As Starsky pushed open the squad room door, the office erupted in applause and joyous laughter. Hutch looked up to find at least twice the customary amount of people crowded into a shared work area, some of them standing shoulder to shoulder.
"It's good to see back, Hutch!" a voice called out from the crowd.
"Great work, Starsky!" another chimed in. "Great work!"
Amid whistles and continued applause, people crowded around Hutch for a chance to shake his hand, pat him on the shoulder, and offer their congratulations on his first day back at work in almost a week.
After an initial visit to the emergency room, the wounds Hutch had suffered in the ambush were found to be relatively minor. While collectively painful on top of the aches and pains of a fresh car wreck, none of his new injuries turned out to be serious. What Hutch needed most of all was a short course of pain meds, a few days of rest, and a boatload of antibiotics to keep infection at bay. Hutch had benefited from all of that while he recovered at Starsky's apartment. While he might have successfully given almost anyone else the slip, that wouldn't have worked with Starsky.
"Once you're through celebrating, and before you get too comfortable, I'd like to see both of you in my office," Dobey announced.
Hutch nodded before succumbing to another round of handshaking. Even Dobey could see it was going to take a while to interact with everyone who wanted to wish Hutch well. Truthfully, it was something Dobey didn't care to interrupt.
With a little help from Starsky, Hutch was eventually able to work his way toward Dobey's office. Once inside, Starsky politely closed the door while Hutch dropped into the nearest chair.
"Wow, looks like folks are happy to see you back," Starsky said.
"Yes, I think they are," Dobey agreed, glancing toward the door. "I can't blame them. For a situation that went from bad to worse in record time, we're lucky we got you back in any condition, Hutchinson."
Starsky and Dobey turned simultaneous attention to Hutch who reacted by folding his hands in his lap and lowering his eyes. To his added dismay, Hutch realized he was probably also blushing.
"I hope I don't have to spell out why I can't tell you that I approve of what you did, Hutch," Dobey said. The tone of his voice had turned decidedly serious.
"No, sir," Hutch answered, swallowing hard. "I understand entirely."
At a brief loss for words, Dobey began to pace back and forth, his eyebrows scrunched tightly together as he formulated what he wanted to say.
Hutchinson was one of his best detectives - independent to the core in methods and action, a trait that easily set him apart from many of his peers. In addition to causing Dobey a lot of heartburn, Hutch's personal code of determination was responsible for solving a lot of difficult crimes. Dobey knew better than to try and ring that out of him, but he did want Hutch to learn how to constrain himself. They were all grateful the shooter was more interested in torment than kill shots this time around. Hutch might not be so lucky should similar circumstances arise again.
"Some would say I should suspend you for what you did, Hutch. You put yourself, your partner, and everyone involved in rescuing you in danger. There's no way I can justify that to the higher-ups."
Hutch was quiet as he listened to Dobey, inwardly fearful of what might be coming next.
"After a lot of thinking, I've decided I don't want to do anything formal about this incident," Dobey added. "And from the reaction of the people you work with, I'm sure you can tell they're happy things worked out the way they did."
Dobey paused, waiting for Hutch's attention. When Hutch looked up, Dobey took a calming breath and proceeded.
"Hutchinson, I want your absolute word that you won't do that to me, never mind your partner, ever again. I think that much is fair."
Overwhelmed with guilt, Hutch looked intently at Starsky who was obviously deeply affected by what Dobey was saying. Starsky had not been sure what their boss was planning when they entered his office. Despite his own worry, Starsky had been living somewhere between the fear that Hutch was in deep, unavoidable trouble and totally agreeing with Dobey. At a minimum, Starsky had no problem with Dobey's decision. He, too, was thankful that Hutch and everyone involved was still alive, including Jacob Hoffman.
"I do feel bad about Mr. Hoffman," Starsky admitted. "In my wildest dreams, I wouldn't have thought of him as a suspect for this kind of thing."
Jacob Hoffman had been taken into custody and placed on a mental health hold soon after his arrest. It hadn't taken the police long to realize the man badly needed to be evaluated by a psychiatrist. After an initial psychiatric visit, the doctor determined that Jacob was suffering from a deep and chronic depression overlayed with phases of acute delusions. With proper treatment and a reasonable amount of time, the doctor was hopeful that Jacob could make a full recovery. Once he was better, Starsky planned to visit him although he would wait until the doctor said visitation was appropriate.
When the time was right, Starsky wanted to talk to Jacob about the loss of his son. While Starsky had been devastated when Joey Hoffman was killed, he hadn't realized until now that he had never spoken to Jacob about that time in his life. In retrospect, Starsky wished he had thought to do so right after he came home from Nam. For a myriad of reasons, most of which he couldn't entirely explain, Starsky had never gotten around to visiting Mr. Hoffman. Although nothing could bring Joey back, visiting with Jacob was an oversight he planned to rectify when the time was right.
"Well?" Dobey asked, his eyes pinning Hutch to his chair.
"Y - yes," Hutch said hurriedly, glancing nervously between Dobey and Starsky. "I know I took a chance, and I shouldn't have. I'm sorry. I really am."
Hutch looked thoroughly miserable as a result of his apology, and Starsky wasn't far behind him.
"Some days it's hard to tell where one of them begins and the other ends," Dobey thought, shaking his head in amazement.
"Alright," Dobey said. "Apology accepted, Detective Hutchinson. Enough of this kind of talk for now."
A sense of relief flooded Hutch's facial expression.
"And now that we've gotten that out of the way, I hear there's a huge chocolate cake and a variety of things to drink in the cafeteria. Come with me, Sergeant Hutchinson. It's rude to keep people waiting."
Finished - February 25, 2022