By Suz ™
There are a thousand stories I could tell you. But this is the only one I want to tell you. The only one I want to believe in.
The only one I can believe in.
The only one that holds my heart and keeps me sane.
Starsky died. Or he was dead, when I got to him. And then he came to life, right in front of my eyes. Dobey called it a miracle. So did Huggy. They both implied it was my physical presence that brought him back. My love for him, or possibly his love for me, forced back the black door of death and kept him in this world. Kept him with me.
That’s the most important part. Starsky lived. That day in the hospital Starsky lived. And from that springs the rest of the story.
Gunther. James Marshall Gunther. Land baron, business tycoon, community leader, drug lord. A man who couldn’t separate the moral from the mythical, and chose to enhance his holdings and his power and his ego by whatever means offered the quickest and most lucrative route.
I took him down.
But I get ahead of myself.
A Race to Stop the Bleeding
It’s not like you see in the movies.
At first, Starsky was very quiet. Just lying on the pavement, waiting for the ambulance, but much more patiently than I. In fact, he was the peaceful eye of the storm spiraling around him; officers and civilians and medical personnel, sirens and screamers and shallow breathing. I was part of the spiral, begging and pleading and flailing and commanding and ultimately waiting for… well, I get ahead of myself again.
Some of what I’m going to describe I learned afterward, when the doctors explained to me the entirety of what had taken place. But these are the facts, as they happened:
Starsky was pale, his skin clammy, and his body thrashing by the time he was rolled into the emergency room. My brain preferred to diagnose this as life, movement of the body toward survival, a struggle to live. But it was really the final stages of bleeding to death. Barely a liter of blood left to travel from vein to artery. A body bled dry. Death throes.
If Starsky could have told the tale, when the bullets hit, he would have said he felt several brief, sharp pains in his upper body, and then suddenly found himself lying on the ground next to his car. His leg would have gone numb, and he might have heard my voice, or he might not have. But I know, even with his panic rising, he would have willed himself to stay calm, willed himself to stay with me, willed himself to stay alive. Even in wound shock, that release of endorphins to mask the pain and start the body protecting itself, even then, he would have reached out to stay with me.
Three bullets entered Starsky’s body; three exited. In between was left a swath of shredded tissue and shattered bone. One bullet shot through Starsky’s chest, hitting nothing of importance, missing everything of consequence, and moving straight on till morning. Another entered through Starsky’s back, hit his sternum dead center, took a sideways turn, and exited through his right arm pit. And yet another pierced Starsky’s lower back, punctured his large intestine, ripped through a vital nerve, and exited near his right pelvic bone.
This was the bullet that started the bleeding, as it passed through the area where large blood vessels carry blood between the torso and the legs.
Starsky probably felt nothing inside his body, but outside, he would have felt cold.
Everyone kept telling him to stay awake, try to stay awake, but I knew it was my voice that would make it happen, my voice that would give him the lifeline to hang on to. So calmly, so quietly, so directly did I urge him to stay awake stay awake stay awake that he stayed awake….
The scary part of blood loss is that it shuts down the body in stages, because there’s not enough oxygen to feed the body, and the brain needs that oxygen. So the body sacrifices other organs to preserve the brain. The skin, the muscles, the kidneys…that’s why Starsky felt cold. But his brain was still warm. And fighting.
Starsky had that sickly pallor, the moist skin, what I knew to be the “death look” I’d seen so many times in victims and prey. He was struggling on the table, trying to sit up, of all things. This was his body’s last struggle as it lost oxygen to the brain. A sign his body sensed death was near and was reflexively battling it.
Starsky was unconscious, but his body fought on, speaking incoherently. The words were gibberish, but I understood them.
“I love you. Get me out of this. I love you.”
The doctors acted quickly. Nineteen minutes had already passed, leaving only 41 minutes of the “golden hour” in which they had the best chance to save Starsky’s life. Nurses cut away his clothes even as they had to hold him down.
I don’t think I hurt anyone in my efforts to stay close to Starsky, I only remember I was there as the nurse splashed iodine on his pale skin. Almost no anesthesia; he was too close to death already. I wanted to brush the hair off his forehead, and the thought bothered me: Starsky needed people who could cut into his body and repair it, and here I wanted to stroke his skin and reassure him. What good was that?
Somehow a surgeon had been commandeered; he cut a long slit into Starsky’s abdominal wall and stuffed sponge after sponge into Starsky’s abdominal cavity. Clamps appeared and clutched. I knew the surgeon was simply trying to stop the bleeding. Because if he didn’t do that, nothing else would matter.
I found I could only watch if I maneuvered myself so I couldn’t see Starsky’s face. I can do anything if I can’t see a person’s face. No face, no person. No person, no Starsky. It was just a body on the table. And I could breathe and I could watch.
The surgeon peeled back the pink membrane lining the abdominal cavity. He cut the punctured colon loose and flipped it over to see underneath. A jelly-like mound of lost blood lay quivering inside the cavity, about the size of a softball. More blood was pooling around the mound, making a hissing noise as it spurted. The surgeon clamped the aorta, hoping that was enough. But it wasn’t.
The blood continued to pool. So the surgeon hunted for another tear. And he found it, or at least he found the reason for it. The top half of the severed iliac vein was flapping loosely in the pelvic recess. But the bottom half had retracted into the bowl of the pelvis.
So the surgeon and the nurses used sponge-holding forceps to hunt for the essential piece of tissue. As they searched for the fragile stump of vein, the blood continued to flow, even as it was vacuumed up, warmed, cleaned, and returned the body.
I would have given my blood, but I couldn’t, my partner and I don’t match. So 10 liters came from total strangers, 10 liters to fill up the 80% of his body’s fluid that had been lost, 10 liters of machine-infused life. But even that wasn’t good enough, if you know anything about blood. Machine-infused blood won’t clot, and it strains the immune system. If the surgeon didn’t find and repair the crucial vessel, the non-clotting blood would start to seep everywhere, thinned to the consistency of Hawaiian Punch. The downward spiral that had been suspended would begin again, the body dying, in part from cold.
I didn’t want Starsky to be cold. I wanted him warm, his body to be warm, to warm him myself. But stroking foreheads and warming limbs wouldn’t stop the spiral.
Finally, the surgeon found the shiny, slippery stub of vein. He found it, he lost it, he found it again; it was only the size of a slender woman’s pinky finger and hard to grasp, impossible to tug on. Curtains of blood hid it; it almost seemed to be purposely evading the clamp.
And then, forty minutes into the nightmare, the surgeon captured the torn vessel and clamped the bleeding. And it was done.
Except for the bone fragments and the tear sewings and the general trauma to all the other organs and the blood not clotting and the continued seepage of blood from a thousand microscopic stoma. And the colon had leaked into the abdomen.
Starsky was alive and he was fighting and no matter how many tubes transected his body I could touch him.
And as long as I could touch him I could touch reality.
A Race to Stop the Evil
Follow the money.
Everyone knows that. That’s why there are money launderers, to disguise the origins of the cash, to hide its sire.
Who pays the lawyer? Who pays the chauffeur? Who pays the butler who brings your coffee and your tea? Find the final hand offering the cash, and you’ve found the one who controls empire.
There are basically two ways to follow the money: Follow the paper trail, or follow the gossip. I followed the paper trail. Miles of pulp that linked bank account to check number, wire transaction to time zone, SEC filing to Public Notice of Filing. The cross-referencing alone was mind-numbing. Which was what I wanted. Keep my body going but numb my mind to the unopened eyes on the 3rd floor of Cedars. I was convinced that once I worked my way through the dot-matrix maze of printouts it would lead to the Azure City—Starsky’s open eyes.
Huggy—now he followed the gossip. That was his venue and his value. Not that he wasn’t a friend, but I didn’t need friends. I needed allies. Huggy didn’t just hear things through the grapevine, he was the grapevine. For instance:
Top black model. Covers of Ebony and Jet, fashion photo shoots, even a spot on that toothpaste commercial, way in the back, in the last row of beach bunnies. Can’t miss her, she’s the only dark face on the beach. Huggy knew her. How? She hung on the streets before she hit it big, and he tried to shield her from the streets. Or at least warn her of their danger. Of course, back then, she was a he. More or less. Less of a penis, more of an enlarged clitoris. Not a lot of body hair, ever. Later on, some hormone shots and silicone shots and a lecherous photographer that used to frequent Huggy’s bar led to that moment of “being discovered”—or at least that moment of “you do this for me or I’ll tell your wife.”
She was plugged into that business of money laundering. Taking the money from one business to another, one businessman to another, one country to another. In exchange, she got to keep some of the cash, have some fun, and rub some people’s noses in her shit, instead her being rubbed in their shit, which is the way it was when she was just a kid on the streets. She would have been a real find, the person to have on the stand, the person to testify as to who gave whom what, and when, and where. As it was, all we got from her was a connection, lawyer to law-disabider. Enough, but not enough; instead of fists I showed her I should have offered my hand. Let the D.A. scare her into protective custody.
We found the connections.
There’s always someone who’ll do anything for money or the like, especially here in Hollywood. So there was no lack of people ready to take me down as Huggy and I chased our separate trails. Funnily enough, no one tried to take out Huggy. Just me and Starsky. It was known Huggy was a known associate of ours; it just didn’t matter. So the two of us (me and Starsk, not me and Hug), were the targets. And of course later, we learned why we were targets. Take down a drug route, make yourself an enemy. Old fashioned vengeance. Mess with me and I’ll hurt you.
You’d think protecting Starsky would have been easy; cops on every corner of the hospital floor, weapons at the ready. Unless you’re a dumb cop to whom it didn’t occur that a hit man might be impersonating an orderly. Eventually we had to move Starsky to another floor, of a totally different hospital, and create lists of who and who could not go into Starsky’s room. And keep track of where the medications came from, and who had access to them. And on and on and on.
Me, all I had to do was watch my back and make sure my Magnum was loaded. And believe it or not, I was a harder target, because I was a moving target. If Starsky had moved when I yelled at him in the parking lot, well—but I was a moving target, and therefore harder to hit.
I didn’t go home at all those first two weeks. I just cleaned up at Huggy’s, who always seemed to have a change of clothes available. Food wasn’t easy, but I got down cold and fruity things if they were forced upon me. I couldn’t manage anything heavier or hotter. And really, all I wanted was whatever would keep my body moving. As long as my eyes could focus on the flow charts Minnie handed me, I was satisfied. And as long as my legs could take me from informant to informant, I was pleased.
Have you heard of straw corporations? Those are entities that hide the true ownership of a corporation behind another. Like money laundering. Only it’s business laundering. But I followed the links from business to business, sale to merger, corporate takeover to bankruptcy court. And eventually certain names and certain transactions lifted themselves off the page and became a chart unto themselves.
There’s always a marriage certificate or birth certificate somewhere that reveals a bloodline. There’s always a file cabinet somewhere that holds a record of that secret transaction. And you have to love this about human beings: they never do what they’re told and destroy all the evidence or not tell anyone what they’ve done
So with my map of the corporate structure, and my human chain of informants, I was able to get an arrest warrant.
Well, not an arrest warrant. A search warrant.
And it really had nothing to do with the attempts on Starsky’s life or mine. It turned out that one of Foxy’s model friends occasionally partied with a few other girls at the Playboy Mansion, who sometimes ended up dating invited guests, who knew some businessmen who worked at one of those straw corporations, who had been wined and dined at the Gunther Mansion, and then desserted with cocaine served on silver trays with the monogram JMG, of which one was actually witnessed being handled and snorted by JMG himself.
So the warrant was to search for drugs and drug paraphernalia.
I just got lucky when I stumbled across a dead guy in Gunther’s office.
A Race to Stop the Dying
I spent a lot of time sitting besides Starsky’s bed. Or at least it was the time left over from when I wasn’t following the money. He was so pale for so long. I convinced myself he was ignoring me in order to concentrate on his body, healing each cell one by one, unable to break his concentration even for one second or lose his place and have to start over. And we both knew we’d rather he heal sooner, rather than risk a moment of conscious connection and delay the cure.
I wanted, so badly, for Starsky to wake up and tell me everything was all right. I wanted him to be all right, so I would be all right. I wanted him to feel better, and I wanted to feel better, too. Stop my stomach pains and the heart palpitations and the dizziness and the sweatiness and the emptiness inside of my gut. It was horrendous, this chasm, this abyss; an itch from the inside out, a need to jump out of my skin, to get away from myself and have someone else take care of my irritated body while my soul found a quiet place to sit and be still.
I couldn’t be still! I wanted to be still, but I couldn’t. I wanted to stop feeling this constant urge to shift and twitch and find a new place to sit and shuffle and get rid of this barrenness inside my skin and just make it all go away and be different!
MAKE IT GO AWAY AND BE DIFFERENT! No Starsky no bullets no hospital no clotting no infections no bad guys no conspiracies no impossibilities.
No having to pray for what I couldn’t do, make Starsky well.
It was the pain of that dichotomy that split my soul. A few days before, Starsky was a finely constructed physical specimen of a man. Tanned, smooth, soft skin. You might not think so soft, but it was supple, warm and comforting to the touch. As was his touch, when he chose to make it so, soft and warm and comforting. Manicured nails, which you wouldn’t expect of him, and if I revealed he had pedicures as well, he’d break my neck with those manicured hands.
Solid muscle shown through that wonderful skin, lightly outlined, bespeaking strength and power and potency. He could move fast, or slow, be quick, or lingering, be invisible, or imposing. Whatever he wanted, whatever he needed, whatever I needed to be safe.
What I needed.
What I wanted.
A live Starsky.
A live Starsky in my arms….
Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
Or shot you down on it.
There were maybe—maybe—two roads ahead. One where Starsky lived, and one where he died. But what I really wanted to do was go back and re-pave the road we’d already been driving on. Make it a road that I’d been the driver on, not been the passenger on. Where I wasn’t afraid to take the road less taken. Where I didn’t worry about who thought what of whom or spend precious time sussing out the risks and rewards of this action or that.
I wished I’d felt instead of thought. I wished I’d closed the door and drawn the drapes and said to hell with the rest of the world this is what I want in my own private soul. I wished I’d at least pushed for paradise.
Found out if he wanted it, too.
I wasn’t sure what would be worse: Starsky’s body dying, or my soul dying after his body went.
I’m not going to go into the Code Blue Catastrophe. That’s about as close as I can get to it, giving it an Official Title. Needless to say I blame the hospital for not keeping Starsky infection free and keeping his blood clotting properly and not monitoring the strain on his heart. I’m not even sure his heart totally stopped.
All I know is that when I got there, he didn’t die.
He lived. His eyes opened, and his nose twitched, and he lived.
A Race to Stop the Injustice
Cyanide’s not pretty. That’s what was found in the teacup formerly held by Attorney Bates. What was found in the offsite files of Attorney Bates was much prettier, to say the least. Seems he’d kept duplicates and triplicates of everything that had crossed his desk, as well as recordings of office and phone conversations, and a simply-coded address book of those kinds of people who would do anything for money.
Now mind you, even with a case like this, with the truth spilling out of files and transcripts and financial records and actual living bodies somehow convinced to sit in the witness stand and corroborate the chain of evidence—it took years to adjudicate. Motion after motion after locomotion….enough lawyers to circle the earth twice.
And in the meantime, did Gunther quit doing what he was doing? Not on his life. He just switched his distribution routes and changed his distributors and hid the whole operation much better. And his lawyers professed his innocence and came up with reason after story after fairy tale to explain how JMG had been framed and railroaded and falsely accused of such dastardly deeds.
But in the end…
The good guys win.
And enough witnesses stay alive to testify and enough documents can’t be misinterpreted and enough jurors can be protected to hand down a verdict of GUILTY.
A Race to Stop the Deceit
Some injuries look minimal, but are fatal in the extreme. Others look horrendous, but are easily repaired.
Starsky’s injuries were somewhere in the middle. Once you got past the almost bleeding to death, he hadn’t been hurt that badly.
He actually went home after three weeks.
Starsky dropped a few pounds, well, from 185 to 145. He could only take liquids at first. That and the lethargy that landed on top of him after all that had befallen his body. You just don’t jump up and walk away from that kind of insult to your organs. But bless his stomach, his appetite never suffered, and when he finally was able to eat, he did.
It was really his leg that took the worst of the shooting. It took Starsky four-and-a-half months to lose the cane after the nerve damage. It took us a while, but we found swimming was a better therapy than jogging or running.
Of course, the best therapy of all was being alive.
Fresh starts and new chances don’t come every day. And as some people like to say, when a door closes, a window opens.
I watched Starsky recover for nearly a year before I knew I had to also heal myself. I thought him just being alive would still the anxiety in my soul. I hoped it would, but I knew it wouldn’t.
It wasn’t as hard as I anticipated. We were living together, at first for Starsky’s health, and then because neither of us brought up changing the arrangement. Neither of us. I took that as a good sign.
And while touchy-feely had been our modus operandi since almost the first day we met, adding some physical therapy in the form of massage wasn’t worth even a word between either of us.
What it finally, finally took was a cool, late summer evening, when the smog created a spectacular sunset we watched expire from the roof of our building. Two lawn chairs, two bottles of beer, two changed men. And Starsky began to talk about family, his mother and his father and his brother. And how his father’s death, and his brother’s illness, and his forced move to relatives out here made him wonder where his place in his family was. And how he slowly discovered he could create his own family, pick a father-figure from over here, pick a mother-figure from over there, pick a brother-figure from any number of places.
Starsky talked of learning to look deep into other people, to understand what made them do what they did, what made them act in ways that seemed horrible or destructive or incredibly self-sacrificing. And how he learned that doing this made him feel good, how it made him feel he understood his place amongst these people better.
And finally, he talked of how all this learning had helped him understand himself. And he felt best about himself when he did what he knew to be right, and true, and the rest of the world be damned.
And then he reached over and took my hand and held it.
And I broke down into tears.
And Starsky just kept tight to my hand as I let loose of months and years of fear and pain and uncertainty and helplessness and rage and anger and relief.
And when the torrent had become a trickle we stood up and he held me in the dark, on the top of that roof, and took the weight of my body and my soul and held it so I could find pure release, even if only for those few moments.
Starsky ran his fingers along the nape of my neck and smoothed my hair and comforted me. He rubbed my back and held me so tight the world became invisible and superfluous. And he kissed my neck and ear until I laughed delightedly and I could feel his answering laughter through my body.
We left the chairs and the bottles on the roof, and supported each other down the stairs and back to our apartment. Once inside the door our lips found each others, so soft, so novel, so unbelievably sweet. Nerve endings that no woman had ever stimulated sprang to life, carrying electric currents to my brain. For the first time my fingers and palms could explore Starsky’s body as an object of pleasure instead of as a biological mechanism. Instead of knowing which area of leg needed rehabilitation, I discovered which area of leg produced a long, low moan.
And best of all, I discovered how to take Starsky off this mortal coil and send him to the upper reaches of the atmosphere.
When you love someone, you want to show them. Words mean nothing without actions to back them up. You want them to feel the way you do, you want them filled with the same inexpressible joy you feel.
So I took his cock in my hand, holding it gently, then firmly, then unyieldingly. I stroked my thumb over the head, ran my finger up and down the sensitive vein underneath, brushed my palm up and over and around its length.
I swirled my tongue around its circumference, then blew on it to watch it quiver. I took him deep into my mouth and sucked him to rigidity, then released him and watched the tease become torment as I massaged his balls and ignored his cock.
And I wrapped my hand around his aching penis and pumped and stroked, listening with great pleasure to his moans and groans and sighs and whimpers, until he grabbed at me desperately and I took him once more in my mouth and sucked and swirled and withstood his heat until his release left us both exhausted and drained, the old world shattered and the new world more beautiful than either of us could have ever imagined.
And then he did the same for me.
A Race to Stop the Deceit Part 2
I like this story. That’s why I told it to you.
This story keeps me alive and functioning and sane. Just thinking of Starsky’s lopsided grin, his beatific smile, his desiring eyes, lightens my world.
This could have been a story of terrible sadness. I could have told of Gunther’s escape. How he managed to avoid a murder charge because his butler admitted to poisoning Bates. How he kept his name from being tied to any of the nefarious undertakings of which he was accused. How witnesses disappeared, documents went missing, and lawyers laid down a smoke-screen so thick it even bested L.A.’s smog.
The story might have included Gunther turning his lawyers against me. How he accused me of assault and brutality before I let the other officers into his office when I went to serve him. How he manipulated certain police chiefs and captains into banishing me from the force. How his civil suits bankrupted me.
And it could have been a story of medical horrors, where Starsky lived through everything Gunther threw at him, but succumbed to a simple staph infection acquired through shoddy hospital practices.
Finally, it could have been a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying a rage so overwhelming that it lead to a clean shot through William Gunther’s head, in the privacy of his own bedroom, which I had quite gracefully infiltrated. And in the idiot’s tale I would have stood trial for Murder One, and been convicted, and sentenced to life for the sake of the life I took, who had taken my life from me.
But that isn’t the story I want to tell.
I told you the only one I wanted to tell you. The only one I want to believe in.
The only one I can believe in.
The only one that holds my heart and keeps me sane.