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Lock Down

This story was written over 12 months ago - I just never got around to publishing it and I ound it in my archives. i thought it was probably time it saw the light of day...and I always did like the thoughts of Starsky as a prisoner!

Chapter 1 - Set four months after the events of "Another Chance" and "A Numbers Game" - by this author

The room was grand with a capital G. It was used sometimes as a ballroom but tonight the dance floor had shrunk down in size as large circular tables three deep lined the walls. Each table sat eight guests and each table was swathed in snowy white table cloths with scarlet napkins. The silver cutlery shone dimly in the candle light from the silver candelabras in the centre of each table and the diffuse light from the enormous crystal chandelier hanging from the centre of the room. The room buzzed with the low hum of people enjoying themselves, that quiet buzz as people talk quietly and laugh at someone's joke. And then the band played a fanfare and the crowd quietened expectantly as a man in a black tuxedo with a huge chain of office around his neck took to the stage.

Looking around the room, everyone looked resplendent in their best dress. The women wore cocktail dresses in every colour imaginable whilst the men sat upright in their dinner jackets, crisp white dress shirts and black bow ties. There was an almost palpable air of expensive perfume and aftershave wafting around the high ceilinged room and diamonds and other precious stones caught the atmospheric light, twinkling seductively from the women’s ears, necks and fingers.

Two men sat looking distinctly uncomfortable in their tuxedos at one of the tables at the very side of the room. One, a blond, grabbed nervously for a glass of water, almost upsetting it on the table as his girlfriend put a calming hand on his shoulder and smiled encouragingly. The ice blue eyes smiled back at her, although the man looked as though he was going to be physically sick at any moment. The blond looked dashing and debonair in his ensemble, as though he could fit into the millionaire set without too much trouble with his perfectly tied bow tie and crisp pin tucks on his shirt, but his shaking hand and the slight patina of sweat on his upper lip belied the fact that he was more at home in the streets than this hallowed establishment.

Had he followed in his Father’s footsteps he would have had to get used to the glitz and glamour of the rich and famous, but the flaxen haired man had long since disappointed the famous Dr Richard Hutchinson by eschewing the world of operating theatres and ward rounds for a life running down the low lives of a certain Californian city.

The second man was running a finger around the too tight collar of his dress shirt and pulling petulantly at his own black bow tie. The dinner suits looked good on both men, their 6’ slim and muscular frames showing the cut of the jackets off to perfect advantage but the black suit and white shirt brought out the dark side of the curly haired man sitting like a coiled spring at the table. Not even the twinkle in his devastatingly deep blue eyes could ease the impression of a caged, feral and predatory animal wanting release. There was a dangerous edge to the man, which his own girlfriend found amazingly sexy and she clung to his hand, leaning her body into his as she gave him some much needed moral support. Her hand moved under the dinner table and gave his leg a squeeze. The fact that her hand was distinctly north of decent made Starsky’s eyes twinkle even more and he squeaked quietly.

‘Careful’ he hissed. ‘You’ll want to keep ‘em in good shape for later’. He winked at her and she melted against him, imprisoned by the indigo eyes.

Having said all there was to say about their appearance, anyone mentioning the idea of debonair, or feral and predatory to the two cops in question would have been met by an embarrassed smile a clever one liner and a quick exit. The two men did not like the limelight and had it not been for the insistence of their boss, they would never have attended the civic ceremony. They both gazed up at the party on the stage at the front of the room now with a mixture of amusement and dread and Starsky started to curl the edge of his napkin round as he waited for the dreaded moment.

The deep voice from the microphone came to the end of its rambling speech and Captain Dobey, who was sitting right of centre on the stage opened his eyes and sat up straighter. ‘And so ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure……’

‘Three times a week and twice on Sundays’ Starsky muttered into Hutch’s ear as his partner tried to keep a straight face.

‘….to award this year’s Gallantry Medals for Bravery in the Face of Adversity to Detective Sergeant First Class David Starsky and Detective Sergeant First Class Kenneth Hutchinson. Gentlemen, please come on up’ the Mayor called to the two furiously blushing men.

‘Have I mentioned recently how much I hate this part of the job?’ Hutch whined as they got up from their seats at the large round table and headed towards the Mayor.

‘Not as you’d notice. Only a few hundred times in the past day’ the brunet grinned as they threaded their way through the chairs and tables to the front of the large room, accompanied by applause and cheers from the crowd.

As they mounted the steps up onto the stage Hutch’s control almost snapped. His head had been full of acceptance speeches and the like and he was concentrating on getting this right without falling over his own feet or stammering himself into oblivion. But all serious thoughts were driven from his head as he caught sight of his partner’s feet. Starsky might look damned fine in his black suit and white shirt, the colours highlighting his olive toned skin and curly, mahogany hair, but who in their right mind would top the formal ensemble with a pair of blue Adidas running shoes? Hutch shook his head. Why did he mention anyone “in their right mind”? His partner would never fall into that category anyway!

The cops made their way quickly onto the stage, hoping for a quick bow, a wave and then an escape. But the Mayor had other ideas in store and stood between the two men holding onto their arms and beaming as cameras flashed and the crowd continued to applaud.

Finally he raised his hand and there was silence in the room. With great dignity the Chief of Police came forward with two beautiful burr walnut boxes and stood by the side of the nervous and embarrassed detectives as the Mayor opened the first box.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, Detectives Hutchinson and Starsky worked together for four months to infiltrate and bring down the notorious Northern Stars Group, leaving them both seriously injured. As you can see today, they have both fortunately made a full recovery which is a testament to their drive and initiative. But more to the point, the group has been disbanded and the prime movers in the cell have been arrested, tried and convicted of serious crimes against Bay City’s community’.

He turned to the two men and motioned for Hutch to come forward first.

‘Detective Starsky, please accept this medal as a token of the City’s appreciation for all you have done’ he hung the medal over Hutch’s head as the blond bowed slightly to accommodate the Mayor’s 5’6” height.

‘Um, Hutchinson’ Hutch whispered to the Mayor who was still beaming at him.

‘What?’

‘I’m Hutchinson. He’s Starsky’.

‘Ah, yes, well! Detective Hutchinson?’ he nodded at Starsky who grinned at his partner. He took a step forward.

The Mayor seemed a little confused and lost for words, but covered it well. ‘Detective Hutchinson, the same goes for you. The City is honoured to employ two such brave and resilient detectives!’

Both detectives stood for another moment at the side of the Mayor, looking distinctly uncomfortable as they did a quick little bow and then made the quickest getaway they’d ever used to hot foot it down the steps and back to oblivion at their table. Sitting down, they each took off their medals, swapped, and put them into the wooden boxes, closing the lids tight, not to see the light of day again for quite some time. That wasn’t their way. While they were two of the best detectives in Bay City, they wanted nothing more than to be back out on the streets, working together. The awards and ceremonies meant very little to them and the medal was just something else that they’d put in a drawer and maybe bring out to show the grandchildren.

‘Thank God that’s over. Where’s the food?’ Starsky asked looking around expectantly.

‘You mean you can still eat after all that humiliation?’ Hutch asked.

‘Hey, my Mom always said a little humiliation is good for the soul. Especially when it’s accompanied by a four course meal right afterwards. Four courses….four’ his partner balled his hands into fists and sighed, then grinned. ‘Sorry – the not counting thing is still a work in progress! Look on the bright side, you didn’t fall off the stage and you didn’t need to go through your acceptance speech’.

‘No, but I spent all night getting it ready. And then I didn’t get to use it!’ the blond whined and then smiled fondly at his partner. In the preceding months both he and Starsky had had to recover from their injuries – Hutch from being shot in the head and Starsky from being tortured to the brink of insanity. Hutch had recently come out of hospital after having a skin graft over the brand the Northern stars had burned into his shoulder. And yet, here was his ebullient partner, still concentrating on the one abiding love of his life – food!

Starsky rolled his eyes heavenwards. ‘There’s just no pleasing you is there? Just shudup and eat your food like a good little Blondie huh?’

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Early next morning the candy apple red and white striped Ford Gran Torino drew up outside the apartment at Venice Place and a bright and perky Starsky got out, jogged around the front end of the car and took the steps two at a time. He knocked on the door and pushed it open sticking his head around it in case Hutch’s girlfriend was still around.

After the ceremony had ended last night, Hutch and Abby, Starsky and Susan had made an evening of it by going to one of the new trendy discos on the Ocean Road out of the city. There, they’d boogied out on the sand under the stars till the early hours and had finally made it home at gone 3:00am. While Susan was due to start work at the hospital at 8:00am and had gone straight home, Abby had the day off and now as Starsky tiptoed into the dim and curtained room, he saw Hutch’s bedroom door was still closed and various items of Abby’s clothing were strewn across the floor and furniture. The brunet smiled. Lucky sod!

He found his way into the kitchen and set to making freshly brewed coffee, hoping the aroma would wake his partner up. They needed to be out on the street and rolling by 8:30 and it was 7:45 now. With two cups in his hand, he knocked on the bedroom door and shouted.

‘Hey rise and shine love birds. Time to go to work!’

Something that sounded like a shoe hit the back of the door and Starsky grinned, rattling the doorknob again before padding back to the sofa and sitting down. He put his feet up on the coffee table and rested back, savouring the fresh coffee as a bleary and sleep tousled blond head appeared round the door.

‘What time is it?’

‘Time you were up, washed and dressed and enjoying your coffee. C’mon Blintz, bad guys to catch!’ Starsky said a little too loudly.

‘Keep it down will ya? There’s a brass band goin’ off in my head an’ it’s just about to start on the second chorus!’ Hutch muttered.

‘Serves ya right for sleeping in – if ya got any sleep at all’ the brunet wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

‘You’re all heart, you know that don’t ya?’ Hutch disappeared back into his bedroom and emerged a moment later with a towel round his hips and headed for the bathroom.

The sounds of showers subsided and Hutch emerged a few minutes later, scrubbed and looking a little less like he’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. Water dripped from his flaxen bangs onto his bare chest and he had a toothbrush clamped between his teeth.

‘Ready?’ Starsky asked innocently looking at his watch.

‘Do I look like I’m ready’ the blond mumbled around the toothbrush. ‘Just gimme a minute’ He opened the door and looked at his girlfriend’s body on the bed. He ducked his head round the door. ‘Maybe gimme five’ he smiled as Abby’s arm snaked up to entice him back to bed.

Within 15 minutes, Hutch was dried and dressed and following his partner down the steps and out into the bright sunlit morning. He groaned and took his dark glasses from his jacket pocket jamming them onto his face as he got into the car and hunkered down in the seat.

‘Remind me never again to drink so much champagne’ he mumbled as the brunet started the engine and pulled out.

As he started to close his eyes, the radio chirped into life and he reached for it.

Chapter 2

‘Zebra three, Zebra three’.

Hutch took the mic. ‘This is Zebra three’ he grunted.

‘Had a good night did ya Hutch honey?’ Minnie’s voice held a hint of laughter in it

‘Yeah, but I guess my days gonna get even better. What’ve ya got?’

‘Can ya get your lovely asses down town? Dobey wants to see you both. He’s got the team assembled. I think it’s gonna go down’.

Starsky took the mic. From Hutch’s hand. ‘Hey honey. Since when did you decide I had a lovely ass?’

‘Starsky you’re ass is to die for. Shame the rest of you aint up to scratch. Metro out’.

Starsky handed the mic. back to his partner with a grimace and the blond hung it back on the cradle and tried not to notice his partner slamming the selector into drive and hurtling off with even more tire squeal than usual. He tried to keep the smirk off his face and get his mind back on the job. They’d waited a long time for this moment. Too long, it seemed. Their team was ready, their intel was up to date and now they had to fine tune their plans and put them into operation.

It had been a long time since Starsky and Hutch had worked as part of a bigger team, but this job called for more than just the two detectives. When Dobey had first told them about his conversation with his counterpart in Carson City Nevada, they’d been curious to say the least. But right from the outset they knew that the job Dobey invited them to do was too big for the two of them.

And so, while both were still recovering full fitness from their previous assignment, their team was assembled. It included two officers from Carson City PD and Anise Cameron a fairly new detective from BCPD. All three had been brought on board a month ago and the five detectives had spent some time getting to know each other. They all knew the value of becoming so familiar with each other that thoughts became unspoken words and while Hutch and his curly haired partner had achieved that state and more during their years of working together, it was difficult for all concerned to get familiar enough to trust each other with their lives.

Wayne Hilliard was an enormous wall of a man who came originally from Alaska. It was there, because of his size, that he’d earned the nickname Bear and the name stuck, right through school, the police academy and his years in uniform. Now, at age 33, he stood a remarkable 6’5” tall and weighed 240 lbs of solid muscle. His shock of black hair which he wore short extended down through sideburns to a black beard which was also short and perfectly manicured. When Starsky had first seen him, he’d taken an instant liking to the big guy and even after his hand had been all but crushed in Bear’s vice like handshake he’d continued to enjoy the man’s company. Bear had an easy sense of humour which bordered on the silly and was given to bouts of uncontrollable giggling. When he and Starsky both saw something funny in a situation, there was no stopping them, and more than once Hutch had stared at them before putting his head in his hands and rolling his eyes.

Hilliard’s partner was an Italian man who had come to Nevada as a boy. Antonio (Tony) Conti was short at only 5’ 7” and slim to the point of wiry. His face was handsome and olive toned and thin, with dark haunted brown eyes overlooked by thick dark brows. His black hair was curly but always slicked back to give him a vaguely Mafia type look and he and Bear were inseparable. While Hilliard had come from backwoodsman stock, happy to live off the land and hunt for meat and fish, Tony was used to city life. Coming from Rome and then living in first Chicago and then Carson City he was more at home in expensive restaurants and theatres than in some wooden shack half way up a mountain. But somehow, the duo hit it off the moment they met, and Bear and Tony had as good a rapport together as Starsky had with Hutch.

The third member of their team was something of a wild card. Anise Cameron had only recently joined BCPD and with her slim blonde good looks had immediately attracted Starsky’s attention. It was a well known fact that when new female cops arrived, the brunet was always one of the first to check them out.

When Anise had first walked into the squad room, all eyes had been on the curly haired cop, some of the other guys making silent bets as to how long the woman would last before Starsky made his move. They didn’t have to wait long. Starsky looked up, a grin on his face that split it from ear to ear. He slid off the desk he’d been perching on, reading a report over Hutch’s shoulder and strutted over to the blond woman with an ultra confident step. He leaned down close to her shoulder as she put some things tidily into her new desk.

‘Hi. I’m Dave. Dave Starsky’.

She had looked up at him with big green eyes. ‘Anise Cameron. Hi’.

‘Me and my partner over there were just about to go to lunch. Ya wanna sample the delights of Joey’s hamburger stand?’

‘No’ she'd said.

‘Oh! Ah…maybe Mexican? I know this great…’

‘Captain Dobey warned me about you’ Anise had said firmly.

‘Warned…..me? Jeez, you only just got here! What did he say? It’s all lies! I’m a nice guy’.

She'd grinned at him. ‘There’s nice and then again, there’s nice. I just don’t want to be another notch on your you’re bedpost, Detective Starsky. And apart from that, I go more for blonds’. She looked around the brunet cop’s body to Hutch, who was still sitting hammering away at his typewriter.

The long blond fingers had stopped and the pencil that had been wedged in Hutch’s mouth had dropped with a clatter onto the desk top. He'd grinned back at his shocked looking partner. Silently he gotten up from the desk, reached around Starsky’s body and had held out his hand to Anise. She'd taken it and stood, almost knocking Starsky out of the way.

‘Don’t mind him. He’s always been uncouth. I’m…’

‘Hutch. I know’ she'd breathed.

‘Would you like to step out for some lunch?’ the flaxen haired cop had asked.

Anise sighed. With another withering look at Starsky, she'd stepped around him. ‘I thought you’d never ask’.

Now all five members of the team were gathered in a small room down the corridor from Dobey’s office. They sat around a central table as the Captain stood at its head, marker in hand as he scribbled on a flip chart.

‘Ok people. This is what we got so far. The Warden is one Eli Long. He’s been at San Elmis for the past seven years. During that time he seems ta have done a good job. San Elmis is known for being one tough place to be. They have an excellent record of peace keeping. They haven’t had one riot or outbreak of trouble in all the time that Long has been there. They have, however had above average deaths among the inmates’.

‘Over the past two years alone, there have been five shootings of inmates in the exercise yards, mostly because they have been accused of inciting riot or attempting to escape. Nothing particularly bad about that ‘cept that every single death was a prisoner who had dealings with drug supply’.

‘When the authorities investigated Long last year they found he had a better than average lifestyle, but nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing that savings and careful spending wouldn’t provide for. It wasn’t till they started looking at his investments that they found he had three offshore bank accounts, two in Grand Cayman and one in Switzerland. And those three accounts were stacked. There is no way a man earning what he does should be able to amass that amount of money’.

‘And then three months ago, one Amos Russell, well know drug dealer in Carson City was released. He went immediately to the local police and told them he thought Warden Eli Long was dealing drugs on the inside. The local Captain set up a meet with Russell, but he never showed. His body was found mashed into the freeway a few miles outside town. He’d been badly beaten before he died’.

‘Now putting two and two together, the Nevada PD needed to investigate and put Bear and Tony on the case. But as the prison is close to the city borders, they’re too well known to go in under cover. The prison guards might not know ‘em, but sure as eggs is eggs some of the inmates will’.

‘That’s where you come in. I need someone in there. Now. We need to check out what’s going on and we need to do it fast’.

Starsky sat up straighter. ‘So we’re going in under cover to try and fish around. Maybe stir the pot a little?’

Dobey grimaced. ‘No pot stirring! I want you in there, quiet as mice. Keep your eyes and ears open but do nothing. Nothing to bring attention to yourselves huh? I don’t want a repetition of the Northern Stars. I want you both to come out of there in one piece. Got it?’

‘One piece. Got it Cap’n. What’s the cover?’ Hutch asked.

‘We have two slots. One is Jack Gibb, a guard transferred from a prison in upstate California. He moved into Nevada after a messy divorce. He’s been a guard in Cal. for several years. He’s in his thirties. No wife, no kids’.

‘Next is Nate Sanna. Busted in Carson City for dealing horse, snow and bush. Big name drug dealer who’s gone down for ten to twelve. He too has no family’.

‘Its your choice who goes in as who. But we do this at the end of next week. Gibb will go in first to get his feet under the tale as it were. He’ll be in one week before Sanna goes in. There’ll be a brief court hearing and then we orchestrate news headlines that Sanna has been sentenced. Make sure it’s common knowledge that he had big dealings with other states and that he made a helluva lot of money from his business dealings. If long doesn’t take that bait, then we’re completely off track’.

‘Bear and Tony. You’ll be monitoring the situation. Keep your ears to the ground. I want to be the first to know if the Warden makes noises about Sanna. Anise, you’ll be in the background at Sanna’s wife. Are we all clear?’

The five looked at each other for confirmation. It was always tough at the beginning of an undercover job. There was always that moment of gut wrenching fear that they weren’t ready and that something would go wrong. And this time, both Hutch and Starsky were going to have to trust not only each other, but also two new guys and a woman they’d never seen work in the field. The atmosphere in the room was electric. But slowly each nodded their affirmation. Yes, they were ready and now they just wanted to get in there and get the show on the road.

Chapter 3

‘So this is the famous dealer we’ve been hearing so much about! Slapped all over the newspapers. What’s it like to be famous huh? Welcome to San Elmis’ the guard leered as Starsky was pushed roughly from the secure but old prison bus. He looked around to see another of the guards holding up a newspaper displaying the headline

Nate Sanna busted for arms dealing.

Well known dealer goes down for ten to twelve.

The cuffs around his wrists and ankles dug into his flesh as he walked with an awkward short stepped gait into the receiving area of the penal establishment. The bus had pulled through the double height, double rowed fenced and barb wired area and had pulled up inside the small cage alongside the prison main block. Once the automatic cage gates had clanged shut behind him, the guards had descended on the vehicle, opened the door and had uncuffed his wrists from the eyelet sunk into the side of the bus and connected his wrists back to the thick leather belt fitting snug around his waist. The thin material of his tee shirt gave no padding against the belt and it was already rubbing against the skin of his waist, but hopefully he wouldn’t have to wear it for too much longer.

With a prod from the barrel of the SA80 semi automatic rifle carried by guard #1 Starsky walked through the cage and into the receiving hall of the penitentiary, limping over to the large desk in the corner. A man with flaxen hair and blond moustache came out of a back room and regarded him lazily before picking up a pen and hooking a thick writing pad from the edge of the desk.

‘Take him through to Room 1 Charlie. I’ll be there in a minute’ he said without acknowledging the prisoner and the brunet was once more prodded in the ribs and nudged towards the requisite room.

‘Hey, watch with the hardware huh?’ Starsky grunted as he felt the bruise forming on his side.

‘Shuddup. We didn’t speak to you, so no talkin’ back’ Charlie snapped and dug the gun deeper into his captive’s rib cage

‘Some cool reception ya got goin’ the brunet muttered as he walked slowly in front of the man and pulled up outside a room with a 1 on the door. Charlie opened it.

It was a small room, with just a table and two chairs. The walls had once been white, but years of hands coming and going had changed the paint around the door handles and light switches until they had taken on a grey and shiny colouration, the only decoration being a mirror, which Starsky knew from experience was also a window from the other side of the wall. Behind it would be another guard, watching proceedings. He mentally shrugged. The table and chairs were bolted to the floor and were plain, functional and cold. These guys certainly didn’t take chances.

Charlie motioned him to sit down on the chair and as he obeyed, the guard unclipped his cuffs and attached his left wrist to the seat of his chair, checking that the lock had caught. Starsky rattled it experimentally and Charlie cuffed him around the ear.

‘Cut it out’ he ground out.

‘Sure thing boss’ the brunet replied, ducking as Charlie’s other hand came at him from the other direction. Just as the big man was warming to his task, the guard from the reception desk came into the room carrying his coffee, pad and pen. Obviously he thought he’d be in for the long haul and thought he’d make himself comfortable. Hutch/Gibb made himself at home, taking on the bored air of a man who hated his job and longed for home. He looked up and caught Starsky’s eye, enough to give the chained brunet a measure of comfort.

After the toss of the coin almost two weeks ago, it had been decided that while Hutch would go into San Elmis immediately as a guard, Starsky would wait one week, then go in under the cover of Nate Sanna, a Nevada nightclub owner turned drugs dealer.

‘So Mr Sanna, what’s it like to be on the other side of this kind of bars huh?’ Hutch leered, picking his teeth with his finger nail. Starsky tried hard not to laugh at the character which was so unlike his partner. Instead he glared back, refusing to answer and Hutch, whose name badge now read Gibb drew his pad to him.

‘Name’.

‘Nathaniel Sanna’

‘Age’

‘29’

‘Religion’

‘Don’t have one’ Nate/Starsky said levelly.

Gibb/Hutch pushed a tray towards him. ‘Personal effects in there. You’ll get ‘em back if an’ when ya leave’.

With a sigh Starsky fumbled in his jeans pocket for his wallet. He threw the well worn leather billfold into the tray and carefully placed his Yamamoto Reflex watch next to it’. The original had been shot to hell in a barn on the outskirts if the city and Hutch had bought him an exact duplicate for his birthday, feeling bad that he'd been the one responsible for it's destruction when he'd placed the timepiece in the metal pie tin.

‘Rings’ Hutch indicated in a bored manner, bracing himself. He knew he needed to keep the charade going, but also knew how stripping away his city life was difficult for the brunet.

Starsky sighed, but bit back the argument. His rings meant more to him the anything, but he couldn’t think of a reason to keep them, so he pulled the silver rings off his left little finger and placed them too in the tray.

‘Distinguishing features?’

‘Go to hell’.

‘Distinguishing features’ Gibb/Hutch persisted, knowing that Starsky’s body had more distinguishing features than most. The brunet seemed to collect scars like some guys collected postage stamps and the olive toned torso read like an AAA map.

‘A winning smile and something the Rabbi left behind’ Nate/Starsky snarled.

Hutch looked up and sighed. One day that mouth would get his partner into a whole load of trouble. ‘That’s ok boy, we’ll find out soon enough’.

The brunet’s blood ran cold, but he glared back defiantly at the guard, his eye contact never wavering and finally Hutch looked away, wishing Starsky hadn’t goaded him quite so much. He knew how good his partner was at undercover jobs, but sometimes “Camille” didn’t know when to stop!

‘Charlie, take him through to the next room. I’ll be there in a minute to search him and then let him shower’.

Charlie grinned and unclipped the cuffs from the chair as he indicated the chained cop to go through the door to his left. He walked in and saw a bare room with a table at one end.

‘Wait there’ Charlie said with obvious relish.

The curly haired man stared back at him, knowing what was coming. To his slight relief, Hutch walked arrogantly through the door. Whatever happened, he could do it if Hutch was there.

The blond regarded him coldly. ‘Strip’ he said.

‘Aw come on! I aint; got nothin’ on me. I aint so stupid. I aint got no drugs man’.

Hutch and Charlie bore down on the curly haired detective.

‘I said strip. There’s no favourites here boy. We don’t care what you’re convicted of, or who ya think ya are. Everyone gets the same treatment and that includes a full body search. NOW’.

‘Get these things off of me then’ the brunet rattled the shackles and carefully Hutch bent down and unlocked them from round Starsky’s ankles, finally removing the leather belt. His hands lingered a little longer than necessary feeling his partner shaking slightly. The touch said it all. I’m here partner. Just play along an it’ll all be over soon. With a sigh, Starsky started to undress.

Moments later he stood in his boxers in the cool room, goose bumps standing out on his tanned body.

‘Everything’ Hutch said licking his dry lips to cover his nervousness as he snapped on a pair of rubber gloves. He knew what he had to do; knew he had to do it, and if anyone was gong to search Starsky it’d be him rather than one of the other guys. But still, he hated the thought of violating the smaller man in such a personal way.

‘You’re all heart’ Starsky grunted as he stepped out of his pants and took up position as indicated by them, bending over the table and bracing himself on his outstretched arms. He felt the big blond walk up behind him, the heat of Hutch’s body warm on his naked back. And then he felt a hand on his spine, holding him steady as the other hand started to probe between his legs. Starsky could feel Hutch’s hesitation and knew this was as difficult for his partner as it was for him. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes as the rubber coated finger insinuated itself as gently as possible into his body, grunting as Hutch added another finger next to the first. Starsky gritted his teeth and closed his eyes to shut out the too personal invasion.

Despite Hutch’s carefulness, it hurt and by the end of the search, Starsky’s body shone with a fine patina of sweat and his breath was ragged in his throat. Unused to anything like that, Starsky’s body had tensed, his muscles locking down and Hutch’s fingers had torn at his opening despite the care the blond had taken. He felt his partner leave him and he straightened, his legs rubbery and shaky as he felt a tiny tickle of blood start it’s ticklish way down the inside of his leg.

As he stood he saw Charlie looking at him. ‘Hm, ya got yourself a whole bunch of distinguishing features boy’ he said, taking in the bullet scars on the left shoulder and right calf and the faded whiplash scars on his back that he’d gained on a previous assignment.

‘Yeah, m’just lucky I guess’ Starsky grunted, feeling very naked and vulnerable in the room with the two fully dressed guards, even though one of them was closer to him than his own brother.

Charlie tore his eyes from the lithe muscular body and jerked his head to another door. ‘Go get yourself cleaned up. There’s soap and a towel and a set of regulation coveralls. And take those with ya’ he nodded at the boxers on the floor.

Gratefully the brunet picked up his underpants and hurried into the shower room, glad that Hutch didn’t follow him. He needed just a little time to himself to gather his composure again. He was thankful Hutch had been there but It creeped him out that Charlie could stand and look at his body like he was just so much meat and he shivered knowing that others had had to go through the same thing without a familiar presence to help them.

Starsky stepped into the shower stall and turned on the water, waiting for it to run hot. He left it running for a minute or so, but it became luke-warm and nothing more.

Great! Cold showers are sooo good for the constitution!

He stepped under the water and gasped as the cold jets sapped at his body’s warmth. He reached for the soap and scrubbed away the memory of the guard’s hands; Hutch’s hands invading his body. He knew Hutch had had to do it, but it still hurt like hell and had been way too personal for a partner to have to do. He set about checking himself carefully. He guessed it was just a little tear that had caused the bleeding and washed slowly, feeling the cool water relieve the sting.

Finally feeling a bit cleaner, he stepped out of the bracing shower and dried himself vigorously on the rough towel before getting himself dressed in the pale grey coveralls that were the regulation dress for prisoners at the jail. They were short sleeved with an open collar and fit where they touched. They felt baggy and cold and Starsky already longed for his tight jeans and comfortable tee shirts and as he pushed his feet into the canvas shoes he also felt a yearning for his blue Adidas too. He sighed again. There were some jobs he should just step away from.

‘Finished? Hutch/Gibb asked, searching his partner’s face for any sign of pain. He knew he’d hurt Starsky even though he’d been as careful as possible, but the trickle of blood had made him feel sick to his stomach. He hardened his voice. ‘Face the wall’.

Starsky did as he was told and felt the thick leather belt circling his waist again, Hutch’s hands holding his body for one brief warm contact. Then his hands were pulled behind his back and the familiar cold of the metal handcuffs circled each wrist before they were secured to the back of the belt. Hutch spun him round.

‘Welcome to the Nevada Hilton. I’m sure it’s not what you’re used to, but we all have to make adjustments. I’ll get the concierge to show you to your room’ he said with mock civility.

With Hutch at the front, and Charlie and his SA80 at the back of him, the three men processed out of the reception area and into a circular hall with five doors leading off of it, arranged around its perimeter. The prisoner was pushed towards a door that read B Wing Maximum security.

‘Hey! I should be in the bunk rooms. I’m not dangerous! I do drugs, not bombs. I aint no murderer What’re ya doin?’ Starsky protested, stopping on the middle of the hall.

‘You’re goin’ where we tell ya, its fer yer own protection’ Charlie leered as he pushed a button on the wall and the door opened. Behind him. Hutch shrugged. He’d had no idea that Starsky would be housed there

A long corridor intersected by other automatic doors stretched in front of him and Starsky felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Just great!, God help me if I can get within an inch of the Warden in here.

Going through two of the doors, he was stopped by a hand on his shoulder as the door to a 12’x12’ cage opened on his right hand side and he was pushed in. With a clang, the door slid shut again and through the bars Hutch unfastened the cuffs and belt.

‘Welcome to your new home. Make yourself comfortable!’

Starsky watched as the two guards walked away, Hutch looking over his shoulder just once at his partner and then the brunet turned back to his cage. It held a narrow bunk bed, a toilet in the corner and a small steel washbasin. All the comforts of home!

With a deep sigh, he flung himself down on the bed.

Its tails Blondie. My turn to be the prisoner. You can be the guard!’

Whatever. I just don't know if I can leave ya in there. You aren’t done healing properly yet’.

I’ll be fine buddy. I’ve done it before. Hell, I did six months with that bikers group!’

Yeah’ Hutch snorted. ‘And look where that got ya. A set of broken ribs and smoking 40 a day, not to mention…..’

Well we’ve gotta do something, and I say the only way to get into the ring is to go in there as Nate Sanna’.

Dobey sighed. ‘Well for Gods sake be careful huh?.

Me? Aren’t I always careful?’

I don’t like it Starsk. It stinks. Why can’t we just bust in there with a whole bunch of troupers? Hutch spat.

And if we find nothin’s happening how’s that gonna go down? Just leave me a week. If I can’t find anything then, Dobey can tell the Warden there was a suggestion something was going down, and he can get us out. It’s only a week Blintz. What can happen in a week?’

Starsk, Aidan Quinn almost killed you in a week!’

Well Ade Quinn aint in San Elmis is he?’ Starsky grinned.

Starsky led on his bed and stared at the ceiling of his cell, wondering whether this was in fact not one of the pair’s better undercover assignments.

Chapter 4

Hutch paced the small room waiting for his boss to get back from his meeting. He’d come back from his shift at San Elmis that afternoon and had immediately telephoned Dobey to bring him up to speed on how Starsky was. The sight of his curly haired partner standing in the interview room, shackled and bowed was one he couldn’t erase from his mind. And the fact that he’d then had to conduct the full body cavity search left him feeling shaken to the core and somehow dirty. It had gotten even worse when Hutch had watched Starsky standing alone in his cell – no it wasn’t even a cell. The maximum security wing had cages rather than rooms. The New York brogue sounded in his ears

Its only a week Blintz. What can happen in a week?’

Hutch sighed. A whole helluva lot can happen in a week Gordo and you know it! Especially when you’re called Starsky. The blond tried not to remember the countless times they had to go into a situation undercover and the times they’d had results, but at the cost of their own health and sometimes sanity. He shivered.

Both detectives had been into jails in their careers, visiting inmates, as part of liaison jobs and the like. And Hutch had always found it a big relief to be back on the outside again, knowing he had the ability to just walk out of the places without a backwards glance. Neither man was a coward, but the all pervading sense of danger and anger in the cell blocks was nerve jangling in it’s intensity. The last time they’d had to visit San Quentin, Hutch had never in all his born days felt as vulnerable and at risk. He hated to think what his partner was feeling after his first night as a prisoner.

His black thoughts were interrupted by the click on the line as his Captain picked up the phone. He could hear Dobey sitting down and wiping at his face with his handkerchief.

‘I want you to ring the prison and ask for a visit. I need to make sure he’s ok’ Hutch blurted out.

Dobey snorted in surprise, more as though he wouldn’t have expected anything else. He pushed the telephone against his ear, listening to Hutch’s description of Starsky’s arrival at the prison and he winced in sympathy for both his men. Finally, when Hutch paused for breath, he agreed to phone and replaced the receiver, picking it up a moment later and redialling

‘San Elmis Penitentiary’.

‘I want to book a visit’ Dobey said immediately.

‘Legal or family?’

The black man swallowed, knowing he’d get a quicker appointment if he said it was legal. He told the receptionist and there was a pause as he heard pages in a ledger being turned.

‘We have today at 4:15. Which prisoner?’

‘Nate Sanna’

There was a pregnant pause. ‘I’m sorry, Prisoner Sanna is unavailable for visits’.

Dobey’s heart leapt into his mouth. ‘What d’ya mean unavailable for visits?’

‘Prisoner Sanna was taken to the hospital wing this morning’.

‘Is he OK? I mean, is he sick?’ Dobey asked, his heart now hammering in his chest.

‘I’m sorry sir I’m not allowed to give that information’ the bored voice sounded.

‘Well that’s not good enough lady. I need to see him and I need to see him today’ Dobey yelled down the phone. He stopped himself and went on more calmly.

‘This is Harold Dobey of the Dobey, Dobey and Snape Attorneys at law. I will be visiting my client, Nathaniel Sanna…….at 4:15 this afternoon. And if he’s still in the hospital wing I’ll see him there’ he put the phone down before the receptionist could argue further and sighed. ‘What the hell’s he gone and done now?’

With a slightly shaking hand, he redialled Hutch’s hotel number. The blond answered it before it rang.

‘Its not good news. They’re telling me that Starsky is in the hospital wing. I’ve told them I’m gonna visit at 4:15 this afternoon….Hutch…..HUTCH!’

The phone went dead and the black man could imagine the flight from the bedroom

oOo

Starsky had lain on his bunk during the previous afternoon after his admission to the prison. With no books, no TV or radio, his thoughts went back to the last conversation he’d had with Hutch. He’d known his partner had been both mad at him for winning the toss to be the “prisoner” and thankful that at least he’d be there during his shift to watch out for his partner. Just the fact that Amos Russell had gone straight from San Emis to the police and asked for help was an indication of how serious things were and if NPD was right and the administration at the jail were in on the drugs syndicate, the only way to get information was to be on the inside.

After the meeting, Hutch had yelled at him, pleaded with him, gone quiet and had finally acquiesced, but not before he’d told Starsky that he’d be arranging at least two, maybe three visits from Dobey and that he’d be pulling double shifts to keep Starsky’s back covered as much as possible.

Starsky had said goodbye to Hutch the week before with a heavy heart. He knew the blond didn’t really enjoy the undercover assignments, and with their history of injuries, who could blame him? But the blond was a damned good cop and knew his job. He’d had calls from Hutch all the previous week, filling him in on the situation in the jail, the guards, the inmates and the procedures. And he’d warned him about the procedures he’d have to go through when he was admitted. But nothing had truly prepared him for the search and he’d hated that Hutch had had to do that to him.

And now he led and waited, trying to plan how he could get the warden’s attention. He hadn’t factored in the fact that he might be classed as a maximum security prisoner. That meant 23 hours per day locked in his cell and movements outside the cell being monitored closely. He’d be shackled each time he was let out for exercise and there would be at least one armed guard with him at all times. In circumstances like that he’d be lucky to see anyone, let alone meet Eli Long and be able to find out what was going on. His mind ran round in circles as he tried to decide what his next move was going to be and he jumped as he heard the metallic grating of doors opening.

A prisoner appeared in the corridor outside his cell and Starsky got up off the bunk and walked over to the bars to take the tray that the man passed through to him. As he took hold of the thick cardboard tray the other prisoner pushed the plate to one side and the brunet saw a slip of paper. Without making eye contact he took the tray and went back to his bunk, sitting with his back to the bars.

Surreptitiously, he slid the paper out and opened it, seeing a thin spidery scrawl across it.

Watch your back newbie. We got you in our sights!

Starsky looked at the handwriting and chuckled to himself. They always said the bush telegraph in prison was the fastest in the world. Now he knew the rumours were true. Shit how could anyone keep anything a secret in here? But then he remembered the mock sentencing hearing he’d endured. No-one liked drugs dealers.

Tearing the paper into the tiniest of pieces, he dropped it down the pan and flushed before going back to the colourless, tasteless and textureless mass that was supposed to be his supper.

So, he was already on someone’s hit list, although whether that someone was a guard or a prisoner Starsky didn’t know. In these places it could be anyone. And the problem of getting to see the Warden wasn’t being solved either. The one things the brunet didn’t want to do was to languish in this hellhole of a cell for a week without getting anywhere. No, he needed to make a name for himself now. Get himself brought before the Warden and then maybe he could start dealing.

His neighbour stared malevolently back at him. The guy in the cell opposite was perhaps 6’5” and looked as though he ate anabolic steroids for desert and had cops for breakfast. Starsky took a shaky breath.

Ooooook Davey boy. What’s the best way to come to the Warden’s attention? Cause a commotion. Pick a fight. Just don’t get yourself beaten up. Pick on someone small huh? No problems there then. There must be enough guys in here who’d love a piece of ya just to get back at all the dealers they’ve run into over the years. Yeah, this bit should be a piece of cake. Not getting killed in the process will be the hard part.

That night the lights went out on the cell block at precisely 11:00pm. In the darkness the brunet tried to mentally prepare himself for what he had to do. While not relishing picking a fight with the flakes he shared the corridor with, he couldn’t think of any other way to get himself into brought before the Warden. Any infraction meant a punishment and only the Warden could pass sentence. And there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell of him getting to see Long unless he’d caused some trouble. With a final fatalistic shrug, Starsky turned on his side on the narrow bunk and pulled the single sheet up round his ears. His dreams that night were of blondes, big beefy prisoners and Burt Lancaster’s portrayal of Robert Stroud as the Birdman of Alcatraz.

The lights flickering on at 6:00am woke Starsky from his uneasy sleep. Although his cell had a window it was a small one, less then 2’ square and set high up in the wall with bars across it. The bars and the fact that the window was set under the eaves of the building stopped a lot of the natural light from getting into the small cell and so he hadn’t woken earlier. He groaned, his body stiff from the hard mattress and the effects of having to lie pretzelled up on the narrow bed.

The same prisoner as the previous night appeared with another cardboard tray of breakfast. The meal consisted of oatmeal so stiff it could have been used as building mortar and toast that had been made at least 8 hours earlier and was damp and soggy. Starsky pushed it around his plate, the looks of the food not encouraging his appetite as he contemplated what he had to do fairly soon.

An hour later, there was a general sound of clanging from down the corridor and two by two the prisoners were let out for a half an hour of exercise. Starsky waited, his breathing rapid as the noises got closer and closer and an hour and a half later, two enormous guards stood by the side of his cell and the cell opposite.

‘Stand back’ guard #1 said as Starsky took a step away from the door. There was a screeching of bare metal against bare metal as the door of his cell slid backwards, and as he looked across his neighbour’s door was also sliding open. So much for picking on someone smaller than himself! The two guards motioned the prisoners out with their SA80s aimed and slowly Starsky walked forward and followed the mountain of a man down the corridor towards an open doorway at the end.

The curly haired cop found himself in a small exercise yard surrounded by tall walls topped with barbed wire. There was no grass, just a gravel area with a well defined path around the perimeter and his neighbour, who had obviously been here several times before started to walk in a desultory fashion along it. The mahogany haired man waited, wondering how he was going to orchestrate the fight. The other man was at least twice his size and although Starsky could hold his own in a fight, he didn’t fancy his chances against the giant. But there again, he needed to do something bad enough to get brought before the Warden.

As he was considering his next move, however, he didn’t take into account the actions of the guards. They’d heard about the infamous dealer and had taken an instant dislike – or maybe they just had instructions. The two armed men bided their time, keeping Starsky separate from his neighbour and as their half hour came to an end, the other man was shepherded back into the building. As Starsky started to follow, realising that his chances of fighting had just been decreased from slim to none, guard #2 blocked his way.

A moment later guard #1 rejoined his companion and both leered at the curly haired cop. Starsky backed up slowly.

‘Where d’ya think you’re goin’?’ guard #1 asked.

‘Back to my cell’ the brunet said calmly.

‘Back to your cell what?’

Starsky furrowed his brow. ‘Say again. I just wanna get back to my cell’ he said, not liking the direction the conversation was heading. He watched as guard #2 walked slowly round behind him, tryin to keep both men in view.

With rapier like speed the guard at his back leapt forward and took a hold of the surprised detective by the arms, pulling them back as the guard in front rammed a fist into his stomach, sending the wind whistling through his teeth.

‘You call us Sir or boss when you talk to us Sanna. Ya got that?’ he asked. He watched in satisfaction as Starsky folded in half and deposited his breakfast on the exercise yard floor and looked up with tearing eyes at the armed man.

Guard #1 took a handful of mahogany curls and pulled the brunet’s head savagely back until Starsky was forced to look into his face.

‘I said did you get that?’ he asked, letting Starsky’s hair go and back handing him across the face.

The smaller man licked at the blood trickling from his cut lip.

Well, this is a turn up Davey boy. Looks like you came to someone’s attention all on your own!!

He smiled at the guard. ‘Ya want me to call ya sir ya have to earn it’ he spat out, taking his chance to cause as much trouble as he could. If he was going to get beaten, he may as well take the opportunity to be put on punishment detail too. Nothing like a nice neat twofer!

‘You arrogant bastard’ Guard #1 yelled and rammed the butt of his rifle into Starsky’s stomach. The guard at his back let him fall to the ground and the brunet tried to curl himself into a ball as he saw the foot aiming a kick at him. Reflexively he covered his head with his hands as the guards kicked again and again at his stomach and back before one forced his right hand flat onto the floor as the other stamped on his outstretched arm.

Starsky screamed once, the noise reverberating around the deserted exercise yard. He felt something give and the agonising pain shot up his arm and through his chest. And then, although he fought against it, the world went black and the pains ceased for the moment.

Chapter 5

There were bright lights above him but the sparkling pain of each booted foot landing on his body had gone, to be replaced by a dull and body shattering, all pervading ache. Starsky preferred to keep his eyes closed for the moment, terrified that if he opened them, the guards would start to kick the crap out of him once again. He’d wanted to pick a fight with the man mountain of a prisoner from the next cell; a fight that he could co-ordinate and, if not win, then at least orchestrate so that he wasn’t too badly injured. When the guards had moved the other guy back inside and had turned on him he‘d been taken by surprise and once the guard had held his arms behind his back he’d had little opportunity to do anything other than try to roll with the blows and ride out the beating. But shit! They’d been thorough, obviously enjoying their sick little game and the brunet had had no chance to try to protect himself.

Another wave of pain took him and shook him and a groan was forced from his lips as he rode the wave towards the shore, retching and trying to swallow down the burning bile in his throat. Eventually he had to open his eyes and he stared straight up at the naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling above him.

Starsky was laid on his back on a hospital bed in a small ward full of empty beds. He raised his head and looked down his body, wondering how long he’d been unconscious and saw that whilst his right arm was now encased in a new white plaster cast from fingers to elbow, his left wrist was manacled to the side of the bed making it difficult for him to move and get more comfortable. His coveralls had been removed and instead he had a pair of pale grey drawstring pants on, the top half of his body being bare, revealing countless blue/black bruises across his chest and sides. Grazes and freshly sutured cuts added variety to the blues and purples and some had small white dressings taped over them.

It hurt to raise his head and he let it fall back to the pillow with another hiss of pain. Whoever had patched him up didn’t believe in morphine and each of his injuries argued with the other for which could cause him the most discomfort. But as he examined the pains in his body he realised that other than his right arm, nothing seemed to be broken, and he breathed a –shallow – sigh of relief.

Although he couldn’t see his face, the brunet knew he must look a mess. He could feel the split in his lip and the whole left hand side of his face felt like one big bruise, the skin taut over the swollen cheek bone. And if he wasn’t mistaken, he had a real shiner over his left eye. He chuckled to himself, tasting the coppery metallic taste of his own blood in his mouth and he longed for some water to wash it away.

Well, one way or the other ya got your wish Davey boy. An’ look on the bright side. At least you aren’t dead. The Warden is gonna have to see ya now.

There were no drips into the backs of his hands and no oxygen tubes or the like, so Starsky concluded from all his hospital experience that he probably wasn’t too badly injured. What would a normal hospital do? Probably write on his notes “multiple bruises and contusions” and send him home. He sighed. What he wouldn’t give right now to be home with a cold beer, a soft bed and maybe Susan at his side. Or Hutch. Any soothing presence, because his nerves were a jangling mess.

Starsky’s body stiffened as he heard another person come into the room and he closed his eyes pretending to sleep. The footsteps walked towards him and he almost stopped breathing hoping that Larry and Mo, the two guards who’d used his body as a punchbag weren’t coming back for seconds. A second later he flinched involuntarily as a hand touched his shoulder. He opened his eye a little and looked up into his partner’s face.

Hutch looked so much younger in the blue prison guards uniform and now there was concern in the crystal blue eyes that regarded his partner levelly.

‘What the fuck you doing here Starsk?’ he hissed

‘Bleedin’ he whispered back, an edge of anger in his voice. ‘No-one told me that the guards here were such sadistic bastards. I got a note from some fan or other saying that I was a newbie and someone was watchin’ me. I figured I needed to get to Long, so…..’.

‘So you thought what?’

‘That I’d get myself a gold edged invitation. What d’ya think?’ Starsky grunted back.

‘Aww Jeez Gordo. Couldn’t you have found another way?’

‘Like what, Einstien?’

‘Well maybe asking to see him?’ Hutch said as if explaining to a child.

‘Hutch, they got me on maximum security. D’ya really think they’d have let me just walk on up to Long’s office an’ ask the questions?’

The blond shrugged. ‘OK, you’ve got a point. But hell Starsk. I’ve seen cadavers look healthier’.

The brunet gave his partner a withering look. ‘You say the nicest things!’

‘So. What did ya do to piss the guards off huh?’

‘They didn’t like the fact I was a dealer’ Starsky grinned and then winced as the expression pulled at his bruised, split lips. ‘What've you managed to find out?’

‘There’s definitely something going down. Thee are at least four of the guards who go for “meetings” with Long at least twice a day. And there are three or four prisoners who have larger than average cells and way more privileges than the others. They’re held on the top floor. They have more visiting rights, TVs and the like, and Long goes to see ‘em himself’ Hutch reported.

‘And what are they inside for?’

‘That’s what I’m gonna find out when I finish my shift this afternoon’.

Starsky closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on the information rather than the blinding ache in his head and his body. He licked his bruised lips. ‘The NPD Captain did right in callin’ us in. There’s sumthin happenin’. Apart from the shedloads of allegations against the prison system in general. Usual stuff. Prison rape, abuse.’ He rattled the manacle on his wrist. ‘Insufficient medical care’ he chuckled and then winced, holding onto his bruised ribs.

‘Well I don’t know how long you’ll be in here, but watch your back partner, I don’t want ya bein’ another statistic’. Hutch muttered, resisting the implse to run a soothing hand over his partner’s forehead.

At that moment there was the sound of keys rattling in a lock and Hutch hurried back to the door busying himself with a bunch of keys as an orderly walked into the room. He came up to the bed and, ignoring Starsky, fiddled with the chart at the bottom of the bed.

‘Ya got any pain?’ he asked without looking at the brunet.

‘Enough’.

‘Oh’. The orderly put the chart down, but made no move to get a shot or a set of pain meds. Instead he unlocked the manacle attaching Starsky to the bed and stood back. ‘There’s a set of coveralls there. Put ‘em on you a have visitor’.

The curly haired cop winked surreptitiously at his partner as Hutch exited the room, and biting back another groan, he levered himself out of bed. Standing up was no more comfortable than lying down and by the state of his double vision, Starsky decided he probably had a concussion to add to his other injuries. But he stood shakily and paused a moment to get his balance. The orderly continued to watch as the brunet shucked off his pants and pulled on the coveralls, wincing as the sleeve caught at his new cast. His arm felt pleasantly numb and the heat of the plaster hadn’t so far warn off, so from experience he thought it had probably only been in place a couple of hours.

When he’d jammed his feet back into the canvass shoes the orderly motioned for him to stand against the wall.

Starsky did as he was told and felt the big leather belt circle his waist, pulling the coveralls snugly round his waist. With one hand on his back, the orderly bent down and fastened the shackles around his ankles, connecting the chain between them and then up to the belt. He roughly pulled the brunet’s left wrist behind him.

‘Gimme the other’ he said gruffly.

‘Aw, c’mon. It’s broken. I couldn’t knock the skin off of a bowl of tapioca with that one’ Starsky grunted.

‘I said gimme the other’ the orderly repeated and took hold of the cast, pulling the right arm back and next to its friend. The pain was incredible, the limb no longer numb and bright flashes of pain shot up Starsky’s arm and through his chest. There was no way he could keep back the rough shout and he stood with his brow resting against the rough wall as the sweat beaded on his forehead and trickled down the sides of his face. He drew in deep breaths between pursed lips as he fought for control and finally felt the large leather cuff circle his left wrist, snagging it against the sold cast on the right.

The curly haired cop swayed, riding the rollercoaster of pain until he thought he’d gotten his stomach under control, and finally looked up from under thick lashes now spiked with sweat. The pain in his wrist subsided to a dull persistent ache which complimented the aches from the various other parts of his body, but he was standing and he could walk under his own power. In San Elmis that meant he was fine.

He grunted again as the orderly pushed him towards the door and the two waiting guards; the two who’d taken him out to the exercise yard and worked him over and he regarded them with loathing and caution. In the background, Hutch stood with his back to the guards, balling his hands into fists to stop himself from coming to the aid of his friend. He hated leaving Starsky to the mercy of the guards again, but new he had little option if he was to keep their cover.

‘Well if it ain’t Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Come back for seconds have ya?’ Starsky said bitterly. In the background Hutch winced inwardly. Why did Starsky have to piss them off so royally. Wasn’t he hurting enough?

The guards towered over him and one bent down to look into his face.

‘When a prisoner turns on a guard an’ tries to kill ‘em, they have to watch their back’ he hissed.

‘Tries to…oh, I get it! Ya didn’t beat up on me, I tried it with you huh? an’ all these bruises were just your idea of self defence’.

Guard #1 looked at his companion. ‘Catches on quick, don’t he?’

The brunet was prodded with the tip of the rifle, and with a backwards look to see if he could see his partner, he shuffled out of the hospital ward and back to the interview rooms.

Chapter 6

Dobey had tried hard to keep to the speed limit on his way to San Elmis. Going on a prison visit didn’t exactly rate the mars light and sirens, but that’s how anxious he felt. When the receptionist had mentioned that Starsky was unavailable for visits, his heart had sunk into his boots. Just what had his curly haired detective gotten himself into this time? He sighed. Starsky in trouble was bad enough. Having Hutch in there too should have comforted him, but instead it seemed to heighten his anxiety. And as Dobey couldn’t take a weapon into the prison, visitor or not, he felt naked and defenceless for himself and his two men.

As he drove he tried to give himself reasons why Starsky should be in the hospital wing. Maybe he’d gotten food poisoning, or the flu?

Yeah, about as likely as the Pope not being Catholic! C’mon Harold!.

Stories of how prisoners had been abused within the prison system came unbidden to his head. A story of a guy being found naked and dead outside his cell, almost a pint of semen still in his stomach. Another starved so badly that he couldn’t take solid food for four months after his release. Tales of beatings and rape were commonplace and although the big black man knew Starsky could hold his own in a fight, prison wasn’t the sort of place where friends would put themselves out to help. And the brunet had no flaxen haired partner to watch his back every second of the day. Because Hutch had his cover as a guard, he had to be seen to be doing a real job, and that did not entail hanging around Starsky’s cell. And what if Hutch was found out? If there really was something dodgy going on in the jail, Hutch’s life was as much on the line as Starsky’s was

OK OK Harold. Enough with the scary stories. Just get in there and find out what’s going on.

As he drove out through the open scrubland south of Carson City, the flat, treeless plain stretched before him - the perfect place for a prison. Anyone trying to escape would be seen for miles and any visitor to the facility could be observed on their approach. It sent a shiver down the big man’s spine just thinking about it and as he drove up to the sentry box at the first layer of mesh and barbed netting, he drew his dark blue car to a halt. A fresh faced young man in a sand coloured uniform ducked out of the small booth and shouldered his rifle. He looked in through the open window and Dobey gave his name and who he was visiting. The boy asked him to wait and made a telephone call to the main block, coming out a moment later and lifting the barrier across the road. Dobey carried on through the second layer of fencing and found himself inside a barren and flat complex. He pulled his car up beside a set of other vehicles and got out, making his way to the entrance marked “Visitors”.

The women who’d obviously answered the telephone to him that morning looked up as he entered.

‘Harold Dobey’ he announced. ‘Here to see Nathaniel Sanna’.

The woman gave him an evil look, not happy that he’d gone over her head and organised a visit when she’d told him he couldn’t.

‘Wait here’ she said sullenly and went into the back office. Dobey heard her talking to someone, then came back out. ‘The guard will be with you shortly’ she said, going back to filing her nails.

The big man paced the small reception room, looking out through the grimy dusty windows at the bright sunlight outside. It seemed wrong somehow. It should be dark and stormy, rain lashing down outside to match the all pervading air of gloom and doom inside the prison. He was shaken from his dark thoughts by a door opening and a uniformed guard entering.

‘Mr Dobey? I’ll take you through to the interview rooms. Do you mind if we search you?’

Dobey shook his head and submitted quietly as one of the guards patted him down thoroughly and then he followed the same man through to a long narrow room. It was split down the middle by a partition made half of glass with the lower half being masonry. Small walls projected out from the central partition making small booth-like areas with chairs and he pulled out one indicated by the guard.

‘You have 15 minutes’ he announced and left.

Dobey drummed his fingers on the flat, chipped formica top and waited, his heart hammering in his chest. He looked carefully around the desolate, uncompromising room, searching for any surveillance equipment. Seeing nothing he breathed a sigh of relief. They’d be able to talk openly. Suddenly the door on the opposite side of the glass opened and he got his first look at his detective.

Starsky shuffled into the room escorted by the two armed guards. The chains around his ankles stopped him from taking his usual strutting steps and as he got closer Dobey could see the damage done to the handsome face. He walked bent over slightly and the black man could see that it wasn’t just the chains that kept him that way.

The whole left side of the face was bruised and swollen, the left eye swollen shut. The lips were smashed and split and a trickle of dried blood wound its way from his nose to the top of his lip, an older injury which hadn’t been cleaned up properly. As the brunet sat down with a wince, the open neck of the coveralls parted and revealed the sight of other bruises extending down behind the thin material. But the thing that angered Dobey the most was that Starsky had obviously had his arm broken, but it was still trapped behind his back, strapped to his uninjured left wrist.

The guards pushed the curly haired cop towards the chair and heavy hands pushed him down onto it, connecting the chain from the belt to the back of the chair. Rattling the fastening to check, they left the two men alone without looking up at the blond.

Dobey waited until the door had closed fully then leaned forward to the bandit screen, his hand up at the glass as though he could reach through and somehow touch the smaller man.

‘What the hell’s happened to you?’

The indigo eyes, the windows to his man’s soul refused to meet his stare, instead shielding themselves from the deep brown gaze behind the thick black lashes.

‘M’fine’ the brunet muttered, looking down at his feet. And he’d probably have pulled it off if it’d been anyone else at the other side of the screen but Dobey. But just the fact that he wouldn’t meet the steely gaze told the big man all he needed to know.

‘Yeah sure you are! The blue is supposed to remain in your eyes, not decorate the rest of your body. Don’t give me that bullshit Starsky. What happened? When did it happen? Who did this to you?’

Starsky raised his head and grinned painfully.

‘Hey, good to see you too Cap’n’ he said tightly, trying to change the subject and stop the uncomfortable, piercing look.

‘Answer the goddamned question Dave’.

‘Which one? There were three?’

Dobey sighed and balled his hands into fists. ‘Ya know if you weren’t so beat up, I’d do it myself. Just tell me’.

The brunet had come to the end of his diversionary tactics. ‘Needed to get the Warden’s attention. I didn’t like the accommodation and I wanted an upgrade’ he said quietly.

‘Needed to…..shit Starsky! You mean you made this happen so that you could…..What’m I gonna do with ya?’

‘I kinda made it happen. I was gonna pick a fight, but then the guards decided to take the decision outa my hands’ he mumbled almost shyly.

‘When? When did this happen. You’ve been here less than 24 hours!’

‘Not long ago. I went out for exercise this mornin’. An’ then the guards got to me an’ I woke up in the hospital a few hours ago’ Starsky said simply.

‘And you think you got what you wanted?’ Dobey asked carefully. Starsky looked so alone and vulnerable all he really wanted to do was take hold of the injured man and soothe away the hurt.

‘Well it's….erm….I haven’t heard yet, but I guess I’m gonna be up for punishment as soon as’.

‘Punishment huh? Well that’s one way to get to see the boss’ Dobey grunted.

‘Ya think you could think of sumthin better at short notice? Besides there are plenty of nice blonds to keep me company. Ya know how I love a nice blond’.

Dobey snickered at Starsky’s double edged comment. So Hutch knew about his partner’s injures. That at least was something.

The guard came back though the door. ‘Times up’ he announced.

‘You be more careful’ Dobey fixed Starsky with a steely glare.’Don’t do nothin’ stupid huh?’

‘Hey, where can I go? They got me on max security. I can’t breathe without someone pointing a semi auto at me’. He grinned again, trying to reassure the grey haired man that he could care for himself. But deep down, Starsky was scared that this was going to be bigger than he could cope with. He’d been undercover enough times in the past to know that to do it well, he had to eat sleep and breathe the part. He’d pulled off being Snake with the bikers and had even gotten a perverse sort of pleasure out of riding his Harley along the coast road, the wind rushing through his curls. But the idea of playing a dealer! It didn’t sit well with him at all. The very idea was so far outside every value that he held dear that he wondered when the fašade would crumble.

The door at the back of the room opened and the two guards reappeared. Without any comment, they descended on the brunet, detaching the chain from the chair and shackling his arms behind him again. As Starsky stood, dwarfed between the two uniformed men, he managed to wink cockily at his Captain before being pushed out of the room and out of sight.

Dobey let out a shaky sigh and stood, marching swiftly to the door. He felt suffocated and needed to get out to pull fresh air into his lungs. He had no idea how Starsky could stand being locked up in the place and he yanked at the door handle slamming it closed behind him. The bored receptionist looked up as the black whirlwind passed her on his way outside and once his freedom had been gained he lent against the wall feeling sick to his stomach.

The big black man got back into his car and sighed. So, Hutch had met up with his partner and Starsky was making damned sure he got the attention of the Warden. But it was a helluva way to go about it! OK, well, now all he could do was brief Bear, Anise and Tony, sit back, and wait.

As he got back to the car he sat for a moment, collecting his thoughts. He started the engine and was about to pull away from the parking lot when something caught the corner of his eye. There was a movement at the corner of the low grey building and as Dobey looked closer he saw a man putting what looked like a chiller box into the back of a white van marked with a green cross. What would a Medicare van be doing here? It wasn’t as though any of the prisoners would get private medical treatment. They seemed to get very little medical treatment at all if Starsky’s treatment was anything to go by.

Curiouser and curiouser he thought as he slowly began his drive back to the airport and then to Bay City.

Chapter 7

Hutch stood at attention in front of the Wardens’ desk as he and Charlie, his other guard waited for Eli Long to finish whatever it was he was doing. They’d been summoned to the office a while ago and this was the blond’s first good look at Long and his domain.

The Warden himself was a small man of perhaps 5’ 6” but what he lacked in height he made up for in bulk. He squatted behind his desk like a predatory bullfrog. His 200+ pounds stretched the buttons of his white shirt almost to destruction and the gaps between the fastenings showed pale, hairless skin beneath the fabric. Long’s fat neck overflowed the collar of his shirt and rolls of flesh hung over the stiff white material. The neck supported a bald head with just a few greasy strands of pale brown hair that were slicked over the top of his head from just above his right ear in one of the most extreme comb overs Hutch had ever seen. Pale watery blue eyes peered out from the puffy, lightly sweating skin of his face and his wide, almost lipless mouth appeared to be nothing more than a slash across his countenance. Hutch almost expected a long tongue to come shooting out at one of the many flies bussing lazily around the room.

The office itself was decorated in stark contrast to the functional stark areas of the rest of the prison. Out there amongst the inmates, the walls were white fading to grey, the floors hard and uncompromising stone and tile, mottled and cracked with use and flecked with grime that had long since penetrated the surface of the floor covering until no amount of scrubbing would get them clean.

Inside Long’s office, however, things were much different. Hutch and Charlie both stood on deep pile deep green carpet that reflected colour up onto the pale green walls, giving the office the appearance of a gentleman’s club. Long sat behind a heavy mahogany desk on a matching heavy wooden chair upholstered in dark green leather and the room was lit by several lamps which cast pools of amber light on strategic areas. The dark wooden sideboard held a crystal decanter filled with a rich jewel brown liquid and six matching glasses. These however, were not in use now and Hutch’s shoulders were beginning to ache from the tension of standing stiff and still.

Finally Long put down his pen and looked at the two guards.

‘I hear there was some trouble this morning. Want to tell me what it was all about?’

Hutch remained quiet. He was still seething at the “welcome” treatment his partner had received at the hands of some of the guards and couldn’t bring himself to explain to the Warden the phoney circumstances. He was even more angry at himself for not being there to protect the smaller man, even though if he had been witness to the beating he doubted he could have done anything to stop it without blowing both their covers. Charlie recounted the “facts”.

‘It was the newbie. Nate Sanna. Caused a bit of trouble for the guys so they decided to take him down a peg or two’.

‘And what injuries did he sustain? Long asked coldly

‘Cuts bruises and a broken arm’ Hutch said quietly, through clenched teeth.

‘And where is he now?’

‘Back in his cell. He had a visit from his attorney this afternoon so we took him back “home” afterwards. He’s a cocky little bastard. He needed snapping back into line. I think….’ Charlie shut up at a glare from the Warden.

Long held up his hand. ‘You aren’t paid to think. Leave that to the experts’ he snapped at Charlie who stood even more rigidly to attention. ‘I have his file here. Seems Mr Sanna is pretty well connected on the outside. He’s dealt with some big names in the drug world and established some important links. I think he’s the sort of man that might listen to reason don’t you? The sort of man who might not want to pass up on a business opportunity? It would be a shame if he was to lose his contacts out there just because he’s had an enforced change of address. We could put some business his way maybe, on my terms of course’.

‘Make him an offer he couldn’t refuse boss?’

‘Exactly. Maybe I should make an appointment to see Mr Sanna. Tomorrow, when his injuries have had a little time to argue with him. We wouldn’t want him to come to any snap decisions. Can you arrange for him to be here at say, 10:00 o’clock?’

‘Sure thing Warden Sir. I can see to that’ Charlie grinned. Hutch was reminded of a little terrier dog who was pleased to have his back scratched after he’d brought the ball back from being thrown.

Long picked up his pen again and bent back over the sheaf of files on his desk and Charlie and Hutch saw that as their dismissal. Turning on their heels they exited the office and walked back down the stairs to the main wing.

‘You want for me to do the rounds?’ Hutch asked casually. In the week he’d worked with Charlie he’d found the guard to be lazy enough to make it into an art form. Knowing he could use the laziness to his advantage, the big blond played on it whenever he could. In the past week it had given him a chance to have some time alone, to either make a phone call back to Starsky or Dobey, or just to get away from the guy. Hutch had rapidly found that it was too easy to get too much of Charlie.

The guard nodded curtly, not needing the offer to be put a second time. As he headed back to the guards rest room for a cup of coffee and another chance to tackle the crossword he’d been working on for a month – he was still stuck on 5 down – Hutch walked off in the opposite direction, back towards the wings. His back and shoulders ached with the tension he’d felt all day, that tension not being helped by the knowledge that he couldn’t watch Starsky’s back 24/7. His cover was as a guard, if he was to start hanging around any particular prisoner, he was going to blow his cover for sure.

Hutch made his way down the main wing, nodding in greeting once or twice to a couple of the inmates who were half way civilised and recognised a fair guard when they saw one. The blond had always managed to have a rapport with the snitches on the street and the guys in here were no different; still human beings but with different drivers and motives in their lives than Hutch’s own. He refused to judge them for that.

Walking on, he came to the big steel gate that segregated maximum security from the rest of the wing and pulled out the large silver key from the bunch on his waistband. He inserted it into the lock and heard the massive tumblers falling away to allow him access. Pushing the gate open, he walked through and clanged it closed behind him, rattling it to make sure it caught. He walked down the line of cages (he refused to honour them with the term “cell”) until he reached the end one, and bracing himself he put his hands on the bars and looked in.

Starsky was laid on the narrow bunk on his side, facing away from the door. His shirt had ridden up and Hutch winced at the large expanse of blue/black bruise that covered the smaller man’s lower back, across his spine. The brunet had his curly head cushioned on the bright white cast of his right arm and seemed to be asleep, and for a moment, Hutch allowed his mind to go back to the last time, five months ago when he’d seen Starsky injured. Then, like now, Hutch had been unable to do too much to help, but for entirely different reasons. Having been shot in the head by a Northern stars member, the blond hovered between life and death, given a chance by some heavenly being to save Starsky’s life and live himself, or for them both to die together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah sure’ the smaller man replied sadly. ‘I’m really loosing it Blondie. They just keep asking me about the lights and there are three, I know there are but whenever I tell ‘em three, they hurt me. They really hurt Hutch and I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I always thought I was pretty tough, but it hurts so damned much’ he took hold of a handful of Hutch’s shirt and buried his head in the blonde’s chest as Hutch rubbed his partner’s arms. They stayed like that for a while, giving and receiving comfort. Eventually, he pushed Starsky gently away to arm’s length and looked into his indigo blue eyes. ‘I’m gonna go now, Starsk. I need to get you out of here, but I need you to hang in there for me. Can you do that…..for me?’ (--see Another Chance - by this author)

Hutch shook his head clearing his mind of the nightmarish thoughts. He wasn’t in a hospital with a bullet in his brain, he was here, in the flesh, and now he could help his partner, not merely watch as some unknown punk tore into him.

‘Starsk’ he hissed quietly through the bars. ‘Hey Starsky!’

The brunet groaned softly and tuned so that he lay on his back. He turned his head to the noise and as he saw his visitor he grinned and got up, stifling another groan as his bruised muscles protested. He limped over to the bars and put his hands up to grasp them, brushing his fingers over Hutch’s in a split second of comforting touch.

‘How’re ya doin’ there buddy?’ Hutch asked, searching the handsome face for answers that he knew would never be spoken truthfully.

‘M’fine’.

‘You look like shit! Here. I managed to get you these. They should help you sleep too’. Hutch unfolded his hand and dropped the silver foil package into Starsky’s waiting hand. The brunet took the two Tramadol and dry swallowed them.

‘How’s life on the outside? He asked lightly. His 24 hours of incarceration had creeped him out to the extent where he didn’t know if he really wanted to sleep. All he really wanted to do was to have the comforting blond presence close by, watching his back.

‘Well, you got your wish. Tomorrow at 10 you have an appointment with the Warden. Seems he wants to cut you a deal. He’s pretty interested in your business, partner’.

‘Yeah?’ Starsky grinned and waved the white cast at Hutch. ‘Ya mean all this got their attention?’

‘Uh huh. But couldn’t you have thought of some other way?’

‘Nah. You know me. I prefer the direct route’.

‘That’s your trouble Gordo. No finesse. I gotta go. Don’t want to draw any more attention. Are you gonna be ok?’ Hutch studied his partner.

‘Oh yeah. I got all the comforts of home. Um, are you gonna be there tomorrow? Ten o’clock, ten…ten…damnit shuddup!’

Hutch caught the slight hitch in Starsky’s voice as the numbers repeated, a legacy of Quinn’s treatment and smiled, risking putting his hand through the bars to rest it briefly on the smaller man’s shoulder. Starsky pulled himself together and winked.

‘Aint goin’ nowhere. See ya’.

‘Sure, See ya’ Hutch said lightly although his mood was anything but. He walked away, fighting the urge for a backwards glance because he knew Starsky was still stood at the bars looking at his departing back.

Chapter 8

Hutch slipped out of the prison and got into his hire car wearily. He hated leaving Starsky on his own inside, but he’d already pulled a double shift and to hang around more would bring suspicion down on his and Starsky’s heads. Tiredly he slipped the key into the ignition and backed the car out of the parking space, turning it towards the small motel he was using as his base.

Ten minutes later, the blond eased his aching body out of the car and fumbled with his door key to the small, impersonal room. He went straight to the phone and punched in the number for the Metro, asking to be put through to Dobey. He waited, sitting on the edge of the bed, a deep furrow of concentration and worry between his eyes marring his handsome face. He felt so much older than his 30 odd years and desperately needed a vacation.

‘Cap’n. Hutch. He’s in. Got a meet with the Warden tomorrow morning. Tell Bear and Tony to have the snow ready by lunchtime. He’s gonna make the deal, so he’ll need it’.

‘Is he ok?’ Dobey asked tightly.

‘Yeah, kinda. He’s pretty much banged about, but nothing he can’t handle. I just….well, I’ll be glad when this ones over’.

‘I hear ya. Keep close and keep tight. Bear will be with you tomorrow’.

Hutch put the phone down and sighed. He was getting too old for this! Disconsolately, he started to strip off the hated guards uniform as he headed for the shower. The smell of the disinfectant in the prison, the pent up emotions of the pace that were like a palpable being clung to his clothes and hair and each night he’d come home with just the one thought – to get into the hot water and scrub himself clean.

Ten minutes later, he emerged from the small bathroom. He poured himself a bourbon from the miniature bottle in the fridge, stripped the damp towel from his waist and climbed, naked into bed. Slowly he drank the fiery amber liquid in the glass, set it down on the small stand next to the bed and lay down. But sleep didn’t come easily to the blond. His mind was still back in San Elmis with his partner, re-running the plans they had for the next day.

oOo

Starsky fell asleep almost immediately after Hutch ad gone. He’d found the whole process of getting into the prison to be difficult, painful and draining. Now, with the pain of his injuries dulled and the Tramadol in his system, he dreamed dreams of walking with a beautiful girl down a deserted beach, or across some mountain meadow. Anywhere where there was space and fresh air and freedom. Anything to stop him from thinking about the 12’x12’ cell and what he needed to do tomorrow.

Morning came remarkably quickly and the lights were put back on in the wing at 6:00am precisely. The brunet groaned at loud and eased his body up off the hard bunk. He longed for his big, soft bed and chuckled to himself.

Jeez, Davey boy. Ya getting’ soft or sumthin? You used to be able to sleep in a telephone wire without feelin’ the pinch!

Breakfast came and went and although Starsky was hungry, the unappetising, stiff and grey oatmeal didn’t tempt him enough to break his fast. He longed for a root beer and a slice of cold pepperoni pizza with extra anchovies and his mouth watered at the thought.

In readiness for his meeting with the Warden at 10:00 o’clock, he busied himself washing at the tiny silver coloured sink in his cell, splashing the cold water onto his face to get rid of the lingering effects of the pain killers in his system. He needed to be clear headed to get through this, get out in one piece and bust the Warden and his elaborate operation out of the water.

And once he’d washed, pushed the oatmeal around and handed the cardboard tray back to the prisoner who was playing waiter today, he sat on his bunk and waited. With no watch, and no clock he had no idea what time it was and the absence of a time piece drove him mad. He’d always relied on his watch. He liked to know exactly, to the second what time it was. Dobey had once told him he’d always thought of him as a clock watcher and Hutch had been unable to comprehend how he could spend two month’s salary on his Yashimoto Reflex, but his years in the Army had drummed it into him. Be punctual. Be on time and things won’t take you by surprise.

So Starsky sat, trying to calculate what time it was but failing miserably, so that when Hutch finally appeared at his cell door, he was, indeed, taken by surprise.

There was no way they could communicate properly with each other as Charlie had accompanied his “partner” to collect Nate Sanna and bring him up for his meeting with Long but the brunet could read the unhappy expression on his partner’s face as Charlie ordered him to stand at the back of his cell facing the wall. He too wanted some quiet time with Hutch, just for reassurance that they could do this; that he could play the part of a high powered drugs dealer. He’d played Camille in high school hadn’t he? How much more difficult could this be? Apart from the fact that this time his and his partner’s lives depended on his performance.

Starsky gave Charlie a black look, turned very slowly and walked to the back of his cell, turning his back on the two guards as he heard the gate clang open. He felt them walk in and come up behind him and then he felt familiar hands looping the thick leather belt around his waist and buckling it at the back. The hands lingered fractionally longer than necessary as both men accepted the touch as a small measure of comfort.

‘How’re ya doin? Hutch whispered as he leaned close, ostensibly to check the belt was secure.

‘M’fine. Quit worryin’.

As Starsky turned for Hutch to buckle the leather wrist cuffs into place, their eyes locked.

You really ok partner?

Yeah m’fine, honest. You?

With his wrists and ankles secured to the waist belt, Hutch stood to one side as Starsky shuffled towards the corridor. Charlie grinned coldly at him, but the brunet ignored the big guard and followed meekly as they made their way out of the wing and up to the third floor. They stopped outside the warden’s office and Charlie knocked. There was a muffled ‘Come’ and at the invite, all three entered the green, plush office.

As Charlie and Hutch stood at the back of the room, Warden Long looked up from his desk and appraised the prisoner in front of him. Starsky’s face was still badly bruised and his lip was cut. His right eye was still slightly swollen and it was hard to miss the white cast on his right arm. Although the brunet tried to stand up straight, the bruises across his back made it difficult and Long saw the occasional narrowing of the eyes as flashes of pain lanced through his prisoner’s body.

Long nodded at Hutch. 'While you’re both here, we can do without the restraints.' As Charlie set about unbuckling the belt and cuffs and unlocking the ankle chains, Starsky stared unwaveringly at the large bulk of the Warden, his gaze steady, his bidy standing tall but relaxed and his head slightly on one side - ready; cocky; almost amused.

Long sat back in his chair, hands loosely on the desk in front of him.

‘Welcome to San Elmis, Mr Sanna. I’m Eli Long. I run this place and I own the prisoners here. Which means I own your ass too’.

‘The pleasure’s all yours’ Starsky answered levelly.

‘The pleasure could be yours too’ Long said. ‘I hear you have a business out in the city. A business you might find you want to share?’

‘Depends on who’s askin’ an’ who wants to share it. And more important, what they’re willing to pay to do it’.

Long smiled coldly and shuffled a buff file on his desk allowing Starsky to see that it was headed up Nathaniel Sanna. ‘Well the sharing would be with me, but I don’t pay no-one’.

‘Then I aint gonna deal’ Starsky snapped back.

The Warden gave an imperceptible nod and Charlie stepped forward with amazing speed and rammed the end of his baton into the brunet’s back. Hutch balled his hands into fists as he watched his partner gasp and his knees buckle. It took a superhuman effort for the flaxen haired man not to rush to his friend’s side, but he remained where he was, rooted to the spot. Starsky staggered forward, but amazingly remained on his feet. It took him a moment to compose himself. Chin on chest, he sucked in air as he dealt with the new pain overlaying the existing ones. Finally he looked up and straightened, still panting slightly.

‘Ya wanna reconsider your decision?’ Long asked.

‘Well when ya put it like that…. Just what deal did ya have in mind’ the brunet grunted through clenched teeth.

‘What do you have to offer?’ the Warden countered.

Starsky sighed. Now was the time to play Sanna to the hilt. Make or break time. He got his thoughts in order. ‘I can set you up with a stand up distributor on the outside. I’m talking about enough doh to feather everyone’s nests – nice comfortable livin’ ya know? I aint been in here too long but I already heard mutterin’ Seems like you got business well and truly sewn up inside. But if you think you’re big in San Elmis, you’re nuthin on the streets. Your business out there’s run by amateurs’.

‘So enlighten me. Tell me what ya got’.

‘What I got is a chain of distribution. Four star service. Whatever goes on in here ya can take care of yourself. Run it however ya want. But on the stuff I bring in, I run it my way an’ you can skim off forty percent. In return you take care of me. Kinda protect your interest huh?’

Long regarded the prisoner with greed in his eyes. ‘That’s it? You’re gonna trade in my jail an’ your gonna give me forty percent? Wow! Mr generous! Forty percent huh?’

‘Uh huh’.

‘No deal punk. I give you forty percent. My home, my rules. I have people here. They expect me to pay ‘em. Sixty percent or no deal an’ you can go back to your little cell for the remainder of your….ooh twelve years’.

Starsky glared back, defiance shining in his indigo blue eyes. He was lost in the cut throat world of Nate Sanna now. No longer a cop undercover, Starsky was Nate Sanna, hard nosed drug dealer and Hutch realised just how good his partner was at getting into his cover roles.

‘Fifty percent plus some comforts. Shall we say I’d like a few more amenities?’

Long lit a cigarette and blew blue, acrid smoke towards the prisoner. ‘Who’s the distributor?’

Starsky chucked to himself. He knew he had the Warden hook, line and sinker now. He only needed to name his price and pretty soon Long would be the one behind his own bars.

‘Someone needs to meet with him. I gotta give him one name. One phone call, that’s all it’ll take’.

Long stared at him for one long, long moment, as though making the most difficult decision of his life.

‘Charlie. Give him Charlie’s name. He’ll meet. 2 kilos. Your 2 kilos. When? How soon can you set this up?’

‘Like I said, one phone call is all it takes. Now. What about the amenities?’ Starsky pushed.

At his back, Hutch closed his eyes. How could the brunet be so cool? How could he push like that for every last little concession? God, he was good!

‘Such as?’

‘First off, a little protection. I don’t want no more “accidents”. Starsky waved the plaster cast at Long. ‘Better accommodation, better food, music, TV. Oh, and my woman’.

Long looked around the prisoner to Hutch. ‘He’s gonna make a phone call. After that, have him moved up to the third floor, give him what he wants, and make sure he has a conjugal visit tomorrow’. The Warden looked back at Starsky. ‘You’d better be as good as you say you are Sanna’.

Starsky grinned. ‘I’m better’ he said as he went to sit down in the chair Long had just vacated. As the Warden walked out of the room, followed by Charlie, Starsky leaned back, put his feet up on the desk and started to dial a number.

Hutch waited until the coast was clear and Starsky had made contact with the Metro. He gave the coded message that the plan was under way, in case the line was tapped, then put down the phone as he heard Tony Conti agree to the meet.

Putting the phone down, Starsky looked up into troubled crystal blue eyes. ‘Some day, you’re gonna push just a little too hard Starsk’.

‘What d’ya mean?’ the brunet grinned back.

‘Jeez you drive a hard bargain! What if he hadn’t gone for it? What if you’d pushed him just that bit too far?’ Hutch asked, his eyebrows narrowed to a worried V.

‘Will ya stop belly achin’! I didn’t push too hard did I? Its all underway now. Just try an’ relax Blintz. I might even let ya watch my TV when it arrives!’ Starsky said with a wink as he submitted to Hutch putting the chains back in place. As he shuffled to the door, Hutch snickered to himself. Even in full lock down gear, the brunet could still strut his stuff.

Chapter 9 - and warnings for sex - yup...even in prison (grin)

Starsky, now free of the restrictive restraints walked behind Hutch towards a line of wooden doors on the third floor of San Elmis. On the other side of the corridor was a line a large windows looking out onto the sparse countryside around the prison. Not the most devastating view in the world, but better than the three grimy walls and bars he’d had earlier.

‘Where are we goin?’ he asked.

‘It’s called administrative segregation. Cells for prisoners who don’t exactly get along with others. You’re classed as a “walk-alone”. Here’. Hutch opened the door and Starsky walked inside.

The room was about three times the size his cell had been and comprised a proper bed, a sofa, television and music centre and another door to a small but perfectly adequate bathroom. The brunet grinned. ‘Suits me’.

Hutch pointed up quickly at a corner of the ceiling and disguised the action as scratching his head. The smaller man followed his hand and looked away, nodded briefly. He understood. CCTV installed in the room made sure the inmates still behaved themselves. One foot out of line and they were back on the wings with the rest of the lags.

The blond made to leave, relieved now that his partner had a few more comforts, even if he was still walking slightly bent over. He wanted to check out Starsky’s injuries, but both men knew that was out of the question. Instead, he satisfied himself with a curt nod which the brunet returned. The action spoke volumes in their silent method of communication and without a backwards glance, Hutch closed the door and locked it behind him. With a sigh, Starsky limped over to the bed and eased his aching body down onto the mattress. Not the softest he’d ever had, but one hundred percent better that the one he’d just relinquished. He’d got stage one out of the way. He’d gotten himself into Long’s pocket. Now they just needed to nail him actually getting the snow; nail him with his hand on the package and they could bust him and his associates there and then. Not bad for a days work!

oOo

At the office in Carson City, Dobey had joined Bear, Tony and Anise as Tony took the phone call from Starsky, They’d waited tensely all morning for the news, hoping that things would, for once, go smoothly. And now, Tony put the phone down and grinned.

‘He’s in. Seems like he’s one cool customer. He’s just ordered food, clothes, his music and um….his woman. Anise, looks like your cue. Are you up for this?’

The blond haired woman nodded. ‘So, I take the bag with the snow, they take it from me. I meet with Starsky long enough for ‘em to think I’m Mrs Sanna and they take the drugs to the “distributor”? Right?

‘Yeah honey. Bear will be back up. He’ll deliver Starsky’s little grocery basket, stick around and bring you home. I’ll be waitin’ ready for the meet with the goon from the prison’.

Anise shrugged her shoulders. ‘Seems simple enough. How hard can it be?’

Bear took hold of her shoulders. ‘Don’t get complacent. This is tough and this is your first undercover assignment. Take it easy an’ be careful. There are always things in these jobs that take ya by surprise and sometimes ya just have to roll with the blows honey’

She smiled at him. ‘I know. I may not have been in the group long, but I know my stuff. I can deal. When do we go?’

oOo

The black Caddy with the blacked out windows drew up outside the guards station and Anise got out. She’d dressed carefully to catch just about everyone’s attention and now she shimmied over to the uniformed guard, her purse over her arm as he appraised her appreciatively.

‘Mrs Sanna?’

‘Uh huh’ she pulled her fake driving licence out of her purse and flashed it at the man. It could have been a stick of dynamite for all the guy cared, his eyes were fixed on Anise’s cleavage which showed beneath the taut white cotton of her blouse. The fine material was almost see through and he could tell she had no bra.

‘Straight up the road. The guard up there will show you to Sanna’s cell. You got 30 minutes. If I were you I’d make every one of ‘em count’ he leered.

The woman flicked her long blond hair over her shoulder and walked past the guard and into the prison, feeling his eyes boring into her back as her short denim skirt barely covered the tops of her legs.

The walk up to the main prison building was long and by the time she got there, Anise was having some doubts about whether she could carry this off. It was true she’d never been undercover before and now that the chips were down, she felt out of control and scared. But she put a brave face on it and stepped brazenly into the reception hall. Another tall, black guard was waiting for her.

‘Mrs Sanna. This way’ he grunted and she followed him to a flight of steps leading up. He indicated that she should go first and self consciously walked ahead of him aware he could see clear up her skirt. She tried to step up with her legs closed together and was relieved when she got to the landing on the third floor. A large, fat man in a white shirt waited there and as she paused he smiled at her, the humour never entering his eyes. His gaze fell on her bag and he stepped forward.

‘I’ll take that’ Long said and unhooked the strap from her shoulder. She let him take it without argument and without a second glance he walked away.

Anise walked behind the guard to the wooden door half way down and he inserted a key into the lock, opening it for her to enter.

Starsky was waiting for her and he grinned as she walked in.

‘C’mere baby. God I’ve missed you!’

She played her part to the hilt and ran into his arms as he enfolded her in a huge embrace and whispered into her ear. ‘There’s CCTV. We can play this two ways. We either have an argument now and you go, or we stay for a while and um…let them know we’ve missed each other’.

The brunet felt her stiffen for a moment, indecision thrumming through her body. ‘We need to give the Warden time to get the drugs to his fence’ she said hesitantly.

Starsky snorted. ‘Who’re ya tryin’ to kid? Ya just can’t resist me. We got 30 minutes. Allow me’.

Anise let herself be led to the bed and she sat down besides her “husband” on the mattress. Looking at him for the first time properly, she winced at the blue and purple bruises showing darkly on his handsome face and traced a gentle finger down the cut on his lip.

‘Oh my god! Do they hurt as bad as they look?’

Starsky hissed at the pressure over the injuries and caught her hand in his. ‘Yeah, some. Occupational hazard’ he drew her to him and with his hands entwined in her long blond hair he kissed her deeply.

Anise was startled for a moment and her first instinct was to pull away. But there was something about the man. Something she hadn’t seen in the first meetings she’d had with him and his handsome blond partner. He must have gone through hell in the jail on his own to get those kinds of injuries, it’d take a lot of force to break his arm like that! And something stirred inside her as she thought about the guards holding him down and beating him. His lips were still on hers and she moaned softly into his mouth, returning his kiss.

Starsky pushed her back onto the bed, very much aware that the CCTV in the corner would be focussed on any action. He ran his fingers down the line of her neck and she shivered slightly. Dipping his head Starsky whispered into her ear.

‘You don’t have to do this. We can make it look good without…ya know’.

In answer she pushed her body against him and her hands ran down the line of his spine through the thin blue cotton shirt he wore. As she came to the waistband of his pants and tried to insinuate her hand he yelped and she froze.

‘What?’

‘Nuthin. The guards got a little overexcited with the welcoming committee’.

Anise sat up and pulled at the shirt until it came free and looked at the enormous black bruise across Starsky’s lower back. Gently she pulled of the shirt and pushed him down until he was laid on his belly. He hissed again as he felt her warm breath on his back and she started to kiss warm, wet kisses over the injury, her hands sliding down his sides and dipping beneath his body. She continued to lavish attention on the bruise and then started to work further up, tracing her fingernails over each scar on his side, the remnants of the Taser burns from his last big assignment and up to the bullet scar on his left shoulder.

‘So many hurts’ she whispered into his ear. ‘So…’

‘So c’mere’ he said savagely and reared up, pulling her down until she was on her back and he was leaning on his arms above her. Her hands felt so good on his skin; so warm and sensual. His own body responded and he started to unbutton the tight blouse, her breasts springing out from their prison to tantalise him. He bent and kissed down her cleavage and on to each pert nipple. He licked gently at the sensitive nub, feeling it harden beneath him. She gasped and the small sound drove him on, all thoughts of the CCTV forgotten for the moment as Anise responded to his advances. As he pinched the other nipple gently between his finger and thumb, she pushed her hand down to the swelling in his pants, fighting with the button and zip until she could gain access. He shuddered as he felt her hand circle the rod of flesh and start to stroke it gently at first and then with more rapid movements.

Anise felt her heart start to beat more rapidly as Starsky put his hand on her thigh and moved her skirt upwards, discovering to his satisfaction that the bra wasn’t the only item of clothing she’d forgotten. He always appreciated a girl who came prepared and now his left hand started to rub small circles at the top of her legs. She parted them allowing him access and he plunged into her, his fingers exploring and feeling her readiness for him.

Kneeling, he kissed her neck again as she pushed the denim jeans down his from his hips and whispered ‘Last chance to say no Honey’.

In answer, Starsky felt the woman pull the centre of his body towards her and he answered, pausing at her entrance briefly before plunging himself into her. She shuddered and sighed and he remained still for a second before starting to move. Picking up the pace, he continued to dot kisses on her face and neck as she grabbed at his back, wrapping her legs around his waist as she pulled him deeper.

Starsky buried himself in the woman, allowing himself for a brief moment to forget the job, forget where he was and take pleasure in the girl’s body after she had offered it unconditionally to him. On and on they danced to each other’s tune until her breath was ringing in his ears and he could feel the familiar tightening in the centre of his body. With a final thrust, he let fly, the release being almost painful in it’s intensity and then he collapsed onto his side beside the blond and closed his eyes.

In the green carpeted room along the corridor, Eli Long stood watching the monitor, his own hand working furiously at his body through the lining of his pants pocket as he watched the show from Starsky’s room. and at the back of the office Hutch stood with fists balled in fury that his partner had been made into some sort of sick side show.

Chapter 10

Anise walked out of the jail 30 minutes later and stalked past the guard at the sentry post as he leered at her.

‘Had a good time did ya?’ he asked as she walked past. She gave him a withering look before running her fingers down her cleavage and looking at him from under hooded eyes.

‘More ‘n you’ll know sugar’.

‘Aint much ya can get done in 30 minutes’ the sentry offered.

Anise looked him up and down contemptuously. ‘Maybe not much you can do. But I got myself a real man’. She blew him a sultry kiss and walked slowly back to the waiting car.

Inside it, Tony and Bear were watching the woman’s show. They’d seen Charlie come out of the jail minutes earlier carrying her purse and they chuckled as the sentry now surreptitiously adjusted his clothing and walked disconsolately back into his small office.

‘That’s one dynamite broad’ Bear said appreciatively.

Tony tutted and looked heaven wards. ‘Broad? Is that any way to talk about a female colleague?’

‘Well what d’you wanna call her?’

Tony grinned. ‘Fuckin’ amazin’ man!’ he got out of the car as Anise got to them and opened the back door. She got in, took off her black sunshades and let out a deep breath.

‘Thank God that’s over. How did I do?’ she asked.

Bear and Tony exchanged glances. ‘Not bad’ they said together.

Tony reached for the door handle and grabbed the large picnic basket from the well of the car beside him. ‘My turn’ he muttered as he got out of the car and walked back to the sentry. The young guard looked at the approaching man. He wasn’t half so attractive as the woman and the sentry ignored the Italian for a few moments, exerting his authority before coming to the door of the sentry box.

‘Yeah?’

‘Mr Sanna’s food parcel. The Warden said we should deliver it to the gates and you’d see he got it in his room’.

‘Cell’ the guard corrected and took the basket from Tony’s outstretched hands. ’Wait there’ he muttered as he started to unbuckle the lid of the basket.

Tony waited, trying to act casual in the midday heat. He hated waiting around. He wanted to be in and out of there, and the more he waited, the more edgy he got; the more things that could go wrong. He looked around, willing the guard to tell him to go, but the young guy was intent on going through every piece of fruit, bottle of beer and tin of caviar.

A plume of dust rose over the small rise on the road leading to San Elmis and as Tony watched, a car hove into sight, driving slowly towards the jail. As he waited, the car finally reached it’s destination and stopped by the gates. The passenger side door opened and an older man got out. He was dressed in the standard denim blue uniform of the prison and had long, straggly pale brown hair and thick, horn rimmed glasses. The car waited until it’s passenger had got to the sentry box, then started it’s engine and drove away, it’s job of delivering the “trusty” prisoner back from his job in the nearby town now over.

The man walked towards the sentry box and paused, waiting to be ticked off the guard’s list before he entered the prison. He looked around him. He’d had a hard day at work and wanted only to get back to the cool of his cell. Tony stiffened. He recognised the prisoner from a while back. Someone he’d busted for a series of domestic burglaries. Shit!

The small Italian turned his back on the prisoner as he waited impatiently for the sentry to finish, hoping that time might have dimmed “Greasy Ted’s” memory. He put his hand up to his head, as if he had a persistent itch, trying to shield his face from the other man and for a brief second he thought he’d pulled it off.

As the sentry continued (what was the guy finding so interesting about a kiwi fruit anyway) Ted recognised Tony.

‘Hey, what’re you doin’ here man? Come to put some other innocent guy away?’

Tony pretended to ignore him but Ted put his hand on the cop’s shoulder, pulling him round. The sentry had forgotten the fruit and caviar now and was looking at the prisoner intently.

‘You got me mistaken for someone else man’ Tony blustered, backing away from the sentry.

‘Mistaken? Like you were when ya put me in this stinkin’ hole?’

The young guard, now alert, picnic basket forgotten, put his hand on his gun, expecting trouble.

‘What’s up Ted?’ he asked.

‘He’s a cop. What’s he doin’ here?’

The guard looked at Tony, who shrugged, backing away. ‘Hey, don’t look at me man. The funny farms that way. He should be in there, not here’ he muttered, turned and made his way back to the car. Getting in he cursed.

‘Wassup?’ Bear asked.

‘We’ve been made, that’s what’s up. Get us outa here now. We need to tell Dobey’.

As Anise hung on tight in the back seat, Bear turned the car around swiftly and drove hurriedly back to the Metro to inform the big black man of their problem.

oOo

Charlie sat with Anise’s purse on the floor of the car next to him. He checked inside it, seeing the two reassuringly well wrapped packs of coke and grinned to himself. Two kilos! Some haul. Now all he needed to do was to meet with the distributor that Nate Sanna had set up, agree a selling price and he’s be coining it in. He and the Warden and the two or three other guards who were into the racket inside would be retiring, rich and comfortable by the end of the year. And there wasn’t a man on earth who could stop them. Easy money! Could life get much better?

He smiled and started to sing to himself as he switched on the ignition and set the car in motion, driving slowly, enjoying the breeze coming in through the open window as he headed back to town and the rendezvous.

oOo

‘So, you think he made you?’

‘Oh yeah. He knew me alright. I tried to make out he was one of the Looney tune brigade but I don’t think the guard bought it’ Tony said, head in his hands as he broke the news to Dobey.

The big black man paced the room. ‘OK, damage limitation time’ the Captain said. ‘It’s fair to say that they’ll be on the Starsky by now. Lets hope Hutch can keep him safe enough until we can bust ‘em outa there. In the mean time….’

‘We saw the guard with Anise’s purse. He has the snow. Do we still connect with him?’ Bear asked.

There was a moments silence as they all considered the poosibilty. Anise’s blood ran cold as she thought of the curly haired cop still in the jail with the guards now knowing he wasn’t who he at first seemed. The injuries Starsky had received so far were bad enough, but she didn’t want to think of what would happen to him now that the Warden was about to find out that his ticket to easy money was, in fact, the law.

‘We’ve come so damned far’ Tony said. ‘Whatever is goin’ down inside that jail, we’re within a midge’s whisker of nailin’ ‘em and I’m sure Starsky and Hutch would want us to keep on. If we can do this, we can nail the Warden and get ‘em both outa there today’.

Dobey considered. He hated the thought of his men being in so much danger, even though he new that they could look after themselves. It came with the territory. And if he was in their shoes he’d be madder than hell if his boss pulled the plug before they’d gotten a result. He sighed deeply.

‘Here’s what we’re gonna do’ he said leaning forward and beginning to explain what he wanted to happen. Bear, Tony and Anise listened carefully to his instructions, nodding their agreement at the end.

‘Ok people? Let’s make this work huh?’ Dobey said at the end of the briefing.

They grinned. ‘Just one thing Cap. Does it have to be you? One of us could get in there just as well’.

The black man shook his head. ‘Anise is um…well she’s ruled out of a men only prison. And the two of you have already demonstrated you’re too well know. We do it this way an’ things’ll be fine. Now. go to work’.

At that moment Bear’s radio chirped into life. He pressed the receive button, listened and muttered an acknowledgment into the mouthpiece. ‘He’s here. Ready?’

oOo

Charlie got out of the car and looked up at the brand new office black. As yet it wasn’t occupied, but this was where the distributor said he wanted to meet and the guard approved. It was quiet, out of the way and they wouldn’t be disturbed during their transactions. Charlie’s heart hammered in his chest as he thought about the hundreds of thousands of dollars he could make from such a small amount of work. Being a prison guard was in no way well paid and he’d have had to slog his way through his entire life just to be able to afford his small apartment and maybe a few days in Santa Monica each year. This way, he figured he’d be able to retire within a couple of years and maybe get himself some smart pad in Rio with a nice little chick to keep him warm and cosy.

Snagging the bag wth the drugs in it, he got out of the car, glancing around him. All was quiet and he made his way round to the back of the building as he’d been instructed. Pushing the big glass door open, he walked into the marble tiled entrance hall and looked around. The instructions had said to go to the door on the right and knock. He fixed the door with a glance, walked towards it and knocked, one, loud, forceful knock which left his knuckles stinging. Wouldn’t do to let them think he was nervous, even if he was.

He heard a muffled “come in” and opened the door onto the bare, unfurnished office. Walking in he saw a huge mountain of a man waiting for him, and as he crossed the office to say hello and hand the bag over, he was suddenly shocked out of his senses to have a crowd of three other people all come out of nowhere and all with guns pointing at his head.

Bear grinned, reached behind him and brought his own gun round so that it was levelled at Charlie’s chest.

‘Boo’ the big Alaskan said, but there was no mirth in his voice.

Charlie dropped the bag into the floor and stood with his hands in the air, his eyes flitting from one gun to the next. He had no idea who these guys were, but suddenly Sanna’s explanation that they would be playing with the big league rang true. His throat went dry and he felt dizzy and sick.

‘What d’ya want?’ he asked in a shaky voice.

‘Your co-operation’ Dobey said, stepping in front of the big guard and flipping open his shield.

Charlie looked at the gleaming silver badge and his heart plummeted into his shoes. What was worse than being scared by a group of dealers? Being made by the cops!

‘How?’

‘We have two men inside and we want them out. We think their cover has been blown and you can help’.

‘Yeah? And what do I get in return?’ Charlie asked, surprising himself with his own calmness.

‘A fair trial and my gratitude’ Dobey grunted.

‘And a few years inside’ Charlie spat. ‘No deal’.

‘I can speak to the DA. With luck you’ll be looking at months rather than years. That’s as good as it gets’.

‘And in return?’

‘You ring the Warden, tell him you’re on your way back, an’ get me into the jail. Take me to my men, no funny business, and I’ll do the rest’.

The guard considered. His future had just dwindled from a life living off drugs money in Rio, to months sharing a cell with the same guys he’d guarded for the past 6 years. But months was better than years, and he knew that’s what Eli Long would be facing. His mind worked the numbers, but came up with the same answer each time. Help the cops and look after himself.

‘Ok. Gimme a phone. And you’ll need a uniform’ he said to Dobey.

As Bear went out to make the arrangements, Dobey listened as Charlie rang through to Eli Long and told him that when he’d gotten to the destination, there were too many cops around and he’d hightailed it out of the before they could spot him. He still had the drugs and he was making his way back to San Elmis. Completing the phone call, he looked up at the big black man.

‘He bought it. But what’s gonna happen to your man on the inside? The Warden is gonna be mighty pissed at him now’.

Dobey started strapping a small webbing holster to his leg below the knee, inserting his gun into it and pulling down the pant leg to cover it.

‘You’ve done your part. Let me worry about the rest. An’ it's men, not man. There are two’ he grunted as Bear came in to tell him they had a prison uniform on the way.

oOo

The young sentry looked at the fleeing black car and ran into his small office. He dialled a number and asked to be put through to the Warden.

Fifteen minutes later, the door to Starsky’s cell opened and Long, two large guards and Hutch walked in. the brunet was laid on the bed and he opened his eyes in surprise.

‘Take him to the punishment block. He’s cop’ Long told them. ‘I’ll be waiting’.

Chapter 11 - the description of the lock down facilities and the punishment cells in this chapter is genuine and as accurate as possible

Starsky took a step backwards, his back pressed against the wall as Long and his two goons approached him. In the background Hutch tried desperately to think of something he could do to help his partner. Nothing came readily to mind and he winced as the two big guards took hold of the brunet’s arms and pinned them behind his back, holding them in place with thick leather restraints. They frogmarched him from the reasonably comfortable room and down the corridor.

The punishment block was where the usual inmates were sent for moderate to severe infractions of the prison’s rules – usually for something involving violence. It wasn’t unknown for some of the longer serving prisoners to become violent at the drop of a hat and when that did happen there were special cells to accommodate them. In the punishment wing, each cell was soundproofed and consisted of a concrete sleeping block in the corner of the cell, the room being perhaps 10’x10’. Nothing else. Anyone who was to remain there for longer than the usual few hours was given a set of furniture made from dense corrugated cardboard – a rudimentary stool and a small functional desk were the norm. There were no slop facilities other than a pail in the corner. This was, after all, meant to be a removal of all privileges.

Hutch followed closely as Long directed the two guards and their prisoner to the wing, thankful that for once his partner was managing to keep his hot temper under control. In fact, the smaller man was still clinging to his alter ego, playing the part of Nate Sanna to the hilt.

‘What’re ya doin’? Where are ya takin’ me? What’s this all about Long? I thought we had a deal? Wassup? Your friend Charlie turned chicken? Couldn’t deal? Or has he done a runner with the snow?’

Starsky’s questions went unanswered as he was propelled down the corridor and finally brought to a halt outside a small door. The Warden opened it and the small group went inside.

The brunet blinked in the brighter austere light of the small cell and looked around him. The room was painted the same sickly grey colour as the rest of the prison seemed to be. It was devoid of furniture. The two men guarding him pushed him forwards so that he skidded to a halt by the far wall and stared at them as they hissed “kneel down”.

Not wanting to make life too easy and realising that the game of playing Nate Sanna was finally over, Starsky gave his two guards a withering look.

‘Say please?’

The man closest to him grinned at him and bent down, whipping a thick black baton across the brunet’s shins. With a hiss of pain, Starsky crumpled forward until he was on his knees on the hard concrete floor. He cast a glance sideways to see that Hutch was looking around as if looking for help. He looked up at the Warden expectantly.

‘So cop. I’m so glad you decided to give our little complex a visit’ Long said smoothly.

The curly hared cop gave a forced grin. ‘Wouldn’t miss it for the world’. The man at his back cuffed him sharply around the head catching the still fresh bruise on his face and he winced, but kept quiet. Long was continuing.

‘As an officer of the law yourself, you will appreciate that places like this must have rules, otherwise there's anarchy. You’ve broken one of San Elmis’ most important rules. You’ve not been honest with us. You told us you were someone you weren’t and that you had a deal for us. Plainly that was a lie and I need to know who else is in on the game. Indiscretion is a sin. For that you’re gonna suffer. Think of it as breaking a law’.

Starsky looked around him at the two guards and his blond partner in the background. Hutch didn’t like the way this little game was going and desperately he looked for a way out.

‘A crime huh? Why do I get the impression I’m not gonna get away with a caution?’ Starsky asked calmly, seeing the Warden grin at him.

‘Misdemeanours get cautions. Your crime is more of a felony in our eyes. One of the most serious. There’s only one penalty for your crime cop’.

‘Don’t tell me, you’ll ride me out of town and hope never to see me again’ the concrete was biting sharply into his knees now and his thighs burned with the strain of kneeling all that time. He felt the annoying start of pins and needles in his left foot and he was feeling altogether pissed at the situation. Who’d told them? Who’d blown his cover? It wasn’t Hutch and he was pretty sure Anise was cool.

Long laughed out loud. ‘Would that it was so simple! If that were to happen, you’d just go back, get a warrant and our pensions would go up in smoke!’

‘Jeez I hate long explanations. You’re beginning to bore me’ Starsky grunted.

The guard at his back brought his baton down on the brunet’s right shoulder. Starsky screamed, unable to stop himself as he felt his collarbone crack with the force of the blow. Pains flared down his chest and arm and up into his neck, fireworks exploding in crimson brilliance behind his eyes. Hutch took a step forward. He couldn’t let this happen. Couldn’t let his partner take any more pain. Desperately he wondered how long he could hold out before someone came to stop this.

Starsky forced himself upright, his head held to one side to alleviate the pressure on his arm and shoulder. The pain was agonising and his indigo eyes automatically sought out the crystal blues of his partner. He saw Hutch lurch forward and shook his head imperceptibly.

M’ok buddy, I can handle this for a while longer. Just hold on huh?

Hutch closed his eyes, his whole body stiff with tension as the Warden knelt down by Starsky’s side.

‘Tell me who ya told’ he hissed.

‘The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the senate select committee and the guy who came in to deliver my breakfast. There's a little guy down in records who hasn't heard yet, but it's only a matter of time’ Starsky ranted, his temper now stretched to breaking point.

Hutch winced. Why the hell did the brunet always have to come back with a smart assed comment? Couldn’t he keep it zipped and just go with the flow? Well, no. Silence was not Starsky’s forte. And the brunet was never one to take the easy route.

Eli Long’s temper snapped too. He stood in front of the bound, kneeling man and drew back his booted foot, kicking full force at Starsky’s ribs. The force knocked the curly haired man onto his side and he screamed again as the shock jostled his broken collarbone and the foot returned for a repeat performance.

Hutch couldn’t bear the sight any longer. He’d waited as long as he could stomach for help to arrive, but he couldn’t handle the sight of the three men beating up on his partner any more. With a roar he launched himself at the nearest guard, knocking the surprised man to the ground. Long looked around in surprise as the big blond grappled with his adversary on the ground. The warden turned back to Starsky with a leer. The brunet was lying on the ground, his breath wheezing through his teeth as he fought to remain conscious. This beating, coming so soon after his meeting with the two guards yesterday had eaten up his last reserves of energy, the pain of the additional broken bone sending him over the edge. In desperation he opened his eyes and saw the Warden’s face.

‘Oh now I get it! Not one cop. We got ourselves a brace of ‘em!’

He leaned down, almost sitting on Starsky’s side, using his body weight to anchor the tethered and semiconscious cop to the ground as he yelled for the other guard to help his companion.

Both uniformed men struggled with Hutch on the ground. At first the flaxen haired cop had managed to hold his own with the guard, who was younger, taller and heavier than he was. However, once the second guard joined in, the fight became distinctly one sided. Guard #1 lifted Hutch to his feet, his arms wrapped round the blond’s neck in a passable full nelson wrestling hold as the other stood in front of him. Guard #2 grinned, panting.

‘I never did like you Gibb, if that is your real name’. he drove his fist into Hutch’s taut belly and crystal blue eyes closed as Hutch’s breath was driven forcibly from him. The fists continued to pound at him, sometimes on his body, targeting his belly and sides, and sometimes veering north to hammer into his face.

Starsky struggled weakly on the ground, unable to get rid of the Warden’s weight holding him down. With his hands still fastened behind his back, he could only watch in mute horror as his partner was steadily beaten to a pulp in front of him.

There was blood covering the handsome golden face now. The guard’s fist had managed to break Hutch’s nose and ruby red fluid coursed down his chin to spray droplets onto the grey concrete floor. The flaxen haired cop’s right eye was swollen shut and there was a large cut from his right eye down, over his cheek almost to the corner of his mouth.

Starsky could hear the breath gurgling in his partner’s throat and struggled harder to get to Hutch. The blond’s struggles were weakening fast, his body giving up the unequal struggle until he hung limply from his assailant’s grip.

On the floor by the side of him Starsky moaned into the concrete.

‘Utch….no. Don’t. No more. He’s had ‘nough. You’ll kill ‘im’.

Long seemed to come to his senses. As guard #2 wound up for another crushing blow, he held up his hand agreeing with the cop he was using as a sofa.

‘That’s enough’ he told the two guards. ‘Let go of him’.

They did, and Hutch sank to his knees, his hands braced on the floor as he bent forward, sucking in great lungfulls of air. He looked dazedly over at his partner and their eyes locked. Neither man had the breath or the strength to speak. The Warden leaned down and squeezed at Starsky’s broken collarbone almost playfully. The brunet’s body arched at the brutal touch and he groaned low in his throat.

‘You sure you’re not gonna tell us who else you told?’ Long asked.

There was silence, neither cop dignifying him with an answer. Long got up from the floor and looked at the two panting dishevelled guards.

‘Call an exercise break. Then take ‘em outside, give ‘em a weapon and let the sentry shoot ‘em. We can’t have prisoners fighting each other. It aint good for discipline’.

Chapter 12

Charlie drove up to the sentry box at he entrance to San Elmis, his face a picture of haste and panic. The young guard stepped out and looked in through the window.

‘Hiya Chuck. How’s things?’

‘Fine. Need to get back to see the Warden. Let me through man’ Charlie blustered. ‘Quick’.

The sentry nodded, wondering what the panic was, but he stepped back inside his box and pushed the button to swing the automatic gates open so that Charlie could drive through

Dobey was wedged on the floor behind the drivers seats, a blanket pulled over his head to disguise his bulky frame. A trickle of sweat ran down the line of his nose, tickling and annoying him. With the cover over him he felt disorientated and claustrophobic and hoped he could still trust his driver to keep up his end of the bargain. He felt the car set off again, turn a couple of corners and come to a stop. There was a rustling noise and then the back door of the car opened and Charlie pulled the blanket off of him.

‘Coasts clear’ he mumbled as Dobey fought his way out of the confined space. The black man patted himself down and straightened the thin denim “uniform” he wore. In deference to Charlie being the guard, he walked a few paces behind the big man and entered San Elmis by a back, staff entrance.

Inside the air conditioned atmosphere cooled the sweat on Dobey’s body and made him shiver involuntarily. It had been a while since he’d been undercover and although he used to be pretty convincing, there was too much riding on his performance now to let anything slip. He moved to the side of the corridor and followed as Charlie started to make his way towards a central atrium with steps running up it.

‘Stay behind me, head down. Don’t look up and don’t acknowledge no-one’ Charlie ordered. Dobey flicked his hand in understanding and walked quietly behind as they started to climb the steps. The holster around his lower leg felt good, the gun which had warmed to the temperature of his skin had a reassuring bulk to it and Dobey’s heart rate eased very slightly now that the operation to retrieve his two men was underway.

They walked up the steps to the third level and took a sharp right down a corridor that looked just like every other corridor in the place. It was like a labyrinth or a rabbit warren; so many passageways leading off the central point and all looking alike. But Charlie knew exactly where he was going and Dobey followed behind, meekly, like a lost little lamb.

At the end of the corridor, the big guard stopped in front of an impressive heavy wooden door. As Dobey stayed a respectful five paces behind, Charlie knocked once, opened it and stepped through. Dobey was about to follow when suddenly the door was slammed in his face and the Captain heard the tumblers of a lock roll into place.

Cursing Dobey threw his considerable weight against the door, trying to gain entrance. He threw his shoulder into it, receiving nothing in return but a large bruise. Without giving it a second thought, the black man cast around looking for another means of gaining access. There was another door to his left and he tried that, not surprised that it too was locked. Pulling his gun from the concealed holster, he fired at the lock, opening the door which led to another corridor and thankfully ssaw teps leading down.

oOo

Eli Long and one of the guards bent and took hold of Starsky’s limp form, pulling it to his feet. The pressure on his broken collarbone was too much to bear and he screamed out again, the pain too much to ignore. At this side, Hutch staggered to his feet too, swaying drunkenly from his own beating as he saw Long had a gun placed against Starsky’s head.

‘We’re gonna walk nice and quiet down the steps. We’re not gonna make a noise and we’re gonna make our way outside. Is that clear cop?’ he grunted at Hutch.

Without waiting for a reply, the two injured men were forced from the small cell and half led and half dragged towards a door leading to the exercise yard. A bell started clanging through the halls and they could hear prisoners getting ready to be let out for an unexpected, additional exercise break. There was a quiet hum of conversation from the various cells.

Long opened the door and the two cops were literally thrown into the yard. Starsky fell, skidding along on his chest in the dirt while Hutch managed to keep his balance just, and staggered towards the brunet. As he looked back at Long, the guards threw down two small blades. No more than rough steak knife blades, their ends were wrapped around with tape to make a rudimentary handle – the sort of weapon a prisoner might make on the inside, hoping for a time to defend himself or use it in the heat of battle.

Hutch ignored them and set to unbuckling the thick leather straps from round Starsky’s wrists. The brunet was semi conscious now, the sweat of pain beading on his forehead as his body trembled.

‘Hey, easy partner. How’re ya doin’ huh?’ the blond asked, throwing the restraints away as though they were poison. Gently he took hold of Starsky’s uninjured shoulder and tried to turn him over. Indigo eyes flashed open as the brunet moaned.

‘Utch….remind me…..never to listen….to Dobey ‘gain’.

‘Yeah, sure buddy. Here. ya wanna sit up?’

‘No, wanna stop hurtin’.

‘I know. Just lie there a minute huh?’

Hutch looked up at he two guards. They grinned wolfishly, then left. Leaving Long to say his final goodbyes.

‘Shame I have to report that a prisoner started a fight with a guard. Can’t happen in prison ya know. We have to take precautions’. He looked up at the armed guard on the roof and backed away.

‘They’ll still come for ya Long’ Hutch ground out. ‘they’ll still come an’ smash your sordid little ring into the ground. Why add the death of two cops on to your score huh? What’s that gonna achieve?’

Long looked back at him. Disbelief shining over his face. ‘Achieve? Vindication. That’s what it’ll achieve’. And with that final statement he walked back towards the door, leaving the two injured men in the dirt and the bright sunlight.

‘’s he gone?’ Starsky mumbled.

‘Uh huh. It’s just me and thee and Hawkeye up there’ Hutch said looking up at the prison marksman, who had his gun raised to his shoulder, ready. Taking off his uniform overshirt to pad under his partner’s head, he let his hand linger on the curly hair. Starsky always seemed to get the raw end of the deal. The fresh bruise overlying Starsky’s already bruised face had cause his right eye to swell closed again, and despite the fact that Hutch’s own body was aching like nothing he’d ever remembered, his overriding drive was to make sure that the curly haired cop was as comfortable as possible. He rubbed the back of his hand over his face and it came back slick with his own blood. Hutch grunted. Great! Just great! He looked around the exercise yard. Twenty foot high walls topped with razor wire glared back at him, the only route out of the desolate place being back through the door they’d come from.

oOo

Dobey heard the clanging of the bell and the announcement that all prisoners were to report to the exercise yard and smelled a rat. He set off down the steps to the ground floor, his bulk moving with surprising speed and agility down the hard concrete steps as his gun pointed forward, ready, in his hand. It had been a while since he’d been alone in this sort of danger and the adrenaline flooded his system now, the world sparking into crystal clarity. He heard the smallest sound, saw the tiniest movement, his senses on hyper alert.

At the foot of the steps he looked left and right, before seein the door at the end of the hallway, a thin strip of light shining around it’s perimeter.

Cautiously now, the big black man gheaded that way, hugging the wall, the finger of his right hand resting next to the trigger. Quietly he whispered into the wire attached to his chest.

‘Bear, Tony, call help and get your asses in here right now. Trouble an’ I mean with a capital T’. He heard a muffled acknowledgment, gripped his gun an little tighter and gently opened the door.

oOo

Starsky groaned again and opened his eyes, squinting up at his partner.

‘What went wrong?’ he grunted. ‘Can ya tell me that?’

‘Dunno partner, an’ for the moment, I don’t really care. We need to get outa here, like now’.

Very slowly, Starsky managed to get himself up, leaning heavily on the blond’s shoulder. The glint of bright white metal in the afternoon sun caught his attention and without thinking, the brunet reached for the small knife on the floor as Hutch yelled at him

‘NOOOO’

It all happened in a second.

As the brunet made to reach for the knife to examine it, the prison marksman took that as his cue to shoot. He raised his rifle higher, sighting the crosshairs onto the man on the ground and squeezed the trigger. Dobey burst through the door into the exercise yard as the other prisoners started to file out into the dusty yard. The report of the rifle sounded loud, echoing around the high walls as Hutch saw the movement above them.

Dobey saw it too and dropped to the ground in typical marksman pose as he held his gun with both hands, levelling it first at the marksman and then at the other blue clad prisoners who’d stopped in their tracks. For one split second that seemed to last an eternity there was complete silence in the yard, the sudden impossibly loud noise taking everyone unawares.

And then all hell broke loose. The lead prisoners started to run into the centre of the yard looking up at the marksman as the prisoners at the back of the group targeted the retreating back of the Warden. Like a coiled pride of lions ready to strike, they moved as one, grabbing hold of the fat man by his collar and waistband as they hauled him back out into the sunlight.

Dobey heard a strangled yelp from the big man as he was surrounded by a sea of blue denim. The prisoners, some of whom had been a resident of San Elmis for years and had learned to hate the big man and his petty rules and regulations, surged forward, baying for the Warden’s blood like a pack of hyenas and Dobey saw the big body disappear under a wave of humanity. He looked up at the roof, but the marksman had gone, the first to hear the wailing of sirens in the distance. As the noise of salvation came closer, more guards, this time dressed in standard black flack jackets and toting helmets and batons flooded into the melee, wielding their sticks at the backs of the prisoners kicking at the Warden on the ground.

A few inmates had stood back and now they were beginning to circle the two cops on the ground and Dobey moved in their direction, gun still held out as he ordered the small crowd to back off. Reluctantly, the circle of men parted and Dobey had his first clear view of the detectives. Both Starsky and Hutch lay still, blood covering the two of them and beginning to pool on the ground around their bodies. Starsky lay beneath his partner, eyes closed, the bruises showing up ugly and dark on his face. Above him, Hutch sprawled. Having seen the gunman move, he’d reacted quickly and without thought for himself, throwing his body in the way of the bullet to protect his partner. Now, laying face down over the smaller man’s torso, Dobey could see a bloom of red over the white tee shirt on the top left of Hutch’s back, the blood from the wound at the front trickling down onto his buddy’s shirt front. Both men were unconscious.

The police Captain knelt by the side of his men, the fingers of his left hand searching for their pulses as the right hand held his gun tight, pointing at the ring of prisoners surrounding him. As the riot guards dealt with the other inmates, Dobey stayed knelt by Starsky and Hutch’s bodies until finally Bear and Tony appeared. They went straight to the trio and knelt down by their sides. Dobey’s eyes never left the surrounding men, his hand never wavering from it’s aim.

Gently Bear tried to take the gun from his hand.

‘Hey Cap’n. S’ok. We can take it from here’ he said to the statue. Dobey’s eyes remained focussed in front of him and he tried again, taking both hands to pry the fingers from around the Beretta. ‘Dobey….Harold. C’mon man. It’s over. See the ambulance is here’.

Slowly Dobey’s eyes refocused and he looked at Bear as if seeing him for the first time. ‘Help them’ he said.

‘We will. S’ok the paramedics are here. You ok?’

Shakily Dobey rose to his feet looking a little shy. He cleared his throat self consciously. ‘Yeah. Yeah, I’m good. Now lets get this mess cleared up’

Chapter 13

The waiting area of the hospital on the outskirts of Carson City was just the same as the waiting area of every other hospital that Bear and Tony had had the misfortune to visit. At the moment they had just arrived, having spent the last hour cleaning up at the prison and handing over to the local police and prison services.

In the general confusion of the riot the guards at the prison had spent their time in quelling the unruly inmates and it wasn’t until they’d managed to get to the centre of the main group that they found the bloody and dead body of the Warden, kicked and beaten to death. His features were so mangled that had it not been for his distinctive bulk he would have been unrecognisable.

Now the two detectives paced the carpeted relatives room waiting for news on their three friends. Dobey had been taken to the ER room to check him over. While there had been no physical injury to the police captain, his emotional state when Bear had found him indicated that he was in shock. The paramedics loaded him into a car with instructions to take him to Mercy hospital while thy worked over the two detectives.

Gently they moved Hutch’s body from it’s resting place overlaying his partner. His body was limp and his eyes closed and they struggled to find a pulse. The gunshot wound was perilously close to his heart and as one medic placed a pressure bandage over the wound and started to check out the other minor injuries, his colleague started to check out Starsky.

The brunet was injured badly, but not as badly as his blond buddy. Although he had several breaks, nothing was life threatening and so as they loaded Hutch into one ambulance and set off, sirens and lights blazing, Starsky was gently placed on a gurney and placed into another ambulance to follow on.

Tony sat with his head in his hands as Bear looked at the clock on the pale green painted wall for the hundredth time in the last five minutes.

‘What’s taking them so long?’ he asked again, and again Tony shook his head, but remained silent. They stayed that was for some time until the door opened and a slightly paler, but much recovered police Captain walked through. Dobey’s collar was undone and his shirt still bore the blood from his two detectives, but his eyes were once again alive and focussed and he smiled at the two visitors.

‘Thanks guys, you did good’ he said as he sat down on the small sofa.

‘Tell me again when we know how they are an' you might convince me’ Bear ground out. He went to the door and snagged a passing nurse. ‘Hey honey. Can you tell me how are two friends are?’ he asked. The woman smiled encouragingly and pointed behind the man. At that moment a door swung open and a doctor dressed in scrubs, with a mask hung around his neck walked through and came into the room. He sighed, pinched the bridge of his nose and leaned against the wall with his arms crossed. Wearily he looked at the three men.

‘You the guys here with the two detectives?’

‘Uh huh. Detectives Hutchinson and Starsky. I’m their Captain’ Dobey said, sitting up straighter. ‘News?’

‘Detective Starsky is in the OR now having his fractured collarbone reduced. He has some major bruising across his abdomen, but we’ve checked and there’s no internal injuries. He’s had a fractured wrist, which was set earlier. We’ve re-cast that and stitched up some cuts across his sides, face and back. He should be back in his room any time now’.

‘As for Detective Hutchinson. I’ve just come from the OR. I’ve handed over to a cardiac specialist. The bullet came perilously close to his heart. A couple of centimetres lower and……well. He’s lucky. He should be fine, but he’ll take longer to recover than his partner. He had several other minor injuries – a broken nose, fracture cheek bone. But he’ll mend. He'll just need time. He has strength and youth on his side. If he hadn't been so fit initially, I'd be more worried’.

Dobey smiled his thanks at the medic. ‘When will you be done with Hutchinson? Can I see Starsky?’ Dobey asked.

‘Mr Hutchinson will be in the OR for another hour at least. as for Mr Starsky...Well, he’s sleeping now. He came round remarkably quickly from the anaesthetic and started asking about his partner. Got quite agitated so we had to sedate him, just so as he got some rest. I suggest you all go home and get some rest too. If there’s any change, I’ll get the nurses to phone you if you leave a number’.

oOo

Calm indigo blue eyes opened to see a pretty face above them. Starsky attempted a smile which turned to a grimace as the powerful pain meds and anaesthetic caught up with him and with a groan he turned onto his side and was violently sick into a container the nurse held.

Wearily he flopped back onto the bed and wiped the back of his hand over his mouth. He groaned again at the bitter taste in his mouth and opened his eyes to check out his surroundings. Glad to find that there were no lines running into his arms, he surmised that he couldn’t be too badly hurt, although his body told him differently. His shoulder felt stiff and as though it didn’t belong to him and his face felt twice it’s normal size.

The nurse was wiping his forehead with a cool damp cloth and Starsky looked at her properly for the first time, grimacing at his pain and the fact he'd just lost the contents of his stomach over the pretty girl.

‘M'sorry. I don’t usually throw up on pretty ladies’ he said, finding his voice surprisingly strong.

‘Well I don’t usually make my more handsome patients sick’ she responded. ‘How do you feel? Do you have much pain?'

'Some' Starsky reported. He'd had worse, but there again, not many men had as much to compare against as he had.

The nurse smiled encouragingly at him, stunned by his blue within blue eyes. They held her transfixed for a moment and she shook herself, chiding herself for acting like a child. 'Lie back and relax. I’ll let the doctor know that you’re awake. He can give you something for the pain. You've certainly been in the wars.'

Starsky wasn’t for letting her go so easily. ‘Where’s Hutch?’

‘The man who was brought in at the same time as you?’

‘Uh huh. Where is he? Is he ok?’ The brunet’s last memory was of a flash, a sound like a clap of thunder and Hutch’s pained grunt as he threw himself forward. Then there was a terrific weight across his middle and chest, holding him down, and then nothing.

The nurse’s smile faded a little. ‘He’s in the next room. Don’t worry, he isn’t too far away. He came back from the OR about an hour ago. He's comfortable for now’.

‘But is he ok? I need to see him’.

‘You need to see the doctor and stay put. You have broken bones and a concussion. I'm amazed you can even think straight at the moment’ she admonished. ‘Lay still and I’ll go get the doctor’.

‘No, you don’t understand’ Starsky persisted. ‘I need to see him. I need to be with him. He saved my life. He needs me...I need to be with him’.

‘But he’s got to rest too. He isn't going anywhere and he's out of danger. You need to look to your own healing before you worry about anyone else’. She whisked out of the room in search of the doctor.

Starsky sighed, frustrated. In all the times they’d been sick, they were always there for each other. In fact it was almost a joke at Memorial, back home, that if one was injured, the other would need a second bed in the room. Cautiously, he flipped the sheet back, thankful that the staff had at least had the decency to give him a pair of scrubs pants to cover his modesty. How civilised! Not an open backed nightdress in sight. Gritting his teeth against the pains in his shoulder and arm, Starsky stood by the side of the bed and waited until the room stopped spinning. He took a deep breath, trying to get his stomach to obey his commands and stay put and then slowly shuffled to the door. peeping out, he felt like a schoolboy sneaking downstairs for a midnight feast and he looked left and right.

His room was right next door to the nurses station on the left, so he turned right and, hugging the wall for support, he staggered to the next room, pushing open the door.

Inside, the room was dimly lit and quiet, the only occupant being the sleeping blond. Starsky made it to Hutch’s bedside and hitched a sob. The flaxen haired cop looked incredibly fragile, laying on his back with tubes in both arms, an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose and leads from his chest attached to a heart monitor which gave an insidious bleep with every heartbeat. White bandages swathed his upper chest and left shoulder and there was a small blood stain at their centre, marking the bullet’s path through the golden body.

Starsky looked round, but the room had been cleared to make room for the machinery surrounding the bed. Finding no convenient chair, Starsky perched on the very edge of the mattress and took hold of Hutch’s hand. He watched for an age as the sleeping man breathed evenly and deeply through the mask, thinking for the umpteenth time that Judith Kaufman’s observation had been right. He did look like a little boy. But this little boy had been in the wars and the handsome face was covered in blue bruises, a line of stitches down a cut from eye to mouth and with one purple swollen eye. Swelling marred his jawline too and Starsky reached out and gently traced a line down the side of the flaxen bangs, skirting the oxygen mask and tubes.

The brunet didn’t know how long he stayed there watching and counting the slow steady breaths, but slowly, as he rubbed circles into the back of the blond’s hand, Hutch’s eyes cracked open. He smiled and leaned forward.

‘Hutch?’

The eyes moved slowly and focussed on Starsky’s indigo blues. A small pained smile played over the golden face.

‘Heeeey’ he whispered.

‘How’re ya doin’ buddy?’

‘Good…..s’nice….. morphine’.

‘Enjoy it while ya can Pal’ Starsky grinned and then his face turned serious.

‘What did ya do it for?’

‘Huh? Hutch’s eyebrows creased in concentration.

‘Why d’ya move in front of the shot? You could’a been killed’.

‘Dunno’.

‘Hutch you’re supposed to grow old with someone, not because of ‘em. You didn’t have to do that babe. I need you here, with me. You watch my back. I can’t do this without ya’.

‘Staaarsk’.

‘Yeah’.

‘Shuddup’.

‘Is that all ya can say? I’m here, baring my soul to ya, tryin to say thanks for saving my life and all you can do is say shuddup? What kind of a reaction is that?’

Pained crystal blue eyes regarded him calmly. ‘You don’t….like ‘em’.

‘What?’

‘Sssssoapy ... ssssscenes’ Hutch’s voice was failing and he felt tired, but in a good way. His body was aching to float off into a cloud of pain meds and not reappear for a few hundred years, or until the pain in his back and chest had gone, but he concentrated on his partner, not wanting Starsky to go.

Starsky grinned. ‘Might’a changed my mind’.

‘Uh huh’.

‘Hutch?’ Starsky stood up so that he could lean over his partner better. The blond forced his heavy eyes open once more.

‘Hmmm?’

‘Thanks buddy. Now go to sleep’.

‘Sure…..Starsk?’

‘Yeah?’

‘Stay?’

‘Course’.

'Staaaaarsssssk?'

'Uh huh?'

'Hate...prrrrisons. Gonna go ssssstraight.'

As Hutch drifted back into a relaxed sleep, Starsky stayed by the bed holding the blond hand. It had been a long couple of days, packed with adrenaline for both men. The strains of being undercover were enormous, the penalty for things going wrong almost too much to bear. Starsky fought hard to stay awake to watch over his buddy but his pains also argued with him and he found it difficult to keep his eyes open. Slowly he allowed gravity to take charge and slid down the bed as he closed his eyes.

When the doctor and nurse finally found their errant brunet patient in Hutch’s room, the blond had managed to get himself onto his side and one hand dangled over the bed as if reaching for his buddy. Starsky was curled up on the floor, head pillowed on his bright white cast and eyes closed as together the two started to sleep themselves back to health.

--Fin--