“No, he didn’t,” Starsky said.
“I thought you said he--”
“I said he tried.”
“What do you mean? Did you expect him to just let those men get away?”
“I expected him to call for backup. That’s not asking too much. Didn’t you try to stop him?”
“Of course, but I was a little… occupied.”
The past thirty minutes in the emergency department had been tense. Starsky was worried about his partner, having been forced out to the waiting room after having what he called a “frank exchange of views” with one of the nurses. Captain Dobey arrived and was furious that his detectives had once again engaged in what he called a “private party.”
Dobey sighed. “What part of absolutely, positively no private parties is unclear to you two?”
“They knocked a little old lady to the ground, Cap.”
“And Hutchinson running off after them without you behind him and with no backup on the way helped how?”
Starsky was getting madder by the minute. He was trying to maintain his cool and remain respectful, but his patience was thin. He opened his mouth to say something, but aborted. Twice. Instead, he paced away from his superior officer with clenched fists, muttering to himself as he stopped at the opposite wall. He kept his back to his captain, trying to get it under control.
The double doors opened and Hutch slowly walked through them. His right eye sported an already sizable shiner, he had several stitches just above the eyebrow, and his throat was an impressive shade of purple.
Starsky turned to look at him, and it undid them both. They made eye contact briefly, then Hutch looked at the ground, trying desperately not to let it happen. He couldn’t help it. Neither could Starsky. As soon as he saw his partner’s sheepish, embarrassed expression, he was gone. Starsky’s worry about Hutch’s condition was immediately eased by the flash of silent communication between them. Once that happened, the humor of the situation got the better of him. Meanwhile, their captain stood by unsure of what to make of this development. They both began to chuckle. First softly, then with increasing volume as they fed off each other’s amusement.
Hutch started to bend over a little at the waist and winced at the pain it caused his abused back. He still couldn’t control the laughing, even when Starsky quickly came to his aid and helped him over to a chair.
Dobey was incredulous. “I fail to see what it is about this situation that is making the two of you giggle like a couple of teenaged girls who just put someone’s underwear in the freezer at a slumber party.”
That just made it worse. Both men looked at their boss with raised eyebrows, laughing even harder.
“I had sisters,” Dobey replied in explanation.
Eventually, their laughter subsided. The captain’s serious expression drew them back to the present and they did their best to sober their expressions. When it seemed that they were done, the captain started on them both.
“I’m glad to see your injuries aren’t life threatening, Hutchinson.”
Hutch hiccupped and gulped down another snicker. “Thanks, Cap.”
“Now, suppose you explain to me, WHAT in the--”
When his voice rose, the receptionist glared at them. “This is a hospital.”
Dobey said, “Sorry, ma’am. We’re just leaving.” He pointed toward the outside door. “Gentlemen.”
Starsky put a hand out to help Hutch to his feet. They slowly followed Dobey out through the glass doors and around the side of the building.
“You really okay?” Starsky whispered.
“Yeah. Mostly my ego was broken.”
Dobey turned to face them when they were far enough away and said, “I’m waiting.”
“It’s my fault,” Hutch started. “I took off after the suspects when I knew Starsky wasn’t right behind me.”
“How many times do I have to say it? No private parties. There just isn’t any excuse. What if those men were armed with more than a clothesline?”
“Cap, Hutch just did what he had to do.”
“No, if he’d done that, we wouldn’t be standing here.”
“It just went down that way,” Starsky said. “You know how it is. Sometimes, you just don’t have any time.”
“Well, Starsky... if you want to live to HAVE some time, I suggest you start following procedure. I should bust you both down to a traffic corner again.”
Hutch wasn’t saying anything, but Starsky was getting angry again. “Like I said. Hutch did what he had to do.” This time, the tone in his voice struck a nerve with Dobey.
“Suppose you just explain it to me.”
Starsky took a deep breath. “We were coming out of the dry cleaners over on Stevens and Wall when we saw three suspects come up behind several older ladies at the bus stop across the street. Before we could do anything, one of them pushed a woman to the ground while the other two grabbed for her purse. By the time we got across the street, some of the other ladies were beating the crap out of the guy who pushed her. He tripped over her cane and was on the ground. I was trying to stop them.”
Hutch continued. “That’s right. Starsky went to help the lady on the ground and to stop the others and I took off after the other suspects, who’d split. Starsky yelled at me to stop, but they would have gotten away.”
Dobey asked, “I see. So, you couldn’t have run for the car and called it on the radio?”
“Not without losing them!” Starsky shouted. “Give us a break, Cap. Did you want us to let those guys get away with hurting that old lady? Those three have been grabbing purses all over the district. Hutch had to. Enough is enough!”
“That’ll do, Starsky!” Dobey reached up to scratch his scalp. He shook his head and folded his arms in front of him. “So, while you were fighting off old women and securing the first suspect, what was happening with your partner?”
“I couldn’t leave the suspect with those women. They might’ve killed him. One of them went into a liquor store and called it in. A few minutes later, I was on it. Like I told you when I called, I found him in an alley several blocks down. He’d been clotheslined. The suspects got away, so I yelled for someone to call an ambulance and took care of my partner.”
Dobey looked from one to the other. I have to know. I don’t want to know, I just have to know. “All right. What was so funny about this situation? Hutch, you could have been seriously injured. I don’t see the humor.”
The detectives both smiled.
You tell him. Hutch raised an eyebrow.
No way, you do it.
Hutch reached up slightly toward his bruised throat. I’m hurt, come on.
Starsky nodded. “Hutch took a turn to keep up with them. When he came around the corner, it was into one of those dark, inner alleyways that are too narrow for even the trash trucks. He wasn’t able to stop in time to avoid it.” He stopped, trying hard to keep from laughing.
“Avoid what? The clothesline?”
“Yeah. They were standing in two doorways on opposite sides. They caught Hutch under the chin and dumped him onto his back. Then, they dumped a bunch of clothes and boxes and crap on him. Guess that’s how he got the shiner. When I found him, he was kind of buried.”
“So what was funny?”
“It was what he was buried in. He was covered in... um, ladies skivvies.”
Hutch snorted. “You know, panties and such. Big ones, too.”
Starsky started to chuckle. “The kind your oldest aunts would wear. We’re not talking Frederick’s here.”
“No,” Hutch agreed. “More like the dry goods store for the Amish.”
“And that’s not all.”
“Starsk, that’s enough. I think he gets it.”
Now, Dobey was smiling. “Oh, no. This is too good. What else, Starsky?”
He tried hard not to laugh, but Starsky couldn’t help it. “Um, the alley runs between a row of stores and a row of apartments. Some of the boxes were for the lingerie store and some were from the drug store on one side, waiting to be unloaded. One of them was full of... um,” he started to laugh so hard he couldn’t speak. He waved at Hutch to finish.
Hutch cleared his throat, and as seriously as he could manage he said. “It’s really a sick room supply store. One box was full of bedpans. The other one, was full of douche bags, Cap. A bunch of them.”
That was it. They all lost it. Even Dobey couldn’t help it. He was certainly out of steam to yell at his men. The picture in his mind of Hutch covered in bedpans and rubber tubing was more than he could take and maintain his stern demeanor. He told them to go home and watched as they walked away, teasing each other.
“I’m never gonna live this down, am I?” Hutch asked.
“Not a chance.”
Dobey turned to go home, content that things were back to what passed for normal for his men. He chuckled again as he got into his car. “Edith is going to love this one.”