Summary: Starsky is wracked with guilt after a tragedy almost breaks the partners for good.
Category: Starsky & Hutch
Genre: Drama/Buddy Cop
Word Count: 6950
“What… a… day.” Hutch sighed as he rubbed his brow in a futile attempt to erase a pounding headache.
“Yep.” Starsky agreed. “It was a long one. I’m bushed.”
“Then why didn’t you just take me home?” Hutch grumbled with obvious fatigue.
“I don’t know.” Starsky shrugged. “I was thirsty.”
“I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open.” Hutch yawned dramatically.
Starsky smiled at his partner fondly. He had convinced Hutch to drop by The Pits for a beer before heading home. Hutch protested but Starsky prevailed even though their day began 22 hours before. It was 2:45am. Even Huggy had gone home.
“Okay.” Starsky resigned as he downed the remainder of his 3rd beer. He nudged Hutch who now had his eyes closed and his chin propped up with his fist. “I get the hint.”
The prod wasn’t enough to awaken his friend though, so he tried again.
“Hey. Hutch. Let’s go. I’ll take you home.”
“Home? What’s a home?” Hutch murmured with eyes still closed. “I haven’t been there in so long I forget where I live.”
“Come on Sleeping Blondie.” Starsky scoffed. “Don’t worry. I know where you live.”
Hutch laboriously pushed himself up and stood unsteadily. Starsky couldn’t help be see the humor in his buddy’s swaying stance.
“One foot in front of the other, Hutch.” Starsky encourage. “Just put one foot in front of the other.”
“I feel like I’m walking in sludge.”
“I’ll tell Huggy to wash the floors.”
The pair made their way to the back alley where the Torino was parked. Starsky guided Hutch to the passenger seat and helped him in even blocking his head from hitting the edge of the door as if he were an arrested criminal. Once settled into the car, Hutch crossed his arms, rested his noggin on the window ledge and closed his eyes yet again. He exhaled loudly. The anticipation of finally going to bed was heartwarming. Starsky sauntered around the back of the car, opened the driver door and got in. Just as Starsky put the key in the ignition, the radio blasted giving Hutch a jolt. He sighed with annoyance.
“All units.” The radio operator blared. “2-11 in progress at 330 Brock Ave. Private residence. Silent alarm. Approach with caution.”
“Please don’t answer that, Starsk.” Hutch pleaded weakly.
“It’s on the way to your place.” Starsky replied. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”
“That’s the second time in the last 5 minutes you’ve told me not to worry. Now I’m worried.”
“It’s okay, Hutch.” Starsky said as he started the car. “It’s probably nothing. Don’t worry.”
“And, that makes three. Now I’m REALLY worried.”
Starsky chuckled at his groggy friend as he picked up the radio receiver.
“This is Zebra Three. We are responding.”
Several blocks before they reached the residence, Starsky turned the car lights and siren off. He creeped along the dim street, his senses tuned to anything out of the ordinary. There was no moon. The neighborhood was vailed in pitch darkness. Street lights… non-existent. All seemed quiet. Hutch was fast asleep in the passenger seat and Starsky didn’t intend to wake him. Hutch was simply out of gas.
He pulled up outside the house. It too was dark. Nothing stirred. Starsky quietly got out of the car and pulled his gun from its holster. He moved stealthily up the walk to the front door. There was no car in the driveway and assumed the homeowners were away. Several newspapers littered the stoop and the mailbox was full to overflowing. A perfect opportunity for an early morning burglary. An owl screeched in the distance. An orchestra of crickets filled the moist, early morning air.
Starsky circled around the house peering into windows along the way. He skulked through the gate into the backyard. It was there that he could see someone inside. The erratic movement of a flashlight gave the thief away. Starsky went into full alert and moved toward the ajar, sliding door. He opened it slowly and stepped inside.
But, unbeknownst to him, he had been detected and was suddenly plowed into as if he’d been tackled in a football game. The force of the blow tossed him onto his back hard, almost knocking the wind out of him. It took him a moment to recover but adrenaline kicked in and he got to his feet scrambled after the burglar. The thief had disappeared into the darkness. Starsky ran around the corner of the house to the side yard where he saw a shadow of a man coming toward him.
“FREEZE!” He shouted. “POLICE!”
But the man continued to approach. His gun was drawn.
Starsky squared himself and fired. The gunshot echoed off the brick walls shattering the silence of the night. It was deafening. The man fell to the ground as if his legs had crumpled like two paper sacks. Starsky ran toward the man but was stopped dead in his tracks when he reached him.
“No… No… NOOO!” He gasped.
Hutch lay sprawled on the dewy grass with blood gushing from the side of his head.
“How could I be so stupid.” Starsky chastised. He slapped himself in the forehead. “What have I done? Oh God. I feel sick.”
He sat in the hospital waiting room with Captain Dobey. Once Starsky called an ambulance and got to the hospital, he called his boss. Dobey arrived within the hour.
“Tell me exactly what happened.” Dobey asked. “Start from the beginning.”
“We were at Huggy’s. We just got off a long shift and Hutch said he was tired so I told him I’d drive him home.”
“What time was that?”
“Around 2:30, I think.”
“Okay.” Dobey probed. “Then what?”
“When we got in the car there was a bulletin. A 2-11. Hutch was asleep but I told him I’d take care of it. That it was probably just a false alarm. I told him not to worry.”
“And?” Dobey queried.
“I got to the scene and scouted the perimeter into the backyard. That’s where I saw someone inside.”
“Where was Hutch?”
“He was asleep in the car.” Starsky described trying to quell his panic. “I took the call alone.”
“You know better than that.” Dobey scoffed.
“I know. I know.”
“So, I entered the house but before I even got a few feet in I was tackled and the guy and he got away. Once I found my footing I ran after him. I turned around the corner of the house and I saw someone coming toward me with a gun. It was dark… I gave a warning but he kept coming so I shot him. Oh God. There was so much blood. I feel sick. I’m going to be sick.”
Starsky leaned forward and placed his head between his knees trying desperately to regain his composure. Dobey placed his hand squarely on Starsky’s back.
“Take it easy, Dave.” He assured. “It’s going to be okay.”
“I hate it when you call me Dave.” Starsky gasped with his face now just inches from the floor. “I know things are really bad when you call me Dave.”
“I’ll get you some water.”
As Dobey walked across the waiting room to the cooler, the doctor entered.
“Detective Starsky?” He summoned.
“Yeah. That’s me.” Starsky sprang to his feet to face him. “How is he? Is he going to be okay? Oh God. Please tell me he is going to be okay.”
“He’s going to be fine.”
Relief swept over Starsky like an ocean swell. His nausea immediately subsided and he bent over and placed his hands on his knees as if he’d just finished a marathon.
“We got the bullet. It was fairly shallow but he’s going to have a heck of a headache when he wakes up.”
“Do you foresee any complications doctor?” Dobey asked.
“Well, there can always be complications.”
“What do you mean?” Starsky said now back on alert. “Like what? What kind of complications?”
“Detective Hutchinson has been shot in the head, Mister Starsky. There could be a myriad of complications. I would be foolish to diagnose full health until he’s awake and we can assess that he has complete function and cognizance.”
“Oh… yeah, okay – well… can I see him?”
“Yes. He’s in room 412. But, don’t expect any scintillating conversation, he’s heavily sedated at the moment. He probably won’t come to for at least 6 or 7 hours.”
“That’s okay. Thanks doc.”
Dobey and Starsky were left in the waiting room alone again. It was exactly 9am.
“You go home, Captain.” Starsky suggested. “I’ll stay with him.”
“You’ll call me with any news?”
“And, Starsky?” Dobey said as he turned to leave. He looked extremely cross.
“When this is all over, we are going to have a little talk.”
Dobey’s reprimand was the last thing on Starsky’s mind as he made his way up to see Hutch. When Starsky entered Hutch’s hospital room he was blinded by the brightness of the morning sun that streamed through the windows. The brilliance of the room was in stark contrast to his disposition. He felt terrible.
Hutch looked almost angelic. Everything was so white and clean. A small, square gauze was neatly taped to his right temple. That was it. The insignificance of the wound made Starsky feel somewhat better. But, the gravity of the incident weighed on him. He wondered if he’d ever get over it. He wondered if Hutch could.
He sat quietly in the chair next to Hutch’s bed and fought desperately to stay awake. He’d been up for over 30 hours. He was exhausted. It only took a few minutes before he was sound asleep.
Starsky had curled himself into a ball as best he could on the stiff, visitor’s chair. Huggy entered the room and brushed by him. Starsky finally awoke. It was 2pm.
“Hey.” Huggy greeted quietly. “What the hell happened?”
“What took you so long?” Starsky replied.
“I got here as soon as I could. I dropped by Hutch’s place and picked up a few things.”
Starsky groggily sat up and rubbed his eyes with the heels of both hands. Now it was the afternoon sun he battled. He tried to squint the rays away.
Huggy hung up the few items of Hutch’s clothes he had brought then settled on the chair next to Starsky
“So?” Huggy begged the question.
“I shot him, Hug.” Starsky stated bluntly.
“Well, I didn’t do it on purpose! It was an accident!”
“Starsky… what the…” Huggy scoffed, shaking his head.
“I know. I know.” Starsky griped. “Don’t you think I know, Huggy? Please don’t make me feel any guiltier than I already do. I can do that all on my own. I feel sick about this. I could have killed him.”
“Okay, okay.” Huggy reconciled. He rested his hand on Starsky’s shoulder to calm. Him. “How did it happen?”
“It was late. It was dark. I was tired. I’d had a few drinks.” Starsky outlined. “You do the math.”
“You two sure looked beat when I left you at The Pits last night. Hutch looked like he hadn’t slept in days.”
“That’s not far from the truth.”
“Is he going to be alright?” Huggy asked with sincere concern.
“Doc says yes. But, we have to wait until he wakes up before he can give him the all clear.”
“Well, it doesn’t look too bad.” Huggy commented as he stood slightly and surveyed the side of Hutch’s head.
“I know, but that’s what scares me.”
An uneasy pause wafted between the two men. Starsky worried and Huggy a bit peeved. Yes, he was concerned for Hutch but he was also miffed at Starsky for being so reckless. Huggy’s feelings were conflicted. He and Hutch went back a long way. Huggy loved him. He looked over at Hutch who was now starting to stir.
“Starsk?” Came his faint voice. The fog of medication made it hard to speak.
“Hey. You’re awake.”
“Yeah. Hutch… it’s me. I’m here. You’re going to be alright.”
“Oooo, my head.” Hutch moaned as he reached up to feel the bandage.
“You got shot.” Starsky said.
“Why is it so dark in here.” Hutch said as his eyes fluttered. “What time is it?”
“Hutch. It couldn’t be brighter in here. It’s the middle of the day. What are you talking about?”
“Where are you?”
“I’m right here, buddy.”
“I… I can’t see you. I can’t see anything.”
“Blindness can be a result of any head injury.” The doctor said as he sat with Starsky in his office. “Even whiplash can result in loss of sight.”
“Is it permanent?” Starsky asked desperately.
“Well, I’ve called in our ophthalmologist. She will give him a full analysis and prognosis.”
“And then, we’ll take the appropriate measures.”
“And they would be?”
“Well, hopefully full recovery through therapy, surgery and/or medication.”
“And, if there isn’t a full recovery?” Starsky asked with utter dread.
“Let’s cross that bridge if and when we come to it, shall we?”
“Listen Detective Starsky.” The doctor said impatiently. “You have shot your partner. It was a careless and foolish act that should end or at least suspend your present position in the police department, in my opinion. Now, I know you are wracked with guilt at the moment but the damage is done. We are not magicians here. We are not miracle workers. We can only diagnose and treat whatever comes through our door as best we can. We cannot undo actions of unfortunate and irresponsible events.”
Starsky bowed his head. He simply had no response. The doctor was right. This was his fault and his alone. He shook the doctor’s hand and solemnly left the office to return to Hutch’s bedside.
A team of doctors and nurses had tended to Hutch once he realized he was blind. Fear and panic engulfed him. Terror invaded his consciousness and he tried to rip the IV tube out of his arm and get out of bed. He wanted to run. To where? Anywhere but here – this place of darkness.
Starsky tried to comfort him but just couldn’t control him. He had to call for help. The physicians had no choice but to sedate Hutch yet again if only to prevent any more harm.
Now, all was calm. The brilliance of the day was fading to dusk. When Starsky reentered Hutch’s room after his devastating conference with the doctor, he walked over to the window and looked out woefully. The only thing that gave him hope, was the breathtaking sunset that painted the Bay City sky. Hutch loved sunsets. He loved the colors. Would he ever see one again?
Huggy returned to work but assured Starsky he would be back as soon as possible. He too was terrified that Hutch’s loss of sight was permanent. If it was true, life as the close circle of friends knew it would change forever. Hutch’s life as a detective would be over and then Starsky would follow. It was what defined them. One without the other was inconceivable.
Dobey had come and gone as visiting hours slowly ebbed and the bustle of the hospital by day transformed to nighttime serenity.
Starsky again, took a seat next to Hutch’s bedside. He wasn’t going anywhere. The small patch that protected the bullet wound was now replaced with a wide bandage that encircled Hutch’s entire head and completely covering his eyes. It would keep him safe until his vision was completely assessed and hopefully restored. Starsky noticed that the bandage was soaked with tears. His heart sank.
“Hutch?” Starsky said softly has he placed his hand on his friend’s forearm. “Hutch? Can you hear me?”
Hutch only replied with a semi-cognizant whimper.
“It’s going to be okay. I know it is.” Starsky assured but was only trying to convince himself.
“Did you get him?” Hutch whispered, struggling to overcome the cloud of meds and his utter shock of never seeing again.
“Get who?” Starsky asked.
“The bastard that shot me.”
“Good morning gentlemen.” The young doctor greeted.
Her demeanor was pleasant and light. She entered Hutch’s room unannounced. She was pretty, dark-haired and green-eyed. Her lab coat was crisp and white and fitted. She was not what Starsky was expecting, but he wasn’t about to complain. He stood to greet her.
“I’m Dave Starsky. His partner.”
“Makes sense.” She said simply. “I’m Dr. Sebring. I’m the ophthalmologist on call. I understand we woke up yesterday without our eyesight.”
She sounded like a kindergarten teacher. Hutch had yet to utter a word.
“Well, not ‘we’ exactly…,” Starsky chuckled uncomfortably as he pointed to Hutch, “he did.”
“Yes. I recognize a head trauma patient when I see one.” She joshed. “Let’s take a look. How do you do Mr. Hutchinson?”
“I guess I do fine for a blind man.” He replied pathetically.
She leaned over him and just the wonderful smell of her raised his spirits. His remaining senses seemed like they were on steroids. Every sound was amplified, every touch and taste augmented. And the scent of her was simply intoxicating. The distraction was welcome.
She gingerly unwound the bandage to unveil Hutch’s beautiful face.
“Well. Aren’t we the handsome one.”
Hutch mustered a weak grin.
“Your wound seems to be healing well. That’s good.” She said as she examined him closely. “Can you look straight ahead for me, please? Those are the bluest eyes I think I’ve ever seen.”
“If your skill as a surgeon are as fantastic as your bedside manner,” Hutch posed. “I’ll be seeing better than 20/20 in no time.”
She smiled warmly as she pulled out her retinoscope and shone it into Hutch’s left eye, then the right and back again. She was literally nose-to-nose with him.
“Can you see anything? Anything at all? Light, shadows, flashes… anything?”
“It’s just dark.” Hutch tried to explain. “Everything is shaded… like in shadow.”
She held her hand up in front of his face and waved slowly.
“Can you see anything now?”
“Barely. There is something there, but I can’t make it out.”
“Okay.” She looked into his eyes one more time. “Well, I think this is a temporary vision loss.”
“You do?” Starsky remarked brightly as he watched the exam closely. “No foolin’?”
“I never fool.” She joked cheerfully. “And, this is my area of expertise, Detective.”
“Call me Dave.”
“Well, I’ll have a few more tests to perform… Dave, before I give my final diagnosis. But, it looks to me like there may be some swelling pressing on the optic nerve. It’s an easy fix. It may even correct itself on its own in the next few days. If it doesn’t, there is a procedure I can do to advance recovery. Then you’ll be all set and you can get back to your lives.”
“I love you.” Hutch said as relief swept over him like an ocean swell. “Marry me.”
“Don’t make propositions you can’t keep, Mr. Hutchinson. And, what makes you think I’m not already taken.” She giggled.
“You smell too good to be married.”
“Oh. Do you like it?” She sounded flattered. “It’s new. It’s Halston.”
“God bless, Halston.” Hutch commented.
Starsky’s smile couldn’t have been any broader. It made his face hurt. He hugged Dr. Sebring then turned his attention to Hutch.
“Did you hear that, Hutch?” He asked joyously. “You’re gonna be okay. I told you. I told you’d be okay.”
“Let me wrap you up again, Hutch.” She smirked as she felt bold calling him by his nickname. “I want to keep those beautiful baby blues rested and quiet. In the meantime, enjoy a few leisurely days at the expense of the taxpayer.”
“Better them than me.” Hutch said.
“You’re cute.” She replied as she turned to make eye-contact with Starsky. “He’s cute.” She reaffirmed.
“So, I’ve heard.” Starsky replied with the slightest tinge of jealousy.
“Oh Dave.” She remarked as turned to leave. “You’re cute too.”
“Thank you, Dr. Sebring. You ain’t bad yourself.”
“Call me Kristin.”
“Hurry up, Hutch.” Starsky ordered. “They are going to be here in a few minutes.”
“I’m com’in, I’m com’in.”
Hutch emerged from the bathroom of his apartment. He was the picture of health. Only a tiny scar and the remanence of a bruise tainted his flawless façade. He simply shone.
He had been home now for a little over a week. Dr. Sebring did have to perform minor surgery on him to restore his sight. It only took a day or so for it to come back fully. Dobey gave Hutch 2 weeks off to fully recover.
Tonight, Starsky had planned a celebratory dinner. He invited Huggy and Dr. Sebring and a few other friends and friends of friends. It was going to be a big one.
Hutch put on a happy face but he was distracted. He was focused on finding the man who shot him – the burglar that eluded Starsky that night. It was all Hutch talked about. Once he was back to work, he told his partner, that would be their first priority.
The pit in Starsky’s stomach deepened. He was elated that Hutch had recovered but so torn up about the shooting. Hutch swore revenge on the thief and Starsky never disputed it, choosing instead to change the subject or diverted Hutch’s attention to anything else. He’d make excuses like he didn’t see the guy and wouldn’t be able to identify him. He hoped that, over time, this whole horrific incident would just blow over and Hutch would move on… forget.
But, as time went on Hutch got more and more fixated rather than faded. The terrible secret Starsky wanted so desperately to bury, was quickly becoming a mammoth hole that was getting harder and harder to climb out of. He just couldn’t bring himself to confess that it was he that shot Hutch. It was just too painful and shameful. Starsky did his utmost to disguise his stress. So far, his act was Oscar-worthy.
“Watcha makin’ there?” Hutch inquired as he hovered over Starsky who stirred a skillet.
“Oh yeah? Looks like Mexican to me.”
“That’s your favorite, Gordo.”
“I’m afraid our guests might not like YOUR culinary choices.” Starsky smirked. “Butterfly bones and wheatgerm make terrible appetizers.”
The party was soon in full swing. The alcohol flowed and the music blared. Everyone was up and dancing as Starsky played host and milled around Hutch’s apartment with a platter of nachos.
Hutch stood in the corner with Kristin. They had struck up a bit of a romance since his release from hospital. It was totally against her professional policy to date former patients, but she just couldn’t resist Hutch. She fell for him the moment she walked into his hospital room. She leaned against him and he wrapped his arm around her shoulder. They kissed softly as the party swirled around them.
“Did I ever thank you?” Hutch whispered into her ear.
“Yes. Many times, actually.”
“Oh… well, here’s a few more.” Hutch kissed her on the neck. “Thank you, thank you… thank you.”
“I hate to interrupt,” Starsky said as he shuffled over to the couple. “But, would you like to dance?”
“Sorry Starsk,” Hutch said. “I’m busy.”
“Not you! Kristin.” Starsky scoffed. “I can dance with you anytime.”
Starsky took Kristin’s arm and led her to the middle of Hutch’s living room. They had cleared a space there and it was now full of guests having a great time. Laughter and disco filled the place. It was a joyous scene. One Hutch thought he would never see again. He couldn’t help but reflect on the last few weeks and thank his lucky stars that everything worked out. He breathed in heavily and smiled with shear euphoria. It was like he had been reborn.
Huggy broke from the throng and made his way over to Hutch to check on him. It was the first time he’d seem him alone all night.
“How you doin’?” Huggy asked, his voice slightly elevated to be heard over the music.
“Doin’ great, Hug.” Hutch replied all smiles. “Life is good.”
Huggy and Hutch scanned the room, enjoying watching everyone. They sipped their drinks.
“Starsky seems better considering.” Huggy announced.
The statement made Hutch scowl. It took him completely off guard.
“Considering?” He queried.
“Well, I… I don’t know.” Huggy responded realizing Hutch was in the dark.
“Considering what, Huggy?”
“Well, hmmm, I…” He stalled.
“If you’ve got something say, just say it.” Hutch said bluntly.
“I’m guessing he hasn’t told you then?”
“Told me what?”
“Hmm, well… that it was Starsky that shot you that night.”
The blood suddenly drained from Hutch’s face. Huggy had no idea it was a secret. He placed his hand on Hutch’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, man.” Huggy said with regret. “I thought you knew.”
Hutch glared over at Starsky who whirled Kristin around the dance floor oblivious that his secret was now out. The sound of a beer glass shattering stopped the party cold. Hutch had thrown it against the wall. The music silenced and the party goers starred over at him. To their aghast, they watched him storm out of the apartment. Starsky looked over at Huggy who shrugged innocently. Starsky knew exactly what had happened. Huggy had spilled the beans.
It was 3am when Hutch finally returned home. He quietly walked through the door to find Starsky at the kitchen sink washing up. He did not hear Hutch come in.
“What are you doing here?” Hutch asked.
It startled Starsky who took a moment to gather himself before he turned to face his partner.
“I think we need to talk.”
“You’ve had weeks to talk, Starsky. It’s a little late for talk, don’t you think?”
Hutch walked into the living room and sat on the far end of the sofa. Anguish was written all over his face. He looked shattered – broken.
“Well, I wanted to apologize.”
“For what?” Hutch looked over at his friend with his newly found sight laser focused. “For shooting me or for lying.”
“Hutch, I just didn’t know what to say… I didn’t know how to…”
“After all we’ve been through. How could you hide this from me?”
“I was going to tell you. I was.”
“I thought you were my best friend. I thought we could trust each other with anything. I guess I was wrong.”
“No, you weren’t. You can still trust me, Hutch.”
“Starsky…” Hutch seethed. “You shot me and then lied about it. You made me think it was that robber. You would have let him take the blame. How can I trust you with anything? How can we even be friend’s anymore let alone partners?”
Starsky stared at Hutch blinking rapidly. He had simply run out of words.
“You’re a coward.” Hutch said with teeth clenched. “Get out.”
“But, I need to…” Starsky tried.
Starsky’s head fell between his shoulders. He slowly placed the tea towel on the hanger and left the apartment.
Starsky showed up for work Monday morning. He hadn’t talked to Hutch since after the party on Friday. His outlook was worse than grim. The guilt he felt had worsened and he had fallen into a well of depressed. He simply could not conceive a way to get back into Hutch’s good graces. He feared their partnership was, in fact, over. But, even more devastating was that he had lost the greatest and most beloved friend he had ever had. He had undermined Hutch’s trust and without that no relationship could survive.
He shuffled to his desk and sat across from Hutch’s empty chair. He had hoped Hutch may have calmed down over the weekend and shown up for duty this morning. But, that was not the case. Starsky’s worst nightmare was coming true. He placed his face in his hands. Despair consumed him.
“Dave?” Dobey said as he opened his office door that led into the squad room.
“Please don’t call me Dave.” He said with his face still buried.
“Come into my office.” Dobey ordered quietly.
Starsky stood and entered his boss’ office. He dreaded what this meeting was about. Nausea set in yet again.
“Take a seat.” Dobey asked nicely.
“Listen Captain…” Starsky tried.
“Hutch has asked to be reassigned.” Dobey blurted.
“He’s requested a new partner, Dave.”
“STOP CALLING ME DAVE!”
Dobey stood and walked around to the front of his desk and propped himself on the edge of it. He was directly in front of Starsky now who could barely sit up straight. He couldn’t raise his head. His spirit was destroyed. He wiped away a tear.
“Starsky.” Dobey began, recognizing how delicate the situation was. “Hutch is hurting. He doesn’t know how to handle this. He came to see me at home yesterday. He said you never told him.”
“I just couldn’t Captain.” Starsky sniffed. “I just couldn’t find a way to…”
“Why?” Dobey inquired with empathy.
“I was ashamed. I could have killed him that night. I was reckless and stupid. Then to find out he was blinded, I just couldn’t deal with it. I thought if I told him the truth he’d hate me anyway. I just couldn’t win.”
“Well, I’ve honored his request.” Dobey said. “And, I have to inform you that he has also transferred to another division.”
“What? I can’t believe this is happening.”
“He simply doesn’t want to see you. I’m sorry.” Dobey announced. “I’m sorry about this whole damned thing. I’m in the process of finding you a new partner. I just want to make sure he’s the right fit.”
“The right fit? I have one partner and one partner only and that’s Hutch.”
“That is no longer possible, Dave.”
Starsky finally sat up and made direct eye contact with Dobey. He pulled out his gun and his badge and unceremoniously handed them over.
“No Hutch… no me. I quit.”
Kristin lay in Hutch’s arms. The morning sun streamed in on them making them glow. The warmth was so comforting, they wanted to stay in bed forever.
Hutch had begun his new life. A life without Starsky. His new partner was congenial enough. Michael Rivera was young but willing to learn. Hutch’s work days were now shorter which gave him more time to spend with Kristin. He spent a lot of time at her place. He needed the distraction. This period of transition was surprisingly difficult.
“Hutch?” Kristin said softly. “Have you talked to Starsky?”
“Nope and I don’t intend to.”
“Don’t you think you’re being a little hard on him?” She suggested as she sat up and looked directly into Hutch’s eyes. “I mean, you were partners for a long time. He’s your best friend.”
“WAS my best friend and I really don’t want to talk about it.”
“I can tell you miss him.”
“Well, I don’t.”
“It is so obvious that you do.” She said. “Babe… it’s been 2 months. You have to make amends. Don’t be so stubborn. Even if you can’t go back to the way it was, you can at least try and forgive and then you can move on with your life. Both of you can.”
“Kristin, I’m not ready. I may never be. So, just let it go.” Hutch responded as he got out of bed and put on his robe.
“I’m not going to let it go.” She replied forcefully. “I want you to be happy. I want us to be happy. Now swallow that massive pride of yours and call him. When I get home from work tonight, I want to hear all about it. Understood?”
Hutch just walked away from her and entered the bathroom and closed the door. He stared into the medicine cabinet mirror. The reflection was that of a man in pain. He could see it now. The truth was, Kristin was right. Not a moment had gone by in the last several months that Hutch didn’t think about Starsky. He felt empty without him – hollow. He realized that he would have to make amends and hopefully start rebuilding his relationship with Starsky.
Starsky walked laboriously into The Pits. He felt like he was trudging through sludge. He plopped onto the first bar stool he saw. He simply didn’t have the energy to go any further. He was unshaven and unkempt – a shadow of a man – broken. His face was etched with exhaustion.
The place was crowded and loud. It took a few moments for Huggy to recognize him and he made his way down the bar to greet his friend.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the infamous Officer Starsky.”
“Ex Officer and I’m not in the mood, Huggy.”
“I can see that. You look like you were just dragged through a car wash. You okay?”
“I need your help, Hug.”
“Okay, sure. Lay it on me. I’m at your service. What can I do for you?”
“I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept in… well, I need something.”
“This is a bar not a pharmacy. And, you know I ain’t no drug dealer.”
“Huggy, please.” Starsky hissed. “Help me. You gotta help me. I just need something so I can sleep.”
“I can sing you a lullaby but John Denver I’m not.”
“Come on, Huggy. I know you have connections. Please. Please help me. I don’t know what else to do. I just want to sleep. That’s all.”
“Okay… alright.” Huggy resigned with an extended sigh. “Sit tight. I’ll make some calls.”
Huggy poured Starsky a beer and went to his office. Within the hour he had the info. He walked out to the bar and found Starsky in exactly the same position he’d left him. Huggy covertly handed him a small scrap of paper.
“Here you go. Call Stevie. Tell’em I sent you and Starsky?”
Starsky took the note and left. Within moments, Huggy picked up the phone and dialed.
“Hutch? It’s me. I think I just did something I shouldn’t have done. Starsky’s in trouble. You gotta get over to his place as soon as possible. No joke, man. He needs you and he needs you right now.”
Hutch pulled up to Starsky’s apartment and was glad to see the Torino parked in the driveway. But, it wasn’t the shiny, gleaming car it used to be. The white stripe was undistinguishable as dirt and grim covered the car. The disheveled appearance of Starsky’s pride and joy was a huge red flag. Hutch proceeded up the driveway and the steps to the small landing that led to Starsky’s apartment. He knocked.
“Starsky?” He called. “You in there? Let me in.”
There was no answer. Hutch pounded on the door more forcefully.
“STARSKY!” Hutch yelled. “Open the door.”
Nothing. Hutch reached up to the top of the doorframe to search for the key but it wasn’t there. He banged on the door one more time.
“Open the door, Starsky!” Hutch warned.
But, there was no response.
Hutch stepped back as far as he could on the tiny porch and coiled like a cobra. He blasted through the door almost busting it off its hinges. He stumbled into the living room and was taken aback by the state of it. Laundry was strewn everywhere. Beer and liquor bottles were scattered around the place. The kitchen counter was covered with dirty dishes and pizza boxes.
Hutch looked over into the bedroom and saw Starsky spread eagle on the bed. He was wearing all of his clothes including his jacket and shoes. On the side table was a pill bottle and a vodka bottle. Both were empty.
Hutch rushed to over to him and began to shake him to try and bring him around. But, Starsky was unconscious. Hutch scrambled to the phone and dialed.
“This is Detective Hutchinson. I need an ambulance at 200 Ridgeway Ave. It’s an emergency. Hurry. Please hurry!”
Hutch returned to Starsky’s side and slapped his face. He leaned over him and pressed his ear against Starsky’s chest. His breathing was shallow and his heartbeat faint. Hutch pulled him off the bed like a rag doll and onto the floor where he began CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It took several moments of resolute terror before Starsky finally coughed and sputtered for air. Hutch sat cross-legged on the floor and pulled Starsky up to sit against him. Hutch cradled him like a puppy.
“What have you done?” Hutch scolded. “Oh God. What have you done?”
The brilliance of Starsky’s hospital room was blinding. It was 7:33am. Hutch rested his crossed arms on the edge of the bed. His head nestled between them. He was fast asleep when Kristin entered the room silently. She carefully placed her hands on each of Hutch’s shoulders to wake him but careful not to startle him.
“Sweetie.” She said softly. “Hutch? Wake up.” She patted his back gently.
“Oh. Hi.” He replied groggily. He looked up at Starsky who was still out. “Shhh. Let him sleep.”
Hutch rose from the chair and flung his arm around Kristin affectionately. They walked together out of the room and into the hallway.
“I just spoke to his doctor.” She began. “He’s physically out of danger but there is concern about his mental state. They want to keep him here so he can be thoroughly evaluated.”
“Well, that’s a relief.” Hutch sighed. “Did he say anything else?”
“He said you saved his life.”
“Wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last.”
“How are you?”
“Me?” Hutch sounded puzzled. “I’m fine. What do you mean?”
“Well, I told you to make amends. Do you realize now that you and he are… well, you know.”
“Yes. I’ve always known Kristin.”
“It looks like Starsky didn’t.”
“Don’t make me feel any more guilty than I already do, I can do that all on my own.”
Kristin smiled. “I have to get back to work. I’ll be see you later.”
They kissed tenderly and Hutch returned to Starsky’s side.
Time dragged. Hutch passed the time pacing and drinking coffee. He would doze off in the chair next to Starsky and then get up and pace some more. An army of doctors and nurses paraded in and out of the hospital room all day. Kristin popped in periodically and brought Hutch a sandwich. He didn’t eat it.
Dobey had come and gone as had Huggy. The only one that needed to be there when Starsky awoke from his nightmare was Hutch.
Hutch stood at the window, drinking yet another cup of coffee. The sunset was beautiful. He loved sunsets. A veil of darkness was quickly falling over Bay City and the hospital room that had been so bright and active all day, turned daunting. Hutch turned the lamp on and it was if he’d lit Starsky too as it was at that moment he finally opened his eyes.
“I thought I’d lost you.” Hutch said as he placed his hand on Starsky’s arm.
“I was so tired.”
“Some warm milk might have cured that.”
“I’m sorry.” Starsky whispered.
“For trying to kill me or yourself?”
“I wasn’t trying to kill myself. Is that what you think?”
“It did occur to me. You took a lot of pills and drank a lot of vodka. You don’t even like vodka.”
“It was the only thing I could think of so I could sleep. I guess I went too far.”
“Yes, you did. You almost put yourself to sleep forever.”
“How do you feel now?”
“Ah, well. I can’t argue with that.”
“Hutch?” Starsky probed quietly as he shifted his head to make eye-contact with his partner. “I was wrong to lie to you about what happened that night. And, I was careless to have shot in the dark like that. I was just so scared. I’m sorry. I really am.”
“I know you are.” Hutch replied empathetically. “But, next time you take a shot at me, aim low.”
“Okay, you two.” Dobey announced. “I managed to get you reassigned and you are partners again.”
“Now, get out of my office and back on the streets. And, don’t forget I want all your reports done in triplicate, daily… not weekly daily. You got that?”
Starsky and Hutch rose from the chairs opposite Dobey and exited his office into the familiarity and solace of the squad room.
“I never thought I’d be happy to hear those words again.” Starsky confessed.
“Music. Pure music.” Hutch replied with a gratified grin.
The partners had hashed it out. They locked themselves in Hutch’s apartment for days to discuss their past and their future. At times it was contentious. At times it was reflective and cheerful. But, it had to be done. So much had happened to them over 6 years peaking to a crisis that neither man could have fathomed. So, much grief and pain. So much heartache and so much regret.
The summit was a positive exercise and when they finally emerged from the session, they felt stronger than they ever had before. All was forgiven. All had been said. Nothing was left on the table. Everything was now clear and the future finally looked bright.
In the end, it all came down to one thing… Starsky loved Hutch and Hutch loved Starsky. It was that simple. Each man could not live without the other. They were bound together beyond blood. They were the truest of friends and nothing could stop them. They had broken through the darkness and the light would prevail.