Comments on this story can be sent to: Pinto4321@peoplepc.com
I can help if anyone can
You know I understand
Everyone gets crazy now and then
Yes, I know those empty nights get lonely
Sometimes you feel like you're the only one
to lose more than he wins.
He wouldn't go, so I did. I worked late on the pretense of finishing up paper work and he went home to suffer in his silence.
Silence . . . physical, emotional, psychic silence, that's all I could get from him since Rosey Malone walked away. He was a void where a vibrant young man used to be.
When I knocked on the door of the precinct psychiatrist's office he wondered why I was there. "What can I do for you, Sergeant Hutchinson? I thought I had an appointment with your partner." He peered through his glasses at the black schedule book on the desk in front of him.
"Ahh . . . you did." I fidgeted at the door not sure, now that I was here, what to do. "He said he didn't need a shrink."
"And you do?" He chuckled, pushing his glasses up with an index finger and gazing at me critically.
"Well, I . . . ahh." I didn't know where to start, so I shrugged. "I guess I'm here on his behalf."
"Are you having trouble with each other?"
"Well, yes and no." Now that I was in the office I had serious cold feet. Why couldn't I leave well enough alone? What if I screwed this up, said the wrong thing? What were the consequences? Would there be any repercussions? I wanted to wave at the shrink and say "funnsies, didn't mean it, see ya later," but it was too late for that.
He looked at me bemused, reading my mind. "Relax, Sergeant. Nothing you say will be on record anywhere. I make it my policy not to keep written notes. Your secrets are safe here."
"There's no secret," I said, a little panicked that he thought I had something to hide.
He waved a hand at me indicating he understood his poor word choice. "Close the door, Sergeant."
"Hutch," I said as I turned my back to him to shut the door, taking the moment to regroup. "Call me Hutch."
"Have a seat."
I eyed the couch nervously. Okay, Starsk, I thought, I'm here so I can help you through this latest 'rough spot' but there is no way I'm going to lie down on that goddamn couch.
The shrink caught my defiant look. "Pull up a chair, Hutch. I don't insist that my patients lie on the couch."
Relieved, I chose a leather armchair positioned near the front of his desk. I sat, crossed my legs, uncrossed my legs and finally settled with my hands clasped in front of me, elbows resting on my knees. It gave me a nice view of his loafers under the desk, cordovan with tassels. I concentrated on those shoes trying to appear calm and confident. I didn't fool him for an instant.
The shrink waited patiently while I fidgeted. He studied an open folder, nodding to himself. "You two have an amazing arrest record."
The windows of his apartment were dark but music wafted down to the parking lot, something melancholy that I couldn't quite make out. It was late, almost ten-thirty and normally I wouldn't have stopped but I wanted to touch base with him even if it meant sitting in awkward silence. The visit with the shrink had me feeling confident we could get through this, but . . .
I started to knock, changed my mind and used my key to let myself in. He'd been sitting in darkness on the couch but rose in a half crouch at the sound of the door opening.
"Hutch?" He had his hand on his gun.
"Just me." I tried to sound cheery.
"Good way to get yourself shot," he groused.
"Got any beer?"
"Help yourself." He waved toward the kitchen and sat back down.
"On my fourth; it's not doing any good, though."
"Probably the music. What is that, the Doors?" He didn't answer and I stumbled to the kitchen in the dark and snapped on the light.
"Hey, do ya mind?" he grumbled. I glanced back to see him shading his eyes from the glare.
"You going vampire on me, Starsk? Why are you sitting in the dark?"
"Hey, you came here," he complained. "You wanna sit in the light, go to your own place."
"Cold, Buddy, very cold." I wasn't put off in the least. This was the most normal he'd been in days.
"Sorry," he said, but didn't mean it.
I cracked the beer open, turned off the kitchen light and waited while my eyes adjusted to the dark. When I could see enough to move I made my way, by feel and memory, back to the couch.
"So, did you finish your paperwork?" he asked without enthusiasm.
"And you came here 'cause I been such terrific company lately."
"You're just a ray of sunshine in my life," I quipped.
He chuckled. "Yeah, I'll bet."
We sat in silence for a moment, drinking our beer. He shifted, finally, and sighed, as if coming to a conclusion he didn't like. "I guess I been a little out of sorts lately."
I didn't say anything, it's a new technique I've been working on. Tonight, silence seemed particularly effective on my sullen partner.
He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. "So," he started, "don't ya ever wonder?"
I sat back against the arm of the couch, barely able to see him in the dark. "Wonder what?"
"Do you ever wonder what you would be . . . if you weren't a cop?"
I snorted. "Broke."
"Come on, you know what I mean. What did you want to be when you were a kid?"
"The usual stuff, an astronaut, a cowboy, a pilot. Why, what did you want to be?"
He answered immediately. "A cop."
"Yeah." He paused, thinking. "Well, for a little while I wanted to be a pirate."
"A pirate? Like 'shiver me timbers' and 'ahoy there'?"
"Aye, mate," he replied, in a salty brogue. "I spent a lot of time limping around the house with a patch over one eye."
I laughed at the thought. "Did you have a parrot?"
"Yup. I used to steal crackers for him, made my mom crazy."
"A real parrot?" I couldn't picture it.
"He was real enough to me."
"Pete The Parrot." I could see it now. Starsky as an eight-year-old, black scarf tied around his head, hobbling around the house, brandishing a wooden sword and talking to his parrot.
We were quiet for a long time and I thought maybe he'd fallen asleep. He still sat leaning forward but now his chin was in his hands, elbows still on his knees. I was beginning to nod off myself when he spoke, startling me fully awake.
"No, really," he implored, "what if you weren't a cop?"
I didn't answer and he cautiously revised his question. "I mean . . . what if you couldn't be a cop anymore?
My heart sank. I'd feared this conversation for months. "I guess it would depend on why I couldn't be a cop."
He swallowed audibly and squeezed out the words, "What if . . . ?" then stopped.
Starsky and his 'what if . . . ?' Huge moths fluttered in my stomach, working their way up to make my mouth suddenly dry. "What if what?" My throat felt tight and I kept very still, waiting for the answer.
He drew a ragged breath and started over. "What if you were afraid of . . ." he faltered, reluctant to continue.
I wanted to say I was always afraid, that's what makes you careful. Fear is what keeps you alive out there, good old-fashioned, healthy fear, but I wanted to hear what he had to say, so I practiced keeping quiet.
"I'm scared, Hutch," he whispered, his voice shaking with the effort of his admittance.
It tore my heart to hear him say it. We're always battling fear, we just hardly ever talk about it. I reached out and put a hand on his knee. Instantly he entwined his fingers through mine, hanging on for dear life.
He gulped in the darkness. "They took Terri."
Tears filled my eyes and I was glad it was dark. "I know, buddy." I tried to keep my own voice from trembling and failed. Here we go, I thought, and it's not going to be pretty.
"They took Gillian from you." He choked. I drew a sharp breath through my teeth and he squeezed my hand in sympathy.
"They took Rosey from me." He rocked gently back and forth where he sat, clinging to my hand with both of his, letting misery engulfed him.
"What if . . ." he croaked, barely able to get the words out, "what if they take you?" He swallowed again, fighting the tears but he couldn't hold back the tide forever.
I felt him turn to me and, in the darkness, the imagined grief on his face had me undone. He let go of my hand and started to rise. I was suddenly lost, something inside of me cried out in terror. I wanted to shout 'come back, don't go, I'm still here, dammit.' but I reached for him instead, pulling him back down onto the couch. He offered little resistance, sitting heavily and covering his face with his hands. I drew him to me, gathering him in my arms, as much for my comfort as for his.
He collapsed against me breathing hard. "It could happen . . . it could happen . . . anytime . . . just like Terri, just like Gillian." Fighting for control, he froze, holding his breath. The sobs came silently at first in shuddering waves. I struggled with my own emotions, determined to hold back my tears, wanting to be strong for him.
"Shhh, easy now," I whispered into his hair.
He tried to catch his breath. "Some rotten punk could just . . . for no reason . . . nuthin' anyone could do . . ."
He clung to my shirt and wept, burying his face against my chest. I could think of nothing to ease his agony. It was the primal fear of all cops to be randomly gunned down. It's something you lock deep inside and hope you'll never have to face. Here it was, in all its glory, tearing my partner to shreds.
"No, not us, we're too careful. It won't happen to us." I knew it wasn't true but what could I say? You're right, Starsk, one of us will surely be gunned down some day?
"Shhhh, easy." I held him tight, buried my cheek in his hair and tried desperately to control my own emotions. If we both came apart it would be a bad scene. I spoke soft and low, reassuring us both that things would get better. The pain and fear wouldn't last.
Eventually his sobs slowed and he unfurled himself enough to look up at me in the dark. "You scared too, Hutch?"
"No," I lied, then confessed, "Of course I am." I smiled down at him in the dim light. "But not when we're together. Not when I know it's you watching my back."
"Yeah?" He brightened a little, thinking it through.
"Anyone else would be sheer terror." I managed a chuckle.
He humphed to himself then gave a deep, shaky sigh. "I feel that way, too."
"You trust me to watch your back?" I looked at him in mock surprise.
"I do," he said, rallying to sound playfully serious. "You trust me to watch yours?"
"I do," I replied.
He cocked his head and squinted at me in the darkness. "I think we just got married."
I grinned at him and laughed out loud. "I think you're right."
"Maybe we should have a reception or something." He shifted back, straightening my tear stained shirt with a tug and a pat.
"You just want some free food."
"Probably you're right, I'm kinda hungry."
"Starsky, you're always hungry."
He pushed himself out of my arms and sat up rubbing his face and shaking his head as if to clear cobwebs away. "Why we sittin' in the dark?"
"I have no idea."
He turned on the light at one end of the couch and studied my face. "You look terrible."
"I'm gonna make something to eat. Want anything?"
"Whatever you're having is fine with me." I sighed.
He stood, stretched and padded barefoot into the kitchen. I could hear drawers opening and pots banging.
Guess these troubled times get scary
but that's just ordinary
Everyone gets crazy now and then
And who can say they've never stumbled
never fallen to their knees
Your dreams like castles when they crumble
Well I know what you mean and I know how hard it can seem
I get crazy just like you
Get feeling lost and lonely too
Like some old flag left flying in the wind