Another Chance


This story is not intended to make comment or fun of any belief or religion. It does not reflect the beliefs of the writer nor does it profess to accurately describe "the other side". It is a work of fiction.

My thanks as always to Brook for her unending support. And to Angie, Jan and Nelleke wo, as always, drive me on.

Chapter 1

The tall, blond haired, blue eyed man stood before the assembled group. He was blindfolded and tied by the wrists, which were anchored in the small of his back and he had been standing in the silence for about five minutes now, while the semi circle of man stood around him. He’d been brought to the factory blindfolded in this way by the man who’d said he would introduce him to the Bay City cell of the Northern Stars, a gun running organisation selling arms to the highest British bidder. Niall O’Farrell had met with the bound man, Kavan Healy, at a bar on the east side of the city a couple of weeks ago and they’d talked about the NS cell and Niall’s beliefs.

The blindfolded blond was sweating now although the factory was quite cold at that time of night. The pale shirt he wore showed sweat stains down the ridge of his spine and his balance was beginning to falter from the time he’d spent in the dark. He swallowed hard, trying to keep his fear under control, although the silence was unnerving and he wished someone would speak. He could feel that there were other people in the room and he had been warned by Niall that there would be an initiation ceremony of sorts, but the young man had not enlightened him further, saying that the leader of the group would not allow it. All initiates were to come to them with no prior knowledge, so that they could be tested.

Finally someone spoke and Healy jumped, his heart renewing the hammering in his chest.

‘What is your name?’ a deep male voice asked him.

‘Kavan Healy’ the blond said, proud that his voice held no hint of a tremor.

‘And what do you come here for?’

‘I come to serve’ Healy said, as he’d been told, the initiation ritual having now begun.

‘And how will you serve?’

‘In whatever way the leader asks of me’ he said feeling the weight of his words in his heart.

‘And how far will you go to serve?’

‘I will serve with my mind, my heart and with my life’ his voice broke on the last word with the emotion of it all.

‘And for how long will you serve?’

‘I will serve until God takes my final breath’ he replied, pleased he’d gotten through the questioning without a mistake. But that was only the beginning. Niall had been permitted to tell him there would be the initial questioning, the answers being ritualistic and prescribed. Then there would be the bravery test, and finally, if he passed the other tests, the official joining.

Healy felt hands on his arm and he was turned and guided forward for several paces, hearing a door click behind him. He tried to calm his breathing as the hands took of the blindfold, although his hands remained bound behind him. Blinking in the dim light, he saw he was in a small office like room. The hands on his arms kept him facing forward, although he was aware there were people behind him. He stared steadfastly forward and through a door to his right, a small, cringing man was pushed. The man’s arms were held by a second man with a black woollen mask over his face, so that all that could be seen were his eyes and his mouth. Silently, he pushed the captive forward, placing him against the wall with his back to the room.

The blond could see that the captive’s shoulders were shaking although he remained quiet. A voice at the back of the room started to speak.

‘William Flaherty, you have been charged with the crime of betrayal against the group. How do you plead?’

Flaherty started to turn, but the masked captor forced his head back to the wall. Healy heard him gasp and then a weak voice said ‘guilty’.

‘And do you know the penalty for betrayal?’

A whispered ‘yes’.

‘Are you prepared?’

‘I am’ the tremulous voice said and Healy saw the man brace himself.

The voice behind him gave the final order.

‘Carry out the punishment’.

Carefully, the masked man took out a large pistol. Curiously, he knelt at the back of the captive and as the big blond watched, horrified, he pressed the muzzle of the gun against the man’s right leg, just above the knee joint. Steadying the captive with a hand at his back, the masked man pulled his trigger and the report of the gun deafened the assembly as the noise was accompanied by a gut wrenching scream. Before the captive had time to fall, the masked man repeated the exercise on the left leg. His victim crumpled to the floor in a pool of blood with a final gurgling cry as the masked man stood to one side.

Kavan Healy swayed where he stood. So, this was the bravery test – to watch the ceremonial kneecapping of a traitor to the cause. He closed his eyes against the horror of it, desperately trying to keep his dinner in his stomach and not on the floor. He was no stranger to violence; he saw it every day of his life. But this? This was so cold blooded that he felt the impact of the bullets as if they’d punctured his own flesh. The sweat beaded on his tanned brow and his hands, bound behind him, balled into fists as he struggled to regain his composure. He breathed heavily, but refused to look away. The victim was not unconscious. He lay moaning on the ground, clutching at his mangled legs and looking from Kavan to the men behind him, but he never swore, never asked why. He took his punishment like a man, knowing that he’d sinned and had now paid the price. The same voice behind him spoke again.

‘Take him away and have the doctor see to him. And bring the initiate’.

The unseen hands replaced the blindfold around Healy’s eyes and once again he was propelled through the factory, back, he thought to where he’d started. Once there, the material was removed from his head and he got his first look at the six men of the group he was about to join.

‘Kavan Healy. Welcome to the Northern Stars’ a tall dark haired man was saying to him. The unnerved blond dragged his mind from the horror of what he’d seen to concentrate on what the man was saying.

‘My name is Aidan Ryan, I am the number two in this organisation and you will take all your orders from me. Is that clear?’

Healy nodded slowly.

‘You have passed the first two tests and you have seen the punishment meted out to those who do not obey. Do you wish to take the final step to become a full member of the Northern Stars?’ the speech was made in the same ritualistic manner and the bound man felt as though he was in a church or some other such institution.

He cleared his throat. ‘I do’ he said clearly and steadily.

Aidan turned away and said to the man on his right ‘Prepare him’.

Healy felt the bonds on his wrists slacken and his arms fell slackly to his side, the circulation having long since gone from them. Painfully he massaged his wrists and stood in the middle of the room looking at the activity going on around him.

Two men had gotten a brazier from a corner of the room and had placed wood in it, setting it alight with a set of matches. Flames licked up from the fuel until the wood was well alight and he could feel the heat coming off of it. Another man had set a table out at the side of the brazier and had draped a white cloth over it and ominously Aidan came back into the room carrying what looked like a metal fire poker with a flat round end. He placed the metal into the bright white flames of the fire and left it there, so that the poker started the glow deep red. Turning to the blond Aidan stared him in the eye.

‘Take off your shirt and lie face down on the table’.

Healy licked lips that had suddenly gone dry. ‘Why?’ he asked carefully.

Aidan nodded at one of his fellow cell members. ‘Show him’ he said as the man took off his own shirt and turned to show the initiate a brand on his right upper back in the shape of an N with an overlying S.

Eyeing the raised scar and taking a deep breath, Healy slowly unbuttoned his shirt, laying it down on the foot of the table. Goose bumps rose on his tanned and muscled torso and he stood for a moment, looking at the glowing metal in the fire. Calming his hammering heart, he slowly eased himself down onto the table. Quickly one of the other men grasped his left wrist, slipping a loop of rope around it before looping it under the table and tying it to the right wrist, so that the supine man was unable to get up or move from the table.

He saw Ryan move to the brazier and take out the brand, watching in sick fascination as the end glowed deep red. As the cell member walked towards him, Healy took a deep breath and tried to prepare himself, his muscles bunching under his skin. He took one final look at the man then closed his eyes tight as the hot metal came down onto his skin. There was a muted hiss and the sickening smell of barbequed meat and an almost indescribable pain as Aidan pushed the brand firmly against the bound man’s back, high up near his shoulder blade, watching as the body beneath him writhed.

The blond man gritted his teeth, the breath whistling through them as beads of sweat beaded on his brow and he fought the impulse to scream. After long, murderous seconds, Ryan took away the brand and looked in satisfaction at the raw and blistering wound, seeing clearly the mark of the group. He watched as Healy’s jaw muscles worked, impressed that no sound had come from his new member, then slowly cut the rope and held out his hand to help the sweating man up.

As the blond stood on shaky legs, Ryan wrapped his arm around the man’s neck. ‘Welcome brother’ he said. ‘Go home now and rest and come back here tomorrow. We will begin then’.

Slowly, Healy put on his shirt, gasping as the material brushed against the burn and walked unsteadily towards the door without a backwards look. He walked out of the factory, looking left and right, unsure where he was. Suddenly he caught a shiny reflection from across the main road. To anyone else, it was the reflection of headlights on a window, to the new initiate it was his salvation.

Quickly, and making sure he wasn’t spotted, he ran across the dark road and got into the red and white striped Torino, easing himself back against the seat with a grimace. His curly haired partner looked at him in concern, noting the pale face and the haunted look in his friend’s eyes.

‘You ok buddy?’ he asked softly. ‘What happened?‘

Hutch cast a sideways glance. ‘Between the kneecapping and the brand, where d’ya want me to start? Just get me home huh? I need a drink’.

Chapter 2

‘So tell me again why you thought this was a good idea’ Starsky muttered as he reached for the tube of Merthiolate and a packet of gauze pads and tape.

Hutch snorted and refused to answer. They’d driven back from the factory more or less in silence, having had this conversation several times before. The big blond had been shaken to the core by what he'd witnessed, not just because of the brutality of it, but because afterwards, the victim had remained calm and the group had seen to it that he had medical attention. It literally was a punishment and once the small cringing man had “served his time”, the group were willing to forgive and forget.

As he took his shirt off carefully and sat down with his back to his curly haired partner, he began to wonder himself just what he’d let himself in for. He’d memorised the lines of the ritual speech and that had seemed strange enough to him. After the kneecapping, he’d wondered just what other horrors were in store, but the branding! His back both burned and ached. Burned from the fiery injury which had been inflicted on him and ached from trying to sit upright in the car while his partner drove him back to his apartment.

He felt the cushion dip as Starsky sat down behind him and he hissed in pain as his partner’s hands started to examine the raw and blistered wound.

‘See I told ya something would happen. And ya say they used a real metal branding iron?’ the brunette asked.

‘One and the same’ Hutch said through gritted teeth.

‘Hm. Cool……and at the same time utterly gross! Bet it stung. I told ya to be careful’

‘Well hindsight’s a real gift you’ve got there partner. I’m sorry I was such a dumb ass as to get burned. Now, are ya gonna put some cream on it, or what?’ the blond muttered testily. All he wanted to do was get a cold beer, two aspirin and go to bed to forget the whole damned thing. But that was the really special part. Now that he was in the group, he could go to the factory every single night until he’d gotten what he’d wanted. The thought left him cold and for a moment he wondered whether he should just swallow his pride and admit he was into something even he didn’t want to get mixed up in. In their line of work, both he and Starsky met with psychos, murderers, rapists. But most of them had a reason for their crime – a motive. Not the Northern Stars. This gang were just plain dangerous and the more he saw of them, the more Hutch understood why Niall had come to them for help in the first place

‘Seriously Hutch, are you sure you want to go through with this? I mean, Dobey gave us the choice. It just seems to me that there’s undercover and there’s undercover. I don’t think he meant for ya to get griddled pal. This is above and beyond the call of duty. Just tell him, for Gods sake’.

Hutch stiffened in his seat. ‘Starsk, don’t do this now. Not again. I’m in no mood for “I told you so’s”. You’ve told me what you think over and over again. Now either shut up and put that damned bandage on my back, or get the hell out of here. I’m tired, I’m sore and I’m pissed’.

He felt the hands drop and looked back over his shoulder at his partner’s stormy blue eyes. Without another word, Starsky got up and handed the gauze to the seated man. ‘Well, when ya say it like that pal. I’ll pick you up tomorrow night at 8:00. Get some sleep’ he suddenly sounded tired and his shoulders drooped as he walked to the door.

Hutch was angry at himself but too proud to call the man back. He was genuinely grateful for the brunette’s concern, but he couldn’t cope with yet another argument. Eventually he looked around.

‘Oh for Gods sake Star……’ but he was talking to the closed door.

Wearily, Hutch’s mind went back over the previous two weeks to the time when he and Starsky had been asked into Dobey’s office by a calm and quiet Captain. As they’d gone in, the hot headed brunette couldn’t resist a jibe at their boss.

‘Hutch! Oh my God, I’m deaf’ he said poking his finger deep into his ear and wiggling it about dramatically.

Hutch grinned, knowing what this was all about and playing along.

‘IT MUST BE THE EAR DEFENDERS ON THE SHOOTING RANGE….NOT WORKING…..GONE DEAF’ he shouted, watching Dobey look on in wonder.

‘What’s up with the two of you? Dobey thundered, looking from one detective to the other.

Starsky grinned and took his digit out of his ear, a look of relief on his face. ‘Hey, I can hear again’ he said. ‘I’ve never heard ya so quiet Cap. Thought somethin’ was wrong with my hearing for a while there’.

Dobey gave him a withering look. ‘Sit down, both of you’ he said 'there’s someone I want you to meet’. He opened the other door to his office and showed in a young man of perhaps 22 or 23. He was tall and had fair skin and a shock of strawberry blond hair atop a freckled face with soulful brown eyes. He walked nervously into the room and sat down.

‘Gentlemen, this is Niall O’Farrell. He has a tale to tell then I have a proposition for you.

The two men looked expectantly at the young man who twisted his fingers together, looking decidedly nervous. He coughed once, and then started, filling the three detectives in on his past.

Niall and his brother Gerry had been brought to America from the back streets of Manchester, England when Niall was ten and Gerry two years older. In Manchester they’d lived in the back streets of the poor suburbs and had played alongside the sons of the gang masters and had fought alongside those same sons in the school yards and alley ways of Moss Side and Longsite until they’d emigrated.

Once they’d hit Bay City and had imposed their own form of rule on the school they’d been made to attend, it was the next logical step to look for the same sort of gangs they’d been members of in the old country. At first they’d met up with the Bay City cell of the Provisional IRA, but the beliefs of that group had been to restrictive for the two boys and so, when they were introduced by one of their friends to the Northern Stars, they’d felt like they were home.

The group ruled a small enclave of the east side of the town. They had few scruples and their main objective was to make as much money as possible by whatever means came their way. Eventually they found that they had a certain expertise in the arms business and ran the guns and ammunition back through their channels to either Ireland or to the very gangs of Manchester that the boys had come from.

At first, Niall had felt a sense of family within the group. His Mother had died and his father was serving ten years in San Quentin for Voluntary Manslaughter and so he and his brother were left to fend for themselves. But as time went on, he found himself questioning what he and Gerry were being asked to do.

On a dark, quiet night, Gerry and Niall were sent in to the army base on the outskirts of Bay City to take a crate of M60 assault rifles from the warehouse they were being kept in. They had cut the chain link fence surrounding the perimeter of the base and had ducked underneath it, heading for the warehouse. Both Gerry and Niall had done this type of operation dozens of times before, and, as their father used to say, familiarity breeds contempt. As Niall ran for the dark shadows of the warehouse, Gerry had taken it more slowly, almost swaggering across the open ground from the fence. He hadn’t noticed as the patrol coming around the corner and he hadn’t seen that they were, as usual, armed.

Niall tried hard to get his brother’s attention, but Gerry had ignored him as he sauntered towards him. He stopped in panic as he heard the loud male voice shout ‘Stop and identify yourself’, but instead of holding his hands up in the air and slowing, he made a run back toward the fence. It was over 100 yards and the loud voice of the patrolman again shouted for the young man to stop, but Gerry’s bravado had disappeared along with his sense and he bolted. Unhappily, the patrolman knelt on the dew wetted ground and took aim, shouting a final warning before taking careful aim and firing.

From the shadows, Niall watched in terror as his brother fell to the ground, clutching the wound in his chest. He saw Gerry look desperately around him and then several soldiers were on him. Niall was torn between rushing to his brother’s side, and remaining hidden, finally taking what he later considered to be the coward’s way out and skulking in the dark until the furore had died down and his brother’s dead body was carried away. With no identification on him, it would be weeks before he was identified, but with both their parents now out of the picture, there was no-where for the body to go.

Thoroughly shaken, Niall had waited in the dark and the cold for over four hours until he was sure that no-one would see him as he bolted for the gap he’d previously cut in the fence. Ducking under the chain link, he ran as fast as he could, putting as much distance as he could between him and the scene of his brother’s demise and headed back to the waiting members of the Northern Stars.

Once back at their head quarters in the old disused factory, the other men, who he’d expected would comfort and help him, instead questioned him. Had Gerry told the soldiers anything? Had he been seen? Had Niall been followed? Why hadn’t he stayed and taken the weapons?

Niall couldn’t believe just how heartless the group were and when he told them he’d run rather than getting the weapons, Ade had had him beaten by another two of the group until he was gasping against the wall, bleeding and sore. At that moment he’d decided that he wanted no more of the Northern Stars, but that he needed protection if he was ever going to get out. For the first time in his life Niall had turned to the police.

The young man finished his story, silence descending on the small office. When he looked up, he saw Dobey looking expectantly at his two detectives. Starsky was sitting on the chair, staring at his feet in concentration as Hutch sat on the arm of the chair, examining the young man.

Starsky broke the silence. ‘Pretty story. What do you want us to do?’ he said, watching the reaction of the tall youth.

Niall stood, pacing the room, unsure of himself. He looked at Dobey for help.

‘He wants us to take out the Northern Stars’ the Captain said, waiting for the fallout.

‘Do we know ‘em?’ Hutch asked, raking his memory for anything to do with gun running and ammo.

Starsky raised his head. ‘This has something to do with Traff’s regiment doesn’t it?’ he said, running his fingers through his hair. ‘He wrote me saying they were having trouble with missing weapons. It was this shower, wasn’t it?’

Niall nodded his head. ‘If that’s the regiment on the east side of the city, yes’.

‘But it also has something to do with the three dead bodies we’ve pulled out of the dock these past few months. The ones that were so mutilated they were hardly recognisable? Niall says they were men from the Northern Stars who didn’t “come up to expectations”. Their leader ordered their executions. The one thing they all had in common was a bullet through each leg. Its called kneecapping’.

‘Who’s the leader?’ Hutch asked, remembering the gruesome photographs that had landed on his desk.

‘No-one knows’ Niall replied nervously. ‘No-one’s ever seen him. He comes to the meetings, but he’s always in another room. He gives his orders through Aidan Ryan, his number two’.

Hutch looked up. .’So, if we get the leader, the Northern Stars are destroyed?’

Dobey nodded. ‘That’s about the size of it. We need someone on the inside. Someone to be with Niall and keep an eye on him and find out who this leader is’.

The two partners looked at each other, both calculating the odds of a successful play. There was something about the whole set up that left the brunette cold and he spoke up first.

‘I don’t like it Cap. We don’t know enough. We’ve never seen this guy before’ he pointed at Niall. ‘And we have no idea what we’d be going up against’.

He was just about to go on when he was interrupted by a soft ‘I’ll do it’. Starsky looked at his partner angrily.

‘Oh no you won’t buddy boy. And this time neither will I. It’s too risky. You saw the photos. This group needs taking down with a whole bunch of armed cops, not one pig headed blond Blintz’.

Hutch stared at his partner. ‘Since when did you make my decisions?’ he said, his face tinged an angry red. There was something about young Niall O’Farrell that he liked, although he couldn’t put his finger on it. Was it the fact that his father had removed himself from Niall’s life like Richard Hutchinson had removed himself from Hutch’s? Whatever it was, the blond was determined he was going to help the tall youth.

The hot headed brunette saw the flush in his friend’s face and felt his face reddening with anger to match. ‘Since you stopped using what little sense you used to have’ he yelled, pointing his finger.

Coolly, Hutch ignored his partner. ‘Cap, fill me in and tell me when’ he said despite the brunette’s outrage.

Chapter 3

Starsky was back at his apartment the next night for 8:00pm. That event in itself told Hutch that his partner was still pretty pissed at him for having taken the undercover assignment. Usually he could set his watch by the brunette being always 15 minutes late. It was a standing joke and one they played to the hilt when they dealt with Dobey. It was only when Starsky was angry that he became punctual and now here he was six days into the operation, standing leaning on the door lintel as he watched his blond friend preparing for another night with the Northern Stars.

Starsky knew it was pointless now to get any madder at Hutch. That was one of the things he’d learned early on in his career about his partner; the more he pushed, the harder the blond dug in his heels. And so he stood waiting, saying nothing, but impatience and disapproval oozing from every pore.

Hutch checked on his appearance in the mirror before exiting his apartment. He was dressed in the Northern Stars almost mandatory uniform of blue jeans, black tee shirt and black leather jacket. As he’d observed wryly at the beginning of the affair, at least he wouldn’t need to shell out on a new wardrobe! Starsky saw the right hand reach for the Colt Magnum, then ball into a fist, relax and withdraw. Hutch looked at his in apology.

‘I know. Comes as second nature to carry it, doesn’t it?’ the brunette said softly.

Hutch smiled. ‘Haven’t seen any need to use it yet’ he lied. ‘Its just…I like to have backup’.

‘Ya got me pal’.

The blond looked up sharply, suddenly, and for no particular reason feeling angry at himself for being angry at Starsky. It wasn’t the brunette’s fault he was mad. He knew that now. Hutch was scared shitless every single night he went into the cell’s meeting, and the thought of his partner sitting for another uncomfortable and cold night in his striped tomato round the corner gave him a measure of comfort.

‘Yeah’ he said with a nod. ‘I got you. Starsk, I……’

The brunette saw the sentiment in the ice blue eyes and caught the implications on the voice. He knew Hutch was scared and also knew he was too proud to admit he’d been wrong to go in there. The only thing he could do now was to be there for his friend and keep his ear to the ground for anything going down.

He held up his hand with a sad look in his eyes. ‘I know….I know’ Shaking himself he put on a brusque air. ‘Now. Ya done your hair and checked your make up. You’re beautiful. We gonna go now, or are ya gonna do the mirror thing all night?’

Hutch cuffed him on the arm as he passed. The touch said thanks buddy, I really need ya tonight and the smaller man got the message perfectly. They headed out to the car.

The previous evening, Ade had told the cell that there was a new shipment of AK47s being stored at the army base and they were going in to get them. Starsky had immediately told Traff who had alerted the authorities at the base. So Hutch knew that whoever they sent in was going to be in for one hell of a ride. He rode in the car back to the factory in silence, trying to prepare himself for the night ahead. Since he’d been under he’d dreamed every night of the kneecapping episode. He’d seen enough violence in his job to not be appalled at what had been done. What sickened him was the fact he’d stood and watched. As a cop, every fibre in his being told him to intervene and help the victim; to have to stand and watch was almost more than he’d been able to bear.

Hutch was pulled from his dark reverie as Starsky pulled up the car around the corner from the disused factory and turned off the engine. Suddenly, the brunette turned in his seat, needed to implore his partner one more time not to go in tonight. Starsky too had been suffering nightmares about the operation and he’d tried desperately to keep his worries to himself, knowing his partner had enough to think about, without him adding to the worries. But the feelings had grown beyond all boundaries now and he took a deep breath.

‘Hutch, don’t go tonight’ he blurted out, not really knowing what to say, so as was his way, going for the direct approach.

Hutch looked up sharply, rubbing his fingers through his hair. ‘Don’t Starsk. Not tonight. I need my head clear tonight’ he tried to keep his voice reasonable.

But Starsky wasn’t in a mood to be placated. ‘I mean it Blitz. I don’t know…..I just got a feeling about tonight. Something’s gonna happen, I’m sure’.

‘I’m gonna get out the car and go in there. That’s the something that’s gonna happen’ the blond said in measured tones. ‘Starsky, I’m close, I know I am. Just a few more nights an’ I’ll have the name of the leader. After that we can get a whole bunch of gun wielding cops in and we can go back to normal. Just a few more nights, huh?’

‘NO. Not a few more nights. You’ve done enough. You’ve told us abut the heist tonight. You’ve kept your eye on Niall. Just cry off and I’ll take ya home. I can’t do this any more’.

‘YOU can’t do this…..how do you think I feel pal? How d’ya think it feels to go in there every night and watch their sadistic little games? And the only reason I can do it is because I know you’re out here, watching my back, and to stop some megalomaniac from taking over the city a piece at a time. So don’t tell me you can’t do this any more’ Hutch’s eyes gleamed in the dim interior of the car.

The dam broke. ‘You selfish bastard! That’s it is it? You’re on some sort of power trip? Hutch, the avenging angel of Bay City? What about the rest of us who’re gonna have to pick up the pieces huh? What about me? D’ya think it’s easy for me to wait out here, not knowing what going on but keeping my fingers crossed that you’ll come out in one piece? Hutch, its no…..Hutch?...HUTCH’ but the brunette was talking to the rapidly disappearing back of his partner.

Oh just great Davey boy! That was a real doozy of a pep talk – you ought to be a psychologist! Starsky slammed his hands down hard on the steering wheel in anger and despair. His feelings about this evening were very real and he’d desperately wanted to talk his friend and partner from going to the meeting. And instead, he’d achieved just the opposite. Not only had Hutch gone in, but they’d left on an argument as well, Shit!

Hutch walked away from the car feeling angry and alone. He found he was scared most of the time now and he wasn’t used to the emotion. He couldn’t understand why. Sure, he’d been undercover before, but he’d never felt like this. What was it about these guys? They were brutal and callous, but they also had a sense of brotherhood that worried the blond. Kick one and they’d all limp. He’d managed to furnish BCPD with the names of Aidan Ryan and his brother Podraig (Pat), but they were number two and three respectively. He still needed to find out who the leader of the cell was, and he was also conscious of trying to help Niall, his little snitch, who seemed to be getting more jumpy by the day. He heaved a big sigh and mentally prepared himself for another terror and adrenaline filled night.

Hutch pushed open the big door to the factory and walked carefully through the deserted front hall to the now familiar door at the back. Nearing it he heard the hum of voices and as he pushed it open he saw the figures he associated with the Northern Stars gathered around, talking quietly. They looked up as he came in.

‘Kavan?’ Ade said by way of welcome.

‘Ade. How goes it?’ the blond said, settling into his character.

‘We were just about to ask you the same question’ Aidan said as Hutch watched the group circle round him. Hutch suddenly felt like an animal trapped in the headlights of an oncoming car.

‘What’s going on?’ the blond, his lips all of a sudden dry. He watched as the members of the cell closed the circle around him and he realised his escape from the room was now effectively cut off. As he looked at them all he realised that one of the members was missing. He looked around for Niall but couldn’t see him anywhere. Ade saw the look.

‘I see you’ve noticed we’re missing one of our members’ he said conversationally. ‘Niall has had a little appointment’.

‘Appointment?’ Hutch’s eyebrows raised as he struggled to remain calm.

The circle parted and Ade roughly took hold of the blonde’s arm, propelling him through the door to the back room. It was darker in here and he struggled to get his eyes acclimatised to the light. Hutch heard a small noise in the corner and he cringed as he saw the tall youthful figure of Niall O’Farrell lying on the ground in an ever widening pool of blood. He looked around, questions in his eyes.

‘What’s happened?’ he asked, trying to keep his voice level.

‘What always happens to traitors. He had an appointment with two of our best members. Mr Smith and Mr Wesson’.

Hutch’s heart lurched in his chest. ‘Traitor? Who’s a traitor? Niall? Surely not’ he blustered, seeing the young man struggling on the ground. His legs were obviously broken from the odd angle they were sticking out and above each knee was a neat hole in his trouser legs.

‘Shocking, isn’t it? Ade was saying. ‘You think you know someone and then they betray you. So what could we do?’

Hutch feigned anger. ‘Ya did what you had to do’ he said, calculating how on earth he could get both himself and the wounded young man out of the factory. If only he could contact his partner.

‘Yeah, what we had to do. Amazing what we have to do on occasion isn’t it Kavan? Or should we call you Ken?’

Hutch’s eyebrows flew up. ‘Why Ken’ he bluffed, knowing his cover had been blown.

‘Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson of the Bay City Police Department. Does that name ring any bells?’ Ade said coldly. ‘Did you really think you could infiltrate the Northern Stars? What a bloody fool you are. Just like that little piece of shit’ he pointed at Niall who cowered away.

‘S sorry Hutch’ the youth mumbled ‘Th they made m me. I c couldn’t help it’ there was genuine regret in his big brown eyes.

Hutch closed his eyes, thinking, what a damned mess he’d gotten into. The voice of his partner suddenly sounded in his head ‘I just got a feeling about tonight. Something’s gonna happen, I’m sure’ God how he wished he’d listened to the brunette.

There was no point in trying to brazen it out any further. He put his hands up in resignation. ‘Fine, you got me taped. Now what?’

Ade smiled sadly. ‘”Now what” indeed. Let me see. You’ve seen us all. You know our names. You know what we’re about. What would you do Detective?

Hutch swallowed with a dry throat. ‘Ok. When? Where?’ he asked, wondering if he could stall long enough for Starsky to realise they something was wrong.

‘Now and here’ Ade said, producing a gun from the waistband of his jeans. ‘But you’ve wronged each one of us. They’ll all have a piece of you. I’ll just finish off what they start’ he explained as suddenly Hutch felt his arms grabbed and held behind him. He struggled with his captor, watching as the members of the Stars seemed to form themselves into an orderly queue.

First in line was Pat Ryan, Aidan’s brother. He looked Hutch in the eyes then spat in his face, drew back his fist and delivered a crushing blow to Hutch’s midriff. Despite the efforts of the man holding Hutch’s arms behind him, the blond doubled over in agony, the wind whistling between his teeth, to be met with another uppercut which snapped his head back up. As Pat stepped away, Connor O’Connor, the hitman of the team stepped forward and added his own blows to those of Pat. Again, Hutch received two blows, one to the ribs and one to the stomach. He felt something give in his side and knew a rib had snapped but that seemed the least of his worries as the each member of the cell took their turn to deliver two blows. All were hard and all were delivered with a vehemence which was accurately designed not only to hurt, but also to disable. The final turn was taken by Ade, who stood in front of the blood soaked and gasping blond with sorrow in his eyes,

He grasped a handful of sweat soaked hair and wrenched Hutch’s head back, staring into the glazed ice blue eyes. ‘Such a shame, You would have been a good addition to the Stars’ he said, letting go the hair and allowing the exhausted head to fall back to his chest.

Hutch saw the gun come up and hit him on the side of the head and saw stars, those stars joining the sparkles of pain from his stomach and chest, which both seemed to be on fire. He tried to remember what was going on, but his mind was a haze and instead he thought only of his curly haired partner, seeing as if for the last time, the indigo eyes and the lop sided smile. Why did we have to argue? Didn’t want it to end on an argument buddy.

He realised the hands that had held him up had now let him go and somehow he’s sunk to the floor. Ade was talking to him again.

‘I’ve never shot a man without giving him a fighting chance to get away. You have to the count of five before I fire’ he said. ‘One’.

Hutch’s dazed mind took in the words but for a moment refused to process them.


He staggered to his feet and stood swaying as the circle around him parted.


With a lurch, Hutch put one foot in front of the other. Pain lanced like red hot rods through his body. His head pounded and his cheek felt huge. His stomach felt as though it was three times the size it should be and a bright white pain shot through his side as he tried to breath.


His hand was on the door handle, but he had no strength to turn it. He looked around desperately as he heard ‘Five’ and a single shot rang out.

In the darkness outside, Starsky had felt increasingly uneasy as the evening had progressed. Suddenly he heard as shot ring out clearly through the quiet night and without any thought or regard for his own safety, he shot out of the car.

Chapter 4

Starsky catapulted from the car and was across the road and around the corner before the last reverberations from the shot had died away. He was beside himself with concern for his partner, his gut feeling now screaming at him that something had gone dreadfully wrong. As he ducked his head around the corner he saw three men come out of the factory and run for their cars. Hutch was not one of them and so he let them go, his only focus on making sure that the blond was safe and well. He remembered his partner telling him that there were six men in the cell. There was the leader, who no-one had seen, Aidan and Podraig Ryan, two brothers, Niall O’Farrell, who Starsky had met and Connor O’Connor. Hutch was the sixth.

He counted them out, seeing neither Niall nor Hutch leave the old factory and, drawing his gun, he checked there was a bullet in the muzzle and his clip was full. The absence of either man made his even more uncomfortable and he kept the panic he felt stowed deep down inside. He thumbed on the safety and carefully crept forward into the dark interior. It took a moment for his eyes to become acclimatised to the light intensity and he blinked owlishly at his surroundings, noting the untidy, litter strewn floor and the dank, dismal walls. So this was what his partner had been enjoying these past few nights. He hugged the walls and the shadows as he made his way further into the old building, ears and eyes peeled for anything and anybody. He saw no-one, the dark refusing to give up its secrets. He certainly didn’t see the figure at the opposite side of the big hallway, but the figure saw him.

Aidan Ryan’s eyes were more accustomed to the dimness. This building had been his life now for the past four years. Each night he came here to plan and to put into practice the plans they made to get rich quick and run the seedier side of Bay City. He knew every brick and crevice of the walls and every hiding place the building could offer, and he used them all now to his advantage as he watched the predator like progress of the curly haired cop. He knew then that this man was dangerous. He didn’t know whether he’d left the blond one dead or alive. Either way, this confirmed the information he’d beaten out of Niall. The man he knew as Kavan Healy was a cop too. He’d been taken for a fool, for the first time in his life and he didn’t like it. He vowed to get even, but he wasn’t sure tonight was the right time.

Starsky walked the full length of the long room, gun at the ready. He felt as though he was being watched but he couldn’t see enough in the gloom to add flesh to those feelings. He shook himself mentally and hiked his senses up another notch. As he came to the end of the room, he saw a door standing partly ajar, a light framing its edge. He reached for the handle cautiously, but stopped suddenly as he heard a noise in the background. Was it a trap? He didn’t think so because the noise was behind him, but he needed to check it out, to be sure.

He withdrew his hand and backed off, eyes questing back and forth now that he could see a little better in the gloom. At the opposite side of the room, Aidan chastised himself for knocking over the piece of wood which had been leant against the wall. He froze in his steps, seeing the shadow of the cop coming towards him. He checked his own weapon, cocking it and in the unnatural quiet of the factory, Starsky heard the metallic click and crashed to the floor, arms outstretched in the classic prone firing position. He held his breath as he tried to figure out exactly where the noise had come from, then from the periphery of his vision, he saw a movement. It was no more than a shadow moving amongst other shadows, but it was enough to make the cop thumb the safety off his weapon, aiming it two handed.

‘Police freeze’ he shouted as his voice echoed around the cavernous interior. He saw the shadow move again and saw almost subliminally the flash of the discharge before he heard the noise. Rolling to one side, then righting himself, he fired back at the moving shadow and was rewarded with a gasp and a yelp of pain.

Swiftly and with the grace of a surfer standing on his board, the curly haired detective was on his feet, running forward towards his target. As he reached where he thought he’d seen the shadow, he looked down at the ground and saw a dark, almost black wet patch on the ground. He’d hit him! He moved forward again and almost fell over Aidan’s leg. The cell member had taken a bullet to the thigh and had fallen in a heap on the ground. Aidan reached up and grabbed for Starsky’s arm, pulling the cop down, but the dark haired man was ready for him, rolling with the motion and pulling Aidan down with him, finally ending in a crouch with Aidan’s arm wrapped around the gangster's neck, effectively disabling him. Starsky reached forward and took the gun from Ryan’s hand, throwing it away. Breathing heavily, he stowed his own weapon, took out his cuffs and pulled the man over to a pipe running down the side of the wall. He cuffed the injured man to the pipe and stared into his face.

‘What have you done with my partner?’

Aidan stared back, bravado exuding from every pore. ‘You mean that no good piece of shit that tried to get into my group? You’re too late. He got what’s comin’ to him’.

‘What d’ya mean, got what’s comin’ to him?’ Starsky said grabbing a hold a two handfuls of the injured man’s lapel and pulling him up so that his face was mere inches away.

Aidan sneered into his face. ‘He kinda had an accident with my gun. He’s in there, dead’.

Starsky pushed him roughly back against the wall, pulled back his fist and slammed it into the laughing man’s face, silencing him. Sick to his stomach, he staggered backwards and made his way back to the small room he’s seen at the back of the factory, pushing open the door cautiously.

In the brightly lit interior he first saw Niall, hunched up against the wall, his legs still bleeding from the gunshots. His face was pale and frightened and his eyes were staring across the room. Starsky followed the youth’s gaze and his breath caught in his throat. Slumped against the wall was the figure of his partner.

Hutch had his eyes closed. His shirt was covered in blood which dripped from some deep cuts on his head. His skin was pale and his forehead beaded with sweat, but the thing that scared the brunette most was the single red rimmed gunshot wound above the left eye.

Starsky stopped in his tracks, almost frightened to approach his partner, terrified of what he’d find.

‘He tried to fight ‘em off’ Niall said quietly. ‘I think he’s d dead’.

Starsky walked slowly to his friend’s body and crouched down at his side. Hesitantly he reached out and with shaking fingers, pushed against Hutch’s neck feeling for a pulse. He dug his fingers deep into the flesh, searching for the beat and finally he found it, weak and slow. He let out the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding.

‘Hutch? Hutch buddy, I’m here now. Just hold on, hear me?. I’m here’ he muttered over and over as his numbed mind tried to decide what to do.

If he tried to get his partner out to the car and to hospital he may make things worse and he still had to deal with Aidan Ryan and get Niall out. However, if he ran back to the car and patched through to get an ambulance, he could waste precious minutes. Deciding he needed to be as safe as he could he looked back at the tall youth.

‘Niall, stay with him, I’m going for help. I won’t be more’n a minute. Just see to him huh?’ he turned back to his unconscious partner, caressing the cold cheek.

‘Hang on Hutch, just hold on for me, Be right back’. He took a final look then got up and sprinted from the room, through the factory and out to his car. He got on the mic. and asked Minnie to send ambulances to his location then ran back into the warehouse.

Sprinting back into the small room he skidded to a halt by the side of his partner. He knelt down by his side and gently reached out a hand to the golden blond head, brushing a stray lock of hair away from the terrible wound on his forehead. The hair was soaked in blood and the same blood trickled down the cheek, to drip from Hutch’s chin onto his chest. Frantically Starsky looked around for some thing to stem the bleeding with, finally settling for tearing some of his tee shirt away with his teeth. He wadded up the soft cotton and pushed it against the wound, covering it. There was no response from the blond. No moan and not even a fluttering of the eyelids. The stillness worried Starsky more than the sight of all the blood and he started to wipe the cloth over the blonde’s head until it was red and wet.

Gently he parted Hutch’s shirt and gasped. The whole of the front of the blonde’s chest and stomach was covered in black and dark blue bruises. His stomach seemed swollen and distended and Starsky surmised from the area of bruising over the chest that at least one rib was broken, if not more.

He turned to the youth.

‘What the fuck did they do to him?’

Niall closed his eyes as if trying to blot out the memory. ‘I’m sorry, I couldn’t stop them. They b beat him to a p pulp. He couldn’t stop ‘em. They held his hands behind his back while they beat him. And then Aidan shot him in the head. I’m sorry….I’m so sorry’ he sobbed.

‘You’re sorry! My partner’s dying to save your sorry little ass and you’re sorry!’ The brunette stopped himself from saying more and turned back to his partner. He so desperately wanted to hold the blond body to him, to give and receive some comfort, but he was terrified to touch him. He’d seen Hutch injured before, but this seemed different. This looked so much worse and for the first time in his life, Starsky glimpsed a world without Hutch at his side. He pushed the thought deep inside, not wanting to dwell on that particular scenario. If he couldn’t hold the body, he could at least touch it. He shuffled over, feeling the cold covering the big blond and put his arms around his friend’s body, trying to drive some of his own body’s warmth into his partner. He rested his head on Hutch’s shoulder.

‘Don’t give up. Ya hear? Don’t you dare give up on me now’ he mumbled as he fought back the tears and the panic.

How long he stayed like that he had no idea, but suddenly he was aware that other people were in the room. He looked up into the eyes of the paramedic.

‘We need to get to him. What’s his name?’ the young woman asked.

Starsky blinked. ‘Erm….Ken….Hutchinson. He’s called Hutch’.

The paramedic understood, seeing that this dark haired man was in shock and needed treating just as carefully as the injured man.

‘My name’s Anna. And who are you?’ she asked gently.

‘Dave. Dave Starsky. How’s my partner? Can you help him? Will he be ok?’ the questions came thick and fast.

She gently pushed the brunette out of the way. ‘Let us see to him and get him to the ambulance then you can come with us. Just let’s see to him now’.

Starsky stood shakily, seeing that Niall was already being lifted onto a stretcher and being taken away. He watched as four paramedics worked over the damaged blond body. It seemed so limp and lifeless and the brunette turned away, unwilling to witness the procedures. He forced himself out to his car and asked for a patch through to Dobey. He waited.


‘Hutch has been hit. He’s bad’ Starsky said without any preamble. ‘I gonna be at the hospital. I’m sending Aidan Ryan back in a black and white. Don’t let him go and for Gods sake don’t let anyone get bail for him. He’s mine’ he ground out as his Captain had the good sense not to interrupt.

Dobey could hear the emotion in his detective’s voice and felt for his man. ‘Do what you need’ he said. ‘I’ll be there as soon as’. The mic went dead.

Starsky saw the ambulance crew appear outside the factory, the still and pale form of his partner now lying on the stretcher that was being placed carefully into the ambulance. He walked over.

‘Is he….will he be ok?’ he asked

Anna smiled at him, but didn’t give a straight answer.

‘You can follow behind the ambulance. We’re going to Memorial’ she said.

‘But will he be ok?’ Starsky pushed.

‘We’ll see if he can survive the journey to the hospital,’ she said, putting her hand on his shoulder. Numbly he turned away and got into the car to follow the body of his partner on its journey.

Chapter 5

Starsky paced the clinical white corridor of the hospital, his sneakers squeaking on the polished tile floor each time he reached the limit of his prowl and turned back. It had been seven long hours since they’d brought his partner into the ER of Memorial Hospital and he had yet to receive any news on the blonde’s progress. He assumed that as no-one had been out to tell him anything that at least Hutch was still alive, but other than that, he had no idea.

Dobey had been back once to see how he was but the police captain was wrapped up in dealing with Aidan Ryan. The gang member was being treated on a lower floor of the hospital and was then going to spend at least the next few days in police custody until he could be formally charged. Dobet was sympathetic and apologetic, but Starsky understood the need to detain Ryan and had told the big black man to go. And so the brunette had been left to his lonely vigil and his dark thoughts.

The “what ifs” were flowing thick and fast. What if Hutch had never taken the assignment? What if they’d never met Niall O’Farrell? What if they’d never argued? That was the big one. If they’d never argued. Starsky couldn’t remember the last time he and the blond had had a big argument. Probably never. It wasn’t what they did. But they’d argued about Hutch going under. Starsky knew his motives for arguing were solid. He’d had a bad feeling about the operation from the beginning and now his worst fears had come to reality. But that didn’t help him feeling intense sorrow that his last words to his partner were angry ones. Why did it have to be like that? What if they’d never argued?

He sat on the hard sofa at the end of the corridor, weary beyond words and put his head in his hands. His eyelids felt like they were lined with sandpaper and he desperately wanted to rest, but he knew he’d never sleep until he knew his friend was out of danger and on the road to recovery. He dry scrubbed his hands down his face, feeling a days worth of growth of bristles on his cheeks and chin. He knew he must look a sight, but nothing mattered to him at that moment, only the welfare of his partner, brother and best friend. A door opened and a uniformed nurse bustled out. He looked up expectantly, but she walked past him and he looked back down at the floor, wiggling his toes inside his blue Adidas.

Why wouldn’t someone tell him what was going on? He looked at his watch for the hundredth time and saw that the hands had crawled round the face by another five minutes, time seeming to mock him. He closed his eyes and rested his head in his hands once more, scared, alone and angry.

Quietly another man walked up the corridor, big black boots silent in the echoing corridor, watching the broken despairing cop. The man in the army uniform was almost a twin for the curly haired detective. Same height and weight, same curly, dark hair. Only the eyes were a different colour. They’d served together in ‘Nam and had kept up their friendship after the war ended. He looked down at the dishevelled man, then put a hand on his shoulder and sat down beside him.

‘How goes it Curly?’

Starsky’s head came up quickly and his indigo blue eyes met the startling green ones of his friend Tom Trafford. He collapsed against his long time friend, resting his head against Traff’s shoulder, fighting back tears of forlornness and anger.

‘Traff! How did you...? I dunno. No-ones told me anything. Its been…’ he checked his watch again ‘ nearly seven and a half hours and no-ones said a word. Nothing’ he banged his fist down on the chair at his side as Traff put his hand up to the back of his friend’s neck and squeezed.

‘He’ll be ok. He’s a tough guy’.

The indigo eyes searched his friend’s face. ‘Not this time, Traff. I don’t think he will be ok. God you should have seen him. You should’ a seen the state they left him in! His body was black ‘n’ blue, his face was battered to a pulp and then the bastards had shot him in the head. How can ya survive that huh? I’m gonna fuckin’ kill the lot of ‘em, God help me’ he put his head back in his hands and Traff heard the tail end of a sob.

At that moment a doctor walked swiftly towards them. Both men stood, preparing themselves. The medic stopped.

‘Detective Starsky?’

‘Yeah…doc, how’s Hutch….Detective Hutchinson?’ Starsky asked, both wanting to know and dreading the news.

‘Why don’t we go in there?’ the doctor asked, pointing at a small darkened office. They went in and he flicked on the light, drawing three chairs round to the same side of the desk. He waited until they were all seated.

‘Ken has been in surgery for just over seven hours. He suffered major trauma over most of his body. His spleen was ruptured and we’ve had to remove that, along with a portion of his liver which was damaged also. We’ve repaired the four ribs which were broken and relieved the pneumothorax caused when one of the shards punctured his lung. However, the most significant injury is to his head. As you saw, he was shot at close range and the bullet has entered his temporal lobe. We have operated and removed it, but we are unable to say at this stage just how significant the damage will be, or even whether he will regain consciousness’. He stopped to let the news sink in, seeing the blank look in Starsky’s eyes, then went on.

‘David…..may I call you David? You must face the possibility that Hutch? will never wake up. I’m sorry’.

The brunette stared at the medic as if he’d just been bitten, his lips working, but no sound coming out. Traff sat at his side ready for any reaction. He’d known Starsky so long that he knew this could go any way. Either the curly haired man would take it quietly, or he’d blow his top, probably trashing half the floor while he was at it. His hand twitched by his side, aching to give his friend some comfort but not knowing how Starsky would take it.

Starsky ran his fingers through his hair. ‘So you’re telling me he might die?’ he asked in a small voice.

The doctor nodded. ‘I’m afraid you should prepare yourself for the worst. Either that, or he may live, but I can’t speak for how well he’ll be, if you get my drift. You should inform his family’.

The brunette heaved a shaky sigh. ‘I need to see him’ he said softly.

‘They’re just bringing him back from theatre. It’ll be days yet before….’

‘No, I need to see him, NOW’ Starsky was on his feet, heading out of the small room. He felt the need to run, to be free of all this horror and sadness, but most of all to at least be in the same room as his partner. He looked right and left, wondering which room he’d be in and felt a hand on his shoulder. To the doctor’s credit he didn’t try to stop the hurting cop, just steered him towards a door on the right.

Standing at the open door, Starsky braced himself, then went into the room seeing the pale still form lying on the bed. Hutch was covered only by a single sheet, drawn to his waist leaving his bruised and broke chest bare save for the miles of gauze bandage wrapped around it. The room was lit by a dim blue neon strip and it added to the deathly pallor of his friend. The brunette hardly knew where he could touch. Hutch had a large bandage right around his middle extending from just below his nipples to below the sheet. His head was likewise swathed in white gauze, but neither of the dressings could disguise the black and blue bruises covering the usually tanned skin. There were bags and bottles hanging from drip stands around the bed, some with clear fluid, other with blood, dripping in ruby droplets into the too still arm. The silence of the room was marred only by the swish whoosh of the respirator as it gently inflated his friend’s chest.

The brunette walked over to the bed and sank down in the chair there, taking hold of the cold hand and lowering his forehead to it.

‘Hang on buddy. You’ve got to fight this. I know you can...I need you buddy, need you to be beack with me. It’ll just be me ‘n’ thee again. ….Hutch?’

Starsky strained with all his might to hear any sound his friend may make, but to all intents and purposes Hutch was on another planet in another universe. There was no twitching in the hand, no fluttering of eyelids; nothing to say that the blond knew of his partner’s presence. Starsky stared at the body, and inexplicably rage ran through his veins.

‘You stupid son of a bitch! Why the hell did ya have to go in there huh? Why didn’t you just listen to me for once in your life? What am I, crazy? Now look what’s happened. What am I supposed to do? I can’t do this without you. I can’t go out there on the streets without you telling me I’m a dummy. I can’t think about going home at night and you not ringing me to talk about the things we did together during the day. Who’m I gonna laugh at for drinking desiccated liver and yoghurt? Who huh?...’ the tirade faded away as he realised he was sobbing into the sheet.

‘Hutch….don’t go. Don’t you dare leave me...never’ he whispered as Traff came into the room.

Silently his friend put his hand on his shoulder. ’Yelling at him isn’t going to make things better’ Traff said gently.

Starsky looked at Hutch’s pain filled face, wishing he could see the ice blue eyes again. ‘We argued about the job’ he explained softly. ‘I had a bad feeling about it an’ he wouldn’t listen. He just went in there and did what he thought was right. An’ we argued right before he got out of the car. Our last words were angry ones’ the indigo eyes looked up into the green ones above him.

Traff smiled sadly. ‘They say hearings the last thing to go. So tell him. Tell him you’re sorry and you expect an apology when he wakes up huh?’ he said. ‘And then come and get something to drink and some sleep. You’ll need to be fit to catch the guys that did this to him’. He pulled the brunette to his feet, but Starsky pulled his arm from Traff’s grip.

‘Just give us a minute will ya?’ he said with a lop sided smile. Traff nodded and left the room. Starsky bent over the bed and put his mouth close to his partner’s ear.

‘You’re gonna make it Blintz. I know you are. For me huh? Just fight hard. It’s always harder on the ones left behind, remember? I’m going now, I don't want to, but I need to nail these suckers. But you have to fight, ya hear me? I'm goin' now... Hutch? Be right back?’ He put his hand on the bandaged head, smoothing his thumb over the gauze, then without a backward look left the dark room and the blond to fight his demons

Chapter 6

Traff took Starsky’s arm as they made their way from Hutch’s room. The soldier could tell that Starsky didn’t want to be parted from his partner, but he tried to make the brunette see sense.

‘He’s gonna be out of it for a while. It’ll be the chance you need to get some rest, calm down and take stock. You can see him when he’s coming round’.

The curly haired detective nodded, hearing the words and understanding the sentiment, but not agreeing with the actions. He wanted, no, he needed to be with Hutch and only a friend like Traff could tear him away. But even more then needing to be with his injured partner, he needed to find and deal with the turkeys who’d done this to him. Not only had they almost killed Hutch, they’d taken away a piece of Starsky and he wanted it back.

They walked down the stairs and along another corridor before being brought up short by the sight of a number of armed guards outside one of the private rooms. Traff saw Starsky stiffen and he went on high alert, not knowing what his friend was going to do next. Starsky rushed forwards, prising the shield from the back jeans pocket and flipping it open to the first guard he saw. The guard looked at it but still barred the brunette’s way. Starsky tried to barge his way through.

‘Hey, police officer here. Is that Aidan Ryan you have in there? I need to question him’ he yelled as the man looked at him, implacable.

Traff came forward and took Starsky’s arm, but the hot headed cop wrenched it out of the soldier’s grip, getting angrier by the minute. Walking up to the armed guard again he yelled in his face.

‘Detective coming through! Stand down patrolman, I need to question the witness’, but the young man stood his ground, having had orders from above. At the commotion, Dobey appeared from out of the room and pointed at the brunette.

‘Starsky get yourself out of here now, before you do something you’ll regret’ he thundered.

‘Something I regret. What about the little problem of him shooting my partner huh Cap.? Is that a “something” he regrets? What about that? I just need to see him. I need to ask him why he did it. I just….’

Traff took hold of his arm, his fingers so tight around his biceps that they left bruises.

‘Hey Curly. C’mon now. Just leave it. Dobey’ll handle it. Come on now’.

But Starsky was beside himself. He felt driven to see the low life who’d made his partner so vulnerable; who’d robbed the blonde’s life from him. He landed out at the soldier – the closest person to him, but Traff was ready for him. He caught the fist in his strong hand and held it, pulling the grief ridden cop into a tight embrace as Starsky leaned against him.

‘I just needed to see him. I wanna ask…..I wanna kill him’ he mumbled into the uniformed shoulder.

Traff held the despairing brunette’s head against him. ‘Sure you do Curly. It’s what we all want to do, but just let Dobey do the work. You’ll have your chance, I promise’ the soldier whispered, feeling Starsky relax into him. ‘C’mon tiger, lets get you home, you’re bushed’.

There was no further argument from the exhausted cop and Starsky allowed Traff to lead him from the hospital and out to the Torino. Pushing him into the passenger side, Traff took the keys from the rightful owner and drove them both back to Starsky’s apartment. The hurting detective stared out of the window of the car, looking at everything and nothing as they drove along and when they got to their destination, he silently got out of the car and made his way inside going to the cupboard to get the bottle of bourbon he kept there. Traff watched as he poured half a tumblerful and downed it in one, coughing and gasping as the fiery liquid burned a trail of salvation down his throat. Starsky poured another and threw himself down on the sofa, head resting back against the backrest and staring into space. Traff poured himself a drink then pulled the bottle from Starsky’s hand. Troubled indigo eyes turned on him accusingly, but Traff refused to be intimidated.

‘Two’s more ‘n’ enough and you still have to phone his family’ he said, watching the shadow pass over his friend’s handsome face. Starsky had dreaded that little fact. He hated the Hutchinsons because of all the hurt they’d heaped on their only son for all of these years, but he knew it had to be done and wearily reached for the telephone dialling the Minnesota number.

There was a delay then a male voice said ‘Richard Hutchinson’.

Starsky cleared his throat. ‘Erm, Doctor Hutchinson, this is Dave Starsky, Hut…..yours son’s partner? There’s……erm……there’s been a shooting and I’m afraid Hutch is badly hurt. He’s in Memorial hospital now’.

There was a pause as if the good doctor was composing himself. ‘How bad?’ he asked in a remarkably calm voice.

‘It’s bad. He’s had seven hours of surgery. He was beaten first. They’ve removed his spleen and part of his liver, but he was shot in the head. He’s…..he’s in a coma’.

Another pause. ‘Where in the head?’

Starsky took the phone away from his ear and covered the mouthpiece. ‘Son of a bitch is so calm. You’d think it was just another patient’ he ground out, seeing the sympathy in Traff’s eyes. He took a deep breath then spoke into the phone again.

‘Above his left eye. They said if you wanted to…..if you need to say goodbye, now might be a good time’.

‘Who is the surgeon looking after my son?’ Dr Hutchinson asked coldly. Not how is he? Or Oh my God! Just "who is the surgeon"?

Starsky lost what little temper he had left ‘How the fuck do I know what surg…..’

Traff took the phone from the angry cop and spoke into it. ‘Good evening Mr Hutchinson. You don’t know me but I’m a friend of Ken’s. We don’t now the name of the surgeon yet, but if you’d care to phone Memorial hospital – the number is 555 6547 they’ll be able to tell you. Goodnight , and if there’s anything we can do…’

Starsky put his head in his hands. ‘He didn’t even ask how he was. He just wanted to compare notes with a colleague. How much of a cold hearted bastard can he be? His son’s dyi…..in a coma and he just doesn’t care’.

Traff sat down on the chair opposite. ‘He does care Curly. He just shows it differently. You need some rest. C’mon. Take a shower and go to bed, I’ll stay up in case there’s any news’.

The brunette looked thankfully at his long time friend and got up, patted the mans shoulder in thanks and plodded off to the bathroom. Five minutes later, damp from the shower and with his hair still wet, he got between the sheets of his bed and tried to sleep.

For most of the night, the curly haired detective tossed and turned in a world somewhere between dreaming and waking. At one point he thought he saw Hutch in his dreams. His blond partner looked confused but didn’t seem to be in any pain. He thought he saw Hutch look at him and wave as if trying to speak to him, but the vision quickly went and left Starsky feeling even lonelier. Other dreams were more intense as he relived the moment he found his unconscious partner, or he fought with the blonde’s captors. He punched his fist time after time into the laughing face of Aidan Ryan and eventually shook himself awake, his body wet with sweat as he found himself punching his pillow over and over again. His breath was whistling through his teeth as if he’d run a five mile race and it took him a moment to realise the sun was up and shining through his partially closed curtains.

Starsky got up and padded into the living room, seeing Traff in the chair where he’d left him the previous night, his feet propped on the coffee table and his head resting back on the backrest. As the brunette walked in, Traff looked up.

‘No news is good news’ he said to the unspoken question.

Starsky nodded and went to the kitchen to make them both coffee. After two cups of the reviving brew, and after lending Traff some of his own clothes, they set off out for the Metro. Starsky desperately wanted to know what Dobey had found out from the young hit man and needed to know why he hadn’t been allowed to interrogate the man himself. He’d said that Aidan Ryan was his, and yet Dobey had taken that ownership away. To say Starsky was pissed was an understatement.

With the Torino parked in its usual spot right outside the front steps of the Metro, both men took the stone steps two at a time, heading up to the second floor and Dobey’s office. The big black man was waiting for the detective, expecting a showdown. He’d hated pulling rank on the young cop, but he’d seen the state Starsky was in when they’d brought in Hutch and he knew that for Starsky’s own safety he couldn’t allow the distraught detective anywhere near Ryan.

The door to the office cannoned open and Starsky marched in, anger already present in his stormy eyes.

‘Why’d ya do it Cap? Why did you interrogate him and not let me do it huh?’

Dobey refused to be intimidated. ‘You were in no fit state to do anything last night and we had to question him before we moved him’ he explained.

‘I told ya he was mine and you agreed. Where’s he been moved to?’

Dobey shook his head. ‘Its best you don’t know. He’s been moved so that the rest of his men don’t break him out. His was only a flesh wound, he’ll be fine, but you look like shit. Go home and get some rest’ the Captain ordered.

A look of disbelief crossed the rugged face. ‘That’s it is it?’ Starsky yelled, his face and neck a turkey cock red. ‘Go home and get some rest? My partner is lying in a hospital bed dying because some crummy no good low life beat him to a pulp then shot him in the head, and all you can say is go home and rest? You won’t let me see Ryan. You won’t let me question him. You allowed Hutch to go in there, ya never stopped him. It was too dangerous and you knew it. Sometimes you, and this lousy Police Department ask too much. I need to catch those creeps’.

Dobey held up his hand. ‘You need to calm down son, before you do something you regret.

‘Calm down? CALM DOWN? My partner has been beaten to within an inch of his life and you tell me to calm down?’ Starsky bent over the desk, pointing his finger at his boss. ‘Either you tell me where you’ve taken that turkey or so help me I’ll….’

‘You’ll go home and wait’ Dobey yelled back, as angry about the whole scenario as his hot headed detective.

‘NO’ Starsky reached into his back pocket and pulled out his shield. He laid it down, open on the table. ‘I don’t wanna be a cop. I CANT be a cop when this stinking system allows this to happen to one of its finest and then does nothing to follow up. As of right now CAPTAIN, I’m not a cop any more’ and with that he turned on his heel and left.

Traff glanced at he big black man, then followed after the detective, running to catch up with him as he exited the Metro and got into his car, angrily slamming the door.


Across the street, two men looked on.

‘They said his partner, the one that came to the factory, had dark curly hair and he’ll know where they’ve taken Ade’.

‘Oh well that’s just peachy! They both got dark curly hair. Which one?’

‘I dunno. We’ll just gonna have to take ‘em both’.

Chapter 7

Hutch was drifting. Since the terrifying countdown in the factory his mind had been drifting in a pink and white cotton candy world. There was no up or down, left or right, hot or cold. He just was, floating happily along like a little blond cloud. He tried to remember what was happening before he got here and slowly the fog in his mind cleared.

He remembered Aidan Ryan giving him a countdown and he remembered the agonising blows he’d endured as each of the Northern Stars had beaten the crap out of him, but amazingly now he felt no pain at all. And then Ryan had given him to the count of five to get out of the room and run for his life. Hutch could remember the panic when his trembling limbs refused to work. He’d tried so hard to stand and make his legs run away from the group, but the muscles in his tired body were just too pulped and exhausted to be able to answer his demands. It had taken him to the count of three to stand and by “four” he’d managed to make it to the door, but then he heard Ryan call “five” and he’d half turned to see what was going to happen next.

He’d been shot before so he was no stranger to the sensation. There was a young black girl who’d shot him in the chest and he could remember the fiery trail of the bullet as it had hit and penetrated his muscle and skin. It had hurt like nothing he’d ever experienced before and had taken his breath away as he’d struggled to keep his pain under control. He’d seen the raised gun in Ryan’s hand and he’d heard the report as the hit man fired at him, seeing the bright white flash from the muzzle. Then the world seemed to take on a slow motion quality as if an invisible finger had pushed the replay button. Hutch could almost see the deadly lump of metal speeding towards him across the small room and he suddenly realised that he’d run out of options and was going to get hit. He tried a last minute effort to move out of the way, but he still felt the impact on his head. It hadn’t hurt like the bullet in his chest had. This was different. There was a burning pain, like he was standing too close to a candle flame, then nothing. He remembered staring back at the group of men for what seemed like hours and seeing the looks on all their faces, then he felt the wall at his back and realised he was sitting on the ground.

After that things got a little foggy. He was aware of stuff going on around him and recognised the panicked voice of his partner commanding him to hang on. He really wanted to tell Starsky he was alright, especially as they’d parted that evening on a sour note, but deep down he knew he wasn’t. He felt like he was floating away and he knew it should have scared him but oddly it didn’t. It felt so right after all that had gone on and the absence of fear was one of the greatest happiness’s he’d known in his life.

During this damned undercover operation he’d felt fearful every minute he’d been with the group. His heart had hammered in his chest every time he’d set foot in the old factory and now he realised he didn’t have that sensation any more. He felt warm and happy and relaxed as if he belonged here.

Hutch had no idea where he was. He seemed to have his eyes open, but couldn’t actually see anything. From the injuries he knew his body had sustained, he thought he should probably have been in a hospital, but he didn’t really want to find out whether he was or not. In fact, he didn’t think he could find out. He was just in a state of suspended animation and a little part of his mind wondered what was going to happen next.

How long he’d been like that he had no idea. Idly he wondered what Starsky was doing and he hoped his brunette partner wasn’t going to be too upset. That got his heart moving a little faster – at least he could feel that. They’d parted on an argument, something they’d never done before and something that should never have happened. He knew Starsky was angry at him for going under, but it was something he felt he had to do; he’d felt a connection to young Niall and had wanted to help him. And now look where that had gotten him.

Something seemed to be happening to him, or at least to the world around him. The pinkish white fog that surrounded him seemed to be flowing and crystallising into a shape. He stared at the shape as it coalesced into something that looked like a human being, but the figure seemed to be almost floating towards him without taking any steps. As it got closer he saw that it was the figure of a man of perhaps 40. He was as tall as Hutch with white blond hair and stunning purple eyes which shone out of an open and honest face. He was dressed all in white; white suit, white shirt and tie, white socks and shoes. Jeez, talk about overstating the fashion trends.

‘Hutch?’ the figure said.

He almost laughed. The voice and the figure didn’t match it calling him by his shortened name, but he answered anyway, finding that his voice was neither weak, nor raspy. He sounded normal. Curious.

‘That’s me’.

‘Ah good. I’m glad I found you. It’s easy to get lost in all this fog. I keep telling them it’s OK for television special effects, but it plays havoc with my sinuses’ as if to emphasise the point, the figure let out an enormous sneeze. It spoke with a clipped British accent like the characters on the old black and white films his partner liked to watch

‘Bless you’.

‘Why thank you. Damned civilised. Now, let’s get the introductions out of the way and then you’ll be wanting orientation’.

Hutch looked confused. ‘Orientation? What is this? Some sort of school?’

The figure looked at him blankly. ‘Oh dear. Oh deary deary me! You have no idea where you are do you?’

The blond shook his head. No he didn’t have an idea, but he was getting a very bad feeling about it all.

‘Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Amaram. I've been sent to meet you and show you around. I'm your conductor. You know the sort of thing - make riends, find out where the bathrooms are'. The man swept a low bow as Hutch looked on, amused.

‘Well, it’s great to meet you Amaram, but where the hell are we?’

Amaram put his hand up to his face in horror. ‘Oh no, nononono, we can’t use language like that here. We must never mention THAT place. Good heavens no’ he twitched his hands together in horror.

The blond was nonplussed. ‘Language? What language, I just asked where the h….Where we are’.

‘Tell me, was your death sudden?’ Amaram asked conversationally.

Hutch was about to answer, but the question stopped him dead. ‘My death? What do you mean, my death? You mean I’m dead? No, that can’t be right. I don’t feel dead. Come to think of it, I don’t feel at all. This isn’t right! I’ve got to see the boss. Who’s in charge? He asked, suddenly flustered.

Amaram put a steadying hand on his forearm. ‘Just relax, you’ll get over it, you’ve got eternity to recover you know’ he advised, hoping his new charge would calm down a little. But far from calming down, Hutch was getting more anxious by the minute.

‘You don’t understand. I’m not ready to die yet. This is wrong. There has to be some sort of a mistake. I know I was shot, but it’s not meant to be like this. I need to speak to someone in charge, NOW’ he started to walk to……He realised there was nowhere to walk to, just the annoyingly cloying pink fog surrounding them. ‘Get me someone to talk to now’ he ordered seeing the look of fear on the conductors face.

‘Do you have to be so difficult?’ Amaram asked tetchily. ‘Why do all my jobs become difficult? Have I done something to offend someone? I don’t know. If it isn’t one thing it’s another. It was the same with Lord Nelson. He didn’t want to go. Kept muttering about kissing someone called Hardy. And as for Abe Lincoln! Lovely man, but wouldn’t let go of his hat, no matter what and can you imagine trying to get a stove pipe hat in white? Its virtually impossible’.

He looked at the blond obviously deciding that he wasn’t going to get any further forward without help. ‘Fine, fine. Have it your way, but don’t forget it was me who told you so. Hold on tight’ he waved his hand in a circular motion in the air and Hutch felt as though he was being pulled along through the fog by a rope tied around his waist.

The ride was like every fairground attraction Hutch had ever been on all rolled into one. He felt as though he was soaring into the sky then dipping down a long fast hill, then plunging upside down through dark corridors. Finally with a lurch and a screech he stopped, tumbling forward in a semblance of a forward roll as Amaram stepped gracefully off the…..whatever it was they had just travelled on. Picking himself up he brushed down his jeans and stood breathlessly with his conductor at a door which had appeared in yet another bank of the fog. Amaram rapped at the door and it opened inwards silently. They went inside.

Here row upon row of white uniformed clerks sat at white desks equipped with white typewriters and paper. The rows stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction but there was no noise to speak of, no clatter of typewriter keys on paper, just a gentle hum of voices. Amaram walked into the room and went to something that looked suspiciously like a reception desk. He rang a tiny silver bell and waited with a disparaging look on his face.

‘It won’t do any good’ he told the unnerved detective. ‘Once you’re dead that’s it – caput! Ah, here she is now’.

A tall willowy thin woman walked towards the reception desk, a smile on her face. As she reached it and saw who was waiting for her the smile faded. ‘Oh, its you’ she said in a cold voice.

Amaram tried her with what he thought was one of his best winning smiles. ‘I’m sorry to bother you Bethany my dear, but Mr Hutchinson here is a new arrival and he thinks there’s been some sort of mistake’.

She gave him a look that said “tell me something new”, then looked past the cringing conductor to Hutch.

‘Sudden death?’ she asked

Hutch ran his tongue over his lower lip. ‘Again with the death thing! Look lady. We’ve done the sudden death routine. Wherever I am, I’m not meant to be here and I need someone to sort out the mess and…I don’t know….send me back’.

Bethany smiled and reached for an enormous book from the countertop. ‘This is the invoice book for all goods received’ she explained, running a perfectly manicured nail down the columns. ‘As you can see, we were invoiced for 1,937,601 receipts today and we have received precisely 1,937,60….oh no…602 items... Amaram, what have you done?’

The white haired man cringed back, alarm showing in his purple eyes. ‘I’m sorry, I’m new!’ he blustered.

Bethany fixed him with a haughty stare. ‘New? I’d call 541 years enough practice! I have never seen the books imbalanced since…..well it was almost 2000 years ago. I’ll have to take instructions. Wait here’.

Hutch, who had listened to the exchange with some sympathy for the tall conductor put his hand up.

‘If there’s been a mistake, I’ll happily just go back. No harm done’ he smiled at the woman, hoping that what women called his "vulnerable top lip" would do the trick. It didn’t.

‘There has been plenty of harm done’ Bethany said unhappily. ‘You’ll both have to wait here while I make further enquiries’ and with that she vanished.

Hutch looked murderously at Amaram, who smiled a shy smile back. ‘Oops?’ he muttered and giggled hysterically.

Chapter 8

The two curly haired men sat in the car as Starsky tried to calm down.

The soldier looked at his friend, an amused look in his eyes. ‘Cool, Curly, really cool’ Traff said, running his hand through his hair and down his face.

Starsky stared at him, not trusting himself to say anything. His lips were still white with anger and he balled his hands into fists. He knew he’d handled the meeting with Dobey wrong. He’d laid awake the previous night rehearsing how he was going to be cool calm and collected, asking in a reasonable way why his Captain had conducted the interrogation instead of letting him. He’d had it word for word in his head, but as he’d gotten closer to the room, his blood started to boil at the perceived injustice of it all and once he’d opened the door it was like a dam had burst in his head, the anger and hurt of the past weeks finally erupting like a volcano. He carefully relaxed his hands, wrapping them, instead, around the steering wheel of his beloved car.

‘So what now?’ the soldier asked calmly.

What now exactly. Starsky thought. What was he supposed to do? He’d just told his Captain that he was as good as a vigilante and he had no intention of going back to apologise.

‘I’m going back to the hospital. I need to be with Hutch. Ya coming?’

Traff raised his hands in surrender. 'Whatever you say Chief. Wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of you today’. The presence of the serene man was no substitute for Hutch, but it still had a quieting effect on the brunette and he heaved a calming breath.

‘What? You never balled out your CO before?’ Starsky asked, still irritable, but calming down.

‘Well, no actually. Not since me and you were caught coming back from the women’s quarters in Nah Am and O’Malley sent you to the punishment block for five days’.

‘Hey! You spoke up for me?’ the brunette smiled.

‘Not exactly’ Traff snorted. ‘I kinda told him that what you did with that little nurse was worth ten days at least’.

The detective chuckled at the memory. ‘God yeah. What she could do with her……I never thought that was even anatomically possible!’

The black mood dissipating slightly, he set the car off and turned it in the direction of Memorial. Neither man had any reason to watch the black panel truck that pulled round the corner and dropped into position a few cars behind them. Why should they? This was just another ordinary day now. Starsky was officially off the case and they could do what they wanted.

‘So what are we going to do, just follow ‘em around all day?’ O’Connor asked irritably.

Quinn grinned at him. ‘I know you want your piece of him, but we can’t take him out here in front of the precinct can we? Just bide your time. We’ll get him, don’t worry. Then you can have all the fun you need till he tells you where they have Ade’.


Starsky pulled into the hospital parking lot and turned off the engine. He turned to the soldier who had put his hand on the door handle to get out.

‘Just give me a while with him huh? I won’t be long, then you can come on up if ya want. We didn’t part on very good terms and there’s just…. there’s just some stuff I have to say’ he tented his eyebrows seeking understanding from the soldier.

His friend patted his knee, understanding his friend’s needs. He knew Starsky had a sometimes rough exterior. His temper was well known and his sense of humour whacky to say the least, but the brunette had a warmth and a depth of understanding that no –one would know about unless they were in trouble. Only then would the curly haired cop show the depth of his compassion, not only for his friends, but for anyone who looked needy and required a friendly figure. And now he needed to be with Hutch, even though the blond would probably have no idea that he was even there. It wasn’t just a matter of salving his conscience, it genuinely mattered to Starsky to be able to say his piece and square things with the injured detective.

‘Just go Curly, I’ll be here. There’s no need for me to come up. Just go do what you have to and I’ll be waiting for you. Don’t rush. Take as long as you need huh?’

He watched as the brunette got out of the car and trotted across the parking lot and into the building, his usual strut a mere shadow of its former self. Starsky was too worried about his friend.

The brunette made his way up to the third floor of the hospital and to the room he’d left his partner in all those hours ago. Was it less then 24? It seemed like a lifetime. He wasn’t used to being parted from the blond and it felt abnormal to go about his daily life without the flaxen haired cop at his side. Hutch was the day to Starsky’s night. They followed each other naturally, fitting into each other’s lives as though it were meant to be. As he walked along the white tiled corridor he tried to brace himself for the meeting with his partner. So many times the tables had been turned and it had been him in the bed, recovering and waiting for the golden head to peer round the door at him, bringing him some sanity in the crazy medical world. Hutch always knew what to say and how to say it. His friend had the sort of voice that made him want to listen. It had a soothing, calming velvety quality to it that could make all Starsky’s hurts fade into the background. Some of the doctors had thought it soapy in the past when Hutch had read to the suffering brunette, but they’d changed their minds when they found the amount of analgesia the curly haired cop needed diminished after his partner’s visit. Starsky just hoped he could have a similar effect on his partner now, somehow reciprocating.

But this was different. Hutch was still unconscious and in a coma. There wouldn’t be any eyebrow raising, or wisecracks or interaction of any sort. He sighed. It didn’t matter. He had things to say and so long as he thought his partner could hear, he was going to say them, even f was only to make himself feel batter.

He stopped at the door to the room and looked in. There were no nurses or doctors in the room, just the still, pale body of his friend and partner, lying in the same position he’d left it in, the only signs of life being the steady rising and falling of the chest as the respirator artificially inflated the lungs, and the dancing green blip on the oscilloscope by the bedside, tracing each life giving heartbeat with a quiet blip noise. Quietly he walked in, closing the door behind him and drew the chair up by the side of the bed. He looked at the damaged body swathed in gauze seemingly from top to toe and reached out hesitantly to the big, square shaped, honest hand, wondering whether his partner could feel it. He took hold and squeezed it reassuringly.

‘Hey there buddy. S’me again. Ya can’t get rid of me even if ya can’t tell me to go home. There’s things I have to say. Well…there’s things I need to say, so…. I’m just gonna say ‘em and when you wake up you can tell me I was being soapy, ok?’

He paused a moment, collecting his thoughts, it never crossing his mind that Hutch may not be able to hear. He knew deep down that just being in the same room would somehow make it alright.

‘I didn’t mean to call you a son of a bitch. That was wrong and I’m sorry. I had no business saying it. You were right to go under. You did what you thought was right and I had no right to try to talk you out of it. I’m so used to seeing you in control of every situation and it was so hard seeing you so scared every night. I know you tried to hide it from me, but I’ve known you too long buddy and I can tell when you’re troubled. Maybe we’re too close, I dunno. Is it possible to be too close? I don’t feel too close. I just feel like I need to have you back with me, out there in my striped tomato’

‘It’s just that sometimes you ask a lot of me pal, sometimes too much, but it’s only what I expect of you. You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t care, I know that. That’s what makes everyone loves ya. I love ya, you big lummox. So you’ve gotta fight this all the way, ya hear?’

‘I’ve spent a whole 24 hours without you telling me I’m a dummy, or telling me to shut up, and I can’t take it. I need you there by my side. The streets don’t feel right without ya. I understand why you did it an’ I’m gonna get the bastards that did this to ya if it’s the last thing I do. I even balled Dobey out this morning. Bet that doesn’t surprise ya does it? I know its not his fault, but I need to blame someone. D’ya hear me Hutch? Just squeeze my hand if ya hear me huh? I need to know you understand……Hutch?’

The brunette put his forehead on his partner’s hand, suddenly needing to hear that velvet voice again, just telling him not to be a moron or stupid, but it never came. He looked up at the still form wishing he could see the eyes open, even just a crack.

‘S’ok Hutch. I know ya heard me. Just rest buddy an’ I’ll be back. Gotta go see some bad guys now. See ya later, just…..just rest a while’.

He got up slowly, squeezed the hand one more time then left the room hurriedly, making his way back down to the parking lot. He got into the car, breathing heavily. Traff could see he was hurting and said nothing. The brunette turned the key in the ignition and pulled out into the traffic, followed at a discrete distance by the panel truck.

Chapter 9

Quietly Starsky drove back to his apartment, his friend silent at this side. Traff had an idea of what Starsky was going through and understood he just needed some space. When he’d first met Hutch, Traff had liked him immediately. It had been at a time when Starsky had really needed his help as a military man: when some goon had wired him full of C4 and given him 24 hours to find his daughter or be blown up (2). Hutch had impressed him as a man who was deeply caring and he was glad his old army friend had gotten himself a partner like him. And now it was Hutch that was in trouble and Starsky who needed not his military expertise, but his friendship and understanding.

They went back a long way, he and Starsky. To the dark days in ‘Nam when Traff had liberated Starsky from a POW camp and struggled for a week through the wet and oppressive jungle to get the injured man back to the army hospital. His friendship lingered after that and the’d kept in touch all of the years since, while Starsky was at the police academy and Traff was travelling the world disarming unexploded bombs anywhere from Bolivia to Mongolia. In all that time, Traff had never seen his friend look so lost or angry. He knew if he could do anything to help he would, but at that moment he just sat back quietly and enjoyed the ride.

As the car drew up at the apartment, he looked over at the driver. ‘You ok Curly?’

Starsky gave him a shadow of a smile. ‘S’pose so’. He rubbed his hands over his face and let them fall disconsolately to his lap. ‘He wasn’t any different. Didn’t really expect him to be. Just so still an’ pale. It wasn’t Hutch in that bed, it was just his body. I wanted him to be ok and he wasn’t’ the sentence trailed off into an uncomfortable silence.

‘I know pal, but he’s strong and he’ll pull through. Just give it time. It’s only been 24 hours and he’s been through a lot’. The sentiment seemed so lame and Traff mentally chastised himself for saying something so meaningless.

He got out of the car and followed the detective into the house.

Once inside the familiar space, Starsky seemed to relax a little. He took off his holster, hanging it behind the door and took his wallet from his pocket, flinging it onto the countertop in the kitchen. He looked around as if remembering something, shook his head and reached for the whiskey bottle again, but his friend took it from him.

‘If he wakes up, you’re not gonna want to be on planet Beam are ya?’ Traff said pulling the bottle away from the almost desperate grip, ‘Just go sit down and I’ll be making a coffee instead’.

For once the brunette did as he was told, almost as if the direct command comforted him some way. Traff understood perfectly. Just at that moment, Starsky was a little boy in a man’s body and he needed someone to tell him what to do. Making his own decisions was just too damned hard at that moment. He watched as the brunette turned and flopped down on his settee, putting his feet up on the coffee table, and closed his eyes. For the first time on a long time he felt he could afford just a few minutes to relax….a few minutes to be himself…..a few min….

His eyes snapped open suddenly as the door to his apartment catapulted open, banging back against the lintel, and he came to his feet.

‘What the….’

The two men in the doorway pointed guns at the two occupants of the apartment.

‘Hands where we can see them’ the lead man, Quinn said coolly, his voice authoritative and level.

Slowly both Starsky and Traff raised their hands, glancing at each other.

You know these guys?

No, me neither.

The two gunmen walked into the room as if they owned the place.

‘So, which one of you is Dave Starsky?’ Quinn asked conversationally.

Neither man spoke.

Slowly Pat Ryan walked behind Starsky, prowling around the apartment and making the brunette loose his temper all over again. He looked at the single plant wilting a little in its pot, the holster and gun hanging behind the front door and the picture of Hutch and Starsky taken at an academy class reunion. He picked it up and held it out, comparing it first against Traff and then Starsky. Standing in front of the detective he held the picture at arms length, seeing the image and the man matched.

‘I’d say you were Starsky then’.

‘Go to the top of the class, ya should be a detective’ Starsky ground out, wondering what this was all about.

‘Who’s he?’ Quinn pointed at Traff.

‘Hey he’s the Sherlock Holmes. As him’ the brunette said sarcastically. He ducked as the fist swung towards him, but it still connected with his side. He bit back the gasp, breathing heavily between clenched teeth.

‘I asked a perfectly civil question’ Quinn said. ‘Who’s he?’

‘My twin brother?’ the cop tried again, panting slightly from the blow.

Quinn walked up and stared into the indigo eyes. ‘If you can’t answer something simple like that, I think I’m going to have to ask you both to come with us’ he said calmly.

‘Ya gonna ask us?’

‘Ask….make. It makes no difference to me whether you come of your own free will, or we make you. Just how easy do you want this to be?’ Quinn smiled coldly.

Traff and Starsky exchanged glances. ‘We’ve never been ones for the easy route’ the brunette said as he ducked under Quinn’s gun and started to take a swing at the gunman. He could hear Traff making the same sort of attempt at the other side of the room. He was amazed just how quick and agile Quinn was. As Starsky ducked down, Quinn went down on one knee, cuffing the butt of the gun against the side of the brunettes head, just enough to make him gasp and see stars. Starsky stopped in his tracks, realising he had no way out. When the stars had stopped dancing in front of his eyes, he straightened himself, swaying slightly as he looked at the tall man with the gun. As he glanced across the room, he saw that Ryan had Traff in a half nelson, his arms round his friend’s neck, immobilising him. God, these two were good!

‘OK. You’ve made your point. We won’t ask. We’ll make. Or actually I think you’re going to make each other. Its so much neater that way’. Quinn looked at his accomplice who produced a leather wallet from his jacket pocket. Opening it, Starsky saw a syringe, two needles and a small phial of brown liquid.

‘I don’t think so’ the detective ground out as Ryan pushed Traff over to join his friend.

Quinn reached into the wallet and picked up the syringe. He connected the needle and drew up the liquid from the phial as his accomplice held his gun on the duo.

‘So who’s going to be first?’ he said as he held out the loaded needle

‘Just exactly what did you have in mind? Traff asked, looking from one man to the other.

‘Quinn looked at Traff as though he was a moron. ‘One of you is going to administer the tranquiliser injection to the other, and then to himself’. That’s simple isn’t it? Even an idiot can work that one out. And then you’re both going to take a little ride’.

‘You think’ Traff said, turning suddenly and planting his fist in Ryan’s stomach.

The northern Stars member doubled over, his breath whistling through his teeth. Traff was about to deliver another blow when he heard Quinn’s quite voice.

‘I don’t think you’ll be wanting to do that’.

The soldier stopped in his tracks and looked around. His fist halted in mid air as he took in the sight of Starsky, forced to his knees with a Walther PPK pushed against his temple. The brunette said nothing, but Traff could see he was in pain. He relaxed his fist and stood, waiting.

‘That was foolish’ Quinn said as he ground the muzzle of the gun further into Starsky’s temple. ‘I have a very itchy trigger finger. Now, are you going to behave?’

The soldier stood, panting with exertion, planning what he could do next. With the gun grinding into his friend’s head like that, his options were limited. Both men knew it and the brunette also decided that if they were going to get out of this in one piece, they needed to be in as good condition as possible. Starsky looked into Traff’s bright green eyes.

‘You’re better with needles’ he said, seeing the concern in the cats eyes staring back at him.

‘That’s not what you’ve told me before pal’ Traff responded uncertainly, looking from one hit man to the other.

‘Just do it huh?’ Starsky said, pushing up his shirt sleeve and holding out his bared arm to his friend. ‘We’ll get even later’.

Traff’s eyes widened, but he’d worked with the cop before and had learned to trust him. With a look of defeat, he held his hand out for the syringe. Quinn made a show of tapping out the air bubbles, then handed it to the soldier.

Traff took it and heaved a steadying breath. ‘You sure?’ he said softly, seeing the curly head nod briefly.

He tapped against the brunette’s outstretched forearm, looking for a likely vein. Starsky was tired and the veins in his arm stood out proud, giving Traff a good target. With apology in his eyes, the soldier selected a likely one.


‘As long as it’s not blunt, yeah’ Starsky smiled trustingly into his friend’s troubled eyes.

Traff pushed the needle into the vein and depressed the plunger.

Starsky sighed, pulling down his sleeve, before sitting back on his heels to wait, his world beginning to look fuzzy and unfocussed. He watched dispassionately as Traff pushed the second needle against his own arm, then sat down beside his friend. Before long, both men were woozy, unable to think clearly as the guns remained pointed at them both. They were uncoordinated and Quinn and Ryan helped them to their feet, steering them outside and towards the panel truck.

Starsky tried hard to concentrate, battling the cloying fogginess in his head. As they got outside the cool air provided a moment of clarity. He looked at Traff who was being held loosely by Ryan.

Swallowing he kicked against Quinn’s legs yelling RUN at his friend. Traff heard the command and kicked out himself, making a bid for freedom, his legs pounding down the sidewalk as fast as he could, heading for safety.

The drug in his system slowed him considerably and within a few strides, Ryan had caught up with the fleeing soldier, taking hold of his arm and his hair and spinning him round. At the same time Quinn was dealing with Starsky.

‘Very cute’ he said angrily. ‘That’s not what we’d decided on at all is it? No-one said you could run, so that’ll have to be punished’.

As Ryan held the drugged, unsteady Traff, Quinn took hold of Starsky; He brought his fist holding the gun down on the side of the brunette’s head, making him slump to the floor with an involuntary grunt. As he knelt, dazed, Quinn’s boot caught him viciously in the right side, lifting him off the floor and curling him over in pain, gasping for breath, but he refused to make a sound. Quinn drew his foot back for another kick.

‘NO. For gods sake no’ Traff yelled at the Stars’ leader.

Quinn grinned evilly at him. ‘You’ll find it’s not good to disobey’ he said as he proceeded to beat the silent, curly haired detective into unconsciousness.

Chapter 10

God his head hurt! Starsky felt like there was a prize-fight going on inside his cranium, each punch sending lightening jolts through his head and behind his eyes. It was worse than the most severe migraine he’d ever had and he really didn’t want to open his eyes to look around him. He felt desperately uncomfortable, dizzy and nauseous and he tried to rub his hands over his face to relieve some of the tension, but realised that his arms were securely bound behind his back. He groaned and opened his eyes a crack, looking around cautiously.

He was sitting on the ground, his legs outstretched in front of him and his ankles tightly bound together. Someone had divested him of his shoes, socks and belt and had unbuttoned his shirt, obviously looking for weapons. Bruises showed livid on his chest and side and seeing them made the pain more intense. His back was resting against a stone pillar and his arms were pulled savagely back around the rough stonework and bound together with what felt like wire, leaving no play in the bonds. He felt the metal cutting into his skin.

The brunette closed his eyes, regrouping his thoughts. The last thing he remembered clearly was yelling at Traff to run, once they’d gotten out of his apartment. He had seen his friend take off down the street with Ryan in hot pursuit behind. The hit man tackled the soldier, lunging forward and clutching at Traff’s legs, bringing him down to the ground in a football tackle. As they’d returned, Ryan hanging on to a panting Traff’s hair, Quinn had turned on Starsky with a look of hatred in his eyes.

‘That was dumb. You’re gonna pay for that’ he spat at the brunette and brought his fist up and into Starsky’s stomach. It was a surprise attack and he had no chance to prepare. As the detective bent forward trying to alleviate the pain in his stomach and get some breath into his lungs, the hit man brought the knife edge of his hand down on Starsky’s neck. The cop fell to the ground, retching and wheezing, strings of saliva hanging from his gasping mouth. He saw the boot come at him from the corner of his eye and tried to turn, but still the blow lifted him off the ground and he landed partly on his knees, rolled first onto his back, then onto his side as he clutched his hands around his stomach, trying to protect himself from further injury.

He could hear Traff yelling and telling them exactly what he thought of them and their ancestry, but, like Starsky, Traff refused to beg them to stop. As he screwed his eyes up and bit down on his lip to stop himself from crying out, Quinn delivered another crushing kick to his back, low down near his kidneys. It was one pain too many. The world sparkled once, then, as if he was watching a fade out on the television, the world started to grey at the edges, before diminishing to a pinprick and finally winking out altogether.

He took a deep breath now and opened his eyes again. Looking around, he realised that Traff was sitting with his back to the next pillar along the line, bound in a similar fashion. The soldier’s head rested back on the cool stone and he too had his eyes closed, although whether he was unconscious or just resting, Starsky couldn’t tell. Mentally he tested his body. Breathing hurt with a vengeance, although he was fairly sure nothing was broken. His stomach and back ached viciously in competition with his head and his cheek felt as though it was twice the normal size.

The brunette heard a groan and turned his head to his friend.

‘Traff?’ he whispered. ‘You back with me?’

Another deep groan and then the bright green eyes opened, blinked and focussed.

‘Oh God. That was a hell of a party’ the soldier muttered turning his head weakly to look at Starsky.

‘Yeah!. Don’t want to play their games again any time soon though’ the brunette ground out, feeling his stomach muscles hurt as he spoke. ‘You ok?’

He heard Traff snort. ‘Other than a head that feels as big as a basket ball, I’m not too bad. How are you? You took a pretty good beating there pal. Are all you bits in working order?’

‘Starsky chuckled. ‘Well when ya put it like that…..Yeah I think I still got all I need. They just got rearranged and hurt a little’ he said with feeling. ‘Where d’ya think we are?’

Both men looked around taking in their surroundings for the first time. The room was big, with a vaulted ceiling above them, pillars standing in a line down the middle of the church’s nave and chairs in disarray around them. Obviously this particular church hadn’t been used for some time and the dirty, cobwebbed windows confirmed their suspicions. They were tied to two pillars near the front of the central aisle, facing the front of the church, looking up at a raised altar, although there were no indication of its use. No crosses or paintings anywhere. The place seemed deserted.

Starsky rested his throbbing head against the cool of the stone.

‘OK, so what do we do now?’ he mumbled, the pain in his body stopping the flow of his thoughts.

’Well I think we found ourselves the guys who worked Hutch over’ Traff said, stating the obvious. ‘Before he’d finished beating the crap out of you he said something about “where’s Ade” Does that mean anything?’

‘Aidan Ryan. The guy who shot Hutch’ Starsky confirmed. ‘He’s the one that was in the hospital. The one you stopped me from getting to? The one that Dobey questioned instead of me. If they want me to tell ‘em where he is, they’ll have a real job, coz I have no idea’.

‘Somehow, buddy, I don’t think they’re gonna believe that. Do you?’ Traff observed grimly.

Starsky stared gloomily back. ‘Then we’re in for a tough time’ he said.


Somewhere a very long way away, Hutch was feeling very impatient and gloomy too. The pink fog that seemed to permeate the whole place was getting on his nerves. Pink had never been a favourite colour anyway, and fog – well if you lived in LA there was entirely too much of it anyway. Highly overrated as far as Hutch was concerned. And as for this tall conductor person. Amaram was getting on his nerves too. If this was meant to be heaven, the blond decided he’d had a misconception of the place. His Mom had always taught him that heaven was a peaceful happy place. So far, all Hutch had seen had been bumbling incompetence and a slightly overzealous use of a certain colour. It had nothing to recommend it at all.

He rested his arms on the reception desk, head in his hands as he tried to figure out exactly what was going on. The woman he’d seen – the receptionist looked none too pleased that her receipts didn’t match her invoices. She’d stalked off into the fog and the blond just hoped she hadn’t gotten lost. It was turning into a real pea souper – the sort any big city would be proud of.

‘Erm…..try to look on the bright side’ Amaram chirped at his side.

‘What bright side?’ Hutch grunted. He felt as though his head should have been aching, but it wasn’t. Hey, there was an upside to the place!

‘Well, you could be down there in terrible pain’ the conductor started. ‘You could….’ He was cut off as the woman came back through the mist to stand back at her reception post.

‘Conductor Amaram, you’ve done it again!’ she admonished.

The man looked sheepish and cowered away from his angry blond charge.

‘What’s he done again?’ Hutch asked, looking from the woman to the man and back. He saw the look on her face. ‘What’s he done?’ he persisted.

‘You didn’t wait, did you?’ the woman asked as Amaram blushed beneath her gaze. He shook his head slightly.

‘You’ve been told about this before. You must always check before you make contact’.

Amaram opened and shut his mouth like a fish out of water. ‘I….it was almost clocking off time. I’d have been on overtime rates and I know you don’t like that. I didn’t think a few hours would have made all that much difference’ he blustered.

‘Overtime rates? What’s he talking about?’ Hutch asked, getting angrier by the minute. He stopped as the woman raised her hand.

‘Conductor Amaram was sent to watch over you. You could have gone either way’ she saw the question in the ice blue eyes. ‘You could have lived or died’ she explained. ‘However, our new recruit here became a little over zealous and decided a few hours wouldn’t make too much of a difference, and he…..reaped you too early’.

‘Reaped me? You make it sound like I’m an ear of corn! What do you mean reaped me too early? Listen lady, if there’s been a mistake, I need to know now’ Hutch pointed his finger at the woman.

She smiled back with her best customer service smile. ‘It seems from the books that you shouldn’t be here. You should never have died’ she said blandly.

It was the blonde’s turn to do the fish impersonation. He closed his mouth for the final time. ‘So. Ok. I’m not dead. So just send me back’ he said with an air of finality.

‘It’s not so simple. The books have been tallied for today and you’re here. It’s not like an elevator you know. You can’t just hop on and off when it pleases you. Otherwise he world would be full of great leaders all sticking their oar into world events that have nothing to do with them. Oh deary me no. Once you’re here, technically you’re here’ she explained.

‘You said technically. What does that mean exactly?, Hutch asked, grasping at straws.

She leaned forward conspiratorially. ‘Well, I shouldn’t have done, but I’ve had a word with the boss. ‘She raised a finger and pointed it upwards.

‘You mean G.O.D.?’ Hutch spelled out, suddenly awestruck.

‘Oh good grief no, he’s far too busy. No, my line manager’ she said, looking flustered. ‘It seems we may be able to cut you a deal. There’s a spot of trouble brewing with your friend and…..’

‘Is Starsk ok? He was so angry and upset and I couldn’t do….’ He shut himself up at the look of impatience on her face.

‘As I said! There’s a spot of trouble brewing and my boss says that if you can help him and sort out this mess, you can have another chance’.

‘Another chance? At life? Is that what you mean? Well, let me at ‘em. Just give me my gun back, get me down there and it’ll be sorted out in no time’ Hutch said anxiously.

The woman shook her head. ‘Would that it were that simple! You’ll be there as a….’ she giggled shyly…..’as a ghost. He won’t be able to see you, but you can see everything that’s going on. You can try to change things and make a difference’.

The information sunk in and he nodded, scenarios already going through the blond head.

‘There’s just one little thing. Erm….that was the good news’.

Hutch’s head snapped up. ‘And what’s the bad?’ he asked suspiciously.

She glared at him. ‘He must come with you, as his punishment’ she pointed at Amaram.

The blond looked at the bowing conductor and his face fell. ‘Oh terrific!’

Chapter 11

‘Are you ready?’

Hutch felt the odd sensation again. The one where someone had tied something around his waist and then had started to reel him in like a fish on a line. It made his feel a little sick and he closed his eyes tight against the maelstrom of colour flashing past his eyes. He was going too quickly to understand what he was seeing, so decided the best thing was just to go with the flow. He seemed to be spinning too, but whether he was or whether it just felt that way, he didn’t know. He did, however know when it had stopped because suddenly he was catapulted out of the vortex, doing his forward roll technique again. At the side of him Amaram stepped away from the colours and spinning as if nothing had happened.

The blond picked himself up and dusted himself off, seeing the tall white haired man next to him looking both pleased and overawed.

‘What’s the matter?’ Hutch asked irritably.

‘Colour! Look, I’ve got colour again’ the conductor said happily. And indeed his clothes, which had been various shades of cream and white were now back to normal colours, if a little mismatched. His trousers were dark blue, while his jacket was brown. His shirt was a violent shade of pink and his tie orange, but he didn’t seem to mind.

‘It’s been so long since I got to wear any colour. Do you know how difficult it is too keep the white stuff clean? My laundry bills are horrendous’ he said, still staring down at himself.

Hutch was also looking down at himself, but in a different way. He realised they had landed back in the hospital room his body now occupied and he was looking at it with a kind of sick fascination. Tentatively he approached the bed.

His body was surrounded by machinery designed to keep him alive. He had the hose of the respirator between his teeth, a white bandage keeping it there while is hissed and whooshed the breaths into his lungs. There were leads from pads on his chest leading to a machine monitoring his heart rate and blood pressure and a cuff remained around his left arm, also for blood pressure. Hutch felt odd looking at himself in this manner. Not everyone got to have a real out of body experience, and it disconcerted him.

Tentatively he reached out his hand to touch the forehead, still swathed as it was in bandages, then instead felt his own head. It was whole and uninjured and for a moment he wanted to laugh. There was no way his brain could take in what was happening to him, but he hated seeing himself lying there, looking sick and vulnerable. He turned away, appalled at the injuries that the Northern Stars had inflicted on him, and thankful that he couldn’t feel any of them. Top marks for heaven on that score then.

He looked troubled. ‘If….erm….if I come back, will I be well?’ he asked his ghostly friend. ‘Coz if I’m not gonna be able to walk and talk and get back to work, I think I don’t want to come back at all’.

Amaram looked sad. ‘If you “come back” you’ll come back to this, feeling all the pain of those injuries but you’ll get to lead a normal life after recovery The deal is that you make a full and miraculous recovery. And yes, if you do “come back” you’ll get to go back to your job, I checked in the records’ he said. ‘But why would you? Look what they did to you. That must have hurt. Why on earth would you want to go back to a world that does that?’

Why exactly, he thought and then the vision of a lop sided grin and curly hair floated into his head and he knew exactly why he had to come back. Starsky would never forgive him if he gave up now. And the woman had said the brunette would be hurt. He couldn’t let that happen. It focussed his mind.

‘So how do we find my partner?’ he asked Amaram, looking around at his body for the last time. He wanted to touch it, to make sure this wasn’t just some morphine-induced nightmare, but something made him stop himself from reaching out his hand again. If this was real he had to deal with it.

‘Well if I knew that, would I have brought you here?’ the conductor said in a miffed voice.

Hutch looked desperate. ‘Just what use are you? You’re a looser and I’m saddled with you. First you “reap” me before time, just so as you don’t have to work overtime, then you can’t even find my partner so that I can save him. Jeez Ammy!’

‘Ammy? Who’s Ammy? It’s Amaram. It means “heavenly” in…..some forgotten language’.

‘Well its Ammy while you’re around me ok? Now…..find my partner’.

‘Erm….it’s not that simple. I haven’t done locator senses yet. I could do you a nice dream communication if you like, but as to where he is….Sorry’.

Hutch sighed heavily. ‘Bloody useless!’

‘Hey, I’m new! We all had to learn some time you know. Try feeling for him’.


Amaram shook his head as if he as speaking to a dim child. ‘Close your eyes and concentrate on him and you should be able to feel where he is. Then when you’ve got him, take my hand and I’ll get us there’.

Hutch closed his eyes willing to give anything a try and concentrated. C’mon Starsk. Where are ya buddy? Give me a sign…..anything. The vision of the dark curly hair came into his mind and Hutch couldn’t stop himself from smiling at the picture. He saw the indigo blue eyes and the lop sided grin and heard his partner’s voice as if from a great distance. And suddenly he felt the pain. It was as though his lungs were refusing to work and he couldn’t catch his breath. He gasped as a vision of a cold and dark church came into his head and he opened his eyes, catching hold of Amaram’s hand. He felt the nauseating feeling of being whizzed along again, but this time he couldn’t get there quick enough. He needed to be there now because someone was hurting Starsky.


The two bound men had been left alone for quite some time. It wasn’t the first time they’d been in a tight spot together. They’d survived the Viet. Cong and they’d survived an uprising in Argentina (2). They knew what all this was about, so they were quiet while they waited, knowing that they would have to conserve their energy. They talked quietly, deciding on how they were going to try to survive till help came or until they could plan an escape.

‘They don’t know anything’ Traff said, struggling to keep his eyes open. The drug he’d been forced to administer to himself and to Starsky was still in his bloodstream and he fought against its effects.

‘Thing is, we don’t know anything either’ Starsky said. ‘As I see it, we can play it two ways. We could either try and convince ‘em we don’t know shit, or we just keep quiet and let ‘em try and find out’.

‘And out of those equally painful scenarios, which did you have in mind?’ Traff chuckled grimly.

His friend smiled. ‘Ya ever known me to do anything the easy way? Seems to me they’re gonna have fun with us no matter which way we play it, so we might as well get some enjoyment out of pissing ‘em off!’

‘That’s your plan – piss ‘em off?’

‘Can’t do much else trussed up like this, can we?’ the brunette grinned.

‘Just for the record, I think your idea sucks’ Traff said, resting his head back against the stone column, ‘but I think you’re gonna be able to put it to the test’ he nodded at the two approaching men.

Quinn and Ryan walked up the central aisle of the church towards the two men. They had an air of business about them and both Starsky and Traff stiffened at their approach. Somehow their demeanour didn’t have a friendly air to it. Quinn hunkered down in front of Starsky so that he could stare the detective in the eyes.

‘Where are you holding Aidan Ryan?’ he said calmly.

The brunette stared back, defiance shining in his deep blue eyes. Quinn back handed the bound detective across the face and asked again.

‘Where’s Ade Ryan?’

Starsky stared back, licking at the small trickle of blood that fell from his cut lip. The blow had landed on the cheek that had previously been injured and the sting and ache dissolved away the last of the drug Traff had administered earlier. He said nothing, but smiled back at his captor, seeing the anger rising in the man’s eyes.

Ryan stood in front of Traff, glowering down at the bound soldier as Traff stared resolutely ahead. Swiftly he bent down and plunged his fist into Traff’s stomach, sending the wind whistling through his teeth. The dark haired man remained quiet, but sweat beaded on his brow and he panted, trying to regain his composure. Starsky screwed his eyes up, trying to shut out the sight of the blow and the sound of his friend in pain. They’d decided on their course of action and both knew the consequences – pain and more pain. He opened his eyes and looked dead ahead.

‘OK tough guy. You made your point’ Quinn said. ‘Now save yourselves any more discomfort and tell me where Ade Ryan is. Then we’ll let you go’.

Starsky’s look said “like hell you will” and he saw Quinn move. The brunette felt hands on the bindings at his wrists and suddenly his hands were free, his arms dropping to his sides as the feeling returned to them, the pains screaming through his arms and shoulders. Quinn bent down and took hold of Starsky’s shirt in both hands, wrenching the detective to his feet. Swiftly, he pushed him towards the altar standing at the top of the aisle. With Pat Ryan’s help, they managed to push the struggling cop onto his back across the altar table and secured his wrists and ankles to the heavy wooden object so that Starsky’s chest was splayed and his movements were limited to rolling his head from side to side. Ryan held Starsky’s head still by holding a handful of hair at each side and the cop was forced to look up to the ceiling.

Quinn’s face came into view and the tall man stared down at him.

‘You see the lights above you? How many are there?’

Starsky’s mind raced. What did lights have to do with anything? What did it have to do with where Ade Ryan was? Nothing so far as he could make out.

‘Three’ he muttered seeing the three pendant lights hanging from the vaulted ceiling.

‘Wrong, there are four lights. How many are there?’

The indigo eyes quickly counted. One. Two, Three. What the ….there were three lights.

‘Three’ Starsky said a little louder.

Quinn bent his elbow and brought the point of it down onto Starsky’s stomach, just below his belly button. He pushed it down, crushing into the cop’s guts until the brunette saw sparkles of light and his breath caught in his throat. ‘

‘There are four. Count ‘em’. Now, how many lights do you see?’

there was a pause, then ‘Three’ the voice strained and thin.

‘Where is Ade Ryan?’

Silence. The elbow came back, churning through his guts like a knife. A grunt escaped his lips and sweat trickled down the sides of his face, dripping from the wet curls round his brow. Desperately he pulled at the restraints around his wrists and ankles, trying to escape the terrible pain in his belly. God, the man was trying to get through to his spine!

‘How many lights are there?’

‘Three’ Starsky ground out, panting and trying to suppress the groan that wanted to escape him.

‘Where is Ade Ryan?’ Starsky clamped his mouth closed as the elbow came back, grinding through his guts. He felt bile rise and vomited, twisting violently to his side, so that it went onto the floor at the side of the table. Pat Ryan sprang backwards out of the way as Quinn laughed a cold, hard laugh.

‘Mind you’re shoes Pat’ he said as his elbow came back harder than ever. Starsky’s body writhed on the altar beneath him and he stopped for a moment, noting the sweat soaked hair and the pallor on the face.

‘How many lights are there?’

‘Three’ the brunette groaned as Quinn tutted and put his hands over Starsky’s mouth and nose. The brunette fought for breath, but his lungs were running on empty, the pain having sucked a lot of the fight from his hurting body. He felt a mad fluttering in his chest as he tried to suck in air and the periphery of his vision started to speckle with red.

Three…three….three….the word echoed round and round his consciousness as slowly the world faded and Starsky dipped down into oblivion.

Chapter 12

Hutch arrived in a swirl of colour and motion and this time managed to step out of the maelstrom instead of falling out. He stood for a moment catching his breath, Amaram at his side. He looked around at the dingy stone room in dismay, his heart in his mouth.

After Starsky had passed out and his body had stopped twitching, Quinn had lifted his hand away from obstructing the mouth and nose and checked that he hadn’t gone too far. Satisfied that the brunette was still breathing, he’d had Ryan untie the limp form and remove it from the altar. Now both Traff and Starsky were in a subterranean room in the church carved entirely out of stone. It was small, barely 12’ x 12’ and felt hot and claustrophobic. The heavy wooden door was barred.

Ryan had dumped the brunette’s unconscious body onto the floor and had once again tied it. This time, he’d pulled the cop’s arms brutally backwards, securing the wrists with rope, then bent the legs back so that the heels touched his wrists and secured them there. In the cruel hog-tie the brunette’s tortured stomach muscles screamed out for relaxation. He groaned pitifully and opened his eyes.

Traff had also been brought to the room, kicking and screaming. He’d remained silent as he’d watched his friend being tortured, but now the obscenities were coming thick and fast. He’d tried desperately to get to Starsky to check on his welfare, but Quinn and Ryan had laughed at his attempts, cuffing him around the head until he too was on the verge of unconsciousness. Then they’d left him with his arms tied behind him and secured to a ring conveniently located in the wall. The rope wasn’t long enough for the soldier to shuffle over to his injured friend, so he had to content himself with watching the laboured breathing and painful cramps as they blasted the detective’s body.

As Hutch materialised and looked around he immediately saw his partner on the ground. Without thinking he instantly went over to the injured man, squatting down and reaching up in his familiar way to brush the curls away from the damp forehead. His hand went straight through his partner’s body like a hot knife through butter, as though he didn’t exist. He tried again, trying to touch his friend and give some sort of comfort.

‘Starsky? C’mon buddy, it’s me, Hutch. Open your eyes for me huh? I’m right here Starsk. God what have you gotten yourself into now? Look at the state of you. I leave you alone for 24 hours and this happens. Starsky? Starsk?’

Hutch reached his hand up again then let it fall to his side realising defeatedly that he couldn’t touch his partner anymore. He so desperately wanted to give the smaller man some comfort. Starsky looked so pale and hurt. He saw the cruel bonds digging into the flesh of the wrists and ankles and the huge blue/black bruise marring the lean stomach. He looked up at Amaram.

‘What the fuck is the use of being here if I can’t touch him and he can’t hear me?’ he spat out, angry at his own inadequacies ‘How am I supposed to help him huh?’

Across the room, Traff was speaking to the semiconscious brunette also and Hutch stood, head hanging down as he saw the soldier filling the roll he felt he should have taken.

‘Hey Curly? You ok?’ Traff called softly, his own head feeling as though it was ready to fall from his shoulders.

Starsky gave a strangled groan and opened his eyes. They stared ahead unfocussed for a moment then looked around him. He tried to roll onto his back and groaned deeper as he realised he could hardly move, pain lancing through his beaten stomach. He dipped his chin onto his chest trying to get some relief and gasped. ‘T’riffic’.

‘Just try an’ breath huh? Don’t talk, it’ll hurt too much. Try and rest’ Traff urged, seeing the flashes of pain making his friend twitch on the floor.

‘Where are we?’ Starsky gasped, realising they weren’t in the main body of the church any more. He rested his head against the stone floor, riding out the waves of agony as they hit.

‘We got ourselves the luxury honeymoon suite’ Traff said grimly. ‘After your little show up there they moved us down to here. Not as picturesque, but a whole lot cosier’.

‘You ok?’ the brunette asked.

‘Oh sure. Bit of a headache, but being used a punchbag will do that. You ok. You took quite a mashing there pal?’

‘Hurts…..shit, he enjoyed…..job’ Starsky panted, desperately wishing he could curl into a ball and relieve the pains knifing through his gut.

Hutch was beside himself looking at the two suffering men. ‘What am I supposed to do? I can’t touch ‘em, I can’t talk to ‘em. What the hell use is that?’ He grabbed hold of the startled Amaram and shook him. 'Tell me what I'm supposed to do' he yelled, his lips white with anger and desperation.

Amaram shook his head. ‘That was part of the deal. Its up to you to find out how to help them’ he said sadly, watching as the big blond man kneeled beside his partner again.

‘I can’t even touch him’ he whispered, his hands hovering a centimetre over the brunette’s body. He looked up at the conductor. ‘Just let me stay here a while an’ I’ll figure something out huh?’ Amaram shrugged his shoulders and stood to one side, not getting in the way as Hutch alternately paced the cell and squatted by the curly haired cop.

The foursome stayed quietly in the small room for a while. It was difficult for Hutch to watch his partner’s desperate attempts at relieving the pains in his body without being able to help him, but despite Amaram trying to get the blond to leave, Hutch was adamant that Starsky would know on some level that he was there. The bound men dozed, knowing they had to keep their strength up some way, but their eyes snapped open as they heard the footsteps ringing down the corridor. The heavy wooden door opened and Quinn stepped in.

Both Traff and Starsky ignored him, refusing to look up, which seemed to antagonise the Stars’ leader. Motioning again to Starsky he and Ryan picked up the bound detective and carried him out of the room, slamming the door behind them, muffling Traff’s shouts. Hutch had tried to go out behind them, but stopped as the heavy door swung shut in his face.

‘Shit!’ he said, looking for a handle or a key. Amaram pushed him out of the way.

‘I may be new, but you’re just a rookie. Just follow them’ he said and stepped through the door as though it wasn’t there.

Cursing himself Hutch took a step forward. ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ he muttered as he stepped up to the door. Closing his eyes, he stepped forward, one step, two, then opened them again to find himself outside in a corridor. Mentally storing that ability away for future use he hurriedly he trotted along behind the small party and hung a left into an equally small room which he took to have been used as a kitchen or scullery of some sort. In one corner of the room was a stone trough that had probably been used as a sink. It held stagnant water, which had a greenish scum around the edges. The algae clung to the sides of the trough and formed a greasy mat on its surface.

Slinging Starsky down onto the ground. Quinn bent over and sliced through the bonds holding his ankles to his wrists. The relief of being able to straighten his legs and take some of the pressure off his stomach was short lived however and rough hands took hold of him under the arms and dragged him towards the trough.

Hutch watched in horrified fascination as the two men manhandled his partner, knowing what they were about to do and feeling sickened that he couldn’t do anything about it.

‘You know the score’ Quinn said, taking hold of the brunette’s chin and forcing him to look at his assailant. ‘You tell me where Ade is and you can go back to your friend’.

‘Where is he Starsk?’ Hutch muttered. 'He’s the bastard that shot me. Where is he?’

Starsky stared defiantly back at the hit man, but remained resolutely quiet. Quinn nodded to Ryan who took up a stance behind the bound cop, pushing him towards the water. Despite pushing back as hard as he could, Starsky couldn’t stop himself from being bent in two, his face a fraction of an inch away from the green murky puddle.

‘Where’s Ade?’ Quinn asked again as Starsky took a desperate breath.

Ryan waited only a second before plunging the curly head under the surface. The water was brackish and warm and the algae seemed to caress his face as he held his breath. Time stood still as his world was reduced to the sound of his heart hammering in his ears. His chest fought for release, to be able to take a lungful of air again, but he clamped his lips shut, squeezing his eyelids together in concentration. The urge to breathe was almost uncontrollable and he pushed back against his captors with all his might, desperate to take a breath. The world started to sparkle around him and he was sure he would black out when he felt the hands on the back of his head slacken their hold and he pushed back, his head free of the water.

With an audible gasp he filled his lungs with beautiful cold air, but then the hands were at his head again, forcing it down into the murky depths.

‘Don’t do this to yourself partner’ Hutch yelled, desperate to be able to do something. He hated seeing his friend in such pain whilst not being able to do anything about it. It drove him mad that he couldn’t take hold of Quinn and drag him away from the struggling cop.

Again Starsky fought to hold his breath, chest hammering, feeling the familiar fluttering feeling in his stomach as his body screamed out for oxygen. And again, as he reached his limit, the hands slackened and he was able to breathe again, the water cascading down his face and dripping from the curls flattened against his head.

As the sodden head broke the surface and Starsky’s mouth opened in an enormous gasp for air, Quinn took hold of a handful of sodden curls and pulled the neck back taught.

‘Ya gonna tell me yet punk? All I need to know is where you’ve got Ade. Simple question. Why put yourself through all this?’ Quinn drew back his fist and rabbit punched the brunette in the back, above his kidney. Starsky gasped, the breath whistling through his teeth, but still he refused to cry out. The smoky eyes still shone defiant at his captor.

Hutch swung at the big hit man, a punch that would have floored the big man if it had been able to connect. As it was, the blonde’s fist sailed through Quinn’s body as though he’d never taken the action and Hutch whimpered in frustration at the futility of it all.

‘Oh God Starsk, just hang on buddy. For Gods sake tell ‘em and they’ll stop doing this to ya’. But Hutch knew that even if his partner could have heard him, nothing would have caused the brunette to give in. Nothing would make his hot-headed friend give these goons what they wanted, no matter what they did to him.

Starsky’s body stiffened and he cried out despite himself, his breath coming in ragged surges as he fought for some semblance of control. ‘Fuck you’ he gasped, seeing the anger in Quinn’s eyes.

Hands reached for his head again and he had no strength left to fight back. He managed a desperate breath before his head was once more pushed under the water. Quinn watched as small bubbles broke the surface of the water, knowing the rebellious cop wouldn’t talk and cursing one more time as he punched again at the drowning man’s back.

Beneath the water, the shock of the punch took what remained of the brunette’s breath away. Involuntarily he screamed and took in a breathful of water, coughing and fighting backwards as hard as he could. Ryan held the head below the surface, seeing the desperation in the movements and waiting until they showed signs of sluggishness before letting go and watching as the limp form slithered to the ground.

As Starsky’s body hit the ground Quinn knelt at his side, and rolled him over onto his front. Quickly he massaged the drowning cop's back until he was rewarded by a gurgle and a cough and Starsky spat out a mouthful of the filthy water before his head fell forward again. Hutch knelt at the side of him, knowing his partner couldn’t hear him but still needing to be there. As he reached out his hand to try once more to stroke the sagging cop’s face, he thought he heard the quietest of whispers. He bent down closer and it seemed that Starsky was reaching for him, but his eyes were closed. As Hutch got close he thought he heard his partner whispering.


In desperation Hutch leaned forward and whispered in his friend’s ear ‘I’m here Starsk’.

There seemed to be the shadow of a smile on the battered features as Ryan roughly dragged the limp form away.

Chapter 13

‘I think he heard me! Did you see that Ammy? He said my name. I think he heard me’ Hutch said excitedly, looking again at the bedraggled, unconscious figure on the ground.

Amaram nodded his head sadly. ‘I think he may have heard you from a great distance’ he agreed.

‘Well that’s good. I can talk to him. I can get him out of here. If I can get Starsk to see me, I can get others to’ Hutch said desperately, staring wildly at the conductor and not liking the expression on the white haired man’s face.

The white haired man shook his head. ‘There are only three times when a member of the living can hear us. One is if they are under the influence of drink or drugs, the second is if they are deeply asleep and the third is……’ he stopped and looked away.

‘Go on, the third is….’ Hutch took hold of the man’s shoulders and spun him around. ‘The third is?’

‘If they are close to death’ he said in a small voice. Amaram liked this blond haired man despite his obvious contempt for the conductor. It pained him greatly to be the bearer of bad tidings.

The breath caught in the blonde’s throat. ‘Is he gonna die?’ Hutch whispered.

Amaram shook his head. ‘Not this time, I don’t think’.

The blonde’s head snapped up. ‘What’s that supposed to mean? “Not this time”? Is there another time? Tell me’ he ordered.

The conductor looked uncomfortable. He coughed behind his hand. ‘Well…I shouldn’t have looked at his records…..And I definitely shouldn’t be telling you…..if he survives this there may …erm….’

The flaxen haired cop’s patience finally broke completely and he took hold of the conductor and shook him violently. ‘Go on. There may be what?’

‘There may be a time when he doesn’t fare so well. I caught a glimpse of his file. I didn’t have time to read it…I shouldn’t have been there’ he giggled shyly, then stopped as he saw the stare from the ice blue eyes. ‘I saw mention of the future and three or four bullets and massive damage. But that was all’.

‘And does he survive?’ Hutch asked, almost afraid of the answer.

‘I didn’t see’ Amaram said softly.

Hutch’s face fell and he slumped next to his partner’s body on the ground. ‘Oh God Gordo, what’ve they done to ya? Just tell ‘em something…anything and they’ll stop’ he murmured, his hand aching to caress the wet hair.

Quinn and Ryan took hold of Starsky’s wet body by the arms and dragged it from the room, the detective’s bare heels leaving dark wet marks on the stone floor. Hutch and Amaram followed as they took him back to the stone cell. Opening the door they threw the cop’s body into the room, mercifully cutting the bonds around his wrists and left without a backwards glance.

The shock of being thrown to the floor brought some sense back to the curly haired man and as he lay on the ground his breathing deepened and he coughed long and hard, clutching at his chest and stomach. As the fit abated he opened his eyes and looked around, seeing Traff still tied against the wall. Weakly he tried to sit up, but his arms had been tied behind him for so long that he had no strength in them. He waited and tried again, forcing himself to kneel. He crawled over to the soldier and flopped back against the wall, leaning against the other man and panting heavily.

Traff knew what had been done to his friend. He’d seen it a dozen times in ‘Nam. He sat quietly for a while, letting Starsky relax against him as Hutch stood by their side, his heart longing to take hold of the both of them. To see his partner so hurt and not be able to touch him was bad enough. But to be in the same room as Starsky, watching the maltreatment and for the brunette not to know that he was there was a torture of a whole different kind. He slammed his fist against the wall in desperation then laughed hysterically as it cleaved through the stone as though it wasn’t there. God! He couldn’t even express his anger!

Starsky was starting to stir and Traff tried to lean into him, letting him know he wasn’t alone.

‘Oh Curly boy. What’ve we gotten ourselves into?’ he chuckled as the brunette weakly brushed his wet curls from his forehead. ‘What did they do?’ he asked.

Starsky levered himself up into a sitting position, his back against the wall and his knees bent. His arms rested on his knees and his head hung forward, eyes closed.

‘Just splashing about with my friends’ he quipped painfully as he started coughing again. Desperately he pulled his knees up, trying to relieve the pains in his stomach. ‘Ungh….shit….hurts’ he gasped when the bout had faded again.

Hutch rounded on Amaram. ‘I can’t just stand here and watch this. I have to do something. Anything. I need to get ‘em out of here’. He paced the cell thinking hard, then stopped staring hard at the white haired conductor.

‘You said something about dream communication earlier. And then you said we could be seen of someone was asleep or drunk’.

The conductor nodded. ‘Yes, but I’ve only been doing it a couple of hundred years. I’m not very good, I need practice’.

Hutch shook his head. He couldn’t get his head around the numbers. A couple of hundred years practice? Ye gods, he’d barely been dead 36 hours! No, scrap that. He wasn’t dead, this was all a huge mistake and he needed to remember that.

‘Could I do it?’ he asked

Amaram shrugged his shoulders. ‘I don’t know. You seem a very determined young man. I suppose anything is possible’.

‘What time is it? Out there, what time is it?’ Hutch asked quickly.

‘Ah time! I’d forgotten about time. You see that’s another thing I miss up there. Time to do this, time to do that. No time for….’

The blond put his hand round the white haired ghost’s throat. ‘So help me Ammy, if you weren’t already dead, I’d kill ya. Just tell me the damned time’ he spat as the tall man shrank back from his steely gaze.


‘Morning or afternoon?’

‘3:00 in the morning, why?’

Hutch took hold of the conductor’s hand. ‘I’m thinking of Dobey. Take me to him’ and immediately felt the familiar nauseating pull from his waist.

Within minutes they were in Dobey’s bedroom. Hutch had, of course, never been privy to his boss’ sleep habits and it came as a shock to the blond to see the big black man in delicate powder blue paisley pattern pyjamas. The police captain lay on his back fast asleep with his mouth open, snoring gently and rhythmically, Edith at his side. Hutch crossed to his bedside and bent down.

‘What do I do?’ he asked.

Amaram cleared his throat as if about to begin a lecture. Speaking as though reading from an instructional book he started.

‘First place your index finger inside the head’ he held up the requisite digit to reinforce the direction.

Hutch looked distastefully at his finger. Oh my god! What was that going to feel like? His stomach churned as he envisioned brains and blood and equally gory stuff, but then the memory of his drowning partner forced squeamishness from his mind and he pushed the digit against Dobey’s forehead, sinking it in. He felt nothing, thankfully.

‘Now what?’ he whispered, although he knew no-one could hear him.

‘Now you have to close your eyes and try to get into his dreams’ Amaram said uncertainly.


The white haired man shrugged. ‘Just…..think?’ he offered.

Exasperated Hutch concentrated on the brown head in front of him, wiggling his finger about experimentally. He closed his eyes and concentrated. What are ya dreaming about Cap? Can you see me? Cooeeee, DOBEY! Nothing happened. He opened his eyes.

‘I didn’t see anything. You try’ the blond stood away from the bed as Amaram rolled up his sleeve dramatically and plunged his hand up to the wrist into the captain’s skull. He closed his eyes and breathed out, knitting his eyebrows in concentration. Amaram stayed like that for minutes, before finally withdrawing his hand and wiping the still dry appendage on his bright orange tie.

‘He’s not receptive’ he announced.

‘What d’ya mean, not receptive? You said we could communicate through dreams’.

The conductor sighed. ‘Only if the person is receptive. They need to have some sort of spirituality to them. This guy wouldn’t know a spirit if it jumped up and bit him – not that any of us would, you understand. No, you need to find someone with something about them, otherwise it’ll never work’.

Hutch thought for a moment. His initial idea had been to contact Dobey direct in the hope his Captain would act on his “dream and go rescue his partner. So. Who was spiritual, liked drink enough to be intoxicated and would be open to dream suggestions? Dobey? No. Starsky might have been, but he was the subject of the dream, so that was out. Who else? The thought came to him suddenly. Huggy! Huggy bear was into allsorts. His aunt believed in voodoo and if Huggy’s reactions on Playboy Island had been anything to go by, Huggy also had certain questionable beliefs.

‘Take me to Huggy Bear’s’ Hutch said, thinking of his friend and clutching Amaram’s hand once again.

Stepping into Huggy’s bedroom was like stepping onto the set of the tackiest porno film he could think of. Acres of red velvet, mirrors on every surface and wine glasses by the dozen dotted around the room proclaimed the barman’s lifestyle. As Hutch stepped out of the swirling colours without, this time, so much as a stagger (he was getting good at that now) he saw that his black friend had once again scored big time. The barman had his arms wrapped around a buxom beauty, a smile across his lean features as his face nestled in her hair. She lay on her side, with her arms around his scrawny waist, head on his chest. They were both dead to the world and quickly Hutch marched over to the bed.

Taking a deep breath, he gently inserted his hand into Huggy’s forehead, swishing it around, then closed his eyes and concentrated. For a moment nothing happened and he feared he was going to draw a blank again. Then he felt a swirling feeling and he was no longer standing in Huggy’s bedroom. He was transported into a tent in the middle of the desert, lined with brightly coloured silk as Huggy lay on a padded couch, scantily clad women kneeling at his feet, feeding him grapes and holding golden cups to his lips while he drank the wine they offered.

Huggy looked up in surprise as Hutch popped into view and knocked the cup away.

‘What it is Hutch my man!’ he said, sitting up on the daybed.

Hutch looked around, then back at the black man. ‘You can see me?’

‘As clear as day man. Shouldn’t you be in the hospital?’ Huggy said, curiously.

‘I am…well, I’m not…well…it’s a long story. Listen, I need to tell you. Starsky’s in a bad way. The goons that shot me have him and they’re torturing him. You have to tell Dobey’.

‘Yeah, yeah’ Huggy said. ‘The number of times I dream about one or the other of you in trouble. Just mirrors my life’ the lanky black man said, easing himself down onto the bed again.

One of the women started to smooth his brow and he leaned back with a sigh of pleasure.

‘Hug, I know its hard to grasp, but this is real. It’s really me! Will ya at least go see Dobey?’ Hutch asked desperately.

‘And tell him I’ve had a dream? He already thinks I’m weird, no need to add fuel to his flames’ Huggy said, his voice getting a far off quality to it.

The world solidified again and Hutch was once more standing in the black man’s bedroom. He pulled his hand from his friend’s head with a look of desperation on his face. Dejectedly he looked at Amaram.

‘He just thought I was part of the dream’ he muttered.

The conductor put his hand on the flaxen haired man’s shoulder. ‘You can try again tomorrow night. Sometimes its needs two or three applications’ he said encouragingly.

Hutch thought he made it sound like some sort of ointment, but he was grateful for the conductors concern.

‘Just take me back to Starsk, huh?’ he said wearily.

Chapter 14

Hutch paced the small cell again, anxious to get back to Huggy to try again to convince the bar tender to take the “visitation” seriously, but he knew the morning was fast approaching and he’d have to wait another 12 hours before he could try again. Looking at his partner though, he wondered whether the brunette had 12 hours left in him.

Starsky was still sitting where Hutch had left him, leaning against Traff, his back against the wall. He’d managed to untie Traff’s hands, and now the big soldier had his arm around Starsky’s shoulders as the exhausted cop slept.

We can contact them in dreams if they’re receptive. That’s what Amaram had said. Starsky was open to just about anything – voodoo, pet stones, you name it and he’d try it. And he was asleep now. Could it be that simple? Uncertainly Hutch bent down next to the two curly haired men and hesitantly put his hand against his partner’s cool wet forehead. He pushed and his fingers disappeared into Starsky’s head. Closing his eyes he tried to make a connection, knitting his eyebrows in concentration. For a moment there was nothing and then, almost imperceptibly he saw a murky grey mist and in the distance he thought he saw a curly headed figure.

‘Starsk?’ he shouted and started to race towards it, closing the gap between them with ease. As he got to the side of his friend, the murk cleared and he could see that Starsky was on a rocky cliff top looking out over a headland at a stormy sea. There was an island in the distance, a lighthouse beaming its sporadic light onto his friend’s face, making it seem white and ghostly. The sky was dark and stormy, a perfect match for the brunette’s eyes, the breeze sending foam from the tops of the waves and playing it along the surface of the sea, like frosting on a cake. Almost frightened in case this wasn’t real, Hutch reached out and touched his partner’s hand, feeling it cool, but solid to his questing fingers. Starsky turned to see him, surprise in his eyes.

‘Hutch? What are you doing here?’ he asked, his voice low and spent. He had an air of exhaustion about him that tore at the blond.

‘Come to see you buddy. I thought you needed a friend’.

The brunette nodded sadly. ‘Yeah, that’s about the size of it. D’ya know what’s going on? How are you here? You were so sick. Are you….Oh my god, am I…..? I thought I was just dreaming’

Hutch put his hand on his friend’s shoulder, relishing the touch he’d craved for so long. ‘No, you’re not dead. And as for me……it’s a long story, but I’m here and this is your dream. So. Where are we?’

Starsky looked around him, the breeze ruffling his ebony curls against his forehead. Hutch noticed a black and tan coloured curly haired dog at his partner’s side, looking up at the brunette in adoration. The smaller man sat down on the ground, still looking out to sea and the dog sat next to him, tail wagging and tongue lolling from its mouth. Starsky put his arm round the warm furry body and tickled absently behind the little animal’s ears as Hutch sat down beside him.

‘Martha’s Vineyard. Mom and Dad brought Nicky and me here one summer. We had the best time playing on the boats, building sandcastles on the beach. Dad taught me to fish and Nicky got seasick on the boat. We found this dog on the beach. She hadn’t got a home and Dad said we could keep her. She lived with us for nine years and she never left my side. I called her Kirsty. She was always my best friend’.

Starsky sighed at the memory. ‘I come here when I need an escape’ he smiled at the blond. ‘And just at the moment, I need an escape’ he said with feeling.

‘I know you do buddy. I’m doing everything I can, but ya gotta hang in there. D’ya know where you are?’

‘No. they made Traff drug us before they brought us here. We woke up in that damned place. Don’t you know?’

Hutch thought for a moment. He’d never actually thought of going outside the disused church, he was just hell bent on getting to his partner. ‘I’ll check later. I can only talk while you’re asleep’.

The dog wagged its tail and licked his hand, a warm wet stripe on his skin. He stroked its wiry head and then it was off, bounding down the cliff to the beach below, chasing the gulls that landed on the sand. Together the two men sat and looked out at the sea and the island in the distance.

‘I don’t think I’m gonna make it’ Starsky murmured, running his hand through his curls.

Hutch looked up, seeing the hopelessness in the indigo eyes. ‘You’ll make it buddy. I’ll make sure of that. I got a lot riding on this. I know its tough, but you just have to hang in there until we can figure it out huh? Will you do that for me?’ he reached out and pulled the curly haired cop to him in a bear hug of an embrace. Pulling away he locked his eyes on his partner’s indigo blues.

Starsky stared intently into his eyes, then looked away. ‘God, I wish you were real!’ he sighed.

Hutch was just about to try to explain when he felt a presence. Within seconds, he felt himself forcefully pulled from his partner and their dreamscape and he found himself again in the stone cell, Quinn and Ryan standing holding both Starsky and Traff against the wall.

Traff had tried desperately to hit out at their captors, to keep them away from his injured friend, but he too was weak and his blows were easily deflected, earning him another punch to the stomach and then to his head, spinning him back against the wall, panting and retching. Quinn took hold of a handful of Traff’s hair and pulled his head back so that he could see the bright green eyes.

‘Have you seen your pal take enough yet? Are you gonna tell me where they have Ade Ryan?’ he ground out as Traff tried to stop his world from whirling around him.

‘Go fuck yourself’ the soldier said through gritted teeth as he saw Pat Ryan take hold of Starsky again. Traff struggled against the big man pinning him against the wall.

‘Take me instead. I’ll play your games for a while. Or am I too much for ya. You’ve gotta pick on him coz he can hardly fight back any more. You yellow bellied…..’ He shut up quickly as Ryan pulled back his booted foot and kicked the semiconscious cop in the side.

Starsky’s eyes few open and he rolled onto his stomach, dipping his head and turning away so that Traff wouldn’t see just how much he was hurting. Quickly Ryan pulled Starsky to his feet and half marched, half dragged him from the room while Quinn took hold of Traff and pushed him out into the corridor to follow.

Hutch had watched the interaction with a growing feeling of horror. Not only did he have to watch what was going on, there was nothing he could physically do to help either man. His blood boiled in his veins and he spun round to see Amaram staring after the two injured men, fear and compassion in his purple eyes.

‘You’ve gotta take me back. I’ve gotta talk to someone in charge. This is impossible! I thought this was a fair test. It’s your bloody mistake I’m here, so why am I the one getting punished? I need help, or my buddy isn’t gonna make it. You’ve seen the state he’s in’.

Hutch took hold of the conductor’s arms gently and looked into the open, honest face. ‘Help me….please?’ he pleaded.

Amaram shifted his gaze uncomfortably. ‘I don’t know what I can do’ he said softly. ‘The rules are the rules and I know it’s damned unfair. Not sporting at all’ he said in his clipped accent. He looked at the suffering blond, feeling the man’s pain and seemed to come to a decision. Taking hold of Hutch’s wrist he closed his eyes.

‘Hold on’ he said as the blond felt the familiar pull.


Upstairs Starsky was feeling a familiar pull of a whole different kind. Once again, Traff had been tied to one of the pillars near the front of the church and the cop had been placed spread eagled once again over the disused wooden altar table, his wrists and ankles tied to the four legs. The position left him little room to breathe and coupled with the damage his lungs had taken from breathing in the brackish water, he panted heavily, as though he’d run a marathon. Bruises and swelling marred his usually flat stomach. He stared upwards, seeing the vaulted ceiling and the dreaded lights.

Quinn stood at his side, leaning casually against the wooden table, his ankles crossed. ‘How many lights are there?’ he asked softly.

‘What the fuck does it matter?’ Starsky mumbled as he looked up. Ryan once again had a hold of his head. The hands on the sides of his head tightened their grip and Quinn’s face appeared above him.

‘I asked a question. How many lights are there?’ he rested a heavy hand on the brunette’s chest further impeding his breathing.

‘Three’ Starsky muttered, counting them in his mind. Yeah three. One. Two. Three. That’s it. Just the three.

‘Wrong there are four. Look again. How many lights are there?’ the voice ground out in his ear.

Starsky felt disorientated. Lack of oxygen made his world wavy at the edges. He felt sick to his stomach and his head ached like nothing he’d ever felt before. If only they’d stop asking him questions he might be able to think. But they just kept plugging away, asking the same damned thing. He sneaked another look. One. Two. Three. There were definitely three lights.

‘Three lights’ he panted trying to roll his head away. Why wouldn’t they just let him rest a moment, then he could answer their questions better. He just needed to sleep. Just for a while to let his body heal a little. But it wasn’t to be. Dispassionately he watched as Quinn showed him the small gun and held it against his side.

Starsky closed his eyes, waiting for the shot. At least it would be quick, he thought to himself, flinching as he saw Quinn’s finger squeeze the trigger. Ryan took his hands away from the curly head as Quinn fired the Dry Taser against Starsky’s side. He held it there a moment watching in satisfaction as the brunette body arched against its restraints on the table.

Starsky felt his whole world sparkle in pain as the voltage ripped through his body. He couldn’t breath; couldn’t think. His head felt as though it would explode. The pain was indescribable and he felt the skin on his side blister. A scream was ripped from his throat and he thought he heard Traff yelling at them to leave him alone.

As quickly as it started, the pain stopped and he sagged back against the table with a ragged groan, his body still twitching as over excited muscles continued to fire. The hand came back to his head, forcing him to look up.

‘Where is Aidan Ryan?’

‘Timbuktu’ he spat out.

‘How many lights are there?’

Starsky saw the Taser ready in the evil man’s hand and looked again at the ceiling.

‘There are three fucking lights’ he yelled as the pain washed over him once more and he blacked out. His last thought was of a seascape, a dog and his flaxen haired partner.

Chapter 15

Hutch paced the pink fogged room, his heels making no sound on the pink fogged floor as he waited. That was one of the most annoying things about this place. Not only could he not hit anything, he couldn’t even make a loud noise! Amaram had brought him back to this place and told him to wait, scurrying off into the cloying pink mist and disappearing. The blond didn’t know what was worse; seeing his partner tortured to the edge of madness and being able to do nothing about it, or being here, separated from that same partner, worrying about what was happening to him. If his head could have ached it would have as he frantically peered into the fog, looking for Amaram’s return.

He had no idea how long he waited. As the bumbling conductor had said, time had no meaning here. He didn’t know whether a minute, an hour or a day had gone by, but his own body clock told him that it was too long to wait; too long for his partner to endure. There wasn’t even anything to hit his fist against to display his anger and impatience. He groaned out loud, running his hand desperately through his blond locks.

The mist finally parted, just as Hutch thought he would go mad if he had to wait any longer, and Amaram stepped out accompanied by the same formidable looking woman he’d seen at the reception desk. She gave him the barest hint of a smile as Amaram made the formal introductions.

I think you’ve already met Leilani. She’s a member of the high council and she’s agreed to some, erm….some further conditions’ Amaram said cautiously. He was obviously in awe of the woman and hung back as she came forward to speak to Hutch.

‘You have impressed my little conductor very much’ she said in a deep and resonant voice. ‘In all the five hundred odd years he’s been here, he’s hardly said boo to a goose. But he was especially vociferous on your behalf’.

The blond looked at the tall man, who’d bent himself almost double, trying to appear small behind the council member. He saw the purple eyes glance his way and he smiled his thanks.

Leilani was continuing. ‘It appears our conditions do not meet with your approval. He tells me that you are unable to make any headway in helping your friend. Do I have to remind you that if you are unable to save him, your life will also be forfeit?’

‘And just how the hell am I supposed to fix anything when I can’t talk to anyone, I can’t touch anything? Have you any idea what its like to watch your partner being tortured and not be able to do shit about it? Let me tell you, lady, if I wasn’t already dead, I’d die to save Starsky having to go through any more pain. He means that much to me. Now you tell me, what am I supposed to do to stop this from happening?’

Hutch stopped, panting with exertion at his outburst. He was beside himself with anger. The wait in the stupid pink fog and the calm exterior of this woman just added fire to his emotions and he balled his fists up, trying to get his temper in check again.

Leilani stared at him, implacable, almost amused at the blonde’s outburst. She held up a hand.

‘Be still a moment. We have revised our conditions in your favour I think. Are you prepared to listen?’

Hutch took a deep breath. ‘Ok, so, what are these new conditions?’ he asked, trying to keep his voice even and reasonable. Truth was, he had no reason to trust these people. They’d done nothing to help him so far. In fact they’d seemed to take great delight in putting every possible obstacle in his way.

‘I have spoken at length with the other members of the council and they wish me to put forward this proposal. You may have waking contact with one member of the earthly realm, but only one. Choose carefully, for this is your only chance to save your friend and yourself. Already his health falters. You must act quickly’ she intoned.

Hutch was uncertain. ‘His health falters? He was bad but not that bad when I left him. What’s happened? How long as it been? He persisted.

Leilani looked puzzled and Amaram sidled up to her. ‘Time M’lady. He still calculates things in time’ he explained, bowing low.

‘Ah time, yes. We had almost forgotten. Let me see. In your terms a week has gone by since you saw him last’ she said, a far off look in her eye.

‘A week? My God, what they could have done at him in a week!’ Hutch yelled, his face reddening with anger again.

Leilani ignored his outburst. ‘Have you chosen your contact?’ she asked.

Hutch stopped, trying hard to make what was more than likely one of the most important decisions of his, and Starsky’s life. ‘You said waking contact. What exactly does that include? Can I talk to ‘em? Can I touch ‘em? What?’ he looked expectantly at Leilani.

‘You may talk to your chosen contact, but nothing more’ she said.

‘Not good enough! I need to be able to touch ‘em. My friends think I’m lying comatose in a hospital room. If any of ‘em see me, they’ll just put it down to too much booze or a bad burrito’ the blond explained. ‘I need to be able to touch…….Please? Just that. Just a touch. It’s all I ask. And if I can’t pull it off that way, then I’ll accept the consequences.

Leilani considered a moment, then nodded briefly. ‘Very well. Verbal and tactile communication. Have you chosen?’

Hutch took a deep breath. Well, this was the moment of truth. If he botched this up, it was goodbye Bay City and hello pink foggy nowhere land. ‘Huggy’ he said.

Amaram stepped forward. He’s known as Huggy ‘Bear’ Brown in the records, M’lady’ he said, handing her a large ledger. She checked the name.

‘It’s done’ she said. ‘But hurry. I fear your friend’s time is running out’. She turned and faded into the mist as Hutch took hold of Amaram’s hand.

‘Thanks Ammy, buddy. Now, take me back to my partner.


Traff tried to sooth the cop’s fevered motion as best he could as Starsky’s head thrashed from side to side on the hard stone floor. In the preceding week, Quinn had been for the brunette every day, using one form of ‘persuasion’ or another to try to extract the information he needed about Ade Ryan’s whereabouts. Traff had taken to yelling at them that they didn’t know where he was, but he knew Quinn didn’t believe him and he was now of the grim opinion that the big hit man was enjoying the process too much to stop anyway.

Hutch arrived back in the cell just as Starsky was shaken awake by another bout of coughing. His face was flushed red with fever and the temperature sparkled in the indigo blue eyes. His once springy curls were now dirty and bloody and matted against his head, the same blood drying in rivulets down the sides of his handsome but pain haggard face.

His shirt had long since gone, ripped from him in a fit of rage by Pat Ryan and Hutch’s blood boiled as he saw the damage his partner’s body had endured. A massive blue/black bruise extended along the middle portion of the usually flat stomach, and it was interspersed with burns which looked as though they had come from cigarette stubs. The whole right side of the brunette’s body was blistered from the repeated applications of the Dry Taser and where the blisters had burst, huge raw sores gleamed wetly in the dim room. Starsky’s wrists and ankles were red raw from the bonds they’d used to tie him to the altar table and his ribs were beginning to stand out like ploughed furrows. Neither Quinn nor Ryan thought it was any use feeding either man, and although they left a small jug of brackish water in the cell each day, there was hardly enough to keep dehydration at bay. Traff had hardly taken any fluid in the past 36 hours as he used his share to bathe Starsky’s wounds and try to get the suffering detective to drink.

Starsky stopped his exhausted coughing and lay panting on the ground as Traff tried to run a hand over his brow. But the brunette flinched away.

‘Hey Curly. It’s only me. It’s Traff. C’mon pal, just try ‘n’ breathe huh? That’s my boy’. He held the dirty tin cup to his friend’s mouth.’ Just try an’ take a sip. Pretend it’s a nice ice cold beer huh? Good and cold on the back of your throat?’ He held the curly head up as the liquid touched the fevered man’s lips. Starsky swallowed and groaned as Traff laid his head tenderly back down on the ground.

The cop’s fever hued eyes fixed on the dark haired soldier. ‘There’s three lights?’ he mumbled in a low, rasping voice.

‘Yeah, just the three. Don’t worry about the lights, just try an’ sleep’.

The brunette made a lunge for Traff’s arm, weakly clinging to it. ‘But I…..three……told him there were three……three lights’ he mumbled as his arm dropped down to his side again.

Traff looked away, despair in his eyes. Starsky had become fixated with the lights after a week of the treatment and he feared he was loosing his friends mind to the madness. He took hold of a blood stained hand. ‘Just the three. Three bloody lights ok?’ he said softly as he saw the dark blue eyes close again. Wearily he leaned his head back against the stone wall.

‘God Curly. What are we gonna do now huh? Should we just tell ‘em an address and let ‘em find out Ade isn’t there? But then they’d just come back an’ start all over again. Why don’t they beat me instead of you huh? Look at you’ he brushed his hand over the curls on the cop’s forehead affectionately. ‘Listen to me. I’m talking to myself. I’ll be the next candidate fro the nut house. Just don’t leave me Starsky ok?’ his thin voice tailed off as he closed his eyes against the hopelessness of the situation.

Hutch bent down beside his partner’s body and desperately put his hand inside the fevered forehead. Again there was the murky mist, but this time, instead of the cool sea mist of the Martha’s Vineyard headland, he was standing on the edge of a fiery maelstrom, looking down into the boiling caldera of the erupting volcano. White hot lava spurted up from the depths, mirrored in the blue eyes as Starsky turned to see his flaxen haired partner.

‘Hey buddy, I missed ya’ the brunette said, seemingly unsurprised at the presence. ‘I’ll be with ya soon. Wait for me?’

Hutch felt tears burning in his eyes. He draped his arm around his partner’s shoulders. ‘You’re not gonna die pal, and I’m real. I’m really here Starsk and I’m gonna get ya out of this hell hole’.

‘Yeah sure’ the smaller man replied sadly. ‘I’m really loosing it Blondie. They just keep asking me about the lights and there are three, I know there are but whenever I tell ‘em three, they hurt me. They really hurt Hutch and I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I always thought I was pretty tough, but it hurts so damned much’ he took hold of a handful of Hutch’s shirt and buried his head in the blonde’s chest as Hutch rubbed his partner’s arms. They stayed like that for a while, giving and receiving comfort as Hutch tried t get his plan together in his head.

Eventually, he pushed Starsky gently away to arm’s length and looked into his indigo blue eyes. ‘I’m gonna go now, Starsk. I need to get you out of here, but I need you to hang in there for me. Can you do that…..for me?’

The brunette took a deep shaky breath and gave his partner the shadow of a lop sided grin. ‘Just go, do what you have to. I’ll be here. Promise to come back?’

Hutch smiled. ‘I promise. And don’t forget, I really do exist, you have to believe that’.

As the vision faded he heard his partner’s voice as if from a distance. ‘Love ya Blintz’.

Chapter 16

Hutch took hold of Amaram’s hand. ‘Take me to Huggy, fast as you can…… please’ he said.

Amaram took a last look at the blood stained, beaten body on the ground and shivered. ‘You have to hurry’ he said, closing his eyes and concentrating. Hutch felt the by now familiar drag round his waist and closed his eyes, stepping out of the swirl of colour a moment later in the Pits bar. Sneaking a quick look through the window to the outside, Hutch decided it must be fairly early morning by the length of the shadows on the sidewalk and he looked around the dim interior of the bar, searching for the barman. The room was deserted and Hutch rounded on Amaram.

‘I told you to take me to Huggy’ he hissed, knowing there wasn’t a moment to loose.

‘I did’ Amaram squeaked. ‘He’s here somewhere, really he is, we just need to look’ and to prove his point he set off around the room, looking under tables and behind chairs. Hutch watched the tall man making such a futile search, but he felt some affection for the conductor. He might have screwed up big time, but he had a genuine caring attitude and Hutch couldn’t help but like him. He was about to join in the search when the object of their conversation came round the corner from the kitchen.

Huggy was carrying a tray full of clean glasses to stack behind the bar and Hutch drew back into the shadows, not wanting the black man to drop the whole lot on the floor and make a commotion. He watched as the tray was placed carefully on the counter top and Huggy had turned his back to stack them on the shelves. He walked carefully to the bar, hoping that Leilani was as good as her word.


The black man froze, the glass slipping from his hand to smash on the floor. Cautiously he turned and blinked stupidly at Hutch. The blond swore that he saw the features blanch a shade or two.

‘Don’t weird out on me. Its me and it’s a long story’ Hutch started as the barman took a step back, leaned heavily on the bar, then slithered bonelessly to the ground in a dead faint.

‘Oh Terrific!’ he muttered as he vaulted over the bar and knelt by the side of his friend. Hesitantly he reached out a hand and held it millimetres above the supine body. He closed his eyes, hoping again that this would work and slowly brushed the short curly hair. His hand remained on the surface instead of disappearing into the man’s head, and he took a hold of the shoulder, shaking it gently.

‘Huggy, c’mon pal. No time to take a nap. I need you here for me. Wake up….please?’ there was a small groan. Hutch tried again, shaking a little harder.

‘HUGGY’ he thundered. ‘Wake up’. He waited and slowly the big brown eyes opened and stared up at the blond, a look of disbelief them.

Hutch took the man’s hand and pulled him to his feet, propping him against the bar as Huggy visibly shook.

‘Either you made a miraculous recovery, or I’ve had too much of the funny juice’ he muttered, rubbing his eyes.

‘Wrong on both scores’ Hutch said. ‘Like I said it’s a very long story. I don’t really believe it, so I’ve no idea why you should’.

The blond looked at Amaram. ‘Can he see you too?’ he asked, seeing the conductor shake his head.

‘Who ya talking to now, little green men?’ Huggy asked, recovering some of his composure.

‘Ah no, not quite. Listen Hug, can we talk? You’re not going to fade out on me again are ya? He watched as the lanky man cautiously shook his head.

‘Ok, this is the score. I know I’m still in the hospital…….No hear me out huh?’ he said as he saw the black man’s eyes glaze over. ‘I’ve been given the chance to save Starsky. He’s being held at some disused church and I have to get him outa there. He’s in a bad way Hug…..they’re torturing him. Traff’s with him. You’re my one chance to sort this out. If I can, everything will be ok. I know it’s a hell of a lot for ya to take in. Ya with me?’

He watched closely as Huggy tried to assimilate the information he’d been given. The black brows knitted in concentration. ‘So, you’re not in the hospital any more?’

‘Yeah, I’m still there Hug. Or at least my body is. But I’m here an’ I’ve got the chance to talk to you’.

‘Well go talk to Dobey’.

Hutch shook his head. ‘No can do. There’s only you can see me, and I really need you to trust me on this one huh?’

Huggy squared his shoulders. ‘OK, I’ll play along. So, where’s the curly one now?’

The blond ran his tongue over his lower lip. ‘I told you, an abandoned church’.

Huggy shrugged his shoulders. ’Well you know religion aint what it used to be. Do you know how many churches are abandoned? Give me a clue here, oh dead one!’

‘I don’t know. And I’m not dead….yet. But if I can’t pull this off there’ll be three funerals to arrange. Shit! How the hell am I supposed to find the church?’ he put his head in his hands suddenly feeling more tired than he’d done in a long time. When had he last slept? He couldn’t remember. He felt a pat on his shoulder and looked up to see Amaram’s concerned purple eyes looking at him.

‘Erm…..I may have been dead a while, but I knew a thing or two in the old days. If I might be permitted? You’re looking at this too literally’.

Hutch scrunched his nose up ‘Huh?’

‘Well’ Amaram continued. ‘You can’t find the church, but maybe you could get those men to come here?’

The blond was just about to retort when he suddenly realised the sense in the suggestion. He also caught Huggy’s startled look, remembering that the barman could see him, but not the white haired conductor. He laid his hands down on the bar,

‘Are you with me Hug?’ he asked, locking eyes with the black man. He could see the argument in the eyes, but then it cleared and Huggy made his decision.

‘Hey, a lot of folks say I’m mad anyway, so I may as well prove ‘em right. What ya want me to do?’

Hutch felt the relief wash over him. ‘OK. I’m going to go back to Starsky and tell him he has to say that you know where Ade Ryan is. You need to make sure Dobey is with you when they come looking for you. Got that?’

‘Right. Starsky, Ryan, Dobey. Got it’.

‘And Hug? Be careful. They’re mean!’


Once again they’d tied Starsky to the altar. He’d been unable to fight off the brutal hands that had lifted him up and dragged him back up the stone stairs, his shins bleeding from the stones cutting into them. Traff had not fared much better. He too was on the verge of collapse from lack of food and dehydration. His tongue was swollen in his mouth and his lips were cracked and bleeding, but it didn’t stop him yelling at their captors to leave the brunette alone until Ryan kicked him in the side. He felt and heard the rib break and doubled over to try to protect the injury.

Starsky knew his mind was on the verge of shutting down. He no longer really felt the bite of the ropes around his wrists and ankles any more, the sensation having long since gone from the torn and infected skin. His chest, splayed open once more, felt tight and hot, but he had almost no strength left to cough, and when he did, he spat blood onto the stone floor.

The position pulled at the raw sores on his side and the hands at his head felt like a vice as they forced him to look ever upwards. He waited panting in dread for the litany of questions. They came all too soon. Quinn’s face appeared above him.

‘So, you know the drill. Tell me how many lights there are’.

The disorientated cop looked at them. One. Two. Three. There were three. Or was that another one he could see? Were there four and he’d gotten it wrong all this time? He screwed his hot tired eyes up in concentration. No there were only three, he was sure of it.

‘Three’ he said in a low weak voice, bracing himself for the inevitable pain. It came in the shape of the Dry Taser again, and his exhausted body arched and bucked on the table, a scream being wrenched from his tired throat. Quinn held the gun to the detective’s side, watching the skin crisp and burn before taking the miserable object away. Starsky’s sweat wet body sagged back against the hard wood which suddenly felt like a feather bed. He was pathetically grateful for any delay before the next pain and he groaned quietly.

‘Where is Ade Ryan?’

‘…..don’t know……don’t know. Three lights, there are three’ the words came out in an agonised hiss.

As Quinn bent down again, Hutch popped into existence at his partner’s side, wishing he could push the big thug out of the way. Desperately hoping the exhausted brunette would be able to see him, he dug his hand into the sweat soaked head and concentrated.

The world he entered was red. A red room with red furniture and a red window, loud angry music blared from the red stereo in the corner, but it stopped as he looked towards it. In the middle of the ruby space, his friend stood like a small boy, alone and terrified, his hands up to his face, trying to blot his surroundings out. Hutch crossed the room.

‘Oh God Starsk, I’m sorry I’ve been so long’ he said, taking hold of the shaking hands and warming them in his own.

Starsky looked up, his eyes filled with pain and fear. ‘Ya come to take me home?’ he said in a small voice.

‘I’ve come to save ya, buddy. There’s just one thing you need to do for me and this will all stop. Can you do that?’

‘Dunno’ his partner said. ‘Hurts too much. Can’t think any more. Three lights. There’s three lights’.

Hutch put his hand up to his friend’s face, dismayed when Starsky flinched away from his touch. He persisted and rubbed his thumb down the pain lined face. Slowly Starsky leaned his face against the hand, his eyes closed as he relished the gentle contact.

‘Forget the lights buddy. You don’t need to think of them any more. No-one will hurt you any more, just do as I say’. He put his hand under the brunette’s chin holding it so that he could see into the stormy blue eyes. ‘When he asks you about Ade Ryan again, tell him Huggy knows where he is. Have you got that? Huggy knows’. He saw the cloudy look and shook his partner gently.

‘Starsk, have you got it’.

Slowly the misty look cleared and Starsky looked at him. ‘Tell them Huggy knows where Ade is’ he mumbled

‘Good. That’s good buddy. I’ll be right here, but you have to do it now ok?’

At the brief nod, Hutch withdrew his hand just as Quinn was about to apply the Taser again.

‘Huggy Bear’ Starsky mumbled his voice almost inaudible. It was the first time he’d made any other sound and it brought Quinn up short. He leaned down close to the bound man’s mouth.

‘Say again. Where’s Ade?’

Starsky licked his dry lips. ‘Huggy Bear…..Pits Bar……knows’ he rasped.

Quinn looked at Ryan, a gleeful smile on his face. ‘Knew we’d break the piece of shit. Leave him there while we go see a man called Huggy’.

The brunette painfully turned his head and watched as the two men started to walk away. Gathering all his strength his yelled at them.


The man turned, surprised.

‘There are three fucking lights’ Starsky yelled before his strength gave out and he dived down into unconsciousness.

Chapter 17

‘Ammy, take me to Dobey’ Hutch said, stepping out of the colours into the Captain’s office.

Across town, his friend was making the all important phone call.

‘Could I speak with Captain Dobey please? Huggy held the phone wondering just what he was doing and how would he convince the police captain to do as he said, if he couldn’t understand it himself. The one thing he did understand, and understand very well, was that if he didn’t get some nice uniformed officers there very quickly, there could well be some holes in his black hide. He tapped his free hand on the bar top as he waiting for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally there was a crackle on the other end of the telephone.


‘’Good morning Captain, this is Huggy Bear’ the barman said with polite formality. He heard the change in Dobey’s voice and so did Hutch.

No, no. Hear him out Cap. Don’t shut him out, it’s important

‘What d’you want Hug? I’ve no time for booking holidays or buying your next line in pet stones. It may have escaped your notice, but I’m up to me eyes in sick and missing officers’.

Hutch smiled at that. Just how many dodgy deals the barman had made over the years was beyond the blond.

Huggy heard the slight crack in the gruff voice and knew just how much this situation had done to the Captain. He’d taken the news of Hutch’s shooting badly, feeling that he was to blame for allowing the officer to go undercover to such a dangerous group. And then when Starsky and his friend were kidnapped, his life took a turn for the worse.

Dobey loved both his errant, hot headed and slightly wayward officers dearly. He always saw Hutch as the slightly more sensible “older brother” and Starsky as the mischievous schoolboy, even though both men were the same age, and the times he’d had them in is office to ball them out about one thing or another, he had a hard time keeping his face straight. He’d lost so many nights sleep this past week as he co-ordinated the search for the brunette that Edith had taken to bringing his meals into the Metro, to save him having to phone her and to make sure he got something to eat. As she’d pointed out to him, if he got sick, who could Starsky rely on next?

Huggy cleared his throat. ‘I know we don’t always see eye to eye Cap’ he heard the snort of derision clearly, but pressed on anyway.

Good, that’s good Hug. Go for the honesty approach.

‘And I know you’re a religious type of guy, so I want you to keep an open mind on what I’m gonna tell you ok?’

Yeah, that’s it. Keep plugging away.

A sigh ‘Huggy, I’m a busy man and I’ve got a missing officer – your friend. So just cut the crap and spit it out’ Dobey said wearily. He was in no mood for the barman’s fun and games. His head ached and his back was giving him hell from spending so long in his office chair. He rubbed his hands over his face, digging them into his sandpaper dry eyes.

‘Captain, I’ve seen Hutch and he’s told me how to get Starsky back’ Huggy said in a less than hopeful manner. He was right to worry and he heard the telephone slammed down. With rising panic, he dialled the Metro number again and waited.

Hutch looked on in horror. Shit Hug, I know I said honest was good, but that was just way out there on a limb, you stupid son of a…..C’mon Huggy. Try again

‘Captain Dobey please’ again he tapped his fingers waiting for the connection, then heard the click.

Before Dobey could have chance to yell at him he tried again.

‘Please Captain. I know you think I’m crazy. Hell, I think I’m crazy, but you have to listen. Ignore how I know all this, but the guys who have Starsky are on their way to my bar and this is your perfect opportunity to pick ‘em up and get our man back’. He paused. He’d managed to get the sentence out in a rush and now he stood and waited for the police Captain’s reaction.

Yeah that’s good. Get the whole lot out before he can shut you up. C’mon Hug, make it work

Dobey had always made no bones about the fact that he held Huggy in contempt. The barman’s manner and his easy way with money left Dobey cold and he preferred to have as little to do with him as possible. But he also knew that Huggy liked Starsky and Hutch almost as much as he did. There was just something in the barman’s voice that made him sit up and take notice.

‘OK Huggy. I’ll ride with you on this for a while. What d’you want me to do?’

‘I need you to get some fire power over here. From what Hu…..from what I know, these dudes are mean with a capital M. And there on their way now, ya dig?’

Dobey sighed. ‘OK Huggy, I’ll get a team over there right now. But if this is a scheme, or if you’re trying something on, so help me, I’ll bust your ass…..’

‘Thanks Captain. I appreciate it’ Huggy sad, cutting off the other man’s tirade. He put the phone down and waited. ‘I hope this wasn’t a psychotic episode. I just hope you get here and find Starsky’ he muttered to himself.

Within fifteen minutes, the Pits bar had filled up with a mixture of male and female officers all in plain clothes all looking as though they were there for a good time. Huggy had supplied them all with drinks on the house and they sat at various tables looking as though they were there for a works outing. Huggy himself stood behind the bar, trying hard not to look nervous or anxious. He’d poured himself a stiff bourbon on the rocks and had taken several shaky pulls at the fiery fluid already. Each time a new face came into the bar he looked up swiftly, expecting gunmen and thugs at every turn.

Quinn and Ryan had never been to the bar before, but they found the place swiftly enough, the gaudy sign outside proclaiming Huggy Bear to be the owner of the establishment. They sat in the car and waited, checking their weapons and discussing their next move.

‘So, this guy Huggy. Sounds a real flake. We go in, take him and work him over some?’

‘That’s about the size of it’ Quinn replied, evil light shining in his eyes. ‘You ready?’ He saw the nod from Ryan and opened the door of the panel truck, walking swiftly over to the door of the Pits. He opened it and walked into the dim, warm interior.

Huggy looked up again as the two strangers walked in. He knew immediately that these were the two he’d been waiting for and his mouth dried suddenly as though he’d sucked a lump pf Allum. He watched as they made their way casually over to the bar, casting a swift glance around his bar. With all the fire power around he knew he should have felt safe, but the officers didn’t even look like they’d seen the two hit men. He walked casually over to them.

‘Hey man. What can I get you from the bar? He hoped the nervousness didn’t sound in his voice.

Quinn smiled wolfishly. ‘Looking for a guy called Huggy Bear?’ he said.

‘Well, ya found him. Pro-prietor of this luscious establishment and all round entrepreneur’. Huggy proclaimed.

Swiftly, Quinn pulled his gun and levelled it at the black man, keeping it shielded from view to all except the terrified Huggy.

‘Step into the alley now’ he said, his voice low and intense.

Huggy eyed the weapon as though it was a snake ready to bite him. He hoped against hope that the officers in the bar had seen what was going on. He saw a couple of them get up to leave, waving him a cheery goodbye as he walked slowly towards the rear exit, his hands in clear view of Quinn and Ryan.

Stepping out into the bright sunlight, he was temporarily blinded after the dim interior of the bar and he blinked once or twice, seeing the alleyway apparently deserted. Heart in his mouth, he turned and stared at his assailants.

‘What’s this about?’ he asked, his tone remarkably level.

‘We want to know where Ade Ryan is’ Quinn said conversationally. ‘A little bird told us you knew’.

At that moment all hell broke loose. The cops hiding in the alley had waited for final confirmation that these two were the men they wanted. Now, they sprang into action and before Quinn and Ryan had time to fire their weapons or look bemused, five gun wielding detectives had them in their sites.

‘On the ground now. Put your weapons down and bite the dirt’ one of the cops yelled, stepping forward to cuff them.

‘We’ve been had’ Ryan said bitterly as he dropped his gun onto the ground and kicked it away from him. Both men slowly lay down on their bellies on the ground, fingers laced behind their heads.

Dobey raced around to the alley and skidded to a halt in front of the two men. He knelt down and took hold of a handful of Quinn’s hair. Yanking the head back, he stared into the man’s face, his eyes holding contempt.

‘You have one of my men, and a soldier of the United States. Where are they?’ he yelled at Quinn.

‘Somewhere you’ll never find ‘em’ Quinn ground out, realising he had nothing else to loose.

Dobey stared into the ice cold eyes, seeing only hatred and self preservation in them. His blood boiled and without regard for rank or regulations he backhanded the hit man across his face, watching as a thin trickle of blood began its slow journey down the side of Quinn’s mouth.

Quinn grinned back, happy that he had pushed Dobey’s buttons. Looking around Dobey made his decision.

‘Get out of here and secure the perimeters’ he yelled at the waiting officers. I’ve got these two covered. The detectives started to disperse. When the alley was clear, Dobey drew his gun and ground the muzzle into Ryan’s temple, all the time staring at Quinn.

‘Tell me where my man is’ he said.

Quinn stared at him. ‘You’re a police officer. You wouldn’t dare’ he challenged, although his voice held a hint of uncertainty.

‘D’you want to put that to the test?’ Dobey asked levelly. ‘You’ve got one of my best men, you’ve shot the other one and he’s gonna die. Do you think I want to see any more of my men die? D’ya think I want to send any more of ‘em to their death? I’m tired of it, and I figured I may as well go out with a bang’ to emphasise the point, he pulled the hammer back, cocking his weapon.

Quinn’s resolve broke and he gave up. Tiredly he put his head back down into the dirt.

‘Disused church up in the hills behind the Canyon Road. Hang a left at the second mile marker and follow the road’ he said.

Dobey got up, setting off for the church as fast as he could.

Chapter 18

Hutch saw his Captain wrestle Quinn on the ground and smiled in satisfaction. Go Dobey! He watched until Quinn had told of the whereabouts of the church, hearing Dobey call for ambulances and backup, then stood and took hold of Amaram again.

‘Take me back to Starsky. And Ammy……thanks. Good thinking’.

The tall conductor positively glowed at the praise from his new friend and excelled himself in the colours he created during the transfer back to the church. Hutch stepped clear of the maelstrom and looked around him at the scene of carnage. Alone now in the cold stone church were his two friends, both damaged beyond belief.

Traff was semi-conscious, tied by his wrists against the pillar at the foot of the altar so that he could clearly see the torture his friend had to endure, and hear the raw screams that had been wrenched from the brunette’s throat. Occasionally he would lift his head painfully and rasp a soothing comment at the brunette whose pain wracked body was still splayed on the Altar table, but he hadn’t had a reply in some time and feared the worst.

Hutch rushed up the two steps to make sure he wasn’t too late, feeling sick to his stomach in anticipation of what he’d find. Starsky’s eyes were closed and his breath was shallow and uneven. His body was a torn and brutalised mass of bruises, blisters and sores and face was an ashen grey colour. Blood seeped from the myriad sores down the side of his body and Hutch heard the rattle and gurgle as his partner tried to breath. There was a bluish tinge to his lips and occasional tremors ran through his body, although he seemed unaware of them. Hutch could see the cracked lips moving and as he leaned forward he heard the feverish repetitions. Over and over the brunette was mumbling to himself ‘Three lights…..three……there are three……three lights’.

Hesitantly Hutch pushed his hand against the sweat soaked brow and felt it enter. He closed his eyes in concentration, seeing again the murky grey fog as it cleared around him.

He was back on the Martha’s Vineyard headland looking out at the sea, but this time, the weather was lashing with rain, thunderclouds gathering overhead, sending forks of lightening crashing to the sea as the thunder claps rolled around the landscape. The blond screwed his eyes up against the driving rain, looked around him. He saw his partner once more sitting on the cliff top looking out to sea, his hair matted to his head, rain dripping from the sodden curls onto the drenched clothing. The dog was once more at his side, sheltering in the lee of her master’s body. Kirsty saw Hutch before Starsky was aware of his presence and wagged her tail, barking at the stranger, glad of the company on this murderous night. The brunette slowly turned and smiled at Hutch.

‘I wondered when you’d come’ he said sadly. ‘I was just waiting’ he said wiping a hand over his wet face and licking at the raindrops as they trickled down his cheeks to the corner of his lips.

‘Waiting for what buddy?’ Hutch asked as he lowered himself to the sodden ground at the side of the smaller man.

‘Waiting for you to take me to…..I don’t know…..wherever I’m supposed to go now’ he said, reaching out to the flaxen haired cop. ‘I’m glad you came for me, I couldn’t hold out any longer’ he said as another lightening flash lit up his handsome face. ‘I tried Hutch. God I tried, but they hurt me, an’ I couldn’t hold out any longer. I did what ya said. Did I do right? They kept asking me about the lights. There are three, right?’ he looked for confirmation in the ice blue eyes

Hutch rested his forehead on his partner’s wet shoulder. ‘God Starsk. I’m not coming to take you anywhere other than home. We’ve done it. They’ve gone. No more hurting pal, no more lights. You just need to wait for the ambulance now’.

‘Yeah? Did I tell ‘em the right number?’

Hutch sighed. Oh Gods partner, what have they done to you? Shut up about the damned lights. They’re not important. They never where. Just come back to me huh? Out loud he said ‘Yeah, you told ‘em buddy. Just wait with me an’ I’ll get you back to the hospital’.

But Starsky was shaking his head a look of fear on his face. ‘No….don’t wanna go back….hurts too much. Just take me with you’ the desperate eyes drilled into Hutch’s ice blues.

‘I’m comin’ back with ya buddy, promise. Just hang in there huh? I know it hurts, but it’ll be ok, honest. Just hang in there’.

‘Hutch, I can’t….can’t go back, they’ll ask me again and I can’t do it. There are three, but they hurt me when I tell ‘em. Did I do it wrong? Are there four? I only see three, honest I do. Ungh….can’t breathe…..hurts……hurts so damned much!...don’t wanna go back. Please don’t make me go back’. The brunette was whimpering now, his head in his hands and the dog sitting closely at his feet. The little animal cocked its head on one side, listening to the familiar voice.

Hutch was desperate. What could he do while he couldn’t touch anything or talk to anyone? Come to think of it, why hadn’t he gone back to his body, he wondered? What was the use of coming so far and loosing at the last hurdle? He took his hand out of his partner’s head with a soft ‘be right back Gordo’.

Finding himself back in the church with Amaram, he looked desperately around him, then at the conductor. ‘Why haven’t I gone back to my body? he demanded. ‘Why’s nothing changed? He’s dying and they said he wouldn’t if I could sort this out’ he took hold of the tall conductor’s shoulders. ‘I need to get him untied, help me?’ he pleaded.

Amaram shook his head sadly. ‘There’s nothing I can do’ he whispered. ‘I’m so sorry’.

Hutch ran down the steps to Traff, examining the bonds on the soldier’s wrists, trying to untie them. His fingers slipped through the knots and he cursed in exasperation. Standing he looked skywards.

‘HELP ME’ he yelled at any being who may be watching him. ‘FOR PITIES SAKE HELP THEM IF NOT ME’ his shout tailed off into a defeated sob and he dropped to his knees, weary beyond belief.

Behind him, he heard a noise and he looked around as Traff’s arms slipped down to his sides, his bonds gone. The soldier groaned and rubbed at the abraded skin looking wonderingly at their freedom, then levered himself unsteadily to his feet, wobbling up the steps to the altar. Hutch watched as Traff began untying his partner’s stretched limbs, fumbling with numb fingers at the tight ropes. Desperately slowly the soldier undid one after the other until he could lift and cradle the broken body in his aching arms.

‘Hey Curly, I got ya. I’m here pal’ he soothed the forehead and rubbed up and down Starsky’s arms looking for some sort of response, but the brunette was locked in his own nightmare world and he shook in the embrace as he looked up at Traff’s bright green eyes and flinched. ‘Three?’ he gasped, then closed his eyes again.

At that moment, Hutch heard the ambulance sirens coming along the road and relief flooded through him. Within minutes, Dobey, two other uniformed officers and four paramedics had burst into the church and were dealing with the two injured men, Dobey angrily seeing the damage his man had sustained

Hutch stood back as he watched them work over Starsky’s unmoving body, inserting lines, setting up drips, administering drugs and covering his multiple wounds in temporary dressings. As he watched them place the body gently on a stretcher, he felt an odd sensation and saw Amaram looking at him, tears rolling down the conductor’s eyes.

‘Ammy, what is it pal?’ he asked.

Amaram took hold of the blonde’s hand. ‘This is it, you did it. You ‘re being sent back’. He bowed. ‘I wish you well’ he said formally.

‘No, wait’ Hutch yelled. ‘Will I see you again? What happens now? Ammy, I need a moment’ he said desperately, but the church was beginning to fade out. As his world began to dissolve, he saw the purple eyed conductor wave at him.

‘Thank you…..I’ve enjoyed your friendship’ he called to the disappearing blond.


Hell, his head hurt! He’d never realised just how much it hurt, in fact he’d never felt the wound before. And his throat was sore too. Why was that? He tried to swallow, but there seemed to be some sort of tube in his throat and swallowing was intensely painful. He tried to cough it out and immediately there was a nurse at his side.

‘Oh my God! You're awake. Steady there, Ken, welcome back’ she said. ‘You’ve been unconscious a long time. Just take it easy a moment and I’ll get the doctor’. She departed and he stared at the white ceiling, waiting and trying to establish some sort of order to the thoughts flashing through his head. Within a moment a male voice was talking to him and a friendly face came into his line of vision.

‘Well hello there! I’m Mark. Don’t try to talk, there’s a respirator tube in your throat. You’ve been on the machine since you were admitted. You’ve been very sick, but I think you may have turned the corner now. I know you have a lot of questions, so I’ll try to give you as many answers as I can. If I ask any questions, blink once for yes and twice for no, ok?’

One blink.

‘Do you remember how you got here?’

Blink blink. No but a lots happened since then!

‘Do you remember being shot?’

Blink. Oh my god, how could I forget that?

'We had to operate and remove your spleen but I must say that it's healed remarkably well under the circumstances'.

‘Ok. Do we call you Ken?’

Blink blink. No that’s too dorky, please don’t.

‘Ah, Hutch? That’s what your police Captain called you’.

Blink. Much better, but cut the cackle and get to the facts Doc.

‘Ok Hutch, you’ve been here two weeks almost. You had a bullet in the left side of your head, but we’ve removed it and hopefully you will not have too many side effects’. The doctor saw the beseeching look in his patient’s ice blue eyes. Taking the chart and studying it, he gave some instructions to the nurse.

‘I think we can try you without the respirator for a while. Shall we do that?’

Blink. For pity’s sake just get this goddamned thing out of me!

‘Good. Yes, they are not the most pleasant of things’.

Hutch waited as preparations were made. Apart from the pain in his head, something was hammering away at his subconscious. He tried to concentrate. Yes, there it was. The vision of a tall man with purple eyes. He wondered at the vision. Where the hell had that come from? As he thought about it more, a name floated into his memory - Amaram. Did he know anyone called Amaram? Suddenly his fuzzy memory crystallised and he remembered. Yes. The church; Starsky and Traff; the pink fog and Amaram. He smiled to himself. So, it wasn’t all a nightmare, it was real. He felt warm and happy, then turned cold. Starsk and Traff! Where were they? Were they OK? How long had it been?’

Within minutes, the nurse and doctor had removed the confounded hose from his throat. Although not the most pleasant experience he’d ever had, it wasn’t quite so bad as he’d anticipated and he coughed experimentally. Although it sent pain lancing through his head, he felt a little more normal and he opened his mouth to speak.

The doctor held up his hand. ‘Don’t be alarmed if you don’t sound quite like yourself. An injury like yours may effect your speech to begin with, but it should all come back in time. Start slowly.

Hutch licked his lips, feeling the skin cracked and dry. Slowly he tried to say the most important name.

‘Ssstaaarrskyyy?’ he slurred, hoping the doctor would understand.

The doctor’s face fell. ‘Ah yes, your partner. He’s alive, just. He was brought in here with another man Thomas Trafford? Also alive’.


The doctor moved to one side, allowing the blond to move his head for the first time. Hutch smiled as he saw the still, pale form of the brunette. Starsky’s body was covered in gauze and bandages, drips and tubes emanating from various portions of his body, his own respirator hissing and whooshing as it drove oxygen into the damaged body. On another bed, Traff slept peacefully, armed with his own battery of drips and tubes.

‘Willllllll…. he…..beeee ok?’

The doctor nodded. They’re both seriously injured, malnourished and dehydrated but they should make a good recovery. But for now, you must concentrate on yourself. Your body has had a good rest these past two weeks, but you need to heal.

Hutch rested his head back on the pillow. Good rest? He’d never worked harder in his life! But it had all paid off and now his partner was back where he belonged – at his side. He closed his eyes and allowed sleep to overtake him, searching the dreamworld for a friend with white hair and purple eyes.