A Numbers Game

Chapter 1

Hutch lay back on his bed panting, after an exhausting morning with his personal torturer. He’d lifted weights, bench pressed 125lbs and run on the treadmill for 45 minutes at a steady rate. Sweat had trickled down his face and into the towel wrapped around his neck, and his right leg still felt heavy and slow, but he felt generally good and glad to be back in the land of the living. His “torturer” was 5’9” tall with long blond hair, piercing blue eyes, which matched his partner’s and a disarming and playful smile. She also had an iron will and steely resolve and went. And she went by the name Anna. Perfect for a physiotherapist.

It was two days since he’d woken from what others called a two-week coma and he called another few days at the business end. While the doctors and nurses had looked after his body as it lay on the hospital bed hooked up to tubes, wires and monitors, he’d been flying on a whole different plane of existence as he battled to save the lives of his partner, Starsky and his friend, Thomas (Traff) Trafford.

He hadn’t yet had the courage to speak to anyone about his experiences with the purple eyed, white haired “conductor” who’d called himself Amaram. He wasn’t quite sure that he fully understood what had gone on and he didn’t want others thinking he was crazy. He’d been shot in the head with a .22 calibre bullet, yet was up and around walking and talking. That in itself was enough of a miracle to have the whole medical fraternity prodding, poking and questioning him. If he was to add that a dead “conductor” had zoomed him around in a maelstrom of colour from one spot to another, he knew he’d be destined for Cabrillo State before he could mutter “Dobey”. So he kept the snippet quiet and answered the medics’ questions in as non-committal way as possible.

The whole thing had started with an undercover operation with a group called the Northern Stars. He’d infiltrated the group as a new member, but one of the other members had discovered he was a cop. When it went sour, he’d been bound and made to face his “punishment”. He’d caught the assassination bullet, but his partner had crashed into the old factory the group used as their headquarters, arresting one of the group and getting the paramedics to him. As Hutch was taken to the hospital, the remaining group members had captured Starsky and Traff, who’d just happened to be in the wrong place and the wrong time with the intention of making them tell where their group member was being held. The forms of “encouragement” they’d used on both men had resulted in both the brunette and the soldier now occupying the other two beds in Hutch’s room.

Hutch had remembered nothing else of the incident until he arrived in a pink-fogged world with the tall conductor. After only 500 or so years on the job, Amaram was still a bit of a rookie and in order to avoid working overtime, he’d ‘reaped’ Hutch before he was strictly dead. Hutch had pleaded his case successfully before the high council and had been given another chance at life if he could save both Starsky and Traff.

After he’d “visited” Huggy and told him to tell Dobey to have men standing by at the Pits to arrest Quinn and Ryan, the two men who’d captured his partner and his friend, he’d gone back to the disused church. Desperate to make sure Starsky would survive, he’d tried his best to look after the two injured men there, although being unable to touch or speak with them was a big hindrance.

His only method of communication had been when his partner was close to death. Only then had he been able to reach into the brunette’s mind and join him in his freakish nightmares, offering just a little protection and support, although the maltreatment had taken its toll on the brunette’s body and his mind. Hutch wondered just how well he would recover.

Once Dobey and the paramedics had arrived at the church, he’d felt an odd pulling sensation and he’d known that he fulfilled the councils desire to save Starsky and Traff. He was allowed to go back to his own body and had woken up in the hospital bed, amazing the staff with his powers of recuperation.

Oh sure, he’d had the mother and father of all headaches and his speech had been, and still was a little slurred. He’d lost some strength down the right side of his body, but his doctor, Mark, had said that that was to be expected and hence the physiotherapy. This morning he had managed to walk all the way down to the physiotherapy suite on his own and had spent most of the morning there, anxious to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

He looked over at the still, pale forms on the other two beds. Both Traff and Starsky had been unconscious since their admittance, almost two days ago. Traff was in slightly better shape that the curly haired cop. He’d had almost two weeks without food. Their captors had ensured there was just enough water for both men to survive, although it was brackish and warm. Towards the end, as Starsky’s health had deteriorated, Traff had used most of his own ration to bathe his friend’s injures and force some of the fluid down the brunette’s throat. Hence he was both malnourished and dehydrated. He’d had three broken ribs, caused by a vicious kicking he’d received on his last day of captivity, and the breaks had caused a pneumohaemothorax.

As the soldier lay quietly in bed he had drips going into the back of each hand. One with Ringers Lactate used because he required a large-volume fluid replacement, another with a concentrated antibiotic to counteract the infection of the surgery he’d undergone to reinflate his left lung and to evacuate the blood in his chest cavity. A tube drain exited his chest, draining the blood into a sealed bottle hanging from the side of his bed. Alongside it was a bag to collect the products from the catheter. A blood pressure cuff around his right arm completed his ensemble and the nurses came every two hours to check on his progress. So far, the doctors were happy with his condition and thought it only a matter of time until he awoke.

On the other bed, Starsky’s body lay swathed in bandages and backlit by a soothing blue neon light. He’d been burned badly down the right hand side of his body when Quinn had repeatedly used the Dry Taser on him and the doctors had had to debride and deal with the blisters on his skin. Now they were covered with gel dressings which glinted in the defuse light over the bed as the cop’s chest was artificially inflated by the respirator. Starsky too had a battery of drips. The doctors had inserted a central line into his superior vena cava at the top of his chest, in order to try to get as large a volume of fluid into him as his damaged body could tolerate and bag after bag of Ringers Lactate flowed down the clear plastic tube into the fuzz covered chest.

He’d had an emergency operation to deal with a ruptured spleen and the stitches on the wound stood out in a prickly row across the swollen, bruised abdomen. He had another drip of antibiotics flowing into his left arm to counteract the infection from his abdominal injury and also from the pneumonia that had set in when he’d been forced to take in a lungful of filthy water as part of his torture. Because of the damage to his lungs, the doctors had him on a respirator and the steady hiss and whoosh of the machine both soothed and irritated the flaxen haired cop as he kept his vigil at his partner’s bedside.

Hutch desperately wanted the brunette to wake, if only to check that his partner was still with him on a fundamental level. He’d had to watch helpless as Quinn had tied Starsky down time after time to ask him where Ade Ryan was. The murderous hit man had added to the physical pain the curly haired cop had had to endure by a little psychological torture. Over and over, Quinn would force Starsky to look at the three lights hanging from the ceiling above him, asking how many there were. Each time the bound detective had answered “three” the evil man had punished him either with a beating or with the Taser, telling him there were four. Hutch had managed to get into his partner’s dreams, but far from comforting his friend, he’d seen a glimpse of a mind on the edge of madness, driven there by the incessant questions and the pain. He’d tried urgently to help the hurting detective, trying to assure him that everything would be alright and that he’d get them out of there, but Starsky had last seen Hutch n the hospital and saw Hutch’s presence as an indication that he too was dying. As Hutch looked down now at his partner’s damaged body, he worried too about the state of mind Starsky would be in when he finally awoke. He knew the dark haired hellion was tough, but some things could be too much even for Starsky to endure.

Some time during the afternoon of that day, Hutch was roused from his nap by a noise from the bed on the far side of the room. He eased his sore legs over the side of the bed and padded over to Traff’s bedside, seeing the confused unfocussed green eyes opening for the first time. He smiled down at the soldier.

‘Welcome back’ he said softly as Traff gazed up at him.

He saw the confusion in the bright green eyes and wondered how the hell he could explain what had happened. Deciding to leave that for another time, he pulled up a chair and sat by the bedside.

Traff was blinking and Hutch saw him swallow painfully. ‘How long?’ the soldier rasped.

‘Two days’ Hutch said. ‘You’re in Memorial. Starsky’s over there’ he pointed at the other occupied bed.

‘Thought you were dead’ Traff looked warily at the big blond. The last time he’d seen Hutch, the flaxen haired cop had been on life support and at death’s door. That was the reason he had been in Bay City with Starsky – to be a support to his friend as he waited for news of his partner. Now it would seem, the tables had been turned.

‘It’s a long story’ Hutch muttered, hoping the man in the bed wouldn’t press the issue. It was too early for Hutch to talk about his experiences and Traff to hear it. Instead he reached out and patted on of the soldier’s hands gently. ‘Thanks’ he said.

Traff looked confused. ‘What for?’

‘Looking after Starsky’.

Traff turned his head on the pillow and looked at the lifeless form. He snorted. ‘Didn’t do much of a job, did I?’ he asked, clutching at his side as pain flashed through his broken ribs.

‘Hey, without you, he wouldn’t have gotten this far’ Hutch insisted. ‘I know you were there for him. You gave him your water when you needed it yourself. I couldn’t bear the thought of him having to go through all that shit on his own’

Traff rested his curly head back against the pillow, then a look of confusion appeared in his eyes. ‘How did you know that? That I gave him my water ration? How could you have known that?’ he asked, staring fixedly at the blond.

Hutch looked away. Yes, how indeed. He decided that a change of subject was in order.

‘You need any pain meds, pal?’ he asked, seeing the look in the green eyes. He reached for the call button and pushed it, moving to one side as the nurse came bustling in.

‘Well look whose awake’ she said, putting her hand on the warm brow and inserting the thermometer under his tongue. Traff smiled back as much as he could with a mouth full of glass instrument and the nurse melted under the gaze of the green eyes. Hutch went back to his bed for a while, glad that at least one of his friends was back in the land of the living.

Chapter 2

It was another five days before the doctors decided that Starsky’s lungs had recovered well enough to take away the dreaded respirator. During that time, they’d kept him unconscious in the hope that his body and his mind would have some time to start to heal. Traff had been able to tell the doctors of the treatment the brunette had received at the hands of Quinn and Ryan and they were frankly amazed that he’d been able to withstand so much, but they were also pessimistic as to the outcome of the curly haired cop’s treatment. While the burns and surgical interventions were healing well, they had yet to find out what his mental state would be.

Hutch had amazed everyone by his recovery. Since his initial talk with Mark, the men’s doctor, where he could hardly string two words together without slurring his speech as though he’d had a skin full, he’d come on in leaps and bounds, to the extent where he had been formally discharged from the hospital. That didn’t stop the flaxen haired cop from being back at this partner’s bedside each day though, and the nurses had wryly observed that he was getting more attention since his discharge than he’d had when he was their patient. He’d refused on a couple of occasions to go home at night and so he’d been given his bed back and Mark had told him he could stay as long as he wanted just so long as he managed to get some rest.

He was there as the nurse held the curly head gently so that Mark could remove the respirator hose from Starsky’s throat. It represented the last of the tubes and drains to be removed, only the drips remaining to give some nourishment. He’d seen the nurse take hold of either side of the head on the pillow. Although Starsky’s eyes hadn’t opened, he’d seen the fingers twitch as though they wanted to ball his hands into fists, and Hutch remembered how Ryan had held the brunette’s head in a vice like grip, making him stare up at the lights above him. On some core level, his partner was reliving those moments and the blonde’s heart bled for his friend.

The nurse was talking softly to her patient, soothing the brow with her cool hands.

‘S’ok Dave. We’re just taking the tube away. You might feel as though you need to cough. That’s ok. You can do that. Just try to keep as still as you can….. Good…. That’s good Dave’.

The doctor pulled the tube carefully out and the body on the bed twitched, a reflexive cough being wrung from the healing man, but there was no other evidence that David Starsky was at home. The nurse let go of his head, and Starsky’s fingers stopped their convulsive twitching on the bed. Gently Hutch took hold of the nearest hand, rubbing his thumb gently over the back of his partner’s hand.

‘S’ok partner. It’s all done now. You’re safe. Just relax and sleep huh? I’m here…not going anywhere’ he whispered, feeling small tremors running through the otherwise limp form. The blips on the monitor by the bedside, which had started to race, quietened again and went back to their steady, hypnotic rhythm. He rested his chin on his hand, wishing he could see those indigo eyes again, if only for a moment, as much for his own comfort as for his partner’s.

As the injured detective settled down again, Hutch left him and went back to talking to Traff. The soldier was making a good recovery although he was still confined to his bed. The doctor had explained to him about a syndrome called Refeeding. As Traff had been starved for 12 days, he wasn’t able to start eating normally again all at once, otherwise his body would react to the amounts of carbohydrates and glucose in his blood and shut down. At the moment, he was still on a drip feed and special drinks and until he could tolerate solid food without problems, he had to stay put. Although the usually active soldier didn’t like the idea, he was still doing as he was told. His CO had been to see him to say that once out of hospital he could have two weeks compassionate leave and he looked forward to his freedom, but needed to know that his long term friend would be ok first.

The green eyes had been watching the respirator procedure from a distance and he’d noticed how the brunette had twitched as the nurse had held Starsky’s head.

‘He’s not gonna have an easy time, is he?’ he asked Hutch as the blond eased his weary body into the padded chair.

‘No, he isn’t. I just hope he’ll be strong enough to fight it’ Hutch said softly. He was so worried for his partner that he hadn’t been sleeping, even with the aid of the pills the hospital had given him and the weariness was beginning to take its toll. Traff saw the dark circles beneath the ice blue eyes and the extra hole the blond had had to put in his belt to accommodate his weight loss.

‘You need to look after yourself. We’ve been through a lot, but you haven’t exactly had it easy yourself’ he said, concern shining from his eyes. ‘You’ll need to be fit for when he goes home’.

Hutch sighed. ‘I know, and I will be. And I know he’s tough enough to heal his wounds. But its what’s on the inside that concerns me. They fucked with his head so badly with all the lights crap’. He put his head in his hands.

‘That’s twice now’ Traff said slowly.


‘Twice you’ve talked as though you know what went on in there’.

Ok, Hutch thought. Do I tell him? This is it, now or never. He knew he couldn’t fool the perceptive man forever and truth to tell, he needed to tell someone, just to get it out of his head. He gazed levelly at the soldier in the bed.

‘Ya wanna go with me on a leap of faith?’ he asked, seeing the slight nod of the head.

The blond took a deep breath wondering exactly how to start. How did you tell someone that you had an out of body experience and managed to save your two best friends from certain death?

He ran his tongue over his bottom lip. ‘OK. It’s a long story and please…..its difficult enough for me to take in, so I don’t expect you to believe a word. Just keep your questions to the end huh?’

‘Whatever you say pal’ Traff said gently. He’d seen the big blond struggling with his partner’s condition and had known there was something Hutch was hiding from him. He settled back against the pillow and waited expectantly.

Hutch sat back in his chair and closed his eyes taking a deep breath. For the next hour he explained exactly where he’d been while his body was in that hospital bed, what he’d done, the arguments he’d had with the council and the antics of the bumbling but loveable Amaram, and Traff listened. At the end of the tale, Hutch was exhausted and Traff’s eyes had widened to the size of soup plates.

‘Jeez buddy! All that and we thought you were at deaths door?’

Hutch smiled a wry smile. ‘I guess I was at death’s door. Leilani told me that if I couldn’t save the two of you my life would be forfeit. Apparently once they have you up there, they don’t usually let go’.

‘And what about Huggy?’ Traff asked. The black barman had been Hutch’s chosen contact when he’d had the opportunity to speak to someone to get the flakes who’d taken his two friends.

‘Dunno. I haven’t seen hide or hair of him since. He’s probably in an alcoholic stupour somewhere thinking he dreamed it all!’

‘And all that time you couldn’t talk to any of us?’ Traff sounded horrified as he thought about how he would feel having to witness Starsky being tortured without being able to do anything about it.

‘Towards the end, I could talk to Starsk, when he was so sick’ Hutch explained. ‘But by then he was pretty far gone. He was just lost in a nightmare world and all I could do was try to reason with him and let him know to hang in there’. He paused. ‘You aren’t questioning any of this. I thought you’d have had a hard job believing me’ he said truthfully. He'd worried himself sick thinking that most of his friends would think he’d lost it completely, and yet here was Traff, talking as though it was the most normal thing in the world to have a friend who’d visited the “other side”.

‘Hey, normally I’d have carted you off to the funny farm in a straight jacket. But the things your described……that’s how it was. How could you have known that any other way? And…. there was something else too’.

Traff smiled sadly at the memory. ‘When Curly was so sick, towards the end, I didn’t think he’d m…..didn’t think he’d survive. But he seemed happier somehow. He’d been in so much pain and there was sweet F.A. I could do about it, ‘cept give him some water, and then he smiled. He wasn’t really awake, but he smiled and mumbled your name. I thought he was just delirious, but maybe not’.

Hutch winced at the memory. At the end of the ordeal he’d entered a rainy, stormy dreamscape to find his partner sitting atop a cliff looking out to sea. Starsky had said he was waiting for Hutch to take him home and Hutch had tried desperately to convince his buddy that he was real, and that there was a way out of the whole sorry mess. But through it all, Starsky kept repeating over and again that he’d seen three lights. Just the three lights, not four, and no matter what Hutch said or did, he couldn’t penetrate that part of the tortured mind.

‘Oh he was delirious alright. They’d screwed with his head so badly that even in is dreams he was counting the damned lights’ Hutch spat out, angry all over again at the assailants. He looked over at his sleeping friend. ‘I just hope he can find his own way home’ he said quietly.

Chapter 3

It took another three days for Starsky to begin to wake up. During that long time, Hutch sat by his bedside all day and for most of the nights, his back aching on the chair. He was afraid to move away, even the relatively short distance to the bed, in case he missed a small movement or twitch. Traff too kept his vigil since he’d finally been allowed to get out of bed and move around slowly, although the doctor had told him not to expect miracles. His body had taken a battering and he needed to give it time to heal.

The nurses had been and removed the stitches from the wound on Starsky’s abdomen, leaving a tramline pattern of red dots against the still tanned skin. The brunette had moaned slightly at the process, but had shown no other signs of life. All the burns down his side had been left uncovered to aid recovery and although not pretty, Mark, the doctor assured Hutch that in time they would fade and leave no lasting scars. For that, the blond as grateful. Starsky had collected too many scars in his relatively brief life and the shiny red areas down his flank looked angry and sore, marring the otherwise tanned skin. All that remained of the apparatus which had surrounded the sick detective was the drip still inserted into the back of his left hand. The respirator, blood pressure cuff and heart monitor had been taken away and for the first time, the brunette looked relatively peaceful in his bed.

Hutch of course was the first to notice the slight movement of the eyes beneath the almost translucent eyelids and knew from bitter experience that before long he’d get to see the familiar indigo again. He took a hold of the hand lying still on the bed sheet by his side and waited patiently. Traff too had seen the signs, but had padded quietly back to his bed, not wanting to intrude on the moment Hutch had been longing for for so long. Slowly, the eye movement became more persistent and the hand held in the big blond grip started to twitch.

It wasn’t for another couple of hours, however, that Starsky decided that he really aught to put an appearance into the big wide world again. During his coma he’d dreamed a lot. He’d gone back to his favourite haunt at Martha’s Vineyard; the spot that Hutch had found him on so long ago. The brunette had spent long hours there, with the dog for company as he’d looked out to sea and waited in vain for Hutch to turn up again, so that he could talk to his partner. Starsky had felt safe in his little haven and when Hutch was there he felt more at peace than he had done for a long time. Even when the pain had become unbearable, he’d been able to retreat to his private spot and be with his friend and partner, taking a little solace from the interaction and the peace and quiet.

And then the torture had stopped.

After that there had still been pain, but it was different. This pain was dulled by drugs and he knew on a basic level that he was no longer in the church and that people were beginning to look after him. But he didn’t wish to join them in their real world any longer. He felt their hands on his body; gentle hands that were cool and soothed him. He felt warm and safe in his haven and hugged it to him like a safety blanket, wrapping it round his body to protect himself from further hurt. The only thing that was missing from the peace and tranquillity was his flaxen haired partner. He felt oddly incomplete without the Nordic presence, needing the comfort of the velvet soft voice.

Starsky had sat on the headland waiting for Hutch to come back for him and take him to somewhere he wouldn’t hurt again, but the blond never came back and he was beginning to feel lonely and abandoned. And so he made a conscious decision that he would try to make his way back into the land of the living and see if he could find Hutch another way. It took a great effort and cost him dearly. The closer to consciousness he came the more pain he felt and several times he retreated a little back into the mist until he could cope with the new sensations. Then he advanced a tiny way further, always careful and more than a little apprehensive.

What if he was really still at the church? What if Quinn and Ryan still had him and this was an elaborate trick? What if they were going to start all over again? Worse still, what if there really were four lights? He shivered at the thought, but something made him press on, knowing he couldn’t hide for ever. He needed to find Hutch again.

Very slowly the indigo eyes cracked open a little and Starsky took his first cautious look at his surroundings. He closed them again quickly, seeing bright white light around him and feeling nauseous and unfocussed. He paused, then opened them again, just a bit wider.

There was no more pain! No Taser being pushed into his burning side and no wicked face above him asking awkward and painful questions. His body felt stiff and sore, but there were no more sudden spikes of agony. He relaxed marginally

Hutch saw the glimmer of deep misty blue and leaned forward, taking hold of the cool hand and feeling the tremors once again coursing through the gaunt frame.

‘Hey there buddy. Welcome back’ he said softly, watching the eyes slowly focus and come to rest on him. He saw disorientation in them and something else?...fear? He pressed on. ‘I missed ya Gordo’.

The eyes danced around the room, then came to settle back on his face. Slowly the brunette ran his tongue over his dry cracked lips. They moved as he tried to form the words, but he hadn’t used his voice in a while and at first he managed nothing but a rasp and a cough. He gasped and put his hand up to his healing stomach, clutching at the healing injury. Carefully he tried again to speak.

‘…..Dead’ he managed.

Hutch shook his head, smiling. ‘No buddy, I’m right here’.

The curly head rocked weakly on the white pillow. ‘I’m….dead’.

Hutch fought down the panic he felt rising up inside him. This wasn’t how it was meant to play out. His partner was meant to wake up, greet him and get on with his life. Starsky seemed scared to death and Hutch wanted to take him and hug him, taking away the fear and hurt. Instead he took a steadying breath.

‘No buddy. Neither of us is dead. You’re in the hospital. You’re gonna be ok’ he said, although a small part of him was uncertain.

Starsky seemed to pause, his mind working through the information. His eyebrows knitted in concentration.

‘Waited….for ya…’ he rasped. ‘Never came….back’. His face looked sad and lost.

‘You waited for me? Where? Where did ya wait Starsk?’ Hutch pressed, trying to grasp what was going on inside the curly head.

‘Cliff…..don’t matter……here now’.

‘Yeah. Yeah, I’m here now’ Hutch assured him, rubbing his thumb up and down the back of his partner’s hand. His memory went back to the last time he’d spoken to Starsky on the stormy cliff top in the brunette’s nightmare. My God he thinks I’m dead and I’ve come for him!

‘Take me home?’

Hutch’s heart broke, but he kept his voice level and even. ‘I’ll take ya home when you’re better pal. But ya need to rest and get your strength back’.

‘Wanna see Dad’.

Hutch was at desperation point. He leaned over the bed and took hold of the gaunt face gently between his hands. The brunette closed his eyes, stiffening. He whimpered, but the big blond held on, willing his friend to understand

‘Starsk. you can’t see your Dad. He died, remember? You’re in the hospital. Hospital Starsky. D’ya understand? You’re not dead. I’m not dead’. He needed the brunette to understand and tightened his grip ‘LOOK at me!’

Slowly the troubled eyes opened again and locked on to the ice blue ones above. Starsky seemed to see Hutch for the first time and the blond saw now some recognition.


He let go, running his fingers through the curls as though soothing a small child, trailing his fingers down the emaciated cheek.

‘Yeah, it’s me. You with me now Gordo?’

The eyes cleared and Hutch sat down carefully, seeing his friend follow his movements. He asked again.

‘You with me now buddy?’ He saw the weak nod.



‘Where are we?’

‘Memorial pal. The hospital. D’ya remember now?’

‘Yeah…..hospital’ the voice was small and lost. ‘Hurts…..sore’.

‘I know. The nurse will get you something. Just rest huh? We were scared there for a while’.

The shadow of a smile passed over the rugged, thin face. ‘Was scared too’ he mumbled. ‘Utch?’


‘How long?’

‘Since we rescued you? Almost two weeks’.

The indigo eyes closed again. ‘…..tired’.

Hutch rubbed absently on the pale arm. ‘I know buddy. Just rest. Go back to sleep’.

Starsky nestled his head back into the fluffy pillow. He looked up at his partner. ‘Knew you’d come’ he said.

‘Wouldn’t leave ya partner. You know that’.

‘Yeah….too bright…..Switch the lights off huh? Three?’ he said as he drifted back to sleep.

Hutch almost missed it. What had his partner said? Oh God, no buddy, no no no. Not counting. Not the lights. Thought that had finished now. He wiped his hands over his face. Maybe he’d just imagined it.

He stayed by the bedside until the nurse came in, injecting the painkiller into the port on the drip. She smiled at him, then departed. Hutch stood, easing the kinks from his back and padded over to Traff’s bed.

‘How was he?’ the soldier asked, seeing the pained expression on the nordic face.

‘Dunno. First of all he didn’t seem to recognise me. Then he seemed to come round a bit he even smiled, and he didn’t seem in too much pain. It was just at the end he….’ He tailed off, not wanting to acknowledge what he thought he’d heard the brunette say. To say it would make it real and Hutch couldn’t face the possibility of his friend being sent insane.

‘He what?’


‘Something! He what?’ Traff persisted.

‘He told me things were too bight and to switch off the light’.

Traff looked at the ceiling. ‘He always said he could never sleep in the hospital. Even in ‘Nam he used to put his head under the blanket to shut out the light. That’s ok – its normal Curly’.

But Hutch shook his head. 'Wasn’t that. It was afterwards. He mentioned the light, then asked if there were three’. He sat down heavily on the side of the bed, discouraged and tired.

Traff sighed and put his reassuring hand on the blonde’s shoulder. ‘Hey, its early days yet. He was probably just disorientated, ya know? He’s been unconscious for nearly two weeks. Its just the drugs talking’.

‘Yeah, probably’ Hutch nodded, but didn’t sound convinced. He rubbed his hand over his face and tried to block out the memory of his partner, bound and terrified staring up at the lights in the church.

Chapter 4

During the next two days, Hutch sat by the bedside as Starsky drifted in and out of his confused dreams. For most of the time the brunette was calm and lucid, talking to both Traff and Hutch about the old days in the army and at the police academy. They spent a lot of time just talking as though nothing had happened, glad of the opportunity for some normal time and savouring some of the stories they told against each other. Traff had spoken to the doctor about how he should approach the subject of their captivity and treatment. He’d seen enough men come back from ‘Nam, Guatemala and Cambodia with post traumatic stress disorder, hearing their cries in the night and helping to cope with their erratic and often bizarre behaviour. He knew that if he didn’t handle the next few weeks correctly, his friend would be damaged for life.

Mark had said that he should ignore the traumatic episode and only talk about it if Starsky broached the subject. To force the issue would be to impose the memories and the brunette was in far too fragile a state to be able to deal with them just yet. And so when Hutch went home that morning, exhausted, for a shower and a change of clothes, Traff had sat with Starsky chatting about old times. The detective had stunned everyone by being well enough to be out of bed. He’d even managed to pad albeit in a wobbly fashion to the bathroom on his own and now he was sitting on an easy chair dressed only in pyjama pants to allow the air to get to his burns.

‘Ya remember that little nurse we met in Na Am? She was wonderful. D’ya remember that cute little uniform she wore?’

Starsky grinned. ‘Oh man do I? She was so sweet’. He smiled at the memory. ‘Eight buttons down the front of that tunic’ he said, the memories flooding back.

Traff narrowed his eyes in surprise. What would his friend remember the eight buttons and not the ample breasts or tiny waist? Or that amazing thing she could do with her….He didn’t press the matter, but salted the snippet away. His heart sank, but he pressed on anyhow.

‘How long were you in that hospital?’ he asked, knowing the answer, but checking out his buddy’s memory.

‘Ah, almost two months. Two long months. God I was a mess!’ He looked down at his hands, running his fingers lightly over his nails. ’But they grew back. Don’t suppose my lungs liked the dirty water this time round any more ‘n’ they did last, huh? Maybe I should be a fish’

Traff nodded. ‘You were one helluva mess’ Traff agreed. ‘But you got over it. Just remember that Curly. You’re tough and you got over that an’ you’ll get over this, ok?’

Starsky looked up sharply. ‘Nothin’ to get over. I’m fine. Burns are healing. Got another nice scar to add to my collection’, he looked down at the nine inch scar standing out a livid red on his abdomen. Just need to get out of this place. It gives me the creeps, ya know. Nurses are cute and Mark is ok, its just…..’ he stopped himself from saying anything further, clamping his lips closed.

‘Just what? What were you going to say?’

‘Nothing’ a cloud descended over the handsome face and the eyes dulled, but Traff wasn’t ready to leave the subject.

‘You were gonna say something’ he pressed. ‘What?’

Starsky rounded on his friend. ‘JUST LEAVE IT’ he yelled, sitting forward on his seat. ‘Just leave me alone. I’m fine. Or at least I would be if EVERYONE WOULD JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. Just let me be quiet then I can think. There were three an’ I know there were, but no-one’ll let me think about it. You’re all just yammering away with your platitudes. “It’ll be ok buddy” and ’Just rest pal”. Course it’d be ok if you’d all just LEAVE ME ALONE’.

Starsky tried to get up off the chair, but the motion caused him stomach and side to hurt and he fell back, grasping his middle.

‘Ungh…shit. Can’t even stand up any more’ he groaned, putting his head in his hands, exhausted by his outburst, panting with exertion.

Throughout the tirade, Traff sat stony faced, watching his army buddy struggling with his inner demons and now he watched the sweating, panting figure of his friend. The soldier knew the outburst wasn’t directed at him and he didn’t for one minute take it personally, but it did confirm that the damage done by Quinn and Ryan to David Starsky was more than just the wounds he saw on the recovering body. He got a glimpse of the tortured mind and what he saw left him with a feeling of dread.

Carefully he leaned forward taking his friends hands from his face and looked into the stormy indigo eyes.

‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ he asked gently.

Starsky refused to look him in the face. ‘Nothing to tell’ he mumbled. ‘M’sorry. Just tired. Need to go back to bed now’ he shuffled off the chair and levered himself into the bed, pulling the sheets up around his chin. Lying on his back, he stared up at the ceiling before looking back at Traff. ‘Turn the bloody lights off will ya? All three goddamned lights’.


Later that morning Hutch arrived back at the hospital. He’d been speaking with Dobey on the telephone and the Captain had said he’d be sending officers along later that afternoon to take statements from both Starsky and himself. A photographer would be with them. Hutch had argued that it was too early and that the brunette was still too sick to cope with the trauma, but Dobey had pointed out that they could only hold Quinn and the two Ryan brothers for a little longer without the statements being taken. Seeing the truth in that, the blond had reluctantly agreed. He made his way back into the room with a heavy heart, seeing Starsky apparently asleep in bed and Traff packing his few belongings into his kit bag.

The soldier looked up as Hutch walked in.

‘Where are you of to?’ Hutch asked.

Traff looked distinctly unhappy. ‘I’ve been ordered back to the base. I’m supposed to continue my recuperation at their medical facility. I couldn’t argue over the phone, so I'll go back and speak to my CO. He’ll understand, he’s been there himself. I should be back maybe tomorrow. Erm….d’ya think I could kip at your place?’ he asked.

The blond nodded. ‘Sure. But you don’t need to do that. Just go get yourself right pal. You’ve done enough already’.

Traff straightened and took Hutch by the arm, drawing him out of the room and a little way down the corridor. It’s not me I’m concerned about. ‘Hutch, have you noticed anything…..odd…..about Curly? About his reaction to all this?’

Hutch thought a moment and then nodded slowly. ‘He’s not himself, but I thought he just needed time to get over it. He’s been through a hell of a lot and he was hurt pretty badly. You know how sick he’s been. Why?’

‘Don’t take this the wrong way, chum, but I don’t think he’s firing on all thrusters. He’s erm…..’ Traff stopped wondering how he could tell the blond that he thought his partner and best buddy was going mad. ‘Look. I’ve seen so many men come back to the unit shell shocked or having survived treatment like he had. Some of ‘em handle it no problem. For some, it drives ‘em just plain nuts. And for some it kinda festers under the surface’ Traff looked into the ice blue eyes, seeking confirmation that his words were hitting home.

Hutch was staring back, unsure what he was hearing. ‘What are you trying to say? He survived ‘Nam. I know he still has nightmares about it, but if he can survive that in tact, he can cope with this, surely’

Traff sighed. ‘Yeah, he got over the war, and God knows that was tough enough on him. But there’s only so much even a strong mind like his can take. This morning we were just chatting about the old days. Nothing confrontational, just general chit chat and suddenly he changed. He blew his top and I swear if he’d have had the strength he’d have decked me…… Hutch, what I’m trying to say is that you need to be careful. Just give him time and space, but be careful, huh?’

The blond leaned back heavily against the wall, his heart hammering in his chest. ‘You mean he’s violent? This is Starsky we’re talking about! He’d never hurt me. He’d never hurt anyone that wasn’t committing a crime’.

But Hutch too had seen the look in his partner’s eyes. The man who went into the church and the man who emerged on the ambulance stretcher were not the same. Something was very wrong with the brunette. It was something, however, that Hutch wasn’t ready to fully admit. He put his hand on Traff’s shoulder and squeezed it. ‘I’ll be fine. Thanks for your concern, but he’ll be ok’.

Traff didn’t push it. ‘Can I still stay at your place?’ he asked uncertainly.

Hutch smiled. ‘Hey, if your back can cope with the couch, it’s all yours’.


Starsky woke in time for Traff to leave, if he’d actually been sleeping at all. He’d felt stupid and embarrassed at his outburst, but on a different level, he longed once again for the peace and quiet the drugs brought him. When awake his mind was never still, never quiet and he needed some silence. Just to have the opportunity to get his thoughts into some sort of order.

As Traff sat down in the hospital wheelchair to be taken to the front door, Starsky pushed the sheet back and got himself slowly and stiffly out of the bed. Straightening painfully, he walked with the soldier a little way down the corridor, his hand on the handle of the chair for support. As they got to the elevator, the nurse stepped back and left the two men for a moment.

‘Thanks pal’ Starsky said awkwardly.

Traff looked up at the damaged detective. ‘Nothing to thank me for Curly. Just look after yourself. I’ll be back before you know it’.

‘I know, it’s just……a lot went on’.

Traff took hold of his friend’s hand. ‘There’s a lot still going on’ he said, looking deep into the troubled eyes above him. ‘Take your time and talk huh? Don’t keep it all bottled up, you need to talk to someone. Someone who knows what you’ve been through and understands it. Talk to Hutch, but get some professional help too. Maybe I could get someone from the base? I know you’re a tough guy, but sometimes you’ve got to accept a bit of help’.

Starsky smiled, but it was a bright, brittle smile and Traff saw the troubled mind behind it. ‘I will, but honest, I’m fine. Not going wacko yet’ He crossed his eyes in an attempt at humour and Traff smiled back.

Starsky sighed. ‘I just need some peace and quiet, I might go back up north. There was this place Mom and Dad took us to once. I kinda liked it there, it was wild and quiet. That’s all I need; somewhere to think and get my head in gear’.

‘Whatever you say Chief’ Traff said softly. ‘Just get back to being Curly huh?’

The elevator door opened and the nurse pushed the soldier in. As the wheelchair turned round, Traff waved at the brunette and watched as Starsky turned and limped back to his room.

Chapter 5

That afternoon, as Dobey had said, the two detectives from the metro turned up. It had been something of a problem choosing who was going to be on the case as all the team knew what had happened to the two popular cops and Dobey had had a steady stream of men volunteering. As it was he picked Swanson and Meredith with the usual photographer from forensics. Swanson was a friend of Hutch and Starsky, in fact he’d been with them at the academy, but he had a reputation for keeping his emotions out of the equation and Dobey trusted him to take the statement fair and square. He was a big bear of a man, looking more like a back woodsman than a Bay City cop. He habitually dressed in faded corduroy pants, worn at the knees and a lumberjack type tartan shirt, open at the neck to reveal a forest of hair on his chest that rivalled Starsky’s. His hair was thick and black, cut short at the front and longer at the back and his bushy sideburns joined together with a thick beard to give him a look somewhere between Bluto from the Popeye cartoon and Grizzly Adams. His honest green eyes shone out of a ruddy face and he was never without a smile.

Joan Meredith had worked once with Starsky before, when Hutch had been shot by a girl running burglaries for a guy in the east quarter of the town. Although they’d gotten off to a rocky start, they’d both soon appreciated the other’s finer qualities, especially when Meredith took Starsky into the park, wrestled him to the ground and pinned him there. She was maybe 5’5” with a shock of black curly hair cut short to emphasise her delicate bone structure and twinkling brown eyes. She too was a tough cookie and she and Swanson had hit it off right from the start.

They arrived at the hospital with Grogan the photographer shortly after 13:00 and Hutch met them in the reception hall. He greeted them and Meredith tried hard not to stare at the gaunt expression, the black circles under the ice blue eyes and the large red scar on the blonde’s left forehead.

‘Before we go up there, erm…….you will take it gently? Hutch said, kicking himself for sounding like a nervous civilian witness. What Traff had told him had left him feeling fragile and he wanted to make this process as easy and painless as possible for his partner. Meredith smiled.

‘Just the basics Hutch honey’ she said. ‘You wanna go first?’

Hutch nodded. There was very little he could tell them about the actual shooting, although he gave them as much information as he could about the Northern Stars’ membership and activities. What he couldn’t and wouldn’t tell them, of course, was what he did and saw whilst he was, to all intents and purposes, dead. The procedure left him feeling weak, cold and shaken and as if he was back reliving the whole ordeal. If that was the effect on his, how would his fragile partner take it?

After an hour, they made their way up to the brunette’s room on the fourth floor. Once again, as they got to the start of the corridor Hutch asked the three detectives to be careful. ‘He’s been through a helluva lot and he …..he may not be the guy you thought you knew, ok?’

Meredith braced herself. She’d gotten on famously with the brunette after a shaky start and she even secretly had the hots for him. She really didn’t want to see him sick in bed, but Dobey had given her very little information, preferring that his two officers had no preconceived ideas. As she walked into the room she let out a gasp.

When she’d worked with Starsky he’d been a six foot bundle of energy and charm topped by a curly wayward shock of mahogany hair, twinkling dark blue eyes and the most disarming smile she’d ever seen. The man before her now, clad only in navy blue pyjama pants was a shadow of his former self.

Starsky had managed to take a shower and wash his hair, although the water had stung fiercely at his wounds and so now his curls were once more their exuberant self. Nothing however could disguise the gaunt frame, the plough furrow ribs or the myriad of wounds across his chest and abdomen. He’d been sitting leaning back in the chair, eyes closed and fingers twitching against the bed, but as the party walked in he opened his eyes and looked towards the door.

He sat straighter in the chair forcing a smile onto his face as he saw Swanson, Grogan and Meredith.

‘Hey beautiful’ he said. ‘Hutch didn’t tell me Dobey was sending beauty and the beast’.

Meredith smiled and knelt down next to the chair, taking his hand in hers. ‘Bet you say that to all the cops’ she laughed.

‘Don’t get me wrong Shweetheart. He’s the beauty. Ya proved that day in the park that you’re the beast’. She reached up and gave his hair a playful tug.

‘Ok, well now we’ve found the level of the conversation, shall we get down to work?’

The brunette braced himself, tying hard not to show just how anxious he was about the process. Since he’d woken up in the hospital, he’d tried so hard to block out the memories of the fortnight in the disused church. He’d almost convinced himself that if he ignored it long enough, the whole episode would just fade away. But now here they were to rake it all up again. He took a deep breath, looking towards the door at Hutch for reassurance.

‘Ya gonna stay buddy? He asked softly.

‘Only if ya want me to’ the blond replied, both wanting and not wanting to know exactly what had gone on. He saw the almost desperate nod. For Gods sake please don’t leave me now Blondie.

He settled himself down into the chair in the corner and waited as Swanson took out a portable tape recorder and inserted a fresh tape.

‘Witness David Michael Starsky. Date 11th March 1975. Time recording started’ he looked at his watch ’14:07’

Meredith cleared her throat. ‘So, David. Tell me in your own words what happened to you from 24th February onwards’.

Hutch saw his partner’s hands ball into fists as Starsky tried to settle back in his chair.

Starsky closed his eyes, suddenly embarrassed at having to tell everything that happened to him. ‘Hutch had been under cover in a group called the Northern Stars. I was running back up and I heard shots in the old factory. I went in, saw Hutch had been shot, made an arrest – One Aidan Ryan – and went with Hutch to the hospital. After a while when he wasn’t getting any better, the Doc sent me home and my Army pal Thomas Trafford came by to keep me company. We visited Hutch again, came home from the hospital and went back to my apartment. We went in, two guys jumped us. Quinn and Podraig (Pat) Ryan, Ade’s brother’.

‘They held a gun at my head while they forced Traff to inject both of us with a sedative and next thing we knew we were tied to pillars in some kind of disused church.

After God knows how many days, you guys showed up and now I’m here’.

Meredith leaned forward. ‘You said you were there almost two weeks. Did they hurt you during that time?’

Starsky snorted and looked down involuntarily at his body. ‘Yeah, you could say that’.

She pressed on, seeing the sweat breaking out on the brunette’s brow. ‘Dave, I know this is difficult for you. But the court will need to know. How did they hurt you?’

Indigo eyes turned pleadingly to Hutch. He nodded his head in encouragement.

‘Where do ya wanna start? They tied me to a table and asked me a shit load of questions and when I didn’t answer as they wanted me to, Quinn dug his elbow into my stomach a few times’.

He heard Swanson talking into the microphone in a low tone. ‘Subject had multiple bruises across abdomen resulting in ruptured spleen’.

‘Go on’ Meredith urged, seeing how difficult for Starsky to tell everyone of his experiences.

‘When that didn’t work, they took me into a cell with a sink in the corner. They dunked my head under the water a few times, then the last time, they punched me in the kidneys and I took a lungful of water. I kinda passed out then’ he said ruefully. He glanced over at Hutch. It was the blonde’s turn now to ball his hands into fists. Hard as it was for Starsky to relate, it was equally hard for his partner to have to hear about all the mistreatment he’d not been there to see.

Starsky was continuing, just needing to get to the end of the statement.

‘After that, they went back to tying me to the table. They used a Tazer on me each time I answered their questions, but they wouldn’t let up. they went on and on, asking the same thing time after time. Just like a broken record, same thing all the time. And I tried to answer ‘em. I tried, but they just kept sticking that fuckin’ Tazer against me till I couldn’t think any more. Then I’d pass out, but when I woke up, they were still there…..still there…..still asking the same damned thing….same damned question.’ his voice tailed off into hopelessness.

Hutch braced himself. Don’t ask Joan. Please don’t ask. He’s done enough. There’s enough on the tape. Please don’t push it.

But the woman was nothing if not thorough.

‘What did they ask?’ she said gently, her hand on the brunette’s arm feeling the tremors as they shook the man she’d known as one of the bravest on the force.

He looked at his lap, then closed his eyes against the memories. ‘Don’t…I can’t…..don’t want…..’

Hutch rushed forward, pulling Meredith away. ‘Can’t you see he’s done enough? You’ve got enough on your tape now to nail those suckers and throw away the key. Just leave him alone now huh?’ he pleaded with the woman cop.

Meredith saw the look in the blonde’s eyes, but tried one last time.

‘Dave? What did they ask you?’ she ducked down till she could see the weary face, smiling encouragingly.

Starsky was lost in his thoughts and refused to look at her. She stood up stiffly. ‘Ok. That’s fine. We just need the photos now. Can you lie on the bed honey?’

Starsky didn’t seem to have heard her and Hutch put his hand on his friend’s arm, pulling gently. ‘Starsk, just lie down a while and they can get their photos huh? C’mon buddy, that’s it’.

The injured cop levered himself out of the chair and lay down mechanically on the bed, arms above his head as he stared at the ceiling, giving Grogan a good view of the burns and surgical scars. He lay stock still as the photographer pushed and pulled him around, getting the lighting right and the best angles. He never said a word, just stared at the ceiling, but Hutch could see the hands twitching again and knew the warning signs.

Roughly he pushed Grogan away. ‘Ok, ya got your evidence. Just leave him alone now huh?’ he said as he stood by the bedside, longing to give his partner some comfort. Meredith stood at the other side, her hand resting on the bed.

‘That’s it Starsky’ she said quietly. ‘Just a final thing’.

Hutch braced himself. No Meredith Don’t. Please don’t do this. Please?

But the cop wasn’t privy to Hutch’s thoughts and pressed on. ‘Tapes not running now, Starsky. But I’m curious. Ya want to tell me what they kept asking.

Oh god lady. Ya had to ask.

Hutch saw his partner’s hands contract into fists, grabbing handfuls of the pillow close to his head. He started to mumble, quietly at first but getting louder.

‘Three lights……two hundred and seventy five tiles on the ceiling……fifteen bars on the bedhead…….three lights, or was it four?...no three lights……saw three lights….’

The curly head was thrashing from side to side on the pillow as Hutch roughly pushed the woman away from the bed and took hold of his partner’s shoulders.

‘Starsk? Starsky, c’mon buddy, stay with me here huh? Starsky, don’t…ssh….don’t count….’ He looked at the three cops in the room.

‘GET OUT’ he yelled at them as they made for the door, shock on their faces. He saw a look of panic in Meredith’s eyes and concern on Swanson’s face. ‘Get the nurse….NOW’ he yelled, going back to his partner.

‘Three lights……seven button on shirt……..one clock, but three……three lights’ the mumbling became more feverish and Hutch picked his partner up in his arms, clutching the body to him.

‘Sssh partner….s’ok….don’t count. Please stop. Don’t do this babe, please don’t. It’ll be ok……Ssh’

He felt the brunette’s body pull away from him and looked around desperately for the doctor, fighting with his partner on the bed, trying to hold him down as Starsky’s ramblings became more violent.

‘I saw three….mother fuckers….three. There were three and you know it……three damned lights and you know it….’ Starsky was panting now as though he’d run a marathon and nothing Hutch could say seemed to penetrate the nightmare world he was suddenly trapped in. Hutch tried to hug him again, but Starsky pushed the blonde away, fear in his stormy eyes.

‘No….get away from me…..you left me, never came back…..I told you there were three, but you wouldn’t believe me’ he sobbed, hands fighting the blond away.

The doctor rushed in hearing the shouts from down the corridor. He took one look at the state of his patient and rushed out again, returning moments later with a loaded syringe. Hutch looked on in horror.

‘Don’t give him that Doc. For Gods sake don’t drug him. Just help me calm him down’ he pleaded still struggling with the brunette on the bed.

But Mark ignored the blonde’s cries and plunged the needle into the vein standing proud on the injured cop’s neck. Hutch put his arms around Starsky rocking him as slowly the drug took effect and he felt the body sag against him, the ranting finally ceasing. He laid the body gently down on the bed, and stroked the sweat slick hair back from his partner’s face. Starsky looked peaceful now, but Hutch turned on Mark

‘What did ya have to do that for? You didn’t need to drug him. That’s you doctors answer to everything isn’t it? Just stick a needle in and everything will be ok? But it won’t will it? Ya could have just helped me while I talked to him….’ He slumped onto the chair in despair.

Mark knelt by Hutch’s side. ‘Dave’s had a bad time. This was always going to be tough on him. Right now he needs complete rest and the only way to ensure that is to sedate him. And you need rest too. I’m ordering you to go home and get a full nights sleep. He won’t wake for a while now and when he does, I’m going to give him another dose. Now go’.

Hutch was spent. He had no fight left in him to reason or bargain with the doctor. He got up and stroked Starsky’s brow.

‘Just sleep Starsk huh? Be back tomorrow. Just rest babe’. And he turned and staggered from the room.

Chapter 6

‘Nurse, could you go and check on the patient in 402? He’s had a bad day and Mark gave him a sedative earlier. Just check his vitals and tell me if he looks like he’ll be needing another dose soon’.

The young nurse relished the task and smiled. Her usual workload did not include tanned, muscular extremely handsome men in the prime of their lives. She compared her patient against her other main man in 403, the overweight, sweating and pale Mr Ledgard. Hm….which should she check on first? No argument really. She’d been looking after Detective David Starsky since he’d been admitted and although usually extremely professional, the sight of a normally vital and virile man in a vulnerable condition made her feel distinctly hot under her collar

‘Is his friend still in there?’ she asked, thinking she may as well get a two for one. Although she had a preference for dark curly types, she wasn’t averse to blondes and this Hutch guy was cute in his own way too.

‘Mark sent him home. He needs his rest too. How the hell he ever recovered so quickly from that bullet! It’s a miracle!’

The nurse set off down the corridor from the nurses’ station, stopping outside the door of 402 to straighten her apron and tweak her hair. He may be sedated, but there was no point in taking chances! She opened the door and went in.

Starsky was laid as Hutch had left him, his ruggedly handsome face almost buried in the pillow and his hands still up by the sides of his head as if in surrender. The nurse took a moment just to admire her patient as she straightened his bed sheets. She reached out and took hold of the right hand feeling for the radial pulse, checking the beats against the second finger of her watch. 15 seconds later, she placed the hand back on the bed, mentally multiplying the beats by 4 to calculate his pulse rate. She reached for the chart and wrote 64.

As she watched she saw the eyes beneath the lids moving randomly and the lips moving as thought Starsky was talking to himself in his sleep. Leaning over the bed, she put a soothing hand on the brunette’s slightly damp brow and used her thumb to lift the left eyelid, shining her penlight onto the staggeringly dark blue iris.

The light galvanised her patient into action. Although Starsky had been sedated he’d been dreaming. They were painful dreams where once again he was tied brutally to the hard wooden table as Quinn beat him mercilessly, asking time and time again how many lights there were. But it went further than that. The evil man morphed into Dobey’s face asking how many arrests he’d made. Each time he tried to add them up, someone would stop him and both Dobey and Hutch laughed at his increasingly frantic attempts to calculate the sum. Then he was back with Quinn, the gangster holding the Tazer to his side again and again as he saw a sparkling bright light. He tried to shy away from it, but the light got brighter and brighter and he felt a hand on his head, stopping him from moving away.

As the nurse lifted his eyelid, she felt the body on the bed buck away from her and suddenly the brunette brought up his left fist, slamming it into the young woman’s chin, knocking her backwards and to the floor. As his assailant was knocked away. Starsky sprang from the bed, staggering in his confusion and leaning weakly against the bedframe. Frantically looking left and right for somewhere to hide, he saw the door, but also saw a shadow fall across it as the other nurses on the ward came to see what all the commotion was about.

The nurse in charge peaked into the room, seeing her nurse on the floor. As she was about to go in, Mark appeared, pulling her back by the shoulder. ‘Let me’ he said, knowing the state his patient had been in earlier. ‘And get me two male orderlies, I think I’m gonna need reinforcements’.

Stopping only to load a syringe with 100mg Thorazine, which he pushed into the pocket of his white coat, he stepped into the room.

Mark saw the body of the nurse on the floor by the now vacant bed and knelt down slowly to check on her. She blinked her eyes at him and he whispered to her to get out of the room. He watched as she crawled towards the door, then stood glancing around the room to find his patient.

Starsky was huddled in a corner, hunkered down on the ground, his arms held protectively around his body as his eyes stared wildly at the approaching doctor. He panted heavily; sweat trickling down the sides of his face as he fought his inner demons. Mark held out his hand in a friendly manner.

‘David? Are you alright?’ he asked.

Starsky stared at him, fear in his stormy blue eyes, his fingers twitching convulsively against his side. ‘Stay away from me Quinn’ he growled, levering himself up to a standing position with his back against the wall, hands flat on the smooth surface.

Mark realised what was going on in the curly head and kept his voice non confrontational and low. ‘It’s me, David. It’s Mark, the doctor. Remember?’

But the brunette was lost in his own world of pain and misery. ‘You’re not gonna get me again. I can’t go back to that. I’ll kill ya, you son of a bitch. Stay back or I swear I’ll kill ya’ the cop’s voice was getting louder as his fear and anger vied with each other.

The doctor took a step forward, his hand still outstretched and his voice low and level as he tried to penetrate Starsky’s tortured ramblings.

‘David, try to concentrate on my voice. That’s right. You’re in the hospital. Remember the hospital? You’ve been sick and you need to rest. I’m only going to help you. Nothing more. No-one here is going to hurt you, we just want to help you get well again. Will you let me help you?’ he asked.

There was indecision in the suffering eyes now and Starsky stared hard at the doctor as if trying to decide if he knew him or not. Mark felt as though he may be making some headway with the tormented cop and took another measured step forward, seeing Starsky press himself harder into the wall behind him as if wanting the wall to swallow him up and protect him.

‘It’s OK David. No problems, it’s just me; just Mark. Will you come with…’

He saw the eyes glance over his shoulder and knew he’d lost the momentum as Starsky braced himself against the wall again, panting harder now as the two orderlies came into the room and towards the doctor and his patient. Desperately Mark tried again as he saw the sweat glinting on the bare chest in front of him and leaving trails down the wall.

‘David….Dave. Fight this. You’re in the hospital. Remember the hospital? You’re with friends. Hutch was here. He’ll be back soon. Remember your partner? Quinn is gone. All the bad guys are gone, its just us’ Mark pressed, his voice a little louder and more insistent.

‘GET AWAY FROM ME’ Starsky yelled, looking left and right for some means of escape. He was scared of the three men coming towards him. He’d had two weeks of brutality and he couldn’t face more of the same treatment. They wanted him to tell them how many lights there were. He’d counted them time after time. There were three. He was sure of that, but they kept insisting there were four and his tired mind was just too confused to argue any more. He wanted to get out of the room. He needed to get out to stop these men from brutalising him again, but the men were coming closer to him.

Starsky let out a forlorn sob, unable to see any means of escape. The man in the centre of the group reached towards him and he punched out with all his strength. If he couldn’t escape, he’d go down fighting.

Mark and the orderlies cornered the sick detective and Mark reached out a friendly hand.

‘S’ok Detective. Just take some deep breaths and everything will be fine. Just concentrate on my voice ok?’

He saw the fear in his patient’s eyes and Starsky yelled at him

‘There are three fuckin’ lights and you won’t make me change my mind’.

Mark stopped. ‘That’s fine David. Three lights, that’s right, there are three. Now lets get you back to the bed huh?’ he motioned to the hospital bed, but all Starsky’s deranged mind saw was the hard wooden Altar table again, remembering his painful experiences while tied to it.

As Mark watched he let out a strangled yell and lunged at the doctor, almost knocking Mark off his feet. Immediately the two orderlies were upon the brunette holding him pinned against the wall. Starsky fought with all his strength and at one point looked as though he stood a remarkable chance of fighting off the two burly men, madness adding strength to his muscles, but inexorable, they drew him down onto the floor, and pinned him beneath their bodes

As the two men straddled the still fighting cop on the ground, Mark brought the syringe from his pocket and tried to get himself into a position to inject it into the appropriate part of Starsky’s anatomy. Sadly he looked at the still struggling, sobbing form on the ground. He’d been anxious that the cops mind would be damaged by his experiences, but he’d never imagined that it would be quite this bad. He knelt down near Starsky’s head, trying to see into the indigo eyes.

‘Dave stop this. Stop it now and they’ll let you up’ he pleaded as the two orderlies struggled.

‘Leave me alone…..just leave……please?...no more……..no more, please?’ the brunette pleaded, his words tugging at the doctors heart. Reluctantly, Mark drew out the syringe, knocking the air bubbles out of the barrel with his knuckle. He reached into the tangle of limbs and found the struggling cop’s arm, drawing it towards him.

Starsky felt the hand on his arm and saw the syringe. ‘Noo……please don’t…..be good…..don’t give me that…..……lights?...three lights…..three……three’ the voice tailed off as the plunger of the syringe forced the Thorazine into the muscle.

Gradually the struggling ceased and the mumbles tailed of into a final exhausted sob and the brunette’s body lay limply on the ground. The orderlies got up and gently moved Starsky back to the bed, laying him on his back. As Mark looked sadly on, they fastened the brown leather, sheepskin lined medical restraints around the cops wrists, ankles and chest and left their patient immobilised and defenceless.

The nurse who Starsky had hit came back into the room, a huge bruise blossoming on her chin. She smiled wanly at Mark and moved to the bed.

‘Will he be ok?’ she asked, stroking the wet curl away from the brunette’s brow. His face was still wet with the sweat from his struggles and she wiped it tenderly with a clean cloth.

‘I don’t know’ Mark said in a troubled voice. ‘It’s out of our hands now. He can’t stay here. I’ll go and make the necessary arrangements’.

He left the room leaving the nurse alone with her patient. Although she’s been scared, she understood the hurt this man was enduring. She leant down low by the unconscious man’s ear and whispered.

‘Just sleep, its ok. I forgive you’.

Chapter 7

Hutch awoke rested after the first decent nights sleep he had had in weeks. He’d been so angry at Joan Meredith for the insensitive way she’d treated his partner that he’d wanted to hit out and punch something or someone. As it was he’d gotten himself home and had taken it out on his bedroom wall, hitting out at the dumb plaster time and again, yelling at the injustice of it all until his hand was too sore to continue and his tears had run dry. This morning he saw the bloody trails down the wall and looked ruefully at the bleeding raw and swollen knuckles of his right hand. Not the brightest thing you’ve ever done Hutchinson.

But at least after his outburst he felt better; almost cleansed and he’d finally taken a shower and heaved himself wearily into bed to fall into a deep and for once dreamless sleep.

This morning he lay on his back staring up at the ceiling wondering how he could help his partner. How do you convince someone who’d been through what he had that it was all over and no-one was going to hurt him again? He had a nagging feeling at the back of his mind and as he thought about it more the feeling intensified. After five minutes or so he was so uncomfortable that he prised himself out of bed and padded into the living room. Picking up the telephone he dialled Memorial and asked to be put through to the fourth floor nurses station.

‘Nurse Genaro’

‘Hi Rosa, its Hutch. How’s Starsky today?’ he asked. There was a pause and then he heard Rosa asking where Mark was. She came back on the line.

‘Hi Hutch. I ...erm...I think you’ll need to speak to Mark. He’s around here somewhere’.

‘S’ok Don’t bother. I’m on my way’ Hutch said, more than ever aware that his feelings had been correct and that something had happened to his friend. He slammed the phone down and raced back into his bedroom, hastily climbing into his old jeans and a fresh green tee shirt. Picking up his car keys he headed for the door.

The drive to the hospital seemed to take for ever and every scenario imaginable went through the blond head as he drove, finally parking up in Memorial’s parking lot. Without waiting to lock the car, his long legs powered him into the building and up to the fourth floor, racing along the long, sterile looking corridor. Mark was waiting at the nurses’ station and saw the big blond heading into 402. He followed and reached the door just as Hutch came thundering out, questions in his ice blue eyes.

‘Where is he?’ he yelled at the doctor. ‘What have you done with him? Is he OK?’

Mark put a steadying hand on Hutch’s shoulder and steered him back into the room, sitting him down on the edge of the newly made bad.

‘He’s not here’ he said gently.

‘What d’ya mean he isn’t here? He was ok last night when I….when you ordered me to leave’.

‘I know’ Mark looked upset. ‘After you went, he was sleeping peacefully. The drug I gave him seemed to have quietened him down, but when one of my nurses checked on him he…erm….he became violent again’.

‘What d’ya mean violent?’ Hutch asked in a hushed tone.

Mark looked into the troubled eyes. ‘He hit her, then tried to escape’ he explained bluntly.

Hutch put his head in his hands, staggering back against the wall. ‘Oh God Starsk! Is he….Is she ok?’

Mark nodded. ‘She’s fine and she doesn’t want to press charges. She knows what he’s been through. But Hutch…..Ken….I can’t have him on the ward like that. He was just too dangerous. It took three of us to calm him down and an enormous dose of Thorazine to keep him quiet’.

Hutch looked up, accusation in his eyes. ‘You drugged him again? Just what else do I need to know?’

‘We….erm….we had to restrain him too’.

‘My God. I thought this was a hospital. Aren’t you supposed to treat sick people, not tie ‘em up and drug ‘em just because you think you can’t handle ‘em. I need to see my partner NOW’ Hutch yelled, on his feet and pacing the familiar room.

Mark sat quietly through the outburst. He’d seen and admired the closeness these two men shared and it had pained him greatly to have to drug and tie his patient like some sort of laboratory animal. He understood Hutch’s anxiety, and knew his next utterance would in no way calm the angry blond.

‘We had him committed to Cabrillo’ he said softly.

Hutch turned angry eyes on the doctor. ‘So help me Doc, if I ever lay eyes on you again, I’ll…..’ he left the threat hanging as he walked towards the door, slamming it behind him as Mark watched him go sighing.

Hutch raced back to his car, his heart hammering in his chest. He remembered the last time his partner had been a guest of Cabrillo State Facility and the helplessness in those dark blue eyes as the nurses had whacked him up on so many drugs he could hardly think straight. Then he’d been an undercover cop with Hutch as backup. That was bad enough, but this time, he’d be experiencing the real thing with no blond presence to ease the way and Hutch shivered.

As he drove over to the other side of the city, his mind was in turmoil. Not only was he angry at the way the system had dealt with Starsky, he was at a loss to know how he could help his friend. He only knew that he had to get him out of the mental hospital and get him home. Once there he’d treat him as he thought he should and hopefully the brunette would respond.

He drew up outside the huge iron gates leading up to the mental hospital and pushed the buzzer on the lintel. There was a delay and then a disembodied voice said ‘How can I help?’

‘Detective Ken Hutchinson to see a patient’ he said carefully and watched the gates swing open, He drove slowly up the sweeping drive and pulled up outside the facility’s front door. Getting out he bounced up the steps and rang the door bell. He heard footsteps echoing down the corridor and within seconds the doors opened and he went in. The orderly showed Hutch into a small interview room and a moment later a short, fat, balding doctor bustled in, mopping at his brow with a scarlet handkerchief. He held his hand out to shake Hutch’s.

‘Detective? How may we help?’ he asked. He had the sort of voice that calmed anyone within 100 metres and Hutch felt himself instantly warm to the small man.

‘My partner has recently been admitted. I need to see him and get him out of here. There’s been a big mistake’ he blurted out, realising belatedly how lame it all sounded.

The doctor, to his credit didn’t treat it that way, instead reading the need in the ice blue eyes staring back at him. ‘My name is Paul McGrail. And your partner would be David Starsky?’

Hutch nodded. ‘I need to see him. Have you any idea what he’s been through?’

McGrail nodded. ‘Yes, I read the file about David’s unfortunate treatment. He’s suffering from a classic episode of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We’ve had to sedate him of course’.

‘What do you mean, sedate? He’s not a criminal, he’s just sick’ Hutch could feel his voice getting louder.

McGrail nodded. ‘I know. But he did knock out a nurse at Memorial out and the Thorazine he was given there was wearing off by the time we received him. For his own safety and the safety of my staff we had to give him more. He’s quiet now’.

Hutch heaved a steadying breath, trying to ignore the fact that his friend was once more subject to drugs and needles. ‘Doc, I need to see him now’.

The doctor saw the need in the blonde’s face and rose. ‘Come with me’ he said and set off down the endless white tiled corridors Hutch knew so well. The blonde’s heart sank as they turned toward the maximum security wing, hearing doors unlock then clang shut behind them and eventually stopped outside one of the locked doors

‘You can see him through the window’ McGrail said, pointing to a small observation hatch in the room’s door. ‘But prepare yourself. He’s been quite violent and we’ve had to take certain steps to maintain our and his safety.

With trepidation Hutch looked through the 10” x 10” square observation window, hitching a breath at the sight.

The room was a white padded cell perhaps 15’ x 15’ square. Soft white material padded the floor, walls and ceiling, the bright white light in the ceiling embedded into the padding so that there were no prospective ligature points in the room. There was no respite from the bright light and it cast stark shadows in the room.

Hutch turned away, his lips white with anger. ‘Let me in there now’ he ground out, angry beyond words.

McGrail was shaking his head. ‘I’m sorry Detective. He’s far too dangerous for anyone to go in there with him at the moment. He has an obsession to count, perhaps the beginnings of obsessive compulsive disorder. Perhaps in another few weeks when we’ve had a chance to observe and treat him, he can begin to…..’

‘Few weeks. FEW WEEKS?’ Hutch yelled. He balled his hands into fists to stop himself from hitting the doctor, feeling the wounds on his own knuckles open and begin to bleed again. ‘So help me Doc, you’ve got to let me in there’ he pleaded.

But McGrail was implacable. ‘He’s too dangerous’ he repeated, seeing the blond shaking his head.

‘That’s my partner you’re talking about, not some wild animal. He needs treatment not taming! We’ve worked together seven years. We’ve been through more tough times than most people have in a lifetime. There is no way Starsky would hurt me. Now for Gods sake, please…..Doc…..just let me in huh?’

Realising this blond hellcat would never take no for an answer. McGrail reluctantly took a key from his pocket and inserted it in the lock.

‘Just be careful and ring the bell if you need help’ he said gently.

‘What I need is to get him out of here’ Hutch said through gritted teeth, seeing the expression on the doctor’s face.

‘I’m sorry detective. He was sent to us as criminally insane. We have a duty to keep him at east 24 hours. I couldn’t even begin to contemplate release until tomorrow’. He opened the door and Hutch walked into the white hell.

Sound in the room was deadened and Starsky didn’t notice his appearance. Hutch’s heart went out to his partner, never having seen him so defeated, defenceless and vulnerable.

Because of his behaviour, Starsky had been placed directly into the padded cell. To further “protect” him, he had been strapped into a bright white canvass straight jacket, his arms pulled cruelly around him and anchored by leather straps at the back. A further strap went between his legs, fixing the jacket in place. His pyjama pants had been replaced by white scrubs pants and his feet were bare

Starsky was sitting where he’d been placed, on the ground, his legs outstretched in front of him and his head hanging down in exhaustion. What made the brunette’s incarceration worse was the method the hospital had used to stop the tormented man from counting items in his surroundings. As Hutch walked carefully over to his partner, he saw Starsky’s eyes had been taped shut.

Very cautiously he eased himself down next to the restrained man and put his arm around his partner’s shoulders.

‘Starsky?’ he whispered.

The hanging head raised a fraction and Hutch heard a muffled ‘huh?’

‘Starsk, its me, Hutch. Jeez babe, what have they done to you?’ he pulled his friend to him and Starsky blindly turned his weary head.

‘Utch?’ he mumbled ‘S’that you?’

‘Yeah it’s me Gordo. C’m’ere’ Hutch gently took hold of his partner’s chin, bracing himself as the brunette flinched back from his touch.

‘S’ok Starsk. I’m just gonna get rid of your eye patches’ he said gently, easing the tape from the damp brow and dark lashes. As each eye uncovered, Starsky blinked and looked blearily around him, finally resting his dilated pupils on Hutch.

‘Utch…..take me home?...please’

Chapter 8

It was probably the longest night the two men had ever spent together as they sat in the locked white cell. Hutch had immediately peeled the white tape away from Starsky’s eyes so that his partner could again see and Starsky had immediately fixed his indigo blues onto his partner, never taking them off the blonde’s face as though his life depended on watching his friend. Hutch’s anger knew no bounds at the barbaric treatment Starsky had received and had the doctor been in the room with them, he’d have ripped him limb from limb. As it was, he directed his anger into looking after the tormented cop at his side.

As he pulled the tapes away from his eyes, Starsky had asked his friend to take him home and Hutch wished he could do just that. But McGrail had locked them both into the room, declaring that by law he had to keep Starsky for 24 hours.

Hutch pulled the brunette to him, putting his chin on the top of Starsky’s head as the smaller man rested his head on Hutch’s shoulder. The curly haired cop was still fighting the effects of the drugs he’d been given, but nothing could stop the thoughts racing through his head like a crazy roundabout. Finally he stopped on one thought. One he could concentrate on and one that was causing him pain.

‘Hutch I hit someone’ he whispered

‘I know ya did buddy’.

‘Did I hurt ‘em? Is that why they’re punishing me?’ he asked in a small lost voice

Hutch sighed. ‘They aren’t punishing you pal. No-ones punishing you, you didn’t hurt anyone. They understood’.

‘I thought it was Quinn. I could see Quinn and Ryan and I was back in the…..I keep hearing ‘em asking me about the lights. I can’t shut ‘em out….can’t shut ‘em out, they’re there all the time….can’t stop ‘em’ he shook his head, whimpering as if trying to block out some outside sound.

The blond closed his eyes, shutting out the heart rending sight. He was used to Starsky being so strong and dynamic and to see him reduced to this vulnerable damaged state was almost more than he could bear.

Suddenly the brunette looked up as if seeing someone come into the room. He stiffened and shuffled back further against the wall, his eyes wide with fear.

‘They’re coming. I can hear ‘em. Hide and I’ll tell ‘em you aren’t here. If they don’t see you they can’t hurt you. Hutch, just hide and I’ll cover for you’ Starsky was getting more and more agitated as the seconds passed.

Hutch caught hold of the shaking body. ‘There’s no-one there Starsk. You’re safe now. No-ones there, I won’t let anyone get to you’ He hung on as Starsky shook in fear, burying his head in his partner’s shoulder. Slowly the tremors subsided and Hutch gently pushed the brunette away, looking into the troubled eyes.

‘Here buddy, let me take this off of you’ he offered, tugging at the straps of the straight jacket. The canvas was clean but stiff and already Hutch could see a red welt forming around Starsky’s neck where it had rubbed at the delicate skin. He fumbled with the stiff leather straps, removing them from their keepers and unbuckling the tabs allowing the canvass to fall forward.

Starsky let out a breath in relief. The jacket was not meant to be cruel, but the straps had been secured too tightly and he’d lost some of the sensation in his fingers. He flexed them slowly, letting the feeling come back into them and gently Hutch took them in his own hands and tenderly rubbed them. He stopped, angry again as he looked at the big hands, noticing the absence of the silver ring his partner habitually wore on the little finger of his left hand. The brunette smiled a sad smile. ‘They took it away in case I hurt myself with it’ he muttered, flexing his shoulders to ease out the kinks. Slowly Starsky rubbed at the sore abraded skin around his neck, but didn’t complain

His big blond partner sighed again trying hard not to show the anger that had redoubled in his stomach. He watched as the brunette rubbed his hands up and down his arms. Starsky might be rid of the straight jacket, but he wore only the white scrubs pants beneath and he was beginning to shiver now. Whether it was from the drugs, or whether he was just plain cold, Hutch had no idea, but he took off the tartan shirt he wore over his tee shirt and draped it around his friend’s shoulders, Starsky pulled it around him and plunged his nose into the fabric.

‘Smells of Hutch’ he mumbled happily. He leaned back against his partner and closed his eyes, still for a moment, the shirt still tucked under his chin.

The stillness, however, did not last very long and within moments, Hutch noticed the tanned, strong fingers fingering the buttons on the shirt. He covered them with his own.

‘What’re ya doing buddy?’ he asked.

‘There’s eight’ the smaller man replied, looking up for confirmation.

Hutch’s heart rate hiked up a notch. Oh God buddy don’t do this. Don’t start counting again. Just rest and sleep. You’ll feel better then. But for fucks sake don’t count.

‘It’s not important Starsk. Just put them down’.

‘Is it wrong? Did I get it wrong?’ the indigo eyes looked distraught. ‘Not eight?’ the brunette asked, reaching again for the shirt.

Hutch pushed his hand away. ‘It doesn’t matter Starsk. Leave it buddy. Just leave it huh?’ But he knew he’d said the wrong thing. The brunette was up on his feet now, pacing the confines of the cell, his bare feet soundless on the padded floor, his hands up to his head, clutching at his own curly hair.

‘Three lights…said there were four, but I knew….three lights…..eight buttons and three lights….and you weren’t there. You weren’t there for me…..three lights but you weren’t there’ the voice got louder and louder.

Hutch pushed himself up and caught hold of his partner’s shoulders swinging him round so that he could see into the tortured face. He took hold of Starsky’s chin, forcing the smaller man to look at him. ‘Oh God I wish I could have been there for ya, I really do, but I was sick too. Please, just shut up about the lights Starsky. It doesn’t matter any more. They’re gone. Quinn is gone. Ryan is gone. No lights, no buttons, no counting OK? Just take it easy, just….’.

He saw Starsky’s hand swing at him and tried to duck out of the way but in his surprise he was slow and the blow caught him squarely on the chin, snapping his head back. He fell back a couple of steps, but recovered quickly as he saw the brunette coming at him again.

‘There were three lights and I told him, but he wouldn’t listen. Now you won’t believe me. Why won’t you believe me?’ Starsky was yelling as he threatened to aim another blow at the blond.

If it hadn’t been for the fact that his partner was still under the influence of the Thorazine. Hutch would never have had a chance, but the brunette’s reactions were fractionally slower than normal and as he swung the punch. Hutch caught the fist in his hand, pushing Starsky back against the padded wall, pinning him there with his forearm across Starsky’s throat, leaning into the thin frame and holding it still.

‘You don’t want to do this pal’ he panted, seeing the madness still in his friend’s eyes, although it was retreating again now. 'You don't want to go there. you don't know what you're doin'.

Something seemed to switch on in the brunette’s head and Hutch saw the change in Starsky’s eyes. The body he was holding went limp against him and stopped fighting, instead holding onto his arms and trembling.

‘I’m sorry. Dear God, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I’m doing any more. I hear him all the time and I see him everywhere. I never meant to hurt you….never meant to hurt anyone…...I’m going mad aren’t I? He broke me so easy and now I’m loosing it’ he let out a whimper and buried his head in Hutch’s shoulder as the blond felt the sobs start to wrack the frail frame.

Gently he eased them both to the floor, still holding on to his partner and rocking him as Starsky continued to sob.

‘I’m so scared Hutch. I’m loosing it, I know I am. One minute I’m fine and then I hear him again and I know he’s coming to beat the crap out of me again, and I’m just so bloody scared……I never let him know he’d broken me…..never. But he did and that hurt so damned much, more’n the torture. No-ones ever done that before. I survived eight weeks in that camp in ‘Nam and they didn’t break me, but him! It was just too much and I was too fuckin’ weak. And then I kept seeing you and I knew for sure that I was loosing it’.

Hutch held him close, fingers entangled in the dark curly hair as he tried to find the words to comfort his friend.

‘I was there buddy, don’t ask me how I knew, but I saw what those bastards did to ya, and if I could I would have killed ‘em myself. But you’re safe now. You’re not weak. God you’re the strongest man I know and he didn’t break ya. If he had, you wouldn’t be having this conversation now. S’ok. No-ones gonna get ya any more, I promise. But ya have to try to stop counting. Just for me huh? Can ya do that for me?’

‘Dunno…..Can’t help it…..I can’t live like this Hutch. Can’t live with this inside me all the time. I need to get out, to run. I need to get it all behind me. Help me? I don’t know what to do any more……I’m so scared’.

‘I know buddy. I would be too. But you got over ‘Nam and you’ll get over this. You just gotta give it time. No-one should have to go through what you went through. Most guys would just go plain nuts, but you’re Starsky. You don’t go to pieces just because some flake beats the living daylights out of you’.

Starsky took hold of Hutch’s right hand, fingering the bleeding raw knuckles. ‘Seems like someone else went nuts’ he muttered.

The blond chuckled. ‘Yeah well. We’re all allowed one psychotic episode’.

The indigo eyes pierced into his soul. ‘Am I gonna make it?’

Hutch pulled his partner to him. ‘God I hope so. I couldn’t cope with an even crazier partner than the one I usually work with! We’ll work this out buddy, me and thee, like always’.

Starsky gave him a shadow of the lop sided smile he usually had, but it was tinged with sadness.

‘I don’t know who I am any more’ he whispered. ‘I feel like I’m wading through a sea of molasses and I can’t find my way out. I just can’t see an end to it, coz I don’t know who I am any more’ he put his head down, pulling Hutch’s shirt more tightly round him as Hutch draped an arm over his shoulder.

‘You’re Detective first class David Michael Starsky. You're my Starsk’.

‘Am I? I don’t know. I think he’s in here somewhere and I think he wants to get out, but he’s lost. Some times I feel like I’m just fading away. I wish they’d stop pumping me full of the drugs then I could think straight. Hutch?’

Yeah buddy?’

‘I just wanna go home. Will ya take me home huh?’

Hutch nodded. ‘Just as soon as I can pal. Just as soon as I can’.

The brunette settled happily against his partner and closed his eyes, feeling safe for the first time in weeks and as Hutch closed his eyes, Starsky drifted into a troubled and frightening sleep.

Chapter 9

McGrail came back to the white room in the early morning, having left an orderly outside the room all night in case the flaxen haired cop required any help. The man outside said he’d heard raised voices but nothing more and the doctor nodded and asked to be let in.

Hutch looked up as he heard the tiny noise of the key in the lock and his expression hardened as he saw the short figure of the medic letting himself into the white hell. Although he knew the doctor was probably a very caring individual, he could only remember the taped eyes of his sick partner and the exhausted head hanging forward. Starsky needed love and kindness, not drugs and restraints and Hutch would never forgive the brunette’s treatment. Starsky was sleeping fitfully at his side, the curly head cushioned on his partner’s lap and Hutch put his fingers to his lips shushing McGrail.

During the night, the curly haired cop had fought the effects of the drug that remained in his system, while Hutch soothed him, running his fingers through the mahogany curls and whispering soft and low. He could tell that many of Starsky’s dreams were frightening and some seemed to be painful as the thin body next to him jerked reflexively, drawing his knees up to his chest and letting out gasps. Several times Starsky had spoken in his sleep, mumbling under his breath and seemingly arguing with his captors.

‘Don’t do that……no……ungh… please don’t’…..no more, please no more…..kill ya…..Oh God…..Noooooo’.

The moans of pain tore at the blonde’s heart and sealed his resolve to get Starsky out of there as soon as possible. His partner’s mumbled words replayed in his head. Utch, I wanna go home. Just take me home huh? Why am I being punished? I wanna go home.

And so as the doctor walked in, Hutch carefully extricated himself from the brunette and stood stiffly, his back and butt numb from the hours he’d spent on the floor nursing his friend. He bit back a groan as he straightened, seeing the pale hand on the ground reaching for him. Starsky moaned at the absence of the comforting body, but his eyes remained closed and the blond indicated to the doctor that they should talk outside. Quietly they left the room, Hutch taking a last look at his friend’s body on the padded floor, curled into a ball, arm cushioning the curly head. He looked for all the world like a small boy, lost in a snow white world.

McGrail closed the door gently looking expectantly at the blond and waiting for the tirade to begin.

‘I taking him home’ Hutch said in a tone that brooked no argument.

The doctor shook his head. ‘That’s not wise detective. He’s sick and he’s a danger to you and to himself. I wouldn’t be a very good psychiatrist if I was to allow him to return to society in his current condition. Maybe in a couple of months, when he’s been treated, he’ll be able to rejoin you again, but until then….’ He let the implication hang in the air.

‘A couple of months? I wouldn’t leave him for more than a couple of hours in this place if I had a choice. Last night you had the law on your side when you said you had to keep him. Well, doctor, the 24 hours is almost up. I have power of attorney over him and I’m taking him home’ Hutch shouted, his finger pointing accusingly at the doctor.

McGrail stood his ground in front of the raging blond, waiting for Hutch to quieten down so that he could speak. ‘He’s a danger to you. I don’t think you realise what you would be taking on. And he’s a danger to himself’.

‘What d’ya mean a danger to me. Starsky wouldn’t hurt me. Even if he’s sick, he’s not gonna do anything to hurt me’ Hutch spluttered seeing the look of disbelief on the doctor’s face. Quietly McGrail pulled the blond into an adjoining room and sat him down. He picked up a video cassette and inserted it into a player, pressing the button. The image on the television screen flared to life and Hutch put his head in his hands as the grainy picture showed Starsky belting Hutch on the chin and the blond pinning his partner against the wall. McGrail stopped the image and looked knowingly at the flaxen haired cop.

‘CCTV. We have it in all the rooms here. He attacked you’.

‘It wasn’t an attack. He’s scared and lost and you have him wired on so many drugs he can’t think straight. Have you any idea what those suckers did to him? How would you fare if you were tied down and questioned for 12 days, beaten and electrocuted with a Tazer gun huh? How would you feel if they held your head under dirty water and punched you until you took a lungful and passed out? Would you be the same McGrail? Would you be lucid and amenable? I don’t think so! He needs to be with his friends, with people who care. He needs to be with me and there ain’t you or anyone else gonna stop me from taking him out of here, ya got that?’

McGrail sighed, knowing he’d never win the argument with the big blond. Hutch was adamant and the doctor could see the resolve in the ice blue eyes.

‘Do you have anyone to help you? You can’t do this on your own, I can send a nurse or…’

‘I have help. I don’t need anyone from here’ Hutch said with finality. ‘I just need to get to a phone. Can I use yours?’ he asked, calmer now that the medic seemed to be taking him seriously.

McGrail nodded. ‘Of course detective’. He indicated the phone on the desk. ‘And Mr Hutchinson? We do care. No matter what you think of our methods or approach, we care very deeply’ he got up and left Hutch to his phone call.

The troubled blond watched the doctor’s retreating back and as the door closed he picked up the telephone asking for the operator.

‘Yeah, can you get me Bay City Operational Army Base please? Eighth Battalion. Thanks’ he waited, drumming his fingers impatiently on the hard wooden surface of the desk.

‘Hello, could you put me through To Major Thomas Trafford, Bomb Disposal Unit please. It’s a personal call’. There was a delay of a few minutes during which Hutch formulated his plan. He heard a click, then Traff’s familiar tones.

‘Major Trafford’.

‘Traff? Its Hutch. Can you talk?’

‘Hey Hutch buddy! Yeah. I’m still on sick leave. Fire away. What can I do for ya?’

‘Its Starsky. I need your help’.

There was a low groan on the other end of the phone. ‘What’s up with Curly? Is he OK? I know he was a mess when I left Memorial, but I thought he’d recover’.

Hutch swallowed. ‘He’s……they sent him to Cabrillo. I’m here with him now, but I need to get him out. Need your help Traff’.

‘Shit. They’re as useful as a pork pie at a Jewish wedding when it comes to PTSD. You’re right to want him out of there. Let me guess, they’ve drugged him and left him to his own devices?’ Traff’s voce held the beginnings of anger.

‘Worse’ Hutch replied, trying to keep his voice level and measured. ‘Yeah, they’ve dosed him with Thorazine, but when I got here they’d gotten him into a straight jacket and they’d…’ his voice cracked and he took a deep breath, getting his emotions under control before he could continue. ‘They wanted to stop him counting everything, so they taped his eyes closed’.

Traff cursed down the telephone for several seconds, never using the same word twice. If it hadn’t been such a serious conversation, Hutch might have been impressed at the swear words Traff used in English, Spanish, French and a few languages Hutch had never heard before. Finally the soldier stopped and the blond could hear him panting. ‘Those sons of bitches! Ok stay put, I’ll be over there in an hour. Wait for me huh? Then we’ll get him back to your place’.

‘Thanks buddy, I owe you’.

Traff chuckled. ‘Nah, I owe Curly’ he said and the phone went dead.

Hutch opened the door and saw the doctor pacing the corridor. McGrail stopped and came back into the room, sitting down by the side of the blond.

‘I have some help. He’ll be over here in an hour. Can Starsky go home then?’ he asked, silently pleading with the doctor.

McGrail looked unhappy, but nodded. ‘On the proviso that if he becomes too much for you, he is readmitted here. And also only if we can sedate him for the journey’.

Hutch saw the finality in the doctor’s eyes. He’d won the major battle and didn’t want to push his luck further. If it meant only one more needle for his partner, he was willing to agree.

He sighed. ‘Fine. Do what you have to. There’ll be a Major Trafford coming in an hour. Will he be ready to go then?’ McGrail nodded.

Reluctantly Hutch got up and made his way back to the padded room, the orderly opening the door for him so that he could enter. Starsky had woken and was looking around him in panic at finding himself alone again. As Hutch came back into the room he saw his partner sag back against the white padded wall, pulling the tartan shirt around him like a comfort blanket.

‘You ok Buddy. S’ok, I’m right here’ Hutch said gently.

‘Thought I’d imagined you again’ Starsky said softly, rubbing his face with his left hand. ‘Shit….Not sure what’s real any more’ he said sadly, tenting his eyebrows at his partner.

‘I’m real. Hey would they make a mirage this ugly?’ Hutch said, lowering himself to the floor next to the brunette. ‘Good news. We’re gonna break you out of this joint’ he said patting the shoulder next to him.

‘We?’ The indigo eyes looked questioningly

‘Traff’s coming. I did a deal with the doctor. He said as long as we have help I can take you home’.

Starsky smiled. ‘He thinks you need help so that I don’t try an’ kill ya any more?’ He pointed upwards at the tiny camera in the corner. ‘I may be nuts, but I’m not stupid. Let me guess he caught our little argument on video?’

Hutch chuckled. ‘Oh yeah. Seems to think you’re a psycho buddy. Haven’t a clue where he gets that from. I mean anyone who dresses in threadbare jeans, drives a striped tomato and keeps a pet stone is as sane as the next guy, right?’

He paused, seeing the doctor through the observation window in the door. He held up a hand to the medic, asking for a moment.

‘There was another part of the deal buddy. Something I haven’t told ya’.

Starsky locked eyes with the blond. ‘Why do I have the feeling I’m not gonna be over the moon about it?’

‘Doctor Frankenstein wants to sedate you again’ he said gently. ‘It’s the last time partner, but it’s the only way I could get him to agree’.

He saw the brunette swallow down the rising panic. ‘Coz he thinks I’m crazy?’

Hutch nodded not trusting his own voice to answer.

He saw his partner shrug his shoulders. ‘Guess I am crazy. Not many guys count buttons an’ lights huh?’ He sighed. ‘S’ok Blondie. Tell him he can do what he has to……just wanna go home. You’ll be here, right?’

Hutch smiled. ‘Ain’t goin’ anywhere partner’. He motioned for the doctor to come in, dismayed at the presence of the two orderlies with him. All three men advanced on the cowering brunette as he pushed himself back against the wall.

McGrail knelt down at Starsky’s side, syringe in his hands and the orderlies positioned themselves on at each side of the shaking brunette. Without a pause, the two large men took hold of Starsky’s arms. Hutch looked on is dismay as he heard a quiet whimper and his partner locked scared indigo blue eyes onto his as the orderlies fastened thick leather medical restraints around Starsky’s wrists, attaching them together and pinning his arms behind him.

‘Hey, that was never part of the deal’ he yelled, coming to his feet to try to pull the orderlies away. He stopped when he heard the quiet voice.

‘S’ok Blondie. ….can handle it. Just…..don’t go, huh? Stay with me?’

Hutch watched as the orderly secured the straps between the cuffs, and roughly pushed him out of the way. He knelt down by his partner, pulling the curly head onto his shoulder as Starsky leaned against him, then looked up, maintaining eye contact.

As McGrail knocked any air bubbles out of the syringe and prepared the injection, the brunette’s eyes remained locked on his partner’s, needing the contact. As the needle plunged into the vein, Starsky finally looked away and as McGrail completed the procedure, Hutch watched as the stormy eyes clouded over and Starsky rested his head back against the wall.

Chapter 10

Hutch watched in horror as the man he knew as David Starsky drifted away on a cushion of the anti psychotic drugs, to be replaced by a shell; an empty vessel leaning against the wall and staring with cloudy eyes into middle distance. Gently he put his arm around the unresponsive shoulders and waited, cursing the medical profession in general and McGrail in particular.

‘Starsk? ya with me?’ he asked softly.

Hesitantly the head turned and the vacant eyes looked at him and then through him.

‘Oh buddy, c’mon. Starsk, it’s me Hutch. Can ya hear me?’

The smaller man heaved a deep breath and seemed to concentrate hard.

‘Utch?’ he slurred. ‘Ffffffeel weird. Armsssss won’t mmmmmove’.

‘I know pal, I know. We’ll deal with those bands round your wrists later. I know ya feel weird, it’s the drug, Just try to relax huh? I’m here. Ain’t goin anywhere’. He watched as Starsky closed his eyes and sagged back against the wall, lost in his own medication induced world and Hutch bit back his anger. He rested his own blond head back against the padded wall and closed his eyes, waiting.

Within three quarters of an hour, the door opened again and Traff’s familiar, tall figure stood, blocking the light from the hallway. He put his hands on his lean hips and looked from Hutch to Starsky and back to Hutch.

‘Well you look like shit’ he declared to the blond. With two days growth of beard and dark circles under his eyes matching the blossoming bruise on his chin, Hutch had definitely seen better days. He looked back at the tall tanned soldier and smiled wanly.

‘You say the nicest things’ he muttered, levering himself to his feet. ‘Guaranteed ta make a guy feel his best. Thing is I think I feel worse than I look. You ready to get out of this hell hole ‘coz if I spend another minute here, so help me I’m gonna strangle someone’.

Traff nodded and crossed the padded floor to kneel by his old army friend. He examined the semi conscious Starsky using his field medic training, raising the eyelids and examining the eyes with their massive black pupils. He took the handsome face in his hands and turned it towards him, staring at his friend then looked up at Hutch. ‘They drugged him again, didn’t they?’

‘Yeah. Part of the good doctor’s deal before they’d let me take him home’. Hutch admitted bitterly. ‘There was no way I could stop ‘em, otherwise they wouldn’t have let him go and there was no way I’d let him stay here another night’. He watched as Traff pulled the limp figure on the floor forward from the wall.

‘And what the hell is this?’ the soldier tugged at the restraints on Starsky’s wrists. ‘Bastards’ he spat out. ‘God, he can hardly stand let alone hurt himself or anyone else’. He got to his feet. ‘Ya signed the release papers?’

Hutch nodded.

‘Ok, well, lets get out of here’.

With Hutch on one side and Traff on the other, they pulled the limp form to its feet. Starsky stood swaying, his head hanging down as he leaned heavily against his friends. With an effort he straightened and looked at Traff.

‘Home?’ he whispered

‘Yep Curly. Goin’ home now. Can ya walk?’ Traff held onto his friend’s arm as the brunette walked shakily to the door. As they got outside McGrail was there with a paper sack. It rattled ominously and the medic held up his hand as he saw Hutch winding up for another yelling match.

‘They’re Thorazine tablets. You must understand that his psychosis won’t just go away because he’s back home. It will be frightening and confusing for him to have the compulsion to count and it could once again take over his conscious thoughts. These are low dosage and you should get him to take them every six hours…….I know you don’t like the idea of drugs, but without them, I’m afraid everything will be too much for him and you’ll loose him for ever’.

Hutch took the bag reluctantly from McGrail’s hand. ‘OK, fine’ he sighed, just anxious to get out of the hospital. ‘Now, can we please leave?’

The doctor stood to one side and Traff and Hutch set off down the corridor. They’d gone no more then three steps when Hutch realised Starsky wasn’t following. He looked back at the brunette who was standing in the middle of the corridor, hands still pinned behind his back. He was looking at his friends, but he hadn’t moved.


There was no response and Traff took hold of the bound arm. ‘Walk forward Curly’ he said and falteringly, Starsky did as he was told. Traff explained to the startled Hutch.

‘It’s the drugs. He has no inclination to do anything at the moment. The drug takes away any free will. If ya want him to do somethin’ you’ll have to explain it to him, like you would a kid’.

Hutch cursed and took his partner’s other arm, almost marching the man towards freedom. As they got to the large front door, the small party stopped and angrily Hutch reached around Starsky’s back unfastening the restraints and dumping them on the ground as though they were poisonous. Starsky’s arms fell limply to his sides although he made no attempt to rub his wrists and nor did he thank his partner, he merely stood, waiting for the next command.

With hands shaking in anger Hutch took a hold of the brunette’s arm again and guided him outside to his waiting car. He opened the door and waited, but nothing happened. Oh God Gordo, what’ve they done to ya?….what did I let ‘em do to ya?

‘Starsky, get in the car buddy’ he said softly, putting his hand on the curly head so that it didn’t bang on the doorframe. Starsky got slowly into the passenger seat, and for one of the first times ever, Hutch used the seat belt to strap his friend into the chair, partly so that Starsky didn’t hurt himself and partly, he admitted to himself with anger in case the brunette tried to do something stupid.

With Traff following in his own car, Hutch turned his battered LTD towards Venice Place and drove quickly home, occasionally glancing sideways at the drugged cop. Starsky hadn’t moved since he’d gotten into the car. His head still hung down as though it was too heavy to hold upright. Hutch could see that the eyes were half closed and the brunette held his hands limply at his sides. Although Hutch knew the drug’s effects were only temporary, he hated to see the normally exuberant detective so cowed and…….obedient.

At his apartment he got out as Traff drew up behind him and helped his partner out of the car, leading him into the familiar surroundings of his home. He’d hoped that once in a welcoming recognisable space, Starsky would start to come around from the Thorazine, but instead the bewildered man stood, hands at his side and head drooping in the middle of the room, waiting.

‘Hey buddy, ya wanna sit down?’ Hutch asked, looking into his partner’s face. There was no response and he tried again. ‘How about a shower huh? And then ya can get your own clothes on’.

The indigo eyes cleared a little and a shadow of a smile flashed across the face. ‘Jeans?’

Hutch chuckled, relieved to see Starsky was still in there somewhere. ‘Yeah, whichever pair of crummy blue jeans ya want. Let’s get ya washed up’.

Traff set about making drinks as Hutch lead the drugged cop into the bathroom. He turned on the shower and watched as Starsky made ineffectual attempts to untie the string around the scrubs pants. Hutch took hold of the cord and pulled, watching in dismay as the curly haired man saw the pants drop to the floor to puddle round his feet. With a sigh, Hutch guided his partner under the hot water and handed him the soap. Starsky took it hesitantly and stared at it. But the water seemed to be having a reviving effect and Hutch checked that the brunette was going to be ok before going into the bedroom to choose some clothes to replace the hospital issue pants. He thanked providence that both men kept a small supply of their own clothes at their counterpart’s homes, and he quickly drew a pair of well worn, soft blue jeans and a red tee shirt from Starsky’s part of his cupboard, heading back to the bathroom to deposit them on the floor near the towels. Checking that Starsky was still ok, he walked back into his living room and flung himself down onto the settee as Traff handed him a cold beer from the fridge.

‘I hate seeing him like this’ Hutch said as he took a long comforting pull from the bottle

‘He’ll feel better after the shower. Might bring him round a bit’ Traff nodded, feeling Hutch’s pain. ‘Did the Doc give him some pills then?’

‘Yeah, the same Thorazine crap. I just feel like throwing ‘em down the pan’.

‘No, don’t do that’ Traff said sitting down on the chair opposite. ‘For one thing, he needs to come down off it gradually and for another thing, he’ll need something to get through the next few weeks’.

Hutch nodded. ‘That’s what the Doc said, but I don’t wanna drug him up every two minutes. Jeez, what kind of friend would I be? I feel like a complete bastard for letting McGrail near him with that hypo today’ he put his head in his hands, suddenly weary beyond words.

‘Its not gonna be every two minutes and believe me, he will need it. I’ve seen guys come back from war zones less sick then Curly and they’ve been crying out for something to shut their minds down for a while coz the pains too great. I know he’s tough, but he’s gonna need some help and I think the pills are the answer to begin with’.

At that moment, the bathroom door opened and a wet, bedraggled but clothed Starsky came out, rubbing his dripping curls with a towel. He’d struggled with arms that felt like lead to pull on the tight jeans, but just getting back into normal clothing for the first time in weeks felt good and gave him a boost, although the tee shirt rubbed against the still healing burns on his side. He stood at the doorway, leaning heavily on the lintel and looking shaky, but he was smiling, the ghost of the old Starsky trying to break through.

‘Welcome back’ Traff beamed at him.

‘S’good to be back. Feels like I’ve been gone a long time’ the brunette replied. ‘Feel like shit an’ I’ve got the mother of all hangovers. Is there a drink around?’

Hutch got up. ‘Sure what d’ya want. Coffee, tea? Can’t do the beer, it won’t mix too well with the….’ He couldn’t bring himself to say it.

Starsky walked over and sat down on the chair in the living room, seeing the blonde’s discomfort.

‘Juice would be good. And Blondie, don’t beat yourself up about it huh? They wouldn’t let me home unless I got an armful of loony juice, so you did what ya had to do. No big deal’ he dumped the wet towel on the floor and ran his fingers through his hair, two, three, four times

Traff passed him the glass of orange. ‘How d’ya feel now?’

‘Well d’ya mean do I want to count everything and run naked through the park at midnight? No, at the moment my head’s quiet and I don’t need to count. As for the park at midnight?’ he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. ‘We’ll see later’.

He took the juice noticing the five fingerprints on the glass. No, don’t go there, don’t count ‘em. Good boy. Normal…. Just be normal. He put the glass down on the table, refusing to look at it further.

‘Are ya tired? Ya wanna watch TV?’ Hutch asked him, seeing the somewhat distracted look in the brunette’s eyes. He dismissed it, putting it down to the lasting effects of the Thorazine.

Seven words. He said seven words and there are three li…..shut up. Stop it! Don’t count. Starsky curled his hands into fists, his nails digging into the soft flesh of his palms.

‘Whatever you want to do. I’m feeling tired. I might take a nap’ he said, feeling the need to be on his own and quiet. Maybe if he could just be quiet he could stop the noise….stop the voices in his head telling him to count. He stood up and was about to go to the bedroom when Traff intercepted, handing him a fresh glass and a small white tablet.

‘What’s this?’ Starsky asked suspiciously.

‘Thorazine, but only a small dose. Just take it Curly, it’ll help’ the soldier urged.

The brunette took a hold of it and stared. ‘So, you want to drug me too?’ he said quietly, accusation in his voice.

Traff took hold of the cop’s shoulders. ‘Hey, this is me, Traff. Would I give ya something if I didn’t think it’d help? It’ll just stop the voices for a while, that’s all’.

‘I don’t hear voices’ Starsky said, a little too sharply, then backed down. ‘I just need some sleep that’s all’.

‘Well take the pill and then sleep huh?’ Traff pushed the glass of water at him again and reluctantly Starsky took it, putting the tablet in his mouth and taking a gulp of the water. He handed the glass back and walked uncertainly into the bedroom, closing the door behind him. Swiftly he spat out the tablet and threw it in the waste paper basket, lay down on the bed fully clothed and closed his eyes.

One tablet….two sheets on the bed…..three lig….SHUT UP, just shut the fuck up and sleep. That’s right, just sleep and it’ll be batter tomorrow. Sleep. He curled over on his side, the one free of burns, pulled the sheet up around his ears and tried to sleep.

Chapter 11

There are three lights….three lights…..three lights. The words played over and over in his head as Starsky tried hard to sleep. He tossed and turned, his rest not helped by the still healing injuries his body carried. Whatever he did and whatever he tried to think of eventually it came back to the same damned thing. The monotonous dialogue with Quinn, his torturer.

How many lights are there?’

What the fuck does it matter?’

I asked a question. How many lights are there?’


Wrong there are four. Look again. How many lights are there?’

Whatever he had done whilst tied to that table, the answer had always been the same, “no, there are four lights” and then the horrible burning pain from the Tazer.

Starsky whimpered in his sleep, his body twitching as though it feel the electric current again and he sat bolt upright, shaken awake and sweating as he pushed the sheet away. He shuffled to the edge of the bed and sat with his head in his hands until his breathing had eased down from the frantic panting. Even the nightmares he’d experienced after his tour of Vietnam were nothing compared to this haunting, monotonous and never ending cycle. He shook his head slowly from side to side, trying to close out the voices in his head.

Three lights…..no four……no three lights.

The brunette stood quickly, looking around for his shoes and realising belatedly that he didn’t have any at Hutch’s house – he’d even come back from Cabrillo barefoot. Cursing silently he padded out of the bedroom and into the living room. He was surprised to find it deserted and looked at the clock on the wall. No wonder Hutch and Traff had gone to bed, it was past 2:00am. He went to the kitchen to get himself a glass of water and opened the cupboard door. Six glasses and three cups….but three….SHUT UP! Just shut up. Don’t count! He poured water into the glass and took a deep pull, throwing the rest over his face and leaning heavily against the sink, screwing his eyes up in concentration.

Three lights….three lights. Starsky slammed his fist down on the countertop, making the cups on the draining board jump and rattle. He couldn’t stand the noises in his head anymore and couldn’t silence them. He looked at the paper sack containing the pills from the hospital and reached hesitantly for one, but then withdrew his hand. If he had to so this he’d do it the Starsky way. No drugs, no mind altering crap, but he knew he needed to do something; to rid himself of the demons that were haunting him and slowly a plan formed in his mind. Swiftly he padded over to the cupboard by the door where Hutch habitually kept his gun. Opening the door he saw the huge Colt Python in the stiff saddle leather holster. He reached up and withdrew it, quietly checking there were sufficient bullets in the chamber for his needs. He saw the keys to his partner’s rust bucket of a car on the table by the door and was about to take them when he saw Traff’s car keys next to them. Although the voices in his head were as loud as ever, they didn’t stop him from choosing the big, flashy red four wheel drive monster Traff drove over the pathetic excuse for a car that Hutch chose to use. He grabbed the keys and let himself quietly out of the apartment, running down the steps and out into the cool night air.

Swiftly he got into the big beast of a car and started the engine, turning the car in a wide U and heading out into the countryside behind Bay City.


Hutch woke early next morning and stretched lazily, idly watching the pebbles of early morning rain run down the glass of the window. He looked through the rain wet pain window pane and saw heavy dark clouds knowing a thunderstorm was on its way. He straightened stiffly, easing the kinks from his back. He’d held himself stiff and anxious for the past 48 hours and the muscles across his arms and chest were now protesting. He went into the living room to get himself a drink of coffee, noticing that the door to the bedroom Starsky had used was still closed. He smiled to himself, glad his partner was getting some rest, flopped down on the settee with his drink and put his feet up on the coffee table as he picked up the novel he’d been trying to read for days now. As he relaxed back Traff came out of the same room he’d used, the soldier having slept on the floor. The dark haired man looked well rested and he yawned and stretched his arms up above his head, the muscles of his flat abdomen rippling under his tanned skin.

‘Coffee’s in the pot’ Hutch said, nodding at the kitchen. ‘Did ya sleep ok? The floor isn’t the best place’.

Traff chuckled. ‘Its better then a lot of the places I’ve had to kip. At least it was warm and dry. How’s Curly?’

‘Dunno, I think he’s still asleep. Doors still closed’

‘The Thorazine can make you dopey’ Traff explained, ‘but he should get up soon. He needs to establish some sort of sleeping pattern again. It’ll help’.

Hutch nodded. ‘I’ll finish my drink then go get him up’.

The two men sat in companiable silence for a while as they contemplated the coming day. Eventually Hutch drained his cup and got to the end of the chapter in his book. He got up and went to the bedroom door, cracking it open a little and peering into the dim interior of the room. He looked at the bed and saw only rumpled sheets and a dented pillow. He opened the door fully and went in, searching behind the bed and even in the wardrobe. Realising Starsky wasn’t there, he raced back into the living room.

‘He’s gone and the beds cold. He’s been gone a while’ he shouted to Traff who was busy getting dressed. The soldier hopped into the room, one leg in his jeans and one still free of the garment.

‘What the hell’s he gonna do now? he said, managing to get the offending pants on. He tripped against the table, almost knocking it over and sending Hutch’s car keys to the floor. He looked at them.

‘My car keys have gone’ he announced grimly.

He zipped his pants up and shouldered into his shirt as Hutch dashed into his bedroom, emerging scant minutes later fully dressed with his hair roughly combed into place.

‘So, what d’ya think he’s gotten into his head now?’ Hutch asked.

Traff shrugged his shoulders. ‘God knows! I noticed he didn’t seem relaxed last night, but I just put it down to the stress of coming home. Did ya notice his hands kept twitching, like he was struggling with something?’

‘What are you thinking?’

‘It’s the voices in his head. They’re back’.

Hutch sighed. ‘Poor guy. So, what now? We need to find him. Any ideas?’

‘I think I know him well enough to know that he’s gonna want to try and sort this counting thing out himself. Hopefully he’s thinking clearly enough to have some logic to his actions if he ever was logical!’ He went to the kitchen and counted the Thorazine pills out onto the counter top. ‘He hasn’t taken any more of these, so there’s a chance he may have a clear head. He gonna want to retrace his steps So where did it all start?’ Traff mused.

‘At the church with those suckers beating him to a pulp’ Hutch spat.


Hutch snapped his fingers. ‘So that’s where we start?’ he said, picking up the keys to his car and heading for the cupboard door. He opened it and put his hand onto the holster there, withdrawing it quickly as though it had bitten him.

‘Traff, I think we got ourselves a bigger problem’ he muttered as the soldier crossed the room. ‘He’s taken my gun’.

‘Oh shit! C’mon Curly boy, play fair!’ Traff murmured as he went back into the bedroom and picked out his own weapon. He stowed it down the back of his jeans pocket and pulled his tee shirt over the top. Coming back into the room he saw Hutch take his cuffs and shield and put them in his jacket pocket before opening the door and heading out into the miserable rain. They piled into the battered brown LTD and headed for the hills. None of the men had originally had any idea where the abandoned church had been. Traff and Starsky had been drugged before they got there, and Hutch was, well, dead! But Dobey had finally given them the location while they were all in the hospital room recovering, in the hope that they would have one thing less to worry about.

The blond handed the mars light to Traff who clamped it onto the top of the car as Hutch started the sirens. With the speedometer touching 90 on the straight patches of road, they covered the 15 miles up into the hills in no time, their silence in the car a testament to the concern they both had for their mutual friend. As the car approached the grim building, Hutch killed both the light and the siren, not wanting to advertise their presence to whoever may be incumbent in the church. Through the beating windscreen wipers they stared at the huge stone edifice, its statues looking down almost in disdain at them. A lightening bolt lanced through the air lighting the building up in an unnatural blaze of white and Traff saw that the door at the front of the building was swinging open. Under cover of the deafening clap of thunder, the two men got out of the car and ran to the shelter of the stonework, the rain now falling in big, fat, drenching drops.

Traff pulled his army issue Smith and Wesson and checked the clip was full, thumbing on the safety. He caught the astonished look from the ice blue eyes opposite.

‘We don’t know if he’s on his own. And Hutch, apart from that, ya have to realise, that’s not the Starsky we know in there. Don’t worry. It’s a last resort and it’d be a shot to wound, not…..ya know’ he gave an almost embarrassed smile. Hutch smiled wanly back. The thought of having to pull a gun on his partner just left him feeling cold and sick to his stomach. He swallowed down the feeling and as he saw Traff count to three, he followed the dark haired man into the church as another clap of thunder peeled overhead and echoed deafeningly around the cold, dismal interior.

They crouched inside the doorway, hugging the shadows and letting their eyes become accustomed to the dim light. They were in a small vestibule, before entering the church proper and their way was blocked by a large wooden door, its top half glazed with stained glass. Cautiously Hutch knelt up and peered through one of the clearer portions, then ducked down again quickly.

‘He’s there’ he told Traff, closing his eyes wearily. He’d seen his curly haired partner clearly outlined by another flash of lightening. Starsky was knelt at the foot of the disused altar table as if praying. His head was lowered as his hands covered his ears as if trying to block out the voices Hutch knew he was hearing. In his left hand he held Hutch’s gun. The sight tore at the blonde’s heart and he grabbed Traff by the shoulders, pulling the soldier round till he could stare into the bright green eyes.

‘Be careful and don’t use that unless you really have to ok?’ he nodded at the weapon.

Traff looked steadily back at the flaxen haired cop. ‘D’ya really think I’d want to shoot him? I love him as much as you do! Trust me huh?’

Hutch nodded and slowly he forced open the big door.

Chapter 12

Starsky made his way back to the old church, his head full of numbers. Driving at 70... five lots of street lights... three lights….two billboards…..The numbers went on and on, figures now floating before his eyes as he screwed them up trying to concentrate on the rain slick road in front of him. He became hypnotised by the rhythm of the windscreen wipers as they swung across the glass in front of him and almost hit a signpost at the corner of the street. He shook his head to clear it and cursed before pushing the gas pedal again and forcing the big car forward towards the church and his nemesis.

As the big stone building loomed up in front of him he felt a sick, cold feeling in the pit of his stomach and as he got unsteadily out of the car, he fell to his knees and deposited the meagre supper he’d managed to get down the night before onto the ground. Panting he forced himself to his feet and staggered towards the church, pushing the big heavy front door open and creeping into the dim and echoing interior. As he saw again the altar table which had been the battlefield on which he’d played with Quinn, the voices in his head redoubled their effort and became louder and louder until they beat at his mind and he fell to his knees on the hard stone ground, arms held protectively around his head in a futile attempt to close out the cacophony.

How many lights are there?’

What the fuck does it matter?’

I asked a question. How many lights are there?’


Wrong there are four. Look again. How many lights are there?’

Starsky looked up through pain hazed eyes and stared ahead. He thought he saw a bound body on the altar, a huge mountain of a man standing over it with a Tazer gun in his hand. He whimpered at the vision and what it represented, visibly shaking. His sanity had ended on that table; his coherent mind ripped from him by a man who was hell bent on breaking his prisoner both physically and mentally. Oh sure, the wounds hurt on his body. The burns on his side still chaffed against the material of his tee shirt and were a constant reminder of his treatment. But it was his mind that had suffered more. And what made Starsky’s predicament even crueler was the fact that not only was he loosing his grip on reality, he knew that it was happening and it scared the curly haired man to death. He whimpered again and looked at the big gun in his hands. What should he shoot first? The man he thought he saw by the altar, or maybe even himself? He caressed the barrel of the weapon and laid it down on the ground in front of him, looking up at the ceiling.

Three lights…..there are three, there are……not four. I can count ‘em. One. Two.Three. Three lights……three lights…..three….three

He shook his head again trying to stop the voices and their counting. The words had been said so many times in his head that they’d lost all meaning and he desperately wanted silence – in any way he could get it and he looked at the weapon again. Gently he picked it up, running his fingers over the dull metal. Was this his salvation? It was certainly one way out, but was it the right one? If only the damned voices would shut up for one minute, he’d be able to think clearly. What did he have to do? What had he come here to do?

As he started to reach for the gun on the ground, he thought he heard a small noise behind him. Maybe Quinn had come back for him. Or maybe it was Ryan! He needed to hide and he tried to stand, his legs numb and almost useless from the time he’d spent kneeling. He pushed himself to his feet and threw himself down behind one of the huge stone pillars, panting hard and trying to catch any more sounds, but many were muffled by the sounds of the storm outside, the rain now beating down on the roof of the building and adding to the noises in his head.

At the back of the church, Hutch and Traff saw their friend freeze, stand and then bolt for cover, knowing that those were not the actions of David Starsky, but of the madman that had taken over his body. Cautiously they crept forward, running crouched from pillar to pillar as they made their way up the aisle, waiting for each flash of lightening to see if Starsky had yet made another move.

Half way up the church they stopped and Hutch yelled out.

‘Starsky? It’s us. Hutch and Traff. We’ve come to take you home buddy’.

The brunette froze, listening to the words, but the voices in his head were deafening him. Don’t listen, it’s a trick. It’s Quinn. He’s gonna kill you. Kill him. Kill him now before he has a chance to shoot you. He fingered the gun in his hand, thumbing off the safety as the shout came again.

‘Starsky, c’mon buddy. Just come over here an’ we can take you home huh?’ Hutch looked desperately at Traff who shook his head.

‘Starsky’s not at home right now’, he said grimly as he poked his head around the pillar. He jerked it back as a shot rang out, sending chips of stone flying in all directions. A piece caught Hutch on the bridge of his nose and he felt the blood start to flow.

Frantically the blond tried again in a softer voice. ‘It’s who do we trust time Starsk. Who d’ya trust huh? It’s me, Hutch. Just let us help ya buddy. That’s all we want to do. We can make the voices go away but ya have to trust us’.

Don’t listen, it’s a trick……they’ll ask about the lights….three…six bullets…..more ‘n’ enough…..three lights….three.

Starsky snook a look around the pillar. He thought he saw a familiar blond head, but knew that Quinn was out to trick him. He needed to get the bastard out into the open. Two could play at that game.

‘Ok…..Hutch…..comin’ out now’ he shouted as he readied his gun.

Behind their respective pillars, both Traff and Hutch looked at each other. Couldn’t be that easy, could it? Traff motioned to Hutch that he’d go around the back of the brunette cop and Hutch should stay put. The blond agreed with a silent thumbs up sign and watched as carefully Traff headed off up the church. Another peel of thunder shook the building and once the reverberations had died away he shouted again to his partner.

‘Ya comin’ now Gordo? I’m waiting. Just want to help ya buddy, that’s all. C’mon Starsk…..please?’

He saw a movement and braced himself as for a moment he saw the gleam of the lightening on the barrel of a gun. His gun. Hutch froze as Starsky catapulted from his hiding place straight at him, weapon levelled at his head.

‘You’re not gonna get me again Quinn’ the tormented cop shouted as he sprinted up the church.

As he got level with the pillar Traff was hiding behind, the soldier ducked out, taking Starsky by surprise. Still unsteady from the effects of the drugs, the brunette stumbled, then righted himself in time to see the gun in Traff’s hand. The madman's finger twitched against the trigger and the Colt cannon flared into life, the report echoing around the church. Hutch heard a grunt and saw Traff fall to the floor. Making his move, Hutch hurled himself at this partner and dragged him kicking and grunting to the floor. He wrestled with the curly haired cop, his right hand struggling with the gun in Starsky’s left.

Three times he hammered the gun hand on the stone floor before Starsky let go of the weapon, his knuckles bruised and bloody although the brunette did not give up the fight. Hutch wanted desperately not to hurt his friend, but the madness had leant strength to the brunette’s movements and he fought as if his life depended on it. Together they rolled over and over on the ground, each trying to get the upper hand. Hutch was hampered by the fact he didn’t want to hurt his partner, but Starsky had no such barrier. All he saw was Quinn, the man who’d held and tortured him for almost two weeks. He so desperately yearned to beat the man to a pulp.

But the Thorazine, the surgeries and the maltreatment had all taken their toll on the usually fit cop and he was tiring quickly. He threw one last desperate punch at Hutch, who managed to duck out of the way before seizing the opportunity and rolling his partner over onto his belly, the brunette’s head crashing against the hard stone floor. In desperation and angry at himself for having to do it, he pulled Starsky’s hands forcefully behind his back and knelt on them, while he pulled his cuffs out from his pocket. With a heavy heart, he clipped them over his friend’s wrists, immobilising him and feeling all the fight leave the bound body as Starsky went limp. Gently he sat down by the side of his partner and ran his fingers through the sweat soaked hair.

‘I’m sorry Starsk’ he said softly, his voice breaking with emotion. ‘God I’m so sorry’.

There being no reply, Hutch leaned over his partner’s body, checking him, but the brunette had collapsed into unconsciousness, whether from one of Hutch’s blows, or from exhaustion, he couldn’t tell. He checked that Starsky was breathing ok, then patting the still form. ‘Just sleep a while Gordo. It’ll be fine’ he murmured.

Wearily he forced himself shakily to his feet and trudged over to Traff, who was now sitting with his back against the stone pillar, clutching his arm.

‘You ok?’ Hutch asked, gently removing Traff’s hand from his shoulder and taking a look at the wound. Fortunately, the drugs and exhaustion had also taken their toll on the brunette’s marksmanship too and although there was a lot of blood, the wound itself was a glancing blow and wouldn’t require hospital treatment.

Traff grinned tightly. ‘The bugger shot me! Would ya believe that? After all we’ve been through! Doesn’t matter, I’ll get even’ he said, lightly. He looked at the sweating and dirty cop in front of him. ‘How’re you? And more to the point how’s he?’ the soldier asked looking past Hutch at the cuffed and still form on the ground.

‘Dunno. After the fight he kinda collapsed. He seems to be unconscious, but I didn't hit him that hard. he kinda convulsed. He put up a hell of a fight!’ Hutch massaged his bruised knuckles and sat beack on his heels. ‘So, what d’we do now?’

Both men crawled back to their unconscious friend. Hutch hated to see him bound with his own handcuffs, but none of them were in any fit state to start another fight, so reluctantly he left them in place. But he gently turned the limp body over and rested the curly head on his lap as the waited and wondered what would happen next as Traff carefully wrapped a piece of torn off tee shirt around his own bloody arm.

Chapter 13

Time seemed to stand still as the two men waited with the unconscious brunette. Traff had managed to find some Tylenol amongst the stuff in his jeans pocket and he dry swallowed two to ease the pain from his arm. He leant back against one of the chairs in the big room trying to make himself comfortable.

‘So what are we gonna do with him now?’ he asked as he watched Hutch gently stroking the mahogany curls. ‘There’s no way I’m gonna report this’ he indicated his arm. ‘Its nothin’ much and I’ll get some antibiotics from one of my buddies back at base. He’s been through way too much already to add anything else. But what about you? What’re you gonna do huh?’

The blond sighed deeply. ‘God knows! But one thing’s for sure, I’m not letting him go back to Cabrillo. You should have seen him when I got to him. He was trussed up in a straight jacket and he looked so lost in the white room. They’d left him nothing, none of his own clothes! They’d even taken his ring away. God! They’d even taken his sight away by taping his eyes closed – it was barbaric. You wouldn’t do that to an animal, let alone someone who’s been through as much as he has’.

Traff nodded. ‘I know you know some of it, but he only told that bitch of a cop half of it ya know’ he said quietly.

Hutch swallowed. ‘I’d guessed as much. He never does like talking about anything like that. He didn’t tell me about ‘Nam till we’d known each other a long time. I knew he’d been a soldier, but it wasn’t till he was sick and delirious one time and ranting about it that I found out he’d been a POW. He’d never mentioned it till then. D’ya wanna fill me in on everything that they did to him this time?’

The soldier chuckled grimly. ‘Have ya got the stomach for it? It got real bad towards the end. I’m amazed he survived. I honestly thought I’d lose him, he was so bad’.

‘I need to know if I’m gonna help him’ Hutch said tightly.

Traff settled himself back. ‘Ok you asked for it’. He muttered.

Over the next hour he told Hutch everything that had gone on in the church, in as much detail as he could remember although Traff had also been sick and some parts towards the end were shaky at best. When he’d finally finished, Hutch was white with anger and he looked sadly down at his partner.

‘Hell, Gordo. No wonder you’re crazy! I never knew all of it. Those bastards! If I could, I’d kill ‘em myself’ he said softly. He continued stroking the head on his lap, trying to remember the good times they’d had together when Starsky had been a whole different kind of crazy. There was the saga of the guinea pig, Louise, of course. And then the other pet, the one that didn’t do a damned thing - the stone he bought from Huggy for $20. Well really it did do one thing. It saved the curly haired detective’s life, so maybe it wasn’t so crazy after all. But Hutch remembered the ESP conversation and the clairvoyance fad. They all added up to make his partner who he was – goofy, loveable, crazy, smart and caring. The blond tried not to think how it would be if he never got that man back. He continued to idly run his fingers through the hair and finally after what seemed like hours, the eyes beneath the closed eyelids started to move and the eyelids fluttered.

Within minutes, Starsky let out a low groan and opened his eyes a fraction, looking straight up into his partner’s face. It took a moment for the indigo eyes to focus, but finally they looked around and settled again on Hutch’s familiar ice blues. Starsky smiled wanly, licking his dry lips.

‘Utch?’ he said feebly.

‘Yeah?’ the blond answered, seeing the once cloudy eyes clearer now.

Starsky looked around him weakly and tried to sit up. ‘Ungh…..side hurts!’ He tried to put his hand to it, but it was still cuffed behind his back. He made no comment.

‘Where am I?’ he gazed at his surroundings with a growing sense of panic. ‘How did we get here?’ he asked.

Hutch put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. ‘S’ok buddy. S’ok. What do ya remember?’

The curly head rested back on his partner’s lap and he closed his eyes, if he was with Huth, he could relax. What did he remember? Hutch was undercover. Yeah that was right and he got shot. His eyes flew open. ‘You were shot!’ he looked at the well healed but still livid red scar and dinge on Hutch’s left brow.

Hutch looked over at Traff and saw the brief shake of the head that said “let it go”. He smiled gently. ‘Yeah, I got shot and you saved me, remember?’ he saw the dark eyebrows tent in concentration.

‘Remember the hospital and you were sick, then Traff came by and we…..Quinn! I remember Quinn and Ryan and they…..’ he swallowed hard. ‘They….well we were here and they…..Where’s Traff?’

‘Right here pal’ the soldier confirmed. Starsky raised his head weakly. ‘Hey buddy. Oh shit, you’re hurt. Was it Quinn? I kill him. And…..hey! I can’t move my…..Hutch my hands are cuffed'. There was a bried pause. 'Why?’ he asked carefully, feeling the metal cutting into the skin of his wrists.

The blond took a deep breath. ‘Starsk, you’ve been sick. D’ya remember that?’

A look of panic flew across the handsome face. ‘Sick? I remember this place and Quinn waling on me with a damned Tazer gun and beating me to a pulp and trying to drown me. He kept asking questions about…..’

Hutch braced himself. Was this it? Was this going to bring the madness back? Please God no!

‘….lights and asking me how many. Drove me crazy coz there were three and he said four’. There were three lights….three the voice in his head was there but faint, as though shouting from a great distance. The brunette looked at his partner intently.

‘What aren’t you telling me?’ he asked quietly.

‘What do you hear? Traff asked cautiously.

Starsky looked at him in surprise and paused. ‘Thunder, rain and the two of you asking dumb questions and not telling me what’s going on’ he said decisively.

Traff persisted. ‘Listen carefully and tell me what do you hear?’

Starsky stared back ‘Just the voice of my friend scaring me witless’ he said levelly.

‘No…erm….no voices?’

The brunette looked at him as though he’d turned seven shades of green. ‘Voices? What’re ya tryin’ to say pal? That I’m crazy or somethin’?’

There was silence and it finally penetrated the brunette’s mind. ‘Oh my God, you are saying that. I am crazy, that’s it isn’t it. That’s why my hands are cuffed and…..shit!, did I do that?’ Starsky nodded at the wound on Traff’s shoulder.

The soldier nodded. ‘It’s no big deal. You’re a lousy shot! But seriously, you don’t hear any voices?’

‘No, no voices’ the curly haired cop ground out. ‘Now will ya please tell me what’s goin’ on and get me outa these damned cuffs?’

Hutch took the key from his pocket and undid the metal bracelets, letting them fall to the floor as Starsky wiggled his shoulders in relief and gently rubbed at his sore wrists.

‘I’m sorry buddy, but….’ He looked away disgusted at himself for having tied his best friend, but Starsky caught the big shoulder and pulled him back.

‘If I was as crazy as you guys are making out, then you did what ya had to do. Don’t beat yourself up over it Blondie. Now. Tell me. What the hell is going on?’

‘You’re sure you don’t hear voices?’ Hutch started

‘Blondie, if you don’t tell me what’s been happening, so help me you’ll be hearing the voices’ the brunette ground out, now thoroughly shaken by the whole affair.

‘OK. Well. The potted version is that after I got out of the hospital. You and Traff were still sick. He recovered before you did and everything seemed to be going well till Joan Meredith came to take your statement. She pushed a bit too hard and suddenly you started acting …erm….weird’

‘How weird?’ the brunette asked carefully, memories starting to flood back now that Hutch had started the description.

‘You were counting. All the time and you couldn’t stop. It got so as you couldn’t have a conversation without you counting stuff. And then Traff was discharged from the hospital and went back to the army base and you were left on your own for a while and..’

‘I hit the nurse’ Starsky said in a small voice. ‘She startled me. I was sleeping and dreaming about all this and she was shining those light things they have in my eyes and I thought she was Quinn. I hit her! Is she ok?’ he asked, searching the blonde’s face. He nodded.

‘It’s all coming back now’ Starsky said in a low voice. ‘I remember Cabrillo, though I don’t know how I got there and for a while it was black - literally. And then you were there’ he smiled at his partner. ‘I’ve never felt so alone in all my life. And I….we argued and….’ He reached out and gently touched the blue/black bruise on Hutch’s chin. ‘Sorry Blintz’.

‘There were voices in my head and I couldn’t stop ‘em from shouting at me and telling me what to do. I just needed some silence to think, but they wouldn’t shut up’. He looked from one friend to the other. ‘Is that madness? Coz if it is, I was whacko!’

‘And then I knew I needed to come back here, to face Quinn and Ryan. I kinda knew deep down that they weren’t really here but I still needed to come back again and I guess when you guys showed up, I got confused’ he looked at his bare feet and twiddled his toes. ‘Confused! I shot my friend coz I was confused! God I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt either of ya’.

Traff leaned forward. ‘Hey. Its done Curly. What they did to you would make anyone crazy. But, I’ll ask again. Do you hear any voices?’

The brunette closed his eyes, listening. Very far off, as though shouting from the other side of a canyon he heard it – three lights….

Calmly he got up and picked up the gun that had skittered away to the side of the aisle. As Traff and Hutch watched, Starsky walked to the front of the church and stopped by the altar table. Carefully he looked up, raised the gun and aimed.

‘Three’ he squeezed the trigger and the report echoed round the church.

‘Fucking’ and a second shot was loosed, shattering the next bulb far above.

‘Lights’. A final shot rang out and the three lights high above splintered into fragments.

He lowered the weapon. Equally calmly, he walked back to his two friends and handed the gun back to Hutch. He walked slowly back up the aisle as they watched and as he reached the door he turned.

‘Don’t hear ‘em any more’ he said and walked outside.



‘Aidan Ryan, Padraig Ryan and Liam Quinn, the charges against you range from the petty to some of the most serious I have ever dealt with in my 23 years as a Judge. If I could I would lock you all up in some dark cell at the end of a very long corridor and throw away the key. Unfortunately the state of California does not allow me to do that. Because that avenue is denied me I sentence each and every one of you to fifteen years in San Quentin. I have no hope that you will merge as reformed characters. The crimes you have committed have been so brutal as to make reformation out of the question. Bailiff, take them down’.

As Judge Duckworth finished his sentencing remarks, Quinn turned to the crowded courtroom and stared directly at the curly haired detective.

‘How is it Starsky? Still squealing like a stuck pig? How many lights are there now huh?’ Quinn leered as the bailiff took him roughly by the arm.

Throughout the morning’s hearing the brunette had sat bolt upright, staring ahead, refusing to make any eye contact with the three men in the dock. The six weeks since the episode in the church where Traff and Hutch had finally found him were long and sometimes painful. Only on very rare occasions, when he was tired did he hear those voices asking over and over again for him to count, and he had managed to deal with them, concentrating instead on his friendship with the two men who had so far not left his side. Even the Thorazine the hospital had prescribed had not been touched, but Hutch had been worried at how Starsky would take the hearing, giving evidence and having to be in the same room again as those creeps.

Now the dark haired cop came waited until the three men had been lead away, then came to his feet.

‘I’ve gotta go see ‘em in the cells’ he said roughly as he shouldered through the crowd. With worried looks, Hutch and Traff followed and trotted down the steps to the cells complex. They waited either side of Starsky but he put his hand up.

‘Hey….if ya don’t mind, I need to this on my own?’

‘You sure pal? We can come in with ya if that’s what ya wanna do?’ Hutch said.

Starsky smiled. ‘I know, but it’s just something I need to do alone’ he tented his eyebrows and smiled as the custody officer let him in. Slowly he walked down the length of the complex, interview rooms and cells to either side, stopping finally at the end one. The prison officer opened the door and stood back to let the brunette in. Quinn and the two Ryans were still shackled from their trip up to the courtroom and they looked up as he stood in the doorway.

‘Well, if it isn’t the squealing detective’ Quinn taunted as the other two men sniggered.

Starsky balled his hands into fists but took a deep breath. ‘I just wanted to tell ya. There were three lights, three fuckin' flakes and one sun. And ya won’t see it again for fifteen long years. How’s that for a numbers game Quinn?’

Quinn leered. ‘Maybe I won't. Oh but I’m so happy, detective. Do you want to know why? Because I broke you. I broke you big style. You were well and truly screwed when we left you’.

The brunette laughed, a natural, relaxed laugh. ‘I did two months as the guest of the Viet Cong. Now they did know a thing or two about pain. They didn’t break me and neither did you. You might have fucked with my head for a while but it’ll take more ‘n’ that to break me. So. Just to let you know Quinn, there’s one light in your cell now and this is me, backing out and turning it off’.

He stepped back, turned on his heel and walked calmly up the corridor and back to his friends.

Traff saw the confident strut back in the brunette’s step and knew he’d finally made it back. As he got to the door he heaved a big sigh and looked at his two closest friends.

He put his arms around their shoulders and Hutch braced himself for some good home grown sentimentalism. He smiled good naturedly at his partner who smiled back.

‘Do you know what I want most in the world right now?’ he asked.

Hutch chuckled. ‘Us?’ he said quietly.

The indigo eyes fixed on him. ‘Jeez, Hutch! Lets not get soapy here!. Nah. A beef burrito with everything. Its been a while’. As he watched his partner turn away, smiling. and he added under his breath ‘and the two of you’.