Hutch held open the door for the phlebotomist who was leaving Starsky’s room.
“Thanks, Ken,” the petite, sandy-haired woman said loud enough only for him to hear. “I don’t know how you can tolerate him sometimes.”
Hutch smiled sweetly and knowingly. “Years of practice, Corrine, and endless patience.”
“He’s all yours.” She exited swiftly, careful with her box of blood samples and supplies.
“Hey, Hutch, you bein’ nice to that, that… vampire? I bet her name is Lilith.”
Hutch waltzed in, ready to scold Starsky for his less than pleasant behavior toward the inoffensive tech and, at the moment, him.
“Good morning to you, too, Starsky. Corrine’s not a demon. And you know you should treat her and the others who draw your blood much better than you do. They could make their task more uncomfortable for you.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Starsky started picking at the bandage strip over the latest venipuncture site. “Damn vampires and needles,” he muttered. Then, thoughtfully, “Huh. A needle of vampires.”
Hutch gently swatted Starsky’s hand away from the bandage. “Leave it alone, Starsk.”
Starsky pouted and huffed. “Jus’ wanted to show you she made two needle holes, like a vampire would leave.”
Hutch looked at the ceiling and shook his head. “Starsky, she’s not a vampire. There is no such thing as a vampire.” He returned his gaze to his partner. “And what the hell is a ‘needle of vampires’?”
“A whole bunch of vampires. Just made it up, like a coven of witches, and you know those exist first-hand. Anyway, I been thinkin’ I’m one now.”
“What, a witch ?”
“No, Hutch, a vampire . With all the blood transfusions I’ve had, that’s gotta make me an undead bloodsucker. And they won’t let me outside, ‘cause they must think I’ll bust out in flames.” Starsky, an expression of shame on his face, looked away from his partner. “I’ll understand if you don’t wanna be my friend anymore.”
Hutch sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. “Starsky, that is ridiculous. That’s not the way somebody becomes a vampire.”
“So you do believe there is such a thing as vampires!”
Hutch frowned at Starsky. “You know what I mean.”
A somewhat deflated Starsky said, “Yeah, yeah, I do. But that don’t mean I’m not a vampire.”
This whole conversation was taking on a sense of unwanted déjà vu for Hutch. “Starsky, can you see yourself in a mirror?”
“Yeah.” The answer was wary.
“Corrine was wearing a cross necklace. I doubt she’d have it on if she were a bloodsucker. It didn’t bother you, either.”
“Yeah, makes sense. But maybe crosses don’t bother Jewish vampires. Maybe it’s Stars of David. Maybe she’s a Jew, too.”
Hutch was sorely tempted to shake some sense into his buddy. “Starsky, you are going off the deep end! Look, you’ve been cooped up in windowless rooms, drugged out of your gourd, undergone multiple surgeries, and more for months. Your imagination has gone… wild. Would it help convince you you’re not a vampire if I can get the docs to agree to let me take you outside for a little bit later today?”
“Maybe, just as long as you give me your word of honor to stay far enough away from me when, I mean if ,” Starsky said at the stern look Hutch shot him, “I go all Human Torch on ya so you won’t get burned.”
“That won’t happen, but if my promise makes you agree to bask in the sun for a while, then you got it. Now, I gotta head for work.”
“Will you be back for lunch?”
“Yeah. I’m not needed on the Gunther task force today, so I’ll be here.”
“Do me a favor?”
Hutch hesitated for a moment, then said, “If it’s reasonable.”
Starsky’s face lit up. “Could ya bring me some garlic bread from Fat Lorenzo’s? If I can eat that, then I’m pretty sure I’m not a bloodsucker.”
Hutch crinkled his forehead. “You know you can’t eat something like that yet. How about I bring a garlic clove you can wear?”
“That’ll do, I suppose. And just a couple more things?”
“Okay, but hurry. I don’t wanna be late, though I could use you for an excuse…”
“You’re just fulla laughs, Hutch.” Starsky opened the drawer in his bedside table and pulled out a paperback book. “Can you take this back to Huggy and tell him thanks then drop by my place to grab me another one?”
Hutch took the proffered volume, looking at the title. Suddenly, everything made sense. “For crying out loud, Starsky. Dracula ? You’ve been reading Dracula ?”
“Yeah. Great book.”
“I suppose you want your copy of ‘Salem’s Lot .” Hutch hoped his frustration and sarcasm came through so that even a loopier-than-usual Starsky could catch it.
“You oughta be a detective, Hutch.”
Hutch pointed a finger at his partner's face and said, “Just stick it, Starsky!”