Chapter 1

‘So who’s apartment then? I can’t have him at mine, I’m allergic to….to ginger hairs’.

‘Starsk, how can you be allergic to ginger hairs? There’s no such allergy. And apart from that, I’ve just called the decorators in, he can’t come to mine’.

‘I’ll toss ya for it’ the curly haired detective rooted the coin from his too tight jeans pocket and threw it in the air. ‘Your call Blondie’.

Hutch shrugged his shoulders. ‘Tails’.

Starsky peeped at the coin on the back of his hand and grinned. ‘Sorry Blintz, its heads. I win and we go to your place’.

As the flaxen haired detective lunged for the coin, a plaintive voice said ‘hey I got a coin you can use’.

Both detectives rounded on the small ginger haired man sat in the car between them. ‘Shut it’ they said in unison before going back to their haggling. Eventually, Starsky conceded defeat and with an angry shake of his head gunned the engine and with a squeal of tyres set off for his apartment as his blond partner sat smugly at his side.


An hour earlier they had been pacing Dobey’s office as their Captain calmly explained that their new assignment was to take care of one Jimmy Shepherd, the star witness in the trial of Ainslie Ford, arms dealer extraordinaire. Shepherd waited outside anxiously as he heard the raised voices from within.

‘This is a shit assignment and you know it Cap. Why d’we have to baby-sit him? What about the fraud guys, he’s their baby, not ours. Get them in on it’ the brunette was stalking around the room, his face red with anger as he tried to reason with his boss.

‘Starsky will you cool it’ Dobey yelled. ‘This is not a shit assignment. If Ford is convicted we get one of Bay City’s main low lifes off the street and the fraud guys owe us one. It’s simple. You keep Shepherd with you for a few days, feed him, lay low and make sure you keep him safe. The trials in three days. Call it a vacation’.

‘Vacation? How’s it a vacation huh?’ Hutch joined in the argument, his usual calm temper now aggravated by watching his partner and Dobey wrangling over the job that had been proposed. ‘We gotta lay low. We can’t go out, gotta keep watch out the window. And it’s our apartment that gets it if they come looking for him. So explain vacation to me Cap’.

Dobey shook his head. ‘OK not vacation, but it’s an easy assignment. You’ve both been through the mill in the last couple of months. Consider it a thank you from a grateful department. Now get out and do your jobs’.

He went back behind his desk, wiping his face with his big white handkerchief and studied a paper in front of him. He didn’t look up as the two men departed and he braced himself as, true to form, the hot headed brunette slammed the door behind him.

The two detectives studied Jimmy Shepherd for a moment. He was a small, insignificant looking man whose pale complexion and bright blue eyes gave him a childlike look. The little man was, in fact, 62 and had spent his life licking at the heels of the big wheelers and dealers around Bay City. Once Ford had realised that Shepherd had been skimming a couple of percent off every deal that had passed through the little weasel’s hands, to the tune of a million bucks, he’d put a contract out on the small ginger haired man and in return, Shepherd had offered to turn states evidence against Ford. To say he was a very wanted man was an understatement and Dobey knew that, despite what he’d told his two officers, this was no vacation. He’d chosen Starsky and Hutch because of their track record with tough cases and because if anyone could protect the little snitch, it was those two.

As they left, he hoped they’d be safe. He had a soft spot for both of them, even though they’d given him more grey hairs over the years than he cared to admit. He hated giving them this job, but it had to be done and it had to be done well.


The three men reached Starsky’s apartment and Hutch got out of the car as Starsky stayed with the small man. Carefully, the big blond ran up the steps, gun at the ready and peeked through the front window. Not seeing anything to make him suspicious, he turned the key in the door and cracked it open, finally kicking it all the way and swiftly launching himself into the room. Again there was nothing and he repeated the performance with the bathroom and the bedroom before coming back to the front door and signalling his dark haired partner to come up.

Starsky poked the little man at his side and together they got out of the car and while the detective constantly scanned the area, they both made their way into the house.

‘Hey, that’s my door you kicked’ he said to his friend in passing as he walked into his home.

Hutch closed the door with a final glance outside. ‘I’ll apologise to it later’ he retorted as he went around closing the drapes and blinds in the various rooms. Finally happy that the apartment was as secure as they were going to get it, Starsky set about pulling pillows and a blanket from a cupboard. He dumped them on the settee.

‘Ya can make your bed while we get some food’ he growled at their charge as he padded into his kitchen, filling the kettle and delving in his refrigerator for cold pizza and yesterdays leftover burritos.

Hutch watched, amused as his partner made the preparations.

‘That’s the worst about baby-sitting duty’ he observed dryly as he picked a piece of the pizza up delicately between finger and thumb.

‘Hey, you wanted to do this at my place. You could have got your revenge and made us eat desiccated liver, or cod liver oil burgers or something, but oh no, you had to lodge chez Starsky. Guests shouldn’t complain about the food ya know. It’s rude’.

The flaxen haired cop put the pizza down carefully. ‘Don’t suppose you’ve got any fruit? Any yoghurt maybe?’ He saw the look of utter contempt on his partner’s face. ‘That’s a no then. Guess it’ll just be a fasting day then’.

Shepherd ambled over to join them, having neatly made up a bed on the couch. He surveyed the table and reached for a burrito. Starsky slapped his hand away.

‘That’s mine. You can have the pizza’ he glowered at the small man.

‘OK, but its Hawaiian, and I don’t really do pineapple’ he protested.

Starsky sniggered. ‘Well give it to him, he wanted the fruit’ he grinned at his partner as Hutch gave him a withering look.

The rest of the evening they spent watching the television. Both detectives were quite happy to relax a little. They’d had some hard jobs over the past couple of months and although they’d gotten results, they’d also had their share of long nights, weeks working without a day off and no chance to catch up with sleep and social life. Now they sat with their feet up on the coffee table, legs outstretched with a beer in their hands as they watched the big game, an old black and white movie that amazingly Starsky had never seen before and a programme of country songs for Hutch.

As the fingers on the clock moved towards midnight and the little ginger man starting yawning ever louder, Hutch took the hint and nodded at his partner.

‘I think he wants his beauty sleep’ he hinted.

‘Yeah? Is that right Shepherd? Is it past your bedtime?’ the brunette asked as he saw the snitch’s eyes begin to close. ‘OK big guy. Bye bye time’. He looked over at Hutch. ‘Do you want first watch, or shall I do the honours?’

Hutch considered. ‘Well, as its your apartment we’re using, I think its only fair if I take the first watch. I’ll wake you at 3:00 am?’

The curly haired cop got up and stretched. ‘Sounds about right. Have a good time boys and no midnight feasts, otherwise I’ll have to tell Mom’. He went into the bathroom, hoping for a quick wash before bed. He turned the water on, adjusting it till the temperature was just right and then peeled off his jeans and tee shirt. He folded them neatly and put them on the towel rail, then stripped off his boxers and socks, dumping them in the laundry basket. Quietly he stepped into the shower and luxuriated in the hot water as it cascaded down over his tanned and muscular body. He stayed there a couple of minutes, enjoying the relaxation, then got out, wrapping a towel around his hips before padding out of the bathroom and into his bedroom, flipping a wave at his blond partner as he passed through the living room.

As Starsky closed the door behind him, Hutch settled down into the chair, trying to get comfortable for the duration and Shepherd settled down on settee. Within minutes the little man was snoring loudly, oblivious to any danger he might have been in.

Hutch folded his long legs under him and closed his eyes, breathing deeply as he prepared to meditate. He allowed his mind to become blank and was relaxing into the meditation when suddenly he thought he heard a noise outside the door.

Quick as a flash, he sprang off the chair, gun in his hand and ready as he crossed silently to the front door. Peeping through the small pane of glass he couldn’t see anyone, and for a moment he thought he’d imagined it. He stayed at the door a moment longer then decided to check the rest of the apartment. Without the benefit of lights, he moved hesitantly from one window to the next, sneaking a look from each, checking the perimeter of the apartment was clear.

After what he considered a thorough search, he relaxed a little. Maybe it was a cat, or some critter foraging in the garbage bins. Hutch shrugged his shoulders and was just about to sit down again when suddenly all hell broke loose.

A shot fired through the window sent the big blond diving for the floor, dragging the sleep befuddled body of the little ginger haired man with him.

‘Stay put’ he hissed as he crawled back to his partner’s door. As he reached it, it opened and he saw Starsky, also on the floor and gun in hand crawling towards him.

‘What the hell?’ the brunette grunted.

‘I think our house guest has company’ Hutch whispered as both men crawled back into the living room.

Shepherd had remained where Hutch had dumped him and was curled in a small ball, quivering. As Starsky made a run for the front door and Hutch for the back fire escape, they heard another noise. At a signal to each other, both men jerked open their respective entrances and dived outside, guns at the ready. While Starsky saw no-one at his side of the building, Hutch was just in time to see a dark coloured sedan pull away and accelerate down the street. He couldn’t catch the registration number, but he sprinted into the street taking up a shooting stance before deciding regretfully that the car was too far away.

Panting hard he came back into the apartment, checking his friend was Ok.

‘Well Jimmy. Seems you’re a real popular guy’ Starsky commented dryly as the small man get back up and sat trembling on the settee. He looked over at his partner.

‘Time to tell Dobey we’ve gotta get somewhere more secure, I think’. He reached for the phone.

‘Ya gonna do it now?’ Hutch asked with a little smile on his face.

His partner shrugged. ‘Hey, it was Dobey told us this wasn’t a shit assignment. Just a vacation, he said. I think its only fair we tell him what a good time we’re having’.

For Brook, who needs a diversion and likes the hurt ones!

Chapter 2

The apartment and surrounding area looked like a scene from a disaster movie as forensics moved from one area to the other, trying to establish lines of fire, calibre of weapon, tyre patterns and footprints. Starsky watched with interest as the science officer dug a large bullet out from the woodwork at the side of his door and held it up to the light admiringly before putting it into a small plastic bag, sealing it and putting a label on it.

‘What ya got Freddo?’ he asked with interest.

‘Oh, a real doozy Starsky! It’s a soft nosed bullet, a bit like a hollow tipped slug but less common. You know, this is the sort that has the tip that spreads on impact. This one's a lead bullet with a copper jacket. You can see that its left open at the tip, exposing some of the lead inside. Soft point bullets are designed to expand upon impact, as the softer lead is deformed to spread open the harder metal jacket. It gives slower expansion and greater penetration than a hollow tip. Don’t see ‘em too often and this is a beaut. Whoever fired it wanted to make a mess of the person they hit’.

The brunette was amused at the tall forensics guy. ‘Well, you’re obviously impressed. Ya gonna send it to ballistics or make love to it? Whatever it is, I hate the thought of it being in my woodwork’ he said, examining the crater left by the metal, then patting the man on the shoulder as he went over to stand by his blond partner.

Hutch was in deep conversation with Dobey as the dark haired cop joined in the discussion.

‘I didn’t expect them to try so early on in the proceedings. The trials still three days away. I’d have thought they’d have waited till the night before maybe, so as to make sure the prosecution had to throw their hand in’ Dobey was saying as Hutch rubbed his eyes tiredly.

‘Well, they didn’t and now we’re left with the problem of where are we gonna put him?’ the blond asked glancing at his partner.

Dobey shrugged. ‘For tonight its going to have to be police custody, it’s the safest bet. A night in the cells then tomorrow I have an idea, but I’ll need to make arrangements’.

‘You know me Cap, I just love surprises, but in this case I think I’d rather know. You gonna let us in on the secret?’ Starsky asked as he started to gather together a pillow and a quilt, along with his gun in its holster and his blue jacket.

Dobey watched the preparations, distracted. ‘Not yet, till I get it finalised, but you’ll love…..what are you doing?’ he asked as Starsky pushed all his belongings into his old army kit bag.

The curly haired cop looked up as if it was the most stupid question anyone had ever asked him. ‘Getting my stuff together, why?’

‘Your stuff? What are you packing a pillow and quilt for?’ Dobey asked mystified.

Starsky shrugged and looked at his wristwatch. ‘It’s 4:30am. I figure we can get another five hours sleep an’ knowing what the cells are like, I’m gonna be comfortable. Any more questions?’ he asked as he headed for the door with Shepherd in tow.

Hutch followed behind and as he got level with his Captain he leaned over and in a stage whisper said ‘Hey. You see him a few minutes a day. I have to live with that’ then followed his partner and their guest down the steps and back into the Torino.

The journey down to the Metro was short and uneventful. Starsky had one eye on the road and the other on the rear view mirror for almost all the way, and Hutch also couldn’t help but keep looking behind him too. Ford’s men were obviously professionals and with the type of ammo they were using, they meant serious business. Both detectives heaved a sigh of relief as they reached the comparative safety of the police HQ and bundled their charge inside.

Shepherd protested a little as they ushered him in front of them through the bright neon lit corridors and down the stairs to the custody area, flipping a quick wave at sergeant in charge down there. They waited a moment before being told which cell Shepherd would be occupying and then as Hutch whisked the small man along the line of lock ups to the end, Starsky darted into one of the interview rooms and hooked a couple of chairs. Carrying them and this kit bag along to the prescribed cell, he set up the two chairs opposite each other outside the cell and as Shepherd and Hutch walked in, with the door clanging shut behind them, the brunette settled himself down on the chairs, feet up and tucked the pillow at his back and the quilt around his legs. With his gun drawn and nestling on his lap, safety on and the two men on the bunks in the cell, he settled his head back against the wall and within minutes he was asleep.


At 9:00am, Starsky was rudely awakened by the clanging and clattering of the cell door catch being released and saw the big brown bulk of Captain Dobey walking down the corridor towards him. With the Captain were two other men he recognised, both detectives and as he blinked and wiped the sleep from his eyes the Captain wished him a good morning. Dobey looked dishevelled and it was obvious that he hadn’t had a lot of sleep, if any during the night, but he had a self satisfied look on his face and as Hutch emerged from the cell yawning and stretching, he called both his men over.

‘I’ve managed to pull a few strings and I thing we’ve got ourselves a place to put Shepherd that’s defensible, secure and comfortable. It’s a small fancy new hotel on the outskirts of town. It’s not opened to the public yet, but it’s furnished. You’ll be the only three staying there, but what’s more important, it’s in its own garden which we can patrol properly. It’s set on a hill, so we can see anything coming and there are security gates. How’s it sound to you?’

The two detectives considered, silently communicating with each other as they had a habit of doing. Hutch’s raised eyebrows said ‘What do you think partner?’ and Starsky’s eyes said ‘Seems OK to me’. They both nodded they’re approval.

‘Have you actually been out there?’ Hutch asked, not wanting a repeat performance of last night.

‘What d’ya think I’ve been doing all night?’ the black man growled irritably. ‘Its as safe as we can make it. Now, do we go, or do you all stay here for the duration?’ he asked with an air of finality.

In answer the brunette started packing up his bedding and stuffing it back into his kit bag. ‘Lead the way oh great leader’ he said dramatically as Dobey turned and set off back out of the cells.


The process of getting the little snitch back out of the police station was repeated, but this time, the detectives borrowed an unmarked police car for the journey through the city and out to the hotel. Much as Starsky hated to admit it, his striped tomato was just too well known and too unmistakable to risk using that for the transportation. So he grumbled and groused as he slipped in behind the drivers wheel of the plain dark blue Mercury and turned the key in the ignition. With Hutch riding at his side, his eyes on the mirrors for anything suspicious, and Shepherd in th back seat the two cops pulled out of the police garage and into the morning traffic. In front of them a light coloured Lincoln and behind them another dark coloured Mercury made up the security detachment. All three cars spread themselves out over a convenient distance, so that they could cover each other if necessary, but didn’t look as though they were travelling in convoy.

There was silence in the Mercury as the brunette drove smoothly and steadily, not wishing to draw attention to the car or the passengers as he threaded his way through the city traffic. At the first set of red lights, he pulled up, drumming his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel aware that they were sitting ducks if anyone wanted to take a pot shot at them. They held their breath and then both heaved a small sigh of relief as the green light winked on and they were once again on their way. Once out of the main city environs, Starsky pushed the gas pedal and the big car responded with a satisfying throaty growl as he pushed it up the hills behind the town. Following the directions their boss had given them, they took a left and then another right and pulled into a driveway barred by impressive high wrought iron gates. In the distance, up the drive, the big blond could see the pale coloured Lincoln and as he pointed it out to his partner, the gates swung slowly open admitting them and the Mercury behind them. As the gates swung shut behind the last car, anyone looking in that direction may have spotted the flash of sunlight reflecting from the binocular lenses of the man hidden in the scrub further up the hill.

The convoy of cars steady wound its way up the newly black topped driveway and finally drew to a halt outside the new hotel. It was built like a rich mansion and had impressive double doors leading into a reception hall. A billboard outside proudly proclaimed

Mayan Towers Hotel

and exclusive resort

Opening soon.

The man up the hill watched through his spy glasses as the two detectives got out of the car, casting glances all round before pulling the little ginger weasel from the back seat and pushing him into the building. Carefully he put away the binoculars in their case, rose to his knees and brushed the dirt and vegetation from the front of his shirt. He backed up until he couldn’t be seen from the hotel grounds and got to his feet, walking quietly and with purpose back to his car, parked over the brow of the hill. Taking a two way radio he messaged back that the carrot was on the stall, accompanied by several other vegetables. He listened to the response and nodded, putting the radio down and settling back in his seat to wait.

Inside the hotel Starsky was looking around appreciatively. ‘Well, if we have to hole up somewhere, I approve of the choice’ he said, his voice echoing slightly around the deserted marble embellished hall. They were stood in a rounded reception area, decorated in classic black and white marble tile, with fake Corinthian pillars reaching up to hold up a staircase that Scarlet O’Hara would have been proud to walk down. The reception desk was wood panelled in pale ash wood with a black granite countertop and as Hutch walked behind it, he could see that it led into two small rooms at the back. To one side was a small kitchen area with oven fridge and kettle, obviously for the staff’s comfort and to the right, a well equipped first aid room, set up with examination table and white cupboards neatly labelled with equipment, bandages and various other medical items. He chuckled. It was so good that the hotel had such confidence in its abilities to entertain its guests that it had to have a fully equipped sick bay!

Coming back into the main hall, he saw that his partner and their ward were making their way upstairs as the five armed guards who'd accompanied them spread themselves throughout the ground floor of the building, making it secure. The blond hated to think what all this was costing the Californian tax payer and just hoped that Shepherd’s evidence would be worth it. He followed the two up the stairs and turned to the right, seeing Shepherd heading off into the first bedroom.

Dobey had certainly excelled himself with this hideout. It was luxury taken to the n’th degree. The bedroom Hutch found himself in was large, and beautifully decorated in sumptuous reds and creams with what looked like suede on the walls. Heavy ruby red drapes hung at the large windows and pooled onto the floor. In the middle of the room stood the biggest bed the blond had ever seen topped by a tapestry canopy and behind it a walled off walk through closet which was big enough to hold a dance in. Off to one side was a door leading through into a luxurious marble bathroom. Hutch found Starsky standing in the middle of the gleaming room, his mouth open as he took in the Olympian sized tub, the shower large enough to take a full football team and a steam room partitioned from the main room by an etched glass door.

‘I think I’ve died and gone to heaven’ the brunette whispered. ‘all I need now is that tub filled with hot scented water, bubbles and that new girl, Rachel, from traffic’.

Hutch meandered over and blew in his friend’s ear.

‘Sorry to ruin your fantasy pal, but are we gonna sort out the sleeping arrangements, or are you going to stay in here with your dreams all night?’

Starsky sighed. ‘I’ve told ya before, I never talk about beds on a first date’ he said, wiggling his eyebrows. He walked past his partner and back out into the bedroom where Shepherd was already stretching out on the big bed.

The two cops looked at each other, then back at the snitch.

‘OK Goldylocks’ the brunette said to Shepherd. ‘Here’s the deal. Me and Hutch take the bed, you take the couch’ he pointed at the chaise langue in the corner of the room, the furthest away from the door. ‘That way, if we have any more unexpected guests, we get to ‘em first' and without waiting for an answer, he turned and left.

Chapter 3

Once everyone had settled into the place and the five armed guards had gone out into the grounds to make sure the perimeters of the garden were secure, the three men started to unwind a little. Neither detective could fully relax because of the attempt that had been made on Shepherd the night before, but their surroundings were so luxurious that they found they could afford themselves a little time to look around and enjoy the facilities.

In the basement they found a swimming pool with patio doors out onto a large lawned area at the back of the building. Unfortunately the pool hadn’t yet been filled with water and so they could only guess at how relaxing it was going to be. On the ground floor, opposite the reception desk another grand set of double glass doors lead through into a vast dining area, decorated in duck egg blue and white. Small intimate tables set at discrete distances apart were arranged around a central dance floor with a raised stage for a band. The chairs around the tables were all Louis XV reproductions, gilded and decorated in matching pale blue and silver damask and although the hotel wasn’t open for business just yet, each table was set with a full place setting of gleaming silver cutlery on a snow white table cloth.

Not now able to send out for takeaways because of the security risk, someone on Dobey’s team had thoughtfully put some food in the small kitchen behind the reception desk and so at that moment, the two detectives and the small ginger haired man were sat around one of the sumptuous tables, lit seductively by candlelight while they all demolished the spaghetti bolognaise Hutch had managed to pull together. The thoughtfulness had even extended to a twelve pack of beers and so, their cordon blue meal was further enhanced by a bottle of Budweiser each. Now the three were discussing life in general.

‘Just exactly how much did you cream off Fords money?’ Hutch asked as he took another pull at his beer.

‘One percent standard from each deal over a five year period’ the little man said casually.

‘And in English that equates to…..?’ Starsky asked, curious that this insignificant looking man could take such a sizable sum from a “business man” like Ford.

‘Just over one and a quarter million’ Shepherd said calmly, taking a piece of bread to mop up the spaghetti sauce.

‘If it’s so simple, why aren’t we all doing it? The brunette asked. ‘Just how did you work it Jimmy?’

The small man heaved a big sigh, settling down as though he was going to teach a five year old its times tables.

‘Its simple. If a person is making thousands of dollars in small notes a week from a business for example, or ten thousand dollars a go in the case of Ford, and he wishes to deposit that money in a bank, it cannot be done without drawing suspicion. In the United States, for example, cash transactions and deposits of more than $10,000 are required to be reported as "significant cash transactions" to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, along with any other suspicious financial activity which is identified on "suspicious activity reports." One method of keeping this sort of transaction private would be for an individual to give money to an intermediary – me- who is already legitimately taking in large amounts of cash. I would then deposit that money into an account, take a premium, and write a check back to the individual for what is, in effect, his own money. Thus, the individual – Ford - draws no attention to himself, and can deposit his check into a bank account without drawing suspicion and I get my cut. I just happened to take a higher premium that Mr Ford expected’.

The curly haired detective’s eyes crossed as he tried to get his brain to work out the ramifications of the money laundering business. Shepherd saw the vacant look and shrugged.

‘What can I say? Some of us got it and…’

‘Some of us don’t have criminal tendancies’ Hutch finished for him. ‘So what have the state promised you if ya testify against Ford?’

‘Immunity from further prosecution and the facility to keep half of the money’ jimmy replied coolly, looking from one detective to the other.

Starsky was disgusted and pushed his chair back from the table, not really wanting anything further to do with the small criminal.

‘I think on that note gentlemen, we should turn in. I’ll take the first watch an’ I’ll wake you at 2:00’ he said to his partner as he made his way out into the hallway. As the two men made their way up to the bedroom, Starsky drew his gun and set off on a preimeter check of the ground floor before settling himslef on one of the plush settees arranged around the reception hall to wait and watch.


High up on the hill, out of sight of the hotel, four men sat waiting in a black sedan car with blacked out windows. The original man with the binoculars had briefed the others on what he’d seen and they were now waiting for the lights to go off in the hotel so that they could make their move.

‘I counted three guards all with M16s around the back of the grounds’ a tall thin man ventured.

His smaller friend sitting in the back seat next to him added. ‘Another two with M16s at the front, so five in all.I saw two with walkie talkies, so we need to take them out all together if we can’.

The man in the front nodded. ‘Five outside and the two cops inside. Shame to waste them just for the sake of that little piece of shit, but it has to be done. Mr Ford will be very displeased if we don’t take him tonight. With the trial less than two days away now, he doesn’t want the State’s star witness sending him to jail. He’s worked too hard building his business up to have that happen’.

The other three men nodded agreement, all happy that they’d get the half million fee shared between them when their job was done. Silently they got out of the car and started to make preparations for the assault.

The night was dark with almost total cloud cover and all four men put on night vision glasses allowing them to see the surrounding countryside bathed in an eerie green glow. They checked their weapons twice, wanting no mistakes on this. Too much was at stake. Three of the men carried outlawed AK47s while the fourth had a Smith and Wesson 686P revolver loaded with ,357 soft nosed bullets. With enough ammunition to take out Fort Knox if necessary all four men nodded their readiness and cautiously set off down the hill to their target.

The going was slow as they stopped several times to watch what the five guards within the hotel gounds were doing and to hide when the moon came out from behind the clouds. The element of surprise was going to be their biggest weapon when they came to the perimeter fence and they had timed their assault to coincide with one of the few times when the guards all got together to check in with each other.

The four men chose a clump of weed growing taller than the others by the roadside and waited crouched behind it, catching their breath and regrouping as they waited, biding their time. It was quiet out in this area so late at night. Only the cicadas chirping interupted the quiet and as the clouds passed over the moon again, leaving the hotel garden in complete dark, one of the four tensed, seeing the red embers of the end of one of the guard’s cigarettes in the distance. He nudged his friend and waited until the leader gave a signal.

Tensley they got to their knees, ready now to run towards the guards. Another man joined the first and in the quiet the four attackers could hear a murmured conversation as a third man joined the two figures highlighted in the green glow of the night vision glasses.

As all five guards met up to compare notes, the leader of the four attackers clenched his fist raising it above his head. At the given signal, the four surged forward, running across the narrow strip of road until they were up against the perimeter fence, weapons pointing unerringly at the five guards. One of the cops turned and stiffened as he saw the four deadly guns pointing at his group. Slowly he turned to face the four men, raising his hands in the air. Two of the other cops also saw the attackers and did likewise as the two others started to reach for their guns.

‘Don’t do it’ the leader said with deadly quiet. ‘Weapons on the ground now, or we will have no other choice than to kill you where you stand’.

The five cops paused only a moment before one by one they placed their guns on the ground in front of them, taking a step back.

‘Good. I’m glad you see sense’ the leader said. ‘Now, you’ he pointed at one of the guards, ‘open the gate’. He indicated with his gun and as the man walked over to the control panel, the other three of his team covered the other cops.

With the gate opened, the attacker came into the compound and quickly disabled the guards, using rifle butts as clubs and pounding them into unconsciousness. As three of the men ran up the driveway, the fourth bound the cops with their own handcufs and dragged the bodies into the undergrowth. Joining his comrades, all four ran quietly up the front steps and peeked around the door.

The leader, McKay, saw Starsky relaxing with his feet up on the couch and sent two of his men around the back of the hotel to climb the fire escape up to the first floor. Softly and gently, McKay cracked the door open just enough to get inside, closing it quietly behind him. In the almost total dark, Starsky never saw the movement, even though he was far from asleep

The three men round the back of the hotel swiftly climbed the iron fire escape and levered the door at the top open, letting themselves into the building. Quietly they wound their way through the corridors and took up position, one each side of the door to the bedroom Hutch and Shepherd were using and one at the top of the staircase. All blended into the shadows and none could be seen clearly in their hiding places.

At a brief nod from the staircase man, they got ready as he fired one shot into the air.

In the bedroom, the big blond cop was instantly awake, diving for his gun and pulling Shepherd off the couch and onto the floor. Dragging the little man behind him, he ducked his head around the door, seeing no-one in the dark. Cautiously he made his way onto the landing and as he looked over the balcony he saw his curly haired partner walking into his view from the side of the hallway. Suddenly alerted by the way the brunette was walking, Hutch inched his way forward to the top of the steps, taking them slowly one at a time.

‘Starsk?’ he hissed wondering what was going on. ‘You seen anything?’

His friend looked up at him, his eyes full of apology. ‘Kind of’ he said as calmly as he could as McKay came into view behind him, the Smith and Wesson pointing levelly at the curly head.

As Hutch made a sudden move with his gun, he heard at his back a gasp as Shepherd saw the other three attackers coming out of the shadows, their weapons also trained on the him and the blond. Hutch straightened slowly and lifted his gun high, showing that he wasn’t about to use it. As one of the men took it carefully from him, he walked carefully down the rest of the stairs, coming to join his partner in the hallway.

‘Thought the hotel wasn’t open to guests’ Starsky said quietly.

‘Seems we got that wrong partner. I think the weird looking one likes you though’ Hutch’s eyes wandered to McKay who was now standing on front of them.

‘Which weird one. They’re all weird’ the brunette replied, looking from one to another.

McKay stared back disdainfully. ‘Your banter might work with the usual Bay City scum, but you can save your breath here’ he said coolly. ‘I’d be very grateful if you would hold out your hands now’.

The two detectives glanced at each other, measuring whether they could make a run for it. As they paused, they heard the metallic click as the AK47s around them cocked, ready. Heaving a sigh, they held out their hands and the taller of the four men, Richardson came forward with a pair of old fashioned manacles made of heavy iron, with a thick link chain between the wrist pieces. Clicking one manacle on Hutch’s right wrist and the other on Starsky’s left, he stood back to admire his handiwork as the two detectives stood bound together, wondering what was going to happen next.

Chapter 4

The two detectives glanced at each other and back at the heavy manacles surrounding their wrists and linked by the large sturdy iron links of a chain about a foot long. The wrist pieces left no play and both men had difficulty closing their hands into fists because of the pressure of the metal. They hurt already and left the two cops in no doubt about the intent of McKay and his men. They wanted the two detectives at their mercy and incapacitated and didn’t really care how they achieved their objective. They knew they were in trouble and Starsky cast around looking for Jimmy Shepherd, suddenly wondering what had happened to the little man. Their attackers were ranged around the reception hall of the hotel, all standing with their weapons at the ready and all alert. As the brunette glanced upwards, he saw him, still frozen at the top of the stairs, his arm gripped tightly by one of McKay’s men as he waited pale and visibly trembling.

Hutch jerked experimentally at the chain linking him to his partner as Starsky glared at McKay.

‘Like the jewellery, but grey really isn’t my colour. Now, if ya got anything in….ungh’ Starsky’s wisecrack was cut short by a fist ploughing into his stomach and bending him over, the breath whistling from between his teeth. The blow was hard enough to take the cop off his feet and he fought desperately to keep a hold of his supper. As his clutched his arms protectively around his middle and staggered, Hutch was forced to bend forward by the short length of chain connecting the two men. Starsky started to stand upright again, defiance shining in his eyes as his blond partner locked eyes with him.

‘Nice one, buddy. Gonna go for another Starskyism any time soon?’ Hutch murmured trying to keep his partner’s temper under control. Then seeing the pain in those eyes, his voice softened. ‘You ok pal?’ he said gently, seeing his partner’s desperate attempts to get his breath back.

‘What, from that little tickle?’ Starsky panted, seeing the fist coming back and trying to duck away from the next blow. The fist landed like a hammer again in the same place and the brunette crumpled on his knees to the floor taking his partner with him, feeling more and more like a punchbag. As he contemplated the marble tile on the floor through watering eyes, he mentally chastised himself and told himself to remember to keep his mouth shut in future. As he fought to get some air back into his body, Hutch put a protective arm around his shoulder, rubbing his back.

‘Aw, isn’t that sweet?’ McKay crowed, looking at the two men on the floor in front of him. ‘Ain’t friendship great?’

Hutch stared up at him, but said nothing, biting back the retort on his lips. He knew he had to be careful. One of them at least needed to be in decent enough shape to contemplate getting out of there in one piece and preferably with their charge in tow. He checked on his dark haired friend again and together they managed to stand upright, the curly haired cop still gasping for breath and coughing.

McKay was speaking again as the two stood, Starsky swaying slightly as he tried to recover from the blows, his face pale and sweat beading on his brow.

‘I had intended to waste the both of you. It’s only that piece of shit that Mr Ford wanted’ he pointed at the terrified man at the top of the steps. ‘But it seems to me that we have a unique chance here to show Bay City Police Department what it means to mess with a business man like Ford’. He motioned for Richardson to come forward.

‘Harry, take our two guests down to the basement and show them what a good time we can all have together’ he said smoothly, grinning wolfishly at the bound cops. ‘I’ll be down later to make sure you’re all playing nicely together’.

Richardson walked up to the two and ground the barrel of his AK47 into Hutch’s back, just above his kidney. The metal was cold and sharp and the blond winced as the gun bored into the muscle next to his spine, letting out an involuntary gasp as the gun felt like it was making its way through to his front. Raising his hand in understanding he started walking, his partner at his side. Very slowly they made their way down the hall looking for any means of escape. There were doors off to each side, but neither detective knew the hotel well enough to know where any of them led. It would be no use risking injury by bolting through one only to find it was a dead end, or broom cupboard. They walked as slowly as they could, biding their time and silently communicating to each other to be ready if the occasion presented itself. Their escort was a professional. He followed neither too close nor too far behind, his weapon levelled at their backs, finger lying against the trigger for a quick shot.

Hutch realised they were getting too close now to the steps down to the basement. The one place they didn’t want to be was beneath ground level. Once down there, there would be very little chance for escape. They needed to run, and run now, or not at all. Neither man doubted that the ‘playtime’ Richardson had in store for them would be painful and with Starsky still recovering from the two crippling blows to his midriff, their chances for winning a fight were diminished.

As the procession reached the doorway down to the lower floor, the two detectives stopped, not wanting to make this any easier for their captors. Slowly and carefully Richardson halted and with one hand still holding his weapon unwaveringly on his two targets, he reached over and turned the handle on the door. With only a small period of time to make their move, and watching as Richardson’s eyes flitted for the briefest second to the handle, Hutch kicked out his long leg, connecting with the barrel of the gun, turning it sideways. As he grunted in effort, he and Starsky made a joint bid for freedom, running as fast as they could to the end of the hallway and ducking around the corner. They were brought up short by two closed doors and a blank wall. With not a second to spare, the brunette tugged at the door closest to him. It was locked and in desperation he watched as Hutch also tugged at the door on his side of the narrow space. Again that was locked also. The two men turned in unison, looking over their shoulders as Richardson’s shadow fell across the corridor and his bulk appeared, cutting off their means of escape.

As the two detectives stared down the barrel of the gun, seeing above it the wolfish eyes of their captor, they heard a shout from the main hallway. At the same time, they felt a slight tremor under their feet and Hutch made a grab for the wall trying to keep his balance. At the sudden move the trigger happy Richardson flicked his finger against the trigger of his gun, and let loose a single bullet.

The next few minutes were a chaotic jumble of noise, sensation and smell. Starsky thought he heard his partner scream once and felt a pull on the manacle on his left wrist. In a fleeting moment he thought the bullet had hit home, but before he could turn to check on the blond and see what damage had been inflicted, the earth seemed to fall away from under his feet.

The whole hotel quivered before him, seeming to turn almost sideways and he looked at Richardson who was drunkenly trying to make his way back into the main reception. As the tall thin man turned, the wall at the side of him seemed to collapse in on itself and the bricks fell slowly to the ground. There was an horrendous sound of twisted and tortured metal and a loud rumble as masonry and wood fell around them. Both detectives dropped to their knees, unable to stand now that the earthquake was taking hold and shielded their heads with their arms as parts of the fabric of the building rained down around them. The sound and the movement sent reverberations up through their bodies so that they could feel the noises in their very being. The whole world appeared to have gone crazy and they saw everything as though through a fog as dust and debris fell from the ceiling and walls. Screams filled their ears and they cowered back against the corner of the corridor trying desperately to keep out of the way of the larger pieces of rubble that fell around them. Their small shelter seemed to keep them pretty much out of the way of the more devastating masonry pieces, but the dust caused by the collapse of the fabric of the building was choking, threatening to cut off their air supply.

Suddenly there was an even more deafening noise and the whole of one part of the wall they were sheltering against started to fall. Desperately, Starsky threw himself over the body of his partner and put his free right hand over the back of his head, waiting for the impact of whatever fell on him. That impact never came and neither did the bone-crushing blow he’d anticipated. Instead, he felt a weight fall across his legs, pinning them to the ground. Beneath him he felt his partner’s body convulsively trying to get air into his lungs and his final thought as he passed out was that he hoped at least one of them would survive.

How long later he didn’t know, but Hutch came back to wakefulness. There was a sharp pain in his side when he moved although the area directly around the bullet wound seemed numb. He could feel warm and wet down his hip and knew he was bleeding, but couldn’t reach either hand down to see what damage had been caused. There was a deathly quiet around him now that the quake had finally stopped. There was no noise at all from anywhere else in the building that he could hear. Not event he groaning of wood and brick marked the passing of the event. Hutch raised his eyes and was surprised to see straight up into a milky dawn sky. The devastation had brought down part of the roof and upper storey of the building and by a freakish twist of fate, he could see directly up to the sky from here he was sat. Tall walls towered above him and directly in front of him was a tunnel of sorts made by tumbled masonry.

Hutch tried to move again and felt his legs pinned down. He realised his partner was laid across him and tried to work his right hand free to nudge the brunette to see if he was awake. His hand wouldn’t move and belatedly he remembered the manacles. He worked at loosening his left hand from under a small pile of bricks, bringing it up to his eyes, noting the blood from bruised and cut knuckles mingling freely with the dust and dirt.

Gently he reached forward, biting back a gasp as the pain lanced through his side and tapped his unconscious partner’s back. There was no response and worriedly, he tried again, harder. Thankfully he heard a low moan and the body pinning him to the floor shook convulsively. Slowly, Starsky managed to pull himself free of the rubble and push himself up until he was kneeling next to his friend.

Hutch saw the absent look on his partner’s face and gathering his strength he muttered

‘Hello San Andreas’.

Starsky shook his head. He looked terrible, his usual mahogany coloured hair encrusted with dust, giving him a grey appearance. There was a steady stream of blood trickling down the right side of his face and Hutch watched as his partner put his hand up and wiped it away. Starsky’s eyes were closed and gradually he opened them a crack, turning his head from side to side.

‘Hutch? You ok buddy?’ Starsky mumbled.

Hutch grimaced and wondered if he looked in as bad shape as the curly haired cop.

‘Fantastic’ he whispered, ‘You?’

‘Will be once its light an’ I can see where we are’ Starsky said, his voice a little stronger.

The statement took Hutch by surprise. ‘It is light buddy’ he said softly, realising the inevitable. He reached for his partner’s hand to lend a little comfort and support as he saw the brunette swallow painfully.

As Starsky took it and squeezed it, seeking the comfort of the touch, he looked in the blonde’s general direction and said.

‘Well this is just terrific. Hutch, I can’t see’.

Chapter 5

‘Hutch, I can’t see’. The blond let the simple statement hang in the air, not wanting to trust his voice to say anything. Starsky looked bad enough – the pasty greyness, the vacant look in those indigo eyes and the blood on his face. Hutch didn’t want to have his partner go to pieces on him, but he was worried at the predicament they were in. He knew that Richardson’s bullet had hit him somewhere in his side and that he seemed to be bleeding freely from the wound. He also knew that if he couldn’t stop the bleeding any time soon, he was going to go into shock and that wouldn’t help his blind partner any at all.

Starsky was sitting still, turning his head slowly from side to side as if trying to see around an obstacle, putting his free hand up in front of his eyes and squinting. Hutch could see that his partner hadn’t come to terms with his loss of vision and wondered what other damage the blow on his head had done. Through the dust he could see that the brunette looked pale and was also bleeding heavily from the cut just above his right eye, the blood running through the dark eyebrow and trickling into his partner’s eye. As he completed his observations of his friend, he also saw that there was a beam of wood wedged across Starsky’s left leg, pinning it to the ground. Again, he put his hand out, resting it on the brunette’s arm.

‘Starsk, try no to worry, it may just be temporary, you’ll be OK. We just need to try to get out of here and soon. It’s just, ah, I may need a bit of help buddy’.

Starsky turned his head towards him a blank look on his face.


‘We need to get out of here’ Hutch said again, his worry levels rising. Starsky didn’t seem to appreciate the predicament they were in or what had happened.

‘Out? Yeah, right’. The brunette said it automatically, shaking his head, and tried to stand, grunting as his left leg prised free from the wooden beam. Slowly he stood upright, grabbing at the pile of rubble as he swayed. The action caused the chain linking their manacles to pull and Hutch gasped as the movement through his arm jarred his injured side.

Starsky’s mind seemed to be in a fog and he couldn’t comprehend where he was. He tried hard to remember the sequence of events leading up to that moment. He remembered coming to a small luxurious hotel, eating supper and then they were in a…. Nothing! He couldn’t remember where they were and a sense of panic descended over him. He looked down at the blond man still on the floor. Hutch. Yeah, he remembered Hutch – how could he forget his partner of six year? He was a cop. He remembered that too and there was another man, Shepherd. Jimmy Shepherd? Starsky slowly put the pieces of the jigsaw together but could never get past the point of having supper.

‘What happened after supper?’ he mumbled, more to himself than to his partner.

Hutch concentrated on his friend’s voice. He was feeling spacey and cold and knew he had to get moving pretty quickly. He had to find some way to stem the flow of blood from his side otherwise he was going to be worse than useless to his partner or to himself. He stopped a moment, taking a deep calming breath. What could he find to stop the bleeding and then where could he go to have a good look at the brunette’s injuries? He tried hard to think, but the pain in his side was getting worse by the minute, clouding his thought processes and making his mind foggy and unfocussed. Suddenly, the memory came to him. "Some confidence the hotel has if it has a fully equipped sick bay!" He remembered standing in the room, chuckling, but now he blessed the foresight of the builders and designers to include the room in the hotel. Now, if he could just get them there!

Starsky was still mumbling to himself. ‘What happened after supper? Hutch? I can’t remember what we were doing. Ya there Blintz?’

‘Yeah, I'm here Starsk. We went to bed after supper and you were taking first watch in the reception hall. Don’t ya remember?’ Hutch’s voice sounded dry and cracked as the pain and dust took their toll.

Starsky concentrated, trying to clear the fog in his brain, but the more he tried, the more the memory seemed to elude him. OK forget that. Concentrate on getting out.

‘Hutch, we gotta get moving. I wanna get out of here NOW’ he said, his voice a little less shaky’.

‘No arguments from me pal’ Hutch grunted as he tried to move. The sickening pain lanced through his side again and he let out an involuntary yelp.

‘Hutch? You’re hurt?’ Starsky heard the yelp and bent over in the direction he thought it had come from, running his hand down the chain connecting the manacles until he found Hutch’s right hand. He gave it a squeeze of reassurance and felt it cold and clammy, knowing in his heart that Hutch was hurt, but not pushing the subject for the moment - it could wait a while.

The big blond didn’t want to worry his partner any more than necessary. One job at a time. Get out first and get to the sick room.

‘Just stiff an’ sore’ he lied, taking a hold of the smaller man’s hand. Slowly he levered himself up, biting back a groan and stood with his back to the wall, waiting for the waves of nausea to wash over him as the remains of the building spun around him.

‘Starsk, d’ya remember the reception hall?’


‘We gotta get to the little room behind the reception desk. Remember, the little sick room? If we can get there, I can take a look at that cut on your head. How’re ya feeling buddy?’

Starsky stopped to consider. ‘Headache’ he said. ‘Not too bad other than that. Leg’s sore, my stomach feels like its on fire an’ I can’t see. I can remember everything up to havin’ supper but nothin’ after that. It’s kinda freakin’ me out. Can you see a way out or does it look as bad as it feels?’ he asked trying to wipe some of the dust from his hands.

Hutch stared at the rubble around them. Now that the dust was beginning to settle he could see that some walls were down, and there were large chunks of wood across the corridor. Freakishly, the part they were sitting in seemed to have come off worst from the earthquake. The ceiling had fallen through, making a pile of rubble around them, but further along, the devastation seemed to be less. As Hutch peered through the gloom, he could see that their way was only partially blocked and they should be able to climb over the masonry and wood to get back into the reception area, although what they’d find there was anyone’s guess.

‘Its not too bad, I don’t think’ he told his blind partner. ‘We got some climbing to do pal, but I think we can make it. Ya think ya can manage?’

Starsky nodded briefly then jangled the chain links. ‘Not gonna loose ya, am I?’ he chuckled grimly.

Hutch pushed himself away from the wall and edged past the smaller man, starting to negotiate the devastation in front of them. The going was necessarily slow. With only one working hand each and with Hutch hurting and Starsky unable to see, each step seemed like a marathon. The blond tried desperately to bite back the groans as he climbed over the rubble, but he couldn’t hide the fact he was hurting from his friend. Starsky had been following behind his partner, feeling his way around and across the obstacles in their path. Several times he fell, scraping his arms and legs on the rough surfaces and once he put his foot where he thought there was solid ground, only to partially fall through a void. As he tumbled forward he yanked on the manacle chain, pulling Hutch backwards and the blond cried out.

‘Hutch what’s wrong. You are hurt. Just tell me huh?’

Hutch waited till the pain lessened a little. ‘Richardson fired at us, d’ya remember that?’

The brunette shook his head. ‘I remember four goons with guns, but that’s about it’.

‘OK. Well, one of them was a big tall guy called Richardson. He was taking us down to the basement for fun and games. I managed to kick him out of the way, then we ran. He ran too and when this ‘quake started he shot at us’.

Starsky was still looking blank, the description meaning nothing to him. It scared him to realise there was a part of his life missing at that moment, but the pain in his partner’s voice scared him more.

Hutch was continuing. ‘He missed you and he kinda put a little nick in me’ he said, looking down at his side. His shirt and the hip of his jeans was soaked red with blood and the wound showed no signs of stopping bleeding any time yet.

‘How little of a nick?’ the curly haired cop asked carefully.

‘It’s nothing. Let’s just try ‘n’ get to the sick room, ok? Once we’re there we can try an’ sort out this mess. I can see the reception all now. It’s just a few more yards, but there’s a wall of debris nearly to the ceiling at one part. We’re gonna have to move some of it’. Hutch tried to keep the desperation out of his voice. Once they’d turned the corner he’d seen the mountain of masonry and although it wasn’t solid, there wasn’t enough space to climb through. He gritted his teeth and led his partner a little further on until he could start moving the rubble.

It was slow work. The blond could only move small pieces at a time and knew he was getting weaker by the minute. Each piece of the mountain he handed to his partner had to be tossed backwards and the job seemed endless. After half an hour or so, they stopped for a rest. The flaxen haired cop was weary. He needed fluid and he needed to stem the blood flow and he needed both fast. With a heart felt sigh, he reached up and took hold of another brick, placing it carefully in Starsky’s hand. As his partner threw it backwards, the ground started to shake again as an aftershock shook the building. Both men braced themselves, waiting fo the impact of further falling bits, but amazingly, the tremor worked in their favour and finally, as the dust cleared again, Hutch could see a pace big enough for them to crawl through.

‘Starsk, we’ve got our way out’ he panted as he peered through the hole between the rubble and the ceiling.

‘Yeah? Can we get through?’ Starsky was beginning to feel like a spare part. He hated not being able to see because he felt he wasn’t integral in their escape bid. So far he had stowed the idea of it being permanent deep down in side him. He had no time to think about the future, he just wanted to get out of this hell hole. Any other scenarios would have to wait.

Hutch pulled on the manacle chain, urging his partner forward. As he led, Starsy followed behind, squeezing through the tiny opening and into the reception hall behind. As they got through to the other side, Hutch looked around him. The devastation here was slightly less. The roof was still on and although there were piles of rubble everywhere, it was possible to walk carefully between them. As he got to the counter of the reception desk, they both had to duck under a beam that had fallen across the desk.

Carefully, Hutch put his hand on top of his partner’s head to stop him from banging it further on the beam as they both finally and with a sigh of relief, found their way into the sick bay.

Hutch looked around him, trying to get his bearings before staggering towards the cupboard he seemed to remember held distilled water.As he reached up to open the door to look inside, he heard a distinct and familiar metallic noise. The cocking of the gun made he and his partner freeze as voice behind them said ‘Easy gentlemen, no sudden moves’.

Chapter 6

The detectives froze where they stood, Hutch’s arm half way up to the handle of the cupboard. Slowly he put it down again and looked over his shoulder at the other man. Richardson looked almost as bad as Starsky did. His dark hair was a grey tangle of dust and bits of plaster and stone and his face was covered down one side in blood from a cut on his head. His left arm seemed to hang uselessly by his side but the right hand still held the AK47, which was once again pointing directly at the cops.

Starsky had heard the gun and was now trying to decide what was going on. He’d felt his partner freeze and then the movement as the big blond had turned slightly.

‘Hutch, who’s there?’ he asked cautiously.

‘Richardson. They guy with the gun from the corridor’ Hutch explained, seeing the still blank look in his friend’s eyes. Starsky was knitting his brows in concentration, trying to get a mental picture of his assailant, but still coming up blank.

Richardson was looking from one man to the other. He took a faltering step forward, then stopped with a gasp. Hutch saw the enormous splinter of wood sticking out of the gun man’s left leg and the blood down his trousers. Obviously the goon had had just about as much good luck as they’d had. Richardson was waving the gun at them again.

‘What’s in the cupboards?’ he asked, looking from one detective to the other.

‘Medical supplies’ the blond volunteered. ‘I think we all need ‘em at this point, don’t you?’

The tall man took another hesitant painful step into the room and leaned against the small medical table there which amazingly was still upright and in its place, but dirty and dusty.

‘Either of you know anything about medical stuff?’ he asked.

Hutch considered carefully. Should he lie and hope their assailant would try to doctor himself, or should he just come clean and hope there was some way to overpower the man while Hutch was treating him. He decided on the latter course of action.

He nodded. ‘Some’ he said slowly, realising where this was going to go.

Still pointing the gun at the two partners, Richardson started ‘OK. Here’s what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna get the stuff together, then you’re gonna help me patch this leg up, then I can get you back to Mr Ford’.

Starsky looked in Richardson’s general direction. ‘You’re kidding, right? After all this you’re still gonna keep to Ford’s job? Where’s Shepherd?’

The gun man licked his dry lips. ‘Dead. I think they all are. As I came back into the reception hall I saw Faraday and DaSousa fall from the top of the steps. McKay was already dead under one of the pillars that had fallen. I think Shepherd must have been with him’.

‘But ya don’t know’ the brunette pushed.

‘Look, just shut it about Shepherd. Like I said, just patch me up an’ I’ll get us out, OK?’ he waved the gun threateningly at them.

Hutch rattled the chain on the manacles at him. ‘Ya want to get us out of these first?’ he asked, hopefully.

Richardson sneered at him ‘I may be hurt, but I wasn’t born yesterday! They stay on. An’ if ya don’t do a good job, he gets it’ he pointed at Starsky. It was obvious the gunman meant business and both detectives realised that in their current state, even two on one, they’d be lucky to win a fight.

‘Just who’s he talking about?’ Starsky asked. He hadn’t seen the movement, but had heard the threat.

‘Give ya two guesses partner’ Hutch said quietly, never taking his eyes off the gunman.

‘Terrific!’ the brunette again wiped his right hand over his eyes. He of necessity followed his partner round the room, manacled together as they were, as Hutch started delving into the cupboards. They were amazingly well stocked and within minutes he had sachets of water, a metal dish, gauze and tape, along with a pair of metal forceps. The place was stocked almost as well as an ER and once again Hutch was left wondering just what the hotel owners expected their clients to get up to during their stay. The brunette heard the stifled gasps at Hutch reached his arm up and knew that the ‘stiff and sore’ explanation and the ‘little nick’ were his partner’s way of telling him he was hurting badly. He felt powerless in his darkness and hoped Hutch had a plan to deal with the gunman, and some way to communicate it to him.

Turning to Richardson, he pointed at the table. ‘Dust that off then lie down’ he said.

‘What? Why?’

‘Because I need to see that leg up close, an’ I can’t do that while you’re standing up. Now dust it off and lie down’. The blonde’s voice rose angrily. He was getting weaker himself and knew if he didn’t try to get his partner and himself sorted out, there was very little chance any of them would get out of this on once piece. He was desperate not to show the gunman just how badly he was hurt although it would take a blind idiot not to notice the blood soaked shirt and jeans, and he also hoped that Richardson hadn’t realised that Starsky couldn’t see.

Slowly, their captor did as he was told, brushing the debris from the table onto the floor and wiping the surface down with the sleeve of his jacket. It was far from clean, but Hutch really didn’t care too much about infections at that point. The tall man eased himself up onto the bed and lay back, levelling his gun at Starsky and resting the end of the barrel on the detective’s flat stomach.

With a sigh Hutch tore open the gunman’s trousers around the site of the splinter, eliciting a welcome gasp from the gunman. However, there was also a gasp from his partner and he looked up sharply. Starsky’s face registered a brief flash of pain as the barrel of the gun ground into his abdomen.

‘Did I forget to mention? You hurt me an’ I hurt him. Got it?’ Richardson ground out.

‘Yeah, I got it’ Hutch muttered wishing he could lock eyes with his partner. It was disconcerting to look directly into those indigo orbs and not have the instant connexion he was used to. He was hurting more and more and twice in the past couple of minutes he’d felt as though he was going to pass out. He screwed up his eyes and concentrated. Starsky at this point was staring at the floor, getting his breath back under control.

He looked down again at the wood sticking out of Richardson’s leg. ‘Look, there’s no local around here, so its gonna hurt, no matter what I do. But you hurt my partner one more time an’ I’ll make sure you never walk on this goddamned leg ever again. Do we have an understanding here?’

The man on the table nodded slowly, realising he was more in this blond man’s hands than he’d appreciated. ‘Fine. Just get on with it’ he grunted.

Hutch leaned heavily against the table as another wave of weakness washed over him. Carefully he reached out his right, manacled hand, trying to pick up the forceps. The metal around his wrist was so tight, however that he couldn’t get a proper hold. He shook his head.

‘Will ya take these damned things off me so that I can do this’ he yelled in anger.

Richardson realised the trouble the blond was having and looked almost apologetic. ‘Out of my control, sorry. The keys are out there, under the marble pillar with McKay. Deal with it!’

The blond shook his head in disbelief, then transferred the metal implement to his left hand. It felt awkward and clumsy as he took a hold of the piece of wood. He stopped a moment and put a wad of gauze into Starsky’s hand, guiding it towards the other mans leg.

‘Starsk, there’s a piece of wood I need to pull out then it’s probably gonna bleed a lot. When I say, push that against there, OK?’

The brunette grunted a reply and once again Hutch got hold of the enormous splinter. ‘Brace yourself’ he told Richardson, then counted backward from three and pulled.

The man on the table let out a strangled cry and Hutch yelped as the sudden movement sent another shock wave through his injured side. ‘Now!’ he gasped as he saw his partner jam the gauze pad against the hole left by the wood. As he looked, Richardson’s eyes started to roll up, but the man was tougher than Hutch had anticipated and he heaved a deep breath and stared the blond down.

‘You enjoyed that’ he grunted, grinding the rifle into Starsky’s stomach again. The brunette winced but bit back the gasp and continued to push the gauze against Richardson’s leg. The defiance and anger shone from the sightless eyes and if they hadn’t been in such a difficult position, Hutch might have chuckled at the typical Starsky attitude. Whatever you did at the brunette, his hot headedness and stubbornness always shone through. Seeing the brief flash of defiance gave the blond a renewed sense of purpose. He looked at the bloody hole in the gunmans leg and his partner valiantly holding the gauze across it, despite the deadly weapon lodged in his stomach. He reached for the tape and used it to tape the dressing in place and then staggered back from the table. He’d hoped that the pain would make the man pass out and they could then overpower him. He’d have to try something else and he cast about desperately looking for another plan. His eyes fell on the gunman’s limp left arm and suddenly he had it. Pushing down the pain and weakness he felt, he stumbled around the table and started to examine the arm. As he suspected it was dislocated at the shoulder.

‘That must hurt like hell’ he said, with a certain degree of satisfaction. ‘I can fix it for you’. He took hold of the arm and tried to move it. Richardson yelped in pain and pushed the blond away with the butt of his gun.

‘Leave it’ he shouted.

‘If I leave it you’ll loose all use in it’ Hutch lied, hoping the man would believe him. ‘I can make it right for you. Won’t take a minute?’ he didn’t mention it would hurt like hell and hopefully knock Richardson unconscious.

The gunman looked uneasy, weighing up his options. This flaxen haired cop and sorted his leg out. Should he trust him again? The thought of loosing use of his arm forever and the excruciating pain it was causing him at that moment made his mind up and he nodded.

‘OK. Do it’ he grunted.

‘OK, do exactly as I say, or it won’t work. And you need to trust me. Do we have a deal?’ Hutch asked, hoping he could remember from his med. school days how to do this. Not that he really needed to help the gun man, he just needed to give him enough legitimate pain to have him incapacitated.

Richardson nodded. Hutch position him so that he was lying on his back on the table, and stood Starsky on Richardson’s right, uninjured side facing him. The brunette allowed himslef to be manhandled into position without arguemnt, seeming to understand that Hutch had another plan up his sleeve. Hutch looked frantically around, finding a couple of towels. Clumsily because of the manacles, he tied them together then he slid them under Richardson’s body, and wrapped one end around his chest so that both ends of the cloth met below his armpit. He had Starsky pull on both ends firmly like handles. Hutch positioned himself next to the dislocated shoulder, facing the gunman. Working though the procedure in his head, he bent the elbow of the left arm so that the fingertips were pointing skyward and the arm was at a 90-degree angle from the rigid body. He saw the fear and pain in Richardson’s eyes and hardened his heart. Even though he hated this man intenseley, it was against the big blonde’s nature to hurt someone intentionally.

He had Starsky pull gently but firmly on the bent elbow, pulling the shoulder away from Richardson's body while maintaining the forearm at a 90-degree angle from the body. He gently rotated the arm on the shoulder joint as Richardson was trying to throw a baseball and moved the arm slowly back and forth maintaining steady tension. He saw the grimace of pain on the tall man’s face and quickly he pulled and pushed one final time, feeling relief as the shoulder slid back into place. With a blood curdling yell, Richardson bucked convulsively on the table one final time, then went quite limp as the pain of the procedure took its toll.

Forcing himself on now that he’d achieved his objective, Hutch pushed Richardson’s body off the table, then took off his belt from his jeans and wrapped it around the unconscious mans hands, binding them behind his back. Satisfied that if and when Richardson awoke he wouldn’t be going anywhere, the blond sat back with a groan as he felt his partner put his arm around his shoulders.

‘Hutch, that ‘little nick’ ya talked about. It ain’t little is it?’ the brunette’s voice held concern as he felt the body shaking with pain and weariness beneath his touch.

‘M’Ok Starsk. Just need to rest a minute’ he gasped as he layed his flaxen head against his partner’s body.

Starsky patted his hand. ‘Stay there a while Hutch. Just sleep huh?’

But Hutch pushed himself away with a groan. ‘No time for sleep. Later. C’mon buddy, let me look at your eyes, then we’ll rest’.

Chapter 7

Leading his sightless partner carefully around the table, Hutch once again delved into the cupboards, finding a clean dish, some cotton pads and some sterilised water. Wearily he opened the sachets of water and poured them into the dish. Unable to stand any more, he positioned the brunette on the floor with his back braced against the wall and knelt at his side. Now that he could get a good look at his friend he realised just how deep the cut above Starsky’s eyebrow was. Standing back up with a groan, he could just reach the drawer he’d seen with the steri strips and bandages in, without having to disturb his partner.

Although still unfocussed, Starsky was at least making a little more sense now. He wasn’t muttering to himself any more, but there was still a certain glassiness in those eyes that worried Hutch. He knelt down again arranging all his equipment around him.

‘Gonna look at that head of yours now buddy’ he said gently as he reached up to brush some of the blood soaked curls away from his friend’s brow.

‘Is it still on my shoulders?’ Starsky asked with a small shadow of a smile. He knew his partner was hurting also and desperately wanted to be able to see again so that he could help Hutch in whatever way he needed. Although he knew his head was cut, Starsky was more concerned about his eyes and his heart was in his mouth as he submitted to Hutch’s ministrations, hoping there would be a quick fix in this somewhere.

‘No Starsk, I found it rolling around the floor back there! Course it’s on your shoulders dummy’. Hutch was glad that at least his partner was beginning to make jokes again. The situation was just too intense to let the banter pass by. It was one of the tricks both men resorted to in order to ease tension in situations where they needed to be clear headed.

‘Well it hurts too much. Put it back where ya found it huh? It might stop achin’ if it’s all by itself’ the brunette mumbled

Hutch chuckled then stopped, coughing, as the pain lanced through his side again.

‘Hey Blintz, just rest a while. Head’ll be there when you’ve slept ya know’ Starsky felt his partner tremble as the coughing bout finished.

‘M fine. Just hold still a minute’ Hutch ground out a little too sharply. The pain was getting worse, but he knew if he could clear his friend’s eyes, and tend to this wound they may yet have a way out. He started cleaning around the wound, dismayed at how deep it was. He could patch it up for now and hopefully stop it bleeding, but it would need real hospital care and stitches if and when they got out of the hotel. He heard the curly haired cop gasp and hated hurting his friend, but it needed to be done.

‘Nearly there Pal’ he murmured as another pad of cotton came away red and blood soaked. Now the wound was clean, he could see that the cut was a couple of inches long and almost down to the bone.

‘Glad you didn’t stick to being a doctor’ the smaller man gasped as he tried hard not to pull away. ‘Hey, it’s me under all the blood ya know!

Hutch smiled as he drew the lips of the wound together and stuck the steri strips across it. ‘Ya know ya really are a crummy patient. If Dad had have gotten his way, you’d be paying big bucks for me to do this right now’.

‘Yeah? Remind me. Were ya gonna be a doctor or a vet?’

The blond finished, adding a fresh white bandage round his partners head. Starsky looked cleaner and less gory, if a little piratical, with the pad of the bandage covering the top of his eye and eyebrow. His blood stained curly hair sprouted out of the top of the bandage, but Hutch was satisfied the wound wouldn’t get dirty again.

‘How do I look?’ his curly haired partner asked, looking in Hutch’s general direction.

‘Well, you’re no oil painting, but you’ll do’ Hutch grunted. ‘How’s it feel?

‘Better. Still aches, but if I’ll survive’ he answered tightly.

‘OK, well it’s bound to ache. You took quite a pounding there Gordo. I’ll see if I can find some aspirin later. Stay still, I’m gonna look at your eyes now. Do they hurt?’

‘No, not really’ Starsky replied with a hitch in his voice. ‘Just can’t see out of ‘em’.

‘Can you see anything? Dark and light maybe?’

Hutch watched as his friend seemed to stare right at him, furrowing his brow in concentration.

‘Hm. Yeah, there’s somethin’. I think. It’s difficult to tell’ he put his arm out. ‘Is that dark blob you?’

‘Sure is partner. Is it coming back some d’ya think?’ Hutch asked, hoping he wasn’t grasping at straws, but relieved his partner wasn’t in total blackness.

The brunette sighed. ‘Dunno. Hope so. This is not one of our better days. So, ya wanna look into my beautiful blues then?’ He braced himself mentally. Now for the moment of truth! All he wanted was for his partner to tell him that everything was going to be fine, but at the back of his mind, eating away at him a little at a time was the feeling that this could be permanent.

Gently Hutch bent the smaller man’s head back pulling up the eyelids to see if he could see anything in there. Dust particles swam round the perimeter of the indigo blue and the blond reached back for another sachet of the sterile water. He ripped the top off with his teeth and carefully poured the contents into Starsky’s right eye, letting it run down his cheek. He repeated the performance with the left eye then wiped the excess away with a clean cotton pad.

‘How’s that feel?’

Starsky blinked, screwed his eyes up and blinked again. ‘Like I’ve just spent the whole week in a chlorine treated swimming pool. Either that or a particularly smoky night at the Pits. Stings!’ he put his hand up to his eyes to wipe them, but Hutch batted it away.

‘If there’s any more dust particles in there, you’ll scratch your eyes’ here’. He wiped the excess water gently away with a clean gauze pad. ‘Better?’

The bandaged cop leaned his head back against the wall and sighed, opening his eyes wide and then blinking rapidly. ‘Hey, I think the dark blobs a bit brighter’ he said hopefully. He was just about to add something else when another after shock shook the building. As Starsky put his head down to his knees, protecting his eyes, Hutch overbalanced and fell back against the side of the cupboard. The brunette heard a strangled cry and then a gasp of pain.

‘Hutch? You ok Blondie?’ he called, reaching out to the dark patch that he thought was his partner, as the earth finally righted itself again and stopped shimmying around them.

There was silence for a moment then Hutch groaned. It was a deep and heartfelt sound that tore at his partner’s heart The final fall had caused the pain in his side to intensify. He’d thought he could have ridden it out, but the impact with the cupboard door had sent him spiralling down into a pit of red. He propped himself up against his partner, gasping and trying to ride out the pains lancing through his side. He held his arm protectively around his midriff. Pulling his hand away, he saw warm wet blood. Sweat beaded on his brow as he concentrated on his breathing, riding the crest of the pain spike and slowly coasting as it began to diminish.

‘Oh shit’ he grunted. He tried to reach for the cotton pads but they were out of his reach and he hadn’t the strength to move. Hesitantly he felt for his partner’s right hand, pulling it towards him.

‘Starsk, I’m bleeding. Need you to put pressure on the wound OK? Can you do that for me buddy?’

Starsky shuffled closer and felt the flaxen haired cop lean back against him. He pushed against the wound, feeling the warm wet cloth of his friend’s shirt. As he pressed, Hutch shivered and moaned.

‘Why didn’t ya tell me it was this bad?’ the brunette admonished. ‘Ye Gods, Blintz, you’re gonna bleed to death at this rate! What else can I do?’

Hutch could feel the world closing in on him, darkness crowding the edges of his vision. ‘Just keep pressing’ he mumbled, shuddering again as another wave of agony washed over him. ‘Need to sleep….just a minute…..ok?’

‘No, not ok!’ Starsky could hear the slurring in his partner’s speech and knew he was going to pass out before very long. ‘C’mon Hutch, stay with me huh? Just don’t go to sleep, that’s not good…not good ya hear?’

‘Sorry Gordo…..tired….hurts like hell….just sleep for a little while…need to…..’ the sentence never finished as the brunette felt his friend’s body relax against him. Frantically he tried to wake up the blond, but the efforts of the night and his injuries had taken their toll, and Hutch was dead to the world.

Starsky continued to push his hand against the wet area on his partner’s side, knowing the bleeding needed to stop some time soon. He was tired too and his head ached viciously, but he realised he had to keep awake in order to save them both. If he could remain awake until Hutch came round, if he did, then he could maybe manoeuvre the big blond out of the way, and get some medical supplies for him. If he slept as well, he really couldn’t be sure that either of them would wake up. As it was now, he could only sit tight and wait.

He started to talk, more for his own company and to keep awake than for the blond, but if Hutch could hear, then it wouldn’t do any harm.

‘Hey Blintz. D’ya remember that time on the cruise boat? If it hadn’t been for the bombs and the murders, it would have been a good time. D’ya think we should book a proper cruise for when we get out of this? Somewhere round the Caribbean, or maybe the Mediterranean. Always wanted to see Rome. Or maybe we could take one of your camping trips. Ya know I don’t really do the whole creepy crawlie things, an’ I hate sleeping in tents, and what’s the use of walking when ya got a perfectly good car, but what d’ya say huh? We could go back up to Dobey’s cabin by the lake. Just so long as there’s no snakes in the refrigerator, or Satanists in the woods’.

‘Come to think of it, have we ever had a vacation that didn’t go wrong some way? D’ya think we attract bad luck or somethin? Coz I’m kinda getting’ a complex. Maybe if we hadn’t met at the academy’.

‘Who d’ya think we’d be partnered with now? Knowing my luck, you’d get a sweet young blond girl with a kick like a mule an’ a figure to die for, an’ I’d get the 58 year old fat guy who’s just biding his time to retirement’.

‘Or maybe we wouldn’t be cops. Maybe I’d be a car dealer, or run a nice little Italian restaurant. Just not one that has hired guns popping clients off at midnight. What d’ya say?’

‘Hutch? Don’t leave me. Don’t you dare leave me now, ya hear? We’re gonna get out of this together. I’ve spent too much time getting used to your crazy ways to give up on ya now. I nearly lost ya when ya had that plague, but we fought it together. I thought I’d lost ya when that goon forced your crummy car off the road, but we got there together. Ya can’t leave me now Blintz. Just hang in there huh? for me? Who else is gonna look after me and feed me chicken soup when I gave a cold? Who’s gonna listen to my jokes an’ even laugh at some of ‘em?’

‘God, what am I doing talking to myself? I’m tired too Hutch. I can hardly keep my eyes open. Think I’m gonna just close ‘em for a few minutes. Don’t go away’.

Starsky felt his body starting to close down. The pain in his head had suddenly hiked up a notch and he was getting blinding white flashes in his eyes. He hoped it was a good sign, but he was just so desperately tired. He fought to keep his eyes open, but slowly they closed.

The two cops slept, the dark haired man holding onto his blond partner as quiet descended over the ruined hotel.

Chapter 8

Some time later, Starsky awoke stiffly and slowly. His hand had cramped around Hutch’s middle as, even in his sleep, he’d managed to hold onto his partner’s side. Now as he moved it he realised it was stiff and caked in his partner’s life force and he felt the unwelcome panic start deep in his stomach. As he shook himself awake he looked around at the devastation in the small room and at the body of the still unconscious Richardson lying trussed like a turkey with Hutch’s belt around his hands. He was just wondering why none of this seemed particularly familiar when the thought struck him – he could see!

Slowly, so as not to disturb anything that might be healing, and not wanting the darkness to envelop him again, he turned his head from side to side. Yes, he could definitely see. Things were a little fuzzy around the edges, but this was such a vast improvement. His head still felt as though it was going to explode and he still felt nauseous, but all that paled into insignificance with the renewed view he now had on the world.

Carefully he looked down at his still unconscious partner and gasped. The whole of the left hand side of Hutch’s pale shirt and jeans was a sodden mass of blood. Starsky could only guess at how much the blond had actually lost and it didn’t need a lot of medical training to know that it wasn’t good. He needed to wake his bleeding partner and move him so that he could at least get a bandage around his middle, if nothing else. He set about trying to revive the flaxen haired cop. Hutch’s face was pale and there were beads of cold sweat on his brow. His lips had taken on a faintly bluish colour and his breathing was shallow and rapid. Starsky cursed himself for having fallen asleep, but then realised that if he hadn’t slept he might still be wandering round in a black, sightless world. He struggled to extricate his right hand from round his partner’s back and began patting gently at Hutch’s face.

‘Hutch, wake up buddy’ he said gently, but there was no response. He tried again.

‘Earth to the Blintz, this is no time for napping Blondie. I need ya to wake up for me’ he patted a little harder and was rewarded with a low moan. Renewing his efforts, he tried again.

‘Hey, Blondie, wakey wakey. C’mon, ya can do it. Just open those baby blues for me huh? That’s it. Hey, there you are! How ya feeling?’

Hutch cracked his eyes open and looked up into the comforting indigo above him. Weakly he smiled. ‘M’ok. Where are we? Ungh…hurts!’ he grabbed for his dark haired partner’s hand and held on as the pain argued with him, then paused a moment letting the sensations die down. Opening his eyes again and seeing Starsky looking straight at him he asked ‘Starsk? ….Can you see?’

‘Yup. I had some pains in my noddle an’ flashes in my eyes and then I had a little sleep an’ when I woke up it was all coming back. But enough of that. Why didn’t you tell me you were so badly hurt? God Hutch, I could have done somethin’

‘Didn’t want….to upset ya’ Hutch panted. The pains in his side now radiated around his front and back and he felt hot and cold both at the same time. He was shivering and sweating and he felt sick and dizzy. He knew he was lapsing into shock and the still lucid part of his mind told him he had to do something about it now. His body, however, told him to stay still and he tried hard to move his arm to lever himself up.

‘Where ya goin’ now?’ Starsky asked, feeling his partner trying to move.

‘Need to stop…bleeding’ Hutch mumbled. ‘Need t’ get up….see if bullet went ….all the way through’.

The brunette understood what his partner was trying to say. Gently he shuffled out from the side of his friend and stood carefully, swaying slightly till he got his balance. Slowly he reached down and took hold of the flaxen haired cop under his arms, lifting him upwards with a struggle. With a deep groan of pain, Hutch managed to get his legs under him and leaning heavily on his smaller friend, staggered to the side of the medical table. Propping himself up against it, he waited panting as Starsky carefully moved his shirt, not really wanting to look at the hole in his side. Gently the brunette pushed the blood soaked material out of the way and bit back a gasp as he got a first look at the damage Hutch had sustained. The bullet had left a large ragged hole in the blonde’s side, about a dime’s diameter across and halfway between his hip and his ribs. It didn’t look as though it had hit anything major internally as it was on the periphery of his stomach area, but despite the valiant efforts to stem the flow, it was still bleeding. Looking around the back, however, Starsky saw only whole skin, no exit wound being apparent.

As calmly as he could, he said ‘Well, I think the slugs still inside. What ya wanna do now?’

Hutch groaned again, scrwwing his eyes up as he tried to concentrate past the fog that was threatening to cloud his mind. He leaned heavily on his partner. ‘Not good’ he gasped. ‘Can’t stop….bleeding if it’s in there….Need to get it out’.

Starsky swallowed hard. ‘What ya sayin there pal?’ he asked, fairly certain he knew what was coming, but willing to try any other alternative first.

‘Gonna have….to get it out’ Hutch ground out as he rode another crest of pain. ‘Oh shit!...Gotta lie down’.

The brunette helped his partner get up onto the table and eased him down till he was lying on his back, his left leg bent up to reduce the pull on his side.

Starsky tried to stow his fear deep inside as he looked at his friend knowing something would have to be done quickly. ‘Ah…Ok, tell me what we need here’. If Hutch had been looking he’d have seen the smaller man pale at the thoughts of what he might have to do.

‘Can ya reach….cupboards?’

Starsky reached out his right hand, his left hand still being manacled to Hutch’s right. At full reach he could just reach the contents of two of the cupboards.

‘Yeah. What d’we need?’

‘Gauze pads….bandages…..forceps’.

‘What’s forceps?’ the curly haired cop said panicking as he saw the myriad contents on the shelves.

Hutch screwed his eyes up against the pain, panting. ‘Like….long metal scissors things’.

Starsky reached for a pair and showed them to the supine detective. ‘These?’

‘Yeah…..got everything?’

The brunette let out a steadying breath. ‘Think so. What d’ya want me to do now?’

‘First ya gotta…clean around….wound. Then take….forceps ’n’…push ‘em in….feel for the slug…..pull it out. Pack hole….Bleeding…..should stop. The long explanation took it out of the blond and his eyes closed as he groaned deeply, clutching his hand to his side again, trying desperately to quell the fire licking at his guts.

Starsky saw the eyes closing. ‘Hutch, stay with me buddy. Hutch, c’mon now. Ya gotta tell me what to do. No time to sleep Blintz. Can’t do this on my own’ he tried to keep the edge of panic out of his voice as he looked again at the bloody wound.

With a struggle the blond detective opened his eyes a crack. ‘M’ok…Not goin’ anywhere’ he mumbled.

Taking a deep breath the curly haired cop took some of the gauze pads from the vast pile he’d gotten out of the cupboard. He soaked them in water and as gently as he could he started to clean round the wound, trying to get as much blood off as possible so that he could have a clear view. The sight of the wound sickened him, even though he was not usually squeamish. Just the thought of his friend’s body being ravaged by a single piece of metal like this made his mind reel. As he continued to dab at the gaping hole, Hutch tried his best not to make a sound. He knew it was hard for his partner to have to do this. Starsky was never the best around sickness and he bit back a lot of the gasps, trying to make it easier for the brunette. Eventually though he realised he couldn’t take much more.

‘Enough’ he muttered trying to grab hold of his “doctor’s” hands. ‘Enough already! Just get…. damned thing out will ya?’

This was the part of the proceedings that made Starsky cold to think about. Gingerly he picked up the shiny metal forceps, examining them closely. They were long bladed and had a locking mechanism at one end. He carefully unlocked them and looked at his sweating partner, the instrument hovering over the wound.

‘Hutch, are you sure about this? Isn’t there another way?’ he pleaded.

‘Needs to come out…..then it’ll stop’ Hutch mumbled, fighting to keep conscious long enough to aid his friend through this.

But Starsky still needed some convincing. ‘It’s gonna hurt like hell, Blintz’ he said, still trying to think of alternatives.

Hutch’s mouth turned up in a shadow of a smile. ‘Already hurts like hell’ he said. ‘For Gods sake, just do it’. He closed his eyes and prepared himself.

Slowly, Starsky started to push the cold metal into the wound, trying hard not to think about what he was doing to his friend. If there had just been any other way, but the blond was adamant. The sweat started to run down the sides of Hutch’s flushed face now as he bit his lip in an attempt to keep quiet. He felt like his insides were being ripped apart and although he knew the metal of the forceps was cold, it felt like his partner was thrusting a white hot metal skewer into his guts.

Starsky closed his eyes, concentrating on the feelings through the metal. He didn’t know how deep he’d pushed the forceps into the wound, but suddenly he felt their tips touch something hard. As carefully as he could, he widened their teeth and tried to get hold of the bullet to pull it out, but the metal was wet and felt like it was being kept there by a powerful suction. As he pulled the forceps away, he lost his hold on the bullet and the instrument came away empty.

As the metal cleared his side, Hutch could no longer contain the pain and screamed loudly, his hands balling into fists at his side as he tried to control the agony. He panted heavily, groaning. ‘Ya got it?’ he whimpered desperately.

‘Oh God, no. I’m sorry Hutch…oh shit I’m sorry’. Starsky hated what he’d done to his partner. He felt sick to his stomach and was almost as breathless as the man laid in front of him.

‘I can’t do this, I’m hurting you too much buddy. There must be some other way, I’m no doctor, this is your department’. He bowed his head in frustration, feeling foolish and angry. As he closed his eyes he felt a gentle pressure on his hand and looked up.

‘Try again’ Hutch rasped, his voice sounding raw and sore.

‘I can’t Hutch. I’m hurting you too much’ Starsky pleaded, wishing he could somehow find the ability to help his injured partner.

But Hutch was shaking his head feebly. ‘Gotta try….again….no other way…..For me?’ With an effort he opened his pain filled eyes and locked them with the stormy indigo blue ones, giving just a little comfort. He knew this was hurting Starsky almost as much as the bullet was hurting him. He saw his partner flinch, then straighten, new resolve in those unsettled eyes. Again, he braced himself and waited.

Starsky took a firmer hold on the forceps and once more pushed them into the ragged bloody hole. Now he knew approximately where the bullet had lodged and what to feel for, he located it much quicker. Again, as he felt the tip of the forceps brush against the foreign object, he widened the teeth of the instrument, feeling them bite the bullet and hanging on for all he was worth, he pulled against the suction. It was almost like pulling a cork from a bottle. There was a long moment of resistance, then suddenly the suction was broken and the forceps came away, carrying the bloody piece of deformed metal with them.

As the brunette put down the forceps with a shaky hand, Hutch gave a last groan and blessedly passed out. Starsky carried out the rest of the operation quickly, packing the gaping wound with gauze before taping it in place and winding layer upon layer of white bandage as tightly as he could around his partner’s limp midriff.

Finally happy with the results, he collapsed down onto the floor, his back against the leg of the table and one arm raised high in the air, still connected by the iron manacle to the sleeping man on the bed. He rested his weary head back against the leg of the table and closed his eyes, calming the breath that whistled through his teeth as if he’d run a marathon. If ever there was a day when David Starsky felt like he’d earned his pay check, it was that day, although he realised they still had a long way to go to be home and dry. Now all he could do was wait.

Chapter 9

The exhaustion crept up on Starsky and despite his uncomfortable position on the ground, he drifted off into a troubled sleep. His dreams were full of falling buildings and guns pointing at him in the dark and he tried hard to get away from them, but his legs felt as though they were made of lead and refused to carry him to safety. He felt as though he were running through molasses, each step seeming to take a lifetime and he reached for bricks and wood on either side of him, pulling himself tortuously forward and inch at a time. He knew that he was dreaming and a small part of his mind told him time and again to wake up, but still the dreams kept rolling around his head: earthquake, guns, earthquake, guns, until finally even his fatigued brain had had enough of the cycle and shook him awake. He cried out in the darkness, then jumped at the sound of his own voice. He stared into the dimness.

His first thought was that his sight had left him once again. He whimpered out loud and he felt the panic rising like a sick tide as he tried to comprehend what a life spent in a black void would really be like. It had scared him so much to have to be lead everywhere and the hellish assault course of rubble they’d had to negotiate was both painful and scary. There was no way the brunette would want to have to go through the rest of his life like that. He moved his head from side to side experimentally, then something gleamed in the dim light and he saw it with the corner of his eye, feeling stupid as he realised he wasn’t blind again, but the afternoon had turned to late evening or night. Belatedly he realised he’d been asleep and he berated himself for allowing himself that luxury when his partner needed him.

He struggled stiffly and painfully to his feet, trying hard not to pull at the chain connecting him to the blond. The toll of the earthquake and his injuries showed in his body. In the adrenaline rush of the operation, he’d not really paid too much attention to his own injuries, but now each one argued with him. His headache had backed down slightly though and he reached up, feeling the bandage still around his head. He remembered Hutch’s ministrations and the cut he’d sustained, but the gauze felt hot and clumsy and he pulled it off, relieved that the bleeding seemed to have stopped.

As he stood, he realised his left leg hurt with a vengeance and he looked down, seeing in the dim light that his jeans leg had a patch of glistening wet on it, the blood from the injury showing up black. Starsky tried to remember how he’d gotten the injury and realised it was probably from when the wood fell across it after they’d run down the corridor to escape Richardson. Seeing the blood renewed the pain and he stifled a gasp as he put his weight on it, turning to get a good look at his still unconscious partner.

In the dim light, he saw that Hutch’s body had hardly moved since he’d passed out at the end of the operation earlier, but he also saw that the flaxen hair had turned a darker golden as sweat formed a sheen on the pale skin of his friend’s face and soaked the blond bangs. Hutch was rolling his head feebly and now that the brunette was up close he could hear mutterings and mumblings as Hutch fought the fever raging through his body. Gently, Starsky put his hand out and brushed away a stray lock of damp hair, grimacing as the blond flinched away from the touch. He bent closer to the sick detective.

‘Ssh, s’ok Hutch. I’m here. Ssh. Take it easy buddy. Just try ‘n’ rest babe’ he whispered, wishing he could get through to his ailing partner.

But Hutch was lost in his own nightmarish world. The brunette could only imagine what thoughts were streaming through that flaxen head, but the cries and mumblings tore at his heart.

‘No….not that…..be good, promise…..no Dad, please…..no, hurts. Dad,... not that, please... noooo’. The blonde’s hand made a feeble swiping gesture before falling back limply to the table. Starsky knew his partner’s relationship with his father had never been good, but he could only wonder at what behaviour had precipitated this nightmare.

He looked around their dismal surroundings, trying to find some comfort there, but all he saw was dark and destruction, mirroring his partner’s ramblings. He slowly stroked the sweating brow again, trying to penetrate Hutch’s nightmarish, confused world. Slowly the thrashing ceased, as Hutch seemed to recognise the touch and snuggled closer to the hand, sighing in his sleep as he relaxed marginally. Starsky smiled a little as he looked at the injured detective lying in front of him. Just like a little kid hiding from the monsters. For an age, the brunette stood by the bedside, his hand running lightly up and down the pale cheek. Once he tried to withdraw the hand, but the blond whimpered at the absence, his head questing for the familiar warmth and Starsky quickly replaced it again and continued caressing his partner’s face, glad he could bring a little comfort and at the same time receiving comfort in return from the repetitive motion.

Eventually, Hutch seemed to slump into an exhausted, but more restful slumber, his feverish mumblings slowing and finally stopping and slowly Starsky stopped the stroking. Knowing he needed to check, he lifted his partner’s shirt away from the bandage to look at the wound. The material was stiff with dried blood, but thankfully, the packing and compression bandage seemed to have worked and there was only a slight pink blush on the gauze, rather than the flood of bright red he’d seen earlier. As he touched the bandage though, the blond reacted sharply, groaning, his stomach muscles clenching as he flinched away. Starsky could feel the heat radiating from the infected wound and knew his partner needed antibiotics and a hospital sooner rather than later.

Desperately he looked around again. How the hell could he get them both out of that hellhole? Even if the way hadn’t been blocked by debris, Hutch weighed the same as he did. He could carry him maybe a short distance, as Hutch had once carried him from the Italian restaurant’s dining area to the couch in the office, but the distance here was far greater. Coupled with that, Starsky himself wasn’t feeling A1 and he doubted whether he could make it more than a hundred yards without a break. Even then, moving the blond might do more harm than good and set the wound to bleeding again. He tugged gently at the manacles. If he could just get them off, he could maybe go for help. He examined the heavy iron bracelet. It was an old-fashioned prison manacle, almost an antique, but the metal was sturdy and the hinges showed no signs of corrosion or weakness. He wondered if there was anything he could use as a file in the cupboards opposite, but looking at the cuff and the heavy gauge chain again, he realised he’d be old and grey before he’d managed to file his way through the obstinate metal.

He slumped against the table, feeling weak, weary and sore, his mind refusing to give up on the situation and casting around for any other possible solutions. He realised too that he was thirsty, his throat dried out from breathing all the dust in the place, and he realised that if he felt like that, he knew Hutch would need fluid too to help him through the fever. With as much care as he could in order not to disturb the sleeping man, he stretched out and managed to find some more of the sachets of sterilised water, thanking God and the person who’d stocked the place for their foresight. He ripped the corner off the plastic with his teeth and poured the contents down his throat. The water tasted strange, but the smooth velvety feeling on his parched tongue and throat was like a small slice of liquid heaven. Taking another plastic sachet, he gently poured a tiny amount over his partner’s dry, cracked lips, trying not to choke the sick cop. The ice blue eyes flashed open for the briefest second and then the tongue ran weakly around the lips and Hutch swallowed convulsively.

‘Thats it Blintz, Just a little more’ Starsky said gently, pouring a little more of the water. Hutch opened his mouth a little and took some of the fluid before resting his head back, panting. His eyes were open now, although unfocussed and glazed.

‘How’s it goin’ there partner?’ Starsky asked, smiling down at the blond. He noted the pale skin and the flush of red across the feverish cheeks.

Hutch’s eyes lingered on his friend as his eyes slowly focussed and the ghost of a smile passed over his face. ‘B been better’ he whispered before a bout of coughing took him and shook him. He grasped at the wound on his side, holding it protectively as Starsky rubbed his arms, comforting him and trying to take away a little of his friend’s pain.

‘Easy buddy. Take it easy. Just breath partner, I got ya’ he willed as Hutch lay back, panting, the sweat trickling down the sides of his face. He opened his eyes again and locked them on the indigo blue ones above him.

‘S some vacation huh?’ he mumbled.

The brunette chuckled. ‘Yeah, right. Last time I listen to Dobey. How d’ya feel buddy? D’ya want some more water?’ he held the sachet and Hutch gulped down another mouthful before sinking back onto the table again. The fluid seemed to revive him a little.

‘How’s….eyes?’ he panted, looking at his partner.

‘Terrific. M’more concerned for you. Need t’get ya outta here. D’ya think you can walk any?’ he asked not thinking for one second that his partner would be able to.

Hutch tried to raise his head off the table. ‘Ungh…..oh God!….Aargh!’ he lay back, thrashing his head from side to side and drawing up his knees, clutching again at the pain blasting through his body.

Starsky stroked the pale brow, easing his partner back and watched as slowly the breathing quieted and Hutch relaxed his legs down again, groaning deeply.

‘S’ok Hutch, don’t try any more. Just rest huh? We can try again later. Just lie back an’ sleep’.

‘k…s sorry Gordo… try again….soon….sleep’ his exhausted partner mumbled, closing his eyes as if trying to shut out the pain.

Starsky could feel the blond trembling, waves of pain causing his body to shudder uncontrollably. He continued stroking the brow again as he rested his head on the table edge, wondering what the hell they were going to do now. He lowered himself gently down to the ground, and in the dark drifted back into a troubled sleep.

Chapter 10

It was the light that finally roused the brunette from his exhausted sleep and he blinked owlishly at his surroundings as his mind finally crystallised exactly where he was. He had a crick in his neck caused by sleeping with his head resting on his knees and his left hand had gone to sleep from being held in the air by the manacle and chain attaching him to his blond partner, but he rejoiced as yet again he woke able to see.

Starsky allowed himself the luxury of a moment’s peace before, grunting with the effort, he forced himself upright and checked on Hutch. The injured cop’s face was still shiny and wet with sweat and was still flushed a feverish pink. He pushed aside the material of the unconscious detective’s shirt and saw the patch of red swollen flesh extending outwards from the wound, showing the infection was spreading. Making his mind up he knew there was no way he could wait any longer to get them both out of the mess. It had to be now if he was to save his partner’s life. He looked desperately around the room and suddenly he had an idea.

Still on the floor at the opposite side of the table Hutch was led on was the body of the hired gunman that Hutch had dealt with earlier. Richardson was still lying on his stomach, his hands trussed behind his back, but he too was awake now and the idea formed in the brunette’s mind that if he couldn’t carry his partner out on his own, he could enlist the help of the man on the ground. After all, it was Richardson’s bullet that had caused part of this problem in the first place.

Carefully he edged his way round the table and bent over the gunman, his arm attached to his partner almost at full stretch.

‘Hey, you awake?’ Starsky asked, nudging the man with the toe of his shoe.

Richardson ignored him and the angry detective kicked a little harder, hearing a satisfying grunt in reply. Slowly, Richardson turned his head so that he could look uncomfortably up at the brunette and glared.

Starsky bent lower, seeing the brief flash of pain cross the man’s features as he squirmed on the ground. ‘I’m gonna take it you want out of here as much as I do’ he started as Richardson listened. ‘So here’s what we’re gonna do. My partner here is pretty sick, an’ most of it is your fault. So’ Starsky reached his foot out and hooked it around the gun lying on the floor. He slid it towards him and took hold of it checking it was loaded, feeling it’s reassuring weight as he pointed it at the downed gunman. 'In a minute, I'm gonna untie your hands and you're gonna help me carry my partner out of this hellhole, is that clear?’ he ground out.

Richardson seemed to consider his options but only for a moment. His leg hurt where the splinter had been removed and his shoulder, which Hutch had mended was aching with a fury from having his arms tied behind his back for so long. He nodded slowly, seeing the sense in co-operating with the detective at this stage, knowing he needed to get out of the hotel as much as his two captives did.

Starsky stood up and went back to the bed, gently running his hand over his partner’s face. ‘Hutch, buddy, I need ya to wake up for me. Hutch, c’mon Blintz, wake up huh?’ he pleaded. But the blond was deeply unconscious and unresponsive. Quickly the brunette checked his partner’s pulse in his neck, feeling it weak and thready, but still beating there. Satisfied his friend was still with him, he went over to the tall man on the ground again. He pointed the muzzle of the gun at him once more.

‘Ok, you take his legs and be careful. You hurt him, even a little, an’ I’ll blow your brains out, ya hear?’ he said, his voice low and intense. Seeing the small nod, he bent down, wedging the gun between his knees and one handed unbuckled the brown leather belt.

Richardson’s arms flopped limply to his sides, the use having gone out of them from the protracted period of time he’d been tied, but he groaned once, then managed to get them under him and he levered himself into a sitting position.

‘You’ve rested long enough. On your feet’ Starsky said, still levelling the gun at him as he started to rise. The tall gunman stood swaying a moment, getting his balance, then limped heavily to the side of the table, looking with a certain satisfaction at the injured blond. Starsky followed him and with one careful eye still on the tall man, he bent down and stroked the blonde’s cheek again.

‘Time to go Blondie. Gonna get ya out of here now and into a hospital. Then ya can have the pretty nurses fussin’ round huh?’ he said gently, wishing he could just catch a glimpse of those ice blue eyes again. But Hutch was still unconscious and in a way the smaller man was thankful, knowing that it was going to hurt a lot, no matter how careful they were. He instructed Richardson to take hold of Hutch’s legs, then he manoeuvred himself behind his partner until he could grasp the blonde’s shoulders, although it meant that the injured cop’s arm was bent back because of the manacle.

On three, they lifted the limp body off the table, eliciting a deep guttural groan from the blond. The sound tore at Starsky’s heart. He hated hurting his friend like this, but knew it was the only way to get him to safety.

‘Easy, buddy, m’sorry, don’t want to hurt ya, but we’re goin’ home now. Just try ‘n’ rest’ Starsky muttered as the two started making their way out of the room that had been their tomb for over 24 hours. The going was slow as they stepped over and around the obstacles caused by the earthquake until they got out to the remains of the reception hall again.

Here the devastation was slightly less, as the tall marble pillars had kept up a good proportion of the ceiling, although the sweating brunette could see the bodies of the other two hired guns sprawled beneath piles of masonry. Of McKay and Shepherd there was no sign and for a brief moment Starsky wondered whether they had gotten out of the building in one piece. Both men were panting with exertion now and the brunette’s head had started to ache again, black dots swimming before his eyes and making him dizzy and sick.

‘OK, rest a minute’ he grunted setting his partner’s body gently down on the ground. Hutch was still groaning occasionally, as they’d had to jolt his body going over a particularly rough area, but Starsky took that to be a good sign – at least he was conscious enough to feel something and even that heart rending noise meant that his friend was still there with him. He watched as the tall gunman eased his partner’s legs down and slumped to the ground hanging his head as he tried to catch his breath. Both men were bushed. The going was hard the building hot and stuffy, dust still thick in the air, making it feel as though they were breathing fog. Richardson’s face was grimy and streaked with sweat and Starsky assumed he looked much the same. He felt dirty, hot and sticky and longed for a cool shower and the comfort of a soft bed, or even better bed and a long cold beer. The sweat beaded on his brow and stung at the cut there, but he tried hard not to touch it and make it worse. He rested back against a fallen pillar and planned his next move, the barrel of the gun in his right hand never wavering from its target as he rested, his dominant left, manacled hand lightly touching his partner’s shoulder.

He surveyed the new area. Gone was the smooth black and white marble splendour they’d admired so much such a short time ago. In its place was a scene from a horror or disaster movie. The brunette was reminded of a film he’d recently seen at the movies, the Towering Inferno, and although there were no flames licking at them, the ruination of the hotel held the same feeling that movie had portrayed. The big door to the hotel was blocked by one of the big marble pillars that had fallen across it, but there was a big fancy stained glass window to one side, which had miraculously survived the earthquake. The brunette reckoned that if he threw a large enough piece of rubble at it, it would shatter and they’d have their escape route. Once outside, they needed to find a phone or some means of transport and get help. He only hoped that the rest of Bay City had survived the ‘quake and was in better shape that the hilltop.

With a groan he forced himself back to his feet, watching as Richardson did likewise and seeing the exhaustion in the man’s eyes. If he hadn’t been the man who’d shot his partner, Starsky might almost have felt sorry for the man, but as it was, he stuffed those feelings down deep inside him. Looking round for something to lob at the window it suddenly occurred to the brunette that it really wasn’t necessary. Cocking the AK47 and flicking the switch to single shot mode, he fired off a couple of rounds at the glass watching it crack and shatter to the ground, leaving a large opening for them to get through.

Hutch flinched as the shots went off, throwing his left arm up reflexively to shield himself from any harm, but once the echoes of the report had died down, he whimpered once, then lay limply on his back, eyes closed, breathing rapidly. Again the two men picked up their blond burden and slowly and carefully made their way to the window opening, gently manoeuvring through, mindful of the shards of glass littering the floor and sticking out from the remains of the window frame. As they got outside, Starsky lifted his face to the sun, savouring their freedom and enjoying the feeling of the sun on his face and the gentle breeze ruffling his sweat soaked curls sending goose bumps up his arms and down his back. He’d never felt happier to be outside than he did at that moment and even the problem of getting the little party down into the city seemed a little less onerous.

As he looked around him, he noticed that there were still a couple of cars parked at the hotel parking lot and he directed the tall gunman to help him carry Hutch’s body over to them. As he peered through the door with his fingers crossed, he saw that the keys to the dark blue car were still in the ignition. With a groan of relief, he opened the door of the car and tenderly laid his partner on the back seat, giving the flushed face a final stroke. Pointing to the driver’s side, he instructed Richardson to get in as he sat in the back seat next to Hutch’s supine body, gun resting on the headrest f the front seat, still pointing at the tall man.

‘No smart moves now’ he said. ‘You’re gonna drive nice and smoothly down to Memorial, got that?’ he growled as Richardson nodded, glad himself to be out of the ruined building and tasting freedom himself. He turned the key in the ignition, but nothing happened.

Chapter 11

There was a moment of desperate silence in the car as both men stared hard at the steering wheel as though that very action would somehow mend the vehicle and set it going again. With a long shaky sigh, Starsky started to get out of the car then stopped, realising he couldn't go anywhere as he was attached to Hutch. He pointed the gun at Richardson. Just what else could go wrong with his day? He fixed the man in the passenger seat with a steely gaze.

‘No funny moves OK? Just release the hood and tell me what you see’.

Richardson smiled at him. ‘Listen guy, I want out of here as much as you do. Ya know anything about cars? D’ya think ya can fix it?’

‘A bit’ the brunette mumbled wondering whether to believe the man who’d shot his partner. Deciding he really didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter, he allowed the gunman to get out of the car and trot around to the front, popping the hood and staring hard at the engine. It was covered in dust from the ’quake and as he waited, Starsky hoped it was just the plug points that were dusty and not making contact properly. He directed Richardson to pull each one out of its place, blow on the tip and wipe them carefully on the cleanest spot he could find on his jeans before reinserting them one at a time. Pulling down the hood again, he watched as Richardson walked back round to the drivers door and got in.

‘OK, try it now’ he said with his fingers crossed.

Richardson turned the ignition key again and there was the vaguest of coughs as the engine turned over once.

‘Pump the gas pedal up and down a few times, then try it again with your foot to the floor’ the brunette advised, praying that the old trick would work.

The tall man tried again following the instructions. The engine turned over a few more times, then died again. He looked frustrated.

‘One more time for luck?’ the tall man said as his fingers strayed to the key again. This time, he kept the key turned as the engine coughed, turned, coughed, turned and finally caught, the man’s foot on the gas making it roar in the morning quiet. Quickly he flung the car into drive and made down the drive, not wanting to give the temperamental engine another chance to stop. As he got to the gates at the end of the driveway he found they were once again closed, barring their way out onto the road. He stopped and looked at the curly haired cop.

‘What now boss?’ he asked without a hint of sarcasm.

Starsky looked at the gates, then behind them.

‘Back up a hundred yards or so, floor the gas and bust ‘em down’ he said decisively, bracing himself as once again the gunman followed his instructions.

Swiftly the gates were coming at them full tilt and they felt a lurch as the powerful car hit them head on, ramming them out of the way with a violent wrenching sound, then pulled away out into the road.

Richardson drove fast and easy back down the road towards the city, nursing the big car round the bends and driving smoothly so that the blond in the back wouldn’t be jostled around too much.

The tall man was actually getting to like the two detectives in a strange sort of way. He liked the way they looked out for each other and the way the brunette cared for his injured partner. Richardson had never had a friendship like that and he envied it. His life had been one long round of violence and fear and he found himself longing for the same sort of relationship that the two guys he was sharing the car with had. And so he was extra careful although he doubted that the brunette at his side would ever believe that he didn’t want to hurt them any more.

As they hit the outskirts of the city it became apparent that the ‘quake hadn’t had the same impact it had had on the hilltop. Some of the smaller buildings they passed seemed a little battered and bruised but there wasn’t the same devastation they’d experienced and as they got further into the heart of the city, there was no evidence at all of damage. That kind of answered the question Starsky had had in his mind about why Dobey hadn’t sent anyone to see if they were OK. He’d been terrified that the whole of the city had been destroyed and was thankful that that wasn’t the case. As it was he thought his captain wouldn’t have thought it necessary to check. Who would have thought that a distance of 15 miles or so could make such a difference? After another 15 minutes or so of driving, they pulled up outside the hospital and Starsky reached into the back of the car, gently patting his partner’s face, worried at the pallor of his partner’s face.

‘Hutch buddy, we’re here now. C’mon pal wake up for me huh? I need to see those baby blues again Blintz. For me? Huh?’

There was no reaction other than the flutter of silky blond eyelashes to mark that his partner had heard him and Starsky looked up desperately, looking for medics and some way to get his injured friend into the hospital. He saw Richardson get out of the car and a part of him wanted to stop him, feeling he’d probably run away. But he was surprised when the tall man instead went quickly into the hospital entrance and returned a moment later with a gurney and two nurses.

With their help, he managed to deposit the limp form onto the trolley and walked by his partner’s side as they made their way into the ER. A young male doctor walked up and started to make a preliminary examination even before they’d gotten Hutch into a room, noting the flush and the sweat soaked features.

‘Who’s with this man?’ the doctor asked the no one in particular.

‘I am’ Starsky said as he held onto his partner’s hand. ‘We were in the ‘quake up on the ridge, trapped in a hotel. This is Ken Hutchinson, 32. He’s been shot and he’s lost a lot of blood. He knew he was in trouble and he managed to…..he’s type B-’

He stopped as he saw the doctor looking at the dressing around the blonde’s middle. The young man looked up at him.

‘What the hell’s these?’ he asked looking at the manacles biding the two men together.

‘Long story Doc’ the exhausted cop mumbled. ‘Look is he gonna be OK?’

The medic went back to his examination. ‘You did this?’

The brunette cast stormy indigo eyes from the doctor down to his friend then back to the doctor again, suddenly scared that the medic was going to tell him he’d made his partner a whole lot worse. He swallowed down his fear.

‘Erm…yeah. He was in a lot of pain an’ he was bleeding so much….we couldn’t get out. He ah…he talked me through it’ Starsky mumbled, stroking his thumb down the back of his partner’s limp hand.

‘Talked you through what?’ the medic asked slowly.

‘I….I got the bullet out’. Why did he feel like a little kid confessing to the headmaster? He gulped. ‘Did I make it worse?’ he asked in a small voice.

The doctor smiled at him. ‘Worse? No, certainly not. If anything you probably saved his life. Is he a relative?’

The relief washed over the curly haired cop like a tide, almost as though he’d been hit with a physical wave. His head swam and his knees buckled as he watched the ground coming up to meet him fast. From a distance he thought he heard the doctor shout ‘Catch him before he drags my patient off the table. And get someone to cuts these cuffs off ‘em.’ before there was a loud roaring in his ears, the ER slipped sideways and then winked out completely.

One of the male orderlies had stepped up behind the brunette as he’d seen him sway and as the relieved detective started to crumple, he’d managed to catch him under the arms. Gently he lowered the dark haired man to the floor as the indigo blue eyes closed. Looking around, the doctor spoke to the only other man in the room who may know anything more about the two.

‘Well, are they related?’ he asked Richardson.

‘No sir’, the tall man said promptly. ‘They’re cops’.

‘And are you a cop too?’

‘No, just a concerned bystander’ Richardson excused himself the lie. He’d gotten the two men safely to the hospital and now the euphoria and camaraderie he’d felt upon getting out of that damned hotel was beginning to wane, he just wanted to get the hell out of there as soon as he could. If answering a few damned silly questions got him out quicker, he wasn’t going to argue

Richardson pointed to the detective lying on the floor. ‘He’s called Starsky. They’re partners, so I’m guessin’ they’ll want to stay together. They seem close’ he mumbled as he backed away from the doctor.

The medic looked at him, taking in the grime, the sweat and the torn pants, showing the flash of a white bandage beneath.

‘Do you need medical attention?’ he asked, glancing up from the blond body he was still working on.

‘What? Ah..no. No I’m fine. Just dropped ‘em off here. I’m going now. Need to…ah to be some place’ he muttered and he backed out of the door and made his bid for freedom, satisfied that the two were getting the care he needed.

Back in the ER, the orderly had managed to get the unconscious Starsky onto another gurney and another doctor had been brought in to examine him. He looked the brunette over, raising eyelids and shining his penlight into the indigo eyes. Making further assessments, he saw the deep gash on the tanned brow and the still bleeding wound on the brunette’s left leg. He probed it and the curly haired cop moaned, trying to jerk the limb away, but didn’t wake.

The two medics compared notes.

‘This guy’s got head trauma, which has been partly dealt with. I’ll take off these strips and put four or five stitches in the wound. Nothing much else apart from a nasty gash on his left leg that’ll need cleaning. I can see fragments of wood in there, then that’ll need suturing too. He’s dehydrated but nothing that a couple of litres of saline won’t rectify. What have you got?’

‘Gunshot wound. His friend there got the bullet out. God knows how, but he saved his partner from bleeding to death. He needs to go up to the OR to have it cleaned and stitched, but I think he’ll make it. He’s got a fever, but nothing antibiotics won’t sort out. Two units of blood, a saline drip and he should be as good as new’.

Chapter 12

He’d died and gone to heaven. He was quite sure of that, although heaven proved to be a little damp and he tried to lift his hand up to wipe away the moisture on his face, refusing to open his eyes because to do so might mean that he was back in that godforsaken ruined hotel again and he knew he couldn’t bear the thoughts of trying to get his injured partner from out of it.

Starsky flinched reflexively when he felt a hand on his arm, gently pushing his hand away, expecting guns and pain, but then a soft cloth smelling of clean soap and perfume took its place and he relaxed again. He’d never known a bad guy smell like that and was quite happy to go with the flow. Gently the cloth wiped his face, rasping gently at the two days growth of beard. Finally, his curiosity got the better of him and he cracked his left eye open a little squinting at the hand and following it up past a delicate wrist and lightly tanned forearm, onto the pale pink short sleeve of a uniform and finally landing on a pretty olive skinned face with hazel eyes. The owner of the eyes smiled down at him and he returned the smile with a lop sided slightly shy one of his own.

‘Welcome back Detective’ a soft husky voice said with just a hint of a French accent.

Starsky closed his eye again, now even more convinced he’d died and gone to heaven. Where else would a beautiful French Mademoiselle be giving him a bed bath? He sighed contentedly letting his body melt back against the soft mattress and opened both eyes wide.

Yup, she was still there, and she was smiling at him! His day was definitely taking a turn for the better. He licked his dry lips.

‘Am I dead?’ he asked, his voice rasping in his ears. He cleared his throat and tried again. ‘Must be. This sort of thing don’t usually happen to me’ he smiled again.

The nurse giggled. ‘I suppose you say zat to all ze girls’ she said, finishing drying his face and starting next on his arms, running the cool damp cloth up and down his bare tanned skin. His body reacted to the tender ministrations and goose bumps blossomed down his spine. Bumps of a different sort blossomed further south and he wiggled slightly, trying to rearrange himself before the nurse noticed. He shivered slightly at her touch. Calming himself he tried to get his brain out of his trousers and establish exactly what had gone on while he’d been in the land of nod.

‘How long have I been here? he asked, looking around him. To one side of the small hospital room, he saw a large window showing nothing more than a rapidly darkening sky outside. Turning the other way he was relieved to see the body of his partner asleep on his back in the bed next to him, the flaxen head resting comfortably on clean pillows, the face looking pale, but peaceful. He tried to sit up to get a better look.

‘How is he?’ he asked more earnestly.

The nurse glanced across at the blond. ‘You ‘ave been ‘ere about seven hours and ‘e is going to be fine. He’s been to theatre and had ze ‘ole in ‘is side repaired and is sleeping comfortably’ she explained pushing the brunette gently back onto the bed. ‘And you must rest too. You ‘ave ze concussion and eleven stitches in ze wound in your leg. Oh, and we got rid of ze manacles’.

Starsky suddenly realised he was no longer chained to his partner and looked at the bandage wrapped around his left wrist.

‘How d’ya manage that?’ he asked, feeling relief.

The nurse pulled a wry face. ‘’It was quite ze problem and ze doctor eventually had to call for ze maintenance men to come wiz zere big bolt cutters. It took zem quite some time!’

He chuckled. ‘Yeah, I’ll bet!’

Starsky rested his head back on the pillow and for a while enjoyed the ministrations of the little nurse. He felt sore, but the exhaustion had gone, to be replaced by just plane tired. His head had stopped aching again and he could only feel the gash on his brow when he wiggled his eyebrows – something he really didn’t feel he had to do on a regular basis in any event. He could feel the wound on his left leg now and the pressure of bandages around it, but the pain was dull and fuzzy and he recognised the woolliness of pain killing medication. He saw the cannula in his right arm and resigned himself to the IV, wondering what the doctor’s preoccupation with needles was all about.

After another quarter of an hour, the nurse had finished cleaning him up and he settled back on the bed, dressed in hospital issue pale blue scrubs, seeing his filthy and ruined clothes on a chair in the corner of the room. As the nurse had finished washing his arms, she progressed to his chest, soaping through the forest of hairs there and running her hand a little too familiarly over his muscles, then his stomach, but as he felt her hands go lower still, he’d bottled out and told her he was fine now thank you. She smiled again and handed him the draw string pants and the top, turning her back modestly as he struggled into them. Although his injuries were remarkably few, he ached all over and he presumed it was from the tension he’d felt over the past 24 hours. As he’d got back into the bed, she’d tidied around him and straightened his covers, checking his IV. Then she was gone, leaving him alone with his partner.

Starsky allowed himself the luxury of lying back and relaxing for an hour or so, his mind pleasantly numb from the drugs and his fatigue, his eyes half closed and his body comfortably warm and heavy, in that warm space where he was not quite waking and not quite sleeping. His reverie was finally interrupted when he heard sounds form his partner’s bed.

Flipping the sheet back and grabbing the IV pole, he trundled it over to the flaxen haired cop’s bedside. The head on the white pillow was just beginning to roll from side to side as slowly Hutch came back to consciousness. Starsky knew from bitter experience just how disconcerting it could be to pass out in one place and wake up somewhere entirely different, so he took hold of his friend’s hand and bent forward to look into the blonde’s face.

Slowly the eyes fluttered open and he got his first view of the ice blue beneath. The eyes were glazed and unfocussed and closed swiftly, blinking as Hutch became accustomed to the blue neon strip light behind his bed.

‘Hey Blondie, welcome back’ Starsky murmured, reaching up to smooth the silky blond hair from his partner’s brow,


‘Right here buddy’.


‘In Memorial. You’re fine. D’ya remember your argument with the bullet?’

Hutch closed his eyes and nodded slightly. He felt warm and comfortable although his side still felt as though a red hot metal skewer had been lodged in there. There was a vaguely peaceful feeling and he liked it. He felt like he’d been struggling to breath and move forever, but now that struggle was over. He moved experimentally and decided he wouldn’t try it again any time soon., but it didn’t really matter. He and Starsky were safe and together and that was all that mattered. He opened his eyes again.



‘You ok?’

A small chuckle. ‘Yeah, I’m fine partner’.

‘What happened?’ Hutch asked, looking around the room and checking the IVs in his hands before his left hand went protectively to his side.

‘Well after you went to sleep, I realised we had to get out, so Richardson kinda helped me an’ here we are. Hey, You got any pain?’ Starsky asked as he saw his partner’s face crumple.

‘Some…..don’t go’ Hutch mumbled.

‘Only gonna call the nurse, buddy’.

‘S’ok, just stay huh?’

‘Whatever you say Blondie. Ya gonna go back to sleep?’

‘Didn’t think we’d make it’ the blond mumbled.

‘Yeah? Shows what faith ya have! Ya gotta trust Captain Marvel more ‘n’ that!’ Starsky said fondly.

‘Didn’t think I’d make it…..saved my life’.

The brunette blushed, suddenly feeling ridiculously embarrassed. ‘Only did what we always do’ he muttered.


‘We watched each other’s backs buddy. It was that “who do we trust” time and there was just Me ‘n’ Thee’.



‘Where’re the bad guys?’

‘Richardson took off after we got here, I saw two of the goons dead in the hotel, but I didn’t see McKay or Shepherd’.

The brunette saw the information sink in and the ice blue eyes closed a moment, then opened to look directly at him.



‘Thought I heard someone sound French?’

‘Ah, that was just my little French nurse come to give me a bed bath! Starsky wiggled his eyebrows, then winced as he felt the cut again.



‘Can I have one too please?’


Later that night Dobey came to see his two men and was relieved to see that Starsky was sitting up, in his usual place at his partner’s bedside. The sleep he’d had enforced on his during the day had played havoc with his body clock and now the curly haired detective was wide awake and holding his sleeping friend’s hand.

‘How’s he doing?’ Dobey asked quietly as Starsky disengaged himself from the blond and moved away from the bed.

‘He’ll be ok. Bullets out an’ he’s had some blood to replace the stuff he lost’.

‘An’ you?’ the Captain asked gruffly. There was no way he would ever apologise directly to his two favourite detectives for sending them into so much danger – it was just part of the job, but he felt bad nonetheless.

Starsky knew how his boss was feeling. He in return didn’t expect an apology, accepting that some jobs were more dangerous than others. And who could anticipate an earthquake anyway? He smiled.

‘I’m good. Just a few minors’. He looked at his watch. ‘S a bit late for you, isn’t it Cap?’

Dobey huffed. ‘I erm…I just wanted to see how….’ He coughed, trying to hide his concern.

Never one to pass up goading his Captain, Starsky patted the black mans’ shoulder. ‘That’s ok Cap, we know ya love us really’ he smiled, seeing the colour rise in his boss’ cheeks.

Dobey motioned the brunette to the other side of the room. ‘Do you know what happened to McKay and Shepherd? He asked, becoming more serious.

Starsky sat on the edge of his bed. ‘No. Last time we saw ‘em was before the ‘quake hit. McKay had Shepherd, there were two other goons, who I saw dead in the hotel after, and a guy called Richardson who helped me get Hutch out. Why?’

Dobey twiddled his tie, looking uncomfortable 'One of the traffic cops chased down a dark blue Lincoln he caught speeding through the city centre. Got out to give the driver a ticket and the guy drove off. Answered McKay’s description and he had a small ginger haired passenger.'

Starsky was already walking towards his street clothes.

Chapter 13

Starsky caught a ride in a black and white conveniently parked outside the hospital and went back home to get a change of clothes and his Torino. Once back in his familiar tight blue jeans and a fresh dark blue shirt, he picked up the keys to his car and shot back out of his apartment. It had taken a while to get his Levis on over the thick bandage around his leg and he’d grunted as the thick material caught at the wound, but this was his uniform and he felt he couldn’t hit the streets wearing anything else. In his jeans he felt invincible He got into the car and paused. Where was he supposed to start looking? He had no idea where McKay hung out, but he knew he had to get to Shepherd and rescue him. Although he didn’t like the methods the little ginger haired man used to get his money, there was something about the little criminal. He only got his money from other criminals, leaving businesses and banks alone. He did no harm at all to the average man in the street, and Starsky had to admit to himself that he was a bit of a loveable rogue. He picked up the car mic. and asked for a patch though to R&I.

‘Bernie, can you pull me everything you got on one Albert McKay. Need any possible addresses, and quickly huh? Thanks’. He put the mic. down and turned his car towards the centre of town, keeping his eyes and ears open. It felt strange to be driving without Hutch at his side. Although the blond was never the most talkative of the two men, he provided a sounding board for his curly haired partner and secretly, Starsky enjoyed playing the wide eyed kid and winding Hutch up with pranks and crazy thoughts. Now he missed the banter and it felt empty in the Torino. He started singing to himself to ease the quiet and was just onto the second verse of ‘Don’t give up on us Baby’. His voice wasn’t quite as melodious as the blonde’s but he carried a tune well enough and what he lacked in talent he made up for in enthusiasm. It was a song his partner had been crooning for a while,

It's written in the moonlight

And painted on the stars

We can't change ours’

when the familiar tones came over the airwaves.

‘Zebra three, zebra three, you there Starsky honey?’

He grabbed the mic. ‘Hey Mildred, how’s my favourite….’ He was cut off as the woman uncharacteristically interrupted him.

‘Starsky, get back to Memorial as quick as you can’.

The brunette caught the urgency in the voice, his heart in his mouth.

‘Hutch?’ he asked.

‘I don’t know the details honey, but there’s something going down there. I’ve just had a call from Captain Dobey to tell you to get down to the hospital, as quickly as that striped tomato will carry you’.

‘On my way’.

‘And Starsky? You be careful’ she added before clearing the line.

Starsky executed a neat U turn in the middle of the road, his tyres squealing and smoking against the black top. Flicking on the sirens and jamming the mars light onto the roof, he floored the gas and rushed back to the hospital, his mind racing. What the hell had happened? Had Hutch had some sort of relapse? Was he ok? Oh God, was he dead?

No, no, no, no. I can’t think like that. C’mon Davey boy, just get with the programme, Get back to the hospital and find out what’s goin’ on. Probably nothin’ to do with the Blintz…..Red light, slow down, clear….next intersection…..mind the motorcycle…..get out the way!

He turned the final corner and drew up next to Emergency entrance, seeing three black and whites all with their lights still flashing. The patrolmen were out holding onlookers back and he got out of his car almost before the last notes of the engine had died. Without even bothering to close the door he bolted for the entrance as one of the cops grasped his arm.

‘You can’t go in there’ he said as Starsky ripped his arm from the man’s grasp and flipped his shield at his. The cop waved a quick apology and the brunette continued his headlong charge into the hospital. He ran through the ER and past the small consulting rooms towards the lifts, seeing the familiar bulk of his captain standing waiting for him.

‘What ya got Cap?’ he panted, slithering to a halt and feeling for the first time the injury to his leg smarting and pulling. Ignoring the pain and the irritating trickle as at least one of the stitches gave way and it started bleeding again, he looked expectantly at his boss, seeing apology in the dark brown eyes.

‘Gunman on the third floor’ the black man grunted, seeing the brunette put two and two together.


‘Starsky…son…. Its McKay. After you went, Hutchinson was left alone for a while. Somehow McKay managed to get in. He’s in Hutchinson’s room holding him hostage. He’s got Shepherd with him and he’s making demands’.

‘Well how the hell did that happen? I’ve only been gone a little over an hour! What sort of security have they got round here?’ the brunette yelled.

Dobey sympathised with his detective, but knew he’d have to calm the hellion down if Starsky was going to be of any use to them.

‘Starsky, cool it! Calm down and take a deep breath or somethin’ he thundered, watching as the curly haired cop closed his eyes and willed himself to calm down.

‘OK, that’s better’ Dobey continued. ‘He’s not made any demands yet. He says he wants to talk to you’ He grabbed his officer’s arm as Starsky started to push past him. ‘You’re gonna need one of these’ he pushed a Kevlar vest at the brunette who looked at it questioningly for a moment. Slowly he took it, holding it between his knees as he took off his jacket and put the bulletproof vest on over the top of his tee-shirt. Pulling the jacket back over the top, he drew his gun from his holster.

Starsky held the gun in his left hand, checking he had a full clip. He pumped a round into the chamber, leaving another 13 in the clip, then thumbed on the safety. Cocked and locked, just as he liked it when he was going into an intense situation. With a final nod to his Captain, he got into the elevator to go up to the third floor.

As the door closed, he closed his eyes, getting his rapidly beating heart to calm down. Hutch was hurt as it was, he didn’t want anything else to happen to the blond, he’d been through enough already. The target now was to get his partner out of there and in one piece. If he could rescue Shepherd at the same time, so much the better, but just at that moment that wasn’t Starsky’s priority.

The door opened on the landing of the third floor and the brunette could see at the corner of the long corridor two black vested cops, semi-automatics trained on the door of the room he’d occupied only hours earlier. Other than the sounds of his breathing in his ears, there was silence and his sneakers made small squeaking noises on the tile floor as he walked slowly toward the door of the room. One of the sharp shooters looked up as he arrived and gave a reassuring smile. Very quietly he said ‘Nothing happening in there at the moment, detective’.

‘Wrong, pal. My partner’s being held in there by a gunman. Something very real is happening in there’ Starsky muttered. The man with the riffle nodded his understanding and leaned into the wall to let the brunette pass.

As Starsky got toward the door, he shouted. ‘OK McKay. I’m here. What d’ya want?’

A disembodied voice from the room shouted back.

‘Starsky! I want you in here and unarmed, NOW. No tricks and no guns otherwise your partner here’s gonna have a whole new type of brain surgery, if you get my drift’.

Starsky drew his gun and held it in his open palm, his hand stretched out in front of him. Cautiously he walked to the doorway, showing McKay the gun and carefully bent down and put it on the floor, standing and putting his hands out to either side, showing he was unarmed.

‘Kick it back’ McKay ordered and Starsky used the heel of his shoe to kick the weapon behind him. He took in the scene before him.

McKay was at Hutch’s bedside, a gun grinding into the blonde’s temple. Hutch’s eyes were open and he’d been looking up at his captor, but as the brunette walked into the doorway, he turned to lock eyes with his partner.

Ignoring the lunatic holding the gun, his first concern was the blond. ‘You OK partner?’ Starsky asked quietly, seeing that McKay also had his other hand hovering inches above the newly bandaged wound on the bed bound cops side.

‘Well he ain’t no French…ungh!’ The man at his side suddenly grinding his finger down onto the fresh wound cut off Hutch’s retort. His body shook violently and perspiration beaded on his face as he bit back the scream. As the pressure lessened, the blond groaned, keeping his eyes closed for a moment as he got his pain under control. Slowly he fixed his ice blue eyes back on his partner’s stormy indigo ones.

Starsky lifted his hand, pointing his finger at McKay.

‘You lay one more finger on my partner, and so help me McKay, I’ll rip you limb from limb’ he yelled.

McKay stared back at him. ‘I have no real use for this piece of cop shit. I need a ticket out of here, and you’re it. I just relied on your sickening bond with this’ he ground down on Hutch’s belly again ‘to get you here.

The blond writhed on the bed, trying to remain silent for his partner, but the pain had intensified to such a level that the scream was ripped from his throat.

Starsky was frantic inside, but outwardly he tried to display a calm he didn’t feel. ‘Ok, you’ve made your point. Leave him be. You’ve got me. What d’ya want now?’ he ground out, trying hard not to see the shuddering body of his partner on the bed. In the corner, Shepherd cowered like a frightened and beaten dog, blood drying on the corner of his mouth and bruises blossoming around his right eye.

McKay looked up from the damage he was inflicting on the sweating form on the bed, grinning.

‘I knew that’d get your attention. I want passage out of here. A chopper to LAX, $5 million to set me up and a pre-arranged flight out of the US. And I want them now’ his hand hovered over Hutch’s side again and for a sickening moment Starsky saw his partner try to prepare himself for the next crushing pain.

‘Ok, ok, just…just leave him alone ok? Let me get the message out about your demands. Just let him be’. The brunette knew he was pleading now, but he’d much rather have been taking the punishment than seeing his partner in so much pain. He lifted smoky eyes to McKay, trying to appeal to any humanity the gunman might have left.

‘McKay stared back from eyes that held nothing but contempt and cold. ‘I’m sure the two guards outside the door heard everything. One of them can go. I want everything ready in an hour or he gets more of the same’ he threatened, his hand twitching.

Starsky glanced behind him and saw one of the marksmen leave his position and run back down the corridor.

‘Its done. An hour’ the brunette said as calmly as he could. ‘Now, let me get to my partner’.

McKay shook his head. ‘You stay exactly where you are’.

The anger rose again and the curly haired cop saw red. He walked slowly and steadily forward eyes never leaving the kidnapper, his hands still in the air. ‘You’ve got Hutch. You’ve got me an’ there’s nothin’ we can do for an hour. I’m gonna sit by my partner, an’ there ain’t you nor anyone else gonna stop me. Got that?’ he said in a deadly tone as he reached the blonde’s bedside.

Chapter 14

‘Hey buddy, how ya doin?’ Starsky whispered, seeing the closed eyes, the pallor and the beads of sweat trickling down his partner’s face. He took a cloth from the stand by the bed and gently wiped the furrowed brow.

Hutch’s eyes fluttered open. ‘N not one of the b better days’ he stammered, trying to keep his body’s involuntary shudders under control. The pain McKay had inflicted was still reverberating around his stomach and he felt as though his guts were on fire, but he wanted to keep as much as he could from his partner. Starsky had too many other things to be concerned about at that moment.

‘It’ll be fine, partner. Ssh. What’s one more psychotic crazy man between friends huh? We’ll be outa here in no time?’ the brunette lied, stroking his thumb slowly over the back of his friends hand.

‘S Starsk? M’sorry’.

‘What? What ya sorry for?’

‘Shoulda shut him up an’ stopped him callin’ for ya’ the voice was getting weaker, but the ice blue eyes were still locked onto the indigo ones above him.

Starsky chuckled ‘What ya gonna do partner? How ya gonna stop him? Hit him with your drip bottle huh? No big deal, just rest, we’ll be outa here before ya can say “Dobey”’.

The ghost of a smile passed over the pale featured. ‘Yeah? Just walk on out right? M might need a hand up though’.

‘You hang in there Blondie. Just sleep a while huh?’ Starsky said desperately, seeing the pain in the flaxen haired cops eyes. He looked over at McKay who’d kept his gun trained on the duo the whole time.

‘Let the nurses give him somethin’ for the pain... please?’ he implored, but McKay shook his head.

‘He don’t get nothin’ till I get my ride outa here’ he grinned, obviously enjoying seeing the blond in so much agony.

‘You’re a real big man, aren’t ya, McKay. Think ya can take on the world with your big gun, beatin’ up on wounded cops. That the only sort ya can take on is it?’ Starsky yelled, loosing the little temper he had left. He was about to go on when he heard a faint whisper at his side.

‘Easy t tiger’ Hutch murmured. ‘Don’t antagonise the guy w with the gun huh? Not the b brightest thing Gordo’. He reached out his hand and patted the brunette’s softly.

‘That’s right, listen to your sickly friend there, wiseguy. Any more of your wisecracks and I take him out, right here in front of ya. Got that?’ McKay said coldly

Starsky stopped himself, refusing to look at McKay any more, not trusting himself to say anything further without bringing more retributions. For the rest of the hour, he stayed at his partner’s side, wiping his brow and brushing away the damp golden bangs as Hutch tried to doze. There was silence in the small room.

Starsky was frantically trying to plan an escape. He knew it would have to happen as he went downstairs with McKay and Shepherd. There was no way he could compromise Hutch’s safety any further. He just hoped that McKay wouldn’t try anything else on the semi-conscious cop in the meantime. Hutch had drifted into a troubled sleep and moaned occasionally as another wave of pain took him and shook his body.

The brunette was getting desperate. The hour was almost up and he could see McKay becoming more and more agitated, pacing the room and twitching, drumming his fingers against the butt of the weapon. Just as the kidnapper came away from the window again, muttering darkly, Starsky heard a loudhailer from the parking lot below telling them that the money and the chopper were ready and standing by. McKay waved his gun at the brunette and took hold of Shepherd by the collar eliciting a small whimper from the little man as he was forced to his feet.

‘OK Starsky, move ahead, nice steady pace, and no fancy moves’ McKay commanded.

Starsky gazed at him levelly then bent over his partner.

‘Hutch, gotta go now buddy. Rest easy. I’ll be back soon ok?’

Hutch forced his hot feverish eyes open and stared at his partner. ‘T take care. Don’t’ d do anythin’ stupid, ya hear?’ he mumbled before closing them again.

The curly haired cop got up slowly from the bed and once again raised his hands into the air, setting off at an even slow pace from the room and down the corridor. He looked left and right for an escape route but he realised that if he made a bolt for it here, on the third floor, McKay would just race back to the room and damage Hutch some more. So he bided his time, punching the elevator button again and again as it made its annoyingly slow way up to their floor. The doors opened with a quiet whoosh and the party of three stepped inside. In the confines of the small elevator car, the muzzle of the gun was pushed into the brunettes back and McKay realised the cop was wearing a vest.

‘Take your vest off’ he commanded as Starsky stared back over his shoulder at him. To reinforce the command, he drove his gun a little more firmly into the brunette’s back. Swallowing down the yelp slowly Starsky shouldered out of his jacket and undid the velcro tabs of the Kevlar vest, letting it fall to the floor. Without putting his jacket back on, and clearly showing his now empty holster, the brunette stepped out of the elevator as it stopped on the ground floor.

McKay directed him through the assembled people, now standing with their backs pressed against the walls, by grinding the gun into either the left or right side of his back, each time leaving a circular black bruise on the detectives skin. They gained the outside and Starsky blinked at the bright early morning sunlight. Another push with the muzzle of the gun and he started to walk forward, past the downcast eyes of his Captain and towards a car, waiting with its engine running and the doors open.

As he walked towards it his mind was working overtime. If he got into the car, there’d be little chance of making a break for it and he’d be trapped. At least if he made a run for it here, McKay would be distracted and maybe one of the other cops on the periphery of the crowd might be able to pick him off.

The car was getting closer and as he walked past another small group of people someone caught his eye. He couldn’t believe it and did a double take to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him. But no it was him. What the hell was he doing there? No matter. Starsky realised that it was now or never and he had to do something before he got to the waiting car.

Suddenly he bent over double with a resounding groan. McKay had been following so close behind him that he stumbled into the brunette, caught off balance. Starsky shuffled backwards and made a grab for the gun in McKay’s hand but missed it. Realising he had to get out of there quickly he started to make a run for the relative safety of the other side of the car and seemed to be making a good attempt when he heard McKay icy cool voice.

‘Nice try Starsky, but I’d stop now if I were you’.

The brunette stopped in his tracks and turned slowly, seeing the terrified look on Shepherd’s face as McKay stuck the muzzle of the gun under the ginger haired man’s chin.

‘One more step and the weasel gets it’ McKay finished, pushing the gun a little higher and eliciting a terrified whimper from the little criminal.

Starsky looked around him frantically, realising his one chance at escape had just passed him by. Slowly he put his hands up again, but the sprint he’d started had taken its toll on his injured leg and this time he really did double over in pain. He remembered looking one last time at McKay and he remembered the look on the kidnappers’ face as he raised the gun to fire at the brunette. He heard the gun fire and he thought he should have felt the bullet enter his chest, where McKay was targeting, so close that he just couldn’t miss.

Starsky braced himself to take his last breath on this earth, but the pain instead of lancing through his heart hit his left arm high up on his biceps and instead of the brunette falling to the ground dead, he looked on in amazement as, instead, it was McKay who slumped forward, a red bloom appearing on his shirt front.

Starsky fell to his knees, clutching at his arm and trying hard to comprehend what had just happened. He knew he should be dead but he wasn’t and he looked up in disbelief as the tall lanky frame of McKay’s sidekick, Richardson came forward from the crowd, his hand extended to help the cop to his feet.

‘What just happened?’ Starsky panted as he got unsteadily to his feet, waves of relief and nausea washing over him in turn. He felt relief, but at the same time a surreal feeling as though time had stopped. He couldn't understand it.

‘I decided I liked you’ Richardson said, straight faced.

Starsky stared back at him and then to the dead body lying yards from him. ‘Ya do that for all your friends?’ he asked, grimacing as he tried to move his arm. ‘Ya couldn’t have done it just a second earlier?’

‘Hey, quit complaining. You’re alive aren’t you?’ Richardson’s face finally split into a grin. He reached out and caught the detective as his knees buckled for the second time in 24 hours and once again, blackness descended.


‘He only does it for attention’ he heard the familiar voice say as gentle hands once more wiped his brow.

Starsky opened his eyes and looked up again at the pretty French nurse he’d seen earlier. She smiled down at him.

‘We meet again, Detective’ she said, sitting on the side of his bed. ‘Your friend tells me you do zis sort of sing all ze time’.

Starsky turned his head sideways on the pillow and looked at his partner. Hutch looked a little better and his voice was certainly stronger than he’d last remembered it.

‘Someone tell me what happened?’ he asked to no-one in particular. His arm felt heavy and strange and as he looked down he realised it was strapped across his chest, held there by loops of white gauze.

‘Our new best friend shot McKay’ Hutch explained. ‘Richardson had apparently followed McKay and Shepherd and had an idea what was on his mind. So he came back here, hid in the crowd and when he saw McKay threaten you, he took him out. Shepherds in protective custody an’ Dobeys back at the precinct’.

‘Wow! An’ you? Are you OK?’ the brunette asked.

‘Better now I don’t have that goon’s hands grinding at my insides’ he said with feeling. ‘You?’

Starsky looked up at the pretty nurse and wiggled his eyebrows. ‘I think I’m having a relapse’ he moaned as she stroked his cheek.

‘Seem to recall askin’ if I could have one of those buddy. Care to share?’ the blond asked with some amusement in his voice as he eyed the French nurse. There was one thing about his partner. If he was in great pain, there was no one more brave and stoical. Anything less and he whined like a girl. God could that brunette ham it up! Starsky was nestling closer to the Mademoiselle, smiling up at her, playing his "Camille" card to the hilt.

He took a moment to cast a sideways glimpse at his partner, happy now that everything was finally resolved and growled ‘Go get one of your own. I earned this, she’s taken’ he growled happily.




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