Home

The Legends Trilogy. Part 3: Partners

Thanks to everyone who has stuck with the first two parts of the Legends Trilogy. I know we all prefer to read about the guys together, but I had a burning ambition to write this to explain my version of their backgrounds. But now here they are, together at last.

Written from an idea by Creedo, and co written with Brook. My thanks to all my wonderful friends out there - old and new. This one is dedicated to all of you!

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed.

Chapter 1

The curly haired man ducked out from behind the trash can, Smith and Wesson drawn, cocked and ready. He executed a forward roll, springing from his right shoulder to his knees as he came to a stop behind the next piece of cover. He’d been expected a covering round of fire while he got into his new position, but there had been no shots and no protection. Now he looked around, over his shoulder, panting slightly with exertion and the adrenaline coursing through his veins. Where the hell was his partner, and why wasn’t he watching his back?

Coming up the alleyway at a lumbering trot, the blond man paused to wipe a bead of sweat from his brow before wedging himself in between the gap formed by the wall and the metal fire escape. Dumb ass brunet! Couldn’t he see it’d be easier to keep a watch on the two crack heads from the safety of the car, rather than charging down the secluded back alley to confront them? At least then they’d have back up on the way when they called it in. Maybe then the uniforms could taken over and he could have gotten himself something to eat. He bent over slightly to regain his breath. He hated this! He was too old for all this charging around the city with a young whippersnapper of a detective freshly promoted and out to prove himself. Syd snickered to himself. Well the kid got himself into the mess, the kid could get himself out of it!

Ahead he could see his partner of twelve days hunkered down behind a stack of beer crates, gun in hand and alert. In the distance he could just make out the five guys they’d been chasing.

Syd had never wanted a new partner. When Rob, his old partner had taken retirement, Syd would have been quite happy to have gotten himself a nice nine to five desk job. But deskbound pay wasn’t great and he needed the extra that front line policing gave him. So when the young cop had pissed off yet another of the older detectives in the squad, Dobey had asked that Syd take him on. Well, more like insisted than asked, and Syd had reluctantly agreed, launching himself into twelve days of hell. Sure, during that time the old cop’s arrest figures had shot up to the rate they had been ten years ago, but the cost had been the assault on his nerves…..and his waistline. Syd wanted out. Now.

He sneaked another look around the fire escape and saw Starsky signalling him to come up front and join him. At the same time, he saw three of the five men they’d been chasing coming towards the curly haired cop. Shit! When they spied them, the group had been in the process of beating up on a guy and his girl, probably for money for more dope. They were dangerous and there was just the two of them against five. Not exactly evens.

Mumbling curses under his breath, Syd came out from his hiding place, his Springfield semi-automatic drawn as he yelled

‘Starsky down. Police freeze’.

As was more than usual, the command to the felons brought about exactly the opposite reaction and the three ran forwards, yelling, towards the brunet’s hideout.

Starsky ducked up and caught sight of the three men bearing down on him. He brought up his weapon, echoing the “police freeze” routine, then carefully aimed at the nearest guy, felling him with a shot to the upper leg. He went down with a scream, clutching his thigh as another tripped over his fallen friend and fell headlong in the dirt.

The young detective leapt out of his hiding place, gun in front of him as he confronted the third guy. Standing just short of 6’, Starsky was no midget, but the other man seemed to tower above him. The guy seemed unconscious of the weapon levelled at him and in the close proximity, the brunet had no chance to fire before the big man was upon him.

Syd cursed as he watched his partner and the seeming madman rolling over in the trash on the ground, the two remaining members of the group hoving into view. He fired one warning shot into the air and was rewarded with a bullet impacting into the brickwork close to his head, sending mortar and brick dust cascading around him. He swore and loosed off two more shots, thankful that one target went down immediately while the other stopped, assessed the situation, turned and ran.

Now Syd was left with the sight of the big guy kneeling over Starsky, grinding his clenched fist into the younger man’s face with a solid right hook. Starsky’s head snapped sideways, but with an almost feline grace, he wriggled his lithe body out from under his assailant and managed to get the man’s arm behind his back, knocking him forwards onto his face and kneeling on his back.

Looking up, panting and sweating with the exertion of the fight, Starsky saw Syd ambling towards him.

‘Where the hell were you man? I needed backup an’ you weren’t there’ the hot headed detective yelled.

‘You don’t need backup, you need your head examined’ Syd bit back, looking around at the bodies, the injured man and Starsky’s still struggling arrest. ‘What the fuck were you thinking? There were five of ‘em an’ two of us. Don't “outnumbered” mean nothing to ya? Or does the Academy teach rank insubordination these days?’

Starsky stood and hauled his captive to his feet, heading for the car. He passed Syd without a look, but as he walked on, he glared over his shoulder. ‘I aint your subordinate, an’ you’d better remember that, or we ain’t gonna get along. I got the job done, which is more ‘n’ I saw you doin’. Or was it more comfortable in your little hidey hole?’

‘You stupid little prick. Nearly got yourself killed is what you did! And don’t worry about getting’ along. We aren’t gonna be together for too much longer’.

They’d reached the car and Syd took the mic. and called in the arrest, asking for an ambulance and a coroners wagon too. The two detectives waited in stony silence until the requisite vehicles had arrived and instructions had been given, before Syd set his car in motion with a screech of tyres and turned back to the Metro.

Thirty minutes later, both men were back in the squad room, Starsky with an ice bag over the black eye which was slowly swelling shut, and Syd, with a face like thunder heading for Dobey’s office.

The small room was fairly full at that time of day, some of the older guys finishing their paperwork and getting ready for the end of the shift, and some others arriving for the swap over. In one corner a blond man and a young woman were deep in conversation and Ken Hutchinson looked up and smiled at the brunet he’d been to the academy with.

‘Wow, bet that smarts Starsk’.

‘Uh huh’ the curly haired man grunted, flinging himself down into his chair. The door to Dobey’s office was still open and he could hear Syd yelling at the black Captain.

‘He’s a liability. There is no way on God’s green earth that I’m going out anywhere with that hellion again. He’s irresponsible, an accident waiting to happen. Captain, I’m 52. I’m getting to the end of my career an’ I’d like to end my police life with all my faculties, an’ the way he’s goin’ on, he’s gonna kill every partner he comes into contact with’.

There was a general ripple of amusement around the squad room, mostly from the more seasoned detectives who’d either been out with Starsky, or had heard the tales from their colleagues. Hutch looked across at the young brunet and saw the discomfort the laughing caused him. He alone knew how much the brunet could offer and just how loyal and brave he was to his friends. They’d been to the Academy together, had been split up while in uniform and Starsky had made detective four months before Hutch. Now, assigned to the same precinct, Hutch was waiting for a permanent partner and Starsky looked like he was working his way through the list. He so wanted to go give his old friend some words of comfort, but didn’t think Starsky would want any camaraderie just then.

Dobey’s gruff voice sounded, trying to calm his man down. ‘Now wait a minute Syd. You’ve only been with him 12 days. An’ during that time, you’ve had more arrests than throughout the last three months’.

‘Yeah, an’ have you seen the extra grey hairs? I go home at night and Doris pours me whisky’s like there’s no tomorrow, just to calm me down. I’m telling you Harold. I ain’t doin’ it again. Bust me down to traffic of ya like, but no more Starsky, please’.

A moment later, a white faced Syd emerged from the inner office, walked stiffly past his bruised ex partner, got his jacket and walked out, leaving a stunned, silent office.

Starsky didn’t know where to look. He knew he could be hot headed. He also knew that his passion for his job could be his ally. It kept him on edge. It gave his reflexes an edge. It made him a damned good cop and it had saved his life on more than one occasion. It also made him tough to deal with, but that was their problem, not his. But the metro was fast running out of candidates to be his next partner and he didn’t want to think of doing anything other than being a detective. He closed his eyes beneath his ice pack and shut out the world, wishing the others in the office would just go away and leave him alone. So, with his eyes closed and his mind on other things, he didn’t see the big young blond get up and walk determinedly into Dobey’s office, closing the door softly behind him.

‘Um…C captain’ Hutch started, his stammer a reflection of the anxiety he felt. He’d hated seeing the looks some of the older guys gave Starsky. They didn’t know him, and with the reputation he was cultivating, not many of them wanted to get to know him. But if only they took the time to drill away the fly exterior, they’d see just what David Starsky was really all about.

Dobey looked up. ‘Uh huh?’

‘I, um….I, well….I couldn’t help overhearing Officer Woodruff. He um…..s seemed unhappy with his current assignment’.

The Captain smiled at Syd’s outburst being couched in just such a fashion. ‘Yeah, he was a little forceful. But that’s his problem. And mine’ he finished quietly. Since Starsky had been assigned to his department, he’d taken an instant liking to the affable, capable, but ultimately unseasoned young man, seeing in Starsky something of the young Harold Dobey. But getting the curly haired cop settled into the precinct was a problem and a half and he was rapidly tiring of it.

‘Well that’s what I came to talk to you about’ the blond detective went on, warming to his task. ‘I um….I was at the Academy with Starsky. We get on quite well….we were friends there, but we lost touch for a while. I was wondering if….um…..well. What about if I p partnered him?’

Dobey’s head snapped up. ‘You?’

‘I know it isn’t usual. Two newbies together. But he’s been here longer’n I have. He can show me the ropes an’ I know how to handle him’.

The black man looked dubious. ‘You’re right. It isn't usual. Its tough out there. You need some experience with you, not two wet behind the ears guys out together’.

‘He’s done wonders for your arrest rate, right?’ Hutch pushed.

‘Uh huh’.

‘Well he has more experience than me. An' this way, with me offering to partner him, that’s one less problem for you’.

‘I can solve my own problems Hutchinson’ Dobey said, not unkindly.

‘I didn’t mean that’ the blond said uncertainly. He hadn’t really got the handle on his new Captain yet and didn’t want to blow any chances he might have. But the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea of working with his old Academy buddy. he put his best winning smile on his face. ‘I just mean one volunteer is worth ten pressed men huh?’

Dobey picked up his pen, twiddled with it and put it down again. The idea was enticing. And maybe having a young team out there might be good for the department. Why not blow tradition? He made his decision.

‘OK. A trial period. Two months. At the end of that, we review the situation. How’s that?’

‘Good enough Captain. And I promise you haven’t made a mistake. We’ll prove that!’

‘Hmm, well get out there and meet your new partner, Hutchinson’.

‘Thanks Cap’n. Yeah right’. He headed for the door, pausing with his hand on the handle. ‘And Cap? Its Hutch. Hutchinson’s too….long’.

Chapter 2

‘What the hell do you call that?’

‘That, my friend, is the ultimate in auto cool. That is a Ford Gran Torino with a V8 engine and a purr that’s guaranteed to knock chicks off their feet. Viper red with a pearl white stripe’.

Starsky had been morose on his way down to the police garage after Hutch had gently tapped him on the shoulder and nodded for the curly haired man to follow him. Now the blond was more than a little amused at the seed change in his new partner’s mood.

‘It’s a parade float. It’s a…a….its like a freakin’ candy apple. How d’ya expect to keep inconspicuous if you’re driving that thing. You may as well have a neon sign saying “Cop on patrol”. Jeez Starsky!’

Indigo eyes blazed furiously as Starsky got into the car and waited for Hutch to follow. The big blond knew he was pushing, but he’d know the hot tempered cop long enough from the Academy to know there would have to be an explosion before Starsky would see reason. And if he could get the explosion by ridiculing the object of the brunets affection, all well and good.

‘I didn’t follow ya out here for you to pass judgement’ Starsky ground out, looking straight ahead through the windscreen. ‘Didn’t ask for snide comments’.

‘No. You probably didn’t ask Syd there to go yellin’ to Dobey either’. Hutch said calmly.

‘He’s a dickhead’.

‘No. He’s an experienced detective who you could learn a lot from’.

Starsky snorted. ‘Yeah, like how many stops ya need to make to go to the john coz your prostrate’s shot to hell’.

‘That’d be prosTATE’.

‘Whatever. Jeez I forgot just how much of a fuckin’ know all you are Hutchinson! He was slow, he was old an’ he hated me. I’m well rid’ the brunet yelled, pounding the steering wheel with the palm of his hands. Hutch winced as the hands connected with the car, but carried on anyway.

‘Starsk, from what Susi was sayin’ you’ve had more partners than I’ve had hot dinners. What’re ya tryin’ to do, alienate yourself from everyone? Hell, when we first met, you were Mr Popular. Everyone wanted to be Starsky’s friend, and as I recall I was the friendless dork’.

For the first time, the brunet’s face split into a grin. ‘Some things don’t change Blondie’.

Hutch wrapped his hands round his chest. ‘Ha di ha! Ain’t me who’s suddenly “Billy no Mates”. You can’t be a detective in that squad without a partner Gordo’.

‘What did you just call me?’

‘Huh….oh Gordo. Its um….a term of endearment’.

‘No it aint! An’ I’m no fatter now than I was in the Academy. 158lbs. So shut it’

‘Whatever you say! I see the change to Detective hasn’t improved your personality. Still Mr Cool, huh?’ Hutch grinned, then held up a conciliatory had as Starsky looked ready to bite his head off. ‘Whatever you think, it still doesn’t solve the problem of who you work with, unless….’

‘Unless what?’ Starsky growled, scowling.

‘Unless you’re happy to give it one more try’ Hutch said.

‘M’not gonna go out with Syd again. No way! He hates my guts, an’ I gotta say the feelin’s mutual’.

‘No, not with Syd. Dobey found you a new partner’.

‘An’ he told you to tell me? That’s big of him. So. Break it to me gently. Who’s the lucky guy then? Who picked the short straw?’

‘Someone who understands ya. Someone who can keep you on the straight and narrow. And someone who values true friendship’ Hutch said sincerely, his mind going back to a certain blazing building and a mad mass murderer who stalked around it taunting him and a certain chained and injured curly haired cadet. (1) See below.

‘And this paragon of virtue would be…it….oh my god. He wouldn’t! Dobey said he always partners newbies with an older guy’.

‘Uh huh. But when you get through all the older guys like a dose of salts, you’re left with the newbies again. Seems like I’m your new partner Starsk!’

The brunet’s face split into a grin from ear to ear. ‘I can’t believe it! We always said it would be good. An’ when you got assigned to the precinct last week, I kinda though that in time….but never so soon! Shit! This is great. We need to celebrate’. His hand went to the ignition key and turned on the big engine.

Hutch grinned at the look of rapt attention which passed over the handsome face as Starsky listened to the throaty roar of the car before pulling out of the garage in a squeal of tyres and setting off uptown. The blond grabbed for the door handle and braced himself, grinning. Whatever had happened to Starsky while they’d been apart, his driving remained the same – fast, confident and just a little hair-raising!

‘Where’re we going?’

The curly head bobbed, nodding through the windshield. ‘A bar I found a while ago. It’s not the prettiest, but the barman is um….unusual. Kinda like a snitch, a real kosher barman an’ a business entrepreneur all in one. You’ll love him’.

‘Sounds just your sort’ Hutch grunted. It had been two years since the Academy. What had started out as a good friendship, built on the solid foundation of adversity had blossomed into a powerful closeness. The Red Roses killer had forged an awkward acquaintance into a partnership with days of them joining the Academy. Both from different backgrounds, they brought their own personalities to the relationship, Hutch calm, cerebral and (to himself) a little dull, and Starsky the chocolate curled hellion from not quite the right side of town.

Their time at the Academy was one of the best that either man had ever experienced and when they’d graduated they hoped they would be stationed together. But that wasn’t to be, and while Starsky had gone back to Bay City Central, Hutch had been assigned a quiet little outpost up in the hills behind LA. Not the busiest and certainly not the most challenging of beats. And because of the distance, they’d drifted apart. During the two intervening years, their friendship, while never failing, was diluted to the odd phone call, a drink on birthdays and Christmas or Chanukah or a quite meal once in a blue moon.

When Hutch made detective, he was delighted to learn that he was gong to be based at Bay City Central, knowing his long time friend had passed the exams four months previously and he’d hoped they’d have time to renew their friendship and cement it. But during the ensuing five days of whirlwind orientation and the clashes in their shifts, they’d never really had time to say more than a quick hello and welcome on board.

Roused from his reverie, Hutch looked sideways at his partner as Starsky pulled the big red car into a small alley and drew to a halt outside the back door of the bar. Starsky smiled.

‘His name is Huggy Brown, but he goes by the name Huggy Bear. C’mon, I’ll introduce ya’. Starsky got out of the car and trotted round and into the dimly lit bar as Hutch followed. Inside, the beer fumes and the lingering acrid smell of cigarette smoke assailed him and he walked to the bar as the brunet was pounding his hand on it.

‘Yo, Hug! Some service here huh?’

Hutch took a moment to look around. It was a typical inner city dive, a long rough bar arranged against one wall of the joint, while tables and chairs were arranged loosely around the bare wooden floor in the rest of the space. Grimy mirrors hung on the walls and behind the bar, glasses and bottles were arranged on mirror backed glass shelves. As he continued his observations, a tall, skinny black man appeared from some steps leading from the bar to the first floor. Laconic brown eyes regarded the two cops.

‘What it is Starsky my man!’

‘Hey Hug. How’s it hangin’?’

‘Business is boomin’. What can I getcha?’ he insinuated himself behind the bar.

‘Two beers. One for me, an’ one for my new partner. Huggy, this is Hutch’.

The barman held out a long skinny arm fringed with long skinny fingers and smiled showing a mouthful of brilliant white teeth. ‘Any friend of Starsky’s is a friend of mine. The name’s Huggy’.

Hutch took the proffered hand and shook it. ‘Hutchinson. Ken Hutchinson. But its Hutch to friends. Good to meet ya’.

‘Good to meet….hell Starsky. Your friend aint the usual sort you drag on in here. He’s actually…..nice!’

‘He’s also my new partner Hug, so be nice back huh?’

‘Moi? Aren’t I always?’ He placed two glasses of cold beer on the countertop. ‘Forgive me gentlemen. Business calls’.

The two men leaned on the bar and looked around. It was beginning to fill up and ahead of them, also leaning on the bar viewing the local talent was a petite blonde woman with sparkling blue eyes, large assets and a revealing pink chiffon blouse. She appraised the two men, smiled at Starsky and fixed Hutch with a friendly stare. She pushed herself off the stool she occupied and walked slinkily towards them.

‘Hiya Suga’ she said to the brunet in passing.

‘Hey Alice. How’re ya doin’ hon?’

‘Aww ya know, Starsky. Can’t complain. But you look like you’ve been irritating someone. You should care of that pretty face ya know’. She trailed a gentle finger over the blue bruise blossoming over the brunet's face and then looked at Starsky’s companion. ‘An’ seems t’me my day just got betta’ she smiled as she came to a rest next to Hutch. The big blond looked bemused but not displeased as she trailed her fingers lazily across his shoulder. He smiled at her as her hands continued their exploration, now insinuating themselves inside his shirt. Starsky grinned and winked at her.

‘He said your name was Alice?’ Hutch asked, his voice slightly unsteady as she regarded him with her crystal blue eyes.

‘Uh huh. Around here folks know me as Sweet Alice’.

‘Coz you’re a lovely girl?’

‘That…..an’ they say I taste nice!’ she giggled as she nuzzled his neck.

Hutch choked on the mouthful of beer he’d taken, the fine spray cascading across the bar. ‘T taste?’ he stammered, his cheeks colouring.

‘Uh huh. You could maybe come ‘n’ find out?’ she asked in a sultry voice.

‘Maybe another time Sweet Alice. We’re on duty….An’ I don’t think he could afford ya!’ Starsky said, leaning over to peck the woman on her cheek. He smiled at him, then looked sadly at the blond. ‘Maybe I could give you a free trial some day Suga?’

She kissed him softly then shimmied away. Hutch looked confused. ‘She was a….?’

‘Yeah, an’ a good one, I’ve heard’ the brunet smirked. ‘Haven’t tried her myself’.

‘Tried he…..Starsk! She’s a hooker!...A cute one, but she’s a….and you……with……?’

‘Don’t tell me you never have, Blondie. Oh wait, you had the wonderful Van to keep you happy, but that’s been…what? Two, three years now?’

‘Three years, two days and……seven hours. But who’s counting?’ Hutch said wryly. ‘And still the woman hounds me. But when did you? With a…..’ He leaned forward conspiratorially. ‘Starsk? What was it like?’

‘Better ‘n’ you’ll ever know Blintz. There was this woman near the border. She was Japanese. What she could do with her tongue was unbelievable. An’ I swear she was filleted!’

Hutch was staring at him open mouthed. ‘An’ here was me thinkin’ poor little curly guy. No friends, no partner. I’d better make the offer. I’ve landed myself with a sex maniac! I’m going right back to Dobey now’.

Starsky smiled, but there was tinge of sadness in there. ‘Little curly guy huh? Did you just offer coz you felt sorry for me?’

Hutch caught the hitch in the voice that no-one else would have caught and tried to make light of it. It was just like his friend to try to use humour to cover up the fact that he felt a failure for not being able to cut it with a partner. ‘Nah. How could I feel sorry for you? Sorry for myself maybe, for having to drive around in that….that striped tomato. But never for you’.

Starsky regarded him levelly. ‘We’re gonna make this work Blintz. I’m gonna make this work. We’re gonna be the best damned team this city’s ever seen. Ya can just see it on the citations’.

Hutch smiled. ‘Yeah, Hutchinson and Starsky. Detectives extraordinaire’.

‘No no no. Something more punchy. Starsky ‘n’ Hutch. I like that. Starsky ‘n’ Hutch, the dynamic duo’.

The blond pushed himself up off the bar and headed out. ‘Starsky and Hutch?’ he snorted. ‘Sounds like some second rate cop show!’

(1) Roses are Red - by this author and Elisa Valero

Chapter 3

The night went well with both men reacquainting themselves and getting back the banter they’d once shared. For Starsky it felt good to have the prospect of working with someone who not only he knew, but who was more on his wavelength. In the time they’d known each other, there had been occasions when he’d flown off the handle, usually at some perceived injustice, and Hutch had always been there in the background as the small, velvety voice of reason. Instead of some older guy using what he called the “Dad” voice on him, Hutch was more likely just to tell him he was being an asshole and to shuddup. And he responded to that – taking the criticism in the manner it was offered – as a friend.

The next morning, the brunet actually felt good about going to work – something that hadn’t happened in a while and as he showered, he realised that this could be the start of something big. He could imagine Dobey giving them plum jobs and maybe their names making the headlines. The thought of having his big blond friend at his side made him happy. Hutch was his calming influence. Hutch was the unflappable guy that nothing nasty happened to. Hutch could get along with just about anyone!

Across town, the calm, unflappable socialite was standing dripping wet and butt naked in the middle of his living room, soggy earpiece of the phone clasped to his ear. The telephone had rung just as he’d started to rub the shampoo into his hair and he jumped, leaping out of the shower because he thought it may well be Starsky telling him they had a job. He slipped on the cold tile floor of his bathroom, pulling his back and had skidded to a halt by the phone, managing to pick it up at the fifth ring. And then he wished he hadn’t bothered.

‘Its not here Ken’ a shrill, venomous voice yelled down the hone at him.

He closed his eyes, trying to remain calm. ‘Van, it’s seven in the morning. The post doesn’t get there till eight. It’ll be there. I put it in the mail myself’.

‘That’s what you always say! “Oh, honey the cheques in the post!” Don’t you know what that money means to me? It’s my lifeline. If you hadn’t left me I’d still be….’

‘As I recall, you left me’ Hutch said icily, realising that once again he was getting drawn into to the same old argument.

‘I’d still be able to have some sort of life’ Vanessa Hutchinson finished.

The blond’s patience snapped. ‘Van, you’ve never done a days work in your life. Maybe if you got off that pretty little butt and went out looking, you wouldn’t have to wait for my cheque every month so you could go get even more clothes for your extensive wardrobe. I’m sure you could manage to squeeze just one more dress into it without the sides finally collapsing under the strain’.

There was a moments silence at the other end of the phone, and Hutch realised that once again his ex wife had pushed all the right buttons and goaded him into another fight.

‘You’re gonna pay for that Ken, in the only way I know you hate. Expect a letter from my lawyer…..with a request for an increase in alimony’.

The phone went dead and Hutch cursed, shaking the stinging shampoo out of his eyes as he trudged back into the bathroom to finish his shower.

An hour later, washed, dressed and a little calmer, he waited outside his apartment for his new partner to show. At least that was one good thing about today. The blond genuinely liked Starsky. There was something about the guy that made him smile. He could be infuriating, silly, crazy, streetwise, brave, foolhardy. But always loyal to his friends and definitely someone that Hutch would want around in a crisis. To Hutch, Starsky was the perfect partner and he hoped they be allowed to serve together for a long time.

At a minute past eight, a bright red hurricane appeared around the corner of the street and in a screech of tyres and a cloud of dust kicked up from the edge of the road, the Torino came to a halt. A curly head ducked to look through the window and to regard the blond, a grin splitting Starsky’s face from ear to ear.

‘Well get in. Time’s a passin’. Bad guys to catch’.

‘And there all gonna queue up on the sidewalk just coz we got partnered together huh?’ Hutch asked with a smile as he bent his tall frame into the car. He looked around it and couldn’t resist a chuckle.

Starsky scowled good naturedly. ‘What? You don’t like my car? At least the inside aint red’ the brunet declared defensively.

‘No its not red Starsk. It’s a very sober black’

‘Then what?’

‘Its just so….you’ Hutch said, hedging.

‘Me? What’s that supposed t’mean?’

Hutch cast his partner a sidelong glance. ‘It’s tidy Starsky. It’s tidy!’

Starsky nodded, obviously satisfied with the reply. ‘Course its tidy. An’ I don’t want nuthin messin’ it up, ok? No papers in the back, no Styrofoam cups. There’s trash cans for that. Oh…..I forgot. You drive a mobile trash can, unless you changed over night?’

‘I like my car to be homely’ Hutch said carefully.

Starsky snorted and set the car in motion to the Metro. ‘There’s homely and there’s public health hazard’ he said as Hutch punched him in the arm.

Walking in to the office was uncomfortable. The brunet felt as though every pair of eyes were on him. Syd was sitting behind a mound of files in his desk in the corner and Starsky’s belongings from the drawer of the desk next to Syd’s were neatly piled up on its top. He stopped and picked them up as Dobey came out of his office.

‘Guys, Hutch and Starsky are teamed up now. I know you’ll all give them some support’ he paused a moment a glared around as though challenging anyone to say otherwise. There was a stony silence and he continued. ‘These’ll be your desks’ he pointed at two closest to his office door. ‘Your call sign will be Zebra Three, got that?’

‘Uh huh. Zebra three, right Cap’n’ Starsky said. In the past months he’d been Ocean Five, Ocean seven and Charlie two. Zebra three sounded kinda nice. Like it fit some way. He put his stuff down on his new desk, hooked an Adidas clad foot around a chair and brought it up, sitting on the ladder back with his feet on the seat as he surveyed his domain. Opposite him, Hutch was pulling things out of his pockets and the bag he’d slung over his shoulder. Pens, pencils, a typewriter eraser, pencil sharpener, three paper clips and a random bottle of ink all put in an appearance and were swiftly swept into his drawer and last but not least a ten inch high pot pig was slammed onto the desk between them. Starsky regarded it as though it was going to bite him.

‘Now that’s just peevish’ he said quietly.

‘Huh?’

‘The pig’.

Hutch looked nonplussed. ‘What d’ya mean?’

‘Jewish here’ Starsky said with a grin. ‘If I didn’t know ya better, I’d think you were trying to offend me’.

Hutch coloured and his hand reached for it before he realised the joke was on him. In the past he’d seen Starsky tuck in to bacon, ham, seafood. Not exactly kosher food and the brunet hadn’t bothered a jot.

‘Nice Starsk, nice. Tomorrow I’ll bring in an upside down cross, a picture of the Buddha to play darts with and force all the Muslims to break their fast for Ramadan’.

‘That should just about cover it’ his partner chuckled happily.

oOo

Over the course of the next few weeks, the two worked the streets well together. Starsky knew the centre of Bay City well. He’d lived there from the age of 14, while Hutch had moved there with Van when he was older. Vanessa Hutchinson would never have been seen dead on the wrong side of town, and so for Hutch, this seedier side of the city was a steep learning curve. Slowly he got to know the snitches; the geography; the places where the whores hung out; the places where it was easy to score a teenth of dope. And all the time, the friendship he had with the curly haired man developed into something akin to brotherhood. They were more than close and over the course of those few weeks, they spent a lot of their down time together too, sharing food, each others apartments and even double dating when the opportunity arose.

Throughout that time, Starsky also worried for his partner. Hutch was still being hounded by his ex wife and one night she’d even caught up with them at the Pits.

They’d been cultivating their relationship with Huggy Bear. He was a useful man to know. Huggy was one of those curious men who was always on the edge of the law, with one ear in the underground, but was never involved in anything illegal himself. He trod a fine line which both Starsky and Hutch found curious and on more than one occasion, he’d been able to point them in the right direction either for an arrest, or for further information.

So that night, five weeks into their partnership, and with an enviable arrest record already under their belt they were once again going over the days business over an ice cold glass of Huggy’s finest beer. They rarely took a table, preferring to prop up the end of the bar so that they could observe the clientele. At this particular moment, Hutch was watching a pretty blond at the other end of the room, when Starsky nudged him and whispered quietly in his ear.

‘Hey buddy, ya know that quiet night ya wanted?’

‘Uh huh’, the blond mumbled distractedly.

‘Well I think it’s about to get complicated’.

Hutch looked up and a grimace fled across his handsome face as he saw a tall woman long with dark brown hair and skin tight jeans stalking towards him. He straightened, preparing himself for the certain onslaught. Starsky stood stock still, watching and waiting to aid his friend if Hutch needed it.

‘Van? What’re you doing here? It’s not exactly your style’ Hutch said. He turned to the lanky barman. ‘Another beer and a brandy Alexander’.

‘Comin’ right up’ Huggy said, turning away to busy himself with his task.

‘Forget it’ the imperious brunette snapped. ‘Ken’s right, this isn’t my idea of a good night out. And I can see his taste in friends hasn’t improved any’ she added looking Starsky up and down.

‘Gee, good to see you too’ the curly haired cop muttered, swilling the beer around his glass. He’d met the ex Mrs Hutchinson on a few occasions and she’d always left him in little doubt that she thought him no better than something she’d scraped from the bottom of her shoe. Not only was he from the wrong side of the wrong town, he was also the wrong religion.

Vanessa ignored the brunet and walked over to Hutch so that she was standing close to him. He could feel the heat of her body and smell the heady aroma of her perfume. Este Lauder, Youth Dew. Unmistakably Vanessa. He looked into her eyes. Where once there had been warmth and love, now all he saw was greed and hate.

‘What d’you want Van?’

‘You know what I want, don’t come the little Mr Innocent with me’.

‘Ah, that old chestnut. Money’.

‘Yes money. My money’.

‘Well, actually it’s mine’ Hutch said coldly.

A hand struck him across his face so that his head snapped sideways. As Vanessa drew her hand back to match the blow with another from the opposite direction, her hand was caught by a strong fist. She hissed angrily as Starsky held on to her.

‘Not here Vanessa. Outside in the car. You don’t want to do this in public’ the brunet said quietly.

She glared at him and then back at Hutch. ‘You have no idea what I want. I want his blood. I want every damned penny he’s got, and I’m going to bleed him dry. Do you have that?’ she yelled, wrenching her hand from Starsky’s grasp.

Hutch looked uncomfortable. ‘For Gods sake Van, please not here. Let me take you home and we can talk then huh?’ he asked quietly.

She looked her ex husband up and down, panting slightly with anger. ‘I wouldn’t be seen dead in your car! I wouldn’t be seen dead with a mean spirited guy who leaves a poor woman destitute’. She flung a card down on the bar top next to Hutch’s hand. ‘Call my lawyer tomorrow’. And with that she turned on her heel and left, leaving the bar hushed, heads following the attractive woman as she headed for the door and the two cops speechless.

In the quiet that ensued, Starsky drained his glass and looked at his shell-shocked partner. Hutch's face had drained of colour and the glass he was holding was in danger of breaking, his knuckles white around the clear tube. Softly the brunet put his hand on the blond’s shoulder.

‘Hey buddy. Ya sure got a way with women!’ he muttered as he steered Hutch outside and to his car.

Chapter 4

Early next morning, Starsky was back at his partner’s apartment, waiting outside for some sign of life. He’d tried the front door and had assumed that Hutch was out on one of his usual early morning mile runs, although usually by now the blond was back, showered and ready to roll. He tapped on the steering wheel, a staccato rhythm that echoed the tune going round and round in his head. He accompanied the drum beat with a tuneless whistle, then made his mind up, got out the car and trotted round to the rear of the apartment and peered in through the bedroom window.

To his surprise he saw a golden head still happily asleep on the pillow, then looked again more carefully and saw the almost empty bottle of bourbon nestling in the crook of Hutch’s arm. Sighing, Starsky went back round to the front door and thudded on it. He paused, his ear cocked for any signs of life, then thudded again until he heard a bleary voice yelling.

A moment later, Hutch’s face peered around the semi open door and the blond screwed up his eyes against the bright sunshine.

‘What?’ he grunted.

‘Whadya mean “what”? It’s 7:30. Time all good little detectives were up and ready. Whassup, are ya sick or sumthin?’

Hutch let the door go and shuffled back into the room as Starsky followed, closing the door with a quiet click behind him. Hutch flinched at the noise as though a cannon had discharged in his living room and went to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. He rested his back against the counter top and took a deep chug, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth as he finished, droplets of the spilt drink sparkling on his golden chest.

In the cold light of day, he looked in worse shape than the brunet had seen him for some time. With flaxen hair mussed and standing up in small clumps, his eyes red rimmed and barely open and with dark rings below them, Hutch looked as though he’d gone ten rounds with Mohammed Ali. He stared glumly at the empty glass.

‘Van’ he said, as though that one world explained everything.

The brunet nodded and sighed. ‘Aww buddy. She’s really got ya screwed up hasn’t she?’

‘She just won’t let up. She hounds me constantly an’ the money’s never enough. It’s not like I’m dirt rich or anythin’ She just wants the…oh hell, I’m screwed no matter what. I just feel like giving her the lot an’ movin’ on. We used to be so much in love…..or at least I thought we were’. He looked up for some understanding from his partner.

‘So ya thought that you an’ ole Jim Beam would have a night in together huh?’ Starsky asked.

Hutch chuckled, winced then nodded carefully. ‘Seemed like a good idea at the time. Now?…..Well so long as someone tells the little guy with the hammer inside by skull to knock it off, I’ll be good’.

‘Go take a shower, an’ I’ll make us some coffee. D’ya want me to call you in sick?’

Hutch pushed himself off the countertop, ran a hand over his head and down so that the big strong fingers cradled and kneaded at the knot at the base of his skull. ‘Gimme five. I’ll be right out’ he mumbled, tottering towards the bathroom as Starsky put the percolator on to brew.

Half an hour later, a sweeter smelling, better groomed Hutchinson followed his partner out of the apartment and to the big red car. They got in and no sooner had Starsky started the engine than the mic. sprang to life.

‘Zebra three, zebra three, stand by for a patch through from Captain Dobey’ the female voice sounded.

With a quiet muttered “shit!” Hutch reached for the handset. He cleared his throat. ‘Go ahead, this is zebra three’.

There was a pause of no more than a second during which the blond’s stomach churned noisily and attempted a triple somersault with pike before Dobey’s gruff voice sounded over the phone.

‘Is that Hutchinson or Starsky?’

‘Hutchinson Cap’n’

‘Is there any chance that the two of you might grace us with your presence any time today?’

‘We’re rolling now Cap’n and….’

Starsky reached over and took the mic. from his friend’s hand. ‘Sorry Cap’n, I got a puncture on the way. But it’s fixed, we’ll be right in. What’s the rush?’

‘Got a job for you two. So when you’ve finished tinkering with your car, d’ya think you could get your butts down here pronto?’

‘We’re right on it Cap’n’ Starsky said and hung the mic back on its cradle.

‘You didn’t have to do that’ Hutch said quietly, his head resting on his hand which was propped against the car door.

‘Do what?’

‘You know! Cover for me. I should never have gotten so drunk last night. I let ya down’.

‘Didn’t! Anyhow, think of it as “one in the bank”. I’m pretty sure there’ll be a time when ya have to return the favour buddy. Wonder what the job is’.

‘Dunno. Something high profile and exciting? Major drugs bust. Or what about goin’ undercover?’

‘Yeah. Sounds good’.

Hutch closed his eyes. ‘Uh huh, undercover in a strip joint. Now there’s a thought’.

Starsky snorted. ‘Knowing your luck with chicks you’d be undercover in a home for the elderly……as one of the residents’. He pulled the car into the police garage and they both got out. While the brunet trotted around to the stairs steps, Hutch gingerly got himself out of the car, groaned and then staggered to the side and deposited the water and the black coffee he’d drunk in an acrid puddle on the floor. He braced his arms against the rough wall, breathing deeply, the straightened and wiped his hand over his mouth, swallowing down the bitter taste and trying to ignore the close pile carpet covering his tongue. He grimaced as he saw the smirk on his partner’s face. ‘You mention “I told ya so” an’ I’ll…..’

‘You’ll what? Throw up on my shoes?’ Starsky asked.

Hutch glared at him ‘Don’t tempt me’ he grunted as he followed the curly haired man inside.

They plodded along the corridor and stopped outside their Captain’s room, knocking once. Starsky hated knocking. It always made him feel like a second class citizen, but he was still a newbie so he swallowed down his pride and obeyed the rules…..for a while at least. They heard a curt “come in” and followed the command, entering Dobey’s inner sanctum.

‘Sit down’ the black man said without looking up. It was the first time the two young detectives had been summoned together to the office and now they looked around for the chairs. There was only one - a brown leather bucket type chair with a narrow seat and leather bound arms. Hutch flopped thankfully down onto it, trying to keep his rebellious stomach under control. Starsky looked around for somewhere to park his butt and toyed with the idea of getting his chair from his office, but Dobey was now glaring at them expectantly, so the brunet perched casually on the chair arm and regarded his boss calmly.

‘We got a big one’ Dobey started. ‘Eleni Flint, leader of the west side gang “The Diabolos”, They’ve been connected with just about everything from arms trading to drugs heists to some pretty horrific murders. She’s in protective custody at the moment. Seems her gang want their leader back – they don’t trust her not to give away their secrets.

‘And?’ Hutch asked.

‘She needs minding’.

Starsky stood up, thought better of it and sat down, then stood up again. ‘That’s a shit assignment Cap’n’.

‘This is not a shit assignment’ Dobey snapped back.

‘Yes it is, an’ you know it’ the brunet growled. ‘We didn’t join the force to hold no girl’s hand’.

‘An’ ya don’t seem to have joined it to follow orders either Starsky’ Dobey thundered at him. ‘SIT DOWN’.

The curly haired cop stopped his pacing, but didn’t sit down. ‘Cap’n can’t ya get someone else t’do this? Hutch ‘n’ me need to be out there. We need to be in the action, not sittin’ nursemaidin’ some chick’.

Dobey snorted. ‘You might change your mind on that when ya see her. Eleni Flint is not your average chick’.

‘Whatever, Cap’n. Starsky’s right’ Hutch joined in. ‘Just how many of the others did you ask?’

The round black face split into a grin as he chuckled. ‘All of ‘em’ he admitted. ‘But this is still important. We keep her out of the way till the DA can charge her and The Diabolos’ empire is up in smoke’.

The two detectives sighed in union, looking at the Captain in mute appeal. Dobey was reminded of a couple of terrier dogs looking at the master pleading for a walk, ears cocked and tails wagging and he stifled the chuckle, getting back to the business in hand.

Starsky started to open his mouth, but Dobey put up a silencing hand. ‘This is no shit assignment, got it?’

Hutch took hold of his partner’s arm, restraining and calming the hot tempered brunet at one and the same time. ‘Leave it Starsk’ he muttered under his breath as he felt the coiled spring of a body relax slightly against him.

For the next hour, they went over the details of the job, the hiding place being used, the men involved, the MO of the gang and the trial details. By the end of it, it was clear to both that this was indeed a shit assignment, but they kept their counsel.

They were to take twelve hour shifts each guarding Eleni Flint at the Ocean Motel where she’d been given a small suite. She was unable to leave it, being effectively under house arrest. They decided to do twelve midday to twelve midnight so that both would get some sleep and be able to function adequately and as they took final instructions from Dobey, they stood, preparing to go.

‘Got it Cap’n. Go to the motel, hold her hand, yady yah’.

Dobey glared at the brunet. ‘I had a partner once. Elmo got too cocky one night. Got gunned down in the middle of the street. Seem to recall he thought that one was a shit job too. For God sake keep your wits about you and watch your backs. Now get out’.

‘Just one last thing Cap’n. When d’we start?’

Dobey looked at his watch. ‘Around about now. I want you both to get over there and case the motel. Eleni Flint will be arriving at around midday’.

Amid general grumbling, the two walked out into the squad room. At that time of the morning it was reasonably full and several of the older cops looked down studiously at their paperwork as Starsky and his partner emerged from the inner office, trying to make out that they hadn’t been earwigging at the door.

There was a muffled snicker from the corner of the room and Syd looked up, a sarcastic grin on his face. ‘Ya finally got a job ya can handle kid?’

Starsky glared at him and was about to say something, but thought better of it. He began to walk to the door.

Seeing his morning’s sport departing, Syd tried again. ‘Got some asswipe of a partner to hold your hand so ya think you’re a big guy now huh? How long before ya get him killed?’

In two strides, Starsky was across the office, hands planted firmly on the desk as he stared into Syd’s face, inches from the older man’s eyes.

‘Don’t you ever bad mouth my partner’ he ground out, his face turkey cock red. ‘He’s earned my respect an’ friendship long before you ever clapped eyes on me. He’s more of a man than you’ll ever be. An’ as for getting’ him killed – I’d sooner lose an eye than put him in any danger’. Starsky stood up, balling his hands into fists as he stared down at Syd. The older cop looked taken aback at the outburst and was wise enough to say nothing more as the brunet walked stiffly from the room.

As they walked down the corridor, Hutch grinned at his partner’s back. He quickened to catch up with the fleeing back. ‘Gee I didn’t know you cared’ he said lightly as he caught Starsky up.

The brunet stopped in his tracks and locked indigo blue eyes on Hutch’s crystal ones. His face straight, he swallowed once. ‘Yeah, I care. More’n’ you’ll ever know Blondie’ he said softly, then turned on his heel and walked off, leaving Hutch feeling absurdly emotional and determined to find out what that was all about.

Chapter 5

The days blurred one into another as the assignment dragged on. They had immediately gone from Dobey’s office to the Ocean Motel. It was a quiet place, set back from the road. Not the nicest motel in the world, but no dive either. It just so happened that Ocean was set in its own, highly defensible grounds and had an accommodating manager who was an ex cop, and could be trusted for the right money to keep other paying guests to a minimum.

Starsky and Hutch had spent the rest of that first morning in running scenarios, checking out the ground floor room Eleni would use and generally getting the lay of the land into their heads. By 11:30, they were done and had retreated to the cool of the car for a drink and to re group.

‘There’s the corridor running along the length of that wall with the rooms coming off it. If needs be, we take point there. From there, we can see right down the driveway, round that corner and we can still hear what’s going on out back’ Starsky said, his fingers running over his lips thoughtfully.

‘With the window grille screwed down nice and tight at the back, there isn’t gonna be much chance of anyone breaking in through there. I think you’re right. I think out front is the best place to be. Either there, or actually in the room’ Hutch concurred.

Starsky winked. ‘In the room or in her…? This could be the start of some beautiful friendship. Ya can just see the headlines “Female gagster weds cop”.

The blond snorted. ‘And the cop’d be you huh? Give the poor girl a break. She’s probably the shy retiring sort who likes tall blonds with books and good music’.

‘Where's she gonna get one of those? Somehow Blondie, I don’t think shy and retiring are the qualities of a gangland boss, but it looks like we’re gonna find out. Here she comes’. Starsky got out of the car and they both trotted over to meet the plain black unmarked police car that drove up and stopped right outside room 2. A moment later a big black cop got out, eyes darting left and right as he checked out the perimeters before opening the door. The two detectives got their first look at their charge and Starsky gave a low whistle.

‘Now that is some chick!’ he commented appreciatively.

Eleni Flint went quickly to the door of her room and ducked inside as Hutch took the hand over from Roscoe, the black “chauffeur”.

‘You’re absolutely welcome to her’ he said as he handed the blond a sheaf of documents. He got hurriedly back into the car as Hutch leaned in through the window.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ he asked.

Roscoe grinned up at him. ‘You’ll see! I had her in the car for all of 25 minutes an’ I’m glad she’s outa my hair. God I pity you two!’ he chuckled, started the engine and drove off just as Hutch heard a shout from inside the room.

Starsky appeared a moment later, red faced and shaking. He stood just outside the door and Hutch could see that he was trying to compose himself.

‘You ok partner?’

‘Ok? She damned near ripped my head off!’ the brunet replied, shaking his head at the closed door.

‘Why?’

‘Coz I went in there to introduce myself coz we’re gonna be pretty close for a while an’ she threw her bag at me an’ told me to unpack an’ put her stuff away’.

‘And?’

‘I threw it back an’ told her I was a detective an’ not a valet’ Starsky spat out. He turned back to the door, his hand shaking slightly with anger as he reached for the handle. Hutch out a hand on his arm.

‘Surely she can’t be that bad Starsk. You probably just set off on the wrong foot’ he opened the door, then closed it rapidly as a spike heeled mule hit the woodwork. He grimaced then opened it more slowly, walking inside as though walking into a lions den.

Eleni Flint stood, shoeless, in the middle of the small bedroom, eyeing the two men with barely disguised malevolence. She stood no taller than 5’2” and had a slim, tending to skinny body. Her skin had an olive tone to it and it glowed in the cool light of the room. Her dark auburn hair curled in a carefully tousled manner around her petite face and her eyes glared at Starsky and Hutch like two black diamonds. She exuded confidence, money and a burning disregard for her bodyguards and Hutch found himself immediately attracted to her, although he couldn’t fathom why.

‘So you two are supposed to guard me huh?’ she asked, venom dripping from every word.

‘Believe me, it aint by choice lady’ Starsky said, checking there was no more ready ammunition for the small woman to throw.

‘And you think I want to be held in this flee pit by two goons who look like Mutt and Jeff? So you’re Bay City’s finest offerings are you? My God, I could do better with a couple of Boy Scouts’.

‘Watch it! Or this Boy Scouts gonna…..’Starsky was cut off by a restraining hand on his arm.

‘Steady there tiger’ Hutch muttered. He looked at the tiny woman and smiled his best winning smile.

‘Shall we start again?’ He held out his hand. ‘My name is Ken….Hutchinson. My friends call me Hutch’.

Eleni regarded the proffered hand as though it would contaminate her. ‘Detective Hutchinson’ she responded and brushed the tips of Hutch’s fingers in her apology for a greeting.

The blond refused to be beaten. This is my partner. Dave Starsky. We’re going to be in each other’s company for a while. Why don’t we get to know each other?’

‘Why don’t you go out there and do whatever it is you’re meant to be doing?’ the dark haired woman responded coldly. ‘I didn’t want this. Believe me, I’d prefer to be in some crummy jail cell than here with you two. I didn’t ask for this. So, just leave me alone, go do “policey” things, and we’ll all get through this intolerable situation as best we can’. Eleni turned her back on the two men and disappeared into the bathroom where they could hear her banging things around and muttering.

Give the poor girl a break. She’s probably the shy retiring sort who likes tall blonds with books and good music’. Starsky parroted Hutch’s words as the blond stared after the woman.

‘Guess I was wrong’ the flaxen haired cop managed to mumble as he headed for the door. Outside they tossed for who would have the delight of the first watch and despite Starsky using his “lucky” coin he lost the toss and Hutch elected to put as much distance as he could between him, the woman and her attitude, leaving the brunet to fuss and curse under his breath.

As Hutch left, he could see Starsky sneaking back inside the motel room and emerging with an easy chair, which he placed outside the door and sat quietly down.

Over the next few days, the pattern remained the same. Whichever detective was on duty would take the hand over from his partner, then poke his had around the door and say "hi" to Eleni. The most they could expect in return was a curt “hello” before they were smartly dismissed. Eleni seemed to spend most of her time reading, exercising or watching the television and despite Hutch’s enormous efforts to engage her in conversation, she remained aloof and most definitely off limits.

On the fifth day of the monotony, Starsky looked at his watch and heaved a sigh. He looked longingly at his Torino. 23:20. Only 40 minutes till he got to go home and go to bed. He wondered where Hutch was. Usually the blond made a habit of getting to the motel early, just so that they could have a companionable chat until it was time to change the shifts, but on this night., he was late. During these midnight chats, Hutch had talked more about his marriage with Van and her current behaviour. Since the night at the Pits, they’d communicated only by lawyer’s letter and checks, which Hutch found more comfortable on his nerves if not on his check book.

Another five years rolled by until he looked at his watch again. 23:25. He was in mid sigh again, when he heard the mic. in his car. Easing himself out of the chair and stretching his back Starsky padded to the Torino and unhooked it.

‘Zebra three? Got a patch through from Hutch honey’ the woman’s voice sounded tinny and distant.

Starsky smiled. ‘Put him through’ he said imagining that the blond had maybe overslept. At the end of the conversation he put down the mic and with an even heavier sigh, went back to his chair to pull a double shift.

oOo

Hutch had woken at maybe 7:30 that evening wondering what on earth could have roused him from sleep. His alarm clock was set for 9:30 and he was usually a good sleeper. He opened is eyes and looked around and was suddenly shocked as a naked arm smelling of Este Lauder snaked across his bare shoulder. Freezing, he felt the warmth of a naked body spooning into his back and he reached behind him, rolling slightly so that he could look into her eyes.

‘Van, what the hell….’ Hutch stopped as his ex wife laid her fingers on his lips lightly.

‘Sssh. I wanted to surprise you’ she whispered.

Hutch rolled onto his back so that he could see her, suddenly ridiculously aware that he was naked beneath the sheets.

‘Well ya did that alright’ he said softly. He had no idea what to make of this turn of affairs. The last he’d heard from Van was a letter sent by Pedderman and Fogle asking for another check to cover the cost of “necessary upkeep”. And now here she was, large as life, in his bed.

Van propped herself up on her elbow until she could reach to run her fingers through the silky wheaten locks. The sheet fell away from her body revealing a pert pink nipple which Hutch stared at. Whatever had gone on between them, Van would always remain an alluring woman and the sex they’d enjoyed had always been mind blowing, to say the least.

‘Van why are you here?’

She giggled seductively. ‘Would you prefer it in the living room? You always did have a preference for the unusual’.

‘That’s not what I mean and you know it’ Hutch said, mesmerised by her body. He dragged his mind back to reality. What the hell was she doing to him?

‘I needed someone’ she said softly. ‘Things have happened. I’ve changed. I know I’ve been tough on you, but my Mom’s sick. She’s in the hospital and the landlord wants me out of my apartment by the end of the month, so I need to find somewhere else and…..you were always my rock. You were the one I could depend on Hutch. I just….I’ a tear trickled gently down her cheek and fell onto the white sheet.

Hutch’s heart melted. Despite the bickering, the divorce and the letters’ he’d admitted to himself a long time ago that he would always have feelings for Vanessa and he knew he needed to guard himself against them. But the sight of her in tears was more than he could bear.

Softly he reached out and drew his thumb across her cheek, rubbing away the moisture there. She leaned against him and he could feel the heat of her body and the rapid heart beat hammering in her chest. The pulse in her neck lured him in and before he knew it, Hutch was licking and kissing up from that life force by her collarbone to her cheek as he breathed in her heady perfume.

‘This isn’t right’ he managed to mumble, his voice husky and unsure.

Van pulled away slightly. ‘You don’t want me?’ she asked

‘Oh God I want you. I always wanted you. Not the viciousness or the bickering. I wanted you, the tender Vanessa you used to be. I want the woman I used to know’.

‘You have her’ she said as she bent her head and gently traced her tongue and lips down his golden chest. He lay back and growled deep in his throat as she took a nipple in her mouth and worried it gently between her teeth. Hutch moaned as her hand echoed the movement on the other side of his chest and he arched his back to meet her warm, passionate mouth as she started to lick and suck her way down his flat belly. She concentrated on one spot at a time, leaving small red passion bruises livid against his fair skin as her mouth wandered further south. Her tongue rimmed his navel and he balled his fists into the sheet as he roughly cried out her name.

This was wrong. This was so wrong and yet it felt so right. To have this woman pouring out all her love and attention onto him felt as though it was the most wonderful thing in the world. Hutch shut out the small cold voice of reason at the back of his mind.

She wants something. She’s manipulating you.

Now she’d reached the core of his body and Hutch felt her supple fingers grasp him and he cried out again, almost losing control in his desperation for her to continue. She backed off, smiling a little, then went to work again as he wound his fingers into her luxurious hair, pushing her mouth against his body as she pleasured him with her mouth and lips. She drew the pleasure out, taking him almost to climax, then letting his body recover before the sweet assaults started again. When she finally allowed him release, his body trembled, reverberating by her side as he gasped and fought for breath.

Later, as they lay in bed, utterly spent, he looked at the clock on the wall and suddenly realised the time.

‘Oh shit!’ he said, sitting up quickly.

‘What? What’s the matter?’ she asked, pulling him back down.

‘I should be at work. I gotta relieve Starsk. We’re on a job an’….’ He was silenced by a hot mouth covering his and a tongue snaking into his mouth, exploring, pushing, seducing. Hutch reluctantly pushed her away.

‘Van , I gotta go. I gotta….just let me make a phone call’ he said breathlessly as he got out of bed.

Dialling the number he knew so well, he waited for the patch through.

‘Starsky?’

‘Uh huh. Are you ok? Are ya sick?’ the worry on the other end of the phone was palpable.

‘No, I’m fine. It’s just……Van turned up and we may….there may be reconciliation. I just….oh hell, I’m sorry to ask partner. Can you cover for me tonight? I’ll pull a double tomorrow, honest. It’s just…’

Starsky cut him off. ‘Don’t worry. Just go do your thing with your lady ok? But Hutch…..be careful huh? Ya know what she’s like’.

‘Uh huh. Oh God I know what she’s like’ the blond said with feeling as he put down the phone.

The perfumed arm had him again now as Van stood completely naked in his living room. She pushed Hutch back against the wall, seeing his body so ready for her once again. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she smiled seductively at him as she felt his strong arms surround her. Swiftly, she wrapped her legs around his waist as he took all her weight and slowly, sensually, she slid down until she’d encased his own body in hers and together they set up a steady and empathic rhythm to which they danced for the rest of the night.

Chapter 6

Starsky settled back down onto the chair by the door to wait for morning. He’d never been so bored in his whole life. Even waiting around interminably in the Army had been preferable to this. Then, he knew there would have been some action at the end of it. This was just sitting around for the sake of it. And for what? To protect some prima donna gangster’s daughter that thought he was only slightly more important than an amoeba.

The brunet knocked on the room door and went in. It was just past midnight and the television was still on blaring a chat show out into the room. There were no other lights on and the television screen cast a ghostly white light across the bed, the small wardrobe and the chair in the corner. Eleni sat on the bed, propped up by pillows as she polished her nails and sipped a glass of Evian water.

‘What?’ she asked curtly as he walked into the room.

‘Just checking, your ladyship’ Starsky muttered, tugging his forelock in a parody of a bow. ‘We mere mortals need a drink now an’ again. Don’t suppose it’d cross your mind to fix me a coffee once in a while?’

Eleni didn’t grace him with an answer. Instead she glared at him from under her eyebrows and then went back to her nail polish. Starsky padded over to the kettle and coffee tray in the corner, whistling tunelessly until the water boiled. He poured it over the sachet of instant coffee, stirred it around noisily and waited for the sigh.

It came, rebounding round the room. ‘Didn’t your Mother ever tell you not the chink the teaspoon against the cup? It’s not only gross, it’s the height of bad manners’ she snapped.

‘No ma’am. We never had mugs when I was growin’ up in the cave. We used to carve our own outa tree bark an’ search each other for fleas. Look lady. I thought we’d be able to get on. I thought maybe we’d even be friends. But I’m just about sick of your rich kid attitude! OK, so we never had a butler or a maid. I went to a regular school an’ had regular friends. An’ I also had a regular Dad who managed to keep down a steady, lawabidin’ job an’ stay outa jail’ Starsky thundered, his patience finally snapping with the girl.

‘Oh yeah? And where did that get your Dad huh? Sweeps streets does he? Coz that’s what happens when you don’t take advantage of everything life throws at you. My Father had business connections. He made his money and my Mom and I wanted for nothing. What does you father do. Clean the sewers?’

Starsky slammed his coffee cup down on the table, the brown liquid sloshing over the side to drip down onto the carpet. His knuckles were white as he balled his fists at his side, the urge to strike the woman compulsive.

‘Don’t you ever, EVER mention my Dad. He was a cop, and a damned good cop. An’ he got gunned down in the line of duty coz some punk……some no good low life, just like your family, chose to take him out coz he was in the way. So don’t tell me what my family should be doin’ LADY. You don’t know jack shit about it’.

The brunet yanked the door open, stepped through it into the cool night air and slammed it behind him. Breathing heavily he flung himself down onto the chair, propped his elbows on his knees and ran his hand trough his curls. He hated her. He hated her. She had no idea how many people were risking their lives to save her sorry ass, when right at the moment all he really wanted was to boot her on it. God, there were times when he hated this job!

His mind turned to Hutch.

What’re ya doin’ buddy? Are you ok? Is she treatin’ ya right? Be careful. Women are vipers. Van will eat you up an’ spit you out an’ leave ya raw an’ miserable again, if you’re not careful. I just hope tonight is worth it.

The brunet sat back in the chair trying hard to calm himself. It wasn’t that he hated all rich women. He’d once had a fling with a nurse at the Vet’s hospital when he was recovering. Turned out her Dad was a millionaire and she had no real need to work. But Julia had been one of the sweetest, kindest and most gentle girls he’s ever met. They both knew their relationship would never last. Patient/nurse was never a good basis for a lasting affair. But it had been good while it lasted and his “physical therapy” had taken on a whole new meaning. So no, money didn’t necessarily have to spoil everything, but my God, it had gone a long way to warping Eleni Flint! Idly, Starsky wondered if maybe Eleni would have been different if she’d been poor; maybe raised in Brooklyn like he’d been. Maybe having to struggle just a little might have shaped her character differently. Not that he’d had to struggle. His Mom and Dad had made sure that he and Nicky got what they needed. But spare cash was hard to come by and the young Starskys were brought up understanding the meaning of money.

The brunet put his head on the chair back and stared at the stars forming a bright, twinkling bridge over his head. In the distance he could just hear the crash of the waves on the beach and the sound lulled him so that he felt his eyes begin to close. Shaking himself, he got up and walked to the end of the corridor in front of the motel room, peered around the corner, then paced back again. He was still thirsty, but he had no intention of going back into the hotel room again. He was toying with the idea of patching through to one of the black and whites and asking them to bring him a coffee and a beef burrito with everything, when he thought he heard a noise inside the room.

Stopping his pacing, he put his ear to the door. Inside all he could hear was the sound of the chat show host on the television and the audience applauding. He paused a moment. Yes, there it was again. Without thinking, he drew his gun and flung open the door, bracing himself for another tirade from Miss Popular.

Starsky was greeted with the sight of four men, all surrounding Eleni. A further quick glance revealed that the grille on the window at the back of the room had been unscrewed and was dangling drunkenly by one screw against the wall. His gun came up just as the four men looked around, shock registering on their faces.

They were all big men, none standing under six foot tall. They were muscularly built and all were dressed in black from head to toe, although curiously, none of them had masks or hoods over their heads. In the fleeting moment it took the brunet to take all this in, he wondered about that little snippet. Usually those who wished to use clandestine means to infiltrate a place hid their faces just in case they were seen. But he’d got clear sight of their faces.

‘Police, freeze’ he shouted, taking up a firing stance, gun held in his cupped hands and knees slightly bent.

The four men looked at him, then before he could do anything else, pushed Eleni’s body between them and him, using her as a human shield. One of the men drew a knife and held it against the woman’s throat as the brunet glared at him.

‘Put the gun down pig’ the knife man said threateningly. For effect he pushed it against the tiny woman’s skin and a small trickle of ruby red slid down her neck as she gasped.

Very slowly, Starsky stood upright and dropped his hands, leaving the gun in his left hand, pointing at the ceiling.

‘Nice ‘n’ easy cop. Put the gun on the floor an’ kick it over to me. No sudden moves’.

In slow motion, Starsky bent and placed the gun on the floor, his mind racing as he calculated possibilities. God, what he wouldn’t give for back up right now. Why hadn’t he asked for that coffee and burrito? At least then a black and white would be on it’s way. Instead, he was here alone trying to protect a state witness against four thugs. Not exactly an even match.

Standing, he drew back his left foot and nudged the gun forward towards the men, purposely not pushing it far enough. With his hands raised in the air he took a step forward as though to nudge it again, but as he did so, he dropped swiftly to the ground, hunkering down as he swept his right leg round and against the knife man’s legs. The guy went down with a cry and a thud as Starsky stood and grabbed for his gun. Grasping it right handed, he turned and without time to aim properly fired one shot at the closest man to him. His chest exploded in a crimson hail of flesh and bone and the point blank bullet felled him instantly.

The sound of the shot in the confines of the room was deafening and in the confusion, Starsky managed to loose of another round, killing a second man with a shot to the head.

By this time, the other two had recovered and the knife man grabbed him from behind. The brunet felt a searing hot stripe across his left upper arm closely followed by another across his abdomen. He grabbed for the man at his back and tried to turn, but the other man was standing in front of him now and as Starsky stole a glance he saw the huge fist coming at him. He had time to tighten his stomach muscles to defend himself from the blow, which crashed into him with the power of a freight train, doubling him over and offering his neck for a second punch. The man at his back let him go and he fell to the ground, winded and sucking in huge lungfulls of air as the room dipped around him.

He stared at the patter on the carpet for a moment, the lights from the television strobing across the room. Crazily, the chat show host was telling jokes now as the audience laughed and applauded. Didn’t they know he was in trouble? Didn’t they know he needed help?

C’mon Davey boy. Get your ass in gear! Ya got two of ‘em. Two down, two to go! For fuck’s sake just get up an’ fight huh?

He tried to stand, but there was a foot on his calf, keeping him effectively anchored to the ground. He tried to move his arms, but the left one felt heavy and useless and as he stared at the ground he saw a small puddle of ruby red liquid dripping from the fingers of his left hand from the wound on his arm.

He grunted and tried to get himself upright again, but the man at the front of him took hold of his shirt and flipped him so that he landed with a crash onto his back. Starsky was helpless as the the man knelt with one knee between his splayed legs, hands either side of his shoulders. The big face above him grinned savagely and his assailant drove his knee into the core of the brunet’s body.

Starsky felt fireworks explode behind his eyes. The pain of the blow ricocheted up into his guts and chest so that he could hardly pull in breath. Another blow to his face sent his head snapping sideways and then there was another crippling blow to the centre of his body.

The desperate cop looked around for Eleni, partly to make sure she was alright and partly beseeching her to help him out somehow. He saw her standing in a corner watching the beating. She seemed neither scared nor motivated to help him.

‘Eleni’ he gasped, trying to reach out a hand to her.

She ignored him as another pile driver fist connected with his temple. Starsky felt the room take another vicious dip to the side as his vision turned from Technicolor to monochrome. He tasted the tang of copper on his tongue and knew he’d either bitten his tongue, or his lip was split. Whichever alternative, he knew he’d lost the fight and as the knee came up for a final time, Starsky gave one ragged scream and then there was silence.

Chapter 7

The hand that had been caressing him all night snaked back under the sheet and started its insidious work on the centre of his body, tickling, manipulating and stroking until the object of it’s ministrations reared up to attention.. Hutch moaned and woke slowly and gently, his whole mind focussed on the manual handling course taking place south of his waist. For a split second he wondered what was happening and where he was, and then he remembered the night of passionate love making with Van and a slow smile settled over his handsome features. The night had been given over to a slow re-exploration of each other’s bodies and had left him feeling warm and mellow…and not a little tired.

‘Mmmnnn…..don’t stop. That feels so good’ he mumbled as he came back to consciousness and crystal blue eyes met Van’s. ‘Mornin’.

‘Good morning yourself’ she answered, her hands working their magic on his body. She knew him; what he liked and what he didn’t. She knew she could reduce him to whimpers with a flick of her tongue over his sensitive nipples or have him begging her as her hands reached behind him and rimmed his opening. And now she played him like a violin, bringing him once again to the peak of control, then backing off slightly as his hands sought her body. He gently stroked a finger down her spine and she arched her back, thrusting her breasts towards him so that he could kiss her neck and chest.

‘You haven’t lost the magic’ he mumbled, his lips full of nipple. The vibration of his words on her chest thrummed through her being and she redoubled her efforts on his manhood. He groaned, feeling his body ready itself for another crushing climax as her fingers played over him, leaning her body against his as she nibbled down the line of his golden chest.

The rush was incredible and Hutch arched his back, moaning her name as he felt himself tighten, his breath hitching in his throat. His climax reverberated around his body setting each nerve ending tingling as he knitted his fingers into Van’s hair, pulling her to him as though he never wanted to let her go.

Finally he slumped, spent, back onto the bed as she lay by the side of him, a smile playing over her attractive features. She ran her finger down his neck, the pulse there making her hand tremble as he fought for breath and composure. His skin was slick with sweat making his golden tan shine, lighting up the room. This was how it always used to be. Before the divorce; before the lies and deceit; before the angry words and verbal battles. God he’d missed her body!

‘We could do this every day’ she whispered into his ear. ‘Did you know that really good sex is like a mile run? You could stay here each morning and run with me instead of out there’.

Hutch propped himself up on his elbow and picked up a tendril of silky hair, running it through his fingers and tickling her bare shoulder with the ends. He loved seeing her smooth vanilla scented skin twitch beneath his touch. He was a sensual, considerate lover and he got almost as much pleasure from giving stimulation as receiving it.

‘Are you saying you want to come back to me?’ he asked. Half of him wished she’d say yes and then they could go back to the way things had been before when they used to be in love. And half of him dreaded the answer, because he knew they could never get back what they once had. Too much water under the bridge. Too many lies and unkind words. But at least she’d be back in his life.

He felt suspended; teetering on a knife-edge. Surely she wanted him back. She’d come to him last night. It was Van who had seduced him, taking the lead and playing him like a musical instrument. She wouldn’t do that if she didn’t love him still, would she?

Van continued to lick and kiss down his neck and chest, her hands snaking round to clutch at his butt, kneading and squeezing before she dipped once more between his legs. He shuddered, his body hypersensitive after his climax.

‘I need somewhere lover. I’m homeless at the end of the month. I was kinda hoping….’.

Hutch grasped her hand, stopping its exploration of his nether regions. Her words were as effective as a cold shower. ‘Is that what this is all about? Just some roof over your head?’

She looked up at him, her face open and bemused. ‘You don’t want to see me out on the streets do you?’ she asked, amused at the intensity of his gaze.

‘So all this…this charade of love making. It’s all about you? All about what Vanessa wants?’ he voice raised a little louder.

‘I knew you were angry at me’ she pouted. ‘I just thought you might enjoy a little encouragement. You didn’t seem to be complaining’.

He stared at her. ‘I don’t believe you! How could you?’

She pulled away slightly. ‘Oh my god! You didn’t think I was…Oh Ken! You always were such a romantic!’ she smiled at him, regarding him from beneath half closed lids.

Hutch felt the anger rising in him. She’d done it again! She played on his “tender guy” emotions to try and manipulate him to get what she wanted. And like some crazy teenage fool he’d fallen for it – again!

Swiftly he got out of bed, searching angrily for his jeans. He felt absurd in his nakedness, the evidence of their love making still sticky on his belly and thighs. He plunged his legs into his clothing and zipped himself up, turning to stare at the woman still sprawled, catlike on his bed. No not cat-like. Make that more like a snake. A slippery serpent come to extract just a little more enjoyment from her victim.

‘Get out’ he snapped, his body shaking violently with rage. ‘For Gods sake just get out’.

She sat up, the sheet falling down to reveal her perfect body. She had a half smile on her face. ‘God, you always look so damned cute when you’re angry’ she said.

In two strides, Hutch was across the room. He seized her wrist and dragged her bodily from the bed. She tried to pull away from him. ‘Ken you’re hurting me’ she growled, her eyes now flashing green fire as she struggled against his strong hand.

‘Payback’ he snarled. ‘For all the hurt you’ve given me. Ya think its fun? Go taunt the stupid guy huh? Go get in his pants and he’ll do anything. Give him a good fuckin’ and he’ll let ya do whatever ya want? Is that it? Well I got news for you Van. The worm’s turned. I’m not that crazy in love guy any more. I’ve seen the light. Life’s moved on and my life don’t include you any more. So get your clothes on and get outa here’.

The woman looked at him, thunderstruck. In all the times she’d been married, and in all the times since, she’d seen Hutch worried, upset, sad and angry. But never in her life had she seen him white lipped and shaking with anger. This was new for her and, she admitted to herself, more than a little scary. Hutch’s hand on her wrist was like a vice, bruisingly strong so that she had no hope of freeing herself. He was propelling her towards the door despite the fact that she was still butt naked. As she passed them, she managed to snag her jeans and blouse.

Once in the living room, Hutch let go, flinging the unsuspecting woman across the room so that she cannoned into the chair and landed on the floor, her usually perfectly arranged hair falling over her face. In all the time she’d know him, the big blond had always been so caring and gentle. He’d never lifted a finger to her and the difference in him was startling and terrifying.

Van stayed where she’s fallen, watching Hutch struggle with his temper. Ever since childhood he’d had one of the worst tempers imaginable, but he’d learned to keep it well hidden over the years. His was not the yelling, raging, blustering type temper his partner had – up one minute and calm the next. Hutch’s temper seethed below the surface and he usually managed to keep it there. Because to lose it completely meant breakages – of either property or people.

Right now, the flaxen haired cop was trying to get himself under control. He felt betrayed, used, dirty. And most of all he felt self loathing for being so easily manipulated by that little vixen, even after all she’d done at him in the past. God, how could he have been so stupid? Why hadn’t he seen the honey coated trap last night for what it was – just that – another one of Van’s ploys to get what she wanted.

Hutch saw red. The sight of Van cowering on the floor in front of him was like a red rag to a bull and he crossed the room in three strides standing over her with his fist raised. This was it! This was the moment he’d longed for. Retribution.

He balled his hand into a fist and launched it through the air as the petrified woman cringed back. The fist connected…..with the chair arm at the side of her, splintering the wood into a thousand tiny pieces.

Hutch stood, his breath whistling through his teeth as the explosion of temper finally dissipated. He took a step back, fighting for composure and looked down at his ex wife.

‘Get out’ he said, his voice barely above a whisper. ‘There’s no roof over your head, no increase in alimony and no reconciliation. We’re finished. For good. I’m gonna take a shower and when I’m done I want you to be outa here. Got it?’

Without waiting for an answer, he stalked into the bathroom and closed the door behind him, resting his back against the solid wood as he closed his eyes. He hadn’t lost his temper so thoroughly since grade school. And then, Steve, the school bully had gone away with a black eye while Hutch had been suspended for a month for fighting. After that, and hundreds of dollars of anger management lessons paid for by his shocked parents, he’d always kept a tight rein on his emotions. Until now.

Fatalistically, Hutch started to run the shower, wincing now that the adrenaline was leaving his body as the pain of his damaged knuckles started to surface. Looking down at the fist he’d used to wreck his chair, he saw the bruised bloody mess, splinters of wood sticking out of his hand obscenely. He cursed and set about washing, then treating the damage.

Half an hour later, washed, dressed and with his right hand knuckles taped in white zinc oxide tape, Hutch cautiously opened the door into his living room. It was devoid of life, the splintered wood of the chair having been neatly stacked by its side. The blond walked out into his living room and as he made is way to the kitchen for a drink, the telephone rang.

Diverting, he picked up the phone just as he saw the note by its side, two words neatly written on it.

SORRY, VAN

He picked it and the telephone up simultaneously. ‘Hutchinson’ he said distractedly into the receiver.

‘Hutchinson, who’s meant to be at the lookout?’ Dobey’s voice thundered down the phone.

The blond snapped himself out of his reverie. ‘Um…Starsky was there. He um…he did a double shift coz I was…I was sick’ he lied. ‘Why?’

‘I want you to get down to the motel now. There’s been a shooting. Eleni’s gone. And so is Starsky’.

Chapter 8

Hutch raced over to the motel, cursing himself the whole time. Not only had he had what turned out to be a disastrous night with his ex wife, but because of his raging libido and one track mind, his partner of only a few weeks had disappeared. What the hell was he doing? Why did he deserve to have a partner like Starsky? The brunet had been so understanding about his whole sorry love life with Van and had actually encouraged him to try again. And for what? So that some goon could come and attack him and…..what? Oh God what was he going to find when he got down there?

With his imagination running overtime, Hutch floored the gas pedal, the mars light casting demonic red shadows across the dark road surface as the shadowy neighbourhood flashed by in the early morning light. He couldn’t make the car go fast enough and if he could have turbo charged it, or put a rocket up the exhaust he would have done so, just to get to the scene quicker. But when he did eventually pull up outside room 2, he hardly dared to look inside.

The door to the room was open, spilling mellow yellow light out into the rapidly lightening surroundings. The morning had that early, fragile, brittle quality to it that comes from the minutes before dawn and Hutch shivered, hunching his shoulders. The motel was surrounded by black and whites and the flaxen haired cop recognised the forensic guy’s car. The sight made his blood run cold and he got swiftly out of the car and ran across the small forecourt to the open doorway.

He paused at the door seeing the scene of controlled confusion inside. There was a splash of blood on the carpet, big enough to make the carpet look dark and rusty. There was also evidence of a struggle. Furniture was upturned, some of the ornaments decorating the room laying broken on the floor. The bedclothes were rumpled, but the bed had not been slept in, the pillow being still propped up against the headboard, dented by Eleni’s back as thought the woman had just got up to get a drink or go to the bathroom. The grille on the window hung drunkenly from a single screw and the window was wide open, letting in the early morning moths and bugs and allowing a cooling breeze to blow through the small room.

In the middle of the chaos, Dobey stood like a big brown bear, directing proceedings and providing an air of calm. He looked round as the big blond raced into the room.

‘Where’s Starsky?’ Hutch asked, looking around him.

‘That’s what I was hoping you could tell me. Weren’t you supposed to be on duty last night?’ There was no accusation in the voice, just a gentle probing into the facts. Hutch blushed.

‘I had family problems to take care of. He said he’d cover for me and then…..’ his eyes travelled to the bloody stain on the carpet. ‘Oh shit! What’ve I done to him?’

‘Nuthin. You haven’t done nuthin. But somehow Eleni is gone and whoever busted her out probably took him too. Have you seen anything suspicious of late?’

‘No, nothing’.

‘Well did Eleni say anything? Has she had made any threats? Any phone calls? This was supposed to be a secret location. Only a handful of officers know what was going on here’.

‘Cap’n, we couldn’t get more ‘n’ a couple of sentences outa the woman an’ they were all threats. She was more than quiet. She was downright rude with it. She wouldn’t have told us if the building was on fire. Putting it bluntly, she hated us’.

‘Well someone knew where she was’ Dobey growled. ‘An’ it looks like your partner put up quite a fight’.

Hutch blanched. ‘You don’t think he’s…’

‘No! And you shouldn’t either. He’ll be fine. We just need to find out how they knew where she was an’ then I have a feeling that’s where Starsky will be too’ Dobey answered, seeing the panic in the young detective’s eyes.

‘Clues. There must be clues’ Hutch said. ‘Have forensics been through the place? Did they find anything?’

‘No’.

Hutch cast around the room, his eyes roving over the surroundings, stopping on pictures, the door handle, the bed. There was something not right about the room and it was eating at the blond. Something he couldn’t put his finger on. He ran his hand over his lower lip, eyes dancing around the room. C’mon Hutchinson! Think. Use that bloody brain of yours for once. Starsky needs you. And then it hit him. Carefully he crossed the room, edging around the blood stain on the floor. He paused at the window, taking a hanky out of his pocket to hold onto the window grille.

‘Cap’n?’

‘Yeah? Dobey came to stand by the blond.

‘Look at this’.

‘Uh huh. That’s how they got in’.

Hutch wiggled the grille. ‘Yeah, but how? The grille is on the inside of the window, but none of the screws are forced. There’s no evidence of them being broken’.

‘You mean….?’

‘How could we have been so dumb? She took the grille away, unscrewed it from the inside so she could get out’.

The two men stared at each other, disbelieving.

Together, they voiced the same opinion. ‘Eleni! She orchestrated the whole thing’

oOo

Starsky awoke slowly. His head, which pounded fiercely and felt as big as a football raised slowly up of the soft pillow and he cracked open his eyes to look around. He closed them just as swiftly and groaned quietly. He hadn’t felt this bad since the fruitcake with the chains and the penchant for starting fires back in his Academy days had worked him over and left him tied in a burning garden shed.

Forcing himself to open his eyes again, he took a better look at his surroundings.

He was laid on his back on a narrow bunk. His body had been covered by a blanket and there was a clean white pillow beneath his head. The bunk was arranged along one wall of the room which was perhaps 9’ square and there was a small alcove in the opposite corner, which housed a toilet and wash basin. Not exactly the Hilton, but it had all the comforts he needed. The only thing that really bothered him was that when he looked around to where the head of the bunk was, the entire wall was made of iron bars. It struck him, sickeningly, that this was some sort of jail cell and he wondered just exactly where it was located.

Forcing himself to move, he bit back another groan and started to swing his legs over the side of the bed to try to sit up. Then, and only then, did the extent of his injuries make themselves apparent. The centre of his body, in fact the whole area around his groin pulsed with a dull, purple pain which radiated out to his back and to his guts, so that his heartbeat could be felt in his balls. Accompanying that was the sharper, although no less insistent pain across his stomach and his left arm and he remembered seeing the small puddle of blood that had seeped into the carpet earlier. Looking down at his abdomen he saw the neatly cut shirt with the bloody red margins of the wound below it and a similar wound on his upper left arm. That one also ached dully and his arm felt heavy and useless. Deciding that sitting up was entirely too painful, he eased his sore frame back onto the bed, placed his right arm behind his head and waited.

His stint as a POW had taught him that sooner or later his captors would show up, and when they did, they would probably take a great delight in hurting him some more before they finally revealed exactly what they’d taken him for. Idly he thought of Eleni. She wasn’t surprised that the men had appeared and she’d watched without raising a finger as he’d fought with the four goons. That she didn’t attempt to help him came as no surprise. She’d shown her disdain for both Starsky and Hutch from day one. Shit! She must have been in on it right from the start and he’d fallen for it hook line and sinker. She wasn’t being kidnapped, she was escaping and he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time! With those unhappy thoughts running through is head, he drifted back into a troubled sleep.

Waking a second time, he saw that a plate of sandwiches and a cup of water had been pushed inside the cell. His stomach rumbled despite his predicament and painfully he rolled over onto his side, reaching for the water before a thought hit him. Withdrawing his hand he stared at the cup as though it might bite him. Why would his captors feed and water him? What was the good of that? Unless….unless the water or the food, or both were drugged or poisoned. He snorted softly. Yeah right Davey boy. Go get yourself poisoned on your first big detective job! Starsky rolled back onto his back and stared at the ceiling, longing for same cool water and maybe a couple of shots of morphine to quiet the pains assailing him. Not that he particularly liked drugs. And to say he hated hospitals was an understatement. But right now, he wanted to be rid of the pains just so that he could think straight. He sighed, then stiffened as he heard footsteps approaching. He closed his eyes, pretending to be asleep and tried to keep his breathing steady and relaxed as he heard the metal bars of the cell grate back.

He counted two sets of footsteps entering and they stopped by the side of his bed. There was the sound of more metal grating on metal. This time, it was a lighter sound, as though chain links were rubbing against each other and he could feel a body leaning across his. He cracked his eyes open a little and saw an enormous body leaning over the bunk, fixing something to the wall at the side of him – too big a guy to take while he was hurting so much. Bide your time Davey – you’ll get a chance soon. There was more chinking of metal on metal and then the same person took hold of his left wrist, snapping on a cold, wide metal cuff. The left arm now encased, the man picked up his right arm and decorated that wrist in similar fashion.

Starsky fought to control his breathing as he felt the big man move away, still feigning sleep, but his eyes flew open when he heard a familiar voice.

‘I know you’re awake, so don’t try to pretend’.

Deep indigo eyes stared up into the all too familiar face and he swallowed once, his throat parched and rasping.

‘Eleni?’

‘Who did you expect? Father Christmas?’ she snapped. ‘Sit up. I need to tend to your wounds’.

The brunet realised that whilst the manacles had been placed around his wrists, the length of chain attaching them to the wall was quite long, giving him sufficient room to move his arms, lever himself up and even move, he supposed, a little way from the bed. It all added to the confusion.

Trying to sit up proved painful and difficult however but the small woman sat at the side of him, unwilling to help as she watched him struggling. Finally he managed to swing his legs over the side of the bed and collapsed back, his back sagging against the wall as he groaned, closed his eyes and concentrated on not throwing up over his “nurse”. One hand wrapped protectively around his stomach, his guts feeling as though they may spill out of his middle through the cut at any moment. He opened his eyes and saw the enormous mountain of a man standing against the far wall looking bored. Eleni looked over her shoulder at him.

‘Its fine Enzo. You can go. I don’t think he’s in any fit state to do anything. Do you?’

Enzo curled a lip at her, then opened the cell door, went through and closed it behind him. With a final cursory look at the prisoner, he left.

Starsky looked at Eleni. ‘I don’t understand’ he gasped. ‘What did ya bring me here for? I’m no good to ya. Why didn’t ya just let ‘em kill me in the motel room?’

She gave him a pitying look. ‘You’re as stupid as I thought, aren’t you? You have no idea, you just a stupid cop!

Indigo eyes blazed at her. ‘Explain it’ he snarled.

‘There are still three of my group in jail. I want them out. They’re stupid enough to blow my whole operation. I want them out now, so it’ll be a straight swap – your life for theirs?’

‘Its you that’s got it wrong lady. I’m not that valuable’ Starsky corrected.

She busied herself with a bowl of water and some gauze and opened a large medical bag she’d brought with her. As she talked, she cut of the brunet’s shirt none too gently and started to bathe his wounds. He hissed as the medicated water soaked into the cuts, his muscle tightening below his skin, but he remained still.

‘Any way you look at it, you’re here as my um….guest an’ your boss and that golden partner of yours are going to want you back’

‘They’ll never trade, I told ya, I’m not that important?’ Starsky growled.

She paused and looked into his eyes. ‘Would you leave a man behind?’

His mind went back to a dark, steamy jungle and he swallowed ‘No, but this is diff’rent?’

Eleni finished cleaning the wounds on his stomach and arm. She examined them closely and he yelped as she probed the deeper areas of the knife wounds.

‘They need stitching in places’.

‘I don’t get it’ Starsky said

The woman paused and looked at him as though she needed to explain to a child.

‘What don’t you get?’

‘Why someone like you would get mixed up in something like this. You could have whatever ya wanted An' why you’re patchin’ me up’.

She smiled wryly. ‘My father’s business – I had to carry on the family trade. And as to the TLC’ she smiled grimly ‘a healthy hostage is worth more than one that’s half dead.

‘So what happens now?’

‘We keep you here until your police buddies do as we say’.

‘And if they don’t?’

‘You just better pray they do, pretty boy’.

Chapter 9

‘Shit!’ Starsky tried to suck in a breath as the needle punctured the skin at the side of the knife wound across his stomach. The pain was nothing compared to those fighting for attention across his body, but he could feel it beginning to tip him over the edge again, as he tried keep his precarious hold on consciousness.

After Eleni had casually dropped the bombshell that she was healing the brunet just so that he could be a useful hostage and maybe killed later on, she’d set out her equipment to try to put him back together. He’d watched attentively as she’d set out suture needles and thread and had tried to close his mind to what was going to happen next. She hated him, he knew that and he wasn’t really sure just how much enjoyment she’d gain from sewing him up, but he had little choice in the matter.

Eleni had seen the raised eyebrows and had tutted at him. ‘One of the fringe benefits of inheriting my Father’s “business”. I learned early on how to patch up some of the employees. Don’t be a baby. Jeez, it’s only a few stitches!’

Starsky backed up as far as he could as she descended on him with the curved, wickedly pointed needle in her hands, but the wall at his back prevented him from escaping her ministrations completely. He’d closed his eyes and felt her cool hands on his belly, probing, pulling and then pushing the clean cut edges of the wound back together. The first stitch had stung like hell and he’d hissed softly, his fingers digging into the blanket as he fought for control.

‘I guess patching your goons up didn’t involve Novocain then?’ he gasped as the needle dug at him again. The pains he’d endured so far ate away at his resolve and he could feel himself getting weaker as he spoke. His voice must have reflected his state because the woman stopped and took a good look at him. Starsky’s face was pale and had taken on a greyish hue. His face shone with a fine patina of sweat and his limbs had started to tremble, despite him trying to keep himself together. Eleni recognised the signs of shock.

‘No. Most of my men don’t make this much fuss’ she replied. ‘Just lie down, it’ll make it easier, ok?’ but her voice had a softer quality to it now and as Starsky tried to lie back, the chains from his manacles got in the way. She put her hand beneath his head and eased him back until he was laid flat again, her hand lingering just a split second more than necessary on his chocolate coloured curls.

Now that he was lying down, the stitches she’d already put in his stomach pulled viciously and he felt another wave of nausea start to crest. He rode it, breathing deeply until he felt he could trust his stomach again and opened his eyes just as Eleni put the final of four sutures into his wound. Fortunately only the very middle of the 10 inch long cut was deep enough to need closing. She covered it’s whole length with a bright white dressing and taped it down with adhesive tape. Fatalistically, Starsky wondered just how much it would hurt when she peeled it away from the dark hairs on his belly.

He raised his right arm to run his hand over his forehead and the chain links clanked dismally as his arm trembled. He cursed and put his arm down again.

‘Don’t know why ya bothered with ‘em’ he mumbled. ‘Not goin’ nowhere’.

‘Would you have preferred Enzo to remain in the room?’ she asked as she started to explore the wound on his left arm.

‘Ya mean Attila the Hun? No…you’re prettier’. The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them and Eleni froze.

‘What?’

Starsky’s eyes were closing, his fight with consciousness costing him dearly. ‘Nuthin. Didn’t mean nuthin’ he said quietly.

Eleni continued her exploration of his arm. The wound there was deeper, blood continuing to ooze out, to trickle down his arm. There were rust red trails dried down its length and Starsky’s fingers felt sticky and stiff. His whole arm was on fire and each movement sent a blaze of pain down to his hand and up into his shoulder.

‘This one’s worse’ she said as if to herself.

‘Huh?’

‘I said the wound on your arm is worse than the one on your stomach. It’s going to take a while. Are you ok?’

‘Like ya care’ he grunted.

‘Of course I care. I don’t want you throwing up on me. How’re you doing?’

‘T’riffic. I’ve been knifed, beaten, chained up an’ kidnapped. How much better can my day get?’

He was just about to find out. The woman had seen the attack on her captive earlier and now saw just how much pain the brunet was in – not all of it from the knife wounds.

‘I need to check out your erm….’ Eleni’s hand went to the buckle on his jeans.

Despite the pains, Starsky’s hand flew down to his hips to cover her hand. ‘Don’t need nuthin down there’ he growled. The pains in the centre of his body ran core deep, each breath; each heartbeat resonating through his balls. Part of him didn’t want the girl anywhere near them. Part of him didn’t want to see them for himself. But he had little choice in the matter. His left arm refused to work properly and his right arm, hampered by the manacle and chain was just too heavy to stop her questing fingers.

Eleni pulled open the buckle and undid the button at his waistband.

‘I’ve got some more pants for you here. Yours are covered in blood anyway. Let me see’ she said briskly as she unzipped his fly.

The sudden change in pressure over the sensitive area made the curly haired cop howl, his whole body stiffening as he arched his back – anything to get rid of the terrible pain ripping through his guts and the centre of his body.

‘Oh fuck…don’t…just leave it’ he panted as he felt her hands start to work the stiff material down his legs.

‘I need to check it out. Especially if its as bad as all that’ she said, working the denim past his knees. With a flourish she pulled his Adidas, socks and finally his jeans off and dropped them all into an untidy puddle on the floor.

Starsky was visibly trembling now, the shock to his system threatening to overload his senses. His teeth chattered together and he tried to clamp then shut, but the tremors were just too much. From half closed eyes, he saw her hand coming back to the waistband of his boxers and weakly he reached down to try to stop her.

‘Noo’ he moaned. ‘Stop…oh shit….please’.

Eleni stopped her exploration. Despite herself, she found this guy’s predicament oddly moving. When this had first started, she’d set off loathing both Starsky and his smooth, golden handsome partner. They represented a threat to her “business” and they were the establishment, making sure she stayed put, ready to give evidence. She’d had no idea that her uncle would come to get her, and the sight of Enzo and his three friends at her window had filled her with hope. She’d unscrewed the grille over the window and had opened it up to allow the men to enter her room, turning up the television so that they wouldn’t be heard. But Starsky had been too quick and had burst in on them so that they had had no option but to fight.

The sight of the big man driving his knee into the cop’s body had sickened her, the sound of flesh on flesh, and the animalistic scream wrung from Starsky remained with her long after they’d left the motel. Even while unconscious in the back of the vehicle. The brunet had moaned in pain each time the van had hit a bump in the road.

‘Sssh’ she said, pulling away the soft black fabric of his boxers. She winced in sympathy at the huge blue/black bruise that blossomed over Starsky’s penis, balls and down the insides of the top of his legs. No wonder he was almost whimpering in pain! Standing, she went over to the small wash hand basin and ran the water until it became very cold. Soaking the small towel in the ice cold water, she wrung it out, then placed the cold material over the centre of the cop’s body.

While Eleni had busied herself with the compress, Starsky sneaked a look down his body. The sight of the extensive bruising made him sick to his stomach and brought even more pain. He hitched a breath, a whimper of pain escaping his lips. The whimper turned to a barely contained scream as the woman put the ice cold cloth on his body, the shock of the cold and the pain of the barest pressure over him being too much for his tortured nerves to stand. With a rough shout he balled his hands into fists and ground them into the mattress on the bed, fighting for some composure. At least with the towel there, he had some dignity restored, even if it looked as though Little Davey would never rise again.

Eleni left the towel there until she could feel the warmth of the injured skin radiating through it, and then she removed it, re-wet it and replaced it.

Starsky’s body was spasming in shock now. He felt hot and cold at the same time, fire exploding behind his eyes and waves of nausea assailing him continually. He couldn’t control the shuddering, but each shake of his body made the pains worse. He closed his eyes, not wanting to let the woman know how badly he was hurt, but Eleni had seen enough injuries in the past to know that the man was suffering. She had decided before she’d entered his cell that she would be cold and efficient. She would deal with his injuries and then she would leave. But the sight of the lithe, muscled body, the handsome face and the way Starsky fought with the pain made her heart melt.

She reminded herself of why he was here and what it meant to her Father and hardened her heart, but still, her heart beat a little faster as she looked down at him.

Starsky was only semi conscious now. Shock had overtaken him and had dulled his senses so that now all he could think about was the pain and how he wished it would stop. His eyes flashed open as Eleni replaced the cold compress yet again and he mumbled under his breath.

‘What?’ she said, bending low so that she could hear.

‘Utch…’

‘He’s isn’t here’.

‘Need t’…ungh….oh God….hurts’ the brunet mumbled, his head rolling from side to side on the pillow. ‘Utch?’

Eleni looked over her shoulder. There was no-one there. No-one to see what she did or what she was going to do. Swiftly she left the cell, knowing that even if Starsky hadn’t been chained, he was in no condition to try to escape. She went to a store cupboard in another room and came back with two more blankets which she laid over the sweating body and tucked them along it’s length. Starsky’s eyes flashed open, but there was little recognition in them, the injuries causing his body to begin to close down so that it could start the healing process.

She sat by the side of the bed and ran her hand over his forehead, trying to soothe him as she would a scared child. At the touch of the gentle hand, he calmed and within minutes, his breathing had slowed and assumed the quiet regularity of sleep.

Eleni stayed at Starsky’s side for another ten minutes or so, her hand never leaving him. Her stomach turned a somersault as she withdrew it and he whimpered. She replaced it, and he seemed to snuggle against it, a small sigh escaping him. She echoed the sigh and berated herself. What was happening? What the hell was she doing? This wasn't how it was meant to play out! She hated to admit it, but she thought she might be falling under David Starsky’s spell.

Waiting for another few minutes, until he was sound asleep, she set to and examined his left arm. The knife wound was deep and she was glad now that he wasn’t conscious as she pulled the lips of the gash together and sutured them closed with ten small, neat stitches. She bound the wound and sat back. She’d done all she could for now and hated to admit to herself that she really didn’t want to leave him. But she reminded herself that he was still the enemy and she got up, unlocked the manacles from around the brunet’s wrists and clanged the barred door softly closed behind her, making it sure it was locked before she left.

Chapter 10

Hutch flopped exhausted into the small chair in Dobey’s office. In the 36 hours since Starsky had gone missing he’d had a constant barrage of questions from IA, interviews with Dobey and another Captain, and had spent a sleepless night berating himself for what he felt was his own shortcomings. IA had been less than friendly he felt, but there again, in the blond’s own mind, he deserved nothing less. In Hutch’s eyes he was entirely responsible for the disappearance of Eleni and his partner and in the wee small hours before dawn, as he’d lain wide awake in his bed, he’d worried about how the brunet was faring.

In the few short weeks he’d worked with Starsky he’d felt more at home and more at peace than he’d ever done in his life. His mind went back to the first few days at the Academy when he’d been a dorky, accident-prone young man (the symptoms, he knew of the vicious kidnap attack on him 2 years earler) and he’d met an ebullient, curly headed bundle of fun, who for some inexplicable reason, wanted to be his friend.

Hutch’s initial impression of David Starsky had been of a fun loving, come-a-day, go-a-day easygoing guy without a care in the world. He seemed to have the ability to make friends with just about anyone and to strike up a conversation about anything. He had a quirky sense of humor and an almost childlike ability to see the world through unspoiled, non-judgemental eyes. If ever there was a lateral thinker, it was him. Hutch liked him immediately and wondered constantly why someone so popular would want to be friends with him. Living in the shadow of the great Dr Richard Hutchinson had made the young Ken insecure and with a low self-esteem. But Starsky saw beneath the imposed veneer and brought out the true Hutch.

And in return, Hutch saw a different side to Starsky. In those early days, when they’d managed to be trapped by, and then catch the Red Roses Murderer, Hutch had had a glimpse at the severely tortured and damaged mind behind the confident front. The murderer had trapped them in a garden shed type building, tying Hutch to one side of the wooden building and Starsky to the other. And then the brunet started to have flash backs to his previous life as a soldier. And the confidence and childlike quality had disappeared, to be replaced by a terrified and damaged individual.

Afterwards, Starsky had told Hutch that he’d been frightened that the glimpse into his mind might have scared the blond away. But for Hutch, it merely added a new dimension to his new friend - a human edge that made him seem less of a heroic individual nely back from the war and more like a complete man. To Hutch, Starsky had always been the sort of man he wanted to be himself – outgoing and personable. In a way, he’d idolised the brunet and set him up as something to aspire to. And to see the flaws in the personality only served to make the curly haired man more lifelike and “real”.

Now, Hutch realised, that if anything happened to his new partner, he’d never forgive himself and he didn’t want to contemplate life without the brunet in it. Being a cop without Starsky was unthinkable.

‘I don’t know what else to do’ Hutch said, his head in his hands.

Dobey looked at the dark rings under the young cop’s eyes and the haunted look in his face. ‘We’re doing everything we can. You need to try and get some rest. You’re going to be no use to him if you make yourself sick’.

‘And how am I supposed to rest huh? We’ve heard nothing from whoever has him. We’ve no clues. I’ve questioned just about every snitch that Starsk and me use. Its like he’s disappeared off the face of the earth’.

The black man’s features softened. ‘I know you’re worried about him, but it wasn’t your fault you know’.

‘No? And whose watch had he taken huh? Mine. So just how much am I not to blame Cap’n? It should be me that’s where ever he is. They could be hurtin’ him. He could be dead for all we know. How can I not blame myself. All coz I thought I might be able to get my marriage back together. Well I should’a known better ‘n’ that. Shit!’

He put his head back in his hands and sighed deeply.

Just as a uniformed officer put his head around the door. ‘Captain, Detective. There’s a phone call….someone asking for Hutch. Said it was important…about Starsky’.

oOo

The next time that Starsky awoke, he felt light headed and hot. His eyes burned in their sockets and his cheeks felt as if they were on fire. He had a fever, but at least the shaking in his limbs had gone and his guts felt as though they may stay firmly inside his body rather than trying to shake their way out past his teeth. He lay quietly, trying hard not to move the centre of his body. It still ached and if he closed his legs too quickly, the blossom of pain left him groaning again. So maybe he’d just lie there for ever and not move.

Remembering the manacles, he took a swift look at his wrists and was amazed to see that he was once again free of the chains. Looking at the wall, he saw that the two lengths of approximately six feet each dangled from the large, robust looking eyelet cemented firmly into the wall. He couldn’t understand it. He’d been taken prisoner before and had never enjoyed the experience. He found it usually resulted in pain, pain and more pain. But this was different.

He tried to make sense of his captivity. He had a soft bunk, two fluffy white pillows which seemed new, blankets to keep him warm, a toilet for when he needed it and….he looked at the small table by his side…a glass of water. Everything he needed, plus he was unchained. Well sure, he couldn’t exactly break out of the jail cell, but at least he was free to move around it – if he could manage to get up off the bunk.

With a low groan he rolled onto his side and then forced himself to sit up. Starsky gritted his teeth against the feeling of sitting on the pile of razor blades that someone had sandwiched between his legs. Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he contemplated the white dressing across his middle. His shirt, he remembered had been cut from him and he dimly remembered Eleni pulling off his jeans in a blaze of agony. Now he was bare chested and wearing dark blue sweat pants. Although he mourned for his jeans – each pair being like a baby to him – he admitted to himself that the butter soft material of the sweats was infinitely more comfortable on his bruised family jewels than any denim would have been. Exploring his body further he saw the various small cuts and grazes which were the legacy of the fight he’d had with the four men, and the stark white bandage surrounding his left upper arm. Her words came back to him.

You’re the leverage, but in order to be a valuable hostage, you need to be in reasonable shape. If they see you fit to begin with, then they’ll have the motivation once they see you get hurt or….’

Oh terrific! Talk about the sacrificial offering! He reached out and took the glass of water, not caring whether it was drugged or not any more. At that precise moment, the pains were sufficient that he longed for something to dull them by whatever means, be it morphine, aspirin or a mallet over the head!

The water was wonderfully cool on his parched throat and he sipped it slowly, the liquid luxury flowing over his tongue and down into his stomach, blazing a cool trail of salvation. But he refused to quench his thirst too swiftly, mindful that his stomach was still rebelling and he couldn’t cope with throwing up on top of all his other discomforts. But there again, one other discomfort was making itself well known to him now. One he didn’t really want to think about addressing, but sooner or later he knew he’d have to.

With another protracted groan, he levered himself up from the bunk and stood on shaky, rubbery legs as he tottered towards the toilet. Once there, he untied the string of the loose sweat pants that he didn’t remember Eleni putting on him and stood in front of the john, taking a deep breath. He needed to pee, he knew, and he braced himself, but nothing could prepare him for the knife he felt someone had just rammed upwards into his guts. He doubled over, clutching at himself with a shaky hand as he relieved himself into the bowl. Fatalistically he watched the blood tinged fluid swirl away down the pan. Tinged with blood, but not enough, he thought, to denote anything serious. Probably bruised a kidney during the fight. He gritted his teeth against the pain.

C’mon Davey boy! Ya wouldn’t even be in hospital with this. It’s just bruises and a couple’a cuts. An ER would sneer at those injuries. Get yourself together. Get your ass in gear!...Well I would ‘cept that that particular bit hurts like hell.

Retying the cord around his hips, Starsky managed to limp back to the bunk. Gingerly he sat down, managed to swing his legs up over the bed frame to lay down again, his exertions having tired him. He managed to pull the blankets up over his body, his teeth chattering once again as the fever took him and shook him once more. He closed his eyes, blotting out reality and allowed himself to drift back into a troubled sleep.

An hour later, Eleni came back to the cell to check on her captive. Without opening the cage door or entering, she saw that he’d drunk his water and that he’d probably managed to get himself up. She gazed at the sleeping figure. What was it about the man? He looked so strong, so handsome, so….vulnerable lying on the cot swathed in the blue blankets. He tossed his head, a dream adding animation to his body and he flung one arm wide as if reaching for something or someone. The slim, almost delicate hand landed just short of the bars and without thinking, she reached through them and took hold of it.

Starsky grasped it in his nightmare. He was back in ‘Nam. He was back with General Mai. There was no way he could ease any of his weight from ankles and his elbows. His breathing became constricted and he was in danger of hyperventilating. He screamed out in agony and the scream added pressure onto his already overstretched rib cage.

Tell me why you’re here’.

F fuck you’

Tn anh l g? đợt bay, phi vụ”

Corporal David Michael Starsky Serial numb……ungh….arghhhhh’

Eleni listened to the tortured ravings, unable to understand what was going on in the fevered mind of the curly haired cop. While her right hand was captured in the brunet’s, she insinuated her other through the bars and soothed Starsky’s brow, crooning nothing words low and calm, trying to penetrate the nightmare world he inhabited. She stayed hunkered down by the side of the cot for almost an hour before the door at the end of the corridor opened and her Uncle appeared. Embarrassed, she withdrew her left hand and struggled to disengage her right hand from the brunet’s grip.

‘How is he?’ Jack Flint asked.

‘He’s um….he’s got a fever. I was just um…checking on him’ she muttered, lowering her head so that Flint couldn’t see the blush on her cheeks.

‘Eleni, he’s your prisoner. Don’t forget that’.

‘I wouldn’t. I want our men back just as much as you do’ she said, standing and straightening her jeans. ‘I just don’t want him to get any more sick, or we won’t be able to use him, huh?’

Chapter 11

Hutch’s big honest hand grabbed for the phone and he clasped it to his ear as though his life depended on it. Dobey picked up the extension phone, covering the receiver with his hand so that he could listen in. The black man could see the slight tremble in his man’s hand and he hoped the young officer would have sufficient resolve to deal with the phone call. Starsky’s life could depend on it.

He needn’t have worried.

The flaxen haired cop spoke with confidence into the phone. ‘Hutchinson. Talk to me’.

‘That would be “talk to me please” Detective Hutchinson’ a silky smooth voice with no accent said to him down the telephone line.

‘Give me something to be polite about an’ I’ll think about it’ Hutch snapped

‘Detective, I don’t think you understand the rules of engagement here. We have your partner. And you have what we want. So you see, we can help each other out’. The voice sounded reasonable…chatty almost, and Hutch stowed down the anger welling up inside him. This monster had Eleni and Starsky and the blond wanted them both back.

Hutch looked at his boss. Dobey shook his head – no negotiations. BCPD did not offer deals to kidnappers, no matter what and no matter who’s life was on the line.

‘No deals punk. Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to release Detective Starsky and then we might talk’.

The silky voice hardened slightly. ‘I don’t think you quite understand, Detective. You aren’t the one calling the shots here, we are’.

‘Then explain it to me’. Hutch said, sweat prickling on his neck as he tried to relax the tension he felt in his shoulders.

‘Just how stupid can you be? Its so simple. You have four of our men. You’re putting them on trial. Call off the trial and release and them and you can have the pig back. As for Eleni Flint, do you really think she wants to say thank you fro looking after her so well? You have 4 days to make your decision and give us our men back, otherwise….’

Hutch swallowed. ‘Otherwise what?’

‘Otherwise you’ll be looking for a new partner’.

The words were like a physical blow, although the flaxen haired cop had been expecting them. He took a deep breath, questing for some way to stall; some way to ensure they could trace the call and find Starsky.

‘How do I know this isn’t some elaborate ploy and he isn’t already dead?’ The word stuck in his throat. Saying it seemed to make the possibility real and he heaved a steadying breath. Dobey put his thumb up – you’re doing fine. Keep cool and keep them talking.

‘He’s alive, you can be sure of that’ the voice on the other end of the line said confidently.

‘Yeah? Coz you’re so honest huh? I’m not a fool. Prove it. Lemme speak to him now’.

‘No can do. You’ll just have to trust us’.

Desperately Hutch ran his hands through his hair. He needed to stall. He needed to speak to Starsky. He improvised. ‘I’m putting the phone down. Either I get to talk to my partner, or there’s no point in continuing’.

There was a pause at the other end of the phone and for a moment, Hutch thought his bluff had been called. He gripped the handset until his knuckles showed white and finally, after what seemed like years, the voice came back.

‘We’ll ring this number in two hours. Be there. If you don’t pick up the phone by the third ring, he’s dead’.

The receiver went dead and Hutch was left staring at it as though it would spring back to life if he eyeballed it long enough. Gently, Dobey reached over and took the phone from the blond’s hand, quietly replacing it onto the cradle.

‘You did good’ he said to the shell shocked cop’. He guided the shaking man to the chair and sat him down.

‘I may have just signed his death warrant’ Hutch said softly. ‘What if they just kill him and get it over with? What if he isn’t alive now? And all this is just some sick joke’.

‘Hey, you can’t think like that. You were text book. You were calm, you gave them the facts, you kept ‘em talkin’ and you wouldn’t be swayed’.

Hutch gave him the ghost of a smile. ‘Well ask me again in two hours if I as text book. Maybe then we’ll know just how good I’ve been huh?

oOo

Enzo arrived outside the jail cell and looked in at the sleeping brunet. Starsky had remained somewhere between sleep and waking for most of the day. He felt tired, his body putting all its energy into beginning to heal itself. Eleni had visited him once or twice, but he was in no mood to talk to her, so he’d feigned sleep and remained still until she’d gone. Once or twice he’d been startled when he felt her hand on his forehead or carding though his hair, but he said nothing and kept his eyes closed. Now, he heard the presence at his cell door, but lay still. He heard the key in the lock and a moment later a meaty fist shook him on his shoulder.

Starsky cracked open his eyes and stared up at the big man.

‘Ya don’t look like room service’ the brunet grunted.

‘Shuddup an’ come with me’.

Starsky refused to move. ‘Not till you ask nicely’.

Enzo gave him a look which told the brunet that the big man would be far happier making mince meat out of him than making small talk.

‘Get up. You’re wanted’.

‘Uh huh? By who?’

Enzo took hold of Starsky’s left arm, just below the bandage and pulled. The curly haired cop gasped and bit back a yelp.

‘You ask too many questions’ the big man said, pulling the injured detective to his feet. Grabbing hold of the other hand, he pulled both arms behind Starsky’s back and cuffed them into place. The pull of the stitches in his wound made him feel sick to his stomach, but he pulled in big breaths of air and stared resolutely at the bars of the cell as they danced before his eyes.

Starsky stood swaying as he fought for control of his stomach. He panted through the waves of nausea, then gasped as the big goon pushed him forward. The involuntary step caused an deep pain to set up in the centre of his body as though someone had rammed a red hot knife into his dick. Reluctantly he walked slowly in front of Enzo, trying hard to keep his thighs from brushing against his bruised core, but more than once, as he stumbled or Enzo pushed him, his legs brushed together and he yelped. Walking up the stairs into the main office was even worse and by the time he gained the top, his heart was beating wildly and he could feel a trickle of sweat tickling down his spine. As he limped into the large open office, he saw two more men and Eleni, all looking at him expectantly.

Starsky stood in the middle of the room looking around him. It was a smallish room with a desk, a heavy wooden chair behind it and two more comfortable chairs arranged by the wall. The floor was close carpeted in claret coloured deep pile carpet and the walls were pale cream. It exuded masculine appeal and was a stark contrast to the bare cell he had so far inhabited. Looking out of the window, the brunet saw a deserted street and across the way a bar which looked like something directly out of “Gunfight at the OK Coral” He realised, somewhat belatedly that he was in one of the ghost towns which film directors had made use of for their films Apaprently this one had lost its usefulness and made a superb hideaway for the Flint clan.

Turning his attention back to the room, the brunet looked at the surrounding people. He targeted Eleni as the only one he really knew.

‘What’s the change of scenery for?’ he asked the woman.

She glared back at him, her eyes refusing to meet his direct gaze and the man at her side smiled.

‘You have a very suspicious partner. Detective Hutchinson wanted to make sure you were alive before he would discuss terms with us’.

‘Terms? What for? Hutch don’t bargain’ the brunet snarled.

‘Well I think we might persuade him. Especially when he sees how well we’ve looked after you and what damage we could inflict’.

Starsky looked down at his tape bedecked body and snorted. ‘If ya hadn’t fought me, ya wouldn’t have to patch me up. Does he know you’re gonna kill me anyway?’

‘We won’t kill you so long as you all do as we want’.

‘And that is?’

‘Don’t be naive Detective. We want our men out of jail and the trial called off. You leave us to our business and we’ll leave you to yours’.

Starsky snorted softly. ‘No deals. Do what ya want, but the trial goes ahead’.

‘That’s maybe not what your partner will say. We’ll see. Its time to give him a ring now’.

Flint reached for the telephone and dialled a number that Starsky recognised as the Metro. He heard it ringing and than an achingly familiar voice answer.

‘Starsk?’

Jack Flint grinned at his men. ‘We have your partner, Detective. You have one minute. And after that, 4 days to get our men back safely. Got that?’ Jack Flint put his hand over the receiver and spoke directly to Starsky. ‘Any wrong moves, anything funny said, and we kill you now’. As if to reinforce the information, Enzo stood by him and ground the muzzle of a gun into his neck. Flint held the phone to the brunet’s ear.

‘Hutch?’

‘Starsk, are you ok. Oh thank God. Do you know where they’re holding you? Where are ya partner?’

‘I’m um…yeah, m’ok’ Starsky answered carefully, painfully aware of the cold metal digging into his jugular.

‘Are ya hurt buddy?’ Hutch heard the slight hitch in the brunet’s voice and guessed he must not be in the best of shape.

‘Been better, but they kinda fixed me up’.

‘Can you tell me where you are?’

Starsky tried to think of something that he could say to give the brunet a clue about his location without risking getting his head blown off. His mind refused to work properly. Nothing subtle came to mind, so instead he went for the obvious

‘Desert…north Hutch…..ungh….ahh’ Starsky’s words were cut of as the phone was yanked from his ear and Enzo’s fist crashed into his back, just below his ribs and directly over his kidneys. Flint’s eyes were glaring at the cop as he yelled into the phone.

‘One minute up Hutchinson. You got 44 hours to go. And this is just a little incentive’ he nodded at Enzo who calmly reached down between Starsky’s legs, took hold of his balls and squeezed.

Hutch heard the raw ragged scream and then the phone went dead, leaving him staring once again at the receiver.

‘He’s alive Cap’n’ he said softly. ‘But God knows how much longer he’s gonna stay that way. We either need Flint out of jail, or we need to find my partner now’.

In another part of the town, Starsky’s knees buckled at the terrible pain clawing at his belly and guts. It was as though the world was trying to make an impromptu appearance through his dick and he bent over on the ground, eyes streaming with tears of pain. Enzo’s fist came down again on the back of his neck and quietly, the brunet’s body sagged sideways onto the floor, his eyes closed and his face twitching even in unconsciousness.

Eleni crossed the room quickly and cuffed the huge man around the head. ‘How many more times do I have to tell you! Now look at him. He’s going to be good for nothing at this rate. For Gods sake get him back to his cell and put him on his bunk’.

Chapter 12

Starsky awoke back in his cell, lying once again upon the narrow bunk. He lay as though he’d been tossed down (which in fact he had) and now he rolled over onto his side, carefully avoiding the wound on his left arm. He hoped Hutch might have got his message, but, truth to tell, “desert” and “jail” was hardly a huge red cross on a map saying “hostage held here”. No, he’d blown that opportunity and he only hoped that the Metro would find some way to find him that didn’t entail releasing Eric Flint from jail or stopping the trial from going ahead. Not that he relished the prospect of another round with Enzo, but he’d always hated blackmail and coercion.

The brunet sat himself upright, wincing at the newly reborn pains in the centre of his body. He was unsure whether Enzo was gay or whether he just had a penchant for extracting as much pain as possible from his most vulnerable areas. Whatever the reason, the huge man was thorough, and good at his job and Starsky was suffering for the man’s zeal.

He steeled himself as he heard the door at the top of the corridor open and he looked through the bars of his cell, expecting to see Eric Flint’s brother, Jack, or maybe Enzo coming back for more fun. Instead, Eleni walked slowly to the front of the bars and regarded Starsky steadily.

‘Are you ok?’ she asked.

The curly haired cop stared straight ahead, suddenly finding something terribly interesting on the plain white wall opposite. He said nothing.

‘David, I can imagine that you’re mad at me, but I need to know. Are you ok?’

‘Terrific’.

She put her hand on the bars separating them. ‘I mean it. I didn’t like Enzo hurting you like that. I wanted to check you were ok’.

Starsky turned the full force of his indigo eyes on her. ‘Ya wanna stitch me up some more? Or maybe just have another good look at the ol’ family jewels huh? Jeez, what is it with you Eleni? Ya watch your guys beat the crap outa me in the motel an’ ya didn’t do nuthin. Then ya come on all carin’ an’ stitch me up. And then ya come an watch me sleepin’…..He paused as he saw her eyes flash open in surprise. ‘Oh yeah, I know about that. But then, just to confuse the hell outa the situation, ya watch when Godzilla there makes mince meat out of me again’.

She ignored the tirade. ‘I’m sorry’ she whispered. ‘David let me check you over, please?’

‘Why? So ya can get me good an’ fit for when you decide to finish me off? Forget it. I don’t want to make it any easier for you to kill me in front of Hutch’.

‘No, not for that, I don’t want to do it for that. I just want to make sure you’re not hurting too much’ she said quietly.

‘Course I’m fuckin’ hurtin’ he growled.

‘Then let me see what I can do to make it hurt less’ she tried again.

Starsky looked at her, trying to weigh up exactly what was causing the seed change in her attitude. Only days ago, she’d barely managed to acknowledge he existed. She’d been so cold and aloof in the motel that he’d thought of her as an ice queen, trying hard not to thaw out in the sun. Now she seemed to him to be genuinely ready to help him. ‘How?’

‘Let me come in there and I can maybe give you something to stop you hurting. I need to check your arm, it looks like it’s been bleeding again’.

Starsky sighed heavily and looked down at the red bloom on the otherwise white bandage. ‘Fine, do what ya have to’.

There was an uncomfortable pause. ‘You need to um….I can’t come in until…..um’. She blushed and looked uncomfortable.

‘Until what? The brunet growled.

‘You need to put the cuffs on’ she said without looking at him.

‘Oh peachy!’ Starsky grunted. He contemplated refusing and just ignoring her, but the idea of some sort of pain relief was too seductive to ignore. Without looking at Eleni, he slowly took hold of the two manacles attached to the long chains through the eyelet in the wall. He stared at them for a moment. Would putting them on somehow make him less in her eyes? Would she treat him differently if he complied? No way did he want her to think that she’d somehow tamed him. He was still David Starsky, angry prisoner and would remain that way, with a healthy hatred for Eleni and all she stood for glowing inside him. But his body hurt. He felt physically sick, and he was worried about what Hutch would do next. The thoughts ran round and round in his head until they made no sense at all and the only sure thing left was the terrible ache in his groin. Making his decision, he fit the cold metal bracelets around his wrists and clicked them locked.

Lifting his hands to show her, he wiggled them so that the chains clanked against each other. ‘Satisfied?’

Eleni unlocked the cell door and walked in, closing it behind her. She ignored the comment. ‘Lie down and let me take a look at you’ she said. There were pain lines around Starsky’s eyes and the indigo blue irises were dull and listless looking. There was also the faint red blush of fever beginning on his cheeks again and she worried that the wounds were becoming infected.

The curly haired cop lay down with a soft groan and wedged his right hand under his head, closing his eyes as she started her examination. Surprisingly, her hands were gentle on his arm as she unwrapped the bandage and threw the red stained material down. He hissed softly as she probed the wound and cleaned it with warm water and clean gauze.

‘Sorry’ she said quietly.

‘For what? Getting me knifed, or for Enzo spoilin’ your stitchin’? D’ya get off on pain or sumthin lady?’

Eleni felt the anger flare inside her and without thinking she drew her hand back and slapped Starsky across the face. She stopped, horrified. ‘Oh my god I’m sorry’ she said as his eyes flew open and blazed defiance at her.

‘That’s right, showing your true colours now huh?’ he snapped.

Silently and tight lipped, Eleni went back to redressing the brunet’s arm. Finishing there, she pulled at the drawstring around his hips, but he stopped her. His right hand grabbed her wrist tightly and as she tried to pull it away, he held on, the power struggle between them silent and intense.

‘Uh huh’ he said. ‘Enough, m’fine’.

‘No you’re not. I can tell you’ve got a lot of pain. She reached into her pocket and pulled out two white tablets. ‘Here’.

Starsky regarded them suspiciously. ‘What’re they, cyanide?’

The woman put them quietly down on the small nightstand by the bunk and got up off of her knees by his bunk. ‘Whatever you might think of me, I’d never do that’ she said, just a little sadly. ‘They’re painkillers, plain and simple. They’ll help’. She went to the cell door, opened it and clanged it closed behind her. ‘Take them or leave them, but they’re safe, we checked’ she said.

‘Safe?’

‘Uh huh, now, if you can come to the bars, I’ll unlock the cuffs’. She opened the door of a small key cabinet on the wall opposite the cell and took out a small silvery key.

Starsky levered himself off the bunk and limped over to the bars of his cell, pushing his wrists as far through the bars as he could. Eleni unlocked his left wrist and opened the manacle, rubbing the circulation back into the arm gently. The brunet stood stock-still. For a brief moment, he enjoyed the feeling of the woman’s hands on him and fleetingly, he realised that he found her quite pretty. Eleni unlocked the right wrist also and before he could pull back, she’d taken the wrist and pressed it to her lips in the merest hint of a kiss.

Time stood still, Starsky feeling every tingle of her soft lips on his sore flesh, before the woman let go his hand, blushed furiously and rushed away.

oOo

‘I heard him scream Cap’n. God knows what they’ve done at him’ Hutch said. Since the phone call was cut short, he’d been pacing up and down Dobey’s office as the big black man tried to calm him down.

‘Well of course they’re gonna do something like that. They want you to get as riled up as ya just have done. Hutchinson. HUTCHINSON…will you sit down, NOW’.

The blond halted his pacing, sat down on the chair, stood up and then sat down again as he saw his Captain’s face.

‘What am I supposed to do? Just get on with life an’ forget I have a partner who’s gonna be killed in….’ he looked at his watch ‘…4 days from now?’

‘No, course not. But we have to be rational about this. Tell me again what he said’.

Hutch sighed heavily, dry wiping his hand over his face. Clearing his mind of the raw scream that echoed through his thoughts, he got his head into order.

‘OK. Well, he said Hutch? And I replied ‘Starsk, are you ok. Do you know where they’re holding you? Where are ya partner?’ he sounded kinda hurt….there was just something in his voice, like he’d….’

‘The facts Ken’ Dobey said quietly. ‘Just the facts huh?’

Hutch smiled. ‘Yeah, the facts, right. He said he was ok, but I didn’t really believe him an’ I asked him if he was hurt. He said he’d been better and they’d kinda fixed him up, whatever that means. And then I asked him if he could tell me where he was. He managed to yell out Desert…north Hutch and then he screamed’. Hutch looked up with pain filled eyes. ‘It should’a been me Cap’n, they’ve no right to hurt him, God knows he’s been through enough’.

Dobey clamped his big hand on the blond’s shoulder. ‘It’s no use beating yourself up with “what ifs”. What’s done is done and now we need to concentrate on finding him. Desert, north. Not a lot to go on. What’re your thoughts?’

The flaxen haired cop blew out his cheeks. ‘Desert is a given. They have him somewhere out in the Mojave, which is north of here. But shit, it’s a helluva big area. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Where d’ya begin?’

‘At the beginning. We take the facts and we work the case’.

‘But we don’t release the men?’ Hutch asked.

Dobey sat back down behind his desk, his face hardening. ‘No, we don’t’.

‘Cap’n, normally I wouldn’t want to either. But this is Starsky we’re talking about. Maybe there’s a way to release them or kinda delay the trial….kinda like a subterfuge or something. I dunno…I’m rambling. I just…I want him back….any way we can’.

‘I know how you feel. But d’ya think Starsky would want you to trade?’ Dobey asked, clasping his hands on the desk.

Hutch sighed. ‘No….but the call isn’t his’.

‘And it’s not yours either Hutchinson. We play this by the book ok?’

‘No, not Ok Cap’n. But I’ll ride with it. But if he…’

Dobey held up his hand. ‘While he’s alive here’ he pointed to his head, ‘he’ll be Ok. As soon as he stops being alive to ya in your head, that’s when he’s truly gone’.

oOo

150 miles away, in a small jail cell, the brunet looked longingly at the foil packet with the two pills. He reached for them, took them from the packet and dry swallowed them. His fingers still tingled from the memory of Eleni’s kiss and he was absurdly grateful for the painkillers. And as he lay back down on the bunk to try and sleep, he wondered when she’d come to see him again.

Chapter 13

Starsky dreamed of freedom. He dreamed that he and Hutch were on a beach, their toes buried in the warm golden sand as they leaned back, faces upturned to the hot sunshine. He dreamed he could hear the sounds of each cerulean, white crested wave as it whispered love words into the hard packed sand at the waters edge. He dreamed he could hear the forlorn, wistful cry of a lone gull, flying overhead and he dreamed that he was about to meet a woman. Not just any woman, but a petite, dark haired, olive skinned woman with eyes that glinted like black diamonds in a small, sweet face. And as he dreamed, his body ignored the bruises inflicted upon it and awakened itself to the possibility that the dream may turn into a reality. The pain medication cushioned him on a comfortable wave of warmth and languor, and he held it to him as a small smile played over his handsome, relaxed features.

Outside the cell, Eleni watched the man. When she had been taken away by the police she had decided that she would hate each and every one of them for separating her from The Diabolos. Since her Mom had died, they had been her lifeline and they doted upon her. Her father had doted on her too, lavishing every gift imaginable upon her. To Eleni it didn’t matter that the gifts were bought with blood stained money, and that in order to own her new sports car, some small gang boss out on the street took another step down the road to self destruction in buying the arms Flint pedalled. Her father was gentle with her, never lifting a finger to her, and, so far as she knew, never hurting anyone else either. And then he died and her uncle had come to join her and help her run the gang. While Eleni Flint was the brains of the operation, Jack Flint, Eleni’s uncle was the brawn and the woman had always been just a little afraid of him. Although she’d never witnessed any of the brutality herself, she had known it had gone on, but had conveniently pushed it to the back of her mind – what she didn’t see couldn’t hurt her. Until now.

The State had wanted her to testify against her gang. Or more properly, against the ring of drug and arms dealers that they represented. She didn’t want to do that, of course. The thought of being taken away from her gang for any length of time was something she just didn’t want to think about. And she didn’t want her uncle to gain control of the Flint empire either. When Starsky and Hutch had been sent to guard her, she’d seen them as the embodiment of the establishment. She hated what she stood for, and in Eleni’s eyes, that translated into hating them. She’d cultivated what she called her “bitch persona” to close out the fact the she found both of them attractive. If anything, she had really taken a liking to the tall, golden blond with the gentle smile and smooth velvety voice. When he tried to talk to her, she felt like a schoolgirl all over again, tongue tied and fragile. But she couldn’t’ afford, in her own eyes, to let the cops see the softer side of Ms Flint, and so she’d ignored them both and shut herself away in the poky motel room, feigning indifference and pushing forward the air of untouchablilty.

When Starsky had been left to guard her that evening, she’d been wondering where the blond one was. She’d never really taken much notice of the curly haired cop. He was the one who just happened to be around when Hutch wasn’t. She’d always had a soft spot for fair haired guys and had more or less discounted Starsky right from the beginning.

Jack Flint and his men had come for her, to “rescue” her. Although she knew that rescue translated into getting her away from the cops so that she couldn’t testify and queer Jack’s pitch and his shot at the Flint Empire. But what had impressed Eleni most about that night had been the ferocity and bravery that Starsky had shown in protecting her. She’d given him no reason to like her. In fact, she’d given him every reason to hate her, and yet he had laid his life on the line for her.

Terrified that her uncle would hurt her too, she had stayed back as she watched Enzo and the other guy fight with the chocolate curled hellion. He’d fought with a passion; an almost feline grace, his body rolling and dodging until she thought he might win. But then Enzo had produced the knife and she’d closed her eyes in horror, first at the wounds which appeared over the muscular body and then again when Enzo drove his knee into Starsky’s crotch.

Starsky moaned in his sleep, his eyelids fluttering over his closed eyes as his lips parted and he mumbled under his breath. The mumbles became louder and his body tensed as he shouted out unintelligibly and shook himself awake. His eyes few open and he listened, his body stiff and his breath coming in ragged pants until he realised where he was and that he was reasonably safe – for the moment. Slowly, he seemed to come to his senses and pushed himself up onto his elbow to reach for the mug of water on the nightstand. His eyes rested on the woman outside the cell and his heart gave a small lurch. He swallowed down the feeling, angry at himself for his weakness, but all the same, it was there, the beginnings of the stirring in his body as he saw her.

‘You been there long?’ he asked, taking a sip of the cool water..

‘Long enough to realise you were having a nightmare. You looked….terrified. Are you ok?’

He smiled ruefully. ‘Legacy of a little trip I took with the Army. M’fine’.

‘Can I come in?’

No, no, no, keep your distance lady the little voice in his head said as his dick gave a small painful lurch. ‘Your call’ he answered as none committally as he could.

She put her hands on the bars. ‘I want to come in there’ she said, her eyes glancing at the metal manacles. ‘Please?’

‘Why?’

‘Just to…keep you company?’ she answered.

He raised his eyebrows. ‘Keep me company? No baseball bats? No knives? Jeez lady, you’re slippin’. But he reached out to the handcuffs and without too much hesitation snicked them around his wrists.

Eleni unlocked the cell door and walked in, closing the door behind her. She walked over to the bunk, and Starsky bent his knees so that she had room to perch on the mattress by the side of him.

‘You hate me, don’t you?’ she asked.

The brunet blew out his cheeks. ‘Not hate ‘xactly. But I don’t take real kindly to folks using me for piata games. Why does it bother ya?’

She stiffened. ‘No reason. Did I say it bothered me?’

‘Well, call me a detective, but when a girl asks questions like that an’ then looks all puppy dog eyes an’ sad, it kinda makes me think she cares’.

‘I do not care! Why should I care? You’re just some way of getting my father back’.

Starsky shuffled a little closer to her. ‘Are you sure? Just a hostage?’

‘Of course’ she said, but she leaned a little closer into him and cautiously, the cop put his arm around her shoulder, the chain from the manacle tickling as it dangled down her back. She stiffened again, hardly breathing and shivered as he started to draw his fingers through the hairs on the back of her neck.

‘What’re you doing?’ she asked uncertainly.

‘Dunno. I just thought…’

‘You’d seduce me and escape? Is that it?’ she snapped, getting up suddenly from the bunk. Starsky’s hand withdrew as though she’d hit him.

‘Oh yeah! Like I can do that with these on’ he muttered, waggling the cuffs at her back. She turned.

‘What?’

‘I can’t get very far chained to the wall’ he reiterated slowly.

‘No. I know’. Her voice was low and sad. There was a pause and Eleni seemed to pull herself together. ‘So, is there anything you’d like to do, to pass the time?’

Starsky gazed at her, trying to decipher what she meant. She’d seemed to come onto him so strongly, but then backed off when he’d reciprocated. And the curly haired cop also couldn’t understand his own motives. Was he trying to seduce her so that she’d let him go? Or was he genuinely falling for her? And if that was the case, was it love, or was Stockholm syndrome setting in? He’d seen some of the guys in the Vet’s hospital who’d been kept in solitary confinement for protracted periods in the POW camps with only their jailer for company. And despite the fact that their jailer had inflicted pain on them, starved them and beaten them, they still became infatuated. Was that what was happening to him now?

He looked at her again as she busied herself with some playing cards and he wondered. Nothing could disguise the interest Little Davey was taking in her, despite the extensive bruising, but he was still confused.

Eleni sat down again on the bed, composed and aloof once more.

‘Would you like to play?’ she asked, rifling the cards in her hands.

He sighed. ‘Ya shouldn’t ask a guy leading questions. I don’t play cards, ‘nless its snap’.

‘I could teach you’.

‘I bet!’

‘We have time’ she said ignoring his comments.

He wiggled the manacles again. ‘Aint ‘xactly goin’ anywhere huh?’ he asked. ‘OK, snap or nuthin’.

She looked at him from under her eyelashes and he couldn’t help noticing that they were thick and black, her eyes sparkling with suppressed humour beneath. She started to deal the cards.

He reached for them, and she thought to herself how delicate and at the same time strong his hands were, and how she would love to feel them running down her body. She shook herself mentally and started to turn over her cards as he took his turn.

Ace of diamonds; three of spades; ten of hearts; ten of…

‘Snap’ his hand darted out to scoop up the cards.

‘It is not!’

‘Is too’ he showed her the two tens on the top of the pile in his hands.

‘Snap is supposed to be two red tens, or two black twos’ she said.

‘Where did you learn to play snap lady? Everyone knows it’s just the numbers ya look at’ he said intensely and she realised his eyes were the deepest blue she’d ever seen.

‘Oh jeez, are you this competitive about everything?’ she snapped and stood up, knocking the small pile of playing cards onto the floor. He reached up and took her arm, stopping her from moving away.

‘Only when I’ve been kidnapped by a pretty lady’ he said softly.

She froze. ‘What did you say?’

‘You heard’

‘You think I’m pretty?’

‘Well, I’ve seen better, but you’re not bad’ he said, grinning as he saw the flash of anger flee across her face. She realised he was joking and relaxed. She sat down again on the pretext of gathering up the cards and once again he put his arm around her.

This time, she leaned into him. He smelled of soap and the antiseptic wash she’d used on his wounds. But beneath it all was the deep, musky scent of Starsky himself and she breathed it in.

Eleni found herself falling under the curly haired cops spell. He was young, lithe, feral and had a hint of danger about him and the sight of him bare chested, his wounds bandaged and with the body warm metal anchoring him to the wall sent a shiver of expectation up her spine. She wanted him. And she wanted him now.

Gently she pressed him back onto the mattress and his body didn’t resist her as her hands started to wander down his chest, trailing tickly trails through the chocolate curls on his chest. He sighed as her hands dipped below his waistband and found his core, her fingers gently and carefully circling his manhood as it sprang up to meet her.

‘Oh Jeez be careful! What’re ya doin’?’ he asked huskily.

‘Getting to know you a little better’ she whispered into his shoulder as her hands continued to work at him. He shuddered beneath her and she stopped. ‘Did I hurt? Sorry’.

‘Uh huh, but it don’t matter’.

She slithered off the bunk, pulling at the drawstring of his pants. ‘Let me kiss it better’ she said as she lowered her lips to him. He cried out at the soft, warm wetness that surrounded his tortured flesh and despite his usual iron control, his body bucked up to meet her as he raped her mouth with his body.

On and on they went, lost in their sexual frenzy, neither being able to get enough of each other. Despite the damage he'd taken to the fmily jewels, the cell, the bars and the manacles only adding an erotic fuel to the fire until at last they lay spent, Eleni spooned against Starsky’s sweat slick body.

He trailed a finger down her spine to the hollows at the base of her back and she sighed.

‘That was fantastic’ she said breathlessly.

‘Yeah, ya certainly got a good bedside manner’ Starsky agreed sleepily, the post coital glow wrapping him in relaxation.

‘I wish we could stay like this forever’.

He paused, his breath halting in his throat until he got himself under control again. ‘Forever? Yeah. Um…how long till they….?’

She raised her head to look up into his face. ‘What?’

‘Till your uncle and his goons invite Hutch over here an’ then come to kill me’

Chapter 14

Hutch grasped the telephone tightly in his hand, beads of perspiration starting to trickle slowly down the sides of his handsome face as he listened to the voice on the other end of the line.

Twenty minutes ago he had been cruising the streets as he had done for the past 2 days looking for clues as to where his partner and the woman had gone. He’d checked any known associates of the Flint family, but had come up with nothing. He’d checked every snitch that he and Starsky had started to use but again drew a blank and even Huggy bear had no information for him. The Diabolos had a fearsome reputation and no-one wanted to have their name associated with grassing them up. It was as though Starsky and Eleni had disappeared off the face of the earth. And meanwhile, the Judge who was due to hear the trial of the four gang members in custody was quietly confident that whatever happened, there would be a conviction.

After the last telephone call almost 4 days ago, the security detail surrounding those men had been doubled and they’d been moved maximum security for their own protection and so that the trial would still go ahead. Hutch had pleaded with Dobey to reconsider, but although the rookie detective desperately wanted his curly headed partner back, deep down he knew that his Captain was right and that to bargain with the Diabolos would send out the wrong message to every goon and whippo in the city. So he hung tight, cruised the streets some more, and hoped against hope that his partner would be ok.

Sleepless nights had been followed by gruelling days as Hutch’s imagination ran riot. He knew just a little about Starsky’s past life, specifically the trauma he’d faced after getting back from ‘Nam. In all their time at the Academy and then the times they’d kept in touch while they were in uniform, Hutch had had nothing but admiration for the dark haired guy. And truth to tell, he was still beating himself up about the fact that it should have been him on duty that night. As for the woman, she was a royal pain in the ass, and now, it seemed, dangerous too.

Deep down, Hutch wanted to ride off into the sunset and set about his own crusade to find Starsky. In the short time they’d worked the streets together they’d begun to build up a rapport which transcended mere colleagues. They were close. In the couple of months they’d been partnered, they had a better relationship with each other than some of the older detectives who’d been partnered for years. The core of the matter was Hutch wanted Starsky back with a need that burned at his soul. Not just because a friends life was on the line, but more because he couldn’t now contemplate riding with any other man.

And then, twenty minutes ago, he received an urgent patch through from Dobey saying that the same guy had been on the phone and they wanted to speak to Hutch. He would ring back. Hutch had slammed the mars light on his car and floored the gas pedal and had arrived back at the Metro with five minutes to spare. Those five minutes had been the longest of his life as he sat and waited with Dobey in the little office for the telephone to ring. During that time, Dobey had regarded the anxious blond with some sympathy. Hutch looked all in and was most definitely on the edge. Each small noise, each rattle of a typewriter key or thud of cup on a desktop made him jump and his fingers were constantly knotting and unknotting in front of him.

There was deathly silence in the small office. Both Dobey and Hutch were lost in their own thoughts and neither felt in the mood for conversation. The 4 day deadline was upon them and the Metro had stuck to its guns – no trade, no negotiations. The trial would go on and the men would not be released. Starsky was on his own and Hutch hated it.

At precisely noon, the ringing of the telephone shattered the silence. Both men looked up, neither wanting to lift the receiver, neither wanting to be the one to bear witness to the brunet’s fate. It rang once, twice and as it rang a third time, Hutch sprang up and grasped it, his knuckles white.

‘Hutchinson’.

‘Ah Detective. And how are you?’ the same silky voice asked him down the phone.

‘Peachy. Where’s my partner?’

‘All in good time, Detective. More to the point, where are our men? Your time is up and so far as I can tell, they still seem to be in jail. Why is that? Don’t you value Detective Starsky’s life?’

‘Just tell me where he is. You didn’t ring up for a friendly chat. Your goons are still safe, but they ain’t gonna be released any time soon. But there’s still a way to resolve this. We…’

‘There’s no other way than to do the exchange’ the voice cut Hutch off mid sentence. ‘I gave you a deadline, it’s passed an’ I don’t see our men’.

Hutch breathed deep, trying to calm himself. What was he supposed to say? The powers that be had decreed that they wouldn’t negotiate, and yet they weren’t the ones who now had to deal with the hostage takers, they were still sat in their sanitised ivory towers.

‘They aren’t here. We don’t negotiate. But if you tell me where to get my partner, safe and sound, we can salvage something from this’.

‘Shut the fuck up! You’re like a parrot, repeating the party line over and over again. There’s nothing to salvage ‘cept your partner’s dead body’.

Hutch winced at the words as though they were blows and his heart picked up it’s hammering, staccato beat. The blond. saw Dobey’s face, impassively watching the young detective as a trickle of sweat ran into one crystal blue eye and stung him.

‘Don’t! No, we can talk. There must be something. Maybe we can delay the trial, get your men lawyers….’ Hutch tried desperately.

‘Enough Hutchinson. Enough talking. The time for talking is done. You didn’t do what we wanted, so now you suffer the consequences’.

Hutch gripped the phone even tighter. ‘No, listen you bastard, just…’

His words were shut off as he heard his partner’s voice in the background. There was a commotion and Hutch could hear that Starsky was shouting, although he couldn’t tell exactly what he was saying. There was confusion and what sounded like a struggle with footsteps shuffling on the ground and the blond could almost see the struggle thatwas taking place wherever they were holding his partner. And then Hutch’s heart lurched into his mouth. There were more shouts, more sounds of struggling and then an ear battering silence as he heard a shot ring out, a scream, and then another shot.

The voice came back onto the telephone.

‘Too late Hutchinson. You can collect the body now. You’ll find him out at Citrus Ridge. Get there soon, the sun’s gonna start dryin’ his body out pretty soon’. The phone went dead and there was dead silence in the small office, the clock in the corner ticking obscenely loudly and marking the seconds after the brunet's death.

‘They shot him! I can’t….Oh my God, they shot him’ Hutch stumbled backwards and almost fell into the chair as Dobey came around the table to rest a fatherly hand on the blond’s shoulder. The Captain too was visibly shaken.

‘Hutch. C’mon now. We did….you did everything you could. We just um… we just…’ Dobey’s voice fizzled out into nothingness as he absorbed the enormity of what had happened. The big black man sighed, trying to get his emotions under control. He coughed, clearing his throat which seemed to be clogged with a huge obstruction. ‘We need to get up to Citrus Ridge to see what’s really happened’.

Hutch turned a pale face up to his Captain. ‘They shot him….that’s what really happened. I can’t believe it. They just….I couldn’t do nothing and they just shot him. I heard him scream and the bastards shot him... twice’ the blond’s voice rambled on. Dobey recognised the signs of shock, Hutch’s shoulders trembling violently beneath his grip. He patted the young man’s shoulder and got a cup of water from the dispenser. He handed it to Hutch who took it with a shaking hand.

‘We need to tell IA’ Dobey said gruffly. ‘We need to notify the authorities and um… his Mom’. Dobey’s voice cracked and he ran his large white hanky over his face. ‘Where’ve I heard the name before? Citrus Ridge…’

‘Cowboy films’ the shaken blond cop replied, his voice a monotone. He continued to stare at the floor, but a deep anger was growing inside him. It was fine for Dobey to start looking at the mechanics. Great! Tell IA, but while the mountains of paperwork were being filled in, Hutch needed to be doing something. And doing something translated in the blond head to going east to pick up Starsky’s body and avenge him. Eleni Flint and her henchmen were history. He’d arrest them if he could, or he’d kill them where they stood. But somehow, some way, he was going to get even.

Dobey looked surprised at the answer he’d received. ‘Huh?’

‘Citrus ridge - They used to film cowboy films there. It’s that place that was set up like a real Wild West town. Been deserted for a couple of years now. The film makers just stopped usin’ it. Too expensive I guess’.

‘Do you know where it is?’

Hutch sighed. ‘Kinda. I once took Van’s nephew there for a treat. Its up on the edge of the Mojave. Maybe 2 hours east of here’.

‘Ok, well at least I know where to send the um…’.

‘What about his Mom? Are you gonna tell her that her eldest son is dead?’ Hutch asked, anger shining in his crystal blue eyes. ‘I don’t know how you can be so calm. A damned good detective….my partner has just been killed in cold blood an’ all you can think about is telling IA an’ getting a meat wagon up there? Jeez, Cap’n, feel the love in this room!

Dobey’s face turned angry. Despite the fact that Hutch was young and in shock, the veteran Captain was hurting too. ‘Now listen here Hutchinson! D’ya think I don’t care? I was fond of him too ya know. But procedures have to be followed. An’ right now I have to act as his Captain and not some soapy kid, ok?’

Hutch stood, his boss’ words adding fuel to the rage simmering inside him. ‘No, not Ok’ he said, his temper finally overflowing. His face reddened and there was a fine white line around his lips. His hands still shook, but this time with anger. ‘I’m not just gonna sit around here and act like some pet dog just died. This is a man we’re talking about. A damned good man. My partner…my…brother, an’ if you’re just gonna calmly sit down and fill in all your fuckin’ forms, fine. But I need to do something to stop those flakes from doing anything like this ever again’. He made for the door, his long legs propelling him across the room in two strides.

‘Hutchinson, where are you going?’ Dobey thundered.

‘You know damned well where I’m going. I’m going to get him back, whatever condition he’s in’ and with that, Hutch flung open the door and slammed it behind him, leaving his Captain looking on in stunned silence.

Chapter 15

Eleni sat by the side of the sleeping man and resisted the urge to run her fingers through the hairs on his chest. Something about the sight of him, injured and bandaged made her hot under the collar and she paused for a moment to wonder at just how sick she could be. How could she get off on seeing a guy in pain? But this man was different. He was a complicated mixture of innocent child, world smart adult, vulnerable victim and dangerous captive and the more she was with him, the more she wanted him.

Over the past few days, she’d found herself coming down to the cell more and more often, and after their first sensual session of love making, she’d yearned for his body more than she cared to admit. The work of running the gang had taken a back seat to her newly born relationship with the man – she couldn’t bring herself to think of Starsky as her captive any more, even though the cell door remained locked and the manacles hung from their chains as a reminder of his captivity. Enzo and her Uncle Jack were now more at the helm than she would have liked, but she was young – only 23 and the prospect of a flirtation with the brunet eclipsed all other feelings and responsibilities.

Starsky moaned in his sleep and his eyes fluttered before opening a crack. Thick, dark lashes lifted from his tanned cheeks and Eleni caught a glimpse of the blue within blue eyes beneath. He sighed and rolled over onto his back as she looked at him and smiled.

‘Lo’ he mumbled, his voice thick with sleep. The pain killers she’d given him previously had worked so well that he’d allowed her to give him a second dose, and now he fought the soporific effects as he pushed himself into a sitting position on the bunk. Reflexively he winced at the small pain from his left arm and his right hand folded protectively over the incision on his stomach. Eleni couldn’t take her eyes of his hands, and for a moment was lost in her own world.

Starsky tried again. ‘You ok? You seemed miles away’.

She smiled again. ‘I’m fine. How are you? Are you still in pain?’

‘Some’ he admitted. ‘But it’s not bad. The knock out drops help’. He paused a moment, uncertain. ‘Didn’t ya forget somethin’?’

‘Huh?’

The brunet reached for the manacles, programmed now that when Eleni was with him, he should wear them. Although they were hard and cold, they weren’t uncomfortable and the length of chain was long enough that they didn’t really restrict his movements too much either. And if it meant he could see some more of her, he didn’t really mind the cumbersome jewellery any more, even though he still rebelled against being classed as a captive. But she’d insisted and now he was about to willingly put them around his wrists. His eyes flew wide when she put out a restraining hand and stopped him.

‘You don’t need to’ she said softly.

‘Aren’t ya scared I’m gonna overpower ya and make a bid for freedom?’ he asked with a wry grin.

‘I was kinda hoping you…’

‘What? Ya want me to escape? Coz, lady, I’m tellin’ ya, I wouldn’t need much persuadin’.

‘No, not escape. But maybe….’ She leaned closer to him. Feeling the heat from his bed-warm body as she closed the gap between them until she could rest her head on his shoulder.

He kissed her long, slim neck and she shivered slightly at the touch of his lips. ‘Maybe overpower ya?’ he asked huskily. His arms slid around her and drew her to him as he breathed in her scent. She smelled of lemons and verbena and the perfume filled his head. What was he doing? He should be trying to escape? He should be overpowering her and making his bid for freedom, but instead he wanted to stay and take pleasure in her body and her company. Starsky had never felt that way before. When he’d been a POW, his captivity had been long and intensely painful and his feelings for the Vietnamese guards had bordered on cold hatred. And that was the only experience he’d had to compare to this one. So why should he feel this way about Eleni? She’d stood by and watched as he’d been hurt. She’d treated him like dirt when they’d met and he’d called her cold hearted and a brat. So what had changed?

Admitting to himself, he nodded wryly. Yup, Stockholm syndrome had bit badly. But was it just that? Or was there real feeling in there too? She let others hurt him for sure, but then she’d come to try to heal him. What was all that about, because he didn’t buy that he was just being made better to be a more valuable hostage. That just didn’t work for him. So was there some genuine feeling there?

Deciding that there were too many difficult concepts for his brain to cope with, Starsky fell back on his gut instincts. And his gut instincts told him that she wanted him and he wanted her. What could be simpler? And what his body told him, he usually relied upon. So now that Little Davey was once more showing a marked interest in his target, Starsky was going to follow the lead. He pulled Eleni to him and kissed her deeply, his tongue forcing her lips apart so that he could ravish her mouth with his. She moaned and pressed her body to him so that he felt her warmth against his bare chest.

Wriggling away from him, she insinuated herself between the wall and his body and lay down on the bunk, looking up into his face with barely masked longing.

‘Take me?’ she said quietly.

‘What, here? What if your uncle comes, or maybe that huge freak?’

‘They’re all busy…..please?’ she put her hands up to his face and pulled him down to her so that she could kiss his lips once again. Starsky's body responded and he returned the embrace, shifting down until he was laying beside her on the narrow bed. Deftly, he unbuttoned her blouse and pushed aside her lace bra so that he could kiss her breasts, his tongue flicking over her nipple. She mewed beneath him as his hands continued their exploration while his teeth and lips kept her nipple a prisoner.

Dipping his hand lower, he ran his fingers lightly up and down her naked legs as she opened them slightly, inviting him in. His fingers explored further and dipped inside her as she shivered beneath him, arching her back to meet him and drive him further into her. Starsky responded, gently at first, but the rhythm of his strokes continued until Eleni was gasping and writhing beneath him.

Her hands pulled at the string of his pants, ripping the material over his hips as she pulled Starsky on top of her own body.

‘Please…now?’ she said, her eyes bright with intensity.

And the brunet grinned wolfishly and gave her exactly what she wanted, his body hard and hot as it entered her, gently at first and then harder and harder until he was thrusting into her hard and fast, his thinking brain gone, taken over by pure animal lust until they both reached a shattering climax.

But still Starsky continued to pleasure her. His body still hard and moving inside her as she carded her fingers through his hair and ran them lightly down the back of his neck.

They were locked in each other’s arms, lost in each other’s bodies and moving to each other’s tune. So much so that they didn’t hear the gate clang open at the end of the corridor, and neither did they see the figure that stood outside the cell. But Jack Flint saw the two lovers.

‘Eleni! What the hell?’

She stiffened at the sound of her uncle’s voice and Starsky rolled off her, to kneel by the side of the bed. The girl pulled down her skirt and sat up on the bunk, pulling the rest of her clothing around her.

‘What the hell are you doing here? Spying on me?’ She asked angrily

‘Someone’s got to protect you from yourself. Look at you! He’s our leverage, not some fuck-of-the-week. For god’s sake, pull yourself together!’ Jack Flint said coldly.

Eleni leapt of the bed and flung open the cell door, her arm raised to strike the man, but Flint was quicker and stronger. He caught her fist in his own and with the other hand, slapped her across the face.

In an instant, Starsky was on his feet, pushing Flint away and pulling Eleni into his arms protectively.

‘Get your grimy hands off of her’ he growled, pushung the woman behind him so that he shielded her with his body.

Flint snorted. ‘Aww ‘Leni, look, you got yourself a little puppy guard dog. All teeth an’ bluster huh?’

Starsky swung for the big man, but Flint was not the one who’d been cooped up injured in the cell for four days and he ducked as the brunet took his swing, then landed a telling blow into Starsky’s stomach, right over the knife wound. The brunet felt some of the stitches tear and bent double, grasping at his middle.

Without another look, Flint backed out of the cell and motioned to Enzo, who had been waiting silently outside. ‘Bring him’ he said curtly. ‘And you, Eleni, come with me’.

The woman paused by the side of her lover, but the curly haired cop brushed her away and reluctantly she followed her uncle up the stairs and into the main office. She hated Jack Flint and was even a little scared of him. In all the time since her father’s death, when she’d kept the Diabolos together, he’d been there in the background, champing at the bit and she knew he desperately wanted to lead the gang himself. So now she trod carefully, for she knew Jack Flint would stop at nothing – not even killing his own niece – to build his own little empire.

Standing by the side of the desk in the small room, she watched in horror as Enzo dragged Starsky in and dumped him on the ground. Starsky got to his knees, but stayed there and the woman could see a trickle of fresh blood edging down the side of his mouth. Enzo had been thorough, if nothing else.

Starsky watched impassively as Flint reached for the telephone and dialled a number. The pains of the newly opened wound on his stomach ate at him and as he looked down, he saw the fresh bloom of blood on the white dressing. But the pain also sharpened his senses and he listened for who would answer at the other end. His heart leaped when he heard Hutch’s voice at the other end of the telephone, although his partner sounded weary and tense.

He was tempted to shout out to the blond that he was ok, but Enzo must have seen him tensing to cry out and clamped a meaty fist over his mouth. He listened to the one sided conversation.

‘Ah Detective. And how are you?……..’

He heard Hutch’s voice weakly over the connection Peachy. Where’s my partner?’

‘All in good time, Detective. More to the point, where are our men? Your time is up and so far as I can tell, they still seem to be in jail. Why is that? Don’t you value Detective Starsky’s life?….’

Starsky couldn’t hear the reply, but he could tell by the look on Flint’s face that things were not going as he had planned

……‘There’s no other way than to do the exchange. I gave you a deadline, its passed an’ I don’t see our men’

Again a pause as the blond’s voice sounded faintly over the airwaves and then Flint exploded.

…….‘Shut the fuck up! You’re like a parrot, repeating the party line over and over again. There’s nothing to salvage ‘cept your partner’s dead body’.

At that, Starsky raised his head and stared defiantly at Flint above the hand that was still clamped across his mouth. He so wanted to yell to Hutch that he was ok and that things would work out right, even if they didn’t, because the sound of raw pain in his partner’s voice was almost too much for him to bear. He started to struggle with Enzo, but the big man held him down on his knees on the ground, his other oversized fist pinning the brunet’s hands behind his back. Starsky heard Hutch yelling down the phone clearly now, an edge of panic in the usual velvety voice.

‘Don’t! No, we can talk. There must be something. Maybe we can delay the trial, get your men lawyers….’.

No buddy, don’t plead with ‘em. They’re just piles of shit. Don’t lower yourself Blintz.

Flint continued, an evil, ugly look coming over his face. ‘Enough Hutchinson. Enough talking. The time for talking is done. You didn’t do what we wanted, so now you suffer the consequences’.

Flint held the phone out, away from his ear. At a nod from his boss, Enzo drew a small, deadly looking revolver from his waistband. He cocked it and without pause, pulled the trigger. The report of the shot echoed round the room and Eleni screamed once as Enzo emptied another chamber of his gun in the same direction.

Calmly, in the preternatural quiet of the aftermath, Flint put down the phone and looked around as Eleni sobbed into her hands.

Chapter 16

Hutch ran from the precinct, his heart hammering in his chest. He closed his mind to the images it was trying to form. No way did he want to imagine his partner dead, or dying on the floor surrounded by men who hated him. He had to get there and he had to get there quick. What had Dobey said? He isn’t dead until he’s dead in your head. Well Gordo, I’m gonna keep on thinking you’re alive till I have hard evidence otherwise. Got that?

The blond got to his car and gunned the engine into life, fishtailing the big car out of the parking lot and into the traffic, aiming the nose of the big vehicle East and towards the desert, the mountains behind the city looming over him like some malevolent force trying to stop his rescue attempt right there and then. As he drove with his left hand, his right was busy thumbing through a worn map of the area and as he hit the quieter roads out of town, he snook quick looks at the map to try to get his bearings. Citrus Ridge was right on the borders of the desert and crazily was marked with a tourist sign on the map. Hutch snorted to himself. Talk about X marks the spot!

The car just didn’t seem to want to go quick enough for him and Hutch’s fevered imagination was beginning to work overtime. If Starsky had been injured – shot twice – was he dead already? Or had they left him wounded. How long did it take a man to bleed to death? Some of the gorier facts that Hutch had drummed into himself from medical school came back to him now. If Starsky had between 10 and twelve pints in him and he was shot somewhere near a main artery – femoral for example, he could bleed to death in a little over an hour, and that was with assistance from someone else to try to stem the bleeding. If he was on his own? It was anyone’s guess. So an hour topside. OK Hutchinson, get your ass into gear. C’mon, Blondie move that butt now!

Hutch pressed the gas pedal, although his foot was almost at the metal now as he nursed his LTD through the steep bends of the mountain road. The big car fought for traction on the dust covered road and at one point, Hutch almost lost control and the big car came perilously close to coming off the mountain there and then. Reluctanlty he slowed a little. Wouldn’t do for him to die on his way to saving his partner – if Starsky was still alive. Stop it. Don’t think like that. He IS alive damn you. He’s got to be.

Cresting the ridge, Hutch saw the valley behind the mountain trailing down to a long plain and in the distance the heat haze which marked the start of the Mojave. Not a desert of red dust sand, the Mojave in this area was more stubble and shrubby plants low lying to the ground. A desolate place and not somewhere the blond particularly wanted to walk into trouble. But he squared his shoulders and set the car to rolling down the hill towards his friend.

oOo

The shots ricocheted around the small room, deafening those within. Eleni had watched in horror as Jack Flint had laid down the telephone receiver on the table. The revolver in Enzo’s hand was aimed at Starsky’s head and her stomach lurched as she saw the flash of defiance in the indigo eyes above Enzo’s hand. No fear, just a belligerent anger, slow burning and dangerous as Starsky stared death in the face.

There was a split second during which time seemed to slow to the crawl of a tortoise. In that split second, Starsky calculated his possibilities and as he felt the muscle in the huge man’s arm start to contract against the trigger of the gun, he made his move.

Kneeling as he was, Starsky was in front of Enzo and the big man had had to release his hand from over the brunet’s mouth in order to get the gun drawn, although his other hand still pinned Starsky’s hands behind his back.

Like a rattler striking for the kill, the curly haired cop drove his head backwards into Enzo’s groin, the force of the impact rattling Starsky’s teeth on his head, but it had the desired effect. The big man wasn’t expecting his captive to fight back, and although the blow would have had a lesser man gasping on the floor with their hands between their legs, the blow served only to deflect Enzo’s shot. But that was enough. He let go Starsky’s hands and the brunet was immediately on his feet, clutching Enzo’s gun in his two hands as he struggled against the mountain of a man. Again, Starsky brought he knee up full force between his assailant’s legs and this time Enzo gave a strangled, mewling type of cry before the gun discharged a second time into the air. The shot tore through Starsky’s left upper arm at close quarters and drove a dry scream from him, but it was only a glancing blow. It served to spin the cop sideways out of the way of the fists that were searching for him and he dived across the room towards Eleni.

It took Flint a moment to understand what was going on and desperate to quiet the furore in the room he slammed the phone back down as the last of the shots rang out.

‘Get him’ he yelled as he saw Starsky reach for Eleni’s hand and dive out of the room, slamming the door behind him. But Enzo was still clutching himself on the ground and the others were looking around them in chaos. ‘I said get them’ Flint yelled again at his men. They pulled themselves together and wrenched the door to the corridor open. But they’d seen how Starsky fought – like a terrier dog who’d been cornered, all snarl, teeth and claws, and none of them really wanted to get too close right now. Cautiously, they made their way out into the corridor, searching.

The brunet pulled the startled woman behind him as he plunged down the dark corridor from the room. The steps down to his familiar cell yawned to his right, but instinct told him that escaping down stairs was never a good option. No, they needed a room that was defensible, where they could wait, hopefully, for help to arrive.

‘D’ya know this place well?’ he hissed at the girl.

‘Yeah, why?’

‘We need somewhere to hole up. I need to get my arm fixed an’ then we need to be able to defend ourselves till help arrives’ he explained as they continued running.

‘Here’ she said, and yanked him sideways into a small room to his right. They ducked inside and closed the door. Eleni locked it, but it was a puny affair and wouldn’t stand up to much pummelling.

Starsky looked around and realised it was the woman’s bedroom they’d entered. ‘Aww honey. How romantic!’ he grinned. ‘Here, help me’.

Together, they upended the bed and pushed the mattress against the door, wedging it there with the bedstead. They could hear muffled pounding and the mattress shook slightly, but held fast and Starsky sat back on his haunches, back against the wall beneath the small window as he gasped for breath.

Quietly, Eleni opened a drawer in a chest and removed a first aid kit and as Starsky sat still, she started to wind a white bandage around the free flowing blood on his arm.

‘We’re making a habit of this’ she said softly, more to hide her fear than for conversation.

‘Uh huh. Does it look bad?’ he asked, peering at the bloody gash.

‘No, It got you over the knife wound. It looks like it was a glancing wound. There’s no bullet in there. How’s it feel?’ se asked as she tied the knot on the fabric.

‘Not bad, and’ there’s a bright side’ Starsky said as he levered himself up to peer out of the window.

‘Yeah? What?’

‘Only one scar’ he said with a wry grin. ‘Ya don’t happen to have a gun in here do ya?’

‘Ladies bedroom’s are for loving, not fighting’ Eleni said softly, but she reached into another drawer nonetheless and pulled out a small Derringer. ‘But a girl can’t be too careful’.

Starsky took the small gun. It was like a toy in his hands, but he knew it had enough stopping power for short range work, and that’s all they’d need. He peered out of the small window again. ‘It’s only a matter of time before they come lookin’ through there. We need to move the wardrobe in front of the window, so they can’t get in there’.

‘And then what?’ she asked

‘And then we wait. We’ve only one gun an’ two of us. No match for ‘em, but if I know Hutch, he’ll be on his way right now’.

‘But the phone call. He thinks you’re dead’ Eleni said. Her voice was soft and scared. Starsky put his good right arm around her and pulled her to him.

‘He’ll come. I know he will. And then we’re getting outa here’.

oOo

Hutch approached the deserted town quietly, deciding to park his car behind a stand of bushes a little way from the town’s border. He got out and the heat hit him immediately, the sun beating down on him and sapping his energy. But he ran forward, dodging from one bush to the next and always keeping himself hidden from any prying eyes in the buildings lining the main street,

“Welcome to Citrus Ridge – Population 0” the sign by the bank declared to any who ventured in. It was indeed a ghost town and the movie makers who had built it had done a good job. Each building was complete as though there had indeed been a Wild West town living there. The main street was lined with a bank, the ubiquitous bar, a staging post, general store and at the far end of the street, the sheriff’s office and jail.

Ducking around the back of the buildings, Hutch saw that they too were complete and he began to duck beneath the windows of the various buildings, gun down as he worked his way down the back, pausing now and again to see if he could hear anything.

He froze as a single shot rang out at the end of the street, the pushed himself forward until he was beneath one of the windows in the sheriff’s office. He ducked up and tried to look through the window, but it seemed to be boarded up. The only entrance into the place would be round the front and inside he could hear shouts and loud voices. This could be the only place where Starsky cold be being held.

Hunkering down, he ran around the front of the building and pressed himself against the wall, gun pointing skywards as he caught his breath and wondered just what the hell he was going to do now.

Another shot rang out and galvanised him into action. Taking a moment to peer inside the office through the glass window in the door, he saw the room was deserted and quickly he yanked open the door and took a rolling dive inside coming once again neatly to his feet close to the door his partner had used earlier to run down the corridor. As he peeked around the corner, Hutch saw three men pounding at a door at the end of the dark space. He pulled his head back, knelt by the side of the door and tried to gather his thoughts.

OK Hutchinson. Three against one. Not bad odds. You have a gun, but seems they do too. Well ya got the element of surprise on your side maybe. Uh huh, but that aint gonna last long. Well no, but even if you only take one of ‘em out, that’s narrowed the odds. OK, enough procrastination. Go for it!

The flaxen haired cop came to his feet, darted out into the corridor and loosed a shot into the dark shadows. He heard a grunt and a sound as though a sack of something had hit the ground and a muttered cursing from the other men.

The cursing seemed to be getting closer and suddenly Hutch realised that his plan had backfired and the men were hotfooting it back up the corridor, their new target being him!

Chapter 17

Starsky heard the commotion outside the room. He and Eleni had been pushing themselves up against the upturned mattress in an effort to keep the men from getting into the small bedroom and for the most part had succeeded in keeping their assailants at bay. And then he heard the cannon shot from away off, a pained exclamation and then all hell broke lose.

The woman looked at him in fear.

‘What’s going on?’ she hissed, pushing herself against him.

‘Dunno for sure, but I think the cavalry’s just come over the hill’ the brunet grinned. ‘If I’m right, Hutch has found us an’ he needs our help as much as we needed his. Here, help me get this stuff away from the door’. He started to tug at the cumbersome mattress, but Eleni took hold of his arm, swinging him around.

‘What if you aren’t right? What if it’s something else?’ she said, her eyes dark with fear.

Starsky turned and took her in his arms. He hugged her tightly, then put his hands on the sides of her face and pulled her into a deep kiss, savouring the moment and breathing courage into her. Letting go, he stared into her eyes. ‘If it’s sumthin else honey, we go down fightin’.

Eleni pulled away, slightly breathless. ‘Why did I know you were going to say something like that?’ she smiled and started to help him pull the stopper away from the door.

As they worked they heard another shot ring out, a little further off and they redoubled their efforts. Hauling the door open, Starsky took a quick look outside. The dead body of one of Flint’s men was sprawled in front of the door, and as he looked up the corridor, he had just time to see a flash of flaxen locks disappearing, hotly pursued by the two remaining Diabolo men.

Drawing the small Derringer and checking it was loaded and cocked, Starsky pushed the woman back into the room.

‘Stay there’ he hissed. She nodded at him and watched as the curly haired cop edged up the corridor.

Back in the sheriff’s main office, Hutch had upturned the heavy desk and was hunkered down behind it, desperately looking for an out. But his exits were all sealed off and the two men were now ranged one by the side of the door of the corridor, and one by the door out into the main street. There was another door in the corner, but Hutch had no idea where that lead to and it would be just his luck for him to run slap bang into a broom closet.

He took a quick look over the desk, but ducked down quickly, a shot ringing out and splintering the fine mahogany wood, sending shards of splinters flying. One of them lodged in his cheek, beneath his eye. He felt it, rather than saw it and reflexively he reached up and pulled the two inch fragment away, seeing the end bloody. He felt the trickle of blood start to flow down his cheek, but other more pressing things took priority.

‘You may as well come out, we have you trapped’ one of the guys yelled at him.

‘I just want my partner’s body. Then I’m outa here’ Hutch yelled back. He checked the chambers of his gun. Four bullets left. He reached inside his back jeans pocket and slipped another two into the chamber, rolling the barrel back into place.

‘No deals Hutchinson. Your scrawny assed partner didn’t serve us real well. Let’s see whether the head honchos will deal when there’s two cop’s lives on the line’.

Hutch froze. Two cops lives. That meant…..oh my God! Starsky was still alive! His instincts had been right all along. If it hadn’t been for being holed up behind a desk in some godforsaken office in a ghost town, pinned down by two gunmen, he’d be jumping for joy.

The good news renewed his courage. Starsky was alive. He was ok. Well, maybe not ok, but he wasn’t dead. OK Hutchinson, think! What d’ya do now? As he ducked up over the desk again, Hutch could see a dark shape coming up behind the guy at the top of the corridor. His eyes had just enough time to catch the movement, before the gunman aimed and fired another shot at the desk. The bullet went clean through the mahogany and sliced a neat path across the top of the blond’s shoulder. Hutch looked down at the fresh wound, smelling the coppery tang of his own blood and cursed under his breath although adrenaline stopped the pain from making it's presence felt. He fumbled in his jeans pocket and took out his hanky, slapping the newly laundered material over the wound with a small hiss of pain. He managed another quick look and as he ducked down again he heard an achingly familiar voice.

‘On your belly punk’.

Starsky drove the muzzle of the small Derringer into the side of the big man’s neck and the gunman froze, his hands in mid air. In slow motion, his fist opened and he dropped his gun onto the ground.

‘Kick it over towards the desk’.

Hutch heard the clattering of metal on the hard tiled floor and snook another look which nearly cost him his head. The second gunman had see what was going on and that he was now left without backup and it had spurred him on to greater efforts. Bullets were flying high and wide as he tried to give himself enough time to open the door and bolt out into the street.

The man managed to yank open the door just as the door in the opposite corner of the room opened and Jack Flint stuck out his head, gun raised threateningly in front of him. He came out like a bull from the trap and launched himself into the middle of the room. In the split second that followed, Starsky dove to meet Flint, Hutch shot the man by the door and Eleni followed Starsky into the room.

Flint’s gun discharged just once before the brunet knocked it from his hand and as the two scrabbled together on the ground. Starsky tried to get a strangle hold around Flint’s neck, but the big man hit out at Starsky’s wounded left arm and the brunet yelled in pain, pulling the injured arm back from his opponent’s clutches. He tried again, scrabbling to get the upper hand, but Flint was bigger, more of a heavyweight and was uninjured. He pushed Starsky easily away and the cop slithered away from him to get his breath and regroup. Hutch vaulted over the desk, kicked Flint’s gun a safe distance away and held his own Colt Python unwaveringly pointing at Flint’s head.

‘I’d back off from my partner if I were you’ he said, a cold hint of steel in his usually velvety voice.

Starsky looked up and slid the rest of the way out as Flint stared down the single eye of the gun above him. He stopped fighting. He knew when he was beaten and there was no way he could fight both armed men single handed.

Hutch took his cuffs out from his waistband and threw them to the panting brunet.

‘You want to do the honours buddy?’ he asked with a smile. Starsky nodded and opened the silver metal bracelets and snicked them over Flint’s wrists as Hutch came to bend down beside him. He knelt, panting and slightly shaky, looking down at Flint on the ground beside him. The gang leader had gone quiet and was staring back at the cop with a look of pure hatred.

‘Starsk, are you ok?’ Hutch said gently, observing the blood running freely down Starsky’s left arm and across his middle

‘Aside from a couple’a holes that shouldn’t be there, yeah, I’m good. What kept ya?’ Starsky grinned.

‘Well, I….’ his words were cut off by a strangled whimper from behind them. Both men turned as one to see Eleni, on the ground clutching her hands to her stomach. From between her interlaced fingers, a steady trickle of blood oozed. The single shot from Flint’s gun had gone wild and by some fluke had hit her instead of its intended target.

Starsky crawled quickly over to her, cupping her face tenderly with his hand. ‘Honey, are you hurt? Tell me, here, lemme look’ he said, trying to pull her hands free.

‘S sorry’ she whispered.

Hutch knelt on the floor in the middle of the room, leaning on Flint to stop the big man from struggling, and tried to make sense of the sight in front of him. Had his partner just called her “honey”? Eleni Flint hated them, right? Starsky hated Eleni, didn’t he? And they’d kidnapped him, and by the looks of it had hurt him. So why the big tender moment?

‘Starsk?’ Hutch said, confusion thick in his voice

‘Hutch get over here. She needs a doctor’ the brunet said urgently.

The big blond shuffled over to look at the woman, who’s eyes were closed against the pain. She looked grey and she shivered uncontrollably.

‘Starsk, buddy, will ya tell me what’s going on?’

‘She needs help’.

‘I can see that buddy, but that’s not what I meant an’ you know it’.

‘Just help her huh? I’ll explain later. Can ya help her Hutch?’ Starsky pleaded.

‘She needs a doctor, an ambulance at the very least’.

‘I’ll go an’ call it in. But you can help her, right?’

Hutch turned weary eyes on his partner. ‘How can I help her?’

‘You went to med school. You know these things. Just help her…..Hutch, please?’

‘I went to med school for two years Starsky. I’m no doctor!’

‘You know more than me. Ya must know what to do. Ya can do sumthin for her surely!’ Starsky took hold of Hutch’s arm, pleading with his friend. ‘Please, Hutch. Are ya gonna help her or what Hutchinson? Coz if you won’t, move over an’ I’ll do what I can’.

Hutch looked at the wound again. The bullet had entered just off centre in the woman’s stomach and she was loosing blood fast. He placed a hand on her wrist and felt the fast, weak pulse, noticing the signs of shock. His training kicked in and he knelt by her side, his mind back in medical school and Prof Petersen’s voice ringing in his head.

Check the skin and mucous membranes – they are likely to be very pale. Establish the exact location of the entry wound – left side of the trunk over the eighth rib, in the anterior axillary line. Skin surrounding wound will be burned and discoloured. Check pulse - rapid and of poor volume and tension. Extremities are likely to be hyperaesthetic’.

Hutch went over the woman’s body with hands that had not practiced the skill for years, but which instinctively knew what to do. And he knew Eleni didn’t have too much time.

‘Ok ok. Just go call, it in. Emergency – she needs surgery, fast. GO’ he shouted to Starsky’s fleeing back. He was left alone with the woman.

Eleni opened her eyes. ‘Dave?’ she mumbled.

‘He’s gone to get help. Lie still and don’t talk. You need to conserve your energy’.

‘He said you’d come’ she whispered, a feeble smile on her lips.

‘Uh huh. Well, I’m an obliging kinda guy’.

‘Never meant…..t’hurt him’.

‘You’ve got a funny way of showing it lady. Sssh…no, don’t try to move. Just lie still huh?’

Her eyes opened and she fixed Hutch with a stare. ‘He’s…..special’.

The blond smiled. ‘You don’t need to tell me. I know already. Now don’t talk. The special guy’s gone to get an ambulance an’ he’ll be mad as hell if I don’t have you under control when he gets back. So help me out huh? No more talking. Just rest’.

Hutch took off his shirt and balled it into some semblance of a bandage. Gently, he took her hands away from the wound and pushed the cotton against it, replacing her hands over it and adding his own as he pressed firmly against the bleeding. She moaned, but said nothing more.

Starsky came running back into the office moments later, and behind him, the big, brown bulk of their captain. Dobey assessed the situation and ran swiftly to his car for his first aid kit. Returning, he handed it to the blond who continued to work over Eleni.

Starsky knelt by her side and replaced Hutch’s hands with his own. She groaned and he ran his fingers lightly through her hair.

‘How’s it goin’?’ he asked gently.

She opened her eyes. ‘You’re back’ she breathed.

‘Uh huh. Can’t get rid of me, I’m like a bad penny’. He looked at his partner and mouthed ‘How bad?’

Hutch shrugged his shoulders. ‘So far as I can tell, the bullet’s lodged somewhere in her stomach. If she gets to a hospital fast, she might make it’.

The dark haired cop smiled. ‘Hear than honey. My partner thinks you’ll make it. Just hang on huh? Hang on…for me?’

The next half hour seemed interminable. Eleni passed in and out of consciousness and Starsky never left her side. Hutch divided his time between monitoring the girl and doing what he could to rebind the wound on the brunet’s arm and check on the freshly bleeding wound on his stomach. Starsky remained stoically quiet while Hutch ministered to the wounds, his eyes only on the woman on the ground by his side. But finally they heard in the distance the wail of the emergency vehicles and within ten more minutes, Eleni had been stabilised and loaded into the ambulance. With promises to follow on and call in at the ER to have their own wounds dealt with, Starsky and Hutch sat quietly in the middle of the aftermath of the gun battle. Dobey went ahead with Flint back to the metro and there was silence for a few minutes.

‘So, what’s with you and the Gangster lady then?’ Hutch asked directly.

‘Nuthin! Here, lemme return the favour an’ tape something over your shoulder. You’re bleedin’ all over the place!’

‘Didn’t seem like nothing Gordo. You’re changing the subject. Last time I saw you, you were telling me she was evil incarnate and you couldn’t stand to be in the same state as her. And then I come in here, an’ you’re all lovely-dovey. How come? It looks like they had a fair time with you’.

‘She helped me’.

‘Yeah, right!’

‘No, she did. I’d have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for her. Anl believe me, at first I didn’t know what was happening either. It was weird. One minute she was the Wicked Witch of the West and the next she…..She stitched me up an’ looked after me’ his voice tailed off as he lost himself in his thoughts.

‘Where did they keep ya?’

‘In a cell down the stairs’.

‘Were you bound?’

‘Only when she um….when she came into the cell. The rest of the time I was free. She wasn’t cruel or nuthin. Kinda looked forward to her comin’ t’see me as the week went on’.

‘Starsky!’

The brunet looked at him, reproach in his eyes. ‘I know, I know. You’re gonna give me the big talk about Stockholm syndrome, an’ believe me, I’ve given myself the same talk. But I think there’s something else there too Blintz’.

Hutch looked down at his shoes and heaved a big sigh.

‘I think it is Stockholm. An’ I think you have it bad partner. And God knows what I’d be like if it had been me. But think of it this way. She was the leader of one of the biggest crime syndicates in the area. She’s on the most wanted list. Are you really tellin’ me you’re in love with her?’

Starsky twiddled his sneakered feet on the tile floor. ‘Dunno. Maybe not. Only thing I can say is between the beatin’s she was, um…..hot’.

‘You didn’t!’

The brunet’s face cracked into a lopsided grin. ‘Uh huh. An’ until you’ve slept with the enemy, you have no idea what you’re missin’ Blintz’.

Hutch grinned back. ‘Only you Starsk! Only you….’ He paused and looked carefully at his partner.

‘What? Go on say it. Tell me what you’re thinkin’ Starsky persisted.

‘I was just…..just thinking that I’d nearly lost you before we’d even done 6 months together. And um….when I thought you were dead I….’ the blond’s voice tailed away.

Starsky came to his feet. ‘Aww Jeez, I’m sorry Hutch. I really wish there’d been some way for me to let ya know I was ok’.

‘It was just when those two shots rang out, an’ they said pick up his body. I…..don’t ever put me through that again Starsk. Promise?’

‘Hey, would I? No, that’s it. That’s probably our one and only big assignment in life and from now on it’ll be mundane paperwork all the way. We’ll end up just like Syd and the guys, old, bitter an’ twisted, and waiting out time to get the pension. No more excitement for me Blondie!’

Epilogue

Starsky walked into the hospital room, past the two armed guards on the door and came to a halt by the side of the bed. It was a week since Eleni had been brought into the Lincoln and during that time, she’d had the surgery to remove the bullet and had started down the path to recovery. Despite an enormous blood loss, she was a fighter and today the doctors had proclaimed her out of the woods for the first time.

During the week, the brunet had purposely kept away, trying to get his feelings into some sort of order, and as time and distance started to tell, he realised that the affair had indeed been infatuation in the peculiar circumstances of the moment. But he acknlowledged that the feelings had been very real to him and now he needed some sort of closure.

The woman had spent the last two days with senior officials from the DA’s office, disclosing information about the membership of the Diabolos, their dealings in the past and their future plans. All that in exchange for a place on the witness relocation programme and a new life in a new part of the country. She smiled as she woke and looked up into the indigo eyes.

Starsky’s left arm was still held immobile in a sling, but otherwise he looked fine. Good enough to eat, she decided.

‘Hey beautiful’ he said, sitting down by the side of the bed carefully to avoid dislodging any of the tubes still attaching the woman to various monitors.

‘Hey yourself’ she said quietly. She missed him and had longed to see him again, although she knew nothing could ever come of the fledgling relationship.

‘I hear you’re being shipped out tomorrow’.

‘Yeah. Starting a new life in a new place’ she said softly. ‘Without you’.

‘You don’t need me, honey. You’ll do just fine on your own. And pretty soon you’re gonna find some new guy an’ make him real happy too’.

‘Someone like you?’ she asked, reaching for his hand.

‘Nah. They threw away the mould when they made me’ he grinned.

‘Uh huh. True. You, Dave Starsky, are a true one off’.

‘That I am. I just came to say….um…..I came to say…. Oh hell, this is tough! I thought I loved you. I still think maybe I do, an’ I wanted you to know it. So that when you start you’re new life…..maybe you’ll um…’

‘I won’t ever be able to forget you’ she finished for him. ‘I know I love you David. And I know I can never have you. But it was nice while it lasted’.

Starsky stood and laid the bunch of flowers he brought gently down on the night stand by the bed. He stooped over the bed and tenderly kissed her forehead before gazing into her ebony eyes.

‘A tip for the future honey. Not all men need the manacles, ya know’ he grinned as he straightened up.

‘I’ll try to remember that’ she smiled.

‘Dave?’ he called as he started to walk to the door.

‘Huh?’

‘I told Hutch you were a special man, and I meant it. You’re very special. And so is he. Watch your backs out there huh? Not all kidnappers are as um….different as I am’.

‘I’ll try to remember that ma’am’ he said as he flipped a salute, blew a kiss to her and went, before he found he couldn’t leave her.

And as he got outside, Starsky suddenly realised she was right. Hutch was special. What they had was very special and the past week just reinforced that from now on, he’d make damned sure that he protected his partner with every sinew in his body. He may have lost Eleni Flint, but he had Hutch for ever.

 

END