Hutch dived for the telephone, catching it in a trembling hand on the
second ring. He held it to his ear, the deserted squad room and the all pervading smell of paint around him forgotten as he
listened, the ping pong ball bouncing lightly on the table as his hand caught it, then let it go again. His handsome fair
face took on a frown as he recognised the male’s voice on the other end, lines of pain and loneliness etching themselves
deep into the contours and planes of his forehead and cheeks.
‘You should get here now’ he heard Dobey’s concerned
voice and the room spun around him, reality suspended by those five simple words. Because they symbolised Starsky’s
fight for life; his fight for every single breath and heartbeat that prolonged the life that was hanging in the balance, and
he needed to be there. Hutch’s throat went dry and he closed his eyes, the room spinning wildly out of control around
him, the blood thundering in his ears. And then reality winked out, the room around him suddenly disappearing, flowing in
and out as though it were fluid rather than bricks and mortar. He gasped, clutching tight to the desk to stop himself falling.
He felt light and insubstantial and his last cognisant thought as the world went black was for his partner and how he’d
do absolutely anything to save him.
And suddenly there was another voice – a tinny, metallic voice
which seemed disembodied and false.
‘Phone call for Mr Hutchinson….Mr Kenneth Hutchinson. Please
pick up a white courtesy telephone’.
For a moment Hutch thought he’d gone mad. Yeah, that was it,
the pressure had finally gotten to him and he was in a white padded room in Cabrillo waiting for treatment. He opened his
eyes, bracing himself for white coated doctors and a straight jacket, but instead he saw a long red corridor stretching out
in front of him and a reception desk half way down it staffed by two pretty looking girls. They looked expectantly at him
and one beckoned for him to come forward.
Cautiously, Hutch walked towards them. They were young, beautiful too
and he couldn’t take his eyes from their figure hugging black and red outfits, the tight skirts and blouses leaving
almost nothing to his imagination. In a flash of impatience, he thought that he didn’t have time for all this. He needed
to get to his partner. Starsky needed him and nothing in the world would keep him away, not even raven haired sirens like
‘Will someone tell me what the hell’s goin’ on?’
he snapped at one of the girls. She giggled and held out a white phone for him to take, but made no comment. He grasped it
and jammed it against his ear.
‘Mr Hutchinson! Hutch. I’ve waited so long to finally get
to meet you. Would you like to come along to room 666? We could take coffee, talk. Maybe cut a deal? Your partner needs you,
you know! One of the receptionists will point you in the right direction’. The voice sounded familiar. A woman’s
voice with a slight edge to it. Haunting him. In a dream, he handed the receiver back to the girl.
‘Room 666 Sir. Right down the hall and it’s the six hundredth
on the left’ she lifted a perfectly manicured hand and pointed the way.
Hutch started to walk, his feet sinking in to the deep blood red carpet,
passing rooms who’s doors were half open so that he could glimpse what was concealed behind their frames. The vast expanse
of corridor carried on endlessly as he passed room after room. He heard screams
and whimpers, maniacal laughs and cries of loneliness and self pity and each door he passed seemed to have a familiar face
behind it, although each feature was indistinct and fuzzy as though he was seeing them through frosted glass. .
The blond walked for what seemed like hours, plodding along the corridor
with his heart thrumming a mad staccato beat inside his chest until finally he stopped outside the room. A huge oak door bearing
the numbers 666 burned into the wood barred his way and hesitantly he knocked, needing to find a way back to Starsky. Dobey
had said he should get to the hospital. He told him all he needed to know with those few words. Starsky was dying. Starsky
needed him. Only Hutch could save him, but he needed to find a way back. A way to help his buddy. Sweat beaded on his forehead
as he put a hand up to the big, solid door.
‘Come in’ he heard the voice beckoning him.
The door swung open and he walked through it into Starsky’s hospital
room. The still, limp form of his partner lay just as he’d left it an hour ago, chest swathed in white bandages and
a breathing tube taped in place. The familiar indigo eyes were closed, the eyelashes smoky smudges against the pale cheeks
and there were drips feeding into both his arms.
Hutch wanted to reach out and touch him, to make sure he was real,
but something held him back.
The room was full of people, many more than the last time he’d
been in the hospital and he looked now at the panic and fear on their faces as they worked over the body on the bed. A nurse
started to cut away at the bandage covering the brown fuzz and a doctor pumped hard against the damaged, blood stained chest.
Hutch looked around in panic, registering the movements and noise, but unable to take part in it. It was as though he were
floating above them – above the doctors and nurses who were rapidly losing their fight to save his friend’s life.
Hutch cast around in terror, trying to make himself seen and heard
and then he saw her. He stopped his searching and realised he wasn’t alone in his isolation from the troubles of that
room He saw the woman next to him. Funny that he hadn’t heard her come to stand next to him, but it seemed normal somehow
to have Vanessa by his side.
The tall, auburn haired woman took his hand.
‘Not much time now’ she said abruptly.
‘He’s dying’ Hutch said, his voice breaking.
‘He’s been on the edge before’ she said, holding
tightly to her ex husband’s hand.
‘How did I know? I’ve been stood on his shoulder the whole
time. And you didn’t even know I was there’.
‘I don’t believe ya. Just let me go to him. I can save
him maybe. He needs me’ Hutch said desperately.
‘Yes you can save him, but not yet. The time isn’t right
yet. They’re still fighting for him. Like the time they fought for him when the poison was eating away at him’.
Vanessa looked up into Hutch’s eyes. ‘Remember that? Remember how you managed to get the antidote with less than
half an hour to spare? I could have had him then. I could have taken him from under your nose and you’d never have known
it was me’.
‘But you didn’t. He fought the whole way’.
‘Yeah, he fought me. He’s brave….and strong. Or at
least he was. Not so sure now. I think this time I might take him with me. He seems tired, fragile’.
‘I won’t let you. Van you can’t mean that. What the
hell’s he ever done at you?’
‘He had you. He had you for longer than I ever did. And you were
closer than we ever were too. Kinda sickening really, watching the two of you. The time you carried him into the back room
of that restaurant? You never carried me like that. Even on our wedding night………I could have had him then
too. He lost so much blood. It was kinda cool watching you with all those cloths. Packing them against his back like you did.
Soapy, but kinda cool. And the time those black gowned goons had him? Crazy guys, they were. There were so man times I could
have stolen him then. The knives, the poison an’ it was sure fun getting into that bear skin’.
‘That was you?’
‘Sure! But he was still so damned stubborn. He just wouldn’t
‘Van, what’s this all about? Help me….help me help
him for God’s sake, but let me do something’ Hutch pleaded.
She snorted. ‘For God’s sake? Please, language! We don’t
use words like that here. It’s considered blasphemy’.
Hutch turned his crystal blue eyes on the beautiful woman. ‘Run
that by me again’.
‘You have no idea, have you? Always were a bit dense in the whole
spiritual realm. Not like him’. She flicked a nod at the man on the bed. ‘He’d believe the moon was made
of green cheese if some kinda holy man told him’.
The impatient blond took hold of the woman’s hand, spinning her
round so that he could see into her red eyes. Red? Whoa. Red? Weren’t her
eyes brown? She grinned up at him.
‘Cottoning on, are we?’
‘Where are we?’ he spat, his patience finally at an end.
Hospital of course’ she told him, pulling her arm from his grip
as though he were a weakling.
‘I mean, where were we? And who the hell are you?’
‘Ah, that’s better. Getting warmer now. We were somewhere
else and now we’re here’.
‘Enough of the dramatics Van, or whoever you are. I’ve
had it up to here. If you know how I can help my partner for pities sake tell me’.
‘Ah pity! Yeah, that’s a good one. How much pity do you
have for him Hutch? How much do you love your partner? How much would you give for Starsky to be well again?’
‘Who are you?’
‘I’m the curse on your lips. I’m the bullet in your
back, the thorn in your side’.
‘Am I? Or is it you who’s lost it Ken? Talking to someone
who looks like the woman you should never have married! Are you sure its me who’s crazy? I ask again. What would you
give for his life?’
‘The world and then some’ he said softly. Below him he
saw the doctor look up and shake his head, paddles from the defibrillator in his hand.
‘The world huh? Not yours to give buddy. What else?’ The
woman at his side licked her lips, her eyes sparkling dangerously.
Hutch tore his gaze from the sight of the doctors giving up on his
partner. No! Starsky couldn’t be dead! He just couldn’t. He’d die too if his buddy died. Don’t give
up on him! Keep fighting. Keep on going. He’s not a quitter…..he’s not.
‘I don’t know what you mean’ he said, his voice lost
and broken. ‘Anything. I’d give anything to have him back…..anything’.
‘Do you mean that?’ she asked.
‘Would you give your life for his?’
‘In a heartbeat, an’ he knows it. Is that what this is
all about? I die an’ he lives. Coz if that’s the deal, I’ll take it’.
Vanessa grinned. ‘It’s not quite that simple. Your life
isn’t worth any more than his. But maybe……no, you wouldn’t. It’s pointless asking’.
The doctors and nurses were moving away from the inert body now, hands
going to the leads on the oscilloscope. They distracted the blond.
‘Ask….just ask. Anything in my power to give, I’d
gladly give for him’.
‘What about your soul?’
‘Your soul. That’s the deal. Sell your soul to me and he
‘I….I don’t know what you mean’ Hutch said
‘It’s simple. You sell your soul to me. I allow you one
more year on this earth. One year to be with him, knowing that each second brings you closer to never seeing him again. One
whole year of wondering if you did the right thing and then you come with me to hell and spend the rest of the time in pain
and damnation. Meanwhile, he lives to be 89 and is happy ever after. That’s the deal. Take it or leave it’.
The blond looked down at the limp form on the bed. The nurses and doctors
were moving away now, their work done. Through the pane of glass he could see Dobey shaking his head, a tear shining on his
round black face. And Hutch thought of all the times he and Starsky had had together. The brunet’s zest for life, his
joie de vivre. The silly humour and the childlike wonder at the world around him.
‘If I do this, he’ll recover fully. He wouldn’t be
‘Nope. That’s the deal. His full recovery for your soul’.
Visions of the brunet, healthy and vital running full tilt down some
alley, or laughing his crazy laugh or eating a chilli dog ran through Hutch’s head. Visions of the curly haired man
snuggling up to a beautiful woman, kids running in and out of the house. Small, dark haired kids with curls and indigo blue
The beautiful woman’s face started to melt and change colour
as Hutch closed his eyes and nodded once, knowing he’d never let his partner die while there was a way – any way
to save him.
The ping pong ball bounced off the table and onto the floor as the
blond ran from the room. His long legs powered him out of the building and across the two city blocks to the hospital, his
breath catching in his throat as he rounded the corner and skidded to a halt outside Starsky’s room, just as the doctor
emerged, a look of bewilderment on his face.
Later, Hutch sat in the quiet stillness of the small room, his partner’s
body illuminated by the soft blue light behind the bed. He hadn’t touched Starsky, afraid that maybe by doing so he
break the dream and the brunet would fade away. He sighed deeply, watching the bandaged chest rise and fall of its own accord.
A miracle, the doctor had called it. A medical miracle and eminent specialists were being sent for to try to explain the phenomenon.
But Hutch knew different. He felt different and as he fingered the
small blue bruises over his heart, the bruises which looked uncannily like three number sixes in a line. He planned to make
the final year with his buddy count every minute of the way. That was the deal. The deal that he’d struck. The deal
between the devil and Mr Hutchinson.
‘Rest easy Starsk. Don’t worry. I got it covered buddy’
the blond said softly as the clock ticked another second off his year.