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Part Two, Chapter Eight

Dawn was pissed. Even Hutch could tell that, regardless of how lousy he felt at the moment. He rolled his head carefully to the side, trying not to jostle the apparently liquid contents, and looked at his wife. Her hands were wrapped white-knuckled around the steering wheel, and the muscle on the side of her jaw was tense.

He knew why she was angry, too. He started to try to explain. “Starsky…”

“He yelled at you!” snapped Dawn. Then she bit her lip. She’d promised herself that she wasn’t going to say anything.

“He was right,” said Hutch, slowly. “I should have checked out that plate.”

It was too much. There was no way she was going to let Ken blame himself when it was clearly Dave who was in the wrong. “I don’t care if he’s right! You’ve got a head injury, you almost died, and the man you say is your best friend stood there in your hospital room and yelled at you over a stupid scrap of paper.” She hit the brakes a little too hard at an intersection and the small car bounced.

Hutch winced and tiredly rubbed his hand over his face. The new bruises stung, and one eye was starting to blur. He suspected that when he got home and looked in the mirror he would find that it had swollen shut. “Dawn, he was scared, and worried about me.”

She made a rude noise. “I can think of better ways to show it.”

“You don’t understand.”

“You’re right,” Dawn said, her voice becoming gentler. “I don’t understand.”

She regarded her husband with fond exasperation, before turning her attention back to the road. Poor man; fell off a catwalk and was hit by a train all in one day. He needs his rest, not an argument. She reached across and lightly placed her hand on his chest. She felt him sigh as he relaxed, and when she glanced over again, she saw that his eyes were closed.


It was gone. Hutch’s slacks had been cut off of him when he arrived at the hospital, and the contents of his pockets had been placed in a safe box. Unfortunately, the blood from his leg wound had soaked through his pocket and the paper with the license plate number had been lost.

Starsky leaned against the wall next to the hospital doors and wearily pinched the bridge of his nose. Or rather, he tried to, but in actuality he managed only to jab himself painfully in the eye. His coordination was shot. He hurt all over. The painkillers had worn off long ago, and his pills were locked in the glove compartment of his car, sealed in child-and-Starsky-proof bottles, back at the scene of the disaster. He was tired and his lungs burned; even breathing seemed an effort.

This wasn’t the first time some nutcase had been out for Hutch’s blood and it wasn’t the first time Hutch had barely escaped with his life, but in the past, he’d always been able to keep an eye on things. He’d come up with some excuse to stay over. He’d sleep with his gun within arm’s reach, and he’d be the one making sure Hutch took his meds and followed the doctor’s orders.

This time, however, he’d had to stand back and watch as Dawn took over. The doctor talked to her, and gave her the release papers, because she was the wife, and Starsky? He was just the friend. No longer next of kin. Not even a partner, anymore.

How am I supposed to protect him?

Of course, the bitterest part of that question was the fact that Dawn would have better odds in a straight up fight than Starsky anyway. He’d be lucky if he could protect Hutch from a cranky two year old, much less the kind of guy who shoves people in front of trains. Useless.

“Sergeant Starsky?”

The tentative voice broke into his dark thoughts, and he glanced up, irritated, to find himself looking at what had to be one of the youngest rookie cops on the force. What are they doing, hiring them right out of grade school?

The youngster’s blush showed through the dark skin of his cheeks. “Captain Dobey informed me that you needed a ride back to the site of the train derailment to collect your vehicle, sir.”

Starsky nodded and pushed himself away from the wall. With a quick glance across the lot, he headed for the officer’s patrol car.

It took the other man a moment to realize that his passenger was all but leaving without him. He scrambled after him, stuck out his hand, and said, “I’m Officer Williams.”

This attempt at a polite introduction was rewarded with a cold glance, and the flat question, “Are we goin’ or are you gonna stand here all day flappin’ your lips?”

It wasn’t a fair thing to say at all, and Williams looked first hurt and then angered by the rebuff. Without another word, he walked around the car and climbed in on the driver’s side. He glanced up to see Sergeant Starsky attempting to open the passenger side door. He seemed to be having some trouble with the task, so Williams leaned over and popped the door open for him.

He received no thanks for his trouble. Starsky dropped into the passenger seat and looked at him with an impatient scowl, as if to ask what was taking him so long. Williams could sense something close to hostility radiating off his passenger as he started the car and pulled out from the hospital parking lot.

Starsky felt a slight twinge of guilt at the unfair way he was treating the kid, but it was buried under a much larger sense of resentment. There had been a time when Hutch wouldn’t have forgotten to run that license number; when he would have listened to his partner. That fact that he had forgotten suggested an unpleasant truth to Starsky. This past week had been fun, but it was basically nothing more than make-believe. Starsky wasn’t a cop anymore, not really, and Hutch knew it, even if he wasn’t ready to admit it.

The Missing Persons portfolio was still worth taking on. It was a chance to do good work, and there wasn’t anyone he’d rather work with than Hutch, no matter the circumstances. But, slouched in the seat of a black and white, every muscle on fire and his head aching with fatigue, he knew it wouldn’t be the same. Hutch was married. He would buy a bigger house and fill it with kids, and Starsky would become the uncle who drops by on the weekend to hang out with dad; the guy mom barely tolerates.

Starsky was crashing from an adrenaline high, and crashing badly. The more he thought about these things, the further he sank into depression.

The radio chattered with a constant stream of information about containment efforts and evacuation procedures. Nearly every police officer and firefighter in the city had been mobilized. Reports of looting were already coming in. There was a mini-riot going on down at one of the strips, as merchants tried to protect their stores from folks who seemed to think that the disaster gave them license to help themselves.

Every instinct Starsky had was screaming at him to answer the calls. But he couldn’t. All he could do was sit here and be ferried back to his car like the useless cripple he was. He snarled under his breath, and reached over to snap off the radio.

Williams said, “Hey!”

Starsky took a deep breath, and tried to answer in as level a tone as he could muster. “You can’t answer any calls with me in the car. An’ I don’t wanna have to listen to it.”

Biting back his first reply, Williams looked over at the man sitting beside him. How could he not care about what was happening? This was the biggest disaster the city had ever seen. He told himself that no matter how long he was on the force he would never let himself get as cold and unfeeling as that. He picked up a little more speed, eager to rid himself of his unpleasant passenger.

As they passed the police blockades, Starsky could see buses lining the streets to collect the evacuees and their belongings. Sleepy parents and whining children, old folks looking bewildered as they tried to haul hastily packed suitcases; it was a wartime scene out of another time and place. After a moment, he asked, “What’s the zone of evacuation?”

Williams rattled off the streets, and Starsky felt his heart drop. His own home was inside the restricted area. This just keeps getting better and better, he thought, morosely.


Dawn clicked the clock radio alarm off and squinted blearily at the numbers that glowed faintly in the darkness. 5 AM. It was time to wake Ken again. Turning on the light beside the bed, she sat up and looked at him. He had been sleeping restlessly, and had kicked off most of his share of the covers. His fair hair was slightly sweaty, clinging to his bruised forehead. The wound along his scalp had seeped a little in the night, but the doctor had warned her that it might. It wasn’t very deep. The impact had been more of a concern than the surface damage.

She made no move to wake him immediately. It was enough for the moment simply to look at him and appreciate what a miracle it was that he was here at all this morning. He was hit by a train, and he’d survived. How many people could say that?

He’s beautiful, she thought.

She placed a cool hand on his bare hip, above the bandage on his leg, and felt the muscle twitch under her fingers. “Hey, lover,” she said quietly. There was no response. She leaned closer and ran her hands up his body, lingering briefly in the small of his back before following the smooth dips and curves of his lean muscled form to his shoulders. She was careful to avoid touching the new bruises. “Wake up, now. It’s time to show me that you’re still in the land of the living.”

He shivered slightly at her touch, and groaned, reluctant to stir himself.

“C’mon, now. Rise and shine.”

“…no shining…” he mumbled. “…too bright…”

She laughed, gently. “Doctor’s orders, beloved.” She leaned across his back, and briefly kneaded the muscles in his shoulders. A faint smile crossed his face, though his eyes remained closed. Encouraged, she bent and kissed the back of his neck, which elicited another shiver.

“I can think of one way to show you I’m not slipping into a coma,” he suggested, now fully awake.

She released his shoulders and dropped down on the bed beside him, so that they lay face to face. His eyes opened to meet hers, a familiar glint in their depths. “Weren’t you just hit by a train, not eight hours ago?” she asked, teasing.

“True,” he agreed. “The mind is willing but the flesh is weak. Perhaps you could be extra gentle with me?”

He never found out what her reply would have been, because at that moment, the front doorbell rang. Dawn sighed, briefly closed her eyes, and then said, “I’ll get it.”

“No, you won’t,” said Hutch. Ignoring the protests from his body, he pushed himself up off the bed and limped over to the closet to retrieve his bathrobe. Wrapping this article of clothing around himself, he then extracted his gun from the holster he’d left slung over the corner of the closet door.

Briefly glancing at Dawn, he asked, “Are you expecting anyone?”

“No,” she said, suddenly understanding his actions.

“Stay here,” he said, as he left the bedroom.

She wrapped her arms around herself, though she felt in no way cold, and waited. She was very aware of her vulnerability sitting on the edge of the bed in little more than one of his flannel shirts, one of the few things large enough for her to sleep in these days.

The doorbell rang again. Hutch moved up to the side of the door, out of the line of fire, and loudly said, “Who is it?” It seemed highly unlikely that the person who had tried to shove him in front of the train would simply walk up to his front door and ask to be admitted, but that didn’t mean he could take anything for granted.

The voice on the other side was muffled, but very familiar. “Probably the last person on Earth you wanna see right now.”

“Starsky?” Simultaneously relieved and puzzled, Hutch placed his weapon down on the side table and quickly opened the door.

The man on his front step appeared to be on the verge of collapse. His face was drawn and pale, and there were dark shadows under his red-rimmed eyes. He swayed slightly as he looked up at Hutch, giving him a faintly apologetic smile. “It was either here or the Midtown Mall, and, um, I didn’t think I’d survive if I had to sleep on the cafeteria floor.”


“Where am I supposed to sleep?”


That was what Dawn had asked when Ken had insisted on installing Dave in their bed. She’d asked it quietly, knowing full well what his reaction would likely be if she spoke in anything resembling a challenging manner. There was no need to be discreet on Dave’s behalf, however. He seemed well past hearing or understanding anything, and for once she couldn’t blame him at all for the current state of affairs. He had fallen asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillows.

Hutch was not so far from crashing himself. He moved stiffly, and kept wincing every time he reached for anything. His mental processes were still noticeably slower than usual. He had been heading for the couch when Dawn asked her question. He blinked at her, realizing that once again he’d forgotten to factor her into the equation. Not good, Hutchinson.

Looking from her to the couch, he made as grand a bow as he could manage under the circumstances. “Your new abode, my lady?” He was hoping the slightly goofy romanticism of it would mollify her. He knew he was in trouble, and rightly so. He’d been so aghast at Starsky’s condition that he hadn’t thought about what it would mean for Dawn.

“Leaving aside for the moment the fact that you are making your pregnant wife sleep on the couch so your best friend can have the bed,” his face colored at her words, “where are you planning to sleep?”

He made a helpless gesture. “What was I supposed to do? He can’t sleep out here. He’s enough of a mess already.”

“I don’t think you thought about it at all,” said Dawn, darkly, and quite accurately.

Hutch ducked his head and looked up at her with an abashed expression. He smiled weakly after a moment and said, “Um, head injury here?”

The corner of her mouth twitched, as she tried to suppress a smile. “I take it you are pleading temporary mental incompetence?”

“Clearly,” he said, “That must be the case.” He regarded her seriously. “Do you want me to make him take the couch?”

It was a sincere offer. She knew him well enough to know that she could say yes, and he would wake Dave and have him move over to the couch, whether it was good for the man or not. She could be back in bed next to her husband within the hour, and nothing more would be said about it. But there was something else going on here, too; a larger issue than who sleeps where. He was asking her to consider Dave’s needs. She had a feeling she should tread carefully.  The choice she made could have lasting consequences.

After a few minutes of very careful consideration, she reluctantly said, “I saw the shape he’s in. He probably does need the bed more than I do. I can take the couch.” She saw the relief in Ken’s eyes, but it didn’t make her feel as good as it should have. She knew what was coming next. “What about you, Mr. Head Injury? Where will you be sleeping?”

He opened his mouth, and then closed it again, and looked around himself in a puzzled manner. Dawn answered her own question. “You’ll be sleeping in the bed with him, of course.”

“I could try and dig up the sleeping bags,” he suggested.

She was touched by the effort he was making. “Sweetie, you’re one big bruise. You need a bed, too. So, go on and get in there. God knows, I don’t want to sleep next to him.”

Another blink, followed by a tentative query, “That’s a good thing, right?”

She gave him a light shove towards the bedroom, “From your perspective, I’m sure it is.”

Which is how Dawn found herself trying to sleep on the couch while her husband and his best friend slept together in the bedroom.

This was not a scene she had ever envisioned when she had imagined what married life might be like. It was at times like these that Dawn found herself wishing she had a mother, or a sister, or a best friend. All she wanted was some sort of woman in her life who would understand the absurdity of the situation she now found herself in; someone to commiserate with her and someone with whom she could eventually laugh about it. Someone who would understand what she meant when she said, “Men!”

Sleep did not come easily after all. After an hour, she gave up and decided to read the paper, which Ken had brought in along with Dave’s duffel bag and his pills. The front page was headlined by one single word in the large black font they only used for wars and football victories. It said “Disaster”. Inside was a detailed accounting of the previous night, information on where people could make donations, and requests for homes willing to take in the overflow from the makeshift evacuation centers. Dawn smiled grimly to herself, thinking that she’d already more than done her civic duty by way of adopting a refugee.

One small article caught her eye.


Hero of the Night

John Daly

Bay City Gazette

Saturday, September 13, 1980

Though the exact events leading to the train derailment of last night are still unknown, what is known is that we have reason to be thankful that Detective Sergeant Kenneth Hutchinson was at the scene when it happened.

Despite suffering serious injuries himself, he immediately began organizing volunteers among the people present to cordon off the scene of the accident. Observers credit his quick and levelheaded action with preventing more serious injuries and possible deaths among the onlookers last night.

He remained on the scene to direct the initial arrival of the emergency response teams. According to Damon Brown, 16, he was “like a Viking.”

Brown says Detective Sergeant Hutchinson suffered a head injury and a leg wound. Yet despite these injuries he remained on his feet, and in charge of the scene, until the Fire Chief arrived.

He then collapsed and was taken to County General in an ambulance. No further information on his condition is available at this time.


This time Dawn’s smile was quite genuine. She read the article again, lingering over each word. How could anyone not love a man like that?


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