This story first appeared in the zine, Our Favorite Things #16 (2000). Comments on this story can be sent to: email@example.com and will be forwarded to the author.
One of Our Own
K Hanna Korossy
Detective Craig Simmons sank down in his seat, peering around the newspaper he held. The subterfuge was probably completely unnecessary, the object of his attention immersed in thoughts of his own that the detective could all too clearly imagine. He watched the tall blond as he'd sit motionless for several minutes, arms hanging limply off either side and too-long legs accordioned under the squat chair. Then the figure would rise, pacing aimlessly, obliviously, before folding back into the chair again. His gaze was turned inward, the only outside thing it was aware of and kept returning to being the IC cubicle just across the hall.
Simmons' eyes followed that gaze yet again, sighing quietly to himself as he did. Therein lay one partner, body broken and soul wandering, while the other paced the halls in silent confusion, body wandering and soul broken. Together, as usual, they made up a whole. Separate...
Craig went back to watching Hutchinson, straightening in his chair as the blond turned toward him and stared down the hall for a long moment with a frown. Then Hutch seemed to remember what he'd thought of, and trudged into the nearby bathroom. Simmons dropped the newspaper onto the chair next to him and followed, stationing himself by the door while listening to the movement inside.
There was, of course, a guard on the floor now, stationed at the end of the hallway where he could see Starsky's room. The broad daylight shooting of the detective in the police station lot had badly shaken the whole department. Every man and woman with a badge felt under siege at the moment, let alone the two detectives the shooters had been aiming for, and Captain Dobey had immediately ordered a guard on Starsky in case there was a second try on his life. And there had been, a hitman who had knocked out an orderly in that very bathroom and then headed for Starsky's room in the orderly's coat, stopped only at the last minute by Hutchinson. Then on the heels of that had followed yet another attempt, on Hutch in the garage.
Until then, the Special Units Division was only upset and angry about an attack on two of their own. Now, they were furious, out for blood.
Security had been immediately stepped up at the hospital, but that was a matter of procedure and duty. For the other detectives in SUD and Homicide, this was personal. An hour later, Craig Simmons had followed a frantic Hutchinson from the precinct station back to the hospital, to find that Starsky had narrowly survived a turn for the worse. With that crisis over, Craig had planted himself in the nearby waiting room and had kept watch over his two friends and colleagues, one unknowing and one uninterested in the danger they were in.
Water ran inside the bathroom, and Simmons backed off, returning to his seat but carefully watching. He didn't pick up the paper again until Hutch exited the bathroom and, after another long look into the hospital cubicle, resumed his restless vigil.
It was like being drawn to watch a horrible accident. Craig couldn't help imagining what Hutch was thinking, feeling a little bit of what he felt and then just as quickly shying away from the thought as too painful. Part of being a cop was learning to deal with the idea of death, both of your own and that of the innocent victims you saw every day. But somehow that acceptance didn't extend to partners. Your partner was the one person you refused to believe could be taken from you, because he was often the only one who made all the stresses and fears of the Job bearable. Being the one to go wasn't as bad as being the one left behind. And to not only have to deal with that loss, but like Hutch, have it stretched out indefinitely, his helplessness shoved in his face, was unthinkable.
Ed's hand suddenly touched his shoulder, not quite surprising him. Craig quickly buried his gloom, already smiling as he glanced up at his partner. "Hey, your turn already?"
Ed Babcock's hazel eyes were unusually somber as he shook his head. "Naw, thought I'd join you a little bit early." He nodded toward the hall where the silent Hutchinson now stood slumped against the IC cubicle wall, aware only of what lay within. "How're they doin'?"
Simmons shook his head. "Not good. Starsky's heart stopped before and, from what I hear, took a long time to get started again. Hutch's been pretty much like that ever since."
"Yeah." Detectives were a cynical lot, but none of them had been prepared to believe they were holding a death watch. Craig looked over at his partner. "You ever think about it?"
Ed didn't look at him, didn't ask what he meant, hadn't needed to for a while now. "You mean if it was me or you? I try not to. If that happened to you, I don't know what..." He trailed off, the thought unfinished as he stared down the hallway.
"Yeah," Simmons repeated. He knew exactly what Ed was thinking, his own mind returning to its earlier track. From the moment he had seen Hutchinson out in the parking lot, his heart as badly broken as his partner's body, it had been a hard thought to avoid. And he and Ed had only been partners for four years, not seven like Starsky and Hutchinson--ten if you counted the years they'd worked apart but been friends. Then there was also the minor legendariness of their partnership, of how unbeatable they were together and how close they were as partners and of how messing with one incurred the inestimable wrath of the other. Simmons shivered inside once again at the hell of what Hutchinson was going through, being forced to watch his partner slip away. One look at the lifeless shell the blond had also become and it was far too easy to imagine.
His arm was gently shaken. "Hey." He glanced over at his partner, startled out of thought.
"Ain't gonna happen, partner, so just forget about it." Babcock's mouth curled into a small smile, more fondness than mirth. Craig managed one of his own in return, then his eyes returned to Hutchinson as the blond turned and stumbled to the nearby room where Captain Dobey had set up temporary quarters. Good, maybe he would get a little reassurance and rest there.
"What about Starsky's car?" he asked absently, his gaze lingering on the door.
"Eney took care of it already. It'll be ready in a few days, plenty of time for when Starsky gets home."
Simmons raised an eyebrow at his partner at that, Ed nodding his head gently in return. Okay, optimism it was.
There was the sound of louder voices from the room suddenly, and both detectives turned toward it, Craig tensing in his seat in preparation for whatever was needed. A minute later silence fell, and Hutch came striding out the door, sweeping past them without a glance, his face set in stone. The moment the elevator swallowed him, Huggy Bear, the pair's favored informant and, it seemed, good friend, also hurried out to the elevator to follow the blond.
Craig glanced at his partner, catching Ed's nod, and then both of them got up as one to head for the stairs and continue their watch.
"So what do you think he's doing here?"
His partner's voice roused Ed Babcock from his wondering the very same thing. The tall office building had dozens of different businesses in it; was Hutch trying to conduct some sort of investigation, presumably into the shooting? Or some other business altogether? Maybe something of the legal affairs involved with Starsky's wounding?
The last made him wince. Surely not the will or final arrangements yet, though the blond certainly knew a lot more about Starsky's condition than they did...
He shrugged it off. "I don't know. You think maybe he's got a lead?"
"The man doesn't even look like he knows what day it is," Simmons answered doubtfully.
Ed grinned slightly at that. "Maybe not, but then, the date doesn't have anything to do with Starsky."
"True." Bringing his partner's shooters to justice seemed perhaps the one thing that the blond detective would have been able to pull his head together for. Amazing, that kind of bond, and yet Ed had seen it in action himself only, what, the fall before? Then, Hutchinson had been the one in trouble, missing and ill from botulism. Even though the whole SUD was on it, Starsky had been the one single-mindedly driven, pushing them all but himself the most, to track down the missing detective before it was too late. And they had.
Not that everyone in the department liked the pair. Ed had heard all the rumors, taken part in some of the discussions himself. There were the ridiculous whispers from people who didn't know the two very well and assumed their devotion to each other was suspiciously too close, but few paid attention to those innuendos. Far more common were complaints about the hotshot rule-breakers who already had several fatal shootings between them and who only got away with half of what they did because they were Dobey's pet team. There was something to that, he had to admit. Then again, a lot of that gossip came from jealousy. It was no secret that Starsky & Hutchinson's clearance rate was the highest in the department, and their involvement in some spectacular busts had come from their hard work and determination.
But few outside SUD realized the cost of that success rate. The two had made some powerful enemies, and racked up more hospital visits than any other team Babcock had known, some of them dangerously close calls. He himself had sat with one or the other before, seen the haggard face and dead eyes and mindless drags on cups of cold coffee that indicated a body absent of soul. He knew that when one was injured, both hurt. Ed admired their close partnership and enjoyed watching the pair work together. But he'd seen too much to be jealous.
Of course, even the gossips fell silent at times like this, only the crudest idiots venturing ill against a partnership with a fallen man. That was one of the unique things about their job, the way everyone closed ranks when one of their own was hurt. Which was why Ed and his partner were there on their time off, why the department wives were already working on cleaning up Hutchinson & Starsky's places and filling their refrigerators, why no one would rest until the shooters and those behind them were caught. Even those who didn't understand the depth of what Starsky & Hutch had, still knew its importance, and that made this a crusade for every person who carried a badge.
Babcock's attention returned to the building as the door opened and Hutchinson came out, intent on a piece of paper in his hand. Immediately, the two detectives sat up, back in protective mode as they scanned the streets both ways for any sign of trouble. Huggy Bear had apparently caught up to Hutch and trailed along now next to the blond. Babcock kept half an eye on the pair as they slowed by a payphone, Huggy digging in his pocket for change. Hutch made a call, and a minute later hung up and stood, frozen. He had learned something important; Ed would have bet on it. Funny, then, that he was just standing there looking like he was in shock. Had it been the hospital he called? But he'd seemed to use more coins than a local call...
The urgent use of his nickname caught his attention immediately, and Ed followed Craig's pointing finger to the maroon sedan that had pulled out down the street and was slowly approaching the two men by the phone. The car's speed was unusual on the busy avenue, and the tinted glass sparked Babcock's cop instincts.
"Got it," he said shortly, angling his car out to intercept.
One quick swerve, and the GTO effectively pinned the sedan against the curb. A moment later he was grilling the driver, and within five minutes he and Craig had three men and five guns in custody. And when Ed went to call it in and ask for a black-and-white for prisoner transport, after a quick glance at the now-empty sidewalk, he also put in another call to alert the guys that Hutchinson was heading back to the hospital.
Detective Mike Todesco entered the hospital and headed immediately for the front desk. "Excuse me, I'm looking--"
The door opened behind him, admitting a slumped, dazed Hutch, followed closely by a black man Todesco vaguely recognized. His identity seemed unimportant in face of the shock the blond seemed to be in, and Mike frowned as he watched his colleague stumble past him, oblivious to Mike's presence, to stand limply in front of the elevator. His companion punched a button, then also stood frowning at Hutchinson.
"Never mind," Todesco said vaguely to the nurse behind the desk, and watched as the pair entered the arriving elevator. He waited until the numbers climbed to the second floor, then nodded to himself and headed for the stairs.
A uniform--Trahan, he automatically identified--stood by the door as Todesco exited onto the floor, and nodded to the detective in recognition. Mike nodded back but his eyes were already on Hutch as the man hesitated at a cubicle door, looking almost like he didn't have the strength to push it open. Then, finally, he slowly went inside.
Todesco let out a long breath, shaken at the sight. He hadn't been at Parker when the shooting had occurred and had heard about it only secondhand when Gabe had called, but even Bonhomme's grave description hadn't prepared Todesco for this. Hutch was the one who looked like he was dying, not...
A sudden cold heaviness in his gut, Mike hurried to the large cubicle observation window and peered inside, half-expecting to see a sheet-covered corpse in the bed.
No, Starsky was still alive. But just barely, by the looks of it. His bandaged chest hardly seemed to be rising and falling, and it looked like machinery more than his own organic systems was keeping him alive.
Hutch had already made it around to the side of the bed and stood looking down on his partner, his face closed. With a tentative hand, he reached out toward the bed, then awkwardly drew back as if fearing to make things worse. Clumsily pulling his jacket tight around himself instead, he sank into the chair by Starsky's bedside, then slowly buried his face in his hands.
Mike swallowed hard. Feeling like a voyeur, he turned away and continued numbly down the hallway to the small waiting area. Gabe had tried to tell him, but somehow it hadn't sunk in before. Starsky was dying, and with him, Hutch.
He should have known from the minute he'd stepped into Parker, Todesco silently shook his head. The usual bustle of the station was muted, people talking more quietly, smiles missing, whispered conversations in every corner. Only a minority of the department knew Starsky personally although many more knew him at least by name, but the fact that one of their own had been attacked because he was a cop, and in the station's parking lot, no less, had shaken everyone's sense of security. Each person who carried a badge knew that they were a walking target, but somehow it was at times like this, the occasional reminders of the dangers of their job and the frailty of life, that the risk really sunk in.
And yet they were police officers, trained to deal with stress and show no fear. So instead of going into hiding or shutting themselves inside the station, everyone was simply more on edge, warier of those around them. As well as in limbo until they knew for sure whether their colleague would make it. And multiply that by a hundred, Todesco knew, and you'd get what the partner was going through.
He didn't work with a partner himself, not since his mentor had retired, but then, Mike preferred it that way. He had a wife at home, and Ellen was more understanding than most cops' wives. He could lean on her when he needed to, and besides, he not only liked working alone but was also more comfortable that way. At times like this, having a partner seemed like a frightening liability. Letting someone become that inextricably part of your life could easily be.
But even now as he watched the silent hospital room door, there was a little curiosity and, yes, even envy in him. To have worked with and watched that pair over the years was to know they had something very special going, and it enriched their lives more than Todesco had ever been able to comprehend. Much like a marriage, he supposed, perhaps another reason he still soloed; he had no intention of making Ellen feel like she was competing. But even if it all ended now as it seemed it might, Starsky and Hutch had been rarely blessed, and they'd all known it. Which was why he was here now instead of home with his family on his day off, even if he didn't completely understand, nor want to, the painful scene unfolding.
Some kind of noise came from the room, and Todesco's eyebrows rose as he tried to identify it. Again it came--rushed words, nearly frenzied.
Mike sprang to his feet. Oh, God, Starsky was dead. He was dead and Hutch was losing it. Maybe there was still time to call Gabe--he was closer to the two detectives--because Todesco didn't know what to do now. What could he possibly do for a grief-awash Hutch?
There was movement at the window that he couldn't identify, as frantic as the sounds. Surely the blond wouldn't do something drastic? Mike reluctantly sidled closer, not wanting to see one friend dead, the other devastated.
And then he got closer and saw Hutch...dancing? Spinning, rather, the flustered duty nurse clutched in his arms. For a moment, Todesco caught sight of Hutch's face and even that revealed a huge grin, life shining again in his eyes. Mike briefly considered that his friend had finally gone off the deep end, and then he was close enough to see the bed inside. Starsky was lying there, eyes open a fraction as they watched his partner twirl, the brunet managing the slightest curl of the mouth despite looking like he didn't have the strength for it. And Mike realized all at once that the reason for Hutch's frenzy was uncontainable joy.
Satisfaction seeped through him, warming him, and he backed away down the corridor to his former seat, content now to sit and keep watch from afar. He could call Parker, but news would get back to the station in no time. For now, it was enough to sit and enjoy his satisfaction.
Thank God, his friends were safe and SUD's best team was still intact. Starsky still would have a ways to go, no doubt, but Hutch was back on his feet and he'd take care of his partner. Maybe this story would have a happy ending, after all. Mike couldn't wait to tell his wife.
Grinning happily, Todesco picked up a magazine to pass the time as he watched and waited.
"I don't believe it. Look at this, here he is again. One, two times. Starsky's never gonna believe this..."
Gabe smiled at the rambling that came from the seat next to his. He could have been driving Hutch to the moon for all the blond noticed, his whole attention wrapped up in the printout he was going through, and the thought of the partner he was going to visit. And Gabe was delighted to see it.
The change was amazing. Gabe Bonhomme had been one of the first out to the parking lot after the shooting only the morning before, and one of those who had tried to keep Starsky's life from bleeding out onto the pavement through the three bullet wounds he'd sustained to the chest. The black detective had been certain that he was watching his friend die right there in his arms. And only a few feet away had sat Hutch, rocking, mute, his eyes empty as they stared at his partner even as tears streamed down his face. He'd found Starsky's keys somewhere and they were clutched in his hands, slick with blood, but he didn't seem to be aware of any of that, only his partner's broken body. And even after all the near misses they'd been through, Gabe only realized at that moment that if Starsky died, they'd also lose the Hutch they knew. He'd survive the loss and go on, but some spark inside of him that Gabe could already see flickering there in the parking lot, would be extinguished for good.
And now... It was as if the sheer joy were so immense, it had to be channeled into action. Even sitting in the car, Hutch was animated and in constant movement, flipping through the long trail of computer paper, gesturing broadly to God-knew-what names as he pieced together his case, running on and on about something Gabe had long ceased trying to follow. His energy was reckless, already nearly slamming him earlier headlong into a pillar before Bonhomme had caught him in time and steered him around it. That was one reason why Gabe was driving him now and would continue to stay with him for the time being. But the older detective couldn't blame his friend for it. Hutch had gotten his partner back, and who knew better than he what an enormous gift that was?
Gabe pulled his sedan into the hospital lot and found a parking space, but his passenger seemed oblivious. Shaking his head fondly, Bonhomme got out, went around to the other door, and opened it.
"You coming, or should I send Starsky out to see you?"
Hutch looked up at that, not hearing him but registering enough to get out and head for the hospital without missing a beat, already re-immersed in the paper that trailed behind him. Gabe picked up the end of the train and followed, feeling ridiculously like a bridesmaid but unable to stop smiling. Hutch wasn't the only one who was delighted by Starsky's unexpected recovery.
He followed Hutch up to the second floor, then stopped at the end of the hall to watch in amusement as Hutch rushed to his friend's window, waving the long strips of paper with broad, animated gestures. Then, like an excited overgrown kid, he swept into the room to share his treasures with his partner. Gabe doubted Starsky would be able to make much more sense of it than Bonhomme had, especially as the invalid was still drugged and recovering, but then, it seemed to do both the partners good to be together.
Hutch was leaving for San Francisco shortly, anyway. A warrant was already prepared and waiting for him in the name of James Marshall Gunther, one of the most powerful men in the country...and orchestrator of the several attempts on both Starsky and Hutch's lives. Every man in the department was itching to go retrieve Gunther, but they knew the privilege belonged to Hutch and so there had been no shortage of volunteers to at least escort the blond detective to San Francisco. Dobey had already asked Gabe, but Gabe had intended no less.
He'd hardly left the office since the shooting, working frantically to track down those behind the attempted hit. The only time he'd taken to tear himself away had been to provide some company to Hutch as the blond had gone from despondency to ecstasy, vulnerable throughout. He and Starsky were still such kids, Gabe ruefully thought again, youngsters who had already seen too much. The older detective was determined to at least help them through as much of it as he could. And somebody from the department would continue to remain with Hutch until things calmed completely, the bad guys were all behind bars, and Hutchinson had his head back on straight. That was part of the Job. And, for Gabe, part of their friendship, done as much for Starsky as for Hutch. Those two were something special and he knew it. Their including him had been his privilege, and now he had a chance to return the favor.
A harried nurse left Starsky's cubicle, striding across to the room Dobey was camped in and returning a moment later with the captain in tow. Gabe laughed to himself, imagining all too well what was going on in the room. Sure enough, a chastened Hutch soon emerged, prodded from behind by Dobey and the now-triumphant nurse.
"Get going, Hutchinson. You're going to miss your plane," the captain was saying, and Hutch just nodded, casting a long last look through the window at his partner, his motion stilling briefly as his gaze became soft. His precious paper collection was now crumpled in Dobey's hands, but apparently the blond had passed his message on and seen Starsky and was thus content, finding his balance in the contact with his partner just as Gabe had often seen him do.
Over Hutch's head, Dobey nodded significantly to Bonhomme, and Gabe nodded back, gently taking hold of the detective's arm. "C'mon, Hutch, we've got a plane to catch."
"He's gonna be all right," he could just hear Hutch murmur, more to himself or in gratitude to a merciful God than to Gabe, but the Haitian detective's smile grew kind. He squeezed Hutch's arm briefly, adding his own thanks.
"That he is, kid. You both are." And then he led the way back down to the car.
"Yes, someone will let you know when he's able to see visitors," Dobey said patiently for the twentieth time. "Thank you for calling." And he hung up before the woman could go on again.
The phone rang again the moment he hung it up, but the captain ignored it and lurched to his feet, needing to take a break, maybe go for a walk and clear his head. When he'd taken it upon himself to be the go-between for Starsky's family and the hospital, he'd had no idea Starsky had that many relatives. And then the media began to call... Luckily, the men in his department were very involved in this one and had already taken it upon themselves to play buffer between the outside world and the two partners. They had also made visits to the extended Starsky clan, were escorting Hutch everywhere through the crush of media, and had even played liaison between the SFPD and the LAPD. In the same vein, the San Francisco police hadn't squawked at Hutch making the arrest on their turf when they'd heard the situation. It never ceased to amaze Dobey how cops defended their own.
He passed by the IC cubicle as he went, not getting tired of the feeling of pleased satisfaction at the sight of Starsky sleeping naturally, color back in his face. Sooner or later the brunet would start taking advantage of being coddled, but for now he was still recovering and hardly awake, and Harold Dobey could afford a little paternal pride. He continued past the room, nodding to Officer Ryan at the end of the hall before he stepped into the elevator.
Ryan was a formality now, of course. With Gunther behind bars and his empire beginning to crumble, the threat was pretty much past and everyone was breathing easier. Still, the recent nightmare wouldn't quickly be forgotten, and Dobey had long learned to err on the side of caution.
The elevator went down to sub-level one, a little back area the staff had shown him for just such a getaway. It opened into the staff parking lot and a small private garden. The peace and solitude was just what the captain sought, and he lowered himself onto the one small bench with gratitude.
He was still a little concerned about Hutch, though not with the hopeless worry of before when Starsky seemed sure to die. Now it was just the aftereffects catching up to them all, most brutally to the blond. Dobey's eyes narrowed at the memory of the dazed and shaking Hutchinson that Huggy Bear had scooted off to the privacy of home just an hour before. Both he and Huggy knew that it was a natural reaction to the extraordinary strains the detective had been under, but it didn't make his concern any less valid. Sometimes he himself was tempted to go tear Gunther limb from limb, but that monster would get his just deserts. Revenge was over; now it was time to look after their own.
Despite the dangers and demands of the Job, though, this was one thing it excelled at. While there wasn't much support for the emotional tolls, fellow colleagues would go all out to try to help with the physical. Besides tending to the family and the media and Starsky's shot-up car, there would be regular streams of food deliveries and visits and practical follow-ups.
As for the mental strain, well, Dobey and Huggy would do what they could, but the partners would take care of the rest. Starsky's recovery had already gone a long way toward helping his partner, and Hutch would move heaven and earth to get Starsky back on his feet. They couldn't ask for much more than that.
With a sigh of peace, Dobey rose and headed back inside to return to his duties.
Written in 1999