Come on Silver Lady take my word
I won't run out on you again believe me
Oh I've seen the light . . . . **
Roxy looked slowly from Starsky to Hutch, following an invisible cord that seemed to run between them, tying them together even across the expanse. "You love him don't you?" She asked, a kind of wonder in her voice.
Hutch didn't need to answer.
"What's it like?" She asked him with a shy hesitation.
"Love?" Can such a thing be put into words? He thought. "It's the most powerful force in the universe." Hutch tried to explain. "It gives everything meaning. It makes the impossible possible."
Roxy nodded. "I'd always hoped something like that existed, although I've never known it myself."
"It does Roxy. Never doubt it." Hutch touched her softly on the arm and a warmth radiated through her.
She followed his gaze as he looked back at Starsky, then she began to pace the bank. "There has to be a way to get across. You don't deserve to be here."
"You don't either," Hutch turned his attention to her after a few more minutes.
"I told you before. I threw my life away. I didn't value it the way you did yours."
"How can you be so sure? There was a time I would have done the same as you."
Roxy stopped her pacing to stare at him. "What do you mean?"
"I got strung out once by a couple of goons who were looking for a girl. I knew where she was. I gave her up to them to get another hit. I would have given up anything to get more of the stuff. So I know what addiction can do to a person."
She rubbed her arms as if remembering the feel of the needles. "How'd you get clean?"
"Starsky." He indicated the man who hadn't moved from his position opposite them. "He sacrificed his career to get me clean. Stood firm as a mountain until I came back down. Hounded me for months afterwards until the craving was gone." He didn't voice that fact that a craving for Starsky had taken its place.
That's what she'd needed, too, he thought. Someone who was willing to sacrifice everything to save her. But not everyone has a Starsky.
Suddenly, Charon and his boat appeared next to Starsky, seeming to materialize out of the mist and spray of water that struck the rocks near the bank, both majestic and frightening. Starsky approached him with an agitation nearly as fearsome as the river, waving his hands and leaning in with menace. Charon didn't back away an inch, just followed with a movement of his head Starsky's heated gestures toward Hutch and Roxy.
Words must have been exchanged. Hutch could imagine what was said. He watched as Starsky tore through his pockets and knew he was looking for the toll money needed to pay Hutch's way across. After desperate moments of searching, Starsky stopped and looked across at Hutch. Even across the distance, his despair was palpable. Charon merely shook his head. Starsky didn't have the payment required.
Hutch stretched his hand out over the water toward his friend. "Don't blame yourself," he wanted to tell him. "It's my fault. I should have known what would happen."
Now they would spend eternity separated from each other. Able only to look, never to touch.
Charon pushed off the bank and used his staff to maneuver the craft ponderously yet effectively over to Hutch's side of the river. The treacherous current seemed to hold no sway over the sturdy, flat-bottomed boat. Yet Hutch knew if he jumped in and tried to swim across, he'd been swept away downstream. And who knew what awaited him there.
"Your friend has come for you." Charon commented as he drew up alongside the rocks that lined the bank yet never stepping off onto solid ground.
"I told you he would."
"Very few return to the River Styx once they've been ferried across. You must be very special to him."
Hutch indicated Starsky with a tilt of his head. "He's the one who's special."
"Humility. Devotion. Admirable qualities."
"He doesn't deserve this, Charon," Roxy interjected, her words crackling with uncharacteristic fierceness for one who'd been beaten down so long. "I thought this was a place where wrongs were righted."
"That's true," Charon responded dispassionately. "But even here, there are debts that must be paid. Hutch was given a life but he handed it back. He has nothing left to bargain with."
"You took something from me that I couldn't live without!" Hutch shouted, not giving a good goddamn how he sounded. With Starsky in sight now he couldn't accept that the battled they'd fought had been for nothing.
Charon's eyes seemed to look through them rather than at them, like beams of light cutting through fog, still he said nothing.
"It's no use, Hutch. Don't think I haven't tried to bargain with him." Roxy sank down to the ground in defeat, her arms curling around knees once again like a child, her sudden bravado winked out like a spark in the night sky. Hutch looked down at the forlorn figure she made on the ground and felt a familiar passion flare to life in this place of death.
Hutch took a step forward, unwilling yet to back down.
"You talk about the life we're given and choices we make. But some things are out of our control. Like who we love and who loves us," Hutch snarled. "What's the point of love if it's kept in a gilded cage and not set free?
At least I had love once, and maybe I screwed up. But what about Roxy? Maybe if she'd have had someone in her life like I did, she wouldn't have ended up turning tricks for drugs." He pointed a finger at the woman at his feet. "It's not fair that she be kept here."
"You dare to question us?" A crack appeared in the ferryman's detached veneer and his well-modulated voice rose a pitch higher. Roxy shivered but it didn't bother Hutch a bit. He'd confronted authority figures before. Those who thought they held power over life and death. He'd learned in another time and place, love was most powerful of all.
"You hide in your robes and stay safe on that boat so nothing can touch you. You can't possibly understand what Roxy's life was like." Hutch might have missed his opportunity to be of real help her before, but he saw another chance to stand up for her now. "I'm not just questioning you. I'm demanding that you take Roxy across."
"It's impossible!" Charon tightened his grip on the staff in his hand as he made ready to push off the bank.
Her eyes grew round and glistening as she listened to their fierce exchange. No one had ever questioned Charon before. Maybe because those who had been left stranded here had been too lost and broken. Who didn't believe their souls were worth fighting for. Hers might not be but . . .
"Wait!" Roxy jumped up and latched onto Hutch's arm. Her sudden movement took both men by surprise. She let go and slowly turned up her palm to reveal a few crinkled dollar bills.
"Where did you get that?" Hutch asked, not having noticed it before.
"Don't you remember, Hutch? It's the money you gave me when you came to my room that night. I was hurting so bad, I would have done anything for a few dollars. Even turning a trick for a cop." Roxy's eyes glowed like pearls at twilight. "But you just gave it to me for nothing. You smiled at me. And for a minute I wasn't a lousy hype, I was a woman."
For a minute she seemed to savor the bittersweet memory, then blinked. "I arrived here with it still in my hand. But when I offered it for Charon he said it wasn't mine to give. But maybe it's yours."
She waved the money at Charon. "How about it? You said yourself he had admirable qualities. Shouldn't this be what it takes to get him across?"
Roxy's gaze drifted across to the figure of Starsky standing silently, watching their exchange. "Hutch was grieving his partner," she said. "Love shouldn't be the thing that keeps us out of heaven, it should be what lets us in."
Charon didn't respond immediately. He tilted his head as if listening the something in the wind, then slowly nodded. "Yes, this is a special case. Selfless generosity is precious indeed. Perhaps something can be arranged after all."
He took the faded and crumbled paper from Roxy's hand, secreted it into a deep fold of his robe, then indicated for Hutch to step onto the boat. "The price has been paid. You're permitted to cross over."
Hutch's heart felt as if it might burst in his chest. To be together with Starsky at last! And not just for a few fleeting years -- but for forever. No more hiding in dark corners, dodging bullets and unanswered questions, chasing shadows and ghosts. He waved his arms in exuberance over his head and Starsky waved back, giving a little bounce on his toes as the message was received.
Hutch set a foot onto the sturdy floor of the boat, felt it sway a little, then stabilize. He pivoted, about the leave the stony bank behind when he saw Roxy's wistful smile. Silvery-gray mist floated around her slight figure.
"Wait," he said as the ferryman speared his staff deep into the water. "Once I cross over, I can never come back here, is that it?"
"That's the way it works." The ferryman held the craft momentarily in position.
Hutch looked from Roxy to Starsky and Starsky lifted a hand to wave at him once again. Hutch reached up his arm and held it there, not waving so much as reaching out. Wanting him to understand. Then his arm fell to his side. "I can't go, Charon."
"What do you mean? The price has been paid."
"The fare wasn't mine -- I gave it to Roxy. It's hers, not mine. It's not fair that I use it now. I'll wait with her until we find another way across."
"There is no other way!"
"Let's get this straight." Hutch lifted a finger and pointed it at the robed man. "I left her alone with her demons once before, I'm not going to do it again. There's got to be another way."
He stepped off the boat with deliberate care then looked across to Starsky, who was no longer waiving. Although he was too far away to read his features, even from this distance his friend's concern and confusion were easy to feel.
"Make him understand," Hutch addressed Charon softly, his eyes locked on Starsky.
Charon tilted his head once again as if listening to the wind and a light seemed to come over his face that his hood had kept shadowed. "If you insist the money be returned to Roxy . . ."
"I do." Hutch stated resolutely.
The ferryman reached into his robe where he had put the money and pulled out his hand. Instead of dollar bills, shiny gold coins spilled from his fingers.
"It appears this should now be quite adequate for Roxy's toll." He smiled and Hutch felt a strange warmth spread through him.
Roxy stood and her mouth gaped open.
"Would you like to cross now?" The ferryman asked.
"But. . ." she looked from Hutch to Charon, confusion and longing written plainly on her face.
Hutch nodded his encouragement and did his best to smile. "The fare is yours, not mine. It's your time, Roxy. Don't worry about me. Send Starsky my love." It was all he could do to not stumble over the name that felt so good on his lips.
Roxy stared at Hutch for a moment then flung her arms around him, tears shimmering in her eyes. "I will, Hutch."
Charon held his hand out to Roxy. "Come now, child. The sun is setting."
On the other side of the river, the golden rays of the sun were sinking behind the mountains, casting their shapes in glorious shades of purple and pink, luminous as pearls. While on Hutch's side, the landscape remained a dusky gray, unchanging from dawn to twilight.
Roxy stepped hesitantly onto the boat, using Charon's robed arm to steady herself, then turned to Hutch. "It's not so bad here, Hutch. At least there's no pain." Her eyes shone brightly in the twilight.
And the boatman pushed them off the rocks.