Thou Shalt Not Kill

Chapter 1

'Come and look out through the window

That big old moon is shinin' down
Tell me now don't it remind you
Of a blanket on the ground'.

The blond detective drove smoothly through the streets of down town Bay City, his fingers drumming along on the steering wheel in time to the song. His voice was silky smooth and mellow as he sung along to Billie Jo Spears on the radio and his golden head bobbed to the beat. Wishing he had his guitar with him, he eased his brown Ford LTD rust bucket around the corner and onto the road which lead to his partner's apartment. Taking in the cool sunny morning and quiet roads, Hutch smiled to himself. Life was good. Since he'd been seeing his new girlfriend, he'd been doing more singing and last night he and Liz, and Starsky and Ross had been to 'The Ranch', a new Country and Western bar in town. There'd been a spot for audience members to participate and he'd been persuaded to get up on stage and sing 'Blanket on the Ground', strumming along on a borrowed guitar. And now here it was on the radio this morning. The song had gone down well last night and the whole gig made him feel good. He'd even joked that if he ever stopped wanting to be a cop, he could always take up singing as a career. Starsky joked that if Hutch became a singer, he'd become a TV film director and specialise in Cop shows.

He pulled his car up outside Starsky's apartment and looked up at the window, noting the curtains were still drawn. With a sly smile, he got out of the car and bounded up the steps. Starsky had been seeing Ross for a few months now and was so happy with her. Hutch had convinced himself that this was the girl the brunette would settle down with. They were well matched. He was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome.

At 5' 11" and of slim but muscular build, he had always been a bit of a magnet for women. Along with his wide smile, the mahogany coloured curls and deep, almost navy, blue eyes made females melt. Although he knew he wasn't ugly, it always came as a bit of a surprise to the brunette that women found him so attractive. And that very self deprecating attitude was another thing that drove the opposite sex mad for him.

Ross was willowy tall and slim, with long blond hair and blue eyes. She had moved in a couple of weeks ago and Hutch had never seen his partner happier. Although Starsky was always a live wire, a fun loving guy who had a wacky sense of humour, Ross had brought something else to the dark haired detective's life, a different dimension and Hutch was happy for his partner.


Inside, the brunette was still curled up in his bed. He and Ross had got home late. Ross had been a little tipsy and they'd had a row. Nothing too major but Starsky hated any ill feeling. It probably stemmed from the rows he and Nicky used to hear his Mom and Dad have, when his Dad came back tired from a day policing New York's streets. He hated getting Ross angry, not least because, he had to admit, she had a temper. Now he curled his body round his girlfriend's, spooning into her and smelling the scent of her hair, pushing his hips towards her, to get that extra inch closer, and nuzzling against her neck. He was warm and sleepy and content and he gently ran his fingers up and down her arm, loving the feel of having her all to himself, trying to forget what happened last night. The bed was so comfortable and he nestled his curly head back against the pillow, a slight smile on his face. As he brought his right arm up to caress Ross' cheek, he caught sight of his watch. Shit, he was late again! His partner was really going to be mad; this was the third time this week.

Carefully, so as not to disturb the sleeping woman, he slid his bare leg out of the bed, his feet hitting the cool tile in the bedroom. Rising gingerly, he looked at the deep scratch on his left wrist, glad that it wasn't bleeding any more. He went to his tidy closet and took out his palest blue jeans and a long sleeved blue denim shirt. Buttoning it to mid chest level and leaving some of the dark brown curly hair there exposed, he carefully buttoned the cuffs and checked himself in the mirror — good, the sleeves hid the scratch.

As he was reaching for his holster, he saw the blonde's shadow at the front door. Quickly crossing the room, he opened the door just as Hutch was about to knock. There had been a time when the blond would have just walked in to his partner's place, but since Ross, he respected the smaller man's privacy, and had taken to waiting to be invited in.

Starsky put his fingers to his lips and shushed. 'Ross is still sleeping' he whispered as he stepped outside and pulled the door closed behind him.

Once down the steps, the two detectives swapped Hutch's non- descript brown heap for Starsky's flashy, powerful Ford Gran Torino with the big V8 engine. Hutch knew that Starsky loved his car almost as much as he loved Ross and whenever possible, the two men used the striped tomato, just so that the brunette had the joy of driving it. The fact that it was well known on the streets helped a little too. The snitches the two detectives used understood that when they saw the Torino they'd get a fair hearing. Word on the streets was that if you treated Starsky and Hutch right, they'd be straight with you.

As they got into the car and pulled away, the brunette nodded to his partner. 'Mornin' Blondie. How's the Crooning Blintz this morning?' he smiled.

Hutch smiled back. 'Couldn't be better, Gordo. Liz and I had a good night' he wiggled his eye brows.

'Know what ya mean', agreed the smaller man. 'It was a good night. Ya know you've got a real talent there. If they put a paper bag over you're head, you could pass for a real Country and Western singer, as long as ya don't sing that 'Black Bean Soup' crap'.

He ducked as the blond landed a playful punch on his arm. His partner crossed his eyes in mock frustration. 'Not talking about the singing, Gordo. The night just seemed to get better and better'.

Hutch noticed the slight pause before the brunette agreed. Silence ensued. Suddenly Starsky flung the car round in a wide arc and pulled up by the opposite sidewalk.

'What the hell?' Hutch exclaimed, rubbing the side of his head that had made contact with the window.

'That's Mickey. He should have some information on the arms shipment we've been watching. If anyone knows, he will'.

'Hmph' the blond managed. Just give a guy a little warnin', will ya?'

The men got out of the car and walked over to the little man. He watched as they approached, fiddling with the sleeve of his jacket and looking at them under his brows. Starsky trotted round the back of the car and, with his customary strut of a walk, joined his taller partner.

'Hey Starsky, Hutch' the little man said, nervously. 'You, ah.......you want somethin'?' He backed up against the wall and the detectives could see the slight tremble in the snitch's hands as he propped himself against it.

'Just catchin' up, Mickey' the brunette said, peaceably. 'You OK? Ya look a little off'.

'I'm fine' he replied, sniffing and rubbing his nose. 'You ah......you got a couple of dollars, Mr Starsky. I could do with a cigarette, ya know'.

Starsky nodded and reached into his back jeans pocket for his wallet. Peeling of a $10 bill, he waved it in front of the snitch. 'What do ya know about the arms shipment that was due in yesterday, Mickey?' he asked reasonably.

The little man shook his head, never taking his eyes off the money. 'N nothin'. I don't know nothing, honest'.

'You're sure now?' The two men looked at each other, knowing that if they pushed too hard, the little man would tip over the edge, his drug and drink addictions making him vulnerable and shaky.

'OK Mickey, if you hear anything, you know where to find us' the blond said. He turned away.

Mickey made a little noise of desperation as he saw the easy money walking away. Starsky turned back, knowing how much the little man was hurting. He handed the money over.

'Go get yourself a meal and a cup of coffee, Mickey. Try an' look after yourself, OK?'

The little man nodded eagerly. 'OK, thanks Starsky, I'll ah.....I'll go get somethin' now'. The brunette nodded, knowing that the money would be spent on Mickey's next score, rather than anything nutritious.

The two detectives got back into the car and set off again. The blond looked over at his partner.

'You're a real soft touch, ya know?' he said.

'Hey, I'm just a pussy cat' the brunette agreed. 'At least that's what Ross says!' He rubbed his wrist absently.

'Doesn't get us any closer to the answer though. Where do we go from here?'

'Well' Starsky replied, 'I haven't had breakfast yet, what say we go round to Huggy's. Maybe he's got something for us — apart from coffee and hamburgers' and he turned the car round the corner and drove along the road to The Pits.


The black man was stood behind the bar of The Pits, cleaning glasses and replenishing supplies. He looked up and smiled as the two detectives walked into the bar and sat down at a table near the door. Picking up the coffee pot and two cups, he moved over to join them'.

'Hey Hug, how's things?' Hutch asked, taking the cup from him and setting it down on the table.

'Good, I think. Ya want something more than coffee?'

The brunette looked round. 'Don't see any hamburgers or burritos, so I'll pass. Unless you've had any information on the shipment yet?'

Huggy drew up a chair and sank his lanky frame onto it. He huddled over the table and took on a conspiratorial air. 'News is that Morito and his goons have been enjoying a little down time at 'The Pink Angels' downtown'., he told them.

'You mean the brothel out on the interstate? When?' Starsky asked

'Most nights this past week, so far as I know' Huggy replied.

The two men finished their coffee. 'Well, we know where we're headed now' the blond said as they left the black man sat at his table.


On their way along the Interstate, they decided between them what approach to take.

'Softly, softly, I think' Starsky said, keeping his eyes on the road. 'We startle 'em and they'll tell us zip'.

'Agreed' his partner said, as the car pulled in to the motel at the side of the road. They got out and went towards the door.

As they got there, a pretty blond woman in a pink negligee opened the door and beckoned them in. They followed her into a hallway beautifully decorated in expensive grays and blues, with thick grey carpet on the floor. An older lady came towards them, fully clothed and beautifully made up. She smiled at them.

'What can I do for you gentlemen? We have a range of services here, catering to whatever taste you might have'. She motioned to the pink clad girl, who came forward and put her arms seductively round Starsky's neck, blew in his ear and ran a long nailed finger down the side of his neck.

He turned and looked her in the eye, growling low in his throat.

The blond stood back, amused. 'Down tiger' he said, turning to the older woman. He pulled his shield from his pocket and flashed it at her. Her face fell.

'Cops' she spat. 'You gonna close me down?'

Starsky pulled his attention from the girl round his neck and looked over to her.

'Nah, just need to ask you about some of your newer clientele. Couple of guys from down town. Might have been flashing their money round. Rumour has it they've been here every night this week'.

The Madam looked thoughtful. 'I don't think I remember anyone of that description' she said, obviously looking for something to make the information worthwhile.

Hutch smiled at her. 'Don't push it sweetheart' he said. 'We could close you down today, but we're not going to. We just need a couple of names, that's all'.

She knew when she'd met her match and her match was stood before her in the form of this tall muscular handsome blond man. She turned away and went to get her address and appointment book. Returning, she thumbed through the pages, pausing at a three names.

'Sam Morito, Frank Hewitt and Eric Slinger' she said. 'No address, but a telephone number 555 3349'.

The blond detective made a note in his notebook and Starsky disengaged himself from the pretty hooker, still smiling disarmingly at her. They made their way to the door, as the pretty woman slipped her card inside the brunette's pocket. 'Ya can come back any time ya like, sugar' she said. 'It could even be on the house, if ya know what I mean?'

Back outside, they got back into the car and Hutch called in the telephone number asking for a trace and a possible address.

'You OK, Gordo?' Hutch asked, seeing his partner yawning and realizing he looked tired.

'Yeah, sure. Just a bit tired. Think I might knock off early. Ross is expecting me back. We're due some time, we've been working eleven days straight, 'he said, turning the car in the direction of home.

The drive back to town was accomplished mostly in silence, Hutch now a little worried for his friend. He'd never heard him complain of tiredness to the extent of clocking off early before. But, hey, he's never lived with the woman of his dreams before either! Finally, the brunette dropped his partner off at his apartment. Just as he was leaving the car, the radio crackled to life.

'Zebra three, zebra three. Patch through to RandI'.

Starsky picked up the mic. 'This is zebra three, go ahead'. He listened as the disembodied voice of Eddie down at the metro gave them the address the telephone number was associated with. He put the mic back on its cradle, looking over to his partner.

'Well, looks like we'll be staking out the address tomorrow. Get some sleep, see you at 8.00, OK?'

He drove off and within ten minutes was back at his own apartment. He parked the car on the drive and ran up the steps to his front door. Opening it, he saw Ross in the kitchen, busying herself with supper. He crept over to her and put his arms round her waist.

'Hiya gorgeous' he whispered.

She turned to face him, putting her arms round his neck and pulling him to her. She looked up into his face and leaned forwards to kiss him.

Suddenly, her face darkened. 'I can smell perfume' she said, low and intense.

Starsky drew back. 'It's nothing, honey. We had to go check out some information at a brothel, that's all, honest'.

But she wasn't listening. Her face turned ugly as she started to shout. 'You're cheating on me, I know you are. I hate you'.

She drew her hand back and took struck him on the side of his face as he put his arms up to defend himself.

'Ross, honey, just calm down. It's not what you think'.

But Ross was lost in her rage.

Chapter 2

Starsky groaned a little as he struggled to get out of bed. For once he was in time to get a shower and shave before meeting his partner at 8.00. He slid silently out of bed, careful not to wake the sleeping woman at his side. He took a moment to gaze down at her. God how much he loved her. He couldn't actually find the words to express how much. He wanted to unzip her and get inside her, to feel part of her every hour of every day. He surprised himself. Of course he'd had girlfriends before. His mind went back to a beautiful brunette with twinkling eyes and an infectious laugh.

Terry was always going to be the one for him. He'd even promised to marry her, to make her Mrs Starsky until the day she died. He smiled bitterly. Yeah, death came a bit too quick for you, honey, didn't it? he thought. Gunned down by Prudholm's goon in a supermarket heist, a fragment of a bullet lodged in her head, she only lived a week after that.

Gently, Starsky bent down to stroke the blond silky hair on the pillow. I'm never gonna let anything like that happen to you, sweetheart, he vowed silently. Straightening, he groaned again, as his back and side protested and made his way into the shower hoping the hot water would ease away his aches and pains. He stood braced against the shower wall, allowing the cascade of hot water to beat down on him, washing away the memories of last night.

Later, shaved, combed, dried and dressed, he quietly let himself out of his apartment and got into his car. Noticing it was only 7.45, he smiled at the look he knew his partner would have, when he actually got to his apartment on time. Starsky could never get over the fact that Hutch was so untidy, but such a stickler for punctuality. And yet, he never appreciated Starsky's choice of timepiece — what was it with that? He shrugged, then winced and hoped he'd feel better as the day went on.


Ten minutes later, he drew up outside Hutch's apartment at Venice Place. He got slowly out of the car and pushed open the front door to the apartment block and climbed the stairs. Hutch never locked his door when he was home, so the brunette cautiously pushed it open and went in, just in case Liz had decided to stay the night. He could hear his partner of seven years in the bathroom, still singing. He'd never tell him, but Starsky loved the sound of the blonde's voice, whether it was singing or talking.

Hutch had a way of talking that made people listen. Often pausing before speaking and running his tongue over his bottom lip a little, it made people take notice. Starsky thought about all the times he'd listened to that voice over the years. Of all the times Hutch had been the voice of reason when for one thing or another, he'd gone ranting and raving off the deep end. It usually happened in Dobey's office and Dobey had once told the brunette he had an over developed sense of injustice. Starsky was getting angry that the DEA weren't following through on leads they were giving them, and one of their informants was found dead. As he was winding up for the grand finale, Hutch had put his hand on his partner's shoulder and carefully and gently steered him outside, telling him not to be so fucking stupid and to calm down. For anyone else to have said that, they would have received a famous Starsky left hook, but with the blond and his magic voice it was different.

There were other times too, when his partner's voice was even more important to him. They were the times when he was hurt and needed a focus to help him through his pain. Hutch was his constant. Hutch's low comforting tones could help him get through the rough times. He smiled at the thought of the time Bellamy had shot him full of God knows what. Sitting on the steps in that back alley, he'd finally admitted to Hutch how much he was hurting. His partner had pulled him into a bear hug and had murmured 'I got ya, buddy, I got ya'. At the hospital he'd continued to talk. About the night; about the weather; about work. Anything to keep the brunette with him, in the here and now. Starsky could hold on to that voice like it was a physical being.

Or another time when he'd taken a bullet in the back whilst in an Italian restaurant. Lying on the floor, wondering just what had hit him, he could hear that voice, now raw with emotion, telling the goons that he was going to get to his partner, and they could shoot him too if they'd wanted. It was that voice that had made them stop and allow Hutch to help him, and that voice that calmly took care of him. 'One put a little crease in that thick scull of yours and the other hit your shoulder'.

Starsky exited his reverie as the golden blond came out of his bathroom and staggered theatrically as he saw the brunette. 'What's up Starsk? Ross thrown you out already?' he asked

'No' he answered, a little too sharply, then backed down. 'Couldn't sleep. Its probably the excitement of knowing we can sit in my car all day drinking cups of coffee and watching a house where no one will call and nothing will happen. — It'll get to me every time!'

His partner chuckled. 'Well, you always said you joined the force for the excitement of it! Ready to roll, partner?' Hutch reached for a bottle of greyish coloured liquid, and tucking it under his arm, walked towards the door.

'What's that?' the brunette asked, making a face,

'Wheat germ, desiccated liver, vitamin E and live yoghurt' the blond answered with relish. 'Keep me going all day. And I made enough for two!'


Hutch couldn't help noticing how his partner moved as they went out to the car. Kind of stiff, not his usual cocky walk — he liked to think of it as Starsky's strut. It didn't really worry him, he was just curious. Maybe he'd slept in a funny position in bed?

'You OK Gordo?' he asked as they got into the car, and caught another wince.

'Yeah, fine' the brunette lied. 'Why d'ya ask?'

'Oh, nothing. Just thought that pretty lady of yours might be getting a bit too much for you to handle, ya know?' he wiggled his eyebrows and put on a lecherous look.

'I said I'm fine OK' Starsky said, a little louder than he'd intended, then softened his voice. 'Just a bit tired. Didn't sleep too well. Sorry'.

He started the engine and 20 minutes later, they took up position near Morito's house, where they could see what (if anything) went on, but Morito and his goons couldn't see them. They settled in to wait, Hutch pouring a little of his shake into a Styrofoam cup, and Starsky hunkering down in his seat, resting his curly head against the window.

By noon, both men were bored rigid. They'd exhausted the 'I spy' topic and had run out of quotes for their favourite game — a conversation using nothing more than quotes from films. After Hutch had said '....plane crash, Oh what a bloody silly thing to do' from Reach for the Sky and Starsky had responded with '......but I expect you to die, Mr Bond' from Goldfinger, they were silent for a while.

Just as Hutch thought his back would go to sleep if he had to sit in the car any longer, Starsky sat up in his seat and nudged the blond. Three men were coming out of the house and climbing into a car across the road. As the car pulled away, Starsky started the engine and, keeping a discrete distance from them, started to tail them.

It wasn't until they had been going for perhaps six miles, down towards the docks, that the driver of the car in front realised they were being followed. Suddenly the speed hiked up, and the car surged forward.

'They've clocked us' Starsky said, as he put his foot to the floor to follow. Starting the siren and placing the mars light on the roof of the car, Hutch clung on to the passenger grab, to save himself being flung about as the big red car negotiated corners and junctions. Starsky's face was a picture of concentration as he nursed his baby through the down town traffic and out onto the coast road, staying within 50 yards of the car in front. The car turned onto a dirt track, sending up a plume of dust and set off again at speed. The Torino side slipped as Starsky turned the wheel quickly, the back end slipping away from him. He righted the car and followed, the blond thanking his lucky stars that at least the striped tomato had good suspension. The pot holes on the road meant that his back was not going to like him in the morning.

The dirt road petered out after about a mile, and the two detectives came across the black sedan they had been following. It was empty, the doors still open wide. The brunette stopped the car and both men drew their guns. Starsky checked the 15 bullet clip on his small Beretta, thumbing off the safety, as Hutch checked that each chamber of his big Colt held a bullet. What Starsky's weapon made up for in numbers of rounds, Hutch's equalled in fire power.

Both men cautiously got out of the car and cast around them for signs of the fleeing criminals. Hutch caught sight of the back of one of the men, and was immediately running after him, his long legs powering him down the uneven path. The brunette was only a second behind, as the came to a small clearing with a tiny lake at it's centre.

Both detectives picked a tree and rested their backs against it, catching their breath and listening. A shot rang out, sending splinters of wood pinging past the blonde's head. Starsky took a chance and ducked round the tree, taking quick aim and firing. He was rewarded with a shout of pain, and one of the three fell to the ground. He looked over at his partner, still breathing heavily.

'One down, two to go. I'll run for the other side of the lake. Cover me?' he said as he readied himself for the sprint.

Hutch nodded and took up a firing position, steadying his hand against the side of the tree trunk. At a quick nod, he laid down six covering shots in rapid succession and the nimble brunette ducked out and ran around the lake, looking for cover in another clump of trees. From there, he could see another of the men who was concentrating on where the shots were coming from. He didn't see Starsky as the dark haired detective crept up behind him. Putting his gun to the man's head he hissed 'Thumbs in your ears, punk'.

The shocked man dropped his gun and did as instructed.

Starsky took out his handcuffs. 'Now, hug the tree' he instructed as the terrified man reached around the trunk with both hands. Snapping the cuffs on and immobilising the man, Starsky realised there had been silence for a couple of minutes.

Still hiding behind the tree he shouted 'You OK partner?'

'Oh just fine and dandy here. Enjoying the ambience, ya know' came the reply. 'You coming back anytime soon?'

Starsky looked around him just in time to see the third man creeping up behind him. He turned just as the man got to him, but was off balance, and as the other man hit, both fell to the ground, rolling over and over trying to find some purchase amongst the leaf litter. With a final roll, both ended in the water, the man on top of the brunette, forcing his face down below the surface.

Starsky thought his lungs would burst. He was out of breath anyway from the running and brief fight and hadn't had time to take a breath as his head went under the water. Pushing up with all his strength, he suddenly felt the other man's weight lifted from his body. He turned over in the muddy water to see Hutch standing over his assailant, pointing his gun.

'What kept ya?' he gasped, trying to get up out of the water, but being dragged down by the weight of his wet clothes.

'Oh, just like to see you having fun, splashing about with your friends' the blond replied, extending a hand to his partner.

Regaining his feet and giving Hutch a dirty look, Starsky looked at the third man. 'Just who the fuck is employing you?' he asked angrily, not expecting an answer.

The man looked him in the eyes. 'Your nemesis', he said. 'Gunther Industries'.

The two detectives looked at each other. 'Never heard of them' they said, gathering up their stuff.

The man smiled grimly. 'Mr Gunther is new in town, but I'm sure you'll get to know him'.

Starsky shrugged and squelched his way back to the car and called in the arrest to the metro, asking for black and white back up, and as he waited, took each of his blue Adidas off and emptied the lake water from them.


An hour later they were back at their office, both dirty and sweating, and Starsky beginning to look like the creature from the black lagoon. Once they'd handed over to the custody sergeant, both headed upstairs to the showers and for a change of clothing.

As Hutch started to get undressed, he realised the brunette wasn't.

'What's up Gordo? If ya don't get out of those wet clothes soon, you'll catch your death' he asked.

Starsky was looking uncomfortably at his watch. It was way past the time he'd said he be home and the thought of undressing now — he wasn't in the mood for a question and answer session.

Looking over apologetically at the blond, he made an excuse. 'Left my change of clothes at home. Its no use taking a shower now, then getting back into these dirty ones. I'll head off home an' see ya tomorrow'.

Hutch looked over at his retreating back then at Starsky's clothes hanging neatly in his locker and wondered just what was going on

Chapter 3

Getting towards his home Starsky started to get a little panicked. He'd told Ross he'd be home by 5.30 and it was close to 8.00pm now. He knew she worried and didn't want a repeat performance of last night. He felt dirty and his damp clothes still clung to his lean frame, itching slightly. Ducking inside, he headed straight for the bathroom, closing and bolting the door behind him.

Turning on the shower, he started to strip off the wet clothes, puddling them in a heap on the floor. Gingerly, he looked down and pressed at the blossoming bruises on his left side, twisting slightly to look at this back in the mirror. There were bruises there too, in long lines across his back, and he was glad his partner hadn't seen the mess he was in.

When Ross had found the card from 'The Pink Angel' in his top pocket she'd lost it completely. She'd taken hold of the broom handle and had used it liberally on his body. Starsky didn't want to hurt her. He'd just stood there, with his arms up protecting his head and face as she'd laid into him. In fact, he knew it was probably all his fault that she'd got mad in the first place. Why on earth would she do this otherwise? They loved each other so much. He must have deserved it. But it didn't make it any easier doing a days work when he was hurting so much. It had really taken it out of him cashing those flakes round the lake, and that dive down into the water at the end really aggravated his side. He wondered if he'd broken anything. He chuckled grimly at the irony. If it had happened in the line of duty, Dobey would have given him a week's leave.

He stepped into the shower and soaped his tired body, washing away the mud smell from his hair and skin. Content finally that he resembled a human being again, he turned the water off and dried himself, finger combing his hair, so that the curls laid reasonably flat. He was just looking in the mirror to check, when Ross started banging on the bathroom door. He sighed, moving across and unbolting it, as the blond fury entered.


The next morning, Hutch was not surprised to find that once again his partner was not on time. He'd had a phone call the night before, which, for Starsky was odd. The only thing the brunette said was that he'd meet at the Metro, rather than have Hutch pick him up at home. Hutch didn't question it, just agreed and put down the phone.

So now he sat at his desk, reading through he files and the statements that had been taken from the three guys the previous day and hoping the brunette would appear before the Captain realised he was late again.

Hutch was engrossed in his file on Gunther Industries when the telephone on his desk rang. Putting down his coffee cup and punching the line button he answered 'Hutchinson'.

'Hey partner, that you?' Starsky's voice sounded on the other end of the line. 'Ah......I'm not coming in today. I'm not well. Think it was all that lake water I drank yesterday, ya know. Just a bit feverish. I should be back tomorrow though. I'll let ya know'.

Hutch listened. In all his years of working with the brunette, he'd never known him take a day off sick, unless he'd been badly hurt on the job. He even came in when he had flu, although it was probably more for the sympathy vote than to do any police work. Hutch would be the first to admit that whilst Starsky was the bravest, toughest guy he knew when he was in great pain, little things like colds and paper cuts left him quivering and turning to anyone for tea and sympathy.

'Can I get you anything?' he asked. 'Should I come over?'

'No'. the word came out almost like a shout. 'No, I'm fine; just need a bit of sleep. I'll be OK. See you tomorrow'.

The phone went dead and Hutch was left staring at it, his suspicions now thoroughly raised. He sat back in his chair and wondered what to do. Should he go with his gut instinct and ignore the brunette's plea to stay away? Or should he just leave the fuck alone and let things work themselves out? After all Starsky was a big boy and could look after himself. He sighed. What would you do Gordo?

Hutch went back to his files, reading through the information Morito and his two men had given him yesterday. The arms shipment was coming in today at 16.00 and he had spent the time so far getting together the men needed to cover the docks and recover the shipment. He'd organised the black and whites and the extra men coming in on their rest days. But he'd been counting on his partner to back him up. Neither man ever felt completely safe on a heist unless the other was there watching his back. He sighed again.

This feeling that something was wrong just wasn't going to go away and he knew he had to act on it. Putting the file back on his desk, he made a decision and stood up, straightening his holster under his jacket. Calling in at Dobey's office, he told his Captain that he was going to check on his sick partner. Ignoring Dobey's raised eyebrow, he walked out and closed the door behind him.


On his way over to Starsky's apartment, Hutch tried to decide how to handle this. He knew that if his partner was definitely sick, he wouldn't mind Hutch being there, especially if Ross had had to go to work. If, on the other hand, this was a cover for something else, the brunette was going to be madder than hell. Hutch's conscience was clear though. He'd rather have Starsky mad at him, but OK, rather than on his own and sick.

As he pulled up on the drive he checked that Ross' car wasn't there. He got out and heaved a calming breath before going up the steps and knocking on the door. There was no response. He tried again, knowing that the Torino was parked beneath them. Still nothing. Cautiously pushing the door open, gun drawn, Hutch eased himself inside, crouching down to make himself less visible to anyone who may decide to take a pot shot at him. The interior was dim and he couldn't see anyone. He stood and made his way further in, still careful.

There was no one in the kitchen area and Hutch was just beginning to think that his partner was playing hooky for the day, when he heard a noise from the bedroom.

Hutch pushed the door open quietly, ready to shut it quickly if it turned out Starsky and Ross were...........well.

He peeked inside and saw his partner lying on the bed, facing away from him. Entering he said gently 'Starsk?'

The man on the bed jumped and looked round.

Hutch gasped. Starsky's left eye was swollen closed, a ring of black around it, making that side of his face look like a panda. There was a scratch leading from it down his cheek to end just above his lips. The blond crossed quickly to the bed and sat down, eliciting a groan from the brunette.

'Told ya not to come', he mumbled, looking embarrassed. 'Just leave me alone. I'm fine'

'Well ya don't look fine to me, hot shot. What happened?'

Starsky's back was still turned, his voice muffled by the pillow. 'Would ya believe I walked into a door?'

'No. And that's the lamest excuse I ever heard. Come here an' let me look at you' the blond said, tugging the bedclothes from around the smaller man. Again, he stopped, staring at the bruises that decorated the dark haired man's torso. 'Jeez Starsk! OK that's it. Ya gonna tell me what's goin' on?' he asked angrily. 'First ya ring in sick, which ya never do. Then I come over here an' I see you with the best shiner I've seen in a long time, which you say is caused by a door, and now this' he waved his hand at his partner's body, sickened at the sight of the multiple colours blossoming on the otherwise olive toned skin.

Starsky pushed himself up to a sitting position, wincing at the movement. His face was sad. He looked like a little lost boy. Without raising his eyes from the bed covers, he sighed.

'It was my fault. I was late home an' when I got here, I took a shower, so I was in the bathroom'.

Hutch swallowed. 'Oh my God Starsk. Was there someone in the house? Did ya call it in? Where's Ross? Who did this to ya, buddy?'.

A tear rolled down the brunette's face as he stared imploringly into his blond partners eyes. 'She did' he whispered.

Chapter 4

'And then he told me that she'd hurt him before. Gods, Captain. We come across domestic violence every day and we always say the same thing. They should get out of the relationship, and stay out of it. I never thought Starsky could be a victim. He's so big and strong'.

The blond was sat in Dobey's office, the door closed to everyone else. He'd come back from a couple of hours with his partner, getting him pain meds and making him tea, and now he needed to talk this over with someone. He was so used to the brunette being strong and independent. Starsky wasn't afraid of his emotions, but he didn't usually let them get in the way of his sensibilities. At his apartment eventually, the brunette had drifted off into a restless sleep, the aches and pains finally abating slightly. But before that, Hutch had tried to reason with the smaller man.

'Just get her out of here, Starsk. There's nothing else for it. She's hurting you'. He tried to keep his voice reasonable, but there was an edge of anger to it. He didn't know whether the anger was directed at the woman for causing the injuries to his best friend, or at Starsky because he wouldn't see sense.

'I got her mad, Hutch' he'd tried to explain. 'It was my fault. I was late an' she'd been cookin' and I ignored her. Sure, she went a bit over the top, but I was to blame. We love each other'.

The blond had snorted. 'Weird kind of love Pal! A bit over the top? Look at you. I've seen you in better shape than this after you've been worked over by our wonderful clientele. Just listen to yourself. You're talking like all those sad women we see day after day. Victims of abusive husbands, but they won't leave — "he only does it coz he loves me, officer!". This is no different'.

'It is different. Its all the difference in the world' the brunette had shouted. 'She loves me an' I love her. If you're gonna dis. her, then get out. I don't wanna hear it, OK? Ya know, I come home sometimes and she's what makes the day worthwhile. She's the first real girl I've had since Terry. I know I've had a few casual friends, but she wants me and she needs me. Yeah, I know she's got a temper, but I can work on that. She needs my help as much as I love her being here. When she's.........done somethin' like this, she's always so sorry, an' my heart goes out to her. She's promised to get help. She won't do it again'.

'Oh you pig headed, mush brained, idiotic, romantic lug. Can't you see what's happening here? You might love each other, but are ya gonna survive to see how it all pans out, huh?' he let his arms land at his sides in defeat, wondering what to say or do next, and deciding whether to go or not. 'This is an offence, an assault on another human being. Put yourself in my shoes, Gordo. I should call this in now!'

'Don't "Gordo" me. An' if ya call it in, that'll be the end of us for ever, d'ya hear?' Starsky shouted. 'What's gonna happen if ya call it in, huh? I go down to the squad room, an' every guy in there is gonna be sayin "hey, that's Dave Starsky, he's the guy who lets women beat him up". Not gonna happen, Hutch, never. I can handle this'.

'You might be able to handle it Partner' Hutch said gently, 'but can I?' He got up and started walking towards the door, convinced he couldn't hear any more of this from the guy he loved.

But Hutch had stayed and they'd both calmed down, changing the subject for a while. Hutch had asked if the brunette wanted to get checked over at the hospital, but Starsky had refused, making light of his injuries, even though Hutch could still see the pain lines round his mouth and eyes. The blond wondered at how his friend had survived the previous days events whilst being so banged up, without ever letting on. No wonder he didn't want to be seen in the shower.

He'd stayed longer then he'd originally intended. Starsky hadn't wanted to get out if his bed, so Hutch had eventually brought in extra pillows and propped himself up on the bed next to the smaller man. The closeness they'd always shared seemed to permeate the once frosty atmosphere and the brunette relaxed a little. There it was — that voice thing again. He listened to the blond, not really taking in the words, just floating along on the comforting tones. For just a little while it was back to that old thing — Me and Thee.

Hutch got softly off the bed and let himself out of the apartment once he'd seen his partner's head nod back on the pillow, certain now that the brunette was getting some rest and headed back to headquarters.


Dobey had his head in his hands. 'I know its hard, Hutch, but he's gotta make his own decisions. The only thing you can do is to be there for him. If you start telling him she's no good for him every time you two are together, then your partnership isn't going to last that long'.

'Captain, at the rate she's hurting him, there's not gonna be a Starsky to be there for. She'll kill him one day', Hutch countered, then quietened. 'Course I'll be there for him. I just don't want to be the one to identify him in the morgue when things get really ugly'.

'Oh come on Hutch' Dobey said. 'That's a bit dramatic, isn't it? It won't come to that. You'll see. They'll work all this out and live happily ever after'.

The blond had shrugged his shoulders, still to be convinced. 'Hope you're right, Cap, hope you're right'.


Hutch drove over to the docks later that afternoon, acutely aware of the absence of his partner at his side. He met with Samuels and Blenkinsop at the pre-arranged location, noting that the black and whites were well hidden, the patrolmen on rooftops and hidden in doorways, rifles at the ready.

It was a desolate spot. A vast acreage of concrete with big warehouses either side of a roadway. The buildings brooded there, not allowing the sun to shine down onto the road because of their bulk. Hutch shivered slightly, feeling that something wasn't right. He snickered to himself. Of course it isn't right, my partner isn't here.

At the agreed time, two cars rolled onto the dock road and pulled up outside the warehouse labelled Gunther Transport. Eight men got out and hurried inside, nervously glancing over their shoulders as they went. Hutch nodded to Samuels and his partner and the three moved soundlessly towards the warehouse. Hutch could see the patrolmen moving carefully forward as he approached the doorway. As they got to the front of the big building, Samuels and Blenkinsop took up positions either side of the door, backs braced against the door jambs, guns pointing skyward. At a signal from the blond they shouted 'police freeze' as they whipped round, aiming into the building. Hutch ran forward, hoping the element of surprise was on his side and tried to duck to the left, his usual ploy when Starsky was with him, so that the brunette could cover his right hand side.

He'd forgotten for a moment that his partner wasn't there and as he dove for cover, he was surrounded by a hail of bullets. He remembered diving for cover, he remembered Samuels yelling for the patrolmen to cover him, and he remembered a stinging hot pain in his right thigh as his head made contact with the wooden crate of Kalashnikovs and the world blinked out.


Hutch came to in the back of the ambulance with one mother of a headache. His head felt like it was full of cotton wool, and he looked around automatically for his partner. Starsky, of course, wasn't there, he remembered now. He looked over to the other stretcher at the other side of the vehicle and saw a patrolman's black uniform. Lifting his head slightly, he saw that the face was covered with an oxygen mask and the medic was working to stop some pretty heavy bleeding from the man's chest.

Realising he had a drip but no oxygen, Hutch surmised he wasn't badly hurt, and struggled to sit up, unnoticed by the other occupants of the ambulance. He tried to swing his legs over the side of the stretcher, but a pain lanced through his right leg and he suddenly remembered the bullet hitting. He laid back and tried to enjoy the rest of the ride, cursing the fact that the brunette wasn't with him.

The van drew up at Memorial and the back doors opened to reveal the big brown bulk of Dobey, looking worried. Hutch made a valiant attempt at a wave as his stretcher was disembarked the ambulance and wheeled into the ER, his Captain following. It felt strange to be there on his own. He was used to his partner being there with him, offering support, or a hand to hold, or telling the medical staff what they ought to do. It was far too quiet without him.

Transferred onto a bed he lay and waited for the doctor to appear, looking up at the ceiling and glancing at the drawers full of equipment at the side of the bay. Finally he was seen by one of the junior doctors and sent for an xray on his head and another on his thigh, to determine the whereabouts of the bullet.


Three hours later Hutch was back in his bed, shaking off the last vestiges of his headache. He'd been told he had a slight concussion and had finally been given some pain relief. The bullet in his leg was quite close the surface and had been removed under a local anaesthetic, his leg now wrapped in a white gauze dressing. Dobey had been by his bedside throughout the past couple of hours, and although no substitute for Starsky, he was at least company to while away the hours until he could go home.

They had continued to discuss the heist that afternoon, dissecting each move. The whole operation had gone down well, the eight men having been arrested and the arms shipment — some 1500 guns of various types plus about $500,000 worth of ammunition confiscated to be melted down into paper clips and suchlike. The only thing they hadn't got was the elusive Gunther. Hutch couldn't help thinking they hadn't heard the last of him, but they'd done all they could this day.

Dobey was happy at the outcome and sat at the blonde's bedside writing out the report as Hutch dictated it. Samuels and Blenkinsop, who were both uninjured popped in to see him for a moment and offered him a lift home, but Dobey already had that covered. Again, a departure from the norm, when his partner would usually fuss over him, getting him to bed and making up an uncomfortable bed on the settee, just in case he needed anything during the night. Irritating as hell whilst it was happening, he suddenly missed the brunette's ministrations.

Finally the doctor came by, shone her light in his eyes one more time, and pronounced him fit to leave. He eased himself back into his clothes, noting that he'd have to buy yet another pair of trousers as his now had a rather attractive hole in them, and with Dobey in tow, made his way back down to the exit, via the emergency room — the closest exit to the car park, his crutches clicking in time on the tile floor.

As they were making their way out there was a commotion and he heard one of the doctors shouting towards a nurse. 'Get a Foleys and keep the pressure on. If we don't stop this bleeding now, he's not going to make it any further'. The curtain swished back and Hutch caught sight of a tall, tanned muscular male body, dressed in blue jeans and blue tee shirt and covered in blood on an ER bed, curly mahogany brown hair resting against the white sheet, and a silver ring on its little finger.

Chapter 5

Hutch dropped his crutches and pushed his way into the cubicle shouting Starsky's name, ignoring the shouts of the medical staff and hoping against hope that this wasn't who he thought it was. He took in the soft blue jeans, now caked in blood, the equally bloody blue tee shirt with the collar and white pattern round the neck and the handsome face, now covered in gore. Starsky was lying very still.

A doctor was pressing his hand firmly against the side of his partner's neck trying to stem the flow of blood gushing from his artery. What bit of Starsky's face Hutch could see was pale, his eyes closed.

'Who is this? Get this man out of here now' one of the doctors shouted as a security officer approached, taking hold of Hutch's arm. The blond fought against the man, wanting to be with his partner. Wanting to be there to comfort him and hold him, telling him everything would be OK, but he was forcibly ejected from the small cubicle as a nurse came running back with a tray containing medical equipment.

'Sir, you mustn't go in there. There's a very seriously injured man in there and he needs treatment now' the security guard said, still holding on to the blonde's arm 'Calm down and sit over there, or I'll be forced to eject you from the hospital'.

But Hutch was still struggling. 'You don't understand, he's my partner. We're police officers. I need to get to him, now. STARSKYYY' he shouted, trying to pull his arm away, beside himself with horror.

The security guard held on tighter as Dobey took Hutch's other arm. 'Come on son', the black man said softly. 'Sit over here an' we can find out what's happening'. He pulled the big blond over to a row of chairs and pushed him down onto one of them. Turning, he asked in an authoritative voice 'Who brought that man in?'

A paramedic standing just outside the cubicle put up his hand. 'Me and my partner brought him in. Are you a friend?'

'I'm his boss, an' this is his partner. What's gone on?'

The paramedic shrugged his shoulders. 'We got an emergency call to go to the address. When we got there, we found that guy with a stab wound to his neck, blood all over the place, and a woman — the one who'd called it in — sat on a chair in another room. He was still conscious when we got there and was holding onto his neck. She was rocking backwards and forwards, covered in blood and still had a knife in her hands. She didn't help him, she seemed not to know where she was. I called the police and they took her away. Don't think there'll be any problem with a prosecution — she kept muttering "I'm sorry" over and over again'.

Dobey thanked him and turned back to the blond. 'I'm gonna call the Metro and see what's happening. Are you going to behave whilst I'm gone? You're not gonna help Starsky by pushing your way in there. He needs the doctors to do their work without interruption, ya hear?'

Hutch sat with his elbows resting on his knees, head in his hands. The initial anger was gone, replaced now by worry for the brunette. He looked up at his Captain, blinking as if seeing the black man for the first time. 'I told you this would happen. I told Starsk it would'. His voice was thick with emotion. 'God, I should just have called it in this morning and had done with it. If I'd stayed with him, he'd be OK now'. His head went down again in defeat.

Dobey rested a hand on his shoulder, his heart going out to both his men. 'You couldn't have called it in, and you know that. Starsky would never have let you. And as for being there — you can't be there 24 hours a day and seven days a week. You're his partner, not his keeper. Just hang in there, and I'll be back in a minute'. He headed for the payphone.

Hutch sat on the chair feeling weak with emotion. So many thoughts going through his head. Why had he left Starsky this morning? Why hadn't he been able to persuade the brunette to pack Ross off there and then? Why did this have to happen to his partner? He felt physically sick as he watched the comings and goings from inside the cubicle, the picture of the smaller man sat up in the bed that morning playing over and over in his head.

He remembered his partner's voice . 'She loves me an' I love her. If you're gonna dis. her, then get out. I don't wanna hear it, OK? It played out like a cine film looping time after time, emphasising just how useless the blond felt. Why hadn't he just ignored the brunette and called in the offence? Why didn't he go after Ross there and then? But he knew that he couldn't do those things. Starsky had threatened the blond that interference would mean their friendship was over, and that was unthinkable.


Inside the cubicle, the doctors were working fast. They didn't have sufficient time to stabilise the man to get him to the OR without him bleeding to death. Any treatment had to be immediate. As one set of medics were getting central lines in for fluid and blood, another team were assessing the rapidly bleeding wound as it sent out squirts of bright red blood in time with the beating of the strained heart. In an act of desperation, the Doctor in charge had asked for a Foley catheter. Usually used as a catheter into the bladder, the thin flexible tube had a port at one side, leading to a double walled area on the main tube. Once distilled water was injected into the port, the small balloon would fill, gripping the sides of the urethra and stopping the catheter from coming out. It was this balloon that the doctor was now using to plug up the hole in Starsky's neck caused by the blade being stabbed in there.

With great care, he inserted the ballooned area of the tube and, once placed to his satisfaction, the nurse filled it with the water. It held, and finally, after several pints of the brunette's blood had decorated the floor of the cubicle, the bleeding slowed to a slow ooze. Checking to see that it was holding, the doctor gave the command to move the brunette up to the OR for life saving surgery to close the wound.


As the curtains swished back and the stretcher raced past him, Hutch was once again on his feet. He was about to follow when one of the doctors stopped him.

'Are you the man who barged in earlier?' he asked angrily. 'Do you realise you could have killed him with that one action?' He looked at the tall blond as if he was a leper.

Hutch's world fell away from him as if the words were physical entities that struck him down. He couldn't hold on to reality any more just at this moment. His friend and partner was close to death because he'd been too gutless to do anything about it earlier, and now this doctor was telling him he could have finished the job by trying to get to him in that cubicle. The emotions he had felt in the past half hour, coupled with the meeting with his partner that morning and his own injuries was more than he could physically bear and with a small sigh, he passed out, his limp body falling to the floor of the ER.


Hutch awoke to hear Dobey's voice telling someone that he'd like a coffee, two sugars and black. He opened is eyes and raised his hand to his head, trying to get rid of the wooliness he felt. He took a moment to remember where he was.

Dobey saw the movement and stood up, to see the blond better. 'How ya doin' now?' he asked.

Hutch paused a moment. 'What happened?

'Doctor over there started balling you out, and you took a nosedive' his Captain explained. 'He didn't realise that you were Starsky's partner and that you'd been injured yourself. Anyhow, how d'you feel?'

'Been better' the blond replied, thickly. 'How's Starsk?'

'Still in theatre, but the Doc over there seems to think he'll be OK. He lost a lot of blood, but they're sewing him up now. Do you want to sit up?'

Hutch heaved himself up and waited for the room to stop spinning. 'What about Ross?' he asked, feeling the anger welling up inside him again.

Dobey pursed his lips. 'I spoke with Simmonds. He arrested her at Starsky's apartment and took her down town. He said she was in a bad way. Didn't realise she'd done such a job on Starsky. She's seen her lawyer and been charged, but she's in Cabrillo at the moment pending hearing. Simmonds seems to think they'll commit her there rather than her going to jail'.

'I knew it would happen, Cap. I knew it would, but I didn't do a damn thing about it. God, I hope he's OK. If I could get my hands on her now I'd.............'

'I know, you'd be up for murder one. But it aint gonna happen Hutch, and ya know why? Coz your partner needs you now and that's who ya have to concentrate on. I'm giving you a leave of absence till he's ready to return to work. Do whatever you have to, coz I have the feeling it's going to be a long road back'.

Hutch smiled at the black man, knowing that he had the backup if he needed it. 'Which room will he be going in, do you know. I want to be there when he comes round'.

Chapter 6

Hospitals are quiet places at 4.00 in the morning. Well, most places are quiet at that time, but Hutch knew more about hospitals than most other places. He had lost count of the times he sat in a similar room to this one, his back protesting the hard wooden chairs as he waited to see if his partner would be alright.

This room, like so many others was spartanly furnished. There was the bed, of course, lit softly by a light which hovered over the still form under the single sheet. There were the usual monitors, a bedside cabinet and his hard chair. Nothing else was needed. Even the colour was the same as every other damn room. That horrible sickly pale green that was supposed to be restful. There was nothing restful about it. It made him want to scream at it. Scream at all the walls and yell about the injustice of it all.

He heaved a sigh and looked back to the bed. An absence of real colour there too. A white bed with white sheets and a large white dressing covering the neck of the very pale patient.

Starsky had been brought back to the room about two hours ago. He'd had his wound closed in theatre and had been given two units of blood so far. It was the only spot of colour Hutch could find, and he watched the little ruby droplets as they passed through the drip's plastic chamber and chased each other down in a river to Starsky's left arm. He'd counted them as they fell, willing each jewel to make his friend well again.

The brunette lay deathly still and had not recovered consciousness so far. Hutch held his hand and talked to him a little, but, truth to tell, he really didn't know what to say. Things had changed. Once, he would have talked about work, or a meal they could look forward to, or what had happened during the day. But now, all he wanted to talk about was Ross and how his blood boiled when he thought about her. He rubbed his hand over his face, running his fingers through his golden blond hair for the millionth time that hour.

Getting up to stretch his legs and ease the kinks from his back, he looked over to the still form in the bed, and saw a slight movement. He was back there in an instant as cobalt blue eyes cracked open a little, then closed again.

'Hey, Starsk. Are you with me buddy?' he asked gently.

The eyes opened a little wider and a very weak, thin voice said 'Utch? .......where?'

'You're in hospital, Starsk. Do you remember what happened, huh?

There was a pause, as if the brunette was rerunning the events of the past day. 'Ross............... knife..........hurts'.

'Ross isn't here, buddy. You've got a big old hole in your neck and you lost a lot of blood, but you're gonna be fine. I know it hurts, but I'm here. It's gonna be OK. I'm not leaving'.

The eyes opened again and searched his face. 'Ross.....not her fault......didn't mean......'

Hutch turned away, unsure if he could stop himself from saying something he might later regret. Swallowing hard, he faced his partner again. 'Hey, Gordo. We can talk about that later, when you're not hurtin' as much. Just go ahead an' sleep a bit now. Ya need all the beauty sleep you can get, ya know'.

There was a slight smile on Starsky's face. 'Only jealous......never be 's good lookin' 's me'. He paused, the exertion of talking taking its toll on him. 'Utch?.......... Glad you're.......'ere...................Don't go'.

'Aint goin' anywhere partner' the blond said, taking hold of the smaller man's hand and sitting down to continue his vigil.


Throughout the rest of the night, Starsky had tossed and turned fighting the effects of the pain killers. Occasionally his eyes would fly open for a moment, then he would sink back into sleep. Once, he shouted Ross' name, a strangled, rasping shout that tugged at Hutch's heart strings. He was there immediately, stroking the sweating forehead and pushing the curls back, allowing his fingers to tangle in the mahogany hair. He glared at the black eye and the bruises that were visible on his partner's chest, hatred for the woman who'd caused them growing hour by hour.

Hutch himself had little sleep even though his leg was giving him hell and his body longed to close down for a few hours. But his mind was still active, rerunning again and again the events of the last few days, always wondering if there was something he could have done or said to stop this happening. He felt somehow responsible for this, but couldn't logically work out why he should feel like that. He knew one thing. If he was so confused about the whole thing, he knew his partner would be screwed as hell. He sighed, knowing the coming weeks would not be easy.

He drifted off to sleep about 7.00 in the morning, and when the nurse came in to check on Starsky, she found the blonde's head resting on her patient's bed, the brunette's hand resting gently on it. She tried to work round him, knowing he'd been there all night. She thought she remembered them from a previous stay in hospital, and admired the way the two men watched each others backs. As she hung a new unit of blood, the final in a series of four, her hip jostled the bed and Hutch was immediately awake. She smiled at him and he smiled back. She asked him if he wanted a drink and brought him a black coffee.

Whether it was the smell of the powerful brew, or the movement in the room, Starsky woke from his sleep. He looked around, gasping as the movement pulled at the stitches and dressing on his neck. Seeing Hutch there, he swallowed and licked his dry lips.

'Hey blondie' he rasped. 'How ya doin?'

Hutch sat on the edge of the bed so that Starsky didn't have to move his head too much. 'I could ask you the same question' he said softly. 'Ya had us all worried for a while there, Gordo'.

The slight smile that had played on the brunette's lips faded. 'Sorry Hutch..... a bit worried myself for a while...... Didn't think I could get so much blood on the floor and still be alive'. He looked away shyly. He knew he would eventually have to talk about what had gone on, but didn't feel he had the strength to at that moment. He was just so very glad that Hutch was there, once again looking after him.

'You want to tell me about it?' Hutch asked calmly

The brunette closed his eyes, shutting out the look of compassion on his partner's face. He was embarrassed at what had happened. He knew he should have stopped it and fought back, but this was Ross, the woman he loved. And she'd told him so many times that she loved him too. So he'd just stood and taken the punishment again, not realising she had the knife.

'I can't Hutch. Not right now.........too tired' he exaggerated his tiredness a little, and Hutch let it go, knowing now was not the time to push.

As he saw the eyelids slide shut, the thick black lashes like dark smudges against the pale skin he thought No, not now, buddy, but soon. It'll have to be soon.


During the afternoon, Starsky awoke properly, the effects of all the pain meds finally working their way out of his system. He felt warm and tired. He couldn't express his gratitude to his partner for being there, Knowing the argument they had had the previous day (God, was it only a day ago?). He was just so happy to have the blond there, knowing when he did finally have to say what had gone on, Hutch was the one he wanted to tell.

He looked over at the blond who was out cold on the hard chair at the side of his bed. Gazing down at the silky blond hair, he saw a large lump blossoming towards Hutch's forehead. It brought a stab of pain back to the brunette, surmising that Hutch must have sustained the injury on the heist the previous afternoon. The heist he should have been on. The heist where he should have been watching his partner's back. Shit — another life he'd fucked up. He looked further and saw a white gauze dressing peeking out from the hole in Hutch's trouser leg, then the crutches leant against the wall by the chair. He closed his eyes and wondered just how many other people he could hurt.

Sleep wouldn't return and Starsky spent the next hour staring at the ceiling, his mind occupied with dark thoughts. His side and back hurt with that dull ache that accompanies a selection of bruises, and his neck hurt with a sharp immediate pain. He'd put his hand up once and felt the large dressing, wondering just how bad the damage was. He finally got his answer as the door to his room was pushed open by a young male doctor. The noise of the door woke the blond, and both men stared at the intruder.

The doctor smiled back, an encouraging smile, reserved for those he thought were hurting the most. He'd seen far more severe injuries in his fairly brief time as a medic, but something about a vital, strong man in the prime of his life almost bleeding to death on him had had a profound effect. He crossed to the bed and perched on the edge.

'Good afternoon, Mr Starsky. I'm Doctor Hanley. How are you feeling now?' he asked.

Starsky took an instant liking to the man. Although young, he seemed genuine and caring. He obviously hadn't had his bedside manner knocked out of him, like so many of the older doctors. 'Call me Dave, or Starsky' he said. 'I answer to both. I'm OK. Sore, tired, ya know'.

'I'm not surprised' the doctor responded. 'If you're ready I can go through a list of your injuries with you?'

At a nod from the brunette he continued. 'The main injury was the trauma to your neck. It looks to me like it was cause by a knife or some other bladed instrument? You lost about half your blood volume, and we've been busy replacing that. I repaired your torn carotid artery in theatre, and the good news is that you should have no lasting ill effects, so long as you take it easy for the next few weeks. You have also fractured your zygoma — your cheek bone. That should heal on it's own without any surgical intervention. It's a common injury with a blow to the face, such as caused your bruised eye. However what worries me most is that you also have two cracked ribs and multiple bruising around your back and side. Not insignificant bruising, at that. But what concerns me about those injuries are that some of them seem to be several days, or even weeks old. Can you explain, Dave?'

He heard the intake of breath from his partner, but ignored it — later, Blintz, later.

Starsky looked away. Yeah, he could explain, but he wasn't going to say anything to a complete stranger. Hell, it was going to be difficult enough telling Hutch. He knew he would have to tell the blond. That his partner of seven years wouldn't let this drop now, having heard the catalogue of injuries he'd sustained. He tried for the bravado approach. 'Hey, I'm a cop. We expect to be injured once in a while, Doc. I feel Ok now. When can I go home, now?'

The doctor may have been young but he wasn't stupid. But he was sensible enough to understand that his patient was hurting far more on the inside than the outside. Very gently, he said 'I think that might be too soon, Dave. I wonder.......would you talk to a colleague of mine. Her name is Doctor Russell. She's a psychiatrist'.

The brunette stared back at the doctor, not believing what he'd heard. No, he wouldn't see a head doctor, especially not a woman! He immediately raised his voice. 'Oh that's just great Doc. Ya think that's the answer to everything. If a guy won't talk, send him to a shrink. Well, I'll tell ya, Doc. I'm not one of your "new men" who spends hours talking about how not having a Mechano Set as a child impacted on them wanting to beat someone up as an adult. I can sort my own head out OK? Now, can I go home, or what?' exhausted by his outburst, he sunk back on the pillow.

The doctor rose, not surprised that the man had got angry, but disappointed that he wouldn't accept help. 'Do you have anyone to look after you?' he asked calmly. 'You need someone with you for the next 48 hours'.

Hutch stood up. 'I'll be there', he said, as Starsky looked gratefully at him.

The doctor left, to make arrangements for medicines and follow up appointments, leaving the two men together. Hutch considered asking his partner to reconsider the offer of professional help. Drawing a deep breath, he started 'Starsk, you should think about....' He was cut off short.

'Not you too, Hutch, please? Look I promise once I've got all this sorted out in my head, I'll tell you, OK'

'No, not OK partner' the blond rounded on him. 'The good doctor there has just told me that you've had some of these injuries for over a week. Ross moved in two weeks ago. Now you either start talking, or you stay here, coz I'm not going anywhere until I get some answers. Ya got that?'

Starsky's anger subsided. Dejectedly he answered 'Just take me home, and we can talk. 'M sorry. Ya know I hate these places. Just get me out of here and it'll be easier, OK?'

Chapter 7

Hutch had asked one of the squad guys to bring his car over to the hospital with some clothes for his partner to wear, and was now busy taking care of Starsky's antibiotics and pain meds. Taking the bottles and checking their labels so that he knew what to give and when, he went back into the room to see Starsky weakly trying to pull on his jeans. He smiled a little

'That'll teach ya for having 'em so tight' he chuckled. 'Here, let me help' and he reached down and pulled them over Starsky's slim hips.

Standing back, he watched as the brunette pulled the red tee shirt over his head, hiding the bruises over his body. Nothing now showed of his injuries save for the bruised eye and the white dressing on his neck.

'All set to roll?' he asked

'No arguments from me' Starsky replied, heading for the door.

They walked slowly down the corridor, down in the lift and out to the waiting car. Hutch opened the door, and Starsky got stiffly in, careful not to jar his neck and ribs too much. Hutch started the engine, and they drove in silence. They had been going about five minutes when the brunette looked up.

'Hey, this isn't the way to my apartment' he said.

Hutch shook his head. 'I kinda thought you might like a break from there. Memories a bit too close?'

Starsky was grateful all over again at his partner's understanding as he settled back into the leather seat and continued his morose staring at the brown interior of the car.

The drive took no more than 20 minutes and the car drew up outside Venice Place just as the clock was striking 11.00am. Hutch got out and walked round the car to open the door for the brunette who struggled out and stood swaying as Hutch opened the door. Starsky found it hard to get up the steps. His body felt heavy and tired. All he wanted to do was to go to bed and forget life. To curl himself up into a little ball and ignore the world. He felt stiff, sore, embarrassed and completely screwed up. He made his way into the familiar apartment and sat down heavily on the settee as Hutch busied himself with drinks and pills.

Eventually, Hutch finished his preparations, took his phone off the hook, locked the door and came to sit down on the chair next to his partner. He reached for his cup of coffee, sat back in his chair and fixed his gaze on the brunette.

Starsky returned the look, locking his eyes with the blond, challenging him to break the silence first. Hutch accepted that unspoken challenge.

'Well, we're not going to be disturbed. You've had your pills. We have drinks, so there's no reason for us not to have this talk', he said calmly. 'Oh, and if you were wondering, I'm not accepting excuses. I've known you for over seven years. I've seen you blind drunk, so looped on pain meds you couldn't think straight, madder than hell, but I've never seen you like this. An' I also know you well enough to know that you've been lying to me. Walking into doors! God, I'm not that much of an idiot you know'.

There was an uncomfortable pause, Starsky looking physically sick. How the hell was he supposed to tell Hutch what it was all about when he didn't really know himself. He knew he'd have to tell someone sooner or later, and he'd rather that someone be Hutch, the man he would trust his life to. He took a deep breath, trying to get the thoughts that were cascading through his head into some sort of order.

'I did really love her, ya know?' he started, quietly, his eyes searching his partner's for some sort of understanding.

Hutch pushed the lump in his throat down. 'I know ya did buddy, I know'.

'It was fine at first. I loved her being around. She had my sense of humour, she liked re-runs of black and white films. She even laughed at my jokes. She never said I was stupid, or called me mush brains. The sex was ......well, sensational. We'd spend long hours just sitting cuddled up and I really thought I'd found the one, Hutch. She was so perfect. An' then one day, I was late for a date an' she was like a different woman. She shouted and yelled and then she slapped me. Just the once. The look on her face afterwards! Gods, Hutch, she was so upset. She said she had issues, but that I made her feel good and she'd try to get over it. She said she been in an abusive relationship and was trying to come to terms with it. She caught me off guard and I really wanted to help her'.

He smiled a sad little smile.

'Didn't realise it was her that was the abusive one in the relationship. She said she'd get help an' I brought her some stuff home from work — names and addresses of counsellors'.

'She was fine for a few days, then it happened again, but it didn't stop with just one slap, she was like a wild thing, hitting and punching until I got her and held her to me and hung on till she stopped. All because I was late home for supper. God, she was so upset! An' I didn't know what to do. It's not like ya can go to work an' tell everyone your girlfriends beatin' up on ya. I could just imaging the laughin' that'd go on'. Starsky's voice broke and he looked towards the blond for help.

'Why didn't you stop it there and then, babe. You took on so much' he said gently.

The brunette gathered himself, folding his arms around his body, protectively. He tried to think of the best way to describe how he'd felt. He didn't understand fully, so how could anyone else? He cleared his throat, knowing that if anyone could understand it would be Hutch.

'I kept thinking about Terry and Emily and Rosie. They all suffered because of me. Terry didn't ask to get shot. She had her whole life ahead of her, and yet Prudholm had her shot to get back at me and there wasn't squat I could do about it. Then I shot Emily and made her go blind — she didn't ask for that. They were so pretty. An' then there was Rosie. Beautiful Rosie. We were good together but her Dad got in the way and I hurt her because she had to choose'. There were tears in the cobalt blue eyes now. He sniffed angrily and scrubbed his hand over his face.

'I don't understand' Hutch said. 'I don't understand what that has to do with Ross abusing you'.

'No, you wouldn't would ya? Mr Educated' Starsky shouted, anger coming unbidden. He took a deep calming breath. 'How could you, Hutch. I don't understand properly myself. You wouldn't understand that every time Ross hit me, it was like it was retribution for every time I hurt them. Every blow that Ross delivered was fitting, paying me back for Terry's bullet, for Emily's sight and for Rosie having to leave. It made it all OK. Every time I moved and felt the bruises and the cracked ribs, it was like a cleansing. If I was hurting so much, it was paying me back for what I'd done to them'. He was openly sobbing now.

'Hutch, don't you understand? I ...I wanted those pains. They w were mine and it was r right that I hurt, coz I'd m made them hurt. And all the time I loved Ross because she was making me pay back all the hurt I'd given to Terry and Emily and Rosie.

Oh God, I loved Terry so much, Hutch. Terry....... TERRY!..............' he shouted her name as if the volume it self would bring her back. 'Why'd she have to go? Why did she have to leave me?' his speech was robbed from him as sob after racking sob was wrenched from his chest.

Hutch was on the settee at the side of him, holding him and rocking him as the brunette poured his heart out, tears cascading down his cheeks as he released every last bit of anger and sadness at his losses. Starsky's fingers were wrapped in the folds of Hutch's pale blue shirt as he buried his head in his friend's chest. He felt like the weight of the world was taken from his shoulders as he sat there embracing the one person in the world he could open up to fully.

Hutch held him and rocked him, feeling the warm tears wet the front of his shirt as his partner let his grief go. He had always known that Starsky's grief at Terry's death had not really run its course, but for it to manifest itself in such an extreme way was more than the blond could comprehend.

As Starsky's sobs abated and his breathing became a little easier, Hutch gently pushed him back to look into his face, still maintaining contact and rubbing the brunette's arms.

'Ya got a lot to let go of there buddy. I had no idea. Gods, Starsk, why didn't you talk to me about it? We could have sorted it out together ya know'.

Starsky lifted his stormy blue eyes and gave such a look. One that didn't need words. A look that said "that's all I can give ya at the moment. Just give me time". Hutch understood.

'Why don't ya go an' lie down on the bed buddy? You must be completely bushed by now'. He got up and offered a hand to the smaller man. Starsky took the hand and leaned on his partner as they made their way to the bedroom. He lay carefully down on the bed, turning on his side, and looked at the blond.

'Thanks Blondie', he whispered. He watched as the blond got up from the bed. '.....'utch?'

'Yeah buddy'.

'Don't go'.


Hutch had stayed by his friend's side until Starsky's breathing assumed the quiet regularity of sleep. He felt almost as bushed as his friend obviously was, but there was one more thing he had to do.

He got up slowly and padded quietly out of the room, heading for the telephone. He dialled the number he knew off by heart and waited until he heard the gruff tones of his boss.


'Hutch here, Cap'n. Starsky's out of hospital. I've got him at my place. He's talking, but Gods, Cap, he's screwed up'.

'What ya gonna do?' the voice asked.

'I got an idea. Cap. I have a friend I met on a police exchange visit. She lives in England. I think if I can take Starsky away from all this, he might get better quicker'.

Dobey considered. The easier it made it on the curly haired detective the better, as far as he was concerned. 'Whatever it takes, Hutch. Just' he gave an embarrassed cough 'do what it takes'.


Later that evening, Starsky woke feeling stiff and sore. Noticing he was on his own in the room, he struggled off the bed and wandered into the lounge, to see his partner asleep on the settee, a pen and paper on his chest, copious numbers and amounts written on it. Knowing his partner must be just as tired as he was, Starsky padded into the kitchen and busied himself making drinks and scrambled eggs on toast. The smell of the cooking woke the blond and he sat up in surprise, groaning a little as his back protested the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

'Starsk? Hey, you OK?' he asked

The brunette nodded, shrugging. 'Been better. Ya want toast?' He brought the meal over to the coffee table in front of the blond.

'What's with the numbers?' he asked.

'Well, after you've given your statement tomorrow, we are going on a little trip. Take your mind off things for a while, ya know?'

The brunette's face had fallen. 'I'm not giving a statement'.


'You heard' he repeated 'I'm not giving a statement. She's gone, its finished'.

Hutch looked in disbelief. 'It may have escaped your notice that you nearly bled to death yesterday. That.......woman' Hutch couldn't think of a word bad enough to call her, 'nearly killed you. She beat you black and blue and stuck a knife in your neck, and you're not going to give a statement? Just what is it with you? I never took you for a masochist, ya dumb son of a bitch' he was shouting now, tiredness making his patience too thin.

Starsky stared at him as if he'd been hit. He'd never expected his partner to feel so strongly about all this. Sure, he'd been hurt, but wasn't this between him and Ross? He stopped a moment to think, trying to put himself in Hutch's shoes. What would I feel like, he thought.

'I can't give a statement' he pleaded. 'It's bad enough telling you all this. I can't tell anyone else. Please don't make me' he took hold of Hutch's arm. 'Please?'

Hutch sat him down feeling his anger dissipate. 'Starsk' he said as gently as he could. 'Look at what she did to you — to us — don't you want for her to get help? She'll never get it on her own, you know that now. If you don't give a statement, the state can't provide treatment for her. Starsky, look at me. She needs professional help. She's sick'.

Starsky put his head in his hands. He felt as though he were adrift in a stormy sea. Each way he looked he could see only trouble and hurt. He looked up at his friend beseechingly. 'Help me Hutch. Please help me'.

In the end, Hutch had written down Starsky's statement and read it back to him. It took all his self control to stop making comment when the brunette had explained what had gone on.

Ross had come home from work, tired. She'd seen that Starsky hadn't got up, but she'd never asked him why. She'd started banging pots and pans around in the kitchen, muttering and cursing. He'd got out of bed to go and see her and she'd turned on him, a knife in her hand. He hadn't seen it to begin with, until it was too late. He saw her raise her hand and had seen the gleam of metal as she'd brought the knife down and stabbed his neck. He'd stepped back in surprise, to see her staring at her blood coated hand. He'd backed up and managed to get back to his bedroom, clutching his neck, pressing as hard as he could to try and stop the bleeding, but realised that in itself wasn't enough. He'd sat down, knowing he should keep the wound above the level of his heart, and then he'd waited — whether it was for an ambulance, or death, he wasn't really sure — either was fine by him. The next thing he remembered was waking in hospital with Hutch bending over him.

At the end of the statement, both men were emotionally exhausted, and sat in silence for a while, each with their own thoughts. Hutch broke the quiet first and got up to go and wash his face, trying to ease away the strain of the day. When he came back into the room he told Starsky that they were going to England the next week, that they both needed he break.

'I know you're hurtin' buddy. We both are. We need to get away soon, coz this thing is eatin' you up. We both need time, an' I know just the place. Trust me?'

Starsky raised his heavy head and nodded.

Chapter 8

Starsky had slept a little better that night. The nightmares he'd been experiencing had abated and his pain was a little less. The two men had spent the rest of the evening watching television, drinking the occasional beer and resting. Hutch had even endured yet another Three Stooges rerun — anything to make the brunettes smile. They enjoyed the quietness and both relaxed a little as time went on.

As the evening wore on, Starsky had reluctantly taken the bed, whilst Hutch had once again laid down on the settee, even though his back hated every minute of it. But sleep wouldn't come. His mind went over and over what his friend had told him. He felt inadequate. He should have seen the signs that the brunette was hurting and needed help, but either he'd never really seen them, or he'd ignored them. Whichever, Hutch knew he'd let this partner down badly. He wanted to go to the hospital and face Ross. Tell her exactly what he thought of her. Tell her how much she'd hurt Starsky. Tell her everything the brunette had been through. But deep down, he knew that Ross was so sick that none of it would make a difference to her. He also knew that going to see Ross was the last thing Starsky would want him to do. And right at that moment, he would do anything to make his partner happy again. Sleep finally took him, but the dreams he had were all of the two of them in trouble, or hurting, and he woke feeling more tired than before he'd gone to sleep.

When Starsky awoke the next day, he felt fairly rested and ready to face a little more of the world. As Hutch busied himself making breakfast, he showered and shaved, careful not to get the dressing on his neck wet. They sat down to breakfast and as the brunette reached for his orange juice, he asked Hutch

'Where did you say Ross was?'

Hutch stopped in his tracks. 'I didn't buddy' he said carefully, 'Why do you ask?'

'I need to see her. Where is she?'

The blond sighed. 'She's in Cabrillo. She was a mess when they picked her up. Her lawyer had her admitted for her own protection. But why bring all that up again? Just leave her be, huh?'

But the brunette was adamant. 'Hutch she meant a lot to me. I know you won't understand this. Fuck, I don't even understand it myself. I know what she did was wrong, but I loved her, and I want to make sure she's OK and say goodbye to her properly. Can we go to Cabrillo, please? I need to do this'.

Hutch heaved a big sigh and reached for the phone, knowing that to refuse would launch another argument, and he was fresh out of energy for that right now. 'I'll ring and see if we can visit, but only if you really feel you have to. I don't think it's a good idea'.

'It's what the psychs call closure, Hutch. I need to see her', the look on the brunette's face saying that he'd made up his mind

So Hutch telephoned and made an appointment for that afternoon. As the time got closer, Starsky became more agitated and Hutch wondered whether he was doing the right thing in letting his friend go, but, once again, he knew he couldn't live with the brunette if he didn't get this chance. Eventually they got into the car and set of for the psychiatric hospital. As they drove along, Hutch had one last attempt at getting his partner to see what he thought was reason.

'Starsk, will ya just stop for a minute and think what we're doing? You've had a really bad time of this and you're weak. You've only been out of the hospital a day. Its taken you all your time to tell me just a small part of what you've been going through. Think again, buddy, please don't put yourself through this'.

But Starsky was adamant that he had to see Ross one last time, and so they arrived at the sweeping driveway leading up to the hospital's doors. Hutch gave a little shiver as he saw the hospital, remembering the last time they'd been there. He and his partner had been undercover to investigate a series of mysterious deaths and Starsky had played a patient called Rudy Skyler. He could still remember Starsky's description of being tied face down on the operating table as the good doctor had tried to use his experimental new drug on him. — why'd it always happen to Starsky?

He pushed his thoughts from his mind as they parked up and got out of the car. Starsky was still a little shaky and stiff and Hutch had his hand on his partner's arm as they mounted the steps and rang the bell to be let in.

A male nurse in a short white tunic answered and led them up the corridor and into a small interview type room. The doctor came to see them, holding out his hand as he came through the door.

'Good afternoon, I'm Doctor Michaels. I've been looking after Ross whilst she's been here. I believe you were her partner? Mr?'

'Starsky. David Starsky. Yes I'm.....I was her partner. His hand went automatically to the wound on his neck. How is she? Can you help her?' he asked, an almost pleading tone to his voice.

'I'm afraid Ross is really quite sick, as you are probably aware' the doctor looked at Starsky's various injuries. 'I'm not sure what reception you'll get Mr Starsky. Ross has been very agitated whilst she's been here. Are you sure you wish to see her?'

Starsky nodded, swallowing his fear down. 'Yeah, I want to see her. I need to see her'.

The Doctor nodded. 'I understand. I'll have her brought in, but I must insist on having a couple of nurses with her.......for your protection, you understand?'

He departed and Starsky looked round at his blond partner. 'Stay...... please?' he asked. Hutch nodded.

A minute or so later, the door was pushed open and Ross walked in, flanked by two psychiatric nurses. They paused at the door and Ross looked around her.

She was pale and the yellow wrap-around dress she wore did nothing to enhance her appearance. Her eyes were wild and she cast around, glancing momentarily at each person in the room. Finally her eyes rested on Starsky. He smiled at her.

'Ross', he said. 'It's me, David. Are you OK honey?' he took a hesitant step forward.

Her eyes cleared. 'David? Oh God David, thank God. Have you come to take me home? Please take me home David, I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry'. She walked across the room to him.

He held her as she reached up her hands and cupped his face, caressing it, rubbing her thumbs gently down his cheeks and dallying across his lips. Starsky pursed his lips and dotted gentle kisses onto her finger tips. Her hand went to the dressing on his neck. Tremulously she whispered 'I love you, David, I love you so much. Please take me home'.

He looked down into her face, forcing himself to harden his heart. 'I can't Ross. You're sick. You need these people to help you'.

No sooner had he said the words than she turned into a raving banshee, screaming and trying to tear at his face with her nails. He held her hands away from him, tears coming to his eyes, knowing he had lost her for good, and that no amount of loving would ever make her well. As the nurses came forward to drag her away from him, his hand stayed on her arms a fraction longer. 'I love you', he whispered.

But Ross was lost in her madness. She shrieked and cried as the two nurses held her. As she was lead away struggling with them, she was screaming 'I hate you, I hate you David Starsky' as loud as her voice would allow.

As the noise diminished down the hallway, Starsky slumped against the wall, slid down it until he was sitting on the ground, and put his head in his hands, sobbing, as his partner put a protective arm around him, wondering how he could turn this around.

Moments later, the doctor was back with the, seeing the state Starsky was in, he waited a while until the brunette had composed himself.

'How long is it since you were discharged form the hospital Mr Starsky?' he asked.


'You should be resting at home' the doctor went on. 'I insist you rest, Is that understood. I know you aren't a patient, but you are just as vulnerable as Ross is right now. I could arrange for you to talk to someone if you like?'

Hutch shook his head. 'We were offered that at Memorial, but my friend wants to work this out on his own. We'll work it through, Doc. Thanks'. He looked down at Starsky, who remained sat in a ball on the ground, his forehead resting on his arms.

The doctor continued. 'Well, if he won't see anyone, at least let me give him something to help him rest. Are you going to be with him the rest of the day?'

Hutch nodded. The doctor disappeared and came back a few minutes later with a syringe. He raised the sleeve of Starsky's jacket, swabbed a small area and sunk the needle in. The brunette didn't even look up as the doctor pushed the plunger home.

'It's a mild sedative' the doctor explained. 'get him home now and make sure he rests. He'll probably sleep for the rest of today. Then you can see what tomorrow brings. Just take it one day at a time, Mr Hutchinson. One day at a time'.


Chapter 9

Hutch managed to get Starsky back to his apartment and into bed before the drug's effects kicked in fully. The brunette had been worn out in the car on the way home and Hutch didn't have the heart to tell him that the outcome of the meeting was much as he thought it would be. He helped his partner inside, stripped off his outdoor clothes and eased him into bed. Starsky's eyes fluttered open just long enough for him to mutter thank you. He slept for a full 24 hours.

Whilst he had the time, Hutch made final arrangements for their trip. Waiting for an appropriate time, he rang England. As he dialled the international number and waited, he wondered what his partner would make of the place.

The telephone picked up at the other end. 'Hello?'

'Sam? It's Hutch, how are you?'

'Hutch? Its been too long. Good to hear you. Hey, this is a surprise. I'm fine. How are you?'

He smiled at her familiar tones. 'I'm good. Erm......Sam, I wonder if I can come and visit with you........and bring a friend?'

There was the briefest of pauses. 'Course you can. What a treat. Is your friend as cute as you? No don't answer that, let me wait to find out. When are you coming? Where are you staying? Do you want to stay with me? It'll be a bit crowded, but we'll manage'.

Sam's enthusiasm was infectious. 'Is next week too soon? I've got flight tickets. We land next Monday at Manchester. I've got a hire car. How far is your house from the airport?'

'About an hour. Have you got a pen there, I'll give you directions. Oo I'm so excited!' so Hutch had taken down the details and rung off.


Starsky was dreaming. In his dream he was back in the hospital room with Terry. The familiar pale walls, the cabinet with the lamp on it, and his lady, pale in the bed, a bullet in her head. He knew she was dying. They'd talked about it. About how she'd wanted to ride a big slide and really live the life she had left. What was it she was saying to him? He was sitting at her bedside, holding her hand. He'd told her he was thinking about life without her. She'd turned away and said 'Don't kid yourself. I'll always be there........ when you're scared or all alone............ Just close your eyes and try to remember me'. He was trying to remember her now because he could never remember being so scared or so alone.

And her beautiful, familiar face came to him. Her sparkling blue eyes filled with love. 'Its OK best friend' she said softly. 'You'll get over this. Just be brave. Talk to Hutch and look after Ollie. I'm still here'.

He smiled in his sleep and moved his arm as if to give her a cuddle, but met with empty space. She wasn't really there after all. He woke, still with the dream in his head, and felt a little better. The ache was still there. The feeling of betrayal, which he thought would never go away again, but he felt calmer, warm and relaxed. He looked at his watch. 3.30. Was that afternoon? Must be, the sun was shining through the curtains. But he'd got home from the hospital later than that!

Starsky got out of bed, feeling the stiffness of the last few days slipping away a little. He padded barefoot into the lounge, looking for his partner. Hutch was sitting reading and looked up as the brunette appeared.

'Hey, if it isn't Rip Van Winkle. How ya feeling buddy? Do you want a drink?'

Starsky headed fro the kitchen. 'I can manage. I feel like I've slept for a week'.

He heard a snort. 'Well its been nearly 24 hours. Do you feel any better?'

He paused and thought about it. Did he feel better? 'Yeah, a little, I think' he said. 'I had a dream about Terry'. He smiled at the memory. 'She said I had to talk to you and cuddle Ollie'.

'Well, that was one wise lady ya had there, buddy. You can talk to me all you like. Especially on the plane. Its an eleven hour flight!'

'Yeah? Eleven hours! Just where exactly are we going?'

Lancashire, England, Gordo. We fly to Manchester on Monday, then a friend is letting us stay at her's for a while. Nothing but moorland, hills, lakes and walks'.

Starsky snuffed 'yeah, and wind and rain. I've seen those black and white films. It's never sunny an' everyone goes round with a permanent head cold. Some vacation!'

'It's the end of May, dummy. The weather'll be.........well, like ya say, it's England. But you'll be away from here and you can forget everything for a while and take time to heal'.

The brunette admitted defeat. 'whatever you say, Blintz. Anything has got to be better than this'.


The next few days were taken up with packing, shopping and organising people to water Hutch's plants. On the Monday, Huggy Bear took them to LAX and stayed as their official 'sending off' committee. The occasion was, however, marred by a phone call Starsky had had that morning.

He had just come from the shower and was packing his shaving stuff away in his flight bag when the phone rang. He picked it up and heard a voice at the other end saying it was Cabrillo State and that there was a doctor wanted to speak to him.

'Hello, Mr Starsky. This is Dr, Michaels. I'm afraid I have some bad news. Are you sitting down? Ross passed away this morning, I'm sorry'.

Starsky stared at the telephone receiver as if it would bite him. 'Ross is dead?' he clarified. 'How?'

'I know this must come as a great shock to you. Unbeknown to us, she had stored her medication away without taking it. She waited till the early hours of this morning, then overdosed on the pills she had collected. There was nothing we could do. She was dead when the nursing staff found her at 7.30 this morning. She left a note'.

Starsky heaved a sigh. 'Go on'.

'To my darling David. I'm sorry. Are you happy now?'.

'That was it?' the brunette asked.

Dr Michaels went on. 'There was another note saying that she wanted a very private funeral. No mourners. Not even family. I am very sorry. If there's anything I can do?'

Starsky paused, letting the news sink in. 'Ah, no. No......thank you. Nothing. Em, thank you for ringing'. He put the phone down.

Hutch came into the room, took one look at his partner's face and asked 'What?'

The brunette turned to look at him. 'Ross killed herself this morning'. He looked down at the ground, then straightened. 'Well, I said I wanted closure. It don't come more final than that!' he moved away into the bedroom. Hutch let him go, knowing his friend needed time to assimilate this new situation.

Starsky packed the rest of his stuff mechanically, his mind thrown back into confusion. A part of him was happy that at least Ross had now found some rest, and that there was some end to this nightmare. He had dreaded coming back from England and having to face it all over again. Another little area of his tired brain; the bit he wanted to keep well hidden, felt it was a sort of divine retribution for all she'd put him through. He kept that thought well bottled up. He thought about the good times they had had. And there were good times, no doubt about that. But he couldn't shake that last vision of her, screaming and crying as the nurses dragged her away from him.

He sat down and put his head in his hands. 'She hated me. She said she hated me'. All the good feeling he had had that morning fled away. The last woman he'd loved hated him. When Hutch finally came into the room, Starsky hadn't moved. He just sat and stared into space.


Huggy brought the car round to pick them up and he and Hutch loaded the bags into the trunk. Huggy kept looking furtively at the brunette, who had wordlessly got into the back seat and was staring into middle space. 'Is he OK?' he asked Hutch.

The blond shrugged and said quietly 'Ross killed herself this morning. He's taken it really hard. I just hope this vacation will help. I don't know what else to do'.

Huggy placed a hand on the big man's arm. 'If anyone can help him you can. Just take it easy my man'.

They both got into the car and drove through the morning traffic towards the airport. Huggy tried false joviality, but Starsky answered in monosyllables, his eyes never leaving the floor. As they got to the airport terminal, Huggy leaned over and quietly asked 'You sure about this. He needs real help man'.

Hutch smiled. 'We'll be OK. He just needs time', hoping against hope that that was the case.

Chapter 10

'TWA flight 141A to Manchester is now boarding at gate 12' the airport tannoy called out.

'That's us Gordo. Come on, get your bags' Hutch said, setting off on the long walk to the gate.

Starsky picked his flight bag up like an automaton and followed the blond, not looking around, just walking mechanically, plodding, one foot in front of the other. His mind was a comforting blank. It was easy this way. He didn't need to think. Thinking hurt, connecting with people hurt. If he didn't engage people, didn't make them talk, or talk to them, he couldn't hurt anyone else. He wanted to sleep so that he could see Terry again, but in his dreams all he saw was Ross being pulled away from him shouting I hate you, over and over again. Hutch could think for him. Hutch would look after him. He didn't want to think about meeting the blonde's friend in England. He didn't really want to go to England. He just wanted to go back to Hutch's apartment, curl up and die.

Hutch was more than worried for the brunette. He'd tried the jolly approach, the sympathetic approach and even the downright rude approach, but since the phone call that morning he hadn't been able to get more than one word at a time from his partner. It was as if a shutter had come down in the smaller man's head, closing out everyone and everything. Before coming out of the house he had sneaked a phone call to Sam in England to warn her that his partner was 'tired' and may need some space. Sam had been sympathetic and hadn't pushed for details, much to her credit. She'd just said that the brunette could have as much space as he needed. Hutch even considered booking into a hotel or renting a cottage rather than have to make Starsky face strangers at the moment. One step at a time, buddy. One step at a time. He was so tired now. The strain of looking after the brunette was beginning to tell and his leg was beginning to pain him again. He pushed his own comfort to the back of his mind.

The flight from Los Angeles to Manchester was long and boring. Both tall men, they had managed to fold their legs into the cramped space between the seats. They watched 'All the President's Men' and 'A Star is Born' on the in-flight entertainment, and Hutch read the aircraft magazine from cover to cover whilst Starsky stared out of the small window, lost in his own thoughts. Starsky refused any of the aircraft food, but Hutch couldn't really blame him for that. He tried to get the brunette to drink something, but he only managed a few sips of water before descending into his dark thoughts again.

Hutch tried pressing Starsky for details of the phone call he had had that morning. He was sure that it was that one call that had precipitated Starsky's change in mood. 'What did Dr Michaels say? You said Ross killed herself — did she leave a note?'

Starsky was quiet a moment, gathering himself. He knew his partner well enough to know that he would keep pushing until he got an answer. He knew he was being difficult and that even though the blond had the patience of a saint, sooner or later something would give. And he knew he was close to the edge. He'd never felt like this before — depressed — dare he say suicidal? Something inside him, a little voice of reason, told him he had to start talking, had to let his feelings out, otherwise he'd drown in them. If that happened, he felt he'd never surface again. He drew a deep breath.

'Yeah, she left a note. It was a two edged sword. "To my darling David. I'm sorry. Are you happy now?" What's that supposed to mean Huh?' he scrubbed at his face with his hands, trying to scrub some clarity into his mind. 'God, Hutch, she can't even leave me alone now she's d.....dead. What's she trying to say? That I wanted her to die? That I'm happy she's gone? I never wanted that to happen. I thought she really loved me, like I loved her', he stopped, drawing a ragged breath.

Hutch was glad he'd actually got an answer from his partner, although he was unsure what to say. 'Hey, buddy. She was sick, you know that. Look at how she was when you last saw her. You don't think she was in her right mind when she wrote that note, do you? Hell, nobody in their right mind would kill themselves. And you didn't make her do that, she did it all on her own. What you had going there for a while was good. It's not your fault she had problems. You just have to try to remember the good times and concentrate on those. You tried your best'.

'But it wasn't good enough, was it? I couldn't save her from.......' He put his head in his hands. ;I couldn't save any of 'em' he whispered.

Hutch put his arm round his partner's shoulders 'You can't save the world Gordo. Not even you. But your problem is that you feel you have to'.

The admission about the suicide note seemed to have tired the brunette and Hutch was grateful when he eventually saw the dark lashed cover the eyes and Starsky's head leaned back against the seat as he slept. Once he reassured himself that the smaller man was asleep, Hutch allowed himself to rest, never quite sleeping in case Starsky needed him. Finally the Captain announced that they were flying over Belfast and beginning their descent for Manchester.

20 minutes later, the wheels touched down onto the tarmac and the two detectives were welcomed to a bright, sunny and warm Manchester airport.


Once unloaded from the plane and having collected their baggage from the reclaim area, Hutch steered Starsky over to the car rental desk. Giving his name, he asked for the keys to his rental car and was directed to the car park.

Starsky had shown just a little interest when Hutch mentioned cars, and took more interest when Hutch said Starsky would have to drive, as Hutch would be navigating. 'And don't forget they drive on the wrong side of the road' he said.


'No', Hutch said patiently, 'the left'.

'That's what I said — right' the brunette agreed, a slight smile on his face for the first time in a long time.

They walked towards the parked cars and Hutch prowled up and down the lines looking for the registration number he'd been given BTB 448J. He stopped at the requisite car and Starsky let out a howl.

'No Hutch. It's a toy. That's not a car, it's something that needs batteries!' he looked in downright disbelief at the small car.

'That' said Hutch 'is the iconic British car. It's called a Mini. I'm sure you'd love it'.

Starsky regarded it with loathing. 'You'd get six of these in the trunk of the Torino!'

'Boot — they call it a boot, not a trunk!' the blond said, laughing.

'Trunk, boot, whatever' the smaller man said with a defeated tone. 'If I get in that, I'll never get out again'. He stared at the little car mournfully.

Hutch couldn't stand the look on his partner's face any longer, although he was at least relieved that Starsky showed some animation. 'Well, if you really don't like it, it's a good job I got us this one instead'. He stood back and allowed his friend to see the long, low, sleek black car behind him.

This car even managed to cut through the depression the brunette was feeling. He couldn't help admiring it. Although still only half the size of the Torino, it was the epitome of a sports car. He ran his hand appreciatively along the long hood (he must remember to call it a bonnet) and took in the curved back and swept back lines.

'Now that's more like it' he muttered, walking round to admire the vehicle from all angles. He read the legend on the back. 'Jensen Interceptor. Now this I like! Give me the keys' he said, itching to get inside.

Hutch chuckled to himself, knowing he was on to a winner. The only thing that could take his partner's mind off his troubles was a hunk of metal, rubber and electrics. He didn't want to think about the hire charges. He was just happy to see a smile once more on those handsome features. He passed the keys to the brunette and he got in, smelling the new leather upholstery and lovingly stroking the wooden steering wheel. He looked at the knobbly stick to his left. 'Hutch, this is wrong! What's this?'

Hutch looked patiently back. 'That, my friend, is called a stick shift. No self-respecting Englishman would be seen in an automatic. You'll love it, when you get the hang of it. Just remember the pedal on the left is the clutch and you press that down every time you want to change gear'.

'I know' the brunette growled. 'I've driven one before.....just not for a long time, OK?'

'Well — enjoy!'

Chapter 11

The drive up the M6 took a little under an hour and the two detectives turned off the motorway and onto country roads that wound around fields edged with hedges. After another quarter of an hour, during which Starsky extolled the virtues of the handling, the engine, the noise and the comfort of the car, Hutch pointed to a sign.

'Here, turn left. Oswaldtwistle. We're here'. They turned into the village, then following Sam's directions turned right down a narrow lane, down the side of one hill and up another and pulled up outside a small stone cottage. The sign outside it read The James House and Sam was waiting outside in the garden to greet them.

'Hey Hutch, it's been too long. Did you find us OK? Love the car!'

Hutch came forward, limping a little and gave her a hug as Starsky hung back, once again retreating into himself, now that the euphoria of the drive was over. He really didn't want to be bothered with strangers, especially female ones. But he smiled as the woman came forward to say hello.

She was quite short, about 5'2", he thought. She had mid length brown hair and the brightest green eyes he'd ever seen. Apart from the colour of the eyes, he was reminded quite forcibly of another girl with brown hair and twinkling eyes. His heart gave a lurch. No, he couldn't cope with a woman who looked like Terry. This was just too much.

Hutch noticed the unusual reticence in the brunette, but couldn't really place why he should act like that. He felt tired and worn out and just wanted everything to be alright for once.

'Sam, this is Dave Starsky, my partner. Starsky, Sam Scott. I met her on a police exchange visit. She's a detective with the Lancashire Constabulary'.

Starsky forced himself to smile, knowing he'd better get used to the situation; he was going to be there for a while. 'Hello' he said. 'Thank you for letting us stay'.

She appraised the dark haired man. So, this was the partner that Hutch had spoken about, the one that was "tired". He was tall, but not quite as tall as Hutch, and whereas Hutch was all golden blond and all American boy next door, this man was ruggedly handsome. She took in the dark curly hair, the slim, muscular build. Looking into the face, she became lost in the depths of the darkest blue eyes she'd ever seen. But there was something else there. This man was not happy. She knew that for a fact. The "tiredness" Hutch had spoken of ran deep in him. Not just tiredness from too much work. This was a bone deep tiredness. He looked almost as though he was tired of life. She wondered what could have caused such pain in the man, and the caring part of her hoped she could help.

'Come in and I'll make us some tea' she said, leading the way through the garden into the house. They entered through a large kitchen with a stone floor and a large inglenook fireplace. There were rag rugs on the ground and a large square wooden table in the middle of the room. The place smelt of baking and herbs. Through the kitchen they walked directly into a lounge at the other end of which another door led into a study. Sam looked round. 'Its one of the oldest house in the area', she said. 'Dates back to 1649. We've been restoring it. We keep finding extra bits. Two weeks ago, we were decorating when we found a hollow place in the wall. We made a little hole and discovered another staircase! Please, sit down, I'll go and get the drinks'.

The two men sat, Hutch on the large settee, Starsky on a comfortable old chair. As he sat back a small Jack Russell Terrier hustled into the room. Looking as though he owned the place, he sniffed at Hutch, then jumped up onto Starsky's knee, stared with big brown eyes into the brunette's face and then, with a deep sigh settled himself down. The dark haired detective was amused. He'd always liked dogs, and he started stroking the furry little thing, finding the action oddly comforting. The whole place had a peaceful quality to it. Almost like time stood still. He felt like he didn't really need to consider the outside world. Like the years the old house had seen somehow protected him from reality. He felt himself relaxing just a little.

Sam came into the room holding an old fashioned tea tray with mugs, a tea pot, milk jug and sugar basin. Suddenly she looked uncomfortable. 'Oh, I'm sorry. I should have asked. Do you want tea or coffee? Oh my', she said, 'Well I've never seen Bobby do that before'. She pointed to the dog. 'He hates men. I can't believe he's sitting on you. Erm..........do you mind? I can get rid of him if you'd prefer'.

Starsky smiled. 'Nah, I seem to have made a new best friend. He's good, I like dogs'.

The men both said tea was fine, and they settled down in the cool room to drink their drinks and allow Sam and Hutch to catch up on old times. Starsky was happy just to listen to the conversation as it flowed. Sitting quietly with the dog, he watched the woman. She did have the look of Terry. She even seemed to have some of the mannerisms — the little smile that played on her lips and in her eyes and the zest for life. He watched her closely, fascinated before shaking himself. Its not Terry. Don't be a fool!

The afternoon wore on and eventually, Sam showed them to their rooms. Small and cosy, they were under the eaves of the house and were plainly furnished with a queen sized bed each, bare wooden floor boards, rag rugs which added colour and a wardrobe. Hutch seemed to limping worse than ever, and Starsky finally asked him 'Hey, how's your leg. You OK?'

Hutch rubbed it a little. 'Its sore, but it'll be OK. I just forgot to take the antibiotics. No problem'.

'How many d'you forget to take Blintz?' the brunette asked.

Hutch sighed. 'I was too preoccupied with making sure you were OK. I didn't think. I'll be fine'.

'How many?' Starsky pushed.

The blond looked embarrassed 'Didn't actually manage to remember to take any'.

'Shit, Hutch. You spent so much time looking after me. Take your pants off, let me look'.

'No. No it's fine. I'm OK' Hutch stressed a little too loudly for the brunette's comfort.

'Humour me' he said, and sat down on the bed.

Hutch sighed, knowing Starsky could be just as obstinate as he could. He undid his belt, unbuttoned the waistband and unzipped his pants. Pulling them down to his knees, he sat down shakily. There was a red line tracking up from the bullet wound towards his groin, the heat from the wound radiating outwards and the wound itself an angry purple.

'Oh crap, I don't have time for this' he said, as his partner took a closer look.

'I knew you didn't look so good', Starsky said. 'I know it's hot today, but you were really flushed downstairs. You need a doctor Blintz. I'll get Sam'.

'No, don't bother her. I'll start the antibiotics now an' I'll be OK, honest'.

Starsky looked doubtful. 'I don't know Hutch. Are you sure they'll work now? It's been a week since you were shot'.

'Yeah', Hutch said, pulling his pants back up. 'No problem'.

'Well, you're the one with the medical know-how', the brunette responded, a slight hesitation in his voice.


Dinner was a simple affair. Sam's husband was away on business, so it was just the three of them and the dog at the meal. Starsky enjoyed the simple cheese, fresh brown bread and apple, savouring the simplicity of the meal. Sa had bought a bottle of Californian wine in their honour, and it complimented the meal perfectly. The only thing that marred it for him was the flush he still saw on his partner's face and the fact he didn't eat much.

Sam didn't seem to notice, putting it down to jet lag from their long flight. She realised they'd had a long day and when both men said they were ready for bed, she simply said goodnight and saw them to their rooms.

After the week spent at Hutch's apartment it felt odd to be sleeping separately — even though they'd been in different rooms, there wasn't a door separating them before. Hutch got undressed and had another look at the wound on his leg. He cursed himself for not being more careful, knowing how gunshot wounds could so easily become infected because of the fibres from clothing that got trapped inside wounds. He cursed. He really didn't need this right now. He was concentrating on getting his partner well. This was an unnecessary diversion. He felt like shit and took two antibiotics, realising that it was probably far too late for them right now.

Starsky got undressed in his own room. His neck wound was still raw and tender, and he preferred not to wear his pyjama top, so that the collar wouldn't rub, and anyway, the night was surprisingly warm. He got into the bed, feeling the fresh crisp cotton sheets and the slight cool breeze from the open window. He lay and listened to the sounds from outside, so different from his own apartment. There was the sound of the breeze in the trees, a cow mooed a way away and......was that an owl? It was strange and different, but somehow right and comfortable. He relaxed and listened, the only thing worrying him at that moment being the welfare of the blond in the next room.


Starsky must have drifted off to sleep at some point, because the scream shook him awake suddenly, bringing on a sweat of panic. He was out of bed and opening the door before the last reverberations of the sound subsided. Realising it had come from his partner's room, he pushed open the door and peeked inside.

The moon bathed the room in light enough to see the blonde's head on the pillow. As he crossed the room, he saw that the golden hair was damp with sweat, clinging to his partner's forehead. He reached down gently and touched Hutch's cheek feeling the heat radiating from it. He was burning up. The blond head was rolling back and forth on the pillow and Hutch was muttering unintelligibly.

Starsky bent down and put a hand on the blonde's shoulder, shaking him gently.

'Hutch? Hey buddy. Hutch, wake up' he was rewarded by the sight of ice blue eyes, now rimmed with red, looking back at him. At first there was no recognition in them, and the brunette was shocked at just how sick his partner looked. He tried again.

Hey Blondie, it's me, Starsky. Ya there? Hey, come on Blintz, wake up' he pleaded.

Recognition came back to the eyes then and Hutch focussed on his partner. His forehead creased and he squeezed his eyes together, trying to bring the world into sharper focus.

'Starsk?' he gasped, raising himself slightly. His head leaned back against the pillow and he drew a ragged breath. 'Oh boy, I feel like shit....c cold'.

Starsky put his hand against the sweat soaked forehead. 'You're burning up, pal. You need a doctor'.

The blonde's hand came up and caught Starsky's. 'Don't bother Sam. Just get me to the bathroom. Cool water'll do' he tried to rise, but collapsed back on the bed..

The brunette got the legs back under the sheet, noting that there was a distinct swelling around the wound now and headed off, coming back a moment later with a washcloth soaked in cold water. He laid it on the blonde's head and used a towel to wipe the arms and chest.

'I don't care what you say, you need to see someone now. You've got a temperature an' it's not going ta go down on it's own, ya know'. Starsky was really worried now. Hutch seemed to have drifted back off to sleep and although he knew his artner would be as mad as hell, he padded along the corridor and knocked gently on Sam's door. A muffled, sleepy voce responded.

'Sam?' Starsky said softly. 'I'm real sorry to bother ya, but Hutch is sick. I think he needs a doctor'.

The door opened and Starsky's stomach lurched all over again at the sight of her. She was so like Terry. Sam's face was still a little crumpled with sleep, but she took in the handsome man in front of her, bare chested and worried. She also saw the fresh wound on his neck and the discoloured bruises across his side, chest, and, she, presumed, back. Later, she told herself. Later, I'll find out. She followed the brunette back up the corridor and into the guest room. She knelt down by the side of the bed and switched on the small lamp. Feeling the blonde's forehead and noting he was sweating still, she stood and went into the bathroom. She came back with a thermometer and stuck it under Hutch's tongue. A moment later she extracted it. 102. Hutch wasn't really fully conscious. He moaned and shivered and had gone back to talking under his breath. Nothing that made sense, - just sounds really.

'Was he ill before you set off to come to England?' she asked.

Starsky shook his head. 'It's a long story, but he was in a heist on the docks back home last week and some whippo shot him. I've been......well, I've not been well, and he's been so bothered about me, he didn't take his antibiotics. Shit, this is all my fault1' he turned away so that Sam wouldn't see the look of pure hurt on his face.

Sam looked at him sharply, hearing the pain in those few words and knowing she would explore their meaning later. Briskly, she went downstairs and Starsky heard her speaking to someone on the telephone. He heard the receiver go down and she returned to the room.

'Dr Patterson's on his way'. She looked at Starsky's worried, beaten expression and put a hand on his arm 'He'll be fine David, honest. He just needs the doctor to see him and it'll be OK'. She looked again into those stormy dark blue eyes and asked gently 'Do you need the doctor too?'

The question brought the brunette up short. 'No!...... No, I'm just.......I dunno. Just lets get the Blintz dealt with, then I'll be fine'.

Sam smiled. 'What did you call him?'

Starsky smiled back and sat down on the blonde's bed, smoothing the golden blond hair away from the forehead. 'Blintz. It's just a nickname. A blintz is a white frosted cake — it just suits him'.

Chapter 12

The wait for the doctor seemed interminable and Starsky was glad that Sam was waiting with him. They both sat in the little room and watched the blond as he struggled with his unseen demons. Once or twice the ice blue eyes flew open, although they were sightless. The muttering was louder now.

'C cover me! Starsk, g get down! Oh shit. Noooo. Ross, no!' he shouted as Starsky smoothed the cloth over his forehead.

'Ssssh, Hutch. It's Ok buddy. Just lie quiet, the doctors coming. Ssssh. I'm here. The bad guys are all gone, it's just me and thee', he murmured over and over again.

'S Starsk? Where are you...........Oh shit,.....nooo......Starsky,

d don't leave.........w where are you b buddy? ........Ahhhhh'.

Starsky tried to comfort the big blond, wondering exactly what nightmare he was having.

Sam sat by his side and alternated between holding Hutch's hand and putting a comforting arm around the brunette. She was amazed at the bond the two men had and felt inadequate at the side of the curly haired cop as he cared for his partner. He was so attentive, wiping the sweat as it ran down the blonde's face and soothingly rubbing gently along the bare arms — he almost seemed to feel the blonde's pain. The man laid in the bed was a far cry from the athletic blond she had met on her trip to Bay City police academy those years ago. She hated to see him suffering like this. She didn't know what had gone on between the two, but she was damn well going to find out.

About 15 minutes later, the door downstairs opened and a gruff voice shouted out. 'Sam, where are you love?'

She looked up from the bed. 'Up here doctor, the back bedroom'. She heard heavy footsteps on the stairs then the comforting bulk of Doctor Patterson appeared in the doorway. He was a tall, powerfully built and heavy set man. He had a ruddy complexion and thinning grey hair, combed back away from his moustached face. He carried a doctor's black bag, which he now put down on the floor by the side of Hutch's bed. Starsky stood up to give the man more room.

'And who've we got here?' he asked in a broad Lancashire accent.

Starsky answered. 'His name's Ken hutchinson, but everyone calls him Hutch. We've just arrived here on vacation. We're cops....policemen. He was shot in the leg last week. He had it seen to at the hospital, but I saw it tonight an' its looks infected. He erm.............he's been too busy this last week, an' he ............he forgot to take the antibiotics the hospital gave him', the brunette finished lamely.

The doctor was busy looking at his patient, feeling the forehead, prising the eyes open and feeling around Hutch's neck at the glands there. Without looking up he replied 'Hm. Gunshot wound eh? Don't see many o' them 'ereabouts'. He addressed himself to the delirious man in the bed. 'Come on son, lets be havin' a look at you'. He pulled the sheet back and with Starsky's help, pulled the pyjama pants off, exposing the ugly wound on the blonde's thigh. Sam gasped as she saw it, but the doctor was busy.

Very gently he pushed the skin around the purple wound, apologising to the big blond as he writhed on the bed, trying to jerk the limb from the doctor's touch,

'I'm sorry laddy. That's it; it's all done for a minute, rest easy there'. He looked around at Sam and Starsky.

'Well, you were right about the infection, son', he said to the brunette. 'He's got a bad case there, but we'll sort it. I'm going to have to cut the stitches and flush the wound out to get rid of the rubbish in there. Then I'll leave it open for a while till the infection clears. He'll be OK. Tell me. Are you squeamish?' he asked.

Starsky swallowed 'Not really. I've seen him with worse. I'll do whatever it takes, but aren't you going to take him to hospital?'

The doctor chuckled. 'Well, I really didn't think two big strapping young men like you two would want to spend your holidays at Queens Park Hospital'. He leaned forward conspiratorially 'between you an' me, the foods disgusting!'.

Suddenly, Starsky really liked this guy. He even hated hospital food — what more needed to be said.

The doctor was continuing. 'If you can help me with this tonight, I can make sure the District Nurse calls in twice a day for a few days to make sure your friend is alright. Now'. He turned to Sam. 'I'm going to need a clean sheet, some hot water, a towel and some better light than that', he nodded at the bedside lamp. Sam went off to get the requisite items.


As Sam busied herself getting the doctors list together, the doctor himself was appraising the brunette. He took in the black eye, the bruises on the torso and the stitches on his neck with one glance.

'You look like you're been in the wars too' he said conversationally. 'Do they pay you extra for all the attention you two seem to get?'

'I wish' Starsky responded, his hand going self consciously to the wound on his neck.

The doctor ignored the gesture and continued. 'Those stitches look like they'll need to come out sometime this week. Come to the surgery on Friday and my nurse'll do the honours'.

Sam cam back into the room and between the three of them, they arranged the clean sheet under Hutch's leg, and the doctor busied himself setting out the instruments he'd need from his bag. He laid them out side by side on the nearest portion of clean sheet, then prepared a syringe. Turning to Sam and Starsky he went on.

'Right, I'll numb around the area then cut the stitches. Sam, if you can be ready with that' — he indicated several sachets of saline 'and I'll use that to flush the wound out. Are we ready?'

Starsky moved himself round until he was at the back of his partner, and manoeuvred the blond head onto his lap. He held Hutch's hands across his chest, and nodded to the doctor. He moved forward and swiftly injected the novocaine around the margins of the wound.

Hutch bucked on the bed as Starsky held him carefully but forcefully, trying to make sure he didn't move too much as the doctor administered the drug. Mercifully it was over fairly quickly, as Starsky continued to comfort his partner.

'C'mon Hutch, it's OK. Easy partner, I got ya, easy', he murmured in a low voice, struggling to keep hold of the hands.

The doctor sat back and allowed the Novocaine to take effect, disposing of the syringe and picking up a small scalpel blade. He leaned forward again and swiftly snipped the four stitches. Immediately, a torrent of pus and other matter poured out, and Sam quickly wiped it away with a set of swabs. The doctor then used six or seven sachets of saline and flushed the remains of the necrotic material out, continuing until he was sure the wound was clean.

Finally he sat back and looked over to Starsky, 'I think that should be OK. I've put some antibiotic powder in there, and I'll give him a shot of the same stuff, and another of pain killer. He'll probably sleep for a while now. I'll leave the wound open, and the District Nurse will be round later today to see to it and dress it again. He put a white gauze square over the open area and taped it down.

Hutch seemed to find relief almost immediately, and had settled down a lot once the pressure had been taken from his leg.

'He'll have this temperature for a while yet, so make sure you get him to drink plenty, but he should start showing signs of improvement soon. I'll be back tonight to check on him. Don't let him get up except for bathroom trips and don't let him get tired'. The doctor packed his bag away and got up to leave. 'Oh, and if you need anything' he started meaningfully at Starsky's wounds, 'you know where I am'.

The brunette nodded as the doctor left, and headed back over to his partner. Hutch looked more peaceful and seemed to be sleeping easily, the angry flush having gone from his face. He stroked the handsome face gently, glad his partner was resting a little easier.

'I like that guy' the brunette said to Sam as she came back into the room.

'Doctor Patterson has been my doctor all my life — he was even at the delivery when I was born! He's a good man. How's Hutch?'

'I think he'll be OK. I'll stay with him now, if you want to go back to bed' he smiled at her.

'It's probably escaped your notice, but its 6.30. No time for bed now. I'll go and get us drinks then we can talk'.


As Hutch slept peacefully, Sam brought cups of tea for Starsky and herself and sat comfortably on the floor at the side of the bed, as the brunette perched on the bedside, ready should the blond need anything.

'How long have you known each other?' she asked.

Starsky cast his mind back. 'Must be over ten years now. We met at the police academy and trained together, then he made Detective four months before I did. When I passed the exams, Captain Dobey paired us together, an' that's how it's been ever since. Seems like a lifetime'.

'Did you know he'd been hurt before you came here?'

The question took him off balance and he paused before answering. He desperately needed to talk. He knew now that if he didn't get help soon, the events of the last few weeks would engulf him and he would never emerge as the same Starsky again. But he also knew he wasn't ready to divulge painful secrets and truths to a person he'd only met the day before. Hell, he'd only just been able to open up a little bit to the big blond.

He looked back at his partner, feeling bone tired. He couldn't dismiss the feeling that if Ross hadn't hurt him and he'd gone with Hutch to the heist, Hutch may not have been shot. His world was disappearing into a big black hole with every person that he'd hurt. He saw himself standing in the middle of a circle, shooting down Ross, Terry, Rosey and Hutch, watching them fall to the ground whilst he stood staring, rooted to the spot and unable or unwilling to help.


He looked up.

'Hey, you were miles away! Are you OK?'

He paused. 'Yeah, I'm just tired, that's all,' he lied. 'I'm sorry'.

Sam put her tea cup down and kneeled up next to him. She put a hand on his knee and looked earnestly into his face.

'I know I've only known you a short time, but "I'm tired" doesn't really cut it. I know it's none of my business, but you're covered in bruises and you look like life is just too much for you at the moment. I don't know what's gone on, but I do know that the world is hard sometimes and friends can be in short supply. If you need someone to talk to, I'm here'.

Starsky closed his eyes and waited to bring his emotions under control, her words striking a painful chord with him. Yes, the world was hard and God knows he was hurting so much. A tear rolled down his cheek, unbidden, and he felt a small warm finger gently brush it away.

'I'm sorry' he whispered. 'God, you must think I'm a real screw up'. He wiped the back of his hand over his face, angrily. 'There's been a whole load of shit happen recently, an' it was Hutch's idea to come here. I'm sorry we've caused all this trouble'.

'I'm glad you came, and do you realise in the last minute you've apologised three times. Don't. Just relax, you're with a friend. You'll realise, if you stay, that there's something about this house. It'll get to you, like it's got at me. Maybe it's the families it's seen down through the centuries, but if you can't find some comfort here, then you're past all hope! Just slow down and look after Hutch. And I can look after the two of you, and we can take it from there'.

Chapter 13

When Hutch woke up, the sun was streaming through the window and he felt warm and relaxed. He tried to move in the bed, but found the sheets pinned down around him. Looking to his side, he saw a host of mahogany curls resting on the edge of the bed.

Starsky had never meant to fall asleep, but after his talk with Sam, he'd felt tired and washed out. He'd just put his head down on his hands for a moment, but sleep had overtaken him. Hutch reached out his hand and gently ruffled the hair.

'Hey sleepy head' he said quietly.

Starsky woke and raised his head. 'Hey Blintz, you're awake! How're you feeling?'

Hutch let his head rest back on the pillow. He groaned. 'Like shit! Someone want to tell me what's gone on' he said. 'One minute I was getting into bed, the next, I felt like the top of my head was blowing off'.

'You were running a high temperature and your leg was all swollen and purple. Sam called a doctor and he's fixed your leg'.

'Yeah, how?'

Starsky grimaced. 'Ah.....well, he's cut the stitches and cleaned it all out and given you a shot. And now you have an open hole in your leg.......but it's clean, buddy, it's clean'. He paused, wanting to make it all better somehow, but not knowing where to start.

'Hutch, if you hadn't been looking out for me, you'd have taken your pills and you wouldn't be sick now. I'm sorry. Fuck it's all my fault'.

Hutch was feeling way too tired to cope with all this right now. His leg still hurt, but not as much as the previous evening. He felt spacey and tired. He wanted his old Starsky back. Just for a little while, he wanted to be the one that was comforted, the one who didn't need to try. But the one person that could help him through this was still fragile and needy. He knew he needed to tread carefully, knowing a wrong word now would tip his partner over the edge. But Hutch also knew that the way he felt at this very minute, he may say something wrong anyway. He was between a rock and a hard place.

'Starsk, I know you're hurtin' and I know I should be there for you right now, but, I need a little time, buddy. Just a little time to heal, then I'll be OK'. He said it so gently, but the look in the stormy blue eyes was more then he could bear.

Starsky looked like he'd been hit. His whole demeanour changed as he seemed to shake himself. 'Sorry Hutch. I know I've been a pain. Just rest and get well, OK? Can I get ya anything?' He passed a glass of water to the blond. 'Doc says ya have to drink plenty. You need any pain pills?'

Hutch hated himself for the hurt he heard in his friend's voice. He had to harden his heart. He had to get himself well as quickly as possible, so that he could go on caring for the smaller man, but he needed just a little space in order to heal.

He drank the water. 'No, I just need to sleep, I think. You OK Gordo? It's not that I don't care, ya know I do. It's just..........'

'It's fine. I'm fine' Starsky said, a little too quickly. 'I'll be here. Just rest. I'm here'. He smiled, but it was a brittle smile. He knew he'd asked so much of the blond. He wanted to shut down and let the pain wash over him, but the guilt he felt now at pushing too hard was almost more than he cold cope with.

Hutch closed his eyes, partly to rest and partly to shut out the accusation he thought he saw in the cobalt blue eyes of the man who needed him.


Within a quarter of an hour, Hutch had drifted back off to sleep, his golden head a little cooler against the pillow. Starsky had wedged another pillow under the blonde's leg, raising the wound up slightly, and the position seemed more comfortable. He rested easy.

Sam came back into the room a little while later, watching quietly as the brunette gently stroked the blonde's hair from his forehead. That one man could do that to another without it seeming effeminate or 'gay' amazed her. She'd never seen two men so closely bonded and it touched her to her very core. And yet both men exuded a masculinity and sexiness that was also overwhelming, the pull from Starsky's eyes especially was sometimes more than she could bear, and she'd had had to look away on more than once occasion.

She walked over to the brunette now. 'How is he?' she asked.

Starsky jumped as she spoke, having been lost in his own thoughts. 'Oh Hi Sam. He's sleepin'. He woke a while ago and I got him to drink some water. He seemed a little better'.

She smiled. 'And how are you? You haven't had any sleep. You must be bushed'.

He turned his sad eyes to her and sighed. 'Yeah, I am, but I don't want to leave him'.

She nodded. 'I can sit with him for a while. Why not go and get some rest?'

He stood and stretched, easing the kinks from his back. 'I could do, but I don't wanna go to bed. I need ta get out, ya know?'

'Well, you could take Bobby for a walk. If you follow the path by the side of the house, it'll take you up onto the moors. There's a little lake and woodland up at the top, and the weather's perfect'.

Starsky looked doubtful. 'Don't want ta get lost' he said lamely. 'I'm a city boy. Not used to all this outdoor stuff'.

She laughed, a musical sound. 'Well, if you get lost, just follow the dog. He knows when it's his tea time — he'll come home then. Enjoy. You might find you like it!'

The brunette took a last look at his sleeping partner, rubbed the arm gently one last time and left.


He found Bobby down in the kitchen, curled up in front of the big range oven there, basking in a puddle of sunlight shining through the window. He bent down and stroked the silky ears and the little dog opened a big brown eye and regarded him, expectation in his expression.

'Ya wanna go for a walk?' Starsky asked, as the dog got up, stretched and wagged its tail. The brunette followed as the dog made for the open door. The sunlight stabbed at his eyes, too bright after the dimness of the interior of the house. It smelt warm outside, the sun baking the grass and garden surrounding the house. Starsky found the path Sam had spoken of and set off up the hill.

It was steep and the sun was warm on his back. He watched the dog investigating the hedgerow, sniffing at grasses, pushing his nose into each clump of flowers. His tail wagged non-stop as he kept up his investigation, sometimes lagging behind, sometimes running on in front as the brunette kept a steady pace.

By the time he reached the crest of the hill, Starsky was breathing heavily, causing that familiar dull ache in his side, where his cracked ribs were healing. The path was uneven and the going tough as he watched every step, careful to place his feet safely. He looked up and took in the views. Oswaldtwistle was only a small village, nestling between a chain of hills off to the east and the moors to the west. It lay in a dip and as he looked down on it now, he could make out church spires, the green copper roof of one glistening in the sun. There was a brook running through the centre of the village and he could see the main road winding its way over the hill to God knows where.

The hills to the east brooded in a tall line, but one hill stood out on it's own. Sam had said that was Pendle Hill, with Clitheroe, a market town nestling at it's foot. The whole area was steeped in history and the sun, the green grass and the fresh air were working their magic on the brunette, calming him with every breath.

He continued his walk, seeing in the distance the trees and lake that Sam had told him about. As he neared it, he saw a heron, standing in solitary state on a small island in the middle of the water. The grass sloped gently down to the water's edge, and invited the detective to sit and rest for a while. He did just that.

Starsky found a place near the trees, but still with the sun on his back. He sat on the spongy grass and idly watched the dog as he busied himself checking out rabbit holes and tree trunks. The warm breeze ruffled the brunette's mahogany curls, sweeping them back and forth over his forehead and he screwed his eyes up slightly against the bright sunlight. It was so quiet. Just the sound of the breeze in the trees, the birds singing and the occasional hiss of water as a fish broke the surface. Time seemed to stand still as he took in the sights and the peace and tranquillity. Suddenly, Bay City didn't exist any more. Here he could look back on the previous months in a detached manner. It had happened to someone else, not to him. He leaned back, propping himself on his elbows, allowing his eyes to close and the gentle sun to shine on his upturned face. His universe shrunk to the margins of the water and the woodland.

He rested his head back on the ground, pillowing it in the crook of his arm, and closed his eyes, enjoying the peacefulness and breathing in the warm fragrant air. He felt weightless and insubstantial, as if his body didn't belong to him any more. He tried to think back to the night and his partner, still in bed in the cottage, but his mind refused to focus on anything but the sounds and smells around him. This was mindlessness. Not the same as back in LA when his mind just wouldn't function on any level. This was mindlessness where he selected his thoughts at random, and played them over and over in his head until their meaning had worn out.

Had he been asleep? He didn't think so, but he heard another voice, a little way off. Damn! He wanted to be alone. He opened his eyes to squint in the direction of the sound and saw a young woman down by the water's edge. She was dipping her feet in the cool water and singing softly under her breath. As he raised himself into a sitting position, she looked around and waved at him, as if she knew him. Hesitantly, he waved back, and she started walking towards him.

Chapter 14

The woman came towards him, smiling as if she knew him, and indeed she did seem familiar in some way. How could that be? He'd never been here before and didn't know anyone in the town except Sam and Hutch. He hadn't even met Sam's husband yet — he was away on business.

As she came closer, Starsky got a good look at her. She was petite. No more than 5' tall and had dark brown hair reaching down her back almost to her waist. It blew gently in the warm breeze, stray whisps of it curling around her chin. Her face was heart shaped and open and her eyes burned with green fire, looking out from heavily fringed lids. She had a beautiful smile and she used that on the brunette now as she guilelessly walked right up to him and sat herself down on the ground at his side.

Momentarily stunned, he smiled back, not knowing what else to do. He'd never before seen someone do that. In the city, people were guarded and kept themselves to themselves. He felt he should have been uncomfortable. She had invaded his personal space and he had come here to be alone. But instead, he felt relaxed at her being there, as if familiarity and relaxation radiated from her, touching him and coursing through his body.

'Hello' she said, turning her cats eyes on him, the smile from her lips playing in her eyes too.

'Ah......hello' he said hesitantly. He still felt as if he should know her. As if she was an old friend, but he didn't recognise her. Don't be a fool, how can you, you've no idea who she is.

She continued talking as if he were a long lost friend, and, much as he fought against it, he found he wanted to respond to her in a similar fashion.

'Why are you all alone?' she asked.

'I needed some time to think' he said, wondering why he'd said it. He couldn't explain it, it just seemed so right, as if to ignore her would be the worst thing in the world.

'But I'm here now, so you're not alone any more', she giggled behind her hand. It was a childish gesture, but at the same time held no hint of child in it.

'No. You're here........... Do I know you?' he asked, deciding prevarication wasn't getting him anywhere.

'Perhaps' she answered cryptically. 'I know you. You need a friend. You look so troubled. Do you want to tell me?'

Starsky's mind said no, he most definitely didn't want to talk to this perfect stranger. He had riled against talking to the hospital psychiatrist and couldn't find the words to tell even Hutch, his closest friend on earth. So why should he tell her? But his lips had a mind of their own and betrayed what his mind was telling him.

'Yeah.....I think'. Shit what had he just said? Pull yourself together Davey. What the fuck are you doing here?

His mind felt confused. He so desperately did want to talk to someone, and this woman had such a beautiful face. She had an air about her. She genuinely wanted to help him, but he couldn't for the life of him think why. It was as if she was sucking the words from his very soul, each one wrung from him, leaving him cleansed.

'My friend is sick' he started, blurting it out as if it had come from a bottle with the stopper pushed off.

'Will he get well?' she asked.

'What? Ah........ yeah, he'll get well, but it's my fault he's sick'.


'He was too busy looking after me to care for himself and now he's sick. Like I said, it's my fault'. He said it with such bitterness, it stunned him.

'Did you ask him to look after you?' she asked, her hand now playing up and down his arm, brushing past the dark hairs there.

The feeling was disturbing his line of thought. He wasn't concentrating. He was just saying the words as they came to his mind with no thought, no consciousness for what they meant. They were the words from his heart, no double values attached... 'No, he looked after me because he wanted to. Because I needed him. He's my friend and my partner. He's like my brother'.

'Then why is it your fault?' the fingers on his arm continuing playing up and down.

He couldn't think of an answer. Perhaps there wasn't an answer. He could only think of her touch on his arm. It melted everything else away, until all that was left was the tickle as each hair was lightly brushed away, then sprang back to its rightful place and the need to answer her questions with as much innocence and honesty as the spirit in which they were asked.

'I don't know' he gasped, amazed at his own response to this stranger. 'I guess it felt comfortable to think it was my fault. Like, if there was someone to take the blame it would make it alright'. Where the hell did all that come from Davey? Is that what you really think? — Guess so.

Her hand had moved up to the wound on his neck now, and she lightly brushed the stitches, eliciting a deep, throaty growl from the brunette, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.

'You need to make peace with yourself' she whispered in his ear, her breath warm and sensuous against his skin. 'You need to give yourself permission to heal. You can't stop all the bad in the world'.

He moved his head towards her, dizzy with a desire for a woman he'd only just met. He never wanted her to stop touching him. It felt so good and right. It felt like it had always been meant to be. He felt a flutter in his groin as the fingers continued their ministrations, dancing lightly across the skin of his neck, sending electric shocks through his body. The fingers stopped their devilish contortions and he whimpered at their loss.

'Oh, God, don't stop', he gasped, opening his eyes.

He saw a black nose and a big brown eye looking at him, as Bobby continued to sniff at his hair. Sitting up in surprise, he looked around for the woman, but she wasn't there. Had he fallen asleep? Oh that's a real good way to start a romance, Davey boy! He looked at his watch — midday. He couldn't have been asleep long, but obviously long enough for her to have got fed up of him and moved on.

He lay back on the grass feeling a blast of emotions. Anger that he'd concentrated so much on his own feelings that she'd left; wonder at the fact that a perfect stranger could have that effect on him (and that he'd let her!) and an odd contentment. His mind seemed a little easier as he thought about the blond back at the cottage. He knew he'd recover from this set back. Sure, it was a bad infection, but he was big and strong and he'd get over it with nothing more than a scar to add to his collection. Starsky suddenly knew Hutch would be fine. He sighed and patted the dog, before getting up and heading back over the top of the hill and down towards the cottage.


Bobby bounded ahead as Starsky made his way back down the hill towards The James House. He watched the little dog busily foraging and sniffing, amused at the air of business that seemed to come from him. He was a little brown and white bundle of energy and for a moment, Starsky was envious of the joie de vivre the little animal had. Then he paused, realising that for the first time in a long time, the complete blackness of his depression had paled from all out blackness to a sort of murky grey. Sure, he felt dismal still, but now there did seem some purpose to life again. He was going to look after Hutch, just as Hutch had looked after him. Not because Hutch asked him, but because he, Starsky, wanted to. It was as simple as that.

As he walked back through the open front door of the cottage, Sam was coming downstairs with a dinner tray. She smiled as she saw him, taking in the slight darkening of the skin on his arms and face.

'Looks like you caught the sun a little' she said. 'Hutch has had a little soup for lunch and a drink. I'm glad you're back. I think he needs the bathroom, but I don't think I could get him there on my own. I have to go into work for a little while. My boss telephoned. We seem to have got ourselves a serial killer on the loose. He's called in all detectives for a briefing. Will you be OK? There's food in the fridge and if you can give Bobby a biscuit, I'll be back as soon as'. She put the tray down on the sink, picked up her car keys and left.

Starsky made his way upstairs and headed towards the back bedroom. Pushing open the door, he saw Hutch propped up on pillows and looking distinctly uncomfortable.

'How ya doin' Blondie?' he asked. 'Sam said you might need the bathroom?'

Hutch was already pushing the sheet back as Starsky was speaking. 'Getting a little urgent there, buddy' he said through clenched teeth.

He paled a little as Starsky helped to get him upright, and as he used his good leg, with Starsky as a human crutch for the other, he hopped his way along the corridor to the bathroom. Hutch managed to do the necessary on his own, whilst the brunette hovered outside, then they repeated the process back to the bedroom. Hutch sat carefully back down on the bed and Starsky helped re-arrange the pillows and sheet. The blond was sweating with the effort, and the smaller man passed him a drink of water. Once he'd got his breath back he looked over at the brunette. Something had changed, but he wasn't sure what.

'Sam said you went out. Did you walk?'

'Starsky seemed a little more relaxed. 'Yeah, there's a path at the side of the house up the hill to a little lake. The views are terrific. I took Bobby'. He didn't mention the woman to Hutch. It was like she was some kind of dream, and Starsky still hadn't come to terms fully with the depth of his reaction to her caresses.

Hutch seemed amused. 'You........a walk? Thought you'd at least have tried to get the Jensen up there. Take a photo next time. You and countryside without being forced is definitely photograph worthy'.

'It was beautiful. Really peaceful up there. I just had time to think. Ya know, try and get my head straightened out a bit?'

'And did ya?' Hutch asked softly, still feeling a complete bastard for copping out of listening to his partner that morning.

'A little, I think, yeah'. He smiled a shadow of that lopsided, goofy Starsky smile that Hutch loved so much. 'Gonna take a lot more walks, though. I'm gonna be the fittest cop in LA before I get my head in order!'


The rest f the afternoon, Starsky sat with the blond as he dozed. His fever was up again a little and at about 4.00, the District Nurse called by. She was a homely woman of perhaps 50. Solidly built she had a motherly air about her and both men liked her immediately. She fussed over Hutch's leg, and apologised when she cleaned some more crud from the wound, causing him to yelp and sweat again. She re-dressed the wound with a dry dressing, then pronounced that it looked like it was going to be OK. She gave Hutch another antibiotic shot and asked if he wanted more morphine.

'I think I've flown enough for a while' Hutch said, taking instead the packet of pills she handed him. With a promise to call her if they needed anything, she made another appointment for the next day and left the two men alone again. Perhaps 20 minutes later, they heard a car draw up and Sam made her way back into the house, calling upstairs.

'Help me downstairs?' Hutch asked.

His partner looked doubtful. 'Dr Patterson said you shouldn't get tired and shouldn't move too much' he protested, but Hutch was half way out of bed.

'You can help me out to that seat I saw in the garden, and I promise I'll stay put' he grunted. 'It's my vacation too an' I want to see a bit of sunshine, before the rain comes down'.

So the brunette helped Hutch downstairs slowly and out into the sunny evening. Hutch collapsed onto the sun lounger in the garden as Starsky fussed over him with pillows and a cover, making sure he had a glass of water. Hutch was just happy to be outside, feeling the sun on his face. The journey downstairs had been painful, but worth it as he surveyed the country garden. Hollyhocks and Night Scented Stock ran in profusion around the borders, mixed with poppies and mysembrianthemums, creating a riot of colour. There was a large lawn which led down the hill to a wall marking the beginning of cow pasture. An enormous oak stood sentinel at the garden gate and rubbed shoulders with elder, rowan and hawthorne along the hedge. The garden was bisected by a small stream which ran over rocks and stones, a rustic bridge crossing it at it's narrowest point.

The late afternoon had a heavy lethargic feel to it, the sun's rays having lost a little of their power. Laying in a dip, as the house did, it felt cut off from the rest of the world — alone, but not lonely. Bees buzzed lazily around the hollyhocks and red admiral butterflies rested on the poppies.

Hutch felt his partner had turned a corner and wondered what had precipitated it. Whatever it was, he was glad for the brunette. He'd had far too much suffering for one man to cope with.

Later Sam brought out a lasagne she'd cooked and they ate their supper in silence, enjoying the fresh air and warm breeze. She started telling them about the serial murderer she'd had a meeting about. All the victims belonged to a Buddhist temple in the nearby town, and after the first two victims were found, the murderer had now started leaving clues. The first had been a simple statement — Deuteronomy 5:7 'You shall have no other gods before me' and at first the reviewing detective had thought it was a single murder, perpetrated by a Christian zealot. They had started searching churches in the area for any parishioners who were new or who had started behaving oddly. They had got a lead from one of the churches nearby, but the Vicar there was refusing to breach his rules of confidentiality and was having a hard time reconciling his duty with the need to help the police.

Then a new body was discovered. It was the body of a young woman and had been stabbed. The tragedy was that she was pregnant. Next to the body was a clue. It was a page ripped out of a Bible with a passage underlined in red:

Jeremiah 13:25 This is your lot, the portion I have decreed for you," declares the Lord, "because you have forgotten me and trusted in false gods".

'What was the red underlining like?' Hutch asked, fascinated. The pain in his leg temporarily forgotten, he was caught up in the intrigue of the case, even though it wasn't his to solve and he had no jurisdiction anyway.

'It was caked, and looked like blood. The forensic boys are studying it as we speak' Sam explained. 'I'll let you know what he finds. But enough of work. What have you two been doing this afternoon?'

And so the evening went on, comfortable conversation flowing between the three of them, and Sam noticing that Starsky was beginning to join in a little more, his handsome face now more animated and the lost, hurt look diminishing from his eyes.

At about 10.30, the brunette looked at his watch. 'Don't it ever get dark round here?' he asked, stretching and getting up.

'Not really if the weather's sunny'. Sam explained. 'It probably won't go completely dark at all tonight, but the sun will rise about 4.30 tomorrow morning'.

Starsky looked over to his partner, whose chin had dipped onto his chest, eyes closed. He chuckled 'think we'd better get sleeping beauty to bed'. He crossed to the blond and shook his shudder gently. 'Hey, Blintz. Bedtime'. Turning, he quickly strode over to Sam and quickly kissed the top of her head. 'Thanks for everything'.

She looked at him strangely, but said nothing.

Starsky struggled to get the blond to his feet and after much hard work upstairs and ready for bed. Settling into his own bed, Starsky lay back and stared at the ceiling, going over the events of the day. Not a bad day, he thought, his mind drifting back to the woman by the lake. He fell asleep with a little smile on his face.

Chapter 15

The night was quiet, Starsky opened his eyes and looked around the room wondering what had woken him. It wasn't dark, as Sam had said. Instead there was a dusky twilight in the room, neither dark nor fully light. It sapped the colours and left him in a monochrome world. Nothing there. Nothing at all. He turned over on his side, turned the pillow over to enjoy the coolness of the underside and settled himself back down again. Taking a deep breath, he tried to go back to sleep, but couldn't. He thought he heard something from the garden and got out of bed to look out of the window to the grass below. He couldn't see anything there either, but just as he was pulling the curtains together again, he thought he saw the figure of a woman ducking behind the garden wall.

He ran from his bedroom and down the stairs, taking them two at a time and pulled open the front door. He stared out into the moonlit garden, looking around. Barefoot, he padded over the grass to look over the garden wall, but still he could find no trace of any intruder. Why could he not shake the feeling that it was the same woman he had met by the lake the previous day? Shaking his head, he went back indoors, passing the little terrier asleep in his bed. Funny, the dog didn't bark, either.

Morning came and Starsky dragged himself out of bed and round into the next room to see if Hutch needed anything. The blond was awake and Sam had already got him a cup of tea.

'Hey, Gordo, you sleep OK?' Hutch asked, noting that his partner looked a little less ragged round the edges.

'Yeah, I did. It must be all this fresh air! How are you this morning?'

'Legs fine, not too much pain. I'm gonna get up after breakfast. Looks like it's gonna be another good day' Hutch said, stretching his arms above his head and smiling.

Starsky made a decision and said. 'Stay put till I get back. I'm gonna take the dog a walk, then I'll be back to ya'.

Hutch was aghast. 'Two walks in two days? And no one to force ya? he said. 'I think you've got a secret assignation up there buddy' he laughed.

For a moment, the brunette wondered how on earth Hutch knew, then realised that was just his guilty mind at work. Plastering a hurt look on his face he responded 'She's not your type. An she doesn't go for cripples!' he ducked as hutch threw a pair of balled up socks at him and set off down the stairs.

Dressed in a tee shirt, his cut off jeans shorts and his Adidas tennis shoes, he whistled for Bobby and together they set off back up the hill. Starsky had dreamed about the woman on and off all night, unable to forget the electrifying feel of her hands on his body. It seemed that each time she touched him, she cancelled out one of the blows that Ross had struck, wiping away the bruises and scars from his body. He couldn't make his mind up what it was about her that attracted him so much. Certainly she had an innocent quality to her, but it was more than that. It felt as thought she was his soul mate and even though after Ross he had silently vowed that he would never get involved with another woman, for her, he might break that promise to himself.

The morning was fresh but warm and the cool air on his bare legs felt good, the long grass on the path tickling his bare skin. The dog was, as usual, full of energy, and now that the brunette knew where he was going, he made a reasonable pace up the hill and onto the plateau at the top. Still suffering a little with his cracked ribs, he panted slightly as he crested the hill, but didn't stop, wanting to get to the lake. He wanted to see if the woman was there again, although he knew logically there was no possibility.

As Bobby ran on ahead, Starsky meandered down the gentle slope and chose a spot near to where he had stopped yesterday. The woodland to his left held shadows dark in contrast with the bright green of the meadow and the slight susurration of the wind through the leaves lulled him. He sat on the ground and waited, but all he could sense was the quiet of the countryside, the bleat of some sheep a way away and the birdsong. The heron still stood on its island in the middle of the water, wings folded, seemingly mocking him. What the fuck as he doing anyway? How on earth could he expect to meet the same woman? She was probably busy cooking her husband's breakfast, or doing the washing. She certainly wouldn't be up here this early in the morning. He closed his eyes, just, for a moment, enjoying the peace. He lay down on the grass and idly let the short blades run between his fingers.

Then he heard the song. The same voice he heard yesterday. He sat up, and there she was again, dipping her bare toes in the water. Where did she come from? He hadn't seen her walking up to the lake. She turned to him and waved and he had that odd deja vue feeling. He waved back and she came towards him, that same open smile on her face.

'Hello' she said as she sat by his side

'Hello again' he responded.

'Are you alone?'

'Not any more' he laughed as she used the same line as yesterday.

'You're still sad. Do you want to tell me?'

God, she was so direct. So beguiling. What was it about her that attracted him? He'd never be so fast with anyone else, but with this stranger, he had the urge to spill his innermost secrets. And what's more she wanted to listen and she seemed to make the ache go away.

'Lie back' she said, pushing him backwards onto the grass, her voice velvety smooth. 'Relax and tell me'. She was running her hand up is leg, from ankle to knee, and he felt that same disjointedness, easing thoughts from his crowded mind. Her hand stopped at the scar on his right leg, and she circled it with her fingers. 'What's this?'

He tried to get his brain into gear and swallowed hard. 'Ah....gunshot wound, trying to escape a blazing barn'. His voice had taken on a husky quality, as if he had woken from a peaceful sleep. God her fingers felt so good.

The fingers moved up a little, always feather light in their touch, dancing across his sun warmed skin like a breeze. 'And this?' she rubbed another scar on his thigh.

He strangled down a moan. 'Knife, when I was in 'Nam'.

Her hands were at his tee shirt now, pulling at it and moving it up his chest. Without realising he'd done it, he'd helped her to pull it over his head, and he lay back letting the grass tickle his naked back. She was lying at the side of him now, propped on her elbow, playing her hands over the dark fur of his chest, making him growl low in his throat. The fingers continued their progression north and they stopped again at his left shoulder.

Without her asking he volunteered 'gunshot at an Italian restaurant'.

'So many wounds, so much pain' she whispered into his ear, low and seductive. 'And what of the rest?' her hands caressed his neck near the stitches and moved to the fading bruises across his chest and side. She leaned over and kissed the yellowing bruise over his eye as he sighed deeply.

The world was out of focus, all that existed at that moment was the woman next to him and her magic hands. Wherever she touched, his skin felt light and whole.

Summoning all his energy he muttered 'my girlfriend did them'.


'I don't know. She was sick and she couldn't help it'.

'Why didn't you stop her?'

Now that was the sixty four thousand dollar question, wasn't it? 'I deserved it'. Knowing he really meant it.

'Are you a bad man?'

'No, course not', his voice rose a little.

The fingers redoubled their efforts on his chest, chasing each other through the forest of hair, sending all but the most immediate thoughts away, tingles coursing though his body and into his groin. Small pleasurable electric shocks.

'Then why did you deserve it?'

'Terry died because of me'.

'I know. But did you kill her?'

'Hey, how do you know?' he asked, trying to sit up. She pushed him back down and brought her fingers up to his temples, massaging in little circles that sent shock waves through his body. Suddenly it didn't matter how she knew, only that he had to answer her.

'A man killed her to make me hurt. I didn't kill her'. There, he said he. I didn't kill Terry.

'Then why let others hurt you as well. Do you like it?'

'No, it hurts too much'. He gasped

'But only you can take that pain away' she whispered it in his ear, the breath from each word entering him and cleaning their way through his body. She let her hands stray down his chest, reaching beneath the waistband of his shorts.

'I don't want to hurt any more' he panted, his breathing now ragged with passion and the realisation that his salvation was in his own hands.

'Then let it go and give yourself permission to live again' she said.

Her hand was now at his groin, running her fingers through the bush of wiry hair at the base of his manhood. She took hold of him and the shock of her cool hands on that most sensitive of places left him groaning with desire. He pushed his hips up towards her as he felt her start to massage him with firm strokes up and down. He'd never experienced anything like the touch of this woman's hand and within two minutes, his body exploded in an earth shattering orgasm which left him breathless and boneless. Totally spent, he lay for a moment, savouring every feeling in his body, his breath ragged in his throat as he felt himself coming down from the peak of desire.

At last, he opened his eyes, searching her cats eyes out, so that he could hold her and make sweet tender love to her, giving her as much pleasure as she had given him.

She was gone.

Starsky looked frantically round. How could she just vanish? That was way too weird. But there was no sign of her anywhere. He stood shakily, the sexual energy taking its toll on his body. There was nothing to be seen but grass, hills, water and the little terrier dog, lying panting in the sun.

'You saw her didn't you?' Starsky asked the dog. Bobby stared back at him, ears pricked and head on one side.

'OK, I've officially lost it' the brunette said out loud, to anyone who would listen. 'I'm having sex with a woman who isn't there, I've asked a dog a question expecting an answer, and now I'm talking to myself'. He chuckled out loud, hearing his own voice echo across the moorland, carried away by the wind.

Starting to walk back down the hill he realised he felt better, lighter, brighter, as though a cloud had been lifted from his mind. How could one woman do all that for him in two short talks and some pretty amazing handling, when he'd been suffering for months with his demons? He didn't know whether it was the talk, or the sex — both were incredible — but he was damn well going to find out who this woman was, one way or the other.

Chapter 16

Starsky sang as he walked down the hill, feeling the sun on his back. His voice wasn't as smooth as is partners, but he could carry a tune, and even strum a guitar if needs must. The grass seemed a little greener and the flowers a little more beautiful. He was going to find about where this wonderful woman lived. He owed her so much; her straight forward manner; her guileless approach had completely disarmed him. And as for the........well, he'd never had such an earth shattering orgasm from just a few minutes touching. What was it with her? He'd bottle it, if he could!

He swung his way round to the garden gate and saw Hutch on his crutches making his way into the garden to sit on the lounger. The blond was all set for a day in the son, bare chested and with his shorts on, the muscles in his chest rippled as he leaned heavily on the crutches the District Nurse had left the previous night. Hutch looked up as his partner came round the corner of the cottage and caught his breath. What the hell had happened? Gone was the defeated and destroyed man of a few days ago. He looked in wonder as he saw that famous strut back in the walk and spring in the step. Whatever it was, his heart sung for the smaller man. Was this the end of his battle? He sure hoped so.

'Well good morning' he called, balancing on one leg.

'Good morning to you too' the brunette responded, smiling a big broad Starsky smile. He quickened his step and helped Hutch to sit down on the lounger.

'Enjoy the walk?' the blond asked, trying to fathom what had happened to precipitate this change.

'Indeed I did. Me and the dog found it very.......bracing this morning, partner. And how's Peg Leg Pete? Ya wanna parrot and eye patch to go with the crutch, Long John Silver?'

'Starsk, have you been on the elderflower wine again?' Hutch asked, amusement in his voice.

At that moment Sam came out into the garden, carrying a tea tray. She came over and paced it down on the table by the lounger and she and Starsky sat down on the grass. She looked the brunette up and down.

'Did you take Bobby for a walk this morning?' she asked.

Starsky nodded.

'You went up to the lake, did you?'

'Ah, yeah, why?'

'Nothing, just wondering' she said vaguely. 'You seem better?'

'I think I am' he said. Something made him stop before he mentioned the woman, not ready yet to share that little snippet with anyone. Hell, he didn't even now her name!

'Anybody else up there?' she asked casually.

'Erm.........no. No, just me and Bobby. It's so beautiful up there. Hutch, maybe you'll get up there before we go home?' his voice cracked a little, realising he really didn't want to think about home at the moment.

Sam sensed the subtle change in the brunette and changed the subject.

'We got the lab. works back on the underlining on the murder message' she said. 'It was horse's blood. But there's been another body discovered this morning, early on. This is getting way too close. The last serial killer we had round here was the Black Panther, but he targeted post offices. This guy's obsessed with Buddhists! The body this morning was another member of the temple. And there was another Bible page by the side. Numbers 35:25. The assembly must protect the one accused of murder from the avenger of blood and send him back to the city of refuge to which he fled.

Its almost like this guys on some sort of personal vendetta, like he thinks he's doing something good!'.

Hutch asked 'was there still underlining on the script?'

'Hm? Oh, yes, the same red. It's a given that its blood again, but forensics are checking its from the same source'.

'Have you checked out local vets?' Hutch asked. 'Maybe someone has reported their animals having unusual wounds. This flakes got to have gotten the blood from somewhere'.

Sam smiled 'Way ahead of you there, Mr hotshot American policeman! Our boys are checking all the vets in the area. Should have news this afternoon. I'll let you know what goes on'.

'Did you say there was a lady at one of the churches under suspicion?' Starsky asked, feeling himself getting absorbed into the case.

'Yes, but we've checked her out. She's been in a wheelchair for six months and the only Bible we could find in the house was whole — no pages torn out. We've drawn a blank on that one'. She sighed. 'I hate these cases — murder victims who've done absolutely nothing wrong, only have a different faith to someone else'. She pulled herself together.

'Looks like the sun will keep on shining today, but enjoy! It's forecast thunder and heavy rain tomorrow'. She got up and cleared the tea tray away. 'I'm going back to the station, but I'll be back for supper. See you later boys'.


After Sam had driven away, Hutch and Starsky sat back in the garden enjoying the peace and quiet. Hutch was still amazed at the change in his partner. Starsky was humming tunelessly under his breath, something he only did when he was ether concentrating or happy. Hutch decided it was now or never to ask.

'You feelin' better, buddy?' he braced himself for whatever answer he got.

Starsky stopped humming a moment, looked over to the blond and smiled. 'Ya know, I am. I feel terrific actually'.

'Not that I'm overwhelmed for you Gordo, but what's brought this on. Tow days ago, if we'd still been home, I'd have locked your gun away in case ya did something stupid. And now your walking the dog and humming and you're my Starsk all over again'.

'Dunno Hutch. Maybe its being away from Bay City. Ya know, everything was too familiar back home and every place held a memory'. He chuckled. 'Sam said this house was special. Maybe it's the house that got me under it's spell. Whatever it is, for the first time since Terry got shot, I don't feel like everything is my fault'. He stopped to consider telling Hutch about the woman, deciding that he may as well spill the beans now, whilst they were alone.

'I met a woman up at the lake. She was amazing! Like some marriage counseller, psychiatrist woman but with a real human side to her. I can't describe her properly. She just made me want to talk'.

Hutch heard an edge of wonder in his partner's voice. 'What was she like?' he asked, glad the smaller man was opening up.

'She's so pretty. Long dark brown hair and the brightest green eyes you've ever seen. She's so tiny too, but she has this way with her, like I'd do anything she says'.

'Glad she took you in hand partner', Hutch said as the brunette sprayed his drink across the lawn.

'Yeah..........well she did that alright' Starsky laughed out loud.

The sound was infectious and within a minute, both men were laughing so hard it brought on a fit of coughs. As Starsky cradled his sire ribs, Hutch held on to his bruised head until both the pains and the laughing subsided.

Quietly, Hutch reached over to his partner and rubbed his hand up the brunette's arm. 'Glad to have you back Starsk' he whispered.

Starsky took hold of the hand and squeezed it, 'Glad to be back, Blondie. It's been a long, dark road. I knew I was being an absolute bastard, but I just couldn't bring myself out of it' he replied.

'No matter' his partner replied. 'I got ya back now'.


Both men were still sitting in the garden, enjoying the last warmth from the sun when Sam returned. She waved as she got out of the car and carried the Chinese takeaway towards them.

As they sat eating, she filled them in on the case. The blood was an exact match on both murder notes and the net was closing in on the murderer. One of the vets in Accrington, the next big town to Oswaldtwistle had been called to suture a horse's neck, but the wound was a clean incision, not the sort of wound a horse would get from, say, a barbed wire fence. The horse belonged to Red Walls Farm, on the other side of the hill from The James House, and police would be staking out the farm that night, hoping the murderer would be going back to get fresh supplies.

It seemed a satisfactory situation and the conversation went on to other things — careers, families.

'You both got girls at home?' Sam asked.

Hutch tensed, waiting for Starsky to cop out of this one, but he was surprised.

'Nah, not much luck with women' the brunette was saying. 'had a wonderful girl called Terry, but she was killed a while back. She was gorgeous, brown hair, blue eyes. You remind me of her sometimes. I wanted to marry her. She was just so right' he smiled fondly at the memory. 'Then I hit a string of loosers and ended up with a woman I thought I loved. But after she'd done all this' he raised his arms and displayed the lines of fading bruises and the wound on his neck, 'I realised I was probably better off without'.

Hutch gazed at his partner. How was it that suddenly he could recite this horrendous history so calmly? It had screwed him up so badly. He put a supporting hand on his partner's shoulder and patted gently.

Starsky was continuing. 'I never thought I'd be able to live through it', he lowered his eyes. 'I never thought I'd be able to talk about it an' I gave Blondie here such a bad time. An' then we came here an......'

Sam looked him in his big indigo blue eyes. 'You've met Hannah'.

Chapter 17

'Do you know her - Hannah?' Starsky asked, eager finally to have the low down on this fascinating woman. Even her name was beautiful.

'Did she help you, then?' Sam asked, answering his question with one of her own.

'She sure did. She's amazing. She's caring and beautiful and she has this ability........I don't know how to describe it. She just blows my mind. Tell me about her. Where does she live? Is she married?' His questions came thick and fast.

'Tell me, can you describe her?' Sam asked quietly.

'Yeah. She's about 5' tall, very slim, with very long dark brown hair. And her eyes. Oh God, her eyes! You could drown in them. So green, like there's a fire in there'.

Hutch listened. This must be one awesome gal, he thought. He'd never heard the usually laconic brunette wax so lyrical about anything — even his beloved Torino.

'Describe what she was wearing', Sam said

'She wore ah....it was.......That's weird. I can't remember what she as wearing. Shit, I'm a cop. I'm supposed to notice things like that, but I just can't remember. Guess I was so wrapped up in her eyes', he smiled at the memory.

The phone rang, and Sam got up to go and answer it. Starsky shouted after her.

'Hey, don't leave me in suspense! Who is she?'

'Later', Sam shouted as she went into the house.


Sam dashed from the house. 'Got to go. There's been a development with the "Bible case". All detectives needed. Don't wait up, I'll be back when I'm back' she called as she ran to her car.

The two American detectives nodded, knowing the score, they'd been there before themselves, private life came second to work. The sun was beginning to hide behind clouds now and the air was taking on a chill, the warm breeze which had blown since they'd arrived being replaced by a cooler wind. Hutch got stiffly to his feet and limped heavily into the house, but without the aid of his crutches. Starsky followed behind, carrying the said crutches and making sure that Bobby was ready for his tea.

As they sat in the big kitchen in front of the range, Hutch asked Starsky again about the woman.

'Sam said her name was Hannah. How did you meet her?'

Starsky cast his mind back to that moment. 'Ya know, it was really odd. One minute I'd got up the hill and was having a rest by a little lake up there. I really wanted to be alone, coz there were so many things crowding my head. You needed time an' I was crowding you, an' I couldn't cope on my own. And then there she was, like she'd appeared from nowhere'.

'Ya know when ya go to the park an' ya sit down an' someone comes an' sits too near?' ya get up an' move? Well, she came right up to me an' she sat down, an' I didn't feel like that. It was like the most natural thing in the world. She started asking me questions an' I just had to answer her'. Starsky stopped a moment, evaluating his feelings. Was he making sense, or would Hutch think he'd lost it completely?

The blond waited for his partner to carry on. 'What did she say?' he asked quietly, not wanting to break the spell this woman — Hannah — had over the brunette.

'It wasn't really what she said, it was the way she said it. I can't describe it. Like I was the only guy in the world an' she wanted to hear only me. I just spilled everthin'. An' as I was telling her she was kinda strokin' my arm. I'm tellin' ya, buddy, if just a stroke can do that, sex would be mind blowin'!'

'I saw her that first day — yesterday — an' I felt so much better when she'd gone'.

'Where did she go?' Hutch asked.

Starsky shrugged his shoulders. 'Dunno. I thought I'd fallen asleep, coz, one minute she was there, an' then she wasn't. I came back here, but I couldn't get her outa my head. I thought I heard her in the middle of the night an' I got up to check, but I couldn't see her. This morning, I just wanted to go see her again'.

'So that's why you wanted the walk', the blond said, chuckling. 'an' I thought it was a fitness craze!'

'Well I went back up there, an' I swear there was no-one there when I arrived. I sat down an' waited, then there she was again'.

'What, she followed you up the hill?'

'No....I don't think.......no, I'm sure there was no one followin' me. She was just there! She came over, and she.....ah...'he suddenly felt shy telling his partner.

'Well go on, don't leave me in suspense!' the blond urged.

Starsky cleared his throat. 'Well she...ah......she came and asked some more questions an' then she started stroking me again. Started on my legs and made her way upwards, then back south again'.

'What, you mean you gave her a quick introduction to little Davey? Starsk?'

'I couldn't help it!' the brunette squeeked. 'You've never felt fingers like hers Blintz. It was like little electric shocks goin' right through me, an' I just didn't want her to stop. And then she took hold of me. God, I've never felt anything like it! Her fingers were hot and cold all at the same time. An' what she did with 'em! I felt like the top of my head would blow off. And the finale...what can I say! It was literally mind blowin'. Those girls at The Pink Angel could learn a few things!'

'Well you dark horse' Hutch said quietly. 'Who'd have thought? I'm jealous, ya know?'

'I just need to find her, Hutch. Just to say thank you. She's.......' he stopped, lost for words.

The two men sat in silence, each with their own thoughts, companiable and comfortable.


By the time they were ready for bed, Sam still hadn't arrived home. Starsky helped his partner get ready and settled, then got into bed himself. He felt happy for the first time in a long time. His mind was clear. He hadn't killed Terry. If it hadn't been Terry it would have been someone else close to him. There were evil men out there and it was his job as a cop to stop them. He wasn't responsible for Ross. She had been sick, and she needed help. That she had chosen not to take it was also not his fault. He felt warm and relaxed, his skin glowing from the days out in the sun.

He closed his eyes and drifted into an easy, natural sleep, dreaming of Hannah and her magic hands. Even in sleep, his body responded to her ministrations and he moaned quietly into his pillow.

It must have been past midnight when he heard the first clap of thunder in the distance, although he wasn't sure whether it was the noise or the bright flash of lightening which lit up the small room. It was much darker tonight and there was no moon to light the room, but he was sure he saw a familiar figure in the shadows.

Sitting up in bed, Starsky reached for the bedside light and clicked the switch. Nothing. The storm must have knocked out the generator. He got out of bed, peering into the gloom but couldn't see anything clearly. He waited as another flash of lightening lit the room again. There she was — Hannah. What was she doing in his room? And how had she got there? Had Sam come home and let her in?

'Hannah?' he said, quietly, unsure of himself.

Straining to hear over the noise of the thunder, he thought he heard her call his name, 'David, you have to go up the hill'.

'Hannah, is that you? He asked a little louder. I can't go out. Its pouring with rain and there's the storm'.

But with the next flash of lightening, he knew for certain there was no one in the room. OK Davey. You're goin' crazy now. But there was a feeling there. He felt pulled to go out. No, this is madness! He looked out of the window at the driving rain laying the flowers in the garden flat against the soil. He lay back down on his bed and put his arm over his eyes, trying to shut out what he thought he'd seen, but the feeling was more palpable now, urging him to go outside and up to the lake. It clawed at him, shutting out all thoughts but that one. I must go up the hill.

Slowly, Starsky got up again and walked to his partner's room. Unsure if he was going to make any sense, he opened the door and walked in, bending down over the big blond. He gently shook his shoulder.

'Hutch? Wake up blondie. Hutch?'

The blond muttered and his eyes fluttered open. 'Starsk? You OK? It's the middle of the night buddy'.

'I...I think I've just seen Hannah. She wants me to go up to the lake, an' I feel like I have to. I can't describe it, I just have to'. His voice held a pleading note which Hutch caught immediately.

He sat up in bed, rubbing his face with his hands. 'You sure, Gordo? What was she doing in your room? How'd she get in? Are ya going? Its raining pretty heavy out there', he looked out of the window, pulling the curtain back.

'I know you think I must be mad, but yeah, I'm goin'. Can you watch my back? If I'm not back in an hour, tell Sam? Hannah is special, Hutch. I don't know if I really saw her, but I just have this pull that says she needs me'. He put his head on one side, seeking approval from the big blond.

Hutch was confused, but his partner had done dumb things before, and probably would do again. He knew Starsky was so pig headed that he'd go whether Hutch agreed or not.

'OK' he said wearily. 'If you're not back in an hour I'll get Sam to come lookin'. Be careful' he said, and wondered why he'd said it. They were in England on vacation. What could go wrong?

Starsky went back to his room and pulled on his jeans, a tee shirt and a sweater and is tennis shoes. He made his way downstairs and opened the door, staring out into the black night, wondering what the hell he was doing.

Chapter 18

The wind hurled him back against the door to begin with, but Starsky pushed himself out into the windswept garden, the cold rain stinging his exposed skin and plastering his curls to his head within seconds. He couldn't believe how cold it had become after the heat of the past few days. He shivered a little as the wet penetrated his sweater and tee shirt, drenching him to the skin within minutes.

Turning back to look at the house, he saw Hutch looking out of the bedroom window, backlit by the light from the bedside table, making it appear his golden head was wreathed in a halo. Hm, more like a fallen angel! He chuckled to himself. He flipped a wave to his partner, saw the wave in return and turned the corner of the house into the full face of the wind as he started the struggle up the path.

The flashes of lightening and thunder cracks were coming more regularly now as he pushed himself on up the hill, wondering for the twentieth time why he was doing this. Only a mad man would follow someone he only thought he saw, out into weather like this. The path seemed steeper in the dark and although he had been that way twice already, the uneven surface was treacherous and he lost his footing several times, turning his ankle and cursing. A tiny stream had developed on the path, hiding some of the stones and making the surface greasy and slippery. The rain was now dripping down his face from the dark curls over his forehead and coursing down his face to drip onto his chest from his chin. Once or twice he wiped the water away with his hand, but eventually gave it up, realising he was fighting a loosing battle. It trickled down his neck, sending irritating itches down his spine, hell bent on distracting him from his purpose.

After what seemed like forever, he battled his way onto the flat at the top of the hill. Here he felt exposed, knowing it was not the safest place to be in a thunder storm. Pushing himself on, he started down towards the woodland and lake, wondering why on earth Hannah would be here on such a night. He felt such a fool for believing that he'd seen her in his room, but the feeling of needing to be up here was too insistent to ignore.

As he neared the woodland, he thought he saw a movement amongst the trees, but it was difficult to make anything out clearly in the driving rain and close blackness as the clouds shut out the moon and stars. The dark seemed to wrap around him, suspending reality. He pushed himself forward, shaking his head to rid the curls of the droplets of water threatening to blind him momentarily. He felt like he'd never been so wet since that time with Hutch at that swimming pool. He could almost feel the weight of that dratted cardigan as it pulled him down.

There it was again, yes, definitely a movement, there to the left. Instinctively, Starsky reached his left hand round to his right side, his cop's instinct taking over, looking for his gun. But of course, it wasn't there. He'd never have been allowed to bring it to England anyway. He moved cautiously now, not really sure why, but feeling vulnerable and exposed. He made the tree line and ducked behind the nearest tree, casting about for further signs of life.

As he looked further into the wood, he thought he saw something glint in the distance. Quietly and quickly, Starsky started to run from one tree to the next, hiding behind each until he got a clear view.

There was a man, standing looking in his direction. The man was perhaps 35, tall and well built, with a shock of black hair, plastered down by the rain. His skin was pale and as another lightening flash lit up the area, the brunette could see the man's eyes were staring wildly around him. He looked the epitome of a mad man and Starsky leaned his back against his tree, catching his breath and wondering just what the hell was going on.

Daring another look, he saw the man was armed with a long bladed knife. He was nursing it to him as a woman would hold a baby. Starsky wondered if this was Hannah's husband maybe? Who else would be up here in a thunder storm at this time of night? Well you are, Davey! OK. What should he do now? He knew if he had his gun, he'd be inclined just to go out there waving it and shouting 'police, freeze'. He smiled grimly, well that won't work, now will it? For a moment he considered going back down the hill to get his partner, but in reality, Hutch would never get up here in time without help, with his leg and all.

OK, so its up to you Curly

Sneaking another look around the tree trunk, he picked a time when there had just been a flash of lightening, and the sky was once again dark. He took a fix on the guy's position and ran towards him, skidding to a halt behind a tree just behind the man. But the man had seen him and had turned to face him, seeking him out behind his tree. As he heard the heavy footsteps coming towards him, Starsky came out into plain sight, his hands out at his sides showing he was unarmed. The man lunged towards him, blade outstretched and the brunette side stepped neatly,

'Hey, man. What ya doing up here?' Starsky asked calmly, trying to establish a connection, as the police manual said.

'Get lost' the mad man shouted, his words whipped away by the wind, to toss their way across the open moorland. 'Don't come any closer, or you'll get what they got'.

Starsky continued walking slowly forward, never taking his eyes from the blade now pointing directly at him. 'My name's Dave. Ya gonna tell me who got what?' he asked patiently.

'Those pieces of shit. Those abominations. They go round with their orange robes on. They killed her. And now it's their turn. You can't stop me. Don't try to stop me' is voice was a scream now, lost as he was in his lunacy.

'Not tryin' to stop anythn' the brunette said gently. 'Just put the knife down, an' we can talk, OK?'

'No, get away from me, you're just like them. All talk, I can't talk any more. I'm past it. Get out of my way'. The last came out with such violence, and the angry man plunged forward towards Starsky.

It was an uneven match, the brunette's 160lbs against the 200+ of the other man. Starsky tried to side step again, but the uneven wet ground tripped him and he slid to his left. As he brought his arms up to save himself from the fall, he felt a cold pain enter his right side just below his ribs. Looking down in surprise, he saw the man pulling the blade away, and a dark stain starting to appear on his sweater. The man pushed Starsky back and both fell to the ground, the mad man on top, holding the blade to the brunette's throat.

The pain in his side was considerable, but easy to ignore with a knife sawing at his neck. Knowing there was no way he could throw off such weight, especially with the wound in his side, the brunette knew he would have to try reason.

Gasping for breath, he tried to get his thoughts in order. 'We can still talk' he rasped. 'I know you're hurtin'. I know what its like when people want you to talk, but you can't, believe me! Just try an' tell me about a bit of it. That's be a start. Once ya start, it's easier. We can work somethin' out'. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the dull ache radiating from the knife wound, his breath ragged and uneven.

'She died because of them. She died because they brainwashed her, the evil scum ridden.....' the knife dug a little deeper and Starsky felt the skin give a little, and a trickle of blood start.

'Who died? Who brainwashed her?' he tried again desperately.

'My wife' the man cried in anguish, a sob choking him in mid sentence. 'She died giving birth because they said to take a life was against their teachings'.

Starsky realised that, of all the places he could be right now, he just happened to be with the serial killer Sam had been after. Nice one, Davey boy. Any more good luck comin' your way?

'D'ya mean the people at the temple?' he asked, already knowing the answer.

'They killed her. They killed my beautiful girl. They killed her' the man cried, his body sagging back against the brunette's as he lost himself in his grief, his shoulders shaking as sob after wracking sob shook his body.

Starsky reached up and carefully tried to take the knife away, but the man had a death grip on it and wouldn't or couldn't let go. Sliding his body sideways and gritting his teeth at the pain it caused, Starsky managed to slide out from under the man, ending by sitting at his side, his left hand cradling his right side. In the darkness, the blood stain was black and glistening, mixing with the rain still pouring down. It looked like an ink blot against the white fabric.

As Starsky reached again for the knife, the man turned and tried once again to plunge it into the brunette, but this time, Starsky had the upper hand and managed to push himself out of the way. Half standing, the man slipped on the wet ground, still intent on doing the curly haired detective more harm. He screamed like a banshee as he tried to right himself to stop his body falling. But gravity won over and another strangled sound escaped his lips as the knife, still held in front of him, disappeared to the hilt in his chest. He turned sideways, frantic eyes seeking out the only other human being around, the knife still obscenely embedded. Starsky leaned forward, trying to stem the blood that was flowing from the man, knowing it was a mortal wound. He could hear the rattling in the man's chest and saw bloody bubbles at his lips. The man grabbed for the brunette's sweater, taking a handful of the material and bringing the smaller man towards him.

'She was going to have our baby, but the d doctors said she'd n never survive. It was her, or the ch child. She asked the Lama, but he told her she'd f find her own p path'. He was gasping now, but frantic, wanting to tell Starsky, eyes asking for forgiveness.

Starsky held the man's head, cushioning it as he bent forward to shield the face from the driving rain. 'Hey, take it easy, we'll get you outa this. Just lie still', he murmured.

'No.....don't understand. She let the baby live and she d died. She died'. He closed his eyes. 'What would the Bible have said? Stuff that eastern crap. What would it have told her?' he whispered.

Well that's rich, Starsky thought to himself. Ask a Jew about the Bible! Suddenly the words came unbidden. 'I think it would have said "Thou shalt not kill" he said gently.

The man in his arms gave one last shuddering sigh, and the brunette watched with compassion as the light of life left his eyes.

Starsky held on to the man for a moment more before putting the body gently down on the ground. He doubled over, clutching the wound on his side, the pain seeming to redouble in intensity, now that the danger was over. His world was slipping sideways, the rain chilling him now and setting up a deep shiver to his core. He slumped against the side of the tree nearest to him and closed his eyes. He knew he should feel angry, or afraid, but instead he felt at total peace for the first time in as long as he could remember.

He hated the pain though. That he could do without and he whimpered as breathing became an issue, wishing he wasn't alone. Wishing that magic voice of the blond was there to hold on to. He was trying to imagine what his partner would say when another sound filtered into his rapidly numbing brain. A voice at his side soothed him and he cracked his eyes open a little. Hannah was with him, soothing him, fingers running through his sodden curls. She placed her hand on his side, above the knife wound, and the pain lessened, bringing him comfort and warmth as he slowly lapsed into unconsciousness.

Chapter 19

Hutch looked at his little bedside clock. It was just over an hour since his partner had headed out into the blackness, and as yet, he hadn't returned. At first, Hutch had thought that this was another one of the famous Starsky ideas, like the stones and the guinea pigs. He'd fully expected the brunette to come back after a few minutes, ringing wet and complaining about English weather. As the time went by, though, the blond started wondering if there was any substance to what Starsky had said. Did he see Hannah in his room? He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. Don't be so idiotic, Hutchinson. But the fact that Starsky hadn't returned was beginning to worry him.

He limped across the room and peered out of the window again, trying desperately to see if he could see the brunette in the dark and rain, hoping his partner would come round the corner of the house, cursing. But no. Nothing. He limped back and out into the corridor, pausing at Sam's room half afraid to wake her and explain his friend had gone out into the night chasing a whim. He knocked gently, then a little harder, but there was no answer. Cursing, he went back to check the driveway, but her car wasn't there — she must still be at work. Wonderful — that was ll he needed. To have the whole of the Lancashire constabulary on alert for a mad American detective who halucinates!

He went downstairs, taking it cautiously, and picked up the telephone. He thumbed through the address book and finding what he needed, dialled the number of the police station. The desk sergeant answered.

'Hi. Could I speak with Detective Sam Fielding please, its fairly urgent?'

There was a pause, then a click as the line was picked up and Sam's voice answered 'DS Fielding'.

'Sam, I'm sorry to get you at work, but Starsky's missing. He woke me up in a real stress. He said Hannah told him he had to go up to the lake. He said if he wasn't back in an hour to call for backup. I know it seems stupid, the weather is foul, but.....can you get a patrol car?'

'You say he said Hannah told him to?' Sam asked.

'Yeah.He was real insistent that he had to go. He's done some stupid things in his time, but he really looked like he beieived what he had to do. I know it's dumb' he finished lamely.

'No, it's not daft at all. If I know Hannah, there'll be some reason why he needed to go up there' she said. 'Stay put, I'll be home with backup in about 45 minutes, OK?'

'Ah, yeah, that's fine. But I'm not staying here. If you're as certain as all that that he saw this woman, then I'm gonna head up there myself. There's something that doesn't feel right, ya know?'

Sam knew Hutch well enough not to argue. 'OK, but be careful. I'll be there as soon as I can'. She put the phone down and Hutch struggled back upstairs to get some suitable clothes on.


Five minutes later the blond opened the door and struggled out into the storm. The thunder had passed overhead now and the wind had backed down a little, but the rain still beat against him as he struggled up the path he knew his partner had taken. It was difficult for him. The uneven ground didn't embrace the heavy limp the blond had, and he was unable to get a rhythm in his step. Unable to stop it, the little dog came with him, running ahead, then darting back to make sure Hutch was following. The pain in his leg was bad, but Hutch tried to ignore it, worry for the brunette overtaking everything else, the adrenalin of the moment, allowing the blond to forge ahead.

Seemingly a year later, Hutch got to the top op the hill, panting hard. He bent over to relieve the ache in his chest, the remnants of the fever he had had earlier, and to catch his breath. He stood, looking around him, wondering which direction Starsky might have taken, the visibility in the abating storm being still close to zero. Luckily, Bobby seemed to know exactly where he was headed and Hutch forced himself to follow the little brown and white animal as it bounded ahead, now barking in excitement.

As he passed the small body of water, its surface glinting dully in the meagre light and headed towards the trees, Hutch hoped he was going in the right direction. He remembered Starsky telling him about a woodland area and made his way to the tree line, his clothes sticking to his body with a mixture of rain and sweat, the moisture turning his flaxen hair a darkened golden colour in the dim light, now that the moon had started to peek out from behind the clouds. His fringe, which he usually kept swept back from his face was now plastered over his forehead, dripping water down the rats tails it formed down into his eyes. As the blond gained the trees, the rain mercifully stopped altogether. Hutch looked around him, wondering who in their right mind would actually come up here on a night like this. Not seeing anything immediately he shouted. 'Starsk? Starsky, you there?'

No answer. He plunged on, the little dog now running back to him, barking frantically. He followed and in the distance saw two shapes looming out of the shadows. Hurrying as much as his injured leg would allow, he shouted again, now certain one of the shapes was his partner.


He plunged towards the two masses, now identifiable as bodies, one flat on the ground, the other slumped against a tree. As he came nearer, he recognised his partner, back against the tree trunk, chin resting on his chest. He saw the rain soaked clothes, the sodden hair and the rapidly expanding stain on his right hand side. Starsky's eyes were closed. Oh, fuck, Gordo. What in hells name have you done this time?

Making a cursory check of the second body, flipping it over and checking for a pulse, he found it dead. Hutch knelt with stiffly and with difficulty next to the brunette, gently cupping the handsome wet face in his hands.

'Starsk?' he asked, quietly, terrified at what he might find. His hand went to the side of his partner's neck and thankfully found a weak pulse. He tried again, tapping gently against the cheek.

'Hey Starsky, ya with me buddy?'

The eye lids fluttered and Hutch leaned forward to hear his partner's muttered words.

'Hannah? Don't leave me. You're so beautiful, don't go', he mumbled

'Starsk, it's me, Hutch. Open your eyes for me buddy'.

He was rewarded with a brief flash of indigo. 'Utch? What kept ya?' Starsky muttered. 'Where's Hannah? She was 'ere. Where's she g gone?'

Hutch looked around him. 'No one's here but us Gordo. You OK. What happened?'

Starsky was shivering with the cold and wet. 'g guy there was the k killer. He knifed m me then fell on the b blade. 'Shit, 'urts', he gasped, clutching his side again.

Hutch took off his sweater, balling it up to push it against the wound.

'I know it hurts, buddy, but helps on the way. Just stay with me here, Starsk. Starsky?' but his partner had passed out.

Hutch manoeuvred himself round so that he was leaning against the tree with Starsky's body cradled in his arms, trying to keep as much warmth as possible there. He rested his chin on the top of his unconscious partner's head. 'Some vacation huh?' he said.

Bobby ran backwards and forwards between the trees and the lake, as if knowing others would come. If only they'd get here soon, Hutch thought. He was feeling cold and shaky himself and rested his head back against the tree, closing his eyes to ride out the wait.


There were bright lights above him and it had stopped raining. He felt dry and warm and comfortable apart from the stinging pain he still had in his side. Were they stars and the moon? No, too bright for that. And there was a smell too. Not wet grass and water. It was a clinical smell, one that was all too familiar to him. As Starsky's sense returned, he heard a familiar voice saying oh too familiar words.

'Starsk, ya gonna awake up? C'mon Starsk, lets see those blues'. The velvet voice that he hung on to, when he needed something to anchor him.

The brunette obliged and squinted a little at the bright light above him. He recognised the set-up, the table, the bright light, the busy motion around him.

'Hey Blintz' he rasped. 'Which ER this time?'

'One you've never tried before' Hutch chuckled. 'Ya can give it a star rating later. Do a kind of comparison analysis, American versus English. How ya feelin'?'

'Sore! And tired and fed up. Had about as much vacation as I can handle. But we got the bad guy'. He smiled at the memory.

Hutch furrowed his brow. 'Nah. No 'we' about it, Gordo. You got the bad guy all by yourself'. Hutch's hand trailed down to the large white dressing on his partner's right side. 'Even if he did get you first'.

'We got him, Blondie. Me an' Hannah' he snuggled his head into the pillow smiling at the memory of the woman's hands on his body. Whilst he'd been waiting for the help he knew would come, she had sat by him, holding him and easing away his pain. She'd told him everything would be alright and that help was coming. She'd put her tiny hand on his forehead and he'd looked into those magical green eyes, loosing himself in their depths.

He must have drifted into a sleep, because the next thing he remembered was the touch of a far larger and rougher hand, bringing him back from darkness, and Hutch's voice, strained with worry, asking if he was OK.

Starsky settled back against the pillow, knowing the score. ER for a few hours, transfer to a ward for a couple of days, then home with lots of instructions and the blond fussing over him. He'd been down this road before, too many times. But this time, he felt differently. Was it that he knew he hadn't been badly hurt? Maybe. But more than that, it was Hannah, sitting with him in the dark, making him believe in himself and making sure he knew that everything would work out. As his dark lashes closed over the cobalt blue eyes, his mind went back to "Hannah of the Hands".

Chapter 20

Two days later, Starsky was discharged from hospital with seven stitches to the wound in his side, a dose of antibiotics and orders to take it easy. Those orders he was going to follow to the letter. Hutch had remained with him the first night, but had gone home to The James House the last night, to update Sam on Starsky's progress, which was amazingly swift.

That afternoon, Sam came to take the two men home and after all the discharge paperwork had been done, she bundled both men into the car and they made their way back to The James House. As they got out of the car, she couldn't help laughing at the two guys who had come to her home for rest and relaxation. Hutch still limped heavily on his right leg, although the wound was healing nicely. Starsky bent over a little as he walked, clutching a protective hand to his side.

'Well, you look like a set of rejects from Emergency Ward 10' she chuckled, receiving a dirty look from the brunette as he grunted with the effort of getting up the garden path.

'Yeah, some vacation this turned out to be' he grumped, but his voice held a hint of humour there too. Even though he still hurt, he felt happier than he had done for such a long time. He mentally shrugged What's an eight inch blade in the side between friends?

Once inside, they sat down in the kitchen as Sam made tea and fussed over them in a motherly fashion, having a chance finally to talk about the events of the past few days. Sam hadn't been able to visit in the hospital as the paperwork at the conclusion of the "Bible Case" as she called it had taken up all her time, but now, the excitement was dying down and she was owed some down time.

They sat in companiable silence in the warm kitchen for a while as Bobby pottered into the room, sniffing first at Hutch, then seating himself with a sigh at Starsky's feet.

'Hey pooch' Starsky said, bending carefully down to stroke the dogs ears. Bobby sat, looking adoringly into the brunette's face, as if he was the best person in the whole world. Straightening, he looked over to Sam.

'There's something I've been meaning to ask you. Hutch told me that when he telephoned you at the station and said I thought I saw Hannah in the room, you seemed to take it for granted, and didn't question it. I've been laid in that hospital bed for two days now, mulling over everything that went on. I didn't mention her in my statement, something seemed to stop me, but I don't know what. You were gonna tell me before all this started, after I'd seen her the second time. Ya gonna spill and tell me who this Hannah is?'

Sam took a deep breath. 'Depends how open minded you are, but you've seen her for yourself, so take the explanation or leave it. The choice is yours. Hannah James was the daughter of the first owners of this house — The James House. That was in 1656 we believe, 6 years after the house was built. She was a compassionate girl and wanted to nurse people in the neighbouring village, but her father wanted her to marry the local squire. A woman of some standing in the village would not be allowed to work. She rebelled against him, saying she'd never marry, and ran up onto the moors, heartbroken. It was a night much like the other night — a big storm with thunder and rain, but it was the middle of the winter, and cold as ice. Hannah fell and hurt herself, and never made it back to the house. Her body was found a few days later by the lake'.

'She comes back now and again, either to the house, or to the moors, but only when she senses a soul in torment. She comes back to help, or to nurse, always to help. She obviously realised you needed help, and she gave it. And then when Mark Andrews, the murderer was up there, in her way, she wanted to help him too'. Sam looked at the two men, expecting them to laugh, but both still looked serious.

'I never believed in ghosts' Starsky said quietly. 'Guess I'll have to review that now. She was so beautiful! And she really did help me. She had such a way with her — her words and her....'

'Hands' his partner finished with a smile.

Sam looked from one to the other, wondering if they were being serious. 'I've seen her a few times. Once in the house and a couple of times up on the moors, although it's always been in the distance. The only thing I know for sure is that this house has the most welcoming atmosphere I've ever known, and I'd never leave it, even though it is haunted'.


Towards the end of the last week of their vacation, Hutch and Sam huddled together in a corner of the sitting room as Starsky came in, much recovered from his adventure on the moors. He looked at them quizzically.

'What the big secret?' he asked.

'We've got a surprise for you. Get ready, we're going out, but you're driving'. Hutch laughed.

Twenty minutes later, the three of them were squeezed into the Jenson and driving out to Preston to join the M6 north. Hutch had explained that he'd hired the Interceptor as a 'cheer up' present for Starsky, knowing how he loved flash cars. Because of all that had happened to the both of them, he'd never really had chance to drive it properly. So they were heading to the Lake District.

Starsky opened the engine up on the motorway, cruising along at a steady 70 miles per hour, the countryside flashing past them. As they went further north, the landscape changed form farm pasture and gentle hills to bold, massive fells and sheep farms. The colours too changed, from the brilliant greens of the lowlands to a purple hue as the heather clinging to the fell sides outgrew the grass. The motorway wound it's way through the fells, their bulk rising up on either side, dwarfing the car and making the occupants feel small and insignificant. Hutch took time to really look at the massive hills, seeing the dry stone walls snaking their way precipitously to the very tops of the fells, keeping the sheep in check. Although the evening was bright, with the dying rays of the sun kissing the fell tops, there was something dark and brooding about the area. A wildness which caught at the blonde's heart, making him yearn to get out and climb to their tops to see Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and the North Sea all in one 360 degree loop.

Turning off at junction 40 and heading past Penrith towards Keswick, they could see in the distance the massive bulk of Skiddaw stood like a sentinel, guarding the little town, Derwent Water nestling at its feet, glistening golden in the evening sun, it's water calm, deep and cold. Sam instructed Starsky to take the turning before the town, heading back south towards Ambleside. The brunette did as he was told without quibbling. It was early evening and the roads were quiet, although the light was still good.

As the car turned a bend at the top of the steep hill, the road unfolded in front of them, curving steeply down the hill, a clear view for over a mile ahead. Sam instructed Starsky to pull over to the side of the road. As the car slid smoothly to a stop, she smiled at him.

'This is my goodbye present to you. Nothing much uses this road at this time of day, and I know the traffic police round here. We went to college together and he was sort of sweet on me. Anyway, he promises to turn a blind eye if he happens to see a long, low black sports car, driven by a demonic curly haired American going at slightly over the speed limit'.

She settled back in the seat, tightening the seat belt.

'Open her up, and see what she can do. Enjoy' she said as Starsky switched on the ignition and slipped into first gear, a feral smile on his face. His heart rate hiked up a notch in anticipation and as he pulled away he wound the window down, to let the breeze blow through his hair, gunning the engine quickly up to speed.

As the speedometer passed 75, a look a rapt enjoyment came over the tanned, handsome face, indigo eyes searching the black tarmac ahead, hands loosely holding the wooden steering wheel. Starsky's face was a picture of fierce determination, his jaw tensed, a grin on his face.

And as he nursed the car round the final bend and set off down the hill, he let out a shriek of pure joy...