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With Malice Aforethought

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Starsky glanced at his watch again and frowned.  It wasn't like Hutch to be this late.  He'd almost finished his first beer when Huggy popped his head around the corner and waved him over.

"It's for you," Huggy said, handing Starsky the receiver.  "Sounds like Dobey."

Starsky's stomach did a miniature flip as Huggy handed him the phone.  There were only a few reasons the boss would bother to hunt him down after hours.  Hutch was definitely one of them.   

"Starsky here," he began. 

"Starsky," Dobey answered, sounding anxious.  "I'm afraid I have some bad news.  Hutch has been in some sort of multi-car accident.  He called dispatch for help, and Minnie let me know - swears he's not hurt, but he's still on the scene.  I want you to get over there and check on him."

A burst of adrenaline shot through Starsky as he listened to Dobey.  Inwardly, he cursed at himself for not having looked for Hutch sooner - he should have known that something was wrong.  After jotting down directions to the accident site, Starsky hurriedly tossed the phone back to Huggy.     

"It's Hutch," Starsky confirmed, noting the look of concern in Huggy's eyes.  "He's been in some sort of accident.  I've gotta go."

"Let me know!" Huggy shouted as Starsky ran for the front door.  

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Hutch was sitting on the tailgate of the ambulance, trying his best to be patient as the paramedic finished looking him over.  Once medical personnel arrived to take care of the injured drivers, Hutch settled down and allowed himself to be cared for.  

"Well, your pupils are lookin' ok," the paramedic concluded, lowering the mini light.  "I'm sure you'll be plenty stiff and sore tomorrow, but I think you got lucky this time.  I don't see anything to be concerned about."

"How is he?" Starsky demanded, materializing abruptly at Hutch's elbow.  "He's my partner."

Hutch and the medic both turned in surprise as neither had seen Starsky approach the ambulance.  Noting the obvious distress on Starsky's face, the medic accepted the newcomer's concern and continued his discussion. 

"I was just telling him he got lucky tonight.  He's a little banged up around the edges, but somehow escaped being seriously hurt.  Both of the other drivers needed transport to the hospital."

Starsky tensed up noticeably in response to the medic's last statement.

"And - it looks like he'll need a ride," he added.  "None of the involved vehicles are driveable."

Hutch's face fell dramatically at the realization that his car would need to be towed.  He'd been so wrapped up in working the accident scene that he hadn't properly assessed the damage to his own vehicle. 

"That's not a problem.  He's got a ride," Starsky answered, returning his attention to Hutch.  

Starsky studied the expression on Hutch's face, interpreting the emotions he saw there as each one played out individually.  Frustration, worry, and a hint of anger - all clearly readable to Starsky without Hutch uttering a word.   

"So if he's ok, can he go now?" Starsky asked.  

"Yep," the medic answered.  "Just as soon as he signs this form, he's a free man." 

Using the ink pen the medic offered, Hutch added his signature and handed back the form.  

"Alright, come on, Hutch," Starsky said, helping him to stand.  "The responding officers will write up the reports.  You don't have to do this one."

Wrapping his fingers around Hutch's upper arm, Starsky maintained a careful hold on his partner as they walked toward the Torino.  When Hutch caught his toe on the rough pavement and stumbled, Starsky caught him with a firm arm around his waist. 

After tucking Hutch into the passenger seat, Starsky climbed in behind the wheel and reached for the radio.  "I need to update Dobey," Starsky explained.  "Your job is to sit here carefully while I do."

Hutch nodded, sighed, and reclined against the car seat, wincing as he located another sore spot.  The paramedic was undoubtedly right.  By tomorrow he would be hurting all over. 

Starsky laid a calming hand on Hutch's leg as he called dispatch.  He understood why Hutch was upset not to mention just plain exhausted.  Losing the LTD was likely the final straw.  If the situation was reversed, Starsky would surely have punched a hole in something destructible by now. 

Starsky wound up talking to Dobey for several minutes, filling him in on the details of the accident as well as who the responding officers were.  The bulk of the remaining information would be available in the designated reports.  After a little more assurance that Hutch had been checked out properly at the scene, Dobey allowed Starsky to sign off.  

"Alright.  I'll see you both on Monday morning - unless something else happens before then," Dobey cautioned.  "And if it does, make sure you notify me."

"I got it, Cap'n," Starsky said.  "Right now I think Hutch needs a beer and something to eat.  Maybe tomorrow we can check on his car."

"Alright.  Just make sure he's ok through the weekend," Dobey added.  

"Affirmative, Sir.  We'll see you on Monday."

Starsky hung up the mic and started the ignition.  "Ok, Hutch.  Huggy was near prostrate with worry when I ran out of the bar on such short notice.  We're goin' there first so he can see that you're alive.  If you want to go home after that, I'll take you, but you might have to let me finish my beer first." 

All Hutch could do was nod as Starsky glanced in the rearview mirror before carefully merging with the traffic. 

From a vehicle parked three spaces behind them, the man from the bench watched, intrigued, as Starsky drove away. 

So the cop has a friend, the man noted.  Hum...  I didn't know cops had friends.