A Time To Be Grateful
BY Jill MacCartney
"I told you, Starsk, I'll just be a minute."
"Thought I'd grab some snacks while you get the beer." The dark haired detective pulled his leather jacket off and placed it on the front seat of the Torino, the holster he wore covered by his blue flannel button up. He leaped over the warm hood of his car and caught up with his friend.
"We're going to the Dobey's for a huge turkey dinner, Starsk. Why do you need snacks?" Hutch pulled open the Liquor store door to a jingle of bells.
"It's only ten, Hutch. The turkey won't be done till one. I need something to eat in-between."
Hutch moved over to the large selection of beer on the third isle, while his companion sauntered toward the back of the store in search of treats.
"Just don't ruin your appetite, okay partner?" Hutch rolled his eyes at the absurdity of the thought, "What am I saying?"
He could hear Starsky humming a nameless Christmas song, and smiled at the child-like anticipation his partner always had this time of year. His friend's excitement seemed to be catching, though, and soon, he too, was humming.
"Hum, let's see, got the potato chips, corn chips. Ah, almost forgot the dip. Mmm, Corn nuts…hey Hutch! You want anything?"
Hutch looked back toward his friend who was clumsily juggling several items in his arms. "Yeah, maybe some cold juice."
"You got it. Fa la la la la..humm humm hum mm."
The front door jingled open and three men walked in looking about, the largest one heading to the back of the store.
Starsky continued to whistle and hum as he moved towards the refrigerated items along the back wall. Hutch watched in amusement as his curly haired friend tried to manage several bags of snacks under his right and left arms and in his right hand, while opening the glass door with his left. The chips fell to floor, and as Starsky kneeled to retrieve them, inadvertently dropped the rest of the food. Finally deciding to hold the bags under his chin, and the can of dip in one hand, he successfully opened the glass door and grabbed a pop with his left, smiling at his success.
Hutch picked a case of amber beer and let Starsky know he was ready to check out. He waited patiently in line behind one of the men who had come in earlier. The detective in Hutch noticed the man was dressed casually in jeans and wearing a red checkered jacket over a bulky yellow T-shit. He wore a baseball cap with the Dolphins logo, which Hutch thought was probably hiding a bald spot. The man behind the register slowly rang up the purchase.
'Hey, could I get a pack of them menthols, too, man."
This is taking forever, Hutch thought as he shifted the case in his arms.
"Damn, I forgot your juice. Be right back, Hutch." Starsky placed his pile of food on the counter, then sauntered back toward the huge man at the refrigerator.
At the front counter, the man in the baseball cap reached into his jeans pocket for money. Hutch was startled to see a gun sticking out. Not today, buddy. Don't use it today. His mind was racing and he automatically began scanning the store for the other two men. One, wearing a nit cap, was looking at magazines along the side wall, while the other, a giant of a man, appeared to be looking at cold pop in the refrigerated section at the back of the store.
Starsky, unaware of what Hutch saw, grabbed a bottle of orange juice from the cold shelf, then hearing a familiar soft snick, reached under his arm for his gun. The juice bottle fell to the floor and shattered into tiny pieces. He shouted a warning as he turned toward the man he knew was preparing to rob the small store.
"Hutch! Gun!" Starsky managed to yell before he was tackled from behind. What the hell? He hadn't seen the man in the knit cap come up behind him. Off balance from the hit to his back, he fell toward the large man while his gun fell to the floor and landed amidst the shards of glass.
Pushing himself out of the thick arms that held him, he threw his best punch at the man's gut, only to recoil at what felt like rock against his fist.
The immense man easily picked Starsky up by his waist band and shirt collar, throwing him head first toward the glass refrigerator doors. Acting purely on reflexes Starsky closed his eyes, and crossing his arms in front of his face, anticipated a hard landing.
The impact against the glass made Starsky's world fill with noise. Contact with the shelves and floor knocked the air out of him, leaving him gasping. The glass doors shattered in ribbons, falling like projectiles around the dazed detective.
Just as Hutch heard Starsky shout his warning, the man in the baseball cap pulled his gun. Hutch dropped the case of beer with a resounding crash, but was too late. The man in the baseball cap had his gun out and was alternating it between the detective and the store clerk.
"Put it down, Buddy. It's not worth it," Hutch warned the nervous man.
Out of the corner of his eye, Hutch noticed the man in the knit cap moving toward him and stepped to the side so he could keep both men in his sight. The man in the stocking cap had his gun out too, and pointed at Hutch.
"You a cop?" The man in the baseball cap asked in disgust. Hutch was silent. "Shoulda known. Can usually smell a cop from a mile away. Now, cop, using one finger, take your gun outa its holster and put it on the counter next to me. Slowly!"
Hutch did as he was told, hoping Starsky was aware of the problem they were facing.
Just then a loud crash came from the back of the store, and Hutch turned to see his partner lying in a tangled heap surrounded by glass.
From Hutch's vantage point he could see Starsky attempting to push himself up onto his hands, falling flat onto his chest again. He tried to get up several times more before finally staying still, unconscious or exhausted, Hutch didn't know.
Hutch turned back to the two gun men knowing he was outnumbered. Right now, though, what concerned him most was getting to his obviously injured friend.
"Put all the money from the register in this bag, old man. Now!" The man in the baseball cap threw a canvas bag at the checker and smiled back at Hutch, baring rotten teeth. "Might as well relax, man. You're surrounded. And your buddy ain't going to be any help." His snicker was high-pitched as he nodded with his head to the back of the store.
Hutch looked and his heart sank. The giant was pulling Starsky up the isle by his collar like a rag doll. Bright blood covered his face and dripped from his finger tips onto the floor, leaving a spotted trail behind him. He looked dazed and his legs dragged limply behind him. When they reached the front, the massive man threw Starsky to the floor, where he landed with a grunt of pain.
"Fucker's a cop." The giant said handing Starsky's gun to the man in the knit cap.
"Son of a bitch, Lonnie. You said this'd be a piece of cake. Never said nothing 'bout no cops. Now we have two." The man in the knit cap did an anxious dance.
Starsky pushed himself onto his hands and knees swaying slightly, while blood dripped from his face onto the floor forming a crimson pool. Hutch tried to move over to help his friend, but was stopped by the man in the knit cap.
"I didn't know cops would be here, now did I, Jessie." He said turning back to the checker. "Hurry it up, old man, before I shoot you." The cashier began stuffing money into the bag with shaking hands.
Sirens could be heard approaching the street on which the store was located, causing Lonnie to jump behind the counter and roughly grab the old man.
"Did you signal the cops, you old bastard? Huh?" He shouted at the frightened man while looking wildly around behind the counter. Spotting the red button near the cash register, Lonnie pushed the gun against the old man's head and pulled the trigger.
Blood and bone to splash out the side and onto Jessie. The old man fell silently to the floor, dead.
"Shit, Lonnie! What'd you that for? Shit. Look at me." Jessie wiped bloody matter from his face and attempted to clean the gore from his fingers by fumbling with his equally covered shirt.
"He called the cops, Jessie. That's what I done it for. Stupid old man, why'd you have to go and do that, anyways?"
Hutch stared open-mouthed at the ruthlessness he had just witnessed, until a loud speaker broke the eerie stillness.
"You in there. We have the store surrounded. We don't want anyone hurt, so come out slowly with your hands in front of you. You have three minutes to comply."
The giant looked out the front door and wiped the sweat from his neck with his hand.
"Son of a bitch, Lonnie. What we gonna do now, huh?"
"Shut up Tommy, just let me think a minute." Panic had set in to Lonnie's voice. The two men with him seemed to be just as anxious.
Hutch attempted to offer some words of advice. "Just give up and walk out of here alive, Lonnie. This is your chance to give up without getting hurt."
"Shut up, cop! Shut up! Just let me think." Lonnie pushed his sweaty hair from his forehead.
"Lonnie, listen to me…" Hutch used his most calming voice. He wanted nothing more than to get the three gun men out of the way so could help Starsky. Hutch was troubled by the amount of blood that was coming from his friend. He knew head wounds tended to bleed profusely, as his partner's was. But that wasn't what concerned him most. He was more alarmed by the dark, thick blood dripping down Starsky's hand and pooling on the floor. That, and the fact that Starsky was looking around but didn't seem to be aware of anything.
"I said SHUT UP! I'm in charge here cop, and what I say goes, or I'll kill you right here and now. Comprende'?" Lonnie then pushed himself from behind the counter and past Hutch. He grabbed Starsky by the collar and pulled him to his feet.
Starsky stood, with help from Lonnie. He looked around until he saw Hutch, then a faint smile came to his bloodied mouth. Hutch smiled too, knowing his friend was finally back with him.
"What, what are you doing, Lonnie?" Jessie asked nervously as his partner in crime rummaged through Starsky's pocket. A grim expression appeared when he found what he was looking for: the Bay City PD Badge.
"Showing the cops our trump card, Jess. They have to let us go, or we'll kill us two hostages." He said as he pulled Starsky to the front door and opened it. Starsky was roughly pushed in front as a shield and his hair tightly grasp, keeping his head upright.
"We got us two cops!" The gunman yelled past Starsky's ear. "We want our car brought to the front, and we want to get out of here with our money." Lonnie then tossed his captive's blood spattered badge out into the street and closed the door. The bell jingled.
Lonnie brutally pushed Starsky back toward Hutch, "Here, you take 'em."
Hutch grabbed his weakened friend and helped steady him, taking in his pallor.
"You don't look too good Starsk." Hutch was hoping to get his companion talking so he could attempt to judge the extent of his injuries. He knew from experience that Starsky was too stoic to admit a serious injury when their lives were in danger.
"Yeah? S'cause I didn't get my snacks." He answered jokingly, avoiding Hutch's eyes.
"Look at me, buddy." Starsky sighed and looked at Hutch, albeit grudgingly.
"It really looks worse than it is, Hutch. I just got a nasty bump on my head, that's all. Really." He continued to look at Hutch while blood dripped down his face.
Hutch reached into his friend's hair and began removing glass shards. "You really gave me a scare there, Starsk. You looked pretty out of it."
"Well, I guess I was for a while. But Billy Bob over there," He gestured toward Lonnie with his eyes and almost fell over, "woke me up with the little walk we took."
"You two shut up!" Tommy slapped the back of Hutch's head jolting him forward. He quickly regained his balance and placed a calming hand on to Starsky's belly.
"It's okay, Partner. Just let it go." Hutch saw Starsky relax his stance some.
The three gunmen paced around the counter nervously, Tommy stopping on occasion to drink another beer. Several empty tin cans littered the floor in front of the counter.
"What the hell are the cops doing out there, eating donuts? I say we kill one of 'em hostages and show the cops we ain't fooling around."
"Knock it off Tommy. And lay off the beer." Lonnie grabbed the open can from Tommy and tossed it over the counter, "You're no good to us drunk."
The flow of blood had not stopped on his partner's head, and Hutch could hear the soft tap… tap… of Starsky's blood dripping into a slowly expanding puddle at their feet. His partner was growing weaker and leaned on Hutch for support.
"Tommy," Lonnie looked at the slightly drunk thug, "move the blond cop over there by the magazines and make him sit down. Jessie, get off your ass and watch this one." Lonnie grabbed Starsky by his injured arm and yanked him to the floor.
Starsky audibly sucked in a chest full of air and broke out in a copious sweat. Hutch also saw a slight tremor in his partners' body and knew he was fighting pain to stay conscious. Starsky saw Hutch watching him and nodded that he was alright, then leaned his head back against the counter and closed his eyes.
The silence was suddenly broken by the booming voice of their Captain from outside.
"This is Captain Dobey of the Bay City Police Department talking," he shouted over the loud speaker, "Pick up the phone when it rings, so we can talk about a solution." The speaker went silent.
Seconds passed before the phone came to life. Lonnie jumped. Then rubbing his hand across his mouth, he looked at his friends, smiled, and picked up the phone.
A long pause came as Lonnie listened intently. "They're both alive if that's what you mean. Oh that? He had a slight accident with a window." Lonnie smirked for his friends. "Yeah, okay." He hung up the phone.
"What'd they say, Lon?" Jessie asked, breathing rapidly with apprehension.
Lonnie walked over to Hutch, and kneeling, pushed the cold steel of his gun hard against the blond's temple, causing Hutch to wince.
"Says he wants to talk to one of 'em cops. Make sure they're alive. But I think maybe we should just waste 'em both right now." His breath was foul and hot in Hutch's face.
"Don't be stupid Lonnie. The minute you kill one of us, you've signed your own death warrant. And theirs, too." Hutch gestured toward the other gunmen.
Lonnie laughed loudly, joined by his friends. "I'm just joshing with ya, cop. Said he call back in a few minutes to talk to one of you."
He continued to chuckle at his joke as he pulled a can of chew from his back pocket. He sat by the phone while pinching out a healthy chunk of black tar and tucked it in his cheek, sighing with pleasure.
Starsky slightly turned his head toward Hutch and gave a look Hutch interpreted as: we're on our own. Any plans?
Hutch saw the dullness in his partners' eyes and doubted he would be able to put up any kind of fight against the three gunmen. No, it was up to him to get them out of this mess. Besides, he was the one who got them into this in the first place by forgetting to buy the beer after their shift last night. No, he definitely had to get them out. But how?
The phone rang again, and Lonnie answered it signaling for Hutch.
Lonnie put his hand over the receiver, "Be careful what you say or Tommy here'll finish off your partner."
Hutch took the phone, "Yeah, Cap, it's Hutch."
"Hutch. What's the situation? How's Starsky?" Dobey sounded concerned but in control.
"Not good, Captain…."
Lonnie grabbed Hutch. "Tell 'em what we want. Do it- NOW."
"Uh, Cap, he wants me to tell you that they want a car…"
"And, and free passage to Tijuana. Tell 'em that, too."
"And free passage to Tijuana, Cap." Hutch spoke in monotone.
"Are there more than two gun men in there?" Dobey asked.
"Yep, it sure is." Hutch tried to answer without giving himself away.
"Are there three?"
"Yeah, okay cap." Lonnie grabbed the phone and slammed it down on the receiver. Hutch's heart began to pound hard in his chest.
"Get back over there. What he'd say? Are we getting what we want or what?" He demanded as he roughly pushed Hutch back to floor.
"He said he would see what he can do…"
"Hey, cop! Get over here!" Jessie, certain a dead cop was bad news, signaled for Hutch to check on his partner.
Ignoring Tommy's scowl, Hutch quickly moved over to Starsky and kneeled down next to him. The dusky haired man had fallen onto his side and appeared to be unconscious. Hutch turned him over, and for the first time since Starsky was pushed through the glass Hutch got a close look at him. He was nauseated by what he saw; a yawning gash ran across his friend's forehead mostly hidden by now matted hair. It was so bad he could see bone. Clumps of crimson from less significant incisions were on the smaller man's face, as fresh blood continued to ooze; it now almost covered his entire face, neck and shoulders. Hutch took a deep breath to ward off the sick feeling in his gut, and lightly touched Starsky's face.
"Hey, buddy. You with me? Starsk?" He said softly trying to hold his voice steady.
A quiet noise came out of Starsky and Hutch leaned closer to hear. "Hush?"
"Yeah buddy, it's me." He tried to smile at the sound of his friend's voice.
"Are we late for Thanksgiving?"
Letting out a quiet laugh, Hutch gently rubbed his friend's cheek, careful not to disturb any of the smaller cuts littering his face. "Not yet, Buddy. We still have time."
"Good, good. I thought we missed it." Starsky struggled to open his eyes.
"I know you did, Buddy." Hutch was relieved that Starsky was talking, but dreaded the job he had to do next. "I need to take off your shirt, Starsk, so I can look at your arms. Okay?"
Dark blue peeked out at Hutch through blood matted eye lashes. "Not on the first date, partner," he voiced weekly. Hutch carefully sat Starsky up and leaned him forward, supporting his friend with one arm. With the other, he pulled at the ragged and ensanguined sleeves of Starsky's shirt. Starsky handled the jostling without a sound, and that worried Hutch.
Finally he was able to remove the button up shirt.
He picked up his friend's left arm and he felt as if someone kneed him in the stomach. A gaping laceration about an inch long on Starsky's upper arm was hemorrhaging at an alarming rate and on his wrist the skin was splayed open and a large piece of glass was deeply embedded. Hutch knew when he saw the horrific injury to Starsky's dominant arm, he had used it involuntarily to break his fall. A quick look at the other arm showed only minor cuts. Hutch's worries grew at the sight of his partner's wounds.
"Oh, God, Starsky." Hutch closed his eyes for a second, as if shutting those images out would make them disappear from his world… Starsky's life fluid was everywhere, in his hair, on his face, pooling in his ears, staining his pants, pouring from his arm. Hutch was momentarily paralyzed by fear and guilt.
"Th-th- that b-bad, huh? Hu-hush…" Starsky's eyes were starting to drift, and his body began to shiver. He was going into shock, and Hutch had to find a way to stop the bleeding before it killed his best friend.
"HEY, YOU!" Hutch pointed to Jessie, "I need to stop his bleeding. Now! Get- get me something like clean cloths, and, and, some fresh water."
Jessie moved over to the fallen man and stared. "Already looks dead to me."
Hutch quickly launched himself at Jessie and grabbed the man by the front of his shirt.
"He's not dead." Hutch gritted his teeth angrily as he spoke, "but he's going to be soon if I don't stop this bleeding. You want to be charged with the death of a cop? Huh? All for a few damn dollars?" Jessie looked at Hutch with wide young eyes, then over to Lonnie. "Do it. NOW!"
"Get him the stuff, Jess," Lonnie relented.
The blond detective pressed his hand over the flowing vein, but red continued to ooze between his fingers. Starsky's skin felt clammy to his touch, and his shaking was more pronounced.
"Damn it, hurry up with those things!" Hutch shouted to Jessie while he took off his jacket to lay over his wounded partner.
"Starsky, stay with me, buddy. Don't you dare leave me here alone, I need you. Come on Starsk, open your eyes for me." Starsky moaned and lifted his tired lids to look at Hutch. "Yeah, that's it. Come on Starsk."
"Where are we, huh? Hush? I'm so " Starsky shook almost convulsively as Hutch placed his thin jacket over the brunet's body.
"I'm here with you, Starsk. Just try to stay awake, okay."
Jessie knelt down next to the two men and handed Hutch several white rags. Hutch immediately tore them into strips and pushed all but one into Jessie's hands. He lifted Starsky's icy arm and tightly wrapped the cloth around it, just above the wound. Starsky cried out in pain as the band was tightened.
"Sorry, buddy, but it has to be tight if we're going to stop the bleeding." Hutch bit his lower lip… God, Starsky, I don't know if you're going to make it this time. Please, please hang on, for me.
The bleeding in his partner's arm stopped by the tourniquet, Hutch turned his attention back to Jessie.
"I need you to wet some of those rags for me. I need to clean him up so I can see how bad it really is. Hey, Starsk, are you thirsty?" Starsky nodded weekly and closed his eyes.
"No way, Starsky. I need you to help me now," The anxious detective shook his partner awake, "Let me tilt your head up so you can have a drink."
"Well, ain't this a sweet scene. You gonna kiss him now?" Tommy had come up next to the crouching blond, and Hutch prepared for the worst.
"Come on, Lonnie. Man, I'm sick of this waiting. The cops out there ain't gonna give us nothing. Why don't we kill curly here, and take the blond cop with us. We can use him, man."
Jessie quickly stood up. "No way, man. I'm not shooting no cop"
Tommy stepped closer to Hutch and pointed his gun toward Starsky. "Just one shot, Lon. Easy."
"All right, knock if off Tommy. It's only been 15 minutes; we'll wait another ten before we do us any killing." Contrary to his chilling words, Lonnie's face was a reflection of doubt that was beginning to show.
Jessie apprehensively knelt down next to Hutch and handed him the cup of water along with damp rags. He looked as if he wanted to talk, but kept silent as the lean detective helped his partner drink. Hutch then began the delicate task of cleaning his friend's face.
He slowly moved the wet rag next to the largest gash on Starsky's head. It was just below the hairline and down to bone. Hutch pulled the matted hair out of the wound as carefully as could, cringing every time Starsky gasped in pain. He despised hurting his best friend, but right now he no choice.
"Stop…Hush…stop." Starsky cried out with as much strength as he could muster, which wasn't much, and tried pushing his companion's hand away. Jessie took hold of the thrashing arm and Hutch continued his work.
"I'm almost done, buddy. You still with me?" Hutch asked while applying a dry cloth to the injury.
"I'd rather be eating turkey," was the whispered reply.
Hutch took a deep breath and reached for Starsky's hand, holding it close to his chest. That's when he noticed Starsky was beginning to struggle for breath.
"Look, Jessie. I get the feeling you got more than you bargained for today. We all did. But my friend is dying, and I can't help him here. If he doesn't get to the hospital soon, he doesn't have a chance. Do you understand?"
"Y…yeah. What…what can I do, though? Tommy and Lon'll kill me if I cross 'em. I..I just can't, man. We'll keep him alive here. S..Stop the bleeding. We can…"
"Look at him, Jessie." Hutch grabbed his arm and pulled him close to Starsky's weakening body. "Does he look like he's going to stay alive? He's barely breathing, Jessie. Look at all this blood. It's coming from him. All of it. His body can not continue to function without a blood transfusion. I don't know how to do one, do you?"
"What the fuck are you two jabbering about? Get away from there Jessie, you dumb shit." Lonnie scratched his head with his gun, "Well, cop, it's been 10 minutes and I ain't heard nothing from the man out there. I guess that means we need to let them know how serious we are. Tommy?"
Hutch put his hand out to stop Tommy. "Look, Lonnie, let my partner go. If you release him, they'll go easy on you."
"Go easy on me? Man, you think I'm dumb? I already killed me someone. What's another dead body gonna matter?"
"It's going to matter because he's a cop! Don't you get it? If he dies, Lonnie, you'll get the needle, no questions asked."
Jessie looked at Lonnie with wide, panic stricken eyes. "Maybe he's right, Lonnie. Maybe we should let the cop go? We'll still have one hostage."
Lonnie walked over to Jessie and slapped his head. "Look, stupid. I'm in charge. I make the decisions, and I say we kill 'em. Damn cops, fucking things up." He thrust his right foot into Starsky's side like he was kicking a football.
Starsky rolled onto his side at the sudden pain in his ribs. Hutch grabbed onto him and held him still. "Take it easy buddy. I'm right here with you."
Hutch knew there wasn't much time left for his friend, his breathing was too shallow and his pale skin was extremely cool to the touch. Hutch moved Starsky onto his lap and ran his fingers through his damp hair. Starsky's lips were blue and quivering with shock.
"Look, Lonnie. I'll go with you. I'll talk to the officers outside and tell them to let us go. Just leave my partner here. I promise. I won't try to get away."
A whispered "No" came out of Starsky's cold lips, and he looked at Hutch with pleading, dull glancing eyes.
"Shhh, Starsk. It's the only way." Hutch continued to stroke his friend's hair, as if his touch was all that was keeping Starsky alive.
"Enough of this shit." Tommy raised his gun and pointed it at Starsky, the look of sheer hatred in his black eyes telling Hutch he was about to pull the trigger.
At the sound of the discharge, Hutch shielded his best friend, unconcerned with any consequences to his own life. All he cared about the millisecond before the searing metal buried itself in his flesh was that he protected Starsky.
From his awkward position bent over his partner, Hutch could feel Starsky drawing shallow breaths and felt the bleak hand of his friend touching his fingertips, then he felt nothing.
All around the two unconscious men, three voices hollered.
"What the hell, Tommy? You just killed a cop, man!" Jessie pulled off his hat and, in rage, threw it toward the large man.
"Oh, fuck," Lonnie looked around the building with wide eyed fear, "What do we do now? Fuck, what do we do, huh? Tommy you shit!" Lonnie pulled the trigger and Tommy crumpled to the floor.
Smoke bombs abruptly exploded through the front glass window and from the back of the store as the SWAT unit swiftly entered the building, exchanging gunfire. All three gunmen lay dead as Dobey entered.
"Get the paramedic's in here. Now!" Dobey yelled as he saw the still forms of his best detectives on the floor.
The stout captain stood frozen as he took in the site before him. Hutch was bent at the waist, his chest and arms protectively covering the unconscious form that lay in his lap, their fingers lightly touching. Neither man was moving. Dobey blinked his eyes trying to block the gut-wrenching premonition that he was looking at two dead men, because from where he was standing, he couldn't tell if either was breathing.
Gathering his strength, Dobey moved toward his men and laid a heavy hand on the blond's back. He was startled but relieved when he felt movement from the wounded man.
"Ken? Ken? Can you hear me? Ken?" Dobey knelt next to his detectives.
Hutch let out a low moan, and slowly lifted his head, the crease of a bullet showing red against his flaxen hair. Bright red blood welled up from the gash. Dobey saw too, that Hutch had been hit in the shoulder.
"Son, it's going to be alright. The paramedics have been called. Just hang on."
Dobey saw the anguish in the detective's face and wondered if it would ever fade – the ever-present protectiveness over the other.
"They tried to shoot him, Cap. He's dying and they tried to shoot him.," A single tear escaped Hutch's eye as he wrapped his arms more tightly around his friend, as if holding him could will back Starsky's rapidly fading life signs. "He's dying Cap, and I can't stop it. I can't save him. Oh God, Starsk. Don't go. Please… don't go," Hutch begged. Starsky's head lolled to the side, against the blond's chest.
Dobey fought his own emotions as Hutch buried his face in Starsky's hair and wept soundlessly.
Please God, help my boys, Dobey silently prayed, his large hand still on the grieving man's back."Ken, son, listen to me. You're hurt. The paramedics need to look at you."
"It's okay Starsky, I'm here. I'm here." Hutch continued to rock his friend. "Starsk, keep breathing. Just breathe for me, buddy."
Hutch looked up at Dobey , his look one that made the captain's courage shrink. So much hurt, such intense pain that shone in the blue eyes… "I…I don't think he's breathing, cap. He's not breathing. No, no, no, oh no… Starsk." Hutch softly ran his thumb across the cold lips of his friend.
Dobey signaled to the waiting paramedics, "Don't just stand there, do something!"
The paramedics pushed past the Captain and began to remove Starsky from his partners' arms.
"No! He's my partner. He needs me!" Hutch struggled to reach Starsky but was held firmly back by Dobey until finally collapsing, semiconscious, in the stout man's arms.
"Son, they are going to help Starsky. And you have a bullet hole in your shoulder that needs looking at. Let them do their job. Let them help." Hutch relaxed further into his Captain's arms and the Medics began their work. They eased him down on the ground.
Moving aside to let the paramedics work, Dobey was relieved to see that the bullet had just nicked Hutch's head. The crease was deep and bleeding heavily, but that was much better than what could have happened. Dobey shivered at the thought. He listened transiently as the medics told him a bullet had embedded itself deeply in Hutch's shoulder after it had grazed the side of his head. Dobey could only assume that his blond officer had curled up, head drawn between his shoulders, around Starsky to protect him.
As an IV was pushed into Hutch's good arm and his stats relayed to the hospital, Dobey could hear the medics at work on Starsky. He was sure Hutch could hear them too, and silently wished his detective was still unconscious. Bleeding out…can't get a line…no breath sounds…faint pulse…too long…start oxygen… hospital stat…
From his position on the ground, Hutch looked up at Dobey. "Cap?"
"They're doing everything they can for him right now, son. Don't worry, Starsky's a fighter." His words trailed off as the stretcher carrying Starsky was rolled past and out the door to the waiting ambulance. All the somber captain saw were the bags of clear liquid hanging from rods, and tubes going in and out…and blood. So much blood.
When Hutch was wheeled into another waiting ambulance, Dobey caught a look of dread in the blue clouded eyes. He squeezed Hutch's hand. "He's a fighter," the Captain repeated softly. "We both know that. You get well quickly, and be there for him when he wakes up. You hear me?"
A weak smile came to Hutch's face, grateful for the comforting words and shared love. Then his eyelids drooped closed.
The ambulances gone, Dobey stood in front of the check out counter scrutinizing the gore. Should I have done things differently, given them what they wanted? Was holding out really worth this, four men dead, two cops wounded, one seriously. What the hell am I going to say to my wife, my kids? Why did this happen? Why? It's Thanksgiving for Christ's sake.
"You did right, Captain." The head of the SWAT unit clapped the troubled man on his back.
"Yeah, Paul I know. It somehow just doesn't feel like it though." They were supposed to be at my house. Dobey walked over to the nearby phone and brooded over what to tell his wife, then he dialed.
"Edith, it's our boys…"
"Oh, come on Starsk. I beat you fair and square this time." Hutch sat in a hard chair next to the hospital bed his friend occupied, and placed his cards neatly on the tray.
"It's not fair Hutch, I can only use one hand," Starsky groused pointing to his bandaged left arm.
Hutch smiled at his friend's chiding, more than happy to put up with it. "Just in case you hadn't noticed, partner," Hutch patted his bandaged right shoulder, "I'm wingless, too."
"I guess Dobey won't be getting our report for a while, huh?" Starsky chuckled then leaned back against the pillows, grinning ruefully. His complexion was still pale, and his eyes hadn't regained their healthy luster, making it perfectly clear to Hutch that Starsky was not yet back to his robust self. Although he attempted to conceal his sometimes overwhelming fatigue, Hutch could see past the lame attempts.
"Get some rest, buddy. The Doc said you need all you can get."
"Mm hum" Starsky complied without objecting. He closed his eyes and mumbled as sleep began to overtake him.
Hutch pushed the tray aside and covered his friend with a light hospital blanket. He looked sadly at the shaved head and multiple stitches along Starsky's hair line. He shivered at the memory of how much blood had to be pumped into his friend…how much blood he lost. Hutch climbed onto his own hospital bed and thought back to Thanksgiving Day in the liquor store. What if he hadn't forgotten the beer, or if the gunmen had chosen a different day, or if Starsky hadn't been thrown through the glass door… if… if… if… Too many damn 'if's'… Hutch tried not giving in to his feelings of guilt, but they were too pervasive.
"It's not your fault, you know."
"I thought you were asleep, buddy." Hutch looked up, surprised to hear Starsky's voice.
"I said it's not your fault. So stop blaming yourself."
"How'd you know?"
"I know you, partner. Now stop taking responsibility for all that's evil in this world and let me get some sleep, okay? Besides, the only thing you should feel guilty about is not saving my snacks."
A grin covered the blond's face and he began to chuckle. It was catching. They both laughed, giving way to bottled up tension; their laughter bringing spirit and relief to the room.
"Well, well. I see the dynamic duo is on the mend." Huggy Bear stood in the doorway smiling at the gentle laughter of his two dear friends.
"Hey, Hug," Starsky carefully shifted his weight a little and smiled at their friend, "I thought you had to cover for Mac at the restaurant?"
"That was just a cover story for your benefit, mi amigos. I've cooked up a little surprise for ya all, with a little help from some friends."
The two detectives looked at each other unsure of what to expect. Huggy was notorious for his wild ideas. He suavely opened the door of their hospital room and in poured all four Dobeys, arms loaded with boxes of covered food.
"What's all this?" Hutch was taken aback. He eyed Starsky who shrugged once. Dunno, his gesture said.
Huggy brought in a card table and set it up in the center of the now crowded room. All the food was set on the table as Edith placed decorated napkins onto the two detective's laps.
Starsky sniffed the air. "Do I smell what I think I smell?" he asked hopefully.
"We know how much you love Thanksgiving, Uncle Dave," Rosie beamed with pride, "so we decided we all have so much to be thankful for we should eat turkey again here with you and Uncle Ken!"
"It was all Rosie's idea to begin with," Captain Dobey spoke with ill-concealed pride in his voice. "She asked her mom to call Huggy and together they planned the whole thing."
"We're just so grateful that you two are safe." Edith patted Hutch's healthy arm and pinched Starsky's hand. "You really had us worried there, boys."
Starsky and Hutch sat silently in their beds staring at their friends, at a loss for words.
"Hey," Huggy broke the quiet, "don't everybody stand around somber and all. Let's dig into this fine food before it gets cold." The slender black man removed the foil from the dishes revealing a succulent turkey with all the trimmings.
Hutch felt his stomach rumble, and realized he hadn't been hungry since before the hold up three days prior, but was now famished; he chuckled to himself realizing how hungry Starsky must be.
He looked at all his friends gathered together in the room. Then he looked over at his tired, but smiling partner. He looked at the IV bag still giving Starsky needed fluids. He looked at the healing cuts, the stitches, the bruises, and all the sterile bandages, and he nodded his head. He had a lot to be grateful for this year.
"Yeah?" Hutch saw that a familiar sparkle had returned to his friend's eyes.
"Happy Thanksgiving, partner."
"Happy Thanksgiving, Hutch."