"You do understand what I want, do you not?" the man behind the glass said to his visitor.
"Yeah. You want them two cops taken out of the picture."
"That's not exactly what I said, Jim. I said I wanted them out of the way for the trial. So they can't testify. It's not worth spending the rest of my life in this place to have them killed. I just want them detained. The judge will eventually have to go on without them, I'll be acquitted, and they'll return to town unable to prove we were involved. Now are you set to take care of it?" He looked at his friend eagerly.
"I've got just the two ladies in mind. They'll be perfect, and they know what they're doing too."
"Can they be trusted?" Green eyes bored into the visitor, reading his face as much as listening to his words.
"I'm sure they can; they're very reliable. If they question them later on, they'll just tell them that it was a practical joke. The cops will never be able to prove otherwise."
"Very good, Jim. Very good!"
"Thanks," Jim said, relieved that the steps he'd taken met with his boss's approval. "I'd better go, Ron. I've got to be sure the rental agency's got it straight what we need."
"Very efficient of you. Thank you."
"Any time for you, Ron. You know that." The scraping sound of the chair legs echoed in the visiting area, unheard by the inmate behind the glass, as Jim rose to leave.
"Hey, partner! C'mon, will ya?" Starsky's enthusiasm for their afternoon excursion was making him impatient, as his partner finished dressing behind the room divider.
"They're not going anywhere without us, Starsk," Hutch hollered out. "That was the whole point, or hadn't you noticed?"
"All I know is that Donna is gorgeous, and I don't wanna upset her." Picturing the tall blond with the long legs, he felt his heart - and other parts of his body as well - stir. There was no denying that she was beautiful, seemingly inside and out, from what he'd seen of her so far.
"And just think, Starsk," Hutch said, finally emerging. "If we hadn't stopped at the health food store on the way home the other day, we never would've met them. So, what do you think?" He motioned at himself, inciting Starsky to examine him closely.
"Heather is definitely going to love you in that," Starsky admitting. The pristine white slacks and the red and white striped polo shirt gave him a decidedly nautical look, especially when compared to Starsky's outfit. "Uhhh.... maybe I should change," he said, thinking twice.
"What you've got on is fine, and we really don't have time to go back to your place." The blond noticed that at least the cutoffs he'd chosen weren't worn down to almost nothing. "I just hope you don't get too cold out there. The wind can really whip up out at sea."
"Oh, yeah, Mr. 'I was a Sea Scout from Duluth'? How would you know?" Starsky smiled devilishly as Hutch blushed.
"I read it in the manual when I was a kid," he admitted, turning even deeper crimson.
"Well, just so ya know, it'll be fine. I'm takin' along a pair of jeans and a jacket. Bein' in California's spoiled me so much, I don't like the cold any more. Are you ready to go, or d'you wanta grab a jacket too?"
"Nah. It won't bother me, plus I'd hate to have to carry it. You got the directions on where we're goin'?" Hutch asked, smirking.
"Sure! An antique-style sailboat with modern controls sitting in a slip in Los Angeles harbor? How could we miss it! Anyway, I've got the slip number committed solely to memory." There was a soft, choking sound from Hutch as Starsky preceded him out the door. "Hey!" Starsky responded, pretending to be hurt. "That sounded like you have doubts about my memory, partner!"
Hutch spoke louder to cover the volume of the wind. "I have no doubts whatsoever about your memory, buddy! I know what I can expect!" A hand slapped him on the back of the head before Starsky raced around the Torino's hood to climb behind the wheel.
Although the wind was brisk, the sun shone brightly off the crystalline water as the boat slid from the dock. Starsky and Hutch admired the lithe forms of their dates as they manipulated the sales, guiding the boat out toward open sea.
"Boy, this is the life!" Starsky grinned, sipping his beer directly from the can.
"You bet it is!" Hutch agreed, just as Heather, having finished her work, slid up next to him on the seat. She snuggled in closer, and he put his arm around her thin waist.
"You mean to tell me that you guys aren't hungry yet?" Donna laughed, hugging Starsky close from the back. "There's lots of food below deck - enough to last a few days even!"
"Why, Miss McCormick!" Hutch responded, watching Starsky and Donna together. "You sound as if you mean to kidnap us!" He emitted a laugh, which turned into a giggle when Heather began kissing him on the neck.
"We are, didn't you know that?" She said between kisses. "We mean to make you our love slaves."
"I can think of worse fates," Hutch agreed, pulling her into a full-mouthed kiss while simultaneously noticing that Starsky and Donna had already gone below. He wondered momentarily whether they were eating, then decided he really didn't care, as long as he was alone on deck with Heather. "Where are we going?" he whispered in her ear between nuzzles, a small fraction of his mind on the fact that nobody was paying attention to where the wind was taking them.
"To heaven, baby," she responded. The question was pushed from his mind, replaced with more pleasant thoughts as her hands moved over his body, working the button and zipper on his pants as he reached under the back of her shirt, unhooking her bra. The gentleness of his technique distracted her from what she was actually there to do, both of their minds consumed by the pleasures their bodies were bringing them as their now-bare flesh came together time after time. Heather and Donna were surprisingly silent lovers, while Hutch's groans intermingled on the night air with those of his partner down below.
Heather noted with satisfaction that they had drifted far beyond the point they'd hoped. She glanced back at the slumbering blond on the deck, reassuring herself that he was still unconscious, as she put away the small bottle of chloroform and threw the rag overboard. She whistled once, softly, and Donna joined her up on deck.
"Thank God!" Donna exclaimed, smoothing her disheveled hair. "I thought he'd never go to sleep!"
"Well, it's a good thing he finally did, 'cause Jimmy should be here any time now, and we've got a lot to take care of. You did use enough, didn't you?" Heather looked her friend in the eye until she nodded.
"Don't worry, he won't wake up. Although after last night, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have even without it! He sure is energetic!" Donna laughed as she straightened her shirt.
"I think you like your work too much," Heather smiled, shaking her head as she walked away.
Making their way in the dark, they effectively sabotaged the craft. Radio, compass, and flares were all removed or taken apart, those parts that could be were thrown overboard. Donna emptied the fuel tanks to the emergency engines as Heather jettisoned the anchor.
Finally, secure in their belief that they'd done a thorough job, Heather resumed looking out into the darkness, searching as carefully as she could for the vague outline of the boat.
"There it is," Donna said, motioning to one side, where a man in a row boat slowly and silently approached the ship.
"You girls ready?" he asked in a stage whisper when he saw them at the rail. Rather than respond, Heather began to climb over the edge, lowering herself gently into the dingy. When the tiny craft finally stopped rocking, Donna followed.
"Where did you come from?" Heather asked once her friend was settled.
"The yacht coasted in about a mile and a half east. Are you sure those guys are gonna be okay? The boss said he didn't want them hurt."
"They'll be fine," Donna said, exasperated. "There's lots of food below deck to keep them until the coast guard shows up in a couple of days. They'll feel like they're on vacation!" She smiled charmingly, motioning him to pick up the oars; it was the same smile she'd used on Starsky two nights ago on their first date at Huggy's. It had promised him much; promises that had been fulfilled later that evening in Starsky's apartment.
Why does the sun havta be so bright while I'm trying to sleep? Hutch wondered groggily as he flung an arm over his eyes, doing his best to block out the light. A moment later, it registered that his movements had probably awoken Heather, so he cracked open an eye to look at the woman who'd fallen asleep in his arms. "Sweetheart?" he slurred, trying to get his mouth working again, but there was nobody there.
"Heather?" he repeated, calling louder as he came fully awake, but there was still no response, and the shouting made him blatantly aware of the pounding in his head. Maybe she'd gone below to make breakfast, he thought for a moment, staring at the steps leading down.
His first inclination was to rush down, but he hesitated, not wanting to risk intruding on a private moment between Starsky and Donna. He'd had that happen before, and knew he didn't want a repeat serving of his partner's ire. Everything was silent down below, but that could be misleading. Finally, he covered his eyes with his left hand as he felt his way down the stairs with his right.
"Sorry, folks," he said quietly in deference to his headache. "I'm just heading for the kitchen to find Heather. Don't let me interrupt you." He rushed to the left, toward the galley area, before the couple could lynch him. It was just occurring to him that his date wasn't in the kitchen when he heard a voice from the dimness.
"Donna? Donna, honey, where'd you go?" Hutch found the switch on the battery-operated lantern and switched it on, bathing the room in a soft white glow. Starsky rubbed his eyes, trying to focus on his partner. "Hutch! What happened to Donna?"
"Search me, buddy. I came down looking for Heather."
"Maybe they're both up on deck. You know, doin' sailin' things!"
"I didn't seem them, Starsk, but I guess we could look again." The blond shrugged, heading for the stairs as Starsky slid his cutoffs over his bare skin.
"They gotta be up there, partner. Two full grown women don't just disappear off a boat this far out!" Starsky stood, and swayed a moment as his head protested the sudden movement. "Oh, God. My head's killin' me!"
At that thought, a horror-stricken expression appeared on Hutch's features. "My God, Starsk! What if they went overboard?!"
"I'd say that was a possibility for one of them, but pretty unlikely for both. Or have you forgotten that Donna and I were down below? You go that way, I'll go around the other and meet you on the other side. Their probably just playin' a joke, y'know? Hiding somewhere on board to get our juices goin'!"
"Okay, partner, but I much preferred the method she used last night!" Hutch agreed, heading off in the other direction, but neither man found any sign of life other than their own. "I feel awful, Starsk," he finally admitted. "I think we may have been drugged."
"My head sure agrees with you. Well, now what?" Starsky asked plaintively. "How can we go back to the dock with two people on board when we left with four?"
"More to the point, how can we get back to the dock? Neither of us knows a thing about sailing, and I'm afraid I wasn't paying particular attention to what they were doing when I was watching the girls last night." He grinned wickedly, trying to distract Starsky from the deep trouble he knew they were in.
"Yeah, me too." Starsky paused a moment, trying to think through the fog in his brain. "Hey, don't boats like this have radios or backup engines or somethin'?"
Hutch looked surprised that he hadn't thought of it himself. "Starsk, you're a genius! At the very least, there ought to be flares." They immediately began to search the craft, with Hutch locating the controls for the engine about the same time as Starsky located the radio.
"I sure hope you have better luck than I did, partner," he said over his shoulder to the blond. The radio's all taken apart. Someone must've been fixin' it."
"Damn! That sure would've made it a lot easier. Why don't you try to find some flares while I try the engine." As he searched, Starsky listened as the blond tried to ignite the engine time and again with no luck. "So much for that," Hutch muttered, discouraged and still groggy.
"Y'know, Hutch, I'll bet I know what happened. I'll bet this was one of those practical jokes Simmons and Babcock are always trying to lay on us. They never did get over our beating them in the precinct two-man basketball championships."
"I don't think so, Starsk." Hutch told his partner as they returned to where they'd started and sat down. "Think about it. We go to bed and everything's fine. We wake up the next morning with the boat sabotaged, the girls missing, and both suffering from what seems like the afteraffects of being drugged. I don't think this is a joke, and I hope to hell that the girls are okay."
"So what do we do?" Starsky's voice held a faint note of fear, looking for a suggestion from the blond.
"We sit tight until the coast guard patrol shows up. We can't be that far out." Hutch was resigned to waiting, but it was obvious that Starsky wasn't crazy about his partner's plan.
"You're kidding! You want to sit out here doin' nothin' until they come by? It could be hours! Maybe even tomorrow!"
"I supposed you can come up with something better?" Hutch questioned as his subconscious screamed at him not to ask.
"Yeah. We head in!" Starsky said it as if it were the most simple thing in the world.
"Wait, Starsk!" Hutch said, strong fingers wrapping around the hand that was reaching for the boom. "You don't know what you're doing!"
"How tough can it be?" he winked at his partner. "If two women can do it, we sure should be able to!"
"They were trained to do it! Untrained passengers have been badly hurt, even killed, trying to take on what they weren't ready for. I don't know about you, partner, but I'm not exactly in the best shape either; I feel like I'm gonna fall asleep any minute. Have you ever been out on a sailboat before?" Hutch rose his eyebrows, questioning.
"No, but nobody taught me how to please a lady before I did it for the first time!" He chuckled wickedly, causing the concerned look on Hutch's face to ease slightly.
"Okay, how about a compromise. It's 7:30 right now. If nobody shows up to help by 7:30 tonight, we'll try it. Agreed?"
Starsky's expression looked like a kid who'd just had his favorite toy confiscated. "Agreed. But what're we gonna do for twelve whole hours?!"
"I don't know about you, buddy, but I plan to listen to the radio, relax, and try to get rid of this headache! What else can we do? And relaxing is something we don't get to do at home; something's always coming up."
"Y'know, you're right," Starsky smiled. "Howsabout I go fix us some breakfast? I happen to have had a very active night, and I'm starvin'! Besides, maybe eatin' will help get rid of the pounding in my head."
"To tell you the truth, I could use a bite to eat myself." Starsky headed down the steps as Hutch yelled behind him, "But whatever you make better not have peppers in it!!"
Starsky waved a hand over his shoulder, but Hutch noticed that he hadn't agreed.
"I'm bored!" Starsky ranted, pacing the deck around 3:30 that afternoon.
"That's the whole idea, Starsk. To relax and do nothing!"
Starsky stopped in front of where the blond lay with his eyes closed and face relaxed. "How can you just lay there?"
"It's called 'gettin' some sun'."
"Hutch, the sun isn't even out anymore, and if you'd open your eyes for a minute, you'd see that it looks like rain!"
"Rain?" Hutch questioned, cracking open one eye. When he realized that Starsky was right, he sat bolt upright. Sure enough, there were dark clouds in the northern sky. "Oh, boy! Why didn't you say something sooner, Starsk?? We're gonna get soaked!"
"We'll have to go below deck. Honestly, Hutch, I've never been able to figure out this phobia you have about the rain. Any possibility at all and you don't wanna go out."
"It's not a phobia!! When I get wet, I get cold; and I hate being cold! Why d'you think I left Minnesota?" Hutch flushed despite his denial. He levered himself off the bench where he'd been lying and looked again as the rapidly moving clouds came closer. "From the looks of those," he said, motioning, "it'll be raining in the next fifteen minutes. C'mon, let's go."
"'kay," Starsky agreed, as they both headed into the cabin. "I just hope that there are lots of spare batteries for the lantern."
"If there aren't, we're gonna be spending a lot of time in the dark, partner." Hutch ducked as he went down the stairs to keep from knocking his head on the overhang.
They heard the first drops of rain on the deck about twenty minutes later, but they didn't start gradually as Starsky had expected. It was quiet one moment, then suddenly it was a torrent, a downpour that sounded like they were under attack by the weather itself.
"You were five minutes off, blintz," Starsky kidded his partner, noticing the concern on the blond's face. Hutch didn't respond as they sat listening to the pummeling that was going on above them.
Suddenly, the entire boat rocked, sending Starsky, who had been standing, careening into the sitting Hutch. He tried to regain his feet when it tilted again. "That's a hell of a wind the rain brought with it," Starsky muttered.
"Damn!! Get offa me! Starsky, if that wind keeps up, we're gonna capsize!"
"Capsize?? You mean the boat's gonna flip over??" Now it was Starsky's turn to look terrified. "What do we do?!!"
"I think we gotta get the sails down. The wind is pushing against the sails and making us tip." He pushed Starsky away and headed toward the steps that led to the deck. "C'mon!"
Starsky followed slowly, numbed, and by the time he was at the bottom step, Hutch had disappeared onto the deck. The sight, when he got there, was like a scene from a disaster movie. The boat rocked, being battered by rain and wind, as Hutch, drenched from the moment he'd come out into the open, fought the ropes, trying to lower the sails. "Hutch!" Starsky muttered, watching as his friend unwrapped the rope that went up to the main sail and the white cloth started to lower. His "thank God" was premature, though, as Hutch lost his grip on the soaking line and the huge sail came down abruptly, billowing on its way to the deck. The brunet tried to incite himself to move, to help Hutch gather the canvas, but his body didn't want to obey.
Starsky stood staring, horrified, as the scene switched to slow motion. The wind whipped up, forcing him to blink, and as the boat tilted, the gale-force wind grabbed the boom, swinging it forcefully in a sideways arc. He finally found himself able to move as he watched the arm impact with the side of Hutch's head. He could barely see the blond go down, and Starsky gasped each breath through the rain as he tried to make his way to where his friend was unconscious on the deck. As the ship swayed again, he realized there was a large risk of them both being washed overboard.
Gritting his teeth against the wind and rain, Starsky managed to get to the main sail. Every nerve and sinew in his body screamed as he threw all his strength into fighting with the apparatus, finally gathering the white canvas and, wrapping his arms around both parts, securing it to the boom. He tried to keep his mind on what he was doing, but it kept straying to Hutch, his prone form unreachable on the deck a few feet away. This had to come first, and he knew it. The rocking settled some, but not enough that Starsky felt secure that they wouldn't capsize unless he did something about the smaller sail at the front of the boat.
Walking unsteadily toward the front, Starsky set his mind to getting the jib down. It took several tries before he managed to even get into position, finally ending up sitting instead of standing, using leg muscles to push himself along the deck as he brought the canvas down to the deck and managed to get it secure, feeling muscles pulling in his arms and legs as he fought the elements.
He couldn't believe he was actually managing to manipulate the boat, but he knew that people were capable of some incredible feats in an emergency. And, crawling with his last bit of energy to where Hutch was still lying on the deck, he knew this was an emergency as big as any he'd ever faced. He noted the blood on the deck near his partner's head; there was a soaking piece of cloth nearby, which he sandwiched between the wound on Hutch's head and the deck just before the exhaustion claimed him. He'd pushed himself as far as his body would take him, the afteraffects of the chloraform suddenly returning in his weakness. He wanted to take Hutch below deck, but he didn't have the strength and, secure in the knowledge that he'd done everything he could do for him, sank down, unconscious, on top of his partner.
The first thing Starsky felt when he finally awoke was a tingling sensation on his exposed cheek. As he opened one unwilling eye, he realized that it was the sunlight, shining brightly on the now-calm waters. The boat underneath his body swayed, but stayed upright and seemed to be intact. He wasn't sure how much time had passed or how far away from their original point the storm had pushed them. The one thing he was instantly sure of was Hutch's condition, which he feared was precarious. Pushing himself to his knees to examine the blond, he realized that there was still no sign of consciousness. The head injury had finally stopped bleeding - when, he didn't know - but there was evidence on the deck that he'd lost a lot before it finally abated.
Standing up slowly, he rubbed his eyes, looking around. Starsky wondered whether he should move Hutch below or leave him where he was. A small voice in the back of his mind told him he was cold - much colder than the typical Los Angeles temperature, even many miles out at sea where they could have drifted. He wanted to change into his jeans, knew it would have to wait for now. Right now, Hutch was first priority.
"Hutch!" he prompted, gently massaging a soaking wet shoulder. "Hutch, wake up! Can ya hear me, pal? C'mon! Open your eyes and look at me!" He knew his partner wasn't dead, or even close to it. His pulse, heartbeat, and breathing were strong and regular. But head wounds could be tricky; Hutch could even slip into a coma.
Finally, Starsky was rewarded with a slight motion - the faintest of twitches in the facial muscles. "Keep on comin', boy. You can do it," he encouraged. "C'mon back."
Slowly, the eyelids cracked as glazed eyes peered up into the sunlight, watering as they tried to make out the dark form above them. "Uhhhhmmmmmmmm..." Hutch tried for words, but wasn't able to manage more than vague sounds right away. Starsky felt a surge of protectiveness as he looked down at the man struggling to clear away the cobwebs; Hutch looked so young lying there.
"Take it easy, Hutch. Let it come on its own; don't push too hard." Starsky looked around again; was that a ship in the distance? His wondering was ended abruptly.
"Starsk," Hutch whispered, his body beginning to shiver from the cold damp. At least, that's what Starsky hoped it was when he turned his attention back to his partner.
"Hey! Welcome back, buddy," he said, smiling down at Hutch. "Ya had me scared t'death, y'know that?"
"No," Hutch muttered through clenched teeth. "Didn't know. Sorry, Starsk."
"Well, it's okay. You're awake now, that's what counts. All we gotta do is make sure you stay awake until help comes."
"Could be a long time," Hutch said, closing his eyes and seeming to deflate until Starsky drew his attention again.
Damn! Why couldn't the coast guard show up in the nick of time for once. We're not the only good guys who do that, are we? He looked around for help once again, and this time noticed that the ship was closer this time. And it was definitely a ship, not an illusion. A very, very ancient ship, but a ship all the same. "Hutch, look! There's a ship headed this way! Hold on! I'll get'em over here."
Picking up a large white sheet that Hutch and Heather had used the night before, he waved it frantically, trying to draw the crew's attention. Starsky breathed a sigh of relief when somebody on the other boat responded by waving a flag back at him. But when he turned back to tell Hutch the good news, the blond had lapsed into unconsciousness again. Starsky prayed he'd just fallen asleep and was not in a coma.
Starsky watched as a large dinghy was lowered from the side of the much-larger ship, three men clearly visible as they rowed toward him. The two who handled the oars wore navy stocking-caps and heavy woolen jackets similar to their captain, who wore a mariner's hat in place of the knit ones. Looking at the coats, Starsky suddenly realized that he had goosebumps on the bare skin of his legs. Shouldn't be this cold in California, he thought peripherally.
"Ahoy there!" the voice boomed over the water as they drew near. "You havin' some problems out here?"
Starsky looked down over the edge of the antique-style sailboat as the smaller craft gently slid against the larger. "You don't know the half of it. My partner and I don't know anythin' about boats, and now he's hurt."
"How the devil did you get out here if ya don't know nothin' 'bout sailin'?" The man with the sea-worn face asked.
"It's a long story. Look, my buddy here really needs some help."
"What happened to him?" That came again from the old man. Starsky was impressed that his men were able to silently allow him to ask all the questions. As he asked, the pair pulled themselves into the larger craft.
"The wind grabbed that swingy part and it hit him in the head." Starsky's distress managed to overpower the ignorant sound of his words.
"I didn't think the wind was that strong. By the way, my name's Captain Clancey." He found he'd lost Starsky's attention as his crewmen stood on the deck.
"Hutch!" Starsky urged, addressing the crumpled form. During his brief flirtation with wakefulness, Hutch had rolled onto his side, attempting to get up. Now, as one of the men told him how they were going to move both Starsky and Hutch to the Shamus O'Flynn, Starsky's gentle hand turned the blond back over again. "It's okay, buddy," he said to the slack face of his partner. "These guys are gonna help us."
He was so intent on caring for the unresponsive Hutch, he didn't hear the sudden gasp from the crewmen waiting behind him. By the time Starsky turned to indicate that Hutch was ready to be moved, what he saw was the two strangers looking at each other agape.
"C'mon!" he said, spurring them into action. "We've got to get him to a doctor!"
The brunet watched as the two gently, almost familiarly, lifted the blond into their arms. "Okay. Good. Now, I'll get in the boat and you can hand him down to me and the captain. You'll just have to let the boat drift - it doesn't have an anchor. Maybe we can come back for it later." They nodded to him, then he scrambled over the edge of the boat.
"Whoa!" he muttered as the small craft rocked under his sudden and uneven weight. It settled quickly, though, allowing him to regain his balance. His arms reached up for Hutch's limp form as he was lowered. Starsky's attention was drawn to the redness in the back of the fair hair, the blood still blatantly evident.
"Thanks a million for all the help," Starsky said as he eagerly accepted his burden. He lowered Hutch to a sitting position, seating himself as well before taking his best friend's head into his lap. Clancey kneeled next to the pair as his men returned to the boat.
"Is your friend all...." The question died as he watched Starsky brushing the hair out of Hutch's eyes. "Good Lord! Joshua Bolt!" The captain looked closely at Starsky, assuring himself that this man, at least, was a stranger. "I dinna realize that your friend was Josh! His brothers are goin' ta be frantic when they hear about this!" He drew his face closer to Hutch's, speaking a little louder. "Josh, wake up!"
"Josh?" Starsky asked as he checked the injury. "His name isn't Josh. It's Ken Hutchinson." Clancey took a closer look over the brunet's shoulder, realizing that, although the resemblance was striking, this man was definitely older than Josh. The slight worry lines grew even deeper as Hutch fought his way to consciousness again, blue eyes peering through fair lashes.
It wasn't long - somewhere between one and two hours - before Starsky could see that they were approaching land. Those hours saw Hutch having fewer and shorter periods of unconsciousness, although he still seemed frightfully weak. Starsky knew that was typical for head injuries, but it didn't keep him from worrying. He'd toyed with taking him to Clancey's filthy cabin anyway, but except for being cool, the weather was pleasant, so he settled with leaving him in his comfortable nest of blankets.
During one of the wakeful periods, Starsky stood to look over the bow, peering forward toward the welcome lights and large buildings of downtown Seattle. But there were no bright lights to be seen, and the horizon showed only the green of trees.
"I gotta talk to the captain," he told Hutch, bending down over him. The eyes seemed to understand, although it was a few seconds before the "okay" could be faintly heard. He tousled the blond hair lightly before pushing himself toward the front of the ship.
"Captain Clancey!" Clancey could hear his name and recognized the voice even before he saw the slim figure. A moment later, Starsky was at his side. "Captain, I think we must be off course or somethin'! We're not approaching any city nearly big enough to be Seattle, Washington."
"Have you taken leave of your senses, man? Of course that's Seattle. I've guided this ship there a thousand times! Including once all the way from New England!"
"Then how do you explain that there aren't any buildings on that land we're headed for?" Starsky's voice held a challenge, but Clancey remained gentle, knowing it was mostly concern for his friend that was spurring him on.
"There are plenty of buildings there. They're just not tall enough to be seen from this far out. Where do you think over three hundred people are living? In tents?" He laughed at his supposed joke, not noticing the distress that came over Starsky's face.
"Three hundred?? There's gotta be over 50,000 residents of Seattle! My God! It couldn't have had that few people since the 1800's!"
"Uhhhhh. Mr. Starsky, I think maybe you'd better go lie down next to where we put your partner. I think you're takin' ill too." Clancey tried to convince him, but from the first word, he knew it would be fruitless. This was one man who wouldn't let himself be coddled if he could help it.
"What makes you think that?! I'm fine, but my friend isn't. And he's gotta get to a hospital soon!"
"I don't think you know how sick you really are," Clancey told him, continuing to study him closely. "Hell, man. You don't even know what year it is! We'll get you both help as soon as we land, though."
Unable to do anything else with the stubborn, if confusing, captain, Starsky went back to tending to Hutch. There really wasn't much he could do except sit by his side, since the blond had fallen asleep once again. It gave him a lot of time to think, and he found his thoughts drifting to Heather and Donna, wondering what their fate was. But why would somebody want to hurt them? Maybe it really was a practical joke. If so, it had been a very risky one, as evidenced by their current situation.
He heard Clancey's heavy footsteps before he actually saw the man, heard his call to ready the gangplank. This man really was like something out of history. Starsky felt the ship vibrate as it nudged the pier, simultaneously trying to take in the calls of excitement announcing that the ship had come in. He didn't recognize any of the voices, although he could identify both women's and men's in the cacophony. What was the big deal about a boat docking in Seattle harbor?
Moments later a slim man with short brown hair barreled up the gangplank, into Starsky's range of vision. He wore neat trousers and a vest; not exactly currently fashion, but it wasn't a big deal for some cities to have trends before others. Starsky bent over his partner as he began to stir, blocking the newcomer's view.
"Ben!" Clancey called, pumping his hand. "Tis nice t'see ya again!"
"Yeah, I know, Clancey. But why are you back so soon? You only left a day ago!"
"These two fellas were adrift at sea and needed some rescuin'. Would you be so kind as to run up to the Bolt's camp and tell Jason, Joshua, and Jeremy that I need to see 'em right away?" The captain's Irish brogue held a note of urgency, dissuading Ben from asking further questions. He took off at a trot toward a muddy road.
"Captain Clancey! Captain Clancey!" Two small figures - a blond girl and a brown-haired boy - ran up to the plank, stopping at the base of it. "Did you bring us anything?!" the boy asked.
"I'm sorry, m'dears. Not this time. I do need you to do me a favor though, if you'd be so kind."
"Sure," the girl said reasonably. "We'd be happy to."
"Good. Run and fetch Miss Lottie; tell her to come quick."
"Aren't you feeling good?" the boy asked.
"'Well', Christopher. Not 'good'. 'Well'," the girl corrected her brother.
"'Well', 'good', what difference does it make, Molly?"
Clancey figured he'd better interrupt, or the siblings would argue for the next hour. "No, I'm fine, but I've got a couple people on my ship that aren't doing so well. Now get on with you!" The mud flew from under their feet as they raced to the saloon, calling out for Lottie before they had even arrived.
"Take it easy, Hutch," Starsky told his friend as he listened to everything that was going on. "I'm sure this Lottie will be able to help. She must be a doctor or something."
"Um hmmmm," Hutch muttered drowsily. Starsky continued to watch over him for several minutes, until finally he heard a feminine voice.
"Clancey! What's so important that it had to interrupt my afternoon tea with the girls?"
Starsky jumped up to meet the person who was going to help his partner, but as he looked toward the land, he found he could do nothing besides stare. The person who approached was indeed a woman, slightly plump yet lovely, perhaps in her late 40's. What astonished the brunet, though, were her clothes. Her long dress was full at the bottom and cinched tight at the waist, strongly reminiscent of the outfits he'd seen in old western movies. He'd have thought there was a costume party if twenty or so younger women hadn't been standing behind Lottie, dressed similarly. So distracted was he that he didn't even hear the captain tell her their story.
Suddenly, she was in front of him, obviously trying to get around to the man lying prostrate on the deck. "Hello, I'm Lottie Hatfield," she introduced herself.
"Are you a doctor?" Starsky asked, tentatively. Something about the woman was vaguely familiar, but he couldn't put his finger on what exactly it was.
"Heavens, no!" she laughed. "I'm afraid our town doesn't have a doctor right now, but I'd like to help if you'll let me. I've done quite a lot of this kind of thing in my day."
When he didn't move, she motioned past him towards the legs she could see; her view of the rest of her patient was obstructed by Starsky's body. "Please, Mr.....?"
"Starsky. David Starsky," he said, shaking her hand. She looked at him, "tsk"d at his bare, exposed legs, and squeezed past as he stepped aside.
"What happened to your friend?" she asked, bending over Hutch.
"He hit his head during the storm...." Starsky halted his explanation when he heard Lottie gasp. "What's wrong?"
"Yeah. He's hurt! Can you help?"
She seemed to calm herself quickly, drawing on years of experience in a less-than friendly frontier. She bent to examine Hutch's injury, talking at the same time. "How long has he been out?"
Starsky hadn't seen Hutch slip off again. "He's been in and out a lot. He was awake not even two minutes ago." Starsky crossed to stand on Hutch's other side.
Lottie talked to the brunet as she continued to check the blond. "Is his name Bolt?" she asked conversationally, hoping that Starsky couldn't hear the hammering of her heart. Who was this man who looked so much like Joshua?
"No, it's Ken Hutchinson. Please, say something. He's my friend!" She looked up into his pleading eyes, and he saw comfort in hers.
"It'll be okay; I think he just needs some time to rest. We'll get him to a nice, comfortable room above my place where I can keep an eye on him." She motioned to a few of Clancey's men, who followed her instructions for moving Hutch. "You look like you could use some sleep yourself, Mr. Starsky. You can have one right next door, so you can be near your friend." The entire entourage moved off the boat, heading for the saloon; Starsky tried to keep eyes on Hutch, but they kept straying to the women who watched them from the sidelines. Most of them were young and attractive, and all of them were dressed in outfits similar to Lottie's.
"Once we get your friend settled," Miss Hatfield said, drawing his attention, "we'll see if we can get you both some decent clothes." He looked down at his shirt and shorts, not understanding fully until he looked to the crowd of women again. Every one of them had averted her eyes from the stranger's state of undress.
What's going on here?? I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone! It still didn't totally sink in what was going on for another few moments. In their trek to the tavern, his eyes fell on a sign, mounted high on a totem pole in the center of the square. "An Incorporated Township. Seattle." Starsky read aloud.
"You like our sign?" Clancey said, smiling proudly as he walked beside the brunet. "We just got incorporated last year."
"Sure, man! The year of our Lord, 1874!"
"What?!" Starsky's mind screamed, but he kept it from his lips while Clancey repeated the year to him. 1874???? How can it possibly be a hundred years ago?! Yet there was no denying his senses. These people, these buildings, and this land were real. It would be awhile before he could truly believe it, but for now, he was adaptable enough to at least accept it.
He let the rest of the group guide him through a pair of double doors and up a staircase to a comfortable looking room, his heart pounding as much from the shock as from the exertion of carrying the big blond. They deposited him gently on the bed.
"I'll go get a bowl of water," a tall, copper-haired woman said as she left the room. Starsky remembered seeing her eyes widen as she'd beheld Hutch for the first time; it wasn't too much removed from the reaction he'd gotten from so many others.
The woman they'd called Lottie shooed everybody from the room except Starsky, somehow knowing that he wouldn't have allowed himself to be run out anyway. Once they were alone, he felt more comfortable to talk.
"Miss Hatfield," he began, trying to be polite and to fit in, "why is everybody in this town looking at us like we're from another planet? We're not that different from you."
Lottie looked up from where she'd been examining Hutch. "Well, you do seem out of place, but that's not why people are staring?"
Was she really going to make him ask? Starsky guessed so. "Then why are they staring?"
He sounded afraid, she thought, as though he was unaccustomed to this particular kind of fear. "It's really not anything you need to worry about; you must be exhausted too."
"Miss Hatfield!" Starsky said tensely, obviously exasperated. He felt like he was on an emotional rollercoaster, not knowing from one minute to the next what he'd be feeling.
"Well, first of all, it's not you they're staring at. It's your friend." At just that moment, the stately-looking woman reappeared, carrying a heavy ceramic bowl and pitcher, a pair of towels thrown over her shoulder. "Thank you, Candy," Lottie said as she handed over a moistened towel.
Even now, the woman Lottie had called Candy was staring at his bed-ridden partner. "You were saying?" he asked the barkeep.
"Oh, yes. People are taking an interest in your partner only because he bears a striking resemblance to somebody in town."
"It's more than a resemblance," Candy whispered, not even realizing she'd spoken as she continued to stare. Something inside of her said she was being impolite and unladylike, but she just couldn't help herself.
"I beg your pardon, Miss...?" Starsky wanted to know more of what the younger woman thought. She was very beautiful, graceful in a stately kind of way.
"Oh," Lottie interrupted, remembering the social graces. "This is Candy Pruitt; she helps me out sometimes." There was a hesitation, prompting Lottie to turn from Hutch as Candy cleared her throat. "Only in delivering babies and such, mind you. Not in the saloon."
"Thank you," Candy said, smiling at the handsome brunet who had so abruptly come into all of their lives. If she hadn't been engaged.... "And you are?"
"I'm sorry," he said when he realized she'd been waiting for a bit. "I'm David Starsky, and my friend is Ken Hutchinson."
"You've come a long way, Mr. Starsky." This was a part of the healing process that Candy was particularly good at: distracting friends and family while Lottie attended to her work.
"Longer than even I know, I think."
That puzzled the young Miss Pruitt, but she had the courtesy not to be nosy and ask what he'd meant by it. She could see the concern in the dark blue eyes that David held for his friend. "Are you and Mr. Hutchinson related?" she asked.
"No, but sometimes he seems more like my brother than my real brother. We've been friends for a very long time." He surprised himself by talking so easily with the people here; but their simple natures seemed to put him at ease. There was nothing threatening or malicious, no indications of greed or hunger for power.
Before she could say anything more, the door crashed in, a large, barrel of a man leading the way with purposeful strides. On one side of the wavy-haired stranger (and who wasn't a stranger here!) was Ben Perkins, who couldn't seem to get a word in edgewise. On the other was a smaller, slender young man. His hair was the same color as the older newcomer, dark brown, only it fell in straight, longer-than-most tresses across his forehead.
Starsky jumped up to block Hutch, protecting him from this unforeseen threat. Perhaps his judgment that there was no danger here had been premature.
Lottie continued to care for the patient, seeing that he was finally showing signs of coming to again. Candy, meanwhile, stepped between the two men. They were cut from the same cloth, she saw right away. Aggressive yet gentle, concerned yet caring. She left Starsky where he was, stepping in front of him to face down Jason Bolt.
"Where's Joshua?" She asked. The younger man's confusion showed on his face as he looked at the woman.
"He had the crew on the other side of the ridge. Jason sent somebody to get him. Candy, I don't understand. What's all this got to do with Josh?" Starsky, looking over Candy's shoulder, could tell by the look in the younger man's eyes that he and the woman were more than just casual acquaintances. Only couples in love looked at each other that way.
For some unknown reason, Starsky trusted this woman. "This," she began, stepping aside, "is David Starsky. Mr. Starsky, this is Jason and Jeremy Bolt."
"Nice to meet you," Jason mumbled, shaking Starsky's proffered hand with a leather gloved one, Jeremy responding in kind. "We've got a lot of work to do, Candy. Would you please get to the point?"
Starsky's mind raced, trying to recognize the name. "Bol.... Oh! That's the name Miss Hatfield used. When the boat first docked, she asked if Hutch's name was Bolt." There was a niggle in the back of Starsky's mind, telling him that these two were familiar, not just their name, but from where, he didn't know. Maybe it would come to him later.
The confusion on both of the Bolt's faces was clear. "I think it'll be easier to just show you," Candy said, gently guiding Starsky out of their line of sight. The man they saw on the bed was just awakening, blinking rapidly as he tried to orient himself. Lottie held a cloth to the side of his head where the blond hair was discolored with blood. But the most amazing thing was that face.
"Jason..." Jeremy said, sounding very young. "He looks...he looks just like..."
The patient's eyes fell on his friend, and he seemed to relax a little. "Starsk," he whispered. "What's going on?"
"It's okay, buddy," Starsky said, turning to Lottie. "How is he? Is he gonna be okay?"
"A little rest and he'll be fine. He seems to be over the worst of it. I'd say he'll be up and around tomorrow or the next day. Until then," she said, with an air of somebody excusing herself, "let him sleep as much as he wants. I'll go get the key to the room next door." She looked even closer at the patient and his friend. "I'll talk to Ben and see if he's got any clothes you can use in that store of his. You certainly can't go traipsing about Seattle in clothes like that!"
At her comment, Hutch looked at her even closer, then turned startled eyes to his partner. Starsky nodded nearly imperceptibly, and Hutch got the message that they'd talk about it later, once they were alone.
"If he doesn't," Jeremy asked, joking, "we can always lend him something of Josh's!" He smiled, trying to lighten the mood. It seemed to work slightly.
"Why don't we let them get settled in," Lottie suggested, herding the crowd from the room in a motherly fashion. Starsky noticed that Candy and Jeremy left arm-in-arm; his instincts had been right on. Their whispers followed behind them, everybody voicing their opinions simultaneously.
Lottie, the last out, shut the door gently; finally they were alone. Starsky continued to watch the closed door.
"Starsk, what's happenin'?" Hutch slurred, trying to focus. His voice spun Starsky around, the brunet redirecting his attention.
"I wish I knew." He came back and sat on the bed next to Hutch's prone form. "How do you feel?"
"My head is killing me, and I feel like I couldn't out-box my mother. What happened to me?"
"Do you remember the boat and the storm?"
"I remember trying to lower the sails, but that's it. Did I get them down?"
"I'm afraid not," Starsky cringed. "You got hit on the head with what Captain Clancey called the boom." It worried Starsky that he had to explain all this to Hutch when he'd already done it once on board ship.
"Who is Captain Clancey?" Hutch looked confused, but at least he seemed more alert than he had since the accident.
"He's the ship captain who picked us up. We were adrift; nothin' was workin'." He hoped Hutch wouldn't ask exactly where they were; he didn't think he could explain it to himself, let alone his partner. "What say we get you undressed and in bed so you can get a good night's sleep. It's the only way you're gonna get better."
Hutch started to object, but even lifting his head from the pillow drove lances through his skull, so he sunk back again. "Okay, okay. You don't have to be so nasty about it," he muttered.
"I wasn't being nasty!" Starsky admonished, surprised that his partner had misunderstood.
"I know you weren't. But the pain in my head sure was." Starsky figured Hutch must be starting to feel better if he was making jokes, feeble as they may be.
"C'mon, let's get going, blintz." Hutch stayed on the bed, working buttons and zippers, while Starsky did the harder work. Once he was down to his underwear, Starsky pulled the blankets out from under his partner, replacing them over the reclining figure. As he straightened them over Hutch's waistline, he noticed the goosebumps on the tanned flesh of his arms. "Are you cold?"
"Well, I wasn't until you took my clothes," Hutch said without opening his eyes. "But, yeah, I am now." Starsky responded by pulling the covers up even further, covering the bare shoulders. Hutch shifted a little, nestling under them even further, and seemed he would go back to sleep until there was a knock at the door.
"Come in," Starsky said gently, wondering which of this town's colorful citizens was visiting this time.
"I'm sorry to interrupt," a soft, but familiar, voice said as the door was cracked open, "but my brothers insisted I come up to meet you. Wouldn't tell me why, though." With these last words, he came fully into the room; Starsky finally understood what a good deal of the commotion was. And he understood something else as well.
The young man standing in front of him was tall, about 6'1", slim with fair hair and a pair of striking sky-blue eyes. But most of all, Starsky noticed the cleft between the young man's brows, so familiar. This was the man whose picture Hutch had showed him all those months ago in his ancient family album! It suddenly came together with the name he'd been trying to remember. He was momentarily frozen, watching mesmerized as the visitor's eyes went from his own to the bed, staring down at the injured man.
"Oh, my God!" was all the young man could manage. Nobody had to tell him why Jason and Jeremy had been so insistent that he come in here; it was written on his own face and that of the man in the bed. He was as speechless as Starsky, but the older man broke the spell first.
"I'm Dave Starsky. Who are you?" It might have sounded rude; he didn't know anymore. He just knew he didn't like feeling this confused. And this couldn't possibly be who he thought it was!
The blond still stood staring, frozen, prompting Starsky to step toward him. Maybe it was just the resemblance, but he was feeling protective of this stunned man. Taking him by both arms, he asked him again. "What is your name?"
"I....I...." Finally, he seemed to regain some of his senses. "I'm Joshua Bolt." His eyes went back to Hutch again. "Who is he?" Starsky stepped out of Josh's way, allowing his subconscious approach to the bed. The young man didn't seem to realize he was moving until his knees banged against the bed, shaking the piece of furniture.
"Uhmmmm...." Hutch rolled over at the motion, his face no longer toward Starsky but in the direction of the visitor. Blond lashes quivered open slowly, blue eyes trying to focus on the newcomer. Starsky knew the moment that those eyes could make out Josh because he was surprised that they didn't leave his partner's head entirely. That look only remained for a moment before Hutch sat up in bed suddenly, disbelieving, as an equally disbelieving Josh came and sat in front of him. His head swam at the sudden movement, and he put his hands to his temples.
Maybe it's my imagination, Hutch thought as he sat, staring, less than a foot from the face. That face! "Starsk..." he said, reaching out an unseeing hand and hoping his best friend would take it.
He did, just as the dizziness dissipated. "It's not your imagination, Hutch, and you're not delirious. This is Joshua Bolt. Mr. Bolt, this is my partner, Ken Hutchinson. Starsky glanced away toward the window for a moment, and it shocked him when he realized that he could not identify the speaker of the next sentence.
"I don't know what to say." Starsky turned back, and when Hutch responded, deduced that Josh had spoken.
"I don't know either, Mr. Bolt. You probably won't believe this, but I'm even more confused than you are." Hutch had clamped down on the child-like terror in his stomach, wondering where they were that they should meet up with this unusual man.
"Please, call me Josh. With three of us in Seattle, saying Mr. Bolt could get very confusing." Josh smiled at the man in the bed, a gentler, more innocent smile than Hutch wore, but otherwise identical. They exchanged the smiles for a long minute before Hutch was able to make himself think about something else again.
"Did you say Seattle? We're in Seattle?" He turned from Josh to Starsky, watching as both of them nodded their heads. Starsky couldn't decide if Hutch was more confused or more exhausted, but he definitely decided that Hutch needed some time to himself.
"We'll talk more about it later, buddy," he said, pushing the blond back down on the bed. "Right now, you need some rest." Josh stood and shook hands with the only brunet in the room. When their eyes met, there was a communication between them that startled Starsky. It was different, yet somehow familiar, and very disturbing. He watched the back of Josh's blond hair as he disappeared out the door, trying to figure out how he was going to explain all of this to Hutch, who had already fallen asleep beside him.
Hutch slept in late the next morning, but by the time he roused at around 10:30, his condition seemed to be much improved. Starsky, once again watching over him, decided that it had been worth the wait. His partner definitely looked better; he was still slightly weak, but felt well enough to get up.
Starsky had returned to his friend's side a couple of hours before, after spending a restful night of his own in the comfortable room next door. He felt ridiculous, dressed in the flannel shirt, longjohns, britches, and high boots which seemed to be standard attire for the men of this Seattle.
"Whoa! Hold on there a second!" Starsky said as Hutch threw back the covers and made a grab for the clothes laid out at the foot of the bed.
"Why? I know I'm not up to jogging, but I'd sure like to get a little fresh air."
Starsky stopped his reach with a solid hand on the pile of clothes. "I need to talk to you first. How much do you remember from last night? You were pretty out of it."
"I remember lying in this bed with a lot of people visiting me. People I didn't know." Hutch appeared as if he was delving into the vast reaches of his memory for what little there was there.
"Do you remember Josh?" Starsky asked hesitantly. How would he ever explain it again?!
"I'm not about to forget him, partner. I'm just glad you're here to tell me that he wasn't a dream or something." Hutch sat down, facing the brunet, when he failed to go on. "Is there something else? It seems like you're holding back."
"I'm just not sure how you're gonna take the rest of the news. You're gonna want somebody to explain it, but I don't think it's possible." Starsky looked almost embarrassed, while Hutch was becoming more and more impatient for his partner to explain what he was getting at.
"Starsk, will you just tell me what's going on?!"
"Okay, okay! It seems that, God only knows how, but we're back in 1875!"
"Are you trying to tell me that we've somehow gone back in time over a hundred years?! Starsk, that's ridiculous!"
"Hutch," Starsky began, standing up and motioning to his clothes. "Do these look like fashions from the 1970's? I tell ya, I don't know how or why, but we're not in the 20th century any more!" Hutch still looked doubtful. "If you don't believe me, look out the window." His eyes followed as Hutch crossed to the window overlooking the town square. "That is down-town Seattle! Or at least, how it was in 1875! Think, Hutch!! Think about Josh! D'you remember the picture you showed me of him? He's your ancestor, partner!!"
"I still don't understand it," Hutch muttered as he turned from the window, reaching again for the clothes. "Now I want that walk more than ever. We've gotta check it out."
The clothes fit Hutch amazingly well, prompting Starsky to wonder if perhaps they belonged to Josh rather than the general store. He watched as his best friend pulled on the black boots, standing to give him the full picture. Dressed like this, Starsky was struck again at how much he looked like the young man who had been there the previous night.
"Well? What do you think?" Hutch asked when Starsky didn't speak.
"I think you look like you belong here." Hutch couldn't figure whether Starsky's faint grin was from embarrassment or pride at his partner's chameleon-like tendencies. The blond was the only man Starsky knew who could look just as natural at an opera as he did at a beer bash.
"Shall we see if the rest of historic Seattle agrees?" Hutch asked, laughing, as he motioned toward the door.
"Are you sure you feel up to it?" Starsky questioned again, prompting an exasperated look from Hutch.
"I said I did, didn't I?! Now where should we start?"
Starsky's stomach chose that moment to rumble, and he suggested, "why don't we see about getting some breakfast downstairs."
The stairs groaned under the weight of the two men as they descended. Hutch took in everything he hadn't seen when they'd brought him in, and one thing in particular.
"Starsk, this isn't a boarding house, it's a bar!" he said, astonished.
"It's both, partner! And for now, at least, it's also home." The brunet slid into a chair at a round table, looking around for Lottie or somebody who appeared to be a waitress. When he heard noises from behind a swinging door, he sat back to wait for whoever it was to emerge.
Hutch was staring into nothingness, apparently deep in thought. It got Starsky to thinking as well. "Hey, Hutch? What exactly do you think happened to us?"
"Search me. I'd never believe it if somebody else told this story! I mean, c'mon! Time Travel?? You and I don't look anything like Kirk and Spock!"
"Yeah, but my Torino sure is prettier than the Enterprise, isn't it?" Starsky laughed, glad to know that his partner seemed at least comfortable here. Who knew how long they'd be stuck in 1875 before they miraculously arrived back in their own time?
"The worst part is, since we have no idea how we got here, there's nothing we can do to try to get back. Whatever it was, it just happened."
"There's gotta be a way we can get home, Hutch! I can't just sit here and accept it."
"What else would you do? I want to get home just as much as you do, but we don't even know how we got here! And we're not equipped to figure out a way to get back. All we can do is wait around until something 'just happens' again."
"I guess you're right. You know I don't do 'patient' very well." Starsky sat back, pouting slightly, knowing that it would relax them both for a few minutes.
At that moment, Lottie finally came out from the kitchen. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were waiting. I'm afraid I don't get much of a breakfast crowd. And now it's almost lunch time! Which would you gentlemen like?"
"How about some coffee, eggs and sausages," Starsky suggested, inciting an approving nod from the woman.
"And you, Mr. Hutchinson?" Hutch was slow to respond as he watched the blond woman, and it occurred to Starsky that he hadn't met her yet.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Hutch. This is Lottie Hatfield; she owns this place and treated you last night. Lottie, this is my friend Ken Hutchinson. Hutch for short."
"It's nice to meet you," Lottie greeted. "I hope you're feeling better this morning." It was a statement with the hint of a question.
"Yes, much, thank you for everything. Good thing I've got a hard head; it's sure taken some abuse in the last few years." Now Hutch noticed that it was Lottie who was staring. When he waited for her to speak next, she didn't go on. He nodded, looking at her, and she finally spoke.
"Oh, I'm sorry again! I'm just still so amazed at the resemblance between you and Josh. What can I get you for breakfast?"
"The same is fine," he answered, realizing that, if this were really turn-of-the-century Seattle, it was unlikely that they'd have fresh fruit or granola. "And milk if you have it," he added as an afterthought.
"Sure." She rushed away in a flurry of skirts to get their meals.
"Okay," Starsky said, picking up the confidential conversation where they'd left off. "So we have to wait around until some way to get us home shows itself. What do we do in the meantime?"
"Well.... It's pretty unlikely that this version of Seattle has any use for a couple of metropolitan cops. Guess we'll have to find jobs."
"Doing what?" Starsky asked, incredulous.
Just then, Lottie brought their coffee and milk. "Excuse me, Miss Hatfield," Hutch inquired before she could get away. "Can you tell me where a couple of hard-workers can find jobs around here? We've got to earn some money for our passage home." It was as good a cover story as any, since the truth was certainly not an option.
"In this town, there are only two real options for work. The Bolt Brothers' logging camp and Aaron Stempel's sawmill. Either one will pay you fair, but if I were you, I'd take the logging. It's hard work, but Aaron strikes me as a little structured for you boys' tastes." She seemed conflicted somehow on the subject of this Stempel man; it made Starsky itchy to find out what he was like.
"Tell us about Aaron Stempel, would ya? I mean, if we're gonna consider working for him, I'd like to know a little more."
"Aaron can be a good man, but he's a business man first and foremost. The entire structure of the town hinges on the Bolts' logging camp and Aaron's sawmill. The town couldn't survive without them both, and they couldn't survive without each other. No matter how much they sometimes wish they could."
"What does that mean?" Hutch asked, curious.
"Well, they've always butted heads a lot. Aaron's pretty convinced that he could make a fortune if he owned Bridal Veil mountain. That's where the Bolts do their logging," she added. "He's pretty much given up on the notion, but it came to a head a couple years ago. And Jason, Joshua, and Jeremy almost lost the mountain a few times to him."
"How is that possible if they own it?"
"There was a conflict in town back then. All the loggers wanted to quit and move away because there weren't any single women here. Jason proposed going to New England and bringing back some single ladies who were willing to come here to be married. But he didn't have the money to finance the journey, so Aaron paid for it - in exchange for making a bet."
"A bet?" Hutch, and Starsky as well, looked totally enraptured in the story.
"Yes. The agreement was that Jason had to bring back no less than one hundred single, marriagable, girls, and they all had to stay for no less than one year. If any one of them left, Aaron won ownership of the entire mountain."
"They must've all stayed, huh?" Lottie nodded at Starsky, a slight smile on her face. "A bet like that could sure make things tense."
"It was, for awhile, but the year passed, the brides stayed, and Aaron and the Bolts have actually become closer for it. As hard as that is to believe." She paused, then stood. "But I'd better go get your breakfasts before they should be dinners!" Lottie left to get their eggs before they could say anything more.
"So, which is it gonna be, partner? The sawmill or the logging camp?" Starsky was curious which his partner would choose. He loves the woods so much; it's bound to be the camp.
"I think the mill might be the best idea," Hutch answered, taking his partner by surprise. "It's in town instead of out in the middle of nowhere, and the work will probably be less strenuous. Even a cop's physical requirements are nothing compared to the shape a turn-of-the-century logger had to be in."
"Yeah, but with the way you are, you're bound to cut off a hand or something! I think we should go with the camp."
"You're volunteering to go out in the woods?! Starsk, that's amazing!" Hutch's thoughts seem to turn into himself as he studied his conscience for a moment. "I have to admit, that peace and quiet sounds good. So we're agreed? The Bolts?"
"Yep, partner. The Bolts." He smiled at the blond man across the table. "Heck, this could even end up bein' fun!"
"So, have you made your decision?" Lottie asked as she brought their plates.
"Yes," Hutch answered her. "We decided that you know the situation a lot better than we do, so we're going to see the Bolts after breakfast."
"I applaud your choice, gentlemen," she told them. "And if they're still there when you're done, I think you'll find all three of the Bolts at the mill signing some contracts." Both men started digging into their food, in essence dismissing her, as they believed she was ready to leave the table again, when she pulled up short. The motherly-acting woman drew Hutch's eyes to her own stern ones. "You be sure and tell Jason that I said you wouldn't be ready to work until tomorrow, though! You need another day of rest to be sure that head of yours is on straight!"
"But I feel fine!" Hutch started, but Starsky knew he didn't. He wasn't yet 100%, and it showed in his face and the slightly lethargic movements of his hands.
"No ya don't, buddy. I know you too well." Starsky turned to their healer. "I'll be sure he behaves and does just what you said." They exchanged a glance, Starsky's eyes saying, "thanks for the warning," before Lottie turned and left the table.
"Well, it can't hurt to at least get ourselves hired meanwhile, can it?" Hutch asked as he put on an unusual, pouty expression. On the rare occasions he'd tried it, this didn't usually work with Starsky, but it was worth a shot.
"No, I suppose not. Are you done?" Starsky asked, looking over his own empty plate at his partner's, which was half full. Hutch hadn't taken a bite from it in several minutes."
"Yeah, I guess so. Not very hungry." Starsky rose, followed by Hutch, who shocked his partner when he was abruptly sitting again. "Sorry," Hutch mumbled, rubbing his temples, as Starsky came to his side of the table. "Just a little dizzy for a minute."
"You see? She was right; you're not ready for this."
"It'll be okay, Starsk! I just got up too fast." Then, to prove his point, he rose slowly and steadily and preceded his partner, heading for the door as Lottie called that she'd add the bill to their room tab. It was a good thing, Hutch thought, because the only money they each had with them was dated far later than 1875!
Once outside, finding the way to the mill wasn't quite as evident as they thought. Two blurred images came at them, and Starsky waved them down. As they slowed, the images coalesced into two running children. "Aren't you the men that Clancey brought in on the boat?" the brown-haired boy asked. It surprised Starsky at how friendly they were; but then, children had a lot less to be afraid of in this era.
"Yes we are," Starsky told them. "This is my friend Hutch, and I'm David." Both children politely shook hands with each man, Molly remembering to curtsey properly.
"I'm Molly Pruitt, and this is my little brother, Christopher."
"Well, hello, Molly and Christopher," Hutch said. "Do your parents live in town?" Maybe they could direct them to the sawmill.
"Our parents are in Heaven," Christopher said honestly. "We live here with our sister, Candy."
"Candy, the woman who's dating Jeremy?" Starsky asked, not realizing that his partner was totally lost.
"Yeah," Christopher said.
"Yes," Molly echoed, "they're going to get married some day." It was a matter of fact statement, surprisingly mature from this little girl.
"Do you two happen to know where the sawmill is? We've got to go there." Both kids nodded, and before Hutch knew it, Molly had her small hand wrapped in his large one, leading them down the muddy road. He noticed that Christopher had taken Starsky's in much the same way, creating an unusual-looking foursome to be walking down the middle of Main Street, Seattle.
After a short distance that surprised Hutch by tiring him, they stopped in front of a building with large glass front windows. "This is the office," Molly told them. "Mr. Stempel is in there." Christopher wrinkled his nose in distaste of the man before the two children dismissed themselves as they heard their names called.
"Boy," Starsky commented, staring after the kids. "This Aaron Stempel guy must be quite a piece of work! Even the kids don't like him!"
"Now, now, Starsk. It's not our place to judge. After all, some kids don't like you!" Hutch laughed, then walked into the office with Starsky behind him, right into the middle of an argument.
"But if you just scheduled your workers this way, the milling would go faster and you'd be able to make the deadline!" Josh was arguing, sounding unnaturally vocal.
"And I'm telling you," a dark-haired, long-faced man yelled back, "that it wouldn't make a bit of difference! I won't have you telling me how to run my mill!"
"Look!" Jason spoke up this time. "Josh is right. If you use four men instead of two on each piece of lumber, because of the weight of the trees we're cutting now, they could be fed more than twice as fast."
"They'll have all the trees milled in almost half the time it would take you this way." Josh stated, not noticing that Hutch had come up behind him and was examining his notes. Starsky couldn't help but notice out out of place Josh looked, sandwiched between his two considerably darker brothers, but as Hutch joined them, they looked more like two pairs than a trio and a single.
"He's right, Mr. Stempel," Hutch said to the mill's owner, using his best, and most educated, voice. "Your production would multiply astronomically if you initiated his program. You'd be much better off if you considered it."
"And who, may I ask, are you?" Aaron asked rudely. How dare this stranger interfere in his business!!
"I'm Ken Hutchinson. And if you weren't so stubborn, you'd see that they're right." Unbelievably, Hutch's words sunk in. Aaron picked up Josh's notes from the table and sat back down in his office chair, studying them at length. Finally, unable to deny it further, he sighed.
"Very well, we'll give it a try. But if it doesn't work, I'm going to raise my rates to make up for the loss!" The threat was not wasted on the Bolts, who knew he was the only mill for hundreds of miles.
"Agreed," Jason said, sure that they had nothing to worry about. He, Joshua, and Jeremy left the office with Starsky and Hutch trailing behind them.
"Thank you," Josh said to Hutch once they were outside. "Suggestions mean a lot more to Aaron when they come from someone whose name isn't Bolt."
It suddenly occurred to Hutch that Mr. Stempel hadn't shown any reaction at his appearance. "You're welcome," he said. "Y'know, that's the first person since I woke up that didn't look at me like I was from Mars?"
Starsky and the brothers laughed together; it felt good to sense the camaraderie. "Are you kidding?" Jeremy said, smiling. "By this morning, everybody in town has heard about Josh's look-alike. Didn't you notice?" The smallest man in the group motioned to the upper windows of the enormous building to their right, seeing a large number of women watching them. "The girls are fascinated."
"Girls?" Starsky asked, his attention suddenly riveted. Many of the faces in the windows were extremely pretty; none of them were unattractive. He smiled wickedly. "Maybe we should go over and introduce ourselves, Hutch!"
"Put it in neutral, buddy. First things first." The phrasing obviously confused the brothers, but they didn't question what was obviously none of their business.
"All this talk about our milling project has distracted us. Were you looking for us or Aaron when you came to the mill?" Jason asked.
"Actually," Starsky said, noticing that Hutch and Josh were staring at each other again, "we were looking for you three. It seems that we're gonna need jobs until we can find a way to get ourselves back home, and Lottie suggested we check with you."
Jason studied them, considering, and finally exchanged nods with his brothers. "Yes, we can use you. You look strong enough and sturdy enough. That's most important in our business." He smiled at them. "You're hired, gentlemen."
"There's just one thing," Starsky interrupted Jeremy's pumping Hutch's hand. "Lottie says Hutch can't work until tomorrow. Says he needs another day to rest."
"Very well, then," Jason agreed. "The both of you can start tomorrow. Josh, why don't you show our newcomers around Seattle and the route to camp while Jeremy and I get back. After all, somebody's got to man the store!" He laughed, a loud, full sound that was booming and friendly. He patted Josh on the back as he, Hutch, and Starsky headed away and then turned to lead Jeremy back to camp.
"First of all," Joshua said, "I should tell you that you can live up at camp if you want, but it's starting to get pretty cold at night, so you'll have to decide for yourself. You can still stay in town at Lottie's if you want, it's up to you."
"Josh," Starsky asked, drawing the young man's attention. He couldn't be more than 26, the brunet thought. "Why do you think you and Hutch look so much alike?" It wasn't that he was really that interested. He was more interested in what the other townspeople were probably thinking. If they were going to be condemned as witches or something, Starsky wanted to know!
"I really don't know what to think," Josh said, his voice soft. It was the same tone as Hutch at his most gentle. Starsky remembered that tone in a dirty alley behind Martini's porno studio. I'm here; I gotcha. "I know I don't think you're aliens!" he laughed softly.
"Thank God for small favors," Hutch whispered for Starsky's ears only.
Josh led them all through the square, pointing out the church and store and other points of interest, finally ending up in front of the dormitory. "Have you heard about our trip around the Horn to fetch the girls from New England?" Both men nodded, their curiosity about the women raised. "I should take you in and properly introduce you," Josh added, heading for the front door.
"Wait!" Hutch yelled, stopping Joshua in his tracks. The younger man returned to his side as the older-version of himself did his best to straighten his hair and his clothes. "I wasn't really expecting to.... I mean, I didn't think we would be... um.... be meeting any women today." He stopped fussing when he felt the hardness in his hair over where he knew the gash was. "Oh, what's the use! Lead on!" Starsky laughed a little at his partner's persnickety nature; somehow he knew that he'd be in some form of water the moment they got back to the saloon.
Joshua knocked on the dormitory front doors, and was greeted before the door ever opened by the sounds of scurrying and feminine giggles. Finally, there was an answer, taken in the form of the door being opened by Candy Pruitt.
"Yes, Mr. Bolt? May I help you?" She was very prim and proper, but Josh could see the group of ladies collected behind her.
"Hi, Candy," he said, his casualness in contrast to her formality. "I'd just like to introduce our new friends to the brides. May we come in?"
Candy stepped aside to allow the three men entrance. Once they were in and the door was closed, Joshua made his introductions. "Ladies, I'd like to present Mr. David Starsky and Mr. Ken Hutchinson. Mr. Starsky, Mr. Hutchinson, these are the brides."
Starsky and Hutch looked across the woman-filled room, scanning over faces and figures. They were wholesome girls, pretty for the most part. One in particular caught Hutch's eye, startlingly young, yet pretty, with long dark ponytails and large round eyes. Starsky, for his part, couldn't decide which girl was most attractive. He expected he'd have fun deciding, though.
Finally, slowly, the pair of men stepped forward invitingly, the girls following their lead and crowding around them. Many of the ladies introduced themselves by name, with conversations ensuing. It was unusual to have strangers in their town, and these two were particularly fascinating. Suddenly, a piercing sound somewhat akin to a chicken, split the air along with the drumming of shoes on wood. "Wait! Wait! What am I missing?!"
The crowd in the parlor split so everybody could see Biddie Cloom as she raced down the stairs. She was much more plain than the rest of the brides, and Starsky thought how he pitied her future husband; that voice alone could drive a man crazy!
"Josh brought us some guests," Candy told her as she finally reached the bottom of the stairs. "Biddie Cloom, this is David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson."
Biddie bowed politely to Hutch. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Hutchinson," she said, already turning away. Starsky was startled when she faced him, and, instead of bowing like she had for his partner, she took his right arm in a tight hold. "It's so nice to have you in our town, Mr. Starsky. Perhaps I could show you the sights sometime."
"Biddie!" Candy chastised. They both knew that women weren't supposed to be that forward, but then again, Biddie Cloom often broke those rules. She had realized after the first six months or so in Seattle, that, if she didn't, the man would never make the first move.
"Uhhhhhh," Starsky muttered, trying his best not to squirm at her voice or her touch, "yeah, maybe." Luckily, several other women joined Biddie in talking with the handsome brunet, allowing Starsky an escape of sorts from his pursuer.
Looking across the room, Starsky scanned the faces, noticing that Candy and Josh had removed themselves from the commotion and were chatting amiably. Hutch was also surrounded by a group of girls, the closest of which was the young dark-haired girl with the ponytails that he'd seen earlier. She seemed totally enthralled by his partner, giving him her undivided attention. It wasn't the first time he'd seen that look on a woman's face as she talked with or about Hutch, and it certainly wouldn't be the last time, Starsky figured.
Starsky and Hutch had been chatting with the girls for almost an hour when Starsky saw Josh's and Hutch's equally blue eyes meet across the room. To the ladies, the look meant nothing, but the brunet man knew that it meant it was time to go. Figuring they had just about overstayed their welcome, the three men bid their 'goodnight's and left, a small cluster of the women walking them to the door. Starsky suddenly wanted no more than to get out of there when he noticed that Biddie was at the front of the pack, batting her nearly-lashless eyes at him in an attempt to be provocative. They actually managed to get out before she was able to say anything more to him.
Once outside, the three men paused to catch their breaths. Hutch and Josh could both feel the tension in Starsky begin to bleed away. "Josh...." Starsky began, about to take his new young friend to task.
"Sorry about that, Dave," Josh said, preempting him. I should have warned you about Biddie, especially since I know she likes dark-haired men." He couldn't help but smile, though. "She really is a very nice girl, though. You just have to get used to her."
Starsky was struck by how much that statement sounded like his partner; always finding the good in anybody. "I'm afraid it'll take me a very long time to get used to her!" he laughed, enjoying seeing Hutch join in. "Maybe we'd better head back," Starsky suggested, taking a second look at his best friend. "You look like you're about to drop over."
Josh nodded his agreement as Hutch began to object, obviously fascinated with this new environment despite his fatigue. "No objections," Josh said, taking Hutch's left arm just as Starsky took the right. "As it is, Lottie is going to have my head for bringing you home this tired. She's very serious about her patients, y'know."
"Maybe we'll be lucky, Starsky suggested, "and she won't be in the saloon when we get there."
"Unlikely, but we can hope," Josh said, flashing a smile at Starsky. The brunet returned the smile, and it occurred to him that, even with the strong protectiveness he was feeling for his partner, he was also starting to have similar feelings for this other tall blond. Somehow, it felt natural, falling somewhere between his feelings for Hutch and his little brother, Nicky. The emotions were unsettling, and Starsky wasn't sure what to do with them. Just when he started feeling comfortable with Josh, he'd realize all along that most of that comfort wasn't because of who he was, but because of who he resembled. And that bothered Starsky. Josh needed true friends, not just Hutch's leftovers.
When Jeremy walked into the cabin after bedding down the horses, Jason already had his head buried in a large book that he remembered seeing years ago but had never bothered reading. There was another, similar one waiting by his side.
"Whatcha doin'?" Jeremy asked when Jason didn't react to his presence. His older brother was so startled, the book nearly ended up on the floor as he jumped.
"Jeremy!!!" He yelled at the younger man. "How many times have I told you not to sneak up on me like that!"
"I wasn't sneaking, Jason," he stated matter-of-factly. "I was just wondering what you were so intent on."
"It's just a book, now would you drop it?!" He jumped to his feet to emphasize his point, not realizing that the abrupt movement would dislodge the top volume. Jeremy watched as it toppled to the floor, startled at his brother's outburst.
"I'm sorry, Jason! I was just askin'!" Jeremy asked as he beat Jason to picking up the book. "What is this?" Flipping open the front cover, he was shocked by the name he saw there. "Jason, this is Mom's journal. I never knew what this book was, but it's her own private thoughts. I don't think you should be reading it." But he offered no objection as Jason took the book from his hands.
"I don't think she'd mind, Jeremy," Jason said, his voice suddenly more gentle than any Jeremy had ever heard him use as he caressed the leather cover.
"But that's been around for years. Why do you want to read it now? What's so interesting?" For a moment, Jeremy knew that Jason wouldn't answer him without more incentive, so he said, "C'mon, Jason! She was my mother too! What's so important in that book? Tell me now, or so help me God I'll stay up all night reading until I figure it out, then I'll have Josh look for anything I might have missed."
"No!!!" Jason yelled again, taking Jeremy by surprise, a scared look coming to the younger man's face. "Josh must never know about this!!"
"Well, then, tell me. What is it?" There was no getting around it, so Jason resettling himself into the chair and began the story.
"I"m not reading it to see what Mom wrote. It's what she didn't write in it that's intriguing." Jeremy thought what a curious remark that was, and circled around to look over Jason's shoulder as his brother reopened the book.
"I've looked at this book in your chest a thousand times! I never realized what it was before."
"Yeah," Jason said distractedly, "I remember her writing in it all the time." He motioned to the second book. "That one is Dad's."
"Why did you bring them out now?" Jeremy was still curious, and the conversation with his brother was getting him nowhere.
"If I tell you, Jeremy, can you promise you won't repeat it to another living soul?" Jason was as serious as his younger brother had never seen him.
"Another soul?" Jeremy repeated. "Well, I wouldn't tell anybody but Josh. You know we don't have secrets."
"I already told you, you can't tell Josh!!" His eyes calmed, reassuring his brother. "Trust me. This time, you're going to have to keep the secret. At least until we figure out what's going on." He looked up into his brother's eyes. "Promise me, Jeremy."
"Okay, okay, I promise! Now what's going on?"
"It's this man in town, Ken Hutchinson. It's just too strange that he looks so much like Josh and isn't related to us."
"So," Jeremy said, trying to pick up on where Jason was going, "you think Hutch might be related?"
"Not really," Jason answered, looking concerned. "I'm afraid that Josh might be related to him."
"Jason, that doesn't make sense!" Jeremy sat on a nearby chair to talk face-to-face with his elder sibling. "If he's related to Josh, or Josh is related to him, then he's got to be related to all of us."
Jason leaned forward, laying a calming hand on Jeremy's arm. "Not if Josh isn't really related to us." He held up a restraining hand when his brother started to object. "I was just thinking. And wondering. Jeremy, I was seven years old when Josh was born, but I don't remember it! I don't remember Ma being 'with child', and I don't remember the doctor or the midwife coming. All I remember is them suddenly telling me that I had a little brother." The anguish in his voice was clear; he was scared.
"You were really young, Jason. That doesn't mean anything," Jeremy denied. "You could have been in school or playing when he was born. Maybe you just didn't notice how Mom changed." It was difficult for Jeremy to be supportive of his older brother when the same nervousness was churning in his own stomach.
"I thought of all those things, Jeremy. That was why I wanted to take a look at these books. To see what our own parents had written in their journals about it. I haven't gotten to Dad's yet, but Mom's isn't helping at all." He turned the book around to show his brother the entries for the proper days. "She talks about him as a baby, crying or teething or whatever, but there isn't a single word about his birth."
"So you think he might not even be our brother?!" Jeremy didn't realize how loud his voice was getting until Jason had to shush him.
"Quiet!! We don't know when he'll be back. And we can't tell him anything until we know for sure. It would tear him apart!"
"You're right," Jeremy agreed, unconsciously drumming his fingers. "But what does all this have to do with Hutch?"
"I don't know," Jason said. "I do know that I like him and his friend, Dave. And I don't think they mean us any harm. Whether fate brought them here after their sea disaster or he was headed this way in the first place, I can't believe he'll be a problem." Jason seemed to withdraw into himself, deep in thought, as Jeremy did likewise.
After several minutes of silence while Jason's eyes went back to scanning their mother's book, Jeremy had to say what was on his mind. "Jason, have you noticed how close Josh, Hutch and Dave seem? Like the three of them have been best friends for a long time?"
"Yes, I did. I don't know what scares me more: the hurt Josh will feel when they finally leave or the trouble there could be if they stay. Or the worst possibility, that they'll leave and Josh will go with them."
"Josh would never leave Bridal Veil Mountain!" Jeremy exclaimed. But it didn't have the certainty it would have had before the strangers' arrival in their town, and both men knew it.
"Well, I might be jumping the gun," Jason said, trying to calm his obviously excited brother. "I still have to check Dad's book. Maybe it'll clear up the whole thing."
He bit his tongue and Jeremy did likewise when they heard Josh's light footsteps coming to the door. A silence descended on the room as Josh came in, a gloom that felt stifling. "Hey, what's up, brothers?" he said, happily. He and the two newcomers had apparently had a good time.
"Nothing much, Josh," Jeremy choked out. "How is Hutch feeling?"
"He was pretty exhausted when I left them back at Lottie's. I'm afraid we might have overdone it today, but I'm sure he'll be at work tomorrow. Those two are awfully strong-willed." He laughed at the memory of watching Starsky trying to disentangle himself from Biddie's hold. "That is, except for where the brides are concerned."
"You introduced them to the brides?" Jason asked, finally speaking, his shock evident. He knew that either one of them falling for a particular lady could keep him in town. And although he liked both men very much, he was just as eager for them to be gone.
"Sure!" Josh said, interrupting his thoughts. "I couldn't just let them go around wondering. I'm not sure I did Dave much of a favor though." He let out a little chuckle. "It seems one bride in particular was very taken by him."
"You don't mean..." Jeremy said, smiling, suddenly forgetting that things weren't as they had always been.
"Yep, little brother. Biddie." Josh laughed aloud this time, with Jeremy joining in. Even Jason couldn't help but smile at the idea of the woman pursuing the stranger.
"Poor Dave!" Jeremy laughed, the brothers falling easily into their routine. Maybe, Jeremy thought, keeping this from Josh wouldn't be quite so hard. It seemed they were going to be treated to quite a few antics on the part of the two new crewmen.
"Hey, Starsk! You'd better get up!" Hutch called through the door as he knocked. He wasn't sure that he heard motions from the inside until there were distinctive shuffling sounds near the door. Finally, it cracked open.
"Hutch, it's not even dawn yet!" The blue eye seemed to say through the crack in the door. The bright lights in the hallway were apparently too much for Starsky.
Hutch pushed his way into the room, filling it with light. "Well, you know Josh said they start work at dawn up at the camp. And if we're gonna earn our keep here, we've gotta keep these jobs." The door slammed behind him, plunging the room into darkness once again. Hutch could hear his partner shuffle back to the bed.
"Just a few more minutes..." Starsky almost whined as he apparently dropped back onto the bed.
"No," Hutch said, punctuating it by abruptly opening the blinds, letting in more light, "we've got to get going now!" Starsky hid his eyes, but got out of bed anyway, gathering clothes from about the room in an attempt to get dressed.
Hutch dropped silently into the only chair in the room while he watched his partner dress, making sure that Starsky didn't go back to bed despite the light. His eyes had strayed to the rest of the room, comparing it to his own, when he noticed that Starsky had stopped moving. He was sitting on the bed, deep in thought, with a shiny black boot in one hand.
"Starsk, what's wrong?" Hutch strode to the bed and waved a hand in front of his partner's eyes. "Starsky!"
"Oh..." the eyed turned from nothingness to his best friend's face, "I was just trying to figure something out."
"Well, if you're trying to figure this mess out, buddy, you may as well give it up. I don't think it's gonna happen." Hutch smiled and handed Starsky his other boot.
"No, it's nothing that big. I was just trying to figure out why Lottie looks so familiar to me. Doesn't she to you, Hutch?" The deep azure eyes turned to the blond, questioning.
"Now that you mention it, partner, she does. Maybe she's just got that kind of face."
"Yeah, maybe," Starsky answered as he stood, finally fully dressed, and followed Hutch from the room.
It was far too early for Lottie to have breakfasts ready, but Josh had already informed them that they fed the men three meals at camp, so they shouldn't have to work too long before eating. As they made their way out of town on foot, Starsky studied his partner's profile.
"So, how are you feeling this morning?" he asked. "How's the head?"
"Let's just say I wish I could go to the corner drugstore for some aspirin, okay?" Even that was more of an admission of pain than he usually gave, and it lit a spark in Starsky's memory.
"That's it, Hutch," he said, sounding interested if not excited. "That's who Lottie reminds me of. Remember the lady in the drugstore in Vegas? The Strangler's mother?"
Hutch thought about it for a bit, remembering the brief encounters they had had with the druggist. "Yeah, I guess she sort of does. Not that they're look-alikes, mind you. But enough to be noticeable."
"Well, I think it's more than a little," Starsky answered, beginning a little pout that always worked on the ladies, but never on his partner.
They arrived at camp after fifteen minutes of walking, the directions Josh had given them being perfect. Each man was handed an ax by a man introduced by Jason to them as Corky. Once all the men were assembled, Jason led them further on up the ridge. Jeremy, his own ax in his hand, managed to work his way over next to the newcomers.
"Hi," he said, "how's your head?"
"Just a headache left," Hutch said, smiling at the smaller man. "Where's Josh this morning?"
The question disturbed Jeremy for a reason he did not want to reveal to the men just yet. "He stayed behind to do the camp books. He does them a couple days a week."
"Ya see, Hutch," Starsky said, smiling, "you aren't the only brains in this outfit!" He turned to Jeremy in a loud stage whisper, "sometimes Hutch thinks he's the only guy in this world with an IQ over 130!"
Jeremy looked confused at the term, but figured it must be some way of measuring intelligence that he had never heard of. But Josh was smart too, and that common feature disturbed him more than anything else.
The party stopped abruptly, each pair of men choosing a large tree to work on together. Jason first giving Jeremy orders, then coldly directing Starsky and Hutch to a large birch, where both men went to work. Starsky had a difficult time with the ax, surprising him with how much harder it was than it looked. But Hutch swung the ax like he'd been born doing it, and before long, Starsky was doing his best to imitate him. They made respectable progress in the few hours, impressing Jason and Jeremy with their willingness to do the hard work. It was obvious from the men's hands that they weren't used to this kind of labor, but they were adapting to this with everything they had, earning the brothers' respect.
By the time the team broke to head back to camp for lunch, both police detectives were well on their way to developing some pretty severe blisters on their hands and sore muscles in their shoulders and arms. The five men sat at the same table to eat, with Starsky and Josh on one side and Hutch, looking more worn out than he normally would have, Jeremy, and Jason on the other. They were about half way through their meal when they all looked up at the sound of feminine giggles.
A group of unfamiliar girls were just into the woods beyond the camp, all of them carrying baskets and stopping from time to time to collect wild berries. Starsky couldn't help but notice that they did not look familiar.
"I don't remember seeing those women at the dormitory," he commented to Josh as Hutch and Jeremy continued whatever conversation they had been having. Jason sat silently, watching.
"They weren't there last night. You only met about half of the brides." He noticed Starsky peering into the woods intensely, so he started to get up. "Why don't I just ask them over and introduce you now."
"No, wait!" Starsky said, putting a hand on Josh's arm before he could really get out of his seat. "Don't do that!" The suddenness and intensity of Dave's voice froze Josh on the spot.
"Why not?" he asked, simply. "They're nice girls! Really!"
"Josh, who is that one in the front? The one with the blond hair and the turned up nose?" His insides lurched as he thought what his partner would feel if he'd seen her in the same way that Starsky had.
"Do you know her?" he said, not answering Starsky's question.
"No, there's no way we can," Starsky whispered to the man at his side. "But she looks exactly like a woman we used to know. Hutch loved her very much; it almost killed him when she died. I don't think it would be a good idea if he saw her unprepared like this. I have a feeling he's still weaker than he's letting on."
"Oh," Josh answered gently, understanding just by the distress in Starsky's voice. Apparently this woman's death had left some severe scars on Hutch's heart; ones so bad that even his friend could see them, and through him, Josh himself saw them too. "Okay, but maybe you'd better tell him tonight after work. He's bound to see her around town eventually."
"Thanks, Josh," Starsky said, smiling gratefully at the young man. Josh had the same gentle nature as his partner, and after what he'd just seen, Starsky was grateful for it.
Starsky shivered in the buckboard as they bounced back toward town from camp. Candy had come up to visit Jeremy, and had graciously offered to chauffeur the men back to Lottie's when they decided that they were not adapted enough to this environment to sleep out in this cold. It had to be somewhere in the 40's, of that much Starsky was sure. Next to him, he realized Hutch was shivering only slightly; from the look in his eyes, the brunet deduced that it was more from his body lacking the energy required than from his not being as cold as Starsky himself. Hutch looked exhausted, and he hadn't spoken since they left camp.
"Hey, are you okay?" Starsky asked, drawing the blue eyes to his own.
"Yeah, just tired. I can't remember the last time I worked so hard." But his words were belied by the shadowed look on his face.
"I wonder if you going to work this soon was a mistake. Maybe you need to rest up some more."
"Nah, I'm okay, Starsk. Just out of shape for this kind of work. It'll get better," Hutch slurred.
"Here we are!" Candy called back as she drew the wagon to a stop in front of Lottie's.
"Thanks for the ride, Candy!" Starsky called, finding himself liking this young woman more and more. She was generous and thoughtful. Starsky quickly climbed out of the back, but Candy kept her eyes on Hutch as he slowly made his way to the back of the wagon. In their own time, she would have made a terrific doctor, Starsky thought. He was just finishing that thought when Hutch planted his booted feet in the dirt next to his own, and suddenly, the tall blond was swaying.
"Ken!" Candy called.
"Hutch!" Starsky said simultaneously as his partner started to fall. A strong hand kept him in place until the spell seemed to pass. "Are you okay?" he asked again when it seemed that Hutch would stay on his feet.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just dizzy for a second." He sounded exhausted.
"Is he all right?" Candy asked, having climbed down from her driver's seat and joined them.
"I'm fine!" Hutch repeated, sounding a little stronger now. "I just stood up too fast after a long, hard day." Candy and Starsky's eyes met in mutual understanding, Starsky's trying to convey that he would look after his friend.
"Well, we'd better get inside," he said, smiling at the auburn-haired beauty. "I'll call.... I mean, I'll come and get you if we need anything." They both knew exactly what he meant, and luckily she hadn't seemed to notice his slip. Telephones wouldn't be around for some time yet.
The pair headed for the large double-doors of the saloon, Starsky realizing as he tried to stay close to Hutch that his muscles were acutely sore too. They never did things like that in New York City, nor in Los Angeles.
Hutch paused when they were fully inside, and his face brightened more than it had all afternoon. "Mmmmmmmm! Do you smell that? I'm starved!" Starsky was relieved to hear the added energy in his partner's voice.
"You wanna eat something before we go upstairs?" Starsky's stomach was growling too; it had been a long time since lunch, and they'd left camp before dinner.
"Yeah, let's do it!"
Soon they were both sitting over a nutritious and well-balanced frontier-style dinner, courtesy of Lottie's cook, chewing with all the strength they had left.
"I sure wish they'd heard of pizza here. Or maybe even a burrito?" Starsky asked, already starting to get bored with the blandness of the food. He added several shakes of salt and pepper to the plate and took another mouthful.
"I'm afraid those foods won't be introduced to the Northeast for several decades at least," Hutch muttered around a mouthful of baked potato. "Thank God," he added.
"Maybe I could make some myself! Get into the kitchen some night after it's closed, just to have a little taste of home." It was an ambitious idea with one flaw.
"Starsky," Hutch said, swallowing what was in his mouth, "do you know how to make a pizza from scratch? Or a burrito for that matter?"
"Well.... I'm sure I could figure it out. All I'd need is a bread recipe for the pizza dough, then some spaghetti sauce..."
"They don't have spaghetti sauce here. You'd have to make it from tomatoes."
"Oh.... well, I'm sure I could come up with something. Then I'd need some mozzarella cheese..."
"They have to make their own cheese here too. Do you know how to make cheese so it turns out to be mozzarella and not Swiss or American?" Hutch smiled, enjoying seeing Starsky realize that this wasn't going to be as easy as he thought.
"Guess I'll have to just wait until we get home," Starsky admitted, resigned. They went back to eating, the silence descending on the pair.
Starsky, for all his complaining, still finished his plate before Hutch did. He waited for Hutch to finish, watching all the people in the room. The sign outside said "saloon", but it was really so much more than that. He knew enough of the old West to know that women - the "good" ones anyway - would never have come into an honest-to-God saloon. But this was more a restaurant, a social hall, and an inn. People came here almost as much to eat as they did to drink, and he remembered hearing that there were rooms in the back for meetings and such.
Somewhere, peripherally, he realized that Hutch had stopped eating and turned back to broach the subject he'd been considering. Telling Hutch about the look-alike for Gillian was going to be sticky, and he had no idea how he'd react. "Awwww, Hutch," he whispered when he saw that Hutch, his plate still over a quarter full, had his head down on the table next to it, soundly asleep. In all the years he'd known him, no matter how exhausted he'd been, Hutch always had control over whether he slept or not; the only exception was when he was hurt or sick. Starsky realized that his partner wasn't fully recovered yet from his head injury, regardless of whether he would admit it or not.
Getting up, he circled around to Hutch, shaking him lightly. "C'mon, Hutch. Let's get some sleep." Hutch groaned but didn't awaken until Starsky hoisted him up by an arm around the brunet's shoulders, Starsky's circling around Hutch's waist.
"Where are we goin'?" Hutch slurred, still half asleep.
"We're goin' up to bed, ya big lummox," Starsky chuckled.
"But I'm not that kind of guy," Hutch muttered, trying for the joke.
"I know, and I'm no date, let me tell ya!" He laughed back. "I'm going to get you into bed," since you sure don't look like you can do it for yourself, he thought, "then hit the hay myself. Tomorrow's another work day, partner."
Hutch was surprisingly cooperative as Starsky got him settled into his bed, undressing the half-asleep man and watching him snuggle under the covers. "Night, Hutch," he whispered as he shut off the lights and closed the door, heading for his own room. "Sleep well."
"I know none of us is the best cook," Josh said to his brothers in their cabin that night, "but why can't we invite Dave and Hutch over for supper? I think they could use the friendship."
"Look, Josh. I just don't think it's a good idea for you, or any of us, to get too attached to them." Jason knew the argument sounded hollow, but went on anyway. "They're bound to eventually earn enough money to get home, and then you'll lose your new friends."
"It's not that big a price to pay. Besides, maybe they'll stay. If they're made to feel welcome, that is." The accent wasn't lost on his older brother.
"Not that my vote means anything," Jeremy interrupted in a surprisingly brave move against his eldest brother's wishes, "but I think we should invite them too."
"Oh, you do, do you?" Jason challenged, and Jeremy faced him squarely.
"Yes, I do! Look, all they have is each other! They need somebody to make them feel that they're not so alone, and I don't know why it can't be us!" At Jason's doubtful expression, Joshua picked up the argument again.
"They're really great guys, Jason. And no, I don't think that just because Hutch looks like me! Why don't you like them? Geez, you hardly said more than five words to them all day. Did you see them out there on the job today? Dave didn't have any idea what he was doing when he first started, but he learned quickly and worked very hard. Hutch knew what he was doing, I could tell that, but he's still being affected by his injury. But he worked himself to the bone today, too. What more can you ask of them? Thank God Candy offered to take them home, because I seriously doubt that they would have been able to walk the distance back to town."
"All right, all right!! If you want to have them over for dinner, go ahead and invite them!" While Jason could admit to himself that he really did like David, he was still very suspicious of Hutch. Maybe a little close observation of the man wouldn't hurt. Meanwhile, before then, he had to find time to check out his father's journal. Maybe all his suspicions were for nothing, but he wouldn't stop until he was sure of it.
As Starsky tucked his flannel shirt into his pants, he thought about trying to explain the girl Joshua had called "Lizzie" the day before. It was scary how much she looked like Gillian, and their luck at not running into her couldn't last for long. He stopped moving, listening for a moment, realizing there was no noise coming from next door. Hutch must still be asleep.
"Hutch!" he called as he knocked on the blond's door. He heard rustling from inside, but no real response. "Hutch, if you've got a lady in there, you'd better cover up, 'cause I'm comin' in!" He laughed as he pushed the door into the room, vaguely seeing the outline of his friend still in bed. "We're gonna be late for work if ya don't get up," he said, opening the curtains.
"Uhmmm," Hutch muttered, pushing himself to a sitting position in bed. "Didn't we just go to sleep?" He still looked tired, but not exhausted the way he had last night, and Starsky was grateful for that small improvement.
"Well, one of us has been asleep longer than the other, since he went out in the dining room last night!" Hutch smiled slightly, embarrassed, as he swung his legs out from under the covers and started to dress.
Starsky sat in the room's chair, studying his partner's movements for signs of anything amiss, but he seemed okay this morning. "What are you looking at?" Hutch asked abruptly; Starsky didn't realize he'd been staring.
"Just you, blondie. How are you feeling this morning?"
"I'm fine! A little sore, but nothing worse than how I feel after the policeman's barbecue. Why are you so worried?"
"Are you trying to deny that you had a dizzy spell yesterday? Or do you just not remember it?"
"No, I'm not denying it. I just didn't think you noticed. I mean, we were in the woods and you were on the other side of the tree and...." Starsky's eyes were wide, but Hutch had no idea why. "What's wrong?"
"Hutch, I was talkin' about the spell you had yesterday, right here, outside Lottie's. Are you sayin' you had more than just that one?"
"Uh... no, of course not. It was just that one."
"Hutch, you're lying and I know it! Now tell me the truth!"
"Okay, there was another during the day. But it was only one, and it passed quickly." He pulled on his shirt, averting his eyes from the concerned dark blue ones of his partner.
"Maybe you should stay here today and I'll go to camp by myself," Starsky suggested, seeing a defiant look on the blond's face. "Don't argue with me, Hutch. Not this time."
"I'm not arguing, but I'm not staying here either. Now let's go!"
Hutch drew up short, turning back to his partner. "You're not going to change my mind, Starsk."
"I know. God knows how I know! But there's something I've got to talk to you about before you go out there again."
Hutch let Starsky push him down into the chair he'd vacated. "What's going on, Starsk?" He knew that look on his friend's face, and knew it was going to be some news that could hurt.
"Do you remember the other night when we were at the dormitory?"
"Sure, of course I do. You haven't seen Biddie again, have you?" Hutch chuckled as Starsky cringed.
"No, it's not that. You see, all the girls weren't there that night, and you may run into the rest of them during the day."
"Yeah, so what. Even in this era, they're just women."
"That's right, but there's one who's.... uhhhhh... different."
"What do you mean different? Starsk, could you get to the point so we can get going!"
"I guess the only way to say this is just to say it. Hutch, I've seen some of those brides, and there's one who looks just like Gillian. I didn't want you to be shocked and cut yourself with an ax when you first saw her." There was a flash of remembered pain in Hutch's eyes, quickly buried by the blond man. But he still hurt, and probably always would. Starsky knew that - could almost feel it himself. It was the empathy they shared. He placed a supporting hand on Hutch's shoulder for just a second, and the hurt ebbed some.
Hutch seemed to think for a minute, the crease between his brows working. "Well... She can't look that much like her."
"She looks as much like Gillian as you look like Josh. Just don't forget that she's not Gillian, okay? I don't think either of us can take that again."
"I'll hold up my end, don't worry." He headed again for the door, but drew back for just a second. "But thanks for the warning, partner."
Starsky smiled and he shooed the blond out of the room and downstairs for work.
Joshua and Jeremy rushed around the small cabin, tidying it up and making preparations for their guests.
"You'd better watch that supper doesn't burn," Jeremy warned his brother.
"Jeremy, when was the last time I burned a meal? It's usually Jason who does that!"
"Speaking of Jason," Jeremy wondered, "where is he? Shouldn't he be helping us with this?"
"He's shut up in his room. Guess he figures that since we wanted to do this so badly, that we should have to do all the work. I sorta can't blame him."
Behind the locked bedroom door, Jason was uncharacteristically stretched out on the bed, writing a letter. He'd just finished reading his father's journal, which had told him nothing more than his mother's had. Specifics of Joshua's birth itself were strikingly absent. Maybe Uncle Duncan could shed some light on the situation. But the more his search came up blank, the more he feared what it meant. Not that it would matter to him or Jeremy if Josh wasn't related by blood. But if somebody was going to come along and try to take Josh from his family, Jason wanted to be prepared to fight with everything he had.
Not that he necessarily thought that Hutch was the underhanded type; if he thought that, he never would have hired him or Dave. But he'd been fooled before, and he wasn't about to let a mistake cost him his younger brother.
He finally finished the letter and folded the sheets in half. He'd have to get an envelope from Ben at the store before sending it off to his uncle.
"Hey, Jason! They're gonna be here any minute! Aren't you even going to come out and be sociable?" It was Josh's voice, amazing his older brother by being soft and loud at the same time. It occurred to him that it also could just as easily have been Hutch, their voices were so similar.
"I'm coming!" he said, rising from the bed, laying the letter on his dresser, and coming into the living quarters of the small cabin. Perhaps, he thought, this dinner wasn't such a bad idea after all. A few drinks and some casual conversation, and the odd pair just might reveal more than they had so far about themselves. Dave and Hutch seemed determined not to discuss their life before Clancey picked them up. Not that that was so unusual; people came to this area of the territory just so they could get a new start.
Starsky and Hutch headed out toward the Bolts' cabin. Work seemed to have been a little easier on Hutch today, Starsky observed, as the blond didn't seem too exhausted to even walk tonight.
"You know, partner," Hutch said, looking at Starsky's newly bought clothes, "you don't clean up so bad." He laughed, his teeth sparkling in the moonlight. Both men had visited the general store earlier that evening, using their first paychecks to buy some badly-needed clothes. They'd chosen something between dressy and work clothes for this first dinner invitation in their new surroundings.
"You don't do so bad yourself, buddy," Starsky returned the compliment with an equally shining smile. They walked on, and Starsky saw the smile disappear from Hutch's face. He seemed in another world for several minutes. "Hey! Where were you?" Starsky said, drawing Hutch's attention.
"Oh, I was just thinking. Wondering what Dobey is thinking about all this."
"I'll bet he's called out the troops looking for us!" Starsky answered excitedly.
"Yeah, but they're going to have to give up eventually. They can't search for us forever!" the blond said plaintively. He and Starsky were so involved in their conversation that they almost ran into a couple who were crossing the street toward the dormitory.
"Oh!" the man said. "I'm so sorry. We didn't see you there." Hutch's eyes went from the man's face to the woman's, then became much wider. He seemed to become speechless.
"It's okay," Starsky said, picking up for his voiceless partner. "We weren't paying attention. Please forgive us." He watched the woman blush when she realized that Hutch was staring at her. "I'm sorry about my friend, Lizzie isn't it? You just look like a woman he used to know. C'mon, Hutch," he mumbled, pulling on Hutch's arm until he followed. But the light blue eyes continued to follow the blonde woman until she and her escort were on the front porch of the dormitory. "Hutch, will you stop that! I warned you about her!"
"Yeah," Hutch said, shaking his head, "but I didn't believe she could look so much like her." Even after all this time, it was difficult for Hutch to say her name. "It was just so sudden..."
"I know, buddy," Starsky said, placing a reassuring arm around the blond's shoulders, "but we've got a dinner appointment, and since it's with the bosses, we'd better not be late." They exchanged smiles, the stunned feeling receding from Hutch, and walked a little faster toward the cabin at the edge of town.
Jason's laughter overpowered all the others after Jeremy told a rather ribald joke that surprised Starsky and Hutch with its daring; the eldest brother had been surprisingly quiet all evening. Somehow, they hadn't expected the people of this era - even the men when they were in private - to be quite that risque. Starsky laughed almost as loudly, realizing at the same time how strange it sounded to have the sound of Hutch's quieter laughter doubled as it resounded in his ears.
Maybe this time isn't exactly how history depicts it, he wondered, thinking of all the beautiful women he'd met since his arrival. It certainly would explain how the men here seemed so content; he felt sure he wouldn't survive for long without the physical element of his relationships with women. Was Hutch feeling as itchy as he was? It made Starsky feel better to imagine so, whether he was or not.
"Hey, guys," Hutch asked abruptly, seeming to hesitate, "in your town here, how does a man get.... I mean, how can you..." He blushed a little, and Starsky felt sure he knew what was coming; Hutch only blushed like that when the subject of women came up. "How do you get one of the ladies here to spend any time alone with you?"
All three brothers chuckled as Starsky smiled, causing the blond man to turn an even darker shade of red. "Are you thinking of one in particular," Jeremy said, trying to regain a straight face, "or just any girl at random?" The three laughed again, and Hutch was too embarrassed to admit that almost any one of them would be worth pursuing.
Starsky valiantly came to his partner's aid, saying in part what his partner wouldn't. "Does it matter? No matter which one you want to talk to, there are three or four others standing right there on top of you!"
"That sounds like you've had the same problem," Josh smiled.
"He has," Hutch volunteered, this time embarrassing his partner himself. "Only with him, it's worse."
Jason, Joshua, and Jeremy all looked at each other knowingly, and simultaneous said, "Biddie". Four of the five people at the dinner table laughed, but Starsky didn't join in.
"I don't see where it's so funny," he pouted. "I can't say two words to any of the ladies without her being right there next t'me!"
"I'm afraid there's not much you can do about Biddie," Josh volunteered, finally feeling a need to help the poor soul. "But don't fret too much. The one thing stronger than Biddie's stick-to-it-iveness is her fickle nature. She'll have forgotten you and latch onto another man soon enough."
"Thank God!" Starsky wished it was soon.
"Just so long as it's not me," Hutch added.
"Now," Jeremy began, "to answer your original question, the best way to get one of the brides alone is to go up to the dormitory doors and ask her to take a walk with you. It takes guts - what with making a spectacle of yourself and all - but it really is the only way."
"Thanks for the hint," Hutch smiled, thinking of the pretty dark-haired girl with the pony-tails. He had no intentions of being here forever, but he figured he might as well enjoy it while he was.
Starsky, for once, was not picking up on his partner's wave length, and was more than a little concerned. "You're not thinking of a certain tall blond that we've talked about, are you?" The worry was clear in his face, and Hutch was only too happy to dissuade it.
"No, I'm not. Actually, the girl I had in mind - I think her name is Peggy - she's not tall, and her hair is dark. And she's got the biggest, roundest eyes you've ever seen." He smiled as he described the young woman.
The other men smiled back, Jason and Jeremy immediately knowing the woman to whom Hutch referred. Joshua knew as well, but he didn't wear the same smile his brothers did. "You're right; her name is Peggy," he said, somewhat distractedly.
"What's the matter?" Hutch asked, worried. "Is she already.... spoken for?" It took a moment for him to choose the correct term for this era.
"No, she's not," Jeremy answered, aware of his brother's strange reaction to Hutch's affection for the girl, but not certain what was causing it. The only man Peggy had ever really seemed serious about was Josh, Jeremy thought, who didn't seem to want anything to do with courting the girl. Or did he....?
Jeremy rejoined the conversation, realizing he'd missed the last several remarks. "Just so long as neither of you set your sights on Candy," he joked, the group not realizing that he hadn't been listening all along.
"Hey, Jason," Starsky asked, deciding to change the subject. "Where are you going to hang that picture you had taken today?" He remembered the revelry as the one hundred or so men tried to squeeze close enough to get everybody into the shot. The photographer didn't seem to happy at Jason's insistence that everybody be in a single picture instead of divided into two, but since Jason was paying, the man had finally given in. Getting the picture taken was a battle between a very serious Jason and the good-natured playfulness of the loggers. Eventually, Jason's brusk manner won out as he ordered everybody into their places. Starsky couldn't say he particularly approved of the heavy-handedness the big man had used toward the workers or his brothers in the incident.
"Right here in the cabin. I've wanted to do it for a long time, but this photographer was the first one I could convince to come this far. Some day," he promised, responding to the direct question, "I'm going to get one to come here for good. Then we can have pictures taken any time we want." Jason's tone was distracted, thinking of his future dreams for the town.
The friendly conversation went on, but Jason remained distant, even though he sensed nothing malicious in Hutch's presence here. Perhaps he had no intention of trying to take Josh from his family. Maybe it really was just a coincidence that Dave and Hutch ended up in Seattle. He wasn't quite ready to blindly trust yet, but he would consider it.
"I think I could use a little fresh air," Jason said, dismissing himself from the table. "Would anybody like to join me?" Hutch and Starsky exchanged a quick glance that spoke volumes; it was the first time Jason had shown any open friendliness toward them.
"Not me!" Starsky said, smiling. I think I'm allergic to fresh air, especially when it's colder than 45 degrees!"
"How about it, Hutch?" the larger man asked. He had hoped to get some time alone with the tall blond man who looked so much like his brother. Maybe the direct approach would be the best.
"Sure. Starsky will be fine by himself if Jeremy and Josh want to come, too."
"No!" Jason said abruptly, but instantly regained his calm. "No, they've got to stay and clean up from dinner."
"Then maybe we should all help clean up," Starsky volunteered. The faster we all work on it, the faster it'll be done. Then you four can enjoy your walk."
"Jeremy and Joshua have their responsibilities," Jason said, his tone sounding more like a boss than a brother now. "They know that it's their job to clean up."
"Now wait a minute," Starsky began, jumping to the young men's defense. "Exactly when did you become the person to tell them what their responsibilities are!" He was gearing up now, and Hutch, with a restraining hand on his arm, wasn't able to stop him. "No, let me go, Hutch. I'll explode if I don't finally say something. I've been watching you bully your brothers ever since we arrived in this town, giving them orders like they're employees not partners, and now that I consider them my friends, I've got to say that I don't like it! They're grown men, not little boys for you to admonish and discipline. Maybe that's the way it was when they were younger, but it's not that way any more!"
The speech took Jason totally off-guard since, this time, his only intention was to get Hutch alone for awhile. For the moment, he was speechless. Jeremy wasn't, though.
"It's okay, Dave. Really! We're used to it now - it's always been like this."
"Starsky." Hutch's soft voice calmed his partner right away. The blue eyes met, communicating silently. Let it go, they said to his partner.
"But Hutch...." Starsky tried again, his eyes not straying from Hutch's. What Hutch began, Joshua finished.
"Come on, Dave. You can help us clean up while those two 'big brother' types get their air." He and Jeremy pulled the brunet by the arm, and Starsky went grudgingly along, thinking to himself that he wasn't done dealing with Jason.
Outside, Jason leaned up against the fence, studying Hutch. "I suppose by now you've figured out that I wanted to talk to you alone." It wasn't a question, and Hutch didn't really take it as one. But it did merit comment.
"Yeah, I did sense that. Are we fired because of what Starsky... I mean, Dave... said?"
"No, of course not. If I fired every man on my crew who had the courage to speak up when he had something to say, I wouldn't have a crewman left. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about Josh."
"About Josh?" Hutch repeated back to the slightly taller man. "I haven't known him very long. What can I tell you about your own brother that you don't already know?"
"I guess I should have phrased that a little differently, then," Jason responded. It's not just Josh I want to know about. It's you and Josh."
"Meaning how much we look alike?"
"Well, that's part of it. It's more a matter of what you plan on doing about it."
"I'm afraid I don't understand," Hutch told him. It occurred to him that he and Jason were about the same age, both around seven years old than Josh.
"Okay, I'm just going to ask straight out, and hope that you are the honest man I think you are and will answer me truthfully. Did you come to Seattle just because of Josh? Do you intend to take him with you when you leave?"
The answer took Hutch very much aback and for a moment, he couldn't even make his mouth move. Was this the reason Jason had been more distant than his brothers? Was he feeling that his family was threatened?
Finally, he found his voice. "No, Jason. We did not come to Seattle intentionally at all; it was an accident, exactly as Clancey described. And nobody was more surprised than I was when I saw your brother for the first time."
"And when you go?" Jason felt he had to know, and the previous answer had given him the impression that Hutch was being honest.
"When we finally figure out how we're going to get home, Dave and I will leave. Alone. I can't control what Josh does with his life, and if he chooses to go to Los Angeles too, that's entirely up to him, but I have no intention of encouraging him.
"Thank you," Jason said, storing every word of the conversation in his memory to think over later. He still wasn't totally sure he trusted Hutch - he'd been fooled before by underhanded men - but he'd drop it for now.
Meanwhile, inside the cabin, Starsky, Jeremy, and Joshua were just finishing up putting everything away from their dinner. Joshua picked up the place mats they'd laid out on the table earlier and took them into the bedroom, replacing them on the dresser where they were stored. From the corner of his eye, he saw a flutter of white as a sheet of paper fell to the floor.
His own name caught his eye in the dim light of the lamp. Retrieving the note from the floor, he noticed firstly that it was Jason's writing. It was a letter, addressed to Uncle Duncan. I didn't know that Jason was writing to Uncle Duncan, he thought to himself. They didn't keep secrets from each other, but his brother corresponding with their uncle over the long distance to Scotland apparently had been kept a secret.
He didn't really plan on it, but his eyes scanned the letter, searching for the glimpse of his name that he'd seen before, insatiably curious as to what his brother was telling their uncle. But as he read, he was pulled further and further into the document's text. He read the final sentences in the letter out loud. "I would appreciate anything that you can tell me about Josh's birth. I have read our parent's journals and found no reference, and I feel it is vital to resolve, in my own mind, that he truly is our brother and is in no way related to the family named Hutchinson."
He lowered himself on the edge of the large bed in shock, his world suddenly tumbling down around him. If this letter was to be believed, he wasn't a Bolt at all. Never was, to be honest. He didn't belong to this family; he didn't have a right to anything that the family's money had paid for.
"Hey, Josh!" he heard Jeremy call from the other room. "Didja get lost in there or something?" Slowly, dazedly, he watched his fair haired brother emerge from the room, feeling that his mood was drastically different from when he'd gone in. The look on Josh's face was disturbing. "What's the matter?" he asked, exchanging concerned glances with Starsky.
Josh didn't answer. Scuffing his feet on the wood floors, the letter fell from his fingers as he grabbed his coat and walked out the door. Hutch and Jason abruptly ended their conversation as he came out the door, still looking dazed yet striding purposefully. "What's wrong, Josh?" Jason asked, again with no response.
Jason was torn between going after Josh - who seemed to be headed toward the woods - and going back into the cabin to see what had happened. He'd never known Jeremy and Joshua to argue to a point that they couldn't stand to be in the same room together, but then again, there was always a first time. He opted to check with Jeremy first, with Hutch following him into the house.
"What's gotten into Josh?" Jason asked a split second before realizing that Jeremy was standing in what passed for their kitchen reading a piece of letter parchment.
He looked up, his eyes watery, at Jason's question. "Jason, what is this?" he asked, nodding toward the paper. "I didn't realize you'd gone this far."
Rather than getting into it in front of Starsky and Hutch, Jason turned to them. "Would you men mind excusing us for the evening. It seems we have a few family problems to work out."
Knowing that there was something wrong, both men were happy to leave the brothers in peace and headed back to town with a quick "Good Night."
As soon as they were clear of the door and it had slammed shut behind them, Jason turned back to Jeremy, whose eyes were still wide. "Jason, this says that Josh isn't really our brother! And you wrote it!"
"Now wait a minute," Jason said, trying to calm his youngest brother's agitation. "It doesn't say he isn't our brother by blood. It only says that he might not be our brother by blood. I wanted to know the truth before it got dropped on Joshua without warning. Even if he wasn't born from Mom and Dad, do you really think that I'd want to change what the three of us have together? Whether he's a brother by blood to Hutch or any other person, he'll always be my little brother. Would you change how you think of him just because we find out he's not really a Bolt?"
The speech seemed to have the desired effect on Jeremy, who rubbed his burning eyes and set the letter aside. "No, of course not!! I think being a brother is a lot more than just blood."
"Then we'd better go catch up with Josh, little brother, because he's out there right now thinking exactly what you thought when you read the letter. Only it's hurting him a whole lot more."
Josh roamed the woods, no longer aware of where he was or how far he'd come from the cabin. He rubbed savagely at the water on his face, not feeling how cold the skin was becoming under the tears he'd never admit to shedding. Who am I? he asked himself, uncertain for the first time in his life. If I'm not Joshua Bolt, then I'm Joshua who? He nearly ran into a tree in his distraction, only feeling the ache that seemed to be crushing his chest.
Why? Why did this have to happen to him. First to lose the only parents he'd ever known, and now to have his brothers yanked from him as if they'd never been. Oh, he knew Jason and Jeremy very well, and they'd want him to stay, that was certain. They'd offer to go on as if nothing had happened, just as if it was as it always had been. But it would be a lie, and it would be dishonest of him to take something that was never rightfully his. And one third of Bridal Veil Mountain, one third of their logging company, and one third of the cabin he'd just fled were not items that rightfully belonged to him. Not anymore.
The tears streamed stronger as he thought of what he was losing, their flow impeding his vision as he tramped through the woods. He didn't notice when he went past the boundaries of their own property, only knowing that he had to flee, as fast and as furious as his aching legs would take him.
He'd gone over a half mile onto somebody else's land, still surrounded by trees, when he first heard a click, then a louder, metallic snap. His walking stopped and a fraction of a second later the pain made its way from his leg to his brain. "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" The scream was wrenched from him at the agony, knowing there would probably be nobody out this far this late to hear him. As he fell, he looked down and saw the bear trap, it's savage teeth embedded into his leg half-way up to his knee.
The tears he'd shed before from pain in his heart now reflected instead the pain in his leg. He knew it was in deep as the blood trickled down the sides of his leg. Like any wounded animal, his only driving force was to get his leg from that trap in any way necessary. He tried to pull the leg out as it was, which only succeeded in tearing the skin even more and causing him to cry out again. The rips made the bleeding worse, and he knew he'd have to remove the trap in order to get free.
Joshua felt the weakness acutely in his arms as he tried to push the sides of the trap open, realizing that the cold and his dash through the woods had left him with less energy than he should have for the task. "Please, God, help me!" he screamed into the night, putting every remaining ounce of his strength into pushing one last time on the trap.
Suddenly, it snapped open and he was free. The injured man's first thought was that he had to get back to the cabin; it was the closest place where he could get help. But as he looked at his leg and the blood pouring out of it, he knew he'd never make it that far. As his consciousness faded, he thought, maybe this is all for the best. Best for me because I don't have to leave and best for Jason and Jeremy because they don't have to keep living a lie. It'll be easier on all of us this way.....
He drifted off as his hold on consciousness was loosed. What he believed would be his final thoughts were of the men he'd always called his brothers and how much he loved them.
Jason and Jeremy were bundled up against the cold, each carrying a gas lantern to light the trail Josh had left through the woods. The fact that he'd left such a blatant trail was proof to them that he hadn't been thinking clearly, especially if it was his intention to get out of Seattle.
"It looks like he went this way," Jeremy noted, pointed to some broken branches just inside the woods behind their cabin.
"Jeremy, I have a feeling we're going to need more than just you and me to find him. Why don't you go back to the cabin. Use Josh's horse - he's the fastest - and go into town. Bring back every able-bodied man you can find to help. Be sure they bring lamps with them, okay?"
Jeremy didn't waste the time speaking, he simply nodded once and took off, leaving Jason to follow the trail he'd found into the woods.
The horse was indeed as fast as Jason had said, and Jeremy was back at the trail within a half hour. With him he had Corky, Big Swede, Ben, Starsky, Hutch, and another dozen or so loggers, all equipped with lanterns from Ben's.
"Jason!" Jeremy called, trying to place his brother's location, but he must've been out of earshot because he didn't answer. He turned to the men behind him; with Jason and Joshua out of the area, he was in charge. "Now, if you point your lamps down, you'll see the tracks that Josh left, and I'm sure where they get faint, Jason has left signs of which way he went. Keep your eyes out and look for Josh. He should be easy to spot in the dark with his hair." He pulled himself up to his full 5'8". "Everybody, move out!"
"Joshua!!" Jason called, his voice as close to frantic as it ever got. "Josh!! Come back!! The letter didn't mean anything!!!" It was a lie and he knew it, but anything that got Josh to come back was worth it to him. As if it were possible, Jason thought it was getting even darker, the light from his lamp being little help any more.
"Please! Josh!" he whispered ferociously to himself. "Come back safe."
Something under his cheek was wet and cold. Was this what heaven was like? Or maybe this was hell. Maybe all the bibles and preachers were wrong: it wasn't horribly hot in hell, it was cold - so cold you could never get warm.
He decided to try opening his eyes. Do you even have eyes when you're dead? He wondered for a second before giving it a try. Yes, he still had eyes, and they seemed to be working, for the most part. Trees like the ones he and his brothers cut down towered above him, seeming to threaten him with their revenge for all their brothers and sisters. It terrified him.
He sat up, the pain in his leg reminding him of his accident. His eyes didn't want to focus, but he could make out in the darkness the injury and the blood flowing from it. Apparently, he hadn't been out that long; there was more blood than when he'd passed out, but not a lot.
Need to stop the bleeding, he thought, his instinct for survival kicking in. He methodically checked all his pockets for his handkerchief with no positive results. He needed a cloth, preferably a long strip of absorbent, fairly clean fabric. The blue eyes fell on the outstretched arm, clamped down on the more serious wounds on his right side. His shirt sleeve would be perfect.
It took him four yanks at the shoulder seam before it came apart from the rest of the shirt and he was able to slide it off his arm. He immediately felt the cold invade that arm, not that it mattered when faced with the prospect of bleeding to death.
There was only enough fabric to wrap it around once, which Josh did with precision, being sure that the wounds were covered before he knotted the cloth.
That taken care of, he had another thought, and this one scared him even more. I've got to find a way to get to town. He tried to stand, finding himself failing when the leg went out from under him and he fell again in the soft bed of leaves. Well, if he couldn't walk, he'd just have to crawl.
Even that was painful, the leg being dragged behind him for the most part. He wasn't certain he was headed in the correct direction, but he had a good idea. After going about fifty yards, he checked the bandage, which was sodden with blood past its ability to absorb. The grass was red again, and he was weak, cold, and scared. The stars and moon above were growing dim. He shook his head once to try to clear his vision of the darkness, but it only succeeded in making him feel sick. This is it, he felt certain as he drifted off again. It figures. The last thing I'll ever see before I die, and it's these damn trees.
They must be moving fast, Jason thought, faintly hearing the sounds of the other loggers in the woods behind him. They would catch up to him soon, and hopefully, he'd have found Josh by then. He felt certain they could convince his fair-haired brother to stay, regardless of who his parents were, provided they could find him.
Joshua didn't usually let himself get this emotional, but on those rare occasions when he did, he was an incredible force to be reckoned with. The emotion this time - Jason thought it would be called "hurt" - had cut through him just as deeply as it had his brother when he looked into those sky-blue eyes.
He'd left the Bolts' land several minutes ago, crossing onto the property of a friendly neighbor. At least, he thanked God, the neighbor wasn't the type to shoot at anything moving in the woods.
He held his own lamp high, looking for the reflection the meager light would make on the platinum hair of his brother. He almost fell on his face when his foot connected with something in the dirt and leaves that made a clanking noise.
Looking down, he could see the dim outline of the metal contraption. "Damn trappers," he whispered, kicking the thing intentionally this time. It was chained to a tree a few feet away, so it didn't fly like he'd hoped. It would have given him such satisfaction! He studied the area where the trap had lain; whoever set it had cleared away the leaves in a circle about a foot in diameter for the trap to set in. Now, the space was empty.
No. Not quite empty. Jason studied the spot, seeing the red there. There was a lot of blood. Some poor animal must've been caught in that trap. Perhaps it was still in it. He followed the chain to its end in the hope that perhaps the animal was still alive. Living with all these women has made me soft, he thought, remembering the injured rabbit that Candy had protected so fiercely when she'd first arrived in Seattle. Instead of getting them to start thinking like us, they're starting to get us to think like them!
There was no animal in the trap once he found it. He checked it for fur remnants in case one had been, but instead, found a small bit of brown cloth. It didn't take long to realize where it had come from.
"Joshua!!!!!" he called even louder, as he returned to the original site of the trap. If Josh was hurt by that trap, and he was conscious enough to pull himself out, from the looks of the blood, he should have left a trail of it. Sure enough, there were spatterings of the stuff every few feet which he was able to follow.
A mile or so back in the woods, Jeremy, Hutch, and Starsky heard Jason's wrenching yell. "Sounds like it came from that way," Hutch said, pointing.
"Yeah, I think so," Jeremy agreed.
"Should we call the rest of the men?" Starsky wondered, thinking of all the other loggers spread out in the woods.
"We'd better leave them where they are, just in case," Jeremy said, already heading off toward the source of Jason's shout.
"Oh, my God!" Jason gasped, finally getting a glimpse of near-white in the darkness. With his brown pants and red and black shirt on, the only thing that caught the light on Joshua's unconscious form was his hair. "Joshua!"
It only took a few of the large man's strides to bring him beside his brother. "Jeremy!!!" He called, hoping that his youngest brother was somewhere within earshot by now. "Jeremy, I found him!!!"
Jason knelt in the muddy leaves by Joshua, trying to pull his gaze from the man's face to the injury. It needed to be checked, fast. But Josh had done a good job at bandaging the injury, though it still bled profusely. Slapping a hand over the injuries, he pressed down hard, trying to stop the flow. Under his force, it did seem to ebb, and Jason breathed a sigh of relief and thanks.
"Jeremy!!" He called again. The fact that Joshua didn't react to all his shouting was scary; it meant he was totally out. And unless Jeremy heard him call, there was no way Jason could carry Josh back to help and keep the pressure on the wounds at the same time.
He was about to yell again when a smaller figure carrying a lamp came storming from the darkness. "Josh!!" Jeremy's voice seemed small and very frightened when confronted with the horrifying vision in front of him.
"Jeremy, it's going to be okay," Jason tried to reassure, not even noticing Starsky and Hutch standing behind his brother. "We'll get him back to town and he'll be all right."
"Let us help you," Hutch said, moving in toward Josh's shoulders while Starsky helped mid-body. "Don't let go of that pressure, Jason, whatever you do. Jeremy, support his other leg and lead the way with the lamp." It was an unusual feeling, Jason though, to be taking orders instead of giving them, but he was only too glad to comply this time. He knew he wasn't capable of being level headed where the safety of his brothers were concerned, and Josh was his brother, regardless of what the facts might say.
Starsky and Hutch were well used to dealing with people in emotional turmoil, and knew they had to keep the brothers' minds off of the injured man in their arms. "Jason, you'd better call your men on our way back. You've got the loudest voice." Starsky's recommendation was a good one, and Jason was only too happy to have something else to do. As they made their way out of the woods and toward their cabin on the edge of town, men joined them, drawn to Jason's voice like children to the Pied Piper's flute. By the time they arrived home, there was a crowd with them.
They laid Josh gently on Jason's bed, Jeremy quickly retrieving another blanket to cover all but the injured leg. "Swede, go get Lottie. Corky, you've got to ride to Olympia. Bring back the doctor - fast!!!" Jason's orders were clipped and not to be questioned, not that anybody would in this case. Both men left in a flash, although everybody knew it would take at least two days for Corky to get to Olympia and back.
"Jason, do you have a pair of scissors?" Hutch asked him, and Jason motioned to the small drawer in the kitchen. Hutch went to the leg, trying to pull the cloth from where it was sticking to the skin around the wound while Starsky got the scissors. "I need some warm water and clean cloths."
Jason looked up, concerned because Hutch seemed to be giving a lot of orders. "What are you doing, Hutch?" It wasn't accusatory or threatening, just questioning.
By this time, Hutch was using the scissors to cut Josh's pants legs at the knee. "It's okay," Starsky spoke for Hutch. "He had some medical training in school. He's the best we've got right now. I wish to hell Seattle still had a doctor!"
Jason nodded his head, accepting, and went to sit on the bed near Josh's shoulders, ready in case the man awoke. He hoped he would wake up. At some point he unconsciously put his hand on his brother's shoulder, somehow hoping to send some of his own strength through it to Joshua. Jeremy sat on the other side and mimicked the gesture, closing his eyes and whispering what seemed to be a prayer.
Somebody returned with the cloths and water just as Hutch began cutting away the makeshift bandage. "Ouch," he whispered in empathy, examining the deep puncture wounds on each side of the young man's leg. They were still bleeding, though not as heavily as they had been, and Hutch paused a moment to feel the pulse in Josh's neck, which was fast and thready. "He's lost a lot of blood and he's in shock. Somebody get more blankets - we've got to keep him warm."
Starsky went to fetch them from the other room. It made him feel useful, finally, since his own medical knowledge was limited. When he returned, he saw that the cloths Hutch had put on the wounds were once again red. The blond man uncovered the injuries again, this time taking a wet cloth and cleaning each puncture carefully. At least the sites seemed free of infection.
The crowd of loggers pushed in, trying to get a better view of what Hutch was doing, when Starsky decided it was just about enough. They'd been very helpful in the search, but now they - or Hutch, rather - needed room to work. "Thanks a lot for all the help, guys, but I'm afraid you'll have to wait outside or, preferably, at Lottie's. Right now, we need the space." He shooed the men out, who went understandingly enough, leaving just the five of them in the room.
Silence fell over the cabin as Hutch worked feverishly to get the bleeding totally stopped and the two remaining brothers tried to rein in their feelings. Jeremy was horror-stricken, while Jason looked like a caged animal. Starsky felt sure he would have gotten up and paced if he could figure out a way to do that without leaving Joshua's side.
It was almost an hour before Swede returned with Lottie. "Sorry it took so long," he apologized in his Swedish accent.
"I was taking a moonlit stroll," Lottie admitted, coming quickly to Hutch's side, leaning over Josh's leg. "What happened?"
"He put his leg in a trap," Jason said as Lottie watched Hutch's ministrations. "It was a big one too." It was all the explanation she needed, and once they adapted to each other, she and Hutch worked together as if they had for years. But still, it was another half hour before they were able to get the bleeding entirely stopped.
"Thank God," was Jeremy's reaction when Hutch made the announcement. The blond walked to the front of the bed and checked Josh's pulse again. There was no sign of his waking, and that worried him.
"Lottie," he said to the woman, "can I talk to you for a minute?"
Starsky, Jeremy, and Jason exchanged bewildered looks as the two whispered in the corner. It concerned Starsky that neither of them looked very happy. He saw Hutch say something, then Lottie nodded before they turned back toward the bed.
"Thank you," Jason said to Hutch, "for helping to save my brother." It was said as humbly as Jason ever said anything, and it surprised Jeremy to hear that tone from him.
"I'm afraid he's not out of the woods yet," Hutch said, cringing. "He's lost too much blood; he can't replace it fast enough. You two have to make a decision. You can wait and hope he replaces it fast enough to stay alive, or we can give him a transfusion."
Starsky could see how nervous Hutch was as the blond rubbed his sweating hands on his pants. It had been a long time since his pre-med days and they both knew it. He was working from memory, hoping that Lottie's knowledge would assist where his own failed.
"A transfusion?" Jeremy repeated. "What's that? Is it dangerous?"
"It's a way of taking blood from somebody else, and giving it to him. And yes, it can be dangerous," Lottie admitted. "He can't use just anybody's blood."
"The chances are much, much better that it won't kill him if it comes from a member of his family, so if you decide to have us do it, it'll have to come from one, probably both, of you."
"Kill him??" Jason sounded scared - another emotion new to him. "You're saying that he could die if he doesn't have the transfusion, but he could also die if he has it, is that right?"
"I'm afraid so."
Jeremy and Jason looked at each other, communicating in a way that was very familiar to Starsky and Hutch. Both knew what was on the other man's mind. Jason cleared his throat.
"Hutch, can I talk to you outside for a minute?" Jason's eyes were almost pleading, so Hutch nodded his agreement. He and Starsky left with the big man, exchanging nods with Lottie before going outside.
Leading on the fence in front of their cabin, Jason looked at the two strangers. No, strangers wasn't right. Friends. "You've proven yourself to me since you've come to town, and now I need to ask you something straight out. When I first saw you, I, along with everybody else in Seattle, was amazed at how much you looked like Josh. Since then, I've checked every family record I could put my hands on, and there is not one single example where somebody talks about Josh's birth or our mother expecting a baby when I was six or seven. Even I don't remember him being born; I just suddenly had a brother. What I need from you now is an honest answer. Is there any possibility that Josh could be a member of your family instead of ours? Biologically, I mean?"
"Well, I doubt...." Starsky began, but Jason interrupted.
"Because if there's a possibility, the blood might be better coming from you than either of us."
"You make a lot of sense," Hutch agreed, laying a calming hand on Jason's shoulder, "but I'm certain there is no way that Josh could be my brother. My parents and I are from a long ways away. Further than you can even imagine." He knew, in his heart, that Josh was a Bolt, and he knew just as surely that they had to save him.
"Are they from Scotland? Our family started out there."
"No. We're from Norway." The story seemed feasible since they couldn't tell the man where they really originated. He seemed to think a moment more while Jason and Starsky, who had stayed silent up until this point, studied him. "If I just had a microscope," Hutch whispered, "I could tell for sure whose blood is okay to give to Josh." It seemed too much to ask in a town this small, though.
"What's a microscope?" Jason asked, confused.
"It's an instrument that enlarges very tiny things - so you can study them. Bigger even than a magnifying glass." Hutch provided the description, and it seemed to satisfy Jason.
"I know where there's one, as long as it doesn't have to be very new." This came from Lottie, who had slipped from the cabin and was standing in the doorway. "Aaron's got one from over a hundred years ago in his antique collection. I don't know whether you'll be able to get it from him, but you could try."
"We'll get it," Jason, Hutch, and Starsky all said ferociously and simultaneously.
"Stay here with Jeremy and watch over Joshua. We'll be back soon." Jason's orders were immediately obeyed by the woman, who went back into the house.
It was the middle of the night, but the three men didn't let that stop them as they made their way to Aaron Stempel's house. Jason pounded on the door ungently and then pushed his way in when a bleary-eyed Aaron opened the door a crack. He stood, slightly stunned, in his nightclothes as Jason barreled around the house looking for this "microscope" thing that Hutch had told him about.
"What's going on?" Aaron finally woke up enough to ask. "What are you men doing here?"
"We need one, and we know you have one. Now where is it?" Jason's tone was not gentle.
"One what?? What's the problem?"
"Lottie said it's in your antique collection..." Jason said.
"A microscope, Aaron," Hutch interrupted. "Lottie said you had an antique microscope, and we need one." Looking around the room, Hutch saw what he thought was the item on a high shelf. "There it is." He headed toward it when Aaron, finally fully aware, realized that they meant to take the treasured item.
"Now wait a minute!" Aaron said, stepping between Hutch and the shelf. "That microscope is worth hundreds of dollars - it dates back to the early 1700's!"
"Well, we need it, and I don't have time to argue!" Jason stepped between Hutch and Stempel, delivered a single right cross to Aaron's jaw, knocking him to the floor, and reached up to remove the item from the shelf. He spun on his heels and was out of the house before Aaron could get on his feet again.
Starsky came forward to help him. "I'm sorry, Aaron. He's just upset."
"Well, I'm upset too," the eagle-faced man muttered, massaging his jaw. "That's one of my prize possessions."
"Well, Josh has been hurt very badly," Hutch said to him, trying to ease the tension in the man. "We need the microscope in order to give him a blood transfusion. Please, don't argue with us on this."
"Well, why didn't he just say so," Aaron said, beginning to look concerned. "I would've given it to him myself if he'd just asked."
"I guess that's just not in his nature," Starsky laughed. When Aaron smiled back at him, they knew everything would be okay.
"I'm going to go get some clothes on. I'll be over as soon as I can." Stempel knew there wasn't much he could do, but being there for each other - no matter what - was what had kept this town together so far. So he'd continue with that.
Starsky and Hutch had to run to catch up with Jason, Hutch worrying that the big man would damage the valuable piece of equipment in his haste. "Why don't you give that to me," he finally said, easing the item out of Jason's hands. "I need you to find me a few very small dishes, some alcohol of some kind, and four knives with fine blades."
Jason nodded once before heading out for his search, Starsky and Hutch breathing a sigh of relief that they'd occupied the explosive man for a few minutes.
"Hutch," Starsky said when they were alone, "I know you know what you're doing, but do you really think Josh has got a chance?"
"If I can find a compatible blood donor - whether it's one of the Bolts or not - I think he does. I just pray that somebody in town has Josh's blood type, otherwise he won't stand a chance. We'll just have to hope someone does."
Starsky fell silent and Hutch could almost hear the thoughts going through his mind as the muscles in his face worked. Something was on his partner's mind, and it was important. "What's up, Starsk? And don't say nothing 'cause I know you better than that."
"Hutch, have you ever seen any of those science fiction TV shows?"
"Starsk, you know I don't get into those kinds of things!"
"I know, I know. But have you?"
"A few. Usually when you talked me into it. Why?"
"Were any of 'em about time travel?"
"I really don't remember. What are you trying to say?"
"I know we haven't really talked about what happened to us 'cause it just seems so incredible that it did happen. But somehow, we've gone back in time. Hutch, what we do here could change the future! We hafta be sure we don't do that!"
"That sounds like Star Trek, partner! I'm not changing the past. I'm just helping one man get better."
"Yeah, but what if he's supposed to die? What if by stayin' alive, he does somethin' that's not supposed to get done?" At Hutch's incredulous look, he tried to get through to him. "I saw this episode of Star Trek once. Dr. McCoy went back in time and saved a lady's life - she was supposed to get hit by a car - back in the years before World War II. He thought he was doin' the right thing, but she went on to form a pacifist organization whose petitions delayed the United State's entry into the world war. With the delay, the Germans developed the A-bomb first. And took over the world!!"
"I hardly think anything that dramatic will happen here, Starsk."
"But what if it does???"
"It won't. Besides, Jason said that Josh ran off because he found a letter he'd written about him maybe not bein' a Bolt. A suspicion that arose because of my presence here. So, buddy, the past has already been changed; we just need to change it back. And don't forget - we know he's supposed to survive. Remember the picture back home? He has to live in order to be an ancestor of mine."
Starsky worked that through in his mind for a minute as they walked back to the cabin, finally agreeing that Hutch was right and Josh was meant to live. And as long as they stuck to the knowledge of the period, they wouldn't do any harm to whatever time line was involved. "Yeah.... your ancestor...."
"What are you thinking?" Hutch asked him.
"I'm thinking about what happens to you if Josh dies. Would you still have even been born?" He seemed afraid that he'd lose Josh and Hutch in the process.
"I don't know. Time travel is new to me, and it's really starting to give me a headache! The only answer is to be sure Josh lives."
"I know you can do it, Hutch," Starsky encouraged. "Heck, all those years in school have to be good for something." Hutch nodded agreement, but he looked uncertain, and Starsky silently draped an arm over his shoulders..
I can't believe I'm actually in the 1800's talking about time travel!! Hutch thought. I'm a cop, not an astronaut!! I'd rather be getting shot at in an alley than trying to figure out how I ended up back here! But the one thing Hutch was was a survivor, and in 1977 Los Angeles or 1875 Seattle, he'd make it work because it had to work.
Jeremy had gathered four lanterns in order to shine as much light as he could on the area where Hutch was working. It was at the opposite end of the room where Josh still lay motionless, his pulse as fast and thready as ever.
Jason had efficiently provided him with four bowls and four very sharp knives, which Starsky had soaked for quite awhile in the whiskey that Lottie had poured out in a bowl. Through all this activity, the brothers were stunned to see it was Aaron who stayed at Josh's bedside, watching for any change and monitoring his pulse and respiration every few minutes. It was out of character for the man, but since they knew he'd been gradually becoming more congenial, it wasn't unbelievable. It was surprising, though.
"Okay, I'm ready," Hutch said, drawing in a deep breath to cover his nervousness. It didn't fool Starsky, but he knew better than to upset everybody else by pointing it out. "Lottie, I'll have you do Josh. Take one of these knives and make a very small, shallow cut in his finger. We'll need enough blood to test with all three other samples, so make sure there's enough." Lottie went to work right away, efficiently teaming up with Aaron as he saw that she needed an extra hand.
"Which one of you wants to go first?" Hutch asked the brothers. Both Jason and Jeremy looked at him doubtfully, uncertain.
"I think they'd feel better if you did yourself first, partner." Starsky smiled, and Hutch nodded his understanding.
"Very well. Starsk, would you give me a hand?" The brunet complied, holding Hutch's left hand very still while his partner made the slice with his right hand. They winced in unison as the skin spread and the blood welled from the cut.
"That's good, Starsk. Get the bowl." He held his hand over the shallow dish, squeezing the cut finger until the blood dripped into the bowl, a small sample, but sufficient. About the time he finished, Lottie came back with Josh's bowl, just in time to daub Hutch's finger with alcohol and wrap it with a clean bandage.
"Starsky, it's gonna have to be your job to make sure the bowls don't get mixed up. I don't care how you do it, just do it."
"No problem, partner." He took the two used bowls and Lottie moved the remaining two closer to Hutch.
"Your turn, Jason." The process of getting the blood went smoothly from there on, and soon they had four bowls with blood samples in them.
Hutch decided to test his own blood first, more to prove a point to Jason and Jeremy than to find the match. He silently prayed that he and Josh didn't share the same blood type. If that happened, what he had in mind would never work. He also hoped that at least one of the two brothers did share his type with Josh. Otherwise they - and Josh too if he survived - would continue to have doubts about Josh's origins. He knew, intellectually, that blood type didn't necessarily prove anything, but these 19th century people didn't share that knowledge, so he would use it when he could.
"Starsky, hand me Josh's sample and mine, wouldya?" Starsky brought it over, being extra careful not to spill or trip. Hutch put his own sample under the microscope. "Jason, come here, please."
Jason obeyed, unquestioning, until Hutch motioned to the microscope he'd just focused. "I won't know what I'm looking at. Why should I check it?"
"So you know what's going on here." That was enough for Jason, who squinted his eyes and peered through the eyepiece.
"Okay, that's what blood looks like normally. Now if the blood is compatible, it'll still look like that after I add Josh's sample." He mixed a small portion of the blood Lottie had taken from Josh in with his own, stirring it around with the tip of the knife he'd used to draw blood from himself. Exchanging slightly worried expressions with Starsky, he put it back under the lens.
The red blood cells, which before had been separate and evenly spaced, now clung together in groups, creating odd-looking constructs of little round circles. Thank God, Hutch thought. They're not compatible! He tried not to show the relief he felt, but he couldn't keep a slight quiver from his voice as he called to Jason again. Hopefully, the big man wouldn't notice.
"Take a look, Jason." As he did, Hutch tried to explain. "That's the change that happens when two blood types don't match. If I had given Josh my blood without checking like this, it would've killed him."
Jason withdrew from the medical equipment, understanding clear on his face. "Do Jeremy's and mine. Please!" It looked as though he wasn't sure whether to be relieved or worried and was doing his best to accomplish both at once.
"Whose first?" Hutch asked simply while Starsky retrieved the two remaining bowls.
"Either....it doesn't matter...." Jeremy, up to now silent, had jumped in. "We need to know fast. Aaron says his pulse is getting weaker." They took his word for it, even though Starsky, Hutch, and Jason had been too distracted to notice him whispering with the man watching over Josh.
Hutch took both of the bowls from Starsky and mixed half of Josh's remaining sample with each, mixing each with the correct knife. It was the moment of truth because, if neither of these samples matched Josh's, his life as he knew their family could be ruined. Even after such a short time, Hutch knew the man well enough to know that he would never stay with Jason and Jeremy if he believed that he wasn't really their brother. Oh, he would survive, with luck, but he couldn't be who he was anymore. Neither Hutch nor Starsky wanted to see that happen.
Hutch smiled faintly as he slid the first sample under the microscope; he'd noticed out of the corner of his eye that Starsky was crossing his fingers. He didn't believe in that sort of thing any more than his partner did, but he agreed with the sentiment behind it. He almost wished he could believe that that would do any good.
The blond man's tall form bent over the microscope, studying intently. Then, without uttering a word, he replaced the first bowl with the second. When he finally stood, his face was lit brighter than the brightest of seraphim. "They match! They both match!!"
Jeremy, smiling just as brightly, jumped forward to hug Starsky, then Hutch in turn, while Jason - ever careful and cautious - checked the samples himself. They didn't appear to be any different than the sample of Josh's blood alone that he'd looked at when they started the process. It was wonderful!!!
Jason joined his brother in pumping hands and thumping backs all around, each man knowing that not only did this result secure Josh's life, but it also secured his place in the family. Hutch and Starsky both knew that the compatibility didn't prove he was a brother, but they were content to let these people from the past believe it.
"So which one of you is going to give Josh blood first?"
"Me!" Both Jason and Jeremy shouted simultaneously. Hutch chose Jason for starters, knowing that his larger body and heavier weight would allow him to donate more blood with a lesser effect than the smaller Jeremy. Still, to let him feel helpful, Starsky took Jeremy with him, and they set about setting up a cot for the donor to lie on next to the bed in which Josh lay.
Hutch, with supplies from Lottie and Ben, set up the makeshift transfusion system. It would have been a lie to say he wasn't uncomfortable and very nervous over trying to give the transfusion with such crude equipment. Add to that the fact of his limited schooling, and it made for one very uncertain pseudo-doctor. The blond's hands shook faintly as he put the tubes together.
A gentle, calming hand covered his own, quieting them as well. His eyes followed from hands to arms to face - the face of his partner. "It'll be okay," Starsky whispered, squeezing the hand tighter. "You'll be great, so don't worry."
"How can you be so sure?" Hutch beseeched. "Starsk, I'm not trained for this. One lousy year of med school isn't enough for me to give a transfusion! Am I crazy for trying this?" Through his distress, he kept his voice low, for Starsky's ears only.
"You're not crazy, and you're the best person available for the job. Don't forget, Lottie is here, too. Between the two of you, it'll work. You'll see!" He looked into the lighter blue eyes until Hutch nodded briefly, and went back to his work, his hands much steadier now.
Before long, with Lottie and Hutch working together, the life-giving red liquid was flowing through the tube from Jason's arm into his brothers very pale one. It seemed to take forever, then even longer when Jeremy took his older brother's place on the donor's cot.
Finally, Hutch announced and Lottie agreed that Josh had taken all he needed and should be feeling better very soon. They cleaned up the equipment, removing every sign of it from the cabin, along with the reddened rags and shredded brown pants that Starsky had used the scissors to totally remove from Josh's unconscious form. Aaron, nearly falling asleep on his feet, took his antique microscope and excused himself, leaving clear instructions to let him know when Josh awoke. The comment took Jason and Jeremy aback; they knew the relationship between Stempel and the Bolts was improving, but they'd never seen Aaron act with such concern for one of them. It felt good not to think of the mill operator as an enemy.
When the sun arose the next morning, not a single person remaining in the cabin was awake. Jeremy had made it as far as his own bed - fully dressed, of course - and Starsky had fallen asleep in Josh's top bunk. Jason and Lottie slept in chairs while Hutch, left sitting on the end of the bed, on guard to monitor Josh's condition, had drifted off and now lay near his look-alike's legs. When the legs twitched, he came to abruptly.
"Josh?" he whispered, moving to the head of the bed. The patient's color was much better, no longer sheet white. And when he touched it, the skin was warm and the pulse was strong. "Josh, can you hear me?" he whispered again.
The sky-blue eyes cracked open slightly, wearily, and tried to focus on the blond man above him. "Who...?" Joshua whispered, then stopped as he remembered. "Hutch?"
"Yeah, it's me. We've all been pretty worried about you."
"We....?" he coughed faintly, as Hutch looked around to see if they'd awoken any of the other occupants of the cabin. None seemed disturbed by their whispering, though.
"Yes, 'we'. Dave, Lottie, me, and your brothers. We've been worried sick. Even Aaron was here earlier."
Josh's joy over being alive and here faded, though, as he remembered the events from the night before. In an instant, he was looking sad and forlorn. "Not my brothers. Not anymore." He closed his eyes as if to go back to sleep. It was the only solace available to him at the moment; he could feel he was too weak to get up and walk away.
"No, you're wrong. Jason was wrong. You are brothers. All of you!" His whisper was ferocious, drawing Josh's eyes and attention. "You lost a lot of blood last night, Josh. A lot. You're alive because your blood matched Jason's and Jeremy's and I was able to do a transfusion from them to you."
Josh was catching what was being said in snatches, hearing and understanding most of it, but feeling his concentration being pulled to certain parts. "You gave me a transfusion? Didn't know you were a doctor."
"I'm not," Hutch smiled, smoothing some of the blood hair off Josh's forehead. "I just had some medical training. Enough to know what to do, at least." Thank God for pre-med, I'll never say it was a waste of time again!
"Do me a favor?" Josh asked, seeming very weak and small.
"Wake Jeremy first. Want to talk to him before Jason wakes up and tries to take control...." Josh released the hold he had on Hutch's wrist and settled back, waiting for Hutch to make good on his promise.
The police officer rose from the bed and went to Jeremy's small form on the bottom bunk. "Jeremy!" he whispered, shaking a shoulder gently. "Jeremy, wake up!"
"Wha....wha's goin' on...?" He was obviously very groggy.
"Josh is awake! He wants to talk to you!" Suddenly, Jeremy was totally conscious. He jumped up, throwing back the covers, and went to his big brother's side, almost bowling Hutch over in the process. He took Josh's hand, and the blue eyes opened again.
The two laughed gently as the communion flowed between them. Starsky had awoke when Jeremy jumped up, and now stood at Hutch's side. The hand on the blond's shoulder transmitted a similar form a communion, and Hutch covered it with his own. The relationship he shared with Starsky, he realized, was very much like that of the two men they watched now. Sharing and caring and being there for each other. A man can have a brother who's not related by blood, he thought. I never had a real one, but you'll sure do! He suspected his partner was feeling the same thing, the happiness in the room a palpable thing.
"Ah, Josh..." Hutch said, drawing both brothers' attention. He pointed his thumb toward Jason, and Josh gave him a nod to wake him too. When all the people in the cabin were awake, Starsky thought the building might explode with the strength of the well-being there.
Over the next few days, although confined to Jason's bed, Joshua showed a marked improvement. He even found some enjoyment in flirting with the brides, who took turns bringing him his meals and sat with him until they'd seen that he'd eaten everything.
Starsky and Hutch worked extra hard at the logging camp to make up for the missing man, often coming to visit with Josh after the long days. There was always one or two funny stories to relay, and Josh didn't want to get out of touch. Clancey and the rest of the townsfolk visited often, sometimes making it difficult for the patient to get some rest when he wanted it.
Five days after the transfusion, he stood for the first time, leaning on the crutch that Jason had fashioned for him. Starsky and Hutch had stopped in, just in time to catch the event. Josh hadn't really wanted an audience for his first attempt so took advantage of the evening when both Jason and Jeremy had dates. He found he didn't mind, though, when the pair arrived. After all, if it weren't for them, he wouldn't be standing at all. Dave and Hutch smiled as he made his way around the cabin twice, then settled gently down on the bed, exhausted.
"Whew! That was harder than I ever expected it to be!" He laughed a little as his visitors joined in. They talked about events up at camp for a few minutes before there was a knock on the door.
"Come in," Josh called, all three heads turning to see the visitor. It was a young girl carrying a tray with the patient's dinner. "Hi, Peggy," Josh said gently, the unusual softness in his voice being noted by both men.
"Here's your dinner," she said, smiling gently at Josh, then more brightly at Hutch. "Hello, Mr. Hutchinson. How are you?"
Starsky subtly watched Josh's face as Hutch and the young woman spoke, their heads tipped forward and tones soft. Josh would never admit to it, but Starsky knew jealousy when he saw it, and this was a prime example. Maybe even Josh himself didn't realize what he was feeling.
"Whatsa matter, Josh?" he finally asked, figuring the young man had suffered enough. Time for some distractions.
"Well.... I just.... It's just that I feel so bad for Clancey." It wasn't what he had in mind, but it would serve the purpose, in addition to being true.
"For Clancey? Why for Clancey?"
"Well, he's due to ship out tomorrow and he's short crewmen. Jason was gonna lend him me and Jeremy. But with me stuck here for awhile, and Jeremy double-timing to keep up with both our work at camp, he's not gonna be able to deliver that cargo he's got. It's a big contract too." It had dawned on him, subconsciously at least, that one way to get Hutch away from Peggy would be to get him out of town - even temporarily. Consciously, he really wanted to help Clancey, and had a feeling that these two weren't the kind of men to turn their backs on a friend.
He had only known Starsky and Hutch a few days, but he knew them well enough. "Well, why don't Hutch and I go in your places? With me bein' such a greenhorn and Hutch not long recovered from that bang on the head, Jason would hardly miss us!" Something in the idea of going to sea on that boat lured Starsky like Lorelei, and he was helpless to resist. The sea was calling, and he didn't care that he was inexperienced.
Hutch, on the other hand, wanted to go for more practical reasons, if anything of these circumstances could be called practical. They'd arrived at this place in time on a boat at sea. It was a long shot, but perhaps a boat at sea was the way to get back.
"Are you sure?" Josh asked, intruding on Starsky's fantasies and Hutch's thoughts.
"Sure. We're only too glad to help, aren't we, Hutch?"
"Huh?" his partner managed, shifting his attention to Starsky.
"You want to help out Clancey, don'tya? He really needs us! And we owe him, what with him savin' our lives and all..."
"Yes, I am willing to help him." He looked deeply into Peggy's eyes again, thinking of what he could be giving up. But in order to get home, it would be worth it.
Starsky didn't yet realize what this could mean, but Hutch would fill him in as soon as they were alone. And until then, there was this lovely young woman....
The ancient wooden hull creaked under the partners' feet as the boat shifted under them. They were two days out of port and well out to sea, but the ride wasn't all that fun anymore.
"Hutch, I don't think I've seen you green before! I thought you were a sea scout!"
"Well, you look green too, partner; and none of the boats I've ever been on have felt like they were on the verge of falling apart either!" There was no mistaking the worry in the blond's eyes, though.
"Think about somethin' else!" Starsky ordered, forcing his partner to turn from the rail of the ship. "Think about the wonderful send-off the Bolts gave us!"
"Yeah," Hutch smiled, "they were pretty nice. Big party, lots of food, all the girls being so nice. Makes you wonder if they thought we weren't coming back!"
"I got news for ya, partner. They don't!" Starsky lowered his voice conspiratorially. "I overhead Jason talkin'. Since we're takin' the cargo to Port Angeles," he said, making a face at the strange term for his home city, "they half expect us to be homesick and stay there."
"Makes sense," Hutch agreed, looking thoughtful. "And maybe more. I wonder if Josh talked us into this trip just to give us a chance to get home. Remember, our story was always that we were working for the Bolts until we could earn enough money to go home. This could be their way of taking care of that for us."
Starsky nodded his head. "I'm surprised you figured that out. After all, I have always been the brains of this outfit. But I can't argue with ya. The problem is, we don't know any more about Port Angeles than we did about Seattle when we first landed there."
"So, I vote we come back to Seattle with Clancey when this delivery is made. I know at least one little brunette that wouldn't mind seein' you again." He grinned lecherously, watching Hutch wince.
"I'm afraid that wasn't goin' anywhere, Starsk. She only liked me because I reminded her of Josh. She realized it and explained it to me at the party. And now that he's...."
"Now that's he's had a little awakening of his own, you're on the bench."
"You could put it that way." His partner looked embarrassed and sad, so Starsky tried to cheer him up.
"Well, there is one very strong reason for leaving Seattle for good!"
"What's that, Starsk? I thought you loved it there!"
"I did. All but one little thing." Starsky stood back, putting on his funniest, wide smile and changed his voice to a high cackle. "Dave!! Oh, Dave!!! Don't you want to take a walk with me?? Don't you want to have dinner? Are you going over to Lottie's?" Hutch couldn't help it, laughing out loud at Starsky's fairly good imitation of Biddie.
"Now there's a voice I won't miss. Even if we go back to Seattle, at least we got this respite from it!"
"Suppose there's any chance she'll be married by the time we get back?" Starsky looked hopeful.
"I'm afraid not," Hutch muttered, laying an arm across Starsky's shoulders. "But if you're really lucky, maybe she'll have found another victim by that time."
They weren't sure how long they stood chatting at the railing, the time going so quickly that it seemed to be mere moments.
From nowhere, the boat rocked abruptly, knocking both men against the side of the boat. "All hands on deck!" they heard Clancey yell as he struggled with the ship's huge wheel.
Stampeding feed joined them very shortly, fastening down everything on deck and fighting at the same time to stay on their feet. The waves had suddenly taken on huge and menacing proportions, tossing the large mule boat like a raft. "Get everything battened down, then get below deck!" Clancey called again, maintaining his cool like a true sailor. It surprised the pair how adept he was for a man who spent most of his time so drunk he couldn't walk straight, let alone steer a ship.
"I think we'd better take the Captain's advice," Hutch recommended, trying to pry Starsky's hands from the rail. "C'mon, Starsk! Let's get below decks." They looked up into the rain, which was suddenly pouring down, to see the rest of the crew headed for the doorway that would take them into the bowels of the ship.
"I'm with you, partner," Starsky yelled, his fear matching Hutch's, as they clasped hands to keep from getting lost in the gale force winds. Where the hell did that come from?!
Both Starsky and Hutch realized they had made what could be a fatal mistake when they hadn't gotten below deck when they had the chance. Each step they took forward was exchanged for two they were pushed back. Before long, they were plastered to the side of the ship.
"Get as close to the deck as you can!" Hutch yelled, trying to push Starsky down into the corner. "Get your body below the rail!" Starsky couldn't hear his screams, though, so Hutch had to use both hands to force the brunet to his knees.
No amount of rain could conceal the horror in Starsky's eyes when the boat suddenly rocked, no longer level on the ocean's surface. Hutch, still standing in his effort to secure Starsky's position, was suddenly thrown over the edge of the boat, catching the edge with only his fingertips. "Hutch!!!!!!!" Starsky cried, terror-stricken.
"Starsky, stay down!" Hutch responded, only too aware of his hold sliding on the slick surface.
"No!" was the only response he got as his partner, equally wet, grasped his hands in an effort to pull the heavier man back aboard the boat. He was making good headway, the blond bent at the waist over the rail, when the inevitable happened. Another wave hit the boat, throwing Hutch back over the edge. This time, the only thing he had to grab onto was Starsky, who was pulled over with him.
In the split second before the pair hit the water and became unconscious, they shared a single thought. At least they'd be going out together, even if it was over one hundred years in the past.
Starsky came to as strong hands pulled him aboard a smaller boat. He was numb from the cold, but realized that, while it was still raining, the sea was no longer churning like an evil nemesis. He also realized that Hutch was being pulled aboard too, only he was unconscious. How many times can a guy get knocked out before there's some kind of permanent damage? Starsky wondered fleetingly. He felt disjointed from everything around him except for his partner, whom he latched onto with a single hand and would not let go.
"Are you okay?" a voice asked him, shining a light in his face. "Are you Sergeant Starsky?"
"Too bright!" Starsky exclaimed, batting the light away as he began to shiver from the cold. A blanket was wrapped around him, and a second around Hutch's unresponsive form. The light was deflected, but he still couldn't see those behind it. "Who are you?"
"This is the coast guard, Sergeant Starsky. We got a call of a sailboat capsizing and came as soon as we could. The storm kept us from getting here any sooner."
"Sailboat?" Starsky repeated dully. Then it dawned. "Did you call me Sergeant? You know who I am?"
"Yeah. When the girls who stranded you out here as a joke found out about the storm, they called us so we could look for you."
"Well, it looks like you were a little late," Starsky muttered, dragging himself over to where Hutch lay. His partner looked like a blond drowned rat, and he had a nasty cut on the side of his head, but he was breathing regular, and that was enough to satisfy Starsky. "Can you get us home?"
"Well, we could," a male voice said, "but I think the hospital might be a better choice. At least overnight for observation and so your buddy can get his head looked at."
Starsky nodded that he understood and agreed, then sank down next to Hutch, too exhausted to do anything more than sleep now.
"Y'know...." Starsky began, sitting opposite his partner in Hutch's apartment. After a day and a half in the hospital, he felt great, and while he still sported a bandage around his head to cover the stitches, Hutch also seemed to be back to his normal rigorous nature.
"What?" Hutch asked, trying to find a comfortable position that wouldn't aggravate a few remaining aching muscles.
"When we were knocked out in all that water, I had a dream you'd never believe!"
"It couldn't be any stranger than the one I had, partner. But you go first. What was yours about?"
"Do you remember once showing me that photo album of yours? The one with your ancestors from Seattle?"
"Yeah, I remember," Hutch said, his tone slightly stunned. "You're not telling me that you dreamed you were back there, are you?"
"That's exactly what I dreamed, partner. It was weird. We met that Josh guy who looked just like you, his brothers, and even..."
"....and even helped him when he got his leg caught in a bear trap," Hutch finished, shocking his partner. "I had the same dream, Starsk."
"You did?" Starsky questioned, trying to understand. "How can we have seen the same things?!"
"I don't know," Hutch admitted, obviously stunned as well. "As a matter of fact, I've been itching to get a look at that album since I woke up. I even went through the closet and found it. I needed to see those faces." Hutch tried to define the impulse drawing him to the album like a lifeline. It was so strong, but he couldn't explain it. He pulled the book out from under the chair where he sat.
Starsky could see the worry in Hutch's eyes, as if something was going to reach out and pull him into that unreality. "It was just a dream," Starsky said, for once being the realist. "I'll admit that it's weird that we shared it, but it's still just a dream." As he spoke, Hutch began flipping the pages in the album.
The first one he came upon was the picture of Joshua Bolt and his wife; it hadn't occurred to either man when they'd been in Seattle that this was the same woman, the same "Peggy", that they had met. That girl was very young, with a child's face and hair style. This woman was the same woman, but she'd aged so beautifully that it was hard to believe it was the same woman. That was, until you looked at those eyes. There was no doubt when you studied the round, soulful feature as she posed looking at her husband.
All the photographs were just as they had been before, with one exception: a group shot of the Bolt Brothers' logging crew. Almost one hundred men lined up for a rare group shot, and there, in the center of everybody, were two very familiar faces.
"Starsk, look at this," Hutch said, stunned, pointing. The brunet circled around to look over his partner's shoulder. The blond man could have been Joshua Bolt - probably was, Starsky thought. But the curly-haired man who stood next to him, his arm flung protectively over the blond's shoulders, was unmistakable.
"If I didn't know better...." Starsky mumbled.
"Don't say it, Starsk!" Hutch exclaimed, cutting him off. "It's been a long week, and I don't think I'm ready to deal with this!"
"But, Hutch..." Starsky was worried at how shook his best friend looked.
"I have a headache, buddy, and it's getting worse. I'm not up to this." Suddenly, Hutch jumped from his chair, putting the album on the table as if it had bitten him, and heading for the bathroom. "I need to get some sleep. Maybe we can figure it out tomorrow."
Starsky knew his partner when he was this way, and knew it wasn't a time to push. "Okay, we'll work on it tomorrow. If it can be explained at all."
"It has to be explainable," Hutch insisted. "Just not tonight."
Starsky took the hint, and got up to head home to his own apartment. "Get some sleep, buddy," he said, squeezing his best friend's arm and pushing him toward the bathroom. "I'll see you in the morning."
The door shut gently behind the brunet, and after brushing his teeth and switching from the day's dirty clothes to his favorite orange robe, Hutch headed for bed. But before he turned in, he couldn't resist one more peek at the amazing photograph. "Night everybody," he whispered to all the men he knew in the picture, feeling foolish but doing it anyway. "Starsky won't give up, but I've got a feeling we're never gonna explain you." And with that, he disappeared behind the partition and to his eagerly-awaited bed.