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.
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
‘And how will you serve?’
‘In whatever way the leader asks of me’ he said feeling the weight of his words in his
‘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
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’.
‘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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
‘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
‘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
‘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.
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
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
‘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
‘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
‘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
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
‘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
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
‘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
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
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’.
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.
‘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
‘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
The blond shook his head. No he didn’t have an idea, but he was getting a very bad feeling about
‘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
‘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
‘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
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
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
‘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
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.
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.
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
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
‘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
‘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
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
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.
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
‘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
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
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
‘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!’
‘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
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
‘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
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
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
‘How many lights are there?’
‘Three’ Starsky ground out, panting and trying to suppress the groan that wanted to escape
‘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.