A Coffin For Hutch.

There are lots of sayings about families - blood is thicker than water; you can choose your friends, but families are there for life. In most cases families are there for love and protection. But there are families, and then there are families. Most - good or bad - have skeletons in their closets and sometmes those skeletons have a habot of escaping and rattling their bones. And sometimes that has devastating consequences.

There is no one dedication to this story . It's for everyone out there who loves Starsky and Hutch. R.L. has been rough of late and my boys are a constant through changes, trials and tribulations. In a way, this story is dedictaed to them, and to all those who care to read the story.


Chapter 1

Hutch sat outside his partner’s apartment building, his fingers drumming impatiently on the steering wheel of his car. They were due on the late shift and the early afternoon sun beat down on the battered brown Ford LTD, making crystal blue eyes narrow against the glare. With a sigh, Hutch reached into the glove box and fished around for his sun shades. He jammed them onto his nose and wiped the trickle of sweat from the side of his face. It was another hot one, the temperature registering almost 100 degrees and his fresh tee shirt was already limp and damp and sticking to his back annoyingly. He longed for a day at the beach, a swim in the sea and a bottle of ice cold beer, but that would have to wait. He looked up at the front door again and honked the horn impatiently. His old car seemed claustrophobic in the sultry heat and Hutch hated confined spaces, preferring instead the great outdoors and Mother Nature.

There was a brief shout from inside and then the door opened and Starsky appeared, slipping his gun into his holster and wiggling his hips inside his tight jeans. Hutch shook his head and snickered to himself. The lovely Stacey may be at home, but his partner sure wasn’t getting to sample her delights! The brunet walked stiffly down the steps, the bulge in his jeans just too apparent in the tightly zipped denim. Hutch honked the horn again grinning at the smaller man and the single middle finger that was flicked his way.

‘Well is that any way to greet your partner?’ he asked mildly as the brunet wrestled with the door of his car and got in. The horn blared briefly and Starsky slammed the big door closed, kicking out at it with a blue sneakered foot.

‘When are ya gonna get a decent set of wheels?’ the curly headed man asked tetchily, ignoring the greeting.

‘Nothing wrong with old Gerty. She’s got everything I need. Good body, a heart like a cabbage an’ she gets me from A to B a lot cheaper than that parade float you got buddy’.

‘Ya need your head examinin’ if ya think this is a great body!’

Hutch snickered again. ‘And of course after a hot night with Stacey, you’d know all about that partner’.

‘Shudup’. The brunet wriggled on the seat, surreptitiously adjusting the lump in his jeans.

‘Ooh, I’d take that as a big fat signal that once again that "Polish/Jewish/Italian/God knows what else" magic has failed to work’.

‘Wha’d’ya mean?’

‘Stacey didn’t let ya – again!’

‘It aint nuthin to do with my animal magnetism. She’s just shy’ Starsky said defensively.

‘Starsk, it’s been what? Three weeks? An’ every day you’ve been coming to work with an attitude, a boner and an excuse. When’re ya gonna realise that your girl’s……’


‘Well I can’t make my mind up whether she’s frigid, strange or just damned sensible’ Hutch responded as he turned the car out onto the main highway.

‘None of ‘em…..an’ what d’ya mean sensible?’

‘She knows when she’s missin’ a good thing. That’s what ya get for takin’ my castoffs buddy’.

‘Don’t kid yourself Blondie. She’d probably recoverin’. Besides it’s only been…’

‘Three weeks’ Hutch finished off. ‘Three weeks of you walking round with a long face and a distinct list to the left! She was fine when I had her. Long nights of romance, candles, her body pressed tightly against mine and then she’d…..’

‘Zebra three! Zebra three come in please’ the voice broke into the blond’s reminiscing.

Starsky hooked the mic. from the dash and pushed the button. ‘What’d’ya want Mildred?’ he snapped.

‘Gone without again have ya Starsky?’ the woman in the dispatch office chuckled. The brunet looked sideways.

‘Is there anyone who don’t know about my sex life?’ he asked.

Hutch shook his head. ‘I think there’s a new flatfoot in room 520 that aint sure just yet’.

The brunet sighed. ‘Leaving snide comments aside, what do ya got for us honey?’ he asked a little more calmly.

‘We have a silent alarm at 1532 Washington, please respond. And Starsky, use caution, shots fired’.

’10-4 we are responding’. Starsky hung up the mic. And as Hutch turned his car and headed in the opposite direction, he wriggled on the seat again. Hutch snorted.

‘You know it must be some kinda record’

‘I said shudup. Just keep your eyes on the road’.

‘You wanna drive?’ the blond asked mildly.

‘This heap? No way. I can’t go short and drive your tractor’.

‘Oh, so you are……going short’ Hutch crowed.

‘You can be real annoyin’ ya know that’.

‘Wassup Starsk, is it getting’ too much for ya? Little Davey feelin’ too left out. It’s like everything else with you. You’ve no willpower. None at all’ the flaxen haired cop swerved at speed round a bend and straightened the car, accelerating away. ‘Take food. I know for a fact you can’t last more’n a couple of hours without you need another burrito, or a slice of pizza or a candy bar’.

Starsky grabbed for the window sill and hung on, his feet braced against the dashboard. ‘And who are you? The man of steel or sumthin? You’re tellin’ me that if you an…WATCH IT…..Jeez Blintz, mind the sidewalk!. As I was sayin’. If you an’ Abby didn’t…ya know for a few nights, wouldn’t you be feelin’ the pain?’

Hutch spun the car around another corner, the wheel flowing through his hands. ‘Not that I’ve ever had the problem, but no. I admit I like hot sex like the next guy….’

It was Starsky’s turn to snort. ‘Hey, where Stacey’s concerned I am the next guy, remember. You finished with her fair and square’.

‘As I was saying…. I like sex, but I can do without. It’s not the be all and end all. Like food. Abby and I like to fast at weekends. I can happily go two days or even three without food. Starsk, will ya please stop doing that!’ he slapped the brunet’s hand away as once again the smaller man tried to adjust his jeans.

‘Hmm. I tell ya! Stacey aint comin’ round tonight, so I have a hot date with a bottle of beer an’ my left hand!’

‘Aww shit Gordo, you are so….so….’


‘Gross. Here. What number did Mildred say?’

Hutch brought the car to a standstill and both men paused a moment, listening.

‘1532. Up ahead. I don’t hear anythin’. D’you?’ Starsky asked.

Hutch gave him a pitying look. ‘And the silent in silent alarm means……?’The brunet took his Smith and Wesson from his shoulder holster and pulled back the barrel, checking the magazine. With it held loosely in his left hand, and with Hutch grasping his own Colt Python, they got out of the car and moved silently forward. Rounding the corner of the big warehouse, the brunet pushed his back up against the wall, knees bent and gun held two handed in front of him. He ducked his head round the corner, then snapped it back.

‘Two of ‘em, loadin’ up’ he hissed as Hutch nodded.

‘We go on three?’ the blond asked.

‘Uh huh’.

‘Wait, ya mean one two and we go on three, or one two three and then we go?’

Starsky stared at him. ‘You know it gets pretty damned tiresome. How many times have we been through this? How many? On three. One two and then we go on three’ he explained as if to a child.

The flaxen haired cop nodded. ‘Ok, one two and then go on three. Gotcha. One. Two and……Starsky!’

The brunet had whipped around the corner and was taking off at a flat out sprint down the alley between the two warehouses, gun raised high. Hutch heard him shout “Police Freeze” as he went and saw two men, one who leaped down from the tailgate of a truck and one who whirled round to face his partner. Hutch made a snap decision and took off after the flake running from the truck, leaving Starsky to deal with the other guy who was now facing him down.

Starsky skittered to halt a little way from the second man who had turned his back and was about to make his own run for it. Leaping forward, the brunet launched himself at the guy’s back, slamming him face first into the wall of the warehouse. There was an indistinct “whoof” as the air was driven from his target’s lungs and the Starsky, gun still in his left hand whipped the body around to face him.

'When I say freeze, I mean stay still punk! Just what part of……’ the curly haired cop stopped suddenly as he looked for the first time at the face in front of him. His captive grinned back.

‘Ya gonna use that thing Bro?’

Starsky stood stock still, his hands still on the body of the other man, staring into large smoky grey eyes that sent his mind catapulting back years. Shaking himself mentally and recalling that the guy had in fact been shooting only minutes earlier, he snapped himself back into gear.

‘Are ya gonna make me Dale?’

‘Well guns were never our style, were they?’ the man with the jet black hair snickered.

‘To hell with style! What the fuck are you doin’ here? Goddamit Dale, I gotta take you in’ Starsky said almost apologetically, his hands loosening their grip on the other man’s collar.

Quick as a flash, Dale ducked down, twisting himself violently away from the brunet’s grip and ramming a fist into Starsky’s stomach. Starsky bent over clutching at his ribs and grabbed wildly for Dale’s arm, he held on for a fraction of a second, making the other man lose his balance. Dale stumbled, righted himself and kicked out at the cop’s left hand causing the gun to fall from his grip and rattle onto the ground.

Now Dale had Starsky by the neck and was hauling him around until he could see the brunet’s face. Starsky struggled back, breaking the grip and looking around wildly for his weapon, but before he could find it, Dale and thrown a knife onto the floor in front of the panting cop.

‘If you’re intent on fightin’ Bro, at least do it the civilized way. The way we used to’.

With one eye still fastened on his opponent, Starsky reached down slowly for the blade, hefting it in his left hand. He took it by the handle, his fingers curling around the ribbed surface, blade pointing back up his arm towards himself as he brought his arm up to eye level. Dale grinned at him.

‘Ya never forget do ya?’

‘Don’t make me Dale…..don’t make me do this’ Starsky pleaded. His hand tightened as he saw the other man launch himself at him.

He side stepped neatly and whirled around, all the time keeping Dale in sight as the other man swung his own blade at Starsky. Starsky kept his guard up, his eyes never leaving his opponents face. Four, maybe five times, the brunet pulled himself back from the silver blade flicking within inches of his neck as he tried to keep his distance. He backed up, not wanting to enter into a knife fight with his old acquaintance, and as he did so, he tripped over an uneven piece of ground falling onto his back. Immediately Dale was upon him, knees straddling the lithe brunet body as Starsky stared back at him defiant. Dale placed his knife at Starsky’s neck, below his left ear.

‘So out of practice! Wow, you disappoint me’ he grinned down at the panting cop.

‘What the hell are ya doin’ here?’ Starsky asked as levelly as he could, unable to struggle now that the blade had him pinned. ‘Why?’

Dale bent down, as though starting to say something but his words were cut off by a cold metal muzzle being pressed against his neck. He jumped and the knife at Starsky’s throat slipped, cutting through the olive toned skin. Blood, bright and ruby coloured started to seep in a trickly line to soak into the cop’s tee shirt. Starsky hissed softly at the stinging wound.

‘Hands where I can see ‘em. Lose the blade’.

Dale froze, his face registering surprise and then resignation as he slowly threw his knife to one side. The blade clattered onto the dirt of the alley as Hutch kept up the pressure.

‘Up nice and slow punk. No sudden moves’ the muzzle followed the man upwards as he rose from his perch over the brunet’s body and Starsky’s hand went reflexively to his neck.

Hutch had Dale facing the wall now, gun still pressed into his back as he fished for his cuffs, realising belatedly that he’d used them on Dale’s friend. He shouted over his shoulder. ’Starsk, you ok buddy?’

There was a muffled ‘T’riffic’ signifying that the brunet was alive if not exactly kicking.

‘Cuffs…..need your cuffs pal’ the blond continued, his attention still on his prisoner.

Starsky slowly and shakily got up and staggered over to the two men by the wall. He reached into his back pocket and took out his handcuffs, snapping them onto Dale’s wrists. As Hutch pulled the raven haired man around, Starsky’s eyes met Dales, searching the bronzed face.

‘Why?’ he asked softly.

Dale grinned back cockily. ‘Coz I came for you Bro’.

Chapter 2

‘Are ya gonna go get that seen to?’ Hutch asked, nodding at the still bleeding wound on Starsky’s neck and misinterpreting the brunet’s silence for pain.

‘Huh? What?’

‘Your neck. You’re bleedin’ on my seats buddy’.

Starsky seemed to shake himself back to reality with difficulty.

After the chase and the fight in the alley, the black and whites had come quickly to provide them with back up and thankfully the uniforms had taken Dale and his friend down to Central, leaving Starsky and Hutch to tidy up the crime scene and follow on. Hutch had missed the simple sentence that Dale had hissed in his partner’s ear, and had taken Starsky’s quietness and mechanical actions as some kind of reaction to his fight. He hadn’t seen the initial altercation between Starsky and the flake, nor had he any inkling of the history the two men shared.

Absently, the smaller man put his hand back up to his neck and winced at the resulting sting. He wiped his sticky fingers down his jeans, hissed softly at the niggling pain and fished his hanky out of his pocket. He jammed it over the bloody wound and held it there.

‘What about the interview?’ Starsky asked, his heart hammering at the thoughts of it. The meeting in the alley was bad enough. He didn’t relish being in the confines of the small interview room with Dale.

‘I can handle it. I can drop you at the ER and you can grab a black and white to take ya back home. You need some treatment buddy and some rest. Ya look all in’.

‘Yeah I’m um…..yeah, sounds like a plan’ Starsky agreed a little too readily. He hunkered down in the passenger seat and closed his eyes, resting his head against the sill of the window, letting the cool breeze blow through his curls, and cool his scalp. It had been a long time….a long, long time and he never thought that that part of his life would come back to haunt him. He’d been stupid. He knew once he was in, he was in for life. But that was a thousand miles away and in a different lifetime. Shit!

‘Starsk?’ Hutch’s voice broke into his dark thoughts and he jumped slightly, snickering self consciously at himself.

‘Uh huh?’

‘You sure you’re ok? It didn’t look too deep. Maybe a couple of stitches, that’s all’.

Starsky sighed. ‘No, it’s fine. I’ve had worse’.

‘Then what? An hour ago you were full of life. Now you’re all quiet an’ broodin’.

‘Ya mean mean moody an’ magnificent?’ Starsky grunted.

‘Don’t kid yourself! No, I just mean…..moody. Wassup? You look like you’ve seen a ghost’.

‘I think I have’ the brunet said softly.

‘Huh?’ Hutch slowed the car.

‘The guy in the alley’.

‘You recognise him?’

‘Uh huh. His name’s Dale. Dale Dalango’.

‘Name don’t mean anything to me’ Hutch said, a deep V furrowing his forehead as he considered. Mentally he checked off the mug books in his mind and ran a list of the men they’d arrested over the years. He came up blank.

‘No reason it should. He aint from round here’.

‘But you said you knew him’.

‘Yeah, I know him’ Starsky grunted, the wound on his neck starting to throb in time with his heartbeat.

‘I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that you aren’t exactly ecstatic to see him back. Was he someone from….’

‘Back east, yeah. An’ you’re right, I thought…..well I hoped I’d never see him again. It’s a long story’.

Hutch let the brunet consider for a moment, silence palpable in the confines of the car. ‘Ya wanna share?’ he asked softly, sensing that the appearance of Dalango spelled trouble.

‘It wouldn’t be my first choice, no. It was a long time ago. An’ besides we got work to do’.

‘The interview’ll wait. He’s not goin’ anywhere. Tell me’.

Starsky heaved a deep sigh and tried to get his thoughts in order. That period of his life was dark, and he had really tried hard to bury the memories. But now…

‘Where do I start?’

‘The beginnings always a good place’.

‘K, well, you asked for it. After I left school I had no direction. I was 16 and living with two elderly relatives was too claustrophobic even though I loved ‘em to bits. I decided I wanted to head back home, to New York. I’d had summer jobs and saved some money, and I looked older than I really was, so I bought myself a motorbike, said goodbye to Rosey and Al and rode across country. Took me three months to get back to Brooklyn and Mom was kinda happy to see me, but she really wanted me there to look after Nick’. Starsky snorted at the memory. ‘He was a regular pain in the butt even then an’ she struggled to keep him on the straight an’ narrow. Maybe she should have sent him to Roseys! Anyhow. I was there and I was convenient. An’ as for being a pain, I guess I was too’ he looked sideways waiting for the wisecrack, but none came. Hutch was listening intently.

‘So, I looked after Nick during the day and at night I…..well. I met Dale an’ things went downhill from there’. The brunet subsided into silence.


‘And nuthin. I just thought I’d never see the bugger again. Here, pull up here an’ I’ll see ya tomorrow’ Starsky grunted as they stopped outside the hospital. He got out of the car stiffly and slammed the door behind him, pausing to bend down and peer in through the open window. ‘Find out what he was doin’ Blintz. But be careful huh? He’s…..um, connected’.

Hutch watched as his partner walked purposefully into the ER and then turned his car in the direction of the Metro. Connected? What the hell was that supposed to mean?


Five hours later, and with three butterfly stitches closing the small but fairly deep wound in his neck, Starsky was back home at his apartment. There had been a major road traffic accident for the hospital to deal with and so he, like a host of other “minor” injuries had been kept waiting for treatment and now he felt dirty and tired. He’d gotten a taxi home although the driver had eyed the caked blood on his neck with some disgust and once inside the sanctity of his apartment, the brunet had taken a shower, careful not to wet the bright white dressing taped to the side of his neck.

Now, with beer in hand and feeling clean and scrubbed, he lay on his sofa dressed only in his cut offs. It had been a long and disturbing day and as he relaxed, Starsky’s mind took him back 12 years to New York.

He’d met Dale the first time at his Dad’s funeral. When he’d been shot dead in a drive by shooting in Queens, his Mom had been distraught. She had very little money to raise her two boys and the costs of a funeral seemed one task too much to bear. Even the Jewish traditions had gone out of the window, the funeral delayed for a week because of the autopsy done on Michael Starsky. Although not practicing the faith, the traditions of her roots were still firmly fixed in Rachel’s mind and the delay seemed like the final insult.

But then one man stepped forward to help. Joe Durniak was a mobster. Some might have called him a main man, a Godfather and he ran his territory with ease and mastery. Although frequently on the wrong side of the law, Durniak recognised and admired integrity in those he dealt with, and over the years, he’d come to respect Starsky senior as a man with whom he could be open and (to an large extent) honest. When his friend Michael Starsky had been gunned down, Durniak took care of the funeral expenses for Rachel, provided her with a reasonable income each month and paid off the mortgage on their small house. New Yorkers were treated to a funeral where NYPD rubbed shoulders with the gang known as the New York Kings for the day and even the newspapers marked it as some sort of tribute to Starsky senior that he could orchestrate such admiration from both the establishment and the shadier side of life alike.

So it seemed natural, when Starsky junior returned to New York, footloose and fancy free, and looking to make a buck that he should be spotted by one of the gang’s members and Durniak invited him to meet.

Starsky knew Durniak by reputation and to be invited by a godfather to attend a meeting of the gang was a privilege he couldn’t pass up on. He felt flattered and Durniak was a specialist at getting to the heart of what his people wanted. Unlike other godfathers, he ruled more by persuasion and a canny ability to read his men than by the often brute force used by other gang leaders. And he’d seen in Starsky a young man who was out to prove himself as a man and who had the brains and the courage to succeed. Joe Durniak groomed Starsky for a life in the New York Mafia.

And by Durniak’s side was his nephew, Dale Dalango, also 16 and also out to carve a name for himself in gangland affairs. The two boys got on well. They were similar in looks, both sporting the latin dark hair and olive toned skin of their ancestors, but where Starsky had piercing cerulean blue eyes Dale’s were pale smoky grey, giving him a colder, more calculating look. At just a whisker shy of 6’, both boys were tall for their age and both enjoyed the reputation of being connected. Chicks loved the danger surrounding Mafia life and Starsky and Dalango revelled in the reflected glory.

But Mafia life is complicated and pretty soon, it became apparent to Starsky that he was different and would never be a major part in the scene. Not that he wanted a life of crime. But to his young mind, this wasn’t crime in the true sense of the word. The Kings weren’t into drive by shootings, or robberies, or burglaries. They didn’t even encourage drug taking amongst gang members, but they did supply those same drugs in a big way to almost a hundred mile stretch of the New York coast.

Durniak’s father had founded the New York Kings, when he’d arrived in America from Sicily as an immigrant. He knew one thing, and one thing only. Mafia life. And he quickly set about forming his own gang. When he died, there were no challengers from the gang to Joe’s succession and at age 39, Joe Durniak became the new Godfather of the New York Kings. Without a known son and heir, he would have loved to have had both his own nephew and also the curly headed Starsky to choose from to take over the reins when something eventually happened to him, but that was not to be. As much as Durniak loved Starsky like a son, the boy was Jewish and not a full blood Sicilian. He was disqualified from even becoming a full member of the gang by those two important factors. While Dale went on to progress up the hierarchy, becoming a made man at age 17, Starsky could only ever be a foot soldier, destined for ever to be a messenger, co-ordinating only minor jobs and always on the fringes of the group.

For the 16 year old it had been a severe blow. David Starsky wasn’t evil. He had a keen sense of right and wrong, nurtured both by his Mom and Dad. But he’d lost his father figure at 14 and he had no direction; no purpose in life. The Kings provided that direction and a sense of belonging and Durniak was like the father he’d lost. Starsky didn’t really care about the gang’s involvement in the shadier side of life. He wanted a place to belong and feel important in his own way. And so he carried on for maybe 18 months, doing as he was told, with Dale at his side. They fought together, they argued, they dated together and they became best friends. Until the day of the shooting.

There was one job. One single job that Durniak had given them to do, and together they’d gone out to do it. But faced down with a group from the Rats, a rival gang, Starsky had wanted to back off. Not that he was a coward, but suddenly the wielding of guns didn’t seem right and he’d tried to persuade Dale to back off too. The young man had turned to Starsky with such a look of utter contempt and had told his one time friend that this was it. Starsky would never make it in the Kings. He was from the wrong background, the wrong religion and the wrong side of town to be a member. And then he’d calmly turned, pointed a small revolver at the members of the Rats and killed three of them in cold blood.

The young Starsky had been shocked to the core and had turned and run through the back alleys back to the safety of his house. He wasn’t a coward, but what Dale had done was intrinsically wrong and he knew it and he wanted nothing more to do with it. If that was the way the Kings wanted their men to operate, then he wanted nothing more to do with them.

Durniak had come to see him, trying to brush off the encounter as a foolish young man getting carried away. Rachel hated having Durniak under her roof, but he provided her with an income and she felt churlish in being cold towards the man, but angry that she was reliant on him also. They had an uneasy friendship that the young Starsky could never really get a handle on and when he pushed his Mom to explain, she’d become defensive and quiet. But try as he might, Durniak had been unable to convince Starsky to return to the Kings and for that Rachel was grateful. And Durniak, being a good judge of character and ultimately a decent man, had taken Starsky’s decision well, wishing the young man good luck in his new chosen career in the Army.

The one who had not taken it well was Dale Dalango. Although it was no skin of Dalango’s nose that Starsky was leaving, he’d paid him a call one night after Rachel had gone to bed, Starsky answered the knock on the door and as he’d opened it, Dale had taken hold of Starsky, slammed him against the wall of the house and held a blade at his throat. He’d threatened Starsky, saying that once the brunet was in with the gang and had taken their oath, he was in for good. They were a family and wherever the boy was in the world, if the Kings needed him, they’d find him and he would have no choice but to work for them again.

Over the years, he’d heard nothing more from Durniak, Dalango or the Kings, and that 18 months of his life had been carefully stowed away at the back of his memory until today, and those hissed words in his ear. I came back for you Bro.

Starsky sighed heavily, finished off the bottle of beer and switched on the TV, hoping another showing of The Three Stooges would take his mind away from the thoughts he’d kept bottled up all this time.

Chapter 3

The telephone rang, disturbing Starsky’s thoughts further and he snagged the receiver, dragging it to him without leaving the comfort of his sofa.

‘Starsky’ he grunted into it, expecting Hutch to ask him if he was ok.

‘Hey lover’. Stacey’s voice sent his heart racing. He loved the girl to bits, but at the same time, his head was too mixed up with Dale to think much about her. And apart from that, he was still smarting at her not giving Little Davey the attention he deserved.

‘Hey Hon’ he replied, noncommittally.

‘Dave? Are you ok? I telephoned the Metro and they said you’d signed off sick for the day. Do you want me to come over?’ Stacey sounded genuinely concerned and Starsky’s heart softened a little.

‘No, m’ok’ he said tiredly. ‘I was in a fight earlier and they put a little nick in me’

‘Oh my God! Lover! Let me come over. I could um…..kiss it better’.

He snickered. ‘It’s my neck honey. You kissed that already. Now if it was anywhere else….’

‘I could kiss that better too’ she said softly.

‘Uh huh’.

‘I’m sorry Dave. I haven’t been very fair with you have I? I could come over and take your mind off it all’.

‘It aint my mind I’m bothered about’ Starsky grunted, his cut offs suddenly feeling tight and restrictive around his hips.

‘I could sit by you, and check you out’.

‘Hm….gonna have to be a very thorough investigation’ he said softly.

‘I’ll be over in two’ she said, putting the phone down.

Thirty minutes later, Stacey knocked on the door and walked in. She smiled at the brunet who still lay on the sofa and came to sit by his side, bending to kiss his lips softly. Her hand trailed gently over the fresh dressing on his neck and she kissed her own fingers, dotting them over the wound.

‘I’m so sorry Dave’ she whispered. ‘I should never have let you leave like that this morning. So…..unfulfilled, so…..’

‘Randy?’ he snorted. ‘I never want to leave you honey’ he said softly. ‘But if this is the reward I get, I might get knifed more often’.

‘Are you gonna tell me who did it?’ Stacey asked, running her fingers through the springy hairs on his chest. She reached his nipple and playfully pinched it, seeing it raise up, hard and expectant.

Starsky hissed softly and turned to face her. ‘I wish I could, but it ain’t safe honey. He….the guy that did it…..he’s dangerous’

‘I could always try “persuading” you’ she grinned, running her hands over his groin, her fingers light and playful. ‘Maybe take you into the bedroom, tie you to the bed? Shine a bright light in your eyes. Have my dastardly way with you?’

‘Sounds like that’d hurt’ he mumbled as her hands played over his body. His erection told them both that he was close, almost too close for them to delay too much.

She giggled, redirecting her touch until her fingers outlining the dented, puckered skin on his left shoulder, above his heart. ‘And what about this? Did this hurt?’

The brunet’s mind went back to the dark, almost empty Italian Restaurant on that rainy night. ‘Well yeah, but that was….dunno…..different. Bullets and knives are different, they’re in the line of work.

She moved lower, seeking out the similar mark on his left leg. ‘And this?’

‘Barn. Someone wanted to keep us in the barn and I…um…got in the way of another bullet’.

She kissed his chest, running her tongue lazily up to his neck, then smiled at him. ‘You’re such a brave little soldier’.

‘He sighed. ‘I am, I am. And now I need some sort of reward. Maybe…..’

Stacey’s hand fell lower again, grazing lightly over his groin as Starsky started to pull her down towards him. Her fingers lowered his zip, searching inside and his tongue pushed into her mouth, feeling her own answer him. She moaned and her fingers started to work harder so that he squeezed his eyes closed in concentration to stop himself from stopping her exploration too soon. But it was difficult. Damn it was difficult. He couldn’t trust himself to run his hands down her body. Any other sensation other than those currently felt in the centre of his body would tip him over the edge and he gritted his teeth, moaning as Stacey bent her head, her lips grazing the tip of his cock. Slowly she took him inside her mouth and the brunet clawed at the cushions of the sofa, grinding his hips upwards. Three weeks. Three solid weeks of pent up emotion played out on the warm wet mouth that circled the centre of his body, sending electric shocks coursing up and down his spine and into his head. Stacey stopped and looked up at her lover, but Starsky’s head was thrown back, his back arched up to meet her and she grinned. He was close, she knew that, but she wanted this to be a night to remember and then maybe he wouldn’t be quite so mad at her.

She reached down and pinched gently at the base of his erection and it instantly deflated slightly at the tiny pain. The brunet groaned and thrust his hips upwards again, seeking her hands, her mouth or anything else she cared to push his way. He was almost delirious with pleasure, teetering on the brink of one of what he knew would be best orgasms he could remember. And as he looked over the edge and prepared to allow his body to plunge down the long freewheel to tender oblivion…..there was a knock at the door.

Stacey stopped immediately, but Starsky had been lost in his enjoyment and hadn’t heard. He searched for her body, moaning her name as she tried to ignore the caller but the knock became more insistent and this time, the cop heard it too.

‘Fuck!’ he cursed, sitting up suddenly. The woman grinned sheepishly as Starsky tried fairly unsuccessfully to stuff himself back into his shorts. It would be evident to anyone at the door that they had interrupted something vitally important!

The brunet padded to the door and looked through the peephole. He cursed again and checked over his shoulder that Stacey was half way decent before he opened the door.

‘What do you want?’ he asked coldly.

‘Well hi to you too Bro. Is that all ya have to say after 11 years?’ Dale tried to walk into the apartment, but Starsky stopped him with a hand to his chest.

‘It’s 12 years, an’ you’re no friend of mine’. Behind him, he heard Stacey rummaging around and as he looked briefly over his shoulder, she gathered up her purse and headed for the door. Not wanting to lose her, but not now in the mood for lovemaking, he kissed her briefly on the lips.

‘See you tomorrow’ he said softly

‘I’ll make it worth your while’ she smiled back. ‘After a drink at the Pits huh?’

Starsky nodded and watched as she headed to her car and drove off. As he waved to her, Dale knocked him out of the way and strode into the living room.

‘I didn’t tell ya you could come in’ the brunet growled, watching the tall black haired man make himself immediately at home.

‘Don’t recall askin’.

‘Shit Dale. What’re ya doin’ here?’ Starsky walked slowly to his chair and sat down on the edge of the seat. He neither felt comfortable nor friendly towards his old buddy and wondered how come Dale was out of the lock up and why he’d come here.

‘I need your help’ the New Yorker said simply.

Starsky snorted. ‘You want my help? It may have escaped your notice Pal, but I’m a cop an’ you aint exactly goin’ straight. What d’ya want me to do? Arrest ya all over again?’

‘No, I want you to do a job with me’.

The brunet laughed out loud. The idea was preposterous! A job. With Dale Dalango. ‘Well that’s about as likely as you bein’ the next King of Siam’.

‘Well I aint there quite. Not King. But I am a godfather. Got my own set up down here near Sacramento and I’m movin’ south. Bay City seemed a good place and the job I’m doin’……the one you’re gonna help me with…..is right here in town’.

Starsky’s jaw dropped. ‘You got your own cell? You made godfather? What the fuck did Joe say about that?’

Dale snickered. ‘He’s getting’ old. I would’a taken his place back east, but he has too many friends. So I asked him if I could leave to set up an operation down here an’ he said yes. I think he kinda wanted me outa his hair’.

‘Know how he feels’ the cop grunted with feeling. ‘Dale, what we did – what we were a part of. It’s a long time ago an’ it’s a different life for me. I had the Army. And now I got the police. I couldn’t get involved even if I wanted to, which I don’t. An’ apart from that, as I recall, you were pretty glad to see me go’.

‘Feelings change Bro. Especially when the guy I used to be best buddies with is in a position to make my life easier’.

‘I aint your Bro. An’ I’m not about to go throwing away a perfectly good career coz of you. Get out Dale. Get out now while ya can. I don’t know how ya got bail, but I can have you back in the slammer in a heartbeat, job or no job’.

‘I can be persuasive’ Dale said softly and Starsky looked up sharply.

‘Are you threatenin’ me?’

‘Let’s call it a reminder. The job I want you to do is easy. You don’t even have to get your hands dirty. There’s a shipment coming into the docks next week. I know there’ve been a team of guys watchin’ us. All I need you to do is make sure they’re somewhere else when the hit goes down. Simple’.

‘This shipment – drugs?’

‘Coke, snow, whatever you want to call it. But it’s big. Too big to keep completely under wraps’.

‘And if I refuse?’

Dale smiled wolfishly. ‘You got some pretty friends around here. What’s her name Bro? Seemed like I’d interrupted sumthin real special there’.

‘Leave her alone’.

‘Sure thing. Just gimme your word you’ll keep the heat away next Wednesday’.

Starsky’s anger rose in his throat. ‘What part of “no” don’t ya understand? I said I’m a cop. I told ya I aint involved no more I….’

‘But you are Bro’ Dale leaned closer to the curly haired cop, his eyes boring into troubled indigo blues. ‘Once you’re in, you’re in for life. You know that. You took the oath Bro, remember? Even though you shouldn’t have by rights, Joe made an exception for his favourite. You swore a blood oath to the family’

‘I was young an’ I was flattered, but it don’t make it right. Joe’d never expect me to go against what I believe in’.

‘He’d expect you to honour your oath Bro. We all would. Which is why I’m telling ya. You don’t have an option. You gotta do this’ Dale insisted, his face now inches from Starsky’s. The brunet could feel hot breath on his face and Joe Durniak’s face floated in his memory like an angry father. He swallowed hard.

The curly haired cop stood up suddenly, knocking Dale backwards. He took hold of the tall man’s collar and drew him up until they were eye to eye.

‘Don’t threaten me Dale. Don’t come around here an’ expect me to pick up where I left off. I’m not the same scared boy who ran with the gang coz I had no-one else. An’ I’m not gonna sacrifice everything I ever worked for just for a life I left behind a long time ago. Now get the hell out of my house and get the fuck outa my life’.

Dale grinned into the indigo blue eyes, not troubled at all by the outburst of temper. He chuckled. ‘Ya still got the temper I see. Some things don’t change Bro’.

‘Yeah, an’ now I got a gun and a badge an’ a partner to go with’.

‘Partner? Oh the big blond guy. Looks like he can handle himself in a fight. Yeah. I saw him. He did a mean interview. Seemed like he was kinda mad that I cut ya. So. He means a lot to ya does he? As much as I used to mean to ya?’ Dale asked casually. He ripped Starsky’s fingers from round his collar and brushed himself down calmly.

‘Yeah he means a lot. More than you ever did. An’ he’s got sumthin called integrity. That’s a deal you never made’.

Dale snorted. ‘Sounds like you’re in love! I’m askin’ nicely for the last time. Are you gonna help?’


The gangster sighed. ‘That’s a shame. You know how hard it is to say no to me. And sometimes I need to do some pursuadin’. Be careful Dave. I’ll ring later to see if you’ve changed your mind’.

Starsky propelled Dale to the door, anger making him shake uncontrollably. ‘Get out an’ stay out and don’t ever threaten me. Not in my town. Got that? I’ll be watching you Dale Dalango. You aint gonna be able to breathe without me watching’. You’re the one who’s gonna be watchin’ their backs every move they make an’ the first chance I get, you’re gonna be outa Bay City faster than you can say Mafia. Got that?’ The brunet opened the door and almost threw Dalango out so that he over balanced and fell down the steps to the apartment.

Dale picked himself up and brushed the dust off his jeans. ‘Careful Bro. I’ll ring. You have one more chance to change your mind. After that, we persuade ya’.

Chapter 4

Hutch did not sleep well that night. The interview with Dale Dalango had not been easy. The guy was cocky and self assured and despite the fact that the two cops had caught him and Matt Rubens, his associate red handed outside the warehouse he’d refused to answer any questions. But there again he hadn’t pleaded for his lawyer either. It wasn’t until the end of the interview, when the big blond’s patience was at snapping point that the black haired man had calmly lit up another cigarette, peered at Hutch through the resulting veil of pale blue smoke and asked for his telephone call. Despite protestations to the contrary, Dale was out of 100,000 dollar bail within a matter of hours. By then, Hutch had done the paper work, signed out for the night and had gone home to the lovely Abby, a glass of red wine and a pleasant meal. Afterwards he’d driven his girl home and had finished off the night by checking in on his partner.

As he skipped up the steps to Starsky’s front door, knocking once and waking in, he saw the curly haired cop staring morosely at another bottle of beer and lying back on his sofa. The brunet looked up with a jump as Hutch walked in and it brought the blond up short to see that Starsky had his gun which was cocked and resting neatly by his left hand. He raised an enquiring eyebrow.

‘I know the programmes are bad, but ya gonna shoot the TV?’ he asked calmly.

Starsky stared at him balefully. ‘Ha di ha. How come Dalango’s out on bail?’

‘Bail? Shit, how did that happen? I was finishing up the paperwork. Is that what the gun’s for buddy? What’s happened?’

‘Oh…. My old Pal decided to pay me a visit. And not just for a beer for old time’s sake’.

Hutch blew out his cheeks. It had been a while since he’d seen his friend so rattled but Starsky looked pale, his voice thin and on edge. He sat down on the sofa, batting Starsky’s bare feet out of the way. ‘Tell’ he said quietly.

And there it was. Was Starsky ready to tell Hutch everything that he’d done in New York. Hell he hadn’t even told Traff, his other best friend exactly what he’d done for the 18 months between finishing school and signing up for the Army. Did he trust Hutch? Well of course he did, that was a given. But did he really want to bare his soul to the blond to that extent? Even Starsky himself winced at the memory of that darkest time of his life. How could he explain to someone who’d never experienced it exactly what it was like. He was young. He had no male family to help him. And although he hailed from the city, coming back there was like being relegated to new kid on the block. It hurt and the gang took that hurt away and gave him some credence. Suddenly he was elevated from Dave who? to Dave Starsky, footsoldier with the New York Kings. It opened doors for him like nothing else. If he needed, it was provided. If he was crossed by another boy the gang would see to it, no questions asked. For someone who felt insecure that his Mother had sent him away it was a godsend and a refuge.

And yet Hutch deserved to know because he was his partner and now Hutch was the closest thing he had to family. He owed it to the blond to be honest and open. But God! It was difficult!

Starsky took a deep breath. ‘You know I said I knew Dale from back east?’

‘Yeah, but you said you aren’t friends’ Hutch said.

‘We aren’t – now. But back then…… Hutch there’s stuff I have to tell ya an’ maybe you won’t want to hear it. But it’s important’.

Hutch wondered where this was going, but he saw the pain in his partner’s eyes and braced himself. Everyone had skeletons in their cupboards, some bigger than others. He knew Starsky’s time in the Army had been bad. Could anything be worse than that? ‘Whatever you want to tell me Starsk. Anything’.

‘Fine. There’s a guy back east. Joe Durniak. He’s a pretty powerful guy with the local gangs. A big leader. Anyhow, when I left school and went back home, he kinda took me in and made sure I was ok. And he gave me a job….well, he made sure I was employed, put it that way’.

‘Sounds a decent guy’ Hutch said uncertainly.

Starsky lifted his eyes to his buddy and braced himself. ‘Hutch, he was part of the Mafia’.

There was a moment’s pause as Hutch assimilated the bombshell. ‘You mean he……oh my God you…..no!’

‘Yeah’ Starsky agreed tiredly. ‘I wasn’t a full member. Wrong religion, wrong background’ he snickered silently. ‘But I was there, on the fringes and yes, I did some jobs with Joe. And Dale. Dale is Joe’s nephew and he was bein’ groomed to take over when Joe retired. Seems he got sick of waiting and now he’s in Sacramento’.

‘You mean he turned his back on his gang?’ Hutch asked.

‘It aint as simple as that Blondie. Joe is what’s known as a Godfather…….’

‘You mean like the film? I thought that was made up. Fantasy’. Hutch interrupted.

‘Nope. It’s real life alright, although I don’t think Joe would like to be compared to Marlon Brando. He was as powerful though. A Godfather is really just a name for the head of the cell – gang. But there are fixed laws attached. I was never a full member. The cell was known as the New York Kings. The family only allowed members with two Italian parents. My Italian Granddaddy didn’t count for squat. But Joe liked me for some reason and I took the oaths. And as Dale reminded me today, once you’re in, you’re in for life. Dale apparently got fed up of waiting for Joe to croak so he asked permission to set up a gang down here’.

‘Permission, I don’t get that’ Hutch said. ‘Why permission?’

Starsky shrugged his shoulders. ‘Dunno why, but that’s how it is. You ask permission to leave the family. So Joe granted him permission and now he’s down here’.

‘Wreaking havoc it seems’ Hutch nodded. ‘So um….what’s he want with you partner?’

The brunet looked down at his hands, silent for a moment. ‘Well that’s the sixty four thousand dollar question. Seems he wants to involve me. And if I don’t help, he’s intent on persuading me some’.

‘Involve you in what?’

‘You know narcotics have been keeping an eye on pier 6 down on the docks? Well turns out my old buddy is watchin’ too. He has a delivery of coke comin’ in on a shipment next Wednesday’.

‘And that involves you how?’

‘He’d like me to make sure that Ted and the boys aren’t there when he takes delivery’.

Hutch whistled softly. ‘Nice friends ya got there buddy’.

‘I know. He says he’s gonna ring later for my answer and if it’s the wrong one, he’ll try some more persuasion. I’m worried for Stacey, Hutch. He could get to me through her, like Prudholm did with Terry’.

‘Well we can get her a couple of guards, that’s not a problem. But what about you? You’re his prime target Gordo’.

Starsky snorted. ‘I don’t think so. I’m not gonna be much good to him if I’m dead or um…..incapacitated. No, he’ll go after my girl, I’m sure of it. We gotta make sure she’s safe, but without terrifying her’.

‘And how’re ya gonna do that without telling Dobey about the bigger picture?’ Hutch asked.

The brunet blew out his cheeks. ‘Ray. He owes me one. And if I tell him there’s skirt in the picture, he’ll watch Stacey for ever and a day. I’ll just tell him I think she’s cheatin’ on me and to tail her. It’s the best I can do at short notice’.

‘You think he’ll fall for it?’ Hutch asked

‘Like Humpty Dumpty. He’s a sucker for the chicks’.


Throughout the next day, the two detectives went about their business under a cloud. They’d debated long and hard about whether to let Dobey into Starsky’s dark little secret and finally decided that if they could, they would keep it under wraps. What the police captain didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. Hopefully, Dale would see that he couldn’t get to Starsky through his woman and he’d deal with the brunet himself. And if that was the case, he’d find that Starsky and his blond partner were more than enough of a match for the gangster. Whatever he tried to do, each would cover the other’s back – an impenetrable barrier. They were ready for him to make his move and once he did, they’d nail him for sure.

Several times during the day, they checked on the uniformed cop that had been assigned the task of tailing Stacey without her knowing, and each time Ray Burt had told them that she was fine, going on to admire her hair, her face and most of all her ass.

‘My God, I’d like to get me some of that’ Ray muttered into the car microphone as he watched Stacey walk into the seven eleven and emerge moments later with a carton of milk.

‘Know someone else who would too’ Hutch grinned as Starsky scowled over at him. The brunet took his finger off the button at the side of his receiver. ‘As it happens she an’ me……ya know. Last night’ he growled.

‘Not all way buddy boy’.

Starsky glared, a deep V in his eyebrows. ‘How d’ya know?’

‘Still got the severe list to starboard’ Hutch snorted ‘and a distinct tendency towards grouchy’.

‘Hmph, it aint the lack of it buddy. How would you feel if your girl was number one on a hit list?’ Starsky thumbed the mic. button again. ‘Thanks Ray. An’ you can look but ya can’t touch, right?’

At his side Hutch muttered something under his breath and the brunet glared at him. ‘Say again’.


‘Didn’t sound like nuthin’.

‘You said he could look but he couldn’t touch. Seems like that’s Ray an’ you both’.

The curly haired cop started his car and pulled into the traffic with a tyre squealing start. ‘What is it with you an’ my love life suddenly?’ he asked sullenly. ‘Anyone’d think I hadn’t had it for weeks. You never been that way Casanova?’

‘You haven’t had it for 3 weeks and 4 days. And when I was with Stacey? No, I never had that trouble’.

‘Well tonight is different. Tonight I have a hot date at the Pits and then it’s a bottle of red wine, candlelight, Barry White and Stacey. And nothing on earth is gonna stop me’.


Eight o’clock sharp saw the red Torino draw up outside Stacey’s house. The brunet had dressed to impress in his tightest, softest Levis with the button fly and a white button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up to precisely half way down his forearm. The neck of the shirt was open to mid chest level leaving the brown soft fur of his chest exposed, inviting, he hoped, further exploration.

He looked appreciatively as Stacey closed her front door behind her and shimmied over to the car, unaware that she had been watched for a whole day. She’d also dressed with good impressions in mind and had chosen a soft white mini skirt and form fitting halter top in the identical blue to Starsky’s eyes. The low cut of the top set the curly haired cop’s temperature soaring and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat as the bulge in his jeans, which had seemed ever present just recently made an expected return. Stacey got into the car and her skirt rode up a little higher. She tugged at the hem ineffectually.

‘Don’t do that on my account’ Starsky grinned as he leaned over to kiss her gently.

She smiled back. ‘Keep your eyes on the road Mister. There’s enough time for that later’.

‘Aint never enough time for it honey’ he sighed as he pushed the selector into drive and set off for the Pits.

They arrived just as the bar was warming up and after a drink at a table, Stacey looked around and spotted the pool tables in the corner.

‘I never knew how to play that’ she said.

‘You wanna lesson?’

‘You can play?’ she asked with admiration in her voice.

‘Like a pro. No self respecting youngster in my neighbourhood back home could’ve held his head up if he hadn’t have shot pool. C’mon, there’s a table free’ he took her arm and ushered her over to the table, selecting a couple of cues from the rack on the wall. He handed one to her and pulled her over to the table, racked up the balls and placed the cue ball down on the baize.

‘Ok. Now, the idea is to sight down the cue, so, you need to get as low as ya can, make a bridge with your hand, rest the cue on top, pull back gently and……release’ Starsky hit the cue ball against the triangle of balls, sending them around the table, a solid disappearing down the back pocket. ‘Ok, so your turn. Aim for one of the striped balls and make it go in any pocket, but tell me which one you’re aiming for first’.

Stacey bent down, showing a goodly amount of cleavage and giving the men in the bar a good view of her underwear from behind. ‘Um that number 3 ball over there’ she mumbled, taking a stab at the ball. It missed and the brunet walked behind her.

‘Take it slow’ he said, bending her over the table. He bent alongside her, most of his body sandwiching Stacey between him and the table. He bent low until he could whisper in her ear, smelling the fresh scent of shampoo on her hair and sending goose bumps down her naked back. He put his arms around her, taking hold of the cue over her hands as he directed her movements.

Stacey felt Starsky’s heat on her back and as he pushed her in to the table, she pushed her hips back against him, feeling the hard need in his pants. His closeness and the scent of his sandalwood aftershave took all thoughts of the game away from her head and she allowed herself to be lost in the feeling of his body wrapping around hers.

Starsky felt the woman grind her hips against his body and responded in kind. Tonight was the night. Weeks of anticipation would culminate in one hot night of sex and his mouth watered at the thought. The shot he’d directed went wildly off target, but it didn’t matter. Stacey turned her head against his and nuzzled into his cheek.

‘Ooops. The ball didn’t go in the hole!’ she giggled.

‘Ya can never trust balls an’ holes’ the brunet replied huskily. 'We can always try again’.

‘Not here’ she whispered and took hold of his hand. ‘Somewhere more comfortable huh?’

Starsky grinned wolfishly and took her hand. He threaded their way through the crowded bar, pulling her behind him, pushed open the door and headed around the back to his car.

As he rounded the corner into the alley, his eyes still on his girl and his mind on their intended occupation for the next several hours, he saw from the corner of his eye a shadow move. Instinctively, he looked sideways and his eyes widened as he saw four men emerge from the shadows and walk towards them. He pushed Stacey behind him and stared the leader in the eyes.

‘Dale’ he said quietly.

Chapter 5

Starsky backed up a step at a time very slowly, pulling Stacey around until she was at the back of him, so that he was shielding her from Dale and the three goons with his body. They advanced slowly towards him, matching his retreat step for step. The brunet’s left hand suddenly whipped up, fast as a striking cobra, aiming for the holster he thanked his lucky stars he’d decided to wear that night. After the day of worrying about Stacey, he didn’t want to be caught out without some form of defence during their hot intended date.

Dale saw the left hand move too and nodded casually at his three subordinates. Even quicker than the cop, three Glock pistols were drawn and aimed unerringly at Stacey’s head. She whimpered, her throat too tight with fear to actually produce a scream and Starsky squeezed her hand reassuringly.

‘Don’t do it Bro. they’re quicker ‘n you. Unless you want a corpse for a girl’ Dale said softly in the dim light of the alleyway. ‘Drop it on the ground and kick it over here, nice and slow’

Starsky’s took out his Smith and Wesson by the grip and tossed it gently onto the ground, kicking it with his toe away from him. His hand dropped back to his side. He knew when to draw and when to back down, and this was definitely a time for the latter. ‘Let her go Dale. You’re quarrel’s with me. It don’t involve her’.

Dalango grinned sickeningly. ‘Anything that’ll make you see sense involves her Bro. You should remember that. First rule of engagement. Find a weakness an’ exploit it. Think of her as ammunition’.

‘You bastard’ the brunet growled, keeping his own body between Stacey and the Glocks as much as he could. He could feel her trembling behind him, her breath hot and panting on the back of his neck as she pressed herself to him, not this time in lust, but now in fear for her life. His mind went back 10 years.

Starsky was 17 and living back in Bay City. He got a call from Durniak saying he owed the family and in particular Joe for all the stuff he'd done for Starsky and his family since his Dad was killed. Joe wanted Starsky to take care of some business in LA, He was sending some men. He threatened that the brunet’s Mom wouldn’t have her regular checks any more unless Starsky co-operated. Starsky was torn. At 17, he thought he was through with the New York Kings. He’d had it with the family and wanted out and yet he couldn’t provide for his Mom what Durniak could. And so he met with Joe's men.

They were planning to kidnap Evan Park's daughter and hold her to ransom for 1,000,000 dollars. Evan Park was a drug dealer in LA. Starsky didn't want any part of it but he got a call from Nicky telling him that his Mum was upset because her monthly check hasn't come through and they were struggling for money.

Starsky reluctantly agreed to help Joe's men and took part in the kidnap, his only part being that he had to keep the girl at the secret location – no rough stuff, no involvement in actually taking her. He tried to be kind to her, but she was still a prisoner. Eventually Joe's men could see that he was too soft and the girl was falling in love with him. They came back to the house late one night and knocked Starsky out and dumped him by the docks. In the early morning, when he came around there was a photo of his Mom and a warning that she'd die of he ever told. It was pinned to his jacket. Starsky saw in the news the next day that Evan Park's daughter had been found dead in the marina that morning. From that day on he cursed Durniak’s name and vowed he’d never again speak to the man.

Dale advanced on him once more. ‘Do I see fear in your eyes Davey?’ he asked calmly.

‘No Dale, just cold hatred. Let her go. She won’t say nuthin. This is between be an’ you an’ no-one else’.

‘Oh but we tried it that way Bro, remember. An’ it didn’t work, did it? You always were so fuckin’ pig headed. No, she stays. Maybe she’ll convince ya’. The gangster nodded and skittered out of the way as one goon took a hold of Stacey by the arm, ripping her from Starsky’s grasp while the other to took a hold of Starsky himself, pulling his arms savagely behind his back. Once Rubens had a firm hold of the cop’s arms, the other goon came around the front and Starsky saw the gleam of dull metal on his hand.

‘I’m gonna ask once more. Will you do the job for us?’

Starsky looked around. Stacey’s face was white, tears streaming down her face as she watched the drama unfold. As his gaze settled on her, the whippo holding her leered back at him, leaned into her body and licked a wet line up her neck. She tried to flinch away and yelped in shock, her eyes seeking out her man’s.

‘Whenever ya get the chance honey, run’ Starsky growled at her. ‘Don’t wait for me, just…….’

His words were cut short by an agonised grunt as the man in front of him drew back his fist and ploughed it into the cop’s stomach. Starsky had chance to see the blow coming, but it was full force and as it connected he realised that the dull gleam he’d seen was a set of brass knuckles wickedly surrounding the fist of his assailant. The blow doubled the brunet over, the wind whistling through his teeth, strings over slivery saliva beading from his gasping mouth. Dimly he heard Stacey scream, but the sound was quickly cut off as a hand was clamped over her mouth. Again the gangster swung at him and again the brass connected with his body, this time higher up on his ribs, effectively shutting off his breathing for a moment as the shock of the pain temporarily paralysed him. He eventually managed to suck in a lungful of air and moments later straightened.

Blearily, he looked around. Stacey was limp in her captor’s arms, the shock of seeing her man severely beaten having caused her to faint clean away. For that, Starsky was relieved. One less to worry about just now. He looked to his left and saw Dale looking at him sorrowfully.

‘It’s only a small job Bro. No need for all this. All we need is for you to say yes an’ we can all go back to bein’ friends’.

‘Fuck you Bro’ Starsky gasped, bracing himself as he saw another blow. This time the goon didn’t stop at two. Five blows later, Starsky had deposited his supper and his beer over the guy’s shoes and was gasping for every breath. With no strength left to straighten up and with Rubens still holding onto his arms, he stared at the ground, willing himself not to pass out. He still needed to make sure they didn’t take his girl and he’d stay conscious until the bitter end. They wouldn’t do to her what they’d done to Evan Park’s daughter. Stacey wouldn’t be used against him like Terry had been.

Dale’s face appeared in the gap between his head and the ground. ‘Aww c’mon Bro. Jut answer the goddamned question huh? Just say yes. Ya know I hate to do this to ya. Just say you’ll do the job’.

Starsky swallowed as if considering. He needed more time. He needed to keep going until maybe someone came around the corner and rescued him. C’mon Hug. Empty your bins for Christ sake. Come out for another crate of beer. Do sumthin!

He stared hard at Dalango. ‘I can’t’ he said simply.

This time, they changed tack, hitting him on the back of the neck instead. The blow was hard enough that he swore his teeth would shake loose, but at least they hadn’t used the brass knuckles. He saw stars and fell forwards so that even Rubens couldn’t hold him up, and he landed on his knees in the dirt, feeling the pressure of the gravel digging into his kneecaps. He backed up, shaking his head slowly from side to side to try to clear it, and found himself by the side of his car. His baby. His sanctuary. His hands groped behind him, feeling the solid metal of his Torino and he tried to use it to force himself to his feet.

The men followed him and as he tried to stand, he felt another rabbit punch to his neck, flooring him. He fell forward, lying on his face in the dirt of the alley, feeling the blood spring from his split lip. Dale knelt down by his side and grabbed a handful of hair, pulling him up so that he could see into Starsky’s eyes.

‘C’mon Bro. Don’t pass out on me now. You’re so near. I tell ya. You don’t co-operate, we take something you treasure’.

Starsky wrestled with his consciousness, his vision reduced to a tunnel who’s edges were black and dim. He worked his broken lips into words.

‘Fuck you’ he said thickly, closing his eyes as he saw Dale launch a blow.

‘You want us to do it? Do ya? Don’t pass out on me, ya hear’ Dale said, shaking the cop’s head roughly. ‘I need to hear ya. Need to hear ya say yes. Did we convince ya enough? Ya gonna do it?’

Starsky’s eyes closed and he forced them open, desperate now for away out. Dale shook him again. ‘I mean it. We take something close to ya, and we take it now. Is that what ya want? Is it?’ Dale yelled at him.

Starsky tried with all his strength to reply. He needed to know Stacey would be safe. He needed to make sure she could get away. But even with the best will in the world, he couldn’t take the punishment they’d given him and still remain conscious. He could feel it slipping away from him, the tunnel vision closing down to a pinprick of light. Dale’s voice seemed to be coming from further and further away and with one last titanic effort, he closed his eyes.

‘Noooo……Stace’ he whispered before the world went black.


Starsky awoke slowly and for a moment wondered why his bed smelled of damp earth and was so hard. He tried to roll over and the pain of the movement sharpened his senses, making him gasp and grunt. He rolled onto his left side, but the pain increased and he continued rolling until he was on his back. The pain didn’t improve, but now he could see stars rather than the grit in the alleyway.

Ok, so, it was still dark and he was……he was…..oh my God! Stacey!

Levering himself into a sitting position, he looked around but as he’d suspected he was alone in the deserted alley. Panic constricted his throat. How could he have been so soft? Why couldn’t he have remained conscious for her? Now what? Groaning again, he used the Torino to brace himself as he got up and stood, arms outstretched and head hanging as he fought for equilibrium. He looked down at his car. The bodywork was unscathed but he dimly remembered Dale using Starsky’s own gun to shoot out the tires of the car and now the vehicle sat in a puddle of rubber, forlorn and going nowhere.

Starsky cursed loudly and set off to stagger to the back door of the bar. He thought it was probably a good sign that he could actually walk, although his neck felt as though his head would wobble off it at any moment and his ribs hurt with each breath. He pulled open the door to he bar and staggered in just in time to see Huggy Bear appearing from behind the bar with a bowl of water and a glass of brandy in a large bubble.

‘Hug…..help’ he managed to gasp as he leaned heavily on the bar. ‘I need your phone. Stacey, she’s……’

‘Right here man. Some dude brought her in about a half an hour ago. Said she’d had a fainting fit in the back alley and could I look after her. I’ve been doin’ just that ever since. She’s just this minute come around’. He waved the brandy at Starsky, paused and took in the bruises, the disheveled appearance and the bleeding lip. ‘Where were ya man? You look like you need Huggy’s tender care too man. What the hell happened?’

The brunet looked swiftly up at the mention of Stacey’s name, relief flowing through every vein in his body. He saw his girl sitting between Huggy’s two barmaids, holding a towel to her head and staring at the ground. She looked up and their eyes met.

‘Dave! Oh thank God. I thought they’d killed you. I thought they’d…..’

Starsky staggered over to her and enveloped her in his arms, kissing the top of her head. ‘Sssh, m’ok honey. Don’t. S’ok. I’m here’ he whispered into her hair. He looked around. ‘Hug? Can ya call Hutch for me? My car tires are shot to hell in your back alley. I need a ride to get her somewhere safe’.

Huggy shrugged laconically. ‘No can do. I been tryin’ the blond one for the last ten minutes. He’s either out with a hot chick or he’s a heavy sleeper. Whichever way you figure it, he aint answerin’ his phone’.

Starsky’s blood ran cold. The relief he’d felt at seeing Stacey seconds earlier was now replaced with out and out fear. He reached for Huggy’s collar, pulling the lanky black man to him roughly.

‘Gimme the keys to your car. Don’t ask questions, just do it. An’ Hug. Don’t tell no-one huh? Can she stay in your room upstairs for tonight?’

Huggy nodded. ‘Ya need to ask?’ he flipped the keys to his cream coloured Caddy at the brunet who missed them and groaned quietly as he bent to retrieve them from the floor.

‘You need any help?’

The brunet snorted softly, his hand snaking round to hug his ribs protectively. ‘I could maybe do with a driver for the night’ Starsky looked at his skinned and bloody knuckles and winced at the pain in his ribs and back again. He knew he didn’t need the hospital, but right then the pains were too severe for him to drive. He set off out the door with the barman hot on his heels and Dale’s words ringing in his ears.

‘I mean we take something close to ya, and we take it now. Is that what ya want? Is it?’

Starsky hoped his partner senses were wrong, but where Hutch was concerned that was rarely the case. He got swiftly and painfully into the car beside Huggy. ‘Hutch’s place’.


‘No, next week! Yes now. And don’t worry about speed, I’ll handle the cops. Just go huh?’

Chapter 6

Starsky and Huggy drove in near silence, the lanky black man’s hands feeding the wheel of his car smoothly through his fingers as he nursed the vehicle through the deserted streets of the city. Neither man spoke. Starsky was alone with his dark thoughts, hoping against hope that he’d find his partner tucked up in bed and asleep, maybe with the girl of the week snuggled beside him. But he knew deep down that it was a forlorn hope. How could he have got it so wrong? How could he have misread the signs? Dale wanted something precious as leverage and what would be more precious to a cop than his own partner? Hutch. He shuddered, knowing how cold and calculating Dale could be and what danger the blond was in.

Across from him, Huggy drove swiftly and safely. In all the years he’d know the duo he’d come to admire the closeness they shared and enjoyed his own small part in their lives and the friendship he got from them. He’d never seen two cops so close, as though they could read each other’s thoughts. In his childhood vacations spent with his family on one of the lesser known Caribbean islands, he’d known twin brothers who would finish each other’s sentences and seemed to know instinctively what the other was going to do next. Then day one of them died in a canoeing accident, the other went into a decline and died the very next day. It was like that with Starsky and his partner. Kick one, the other limped, kill one, or take them hostage and the other was automatically in pain. He cast a glance sideways, seeing Starsky’s jaw working, the muscles clenching as the brunet tried to calm himself.

Just shy of seven minutes later, having run every red light and broken every speed limit through the centre of the city, Huggy drew up outside the quiet canal side apartment block at Venice Place. The brunet was out of the car and vaulting over the hood before Huggy had fully stopped and he followed more slowly as Starsky took the steps three at a time and stood panting outside the front door to Hutch’s house. His hand automatically went for his gun, but came up empty. Dale hadn’t seen fit to give his old buddy the Smith and Wesson back and so the brunet was unarmed. He’d explain the loss of his weapon to Dobey later. Right now that was the least of his worries.

Cautiously, his left hand rested on the round brass doorknob and he eased it around quietly until he felt the door give. He cracked it open peering into the apartment. It was in darkness and it took a moment for the brunet’s indigo eyes to adapt to the dimness. But as he started to be able to make out the interior more clearly he pushed the door wide open, charging in and cursing under his breath.

‘HUTCH!’ he yelled as he looked around at the scene of devastation. Whatever or whoever had come for the blond, he had put up one helluva fight. Furniture was upended and strewn across the floor, the coffee table lay on its side, one leg hanging drunkenly from its frame. Potted plants decorated the floor their pots smashed leaving their dirt to spill out over the rag rugs. The door to Hutch’s bedroom was open and Starsky checked it out seeing rumpled sheets dragged halfway from the bed, ominously smeared with bright, ruby red blood. Squatting down, he touched it gently, his fingers coming away scarlet stained and sticky. Hutch’s blood. What had they done to him? Was he still alive? And if so, where?

Huggy appeared in the doorway, whistling softly under his breath. ‘He sure pissed someone off’ he whispered, stooping to pick up a small plant and set it down on the night stand.

Starsky ran a hand through his curls, stood up and cursed again. ‘He didn’t piss no-one off. This is my fault. All my fuckin’ fault. Shit!’

The barman mistook the brunet’s outburst as misplaced guilt and rested a hand on Starsky’s shoulder.

‘Don’t go gettin’ twisted up about it. You weren’t to know. You aint his keeper, ya dig’.

But the cop lifted pain filled eyes to his friend. ‘You don’t know shit Hug. An’ I aint gonna tell ya. You’re safer knowing nuthin. He got taken coz I was stupid. Now I need to get him back’.

‘Um……how d’ya know he’s still…….you know…….alive? There’s a helluva lot of blood here’ Huggy said softly, looking at the stained sheets and the mess the room was in.

‘Coz up here’ Starsky pointed at his head ‘I see him alive. If I thought of him any other way my guts’d get so twisted I’d be no use to him. Oh I know. He’s not dead…..yet. But I need to get to him, an’ I need to do it alone, ok? No questions Hug, no diggin’.

The black man held up his hands in surrender. ‘No problemo amigo. I know you an’ Hutch are tight. But if there’s anythin’ I can do, name it’.

‘Just one thing. Ring Dobey at first light and tell him my Mom’s been taken sick an’ me an’ Hutch have taken off to see her, ok?’

Huggy looked nonplussed but nodded. ‘And where exactly will you be? Ya know where he is or somethin’?’

‘No, I got no idea. But I need to call in a helluva lot of favors from someone I used to know. Coz he’s the one person who can find out for me, the one person with some sorta power over Dale. I’m headin’ back to New York on the first flight outa LAX. Be back sometime either tomorrow or the day after, OK?’

‘Sure thing. Hutch is missin’, you’re hot footin’ it to New york an’ I’m left explainin’ to your boss. No problem’.

Starsky grinned briefly. ‘Knew you’d see it my way!’


Hutch went to bed at 10:30, tired after his day, but relaxed in the knowledge that Stacey was with Starsky where he could keep his eye on her and maybe relieve some of his pent up sexual tension as well. He’d laughed at his partner’s moodiness, but deep down he felt for the brunet. Being close to Stacey and yet not that close was tough, but he knew the Starsky magic would win out eventually.

So, at 10:30, after watching a John Denver video on the TV, downing the last of his beer and taking a shower, Hutch fell into bed and was pretty soon asleep, dreaming of blonds with cute assets and what they might be able to do for him in bed.

Some time around 11:30 he came instantly awake, staring up into the darkness, his blood thundering in his ears. Years of working as a cop had given him the ability to be instantly wide awake and years of working with his brunet partner had given him the instincts to know when things were not right. And right now, he was convinced, things were not right.

Hutch lay still, his ears straining to hear the noise he felt sure had shaken him from his sleep. At first all he could make out was the rasp of his whiskers on the pillow and the steady thud of his heart in his chest, but as his eyes acclimatized to the moonlight in the room, he saw his bedroom door slightly ajar. Swinging his legs out of the bed, he cursed the fact that his weapon and holster were hung behind the door of the closet in his living room and looked around for something to arm himself with. He came up empty and padded quietly to the door, the cool night air raising goose bumps on his naked chest and back. Silently, he cracked the door open a little and peered around it into his living room. He saw nothing and opened the door fully to walk into the room.

As he did so, he felt a blow to the back of his neck and fell with a thud to his knees on the hard wooden floorboards, falling forwards onto his braced hands as his head hung down. He backed up, back into his bedroom as he felt another punch, this time to his face. His nose broke with a crack and a stream of blood sprayed onto the white sheets of his bed. Hutch yelped in pain and put his hand up to his bleeding face. He squeezed his eyes closed and forced himself to try to stand but another punch to his kidneys sent him sprawling forwards across the room. He twisted on the floor and looked up into the face of Dale Dalango. The gangster leered down at him as Hutch gasped for breath, panting and writhing on the floor.

‘You’re just as bad as Davey was’ Dale said quietly. ‘He didn’t take kindly to my greetin’ either’.

‘What’ve ya done with him?’ Hutch ground out, trying to get to his feet and lunge for the gangster. Rubens caught a hold of his arm and hauled him roughly to his feet, pulling his arms firmly behind his back. Hutch struggled but another of the men punched him in the stomach and he sagged forward, the wind knocked from his lungs. Dale peered into the blond’s face.

‘I don’t think it’s Davey you’re gonna have to worry about. He’s had the treatment already. Now it’s your turn’.

Hutch looked up into Dalango’s face. ‘If you’ve hurt him, I’ll kill every last one of ya’ he growled.

Dale snorted. ‘Yeah? What’re ya gonna do? Throw up on my shoes? We got Davey good an’ proper an’ now it’s your turn. Are ya gonna help us, or what?’

‘Fuck you’.

Dale shook his head sadly. ‘You know, that’s just what he said’.

Dalango nodded to a man standing behind Hutch and coldly, the gangster brought the butt of the pistol down on the blond’ head, knocking him out cold. Swiftly, they bundled the unconscious cop outside and into the trunk of their car before driving off into the night. A quarter of an hour later, Huggy’s car drew up outside Venice Place.

Hutch came to more slowly this time. He had a dim recollection of being pretzelled into the trunk of the car and of the uncomfortable drive. Each bend or corner in the road, each stop and start and each rut and pot hole made his body sway against the hard metal of his prison, bruising even more of his body as he fought down the nausea that tried to overpower him. For the most part he slept, but finally the journey ended and he felt the car stop and heard the men getting out. The trunk opened and he was roughly manhandled out of the car and hauled between two men into a small warehouse. Hutch was dimly aware of the tang of salt in the air and heard in the distance the mournful hoot of a tug boat siren. But his legs were like rubber and it took all his concentration to remain conscious as he allowed himself to be dragged between the two men into the interior and dumped n the ground.

A light above him came on and he blinked owlishly, shielding his eyes with his hand as he forced himself to look around. Not a good sign. If they were going to let him go, they’d have covered his eyes and not allowed him to see where he was. Shit! They meant business. Dale and two of his men walked in, took a contemptuous look at Hutch and walked by. Dale stopped by the youngest of his gang members.

‘Watch him. Don’t let him move. If he does, shoot him. We’ll be back. We need to finalise the preparations’.

The young man nodded and stood more rigidly to attention over Hutch’s body, a Glock pistol aimed in a trembling hand at his head. Hutch looked back at him steadily. The boy couldn’t have been more than 16 or 17 and looked almost terrified. The cop levered himself to his knees and looked around. There was a chair standing a little way away and shakily, Hutch got to his feet, the bruised muscles in his neck and stomach protesting the action and the coppery tang of his blood still pooled at the back of his throat from his broken nose. He started to walk to the chair slowly.

‘Hey. Boss said to stay put’ the young man said quietly.

There was an edge of fear in his voice and Hutch hoped he was reading this right. If the boy was to allow Hutch to move, he lost face with his captive and Hutch would no longer fear him. Gang members ruled by fear. No fear, no control. But if the boy was to shoot Hutch, he would be admitting to Dale that he had no control over Hutch anyway. The blond cop banked on the fear of Dale being stronger than the fear of his captive and kept moving quietly towards the chair. Maybe if he could get past the chair he could make a bolt for the door. If not, he’d just be glad to sit down and rest his aching body. He ignored the boy.

‘I said to stay put’ the young man’s voice rose higher and Hutch paused for a split second before carrying on towards his goal. The boy hadn’t shot. There was indecision in his voice.

The blond gained the chair and rested his hands on the back. He turned slowly and looked at his captor keeping his voice low and level. ‘I just needed to sit down’ he said, never taking his eyes off the boy’s face. The boy gazed back, transfixed by crystal blue eyes. Hutch smiled slightly.

‘Nice piece. Got a Colt Magnum Python myself’. Keep him talking. Keep his mind occupied. Don’t lose his concentration.

The boy looked at him uncertainly. ’A lot of old timers use those. Me? I like this one’.

Hutch snickered to himself. Jeez! It was the first time he’d been classed as an old timer, although a twenty seven year old cop would seem ancient to a 16 year old.

‘Glock’s are good, but they got no stopping power’ he said quietly and conversationally. ‘We don’t use ‘em’.

‘Magnums only got 6 slugs, this has a magazine of 15. More fire power’ the boy said proudly.

Hutch kept his eyes locked on the youngsters face. ‘Only 6, yeah. But it isn’t the number. It’s what you do with ‘em. Hey kid. My name’s Hutch. And um…..I don’t wanna be here. What say…….oh my God. What’s that?’ he pointed to something behind the boys’ head.

Inexperience won over caution and the young man turned round quickly looking for what the blond cop was pointing at and as his attention wandered, Hutch took his chance, stood and bolted for the door and the car outside. Despite his injuries, his long legs powered him across the warehouse speedily and his hand went out to grab a hold of the door.

As his fingers closed on the wooden surround, he felt something hit him with tremendous force on his side. It slammed him into the door frame, knocking the breath from his body and he had one last look at the darkness outside the building before the pain of the bullet plunged him into unconsciousness.

Dale walked over to the crumpled body, the muzzle of his gun still hot from the discharge. He looked down and snorted. ‘Yup, it’s definitely what ya do with ‘em’ he muttered. ‘Rubens, get over here and help me make our guest at home in his new quarters’.

Chapter 7

Sometimes silence seems so thick that it can be cut with a knife. Sometimes it’s so intense that it hurts your ears and you want to push your fingers in, drilling away until you can hear something of what is going on. And sometimes that silence is so complete that it scares you to your very core.

Hutch came back to consciousness slowly, his body aching from the beating he’d taken, a knife-like pain focussed on his right side. He lay for a moment listening to the overwhelming quiet wondering where he was and as he opened his eyes, he continued that wondering. Not only was the silence complete, but so was the darkness and for a moment he thought he’d been blindfold and he tried to raise his hand to check. He found that surprisingly he wasn’t restrained in any way. But as he moved his right hand higher he felt some sort of roof above him, giving maybe 18” clearance between his face and the structure.

Panic rose in his chest. He couldn’t see and he couldn’t hear and now he felt the pressure of his “roof” bearing down upon him like a ton of bricks. The panic brought the pains in his body into sharper focus and as he continued to move his right hand, the knife-like feeling in his side bloomed into a blaze of pain which took his breath away and he hissed softly. The sound was muffled as though he was in a small space increasing his panic levels further. He rested his hand on his chest and paused, trying desperately to calm himself, but in the dark confines of his prison it was difficult. Sweat started to bead in the warm confines and it prickled annoyingly at his face and ran in stinging rivulets into the wound on his side. He needed to know where he was; to explore the parameters of his prison so that he knew what he could do, how he could move and what effects this was going to have on him.

‘Oookay’ he whispered to himself softly. ‘One step at a time huh?’ His voice seemed to be coming to him from a distance and he sucked in warm, stifling air, bracing himself as he raised his hand one more time. This time, he moved his left arm up and out from the side of his body, so that his fingers could quest further. He moved slowly, his senses working with his fingers and about 12” out from his body, he felt something solid. Working his fingertips lightly over the surface, he felt the grain of wood, new sawn and rough and now he recognised the resiny sharp smell of new pine boards that filled his nostrils. Searching further, his fingers continued down the wood and he shuffled over to his side, trying to establish the limits. The wood continued down into the darkness further than he could comfortably reach and he tried the other side with his right hand which found another wooden panel 12” to his right.

Now panicking more, Hutch raised his left hand above him and felt again above his head. There was another set of wooden boards above his nose and suddenly reality hit. He was in some sort of coffin!

He’d been shot for sure, he remembered the blazing trail of the bullet hitting his right side and spinning him into the door of the warehouse. Did they think he was dead? Oh my God! Was he buried? Everyone’s worst nightmare come true. To be buried alive! He filled his lungs and yelled out into the darkness


The confines of the wooden box deadened the noise and cautiously he moved his left hand and knocked on the wood. The sound came back muffled and deadened and confirmed his worst suspicions. He was below ground level.

The shock made him want to move and without thinking he tried to sit up, hitting his forehead on the lid of the box and causing the wound on his side to flare instantly into a red blaze of pain. He collapsed back, breathing quickly and whimpering in fear and pain. His right hand went reflexively to his side and clutched at the bullet hole, feeling the blood warm and sticky on his bare skin. He pressed hard against the wound, trying to stem the bleeding even though a tiny voice in his head told him that it was futile. He was buried alive. He was as good as dead already! But then, if he was still bleeding, he couldn’t have been there very long.

And then more thoughts. If this was a coffin, it wasn’t lined. Not that he was an expert on the subject, but every coffin he’d ever seen had been lined in sumptuous satin, pillows beneath the occupants head. He’d always thought it more than odd that a funeral casket should be made to look so comfortable when the person usually occupying it was dead. What was that all about? But this coffin wasn’t lined. He could feel only rough sawn wood. Was it something that Dalango have improvised for him? Did Dale think he was dead? Or worse, did he know Hutch was still alive and had still buried him? But what would that achieve? He knew Starsky had said that the gangster was cold blooded, but there was cold blooded and there was downright evil, and for some reason Hutch couldn’t believe that Dale would leave him there just to waste away. There had to be some reason for it. If he was just going to bury him and leave him, why would he go to the trouble of crating a coffin however rough and ready?

Damn! And what had Dale done to Starsky? Was the brunet still alive? Dalango had said he’d given the sable haired cop the same treatment he’d got. Did that mean the Starsky too was in a casket somewhere? Was he shot too? Was he ok? Did he know what had happened to Hutch?

The questions flowed thick and fast, but oddly they calmed him. The thoughts took his mind from his predicament. Questions made him feel as though he was doing something and organising his thoughts made him feel just a little calmer. But it didn’t improve his situation and once again he raised his hands, exploring the rough wooden surface. Biting back the bloom of pain across his right hand side, Hutch’s hands grazed the splintered surface looking for an opening, a way out. But the coffin seemed impregnable and he put his hand to his head, feeling his hair damp against his scalp.

The blond cop had no idea any more whether he had his eyes open or closed. It ade no odds. The darkness was impenetrable and he felt it around him as though it were a thick blanket.

‘HEEEEEELP. I’M HERE!’ he shouted again, although he realised the futility of the cry. Who was going to hear him? Who would be around? Who would be able to rescue him? He hitched a breath, the panic rising again in his throat.

‘Stop it. Keep yourself calm. Think about this logically’ the words spoken out loud calmed him somewhat, his own company was better than the stony silence. ‘Think Hutchinson. Why would they do this. They must have checked ya. They must have known you weren’t dead. Even a moron would know the difference, wouldn’t they? Yeah, sure they would. So. Why this?’

His right hand, that had rested on the top of his head for a moment, his elbow wedged against the sides of the box as his hand dipped down, tracing the line of his still bare chest, and as it did so, Hutch felt something flutter off his chest and onto the floor besides him. The tiny noise startled him after the utter silence he’d encountered so far and he groped around in the darkness by the side of his body, his blood sticky fingers closing finally on a piece of something that felt like paper. He grasped it and pulled it to him, resting it in front of his eyes, but even at such short range, the complete absence of light precluded him from seeing what it was properly.

When he’d been taken from his apartment, he’d been in bed. He’d worn only his boxers, never having been fond of pyjamas and he’d had no chance to bring anything else with him. So why would there was there anything in there with him? And what was he supposed to do with it if he couldn’t see what it was about?

Frustration overwhelmed him and Hutch crumpled the paper in his hand up, banging his left hand against the sides of the casket as he yelled into the blackness. ‘FUCK YOU!’ he spat out, his hand thudding against the wood by his side and continuing upwards until he was banging the lid of the box.

And then he felt it. As his fist banged up against the wood again, he felt it brush against something that felt different from the other surroundings. The blond stopped abruptly and moved his hand a little to the right, his fingertips questing for the object and finally feeling something warmer and smoother than the wood. It felt like plastic and his fingers traced the perimeters of the smooth patch, feeling it to be a square perhaps 2 millimetres deep and perhaps 4 centimetres around its edges. Exploring further he felt a small rectangular depression in the middle and not believing it could be so simple, he pressed it.

The interior of his wooden prison was suddenly flooded with light from the single naked light bulb wedged behind a sturdy metal grill set into the head of the coffin. The light did two things. First, Hutch felt immediately better and less cut off in the light and then came the feeling of complete panic as he realised just how confining the space truly was. Without the cloying darkness, he seemed to be able to breathe a little easier, although the deafening silence still battered at his ears, leaving him feeling vaguely dizzy.

Hutch was laid on his back, his legs flat out on the ground and now, as he got his first good look at his coffin he realised that there was about 12” space to either side of him, 2 feet space above him and 12” below his feet and above his head, making the dimensions of the box about 8 feet by 5 feet by 2 feet deep. Sufficient space to wriggle, but not enough for him to sit up, or draw his knees fully towards his chest. As he looked down his body he saw the bruises from his fight with Dale’s men standing out dark against his golden, lightly tanned skin and on his right side, just below his rib cage, the tattered and bloody bullet wound, the bullet having entered at the back and exited at the front leaving the larger exit wound. It still oozed blood and Hutch’s life force had puddled darkly, to soak into the raw wood of the box.

The blond cop raised his head and looked again at the piece of paper still crumpled in his hand. Now he raised it to his eyes and smoothed it out, reading with growing horror the words on the page.


Twisting around and looking above his head, he saw 2 litre bottles of water, screw topped. He was used to drinking at least a litre per day, so the two bottles looked meagre rations. No food of course, but there again, his incarceration didn’t exactly make him feel hungry. And as for the air? The oxygen already felt thin and stale. He hoped Dale had his calculations right. And above all, he hoped Starsky would be able to find him in time.

Chapter 8

‘American Airlines flight 27A to New York now boarding at gate 12. All passengers please proceed to gate 12 and have boarding passes ready for inspection’ the disembodied voice called over the PA.

Usually Starsky felt excited at LAX, like a child. An airport always represented possibilities. Chances to see new places, make new friends, experience new things. But this time was different. This time the brunet was travelling back into a dim dark part of his past that he’d never wanted to remember again. He sighed heavily as he handed the flimsy piece of card to the smiling stewardess, ignoring the dazzling smile she gave the handsome man soon to be seated in row C. He grasped the small flight bag he had with him. No need for many clothes. He wasn’t going to be staying too long, just enough time to get in, talk and get out again, hopefully in one piece. He stowed the carry on into the overhead locker, sat down and tightened his seat belt, staring out of the tiny window without actually seeing what was going on outside.

By the time the plane had taxied out to the runway, Starsky had discovered to his relief that there were no other passengers on the two seats next to him. The flight was less than half full and the plane had a quiet, calm air to it. He’d not relished the thoughts of making small talk with other travellers on his flight, but he didn’t need to. Instead, he reclined the seat, closed his eyes and thought about Hutch and where he was.

He’d hoped never to have to deal with that part of his past again. He had never been proud of being associated with the New York Kings. His Mother had always been edgy about his time spent with the gang, although several of the young men in the neighbourhood had connections. But she’d kept quiet, trusting in her Davey’s ability to keep himself out of trouble and trust in his Dad’s teaching of what was right and what wasn’t.

He’d been more than shocked when he’d seen Dalango in the back alley, the memories coming back to slap him in the face. And now? Now that he’d managed to somehow get Hutch involved, he felt guilty as hell and was definitely out for retribution. But the only man who could help him was the one man he’d tried to distance himself from all those years ago. Joe Durniak. The Godfather of the New York Kings. A powerhouse. He was fair with those who were loyal to him, but with members who crossed him, or with men who failed to achieve his high standards, the penalties were severe. And Davey had walked out without asking for permission. One of the biggest sins he could commit. Not exactly the best basis for asking for Durniak’s help, but that couldn’t be changed.

Starsky looked up as the stewardess smiled down at him. He realised she’d been speaking to him and he smiled back at her. ‘Um…..sorry?’

‘Would you like a drink, Sir?’ she repeated.

‘Oh, just a coffee’ he replied. He’d have loved to do serious damage to a bottle of tequila, but if he was going to go into the lions den, he knew he needed to be clear headed. The pretty woman handed him a cardboard cup with some hot brown liquid in it, a sachet of creamer and sugar on the small cardboard tray by its side.

‘Can I get you anything else?’ she asked, her voice taking on a sultry sound. Her compartment of the plane was almost empty and the other girls on the flight had been more than jealous that she got to look after the devastatingly handsome man in row C. It didn’t happen very often. Mostly, she looked after balding, middle aged and slightly portly business men. They made fair game when they flashed around their wallets, but the idea of initiating this guy into the “Mile High Club” was too tantalising to pass up.

‘Um….no…..thanks’ Starsky said distractedly. Just his luck. The very moment his mind was not in his pants, he had pretty women almost throwing themselves at him. Shit! He sighed. ‘Maybe some other time?’ he asked hopefully.

The stewardess smiled back, less than encouragingly. ‘Sure thing’ she said with a You so missed your chance Mister expression. Starsky went back to his brooding and planning and by the end of the flight had decided that the only way to actually deal with the situation was to brazen it out and act like leaving the family was something everyone did at some point in their lives.

Exiting JFK airport in Queens the brunet hailed a yellow cab and gave the cabbie directions to the area he knew Durniak operated. He knew by heart the address of the HQ of the operation and he also knew that to attract attention to it was the worst crime he could commit. And so after paying off the cab and getting out, Starsky walked the last block to the small but neat set of apartment units set at the end of the road. As he walked he was increasingly aware of being watched and he smiled grimly to himself. Once upon a time, ten years or so ago, he’d been one of those keeping watch, radioing back to Durniak’s inside men when strangers or friends approached. No-one got near Durniak without him knowing about it. Now, he looked surreptitiously around, spotting the two men on the top of the building opposite, the curtain twitching in the first floor window across the street and the car which suddenly sped away down the street. At least three different messages would have found their way into Durniak’s office. “We got company”.

Starsky walked on and stopped at the appropriate block at the end of the street. The apartment block was just like any other. No distinguishing features, but he knew that door like he knew his own and he pushed against the maroon painted wood, feeling the door open beneath his hand. With a deep breath, he set foot inside the stronghold of the New York Kings and started to climb the steps to the second floor.

He’d gone no more than six steps when he heard a door close softly below him. His senses on high alert, he continued softly up the steps, aware now that he was no longer alone and walking deeper into “enemy” territory. The footfalls behind him quickened, as though to catch him up. He refused to quicken his pace. To do so would show fear and that was something he couldn’t afford to do. He needed to be cool, cocky, calm. The footsteps came up behind him as he gained the first floor landing and as he put his left hand on the rail to start climbing higher, he felt a pressure on his back and something spun him into the handrail, a sharp metal object boring through his cream coloured jacket and into his spine. The muzzle of the gun felt cold and hard and he froze, his hands very slowly climbing until they were in the air at the side of his body. The other hand of his assailant patted him down efficiently, finding nothing. Starsky knew he couldn’t take his weapon on board the plane, so he’d left it behind. He felt almost naked without it, but at least walking in unarmed like this made him out to be less of a threat. A voice sounded close to his ear.

‘Ya got an appointment?’


‘The boss don’t’ see no-one without an appointment’.

‘He’ll see me’. Starsky hoped the silent I hope wasn’t too evident at the end of his sentence.

‘An’ who’re you?’

‘Tell Joe Durniak that Dave Starsky is here to see him’.

‘Mr Durniak don’t wanna be disturbed’ the voice said tetchily.

The brunet’s patience snapped and quick as a rattler he turned, clutching the gangster’s gun in both his hands and forcing it skywards. Starsky came face to face with the guard and stared right into the man’s face.

‘We can tell him that I took ya without an ounce of effort, or we can show me in to see him. No skin off my nose, so how ya wanna play it punk?’ he snarled seeing the first tendrils of fear in the man’s eyes. There was a moment’s indecision, then he nodded as Starsky carefully let his arms down to his sides again. He handed the gun back to the gangster with a grin.

‘Knew you’d see it my way. Like I said, the name’s Dave Starsky. An old…..friend’.

The guy grunted. ‘Wait here’ he said sullenly, straightening his suit jacket as he motioned for Starsky to go on up to the second floor. The brunet did so and stood back while the gangster knocked on a door and poked his head around it. His body disappeared inside and the curly haired cop could hear a muffled conversation before suddenly the door was wrenched open and a mid height, dark haired man in his early fifties stood in the open doorway, arms outstretched.

‘Davey! Oh my God, let me look at ya. Jeez you filled out some. Come in. Come on in’ Joe Durniak stood to one side leaving a mesmerised Starsky to follow him into the apartment he used as his office. Inside, the walls were wood panelled in dark oak and the dark green carpet was so deep that the brunet’s sneakers sunk deep into the pile. Diagonally across one corner was a huge mahogany desk behind which was a richly upholstered dark green leather chair. A cream shaded lamp stood on the desk, casting a mellow glow on the papers scattered there and a blotting pad and pen lay in front of the chair, Very businesslike. Very masculine.

Joe Durniak walked around to the rear of the desk and sat down as Starsky stood relaxed but ready in front, a naughty schoolboy summoned to the headmaster’s office. The cop’s arms hung relaxed and ready at his sides, his back straight and head cocked slightly on one side. The introduction had left him feeling slightly off balance and was not the greeting he’d expected. Now he wondered what else would be different to his expectations. Durniak smiled at the look of confusion on the handsome face opposite.

‘It’s been a long time Davey’ he said with the tone of a favourite uncle speaking to a nephew.

‘Not long enough’ Starsky said softly, taking a little time to look around. The place hadn’t changed from how he remembered it. It was still sumptuously but sparingly appointed, the epitome of businesslike efficiency and a cross between a gentleman’s club and the tackiest film set imaginable. The atmosphere, however, left him once again with tingles down his spine. There was a barely suppressed feeling of power and danger in the room and he knew he couldn’t afford to drop his guard for even a second. At his back, the guard who was undoubtedly still armed stood by the door in classic pose. Back ramrod straight, staring straight ahead with his hands folded respectfully in front of him. There if needed but trying to be invisible.

‘You never called’.

‘You wanted me to?’

‘It would have been nice’.

‘What do you care?’ Starsky asked.

‘I care more than you know’ was the surprise reply. ‘You were always a favourite, you know that. So. What brings you here now? You want back in?’


‘Yeah, I know. Big shot detective! How does that fit with your past huh?’ Durniak asked. He saw the look of pain flit across the brunet’s face. ‘Oh, I see. Yeah, probably wise. Ya never told ‘em did ya?’

‘It’s hardly sumthin I’m gonna brag about’.

Durniak shrugged his shoulders. ‘So why come back to visit now. You missing your old Uncle Joe?’

Starsky swallowed down the sick feeling in his stomach. ‘I need your help’.

Durniak grinned. ‘Wow. Bet that hurt you to say’.

‘More ‘n you’ll ever know. Will ya? Will ya help me?’

‘Depends what sorta help. It aint exactly my style to help the cops ya know. But how can I refuse my Davey, huh? So. Tell me’.

‘My partner’s missing’.

‘And I can help how?’

‘Dale has him’.

A shadow passed over Joe’s face.

‘He has his own cell now Davey. I can’t interfere, you know that. It aint right. He has his own operation to run’.

‘Can’t, or won’t?’


‘Ya can’t interfere, or ya won’t? Is this because I’m a cop now? Or is it sumthin else? Starsky said, his anger rising despite the goon at his back.

Joe’s face hardened. ‘Careful Davey. We were close once, but there’s a lot of water flowed under the bridge since then. You’re on my patch now’.

‘I don’t care who’s patch I’m on! My partner’s missing an’ I need to find him. Are ya gonna help me or not?’ Starsky said harshly.

‘It’s not a case of not helping. You know family ways. Dale’s operation is his own concern. I can’t interfere, I got no power’.

Starsky bent forward, planting his hands on the desk in front of him so that his face was mere inches from Durniak’s. He forgot the other goon in the room, his anxiety and his anger getting the better of him.

‘You can help, an’ ya will. Or so help me every flatfoot an’ detective in this goddamned town is gonna know Joe Durniak’s name and’ where to find him? Got that? I could have them blow your operation clean outa the water and there’d be nuthin you or the Kings could do about it. So what’s it gonna be? A little co-operation, or a life in Riker’s Island?’

Durniak grinned at the angry cop. ‘Ya got balls, I’ll give ya that son! Just back off an’ calm down. I can maybe make a phone call. Come back tomorrow an’ I’ll see what I can do’.

‘Uh huh. No way am I leavin’ here without sumthin concrete’ Starsky snagged the white phone with his left hand and slammed it down in front of Durniak. ‘Make the call’ he snarled and stood back.

Joe looked back at him and for the briefest moment there was a look of admiration in his eyes. Slowly, he took the phone receiver from the cradle and dialled a number, pausing until it picked up at the other end. There was a muttered conversation before the phone went down again. Durniak looked at his watch.

‘He’ll meet me. Seemed surprised. Apparently you an’ him had a little um……disagreement’.

‘When’s he meetin’?’


‘And Hutch?’

‘I got him to promise he wouldn’t be harmed for the moment’.

‘I can get a flight back to Bay City 10:00 o’clock in the mornin’ It’ll get us back early afternoon’ Starsky said, relief at being over the first hurdle flooding his body.

‘Good. Where’re ya stayin’ tonight? Ya goin’ home?’

‘Yeah, I’ll stay with Mom. No double crosses Joe. I’ll be back here in the mornin’.

Durniak waved his hand expansively. ‘No need. I’ll swing by your Mom’s place and have my driver pick you up’.

Starsky paused. ‘I mean it Joe. No funny stuff. This means too much’.

Durniak raised his hand. ‘On my honour. I’ll be there, but I still don’t know what I can do. Chad, show Davey out huh? And play nice’.

As Starsky followed the goon out of the room and down the steps Durniak waited until the door snicked closed, then picked up the phone again and dialled a number he knew by heart.

‘Rachel. Davey’s on his way to see you. Yes, he came to see me. Has the time come to tell him? It was so damned hard to see him again. No?’ he sighed sadly. ‘I know, I know. I promised. Fine. The secret’s safe, I won’t say a word unless you want me to’.

Chapter 9

It was getting uncomfortable in the coffin, the air warm and thick as though Hutch was trying to breathe through a tropical thunderstorm. It didn’t help that the blood from his broken nose had caked around his nostrils and as he coughed clots of blood lodged in his throat until he felt as though he’d never breathe again. He had no idea how long he’d been held captive or even whether it was daytime or night. Each interminable hour wore on, the same as the last as his pain mounted. The bleeding on his side had finally stopped although the whole of his side and his hands felt sticky and dirty from the blood. So far as he could tell, the ragged wound on his front was maybe the size of the palm of his hand, although by reaching carefully around, he could feel the wound in his back was much smaller, maybe the size of a quarter. The bruises had settled into an homogenous ache across the rest of his torso and thirst raged through his body. He could tell he had the start of a fever by the headache, the heat coming from his wound and the dry feel to his skin. And he knew that to keep the fever from getting worse he should drink plenty, but with only 2 litres of warm water to last him, rationing was undoubtedly the order of the day and so he tried to set his body clock to tell him when each hour was up so that he could take another mouthful of liquid.

Towards the end of what he presumed was the first day however, a new need arose; one he managed to ignore for a few hours before it started to eat away at him. He needed to pee, but the thought of releasing himself in the coffin and lying in his own urine revolted him. Not only was it not healthy, but it wouldn’t be particularly good for his wound either. He’d heard stories at school from the more descriptive teachers who taught about the slave triangle how the black Africans coming over on the trading ships would sometimes urinate into open sores to disinfect them. At the time, back in his schooldays there was something vaguely heroic about having to do that to stay alive. Now, faced with much the same conditions and problems, the thought merely left Hutch feeling sick to his stomach. Eventually, he took the problem away by finishing the first bottle of water and using the empty container as the only receptacle he had to relieve himself into. He capped the bottle and pushed it away from him. Pioneers he knew had been reduced to drinking their own urine to save themselves from dehydration and death. He sincerely hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

Hours rolled by and his biggest problem was keeping his mind active. Each time he relaxed and allowed his mind to wander, it brought up horrifying thoughts of what would happen if Starsky was unable to find him at the end of three days. Which would be worse – dying of suffocation or starvation? Shuddering, Hutch knew he didn’t want to find out either way and an Edgar Alan Poe story came unbidden to his mind, where a man had been buried alive only to have his coffin dug up years later, deep scratched grooves on its lid where he’d ripped out his nails in trying to dig himself out with his bare hands. To stop the dark and terrifying thoughts, he took to occupying his mind with songs, poems he learned in school, games plays. 1970 Allstars AL Stars 5th: Rose replaced Aaron (playing RF); Hickman Replaced Carty (Playing LF); Killebrew singled to Hickman; Harper ran for Killebrew; Howard flied to Hickman; D. Johnson popped to Beckert in foul territory; Harper was caught stealing second…………


All my memories gathered round her, Miners lady, stranger to blue water. Dark and dusty, painted on the sky, misty taste of moonshine, teardrops in my eye.

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong. West Virginia, mountain momma
take me home, country roads.

Starting the third verse Hutch suddenly realised that whilst the sound of his own voice comforted him, the note left in his crate had told him he had enough air for only three days. What if the calculations were wrong? The air already felt old and stale. And what if singing used it up faster? Damn. He clamped his mouth shut, continuing the song in his head. Not as comforting, but at least he felt as though he were doing something productive.

I hear her voice in the mornin hour she calls me. The radio reminds me of my home far away. And drivin down the road I get a feelin that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday………..

The big blond closed his eyes in frustration. He’d shouted till he was hoarse for someone to let him out. He’d rationed the light to the bare minimum, fearful that it was powered by a battery and not wanting to think he couldn’ never have light again. But there were tmes when his fear overcame him to such an extent that he had to reach up and flick on the bare bulb for just a few minutes in order to restore his courage and his equillibrium. Only then, when his breathing had slowed and his heart had stopped its uncomfortable hammering would he reach up wth a shaking hand and once more pluge himself into darkness. He’d tried to turn over to change position, but the unforgiving boards held him fast and the more he struggled the more claustrophobic he felt. He’d never felt that before, even when he’d been caving in his youth. Tight squeezes meant nothing to him then, when he knew there was a way out. Now, however, the lid of the coffin seemed to bear down on top of him pressing him flat and restricting his breathing even though there was a good 2 feet of air above him.

How much longer? How long had it been? And how much longer would he have to wait? Come get me Starsk, please. But be careful buddy, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t. That thought set him to chuckling. When was the last time his partner had ever listened to anything he said? Starsky was Starsky. He’d do things his own way and in his own time. But the flaxen haired cop trusted him with his life and he knew he’d never give up on the smaller man trying to find him. The brunet would do anything to save his partner, just like Hutch would move heaven and earth to find Starsky.


The plane ride back to Bay City seemed interminable, not least because Starsky really didn’t want to make idle chat with Joe Durniak. He was tired, sore from the beating he’d received at Dale’s hands and aching all over his body. What he really wanted to do was sleep, but Durniak wanted to talk. He had nothing in common with the gangland boss and nothing he wanted to say to him. But Durniak was behaving like Starsky was a long lost nephew, joking, laughing, clapping the curly haired cop on the shoulder occasionally. It was is though Starsky had never left him, or that Joe was trying to catch up on everything he’d missed about the brunet’s youth and the intervening 10 years. He paid for the plane ticket back, bought drinks on the plane despite Starsky telling him he didn’t want to drink and was solicitous to the point of making Starsky feel slightly claustrophobic.

The previous evening, Starsky had made his way home to his Mom’s small house. She’d thrown her arms around him and welcomed him home and although he’d tried to hide his injuries from her, his Mom knew him better than anyone. She’d drawn him a hot bath, laid out warm towels and when he’d emerged a half an hour later with water droplets still pearling in his curls, she laid out her first aid box and dressed the more severe cuts across his chest and back without asking questions. Too many years as a cop’s wife to know better than to delve too deep into her son’s affairs. If he needed to talk, she was there. Other than that she’d provide support, quiet and dignified.

Reluctantly, Starsky responded to the gentle questioning from Durniak and found himself explaining about his time in the Army and as a POW in ‘Nam and his recovery afterwards which focussed his mind on the idea of becoming a cop. ‘Just like my old man’ he explained, wondering at the very slight narrowing in Durniak’s eyes at the mention of Michael Starsky.

‘And then after that, I did my time at the Police Academy. And that’s where I met Hutch. He was a dork’ Starsky snorted softly at the memories. ‘We kinda got off to an excitin’ start and we were friends from there, although we lost touch for a while when we were in uniform. We’d go home for weekends to my aunt Roseys’. He was goin’ through a messy time with his wife and he felt better with a family round him. He never had a lot of love from his own and he kinda adopted Rosey an’ Al as his own folks. He’s closer to me than my own brother…..well, ya know what Nick’s like. We aint exactly in each other’s pockets so it aint exactly difficult to be distant. I can be in the same room as Nick, even in the same conversation an’ sometimes I feel like we’re on different planets’. The brunet looked at Durniak for confirmation and Joe nodded.

‘And then Dale shows up. I want Hutch back, in one piece Joe. I need to get him back’.

‘He’s that imprtant?’

‘Uh huh. More ‘n I can possibly say. It’s kinda hard to explain, but when we’ve spent so long workin’ the inner city, an’ we watch each others backs every day, ya get to be a part of each others lives. A big part. An’ I aint gonna give up on him coz some two bit low life from my past pops up an’ expects me to jump through hoops for him’.

Durniak put his hand on Starsky’s arm. ‘Whatever Dale is, he aint no two bit punk Davey. He’s grown up a lot since you last saw him. Enough that’s he’s got his own show to run now. Don’t underestimate his power’.

‘He’s got Hutch. How could I do that? Look Joe, I don’t want you to get your fingers burned. I just need you to go in an’ use your influence to get him to tell me where my partner is. I’m a cop. I can’t help him like he wants me to. That’d be against every code in my book. But for Hutch’s sake I could maybe turn a blind eye. From there on in, it’s up to Dale whether he takes a chance with the Narcs guys. I want no part in it’.

‘How much are you willing to trade?’

Deep indigo eyes regarded the older man seriously. ‘If I had to, my life, but I hope it don’t come to that. An’ I won’t do nuthin illegal. But I will trade with Dale if he tells me where Hutch is, an’ I will give him free passage outa my town’.

Durniak puffed out his cheeks. ‘It may not be enough son’.

‘It’d better be, it’s all I got’.


The plane landed a little after 5 in the evening and Starsky and Joe were the first off it. With only carry ons they had no need to wait for their baggage and so they walked out of the air conditioned cool of LAX terminal and straight to Starsky’s car. Durniak gave a low whistle.

‘You were always the one for the flash wheels. Sweet!’

‘Yeah, ya can admire them later. Right now, we got a job to do. Get in’ the brunet growled, opening the door for the older man to slide onto the bench seat. Starsky trotted around to the drivers side and got in jamming his sun shades onto his nose against the glare of the late summer Californian sun. Joe took off his heavy jacket and flung it onto the back seat.

‘Where to now?’ Starsky asked as he started the engine.

Durniak looked at his watch. ‘I need to phone and tell him we’re here. He wasn’t exactly happy that I was coming to his patch, but ya know what the family is like. Protocal dictates we take this slowly and we should observe the rules. And rule number one states we meet somewhere neutral to begin with’.

‘Well don’t take too long over formalities. My partner’s life is at stake here. Where d’ya call neutral?’

‘Do ya have a favorite watering hole maybe? Somewhere we can be conspicuous but alone?’

‘Yeah, we got the Pits’.

Joe glanced sideways and for a moment a grin cracked Starsky’s otherwise worried face. ‘It aint as bad as it sounds, honest. The barkeeps a friend and he knows when to keep his mouth shut and when to turn a blind eye. We go there and make the call huh? But Joe, make it quick. It’s already over 24 hours since they took Hutch and God knows what a state he was in to begin with’.

Durniak nodded. ‘The Pits it is. And you’re right to worry. Dale was always shall we say….thorough. He’s cold and calculating. When we get there and make contact, keep your mouth shut……’ he raised a hand as he saw Starsky about to say something. ‘I mean it Davey. I know you’re a passionate man, but if Hutch is as important to you as you say, you need to keep shtum. One word out of place and this while thing is blown wide open ok?’

‘K’ the brunet agreed and turned the Torino in the direcion of down town.

Chapter 10

Starsky showed Joe up the stairs to the room above the bar at the Pits. It was not large, but it was clean and simply furnished and it would serve it’s purpose. Huggy had known better than to ask questions, promising to show Dale up to the room as soon as he appeared. As the lanky black man closed the door Durniak turned to the younger man.

‘Useful guy. Knows when to keep his nose out’.

‘Yeah. An’ he’s a good friend too. We’ve known him a long time, me an’ Hutch. He’s enough of a shady character to be able to have an eye on each world ya know. He’s given us some pretty good tip offs over the years. Even helped to save my life once’.

Durniak sighed and looked appreciatively at Starsky. ‘You’ve got yourself a good life here Davey. I’m proud of ya’.

For some reason the comment brought a lump to Starsky’s throat. Durniak had taken the place of a father figure when his Dad had been gunned down and during the 18 months he’d run with the Kings, the brunet had striven to please the gangster, seeking the approval he would have sought from his flesh and blood father. He focussed his mind, pushing away the warm and fuzzy thoughts.

‘Yeah, it’s a good life. It’d be even better if I had my partner back. Look Joe, I know I keep saying this, but it means a helluva lot to me. Make Dale see sense, huh? I know I can’t force him. If I’d gone in there with every cop in Bay City, I could’a busted his operation out the water, but I’d never have got Hutch back. They have him somewhere else, somewhere out of sight of pryin’ eyes. I know the value of doin’ things slow an’ quiet. You’ve got the clout, I don’t. Make it happen. Please?’.

‘You’re expecting a lot son. That’s a helluva responsibility you’re heapin’ on my shoulders’.

‘I know you’ll come through. If you can’t, no-one can’.

‘And what do I get in return?’

Starsky stopped. He had no idea. It suddenly occurred to him that he had no idea what the gangster would get in return and no idea of how he’d managed to persuade Durniak to come back to Bay City with him. Sure he’d put on his little display of temper, but he was on Durniak’s turf. The gangster could have taken him out any time he wanted. And yet he hadn’t. In fact he’d treated Starsky civilly, almost like family and had come docilely back south with him. Why?

He was about to ask when his ruminations were stopped by a discrete knock on the door and a quiet cough. Huggy poked his head around the door. ‘You got your company. Shall I show them up?’


‘Uh huh. Dale an’ two other goons. Look like they crossed a gorilla an’ some other ape an’ came up with his minders. Like they’re hardly bright enough to know the right end of the guns they’re carryin’’.

Durniak snickered. ‘Tell Dale to come alone. Tell him Joe gives his word he’ll be fine’. Durniak turned to the brunet. ‘Final warnin’. Keep your mouth shut an’ follow my lead ok?’

Starsky heaved a calming breath, winced, held his cracked rib protectively and nodded. He wouldn’t blow this. Too much rode on the results of this meeting. Huggy cocked a disbelieving eyebrow but disappeared and the two men heard a muffled conversation downstairs. A minute later the door opened again and Dalango stepped into the room, closing the door behind him and standing with his back close to the wall. The two gangsters eyed each other cautiously, eyes locked, appraising each other.



The two glared at each other, it becoming apparent that there was no love lost between them. It was a silent battle of wills as to who would break first and the tension n the room could be cut with a knife. Finally Dale’s nerve wavered first and he broke the silence.

‘So, what did you want old man?’

‘Is that any way to greet an old friend? Can’t you at east be civil?’

‘Is that why you came a callin’? To be civil? Or is it because your little puppy dog came crawlin’ back with its tail between it’s legs askin’ for help?’ Dale turned his attention to Starsky. ‘Whassup Bro? Getting’ too hot for ya all of a sudden? Can’t play with the big boys?’

Starsky took a step forward but Joe put out an arm and stopped him silently. Dale snickered at the move. ‘That’s right Joe, keep him good ‘n safe huh? He always was the favourite’.

‘Shuddup Dale. I came to try an’ get you to see reason. Davey can’t help you. He’s only a cop, he has no power to call the hounds off your back. If you’re gonna make the bust, ya have to deal with the heat yourself. Aint no use tryin’ to coerce him’.

‘What’s he been tellin’ ya?’

‘Only that you got his partner an’ he wants him back’.

Dale smiled. ‘He has the terms. Call of the Narcs boys an’ he gets Blondie back. If the bust don’t go down, Davey looks for a new partner’.

Behind Joe Starsky balled his fingers into fists so tight that trickles of blood from his finger nails digging into his palms dripped down onto the carpet. He fought to keep silent knowing this was Hutch’s best chance of escape, but the words were on the tip of his tongue, waiting to escape.

‘Dale, see sense. You’re only making things worse for yourself, you know that’. Durniak urged.

‘No, old man. You’re the one diggin’ your own grave. Just to protect him. just coz he’s….’

‘I told you to keep it shut!’ Durniak yelled cutting him off in mid sentence. ‘Are ya gonna co-operate or do I have to force you?’

‘You got no power here. Back east maybe. But you’re in my town now, an’ what I say goes. So I guess ya have two choices. Either go now, in one piece, or maybe I start spillin’ all those precious beans you been so good at keepin’ quiet huh?’

Durniak’s face turned white and he physically staggered backwards before regaining his composure. He shrugged. ‘I guess we got nuthin else to say. Final chance Dale. Are ya gonna tell us where Hutch is?’

‘When hell freezes over, or when Dave decides to see sense and work with us. His choice old man. This aint my fault. If Hutch dies, the blame is fair an’ square with him’. He handed Starsky a piece of paper. ‘That’s the phone number of a friend. If you change your mind, he’ll know where to contact me. Hutch has…..oooh probably 24 hours left before he starts to die. Think on it’. He turned on his heel, headed out of the door and paused at the door. ‘Secrets are such powerful things huh?’ he mumbled before he stepped through the door and slammed it behind him leaving the brunet to let out the breath he’d been holding.

Durniak turned back to him. ‘I’m sorry Davey. I tried. But like I said, he aint for listening no more. We grew apart not long after you left and he’s never really got back on good terms. When he asked my permission to go I was kinda relieved. You know what it’s like, I got no power over him now’.

‘Seems to have some kinda pull over you though’ Starsky grunted. ‘Seemed hell fire keen on tellin’ me sumthin. Care to share?’

Durniak stared at the cop with a frosty look and licked his lips nervously. ‘Don’t know what ya mean’.

‘Sure ya do, but I know that look Joe. You aren’t gonna share, are ya?’

‘Don’t push Davey’.

‘If I had more time, I would do, but right now I got bigger fish to fry. I’m no closer to gettin’ Hutch back an’ seems like times gonna run out’.

‘So what are you gonna do?’

Starsky blew out his cheeks. ‘I don’t think I have a choice. I’m gonna do the job for him. The shipment is comin’ in tomorrow an’ I’m gonna make sure there’s not a cop in sight’.


Hutch woke up feeling like there was a lead weight on his chest. When he’d fallen asleep last he’d felt hot and sick and at some point during his sleep, he’d shaken himself awake, the bile rising in his chest. He’d tried to sit up in the dark and had hit his head on the roof of the coffin, screaming in frustration. He’d turned sideways and vomited, unable to stop himself and then the claustrophobia had really taken hold.

In his feverish state he imagined that the space inside the coffin was getting smaller and smaller, the sides and the roof closing in on him. He tried to move away from the acrid puddle at the side of him, but he had nowhere to go, his arm hard up against the wooden sides of the box and in despair he hammered on the lid and sides, yelling for someone to come and get him, to let him out. He longed for clean fresh air and for the ability to be able to sit up and bend his knees fully. He could just about manage to turn over onto his belly, but that proved more uncomfortable for the wound in his side than lying on his back and so he’d rolled back over and his hand had sought out the light switch to flick on. He pushed the small plastic switch and for a moment nothing happened. Hutch’s heart hammered feeling as though it had leapt into his throat. He pushed it again, flicking it quickly backwards and forwards before finally the bulb sprang to life and the light filled the coffin. The blond sighed, but his relief was short lived. The bulb was flickery and weak and his worst nightmare was about to come true. The light was indeed powered by battery and the battery was about to die. In an attempt to save as much energy as he could, Hutch reluctantly switched it off and trembled in the darkness.

It was stupid. He’d never been scared of the dark till now, in fact in some ways he’d found it comforting, as though it could wrap itself around him and protect him.

But now the darkness was his enemy.

Hutch could feel himself getting sicker. He had no idea how long he’d been confined, but his body felt increasingly heavy, hot and weak. The pains in his body threatened to overwhelm him sending tremors up and down his spine. His side was inflamed and when his hand brushed against it, it was hypersensitive and radiated an intense heat. His throat was tight and sandpaper dry and although he tried to ration the water, the sips he allowed himself were never enough to assuage his thirst. Over half the second bottle of water had gone and he knew he needed more if he was to stop the fever taking over his body.

Despite knowing it was futile, he shouted again into the quiet confines of his prison.


His blond, sweat matted head slumped back against the floor of his casket and he whimpered, for the first time whimpering for himself and not for the situation Starsky would find himself in.

Chapter 11

Starsky walked slowly towards the pier, his senses on high alert. He’d spent so long worrying about Hutch – where he was; how he was, that he ached with tension. But now things were to change. This was the day the shipment was due in and this was what Dale wanted. The gangster had got his way and as soon as Starsky had kept his end of the bargain he’d once again be reunited with his partner and could get him whatever care he needed.

The previous day, when Dale had walked out of the door, Starsky had felt physically sick. Strike two. He couldn’t get Hutch back and neither could Joe Durniak. And if the powerfully connected Mafia gangster couldn’t bargain with Dalango, there was no hope for anyone else. Starsky was desperate and so he’d done the only thing he could think of doing. He’d acquiesced and decided that if Dale would give Hutch back at the end of the heist, he’d orchestrate it.

The meeting with Dobey had not been a comfortable one. The brunet had taken off almost three days earlier without a by-your-leave and no-one had seen Hutch or Starsky since. Harold Dobey was beside himself with worry and when the sable haired cop had marched through his door at 5:45 last night he’d not known whether to feel relieved, angry or a combination of the two. In the end he settled for quiet indignation and forced a full explanation from his detective.

Starsky had felt like a schoolboy summoned to the headmaster’s office when he stood outside Dobey’s room. He’d left Durniak checking into a motel room on the outskirts of the city. Somewhere not too conspicuous. It would be a good notch on someone’s belt if they happened to waste a Godfather from another area, and Joe was one of the biggest in the country. But the old gangster hadn’t survived in New York for so long without being careful or knowing how to take care of himself and so once Starsky had got him checked in and they had gone over the room for defensive capabilities, he’d said goodnight and had headed out. He’d knocked on the door to Dobey’s office half an hour later despite wanting nothing more than to go home, shower, shave and sleep. It had been at least 48 hours since he’d seen his bed. But he’d come straight into the Metro, knocked, which was something he almost never did and even more surprisingly, waited for the gruff invitation to come in.

As he’d walked in and stood stiffly to attention in front of the desk, Dobey had flung down his pen, sat back and started to wind up for the biggest balling out in the history of the Central. And then he’d seen the worry lines on the brunet’s face, the slight slump in his stance and the occasionally twitch of pain around the eyes. It took the wind from his sails and instead of launching into an attack, he got up, walked into the squad room and returned seconds later with a coffee.

‘Sit down. Ya look like shit’ he’d said.

The curly haired cop had sagged into the chair by the big desk and taken a deep pull of the vicious black coffee. ‘Feel like it’ he mumbled, putting the drained cup on the desk top.

‘Where the hell have ya been? And where’s Hutchinson?’

Starsky lifted weary eyes. ‘I wish I knew Cap’n. I wish I knew’.

‘What’s that supposed to mean. He’s your partner. You’re supposed to know where he is all the time!’

‘Believe me, most of the time, he don’t brush his teeth without I know. But……someone’s taken him an’ I don’t know how to get him back’.

‘And you’ve been trying on your own for three days?’ Dobey flung himself back in his chair. ’Doesn’t “team” mean anything to you? What the hells goin’ on?’

‘Cap’n there’s stuff I need to tell ya an’ I hope you’ll understand. You’ll probably want my badge at the end of it, an’ to be honest I’ll be glad to give it ya, right after I get my partner back’.

Dobey’s face set into a look midway between confusion and concern. Kind brown eyes shone out of his worried face as for the next half hour the younger cop explained every detail of his teenage dalliances with the mob and the consequences for himself and for Hutch now.

‘So ya see cap. I don’t have a whole lot of choice. If I don’t hold the Narcs boys off, they’re gonna kill Hutch. I need to do this. What’s more important huh? The drugs, or Hutch’s life?’

Dobey sighed. ‘Ordinarily I’d say that the department can’t get let this kinda thing go. But this is different. What did ya have in mind?’

For the next five hours, Starsky, Dobey and two detectives from narcotics went through the plan that the brunet had formulated in his mind. It was dodgy, but at least only Starsky would be in any danger and if all went according to plan, he’d have his partner back at the end of it. Towards morning, as the first pale shell pink flecks of light were dusting the night sky, he made his phone call to Dalango using the number he’d been given. Dale himself answered the phone. Obviously the gangster had had a sleepless night too.

‘I’ll do it’ Starsky snapped down the telephone line.

There was the briefest of pauses. ‘Well thank God you saw sense! You know the details, what’re ya gonna do?’

‘I’m comin’ in alone. Soon as I see the goods, I’ll radio the heat to tell ‘em this is the wrong pier an’ you’ve arranged for the stuff to come in to San Pedro instead. They’ll hot foot it over there and you’re home scot-free. After that I want Hutch an’ I want you outa my hair. Got it?’

‘How do I know I can trust ya?’ Dale pressed.

Starsky snorted grimly. ‘Ya don’t. But it’s either chancin’ it with me, or losing your shipment to the cops for sure. Take it or leave it. I’m your best shot’.

‘Fine. Be at the pier at 9:50. Shipment’s due at 10’. The phone went dead and a collective breath was released in the room. Starsky looked around the room.

‘That gives us…..four hours. Can we do this?’

There was a full set of nods and the brunet got up. I’m gonna go down to the changing rooms, get a shower. I’ll be back in 30 minutes to go over the final stuff ok?’

He walked out of the room, thanking his lucky stars that he worked for someone as understanding and humanitarian as Dobey. Not many police Captains would trust their men so implicitly and not once had the big black man commented on Mafia connections, criminal past or what Starsky was doing mixed up with them in the first place.

30 minutes later saw the brunet washed and re-dressed in the spare clothes he kept in his locker at work. The cool shower had taken the edge off his exhaustion, but nothing could rid him of the dark rings under his eyes or the constant ache in his body. He’d had to take the tape of his ribs in order to shower and now each breath felt like a knife being dragged over his chest. He longed for a cold beer, aspirin and bed but so long as Hutch was missing he knew he’d never rest.

Starsky nodded a thank you as one of the other detectives handed him a Kevlar vest. He pulled his tee shirt off over his head without thinking and heard the soft whistle as Dobey saw the dark black bruises extended over his ribs.

‘When were ya gonna tell me about those?’

The brunet cast a glance down. ‘Occupational hazard. I’ve had worse’ he said. A technician came forward and ignoring the bruises started to sandpaper away a patch of hair on his chest, cleaning it with methylated spirits before he attached the wire and taped it down. Starsky hissed softly as the purple fluid stung his abraded skin, pushed firmly against the sticky tape, then pulled on the bullet proof vest, closing the buckles around his body. With the stiff material tight around his chest he could almost breathe again, the hard, protective stuff acting almost like a brace. He pulled his shirt back on over the top and looked at his watch.

‘Are you fit enough for this?’ the captain asked cautiously.

‘Uh huh. An’ apart from that, this won’t work unless it’s me that Dale sees walking onto the pier’.

‘Fine. But we’ll be within 500 yards of you. You get into trouble, you shout, got that?’

‘Got it. And Cap’n? Thanks’.

At precisely 8:45, Starsky, Dobey and three detectives from narcotics walked out of Dobey’s office, down the stairs and while Starsky climbed once more into his Torino, the other four got into a plain dark blue Ford and pulled away, making theor was inconspicuously down to the docks.


Hutch tossed and turned in his coffin, finally shaking himself awake with a scream. He’s been dreaming that he was caught between huge rollers in some freakish factory. He was tied to a conveyer belt and he was going to be fed between them, to be stretched out like toffee ready to be processed. He opened his eyes, staring wildly into the darkness until he remembered where he was. Unsure which nightmare was worst – the waking or the sleeping one, he shuddered, realising that his body was shaking violently.

It had been 3 days since Hutch had been taken from his bedroom. Three days during which time he’d remained fairly quiet in his casket. Occasionally flicking on the light when his imagination ran away with him, or when he needed a drink or to relieve himself into the bottle, he remained admirably docile. But now, his head pounded, his skull feeling as though it would be cleaved in two by the pains, a tight band round his temples pulsing in time with his heartbeats.

He pulled in a fuggy warm breath, choking on the almost palpable air inside the coffin. He’d noticed in the past two or three times he’d awoken that it was getting increasingly difficult to breathe. His three days must be almost up. The note told him he had only 3 days of air and water and now, he looked at the final couple of mouthfuls of fluid in the bottom of the second water bottle. Fatalistically he unscrewed the top and swallowed down the dregs. Not much more than a mouthful anyway and it felt warm and brackish, almost oily on his tongue.

His side no longer hurt quite so much now, and for that he was truly grateful, although he knew that in reality it was a bad sign. Not hurting meant that he was beginning to lose feeling in his side and that wasn’t good at all. Some time over the past 12 hours, the wound had finally stopped bleeding although in the clammy confines of his prison, the residue around the wound didn’t dry or crust as normal blood would. Instead it remained sticky and warm and made him feel all the dirtier.

His mind was playing tricks now too. Twice he’d been shaken awake from some nightmare convinced that he heard sounds outside his coffin. The first time, they were distinct words as though someone was shouting or arguing from a great distance. The send time there was a scratching sound and before his senses had fully kicked in, he’d feverishly imagined that worms and beetles were eating through the wood and would surely soon get to him, to eat him alive. At that point he’d gone berserk, kicking and thrashing at the unforgiving boards, clawing with his finger nails at the roof until his finger tips bled and his nails were in shreds. Only when his strength gave out did he quieten and drift back into a troubled sleep.

But from that time on, each time he awoke, he could tell he was getting weaker and weaker and it was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe. How much longer could he hold on? The fever was consuming his body and Hutch feared that pretty soon, his mind would begin to break down. What would be worse? Dying in pain, or dying as a madman?

He shouted out into the muffled confines of the coffin.


Chapter 12

The pier was quiet as Starsky walked cautiously towards the warehouse. Gulls cried sullenly overhead and the sky was heavy and grey. The mid summer day threatened thunderstorms and rain and the temperatures, although lower than normal felt oppressive and heavy, the humidity climbing skywards. Beneath his tee shirt, the bullet proof vest keeping his cracked ribs in place weighed him down and held in the fine sheen of sweat blooming over his back and chest and trickling annoyingly down the ridge of his spine. He’d gone in without his gun knowing Dale’s goons would remove it from him at the first opportunity in any event. Starsky felt naked without its reassuring bulk beneath his right arm and he trudged towards the warehouse carefully, his over 48 hours of sleeplessness catching up with him.

‘I’m at the door’ he said quietly into the microphone. ‘Keep outa sight till the boats gone. I don’t want no-one messin’ with Hutch’s life ok. This is our one chance to get him back. Once they’ve taken delivery an’ I’ve had chance to speak to Dalango, ya can do what you want with the shipment, over’.

He heard a confirming click from the microphone showing they’d received his message.

‘Probably the last message. Dale’s gonna find the wire’ Starsky finished, straightened his jacket and prepared himself.

The warehouse was a substantial building, the rear opening right out onto the water and allowing boats to moor right alongside and unload directly into the building. This was where the shipment would arrive and Starsky paused at the door of the big wooden shed, taking a last look at the sullen grey sky before ducking inside and letting his eyes adjust to the light. The back doors out onto the wharf were standing open ready to receive the goods although there was no-one around that he could see. Cautiously, the brunet walked further into the shed and stopped as he heard feet echoing behind him. He turned slowly and stared into the muzzle of the semi automatic pointing his way.

‘I said I’d come alone’ he grunted looking over the top of the gun to Dale’s beady eyes.

‘Somehow, I lost a little trust in ya Bro. Turn around and put your hands up in the air. Nice and slow’

Starsky did as he was bid, waiting while Dalango patted up his legs, around his waist and higher, the gangster stopped at the small battery pack taped to his chest and tutted.

‘Davey! I’m hurt! Ya didn’t trust me either’ he reached up and ripped the pack and the microphone from the brunet’s skin. Starsky hissed at the pull of the tape on the hairs of his chest, but made no other comment. He’d expected it to happen. And he knew Dale would expect him to come in with some form of backup.

‘Hey, I had to keep the wire so as I’d know where the guys were. Ya wanted ‘em away. Well they’re away. Now what?’

‘Now we wait for the shipment, you help me unload and we’re all happy’.

‘And Hutch?’

‘So long as he’s survived, you’ll get his location when we’re gone’

‘What d’ya mean survived? Where is he? So help me, if you’ve harmed a hair on his head I’ll….’

‘You’ll what? Kill me? I don’t think so Bro. You could have done that so many times already. But its kinda cute, the thing you got goin’ with him. The closeness. Makes my job easier’.

Starsky clamped down on his tongue, not trusting himself to say anything. His fists balled and he longed to drive them into Dalango’s supercilious face. But he bided his time and walked slowly in front of the gangster, the muzzle of Dale’s gun still drilling into the bones of his back.

Dale steered them to a small office at the end of the warehouse and down a rickety flight of wooden steps. The office was small and sparsely furnished with old, worm eaten wooden desks and chairs. At one time, the warehouse had obviously been the hub of someone’s empire but now it lay sorry and forgotten, testament to a man’s failed dreams maybe. Starsky looked around it, taking in the peeling paint, the fragile furniture, bare floorboards and the complete lack of home comforts.

‘Nice place ya got here’.

‘Don’t be fooled Bro. this is just something I rented for the occasion. My place up north is, shall we say, a little better appointed’ Dale grinned, sitting down with the gun still trained on his friend.

‘It’d be difficult to be worse’.

‘Just like some of the dives we played in as kids huh?’

The cop sighed. ‘Ya didn’t make me come here to reminisce. What time’s the boat due?’

‘What’s the rush? Don’t ya want to catch up on old times?’

Starsky stared at him coldly. ‘With my partner missing it wouldn’t be my first choice, no. Just tell me where Hutch is Dale. You got what you wanted. The cops are nowhere in sight. I give you my word, they aint here. You can unload your shipment, do what the hell ya want with it and then get the hell off my patch, coz next time, if there is a next time, I aint gonna be so much of a walk over’.

‘No? And here was me, thinkin’ this could be the start of a beautiful rekindled friendship. We could be good together, you an’ me Bro’.

‘Fuck you!’

Dale cocked his ear towards the open warehouse doorway, listening. ‘No, fuck you Davey. My fortunes almost here. Once it’s in I could buy an’ sell this city twice over an’ still have change. I’m givin’ ya the chance. You can still be a part of this’.

Wearily Starsky glared back. ‘Ya just don’t get it, do ya? What d'ya want? Visual aids? I gave up on that shit a lifetime ago. Too much has happened since then an’ I got a good life goin’ for me. Just do what ya have to and clear out Dale. Next time I see ya, I swear I’ll put an end to your whole sorry little empire’.

‘Whatever ya say Bro. the boats here’

‘And so am I’ the third voice sounding in the shed took both younger men by surprise and Dale looked up to see Joe Durniak holding a gun levelled at his head.

‘This don’t concern you, old man’ Dale grunted, his eyes shifting sideways and looking at Starsky. The brunet shrugged his shoulders.

‘Don’t look at me, I didn’t know he was gonna join the party’.

‘No, ya probably wouldn’t. Joe wouldn’t want to see young Davey hurt, would he?’ Dale said, staring angrily at Durniak. ‘Wouldn’t want to see anything happen to his favourite’.

‘Shudup Dale. Just let Davey go, get you stuff and get outa town’ Durniak said slowly and clearly.

‘Or what, old man? Ya think you’re faster than me with that thing? Maybe once upon a time, but not now. I got the jump on ya every time. But I guess ya wouldn’t want to lose face in front of your boy, would ya?’

Durniak’s gun rose slightly and he sucked in a deep breath. ‘Don’t so this Dale. Don’t make me do this’.

‘I aint makin’ ya do nuthin. You’re doin’ it all by yourself. Just couldn’t bear to think I’d blab could ya’.

‘I’m warning you Dale. Keep your moth shut. You know nothing’.

‘I know plenty! Wanna know why he treated you so special Bro? Wanted to know why you ran with the family even though you shouldn’t have? Why your Daddy’s funeral got paid for?’

Starsky looked from the younger man to the older one and back, confusion written all over his handsome face. Durniak, however was sweating and the hand holding the gun twitched slightly.

‘Last chance Dale, shut it, or I shut it for you’.

‘Too late for that, old man, he needs to know the truth’ Dale snapped

‘And that would be……?’ Starsky asked, his eyes flitting between the two rivals.

‘That would be that…..’

The two shots rang out echoingly loud in the confines of the small warehouse and as they did, Starsky dove to the floor, covering his head with his hands. He’d gone into the building unarmed and now he could do nothing but close his eyes and wait for his two childhood friends to settle their differences themselves.

As the last echoes of the shot died away, the brunet looked up to see Durniak with tears in his eyes looking down at the body of the younger gangster on the ground. A bloom of scarlet blood showed over the front of Dales shirt above his heart, another mirroring it, further down his chest. Dale’s body lay where it had been flung, the force of the two bullets having knocked him backwards so that he lay on the floor, his arms outstretched, as though wanting to embrace a lover.

Swiftly, Starsky scrambled over to him, his hands pulling at the unconscious form.

‘Dale? Dale, c’mon pal, wake up for me, huh. Dale. DALE!’ the cop pressed his hands against the growing bloom of blood just as he heard more shots coming from outside. The cops had obviously heard the two gunshots and had assumed that things were not going well. Now they were moving to intercept.

Letting Dale’s body fall back to the floor Starsky looked up at Joe Durniak with pained eyes.


‘I had to’.

‘Why did you have to shoot him Joe? He was the only one who could tell me where Hutch was’ he whispered.

Durniak looked at the hot gun in his hand and back at the man on the ground.

‘I’m sorry Davey. I’m so sorry. Oh God Dale! Why did he have to make me do it? Why?’ Durniak moaned quietly to himself, his gun now held loosely in his hand. As Starsky watched it fell with a muffled clatter to the ground. Quickly Starsky took a hold of it and stowed it in his waistband.

‘Joe, Go. Before the cops get here. D’ya hear me? Joe? GO!’ the brunet yelled at the older man. The noises outside were getting louder and Starsky knew it was only a matter of moments before the swat team came thundering in through the door. Angry as he was at Durniak, he knew that to surrender to the cops would mean instant imprisonment for the gangster and for some inexplicable reason, Starsky didn’t want that to happen to Durniak. What he’d done – shooting Dale – was between one godfather and the next; family to family and the families would settle their own scores

Durniak seemed to shake himself out of his shock. ‘I’m so sorry’ he mumbled again before turning and running out of the door and back into the warehouse leaving Starsky alone with Dale.

The brunet ran his hand over the younger gangster’s neck, feeling for a pulse and muttering low under his breath. ‘C’mon Dale. Don’t leave me here. Don’t do this to me. I need you to tell me where my partner is. But despite the entreaties, Dale’s eyes remained closed and the pulse grew rapidly weaker.

A moment later, Dobey and two marksmen burst in through the door and skittered to a halt by the side of the two men. As one of them pulled Starsky gently away and set to work over the inert body on the ground, Dobey started yelling for someone to get an ambulance quick.

The movements around him blurred into one as Starsky gazed down at Dale’s body. He willed his friend to live if only so that he could find Hutch. He hardly felt Dobey’s hand on his shoulder; hardly heard the paramedic ask him if he was ok. Slowly he became aware of someone draping a blanket around his shoulders and he grabbed the medic next to him.

‘Will he make it?’ he asked softly.

‘Touch and go. If he survives the ride to the hospital there’s a good chance but he’s lost a lot of blood’.

‘Can I talk to him?’

The medic shook his head. ‘He’s deeply unconscious. He won’t be able to talk for several days’ he said as they lifted him onto a gurney and wheeled him away.

Starsky stared at the ground where Dale had lain. ‘He was the only one that knew’ he said in a whisper.


Hutch’s consciousness had dwindled now to concentrating on the next breath. Nothing else mattered other than pulling another damp, fuggy breath into his lungs. He counted each one, willing himself to make it through to the next count. But each one felt moisture laden and soggy and he felt as though there was a huge weight lying on top of his chest. Oddly the feeling of claustrophobia seemed to have diminished somewhat and he could feel himself slipping away.

As the minutes ticked by, he starting to sing again in his head and visions of his curly haired partner danced in front of his eyes.

Gotta keep breathin’ Just another. Need to see Starsk again. He’ll be lookin’ and he’ll be mighty pissed if ya don’t make it Hutchy. Another breath now, ya can do it. And another. Good boy!

And then another sound shook him more awake. It seemed to come from nearby and it was the unmistakable sound of a gunshot, rapidly followed by another. With what remained of his strength, Hutch filled his lungs with the stale air and yelled at the top of his voice


But as the sound died away, he realised that no-one was coming and Hutch’s eyes closed once more. Fine. So he’d die alone. At least in this wooden box they wouldn’t have to pay out for a coffin.

Chapter 13

Dobey sat by the side of the curly haired cop, trying to think of something to say. He’s never seen Starsky quite this way before. He was used to the brunet yelling, slamming things around and cursing when he was angry. He’d seen Starsky cry, he’d seen him so mad that his lips had been white. But he’d never seen him just sitting, staring into space and it shook the Captain to the core.

Once the paramedics had taken Dale’s body away on the gurney, Dobey had expected Starsky to want to follow on, hoping the gangster would regain consciousness long enough to tell him where Hutch was, but instead, the brunet had simple stayed where he’d been found, kneeling on the hard wooden boards of the small warehouse office, hands loosely on his lap. The Captain had spoken to him a couple of times, asking if he was ok and after receiving no reply from the third interrogation, he crossed the room and taken hold of Starsky round the waist, pulling him to his feet. From there’ he guided him out to the car and had bundled him into the front seat. It was a measure of just how shaken the brunet had been that even when Dobey had thrown the Torinos keys to one of the uniformed men, Starsky had said nothing.

Now the two men sat in Dobey’s office, the Captain behind his desk with a file open in front of him and the curly haired cop opposite, head bowed and slumped in the brown leather chair. He neither looked up, nor commented as Cheryl walked in with a hypo and rolled up the sleeve of his shirt.

‘Dave, I’m gonna give you something to help you sleep’ she explained as she held the barrel of the syringe ready. She swabbed his arm with a cotton wool ball and was about to deliver the injection when Starsky suddenly sat up straighter in the chair and looked around him, as if wondering how he’d gotten back to the metro.

‘Don’t gimme that’ he said softly. ‘Please?’

The young chemist looked up at him. ‘You’re in shock. You need something to help you handle it’ she replied.

‘No, please. I’m good. I need…….I just don’t want to be out of it, ya know. There might be some news……Dale might…..’

‘Dale’s in surgery. He won’t be able to talk for hours, maybe even days’ Dobey said gently.

‘Well whatever happens. I need to be rowin’ with both oars. I need to find Hutch. I need to….’ Starsky put his head in his hands. ‘I need to find him’ he said in a tiny voice.

‘I know you do, but you’re exhausted and you still haven’t told us exactly what happened. Starsky, you’re gonna be no use to Hutch unless you rest. I’ve seen smaller black circles round panda’s eyes and you can hardly thread more than two words together. If you won’t take what Cheryl has, at least go home and get some sleep’ Dobey held up his hand ‘It’s an order. Go. Now. Your car’s in the garage downstairs. Are you ok to drive?’

Wearily, the brunet forced himself up out of the chair. ‘Yeah, I’m good. Thanks Cap’. I’ll be back in a few hours. If ya hear anythin’…..anythin’ at all….’

‘I’ll call. Count on it’.

Starsky made his way down to the police garage and got into his car, feeling the Torino wrap itself around him like a lover. They’d replaced its tires and now he was fit to go. Slowly, he drove back to his house, climbed the steps up to his front door and pushed it open, suddenly aware that he was not alone.

Senses on high alert, and the prospect of danger sharpening his exhausted senses, he crouched low, painfully aware that his gun was hung on the coat stand by the door. He looked about and heard a noise from the kitchen. As he made a dive for the holster hanging tantalisingly close by, the other figure in the apartment dove out from behind the kitchen counter and Durniak and Starsky faced each other off over the sofa.

‘Joe! What the…..I almost blew your head off’ he snapped, feeling the Smith and Wesson solid and heavy in his hand. The gangster grinned and pocketed his own Colt.

‘Davey, I wanted to see you again’.

‘Yeah? Why? Why the hell would I want to see you? You’ve just signed my partner’s death warrant’.

Durniak hung his head. ‘I’m sorry Davey. Is there nothing we can do to try to find him?’

Starsky slumped onto his sofa and rested his head against the back. ‘Where would I look? Dale could have him anywhere, an’ the only one who knows is currently having your lead removed from his chest’.

‘So you’re just gonna give up?’

‘No, I’m not gonna give up! But till I get some idea…..till Dale wakes up, what can I do?’

‘I never took you to be a quitter’ Durniak said softly coming to sit next the cop.

‘Fuck you, Joe’ Starsky grunted wearily

‘What do you know about his operation? The heist that was due to go down today?’

‘Nuthin. He told me zip’.

‘And what did you see in the warehouse?’

‘Not a lot. We were just getting’ down to some wholesome reminiscing when you walked in. Why did ya do it Joe? Why? He wasn’t gonna pull a trigger on nuthin. What the hell did ya shoot him for’.

‘Coz I know him better’n you think Davey. An’ he was….. Doesn’t matter. Look, why don’t we go back down there, to the warehouse? Maybe now the crowds will have gone we can find something. We can go over the place. Maybe he left a map, or some directions…..something’ Durniak persisted.

Starsky snorted softly. ‘Somehow I don’t think there’s gonna be a map with a huge red cross and “Hutch is here” marked on it’.

‘No, but if we don’t go over the place, we’ll never know, will we. C’mon Davey. What’s to lose?’

The brunet looked up into Joe’s eyes and smiled wearily. ‘Nuthin. I just want him back’.

‘Well times a wastin’. Here, let me drive’ Durniak held his hand out for the keys and at that Starsky grinned for the first time.

‘I remember how ya drive Joe. If we’re gonna find Hutch, we need to get there in one piece. I’ll drive’.


Hutch’s breath whistled in his throat. Breathing felt like he was almost underwater, each damp fuggy breath like torture to his water logged lungs. And yet ironically, while his lungs felt wet and spongy, his throat was painfully dry and his tongue was like sandpaper in his mouth. He longed to be able to take a mouthful of cold, iced water and sooth his thirst although he felt no hunger at all.

The blonds vision had reduced to a pinpoint now, although he was unsure how bad it was as he peered into the impenetrable blackness inside the coffin. His final yell after he heard the shots had sapped what remained of his strength and despite the fact that he knew there were people close by, oddly he felt even more alone and cut off.

He knew he was going mad. He couldn’t stop himself, his mind taking him away from the horrific reality of his situation to places he’d visited as a child. Once or twice he saw his sister Karen floating above him and her presence comforted him a little but most of all he spent time now talking to Starsky. Although on a fundamental level he knew his partner wasn’t really there, still it eased his suffering to have the curly haired brunet with him, floating above him and grinning down with that trademark, slightly lopsided and goofy grin.

Not that he said very much, but Hutch could raise his hand and try to run his hand down his partner’s face.

‘It’s too late Starsk. I can feel myself slipping away’.

‘No, ya gotta hold on Blintz. Just a while longer ok?’

‘Its too hard. I’m scared’.

‘Hey, what’s to be scared of? I’m here. Aint goin’ nowhere’.

‘But you’re not. You’re not really here’ he’d muttered painfully. Did he say it out loud or was it in his head?

‘if I’m not here, what’re ya doin’ talkin’ to me?’

‘I’m going crazy’.

‘What d’ya mean “goin’?” You always were crazy!’

‘I thought I was the sensible one. Starsk, don’t go. Don’t leave me’.

‘I wouldn’t. I’m always here. Won’t leave ya Blondie’.

‘No? Well come get me. It’s too hard Starsk. I can’t keep going. It hurts to breathe. Hurts to swallow. It just hurts’.

‘Hold on then. I’m comin’ I’m really comin’ I’ll find ya. Just hang on’.

Hutch closed his eyes in the darkness and held on to that thought. Whatever happened the brunet was coming for him and he had to hold on. Couldn’t go anywhere without Starsky’s say so. Just hold on a while longer.


Starsky and Durniak walked into the warehouse office. It was quiet now that the cops and paramedics had gone and the only thing that marked the events of the past few hours was the large rust red stain of Dale’s blood drying onto the wooden floorboards by the side of the rag rug in front of the desk. As they walked in, they looked around, immediately on the lookout for clues. Anything, big or small that might point to where Hutch may be being held.

As Durniak started poking around in one of the two cupboards Starsky forced the drawers on the desk and pulled out the wooden trays, tipping the contents onto the desktop so that he could go through them all. There were papers, books, receipt books and ledgers but no map, no directions, and not hint as to the fate of a certain flaxen haired cop.

Starsky looked around as Durniak opened the doors of the second cupboard. The first had been empty, bereft of contents and the brunet held his breath as the second pair of doors opened to reveal the same. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

With a strangled cry, he hit his fist down on the desktop, pummelling the mute surface as he yelled curse words out into the air. Why did Joe have to shoot Dale? Why did Dale have to come back into his life after all this time? Why did he have to target Hutch? Shit, what a mess!

Durniak led Starsky round from the back of the desk, pulling up a chair for the hurting cop to sit on and Starsky sank down onto it, his head in his hands. For some inexplicable reason, he’d felt that maybe they’d be on to something. Maybe they’d find some hint, some clue as to the blond’s whereabouts. He missed him. he missed Hutch so much that it hurt. As Durniak went back to check out the desk contents on the desk again, Starsky fnally gave himself over to his sorrow. Dale had said hutch had three days to live. They were beginning the fourth day of the blond’s absence and the conversation they’d had seemingly years ago floated back into his head.

……..‘As I was saying…. I like sex, but I can do without. It’s not the be all and end all. Like food. Abby and I like to fast at weekends. I can happily go two days or even three without food……

Didn’t think you’d have to put it to the test did ya Blondie? He thought, and the memory of the gentle ribbing and Hutch’s handsome golden face grinning at him finally tipped him over the edge and a fat, wet tear rolled down his cheek to the end of his nose and splashed onto the dusty wooden floorboards next to the rag rug and the crack that it seemed to be covering.

For a long moment he stared at the droplet and the mark it made in the dust, his mind blank to the possibilities. And then he toed the rag rug out of the way with the toe of his sneaker, seeing the crack extend across several floorboards and under the rug.

With growing curiosity, he shuffled off the chair and knelt by the side of the rug, pulling it out of the way to reveal new sawn edges to the floor boards. He shuffled backwards, calling for Durniak to join him and together they pulled the rug completely out of the way and looked at the hole sawed into the floor.

With mounting excitement, the brunet started to claw at the seams of the wood, trying to get his fingernails underneath it so that he could prise one of the boards up. Durniak searched through the contents of the desk and handed him a metal paper knife, which he inserted underneath. Feverishly he worked at the wood and as it came up he staggered back, knocked sick by the smell fo damp, foetid earth and ammonia that assailed his nostrils.

Now certain that they were onto something, both men worked at the floorboards until at last they’d pulled up seven of them, leaving a gaping, freshly sawed hole in the ground, covering what appeared to be freshly dug earth and as they started to scrabble at it with their bare hands, Starsky’s fingers grazed against something hard and unforgiving buried deep.

Chapter 14

Hutch thought he’d finally lost his mind completely. He could hear worms scratching at his coffin and he struggled to get away from the sound, hitting his body against the sides of the harsh wooden casket as he sobbed into the dank air. This was it. He was going to die and he’d never see Starsky again. That was the worst part – that he’d never be able to say a proper goodbye to his partner and silently he sent his thoughts to the brunet as the scratching sounds got closer and closer.

Ok, well if the worms were going to eat him, he’d prefer to be dead first. What was the point of trying to keep going? He was going to die anyway, so why struggle more? With a final sigh, Hutch relaxed his body and prepared to shut it down. He’d hung on, he’d done as Starsky had asked him and waited, but now he couldn’t fight any longer. Enough was enough. He’d go out with some dignity. The pains in his body started to subside and even the heaviness in his chest was alleviating somewhat and he rested his head back.

Dying didn’t seem so bad. He didn’t feel scared any more and when he thought about it, Hutch even felt closer to Starsky somehow.

‘Bye Starsk’ he rasped into the heavy air. The words set off a bout of coughing so bad that it robbed him of what little breath he had left and his eyes flashed open. Now he could see some light. This was it. A bright light was coming to get him and all he had to do was to struggle towards it.

In the world of the living, Starsky and Durniak had scraped away the loose earth from the lid of the box and as they started to fumble with the large padlock that closed the links of the chain holding it closed, the brunet heard a tortured coughing coming from within. His blood ran cold and he scrabbled all the harder at the wood and the lock.

‘It’s him. It’s Hutch. The fuckin’ turkey buried him alive! Shit. Joe help me. It’s locked. I can’t open it’ Starsky yelled as his hands struggled with the cold, soil encrusted links.

Durniak stood and took his gun from his waistband. ‘Stand back Davey’ he said as he aimed at the padlock. The shot rang out as the hot metal blasted the padlock out of existence and before the final echoes had died down, the brunet was burning his hands on the hot chain as he tugged it out of the way and pulled open the lid of the coffin.

Starsky reeled back from the sight and the smell. Hutch lay on his back, the whole right hand side of his body caked in dully glinting blood. His face was not just pale, it had a white, almost luminous quality to it and his eyes were closed, the lids almost translucent. Hutch’s fingers were also caked in blood, some of the nails having been ripped clean off and Starsky could see scratch marks in the lid of the casket. The smell however, knocked him sick. It was the smell of death and decay, mixed with ammonia and other waste products.

The blond looked deathly pale and from his perch on the lip of the grave Starsky could see no movement of the sweat stained, grimy chest. Panic seized him and his mouth dried as though he’d been sucking on alum. Heart beating fiercely in his chest, he bent forward.

‘Hutch?’ he asked softly, reaching down to caress the side of the pale, strained face. ‘Oh my God Hutch, can ya hear me buddy? M’here. I found ya’.

There was no reply and carefully, the brunet clambered down into the box, taking care as he knelt in the confined space next to the emaciated figure. Tenderly, he put his hand out and ran his shaking fingers through Hutch’s matted hair, terrified that he was too late and the life had been extinguished.

‘Hutch, c’mon buddy. I found ya. I’m here now. I’m sorry I took so long, I’m so sorry’ the words came out in a strangled sob and Starsky leaned close to his friend’s face, straining to catch any breath.

Hutch thought he’d most definitely died and was on his way to heaven. Where else would he feel such relief and have his partner’s voice ringing in his ears? He thought it was probably churlish to ignore the brunet now and so with an effort he cracked open his eyes, shocked at the brightness after his almost four days in the dark. His pupils reacted sluggishly and for a moment he was blinded by the light until something blocked it and he looked up into the smoky indigo blue eyes he’d longed to see one more time.

‘Ssstarsssk’ he moaned, the sound no more than a strangled whisper.

The handsome face above him cracked into the broadest grin he’d ever seen.’ Oh my God, buddy. You’re alive….thank God. Hutch!’

The blond tried to assimilate what was going on around him, but his oxygen starved and dehydrated mind refused take it in and he stared blankly at his partner, his red rimmed eyes spacey and out of focus.

‘S’you?’ his voice was a weak parody of his normally velvety tones and he struggled to get the words past his swollen throat. ‘Ssstarssk’. he tried to reach up to touch the handsome face above him, but his arms, confined for so long, refused to work properly and a tear of frustration forced it's way out of the corner of his eye.

‘Yeah. Yeah it’s me. Jeez Hutch, I’m so sorry. I tried, I tried so hard buddy’ Starsky lifted his head and shouted to someone else that Hutch couldn’t see. ‘Joe ring for an ambulance. Tell ‘em it’s Detective Starsky and tell ‘em it’s an emergency’. He turned his attention back to the blond, wondering whether he should try to get Hutch out of the coffin, or leave him for the medics to sort out. The blond’s body looked thin and wasted and so fragile that eventually he decided to err on the side of caution and settled for kneeling by the side of his partner until the paramedics shouldered him out of the way. Gently he brushed the moisture from the blond's tortured face wishing he could pick him up and take him away from the filth in the casket. Instead, he settled for kneeling with his hand resting gently against his partner's cheek while Hutch snuggled against it, accepting the simple comfort.

Now that he wasn’t alone the flaxen haired man allowed himself to relax and with a final sigh, Hutch closed his eyes again, secure in the knowledge that his partner was solid and not just a figment of his imagination. ‘What kept ya?’ he whispered.

For once, Starsky had no wisecrack, clever reply. He simply wiped the tear from the corner of his own eye with his thumb and concentrated on his partner.

For Hutch, the escape from the coffin and the drive to the hospital were achieved in a warm, fuzzy but painful blaze. Colours, sounds and smells assailed his senses threatening to overload them after their almost complete absence for four days and the only thing that anchored him to the present was the warm dry hand clasped in his. Twice the paramedics tried to separate him from Starsky’s grip and twice both men had hung on with such grim determination that they’d given up and proceeded to work around the clasped hands, inserting drips, putting emergency dressings on the gunshot wound and injecting morphine.

Four hours later and Dobey found Starsky propped up on a borrowed pillow on the sofa in the small waiting area outside the O.R. an open magazine over his face and dead to the world. Knowing his detective was exhausted and had gone without sleep for so long, he decided not to wake the sleeping man and instead sat on the chair at his side and waited. Another thirty minutes later, a doctor in operating green scrubs came out of the double swing doors and looked around. He made a bee line to Dobey and Starsky and as he approached, some silent signal cause the brunet to wake, sitting up and instantly alert.

‘How is he Doc? Is he ok?’ the curly haired cop asked quickly.

‘Yes, your friends going to make it. We removed the bullet from his side, fortunately it didn’t do too much damage on the way in. It was the massive blood loss and dehydration that had us worried. He has amazing strength. Not many men would have survived so long. But we have his condition under control. He was lucky that you found him when you did. Another few hours, and I think you’d have found a corpse. He owes you his life’.

‘Can I see him?’ Starsky asked, relief flooding through his veins like warm honey.

‘In a little while yes. He’s in recovery now and he’ll be going to his room soon. I beleive you didn't want to be separated in the ambulance. he's going to need your strength through his recovery. I’ll have the nurses tell you when. It’ll be room 226 on the second floor. You may as well go up and wait outside. We’ll be along shortly.

The brunet smiled, suddenly feeling weak and light headed with relief. ‘Thanks Doc. Thanks a lot’ he managed to gabble before he hit Dobey on the shoulder, swung the big black man round and headed up to the second floor.


Two months later

Starsky walked through the corridor of the cell block and stopped outside the hospital wing of the prison. He peered through the small observation hatch and saw that Hutch was still in the small interview room with Dale Dalango. In the past two months, Hutch had made a full and staggering recovery from his four day ordeal underground and the only legacies of the time in the coffin were a slight hitch in his breath when a residual pain struck through his side, and a fear of enclosed spaces. But as the blond wryly observed, that usually meant elevator cars and the like, and it was healthier to take the steps anyway.

Dale Dalango had also made a recovery of sorts too and had been held in the hospital wing of the jail for a couple of weeks now. Throughout his recovery time, the two things that had kept Hutch going had been his brunet partner who rarely left his side, and the thoughts of nailing Dalango. Dobey had tried to dissuade Hutch from getting involved in the investigation and interview, but the blond could be just as obstinate as his partner when the chips were down and now, seven weeks after his release from hospital, Hutch was taking the statement from Dalango. To his dismay, the flaxen haired cop had banned Starsky from coming into the interview room with him. He’d reasoned that Dalango and Starsky had a history and that it would cloud the investigation. Secretly, the brunet knew it was because if he got within a country mile of the gangster, he’d probably rip his head from his shoulders.

He saw Hutch pass the statement sheet to Dale to sign, retrieve his pen and stand up and within minutes, the blond was back with his partner and leaving the jail. They walked quietly back to the car and got in and as Starsky drove away, Hutch stowed the documents in his jacket pocket and sat back.

‘What gives?’ Starsky asked after they’d driven a couple of miles in silence.


‘I can’t get a word in edgewise for all your talkin'! Jeez Hutch, which planet did ya scoot off to partner? Earth to Hutch, come in’

‘Oh, yeah. Sorry. I was thinkin’.

‘About what?’ Starsky asked.

‘Things. What’s the time?’

Starsky looked at his watch. ‘Four thirty. You look all in. Wanna call it a day? You still need your rest Blondie’.

Hutch ran his hand over his forehead and sighed. ‘Yeah, wouldn’t mind goin’ home’ he agreed.

‘So, pizza tonight?’

The blond shook himself from his thoughts. ‘No. M’tired Starsk. D’ya mind if you just drop me at my house. I think I need an early night’.

The brunet cast a suspicious look sideways, but nodded thoughtfully. ‘Sure thing. You ok? Not comin’ down with sumthin?’

‘No. Just tired’.

They pulled up outside Venice Place and Hutch got out.

‘See ya tomorrow Blintz. If ya need anythin’….’

‘Sure Mama’ the blond deadpanned and walked up his stairs and into his apartment as Starsky drove off. He checked through his window and watched as the red Torino drove away, then pulled out a piece of paper and grabbed the phone, sitting down heavily on his sofa. He punched numbers into the phone and waited, the receiver to his ear.

The interview with Dale had been an uncomfortable affair and throughout Dalango had asked where Starsky was, reiterating time and again that he had something he needed to tell the sable haired cop. When Hutch had assured him that anything he wanted to say off the record would be passed on to his partner, Dalango and grinned wolfishly.

‘What I have to say aint the sort of thing Davey’ll want to hear’.

‘So why tell him? Hutch asked.

Dale snorted. ‘Ya need to ask?’

‘So tell me’ Hutch had said and Dale had proceeded to tell Hutch his secret. At the end of it, the blond was shaken to the core and vowed that first he’d find out the truth and second, if the revelation was correct, he’d move heaven and earth to keep it from his partner.

‘And you were gonna tell him?’ he’d snapped at Dalango.

‘Sure... I still might’.

‘What’ll it cost to keep ya quiet?’ Hutch said softly.

‘Somewhere comfortable’.

‘So, if I can get you into a minimum security jail, you’ll keep your mouth shut?’

Dale had smiled and nodded.

The telephone rang and on the fourth tone, it was picked up and a familiar voice answered.


‘Is this Joe Durniak?’

‘Yeah. Who’s this?’

‘Ken Hutchinson, Dave Starsky’s partner’.

There was a pause and then cautiously, Durniak continued. ‘You sound better than the last time I saw you’.

‘Yeah, I’m good thanks. Durniak, I need to ask you a question’.

‘Have you been speaking to Dale?’ Joe asked, a weird tension in his voice.

‘Yeah. He told me something, and I need to hear it from you. The truth Joe’.

‘Ken, you mean a lot to Davey, you know that’.

‘Yeah, and he means a helluva lot to me’.

‘And sometimes the truth can hurt’ Durniak pressed.

‘Are you telling me that what Dale said is true?’ Hutch asked, his heart thudding fast in his chest.

‘He mustn’t ever know Ken. Never. You got that? It was never proved. Neither of us wanted to cause trouble, so we never took the tests’.

‘Your secret’s safe Joe. The truth would kill him’.

‘It’d kill me too if he ever found out. You’re a good friend Ken, I can tell that. My Davey is a good judge of character. He chooses his friends well’.

‘Your Davey huh?’

‘Allow a father a little pride huh?’ Durniak said. ‘And remember, not a word’.

Hutch heard the telephone go down and he sat in the silence of his room as the truth sank in. He’d hoped Dalango had been lying. He’d hoped Dale was using the lie to somehow hurt his old friend, but now he’d had it confirmed by the man himself and no, he’d never tell Starsky. The brunet always knew his father was Michael Starsky, cop with the NYPD. The man who’d been gunned down in cold blood in a drive by shooting in Queens.

Hutch would never shatter that illusion of a brave and heroic father figure. Starsky had never known anything else, and the secret would go with the blond to his grave.

How would he ever be able to tell him anyway? “Oh, by the way Gordo, Your real Dad is likely to be Joe Durniak”.

Continued in part 2 - Secrets -Coming soon-