IN THE LINE OF DUTY

By: Karen B.

Author's note: My eternal gratitude goes out to Dawn. It always amazes me how backwards I can be when writing. 'Was I standing on my head when I wrote that?' I'll ask myself. Having a great beta turns my upside down world -- right side up. Thank you, my Shining Dawn!

Summary: Starsky and Hutch mourn a fallen officer. Hutch pov

In memory of all our fallen heroes. Who day in and day out risk their lives for honor, for glory, for country, for family, and for friends.

Note: Inspired by a true story. The facts and names have been changed. I felt the story read better as a whole, so I didn't post it in chapters. Thank you for your time and care in reading! It means the world to me!

LYRICS TO

TAPS

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
'Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky, As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

An officer is dead, and the whiskey-crazed assailant is in jail.

Officer Murphy Chapman -- 33 years young -- shot and killed in the line duty after he stopped a 1972 blue Thunderbird because he'd suspected the man behind the wheel of driving under the influence.

Officer Chapman managed to get one cuff around the man's wrist, but the assailant pulled a gun from between the leather seats before the other cuff was secured. Two seconds and two shots later, Officer Chapman lay in a puddle of blood, while the suspect fled unscathed.

Two minutes later, backup arrived and Officer Chapman was pronounced dead on scene.

Two days later, Starsky and I found ourselves standing behind a big red barn, in a grassy field, beneath a sky that was too blue to describe.

To my left was a vineyard, to my right, Officer Chapman's long-time family home, and straight in front of me a private cemetery surrounded by a white picket fence. I looked up at a nearby tree to see two mourning doves perched on a branch. Guardians? Messengers? Angels with wings, waiting to take Chapman's soul to a higher place?

Maybe.

My eyes filmed with tears and I wondered why things happened the way that they did. Silently, a hand came to the back of my neck, gentle fingers lacing into my hair and taking a strong hold.

Glancing at Starsky, I wanted to give an encouraging smile but a strange feeling in my stomach, not unlike spiders crawling inside of a jar, wrenched the action from my lips.

I could read the wordless 'you okay?' in his eyes.

I nodded back. "Glad you're here, partner."

Starsky looked miserable, two hot tears that refused to fall gleamed in the corner of his eyes. Eyes that seemed to have paled two shades since yesterday.

The loss of a comrade and the funeral preparations had hit too close to home, brining up fears I thought I'd buried deeply. My best friend had nearly lost his life two years ago when James Gunther put a hit out on the both of us. The images of that day in the parking garage still appear in my dreams. Starsky had been shot three times in the chest. He had lost a lot of blood and had faded fast. Memories of screaming at the other officers for an ambulance, for towels, for some help, were as clear as if they happened yesterday and Officer Chapman's murder had brought them all back. I could feel the cold terror that I was going to lose my partner right there on the dirty cement ground. Officer Baker had helped me apply direct pressure to Starsky's wounds, but the bleeding hadn't stop. Starsky was turning blue and his heart had stopped beating.

"I'm losing him!" I remember yelling as I started C.P.R. "Breathe! Damn you, breathe!" I screamed. Nothing else had mattered to me in the whole-wide-world other than saving Starsky's life.

As if he had heard me, Starsky coughed and spit up some blood. I remember quickly turning him onto his side. The feeling when I got him breathing again and could hear the screaming sirens of the ambulance getting closer, would be forever tattooed on my heart.

He'd been drowning in his own blood, and my heart had plunged down the first of many large dips of an emotional roller coaster that never let up for days after.

The roller coaster ride continued on a long rickety track of constant dips, twists, and turns, but Starsky got a second chance. Sadly, Officer Murphy Chapman -- didn't.

Each time another fellow cop died, I was teleported back to that parking garage. I knew intimately what family and friends must be feeling. The shock, the grief, exploding like an airplane hitting the ground in a fiery crash.

Neither my partner nor I knew Officer Chapman personally. I'd never met his three small boys and devoted wife, Beverly. Looking at Officer Chapman's wife over the mélange of flowers that decorated the bronze flag covered casket made my heart hurt. I grieved for his family, his friends, his neighbors, his partner, Zeek Novak, who was out sick that day and even for his dog -- if he had a dog. Like I said, I didn't know him. What I did know was the pain had hit us all hard, and would last for a long time to come.

We all grieve differently. For me, the ache in my soul drowned out the boiling anger inside, and all I felt was a bottomless pit, an empty black hole full of sadness. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. Just kept envisioning his blood splattered on his car, the look of fear in his eyes. What had his last thoughts been? I'd heard his partner talking to another officer. How Chapman would never finish that rec room, never take his kids to Disneyland, never buy that old sports car and restore the classic to new.

Looking at his grief stricken family, I was certain that Officer Chapman's last thoughts were of them. It was so wrong and so unfair.

Two days ago, melted away in my memory and I was back in the action all over again. Starsky and I had just gotten off duty and were heading home separately when the 'officer down' call came in over the radio.

Dispatch had just put an all points bulletin out on the suspect, having gotten a description from an old man walking his dog, when I heard Starsky's voice crackle over the radio. He'd identified the assailant and radioed in his location.

"Gabor's Deli, 5624 Seaside, down the side alley," Starsky huffed out of breath.

He requested back up, saying he was going on foot pursuit after him. My heart jumped into my throat, and I reached for the mike. "Starsky," I shouted. "Wait for backup!" I got no reply. "Starsky!" I yelled again in frustration.

"He's not responding, Hutch," dispatch informed.

"Shit!"

These were the dreams hell was made of.

Overcome with worry, or was it terror, I dropped the mike and, with a shaky hand, slapped the mars light on top my car's hood.

"Damn you, Starsky!"

I did a U-turn, and headed toward Seaside. As I drove, I pictured my fool-hardy partner jumping his fancy red parade float over the curb, barely putting the car in park. He'd push the door wide open, leaving it hanging in the wind, pull his .38 and run blindly down the alley after the cop shooter -- alone.

I ran three red lights before I switched the siren off and pulled up right behind the Torino. Just as I'd guessed -- one front tire up over the curb and the door left wide-open. My adrenaline had already kicked in as I exited my car. Images of my partner lying in a pool of blood sent a gnawing sense of pain and dizziness to my brain.

Without hesitation, I headed for the alley I knew Starsky to be down. It was a short foot chase, and I did my best to control a growing sense of doom. The sun was shining bright, but the rays didn't make it down between the two buildings. Abstract graffiti lined both alley walls which combined with the dim lighting, only aided the sick feeling in my gut. I pushed the nausea aside, drawing my gun instead.

Moving toward the rear of the passage -- I heard nothing. Saw nothing. That scared the living shit out of me.

"Starsky!" I yelled, cocking my gun. "Where are you?"

"Down here!" came the quick reply.

"You okay?"

I didn't like the way Starsky sounded, but couldn't pinpoint why. Squinting, I could just make out my partner's bulky form as he emerged from the ghostly-gray shadows of the passageway with the suspect in tow.

"I got him." Starsky whizzed past me, looking angry and sweaty, his neck muscles standing out like corded ropes.

"Death to all pigs!" The man struggled and growled like the devil himself.

Starsky didn't say a word, seizing a tighter hold on the man and moving him quickly along.

I watched my partner's retreating back. He was walking oddly. Bent over to the left as he marched toward the mouth of the alleyway. Or was that my imagination.

I stood a moment more, thankful, trading off my fear for anger. A black and white cruiser pulling near the end of the alley commanded my attention. Starsky's backup, arriving on scene too late to be of much help. What if… I shuddered that thought away, heading after them.

"Just wait until I get my hands on you," I gasped for air, not realizing I'd been holding my breath all this time.

I wanted to run, but instead walked out of that alley, keeping my anxiety under wraps; all except for the sweat dripping down my back and soaking through my shirt.

As I approached, I recognized the uniformed officer, Jim Burbank. He was helping Starsky shove the suspect into the backseat of the cruiser with brute force. I cringed, noticing the man wore two sets of cuffs. One set Starsky had secured firmly around both wrists. Only one manacle of the other set was clasped around the suspect's right wrist. The free end dangling eerily in thin air.

"What about Chapman?" I heard Starsky ask Jim.

"D.O.A.," Jim said in a strangled voice.

I stopped cold, closed my eyes, and turned away.

"Starsky, that looks bad. You better have that looked at."

My eyes flew open when I heard that.

"Jim!" Starsky snapped. "Just get this guy and the weapon I found on him downtown!" I heard car doors slamming shut.

Turning around I high-tailed it the few yards it took me to get to the patrol car.

I stood behind Starsky watching Jim, who was already behind the wheel, doing a U-turn and swiftly disappearing down the street.

"What happened?" I prodded gently, reaching a hand to Starsky's shoulder and squeezing.

"Chapman didn't even have time to secure the other manacle," Starsky muttered, his voice sounding strange.

"You okay?" When he didn't answer, I grabbed his arm and spun him to face me. I was shocked by what I saw. "Starsky!" I screeched. "Your nose is bleeding."

"It's no big deal, Hutch," Starsky said, a vague look crossing his face.

Starsky began shaking all over. The bridge of his nose was twisted to the left. There was a large red bump on the top, the sides were turning dark purple, and blood was flowing out his flaring nostrils like a water fountain.

Quickly shoving my hand into my jacket pocket, I pulled out a handkerchief. "This might hurt. Hold still," I ordered in a no-nonsense tone, pressing two fingers on the bridge of his nose. Wadding the hankie with my free hand I placed it under his nostrils to staunch the flow of blood.

"Ow!" Starsky flinched and turned his head to the side.

"Sorry, Starsk," I softly said, swapping my anger for concern. I followed his movement never letting up on the pressure. "I think your nose is broken."

"You think?" he drawled out sarcastically. "I know. Heard it crunch when he decked me."

"Ow!"

I winced, feeling my partner's pain His nose was swelling right before my eyes. "Hurt much?" I asked in sympathy.

"Of course it hurts much," Starsky grumbled. "Could be worse, Hutch," he said, his voice muffled behind the cloth.

I shuddered, knowing what 'could be worse' meant -- a dead partner.

A shadow fell across the sidewalk. "Starsky, you should have waited for backup!"

"Heard you the first time," Starsky whispered.

"What did you say?" I spat.

"Hutch, I couldn't wait." His back tensed.

"So, you did hear me!" The shadow seemed to crawl up my legs, making its way into my stomach. "Why'd you ignore my transmission?"

"Preoccupied."

"Starsky!" I could feel my cheeks flush with anger.

"He'd have gotten away, Hutch."

"Starsky! It was a dead-end alley. He wasn't going anywhere."

"Maybe. Maybe not," Starsky panted.

"Starsky...look at me."

'Talk to me,' I telepathically sent my message.

No response.

My guess was he wasn't ready to face the ice-cold chopping axe of the Hutchinson stare. Starsky knows these baby blues could lop-off body parts without ever blinking.

We stood not speaking for what felt like an eternity while I second-guessed my partner's judgment for him. I was getting antsy. Fidgeting from one foot to the other. I couldn't make up my mind. Should I punch my irresponsible partner out, or grab hold and pull him into a bear hug?

He knows I'm a train-wreck when it comes to his safety. He knows I still can't get those images of him being gunned down out of my mind. He knows I'm still a cop only because he's still a cop. He knows…damn him he knows.

"I'm sorry," Starsky offered again, at last breaking the silence.

"I know." I swallowed my anger. Our unique brand of telepathy was sending my opinions straight through the hole I'd burned in the back of his head -- the debris rattling around inside his thick skull like a category six hurricane. "When it comes to my partner's safety," I admitted freely. "I'm fussy that way. Like him to have back-up. Back-up meaning me," I finished in a huff.

"No kidding," Starsky coughed. "Hutch, couldn't…couldn't let that scumbag get away!" Starsky said hotly. "You know what the creep was doing when I identified him?" I opened my mouth, but didn't get a word out. "He was eating a sandwich, Hutch. Guy just shot and killed a cop. Somebody's husband, father, son, and he was just walking along the sidewalk eating a corn beef on rye. No way he was going to bolt because I waited for backup." Starsky pulled away from my touch.

"Hold still, dummy." I let up on the pressure I had been keeping on his nose because the bleeding seemed to slow down.

"How do I look?" Starsky snuffled and then winced.

"Like you're a prizefighter who has taken one to many punches to his fool-hardy head, instead of a cop who knows better than to go it alone."

"You'd have done the same thing, Hutch."

I pinned Starsky down with a stare, feeling only slightly surprised by his words. Behind the blood, I saw a satisfied grin on his face, damn telepathic hurricane -- he knew, that I knew -- he was right. I would have done the same thing. I moved the hankie to try and clean up some of the blood that had dripped down the sides of his mouth and neck.

"Let's get that snot looked at, pal."

Starsky nodded sadly, taking over holding the hankie and dabbing under his nose when a few drops of blood reappeared.

We got in the Torino and headed toward the hospital. Starsky let me drive, and I made sure to keep my eyes on the road, unable to point out the fact that my heart had morphed into a set of bongos, and how I needed to go back into that alley and retrieve my stomach because the organ had fallen out through the bottoms of my shoes. I gripped the wheel tighter, hoping he wouldn't notice my trembling hands.

Starsky moaned and I looked over -- he was in pain, that much was obvious. His nose had swollen to a legendary size in the ten minutes we'd been driving.

Frustrated, I jabbed a finger in my partner's face.

"You better never do that again, Starsky or I'll…"

"You'll what, Hutch?"

I dunno what I'll do, dummy. But…" I paused for effectiveness. "…I will do it."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Officer Murphy Chapman's death was sudden and tragic." The priest's words drew me from my thoughts. "A tear in the very heart of every upstanding citizen of Bay City. As we say farewell to a good husband, father, son and officer of the law, we do so with sorrow and joy."

"Joy?" I questioned under my breath.

"Sorrow for the fact he is no longer with us." I listened to the priest intently. "And joy in knowing he is in our hearts forever."

A tear rolled down my cheek.

"Words fail to express what our hearts hold deep. Let your tears fall for such a courageous, law-abiding man." The priest flipped the page of his notebook." Today we lay Officer Murphy Chapman to rest. But we will never forget his life, because he lived with honor and glory. Amen." He softly closed his book.

I glanced at Starsky. The doctors had set his nose and the swelling wasn't as bad, but the bruising on either side was deep and dark. My tough partner hadn't shed a tear with his broken nose, but now teardrops freely slid down his cheeks. The tears looked like tiny white rivers as they poured over the deep purple splotches that had spread out under both eyes.

How many cops had died in the line of duty? How many families torn apart? And at what price? I was bombarded by faces.

One too many, I answered my own question.

My own tears felt hot and one dripped down to patter onto the collar of my shirt as a single bugler called out the woeful notes of taps. The haunting sound reached out farther than the gathering of family and friends, my bet was the song could be heard across the universe.

Starsky's steely blue eyes caught mine, and looked straight through me. His thoughts and feelings channeled into me. Without a word, he reached over, gripped my hand tightly and then let go.

When the music ended, we all stood, heads bowed. There was a sense of numbness, a kind of 'dead of winter' silence as two officers picked up the flag from off the coffin and held it horizontally between them. They folded the colors in precise military fashion until the stars and stripes were completely tucked into the form of a triangle, only the blue field of stars turned upward. One of the officers held the flag gently and marched over to Chapman's wife. He leaned down to solemnly present the banner to her -- a token of her husband's sacrifice and service.

I focused all my attention on the three riflemen standing off to the side. Rifles fully extended, they raised the muzzles skyward and stood frozen for a second in time.

I took a breath and held it.

"Fire!" The battalion leader's voice boomed.

The explosion of gunshots shattered the silence.

"Fire!" he ordered again.

The ground and everyone standing on it seemed to shudder even though they were prepared for the blasts.

"Fire!" he ordered a final time, the crisp roar or artillery echoing out over the vineyard.

It is amazing how much that display caused a swell of pride inside my guts while at the same time tears of grief and heartache were running down my cheeks.

Chapman's wife tucked the flag under her arm and stepped up to the coffin. Her three children were close to her side, holding onto her black skirt as she knelt. She sobbed softly, making the sign of the cross.

"I love you," she whispered through her tears. "I wish I could have told you one last time."

Bravely standing, she turned away from her husband's coffin. With the children in tow, she slowly walked across the lawn to the house.

A sea of men and woman dressed in their finest blues and shiny black shoes stood frozen. Zeek, was the first to make a move. He straightened his shoulders and stepped up to the coffin. Stiff and unblinking he raised his hand, saluted his partner, turned, and slowly marched away.

One by one we each stepped forward as we followed his lead, each with our own thoughts and prayers as we marched away, leaving Officer Chapman at peace.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

After the burial, Starsky and I took the long drive to Venice beach. For the next several hours, we walked and talked, and walked some more. Eventually, we worked up a good thirst and ended up at The Pits.

We sat at the back of the bar, in the darkly-lit shadows. The bar wasn't busy, there was only one other customer. Not surprisingly, that customer was Chapman's partner, Zeek. He looked completely out of place, slowly working his way through a bottle of Canadian Club.

The bar was as quiet as a monastery -- nobody said a word. I raised a hand and waved at Huggy, who was leaning against the back counter, sipping his own clear colored cocktail.

He set his drink down, drew us two fresh draft beers and brought them to the table. I nodded my thanks, trying to reply with a smile, but the smile never came.

Huggy nodded, and left, going back to his spot behind the counter.

I reached for the salt shaker and shook some into my beer, causing white foam to rise and spill over the side of my glass. Glancing up at Zeek, he had slouched further over the shot glass he was holding so tightly. A couple more drinks, and he'd be passed out cold on the Pits' tiled floor, which I suppose, that was the idea.

I smiled inwardly, thinking Huggy surely had named the place well. I took a huge swallow of beer, never taking my gaze off Zeek. That could have been me. The thought made my beer slide down the wrong pipe; I choked and sputtered. alcohol dribbling down my chin.

"You okay?"

I gazed at the man sitting across from me.

"Yep," I quickly answered. It felt like a hangman's noose had been placed around my neck.

"It's rough," Starsky said, looking wistfully over his pilsner at me.

"It sucks," I commented, taking another swig.

"I'm glad I'm sitting here with you." Starsky rarely crossed the border of soapy scenes, but today was the exception.

Unable to speak without choking, I nodded. Taking another swig and feeling that noose tighten, I forced the liquid down.

"Take it easy on that stuff, will you? I can't handle Zeek on my own." Starsky gave a crooked smile. "Think we outta get him out of here soon?"

I glanced over toward the lone man now half-hanging off his barstool, the bottle of C.C. nearly empty. "Let's give him a few more minutes," I suggested.

"Hutch."

"Yeah." I looked into iridescent blue eyes, that sparkled with naked sadness.

"I love you." Starsky raised his glass to me, his emotions busting out like the sun's rays after a bad storm. "'Case I haven't told you lately."

I held my beer up and clinked the glass against his, crossing the border with him. "I love you, too."

The end