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Split-Second Decision

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Hears the screech of metal on metal. Sees the gun jutting out the car window. Hears Hutch shout, “Starsky! Get down!”

Hears urgency t inge d with fear in the command.

Identifies threat, Army training and experience kicks in like an angry mule. Instantly calculates the probable trajectory of the small yet deadly lead missiles he knows are meant for him and Hutch. Defines his possible plays.

I drop, head shot, I'm dead, Hutch's chances near zero. I stand, move, fire back, I have tiny chance and Hutch's chances much better.

Easy. No contest. Stand. Safe Hutch. Live Hutch.

Live, Hutch.

Hears his own strangled cry of pain. Hears the thunder of Hutch's Colt, again and again and...

Nothing.

Then feels much-loved and strong hands move him. Forces his eyes open to slits. Sees Hutch unharmed—only thing that matters. Tries to smile his elation but can't. Tries to make his left hand sign I love you but can't. Sends Hutch a message from his soul: Hey, live for me 'n' thee, 'kay, Hutch?

Senses a gray film begin to wrap itself around him and tighten, knows it'll turn black soon. Last thing he hears is Hutch saying, his resonant voice bleeding love that fills his entire being, “Starsk, stay with me. Hang in there for us, okay, babe?”

Assured his message was received and understood, surrenders to the black that takes him away from the escalating, all-consuming, multi-faceted agony.

the end

August 2019