BEYOND THE LIMIT

By: Karen B.

Summary: Missing scene: Episode: Strange Justice.

Author's note: If you have not seen the episode in a long while, you may want to view it before reading this MS. Thank you for your time, support, and care! All you guys out there are incredible, heart felt, and giving people!

Thank you, Mah, for working with me on this. And for understanding the fickle muse and absolute blanks! You are my pussy cat!

"Why? Why!" Hutch spat in Slate's face. "Why do it this way! Was it worth it?"

Frustrated beyond belief, Hutch pushed away, disgusted and repulsed, letting Starsky handle the arrest.

"Why would a man take on half a squad room with an empty pistol?" Starsky asked, contempt burning in his eyes. "Assume the position, Lieutenant," he said, turning the man around to face a support beam.

Starsky's hands were steady as he patted down the offending officer. Suddenly his hand brushed against something metal. Knowingly, Starsky pulled roughly up on Slate's trousers causing the hidden weapon to fall from where it was tucked. He bent down and picked up the small pistol, raising it up to share his find with Hutch.

"Dan." Dobey frowned, a deep ache inside his stomach flaring. "Go on Starsky, get him out of here."

Slate's tension was palpable; he paused to look at Hutchinson, his breath sticking in his throat. He swallowed down hard, determined to make himself heard before he was led away.

"You asked me if it was worth it?" Slate looked directly at Hutch, his words calling to him. "Yeah, it was. Biggs got the justice he deserved."

Hutch's eyes narrowed, sickened by the words. "Justice has nothing to do with murder. Never did," he growled, with absolute conviction in his voice.

A twenty-year Lieutenant should know that. All police officers knew that, even the rookies.

Sure the streets were tough, unfair and cruel, but that didn't mean those who carried brass badges could hide behind them, get special privileges. Even cops had to pay parking tickets.

Hutch felt for Slate. His daughter was a victim of a serious, hateful crime. He couldn't pretend to know what the guy was going through. How could you explain a father's love and emotions, but Slate had gone it alone, when he should have found someone he could talk to.

A good cop had crossed the line. A cop that loved his job had allowed the circumstances of the streets to consume him with rage. He'd lost control. Couldn't handle it. Years of police work, dedication, honor, justice, all gone in a split second's crack of gunfire.

The world was beginning to be a very ugly place. When Hutch had first joined the force he thought he could change the world. Now that idea seemed to be linked right up there with the unlikely fantasy that there really was a happy place somewhere over the rainbow.

Things were all messed up. Thank God he had a strong confident partner he could lean on.

Hutch glanced over at the officer who had inadvertently shot Biggs, then had to turn his gaze away from the devastated officer. What more could be said or done? It was a hollow victory.

Four lives had been broken apart. A young girl was emotionally scared. A veteran cop would probably be going to jail. Biggs, a rapist who belonged behind bars, had instead been brought down by a cop's bullet, murdered by design. The police officer known as Chuck to his friends and colleges would have to live with that horrible mistake he didn't even know he was committing at the time.

"Chuck! Chuck, where you going?"

Hutch whirled back around, hearing Starsky's concerned voice, just in time to see the uniformed officer racing up the staircase with Starsky darting after him.

"Shit!" Hutch followed suit, right at Starsky's back. "What's he thinking?"

"Something not smart," Starsky said, giving a worried glance over his shoulder, as both partner's took the stairs two at a time.

Reaching the top floor they found themselves in a long corridor. The once fine hardwood floor was littered with filth, and huge chunks of gouged holes in the plaster added dimension to the graffiti colored walls. Fancy scalped bronze sconces, tarnished with age, lined either side of the hallway, some half hanging from wires with broken bulbs.

"Chuck." Hutch's voice echoed. No answer. "Look, everyone knows it wasn't your fault." Again no answer.

Hutch understood the officer had to be blaming himself. Everyone knew it wasn't his fault. Chuck had to know that too. But right now it didn't seem to matter, the officer obviously was hurting, and confused. Why else would he run off like that?
Hutch knew from his own experience nothing can prepare you for what you might encounter once you've been sworn in and pinned a badge to your chest. A cop had to be tough even though he was afraid. He had to be unemotional even as his heart bled. It's not a normal life, and you're tossed into a turbulent world most people never really see. These things, acts of violence are what either harden a cop or send him over the falls in a barrel.

They heard shuffling, the sound coming from an open doorway at the very end of the lengthy hallway.

"What do you think?" Starsky whispered.

Hutch's eyes met his partners. "Think he's torn up inside," Hutch said, pushing his fingers through his hair. "Let me go ahead."

Starsky gave an agreeing nod, hanging back, shadowing his partner and letting Hutch take the lead. Only a few steps behind Hutch, he decided to draw his gun as an added precaution. If there was even a microbe of a hint the man might be suicidal, one had to err on the side of caution.

Hutch moved forward toward the room, hands loose at his sides. He didn't think Chuck was so far gone that he would do something stupid, but this day had been seasoned in hell.

"Chuck, it's Hutch." He advanced passively. "I'm coming in."

Hutch stepped through the doorframe, and what he saw both broke his heart, and scared him. Chuck was sitting on the grungy floor huddled deep into a corner of the dimly lit room. He was twitching, sweating profusely, grinding his teeth, and his breathing seemed difficult. His knees were drawn up, and his gun rested on them, held tight in his hand. He seemed to be considering something, and he looked so small, the spacious area seeming to swallow him.

Post traumatic stress disorder?

Could be. The signs were there. It was something that could creep up silently, and if left untreated progressed until the victim was beyond his limit, unable to comprehend or deal with things anymore. PSTD was the main cause of suicide in the department, and for letters of resignation.

Survival was a human beings most basic and primal instinct. A cop had to deal with more than his fair share of fighting for continued existence. Hutch knew Chuck had lost his partner to a bullet three years ago during a 2-11 in progress. Chuck had been right behind Joe, his partner, when the bullet entered his chest knocking the officer back into Chuck's arms. Joe died on the scene, only minutes later. After that Hutch recalled the department beefing up the awareness of PTSD.

Hutch glanced around, taking in the rest of the room quickly. He knew situations like this could unfold quickly and he wanted to be prepared for anything.

There were no other exits. Only one boarded up window, that allowed a few splinters of sunlight to shine through. The area was dingy and quiet. The plastered walls dull gray, water damaged and cracked with gray flaking paint. Bottles, broken glass jars, boxes, and torn bedding littered the dusty yellow tiled floor.

"What are you doing in here?" Hutch asked. The officer never looked up at him, only gave a helpless shrug. "Hey, pal." Hutch took a few more steps and then stopped. "Don't do this to yourself."

Starsky stood at the doorframe, keeping quiet, and being sure to conceal his drawn weapon behind his back. Chuck was an all around good cop, and he never passed up a cry for help. Today was no different when Lieutenant Slate begged him to shoot Biggs. But Starsky knew, from the look he'd seen on the uniformed man's face before he darted up the staircase, he wasn't thinking clearly. The events of the day, coupled with the battle every officer fought inside himself as well as on the streets, had hit Chuck like a windstorm. Unending battles with horror, often brought many good men to their knees, with no way out.

Starsky had seen that look before in Nam. When a man had that look, he'd been pushed beyond his limit. It was like they'd been dropped out of their world completely, and you couldn't be sure what they would do next.

"This was a tough one, Chuck, what can I do?" Hutch asked, trying to slow things down. He took two small steps, now only a few inches away from the cornered man.

"I don't know," Chuck finally responded.

Hutch could hear the anger, frustration, pain, and irrational state of mind the officer was in. He knew how he had to be feeling.

"How about I just talk to you for a few minutes?" Hutch gingerly eased down into a crouched position balancing his weight on his toes. He was now eye level with the cornered man. "Can you do that, Chuck? Talk to me?"

The shaken officer finally looked up, but he didn't make eye contact with Hutch. Rather, he seemed to be staring off into space. Hutch could tell by the haunted gaze that he was devastated. Shattered, like a bird with broken wings.

Hutch wasn't sure what he could say. It was all so screwed up. He had questions too. Questions that would only receive empty answers. Hutch knew this came with the job, hell, they all knew.

"Chuck, nobody is blaming you. You didn't know. How could you--"

"I'm fucked," Chuck screamed, his eyes finally meeting Hutch's compassionate gaze as he waved the gun around violently. "I was stupid and now I'm so fucked."

He was irrationally agitated, his eyes darting from Hutch to Starsky and back again, looking like a snared animal.

"Easy. Easy, now." Hutch raised his hands in supplication, cringing to himself, knowing he'd said the wrong thing.

Starsky tensed, but remained standing still in the doorway.

"It isn't fair. I know." Hutch went on, watching the man's nervous tension as he looked back and forth between he and Starsky. "You shouldn't have had to deal with this. Look, Chuck, I'm going to send Starsky out of the room--"

"Uh--" Starsky took in a breath, suddenly feeling his face go hot. No way he was going to leave Hutch without backup.

Hearing his partner's intake of air, Hutch turned to him before the words could come.

"It's okay." Hutch smiled, willing Starsky to go along with him. "You help, Dobey," he said poignantly, his fixed gaze telling his partner he had to get some help here. "Go on," Hutch said. "Me and Chuck are just going to talk."

Starsky was certain that it wasn't okay at all. Something deep and vulnerable had snapped inside of their brother cop, and the chance that he might kill himself, and Hutch along with him, burned a hole in his belly.

"Hutch--I--"

"Starsk."

The heartfelt plea of that one word made Starsky swallow back his emotions. They needed backup. He knew that.

Hutch watched a flicker of indecision flash in Starsky's eyes, and then he was gone.

"It's only you and me, now, buddy." Hutch turned his attention back on Chuck. "It's hard to imagine what your going through right now, old friend," he began.

Hutch watched the officer pull the gun up to his chest and cradle it there. "I killed him. I should have waited, but I took the shot," Chuck sniffled, never taking his eyes off Hutch. "I'm scared."

"I can see that." Hutch gave a sincere nod. "We need to talk about this." Hutch waited a second "But first, I think you should put down the gun."

"I can't do that," Chuck said, pulling back on the hammer.

Hutch pretended not to notice, but his heart skipped a beat, the action telltale evidence that he was not getting through to the officer. He'd be damned if he was going to let this man off himself when the situation had been completely out of his control. He needed new tactics. A change of subject.

"You like coffee, Chuck?"

"Black and strong," he answered, rolling the gun from hand to hand, a lone tear streaking down his cheek.

"What'd you say, you and me go get us a cup? I'll spring. If you're hungry we can get something to eat too."

"Hutch, you're wasting your time. You don't know me." Chuck stopped playing with the gun to look at the detective.

"I'm not wasting anything," Hutch softly spoke, feeling the tension in the room on the rise. "And I know you're a good cop."

"Want to know something, else?"

"Sure."

"My fault Joe's dead." Chuck swallowed hard. "Life doesn't move fast enough. Just one loud bang," he whispered. "And it's all over." He wrapped his fingers tighter around the weapon. "You know what I mean, Hutch?"

"You're going to be okay," Hutch said, realizing this guys good judgment had been hanging on the edge for a long time and he was losing his hold fast.

They couldn't stay like this forever. Hutch knew they could talk all they wanted, but in the end Chuck would have to make the choice to put down the gun.

Chuck didn't make a move. He was sweating profusely, shaking hard and struggling with some inner beast that wouldn't be tamed, making it harder for Hutch to talk him out of whatever it was he was going to do. He needed to get this man out of the corner. Get closer to him, so if things did go awry he could get hold of the gun before Chuck did something stupid. There'd been enough tragedy for one day.

"What have I done? So stupid. All my fault," the officer ranted on to himself rocking back and forth like an autistic child while still holding tight to the pistol. "Can't stop any of it. Can't compete with the dirt. The sewer rats have taken over the city."

Chuck was sinking deeper into the weight of himself. Hutch wasn't going to let the cruel streets run away with another life. He wondered how much more was buried inside of this man. He was certain it was more than he could drag out of him here and now. Things were not black and white, and this final event had caused Chuck to slip away fast, with each tick of the clock. Biggs' death wasn't Chucks fault. How could Hutch get him to see that? If he didn't, this could be the officer's final night.

Hutch heard footsteps in the hallway; a small army headed their way. It concerned him. If Chuck lost it, he was liable to fire his gun. That would bring return fire. Hutch didn't want to see another life uselessly lost. It was now or never. He had to push harder if he were going to protect him. An idea cam to Hutch-if the man was near him, Starsky would hold back the guns that would be pointing his way.

"Chuck, I'd like you to come here." Hutch gestured with his hand. "We'll go downstairs and--"

"No! No!" The officer's body tensed with outrage at the request, pressing harder into the corner, breathing fast and looking like a frightened boy who didn't want to be sent to the principals office.

Hutch dropped his chin to his chest, feeling failure set in once again. He waited until he heard the panting breaths quiet,then making his decision, he looked up.

"Okay, then I'm coming over to you." Without waiting for a response Hutch took the chance, moving with uncertainty. Staying low he inched over toward the man who scrunched further into the corner.

"Easy." Hutch said as he sat down slowly next to Chuck. Looking straight ahead, he placed his hands in his lap, then, leaning against the wall next to the officer, he let out the breath he'd been holding.

"Hutch, you shouldn't be here. You might get hurt."

"It's you I'm worried about, Chuck."

"Can handle myself," Chuck muttered.

Hutch could only imagine the suffering this officer must have been going through for years before he finally broke. "Chuck, it's okay--"

"Ken, you know it's not," he said coldly.

"I know." Hutch's eyes softened, and he took a shaky breath. "You could go insane thinking about all the 'what ifs'. Come on, buddy, you can't keep putting all this guilt on yourself. Believe me I know. Let me help you."

Chuck shook his head in defeat. "You can't."

"If you trust me, I can help you." Hutch noted the officer seemed to be getting tired. The events, and emotion, sucking him dry. "Will you trust me, Chuck?"

Suddenly Hutch caught a glimpse of his partner peaking around the doorway.

"Just give me a minute--okay?" Hutch paused giving Starsky a sad smile. "Chuck, can you do that?"

The secret message sent, Starsky backed out of sight. Hutch's eyes then focused on the gun in the officer's hands. It was cocked and ready to fire. Chuck began to play with the gun shuffling it from hand to hand once again. Hutch kept his eye on the guns every move.

Hutch took a breath letting himself go on autopilot. Whatever he said now, just didn't seem to matter. All he knew was, he had to talk, distract the trembling man beside him.

"Know what I used to dream of being as a kid?" Hutch didn't wait for an answer, just kept on talking. "Wanted to be a cowboy. Pointed toe leather boots, tipping my Stetson in 'howdy' to all the young lady's. Rugged. Heroic. Hard riding."

Chuck seemed to be listening, the gun he'd been jostling from one hand to the next slowing its frantic pace.

"Working the cattle under the stars. I bet if those stars could talk they wouldn't just tell stories, they'd tell epic tales." Hutch leaned his shoulder against Chuck, watching the gun that had stilled in the man's hand. "Never needing to know directions. Always knowing which way you're headed. Thankful for the hard days work when you settled down at night near a warm campfire with a cup of coffee, a good guitar, and your lazy dog by your feet."

Hutch noted the man next to him seemed to be going limp, the tension seeping out his body, like he'd gotten the stuffing kicked out of him. "It's okay now. We're okay." As he spoke he looked up to see Starsky and Dobey step into the room, then dropped his gaze back at the gun, continuing to speak softly. "Crystal clear water. Golden shadows of the sunset. Life making perfect sense. Everything--"

"Hutch?" Chuck questioned, sleepily.

"Yeah, pal."

"I'm sorry," he said, letting the gun slip from his hand.

Hutch placed his hand over the gun, taking in a deep shuddering breath, and squeezing his eyes shut.

"Me too," he said. "Me too."

The end.

Enjoy the little things in life...

for one day you'll realize...

The were the big things!