Safe House

Chapter 1

'Zebra three, zebra three, see the man named Huggy Bear at the Pits', the voice came loud and clear over the radio in Hutch's brown LTD. Starsky reached for the microphone with his left hand, the right being busy with the hamburger he was demolishing for his belated lunch.

'This is zebra three, lovely person, we are responding, and have a wonderful day' he replaced the receiver looking pleased with himself.

The blond at his side cast a sideways glance at his partner, raising a quizzical eyebrow. 'Starsk, have you been sniffing lighter fluid again? Its late in the day and we're both bushed. Why so full of it?'

The curly haired man ignored the jibe. 'It's a lovely day, the sun is shining and the birds are singing and life is good. Don't ya feel it Hutch? The saps rising! And I got this new pen. It even writes underwater' he lifted the silver coloured pen up to that it twinkled in the light.

'Starsk, the birds in Bay City cough, they don't sing. And it may have escaped your notice, but those big black things in the sky are thunder clouds, buddy. It's gonna bucket down in the next half hour! An' unless you're thinking of diving off the end of the pier in the next dy or so, what good is a pen that writes underwater?'

'Yeah, well' the brunette smiled, his indomitable spirit a constant source of admiration to his partner. 'Got a hot date with Becky tonight, so everything is rosy. I can even write out the cheque for the restaurant with my new pen'. He finished the last mouthful of hamburger and tossed the wrapper into the back of the car with the last month's rubbish.

The two detectives were coming to the end of another long hot shift. The temperature had been steadily rising all day and the air was getting heavy and thick. It hadn't helped them when they had chased that flake half way across town in the car, then the last mile or so on foot, before they'd finally cornered him in the park. As Starsky had snicked the handcuffs on him, Hutch had trotted back to the car and driven it over to pick up his partner and his captive to deliver them to the Metro. The prospect of a couple of hours of paper work loomed, so any distraction in the form of Huggys and cool beer seemed like a winner at the precise moment.

As Hutch turned the car down a side street and pulled up outside the bar their friend and informant Huggy Bear owned and ran, both looked over at the dingy doorway and the gaudy sign above it.

'Wonder what's rattled Huggy's cage today', Hutch asked conversationally. 'We only saw him last night an' everything was fine with him then'.

His partner was ready to go, never one for prevarication. 'Won't know till we ask'.

The detectives got out and walked towards the door, not bothering to lock the vehicle. As Starsky was fond of saying, anyone who was desperate enough to steel the brown rust bucket deserved to keep it. He knew Merle would fix Hutch up with something way better, but it had become a bit of a feud between the two men. The more Starsky pushed, the more Hutch dug in his heals and refused to part with the dented, ugly vehicle.

They pushed the door to the bar open and walked into its dark, cool interior, the smell of stale beer assailing their nostrils, the wooden floor slightly sticky beneath their feet. At the end of the bar, wiping a glass, they saw the tall lanky figure of Huggy Bear, the proprietor, dressed colourfully as ever in yellow dungarees, a blue shirt open at the neck to reveal a yellow cravat and a yellow cap on his head.

'Hey! What it is, my man' he greeted them, his smile showing a perfect set of white teeth.

'Hey Hug' said Starsky. 'We got a call that you wanted to see us? He tripped over a barstool on his way over to the other side of the bar, his sneakers sticking to the floor. 'Ya know we got no control of the environmental health folks!'

'Oh ha ha, you cut me to the quick with your incisive humour' Huggy clutched his hand to his chest. He looked around him, checking no one was within earshot 'Thing is, there's a guy upstairs I think ya ought to meet. He may be of certain help to the wonderful people of the Bay City PD, if ya know what I mean?'

The two detectives looked at each other. 'Well now you've peeked our interest. Better not be another weasel looking for a janitors job at the Metro. The last guy ripped off the coffee fund before he skipped state!' Hutch took the lead and followed the dark skinned man through the door at the side of the bar and up the stairs to the small room there.

That room held unpleasant memories for Hutch. It was the room he had been more or less held captive in for two days as he came down from his forced heroin addiction. Starsky and Huggy had been there the whole time. Huggy made copious flasks of strong black coffee whilst his partner sat with him on the bed and hugged him, stroked his back as his stomach contracted with cramps and soothed his forehead as the shivers and sweats kept him awake and hurting. As the hours wore on, he had been able to think of nothing else than the sweet rush the drug would give him and had become violent towards his friend. But all the time Starsky had taken the verbal and physical abuse and eventually had watched as Hutch had subsided into a fitful sleep. He shuddered slightly then roughly pushed the unpleasant memories to the back of his mind. That was in the past, this was the here and now. The three men entered the room and saw its occupant hunched in the small green armchair.

The tall dark curly haired man looked up as they entered, eyes darting from one cop to the other, desperation and fright showing in his eyes as though the whole world was out to get him. Huggy put out a placatory hand towards the stranger. 'Jack, these are the two guys I told you about. They're the ones you really need to speak to if ya wanna do what ya say ya wanna do. Detective Sergeant Starsky, Detective sergeant Hutchinson, this is Jack Ramsey'.

The stranger glanced at the two detectives, weighing up whether he should trust them or not. He quickly assessed the six foot, athletically built handsome brunette and the equally handsome and athletic, though marginally taller blond. He licked his lips nervously as he started to pace the small room and although the air conditioning was full on, sweat patches showed on his shirt, under the arms and in a vee down his spine. Finally, he seemed to reach a decision and turned back to Huggy. 'You sure on this?'

'Man, they're as straight as an arrow. If ya have to trust anyone, it's these two. They'll see you right man, but ya have to be straight with 'em OK?'

Ramsey nodded and took a deep breath. He sat back down on an upright chair at the back of the room, his shoulders hunched and his head looking downwards towards the floor. He was the picture of defeat and dejection. Finally he seemed to come to a decision. 'OK, well the thing is I've done a bit of a number on a guy in Bilbao, Spain. He's a big mover on the dirt scene an' there was a deal goin' down for a fair bit of doe'.

'Heroin? How much is a fair bit?' Hutch interrupted

'Five mill, give or take. Heroin, Coke, LSD, you name it', the stranger responded, shrugging his shoulders dismissively.

Hutch looked over to his partner and gave a low whistle. 'Five million US? Yeah, I think I'd call that a fair bit. Go on'.

'Have ya heard of a guy called Xavier Ramirez? He's the ring master in Spain, but he's heavy into the business stateside. I was the bagman, bringin' the stuff over to Bay City to cut an' distribute. Once I'd got the dosh I was supposed to convert it to pesetas and wire the money back to him. But I didn't quite get it back. And now he's got a contract out on me'.

The two detectives listened attentively. Starsky asked 'I can see why he may be a bit mad at ya. So, what you want us to do?'

The stranger shifted uncomfortably in his seat, picking at the hem of his tee shirt. 'He's got four men out lookin' for me an' I really don't want them to find me, ya know? If you can give me protection, I'll give you the low down on Ramirez an' his team an' I promise I'll testify at trial'. The frightened eyes looked pleadingly at the two detectives. 'But ya gotta help. I've been on the run for four days now an' I don't know how much longer I can keep goin' Are you in?'

The partners paused, weighing up their options. Obviously to turn their backs on the guy would mean certain death — which would get them involved all over again anyway. So why not cut out the middle man and just get on with it now. That way, they could nail the ringmaster, and the low lives he dealt with in the area, and bag one for the narcotics guys. You never know when you may need to call in the favour.

Silently agreeing, they looked over to Huggy, who had been standing at the back of the room, trying to look inconspicuous.

'Can you keep him here till we get chance to talk to Dobey, Hug?'

The black man gave a heavy theatrical sigh. 'To hide a face, ya can use my place'.

As they went out the door, Starsky shot back ' Coz he's got weed and he's a man in need' and exited as Huggy grimaced in disgust.

On their way back down to the car, both were quiet. They got back into the heap and sat a while. 'What do you think?' Hutch asked, fiddling with the frayed leather of the steering wheel.

'We gotta play this one cute. This Ramirez is obviously dangerous. Let's see what we got on him, before we decide anything, OK' the brunette said cautiously. 'If we got form on him, I say we run with it. If he's some two-bit player in Europe, we leave it to Interpol and get that creep up there away from Huggy's as fast as'.

Hutch nodded his agreement and started the engine and after a couple of coughs, the car lumbered into motion and they headed back to the Metro for a talk with Records, and their Captain.

Two hours later they were sat in Captain Dobey's office surrounded by buff folders containing information on everything from narcotics busts to murders. All the files mentioned Xavier Ramirez in one form or another, either as the prime mover or as the original cause of the crime.

'Man, this guy's been busy. He's got warrants in almost every state except Alaska, and then some overseas. We got ourselves a big one here an' we can't afford to loose him' said Starsky getting excited.

'Now just hang on a minute there. I'm the one that makes the decisions and I don't know about this. You're telling me that this guy of yours is willing to testify against Ramirez in court just so long as we can protect him?' asked Dobey, the big man's forehead furrowing in concentration. 'Seems almost too good to be true. And we're gonna need help here. This is way too big for just the two of you to take down. Someone'll have to go to Spain, then there are these four henchmen to consider. Do we know where they are? What about all the other dealers who're relying on this shipment? Aren't they going to want a piece of the action?'

Hutch held up his hand. 'We've been talking about that on the way over an' we think we may have a plan Cap. We can send the Narc boys over to Spain to get Ramirez. He'll never know they're coming till its too late, not if we tell the Spanish police what's going down and ask 'em to keep him under surveillance. In the mean time we take Ramsey into protective custody somewhere real safe — like Bay City Jail. We make it very public — get the TV cameras here, but we do a swap inside. One of us goes in as Ramsey whilst two of our boys take Ramsey out the back to a safe house. Once we get to trial, we swap back with Ramsey at the courthouse, he gives his evidence and Ramirez is potted. Then we just need my weak bladdered friend here', motioning to Starsky, 'to do his bathroom act at the sentencing hearing, and he goes down for eternity. Simple'.

'And which of you is going to be stupid enough to pose as Ramsey, whilst the rest of the world is looking for Ramirez?' asked Dobey.

'I am' both men said together, then glared at each other. Starsky carried on.

'You can't do it!'

Hutch glared 'Why not. I'm as good undercover as you, if not better'.

Starsky patted his shoulder, speaking as if to an eight year old. 'And what colour is Ramsey's hair?'

'I could dye mine, dummy'.

The brunette went on 'Yeah, and have a perm and chop a couple of inches off your legs and change the colour of your eyes. Loose a couple of pounds........'

He was cut off as Hutch angrily flung himself down. 'You get all the fun, ya know. But seriously, how we gonna watch your back whilst you're in there? Ya need back up buddy'.

Dobey interrupted. 'I think I can help there. I can speak to the Jail Administrator. If we categorise Ramsey as AA he'll be in solitary, which should give Starsky some protection, and I can ask him to assign a new prison guard — Hutch — to his detail. Will that do you?'

'Hmm', Hutch was pensive.' That'll give some protection, but who's gonna be babysitting the real Ramsey? And how do you feel about it Starsk?'

'Oh terrific, always wanted to have a vacation paid for by the good old USA'.

'You leave the babysitting to me. I'm thinking Miller and Samuels. If Ramsey is hiding out, we need to set this in motion today. Is he safe for tonight?' asked the Captain.

The two detectives looked at each other, consulting silently. Finally Hutch nodded. 'Yeah, I think so Cap. But you're right. This has to go down tonight or tomorrow. Can we deal in time?'

Dobey grunted. 'Leave the details to me. You two head off and get some rest and be back here for 10.00pm. I'll have the jail sorted by then, so you'd better pack your bags.


The two detectives went out into the squad room and cleared their desks, silence between them, each wrapped in their own thoughts. Starsky carefully placed all his files in an orderly fashion, arranging his pens and erasers in a neat line at the front of his drawer and putting his new pen in his jeans pocket. Hutch employed the Hutchinson patented method of opening the drawer and using his arm to sweep everything into his drawer, cursing as the contents bulged out and spilled onto the floor. Eventually he looked up from recovering his possessions from the squad room tiles.

'Starsk, are you sure about this? I can't be there all the time an' you have a lousy track record with undercover stuff in institutions. Look what happened at Cabrillo State'.

His partner grimaced. 'Yeah, but there isn't a psychopathic doctor on the loose in Bay City Jail, so far as I know. And you'll be there Blintz, and it's only for a couple of weeks. Besides I've always liked the Shawshank Redemption. I can just see myself as Andy, apart from the.........well, that won't happen in solitary!'

The two men made for the door, and home.


At 10.00pm they were back at the Metro squeezed into Dobey's office with five other detectives. Dunn, Fernandez and Holmes, the narcotics team left almost immediately the briefing ended, on their way to LAX to catch their flight to Bilbao.

That left Starsky, Miller, Hutch and Samuels. Starsky and his partner had worked with the other two men on several big busts and Starsky felt that if he was going to trust his life to anyone, it was good that it was this team.

Before making their way back to the Metro, the partners had stopped off at each apartment to pack some clothes ready for the next few days. Starsky had idly watered Hutch's plants as Hutch had fought his way through the war zone that was his closet, muttering under his breath as he tried to find various items of clothing. When they got to Starsky's however, the scene was very different, his cupboards being clean and tidy and even his jeans having hangers of their own. As he busied himself with his packing, Hutch became even more pensive. Finally he knew he had to say something.

'Starsk, are you sure about all this? I know we planned it out, but I have a real bad feeling. I can't forget that time in Cabrillo when Matwick had me put you in that straight jacket. Have you any idea what that feels like — having to do that shit to you an' knowing I have no option, because its what we're undercover to do. I can't be there for you all the time in jail'. He lifted sad eyes to his partner 'Sometimes you ask too much of me buddy'.

Starsky came over to his friend and put an arm round Hutch's shoulder. 'As I see it then we have two choices. One — we pull this right now, which will seriously piss Dobey off, not to mention the three guys currently in the air going to Spain. Two, I ask for different backup instead of you, and that's not gonna happen, coz I need you'. He tried to think of the right words to put his feelings for his partner into. 'Hutch you're my conscience, my rock, you stop me falling off the deep end. You're my left arm and I can't do this without you.......'

A silence followed as Hutch looked at his feet. Eventually Starsky broke it, wanted to end the silence, but not the sentiment.

'And apart from that, you lace a mean straight jacket!' he playfully punched the blonde's arm as he set off to complete his packing.


In Bilbao, Xavier Ramirez was pacing his plush office overlooking the Rio de Bilbao. He stopped to look out of the huge plate glass window at the skyline of the industrial city. He stopped as there was a knock at the door.


A small thin woman came into the room. Snr Ramirez, there is a telephone call from Los Angeles for you. Will you take it?

'Si' he picked up the phone. 'Buenas tardes Senior Dennis, Cómo está usted?..Si?..muy bien. Dennis' he switched to English ' you have news for me?

He listened carefully to the crackly voice on the other end of the phone, distorted as it was by distance. 'I've just seen a TV bulletin from Bay City. They've arrested Ramsey and he's in custody in Bay City jail — it showed him being transferred there'.

'Madre de Dios' Ramirez spat. 'Then we must send him an invitation to join our little party and cough up the cash. And, Dennis, make sure you deliver the invitation personally. I will pay well' he put the phone down and strode from the office.


Dennis put the telephone down and turned to his three companions.

'Well boys, we have a job to do. I think we should get the safe house ready'.

From the squad room, Starsky and Hutch had quietly given directions to the Pits to Miller and Samuels and had phoned Huggy to let them know they were on their way. Then, with admonishments to be careful all round, they had gone down to the cells in the basement of the Metro. There the blond had changed into the uniform of a prison guard, whilst Starsky stripped off to his boxers and donned the pale blue short sleeved all-in-one overalls that every fashionable criminal was wearing that season. The brunette carefully folded his jeans and tee shirt up and stowed them in his locker, before turning to his partner. He held out his pen.

'Can ya look after this for me? Don't want to loose it in there. Cost me $135'.

Hutch reached over and took the pen looking at it, expecting solid gold, at least. It was light enough to be plastic. On the side was the inscription BIC. 'How much?' he asked in disbelief. 'It's a BIC. You can get 'em for a dollar at any corner shop. You've been done again, ya moron'.

'No, no, it's my new pen. The one that writes under water. It's worth every cent. I'm not that stupid! Now, will ya look after it for me?'

Hutch swallowed hard. It was a simple question, but one that held every dark meaning he could think of beneath the surface.

<Will you look after it for me coz I might not come back?>

He shook his head and pasted a smile onto his face. 'Sure I will, but you've got to collect it yourself, OK?'

The phrase's meaning was not lost on the brunette, and he nodded his agreement and gave his partner one last hug as both men set off to the waiting prison van.


Once towards the door out of the basement, the custody sergeant of the cells handed Hutch the cuffs to place on his partner. Loathing the thought, he silently fastened the leather belt round the brunette's waist, then capturing each wrist in turn, he snapped on the cuffs that dangled at the ends of the chains attached to the belt. Squatting down, he took the remaining chains and attached the last two cuffs round Starsky's ankles, making sure they weren't too tight. He stood up.

'Ready to face the press then, partner?' he asked to hide the discomfort he felt at once again immobilising the smaller man.

Starsky blew his breath out between his lips. 'Ready as I'll ever be. Let's do it'. He shuffled forward, unable to take long steps because of the restraining chains between his feet.

The custody sergeant opened the door and both men went out to a barrage of flashes from cameras surrounding the exit. Hutch pushed them all back as he pushed the brunette towards the waiting van, up the steps and into the darkened interior. Closing the doors behind him, they both sat down heavily as Hutch attached the belt at his partner's waist to a chain in the side of the vehicle, before the unsuspecting driver started the engine and carefully threaded his way through the crowd of journalists and cameramen.

The drive to the jail took no more than 20 minutes and, because the driver was unaware of the switch, was conducted in silence, both men trying to get into their roles. As the vehicle drew to a stop, the doors were opened from outside and a team of two prison guards stood by. They were enormous men with unsmiling faces. Dobey had told the two detectives that only the jail administrator knew about what was going down. The fewer who knew, the less chance there would be for a breach of the security they had carefully erected around the job.

Hutch rose and undid the connecting chain, pulling Starsky roughly to his feet and propelling him towards the steps.

'So, this is the movie star we've been expecting' the guard on the right said sarcastically. Hutch peered at his name badge, which read Mike Richardson. He smiled.

'Yeah, real pain in the ass, this one. Never seen so much security for one guy. Don't know what he did, but he sure as hell is going to have to pay for it' Hutch spat, as he pushed his partner sharply forward, causing the brunette to fall heavily against Richardson.

'Ah look, he likes me already!' the guard smirked, pushing Starsky back. He looked the brunette up and down. 'Well, aren't you a pretty one. Bet you're a wow with the ladies'.

Oh crap, it is the Shawshank Redemption all over again. That's all I need — a gay guard who fancies me! Thought Starsky ruefully.

The other guard — Hutch saw his name was Simpson — said nothing, but laughed at his fellow officer's comments before pushing the brunette inside. Hutch followed. They walked slowly up a small grim corridor and entered the reception area, where a female guard filled in several forms with Starsky/Ramsey's particulars before they were off once again.

A door opened into a small white room, Richardson licking his lips now as he undid the chains from the brunette's waist. 'OK, Mr Ramsey' he said with mock courtesy. 'Strip, and bend over the table'. He walked over to a shelf and snapped on rubber gloves.

Starsky raised pleading eyes to his partner. The look Hutch read on his face was either stop them doing this, or at least stick with me.

Seeing the look, Hutch stepped forward, as Starsky started to get undressed. 'Is that necessary? He's been searched down at the police station. I did it myself'.

'I always like to be thorough. You never know what you might find with these drugs types' the big man answered back with a smile on his face, as Starsky reluctantly took up the requested position.

'Well, then, you don't mind if I stay and learn from the master then' rounded the blond, as he leaned casually back against the wall, arms folded. He feigned indifference, but as he watched Richardson advance on his naked and defenceless partner, and saw Starsky close his eyes to shut out the indignity and pain, Hutch's heart gave a lurch. S'OK buddy. I'm here. Just get through this an everything else will be easy. Not goin' anywhere.

Richardson was none too gentle in his full body cavity search and on occasions Starsky couldn't help giving a yelp of pain when he delved a little too far. At the end of the little show, Richardson's hand came away with blood on it, a little trickle escaping to run slowly down Starsky's leg, and the brunette's breath was a little ragged, sweat beading on his face. The big man looked disappointed as the brunette stood shakily, hands braced on the table in front of him to steady himself.

'Well, nothing there. You can take him for his shower now, then he'll be in cell C25, blue wing. Can you find it OK er.........' he tried to see the name badge Hutch wore.

'Hartley' Hutch responded. 'Yeah, thanks for the demonstration. I'll find it fine' as he propelled his still naked partner to the shower stalls in the next room.

Once there, he shoved Starsky towards the showers, his hand lingering just a little longer than necessary on the smaller mans skin, giving just that extra touch saying Sorry, buddy, I'm still here.

Starsky walked shakily into the water and stood as it coursed over his body, washing away the memory of Richardson's hands invading him and the blood on his body.

Finally he emerged, uncaring of his nakedness around Hutch and reached for a towel. Quickly he towelled himself dry, shaking the droplets of water off his hair and finger combing it into some semblance of order. Dressing once again in his boxers and boiler suit, he held out his hands as Hutch cuffed them, then walked a little ahead of the blond as they made their way to his cell and home for the next week. As they reached the door, Hutch undid it and they both stepped inside.

It was perhaps 12 feet square with a single metal bed, a small table with chair and in the corner a toilet. Speaking in low tones, the brunette looked up as his partner undid the metal cuffs on his wrists.

'Well, it ain't exactly the Waldorf, but it'll do' he rubbed absently at his wrists, as Hutch stowed the keys back into his pocket.

'You gonna be OK buddy? You were bleeding'. The blond asked, concerned.

'I'm good. That ape just got a little too enthusiastic, but I'll survive. Just don't go too far away OK?'

Hutch smiled a little as he went towards the door, taking one last look as Starsky sat down carefully on the hard bed, wincing at the position.

'Can I get you anything?' he asked, quietly.

The smaller man looked over to him a grin on his face.' Well a cake with a file in it might be good!'


On the other side of town four men were meeting together in a dilapidated house, at the side of a quiet back road. They were an odd bunch, one tall and lanky with black hair swept back from his forehead. The next was small and rotund with a bald head, the third small too, but with white blond hair and a reddish complexion, like he'd spent too long in the sun without using sun cream. The fourth member of the team sat a little way away from the other three. He too was tall, with a face a cartoonist would be proud of. The nose was slightly too pointed, the chin echoing the nose's lines. His eyelids drooped over pale blue eyes and his hair was a mousy colour, thin and straggly. He tried to make sense of what was going on, but life came as a permanent surprise to Bernie and it took him all his time to remember his own name and whether he had eaten his lunch on time.

The three other men sat around a grimy table that was littered with beer bottles and the remnants of a pizza.

The short bald one, and obviously the brains of the operation — Dennis — was talking as the others dutifully listened.

'Mr Ramirez says he doesn't want Ramsey anywhere near the courtroom. Says he owes him five mil an' he wants it back. Apparently Ramsey has the money stashed somewhere, we just gotta find out where and get it back. Mr Ramirez says he'll be very pleased with us if do. VERY pleased'.

The others nodded, smiling at the thought of just how much Mr Ramirez would thank them. Then they set to making their plans.

The days were long in solitary confinement. Starsky spent long hours counting the tiles on the ceiling, then tiles on the floor, the cracks between them and even the hairs on the back oh his hand. He knew that Hutch was only on the other side of his door, sitting on watch outside, and that gave him a measure of comfort, but he always became anxious when Hutch's shift was coming to an end, although Richardson had never tried anything on since that first day. But the brunette couldn't relax and the enforced inactivity didn't help any.

He'd resorted to doing press ups and running on the spot, just to keep his fitness levels up, and looked forward to the few minutes company he got, when his partner brought him a meal, always lingering a little longer than was really necessary, feeling Starsky's growing anxiety levels.

On the fourth day of incarceration, Hutch as usual brought in the cardboard tray with his indescribable food on it. The brunette looked at it in disgust.

'God, it's even worse that hospital food. I never thought I'd be longing for that awful jello they kept forcing on me last time' he griped as Hutch sat down on the bed beside him.

'How ya doin' Gordo' he asked softly.

'Oh terrific. There are 144 tiles on the ceiling, five of which are cracked and that stain over there looks like an elephant when the lights in the right direction. I've started talking to myself and I'm goin' stir crazy, coz I've started answering myself back. How are you?'

Hutch smiled, glad that his partner's sense of humour was still with him. 'Got news, buddy. There's a hearing tomorrow at the courthouse and Ramsey is needed. They're holding the real hearing out of town, but you're gonna get a reprieve and get sprung from here at noon, to be at the Bay City courthouse for one. Its been kept quiet, so hopefully none of the press will be there — or at least not as many as last time'.

The brunette's face lit up at the news. 'So, now it starts. Oh great, now I get to change from the boring ceiling in here to the boring ceiling in the courthouse cells. My life just gets better an' better' he picked listlessly at the curled up offering that was supposed to be a cheese sandwich. 'You my escort? He added.

'Wild horse, partner, wild horses.....' Hutch stood to leave. 'It'll get messy from now on in buddy. We gotta watch our backs out there'.

Starsky nodded watching the tall, uniformed back as it exited the room and locked the door behind it.


Across town, a similar conversation was taking place. 'The hearing is at noon. 'Ramsey'll be there at about 12.45, straight into court, then straight out, so we gotta be quick. There'll be at least three guards with him, so that's one for each of us, an' mush brains here' he looked over at Bernie 'will be on lookout'.

Bernie smiled at his brother glad that he too had a job to do. He didn't really understand what was going to happen, but Dennis had given him a job and he'd make his brother proud of him.

The other two men, Bobby, who was tall and thin with a scar down his left cheek, and Tyrone, an enormous black ex boxer, treated Bernie like an idiot, but Bernie didn't mind, just so long as he could make Dennis happy.


In Spain, Ramirez was getting increasingly angry with each passing day. He had spoken to Dennis several times on the telephone, asking for news of Ramsey and when he would be able to get his money back. He might be the ringmaster on this particular heist, but even big fleas have bigger fleas that feed off them, and his suppliers in Colombia were getting restless. Having seen the outcome of a Colombian necktie, he didn't want to model the fashion himself.


That night Starsky found sleep impossible. He couldn't explain the feelings he had. It was like an irritation in his gut that wouldn't go away. It needed scratching but he couldn't get to it. It made him want to stretch and run, but of course that just wasn't an option. So instead he settled for mindless physical exercise. After 100 push ups and 100 squat thrusts, he was out of breath and sweating in the small airless cell, but he'd worked his anxiety up into anger, and he knew anger would make him sharper and more focussed for tomorrow. And so, cultivating that anger and keeping it under tight control, he once again lay down on his small hard bunk and waited till his breathing returned to normal before turning on his side and staring at the wall 'til dawn.


Hutch was having similar problems on the other side of town. He'd finished his shift and gone home to shower and change and let Dobey know the plans for tomorrow. After going over the plans with his Captain, he'd spoken with Miller and Samuels, who were taking the real Ramsey over to the other courthouse for the real hearing and now he was getting ready for sleep before the big day tomorrow. He felt wired, like he'd run a marathon, or won a big poker game. His concerns were for his partner. Whilst Hutch would at least have the use of a weapon, the brunette would be chained and defenceless. It was up to Hutch to protect the both of them. If they could get through this, they would have a pattern for the next hearings and hopefully the whole outcome would be to their advantage.

As he let the hot water wash away the clinical disinfectant smell of the jail with needle sharp droplets stinging his skin, he tried to rehearse the steps he would take tomorrow to protect his partner. He went over in his mind the layout of the jail, the van and the street around the courthouse. Dobey had put three black and whites in the vicinity to back the detectives up. Hutch just hoped that would be enough.


The day dawned bright and clear as if to mock the growing anxiety the two men were feeling. Starsky had been woken early and had been taken for a shower, whilst Hutch showered privately at his apartment, putting on the hated wardens uniform and secreting his handgun in its holster under the jacket of the uniform. He'd cleaned and checked it the previous evening, oiling the mechanism, rotating the chamber and loading and reloading the bullets, until he was satisfied that there would be no catches or hitches with his cannon of a gun. The weight of it in his hand gave him a small measure of comfort and he hoped he was overestimating the need he may have for it tomorrow.


At 11.00am the following morning, Hutch walked into the jail for his shift and made his way to blue wing where he and two other guards signed out their prisoner. Hutch walked into Starsky's cell, flanked by the others, mentally getting back into character.

'Against the wall, Ramsey' he ordered. 'Legs spread, arms out'. Starsky slowly complied facing the blond as one of the other guards fastened the belt once more round his waist and secured his arms and legs. Throughout the process, he had kept his eyes locked on his partner's as Hutch stood by the door. To an outsider, it may have been an act of defiance. To the two men it was a measure of comfort in an uncomfortable situation.

<This is gonna be OK. I'm fine Blintz >

< I'm here for ya, buddy >

As the quartet progressed slowly down to the waiting prison van, Hutch managed to put his hand on Starsky's arm, as if to keep him down. Both men treasured the touch and gained strength from it.


The journey down to the courthouse was once again done in complete silence. The inside of the van was warm and stuffy and dark as the windows were black tinted glass to avoid prying eyes. It was an uncomfortable journey. Starsky had nothing to say to the two other guards, even if it had been permitted, whilst Hutch just wasn't in the mood for idle chat. As the building drew close and the van slowed, Hutch stole a glance out of the darkened windows, looking for cameras, strangers and guns. He spotted one black and white at the corner of the street opposite and hoped the other two weren't too far away, as the door to the van opened.

Dennis, Bobby and Tyrone sat watching the approach of the van from their rented blue panel van parked inconspicuously across from the courthouse. Dennis had spotted the black and white earlier and knew that it would spell trouble. He had told Bernie to go into the shop at the corner of the street and cause a diversion. For Bernie, that would be easy. If he couldn't make himself understood, he would simply hit someone or something. At the moment that the prison van arrived, Bernie had walked into the shop and started screaming at the top of his voice.

The two patrol officers in the black and white car were now compromised. Did they watch a prison van which may, or may not be in danger, or did they go into the shop and investigate the apparent disturbance? Finally making a decision, they headed into the shop, leaving the prison van for someone else.

Dennis saw his opportunity and the three men were out of their vehicle instantly. All had weapons, which they now drew and headed quickly over to the prison van.

Hutch was sat towards the back of the van, next to his prisoner, the other two guards sitting by the doors. One opened the door and started to climb down the steps, looking over his shoulder at his friend, who was getting ready to follow. He didn't look out into the street until the last minute and certainly didn't see the butt of the gun as it was brought down onto the back of his head by the huge Tyrone.

Within seconds, two of the three henchmen had overpowered the second guard, who was reaching for his panic button as Dennis crept round to the front of the vehicle and calmly shot the driver, his gun silenced to minimise attention. Hutch reached for his gun as Starsky, who was still chained to the side of the vehicle, started to shout, kicking out as far as his chained ankles would allow. Tyrone, moving impressively quickly for a man of his bulk, aimed his weapon at Hutch and pulled the trigger. Bobby was on the brunette detective in seconds and pushed a wadded up cloth into Starsky's mouth, securing it there with a piece of duct tape, effectively silencing him. As Tyrone used a pair of bolt cutters to cut the chain attaching the struggling brunette to the side of the vehicle, Bobby brought his gun down onto the side of Starsky's head.

The last thing Starsky saw before stars and darkness claimed him was the sight of Hutch, unconscious and bleeding on the floor of the van.

Hutch's last sight was of his chained partner being manhandled from the van, his body lying limply between the two thugs, who'd obviously knocked him unconscious.

As he had seen the two men attack the other prison guards and enter the vehicle, he'd gone for his gun, thankful that he had taken all the time to prepare it. He tried to take aim with the weapon at the closest man, a great gorilla of a man who was intent on getting to Starsky, but was fractionally too slow. He saw his partner kick out at the black man and saw the foot connect, pushing Tyrone off balance. It was that single action which had probably saved Hutch's life. Instead of hitting the blond in the upper left chest, where he had been aiming, his shot was diverted upwards and hit the left shoulder instead. It was a glancing blow, which sent the blond spinning backwards, hitting his head on the bulkhead of the van. As he passed out, his last thought was that he knew his partner was now in serious trouble.

He had regained consciousness a little later as a medic hovered over him, prying his eyes open to shine that infernal torch into them. His head ached with a fury and the skin around his left eye felt stiff. He raised his hand to touch the spot and it came away red, so he knew he must have cut it on his way down to the floor.

Hutch groaned and struggled to sit up, pain lancing through his shoulder as he levered himself upright. The medic was talking to him.

'Hey, my names Paul, who are you?'

'Hutchinson. Ken Hutchinson' Hutch grunted 'friends call me Hutch'.

'OK Hutch. I'm just going to check you over. How many fingers have I got up?' the medic waved his hand in front of the blonde's face.

He squinted, screwing his eyes up to clear his vision. 'Three. And I'm in California and its 1976'

'Ah, I see you've been down this route before' Paul smiled and held a hand on Hutch's right shoulder as he tried to get up. 'Just stay there a while, I need to see to your shoulder. Can you tell me what happened?'

'Shit happened, that's what'. Hutch spat. 'Three goons came in here looking for my partn...prisoner. I tried to stop 'em and they shot me. Go figure. Look, I need to get to my Captain. Need to find Ramsey, OK? Just patch it up and I'll be fine'. He winced as the medic wiped the blood from the wounds on his head and shoulder, poking and prying at them.

'Well, you're lucky, Hutch. It's a flesh wound. Gone right through the top of your shoulder and I think it probably feels worse than it is. But six inches lower and this would have been a whole other story! I'll clean it and put a dressing on. The head wound needs a stitch, but that can wait, although I think you probably have a concussion. Can you get up? Slowly. Good'.

The blond stood swaying at the back of the van, waiting until the vehicle stopped spinning before he followed the medic round to the back of the ambulance and perched on the tailgate. As Paul washed the wound on his shoulder with saline, which stung like the devil, added a couple of steri strips, and placed a white gauze pad on top, taping it down with micropore adhesive, he looked around him at the body in the front of the prison van and the two still unconscious bodies of the guards. Paul moved up to the cut on Hutch's head, cleaning and steri stripping it before finally standing away from his patient. He added a sling. 'How's the pain now?' he asked, reaching for a bottle from the shelf in the ambulance.

'Not bad' the detective lied, knowing that strong pain killers were only going to knock him out, and he needed to be looking for his partner, like, now. He rose shakily and looked around for the black and white backup he had been promised. The two patrolmen who had sorted out the disturbance in the shop were sitting on the hood of their car, knowing Hutch was undercover and not wanting to blow it.

Hutch thanked the medic and with promises to call in at Memorial if he had double vision or nausea, he made a big show of going over to the policemen and asking if they could take him back to the jail. Once in the car and moving, he quickly asked for their microphone and asked for a patch through to Dobey.

'Cap? Hutch. Starsky's gone. They got to the prison van and three of 'em took us out whilst they got to him. I'm coming in for backup. Can you get hold of Samuels and Miller, I need to speak to Ramsey, now?'

Dobey gave a curt 'right' as Hutch redirected the police car back to the Metro.


The blond detective took a brief moment to change from the guards uniform into the spare set of clothes he always kept at work for emergencies. Once more comfortably and less conspicuously attired, he ran up the steps and barged into Dobey's office.

The big man was sat behind his desk issuing orders into his phone. He looked up as Hutch burst in. Putting the phone down he looked at the dressing on Hutch's forehead. 'How bad are you?' he asked.

'Been better' replied the blond. 'Got a crease on the shoulder and hit my head goin' down. Medics saw to it at the scene. Nothin' serious. You got hold of Samuels yet?'

Dobey nodded. 'They've had the hearing and taken Ramsey back to the safe house. They've told Ramsey about what went down with you an' Starsky, so he's even more happy to co-operate now he knows Ramirez is gunning for him. You OK to drive?' he added as Hutch suddenly turned pale and sat down suddenly on the armchair in the office.

Hutch closed his eyes a moment to get control of his stomach which was threatening to eject his breakfast all over Dobey's office floor. 'Yeah, just a bit dizzy, but I'm OK to drive. Did any of the black and whites see what happened to Starsk? Where did they take him? What sort of vehicle?'

Dobey shook his head. 'Dumb ass patrolmen. There was some screamin' in the shop near the courthouse and they went to investigate that. There was a tall thin guy shouting at the top of his voice, but as soon as they went in, he stopped and left. They stayed a while to sort out the shopkeeper and when they came out, they'd missed the whole thing. The other black and white drew up just as the ambulance arrived. They'd been held up by a robbery on the corner of 12th and Adams. Passer by said they saw some men getting out of a blue panel van, but didn't get the number. I've got every available patrolman looking for all vehicles matching that description, but nothin' so far'. He pinched the bridge of his nose, suddenly very, very tired.

Hutch pushed himself to his feet, fighting the waves of dizziness that threatened to send him plummeting to the floor. 'I'm goin' up to the safe house now Cap. If ya hear anything, you know where I am'.

Dobey knew better than to reason with the blond that he ought to rest and that others could look for his partner. Having been close to his partner during his street days, then loosing him to a bullet, he knew better than most how his two detectives operated. That no one else would be able to put Hutch's mind at rest and that only Hutch would move heaven and earth to seek out and rescue his partner.


Hutch drove fast through the downtown city traffic, weaving between the cars on the highway. Once he got out into open country he gunned the engine even more as he climbed up from the bay and out into the hills behind the city. The safe house was a 45-minute drive from the Metro and Hutch used every minute to go back over the previous twelve hours.

OK, so, what do I know so far? There were three men. Was the screaming man in the shop connected with them to provide a diversion? OK. Three or four men. One was tall and thin (make that two if the diversion man is associated). One is short and bald and one is built like a gorilla. They knew Ramsey was going to court. They planned the assault, so they were organised. They had to be into the drugs scene to be interested. Or did they? Were they disgruntled dealers, or had Ramirez already become involved and put out a contract on Ramsey?

He reached for the microphone and Minnie answered.' Hi honey, it's Hutch' he started. 'Can you get me Huggy Bear on 555 2651?'

Minnie confirmed the number and a moment later, Huggy's voice sounded on the other end of the line.

'Hug. Starsky's been taken. I need to know if you know of any of these men'. He gave a brief description of the four henchmen. 'They may be on the drugs scene, or they could be hired hitmen. Ya got anything?'

'Nada, my friend' Huggy replied, 'but I'll keep my ear to the ground.

'Thanks Hug, and be careful. They're mean and nasty, OK?'


The road swept past, the act of driving having a calming influence on the blond as he eased the big car round the bends of the canyon road.

He came at last to the turn off down to the little lake and the safe house. As he approached he cut the engine out of precaution and idled the car up to the front of the house. As he drew up and put the car into park, Samuels came out to greet him.

'Well you look like shit' he opened as Hutch wearily opened the car door and got out. 'Sorry about Starsky. You got any information on who's got him?'

The blond was about to answer when the ground suddenly rushed up to meet him, and he felt the taste of dirt in his mouth.


Hutch opened his eyes and for the second time that day wondered just exactly where he was. The familiar face of Miller was at his side in a moment, handing him a glass of water.

'Hey, Hutch, you OK? You took a nosedive out there'.

Hutch sat slowly up and realised he was in the small sitting area of the safe house, along with Miller, Samuels and Ramsey, who hovered in the background, unsure of himself. He touched his hand to his throbbing head, then realised that probably wasn't such a good idea, as blood started flowing again.

'I'll live' he grunted 'had a little altercation with a bullet and a van down town'. He clutched his shoulder and rotated it slightly to ease the ache. Looking around him and getting down to business, he spied Ramsey.

'Jack, they've taken my partner, Starsky, and I need to get him back before anything real bad happens to him. I need you to think about any of the men Ramirez used'. He gave Ramsey the descriptions, adding that he thought the tall screaming man might have been a part of the heist.

Ramsey sat down, thinking hard. 'Was the tall man.......well, was he simple......like he didn't know what was going on/'

'How the fuck do I know' Hutch rasped. 'I was dancing with a big black guy in the back of a prison van whilst me an' my partner tried to save your sorry ass from some drug baron. I didn't give them an IQ test whilst I was about it. Do you know them?'

Ramsey hitched back in his chair, intimidated by the blonde's outburst. He was more than grateful that these men had taken him seriously and had taken him into their protection. He was also grateful that he wasn't the one now in the clutches of the other men. He had liked the brunette detective right from the start. He was funny and likeable and had an innocent quality to him, whilst the blond was almost like a father figure; the quieter of the two. He didn't like to think of anything bad happening to either of the men.

'If they are the men I think they are, they're mean and dangerous. They're known as the Terriers and they work the East Side, but I haven't seen 'em around for a long time. They're hired guns for anyone for the right money. If they're the one who got your partner, God help him'.

Hutch swallowed hard. 'Do they use any buildings? Any houses? Can you think of anywhere they might have taken my partner?'

Jack shook his head. 'They don't use anywhere regularly. Too easy to get caught that way. If I do think of anywhere I'll tell ya as soon as'. He paused. 'I'm sorry I liked Starsky'.

The blond rounded on him. 'What do ya mean "liked". He's not dead yet an' he's not gonna be if I have my way. So you'd better get thinking. 'Cos if I don't find him, I'm gonna find Ramirez myself and feed you to him a piece at a time'. He got up and stormed out of the house as Ramsey stared after him.

Both Samuels and Miller knew better than to mess with Hutch where his partner was concerned, and let him go. They looked at the dark haired man in their custody, who was now shaking so hard the settee was wobbling.

'Hey, chill' offered Samuels. 'Hutch has worked with Starsky for the past seven years. They've been through some pretty heavy stuff together an' it tends to make you a bit intense when something like this happens. He'll be fine. If anyone can find Starsky he can'. He added, looking over at his own partner, and hoping that his comforting words would come true.

Starsky's mouth was a dry as a bone, the wadded cotton leeching every bit of moisture from his tongue and lips. He didn't know how long he had been unconscious. He was cold and shivering through the thin cotton coveralls he was wearing. He only knew that his head hurt and that he hadn't the strength to fight the prison chains that still bound him in order for him to sit up.

The vehicle he was in looked like a standard panel van and the inside was a dark blue, so he assumed the outside would be too. At the moment he also realised that the floor of the van was very hard as every time they hit a pothole in the road he bounced against his hip bones, bruising them but couldn't find the leverage to get into a better position.

He felt sick from the blow on the head, but concentrated on keeping his stomach in order, there being nowhere for the results to go, him being gagged and all. He considered his position, trying to cast his mind back to the last moments in the prison van. Oh God, Hutch. His last view of Hutch was as he lay bleeding in the back of the prison van, unconscious. God, Blondie, I hope you're alright. How bad are ya hurt? Hang in there. No help from that quarter then, he thought. As he mentally made a list of what his assets were — nothing, and what his problems were — everything else, the van drew to a stop and the back door opened.

The brunette blinked at the light blinding his eyes after the dim interior of the van. Hands came towards him and manhandled him roughly out of the van, dragging him into a farmhouse type building. He had the vaguest impression of trees around and a long dirt road. Starsky's legs refused to support him and the men on either side of him virtually dragged him, shins dragging and scraping painfully on the uneven ground into the interior.

It was a ramshackle place with virtually no furniture, the paint peeling off the walls and doors. A damp smell pervaded the rooms. The brunette was bundled through the doors and roughly thrown to the floor in one of the back rooms. His hands and feet still chained to the belt fastened round his waist, he had a hard time finding his balance and staggered forward, putting out his hands to brace himself, before falling awkwardly. Hitting the ground hard, his left wrist snapped back and he felt an agonising pain shoot up his arm to his shoulder. The ache in his head hiked up a notch and the room took on a blurry quality.

He pushed himself up with his right hand until he was kneeling on the ground and looked around at his captors. Bobby came forward and quickly tore the duct tape from his mouth, smiling at the sharp intake of breath that followed. Starsky thankfully spat out the wadded cotton, trying to get enough moisture together to lick his stinging lips.

There was a tall thin man with a scar down his left cheek, a small bald man, who seemed to be in charge and an enormous black man, who had muscles on his muscles. Stood to one side was another tall man who seemed not to belong. He stared vacantly into space and smiled to himself. Not a vicious smile, just the gentle smile of someone who is experiencing happy memories.

The three men stood in a predatory ring around their captive, anticipation on their faces as Starsky stared defiantly back at them. Finally the bald man broke the silence.

'Mr Ramsey, it's so good that we finally get to meet. We have a mutual friend who is anxious that we speak with you on the subject of some funding'.

The dark haired detective's anger, which he had cultivated and bottled up all the previous night, now raged out of control. Gathering enough spit to be able to speak, he shouted 'Go fuck yourself, I don't know shit'.

The black man came forward and swung a leg at the bound detective, connecting with his stomach and sending the wind whistling through Starsky's teeth as he fell onto his side and arched his back, trying to suck in much needed oxygen. His world sparkled with pain and he knew he would not be able to survive too many blows like that from the mountain of a man. He braced himself as he saw the leg go back and another blow hit him square in the midriff, lifting him slightly off the floor. His breakfast parted company with him and he gasped as he wretched on the ground, waiting for the pain to subside.

Dennis waited until the brunette had recovered a little before continuing. 'This funding. It's quite a lot of money actually and a lot of people would like to know where it is. And believe me Mr Ramsey, you will tell us'.

Starsky raised his eyes. 'I don't know what you're talking about' he managed to gasp. 'I don't know nothin' about any money. You got the wrong guy'.

Tyrone came forward and grasped Starsky by the wrist he had seen snap. He held it in his big hand and squeezed sending white spikes of agony up the brunettes arm and down his chest. He managed to swallow the scream that brewed inside him and instead managed a strangled yelp. Tyrone stared him in the eyes and slowly raised Starsky up to his feet, using his broken wrist as a handle, until the pain, coupled with the ache from the blow to his head and stomach was too much, and he allowed the blackness to consume him.

Dennis crossed over to the black man and punched him in the arm, not that such a puny blow would even be felt by the mountain of flesh. But the black man immediately dropped the detective into a heap on the floor, looking abashed.

'I told you, we can't question him if he's unconscious, or dead. Now we have to wait for him to come round again. We're wasting time and Mr Ramirez will not be happy',

'Sorry boss' Tyrone responded, smiling. 'I guess I got a bit carried away. I'll play nicer next time, honest'.


In Spain, the three DEA detectives had landed the previous evening and, ignoring jet lag, had gone straight for a meeting with the chief of the Bilbao police. The man was a straight forward Spaniard who was all too aware of the drugs problem he had in his city and was happy to help anyone who would take at least one of these powerful men away and off his patch. He had listened carefully as Holmes had put flesh on the bones of the explanation he had had over the telephone the previous evening, and agreed to giving the three Americans as many men as they would need to be able to take Ramirez out of the country.

After interminable paper work, the plan was finalised and now Fernandez, the only one of the three who spoke passable Spanish, stood outside the huge office of Ramirez Enterprises' Chief Executive.

He knocked on the door and entered at the 'Hola' from within. Ramirez was sitting back in his chair staring at a sheaf of papers in front of him, the thick blue smoke from an enormous cigar curling lazily into the air. He was the epitome of the powerful executive, sat back with his heels resting on the table in front of him. He looked up in surprise at the man who now walked confidently towards him.

'Si, que pasa? No comprendo.

'Oh you comprendo plenty. Xavier Ramirez, you are hereby arrested on charges of cultivation, distribution and possession of just about any goddamn drug you care to mention. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney, but of course you already know that and have access to the most expensive attorneys in the world, so we'll cut the crap shall we?'

The Spaniard was reaching for the telephone but Fernandez knocked the hand away.

'Not so fast my friend. You're gong to take an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles, where a lot of your friends are going to watch you go to jail for an awful long time. You'll have plenty of time then for your phone call'.

Ramirez watched the detective, looking for signs of weakness. Could he be bought? Could he be taken out? He reached quietly under his desk to the gun taped to it's underside, gently easing away the tape that held it there. He smiled genially at Fernandez, then looked round the detective as the two other Americans and at least twelve Spanish policemen in uniform crowded into the room, knowing his odds of escape had just been severely depleted.

Fernandez delivered his final hand. 'The man you know as Ramsey is still in our custody and has attended his first hearing, giving his preliminary evidence. You're well and truly hooked Ramirez'. He smiled.

To his credit the man's face never showed any sign of the confusion he was feeling. So, if Ramsey was still in custody and had attended at the hearing, who exactly had the Terriers got hold of? And evidence had been given. Madre de Dios. He was suddenly so tired. So overcome with the enormity of it all. He had kept it together for so long, but now could see no way out. Either he went with the police back to America to a life jail sentence, or he took his chances at escape, but his powerful friends in Colombia would have a piece of him. Hell, their power even extended to the prisons., so he wouldn't be safe there!

'Then you have me......Cómo se lo dice en Inglés? ....what is your American phrase?.......banged to rights', he said carefully. 'May I please have the courtesy of an internal phone call to my executive, then I promise I will come quietly?'

Fernandez nodded and pushed the telephone towards him. Ramirez lifted the receiver with his left hand, the right freeing the gun from its hiding place, and brought it close to his stomach. He dialled a number and spoke quietly into the phone 'Terriers, plan B, immediately. It's all over'.

Fernandez caught the last and was looking round to his companions in surprise as in one movement, Ramirez stood, aimed the gun at the window and fired, then dived out through the hole into thin air.


Hutch was driving back from the safe house, scenarios running through his head. He couldn't extinguish from his memory that last sight of his partner being carried away, still chained, by the two men. He knew they had probably taken him somewhere local first to regroup, but then what?

He smacked the steering wheel in frustration. Someone must have seen something. Someone must know something. He's drawn a blank with Huggy earlier but maybe he'd remembered something since. He would have called ya. Pushing the thought to the back of his mind, he turned his car in the direction of the Pits, the sun slowly dipping down and dusk coming over the city.

As he pulled up outside his friend's bar, Hutch realised just how weary he was feeling. His shoulder throbbed unmercifully and his head felt like one good nod would take it right off his shoulders. He struggled out of the car and headed inside, enjoying the cool of evening on his skin.

Pushing open the door, he saw Huggy look over at him from the bar. He shook his head slightly and the black man came over to meet him.

'Starsky?' he asked

The blond shook his head and was about to sit down at a table when Huggy motioned him to follow him upstairs. He followed and Huggy opened the door into the first floor bedsit. He motioned to Hutch to sit down in the chair and went to fix a coffee for the worn out detective. Coming back into the room, his heart cracked a little as he saw the blonde's head in his hands, his shoulders drooping disconsolately. Knowing everything that the two detectives had been through together, he realised exactly what Hutch was going through. Hell, he loved the hamdsome brunette almost as much as his partner did.

He placed the coffee down on the table and laid a comforting hand on the blonde's arm.

'Hutch, my man, we'll find him. I know we will. But you look like shit man. You need to rest or you'll be no use to anyone'.

The blond looked up, his ice blue eyes red rimmed. 'I can't rest, Hug. Ya don't understand. He was still chained up when they took him. He was completely defenceless. I was supposed to be watching his back and I didn't and now he's gone who knows where. God knows what they're doing to him. And it's my fault' his voice cracked and his head went back to his hands.

'If it's anyone's fault, which it aint, it'd have to be mine. I was the one that brought Jack to ya, and you an' Starsk put your lives on the line for him'.

The blond swayed in his chair, and Huggy was there immediately. He put an arm round Hutch's shoulders and drew him over to the bed. Gently, he pushed him back onto the bed, meeting little resistance from the exhausted detective.

'Sleep a while, Hutch. Even if it's only a couple of hours. I'll do some more phoning and if I hear anything I promise I'll wake ya, OK'

Hutch knew he couldn't keep going too much longer, the strain of the day and his injuries taking their toll on his body. He nodded at the black man and was almost immediately asleep.

Dennis answered the telephone on the third ring.

'Yes, this is Dennis, who is this?'

The voice on the other end of the phone gave him information and Dennis slammed the phone down in disgust. He paced the room, thinking. His ticket to his easy millions had just dove out of the window of his fifteenth floor office and was now strawberry jam on the pavement below. He had Ramsey but now what to do with him. How the fuck had it come down to this?

A name came to mind. Barberra. Wasn't that the name of the guy Ramirez hooked up with in Colombia? He was the one who ultimately wanted payment and Dennis knew how to get hold of him. He smiled to himself, rubbing his hands together. Something good could yet come of this, if he could get Ramsey to spill. That was the key. The slimy drug dealer he had in the back room. He was the key to the fortune because if Dennis could get the information on the money, he'd get a share of that and a share of the next big shipment that went down. He just needed to get Ramsey to talk.

He walked back into the room, where Starsky's body had been left where it fell, and signalled to Tyrone. 'Get these cuffs off him and string him up and then let me know when you're done. I need a drink'.


Hutch woke with a thundering headache. He stayed still a moment remembering where he was, then tried to rise. His shoulder had stiffened considerably and the wound on his head had bled whilst he was asleep, leaving a brown crusted trail down his forehead and lodging in his pale blond eyebrow. Coupled with the black eye he now sported on that side, it gave his a vaguely piratical look.

He groaned and sat up, just as Huggy was coming into the room with a pot of his special strong black coffee. Hutch headed for the bathroom and cleaned as much of the blood off his face as he could without disturbing the steri-strip across the wound too much, then headed back out into the main room.

'Anything Hug? Anything at all?'

'The Terriers. Four dudes who have been known to work the East Side. They'll do anything for the right money, ya dig? They match the description ya gave me. The guy who was screaming in the shop is Bernie. He's Dennis' brother. Dennis is the brains of the outfit and he has Tyrone and Bobby too. Tyrone is one bad assed dude. An ex boxer. Punchdrunk'.

'Ya got an address, a location?'

The barman looked crestfallen. 'They've been out of the area for some time but one of my "friends" saw them two days ago renting a blue panel truck from the car lot on the main road out of town. The address they gave was....'

'Phoney' Hutch spat, frustration rising again. 'Thanks Hug. We've got more than we had five hours ago. I just need to find 'em. Listen, I'm going back to the shop on the corner by the courthouse. Maybe the shop owner can give us a lead'

'Ya want some company?' Huggy asked, knowing how the blond was missing his partner.

Hutch smiled. 'Well, two heads are better then one' he said, heading for the door.


Back at the safe house, Ramsey had had a bad night. He was haunted by dreams of Starsky's body being found somewhere and him being accused of murder. He really did like the dark haired cop and genuinely wanted to help in any way he could. He stayed awake for half of the night going over what he knew of Dennis and his cronies.

What did he know about them? He tried to go over all the dealings he had with them in the past, when he'd had cause to get them to rough up one of his dealers who hadn't come through with the money. They'd always taken their captives away to do the dirty. They'd always gone out of town and he racked his brains now trying to remember any addresses or any locations. Nothing came to mind. The Terriers had always been secretive, that's why they'd survived without being arrested for so long.


The pain of Tyrone's actions brought the brunette awake. The big man was wielding a bolt cutter. He'd cut the chains round Starsky's ankles and had picked the locks on the cuffs themselves, so his legs were now free. Starsky realised the belt had gone from round his waist. The ex boxer was working on the wrists now. Once again he'd cut the chains, and was picking the lock on the right wrist. Unknown to Starsky he'd tried to undo the cut from the left, broken, wrist, but the limb had swollen so much that the metal was embedded in the flesh and he couldn't get to the locking mechanism properly. So he left it and concentrated on the right.

Starsky watched him, trying to bide his time for his escape bid. He couldn't remember ever feeling quite so bad as he did at the moment. His head still hurt abominably, his wrist was sending a blazing pain up his arm and down his fingers. It was so swollen that he couldn't move his fingers any more and as he looked at it, he was amazed that such a dark bruise could develop on anything human. His stomach was also giving him grief, feeling stiff and sore. His most over riding emotion, though, was to get to his partner. He had to believe that Hutch was still alive although he couldn't understand how that would be possible as he'd suffered a gunshot wound at point blank range. He only knew that if he saw Hutch dead in his mind, he wouldn't have a reason to go on and try to escape. If Hutch was dead, he might as well just let them kill him now.

Tyrone finished picking the lock and pried it from Starsky's right wrist. As he moved away to put down his bolt cutter, Starsky rallied his remaining energy and swept his legs across, hooking Tyrone's legs from under him. The big black man went down like a pin in a ten pin bowling alley, his body making the floor shake as it hit. Starsky saw his chance and staggered to his feet looking towards the door. He ran into the corridor, looking left and right for the exit and charged down the corridor towards the door and freedom.

At that moment Dennis had finished his drink and was coming back into the room where he thought his captive was. He had a fleeting glimpse of a dark body charging past him as he realised that Ramsey had escaped. He reached into the holster at his side, brought out his Walther P99 semi automatic and aimed it at the fleeing detective.

'Mr Ramsey' he called down the corridor, 'I don't think you should be leaving just yet'.

Starsky ignored him, the sight of the outside world now in view. He was stopped by the loud noise as the gun behind him discharged and he felt a crushing blow to his left thigh, as the bullet entered, spinning him round and depositing him unceremoniously onto the ground.

Gasping for breath and clutching his wounded leg, he lay a moment as Tyrone's bulk appeared at the door. Dennis motioned for Tyrone to pick up the dark haired detective. The ex boxer walked slowly towards Starsky and seeing him down on the ground, lashed out once again with his foot, engaging exactly with the fresh bullet wound and eliciting a deep throated scream from the detective.

He picked the body up easily and dragged it back to the back room. He tied a rope round each of Starsky's wrists, uncaring for the fact that the left one was swollen blue and purple. Once secured, he threw the other end over the beam above their heads and hoisted Starsky's body up until the toes were just brushing the floor.

Starsky's world was a red wilderness of pain. He didn't know which hurt most; his broken wrist, now force to hold his weight up, or his leg which was now bleeding freely. Both injuries fought for his undivided attention and he was having a hard time trying to ignore them to listen to what Dennis was saying.

The small bald man had watched Tyrone's effort from the side of the room, satisfaction building at each scream and groan the black man drew from his captive. He was impressed at the endurance Ramsey showed, knowing lesser men would have been pleading for Dennis to leave them alone as they told him everything. But this was one tough guy.

He walked over now to the man swinging gently at the end of the rope. Starsky's eyes were closed as he tried to calm his breathing, blocking the world out till he could come to terms with what his body was telling him.

Dennis slapped the brunette's face hard and cobalt blue eyes snapped open. Dennis looked over to Tyrone. 'Bring the knife and get rid of the clothes'.

Tyrone cut away the overalls and left them where they fell, in a puddle at Starsky's bare feet Dennis stood back to take a long look at the bound man. He was impressed with the physique. The chest that was splayed open, the arms being pulled into the air, was muscular and sported a tan beneath the mass of dark curly hairs there. The stomach was flat and showed signs of regular training, but was marred at the moment by the dark bruised blossoming across it and extending round the sides of the body. He noticed too, that the bullet wound was still bleeding heavily, rivulets of red coursing down the brunette's leg and forming a small puddle on the ground.

Starsky stared back at Dennis, loathing in his eyes. Dressed now only in his boxers, he felt vulnerable and alone. He mentally prepared himself for whatever was to come. He knew Hutch was injured or worse, dead, and he knew that the others that would look for him would have no clue where to start.

Dennis gave a brief order to Tyrone and Bobby, and both men disappeared from the room.

'Now, Mr Ramsey, or may I call you Jack? You've been very stupid and caused yourself a lot of unnecessary pain, but you can stop it all now. Just tell me where the money is, and we can all go away happy'.

Starsky knew they'd never let him go, even if he did know where the money was. He stared defiantly back at the bald man. 'I think it's gonna be a real long night' he gasped, 'cos I have no idea what you're talking about. I said before, you've got the wrong guy'. He stopped as the other two men came back into the room, suddenly feeling sick as he saw what they carried.

Hutch and Huggy were cruising the streets of the East Side. As so often happened when he and Starsky were separated, Hutch had gone back to his partner's apartment and had taken the keys to the big red car, preferring to drive that, feeling the constant connection with the brunette. They had spoken to just about every snitch who'd ever given them a tip off. But either the Terriers were so powerful that no incentive on earth would draw information out from them, or no one knew anything about where they were, or who they were with.

The frustration of the two men in the car was palpable, and Huggy was having a hard time keeping the blonde's temper in check.

'Hey man, why don't we stop for a drink. Then we can talk and plan this through, OK?' he asked for the hundredth time.

'There's nothing to talk about, Hug' the blond had exploded. 'They've got my partner, and they're gonna be doing God knows what to him, an' I can't get to him. Because the Terriers own the streets round here and no one will tell me where he is'. His voice had hiked up another decibel. 'Someone's got to know something. We just need to find 'em'.

Huggy looked over to the blond. 'I know you're hurtin', but getting riled like this aint going to help. Ya gotta chill, man. Now, we go for a cool drink, we stop a minute, an' we regroup, OK?'

With a sigh, Hutch nodded and pulled the car over to the side of the road, got out, and headed for the little diner.

Huggy followed him inside and they sat at a quiet booth towards the back of the diner, where they could see all the comings and goings without being too conspicuous themselves. Ordering drinks, Hutch watched idly as a couple of guys at the front of the diner played chequers. They were men of about thirty or forty, but they had a childlike quality to them, like they weren't quite in this world, and he envied their carefree attitudes. As he passed them he overheard their conversation.

'I won, I won' the one near the window was singing, much as a child would shout to its parent.

'I would'a won, but you cheated' the other responded. 'Ya wanna play again tomorrow?'

The first man nodded his head. 'Ya think big B will be back then?

'Don't know. He went away for a while, but he said he'd try to telephone of his family would let him. Hey! Those are my chequers, hands off'.

Not a care in the world. Crap, what would that be like? To not have to care about anything any more. Was he getting too old for this? How many times did he worry about his partner every single day? How many times had the brunette got himself, and sometimes the both of them, into a tight spot? It had to end! And yet, deep down, Hutch knew that the only reason he actually kept going was for the smaller man. Starsky had an infectious quality to him. You could be in a room on the darkest day of the year, but the brunette could light it up with one of his goofy, lop sided smiles. Hutch smiled to himself as he thought about his partner's own childlike innocence. Starsky saw wonder in just about anything. He had taken up photography and the black and white images he produced showed his aptitude for finding the unusual in every day situations.

A vision of the dark curly haired man, carrying his camera floated up into his mind. Hang in there, Gordo. I'm coming to get ya. Just hold on.


At Dennis' safe house, Starsky was indeed holding on, but barely. The two tormentors had come back into the room carrying a selection of everyday objects, which they laid out in a line for the brunette to clearly see. A length of chain, a thin, flexible cane, cigarettes and a lighter and a kettle, which Dennis now plugged into the wall.

Dennis looked over to Starsky and asked again 'Now, we do mean business, as you can see. You can save yourselves a lot of pain if you just tell me where the money is'.

Starsky resigned himself to his fate and mentally set about building up the barriers he knew he would need to get through this. Outwardly, he cultivated his bravado. 'Fuck you' he spat, watching Bobby pick up the length of chain from the table. He eyed the short man as he slowly walked around behind the brunette.

Starsky heard the whistling of the chain through the air as Bobby swung it towards his body, but nothing could prepare him for the agony the blow caused. The chain snaked around his torso, the length of it hitting against his body with a force which felt like a pile driver, feeling each link as it bit into the flesh and bruised the tissue. The end of the chain took on a life of its own and flicked around the front to his stomach, biting into the skin there like a snake, and drawing the first blood. Starsky's body had gone rigid from the first blow and now he pulled in ragged breaths as another blow landed almost on top of the first one. Bobby didn't stop his beating until Starsky's contorting body moved more slowly, knowing that he didn't want to send the man into unconsciousness. He stood back to admire the pattern of deep, bloody marks across Starsky's muscular back, several of the impacts leaving perfect link shaped bruises there.

Starsky was past screaming now. He had held off making a noise as long as he could but as the seventh blow struck, he could hold it in no longer. As the assault continued, the screams had weakened to be overtaken by deep groans, as the brunette flung his head back, trying to escape the terrible punishment.

Something had changed. What was it? Oh yeah, no more blows. That's better. Now, what's he saying? Focus Davey, focus.

Dennis walked over to the sweating form taking the cigarette from his mouth, and tenderly took hold of the chin, bringing the brunette's face up, until he could look into his eyes. 'You are a stubborn man Jack. And a stupid one. What's all this to you anyway? Tell you what. You tell me where the money is and you can have a 10% share. How's that? Fair enough? Huh?'

Starsky took a deep breath, eyeing the tall man. Anything to defer from the next searing pains he knew were around the corner. With all the energy he could muster, he spat into the face, and closed his eyes. Dennis slowly wiped the spittle from his face and without taking his eyes from the detective, ground his cigarette out on Starsky's chest, leaving a deep, round burn. It was more pain than the brunette's body could handle at that time and blessedly, as he groaned one last time, oblivion claimed him.

In the corner of the room, no-one noticed the lanky figure of Bernie, as he looked at the scene in front of him. He didn't like it when his brother got mad. He knew Dennis would start to hit people, like he hit Bernie when he did something wrong. A single tear trickled slowly down his sad face.


Hutch and Huggy went back to the Metro to catch up with Dobey. As they pushed through the door and into the Captain's office, he was just putting the phone down.

Hutch lowered himself carefully into the chair in the corner, his body still rebelling at the over exertion he was inflicting on it.

'Cap, ya think Ramirez knows which houses the Terriers use? Can ya get a message to Dunn to pump him for the information? He pleaded.

Dobey's face said it all.

'What?' Hutch asked, suddenly anxious. 'Captain, what? Do you have news? Starsky?'

Dobey held up his hand. 'No, son, not Starsky. But we won't be asking Ramirez anything any time soon. He just dove out of a fifteenth storey window. Dunn, Holmes and Fernandez are on their way back now. You get anything from the street?'

'Nothing' the Blond answered bitterly. 'No one wants to know. This gang's got the East Side sewed up so tight, a gnat couldn't escape to give information'. He sighed, rubbing his hands over his face, and licking his bottom lip, as he often did when troubled.

'Funny isn't it. The only people who don't know that Starsky isn't Ramsey are the hoods who've got Starsky' Huggy said pensively.

The blond looked over to him, too tired to be angry. 'Sometime you can explain the humour to me'.


Back with the Terriers, Dennis left the room, with Tyrone and Bobby in tow, leaving Starsky's body hanging from the ropes.

His broken wrist was now black, the left hand grotesquely swollen from the strain it had endured. The metal of the handcuff bracelet was still embedded in the engorged flesh and his feet only touched the floor enough to take the strain from it marginally. The brunette's back and chest were now mottled blue and purple, with bloody wounds where the chain's end had bitten into the flesh. The cigarette burn had blistered and was still making its fiery presence known. He was still, mercifully unconscious as Bernie made his way over to him.

Bernie had never liked it when Dennis got mad. Sometimes Dennis hit him, but he knew he deserved it because he was big and ugly and stupid — the others told him that all the time. But he didn't think this man had done anything to make Dennis mad. He hadn't goofed up like Bernie did. It upset the tall man to see Dennis hurting the other man, and he stared now into the face of the bound detective.

He looked quite peaceful, Bernie thought, with his eyes closed like that, and he had pretty hair. He reached up to touch the mahogany coloured curls, gently running them through his fingers, but was distressed as Starsky flinched away, his eyes cracking open a little.

'It's OK' Bernie said. 'Dennis has gone away for a while'. He stepped back a moment. 'I like you' he said.

Starsky tried to make sense of it all. He hadn't seen this tall man before, but he sensed he wasn't bad. He summoned up his energy and licked his cracked dry lips.

'Can you get me some water?' he rasped, his voice raw from screaming.

Bernie liked being given jobs to do, so he went to the kitchen and came back with a glass of water, which he held to the bound man's lips. Starsky sipped the water. Feeling it cool in his parched mouth and sweet as it ran down the back of his throat.

'You couldn't untie me?' he looked at the tall man.

Bernie looked away. 'Dennis wouldn't like that. He'd be mad at me then. I don't like it when he gets angry at me'.

'Know what you mean' the brunette sighed. 'was worth a try'. He tried to ease the ache in his arms, chest and back, taking a moment to look around him.

'Ya got a name?' he asked

The tall man looked up again, glad that his new friend wasn't mad at him. 'I'm Bernie. Dennis is my brother and.........'

'Shut it, you moron' Dennis shouted from the door, striding across the room and backhanding Bernie, sending him plummeting to the floor. The tall man stayed where he'd fallen, whimpering, tears streaming down his face.

'I'm sorry Dennis, honest I am' he whispered.

But Dennis wasn't listening. His attention was once more on the brunette. 'Ah, Mr Ramsey, I see you're awake again, shall we continue, or do you have something you want to tell us?'

'Fuck you' Starsky managed, as he saw Tyrone reach for the cane.

Something was niggling at the back of the blonde's mind, but he couldn't quite focus on it. He'd gone back to his apartment with Huggy bear at the end of the painful, frustrating day, and had a cool beer before reaching for his jacket.

'Hey man, where'd ya think you're goin',? you're all done in' Huggy had said, looking at Hutch's pale haggard face. The pallor was only made worse by the now purple bruise surrounding his right eye, above which, the cut swelled the skin. The usually tidy golden hair was streaked with grime and mussed, like he'd just got out of bed, and as he stood he leaned a little over to the left, favouring his injured shoulder.

'I can't stop Hug. Starsk could be dea.........he'll need me', his voice cracking over the words. Truth to tell, he was at his wits end. There was no trail to follow, no leads to investigate. It was as if an alien spaceship had beamed his partner up to another planet. He rebelled at the helplessness of it all, cursing the body that needed rest, when time was of the essence. But he also knew that if he didn't rest a while again, he wouldn't be able to carry on much longer.

Reluctantly, he'd had a quick shower and eased himself into bed, the tall lanky frame of the black man folding itself into the settee. Sleep came quickly. He was exhausted, but with the sleep came the nightmares of Starsky injured; Starsky hurting; Starsky dead. But there was a theme surrounding all of his dreams. He'd finally shook himself awake yelling Starsky's name at the top of his voice. Huggy was by his side immediately, soothing the blond and handing him a towel to dry away the sweat soaking his body and face.

If only he could remember what the dream was trying to tell him.


Dennis was tired of listening to the screams now, the timbre of them having changed so that they were now mere crackles and rasps.

Tyrone had picked up the cane and showed it to Starsky, flexing it between his hands. It was the sort of cane it showed sadistic school teachers using in those old black and white films. He could remember being hit with a ruler at school and vaguely wondered how different the cane would be.

He soon found out, as the first stroke landed across the already bruised skin of his back. It was a sharp, agonising white pain that took his breath away, immediate and sparkling. Tyrone used the cane liberally, and Starsky lost count of the number of strokes that landed on his back and shoulders. Once or twice, the big gorilla took a short diversion and lashed upwards between his legs, which left the brunette whimpering and sweating, unable to catch his breath between one stroke and the next. Eventually, his jerks and spasms at the end of the rope slowed again and Dennis held up a hand. Tyrone reluctantly stepped back to admire his handiwork.

The back before him was red raw, the strokes having all been delivered in the same direction, so that the livid red welts laid side by side with not so much as an inch between them. Blood flowed from some of the deeper welts, sending a stinging stream down the brunette's spine. The whole session had been conducted with no questions being asked, the only noises in the room being the thwack of the cane hitting flesh and muscle and the pitiful screams and groans of the dark haired detective dancing at the end of the rope.

Dennis came forward and was about to open his mouth, when the telephone in the other room rang.

With a curt 'cut him down' he left the room.

Bobby reached up with a knife and cut the ropes and Starsky fell with a satisfying thud to the floor. The two men left him and went to find their boss.

Starsky hadn't the strength left to move. He lay gasping for breath, his back a fiery mess, his left wrist now completely numb and pain shooting down his injured leg. He felt sick and knew he couldn't keep this up for much longer, knew his reserves of strength were not that great, as shock from blood loss set in.

If only Hutch were there, he might be able to make it, but the last he had seen of his meant that the blond was out of the equation so rescue was hopeless. He rested his sweat soaked curls against the floor and closed his eyes, trying to blot out the pain, but failing miserable,


Huggy woke Hutch with orange juice and cereal at 6.00am the following morning, and after another shower, they were once again out on the streets. There was still that same thing niggling at the back of Hutch's mind and as he drove he tried to piece together the dreams he had had the previous evening.

Eventually he pulled over and tried to explain his feelings to the black man sat next to him.

'I just can't get it out of my mind that there's something that I'm ignoring. Something that's vital that I can't remember. It's eating me up. I was dreaming it all last night, but now I can't remember. Damn it!' He banged his hands against the steering wheel in frustration.

Huggy looked over at the blond, sympathising with his friend. Truth to tell, he was having just as hard a time of it, and he would do anything he could to get his dark haired friend back.

'Why don't we retrace our steps from yesterday? If it was something that you saw yesterday, maybe you'll remember when you see it again' he suggested.

The big blond considered. 'Well, it's as much of a plan as anything. Fine, back to the East Side it is'. As he gunned the big engine and stormed off up the road.

They drove in silence, each wrapped in their own thoughts of Starsky, smiling, cracking stupid jokes, ribbing Hutch about his choice of cars. Hutch pulled up outside the little diner they had used the day before and they both went inside and sat at the same booth at the rear of the shop. They ordered the same sodas and looked at some of the same clientele, but nothing.

After fifteen minutes, Hutch had had enough and got up to leave. He walked down the length of the diner as one of the men from yesterday entered and went to sit in the window seat waiting for his friend. He took out the chequers board and started setting it up. Hutch smiled again as he walked past. God, what he wouldn't give for a chance to just play chequers all day!

Back out in the sunshine, the two men got back into the car and drove off as the man's friend joined him. Hutch's feeling was now turning into an obsession, as they continued to visit the places they had found their snitches yesterday.


Starsky was beyond tired. He still lay where he had fallen, each small movement causing another shock wave of pain to surround his body, he was cold too and the shivering didn't help. He noticed a small movement at the back of him, and flinched waiting for more pain. Instead, Bernie came around to the front of him with another glass of water. Very carefully and gently he held Starsky's head as the injured man sipped the cool fluid.

Exhausted by the small act, he laid his head back on the floor, as Bernie looked on.

'I'm sorry' Bernie whispered. 'Dennis shouldn't do that. He gets mad sometimes'.

Starsky swallowed. 'Does he hit you, Bernie?' he rasped, his throat dry and sore.

The tall man nodded a little adding 'But he doesn't mean it. I do things wrong and he gets mad. It's my fault though. Sometimes I go out with my friends an' I don't tell him where I am. Or sometimes I use the telephone when I shouldn't. it's my fault', he repeated.

The brunette closed his eyes, enjoying the fact that someone was there with him, who wasn't going to hurt him. 'Ya got a lot of friends, Bernie?'

'Oh yeah' the tall man responded 'we play chequers at the diner all the time. They're like me — they're.........I dunno.........not clever like Dennis'.

A plan forming in Starsky's mind he asked 'Is there a telephone here Bernie. Can ya use it?'

'yeah there's a telephone, but Dennis says I haven't to touch it. He says that would be bad'.

Starsky desperately tried again. 'Bernie, I'm going to die unless my friends find me. I have some friends in Bay City and if you were to telephone them, they could come and find me. Can ya do that for me?'

The tall man was shaking his head. 'Dennis says I haven't to use the telephone. If your friends came here, they'll hurt Dennis'.

Almost out of strength, Starsky tried one last time. 'It'll be OK Bernie, they won't get Dennis, I'll make sure you're all OK. You just need to call 911 and ask for Captain Dobey, ya got that? Captain Dobey, tell him Starsky needs him'.

Bernie nodded '911. Captain Dobey. But Dennis wouldn't like it at all, I couldn't'.


Dennis slammed the phone down in triumph and turned to Tyrone. Not only was Barberra interested in the little deal he'd put together, he was on his way to meet with him. Now he just needed to find out from Ramsey where the money was and his lifestyle would change beyond his wildest dreams. He'd spent too long as an underdog, being paid t do everyone else's dirty work. It was about time he got a chance at a slice of the action. He stalked back into the other room and stared at the heap of humanity on the floor.

'Tyrone, put the kettle on. It seems that Mr Ramsey is going to be out passport to a far better life. I've just done a deal with Barberra that will mean we never need to work for anyone else ever again. And it all hinges on our curly little friend here,

Starsky opened his eyes a little. Crap, who the hell's Barerra. What now? He opened his mouth to speak, but Dennis was continuing.

'Mr Ramsey, it has become even more important to me that you tell us where the money is. You might have heard of Mr Ramirez? It seems he got rather fed up with life in general and has committed suicide, ably assisted by some policemen from LA. However, Mr Ramirez was only another brick in a rather larger wall, and Mr Barberra will be coming here very soon. He wants the money just as much as I do, and his powers of persuasion are even greater than Tyrone's. Have you ever seen a Colombian necktie, Mr Ramsey? It isn't pretty when the throat is cut in such a way that the tongue can be pulled down through the incision. I wouldn't want that to happen to you, after this conversation we have been having. So I'm going to give Tyrone one more chance to allow you to tell me where the fucking money is', the last coming out in a shout.

He signalled to Tyrone who walked over to the choice of instruments he'd brought into the room at the beginning of the session, making plans for his next session.

Starsky closed his eyes, trying to make the picture in front of him go away. He hurt too much. Why the hell was he putting himself through this for some lousy two bit drug dealer who he'd only just met? Crap, he could be back having a meal with Hutch, or a drink at Huggys, or even a visit to the dentist would be better than this. But then visions of broken bodies started forming. Young girls washed up on snow and horse, greasy hair and red rimmed eyes staring back at him from too pale skin. Or young men with what would have been all their lives ahead of them found dead in some alley way, veins exposed and bleeding, often with the needle still stuck in there. He knew then, that if he could hold on a while longer, there was a chance, just a small chance the big dealer, this Barerra would be caught.

Bernie could stand it no longer. He didn't like Tyrone, he was nasty and had hurt Bernie. The man on the floor — he called himself Starsky, didn't he? (why did Dennis keep calling him Ramsey?)— didn't deserve all this. He was nice and he'd been kind and talked to him. He didn't treat Bernie like an idiot like the others did. He'd given him a job to do, just like Dennis did.

Bernie weighed up his choices. He could help the man on the floor and stop Tyrone from hurting him any more, but that would make Dennis mad, or he could keep Dennis happy, but would have to watch as Starsky got hurt some more. He made his decision. He got up slowly and quietly went out of the room to the telephone in the kitchen unnoticed as the others were intent on the scenario now being played out.

Picking up the telephone, he dialled 911. The voice on the other end of the telephone asked him what he wanted and he asked to speak to Captain Dobey.

'Is that the police, ambulance or fire service, caller?'

'I......I don't know. I just need to speak to Captain Dobey. His friend is in trouble. Help me'. Bernie felt frustrated. He wanted to help but he was too dumb.

The operator was confused. Which service did this man want, or was it just another prank call from another kid. But the voice didn't sound like a kid, and in her line of work, you could never be too careful. She decided that she ought to take it as a serious call, and as the caller mentioned someone was in trouble, she plumped for what she hoped was the right service.

'Hello, caller, please hold whilst I connect you to Bay City Police Dept..........go ahead caller, you're through'.

Bernie waited as a female voice said 'Bay City Police, how may I help?'

'I need to speak to Captain Dobey, now' Bernie was getting angry. 'I gotta speak to him before Dennis comes in, please hurry'.

Mildred was uncertain. 'What is this about Sir, who is Dennis?'

'Dennis is my brother and he'll be mad at me. I need to speak to Captain Dobey, please', he hissed into the receiver.

Mildred was still unsure. The caller spoke like a child but had the voice of a man. Was someone playing a hoax? Dobey wouldn't take kindly to interruptions now, not with one of his officers being missing, but something about the call made her decide. 'Please hold caller, I'll put you through'.

Another wait. Bernie was getting anxious now, in case he was found out. Finally he heard a gruff voice.

'This is Dobey, who am I speaking to?'

Bernie swallowed hard. 'This is Bernie. Mr Starsky said I have to tell you he needs help'.

Dobey was on his feet yelling down the phone 'Where's Starsky? Is he alright? What have you done with him?

'He's in Dennis' house and Tyrone is hurting him. You have to come and get him. Dennis is mad and he does horrible things when he's mad' Bernie blurted.

The black man realised that this wasn't you normal tip off. He had to handle this differently. It was like talking to a chlld.

'Slow down, son. Who's Dennis?' he softened his voice.

'He's my brother, but he'll be mad if he knows I'm talking to you'.

'That's OK Bernie. Where is Starsky?'

'He's at Dennis' house' Bernie said angrily. He'd told Dobey that once already. Wasn't he listening?

'Where is Dennis' house, Bernie?'

'Its in the countryside. Its near a Seven Eleven'.

'What's the address?' Dobey pressed him.

'I......I don't know. Dennis once told my friends where it was, but I don't remember' he heard Dennis' voice. 'I gotta go now. Dennis is coming. Are you coming to help Mr Starsky?' and put the phone down.

Dobey was left staring at the receiver. 'Shit' he spat. He sat down heavily, wiping at his forehead with a large white handkerchief. He reached for the phone again.

'Mildred, get me a patch through to Hutchinson'. He waited. 'Hutch, I've just had a phone call from someone called Bernie who says Starsky is at his brother's house. He's being hurt, and no, I don't have the address. This guy Bernie was simple or somethin'. Didn't know the address, but said his friends did. Only thing he gave me was that the house was near a Seven Eleven. Does it mean anything?'

Out in the car, Hutch thought for a moment, the thing that had been bothering him all day now surfacing. 'I think it might, Cap. Get back to ya'.


Hutch swung the big red car around, causing Huggy to hit his head against the side window. He slapped the mars light on top of the roof and gunned the big engine, eliciting a deep throaty growl from the powerful V8, as he roared off down the highway, side slipping in his hurry to get to his destination. Sweat beaded on his lip as he tried to get every ounce of power out of the car, wanting it to fly, wanting to get the information he needed to be able to rescue his partner. What had Dobey said? The informant said Starsky was being hurt. Shit! Hang on buddy, just hang on, I'm gonna get to ya.

'Ya want to share, my man?' Huggy asked, straightening his hat

'That's what I've been trying to remember all night, Hug. The thing that was in my dreams. Its those guys in the window at the diner. The ones playing chequers. One of them mentioned Big B not being there and him being away with his family. I think they might know this Bernie'.

'Worth a try. At this point anything is worth a try. What makes you put two an' two together?' Huggy agreed.

'They said the guy at the convenience store near the jail seemed 'simple'. He was screamin' and causing a diversion. The guys playing chequers were the same, and Dobey said the man who tipped him off just now was like a child. Its all we got to go on.'

They drew up outside the diner and Hutch was out of the car almost before the engine had stopped. He went inside followed by the black man and searched the window seats for the men. There was no sign of the men and the blonde hurried over to the counter. The waitress ambled over to him, remembering the handsome blond from the previous two days.

'What can I get ya?' she asked laconically.

Hutch gave her his best "I'm a nice guy" smile. 'The guys who play chequers over there. They been in today?

She looked in the direction of the window seats. 'Nah, they won't be in till later on now, say 5.30?'

Hutch looked at his watch. 2.30. Three hours to wait. 'Do ya know where I can find them?'

'I'm a waitress, not their keeper' she replied, half heartedly wiping the counter top with a dirty rag.

The blond sighed, knowing the only thing he could do would be to wait the three interminable hours until he could question the men. He took a seat in the closest booth and settled in to wait.


Tyrone approached the weary brunette with a predatory air. He licked his lips, trying to decide what he should try first. He'd practiced his skills before, but there was always room for improvement. But his subjects didn't often last long enough for him to really get into his stride. This guy was one tough son of a bitch. He was amazing really and on one level, Tyrone actually admired him. On another level, however, he really just wanted to hurt him some more.

He motioned Bobby to pick up the body and carry it over to an upright chair. Starsky was beyond struggling. He allowed himself to be thrown onto the chair, hissing through his teeth as the jolt sent spikes of pain through his body. Bobby tied his arms behind his back, stretching the broken wrist painfully. His legs were tied to the front legs of the chair. His chin rested on his chest, it being too big an effort to raise it up, as he watched Tyrone reach for the kettle.

In Barranquilla, on the north coast of Colombia, Jose Barrera was making telephone calls to his contacts in LA, confirming that Ramirez was indeed dead and that Ramsey was in the custody of the Terriers. What he heard, he did not like and so he arranged for his private jet to take him to a private airfield outside Bay City, in order that he could check for himself what the situation was.

Always a cautious man, he had not got to be the head of such a big organisation without being careful and on top of things. As he stepped down from the plane to his waiting chauffeur driven limousine, he wondered again whether this 'Dennis' had indeed come up with the goods, and looked again at the picture of Ramsey that he'd been given.

He gave the driver the address of 'Dennis' safe house, wanting to see for himself that Ramsey was indeed there and willing to give the information he needed. The car sped away for the two hour drive up into the hills.


The men arrived at the diner a little before 5.30 that afternoon and went immediately to their window seat, pulling out the chequers board and counters, and talking excitedly amongst themselves.

Hutch took his cue and walked over to the corner.

'Hey guys' he began as they looked up at him. He noticed that one of the men had the rounded features and almond shaped eyes of a person with Downs Syndrome whilst the other man had a cast in one eye and a hand that refused to work.

He continued 'Can I join in?'

They looked confused. Why would anyone want to join in? They were used to being ignored. Hutch sat down at the table, Huggy leaning against the window, his arms folded across his chest.

'My name's Ken, and he's Huggy Bear. I heard you talking the other day about your friend, Big B. Is that his real name?' he asked casually.

The man with Downs Syndrome replied. 'I'm Stevie. This is Mikey. We play chequers every day and I always win'.

'Don't always', Mikey retorted.

'Do too'.

Hutch put up his hand. 'I bet you're both real good at chequers, but who's Big B? He got another name?'

Stevie nodded. 'His real name is Bernie, but we call him Big B coz he's big an' his name begins with a B' he finished, obviously pleased with himself.

Bingo, Hutch thought. 'Where's Big B now?' he asked, carefully

'He's gone with his folks out of town. They've gone to Dennis' house for a while', Mikey answered.

Hutch licked his lips. 'Do ya know where Dennis' house is?' he asked, hoping against hope that the answer would be yes.

The two men looked at each other before Mikey said 'We aren't supposed to tell. Dennis said it was a secret an' he'd hurt Bernie if we told'.

Hutch tried again. 'I'm er......a friend of Dennis. I just forgot where he lives, but I need to find him. If you tell me, I'll make sure he doesn't hurt Bernie, OK?'

A smile. 'OK. It's a house on a dirt road an' its at a place called Middle,........no, not Middle. Erm.........Mandy? Yeah mandy highs'.

'Mandy Highs?........Mandy Hi?.......Do you mean Mandalay Heights? Hutch asked.

'Yeah, that's it' Stevie said, his face cracking into a grin. 'Mandy Highs'.

Hutch smiled back at him and got up quickly. He walked over to the bar and handed the waitress a $10 bill. 'Buy the guys in the window all the soda they want, OK?'

He headed quickly for the door as Mikey and Stevie shouted 'Thanks Mister' after him.

Back in the car, Huggy stared at the blond.

Have you any idea how big an area Mandalay Heights is? It'll take forever to go down every dirt road around there!'

'Yeah, but on the phone Bernie said the house was near a Seven Eleven. How many stress can there be I that area?'. He reached for the mic. 'Mildred, its Hutch. Patch me through to Dobey'. A moment's pause. 'Cap? Hutch. Confirmed Bernie is part of the Terriers, and they have a house on Mandalay Heights down a dirt road near a Seven Eleven. Can ya get someone from R and I to check the available addresses, I'm on my way up there now'. He put the mic back on its cradle and gunned the big engine into life.


Jose Barrera sat back in his limousine and stared at the passing scenery. The city itself was nothing special. An average American city with far too many people and far too many buildings. Although, he thought to himself, if there weren't all these people, I wouldn't be selling all the drugs, so I have to be thankful.

The chauffeur eased the big car through the down town traffic, driving smoothly and unhurriedly as he negotiated the stop lights, the crossings and the hills going out of town. Consulting his map, he took a sharp left and continued up the canyon road.

Barerra was anxious to get this little deal over and done with. The whole business with Ramirez had left him with a nasty taste in his mouth. Who'd have thought the stupid Spaniard would have jumped like that. He would have thought that after being at the top of his game for five years, Ramirez would have been used to the pressure and had the mechanisms and men in place to deal with hiccoughs like this. He sighed,. Que sera.


Tyrone reached for the kettle which was now boiling nicely. He lifted it down from the table and carried it over to the bound detective. Starsky started struggling, trying desperately to escape his bonds. Shit, beatings I can just about handle, but God, not this. Please not this. For Gods sake someone help me now. He tried to back away as far as he could, shrinking back in the chair, trying to make himself invisible. Oh God, this can't be happening,....can't be happening. Get the fuck away from me, please.

The look in the stormy cobalt eyes said it all — I've had enough now and this is more than I can stand. I don't care about Ramsey or any drug dealer any more, just let me be. He moaned, uttering low and persistently, 'No, please, no more, no more', no longer ashamed that he had come to the end of his tether.

Dennis was at his side, picking a handful of curly hair and pulling Starsky's head back fiercely.

'Ya got something to say, Ramsey. Has Tyrone just jogged that memory of yours?'

But the brunette was too far gone, The pain and damage that had been inflicted on him over the past two days, compounded by what he knew the big ex boxer was going to do to him had tipped the brunette over the edge. He continued his low pleading, 'No more, please, no more', his mind shutting down to just that one phrase, over and over again.

Tyrone advanced and lifted the kettle. Aiming at a spot on the brunette's thigh, he dribbled a little of the scalding liquid onto the bound man's leg. The effect was dramatic. Starsky let out an almost animal scream, his fingers and toes contracting and his body becoming quite rigid, before collapsing back against his bonds. His head fell forward onto his chest and he let out a miserable, pitiful moan. Sweat poured down his face.

Again, Tyrone dribbled more of the boiling water, this time on the other thigh, noticing how the skin reddened and blistered almost immediately.

Starsky was beyond human reactions now. His mind was shutting down at the horror of it all. His pathetic whimpers were interspersed with the same pleading — 'No more, please no more', which all in the room ignored.

As another stream of water hit his chest, he gave one final heart rending scream, which tailed off into a sob before unconsciousness finally took him.


In the speeding red car, the mic crackled into life. 'Hutch, this is Dobey. I think we got an address for ya. It's up on the road out North from Mandalay Heights, going towards the freeway. About two miles on, there's a Seven Eleven and a turning right immediately after. Go down that road about a mile an' you'll see the house on the left hand side. Got that?'

Hutch floored the accelerator and the car sped off as directed, 'Be there is fifteen minutes, Cap. Send backup'.


The limousine was cruising up the hill. It got to the Seven Eleven on the corner and took the small dirt road off to the right, the tyres sending clouds of dust into the sky as it went. The man in the back prepared himself. The next few minutes would make or break his dealership and he readied himself for all eventualities.

The car stopped outside the small farmhouse, and the chauffeur trotted round to the passenger door to allow Barerra to exit. He stood just outside the car unhurriedly brushing down his immaculate suit, tweaking the cufflinks in the cuffs of his perfectly laundered white shirt, and straightening his navy blue tie. Satisfied that he was, as always, the height of sartorial elegance, he strode purposefully towards the front door of the house. Without knocking or waiting, the chauffeur opened the door and stood aside to let Barerra enter.

As they went through the door, they were greeted with a blood curdling scream which tailed off into a pitiful sob. Barrera turned to his chauffeur. 'I think Dennis is enjoying himself' he said with a chuckle.

He walked through and into the back room where he found all four of the Terriers and a man bound to a chair, obviously unconscious.

'Dennis?' he asked, checking the bald man over.

Dennis came forward, uncertainly. 'Mr Barrera, it's good to meet you'. They shook hands.

'And so, Dennis. Do you have the whereabouts of my money?' asked Barrera expectantly.

Dennis licked his lips nervously. 'Not yet, but soon, soon. He's near to breaking, so very soon'.

Barrera crossed to the man slumped in the chair and grabbed a handful of hair, pulling the lolling head back. He looked into the face of the bound man, then left the head hanging back as he turned away in disgust. Looking over to the bald man, he leered.

'I don't think you will have the information anytime soon, you idiot. It would appear you have been entertaining the wrong man. This is not jack Ramsey'.

Dennis stared at him, incredulous. 'Of course it's Ramsey. We took him from outside the courthouse two days ago. Who else could it be?'

Barrera sniggered at him. 'I would surmise that as the police went to Bilbao for Ramirez, they also knew about Ramsey. I would also surmise that this as they have taken the opportunity to make Ramsey safe, this unfortunate is probably a cop, wouldn't you? In which case, Mr Dennis, you are most definitely a fool'.

Jose Barrera felt his blood boil at this stupid man in front of him. There was only one thing to do with a man like this.

He raised his gun quickly to eye level and fired, even as the bald man was trying to apologise.


The red car drew to an abrupt halt outside the farmhouse, finding a limousine and a blue panel truck parked outside. Hutch checked his gun, passing Starsky's Beretta to Huggy, who took it as though it would bite him. Both men quietly got out of the car and at a signal from Hutch made their way round to the back of the house, crouching down to run under each window opening along the way.

Just as they reached the back door, they heard a shot ring out. Hutch, spurred on now and frantic at the thoughts of whether they had just shot his partner, raised his foot and kicked out at the door with all his strength. The hinges gave and the door flew backwards.

Hutch and Huggy were just in time to see Tyrone and Bobby hot footing it out for the front door, the chauffeur in hot pursuit. As he got to the open door, he steadied himself and fired two shots, one in the back of each fleeing man. Both dropped to the ground, dead in an instant.

Hutch crept forward down the corridor, and peeped around the door into the back room. He could see Starsky's body on the chair and a well dressed figure bending over it. Motioning Huggy to cover the Chauffeur, who had still not clocked they were there, he inched into the room, coming carefully up behind the stranger and, as the stranger hit out at Starsky's exposed neck with the blade of his hand, Hutch brought the butt of his gun down on the head in front of him, sending the body pole axed to the ground.

At the same time as the body fell, he heard Huggy's pleading with the man at the front door to put down his gun, before a shot rang out. Quick as a flash, Hutch was in the corridor, staring at Huggy Bear, holding the small gun in his hand and staring in disbelief at the man he'd just shot.

'Huggy, get to the car. Call for backup and an ambulance, Now!'

As Hutch rushed back into the room he was brought up short by the sight of a tall, thin man with his arms round Starsky's immobile body, rocking him back and forth and crooning meaningless nothing to him, tears steaming down his long, sad face.

Bernie looked up a Hutch came in. 'I'm sorry' he said, 'I'm sorry. Dennis was mad and I don't like it when Dennis is mad. And now Starsky's dead. I'm sorry'.

Hutch gently pushed Bernie out of the way then gasped as he got his first look at his partner. Bruises and cuts stood out livid all over the brunette's body. There were enormous blisters down his chest and on his upper legs, where a bullet wound also still bled, dried and crusted blood marking its flow down to the floor. There were other burn marks on the chest that looked like cigarette burns. He reached round to cut the bindings on the arms with his pen knife, but was brought up short by the sight of the brunette's red raw and bleeding back and left wrist, which was now twice its normal size and black as hell, with the silver coloured prison cuff still deeply embedded in the flesh.

Hutch gently touched Starsky's face, putting his fingers under the chin to raise his head up. 'Hey buddy, how ya doin?' he whispered gently. He realised his partner was fighting for each breath, an agonised heave coming with each intake. Starsky's eyes were frantic, as he desperately tried to suck in lungfulls of air. The lips were turning blue and there was a greyish cast to the skin, his skin cool and clammy. Trying to ease the brunette's panic, the blond started a litany of comfort. 'Easy there, ya big lug. Just try to take it easy. I'm gonna make it better, ya know. I'm here partner, I'm here'.

Hutch realised that if his partner didn't get air pretty quickly, there'd be more than blisters and broken wrists to worry about.

'Easy Starsk, easy' he murmured gently, casting about for anything he could use to make the smaller man more comfortable.

Starsky was pawing at his chest now, his actions becoming more panicked as time went on. He made a grab for the front of Hutch's jacket with his right hand, pulling the blond closer to him, and managed to whisper '.......thought you..........were dead,' as a tear escaped his eye. He hitched another ragged breath, before his eyes rolled up, and he allowed oblivion to claim him.

'Aw Jeez. Starsk, ya thought that all this time?' a lump coming to his throat. Hutch reached for the pulse in the neck, digging his fingers into the carotid, desperately seeking that life force. Eventually he found a weak and thready rhythm, far too fast for comfort. Hutch's mind reached back to his med school days.

What the hell am I supposed to do now? Crap, just hang in there Starsk, hang in there. How long will the ambulance take? Too long.

Looking again at his partner, he realised there was a discolouration at the front of his neck, and remembered seeing the stranger hit Starsky there with the side of his hand in a sort of karate chop. Oh god no. Not good. Not good at all.

Starsky gave one final shuddering attempt at breath, then nothing, the noisy, ragged struggle for each lung full of air finally silenced. There was a deathly quiet in the room, before Hutch galvanised into action.

Looking around at Bernie he asked 'Bernie, is there a razor blade here, in the bathroom perhaps?'

'Yeah' he replied, 'Bernie has a razor'

Hutch looked at the big man calmly. 'Bernie, Starsky is going to die unless you get me the razor blade now. Quick, hurry' he shouted to the fleeing man's back.

He turned his attention back to his stricken partner, hoping that even though he was unconscious, he would be able to hear him. 'Oh God Starsk! just stay with me? Ok? Stay with me Starsk. I can't do this without ya, just keep tryin' to breathe an' I'll make it better, but ya gotta keep tryin' Ripping off his jacket he rolled it into a sort of sausage shape and placed it against the brunette's back so that it was lengthways down his spine. As he rolled the unconscious man from the chair and onto his back on the ground, the shoulders and neck naturally fell back, exposing and stretching the neck backwards, so that the Adam's apple stood out prominently. Hutch winced as he saw the red raw back and knew it would hurt like the devil if and when Starsky came to, but breathing was the issue right now.

Bernie hurried back with a razor blade, still wrapped in its waxed paper, and handed it to the blond. Now, if he could just find something like a tube. He cast around the room, eyes searching, then patted his trouser pockets, finding in there the pen that the brunette had asked him to look after. Well, that's fitting, Gordo .It'd sure be worth $135. if it saves your life. Now, if I can only remember what to do!

Unscrewing the pen. Hutch emptied the refill from the barrel and broke off the very narrow end part where the ball point emerged. He blew down the resulting hollow tube, making sure there was clear passage all the way down. Not enormous, but it'd have to do.

With no time to spare, Hutch took a calming breath, trying to remember what Prof, Hagedoorn had told him. He unwrapped the blade and held it in one trembling hand.

He could almost hear the Professor's voice in his head:

Feel along the collar bone.... You'll feel an indentation where the collar bones meet. — do you feel that Mr Hutchinson? Now, feel right above that notch, there will be a soft fleshy spot covering a hard/spongy feeling area. This is the trachea. — Have you got it? Good. From here make a one inch incision, horizontally, across the trachea, making sure not to puncture the white membrane underneath. Place the tube into the airway then tape it down.

Hutch doubted that the good professor would have used a BIC pen however.

Trying to stop his hand from shaking he reached towards his friend's throat, hoping he was making the right call. He knew one slip would end the life in front of him, not mend it. He gently felt along the collar bone, feeling the familiar lump where the left had broken once. Towards the middle. Yes, there. Now feel for the trachea. Is that it? Gotta be — hard and spongy. He brought the blade up and positioned it against the brunette's neck, wondering just how hard he would have to press to cut through his friend's skin and other tissues.

'OK buddy' he whispered, 'you're gonna feel this, I'm sorry'. He pushed the blade hard against the skin making a first incision. Blood welled out, obscuring the view. Shit, now what.

Hutch looked over to Bernie, who was cowering away. 'Bernie, ya got a handkerchief, or a towel? Quick'

The tall man leapt to his feet and disappeared into the kitchen, quickly bringing back a reasonably clean pot towel.

'Wipe the blood away, will ya?' Hutch asked, as Bernie shambled forward. Hutch used the back of his hand to wipe away the sweat that was running into his eyes and making them sting.

Once the view was better, Hutch brought the blade back and deepened the incision until he was sure he had made a small hole. He took hold of the pen barrel and pushed it into the wound, putting his ear to the end. Nothing. Not a sound.

Frantically, he pulled the pen out and enlarged the hole with the blade, making the cut just a little deeper. He pushed the pen back in and once again bent his ear to the little tube. He waited long seconds until he heard faint but definite sounds of air whistling through the tube. Holding the tube in place, he sat back on his heels, breathing heavily, feeling relief wash over him as his partner's blood trickled down his fingers. The smaller man's colour was improving almost immediately, and although not normal, was at last not grey.

Feeling weak with the ebb of the adrenalin rush he had had, Hutch looked over to the man in the suit, who he'd hit earlier. He needed to be dealt with too. The blond looked back at Bernie, now sat by Starsky's head, gently stroking the curls and gazing lovingly at the brunette.

'Hey Bernie, ya did good there ya know. You helped to save his life twice over. Do ya want to play at policemen?'

Bernie nodded, eager to do anything the nice blond man wanted. He liked the man, partly because he didn't shout at him and partly because he obviously liked Starsky too.

Hutch went on 'I can't leave my partner. I need to keep this tube in his neck so that he can breathe. Can ya reach into the pocket in my trousers at the back. There's a pair of handcuffs. Take them and put them on that guy's wrists, OK?'

The tall man nodded and did as he was told, then came back to sit protectively by Starsky's side. He looked at Hutch and smiled. 'I like him. He was nice to me', he said simply.

Hutch smiled back at him. 'I think he likes you too, Bernie. Ya wanna go and see if the ambulance is coming, huh?'

Once again, the tall man nodded and headed outside.

Starsky was stirring, and Hutch immediately shuffled up until he could see those cobalt blue eyes as they opened.

He saw the pain and confusion in the brunette' eyes as they cast around looking for who was in the room with them. For one awful moment, Starsky was convinced that he's just passed out and that the torture was going to begin again. Hutch quickly explained. 'Hey buddy. No, don't try to talk. I had to put a little tube in your neck to help you breath and I know it hurts like hell. And it means I can't hear that lousy voice of yours. Don't fight it, it'll feel strange at first, but the ambulance will be here soon. Just blink once for no and twice for yes, OK?'

He saw the brunettes body relax imperceptibly, the eyes coming back to lock onto his. Two blinks.

Starsky weakly raised his right arm up and gently put a finger on the cut on Hutch's head, knitting his eyebrows in concern. So much emotion in that one little action.

Hutch realised that not only had Starsky suffered the physical abuse, he'd convinced himself that Hutch was dead and now needed to know what had happened.

'S'OK Starsk. I'm fine. I cut my head when I fell down in the prison van. I'm OK. You kicked that black buy an' the bullet just nicked the top of my shoulder. ........Ya saved my life there Gordo'

One blink

'Yeah, you did, and look what it got ya. Hey, no one knew that would go down like it did. God, if I could just do it over again, I'd do anything to save you having to go through all this' he waved his hand at Starsky's damaged body, his voice cracking with emotion.

He felt that right hand creep up to touch his leg, the furthest the brunette had the strength to reach. With his free hand, Hutch held on to that cold hand and willed life back into his partner's weakened body

'Oh Starsk, I'm sorry it took me so long to find ya. You hurtin a lot?'

Two blinks.

'Where's it hurt most? Your back?

Two blinks.

'Yeah, they did a real professional job on that. God, the marks come round to the front here. It looks like............Starsk, did they use a chain? His voice cracked as he thought of what the brunette had gone through.

Two blinks

'Shit! Just lie still'. He took in the rest of the body before him, anger spiking inside him. 'They shoot you in the leg too? What were ya doin, tryin' to escape?'

Two blinks.

'Jeez Starsk, did they leave any bit unhurt?'

One blink.

Hutch chuckled grimly. 'Ya know, I always did take ya for the strong silent type. Think I could get used to ya not answering me back!'

The hand he was holding squeezed his weakly as they heard the ambulance approaching. Hutch didn't even want to think about the damage to his partner's left, and dominant, hand and wrist.


Huggy came charging into the room with Bernie at the back of him. They were followed by four patrolmen and two medics. Huggy was issuing orders to the patrolmen as if he was born to it, and truth to tell, he was completely caught up in the moment. And amazingly, the patrolmen were taking the orders and acting on them. They glanced around the room, taking in the sight of the big blond detective stooped over his partner. They winced at the sight of Starsky, still laid on his back, bloody and broken. They knew both detectives and were sad and angry that this had happened to them — it always seemed to be these two who got a rough deal, Then they roughly took hold of the still unconscious Barrera and dragged him from the room

Huggy Bear was still coming to terms with his new persona. He, Huggy Bear, who didn't even own a gun, had shot a know felon and was now telling policemen what to do! They'd found his friend, and, if not in one piece, he was at least alive. A day doesn't get much better than this, he thought!

Hutch moved to one side as the medics arrived to assess the situation. They were staggered at the sight of the blond holding the tube in his partner's neck, fresh blood still glistening on his hands. The blond moved his body a little so that the medics could see what was happening, whilst still holding the tube in place. Starsky remained unconscious thankfully as the blond told the medics the history as he knew it.

'This is Detective Sergeant David Michael Starsky, 34. He's been here for two days and has severe injuries to his left wrist — I'm presuming it's broken, but there's still a metal handcuff round it. He's been whipped and beaten on his back. There are blisters on his chest and legs where he's either been burned or scalded. He's got cigarette type burns over his chest and upper arms and he has a gunshot wound in his leg. I saw his assailant hit him across the throat and when I got to him, he couldn't breath, so I............' his voice trailed off, suddenly overcome by the enormity of his friend's injuries, his voice breaking.

The room seemed to be swaying slightly, and one of the medics took a swift hold of the pen tube still in the brunette's neck as Hutch sat back heavily on the floor. Huggy was still issuing orders and making sure Barrera was put safely into the black and white before being taken away, but Bernie couldn't stand to see the big blond man looking so sad and lost. The tall man moved to sit next to Hutch and put an arm round his shoulders, patting Hutch's arm and stroking the golden hair. Hutch looked at the man gratefully and returned the hug.

The medics were trying to see Starsky's back, but the brunette was lying on it and they didn't want to disturb things too much, so they took the blond detective's word for the injuries.

'Easy Gordo, easy. They just gotta check you over. The real guys are here now an' you're gonna be Ok, ya hear me. Just let 'em do what they have to Starsk. Just relax'.

Starsky' body remained deathly still as the medics swabbed a small area on his unwashed arm and slid in a needle. Within minutes, the brunette relaxed completely for the first time in a long time, and the medics carried on their work.


The drive down to Bay City in the ambulance was done slowly, the medics not wanting to cause any jarring to the already delicate man in their care. As one drove, the other sat in the back with his patient, checking readings, altering flow rates on the IV, raising the eyelid occasionally to look for pupil reactions. All the time, Hutch sat holding the brunette's hand, relishing the physical contact.

He had sent Huggy back to town in Starsky's big red Torino with admonishments to take it easy and get it back in one piece. Huggy relished driving the car and was not about to break Starsky's baby with careless driving, and so he nursed the powerful vehicle down the hill, easy as anything. He had taken Bernie with him. Partly because the tall man became almost hysterical at the prospect of leaving Starsky, and partly because with Dennis, Tyrone and Bobby now dead, there was nowhere else for him to go.

In the relative calm of the ambulance, Hutch thought back on how many other times he'd done a similar journey, never knowing how his partner's life would turn out. He smiled as he thought of the time in the Italian restaurant. Starsky had taken a bullet in the back, another one creasing his forehead. In true Starsky spirit, his last words to his partner before he passed out were 'I'm hungry'. Then the ambulance had arrived and carted them both off to Memorial, where once again the brunette had been patched up.

And then there was that time with the poison, wasn't there? I can't laugh at that one — it was too close Gordo. God, if I hadn't got that antidote in time! Because you shot the only goddamn witness who could have helped us, just to save my life. I should be grey, not blond with all you put me through.

But Hutch knew that he could never cruise the streets with anyone but the brunette at his side. Starsky might be irritating as hell with his obsessions, and burritos and watches, but in a crisis, Hutch would never trust his life to anyone else, but this strong, handsome, childlike, brave guy laid on the stretcher next to him.

The ambulance drew up outside the hospital and Hutch followed his partner's still sleeping body inside. Knowing the drill by now, he waited outside the ER, pacing the familiar tiles as he waited for news. He would never insist on going in and getting in the way unless his partner was awake and agitated. Starsky was like a child, a brother and a hero all rolled into one. He needed the comfort of knowing Hutch was there when he was hurting. Needed to know he could reach out and touch the blond when the pain got too intense, knowing he'd never give an outward sign of the pain to the nurses and doctors. That'd make him look weak in front of strangers, and that was something he'd never do. Displays of pain and weakness were reserved for Hutch alone. It was only with the big blond that Starsky could let down his guard and let his true feelings show. He knew that only Hutch would have any inkling of what he was truly going through, the blond having gone through it too.

Hutch remembered the times when he'd hung on to the muscular frame of his partner as waves of pain shook him. When he'd looked into Hutch's ice blue eyes and whispered 'It hurts, Hutch. Oh God it hurts. And Hutch had held him and rubbed his arms and his back gently and soothed him and told him to hang in there everything would be OK. He ached at the moment to be there with the brunette now, but knew he was being cared for and that anyway he was unconscious.

The door to the department pushed open and Dobey and Huggy walked in, Dobey taking the lead. He walked over to the blond detective and touched his arm carefully — the only show of emotion the Captain would ever permit himself to make.

'How bad is it?' he asked.

Hutch shook his head wearily. 'He's still in there. When I got to him he couldn't breathe and I had to, erm, ya know, erm, p put a tube in his n neck' he stuttered with emotion. 'He's been whipped an' beaten, he's been burned and shot. I don't think I've ever seen him as bad as this Cap. His wrist is so bruised and swollen it looks so bad'. He leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes and trying to blot out the picture of his friend's body, bruised and bleeding.

The three men sat down on one of the hard benches outside the ER and waited. Hutch suddenly remembered.

'Huggy, what have you done with Bernie?'

The barman smiled. 'I left him with his friends at the diner an' said I'd pick him up in a couple of hours. He can crash at my place tonight, then take it from there'.

The blond put a hand on his arm. 'You're a good man'.


The hours rolled on and the coffee cups on the table multiplied as each man sat morosely waiting for news of the curly haired detective. Finally the door to the ER opened and an attractive woman appeared.

'Relatives of David Starsky?' she enquired.

Hutch stood up quickly, followed by Dobey and Huggy. 'I'm Ken Hutchinson, his partner. Work partner' he clarified as her eyebrows raised. 'I'm the nearest thing he has to family in this part of the country. How is he?'

'Are you the person who did the tracheotomy?' she asked.

'Yeah. Oh God, did I do it wrong. Please tell me I didn't make things worse' Hutch pleaded.

She smiled. 'No, Mr Hutchinson. You most definitely saved his life. Tell me, have you had any medical training?'

'Couple of years at Med School, but a real good professor whose voice just kept repeating in my head' he smiled.

The doctor became businesslike. 'We've removed the makeshift trachy tube and inserted the real McCoy. I think he'll probably only need it for a day or two, just till the swelling in his throat goes down. We've taken a lot of the fluid out of the scald blisters, just to relieve the pressure and make them a little more comfortable. As for Mr Starsky's back, I'm afraid that will take some time to heal, and there is little we can do to stop some quite extensive scarring. The plastic surgeon has seen him and has put in as many sutures as he feels necessary. I believe about two hundred.'

'It's the wrist we're most bothered about though. We've managed to get the metal cuff off, and hopefully it wasn't tight enough to cause Crush Syndrome. If that had been the case, I'm afraid your friend may have lost his hand. However, it's a complicated displaced Scaphoid fracture and we will have to reduce it by way of a compression screw, but we've immobilized it in a cast until he's strong enough for a general anesthetic. At the moment he's lost a lot of blood, and our main objective is to build up his strength'.

Hutch had listened carefully and patiently. 'Can I see him?' he asked.

The doctor smiled. 'Dr Franklin called in a while ago. He heard Mr Starsky was here again. He did mention that you wouldn't want to be parted for too long, and that you would be very persistent. So, sure, you can go in, but I have to warn you he's still asleep and he'll be going into a private room before long'.

She was talking to the blonde's back, as he made his way to his partner's side.


Hutch walked into the familiar quiet environs of the ER and headed over to the cubicle in the corner — the one Starsky always seemed to end up in. As with countless times before, he worriedly checked over the sleeping form, noting the IV's; the catheter; the blood dripping into the wrist of the right, undamaged hand. Starsky was lying on his side, propped there by pillows, to take some of the pressure of his newly stitched back, which Hutch could get a look at for the first time. Left open to the air to aid healing, the blond cringed at the damage that had been inflicted. From shoulders down to where the sheet covered, just above the hips, there didn't seem to be a square inch that wasn't either bruised or cut, and he could only wonder at the pain the brunette must have endured.

Walking round to see the front of the smaller man, he realised there were bruises and cuts there too. His blood boiled at the inhuman treatment his partner had had to go through, feeling again the anguish at not having got to him earlier. He saw that the place usually taken up by the Chinese coin on the rawhide thong at the brunette's neck was now instead, devoted to a small white tube, held in place by a ribbon of white gauze, the official tracheotomy looking a good deal less bloody that the temporary one. He noticed too that Starsky's skin seemed to have recovered a little of its pinkish colour, meaning that at least he was now getting the oxygen he needed.

Still unconscious, the sleeping man looked peaceful, the face relaxed against the pillow, the eyelashes dark smudges against the lightly tanned cheeks. The handsome features seemed to be the only bit of his partner that hadn't been damaged. Hutch silently thanked the nursing staff who'd shot his friend full of morphine, knowing that Starsky hated the stuff normally, and fought against the cotton wool feeling it caused. But in this particular case, he knew that the drug would ease away the most painful moments of Starsky's initial recovery.

Hutch pulled up a chair and sat down next to the brunette, gently taking hold of the uninjured right hand, mindful not to disturb the drip. He suddenly realised just how tired he really was, and how much his own injuries were still hurting. In all the action of the past few hours, he had ignored his own body's needs, worrying instead about the smaller man's welfare. Hutch felt his eyes closing in the dimmer light and warmth of the room, and before he knew it, his head was resting on his partner's bed, and sleep overtook him.

Once or twice during the night he was disturbed by the two hourly obs. the nurses were doing, checking temperature, pulse and respiration and the flow rate on the drip. Once or twice, they injected drugs into the port on the side of the drip, and twice during the night they hung a new bag of A+ blood, replenishing the fluid the brunette had lost. Most of the time they worked around the big blond still holding his partner's hand, smiling at the uncommon bond the two men seemed to have.

In the early hours of the morning, Hutch was wakened by a gentle tickling on his head. Instantly awake, he looked up to see cobalt blue eyes staring back at him, full of questions.

'Hey buddy' he said quietly, 'welcome back. No don't try to talk, you've got a tube in your throat, remember. Just do two blinks for yes and one for no, OK?'

Starsky blinked twice, then twice again as Hutch asked if he knew where he was.

'They've stitched your back up and got rid of the bullet from your leg. Your wrist is broken but they're going to do an operation on that in a couple of days, when you're stronger. Have ya got a lot of pain?'

Two blinks.

Hutch called the nurse over. She checked Starsky's vitals, commenting that she hadn't expected him to be awake so quickly. Ordinarily, her patients would be out for quite some time after what Mr Starsky had been through.

The blond smiled 'He ain't an ordinary man' he explained, patting his partner's shoulder. The nurse went away and came back with another syringe. Starsky flapped his hand weakly.

'What's up Gordo?' Hutch asked. 'Ya don't want the drugs?'

One blink.

'Come on Starsk, ya need something. I know ya don't like it, but I'll be here. I'm not leaving'.

Another blink and the right hand flapped again. Hutch wondered what was getting his partner so agitated. Starsky made writing motions in the air with his hand.

'Ya want some paper and a pencil?' he asked

Two blinks. The nurse furnished them with the requisite materials and Hutch held the pad as the brunette fought with the pencil in his right hand. Unused to writing with that one, he managed to scrawl in childlike writing B E R N I E ?

Just like you, Gordo, always thinking about everyone else! 'Bernie is with Huggy at The Pits' he said. 'Dennis was shot dead by Barrera and the other two goons were shot by Barrera's chauffeur as they tried to escape. Then Huggy shot the chauffeur'.

He saw the brunette's eyebrows shoot up in surprise, knowing Huggy hated any sort of weapon.

'Yep, you heard, partner. Huggy "I ain't never holdin' a gun" Bear turned honorary cop and shot the bad guy dead. Ya should have seen him. Whilst I was lookin' after you, he took over the situation and ordered everyone round. So, now ya know, will ya take your meds like a good little policeman, and go back to sleep?'

The eyelids were already drooping, but there were two distinct blinks as the nurse finally got to administer the morphine. Then she gave the blond two aspirin and a glass of water, and went back to her desk.


In the late afternoon of the same day the doctor came round to see her patient and found him once again awake. She was stunned at the progress the brunette had made and the fact that Officer Hutchinson — she must remember to call him Hutch — was still there. Starsky had been turned over onto his back for a little while, and although he winced at the movement, at least he could now see what was going on.

'Hello David' she smiled ' I'm Doctor Chew. I was the doctor who looked after you yesterday when you came in. You're friend here did a very good job with your tracheotomy tube, but we put in a fresh one. However, I think, looking at the way the swelling on your neck has gone down, we may be able to take it out now. How do you feel about that?' It was her first view of the man whilst he was awake, and found herself drowning in those deep dark blue eyes.

Starsky looked at Hutch for approval, then nodded towards the doctor, the motion saying it all - for heaven's sake get his thing out of me!

'I'll go and get the necessary stuff, then I'll be back' she explained 'I need to pass a tube down into your trachea and have a look at your airways to check that you'll be able to breathe on your own. It won't hurt, but it will be uncomfortable. I'll put some numbing spray at the back of your throat first'.

She was back with a nurse within 10 minutes.

'OK David. We're going to give you something to help you relax, then we'll lie you down flat. 'Now I'll spray this on the back of your throat. Good. Now, just try and relax, OK?' she brought up the flexible bronchoscopy tube.

At the sight of the contraption, Starsky's eyes flew open and sweat started to bead on his forehead. Hutch held onto his hand, angry that once again his partner had to endure yet another invasive procedure after all he had suffered already.

Gently, Dr Chew inserted the tube into Starsky's mouth and fed the flexible pipe down, looking through the small eye piece, to check for swelling and obstruction. Starsky's body started to buck as his gag reflex took over, and immediately, Hutch had his hand on his partner's shoulder.

The nurse was at his side also, gently stroking the curls, 'Easy David, just try to breath through your nose, that's right. Its nearly done now, you're doing really well' she murmured soothingly.

Finally Dr Chew had seen everything she wanted to and made encouraging noises. 'I'm going to pull the tube out now. David. Just try to breathe through your nose. Good' she said pulling the bronchoscope all the way out. 'Well the good news is that the swelling has gone down well, so we can get rid of the trachy tube now'. She gazed down at the sweating man. 'I'll get the stuff together then we can do it now, and you can curse me all you like when you get your voice back'.

Two minutes later she was back again, making her preparations on the green swathed trolley she had wheeled towards the bed.

'OK David' she said leaning over he patient. 'I'm going to cut the gauze round your neck now. Then, when I give you a nod, I want you to cough, and I'll pull out the tube. It shouldn't hurt too much, but it will feel very strange. Just try to relax'. She felt the tension ease a bit from the brunette's body.

The nurse on the other side of the bed rested her hand on Starsky's damp curls, and Hutch once more took hold of his hand. Dr Chew reached towards the tube at the brunette's neck and took a hold.

'OK David. On my count. One.....two....three and cough'. As her patient coughed a silent cough, she pulled and the tube popped out of the wound, leaving a mark like a red raw navel in the centre of the brunette's neck. The nurse came forward and placed a white dressing over the wound and taped it down with micropore as Starsky experimentally coughed again.

Surprised that a small noise came out, he looked at the doctor and rasped 'Thought ya said it wouldn't hurt'.

She smiled at him 'I lied'.


Five days later, Starsky had had the operation to reduce and immobilise his fractured wrist and was sporting a white cast. His back was beginning to itch terribly and the gun shot wound on his leg was healing nicely. The blisters on his chest and legs had deflated and the scalds were now a deep raw red, but still healing well.

Sitting up in bed, he was getting homesick and even the pretty nurses were no substitute for being home again. He looked at his watch — good, visiting time!

Five minutes later, the big blond appeared at the door, smiling,

'Hey Gordo' he said. 'I got some visitors for ya, if you're up to it'.

The brunette nodded and Huggy walked into the room, closely followed by Bernie and their friend Eddie. As Bernie ran over to the man in the bed and gave him an enormous hug, Eddie stood at the foot of the bed.

'Hey Hup' he waved. 'Starchy brought us to see ya'.

Bernie gave him a stern look. 'This is Starsky. He's my friend. That's Hup over there', he pointed to the blond.

'Well, hey both of ya' Starsky greeted them, disentangling himself from Bernie's long arms and wincing as the stitches in his back pulled.

Huggy greeted the bed bound detective. 'Bernie wanted to come to see you, my man. I've managed to get him a place at the mission, with Eddie. He's got a bed and food and he's even got a janitor's job. Oh, and, man does he play a mean game of chequers' he added.

Starsky smiled, glad the man who had kept him company through those long dark hours at Dennis' house was now safe and settled. Dobey had already told him that no charges would be brought against the tall man. He was there at the 'safe house' and almost as much of a prisoner as Starsky had been.

The three men, Eddie, Bernie and Huggy stayed another little while then said their goodbyes and left the two detectives alone in the brunette's room.

'So, ya ready to get out of here tomorrow?' asked the blond.

'Am I ever' his partner said, his voice still raspy and sore although the tracheotomy wound was now uncovered and closing well.

Hutch became serious. 'Barrera had his first hearing today. He's been charged with all the drugs offences plus murder one. He's never gonna walk free again. At least some good came of all this'.

Starsky nodded. 'What about Ramsey?'

The blond smiled. 'Finally got rid of him to the Narc. boys. They thought he was going to be of no use to the DEA once Ramirez took the plunge, but turns out he has the low down on Barerra as well. He's been promised immunity and free passage to whichever country will accept him, once the evidence is done. Can't help feeling sorry for whichever place he ends up though, coz I really don't think the guy will ever give up the drugs scene. He's too heavily into it'.

Starsky was staring at his cast on his left hand, not really listening to the blond, in a world of his own. The big blond looked over at him, before blowing at him and whispering 'Earth to Starsky, come in Starsk'.

He jumped a little and smiled shyly. 'Sorry Blintz. I was just thinking. I don't know how long I can go on doin' this. It hurt so much, Hutch. Towards the end, I was really ready to tell 'em anything they wanted to hear. And when that big guy brought out the kettle, I lost it completely. Just how many times should I expect my body to recover? I've had more injuries in the past seven years than most men have in a lifetime. You too, come to that. You said at the beginning of this that I asked too much of you sometimes. Well now I'm beginning to think I'm asking too much of myself too. I'd never admit it to anyone else, but I was so fucking scared there Blondie'.

Hutch put a hand on his partner's arm. 'Anyone would have been scared going through what they put you through. Shit Starsk, how many other men get beaten black and blue with a chain, then a cane, not to mention all the other crap they did to you. We're not paid enough to be heroes, but you act like one. Anyone would be scared facing that'.

The brunettes' face was thoughtful. 'No, it wasn't the beating I was scared of, or even the burns, really. Oh, course, they hurt like nothing I'd felt before. But it was more than that'. He paused, trying to find the right words.

'Suddenly I thought, Gods, I'm only 34. I could get married. I could have lots of little Davies runnin' around. But if I died then, I'd never know what that was like. But even more than that. If I'd died then, I'd never have had the chance to say goodbye to you, knowing that you'd have to carry on without me...........an' that's more than I could bear'. His voice broke and he looked in mute appeal at his partner.

Hutch felt an enormous lump in his throat. He swallowed it down and heaved a big sigh. 'So, what ya wanna do Partner. I'm not carrying on policing without you. Where do we go from here?'

Starsky shrugged his shoulders, then hissed in pain as his back protested the movement. 'Dunno. You could sing?'

The blond laughed. 'Yeah, an' you could become a watch salesman! You're just feelin' down from being cooped up in here. Just wait till ya get home, you'll feel better, I know you will'.


Hutch had gone home that night and worried about his friend's mental state. He'd never heard Starsky talk like that before and only hoped that it was just as a result of the terrible experience he had had at Dennis' hands. His sleep that night, however, was not peaceful.

Early next morning he gathered Starsky's clothes from his apartment, choosing carefully. He sought out the softest jeans, which just happened to be the loosest fitting ones, and a baby soft red tee shirt — the one with the little white rectangle on the front. Along with his partner's ubiquitous blue Adidas, the ensemble was complete.

He made his way back to Memorial, unsure what reception he would have. Pausing at the brunette's door, he took a calming breath, then fixed a smile on his face. 'Hey Starsk. ya ready to roll?' he asked

'Oh sure. I'm terrific' the smaller man replied morosely. 'Just get me outa here, OK?'

He dressed as quickly as he could, trying hard not to gasp as the soft material of his clothes rasped against his healing injuries. Finally though, he had to accept defeat and ask Hutch to lace up his shoes. The skin on his back was just too tight and sore to allow that range of movement just yet

Saying goodbye to the staff and armed with his antibiotics and pain meds, both men escaped the clutches of the hospital and made their way to the car.

Starsky smiled as he caught sight of his big red baby and walked over, caressing the bodywork with his right hand. He turned to the blond. 'Give me the keys?'

'Ya can't drive. It'll hurt too much' Hutch spluttered.

'It'll hurt even more seeing you drive it Blintz' he responded.

Hutch shrugged and tossed the keys over and, amazing himself, Starsky caught them right handed. He eased himself into the drivers seat and sat a moment, enjoying the feeling of being back behind the wheel. Luckily the controls were all to his right hand side, and so he turned on the ignition, flicked the gear lever into drive and set off.

His mood lifted a little as he drove, back with the blond at his side, although he still had certain dark thoughts about packing the whole thing in. They drove a way in silence, both brooding on what a future without BCPD might hold.

Starsky broke the silence. 'Ya give any thought to what we were talking about last night?' he asked.

'Haven't thought about anything else. I reckon you'll feel better when ya get home. It was just the hospital getting ya down, Gordo, honest'.

Starsky shook his head .'Nah. I mean it Hutch, police works all washed up for...................hey, did ya see that? That guy just ran outa that store with a big bag full of stuff, an' look the shopkeepers there. Hey, get the mars...........what? what ya laughing at?' he asked, a hurt look on his face.

Hutch was laughing out loud now. 'Just listen to yourself. One minute you're taking about packing it all in, ya get sprung from hospital, and within 2 minutes, you're out to catch thieves and villains all over again. Will ya make your mind up?'

His face cracked into a smile. 'OK, OK, ya got me. Just shut up an get your wallet out. It's your turn for burritos. I've been on hospital food for days' as he pulled over to a diner.

And without any other comment, the blond got out to place the order, thankful that things were back to normal. A hungry Starsk was a normal Starsk!