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Dobey was tempted to ask a haggard Hutchinson when he stepped out of Starsky's room post-arrest if Starsky had even twitched just a little. Then he noticed the bloody bandanna around Hutch's left wrist for the first time.

Unable to contain himself because of the intense stress eating away at him, Dobey bellowed, “Hutchinson! Go down to the emergency room this instant and get that wound taken care of! Right now, dammit!”

Hutch wasted no time getting in Dobey's face. “I'm not leaving him, and that's final.”

Considerably more calmly, Dobey said, “Look, Hutch, I understand how you feel. But you have to take care of yourself so you be there for him when he really needs you. Right now, you can't do anything except get cleaned up and stitched up.”

Try and make me.”

The defiance both riled and subdued Dobey. “Listen here, Hutchinson, this is an order. Get yourself looked after now or you'll go on report.” It was more than a threat; it was a promise as well.

You really think I give a damn about that? Look, Captain, I have to be here! I won't let him --” Hutch ran his right hand roughly over his face once, then revealed the agony he felt to his superior and friend.

Huggy Bear, who had appeared out of nowhere, tapped Dobey on his shoulder. “Captain, if I may, I think I have a solution. Starsky's doc seems like an accommodatin' kinda dude. Maybe he'll tend to Hutch right here. Can't be all that difficult to get what he needs.”

Dobey hesitated briefly before nodding his head. “Guess it won't hurt to ask. Thanks for the idea, Huggy. Hutch, if the doctor agrees, will you at least let him treat you here?”

Hutch looked through the window at Starsky, so pale and still, so dead less than an hour ago. “Yeah, okay.”

=S&H=

His wound ready for suturing and hurting like hell, Hutch sat in the omnipresent chair outside Starsky's room with his left arm flung on an over-bed table. He hated having—not turning, he told himself—his back to his friend, but for the few minutes this would take, he'd tolerate it.

Dr. Bachmann sat in a rolling chair that had been brought up from the ER. “All right then, Detective, ready?”

Hutch nodded sluggishly.

Fine. First step is to get you numbed up.”

Having his laceration anesthetized seemed inappropriate, even silly. Any pain he might feel was insignificant to what Starsky was feeling, and would feel for months. With a bite in his tone, Hutch said, “Just get on with it.” You didn't do that for Starsky, so you won't do it for me.

Bachmann, momentarily bewildered, quickly recovered and said amiably, “Okay, you're the boss.”

Hutch watched the set-up with detachment, from the opening of the suture kit to the opening of the small packet containing the curved needle and thread. The thread, Hutch observed, was easily a yard long—more than enough to close the wound. How many yards did they use on Starsky?

Bachmann took a deep breath and said, “This will take about six stitches, Detective. Now, please hold very still so I don't make matters worse.”

Worse? How could anything be worse than what happened to Starsky? “I won't budge a millimeter.”

All right then”—Hutch was getting really annoyed at the doctor's use of that phrase—”let's get you put back together.”

Hutch shivered involuntarily as he finally acknowledged consciously that he was deconstructing. You're gonna need a helluva lot more thread than that to hold me together.

the end

August 2019