MY SECRET IS MY PRISONER
(I own only my original characters. Starsky, Hutch and all other characters are borrowed. No profit here. Only fantasy and cocktails.)
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14th
Like he was under water.
Voices were garbled and removed.
Cold. Then hot. Then cold again.
Pain. Pain in his chest and gut. His hip. And especially his head. His head felt like it had been run over by a Mack truck, the heavy double tires grinding against his scalp threatening to crush his skull. His hands felt tightly swollen and immobile – his fingers non-functional giving him the sensation that paddles were attached to his arms.
Nonsensical dreams of angry, hairy, purple butterflies, humanoid wild animals and sinking ships overlapped into the water laden voices.
Every time his consciousness was raised just enough to make him feel like he was waking up he had the distinct impression of being smothered – of weight pressing on his chest and his mouth being forced shut, his eager nose the only portal allowed for distant oxygen. If he could muster the strength he’d raise a hand to his face to push the pressure away, to let in some air. Inevitably, his arm was forcefully pulled away, air rushed over his swollen face into his mouth and nose, and a kind, soft hand stroked his cheek.
“Shhhh. Settle down now. You’re safe,” the voice reassured him. “You’re ok. OK. Just relax. Let us do the work for you.”
Over and over he had the feeling of being forced back, smothered and restrained against his will. Eventually the manifestations became dreams, and the dreams became just frightening memories as wakeful periods insinuated their way into his blurry world.
He wanted to punch the flat, plastic-like pillow to make it softer and create a fluffy valley for his aching head but his arms felt like cement dragging through mud.
His tongue was furry and dry, swollen and stuck slightly to the right behind his teeth that were tacky with days old grit. Occasionally someone swabbed the inside of his mouth with something lemony to take that dryness away, and a balm made it to his lips , but he didn’t like the flavor of it and would try to spit it, and the hand that held the balm, away.
“Ah…. What’s going on? Where am I? Please, if I could get something to drink…”
That’s what he thought he said. It’s what he meant to say, but what came out of his mouth was nothing more than gibberish and an abrupt surge of errant, thick saliva quickly mopped up by unseen hands.
He reached out for a familiar touch… the one touch that should be there and grabbed at nothing but air. From nowhere his stomach lurched. While flat on his back with only marginal awareness the burning vomit shot up his esophagus and out his mouth. While some of the sour liquid trailed down his cheeks and over his ears the rest pooled in the back of his mouth. Struggling to take a breath he felt the gurgling, rancid fluid insult his sinuses as well.
“….he’s NPO….. should be minimal…”
Panic set in as he felt and heard the puke suctioned from his mouth and he reached to take the hand holding the tube polluting his mouth away from his face.
“Hey…” Reaching, grabbing with his useless, paddled hands, but still the touch was not there. The touch. His touch. “Where….?”
“….probably residual… opioid pain meds….”
His hands were abruptly pulled down to his sides on the bed and held there.
“….chart it at 13:45…”
“Got a bit of a mess here, hun.” That calming voice again. A hand stroking his worried forehead. “Just relax and let us get you cleaned up.”
A chill worked its way through his chest as the loose gown covering him was deftly removed and replaced by hands and wet cloths. Her calm voice was still there, and another… then a man’s. That’s the guy who showed up when he needed to be turned or lifted up when the sheets were changed. Or sometimes when he was taken care of… down there.
“…as long as we’re at it…”
“….got this side. Hey, check that line for redness….”
"….new intensivist will want a chest x-ray now… rule out aspiration…”
“…and more antibiotics…”
He was clearly naked and felt completely helpless yet, at the same time, disaffected letting the care and maintenance just happen. Activity was going on all around him. He may have been the subject of it but felt like nothing more than an inanimate object.
Eventually relative quiet came to his bed. His ass smarted from being in the same position for so long and he yearned to get into his favorite sleeping position on his side. His chest wall protested as he drew in a deep breath and for some reason when he attempted to turn on his side, a weight came down on his shoulder forcing him back.
“…hold on ….in the line?”
“…Flush it. There… on board…”
He continued to fight the assault while mumbling, his tongue refusing to keep in the surprise onslaught of puke flavored unwanted drool, until a blanket of sudden calm washed over him from the inside. Sleep enveloped his overwhelmed mind, for the moment.
He was disconnected. He knew activity was going on around him. Lights were always on – dusk seemed to never come. The only thing he was sure of was that time was passing: another day, a night, maybe more. The brief moments of awareness found him in the same bed, on his back or slightly tilted on his side, pillows behind him and between his knees, but his head still swam in confusing muck. Sometimes he was utterly alone with only the dull hum of equipment around his bed to keep him company. Other times he was surrounded by that cacophony of haphazard voices seemingly unmindful of his presence.
“…he ordered it during rounds….”
“ … half shift. I need more…”
“… PRN for now… Q12H…”
“…for the labs… hand that to me, please…”
“…worst movie ever…”
“…500mg titrated over six hours.”
“… Ted’s doing a transport for…”
"I hafta go.” His gut was giving him problems.
“What was that, honey?” The woman’s voice came closer. Placing her warm hand on his forehead she gently lifted his eyelids checking his responsiveness.
“Bathroom,” he slurred with a dry, gravelly voice pulling his head out of her grasp.
“Go ahead. You have a tube in your bladder,” she told him softly in a private tone now closer to his ear. The voice of an angel, he decided. Older, motherly. He tried to tell her that he needed to go number two, not pee, but the words were stuck somewhere between his sleepy brain and his mouth.
“Don’t worry about it. You may have the sensation but your bladder is continuously draining through the tube.”
“A catheter, honey. In your penis. When the doctor reduces your sedation and you can sit up we’ll see about taking it out.”
“My partner,” he managed to release from his still slagging mouth, rough and banal. “Have to call him…”
“Not now, dear. Just lie back.”
Like a repeat performance, he struggled to get out of the bed. Legs moving one way, arms the other. Blocked in every direction by side rails and stronger arms. He was on a mission, needing to get out of there. Go home. Get to the precinct. Find his partner. And, please God, take a shit.
“Gotta…. call… wha…. for…”
“Here we go again.” That was a newer voice, this one less comforting, more in control. “Can we get Jeff in here again?”
“Watch the leads.”
“Wait…. unplugged the infusion pump…”
“He’s persistent, isn’t he, doctor?” Definitely a young man.
“Stop! Want to… need to …”
“Just calm down,” his angel continued, her hands now joined by others. His eyes were open but it was like looking through shadow framed Vaseline.
“…. 50mg IV…”
“….sharps, behind you…”
“As long as he’s under let’s change the dressing.”
“Does he know?”
“… by his Captain. Over on the…”
“Where? Have to… Get hands off o’ me… for… partner…”
“Just sleep, sweetie.” Soft, caring hands covered his forehead making the pressure she was using to hold his head down on the hard pillow less traumatic. When he settled himself and succumbed to the effects of the sedation, the hand moved to rhythmically stroke his hair. “Shhhh. It’s OK. You’ll be fine. Just sleep.”
More time passed. Useless, unused time. He figured at this point he was in a hospital. He could finally move his arms but tubes, bandages, tape and ID bracelets made him feel like an octopus in a shoe box. His battered body was still swimming in sludge, his brain sluggish, his mouth in slow motion.
More medication. Just when he felt like he was waking up, he’d fall back asleep either by choice or by drugs. He felt like he was simply an audience for the radio show going on around him, never catching full sentences or conversations. Instead, single words and half sentences floated to his ears in game show capacity. Only his angel-nurse presented to him as a whole entity.
Most of the time when his brain formed a question he tried to travel the words to his mouth, but they rarely made it there.
“When the doctors allow…”
Who was that?
“….have to ask him…”
These voices were not the usual hospital staff.
“It’s not for you to decide.”
“…too upsetting …”
“… standard procedure…”
“Stuff your procedure…. don’t have all the facts yet…”
“Can you lift up your bottom?” His angel-nurse was back. “Dave, just lift up your bottom a bit so I can scoot this pad under you.”
Once again she lowered her voice and moved to his ear to give their conversation some privacy…. Privacy from…. Men’s voices were in the room off to the side.
“Just an absorbent pad, Dave. In case you have some leaks down there. You had an enema a little while ago.”
He turned his head in humiliation as only a grown man would.
“Oh, hun, don’t even think about it. You’re a patient. I do this every day.” She cupped his face in her hands and turned his head back to center looking straight down at him. “You’re doing great. Listen, the doctors discontinued the sedation. No more as long as you cooperate, which I know you will, right Dave?”
He nodded and tried to give her a smile, unsuccessfully. “…my angel nurse,” he slurred, his eyelids weighing down from half-mast to fully closed.
“We’ll talk to him tomorrow.” This voice was familiar. More clear. “But I’ll talk to him first. You cocky wing nuts will just have to wait.
“Captain, with all due respect…”
“Don’t shovel that IA bullshit at me, Simonetti. The only thing you respect is your own dick. Now, you can have your turn tomorrow at 3pm, not a minute sooner.”
He heard the sound of the door closing, but knew his Captain was still there. He could feel it.
“Starsky.” There was a pause as the Captain walked over to the bedside. “You just sleep for now.”
Starsky’s eyes focused on the stark, white surroundings a little better. Not great, but he could see his large supervisor standing - hands behind back - next to his bed. He looked on either side of the Captain expecting his tall blonde partner to emerge but was disappointed to see nothing but an empty room.
“Where… where’s Hutch?”
“We have a lot to talk about, Dave.” His large hand came around and rested on Starsky’s shoulder gently urging him back down, giving him a sympathetic pat and squeeze.
“Why isn’t he here?”
Captain Dobey’s warm hand stayed on Starsky’s shoulder, patting it occasionally. Unconsciously tapping a couple times with his finger as he looked off in search of the right answer. Then, finally, he pulled a chair over and sat as close to the bed as he could, again placing his reassuring hand on his injured detective’s shoulder.
“We, ah… We’ll talk tomorrow, son. You need…”
He wanted to protest, but sleep took him before Captain Dobey even finished his thought.