Hutch yawned. Terribly, awfully, loudly, noisily. It came from deep down.
“Am I boring you?” Starsky said and drummed impatiently on the steering wheel as if that could make the traffic lights turn green.
“’msorry, Starsky,” Hutch mumbled. He tried to stretch in the confined space of the Torino. “No, you’re not.”
Starsky tried to suppress a yawn himself. “It’s catching, you know. Yawning and eating.”
“No,” said Hutch, shaking his head. “Yawning and the measles are. Eating is not. Only in your head, buddy.” He yawned again. Starsky chuckled and continued their ride home.
“You tired or just an empty stomach?”
“Tired.” Hutch rubbed his prickly eyes. “Too long hours, too much work, too little sleep… I’m turning in early tonight.”
“I’m gonna stop at the seven-eleven, if you can hold out that long. My fridge is empty,” said Starsky with a nod of his head. “You stay put. I’ll be back in five.”
“Can you bring me some fruit? Apples, pears – anything,” Hutch asked and did no effort to hide another yawn.
“See? I told you it’s catching,” said Starsky contently and nodded. “Eating, I mean. The moment I mention the word, you begin about your health stuff.”
“Get that grin of your face. ‘s Not funny.”
Starsky laughed, exited the Torino and said, “Mind my baby, will ya?”
And off he went, lively bouncing his way into the seven-eleven. Hutch smiled, yawned and wearily waited for Starsky to return. He WAS tired, he wanted to go home. He’d been in cars too much the past week. He needed a good sleep in a good bed.
Hurry up, Starsk. I wanna go home. He yawned again.
Four shots rang out almost simultaneously in one dissonant tone, disturbing the calm evening in the street. Gone was the drowsiness, instantly. Hutch sprung up, hitting his head against the ceiling of the red car. He didn’t feel it. No, no, no… not the seven-eleven. Not the store where Starsky just strutted into…!
Hutch was out of the car in instant. He drew his gun, ran to the store and stormed in, to be stopped by a bullet that hissed passed his head and chipped the plaster from the wall five inches next to his ear. On instinct, he fired back. He heard a female voice cry out, a dull thud and then there was silence.
Cautiously he stepped forward. The first that caught his eye was a girl, somewhere in her teens, who sat against the wall in the far corner. She was unconscious. Her chin rested on her breast. Near her right shoulder, where Hutch’s bullet had hit her, a dark red stain quickly grew bigger. A few feet from her, a gun was lying on the ground. It was out of her reach.
The second thing he saw was a boy, about the same age as the girl. His eyes were closed but Hutch didn’t need to see them to know he was dead. A large wound in the middle of his chest was the clear and evident proof that he no longer was a threat. His fingers still held on to a small, 28mm calibre gun.
Behind the counter, the shop owner hung sideways over the freezer. There was a bloody trail on the wall behind him, which made Hutch understand that the blast of the gun had thrown him backward onto the lid of the freezer, where he died instantly, from a shot that was fired from the girl’s corner. A large shot gun hung silently between his foot and the freezer. The hole in the boy’s chest was undoubtedly from that gun.
The last thing that his eyes registered were jeans and blue Adidas sneakers. They were motionless on the ground. The rest was not visible.
“Starsky?” Hutch’s voice was as dry as if he’d swallowed sand. “Starsk?”
He moved forward, very carefully at first, anticipating dangers that lurked between the racks, stands and piles of canned food. But there was no danger. Not anymore.
There was Starsky, on the ground, lying very, very still. Nothing moved, no moan, no cry. There was no blood.
Hutch came closer and noticed his knees buckle. Slowly he sank to the ground, until he sat next to his partner. He couldn’t take his eyes off Starsky.
A little above his right eye, there was a tiny, dark spot. It had the size of a dime, at most. It looked like a mole but it wasn’t.
It was the tiny messenger of death, that had left its mark on Starsky’s forehead.
Starsky’s eyes were closed, his body lax and his head rolled sideways a bit. Even without probing his partner for a pulse, Hutch knew with devastating certainty: Starsky was dead.
He had thought about this moment too often in his life. What would he feel when he would find his friend dead one day? He always thought that Starsky would die in his arms, since for some strange reason, they always seemed to end up holding each other tight when the going got rough.
But this was not the scenario that had prematurely embedded itself in his mind. Nothing like it. It wasn’t meant to happen like this. Not being killed by a scared teenager who had pulled the trigger in blind panic and whose life was over in the same second the shop owner had done likewise. It was a triangle of death, and they were all caught in it.
All, except Hutch.
Hutch had expected himself to be screaming here, crying, roaring with hurt, his heart pumping his way out of his chest, his pain being so overwhelming that he couldn’t feel anything else. He had imagined he’d be grabbing on to Starsky as if he could will him back to life, pushing and pulling at his friend to make him return.
But that was not what he did.
He didn’t feel anything. He was floating in space, weightless, still, untouched by the world’s earthly affairs.
He couldn’t move. His arms hung uselessly from his body, touching the cold floor with his fingertips. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t raise them. His buttocks rested on his feet, making them tingle as it cut off the blood circulation, but he rather enjoyed that sensation. He knew he was alive.
Even if he wanted to touch Starsky, pick him up and press him against his chest, he couldn’t. Starsky was so perfect like that, lying still and relaxed, almost as if he were asleep, that Hutch couldn’t set himself to stretching out his hand and touching him. The dark curls encircled him, like a wreath braided by angels, and the gentle face was calm and at peace.
Pictures of memories, long gone, slowly emerged. Hutch as a small boy, watching intently as a fish was dangling from the hook, and his grandfather carefully taking the hook from the fish’s lip. What a beauty, granddad said, smiled proudly and threw the fish back in the water, where it swiftly swam to safety.
He remembered the bleak, hollow feeling he had back then, being indignant because granddad put the fish back that HE had caught, but also surprised that the fish lived through it and got away. He had not understood the why of it all.
It was the same bleak feeling he had now. He couldn’t grasp the ‘why’ of this. There were no tears, no cries, no sobs that came from within.
There was nothing.
His inner self was so silent that nothing could come out.
He sat there and stared at his partner. No thoughts, no loud yells, no quiet whispers. No remorse, no regrets, no questions, no answers. No ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. Nothing. Hutch was aware his body was getting very warm, as if twice the amount of blood ran through his veins. The world around him didn’t stop, as he had thought it would, but it continued with almost mocking intensity.
And while the police came and alerted Dobey at the sight of the officer who sat in total, still shock next to the lifeless body of his partner, Hutch never registered anything. Time stood still. He and Starsky were in a vacuum that roomed out everything else.
He never cried, he never shouted, he never whispered. There was only hollowness.
“Ken?” Dobey’s voice, ever so careful, thick with held back grief. “Come on, son. Let the lab do their work. Let them take… take him away.”
He put a massive, dark hand on Hutch’s shoulder. He couldn’t move. He still couldn’t move, because his body was no longer able to. It was just a casing, an empty shell, deprived of everything that made it work.
Dobey and Huggy – where did he come from? – helped Hutch up. His legs refused to cooperate as he’d been sitting on them for a long, long time. His face was expressionless, only pale.
Dobey caught the empty glance but was unable to offer any comfort because of his own grief. “Hutch?” That was Huggy. His ever cheerful elastic voice was now quiet, hurt and broken. “You can cry, my man. It’s alright. Let’s get out. This ain’t no place for you to be.”
glances with Dobey. There was nothing in Hutch. His face showed nothing, not
even held back tears or pain. How was that possible? Where were the screams,
the cries, the tears, where was the fury? The silence was shattering.
The silence was shattering.
Hutch couldn’t remember how he got through the following days, nor how he managed to get through the funeral.
“I haven’t seen him crying, Edith,” Dobey said to his wife after the memorial service. “And I don’t understand why he doesn’t. No one will think less of him if he cries or snaps. Of all people, he’s the only one who doesn’t show his feelings. As if he’s afraid to.” It was obvious the big captain was worried. “I’ve put him on sick leave for the time being, and Huggy keeps an eye on him, but it’s… it’s just not like Hutchinson.”
Edith shook her head slowly. “You’re wrong, Harold. He does give in to his emotions, but currently he’s unable to show them because they’re all drowned out by one thing: silence.”
Dobey shot his wife a doubtful look. “You think so?”
“Harold, dear – Dave was everything to Ken. His friend, his brother, his other half, partner, comrade… All of that is taken from him with a single shot. In a knick of time, he’s alone. Completely. Don’t you see there’s only silence now? Don’t you understand that, when finally other emotions will take over, he will cry, scream, shout, weep en shed tears when all those are not pushed away by the one thing he can’t express?”
With her voice, soft and warm, she brought ease to Dobey’s tensed mind. Starsky’s death was hard enough as it was, but having to fight that eerie, spooky silence in Hutch was a endurance test in itself.
“I hope you’re right,” Dobey said, squeezing his wife’s hand lovingly. The wrinkle in his forehead didn’t disappear.
When it was all behind him, Hutch went to Starsky’s apartment. The place was as tidy as his jeans were tight – Starsky’s signature in daily things. Hutch opened one of the cupboards in the bedroom and his searching fingers found the soft fabric of a sweater. Grey cotton, with big letters on the front that Hutch couldn’t read through the blur that clouded his sight. He pulled the sweater from the pile, throwing over the other pieces of garment. He buried his face in the shirt. After shave, a very light touch of cologne, the natural body scent… Starsky’s smell was suddenly all around him, knocking him dizzy.
Warm drops welled up. A hurt cry, like a wounded animal came from deep within. Everything that was bottled up, the shoot-out, the death, Starsky at peace on the floor at the seven-eleven, and years of worry and concern, years of sharing, caring and friendship were caught in that one cry.
“Hutch! Wake up!”
Hutch startled awake, looking in the big blue eyes of his friend.
“God, Hutch. What was THAT?”
“Starsky?” he croaked, grabbing his partner’s arm in a reflex. “Starsk!”
“Ho ho… What’s wrong, buddy? Bad dream?”
Hutch panted. Like a fish on dry land, he gasped for air.
The blond was unable to say anything. He just stared at the worried face of his friend. His living, breathing, speaking, singing, joking, screaming, shouting, talking, laughing friend.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Hutch shook his head. He wiped his mouth with the back of hand. Starsky noticed his fingers trembled. “Nothing. There was just… nothing.”
“Don’t try to fool me, Blintz. What?!”
But Hutch just shook his head and fought to get his feelings under control. “Nothing,” he mumbled and got out of the car as apparently they had reached Venice Place while he had been sleeping and dreaming in the Torino. A minute later, the dream began to lose its sharp edges and like mist on an early summer’s day, it quickly got thinner.
Starsky followed him and eyed him as he leant against the car.
“I’m okay,” the blond said, feeling a bit ashamed. “That WAS a bad dream.”
“What was it about?”
“Forget it. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Starsky grinned, although the concern for the blond was still not entirely gone. Hutch tried to, but couldn’t fool Starsky and he knew it.
“I’m okay. Really, Starsk.” He yawned. “I’m going to bed. A car’s just not the best place to sleep in.”
“A car, no. My car, yes.” Starsky said, helping Hutch to get rid of the embarrassment that was obviously all over his face. “But I’ll forgive you for that slip of the tongue. This time.”
Hutch smiled and the friends said goodbye.
“What?” The engine was running and the dark haired man had to turn the window down to hear what Hutch had to say.
“Don’t ever change the way you smell,” Hutch mumbled. A warm tinge made his cheeks flush.
“Nothing. Never mind.”
What? Starsky’s eyes seemed to say but Hutch only managed to produce a little smile.
Elsa, April 2004