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The Mending

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Hutch added his signature to the bottom of the form and pushed it aside.  Since returning to work three days earlier, his time had been consumed by a litany of red tape.  Although the process was cumbersome, Hutch understood its necessity.  Profoundly angered by Hutch's recent abduction and mistreatment at the hands of Diana Harmon, Captain Dobey had initiated an investigation that would keep the authorities in Sacramento occupied for years.  

The surgeon allowed Hutch to return to work four weeks into an uncomplicated recovery - light duty only.  There were activity limitations to respect, but he could handle those. Although Hutch was confined to his desk for two more weeks, he was grateful to be back on the job.  Routine interaction with the people who knew him best was more valuable to Hutch's recovery than anyone around him suspected.   

"Hutchinson," Dobey said, poking his head out of his office.  "May I see you a moment?"

"Sure, Cap'," Hutch answered, standing carefully. 

Hutch popped the remainder of a brownie into his mouth before wiping his fingers and heading to Dobey's office.

"Last one?" Dobey asked, smiling as Hutch entered the room.  

Hutch found himself blushing as he took a seat near Dobey's desk.  The container of fresh, homemade goodies sitting on his desk was courtesy of Edith Dobey.

"Yep, the last one," Hutch affirmed.  "Please thank Edit for me.  The brownies were wonderful."

Dobey nodded as if he understood.  

"That's why I look like this," Dobey said, patting his stomach.  "No sense telling her not to send them.  She insists."

"I wouldn't dream of telling her no," Hutch answered quickly.  "And neither would Starsky."

"That's sensible," Dobey answered, his eyebrows lifting in unison.  "I'm afraid she's decided it's become necessary to keep a motherly eye on both of you."

Dobey was somber again as he opened the file on his desk and handed the top page to Hutch. 

"This is an initial summary by the task force in Sacramento.  While it answers a few questions, I'm afraid it raises a few more."  

Hutch quietly read the conclusion of the first phase of the investigation surrounding the release of Diana Harmon from institutionalized care.  Several problems were clearly identified that led to her premature discharge.  The report ended by declaring a loss of licensure was likely for the facility as well as the administrative officials directly involved in Harmon's case.  Captain Dobey would be kept informed of any additional modifications as the investigation progressed.  

Hutch looked up when he finished reading, his eyes reflective of questions that could never truly be answered.  Diana was dead, as was her primary physician - the only expert who had treated her for any length of time since her complete mental breakdown a little more than two years earlier.  Changes had been made in Sacramento, all designed to prevent a similar incident from occurring again.  If effective safeguards for others were the trade-off for a grueling personal experience, Hutch felt he could live with the consequences.   

"Your thoughts?" Dobey asked.  

"Well, it certainly sounds like a big shakeup is going on," Hutch replied, returning the paper to Dobey.  "Mistakes were made and they're fixing them.  I'm not sure what else I could ask of the officials."

Dobey was nodding as Hutch talked.  While he agreed with Hutch's general assessment, he wanted the detective's personal input before commenting further. 

"I received a call at home from the governor last evening," Dobey commented.  "The man is furious about what happened to you."

Hutch looked surprised by Dobey's revelation.  

"The governor?" Hutch asked, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.  

"Yes, the governor," Dobey repeated.  "He didn't take kindly to the danger this type of oversight placed on you or the general public."

Hutch was a little stunned by the impact of his experience on so many other people. 

"Hutchinson, stop selling yourself short," Dobey ordered, interpreting the expression on Hutch's face. "It's past time you understand how important you are to this whole department as well as the people who work here."

Hutch snapped to attention internally at the change in tone in Dobey's voice.  

"Besides, my coronary arteries can't withstand another four-day run of you missing in action.  Dealing with Starsky alone was a full-time job.  And then I had to go home and face Edith."

Hutch listened patiently to his boss as the man released a mountain of pent-up frustration.  Living with an out-of-control Starsky was a situation Hutch could certainly appreciate.   

A sharp knock on the door preceded Detective Starsky as he entered the room.  Noting the expression on Hutch's face, Starsky peered at Dobey expectantly.  

"Riding him a little hard aren't you, Captain?" Starsky asked, intentionally drawing the other man's ire.  "At least give him a chance to get his running legs back."

Dobey glared at Starsky, knowing full well what the other man was trying to do.    

"Sit down, Starsky.  We have some things to share with you."

Hutch smiled at his partner as the other man settled on the adjoining chair, an unspoken message passing between them.

Thanks, Starsk, but I'm ok here, Hutch thought.      

Captain Dobey handed Starsky the same report he had presented to Hutch minutes earlier.  When Starsky was through reading, Dobey wondered if he was comfortable with the content.    

"What is it?" Dobey asked.  "Do you think they're missing something?"  

"No," Starsky began, glancing at Hutch.  "It sounds like they're doing what needs to be done.  I guess it feels a little anti-climatic knowing what Hutch went through before any real changes were made."

Hutch smiled appreciatively, shrugging his shoulders before replying.      

"Oh, I think Diana paid the ultimate price, Starsk.  Which reminds me...  Were the attorneys able to locate any of her relatives?"  

"No, not a one.  Some distant relative died a few months previously and left her a large inheritance.  Whoever that person was, they seem to have been the last of the lot."

"Why, Hutch?" Starsky wanted to know, his suspicion surfacing.  "Surely you aren't interested in getting to know them."

Hutch took a deep breath and considered how much personal information it would be wise to share.
Since a few days after his surgery, Hutch had been meeting with the department's psychiatrist for a couple of one-hour sessions each week.  The process was routine for any officer who had survived a traumatic job-related experience.  While Starsky and Dobey both knew about the psychiatric appointments, the content was always kept private.  As a seasoned homicide detective, Hutch thought he wouldn't necessarily benefit a great deal from that type of therapy.  As he wasn't opposed to the idea either, Hutch had agreed to see the psychiatrist as part of his routine post-operative care.  He just hadn't expected to need it.

 "No," Hutch said, remembering Starsky's question.  "No, that wouldn't interest me, Starsk," he added hastily.  

Having noticed the subtle change in his partner's demeanor, Starsky was now studying Hutch more closely.  Hutch kept his eyes on the floor, fearful that Starsky would see too much if he gave the other man half a chance.  Feeling cornered, Hutch hoped that Dobey would let them go soon. Since shortly after leaving the hospital, Hutch had found it increasingly difficult to stay in any small room too long.  It made him nervous - like he needed to find a second way out in case something unforeseen blocked the door.

Damn, Hutch thought, feeling worse.  Dr. Henderson is right after all.

The recent kidnapping experience had been far more disruptive for Hutch than anyone else had realized.  Although his body had continued to heal since his rescue, his emotions were at times an entangled mess.  Hutch wasn't sure how much longer he would be able to conceal his predicament from anyone.