THE LEGEND OF THE RED SHIRT
Foreword: The on-going Red Shirt Controversy has become an integral part of SH
Mythology and, inevitably, its origin has been the subject of considerable
speculation and research. But now, for the first time, we can reveal the
story of how it all began.
So -- Once upon a time....
Eyes blazed blue-black indignation as water dripped steadily from
Starsky's nose and Hutch took a step back from the fury his action had
precipitated. Strange how much liquid a single glass could hold. He watched,
fascinated, as cold water ran down inside Starsky's shirt, making him gasp
"In my hand, not over my head! Your dumb idea of a joke...?"
Bewildered disbelief was there as well as anger, and Hutch realized
suddenly that Starsky could have no knowledge of the content of Huggy's
telephone call. Starsky was shaking drops of water from his hair, pulling
the soaked, clinging shirt away from his midriff.
Most of his vast collection of pill bottles were on the floor, sent
spinning by his abrupt movement when the cold deluge descended. Hutch
recalled that there had been iced water in that large glass. Four of the
bottles, already opened, had spilled their contents over a wide area, not
only beneath the desk, it seemed, but across the whole available floor
Still glaring and grumbling, Starsky shrugged out of his wet jacket, and
with something less than his usual élan, got laboriously down on hands and
knees to retrieve the scattered contents.
"Want some help?" Hutch was down beside him.
"The kind you hand out? Don't bother...."
Starsky stretched, trying to recover one container that had rolled so far
under the desk as to be inaccessible and then, abandoning the attempt, sat
back on his heels, breath coming somewhat fast. Hutch held one hand,
displaying his collection, garnered from around the filing cabinet; pink,
yellow, white with a few large red capsules adding more color.
"Can't get at them all." He studied them. "You have to
take all these?"
"Whaddya think I do with them? How about ram them down your throat
and watch your ears light up? Looks like I lost most of 'em." He
gripped the edge of the desk, levered himself slowly to his feet, shivered
again. "Thanks for the welcome-back party." He picked up his wet
coat. "I'm leavin' now."
Hutch pulled off his own warm sweater, getting between Starsky and the
"Here...better put this on...." Starsky's only response was a
look of wary suspicion. "Go on...take it."
"So what's for your next trick?"
"Just put it on...and you should get this off...." Hutch's hand
moved towards the buttons of the wet shirt.
Starsky knocked it away. "I can do it...." Starsky dropped the
coat on Hutch's desk space.
As the dark head emerged from the warm wool folds, Dobey gave up his
half-amused, spectator role, to ask, "How'd you get here? They letting
you drive that car already?"
"Nice of you to ask. Hitched a ride. I'll hitch another one."
He squeezed moisture from his discarded shirt as he spoke, not bothering
to avoid the papers lying on Hutch's desk as he did so. With injured
dignity, he headed for the door.
He didn't say goodbye.
It was late evening before Hutch's shift ended. When his spaced calls
from Venice Place got him no answers, the subsequent drive took up another
half hour. When knocking also brought no response, he used his key, and felt
the sense of release from unformulated fears as Starsky, wrapped in the dark
blue robe, met him just inside the door, hand extended on the point of
opening it. He regarded his visitor without enthusiasm.
"Might have known...you're short on patience, Hutchinson. You know
No light showed in the living room, but the rays from the bedside lamp
penetrated the shadows where they stood. Hutch pushed the door shut. "I
wake you up?"
"Several times. That was you callin' before? You don't give a person
a lot of time."
He left Hutch standing by the door and crossed to the sofa, sinking back
on the pillows and closing his eyes.
"Brought your stuff." Hutch followed him, offering the leather
jacket, which Starsky had forgotten that morning. He laid it on the back of
the sofa and began groping in his pockets, coming up with a variety of small
bottles. "Thought you'd want these. Only I'm not sure the right pills
are back in the right bottles."
Starsky gave no more than a grunt in reply.
"Shouldn't you be taking some?"
"Lost count of what I had. And what you made me lose. I'll start in
again tomorrow...get a new supply."
Hutch tried again. "Didn't you wonder why I did that?"
"Should I?" Starsky appeared to pick up on the allusion.
"Just another of your dumb tricks. Should be ready for anything from
you." His eyes opened, met Hutch's. "I mean...you didn't even
remember my pants that night."
The drowsy voice trailed off. Drowsy? Or plain tired? It was no more than
three days since he had watched strength and determination ebbing before
that inexorable tide of drug-induced weakness, had seen the light of his
partner's essential vitality sink to extinction. The courage had remained.
Starsky had been there for him to the end. Sure, they had found the
last-minute antidote, but how much should one expect -- and how soon?
Was Starsky asleep now? Conversation had died.
"Been a long day," he said finally. "I better be getting
Starsky sighed and moved restlessly, but offered no comment on the
Hutch went quietly toward the door. "Don't forget to write,
huh?" he said over his shoulder. "Poolside
"What are you talkin' about?"
"When you're on vacation. Spare a thought for all us wage
"When d'you leave? Next week, right? Huggy said...."
"Ah...c'mon...that was just kiddin' around. Have to give Huggy some
trade. Yeah, sure, told him we'd like that, but nothin's fixed. You know how
much these trips can cost."
"Hug thinks it's all set up."
"Yeah...well, maybe...later." Starsky roused a little from his
apparent reverie. "Hey...was gonna be a surprise. Why'd he have to tell
you? Some of those places give you fishin'. How'd you know about all
Reflecting that life could have been less complicated had that particular
question been answered earlier, Hutch explained. "Huggy called the
station this morning...while you were there...."
"Nobody told me. So who took my call?"
"I did tell you...only maybe the message wasn't too clear."
Hutch hesitated and Starsky yawned.
"I'll work it out some time. There's a piece missing somewhere...get
my head around it tomorrow...."
"Yeah. Shouldn't you be sleeping?"
"I was. 'Til you woke me up."
Starsky regarded him tiredly, while Hutch stood looking down at him,
re-absorbing the knowledge that this time they had won out, the fact clear,
yet emotionally still not entirely easy to believe.
"Come on." He held out one hand to draw Starsky to his feet,
and, with an arm around his shoulders, guided him back to the bed. His
partner relaxed beneath the covers as Hutch pulled them higher, the action
bringing sharply back that frantic ride a few nights ago.
"Hey...." Starsky was looking up at him from the pillows.
"...hey...I tell you thank you?"
"Had a lot of visitors yesterday morning.... Huggy...left me with a
load of those vacation brochures.... And Dobey came...not you...."
"I know. He told me about the investigations at Jennings'
place...and what you said about if we'd only got two minutes...."
Hutch reached for his hand and held on tight. The helplessness of that
moment hit again -- and at the same time the inability, as long as Starsky
was alive, to do nothing, merely to wait. Okay now -- but he was haunted
still by that imminent desolation.
But Starsky's smile was reassuring -- like always. And like always, there
was the same unverbalized understanding. Plus -- what? He was aware of new
currents between them. New? Or the familiar taking on clearer shape? And the
clarity the result of their willingness to look directly?
"You going to be okay? Want me to stay?"
"Sure. And yeah...I want you to stay."
And forever, babe. You don't get miracles every day.
"Okay. I'll be there."
Starsky yawned again. "Gonna talk tomorrow...." He smiled, his
gaze never leaving Hutch's.
hate to have that smile missing from our days. When he's okay...soon...have
to get a number of things clear.
He sat on the edge of the bed, waiting the few minutes it took for
Starsky to be conclusively asleep, then found the extra blankets in their
usual store and settled on the sofa. For the first time in days, relaxation
did not elude him.
You gonna pick up those pills this morning?" Hutch called from the
living room. "Drop you off at Memorial?"
"Right. And I'll come by afterwards. Maybe they'll say it's okay to
work. They said before you couldn't rush some things."
"Well, rush this...I'm gonna be late."
"Impatient again. Just checkin' these bottles...." Starsky's
eyes challenged comment. "Real nice of you to give me this," he remarked.
thing for a vacation too. You ready now...?"
Hutch held open the door, watched as Starsky headed down the steps to the
car, sank comfortably into the passenger seat and waited to be driven to his
first destination of the new day.
Hutch followed, eyes on the glowing color of the
shirt Starsky wore. Not today but somehow...sometime.