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Part Five, Chapter Seven

As the last echoes faded, Starsky opened his eyes. Hutch was standing frozen in place, his arm locked and his pistol still targeted on the spot where Reg had been. But Reg wasn’t there anymore. He was lying in a bloodied heap, with most of the contents of his head sprayed out on the sand several feet behind him.

Monster tugged at Starsky’s hand, clearly very interested in this latest development. Starsky tightened his grip on the animal’s collar, and took a hesitant step towards his partner.


The word seemed to unlock the strange paralysis that had Hutch in its grip. His arm dropped as if the pistol had suddenly become too heavy for him to hold. It slid from his fingers and hit the ground with a dull thud. He staggered backwards, his shoulders hitting the fence as his legs folded under him.

Oh god, I shot him. I shot an unarmed prisoner…

Hutch couldn’t take his eyes off of what he’d done.

To hell with preserving the integrity of the crime scene. Starsky released Monster. At that moment, Hutch was a far bigger concern to him than whether or not the dog messed with the corpse. In a few deliberate strides, he had positioned himself in front of his friend. He knelt awkwardly, trying to insert himself into Hutch’s line of sight. C’mon buddy, look at me. Don’t look at that thing over there. Hutch’s haunted gaze bore right through him, as if he wasn’t there.

 “Hey, hey…” Starsky touched his arm. That brought a slight flinch and a pair of red-rimmed eyes slid over to focus on him.

Encouraged, Starsky cupped his hand under the side of Hutch’s face and tilted his head back, trying to get a better look at him in the dim light. There was blood smeared across his pale skin, but there didn’t seem to be any obvious head trauma. It was hard to see in the dark, but the man didn’t seem to be suffering from a concussion.

He’s just completely folded up on me, that’s all. Starsky wished he could find that thought more reassuring than he did. He’s been tortured enough, why does he have to do it to himself now? It’s not like the world ain’t a better place with Reg out of it. Starsky felt a twinge of regret. He shouldn’t have let Hutch shoot the guy. All he’d had to do was say something stupid, like, “Don’t do it, man,” and he knew Hutch wouldn’t have done it. He was supposed to protect his partner from crap like this, but selfishly, he’d kept his mouth shut until it was too late.

I should have taken that gun and just shot the bastard myself.

Starsky had been avoiding the leg wound, in large part because he knew there was little he could do with it. He didn’t dare mess with the clumsy bandage.  Even filthy and soaked through with blood, it was still better than nothing, and trying to remove it might disturb whatever clots had started to form. He wrapped his hand around Hutch’s ankle, and found the skin disturbingly cold and clammy.

“Hey, how long have you had that tourniquet on?”

He didn’t really expect an answer and Hutch more than lived up to his expectation, giving no indication that he’d even heard the question. What do I do now? wondered Starsky. He didn’t know if he was looking at a gunshot wound or a knife wound, and he certainly wasn’t going to peek under the bandages to find out. It didn’t really matter in any case, because when you came right down to it, the only thing that mattered was that Hutch needed medical attention and he needed it soon.

The sensible thing to do would be to leave him and go call for the paramedics. Except that the idea of walking away while Hutch sat here and stared holes in that corpse was unendurable. He was in no shape to climb the ladder up the retaining wall. The only way out was back over the dunes. Starsky’s heart sank as he realized there was only one option available to him, if he was going to get Hutch to a hospital. Oh, this is not going to be fun.

“Okay, buddy, this is going to hurt some, but I ain’t gonna leave you down here alone.” Starsky scooted over beside Hutch and slid under his elbow, wrapping his arms around his partner’s waist. Hutch’s undershirt slid up, and the skin beneath felt too cool. He hoped Hutch wasn’t slipping into shock, but there was no time to worry about that now. “Up you go!”

He was amazed that they managed to get to their feet on the first try. Having the fence available to hang onto helped a lot. Starsky tried not to hear the quietly pained sounds Hutch was making. The shape he was in, he ought to be air-lifted out, not dragged over the beach by a sorry excuse for a partner who was as likely to drop him as he was to help him. A partner who’d deliberately let him shoot a man in the head.

At least they could skirt the wall of the dock, where hopefully the sand would be packed down a little more solidly. He whistled once, and to his relief, Monster left the body on the sand and came trotting over.

Monster had been somewhat puzzled as to what to do, in any case. He’d approached cautiously, yanked on a pant leg, and found it unresponsive. Further investigation had clarified that the large man was indeed as dead as anything could be. The blood was congealing around his head and his skin was cold. Unlike with the piglet, however, Monster found himself with absolutely no desire to sink his teeth into the meat. This was still a man, even if a dead one, and something about that made him nervous. There’d been an upending of the natural order of things.

He’d been circling the body, feeling tired and achy and bewilderingly guilty, when he heard the man whistle to him. He started to turn away and then paused. There was one thing he could do, one statement he could make, that would make it very clear to anyone who came across the corpse later exactly what his opinion of this man had been.

He cocked his leg and marked it.

That deed done, and feeling quite pleased with himself, he headed over to where the man was trying to lift the injured one off the ground.

Hutch could feel Starsky’s arms wrapped around his waist, his shoulder pushing up under his armpit as he steered him around the fences and down toward the end of the dock. The solid warmth of his partner’s body and the reassuring strength of his grip helped anchor Hutch and he did his best to get his feet under himself and take the weight off of his companion. After a few minutes, he realized that Starsky was talking to him. He wasn’t saying much. It was just a reassuring patter of nonsense. “It’s okay… you’re okay… gonna be fine, babe… you’re good, you’re good…”

It wasn’t the words; it was the unabashed love in that voice that undid Hutch. He didn’t deserve it, and he didn’t want it. He tried to push away, but Starsky wouldn’t let go.  They both tripped, landing in a tangle on the sand.

The jolting impact sent a hot, molten spike through Hutch’s leg and he groaned. But far worse than the pain was the fact that Starsky was now frantically apologizing to him. “Aw, man! Oh geez, I’m sorry! C’mon, we’re almost there, okay? Don’t cry, please? I’m real sorry.” He felt Starsky’s hands on his face, the rough skin of his thumbs rubbing gently against his cheeks, wiping away the tears he hadn’t known were there.

And then those arms were around him again, refusing to let go, and that voice was rattling on, encouraging and soothing and never abandoning him. Whether he deserved it or not, he was folded into Starsky’s love.

The trip from under the dock up to the Torino was one that Starsky never wanted to repeat, ever again. It had taken almost everything he had to pull it off, and by the time they made it to the car, he was drenched in sweat and shaking with the effort. The cost in pain to Hutch had been staggering, and Starsky didn’t want to think about the very real possibility that he’d caused serious damage to his friend’s wounded leg.

There was no other option.  He couldn’t have walked away from him.

Unaware that he was still rambling on, the flow of words seemingly unstoppable, Starsky pulled open the passenger door and helped Hutch down into the seat. “You know what? You should try not to bleed on my seats. Not because I’ll be mad or anything, ‘cause I know you don’t mean it, but ‘cause you need all that red stuff inside you, and not under my dash. I don’t expect you’ve got a lot left to spare, so you don’t need to be generous with it, or nothin’…” He patted Hutch once more on his uninjured leg and reluctantly released him to dash around to the other side of the car.

Starsky strongly believed that he needed to hold onto the man, though he couldn’t have articulated exactly why. It just felt necessary. As if Hutch might vanish if he didn’t keep a good enough grip on him.

He let Monster into the back of the car, and distractedly noticed that the dog was limping.  The animal flopped down on the vinyl seat with a deep shuddering sigh that spoke of bone-weary exhaustion.

Starsky could sympathize.

He started the car and hit the gas, using his elbow to steer as he called in to dispatch. He requested a coroner’s wagon for Reg, and informed them that he was enroute to the hospital with an injured officer. He performed this maneuver almost entirely with his left hand, his right hand rarely leaving Hutch’s knee, except when it traveled up to squeeze his shoulder or rub the back of his neck.

Hutch was silent during the drive, seemingly unaware of the fact that Starsky was continuing to rattle on with his monologue while mauling him, one-handed. Monster snored softly in the back, having fallen asleep.

As Starsky pulled into the semi-circle lane in front of the hospital, he caught sight of several people in white coats gathered by the sliding glass doors to Emergency.  He had no time to take in more than that, however, because no sooner had he brought the car to a halt than Hutch threw open the door and swung his legs out. Stumbling, the wounded man forced himself up onto his feet and limped right past the surprised EMTs and into the building. Starsky scrambled out of the car, pausing only long enough to retrieve his cane from the rear seat, and tell a drowsily confused Monster, “Don’t touch the horn!”

Starsky pushed through the startled hospital staff and made it through the doors just in time to see Hutch slap his badge down in front of a wide-eyed receptionist and say, “I need to know where I can find Dawn Hutchinson. She’d have been brought in about half an hour ago…”

Man, how can he move so fast?  And where’s he getting all that energy from?  Starsky grabbed Hutch’s arm. “Slow down! You can’t go walkin’ into maternity, bleeding all over the place and looking like this. You’ll scare all those mothers half to death.”

Hutch’s head whipped around, shock written plain on his face. It took him a moment to speak. “Maternity? B - but she had a knife wound…” He staggered, and Starsky caught him, shoving him back and bracing him against the receptionist’s desk. From the corner of his eye, he could see the nurse waving to someone, beckoning them over.

“She started having contractions back at the cottage,” explained Starsky. “She’s having your baby, Hutch.”

“It’s… it’s too soon. Sh - she’s not due, not until January.”

Starsky wouldn’t have thought the man could get any paler, but he was wrong. Hutch seemed to have gone three shades lighter in the last minute. He’d give Casper the Friendly Ghost a run for his money right now.

The receptionist was on the phone now, paging a Doctor somebody.

Hutch pulled away, staggering.  “I’ve got to see her!”

“You can’t!” Starsky held on stubbornly, his hands gripping the desk behind Hutch, trapping the other man.  He flinched at the sudden rage that flared in Hutch’s blue eyes. Hastily he said, “At least wait until you get that leg sewn up and maybe get a top up of the red stuff. You’re bleeding again, Hutch. Look!”  Using his chin, he gestured urgently back the way they’d come.

Across the white linoleum tiles leading from the double doors to the desk, there was a trail of red footprints. With his left shoe, Hutch had marked his path in blood right across the emergency room floor. There was a dead silence in the room, as the sick kids and the old folks and everyone else stared at him in open-mouthed astonishment.

Hutch blinked, taking it all in. Then he sagged, and felt Starsky’s grip tighten as his chin landed on his partner’s shoulder. “But, Dawn…” His voice was fading.

A calm, authoritative voice behind him said, “Your wife is in good hands, Mr. Hutchinson.” Hutch focused on the middle-aged woman in a white coat who had appeared beside the two of them. Her expression made it clear that she would brook no further nonsense from him. “The sooner we have a look at that leg of yours, the sooner we can discuss allowing you visit her.”

“Terrific,” said Starsky, sounding strangled.  “D’ya suppose you could get someone to give me a hand here?  Hutch, you need to go on a diet.”

Hutch, realizing that he was putting too much weight on his friend, tried to move back, but he was pinned between Starsky and the desk and his legs seemed suddenly uncooperative.  His thigh, which had been blessedly numb for the last several minutes, reawakened with a vengeance, and the pain took his breath away, blinding him and making the room spin.

He was vaguely aware of strangers’ hands firmly catching him, their grip professional and efficient as he was moved to a gurney.  He yelped and struggled as someone tried to force him down onto his back, and distantly, he heard Starsky yelling.

“Are you all morons?  The man’s got a hole in the back of his leg!  He can’t lie down like that!”

Eventually the chaos settled and Hutch found himself lying on his stomach on a table in an examining room.  Rotating his head to the side, he looked at the doctor.  “Is my wife really having our baby?”

“Yes, she is, and everything is in place to make sure she has the best experience possible.” The woman had a slight accent, which he could not place. He pushed himself up on his elbows, trying to get a better look at her.  A name-tag identified her as Madeline Hansel.

“But it’s too soon…” Hutch resisted her efforts to make him lie down again. Several nurses were occupied setting things up around them.

Starsky found a plastic chair near the door and dropped down into it with a sigh. He pulled his left leg up over his right knee and massaged the calf. Thank God someone else is willing to try to talk some sanity into the big lug, because I’m just about all done in. The nurses ignored him, something for which he was also thankful, considering the number of times he’d had to fight being evicted under similar circumstances.  He wondered how many parking tickets he was accumulating, with the Torino abandoned in front of the Emergency doors.  Would they tow it with Monster inside?

Dr. Hansel cocked her head, dark eyes bright as she examined Hutch. “When was she due?”

“January 9th.”

“We call that mildly immature,” said the doctor, efficiently assessing his pulse and respiration, forcing him to stare into a penlight. “Your baby will be small, but should be healthy. At thirty-five weeks old, the infant is very strong. Another three weeks and we would have said full term.”

Her voice sharpened, “Now, unless you want to end up sedated, I suggest you let the nurse help you out of those clothes and into a gown. We’re going to have to cut these slacks off…” Hutch twitched as the cold metal scissors touched the back of his calf, and then caught his breath as that movement sent another stab of pain through his leg.  The adrenaline was wearing off, and he felt very cold and tired all of a sudden.

Hutch wondered, What’s the point of fighting anymore?

Starsky heard a familiar grunt and looked up to see Dobey peering cautiously around the door jamb. At the sight of Hutch on the table, his face brightened.

“Cap!” Starsky started to get up, but a large hand gripped his shoulder, pressing him firmly back down into his seat.

Dobey smiled at him. “Stay put, Dave. I’m sure you’ve been on your feet enough today.”

Starsky half turned in his seat, and craned his head back to see the man standing behind him.  “Is Becky here?”  At Dobey’s nod, he fished his keys out of his pants.  “Can you get her to move my car to the parking lot?  Anyone else, I don’t know if Monster would let them in the car.  And I left it in front of the doors…”

Dobey nodded again, taking the keys.  “I’ll see to it.”

Hutch had glanced over at the sound of his captain’s voice. Now he began to try again to push himself up from where he lay on his stomach on the examining table. When Doctor Hansel made it clear that she was having none of that, he gestured at the nurse who was placing the contents of his pockets in a plastic bag.

“Cap, you’ll have to take my badge. My gun is… in the gutter on Becky’s roof…” Hutch was having trouble forcing the words past the knot in his throat.  He tried to pull in more air, struggling against an unreasonable feeling that he was drowning.

Starsky cringed. Aw, hell, Hutch. Don’t start this. Not now.

Dobey’s face darkened. “Hutchinson, what the hell are you talking about? Take your badge? Why would I want to do that?”

“I shot him. I… He’d surrendered and I shot him.” The anguish in Hutch’s voice was clear, but the scowl on Dobey’s face only deepened. Doctor Hansel continued to work with unruffled professionalism, ignoring the exchange.

“Shut up,” growled Dobey.

Hutch started to protest, but his captain overrode him. “I didn’t hear anything, and you aren’t going to say one more word about it. Do you understand?”


“No!” Dobey strode forward until he was right at the side of the table. His voice gentled to a low rumble, and his expression was earnest. “Ken, you’ve got a wife and child who need you right now.”

Starsky saw a flicker of something in Hutch’s eyes, and then he turned his head away, but whether it was out of stubbornness or shame, he couldn’t tell.

Dobey pressed on. “Let the doc fix that hole in your leg, son. And then go and spend some time with your wife. Everything else will be dealt with later.”

Hutch’s face was still hidden, but both Starsky and Dobey heard his quiet answer. “Yes, sir.”

Dobey snorted but seemed satisfied to leave it at that for the moment. Heading for the door, he paused by Starsky and said, “I want a word with you. Now.” There was no more of the ‘you’ve been on your feet enough today, Dave’ in his voice. He was in full captain mode, and Starsky knew it would be a long while before he heard Dobey say his first name again.

Pushing himself up and collecting his cane, Starsky gave Hutch one last glance before he followed the captain out into the hall. He leaned against the wall and waited as the large man pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the sweat from his forehead. He was still wearing the dark suit he’d worn to Starsky’s wedding, and he looked rumpled and tired.

Dobey said, “Starsky, what did you see him do?”

“Not a thing, Cap. I didn’t see one damn thing.” Starsky met Dobey’s gaze without flinching. It was nothing but the truth, and it was all anyone was going to get from him with regards to what had gone down under the docks.

“Hmm,” said Dobey. “Whose gun was it?”

“It was an unregistered weapon, no serial number. I’m sure the forensics guys have picked it up by now.”

“So, it was probably Reginald Malcolm’s,” said Dobey, slowly.

“You might think that, yes.” Starsky could almost see the wheels turning in the captain’s head as he shuffled through the things said and unsaid in their conversation. Dobey might sound kind of slow sometimes, but he had one of the sharpest intelligences Starsky had ever known.

There was a long pause as Dobey balled up his handkerchief and stuffed it back into his pocket. When he was done, he asked. “Whose prints are we going to find on it?””

“Reg’s. Hutch’s.” Starsky paused. “Mine.”

Dobey rubbed his hand over his mouth.

Starsky pushed himself off of the wall, standing firm. “Cap, there’s no way I’m going to let him hang for this one.”

The captain waved a hand at him, clearly dismissing him. “You get back in that room and keep an eye on him. I’ll go let everyone know he’s here, and warn them to go easy on him. He’s not firing on all cylinders right now, is he?”

Starsky was still trying to press his case, defending Hutch. “I wasn’t there for all of it, but I saw enough. Reg put him through hell.” He stopped, abruptly. “Wait… everyone?”

Dobey nodded, distracted. “When word got out about what was going down, most of your reception party moved from the beach to the maternity waiting rooms upstairs. Huggy even brought the food.”

Starsky’s eyes widened. “Everyone’s here?”

A large brown hand patted his shoulder affectionately. “They care about you, Dave. If you weren’t going to make it to your reception, then your reception was just going to have to come to you.”

Dobey watched as a grin slowly brightened the younger man’s face. He turned a little too quickly, overbalancing and catching himself on the door jamb as he thrust his way through the swinging door.

“Hey, Hutch!” he shouted excitedly. “Guess what?”

The captain blew out a relieved breath at the sound of Starsky trying to cheer up Hutch with the news that all of their friends were gathered to celebrate the birth of his first baby. Turning away, he lumbered down the hallway, back towards the maternity ward, feeling much older than his years and very worried. There were phone calls he needed to make. Mentally, he began tallying up who in the department owed him favors.

If anyone could prevent a guilt-ridden Hutchinson from trying to hang himself professionally, it would be Starsky. The rest of it was up to Dobey.


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