Silent Partner (by Barbara)

Summary:    Hutch quits the police force much to Starsky’s surprise and utter disappointment. But, Hutch’s reasons go much deeper than Starsky ever imagined, taking the duo on a journey of past heartache.
Category:  Starsky & Hutch
Genre:  Crime
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  10,322


 

PART ONE

They’d just finished an eighteen-hour shift and Hutch was driving Starsky home. His shit-brown Ford LTD creaked and rattled along as it always had. It was like chalk on a blackboard to Starsky but he didn’t want to mention it yet again.

Hutch had been moody and distant for the last week and it had Starsky walking on eggshells. Usually when something was bothering his best friend, he’d talk it over with him. But not this time. The swarthy cop was worried.

“Wanna get somethin’ ta eat?” Starsky asked his partner with a forced grin.

“No thanks.”

“Wanna catch a movie, or somethin’?” He tried again.

“Na.”

“How about a beer? Wanna grab a beer somewhere… Huggy’s maybe?”

“I don’t think so, Starsk.”

“Everything okay with you?”

“Yep.”

“WHAT IS THIS, God damn it?” Starsky barked finally running out of patience. “No, na, yep. I feel like I’m talking to my Aunt Sophie’s Cocker Spaniel for Christ’s sake. Whatsa matter with you?”

“Listen Starsk.”

“What?” He sounded exasperated.

“I’ve been meaning to… ah, oh boy.”

“What? What is it?” Starsky probed.

“I need to talk to you about something.” Hutch finally stated squarely.

“I figured something’s been on your mind.”

“Ummm, it’s not that easy.”

“Hey. You can tell me anything – you know that. I know something’s wrong Hutch. You haven’t been yourself for days. Whatsa matter? You’re not sick or anything are you?”

Hutch chuckled. If only it were as simple as that. Even telling Starsky that he had a disease would be easier than telling him what he had to say. At least a disease could be treated. He began again, anxiously.

“Listen Dave.”

“DAVE! Since when do you call me Dave? As a matter of fact, I don’t think you’ve ever called me Dave…. oh shit, this is bad. You are sick, aren’t you?”

“No, no… it’s nothing like that.”

“Tell me already will ya! What is it?”

“This is really hard.” Hutch sputtered.

Hutch let out a large lung full of air and then breathed in another as if to rummage up courage to speak. He felt nauseous.

“I’ve… I’ve decided to leave the department.” He finally blurted.

“You mean you don’t want to be in homicide?”

“No. I mean the force. I don’t want to be a cop anymore.”

“What?” Starsky said flabbergasted. He hesitated a moment as if giving himself time to digest Hutch’s announcement. He felt as if he’d been punched in the chest. He felt winded. “But, why?”

Hutch seemed to run out of words. He focused on the road ahead afraid to make eye contact with the man he’d shared the last eight years with. He didn’t want to let him down. That would be something he couldn’t live with.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.” Hutch continued. “It’s nothing personal.”

“Nothing personal! Are you kidding me? You’re quitting after all the years we put in together and you say it’s nothing personal! Of course it’s personal.” Starsky reamed. “This just doesn’t affect you, you know!”

“I KNOW!” Hutch professed. “Why do you think this has been so hard for me?” He hesitated to ground himself before speaking again. “It isn’t personal though, Starsk. It really isn’t.”

“Then why Hutch? Why?”

Starsky positioned himself in the passenger seat placing his left hand on Hutch’s headrest and his right hand on the dash. He seemed to brace himself for what was to come next. He was upset but wanted to give his cohort the benefit of the doubt. He waited for him to answer. He stared at Hutch trying to ward off shock – trying to understand. His respiratory system was in over drive, but he consciously made an effort to keep it in check. Hutch pulled over and shifted his wreck into park. He finally turned to Starsky to confess.

“Because…”

“Because why?”

“Because I can’t do it anymore! That’s why!”

“Do what?”

“I can’t do this job anymore!” Hutch shouted his eyes filling with tears. “I can’t take the violence and the filth. I can’t take the scum – the rape, the murder. I can’t take anymore pain. I’ve been through enough. It’s over.”

“Hutch. This is what we do. And we’re good at it.” Starsky stated his hands starting to tremble and his voice quivering. He took several deliberate breaths to try to calm himself. He blinked away tears as well. Tears of anger and panic. “Think about all the people we’ve helped, all the creeps we’ve gotten off the streets…”

“Yeah, and all the innocent people we’ve used and all the men we’ve shot and all the…”

“Wait a minute! Wait just one damn minute here!  Are you saying that you think we’ve been wasting our time out here? You think all the work we’ve done and all the relationships we’ve made have all been for nothing?”

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore Starsky. I’ve given you my reasons and I’ve made up my mind and I’m sorry.”

“Is that all you can say? You’re sorry?”

“I’ve already talked to Dobey about it and he’s started working on getting you a new…”

“EXCUSE ME?”

It was as if Hutch had stabbed his partner in the gut. Starsky scowled and bit his lip so hard he almost broke through it. The hurt he felt went right to the bone. He shook so hard with fiery Hutch had to look away.

“You talked to Dobey about this before you even mentioned anything to me?”

“Starsky, I…”

“Fuck you… KEN!” He spat as he got out of the car abruptly. He slammed the door venting his rage and began to walk away from the car without looking back.

“Starsk!” Hutch yelled out the open window. “STARSKY!”

But, he’d turned the corner and out of sight. Hutch threw his head back and closed his eyes tightly releasing a single teardrop. It slid down his face into the corner of his mouth. Hutch tasted the salt before he sniffed loudly and wiped his face vigorously with both hands. He took several moments to compose himself, then started the engine and drove home alone.

*****

PART TWO – EIGHT DAYS LATER

Starsky had not spoken to Hutch since he’d made his tumultuous announcement the week before. He’d taken a leave of absence and fallen into a deep depression. Questions lingered. He was having trouble dealing with the fact that his partnership had ended so unexpectedly. He felt betrayed and abandoned – lost.

He’d tried to contact Hutch to further discuss the issue and even dropped by his Venice Place apartment, but he was never there. As a matter of fact, it looked like he’d moved out.

This evening he’d gotten an unexpected call from Captain Dobey to meet him at County General. When Starsky arrived, he barreled through the sliding doors of the emergency ward like a raging bull. He looked dangerous. He looked like he hadn’t showered or shaved in days. Quite frankly, he was a mess – seemingly, a changed man.

“Where is he?” He roared.

“Where is who, sir?” The receptionist asked.

“Ken Hutchinson?”

“If you’ll give me a moment, I’ll look it up for you.” She replied a little wary of him.

“Starsky!” Dobey called from the waiting room of the emergency ward.

He put down his magazine and approached the detective. The burley captain was dressed casually, like he’d been called away from a family picnic.
“What the hell is going on?”

“Come with me.”

“Where’s Hutch? What happened?”

“Just come with me, Starsky.”

Frustrated, angry and confused he followed the large black man to the elevator and rode it up to the third floor where the Intensive Care Unit was. When the doors opened Starsky reluctantly stepped out and continued to follow Dobey down the maze of beds. The unit was dimly lit and seemed more like a cave then a place for people to recover. The beeping and ticking of medical equipment distracted him, and as he got closer to Hutch his heart began to stampede in his chest. Apprehension waved through him and he suddenly felt seasick. They turned a corner to a private area that held one gurney. A uniformed police officer stood guard. The drape was pulled around the bed and Dobey stopped in front of it.

“He’s in there.” He said softly.

“What happened? Will somebody please tell me what the hell happened?” Starsky blared loud enough for several health care workers to take notice. They chose to ignore the outburst and continued going about their business.

“He was found in a vacant parking lot this morning. He’s in pretty bad shape.”

“This morning? Jesus, Captain… it’s nine thirty at night. Why wasn’t I contacted earlier?”

“Just go and see him and I’ll explain everything later.”

Starsky took Dobey’s advice and cautiously separated the curtain that hid Hutch from view. He was not prepared for what he saw. He stood at the foot of his partner’s bed and looked around at all the equipment that was attached to him.

Starsky felt like he’d had the wind knocked out of him. He gasped for the stale air that so typified places like this. It was nauseating.
Before he could approach Hutch to try and make contact, a doctor appeared. Dobey was with him.

“Are you his family?”

“Yes.” Starsky said firmly. “I am as close as you’re going to get.”

“We’ve got a sick man on our hands here.” The physician sighed casually as he glanced over Hutch’s chart shaking his head.

“Will somebody please tell me what happened?” Starsky asked yet again, his teeth clenched and his patience wearing thin.

“He’s had the snot kicked out of him. Simple as that.” The doctor replied nonchalantly.

“Simple as that, huh.” Starsky seethed.

He dove at the man and grabbed him by the collar of his scrubs. His stethoscope went flying. The doctor dropped Hutch’s chart and it clattered on the tile floor creating yet another disturbance. Dobey held Starsky back.

“Sorry.” The intern apologized. “I’m sorry.”

“You should be. We’re talking about my partner here not a pet store turtle for God’s sake. Now cut the bullshit and give me the damage.”

Once a semblance of calm was restored, the doctor bent over to pick up the clipboard and when he straightened up he stepped back from the enraged cop. Dobey glared at the detective as if begging him to behave. The captain stayed on guard, ready for Starsky to do just about anything. He knew he was fragile and at this point, it wouldn’t take much to set him off. Starsky was a ticking time bomb. The doctor began to read Hutch’s chart like a grocery list.

“Fractured skull, broken right hand and forearm, broken nose, rib fractures, internal bleeding, superficial cuts and bruises.”

“And…” Starsky queried.

“And what?”

“And, is he going to pull through? Is he going to be alright?”

“Well, umm, I don’t know, sir.” The doctor took a deep breath and swallowed deliberately, fearful that Starsky might lunge at him again.

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

“Easy Dave.” Dobey urged quietly.

“He’s just out of surgery. We stopped the hemorrhaging and set the bones. The head injury is our biggest concern. Everything else will heal in time barring any unforeseen problems or infection. We have an MRI scheduled in the morning. We’ll know if there is any brain damage after the results of that come in.”

“And when will that be?”

“When will what be?”

“The results.” Starsky hissed impatiently. “When will we know the results?”

“Tomorrow afternoon or evening at the latest.”

The detective seemed satisfied with that and the doctor made his hasty escape. Starsky turned to face Hutch again and moved up to the top of the bed. He bent over his partner and placed his palm on Hutch’s forehead. The blonde detective seemed to acknowledge his partner’s touch with a slight wince. The bandages that seemed to hold his head together disguised any sign of fever.

Dobey left the enclosure to give space. Starsky sat on the chrome, framed chair that was beside the bed. He plunked himself in it and leaned his forearms on the mattress. He rested his chin on the backs of his hands and stared at Hutch. He was confused by his feelings – they were mixed. He was still mad as hell at him but he couldn’t help but feel concern. No matter how angry one got with the other, it couldn’t detract from the fact that the two men were closer then brothers and always would be no matter what.

This was more than a random act of violence against Hutch. This was no mugging Starsky pondered. There was more to this story – much more. He whispered encouragement into Hutch’s ear and leaned back in the chair without taking his eyes off him. He’d spend the next several hours without moving a muscle. For the first time in years Starsky actually prayed.

Hutch’s rhythmic breathing and the monitor blip echoed into the wee hours of the morning. Finally Starsky rose from the chair and placed his hand squarely on Hutch’s chest like a faith healer.

“I’ll be right back.” He murmured as he left Hutch’s side to confront Captain Dobey and the explanation he so desperately sot.

*****

PART THREE

Captain Dobey had nodded off in the ICU waiting room. He was the only one in there. It was a comfortable place for family and friends to congregate between vigils. There was an ample supply of coffee and a tray that held an array of plain biscuits and cookies. It was a gallant attempt at comfort and one that many appreciated. The table that stood in between the two sofas was strewn with fairly recent magazines. They were well used, but at least they were up-to-date and Dobey had one laid across his broad chest along with a smattering of cookie crumbs. He snored softly.

Starsky wearily sauntered into the room and saw Dobey. He poured himself a cup of coffee and walked over to the couch opposite the captain. He threw himself into the corner of it like a sulking teenager and took a sip – scrunching his face in anticipation of its heat. He gently tapped Dobey’s shoe to awaken him.

“Any change?” He asked Starsky as he straightened up and stretched.

“No.”

“How’s the coffee?”

“Knock off the small talk captain. What’s going on? Who did this?”

“Okay, okay.” Dobey took a few moments to focus before he began the story. “This is going to hurt so…”

“Hurt!” Starsky blasted. “Don’t give me that crap. I want answers and I want them now God damn it!”

“Hutch was recruited.” The captain said bluntly after wiping the sleep from his eyes.

“Recruited?”

“By the FBI… to go undercover.”

“Why Hutch?”

“He volunteered.”

“You just said he was recruited.” Starsky argued as he forced himself to sit up straight.

“Both you and Hutch are on the recruitment lists for the FBI, but when Hutch realized what the assignment was, he volunteered.”

“So what was the assignment?”

“To infiltrate the Rossini family here in LA.”

“What for?”

“To prevent an all out mob war.”

Starsky was deeply into the conversation now. He was more than intrigued. He leaned forward; his leather jacket squeaking against the vinyl covered couch. He waited for his superior to explain.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this Dave… but… Rosie Malone was murdered a month and a half ago in Mexico.”

“What?” Starsky gasped – his eyes began to flood. He blinked rapidly, in an effort to absorb what he had just heard.

“They want Frank Malone.” Dobey continued. “He left behind a lot of unattended business and they killed Rosie to bring him out of hiding. He left a lot of people high and dry when he went into the protection program and you don’t leave these people high and dry… if you know what I mean.”

Starsky nodded his understanding but could not speak.

“It worked. They managed to weed him out and he came back to LA to avenge Rosie’s death. Hutch took the assignment because he knew if you heard about it, you’d steam roll into it and get hurt. He did it for you Dave. He agonized over it for weeks until he had to give them an answer. It could have taken up to two years to get the job done so he had no choice but to tell you he had to quit. He couldn’t think of any other way and neither could I.”

Starsky stood and began to pace like a caged animal. He seemed to search the linoleum for solace. He couldn’t help but let his emotions erupt. Dobey watched him without uttering another word. He waited for Starsky to stew over the news.

“So what went wrong?” The detective finally asked after halting abruptly in the middle of the room.

“That is something we’ll have to ask Hutch when he wakes up. We’re pretty sure he wasn’t meant to survive this and when they find out he’s still alive his life won’t be worth shit. He’ll have to be in protective custody indefinitely.”

“I’ll take care of it captain.”

“What’s that suppose to mean? You stay out of it until further notice. Is that understood?”

The distressed detective did not acknowledge Dobey’s order.

“Did you hear what I said Starsky? I’m warning you, this is over your head – you stay close to Hutch if you want to, but if I so much as hear you mention this case again, I’ll have your badge!”

Starsky took his place in the corner of the sofa again. He gave no recognition to Dobey’s threat. Frankly, he didn’t care. The last two weeks were like a rodeo bull ride and now all he felt was fatigue. It was like his brain couldn’t compute anymore and it left Starsky in a daze. He shaded his eyes with his hand and sat motionless.

“I’m going home to bed.” Dobey announced as he pushed himself into a standing position. “I’ll be back in a couple hours. You should go home too. There’s nothing you can do here anyway.”

“I’m staying.” Starsky said adamantly.

“I figured you would but you can’t blame me for trying.” He shuffled toward the exit. “You mind what I said. This case is off limits… Starsky – do you hear me?”

“Yessss…” The detective replied with ire. “I hear you.”

*****

PART FOUR

He was in a good place. He turned his head slightly and her face brushed against his. She kissed him gently on his lower lip then moved down to his neck and chest. The sensation of her warm breath against his skin was shear ecstasy. She was so soft and she smelled so good. Rosie’s flaxen hair fell forward as she pulled herself closer to Starsky. He held her tightly and cupped her delicate chin in his palm. They locked eyes – blue on blue. She took his hand in hers and squeezed, but as she did blood oozed from their fists like a sponge and the image jolted Starsky awake. He gasped for breath as if he were drowning in his nightmare. His eyes darted around the room in an attempt to orient himself.

He was sitting in the same corner of the couch where the discussion with Dobey had occurred hours before. After glancing at his watch he stood and made his way back to Hutch’s side. The police officer stopped him and Starsky had to flash his badge to gain entry. He plunked himself in the chair beside his friend still reeling from all that had happened.

“Starsk?” Hutch whispered with a dry voice.

“Hey. You’re awake.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay Hutch. You go back to sleep.”

“Rosie.”

“Dobey told me all about it, now go back to sleep, okay.”

“I’m sorry, Starsk.” Hutch struggled to make himself heard.

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow.”

“I need some water.”

“Sure. I’ll get you some.”

Starsky reached over and grabbed the jug that held a mound of ice chips. He shoved a few into Hutch’s mouth and then wiped his wet fingers on the sheets.

“Dar you go.” He said cheerfully.

“Did you miss me?” Hutch joked through the haze of medication.

“Me? No, but you’ve got some pretty upset plants at home. They’ve been asking about you.”

“Don’t make me laugh…” Hutch said as he chuckled and grimaced at the same time, “it hurts when I laugh.”

“Then don’t laugh.”

Starsky too, let loose with his trademark beaming smile. It was a Cheshire Cat grin that was as wide and bright as the Milky Way. Hutch was glad to see it again.

“I think I’m going back to sleep now Starsk… I’m so tired. You should go home, you look awful.” Hutch spoke wearily.

“Don’t worry about me.”

“Somebody has to.”

“Hutch?”

“Yeah?”

“Never mind. Go to sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.”

As Starsky rose to leave he glanced back at his partner. He seemed to rest comfortably now and he knew that Hutch would indeed be fine – in time. He breathed a sigh of relief. As he turned to exit he bumped into a nurse. After stepping aside he watched her dutifully take Hutch’s blood pressure and his temperature and inject him with his meds. She puttered around his friend who was oblivious to her attention. Finally calling it a night, he semi-saluted the sentry and left the ICU.

He and Hutch had a lot to discuss Starsky mulled as he rode the elevator to the hospital lobby. They had some mending to do. But most of all, they had a partnership to resume and some unfinished business to attend to. Starsky shuffled down the stairs to the parking garage. He slipped into his Torino as if into a womb and drove home alone.

*****

PART FIVE

A recently recruited soldier for the Rossini family had fingered Hutch only days into his assignment. He had arrested the man several years before and that was that. The gig was up. Hutch paid the price and barely escaped within an inch of his life. It was an oversight on the part of his attackers. Always checking to make sure your mark was dead was the first rule of underworld terrorism. Or maybe killing a cop was the stickling point for them. Hutch would never know. He just felt lucky that he hadn’t been fitted with cement shoes.

He had spent the remainder of the week in the hospital and the last two weeks at an apartment Starsky had rented. It was not safe for either man to go home yet.

The police department released a statement to the press indicating that an undercover officer had been killed and that the mob was probably responsible.

They hoped it would satisfy whoever laid out Hutch and prove to them that he was indeed dead.

Hutch’s recuperation was coming along. He was used to the cast on his arm although it itched like a hundred mosquito bites. The pain in his stomach and rib cage were waning too. Breathing was still a little tough, even though the packing in his nose had been removed. But, he was still plaqued by intense headaches. He was convinced they would fade. They were his biggest obstacles and he kept them secret from Starsky. Hutch decided to ignore them for now. The blonde detective still had a ways to go before he was ready for active duty again, but he was bored and refused to give in to his recuperating body.

Starsky remained on temporary leave to baby-sit his partner. He’d not let Hutch out of his sight in over three and a half weeks. He’d lost him once and didn’t intend for it to ever happen again. They spent their day’s playing cards and checkers. They watched television. Hutch plucked his guitar even though the cast made it difficult and Starsky caught up on several books he’d been putting off reading. They were both suffering from cabin fever but knew it couldn’t be helped. They took advantage of the down time to mend fences.

Starsky had not asked about Rosie and it had Hutch somewhat concerned. It was like he had erased the last month from his mind. Starsky’s concern for Hutch was purely for his physical wellbeing but Hutch worried about Starsky’s psyche and just how he was coping with Rosie’s death. He decided to be patient. When Starsky was ready to talk he would, but Hutch was not going to push it.

“How’s your head?” Starsky asked as he entered the living room from making a pit stop. He wandered over to the kitchen to make some coffee.

“Fine. Headaches are Dobey’s job aren’t they?”

“Ha! I hear ya.” Starsky chortled. “I hate to tell you this Hutch, but you look like HR PuffinStuff with those two black eyes.”

“Naturally.” Hutch smirked at Starsky’s jab. “I guess it’s better then looking like Witchie Poo, huh?”

“Yeah. Or Freddie the Flute.”

The two men chuckled as Hutch joined Starsky at the kitchen table where he’d picked up the morning paper to peruse. They were still a bit uneasy around each other. It would take some time for the trust to return.

“Coffee?” The curly-haired cop offered.

“Sure. I’ll grab the pot.”

Hutch poured two cups and retook his seat.

“Honey… THIS – is – GREAT coffee!” He held the cup out in front of him at eye level and pointed to it. He smiled brightly.

Starsky glanced over the top of the paper to give Hutch a droll look and a roll of the eyes before burying his nose back into the newsprint.

“When do you think we can blow this pop stand Starsk? I miss my own bed. We should think about getting back to work too, don’t you think?”

“You sure you’re feeling up to it?”

“Sure I’m sure. Wouldn’t say so if I wasn’t.” Hutch announced positively as he stood to put two slices of bread in the toaster.

“Doctor says you should take it easy for at least another few weeks. A fractured skull is nothing to take lightly you know.”

“Okay… mom.”

“Don’t give me that. The doctor said…”

“Ah. What does he know?” Hutch dismissed. “Besides, who says I can’t take it easy at work? Hell, I can jockey a desk for awhile, can’t I.”

“Sure you can.” Starsky said suspiciously. “That would last until lunch.”

Hutch smiled wickedly.

“I’m kind of enjoying this vacation.” Starsky continued. “I mean, when was the last time we took a vacation?”

“I think it was up at the lake… Dobey’s cabin.”

“Oh yeah.” The curly-haired cop spoke as if he’d just sucked a lemon. “I try not to think about that.”

“Oh come on Starsk. If you’d just let yourself have fun you would.”

“I hope you’re not suggesting we do dat again.”

“Nope. Not with a woods virgin like you.”

“Good.” Starsky nodded gratefully. “Hey, you are feeling better. This is the first day you’ve seemed like yourself.”

“Yeah. I’m feeling good. Slept well. I could finally breathe. It’s hard to sleep when you can’t breathe.”

“Breathing is good.” Starsky nodded as if it were optional instead of essential.

The two men sat quietly for a moment. Hutch buttered and jellied his toast and Starsky continued to read. The pair resembled an old retired couple. After a lengthy bout of silence, Starsky carefully folded his paper and placed it on the table. He cleared his this throat and twitched his neck. He looked at Hutch who sat staring into space as if concentrating on chewing. Starsky put his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his folded hands.

“How did Rosie die?” He asked casually.

“Ah Starsk.” Hutch said sympathetically – taken somewhat off guard.

Finally, out of the blue, Starsky asked the question that hung like a black cloud over both of them since Hutch was released from the hospital. He crunched into his toast and wiped his mouth with his napkin as if stalling for time.

“You don’t want to know that.” He said after he’d swallowed his bite.

“I don’t want to know Hutch… I have to know.”

The two men eyed one another – Starsky wanting answers and Hutch reluctant to give them.

“Hutch.” Starsky reiterated. “How… did Rosie die?”

The platinum cop contemplated for a moment. He wasn’t sure if Starsky was in the right frame of mind to hear what he had to say. Again he thought about not answering but he knew Starsky would never let it go. He hesitated.

“Word has it…” He finally said, ”she was drowned.”

Starsky let his head collapse to the table onto the backs of his hands. Hutch sat back in his chair regretfully. He lowered his head afraid to raise it to see what Starsky would do next. He took a peek from under his brow and winced. It seemed like an eternity for Starsky to assimilate Hutch’s affirmation but then he suddenly bolted from his chair as if he’d been ejected from it. Again Starsky paced, combing his sable hair with his fingers – pulling it back from his forehead. Hutch waited for the storm in his partner’s head to calm.

“Do you know who did it?” Starsky asked still striding across the hardwood.

“No.” Hutch simply replied.

He got up and approached his friend. He stopped Starsky mid step and put his arm around his shoulder like a coach would with his little league player.

“That was part of the assignment – to find out just who did murder Rosie. I didn’t do a very good job did I. I’m sorry about the whole thing Starsk.”

“You must have heard something?” Starsky said desperately.

“You know how these guys work. It could be any number of soldiers. A Capo makes a call and it’s done. No names.”

“This is so hard.” Starsky confessed.

“I know. Come on and sit down.”

Hutch guided his partner to the couch. Each man took opposite corners.

“Why?” Starsky finally implored – his face riddled with grief.

“They used Rosie to get to Frank. You know that.”

“But, she was just an innocent bystander. She never got involved in her father’s business.”

“They couldn’t give a shit about that. They needed to get to Frank and Rosie was their ticket.”

“But…”

“No buts Starsk. Rosie’s gone and you’re going to have to come to terms with it. I know what you’re going through. I went through the same thing with Gillian.”

“But, you got to face Grossman. You got to send that bastard to prison. Somebody’s got to pay for killing Rosie. I can’t do a damned thing and I don’t think I can deal with that Hutch.”

“Well, you’re going to have to find a way old buddy.”

Starsky squeezed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. He was distraught but he knew Hutch was right. He rubbed his brow vigorously until his forehead turned red. Hutch placed a reassuring hand on his partner’s shoulder and bowed his head like people do at wakes. He knew Starsky was in pain and it would take a long time to heal.

“Listen.” Hutch stated gently changing the subject. “We’ve been sitting around here for three weeks now. I’m as bored as a teenager in history class. Let’s go back to work. Get your mind off things.”

“Dobey says it’s not safe yet.”

“Will it ever be safe Starsk?” Hutch acclaimed his eyes wide open as if begging the question. “Are we just going to hide ourselves away forever?”

“No.” Came a quiet response.

“Let’s get on with it then. Come on… go get cleaned up. Go on… go ahead.” Hutch encouraged.

Starsky lazily rose from the couch and shuffled to the bathroom. But before he passed through the door he turned to say something.

“Hutch?”

“Yeah?”

“I never thanked you for… well, you know.”

“Don’t mention it. You’d do the same for me… you have done the same for me.”

They both grinned soulfully and Starsky went into the bathroom and closed the door. When his partner was out of sight, Hutch let out a massive sigh from his ballooned cheeks. It would be a tough road ahead, but he was willing to take it. He just wasn’t sure if Starsky could.

*****

PART SIX – TWO MONTHS LATER

The boys got back into the swing of things without incident. They cruised their usual beat but business was slow; a shoplifter here a pimp there. The collars were beneath homicide detectives of their caliber but they were just glad to be back to work.

Starsky had not mentioned the Rossini case or Rosie since that day back in the rented apartment several months ago. He seemed to put it behind him and his partnership had returned to normal.

But, Starsky’s brave face did not fool Hutch. He knew his friend too well. The fact that Starsky could not avenge Rosie’s death gnawed at him. Deep down, Rosie’s murder festered in Starsky like an abscess and Hutch laid in wait for it to surface. He was sure it would eventually and he would be ready.

“Wanna get somethin’ ta eat?” Starsky asked his partner cheerfully, taking his eyes off the road momentarily.

“Yeah. Sounds good. There’s nothing going on out here anyway. Let’s call it a day.”

Hutch stretched and exhaled laboriously signifying that indeed the workday was over, then grabbed the radio hand piece. “This is Zebra three. We’re signing off.”

“Copy that Zebra three. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” The saucy female voice warned with a depraved tone.

“Don’t worry… I’m with Starsky.” Hutch chuckled. “See you tomorrow. Out.”

“What’s dat supposed to mean?”

“Just means I couldn’t get into trouble when you’re with me. That’s all.”

“Oh. I think.” Starsky wasn’t sure if he’d been insulted or complimented.

Then he changed mental gears faster then the Torino uses gas.

“Hey!”

“What.” Hutch sounded disinterested in Starsky’s on-coming brainstorm.

“Why don’t we go back to my place and order a pizza. They’re playin’ ‘Psycho’ on TV tonight. I love that movie.”

“You know what, Starsk?”

“Hum?”

“That’s disgusting.”

“Why?” He sounded confused.

“You’d think with all the crap we wade through day-after-day you’d love a more… I don’t know… a more wholesome movie.”

“Like what for instance? Bambi? What’s your favourite movie? This I gotta hear.”

“At the moment, ’Deliverance’ is my favourite movie.” Hutch raised his index finger in unison with his eyebrows knowing full well that his partner would jump all over him for his choice. “But that’s beside the point.”

“How is it beside the point? ‘Deliverance’ is way more sick then ‘Psycho’.”

“I like the music. I’m trying to learn ‘Dueling Banjo’s’.”

“But, you play guitar.”

“I can play it on guitar.”

“How can you play ‘Dueling BANJO’S’ on guitar?”

“Starsky.”

“What?”

“You should know by now that I can do just about anything if I put my mind to it.”

“Oh yeah… how could I forget. Come on. Let’s get a pizza and watch ‘Psyco’. I don’t want to watch it all by myself.”

“Are you frightened little boy?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Alright then. If that’s what you want to do. Let’s get a pizza and watch ‘Psycho’. What the hell.” Hutch concluded.

“There’s no music in “Psycho” right?”

“Just that shrieking noise in the shower.”

“You’re not planning on learning that on the guitar, are you?”

They rode quietly for several moments. The breeze from the open car windows swirled around the front seat like a mini tornado. The air was heavy and the smog was brutal. Hutch rubbed his forehead and then grabbed the back of his neck and massaged it roughly.

“You’ve been having some pretty bad headaches lately, haven’t you?”

“Ah. They’re nothing. Don’t worry about it. They pass.”

“Hutch. You’ve gotta get’em checked out. Remember what she said?”

“Stop being such a mother hen will ya. I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine! I saw you in the men’s room yesterday. You could barely straighten up.”

“That was from that lunch at the Taco Palace you made me eat yesterday.”

“It wasn’t the Taco Palace it was the Taco Terrace.”

“Palace. Terrace. Whatever…the food was terrible.”

“All you had was a salad and a glass of water so don’t give me that and don’t try to change the subject.”

“Subject? What subject?”

“Hutch.” Starsky said sternly.

“Okay. Okay. I’ll see the doctor.”

“Good. Now, what do you want on your pizza?”

*****

Norman Bates had not yet revealed his secret and the two men watched the movie intently as if they had never seen it before. They sipped their beer absentmindedly, totally engrossed in the story. The pizza was mostly gone except for the obligitory single slice that always remained in the box.

There was a knock at the door and it spooked Starsky out of his seat. He held his heart comically.

“That scared the shit out of me.”

“The movie or the knocking?” Hutch asked after laughing at his partner’s reaction.

“Both… I wonder who that could be?” He glanced at his watch. “It’s almost ten-thirty.”

“There’s an easy way to find out.”

“Huh?”

“Answer it.”

“Oh. Yeah… fine idea Ollie.”

Starsky swaggered to the door still clutching his chest. It gave Hutch the chance to go to the washroom and search for some aspirin. He’d been trying to disguise a wicked headache all evening. He didn’t want to mention it to Starsky because he would worry and give him the doctor speech again.
When Hutch closed the door behind him and approached the sink, a shooting pain ricocheted in his head like a stray bullet. It dropped him to one knee. The pressure was so intense he thought he might pass out.

Hutch managed to will power his way through the agony and pulled himself up using the sink as a crutch. He flipped the toilet seat down and sat on it. Leaning his forearms on the edge of the basin he turned on the cold water tap.

He cupped the water with his hands and washed his face. Breathing heavily, Hutch waited it out and hoped that Starsky would not realize how long he’d been in there. Finally, he struggled to his feet and rummaged around the medicine cabinet for any sort of painkiller. He scavenged a bottle of aspirin. There were five pills left and Hutch downed all of them. He toweled his face dry and as he left the john he pasted on a pleasant grin. He would try his best to mask the incident.

“Who was at the door, Starsk?” He shouted from the back hallway that led into the kitchen.

There was no answer.

“Starsk?”

As Hutch approached the living room he looked up from tucking in his shirt and stopped dead in his tracks. He was astonished to see Starsky face-to-face with Frank Malone.

*****

PART SEVEN

The discussion between Starsky and Malone was brief. Hutch watched it while leaning against the corner wall of the kitchen. Frank acknowledged the blonde cop with a slight nod, then handed Starsky a small piece of paper before making a hasty exit. Holding their positions, both men watched Malone close the front door behind him. After a short pause, Starsky finally glanced at the note.

“What did he want?”

Starsky did not answer Hutch’s question but rather took his seat back on the sofa. He grabbed his beer, took a swig and slouched pensively.

“Starsk?” Hutch tried again.

All his partner did was sigh and continue to drink. Hutch let his chin drop to his chest as he pushed himself away from the wall. His head still pounded and he did his damnedest to overcome the pain. He approached Starsky and reached for the note. Starsky allowed him to take it without protest. Hutch sat on the armrest beside his partner and read the message. There was a name and address scribbled on it.

“Miguel Dos’Santos. 43 Milagro Lane. San Luis, Mexico.” Hutch read aloud.

Starsky had yet to utter a word but he didn’t need to. Hutch knew exactly what he was thinking.

“You’re not going down there? Malone doesn’t expect you to…”

“Kill Dos’Santos?” Starsky interrupted. “Yes he does. Dos’Santos murdered Rosie.”

“Don’t even think about partner. I won’t let you.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. There’s no way I’m going to let you go down to Mexico. If you do you might as well not come back.”

“I’m goin’ and there’s nothing you can do or say to stop me.”

“Starsky please.” Hutch leaned toward his partner – his eyebrows raised. “Let it go.”

“I better pack.” He said as he stood to go into his bedroom. It was as if he hadn’t heard Hutch’s plea.

“Starsky!”

“Look Hutch!” The swarthy cop stopped abruptly in the middle of the room. He pointed at his partner with intensity. His finger seemed to radiate electricity.

“You know and I know that I have to do this. Now, I really don’t want you involved, but I also know that you’re going to follow me down there whether I want you to or not. So you might as well go home and get your stuff together. I’m leaving here within the hour… I’m going Hutch… end of story.”

Hutch gazed at the ceiling and shook his head. He closed his eyes tightly and let out a huge lung full of air. He hated it when Starsky read his mind. It gave him no retort. Starsky was already pulling out his suitcase and laying it open on the bed.

“I’ll call Dobey… and then I’ll be back.” Hutch resigned.

“Dobey doesn’t need to know anything.”

“He needs to know that we won’t be reporting in doesn’t he?” Hutch proclaimed. “I don’t know about you, but I’d like to keep my job!”
Hutch could not hide his irritation.

Starsky barely gave a nod of recognition. Hutch strapped on his holster and wrestled with his jacket as he conversed aloud trying to talk himself out of the situation. He stormed out of the apartment. His brain blistered in his skull and it felt like it was on fire. Starsky continued to pack.

*****

Hutch’s car clattered down the California interstate toward the Mexican border as dawn melted into morning. The Torino would attract attention, especially in the tiny town of San Luis, which was approximately one hundred and fifty miles south of Texas. The conversation between the two men was sparse. Starsky studied a road map and navigated.

The stabbing ache in Hutch’s head was becoming excruciating. It was unbearable to the point of distraction – even delirium. The bright sunlight that glared off the hood of the car and the stifling heat added to his discomfort. He refused to acknowledge the fact that there was something seriously wrong. He’d hang on for as long as he could… he had to.

Hutch schemed as he drove, trying to come up with a way of saving Starsky from himself. It was difficult to concentrate but he had no choice but to stick with his partner and hopefully – somehow prevent a tragedy.

After crossing the border, Starsky finally broke the silence.

“Hutch?”

“Yeah?”

“This means a lot to me.”

“What does?”

“Us.”

“Us?” The blonde cop was finding it difficult to follow the elementary conversation.

“You didn’t have to do this.”

“Well, I figured you might need a translator.”

“That could come in handy.”

They paused to grin and check out the scenery.

“Starsk?”

“Hmm?”

“When you come face-to-face with Dos’Santos… will you be able to do it?”

“I don’t know.” Starsky seemed pensive. “I really don’t know.”

As his words dangled, Hutch swerved off the road kicking up a trail of dust in the Ford’s wake. A shooting pain riveted through his skull blinding him momentarily.  He recovered narrowly missing a cactus.

“Hutch! Watch it!” Starsky grabbed the arm on the door to steady himself. His heart skipped a beat. “You okay?”

“Yeah… sorry… just tired I guess.”

“Do you want me to drive for a while?”

“No. I’m fine.”

“You’re head’s hurtin’ isn’t it.”

“No. I’m fine.” Hutch restated calmly.

“You would tell me if you were sick wouldn’t you? I mean we’re out in the middle of fucking nowhere.”

“Starsky. Everything is fine. I’m just trying to figure out a way of talking you out of this.”

“You can think all you want, but it looks like you and me will be moving to Bolivia after all.”

“Bolivia?”

“To rob banks.”

“Sounds like a plan… but,”

“But what?”

“I sure am going to miss Dobey.”

The tension had finally been broken as both men laughed.

“Huggy too. Don’t forget Huggy.”

“Oh yeah. How could I forget Huggy.”

“You’re sure about this Starsk?” Hutch asked seriously after they’d finished chortling. “You’re sure you want to give it all up?”

The curly-haired detective released a sigh through his nose and looked out the window then turned his attention back to the map. He could not answer Hutch’s question. He didn’t know how. The Ford rattled on.

*****

PART EIGHT

San Luis was a typical small Mexican village. The sign posted at its edge said it had a population of seven hundred and fifty, but you’d never know it by the abandoned cobble stone streets. As the two detectives drove through it that Tuesday morning, the place felt uneasy – like the calm before a storm. It had an ominous atmosphere but Starsky wasn’t sure if it was the town or the anxiety that fluttered in his stomach that made it that way. Several small dogs roamed hunting for any scrap of food. It wouldn’t take long to find Miguel Dos’Santos if, in fact, he was still here.

Hutch struggled to focus on the task at hand. Within the last hour he had lost sight in his left eye and squinted through his sunglasses to see. He didn’t know how much longer he could last. The only thing that kept him going was his protective instinct for Starsky. He knew his partner was a passionate man. He just wondered if that emotion would work for or against him.

“Pull in here.” Starsky pointed across Hutch’s chest to a corner bar.

“Why?”

“We can ask where Milagro Lane is.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“What? Why?”

“Starsky, you surprise me.” Hutch implored. “As soon as they see two strangers asking about Dos’Santos, he’ll be gone so fast it will make your head spin.”

But it was Hutch’s head that was spinning. He used the headrest for support.

“Well, how are we going to find this guy. I mean we don’t even know what he looks like. And, there could be more than one Miguel Dos’Santos.”

“Ya think?” Hutch stated sarcastically, fighting exhaustion.

“I don’t think we have a choice but to ask around. Do you?”

“You’re committing suicide if you go in there, Starsky.”

“I don’t think I have a choice.”

Hutch released a frustrated breath.

“I’m going to have to teach you some Spanish then.”

“Oh no. Not that again.”

“Starsky. We’re in a small town in Mexico. You could try speaking Italian but I don’t think it’s going to work.” Hutch’s voice cracked with fatigue.

“You okay?”

“NO! Starsky I’m not okay.” He blasted, trying valiantly to muster up the strength to talk Starsky out of his vendetta. “I can’t believe you’re doing this! I can’t believe we’re sitting here in the middle of Mexico trying to find a guy so you can kill him. NO! I’m not okay. This whole thing is insane.”

“Hutch. You know how I feel about Rosie.”

“Starsky. It’s been four years since you’ve even seen or heard from Rosie. Why do you think it’s up to you to do something about it? Can’t you just arrest the man? You’re a cop not a murderer.” Hutch pleaded.

“We don’t have any jurisdiction here. We can’t take him back.” Starsky sounded like he might be backing down from the idea.

“And there’ll be none of this ‘we’ stuff. This is your show. I don’t want anything to do with it. The only reason I’m here is to take care of you.”

“I don’t need taking care of – thank you very much.”

“YES YOU DO!” Hutch blasted. His raised voice made his skull pop. He digressed. “Yes… you obviously do if you’re even thinking about becoming a mob hit man. Because that is exactly what you will be Starsky… a fuckin’ hit man. If you want to lower yourself to Dos’Santos’ level then you go right ahead, but I will not be party to it!”

The twosome sat quietly trying to assess the situation. Hutch reeled with anger that his partner would even consider such a thing and Starsky was too stubborn and proud to discontinue. Hutch could feel himself losing consciousness after his impassioned speech. Starsky studied the small pub seemingly mulling over his partner’s plea.

“I’m goin’ in.” He confirmed like he’d just been filled with confidence. “Wait here.”

“I intent to… and Starsky?”

“Yeah?”

“Please think carefully about what you are about to do.”

Starsky did not respond but rather adjusted his holster before opening the passenger door. He hesitated briefly before he walked in front of the car and into the shadows of the tavern. Hutch had to close his eyes – just for a moment. He did want to go in with Starsky, but was paralyzed with pain and lethargy.

He was scared to death. Not only was his body about to shut down, but he could not back Starsky up if he needed it – something he thought he would always be able to do. His partner was on his own. Terror inundated every fiber of his being. Hutch was convinced he was dying. This was it. He began to recite deliriously.

“Into the shadow of the valley of death…”

*****

Starsky sauntered into the bar and immediately drew the attention of every patron. He stopped and looked around the place. The staring eyes of the natives felt like they were piercing his skin. He moved toward the bar and pulled out the piece of paper Frank Malone had passed to him several days before. It was now a crumpled ball and Starsky had to unravel it.

“I’m looking for Milagro Lane. Do you know where that is?” Starsky asked the bartender.

He pointed at the note hoping the man would read it.

“Por qué quiere suted saber?” The barman replied.

Starsky searched the recesses of his brain, trying to remember some of the Spanish Hutch had tried to teach him. He stumbled and stuttered as he tried to form the words. His heart pounded and he started to sweat with discomfort.

“Ahh, Busco, ahh – a un amigo.”  He fumbled.

“Y quién que quizás sea?”

Starsky stared blankly at the man. He didn’t understand. He smiled nervously.

“Miguel Dos’Santos… amigo, ahhh, Milagro Lane?” He tried again.

The place was dead silent as everyone focused on the conversation. The heat in the small tavern seemed to encompass the detective like a burning spotlight and he wiped his upper lip with his thumb. Drips of perspiration floated into the sides of his eyes and he blinked rapidly to stop them from stinging. The bartender looked at him sideways with suspicion. He paused to size up the stranger before he spoke again.

“El vive sólo tres calles hacia abajo. Esa manera.”

“That way?” Starsky recognized some of the Spanish. “Three streets down that way?”  He pointed to re-affirm the man’s directions.

“Si. Esa manera.”

“Gracias.”

Starsky was fully committed now. He jogged out of the bar and gestured to Hutch where he was going. There was no response from his partner but Starsky didn’t take the time to notice. He knew he had to work fast. He also knew that Hutch didn’t need to be involved. Hutch was right. This was Starsky’s gig and he walked up the street toward Milagro Lane.

Dos’Santos had probably been alerted by now and Starsky approached the tiny home with caution. He gingerly made his way up the neatly laid patio stones to the front door. He tapped it with the barrel of his gun. His body shook with rampaging adrenaline. He breathed heavily in anticipation of confronting Rosie’s killer. The door opened.

“Si Senor?”

The small voice came from the tiniest girl Starsky had ever seen. She looked like a doll, too pretty and fine to be real. It took him aback. He breathed deeply before pushing the door open the rest of the way. He felt somewhat safe entering the house with the child there. The girl stood aside as Starsky stepped into the front room. Then, without warning the girl bolted for the door and ran to the road leaving Starsky vulnerable – a deer in the headlights.

Out of the dark hallway came a spray of bullets and Starsky hit the deck. After orienting himself, he wormed his way into the kitchen. The ammo kept coming, raining down on him like a hurricane. He was now in the eye of the storm with no way out. The barrage seemed to go on for hours. All he could hear was the sound of handguns being emptied. His eyes darted around the room desperately looking for a way to escape.

Overhead the window smashed and out of nowhere Hutch reached down to grab his partner. Starsky floundered as if he were drowning – his arms flailing. Finally, they connected like two trapeze artists. Hutch pulled Starsky onto the kitchen counter and out the window where they fell to the ground like two bails of hay being dropped from a loft.

“LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!” Starsky yelled over the noise of gunfire that continued relentlessly.

But Hutch did not move. He’d given all he could and lay motionless, face down on the ground.

“HUTCH!!”

Starsky shuffled over to his partner in a crouch and grabbed him under his arms and began to drag him to the car. Hutch had parked it with the motor running about fifty feet away. With every ounce of strength he had, Starsky stood Hutch up and threw him over his shoulder like a bag of dog food. Hutch seemed lifeless.

As he raced toward the car a bullet ripped into the flesh of Starsky’s calf and his leg gave out from under him. It sent Hutch head over heels. Starsky scrambled to gather Hutch up again and pulled him the rest of the way to the car. The passenger door was open and he threw Hutch into the front seat. The window shattered – then the windshield. They were totally under siege by a force of underworld soldiers that Starsky couldn’t even see. The area became a war zone, filled with smoke and noise – absolute chaos.

Starsky wheeled around the car and into the driver’s seat. He grabbed onto Hutch as he peeled out of the battlefield creating a cloud of dust in his wake. In the rear view mirror stood the tiny girl. She waved mockingly at the detective as she got smaller and smaller and then out of sight. He didn’t stop until he was far into the desert.

Starsky finally stopped to check on Hutch. He pulled over and peered nervously over his shoulder out the back window to make sure they had not been followed.

Hutch laid in the fetal position with his head resting on Starsky’s thigh. He had not moved since they’d fallen from the window. Shaking his shoulder gently, Starsky tried to awake his partner.

“Hutch?” He said softly as sweat rivered down his nose and dripped off the end of it – his respiratory system in over drive. “Hutch?”

There was no response.

“Oh God.” Starsky sniffed and panted trying to gain some semblance of control.

“Hutch?”

He checked his friend’s body for bullet holes but there were none. He grabbed his wrist and searched for a pulse. It was faint but he was still alive. Starsky propped the police light atop the car and let the siren blare. He would make a beeline to the next town and call for a helicopter to take Hutch to Texas. It was all he could think of to do. He held on to Hutch giving encouragement all the way.

“Hang in there Hutch. I’ll get you home. Don’t die God damn it. Please don’t die.” He pleaded as he drove. “Hang in there, buddy. You’re going to be alright. I’m sorry. Hutch? I’m so sorry.”

*****

EPILOGUE

Hutch was operated on for a benign brain tumor at Houston Memorial Hospital the day after the shootout in Mexico. Starsky successfully got a helicopter to transport them back to the states.

The skull fracture several months before created the tumor and had caused the pressure in Hutch’s head. When his condition became stable, he was transferred back to Los Angeles. But, he remained in a coma and had remained so for over two weeks.

Starsky insisted on living in the hospital room with his partner. He spent his days reading to Hutch and reminiscing about their adventures as detectives. Anything to stimulate Hutch’s senses. The doctors said it would help but Hutch had not moved or reacted to anything since falling from the window of Dos’Santos house back on Milagro Lane.

He breathed on his own and all of his other vital signs were strong. It was just a matter of time before he would wake up. Starsky was sure of it and planned to stick close to Hutch until he came around no matter how long it took.

When he wasn’t tending to his comrade, Starsky sat in quiet reflection. He tried not to feel guilty about all that had happened but he couldn’t shake it. Dobey told him to just “get over it” but he felt responsible for everything that had occurred. He’d failed Rosie too, but was somewhat relieved by that. Murdering someone out of revenge was not the answer to his pain. In hindsight he realized that Rosie would have never approved. He had no idea what possessed him.

He discovered a lot about himself in the last few months and intended on learning from his mistakes. All he knew for sure was that Hutch was his priority now and always would be. He would never let anything compromise his friendship with Hutch again.

It was Friday morning and Starsky awoke quickly. He hadn’t really slept anyway. The cot the hospital provided was not the most comfortable place to get a good night’s rest. The nurses were kind enough to have a hot cup of coffee ready for him when he got up. They liked him and were anxious to meet Hutch too.

He threw the sheet off and sat on the edge of the tiny bed and ran his fingers threw his hair to straighten it. He checked the bandage that was wrapped around his calf. His wound was superficial but deep. It itched. He stared into space momentarily. This day seemed different from the rest. It seemed brighter.

Starsky stood and walked over to Hutch and grabbed his hand as if arm wrestling.

“Today’s the day Hutch.” He said confidently. “Open your eyes buddy. Come on. Let’s see those baby blues. What did Anna call them … Belile River eyes? Something like that. Or was it the Volga River? I don’t know. It was some river in Russia. Remember?” He squeezed Hutch’s hand trying to wake him. “There’s coffee. You’ll feel fine after you have a sip of coffee. It’s hot. Just the way you like it. And the nurses are really beautiful. Come on Hutch, you’re missing out on all the pretty nurses. They want to meet you.” Starsky continued to ramble. “Time for us to get back to work. Real work this time. No more vengeance – no more shit. Just good old-fashioned detective work. The kind we’re good at. Come on Hutch – time to wake up.”
Hutch opened his eyes as if he’d just been awaken from a catnap. He looked bright and alert. His partner was filled with joy. There was no other way to explain it.

“Hey.” Starsky said softly. “You’ve been away a long time buddy.”

Hutch found it hard to speak. His throat felt like he’d swallowed razor blades. It hurt.

“Starsk?” Hutch finally whispered.

The curly-haired cop smiled broadly. His eyes filled with tears.

“Yeah?”

“You’ve been rambling on none stop for weeks.” He struggled to vocalize. “Can you shut up now?”

Starsky began to laugh as he rested his forehead on Hutch’s propped up hand.

“I missed you buddy. God, I missed you.” He chuckled with relief.

“I missed you too Starsk. But you talk too much.”

“I’ll stop now.”

The two men paused as Hutch tried to move his seized joints. Starsky gingerly placed another pillow behind Hutch’s shaved head to try to make him more comfortable.

“You okay?” Hutch muttered.

“I am now.” Starsky continued to grin uncontrollably. “How’s your head?”

Hutch paused as if searching for the pain that had plagued him for the last three months.

“It’s gone.”

“Gone?”

“The pressure… the pain.”

“You’re gonna be just fine… we’re gonna be just fine.”

Hutch would need the next four months to fully recover and Starsky intended to make him stick to it. Complete rest and relaxation was the ticket. And after that, they would continue on with their work.

The episode they’d been through served its purpose. It proved once and for all that there was no silent partner and never would be. Their relationship was loud and clear – it was the most important thing. It was unique. It was their strength – constant and unshakable. It defined them. Starsky loved Hutch and Hutch loved Starsky. It was as pure and simple as that. Two men – one partnership.

***The End***

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