This story originally appeared in Code 7 #1. All 4 Code 7 zines are available again through Agent with Style.  Her web page is:, or you can email her at: And special thanks to Dargelos for allowing us to present her stories and art on the archive.  Comments about this story can be sent to Flamingo.

The Fighter still Remains

Barely morning.

He stumbled into the kitchen and smoked the first cigarette of the day while he waited for the coffee. Outside the world stirred and woke. The sun oozed into the sky and small birds began to chatter. The day promised to be white-hot.

While he shaved, he studied himself in the mirror. He was older now, the shag of dark curls shot with silver. His face was thinner, haggard, and something indefinable had gone out of it. It was a stranger's face.

Something moved nearby...but when he turned to look, there was nothing. He sighed heavily. In the three year's since Hutch's death, Starsky had never stopped looking for him--in mirrors and dark corridors; in the shadows of his own soul. Yet the moments when he found Hutch were terrible for him.

Let him rest, let him rest. He began the prayer once again. "God...full of compassion..."

He recalled that last morning--two faces in the mirror.

"What do you want for breakfast?"

"How 'bout a kiss?" Starsky asked from behind a mask of shaving cream.

"How 'bout when you finish shaving?"

"You afraid of a little soap?"

"Tastes awful, lover."

Starsky shrugged. "You eat brewer's yeast. That tastes worse than shaving cream."

"But it makes you strong and sexy," Hutch countered.

"I am strong and sexy."

"I can see that." Hutch gave Starsky's towel a gentle tug. "Very sexy." He ran his hand down Starsky's bare leg.

"I thought you wanted to eat," Starsky said with feigned innocence. He turned and captured his partner in a kiss that seemed endless.

"Grant perfect rest to the soul of Kenneth Christopher Hutchinson, who is recalled this day in blessed memory..."

They went to bed and made love again, slowly and deliberately, as if they knew it would be the last time. Starsky tried to imprint the essence of Hutch on all his senses: touch--like satin and velvet, taste--sweet and salty by turns, smell--clean and warm as a pine-forest washed in sunlight. The image of him was fixed in Starsky 's memory--something glorious and golden that had, for a short time, belonged to him.

"Let's stay like this forever," he begged.

" the sphere of the holy and pure, who shine resplendent as the luminous firmament. ... In his memory I offer charity."

He watched Hutch dress and smiled to think of the secret they shared. Just before he left, Hutch bent over his sleepy partner.

"I love you David. Thank you." He touched his lips to Starsky's shoulder.

"Thank you? For what?"

Hutch smiled gently and mussed Starsky 's hair. "Just thanks." On the way out he picked up the keys to the Torino. "I'm taking your car. Mine needs medical attention."

"Tell me something new," Starsky grumbled. "You and your cars. I dunno where you find them." He looked up into the radiance that was Hutch and smiled. "For you...anything," he purred.

He was somewhere between waking and sleeping when the dream took hold of him. The Torino...a flash of light, a roar... He lurched out of bed, realizing suddenly that it was not a dream that had awakened him. Pulling on his jeans, he stumbled from the apartment onto the street. The Torino was burning, spurting flame and thick, black smoke into the clear morning sky. Inside, he saw something that was no longer human.

"Bind up his soul in the bond of life with thee...."

There were questions.

"'What was Hutchinson doing here?"

"He spent the night," Starsky explained. "We watched an old movie together." And we made love after...and before...and during....

"Why'd he take your car?"

"He said his was giving him trouble."

"Did he sleep here often?"

"Occasionally." Even before we started sleeping together.

Embarrassed silence.

"Is there something that we ought to know?"

Only that I loved him. I'll love him till the day I die. "No...nothing else."

They wanted to know more--the bed looked like hell and the room smelled of sex. Dobey stepped in and they eased off their investigation, but there was still talk. There always would be.

"God of mercy, may he rest evermore in the shelter of thy peace."

Starsky spent almost a year hunting down Hutch's killers and making sure they paid for his lover's life. When he finished there was nothing left of him but a dry husk, drained even of his need for revenge. He should have followed Hutch then, but something stopped him from pulling the trigger that one last time. He became sharp and cold as a knife. At first his friends were afraid for him, then they were afraid of him. Now he had no friends.

"...and let us say, Amen." He shuddered slightly as he spoke the words. Unreasonable mourning is a rebuke to God. He doesn't hear you. "In his memory I offer charity," he murmured. But all he had given in Hutch's memory was death. It was a bitter remembrance for his lover's soul.

Hutch came to him in dreams.

"I don't remember my name,"' he moaned. "I don 't know my name and I have no place to rest."

Starsky would wake screaming his name.

"God...remember the soul of my beloved Hutch..."


"You're late," Doug observed.

Starsky threw his jacket on the desk and headed for the coffee machine. "Don't sweat it, junior," he advised. "They'll still be killing each other when we hit the streets."

"You have no sense of responsibility."

"Why don't you just get off my back?" Starsky sat down and shuffled through the pile of reports littering his desk.

Doug Lawson was his last chance--Dobey had said as much on the day they were partnered. The alternative was a desk job. Might as well shoot me. The word was that he had to keep this guy happy. In the week they'd been together, Starsky hadn't done a very good job of it.

"Hey...I'm sorry. I'm a little jumpy this morning." He avoided Lawson's eyes.

"The fuck you're sorry."

Starsky's head snapped up in surprise.

"You're afraid that I'll ask for another partner," Lawson said.

"Oh yeah?"

"You gotta hang on to me or they'll put you out to pasture."

"What a clever little bastard you are. I don't gotta anything."

Lawson slid a sheet of paper into his typewriter. "People talk, I listen."

"And they talk about me?" Starsky smirked. "Pretty dull stuff." He made a show of not caring, but something was twisting inside of him.

"I don't know about that," Lawson smirked in return. "I've heard some pretty interesting stuff." He glanced up and looked hard at his partner. Then his face softened a bit and he leaned forward. "Look, Starsky, I don't like gossip and your life is your own business." There was no response. He continued in a low voice. "I got nothing against gays..."

"That's real liberal of you, junior. I'll just bet that some of your best friends..."

"Dry up, Starsky. I'm just trying to be a good partner and a friend."

"I don't need either one."


They patrolled in silence.

Grant perfect rest to the soul of...

"Starsky, why is it that I can't say anything right to you?" Doug asked suddenly.

Starsky frowned. "Huh?"

"Everything I say sets you off. I don't understand what the problem is. I wish you'd tell me."

"And if I did?"

"I guess I'd try to work it out."

"You give me a call when you decide."

"That's what I mean!" Doug shouted. "You're so goddamned smug. I'm sick of you, Starsky."

"Love me or leave me, junior," Starsky told him with forced casualness.

"Stop calling me junior."

"Okay kid."

Starsky pulled the car over to the curb and pointed to a figure at the end of the block. "See that guy? His name's Benny and I've been lookin' for him. C'mon." They moved in on the man and escorted him into the alley.

"Hey, Starsky! Long time, huh?"

"Yeah. Say, where you been keepin' yourself?"

"Here and there."

"You look terrible, Benny."

"Yeah, well, I don't feel so hot. Maybe I'm comm' down with somethin', huh?"

Starsky studied the gaunt face, remembering when Hutch hurt like this. May he be under the wings of Thy Divine Presence.... "Could be. Benny, have you seen Luis?"

The man's eyes shifted from Starsky's face to Doug's and back again. "Luis? Uh..."

Starsky held out a folded bill and Benny snatched it away and stuffed it deep into his pocket.

"He went to Portland, maybe three days ago... I think it was three's rough keeping track sometimes, y' know? Anyhow, he got trouble."

"What kind?"

"I don't know. We ain't as friendly as we used to be. I seen him maybe a week ago and he was lookin' real skittery, y' know?"

"I hear he's got a right to."

"Yeah? Up to his balls in hot water, huh?" Benny snickered. "Wouldn't it be a pisser if that sonabitch buys it before me?"

"Your life expectancy doesn't look all that good, Ben," Starsky observed.

"I been around and I seen a lotta things, Starsky. You 'n me is survivors and all these fuckers comin' and goin' don't mean diddly-squat to us. Christ, I hurt." He leaned against the building and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he studied Doug. "New partner, huh? Any good?"

"He'll do."

"You oughta quit it, Starsky. This job is killin' you. You seen better days, y' know?"

" quit and then I will. Deal?"

Benny began to laugh. "Yeah, deal. See ya."

"Ben..." In his memory, I offer charity... "Here." He held out another bill. "Get yourself some food, okay?"

"Thanks, man. Thanks," Benny muttered as he shoved the money into his pocket. He scurried away down the alley.

Doug followed Starsky back to the car. "You support everyone's habit?"

"He looked like he needed help today."

"You want to be kind to him, you'll help him dry out."

"I suppose you want me to haul his ass down to the station and register him in some de-tox program."

"This way you're just killing him slowly."

"How do you expect me to get the information I need?"

"Jesus, Starsky, with the money you gave him..."

"Asking real nice doesn't make much of an impression," Starsky said sarcastically.

"You don't have to help him commit suicide, do you?"

Starsky sighed. "He'll do it with or without my help. What difference does it make? Let him choose the way he wants to die."

"You are really fucked, Starsky."

Starsky eased the car into the flow of traffic. "The street'll do it to you, junior. It'll kill you sure as junk will." He stole a glance at Lawson. "You sure you want to go on?"

"You do," Doug countered.

"Yeah, but I have a death wish."


They stopped for food, but Starsky stayed in the car, asking only for a cup of coffee and a doughnut. When Doug returned, he handed him the cup. "I want to make a deal with you," he began.

Starsky interrupted. "Doughnut," he said, holding out his hand.

"That's what I wanted to..."

"Did you get me a doughnut?"

"Yes, but..."

"Then give it to me."

"Look, I got this sandwich for you. Why don't you eat it first?"

"Do you want me to take the fucking doughnut away from you? No? Well then hand it over fast." He took the cellophane-wrapped sweet from Doug's hand and muttered, "What are you, my mother?"

"I'm just concerned."

"You take your sandwich and your concern and shove 'em, junior. When I want either, I'll ask for 'em."

"You're gonna kill yourself yet, you asshole."

Starsky lost himself in the memory.

"You're going to kill yourself eating like that," Hutch laughed.

"Yeah, but what a way to go--rolling in guacamole and lasagna."

"I'm serious," Hutch insisted.

"I get all the protein I need," Starsky said with a wicked grin.

"That so?"

"So do you." He planted a kiss on Hutch's bare stomach and ran his hand downward to urge on the incipient erection. Hutch's moan of delight stirred his own desires. He bent his head and took the long cock--heavy with blood--into his mouth and sucked gently, drawing it into a full erection. He loved the taste of it, the smoothness of it against his tongue. He felt Hutch's fingers twine in his hair and heard his lover gasp softly as he teased the sensitive tip with light flicks of his tongue. Before very long he was rewarded with tribute to his talents. He rolled the salty-sweet-bitterness of it around in his mouth for a moment before he swallowed, happy to possess that bit of his lover for even a short time.

"Y' know what?" he said as he lay next to Hutch.

Hutch rolled over, trapping Starsky beneath him. "What?" he asked between kisses.

"We're both cop-suckers."

Hutch's laughter echoed in his mind. With a start, Starsky realized that his eyes had filled with tears. The pain was still as cruel as it had been when Hutch died. God, God, will it always hurt like this? He clenched his teeth against the rush of emotion. "God of mercy, may he rest..."


Doug's voice brought him out of his fog. "What?"

"You said something."

"Oh...I did?" Losing himself in the past was becoming easier.

"I fear for your sanity, Starsky."

"You're not the only one." Oh, Hutch, where do I go from here? "What kind of sandwich is it?"


"Read my lips. I said, what kind of..."

"Roast beef."


"You want it?" Doug asked doubtfully.

"Unless you have other plans for it." He took the sandwich and unwrapped it.

"Thanks," Doug prompted.

Starsky glanced up. "You're welcome."

Starsky logged out that afternoon and was about to head home when Doug waylaid him.

"C'mon, I'll buy you a beer."

"No thanks."

"Aw, loosen up. I don't bite. You can buy the second round."

"Don't try so hard," Starsky advised. "You'll live longer."

"You oughta know. It's just a drink, Starsky."

"I don't want to drink with you," Starsky explained.

"You want to drink alone, huh?"

Starsky clenched his teeth. "Just because I took your goddamned sandwich doesn't mean we're engaged. Just mind your own business, junior, and we'll get along fine."

"'Course we're not engaged," Doug countered with an insufferable snottiness. "You haven't even given me a ring yet."

"Junior, you're on thin ice."

"People talk, Starsky."

Starsky lunged towards the younger man and grabbed the sleeve of his jacket, dragging him halfway across the front of the car. "I'm gonna fix that smart mouth of yours."

"Hey easy! I just wanted to see if I could get through that armor of yours...I'm harmless."

"Yeah, sure." Starsky let go of him and he slid off the fender.

"Why don'tcha have a drink with me and we'll talk? I'm a good listener."

"What's in it for you?"

"You're a good cop, Starsky, but as a partner you're a royal pain. You're giving me an ulcer. I don't figure to stay alive very long if I stick with you...unless we get a few things straightened out, unless we can trust each other. You get my drift?"

"Try Maalox and another line of work." Starsky climbed into the car. As he drove off, he looked back and saw Doug give him the finger.



"Starsky..." Hutch bent over the sleeping man.

"My God, my God," Starsky moaned.

"You killed me."

"Oh, no, Hutch!"

"I wanted to live. You wouldn't let me."

"I wanted you to live. I needed you--I would never hurt you." He looked up and saw a human torch hovering over him.

He woke up screaming.


"You look like shit."

Starsky ignored Lawson and took a long drag off his cigarette.

"You okay?"

"Just dandy." Starsky's throat hurt and his mouth felt stuffed with cotton. "Don't worry, junior, I'll make it."

"Yeah, sure." Doug leaned back in his chair and fanned himself with a tattered paperback. "Benny called first thing this morning. He said to tell you that Luis got snuffed. I suppose you're gonna give him a twenty for that."


Lawson stood up and put on his jacket. "Wanna go?" He stretched and yawned. "My turn to drive today."

"I knew that this was gonna be a crappy day."

"I think I can manage to flatten a few pedestrians just for you, Starsky."

"Oh wonderful," Starsky snapped, following him out of the squadroom.


Doug was unusually quiet for a time.

"You're too quiet," Starsky observed.

"It's too quiet...I don't like it," Doug said dramatically. "You afraid that I'm thinking up new ways to devil you? Hell, I'm coming to appreciate that sweet disposition of yours." He coasted to a stop to allow an old woman to drag her shopping cart across the street. "I mean, how could I ever get a worse partner?"

It was said lightly, but it cut deep. Starsky watched the woman cross in silence. From where we began, Hutch, how did I end up here?



"That was a shitty thing to say." A horn blasted behind them and Doug stepped on the gas. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah." Starsky felt as though he was on his way to another place and time. He barely heard Lawson. "Don't worry about it," he said dreamily.

"I'm not worried, I just want to apologize for a dumb joke."

Lawson was interfering with his memories. Starsky began to get snappish. "Drop it, junior."

"I don't feel like dropping it. It was a cheap shot."

"All right, you're sorry!" Starsky shouted. "Whaddaya want? Hair shirts?" He struck himself on the chest. "Mea maxima culpa...God, you kill me. Let it alone. Let me alone."

"Oh, for Chrissake!" Lawson pulled onto a sidestreet and parked haphazardly. "You got a shitload of contempt for me, haven't you, man? You make a fetish out of being offensive."

"And you're arrogant and insensitive. We're well-matched."

"Insensitive? Jesus, Starsky, you wouldn't know sensitive if it bit you in the ass. Big macho cop always playing tough-guy. You know what they say about you?"

"Yeah, I know," Starsky said quietly. "Cocksucker, isn't it? Faggot? All those other things..."

"That's not what I meant."

"No?" There was an edge of bitterness to his voice that he could no longer control. "Well then, you haven't been listening."

"I'm just trying to... Starsky, I'm tired of wondering when my big, tough partner is gonna get me killed on his way to committing suicide."

"I've been doin' my job for a lotta years, junior."

"Since before I was born, right? So I oughta trust you? And if I do, and I get blown away because of you, you'll be real sorry, right?"

Starsky recoiled.

"I'll sure as hell be sorry and the fucking department will send my family a fucking wreath. I want to go on living and I don't think that it's possible if I stick with you. It's slow suicide for both of us. Put your gun to your own head, not mine."

Something was building up in Starsky, like an uncontrollable scream. He lay back against the seat of the car and took a dozen deep breaths. "I'm a coward," he said finally. "I couldn't pull the trigger." He turned an ironic half-smile on Lawson.

"You're no coward," Doug told him. "But maybe I am. I'm scared to go on with you."


Doug nodded. "I can't explain how it feels to be around you. You're like an unexploded bomb. It's crazy-making."

"Why didn't you quit the first day? I made you miserable enough."

"I guess I was arrogant enough to want to make it work." He leaned forward. "You know, Starsky, you're a legend, you and Hutch. People talk like you were the greatest team ever was. When I was a rookie, I knew that I wanted to be just like you guys. I wanted to be a detective, a white knight..."

Starsky's insides lurched at the flood of memory and emotion.

"...and I wanted to be the best and brightest."

Oh, Hutch, were we ever like that? Ever?

"Can you imagine what it meant to me to be partnered with you? And there was no reaching you. I wanted to crack that shell and make you notice that I was real and I was here for you. I'm a good cop, Starsky," he insisted, "and I wanted to be a good partner." He caught hold of Starsky's arm and held him tightly. "I'm not Hutchinson; I never tried to be. I'm Doug Lawson and I'm your partner. You owe me the courtesy of recognizing that much."

"But you're quitting," Starsky reminded him as he pried Doug's fingers loose.

"I'm still your partner!" Lawson yelled. "Oh, shit, don't you care?"

"I want you to stay alive, junior. I like you," he admitted. "But I'm not the right partner for you. I'm a lousy partner and a lousy person." He took a deep breath. "The best part of me died three years ago. I wish I could just let go. Look..." he began, "you do what you have to do and I'll do the same."

"They'll put you behind a desk."

"Maybe that's the best place for me. I can just fade into the scenery... Maybe it's time." He smiled a little. "They say a lot of things about Starsky and Hutch, but I bet they never told you how much they needed each other."

"They said you were lovers."

Starsky raised an eyebrow. "What delicate phrasing. Well we were, for a while. Not nearly long enough...and then Hutch died because of me." He pressed his forehead against the window and lost himself in memories.


"I pray for him every day. I don't even know if I believe in what I'm saying, but I do it. If I thought I'd never find him again...oh, my God! It was more than love. Hutch was a part of me. You see what I am without him. Empty...and alone." He looked up at Doug and read the confusion on his face. "I'm sorry. I haven't talked about this before. Even when we were together, I never explained the way I felt about him--to anyone but Hutch. I haven't done a very good job with you, have I?"

"I'm just trying to assimilate all this. Give me time, okay?"

"You've got the rest of the day anyhow. Let's roll."


Lawson seemed to be considering things as they worked. His silence allowed Starsky time to remember.

"Starsky...what if I said I was willing to reconsider? I don't want to quit too soon. Maybe we can work it out." He turned an anxious face to Starsky.

"You think?"


Starsky nodded and turned away. God, don't let me destroy this one, too.


"Wanta go for a beer?"

Starsky's first instinct was to refuse, but he found that he wanted to hang on to the tenuous beginning they had made that day. "I've got a better idea. Let's go to my place and order a pizza. I've got cold beer and we can talk." He was rewarded by a hesitant smile from Doug and a mild twinge of guilt from somewhere deep inside himself.


Doug followed him into the apartment and looked around while Starsky stripped off his jacket and holster. "I expected Oscar Madison," he teased.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you." Starsky pulled a couple of bottles out of the refrigerator and offered one to the younger man. "Just tell me one thing."


"When people start to say ugly things about you, are you going to be just as anxious to drink with me?"

A frown darkened Doug's face. "Fuck 'em! What do I care what they think?"

"You'll end up angry all the time, like me."

Doug shook his head. He reached out and picked up a photograph in a silver frame. "That's you, isn't it?"

"And Hutch...a long time ago."

"What was he like?"

"Hutch? He was...serious. He could be so passionate about order and justice. He was strong and capable...and I'm making him sound like a virtuous nerd, I guess. In someone less special all those qualities would start to drive you crazy. Hutch had the right sense of proportion, though. He only drove me crazy some of the time."

"And what about this guy?" Doug asked, pointing at the picture of Starsky.

"Ah, look at that idiot grin--the man is in love." He took the photo from Doug and stared at it intently. Then he put it back on the desk. "He was just a Jewish kid from New York. I never knew him." He flopped down onto the couch. "Shit."

"Don't get maudlin on me."

Starsky felt a hot flash of anger. "Why the hell shouldn't I if I feel like it?"

"I don't mean that you shouldn't feel grief, but self-pity is so unattractive."

"So I won't make the cover of Vogue. Let's order that pizza." He hauled himself off the couch and went to look for the phone book. He heard the click of the radio being turned on.

"'re every love song ever written, but honey, what do you see in me?"

Hutch, this kid...who is he?

" are my lover, you're my best friend..."

"This place is pretty good." Starsky handed the book to Doug and snapped off the radio.


"Tell me about yourself," Doug insisted as they ate.


"Why'd you become a cop?"

"I've been involved in law enforcement--from one side or another--for a long time." He smiled a little.

"Where'd you go to school?"


"Oh." Doug got up and went to the kitchen for another beer.

"Make yourself at home."

"I already have, thanks." He dropped back into the chair. "Cops in your family?" he pursued.

"An uncle. He raised me after my father was killed."

"I thought maybe your dad was a cop."

"My father was an interesting man," Starsky told him. "Lawson, you gay?"

"You know, that's the first time you've used my name. I was beginning to wonder if you remembered it." He took a swig of beer. "Let's just say I'm democratic, okay? Why do you ask?"

"You're very cool about all this. Just wondered is all."

"No point in getting hot and bothered about it, is there?"

"None," Starsky agreed. "I just wanted to get things straight."

"I should excuse the expression," Doug said with a sly grin. "Look, I know you're not interested, okay? But if you were, I'd really be honored."


Doug picked up the plates and the remains of the pizza and carried them into the kitchen. "I think I'd better go now. I'll see ya in the morning."


Starsky sat up half the night watching television. When he did sleep, it was heavily and dreamlessly. The alarm woke him and he crawled out of bed feeling a thousand years old.

While he shaved, Hutch was with him--a cloudy image in his mind. He wiped his face and looked up to find that image in the mirror.

"Hutch?" he breathed.

"Hello David...hello Starsk. Don't turn around." It was Hutch's voice.

"I've finally cracked up--is that it?"

Hutch smiled gently. "I love you, boy."

"Why did you leave me?" Starsky moaned. "Look what I am without you."

"I never meant to hurt you."

"Those dreams..."

"I never meant to hurt you," Hutch repeated. "I love you." He began to fade from sight.

"Hutch, wait! My God, wait!" He reached up and clawed at the mirror. "Hutch..."

"God remember the soul of my beloved David."

The image was gone. Starsky stood for a long time and stared at his own reflection.

fighter.jpg (26144 bytes)
click on illo to see larger image. Art by Jean


It was his right; if not as a friend, then as a partner--as a man who owed a life.

He let himself into the apartment and looked around. The place seemed lonely in the late afternoon light; shadowed, empty. There was so little to do here, yet Doug barely knew where to start. There was a life-time to be put away in cartons and sent across the country to people Doug would never know.

He packed the possessions gently, almost reverently--a white bear, Chinese coins, a jacket with three blackened holes, a guitar, a few pieces of pottery--Doug wondered how the puzzle fit together. What had these things meant to a man he barely knew? He worked for a few hours, then sat down with a bottle of beer, switched on the radio and lay back to listen and consider.

Yesterday morning he'd told Starsky that he was willing to stick it out a little longer. It seemed as though Starsky was pleased with the news. He was friendlier, more at ease. He even suggested a place where they could go for lunch.

"...Don't hang on. Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky."

Doug's eyes filled with tears as he listened to the voice in the empty room.

They'd walked into the robbery, suspecting nothing. A breathless moment and he was elbowed aside by Starsky. A moment more... Starsky was down. Doug took out the man who killed his partner. The other thief was picked up by a black and white a few blocks away.

Doug had knelt beside that too-still form and mourned a man he hardly knew.

"...and all your money won 't another minute buy..."

How can I thank you? What can I give? He picked up the silver-framed photograph of two young men at the beach and searched the smiling faces. He was struck with the uneasy feeling that he was looking at dead men. The image seemed insubstantial to him, as though the two men could suddenly disappear from the frame like a thought or emotion, and never leave a trace.

"Lovers," he whispered. He gazed down at the image of Starsky. "And what would your brother say to that?" he asked the stranger in the frame.

Doug had spoken to Nick Starsky briefly and hadn't liked him.

"I guess he's got enough pictures of you, huh?" He slipped the photograph out of the frame and put it in his wallet. "I can give you guys a home at least."

Doug carried the last of the boxes to his car and returned to the apartment. The furniture would be sold along with the odds and ends that Nick hadn't wanted. The place was empty of Starsky now and Doug found himself remembering the empty shell on the floor of the restaurant. Not a trace of Starsky. He had fled the world so quickly.

"I wish I'd known you both," Doug whispered in the silence. He locked the apartment. "I wish I could thank you both for my life."

Pocketing the keys, he stepped into the dark blue evening.

"In the clearing stands a boxer,
and a fighter by his trade,
and he carries the reminders
of every glove that laid him down
or cut him till he cried out
in his anger and his shame,
I am leaving, I am leaving,
but the fighter still remains..."