Little Angel

Chapter 1

‘Susan Priscilla Gunther, you have demonstrated neither remorse nor a true understanding of the nature of your crimes against two of your fellow men. During the time that you held David Michael Starsky hostage you systematically tortured him to the brink of death. Had it not been for the timely tip off from some unknown but brave soul to tell of Mr Starsky’s whereabouts, you would now be facing a sentence for murder in the first degree.’

‘Compounding your crime, you also feigned a relationship with Kenneth Richard Hutchinson which would ultimately have lead to his death also. Your attempt on his life was cut short by the brave intervention of one Kiko Garcia and at this point I would like to honour him with a recommendation for an award for his bravery in tackling you and arresting your attempts to suffocate Mr Hutchinson.’

‘In all, Susan Gunther, you are to be sentenced for two heinous crimes. Although you have steadfastly tried to demonstrate that you are not of sound mind, I have to tell you that this court has not been taken in by your act. Two psychiatrists have examined you and neither of them has found a jot of proof that you are not faking your own insanity. That said, I have no alternative but to commit you to prison for the rest of your natural life. There will be no right of parole. Bailiff take her away.’ At the end of his sentencing remarks, His Honour Judge Hank Bennett stood and without a backwards glance left the bench.

The courtroom, stuffy in the heavy August heat remained silent as the woman dressed in a simple grey cotton tunic turned and stared hard at the two men on the front row of the public gallery. ‘I’ll make sure that you live every day in fear’ she hissed as she was pulled bodily from the courtroom. ‘I’ll make you pay for what you did to my father….I’ll haunt your lives till…..’ Sue’s voice was lost to the crowd as the door to the courtroom closed behind her and with a sigh Hutch turned to his partner.

‘Still think you want to carry on buddy?’

Starsky winked one indigo blue eye at his partner. ‘Now more’n ever. She’s gone. She aint never comin’ outa jail as long as she lives and she was the only other member of the Gunther dynasty, we checked. This time, he can’t do nuthin more at us. We’re fine.’

‘Uh huh? And what about every other flake in Bay City?’

Starsky stretched stiffly and sighed. ‘We take ‘em one at a time like always. Me and Thee against the world huh? C’mon Captain Marvel, I’ll buy ya dinner.’

‘Great. Double cheeseburger and fries. I can’t wait’ the blond muttered as he glanced fondly at his best friend and partner.

As the courtroom started to clear, the two men sat contemplating the previous four months. Sue Gunther had tried to kill them both. For Starsky that had meant her burning down his house and planting a body in his bed to make it look as though he’d perished in the flames while in reality she’d taken him to an abandoned block of apartments and had tortured him for a week before abandoning him to die alone. Had it not been for a mystery girl who Starsky was adamant was really an angel come to look over him, he’d have died a long, slow and intensely painful death, to be discovered probably months later when the block was eventually demolished.

While Sue was maltreating Starsky, she had a more underhand way of dealing with Hutch and had snaked her way into the blond’s life as his girlfriend. As he grieved for the “death” of his partner, Sue, ever the caring girlfriend, started to slowly poison him, firstly with overdoses of the Vallium prescribed by the doctor and then with doses of some Chinese herb she’d managed to buy from a shady character on the east side of the city. When they had taken too long to do their work and Hutch had found Starsky’s necklace in her purse, Sue had tried to smother her “boyfriend” with a cushion and had only been stopped from completing her task by the timely arrival of Hutch’s young friend Kiko.

The lad had been stunned by what he saw and when he tried to save his blond friend from certain death, Sue had attacked him, breaking his nose and fracturing a bone in the young man’s foot.

When Hutch had been admitted to the hospital suffering from the effects of the poison and the attempt on his life, his partner had still been missing and it was only the blond’s determination to find his buddy that had spurred on both Huggy and Hutch to continue searching. The blond had been unable to rest and had “escaped” from the care of the nursing staff with Huggy’s help. Their breakthrough came with an anonymous phone call from a female tipping them off about the brunet’s location and both men rushed to the scene.

It wasn’t a moment too soon and in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Starsky’s heart had stopped beating twice, each time restarting when the flaxen haired cop yelled at his friend to live. For two days Starsky had hovered between life and death, his kidneys having closed down and his body rebelling against healing once more from such devastating injuries. In all that time, Hutch remained by his side and despite needing to heal himself, Hutch’s strength helped to pull the smaller man through.

Altogether the brunet remained in hospital for three and a half weeks and during that time, the two men had time to talk and gather their thoughts. Although Hutch had felt that enough was enough and that he wanted out of the cop circus for good, surprisingly (considering all he’d been through) it was Starsky who wanted to push on and continue where he’d left off, citing simply that if he gave up now, Gunther and his family would have won.

When Hutch attended the pre hearing and heard that Sue was trying to cop an insanity plea, that spurred the two men even more and against all the odds, two months, three weeks and six days after he’d been found more dead than alive, Starsky and his partner once more logged Zebra three in as on the streets and rolling. Once again the brunet had defied all the odds in recovering so well, but not even Hutch knew this time how much it had cost.

At night, Starsky had taken to sleeping with the light on. He snickered to himself each time he went to bed and left open his bedroom door. The thought of being enclosed in a room on his own was too much for him to deal with. On occasions, even the light wasn’t good enough to conquer his fears and he would ease himself out of bed and put the radio on low. Silence and darkness were his enemies, although he would never admit it. At work, he was the same brunet whirlwind as ever – laughing, joking, eyeing up the women. At home however, he was quite, introspective and more insecure than he’d ever been. He hadn’t even thought about women seriously since his attack. Sure, he flirted, but that was more because it was how he was meant to be. When he lay in bed at night and allowed his mind to drift back to that week of hell, he admitted to himself that Sue Gunther had scared him more than every other flake he’d dealt with rolled into one. She was small, beautiful and deadly and in his mind he started to refer to her “The Black Widow”.

Nightmares plagued him, although that was only to be expected. The police psychiatrist who had been assigned to both men despite their pleas that they weren’t nuts, had explained to Starsky that he was suffering from anxiety brought on by his captivity and maltreatment. The medic had prescribed anti-depressants which had promptly been flushed down the pan. Starsky had suffered nightmares and flashbacks for most of his adult life – first as a result of his experiences as a POW, later from a series of experiences out on the streets. It was a cop’s lot in life. They chased the bad guys while every flake on the street dreamed of retribution. It was just bad luck (and also the nature of homicide) that the flakes that the brunet and his partner dealt with were the worst society had to offer – and the most twisted.

Now however, the nightmares were all of confined dark places. Of monsters lurking in the shadows and every now and again, the darkness would be pierced by the bright light of the young girl. Starsky had little recollection of her, other than that she’d been kind to him and hadn’t hurt him. He could only picture a sweet and earnest face looking down at him and if he concentrated he could remember her childlike voice. In his dreams, her image became inextricably intertwined with the pictures of angels that he’d seen in books as a boy and when he described the comforting presence to the blond as he recovered, Starsky drew a description of an almost unearthly being, sent down from whichever heaven was interested in him to help him and relieve his suffering.

For his own part, Hutch went along with it. He had no basis on which to refute Starsky’s story. The only thing he knew was that he’d received an anonymous telephone call from an unknown female, telling him that Starsky was in trouble, terribly injured and the location. From that small snippet, he could hardly tell his partner that he’d imagined everything. In fact, when Hutch had told his side of the story, Starsky had taken it as yet more proof that his “angel” actually existed.

Not that either man had suddenly gotten religion. But there was a certain feeling of being watched over and when Starsky had encouraged Hutch to keep on going and not to quit the force, it had been on the strength of that argument – someone, somewhere was looking out for them.

As Sue Gunther was led away from the courtroom, Hutch wanted one more affirmation from his buddy that they were good to go. That Starsky and Hutch were still gonna be a team – the best team in Bay City. Starsky’s cheeky wink had said it all and the tall blond now followed his partner out of the stuffy courtroom and out to his car.

The red and white striped Torino shone in the late afternoon sun and as the doors opened a wave of oven-like heat wafted from its interior. As the two men got in gingerly and rolled down the windows, Starsky glanced over at his partner.

‘You ok buddy?’ he asked.

‘Sure. I’m good.’

‘No, I mean it Hutch. Are you ok?’ Starsky persisted.

While Starsky had received most of the attention from the nursing staff and the guys at the Metro because of his physical injuries, it was Hutch who was still really suffering. The blond’s clothes were still hanging from his tall frame as an indication of all the weight he’d lost in the preceding months. His stomach – damaged by the poisonous herbs Sue had continually fed him was still ticklish in the extreme and Hutch was unable to eat anything but the most bland food and in tiny amounts. Anything more brought about recurrent bouts of sickness and pains twisting his guts into knots. The blond played down his problems, laughing off his loss of weight as his attempt to get more female attention than his handsome brunet partner. Only Starsky saw through the charade and although up until now he’d kept his counsel about his worries, today, with its sentencing hearing and the closure it brought it seemed as good a time as any to bring up his concerns. He’d seen Hutch’s plough furrow ribs and sallow complexion in the changing rooms at the Metro. Only the brunet seemed to notice the narrowing of crystal blue eyes in the middle of a conversation indicating just how much pain the flaxen haired cop still endured and now he put his hand on Hutch’s knee and sighed as the blond once again lied about his health.

‘I’m fine’ Hutch said lightly.

‘No, you’re not. You’re still hurtin’ an’ I need to know how much. C’mon Blondie, ya make me tell you everythin’ Aint it about time you treated me like an adult and reciprocated?’

Blond eyebrows rose heavenwards. ‘Reciprocated huh? You swallowed a dictionary partner?’

‘Quit changin’ the subject and just tell me how you’re doin’ Starsky growled.

‘OK, you asked for it. I’ve dropped twelve pounds in three months, I can’t eat more’n a couple of mouthfuls before I throw up, I get pains in my gut each an’ every day an’ I can’t sleep for more’n a couple of hours at a time coz I feel like there’s some blond flake gonna jump me an’ stick a pillow over my face. My love life is none existent and I have a permanent headache. Anythin’ more ya want to know?’ Hutch snapped defensively.

‘Well it aint news, if that’s what ya mean Blintz. But why the hell haven’t you told me before now?’

‘Coz you were sick, go figure.’

‘Aww Hutch. You’re sick too buddy. Seems like you’re worse than me. Ya gotta stop protectin’ me like this. I’m a big boy, I can deal with this.’

‘Like you deal with it by sleepin’ with the light and the radio on?’ Hutch asked.

A frown fled across Starsky’s face. ‘How’d ya know I slept with the radio on?’

‘Coz I have my spies. You wouldn’t let me stay with ya, so I got Mrs Krantz, your landlady to keep an eye on you. She tells me everythin’ that’s goin’ on buddy. She should’ve been in the CIA.’

‘I need to find somewhere new to live’ Starsky sighed. ‘Ok, so I have issues too. Don’t you think it’s about time we took a break? I mean a real break. Get away from it all….no cars, no guns, no goons and no crazed blonds with connections to James Gunther.’

‘I dunno. To be honest, I haven’t got the energy to think about breaks or anythin’ else. I just wish I could sleep.’

Starsky’s face cracked into a grin. ‘S’ok Blondie. Leave it to me. I’m gonna book us a vacation like nothin’ you’ve ever had before. Three weeks of sun, sea and sand on a nice little Caribbean island.’

Hutch thought it over. They could do with the break, and the sound of a vacation on a sunny isle did hold a certain appeal, but the thoughts of a vacation organised by his partner left him feeling more than a little uneasy.

Chapter 2

‘Huggy? Hey, how’re ya doin’? Yeah, I was wonderin’. Ya know when you set me up with that nice little vacation right after Bellamy got me? Well, d’ya still have connections in the hotel trade?’ Starsky sat on the sofa in his new living room with the telephone to his ear as he listened to Huggy.

‘No. It wasn’t as lucrative a scene as I thought it might be, ya dig? Me an’ the airlines didn’t exactly see eye to eye about how payments should be made. Or rather they thought I should pay ‘em and I um….well the doe got diverted elsewhere, if ya get my drift.’

‘Uh huh. I get your drift.’ Starsky sighed. He’d promised his partner he’d find a nice paradise for them to vacation in, but the insurance company had yet to pay out on his burned down apartment on Ridgeway and the rent on his new place was eating up what few savings he had in the bank.

‘Ya got any ideas for a nice place to go. Me and Blondie need to get away from it all.’

‘Well, there’s always Playboy Island. That’s got cool beaches an’ nice hotels’ the barkeep offered.

‘Uh huh. An it has Papa Theodore, and your Aunt, an’ I don’t know who scares me more. Can’t ya think of somethin’ else?’

‘What about a cruise?’

‘Nope. Last time we were on board a ship it was full of tickin’ bombs. We want to relax Hug.’

‘Well can help it if trouble follows the two of you around? What about Dobey’s Cabin. That’s up in the hills. How much trouble can ya get up to up there?’

‘Well apart from it holdin’ real nasty memories of Hutch keepin’ me prisoner while I came down off the heroin, there’s this thing with snakes in the refrigerator and Satanists in the next cabin’ Starsky replied glumly.

‘Well Goddamit Starsk, where have ya been where you’ve felt safe?’ Huggy Bear’s voice held an edge of exasperation and Starsky got to thinking.

‘Well there’s…..no. God, no, I don’t wanna think about it.’


‘Well, the only place we’ve never had an accident is when we’ve been campin’

‘So? Go camping. You know Blondie loves to get back to nature. He’s in his element when he can go all “Eagle Scout”. I think it takes him back to his childhood. What’s the problem?’

‘The problem, wiseguy, is that there are bugs and bears an’ all sorts of real nasty things out there. An’ it’s damp an’ it rains and the grounds’ hard to sleep on, there’s not a pizza shop for miles and beer is real heavy to carry. I was kinda thinkin’ more four stars than four tent pegs. But you’re right, Hutch’ll love it. He just needs to get some rest.’

There was an audible sigh of relief at the other end of the phone. ‘There ya go then. Settled. You, the blond and the great outdoors. What a combination! Oh…..an’ I’m still lookin’ for another place for you to buy, unless you’re happy rentin’?’

Starsky looked around. The apartment was definitely not home, and he needed roots. The brunet was the kind of guy who needed to know that he had a permanent base and renting just didn’t cut it.

His new apartment was nice enough. In fact it was better than nice; it was the best place he’d ever lived. Twice the size of Ridgeway, it was on one level, accessed by a path edged by a white picket fence. The front door led straight into the living room which was light and airy and painted in soft creams and blues. It came fully furnished with the softest and most comfortable sofa Starsky had ever had the delight to sit on and a huge television.

Through a connecting door, three rooms led off. A separate kitchen big enough to house a table and four chairs opened by means of French windows out onto a flower filled patio, while back inside, there was a large dark blue and white tiled bathroom with bath, shower, wash basin and toilet and next to it an enormous bedroom filled by a super king-size bed and enough closet space to allow Abercrombie’s to move in. Sadly, only a couple of pairs of jeans and some shirts hung there, as clothes too had been lost in the fire.

‘No, keep lookin’. Too much luxury is bad for the karma’ he muttered and put the phone down.

Disconsolately, Starsky sat back on the comfortable sofa and stared at the ceiling, sighing deeply and fingering the gold Mogein Dovid on a gold chain that Hutch had bought him to replace the Chinese coin he had habitually worn before Sue Gunther took it from him. He still had the coin. It held memories and a special place in his heart. The coin was the symbol Hutch had found signifying that his brunet partner was still alive, but it held too many connotations to make it comfortable to wear around his neck again.

So, what was he gonna do about the vacation? They needed it for sure. Hutch looked haggered and old beyond his years and despite his reassurances that he was fine, Starsky knew differently. Hutch had never been able to hide anything from the brunet in all the years they’d known each other. The blond was stoical, brave, selfless, but ultimately, he still relied on the curly haired man who watched his back on a daily basis. And Starsky relished the task. Did he want to mention a camping trip? He knew Hutch would jump at the idea, but was it right for the two of them right then? The blond looked more like he needed fattening up than taking more exercise and Starsky’s fantasies of lounging on a blow up chair in the middle of a turquoise pool with a Mojito in his hand dissipated like a loud of dust.

He jumped as he heard a knock on the door, and snickered to himself. Starsky too was still on edge and even the shrink he’d been forced to see for six sessions so far admitted that he’d never seen a man so on edge and keeping on working. Yes, they most definitely needed a break.

Hutch poked his head round the door just as Mrs Krantz appeared with a freshly brewed pot of coffee and some cakes. She smiled at the two men in a homely.motherly way and when Starsky invited her in, she set the tray down on the coffee table in the living room.

‘I’ve just finished baking. Mr Krantz doesn’t have a big apetite and I baked too much as usual. Just give me the plate back when you’ve finished with it ‘ she dimpled and let herself out.

Hutch watched her go. ‘She’s a sweetheart. Why d’ya wanna move away from here Starsk? You’ve got it all. Cushy pad, nice area and a woman who looks after you like a Mom.’

‘Uh huh. And that’s exactly why. She looks after me like a Mom. I feel like I have to knock on her door and ask her for a late pass if I’m goin’ to the Pits. And as for askin’ a chick back…..’

‘Would ya?’ the blond asked quietly.

‘Would I what?’

‘Would you ask a chick back if ya found one?’

‘I aint lookin’. I told ya, I’m either gonna remain celebate or marry you. I had enough of blond females to last me a lifetime’ the brunet said with feeling. For a second, the indigo eyes narrowed as unwanted memories floated back to him. Hard, cold, concrete floors, fists and feet connecting with his body, tainted water. Starsky gave an involuntary shudder. Although he told Hutch and the shrink that he was absolutely fine on a regular basis, he knew deep down he wasn’t, and that this time, he would find it almost impossible to put his experiences behind him.

Starsky watched as Hutch eased himself down onto the sofa and rested back. There were black circles beneath the blond’s crystal blue eyes and a gaunt, pinched look to his face. He looked 45 instead of 35 and the hand that ran through his flaxen bangs shook slightly. Self consciously, Hutch put his arm down and almost sat on his hand to stop the tremble.

‘You ok buddy?’ Starsky asked casually. He knew Hutch hated him keep asking, but he was determined to find out anyway.

‘Huh? Yeah, I’m f….’ Hutch stopped himself from uttering the usual litany and sighed. ‘No. I feel like shit. I almost managed a bowl of oatmeal this mornin’ for breakfast. I thought I was doin’ really well and then the pains started and suddenly it put in an impromptu reappearance. So it was back to the glass of milk. I swear Starsk, I think I’m becoming more like a cow than a cop.’

‘What did the Doc say?’ Hutch had been for a checkup the previous evening and had yet to report back to his partner.

‘He said I was doin’ great, that the linin’ on my stomach was recovering and that I just had to give it time. He also said I could use a vacation. So. Where are we goin’ buddy? Antigua? St Kitts? Barbados?’

The brunet looked crestfallen. ‘Well, here’s the thing. Um…..I kinda…..well, till the insurance pays out, I’m kinda strapped for cash. So I was wonderin’ if you wanted to go camping?’

Hutch grinned. ‘Nothing I’d like more buddy, but I know you. You hate anythin’ that isn’t covered in a foot of concrete and this is as much your vacation as mine.’

‘I know that, but right now, that’s all I can afford’ Starsky said glumly.

‘Well its as well you have a partner with money as well as taste then. How does two weeks on the beautiful Caribbean Island of Aruba grab ya. Four star hotel, all meals found……oh and there’s great marlin fishin’ too.’

The brunet stared open mouthed. ‘I couldn’t. It’s too much……that’s your money Blintz. I couldn’t expect you to pay for me too. I can camp. I’m man enough.’

‘I know you are. You an’ tents get on great, but humour me. I want some luxury, an’ I know you’ll pay me back when ya can. I just wanna do this for us both. Will ya let me? Huh?’

Starsky was just about to open his mouth to answer when the telephone rang. It startled him, not least because having moved house, only Hutch, Huggy and work knew his new number and he picked it up cautiously.


‘Starsky, I have a caller for you. She insisted I put her through. She said it was a life or death emergency’ Mildred’s voice sounded down the line.

‘Who is it Hon?’

‘Dunno. Never heard of her. She sounds young. Said her name was Danny? You want for me to get rid of her?’

Starsky’s eyebrows shot heavenwards. ‘Danny you say?’

‘Uh huh. That’s what she said. Why? Do you know her?’

The brunet put his hand over the receiver and motioned to Hutch. ‘Its that girl.’

‘What girl? I thought you were leaving girls alone?’ Hutch said.

‘No! THE girl. The one I told you about. My angel. It’s her. She’s on the phone’ Starsky explained with excitement and shock in his voice.

‘Well dummy, if she’s so special, don’t ya think you’d better answer her?’

‘Huh? Oh! Yeah! Um….Mildred, patch her through honey, thanks’. The brunet waited for the taps and whirs on the line signifying that the lady at the metro was working her radio wizzardry and then another voice came on the line.

‘Dave? Is that you?’

‘Danny? Oh my God! Danny. Is that really you? Are you ok sweetheart? This is….’

Starsky’s words were cut short by the girl. Oddly she didn’t ask how he was, or if he was better, but instead, she launched into a request.

‘Dave, I have to see you again. It’s important that I see you, and maybe Hutch? Is that his name?’

‘Are you in trouble Danny? Are you ok?’ Starsky asked.

‘Oh yeah’ the girl said brightly. ‘It’s just, I really want to see you. Now. Today. Can you come?’

‘Um……well, its kinda…’

‘Dave please? Today?’ the little girls voice held an edge of urgency to it and Starsky’s heart melted, remembering the popsicle she’d given him when he was so dehydrated he didn’t think his tongue would move in his mouth any more. He remembered little hands carefully putting a Band-Aid over one of the hundreds of cuts on his body back in that hell hole of a room and he knew he could refuse her nothing.

‘Sure sweetheart. Where?’ he heard himself say.

‘You know the apartment block where you were? Well there’s a dump just behind there. Come with Hutch huh? And soon.’

The line went dead before the brunet had chance to question the ten year old on why she was at a dump and he put the phone down, mystified.

Across town, Danny looked up at the four men surrounding her and smiled at them. ‘They’re coming, my Uncles. They know where the drugs are. They’ll tell you.’

Chapter 3

‘What does she want?’ Hutch asked. ‘I thought you decided she wasn’t real.’

‘I kinda convinced myself that she wasn’t. I mean, when they had me there things got kinda fuzzy. I wasn’t rowin’ with both oars ya know. Sometimes she was there and sometimes she wasn’t an’ by the end, I could hardly tell what was real an’ what wasn’t. But it sounds like her, an’ she seemed like she needed me. I owe her Hutch. She might have only been young, but she means a lot to me. She helped me hold on.’

The blond smiled fondly. ‘Then I owe her a debt of gratitude buddy. C’mon, let’s go see your “angel” huh?’

The two men rose with identical groans and Starsky snickered softly. ‘Maybe we could do with her help again huh? Seems to me like we could both do with someone watchin’ over us some more.’

‘It aint the age, it’s the mileage…..an’ the flakes in this mean old town’ the flaxen haired cop said with feeling as he arched his back and took a deep breath. Starsky took his keys from the hook by the kitchen door, shouldered into his holster and checked his gun, inserting it smoothly into the stiff saddle leather beneath his right arm. Hutch’s eyebrows rose at the action and the brunet sighed.

‘Force of habit. An’ these days, I just feel like neither of us can be too careful.’

‘But we’re just gonna see a little kid.’

‘And this from the man who don’t go to see his Mom without his gun?’ Starsky grinned.

Hutch shrugged his shoulders and grinned back. ‘Fair point. Ok, fine. I got mine here too, so the kid had better be careful. We’re armed and dangerous.’

‘Nah, not dangerous Blintz. We’re just two pussy cats.’

Together they headed down the neat, picket fenced path and out to the car. Many things had changed in the preceding four months for the brunet but there were two constants in his life. One of course was his tall, blond partner. The other was his red and white striped baby. It stood now waiting for him and he felt that if it could have it would have reared up and wrapped its tires around him. He got into the car, feeling the seats enfold him in comfort and he glanced sideways as Hutch closed his passenger side door. Sometimes, the simplest things, the most familiar of actions brought the most comfort and right at that moment both men felt relaxed and at home. They were in an environment they knew and trusted, together, and for a moment they forgot their hurts and simply enjoyed the moment.

As Starsky flicked on the engine and it roared into life, Hutch felt the usual surge of adrenaline well up inside him. When the brunet got behind the wheel, it was never just a Sunday afternoon drive. Most times, Hutch resisted Starsky’s attempts to seemingly overturn the car with his speed, but today, it felt good and he wedged his knees against the dash, took a firm hold of the passenger grab handle and settled down for the ride.

The afternoon sun filled road whistled by as the brunet set off with his usual tire screeching start and the buildings of down town Bay City passed quickly as Starsky drove through the familiar streets. He hummed a tuneless melody as he drove, his hands caressing the wheel of his car and at his side, Hutch enjoyed feeling the breeze ruffle his flaxen hair. But as they approached the apartments where Starsky had been incarcerated those four months ago, the two men became quieter and as the brunet drew up outside the apartments, he felt a rising tide of panic in his chest.

The car came to a halt and the curly haired cop switched off the engine, listening to the echoes die away in the quiet neighborhood. He’d never had an opportunity to see the outside of the place, both his entry to the building and his exit from it having been accomplished while he was unconscious. Now he stared up at the soulless grey concrete with some trepidation. At his side Hutch joined him and followed his gaze.

‘Damn. Why’d she have to meet here?’ Starsky murmured.

‘It’s just a building Starsk. If it hadn’t been here, then it would have been somewhere else.’

The brunet nodded. At least his incarceration had been somewhere far away from his home. For Hutch the difficulty had been in going home and having to get his life back together there. Because every inch of his apartment, every corner, every room held memories of the time he’d spent with Sue, and her subsequent attempts to kill him.

‘C’mon. Danny said she was at the dump around the corner’ the brunet said, pulling himself together. He walked slowly towards the corner of the building, his hand going automatically to his gun, checking that the comforting bulk of the chunk of metal was still there, warmed to his body temperature and ready to keep him safe. At his side, he saw Hutch also check his weapon and felt better that at least his partner was with him. They’d only been back on the streets for a couple of weeks and neither were up to full fitness, but they were together and that was what counted.

The tall buildings on either side of the street seemed to hem the two detectives in, leaning inwards and giving the deserted street a predatory air. The afternoon sun beat down and suddenly there seemed to be no air to breathe.

‘Nice place for a kid to play out’ Hutch observed quietly.

‘I get the impression she’s on her own a lot.’

‘Uh huh. But Jeez, Starsk. Hasn’t she heard of a playground?’

Starsky smiled. ‘I think I remember her tellin’ me that the kids at school made fun of her because she had curly hair.’

‘Kids can be cruel’ Hutch observed wisely.

‘That they can. I know how she feels.’

‘You were bullied at school?’ The blond asked, surprised.

‘Not bullied, no. I had fists to answer for me. But I got sick of the “Curly” tag. I asked Mom to iron it straight one day, but she just laughed at me an’ told me Curly was a perfectly good nickname, and she’d heard worse.’ Starsky explained.

‘Well what is the matter with “Curly”?’

The brunet snickered. ‘Everythin’. There’s only one guy gets to call me Curly an’ that’s only because he’s almost as close to me as you are.’

‘Yeah, Traff’s that alright’ Hutch agreed. ‘So, where’s your little angel then?’

The men’s footsteps echoed around the deserted buildings as they walked towards the small dump at the end of the street and as they got to the final corner a movement made them stop, senses on full alert. As they watched, a small figure came around the corner slowly and stopped.

Danny saw the two tall men come walking towards her and her face split into a grin from ear to ear. She set off at a run and launched herself at the brunet who caught her in his arms and swung her round as she giggled.

‘Dave!’ she cried. ‘You came. And you look better too.’

‘Yeah, I’m good. All better’ the man agreed, twirling the little girl around. He landed her onto the ground and took a hold of her hand.

‘How are you sweetheart?’

‘Um…..is this Hutch? Is this who you kept asking for?’ Danny asked as she looked up at the tall, golden tanned blond.

‘Yeah, that’s him. Let me make the introductions. Danny, this is Hutch. Hutch, this is Danny, my little angel.’

Solemnly Hutch hunkered down so that he could see the little girl eye to eye. He held out his hand and she took it, shaking it in what she hoped was an adult fashion. ‘Nice to meet you Danny. I need to thank you for lookin’ after my partner like ya did. That was real grown up of you.’

Danny smiled proudly. ‘I like him. He’s…..’ she drew Hutch’s head to her so that she could whisper in his ear. ‘He’s kinda hot!’

The blond choking on his laugh and tried to straighten his face. ‘Well I hadn’t noticed, but if that’s what you think….’

‘What? What hadn’t you noticed?’ Starsky asked.

‘Nothin’ the blond and the child said together and then grinned at each other.

‘Ok Danny. You said you wanted us to come see you. Any reason? Are you ok?’ Starsky asked.

Danny’s face fell and she took a hold of Starsky’s hand. ‘When you were sick, you said a lot of things. Did you mean ‘em?’ she asked.

‘Dunno. I don’t really remember a lot’ the brunet said truthfully. ‘What did I say?’

‘That you were a cop and that you helped people out.’ Danny walked with the two men to the corner of the building, still prattling on. ‘So do ya?’

‘Yeah, course we…. What’s this all about Danny? Are you in trouble?’

As they turned the corner, Starsky’s cop senses told him that something was not quite right. He let go of the little girl’s hand and his left hand went automatically to his gun. He pulled it from the holster as three young Hispanic men appeared from the doorway of one of the buildings. The brunet stopped, his gun pointing forwards as he pushed Danny behind him. She ducked around his body and shouted to the three men

‘It’s ok, it’s ok, these are my uncles. The ones I told you about. They can help, they know where it is.’

‘Danny!’ Starsky growled. ‘What the f…. what are ya talkin’ about honey?’

His eyes never left the three men as he questioned the little girl and the Mexicans started to walk towards him, predatory grins on their faces as they spread out a little.

‘You got this all wrong’ he told them, as he caught the bright flash of a large silver coloured blade in one of the young men’s hands.

‘Uh uh. It’s you that’s got it wrong Gringo. You’re gonna do exactly as we tell you, otherwise bye bye little Chica.’

‘Listen punk. I don’t know what your game is but I suggest you put your blade down now an’ we can talk about this’ the brunet said calmly as the three men bore down on him. Behind him, he could feel Danny clinging to his waist and as he started to look around for his partner, who seemed terribly quiet, one of the young men drew back his arm and threw the knife at Starsky.

The cop ducked, but was hampered by the little girl at his back and the blade grazed his forearm as it sailed past. Instinctively, the brunet crouched, arms outstretched and loosed off a shot at the knife man. The guy was taken by surprise and went down clutching at the top of his leg as Starsky’s bullet hit him on his inner thigh.

The shot rang out echoing through the buildings and the two remaining men launched themselves forward towards the still crouching cop. Starsky brought his gun up again and yelled at them to freeze, but instead of looking intimindated, they snickered and kept on coming. For a second, Starsky started to squeeze his trigger again and then he heard it – the sound that made the blood in his veins turn to ice water.

Behind him, very softly he heard his name.


Coming up from his crouch and turning swiftly, Starsky breath hitched in his throat as he saw Hutch held by his arms by a fourth man, a blade at his throat and a line of blood trickling down his taut neck from the small puncture wound at the blade’s tip.

The brunet looked back at the two men still advancing on him and then at Danny, who was now standing a little way off as though distancing herself from the charade. She had a look of horror in her eyes and a single tear snaked it’s way down her cheek.

‘Starsk, shoot’ Hutch urged his partner, biting back the hiss of pain as the blade cut deeper into the skin on his neck.

‘I… I….. back off’ the brunet yelled at the two Mexicans. He waved his gun in their general direction, but indecision raged through his mind. If he fired, he’d have no time to whip round and take out Hutch’s assailant before the flake slit the blond’s throat. And there was the girl to consider. He looked back at Hutch in desperation.

‘Shoot’ the blond hissed.

‘Hutch I….’

The decision was taken from Starsky’s control when he heard a short, high pitched scream and turned to see one of the men had Danny by her arm. The Mexican was turning it up the little girls back and although she was fighting as hard as she could, she was no match for the powerful young man.

With a sigh, and admitting defeat, Starsky knelt and placed his Smith and Wesson on the ground as the remaining man walked over to him, took the cuffs from his back pocket and slipped them tightly onto the brunet’s wrists.

Chapter 4

There was a moments silence after the initial shot and then it was broken by the sound of the little girl sobbing and the man on the ground groaning deeply. The Mexican grasped at his leg and rolled onto his back, his eyes closed against the pain as Hutch’s guy dragged the blond over to check his buddy out. Blood dripped from the shot man’s thigh and started to pool on the ground and Hutch examined him from a distance, his thoughts being that the shot might have nicked his femoral artery.

‘He needs help’ he gasped as the arm round his neck tightened.

‘Whose fault is that?’ the Mexican snapped.

Hutch snorted. ‘We can either argue over the niceties or we can stop him bleedin’. It don’t matter to me.’

‘You know what to do?’

‘Kinda. He needs that wound packin’. Or at least he needs a tourniquet round his leg. It’s faster but it’s risky. It’ll need slackenin’ to stop him losin’ his leg.’

The Mexican looked at his friend on the ground. ‘You heard the man Enrico. Take off your belt and put it round your leg huh?’

As Enrico nodded, gritting his teeth and struggled with his leather belt, once more the man at Hutch’s back put the knife to his neck. The small but deep wound on the blond’s neck stung fiercely and as he swallowed he felt the top of the blade slice further into his neck. The flaxen haired cop debated whether to chance trying to reason with the men, but none of them looked in the mood for a friendly conversation and as he watched it seemed like his partner would be doing the talking for both of them.

Starsky was still on his knees on the sun warmed sidewalk, his hands cuffed behind his back with his own handcuffs and he was staring belligerently at the man in front of him. The Mexican had picked up the Smith and Wesson from the ground where the curly haired cop had laid it down and having pocketed his knife was now aiming the weapon at the brunet cop’s head. Starsky looked past him to the little girl, still held fast in the grip of the third goon. She was pale and shaking and her face was stained with tears.

‘Danny, are ya ok sweetheart?’ he said.

The little girl nodded, shamefaced. ‘I’m sorry’ she mumbled.

‘What’s this all about?’ the brunet asked.

The Mexican in front of him glared. ‘Enough conversation. She’s fine. She says you’re her uncles. She says you know where the stuff is. One way or another, you’re gonna tell us.’

Starsky threw a questioning look to the child. ‘Uncles huh? What’s goin’ on here sweatheart?’

The man took a hold of the cop’s collar and brought him to his feet by his clothing. He stared into Starsky’s deep, indigo blue eyes and snapped at him. ‘I told ya shudup. Just tell us where the stuff is huh?’

Defiance blazed back at the Hispanic man. ‘Make your mind up. I either shudup, or I tell ya. The two seem mutually opposed.’ Behind him, he heard Hutch hiss. The blond knew his partner was losing the famous Starsky temper, and that usually led to fireworks.

The Mexican grinned savagely and dropped the cop back to his knees. ‘Wise guy huh? Well let’s see what we have here smart ass.’ He proceeded to walk round behind the cuffed brunet and as he got to the back, he grabbed a handful of chocolate brown curls, pulled Starsky’s neck back taut and stowed Starsky’s gun inside his waistband while he used his other hand to start searching through the brunet’s pockets. The man holding Hutch echoed the movements and both found what they were looking for a moment later.

‘Hey Camargo, see what I got here?’ Hutch’s captor shouted over as he waved the blond’s shield in the air, the sunlight glinting off the silver coloured metal. Starsky felt a knee in his back as his own shield was pulled from his back jeans pocket.

Camargo snorted. ‘Uncles huh? Looks like we got ourselves a couple’a pigs. Nice try kid. Miguel, cuff him and bring him with us.’ The Mexican looked down at his own captive. ‘On your feet Gringo. We can find somewhere more private to talk.’

‘Who says I wanna talk to you?’ Starsky ground out as he was pulled to his feet again by his collar.

‘I do. And you will talk. One way or the other.’

The brunet looked the boy up and down contemptuously. ‘Jeez, If I had a dime for every time I’d heard that. And usually from flakes who didn’t need diapers. Does your Mom know you’re out on your own?’ He ducked as Camargo directed a fist his way, but not quite fast enough and the blow caught the brunet on the angle of his jaw, snapping his head sideways. Danny screamed.

‘Stop it. Don’t hurt him. He’ll tell you. Just don’t hit him huh?’

The man holding the child shook her bodily. ‘Shudup ya little bitch. What do you think this is? Some kind of game? We want the stuff and we want it now. You’ve already stolen the stash here, so where’s the other lot? You said they knew.’

‘They do, they’ll take you there. Right Dave? Right? You’ll make this all right won’t ya?’ Danny pleaded as the two men and the child started being herded towards the apartment block Starsky had been held in a few months previously.

‘It wouldn’t be my first choice, no,’ Starsky said out loud and to himself muttered ‘Go see the “angel” Davey, you owe her one Davey. Next time, keep your finer feelin’s to yourself.

As the two detectives and the little girl were directed towards the large apartment block, the brunet’s mouth went dry. This was the place he’d had nightmares about for weeks. This was the place he’d been left to die, and he hadn’t planned on visiting it again any time soon. With his hands cuffed behind his back and with Hutch similarly cuffed at his side, he walked slowly towards the looming building, trying to keep his breathing under control. Panic rose up his chest and threatened to cut off his airway. He felt dizzy and his stomach was attempting triple somersaults in his belly as his skin crawled. A bead of perspiration ran down his spine.

Hutch walked slowly besides his partner, trying to keep an eye on both Starsky and the little girl who seemed to have stopped crying, but still looked pale and shaken. The brunet also looked pale and as they walked, Hutch tried to get close to him. Even a fleeting touch would bring some measure of comfort and Starsky surely looked like he needed it. He managed to knock his buddy with his elbow as if in passing and Starsky looked sideways at him. The look said it all.

What now?’

I dunno. Just play along for a while an’ try an keep your mouth shut, huh?’

The small group got to the front door of the building and Starsky closed his eyes. OK he could do this, he could do this. He needed to keep himself together if not for his own confidence then in order to help Hutch and to get Danny out of the situation. With a deep breath, he set foot inside his own personal hell again and followed Camargo down the corridor with Miguel at his back and the third man helping Enrico limp along behind the cortège. Thankfully, the men had not chosen the same room to use as Sue Gunther had and as they paused in front of the front door the three hostages were pushed into a small bedroom inside the deserted apartment and the door was locked behind them.

Hutch looked around him curiously. ‘Nice place’ he observed wryly.

‘Uh huh.’ Starsky walked to the far wall, sliding down it until he was sitting on the floor, his head resting back against the rough plaster. The blond joined him as Danny stood alone in the middle of the room. ‘Almost as nice as the last place I had here.’

‘How’re ya holdin’ up buddy?’ Hutch examined his partner noting the telltale tightness around Starsky’s mouth. The brunet was scared, although he would never admit it.

‘Terrific. Just where I wanted to end up. Like déjà vu. So, Danny, what the hell is this all about?’

The little girl stood in the middle of the room staring at the floor. Her dark brown curls were in disarray, her face smudged with grime and there was dust on her sneakers. She looked up shyly and saw the anger on her friend’s face.

‘I’m sorry Dave. I didn’t think this would happen. I didn’t want them to hurt you.’

‘Just exactly did you want?’ the brunet asked, trying to keep his temper under control.

‘I wanted you to help me.’


‘Well….. you’re gonna be mad at me.’

‘What do you mean “gonna”? I’m already way past mad. I’m passin’ angry central and heading full speed for absolutely blazin’. So you aint got nuthin to lose kid. Just tell us what the fu…..what’s goin’ on.’

Danny came to sit over by the two men, on Starsky’s side. She stretched out her legs and leaned into the brunet’s side as she looked up into his face.

‘When Hutch came for you, Mom made me promise not to come here any more. An' I wasn’t gonna.’


‘Well I went into a new class at school an’ I thought Miss Imada had been bad, but then I realised she was real nice compared to Miss Hill. So I kinda stopped goin’ to school every day and hung out here.’

‘Danny!’ Starsky sighed. ‘It aint the right sort of place for a kid.’

‘I can look after myself. I looked after you didn’t I?’ the girl said defensively.

‘Yeah, you did. You were great.’ Like most men, Starsky was a sucker for little girls and his temper backed down slightly as she smiled up at him.

‘Danny, what happened?’ Hutch urged, knowing they might not have long before the goons came back.

‘Well I was playin’ here one day and I……well those four guys were here, so I hid. I could still hear what they were sayin’ and they were plannin’ somethin’. They were talkin’ about “snow” and how much it cost and how much money they could make and where they’d hidden it.’

The two men’s hearts plummeted. ‘Go on’ Hutch said gently. ‘What did you do to make them so mad?’

‘They talked for a while and then they went away and I got into their room. There wasn’t no snow there, but there was a brick loose in the wall an’ I kinda took it out and…..’

‘And what?’ Starsky asked.

‘Well there was a whole bunch of money behind it. My Momma was sick and she’d been cryin’ about the hospital bills an’ how she couldn’t pay ‘em, so I um….’

‘You took the money?’ Hutch asked.

Danny nodded slowly. ‘Uh huh.’

‘Just how much was there?’ the blond cop asked softly.

‘I dunno. I couldn’t count past a thousand.’

‘Dollars? A thousand dollars? Oh my God Danny! So that’s why they’re mad?’

‘Yeah.’ The child’s face crumpled again and she wiped her tears on the back of her hand sniffling noisily. Hutch shuffled round.

‘There’s a hanky in my side pocket if you can reach it’ he directed as Danny fumbled and brought out the linen square. She blew her nose and wiped her eyes and solemnly held it out for Hutch. The blond looked at the crumpled wet hanky and smiled.

‘S’ok honey. You keep it. So. When did they find out you’d taken their money?’

‘Not for a while. There was always some left behind the brick. I never took it all. But this mornin’ when I came here, they were waiting for me and they caught me and said they’d hurt me unless I could give them the money back. Well I couldn’t, but I told ‘em I knew where there was some more snow for them to sell.’

‘You did huh? Do you even know what snow is?’ Starsky growled.

‘No. But I know they sell it an’ make money. And when they said they were gonna hurt me, I didn’t know what else to do. So I thought of you and Hutch and how you were both cops and I thought you could come and save me.’

‘And you didn’t think to tell us this over the phone?’

‘I couldn’t. They were right there with me. I had to think fast and the only thing I could think to tell them was that you were my uncles. I’m sorry.’

Starsky looked up at the ceiling, sighing deeply. ‘So, let me get this straight. You’ve taken this gang for every dime they’ve got, you’ve spent their doe, and then you’ve told ‘em that me an’ Hutch know where they can get more um….snow?’

‘Yeah.’ Danny’s voice sounded small and frightened. ‘I didn’t know they’d hit ya.’

As a key rattled in the lock, and the door opened wide, Starsky grimaced at the girl.

‘Nice one, kid’ he grunted as Camargo walked over to them.

Chapter 5

Camargo walked into the room and grinned down at the two detectives. 'I see you've made yourselves at home.'

'Yeah, it's real cosy. I'm thinkin' of putting in an offer' Starsky muttered darkly. He was still seething at the fact that Danny hadn't been honest with him and wasn't in the best of moods for pleasantries.

'You can get out any time you like. You just need to tell me where the shit is' the Mexican said amicably.

'And if we don't know?' Hutch asked.

'Then I'm sorry for you.'

'Aww, aint that sweet? He's sorry for us Hutch.' Starsky looked up at the Mexican. 'So, what now?'

'Now you tell me where the stash is.'

'And if we don't?'

Camargo took a hold of Danny's arm and pulled the child to her feet. She squeaked, but refused to cry. Instantly, Hutch tried to get to his feet to stop the little girl from being hurt. His partner wasn't too far behind.

'Ok, ya made your point' Starsky snapped. 'Let her go. She aint done nuthin.'

'Are you gonna tell me where to find the snow?'

'No, I won't tell ya' Starsky said, fixing his gaze on his partner. 'But I'll show ya.'

At his side Hutch closed his eyes in despair. Now what was the curly headed man gonna do? The blond sent up a silent prayer to any God that cared to listen and sighed, knowing that for all their safety he should probably play along with his partner.

'Don't give 'em nothin'. It's ours' he said angrily.

'I don't have a lot of options' the brunet replied, glad his buddy had cottoned on to his pretence. With any luck, if they were out "looking" for the drugs, he may have the chance to either escape or get a message to another cop. Starsky staggered to his feet, off balance with the cuffs still surrounding his wrists at the back and walked towards the Mexican and the little girl. 'Let her go. I'll take ya to it' he said wearily. 'Just don't hurt her, ok?'

Camargo pushed Danny away from him and she stumbled and fell against Hutch's body where she stayed, hugging her arms round the blond's waist as she looked on in fear. She'd never wanted this to happen...never.

In the middle of the room, the captor and captive were facing off, Starsky staring down the youth with a steely gaze. Unfortunately, despite Camargo's lack of years, he was the one still holding the gun, and now he flicked it towards the door. 'No time like the present Gringo. Shall we go for a ride?'

'Sure. My car or yours?' the brunet asked cockily.

'You direct, I drive.'

'And them? They're comin' too, right?'

The youth gave him a withering look. 'Do I look stupid? They stay here and they don't move until we come back with the shit. Move.'

Reluctantly, the brunet walked out of the room in front of the Mexican as Miguel closed the door and locked it firmly behind him. Inside the room, Hutch settled back against the wall again and tried to make himself comfortable. He felt like he was likely to be in for the long haul and hoped his partner wouldn't do anything too stupid. Although the brunet was never one to skip taking risks.

At his side, Danny snuggled into him and he took the chance to try to talk to her.

'Is Dave gonna be ok?' the girl asked.

'He's a big boy. He can take care of himself' Hutch said, as though he were trying to convince himself.

'Are they gonna hurt him?'

'I hope not honey. Why didn't you tell him you were in trouble? We could have done somethin' about it.'

'I couldn't. They were right there with me while I made the phone call. I was scared.'

Hutch looked down at the girl and tried to smile encouragingly. 'Is your Mom better now?' he asked, thinking that Danny had been through so much already.

'Huh? Better?' she asked, looking nonplussed.

'Yeah. You said she'd been sick and that you took the money to pay the hospital bills.'

'Ohhh! um...yeah...she's um...she's much better.'

'Didn't she ask where you got the money from?'

'Um, no, she couldn't. She was um...she was unconscious' Danny said quickly.

'Unconscious huh? But the hospital asked for the money even though she wasn't well yet?' Hutch's eyebrows shot up.

'Well she um...she got better real fast and then she um...she was home and I um...She found the money coz I left it lyin' around and maybe she forgot she had it.'

The blond looked down at the little girl. 'Danny, was your Mom really sick?'


'Huh? Really?'

The little girl looked down at her toes and looked distinctly uncomfortable. There was a moment's silence as she gazed up at Hutch's crystal blue eyes. 'No' she said softly. 'She wasn't ever sick.'

'So what did you do with the money? I figure that part must've been true.'

She nodded. 'Yeah the money was real. Honest it was. And it was where I said it was, behind the brick in the wall.'

'So you took it?' Why?'


'Danny, this is important. Did you really hear them talking about snow? Or did you just make that up too?'

'No Hutch. They said snow, I remember. They said they'd sold it and they were lookin' for more. So when they caught me and threatened me, I thought about Dave and how he was a cop. Cops are supposed to catch bad guys right? So I phoned the number he gave me and a lady said she'd put me through to Dave. I thought he could help' the girl finished lamely. 'Did I do wrong? Is he gonna be ok? Does he know where he can get some snow?'

The blond cop sighed. 'Danny, do you even know what snow is?'


'Those guys are bad guys honey. They buy drugs. Snow is a name for a drug and then they sell it for profit. They make lots of money and they're mad coz you took the money. Dave is a cop, yeah, but he doesn't know where to find any drugs. Not like that. Maybe if you'd been able to tell us, we could have worked something out. But now?'

'Are they gonna hurt him?' Danny said tearfully. She remembered the curly haired man led on the concrete floor, covered in blood and barely able to speak. She was genuinely fond of him and she would give anything for him not to be hurt again. In Danny's childlike mind, cops equated to heroes. She'd seen the shows on TV and she knew that they had guns and fast cars and that they always got the baddies. For the girl, there was no distinction between television and real life. She'd called the police and they'd come and make it all better. A single tear snaked its way down her cheek and she looked up through watery eyes at the big blond man.

Hutch had always been a sucker for kids and especially for little girls. Although initially mad at Danny for what she'd done and then the lies she'd told, he couldn't bear looking at her earnest and tear stained face. His anger melted away to be replaced by a smile.

'He'll be fine honey. He'll be fine' he said, hoping that the "I hope" he mentally tagged to the end of the sentiment wasn't too noticeable.


Starsky walked in front of Camargo as the Mexican held the gun at his back, the muzzle boring painfully into his spine. As he walked, he was thinking a mile a minute. when he'd said that he would take the guys to the fictitious stash of drugs, he'd hoped that they would bring Hutch and Danny along too. Maybe then, they have managed to cause a distraction and at least allowed Danny to make a getaway. he had no doubt that the child had enough about her to be able to get herself to a phone and ask for help. As it was, however, his plan had fallen at the first hurdle and he was left to decide how best to play this.

Of course there was no stash and of course, he was gonna be leading the Mexican on a wild goose chase. he only hoped that at the end of it, Camargo wouldn't be so pissed that he'd just shoot him there and then.

With a heavy heart, he got into the car that the Mexican pointed out to him and once seated, the youth deftly unhooked the cuffs from his left wrist and brought the empty right cuff up to the passenger grab handle, snicking it securely over the plastic. Starsky wasn’t gonna be going anywhere any time soon. Camargo trotted around and got into the drivers side of the car and waited.

'So? Where to?' he asked.

'Mandalay Heights. Going out towards the canyon road. There's an old bar, it's been empty for years. On the right hand side of the road on the way out of town' Starsky said, hoping that the old place hadn't fallen down already.

The Mexican grunted and set the car off with a tyre squealing start the brunet would have been proud of. They drove in silence. Not much to say really. Discussing the weather didn't seem appropriate and the question on Starsky's lips - "So are ya gonna shoot me when we find there's never been any drugs" didn't seem appropriate just at that time.

The town swept past and the brunet saw a few black and white cop cars as they drove, but Camargo was driving carefully, cautiously, casually in order to avoid drawing attention, and the brunet's main hope - that of being pulled over by a uniformed patrol - swiftly went out of the window. As the main conurbation of the city was left behind and the car started to pull up the incline towards Mandalay Heights the curly haired cop's heart started to hammer. In his head, he rehearsed his surprise at not finding the stash; his anger that it had been stolen and the excuses he could make for his captor to not shoot him dead there and then.

As they took the road out of Mandalay Heights and up towards the hills beyond, Starsky started to look out for the old bar that used to be there. he counted the bends up into the hills, unsure quite where it was, but as they rounded another hairpin, he saw it in the distance.

'Slow down. That's it on the right' he said, pointing to the ramshackle building. It was still standing, but it looked as though the merest puff of wind would blow it down like a house of cards. Camargo pulled to a halt outside the bar, turned off the engine and aimed the gun at Starsky again. He got out of the car, came round to the passenger side and unclipped the cuff from the passenger grab.

'No sudden moved Gringo. And don't try anything clever. I know how to use this thing.'

'Sure you do' Starsky grunted as he slid out of the vehicle and walked towards the door. Pushing it open on its rusty hinges, they went inside. the interior was dark, dusty and smelled of rot and bugs. Furniture lay in pieces on the ground, the mitrror behind the bar broken and dulled with age and grime. The brunet took a look around. he'd never been inside before, but surely the bar must have had a back room. Finally through the gloom he saw a door in the far corner of the room and nodded towards it.

'In there' he said, hoping it wasn't a restroom or a broom cupboard and once again his captor pushed him forward towards their target.

The brunet pushed open the door with his shoulder and breathed a sigh of relief. Perfect! A small room with a desk in one corner opened up to him and he nodded at the desk.

'Top right hand drawer. Right at the back' he grunted and stood back to let Camargo go to check it out. he knew the Mexican wouldn't find anything and tried to stop himself holding his breath as the young man hastily pulled open the drawer. He pulled it all the way out, emptying the contents onto the ground and looked through them angrily.

'It's not here' he yelled, waving the gun at Starsky dangerously.

'It's not? Maybe one of the other drawers' Starsky said, feigning anger and shock himself. The Mexican pulled out all three other drawers, ruffling feverishly though the contents. Of course he came up empty.

In two strides he was back across the room and before Starsky could prepare himself, the young man had whipped the gun across the brunet's head, catching the cop just below his temple. Starsky grunted in pain, lightening flashing before his eyes as knees buckled and he sank to the floor. he panted, swallowing down the bile in his throat as he looked up.

'Someone must'a got here first' he gasped. 'I swear there was a kilo of shit in there.'

'Well it aint there now wise guy. Are you puttin' me on?' Camargo stood over the kneeling cop, the gun boring into Starsky's temple as the brunet closed his eyes and waited for the shot.

'I tell ya it was there. Some fuckin' asshole has been here first. Shit! That was good stuff too. None of your shit cut with rat poison. It was real kosher dope.'

'You're tryin' my patience cop' Camargo snarled.

'Hey, you're the one with the gun. Would I fuck around with ya man? I mean it. It was there. Some flake must've followed me last time an' taken it.'

'Well d'ya have more?' the young man asked, the gun slackening its pressure against the curly head slightly.

'Well yeah, but...' Starsky's brain worked overtime, trying to salvage the situation.

'But what? Is there more?' Camargo grunted.

'Yeah, there's more. but only Hutch knows where. We never shared, just in case one of us decided to get greedy.'

'Jeez, such trust! I never did like cops an' dirty cops are even worse. Where'd ya get the shit anyway?' the Mexican asked.

Starsky stared up into the deep brown eyes above him seeing the greed there, and knowing he'd just earned himself another couple of hours of life. 'That don't matter. Just get me back to Hutch an' he'll tell ya.'

Chapter 6

Camargo pushed Starsky back into the room with such force that he stumbled, skidding across the bare floor on his knees until he came to a stop at the far wall. He grunted, the ache in his head from the blow to his temple escalated by the sudden move. Hutch shuffled towards him to check him out.

'Stupid Gringo. Funny, very funny. You're gonna live to regret that you led us on a wild goose chase man. I always knew cops were crazy, but you...you're crazier than most'

The brunet looked up, the anger barely suppressed behind his eyes. 'It aint no chase an' I aint crazy! The shit was there, I promise ya.'

Hutch joined in the charade, glaring angrily at his buddy. 'What d'ya mean it was there? Where is it now buddy?' he asked angrily.

'If I knew that, d'ya really think Speedy Gonzalez over there would be throwin' me round like a rag doll? It's gone, that's all I know.'

'Oh well that's just great. That's just peachy! Well done partner' Hutch yelled, his face turning an attractive shade of red.

'Hey don't blame me. It was you that said hide the fuckin' stuff. For all we know your stash is just as gone.'

There was a split second's pause as Hutch assimilated the fact that he was supposed to have some of the coke too and then he grinned. 'Uh uh. No way buddy boy. Aint no one gonna find my half. I aint that stupid.'

Camargo started to walk over to the blond when suddenly Miguel pushed open the door in a rush.

'Cam... come quick huh?'

The Mexican looked over his shoulder at his second in command. 'What? What is it?'

'Just come...and quick.'

With a wink at his three captives, Camargo edged towards the door and stood in the doorway. 'Don't go away' he said with a smile and locked the door behind him, leaving Hutch, Starsky and Danny holding their breath in his wake. They waited a moment, listening as the footsteps echoed away down the corridor before Hutch took a good look at his partner.

'I take it you didnt manage to get a message out? You ok buddy? You're bleedin' there. I guess he didn't like that there was no stash of coke'

Starsky put his head down and wiped the side of his face on his shoulder, the fabric coming away smeared with dark red blood. The brunet grunted. 'Fuck...oh, sorry Danny. No, he didn't take too kindly, and no, I didn't manage to get a mesage. He stuck to me closer than a dog sticks to a T-bone steak. Um...how're you two?'

'Oh, we've been having an interesting little conversation. Seems Danny's Mom is fine.'

'Oh great. Is she better sweetheart?'

Hutch snickered softly. 'She was never sick.'

Starsky turned the full force of his indigo eyes on the little girl. 'Not sick huh? So what did you do with the money you found?'

'Its in my piggy bank' the little girl said quietly. 'I'm sorry Dave. I didn't mean...'

The curly haired cop sighed. 'Don't. We've been through all that before. It's no use having recriminations. What we need is to get outa here.'

Hutch nodded. 'I'm with ya there buddy. Any plans?'

'Sure, one, an' I tried it already. Didn't come to nuthin. Now it's your turn.'

'Sorry Starsk. I'm fresh out. Comes of bein' trussed up like a birthday present. If there was just some way we could get Danny out, she could maybe go for help, but the doors been locked the whole time an' with the best will in the world I can't get her up to that window with my hands tried behind my back.'

Starsky looked up at the tiny window, remembering the times he'd looked up at a similar one, months ago, when he'd been sick and scared and alone. It looked no bigger now than then and he sighed. 'Yeah, this place is more of a fortress than an apartment block. So, what...'

At that moment the footsteps returned down the corridor and the door to the room opened as Camargo once again stood in the doorway. This time he crooked a finger at Hutch, who stared back at him. 'You, blondie. Come with me.'


In three strides, the Mexican crossed the room and hauled the blond bodily to his feet. 'Come with me now' he snapped.

'Why? Where're we goin'?'

'I have a job for you to do.'

The flaxen haired cop snorted. 'There aint nothin' I'm gonna do for you.'

'No?' Quick as a flash, Camargo drew back his fist and dealt a blow to the blond’s chin that spun the tall cop around and brought forth a grunt of surprise and pain. Hutch stood with his back to his captor, bending over as he recovered from the savage attack. Saliva strung in a silvery line from his gasping mouth and beaded towards the floor and Starsky stood at his side, ready to kick the Mexican away from his partner if necessary. Slowly, Hutch straightened and turned, glaring at Camargo.

'Ask nicely' the blond gasped, the breath whistling between his teeth.

'Why? It's more fun this way.' The young man took a hold of Hutch's arm and dragged him forward as the brunet yelled at him.

'Where are you taking him? Leave him alone ya fuckers.'

The blond looked over his shoulder at his partner and winked painfully. 'I'll be back, don't go without me' he said levelly as he was pushed from the room.

Camargo had a firm hold of Hutch's elbow as he propelled the blond along the small dark hallway and through another door into what had once been a kitchen. Now all that remained was a range of wall cupboards, a kitchen table in the middle of the room and four hard, wooden dining chairs. Paint flaked off the walls and dirt was strewn across the floor. As Hutch walked in the two other men who were standing looked up from their companion, who was led on the kitchen table, his eyes closed and the leg of his jeans soaked in bright red blood.

'He's getting worse Cam. Do something' Miguel said in a panicked voice. 'The bleeding won't stop and he's shivering. Do something.'

Hutch stood just inside the room as he took in the sight. The two Mexicans by the table had obviously tried to deal with the tourniquet that had been applied around Enrico's leg, but mindful of Hutch's words that it could be dangerous, they hadn't applied it tight enough or for long enough and blood still seeped from the fresh wound to drop in ruby droplets onto the filthy floor. The small puddle on beneath the rough wooden table gave tribute to the amount of the Mexican's life blood that had been lost.

Camargo pushed the blond forward until they both stood by the side of the supine man. 'Help him' the youth commanded.

The blond's head jerked up. 'What makes you think I can help him?' Hutch asked.

'You knew about the thing tied around his leg. You seemed to know what you were talking about. Now help him.'

The cop shook his head. 'No. I can't.'

‘Can’t, or won't?' Camargo asked.

'Take your pick' Hutch answered angrily and a moment later the Mexican's fist ploughed into his back over his kidneys like a freight train. The blond felt his knees go weak as the incredible pain shot through his body and he stumbled forward but managed to remain standing. He cried out despite himself and closed his eyes against the knife-like pains, breathing shallowly and quickly through his gritted teeth.

'Don't get clever with me, cop. I told you to help him.'

'And I told you, I can't. He’s been shot. He needs to go to a hospital.'

'Uh uh. You'd love that, wouldn't ya? How the fuck do you expect us to take him to the hospital man? You know gunshot wounds need to be reported. They question him, we're all fucked. No. It’s down to you. You do something to help.'

'And if I don't?'

'Then we use a little encouragement.'

The flaxen haired cop snickered. 'I aint gonna be able to help him if I'm beaten to a pulp smart ass.'

Camargo grinned back. 'Who said it'd be you we hurt?'

'You leave the girl and my partner alone.'

'Sure. So long as you help him.'

With a sigh Hutch looked at the man on the table. Enrico had his eyes closed and occasionally a shudder of pain ran through his body. He was young and his olive toned skin was flushed red and beaded with sweat. It was obvious he was in shock.

'Uncuff me' Hutch snapped.

'Uh uh.'

'Look you want me to help him? You gotta uncuff me. I need to use my hands to examine him' Hutch grunted.

Begrudgingly and with a look that said he trusted the tall blond about as far as he could throw him, Camargo took out the small silver key and unlocked the bracelets from round Hutch's wrists standing back as soon as the cop was free. The blond gave them a cursory rub and then bent over the man on the bed. Enrico had a neat hole in the front of his pants on his upper thigh towards the inside. It continued to bleed freely and as the blond put his hand on the man’s leg, his eyes flashed open and Enrico cried out, loudly. Camargo put a hand on Hutch's arm. 'Hey. You’re hurting him!'

'I can't do this without touching him. He has a bullet in his leg. It's gonna hurt no matter what I do. Now you wanted me to help, so let me' Hutch yelled and without waiting for another word he bent back to his task. Gently he probed around the bloody wound ignoring the hiss of pain and finally he carefully raised the leg to see underneath. Hutch grunted. There was no exit wound, which was good news and bad news all rolled into one. He returned the limb to the table and straightened up.

'The bullet is still in there. I think it's probably right up against his femoral artery stopping it bleeding too heavily- that's the main artery in his leg. It's big and if the bullet has nicked it and is lodged against it, if it's removed without proper care, he's gonna bleed to death, fast.'

'So take the bullet out' Camargo said.

'I don't think you understand buddy. I'm not a surgeon. I don't have tools or anaesthetic or suture materials. And I don't have a never-ending supply of blood. I'm telling you. If he don’t get to a hospital, he's gonna die.'

Camargo took Starsky's gun from his waistband and glared at Hutch. 'And I don't think you understand. If you don't help him, that curly headed partner of yours is gonna be dead meat.'

Chapter 7

'You leave my partner outa this. I told ya, this guy needs a hospital and a real doctor, not some two bit cop with a Band-Aid and a year at med. school' Hutch's temper blazed out of control.

'Oh, so you do know what you're talking about!' Camargo said triumphantly. 'I knew it!'

'I said I spent a year at medical school. That doesn't qualify me for squat.'

'It qualifies you to save your buddy's life.' the youth retrieved a medical bag from the side of the room and fumbled inside it. He started to bring out certain items as Hutch watched. 'We got a knife and we got a needle and some thread. What else do you need?'

The blond furrowed his brow and sighed deeply. 'Even if I was gonna touch him, which I'm not, I'd need something to sterilize the wound and the knife and... look, if you care about your friend and you want him to live, get a fuckin' doctor to him.'

'Are you sure you're not gonna help him?' the Mexican said, with an odd look on his face.

Uh uh. No way.'

Camargo looked over his shoulder at his companion. 'Bring the other one in. Let's see if that persuades Blondie.'

As Miguel departed, the other youth, Esteban walked around behind the blond cop and he took a hold of Hutch's arms, holding him steady. The tall cop started to struggle, not liking the way the game was being played and a moment later he heard his partner yelling as he was pushed into the room. Miguel held onto Starsky's arms in a similar fashion to how Esteban was holding Hutch's and the two detectives locked eyes for a moment. They had left Danny locked in the other room and they could hear her muffled screams through the wall.

Camargo saw the look and crossed to the still bleeding brunet. He took a hold of a handful of curly hair and pulled the smaller man's head back until he could stare into the defiant indigo eyes.

'Your friend here says he isn't gonna help us' Camargo spat.

'Good for him' Starsky grunted and immediately doubled over as a blow caught him in the pit of his stomach. He wheezed and turned a pale shade of blue before he was pulled upright. Panting, he stared into the Mexican's face. 'Is that the best ya got?' he gasped. 'Did anyone tell ya you hit like a girl?'

Camargo grinned at him. 'Laugh it up, that was just for starters. I can see all the blows in the world aren't gonna persuade either of you to help, so I think it's time to change tack.' Once more Camargo reached into the black bag and a moment later, his hand reappeared holding a small black case and a vial of dark brown liquid. Opening the case, he brought out a syringe and a needle, making a great show of attaching one component to the next.

Hutch's eyes stretched wide as he saw the needle. The blond was brave; stoical, but that was his bete noire. Images of Ben Forest floated into his consciousness as he saw the glint of the cold surgical steel in front of him and his face paled visibly. It had taken Hutch 48 hours of sweat and pain to come down from the enforced heroin addiction. It had taken him another year before the cravings had finally gone completely. He'd watched as his partner had gone through the same cold turkey, having become addicted when Crazy George Prudholm kept him prisoner in a crypt and he'd helped wean the brunet from the drug at Dobey's cabin in the hills, suffering verbal and physical abuse from the smaller man as the pains took him and shook him. (See Pitch Black, by this author).

'No!' he yelled as he saw Camargo nod at Miguel who was still holding Starsky. The brunet struggled manfully with his captor as he was pushed towards one of the hard wooden chairs and the cuffs were removed from his wrists. Miguel kicked at the curly haired cop's legs and Starsky crumpled down onto the seat, his strength sapped by the blow to his stomach. Had he been fully recovered from his ordeal 4 months ago, he felt sure he could have fought back harder, but his treatment at the hands of Sue Gunther's heavies had caused his heart to stop twice in the ambulance going to the hospital and he'd remained hovering between life and death for two days. No one, not even someone as supremely stubborn as the brunet could fight back from near death to full fitness so quickly and now he panted heavily and glared at Camargo.

Hutch still struggled in Esteban's grip, his fight made more frantic by the thoughts of what the vial of liquid contained and as Camargo drew it up into the barrel of the syringe, the blond yelled again.

'For fucks sake, I told ya. I can't help him. I'd kill him. He needs proper medical care, not me foolin’ around. Don't give him that, for fucks sake, noooo.'

The Mexican made a play of expelling the air from the barrel of the syringe and looked up. 'You got a choice here, Gringo. This is snake venom. It's deadly. I'm gonna inject it into your buddy over here and from then on, you have 55 minutes to deal with Enrico's wound. I have anti venom too, but if it isn't administered within the hour, Curly here is a dead man. So, the choice is, do you get the bullet out of his leg and save his life, or do you sit back and watch your friend die?'

Hutch watched in horror as Camargo took a hold of Starsky's sleeve and pushed it up the olive toned forearm to the elbow, clearing a patch for the needle. The brunet kept his eyes locked onto Hutch's, a small smile on his face.

'S'ok buddy. It's fine' the brunet said levelly. 'No problem.'

'Starsk, for God's sake!' Hutch tried to break free of his captor's grasp. 'Starsk...nooo.'

Camargo positioned the needle over the bare skin and aimed for the bulging muscle. As he started to insert the point of the needle, Starsky broke contact with his partner's eyes, looked away and bucked his body on the seat. The needle skittered to the right, making more of a cut than a puncture and some of the dark brown venom trickled down his elbow. The Mexican cursed and looked up at Miguel.

'Tie him' he snarled and once more, Starsky felt bonds, this time around his chest and his right arm. The left was left free and Miguel wedged it beneath his arm, holding the limb out straight, using his body as a fulcrum. Try as he might, there was no way for the brunet to move and Camargo once more approached. This time, there was no mistake. This time, Hutch's eyes sought out his partner's and locked onto them, never flinching as the plunger was driven home and the venom was pumped into Starsky's body. The brunet shuddered once, the site of the puncture wound already hot and on fire.

Camargo stepped back to examine his handiwork and Miguel let go Starsky's arm. It already felt sore and swollen and heavy and while Miguel untied the sweating brunet, Starsky tried to grin at Hutch.

'Not so bad' he lied thickly. 'I'm fine. I'm just fff...' the curly headed man toppled sideways off the chair and landed with a thud on the ground as Hutch took a step forward automatically. Esteban held him back and Camargo smiled at him.

'Call that an incentive. You have about 50 minutes if we're gonna be careful. 55 if we push it. First he's gonna have difficulty breathing. He’ll feel hot, uncoordinated. From then on the pains in his guts will start and then he won't be able to swallow too good. Vision will be the next to go and then he'll start to throw up. After that, he'll loose consciousness and from then on it'll be coma and death. Does that put you in the picture huh? Now get to work or he dies.'

The blond looked at Starsky's twitching body. The indigo eyes were staring wildly ahead of him and tremors ran through the lithe body.

'Starsk. Talk to me buddy' Hutch said softly. 'Starsky!'

The brunet seemed to gather his wits about him and slowly he managed to lever himself up to a sitting position and slumped back against the wall, running a shaky hand through his curls. He blinked and looked around him, finding his partner's concerned crystal eyes looking down at him.

'Utch...M'fine. Don't do it. Don't help 'em huh?' The brunet clutched at his chest, heaving a huge breath that seemed to come from his toes. 'Ohhh shit!' he gasped as he lost his lunch on the floor next to him. He forced himself up again, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and bit back the groan that wanted to escape him. Hutch seemed to be a long distance away and as he looked at the big blond, the room seemed to waver around him.

‘Utch? Ffffeeeel ffffunny.’

The flaxen haired cop grunted angrily and started to examine his “patient” again. Enrico lay quietly on the table, twitching occasionally and rolling his head from side to side. His eyes were closed and a fine patina of perspiration shone on his brow. Delicately, Hutch touched the site of the wound, feeling for swelling and the telltale signs of the bullet. Blood oozed from the neat hole and the Mexican gave a low groan.

‘I need scissors, a very sharp knife, some disinfectant or alcohol, a needle and sutures. And a pair of forceps to get the bullet out with’ the blond reeled off the list as his mind went back all those years to the three times he’d had the opportunity to go into the OR to watch a procedure.

Without a word, Camargo rifled through the medical bag, amazingly coming up with everything but the disinfectant. He laid the scissors, knife, forceps and suture materials out on the table and looked up at the blond.

‘I need something to sterilize the stuff with’ Hutch said. ‘And something to disinfect the wound.’

The Mexican nodded. ‘Fine. Get started and I’ll find something. Esteban, stay with him and make sure he doesn’t do anything crazy.’

‘Like cutting into a guy without the proper stuff? Jeez who’d do something like that? Hutch asked bitterly. Camargo said nothing, but headed out of the door.

Carefully, Hutch took the scissors and started to cut up the leg of Enrico’s pants, slicing past the hole and on upwards. The patient moaned and tried to move away as the fabric parted and the blond got his first good look at the wound. As he started to examine it properly, Camargo came back into the room with a half bottle of brandy.

‘Will this do?’ he asked.

Hutch glanced up. ‘I guess. Pour half of it into a clean glass and dump the knife and needle in it. Give the rest to me.’ Without questioning the cop, Camargo did as he was told, holding Enrico down when Hutch poured the brandy into the wound and the Mexican’s body arched up off the table. His eyes flashed open and he let out a blood curdling scream and then sank back onto the table. Hutch ignored it and took the knife, testing its blade. It was very sharp and he took a deep breath, the blade poised over the hole.

On the floor, Starsky clutched at his stomach. His body stiffened until he was bent double, his knees and shoulder on the floor and the rest of his body arching upwards. Slowly, he sank back onto the ground, rolling onto his side as he let out a wracking moan. Indigo blue eyes flashed open and Starsky panted on the ground, his hand still wrapped around his stomach as pains flared through his guts. he ducked his chin to his chest, trying to hide the hurt from his partner. It was a futile attempt. Hutch had had too many years of reading the taut lithe body to be kidded.

At the table, Hutch paused, longing to go and take the brunet in his arms and take the pain away. He ran his forearm over his forehead, wiping at the annoying trickle of sweat that ran down the side of his face. ‘Starsk, stay with me buddy. Talk to me. Keep talking to me.’

‘What d’ya want me to say?’ Starsky grunted.

‘Anythin’. Tell me how ya feel. Talk to me.’ As he talked, Hutch started to cut down into the wound on the Mexican’s leg, the blood flowing freely from the wound as he sank the knife into the youth’s flesh. The pain of the alcohol on the open hole had knocked the young man out and fortunately he felt nothing more as the blond carefully explored the bullet hole with his finger.

‘Urts…’ Starsky gasped. ‘Remind me…never fall for girls……younger’n me huh?’

‘Thought she was your angel buddy?’ Hutch said, his eyes closed as he concentrated on the sensations in his fingertips.

‘Hate ffffuckin’ ssssnakes.’

‘Yeah, me too Pal. You’re doin’ great. Keep talkin’ to me huh? I need to hear that voice Starsk.’

‘Uh huh. Thought you said…..talked too much. I…..Ohhh, jeez! Damn….hurts.’

‘I know buddy, I know. Just hang on huh? Starsk? Hang on.’

Hutch’s finger tip touched something that felt different to the rest of the material inside the bullet wound and he removed his finger from the hole, looking round at Camargo. ‘The bullet is lodged right next to the femoral artery. I can feel it pulsing. If I take the bullet out, he could bleed to death in minutes’ he explained.

‘Then you’ll need to be careful, won’t ya?’ Camargo held up another syringe with a clear liquid in. ‘One wrong move Gringo, and the anti venom goes bye bye.’

Bitterly, Hutch reached for the forceps. ‘One last chance punk. Get him to a hospital now huh Do us all a favour.’

At the curt shake of his captor’s head, the blond slowly pushed he metal forceps down into the wound until he thought they reached the bullet. Cautiously he opened the nose of the instrument, terrified lest he nudge the artery and cause it to bleed. Sweat trickled uncontrollably down his back as he glanced at the clock on the wall. He’d been working over the young Mexican for 35 minutes and all the time Starsky was getting weaker.

As Hutch closed the ends of the forceps around the metal slug embedded in Enrico’s leg and started to pull slowly on the bullet, he sent up a silent prayer and took a swift glance at his partner. Starsky’s shirt showed a line of dark, damp material down his spine, the brunet’s body now shaking violently. A hacking whooping kind of noise escapes the brunet’s chest each time he inhaled and it was evident that Starsky was tiring fast. Hutch didn’t know how much venom had got into the wound from the first attempt at injecting his partner but now he shouted over once again, trying to get his buddy’s attention.

‘Don’t you dare go to sleep Gordo, ya hear me. I wanna hear your voice Starsk. Talk to me buddy.’

The command was followed by a sucking sound from the wound on the Mexican’s leg and in Hutch’s next breath he was yelling for cloths as a deep, ruby red tide welled up from the wound and spilled out onto the table.

Chapter 8

'Oh shit, no!' Hutch's hand went to the spurting fountain of blood coming from the wound as Camargo and Esteban looked on in horror.

'Do something!' Esteban yelled.

'What the hell d'ya think I'm doin'?' Hutch asked. This is just what I told ya I was afraid of. Get me somethin’ to pack the wound. Towels, anythin' Just make sure they're clean.'

'Fuck! What do you think this is man? A laundry?' Camargo asked looking around him feverishly. He and his three friends used the disused apartment block as a base but didn't keep much there in the way of living equipment.

'I don't care if it's a fuckin' zoo. If you don't get me somethin' to pack this wound with right now, within a couple of minutes, your buddy is gonna be a dead man. Now move!' the blond yelled, his whole index finger now buried deep inside Enrico's leg as he applied direct pressure to the artery. The three remaining Mexicans scattered, their prisoners no longer their first concern as they searched for the requisite materials to save Enrico’s life. With the wound stuffed full of digit, the blood ceased to flow and Hutch had time to look up from his patient and over at his partner.

Starsky was still laying where he’d fallen on the floor. It was evident that his breathing had now become affected by the poison invading his blood stream and the brunet's chest heaved with each breath he managed to take. The smaller man was now slumped half sitting and half lying on the floor, his back partially propped against the wall and his right arm braced against the ground. His eyes were closed and his face was ashen, his eyelashes dark smudges against his pale cheeks and spiked with the perspiration that trickled unchecked down the sides of his face. Tremors ran through the brunet body and occasionally, Starsky's whole body would stiffen and arch away from the wall as a groan was ripped from his throat and his right arm would wrap around his middle, trying to cancel out the tongues of fire lapping through his gut.

'Starsk? Still with me buddy?' Hutch asked softly. He got no reply and tried a little louder. ‘Starsky. Stay with me here huh? I need to see those beautiful blues buddy. Open up your eyes and ...'

'Show me that ya love me' the smaller man mumbled softly, his indigo blue eyes flashing open as a pained grin cracked across his face. 'Ssssong there sssomewhere.'

'Hey Gordo. I thought I'd lost ya for a minute' Hutch said softly. 'Keep talkin' to me. I can't do this without ya.'

The curly haired cop's voice sounded just a little stronger as he tried to sit straighter against the wall. He wedged his eyes open and gazed at the blond, who still had his hand busy, deep inside Enrico's leg. 'Not goin’ anywhere….Another fffine mess you ... got us into, Ollie.'

Hutch smiled. 'As I recall, it was your little angel we were here to save. This aint my fault buddy.'

'Hope she's ok.' Starsky closed his eyes and groaned again as another pain threatened to plunge him into darkness. 'They sssaid an hour. How long ... have I got?'

Hutch glanced up at the clock on the wall. Shit. Another 10 minutes until the point of no return. The blond plastered a smile on his face. 'All the time in the world buddy. We're gonna make it.'

'Uh huh...Always were a…..rotten liar. Ya gonna walk...'round with a Mex...oh shit!' The pain caused Starsky to pull his knees up to his chest to try to alleviate the agony for a moment. He stayed still, unable even to breathe through the severity of the coils of fire in his stomach. His hands clutched at the fabric of his jeans, his knuckles showing white as he grabbed the denim in an attempt to control the agony. He tensed, his muscles locked in a rictus of pain as his lips drew back from his teeth in a parody of his usual smile. He drew in a hissing breath, holding it until the pain started to abate slightly and gradually his body relaxed as the pains reached tolerable levels again. Slowly Starsky's eyes opened once more and he blinked, looking around, embarrassed that he’d let slip how badly he was suffering. 'Sssorry' he gasped. 'Ssshit!. I was sssaying. Ya can't walk 'round for ever...with a Mexican on the end of...your finger. What're ya gonna do?'

'First things first. I'm gonna make sure you get the anti venom buddy. Ride with me on this huh?'

Starsky snickered, the slight contraction of his stomach muscles setting off another round of bright red agony and he nodded, unable to gather the energy to speak. The brunet closed his eyes and ducked his chin to his chest, trying his best to hide his pain from his partner. Hutch had enough to deal with without having his histrionics all over the place. Slowly, his body toppled sideways until he was lying on the ground, and there he remained while Hutch had his hands full, literally, with his patient.

‘Starsky? Starsky?…….STARSK!’ Hutch snapped, panic washing over him. Unable to move from his station by the sick Mexican, the blond was releived when Starsky managed to flick one finger up in salute. The brunet may not have enough energy to speak, but he’d still managed to let his partner know he was still around.

A moment later Camargo came running back into the room carrying a bright red padded sleeping bag. It was new and probably stolen, the price label still dangling from a corner of the fabric and he waved it at Hutch triumphantly. 'Will this be ok?'

'Sure' the blond said quietly.

The other two men came back into the room too and Camargo looked expectantly at the flaxen haired cop.

'So? Now what?'

'Now you give my partner the anti venom' Hutch said levelly, his eyes boring into the lead youth’s eyes. He looked up at the clock on the wall. Less than 5 minutes to go to the point of no turning back.

The Mexican's eyes flew wide. 'What? You’re crazy Gringo!' Fix Enrico, then we see to your friend.'

'Uh uh. Starsky first. Give him the shot.'

'I think you have this backward pig. You're not the one calling the shots here. I am.' As if to emphasise the point, Camargo waved Starsky's gun at the blond while the other two moved in a little closer.

4 minutes to the point of no return.

Hutch licked dry lips. 'No. I don't think you understand. I’m the one stoppin’ the bleedin’ at the moment. I hold this guy's life quite literally in my hand. Now we can debate the merits of me removin’ my hand from now till doomsday, or we can try to save both men. What’s it to be?’

‘Save Enrico.’ Camargo grunted.

‘Give my partner the anti venom' Hutch countered.

Stalemate. A true Mexican stand off. Crystal blue met deep nut brown in a silent war of wills that lasted a few hundred years.

'Give me a reason why the pig should live' Camargo said quietly.

3 minutes to the point of no return.

The blond grinned. 'Because, Einstein. I take my finger away from the wound now and your friend is gonna bleed to death in about the same time as it takes my partner to die. Ya wanna watch him bleed to death? It aint pretty. First he's gonna go blue, then he won't be able to breathe too well. After that, he'll be in so much pain' the blond lied, warming to his task as he saw fear bloom behind Camargo's eyes.

On the ground behind the Mexicans an incredible wave of agony shook Starsky’s sweat slick body and he cried out, a long, ragged, raw scream that echoed around the small room. Hutch's heart stopped and he looked at the clock.

2 minutes to the point of no return.

Hutch closed his eyes and waited, his arm thrumming with the tension of keeping his finger wedged against the tiny hole in Enrico’s artery. Had he underestimated their captors? Had he miscalculated just how cold they could be? Was he playing fast and loose with Starsky's life? He looked back at the terrified Hispanic youth.

'What's it gonna be? Two deaths on your hands? Or survival for one and we'll hope I can save your friend.'

There was a moment's indecision as the clock ticked loudly in the room, counting off the seconds of the brunet's life. Camargo's eyes shifted sideways, his breath shallow and fast as Hutch's heart pounded in his chest and he fought off the waves of dizziness brought on by the emotion of the situation. Finally the youth made a decision and he grabbed for the loaded syringe on the kitchen countertop.

'You'd better not be double crossing me' he snarled as he knelt next to the hurting cop and tapped at the vein in Starsky's arm. The brunet cop's eyes were closed now and he seemed not to notice the hands on his body. Life had narrowed to the struggle to keep on going. Breathing was a struggle and he needed to concentrate on pulling the next lungful of oxygen into his pain wracked body, forcing his heart to continue it’s staccato beating. Camargo’s needle found it’s target and the youth depressed the plunger on the syringe and pushed the clear fluid into the turgid vein, siting back on his haunches a moment later as he wiped the back of his hand over his mouth. He looked up at Hutch.

'Its done. Now you'd better be able to save my friend’s life.'

'And you'd better be good with that needle bozo. You tellin' me Starsk is gonna be ok now?'

The youth looked back at Starsky's body. There seemed no change. There was still a gurgle each time the brunet breathed in and tremors still shook the muscular frame. Starsky's eyes were closed and a bead of perspiration fell from the point of his jaw to the ground. He looked to be in a bad way, and yet...

'That was the anti venom – the good stuff. I swear I did it right. He should start to come round within the next few minutes although it'll be a few hours before he starts to feel better. Now are ya gonna save Enrico?' For the first time there was a hint of pleading in Camargo's voice and Hutch nodded.

'I’m gonna have to keep direct pressure on the artery with my finger for a while yet. After that... Cut that sleeping bag up into squares and I can use it like a pressure bandage. He isn't gonna be able to be moved for at least 48 hours and he should still get checked out by a real doctor, but maybe... There's no guarantees, but maybe he'll pull through.'

The Mexican youth sighed deeply. You’d better mean that Gringo. I have another dose of the venom. If you get this wrong….. Let’s just say you’re friend isn’t out of the woods yet.’

‘You leave him alone’ Hutch grunted. He felt tired now that the immediate emergency had passed. His arm was tired from keeping up the steady pressure and he felt vaguely nauseous at having his finger buried deep in another man’s leg. How long was he supposed to hold the wound closed? How long did it take the fibrin to clot the area over? How long would Enrico’s body take to react and start to heal itself? Like Starsky said, he couldn’t walk around with Enrico on the end of his index finger for the rest of his life like some sort of big Mexican Popsicle!

On the ground, Starsky let out a long, low groan and moved his arm weakly. Slowly, the curly head turned and indigo eyes cracked open to regard his blond partner calmly.


‘Yeah buddy. Right here’ the blond muttered, wishing he could go to his partner and help him up. ‘You ok Gordo?’

‘T’riffic. Hate…..fffffuckin’……sssssnakes.’

Chapter 9

For a while, things in the small kitchen attained a kind of status quo. There was little that Hutch could do with his finger buried up to the knuckle inside Enrico’s leg, but at least things were quiet and he could keep a watch over his partner. Very gradually, Starsky seemed to be improving. The gurgle when the brunet breathed in seemed to have abated now and it was only occasionally that a pain seemed to attack the prone body to leave Starsky gasping and twitching on the floor. At least with the quiet in the room, Hutch could talk to his buddy, and talk he did, incessantly just in case the curly haired man should lapse into unconsciousness.

‘Starsk, how’re ya doin’ buddy?’

‘T’riffic’ the gasp came back.

‘How’s the pain?’

There was a pause while Starsky seemed to consider. ‘Better.’

‘Are you puttin’ me on?’ Hutch asked and slowly Starsky’s head turned to the blond.

‘I got a needle full of sssnakey stuff, How’m I s’posed t’feel?’

‘OK, but at least you seem to be a little better.’

‘Uh huh.’

‘Can you breathe easier?’

‘Yeah…..just wanna go home.’

‘I know ya do buddy.’

‘Ya know on TV, when the hero gets hurt?’

‘Huh?’ Hutch asked, checking on the bleeding he was trying to stem.

‘Well it always looks……dunno……sexy.’

Hutch grinned. ‘What’re ya tryin’ to tell me buddy?’

‘They don’t throw up an’ it don’t seem to make ‘em dizzy.’

‘So maybe you aren’t a hero after all. Was Paul Muni the hero type?’ Hutch asked.

‘Dunno, ask Ma.’

Camargo, who had been standing by the side of the table while the exchange had gone on suddenly snapped back to life. ‘See, I told you he’d be fine. Now what about Enrico?’

Hutch looked at his bloody hand and frowned. ‘It’ll be a while yet before I can move my hand. This is a main artery. If I move too early, it’s gonna start bleedin’ again.’

The Mexican looked around him. I think you’re playing for time’ he snapped.

‘I’m playin’ for your friend’s life. Believe it or not, I don’t want him to die any more than you do’ Hutch said angrily.

‘You’re getting’ too cosy here. I think you’re just hoping the cavalry will come on over the hill and save your sorry cop asses.’

‘Yeah, coz that always happens’ the blond said bitterly. ‘Believe me, there’s nothin’ I’d like better, but I’ve been in too many situations to think that we’re gonna get saved any time soon. Look all we both want is for our buddies to get well, aint it? After that, we can talk, but up until then…..’

‘No talkin’. No trying to keep us off tack, Gringo. In fact, I think he’s too much of a distraction’ the young Mexican said, pointing at Starsky on the floor. ‘Esteban, Miguel, take him next door. Without him there’ maybe Blondie here will focus his mind a little more huh?’

Hutch tried to reach for Camargo’s arm, but his reach wasn’t long enough. ‘No. Leave him there. I need to watch him to make sure he’s ok’ he shouted, making the brunet jump.

Starsky’s eyes flashed open and he grunted as the two other Hispanics grabbed hold of his arms and hauled him to his feet. He hung between them, his legs too rubbery as yet to hold him up and with a great effort, he turned his head to look at his partner.

‘Be good buddy. I won’t be far away’ Hutch winked as the brunet was dragged from the room, the toes of his sneakers leaving drag marks on the floor. Starsky gasped.

‘Don’t do nothin’ crazy, partner’ he managed to force out as he was pulled away. The two men holding him pulled him out of the room and along the short hallway to the next room, the bedroom where he and Hutch and Danny had been held to begin with. He hated being separated from his blond buddy. Hutch might not have been at his side per se, but just being in the same room as the tall blond was enough for both men to feel a little more confident. Now, separated from his partner. Starsky tried hard to keep his concerns under control.

When Camargo had held his arm fast and had injected the poison into his bloodstream, his mind had gone back years to another time and another place. Bellamy. Stocking over his head and the meanest laugh he’d ever heard. A different flake, but just as deadly. The difference of course was that that time, his partner hadn’t been forced to witness the injection. The brunet knew that had been so hard for Hutch. The blond’s encounters with needles had never been easy and after Forest had taken him and forced the heroin onto him, the fear of needles had turned into a full blown phobia. Needles plunged into the blond’s flesh were bad enough. Needles poked into Hutch’s partner while the blond was held helpless were almost too much for Hutch to bear and Starsk had felt not only panicked for himself, but bad for his buddy too.

The door to the small bedroom opened and as Starsky was dropped to the floor just inside the doorway, a mercury fast, curly whirlwind flew at him and small arms wrapped around his neck.

‘Dave! Oh thank goodness, Dave. I was so scared’ Danny said into the cop’s shoulder as she buried her face onto his comforting presence.

The brunet tried to push her gently away so that he could get his balance and get his breath but Danny wasn’t having any of it. She’d been scared to death when both men had been taken away and memories of her Dave lying broken and bloody on the floor four months ago made her feel sick, frightened and too much alone. There was no way she wanted to give loose of the man now.

Gently Starsky unlocked her hands from around his neck and sank down until he was sitting with his back against the wall. He closed his eyes and leant his head back, trying to get his breath. ‘M’ok sweetheart. Just a little um….tired’ he assured the little girl. And he had started to feel a bit better too. When the poison had been pumped into his vein, there had been an immediate rush of fire through his veins in his arm. From there on in, his arm, his chest, his belly and his legs had started to ache, throb and then go numb and cold. His chest had felt like there was a vice around it, making it tough to breathe and a sickly iciness had spread through his body.

He’d heard Hutch arguing with their captors as though from a great distance and although the blond had always said that he, Starsky was the argumentative one, the flaxen haired cop sure knew how to stir their pots when he got going. In his head, the brunet had been yelling “Go Hutch” although nothing more than a squawking gurgle had come out of his mouth.

Once the anti venom had been injected however, relief had coursed through his veins and with it, a warmth and a certainty that he was going to make it. Now, with strength returning to his body with each passing moment, Starsky started to worry for Hutch’s safety and also for how they were going to escape from this mess.

Danny’s voice broke into his worries as she tapped him on the arm. ‘You don’t look ok Dave. You look sick. Are you sick? You don’t look as bad as you did before coz that was bad. You made me scared last time coz you were talking nonsense and you didn’t know who I was. But I still looked after ya didn’t I. Till the end and then I didn’t, but….. what’re ya smilin’ at?’ The little girl’s eyebrows knitted together in consternation.

‘You. I’m smilin’ at you sweetheart. It was your talkin’ that kept me goin’ ya know. I think you saved my life back then’ Starsky said gently and reached over to smooth one of her curls that threatened to poke her in the eye. She pulled her head back but grinned at him.

‘I did? Oh wow. Mom says I talk too much and my teacher says that too. She always says that if I didn’t talk quite so much then I’d learn more. But ya know, school is borin’ and I usually prefer to be here most of the time. ‘Cept for when they came. But findin’ the money was cool. And I haven’t spent it. I was gonna save it all up coz I wanted a new bike. D’ya think I got enough for a new bike Dave? Do ya think I talk too much. I can shut up if ya want. Just tell me.’

Starsky grinned. ‘They used to tell me I talked too much at school too’ he rasped. He was feeling better, but still weak and his arm, at the injection site ached viciously and was distinctly swollen and painful. ‘Are there any other ways out of these rooms Danny? Have you found any other ways out?’

Danny shook her head. ‘No, sorry. They just have the front door and one right at the very back. I’ve seen them block that door up, so I guess we could only use the front door. Dave, are they gonna hurt you again?’

The brunet smiled at her earnest little face gazing up at him. ‘I hope not sweetheart. And I hope they don’t hurt Hutch either.’

‘Why’s he not here?’

‘One of the Mexicans was hurt. Um….I shot him.’

‘Yeah, I saw Oh wow, that was so cool. I mean, I knew you were a cop so I guessed you’d have a gun but you didn’t have one with you before and I thought that….. I’m doing it again aren’t I? I’m talking too much. I’m sorry. Mom usually sends me to my room when she’s had enough of me. But I can’t do that here. So I promise I’ll be quiet.’

‘Its ok honey. You can talk. I’m just kinda tired an’ a bit sore. And I’m worried for Hutch.’

‘Why are you sore? You said they didn’t hurt ya.’

‘Well they only hurt me a little.’

‘How?’ Danny took a good look at her friend. He didn’t have bruises and cuts like last time, but he did look pale and tired.

‘Oh they um…. They gave me an injection’ the brunet said, not wanting to scare the little girl by elaborating.

‘Oh crap! I hate injections. They came around at school an’ I hid. I hate needles’ Danny said.

Starsky snickered. ‘You’d get on so well with Hutch. So you say there are no other ways outa here?’

‘No, sorry. I guess I…..I did a bad thing didn’t I Dave? I just thought you could help me. I never meant for you to get into trouble.’

Wearily, the curly haired cop ruffled Danny’s hair. It was pointless being angry at the little girl. In her own way, she’d done what she thought was right in calling in the cops. It was just a shame that she hadn’t decided to warn him and Hutch first. ‘S’ok honey. I’m just tired. I really need to sleep.’

‘Oh that’s ok Dave. Here lie down and I can look after you. I like looking after you’ Danny said.

‘I know ya do sweetheart, and if you were a few years older I think maybe we could have somethin’ good goin’ on.’

Starsky felt exhausted, his whole body aching for some rest. During his reaction to the poison, his muscles had contracted viciously and now he felt as though he’d run a marathon and then survived a few rounds with the Omaha Tiger. With a barely suppressed groan, he allowed himself to fall sideways so that he was led on the ground next to the wall, his feet towards the door so that he could see whoever came into the room. He really hoped Hutch was ok, although he hadn’t heard any raised voices from the other room. That didn’t mean nothing had happened, but it did give him a small measure of comfort.

As Starsky’s eyes started to close, he felt small hands on his head, and Danny shuffled behind him, pillowing his head on her outstretched legs. He sighed as he felt small fingers card through his curls and then he was asleep, dreaming dreams of Hutch and Danny without a single Mexican in sight.

Chapter 10

Hutch watched as his buddy was dragged from the room. In a way, he was almost relieved that Starsky had gone. While he hated to be parted from his partner, especially when the brunet was looking so vulnerable, he had more on his mind than his buddy right at that moment. He had no doubt that should Enrico die, then Camargo would have no compunction but to inject Starsky with the rest of the snake venom and kill him outright. With his finger still buried in the Mexican’s leg, Hutch worried that any wrong move would mean death not only for the young Hispanic, but also for him, Starsky and Danny too.

Camargo hovered by his side, his hand cradling his friend’s shoulders as he studied the blond worriedly.

‘You really do know what you’re doing’ he said quietly.

‘Kinda. It’s a long time since I did any medicine, but guess it’s like ridin’ a bike. Ya don’t really forget.’

‘Is he gonna be ok?’ Camargo’s voice had softened slightly as he looked at the smaller man on the table.

‘Honestly? I don’t know, but he means a lot to you doesn’t he?’

‘He’s my little brother’ the Mexican admitted.

‘Then why didn’t you let me take him to a hospital? If he’s your brother, surely you’d want to save him even more’ Hutch implored. ‘Just ring for an ambulance. They could take it from here and everyone would be fine. Please. For his sake.’

For a moment, it looked as though Camargo would relent. There was a softness to his eyes and he stroked gently at Enrico’s forehead, softly wiping away a bead of perspiration from the dark eyebrow. There was a moment’s pause and Hutch held his breath before pushing on.

‘He needs a break. You need a break. God knows, I understand what it’s like to care for someone that much’ the cop pushed on. ‘Me and Star….’

The bubble burst and Camargo looked up, the hate back behind his big brown eyes. ‘That’s it aint it Gringo? You don’t care for Enrico, you’re just interested in getting your asses outa here in one piece. Well nice try, but it won’t work. Now make him better and then we’re gonna go find your half of the shit.’

With a sigh, Hutch looked down at the young man’s leg. How long had he been pressing his finger against the artery? Long enough to stop the bleeding? He had no idea, except that his hand had gone numb and his index finger seemed to have locked straight. He sighed. It was now or never and he looked up at Camargo.

‘I told you, I don’t know if I can, but I’ll try. Have some of that packing ready and some bandages from the first aid pack….lots of ‘em. If this doesn’t work, there won’t be anything more I can do. If this doesn’t work, he’s gonna die.’

The Mexican stared back angrily. ‘If this doesn’t work, you’re all dead.’

With the chopped up pieces of sleeping bag and the bandages set out by his side, Hutch took a deep breath. He knew he couldn’t stay with his hand buried in the young mans thigh for ever, so now was as good a time as any to make a move. Licking lips gone suddenly dry as a bone in the Mojave, Hutch checked again that he had everything he thought he should need. His heart hammered like a trip hammer in his chest as he prepared to separate himself from the young man and he looked up carefully at Camargo.

‘One last chance to do the right thing and get a doctor in here’ he said wearily.

‘Just do it Gringo, and pray you can save his life huh?’

Hutch concentrated on his “patient”. With a care born of desperation, he experimentally took some of the pressure off his finger and waited. There was no sudden upwelling of blood and so carefully, he started to withdraw his digit a millimetre at a time. Beneath him, Enrico writhed on the table, his eyes flashing open and the renewal of pain and Hutch grunted at Camargo. ‘Hold him still! Fuck, he’s gonna ruin everything. Hold him!’

Camargo pressed heavily on his brother’s shoulders and Hutch rested a moment before commencing his withdrawal again. Tiny millimetre by tiny millimetre, he edged his finger away from the wound, all the time hoping he wouldn’t suddenly be faced with a fountain of blood and for once, the blond’s luck seemed to be holding. After almost a minute of concentration, Hutch managed to ease his finger free of the wound completely and Enrico cried out once and then lay quiet on the table as Camargo whispered comforting words into his brother’s ear. He looked up.


‘Well so far, so good. I can’t stitch it even if I could remember what to do, in case it starts to bleed again, so I’m just gonna have to put lots of pressure on it and bind it up tight. After that, he’s gonna have to remain completely still for at least 48 hours. By then, he should start to feel a little better and maybe the wound will begin to heal.’

The flaxen haired cop bent to his task while Camargo looked on. It was a measure of just how worried the elder Mexican was that Starsky’s gun, although still held in his hand, was no longer pointing at Hutch, and Hutch didn’t notice in any event. A quarter of an hour later, and with perspiration dripping from the end of his nose, Hutch pinned the last of the bandages in place and stepped back, suddenly weak and weary beyond words.

‘That’s it, I can’t do any more. It’s up to him now’ he said, wiping the blood from his hands with the remnants of the sleeping bag.

‘Thank you.’ Camargo’s big brown eyes held a moment of genuine gratitude before becoming all business again. ‘And now the drugs.’

‘Aww, c’mon Pal. I’m beat! Just gimme a minute. At least let me wash up.’

The gun raised and Hutch took an involuntary step backwards, his nerves on high alert once more. He put his hands up and sighed as Camargo flicked the weapon sideways. ‘Wash your hands in the sink, then we go for the snow’ he said.

Slowly, the cop turned and set about scraping the gore from under his finger nails. There was no hot water and no soap, so he did the best he could, his exhausted mind working overtime as he tried to think of a way out of this mess. Hutch looked around for a towel and finding none to hand, he wiped his wet hands down his jeans legs as he stood ready for the next set of instructions. The few moments he’d had to himself had borne fruit and he had the rudiments of a plan. Now if he could just get back to Starsky and Danny…..

Camargo pointed the gun at him and waved it towards the door. ‘Lets step outside Gringo. We’re going for a ride.’

‘What about my partner?’ Hutch asked, immediately turning left down the corridor back towards the bedroom. The Mexican grabbed his arm and pulled him the other way.

‘Uh uh. No distractions. We go alone, we get the shit and then, if it’s all you’ve made it out to be, you and your friend can go back to your dirty cop lives.’

Hutch hitched a breath. Ok, so he had to go it alone. Revert to plan B then Hutchy. We can do this. Um..is there a plan B? Plastering a smile onto his face he nodded at his captor. ‘Fine, you’re the boss.’

They headed outside, where Hutch was surprised to see that it was now dark. He’d been unaware of the passage of time inside the tiny apartment, his attention being focused on Starsky and then on Enrico. Now, he looked around owlishly. Stars dotted the night sky and the moon, in its third quarter cast a ghostly cold light over the deserted street. Although the night wasn’t cold, Hutch shivered at being outside the claustrophobic confines of the apartment and at a signal from Camargo, he plodded his way along the road and around the corner to Starsky’s waiting Torino. Fortunately, the keys were still in the ignition and amazingly for the neighbourhood, the car was still there and in one piece. Hutch considered telling the Mexican that for some reason he needed Starsky to drive the car, but thought better of it. If the brunet was still recovering from the after effects of the poison, then Hutch was better going this one alone.

Silently, the blond got into the car and settled into the seat as Camargo got into the passengers side. With the gun now pointing directly at Hutch’s ribs, there was little the blond could do except follow instructions and hope his plan worked out. He started the engine, the throaty sound of the throttle loud in the quiet night air and then waited.

‘Where are we going?’ his captor asked.

‘A place I know down town. It’s a bar, but the bar owner is a shady character. Goes by the name of Huggy Bear. He’s been my snitch for a few years now and he knows how to keep a secret if ya know what I mean.’

‘Like he knows how to keep it quiet that you’re a dirty cop?’ Camargo asked.

Hutch snickered. ‘He knows how to keep my shit safe well enough, and when to hide it from any goons who happen to come around.’

‘So he has your stash, and you trust him?’

‘Uh huh, coz he knows what damage a cop can do to his business if he don’t toe the line. He has my stuff, but he’ll need to make a phone call to get it.’

‘No funny business cop. I don’t want no-one else involved in this. Can’t ya just ring him an’ have him meet you with the stuff somewhere?’

‘Uh uh. He an’ I meet face to face. Too much stuff can go wrong with a phone call. Can’t be too cautious when you’re the wrong side of the law’ Hutch said, thinking rapidly. The Mexican seemed to take the excuse on board and with a dig of the muzzle of the gun into the flaxen haired cop’s ribs, he settled back as Hutch drove through the streets and across town to the Pits, hoping Huggy would be his usual perceptive self, but not ask too many questions.

The drive was accomplished in silence, neither Hutch nor Camargo wanting to enter into any sort of friendly conversation. Fortunately, with traffic on the roads being light at that time of night, the ride didn’t take too long and within a quarter of an hour, Hutch pulled the Torino up outside the back entrance to the Pits bar. As he got out, with Camargo still training the gun on him, Huggy Bear came out of the back entrance with a crate of empty bottle in his arms. He placed them down on the stack of other crates and turned around.

‘Well if it isn’t one half of the dynamic duo. Where’s the curly one amigo?’ the lanky black man said. He hadn’t seen the gun in Camargo’s hand and the Mexican stood behind and slightly to one side of Hutch, concealing the weapon behind the blond’s body.

‘Hey Hug. Starsky’s um…tied up right now. I um … met a friend. He persuaded me to um, can we talk business inside. My um….friend here is anxious to do some dealin’, Hutch said, raising his eyebrows at the bartender.

Huggy’s eyebrows shot skywards as he took a careful look at the man behind the blond cop and to his merit caught on quickly enough as he caught the dull gleam of the metal in Camargo’s hand. ‘Sure thing man. Let’s go up to the private room shall we? Wouldn’t want anyone who shouldn’t to overhear, would we?’ he said cautiously and led the way up the iron fire escape and through the small door into the bedroom above the bar. He stood to one side to let Hutch and Camargo pass and as they did, the Mexican pushed Hutch and Huggy into the room and stood with the gun aimed at a spot somewhere between the two of them. Huggy feigned surprise and anger.

‘What the….fuck man! What’s this all about? Who the hell is he?’ the black man asked.

‘That aint important Hug. He’s um….I need my stash. The good stuff. And I need it now’ Hutch said, praying Huggy would go along with him. His eyes bored into Huggy’s, willing the barkeep to understand.

‘The um…..the good stuff huh?’ Huggy said, obviously aware that something was going down and remaining quietly none committal until he had a better understanding. ‘And um…..what if I told ya I don’t have it to hand?’

Hutch made a grab for Huggy’s collar and brought him to within an inch of his crystal blue eyes. ‘Don’t piss me off Bear! I told ya before about the SNOW. You need to make that phone call and set up the meet, like we’ve done before. I want my shit an’ I want it now.’

Huggy feigned fear and swallowed hard. ‘Ah, the snow huh? So, you wanna meet huh? With…. The guy who…. with Mr Big? The Fat Man huh? You wanna make sure he’s there to make the delivery safe? When, where?’

‘Yeah, I wanna meet with the Fat Man. The when is right now. The Place is Venice, got it?’ Hutch grunted, feeling relieved that Huggy had played along and seemed to know what he needed.

Huggy did his best to look terrified, although with a gun that looked suspiciously like Starsky’s pointing right at him, it wasn’t difficult. ‘Sure thing man. I can dig. Be cool an’ let me make the call huh?’ he made to leave the room and was stopped by Camargo and his weapon. Huggy looked back at Hutch.

‘Let him go Camargo. You got me. He has to make the call. If he aint back in five minutes you can shoot me, ok?’ Hutch said, hoping the youth would buy it.

There was a moment of indecision when it was apparent that the Mexican was weighing the odds. Would this black man come back. Was this a double cross? But he did have the gun, and he did have Hutch’s partner back at the apartment block. Judging by the way Hutch had been with Starsky, Camargo didn’t think the blond would put his partner’s life in even more danger. Slowly he nodded.

‘Fine. One call. And be back here in three minutes, otherwise he gets a hole where a hole don’t belong.’

Chapter 11

Huggy escaped the room and rushed downstairs to the still crowded bar. Despite it being way past midnight, the bar was still lively and as he rounded the corner and made for the payphone in the small corridor by the back entrance, one of his waitresses shimmied up to him and tapped him on the shoulder, causing him to jump. He turned, his lean face crumpled into a scowl.

‘Not now Dolores. I need a minute to make a call.’

‘But the beers running low and you know I can’t haul it up from the cellar in my condition’ the woman whined, displaying a rounded and very pregnant belly.

‘Well tell ‘em to start drinking shots. Use your imagination honey. You’re in charge, I’m gonna be busy for a while.’

‘I’m in….ooh great’ the small woman said with a smile.

‘Uh huh. And that don’t include giving all your friends free drinks. I need my profit, not like last time. Now scoot huh?’ Huggy gave her a friendly swat on the rump and turned back to the phone. Hutch had said he needed to meet with the boss. That could only mean Captain Dobey and when Huggy had called him “Mr Big” and “The Fat Man”, Hutch’s face had cracked into a brief and very worried grin, but a grin nonetheless and the black man knew he was on the right track. He paused for a moment, trying to remember the number from heart and, blessing his didactic memory, he slipped his dime into the slot and punched in the numbers, waiting for the phone to pick up at the other end. Huggy looked over his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t being overheard and then hunched over the receiver, speaking low into the mouthpiece when the phone picked up and a sleepy sounding voice answered.


‘Edith? This is Huggy Bear. Can I speak with the Captain please?’

‘Huggy? Have you any idea what time it is?’ Edith muttered and he could imagine the woman prodding her husband in the ribs to get his attention.

‘I do, and I’m sorry, but it’s an emergency.’ Huggy hissed.

‘Oh my! Are you ok? Are you in trouble? Here’s Harold’ there was a rustle on the line and then Dobey’s gruff voice sounded down the line.

‘Huggy. If this is some kind of…’

‘Captain, I got Hutch here, sans Starsky. He has some Mexican kid with him and the big nasty Mexican has a gun and he don’t seem afraid to use it.’

The Captain shut up sniping at Huggy and was suddenly all business. ‘What’s the score Huggy?’

‘I don’t know. Starsky aint with him and he’s talking about a stash of snow. I think this Mexican kid is holding them to ransom coz someone thinks they have access to drugs. What do you want me to do?’

‘Play along with ‘em Huggy. What’s Hutchinson like? Does he look hurt? What’s he said?’

Huggy paused, thinking. ‘Well he has blood on him, but he doesn’t look too hurt, unless the blood is Starsky’s. He said to get the fa….he said to get you and to set up a meet at Venice Place, now.’

‘Ok. Go back to them, stall them as long as you can and then tell them it’s all set up. I’ll have men there and ready for when you get there. After that, let ‘em do their job and Huggy, keep your head down when the lead starts flyin’ huh?’

The black man snickered, ‘Now those type of orders I don’t mind followin’ Just get there quick Cap’n. The kid looks like he could get trigger happy.’

‘You just get ‘em to Venice Place, but give me half an hour huh? See ya.’ Huggy was left looking at the phone as it went dead at the other end. He sighed as he imagined Dobey getting himself out of bed with the phone jammed to his ear, issuing orders as he went. Huggy, how do ya get mixed up in all this?

Huggy made his way quickly back upstairs to the room and heaved a calming sigh before he opened the door and walked back in. Camargo and Hutch were still standing exactly where he’d left them, neither man talking and neither man moving. They faced each other off across the small distance as if daring one or the other to make a move. As he walked in, the Mexican looked up and questioned Huggy with his eyes. Huggy ignored the youth and addressed himself to Hutch.

‘The Fat Man says he’ll meet you in Venice - at the place - in half an hour. He didn’t seem too happy about bein’ woken up in the middle of the night. He asked how you’d feel if you had that kinda warm reception.’

Hutch grunted, relieved that Huggy had understood and that Dobey was now working on the problem. Camargo looked from one man to the other. ‘Where’s this Venice? Why wait 30 minutes? You aren’t tryin’ to double cross me are ya?’

‘Why would I do that? You still have Starsky. That amount of coke needs time to get together. My supplier will be there. He just needs to get the um… details together.’

The youth snorted. ‘He’d better move fast. C’mon hot shot, move.’

Hutch looked at the Mexican and snorted. ‘Hot shot? Hell, no-one’s called me hot shot since college. Fine, we’ll drive over to Venice, but don’t blame me if he’s not there yet. I’d hate ya to have a nasty surprise.’ He set off for the door with Camargo and Huggy in pursuit.

The drive over to his place should only have taken a little over a quarter of an hour, but Hutch wanted to make sure that Dobey had the chance to get everything he needed to into place. Fortunately, the Captain knew that Hutch kept his key above his lintel so he’d be able to get in without breaking down the door. Now all the blond needed to do was give them time. He drove in a wide circle round the blocks from the Pits, always careful that he didn’t pass the same block twice, and always keeping his fingers crossed that Camargo didn’t know this part of the city too well. Traffic was light and it felt odd to be driving Starsky’s car without the brunet close by him. The streets lights whipped past and finally, the blond’s internal clock told him that Dobey should have managed to get everything into position. He sped up and little and rounded the final corner, pulling to a stop outside Chez Helene. Camargo threw him a questioning look.

‘We’re here. Venice Place.’ Hutch explained.

‘So where’s the dealer?’

‘He ain’t gonna want to be seen out in the open is he? We have to go upstairs. He’ll meet us inside’

The youth licked his lips nervously and for a moment Hutch paused hoping that Camargo didn’t smell a rat. Finally the Mexican nodded briefly. ‘Fine. You first, and don’t try nothin’ funny huh?’

Hutch snickered. ‘Wouldn’t dream of it’ he said as he got out of the car and started to walk up the steps to his own front door. Hutch hoped that the cops were inside. He’d given them more than half an hour, but he also hoped that they’d seen him coming. The thought of being mowed down in friendly fire wasn’t something he relished and he stopped as he reached the top of the flight of stairs. He waited until Camargo and Huggy were on the top step then pushed the front door open quietly.

It would have been better of he could have got the youth to go first. It would have been better all round if maybe his front door had a glass partition in it. It couldn’t be helped that he was the first into the room, but as he walked into the pitch black apartment, he suddenly heard a yell of “Police, freeze” and then a ham-like hand came down on the back of his neck. Hutch fell to his knees with a yelp from the shock of the blow just as Camargo tried to back out of the room. With Huggy at his back it was impossible and in desperation, the young Mexican kicked out at Hutch from the doorway. The youth looked on in anger as three high powered rifles stared back at him and he let his foot return to the ground, slowly putting his hands up and behind his head.

‘You double crossing white trash pig’ the youth spat out as Dobey appeared from behind the door and grabbed a hold of Camargo’s hands. He pulled them down behind his back and snapped on the cuffs as Hutch stood shakily and rubbed at the tender spot on the back of his neck. He leaned against the wall to stop the room from spinning and glared at his Captain.

‘Nice one Cap’n. Did ya have to hit me quite so hard?’

Dobey grinned. ‘How was I to know you’d be the first through the door? For all I knew you could’ve been him.’

‘Well I wasn’t, but thanks anyway. Glad you got the message loud and clear’ the blond grunted.

‘Uh huh. Now what about the rest? Where’s Starsky? What happened?’

‘I can make a full report later, but right now Starsk and a little girl are stuck in the apartment block on the North side with three more goons. We need to get ‘em out.’

Dobey handed Camargo over to one of the uniformed officers and retrieved his cuffs from round the youth’s wrists.

‘Is he ok?’

‘He’s been better. But nothin’ like last time. Just don’t mention snakes to him any time soon’ Hutch grunted.

‘And you say there’s a kid with him?’

‘Uh huh. The same kid that was with him a few months ago. Somehow she got mixed up with these turkeys and thought she ought to phone Starsky, thinking he’d be able to handle it all. She just omitted to tell him anything about Mexicans, drugs or guns.’

‘So what now? What’s the set up at the apartment block?’ Dobey asked.

‘Three flakes, one of ‘em is shot up pretty bad. The other two are no more than kids themselves. I think they should be pretty easy to talk down. Starsk and Danny are being held in a small room by the side of the kitchen. I reckon if we go in mob handed, they won’t have any time to get to Starsky to threaten them. If you ask me, they’re shit scared of the whole thing.’

‘You said Starsky was kinda ok, so whose is all the blood?’

Hutch looked down at the front of his shirt. It was spattered with dark, drying blood and his fingernails were still caked. He snickered. ‘I did a “Dr Kildare” special. Maybe I should follow in my Dad’s footsteps after all.’

An hour later, and with a back up team of three patrol cars and six officers toting rifles, Dobey and Hutch found themselves back outside the apartment block in the rapidly lightening dawn. It had been a long night and the blond was feeling weary beyond words but now that the end was in sight, he didn’t want to leave the rescue of his partner up to the others. Besides, he was the only one who knew which room Starsky and Danny were being held in.

Quietly, the small team of cops loaded and checked their weapons, tightened bullet proof vests and followed Hutch into the building. With dawn fast approaching, the sky had lightened to a milky blue, giving just enough light for them to see their way without artificial lights. Quiet as mice they crept down the main hallway of the apartment block and came to a halt outside the door of the rooms used by the Mexicans. As Hutch made a count of three with his fingers, his Colt drawn and aimed at the sky, the others gripped their rifles harder and on the final count, the blond took a step back and aimed his long, powerful leg at the door. The wood sprung back on its hinges and then fell to lie drunkenly against the wall and all eight men piled into the narrow hallway.

For a moment there was calm and then Esteban poked his head around the kitchen door and yelled out in surprise. In his surprise, he hadn’t thought to keep his weapon with him and so it was a matter of moments before the six armed officers had swarmed into the small room and overpowered Miguel and his buddy. Enrico still lay pale, but breathing on the kitchen table and once of the uniforms went out to call for an ambulance.

Hutch waited only a second or so before plunging back out into the corridor and to the bedroom door of his partner’s prison. He unlocked the door rapidly and with his heart in his mouth, he pushed it open just in time to see Starsky open one sleepy eye to study him. Danny was asleep with her back against the wall, the brunet’s curly head cushioned in her lap and as the door opened, she too awoke with a small jump.

Languidly, Starsky stretched and yawned, the slightest hitch in his breath marking the fact that he’d suffered the snake venom injection hours earlier. He took in Hutch’s dishevelled appearance, the mussed flaxen hair, weary eyes and blood spattered shirt and sat up, leaning against the wall as he ran his fingers though his chocolate coloured curls.

‘Wow, you look like shit!’ he remarked.

Hutch’s mouth opened and closed like a fish stranded on the shoreline. He’d spent the last 12 hours saving a guy’s life, fighting for his partner’s life, running around the streets of Bay City and worrying himself sick about his partner and how he was dealing with the devastating effects of the poison that had been injected into his body. To have the brunet regard him with something like humour in his indigo eyes, looking for all the world like he’d had the best night’s sleep in ages was too much and Hutch collapsed to his knees, the room spinning as the adrenaline washed over him in a gut wrenching tide.

As the blond sank to the ground, and fell forward to brace himself with his hands on the bare floor, Starsky shuffled over to him and put a hand on his shoulder. He forced his head up as behind him, Hutch heard Danny asking if he was going to be all right. Starsky snorted.

‘He’s gonna be fine honey. The trouble with Blondie here is he’s great out of the traps, but he aint got no staying’ power!’


The restaurant was quiet and intimate and the booth chosen was set a little way apart from the others, providing just the right amount of privacy. A white tablecloth overlaid with a deep claret coloured runner dressed the table for two and nestled on the cloth, a silver candle stick held a pink candle, its flame lighting the cosy booth.

Starsky had dressed carefully for the occasion. His navy blue blazer was open at the front to reveal a pristine white shirt, open at the neck so that just a tuft of dark brown fuss protruded above the buttons. Cream slacks finished the ensemble and even the blue Adidas had been eschewed in favour of plain black brogues. His indigo eyes twinkled as with his left hand he poured two glasses of pale amber liquid. Passing one to his companion, he took the other and held it high in a toast.

‘Here’s to us shweetheart’ he said softly as the girl gazed at him and clinked her glass on his.

Danny too had dressed to impress with her best party dress and her Mom’s necklace around her neck. She looked up into Starsky’s face and a serious expression flit across her eyes as she sipped at the Gatoraide.

‘Dave, there’s something I have to tell you.’

‘Uh huh? What?’

‘Now, I don’t want you to be upset or cause a scene, but, I don’t think it’s gonna work out between us’ Danny said quietly.

The brunet kept his face straight. ‘Why. We’ve been through so much together. I thought you liked me.’

The little girl looked down at her plate thoughtfully. ‘I do. I do like ya. It’s just. Well, now I’ve had time to consider our relationship, I’ve come to realise…. Oh this is tough. Promise you won’t get mad?’

Starsky put his glass down and fixed her with a gaze. ‘Are you tryin’ to tell me there’s someone else?’ he asked.

She nodded. ‘I’m sorry Dave, it’s just I’ve come to realise I prefer blonds. I’m seeing Hutch tomorrow night. He’s taking me to the movies.’