© February 2002
Captain Dobey sighed wearily as he dropped his keys on the kitchen counter and shrugged out of his suit coat. The past few days had been some of the longest of his career. He draped the coat across a kitchen chair and headed for his den to lock up his service revolver. On the way to the den, he saw his youngest child hunched over the coffee table. He stopped and walked toward her. Rosie Dobey was sitting at the low table with construction paper and crayons strewn around her. She looked up and favored her dad with the smile that never failed to win him over, no matter what the circumstances.
“What have you got there, baby?” he asked Rosie as he walked up behind her.
“Hi, Daddy,” she said, turning her cheek up for him to give it a kiss. She held up the picture. “It’s for Uncle Hutch, do you like it?”
Rosie’s drawing was a colorful rendition of his two best detectives, sitting in Starsky’s car. The car was driving down the street and there were trees, birds, clouds, and flowers. A bright sun shone down on the car, with little multi-colored hearts in the sunbeams.
“I think it’s beautiful, Rosie. Hutch will like it.”
Rosie smiled at him, but her smile quickly faded and she looked sad. “Daddy?” she tentatively asked.
“What is it, honey? I promise you he’ll like it.”
“I know, Daddy, but... is Uncle Hutch really going to be okay?”
Hutch was in the hospital. Recovering from a plague that had nearly taken his life. Captain Dobey was sure they were going to lose him that last time he saw Hutch in the hospital before Callendar came in and, blessedly, survived Roper’s goons and their attempt to kill him in the hospital driveway. Dobey sighed and sat down on the couch behind Rosie. He reached for her waist and guided her up onto his lap.
“Yes, he’s going to be all right. Why are you so worried?” He didn’t know where the child found out that Hutch was so dangerously ill, but he wanted to calm her fears. Things were still pretty serious for his detective and he hoped he really would make it.
“I saw Uncle Starsky today,” she answered, tucking her chin.
Dobey had insisted that Starsky leave the hospital the morning after the serum was administered to Hutch. As soon as Hutch started to turn the corner, Dobey declared that if Starsky didn’t go get some sleep, he was going to have him thrown in lockup to force him into it. Under protest, and with the promise that the captain would call him if Hutch’s condition worsened, he left. Dobey thought he’d gone home. Many hours later, the captain called and asked Huggy to come and stay at the hospital so that he could go home for dinner and to see his family for what felt like the first time in several days. He didn’t want to call Starsky and risk waking him.
“When did you see him?” he asked the child. Rosie and her brother Cal both had a day home from school while their district’s teachers had a conference. She was there when the weary detective came knocking on the door at ten o’clock. A typical teen, Cal was upstairs sleeping when Starsky arrived.
At that moment, Edith walked into the living room and answered his question. “He’s here,” she said quietly.
“Here?” Dobey asked.
“Sleeping in the guest room. Rosie, why don’t you work on your picture while I talk to your father and finish dinner?”
“Okay, Mommy,” she answered, sliding off her father’s lap.
Before he joined his wife in the kitchen, Captain Dobey peeked in on the sleeping man in his guest room. Starsky’s blue sneakers lay on the floor beneath the bed where Edith had pulled them off and dropped them. His jacket and empty holster were in the chair. Edith had covered him with a quilt from the closet. Dobey softly closed the door.
“What happened?” he asked his wife as he crossed the kitchen and gave her a kiss.
“He showed up here at around ten, Harold. He was so tired, I was worried about him driving. I asked him to stay, but he said he’d rather go home. He agreed to drink a cup of coffee before he left.” Edith continued relating the story of how David Starsky came to be sleeping in their guest room.
“Thanks, Edith. I’m sorry, I...” Starsky paused and took a deep breath before he continued. His eyes closed and he shook off a shiver. “I just didn’t want to go home yet. Damn, this was close, Edith. I... I don’t know if I made it in time.”
Edith gave Starsky’s hand a squeeze and said, “Oh, try not to worry. Harold says Hutch is doing much better. He said his breathing is better and his temperature is down a whole degree already.”
Starsky smiled at her attempt to make him feel better. Edith Dobey was a good friend. “Yeah, but it’s still over 104. Cap said if I didn’t go home and sleep, he’d have me thrown in the clink. That’s the only reason I left.”
“How long has it been since you slept, Dave?” she asked with concern, beginning to wonder if coffee was a good idea after all.
Starsky fidgeted in his chair. “I don’t know. Two... no, maybe three days? Beats me. Feels like forever. I’m so wired still. Don’t know if I can, now.”
Rosie came into the kitchen and saw how distraught her friend was. She was scared and it took the adults a while to get her to stop crying and to understand that Hutch would be all right.
“Why don’t you go make him a nice drawing, sweetheart?” Starsky soothed. “He’ll like that and he can hang it on his refrigerator when he goes home. Look at your fridge. Your folks have plenty of nice art from you and Hutch doesn’t have any kids. He needs some, too. Sound good?”
Rosie agreed, happy to have something to do for Hutch, since the hospital wouldn’t allow her to visit and see for herself that her friend would be all right.
When Starsky was talked out and ready to go, he thanked Edith and got up to leave. He didn’t make it all the way to the back door before he collapsed.
“Rosie!” Edith called to her daughter. When the child reached the kitchen, she saw her mother trying to revive Starsky, who was lying on the floor.
“Go and get your brother,” Edith instructed.
“He came around pretty fast. Cal came down and helped me get him on his feet. We took him into the guest room and he just collapsed again, this time on the bed.”
“Why didn’t you call me?” Dobey asked, worry lacing his words.
“He’s just exhausted, Harold. After he’s slept as long has he needs to, we’ll feed him, and I’m sure he’ll go back to the hospital. Oh, I locked his gun in your safe in the den.” She put a plate of food in front of her husband, which he eyed with appreciation. “How was Ken when you left?”
“Holding his own. His fever is still higher than Dr. Kaufman wants, but she swears he’s over the worst of it. Huggy’s there until I can go back after dinner.”
“Hi, Cap,” a tired voice called from the doorway.
“Starsky,” Dobey said, rising and walking toward him. He took Starsky by the elbow and led him to a chair while Edith got another plate.
“I’m not hungry,” Starsky said.
“That may be, but you’re going to eat at least a little,” Edith said with a smile.
“Who’s with Hutch?” Starsky asked anxiously. “Is he okay?”
“Huggy. He’s doing fine. Are you okay?”
“Much better, thanks.” Despite his protest, Starsky began to eat. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was.
The Dobeys managed to get him to eat his meal before he left for the hospital. When he put Rosie’s drawing in Hutch’s weak, trembling hand, he got a broad smile from his sick friend.
“This is great, thanks,” Hutch said.
Starsky put a hand on Hutch’s forehead, still unhappy with the amount of heat pouring off of his friend. He had to admit it was less than before, and he sighed with gratitude. The oxygen Hutch was receiving was now coming through a nasal cannula, a big improvement from the tent they’d had to resort to earlier.
“You look tired,” Hutch croaked. “You okay?”
“I’m fine. Worried about you, but fine. Judith says your blood work looks better. Now, if we can just get your fever to break.” Hutch’s hair was tousled still, damp with sweat. He hoped that was a good sign as he gently used a cool compress on his friend’s hot face.
“They were threatening to pack me in ice. I guess they already did once, but I don’t remember.”
Hutch had been packed in ice when they couldn’t get his fever reduced enough to prevent brain damage. Starsky was glad he couldn’t remember that.
“Yep. ‘S probably a good thing you were unconscious. That looked pretty awful.”
They chatted quietly until Hutch could barely keep his eyes open any longer. He handed the drawing to Starsky and said, “Tell Rosie thanks for me, huh? I know just where I’m gonna hang that. My first piece of refrigerator art,” Hutch said with a chuckle. “Now I know I’m gonna be okay.”
As Hutch’s eyes closed in sleep, not unconsciousness, Starsky said one more silent prayer of thanks. He looked down at the cheerful drawing with its hearts, flowers, sunshine, and trees. Just what he needed.
“Rest, Blintz. I’ll be here when you wake up.” Starsky squeezed his sleeping partner’s hand and settled into the chair to wait.