This story first appeared in the zine, Remote Control #13 (2000). These zines can be obtained by contacting the editor at: http://www.thewateringhole.com/kathy.html Comments on this story can be sent to: email@example.com and will be forwarded to the author.
K Hanna Korossy
To think, he might never have gotten to see them if they'd not had a little too much to drink that night.
Neither of them were morose drunks, though alcohol seemed to affect his partner more than it did Ken Hutchinson. A drunk Dave Starsky was a sight, his usual enthusiasm and good humor becoming almost manic. Hutch never quite made as much a fool out of himself--he wasn't one for bursting into rousing off-key renditions of Blueberry Hill in the middle of the bar, for example--but they did have fun together. And sometimes just going to Huggy's or some other club and drinking off the strain and bad memories of a tough week was exactly what they needed.
But he wasn't at his best, either, when the topic of discussion on the walk home turned to the crime scene that day.
"All 'at film, Hutch. Why would anybody break into a studio just to expose all 'at film?" Starsky was squinting at him nearsightedly instead of at the pavement, and so Hutch kept a hold on him just in case he tripped over his own uncertain feet.
"I dunno," he shrugged agreeably. "Maybe they didn't like the movies Billllllington produced?" Somehow he suspected that wasn't quite the right pronunciation, but with alcoholic good cheer he couldn't care less.
Starsky seemed to find that disproportionately amusing, which brought a smile to Hutch's face too. They didn't get this drunk that often for good reason, but every once in a while it was rather appealing. At the moment, he couldn't think of a reason they didn't do it every night.
"If they were there just t'kill Bll--" Starsky frowned. "Billll? Blli--uh, the owner, why'd they wreck all the film?"
Okay, so neither of them was doing well with names that night. But off-duty or not, they couldn't seem to leave the case at the office. Maybe it was the scene of the studio owner hacked to pieces in his office that was hard to shake. "I dunno," Hutch repeated, giving Starsky a tug when he seemed inclined to turn the corner instead of going straight. "Why don' we catch the guy 'n then you can ask 'im?"
That apparently required considerable thought to process and Starsky fell silent, his whole face twisted in outrageous concentration. It seemed too much for his inebriated mind, though, his expression soon sliding into a confiding grin as he leaned close to the blond again.
"Y'know, I've got movies at home," he stage-whispered.
Hutch arched an eyebrow at him. "Billllington's movies?"
Starsky shook his head in disgust. "Naw. My own movies."
"So let's see 'em."
Something flashed in Starsky's eyes almost too subtly for his besotted partner to catch, and the brunet seemed to lose a little of his drunkenness, straightening away from Hutch. "'S not important."
They were on Starsky's street already, the bar they'd chosen only a few blocks away. Hutch nodded at his partner's place a few lots down. "We're almost there. Might as well."
A stubborn shake of the head. "Ya wouldn't be innerested."
"Oh, yeah?" Hutch's head was clearing a little with curiosity. "What're they about?"
Starsky shrugged, a little too nonchalant. "My family," he mumbled, almost too soft to hear.
That nearly halted the blond in his tracks. "Your family? Y'never told me you had family movies."
"Never came up." Starsky was definitely dodging the subject--and Hutch's gaze--now.
"I wanna see 'em," Hutch declared.
Starsky did look at him then, skeptically. "Yeah?"
Another shrug. Well, high alcohol content didn't make either of them the most articulate, either. But Hutch was intrigued by both the idea of the movies and Starsky's reluctance.
They had few secrets from each other anymore, not after five years of the closest partnership Hutch had ever known. But that wasn't the same as telling all. He knew enough about the Starsky household to know why his partner wasn't much interested in talking about it--a policeman father who'd been killed in the line of duty when Starsky was only eight, a mother who had then sent him off to the other side of the country to live with relatives he hardly knew, and a brother who was not the most upstanding person Hutch had ever met--it wasn't an easy conversation topic. Not that Hutch's childhood had been all innocence and joy, either, but he respected his partner's disinclination to want to revisit boyhood memories.
And yet still he found himself leaning forward in slightly buzzed anticipation as Starsky fumbled with the ancient projector he'd dragged out. Hutch's repeated offers of help had been rebuffed, and so he'd wandered off to the bathroom, then just sat and watched as the brunet finally threaded the film on the fifth try before painstakingly winding it onto the projector, chewing on his lip in his concentration.
Finally, it was set, and Hutch stumbled over to the light switch to dim the room. Then Starsky flipped the switch.
Nothing. His partner swore. "I don' know what's wrong with it--"
Hutch squinted through the darkness, using long-honed detective skills to try to figure out the problem. "Uh--did y'plug it in?"
A pause, then a muttered invective directed at Hutch this time as Starsky carefully plugged the machine in. Hutch squelched a cheerful grin and reclaimed his seat, just as Starsky flipped the switch once more.
The house in the background was familiar at once, the same small clapboard rowhouse Rachel Starsky still lived in and that Hutch himself had stayed at when he'd gone back to New York once with his partner on vacation. The woman he recognized, too, only the absence of grey hair and a few wrinkles distinguishing the Rachel of the 1950's from the older woman he knew today. She was smiling as she watched the two children play in the yard....
Hutch leaned forward, enthralled.
Just the relative ages of the boys would have been enough to tell him who they were, but the dark curls and stubborn tilt to the mouth and merry eyes hadn't changed all that much, even in twenty-five years. Little David Starsky, age approximately six or seven, earnestly in the midst of teaching his baby brother how to play baseball.
The bat was nearly too big for the toddler, and yet he tried with all the intensity of adoration of his older brother. Nicky's face was lit with the sheer pleasure of their playing together, while Starsky's held the focus of someone who was taking his job very seriously. In the background, their mother clapped her hands, cheering them on, but both boys were too involved to notice.
Nicky succeeded finally in clipping the ball Starsky tossed, and his brother silently yelled in delight, then swept forward and picked the younger child up to carry him victoriously around the yard, plopping his too-big baseball cap on the baby's head.
Hutch swallowed through a suddenly tight throat. He'd had a brother like that, too, once, until Korea had robbed him of Michael. He had even fewer memories like this than Starsky did, and none of them saved on anything more permanent than the decaying film of his mind. And yet he couldn't help but smile, caught up in the enthusiasm that was still so familiar in his partner today. There was a lot of the Starsky he knew now even in that kid.
The scene of the film shifted, Rachel and Nicky gone and a man in the frame instead. There was a picture in Starsky's bedroom, but Hutch peered, fascinated, at this person who had to be the senior Starsky. He sat reading in a lawn chair in what seemed now the back yard. The camera jiggled a little more than during the previous take, probably in Rachel's hands now.
Hutch glanced at his partner, but Starsky's eyes were glued to the screen, his expression unreadable.
Into the frame then crept the same tousle-haired youngster, clutching something to his chest. Hutch recognized the body language, the twinkle in those eyes even in black and white, and found himself smiling in anticipation. Starsky still wore that expression when he had mischief on his mind. Up behind his father Davey Starsky tiptoed, and then suddenly dropped his prize onto his father's head. The water balloon broke beautifully, dousing the man with water and sending him leaping to his feet in shock.
Hutch tensed, waiting for the spanking he would have surely gotten for such a stunt.
A short game of chase ensued, the elder Starsky finally trapping his son menacingly against the porch before pouncing. And beginning to wrestle him, tickling the laughing child's stomach.
Another glance at his partner, surprised this time, revealed a slight smile on Starsky's face. The memory was a good one, obviously, and perhaps not so unusual. Hutch turned back to the screen thoughtfully chewing on his lip, not feeling drunk at all anymore.
The next scene was rock steady and all four Starskys were in the frame, the camera obviously mounted somewhere to film on its own. The two boys and their father all had yarmulkes on their heads, and the family was gathered around a small table on which sat a menorah, three of the candles lit. Hutch watched intently as the family went through the Chanukah ritual that only now, after a few years of holiday celebrations with his partner, was beginning to be familiar, their mouths moving in prayer and then song as they lit another candle. And then Rachel produced two small packages from behind her back, one for each boy.
This time it was Starsky's eyes he felt watching him as the two boys on the screen gleefully tore open their gifts. Christmas got easier every year for Hutch, no longer overshadowed by the memory of his brother's death and the Christmas Eve visit from the grave Army chaplain, but still there was a twinge of pain in watching the happy family celebrating the holidays together.
And yet, it was a smile of quiet affection and contentment with which he glanced up at his partner. There was nothing intoxicated about Starsky's gaze now, either, as he nodded at Hutch. Which was typical of his friend; Starsky usually clowned around and had fun and with one eye on Hutch in case his partner needed him. But they'd conquered the holiday demons together, like they had so many others. Hutch could watch now with only shared joy for his partner's sake. This would have, no doubt, been among the last Chanukahs the family was to celebrate together before Officer Starsky's untimely death, but at least it had been a joyful one, and for that Hutch was glad. No doubt those happy early years had helped make his partner the resilient, cheerful friend he was now.
The scene switched suddenly again, this time to a group event. Dressed-up people milled about in front of an apparently aimlessly panning camera. And then the shot focused on the procession passing by, first on the police car riding honorary escort, then behind it a dark car, only one sober little face visible in the window. And just visible leading the line, a hearse.
The projector stopped abruptly in the same instant Hutch realized what he was watching.
"I'm gettin' kinda tired, Hutch," Starsky was suddenly all movement, in contrast to his concentrated stillness of moments before. "D'ya mind if we call it a night?"
Hutch shook his head mutely, staring at his partner. Comparing the image to that shocked little boy in the car, riding to his father's funeral. Not all that much had changed.
Starsky busied himself rewinding the film and gently putting it away, then starting to disassemble the projector. Hutch had a feeling he wouldn't see it or the movies again, but he'd seen plenty.
"I wish I could've met your dad," he finally said softly. "He seemed like a fine man."
A preoccupied nod. "Yeah."
"I'm not surprised his son followed in his footsteps." Despite the cold sober steadiness of the words, it was still the liquor talking, for he didn't know if he would have spoken up without the liquid courage. But then, Hutch wouldn't have seen what he just had if they'd been unintoxicated, either.
He could see the slight answering smile even with his partner half turned away.
Hutch pulled himself out of the chair with effort. "Guess I'll go home now."
Starsky tilted an inquisitive gaze at him.
"Cab stand down th' street," Hutch answered the unspoken question. A nod was his reply as Starsky began to put the projector into its case. Hutch carefully made his way across the swaying room toward the front door, pausing only a moment at his partner's side to give his side a gentle pat. The brunet stilled for a moment--message received--then went back to packing. And by the time Hutch reached the door, he could already hear behind him the rising strains of a still slightly off rendition of In the Still of the Night.
Grinning, Hutch walked out into the night and shut the door behind him.
Written in 1999