Hutch lay in the filthy bed, cursing himself over and over for being five kinds of fool.
He was hungry and thirsty and to his own nose, he stank. He could smell his own sweat, blood, and his own waste. He was no longer able to control his functions.
Hutch was ashamed of what he had been reduced to. His mind drifted back again to how this had all started.
She had been beautiful and very very cunning. She had wined and dined him, seduced him into her home --
--And tied his arms and legs. She called him 'cop' in a voice full of hate, had gone on and on about how a cop had ruined her life and now she was going to ruin a cop's life.
Hutch had almost fainted when he saw her preparing a hypodermic. "Just a sedative," she'd said as she injected him. As his consciousness flagged, he heard her laugh. "Soon, cop --- soon."
When he regained consciousness, she was gone. As were the restraints.
But Hutch quickly found he could neither feel nor move his legs.
He lay there for hours, going over and over what had happened, cursing himself and trying to figure out what she'd done to him.
And drawing a complete blank.
Finally, the shock and confusion wore off. Hutch's normal personality clicked in over the sedative affects and he began to look for a way out of this predicament.
With extreme difficulty, Hutch struggled to a sitting position. He had never realised how much legs were actually used in just sitting up! Once he was sitting, he paused, gathering his strength.
Then, with a yell, Hutch flung himself off the bed. He lay there, breathing hard, waiting for the sting to die out of his hands and chest.
And trying very hard not to think about the fact that he couldn't feel anything from his legs.
Five deep breaths for strength, then Hutch began to drag himself toward the door. Arm over arm. Inch by laborious inch.
After an indeterminate amount of time, Hutch reached the door -- only to be faced with another problem: the knob was just out of reach. With a moan of frustration, Hutch's head dropped onto his arms.
A noise outside rendered him silent. Struggling, Hutch raised his head and his chest from the floor.
Suddenly, the door flew open and inward, striking the side of Hutch's head and knocking him onto his back.
"...Starsky...." Hutch mumbled even as consciousness began to fade. "Y-you... found...."
Then all was black.
When Hutch opened his eyes, he found himself in a hospital room. Starsky was in a chair beside his bed, asleep. Hutch smiled to see it. Good old Gordo....
He then took stock of himself. He was sitting slightly upright in the bed. Head hurt -- questing fingers found it bandaged. IV dripping into his hand -- squinting upward, he found fluid replacements and saline. No morphine derivatives -- good.
Hutch took a deep breath before he checked out one final thing. He closed his eyes and bit his lip. Please... move. Please. Then he opened his eyes and focused on his legs.
They remained absolutely immobile under the covers. Absolutely numb.
"...no...." Hutch groaned, keeling his head back against the pillows.
His groan woke Starsky. He smiled and leaned forward. "Hey, about time."
"How long...?" His dry throat reminded him it was still there by choking off his words.
But Starsky had rarely ever needed words when it came to Hutch. "Were you out?" At Hutch's nod, he said, "Six hours. That's on top of the thirty-six hours it took to find you!"
Hutch's eyes closed. Thirty-six hours. She'd left him incontinent and paralysed for a day and a half.
"What happened to you, Hutch?"
His eyes flew open. "You don't know?"
Starsky shook his head. "After you and Julia went out, you vanished. We got a strange phone call, tellin' us to pick up what was left of you." He took Hutch's hand and smiled. "But you're gonna be fine now."
Starsky's smile faded. "L-Legs?"
A nod and Hutch swallowed past his burning throat. "...they gonna... fix my legs?" At the sudden worried glance Starsky shot to the lower half of the bed, Hutch's blood ran cold. "...Starsk?"
"Hang on, buddy." He leaned over and pushed a button beside Hutch's head. "We're gonna get you some answers."
Hutch nodded, gripping Starsky's hand tight.
After a chewing-out by Starsky for the doctor's missing something that major being wrong with Hutch, he was taken to X-ray. When the doctor returned with his films, he was pale.
"D-Doc?" Hutch gasped.
The doctor clipped the X-rays onto a light-board and turned it on. Then he merely stepped back.
Two pairs of blue eyes went huge as the image of Hutch's spine was revealed. "What in the hell--" Hutch began.
"-- is that?!" Starsky finished.
"That, gentlemen," the doctor said with a heavy sigh, "is precisely what we would like to know."
Holding hands to pull strength from each other, Starsky and Hutch stared mutely at the X-ray and its improbable results.
Near the base of Hutch's spine was a metal clamp, small enough to not be detected by the eye. It had four 'claws' to it, and each one was curved around Hutch's vertebrae.
"Those claws are pressing on your spinal cord," the doctor said with a slight tremble in his voice. "We found the incisions on your back where it had been inserted."
Hutch nodded shakily. "And the pressure on my spinal cord --?"
"Is the cause of your paralysis, yes." The doctor sighed. "We want to attempt a surgical removal --"
"Then do it!" Starsky cried quickly.
"It's not that easy, Mister Starsky. Operating on the spine is never an easy thing. If the slightest thing goes wrong -- if the surgeon's hand even trembles...."
"I could be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life," Hutch whispered.
The doctor nodded. "And the shape of that clamp complicates things. There is absolutely no guarantee that if we remove one -- or two -- of the claws, the rest won't close and sever your spinal cord completely."
"Same result," Hutch muttered, and the doctor nodded mutely. Hutch released Starsky's hand and ran both hands over his face and mouth. He was trembling.
After a few minutes, Hutch said shakily, "Well, there're no guarantees in life. If all goes well, I'll be walkin' again, right?"
"After some physical therapy to strengthen your legs in case of muscular atrophy, yes."
Hutch nodded. "Let's do this."
"Hutch?" Starsky asked in a shaky voice. "Y'heard what he said could --"
"I'm as good as in a wheelchair the rest of my life without the surgery," Hutch sighed. "This way, at least, it's a chance. Let's do this, Doc."
Hutch was waiting for the anesthetic to take effect when Starsky looked in. "Hey, you're awake!"
He smiled. "Yeah, not for much longer, though. What's up?"
"We got her."
His eyes widened. "What? How?"
Starsky grinned and his face lit up. "She tried to pawn that cannon of yours."
That made Hutch frown. "She took my gun? How'd you track her from that?"
"Easy. She took it to Benny's, and Benny called Huggy --"
"--And Huggy called you." Hutch smiled. "Bail?"
"Denied. She's confessed, too."
"Don't understand." He yawned. "Why'd she go after me?"
"You were just the first cop she ran across. Lady hates all of us with a passion."
"We don't know yet, but we have our theories. Family member killed, something like that. How're you?"
"Gettin' sleepy. Starsk, if this doesn't work--"
"Hush, you, it will work."
"If it doesn't... it's been a fun ride." He smiled and his eyes began to droop.
"Ride ain't over yet, Blintz. Rest now, let them work. You'll be back on your feet in no time."
"Hope... so...." And he was out.
Five weeks passed, and Huggy Bear drove up to the hospital entrance. He waited a minute before he saw them.
When he did see them, his heart twisted as Starsky pushed Hutch in a wheelchair, a blanket over his legs.
So close, Huggy thought. Hutch was so damned close....
Starsky bent down and engaged the brake on the chair before offering Hutch his arm.
Hutch knocked the hand away and took the blanket off his legs. Huggy smiled to see Hutch raise himself from the wheelchair, sway a bit, then walk toward the car.
TOO damned close, Huggy thought. But we're gonna be just fine.
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