Disclaimer: This story was written for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being made from it. No infringement on anyone’s copyright(s) is intended. This story is a follow on to Kerry OK's "I Loved My Friend." Part of that story used with her kind permission. This story is available at the Bay City Library at the page for KerryOK. My thanks go out to her for inspiring me to write this.
Starsky still carried Hutch's letter in his jacket pocket. He had read it many times. The paper was worn from the number of times he had held it. Somehow, his partner's words comforted him as much every time he read them as they had the day he died.
Well, buddy, if you are reading this letter, that means I died. And I know that you are feeling like the whole world has come to an end and you will never be able to endure the pain. I know this because I felt that way those few minutes that you were gone. I know what you are thinking. This is different. I'm not coming back, but, buddy, I promise I am still with you. You don't think I would let you ride around in that striped tomato all by yourself. Put your hand over your heart. Just do it. There you found me. You see, I am right there in your heart. Whenever you need me, you know where to find me. I will be with you always.
Now, Starsk, you have to be strong. You have more life to live. Live it to the fullest. We don't know how long we have. So live each day to the max. I did, buddy. I really did. I had a good life. I want you to find Ms. Wonderful, get married and have a couple of kids (name one after me). Keep being the best cop you can be. Take care of yourself and remember I am with you always, I told you where to find me. What I want is that when you do remember me, you remember me with a smile.
Well, bye, buddy. I'll be watching you, until we meet again.
I love you, partner,
Starsky folded the letter back up and put it in his pocket as he climbed out of the Torino.
Headed up the stairs at Venice Place, Starsky reached into the mailbox and retrieved a large stack of mail. He sorted through it. As usual, most of it was addressed to him and a few pieces were addressed to Ken Hutchinson. Starsky sighed, realizing he was going to have to send out another round of letters informing people and companies that his partner was gone. Hutch had died a little over a year ago, shot in the head during an arrest.
After Hutch died, Starsky had moved into Venice Place. Hutch had left it to him and he didn't want to be anywhere else. He had taken an indefinite leave of absence from the police department and still had no plans to return. Captain Dobey wanted him back, wanted to pair him with another partner. Starsky wanted no part of that. Being a cop was over for him if Hutch couldn't be with him. Besides, Hutch had seen to it that Starsky never had to work another day in his life. Starsky knew that Hutch's family was wealthy. He did not know that Hutch was well off in his own right. His grandfather had left him a sizable trust fund and he had invested wisely. Starsky hadn't even known that Hutch owned Venice Place. He always thought Hutch was renting.
Starsky still remembered the day he went to hear the reading of Hutch's will. He sat in stunned silence as the lawyer described the large sum of money Hutch had left him, the Venice Place building, and his life insurance. He had also left him another letter.
Dear Starsk -
I know you had no idea about how much money I had stashed away. I never told
you about it because I was planning to surprise you. If you are reading this, though, I am dead and my plans are different now.
The money was for our retirement. I had lots of things planned for us to do, but it's okay. I want you to have it now. I know you may not want to be a cop anymore. If not, please get a safer job. Go back to college or pursue your photography. You are so talented and you would love it. I always thought you'd be a great photojournalist.
I know you are hurting and you don't want to think about this now. Take some time. Be good to yourself and know that I'll always be watching over you. I'm waiting for you on the other side. Me and thee, buddy. Forever.
A year later, Starsky was still sad, but his grief was more manageable. He had started seeing his friends again. He also had started working on his photography. Though there were days when he was still overwhelmed by the loss of his best friend, working with the camera was helping.
Today's mail had a letter in it that Starsky stood and stared at in disbelief. The letter was from the local organ donor program. Hutch had donated his organs when he died. Starsky's legs suddenly felt like jelly. He stumbled out to the greenhouse and sat down in a chair, turning the letter over and over in his hands. The organ coordinator had told him that he might someday get letters from some of the recipients whose lives Hutch had saved. After a year, though, Starsky had given up hope that he ever would receive anything. He carefully opened the envelope and read the cover letter from the coordinator.
Dear Detective Starsky:
I know it has been a long time since Detective Hutchinson died and donated his organs. I hope you remember me, I was the coordinator who spoke with you that day. Detective Hutchinson's legal papers made you the person responsible for consent and you told me that day that you and your partner were each other's family.
I know I told you that sometimes organ recipients want to correspond with their donor's family members. Enclosed you will find a letter from the heart recipient. I hope it helps you to know what a wonderful, selfless thing you and your partner did as the last act of his life. Please do not hesitate to call me if I can offer any assistance to you.
Karen Johnson, R.N., C.P.T.C.
Starsky couldn't believe his eyes. The letter tucked inside the envelope came from the person in whose chest Hutch's heart was beating. He felt light-headed and tears were already sliding down his face. He took a deep breath and opened the letter.
Dear Donor Family:
My name is Mitch. Today is the anniversary of my heart transplant. I am sorry
it has taken me so long to write this letter. I did not know what to say. Today I am thinking of you and my donor. I want you to know what the gift you gave has meant to me and my family. I do not know anything about your loved one other than that he was a young man, but I want you to know about me.
I am 48 years old and I live in California. I have been married for 25 years. My wife and I have 3 children. When your loved one donated his heart, I was dying in an ICU. They did not expect me to live much longer. I had a condition called cardiomyopathy that led to heart failure. No other treatments had worked and the doctors said a transplant was my only hope. I want you to know what has happened in the past year that I never would have seen if your loved one had not donated his organs.
My 18-year-old son graduated from high school.
My 22-year-old daughter graduated from college.
My 23-year-old daughter got married a few weeks after my transplant. I was able to walk her down the aisle. She and her new husband have just given my wife and I our first grandchild. I was holding him in my arms a few minutes ago when I decided to write you this letter.
Words can never express our gratitude for what you and your loved one did. I know you must grieve over his loss, but please take some comfort in knowing that part of your loved one lives on inside of me. Every day I say a prayer of thanks to God, you, and your loved one. I try my best to deserve this gift by being a good husband, father, friend, and now grandfather. Maybe someday, if it could be arranged, we could meet. I would like that.
Thank you again for me, and for my family.
Starsky was crying in earnest now. He could not believe it. This man had Hutch's heart and it was still beating. He put his hand on his own heart and sobbed. You did the right thing, partner. This man has a life because of you.
The letter prompted Starsky to call the organ donor coordinator. He explained that Mitch wanted to meet him and that he was anxious for that to happen. The coordinator arranged the meeting between them. Mitch lived in Los Angeles.
When he walked into the conference room where the meeting was set up, Starsky was surprised to see a large group of people. At the center of the group stood a tall, blond man of about fifty. Starsky knew this had to be Mitch. He walked toward the group and stood in front of the man who was alive because of his partner's gift. The coordinator introduced them, but Starsky really didn't hear her. Mitch had tears welling up in his dark blue eyes. He pulled Starsky into a bear hug and cried on his shoulder. Starsky was surprised, but he returned the embrace. When he stood back, Mitch looked at him and wiped the tears from his cheeks.
"Mr. Starsky, I want you to meet my family." Mitch said. He introduced his wife and children, then his daughter put her baby in Starsky's arms. "Thank you Mr. Starsky. I would never have enjoyed all of this without you and your friend. "
They sat in that room and talked for a long time. Starsky told Mitch and his family about his partner. He told them how much they had loved each other and how much he missed Hutch. When he seemed talked out, Mitch put his hand out to Starsky. When Starsky gave him his hand, Mitch pulled it to his chest and laid it over his heart. Starsky could feel the heart beat, strong and steady. Mitch didn't say anything, but he and Starsky looked into each other's eyes for a long time.
"Thank you, Mitch. You have no idea how much this meeting has meant to me. I knew the decision was right, but seeing you here, alive because of Hutch makes me feel so much better," Starsky said. "I have a favor to ask you."
"Anything, just name it."
"I'd like to take some pictures of you and your family. Would that be okay? Hutch's mom wanted me to take them and send some to her. She and his dad didn't want to be here. They said it would upset them too much, but they were hoping you'd let me take the pictures." Mitch agreed and Starsky pulled out his camera equipment. After taking all the shots he wanted, Mitch's wife took a few of the two of them together. They agreed to stay in touch. Starsky drove home, his heart feeling lighter than it had in a year.
The next morning he developed the pictures. He was so glad Mitch had agreed. Starsky was beginning to feel like he might heal someday. He knew he'd never stop missing Hutch. Life was just not the same without him, but somehow knowing Mitch was out there made it a little easier.
He took the developed pictures out into the greenhouse and settled in the chair with a beer to select which shots to copy for Hutch's parents. He dropped his beer on the floor when he came to the pictures Mitch's wife had taken of the two of them together. Next to his shoulder in every picture, he could clearly see a white flash of light in the image. He raced back into the darkroom to see if the negatives were damaged. The negatives were fine; the image was really in the photographs. Oh, you were there, buddy. He knew it could just be a light leak in the camera, but that didn't matter. His heart was telling him it was Hutch. He had often felt Hutch's presence around him, especially out in the greenhouse. This wasn't the first time he had talked to his partner since he died.
"Well, partner, look what you did. You saved that guy's life. Did you see? Did you see the baby, his family? The last thing you did was save someone else's life." He put his closed fist over his heart and said, "I love you, Hutch." Remembering Hutch's wish, he said it with a smile. "I'm okay now, buddy. You just keep watching out for me and I'll be fine."
Starsky went inside to the desk. He pulled out some stationery and started to write. "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson ...." He hoped his letter would help them find the peace he had found.