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BUTCH AND SUNDANCE
Hutch finally found the energy to roll onto his side and snuggle back beneath the covers. The afterglow was wearing thin, leaving a wonderful lassitude in its wake. No reason why he shouldn't take advantage and return to the blissful slumber he'd experienced before Starsky had awakened him for some early Sunday morning delight.
He was just about to drift off when a casual voice beckoned his attention. "You ever think about it, Hutch?"
Hutch didn't move. "Think about what?" he asked, though he had no interest in the answer.
A hand settled on his buttock. "About all those little sperms in there, frantically swimming around, desperately searchin' for somethin' they ain't never gonna find?"
He felt a mixture of annoyance and gentleness. "Go to sleep, Starsky."
"No, really." The hand patted his rear. "I mean, think about it." Starsky sighed forlornly. "They're all gonna die in there, mission a total failure."
Hutch wished he could ignore the conversation, but he knew that wouldn't work. Releasing a sigh of his own, he rolled partially onto his back and looked over his shoulder. His partner was propped up on an elbow, regarding him with intent eyes. "Starsky, it's no different than when you've done it with a girl and one of you is using a contraceptive," he noted with impatience. "The 'little sperms' don't complete their mission then, either."
"Yeah, well, either way, it seems kinda sad."
Hutch glared at him, yielding to the fact that he wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep. "If it wasn't 'sad', there would be dozens of little Starskys running around and you'd be broke from paying child support."
"Not dozens," the other hedged stubbornly.
Hutch furrowed a brow, his annoyance changing to curiosity. "You haven't made it with 'dozens' of women in your life?"
The blond jumped when a hand smacked him sharply on the rear. "Hutchinson, I
swear. What kind of guy do you think I am, anyway?"
Now Hutch's tone was condescending. "Starsky, 'dozens' is the plural of dozen. A dozen is twelve. Two dozen--more than one--would be twenty-four. Are you telling me that in your fifteen-plus years of being sexually active you've slept with less than twenty-four people?"
Thick brows narrowed. "No way have I made it with that many people!"
Hutch settled onto his back and held up his fingers. "Just off the top of my head, there's been Cindy, Belinda, Marcia, Tammy, Lisa, Annette, Ginger, and Stephanie." His hands lowered. "That's just from the past couple of years. There's all the women from the years before that. And that's not counting when we were still in blue and I was trying to get over my divorce and we were worse than tomcats out on the prowl. And," Hutch continued, cutting off a remark Starsky was about to make, "that's not even considering long-term relationships you've had. Nor me."
Starsky just gazed at him with his mouth open.
"So," the blond said smugly, point made, "it's a good thing contraceptives exist, because those 'little sperms' would have done more than their share to increase the world's population." He snickered. "And you'd be broke, partner."
The curly-haired man regarded him blandly. "Hutch, this is a stupid conversation."
"You started it, moron."
The other pouted while settling back beneath the covers. "Fine. But just think," he insisted stubbornly, "all those little sperms are inside you, dying. Dying as we speak."
"Don't worry," Hutch patted him, voice dripping with exaggerated sympathy, "your prize jewels will manufacture plenty more."
* * *
When Hutch woke again it was because the covers were torn away. "Hey!" he protested.
"Come on, get out of bed," Starsky prompted, tossing a rectangular case into the air and catching it. "We have to return this movie by noon, so we gotta watch it now or pay a fine."
"You watch it," Hutch grumbled. He was trying to pull the covers from his partner's hands.
"Quit bein' such a party pooper. You'll love this movie."
"I've already seen it and so have you. About four times." Hutch finally yanked the covers away.
"Fine." Pouting, Starsky left the bedroom.
Hutch lay in bed for the next fifteen minutes, unable to reclaim his prior feeling of languor. There was no reason, he insisted to himself, that he should feel obligated to watch a movie he'd already seen numerous times. He wasn't sure why Starsky wanted to see it again, for that matter. In fact, he knew, seeing the movie wasn't the real enjoyment. Starsky just wanted an excuse to use the VCR that Hutch had gotten him for his birthday last month. Starsky had loved the gift and he seemed to think that it was sacrilege to not make use of it nearly every night. They had watched so many movies together that they were now resorting to re-watching old favorites.
Hutch sighed as he listened to the sound of an old movie reel that served as the opening for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He dutifully put on his robe and went to join his partner.
* * *
Butch had just extolled the virtues of going to Australia. Skeptically, Sundance asked, "Long ways, isn't it?" Both men were bleeding from numerous wounds and lying on the floor at the entrance of a San Vicente lodge.
With disgust, Butch sneered, "Ah, everything has to be perfect with you!"
Teeth gritted from fighting pain, the blond man said, "I just don't want to get there and find out it stinks. That's all."
Butch pleaded, "At least think about it."
Sundance slipped a pistol into the fingers of his partner's wounded hand. "All right. I'll think about it."
Butch staggered into a kneeling position. "Hey, when we get outside, and when we get to the horses, just remember one thing...." He trailed off as Sundance painfully attempted to stand. Then, "Hey, wait a minute."
"You didn't see LeFors out there, did you?"
"LeFors." Sundance glanced toward the doorway. "No."
Butch finally straightened. "Good. For a moment there I thought we were in trouble."
Without further word, both men jumped from their shelter into the street. The picture froze as a symphony of bullets greeted the two outlaws.
And then the credits began to roll.
Starsky drew a deep breath as he pressed "Rewind" on the remote. He looked at his partner. "A blaze of glory. Think we're gonna go out like that?"
Hutch shifted uncomfortably. "You almost did," he said quietly. Then he frowned. "There wasn't anything 'glorious' about it."
"Yeah, but maybe when it really happens, it'll happen to us together."
The blond gazed at his partner for a long time. Then he whispered, "I hope so."
Starsky grinned as though to lighten the mood. "You think it really happened like that?" He gestured toward the television. "To them?"
Hutch shrugged. "I dunno. It seems to be accepted as general knowledge. Surely they researched the movie as well as they could. Otherwise, there would be all sorts of historians protesting that it was inaccurate."
Starsky laid his head back against the couch. "But what about the woman, Etta?" he asked. "Do you think she was really in love with them both? I mean, it's kind of hard to tell from the movie, especially since it's PG, but it seems like she coulda been doin' them both."
"Yeah," the blond agreed thoughtfully, "but she also strikes me as being too good to be true. I have a feeling the movie makers took a lot of poetic license where she was concerned."
"It would be kinda neat to find out the real truth, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah, it would." Hutch got up and patted the curly head in passing. "I'll drop the video back off on my way to the barber's."
"Oh, yeah," Starsky said as he ejected the rewound tape from the VCR, "I forgot about your appointment. You're gonna get those gorgeous goldilocks trimmed, huh?"
Hutch ran his hands through those "gorgeous goldilocks". "Yeah, I think it's a bit overdue."
* * *
Hutch closed his notepad. "Ma'am," he told the shopkeeper, "that's all for now. We might ask you to come down to view a lineup and see if you can identify the gunman that was running down the street. We'll be in touch."
She nodded. "Whatever it takes to help."
"We appreciate it," Starsky grinned at her, then both detectives moved out the door.
"Where next?" Hutch asked as he led the way to the Torino.
Starsky snapped his fingers. "There," he pointed.
Hutch paused and looked at the shop next door. Fine Books and Paperbacks, the overhead sign read. Starsky was already entering.
When he caught up to his partner, Starsky was clearing his throat to get the attention of the elderly woman behind the counter.
"May I help you?" she asked.
"Uh, yes, I was wondering if you have anything on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Like a biography, or something like that?"
She moved from behind the counter to a back shelf. "I don't believe we have any biographies," she was saying, "but I remember getting in a new book recently. Don't know if I still have it." She ran a finger along the shelf. "Oh, yes, here it is." She pulled it out and handed it to Starsky.
Hutch looked over his partner's shoulder. It was a hardback titled Digging Up Butch and Sundance.
"I'm a fan of the Old West myself," the woman was saying. "I've read lots of articles by the author. She and her husband are excellent researchers. I've been meaning to read this book myself and just haven't had the chance."
"What's it about?" Hutch asked. "Does the title mean literally digging them up?"
She was moving back to the counter, for Starsky was already absorbed in leafing through the pages and it was obvious he was going to purchase it. "I think so. I remember there being something in the newspaper a few years ago about how they dug one of them up. I think they thought it was Sundance. I don't remember the details, but it seems to me they eventually found out that it was someone else altogether." She looked at Starsky. "Hope I'm not spoiling it for you." She pushed keys on the cash register.
Starsky looked up. "No, that's okay. I was just wanting to find out how accurate the movie was."
"Nine ninety-five," she said, pulling out a sack. "I read a review somewhere that said that book," she nodded at it, "is supposed to have a lot of new information. I think the movie was made more from legend than fact, because no one really knew what happened to them. Maybe the new research the author found reveals a firm conclusion."
Since Starsky was so absorbed, Hutch paid with cash. He winked at her. "You can keep the sack."
* * *
Of course, as soon as they got home that evening, Starsky refused to put the book down.
"Guess I'm going to be a 'Butch and Sundance widow' for a few evenings," Hutch muttered, fixing a chicken salad sandwich for himself. He knew Starsky would fix his own when he got hungry enough.
Hutch was watering the plants when Starsky finally looked up. The other's expression was surprised. "Hutch, I think Butch Cassidy was gay!"
The blond paused. "What do you mean, you 'think'?" he asked, intrigued. "Doesn't it say?"
"No it doesn't come right out and say it," Starsky said. "I don't think the author really wanted to. Besides, that's not what this book is about. I mean, it's not like a biography. But listen. It says, Although his intense blue eyes, blond hair, and gallantry undoubtedly made him appealing, he was not known as a womanizer. Perhaps he avoided romantic entanglements because of his work. In any event, he was a loyal friend who genuinely enjoyed the company of men and loved to play practical jokes on his buddies."
Hutch started to speak, but Starsky quickly said, "And then," he turned back a page, "earlier it said when he was growing up he was a girlish young fellow, and his companions nicknamed him Sallie." He looked up. "Can you believe that?"
Hutch shrugged. "I didn't know Cassidy was blond."
"Well, you can't expect them to look like Paul Newman and Robert Redford." Starsky leafed through the book. "There's some pictures but they're all black and white so you can't really tell. Sundance doesn't even look blond." Starsky looked up again. "But doesn't that seem pretty incredible that Butch Cassidy may have been a homosexual?"
"May have been," Hutch stressed. "What you read there isn't exactly evidence."
"Right," the other relented, "and that's probably why the author didn't want to draw any conclusions, because there wasn't any real evidence. It wasn't her place to say."
"What does it say about Sundance?" Hutch asked.
"I don't know. I haven't gotten to the background about him yet."
The room fell silent as Starsky concentrated on the book.
* * *
They were in bed, each reading with a bedside lamp on, when Starsky spoke again. "Listen to this."
Hutch put down his Sports Illustrated.
"See, there's this guy named Seibert that Butch and Sundance worked for for a while, and he got to know them pretty well, especially Butch, and he always relayed a lot of stories to historians over time, and the author says that some of the stuff is definitely true, some definitely false, and the rest must be somewhere in between. But, anyway, it says, Butch told the Seiberts about Etta Place, whom he called a great housekeeper with "the heart of a whore", and said that Sundance had taken her to Denver for an appendectomy. After installing her in the hospital, he proceeded to get roaring drunk. The next morning, hungover and irritated by the lack of room service in his boardinghouse, he fired a few rounds into the ceiling. When the landlord threatened to call the police, Sundance hightailed it out of town and returned to South America. Butch said they didn't know what became of Etta after that."
"How nice of Sundance," Hutch noted dryly.
"But what do you think of the 'whore' line?" Starsky asked. "I mean 'the heart of a whore' means she's interested in more than one man, and it was indicated earlier in the book that she may have had an affair with a neighbor in South America."
"So maybe Butch called her that because he wasn't too happy with her fooling around on Sundance."
"Right," Starsky said. "It's a fact that she was Sundance's girl. On the other hand..." he trailed off dramatically, "maybe the 'whore' line wasn't necessarily a cut down, and maybe he used it because she was doin' them both. I mean, maybe that's where the movie makers got the idea to have it that she loved both of them."
"Could be," Hutch acknowledged. Then, "Was there any suggestion that Sundance may have been a homosexual or bisexual, too?"
"No, nothing like that was mentioned. What is mentioned about both of them is just how polite and 'gentlemanly' they both were. I mean, it gets mentioned over and over by people who knew them. It's like they were both just downright nice guys. They never used bad language and Cassidy was only seen getting drunk once. They were real classy."
"Like us," Hutch said, preening his mustache.
"Yeah, but we're real nice guys," Starsky grinned, turning down a page corner to mark his place before closing the book. "We don't rob banks." As he turned off his light, he giggled and asked, "Know what else the book said?"
"That, back then, it was normal for cowboys to sleep together when they had to spend the night outdoors in the winter, like when they were traveling. Otherwise, they'd freeze to death. In fact, an innocent man was once killed accidentally by a posse because he was inside an outlaw's sleeping bag." Starsky settled under the covers, snuggling up against his partner. "Kinda nice thinkin' about Butch and Sundance sleepin' together when they were on the run, huh?"
"Or do you mean Paul Newman and Robert Redford?"
Starsky punched him on the arm. Then he grinned widely. "Maybe I just mean Starsky and Hutch."
When Hutch bent his head, Starsky's lips were tilted upward, waiting for him.
* * *
The next two evenings Starsky had very little to offer.
"Well?" Hutch would ask periodically.
The other would hardly look up. At one point he said, "The author is just going into the whole story of how she and her husband are trying to track down what really happened, and disproving various theories as they go, such as the stories about Butch and Sundance being alive after the shootout in Bolivia took place." At another time he said, "You can see where the movie got the idea for their deaths, because there's a 1930's magazine article telling all about it, at least what that author believed to be the truth."
"What about digging them up?" Hutch asked at another time.
"They're getting to the part. They think they know where they're buried in San Vicente."
* * *
The next night Starsky's reading was punctuated with gasps of surprise and disbelief.
"Have they dug them up yet?" Hutch asked impatiently.
"No, no," Starsky waved him off. "But they're getting closer to what really happened."
Finally, after reading a while with his mouth open, Starsky closed the book and abruptly rolled over onto his back. He looked sad. "Hutch, you aren't going to believe this."
"They finally found out what happened. Ah, man, it's not like the movie at all."
"So what happened?" Hutch demanded.
Starsky looked at him. "You know in the movie, how toward the end they rob the payroll in South America and steal that white mule?"
"I didn't know it was payroll they robbed, but I remember the white mule."
"Well, it was the payroll they robbed. That part's true, except the mule wasn't white like in the movie. Then they went into San Vicente to get dinner and ask for lodging. Some soldiers had come in earlier to investigate the payroll robbery. So this one guy who saw Butch and Sundance come into town went and told the soldiers that two strangers had arrived and they had the mule. They didn't know they were Butch and Sundance--I guess that's why it's taken all these years for the truth to come out, because the records never called them that. It's like they were nothing more than the gringos who robbed the payroll." Starsky closed his eyes and took a deep, sad breath.
"So what happened to them?" Hutch prodded while propped on an elbow.
"Well, then they were eating dinner and--" Starsky opened the book. "Let me just read you this eyewitness account.
The two gringos went to the corregidor's house to ask him for lodging. He referred them to Bonifacio Casasola and noticed that each one was armed with a rifle and a revolver. They told the corregidor that they came from La Quiaca and were going to Santa Catalina. After this, the corregidor left and went to notify the commission. The police inspector, with two soldiers and the corregidor, immediately came to look and find out who the men were. Once they passed through to the patio and were about four steps from the door of the room, one of the gringos--the smaller one--appeared and fired one shot and then another from his revolver at the soldier, who ran screaming to the house of Julian Sainz, where he died in moments.
After this, the corregidor began to round up people and, among others, I came. We arrived at the place of the event and found the captain, the police inspector, and the other soldier, plus the servant, in the door to the street. They immediately posted us to watch the roof and the back of the house, because the captain feared they might make a hole in the walls and escape, as they were no longer firing. We remained all night until, at dawn, the captain ordered the owner of the house to go inside, because they would do nothing to him as the owner. The captain entered with a soldier, and then all of us entered and found the smaller gringo stretched out on the floor, dead, with one bullet wound in the temple and another in the arm. The taller one was hugging a large ceramic jug that was in the room. He was dead, also, with a bullet wound in the forehead and several in the arm."
Hutch blinked in surprise. "So it was just the police inspector and a couple of soldiers that did them in?"
"Yeah," Starsky said, turning a few pages. "Here's the report from the guy who owned the house where they were gonna stay.
"They told me that they wanted to buy beer and sardines, which I sent Cassaola to buy with money that the taller one gave him.
"I then withdrew and went to the lodging of the commission and advised them of the arrival of the two foreigners. The inspector, the two soldiers, and I came to the foreigners' lodging and entered the patio. The soldier went ahead, approaching the room of the guests, and from the door he was shot once with a revolver, wounding him, to which he responded with a rifle shot. The other soldier fired two shots. Meanwhile, the inspector fired and left, running. The first soldier fell wounded to the floor, dropped his rifle, and hastily retreated.
I then withdrew to my house, and Captain Concha appeared on the corner, asking for help and that he be given men. I immediately went and gathered some men, whom we stationed around the house. It should be mentioned that, while rounding up the men, I heard three screams of desperation. After the guards were posted, no more shots were heard, except that the inspector fired one shot about midnight.
At about six in the morning, we were able to enter the room and found the two foreigners dead, one in the doorway and the other behind the door on the bench."
Starsky put the book down. "And then they go into all this inventory they did of all their belongings. They had plenty of bullets. That part in the movie about Butch having to reach the mule for ammunition was all fake."
"So, they didn't go out in a blaze of glory at all," Hutch mused, feeling disappointed. "They were shot and killed by the locals, and were in the house dead all night, with no one knowing they were dead."
"Worse than that," Starsky said. "Or better--depending on how you look at it. This is the incredible part, Hutch: After studying the bodies and everything, the authorities figured out that Sundance-- 'the taller one'--was shot at close range, so it had to be by Butch. And Butch's head wound was self-inflicted. So it was a murder-suicide."
Hutch's eyes widened. That bit of news was shocking. "A mercy killing?" he whispered.
"The author says no one will ever know if it was a mercy killing, brought about by Sundance, or if it's something that Butch just up and decided to do. After all, Sundance was behind that ceramic jug, so maybe he was protecting himself from Butch." He drew a breath, staring at the bed covers. "Somehow, I don't think so. Maybe he'd just been hiding behind it to protect himself from shots from outside." After a moment, he said, "It's just kinda sad."
"Yeah," Hutch said gently.
"I mean that one report mentions hearing 'screams of desperation' and then silence. We don't know whose screams they were."
"I think they were Butch's," the blond decided. "Right after he killed Sundance. Or maybe right after Sundance asked him to kill him. If they were true partners, that had to have been hell for Butch to kill the person he probably loved and trusted most."
"And who trusted him to do it," Starsky reminded. He closed the book and laid it on the nightstand. "I don't know, Hutch, lovin' somebody a lot can carry a heavy price tag." He relaxed back against the pillow and looked at his partner.
"Yeah," Hutch agreed. Then, gently, he reminded, "It can also carry a lot of rewards." He leaned forward for a kiss.
Starsky met him halfway.
* * *
Hutch was relieved that Starsky was down to the final pages the following evening.
"So, have they dug them up yet?" The question had become a routine joke.
"Shhh," Starsky admonished. "I'm almost done and then I'll tell you about it."
Hutch turned back to his National Geographic for another twenty minutes. He and Starsky had never read in bed since they started sleeping together six months ago, but he found the domesticity of it gave him a particular pleasure.
Starsky closed the book and turned off his bedside lamp. "Man, I'm sorry to be finished with it. I got attached to reading about them. The author felt real close to them and she makes the reader feel close to them."
Hutch put his magazine aside. "So, did they dig them up?"
Starsky rolled his eyes. "They dug up one guy. And for a long time they thought it was Sundance. But they eventually found out from all these tests they did that it was another person altogether...some Swedish guy."
"Oh," the blond replied, deflated.
"I wasn't expectin' much else, considering what the lady at the bookstore said. The book ended up with the conclusion that no one will probably ever know where they're really buried, other than that it's got to be somewhere around San Vicente."
Hutch studied his partner, who had fallen silent. "You still seem so sad."
"They're just such an incredible story," Starsky explained. "I mean, they had so many good qualities about them that it makes you want to make excuses for them. And, you know, it seems like they were really, really pals. Could be the only two other people who's ever existed who are like me and you." He turned on the mattress toward Hutch. "I wouldn't be surprised if they slept together.... I mean, you know. Even if Butch wasn't a homosexual, those guys spent a lot of time together, just the two them. And feeling the way they did about each other, and trusting each other the way they did..." he trailed off, shrugging. "Maybe the two of them and Etta had a three-way thing before she got left in Denver. Maybe Butch and Sundance being so attached to each other is what made it easy for Sundance to leave Etta behind."
Hutch frowned. "The part about Etta is very weird, Sundance leaving her like that." Starsky shrugged. "The author admits she's a big mystery. They have no way of knowing if the Denver story is true or not. They just know that after a certain point in time she was no longer mentioned in connection with Butch and Sundance."
He picked up the book again and leafed through it. "And then there's this British guy, a young guy named Francis, that Butch and Sundance spent a lot of time with when they were planning that final robbery. Of course, Francis only knew them by fake names, but the author was able to piece the story together. One reason there's been so many inaccuracies about what happened is because there was an odd fact about the direction Butch and Sundance went after the robbery. So, for a long time, the author thought that Francis's story was false. But after she and her husband found out the truth about what happened at San Vicente, then Francis' story fell into place and filled in the gaps." Sadly, Starsky said, "He really seemed to like them too."
While Hutch wasn't sure what to say to ease his partner's melancholy, Starsky leafed through the book some more and turned the light back on. "Like, take this when Francis first met them. They proved to be very amusing companions, and I was therefore not at all sorry when, as we were about to start on our trip to Esmoraca, they offered to accompany me. Then he says, Of course, it was impossible to live for any period with these men in such intimate companionship without becoming aware that they were somewhat out of the ordinary run of men to be met with, even in Bolivia, although no suspicion of the real truth had so far crossed my mind. Then later, he's telling about these little incidents that he observes, including a get together with Sundance and some other friends, and at one point he says, At breakfast we became quite a merry party, and on the conclusion of the meal we amused ourselves for some time with trials of strength. It was while one of these was in progress that I saw [Sundance] suddenly break away from the two Comisiarios and disappear through the door. A moment later I heard his horse gallop past. He goes after him and says, On overtaking [Sundance], which he only allowed me to do on seeing that I was unaccompanied, he explained that the men had tried to take away his revolver, and he did not allow anyone to do that. Some time afterwards he further enlightened me by saying that he thought that the Cordoba man had recognized him and wished to disarm him in an apparently friendly way. Then, after the payroll robbery, Butch and Sundance returned to his place, and he says, [Butch] appeared to be sick, and after taking his gear into my room immediately turned in. [Sundance] and I, however, went into the dining-room, and he made a very fair meal on whatever I could find, during which he entertained me with an account of their latest exploit. So, Sundance tells him about it, and he says, After giving me these particulars, [Sundance] joined his partner in my room, and I returned to my hammock to pass the rest of the night. I thought deeply over the story I'd just heard, and did not at all care for the position in which I found myself, practically the accessory of a couple of brigands." Starsky turned some pages. "And then he keeps going on about the next morning and how there wasn't any news of the robbery. But then a friend rides in and tells them that soldiers accompanied by Indian trackers were on their trail."
Hutch said, "The Indian tracker was in the movie."
"Right. But the movie made it look like the Indian tracker was onto them before they ever went to South America. From reading this book, there's no indication of that, or that LeFors guy." Starsky held up the book. "So, then this British guy continues, [Sundance] turned to me. 'You might tell that boy of yours to get breakfast ready quickly, will you, kid?' he said. 'I suppose we had better be moving.'
"[Sundance] and [Butch] then began to get their riding gear ready, deciding to take with them the mule they had stolen the previous day, but leaving their pack behind. They displayed no nervousness or hurry in their proceedings, and when breakfast was ready, we disposed of the meal in very good spirits and with considerable appetite.
"'Say, kid,' said [Sundance], suddenly turning to me, 'you had better saddle up and come with us.'
"Needless to say, that was the last thing I wished to do, but argument was useless. Evidently, [Sundance] wanted to make certain of my silence. I accordingly saddled up, and shortly after the three of us started up the river at a gentle trot, [Butch] leading the stolen mule and [Sundance] and myself following behind.
"'Suppose the soldiers arrive,' said I, 'what are you going to do about it?'
"'Well, we'll just sit down behind a rock and get to work,' replied [Sundance], calmly.
"Reflecting upon my position, I felt it to be a very unenviable one, as, should the soldiers catch us, I should certainly stand a very good chance of suffering the same fate as my companions, although entirely innocent of any complicity in their crimes. Then when they mentioned which direction they're going to go, he tells them, 'I think you're foolish.'
'Oh, they won't get us,' said [Sundance], confidently. And then they come into this village. He says, Engaging a room, which I had occupied on many previous visits, we made our arrangements for the night, the two partners occupying a bed in the corner, and I a mattress placed on the floor immediately opposite the door." Starsky drew a deep breath. "At least Butch and Sundance got to sleep together their final night," he said distantly.
"They were killed the next night?" Hutch asked.
"Yeah, in San Vicente."
"Then where was this British guy?"
Starsky turned a page. "He tells about them traveling toward San Vicente the next day. After learning all the particulars I could give them regarding the road they wished to follow, [Sundance] and [Butch] suddenly pulled up their animals, and the former held out his hand. 'Well, good-bye, kid,' he said. 'You don't want to come any further with us. If you meet those soldiers, tell them you passed us on the road to the Argentine.' Exchanging farewells, I turned my horse and rode towards Tomahuaico, catching the last glimpse I ever had of the bandits alive as they rounded a bend in the valley." Quietly, Starsky said, "Then he tells about how he heard news the next day of the payroll bandits being killed in San Vicente. His last paragraph says, I must confess that it was with a feeling very much akin to grief that I wended my way homeward. [Sundance] told me once that he had made several attempts to settle down to a law-abiding life, but these attempts had always been frustrated by emissaries of the police and detective agencies getting on his track, and thus forcing him to return to the road. He claimed that he had never hurt or killed a man except in self-defence, and had never stolen from the poor, but only from rich corporations well able to support his 'requisitions'."
Starsky quietly closed the book again and turned off the lamp.
Gently, Hutch said, "Stealing only from the rich doesn't make it okay."
"I know. It's just that they really never wanted to hurt anyone. The only evidence that Cassidy killed anybody was that soldier the night of their deaths. Earlier, the book mentioned that when a posse or something was after him, Butch always tried to shoot the horses instead of the people."
"That must have been fun for the horses," Hutch commented wryly.
Starsky made a face at him. "It's just that they seemed to have this weird kind of honor. Even when they stole that last payroll, they assured everybody that they didn't want any of their personal belongings. They just wanted the payroll money, and--"
"And the mule," Hutch piped in.
"Right, because they needed it. But there was this whole other thing about the payroll robbery, in that they thought the payroll had $80,000 in it, but it really only had about $15,000. There's some reports that they were arguing with each other when they arrived in San Vicente. One eyewitness said they were arguing about whether to stay in town or keep moving. Anyway, their tempers may have been short that last day, if they didn't get anywhere near the amount of money they were expecting."
Hutch mused, "I wonder if the short tempers contributed to the murder-suicide."
Starsky shrugged. "That British guy's account didn't mention anything about them arguing. Besides, you can get over a lousy temper fast when you're in a life-or-death situation. I just think they knew they were done for and decided to go out their way." He was silent a moment. "Maybe the reason it was Butch who shot Sundance instead of vice-versa was because Sundance already had three bullet wounds in his arm, and he wouldn't have been able to shoot himself, so he needed Butch to do it."
Hutch turned off the lamp on his side. "I guess, either way you look it--from that book or the movie--they were a charming pair."
"Yeah. Just wish it wouldn't have ended the way it did for them--in the book or the movie. I wish they coulda lived longer and had a normal life."
Hutch grinned. "Maybe they're living through us. Maybe we're their reincarnations."
Starsky slapped his arm. "No way. I'm me and nobody else. And I don't wanna be anybody else." He snuggled down next to his partner. "I just wanna be the person you're in love with."
Hutch rolled on top of his partner, reasoning, "If I'm the reincarnation of Sundance, and if you're the reincarnation of Butch, then you're still the person I'm in love with. From everything you've told me that the book said, I don't think that would necessarily be stretching the truth."
"Yeah, but then who's the reincarnation of Etta?"
Hutch laughed. "Good point," he said. And then, as the one and only Hutch, he kissed the one and only Starsky.