The hole in the ground
By Elsa ©
One moment they were brightly walking over the grassy terrain, the next moment the ground under their feet sank away and they tumbled down. Into a hole in the ground.
A cascade of dirt, grass and pebbles accompanied them all the way down.
“Oaah. Oompff… what the hell…”
“You’re on my foot! Get off me!”
“Ouch! Sorry. Are you alright?”
Grumbling, mumbling, swearing and cursing below their breaths.
“Hutch? You okay?”
It was semi-dark in the hole Kenneth Hutchinson and Dave Starsky had fallen into.
“Think so. You?”
“I’m alright. No broken bones.”
“What the hell happened?”
Starsky was the first one to be on his feet again. A bit wobbly he stood straight and blinked his eyes and shook his head to get the sand out of his hair. Hutch sat on the ground and rubbed his head with one hand and his side with the other.
“You okay, buddy?” Starsky repeated again when Hutch didn’t look up.
“Yeah yeah.” He got up as well. The two of them looked at each other in the dim light, then they looked up. Far above them a circle of light was visible.
“How high is that?” Starsky held his hand above his eyes to shield them from the bright backlight – it made it difficult to estimate.
Hutch still didn’t answer. He held onto the wall of the hole and rubbed his head.
“Hey Hutch…” Starsky took his attention from the light over their heads and turned to his friend. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“The landing was a bit rough.” Starsky pulled his friend’s hand away and pushed aside the blond hair. There was no cut – or at least none that Starsky could see – but he could feel a bump coming up.
“That’ll be the size of an egg in a few hours,” he said, “but it doesn’t look all that bad. What’s wrong with your side?”
“Nothing. I just fell a bit hard and you landed on top of me, so if you give me a minute to catch my breath, I’ll be alright.”
“Sure, Hutch. Why don’t you sit down?”
“Stop fussing!” grumbled Hutch irritated. Starsky raised his hands in surrender.
“Okay, okay,” he mumbled. “No need to get all wound up. Just checking.”
While Hutch took ‘his minute’ Starsky took in their new surroundings.
They had fallen into a hole with a diameter of a mere six feet. Starsky estimated the sky to be to be at least twenty feet away, maybe even a little more. The spot where the earth had collapsed under their feet, was a whole lot wider, but it became more narrow as it got deeper. The steeply rising inner sides of this hole were covered with moss and fungus, and roots from long died plants had become part of the soil. There were rotting leaves and branches and roots and stones and a lot of rubble and more unrecognisable stuff on the bottom of this pit. The air was unpleasantly moist, decaying and musty.
It was a long way up. Starsky bit his lip in deep thought. The hole had a conical shape, with the narrowest part down here. He could wedge himself between two sides of the wall and push himself up, but that would come to an end when he wouldn’t be able to span the width any longer – which was about halfway.
He looked at the roots and remains of trees that were buried so deeply in the ground and which were at the surface of the wall.
“I want out of here. Now. D’you think that’s strong enough to hold me?” Starsky asked Hutch, who had taken in a few deep breaths and got some colour back on his face again.
“Dunno,” Hutch said, shaking his head. He pulled at another root as well. “It might do. From the looks of it, I’d say this has been here undisturbed for decades. The roots feel as if they’re really tied to the earth and the rock. I’d say go for the rocks if you can and use the roots if you have no alternative. Give it a try. You need a leg up?”
“No, just tell me where to put my feet if I miss them,” Starsky said. He put his hand around a root, shoved the earth and the dirt away and pulled firmly. It held.
“It feels pretty tough,” he said and put his other hand around another one. He looked sideways to Hutch once and said with a look in his eyes that Hutch couldn’t read, “I’m going up. Don’t worry. We’ll be out of here soon.”
“Be careful. The higher you get, the longer the fall down,” Hutch warned him. His friend seemed in a haste to climb out. Maybe he had fear of heights the other way around as well. Did such a thing exist? Hutch didn’t dwell on his thoughts.
“You wanna do it, Blondie?” Starsky snarled a little. He fought to get his foot to rest on something. Hutch helped him to put it in the right place.
“You’re lighter and smaller,” Hutch said while shaking his head. “Logically, you’d have to try.”
Starsky made a face. “Difficult, isn’t it, to admit that I’m the better climber of the two?”
“Not at all. You’ve got that, I’ve got all the other things.” He grinned.
“Yeah, yeah,” muttered Starsky and pulled his other leg up in search for something that stuck out. He gave a firm yank but the roots held and with a little more confidence, he pulled himself up a little.
“A bit more to your right, Starsk. ‘bout five inches.” Hutch took a step back as sand and little stones came falling down.
He put his feet on everything that stuck out – stones, rock, twigs, branches and roots. Although the grip was difficult to get, he was able to climb about six feet.
“I think I’ve got the hang of it now,” he said, panting as he slowly got higher. “Boy, this is tough.”
Hutch, on the ground, gave hints and directions. It was difficult to see in the scarce light, but Starsky couldn’t see anything at all so he depended on whatever it was that Hutch told him to do.
“You’re doing excellent, pal. More to your left. There’s something at your foot… a little higher… you’ve got it.” Like a spider, Starsky seemed to be stuck to the wall. Slowly, with the muscles in his strong body working in perfect harmony, he got higher, inch after inch.
But nature didn’t decide on giving him an even chance. One of the roots he held onto, snapped like a match under his weight and a whole plaque of the wall began to come loose.
“Starsky!” Hutch yelled but it was too late. Starsky crawled at the wall, ripping the nails from his fingertips and the flesh from his hands but he was unable to hold on. With a cry he tumbled down again.
Hutch pressed himself against the wall. No matter how much he would have wanted to help Starsky, he knew they’d only both end up hurt if he did try to catch him. This time, Starsky didn’t land as well as the previous time. Hutch heard a dry snap and immediately understood what that was. His friend let out shriek of pain.
“Starsk!” Hutch fell to his knees and cowered next to his partner who doubled over with his right hand clenched to his left upper arm.
“Shit! Shit! My arm! It’s broken, Hutch.”
He wanted to touch the injury, hold on to it but Hutch firmly grabbed his right hand and pulled it back. He trembled terribly, a result from both his fall and the exertion he just had put himself through.
“Calm down,” said Hutch with admirable cool voice. He absolutely didn’t feel calm – Starsky’s obvious pain made his stomach churn. “I want your coat off, so I can see what’s wrong. Can you sit up?”
Through clenched teeth, Starsky fought himself up to a sitting position. Hutch propped him against the clammy wall. He tried to get Starsky’s leather coat off, but when his friend cried a yelp of pain, he pulled back.
“Not that way,” said a pale Starsky with a head shake. He swallowed. “Sorry pal. No can do.”
Hutch thought for a second, then thrust his hands in his trousers and came up with a pocket knife.
“What are you going to do?”
“Cut your sleeve off.”
Normally, Starsky would have made remarks about Hutch’s sanity and owing him a coat and all that, but he didn’t say a word as the blond man began to pull the knife through the thick, sturdy leather of his coat.
Hutch knew it was bad news when he had heard Starsky give a cry, but when he saw the arm, it almost made him retch. Just a little above the elbow, the bone had broken and was now sticking out of the flesh. The wound was ugly, bleeding and looked very bad. Starsky looked at his arm in horror. Then he turned green, his eyes rolled backwards and he fainted.
Hutch sat kneeled next to his friend and saw him losing consciousness. Quickly he lowered him to the dirty ground. He patted his face. Starsky moaned but kept his eyes closed.
“Come on, Starsky. Open your eyes. I know it’s hurting but it’s just the shock of witnessing this and the pain. Come on, Curly. I need you to help me out.” He kept talking until the eyelids of his friends began to stir.
“I’m right here.”
“God, Hutch… my arm. Man, it hurts.”
“I passed out. Did I pass out?”
“Yes. Stay still. I’m going to put a kind of makeshift bandage around your arm.”
“With rubble from the ground, my shirt and your sleeve.”
Hutch looked around and found an old, dry branch. He broke of the side twigs and fiddled with his pocket knife until he had stripped all of its bark off. It left him with a faded white, hard piece of wood. He found a couple of sharp rocks on the ground and after some serious working, he was able to split the stick into two rough halves. That would do it. He smoothened the surface a little more so there would be no splinters that might cause trouble. Then he wiped it clean as good as he could.
He had taken his coat off and tore one sleeve from his shirt, from which he cut strips that he could use as bandages. While he was working he kept an eye on Starsky, who followed his moves with a dull gaze in his eyes.
“Now,” said Hutch as he squatted down next to his friend, “this is going to be painful. I don’t want to hurt you, but it will. I’m not sure what to do in cases like this – it’s not exactly in the examples of the standard First Aid book.”
“What do you want to do?” Starsky squeezed his eyes in pain.
“I’m going to immobilise your arm. I think it’s best if I tie it as close to your body as possible. The less it moves, the better. After that, I’ll put my hanky over the wound, so it will be shielded from sand and dirt – at least a little. It’s not very clean here and you don’t need an infection.” He looked Starsky in the eye. “First, I’ll take your coat off. Are you ready?”
A short nod from Starsky. “Go,” was all he said.
Very carefully Hutch helped his friend out of the jacket that was still on him. Hutch could feel that every muscle in Starsky’s body was as tight as a spring. He couldn’t relax. Hutch knew what would come next. Shivering, uncontrollable shivering that would only put more strain on the sore place.
“Try to relax, Starsk,” he said softly. “I know it’s difficult, but try to.”
“I need something to bite on,” Starsky said with held back strain. “I’ll bite my tongue.”
“Good thinking. Here, use this.” He rolled up the leather sleeve and Starsky put it between his teeth. Just before he closed his lips he looked at his partner and grumbled, “Tasteless. How the hell did Charlie Chaplin ever eat a whole shoe?”
Hutch made a wry smile, relieved that Starsky bravely tried to keep his spirit up. He placed the pieces of the stick against Starsky’s lower arm and wrapped the bands of cloth around them once. Now the hardest part came. “He cooked it first, remember?”
In the same sentence he pulled Starsky’s arm against his body and placed the splint in the right position, so it would support his arm. He did it as fast and gentle as he could, but in sheer agony Starsky cried out, muffled through the leather. The sound cut into Hutch’s soul.
Secretly he kind of hoped his partner would pass out once again. Maybe if he was unconscious Hutch could quickly adjust the last bandages and he would not notice it. But Starsky didn’t pass out. The leather patch fell from his mouth, sweat pearled up on his face, his lips were hardly visible because they had lost every colour and he had his eyes closed. But then he groaned and opened them, showing Hutch the darkest blue he’d ever seen.
“Shit! You… trying… to… kill… me?” He panted but his words lacked strength to make them sound convincing.
“I’m sorry, Starsk. I had to do it. This way you’ll have some support. And hopefully it'll stop the bleeding. Slow it down, at least.”
Starsky could hardly keep his head up. He nodded slowly. “I know… I know… it’s okay, partner.”
As carefully as he could, Hutch continued in silence with his nursing work. Starsky sat, oddly washed out, against the wall of their prison, and looked at his movements with a distant gaze. The blond detective put his handkerchief over the wound, taking every precaution he could to try and prevent touching it and hurting his friend.
“All done, Starsky,” Hutch said. “Maybe you can rest a while. This is tough.”
“Sure,” mumbled the dark-haired man. His hair was damp from perspiration, there were dark rings under his eyes and his voice was faint. Hutch eased him down very gently. He rolled up Starsky torn jacket as a makeshift pillow and then covered his friend with his own coat.
“You just rest,” he repeated. “I’ll figure out a way to get us out of here,” Hutch said softly. He wanted to hold his friend, put his arms around him and comfort him, but he was too afraid that he would hurt him. So he just ruffled his hair once. “You just rest, buddy,” he murmured. He recognised shock when he saw it, and Starsky was in shock, that was obvious. He needed medical care badly. How long would it take for the arm to go useless for ever? His left arm, of all things…
Finding a way out was easier said than done. No matter how Hutch looked for a way out, it was impossible to think of any other way than up. There were no hidden entrances or exits, it was not like a movie in which the heroes magically find a hidden door. It was a pit, no more. A conical prison with all that nature had no longer need of, littered over the ground.
As Hutch was figuring a way out, daylight began to fade. He took a rapid decision. There was no way he was going to able to climb out of this hole during night time. Since daylight was already pretty diffuse here during the day, he’d be signing his own (literal) downfall if he’d crawl up the walls now. While there was still a little bit light, Hutch began to make an inventory of the things he and Starsky had on them.
Starsky, sweet tooth as ever, had a candy bar and a few sweets in one of his pockets, some coins and his wallet. Hutch carried his pocket knife, his wallet, a roll of peppermint and the clean handkerchief he’d used as a bandage. That was all there was. Nothing to drink and apart from the candy bar, very little to eat. Hutch decided to keep the bar for Starsky who would be needing some energy soon now. There was enough wood on the bottom of the hole to start a little fire, but they didn’t have matches or a lighter to start it.
Hutch sat down next to Starsky. His eyes slowly went from his friend’s head to toe. The pit was not long enough for either of the two to be outstretched but Starsky didn’t need a lot of space. He was curled up as a foetus. He was lying sideways, trying to avoid strain on his injured arm as much as possible. His eyes were closed, but Hutch hardly saw it in the upcoming darkness. It was a feeling rather than an observation. He listened to Starsky breathing and came to the conclusion that he must be asleep. His breath was light, high in his chest and even a little ragged, but despite that there was a soothing regularity in it.
Hutch leaned his head against the wall. He looked up at the sky high above, where slowly the stars began to appear.
In the middle of the night, Hutch was still awake. His mind kept running circles on how to get out and he felt entrapped in this hole, entrapped by his thoughts and his worries about Starsky. It all began so nicely, and look what it had ended up in.
The two of them had taken a few days off to go fishing. They found a perfect spot on the banks of a lake called Lillypriss which was so small most maps didn’t even mention it. But it was great place, with sparkling water and salmon and trout that was abundantly there.
This afternoon, Starsky had spotted a deer and they had, impressed as they were by its size and stature, followed it. Until mother Earth devoured them.
How many people knew they were here? How many people knew in the first place they’d gone fishing? The captain knew they were away for a couple of days. Huggy Bear knew more or less where they were, but both men only knew roughly that they’d be somewhere outdoors. What were the chances of anyone coming to look for them here? Starsky’s Tomato was parked near the tiny wooden cottage that had been their lodgings and it stood out like a sore finger but Hutch doubted if it could be seen from the air, as there was a lot of foliage here.
Hutch reckoned it would take the captain a day or two tops to order a search party – a day or two AFTER Monday. Today was Saturday, so that would mean in three days at the earliest. With Starsky being like this and no water, he knew that would be a very close call.
Slowly but gradually the pit got lighter, when a clear, full moon came in sight and shone its pale light into the depth were both men were. Hutch looked at Starsky. In the silvery moonlight his skin was grey, deep rings surrounded his eyes and lines near his mouth were nearly purple. His eyes were open and he didn’t blink. It were the eyes of a dead man.
Hutch’s heart was squeezed by an ice cold hand. “Starsky?” The name barely passed his lips. “Starsk?” He shook his shoulder. “Starsky?”
Hutch let out a sigh of relief.
“Man, you had me worried there.” Hutch took a deep breath. “Don’t ever do that again.” Then, more gently, he asked, “How are you doing?”
Starsky seemed to have to think about the answer.
“I’ve been… like this… before,” he said, talking slowly. Hutch didn’t get it.
“In Vietnam… I was in a hole in the ground… for four days…”
Hutch looked at Starsky. He hardly blinked, which gave his face an eerie glance.
“You survived that one, we’ll get out this one as well,” Hutch promised in a weak attempt to offer some comfort. He didn’t expect Starsky to keep talking, but to his surprise he went on.
“The place was festered… with tunnels… so low… that we knocked our heads… against the ceiling… all the time.” Starsky never told much about his days in that war and it made Hutch listen closer. “VC are short people… you’re a giant… to their eyes…”
“A little girl approached… our squadron… she sold fruit and veggies… they often did… my lieutenant was… scared of them… always thought they’d carry grenades… and stuff…” Starsky took a deep breath and let the air escape with a shuddering shiver. “He shot her… right in the stomach… and her heart… and she died…”
“He was wrong?” Hutch guessed.
“No… he was right… she was followed… by VC… and they came… after us and started shooting… me and three others… we ran into the bush.” He paused and tried to shift a little, but every move he made caused more discomfort. “I’m so cold,” he said suddenly. Hutch touched his face. It was cold. Even though it had been good weather, nights in a forest like this were chilly and Starsky couldn’t keep himself warm. Hutch pulled his friend close so that Starsky could benefit from his body warmth. He pulled the coat back over him. Against his chest, he could feel Starsky shiver, the back of his shirt damp from the nightly humidity.
Starsky nodded. “Yeah. Thanks.”
“So wanna tell me happened next or do I have to wait for the movie to see the rest?”
The way they were sitting, propped up against the uneven smudgy wall, Hutch’s arms carefully around Starsky, made the injured man relax noticeably. His curls touched Hutch’s face.
“Nag… nag… impatient…”
Starsky sighed and tried to sound exasperatedly. “Try to imagine a forest… that’s not a bush… but a mass of reed… water… and trees, thin as straws… and foliage sturdy… as my mother’s will.”
Hutched did. He could picture his friend half running, half crawling his way to safety.
“Snipers are the worst… they sit a day… or longer and shoot… just when you think… you’re safe. That’s how they killed Harlow…”
“And then there were three?”
“Then there were three… we made our way… almost to our camp… when the ground sank… just like it did here…”
“Was it equally small? This isn’t exactly the Ritz.”
“Yeah… the space was limited… it was so stuffy… and damp… the humidity in Nam… is a killer… the hole was man made… as a starting point for a new tunnel…”
“We were stuck like we are here… above us only sky… expecting to be shot… like sitting ducks any minute… but no one came… no VC… no squadron… no sniper… they just hadn’t noticed it… Barnes tapped the walls… hoping to find a tunnel that… might lead us out…” he let out a sound that resembled a wry grin. “Where are they when you need them?”
“Now comes the part in which you’ll tell me how I’m going to get us out?”
“Tommy and me… we were both light… and we could climb well… but we had to go one by one… we didn’t know if the wall would hold… so we pulled straws… I won. I climbed… fast and confident I was… cocky and all that… and when I was six feet from the top… I fell.”
“I bet you didn’t have your arm broken like this,” Hutch said.
“My ankle… in two places…”
“Boy o boy. I’ve got to hand it to you – when you break something, you don’t go for a minor fracture.” The joke sounded forced.
“Don’t make fun… of it,” Starsky said with unexpected resentment in his voice. “It was terrible… as it is now…”
“Hey, I’m only trying to keep you alert, buddy,” Hutch quickly said.
“Tommy climbed up… on the other side… He made it to the top… making sure he didn’t do wrong what I did wrong… we cheered and applauded when… when he was there… standing, looking down… waving at us… I saw his silhouette… and then a rifle shot… and he tumbled face down… on the ground.”
“Jezus! A sniper got him?”
Starsky nodded very slowly.
And then there were two.
“And then there were two…” Hutch said and was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of sympathy for his friend. There was nothing he could do other than just hold him safe and warm in his arms. Starsky’s head lolled sideways.
“I’m tired…” his friend straightened his head and answered. “It’s harder to keep talking… than I expected…”
“Then don’t talk. Rest. We’re not going anywhere as long as it’s dark.”
“I can’t offer you anything to drink. You want to eat something?”
“No… You wanna hear… how we got out… you said so…”
“Not if you’re not up to it.”
But despite his fatigue, Starsky seemed to find comfort or maybe distraction in talking about what happened to him. He continued.
“Tommy was gunned down… dead as a doornail… but the shot got the attention… of the squadron sentry… and soon they understood… they’re might be more of us…”
“Since the four of you hadn’t returned,” Hutch understood.
“Right… I couldn’t move an inch… I hovered between pain induced sleep and awareness … my hope was on Jeffrey Barnes, the other soldier… But Jeffrey turned very quiet… during the night… and when it was light… and I turned to look at him… he was gone… dead… stung by a scorpion… the thing was dead on his lap…
And then there was one.
Hutch suppressed a shudder. Starsky had been sitting in a tomb. How must he feel right now in similar circumstances, reliving all of those memories?
“My captain found us two days later … and got us out… that’s it…”
“Is that why you wanted to get out of his pit so quickly?”
“Guess so… Couldn’t risk you falling… all the way down…”
“ME falling all the way down? Why d’you think that I would fall down?”
“Because… the first one… always does…”
“You fool,” mumbled Hutch compassionately. “You big, soft fool.”
They fell silent.
In his arms, Starsky slowly slumped sideways. Exhaustion had finally won.
“Done talking, Starsk?” Hutch whispered, his breath a warm touch of concern, brushing passed Starsky’s face. If Hutch had hoped for some kind of idea to break free from this prison, his hopes were cut off sharply by the end of Starsky’s tale. But not his determination to get them out.
Starky’s words echoed in his head.
When Hutch woke up he noticed the scent of a new day that was in the air and he saw that the spot over their heads was getting lighter again. He had dozed off after a long time, his arms still cupped around Starsky. He checked on his friend. It was impossible to stand up without waking him. He was very stiff from sitting in the same position for a long time.
“Starsky? I have to stand up, buddy,” he said softly and pushed his partner aside a little.
There was no reaction.
“Starsk?” Hutch struggled carefully with the deadweight body of his partner until he was able to free himself from his position. Starsky was off to the woods. He did not, or hardly, notice he was shifted sideways and Hutch, very worried, eased him down. He was not cold anymore but his clammy skin and the erratic pulse that Hutch felt, were far from reassuring.
Hutch thought of the things Starsky had told him. There was no other way than trying to get up again. At least there would be no sniper up there to take him out. That Tommy had made it to the surface as well. Hutch picked up a rock from the ground that was quite heavy and had the shape of a banana. There was a sharp edge on one side. He would use it as a pickaxe in case he wouldn’t be sure if the roots would hold. He kneeled next to Starksy.
“I’m up, Starsky. I’m going up and I’m going to get us out of here. If I’m gone when you wake up, then don’t panic. I’ll get a trauma team here and get you out.” He pinched his partner’s leg once, but Starsky was unresponsive. It made Hutch feel even more hurried to get going. For a moment he stood with the candy bar in his hand, then broke it in two and ate half of it. He knew he needed every bit of extra he could gather. It was not as if Starsky would wake up and eat any moment now.
He moved, very slowly, glued to the wall like a fly. Hand after hand, foot after foot, he went up. Try not to think of Starsky’s fall, he told himself. Think of Tommy who got to the surface. He did it, he made it. And you are too.
It went slowly. Hutch began to feel every muscle. He was strong, as was his partner, but this was not the kind of exercise he was accustomed to. He had the feeling his muscles were like strings on his guitar, too tightly wound up and ready to snap any moment. At one point there was nothing to put his foot on, so with all his might he rammed the banana-shaped stone into the wall. It held him. He put his foot on it, pushed himself higher and passed the hardest part. When he was about five feet from the edge, the wall slanted backwards further. The last bit was not difficult anymore. He kept concentrated until he finally reached solid ground, his trembling body clawing at the grass that grew everywhere. He stayed down for a few minutes, getting himself under control again. He rolled aside, stuck his head over the edge and called down.
“Starsky? I made it.”
There was no answer. Below him, hidden from sight by the shadows, his friend was in need of help. Hutch took a few deep breaths, put the other half of the candy bar in his mouth and staggered off to find help.
Deep down below, Starsky was aware of Hutch’s absence. For a second, he thought he heard him calling. Hutch was gone.
And then there was one, Starsky thought before losing consciousness.
Captain Dobey entered the hospital and was confronted with detective Hutchinson who was lying, deep asleep, slouched over four chairs. From his crumpled, filthy appearance Dobey could tell how tired he was. Hutch had been on the phone, telling him about a hole in the ground in which the two had been for day. He had filled him in on all the details thoroughly and he assured him he was alright but now that Dobey saw him with his own eyes, he saw an exhausted man. He could only imagine what they’d been through.
A doctor came through large doors that led to surgery theatres and was apparently looking for someone to talk to. Dobey quickly walked over to him before Hutch would wake up. He introduced himself.
“He was in shock, but that’s being treated and he responds well to it. As to his arm - it’s a complex fracture,” said the doctor when Dobey informed after Starsky’s health in general and his injury in particular, “and he might need another operation. It’s too early to say yet. But we were able to fix it all. I won’t bore you with medical details. The only thing he needs right now is a lot of rest and a good doses of antibiotics. I’m afraid he’ll be out of service for weeks.”
“That doesn’t matter,” said Dobey. “I want my men back in one piece and healthy. He can take whatever time he needs.”
The doctor nodded, then pointed at Hutch.
“That’s his partner?”
“Yes, they were stuck in that hole together.”
“I want to check him out as well,” said the doctor. “He might also be suffering from shock or internal injuries.”
But Dobey shook his head. “He’s tired, worried about his partner’s condition and dead on his feet. He doesn’t need a hospital, he needs sleep. I’m going to take him home, put him to bed and make sure he sleeps a day. After that, if I spot anything unusual, I’ll send him over.” He tapped his chin. “If he doesn’t get here before I do, ‘cos he will want to check out his partner before anything else.”
The doctor wanted to protest but he caught Dobey’s glance and knew this man had dealt with them before. He just nodded. “Very well then. If there’s anything out of the ordinary…”
“Don’t worry. I’ll keep an eye on him.”
The doctor left and Dobey turned to look at Hutch.
“Hutchinson,” he said and poked Hutch’s shoulder. “Wake up, son. I’m gonna take you home.”
“Capt’n?” Hutch blinked, startled, momentarily unable to grasp where he was. Then realisation sunk in. “Starsky?”
“Can I see him?”
“No, you can’t. You’re going home and you’re going to bed.”
“Starsky needs me here,” Hutch objected.
“Don’t talk nonsense. Starsky is off to dreamland and will remain there for at least another day. I’m taking you home, you’re going to bed.”
“That’s an order, Hutchinson,” Dobey raised his voice a little. Then he said, a little more gently, “Hutch, he’s fine. Just tired, but surgery went well and what he needs right now is rest. And so do you.”
Hutch was too tired to object any further. He looked at the light grey theatre doors and was suddenly reminded of the colour of Starky’s face in the moonlight. He shivered and yawned.
“Come Hutch,” Dobey said mildly and took his arm. “Time for a nap.”
“Yeah,” the blond man said quietly. There were still two and there always would be.
Elsa, March 2004