Wrong idea, friend. I didn’t come alone.” Charlie, Joe and Ben had accompanied Sheriff Masterson. They were carrying some ropes, and trained their guns on Starsky and Hutch.

 

“Exactly right, Detective Hutchinson. I did it. I burned Jack’s farm and I killed

Maggie, however that was an accident. I just wanted convince your friend to leave town, but everything went wrong.”

 

“Why Masterson, why?” Starsky asked.

 

“Didn’t you get it yet? To get rid of you, you damned bastard! But you kept escaping me! I burned the farm with the hope of getting rid of Jack, who, by the way, is a real pain in the ass, always slandering me, but especially to get rid of you. But you weren’t there, and Jack got out of there alive. Finally, when I came here to force you to leave town, you weren’t here, and things got rough with Maggie, and…”

 

“DAMN IT! DAMN IT! I´LL KILL YOU!” Starsky rushed towards Masterson, but Hutch seized him, looking deeply into his eyes before turning to speak again to the sheriff.

 

“This is not a good idea, Masterson. Let us go, or you’ll get yourself and your friends into a hell of a mess. We’re cops.”

 

Masterson laughed wildly. “Oh yeah. I’m sorry. For a moment I forgot. YOU ARE COPS! Big city cops! That kind of spoiled cops who spend all their careers getting big busts so they can become true heroes, only to be finally killed by an insignificant sheriff of a little town!” After a moment, Masterson spoke again. “Now, no more chat. We’ll go inside, and we’ll have some fun. COME ON!! “

 

The sheriff pushed Starsky with his rifle as Ben did the same to Hutch, taking them into Maggie’s living room.

 

“Cops have guns, so put it down. Slowly. Very slowly.” Hutch did as the sheriff asked.

 

“And you? What the hell are you waiting for?” he said to Starsky, “Your gun! NOW!”

 

“I haven’t got one. It got lost in the river, I guess.”

 

“Hmm, frisk him, Joe.”

 

“I told you that my gun got lost,” Starsky said in chilly voice.

 

“Yeah, sure. But you might have another one. Do you think I’m stupid?”

 

“I don’t know, Masterson, are you stupid?”

 

“DON´T START ON ME, STARSKY!!” Masterson yelled out, pressing his rifle against Starsky´s chest as Joe frisked him, not finding any weapons.

 

“Kick the gun over here. No tricks. Don’t play the hero. I don’t like heroes,” Masterson said to Hutch, still aiming his rifle at Starsky. Hutch kicked his gun towards Masterson. “Good boy.”

 

“What’ll we do with them, Uncle Jeremy?” Charlie asked, frightened.

 

“Good question, in fact I must think about it. But don’t worry. Whatever it is, it’ll be fun.” Masterson laughed loudly, approaching Starsky.

 

“We were a peaceful community until the day you came here, Starsky. Or should I say Skyler? Uh? Never mind, I don’t care what your real name is. But I care about the safety and peace of this town that thanks to you is gone…BUT NOW YOU´LL GET YOUR PUNISHMENT FOR THAT!”

 

“YOU KILLED MAGGIE, YOU BASTARD!” Starsky shouted out angrily. “She could be alive, you killed her!”

 

Hutch held onto Starsky´s arm, gazing deeply into his eyes in an attempt to control his partner’s rage.

 

Yeah. I killed her, and it was a shame, especially because I wanted to kill you! My little Maggie was so beautiful, so warm…” Masterson said provocatively

 

“SHUT UP! Shut your dirty mouth or I swear to God that I’ll kill you!” Starsky yelled, rushing towards Masterson.

 

“STARSKY NOOO…!!” Hutch tried to hold his friend back but it was useless. Starsky jumped to grab Masterson’s neck when the sheriff shot him. The momentum of the shot threw Starsky onto his back, a red stain beginning to spread across his shirt.

 

“STARSKYYYY!!” Hutch rushed towards Starsky, who was lying unconscious on the floor.

 

“DON´T MOVE COP!! Where the hell do you think that you’re going?”

 

“TO HELP MY FRIEND, PIG! AND TO STOP ME YOU’LL HAVE TO SHOOT ME AS WELL! IS THAT CLEAR?”

 

Masterson burst into laughter. “Hell! Did you hear that?” he said to nobody in particular “The city guy has guts.” Ben and Joe echoed his laughs, but Charley didn’t join them. He just stayed with his back leaned against the wall, looking palely at Starsky’s bleeding form.

 

“Un-uncle Jeremy! What…what did you do? Somebody could’ve heard the shot!” Charlie managed to say in a shaky voice.

 

Hutch was kneeling down in front of Starsky, trying to stop the bleeding with his handkerchief as the brunet began to open his eyes “It’s okay Starsky; it looks like it’s just a flesh wound, but try not to move, okay?” Hutch took his jacket off to cover Starsky, who remained still and apparently only half-conscious, though out of sight of Masterson and his men, looked straight into Hutch’s eyes and  nodded almost imperceptibly.

 

“That’s enough! Leave your friend alone. Stand up and keep your hands where I can see them!” Masterson barked. “Ben, tie up this guy in that chair and Curly here…”

 

“He’s hurt, damn it! You can’t tie him up. You could hurt him even more,” Hutch answered back.

 

“Shut up! Tie up him, Ben!”

 

Ben approached Hutch with a rope in his hands, while Charlie pointed his gun at his head. The blond detective wondered if Starsky was about to make a move as he’d indicated, or if he was too hurt to try anything. As Ben began to tie Hutch, Starsky suddenly rolled his aching body over on its side, startling Ben. The curly-haired detective kicked the chair as Hutch somersaulted over on the floor towards Charlie,  causing him to lose his balance. Then, Charlie shot, missing Hutch’s body and striking the lamp bulb in the ceiling. Masterson and Joe tried to shoot Hutch but they were too drunk to hit their target. Hutch got a firm hold of the gun in Charlie’s hands and hit his head with its butt and the fat young man plummeted down unconscious onto the floor. At that moment, with the last of his strength, Starsky kicked Ben’s legs and he stumbled flat on the floor. In a quick movement Starsky grabbed up Hutch’s gun which was still on the floor, near Charlie’s body and as Ben was getting to his feet again, Starsky shot him.

 

Masterson and Joe tried to run, but Hutch was younger and more agile, and jumping over a nearby table, rushed over them, stopping their flight and aimed at both of them with a rifle.

 

“DON´T MOVE OR I´LL SHOOT!” Both men stayed where they were.

 

“Are you okay, Starsk?” Hutch asked without taking his eyes off Masterson and Joe.

 

“No, it hurts like hell. But I- I´ll live, I guess,” Starsky mumbled, sitting down on the floor, leaning his back against the wall and puffing in short breaths.

 

“It’s all over, Masterson! Ben and Charlie are k.o. And soon, you and all these scum will be under arrest.”

 

“Arrest? Do you know who you’re talking to? I’m Sheriff Masterson! Sheriff of this damn town! I’m the law! And you aren’t anybody here.”

 

“You’re right, I’m not anybody here, but I´ll make sure that somebody gets here to take you to Exeter police department. And they’ll be glad to have a long talk with you and your friends, you can bet on that!”

 

As he was speaking, Hutch reached up to the phone, and called the police.

 

A while later, Masterson, his nephew and friends had been arrested, and Hutch was in the San Juan Health Center waiting room, as Starsky was in surgery. After a couple of hours, a doctor finally came. Hutch was drained and worried about Starsky. His principal concern was to know what this new traumatic experience would add to his already unstable emotional condition.

 

“Mr. Hutchinson?”

 

“Yeah, how’s he doing?”

 

“Actually, he was lucky. The shot didn’t do any major damage. We took out the bullet. Now he’s in recovery. In a while, we’ll move him to a regular room and then you can see him. He’ll be unable to use his left arm for a couple of weeks or so, but other than that, he’ll be fine.”

 

“Thank God!” Hutch released his breath, which he’d been holding.

 

“Now if you wait here, a nurse will call you once he’s settled in his room.”

 

Thirty minutes later, a smiling nurse called Hutch. Finally he could see Starsky. A large bandage covered his left shoulder, and an IV entered in his arm. He was looking pale and tired. However he didn’t look badly hurt.

 

“Hey, how are you doing?” Starsky asked with a slurred voice.

 

“It’s not me who’s in the hospital after getting shot, Starsk, you’re really confused lately,” Hutch teased, sitting in a chair close to Starsky´s bed.

 

The darker man smiled tiredly. “Yeah, I think so, and I said and did a lot of confused things, too. I’m so sorry about all the trouble I’ve given you, Hutch.”

 

“That’s in the past, Starsk. We’ve already talked about it. We have time to think about our future.”

 

“I did that, already.”

 

“You did?”

 

“Yeah. ”

 

Both men were silent for a few seconds.

 

“I wanted to quit the force, Hutch. I was looking for a calm life, a marriage. A new beginning far from any danger or risk.” Starsky smiled bitterly “And what did I find? Maggie’s dead, I was wounded, you were mad at me, Jack lost his farm…”

 

“Don’t you think that you are being too hard on yourself, Starsky? From my point of view, you loved a wonderful woman, you got a new friend forever, you had time to think about your life, we could deal with our ghosts, and Jack got to know how much he’s loved by his friends. He’ll have his farm again. And I’m not mad at you. Not any more. All of this doesn’t look like such a bad deal to me.”

 

“Yeah, maybe you’re right and it’s not such a bad deal, after all.” Starsky said thoughtfully. “Oh, Hutch?”

 

Hutch looked at Starsky, almost startled by the sudden strength in his voice.

 

“I need your help. Old Dan and Pete are coordinating the rebuilding of Jack’s farm. Some people will give him animals, and others will help to finish the last details on the house. Jack will be discharged from the hospital in a week. So, I need to know if everything will be ready by then. I wanted to take him from the hospital to his new farm. But now, I won’t be able to drive for weeks. Could you…?”

 

Hutch interrupted Starsky´s words. “Okay, okay, I know your shoulder got hurt, but your tongue is working fine. You don’t need to ask, Starsk. Of course, I´ll take Jack home.”

 

“You know, Jack is a good friend, Hutch, but you are the best, the best friend that a man could find in the whole world.” With those words and a soft smile curling his lips Starsky slipped again into sleep, under Hutch’s vigilant look.

 

“Sleep, partner, just sleep.”

 

EPILOGUE:

 

 

Finally, Jack was discharged from the hospital. Starsky was already well enough to leave as well, so that morning, he and Hutch, together, took Jack to his new home.

 

Along the way, the young man, unaware of what was waiting for him, was the living epitome of sadness. He was so plunged in his own thoughts that he didn’t even notice that Hutch wasn’t driving in the direction of the town but towards his farm. Hutch and Starsky had a hard time keeping silent so as not to spoil the surprise.

 

Finally, when the Torino headed straight along the road that ended at Jack’s property, he seemed to awake from his daydreams. “Hey, boys, where the hell are we going?”

 

“To your place, of course. Where else?” Starsky answered, with a smile that almost split his face.

 

“Oh, come on. If this is a joke, it’s not funny, David! Are you both out of your minds? I lost my farm, you know that! Right now, my only home, while I recover, will be Pete´s place, and later, well, I haven’t the least idea about how to get the money I need to rebuild my farm and start over…”

 

“Well, in fact I don’t think that having your farm again is going to be too difficult.”

 

“Are you nuts, David? Do you think a farm can be built in the blink of an eye? It will take a lot of hard work, and it will be very expensive. I can see that you’re a city guy, definitely.” His words died in his throat, when around a bend, he saw his farmland. But not burned and empty as it should have been, but full of life, friends and animals in the pastures.

 

Hutch stopped the car in front of the farm, looking at Jack with a beaming smile. “See, Jack, you didn’t need to be worrying about this. Your friends here managed to solve this problem for you,” he said, helping a suddenly speechless Jack out of the car as Starsky gave him his crutches.

 

The new house was simple. Simpler and smaller than it was before, but made with lots of love, the love of each inhabitant of Lakeplace. Jack, already surrounded by friendly and smiling faces that were welcoming him warmly, was open-mouthed as tears fell freely down his cheeks staring at his new and beautiful house. They’d even painted it the same color as it was before the fire.

 

All his friends were there. It was the most wonderful welcome home party that Jack could imagine. Delicious barbecue smells filled the air. Some of the ladies had fixed delicious pies and pastries and there was a large placard, surrounded by multi-colored balloons hanging over the front door. “WELCOME HOME JACK” it read.

 

“Wha-What happened here?” Cows, a horse, chickens and hens were walking freely around the yard. Shining parterre’s flowers surrounded the house and a new tractor and van were parked in the entrance. There was a soft black sheepdog puppy, as well. The entire place seemed simply magic.

 

“Oh God, what did you guys do?” Jack asked, choked by emotion.

 

“Well, just gave you a little help. From now you have a farm to work, again,” Starsky said, feeling a lump in his throat.  “I told you, Jack. You aren’t alone. People here like you so much. Maggie worked on it, too. Unfortunately, she can’t be here today to share this moment with us, but wherever she is, she’ll be happy for you, blessing you and your new farm.”

 

“Whose idea was this?”

 

“The city boy, here. At times he gets some good ideas into that tough skull of his,” Hutch mocked, though he was looking proudly at Starsky.

 

“But everyone worked hard to get it ready just in time,” Starsky added, shyly.

 

“David…I…” Unable to keep speaking, Jack grabbed Starsky in a tight embrace.

 

The rest of the day was a time of joy, laughter and friendship while Jack and his friends shared food, anecdotes and especially their loving memories of Maggie who, although she wasn’t there, still lived in the hearts of all those good people. And in some way, she was there. Behind the warm autumn sunlight, in the perfume of the flowers, in the happy innocence of the puppy that was running and barking, chasing an angry chicken around the lunch table.

 

***

 

Three days later, Starsky and Hutch were heading back to Bay City, but before leaving, Starsky wanted to go to say goodbye to the man whose goodness had won  him a special place in his heart.

 

“So, it’s definite, you’re leaving us.”

 

 “Yeah, Jack. I’m going back where I belong. To the city and to my work as a cop.”

 

“Are you sure that it’s what you want, David?”

 

Starsky nodded. “I’m sure. Mike Skyler wanted to build a new life here, but with Maggie. And Maggie is gone. As gone as Mike Skyler I guess. I’m David Starsky, a police detective, and David Starsky must go back on duty, to protect good people like you, from being hurt by heartless people like Masterson and his goons.”

 

“I’m gonna miss you, friend, and you, too, Ken.”

 

“Hey, you won’t get rid of us that easily. Sooner than you think, we’ll be here again to visit you, and to eat a huge plate of your terrific fried chicken!”

 

“Thanks, David, for everything. You’re a friend, a good one.” Jack dragged Starsky into a bear hug as Hutch looked on, a few steps away, moved at the scene. His jealousy was gone. He knew that Starsky´s heart was big enough to give love to everyone that he encountered on his life’s journey. Now, despite his doubts and fears Starsky was coming back. To his life. To his world. And Hutch was sure that his indomitable spirit would give him all the strength he needed to defeat his ghosts. But, if anytime, he was falling, he would have a solid base to help him rise again. Their friendship. The strength of Me and Thee.

 

 

THE END

 

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