CASUALTY OF WAR
this story is nominated in the category Outstanding Short Story
Note: due to the size, I've devided this story into sections. It's easier to remember where you were in case you reading this in phases.
The blast sent David Starsky and Kenneth Hutchinson straight into the air, threw them backwards and stopped the dark man when he hit the wall. The blond agent was blasted even further, through a window that the explosion obliterated into zillions of tiny pieces.
Smoke, awkwardly green and lemon coloured, whirled up and seemed to embrace the men.
“Get them out of there!” somebody screamed.
“Call an ambulance!”
“Dispatch, send an ambulance! Get the fire brigade here. Two agents down, I repeat, two agents down!”
As the sounds slowly came back to Hutch’s ears, he began to understand what the words meant. The small, but intense explosion in the chemical plant had knocked him out for a while, but he was getting his senses back. The thick, strangely coloured smoke that surrounded him crept right into his mouth, his eyes, his nose, his lungs – and it was awful. It burned and made him gag and retch and nearly crawl for air.
He coughed and coughed and coughed until the concrete below his body felt like rubber and his sight had completely gone fuzzy. Strong hands reached under his arm pits and pulled him away, away from the dangerous smoke that still gulfed freely from the exploded room.
Starsky! Hutch thought and gestured wheezing and coughing to the shattered window. He wanted to scream his partner’s name, but he couldn’t break through his own coughing. He gestured wildly, hoping the man who was with him, would understand.
“Easy, pal,” a heavy voice said. “They’re at it. Lay down.”
Hutch couldn’t even open his eyes. As much as he wanted to, the smoke stung his eyes so much he couldn’t open them, not even for a second. Tears ran freely, dirty and warm. He felt a cap placed over his face and picked up the pure oxygen that was admitted to him. But it couldn’t get the green-yellow danger from his body just yet. Hutch coughed and coughed up to a point when he thought he’d choke in it.
All the time his mind was on his partner. Had Starsky been thrown out as well? Where was he? He couldn’t see, his eyes were running from the strong ammoniac-like prickly vapour and his coughs ruled out all other things. He was so restless that the ambulance personnel, who had arrived by now and were giving him first aid, picked up his worry.
“They’ve got him out, he’s right here,” said the nurse loudly and reassuringly. “He’s coming round. We’re taking you to hospital. You need to get that stuff out of your system.”
In between his own bouts of coughing, Hutch heard similar sounds, not far from him. He recognised Starsky’s bark, just like his own, retching and nearly throwing up from the terrible damp both men had inhaled.
“Let’s go!” shouted the ambulance personnel. “Step on it!”
Doctor Munroe was checking Starsky thoroughly. The dark haired agent looked awful, exactly like the blond man in the adjacent room, who was treated by Doctor Simmons. Both men had severely red rimmed eyes, bloodshot and were still struggling to keep them open. They focussed with difficulty. Starsky knew that Hutch must feel like him: that breathing hurt, that it seemed to tear his chest up. His throat was raw from the poisonous fume and the coughing. His lungs wheezed and heaved like a bellow. Still he coughed, but not as desperately anymore as when he’d come in. He was completely exhausted.
Both men had been on pure oxygen and strong medication for a few hours and the treatment began to work. Their breathing was still far from satisfying, but both doctors signed their release papers.
“No work for a couple of days,” Doctor Monroe said to Starsky. “Your bronchial tubes, lungs, respiratory system and eyes have had a big blow. Give it all time to heal.”
Starsky coughed. “I feel awful,” he croaked sombrely. He DID feel awful. He had thrown up until there was nothing left in his guts to push outside. His body hurt from the explosion, his head pounded, he was nauseous and his painful lungs and air pipe screamed for rest. He was dead on his feet.
“That’s very understandable. Compare this to going through a chemical war, and you know why you’re doing the work you’re doing.”
“That’s reassuring,” Starsky replied hoarsely and immediately coughed vehemently and painfully again.
“I’ll give you some pills you can take that’ll subdue the coughing stimuli. Use them according to the prescription. I want to see you back tomorrow and the day after that and if necessary the rest of the week as well. Until I say so, no work.”
“The same. He breathed in the same stuff as you.” The doctor held up a sheet of paper. Through his tears, Starsky was unable to make out what it was.
“This is the lab report on the gas you’ve inhaled – luckily we got that very quickly. I’ve adjusted the medication you’re on so it’ll be as effective as possible. I’ve got some blood work ordered as well and a couple of more tests. The results of those will be here next time I see you.”
He showed the police man his clothes. “You can get dressed now. You can’t drive. Is there anyone who can bring you and your partner home?”
Captain Dobey did it himself. He looked at his two officers, both looking exhausted and coughing and wheezing and being all miserable.
“Why the hell did they decide on releasing you?” he mumbled, shaking his head.
“Got poor bedside manners,” Hutch growled and coughed long and hard.
“Who’s gonna look after you?” Dobey wanted to know and escorted the men to his car.
“No one.” Starsky managed to utter. “Take care of m’self.”
“Yeah yeah. Mister Tough guy.” Dobey started the car and dropped the men off. He felt sorry for them. Hearing their ragged and difficult breaths and looking at their exhausted, dirty faces made him aware of how hard it was what they were experiencing. The explosion in the chemical plant shouldn’t have happened, but one of the perpetrators had shot a canister that contained a liquid gas. The perp was caught but a fair amount of the gas had escaped and Starsky and Hutch were caught in it. It would take a couple of days, the doctor had assured him, but there would no permanent damage.
“I’ll call Huggy. Ask him to look in on you once in a while,” he said. The only answer he got was more coughing.
“I’m still… taking the pill.” Starsky flipped one in his mouth and swallowed it with coffee.
“You’re still on medication?” Hutch was surprised. Both he and Starsky had come through their ordeal unscathed. At least, that’s what he thought when the coughing finally got less after three days. True – Starsky was barking a lot more. Apparently he’d inhaled more than Hutch since he was closer to the canister when the liquid gas was air born.
“Yup. Doc Munroe says it’s still present in my system,” Starsky nodded and he coughed once. He swallowed and shook his head and his hand. “I’m alright. Don’t feel sick or anything. It’s just that the stuff needs to be out of this gorgeous body, you know. The pills suppress the urge to cough and clear my lungs at the same time. Or something like that.”
“But he cleared you for action?”
“Sure. Said I could do anything I want as long as I feel good. If anything comes up, I’m to report.”
Dryly Hutch said, “Which you will do, of course, instantly.”
Starsky patted firmly on his chest when he felt more coughing coming up.
“Come on, Hutch. You know as well as I do that I’m peeling the paper from the wall out of sheer boredom. I feel fine, promise.”
“Well, let’s get to it then.”
Apart from Starsky’s somewhat noisy breath things were just as they always were. The men were working, keeping Bay City free from the scum of the earth.
A call at night had brought them to the storage of a large warehouse, a couple of days later. A small group of burglars had gained entrance and were rapidly but efficiently steeling electronic equipment. Two men were inside, assembling what equipment they could get their hands on. A third man was waiting in a getaway truck, while number four awaited the two inside and shoved the stuff he was handed in the back of the truck.
The silent alarm had given them away, but they were working fast and unaware of what was waiting for them. Backup had already been warned and the black and whites were on their way.
Meanwhile Starsky and Hutch parked a street away from the warehouse and ran, silently and quickly round the back. Hutch took the front side of the truck, Starsky the back.
“I’ll take the driver,” Hutch said. “You go for the man in the back. In two minutes.”
“I’ll be ready.” Starsky nodded and disappeared. Hutch knew he would be waiting somewhere in the darkness of the alley until they would come forward, without further discussion. They were so much used to each other that they needn’t talk about it.
In silence Hutch made his way to the front of the truck. Then, when he knew his partner would be in position as well and ready for the action, he rose and popped up next to the cabin window of the truck. He was lucky – the windows on both sides were turned down.
“Gently,” he said softly, gun ready to the driver. “Hands on the wheel. Police.”
The driver startled and in a reflex hit the gas hard. The truck was not in gear but it gave such a howl in the silent night air that the man in the back of the truck was alarmed. He jumped out and was in three big steps with Hutch. The blond agent hadn’t expected any resistance from that side of the truck – Starsky was there, wasn’t he? He received a blow to his back that painfully sent his kidneys up to his throat. Stars danced in his vision. Starsky! He screamed soundlessly. He fell back from the truck’s step he’d been standing on and landed on the asphalt. Something hit his head and everything went dark.
“Stupid son-of-a…” muttered Starsky when he saw Hutch suddenly going down by the big guy who had been standing in the back of the truck. You were too fast. I wasn’t ready yet! He jumped out of the darkness he’d been in and aimed his gun at the man. The truck door on the driver’s side flew open and the driver ran out, into the safety of the warehouse storage.
“Freeze!” The thief on the other side looked up, blue eyes meeting his. Blue eyes, blond hair… for a second Starsky saw Hutch standing there. A second too long it was, for the man lunged away to the other side of the truck and made a dive into the warehouse.
“Hutch!” Starsky raced to his friend, keeping his gun ready to fire. “Hutch!” He kneeled next to his friend, who moaned from deep within. “I’m going after them,” said Starsky when he saw that Hutch was already coming round again. All four of them ran off, through the shop, to the front, and crashed the first heavy obstacle they found through the shop window.
With a loud bang the window splattered apart and the men made their way outside, closely followed by Starsky. They didn’t get very far though. The uniformed cops arrived just in time to catch them. A few minutes later it was all over.
Starsky ran back to the back of the store. Hutch had pushed himself up to a sitting position.
“Hutch!” Starsky kneeled next to his friend. “Let me look at you.” He moved a bit aside to let the poor light shine on Hutch’s head. Blood was running down the side of his face. He held Hutch’s hand before the man could feel the wound himself. “Don’t touch it. Have you got a clean hanky?”
“Help me up,” muttered Hutch, which Starsky did. Shakily, the blond man leant against the truck and allowed his friend to push a handkerchief against the nasty gash behind his right ear. “What the hell happened?”
“You were going in way too fast,” Starsky said, his voice irritated from worrying. “The guy in the back was with you before I had time to secure the area. Why the eagerness?”
Hutch didn’t answer as he rested his head against his arms. Starsky looked at him intently, making sure his partner was able to stand without falling over.
He continued, “He hit you over the head with a plank.”
“You got them?”
“We’ve got them. The uniforms arrived just in time.” He put a hand on Hutch’s arm. “Come on. Blondie. That head of yours needs some sewing up.”
Hutch was at home, in bed, but he couldn’t sleep. His head was throbbing, his back was bruised and sore but that was not what kept him awake.
You were going in way too fast¸ he heard Starsky saying. …before I had time to secure the area… you were going in too fast… too fast…
“Bull shit!” Hutch suddenly burst out, loudly. His voice sounded strange in the silence of his bedroom, but he knew he wasn’t wrong. Starsky was wrong. Starsky said he’d moved in too fast, but that was crap. He’d taken enough time for his partner to be ready. And what about that ‘secure the area’? They HAD secured the area, they had taken precautions, they hadn’t moved in without checking.
Hutch kept tossing and turning while his mind pushed Starsky’s words up over and over again. After an hour he kicked the covers aside, went to the kitchen and fetched himself a beer. While sitting on the window sill and looking at the lights in the dark world outside, Hutch sat and sipped from his beer.
It worried him. It was unlike Starsky.
“You’re coming to work? Your head is alright?”
“Yeah. Bit of a headache, but that’s all. Can you pick me up?”
“No. Sorry, no can do.”
Hutch thought he hadn’t heard Starsky right. “Come again?”
“I can’t pick you up, Hutch. Not that it’s any of your business, but I got to see Munroe.”
“That still going on?”
“You’re still not freed of that gas?”
“You’re not coughing anymore, are you?”
“Listen Hutch – if he says it’s necessary, it is. I want that stuff out of my system, that good enough for you?” Starsky’s voice was very sharp, almost angry.
“Hey – take it easy, Starsk. It’s good that he keeps his finger on it. You go and visit the doctor.”
“…” A click and the connection was broken.
Hutch stood with the receiver in his hand. He shook his head and in disbelief he put it back on the cradle.
He could have sworn he heard Starsky call him prick.
Telephone. As usual, Hutch woke up at the first sound of it, accustomed to it by years of sleeping with one hear on stand-by.
“Hutch,” he said with a thick voice from sleeping.
It was silent on the other side of the line.
“’ullo? Starsky? Is that you?”
Hutch was wide awake instantly. “Starsky? What’s up? Something wrong?”
“No, I’m… Hutch… I’m not…”
The blond agent pushed himself up to a sitting position, ready to get dressed. “Starsky, You want me to come over?”
“Hutch, I…” A rough coughing reached Hutch’s ears.
“Starsk – are you ill? Stay put. I’m on my way.”
“No… Sorry… ughugh… sorry to disturb… I’m…” He hung up.
Hutch didn’t think one second longer. He put on his trousers, shirt and shoes and spurted to his car. Within ten minutes he was at Starsky’s place. He rang the bell once, but there was no reply. Then he took out his own key to Starsky’s apartment and unlocked the door.
“Starsk? Starsky, are you in?”
The living room was empty. Lights were on in the kitchen, but there was no one there either. When he entered Starsky’s sleeping room, he found his friend, asleep. Nothing there reminded him of the hesitant, confusing phone call that had awoken him fifteen minutes ago.
He looked at Starsky closely. He was sound asleep. He was perspiring a little, leaving his curls slightly damp on his forehead, dimly glowing in the light that came from the kitchen. But he was calm, sleeping obviously without bad dreams. The fact that his friend didn’t wake up, told Hutch more than his calm sleep. His friend slept SO deeply, that he must be exhausted. Normally, he would have noticed someone in the house, because, like Hutch, he was aware of abnormalities on a subconscious level.
He’s been irritated lately. Grumpy. Snappy. Like he sleeps too little. Maybe the coughing begins when he lies down. It often does, doesn’t it?
He bit his lip in thought, stood there for a few minutes and decided to fetch a blanket and spend the rest of the night on the sofa. He slept lightly, ready to jump in when Starsky needed him, but his curly haired friend didn’t wake up once.
Hutch was up first and headed for the kitchen, where he made coffee and breakfast. He poured out a mug for himself and his pal, and went over to the bedroom, while scrambled eggs and toasted awaited them in the kitchen.
“G’morning, Gordo. Wake up.” He put the coffee on the night table next to Starsky’s bed, who very very slowly responded to his wakeup call. On the ground, he spotted an empty bottle that he hadn’t seen in the night time darkness.
“Hutch?” It took a while before the dark man realised his partner was standing next to his bed. “How did you get in here?”
“I let myself in. You called me last night, remember?” He nodded to the mug. “Coffee for you. Strong with lots of sugar.”
Starsky blinked, confused. “I called you last night?”
“Yup. You didn’t sound too well. I was kinda worried, so I drove up here.”
“I didn’t call you.”
“Yes, you did. Around two thirty in the morning.”
Starsky sat up. He looked defiantly, the drowsiness gone from his dark blue eyes. “I did NOT call you.”
“O yes you did. Why else would I be here?” Hutch was amused at Starsky’s disbelief. Had his weird phone call been the result of too much booze?
“You’re here,” Starsky spat with such sudden rage that Hutch took a step back, “to SPY on me. That’s why. You checking if I’m crossing some line!”
“What are you on about? I’m not spying on you!” Hutch was too stupefied to grasp what Starsky said.
“Get out! I never called you! It’s a damn lie. Get out! GET OUT!” He cried out and jumped out of bed and, fists up, he was ready to charge Hutch if necessary.
The blond was flabbergasted, totally. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Get out! GET! OUT! Get the hell out of my place!” Starsky was screaming, his face twisted in uncontrollable rage. A artery on his forehead pushed itself up from the strain that was visible in the muscles of his face.
“Don’t you BUDDY me, Hutchinson. Get the fuck out of my apartment. Get out! OUT!”
“Alright, alright! I’m leaving.” Hutch took a step back, his hands in the air as if to surrender. He left, very confused, and not for the first time in the past few weeks, worried.
When Hutch had driven home he had nearly hit a lamp post – he could hardly keep his mind on traffic. He’d left Starsky’s apartment, feeling strange and confused. And fuming with anger. What the hell was Starsky thinking?
He drove home first, collected a few things for work and then left for the station. During the ride, he thought about Starsky continuously.
The past few weeks, there was nothing about his partner that was out of the ordinary – most of the time. But what puzzled Hutch, were the sudden mood swings. He enraged out of the blue, for no apparent reason. Or he yawned a lot and told Hutch he hadn’t slept well. But an hour later he would be himself again, bubbly and cheerfully.
The more he thought about it, the more convinced he got it had to do with the gas the friends had inhaled. Apparently, Starsky had taken in more than Hutch and it took longer to get out of his system. He was still on medication for it, Hutch knew. He recalled he’d been irritated himself during his recovery, but he made a mental note he’d ask doctor Munroe or Simmons about it.
But not right now. He was still too pissed off.
A slight cough shook Hutch up from his work. There was Starsky, nervously playing with the hem of his shirt. His hair was damp from the shower and his eyes were bright. He looked sheepishly at his friend, then to the ground and back to Hutch again.
“I’m sorry. I am sorry, Hutch. I… I don’t know what came over me. I had a hang over. And a bad night.”
“You had a HANGOVER? And that’s why you were coming at me like I was a criminal?”
“I said I am sorry.” Starsky looked so guilty and so little that Hutch felt his anger melt quickly. “It came down on me badly, the wine. You know… It’s a remainder of Vietnam. I’ve been ill there and it sometimes makes me go… do… do funny things.”
“You’re ALWAYS doing funny things,” Hutch said kindly. “Ill in Vietnam?”
“Yeah. Kinda looked like malaria. I’ve got pills for it, when it comes up. Doesn’t happen very often. Actually, this was the first time in years.” He shrugged, looking very much like a lost puppy. Hutch could clearly see he felt embarrassed. His friend looked sideways, shuffling a bit from left to right and back, his hands thrust in the pockets of his jacket.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated. “I…”
“It never happened, okay?”
A grateful smile made Starsky’s face lighten up. “Thanks.”
The two detectives had been in Starsky’s car for hours. Both were used to sitting tight for a long time, and even so a stakeout could be a long and tedious affair. Their conversation had died slowly a few hours ago. Caught up in their own thoughts there was little need to talk. That too, was not uncommon between the two friends and the silence was a pleasant one. Starsky was a little sleepy and dozed off from time to time.
“No. Yes. A little. Not really. Just… drowsy.” Starsky smiled apologetically.
“The gas, still?”
“Yeah. I guess so. I thought it was over, but apparently I’ve got more in me than I figured at first.” Hutch was worried but his friend’s openness about it reassured him more than words could have done.
“You can sleep. I’m not sleepy.”
“Nah, no need to. I bet you’d seize the opportunity and use it against me next time you need an excuse to skip the chores?” He laughed. “Don’t worry, Hutch. I’m not going anywhere.”
But despite his half-made promise to stay awake, he dozed off again. Hutch awoke him once, but when the dark haired man’s head lolled sideways again, he decided on letting him have a kip while he could. Hutch was fit enough to keep his eyes open for the two of them.
Hours passed. Nothing happened. Dawn came.
“Starsky, your turn to get coffee,” Hutch said after the umpteenth look on his watch and crumpled up a paper napkin which he threw in the backseat of the Torino. Another hour and the shift would be over.
“Will you STOP that!” Starsky said sharply.
“Make a pigsty of my car.”
“It’s only a napkin. Stop whining. You’re gonna get us coffee or what?”
“GET YOUR OWN DAMN COFFEE,” Starsky said very loudly and –clearly- very angrily.
Hutch blinked his eyes.
“Something wrong with your ears?” Starsky’s jaws tightened. He didn’t pretend – he WAS angry.
“What the hell did I do this time?” Hutch asked, completely surprised.
“You’re annoying the hell out of me! If you want coffee, you go and get it yourself.”
“Hey! I got us three rounds in a row. You go now.”
“The hell I won’t.”
“You stubborn son of a—“ Hutch brought his index finger up, warningly. In a split second, Starsky flashed out his hand and grabbed Hutch’s finger, deliberately yanking it the wrong way.
“AWW!” Hutch pulled his hand free, but not without considerable effort. Clearly, Starsky meant for it to be painful. “Are you crazy?! Idiot!”
“Get out of my car. Now.” The voice of the curly man was dark and low.
“We’re on patrol, sunshine. Remember?”
“I don’t give a fuck! GET. OUT. OF. MY. CAR. NOW!”
Quickly he flashed over Hutch, pushed the door open and repeated himself, slowly but with no room for misunderstanding.
“Are you out of your mind?” Hutch was completely taken aback by his friend’s behaviour.
“Get out. Get out. GET OUT! GET OUT! GO! SCRAM!”
Hutch saw the blue eyes getting darker and the smile that usually guided them, completely overtaken by a grimace of anger. More out of amazement than anything else, he exited the car.
Starsky pulled the door shut, missing Hutch by an inch, started the engine and hit the gas. He drove off in full speed, leaving a totally stunned Hutch standing on the street during the middle of a patrol in the early hours of a Bay City stakeout.
Starsky sat in the Torino, driving fast to no place in particular, only as far away as possible from Bay City, Hutch, Huggy and Dobey. He was so on edge that it made his muscles hurt and his head spun with all the things that were happening.
He’d been yelling at Hutch for no reason. For no reason? He had every reason to yell at him. He’d been spying on him. Starsky knew he was on the take, that he sold information to the underworld of Bay City. He had seen him, hadn’t he, making notes, reports, telling Dobey about his condition. Or hadn’t he?
His head was spinning. Man, did he have a headache. He could do with something to eat and drink.
He stopped at a cafeteria and bought coffee and breakfast. His head hurt, but more than that his heart hurt. What was going on? Why was he so … on edge? Tensed? Touchy? He knew Hutch did things to him. He reported on Starsky to Dobey, he was certain.
He wished he had his pills on him. He could do with something that would stop the hammering in his head.
“Can I use your phone?”
“There’s a pay phone in the back,” the waitress said. She smiled at him, but he was not aware of her looks.
“Can you get me something to write? Paper, a pen?”
“Sure,” she said and went looking for the things he asked.
After the phone call to the station, where he told Dobey he would take the day off due to circumstances, he ordered another coffee, an aspirin and sat down with the paper and pen the waitress brought him.
Hutch, I’m going away for a while. I’m not well and I shouldn’t take it out on you. I’m sorry that…
His eyes lost focus. He blinked rapidly and pinched the bridge of his nose. He was so tired, all of a sudden. He forgot he was in the act of writing. His glance caught something outside. A blond man? Tall, lean?
Hutch?! Was that Hutch? No! He didn’t want to speak to Hutch! He didn’t want to see him!
He jumped up and ran out of the cafeteria.
“Capt’n, you asked to see me?”
Dobey looked up from his desk. “Come in Hutchinson. You know where your other half is?”
Hutch closed the door behind him. “No. I called him – he’s not home. And he doesn’t answer the calls to the Torino.”
“It’s not like you to NOT know where he is.”
“Maybe he’s at the doctor. He’s been going there a lot, lately. But… since I’m here and he’s not…”
“He’s behaving strangely.”
“Yeah. I want to talk about it, Cap.”
Dobey picked up the seriousness in Hutch’s voice. He put his pen down, shoved his papers aside and leant back in his chair. Hutch wasn’t sure, but it seemed like it was bothering Dobey as well.
“Everything’s wrong,” said Hutch. He’d been going over this hundreds of times and talking to the captain was his last resort. “Haven’t you noticed how curt he is lately? Ever since that accident with the gas we inhaled, he’s been getting more grim and moody.”
“He tends to get grim and moody when he’s tired,” Dobey pointed out, but Hutch could see from his face that his captain was paying attention. “You’ve had a couple of difficult cases, and quite a few broken nights. He can get very gloomy.”
“Cap, he’s been behaving so strangely over the past couple of weeks. He’s suspicious up to the point of being paranoid.” He began to tell everything that had been going on between the two of them. It wasn’t easy. It was hard to admit that he thought his partner was losing grip on things. He forgot that it was Dobey who had called him in, and wanted to know about his partner in the first place.
“What do you want to do?” The leader of the station asked after his young officer had finished. “It doesn’t sound like an easy job. But then again, it doesn’t sound like Starsky either.”
“I want to have a talk with his doctor. When I was at his place, the other week, I did see pills next to his bed. He’s still using something and I bet it’s for the gas. It’s some kind of poisonous gas, Cap, and maybe because he’s been poisoned before his body reacts to it differently. More intensely.”
“Doctors have an oath of secrecy, Hutch.”
“I know, I know. But if I can vent my worries, he might be able to look at Starsky a little more closely. He doesn’t know him the way I do, he might not even notice his behaviour.”
“I had a call from him.” Dobey’s face darkened and his voice grew soft and a little angry. “He said he had personal affairs to look into. He asked for a day off.”
Dobey didn’t answer that directly. “He was like you described. That’s all I want to say.”
Hutch looked at his captain expectantly. He was dying to hear more. The corpulent man cast his eyes on the young, blond officer. He kept, whatever it was that Starsky had said, to himself, despite Hutch’s curiosity.
“Well? What are you waiting for? Get out of here. Find Starsky. Talk to the doctor. Come back here when he can act normal!”
God, it was hot in the car. He turned down the window.
He couldn’t quite remember what he was doing, or where he was going. And where was Huggy when you needed him? Huggy’d been angry. “You’re not tellin’ me the Blond Brother is dirty. I ain’t gonna buy that in a zillion years, man.” Huggy had reluctantly put a beer down on the counter. “Bit early for a drink. Shouldn’t ya be at the station, doin’ what it is you’re supposed to be doin’?” He asked it nearly casually but Starsky had noticed the inquisitiveness in the man’s voice. Enraged, he had thrown the bottle at Huggy, who had only just managed to avoid it from knocking him out cold and then he ran off.
When was that? Yesterday? This morning? Last week? He couldn’t remember clearly.
He called the station. No, Millie Rae Vaugn said, Hutch was in a meeting with the captain.
That was all he needed to know. They were ALL conspiring against him.
He wiped the sweat off that began to stung his eyes. Fuck, fuck, fuck! What was wrong with the heating in this bloody car? It WAS warm outside, he didn’t need any more warmth.
In his rear view mirror he caught a black and white. Exactly what he was afraid of. They’d spotted his car, they were going to stop him, make him pull over and surrender. Surrender, so that he could be eliminated for knowing too much!
“NO!” he screamed and pushed the gas down further. “You want me? Then come and get me!”
The bend in the road was too sharp and too unexpected.
The Torino came loose from the asphalt, flew over the edge of the verge and crashed down. It came to a stop against a pile of boulders.
The car that had been behind Starsky was no police car at all. It was an old battered Dogde, with a young family inside. They saw the red Torino go over the edge as it suddenly sped up. They had nothing whatsoever to do with the police, Hutch or Dobey.
It was all in Starsky’s mind.
“I’m sorry, but doctor Munroe is not in,” said the secretary behind the counter to Hutch. “Have you got an appointment?” She checked her papers, but Hutch shook his head.
“No, I haven’t. I was hoping I could talk to him about my partner. He’s been treating him, but…”
“Doctor Simmons is in. I think he’s treated you a couple of weeks back?” The nurse looked up at him. She was pretty, but Hutch hardly noticed. “Would you like me to check whether he’s available?”
“Yes, please,” said Hutch and impatiently waited as she paged him. Doctor Simmons had treated him for the same ailment as Starsky – he might be aware of what was going on too. After their first extra checkups Hutch hadn’t seen him anymore.
A few minutes later doctor Simmons came in. He was a tall, black man, even taller than Hutch, with bright eyes and a short hair cut. He smelled faintly of peppermint and gave Hutch a solid handshake.
“Officer Hutchinson!” Immediately his eyes got a worried look. “Are you experiencing problems from the inhaled gas?”
He remembers – thank goodness. That’ll save me a lot of repeating.
“No,” said Hutch and shook his head. “I came to talk about my partner, who DOES seem to suffer from the aftermaths. Actually, I came to see doctor Munroe, but he’s not in.”
“No, Robert Munroe has a private practice as well.” He guided Hutch to his room and told him to sit down. “He’s there a number of afternoons per week. Maybe I can help?”
Hutch told him everything, leaving out nothing. The erratic behaviour, the mood swings, the paranoia – he told doctor Simmons all. When he was finished, the doctor – who had been taking notes and listened with a puzzled look on his dark face – shook his head slowly.
“Your partner, where is he now?”
“I don’t know,” Hutch answered honestly. “He drove off yesterday in anger and I must admit I was pretty pissed off myself. I called this morning, he didn’t answer. He told the captain he wouldn’t be in today.”
“And he’s very dutiful, normally?”
“Absolutely. His work means a lot to him.”
“That IS indeed worrying, officer Hutchinson. I’m not sure I can help you. I haven’t heard these symptoms before at all. I don’t think my expertise is sufficient here, I must admit. Have you got a minute?”
He called in the secretary and asked her for Starsky’s medical file. When she found it and brought it in, he read it thoroughly.
“It says here,” he said after a while, “that your partner had traces of the gas in his blood. That was not the case with you.”
Hutch nodded. “He coughed longer and nastier than I did. And seemed more tired. But then again – he was inside the room when that barrel broke.”
Simmons nodded. That told him what he needed to know, apparently. He sighed and put the file down.
“If you like, I can call doctor Munroe at home. Ask him if he can see you. Obviously your worry is not unfounded. You know him much better than we do.”
“Yes, please. It won’t take long. I just want to know what it is that I can do to help him.”
Simmons nodded again, picked up the phone and called his colleague. He spoke shortly, explaining in unintelligible medical terms about Starsky and Hutch’s worries and after that just kept to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and the highly necessary. Then he put the phone down and smiled, worriedly, but still a smile. “15, Crescent Hill Drive. It’s a white washed house. The practice is around the back.”
Doctor Nanette LaRue looked at the chart of the man who had been brought in with rising surprise. She turned to her staff and one of them waved his hand to a young agent who stood at the counter, drinking a cup of coffee. The police man had been asked to come to the hospital and the doctor was glad he’d shown up. From his stubble and somewhat crumpled appearance she deducted he had been up a long time.
“Excuse me. I’m Doctor LaRue. You are one who found the patient?”
“The cop? Well, not exactly. I didn’t find him, but I was the first to respond to the call. A family saw it happen. Apparently they were passing through, he overtook them, sped up and lost control of the car. It flew over the side of the road and went downhill. Crashed into the rocks, twenty feet lower.”
“He was unconscious when you arrived?”
“Yes. The family was pretty shook up. They had tried to give him first aid, but that was difficult as he was in a very precarious position.” He seemed to see that she was thinking about something and added, “Something wrong, doc? He’s a copper. He’s with the Bay City Metro.” As always, police men were worried about their own kind more than anything else – maybe they saw themselves in the victims they brought in. The young agent was no exception.
She shook her head. “Have you got the name and number of his superior? I take it you’ve called?”
“Sure did. I only found out fifteen minutes ago. There was debris everywhere and also his I.D. was flung out of the car by the crash. He’s been a John Doe until we found it. Took the rescue squad six hours to get him out. The name of his commanding officer is Captain Dobey. Captain Harold Dobey.” He flipped out a note book and copied the number on a new sheet, which he tore off and handed to her.
“I need to make a call. Thank you.”
The police man was about to turn and leave, when she stopped him.
“Can I ask you – did you find anything unusual in the car?”
“Unusual, such as…?”
“Syringes. Plastic bags with unidentified substances. Pills. Capsules.”
“You mean… drugs?”
The police man was really surprised, but he took the time to think about his answer. He shook his head slowly. “No… no, I can’t recall having seen anything like that. There was nothing in the glove compartment, in the trunk. Maybe the guys from the lab found something, but I’m sure I haven’t seen anything.”
She nodded her head, satisfied with the thoroughness of his answer. Before she could turn away, the young agent stopped her. “How’s he doing? Is he going to live?”
The doctor’s face wrinkled in deep thought. “Considering the amount of drugs in his blood, I daresay he’s lucky to be alive at all.”
She left, leaving a puzzled agent at the desk.
Hutch pulled over at the given address. The house was big, white washed as doctor Simmons had described and there was a practice around the back. Hutch rang the bell. Soon the door was opened by the doctor.
“Officer Hutchinson.” The man extended a hand.
He looked at something behind Hutch. “Your colleague?” He asked.
“He’s not with me. I don’t know where he is.”
“Please come in.” He took Hutch’s coat and hung it from the stand. When he saw Hutch’s gun, he shook his head. “Sorry. I must ask you to leave that here, officer. No guns in a doctor’s office.” He smiled, apologetically. “I’m a healer. I’ve seen too many lives lost over bullets. You can put it in the top drawer of that cabinet.”
“I don’t take it off.”
“Please. I feel uncomfortable around guns.”
He spoke decisively and Hutch, who was more interested in debating Starsky than his gun, did as requested. The doctor acknowledged the gesture with a head nod.
Munroe led the way. He was young, blond and tall, like Hutch. He had green eyes, wore frameless spectacles which gave him a distinguished look, and had the confident air that good doctors radiate subconsciously.
For the second time that afternoon Hutch told his story. He vented all his worries, expressed his concern and ended by saying that his partner and friend had left him on the streets in a dangerous neighbourhood. Something that he would never have done before.
When he finally finished, he realized he had been talking for almost an hour. The doctor had only asked him a few things, hardly interrupted him and had listened closely.
“What’s wrong with Starsky, Doctor?” Hutch said and took a deep breath. “He’s not himself. What is it that the gas did to him? Why is he the way he is?”
Doctor Munroe took off his glasses and polished them with a paper tissue.
“You’re saying he’s paranoid?”
“Yes. He was pale. Short-tempered. Restless. Fidgety.”
“That…” the Doctor said slowly, putting the tips of his fingers together, “… is what I expected. It’s not exactly what I hoped for to happen.”
Hutch blinked his eyes. He didn’t understand. “You…? Sorry?”
“Come in, Joseph.” Doctor Munroe said. Behind Hutch, the door opened and Joseph Simmons, the doctor from the hospital who had treated him, came in. Calmly closed the door behind him. Then he locked it. Hutch saw the syringe in his hand.
That was the moment that Hutch realized that Starsky was not the only one in trouble.
“Captain Dobey? This is Doctor LaRue from Havana Hospital, New Lakeside.”
“You’re the doctor in charge of David Starsky?” Dobey understood instantly. It was only an hour ago since he’d received message that Starsky was in a hospital after a car crash. The young officer who had called him, had been quite thorough. He apologized for the late warning, informed him that the I.D. was finally, after a long search, discovered more than twenty feet away on the steep and rocky hill.
Dobey tried to contact Hutch. He couldn’t be reached. Of course, he was talking to Starsky’s doctor right now. He had urged the dispatcher to try to get into contact with the blond agent.
“How’s he doing?”
“That’s why I’m calling. Your man is severely drugged. He’s on a cocktail of such heavy medication that I wonder what it is that he’s suffering from to take all that. I was hoping you could tell me.”
Severely drugged? Dobey chewed on his pencil. “David Starsky has been seeing a doctor about inhaling a poisonous gas,” he explained.
“A gas?” she sounded surprised. “He’s got elements in his blood that would suggest he’s a heavy drugs user. Amongst others I found traces of ketamine, amphetamine, dopamine - all hallucinogens of a very strong kind. That hardly describes a treatment for inhaling gas. And that’s only a few of the things I found.”
Dobey was puzzled. “Correct me if I don’t understand, but are you telling me that Detective Starsky is a drug-addict? A junkie?”
“At first, I would say yes. But when I took a closer look, I did discover too many unusual elements and compounds that have nothing to do with normal drugs - it set my mind to work. I’ve done various tests and have also looked into the less obvious explanations.” She paused. “It’s my professional opinion that your man is deliberately drugged.”
Dobey fell silent. Deliberately drugged?
“Seeing the amount of substances that are very hard to get and the variety of the used elements, I’m convinced it’s done by someone with a medical background. An pharmacist or doctor, most likely.”
A doctor… Starsky was seeing only one doctor since the accident with the gas.
God damned! Hutch was out to speak to him.
“Cavanaugh! Millie!” He bellowed.
“Where am I?”
“You’re in Havana Hospital. You’ve had a car accident.”
“Me head ‘urts.”
“You’ve got a nasty concussion. Two broken ribs and countless bruises. Plus you’ve lost a lot of blood.”
“You remember your name?”
“Yeah. Starsky. David. God, I feel like shit.”
“That’s understandable and perfectly normal. Try to get some sleep.”
“No. You’ve given me somethin’ to make me talk.”
“Don’t upset your self. Easy does it.”
“No! I wanna get out of ‘ere! You’re gonna kill me, don’t ya?”
“Mr Starsky, no one is going to kill you. You’re safe, you’re in --”
“I don’t believe you! This is all his doing, isn’t it? It’s Hutch and—“
“Mr Starsky, stay down.”
Strong hands pushed him down.
“NO! Lemme go!” He could see faces but he couldn’t see details. He fought like a tiger but his body was so tired and so sore! His head was spinning, his lungs were aching, his chest screamed for rest. A warmth curled up a vein in his arm. He struggled, he refused, he resisted but it was a lost cause.
The darkness quickly won.
Hutch stood up. Simmons, behind him, approached with the syringe ready. Munroe rose as well. The agent took a step back, towards the window, keeping his eyes on both men. Blast! He had put his gun in the drawer. He’d walked into this trap with both eyes open! Too much Starsky on his mind, too little attention on the real danger. The danger that laughed him in the face.
“Why…?!” said Hutch, totally taken aback by what this implied. “You drugged him on purpose? You wanted this to happen to him?”
“No. I hoped he’d react differently to the drug my associate and I have manufactured. We developed a medicine for Parkinson’s disease. One that would bring an end to the devastating effects of that ailment. One that will change the world of medicine.”
“But – Parkinson?“
“We used organic elements to start from, but due to the high costs we were forced to manufacture it synthetically. Unfortunately lab rats weren’t strong enough to test the synthetic drug. The rats became wild, uncontrollable. But then again – they’re not human, are they? They can’t rationalise their emotions.”
“But Starsky doesn’t have Parkinson…” Hutch said, his breath stuck in his throat.
His eyes calmly took in Hutch’s posture. “You’re not seeing it clearly. We didn’t need a Parkinson patient – we have lots of those. We needed a strong test subject, healthy and young. David Starsky had the same problems as you when the two of you were brought in. But then I noticed in his chart, a few days later, that he’d been poisoned once. And shot – more than once. He is SO strong – he was exactly the type I was looking for. Blood type, Rhesus factor and blood work – it all matched. He was perfect. I had to see at what point the human constitution would begin to fall apart, when I combined the synthetic drug and the necessary halucinogens.”
A short, proud glee flashed over his face. Was he actually proud of what he was doing? Hutch felt a deep revulsion rise against the doctor, in whose hands his friend had placed himself without knowing it was a monster.
“I experimented with various hallucinogens, necessary to trigger the effect of the real drug. Next to that they provided a sort of… addiction… which was absolutely necessary for us to have him come back. I subscribed him pills, and he took them without questions. I’m sure he believed it would purify his blood from the residue of the gas that he had inhaled.”
Hutch’s back was sweaty. It was almost unbelievable. “So there was nothing wrong with him, other than what I had too?”
“O but there was. He had inhaled considerably more than you. And it had come into his bloodstream, unfortunately. But his strong constitution made him recover very quickly. As I said, for me and my associate, the ideal test subject.” He got a somewhat dark glow in his eyes. “It’s a shame it didn’t work out as I expected. Hoped. Anticipated. I had expected fatigue, but not exhaustion or paranoia, not on edge or tense or ‘fidgety’, as you described it.”
“You’re using him as a guinea pig!” Hutch could hardly grasp what he was being told. “You’re slowly killing him, driving him into insanity!”
“That, unfortunately, is the fate of the pawn in the chess game, officer Hutchinson.”
“So, you just … accept that it might kill him?” He stared open-mouthed at the doctor.
“I don’t doubt it will kill him. All the lab rats died, either choked, bitten to death by others or they died of stress. On the heart, the lungs, the vascular system… It’s just a matter of time.” He smiled again. “We were able to rule out a wide range of non-compatible hallucinogens. That’s thanks to your partner.”
“I’m not letting you get away with this.” Hutch’s eyes and his voice were cold as a winter’s day in Alaska.
Munroe nodded to Simmons. “Enough talking. Officer Hutchinson, it was so nice to finally share this with anyone. You can’t imagine how much time and effort we’ve put in this. In a few years time, our medicine will be sold all over the world. The memory of David Starsky will fade as time will pass.”
The blond agent was furious, but kept his emotions hidden. “You haven’t told me one thing,” he said, desperately trying to think of a way out. “Why? What’s the reason?”
Munroe was surprised. His eyebrows furrowed. “Why? Money of course. Money, officer Hutchinson, makes the world go round. Especially our world.” He got a shine in his eyes. “Nobel Prize winner does sound good and is within our grasp.”
“No, it’s not. Starsky is not doing well!” Hutch spat, suddenly enraged by the absolutely unscrupulous doctor. “He’s getting worse by the day and you tell me you’re accepting his decline as… as…”
“As a casualty of war. We hoped he’d be able to withstand the strain the compounds put on the human body. He doesn’t. He’s losing it, you’ve said so yourself. A few more pills and his heart will cease to work. He’ll die a kind way.”
Hutch’s heart pounded so wildly that he was afraid it might burst out of his chest. “You PIG! I’m gonna put a stop to this! You mess with him and you’ll have to answer to me!”
“I’m not sure you understand the position you’re in, officer,” Simmons took over. He sounded hazardously controlled. The syringe in his hand was close.
Hutch moved so swiftly that it surprised both doctors. He’d pretended to seek shelter from the approaching danger, but his mind was figuring a way out long before the doctor had finished talking. In one movement he grabbed the big plant that stood in a pot on the carpet in the corner. It was a yucca, big and full grown, with a stem as thick as a man’s wrist. He swung it at the Simmons with verve and knocked him against the side of his head. Without a sound Simmons’ body went limp and sagged to the floor.
Munroe reacted fast – very fast. He made a cat-like jump over his desk and landed with a well-coordinated roll on the floor. His fingers reached for the syringe but he was unable to grab it as Hutch made a dive for Munroe. They rolled over the shining parquet and the beige carpet that was now covered with dirt and sand from the broken pot plant.
Both men fought hard and tough. They rolled over and over, until they came to a halt against the door. Hutch struggled his way on top, more experienced and a better fighter than the doctor. No mercy for this guy, the blond thought as he relentlessly planted his fists in Munroe’s face.
Finally, the doctor’s head lolled sideways and Hutch could feel the muscles relax. Panting, he sat astride the man and took a moment to catch his breath. A sound reached him, a sound so familiar it made him feel relieved – police sirens, approaching rapidly.
Hutch let out a cry of pain when a something, sharp as a needle, was buried into his upper leg. He swirled round, only to look straight into the dark eyes of Simmons. Simmons, who had come to, dizzily found the syringe and rammed it into Hutch’s leg when his attention was still focused on Munroe.
Simmons did his best to empty the contents of the syringe in Hutch’s leg, but the blond managed to free himself from the man’s grip. He kicked him so hard that for the second time in less than two minutes, the lights went out for the dark man.
“Eeeeh…” Hutch let out a hiss of pain. He grabbed the syringe, that stuck out of his leg like a misplaced growth, and pulled it out. Already he could feel something happening in his leg. He ripped his belt from his trousers and fabricated himself a tourniquet.
Would that stop whatever it was that was travelling upwards? Slow it down?
His hand locked firmly around the syringe, which was about half empty, he staggered to the door, unlocked it and managed to get himself outside. He collapsed into the arms of his captain, just as the world was starting to spin.
“It’s them, Cap! Munroe and Simmons! The docs! They’re poisoning Starsky!” Hutch’s tongue was unwilling and thick. In his throat his voice rasped. “You’ve got to find him!”
“Easy now, boy,” said Dobey gently and eased his agent down. “Ambulance! Over here!”
“Starsky, Captain. Starsk- you’ve got to—“
“Hush. He’s being treated. We know.”
“He’s alright?” Hutch blinked his eyes. He couldn’t see Dobey clearly anymore.
“We found him. He’s in hospital, but he’ll be alright,” Dobey said.
“And how’s my Golden Brother doin’?” Huggy took a chair and sat down next to Hutch.
“Fwine… twoubl… tawkin’…” Hutch managed to say. He was feeling better than one would expect, exactly as he said. A bit tired, and his eyelids were drooping, but the blue of his irises was bright and alert.
“Lady Luck sure’s a friend of the Big Blonds in this world,” Huggy nodded.
Hutch laughed appreciatively while his friend from the Pits chatted away, but he was pretty sure it made his face look strange.
“Mighty good thinkin’ to take the syringe with ya,” Huggy said, impressed as well as pleased. “The brain’s still functioning fine, I must admit.”
It WAS mighty good thinking. Dobey had sped off with Hutch in the ambulance and the syringe in his hand. It still contained about half its volume of the substance that the agent had forcedly been given but thanks to that, the hospital lab could quickly figure out what the contents was. It was a simple muscle relaxation medicine, but one of a highly concentrated doses. If Munroe and Simmons would have succeeded administering it in total to Hutch, it would have stopped his heart within two hours.
The blond agent was given proper medication and he did indeed feel quite alright, only a bit helpless. He couldn’t move much and speaking was difficult, but the doctors (he had been very relieved to see Flanagan when he had woken up) had assured him he’d be alright.
“Hug? Howzs… Swarskeew..?”
“How is Swarskeew? Swarskeew is chasin’ birds at a local hospital.” Huggy smiled broadly, and looked at his watch. “The Dobster said he’s ok. He’s sleeping like the babe we know him to be.” He stoop up and zipped up his coat. “Must dash. I’ve got a date with a hot chick. I wouldn’t want to keep the lady waitin’.”
Huggy grinned. “He hates it when I call him that.”
Hutch smiled, knowing he had the grin of an idiot.
“Yeah, zwanks to you too.” He tipped the white hat he was wearing and left.
Hutch felt good. He’d come out of the Munroe attack unharmed and was able to leave the hospital after a day already. The effects of the drug had worn off quite rapidly. He’d driven straight to the Havana Hospital where Starsky was.
To his dismay, Starsky was weak and only half conscious when he’d entered his room the first day, but he seemed less on edge and more addressable as the days went by.
He was aware of Hutch being around him, yet he couldn’t muster the energy to talk decently. He had a severe headache, caused by a concussion and seemed to be very reluctant to move. The broken ribs and numerous smaller injuries contributed to his silence. Hutch sat by him for a long time, every now and then stroking the dark hair and hushing his friend as he moaned in pain of the drugs that caused him nightmares.
But by the time the IV was removed and his medication was lessened, he began to look more lively again. The drowsiness slowly left his body.
One afternoon, when Hutch entered the room, he was pleasantly surprised to see his friend propped up comfortably against the pillows, the head rest pulled up about halfway.
“Good afternoon! Look who’s awake?”
Starsky smiled. “Hello.”
“How are you?” Hutch perched on the edge of Starsky’s bed. Taking a chair would bring him a lot lower than Starsky’s level, which he didn’t like. He was glad to look his friend in the eyes, dark blue and more lively than he had seen them in a long time.
“Battered, bruised – in one word: not bad.”
“That’s two words.”
Starsky looked away. “And confused.” He took a breath. “Embarrassed.”
“Embarrassed?” Hutch asked surprised.
“For doing what I did to you,” Starsky said hesitantly.
“You didn’t do a whole lot yourself. It was the drugs that made you do it,” Hutch said, lightly trying to brush away the feeling of guilt that was on Starsky’s face.
“I don’t remember much, Hutch. It’s all a blur. I spoke to Dobey on the phone this morning. He told me about it. About what I said… and did. Did I kick you out of my car?”
“Err… kick is a big word. You kindly asked me to leave,” Hutch said with a little smile.
“That bad, ‘ey?”
“It’s over, alright buddy? No need to dwell on it.”
“Hutch… if I ever said anything out of line… you know it… you know I… I don’t…”
“Enough, Starsk. Don’t think about it anymore. Don’t give Munroe the pleasure of seeing you suffer.”
“I don’t understand it, must admit. Tell me, will ya?”
Hutch sighed. Apparently his partner needed a lot of reassuring before he would let go. “You were the ideal test subject. Strong, having survived a couple of severe injuries. You were to Munroe and Simmons what they’d been looking for. They increased the amount of hallucinogens with every new cocktail you got so every time you took a pill, you became more dependent. Exactly what they needed to study you.”
“I kept having a headache,” Starsky recalled. His blue eyes got a glassy stare. “It didn’t go away. That was because my blood was not good, Munroe said. The only thing that brought some relief were those pills.” He ran his fingers through his hair and made a face. “I’d kill for a shower,” he added absent-mindedly.
“The car accident was your salvation,” Hutch went on. “You’d have killed yourself, or your body would have given up out of its own, eventually.”
“I was so tired, Hutch,” the dark haired man said after a pause. “So god damned tired. But when I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I was wide awake. And if I did fall asleep, I had terrible dreams. Nightmares…” He shivered involuntarily and he winced as it put too much strain on his sore rib case.
Starsky’s eyes, flickering between anxiety and relief, locked with his. “I’m glad it was me, they took. Not you.”
Hutch got a wrinkle in his forehead. “Come again?”
“You and drugs… they don’t go well together, Blintz. You would have… lost it…” He spoke carefully, looking for the right words that would not hurt or insult his friend.
Hutch took in the features of his best friend. Closer than a brother, more part of himself than he could sometimes understand. It was typically Starsky to think of Hutch’s past addiction and the dangers that were always lurking in the dark. A warmth settled in his chest that was as welcome as a duvet on a cold day.
“You think I would have gone crazy?”
“Maybe. Dunno.” Starsky wanted to shrug but a flash over his face told him he couldn’t. Stiffly he shifted a little. “I’m just saying that I wouldn’t want to see this happen to you.”
“Because there’s no telling how far down it could take me?”
Starsky felt uncomfortable to go on. He only blinked and looked sideways. Gradually he’d begun to lose what little colour had returned to his face. Hutch noticed he was getting tired.
“Enough for now. You need to rest. Sleep and get well.”
Without asking he lowered the top half of the bed, so that Starsky was lying flat again. Starsky sighed slowly. He was tired. And for sure, his best friend would know, even if he tried to hide it. Hutch patted his partner’s shoulder. “I’ll be back later on.”
Starsky grabbed his wrist, unexpectedly quickly. A shadow flashed over his pale face. “Hutch... please. Tell me you don’t hate me for what I’ve done.”
The blond agent felt sympathy overwhelming him. He placed his fingers over Starsky’s hand. “No, you idiot. I don’t hate you. If you get that shampoo, I might even consider taking you back as my partner.” He ruffled his friend’s curls. His voice softened. “Get some rest, okay?”
“There’s my boy.”
“Hey, Hutch?” His voice was already a bit unsteady.
“Thanks for not giving up on me.”
“Never, buddy. Never.”
No answer came.
Hutch smiled and left the room. In the doorway, he looked back to his silent friend in between the white sheets and the light grey blankets. Starsky was asleep. Tired and not completely healed again, but those injuries were just a matter of time. He hadn’t lost his sanity and to Hutch, that was good enough for now.
“Never, buddy. I’ll never give up on you,” he whispered. Whistling a tune, he walked outside, where the sun was shining brightly and the birds sang. Despite evil that Starsky and Hutch had to fight so often, days were sometimes sunny and bright.
And today was such a day.
Elsa, April 2004