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Disclaimer: This story is written for entertainment purposes only.  No profit is being made from it.  No infringement on anyone’s copyright(s) is intended.

 

Bottom of the Sixth

Written by: Sue David

© 03/2001

 

Part 1

 

The first two weeks of June found Starsky and Hutch working on a string of warehouse robberies.  A number of storage buildings down at the docks had been hit.  The perps had stolen everything from television sets to stereo systems.  The partners had been working every fence they knew trying to find out where the goods were going.  Their lack of luck told them the stolen items were probably being trucked out of town. 

 

"I figure our best bets are Vegas, San Diego, or Fresno.  What do you think, Starsk?"

 

"My vote goes to San Diego."

 

"Why?"

 

"San Diego is a port town and a border town.  They could fence that stuff and move it off by ocean or across the border, then back across somewhere else.  What do ya think?"

 

"Could be."

 

This case was getting tedious.  Homicide had been slow for a few weeks, which was good.  Unfortunately, that left lots of time for cases that were less interesting to work.  Hutch sat thinking about how strange it was to wish for more exciting cases at the same time as being relieved that not as many people were being killed. They did not have enough on this case to do any undercover work yet, but they could plan a stakeout at the docks.  Maybe that would turn something interesting.

 

Just as he was about to present that idea to his partner, Detective Babcock walked in and said,  "Hey, you guys still planning to be at the game tomorrow?"

 

The officers of Metro had a baseball game planned for the next morning with the team from the Police Academy.  They had all been looking forward to it as a break from the recent tedium. 

 

"Wouldn't miss it."  Starsky replied.

 

"Great!  Good thing too, half of that team is 22 years old." 

 

The Academy team was a mix of cadets and instructors.  Hutch said, "You worried about a bunch of young'uns, Babcock?"

 

"I can handle myself.  How 'bout you two geezers?"

 

Hutch laughed and replied, "We got you covered.  What was that someone said once about old age and deceit overcoming youth and agility?"

 

Babcock laughed, waved, and exited the squad room.

 

Starsky was completely bored at this point.  Time to call it a night.  "Hey, shift's over, let's hit Huggy's for dinner and to put out a few more feelers, 'kay?"

 

"Sounds good."

 

They left the precinct and headed for The Pits.

 

Part 2

 

Huggy Bear had been trying to turn something for his friends on the stolen warehouse goods for two weeks.  So far, nothing had presented itself.  Today, he heard a rumor though and he was glad when he saw the two detectives cruise into his bar.

 

"Good timing, compadres," he said.

 

Starsky asked, "You got something for us, Hug?"

 

"Possibly.  You two hungry?"

 

Starsky said, "Always," and Hutch said, "Yeah, what's cookin' tonight?"

 

"Sorry, Hutch.  Angie's got some wicked hot chili goin' back there.  That'll suit iron guts here, but what about you?"

 

Starsky was pleased, "Great!  Extra jalapeńos for me."

 

Hutch shot him one of his patented withering glances.  "Yeah, and you’d better throw in several antacid tablets as a chaser.  He never learns."

 

Starsky rolled his eyes at his partner's predictable response to his dinner choice.

 

"How about a salad for me, Hug?"

 

"You got it, Blondie."

 

Starsky and Hutch headed for their favorite table.  Huggy joined them after he put in their order. 

 

"Okay, Hug, what do ya got for us?" Starsky asked.

 

"Looks like the goods in your warehouse heists are bein' trucked to an out-of-town fence."

 

"That's what we were thinking.  You know where?"

 

"Yeah, down to San Diego.  I don't know who's on that end though.  I can tell you they are using rental trucks like the ones you get when you're gonna move yourself."

 

"That it, Hug?"

 

"For now.  My source tells me the next hit at the docks is gonna be sometime next week."

 

Hutch thanked him.  Huggy rarely disappointed them.  If something was going on in the city, he usually heard about it.  Usually sooner rather than later.  At least this information gave them a target for their stakeout. They enjoyed their dinner and conversation with Huggy and left early to rest up for the game the next day.

 

Part 3

 

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Hutch stepped up to the plate with one out and no one on base. The baseball game between the evenly matched Metro and Police Academy teams was sure to be a close one.   The score had been 2 – 2 since the third inning.

 

“Ball,” proclaimed the umpire as the first pitch was thrown.

 

The sound of quiet clapping came from the Metro’s bench.  “Good eye, good eye!”

 

Hutch stepped back out of the batter’s box and hit both cleats with the bat before stepping back up to the plate.  Starsky was watching him from the dugout.  He smiled as he watched his partner go through his batting ritual. 

 

The next pitch was thrown.  “STRIKE!”

 

Hutch turned and glared at the umpire.  No way that was a strike.

 

Starsky kept his mouth shut, but he also thought it was a bad call.  He sent a thought toward his partner You’re right, partner.  Definitely a ball.

 

The ice-blue stares of both detectives did not phase the ump. 

 

Again the umpire called, “STRIKE!”

 

“Aw, come on, Blue!”  Starsky said, backed up by the protests of the rest of the men in the dugout.  “You miss your annual eye exam?”

 

The umpire glared at Starsky.

 

“Count is 1 and 2,” he called, “one away.”

 

The blond batter uttered a quiet, “Harumph,” and turned his attention back to the pitcher. 

 

Hutch caught a piece of the next one.  He barely got out of the way of the enormous Academy team catcher as he jumped up and tossed his facemask back trying to locate the ball. 

 

“Foul ball,” called the ump.

 

The catcher was a 6 foot 7 inch giant named Wally Jameson.  They called him “Wally the Wall” because he was so tough to get around at the plate.  Hutch looked at him and thought this guy was going to be the biggest cop on the force. 

 

By now, Starsky was pacing in the dugout and thinking, Come on Hutch, just get us started, buddy.

 

As if he heard him thinking, Hutch doubled off the next pitch. 

 

Attaboy!

 

Babcock was up next and Starsky was on deck.  The Metros liked to put the power hitter in the cleanup spot.   Starsky took a few practice swings while he watched Babcock’s turn at bat.  Starsky was a switch hitter, making him even more valuable at the plate.

Right handed hit this time, I think.  Keeps 'em guessing.

 

Babcock was a strong hitter and he doubled off the third pitch.  Starsky watched as Hutch rounded third, and got the signal to run home.  The center fielder threw the ball to second.  The second baseman tagged Babcock then fired the ball toward home plate.  Hutch could hear the guys yelling at him to slide.  That was when he connected with The Wall.

 

“Safe!” called the umpire.  A close one, but the tie goes to the runner.  Starsky let out a celebratory yell and started to head toward home plate.  What happened next took only a few seconds to process.  The dust was starting to settle and Hutch hadn’t gotten up yet.  Starsky’s protective sense toward his partner had just gone active and he called his partner’s name as he started to move a little faster in that direction, “Hutch?”  The young catcher was brushing dirt off his pants and rubbing his elbow.  Hutch still had not moved.  Starsky yelled, “He’s out!” as he started to run toward his partner.  The guys in the dugout were yelling back, “No, he’s safe, he’s safe!”   That was not what Starsky meant.

 

Part 4

 

When he heard Starsky yell, Wally looked down at Hutch and realized he was out cold.  He knelt down beside Hutch, gave his shoulder a light shake and said, “Hutch? Oh geez, I’m sorry. You okay?”  Suddenly, Starsky was on the other side yelling for ice and trying to get his partner to come around.  “Hey!  Hey, Hutch!  Wake up, buddy!  Can you hear me?”  Hutch remained unresponsive. Although he hadn’t thought about it before now, Starsky noticed that Hutch was not wearing a helmet.  He hated the things and refused to wear one if his partner didn’t nag him into it.  Starsky was scared. A bruise was beginning to show on Hutch’s jaw where it had connected with Wally’s elbow and Starsky’s quick examination revealed a lump forming under the hair on the left side of Hutch’s head.

 

A man’s voice came authoritatively over the murmurs of the men standing around home plate.  “Come on, let me through.  I’m a paramedic.” 

 

He knelt down next to Starsky and introduced himself. “I’m Tom Jameson, Wally’s brother.  I’m a paramedic.  Let me take a look at him.”  Starsky nodded his thanks and backed off a little to give Tom some room.

 

“What’s his name?”

 

Starsky replied, “Ken Hutchinson.”

 

Wally anxiously asked his older brother, “Is he gonna be okay, Tom?”

 

Tom ignored the question as someone passed him a towel with some ice in it.  He applied the ice to the purple bruise forming on the left side of Hutch’s head.  That had him more worried than the bruise on the jaw.  Hutch’s hair was so pale he could see how hard he had hit his head by watching the lumpy bruise growing under his hair.  “Ken?  Ken, I need you to open your eyes for me.  Can you do that, Ken?” 

 

Hutch could hear this stranger talking, but he was not too sure what he wanted from him.  He moaned and turned his head away from the ice, struggling to open his eyes.  Starsky called to him, “That’s it, Hutch.  Come on back now.”

 

Hutch opened his eyes and attempted to focus.  He tried ineffectively to push the paramedic’s hand away from his aching head.  He saw people standing around him.  Lots of them.  Three times as many as were really there and they were all spinning!  Hutch blinked and groaned as he tried to make the dark-haired image of his partner as triplets unite into one being.  When he managed it, he was surprised to see his partner wearing a blue police uniform, not his Metros baseball T-shirt and hat. 

 

Starsky could see his partner struggling to focus, a confused look on his face.  “Hutch, you okay?”

 

Tom held one finger up in Hutch’s line of sight and said, “Ken, how many fingers do I have up?”

 

“Starsk?”

 

“Ken, try to concentrate. How many fingers?”

 

Hutch was not paying any attention to the paramedic.  He blinked and stared at Starsky and said, “Wha, wha... uniform?”

 

Tom looked at Starsky and said, “What?  What’s he talking about?”

 

“I don’t know, but I don’t like it!  Hey, answer the question, Blondie.”

 

Tom tried again.  “Ken, how many fingers?”

 

Just before he slid back into blackness, Hutch muttered, “Three.” 

 

Tom said, “That’s it, call an ambulance.”

 

“Terrific.”  Starsky was already kicking himself for not noticing his partner’s failure to wear a helmet.

 

Part 5

 

In the twilight between consciousness and unconsciousness, Hutch could hear things going on around him.  The wail of the ambulance siren, the low sound of his partner’s voice talking to him reassuringly, the discussion between the paramedic and Starsky.  Another noise was crowding into his brain, though – the sound of a baseball bat connecting with a ball again and again.  As he slid deeper into unconsciousness, a bright light flashed and he began the most surrealistic trip he had ever taken.

 

He was standing at home plate at the baseball field with a bucket of baseballs next to his feet.  Tossing each one up in the air, he was having a little private batting practice when his peripheral vision caught the sight of his partner walking toward him from the dugout. 

 

“Hey, Starsk.  Wanna run out there and shag those balls for me?”

 

He turned to his partner and saw he was dressed in a blue police uniform.  What the....

 

“Kinda formal for baseball practice, Starsk.”

 

“Ken, I’m not your partner.”

 

“Ken?  What’s the matter with you?  Not my partner, you okay?  Why are you in that uniform?”

 

Hutch turned and looked closely at the man now standing next to him.  He suddenly realized this was not his partner.  This man looked incredibly like his partner, but he was not Starsky.  Before he got lost in the thought of who this man could be, Hutch knew the answer.  This was Starsky’s dad. 

 

“Michael Starsky?” 

 

The man smiled.  “Mike.”

 

“Aren’t you dead, sir?”

 

“That’s right, Ken.”

 

“Uh-oh, then am I dead, too?”

 

Starsky’s dad laughed and gave him a smile Hutch recognized all too well.  “No, don’t worry.  We need to talk, though.”

 

Hutch was stunned.  “Okay.  You know it’s not every day I get a visit from my best friend’s dead father.  Whatever you have to say must be pretty important.”

 

“Yes, very important.”

 

“You’re sure I’m not dead, though?  Just haunted?”

 

“You’re not dead, Ken.  I promise.”

 

Hutch could not believe how much his partner looked like his dad.  Eerie.  Aren’t people supposed to get half of their genes from each parent?  He had seen the man’s picture before but that did not do justice to the similarities.  The man even walked like his partner.  Hutch saw the Starsky swagger in his step as he walked over to the bench in the dugout and took a seat, motioning for Hutch to follow.

 

“I’ve been watching you and my son for a long time.  Do you know how important you are to him?”

 

“Not as important as he is to me, sir.”

 

“I thought you might say something like that.  Now listen, we don’t have a lot of time.  I was hanging around watching your game today.  I hope that doesn’t bother you, I know it sounds sorta creepy.  I just love baseball and I miss watching Davy play.”

 

Hutch smiled.  “No, not creepy.  Unexpected, but not creepy.”

 

“Ken, you have done a great job taking care of my son over the years.  You’ve been a good partner.”

 

“Thank you, sir.  I try my best to watch his back, keep him safe.  He’s more than my partner, though.  Starsky, uh Dave, is my best friend.  The brother I never had.”

 

“I know that.  I’ve noticed how connected the two of you are.  You seem to know if he is hurt or in danger and he seems to know that about you, too.  I’ve even watched you have entire conversations without saying a thing.  That’s a special and rare gift.”

 

Mike Starsky explained to Hutch that something was going to happen soon that would put his son in deadly peril.  He had a chance to warn Hutch and he was going to take it.  He told Hutch about the blow he had taken to his head and how that had given him this window of time to talk to him face-to-face.

 

“I’m really not supposed to tell you about the future.  That’s sort of against the rules of being a Guardian Angel.  Let’s just say I am not above ‘bending’ the rules of engagement just a little where my son is concerned.  You and my Davy have a lot to do together yet.  I just want to plant the seeds of a memory in your head so you will recognize the situation when it happens.  That’s not exactly revealing the future is it?”

 

Hutch laughed softly.  That shy smile coming across his face.  “Well I can see where that maverick son of yours gets it!  No, I agree.  You are safely inside the lines.  Just barely.  If you can tell me something to help protect his life, you’d better do it.”

 

“Glad you agree.   You need to watch for a stack of crates, twice as high as you are tall.  They will have a red symbol on them.  The danger is from above and behind you.  You won’t hear it.  Can you remember all of that?”

 

“Yes, but don’t you think the future is set?”

 

“No.  Anything can happen to change it at any moment.  I hope I have given you enough to go on so you can make this future come out the way it should.”

 

“I’ll remember.  Crates, red symbol, above and behind.” 

 

“Great, Ken.  You’re going to wake up soon so I have to go.  I’ll be around, watching.  Be careful.”

 

“Your son says I’m cute and he’s careful!  I will, though.”

 

The images in his dream started to fade as Hutch climbed toward consciousness.  The pain in his face and head was becoming sharper.

 

Part 6

 

Hutch turned his head from side to side and moaned something softly.  “Crate, red, above.” Then he called for his partner again, “Starsk?”

 

The nurse looked across the gurney at the attending physician with a questioning look.  “That’s the third time he’s said something about that.  You’d think he was trying to memorize something.” 

 

The attending asked the nurse to stay with their patient while he went out to get the man’s partner.  Maybe Detective Starsky could help bring him around.   Hutch had been conscious off and on since he was brought into the Emergency Room.  He had been disoriented and confused, though, not staying awake for longer than a minute or two.

 

“Detective Hutchinson, the doctor has gone out to get your partner.  You want to see him, don’t you?  Come on and wake up for us now.”

 

“Detective Starsky,” the doctor said as he walked into the busy waiting room.  He saw a large group of men in baseball gear waiting for news of their friend.  Half of them were wearing blue and white uniforms, the other half red and white. 

 

A dark-haired man hurried over to him.  “I’m Starsky, how’s my partner?”

 

“I think he will be fine, Detective.  He does have a moderate concussion though and I want him to stay the night here for observation.  He has been asking for you and he keeps saying something about a red crate.  I thought maybe you should come in and talk to him.  Encourage him to wake up.  He has not fully regained consciousness yet.”

 

When Starsky walked in on the nurse and Hutch, she looked up at him and said, “You must be Starsky.  He calls for you every few minutes.”

 

Starsky nodded his acknowledgement.  He looked at his partner, the bruises now a startling shade.  How could Hutch get into so much trouble just playing baseball?  He would be furious when he found out he was going to be admitted and there weren’t even any bad guys involved!

 

Starsky had been in the emergency room with his partner many times. He was relieved to see the only thing connected to Hutch this time was a single IV.  Thank God!  No bullet wounds, no stitches, no heart monitors. Although he was worried about his best friend, he found himself feeling encouraged by the thought that on the usual Hutch Hurtometer, this one was not so bad!

 

He took Hutch’s hand and started talking softly to him.  “Hey, Blintz.  Don’t you think you’ve had a good enough nap now?  You stopped the game.  Both teams are in the waiting room and they wouldn’t let us wear our cleats in here.”

 

Hutch moaned and called his partner’s name again.  Then, slowly his eyes began to open.  He blinked a few times and recognition started to show in his eyes.  Starsky was happy to see the blue eyes looking at him clearly.

 

“Starsk?”

 

“Hey.”

 

“Hey. 

 

"You remember what happened?"

 

"Nuh-uh."

 

"You slid into home and decided to take a little nap there."

 

"Was I safe?”

 

Starsky chuckled and smiled at his partner.  “Ever the competitor, Blintz.  Yeah, you were safe.”  I’m gonna see to it that you stay that way too, partner.

 

Hutch smiled.

 

“How many of me do you see now?”

 

Hutch blinked a few more times, the room still spinning slowly.  Then he said, “Just one, but hold still.  You’re making me dizzy!”

 

“Sorry, I’ll try and stop.  How you doin’?  You had me plenty worried.”

 

“I’m okay.  Where’d your dad go?”

 

Starsky shot a worried look at the doctor.  My dad ?!

 

“Is your dad here, Detective?”

 

“Uh, no, doc.  My dad has been dead for around twenty years.  Is he really okay?”

 

The doctor explained to Starsky and his dizzy partner that head injuries were unpredictable. Hutch’s thoughts were confused right now.  He should improve over the next few hours. The CT Scan they did earlier was normal, but they wanted to make sure nothing else developed overnight. Hutch would be kept for observation.  That revelation elicited a groan of protest from the patient still trying to stop the world from tilting.  Starsky put a hand on Hutch’s shoulder for reassurance.  Don’t worry, Blondie.  I’ll be right here.  I know how much you hate hospitals.

 

The doctor looked Hutch in the eye and said, “Ken, I understand you were not wearing a batting helmet.  That was very foolish.  This could have been much worse.”

 

Somehow, being berated by a physician while in a vulnerable state just added to Hutch’s misery.  He nodded sheepishly.  “Yeah, I know.”  Starsky made a silent promise to himself that Hutch would never get away without wearing safety gear again.

 

The doctor explained that Hutch would be checked into a room in a few minutes and Starsky could join him up there.  Hutch squeezed Starsky’s hand and said, “Hey, don’t go.” 

 

“I’ll be right up there, buddy.  I need to go out and let the guys know you’re gonna be okay now, though.  I promise I won’t be gone long, okay?”

 

Starsky walked out into the waiting area.  “He’s okay.  They need to watch him here overnight, but said he’d be fine.”

 

A collective sigh of relief broke up the tension. 

 

Starsky continued, “I’m gonna stay here with him, but you guys might as well go on home now.  Thanks for waiting with me.”

 

Ted Langley, one of the Police Academy instructors shook Starsky’s hand and said, “You just tell that partner of yours that this game isn’t over yet.  Nice try, but we’re going to finish it when he’s better.  No sympathy wins allowed!”

 

“I’ll tell him.”

 

Part 7

 

The next morning around eleven o’clock, Hutch's doctor stopped by to evaluate his patient.   He read through Hutch's chart and was pleased with the results of his status checks throughout the night and early morning. 

 

"Good morning, Mr. Hutchinson.  I am Dr. Tritt.  I'm going to evaluate you this morning to see if you are ready to go home."

 

"Oh, I'm ready," Hutch said.  He was starting to get anxious because it was almost lunchtime and he really wanted out of the hospital by the afternoon.  If they kept you after lunch he was convinced they were going to keep you for another night.

 

"Well, let's see if your brain is ready.  First, I'm going to tell you three unrelated words and I want you to remember them – candle, ball, truck."

 

The doctor asked Starsky to close the blinds on the windows.  Then he used his flashlight to check Hutch's pupil reactions.  Hutch winced from the light hurting his eyes.

"I know the light hurts, but that will get better in the next couple of days."

 

"Do you remember what happened?"

 

"No.  My partner told me I slid into home plate kinda hard."

 

"That's right.  Did he tell you that yesterday?"

 

"Yes."

 

"What year is it?"

 

"1981"

 

"What is your full name?"

 

"Kenneth Richard Hutchinson."

 

The exam continued like this for a few minutes.  Then Dr. Tritt said, "What were those three words I asked you to remember?"

 

"Candle, ball, truck."

 

The doctor was pleased with the exam.  Since Hutch's CT scan was normal, and he responded well to all of the questions the doctor released him.

 

"No baseball for at least two weeks.  I want you to take a few days off work until your headache subsides.  No aspirin.  You can take acetaminophen for the pain.  You might want to wear dark sunglasses for a few days.  Get some rest."

 

He instructed Starsky to bring his friend back to the Emergency Room if his headache got worse, he was vomiting, or overly sleepy.  "Now go on home and next time, wear a helmet."

 

"Thanks, Doc."

 

Starsky took Hutch home to Venice Place and settled him in to rest.  Captain Dobey had given them a few days off to let Hutch recuperate.  Their caseload was not heavy just then and Dobey knew Starsky would be driven to distraction by deskwork.  Starsky still had to run into the precinct to finish some paperwork, and assured by Hutch that he would be a good boy and rest, he left.

 

Part 8

 

When he walked into the squad room, the captain called to him, "Starsky!  Come in here."  Starsky was surprised to see Dobey in his office on a Sunday.

 

"Yeah, Cap?"

 

"How's your partner?"

 

"He's okay, Cap.  His head hurts, but he'll be fine in a few days.  What are you doin' here on a Sunday?"

 

Captain Dobey barked at him, "You think you two are the only ones around here with paperwork?"  Then his tone softened a little and he said, "I'm glad Hutch is okay.  What about the warehouse robberies?"

 

"Our latest info says the next robbery is goin' down next week. I'm gonna ask Simmons and Babcock to keep an eye on things for us 'til we get back, okay?"

 

"Good idea.  Well, sign off on that paperwork in your inbox and you can get out of here.  I don't expect to see either of you again until Thursday morning."

 

"Thanks, Cap.  See ya."

 

Great, three days to nursemaid my grumpy partner.   No one was a better nurse than Hutch when Starsky was hurt.  For some reason, though, he just hated it to be the other way around.  Being taken care of was not something he accepted readily. Starsky was used to the drill by now.

 

Simmons and Babcock were in the squad room working on some of their own paperwork, so Starsky took the opportunity to discuss the case with them.  They agreed to keep an eye on things.  They would call Starsky if anything important happened.  They also discussed working on the stakeout together later in the week.

 

After he finished up their paperwork, Starsky drove over to Hutch's favorite health food restaurant and picked up some dinner for his partner.  Then he drove through his favorite Mexican place, the kind that hadn't seen an "A" rating in years.  He stopped at his place to pick up some things and then headed back to Hutch's.

 

When he got there, he found Hutch sleeping on the couch with all the shutters closed to make the room dark.  "Hey, Blondie.  Wake up, I brought you dinner."

 

Hutch rubbed his eyes.  "Hey, yourself.  I hate to think what you brought.  Is that Jose's I see in that bag?"

 

"Not for you, partner.  For you, I have a nice tuna burger sandwich with alfalfa sprouts on cracked wheat bread from Healthy Haven Deli."  He handed Hutch the bag with his sandwich and went into the bathroom to get some pain pills.  Tossing the bottle to his partner he said, "There you go, Blondie.  A pain pill chaser."

 

"Have I told you lately that you are my best friend?"

 

"Yep."

 

Part 9

 

As they sat eating their dinner, Starsky decided the time was right to ask Hutch about some of the things he said while he was out of it.  He knew his friend probably would not remember, but it was worth asking.  After all, one of the things he had said was about his dad.

 

"Hutch, do you remember anything from when you were out of it?"

 

"Huh?"

 

"You said some weird stuff and I was just wondering...."

 

"Weird stuff?"  Hutch took another bite of his tuna sandwich and raised his eyebrows at his partner. 

 

"Well, the doc said you kept mumbling something about a red crate."

 

"A red crate?  No, I don't remember.  Anything else?"   Hutch could tell his partner had something else on his mind. 

 

"Back at the ball field, you said something to me about a uniform.  Then there was something else at the hospital."

 

A uniform?  Hutch tried to remember but couldn't.  Whatever this other thing was Starsky seemed especially troubled by it.  "Spit it out, Starsk.  What else did I say?"

 

Starsky fidgeted.  He was really hoping Hutch might remember this part.  He looked down at his food, busily adding some hot sauce and said, "Just after you woke up in the Emergency Room you asked if my dad was still there."

 

Oh, that explained his nervousness.  Hutch took a sip from his soda and thought hard.  His head was still pounding.  He closed his eyes and winced from the extra ache produced by his hard concentration.  Hutch knew this part was important.  He could feel something tugging in the back of his consciousness about Starsky's dad, but he couldn't tell what it was.  He didn't know what it meant. 

 

Hutch was quiet a little too long and Starsky looked up at him.  Seeing the pained look on his face, he put his hand on Hutch's arm and said, "Hey, you okay?"

 

Hutch opened his eyes.  "Yeah, Starsk.  I'm really sorry, but I don't remember.  I'm trying."

 

"Well, don't hurt yourself, buddy.  I'm sure it was nothing."  Both Starsky's concern and his disappointment came through in his voice.

 

"I'm sorry, Starsk.  I guess I musta been konked on the head harder than I thought."  He smiled softly at his partner.  Hutch hated to disappoint his friend and he knew how sensitive he was about his dad. He promised himself he would try hard to remember.  I've got to remember.  I know it's important, but why?

 

Starsky smiled back at him.  You're being silly, Starsky.  Just because it was about your dad doesn't mean it was important.  Despite his self-reasoning, Starsky had the nagging feeling there was something important in Hutch's hallucination. 

 

Hutch decided changing the subject was a good idea.  "Did you talk to Dobey about the case?"

 

Starsky knew when his partner was done talking about something.  He let it pass and answered Hutch's question.  "Yeah.  Since our info says the next hit is goin' down next week, we're gonna arrange a stakeout.  We might start when we get back on Thursday.  Don't want to miss anything if the perps decide to go early.  Simmons and Babcock are gonna keep an eye on things for us while you rest up 'til then.  They said they'd also help us out with the stakeout.  Babcock will find out which piers are receiving shipments so we can watch them."

 

Hutch was pleased with the plan.  Now he thought he could rest for a couple of days without feeling guilty about not working the case.  After dinner, Starsky turned on the stereo to some of Hutch's favorite classical music.  An evil plot to get his partner to rest and it worked.  Hutch was fast asleep on the couch inside of ten minutes. 

 

Starsky had brought a book with him.  He took it out to the greenhouse and settled into a chair to read while Hutch rested.  Unfortunately, his night of worry and interrupted sleep in the hospital had caught up to him.  Reading was what he intended to do, but he fell asleep within a few minutes.  Hutch was right, Starsky could sleep anywhere.

 

All types of images where floating around in Hutch's dreams.  They were disconnected, nonsensical.  He found himself back at the ball field.  He was sliding into home plate when he saw a large stack of crates in his path.  He slid through the crates, breaking them into pieces.  On the other side sat Starsky and his dad.   Hutch stood up and walked toward them.  Starsky's shirt was covered with blood and his dad was trying to tell Hutch something but Hutch couldn't understand him.  He reached for Starsky but he and his dad were being pulled back away from him into the darkness.  Hutch stood at home plate, broken crates surrounding him.  He looked down at his hands.  They were covered with blood.  Starsky's blood.  He woke up with a start shouting, "Starsky!" 

 

Hutch's shout woke Starsky up instantly.  He jumped up, dropping his book onto the floor of the greenhouse.  He ran into the living room and turned on the light.  Hutch was sitting up on the couch looking pale and shaken.  "Hutch, what's wrong? Nightmare?" he asked as he walked over to his partner.

 

Trying to slow his breathing down, Hutch nodded instead of answering.  He pulled his feet up to give Starsky a place to sit next to him.  "That was really weird!"

 

"Tell me about it."

 

Hutch told him about the dream, but he left out the part about the blood.  No sense worrying Starsky over a silly dream.  He apologized for not knowing what Starsky's dad was trying to say.  "Don't worry about it, Hutch, it's just a dream.  I'm sure it doesn't mean anything.  How's your head?"

 

"It hurts."

 

"Need some more Tylenol?"

 

"No, but a beer wouldn't hurt."

 

"Uh-uh.   Not for a couple of days, you're getting over a head injury here."

 

"Come on, Starsk." 

 

"Nope."

 

Hutch gave in, knowing Starsky wouldn't relent.  "Okay, the Tylenol will have to do then."  While Starsky went to get him a glass of water and some more pain pills, Hutch noticed the time.  Well after midnight.  "Hey, Starsk, it's pretty late, why don't you crash here?"

 

"I was planning on that, buddy."  He handed Hutch the pills and water.  Then helped him up and steered him toward the bedroom.  "Go to sleep, you'll feel much better in the morning. "

 

"Thanks, Dr. Starsky."  Hutch stopped at the closet and tossed his partner a blanket and pillow so he could crash on the couch.  He was glad Starsky was going to be there where he could keep an eye on him.  That dream really did have him worried.   They both went to sleep and Hutch didn't have any more disturbing dreams that night.

 

Part 10

 

The days went by quickly.  Hutch wasn't nearly as grumpy as Starsky knew he could be and they were ready to go back on the job Thursday morning.  Simmons and Babcock had done a good job for them while they were away.  The case was progressing and the stakeout was set to begin that night.  Even though Huggy thought the next hit would not go down until the following week, they would stake out the docks starting tonight in case the thieves had other plans.  All four detectives took some time off in the middle of the afternoon to rest up for a long night of dock watching.

 

Simmons and Babcock took up a position in the second story of a warehouse above Pier Five.  Starsky and Hutch watched down below from another warehouse near Pier Nine. These two areas were the only ones where any shipments had arrived or were expected over the next few days.  Several shipments had come in during the week.  Hutch read over the manifests given to them by the Port Authority.  Nothing in these shipments seemed particularly worthy of an organized robbery team.  The list reflected many items including tea, bathing suits, car parts, coffee, and some sporting goods.  Nothing high ticket was on the list.  Hutch wondered what the thieves would be seeking. 

 

The warehouse they were in contained the shipments of tea and sporting goods. Hutch turned the volume down on the radio he was carrying to keep in touch with Simmons and Babcock. The partners settled down for a long wait through the night.

 

While the two pairs of detectives waited in their vantage spots, the team of thieves were sneaking into the warehouse next to Pier Nine.  They were after the sporting goods.  These weren't just pallets full of basketballs.  The contents were more intriguing. 

 

Johnny Haley stepped forward with a crowbar and carefully pried open a wooden crate.  He was the dangerous ringleader of the gang of dock thieves.  His group of eight was content to rip off the goods and take their share of the money they brought.  Johnny was more than a common thief, though. 

 

Johnny had moved down the coast when things started to get a little hot for him up in San Francisco.  He planned to spend some time in the Southern California port towns until things cooled off again.  When he wasn't busy with his gang, Johnny moonlighted as a debt collector and sometimes a hit man.  He would do anything that would bring in a steady stream of cash.  He specialized in unusual ways to kill people.  Just shooting people didn't do it for him.  Though he didn't mind using his gun to do his dirty work, he preferred weapons of a more unique nature.  Weapons like what he was looking for tonight.

 

Inside he found what he was hoping to find.  The shipment included high-powered crossbows, the kind used for deer hunting.  These were on their way to another state where crossbow hunting was more popular and not against the law.  The kits included a riflescope and six bolts or arrows.  These should fetch a good price on the black market.  The crossbow was an interesting weapon, silent and deadly.  Some rebel groups in Central America had expressed an interest in picking up the weapons as a change from their usual guns.  The crossbows would give them enough reach and an element of surprise.  Haley did not understand it, but he also didn't care.  Money was money. 

 

Haley took one of the crossbows out and attached its scope.  He loaded it carefully, deciding to keep the elegant weapon and add it to his collection.  He had used a crossbow while hunting many times.  He chuckled sadistically to himself as he pondered the kind of damage such a weapon could inflict on a human being.  Learning to effectively shoot a crossbow was not difficult.  They could be accurate at up to 50 or 60 yards and capable of firing an arrow at speeds around 60 yards per second.  He quietly climbed up a ladder to a catwalk above the crates of sporting goods.  He would keep an eye on things from up there while his gang unloaded everything into the rental van that was due any second. 

 

From their vantage point on the second story of the other building, Babcock could see the rented moving truck heading over to the warehouse with the other two detectives.  They were going to get lucky, their thieves were making a hit on the first night of their stakeout.  He quietly called into the radio, "Truck coming your way."  Hutch answered "Roger." 

 

Babcock turned to his partner and said, "Come on, Simmons, we'd better get over there.  Good thing we decided to start tonight."   Before they left their warehouse, Babcock used the radio to call for backup.

 

"Starsk," Hutch whispered.  When his partner looked back from the window he motioned him to follow.  He headed back toward the other side of the warehouse.  The loading bays were back there. 

 

The thieves were quickly loading their cargo into the van outside.  Starsky and Hutch carefully crept along the stacks of crates until they were close enough to hear the conversation.  Unfortunately, they were now also close enough to be in Johnny Haley's crosshairs. 

 

Haley could see the two men making their way toward the loading bay, guns drawn.  Cops!  The killer squinted into the scope on his crossbow.  Even in the near darkness, picking them off would be simple.  Haley was an accurate shot.  He would get the first one with his crossbow, reload and take out the other one before he had a chance to figure out what had happened to his partner.  He liked the quiet of the crossbow.  If he was lucky, he could take them both silently without either one knowing what had hit him.  He carefully lined his shot up for the man closest to him. 

 

Hutch kept creeping toward the thieves, wondering when the other detectives would arrive with some backup.  Even with his Magnum in his hand and his partner at his back, he didn't like the odds of seven or eight against two.  He was trying to count how many there were and looking for weapons when something strange happened.  He stopped so short Starsky bumped into him.  Starsky put his hand on Hutch's back and could feel him trembling.  "Hutch," he whispered, "You okay?"  What happened next seemed to Hutch to be in slow motion but in reality it took only a few seconds.  Hutch felt like he was being pulled into a dream.  He saw the large column of crates in front of him stacked twelve feet into the air.  They had a red Japanese alphabet symbol sprayed on them.  Hutch mumbled to himself, "Above and behind you."  Starsky whispered, "Hutch?" 

 

Hutch whirled around and used his right arm and left hand to grab his partner and shove him to the ground.  He raised his gun and swung it up toward a dark shape on a catwalk above them.  Then he heard a whooshing sound and felt a stabbing pain in his chest.  Starsky looked up at Hutch who now had an arrow sticking out of his lower chest.  Hutch’s gun dropped from his hand and clattered onto the floor as he looked at his partner with a shocked expression and said just one word, “Starsk,” before he started to fall.  Starsky had just enough time to sit up a little and reach for Hutch, breaking his fall before he hit the ground.  

 

Sirens were wailing in the distance. Starsky heard Simmons and Babcock as they burst into the warehouse shouting, "Police! Freeze!"   A few shots were fired, but the suspects gave up with little fight.  Starsky scrambled to lower Hutch onto the floor and put himself between his partner and the unknown archer above them.  Shielding Hutch as best he could, Starsky dragged him behind some crates just as another arrow flew past his head and impaled itself in one of the crates.  He peered around the crate and trained his gun on the dark area above them.  A figure was moving up there.

 

"Drop it or I'll shoot!" he shouted.  Haley tossed aside the crossbow in favor of his gun.  In answer to Starsky's challenge, he fired, the bullet buzzing past Starsky's head. He did not have time to get off another shot.  Starsky returned his fire, striking Haley several times in the chest.  The killer toppled down onto the warehouse floor.  Starsky left his partner long enough to find out if the man he had just shot was dead.

 

He rushed back to Hutch shouting, "Paramedics!  Hutch has been hit!"  

 

"Hutch? Hey?  Hey, you're gonna be okay, buddy.  Help is on the way."  He touched his partner with shaking hands.  Hutch was unconscious, he was starting to turn a little blue and both his breathing and pulse seemed rapid to Starsky.  The arrow went into Hutch's chest on the right side.  Starsky was terrified; he had never seen anyone who had been shot with an arrow.  Blood was starting to trickle out of Hutch's mouth, so Starsky carefully turned him to the side to prevent him from choking.  Simmons ran up to him and Starsky said, "Hurry up with that ambulance!" 

 

Simmons could not believe what he was seeing.  Was Hutch really shot with an arrow?  He pulled off his jacket and covered Hutch with it as best he could without disturbing the arrow.  "They're on their way, Starsky.  What the hell happened here?" 

 

Starsky just shook his head and kept talking to his unconscious partner in low, soothing tones.  "You're gonna be okay, you hear?  Don't go away!  Don't you leave me!" 

 

The paramedics came in and assessed the situation. After they had an IV inserted and an oxygen line in place, they bundled Hutch into their ambulance along with his partner.  Starsky tossed his keys to Simmons and asked him to bring the Torino.  Then they screamed away from the warehouse on the way to Memorial Hospital. 

 

Leaving their suspects and the crime scene to the officers from the black-and-whites, Simmons and Babcock picked up the cars and headed for the hospital.  Babcock called Dispatch asking them to find Dobey and get him to meet them there.

 

By the time everyone arrived at Memorial, Hutch had already been rushed into surgery.  Captain Dobey found the three detectives in the Emergency Room waiting area.  Starsky was visibly shaken.  Simmons was trying to talk some sense into Starsky, who was pacing back and forth like a wounded animal. 

 

Captain Dobey stopped Starsky in the middle of his pacing and asked him, "Starsky, what happened?  Babcock said Hutch had been shot with an arrow."

 

"Cap, I don't know.  We were sneaking up on the dock robbery suspects and then the next thing I knew, Hutch was down with an arrow in his chest!"

 

Dobey patted Starsky on the shoulder reassuringly.  He wasn't sure what to say.  "Dave, he's going to be okay.  Oh, and I called Huggy.  He said he'd be here in a little while."

 

"Cap, I didn't have a chance to protect him.  He was in front of me.  Then he just spun around and pushed me to the ground.  Why did he do that?  If he hadn't done it, I would have been hit instead of him!  He passed out, Cap, and I never got to talk to him.  He can't die without that.  I have to tell him....” Starsky couldn't continue.  His voice was shaking and his eyes were bright.  He knew it was irrational.  Hutch was his partner and it was just as much his job to protect Starsky, as it was Starsky's to protect him.  That didn't matter now, though.  Starsky felt terrible.

 

Dobey could see the guilt behind Starsky's eyes.  That arrow was meant for him in his mind.  "Starsky, you can't feel guilty about this.  Hutch would say the same thing.  If he pushed you down he did it to protect you just like he was supposed to do."

 

Starsky shook his head wearily.  He had spent many worried hours in hospital waiting rooms but he never thought he would be there because his partner was shot with an arrow!  An arrow meant for him.  He resumed pacing. 

 

Dobey went to sit with the other two detectives.  Maybe he could get some less emotionally charged information from them.  Unfortunately, neither of them had seen what happened.  They were able to tell the captain that Starsky took out the guy that hit Hutch.

 

Dobey ran his hand across his face.  How many times had he been in this position with one or the other half of this partnership?  He settled in for what would be a long wait. 

 

Part 11

 

Hutch felt like he was floating.  The pain in his lower chest was a dim memory.  At first he was floating in darkness, then light began to creep into the vision.  He was back at the ball field.  Sitting on the dugout bench with Starsky's dad standing in front of him. 

 

"Hey, you're back," he said.

 

Mr. Starsky smiled at him.  "You remembered."

 

Hutch smiled back at his best friend's father.  "Is he okay?"

 

"Yes, you saved is life, Ken.  That arrow would have killed him"

 

Hutch was so relieved.  He had done well; his partner was safe.   He was always willing to die to protect his partner, but now he was wondering if this was it.

 

"Am I going to die?"

 

"I think you'll be okay.  He will, too."

 

Hutch smiled.  That was good.  He had a lot of things he wanted to say to Starsky before he died and he hadn't had the chance to say any of them yet.  He was glad he would have the chance. 

"I have to go now, Ken.  Keep up the good work, I'll be watching over both of you."

 

"Thanks, sir."  Hutch answered.  "Thanks for helping me save him.  If you hadn't come to me, I never would have known.  I didn't hear a thing before it happened.  Thank you."

 

Michael Starsky smiled at his son's best friend.  What more could he have hoped for in the man who looked after his son.  "Goodbye, Ken."

 

The vision faded and Hutch slid back into dreamless darkness.

 

Part 12

 

Hutch was in surgery for hours.  Dobey was ready to ask the Emergency Room nurses to find a doctor who would give Starsky a sedative when the doctor finally came out to tell them about Hutch.

 

"You gentlemen are here for Kenneth Hutchinson?" he asked.

 

Starsky rushed over to stand in front of the doctor.  "I'm Detective Starsky.  He's my partner, how is he?"

 

"I'm Dr. Beale.  I performed the surgery on your partner."  The doctor looked at Starsky's pale face with concern and said, "Let's sit down before you fall down, Detective.  You don't look well yourself." 

 

Starsky allowed the doctor to steer him toward a seat.  Babcock brought Starsky a cup of water from the cooler.  His hands were shaking so badly he spilled more than he drank.

 

The group of men gathered around Starsky as the doctor described Hutch's injuries and caught them up on his current status.  "The surgery went well and he is in guarded condition.  The arrow did quite a bit of damage – a broken rib, the right lung was punctured, and the arrow barely nicked his liver. The repairs will take a while to heal, but he should be fine.  He's going to have a chest tube in for several days while we make sure his collapsed lung completely re-expands.  I'm going to leave him on the ventilator for a while.  I'll wean him off of it within the next day or so if all goes well. We’ll be watching him closely for any signs of infection or additional bleeding."

 

Starsky was staring at the doctor with frightened intensity.  "Are you all right, Detective?" the doctor asked.  Starsky nodded and said,  "Please go on, Doc." 

 

Doctor Beale continued,  "He lost a lot of blood, but we've got that under control now.  Oh yes, I noted in his chart that he was here less than a week ago with a concussion.  I think this additional trauma on top of that recent head injury may keep him out of it for a while, but try not to worry.  We're keeping an eye on him and he should come around within a day or two.  All in all, he's pretty lucky.  If he were a couple of inches shorter, the arrow might have gone straight into his heart and killed him instantly."

 

Starsky looked like he was going to faint.  The doctor guided his head between his knees and signaled for one of the nurses to come over to help him.   The distraught man waved her off saying, "I'm okay, I'm okay, I just want to see Hutch."

 

"Not yet.  He's in Recovery now." 

 

"Oh, God, Doc.  You don't understand.  He was protecting me.  That arrow was aimed at

me.  Doc, I'm two inches shorter than Hutch!"  Dr. Beale looked at Starsky with compassion.  The man was feeling guilty because his partner was hurt instead of him.

 

Captain Dobey said, "Doctor, can I speak with you a minute."  Huggy nodded at Dobey and took his place next to Starsky.  He knelt in front of his friend and talked quietly to him.

 

The doctor walked down the hallway with Captain Dobey.  "Doc, can you please see to it that Detective Starsky has unlimited visitation with his partner?  They both need it.  Hutch will heal quicker and his partner will drag your staff over the edge with him if you don't do it."

 

The doctor smiled, "I understand.  These two have been in this hospital a few times.  They have a reputation.  I can't allow him in the Recovery Room, but he can go upstairs with his partner as soon as we are ready to put him in the SICU."

 

Captain Dobey nodded gratefully.  "We'll see to it that Starsky gets something to eat.  Is there somewhere he could rest a little while we wait for Hutchinson to come out of Recovery?"

 

"I have a couch in my office.  Why don't we get him to go in there and rest."

 

Starsky didn't want to eat or rest for a while.  When Dobey and the doctor explained they were going to have to give him a sedative and make him rest if he refused, he decided to go along with the plan after all.  The captain and Huggy took him down to the cafeteria for some food, and then he went up to the surgeon's office for a nap until Hutch was in the SICU.  Huggy waited outside the surgeon's office to make sure his friend stayed put for a couple of hours.

 

Now that they knew Hutch would be all right, Captain Dobey sent Simmons and Babcock home.  He and Huggy would take care of Starsky.  As they walked out together, Simmons turned to his partner and said, "That's the damnedest thing I've ever seen.  How did Hutch know? He couldn't have seen the guy and he couldn't have heard him."

 

Babcock shrugged, "Everyone says those two are psychic with each other.  Maybe everyone is right.  I'm just glad Hutch is going to be okay.  If he had died tonight, I hate to think of what it would have done to Starsky."

 

Part 13

 

Several hours later, Huggy walked Starsky into the SICU to be with his partner.  After depositing him in a chair next to Hutch's bed, Huggy went to find Captain Dobey.  He thought they probably should work out some kind of schedule between them so one of them could be nearby all the time until Hutch was moved into a regular room.  Starsky might need the support. 

 

As the doctor had explained to Starsky, his friend was still unconscious and on a ventilator.  Starsky got a chill looking at the familiar equipment beeping, dripping, clicking, and whirring.  Each sound seemed to drill its way into Starsky's guilt-consumed brain.   He took Hutch's hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze.  "I'm here, buddy.  You just rest.  I ain't goin' anywhere.  I'll be right here."

 

Starsky settled himself into the chair and began yet another long hospital vigil at his partner's side.  We're gettin' too old for this, Blondie.

 

As time dragged on, neither Captain Dobey nor Huggy could get Starsky to leave Hutch's side for more than enough time to go to the restroom.  He watched with growing tension as Hutch continued to be unresponsive.  No amount of reassurance from the doctor or the nursing staff seemed to get through to him.  Starsky was not going to leave Hutch or feel any better until he saw his partner's blue eyes.  Everyone hoped Starsky would relax a little after the doctor removed the ventilator and Hutch was breathing on his own.  He didn't.  After two days without sleeping or eating, the staff approached Dobey with their concerns that Starsky was making himself sick and would wind up in the hospital with his partner if they didn't snap him out of it soon.  Captain Dobey knew what he needed to do.  The time had come to call in the big guns.

 

Starsky was nodding off in his chair, still fighting sleep when he noticed Edith Dobey walking into the SICU.  She smiled at him.  Starsky stood on unsteady legs offering her his chair.  Edith put a hand on his shoulder and gently pushed him back into the chair.  "You need it worse than I do."

 

"Edith, thanks for coming to see Hutch."  Starsky said. 

 

"You're welcome, but I am really here to see you, Dave.  I want you to come with me out to the waiting area.  We need to talk."

 

"I'm sorry, I can't leave him.  What if he wakes up while I'm gone?"

 

Edith put her hand under Starsky's chin and locked her dark brown eyes onto his dark blue eyes.  "Dave, come with me," she said as if there could be no argument.  Starsky didn't dare protest when she used that serious tone of voice with him.  He patted Hutch on the hand and said, "I'll be right back, buddy.  I'm just going down the hall for a few minutes.  Don't go anywhere, huh?" 

 

Starsky allowed himself to be led down to the waiting area by Mrs. Dobey, her arm around his waist to steady him.  The nurses sighed their relief as they saw the strong woman successfully navigate their extra patient out of Hutch's room. 

 

"I can't stay out here long, Edith.  Hutch might need me," Starsky said pitifully.

 

"Dave, you need to listen to me.  Harold and Huggy tell me you haven't slept or eaten anything since you came up here with Hutch two days ago.  You can't go on this way."

 

Starsky opened his mouth to protest, but the look on Edith's face instantly caused him to change his mind. 

 

"You just hush up and listen to me, Dave.  What do you think Ken is going to say to you when he opens his eyes and catches you looking like death warmed over?  You are not going to do him any good if you collapse.  You know how Ken worries about you.   

Do you want to interfere with him getting better by causing him to worry?"

 

Starsky could only answer weakly, "No ma'am, but...."

 

"No, Dave.  You cannot sweet talk your way out of this one.  Let me explain to you how it is.  First, you are going eat the dinner I brought you.  Then, you are going down to the Residents' lounge to sleep in a real bed. When you wake up, you are going to take a nice hot shower.  Huggy brought you some clothes and everything you need to get yourself cleaned up and presentable.  Only then are you going to come back up here to sit with your partner."

 

"Aw, but Edith, " Starsky started. 

 

"Uh-uh, Dave.  You just say 'Yes, Edith,' and do as you are told.  If you refuse, you won't like the consequences.  I am going to stay with Ken. If you be a good boy and follow my orders, I promise to come and get you if he wakes up before you do.  Deal?"

 

Somehow, Starsky knew Edith would not make an empty threat.  He really didn't want to know what her consequence might be.   Figuring he had better accept her terms, he answered, "Deal."

 

Captain Dobey had been hiding out around the corner, listening to the master at work.  He knew if anyone could get through to Starsky, his wife could.   He appeared from his hiding place and told his wife he would take over from there.  As she went back to sit with Hutch, her husband escorted Starsky to the cafeteria to eat the meal his wife had prepared.  He would see to it that Starsky followed Edith's instructions to the letter.

 

Part 14

 

Full from Edith's beef stew, Starsky fell into bed and stayed out for ten hours.  Residents went in and out of the room and Starsky never stirred.  When he woke up, Starsky was disappointed that Edith hadn't come for him.  He couldn't believe he had slept so long and was worried that maybe Hutch was awake and they hadn't told him.  He rushed through his shower.  When he bolted into the hall on his way back up to the SICU, he ran straight into Huggy.  He smiled at his friend and said, "Oh, so were you assigned to keep an eye on me?"

 

"Yep.  Marshal Dillon told me to make sure you stayed where you belonged, Curly.  I just called up there a few minutes ago.  We'd better go up, Edith said Hutch looks like he might be waking up soon."

 

Huggy could barely keep up with Starsky.  Refreshed from his rest, Starsky ignored the elevators and bounded up the stairs instead, Huggy panting to keep pace.

 

"Slow down, amigo," Huggy called from a few stairs below Starsky.  "Blondie ain't goin' nowhere before you get there!"

 

Starsky ignored Huggy and continued his dash to Hutch's floor.  When he reached it, he burst through the doors and down the hall to where Hutch lay, nearly knocking over an orderly in the process.  He skidded to a stop next to Hutch's bed, startling Edith.  "Word travels fast!" she exclaimed with a smile.

 

Hutch was stirring, but his eyes had not opened.  Starsky took his hand again and spoke words of encouragement to his friend.  "Come on, Blintz, wake up now.  We've been waiting long enough.  Come on, Hutch."

 

Slowly, Hutch's eyes opened.  He blinked a few times, trying to focus.  When he saw Starsky's face he smiled.  He tried to speak, but nothing came out because his throat was so dry.  Edith went to tell the nurses that Hutch was awake and to see about getting him some ice chips or water. 

 

"Don't try to talk yet, buddy.  You're okay.  Do you know where you are?" 

 

Hutch nodded, but his eyes told Starsky that he did not know why he was there.  Edith arrived with the nurse and some water for Hutch to sip.  The nurse checked his vitals while Edith gave him a little water.  Hutch smiled his gratitude and whispered, "You okay, Starsk?"  Every breath Hutch took felt like fire in his lungs.

 

Starsky looked at his partner incredulously.  "Me?  Am I okay?  Yeah, I'm just fine, buddy.  You saw to that."

 

Hutch was relieved to hear he had done his job and protected his partner.  The nurse left to report to Hutch's doctor, but she stopped on her way out to admonish Starsky not to tire him too much or she'd toss him out on his ear.  Starsky was beginning to feel a little ganged up on by the women around him.

 

"Hutch, you rest now.  If I keep you talking, they're gonna try to throw me outta here and we can't have that."

 

"Don't go," Hutch said squeezing Starsky's hand. 

 

"Not a chance, buddy.  Sh.  Rest, I'll be here when you wake up again."

 

"Starsk?"

 

"Yeah?"

 

Hutch whispered, "I love you, buddy."  Hutch wanted to be sure he told his best friend that, just in case.

 

"I love you, too, now sleep." Starsky said with a smile as he patted Hutch on the hand.

Hutch relaxed and drifted off to sleep.

 

Part 15 -- Epilogue

 

Two weeks later, Starsky was sitting in the greenhouse at Venice Place with his mending partner.  The time had come for them to have a little chat about Hutch's actions at the warehouse.  Starsky hadn't wanted to push him or upset him until he was feeling a lot better.  He decided the distraction of playing a game of chess might help move the conversation along.  After he made his next move, he said, "So why did you push me down like that at the warehouse?"

 

Hutch sighed as he realized his partner was going to break his concentration again.  "More of Starsky's Law?  Talk a little, win a lot,"  he teased.

 

"Ha, ha, now answer my question."

 

He tried to dismiss the issue by saying, "Starsk, I was just doing my job protecting my partner."

 

"Oh, no you don't, Blondie.  You owe me an explanation.  You can't have heard that guy above us.  I didn't and I was closer.  How did you know to push me down and why the hell would you put yourself in harm's way like that?  You never heard of ducking?"

 

Hutch laughed at his partner.  "I'm sorry, Starsk, but do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds?  Especially coming from the man that refused to get down when faced with Gunther's assassins because his partner might be in danger."

 

Starsky looked shocked.  "That's not fair."

 

"Oh yeah, and why not?   It's true!"

 

Starsky conceded defeat. "Well, you got me on that one, partner.  I'm not kidding now, though.  How did you know?"

 

Hutch looked at his partner with eyes that seemed a million miles away.  Starsky could see he was trying to figure out how to explain it.   "Well, Starsk, I think it started that day I slid into home and got beaned by that enormous catcher.  I had a lot of time to think about it in the hospital.   I am not sure how to tell you this though."

 

Starsky was starting to worry a little.  "Just spit it out, Hutch. Whatever it is, we'll deal with it."

 

"Remember when you asked me about why I said something about your dad back that day?"  Starsky nodded.  "I finally remembered.  Starsk, I dreamt about your dad.  He came to me to warn me about something.  I didn't know what it was and I couldn't really remember until that night in the warehouse.  The message had something to do with the crates and danger from behind us."

 

Starsky remembered something then and said, "You know, you said something like 'Above and behind you' right before you shoved me to the ground.  I had forgotten that."

 

"Whatever the whole message was, I knew your dad was trying to tell me something important... something that could save your life.  When I saw that stack of crates at the warehouse, the dream came back to me and I just knew I had to do something fast.  I didn't have time to think or do anything but get you out of the way.  I did what I had to do, buddy."

 

Starsky was amazed.  "Hutch, the doc said if you had been a couple of inches shorter that arrow would have gotten you in the heart.  You'd have never made it out of that warehouse.  Do you know what that means, Hutch?"

 

Hutch just shook his head.  He did not know what his partner was implying.

 

"Buddy, I am two inches shorter than you.  If you hadn't moved me out of the way like that, I'd probably be dead right now.  You saved my life.  Again."  He reached over and put his hand on his partner's, his eyes conveying his gratitude.

 

Hutch was stunned.  "Starsk, do you think I just dreamt it all, or do you think your dad really...."

 

Starsky smiled.  "I don't know, Hutch.  Either way, I hope he is happy with the outcome.  I just wish you didn't have to get hurt in the process.  Work on that, will ya?  I promise never to ignore you when you tell me to get down again."

 

They both laughed.  Neither one of them would have ever imagined they could laugh about that.  Hutch closed his eyes and sent a silent prayer of thanks out to Starsky's dad.  I don't know if you can really hear me, but thanks for helping.  Thank you for trusting me with him.

 

When he opened his eyes, Starsky was giving him his best, "You okay?" look.  "I'm fine, Starsk.  Really fine," Hutch said.  He turned his eyes back to the chess game and made his move.

 

"Good thing you're fine, buddy."  Starsky said with a mischievous smile.  He made his next move and said, "Checkmate."

 

The End

 

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