Summary: Hutch drags Starsky on a camping trip that turns into a struggle for survival.
Category: Starsky & Hutch
Word Count: 3781
“Look at that! Isn’t it breath-taking?”
“You suppose? How can you say that, Starsky? You are observing our universe in all its galactical glory! It’s a marvel to behold!”
“Well, that’s a little dramatic, don’t ya think? It’s just a bunch of stars.”
“Just a bunch of stars. That’s billions of stars, millions of miles away. It’s beautiful, just beautiful.”
Starsky and Hutch lay opposite one another encased in sleeping bags. Hutch had convinced his best friend to join him on a camping trip. It took several weeks of provocation to get him to come. Starsky was not a fan of the great outdoors but indulged his partner simply to avoid any more harassment. They both lay on their backs looking up into the midnight sky.
“I just don’t understand it.” Starsky griped.
“What? The astronomical vision you see before you? The majesty of earth and all that surrounds it? The cosmos? The galaxy? That fact that we are mere specks on a tiny planet floating in the vastness of infinite space?”
“Will you cut that out. Who do you think you are? Carl Sagan?”
Hutch chuckled at Starsky’s jab.
“Okay… then what? What is it you don’t understand?”
“How you can think this is fun. I’m lying in the dirt wrapped like a burrito and I’m freezing my ass off. I can see my breath! THIS is not my idea of a vacation.”
“Ah, come on Starsk. Just give it a chance. Become one with nature. Just let yourself unwind and enjoy the fresh air.”
“It’s a little TOO fresh if you ask me. I can hear John Denver singing.”
The partners had left the city that afternoon. Hutch wanted to explore the canyons of a secluded mountain retreat that one of his fellow police officers recommended. He’d been wanting to go for almost two years now and it took just about that long to persuade Starsky to join him. The partners rarely did anything without the other. After working together for almost 8 years, they had simply become one person.
They travelled three hours by car to get to the basecamp and then a four-hour hike to the site that Hutch’s friend raved about. It did not disappoint. So far, Hutch was thrilled with the journey – Starsky… not so much.
“I have a huge blister on my toe.” Starsky complained as he shuffled his feet around the bottom of his tightly zipped sleeping bag. “It’s the size of a peach pit.”
“I’ll fix it tomorrow.” Hutch replied as flipped over on his side, let out a big sigh and drifted off to sleep.
“Fix it? How are you going to do that?”
But, Starsky found himself talking to himself and wide awake in the blackness of the wilderness. Sounds of wild animals echoed in the distance. Crickets and other critters of the night rustled and chirped. Hutch’s muffled snore just added to the nocturnal symphony.
“It’s going to be a long night. Rocky Mountain High? More like Rocky Mountain Hell.” Starsky gripped.
It was the smell of bacon that first hit his slumbered senses. Starsky opened his eyes to brilliant sunlight and Hutch preparing breakfast over an open fire.
“Morn’in.” Hutch said gleefully.
All Starsky could do was groan.
“How’d you sleep?”
Starsky groaned again.
“I slept great!” Hutch announced. “What a beautiful day. Look at that view!”
“Do you have to be so chipper?” Starsky asked as he sat upright still engulfed in his bag. “It’s annoying.”
“Ah, come on Starsk. Please don’t ruin this for me. I’ve been trying to get here for a long time and now I’m finally here, so can you do me a favor and try and enjoy yourself? You’ll see. We’re going to have a great time. Please, Starsk. Give it a chance. Can you do that for me?”
“Okay. Alright.” Starsky huffed.
He struggled to release himself from his sleeping bag and when he was finally free stretched and scratched his head vigorously.
“What’s for breakfast?”
“Bacon and eggs. And, you’re favorite bagels from your favorite bakery.” Hutch grinned broadly as he held up the paper bag and shook it.
“Really? You brought my bagels?”
“Yes I did my friend. Yes, I did.”
“Well, things ARE looking up.”
“Coffee?” Hutch offered as he poured a cup and passed it to his friend.
“Thank you.” Starsky replied as he looked out over the landscape. “This really is nice. We’re up pretty high.”
“Yes we are. And, wait until you hear what I’ve got in store for us today.”
“Okay. Lay it on me.” Starsky took a sip.
“We are going to explore some canyons, maybe do some rock climbing.”
“Yeah! You’re gonna love it!”
“If you say so.” Starsky conceded.
“It’s going to be outstanding partner, outstanding!”
“Outstanding.” Starsky said trying to sound upbeat.
“Now let me take a look at that foot.”
“You said you had a blister and I said I would fix it for you. Remember?”
“Well, what are you going to do?” Starsky sounded skeptical as he picked up his foot and started to examine it.
“I’ve got a first aid kit here so let me take a look.”
“What else you got in there? A recliner and television set.”
“I like to be prepared partner.” Hutch said ignoring his friend’s sarcasm. “I was an Eagle Scout at camp Minnihaha when I was a kid.”
Hutch grabbed Starsky’s foot and without warning and began a rudimentary field surgery. It was over within minutes.
“There. Isn’t that better?”
“There. Ya see. You have to trust me partner.”
“I do. I trust you. I never said I didn’t trust you. When did I ever say that?”
“Never. Now, eat up and let’s get going.”
“What’s the rush?” Starsky asked lazily as he reviewed Hutch’s patch job on his toe. He held half a bagel between his teeth.
“We only have a few days up here. I want to make the most of it. Now let’s mount up.”
“Mount up?” Starsky muttered. “Now he thinks he’s John Wayne.”
“Come on, come on. Mount up! Mount up!” Hutch encouraged.
“Okay. Alright. Can I put my boots on?” Starsky said as he stood and stuffed the rest of his bagel in his mouth.
“Yes. Put on your boots and let’s go.”
The morning sun soaked into the rock formations painting them burnt orange, Torino red and deep purple. Some boulders were the size of Volkswagen beetles. Others stood like office buildings, dwarfing the two men. Starsky had to admit, it was a spectacular scene and a stunning day. There wasn’t a soul in sight except for a single hawk that circled above. It let out a lonely screech just to let them know he was there.
Hutch led the way, up and over the rugged terrain. The crunch of hiking boots on rock were the only sound that ruffled the peacefulness of the place. Starsky followed close behind. They both carried back packs and Hutch had the extra gear of rope and carabiners if he happened upon a rock face he wanted to scale. He was in his element and savored every moment. With each step he became more energized. The bliss he felt was euphoric.
“Well?” Hutch called back to Starsky. “What do you think?”
Hutch stood atop a cliff and held his arms out wide like Moses.
“Hey! Be careful.” Starsky warned his partner as he caught up and stood next to him. He peered over the edge. “That’s a long way down. You know I hate heights.”
Hutch ignored Starsky’s comment and leaned his forearm on his pal’s shoulder as together they scanned the panorama. “It’s pretty spectacular alright.” Starsky admitted.
“I told you you’d love it.”
“I’m not sure if love is the right word. But, it’s a nice change from what we’re used to.”
“It sure is. It’s exactly what I needed.” Hutch replied as he took a swig of water.
“Needed?” Starsky questioned. “What do you mean ‘needed’?”
“Well, you know. The day-to-day grind. The job was starting to get to me. I’m just glad I can spend some time out here and unwind and forget about all that for a while.”
“The job was getting to you?” Starsky asked slightly hurt.
“Yes.” Hutch affirmed. “Doesn’t it ever get to you?”
“Do you mean to say that you never get tired of all the scum we deal with? Or Dobey? The court dates? The low pay? The long nights? Or all that useless paperwork we fill out week-after-week.”
“No. And it’s daily paperwork. Daily.” Starsky corrected jovially. “I’m glad you’re having a good time Hutch. Let’s keep going.”
“Okay. Follow me. Jeff said there is a river around here somewhere. He told me to look for a rock formation that’s shaped like a rhinoceros.”
“That’s what he said.”
“Okay. I didn’t realize we were on Safari.”
The partner’s continued on taking in the scenery and fantastic formations. The heat intensified as the hours passed. But relief was in site because they found the marker Jeff told Hutch about. It truly did resemble a rhinoceros. It led them to the river. It ran through a cavern that seemed to encircle the water like a tunnel. Tranquil was too modest a word to describe the setting. It was simply unworldly. Now in complete shadow from the overhead rock, Starsky and Hutch meandered down the creek taking in the awesome colors and reflections of the water the flickered off the rocky ceiling like a disco ball. The crackle of their steps echoed off the walls.
“Hey. Look at that.” Hutch commented as he crouched and pointed to a paw print. “Mountain lion tracks. He must have come down here for a drink.”
“Mountain lion!” Starsky said with alarm. “Is it dangerous?”
“Nah. He’s more afraid of us then we are of him.”
“Somehow, I don’t take much comfort in that.”
Hutch patted his partner on the shoulder and smiled assuredly. They continued on.
As mid-afternoon creeped up on them, they decided to make their way back to camp for supper. Their day had been rewarding and relaxing. It was one they wouldn’t soon forget. Starsky had been transformed. He truly enjoyed the adventure and was happy to have shared the experience with his best friend.
“That smells good.” Starsky commented as he grabbed a beer from the cooler.
He sat on one of the folding chairs Hutch brought to make their stay more comfortable. Hutch grilled two steaks on the fire and potatoes wrapped in foil rested right in the coals. He also heated the obligatory tin of baked beans.
“You don’t suppose that mountain lion can smell it too, do you?” Starsky asked as he scouted over the land to the horizon that now burned with flaming color.
“Maybe.” Hutch shrugged.
“Well, what are we going to do if it shows up for dinner?”
“I’ve got my gun.”
“You’re not going to shoot it are you?”
“I hope not.”
Starsky was still not comforted and continued to look around the outer reaches of the camp to make sure they were alone. He squirmed in his chair as if a lion attack was imminent.
“Don’t worry Starsk. I’ll protect you.” Hutch joshed. “Here. Eat your steak.”
Hutch placed the meat on a plate and passed it to his buddy. He gingerly took a potato out of the ashes, unwrapped it and tossed it over.
“Hey. Watch it.” Starsky protested as he juggled the hot potato.
Hutch just laughed and nestled onto his chair and dug into his meal too. The partners ate in silence, enjoying the twilight and the final slivers of light on the horizon. Their faces stung from the day’s sun as gentle fatigue seeped into their bodies.
Starsky ate every morsel on his plate. It was delicious. He leaned back in his chair, patted his stomach, stretched and sighed with satisfaction.
“Good?” Hutch commented as he scraped up his last spoonful of beans.
“Very.” Starsky replied.
The pair sat back and took in the sparkling sky. Hutch opened 2 more beers and passed one to Starsky. Total serenity engulfed them. It was like they were the only people on earth. Starsky hadn’t realized just how much he needed this mini vacation. He was enjoying it so far.
“Hey Starsk?” Hutch said breaking the silence.
“Do you think you will ever get married?”
“I don’t know.” Starsky pondered. “I planned on marrying Terry. I haven’t really thought about it since she died. I’m not sure if I will ever get over her. I think about Terry a lot. Just about every day. I think about the kids we might have had. Where were would have lived. You know. All that stuff.”
“I think about Gillian too.” Hutch divulged. He picked at the label of his beer bottle. “I asked her to marry me, you know… just before…”
“You never told me that.” Starsky looked over at his partner with empathy.
“I never got the chance. Everything happened so fast.” Hutch paused. “I wanted you to be my best man.”
The partner’s stared upward both feeling melancholia.
“How about kids?” Starsky asked.
“Yeah. We talked about having kids.”
“Ya know Hutch, …” Starsky began, “that night still haunts me.”
“Me too, partner. Me too.” Hutch said quietly.
“I never really told you how sorry I was about Grossman and well… I just wish I could have gotten to her sooner. I’ve always felt guilty about that.”
“Don’t be. It wasn’t your fault. I know you were looking out for me.” Hutch resigned.
“I was, you know.” Starsky affirmed.
“I never really said sorry for hitting you.” Hutch divulged. “For doubting you.”
“You did punch me pretty hard. I felt that for days. I thought you broke my jaw.”
“Well, I did serve you up my best right hook.” Hutch chuckled awkwardly.
“I’ll say… and you’re forgiven.”
“We’ve been through some hard times, Starsk. Thanks for seeing me through them. ALL of them.”
“You’re welcome. But, we’ve had good times too. This is a good time. I like this.”
“You do? Have I converted you?”
“I think you have my friend. I think you finally have.”
The boys clinked their bottles together to toast Starsky’s about face on appreciating the great outdoors. It had only taken Hutch eight years to reform him. They drank up their beers and tidied up the camp.
“Let’s call it a night, huh.” Hutch suggested. “Tomorrow, we can try a bit of climbing.”
“If you insist.” Starsky said.
The partner’s zipped themselves into their sleeping bags and were soon sound asleep.
It was the cool dew that woke him. Hutch struggled to flip himself over in his tightly sealed tube and wrestled to free his arm to look at his watch. Six forty-three. The sun had barely risen and the camp was veiled in pre-dawn mauve. It was disturbingly quiet. He looked over to see if Starsky was still asleep but found his sleeping bag open and abandoned.
“Starsk?” Hutch murmured.
There was no answer.
Hutch unzipped and released himself from his bag. He stood unsteadily and scanned the camp. He rubbed his face vigorously to try and shake off the remanence of slumber.
“Starsk?” He tried again. “You there?”
He squinted to try and bring the dimly lit campsite into focus.
Hutch shrugged and figured his partner had ventured out to relieve himself. He was feeling it too and found a nice private spot. He returned to camp still scouting the surroundings but began breakfast preparations anyway. If the smell of coffee didn’t bring Starsky out in the open, nothing would.
Hutch finished off his first cup and was now getting worried.
“Where is he?” He muttered to himself.
With that utterance he set out to find his friend. Hutch glanced as his watch again. 7:12 am.
A vigorous walk quickly turned into a panicked jog as angst invaded Hutch’s body. He was now fervently aware that something was terribly wrong. He fearfully searched the parameter of the camp and then beyond. His eyes darted in every direction hoping Starsky would simply appear.
Hutch made his way further out and eventually came across foot prints. They had to be Starsky’s. He followed them until they alarmingly disappeared off the edge of a cliff.
“Oh no.” Hutch gasped.
He reluctantly peered over the edge and there, 30 feet below, lay Starsky precariously sprawled on a narrow ledge. He was on his stomach. His left arm dangled out into space. A pool of blood surrounded his head. Hutch thought he was dead.
“STAAAARRRSKY!!!” Hutch yelled. “Hold on! Don’t move! I’m coming down!!”
Hutch wasted no time and sprinted back to the camp to gather his climbing gear. He ran so fast it felt like his feet never touched the ground. He was back at the edge of the cliff within minutes.
He secured the rope around a tree and repelled down the side of the rock. Starsky never budged through the entire exercise. Hutch’s heart pounded. His adrenaline pumped, driving him on without fear to get to his partner. He landed gently beside Starsky cautious to the stability of the ledge. With little room to maneuver, he crouched down to felt his partner’s neck. His pulse was obvious and strong.
“Oh, thank God.” Hutch said with relief.
He inspected Starsky’s head where he found a nasty gash over his left eye. His face was a mess of dried blood. He had been there for quite a while.
“Starsk?” Hutch said as he lightly patted his friend on the back. “Starsky? Wake up partner. Come on. Wake up.”
Finally, a stifled moan rose from Starsky’s being.
“Take it easy.” Hutch said with assurance. “Don’t make any sudden movements.”
“What… what happened?” Starsky replied groggily.
Starsky struggled to push him self up. But, Hutch stopped him.
“Stay still, okay?”
“Why? Where am I?”
“We are on a very narrow ledge about 50 feet up. Can you stand? Let me help you. Slowly and carefully.”
“Do you feel like anything is broken?” Hutch asked as he grabbed Starsky’s upper arm.
“Aaaarrrgggh!!!” Starsky yelped. “Yes!! My arm!”
The duo teetered on the edge to regain control after the painful jolt.
“EASY!” Hutch grimaced as he grabbed Starsky around the torso to prevent him from falling over. “Easy. It’s a long way down. I’ve got you.”
Once they were stabilized again Hutch took Starsky’s other arm and pulled him back against the rock face. “You okay?”
“Yesssss.” Starsky hissed – his face scrunched to battle the agony.
“Okay. Steady. Here’s the plan.” Hutch began.
“Oh good. A plan. We’ve got a plan?”
“I’m going to climb back up and then I’ll throw the rope down to you. You secure it around your waist and I’ll pull you up.”
“That’s your plan?”
“You got a better idea?”
“I suppose not.”
“Okay. Stay here.”
“Where am I going to go?”
“Oh yeah. Right. Hold tight then.”
Hutch turned to start his climb back up to the top. But, Starsky stopped him momentarily.
“Don’t drop me. You know I’m afraid of heights.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Hutch made short work of scaling the rock face. He was athletic and strong. Starsky plastered himself against the cliff side and did everything he could not to look down.
“Watch out.” Hutch yelled as he tossed the rope down to his friend. It landed squarely on the top of Starsky’s head. “I’m throwing the rope down!”
It startled him and he temporarily lost his balance. He recovered within seconds.
“You coulda warned me!!” Starsky bellowed.
“I did.” Hutch yelled down again.
With annoyance, Starsky took several moments to figure out how to secure the rope around his waist using only one arm. It was difficult but he managed and tightened it for the harrowing trip up the side of the cliff.
“You ready?” Hutch shouted.
“I think so.”
“Okay. Hang on.”
Hutch had looped the rope around the tree for better leverage and began to pull. It took him 100 yards away from the cliff edge. He dug in for the last few feet as if he was in a tug-o-war. Starsky helped as best he could. With his adrenaline at full capacity, Hutch got his partner to the top and the ledge. But just as Starsky threw his leg over the lip of the cliff edge, he lost his footing and he fell back down. He flailed and managed to grab a small bush to stop him from falling to his death. He dangled by his one good arm and screamed.
Hutch sprinted to the edge and locked on to his partner’s forearm. With all the might he could muster, Hutch pulled Starsky to safety. They both fell onto their backs, finally on solid ground and gulped for air. Their hearts pounded in their chests as relief seeped into both of them.
“You… you okay?” Hutch panted.
“I’m not dead.”
“How did you get down there? What happened last night?”
“I had to… I had to go. Too much beer.” Starsky gasped. “I got lost. It’s so… DARK out here. I couldn’t find my way back.”
“Oh.” Was all Hutch could say as he finally sat up. “You know. This isn’t what I had in mind when I said we could do some rock climbing today.”
“I don’t know…” Starsky replied still trying to regain control of his respiratory system. “… this was just so much fun.”
“Let me help you up.” Hutch offered.
“How’s your arm?”
“Well,” Starsky remarked as he glanced down at it. “It’s bent in the wrong direction.”
“Huh. So it is.” Hutch surmised.
“You don’t seem alarmed.”
“It’s not my arm.”
“Get me out of here.”
Hutch threw his arm around Starsky’s shoulder and walked him back to camp. After cleaning up Starsky’s cut brow, Hutch began to pack up. Starsky patiently watched as he cradled his arm to try and sooth the pain. Within the hour they were ready to make the long hike back to base.
“You ready?” Hutch asked as he flung his massive back-pack onto his back.
“Let’s go then.”
“I changed my mind.”
“The great outdoors is not for me. Please don’t make me come out here again.”
“Okay.” Hutch chuckled. “I won’t.”
“Fighting crime in the big City is just so much safer.”