This story was originally published in Who You Know, What You Know, & How You Know It, put out by Hedonists Publications in 1983. This zine is still in print and can be obtain from Agent with Style: www.agentwithstyle.com. Transcribed from the zine for the web by Laura Schaal. Thanks Laura! Comments on this story can be sent to Flamingo who will forward them to the author.
A day off. It had been almost two weeks since the last one, and all of today's ambitious plans had evaporated like the predicted sunshine. The day was gray and the mood inside for one blond was equally bleak.
Hutch was in one of his I'm-going-to-read-this-book-if-it-kills-me moods, and the noise of Starsky's drumming fingers wasn't helping his concentration any. Hutch looked up several times catching his partner's eye, and the drumming fingers stopped. But as Starsky became more engrossed in the music coming through the earphones, the drumming would start again and was getting more enthusiastic in spite of good intentions.
Peeking out from under dark curls, Starsky looked at Hutch, feeling genuinely that his friend deserved his own space for a while. Starsky decided to go shoot the bull with Huggy and give Hutch a break.
"Hey...I got a great idea..."
Hutch looked up and frowned at the umpteenth interruption.
"You sit here and soak up the quiet and I'll go see Huggy. I'll meet ya back here about 7 o'clock with some steaks."
At first Hutch felt a pang of guilt at being such poor company, then brightened seeing Starsky's plan was the perfect compromise; giving him his solitude now and companionship later.
"That sounds great! I'll get the wine and set up the Monopoly board, and we'll make a night of it."
That settled, Starsky bounced out of the apartment, leaving Hutch to his solitude.
As Starsky entered The Pits, he heard loud laughter coming from the far end of the otherwise empty bar. Huggy's back was to the door and as he turned, Starsky stopped dead. The thin man was made up to look like a black Miss Piggy. Starsky laughed until the tears rolled. Angie stood next to Huggy at the bar, a big make-up case between them.
Drawing Starsky a beer, Huggy roared at him, "Come on in, my man, we're practicing for the Halloween bash tomorrow night."
Starsky moved closer for a better look, and peered with growing interest into the various jars of multicolored goop.
Recognizing a guinea pig when he saw one, Huggy drawled, "How's about we find you something with a little more class than last year?"
"What's the matter, Hug? You got something against Paul Muni?"
Huggy flipped through a magazine with step-by-step instructions for becoming The Incredible Hulk. He tried in vain to find a color green that wouldn't clash with Starsky's blue eyes; finding none, he gave the magazine to Starsky and patting his squarish snout, went to draw another pitcher of beer. He returned to stand across from Starsky and refilled all the glasses.
Starsky continued to flip through the pages mesmerized until he came to a grotesque picture of an accident victim—right eye swollen shut, nose crooked, blood coming from mouth and nose, multiple small oozing lacerations over one whole side of the face with one large pronounced gash on the other.
"This is it! Here you guys, help me with the putty."
Absorbed totally in the instructions, Starsky recreated the nightmare.
"Let me put some more purple on the eyebrow bruise." Angie leaned back to critique her handiwork. Huggy leaned far over her shoulder staring intently.
"I was just gonna take off some of the putty on your nose."
"Huggy...that's NOT putty!"
"That's enough, don't you think, sugar?" Angie turned to Huggy for his expert opinion, almost slipping from the barstool in the process.
"Well, maybe just another touch or two." Huggy's eyes almost crossed in the drunken attempt to focus. Satisfied, he held up a hand mirror from behind the bar.
Looking at the finished product, Starsky grimaced as if in the appropriate pain for such an injury. I look great! he thought. Certainly real enough at a distance.
"This is fun. He came out just like the picture," Angie cooed.
"Starsky, I do believe you missed your calling by being a cop. You belong over in 'Tinsel Town', helping to make magic."
"I'll keep that in mind," Starsky replied, laughing. He looked at his watch. Twenty minutes past six. Just enough time to go by the market, and then get to Hutch's.
This is gonna be a riot, Starsky thought. He hadn't paid Hutch back for his 'amnesia' trick yet. This should do nicely.
The market was quiet, only having a few customers in it. The cashier looked up as Starsky entered, did a double-take, smiled and shook her head. "It's the full moon...brings out the crazies." Without further comment she rang up his purchases, bagged the meat and shook her head again as Starsky left. On the way out, he really got into the part, hamming it up with his Hunchback of Notre Dame routine out the door.
Satisfied he'd left her screaming for more, he jumped in the car and drove off.
* * * *
Humming to himself, Hutch set the forks and steak knives on the table. He opened a bottle of wine, the kind Starsky liked, and set the Monopoly board up, its rows of money neatly sorted out in the bank box.
Today sure wasn't the fun and excitement Starsky had been looking forward to after those last few dull stakeouts, Hutch thought.
To top off the lousy weather, Hutch has gotten another whiny phone call from his mother. She was bored...no one to go on a cruise with. Well, he sure wasn't interested. That seemed to be the last straw, hearing her groan about the unfairness of it all had put him in a black mood for the duration. He was grateful for the time and space Starsky had given him earlier, and now he looked forward to being with his partner and making up for it.
* * * *
Parking his car, Starsky bounded up the stairs to Hutch's door. He waited a moment to compose his face—he had to be serious. If he walked in laughing already, it would ruin everything. Trying the knob, it turned silently. Good! I won't have to fight with the key. He opened the door a crack and saw Hutch setting the table. A large salad bowl brimming with fresh spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese, sat on the table. Hutch went all out. Well, so will I.
"Hutchhhhhhh," the word was a nerve-jangling croak. It startled Hutch so completely he dropped the glass he was holding and it crashed to the floor in a million pieces.
Starsky took a few faltering steps into the room, reaching his arms out, and then began to collapse. Hutch jumped the couch in two steps and was there to break his fall, easing him back against his chest.
"What happened? Starsk, who did it?" Dread added a tightness to his voice.
Starsky returned Hutch's grasp. "A car clipped me as I crossed the street downstairs. He never even tried to stop." Stiffening his body and coughing, Starsky kept the full view of his face away from Hutch's probing hands and eyes, while suppressing his laughter made his body appear to shake.
"Take it easy, I'll call an ambulance." The frightened man tried to keep his voice steady, and failed miserably. Hutch began to disengage himself from the tenacious grasp, but Starsky clung to him, preventing Hutch from rising from his knees.
"No...no...don't leave me," Starsky groaned, pouring on the gasps and rattles.
Hutch was silent, and for the first time Starsky got a look at him. Peeking through one eye, he saw Hutch's face...ghostly pale. No, beyond pale...it was gray! He could feel Hutch's rapid breathing, and see the pulse pounding at the base of the throat. The arms that held him were shaking. Starsky opened both eyes wide and stared at Hutch, mouth open, as the realization of how unfunny this joke had become hit him.
My God, he thinks it's real! Starsky kicked himself for carrying it this far. "Hutch," he whispered, squeezing his shoulder, "I'm sorry...I..."
Hutch frowned, puzzled. "Sorry?" Panic gave way to confusion.
"Oh, Hutch...it was a game..." Scrambling out of Hutch's grasp, Starsky knelt in front of the crouching figure, grabbing him by both shoulders. "It was supposed to be funny. I never thought...God, Hutch, I'm sorry." He pulled at the putty base on his face. "It's makeup, it's not real. I'm okay." He could feel Hutch stiffen under his hands, as he reached for him again, needing to touch and take away the pain. Hutch's face was stony and still very pale. The crystalline blue eyes began to smolder.
To Starsky they seemed to be saying...How could you? Hutch continued to glare in silence. Starsky closed his eyes, feeling sick inside. There was nothing he could say.
Then Hutch hit him. The blow knocked him off his knees and sent him slamming into the back of the couch. There was real blood coming from his lip now. Starsky ran his tongue over his teeth to be sure they were still there, however rattled.
"YOU SON OF A BITCH!" Hutch exploded at him.
Starsky took a deep breath but couldn't meet Hutch's eyes. What I'm thinking about myself is a lot worse than anything you could call me. "I'm sorry...it was so funny at Huggy's and at the market...I didn't think you'd..." Starsky groaned.
Hutch interrupted, "You're damned right, you didn't think at all." Tears welled up in the big blond's eyes.
Something in Hutch's voice drew Starsky's eyes upward. Upon seeing his friend's tears, his own started.
Starsky slowly stood, moving close to Hutch and mumbled, "I never meant to hurt ya."
Hutch released the past minutes of agonizing fear and drew Starsky into his arms. They clung to each other fiercely, each man remembering a time when that clinging had a desperate edge to it...when it wasn't a game. Hutch's breathing calmed as he pulled away, his relief short-lived as it was replaced by anger once more. He turned away from Starsky, leaving him to stand acutely alone, and began to pace wordlessly.
Starsky's helpless frustration spawned its own anger. "I said I was sorry, it was a dumb-fuck stunt, and I'll never do anything like it again. What the hell else do you want me to do?"
Hutch turned, the makeup on Starsky's face more off than on now. He drew a breath and let it out slowly, feeling the tension dissipate. "Go wash your face," Hutch said softly, as he went out into the kitchen to get the wine. They were going to need it.