The dust had barely settled when Hutch groaned his way back to consciousness. He tried to cough out the dust that was stuck in his throat, which caused him to wince at the stinging sensation down in his stomach. He painfully lifted his arm to bring it to rest on the throbbing sore area, only to find a sticky wet substance. Hutch raised his throbbing head to peek at his abdomen.
He began to cough out more dust unsuccessfully as it scorched his lungs and to his horror, his mucus was streaked with blood.
"Ah, great. Jus' great. Can't think 'bout this right now…" He began to stretch out his limbs carefully, slowly bending his knees and legs. Aside from some very angry bruises, the stinging soreness all over his body, and a head that felt like a thousand sledgehammers were pounding inside, he wanted to think his injuries were minimal.
As he tried to pull himself up, He was overtaken by a sudden spell of dizziness that forced him to sit back onto the concrete slab. With eyes tightly shut and a clenched jaw, Hutch attempted to breathe through the queasiness that was overtaking him.
As it began to ease, and the pain dwindled a notch, Hutch painfully lifted himself off the ground and staggered to his feet.
"St-starsk?" His attempt at shouting triggered another bout of coughing, but he refused to let it debilitate him. He gulped in a deep breath at the pain it triggered, and continued to search for his partner.
"C-com'on, Starsky, ANSWER ME!" He strode over the debris strewn around him. Each step was agony as his stomach wound was protesting at the treatment it was receiving, but the stubborn detective refused to quit. With a hand across his belly, he laboriously moved on in a desperate search for his best friend.
"Starsk… Where are you, buddy?" Hutch stopped and leaned against an unstable pillar to catch his breath, before dragging himself up further from the deep hole he seemed to be buried in.
"Starsky…" Hutch croaked out, not willing to face the idea of never seeing his best friend again, when a faint moan caught his attention.
"S-starsky?" Hutch called out with renewed optimism. "Starsky….buddy…I'm coming! Give me a sign…anything, so I can find you!"
Suddenly, a weak, shaky hand raised slowly amidst the concrete chunks.
"H-here…" hailed a ghostly, waivering voice. Hutch was still able to hear his partner.
A look of relief washed over the blonde detective's face and a single tear slid unashamedly from the corner of his eye down his dust- covered face.
"Starsk." Hutch whispered. "Thank God you're still with me." Hutch reached out and grabbed his partner's hand.
"G-guess I am." Detective Starsky snorted out a nervous laugh, squeezing his partner's hand as though it were a lifeline.
"W-wha' happened?" The curly-haired detective croaked out.
"There was a bomb…building came down on us." Hutch explained as he assessed the situation.
Starsky yelped at Hutch's proddings. "Thasss not good..."
"Where does it hurt, Starsk?"
"M-my side. Burns like He..AARRRGGGHHHH!" Hutch had already begun removing debris around his partner, before trying to gently lift the larger stone resting on Starsky's stomach, causing a rush of pain to the injured area.
A look of horror flashed on Hutch's face when he saw a broken piece of a thin steel bar embedded in Starsky's flesh. Hutch gathered himself so he could help his friend.
"Starsk, ah, you've got piece of a steel rod sticking out. The angle doesn't look like it's in too deep, maybe three or four inches and it doesn't look like it hit anything vital." He tried to get his partner to lock eyes with him.
"Starsk, it needs to come out." Starsky's head lolled back onto the broken debris.
"How 'bout, maybe we just leave it so I don't bleed ta death…how 'bout it?" Starsky suggested with a hint of humor. Hutch placed a comforting hand on Starsky's arm.
"No can do, buddy. It will have to come out, or it'll get infected pretty quickly."
"All right." Starsky relented. He flinched in pain. "My leg. I can't move it."
"Yeah, it's wedged between two slabs of concrete…I n-need to find leverage. I can't lift it." As Hutch loosened his grip on Starsky's hand, the dark-haired man tightened his.
"Don't. I ah, kinda don't wanna be left alone 'cause we're in this tight space'n all…" Realization dawned on Hutch that Starsky had a problem with small confined spaces. Starsky breathed in, his breathing more rapid at the thought.
"Starsk,..you never told me… listen to me. Breathe slow and deep. Close your eyes if you have to. I'm right here with you," Hutch assured breathlessly with a squeeze of his hand.
"I won't go far, I promise. I just need to find…to find a rod, or something to lift this off you." He waited for Starsky to nod before he began scanning the area and finding what he needed. Luckily he found something he could use and set to work at removing the hindering object.
Starsky painfully skidded away from underneath the slab and rested on his side. As he risked a glimpse at his wound, he noticed Hutch was struggling to breathe.
Hey blondie… you all right?" When Hutch failed to answer, Starsky turned on his back, holding his wound, to stare at his partner, whom he could hear heaving heavily. His concern grew at the retching sound that followed. He tried to move closer, but his wound wouldn't allow it. He gasped at the dark matter that was being expelled from His best friend's lungs.
"You're hurt too, and don't tell me you're good!" Starsky chided his partner before he could lie.
"That was blood just now, wasn't it?" Hutch quickly wiped his mouth with the back of his hand to dismiss the incident.
"I'm fine. Really." Hutch coughed and blew out a painful breath.
"Well, we can't think about that right now, buddy. We gotta find a way outta here before we run out of oxygen. Already getting kinda stuffy in here, Starsk."
"I wonder if anyone knows we're down here…"
"Maybe not our EXACT location…I'm sure someone will find us soon." Hutch tried to be reassuring.
"Starsk, I need to pull this metal piece out. I won't lie to you buddy, It's gonna hurt like hell. "
Starsky nodded, and Hutch ripped a strip of his own shirt and braced himself to remove the metal object from his partner's flesh. He grabbed a hold and yanked it out, sending his best friend into the throes of agony. Quickly he pressed down on the wound with the makeshift bandage.
"Sorry, Starsk. This will have to do for now. I don't have anything to disinfect it with…let's just hope we get outta here before infection sets in. Here." He took Starsky's hand and placed it over the balled up material.
"Hold this on here to stop the bleeding."
"Thanks" Starsky managed, letting his eyes wander over Hutch's own bloody shirt.
"Hey…What about you?
"What? What about me?"
Starsky motioned toward the blood soaked spot on Hutch's abdomen. "You're bleeding too.'
Hutch looked down at his stomach and pulled up his shirt.
"It stopped now. No big deal." Hutch put his shirt back down to downplay his injury.
"Uh huh." Starsky wasn't so easily fooled. His suspicions were founded when Hutch began to sway.
"Hey! You'd better sit down and take it easy for awhile."
"Can't. Need to find us a way outta here." He reached out his hand to Starsky, easing him to his feet. Hutch held him steady as he gained his footing.
"You okay?" Starsky clung tightly to his friend.
"Not really, but like you said, we need to find a way outta here." Hutch tightened his grip around his friend, and tried to give him a smile.
The two friends began their painful journey through the mountain of rubble, coughing and hissing in angst as they trudged along, looking to find 'light at the end of the tunnel.' Following a grueling fifteen minutes of fruitless searching, they slid to the ground side by side to catch their breath.
Hutch's weary eyes scanned about. He reached in front of him and picked up a piece of misshaped metal, which looked to be about two feet long. Starsky eyed his partner warily.
"Souvenir?" The detective quipped.
"Very funny. You can keep it later. I thought I'd use it to bang on these beams or pipes so they can find us. The sound could echo and be heard up there." Starsky snorted a half laugh in disagreement.
"Right now, it's all we got. Someone musta heard the explosion…" Hutch hauled himself off the ground, cringing at the scorching hot pain in his side. He did his level best to regulate his breathing in an attempt hide it from his partner. Once he gathered himself, he braced himself against a wall, and tried to maintain a firm grip in the metal bar in his hand. He tried to rub the pain away inconspicuously that was increasing in his belly. Hutch's hand was once again sticky and dark red. He quickly wiped it on his pants, leaving a fresh stain of crimson mixed with concrete dust. Hutch began his repeated banging on the beam above his head.
Starsky's angry wound and dizziness made him forfeit the idea of joining his best friend, and he resigned himself to staying on the ground.
"If I ever get my hands on that weasel…" Starsky mumbled.
"W-what? You say s-something?" Hutch uttered breathlessly, as he continued his efforts.
"That w-worthless informant and his b-bogus tip. S-someone paid him off. Q-question is who…w-who wanted a building to fall on us?" He grabbed a nearby block, and tossed it angrily, trying to figure out why they were stuck in this predicament.
Ten minutes later, Hutch's pace began to slacken, beads of sweat on his forehead, his complexion waxed and greyish. He fell back against the wall. Starsky himself was beginning to falter.
"Com'on, blondie, time to take a break. You're not lookin' so hot." Starsky suggested to his partner, noting the sheer exhaustion in Hutch. Starsky's own arm fell limply at his side, his own head lolled from side to side, and bobbed forward, his chin trying to rest on his chest, his eyelids heavy.
"Starsky!" Hutch breathed out heavily, grabbing his friend's shoulder.
"No sleeping on the job! Got it? Stay with me!" His attempt at humor failed, as Starsky didn't respond to his best friend. Hutch patted his friend's cheek.
"Com'on, buddy, Don't leave me alone, here. I need you. It's me and thee. Remember?"
"J-just let m-me rest a b-bit…" Came Starsky's whimpering whisper.
"I will if you promise not to go to sleep on me."
Starsky nodded, but his body language told another story.
"Starsk…Com'on!" Hutch shook his partner's shoulder to rouse him. Hutch ran his hand over Starsky's head and winced at the clamminess and unusual warmth.
"Oh no, nononono…" Hutch mumbled woefully, knowing that infection was beginning to set in.
"It's bad..I-I can f-feel it…" Starsky croaked out, gulping in a breath that exacerbated his wound.
"Hold on, b-buddy, jus' h-hold on. Just a little w-while longer. We're gonna get o-outta here." Hutch's own breathing was getting more ragged and labored.
"A-always the o-optimist…" Starsky quipped, his heavy eyes beginning to close.
The sound of twisting metal and groaning concrete above them caused them both to look up; fear evident in their glazed eyes at the sudden realization the unstable structure was once again about to cave in one them. Hutch moved instinctively to shield his injured partner with his body.
Seconds later, another cacophony of debris rained down upon the detectives, burying them under another pile of rubble...