PLAY BY HEART
By: Karen B.
Summary: What If? Episode: Partners. What if the construction site were empty at the time of the crash? What if, Hutch stumbled away from the car accident while Starsky was still unconscious? He really has amnesia and is lost in Bay City with nowhere to turn?
Thank you Dawn, for inspiring me and others to keep writing and striving.
I shifted uneasily, trapped in a void of shapeless shadows. Nothing made sense, and I stopped moving so I could try to add things up. The first thing I noticed was dismal nothingness, like everything had erased itself. It was dark, and I was lost within the empty silence.
I began to search the void, began to gauge my position. I was lying on my side. My back butted up against something hard that dug incessantly into my back. It alone was what caused me to open my eyes. I rolled painfully to lie flat on my back, the sun's glare making me squint, and chasing away the blackness. Something was wrong, very wrong, but I couldn't remember exactly what that 'something' was. I couldn't imagine where I was, or how I got there. All I knew was I hurt badly. A hardware store seemed to have moved into my head, and apparently the 50,000 plus patrons and employees inside were pummeling my skull with sledgehammers. Licking my lips, I tasted a mixture of salt and blood that, along with the pressure in my head, was making me nauseated.
Focusing more, I saw patches of blue peeking out from the branches of a large tree. Birds sang. Airplanes buzzed overhead. And the sound of trickling water accompanied the distant sound of children's laughter. It didn't take me long to decide what to do next.
With a groan, and using first my elbows, then my left hand flat on the gravely ground, I slowly sat up. To say I felt like the dead rising up out of a grave would be an understatement. I was afraid, but somehow had the feeling this was nothing new. I stayed still a few minutes, noticing how stiff and sore I was. Could hardly move my neck, and my right arm really hurt, although I suspected it wasn't broken, just seemed like it was. I touched my temple with my shaky hand, noting a wet sticky substance there. Quickly, I brought my hand back down to see blood coating the tips of my fingers. Was I hit by a car?
I gingerly glanced around. No traffic. Lightening? No storm, the sun was out. Maybe I had been mugged? In broad daylight? Had I tied one on? Fell and hit my head?
Still looking around, I knew I was in a park. I scooted back against the large tree trunk I'd been lying unconscious next to. Staring straight ahead of me, there was a fountain spitting water out of a fish's mouth, and in the distance, a few kids were swinging on swings. Looking down, I took note of the brown leather jacket I wore. The garment was so well worn that every movement made it creak. Underneath, was a plaid shirt. I didn't really like the pattern, but what was worse was that it was spotted with blood.
There's always good news to go along with the bad. The good news was, I wasn't naked. The bad news was, I didn't know how the blood got there. Was it all mine?
Good God, had I killed someone? My brain seemed to be set on stun. I couldn't arrange my thoughts to form a single sentence.
"Uhhhh-" I heard myself groan, feeling like I'd been sucked into a whirlpool, and couldn't get out.
My stomach lurched and turned, I couldn't recall anything. Where I was. When I got there. How I got there. Why I was there. For all I knew, I could fly. I squeezed my eyes shut and slowly pushed myself up to get to my feet. Wobbly, I leaned heavy against the rough bark, struggling too think. Where? When? How? Why?
None of those questions sounded too serious; hiccups compared to what hit me next. My hands began to tremble in confusion. An enormous question mark popped inside my head, along with something fire breathing in my chest. My brain had turned against me.
I didn't know who I was.
Not my name.
Not my address.
Not my telephone number.
Talk about weird.
To my credit, I recalled that most men carry wallets. Inside, normally you find some sort of ID. I began to search my pants pockets, then my leather jacket. No wallet. No pictures. Nothing to identify myself. There was nothing useful. Only one lone gum wrapper, a paperclip, a lousy handkerchief, and a piece of lint.
No help. No clues.
Maybe it wasn't such a bad thing, not knowing who I was. Maybe I was this horrible person who did awful things to others. Flashes of things, objects, entered my mind. Cold asphalt, dead flowers, peeling paint, a rotten stench, all on high speed, and blurring together. I sensed a lot of instability. Hard-edged decisions, obsessions in my life. I was always tracking someone down, scrabbling to unfold mysteries and secrets. Digging deep into holes with my fingertips until my nails were cracked stubs. Sometimes finding what I was looking for, sometimes not, all my hard work meaningless and in vain.
'It just isn't worth it.'
The thoughts were like loose sand swirling around, littering my brain. I had another feeling that someone was always by my side. Someone good. Someone I admired and trusted. I remembered a crooked smiling mouth that I longed to keep safe, but knew inevitably I couldn't do so.
I hurt badly. My head was a mess, a black cloud of buzzing flies mixing everything up, then leaking out my ears. Something heavy bobbing against my ribcage under my jacket, caused me to stop trying to think so hard. Slowly I reached up, and pulled out--
"What the devil?" I uttered out loud, eyeing the very large gun in my hand.
With precision born of years of practice, I checked the gun's chamber, amazed I knew how. "Shit." It was loaded.
Ever so carefully, I placed it back in its holster under my jacket.
All the moving around suddenly made my vision swim, making me feel like a human tilt-a-whirl. I was penniless. Identification less, and I had an oversized firearm strapped under my armpit. Who was I? Did I have a permit to carry such a deadly weapon? Was I gangster? Bank robber? A cold-stone killer?
"Oh, God," I whispered.
What was I going to do? Come on, boy, think! I was a mess. Lost. Hurt. Scared. Couldn't go to the police or the hospitals. What if I was wanted by the cops? A bad guy? I had to find out who I was first. But I had to do it flying under the radar, couldn't trust anyone.
I stood against the tree a few more minutes. Confident I could handle walking on my own. I took a few tentative steps. Okay, I was too cocky for my own good. Still staggering around, I managed to make it to the nearby water fountain. Crouching down, I pulled out the handkerchief. I soaked it in the water, and using my watery reflection I cautiously wiped at the grazes and cuts on my face.
I found myself shuddering and trembling savagely, and I could hardly turn my head from one side to the other. Trying to only brought more dizziness, and twice I almost threw up.
Using only my eyes, as my neck was throbbing, I looked around, trying hard to keep my head still as possible. Where did I go from here? Everything seemed so distorted.
Questions burned in my brain, but no answers came. Had there been a lot of great moments in my life of-- I don't know? Did I like music? Football? Cuban cigars? Beer? Draft or Light? Bottles or cans? Playgirl magazines or eighteenth century poetry?
'If the heart of a man is deprest with cares,
The mist is dispell'd when a woman appears;
Like the notes of a fiddle, she sweetly, sweetly
Raises the spirits, and charms our ears.
Roses and lilies her cheeks disclose,
But her ripe lips are more sweet than those.
Dissolve us in pleasure, and soft repose.'
I must go for the poetry, as the words recited in my head. If I could only get my dead brain to remember who I was-- am. Maybe if I walked around, something would look familiar, trigger my memory.
I turned my head to far to the left, fighting back the seething pain that spread through my entire body. Slowly, I put one foot in front of the other, knowing all my arrows were pointing in the wrong direction. Without glancing back, I made my way out of the park, thinking if this were a bad dream, right now would be a good time to wake up.
I inched my way down the sidewalk with great difficulty. I was in a lot of pain and my head still hurt. But you have no idea what you are capable of until you try. So far, I figured I'd gone about one block before I found a gas station. Stepping up to the door of the john, I rattled the handle several times, hoping I didn't need to go ask for a key.
I didn't need someone asking me questions I couldn't answer, or seeing me a bloody mess. A couple more jiggles and the door opened, and I went inside, quickly locking the door.
Turning around, I drew in a breath. The view before me was quite unexpected. In muted silence, I gazed at the mug in the mirror. Thin rivulets of blood oozed down my right cheek. My whole face looked puffy, bruised and scrapped raw, all outlined by sun- filtered blonde hair that stuck up every which way it could.
By the looks of it, I had been through the ringer. I squeezed my eyes shut, feeling pain wrack through my body. I tried to conjure up an image of who I was. What my life was like. It felt like I was in a vortex, and just kept getting sucked deeper into nothingness.
The dizziness was overpowering and I began to slump to the floor. Opening my eyes helped, and I rested the palms of my hands against the cold white porcelain sink to keep standing.
I glared into the mirror. The pale, sweaty face looked like someone had dumped a bag of flour over it. This person was me, and I felt as though I'd gone mad. I was weak, but tried to control the tremors that shook my entire body. Focusing in on the baby blue eyes rimmed in red, I remembered that the eyes are the window to the soul. I tried to view their contents. I saw fear. I saw courage. I saw gentleness. I saw rage. I saw life. I saw death. But the whole truth was unknowable, and maybe I didn't want to know what lay beneath the murky blue depths of those eyes.
Tearing a paper towel from the nearby holder, I wet it and dabbed more at the cuts and scraps, its coarseness making me wince and suck air in through clenched teeth. The sledgehammers in my head now felt like war hammers and pickaxes, the battle going on inside ready to break free of my skull. Everything was a big blank. What the hell was wrong with me? What had happened?
Knocking from the opposite side of the door startled me, and wrenched my neck muscles when I turned too quickly, sending a tingling sensation down my spine into my toes.
"Hey, pal, you finished in there?" A voice called out from the other side. There was a moment of quiet, then the knocking came louder. "Come on in there!"
I shuffled to the door and opened it. Stepping out, the glare of the sun hurt my eyes, and I tilted, gripping the doorjamb for support.
"Jeez, buddy, you been double-dealing to the wrong crowd? What the hell happen to you?" a stranger griped.
My vision spun, then cleared, looking up into the eyes of a tall thin rather creepy looking man blocking my exit. He wore an eye-catching shirt that nearly blinked like a neon sign, and a hat that was equally as weird.
I pushed myself away from the john to get away from the guy. "More like double-clutched," I mumbled, somehow knowing that was the truth.
"You got the time?" he shouted after me.
I hesitated before answering. "No, I don't." and kept walking.
Time? Numbers? Something rang a bell there. This society defines everyone and everything by them. It's ridiculous. You can't change the television channel or tune your radio without using a number. When you go to the deli, you take a number. At the bank you can't take your money without a number.
License numbers. Social Security numbers. Badge numbers. Addresses, telephones, dates and times. Lucky number seven. Unlucky number thirteen. Twelve days of Christmas. Two plus one equals three. Mathematics, can't build a tower of colored blocks without it. It's bloody mind boggling. The history of the human race is told through numbers, they play a key role in our development.
But, I hate numbers. I'm a man, not a number. Maybe I'm an Arithmophobic? Having a fear of numbers. Or maybe, quite possibly, I'm from another planet?
God, my head hurts. I need to rest.
I was terrified and tired, my knees were weak and I just needed to sit a while, to regroup. I found an out of the way alley between a cigar shop and a fruit and vegetable market and sat on the ground, leaning against a stack of orange crates, near a dumpster.
The odor of onions and oranges mixed with tobacco assaulted my sense of smell, but did nothing to clear my mind. I tried to stop the tremors that came over me, my head reeling. Memories fading in and out. In and out. Like a car antenna that was bent after it'd gone through one too many carwashes. Maybe a hard swift kick in the head would bring the memories out of the dank basement where they were hiding.
I sighed, leaning my head back and closing my eyes. How was I going to fix my broken brain? I rubbed the back of my neck to clear the mist that blocked my memory. I would have screamed for someone to give me back my life, but I wasn't sure I wanted it back. My head felt like white static, tears stinging my eyes. I wished for some sort of relief, not just a few white tablets of aspirin, I wanted enough painkiller to knock out an elephant.
Another flash of memory jolted my brain. At first it was dark. Something strapped tight over my eyes so I couldn't see. Hands, rough and malicious, held me down. I struggled against the unseen offenders, refusing to give in, not wanting to share whatever information they kept trying to dredge up out of me.
I saw a bare arm, stretched out to its full length. The arm fought and strained to pull away. A disgusted angry voice, full of hate, spit brimstone but all too quickly that same voice changed. It softened. Pleaded. Begged. I heard heavy breathing. Felt something rise inside me, a wave of desire. I watched as a needle plunged into the crook of that bare arm. Stinging, piercing time and time again. One prick. Then another and another, all leaving tiny trails of bloody pin marks.
What I saw next was haunting, making my whole body shiver.
It was me, it was my voice that was angry, now soft and pleading for mercy. The struggling bare arm; also mine. I was lying flat on my back on a filthy blanket covered bed, the lingering smell of something sour clutching at my throat. My breathing was labored, my hair lank and dirty. My eyes were open, wide and wild, encircled in black and shades of purple. I could feel my heart shifting gears. I had stopped fighting the hands that held me, and tried to hold my breath. I was waiting, prayerfully, for the next syringe full of the drug I somehow knew I once hated--but now had come to love. When it came it quickly brought a smile to my face, and I relaxed, intoxicated in a dreamlike state. I could almost feel the blissful blanket of oblivion wrap around me.
But all too quickly the bliss was gone, and I was weak, deprived of my candy. I was crashing. Hard and fast. I needed the drug. The vision pitched me into a completely different setting. I was now curled up in a tight ball, lying on the gritty ground. An intense craving, and painful cramps made me want to scream. Made me want to erupt the contents of my stomach out my throat, but all I could do was lie there, shivering in cold sweat, the chill reaching deep into my bones.
My fingers reached for something, or someone. My heart pounding. Suddenly someone grasped my arms, pulling me upward, and I peered into the face of a curly haired man with gentle eyes of soft blue.
A cop was there by his side. "My god, he's a junkie," he said.
My eyes flew open at the word 'junkie', and a prickle in the crook of my arm told me it was so. I gagged in disgust, pulling myself away from what could result in a long jail sentence.
"Shut up!" The curly haired man said to the cop, pulling me into his lap and rubbing circles on my back.
Somehow I knew the curly haired guy had the upper hand. Did he have something to do with my hard-core addiction?
Back in the present. I cradled my head in my hands, the memory painful. I could almost feel the need for the drug ambush me, surging through me. Through every nook of my being. I shivered with cold. Felt like I was buried under a mound of snow.
Dropping my hands to my lap, I was drowsy and weak. A vein pulsing in my arm, begged for the sting of the needle. Just one drop of the burning liquid, two, three, four. Instinct told me to repress the need, and it exhausted me. I had to find myself, no matter how frightening or strange or awful that 'self ' proved to be.
I looked up at the blue sky between the buildings. The sun wouldn't stay up forever. I had to move on. Using the orange crates to help, I hauled myself up, pulling my shoulders back to walk straight.
I left the alleyway, now back out on the sunny street with that needy feeling dogging and nipping at my heels.
Having no idea where I was, I moved aimlessly down the sidewalks of the city. At first I walked slowly, passing flower shops, savings banks, pawn shops, and people. Looking into their faces, looking for a friend in a sea of strangers. The clincher? Even if my best friend strolled past, I wouldn't know who he or she was.
With each step, something ignited inside me. I began to walk faster and faster, elbowing past everyone. People glared at me as I shoved them out of my way. Did I treat all folks like this? Rudely brushing by them? I didn't know. All I knew was I felt crowded and, needed people to stay out of my way. I began to breath heavily, feeling a deep need to run. The urge was powerful, like a giant magnet being drawn to metal. As if there was a life and death reason to high-tail it out of there, but to where?
Ignoring the pain, I began to run all out, faster and faster, running so fast that I could hardly breathe. My chest was tight, my heart double-timing it, and my legs feeling like they'd turned to rubber.
Everything passed by me in a blur, as another vision pummeled my brain. It was me again, running down the street like a crazed lunatic, much like I was now. Only I held tightly to a duffle bag. Somehow I got the feeling it was full of money. Cold sweat dripped down my back. I made sharp rights, then sharp lefts, zooming in between cars, down alleyways, into a Laundromat, and into a bar. Protecting my duffle bag from anyone who dared to touch it, as if it were the very life of a precious child.
Words randomly shot off in my head. At first in the faintest of whispers that I could barely hear, then they screamed out almost painfully.
"She's gonna die, man."
" Cut up the girl."
" You've got our money."
The sound of a phone ringing replaced the whispers. Cops. I saw cops. I heard a gun going off and I watched myself crash through a glass door frame. Had they shot me? Why? What had I done? A hand reached out to me. To seize me? To kill me? There was blood. I remembered hearing a voice yelling.
'Get out of the way.' Then the memory was gone.
The revolver strapped to my side, ominously bumping into my ribs, brought me back to the present. I stopped running, finding myself standing in front of a telephone booth, the branches of a large oak tree giving shelter.
The visions upset me. What did they all mean? Was I some sort of delivery boy for the mob? A kidnapper? Robber?
I was puzzled. Scared. Alone.
I wiped the sweat off my upper lip with my hand, catching my breath, and searching the area. People eyed me like I belonged in an insane asylum. Maybe I did. Nothing looked familiar, and I felt a fog of despair descend over me. I stood , chest heaving, pondering it all.
Were these only dreams? I felt so jittery. Like a child who'd been taken from his parents.
'Where are you? I need to know.' A familiar yet strange voice kept calling to me inside my head.
The mantra played over and over. Someone was looking for me. Needed me to call them. Taking a breath, I half stumbled over to the telephone booth. Sticking my forefinger into the coin return, to my surprise, I dug out a dime. Nervously, I picked up the receiver and plopped the dime into the slit. This was stupid. I didn't know any phone numbers.
I almost hung up, but the words 'you need to' whispered in my head. Gazing almost sightlessly at the digits, I began to dial, rotating one number at a time.
To my shock, the other end rang. Five rings later, someone picked up.
"Talk to me." The voice sounded out of breath. "Hello?"
Something slithered inside me. The voice. It sounded so familiar.
"Hutch! Hutch, is that you?" Excitable words began to tumble from the mouth on the other end of the wire. "Buddy, damn it, talk to me!" I didn't answer. Couldn't. "What's wrong? Are you okay? Why'd you take off like that? Where are you? I got the whole city looking for you!" The tone in the voice sounded demanding, terrified.
I pressed my forehead against the payphone, banging it lightly against the black casing, hoping the self induced pain would jar my memory. I tried hard to place the voice, afraid to answer.
There was a second of hesitation , of silence on the other end, then the tone of the voice changed drastically "Who the hell is this? You filth, if you've touched one hair on my partner's head--"
Whoever this person was, they were now blinded by anger. Raging mad. It scared me, made my skin crawl, made my heart race. I couldn't talk. Just kept listening, trying to get a fix on who this was, how I knew the number, all the while steeling myself against the fitful fury.
"Aren't you going to talk? Where is my partner? What have you done to him? What the hell do you want?"
"N-nothing," I stammered, surprised as the word involuntarily slipped out my mouth.
I heard a gasp. "Hutch?"
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black and white police cruiser drive slowly by. A wave of panic rose inside me, and quickly I slammed the phone back to its cradle, ducking my head and blending back into the crowd of people, resuming my walk to nowhere.
I continued walking, being sure to avoid the police who seemed to be out in full force today. I'd find my own way out of this mess. Wasn't going to take a chance with the cops, or some disembodied voice. My pockets were empty, and I had no get out of jail free card.
Sounds rang in my ears. Gunfire? Firecrackers? I wasn't sure. Squealing tires, I knew that sound. Pool balls clicking together, laughing, crying, yelling. Oh God, my head hurt. Then I heard pigeons cooing and noticing them pecking about on the ground in front of me, I sidestepped around them. My mind was a complete blank as I continued to listen to more sounds drift around me. The wind ruffling fringed palm fronds, screams of terror, the ocean's waves, bullets hitting metal.
I was nervous, as all these thoughts kept sliding in and out of my mind. It was like a bulletin board with scraps of paper and messages that I couldn't quite read thumb tacked one on top of the other, all muddled together into nonsense. I couldn't piece the information together if my life depended on it, and it did.
I stopped in front of a pet shop window. Happy, furry puppies bounded toward me and licked the glass where I pressed my hand. But I couldn't feel the connection between me and them-which was exactly how my life felt. No connection between the injured man I'd seen in the mirror and who my real identity was. Something lodged in my throat and I swallowed.
I was scared. Of what, I didn't know.
I turned around and leaned my back against the window pane of the small shop, cold sweat beading under my armpits. Wrapping my arms around my stomach, I huffed to fight back the nausea. Seemed like everyone's eyes were on me, hushed whispers and fingers pointing in my direction. I watched people passing by, their faces expressionless, telling me nothing.
If I was born of this world, you could have fooled me. Everything seemed different, strange. Maybe this was some sort of dream or elaborate game, and I had forgotten to read the rules before playing. Was what I kept seeing in my head old memories, or new? There were plenty of unanswered questions, it was like I'd just walked out of hell.
Suddenly, an engine's loud growl took me away from my jumbled thoughts, and made me move away from the pet shop. I quickly ducked behind a nearby newspaper stand. Snagging a magazine, I hid my face with it, peeking over the edges of the Weekly Journal, watching a small red car cruise by. Some distant memory tried to break through, but my vision blurred. Swiping a hand across my eyes helped, but when I looked again the car was gone.
Why was I hiding like a coward? There was no rhyme or reason to my actions. I felt alone, like a man on fire with no one to put out the flames. I concentrated, trying to force something to come to me.
Something filtered through the fog. I'm responsible. Responsible for someone's life or death. It didn't make sense. Am I a hit-man? Spaced-out on drugs? The thought brought on another bought of nausea, and I swooned, managing not to fall by bracing my hip on the newsstand.
I'm responsible for taking lives. A killer? Responsible if something goes wrong to those I've sworn to protect? Priceless lives, that can't be replaced, once they're gone. I wobbled, feeling faint, my overloaded system wanting to shut down. My head felt like an overstuffed pillow, and someone was swinging it against a wall trying to break it open.
I could get him killed. I put him in harm's way. Served him up like a Thanksgiving Day turkey to a pack of starving wolves. I wanted to abort that thought, but who was he? Why did I care so deeply?
"I'm sorry," I mumbled.
I swallowed hard. 'You're fine. You're fine.' I kept telling myself, but every muscle felt uneasy, every movement tore at my heart, and I ached all over. I wanted to punish myself, but for what? My only solution at the moment was taking in deep breaths and blowing them back out again so I could keep standing.
After I was certain that the red car was out of sight, I remembered the magazine. I'd been hanging on to it as if it were a lifeline. Several pages were badly crinkled. I hadn't even noticed how tightly I was clutching it. I flipped to the front cover, and read the words out loud.
"California Bay City Weekly Journal."
Another mental picture filtered through the dark dungeon, like some far off wind that suddenly swept past me.
It was the image of a kid riding a snowmobile, a cool frosty wind whipping his long blond hair about, as he maneuvered the mobile around pine trees and mounds of snow. I realized, right off the kid was me, but I certainly hadn't been in California then.
My memory flipped again, like some crazy coin toss, and I saw myself in a dune buggy, flicking sand from my eyes and listening to a familiar voice. It was the voice I had heard over the payphone, and he was making a hell of a lot of noise. I continued to drive the buggy really damn fast, jumping over dunes and trying to miss clumps of dry brush. What was I doing? Trying to earn a checkered flag? Was it some sort of publicity stunt? Whatever it was, the guy sitting next to me wasn't happy about my current speed.
Again my memory took a switch. Man, this track I was on was slick. Now it was me who wasn't happy about the current speed of the car I was in. I was feeling dizzy and sick. Yelling at the curly haired driver to slow down. He wouldn't pay attention. Just kept on like some lunatic. The speed demon tore down public streets and through red lights, until he mowed us right through an abandoned construction site. I remember thinking 'thank God no one was around, they would have been killed.' I also remember seeing the hood of the red shiny car crumpled, and wedged up under planks and cinder blocks. My head hurt and everything became painted dusty gray, but I managed to--
"Hey, Mac, you going to pay for that?"
I managed to--what did I manage to do?
"I said, are you going to pay for that?" The unfriendly voice broke my concentration.
"Huh? What?" I looked up to discover the owner of the newsstand glaring at me. He was a rotund black man whose presence pulsated with pride and authority. He reminded me of someone, but I didn't know who. A Captain? Of a ship? Think. Think.
"You damaged it!" He roared like a caged animal, startling me. " How can I sell a magazine that looks like yesterday's news?" He kept a weary eye on me, looking me up and down. "You thinking about stealing it? You know, it's bums like you that make it hard for an honest man to make a living. Pay now--or do I have to call the cops?"
"Cops?" Something tingled in the back of my head, and I stood dazed.
"Look, Mac," he said with annoyance, while grabbing the magazine from my hands. "Can't you read?" He drew a pencil from behind his ear and pointed it at a sign above the stand. " No loitering," he said, frowning and shaking his head, and looking at me like I weren't worthy of taking out his trash. "Move on, you free loading piece of crap!!" He yelled.
I was stunned. What had I just been thinking about? I was on to something, but now it had slipped away. Think, damn it. Think.
"What the hell are you doing here?" The man took a step backward, and I saw fear in his eyes. Maybe he thought I was going to rob him.
Out of the blue, I became angry. Of course I could read. Bum or no bum he didn't have the right to speak to me like I were one of his soggy old newspapers blowing down the street. "How should I know!" I yelled in frustration and stormed away.
The brightness of the sun hurt my eyes, and I turned my back on it. Not able to think of what else to do, I continued to walk aimlessly, a restless soul. Looking down, I watched my feet, feeling the world going round and round under them.
What was I searching for? I didn't know. Did I have a goal in life? Dreams? Dreams I couldn't remember now. Did I have people who loved me? People I'd forgotten? I felt more like a zombie than a man.
I listened to my shoes scuffing the cement, listened to a ball bouncing against what I assumed was a wall. Heard the clatter of metal wheels, probably a shopping cart. Glancing up, I passed an old woman wearing a heavy coat. Sure enough, she was pushing a metal cart, with what looked like everything she owned stowed inside. I felt sad, knowing I couldn't help her. Hell, what was I thinking? I couldn't even help myself. How bad could I be if I wanted to help people?
I walked up and down streets, through alleyways, and around buildings. What was I searching for? I passed another park, this one smaller than the last, with no fountain. A few kids were playing tag. I staggered past a one legged man sitting on a bench. He looked cold and thin. He was playing the saxophone, dressed in a ragged green sport coat that was full of holes, much like my moldy Swiss cheese of a brain. His hair was long, gunmetal gray, and sticking up out from under the brown knit cap he wore on his head. Next to him on the bench was a tin can. I stopped to listen awhile. He was good, and didn't even need any sheet music to play by.
For a short time I watched and listened. I wished I had a buck or two I could put in his tin can. The man had a gift and I wondered how he'd ended up out here on the street. I was happy to see a few passers-by give the old guy some change. But most people didn't even take notice. It tore at my heart, and I became disillusioned by the unkindness of strangers.
Echoes of another type of music came to me, and in my mind, I saw myself sitting on a well cushioned sofa. I was smiling, gently strumming the strings of an old guitar. It was for once a pleasant recollection until the squealing sound of tires jolted me quickly back to the present. I shivered, wrapping my arms tightly around my body. Like a depleted solider, battle weary and homesick, I hunched my shoulders against the cold. Pushing onward, I privately wished the old man luck. He'd need it, as much as me.
The sounds around me seemed to die away and there was nothing but silence, and the blackness of my memories. This must be what it feels like to completely disappear from this earth. The jumbled shadows of my past slipped in and out of the refuge of my mind. Mocking me in laughter, while I tried to catch up to them. I couldn't, and I don't know how long I floated in that blankness, until I heard a faint rustling. Opening my eyes, I looked around. I was sitting against a tree. The rustle of the leaves above was soothing and calm. What was it with me and trees? Before me lay the expanses of a neat and tailored green lawn wrapped around etched granite stones. I was in a cemetery. A force of peace filled me, and something curled around my subconscious. A promise, that I once made, to love them both, whispered on the spring breeze.
What was this? What was I doing in a graveyard? Why did everything in my world seem to point in the direction of death? Something nagged at my subconscious again. Something bad. Was there anything good about my life? Anything at all? A sharp pain that felt like it had nearly sliced my neck off my shoulders made me pull my knees up to my chest.
"Where is he?" I said, then laughed.
Who the hell was I talking about? I was taking a beating, a beating of the mind. I suspected it was far worse than any physical beating I'd endured.
A jingling sound, and a flash of movement startled me. I jarred my neck when I turned too fast to see where the sound came from. It was a cat. A damn cat, wearing a red collar, with a bell.
I shuddered. What was with this color red? It knocked something loose in my mind, and for a moment I forgot about my pain. A almost drunken feeling came over me, it was dazzling. I floated, like a balloon, softly, tenderly, lovingly. Floated among blue skies, and the smells of fruity wine, of skin as soft as silk, fresh as flowers. My lips parted. I could almost feel the soft mouth of a woman pressing against my own, the warmth running inside me, exuding heat. I reached out to touch her cheek and--
I shuddered hard, an artic chill gripped my heart, and suddenly, the lovely image began to change. Dark storm clouds scudded over my blue skies, and I was a thousand miles away from that beautiful love. Now I was empty, cold and rigid. The warm floating sensation had left as fast as it had come. My beautiful red balloons brought down, torn up and lying airless on the ground.
I saw a slender body lying so still on a plush rug, her skin as pale as moonlight. I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping to rid myself of this memory, but my mind reeled and it only got worse. She wasn't breathing, and I could tell by the way her neck was twisted that it was broken. Her long hair draped over her dead white face. My love lay lifeless. I sank to my knees next to her, sobbing.
"No. No." I heard my own voice. "What is this?"
This couldn't be. My eyes filled with tears. She was my lady, and she was gone. So quick. So easy. It wasn't plausible. I'd been lied to. Her profession was not what she had told me. But what that was wasn't revealed to me.
A wave of panic flew through me, and I felt something monstrous growing inside. The crooked smiled guy was there, but he wasn't smiling. His words-- I couldn't understand, but they sizzled and hissed like a firestorm in my heart. He was talking crazy talk.
"Take a look around you. What do you think bought this place?"
Those words had split my chest wide open. My heart that had once been pink and alive slopped to the floor. I remembered standing, pacing the room, and thinking 'you bastard.' My nostrils flared, and I felt anger gathering inside me like a spinning tornado. I turned to him, wanting to char broil him, like meat on a spit. I curled my fist, and cuffed the curly haired guy across the jaw, sending him down to the carpet. Grabbing a fist full of ratty leather, I pulled him back to his feet, held him place.
My mind was still reeling. Things seemed to fast forward from there. I saw a reservoir of love in this man's eyes, and found myself falling into his arms, sobbing uncontrollably. He was honest. Truthful. Hurting as much for me as I was for myself. My head began to swim again, like an elevator stopping at different levels. Each level a part of my life, and just before I could step out onto that floor, the doors would shut tight, and I'd be moving again. Was I going up? Was I going down? Which floor would I end up on next?
I opened my eyes, looking up, watching the limbs of the tree sway gently in the breeze and easing the wave of panic. This gave a whole new prospective on the clichéd phrase, 'ignorance is bliss.' Isn't it?
The sky was blue, and the grass was green, what more did I need to know?
If I only had a brain. The brain is very complex. Somewhere, I remember reading, the fact that we only use a small percentage of our brains. Probably only ten percent. Another article said that this was a myth. A great misconception. That, in fact, we humans use all of our brain. The human brain weighs about three pounds. If we only used ninety percent, we'd have a brain the size of a sheep. Now, if I could remember all that, why couldn't I recall who I was? I wondered how much of my brain I was using now? What buried secrets awaited my discovery?
"Ohhh!" I moaned, involuntarily.
Right now I felt like my brain might just explode. My eyes fluttered and another vision came to me.
The curly haired man was sitting at a bar, sipping a beer. He was angry. I was trying to talk to him about a dead man, trying to calm him, playing the hero, but the exchange became heated. He drained his glass of beer, slammed it down, and stood to leave. My hand raised to stop him, and that infuriated him even more. I caught the blued steel gleam in his eyes just before his fist caught my chin, launching me into a table full of none too happy cops.
The memory fizzed, and I was that fish in the bowl again, only I'd flung myself to land. Panting, my body slipped sideways. What kind of hostile life did I lead? A burning bubble of bile came up my throat, and I gagged once, swallowing back the tiny spittle that soured my mouth. What was it with he and I? Me and him? Him and me? Was it a love hate relationship? Hard as I tried, it was all incomprehensible. A great weight sat on my chest and all I could do was gaze unseeingly through my visions to get beyond the blockade that kept me trapped inside myself.
I must have dozed off. When I awoke, I was still leaning up against the tree. For a moment I had no thoughts. I was happy about that. Happy to sit and watch the light blue sky and white clouds that sailed serenely by.
Listening, I heard the flapping of a flag in the wind, and the sound of a bird signing solo nearby. I wondered if it were still the same day? I wasn't sure, so I let the thought go. But another came to me. If I thought I was alone, a single fish swimming in a fishbowl, I was wrong.
Something dwelled here. Very much a part of who I was. Someone's spirit. It wasn't a hunted soul, it was more like an angel's. I wanted nothing more than to find some peace from the memories that were scaring me so badly. I looked from the tree to my fingers, seeing dried blood. I could only wonder how much was mine and how much belonged to those I knew and loved? There were tears streaking down my cheeks, and my shoulders began to shake, causing me pain, but I couldn't control anything anymore. I gingerly turned my head to look to my right, my eyes stung and my vision blurred. I couldn't read the etching on the headstone that was only inches from me.
On hands and knees I crawled over toward it. My fingers twitched and trembled as I traced the name.
Closing my eyes, the image of a tiny well kept apartment came to me. I knew this place. Knew every picture, every piece of pottery, every crack on the wall. Curly was there along with two other woman. I struggled to remember proper names, but couldn't.
We were drinking beer, playing a game. Colored money spread out all over a coffee table. Plastic red hotels, green houses, and silver pieces were scattered around a multicolored playing board. It looked like a fun game, and someway I knew I was winning. Seemed I was always winning, it was pointless for the curly haired guy to even shoot for victory. Only way he could win was if he cheated.
The memories were like a revolving door that I was stuck inside of. I just kept going round and round, pointing me in no particular direction at all. I had an overwhelming sense of doom. Something wasn't right. Even though he smiled, and laughed out loud, the curly haired man's hands shook as he rolled the dice. I could see the battered man behind the grin. Someone wasn't going to be here for much longer. Someone wasn't going to make it to Christmas. Death hung thick and heavy in the air. I wanted to be near this man, to make it better for him, but where was he? What was happening? And why--
I heard gravel crunching beneath fast paced feet, and opened my eyes, drawn from my broken memory, once again jolted back to life at hand. Like magic, that curly haired man in my dreams was there. I watched as he ran up to me. Was he a ghost? I knew him from my dreams but how? Who? I couldn't put my finger on it to save my life.
"Man, it's good to see you, Hutch! What happened ? Why'd you take off like that?"
For several seconds I felt uneasy. I could do nothing but stare up at this person and tremble. He looked a little different, older, shorter hair, and he had a few fresh scrapes and cuts on his face, but it was him. He seemed so intense that it sent a wave of panic through me. He started to reach a hand down to me. I was scared, and shied away, pressing my back against the coldness of the headstone.
"Don't! Don't touch me!" I screamed, my eyes darting from him to the cops who stood stiff as wooden Indians behind him.
Everything was closing in, encircling me, and my heart pounded. I had no idea how this was all going to play out. The curly haired man stopped mid reach, a faint gasp leaving his lips, and I could see my ragged appearance reflecting back at me in his sunglasses. For a moment he stared at me. It was strange, as if he were peering through the dark into my soul. He knew me, but I didn't know him. I only knew him in the small flashes of my half dreams. He turned away, looking over his shoulder he ordered, "Don't just stand there, get me that ambulance! Now!"
Frantically, I looked past this man, to see several men in blue do as he said. But several more boys in blue still stood at his back, taking tiny steps forward, stiff and on their guard. I got the feeling they didn't like the way I looked. It unnerved me more, and I felt my blood rolling through my veins, angry and fearful, everything coming at me too fast.
"Keep away!" I yelled. Before I knew it I had guided the gun out from under my jacket, and held it in my quivering hand.
"Gun!" one of the officers yelled. Drawing his revolver had caused a chain reaction, as the others did the same.
"Whoa! Whoa!" The curly haired man whirled back toward me. "Hey, hey, slow it down a second. Those are the good guys." He leveled a look my way. "What? Are you nuts?"
"Come on, man." He didn't seem happy with me. Holding up a stern hand behind him, he ordered the approaching cops to back off. "I got this! Stay clear!" he bellowed. Drawing his shades away from his face, he reveled a hard blue eyed gaze that never left me. I could see the worry etched in the wrinkled crevices of his brow. "Hutch." His voice had turned from loud to dead calm. Slowly he eased down, squatting in front of me. "Hey, partner, what have you gotten yourself into now?"
I slumped further back against the granite rock, my breathing labored, too upset to answer. He laced his fingers together, letting me know he wouldn't reach toward me again.
"Buddy, you okay?" His voice was smooth and steady, and his eyes fixed first on my head wounds, then the gun. "What are you doing here?" I didn't know how to answer this person. "Been worried sick about you, pal. Put out an APB, been looking all over for you." I just sat there staring back at him, as an awkward silence filled the air. "Hutch," he finally spoke again. " It's me, Starsky."
"Who-what?" I thought a moment. A feeling of warmth and safety came to me a moment. "Starsky? Hutch? How do you spell that? I asked, feeling like I was made completely out of papier-mâché.
The stranger before me became distraught, and he bit into his lower lip. He looked almost as if he would cry as he glanced past me to the headstone. His concerned eyes darted back to mine. He studied me hard, my confusion reflecting back at me and then there was something else. At first I wasn't sure what it was. But, then I knew. It was pain. His pain. Like a knife blade had caught him in the heart, and it seemed like an eternity before he spoke again .
"It's your name. Ken Hutchinson. Hutch, for short." He gave a curt nod, as if I should know that. For a moment he watched me again in silence. Looking at me as if I were playing some kind of cruel joke. "Starsky." he pointed to his chest. "Me. I'm your partner. You don't know who I am?" he ventured.
I shook my head 'no', causing searing heat to run up and down my spine, and I whimpered, gripping tighter to the gun.
"Easy." A shaky hand came to my kneecap.
Man, the guy had balls.
I flinched, but allowed the contact.
"Won't hurt you. Take it easy, Hutch."
The soft echo of his voice seemed so caring, and I knew I wouldn't hurt him either. I'd heard that voice before. On the payphone. In my daydreams. And a thought flickered that I should try to trust this man. "Who are you? Who-who am I?" I lowered that stonewall I'd encircled myself with just a tad.
"Don't you know anything?" he said with this quizzical look on his face.
Tough question. I couldn't respond. "Don't you remember anything at all?" he repeated.
I almost shook my head 'no' again, but caught myself before I could cause more pain. "No," I said instead.
There was a moment of silence between us. Finally, I think he believed me. "It'll get better, Hutch." His eyes, welled with tears. "Don't worry. I'm your friend, gonna take care of you."
For some reason I believed this man, and I took a couple calming breaths, pulling the gun to my chest and cradling it there.
"What hurts?" Soft-spoken.
That, at least, wasn't a hard question. "My head. My neck. Everything," I answered, shifting against the stone uncomfortably.
"Whiplash. Concussion maybe." His words were short and clipped.
"What are you talking about?"
The man before me reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a thin wallet, he flipped it open and showed me a police badge. "Think you lost this." I lost more than a wallet. I lost my soul. "You're Detective Kenneth Hutchinson, Bay City Police Department."
"I'm not a cop. Anything but a cop!" Frightened and agitated, I pointed the gun outward again.
"What's wrong with being a cop?" the man before me asked, looking straight into my eyes, seemingly not at all concerned that I might put a bullet in him.
The look scared me, and I inched back further against the headstone. A burst of fear filled me, followed by a burst of anger. "Everything!" I yelled not caring who heard me. "Everything's wrong with being a cop. Dealing with violent crimes. It's a macho power trip that leaves you broken, hurt and alone."
I tried to compose myself but couldn't stop thinking. Couldn't stop the projections in my head. Wading knee deep in blood. Having only a split second to make fateful decisions, decisions that forever change lives. Ridiculed by the media. Cursed at. Shot at. Cut up. Beat up. Walking these dirty, smelly roach infested streets. Facing the worst of the worst.
The wind shook the tree branches, and I felt something shake loose deep inside myself.
"Being a cop-would mean- means-means losing people," I sobbed. He didn't say a word, so I went on."Because of the job. Losing my mind. Losing my soul." I was a basket case, combing a trembling hand through my hair, coming undone. "Going it alone." I felt like I were falling into a fathomless pit. The sunlight was bright and I squinted. Felt like I might pass out again. Still keeping a tight hold on the butt of the gun, I lowered it to my lap. It was pointless. Something deep inside me told me I wouldn't use it anyway. For God's sake, it still had the safety on.
"Hutch, listen, I need your help. Can you help me?" His voice was soft, and caring, which made me feel safe. I dimly recalled a cup of coffee being offered to my dry cracked lips, this man like a shepherd was guarding me, taking care of me.
"How?" I sighed.
"Give me the gun," he suggested, in a voice so low I am sure only I heard it. "Okay?" His brows raised in question.
I didn't hesitate. "Okay," I agreed, handing the weapon to him.
He smiled, then slowly took the gun, offering it to an officer behind him.
"You know, you couldn't be more wrong, partner," he said, scooting closer. "You're never alone," the stranger before me said, his gaze never wavering. "I've been there with you. We're friends, not enemies." He dabbed at my forehead with the handkerchief, and I pulled back from the pain. "Easy. Let me take care of this, you're still bleeding."
I had him with me? "You?" I sighed, riding a wave of frustration, allowing this man to continue cleaning my wounds. "You know whose grave this is?" I asked.
"You really don't remember?" His voice cracked. "You rememberTerry?"
I didn't. Couldn't remember much of anything.
He studied me closely. Seeing I didn't respond, he continued. He had a hard time talking after that, his voice trembling. "This is her grave. She died from a bullet wound to the head. Should've been me." The words were sharp and I felt a pang in my gut. "You helped me through it, Hutch."
While he continued to wipe the blood from my face, I closed my eyes, drained and disoriented. I saw us, me and the curly haired man, standing over this very grave, shadowed by a large oak. Only the grave wasn't covered with grass like the others, it was covered in fresh dirt, and beautifully arranged flowers with ribbons and banners. He was trying to be strong, but the wind was cold and the man next to me shivered hard, huge tears streaking down his face. I put my arm around him and pulled him close, trying not to wrinkle the black suite he wore. He looked at me, a grimace of inner turmoil distorting his face. I could feel his pain, mixed with anger, that threatened to suffocate us both. I didn't like this portion of my memory. I wanted to wash it away.
"Blondie, you in there?"
My eyes snapped open, back in what I only could assume was the real world. I glanced over the curly haired man's shoulder, seeing an ambulance pull up. "I think. Uh-huh!" I tensed at the pain in my head.
"Easy, just a little more. We'll get you out of here soon."
"What the hell is wrong with me?" I wanted to just shrivel up like burning paper, anything to escape my confusion and pain, both mental and physical.
The man stopped wiping at my injuries and his face went stoic. I could feel the friction that lingered between us. He seemed to be having a morality debate inside himself. I watched all kinds of emotions dredge through his eyes. At first I thought this guy was crazy. But rethinking it, he didn't look so crazy. I was the one who was crazy. I got the feeling that this Starsky guy always played a good hand and never dropped a pass. Somehow he knew me, backwards, forwards, inwards and outwards. If I could only figure out how.
"Was my fault." His Adam's apple bobbed, and he looked away from me. "I was driving. We were chasing a suspect. I--" He looked back at me. "I wrecked the car. Head on collision with some bricks. That's where you come in." His voice got really quiet. "You were in the passenger seat. Must've taken a good bonk on the head. In short, when I came to, you were gone." I could tell he was riding a wave of anxiety. "Oh God, "Hutch, I've been out of my mind for the last two hours. Had half the police force looking for you."
I was still confused. "Cops?" The word scared me.
"We're cops. It's who we are. You rather be peddling a desk?" He gave a half smile. "No matter what you believe right now, partner, what we do is a good thing. "Understand?"
Despite his words that felt so right in my ears, I couldn't shake the images of those two woman. One his. One mine. Both dead now, because of who we were. Consequences of the job?
I didn't understand. "No! No, I don't," I yelled, wiggling in his hold. "Get away from me!"
I had to get a away. I knew if I embraced him I'd have to embrace my memories, and the pain those brought. I wasn't sure I was ready to know the truth. I felt sick to my stomach, my head was like shredded paper, everything spun in high speed. My palms were sweating and there was a shrill ringing in my ears. I felt hot, I had a pulse that raced like a thoroughbred, and I started breathing even faster. Desperately I clung to this man who knew me so well, using his jacket to pull myself up, and shove away from him. The attempt not all that successful as my legs gave out, wobbling like jell-o.
"Slow. Slow. You're going to hyperventilate. Just relax a bit." He pulled me back to him. "I bet you're hungry, huh, Hutch?" I didn't answer, feeling sick. Hunger was the last thing on my mind. "After this, what do you say you and me go to one of those health nut places. You can order up a soy shake and banana chips?" He gave me a huge smile. I might not have a memory, but it was clear this man was trying to offer up some comfort.
"Do-do I like banana chips?"
"Yeah, buddy. You love 'em."
Only a second later everything faded back to those shapeless shadows. I felt myself fall limp, cut off from any control I may have had earlier.
I was out of it, but aware enough to know I was being lifted, gently, and placed on a stretcher. Defenseless to do anything other than listen in my half aware state. I was eased upward and heard a door shut.
"I'm here," the familiar voice whispered right in my ear. "Try to relax, it's going to be okay." A soothing touch to my hand was the last thing I felt.
It took some doing but I finally opened my eyes, barely able to keep them that way. I blinked, clearing my fuzzy vision. Where was I now? I was in room. The walls were painted a light green, sunlight dancing softly about. There was a clock on the far wall. But, I couldn't make sense of it. Time stretched and twisted around my droopy thoughts, and it seemed like too much work to go chasing after them. I needed to close my eyes and fall back into nothingness, but for some reason I didn't give in to that weight of desire.
I just wanted to go home.
But this wasn't home. A warm blanket was pulled up to my chin. I tried to turn my head, but a thick collar around my neck kept me from moving. The second thing I noticed was a television set attached high up on the wall, straight ahead of me. Some old black and white cowboy movie was playing, but I couldn't hear a thing. Either I was deaf or the sound was turned off.
Third thing I noticed was my head. I reached up and felt tight gauze wrapped around it. I cringed, there was a load of bricks pressing down on my brain.
The curly haired man in a tan leather jacket was standing near a window, staring out the partially drawn drapes. He looked tired and sad. Something inside me wanted to go to him. Hug him close, but I felt too weak, barely able to keep my eyes open.
As if a glass of ice water was dumped over my head, my memory started to kick in. I was a patient. In a hospital bed. A victim of a car wreck. I forced more of my memory to come. One word seemed to be carved into my skull.
It was the one piece of leverage that snapped me back. All at once, my head warped around that one word, and it felt like fire flying through my brain. Explosive imagery ticked past like a Home coming day parade, and I recounted everything from past to present. I had to talk to my partner. Let him know I was okay.
"Want to talk," I barely could hear myself whisper, my tongue feeling like it was covered in fur. But my mumblings were enough. Starsky spun around and was by my side before I could blink.
"Nothing to talk about, shhhh--" He tried to quiet me. "You got a pretty nasty bump on your head, a concussion and sprained neck." He had a sorrowful expression on his face as he talked. "Doctor says you need your rest. Go to sleep." I swallowed down hard, reaching my hand up, and he clasped it. "Don't be scared. You'll remember everything real soon. Your brain waves are fluctuating normally. There's no permanent damage to that pretty head of yours. It'll just take time, and rest, doing what the doctors tell you to." He smiled, bending down lower and looking me in the eye. "I'm your partner," he said softly, " Starsky with an S."
"We-we've met, dummy," I managed, trying to smile.
Starsky's eyes popped nearly out of his head. "What'd you say?"
"We've met. I'm Hutch. You're Starsky. We're cops. Detectives."
Been through hell and back together, buddy.
"Hutch, your memory, it's back!." Starsky's smile could have melted the ice cap on Everest. "The doctor said it could come back at anytime, but this? This is weird."
"You're weird," I said through clenched teeth, fire exploding through my head, a wounded whimper escaped out my lips before I could stop it.
"Oh, man, buddy." Starsky held my hand tighter. "I'm so sorry."
"For wh-what?" I panted, somehow managing to sit up a little.
"Hutch, what exactly do you remember?" Starsky asked, leaning forward to adjust the pillow behind me.
"Everything." I sunk deeper into it, feeling drained.
"Everything?" Starsky repeated in a disappointed tone.
"Starsky--" A wave of dizziness made the room spin.
"Hey, buddy." He put a hand on my shoulder.
"Starsk," I tried again. "Did it ever occur to you that someday your driving might get us both killed?"
He balked at the last word. "Lot's of things occur to me, Hutch." He tried for a know- it- all smirk that fell short.
"Next time, I pull a gun on you, Starsky, kick me in the shin, pop me in the mouth. Do whatever it takes, okay?"
"Okay," Starsky said in a pained voice, letting me know he would do exactly that.
"And as for you, next time, just slow down that red fetish on parade. Can't catch the bad guys if you keep ramming us into walls."
Starsky gave a nod of understanding, his fingers gently rubbing my shoulder. "Few days you can go home, but my car's not gonna be that lucky."
"So I have to thumb a ride?" I snuffed, my body going limp to the comforting touch.
"You forget you have a car, Blondie? Uh--forget I said that," Starsky said in a jumpy voice. "I'll pick you up in your car."
"If you're doing the driving, might be safer to thumb it." I gave a light laugh, shifting against the pillow. "Ow, my head."
"You're not supposed to move around to much, pal. Need another pillow?" Before I could even answer, Starsky stood and going to a nearby cupboard, he brought one back. Wiggling a hand to the nape of my neck, he raised me up to place the pillow behind me. "Better?"
I hurt a lot, and couldn't answer at the moment. Pain shot through my head like I'd shoved too much ice cream down my throat, the ice cold pressure going straight behind my eyes. I settled for letting out a slow breath instead.
Starsky was there immediately, bending over me and whispering in my ear. "Easy, okay? Go to sleep, buddy. Being a cop's hard work, you need your rest."
"About that." I looked up into his probing blue eyes. "I didn't mean-when I didn't know I was a cop. I said some things that I didn't mean--"
"You meant them." Starsky gave a slight shake of his head. "It's okay, Hutch, doesn't imply you don't love the job, just means you're human. It gets to us all."
I sighed heavily. He understood. He always does. I felt breathless, the pounding in my head threatening to make me go mad, and I gasped.
"It's fine. I'm here." His breath was like the gentle spring air, murmured softly in my ear.
"Need to-- thank you for always being there for me." I said, closing my eyes, feeling every aching muscle in my body, my lack of strength surprising me.
"Plenty of times you were there for me, partner."
I opened one eye because it was all I could handle. Starsky was watching me as if I'd disappear. "I'm okay, pal."
"No doubt?" He raised his brows, questioning me, as if he couldn't believe I'd really gotten my memory back.
My hand came to his and I gave a weak squeeze. For a moment I wasn't sure myself. But then I thought about my guitar. Like the saxophone player, I never needed sheet music, always could play by heart, and my heart told me that I was home where I belonged.
"No doubt about it, Starsk," I uttered, closing my eye.
I felt the bed sink, Starsky sat next to me, still holding my hand. He wasn't ready to let his guard down, not just yet, anyway. "You know Hutch, I read in a magazine--"
"Oh, boy, here we go."
"I read that people only use ten percent of their brains."
"Speak for yourself, Gordo," I gave a breathy snicker.
Starsky ignored me and continued. "I wonder where the other 90 percent goes?"
"Judging by the way you drive," I yawned. "In a dark closet."
References: Poem I used in this story was written by John Gay Called 'If the Heart Of A Man'
Do not meddle
In the affairs of Dragons...
for you are crunchy
and good with ketchup!
Do not meddle