I unashamedly admit that the idea for this story came from that all time favourtite show MASH. But the storyline did seem to fit our guys so well that I hope fans of both shows won't hold that against me!

Written for all those "Hurt Hutchies" out there - enjoy

Disclaimer - No money made, don't own 'em but I like to play a little

Chapter 1

The blond haired man woke slowly, the heavy, drowsy feeling of the drugs still in his system. He hated the feeling although he seemed to have woken up with it most mornings since he’d been here. His fault, he thought. They hated it when he caused a fuss, their solution being to whack him up with enough Thorazine to drop a bull elephant, put the dreaded canvas jacket on him and get him to his room. But still, he hated it. It was as though he were no longer in control of his senses, his life, his thoughts or his actions, and the feeling left him weak and dispirited. Crystal blue eyes opened and he looked around him. Same small white room; same small metal framed bed with its single sheet; same bars of the window. Same old, same old. He sighed and struggled to swing his legs out of the bed, his feet cringing at the cold, hard tile on the floor. He longed for his apartment with its big bed, warm blankets and bright rag rugs. This place was starved of colour, as though his life had gone from techicolour to monochrome overnight and he dearly wished for even one small picture on the wall to replace the monotony of the whitewash and the white gloss paint.

He shivered in the morning air, or at least he assumed it was morning. Although it was never cold here (the heating seeming to be permanently on) he still felt chilled when he tried to get out of bed. The white cast on his ankle and the white dressing taped to his side made movement difficult. The wounds were still new and raw, although he had no real idea how long he’d been here or indeed how he's got them. Time seemed to blur with the monotony of each day.

Hutch knew the people in here were not unkind. They had the best interest of their patients at heart and they had a limited arsenal with which to deal with them. But the constant barrage of the drugs on his system left him with feelings of powerlessness and when they were added to the pain meds for his wounds he felt constantly sick and had a slight headache lodged just over one eye.

Life wasn’t fair. He shouldn’t be here. It wasn’t his fault. As Hutch staggered into the small bathroom to relieve himself, his thoughts went back to how this had all started.

He had no idea how long ago it was, but Dobey’s voice had thundered out of his room asking for he and Starsky to get their butts in there now. As they’d walked in they’d seen another man sitting in the chair they habitually used and so they’d stood just inside the office door, waiting expectantly.

Dobey had introduced the man in the chair as Hugh Lestrange from the FBI. They’d stared at him as though he were an alien. What did the FBI want with them? FBI usually meant trouble and they’d had enough of that recently. They sighed and didn’t warmly greet the man, but he ignored their animosity and sat impassive. Dobey let Lestrange explain to both detectives what was going on and they listened with interest, both men’s anger beginning to rise as Lestrange described inhuman treatment and the deaths of the women and children.

The FBI had been following the case of immigrants coming over the border from Mexico without permission. It was illegal of course, but with so many trying to cross the border each night, the border patrols had little hope of collaring each and every migrant. The ones they caught were detained for the night then turned smartly around in the morning and returned to their home country. But something odd was going on, and of late there had been other people there to target these unfortunates. For some, it wasn’t the border patrols that caught them but another group who siphoned off likely groups at the border. Once in the US, they were “bought” by a group calling themselves “Mano de Dios”. The group took mostly women and children and falsely told them that they could get them legitimate jobs in hotels and factories and that the children would be educated in specially run schools. Once the women and children had joined up, they were taken away in lorry loads and were put to hard labour. More worryingly still, several of them were never heard of again and the FBI suspected that they were dead. It was Starsky and Hutch’s responsibility to get in on the group, infiltrate the organisation and find out what was happening to those immigrants.

The partners had looked at each other and had nodded, the plain unfairness of the situation playing on their humanitarian sides. They weren’t political animals, but if a group were targeting weaker individuals, they’d make it their task to nail them. They’d had plenty of undercover assignments and were good at their job. The brunet had, however, snickered at the thought of Hutch passing for a Mexican with his flaxen blond hair and fair, golden skin. And Hutch had been amused at the thought of Starsky playing Mexican. he had no doubt his partner would be determined but "Essa Ramon Qqui! wouldn't get him very far and other than that he couldn’t string more than a few words of Spanish together to save his life. And, as the blond had pointed out, it may come to that. But they had lttle choice and the brunet vowed to take a crash course in Spanish to see him through.

And so it had been decided that Hutch would go in first, making it known that he needed a job and he didn’t really care what sort of job it was so long as it paid well. He’d play the hard, calculating type out to make a fast buck and within days, he’d been picked up by Mano de Dios and employed as a guard. Starsky, with his olive toned skin and dark curly hair had a week to grow a moustache and learn the basics of the language before hopping over the border into Mexico one night and joining the next group of immigrants that tried to make it across the river and over the tall concrete and netting fence patrolled by armed guards.

The brunet had managed to fulfil his task and had hooked up with a small group of women and children who crept over a deserted part of the border with little trouble at the dead of night. It seemed to be a popular crossing place as once they’d got to the other side and onto American soil, they were quickly picked up by a couple of men in a pick up, offering them work and education. Starsky had sat in the back of the truck, swaying along with the rest of them as they were driven along country roads through the night and towards morning he recognised some of the back roads round Bay City. As the sun was coming up, the truck pulled in to a lonely farmstead in the middle of scrub land and backed by a stand of a few acres of dense forest and the passengers were herded into a barn.

Once there, Starsky had been reunited with Hutch who had managed to get himself into the group through a mole who had some influence with the leader a certain Diego Mariposa. And although neither man had been able to communicate with the other properly they knew each other well enough that eye contact was all they really needed. From that point on, both felt easier, knowing the other was close at hand.

As it turned out Mano de Dios was into mining and had hit upon a small disused goldmine in the backcountry behind Bay City. There were a few of those mines left with seams either too well hidden or too small for commercial use. But the organisation had realised that while men had problems getting into the small spaces created by the gold in the rocks, women and children were far more suited to the troglodytic lifestyle and so they put them to work.

Within the group Starsky had joined there were only two other men and he and they were taken off each morning into the forested area at the back of the property and put to felling some of the larger trees for pit props. The equipment they were given was antiquated, the axes dull and at the end of each day, the brunet came back exhausted, hot and hungry while Hutch, who was on patrol detail winced at the blisters over the smaller man’s hands. Blisters he wished Starsky had never got because at the end of this whole sorry affair he’d ended up here, and he had no idea why.

There was a knock on his room door and an orderly walked in. God! That was another thing he hated about the place. There was just no privacy, especially as there was no door on his bathroom. He’d taken to trying to bathe late at night to get some private time, but the orderlies hadn’t liked that either and once again when he’d tried to reason with them, they’d held him down, rammed the needle into his arm and he’d woken up the next morning where they’d left him on the floor. Now he looked up in suspicion. It wasn’t that they were cruel, but they were used to dealing with crazy folks, and he wasn’t crazy. He was sure of that. He wasn’t crazy!

‘Mornin’ he said warily. There didn’t seem to be a needle in the guy’s hand, but you could never tell. It was as though they had them loaded and ready and secreted about their person, and he hated needles. He finished washing his hands and dried them on the small rough towel.

‘Morning. Doc wants to see you. You have a visitor’ the orderly told him. ‘You gonna be nice and quiet today?’

The blond ignored the comment and up to the hook on the wall for his orange bathrobe, the only thing he seemed to have been able to bring from home. He shouldered into it and stood waiting. They seemed to like trying to goad him into making a wrong move and the fact that he felt lost made him feel angry and on edge. And when he lost his temper, once again they’d drug him and restrain him. He sighed, determined this time to keep his cool.

‘What time is it?’ he asked. Cabrillo didn’t believe in clocks on the walls. Something about the time becoming a fixation for some patients. But Hutch found that to be even more disconcerting – one more thing to keep him off balance and vulnerable.

’11:00am. Come on. We don’t want to keep ‘em waiting’ the orderly said and walked by the side of the blond wordlessly as they plodded along the miles of featureless white corridors to the doctor’s room. Hutch kept his comments to himself. He longed for a friendly conversation. No-one spoke to him properly in here. The orderlies were defensive all the time, watching for any further excuse to drug him it seemed. Oh my God was he getting paranoid? That was the first step to madness wasn’t it? The other patients were all so wacko he couldn’t hold down a decent conversation with them and the doctor wanted to psychoanalyse him all the time. The only words spoken to him seemed to be to either order him around, to calm him down or to demand that he submit to their treatment.

And as for Starsky…… he hadn’t seen his partner for what seemed like ages. Part of him missed the brunet’s friendship and humour. Part of him was angry at his buddy for not taking him away from all this nonsense. He sighed and braced himself for more “tell me how you’re feeling today Ken” treatment.

As he sat down in the small room he looked around warily. Sessions in here usually ended in Thorazine and restraints and he felt like an alien. The orderly remained at his back, in case he was to do anything crazy, and Hutch stared straight ahead, breathing deeply and calmly like he’d been taught. This time he’d show no reaction. This time he’d be good. This time…..a familiar face walked into the room followed by the doctor. Hutch looked up, smiled thinly and looked away, the anger evident in his eyes.

He wouldn't react... he wouldn't.

Chapter 2

‘Hey buddy. How’re ya doin’?’ Starsky asked. He looked thinner, dark blue circles under his eyes ageing him by ten years and there was a bandaid on the back of his hand – the sort the hospital sticks on you when they take out the drip needle. The brunet drew up a wooden chair next to his partner and sat down with a stifled hiss.

All anger was forgotten for a moment as Hutch tried to remember why Starsky hadn’t been to see him, or more to the point take him home. ‘Starsk, you ok?’

Starsky looked uncertainly at the doctor, who nodded almost imperceptibly and smiled an encouragement at the curly haired cop.

‘I was in the hospital for a couple of days. Well, a week. But I’m ok now’.

‘You were?’ Hutch’s mind blanked and he examined his partner for telltale signs of injury. They were there. The slight breathlessness, the hunched position when he sat, the narrowing of indigo eyes occasionally as he regarded his partner calmly.

‘Yeah, don’t you remember Hutch? The last case? The Mexicans?’ Starsky urged his friend to search his obviously defective memory.

‘Mexicans? I um….. there was a forest and a farmhouse. An’ I remember some women and kids and a dog, but…. What happened? Oh my god, I can’t remember, I've been tryin' but these goons... Sorry Doc' the blond looked up apologetically, obviously checking there was no needle coming his way. 'You’ve not been here buddy an’….’

The doctor stepped forward and put a calming hand on Hutch’s shoulder. Lenard Epstein was a small wiry haired individual with an honest open face, a calm manner and a sense of humour. Despite the fact that Hutch felt he was being held against his will in the facility, he liked the man and for the most part enjoyed their talks, although he had no idea why Epstein kept him there. The doctor leaned down to his patient.

‘Hutch, just try to stay calm. I want you to remember what we said about breathing huh? In and out, in and out nice and slow. That’s it….good. You’re doing great. Ok now, I want you to try to remember back to the farmhouse. Just let your mind drift back to the farmhouse and the last thing you remember, don't struggle with it, just let it flow’.

Hutch took a deep breath and as with other times when he’d been anxious or hurt, he locked his crystal blue eyes onto his partner’s indigo blues seeking solace in the sapphire depths and losing himself for a moment in the familiarity and the comfort he found there. Starsky put his hand over Hutch’s and willed calm into his friend although he could feel the slight trembling and tried to see past the haunted, hunted look in his partner's face.

‘I was at the farmhouse. It was... was dark and Starsk... you were there and we knew we needed to check up on…… Mariposa?’ he smiled at Starsky’s earnest nodding. The brunet wanted him to remember. It was important. How the hell had his partner ended up in hospital? But there again, why did he himself have a cast on his foot and a bandage on his side?

‘And there were some women and kids there and we needed to get them away, but the dog wouldn’t let us……the dog. Barkin’ and barkin’ and……why wouldn’t it shut up? It was gonna alert ‘em all that we were there. It was gonna stop us getting’ out an I…I…oh God why didn’t ya stop me? I….dammit! No, I won’t! You’re not gonna get me to say it. No’. Hutch's voice raised until he was yelling again. he knew he was, but he couldn't stop himself. It was too much, the feelings of hopelessness and panic rising like an unrelenting tide up his chest, threatening to drown him in the uncontrollable terror. He tried to stand up from the chair and suddenly the huge orderly was there again at his back, a huge hand holding him down forcibly and none too gently. The doctor tried to calm him while Starsky helped to hold him down. But whereas the orderly's hand was cruel and rough, Starsky's hands held him firmly but gently, soothing him and trying to establish their old rapport.

As though from a distance he heard his buddy’s voice. ‘Hutch buddy, c’mon. snap out of it. I’m here, it‘s fine. You didn’t do nuthin wrong. C’mon Hutch cool it huh?’

But the blond was lost once again in the dark memories of that case. His breathing was shallow and fast as though he’d run a race and beads of sweat pebbled his forehead as he hit out at the orderly behind him with all his strength.

‘Noooo, get the fuck away from me. You don’t understand it was the dog. It was the fuckin’ dog and you made me remember……Fuckers, I won’t…..noooo’.

Starsky turned away in horror as his usually calm partner raged against the orderly’s hold, his voice loud and tense as he continued to fight. The doctor calmly reached across the desk and took hold of a loaded syringe and the brunet winced and closed his eyes as the blond’s shouting was reduced to whimpers.

‘No……no more drugs. Don’t gimme that, I’ll be quiet. See I’m bein’ good, I can be quiet. Just no more drugs, Starsk? Starsky don't let 'em...nooooo’ he howled as the needle bit into his arm. Starsky wrapped protective arms around his buddy and hugged him tightly as the struggled diminished. Within moments Hutch was limp and calm, his eyes dull and lifeless in the arms of the nurse behind him.

Starsky knelt by his side and ran his hand down the sweat soaked face as Hutch forced his head up and looked at his partner.

‘M’sorry Sssstarsssk’ he slurred.

‘Don’t buddy. Nuthin to be sorry for. Just try an’ rest huh? I’m right here’ the smaller man looked up as a second nurse entered and he glared at the doctor.

‘Aww c’mon doc. He’s quiet now. There aint no need for that, surely’ he snapped as the two men started to feed Hutch’s arms into the straight jacket. 'Doc please, see reason, he won't do nuthin if I'm here' the brunet got stiffly to his feet and tried to push the nurses away from his partner. they continued their work regardless and Starsky stared angrily at the medic. As they half carried Hutch away, Starsky heart bled for his friend.

‘What’re we gonna do? How long’s he gonna be like this? I should stay. He’d be calmer if I could stay’ he pleaded.

But Epstein shook his head. ‘For one thing Detective, you’re still healing. But apart from anything else, despite the fact that you undoubtedly have a close relationship with Ken, he needs to work this out on his own. Let him rest for today and come back tomorrow. We can start to make progress then. Its only been a week’.


Hutch woke again to find himself on his bed, his arms cramped around his chest and confined by the thick canvass of the straight jacket. He moaned to himself in frustration. Why did they have to drug him again? Why couldn’t he just have kept a lid on his temper. It was Starsky who was always the volatile one, not him. He was supposed to be the voice of reason keeping the hot headed brunet in check.

Starsky. The thoughts of his partner brought him up short. The curly haired man was hurt and several things went through the blond’s mind. First and foremost was that Starsky had said he’d been in the hospital for a week. Hutch had no recollection of that although he knew it must have been something to do with that last case. If only he could remember something other than the barking of that damned dog. Starsky had been injured, that was a given. But that meant that the brunet would have had to face the hospital without Hutch at his side, and that was something that caused the flaxen haired man a great deal of anguish. He’d always been there for his partner. He’d always vowed that he would watch the smaller man’s back, no matter what. And yet somehow he hadn’t been there, or hadn’t been able to stop Starsky from being injured.

The blond stopped, feeling the pull of the stitches in the wound on his own side. Had he been injured at the same time? Shit, why couldn’t he remember? The farmhouse was clear in his thoughts, but he tried to think on past that thought to what had happened.

He and Starsky continued to work at the undercover job, Hutch as an armed guard for the men working in the forest Starsky for one of the unfortunates who were sent to chop down the trees for pit props. As the days went on time passed in the same fashion. Up at dawn when the women and men were segregated. The men received a small breakfast of oatmeal and a cup of coffee while the women and children were fed next to nothing. And then while it was Hutch’s responsibility to march the men into the forest, the women and children were herded together and forced to walk out to the head of the mine and down into the dark confined spaces of the mine. They came back each evening hot, tired and grimy with cuts and bruises and scratches over their bodies, their nails broken and their hands swollen and cut.

Times were getting desperate. Both men were getting pretty pissed off with the set up, but they knew they needed to bide their time. The detectives needed only confirmation that Diego Mariposa was solely responsible for the mining and the deaths of some eight women and children who had so far gone missing without a trace, but try as they might, although they had Mariposa taped, they had no news on the deaths of the immigrants. The team of “miners” was dwindling too. With no real nutritious food and no proper sleeping place, none of the women and children were particularly healthy and Hutch in particular hated to see the little waifs with their big brown eyes and rumbling bellies as he walked past.

Time was running out and while Starsky was getting heartily sick of his work chopping wood, Hutch was also getting desperate. He had a horse to ride to and from the forest each day and a rifle to carry with him, but during the long hours of lumbering work he had nothing much else to do other than watch his partner getting steadily thinner and more and more pissed. He hated that he couldn’t speak to the man he shared his working life with, let alone touch in him or confide in him and it ate away at the blond to see his normally burrito eating, beer drinking buddy reduced to scrabbling for the last crumbs from the often stale bread the men women and children were given to eat.

On a couple of occasions, he’d managed to secrete food in a hiding place on the outside of the barn for the captives to find. Because that was how he saw them – as captives or slaves forced to work for an unscrupulous owner although the immigrants seemed bemused and pitifully grateful for their jobs.

And then it had happened. One night three men, twelve women and seven children went to bed and in the morning three men, eleven women and seven children got up for work. The woman who died had been sickly and weak, but she’d been fine that previous evening with no signs of any sickness other than malnourishment. Hutch had seen a couple of the other men target her for being lazy or slow but had tried to keep his mouth shut. She had done nothing wrong in his eyes but by that morning, she was found dead on the straw pallet all the captives used as a bed, her body still warm. And all the time, there was that bloody dog barking in the background. It wouldn’t shut up and it got on the blond’s already frayed nerves.

Hutch flinched as the door to his room opened. The bright neon light from the corridor outside flooded into his dark room and lanced into his eyes making him wince and turn his head away. He sent up a silent prayer to any God who cared to be listening. Please let me get out of this hell hole. I'll be good. Won't cause no more trouble. I'll be quiet...promise.

Chapter 3

An orderly and Dr Epstein walked into his darkened room and over to his bed.

‘What happened there Ken?’ Epstein said softly. His patient looked pale and still fragile and he knew he needed to take things slowly.

Hutch closed his eyes. What had happened? One minute he was with Starsky and he was calm and trying to remember what had happened at the farmhouse, the next it was like someone had thrown a switch in his head and he’d lost all control. He hated that. He hated that he couldn’t control his emotions any more. His Mom and Dad had once paid an absolute fortune for him to have anger management classes and after that, he’d kept his temper to himself with a steely resolve. But this was so unlike anything he’d ever experienced before and suddenly he had the inkling of a doubt. Was he really losing his mind?

‘M’sorry Doc. I don’t know what happened’ he said quietly, refusing to look the small man in the eye. Epstein had an uncanny ability to look him in the eye and pierce through his head and see right into his soul. He found the gaze both disconcerting and at the same time oddly comforting, Epstein’s blue eyes being almost the same shade as his partner’s.

‘You understand why we had to give you something to calm you?’

‘Guess so’.


‘Hutch. Everyone calls me Hutch. Ken is what my Dad used to call me’.

‘And does that bother you?’

‘What? Yes….. No….. no, it’s just my name. I guess I’m just more used to hearin’ “Hutch” than Ken. That’s all’.

‘Are you feeling quieter now? Can we do without the restraints?’ Epstein asked. The blond knew he wasn’t being cruel but he felt like an animal when he was tethered like this, as though his last vestiges of humanity had been ripped away from him by the canvass and leather jacket.

‘Uh huh’.

‘And you won’t try anything else?’

‘I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I was just….’ Hutch looked up in mute appeal, his eyes seeking forgiveness like a little boy accused of fighting in the play yard.

‘I know. It’s ok’ the doctor smiled, and stood back as the orderly sat Hutch up and started to unbuckle the straps round his back. As they separated and his arms fell forward, the flaxen haired man let out a hiss as the circulation started to return to his arms. He shook the sleeves of the dreaded item off and eased himself back until he was propped up on the bed on his pillows. He rubbed slowly at his forearms and regarded the doctor levelly.

‘I’m not crazy’ he said.

‘No-one said you were Hutch. But you do have some issues to work through’.

‘Issues? Is that why you’re keeping me here?’ the blond asked, trying to keep the fear out of his voice. Fear that if he stayed much longer he was going to be as nuts as the other patients who wandered the corridors with their vacant eyes and shuffling walks.

‘We’re keeping you here so that we can help you deal with those issues. We all want to help you get well’.

‘I’m not sick’.

Epstein ignored the comment and continued. ‘We all want you to come to your own terms with what’s gone on’.

‘All? Who’s all?’

‘Your partner, Detective Starsky, your Captain, me. We’re all here for you’ the doctor replied.

‘He isn’t’ the words were said with such venom that even Hutch himself was taken aback. He clamped his mouth shut. ‘Sorry’.

‘You miss him a lot, don’t you’.

‘We’re always together. We watch each others’ backs. We stop each other from bein’ killed on a day to day basis. An’ we’re usually there when the other one’s sick. Go figure’ Hutch said with feeling. He did miss Starsky, like he’d miss his right arm. Like salt misses pepper. Like a fish misses the sea. The ebullient brunet presence grounded him and made him feel whole and right now he needed it more than ever. Because if there had ever been a time when Hutch felt fragile and alone and scared it was now.

‘But you said you weren’t sick’ Epstein pressed and Hutch sighed. Here we go again. Verbal sparring. Words twisted round until they were arguing about stuff that seemed to have no meaning any more.

‘Point taken. Fine. But I don’t feel sick. I feel frustrated and angry, but not sick. I just wish someone would explain to me why you’re keeping me here. And how I got hurt. I’m not sick, I just need you to jog my memory some’.

‘You’ll remember in time’ Epstein said.

‘I’d remember quicker if you’d let me speak to Starsky. He can sort me out an’ then I can stop wasting your time’.

‘Is that what you think this is? A waste of time? You should stop thinking like that Hutch. Don’t think, just relax’.

The blond balled his hands into fists and then consciously tried to calm himself, but he could feel the anxiety rising like a tide in his chest.

‘Make your mind up Doc. For God’s sake make you mind up. One minute you’re tellin’ me I need to remember so as I can get out of this hell hole. And the next minute you’re tellin’ me not to think and just to relax. What d’ya want me to do huh? Tell me that. Just let me know an’ I can do it, but right now you’re confusin’ the hell out of me’.

‘You’re getting anxious again’ Epstein’s annoyingly calm voice told him. ‘Think of your breathing Hutch. Just think of that and concentrate on good thoughts. Something good from your past. Something….’

‘You don’t understand’ Hutch yelled. ‘This is so fuckin’ unfair. I do my job. I’m good at my job an’ yet when I do it, I end up in this place, reduced to the level of an animal just coz I made a mistake I can’t even remember’ the blond laughed a high hysterical laugh as Epstein got up from the bed and walked to the door.

‘We can talk some more when you’re calm. Enough for now. Believe it or not, you’re making progress’.

‘Progress? What sort of progress is it when you constantly drug me and tie me up in that fuckin’ jacket. I’m a man. I’m a cop an’ a damned good one an’ I know my rights’. Hutch face was getting redder and he could hear himself yelling but it was as though a dam had broken and the words tumbled out without him being able to stop them. ‘Let me outa here. At least let me see my partner. Don’t walk away from me! I’m talkin’ to you’ Hutch yelled as the doctor and orderly walked out of the door. As the door closed and he heard the click of the lock he bounded off the bed and limped over to the door banging his fists against the sturdy wood.

‘Come back. You can’t keep me here against my will. I’m not a prisoner, I didn’t do nothing wrong. This isn’t my fault’.

But his cries went unanswered and as his anger faded he turned and with his back to the door, he slid down until he was sitting on the floor. Hutch put his head in his hands and stifled a whimper. They wouldn’t break him. This was some sort of punishment and it wasn’t his fault….not his fault…..it wasn’t.


‘He looks like shit Cap’n. That’s not him, its an empty shell. You should have seen him’ Starsky eased himself into his chair as Dobey sat on the sofa at the brunet’s place. The visit to Cabrillo had been the first thing the curly haired cop had done after being discharged from the hospital and the sight of his partner in such obvious distress had almost given him a relapse.

‘Why didn’t you tell me he was as bad as that? I should be with him, but those goons won’t even let me be in the same room as him by myself. What’s that all about? Hutch aint gonna hurt me. We need to be together at a time like this. He’s hurtin’ Cap’n’.

Dobey looked crestfallen. He was the one who’d signed the papers committing the blond to the care of the mental health professionals and he’d done it with a shaky hand and a heavy heart. But there again, Starsky hadn’t seen the shape his partner was in directly after the end of the assignment. He sighed heavily.

‘You have to understand they’re doing their best for him Starsky. He was a mess – a shambling wreck when we got to him. He was holding on to you and rocking backwards and forwards and at first he wouldn’t let anyone get to ya. Had his gun drawn an’ pointin’ at the paramedics’.

‘What?’ Starsky had no recollection of the final scenes of the mission and his Captain’s admission left him cold. He sat forward wincing at the pull of the stitches on his stomach and put his head in his hands. ‘I need to be there. I need to be with him. He needs me’ he muttered.

‘You need to rest and heal. You aren’t gonna be any use to him if you’re worn to a frazzle before he comes home…..’ Dobey lifted a hand ‘…..and he will come home. Hutch is strong. He’ll find his own way out of this, but until he does…… Starsky you an’ me aren’t experts. We aren’t the ones who can help him at the moment. I like Epstein. He seems like a good man. And Hutch seems to like him to, from what I can gather’.

The brunet snorted. ‘I don’t think Hutch can string more than three words together right now. How’s he supposed to know what he likes or not? They keep him so drugged he can hardly think!’

‘Not always. Only when he’s so agitated that he’s gonna be a danger to himself or others’.

Starsky ignored him. ‘An’ that fuckin’ jacket? Why use that? He’s a man, not an animal. I’ve had one of those things on, remember? When we were lookin’ out for Matwick? It’s a punishment, not a treatment!’ he groaned as the pains started in his stomach again and rested back against the sofa. ‘I just want to be there with him’ he finished softly. ‘I just want to help’.

‘And you will. I made Epstein promise that he’d discuss all Hutch’s treatment with ya. He said he was gonna ring this afternoon’.


Hutch dreamed of his partner. They were on the top of a high mountain and they were looking down on clouds and the brunet was standing by his side, his arm draped around his shoulders. They were together like they always should be. But as he turned to his partner and started to say something, far off he heard a dog barking and before his very eyes an unknown force dragged his buddy bodily away. He yelled for Starsky to stay with him. He felt lonely; cast adrift on a sea of uncertainty and forlornness and he needed his friend to help him. But as he stretched out his hand to reach for the calming brunet presence, the smaller man’s body disappeared and he was left alone again. As he looked around desperately looking for his buddy, he screamed out Starsky’s name …… and shook himself awake.

Forgetting his own injuries, Hutch leapt out of bed, tripping over the cast on his leg. He landed with an oomph on the floor and staggered to his feet, throwing himself at the door of his room. It was still locked and he started to hammer on it, yelling for someone to come and let him out. Starsky was in danger. He’d heard that fuckin’ dog again and that always meant someone would get hurt. He hated it’s yapping barking. It wouldn’t shut up and the sound beat at his ears just as his fists beat against the dumb wood of the door.

‘Help! Let me outs here. C’mon. Someone let me ooouuuuuttt’ he yelled at the plain wooden door, continuing to beat against it until his hands were sore and the wound on his side opened again and started to bleed in a thin trickily line down his side.

And still he didn’t stop his yelling. He was desperate to get out. They were after them. They were coming and the dog was gonna tell them where he was. He couldn’t save Starsky and he couldn’t save the women and kids if that bloody dog wouldn’t keep quiet!

Suddenly the door pushed inwards and Epstein and two orderlies rushed at him. As the two big men took a hold of him under each arm and dragged him back to the bed, Epstein kept up a steady low murmur.

‘Hutch, try and stay calm. Hutch….listen to my voice, calm…breathe….no, don’t struggle, you’re hurting yourself. Stop that, no….’

The orderlies had him on the bed now and despite their presence, the blond continued to thrash about his mind still telling him that they were chasing him and his partner. With a sigh, Epstein once again produced a syringe and plunged it into the muscle of the flaxen haired man’s upper arm. Hutch whimpered, not at the pain, but at the feeling of once again becoming powerless. Tears formed in his eyes and he tried to focus on the doctor as he felt the sullen heaviness starst to wash through his limbs.

‘Starsky….. wanna see Starsk. Please? Just lemme see him doc…Wanna see….. Starsssssk’ the drug took effect and he fought against it’s soporific effect as the orderlies set about making sure the big blond didn’t hurt himself any more. When they’d finished and he was safe, a nurse came by to re-stitch the wound on the sedated man’s side while the doctor made his way back to his office. He picked up the telephone and called a number, waiting until it picked up.

‘Detective Starsky? How are you? Um….. Ken has been getting a little fractious. He isn’t making the progress we need to see and I’m considering another form of treatment. Could you come back to the hospital this afternoon? I’m wondering if he might respond to you. If not, I think we need to consider ECT’.

Chapter 4

Starsky limped down the corridor to Epstein’s office no more than an hour after he’d received the telephone call. The doctor had sounded anxious on the phone, but even if he hadn’t, the brunet would have leapt at the chance of having some time with his big blond partner. Now he knocked on the door and entered when asked to do so. The doctor looked up as he came in and eased himself into the chair by the desk. It had been a long first day out of the hospital and he was sore and ached more than he was prepared to let on. But at least he was one step closer to being with Hutch.

‘You wanted to see me Doc?’ he asked. Just like always. Straight to the point.

‘I’ll not pussy foot around Detective. We had hoped that Hutch might have calmed a little at seeing you, but if anything it seems to have worked the opposite way. He wants you with him and to be honest I have no idea whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The only fact I have is that he won’t rest till he sees you’.

‘Well lead me to him’ the brunet said, making as though to get out of the chair.

‘Before you do David…..May I call you David?’

The cop nodded.

‘Before you do, there’s something you ought to know. He still hasn’t come to terms with what happened to you both out there. His mind has shut down to everything apart from the presence of a dog. Do you remember that?’

‘There wasn’t a dog there so far as I can remember. But there again I wasn’t exactly rowin’ with both oars’.

‘That’s as I thought’ Epstein nodded. ‘He still has a way to go, but maybe you being with him will help. I’d like you to chat with him. Nothing in particular and don’t force him to talk about the incident. But if he starts to talk about it himself, let him. Don’t prompt him ok?’


‘It may be that he’ll start to remember if you’re with him. But if not….’

‘If not what Doc?’ Starsky heard the hesitation in the small man’s voice.

‘If not, we’ll have to try something more radical’.

They got up to leave and the brunet followed Epstein slowly down the corridors to Hutch’s room. At the door the small doctor stopped him and reiterated his instructions.

‘Don’t force things David. Let him talk about what he wants to talk about ok? And um….don’t be alarmed, we’ve had to take precautions. He was getting violent again’.

Starsky nodded curtly and the orderly with them jangled a set of keys and opened the door to the room. The curly haired cop walked in to the warm dimness of the single bedded room and stopped as he heard the keys in the lock behind him. If the hadn’t been locked in he would have bounced outside again for an explanation. But all things being equal, he was just happy to be with his partner again.

Hutch turned his head sideways at the sliver of light coming in from the door. He had no idea how long he’d been lying there this time although he did remember with some alarm the incident that had led up to his latest sedation. The dream had been all too real and the pain he felt at his buddy’s absence was like a huge weight on his chest. His body felt stiff from being confined so long and he pulled fitfully at the sheepskin lined leather medical restraints holding his wrists and ankles to the bed. Hutch squinted at the person in his room and then let his head sag back against the pillow with a quiet sigh.

In two strides Starsky was across the room and at the side of his friend, cursing that Hutch had been once again tied down like some kind of animal. He leaned over the bed and the crystal blue, slightly fogged eyes looked up at him.


‘Yeah buddy, its me. How’re ya doin’ huh?

‘M’sore an’ I’m scared’ the blond’s normally velvety voice rasped at him through lips cracked and dry.

‘What happened?’ Starsky asked gently. He reached for the glass on the nightstand and held it to Hutch’s lips as he supported his friends head with his other hand.

‘Dunno. Don’t know anythin’ anymore. I’m losin’ it buddy, I know I am. I just wanna get outa here’.

‘I know ya do. An’ you will. Just as soon as….’

‘As I stop actin’ like a crazy man?’ the golden face cracked into a shadow of a grin.

‘I was gonna say as soon as ya get well’ Starsky grinned back. ‘What did ya do? Why the….. ‘ he couldn’t bear to mention the restraints and instead waggled his finger in their general direction.

‘I got mad’. There was a lost quality to Hutch’s voice and a dull listless look in his eyes that tugged at Starsky’s heart.

‘Well ya don’t need ‘em now, do ya?’ Starsky made a move towards the wrist restraint and instinctively Hutch drew back.

‘No….yeah…..dunno. Don’t. What if I….. ya know?’

‘Act like a crazy man?’ the brunet snorted. ‘Jeez Hutch I’ve been ridin’ around in that junk heap car of yours for over ten years. How much crazier could ya be?’ His hands worked at the buckles holding Hutch’s wrists and ankles to the bed frame and moments later he took his partner’s right wrist in his hands and gently massaged the feeling back into it. The blond hissed softly at the returning circulation and hitched himself higher up on the bed until he was sitting propped against the pillows. After laying down flat for almost 6 hours, he felt light headed and dizzy and it took him a moment to gather his wits to him.

‘I like my cars’ he said, the ghost of the old Hutchinson making a reappearance now that he was almost upright.

‘I know buddy. But ya can hardly call ‘em cars. Moving rust buckets is what they are’.

‘Don’t mock the afflicted’ the blond responded with a snort. ‘So what’s happenin’ in the big wide world?’

Starsky blew out his cheeks. ‘Don’t rightly know. I got kinda holed up in Memorial for a week or so. I’m just playin’ catch up myself. What’s happenin’ in here?’

‘Well they got rid of the Annual Cabrillo Cockroach Derby’.

‘Yeah? Damn, that was a real money maker. They should’a left it alone’.

‘An’ the drugs are nice an’ cosy. I think they over ordered on the Thorazine’ the flaxen haired man said bitterly as he rubbed absently at his upper arm. ‘I shouldn’t be here Starsk. Get me out huh?’

‘I will. But ya have to start rememberin’ what went on Blondie. Otherwise….’

‘What? Otherwise what?’

‘Otherwise they want to try sumthin else. Just try to remember back. What do ya remember of the case huh? Think’’ Starsky urged even though he knew Epstein had told him not to push.

Hutch rested his head back on the pillow, his brow etched into a deep V as he concentrated hard. He sighed. ‘OK. Last case. There was a farmhouse……… ‘

Hutch tried to cast his mind back to their assignment. He felt like he was forcing it though a barrier of cotton wool. The drugs still in his system made him feel disassociated as though he’d been asleep for years and had suddenly woken up to face an examination. His side stung fiercely where the nurse had re-stitched the wound and for the life of him he couldn’t remember how he’d got it.

As Starsky sat quietly by the side of the bed, Hutch forced his mind back over the previous days and hesitantly he began to talk.

‘I remember we went to the farmhouse. I’d gone there first an’ I was well in with the head honcho, Mariposa. He seemed to like the fact that I could act good and tough. I was there a week before you showed up?’ Hutch looked up and saw his partner nodding encouragingly.

‘Yeah, I’d made my way over the border and found a likely group of women and children. The ones I got in with included a couple of women with babies. One of ‘em couldn’t have been more’n 3 or 4 months old. They didn’t want to take her at first. I guess they knew she wouldn’t be much use down the mine. But she made a real fuss. She was so scared an’ she clung to one of the other women until they were kinda forced to take her an’ the kid or leave the group. So then we set off through the night and ended up at the farmhouse’.

‘Yeah. I remember that. I remember that first mornin’ and you getting’ down from that damned truck. I don’t think I’ve ever been as pleased to see ya in my whole life. I hate it when I don’t know where you are buddy. It makes me edgy. Like this last week. I didn’t know where ya were. An’ no-one would tell me. It was like you’d……‘ the blond looked away feeling absurdly emotional.

‘Like I’d what?’’ Starsky asked quietly

Hutch turned his eyes full onto the brunet and smiled crookedly. ‘Like you were dead’ he murmured softly.

Starsky cleared his throat in an attempt to swallow down the lump that had lodged there. He couldn’t imagine what it would have been like for the big blond to be alone, drugged for most of the time and with no-one telling him what had been going on. They’d done it for his own good, but still, the treatment seemed somehow barbaric. He could only think how it would have been for him and the thought left him shivering. He squeezed his partner’s hand

‘Well I aint. I got a little nick in me an’ I’m fine now’ he said, playing down the .22 bullet that had been surgically removed from his side. ‘Go on, what else d’ya remember?’

Hutch sighed and closed his eyes, the farmhouse coming into sharper focus in his head.

‘Ok. We were there for a few days together right? You were on the wood detail an’ I was…… The horse was cute. I liked the horse. It didn’t have a name. Mariposa laughed at me when I asked what it was called, so I named it. I called it Shadow, coz I felt like it was my shadow every time I went out. Horses are great. They don’t ask questions an’ they aren’t two faced. They just accept you for what you are and to hell with the consequences. Like dogs. They’re good too…… But the horse – Shadow. I think it liked me as much as I liked it. Do ya like horses Starsk? No, course ya don’t….’ Hutch realised he was rambling but it felt good to be having a conversation – any conversation that didn’t entail “how are you feeling” or “why do you feel like that”. Just a few minutes of normality with his buddy to make him feel like a member of the human race again. He sighed and listed to Starsky’s soft snort.

‘Horses? Only the ones under the hood of a car Blintz. The rest are too unpredictable for me’.

‘Yeah. You an’ your cars huh? Anyhow. Me an’ the horse, Shadow hit it off an’ then you were there. I really wanted to give ya a ride on that horse Starsk. In the evenin’ when you looked so beat from all that work. But I couldn’t of course. I hated that….. I hated the whole set up – the conversations they had at night. Mariposa’s men treated the Mexicans like dirt even though they were their own countrymen. I couldn’t believe it, but I had to keep quiet and I hated that too. I hated…. ‘ Hutch sighed and looked at his friend. ‘I don’t wanna go undercover any more. I can’t do this time after time. It’s too much. It takes too much effort to pretend to be someone I’m not. An’ then to have to watch your back without lookin’ like I’m watchin’ your back. That kills me. That’s the killer Starsk. Seein’ you hurtin’ and not bein’ able to do a fuckin’ thing about it’.

‘But ya did watch my back buddy. I’m here aren’t I? M’sorry I wasn’t here earlier but…. ‘

Hutch smiled sadly. ‘I wish you’d been here before too. You could’ve told Dr Frankenstein that I wasn’t crazy. I’m not ya know. I’m not crazy. I just can’t remember and that aint crazy, is it? It’s just when I start thinkin’ about…..’

Starsky patted the blond's arm. 'S'ok Pal. Honest. We'll get throught his together huh?'

Hutch smiled wanly and closed his eyes. 'Sure... how much Thorazine did they force into you today?'

Chapter 5

‘What? Are you rememberin’ more?’ Starsky asked gently

‘No, not really. I just….. Whenever I think about it, my guts twist up. I know something bad went down. I just can’t remember it. Tell me…. please?’

‘I can’t buddy. For the last part of it I was….. Well, you were lookin’ after me. You were watchin’ my back Hutch, like ya always have. Just try an’ make yourself remember. What did Epstein say? Relax an’ it’ll come back’.

‘Relax huh?’ the blond snickered. ‘With all the Thorazine swimmin’ round in my blood I can’t do nothin’ but relax! OK, so, we were at the farmhouse an’ every day I was on escort detail and the women and kids went to the mines. Until that one day. I remember you tried to get a word to me and as you stopped for your lunch, you asked for permission to take a comfort break' the blond's face creased into a shadow of a smile at the memory. 'That was cute’

‘Don’t get used to it Blondie’ Starsky growled good naturedly. ‘I was so pissed at the situation that if the watcher had been anyone but you I’d have taken ‘em out right there an’ then’.

‘Yeah. I could see that. It was in your eyes, kinda “follow me” and I made some excuse and met you around the back of a convenient bush. You told me she’d been murdered – the woman - I remember your words “The bastards murdered her, I swear it. She was fine last night” and I asked if anyone had seen it. You told me you heard somethin but….’.

‘But I was so shit tired in those days I was almost dead to the world. By the time I’d opened my eyes, whoever did it was long gone. And I told you we had to move coz there’s no way I can stand by an’ watch any more of this’.

Hutch’s eyes were still focused on the past, his mind adding some clarity to the fuzzy memories now and he took up the story again. ‘That day we didn’t go to the forest did we? That day, we had to bury her. And you and the other two Mexicans were herded along to dig her grave’.

‘Yeah that’s about the size of it’ Starsky agreed. ‘She was so damned thin. I could hardly understand how she’s lasted so long. And they just wrapped her body in a blanket and slung her into the hole we dug. After that we went back to the farmhouse and…..’.

Hutch continued the story, his eyes a little brighter. ‘Yeah, when we got back the women were so devastated that Mariposa didn’t send ‘em to the mine did he? He let them have a days rest and I managed to sneak into the barn. I told him I was gonna check on you coz I had you nailed as a trouble maker an’ he laughed. And that’s when we formulated the plan to get them out’.

‘Yeah, that’s right buddy. See you can do this’ the brunet encouraged.

‘Yeah, it’s comin’ back to me. See, I told Epstein I’d be fine when you got here. The creep didn’t believe me. He didn't understand what we've been through before. So. We had the emergency meetin’ in the barn and we decided we had to go that night. I was gonna meet back with you at midnight an’ we were gonna smuggle them all out and into the forest. We figured once we were hiding there we could hole ‘em up some place safe an’ one of us could hot foot it for help. I tried to get Shadow, but he was makin’ too much noise an’ I went back to the farmhouse and laid low for a couple of hours’.

‘Midnight came an’ I managed to sneak outa the house and out to the barn an’ you had the group all ready for the off an’ we managed to get everyone out. And then that damned dog barked an there was a light on in the farmhouse. I heard ‘em getting’ up an I was urgin’ the women on’.

Starsky furrowed his brow. Dog? He hadn’t heard a dog. But Hutch seemed to be doing so well that he decided to keep his counsel and let the blond continue.

‘So we all managed to get outa the barn an’ things were fine. But there was a lot of open ground between the barn and the start of the forest an’ some of the kiddies couldn’t run too fast. I picked up the baby an’ you took one of the little girls an’ we ran full tilt across the fields an’ hit the tree line just as we heard the first shots bein’ fired. The dog was with us an’ it was barkin’. I couldn’t shut it up. It was next to me an’ I couldn’t shut the fuckin’ thing up!’

‘Dog? What dog?’ Starsky asked quietly.

‘The dog that was makin’ all the noise. The one that I couldn’t shut up. You remember. It was barkin’ and it was gonna give us all away. Mariposa would have shot every one of those women and kids if he could have done, an’ I was desperate to make that dog shut up, but it wouldn’t’.

Starsky was thoroughly confused, but still, Epstein had said to let the blond remember and so he remained silent.

‘I remember there were shots. They knew where we were an’ they were comin’ afterwards and we were trying to get the group further into the forest. It was dark, an’ if we could’ve got further in we could’ve hidden better. I remember you ran ahead and you were hissin’ at ‘em to break up and head for the deeper forest and then….. Oh my God, they shot ya. I remember they shot ya and the dog was barkin’ and growlin’ and I couldn’t shut the fuckin’ thing up. It was tellin’ ‘em where we were. You were down. Ya had a bullet in your side I remember now. Are you ok Starsk? That why you were in the hospital?’.

Starsky nodded slowly. ‘Yeah. M’fine now. They took the slug out no problem. An’ look how much you’re rememberin’ huh? Keep goin’ Blintz, you’re doin’ fine. What else?’

‘Ok. You went down. There was like a strangled scream an’ you were clutchin’ at your side and I could hear ‘em comin’. They were getting’ closer an’ I knew I had to keep ‘em away from the women and kids an’ I wanted to protect you. But that dog just kept on and on and it was like a homin’ beacon. I couldn’t see the group any more. They’d done a real good job of hidin’ so there was just me an’ you and that dog. You were bleedin’ bad and you were unconscious as I ducked up I….’

Hutch’s hand went to his own side and wrapped protectively around the fresh white dressing. ‘They were getting’ closer and I took one too. Almost same place you’d got hit. I felt it an’ at the same time the dog went crazy. It was makin’ so much noise an’ I knew Mariposa couldn’t see exactly where we were, it was too dark, so I….. Oh my God, no. Don’t make me remember this. Starsk, I don’t want to….’

The brunet put his hand on his partner’s shoulder. Hutch was sweating now and his thin frame was shaking violently. The clarity in his crystal blue eyes was going and it was rapidly being replaced by panic and madness. ‘Ssh, s’ok Hutch. C’mon buddy, ya can do this. Just one step further an’ you’re there. Just one, that’s it. We can do this together’ Starsky murmured, keeping a firm hold on the blond’s shoulders.

Hutch stared at him, terror written in every line of his face. ‘Starsk, I killed it! I put my hand over its muzzle to shut it up. It was strugglin’ against me, an I kept a hold of its mouth so as it couldn’t bark. An’ then slowly it stopped strugglin’ and it didn’t make another noise’. Tears formed in those same crystal blues and flowed shamelessly down his face. ‘I killed it an’ you made me remember. Why’d ya make me remember that? Huh? Are ya tryin’ to be cruel?’

With a lurch, Hutch pushed his partner away from him and in surprise Starsky staggered backwards, losing his balance until he fell sprawling on the floor. In an instant Hutch was on him, straddling his body as he pinned the brunet’s arms above his head with one hand while he punched at the curly head with the other. Madness leant the blond strength and Starsky had no chance to fight him off as the fist ploughed into his face for a second time. He grunted.

‘Utch…..hey, c’mon’ he managed to gasp as he ducked the next blow. It grazed his cheek, but he was rapidly losing his fight while Hutch was consumed in his madness.

‘You made me remember. You made me fuckin’ remember. Why? Why?’ the blond yelled over and again as he continued his attack.

Finally the door burst open and Epstein and two nurses rushed in, alerted by the CCTV in the corner of the room. They grabbed the blond bodily and hauled him away from Starsky who was on his feet in an instant.

‘Don’t hurt him, he didn’t mean it’ he yelled at the doctor. ‘don’t give him nuthin else, I can deal with this, Doc…don’t do that, don’t give him….aww shit!’ the brunet let his arms drop to his sides as he saw Epstein plunge yet another needle into Hutch’s arm. The orderlies held on to the still thrashing body until the tremors and shakes and the yelling started to subside and once the patient was quiet, the doctor nodded to the two big men and they left.

‘Doc he was rememberin’, for the most part. Why’d ya have to do that?’

‘Because he would have hurt you and because he still has a long way to go. Was there a dog?’ Epstein asked quietly.

The brunet shook his head slowly. ‘No. No dog’ he said sadly.

‘Then he still doesn’t want to remember fully. He can’t. He’s still too traumatised. His brain is blocking the memories and until that block releases, he’ll have to remain here. I had thought that maybe having him tell the story to you would help and it did to a certain extent. But not enough. This evening, we’ll try the Electro shock. It’ll be the best for him, believe me’.

As the doctor left the room, Starsky sat on the edge of the bed and cupped his partner’s face in his hand, wiping away the residual tears with his thumb. The blond was slumped against the pillows, his head hanging so that his chin rested on his chest, the picture of exhaustion. His chest rose and fell in staccato rhythm as his sobs abated and as Starsky put his hand up, he felt an answering pressure as Hutch snuggled against it.

'M'ssssorrryy' he sighed. 'Hurts...I hurt ya...didn't mean t...sorry'.

‘S’ok buddy. We’ll get through this. Just try an’ fight your way back huh? I miss ya’.

Hutch struggled against the drugs to open his eyes and a half smile creased his face. ‘Sssstarssssk. Scared. Don’t gooooo’ he sighed before the drug claimed him fully and with another sigh he drifted into a drug fogged sleep.

Chapter 6

‘I need someone with power of attorney who can sign the consent form’ Epstein said as he took the rattled brunet back to his office. Starsky glowered at him as though he’d grown two heads.

‘You want me to do it? No way Doc. There’s no way I’m lettin’ you take a bash at his brain with electricity. It’s barbaric!’

‘I don’t think you understand the severity of Hutch’s situation David. The longer he’s trapped in this reality, the less able he will be to find his way out. It’s like he’s making a new world for himself to live in – a more comfortable world. But as he builds it, other pieces of his life won’t fit in it properly and he’ll start to lose his mind for sure’.

‘You mean he’ll go crazy for real?’

‘Yes, I’m afraid so. You saw what he was like just now’.

Starsky shook his head slowly. ‘Ya don’t understand Doc. That wasn’t for real. He wouldn’t have really hurt me. He was just scared. He was doin’ so well. He almost remembered’.

‘He remembered killing a dog David. It’s not the same thing, is it?’

Starsky got up and paced the small office, running his fingers through his hair in agitation. ‘No, but he’s so close. Please don’t do this to him. I can’t sign for permission to have ya do that to him. I can’t an’ I won’t’ the brunet said with finality as he glared at the doctor.

‘If you don’t, I can always have him committed to the care of the state. Then we can do whatever we deem necessary to make him well. Would you want that? You’d have no control over his treatment at all if that happened. At least this way you have some control left. And the right to visit’.

‘You’re tellin’ me I have a choice. Either I sign for the electroshock an’ I get the joy of seein’ his brain fry, or I don’t sign an’ I won’t be allowed to visit? Jeez! What the hell sorta choice is that?’ the curly haired cop yelled angrily.

‘That’s how it is’ Epstein replied calmly. ‘Your choice, but at the end of it, Hutch needs to get better’.

‘Granted but….. Can I see him? Can I at least talk to him about it?’

The doctor nodded. ‘Of course you can see him again. He should be a lot calmer now, but as for discussing it. He’s a mental health patient in a state facility. As such, he has no right to say what does or doesn’t happen to him’.

The sable haired man glared. His partner of all those years; the man who’d saved his life time and again; the cerebral, caring blond reduced to a nothing. A number on the door of a small featureless room – the “memory case” in bed 6. Starsky wanted to yell at the doctor. He wanted to shout at the whole lot of them to leave Hutch alone and let him take his partner home. But he couldn’t. The only choice he had was to sign the consent form for the treatment. But by God he’d be with Hutch every step of the way. If the blond had to endure the treatment, Starsky would damn well be there to witness it. There was no way on God’s green earth that he’d allow his buddy to go through that on his own. He sighed heavily. ‘Fine. Gimme the form an’ then let me go back to him huh? When are ya gonna do it?’

‘Well, tonight. This will be the first of at least a dozen treatments unless by some miracle the first one works right away’.

Starsky signed his name with a heavy heart and stood up, stormy indigo eyes focused on the small Doctor. ‘I’ll sign for one treatment. If it don’t work, ya find sumthin else. I aint gonna let ya near him again unless ya can prove to me its helpin’. Got that?’

‘Yes, I’ve got it. Just go back and be with him. We’ll be ready for the treatment in about an hour’.

Starsky limped back along the corridors slowly, wondering how he was going to break the news to his partner. How would he feel if the situation were reversed? Powerless? Angry? Scared? All those things and more besides he supposed. He paused outside the door to Hutch’s room and composed himself before pushed it open and walking calmly inside.

Hutch was hovering between sleep and wakefulness. He remembered what he’d done and was ashamed and concerned he may have hurt Starsky and as the curly haired man walked in he turned his head away, not yet ready to meet those piercing indigo eyes.

‘Hey buddy’ Starsky said softly, not wanting to startle the man in the bed. The restraints were once more in place and the sight angered the brunet, but he kept his voice light and calm. ‘How’re ya doin’?’

Hutch forced himself to speak through the drugged haze. ‘M crazy….. go fffigure’.

Starsky sat down on the edge of the bed, careful to avoid his buddy’s restrained hands. He reached for the buckles of the leather but Hutch tried to jerk his hand away. ‘Don’t’

Starsky looked up. ‘What? I’m only gonna unbuckle it’ he said softly.

‘Well don’t’ Hutch said shortly. It was an effort to talk. The drugs made him feel heavy and lifeless, as though everything was too much effort – conversation included.

‘Why not? They’re uncomfortable an’ they’re….. ‘

‘Just leave ‘em. Don’t …… wanna hurt ya again’.

‘Aww babe. You didn’t hurt me. You were scared an’ upset. But ya did so well. You were really beginnin’ to remember. You aren’t crazy, you’re just scared’.

‘I hit ya….. ‘m not safe’.

‘Course you’re safe. You’re just not yourself right now. Who would be after everythin’ that happened?’

‘You. You’re not in here whacked up with drugs an’ tied to a bed’.

‘No, but I didn’t go though what you went though’ the brunet said softly.

‘Well tell me what I went through an’ then I can get outs here’ Hutch yelled, his eyes wide and wild. He stared at his partner for a moment then closed his eyes and shook his head on the pillow. ‘Shit! I need help’ Hutch’s voice was small and he turned his head away again, refusing to look the brunet in the eyes.

‘Do ya mean that buddy?’

‘What?’ the word was muffled by distance and the pillow.

‘That you need help’.

‘Yeah’ again a sigh more than a word.

‘If you really mean that, then help’s on its way. Doc Epstein wants to try a treatment’ Starsky said cautiously.

The flaxen haired patient turned his head back and V’d his brows. ‘What sort?’

‘I won’t kid ya. It’s a doozy, but I’ll be there with ya all the way, I promise’.

Hutch read the look of sympathy and….. horror? on his partner’s face, his heart beginning to beat wildly despite the tranquilizers in his bloodstream. ‘Tell me’.

‘Ok, he wants to do some ECT. In fact he’s adamant. I tried to talk him out of it Hutch. God knows I tried, but ya know what these places are like …… an’ who knows, maybe it’ll work’ Starsky said, as though trying to convince himself rather than the blond.

‘ECT? You mean electro shock? Fuck! No. Please don’t let ‘em Starsk….. please? I can do this. I can remember, I can. I know I can’ Hutch pulled at his wrist restraints, his body writhing on the bed as he tried to pull away.

Starsky reached up and ran his hand over his partner’s brow, unsure what else to do. ‘Don’t struggle babe, you’ll hurt yourself. Sssh….. c’mon, just breathe huh? Like the Doc said. Breathe in…. an’ out…. Good. That’s good’ he murmured, his hand rubbing small comforting circles on his buddy’s shoulder.

Hutch trembled beneath him. ‘M scared Starsk’ he said softly.

‘I know you are buddy. But the Doc says its all done under a general anaesthetic an’ ya won’t feel nuthin. Promise’.

‘Yeah…. I know. But still…… ‘ Crystal blue eyes turned imploringly to his partner. ‘When?’

‘Soon buddy, soon. They want to do the first treatment tonight’.

‘Shit. Don’t leave me Starsk’ the blond sounded so much like a little boy that the brunet almost smiled. Almost, but the seriousness of the situation stopped him.

‘Wild horses Pal, wild horses…..’.

Their conversation was cut short by the doctor and two orderlies walking into the room. Epstein crossed to the bed and looked down at his patient. ‘Are we ready Hutch?’ he asked calmly.

The blond looked at his partner then back at the doctor. ‘Do I have a choice?’

Epstein merely smiled and as the two big men unbuckled the restraints and lifted Hutch bodily onto a gurney, the blond looked around wildly for his friend. Starsky grabbed a hold of his hand as large leather straps were fastened over his chest and legs. Starsky closed his eyes. This was the worst part – seeing his friend and partner reduced to the state of a criminal or an animal, tethered at every opportunity. He squeezed Hutch’s hand reassuringly, feeling the blond’s body shaking with fear. Hutch closed his eyes, trying to contain his growing anxiety and he turned his head away, refusing to let the brunet see the pain written in each line on his face as the gurney was wheeled away down the operating room.

At the door of the white, antiseptic room Epstein stopped the gurney and turned to Starsky. ‘You’ll have to remain here. There’s a viewing window around the corner. You can wait there’ he said.

The brunet leaned over his partner and tried to smile. ‘I’ll be right here partner. Aint goin’ nowhere’ he whispered.

Hutch licked his dry lips. ‘See ya on the other side?’ he said softly as the gurney was wheeled inside the room.

With a heavy heart, Starsky walked around to the window Epstein had told him about. He could clearly see what was going on and thankfully, Hutch could still see him through the window. The blond looked around wildly, his heart hammering now that the comforting presence of the brunet had gone. He hated this. He hated the whole lot of them and as his eyes rested on the small generator he gave a strangled moan, thrashing against the restraints on the gurney. It was only when he heard an insistent knocking that he looked around and his eyes locked on Starsky’s. Separated as they were by the pane of glass, it didn’t stop the blond from feeling somehow calmer and as he felt the nip of the cannula being inserted into the back of his hand, he tried to relax, his eyes never leaving his partner’s face as Starsky gazed back at him. a nurse pulled down the neck of the scrubs top, cleaned a patch on his chest with alcohol and slapped on sticky pads, attaching leads from the pads to a heart monitor. The blip on the screen jumped to life and traced a racing path across the small screen indicating the state of the blond's anxiety.

The clinical team of Epstein and an anaesthetist gathered around the terrified blond and Hutch tried to calm his breathing as the same nurse swabbed his temples with another alcohol soaked pad and then applied some kind of gel. He could see the electrodes in Epstein’s hand and he tried not to think about them and the blazing pain they’d cause as the volts were shot through his head. He knew he’d be under. He knew he wouldn’t feel anything. But they still terrified him and it took all his concentration not to cry out and struggle. Instead he bit down on his bottom lip until another nurse amiled down at him. She had something in her hands and as the flaxen haired man looked at it, he winced.

'Just open your mouth for me' she said as she gently inserted a rubber strap into his mouth. ‘It’s to bite down on’ she told him kindly. ‘We wouldn’t want you to break those lovely teeth during the treatment’.

Hutch closed his eyes, the whole thing being too much for him. With the leather straps still holding him to the gurney, the leads attaching him to the monitors and the rubber wedged into his mouth he felt objectified and less than human. he wanted to thrash and struggle but he knew it was no good and thankfully, as he felt the cold liquid flow into the back of his hand, he welcomed the anaesthetic that floated him away to oblivion.

Outside the room, Starsky tried to keep his face impassive, but as Epstein injected something else into the cannula and applied the electrodes to his partner's temples, he balled his hands into fists, riling silently at the unfairness of the whole thing.

As the current started to flow through the two metal clamps on his partner’s head, Hutch’s whole body arched off the gurney, straining at the straps still holding him down. His hands clawed and his toes curled under as his tendons stood out in knots over his body. Sweat beaded over his unconscious body and his lips drew back as his teeth clenched on the rubber strap, the whole process looking intensely painful. Starsky sent up a silent prayer thanking God for the sleeping drug.

And then it was over. The blond body sagged limp and almost lifeless back against the white sheets as the current stopped and the rubber gag slipped from between his teeth. Hutch looked peaceful and as the doctors checked him over, Epstein turned and gave the brunet a thumbs up.

But while Hutch would be given time to recover, Starsky felt as though he would vomit where he stood. The shock of seeing the treatment was too much for him and he staggered away from the window and sank back against the far wall of the corridor until he was sitting, knees bent and back against the wall. And there and then he promised himself that whatever the outcome, he would not allow the blond to endure that treatment ever again.

Chapter 7

Starsky levered himself to his feet and followed the gurney as Epstein and a nurse wheeled that and the precious cargo of his partner’s body out of the OR and back along the winding corridors to his room. Once there, the brunet helped to move his buddy back onto his bed and cover him with a sheet. This time there was no need for the medical restraints still attached to the bedframe. This time, Hutch was dead to the world, limp and lifeless and terribly pale. Starsky rested a hand on a body covered only by a pair of white scrubs and a single white sheet and sighed.

Epstein checked Hutch’s pulse, temperature, respirations and blood pressure and recorded his findings on his chart. He turned to the brunet with a smile.

‘He’ll sleep for a while now. You should get some rest. He’ll be tired when he comes round’.

Starsky snorted softly. ‘Tired? You electrocuted him, course he’s gonna be tired!’ he backed down a little, easing the tension from his shoulders and back. ‘How’s he doin’?’

Epstein nodded for the curly haired cop to sit down and Starsky pulled up a chair until he was sitting down by the side of Hutch’s bed. With one hand resting on his buddy’s arm and the other wrapped protectively round his middle where his bullet wound was aching unmercifully he glared angrily at the medic.

‘There’s some things you should know about the treatment David. When he comes round, there are some side effects you should watch out for. The first is that he’s likely to have a headache – a bad one. It’s usual and nothing to worry about’.

‘Headache huh? Wonder why that is….. Could it be coz ya just wired him up to the national grid?’ Starsky ground his teeth together fighting for composure. He knew the facility was doing what they considered right to help his buddy, but it was still tough to deal with. ‘M’sorry. I’m wired Doc. It aint every day ya get to witness your closest friend bein’ zapped’.

‘I know, it’s tough. But rest assured he won’t have known anything about it. He won’t have felt any pain’.

‘You know that for sure? It looked…. barbaric. Aint no way I’ll sign a consent for that again Doc. If this don’t work you’re gonna have to find some other way. Or I’ll take him home an’ do this myself if I have to, but you’re not takin’ him through that again’.

Epstein smiled at the sable haired man’s determination. ‘We can see if this works first. I was telling you about the side effects. Headache is one, and we’ve already given him some pain meds through his drip to ease that. He may get a slight fever too and we can handle that if it happens also. But the one side effect you might find the most disconcerting is that his memory may have been affected’.

‘Memory? Whoa. This treatment was supposed to help his memory, not make it worse!’ Starsky’s voice rose angrily

Epstein put up his hand in a conciliatory gesture. ‘And it should. But in the short term, patients can experience problems with their short term memories or in some cases .…. in some cases they can lose certain portions of their memory completely’ he finished in a rush.

‘You’re tellin’ me this now? Jeez Doc! How much memory? How long would that last?’

Epstein swallowed. ‘Sometimes the loss is permanent’ he said softly, waiting for the bomb to explode in the small room.

The brunet ran his hands through his thatch of curls and squeezed his eyes shut. What had he signed Hutch up to? What had he condemned his partner to? Shit, why hadn’t Epstein told him all this before? He looked up angrily and rose as though pulled up from the ceiling by strings. He crossed the room in one limping stride and grabbed the small doctor by the lapels of his white coat, glaring at him from no more than 4 inches away.

‘You better hope he don’t lose his memory Doc. Coz if that happens I’m gonna hound ya from now to kingdom come, ya hear me? There ain’t gonna be a breath ya can take or a step ya can make where I’m not gonna be watchin’ ya. I’m a cop. I can make your life a complete misery an’ it’d still be legal’.

Epstein refused to back down. He knew how close these two men were and how much it had hurt the brunet to witness Hutch’s treatment, but he also knew he needed to be truthful with the man. ‘David, I know you’re upset. Believe me I would be too. But this is a tried and trusted method and I’m sure we’ll get some results from this treatment. Now you’re welcome to stay with him. He’ll be confused when he wakes up and a familiar face will make it easier for him. I’ll have them bring a camp bed in here for you. But you need to rest too. I know you’re still healing and I don’t want two patients on my hands’.

Starsky let go of the man and turned away, his shoulders slumped in defeat and his weariness catching up with him. As Epstein walked out of the room, he crossed back to the bed and leaned heavily against it. He reached up and gently moved a bang of dark golden hair from his partner’s forehead and winced at the dark burn on Hutch’s temple. He swore quietly under his breath, looking up sharply as a guy brought a fold away bed into the room.

‘Where’d’ya want this?’ he asked gruffly.

‘Right over here’ Starsky replied and pointed to the side of the bed.

‘Right next to the crazy? the janitor asked.

The brunet fought the urge to grab the man and punch him into the middle of next week. ‘Yeah. Just leave it huh? I’ll deal with it’ he took the bed from the guy who studied him for a moment.

‘Hey, aren’t you that guy? The cop who was here under cover a while back?’ he asked

‘Yeah’ Starsky replied, not really wanting a trip down memory lane.

The janitor looked at the bed and snickered. ‘I remember now. He was posin’ as a nurse wasn’t he?’ Wow, didn’t do him much good. What sent him psycho?’

‘He aint psycho an’ I don’t wanna talk about it’ the brunet snarled as the man backed away.

‘Oookay. Just askin’ Bro. No harm meant. Gimme a shout if he turns nasty an’ I’ll come an’ help’ he said, backing out of the room.

‘Just get out huh?’ the cop hissed savagely and turned his back as he started to get the bed unfolded and made with the pillows and sheets provided. As the lights went out on the corridor at 11:00 pm, he sighed, taking his shoes and socks off and unbuckling his belt. He laid the items on a chair by the other side of the bed and after checking on Hutch once more, he lay down and rested his head back on the pillow.

As he waited in the darkness the janitor’s words rang in his head and his memory took him unwillingly back to that weekend he’d spent as Rudi Skyler.

His first introduction to Cabrillo had been of him running down the corridor, hands manacled to the front of the restraining belt round his waist until he cannoned into his partner, “Nurse Hansen”. He’d bowled Hutch over and muttered that he hadn’t had this much fun since little league, but the fun was short lived as a needle was rammed unceremoniously into his butt and he was pushed back into a wheelchair.

From then on, things went steadily downhill. Then, like now it appeared, Cabrillo’s method of dealing with anything that looked like free thought was to use drugs and sedation to quell unruly behaviour. By the end of the weekend, Starsky’s butt had been the colour of a ripe blueberry and he’d had trouble sitting without the aid of a cushion. At least they’d targeted Hutch’s arm with their Thorazine, although the bruising against the golden skin was still extensive.

Starsky smiled into the darkness as he remembered waking up that first morning to see Hutch’s face looking slightly unfamiliar behind the dorky glasses looking down on him. He’d had a restless night despite the sedation and had jumped at each unfamiliar noise or each time the orderly came in to check on him, shining their torch into his eyes. He hated the lack of privacy – the fact that he’d been made to shower while a nurse watched, just in case he strangled himself with a towel or frothed himself to death on the tiny bar of soap they’d given him.

He smiled again at the choice of books Hutch had brought for him “The Long Goodbye”. It was a joke, he knew, but it left him with a sour taste. He had never felt so alone as when he’d been in that room late at night and he’d only been faking being crazy. He had no idea how Hutch could have endured his incarceration while his mental health was in question. And yet…. No, Hutch wasn’t crazy. He’d been through a trauma no-one should ever have to go through, but he wasn’t crazy!

And then there had been that awful moment when Matwick had found him in his office. He tried hard to keep his “crazy front” going, but by then the doctor know who he was. He remembered distinctly getting down off the filing cabinet and walking slowly into the treatment room. the muzzle of Matwick’s gun had been cold on his bare back, where the tear in his shirt left him uncovered. And then the interminable wait for the mad medic’s new wonder drug as he lay helpless and bound on the operating table. He could identify so much with Hutch as the blond lay bound to the gurney waiting for the ECT. But this time there was no gun toting partner to stop the fun. No knight in shining armour coming rushing down the corridor to save the day. This time there was just a useless brunet staring in through a plate glass window as Hutch’s eyes locked on to his and he was left alone to deal with the terrifying ordeal.

Starsky berated himself for letting them do that to his partner. He just hoped that some good would come out of it, and maybe Hutch would indeed benefit from the barbaric treatment.

His eyes closed and he was just nodding off into a troubled sleep when he heard a muffled noise from the bed by the side of him. Wearily, and groaning softly as he forced his own injured body to cooperate, he swung his legs over the bed and got to his feet.

Hutch’s head was tossing on the pillow, the open burns on his temple leaving dark smears on the white pillow case. Starsky shushed the blond man, cupping the golden cheek in his hand and rubbing the pale skin with his thumb.

‘Ssh, s’ok Hutch. Relax partner. It’s all over with now’ he crooned softly. The head on the pillow stopped and it was evident that Hutch was listening to his words. He kept up the soft convesation as he saw life flow back into his friends face. Hutch wedged his eyes open and licked his dry lips, his mouth trying to form words and a shiver ran though the limp frame. Starsky leaned in.

‘Hey buddy. How’re ya doin’ huh?’ he asked

Slowly the crystal blue eyes closed and then opened, closed then opened again and struggled to focus on the man above him.

‘Hey, there you are’ Starsky smiled warmly. He reached for the glass of water by the bedside and held it to the bond’s lips as Hutch struggled to coordinate himself enough to take a sip. He rested back on the pillow and cleared his throat.

‘What happened?’ he rasped. His jaw ached fiercely and his head felt as though it would explode if he moved it too quickly. He tried to focus on the man in front of him. Why was he led in a bed? Where was he? What had happened? His head was in a whirl and he tried to get his thoughts into some sort of order just as the panic hit. He stiffened in the bed and tried to grab for Starsky’s hand. He caught it and held on tightly as he looked up imploringly, pain and fear mirrored in the crystal depths of his eyes.

‘Who….. who are you?…… and who am I?’ he asked in a frightened , shaking and weak voice.

Chapter 8

Okay, this is ok, I know it is. This is the memory loss thing. This is what Epstein said might happen, Starsky told himself as calmly as he could. He didn’t particularly believe it and knowing about it couldn’t prepare him for it, but while he was trying to calm himself, Hutch was getting more anxious by the minute, his troubled, clouded crystal blue eyes roving wildly round the small bare room and his hands clutching at the hem of the sheet covering him.

‘Where am I?’ he asked, his voice rasping from the anaesthetic and holding an edge of panic. ‘How did I get here?’ he tried ineffectually to get out of the bed and gave a strangled scream as his tortured muscles protested and held him down. The scream ebbed away into a frightened cry and he collapsed back onto the bed. For a moment, as the man in the room with him hovered over him and held him down, Hutch fought weakly, batting the other’s hands away as his face registered alarm,

Starsky took hold of the blond’s hands and held them down as he tried to look into his partner’s eyes, but Hutch was lost, his mind trying to assimilate what had happened and deal with the huge gaps in his memory. Coupled to the confusion, he seemed somehow weaker than before and the brunet eventually stopped fighting and scooped him up into his arms and held him close. He felt the blond body push away once, then stop its fight and rest against him, shaking. Starsky whispered nothing words into Hutch’s shoulder and rubbed soothing circles on Hutch’s back through the thin cotton scrubs.

‘Sssh, s’ok. You’re ok. You’re in a hospital’ he whispered into the sweat matted bangs. ‘I’m here, I got ya partner. Not goin’ anywhere’ he continued. Hutch didn’t try to pull away again, but at the same time there was no immediate connection as there usually was and finally Starsky let go and eased his buddy down onto the bed, trailing his thumb down the worried blond face.

Hutch stared blankly at him, his mind a whirl. He had no idea how he’d gotten into this place, although his body and especially his side and his head hurt terribly. Had he been in some sort of car crash? Or had he been attacked? Was the man by his bedside a friend? Relative? Brother? He felt easy with him; natural as though he’d always been there, and his voice seemed achingly familiar, if only he could remember why. He had no idea and the more he tried to think, the more he felt as though he were being dragged down into an enormous pit of darkness and despair. He licked lips that felt as dry as sandpaper and swallowed his fear down. The man looked friendly enough and seemed to know him somehow. But how? Did he know him well? Did he have answers?

‘Where am I?’ he asked, his heart beating so wildly in his chest that he thought it may bounce right out at any moment.

‘You’re in a hospital. Remember the hospital Blintz?’

Hutch V’d his eyebrows,

‘S’that my name?’ It sounded strange – kinda German. Was he German? Dutch? What?

‘What? Blintz? No! No no no. Your name is Ken. Ken Hutchinson. Your friends call ya Hutch. Don’t ya remember?

‘Hutch?’ The blond rolled the name round his mouth as though somehow tasting it. ‘And you’re a friend?’ Hutch persisted, although in a funny, gut wrenching kind of a way he already knew the answer. It wasn’t there in his head, but it was stored in his heart; in his soul. That memory was becoming clearer. This man was his friend. A very close friend and someone he could trust above all others. Someone who would take care of him. His body relaxed slightly against the bed. Thinking hurt him and he didn’t want to think any more. He wanted to let this man care for him for just a little while, until he could start remembering on his own.

Starsky smiled warmly. ‘Yeah, course I’m your friend. Do you remember anythin’?’ he asked, hoping that there wasn’t too much desperation in his voice. Epstein had said there could be confusion and memory loss, but Starsky was completely unprepared for the sheer extent of it.

Hutch closed his eyes, silently praying that sleep would overtake him and he wouldn’t have to try. He had a feeling of impending doom, as though if he tried too hard to think, he’d start to remember stuff he would never want to think about. Shit! This was heavy. What was he, a criminal or something? And unbidden a vision of handcuffs floated into his head. Was that it? Was he a criminal? Didn’t feel right, but…. He opened his eyes and started to tell the man….. Wait a minute. He couldn’t go on calling the man “the man”. He must have a name.

He gazed at the earnest, handsome face for a moment as the man looked down at him, every inch of that handsome brunet body seeming to urge some memory back into his cotton wool stuffed head.

And as he thought, he got another vision of a red chequered table cloth, a half hunter watch and…… Linguini with clams? How random was that?

One name came unbidden to his lips.

‘Starsky?’ he said uncertainly.

He was rewarded by a huge grin cracking the man’s – Starsky’s – face. ‘Yeah, that’s me. Starsky. That’s great Hutch, really great’.

‘Don’t feel great’ the blond gritted his teeth at the jack hammer steadily drilling through his skull. He felt as though he’d been hit by a pile driver, each and every muscle in his body screaming out for some relief from the unrelenting aches he experienced. He tried to move in the bed and let out a cry as a knife like pain stabbed at his side.

‘What’s the matter with me?’ he asked desperation and fear in his voice. ‘Why am I here. Hurts. Oh God Starsk….. it hurts’. He’d said that before. A jolt like a stab of electricity blew through his system. Those same eyes boring into him, the same feeling of loss and weakness. Shit, had he ever been out of hospital?

‘I know it hurts buddy, an’ the doc left me sumthin for ya to take to make it a bit better’. Gently the brunet raised his partner’s head, slipped two white pills onto his tongue and held a glass of water while Hutch swallowed. The blond spluttered, then sagged back against the pillow.

‘I don’t remember anythin’ he whispered like a frightened little boy. ‘It all black. There’s nothing there…….. Help me?’

‘The Doc said you might come round like this. But he said you should start rememberin’ things pretty soon. Just try an’ get some sleep huh?’

‘Which Doc? You spoke with a doctor?’ Why? What’s wrong with me? What d’ya mean “when I came round”? Have I been sick? Have I…..?’ Hutch closed his eyes, his fear overwhelming as he stared down the long black tunnel of his memory. It was devoid of colour; devoid of light; devoid of anything apart from that one memory of Starsky’s name, although he had no idea how he remembered the man.

‘Sssh. Take it easy buddy. You’re in the hospital coz ya got shot. An’ ya have a broken ankle an’…. Well I’m here with ya an’ I aint gonna leave, ok. Ya just need to sleep an’ things’ll be better in the mornin’.

The effects of the powerful pain killers were beginning to tell on Hutch’s body. His limbs felt heavy and his eyes refused to stay open on their own. And for once he didn’t fight it. For once, the idea of a deep dreamless sleep seemed so seductive that he gave in to its lure whole heartedly. And as he slipped down into the warm embrace of the Nembutal, he felt Starsky’s hand hold his once more. And somehow that felt natural, like it should always have been there. Like it was what always happened. He struggled to turn over onto his side so that if he opened his eyes he could see the brunet whenever he needed to, and within moments he was asleep.

Gently Starsky stroked his partner’s flaxen hair. This was so wrong. Hutch was the strong one. Hutch was the one who looked after him, not the other way around. Starsky doubted himself for a moment. Was he able to do this? Did he have the ability to deal with this? It scared he hell out of him. He hated seeing Hutch suffer in any way. He could just about handle Hutch in pain, although he always had the irrational feeling that whatever had happened should have happened to him instead, but he dealt and sooner or later Hutch recovered. He could chart the blond’s progress of how much pain he was in by how needy he was and then just how snappy he always seemed to get when he was recovering and thought he could do more than he really could. That was how it always was; a natural rhythm that they both fell into.

But this? This was recovery of a whole different league. There was no outward sign of what was going on in that blond head, only the scared, empty look in his partners eyes. And that look scared Starsky far more than any sign of physical pain. Physical pain he could control; he could medicate; he could identify with and he could help his buddy though it. Together. Like they always should be. But this? This wicked robbery of Hutch’s memory – of Hutch - was something he neither understood nor knew how to handle. He felt almost as lost as Hutch did and it scared him witless to see how the big brave blond was reduced to the level of a shambling wreck by the so called "treatment" Cabrillo meted out. Right there and then, he knew he needed to get Hutch out of there. He may not be a psychiatrist, but he knew his partner. And what Hutch needed was familiarity, tenderness and friendship. Not medics wiring him up for the next session of electro shock torture.

Starsky knew there was nothing he could do tonight. The door to Hutch’s room was locked. He was as much of a prisoner as the blond tonight. But tomorrow he’d take the law into his own hands. Epstein was fine. He was a nice man and he surely had the welfare of his patients at heart. But he didn’t know Hutch like Starsky knew him. He didn’t know how to get under the blond’s skin. He didn’t know that Hutch liked Country and Western music while he liked classical; didn’t know Hutch preferred a fillet mignon and green salad while Starsky yearned for Mexican food; that Hutch liked cool crisp sheets on his bed while Starsky preferred warm blankets. No-one knew the blond as well as Starsky did, not even Mr and Mrs Hutchinson, the parents who had disowned their son years ago. Hutch had many friends, but Starsky was the one who was always there. More of a marriage than a police partnership. And while each man had their own lives with no jealousy for each other, their lives were inextricably intertwined. Kick one, the other limped.

And that was how it was now. Hutch was sick and Starsky hurt. And Starsky didn’t like the hurt and he vowed there and then that, by fair means or foul, he would get his buddy out of that hell hole and back to familiar territory if it was the last thing he did.

Chapter 9

Starsky slept fitfully throughout the rest of the night although he was happy to see that his partner was once again clutched in the arms of sleep and had barely moved since he’d got him to take the tablets. He was thankful for that. Tired as the brunet was, and still recovering from his own wounds, he didn’t think he could have withstood another bout of staring into those frightened blue eyes with their accusation and pleading.

Throughout the night Starsky tried to think of something he could do to help Hutch; help him remember and recover. And the only thing he came up with time and again was to get his partner out of Cabrillo and back home. Maybe familiarity would jar him out of his nightmare world and help him on the road to recovery. All he needed to do would be to get over that one huge memory hurdle and he’d be fine. Because whatever the blond remembered at the moment, there was certainly no dog at the farmhouse. Epstein had talked about memory transference and Starsky had tried to understand. But the brunet’s last memory of the events had been of running, child in one hand, as fast as he could to the tree line and then the hot metal slug burning into his side. For a while he’d managed to continue, desperation lending him strength and he’d managed to get the group into the darkness of the trees. He’d looked round to see Hutch still carrying the baby, the mother at his heels and then the pain had overwhelmed him and he’d sunk to the ground.

He smiled as he remembered the little girl he’d been with softly patting at his face with her little hand, her eyes full of tears. He remembered one of the tears landing on his face and she’d wiped it away and he’d tried to smile at her to tell her that everything was alright. Hutch had arrived and had taken the little girl and had told Starsky to wait there. He’d get the group to safety and then he’d come back for his partner. But no sooner had he gotten the words out of his mouth than the two men could hear the Mexicans coming, beating at the undergrowth as they searched. And as Hutch had tried to move Starsky deeper into the thicket, there had been a noise. Hutch had hissed at the group to run and the men, women and children had dispersed, leaving them alone to face the Mexicans when they were found. Starsky’s last memory was of Hutch’s face, tear streaked and pale in the moonlight, a look of horror in his eyes as the world had disappeared into a miasma of pain and he’d fallen into unconsciousness.

His next memory had been of waking in the hospital with the metallic tang of drugs in his mouth. He’d felt the pain from the bullet wound in his side. He’d looked around for Hutch, but the big blond hadn’t been there. Starsky knew that if Hutch wasn’t there when he was sick or injured, then something bad must have happened to his partner and he’d immediately shouted for a nurse or a doctor to tell him what had gone on.

The medic had arrived and had tried to calm the brunet, but Starsky was almost inconsolable, especially when told that Hutch’s physical injuries had been dealt with and he’d been transferred to a state facility. The brunet understood that euphemism. “State facility” meant the nut house and he’d gone wild, yelling and shouting for a doctor to discharge him or for someone to bring him the form so that he could discharge himself. He’d caused such a fuss that eventually the doctor had pushed a drug into his drip and he’d fallen asleep while still shouting for someone to get him the hell out of there. Over the next few days he’d continued to plead for discharge until finally his drains had been removed and he’d been told he could go home. Only once he’d taken the needle out of the back of his hand himself and hobbled to the door did he believe it was true and with assurances to his doctor that he’d go straight home and take it easy, he’d accepted the lift from Dobey and had hot footed to over to Cabrillo.

Starsky was tired. No, scrap that. Tired was an understatement. He was weary, defeated and exhausted. But he couldn’t give up on Hutch. The treatment seemed to have made him worse and as he drifted into a troubled sleep he vowed he’d get him out.

Early morning brought the usual sounds of the hospital. Cleaners using those stupid round electric cleaners to shine the floor, the clanging of breakfast trays served at the same ungodly hour and the banging of doors as the nurses and orderlies made their rounds.

Hutch lay quietly and took it all in. His mind was still a blank and that scared him, but he reasoned that he had Starsky with him and although he couldn’t precisely remember why he knew the man, he seemed to feel safe with him, and that was what mattered. He also had other feelings. Feelings that disturbed the hell out of him and made him want to curl up into a small ball and wait out the world. Those feelings left him low and more depressed than he’d ever felt, he thought, in his whole life. And he hated it. But the more he tried to think, the worse the depression got. He found it less painful not to think and so he decided to go with the flow. If Starsky was there, he’d look after him. Hutch didn’t need to worry about anything other than doing what the curly headed man wanted. That was easy. That was understandable. That was a rule he found easy to follow. And when he thought about that one small thing – do what Starsky tells you – things didn’t seem quite so bad.

And so, when he heard the first stirrings from the brunet in the small cot by his side, his mind had automatically shut down to protect itself and Hutch’s only concern was what Starsky would tell him to do. Easy. Follow what his buddy told him and things would be fine.

He watched as Starsky got up from the bed. The smaller man’s face twisted in pain and his hand went to his side. Automatically Hutch’s hand went to his own side. He was hurting to. How did he get to be hurt? How did that happen?

No, don’t think. Hurts too much. Bad things happen if you think. Just concentrate on the brunet huh? You can do that and it won’t hurt. Do as he says.

Starsky walked over to the bed and smiled at him. Hutch smiled back. It seemed to be the right thing to do.

‘How’re ya doin’ buddy?’ the brunet asked as he perched on the end of the bed.

Hutch stared at him No, that was wrong. He was making Hutch think and he didn’t want to do that. He wanted to follow orders. That was easier. That protected him and made sense. Ignore it. Don’t answer. Don’t think. Hutch stared at him blankly, his mind having made itself up without any conscious decision being made.

‘Hutch? Are you ok? Tell me buddy. We’re gonna work this out. Just tell me how you’re feelin’. Starsky urged.

OK, that’s a command. I can handle commands. Nice, simple ones.

‘Empty’ See ya did it. He’s nodding. He understands.

Starsky’s heart lurched at that one word. “Empty”. Jeez, was that how he really felt? He tried again. ‘Aww buddy. We’re gonna fix that. I’m gonna fix that today, promise. Ya wanna get up an’ go to the bathroom?’


Hutch waited, his mind refusing to tell him what to do next. Should he be doing something next? What was it? Oh yeah! Do what Starsky tells you. Ok. Wait for him. He’ll know what to do.

The curly haired man looked at the blank expression on his partner’s face and silently cursed. What had the ECT done to him? He seemed to be…. Well he was like a zombie. Waking, breathing, talking after a fashion, but with no will to do anything for himself. His heart bled as he pulled back to sheets. ‘C’mon buddy. Get outa bed an’ we can get you over to the bathroom huh?

Yay, he told me what to do. I can do that. No problemo! Hutch slowly swung his legs over the side of the bed. His body hurt as though someone had beaten him almost to death and his jaw felt as though he’d done several rounds with a heavyweight boxer, but he managed to stand well enough and leaning heavily on the smaller man, he shuffled towards the bathroom. He stood just inside the door, staring straight ahead like an automaton with Starsky at his back.

‘Hutch. Ya gotta do this on your own Pal. You wanna use the toilet?’

The blond nodded once.

‘Ok, do your thing, I’ll be right outside’ the smaller cop urged and left Hutch to his own devices. The blond automatically undid the scrub pants and let them fall to the floor. He managed his toilet well enough and even washed his hands and face, but then choices became overwhelming and he became scared again. He stood stock still just inside the bathroom door.

What now? Go out there? Stay in here? Think! No, don’t think. Thinking hurts. Thinking is bad. Wait for Starsk. He knows what to do. He’ll tell ya. He’ll sort this out. Just wait.

Starsky watched his friend shamble to the doorway and stop, obviously waiting for him to tell him what to do next. Fighting the urge to rush over and sweep the lost looking blond into his arms, Starsky swallowed.

‘Hutch, come an’ sit down on the chair huh? Ya want some breakfast? Are ya hungry?’

The blond shook his head, although his stomach rumbled loudly. The brunet grinned.

‘No? Could’a fooled me! What’s up pal? Don’t they do power shakes in here? No desiccated liver?’

Hutch stared blankly at him. Was he supposed to remember those things? Should he try? Would it hurt? Yes, probably it would. Well don’t do it then. No thinking. Just “be”. He said nothing, but continued to gaze at his partner as though taking his eyes from the smaller man would somehow cause him great pain. Starsky found the gaze almost too intense and he took hold of Hutch’s hand.

‘Hutch, tell me what the matter is. Tell me how you’re feelin’. Do you hurt?’



‘All over’.

‘Aww buddy. Why didn’t ya tell me?’


Their question and answer session was cut short by a rattle of keys in the doorway. Hutch flinched at the sound and his eyes reflected his fear. Starsky smiled at him. ‘S’ok, don’t worry’ he said softly as the orderly walked in.

‘I need to see Epstein’ Starsky said quickly.

The uniformed man stared at him. ‘It’s Dr Epstein’s day off’ he said bluntly.

‘Well who’s in charge?’

‘Dr Epstein will be back the day after tomorrow’.

‘Ok. But who’s in charge till then?’ Starsky persisted.

‘Dr Epstein is on his days off’ the orderly looked completely confused.

The brunet gave up. ‘Fine. Um. Hutch wants to get some fresh air. He thinks it’ll clear his head. Can you get us a wheelchair?’

‘Dr Epstein…..’

‘Yeah, I know, he’s not here. I’m just askin’ for a wheelchair huh? And a phone’.

‘Patients aren’t allowed phones ‘cept with Dr Epstein’s permission’.

The famous Starsky temper snapped and the brunet stood, pacing quickly over to the orderly.

‘Am I a patient? Do I look like I need Epstein’s fuckin’ permission? Now get me a phone an’ a goddamned wheelchair NOW’ he yelled at the tall, gaunt man’.

The orderly, obviously used to patients becoming violent did nothing other than smile and back out of the room. Starsky heard the door close, but fortunately there was no snap of a lock and breathing heavily, the brunet waited for a moment then went to the door and cracked it open slightly. The corridor as clear and he ducked back inside. Hutch was watching him intently.

‘Stay here. Don’t say nuthin to anyone. I’ll be right back. Just gonna go get us a taxi. We’re goin’ home Hutch ok?’

The flaxen haired man nodded happily. Starsky had given him clear instructions. He could handle that. Stay put and don’t talk to anyone. No thinking involved; no hurting. No problem. As the brunet walked out of the room, Hutch settled back onto the chair and waited, his mind pleasantly numb.

Chapter 10

Starsky limped along the corridor, his side feeling hot and sore. He suspected the wound had become infected, but that was the least of his worries right now. He wanted a phone and the only one he knew for sure was in Epstein’s room. As he got to the half glass half wooden door he prayed that the doctor wasn’t one of those men who habitually locked their offices when they were away. With a shaky hand he reached out and grasped the handle, turning it slowly. It gave beneath his touch and with a final look around to make sure no-one saw him, he ducked inside the room and made for the telephone.

He knew it would be pointless ringing Dobey to ask for help. It was the big black man who had signed the forms committing Hutch to Cabrillo State so he was hardly going to agree to get the blond out and he didn’t really ant to implicate his Captain in the escape plans.

Huggy, on the other hand, would be more than willing to effect the breakout. The barkeep was not a fan of any sort of facility that messed with bodies or heads and in the past he had helped both Starsky and Hutch with a few small problems. He dialled the number and waited, knowing Huggy would most likely be in bed. The black man was a night owl, never closing his bar before 3 in the morning and would now, more than likely be in the land of nod. The phone rang five or six times before finally it picked up and a sleepy voice sounded.



‘Starsk? That you? Where’ve ya been man?’

‘I’m with Hutch’ the brunet hissed into the phone.

‘And how’s the Blond Blintz doin’?’ Huggy’s voice took on a worried note.

‘That’s why I was phonin’. Need your help Hug’.

‘Ya have to ask? What can I do?’

‘Need ya to help me break him out’.

‘Sure. Ya want a pick an’ a shovel or just a taxi?’ Huggy asked

‘A ride’s fine. Can ya be out the back in half an hour?’ Starsky asked.

‘I’ll be there’ the barkeep confirmed. ‘No problemo. See ya’.

The brunet put the telephone down and thanked his lucky stars for friends like the Bear. Neither one side of the law nor the other, Huggy could be counted on to act as snitch, partner in crime or just a listening ear and right now, Starsky thought he might need at least two of those services, if not all three.

Walking cautiously to the door, Starsky made sure the coast was clear before padding quickly back to Hutch’s room. The blond was still sitting where his buddy had left him, although he looked up in fright as the door to his room opened. Starsky grinned at him.

‘Wanna go home buddy?’ he asked.


‘Yeah, home. You’re gonna feel so much better then’. Starsky hoped the “I hope” wasn’t too evident in his voice.


The admission brought the brunet up short. ‘You don’t know if ya wanna go home?’ he asked.

‘Dunno’. Hutch was confused. He knew this room. He knew the bare white walls, the grey, greasy patches around the light switch, the lumpy mattress. Did he want to leave? He had no idea what was out there, and no idea where “home” was, although he assumed he had a home. And what if Starsky left him there? That thought terrified him and he fixed his eyes on his partner.

‘Will you be there?’ he asked softly.

‘Aww buddy. Course I will. I’m not leavin’ ya. I just want ya to get well an’ I don’t think ya can do it in here. What d’ya say? Wanna break outa here?’

‘Break out. Yeah’ Hutch said automatically. If Starsky was going, he’d go too. No problem there. That was an easy decision to make. Follow the brunet. He waited for the next request as Starsky trundled a wheelchair into the room. He’d wanted them both to just walk out the back door, but walking wasn’t encouraged in Cabrillo and so he’d snagged the chair from outside another room and now he patted the seat as he looked at his watch. Huggy should be just about there now.

‘C’mon babe. Sit down here an’ we’ll hit the great outdoors huh?’

Hutch got up and limped over to the chair and sat down. No retort. No argument that he could walk. No free will. Just a walking talking blond automaton that left Starsky feeling scared and panicked. Taking a deep breath, he took Hutch’s bright orange robe from the hook in the bathroom and handed it to his partner – his one personal possession in the entire place . Hutch took it and held on to it almost like a child would hug a security blanket as Starsky pushed him out of the room and down the corridor. He leaned in to his partner. ‘If anyone asks, we’re just takin’ a walk huh?’

‘Takin’ a walk’ Hutch parroted. ‘K’.

They passed several nurses walking the corridors with patients, although none of them challenged the two men and as soon as he could, Starsky wheeled the chair round a corner and pressed the bar on the emergency exit, opening the door to the back of the building. There, like a beautiful painting was Huggy’s cream coloured Caddy, parked by the side of the bushes trying to look inconspicuous. The brunet pushed the chair quickly over the gravel path as the lanky man got out of his car.

‘Hey hutch my man. How goes it?’ Huggy greeted with his usual broad grin.

Hutch looked at him, then twisted round, seeking assurance from Starsky. ‘We’re takin’ a walk’ he said quietly, unsure about the circumstances.

‘Yeah, well, lets swap those wheel for these’ Huggy grinned as he looked around and opened the door.

The blond stayed put until Starsky patted him on the shoulder. ‘C’mon buddy. S’ok’.

Huggy gave him a questioning look but the cop shook his head slightly. The look said “not now” and Huggy accepted it. Time for answers would come later. For now, they just needed to make a clean getaway. They managed to bundle Hutch into the back of the car and Starsky got into the back seat beside him. They abandoned the chair by the side of the path and with a squeal of tires and a hail of gravel. Huggy set off around the long semi circle of the drive and out of the big iron gates to freedom.

For the most part, the journey was accomplished in silence. Hutch continued to hold on tightly to his orange bathrobe as though it somehow anchored him to the present, while his partner sat quietly by his side wondering what he’d done and how he though he was going to be able to help. Huggy concentrated on driving and within half an hour, they were pulling into the city limits.

‘Your place or his?’ he threw over his shoulder.

‘His I think. Sumthin familiar’ Starsky said decisively.

‘Venice Place it is’ Huggy agreed and turned off the freeway to drive through the smaller streets. He pulled up outside the apartment block and almost in a whisper Hutch mumbled ‘Chez Helene’.

‘What?’ Starsky asked.

Hutch looked at him. ‘Dunno’ he said automatically.

‘You said sumthin Hutch. What did ya say?’ the brunet persisted.

‘Chez Helene’

‘Yeah, you remembered!’ Starsky said excitedly, pointing to the sign over the store next door to Hutch’s place. ‘You’re home buddy. Remember?’

Hutch stared blankly at him. ‘Dunno’ he said again, suddenly feeling panic rising in his chest. Shit! He was remembering. He didn’t want to. It hurt to remember. It hurt to think about anything other than Starsky. Swiftly, he closed his mind down. Don’t. Don’t think. Don’t reply. Just do what Starsky wants.

With a sigh, the smaller cop got out of the car and held the door open. The excitement of those couple of mumbled words dissipated rapidly. He waited, but Hutch didn’t move. ‘C’mon buddy. You’re home’ he said. ‘Ya have to get out the car Hutch’.

At the direction, the blond moved, shuffling painfully over and getting out to stand by the side of his friend. The white scrubs he was wearing looked bright in the morning sunshine and sapped the colour from his too pale face. He swayed a little and Starsky caught him. ‘S’ok. We’ll just go inside’ he said and pushed gently, ushering his buddy to the front door. Painfully Hutch limped up the steps, the cast on his foot making it awkward for him, but he made it and without thinking, he reached up and took the key from the lintel of the door, inserted it into the lock and pushed open his door.

Starsky watched, open mouthed. So, Ken Hutchinson was still at home, just hiding inside that blond body somewhere. He smiled encouragingly. ‘Go on. It’s your house. Make yourself at home’.

But Hutch had once again retreated inside himself. He stood just inside the doorway and looked around. It seemed somehow familiar, and yet….. The pain and the anxiety started to flow again, his mind full of images. A farmhouse and women and children. Running, shouting, the dog. Always the dog barking. He commanded himself not to think and slowly the imaged faded away taking the panic with them. He breathed once more and walked into the room when he felt Starsky’s hand on his shoulder.

‘Go make yourself at home buddy. Want a shower? Maybe that’d make you feel better huh?’


Starsky sighed, making the decision for his partner. ‘Ok, I’ll go turn it on an’ you go get some fresh clothes huh? Maybe you’ll feel better with sumthin different to wear?’ his raised his eyebrows in question as Hutch started blankly at him.


As Huggy steered the blond towards his bedroom, Starsky walked to the bathroom and turned on the shower, turning it off a moment later when he remembered the cast and the injury on Hutch’s side. He cursed under his breath, feeling exhausted, useless and out of his depth. What was he doing here? What made him think he could deal with this? He trudged out and through into Hutch’s bedroom where the blond was staring at his wardrobe completely at a loss. Gently Starsky pushed past him and grabbed sweat pants and a green tee shirt. He pushed them at his buddy.

‘Get changed and then come out into the living room’ he ordered as Huggy watched open mouthed. The black man followed Starsky outside and sat on the chair as the brunet eased himself onto the sofa.

‘How long’s he been like that?’ Huggy asked.

‘Since yesterday. When I got to Cabrillo he wasn’t too bad. He was agitated an’ he seemed scared almost. But he was rememberin’ some of the stuff an’ I thought he was doin’ ok, although he kept talkin’ about a dog. Then he went crazy. He told me he’d killed the dog an’ he got mad at me for makin’ him remember. He went for me. Knocked me down an’ he was punchin’ out’ Starsky lifted pain filled eyes to his friend. ‘It wasn’t him Hug. That wasn’t Hutch. He was wild, crazy’ he snickered at the word.

‘And what about the dog? Was there one? Did he kill it?’ Huggy asked quietly

‘No, he didn’t kill no dog’ Starsky said softly. ‘Anyhow, the Doc decided to use a different sort of treatment an’ they shocked him. They used ECT an’ they zapped him. An’ I couldn’t stop ‘em’ The brunet put his head in his hands. ‘What’m I doin’ Hug? How the hell can I help him?’

Huggy cake to sit by his friend and rested his arm over Starsky’s shoulders. ‘First off, you need to get yourself sorted. You’re hurtin’ aren’t ya?’ he asked.

‘Yeah, some’.

‘Let me take a look’ Huggy said.

‘No. S’ok’.

‘Uh huh. You asked the Bear for help. Well the Bear don’t give up that easy. Let me look’.

The cop looked up with a sheepish grin. ‘You’re cute when you’re masterful’ he muttered as he pulled his shirt off over his head.

‘Aww fuck man. Why didn’t ya say?’ Huggy exclaimed as he saw the blood soaked dressing taped to Starsky’s side. The brunet looked down and hissed.

‘Didn’t know it was that bad’ he muttered. ‘Fix it?’

‘Sure thing’ he said as Hutch walked into the living room and looked at his partner.

‘You’re hurt’ he said, a note of fear in his voice.

‘Yeah, but I’m ok buddy. Its nuthin’ Starsky lied as Huggy went to get his first aid tin. As he came back, Hutch sat by his side and without a word accepted the tin from the black man and opened it. The two men looked on as competently Hutch took off the dirty dressing, cleaned the wound and taped it again. He did it without a word, mechanically and carefully. But he did it nonetheless and at the end, he handed the tin back to Huggy and sat looking expectantly at his partner.

‘Thanks buddy’ Starsky said softly. ‘Ya remembered how to do that?’ There was such hope in the voice that Huggy turned away from the disappointment in those indigo eyes as Hutch stared blankly back at him and muttered


Chapter 11

Throughout that day, Huggy refused to leave the two men. Starsky was almost dead on his feet with exhaustion while Hutch continued to answer most questions with a simple “dunno”. It seemed easier for him to do that, and as neither man was a psychiatrist, they had no idea whether they should be trying to get him to say something else, or whether the best thing was just to leave him to settle back into his home as best he could.

Hutch felt calmer now he was back in familiar surroundings. When he let his guard down and his mind began to wander, he knew exactly where he was. He allowed himself the luxury of doing little things. Ordinary things. Things that came naturally to him, the main one being to care for Starsky. In those moments of clarity he understood he was a cop and that Starsky was his partner. He remembered that Starsky was his close friend and that Huggy too was close. But then other memories would start to intrude and they were uncomfortable. He remembered a large black man with a round earnest face and a voice like thunder. On one level he knew him to be called Captain Dobey and that he was their boss. On another level, he represented something bad to do with his past and once again he closed his mind to it and went back to his self-contained exile.

Hutch made tea. He pottered in the kitchen and inspected his plants. The plants were fine, they wouldn’t hurt him. No bad memories associated with the plants, he was certain of that. Until he got to a bonsai tree he’d been given. It lived on the ledge of his window and he’d taken it off to water it. As he leaned over it and sniffed appreciatively at the tiny needles of the conifer a sudden memory flash shook him and he cried out at it’s clarity.

Trees. Dark. Running. Starsky was with him, and a child. Two children. Starsky was carrying one and he had the smaller of the two in his arms. There were people following him and he was running. Running as though his life depended on it and at his side the dog. Barking. It wouldn’t shut up and he bent down to it. The men were coming nearer. He could hear them and yet the dog wouldn’t shut up. He put his hand down to it, feeling it’s hot breath on the palm of his hand as he pushed it over the animal’s muzzle, hating himself, but knowing he had to… had to…. NOO! Too much. Don’t think. Don’t try to remember it hurts too much.

Starsky heard the muffled cry and levered himself off the sofa where he’d been resting. He rushed over to his friend’s side.

‘Hutch? What? What’s the matter buddy. D’ya hurt?’ he asked, concern shining in those indigo eyes

Hutch turned to him, the tiny tree still clutched in his hand. He put it down hurriedly as though it would bite him.

‘Dunno’ he said automatically. And yet he wanted to tell Starkly what was frightening him. He wanted to explain the memory that haunted him, but not yet. Too soon! It was all too soon for him and he needed time to himself. Time to think? Well no, thinking hurt and he didn’t want to do that. But still he reasoned, sooner or later he’d have to start thinking about things. The thought terrified him and a whimper of fear escaped him. Starsky watched his throat bob and the muscles in his jaw work as Hutch tried to find the words. He waited patiently but still all Hutch could mumble at the end was ‘Dunno’ again and turn away.

He felt he’d let Starsky down when the brunet turned away with a small sigh. ‘S’ok buddy. It’ll come, no problem. Just come an’ lie down and have a rest huh?’

‘Rest? Yeah, ‘k’ the blond muttered and followed obediently as his partner led him back to the sofa. He sat down and stared straight ahead, his mind now no longer a comfortable blank. He was remembering even though he was trying hard not to. And that panicked him even more. His breathing became more laboured as he looked sideways at Starsky.

The brunet would look after him. Maybe he’d take the memories away. Maybe, if he could just tell Starsky what was going on he could…. could….. No, dammit! He didn’t want to. Wasn’t ready to. He closed his eyes and tried to relax, longing now for the drugs they’d given him in the hospital. The drugs put him to sleep and for a while he could stop remembering without any effort. He strangled down another whimper, his hands playing fitfully with the hem of his tee shirt.

‘You ok buddy? Wanna go lie down? Maybe you should try to sleep huh?’ Starsky asked, at his wits end for how to help. He felt so useless and yet he was still sure he’d done the right thing in bringing Hutch home. Even though the blond was still quiet and uncommunicative, he was moving around, familiarity lending him an air of purpose.

‘Hutch nodded. ‘Dun…. Yeah’ he said after a moment’s thought. Maybe sleep would take away the fear and the memories. He could hide inside his dark dreamless world and rest for a while. Without being bidden, he rose and walked unsteadily to his room.

Starsky watched him go with a sad smile. It broke his heart to see his partner like this and hoped rest would help to mend what the ECT had so obviously broken. Huggy handed him a cup of coffee and sat quietly by while the brunet drank it. Eventually the cop put the cup down and yawned.

‘I don’t know what to do Hug. I kinda hoped…. well wished… that when he came home he’d just snap out of it. But now? I want him back. I want the Hutch I knew before. This shit scares me an’ I feel like I’m losin’ him. This is almost worse than if he were in a coma or sumthin. It looks like him, it sounds like him when he talks, but Hutch aint there. It's like he’s hidin’ from me’.

Huggy nodded. ‘He’s hidin’ from himself Starsk. An’ there’s only Hutch can find his way out. All we can do is be here for him an’ wait. It’s tough, I know, but he’ll get better. It’ll just take time’.

Starsky sighed ‘Hope you’re right’ he said as he stretched, winced and clutched at his side.

‘An’ you should get some rest while he’s sleepin’. The Bear is here, so have no fear. I’ll let ya know when he wakes up’ the black man said as he stood and helped Starsky up. The brunet nodded gratefully.

‘Thanks Huggy. I’m gonna go an’ kip down on the cot in his room’ he said and made his quiet way into the bedroom, drawing the curtains against the late afternoon sun. Wearily he checked on his partner, who seemed to be resting quietly, then set himself down carefully on the tiny cot at the foot of the bed and closed his eyes. Within seconds, he was asleep.


Hutch was dreaming. He was back riding Shadow, his horse through the paddock leading to the trees. Ahead of him he saw Starsky waving to him and he waved back happily. His partner looked well. Tanned and relaxed and welcoming.

He spurred the horse on and felt the animal’s easy gate beneath him. He rode easily, enjoying the feeling of the sun on his back and the wind in his hair as he rode steadily closer to the brunet. But the more he rode towards Starsky, the further away he seemed to get until he was no more than a speck in the distance and however fast Shadow galloped, he seemed to get no closer.

And now the sun was disappearing behind a cloud. He could feel the air becoming cooler and within moments night was upon him. Somewhere in the midst of the change, the horse had disappeared and now he was running, a child in his arms and his breath whistling in his throat. Ahead of him women and children ran full tilt for the shelter of the trees and by his side, Starsky was running too, another small child at the side of him, holding his hand and its thin, spindly legs pounding at the caked earth and dry grasses.

He looked behind him and he could see a group of Mexicans bearing down on him. Two were on horses, three more were on foot. All carried guns and now shots rang out as he continued to run.

His legs were tiring, but the tree line was getting closer and as another bullet kicked up a plume of dirt near his feet he dived for the dark cover, his partner at his side. They didn’t stop. Instead they pushed on through the dense undergrowth as the sounds of the men grew closer. The dog ran at his side, barking and he hissed at it to stop. It barked at him, it’s tongue lolling out of its mouth as it panted heavily, keeping up with him stride for stride, barking happily and giving away their location.

Another bullet rang out and he heard Starsky cry out, stumble and fall. The brunet had been ahead of him and he saw the young girl who’d run with him kneel by his side, running her hand over his face. He heard Starsky grunt “Run” and pushed the child ahead of him as he rolled onto his side, then onto his back, clutching at his side.

Hutch ran to him, tripping over the undergrowth. He felt his ankle snap and he swallowed down the scream of pain, launching himself to the ground next to his partner. He took a hold of Starsky’s body and pulled it close to him as another shot rang out and nicked his side. He grunted and batted at the dog that refused to leave his side. It barked merrily at him and he hissed at it to be quiet.

It continued making that infernal row and now he could hear the Mexicans coming for him. He could hear their machetes slicing through the undergrowth and yet the dog continued to give away their location. He glanced behind him and saw the women and children disappearing into the dark forest like wraiths into the night and he sighed in relief that at least they’d got away.

Now it was just the two of them and the dog. With a feeling of dread, he pushed his hand over the dogs’ muzzle, clamping its mouth closed. He felt it trying to draw breath around his hand and still he hung on, silencing its barking. It tried again, the sound muffled now as it’s body started to shudder convulsively in his arms. And yet he knew he had to keep it quiet and he hung on as the Mexicans passed on by them and continued their search.

Hutch hung on to the dog’s body long after it had stopped struggling and it hung limp from his hands. Tears flowed down his cheeks as his hand cramped around it’s muzzle, his other hand held protectively around his partner’s unconscious body as he rocked backwards and forwards. He stayed like that for a long time, refusing to move or even breathe in case their attackers came back. And slowly the cold night air seeped into his bones and he became stiff and sore, his blood flowing from the wound on his side to mingle with the brunet’s on the ground.

And when he heard the other sound, he placed the dog’s dead body tenderly onto the ground and took up his gun, threatening the men who shone a bright torch into his wild, fear filled eyes and refusing them access to himself or his partner until Dobey appeared and talked to him in a low soothing voice.

And as he listened to his Captain, he started to shake and tears once more sprang to his eyes. He didn’t notice the paramedic coming up behind him and hardly felt the needle being pushed into his arm. And as he collapsed slowly forward he didn’t feel the hands that lifted him and the two other bodies and carry them to the waiting ambulance.

When he’d woken later, he was in that strange place. The one with the white walls and the men with the needles and he’d looked around for his partner. But he was on his own and fear clutched at his heart as he yelled out into the loneliness.


Chapter 12

Starsky was instantly awake as the shriek resounded around the room and as he sat up in his cot he saw Hutch sitting bolt upright in bed, his eyes staring wildly around him. The brunet extricated himself from the sheets and padded over to the big bed. As he perched on the edge of the mattress he could feel the trembles wracking the blond’s body and he reached out and rested his hand on Hutch’s shoulder.

‘Sssh babe. Hey c’mon. S’ok Sssh. I’m here, s’ok. You’re ok’ the brunet crooned as he watched the wildness leave the crystal blue eyes. Imperceptibly the big body relaxed and Hutch eventually sagged back against the pillows.

‘I was there’ he whispered. ‘I was back there at the farmhouse. I saw it all. I remembered’.

‘Yeah? That’s good babe. That’s’ real good. Ya wanna tell me?’

For the first time, Hutch looked around him, taking in his familiar surroundings and the feel of his soft sheets rather than the rough hospital variety.

‘Where’s the hospital? What happened?’ he asked shakily.

‘We brought you home’.


‘Huggy’n me’.

‘Did Epstein say I could go. I don’t remember’ Hutch’s brow furrowed as he tried to concentrate. Starsky grinned.

‘Not exactly. You’re AWOL buddy. How’s it feel to be a man on the run?’ Despite the way he’d been wakened, the brunet fell easily into the banter with his friend, the fears of the past day slipping away now that Hutch appeared to be remembering again.

‘Feels good. Wish I could remember the great escape. Did we do the motorbike over the fence routine?’ Hutch asked.

‘Nah, we opted for tunnelling out under the laundry. Huggy’s still back there filling pillowcases with the dirt we dug out. Wanna get up an’ have a drink? Its only 1:00am, Hug will still be watchin’ TV’.

Starsky padded out into the living room and a moment later, Hutch limped after him. He stood for a second in the doorway and Huggy looked up, his thin face cracking into a grin.

‘Hey, Hutch my man. How’s it goin’?’

The blond snickered. ‘You tell me. I lost the plot a week ago’. He came to sit down gingerly by the side of the barkeep and clutched warily at his side. His body and especially his jaw felt as through he’d done several rounds with an angry gorilla and he looked up as Starsky handed him a mug of coffee. Huggy waved his away and stood.

‘Now he’s back in the land of the living I’m gonna go home and run my business’ he smiled down at the blond. ‘Keep well my man’. Huggy walked with the sable haired cop to the door. ‘If you need anythin’….’

‘I know. Thanks Hug. I’ll be in touch’. Starsky closed the door and walked back into the room, coming to sit by his partner.

‘Care to tell me what happened?’ the flaxen haired man asked. ‘Why do I feel like I wrestled the Omaha Tiger again?’

‘What do ya remember?’ Starsky asked him.

‘I remember you bein’ at the ….. at Cabrillo and feeling like I’d hadn’t seen ya for years. An’ I thought I was rememberin’ the farmhouse. I remembered the dog. I killed the dog an’ I got mad an’…. Oh shit Starsk. I hit ya. Did you hit me back? Is that why….?’ He felt his jaw gingerly, but it didn’t feel bruised. It felt as though he’d kept it clenched shut for a fortnight.

‘No, I didn’t hit ya buddy’ Starsky said softly. ‘An I don’t blame ya for hittin’ me. You were hurtin’. What else?

‘Well then after that….. Not a lot. We talked. They um strapped me... Well they stopped me hittin’ ya any more an’ we talked and you told me they were gonna… gonna wire me up to the mains. Thank God they didn’t’ the blond said with feeling before he saw the pained look on his partner’s face. ‘Oh shit, they did, didn’t they?’

The brunet nodded. ‘I tried to stop ‘em buddy but they… well…’

Hutch smiled. ‘S’ok. I guess I needed it but I don’t remember anythin’ after we talked. I guess that’s a good thing huh?’

‘Yeah. It’s not the sort of thing you’d relish. An’ then yesterday and for the most part today you were kinda lost. You scared me babe. You wouldn’t answer. You wouldn’t do nuthin ‘cept follow me round’ Starsky explained, keeping his voice low and even.

‘I’m sorry. It’s just… I felt safe. Ya made me feel safe’ Hutch admitted shyly. ‘Sorry’.

‘Hey don’t apologise. I’m just glad you’re back with me. You are aren’t ya? Back? I mean this aint sumthin that’s gonna happen again?’

Hutch snorted. ‘No. I remember it all. The farmhouse, the Mexicans, the dog…’

Starsky had just started to feel comfortable when his partner mentioned the dog he stiffened. Nononono, this couldn’t be happening. Hutch was supposed to be all better. He’d had a nightmare and it had set him back on track. Not this! Not this again! He licked lips that had suddenly gone dry.

‘Um…. Maybe you should think on it some more Hutch. There’s maybe stuff ya haven’t got straight yet’ he hedged.

‘Like what?’ Hutch clearly remembered the whole thing and now that he’d come to terms with it, he could even remember the dog and how it had felt when he’d killed it in his arms. What else was there to remember? He’d done it. He was cured. He could go back to work right?

Starsky trod carefully. The one thing he did agree with Epstein on was that he shouldn’t push his partner into remembering. It would be too painful for the blond to deal with this any other way than to gently let the memories come back, but he could see his partner getting agitated again and he tried a different tack.

‘There is sumthin else. Sumthin you’re missin’ and need to start rememberin’ an’ you’re gonna be real mad at me but I can’t tell ya’ he explained, hoping his partner would understand.

Unfortunately, the experience of the past week was still too raw with Hutch. Epstein had played this game with him too many times and he’d come to the end of his tether with the doctor. But back at Cabrillo if he got mad they drugged him and tied him down. Here, with his still healing partner, the rational part of the blond’s mind told him he should cool it; try to hold on to his temper and reason with the smaller man.

‘I can’t remember unless ya tell me Starsk. I can’t. I’ve tried an’ it just aint there. I told you all I remembered. I even told ya how I killed that poor dog. What more is there? Please? Just tell me huh? Just tell me then I can move on out of this stinkin’ crater I’ve buried myself in’. He raised pleading eyes to his partner and for a moment, Starsky wondered what the harm would be in telling him. But then Epstein’s words came back to him and he hardened his heart.

‘I can’t Blondie. I wish I could, but I can’t’.

Hutch rose unsteadily to his feet, his temper getting the better of him again. ‘You call yourself my friend and yet you won’t help me! Just tell me for fucks sake an’ we can be done with this charade. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of hospitals an’ drugs and straps an’…. He sank down again onto the sofa and stared into the pained indigo eyes next to him. ‘M’sorry. I’m still crazy aren’t I? You should take me back b’fore I hurt ya’ he said in a small voice.

Starsky put his arm round him and pulled him close. ‘You’re not crazy buddy. Any more’n me or the next guy. You’re just… Tell ya what. If you want, an’ if ya think it’ll help, we can drive out to the place tomorrow an’ see if that’ll help’.

‘To the farmhouse?’ Hutch asked, a fear clutching at his chest that he could neither fathom or understand. ‘Um…. Yeah, ok. But why tomorrow? Lets just do this now before I change my mind huh? How far away is it?’

‘We should wait till daybreak’ Starsky said pensively. ‘Its an hours drive south’.

‘Well if we set off now we can be there by dawn’ Hutch said. ‘I gotta do this Starsk. I need to do this. For you. For me huh? Please?’

Starsky sighed. ‘Ok. Go get dressed. But Hutch, just one thing’.


‘Well my car aint here, an’ I’m not lettin’ you drive’.

Hutch’s face cracked into the first smile it had faced for a week. ‘You wanna drive my car?’ he asked.

‘Didn’t say I wanted to. I just don’t want you tellin’ anyone huh?’


They drove on through the night until the first tendrils of a milky dawn started to light the sky. For the most part, they drove in silence, each with their own thoughts. Hutch’s mouth had gone dry as he’d got into the car. This was it. He was going to find out what this big secret was and his heart was filled with foreboding. But he knew he needed to do this and he needed to do it sooner rather than later and so as the first light reflected from the morning clouds, they pulled up outside the deserted farmhouse and got out. Hutch shivered in the early morning cold and looked around. It seemed exactly the same as he remembered it. The small mean house, the barn where Starsky and the women and kids had been kept. He looked around to see Starsky watching him keenly.

‘So? I don’t remember anythin’ different’ he said quietly. ‘What now?’

‘What d’ya wanna do?’

‘Shuddup, ya sound like Epstein’ the blond snapped and immediately regretted it. His partner was there to help. ‘M’sorry. This is kinda creepy for me an’… I’m scared’.

‘S’ok pal. I’m here. With ya all the way’ Starsky said gently and walked over to stand with him.

Slowly, as if drawn by a magnet, Hutch started to walk across the yard and out into the field beyond. Ahead of him, brooding in a sombre line was the stand of trees he remembered running for and his heart started to beat wildly in his chest as he started to walk faster towards it.

‘I remember running. The group – Mariposa – they were after us. We’d made plans to get the group out and we were making a run for it. You had a little girl with you and I was carrying the smallest child. A little girl too. She couldn’t have been more then a few months old. We were running across this field’. As if to echo his words, Hutch started to shuffle faster, clumsily, his cast getting in the way. He hobbled along, keeping up his commentary.

‘We could hear them behind and the dog was barking. You kept telling me to shut it up, they’d hear where we were and I tried, but it wouldn’t…. it wouldn’t’ Hutch looked for confirmation to his partner and Starsky, his face sombre nodded.

‘Go on’.

‘We ran till we thought our legs would give up and we got to the treeline. They started shooting and you went down. You told the little girl to run and she left you. I managed to get over to you an’ then I took one too. A slug in the side. And all the time there was the noise’.

They’d reached the place where both men had fallen, the grass still flattened underfoot and Hutch looked down at it, kneeling clumsily as his fingers trailed over the bent and broken blades. At his side Starsky knelt also and held his breath. Hutch’s voice had taken on a far off quality and he was still talking, but as though to himself and not to his partner.

‘Starsk was hurt. He was unconscious and I was trying to get to him and the noise wouldn’t stop. I could hear them coming. They were getting closer and closer and still the noise wouldn’t…. the dog wouldn’t…..’

The brunet at his side held his breath as suddenly Hutch froze.

‘The noise wouldn’t stop. The baby. It was crying and it wouldn’t stop. They were getting closer and it would have given us away. It would have meant death for all those women and children. I had to stop it. I had to’.

The blond turned his face to his buddy, tears streaming unselfconsciously down his cheeks as his memory finally unblocked and allowed him to see what had been hidden from his for so long.

‘The baby wouldn’t stop crying. It was so loud. I tried to keep it quiet. I tried to hide it under my jacket but I could still hear it. It wouldn’t keep quiet. It was so loud, so I put my hand over her mouth. Only gently….ever so gently. She kept crying and her arms were flailing about and I had to push harder so that they wouldn’t hear her. Oh God Starsk! It wasn’t a dog I killed was it? It was the baby. I killed the baby. Oh my god!’

The blond fell forward onto his hands, his head hanging down as he sobbed into the early morning air. ‘I killed her. I killed that baby girl. How could I have done that? How? I killed it’ he sobbed over and again.

By the side of him Starsky held his back, rubbing circles, crooning nothing words. Waiting for almost an hour in that cold damp place until the sorrow had washed from the blond’s body and he finally collapsed onto the ground, his body too exhausted to hold him up. He looked up through red rimmed, pained eyes.

‘I killed a baby’ he whispered. ‘What kind of monster am I?’

‘You’re no monster babe. Never. You’re the man who saved 18 women and nine children. You’re the man who saved me. You saved all those lives Hutch. All of them’.

‘But I killed it. I can’t live with myself for that. Why’d ya make me remember huh? Why?’

‘Coz ya had to. I’m so sorry. What you did…. That choice you made. No-one should have to make that choice babe. But you did, an’ ya made the right choice. They would have killed us all, every last one of us if you hadn’t done what you did’.

Hutch shook his head from side to side like a wounded animal. ‘I don’t want to live like this. I don’t deserve to live like this’ the blond whispered. ‘Just leave me huh? Leave me here. or better still’ Hutch knelt up and held out his wrists to his partner. ‘I’m a fuckin’ murderer, ya gotta take me in’.

But instead of Starsky snapping on handcuffs he picked up his hurting partner and tenderly helped him back to the car. Hutch stumbled along by the side of him and finally sat in the seat, his eyes closed and his head resting back on the headrest. ‘I don’t know what to do. I don’t wanna live any more. That poor kid didn’t live no more’ he said softly. ‘I’m too tired to go on. I don’t deserve to’.

‘You’re hurtin’ Hutch. Hurtin’ bad, but you’ll make it. I know you will. Now you’ve done the hardest part. Now we can get ya some real help huh?’

‘What about arrestin’ me. Ya should. I killed that poor baby. You should….’

‘There’s a lot gone on in a week buddy. the baby was an orphan and she was sick already. In fact she was so sick, she would have died within hours anyway, she had terrible pneumonia. She was here with her Aunt. The woman won’t press charges. She was an illegal immigrant, she doesn’t want the attention’ Starsky explained gently.

‘And that makes it right? Huh? Just coz the poor kid was away from home it's ok for some crazy blond cop to kill her?’ Hutch lifted pain filled eyes to his partner.

‘No, its not ok buddy. Death is never ok, we both know that. But what you did was right for the group, otherwise they’d all have died. I know it’s too painful to think about right now but…..’

‘I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who to turn to any more. I got blood on my hands. I should go back to Cabrillo or Folsom, or somewhere an’ stay there’.

Starsky raised his eyebrow ‘Is that what ya want? Where ya really want to go?’

‘No, I just need someone to….’

‘Ya got me, unless ya need someone else’ the brunet said softly.

‘No, I don’t want anyone else. Just…. Starsk gimme time huh? And be there for me? coz right now I just wanna go away an' shoot myself’.

‘I know, I know. It's tough an' no-one should have to live with all that shit. But I'm here for ya. Always Blondie. Always with ya. Me and Thee huh?’

‘Yeah, Me an’ Thee’ Hutch whispered, his eyes closing as he fell into a deep sleep.


One day later Hutch checked into Ocean Breeze, a private clinic on the beach on the south side of the city. He’d slept the sleep of the exhausted on the way back from the scene of the tragedy and when he’d finally woken up as Starsky was almost carrying him up the steps to his apartment, he’d been too exhausted to say anything other than “thank you”.

Starsky had telephoned Cabrillo and set the record straight and had spoke to Dr Epstein. The man was understanding and in the end had recommended the private facility where Hutch could recuperate and receive counselling.

That first night the two men sat on the balcony of the blond’s private room and looked out over the ocean. The breeze ruffled sable curls and flaxen bangs and Hutch sipped at a cup of green tea. He’d been quiet for most of the day while his new doctor, a petite and vivacious woman had explained what would be happening to him and he’d gone along with her suggestions feeling worthless and dirty as she’d explained to him how she would help him come to terms with his grief and remorse. Now he gazed at the peaceful ocean and sighed.

‘You were there for me’ he said softly. ‘All the way through, you were there or me’.

‘You’d do the same for me. It’s a two way street’.

‘Yeah I know. Thanks... What time d’ya have to go?’

‘Not goin’ I decided to book the room next to yours. I need treatment too’ the brunet said with a sly grin.

‘Oh my god, Starsk! Why? What happened? Was it….?’

‘No. nuthin like that Blondie. Its’ just yesterday sumthin traumatic happened to me too. I need counsellin’ babe’.

Hutch glanced sideways, amazed when a grin cracked the brunet’s handsome face from ear to ear. ‘Huh?’

‘Yeah. It was awful. The gears ground, the brakes were spongy. I’ll never get over it – drivin’ your car!’