The ambulance came quickly to Venice Place and the two paramedics
shouldered their way through the small crowd that had formed at the entrance to the steps to the apartment. Helene had come
out of her shop, wondering what was going on with the handsome cop from the upstairs apartment and was talking to one of the
other store keepers. Ken Hutchinson was always so quiet – almost the perfect tenant and he endeared himself to his neighbours
by always being on hand to do odd jobs, open tight bottle tops and water plants.
As the two medics made their way upstairs, one of them paused
to check over the woman sitting on the bottom step in handcuffs. Sue had been momentarily knocked out by the fall down the
steps, but fortunately her landing had been cushioned by Captain Dobey’s padded bulk and although she was shaken, she
was relatively uninjured…..and tight lipped. The paramedic checked on her once, asking if she was ok. She snapped that
of course she wasn’t ok, but refused any medical treatment and so the man continued his way up the stairs as a uniformed
officer stood the woman up and escorted her out to the waiting car.
Inside the apartment, Dobey still sat by the side of the unconscious
cop. Hutch had continued to moan Starsky’s name once or twice and his hand had managed to cramp around the coin he’d
found in Sue’s purse. But his eyes remained closed and sweat beaded on his brow as his body continued to shudder from
the pains in his stomach. The Captain divided his time between checking periodically on the blond, and trying to reassure
Kiko that he could have done nothing more and that in fact he may have saved Hutch’s life. The young man’s nose
had stopped bleeding but it was evident even to the Captain that it was broken and as one medic took the young man by his
arm and led him away, the other knelt by the side of the stricken cop.
‘What happened? Who is this?’ the paramedic asked
‘His name is Ken Hutchinson, but he’s known as
Hutch. He’s been sick for a few days and then I think the woman downstairs tried to smother him. Is he gonna be ok?’
The medic placed his hand on Hutch’s brow, raising an
eyelid as he shone his penlight into the blond’s eyes, noting the sluggish reaction of the irises. ’Hutch, can
you hear me buddy? My name is John and I’m gonna try and help you. Can you open your eyes for me Pal?’
John leaned in close, trying to discern what Hutch tried to
whisper, and looked around for clarification. ‘Starsk? Is that what he’s saying? What’s starsk?’
‘That’s his partner. We thought Starsky was dead
but now….now I’m not sure. I need to um….’
‘You need to come with me. You look like you’ve
been in the wars yourself and I need someone to tell me more about him. He looks to me like he’s been poisoned. After
that, we can sort out your mystery.’
The apartment block stood cold, grey and lifeless in the early
morning dawn. Grey concrete surrounded mean grey windows whose grey, dirty glass stared out at the world like so many depressed
eyes. The building had stood empty now for two years, it’s residents long gone, along with almost all of their possessions.
Some of the windows still had drapes over them, but most stared soullessly out onto the building site across the way. Condemned
as it was, the apartment block had not as yet suffered the final fate of the demolishers wrecking ball, but it was standing
on borrowed time.
Inside, only two rooms were occupied. One room held a sofa,
whose stuffing protruded from tears in the leather upholstery, a television set, a table upon which stood empty bottles of
beer and a telephone. The residents of that room had been sitting idly in front of the television set for almost two days
now while they waited for the phone to ring, and both were getting bored.
In the other room, Starsky lay propped against the wall of
the bare concrete shell, his eyes closed and his breath shallow and rapid. In the two days since the final beating, the only
contact he’d had with Mutt and Jeff had been the times when they’d come in to force more of the poisoned water
down his throat. He’d long since given up the struggle with them. He had so little strength any more that all his energy
was taken up with breathing and keeping the heart beating within his chest. Bruises marred his body, the broken bones stood
out at odd angles and he had a raging fever. The water caused pains in his stomach and his vision had deteriorated to the
extent that he saw the world in monochrome and as though down a cardboard tube. Starsky knew he was dying; the only question
remaining to him was whether he should fight every painful step of the way, or whether he should simply succumb to his body’s
wishes and let the inevitable happen.
The only thing keeping him going right now was the thought
of Hutch and of what would happen to his buddy if and when someone did find his body and Dobey would have to tell the blond
that Starsky was this time dead for real. He cursed Sue Gardner up hill and down dale, realising now that she’d stalked
the both of them, feigning love for Hutch just to get to the both of them. The only thing he couldn’t work out was why
and try as he might, Starsky could think of no-one they’d ever come into contact with who’d been called Gardner.
Ben Forest had had a daughter, he knew who may have been married, but she’d been committed to an insane asylum shortly
after they’d arrested her father. And besides, Heather Forest had been a tall girl with stunning black hair, nothing
at all like Sue.
The brunet tried to shift himself against the wall. The room
felt cold to him and the bare concrete leached the warmth from his body. Despite having been given his jeans back, he was
still without a shirt and he longed for the feel of a warm comforting sweater around his shoulders, the idea of snuggling
into the warm fabric being both alluring and tortuous.
Seconds seemed like minutes and minutes seemed like hours,
each marking of time being more painful than the last as the curly haired cop tried to reason out his existence. Things had
once seemed so easy. He and Hutch would ride the city in his striped tomato, chasing down flakes, making their arrests and
then celebrating with a beer and a girl. Life had been good.
Then came the shooting and his struggle to recover and as he’d
lain in the hospital bed, he’d made a promise to himself and to Hutch that when he got out and made it back to the precinct,
he’d grab every day and live it as though it were his last. Because he’d stared death in the face, not once or
twice, but three times. He’d cheated the grim reaper out of his catch on three separate occasions, but he knew now what
it was to be mortal; how he would only ever travel that road once and each minute that passed could never be relived. As he
lay in that room, craving human contact and especially contact with his partner, he felt as though he was reneging on his
promise to himself. By wanting to end this miserable existence and die, he felt that he was going back on his promise to Hutch
and to himself, but he knew he couldn’t go on much longer. If Hutch thought he was dead, there would be no escape; no
cavalry coming over the hill and no blond knight on a white charger come to save him.
Starsky closed his eyes, no energy left to keep awake, and
as he drifted off into a troubled sleep, he dreamed of Hutch. The blond was walking towards him, his hand outstretched as
though welcoming him, or beckoning him, but as he got closer and reached out to touch the golden haired man’s hand,
Hutch withdrew it’ ‘Don’t give up Starsk. I’m comin’ buddy. It’ll take a while, but I’m
coin’ Just hang in there huh? Just a while longer. I’m comin’, I promise.’
As Starsky slipped further into his sleep, he clung onto that
thought and a small smile played over his broken lips. Hutch. He’d seen Hutch again.
In the other room, Mutt and Jeff were getting tired of waiting.
Sue had given them a phone number to ring only in emergencies, should they ever need it and now Mutt took the phone and stared
balefully at it.
‘She aint gonna call and we aint gonna get paid.’
‘Sure she’ll call.’
‘It’s been two freakin’ days. She aint gonna
call I tell ya. We should use the number.’
‘She’ll be mad as hell.’
Mutt snorted. ‘Do I look like I care? I’m pissed
off with waitin’. He’s beginning to stink an’ I’m fed up of the game. I’m gonna call her.’
He punched numbers into the telephone and jammed it to his ear as he waited. The phone rang and rang and finally was picked
up. An Asian accented voice picked up and answered, taking Mutt by surprise.
‘I wanna speak to Sue’ he said down the line.
‘Sue? Sue who? No-one here called Sue’ the voice
‘SUE. S.U.E.’ Mutt spelled the name as though that
‘No-one here called Sue’ the voice persisted and
put the phone down, leaving Mutt staring at it. The man’s temper broke and his face took on an angry red hue. Yanking
the telephone line out of the wall, he flung the receiver across the room with a yell.
‘The fuckin’ bitch! She double crossed us. She
aint there’ he yelled
‘What d’ya mean, she aint there? Where is she?’
‘If I knew that, d’ya think I’d be so fuckin’
‘Hey, buddy, calm down. You’ll blow a fuse!’
‘I’ll blow more than a fuckin’ fuse! Don’t
ya get it ya moron? She aint there. The boss lady has done a runner. The woman with the money is gone. We. Don’t. Get.
‘We don’t get paid?’ Jeff said slowly. Obviously
the slower of the pair, there was a moment while the news sunk in. ‘So what do we do?’
‘We split.’ Mutt said simply.
‘What about him?’ Jeff motioned with his head towards
the other room.
‘He’s almost dead anyway. Leave him. He aint goin’
‘Someone might find him’ Jeff said doubtfully.
‘What if they do?’
The bigger of the two men shook his head. ‘Dunno.’
‘So what do ya wanna do?’ Mutt asked.
‘I wanna finish him. If we don’t get pain, at least
let me have a last bit of fun.’
Mutt grinned at his buddy. ‘Always the workaholic. What’m
I gonna do with yas huh?’
‘Well can I?’
Mutt nodded. ‘Sure, but don’t be long. There’s
a game we can catch if we’re outa here soon.
Jeff headed out of the room as Mutt set about trashing it,
leaving no sign that it had ever been inhabited by them. So busy was he that he didn’t see the shadow move past the
open doorway down the hall and Jeff was too busy relishing his job to take notice either.
The big man snapped the door to Starsky’s room open,
causing the cop’s eyes to open. Starsky regarded the heavy with trepidation, his face a picture of resignation of what
was to come. The men’s presence only ever meant more bruises and more hurts and he braced himself, pressing his body
against the wall, as though he could insert himself into the very concrete to escape. He locked eyes with the big man who
walked towards him, a shadow of the former defiance still alive in the bloodshot indigo right eye. The left had long since
swollen shut and was now caked and sealed with dried blood.
‘We’re gonna be sayin’ bye bye now’
‘Can’t say I’m sorry’ the cop grunted
‘Aww, an’ I though we got on so well together.’
‘Yeah, sure. Best buddies huh?’ Starsky snickered.
‘So I wanted to tell ya’ Jeff hunkered down by
the side of the cop who flinched away from the man’s body, expecting a blow. It didn’t come, for the moment and
Jeff continued. ‘I wanted to tell ya how much fun it’s been, but I’m so sick of your screamin’ and
groanin’ an’ all that “Oh God Hutch” shit. It really pulled at my heartstrings!’
Despite himself, Starsky felt the temper rise and he summoned
the small amount of saliva in his mouth. ‘Go fuck youself’ he managed to grind out.
Jeff smiled wolfishly, the comment being what he’d been
waiting for. The heavy stood, towering over the brunet as Starsky stared back at him, defiant to the last. Without a further
comment, the man took one step back, looked over his shoulder as though checking around him and then swung his booted foot
at the cop’s head.
Starsky’s whole head exploded in a blaze of pain as he
felt his jaw crack under the power of the blow. He had time only to register surprise and the word “Fuck” sounded
in his head before the world winked out as his body toppled slowly sideways and he fell to the floor.
Without a backwards glance, Jeff walked swiftly out of the
room, meeting up in the hallway with Mutt. A moment later they ran from the building, leaving the unconscious cop to his solitary
Only the shadow watched what had happened and very slowly and
stealthily, it approached the man on the ground.
Captain Dobey walked by the side of the gurney into the entrance
to Memorial Hospital’s ER. Flat on his back, with his eyes closed and his face pale beneath the blazing bright neon
lights, Hutch looked vulnerable and younger than his 35 years and as the medics whisked him away into one of the side rooms,
the black man paused. He looked around, only too aware of the countless times he’d been here waiting for either Hutch
or Starsky or one of the countless other men under his command to respond to treatment.
Feeling exhausted and lost now that Hutch was at the hospital
and Sue was in custody and the initial emergency had passed, the black man staggered over to a waiting area sat down and put
his head in his hands. Looking down, he snorted at the swelling surrounding his right ankle. He’d not noticed the injury
during the thick of things, but now he felt the dull ache in the joint and realised he ought to get some sort of treatment
himself. Dobey looked up as a second ambulance drew up and Kiko emerged, holding a blood stained wad of cotton gauze to his
face. The young man nodded at Dobey before he was directed through to a small curtained cubicle.
‘Sir? Are you ok?’
Dobey looked up to see a young nurse looking down at him with
a concerned look on her face.
‘Yeah…no….yeah, I’m fine. I just came
in with….I need to…..damn.’ Taking a deep breath, the Captain collected his thoughts. ‘I’m a
cop. I brought one of my men in here. I need to see how he is’ Dobey forced himself to stand and wobbled as he got to
his feet, an involuntary hiss escaping him as he put weight onto his injured ankle.
‘I should take a look at that first’ the nurse
said, smiling encouragingly.
‘It’s fine. I need to….’
‘You need to come with me. If your man is being treated
there won’t be any news for a little while. Let me see to your ankle.’
Reluctantly, Dobey shuffled himself into the wheelchair that
the nurse brought for him and allowed himself to be wheeled into the cubicle next to Kiko’s. He could hear the doctor
there telling the young man that his nose was most definitely broken but that he didn’t think he needed an operation
to reset it. There was a silence, an audible crack accompanied by a yelp and then the doctor’s voice telling Kiko that
he’d done very well.
Meanwhile, the nurse had removed Dobey’s shoe and sock
and was pressing gently at the puffy, discoloured skin. ‘I don’t think anything’s broken’ she said.
‘But you’re going to be sore tomorrow. Look at you! Did you fall down the stairs or something?’
The black man sorted softly. ‘That’s about
the size of it’ he agreed ruefully looking at the bruises dappling his right arm and his right knee. Jeez! He’d
never realised just how much he’d hurt himself, his entire being focused on stopping Sue from getting away. Dobey snickered
to himself. Give it up Harold, you’re getting far too old for the rough stuff. The spirit is willing but the flesh
just don’t cut it any more!
The nurse finished circling his ankle with a supporting bandage
and asked if he needed a crutch to help him walk. At that precise moment, Dobey felt like he’d need a truck to move
him, but a crutch was one step too far and he shook his head gently, getting up from the small examination table and testing
his ankle gently. It was sore for sure, but he thought he could handle it.
‘Can I go see my man now?’ he asked.
‘Let me go find out where they’ve taken him’
the nurse nodded. As she started to draw the curtains from round the cubicle, however, Dobey could hear a man’s voice
shouting for the family of Ken Hutchinson. He hobbled into the corridor.
‘That’s me. I came in with him’ he said.
‘Is he ok? Can I see him?’
The doctor smiled briefly and directed the Captain into a small
side room. ‘What’s been happening with Ken?’ he asked
‘In what way? What’s wrong?’
‘We examined him for symptoms in accordance with his
being asphyxiated, however, while we’re treating that, we found some other symptoms that aren’t connected and
that we find suspicious.’
Dobey’s face fell. ‘Like what?’ he asked.
‘Well there’s evidence of sudden weight loss but
also signs that he’s been poisoned.’
‘Poisoned! What the hell….’
‘His pupils are sluggish, he has general muscle weakness
and loss of tone and his breathing has been compromised. Do you know anything about this?’
‘No, nothing. He was told his partner had died a week
ago and he was grieving for him, but….’
‘Do you think he would do anything…..um….out
of character?’ the doctor asked gently.
‘Hutch? Yeah, I thought about it. They were close, him
an’ Starsky. But if he’d wanted to, he’d have taken the direct route and blown his brains out. I took his
weapon just in case. But he wouldn’t do anything like poisoning himself.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘One hundred percent.’
‘Then can you think how?’
The black man’s face registered anger, his face taking
on a darker hue. ‘Yeah, I can think of how. I thought she’d tried to murder him today, but it seems like his girlfriend’s
been trying the subtler route for a while. What can you do?’
The doctor stood up. ‘Without knowing what kind of poison
it is, we can’t administer an anti toxin, but I’d like to pump his stomach to make sure anything still there will
‘Damn! He’s been through so much. But if that’s
what ya have to do…. Can I be with him?’
‘Sure. It isn’t pretty, but once we’ve got
rid of anything bad in his body, we can start to heal him and sometimes the results can be pretty miraculous.’
The two men walked into the Emergency room and Dobey went to
Hutch’s side. The cop looked even worse if anything. His breathing difficulties had prompted the medics to insert a
tube into his throat to keep his airways open and now the doctor was giving instructions for the stomach pumping.
Gently the nursing staff turned Hutch over so that he lay on
his left side, with the head of the gurney lowered. As Dobey winced in sympathy a lubricated stomach tube was gently inserted
through the blond cop’s mouth, into his oesophagus, and down to his stomach. Thankfully, Hutch was still completely
out of it and registered no discomfort, but still, the procedure left Dobey with the uncontrollable urge to gag for his friend.
As the doctor started the process, the contents of Hutch’s
stomach were suctioned out through the tube to be replaced by lukewarm water. They repeated the process countless times until
the fluids that come out of the stomach were clear and once he’d satisfied himself, the doctor gently withdrew the tube,
leaving the breathing tube in place. Hutch was left on his left side, but one of the nurses placed a pillow under his head
and gently smoothed away the sweat soaked golden bangs from his forehead.
‘Is that it?’ Dobey asked from the side of the
The doctor nodded. ‘Once his breathing is better, I’ll
remove the breathing tube and then we’ll take him up to a room soon. That’s all we can do for the moment. The
nursing staff will monitor his vitals. But other than that, this is just a waiting game.’
Dobey grunted. ‘A waiting game huh? Just what I enjoy!
Thanks Doc. If it’s ok, I’ll wait with him for a while?’
‘Sure. He may be able to hear you and I think he could
use a friendly voice. Go right ahead.’ As the staff set about cleaning up the room, Dobey snagged a chair and brought
it up to the gurney, positioning himself where Hutch could see him if he awoke, and then he settled down to wait.
The noise of the two men running away down the corridor died
away into the distance, leaving the building quiet as the grave. Starsky’s body lay where it had fallen, sprawled like
a broken doll on the ground, blood seeping from the corner of his mouth to form a small pool on the bare concrete ground.
For an age, there was complete silence. The brunet’s
breathing was so shallow that it couldn’t be heard. No birds sung in this part of town. It was desolate; as desolate
as the surface of the moon; as desolate as if an atomic bomb had gone off and killed every living thing. The sun continued
its path across the sky, shining pure golden beams through the mean window to cast light on the cop’s body and deepen
the dark shadows down the corridor.
But slowly, one of the shadows started to move of its own accord.
As the sun started to dip below the horizon, the girl emerged from her hiding place and cautiously approached the body on
Danielle Mutter was 10 years old. Dressed in denim dungarees
with a blue tee shirt underneath them, she stood no more than 4’ tall. This was her hiding place – her secret
place and despite her Mom’s strict instructions that she not play there, like any other kid faced with a whole block
of empty apartments, the lure of them was too much.
She was a streetwise kid. When her Dad had “gone on vacation”
a year or so ago, her Mom had taken on a second job in order to keep them in the apartment she’d grown up in. Now with
the added pressures, Mrs Mutter had little time to devote to her only child and so Danielle was left to her own devices more
She came to the disused block most days after school. Some
days, she skipped school completely. She hated it, feeling that the teachers didn’t like her and the other kids picked
on her because her Daddy wasn’t living at home. One of them had even said that he was in jail, but Danny knew that was
a lie and had immediately retaliated in the only way she knew how – with her fists. As a result, she’d been suspended
from school and a note had been sent home to her Mom. Danny had snickered to herself as she’d posted the note down the
nearest drain. What her Mom didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. So when she’d not got ready for school the next
day, she told her Mom that the school had a holiday and that she’d be fine in the house on her own. Her Mom had been
too harassed to argue and she’d kissed Danny on the head absently and with instructions to stay inside and not answer
the door to strangers, had gone to work.
Of course, Danny had waited a half an hour to make sure her
Mom didn’t return and then had let herself out of the house and had hotfooted it down to the apartment block. There,
she’d watched in mounting horror as the two big nasty men had been mean to the other man and had then run away.
Now, Danny crept out of her hiding place and peered around
the open door of the room. The man was still there and he wasn’t making any noise. Neither was he moving and for a moment
she wondered if he was dead. Very cautiously, the little girl walked into the room, ready to run at a minute’s notice.
As she got closer, she could see that the man had pretty curly hair, like hers and that his face was cut and bruised. His
mouth looked swollen and carefully, she knelt down by his side, watching.
Starsky remained still. He was semiconscious and had no idea
that he was no longer alone. He was still dreaming of Hutch when he felt something on his shoulder and for a moment, his pain
befuddled mind told him that the two heavies were back again. There was no way he could stand any more pain, he knew that
and thought that maybe, if he remained still, feigning unconsciousness, he could somehow put off any further rough treatment.
Again, the pressure on his shoulder returned, but something
about it felt different. Usually, Mutt and Jeff’s attacks started with them hauling him to his feet just so that they
could knock him down again. This was different. This time, the pressure was gentle and there was a tiny voice sounding in
the distance. He listened to it, focusing on the sound and gradually he could make out the words.
‘Mister? Hey mister. Are ya asleep?’
It was a child’s voice and the mystery caused Starsky
to stir, finally forcing him to open his one good eye. Bracing himself in case it was some kind of trick, he cracked open
his right eye and blinked at the vision in front of him.
Haloed by the fast fading sunlight, a small girl sat in front
of him, her face surrounded by a golden glow. So this was it. He was on his way at last although he’d never expected
an angel to come for him. With a contented sigh that this was finally over, the brunet surrendered himself to the guidance
of the heavenly vision.
‘M’ready’ he managed to mumble through his
smashed jaw as he closed his eye one last time.
‘What’cha ready for Mister?’ Danny looked
curiously at the injured man. She thought he might have been good looking if he wasn’t quite so beaten up. He looked
like the cops she saw on the TV in the shows that her Mom didn’t like her watching and for a second, she wondered if
he had a gun. A gun would be way too cool.
‘Huh?’ For Starsky, talking was painful. His jaw
had swollen and he could feel that several teeth were loose. But the very act of opening and closing his mouth was like torture
and he knew the final blow of the heavy’s foot against his head had broken his jaw.
‘Ya said you were ready. What’cha ready for?’
Carefully the brunet cop tried to sit himself back up again.
Maybe once he was upright, he’d be able to get his wits together. With his eye swollen shut and his ears still ringing,
he could hardly think straight. So. This wasn’t some angel come to take him away from his pain and misery. If not an
angel, then, who? And what was she doing here?
‘Dunno’ he managed to force out from his smashed
lips. The effort of levering himself up was too great and he gave it up, instead letting his head fall back to the hard concrete
as he hissed softly.
‘Are ya ok Mister?’ Danny asked. He didn’t
look ok. In fact now she had chance to examine him properly, he looked a real mess. With bruises all over his face, arms,
chest and back and with a weeks worth of growth of beard on his face, Starsky could almost be taken for a vagrant. Somehow
though, the child recognised that this man wasn’t an itinerant and that he needed some sort of help, even though his
appearance was scary. She knelt forward so that her head was directly in front of his.
‘Ut….sh’ Starsky managed to gasp, his eye
opening again to regard the child. He’d been so sure that he was dying and now hope flooded his heart again at seeing
someone else in the room with him. If only he could get the little girl to phone Hutch, everything would be fine. The pains
wouldn’t be so bad if he had his partner there. If Hutch was on the scene, he’d be satisfied because he’d
know the blond wasn’t hurting any more.
‘I wasn’t sayin’ nothin’ Danny said,
a little taken aback that the man had told her to hush.
‘Huh? I can’t hear ya. Your mouth looks kinda sore.
Did those men hurt you?’
‘Can I get ya somethin’ Mister?’
The injured cop tried to get his lips to form the words he
needed. ‘Dave.’ The name came out as a croak, but it sounded reasonably clear. In any event, the little girl seemed
to understand what he’d said this time.
‘Dave? Is that your name? I like that name. It’s
kinda short an’ nice. My name’s Danielle, but everyone calls me Danny. Well, not everyone. My Mom don’t
call me Danny. She says that’s a boys name an’ if I’d have been a boy she’d have named me with a boy’s
name. But she didn’t. But I don’t like Danielle. It’s too girly an’ my Mom says I’m a tomboy.
But that’s only coz I like climbin’ and fightin’ and stuff. My Mom says……hey, mister? Um….
Dave?’ Danny prodded him again softly with her finger his eye having drifted closed again.
Starsky forced his eye open. He was tired – no, more
than tired. He was bone crushingly exhausted and yet the sound of another human’s voice – even a child’s
– that wasn’t yelling at him or threatening to cause him more pain was so comforting that he felt he could have
led there and let her prattle on for ever. He felt cushioned by the presence of the little girl and wanted to lay and listen
to her voice until he fell asleep. The sound took his mind away from his current situation and the depressing thought that
Hutch thought he was dead. Sue said he was hurting and that she was making him suffer and that was the other thing keeping
Starsky going. While there was breath left in his body, he’d struggle to get back to his blond partner. But now Danny
had stopped and it was obvious that she expected him to respond to her in some way.
‘Huh?’ he managed to grunt.
‘Are ya ok? My Mom says I talk too much. Do I? Do ya
think I talk too much? I could shut up if ya want. Or I could just go.’
The thought filled Starsky with dread. He’d spent so
long on his own, or at the mercy of Sue and her two heavies that the idea of being alone again made him panic and his heart
started to beat faster in his chest.
‘No…..don’t go’ he mumbled and made
a grab for Danny’s arm with his right hand. She squealed when she saw the open, festering burn on his palm and pushed
him away, but remained where she was, fascinated and a little overawed by having a grown up man all to herself.
‘Ok, ok, I won’t go, if ya don’t want me
to. I should have been at school today, but they said I had to stay away coz I fought with John in the school yard. He said
my Daddy was in jail, but he aint. He’s gone on a long vacation an’ he won’t be back for a while. Have you
ever been in jail Mister….I mean Dave. I guess not. Only bad men get sent to jail. Like those horrible men who beat
up on ya. They should go to jail. If my Daddy were here, he’d have fought ‘em off for ya. He’s great, my
Daddy. He’s like one of those men on the TV, but he don’t have a gun. Well, he does, but Mom don’t know
about it. I found it once when I was lookin’ for Christmas presents, and Daddy got angry an’ made me promise never
to tell Mom about it. He bought me a watch, see?’ Danny held out her arm importantly for Starsky to inspect. ‘He
said I could have it if I didn’t tell Mom.’
Starsky focused on what he needed to do. He was drifting in
and out of consciousness now and it was taking him all his will to keep thinking about what he needed to do. The sheer presence
of another human being, albeit a very young one left him feeling so pitifully cosseted that thoughts of rescue drifted away
from him. This was rescue of a sort; rescue from loneliness; rescue from more beatings and suffering. The pains in his head
and the throbbing ache in his jaw beat at his consciousness, threatening to drive him once again into oblivion. Panicked that
if he slept the little girl would leave him, Starsky made a determined effort to make her understand.
‘Helllllp me’ he moaned, the words guttural and
harsh as he forced them from his injured lips.
‘Help ya? Yeah, I can do that. Mom says I’m good
at helping people. She says I should be a nurse or somethin’ when I’m grown up. She says I’d be good at
that and it’s good honest work’ Danny said as though she’d heard the sentiment several times. How can I
Starsky breathed past the pains and concentrated on trying
to get the words out. ‘Dunno.’
‘Oh um…..’ Danny looked around, her eyes
falling onto the cup that Sue’s heavies had left in their haste to get away. Her Mom always said that when she was sick,
she should drink plenty of water. The man who called himself Dave was definitely sick and in her childlike simplistic way,
Danny believed that if her Mom had said water would make her better, then a drink would help Dave too. Shuffling over, she
grabbed the cup and then crawled carefully back to the injured cop, her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth in
concentration. Gently she placed the cup of water in front of Starsky’s lips.
‘Here Mister. Mom says ya should drink plenty when you’re
sick an’ it always makes me feel better. Have a drink of this huh?’ the little girl urged.
Starsky opened his eye and blinked at Danny before his gaze
fell on the tin cup. The reaction he had to the cup was not the one that the little girl had anticipated and she yelped as
the brunet batted her hand away, a startled, pained look on his face.
‘Noooo’ he yelled huskily. ‘NOOOO.’
The thoughts of the tainted, poisoned water and the memories of Mutt and Jeff holding him down and forcing his mouth open
so that he choked on and then swallowed the fluid was too raw. The pains he felt in his stomach after he’d consumed
the water were too much, and he knew that if he were to suffer even more of them, he’d pass out for sure. The reaction
was pure survival instinct and with a sudden surge of strength, Starsky managed to push the child away.
The cup clattered to the floor, its poisoned contents spilling
over the concrete as Danny yelped and got to her feet. Her face crumpled and a single bright tear ran down the side of her
nose as she looked at the man. Danny didn’t understand what was going on. She was trying to help this curly haired man
and he’d seemed to like her. He talked to her and he needed her. To the little girl, that was important. It made her
feel grown up and she enjoyed that he talked to her and let her prattle on about herself.
Things had changed however and Danny didn’t understand
why. She looked at the cup and the spilled water and then back at the man. He was mad at her and she didn’t know why,
but that made her feel sad too and with a final strangled sob, she turned and ran from the room.
Starsky watched her go, panic setting in as he watched her
heels leaving. He struggled to sit up, determined that he wouldn’t allow her to go without making her understand that
he needed to get a message to Hutch, but he was too injured and way too slow.
The curly haired cop collapsed forwards onto the floor and
with his one good arm, clawed at the floor, trying to snake himself forward along the ground to go after the child.
‘Danny!’ he shouted, the name ending in a scream
as the words caused him to jolt his jaw open. His right arm stretched out as though it was long enough to catch a hold of
her and bring her back, but Danny was long gone and with a sob of frustration, Starsky’s head sank back onto the cold
‘Danny…..Hutch…..hellllp me’ he moaned
softly as the pains redoubled their efforts to plunge him into unconsciousness. The feeling of loss at the girl’s absence
was almost palpable. With Danny gone, Starsky had the unhappy impression that his last chance at escape had gone with her.
If only he’d been able to make her understand that he needed to get in touch with Hutch. But if the girl was really
only 10, what hope did he have of making her understand just how urgent this was.
With a low groan, the cop rested his head on the floor, feeling
his skin hot and dry against the cold concrete. A shiver ran through his body, jangling his nerves and exacerbating the pains
in his arm and shoulder. Coupled with the pains and the fever he was running, Starsky also felt a new need impact on his senses.
In the past few days, because he’d tried not to drink too much of the water and because he never knew whether it would
be tainted, he hadn’t had to relieve himself much. When he had, he’d been worried at the amount of blood in his
urine. Now a cramping pain grabbed at his lower back and caused him to writhe for a moment on the floor, gritting his teeth
against the sensation. With it came the urgent need to go and the brunet managed to roll over onto his back, unbuttoning his
jeans and dropping the zipper with his right hand.
Without the energy to get up to stagger to the pail in the
corner of the room, it was all Starsky could manage to roll back over onto his side and let the steam of almost pure blood
run away from him. He managed to pull up the zip with a sigh, startled at the colour of his water and as the fever started
to take a proper hold, he rested his head back against the floor and slipped into a turbulent sleep.
Captain Dobey sighed. It had been a long night and he was not
good at the waiting game. He was a doer, not a thinker and that’s why he’d taken such a shine to the two cops
that now occupied his mind. While he liked Hutch’s outward calmness and thorough approach to the job, he couldn’t
help but see something of himself in Dave Starsky. The young Harold Dobey had been just as cocksure of himself as the curly
haired cop and had been just as quick to march into a situation rather than wait for a whole bunch of ideas to be thought
of and then rejected. When Starsky had come to the precinct and had been ridiculed by some of the other more seasoned cops,
Dobey had taken him under his wing, seeing promise in the young curly haired detective. When he’d taken the huge gamble
of putting the two newbies together, he had to spend a lot of time justifying his actions to the powers that be, but he’d
been rewarded over the years by the duo’s tenacity, drive, arrest rate and loyalty to their Captain. Even if occasionally
that loyalty was heavily disguised behind jokes, banter and the odd, hot-headed exchange.
The black man watched over Hutch until the early hours of the
morning. Nurses and doctors arrived at the room periodically to check on the blond cop’s vitals, adding drugs to his
drip or gently inserting a thermometer under his tongue. For the most part, Hutch tolerated their ministrations well and remained
asleep. He rested quietly, sleeping the sleep of the dead – or the sleep of someone who’d come very, very close
to that state. Occasionally, a dream or a nightmare would shake him and he cry out huskily. Always the same cry and always
for the same person. ‘Starsk…..Starsky.’
As the first hints of the sun hit the window of the small private
room, the doctor came back again and made a more thorough examination. The breathing tube had been taken out very early on
in the night and now the medic was busy checking lymph nodes, muscle tone, reflexes and blood pressure. He made the usual
non committal “hmms” and “ahhhs” that doctors seem to be taught at medical school, checking the whole
of the blond’s body. Dobey winced at how fragile it looked, led on the bed. Hutch had lost a lot of weight in one week
and ribs were beginning to show through his skin, while his usually washboard abdomen seemed sunken. Finally the medic finished
his assessment and stood up, turning his attention to the Captain.
‘Well?’ Dobey asked ‘is he gonna be ok?’
The doctor smiled. ‘He’s a very fortunate man.
Yes, I think he stands to make a full physical recovery. There was little trauma to his airways from the asphyxiation attempt
and the poison that was being given to him was not a fast acting one. If he’d been given the same stuff for another
couple of weeks, this would have been a different story. As it is, Ken would have suffered cramps, pains in his back and legs,
and headaches. There would also have been some peripheral issues. His breathing would have been difficult and I think he’d
probably have had problems with his eyesight and his thought processes. Having said that, it was pretty easy to establish
what the poison was once we’d had in analysed and we’ve given him the anti-toxin. He should be ready to go home
in a few days. At the moment, he just needs monitoring and a lot of rest.’
Dobey took all the information in, his heart leaping that at
least one of his men was now out of the woods and on the mend. Now if they could just find out what had happened to Starsky,
the Captain would be one very happy bunny.
‘Will he wake any time soon?’ the black man asked.
‘I doubt it. His physical condition when he came in was
poor and coupled with that, we gave him a sedative to help him get the rest he needs. He should sleep for a while yet.’
Dobey’s face creased. ‘You keep using the word
“physically”. Is there somethin’ you aren’t tellin’ me Doc.?’
‘You told me that Sergeant Hutchinson was grieving for
the death of his partner. Sergeant Starsky died just over a week ago?’
‘Yeah, we think so. At least that’s what we’re
gonna find out.’
The medic ignored the cryptic comment and continued. ‘He
continues to call for his partner and not everything that we’ve seen in our physical examinations would be caused by
the poison. Captain, what I’m trying to say is that your man’s mental health may be in question. And that, we
can’t establish until he’s awake.’
‘Hutch’ll be fine. I just need to find Starsky
an’ he’ll be ok.’
‘I thought you said that Sergeant Starsky was dead –
that he died a week ago’ the medic said, thinking that maybe the whole of the Bay City Police Dept had finally lost
‘Yeah, well, don’t believe everythin’ ya
read in the newspapers. Is he gonna sleep for a while? Is it safe for me to go? I’ll be back later.’
‘Sure. He’ll sleep until we let him wake up.’
‘Well don’t let him wake up till I get back huh?
I’m gonna go back downtown and maybe get some answers for him.’ Dobey got stiffly to his feet and stretched the
muscles in his back. It had been a long time since he’d kept an all night vigil. Discounting the time Starsky had been
shot, the time before that was when his own partner, Elmo had finally been taken out by a gunman’s slug. Elmo had taken
fifteen days to die and Dobey had been at the hospital for every single one of them. The places left him feeling sick to his
stomach, but his loyalty to his men always made him attend to give his support.
He bent over the figure on the bed and gently patted Hutch’s
shoulder. A stray bang of dark wheaten hair lay against the cop’s forehead and looking over his shoulder to check that
no-one would witness the move Dobey reached up and smoothed it away. It wouldn’t do for the cast iron will of the police
Captain to come into question and he would never have touched any of his men in such a familiar fashion had they been awake
to witness it. But Dobey felt so badly for the big blond that his emotions ran wild.
Coughing gruffly, Dobey regained control of himself, clamping
down on his emotions with steely resolve. ‘I’ll um….see you later Hutchinson. Just rest huh? Be right back
Without a backwards glance, the Captain left the small quiet
private room and headed out to the parking lot. On the drive back to the metro he went over the facts in his head.
Fact one. Sue had tried to kill Hutch. She’d used poison
at first, but something had made her decide that it wasn’t quick enough and she’d resorted to trying to smother
Fact two, Hutch had been convinced that Starsky was still alive
although no-one had believed it at the time, putting it down to the blond’s overwhelming grief for his partner’s
Fact three. No jewellery or any other distinguishing feature
had been found on the body that had been burned in Starsky’s apartment. Unusual in the extreme, it wasn’t enough
to build a case on, but this morning the results of the dental testing would be in and he’d be able to say yay or nay
as to whether Starsky had in fact perished in the flames.
Fact four. Sue had kept everyone away from Hutch while he’d
Fact five. No-one knew very much about Sue, but Dobey was damned
if he wasn’t gonna get pretty well acquainted with her real soon.
Pulling into the parking lot at the Metro, Dobey got out and
hauled his ass up to the third floor and the records office. Walking in he was greeted by the officer on duty.
‘Captain Dobey! We don’t often see you up here
in our eerie. And so early in the morning too. What can we do for you?’ Michaelson had only been with the department
four months. He was fresh faced and young, but had endeared himself to all by being eager and capable.
‘I want ya to pull any records you might have on one
Susan Gardener, age 30ish.’
‘The woman who tried to kill Hutch?’ Michaelson
‘News travels fast, yeah, that’s her’ Dobey
‘Sure thing Cap’n. How is Hutch? Will he make it?’
‘Yeah. Thank God. The Doc says he should be fine. I just
wanna nail this woman. I want you to find every piece of dirt ya can on her. I don’t want her to have had a parking
ticket without us knowin’ about it. Can ya do that for me son?’ Dobey stopped himself. ‘Sorry….Michaelson.’
The fresh faced officer grinned, knowing that he seemed to
bring the father out in most of the older officers. ‘No problem Captain. If it’s there, believe me, I’ll
find it. Give me a couple of hours huh?’
Dobey smiled, his faith in the young man unquestionable. He
knew Michaelson would leave no stone unturned and he fought the urge to pat the young man on the head. Instead he gruffed
a “thank you” and left.
Moving on from records, Dobey went back to his own office,
poured himself a large black coffee, added three sugars and then sat down at his desk. He massaged his fingers into the knots
at the back of his neck, stretched luxuriously and then reached for the phone, ringing down to the city morgue. It was early
– not yet 7:30 but he knew Rodriguez was an early bird and the phone picked up on the fourth ring.
‘Hey Rodriguez, good mornin’.’
‘And good mornin’ to you Captain. Are you telepathic
or somethin’? I was just about to ring your office’ the Spaniard chuckled down the phone.
‘What have ya got for me?’
There was a sigh down the phone. ‘I don’t know
whether this is good news or bad news Captain, but I have the autopsy report on the body found at 2000 Ridgeway. Dental records
concur. This is not Sergeant Starsky,’
The world seemed to fall away from under Dobey’s chair
and for a moment a wave of dizziness assailed him as he grabbed for the chair arm. ‘Say again Rodriguez. That aint Starsky.
It’s not him, right?’
‘One hundred percent sure Captain. The body in the morgue
belongs to one Hubert McMillan. He was a small time thief and has lately been living on the street. The body is not Senior
Dobey closed his eyes in relief. ‘Thanks Rodriguez. You
did good. I owe ya one.’
There was a muted chuckle. ‘You owe me plenty Captain,
but I’m just glad I could be of service.’
The black man put the telephone down and massaged at his temples
with his fingers. Hot damn! Hutch had been right. Starsky wasn’t dead. Or at least, that wasn’t Starsky’s
body – not the same thing as Starsky not being dead at all. But he’d work with it. Now they needed to concentrate
on where the brunet cop was and why he wasn’t at Ridgeway that night, and how Hubert McMillan had ended up in Starsky’s
bed. As they said in all the old Sherlock Holmes films Dobey liked to watch, “the plot thickened”.
An hour later and Dobey’s phone rang for a second time.
This time Michaelson’s voice sounded down the phone.
‘Michaelson, tell me what you’ve got.’
‘Nothing Sir. Nada. Zip. Sue Gardener is as clean as
‘Shit.’ Dobey spat out the expletive with feeling.
‘No, Sir. Not shit. This means something.’
‘It does? Explain that to me son’ Dobey said, the
irony heavy in his voice.
‘Everyone has some records, even if it’s that they
didn’t file a tax return on time. Believe me, over the past couple of hours I’ve searched our records, I’ve
checked with neighbouring precincts and I’ve gone over all the microfiche records for a Susan Gardener. Then I started
looking further afield. I’ve checked tax records, birth’s deaths and marriages, school records. Everything I could
think of. And here’s the really odd thing. Susan Gardener only came into existence four years ago.’
Dobey grasped his telephone all the harder. ‘Say again!’
‘The woman you have in the cells only has records going
back four years. Before that, it’s like she never existed. Like I said, clean as a whistle.’
‘But in these last four years you have records for her.
Does that mean maybe she came here from another country?’
‘No Sir, we’d still have her records from her country
of origin. I mean that up until four years ago Sue Gardener didn’t exist.’
‘I’m comin’ up.’
Dobey slammed the phone down and furrowed his brow. What the
hell was going on? No records until four years ago? Shit! Forcing his tired and bruised body up with a quiet hiss, Dobey made
his way quickly up to the third floor again and pushed open the door to the records office. Michaelson was waiting for him
with a small buff folder containing scribbled notes.
‘That’s the only stuff there is on Sue Gardener.
That’s her work records and her tax records for four years.’
Dobey looked at the notes the young officer had made. Sue Gardener.
Born Alabama 13th May 1950. Worked as a chief executive of Western Electronics until a year ago and then left. She hasn’t
had formal employment since. He looked up. There was something about it that seemed to make sense. Something he ought to remember
– it was right there at the back of his mind if he could only think!
And then, like a light bulb going on in his head, the answer
came to him. Dobey let out a low groan. ‘Michaelson – do one final thing for me will you? Pull this file’
he wrote out the name on the top of the paper. The young officer’s eyebrow shot up his forehead but he did as he was
asked and deftly Dobey ran through the details, stopping at one name and prodding at it with a stubby finger.
‘Thanks Son, you may have just saved Starsky’s
life’ the black man said as he ran from the room and out to his car. Michaelson watched him go with a look of disbelief
on his face.
‘Saved his life? He’s um….he’s dead,
Dobey rushed into the hospital room occupied by his blond cop.
Hutch had had a good night and his sedation had been discontinued so that now, as the door swung open wide, crystal blue eyes
cracked open and Hutch rolled his head on the pillow. His face cracked into a weak smile as he saw his Captain.
‘Hey’ he croaked as Dobey came to his bedside.
Hutch’s voice was raw and rasping from the tubes that had been forced down his throat, but already his eyes seemed clearer
and he had none of the gut wrenching pains in his stomach. Although still incredibly weak, he felt rested and better than
he had done for days.
‘Hey yourself. How’re ya doin’?’ Dobey
‘Cap’n I have to tell you. I tried back at my place
but…. You’re gonna think I’m crazy, but I know Starsk is still alive’ Hutch said in a rush.
‘Yeah, I know son. I believe ya.’
Hutch’s eyebrows rose. He’d been expecting a fight
to convince the black man and this came like a bolt from the blue. ‘You do? You believe me? Ya don’t think I’m
a candidate for Cabrillo?’
‘I believe ya. As to whether you’re crazy, well
maybe you should pick your girls a little more carefully.’
A flash of pain and a little fear crossed the cop’s face
and he closed his eyes. ‘Sue! Why, Cap’n? Why? I thought she loved me, and then she sold us both out. Why?’
‘Coz she aint Sue Gardener’ Dobey said gently.
Hutch raised his head from the pillow and frowned. ‘She
isn’t? Then who?’
‘Sue Gardener didn’t exist till four years ago.
She’s a clever one. She managed to expunge all her previous records. The only thing she left was a record of being Chief
Executive of Western Electronics.’
‘Western…. Name rings a bell.’
Dobey sighed heavily. ‘It should do. You investigated
them four years ago. They’re a subsidiary of a bigger holding corporation. Hutch….son. She was out for revenge
pure and simple. She wasn’t Sue Gardener. Her real name is Sue Gunther.’
‘Sue who?’ For a moment Hutch thought the drugs
must have clouded his mind more than he’d thought. For one staggering minute he though his Captain had said the foulest
curse word he could think of – Gunther. The name still clawed at his heart and left a bitter taste in his mouth. He
stared hard at Dobey, but the Captain’s face showed nothing but seriousness and care.
‘I’m sorry Hutch. I’ve been at the metro
all morning. I got that bright kid, Michaelson up in records to pull everything we had on Sue Gardener, but then when he started
doin’ the diggin’ it seemed she didn’t exist until four years ago. No birth certificates that matched, nothing
and for sure no police records.
‘So. She don’t break the law’ Hutch said
‘Yeah, my initial thoughts too, till Michaelson pointed
out that everyone has some sort of record. An’ it got me thinkin’.’
‘Now hold on Cap’n. I may not be firin’ on
all thrusters right now, but if my girl didn’t have a criminal record, why check further?’
‘Hutch, she tried to kill you. Why are ya getting’
all defensive son?’ Dobey said gently. ‘I did what any good cop would do when they were lookin’ for a lead.
I started doing some digging and apparently Sue Gardner’s tax returns said she was Chief Executive for Western Electronics.
The name rang a bell but for a while I couldn’t think where I’d heard the name.’
‘Western Electronics? Yeah, rings all sorts of bells
with me to’ the blond agreed.
Dobey nodded and continued. ‘Yeah, it would. So finally
I remembered and I pulled James Gunther’s records and turned up that he had a daughter – Susan.’
‘Oh my god! The little bitch! How could I have been so
fuckin’ stupid’ Hutch said, trying to sit himself up in the bed. The black man pushed him back down without too
‘You weren’t to know. How could you have known
about that?’ Dobey asked.
‘I should’ve known. That bastard Gunther can get
at us even from jail. He….he..’ Hutch closed his eyes, his head suddenly pounding as he thought back to that day
in another room near the ICU in Memorial Hospital. Starsky lying, pale and almost fatally wounded in the bed, gastro intestinal
tube passing from nose to stomach, oxygen cannula feeding the life giving gas into his body. It had been two days since his
friend had woken up and Starsky was still incredibly weak and by no means out of the woods, but Hutch had been on a roll,
having gotten the print outs on Gunther Industries from the computer buffs at the Metro. He’d come rushing into the
ward, tapping insistently on the glass observation window of the brunet’s room to be rewarded by a sly smile and a flash
of indigo eyes as Starsky’s nurse protested and threatened to bring in security.
That day had been ingrained in Hutch’s memory as the
day he started to get his partner back; the day that Starsky started to fight his way back to health. Hutch had hated the
feelings of uselessness he’d experienced at seeing the brunet so badly injured and being able to do nothing to help.
But once he’d gotten the lead to James Gunther he’d been on the next plane out of LAX to arrest the murderer and
had taken great delight in bending the white haired tycoon over the huge mahogany desk to cuff him and read him his rights.
It seemed ironic now that the same sort of hospital room that
he’d explored his first lead to Gunther in should now bear witness to the breakthrough in finding the brunet once again
and Hutch started to struggle on the bed determined to get up and leave.
‘Where is she? Where’s that fuckin’ little
bitch. I wanna see her’ he croaked huskily, trying to disengage himself from Dobey’s strong hands.
Dobey struggled with him for a moment. Although still recovering
from the poison and weak from lack of food, Hutch was fuelled by his anger and his desire to see Sue face to face. The chane
in the blond was good, but far too soon. He tried desperately to get up from the bed, and managed to swing his legs over the
side of the mattress, bending double to ease the waves of nausea that washed over him.
‘Hutchinson, what the hell are ya doin’?’
the Captain thundered.
‘I gotta go see her. That bitch knows where my partner
is an’ I’m gonna….ggggonna….oh shit.’ Hutch’s struggles were stopped abruptly as he started
to cough and at the same time vomit, the results being bright red and stained with blood. The blond clutched at his chest
and stomach and would have toppled head first from the bed had it not been for Dobey’s “Mom” manoeuvre as
his arm shot out to grab the cop round his waist.
Gently the Captain eased Hutch back onto the bed and as the
blond gasped and panted for breath Dobey pressed the medic call button. Within minutes the room was stuffed with nurses, orderlies
and doctors all surrounding the bed. Checks were performed, tests carried out and sedatives pumped into the port in the drip
feed attached to the back of the blond’s hand until after ten minutes of frantic activity, Hutch was once again sleeping
and the doctor turned red faced to Dobey.
‘When I said he needed rest I meant rest, not pumped
up into hysteria!’ he said sternly and fixed Dobey with such a glare that the Captain felt like a little boy being told
off by his Daddy.
‘I um….I didn’t…..’
‘Well let that be a lesson. His stomach still needs to
recover from the poison. He needs time to get over his maltreatment and he doesn’t need this. Now out. Get out of the
room and don’t come back until you have my permission.’
Dobey opened his mouth to make a retort, but the doctor was
more fierce than the Captain and, suitably mollified, the black man took a last look at the blond in the bed and left.
The doctor turned back to his patient, making final checks
before he left the blond to his sleep, although he seemed to be unable to find true rest. Hutch was once more dreaming, but
his dreams now were taking a distinctly dark turn. He was back on the beach again, but now, as he tried to swim out to grab
a hold of his partner, Starsky simply waved at him weakly, smiled sadly and allowed himself to be carried further out to sea.
As the nurse continued to sponge his face with a cool cloth, Hutch moaned Starsky’s name time after time, his head tossing
against the pillow.
‘Starsk, don’t leave me. I’m close, don’t
go. Hang on.’ Because deep down, the flaxen haired cop seemed sure that this time his partner was dying.
It had been a long, cold and painful night for the brunet.
For some time after Danny had gone he lay unconscious on the floor, the pains and weakness having finally claimed him. In
the time that he was dreaming, he could see Hutch in the distance and he tried desperately to reach for the big blond. With
Hutch he felt better. With the blond cop at his side, Starsky felt invincible, as though he could take on every flake in the
world and beat them all hands down. With Hutch there, he could get through this, endure the pain and come out the other side.
If only the girl would come back, or send someone to find him.
The floor was hard digging into his ribs, spine and chest but
Starsky had little strength left to move. During the long cold dark hours of the night, he’d woken periodically, aware
of noises in the fabric of the building. The concrete groaned and the wooden fixtures creaked and sang as they contracted
in the cooler air. With each sound, the brunet flinched, imagining that maybe Mutt and Jeff, or Sue might be on their way
back to offer him the coupe de grace. There were long periods when he wished someone would finish him. The loneliness and
the quiet of the apartment block seemed to leach away any faith he had in anyone finding him alive and more than once he’d
called out Hutch’s name into the dark, wishing he could see the golden face one more time.
Towards morning, his fever took a stronger hold and shudders
wracked his body as he writhed weakly against them. The poison he’d been fed had set up some sort of irritant in his
gut and the pains still roiled around his insides, but they were now accompanied by a deep, agonising pain in his back, centred
on his kidneys. Although he felt as though he needed desperately to go, on the occasions he managed to wrestle with the zip
on his jeans, he’d managed to force out only a few drops, each tinted darkly with blood.
Breathing too was becoming an issue and a deep, bubbling cough
had started to make its presence felt in his chest. Try as he might to quell it, Starsky had fits of coughing which left him
completely exhausted and which plunged him once again into unconsciousness, the pains from moving his jaw doing nothing to
help his problems.
Dawn came, sending pale tendrils of cool light into the room
and with the light came a flicker of new hope. Starsky had made it through another night and in the light of day, his problems
seemed to diminish slightly as his ever optimistic spirit took over, sending his desperation flying away with the darkness.
Maybe someone would come to the building today. Maybe he could hold on just a little longer.
A few blocks away, Danny got into her school clothes and while
her Mom was busy showering and getting ready for work, the little girl set about getting some things together. She had no
intention of going back to the school. The man she’d found was far more fun than Mrs Imada’s math class and although
he’d scared her when he’d knocked the water cup from her hand, she felt that maybe that was just his way. Not
everyone liked water, did they? She hated it. She liked soda better and so she raided her fridge, the cupboards and the sofa
and stuffed everything into her backpack and called goodbye to her Mom.
By 9:00 that morning, Starsky was feeling the effects of having
had nothing to drink for the past 24 hours. His tongue seemed to have swollen to twice it’s size inside his moth and
when he tried to move it, to swill it around his dry, cut lips, it felt like sandpaper. Another shiver ran through his body
and he moaned low in his throat. Moaning somehow felt good. It reminded him that he was still alive and that he might yet
have a chance of being rescued. It was good to hear another human voice, even if it was his own, but now, he braced himself,
hearing footfalls coming down the corridor towards his room. Hoping against hope that this was rescue and not the flakes come
back to beat up on him again, the brunet raised his head an inch or so from the floor and tried to cry out. His voice, however
had dried away to almost nothing and his jaw had stiffened during the night so that it barely opened. Starsky closed his eyes
in frustration, opening them again a moment later as someone came into the room.
Danny knelt down by the side of the curly haired cop and smiled
at him. He didn’t look quite so scary in the morning light and solemnly she regarded him.
‘Hi, I came back’ she said unnecessarily.
‘Ungh’ Starsky moaned, unable to get out a single
comprehensible word from between his broken jaw. He raised his right hand weakly however and made a small waving motion to
let the girl know that he was glad she was back.
Unfazed by the lack of communication and having enough words
for the both of them, Danny started to unpack her backpack and lay out it’s contents on the floor. First out of the
bag was a large fluffy cushion that she usually kept on her bed. It had a picture of Spiderman on it and it was her favourite,
but now she showed it to the injured cop.
‘I brought this. You looked kinda uncomfortable. Want
me to put it under your head for ya Mister….I mean Dave. It’s comfy. I have it on my bed at home, but you can
share it for a while if ya like. Would ya like that?’
Without pausing for an answer, Danny gently put her small hand
under Starsky’s head and helped him raise it so that she could tuck the cushion underneath. The brunet rested his head
against the soft material with a small sigh. It was the first time in over a week that he’d had any comfort at all,
and absurdly, he felt a tear trickle out of the corner of his eye.
‘..nks’ he managed to force out of his mouth.
Danny grinned at him and carried on, happy that the man seemed
to like her gifts.
‘Ya didn’t seem to like the water yesterday. but
that’s cool. I hate water too. It don’t taste of nuthin. I like pop better, but your mouth still looks sore so
I brought ya this too. D’ya want a popsicle Dave?’ Danny asked, pulling the small ice drink out of her bag like
a magician producing a rabbit from a hat.
The cop eyed the ice with hungry eyes, his body shuddering
in anticipation of the coldness on the back of his throat and as Danny tore off the wrapper, he reached weakly for it and
greedily forced it between his smashed lips to taste the sweet fluid. Nothing had ever tasted so good in his whole life, not
even the most expensive meal in the best restaurant in California could beat the liquid luxury trickling down his parched
throat and Starsky closed his eyes in bliss, feeling the ice revive him like nothing else could.
Weak as he was, the brunet managed to suck on the popsicle
for over a minute before the task of holding it to his mouth became to great and his right hand dropped to the ground with
‘Don’t you want any more?’ the little girl
‘S….gud’ Starsky managed to say, although
talking seemed almost too energetic for him at that moment.
‘Yeah, they’re my favourites too’ Danny prattled
on. ‘I’m gonna look after ya Dave, coz you’re hurt. I brought all the stuff and I can help’ she continued.
Starsky concentrated. He needed to let her know that he had
to get to Hutch. He needed to get her to get him some help, even though he didn’t really want her to go away either.
Carefully he formed the words and forced them out through his
damaged jaw. ‘Hut…ch……need ‘Utch’ he gasped, taking a hold of Danny’s wrist. She
studied him for a moment.
‘What’s a hutch?’ she asked. ‘I brought
you these. You’re bleedin’ and Mom always uses these when I fall and hurt myself.’ The little girl held
out a Band-Aid. With her tongue sticking out in concentration, Danny took a moment in peeling off the wrapper and the paper
from the back of the dressing and very carefully, she fixed it over one of the cuts on Starsky’s face, patting it down
gently at the edges. She sat back, obviously pleased with the result. The brunet grunted, touched by the child’s consideration
and care, but still needing to make her understand.
‘Frrrrennnnd ‘Utsssh. Neeeed t’tell him I’m
heeeeeere’ he mouthed slowly.
Danny sat back and listened. 'But I’m you’re friend.
You don’t need no-one else’ she said shyly. ‘I can look after ya Dave. I can. See. I even drew you a picture.’
Danny took a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket and opened it for Starsky to see. It showed her and the brunet standing
hand in hand with a big red flower by the side. As she handed it to him, Starsky’s hand shook.
‘Ccccrayon?’ he asked hesitantly and as Danny gave
him a red crayon, he scrawled the Metro’s number on the back of the picture.
‘Hutsssch’ he managed to mumble before his strength
gave out and he drifted back to sleep.
The dreams finally shook Hutch awake after a couple of hours.
His throat felt just as raw and sore as before the doctor had put him under again but his head had stopped pounding and the
cessation of pain allowed him to think more clearly about Dobey’s visit earlier that morning. Who would have believed
that the woman who had professed her undying love to him for over three months would turn out to be the daughter of his and
his partner’s arch enemy- James Gunther? How cold and calculating could the woman have been for God’s sake! She
must have been planning this for the four years it had been since they’d put her father away for life. Damn it! Hutch
knew he needed to get to her to talk to her, but he also knew that Dobey would have none of it. As the victim of a crime,
Hutch could hardly go in all guns blazing to interview Sue, but there was nothing to stop him being present – watching
in another room. Well, nothing except the fact that he was stuck in hospital hooked up to drips and monitors.
For a moment, Hutch thought about calling the doctor and asking
for the medic to release him, but having heard in the dim recesses of his drugged mind the conversation that the doctor had
had with Dobey, he didn’t think for one minute that he’d be discharged that easily.
He needed a different plan and turning over with a muted groan,
Hutch reached for the bedside phone and asked for the number for the Pits. Huggy Bear usually got to work at about 11:00am
and so the phone picked up on the second ring and the black barkeep’s laconic voice sounded down the phone.
‘Huggy Bear, don’t be square.’
‘Hutch, my man! How are you doin’?’ Huggy
sounded genuinely relieved to hear from the blond, considering that the last time they’d been together, Hutch looked
as though he was at death’s door.
‘Been better, but I need to ask a favour.’
‘Anythin’. You know better than to ask.’
‘Hug, I need to get outa here. I need your help’
Hutch hissed urgently into the phone.
‘Oh now, hold it Blondie. You is sick with a capital
S. You need to stay put and get well, that’s what you need.’
Hutch sighed, having anticipated the reaction from his friend.
Huggy had his best interests at heart, but he needed out. Now. He tried again. ‘Huggy, please. Just bring me a set of
clothes and some wheels an’ break me out huh?’
‘Why the urgency?’ Huggy asked, hedging for time.
‘Because I just found out who the girl I thought was
my girlfriend really was an’ I need to be there to see what she has to say when they interview her’ Hutch explained.
‘Well you know who she is. An evil little bint called
‘Uh uh. Try again Hug. Seems Starsk an’ me were
suckered into all this by one Susan Gunther.’ The blond paused letting the name sink in with his buddy.
‘You mean Susan Gunther as in…..?’
‘One and the same Hug. My girl is the daughter of James
Gunther. She’s planned all this for years and Hug, she knows where Starsky is. I need to find out.’
There was a rattled quality to Huggy’s voice. The barman
was shaken to the core by the revelation and for a moment he could find no words to express his feelings. Finally he cleared
his throat. ‘Oh my God! Course ya do. You think he’s still alive - Starsky?’
‘Yeah, I think so. I’ve thought so all along, but
for how much longer is anyone’s guess. Hurry Huggy. Just hurry huh?’ Hutch smiled to himself as he heard the phone
go dead at the other end. He could always count on Huggy Bear to come through in a crisis and now he led back, and waited.
Within an hour, the door to Hutch’s private room opened
and with the air of a secret agent on the run from the Russians, Huggy inserted his lanky frame between door and lintel and
closed it behind him. He grinned at the man in the bed and waved a small holdall in the blond’s general direction.
‘One escape kit a la Huggy. Are ya sure you wanna do
this Hutch? You still look like shit man.’
Hutch threw back the sheets and with care swung his legs over
the edge of the bed. If he was to be honest, he felt like shit too, although not as bad as a couple of hours ago. He took
the black BP cuff off his right arm and fumbled with the sticky tape holding the cannula in the back of his left hand. Wincing
slightly, he pulled out the inch and a half plastic tube from his vein and stuck his thumb over the tiny puncture wound as
it started to bleed.
Wobbling as he stood, Hutch managed to get dressed with relative
ease. He felt as though he’d been kicked in the stomach by a mule and his throat was sore and raw as though someone
had cleaned down it with sandpaper, but at least he was able to stand upright this time without losing his last cup of tea
onto the floor. Within five minutes, the blond was dressed in jeans and tee shirt, socks and loafers and although the clothes
didn’t cling quite as tightly as they had two weeks ago, they hid the plough furrow ribs and jutting hip bones. With
a final sigh he looked over at the bar man who’d been keeping lookout.
‘Ready?’ he asked.
Huggy checked outside again and nodded. ‘Coast is clear,
it’s now or never.’
Hutch stood up from the bed a little too quickly and made a
grab fro the nightstand as he fought for control, heaving deep breaths to keep his stomach in check. Huggy raised his eyebrows.
‘You sure about this Blondie?’
‘Hug, don’t argue, just get me the hell outa here
huh?’ Hutch said, ignoring the room that was spinning like a top around him. He placed a hstily scribbled note explaining
his absense onto the empty bed and then staggered over to his buddy and, hanging on tightly to Huggy’s arm, the two
men made their way quickly and silently out to the waiting car.
The cream coloured caddy was a luxurious refuge for the two
escapees and as Hutch got in, he closed his eyes, panting hard. The short walk down to the parking lot had taken it out of
the blond and he felt exhausted but at the same time glad to be out of the hospital and on the move.
Huggy got into the car and turned on the engine. ‘Metro?’
he asked although he knew the answer.
‘Uh huh. And quick’ the blond panted, leaning his
head back against the headrest.
‘Hutch are ya sure you should be goin’ there? I
mean she’s one slippery chick, an’ you aint exactly Captain Marvel at the moment. Are you sure this is the right
thing for ya to do?’
‘I have to Hug. Just drive huh? Maybe I need to sleep
a little’ Hutch said fighting the waves of exhaustion that threatened to wipe him out.
‘Fine. Give it the Zzzs for a while. I’ll wake
ya when we get there.’
Hutch closed his eyes and within seconds was once again asleep,
unhappy with just how weak he still was. Huggy drove confidently and smoothly down town and within ten minutes pulled up outside
the police headquarters. Gently he prodded the blond’s shoulder.
‘Hey Blondie. Metro ahoy. Wakey wakey huh?’
Hutch pulled himself up out of his sleep and rubbed his eyes
with his knuckles, reaching for the door handle. Walking wasn’t quite so easy this time and he leaned even more heavily
on Huggy’s arm, taking the elevator down to the basement and the interview rooms rather than walking down the steps.
As he pushed open the door to the corridor leading to the interview rooms one of the sergeants on duty looked up in astonishment.
‘Hutch! I thought you were in the hospital Pal’.
‘I was, but I um….got out today. I needed to be
here Joe. Has Sue Gunther’s interview started yet?’ Hutch asked, trying to keep himself upright and not looking
like something that would fall over at a second’s notice.
‘Yeah, about ten minutes ago. Room sixteen. But you can’t
go in Hutch. You know the rules.’
‘I can watch from fifteen though’ the blond grunted.
‘Who’s doin’ the questionin’?’
Joe checked his sheet of paper. ‘Dobey and Joan Meredith.
At the moment Dobey is playin’ good cop.’
‘Fine. You know where I’ll be’ the blond
snapped as he started off down the corridor. The floor seemed to tip and he made a grab for the wall, correcting himself a
moment later as Joe called after him
‘Dobey thought you might get here. He told me not to
let you down there. You don’t look so good Hutch. Is this a good idea?’
‘That’s just what I been askin’ him. But
he’s stubborn as a mule an’ twice as ornery. You aint gonna stop him’ Huggy offered as he followed the flaxen
haired cop down the corridor. He found Hutch looking through the two way mirror separating rooms fifteen and sixteen. The
blond leaned his head against the wall as he listened to the questions and answers through the intercom. Gently, Huggy brought
up a chair and eased his buddy down into it as Hutch continued to stare at the woman through the mirror.
Sue Gunther seemed composed. She sat with her back to the door,
facing into the mirror, her back ramrod straight and her hands folded on the table in front of her. Captain Dobey was perched
on the table to her side and Joan Meredith prowled along the back of the room providing an intimidating presence.
The two men in room fifteen listened.
‘We know what you did to Ken Hutchinson. We want to know
why.’ Dobey was asking.
‘You didn’t know shit till I confessed. He deserved
to die. Both of them did for what they did to my Father.’
‘So you admit you took David Starsky too?’
Sue glared at him, but remained tight lipped as Meredith planted
her hands down on the table so that her face was inches from Gunther’s.
‘It aint polite to ignore a question lady. Tell the man
what he wants to know.’
Sue snickered. ‘Take your dirty black face outa my sight
nigger. I won’t talk to you.’
Meredith grabbed Sue’s collar and drew the woman towards
her. ‘Don’t give me that nigger shit. You took the man that I once partnered and I’m gonna make you sweat
till you tell me where he is. Got that, lady?’
‘You’ll never find him’ Sue snorted. ‘Never.’
‘So you do admit you took Starsky.’
‘Fuck you!’ Sue said. In the next room, Hutch had
stiffened at the semi admission and Huggy watched as the blond’s fists balled and he clutched then to his sides, fighting
for control. Softly he put his hands on Hutch’s shoulders.
‘Easy man’ the black man whispered. ‘Let
‘em do their job huh?’
‘She took Starsk’ Hutch said in a pained voice.
‘She took him. If she can do that to me, what’s she done to him?’
Inside, the interview was continuing as Dobey pushed Meredith
gently away. ‘What my friend is trying to say is that we’d like to know where you took him and what you did to
him’ Dobey said, locking eyes with the woman. ‘This aint doin’ you any good Sue. Maybe if you tell us and
we get to him, we can cut a deal huh?’
‘Cut a deal? Like you did with my Daddy? Starsky should
have died back in that garage’ Sue snapped, her face changing from impassive to angry. ‘Daddy saw to it that they
paid when they missed killing him. He watched all the news reports – taped every single one of ‘em so that he
could listen to how that pig suffered time and again. And when he got better I made damned sure he’d live to regret
Suddenly the door to the interview room was flung open and
a blond whirlwind cannoned into the room, aiming straight for Sue like a radio guided golden missile. Huggy hadn’t seen
it coming. Hutch had been sitting watching the woman intently, but when she’d started badmouthing his partner, the flaxen
haired cop had leapt from his chair and bolted out of the room before the lanky black man could stop him.
Now Hutch had his ex girlfriend by the throat backed up against
the wall of the interview room. He slapped her once, full force across the face before staring deep into her eyes.
‘You tell me where my partner is right now, or so help
me I’ll kill ya right here, right now’ the blond yelled at her, his hand circling her throat. As Sue smiled up
at him, mocking him with her eyes, Hutch started to squeeze, his fingers locking around her throat.
‘Kill me an’ you’ll never find him’
‘Tell me where Starsky is’ the blond grunted. ‘Tell
me now, or so help me…’
Behind him, Dobey put a restraining hand on the blond’s
shoulder. ‘Hutchinson, back off’ the Captain thundered trying to pull the grief stricken cop away. Hutch shrugged
the hand off and squeezed harder on Sue’s throat so that she started to gasp and cough.
‘You tell me now you evil little bitch or you’re
The woman managed a final smile. ‘He’ll be dead
before you get to him. He’s hurt – bad. And all the time he was being hurt he called for you until he told us
he hated you because you never came for him. Think on that Ken. Take that with you to the grave. Your partner died cursing
your name because you couldn’t save him.’
Hutch’s control snapped. With a blood curdling scream
he drew back his fist to drive it into Sue’s smug face. As it started forward on its way to it’s target, a meaty
black fist caught it and held it in a powerful grip. Hutch whirled and launched a punch at Dobey, incensed that he couldn’t
carry out his threat to kill the woman. She was lying he knew, but the words hurt and the vision of his partner crying out
for him stayed with him.
‘Noooo. Lemme go. Lemme get at her. I’m gonna kill
her. I’m gonna fuckin’ kill her’ Hutch sobbed as Joe and another officer came in and dragged him bodily
from the room. As he was hauled away Sue yelled after him.
‘Remember Ken. Dave hated you in the end.’
With a final gasp, the emotions caught up with the weakened
cop and as Joe took a hold of him around the waist, he collapsed against the sergeant, his head falling forward as he passed
out in the corridor.
Back in the interview room, Sue looked on in satisfaction,
confident in the knowledge that the brunet would never be found until it was far too late.
'Get him out of here. Take him upstairs' Dobey said as Huggy
and Joe more or less carried the tall blond along the corridor and up the steps. By the time they'd walked him to the small
sickbay and had managed to lie him down on the bed, Hutch was coming around a little and was once again struggling to sit
up. Dobey walked into the room, his tie loose around his neck and the top button of his shirt open. He mopped at his brow
with a large white hanky and regarded the blond quietly.
'Care to tell me what the fuck you were thinkin' of down there?'
he asked, controlling his anger admirably under the circumstances.
Hutch sat up on the small bed and leant back against the wall,
running his hand through his hair and scrubbing his fingers down his unshaven face. 'I'm sorry Cap'n. I lost it. But she knows
where Starsky is an' I need to find him. You heard what she said - he's hurt - bad.'
'And just what are ya doin' out of the hospital? Don't the
word rest mean nothin' to ya?'
The blond's face reddened in anger. 'Tell me how I'm supposed
to rest when Starsk is out there somewhere hurtin'. You heard her. You heard what she said. He’s bad Cap'n.'
'Hutch she was messin' with ya. She tried to kill you for God's
sake. She's gonna say anythin' she can to get ya mad.' Dobey tried to reason with the flaxen haired cop.
'Well she succeeded, but it don't get past the fact she knows
where Starsky is. He's still alive Cap'n, but I get the feelin' he won't be for much longer.'
Dobey swallowed down the retort. Hutch had been right about
the brunet not having perished in the fire at Ridgeway. It was obvious there was a connection of sorts and although the Captain
didn't go with the whole telepathy mumbo jumbo, he couldn't afford to play fast and loose with the brunet's life.
'So ya go back an' make her tell you where the fuck my partner
Dobey sighed. 'So far she's told us squat. She's confirmed
the stuff we knew already - the stuff she can't back out of, but she's tight as a clam about other stuff.'
Hutch sat forward, groaning and made to get off the bed before
Huggy pushed him back down. He fixed his Captain with a steely gaze. 'Either you make her tell ya where Starsky is, or I will.
An' I'm pretty sure that your way don't include blood. So what's it gonna be Cap'n?'
Dobey saw the calm resolve in his man's eyes. Hutch may be
weak and should really still be in the hospital, but he was determined where anything to do with the brunet was concerned.
He sighed, realising the futility of it all, but still knowing he had to go through with it. 'Ok, leave it with me for half
an hour. I need to go downstairs and pump her for more information.'
'I'm comin' along' Hutch said, getting to his feet and standing
shakily by the bed. He clutched at his stomach and paled significantly, studying his toes until he had his stomach under control.
Dobey snorted. 'You aint goin' nowhere but home, and if ya
don't follow the orders I'll have Joe arrest ya and take ya home, is that clear?'
Dobey held up his hand. 'Don't "but Cap" me. There aint nothin'
you can do here Hutch. I'll ring you as soon as we've finished with her ok?'
Hutch nodded. It wasn't ok, but he knew better than to argue
with his Captain when Dobey was as agitated as right now. Instead he gave a thin smile and leaned once again on Huggy as the
barkeeper led him out of the room, along the corridor and out to the car. Once inside, Hutch fell into the seat and clutched
at his stomach
'Hey my man, you need to get back to the hospital' Huggy said,
trotting round to the driver’s side of the car.
'I need to get home Hug. I'll be fine. I just need to sleep
then I'll be good to go. I need to find Starsk an' I can't rest till I do. Once he's safe, I'll be fine. Just take me home
'What'm I gonna do with ya huh?' Huggy asked. It was
rhetorical but still, the black man had expected some sort of reply. He looked sideways and smiled to himself. Oh yeah,
Mr "I'm absolutely fine". Look at ya, sleepin' like a baby.
Huggy steered Hutch up the steps to his apartment at Venice
Place. The living room was even more of a mess than usual because forensics had been crawling all over the place gathering
evidence against Susan Gunther. White aluminium powder coated the surfaces, blood from Kiko's nose splattered on the floor
and furniture remained upturned. Hutch glanced at the scene without comment and sank down onto the sofa, his head in his hands.
'What time is it?' he asked, his voice muffled by his hands.
'Five minutes since you asked the last time. He'll ring. He
promised and when did Dobey ever go back on his word huh?'
'He should have got somewhere by now.'
'Hey, you saw what she was like Bro. These things take time.
You ought to know that.'
Hutch snorted. 'Yeah, an' I know what Sue's like too. She...'
He was stopped midsentence by the ringing of the telephone and despite his weariness, Hutch leapt up from his seat and grabbed
the receiver. 'Hutchinson' he snapped down the line.
'And? What did ya get? Did she tell you where he is?' the blond
There was a pause and then a deep, heartfelt sigh. 'I'm sorry
son. She clammed right up. The only thing she'd say was that she wanted her lawyer. We got zip out of her
Hutch sank to his knees on the carpet, his whole world suddenly
grey. Sue wouldn't tell them where Starsky was and he knew his partner was dying. No, this couldn't be happening. To find
that Starsk wasn't dead and then to have to live through him dying all over again. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. Gently
Huggy took the phone from Hutch's hand, spoke softly with the Captain and then put down the phone. He helped Hutch to his
feet and steered him back to the bedroom, setting him down on the bed.
'I can't lose him again Hug. I can't. Someone's gotta know
The lanky black man nodded, unsure what, if anything he could
do or say.
'Try an' sleep Blondie. 'Somethin'll turn. It always does.
I’m stayin right here. Just try an' rest huh?'
Across town, Danny regarded the unconscious man on the ground
levelly. During the morning while she'd been with him, Starsky had drifted in and out of consciousness. The injuries on his
body seemed to have turned a funny colour and the burn on his hand looked red and green and was markedly swollen. Bruises
stood out black, purple and green all over him and when he breathed she heard a funny gurgling rattle in his throat. It made
her want to cough and she thought that Dave probably needed to cough too. A few times, when the brunet had woken up, he'd
looked at Danny as though he'd never seen her before and had asked her if Hutch was there. He didn't seem to make any sense
and at first Danny had found it funny that he talked nonsense. None of the other grown ups she knew did that and for a while
she'd tried to join in with his conversations, playing along with what he said, but recently they'd started to get a little
Once or twice now, her friend had woken up screaming and clutching
at his stomach, pulling his knees up to his chest. He whimpered as well, and that wasn't something she'd liked either. She'd
tried to listen carefully, but could only make out odd words. He seemed to say "no" a lot and sometimes he said "please...no
more" like he was pleading with someone to stop doing something. Danny's ten year old mind tried to make sense of what was
happening to Dave, but try as she might, although she knew he was sick, she didn't know how to help him. Once or twice she
thought that maybe she ought to call the hospital, but she'd done that in the past, when she'd wanted to play a practical
joke. Then, a cop had come to her house and spoken to her Mom and said she'd be in trouble if she did it again. It had scared
Danny, and so she dismissed that idea and concentrated instead on feeding more of the popcicle to the injured man.
She’d tried to put her arms around him when he dreamed,
thinking that maybe this was a bad dream, like the bad dreams she sometimes had about her Daddy never coming home. When she
had bad dreams, her Mom cuddled her and so now Danny tried to do the same thing. At first Starsky had quietened down a little
when he'd felt the warm body at his back. As Danny had put her arms around him, he'd snuggled into them with a sigh. Once
or twice she'd played with his curls too. They were like her own, dark and springy and as she touched them, they wrapped around
her finger. But Starsky's hair was dirty and felt greasy under her touch and eventually she stopped, eliciting a whimper from
the man at the absence of the comforting stimulus.
Playing Mom had been fun for a while, but Starsky kept falling
asleep and Danny was getting bored. He didn't even look at her picture that she'd drawn for him any more and so she folded
it up and put it into her pocket to take home.
She looked at the man again. His body was hot, as though he
had a fire raging inside him and his skin was dry to the touch. Several times, as she touched him, he flinched away from her
and now she reached out and shook his shoulder gently, to get his attention.
The reaction was instantaneous.
'Nooo, please...gonna kill ya...Gonna fuckin' kill ya' the
brunet moaned in his delirium.
Danny thought he meant her. So far Dave had been nice to her.
He liked her and he talked to her. But now, his words scared her and she backed away, leaving the feverish man alone. As he
continued to mumble under his breath, Danny hurriedly packed up her bag, deciding to leave him the melted popcicles just in
case he grew thirsty.
'Um...Dave I'm gonna go now' she said softly. 'I um...do you
want me to come back?'
There was no direct answer, although the mumbling continued
Shivers wracked his body although he was no longer aware of
his surroundings. The brunet found blessed relief in his delirium, although the dreams he had were all painful and terror
filled. Hutch wasn't there any more. He seemed to have lost his partner somewhere and the pain of the loss was something that
he felt acutely. The brunet tried to reach out with his hand to search for his big blond buddy and his eyes flashed open as
his hand came up empty.
'Ut...sh' he moaned softly. 'Don't ggggo. Hutch...Huuuuutch'
he breathed into the concrete.
He felt so alone and his fever clogged mind told him that someone
else had been with him. A girl. A pretty young girl with a riot of curls. Had he imagined her? Was she real? With an effort
he opened his eyes and tried to look around. But Starsky was alone and he moaned once to himself. He'd imagined her. His mind
was playing tricks and he felt it was time to just give up and let the pain take him away. With a final sigh, he closed his
eyes and prepared himself.
Sorry Blintz. I tried to hang on for ya, but it's just too
tough. I can't stand this any more. I'm sorry. Bye Hutch...bye buddy.
Danny plodded home from the apartment block, unsure whether
she wanted to go back there again. Dave frightened her now that he seemed to be talking nonsense. At first it had been fun,
but now she wasn’t so sure. He’d changed from being the nice man she’d found in that room. Then she’d
treated him as a cross between a plaything, a friend and a pet. He was good to talk to, didn’t tell her off and seemed
to need her. In all, Dave made Danny feel important and in a way she liked to have an older man to talk to. It made her feel
like she still had her Daddy around.
Now however, she was a little bit scared of Dave. He didn’t
seem to know she was there any more and even though she’d given him her popsicles and had brought the cushion and the
Band-Aids for him, she knew it wasn’t enough. He needed something else, but she didn’t know how to get it for
As the little girl turned the corner of her street and started
to walk towards her house, however, her face creased into a frown. There was a familiar car drawn up outside her front door
and for a moment she felt like she wanted to run away. But where to? Her usual hiding place now held the unconscious man and
she didn’t want to share with him any more. He complicated her life. Sighing deeply and with her little heart pounding
in her chest, she made the decision that she ought to go home.
With a feeling of foreboding, Danny walked slowly up the street,
swinging her backpack from her hand. Life wasn’t fair. Life wasn’t fun any more and now she was going to get into
trouble. Big style.
The little girl pushed open her front door and immediately
heard grown up voices in the living room. Gently, she pushed the door closed, trying to muffle the click of the catch with
her hand and on tiptoe, she walked up the hallway and turned to go up the stairs. She climbed the first three, skipped the
fourth, which she knew squeaked and headed on upwards. She was almost at the top and was breathing a little easier when she
heard the living room door open and her Mom’s voice called her.
‘Danielle. Where have you been? Come down here now, my
Danny turned on the top stop and peered down at her Mom, one
hand clinging to the handrail as though it would somehow keep her safe. The adult face looking up at her wore a frown so deep
that she could have hidden in the furrow between her Mom’s eyebrows and the lips had pursed into an unbecoming thin
line, showing just how angry her parent really was. With a sigh, the little girl started down the steps slowly, wondering
if the “sorry Mom I feel sick” routine would work this time. At the foot of the stairs, she was taken sternly
by the arm and propelled into the living room to be met by an equally stern looking teacher.
‘Danielle?’ the lady said severely.
Her Mom sat down opposite the teacher and Danny hovered uncomfortably
between the two adults, not really wanted to sit beside either of them. She looked down at her shoes and her toes curled up
inside them as she twiddled with a loose thread on her shirt.
‘Care to tell me where you’ve been today?’
her Mom asked.
‘Uh uh. Don’t give me that young lady. Miss Imada
says you haven’t been at school for a few days now.’
The teacher fixed Danny with a glare. ‘We’ve all
been very worried about you Danielle. We didn’t know where you were and that made us all worry.’
‘I was fine’ the little girl said sullenly, not
at all convinced that they were worried about her at all. Angry that she wasn’t there, yes. Worried? – she didn’t
‘Let us be the judge of that. You should have been at
school Pumpkin, why won’t you go? Where were you?’
Danny looked up, surprised. Damn! Her Mom was using the “Pumpkin”
technique and Danny could never resist it. Her Daddy always called her Pumpkin when he sat her on his knee and read stories
to her from the newspaper and she always responded to it so easily.
‘I don’t like school Mom. The others pick on me.’
‘That’s because you hit them honey. You have to
‘Well, tell Johnny Ackroyd to stop yellin’ at me
an’ I will stop hittin’ him’ Danny responded angrily.
The teacher sat up straighter. ‘I’ll speak to Johnny.
But in the mean time, we need to know where you’ve been. There are a lot of bad men out there. They could hurt you.’
Danny hitched a breath, wondering if they’d found out
about “her” man. Dave wasn’t a bad man. He was good. He hadn’t tried to hurt her once! ‘He never
tried to hurt me’ she blurted out. ‘He was my friend.’
The two adults exchanged worried looks. Gently, her Mom took
a hold of her arm and drew Danny to her so that the girl was standing between her knees, resting back against her Mom’s
‘Who was your friend honey?’ she asked gently but
‘No-one.’ Danny tried to twist away, but she was
held fast by an adult hand.
Gently Danny’s Mom ran her hand through her daughter’s
chocolate coloured curls, thinking just how much like her Father she was. Tough, streetwise, loyal and just a little bit vulnerable.
‘It’s ok Danny, you need to tell us honey. Who was the man? Where was he? What was he doing?’
Danny looked at her parent. She seemed genuinely worried for
Danny and suddenly the little girl felt that maybe she’d done something really dumb. She knew she shouldn’t have
ever gone to the apartment block. Her Mom had told her about that so often that she knew she’d be in trouble. And she
also knew that she should never have talked to strange men. The cop had come to school and had talked to their class about
not talking to strangers. He’d told them that it was bad and that nasty things could happen to them.
Dave wasn’t a bad man, though. Danny was sure of that.
He’d never done anything to try to hurt her. The little girl licked her lips, her heart beating wildly in her chest.
She could either tell her Mom and Miss Imada about Dave and risk being punished because she’d broken so many rules.
Or she could tell them the truth, stop feeling bad, and maybe help Dave too. It was so difficult for the ten-year-old. So
many conflicting thoughts ran through her head, balancing punishment and being grounded for a very long time against telling
the truth and maybe getting some help for the man.
Danny was not a coward though. She told fibs on occasions and
she fought with others when she couldn’t find the words to explain how she was feeling, but she was ultimately a good
and caring little girl. She struggled with the thoughts racing through her head, but each time she shied away from the thought
of her Mom’s punishment, a vision of Dave, sick and sleeping and cold on the floor of that room floated into her head
and finally she knew what she had to do.
Squaring her little shoulders, Danny took a deep breath.
‘There was this man. He’s called Dave and I found
him’ she told the two adults, pausing to test their reactions. When they didn’t start to shout immediately, she
carried on, feeling more confident as she went.
‘I didn’t want to go to school. Johnny Ackroyd
was being mean so…..so I went to my hiding place.’
‘Oh Danielle, not the apartment block!’
Danny flinched, but nodded and carried on bravely. ‘I
went there because I didn’t want to go to school and when I got there, there were some men.’
‘How many men?’ her Mom asked, her hand up to her
‘There were two nasty men. They didn’t see me coz
I hid. And then there was Dave. They beat him up Mom and they hurt him. I watched them go and then I looked after Dave.’
‘Dave who? Who is this Dave?’
‘Dunno, but he’s nice. He didn’t try nuthin.
He liked me.’ The little girl looked pleadingly at her Mom and the teacher, willing them to understand.
‘And um….where is he now?’ Miss Imada asked.
‘Where did he come from?’ Did he say who he is?’
‘He didn’t really say much. He was kinda sleepy
all the time. But I took him some stuff. I looked after him. I took him a cushion and some Band-Aids that we had in the cupboard.
An’ I gave him my popsicles to drink.’
‘I’m sure you looked after him Pumpkin, but you
didn’t say who he was.’
‘I don’t know who he was Mom. He was just nice.’
‘And where is he now Danielle?’ Miss Imada asked
Danny looked at the floor. ‘He’s still there. He
kept asking for someone called Hutch or Hush… he couldn’t talk too much.’
‘Danny, why didn’t you tell us?’ her Mom
asked. ‘Why didn’t you get some help?’
‘Coz I knew you’d be mad at me’ Danny said
‘You’re sure this isn’t just some story Danielle,
because if it is…..’
‘No Mom. Honest. I aint lyin’, he’s real.
He’s real and he’s hurt.’
‘Do you know where he came from? I mean, do you think
he needs help?’
Danny shook her head. ‘He didn’t say. Oh! But he
gave me this. I drew a picture for him and he wrote something on the back. I didn’t look at it. Here.’ The little
girl held out the crumpled picture and Miss Imada took it and opened it out, putting her hand over her mouth in shock.
‘How long have you had this Danny?’
‘A day or two’ the little girl said defensively.
The teacher held out the picture, showing Danny’s Mom
the back. There, scrawled in an uncertain hand and splattered in the corner with something that looked like blood were the
ASK FOR SGT HUTCHINSON. STARSK NEEDS HELP 555 6458
The teacher and Danny’s Mom exchanged glances. ‘We
need to telephone’ Miss Imada said.
‘But what if the men are still there? I don’t want
them coming after Danielle, or me. You know what the gangs are like around here.’
The teacher sighed, weighing up the options. ‘If a man’s
hurt we can’t just leave him. Trust me. I’ll ring the number, but I won’t say who I am. They can’t
trace anything back here.’
Immediately, Miss Imada reached for the telephone as Danny
looked on, tears now forming in her eyes. ‘What Momma? What did I do? Did I do it wrong?’ she asked quietly.
Her Mom stroked her hair and shushed her. ‘It’s
ok Danny. You were very brave. We think Dave might be a policeman. Miss Imada is ringing the number. But whatever happens
Pumpkin, promise me you’ll never go into the apartment block again huh?’
‘Don’t tell on me Mom. Please don’t tell
on me. I didn’t do nuthin wrong. I never meant to hurt him, honest’ Danny pleaded.
The woman looked at Miss Imada and shook her head.
‘It’s ok honey. We don’t need to tell them
who found him. Let’s just hope he’s ok huh?’
Hutch led on the bed, half way between sleep and wakefulness.
He was too tired to sleep and too wired to rest. The episode with Sue had made him feel raw, angry and powerless. Her smiling
face as she told him that his partner had lost faith in Hutch to rescue him was the last straw and he saw it now in his half
wakened state, her eyes shining with vindictiveness.
But then other visions came to the forefront of his mind. Days
spent on the beach with his partner. Weekends spent at Dobey’s cabin in the hills. The look of sheer terror on Starsky’s
face when the snake fell out of the refrigerator. The boyish smile that creased the handsome brunet’s features as he
held the tiny kitten in the basement where they’d followed Larry. All those things were pure Starsky. They were the
essence of his brunet partner and Hutch’s heart ached for the smaller man, his loss almost palpable in its intensity.
Hutch sighed, remembering snippets of conversations long gone.
‘You owe me a three course meal at a restaurant
of my choice……’
‘Starsk, get down…..’
‘Massive damage……the body can only
take so much…..’
‘What’m I doin’ Starsk? What am
‘Starsk? Are you awake? Oh my God. You’re
awake! Nurse he’s awake…..’
A fond smile played over Hutch’s lips as he remembered
the jig he’d danced in Starsky’s hospital room, the nurse holding on to her hat to keep from losing it. And now…..
Gimme a sign Starsk. Please buddy…..just throw me
a line here.
Hutch jumped a foot off the bed as the telephone by his bedside
rang, jangling his nerves and seeming like a message from the other side. Snickering at his own crazy thoughts Hutch took
a breath and snagged the receiver, putting it to his ear.
‘Yeah’ he said noncommittally.
‘Is that Sergeant Hutchinson?’ a female voice asked
down the phone.
‘Yeah, that’s me. Why?’
‘Um, is that Sergeant Hutchinson as in a police sergeant?’
Hutch’s patience snapped at the crazy questions. ‘Yeah,
what is this, some kinda survey?’ he grunted.
‘I’m sorry Sergeant. You don’t now me. This
is going to sound crazy but, does the name Starsky mean anything to you?’
Hutch stiffened, his whole attention now on the telephone.
‘Talk to me. That’s my partner. What do you know about Starsky?’
‘I think you should get down to the abandoned apartment
block on Lincoln Way. And call an ambulance.’
Without waiting to ask further questions, Hutch slammed down
the phone, his face pale and his hand shaking uncontrollably. At the door, Huggy wondered if the blond was having some kind
of reaction to the poison he’d been treated for earlier.
‘Hey Blondie, are you ok Bro. You look like you just
seen a ghost.’
‘I ah….I think I just heard from one’ Hutch
stammered. ‘I um…..I gotta ring for an ambulance. I…’
‘Ambulance? Why? Are ya sick? What can I do?’
‘No, no. Not me. It aint me that’s….. Hug
that was a call about Starsk. Someone says he’s at the old apartments on Lincoln.’ Hutch looked hopefully at his
‘You can’t be serious. Who? Who called?’
Huggy asked, walking into the room.
‘I dunno. A woman. She didn’t giver her name. Damn!
She just said he was….. Hug, we have to go. I have to get an ambulance to meet us there.’
‘Oh now hold on Blondie. What if this is a trap? What
if he aint there? What if….’ Huggy wondered if perhaps Hutch was undergoing some sort of auditory hallucination,
although he too had heard the telephone ringing, but he was stopped mid sentence by the blond’s hand upraised.
‘Do you wanna play fast and loose with Starsky’s
life, coz I don’t. If there’s any chance…..any chance at all that he’s there, I’m not gonna
stop to think. C’mon Hug. How much have we shared over the years? And would he do the same for us now?’
Hutch staggered up from the bed. ‘Huggy, just ring the
fuckin’ meat wagon and follow me out. I’m gonna go to the apartment block. If ya wanna come, fine. If ya don’t…..’
The black man reached for the telephone. ‘I’ll
be there in thirty seconds’ he answered.
The large, smooth, cream coloured Cadillac car driven by Huggy
screeched to a halt outside the apartment block and Hutch looked up at the miles of cold grey concrete. The building looked
more like a fortress than a residential block and stared out mournfully at the surrounding area. So much to search! How the
hell could he search all that on his own? Panic set in at the thoughts of the monumental task ahead of him. He could almost
feel Starsky’s life ebbing away as he started his search and he immediately opened the door and got out. Huggy mirrored
the action and stood waiting for orders.
‘How in God’s name am I gonna find him in there?’
the blond moaned softly.
Huggy looked up at the building and sighed, scratching at his
dense curly hair. ‘Well try thinkin’ logically’ Huggy offered. ‘Seems to me if I had a prisoner, I
wouldn’t want to make life too difficult for myself by haulin’ his ass all the way to the top of the buildin’.
And there again, I wouldn’t want nothin’ too close to the entrance either. Maybe we start on the ground floor
at either end of the place an’ work our way in?’
Hutch nodded, thankful that he had Huggy with hi. He was a
wildcard, but he also had the ability to come through in a crisis and the blond was eternally grateful to the lanky black
barkeep. It seemed as good a plan as any and as he started to walk to the entrance door, he checked his Colt before throwing
a small Berretta to Huggy. The black man caught it and looked at it as though he were expected to blow his own brains out
‘Hey man, you know I don’t touch these things’
‘Hug, whoever has Starsky could still be around. An’
even if they aren’t, you said yourself that this could be a trap. You don’t need to use it. Just wave it at anyone
that gets in your way. They’ll get the message.’
With a grunt signifying his disapproval, Huggy thumbed on the
safety, pushed the small weapon into his waistband at the back of his pants and followed Hutch inside the building. The blond
was still weak and he staggered slightly as he made his way into the dim corridor. Not much light got to the centre of the
building for which Hutch was grateful. A fine sheen of perspiration gleamed on his brow and he felt sick and light headed.
He leaned heavily against one wall, knowing that if Huggy saw how bad he was, the black man would try to force him to wait
in the car. In the distance, he heard sirens and breathed a sigh of relief. Once the ambulance was here, time taken in saving
his buddy would be cut down dramatically.
Looking up and down the hallway, Hutch motioned with his hand.
‘You take that way, I’m startin’ down there’ he muttered and set of at a slow lope to the end of the
Apartments branched off the main corridor at regular intervals,
their red painted front doors open for the most part. There was a smell of damp and mould and stale urine signifying that
the place was used by vagrants, itinerants, cats and God knows what else. It felt cold and damp, even though the Californian
sun beat down on the building constantly, but the sun didn’t get into the shadowy nooks and crannies and an air of gloom
and doom permeated the very fabric of the building. Cautiously, Hutch pushed open the first door right at the end of the corridor.
Gun pointed out in front of him, he braced his back against the wall and whipped himself round the corner and into the main
living room. Nothing! With senses still on high alert, he checked out each deserted and unfurnished room, including the small
broom cupboards and the cupboards in the kitchen. Still nothing and with a sigh, the blond forged on to the next deserted
domicile. One down, lots and lots still to go.
Three apartments later, Hutch was beginning to feel weaker,
more tired and a lot more disheartened. It was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. So may rooms, so many
doors, but only one brunet and not a lot of time to find him. He wiped his hand over his forehead, the fingers coming back
slick with sweat. Hutch shook his head to clear it, mentally chastising himself for taking a break and as he walked to the
next front door, he saw on the ground a plastic wrapper. He toed it out of the way as he walked past. “Strawberry flavoured
Popsicle” the label read. The blond snickered. So kids used the place too huh? It was just right for them. They could
play houses, hide and seek, you name it, and he could just imagine the entreaties of their parents not to go to such a deserted
and dangerous place.
Pushing open the door once again, Hutch crouched, gun still
ready. He peeped around the corner into the living room which this time held a ripped and torn leather sofa and a TV which
had had the screen smashed in. It was the first time the blond had come across any signs of habitation and although this place
wasn’t the Waldorf, his nerves hiked up a notch, feeling he may somehow be getting closer. Checking out the rooms down
the apartment’s central hallway, he came first to a small bathroom and then a kitchen. Both were empty and without any
hope, Hutch pushed open the door to the final small bedroom.
Carefully he poked his head around the door and his heart skipped
a beat, his breath held as he saw the body of his buddy stretched out on the floor of the cold, mean room, his curly head
pillowed on a Spiderman cushion. Throwing caution to the wind and holstering his gun, Hutch yelled to Huggy that he’d
found Starsky and to get the medics and then he rushed over to the body on the ground.
Hutch knelt by the side of the brunet and gave a strangled
cry as he saw the damage Sue had had done to his body. The whole left hand side of Starsky’s torso was black, the left
arm bruised and swollen right up to his neck. Cuts and bruises marred the olive toned but now pale and cold skin and there
was a stain of blood mixed with other things on the front of his jeans. Starsky looked to be dead and with a trembling hand,
Hutch reached out and touched his buddy.
Starsky’s skin felt cold. Almost as cold as the concrete
floor on which he lay and there was no response to the blond’s hand. Chocolate curls lay matted and dirty, flat and
lifeless above a pale and swollen face and Hutch thought he could see that the brunet’s jaw had been broken.
‘Oh Starsk. What the fuck did she do to ya buddy?’
Hutch whispered fighting back tears.
Gently, almost afraid to touch him, Hutch rolled the brunet
onto his back. The body was limp and without tone and stayed where he’d placed it, the right hand, showing a huge and
infected burn flung out to the side as if waiting to embrace Hutch. Starsky’s chest was bruised too and the damage seemed
so great that Hutch stopped hoping that he’d been in time. With shaky hands, he felt for a pulse in Starsky’s
neck, digging his fingers deep into the dusty, dirty flesh in his search. He could feel nothing and he put his head in his
hands as a single tear splashed onto the brunet’s chest.
‘God Starsk….I’m so sorry. I tried to get
to ya buddy. I tried.’
Hutch collapsed back onto the ground, his hand resting on Starsky’s
lifeless shoulder. The light had gone out of the world. His light had gone from his world. He’d sworn
all his working life to protect Starsky and to watch his back, and yet he’d failed. He’d failed to stop Gunther
from finally killing his buddy and suddenly nothing else in the world mattered. Starsky was dead.
Stiffly, Hutch sat by his partner’s body and waited.
He didn’t look up as the paramedics came in, followed by Huggy Bear. He didn’t even look up as one of the men
told him to move. His mind seemed to have closed down to everything apart from the fact that he’d failed in his one
promise to the brunet. He was numbed with shock and loneliness.
Hands took a gentle hold of his shoulders and pulled him away
and as though from a great distance he heard someone tell him to sit still, everything would be fine. But everything wasn’t
fine and he needed to tell them.
‘He’s dead. He’s dead, Hug. Starsky’s
dead. He’s fuckin’ dead. He’s dead Huggy.’
The black man sat by his side as the two paramedics started
to work over Starsky. As one broke out oxygen and giving sets, the other checked manually before slipping a stethoscope into
his ears and placing the horn onto the brunet’s chest. He moved it, listening carefully as Hutch watched fatalistically.
What was the point? Why was he bothering?
As the man looked up he nodded to his partner. ‘We have
a heartbeat, but it’s slow and irregular. Start an IV, get the O2 on him and let’s get him to Memorial as fast
as we can huh?’
The blond’s heart skipped a beat, the paramedics words
finally sinking into his numbed mind. ‘He’s what?’ he asked. ‘He’s not dead?’
The two men were working quickly on the brunet, calmly inserting
lines, injecting fluids, checking vitals. The one with the stethoscope took a moment to check on the flaxen haired cop.
‘Is he your friend? He’s alive. Barely. But he’s
alive. If you’d have been maybe an hour later things would have been different. Right now, though, we need to get him
out of here, and you don’t look too good yourself. Let your friend here walk you out to the ambulance and we’ll
be along in a moment ok?’
Hutch looked up at the man blinking stupidly. ‘What?
He’s alive? No, I can’t leave him. Not now. I need to be with him. I need to…’
The blond struggled to his feet, his voice louder as he fought
to get to his buddy. ‘Starsky…. Starsk. I’m here buddy, right here’ he whispered, falling to his knees
by the brunet’s body. He leaned down low over the curly head. ‘Starsky, oh Jeez buddy. Open your eyes for me.
Just once, open ‘em for me huh? I have to know for sure, don’t leave me now! Starsk? Please?’
Hutch looked down at his friend’s face. Swollen, cut
and bruised, there seemed little sign of life and yet, just as Hutch was about to give up, one eye – the one that wasn’t
swollen closed – flickered, stopped and then flickered open showing a tiny crescent of indigo blue so dark that it matched
the bruises on the brunet’s face. The eye opened, focused and looked right up into Hutch’s face, recognition clearly
reflected in it.
The whole world stood still in that one moment as Hutch waited,
his heart beating wildly in his chest. Starsky’s mouth worked hard at forming the words and finally he managed.
the barely audible voice breathed as Hutch let out a moan of relief and fell backwards to collapse onto the floor next to
Hutch sat at the window of the small ICU room looking in at
the still, fragile, vulnerable body of his friend. The blond’s arms rested on the back of chair as his chin rested on
his steepled fingers, the similarity between this time and a time four years ago was not lost on him and this time he felt
equally as hopeless and helpless.
Times had moved on. Hospitals had changed in those four years.
Now, the ventilator artificially inflating the brunet’s lungs was smaller although no less invasive. The hose connecting
his partner to the machine was smaller, whiter, but no less important as it oxygenated the smaller man’s body. The crash
trolley that had been used already was neater, smarter and more modern, but no less impressive. Two charges at 240 had been
needed to jolt Starsky’s tortured heart into movement again.
At the same time Hutch’s hair was shorter, his moustache
was gone and he carried less weight although there more worry lines around his eyes. Those eyes still sparkled crystal blue
and had the ability to fix someone – flake, friend or lover with a hypnotic gaze, but now they were clouded with worry.
Starsky too showed the passage of a few years. He had the first
flecks of grey clustered around his temples and more scars than he cared to count spread across his chest and back. His body
was still lean, lithe and hard, but now, occasionally when the weather turned damp or cool, there was a hitch to the breath
and a slight limp in the walk. Indigo eyes that still held a mischievous twinkle also exuded a new self confidence and also
a little more patience than they used to, but now those eyes remained closed, shutting out the world and his best friend.
Whatever had happened to the buddies, however, their friendship
remained, enhanced now by adversity – stronger, firmer, more resolute than ever before. That friendship now, however,
was both a source of comfort and a burden to the flaxen haired cop. The bond gave him the merest shadow of hope that once
again Starsky would pull through while the same bond burdened him with such a feeling of hurt that he felt as though he could
The room was quiet, dim and warm, but the pane of glass still
isolated Hutch from his partner, and although no-one had told him that he couldn’t go in to be with his buddy, Hutch
felt almost scared to be in the same room as Starsky. Funny that after all these years of their partnership he should suddenly
feel as though his very presence would somehow jeopardise the brunet’s recovery. The machines continued to beep their
incessant message of hope that Starsky was alive and still fighting. Tubes ran from every portion of the brunet’s anatomy.
Drip feeds fed one into a port on Starsky’s chest and one into the back of his left hand and a tube ran from the crease
of his elbow to the dialysis machine. A catheter fed into a bag dangling from the side of the bed and a naso-gastric tube
exited his nose and was taped to the side of his cheek.
Hutch looked up as another figure came into view, outlined
in the reflection of the window. The lanky black man stood silently by his friend and watched the curly haired cop. Gently
he placed a hand on Hutch’s arm.
‘He’s gonna be ok’ he assured the blond.
‘Is he? We’ve been this way before Hug.’
‘Yeah, an’ look what happened then huh? He made
it through then and he will again. Starsky’s a fighter. He’d never give up, ‘specially if he knows you’re
‘He made it four years ago, yeah. But he was four years
younger then, an’ it was Gunther’s bullets and not his freakin’ maniac of a daughter that got him. They
told him then he couldn’t keep puttin’ his life on the line. A body can only take so much Hug, an’ sooner
or later the grim reaper decides enough is enough.’ Hutch looked up into Huggy’s soulful brown eyes and smiled
weakly. ‘They lost him twice in the ambulance on the way here.’
‘Yeah, an’ each time you yellin’ his name
brought him back. As I recall you weren’t in real good shape yourself but that second time you shot off your gurney
and more or less ordered him to breathe. You saved his life man.’
‘Ordered him? Yeah, well. When did ya ever see Starsk
follow an order?’
‘When you’re hurtin’ he’ll do anythin’for
ya Blondie. You know that’ Huggy said softly. ‘You really should be in there with him ya know.’
‘I know. I just…. I ff….I feel like this
is all my fault somehow. Like if I’d never met up with Sue, we’d both still be fine.’
‘Oh for heaven’s sake, how in Gods name can you
be so dim? Are ya sure you passed the cop’s exams? You didn’t meet her. She stalked you. For four full years she
stalked the two of ya until she could take her revenge. This aint nothin’ to do with you Blondie. This is to do with
James Gunther. If it hadn’t been her going out with ya, she’d have found some other way to get to you and Starsky.
Now for God’s sake get in there an’ be with him huh? He needed you in the ambulance an’ now he needs ya
even more’ Huggy said sternly. His eyes glinted and he trembled with emotion and suddenly Hutch’s face split into
‘You’re magnificent when you’re angry’
‘Uh huh. I also pack a mean punch, which I’ll be
glad to show ya if you don’t get your butt inside that room right now.’
Stiffly, Hutch stood up from the chair, swayed and leaned heavily
on the window until the world stopped shimmying around him. Huggy held onto him but nothing could disguise the sudden pallor
and the trembling hands and a moment later a nurse rushed over, asking if the blond was ok.
‘Huh? Oh um….yeah. Yeah I’m fine’ he
said, a little dazedly.
‘I don’t think so sir. I think you should come
with me and we can get you checked out.’
‘No, I gotta go in there. I need to be with him. I….damn.’
Hutch stumbled against the wall as a wash of weakness flowed over him. Immediately the nurse caught a hold of him with Huggy
on the other side. The woman looked up into Hutch’s face, concern written all over her pretty features.
‘You were in here a couple of days ago weren’t
‘Yeah, I….I needed to get out. I needed to find
my partner’ Hutch mumbled.
‘Well now you have. Now you need to deal with your own
health. You aren’t gonna be able to look out for him if you’re sick’ the nurse chided gently.
‘I need to be in there with him. There’s no way
I’m gonna let him out of my site any time soon. I did that once before and look what happened.’ The blond batted
both sets of hands away and swayed weakly towards the door of the ICU room. Huggy held the woman back with a brief shake of
his head as he watched the flaxen haired cop make his way to his partner’s side.
‘They’ve been through a lot’ the black man
explained. ‘I think he’d recover quicker if they were both together.’
Inside the room, Hutch paused just inside the doorway and watched
the ventilator inflate Starsky’s lungs with a quiet hiss whoosh. Slowly he walked forward until he was by the side of
the bed and he pulled up the hard plastic chair until he could sit by the side of the brunet’s head. Starsky’s
eyes remained closed and gently Hutch put his hand over his partner’s, feeling the hot dry skin. Fans blew across the
olive toned but terribly damaged body desperately trying to cool the brunet and drive away the high fever ravaging his body.
Earlier, the doctor had explained Starsky’s condition
to Hutch in blunt and uncompromising terms. The brunet had a broken arm, a dislocated shoulder and a broken collar bone. His
jaw was also broken and had been wired to ensure he lost no teeth and to keep the bones in place. Two ribs were broken but
it was a miracle that they had done no damage to the underlying organs. But it was Starsky’s back that was causing worry
all round. Several blows from the goon’s bats had landed on his upper back and an x-ray revealed that one of his vertebrae
had been damaged and his kidneys had been bruised causing them to shut down. Right now the brunet was on dialysis and it was
hoped that with rest and assistance, they begin to function again spontaneously. Bruises overlay what looked like the marks
of whips across a large portion of Starsky’s anatomy and his eye remained bruised and swollen although the ophthalmic
team had said there would be no lasting impairment to the brunet’s sight.
Hutch had listened to the litany of injuries and with the description
of each one, his temperature had risen in line with his anger at the snake-like woman who’d hurt the both of them.
Gently. the blond squeezed his partner’s hand. ‘It’s
gonna be ok Starsk. I’m here. We’ve been this way before huh? You fought like a lion then. You surprised everyone.
Well, everyone ‘cept me. I knew you could do it. Like I know you can do it again now. You have to, ya hear me? I can’t
do this without you. We’re gonna nail that bitch, but I can’t do that without you there with me Gordo.’
Hutch sighed, his forehead resting on the white sheet of his
partner’s bed. He was tired, sick, weak, but he was still here. Not going anywhere and he’d remain there as long
as Starsky needed him. The blond’s eyes closed and he fought the wave of weariness, scrubbing his hands over his face
to try to remain awake. But in his own words, the body can only take so much and Hutch’s body was telling him that he
needed to rest and to sleep. Despite his best efforts, the flaxen haired cop’s eyes slid closed and his body relaxed
so that he slumped onto the bed at the side of the brunet.
Hours later, he woke again and for a moment couldn’t
understand exactly where he was. When he’d fallen asleep, he was in the chair in the dimly lit room by Starsky’s
limp body, the quiet beeps and hisses of the machinery lulling him to sleep. Now, however, he was on his back, staring up
at the ceiling, although the quiet noises of the medical machinery were still there in the background. Hutch’s sleep
befuddled mind refused to take in the change for a moment and he panicked, thinking that once again he’d been separated
from the brunet. He sat upright in bed and immediately regretted the action when his head swam and the room dipped to the
left. He put a hand up to his head and was surprised to see a drip feed cannula had been reinserted into the back of his hand,
but as he looked around, Hutch realised that somehow, he’d been placed in the bed next to Starsky’s and his clothes
had been removed to be replaced by a set of white scrubs.
Thankful that he was still by his partner’s side, the
flaxen haired cop threw back the sheet covering his body, grabbed a hold of the drip stand and, leaning heavily on it, he
padded back over to the other bed. He felt marginally better and wondered how long he’d been out. By the feel of the
bristles on his chin he thought at least 12 hours, maybe longer and he examined his partner for any changes.
The fans had been stopped and sweat trickled down the sides
of the handsome, bruised face marking that the high fever had finally broken. The intrusive ventilator had also been removed.
Beneath translucent eyelids, Starsky’s eyes moved as though he were dreaming and Hutch took a hold of his partner’s
hand, leaning over the bed.
‘Starsky? Can ya hear me buddy? Can you open your eyes
for me huh?’ he said softly, examining his friends face for any signs of reaction. There was none and the blond sighed,
collapsing back onto the chair.
‘Starsk, c’mon buddy. I need ya. I just need to
hear ya. I just…. Oh God. What’m I talkin’ about? Huh? What am I talkin’ about?’ Hutch put his
head in his hands, biting at his bottom lip pensively. There was silence for a moment before he heard the tiny sound floating
on the air between them.
In a second, Hutch was on his feet again, staring earnestly
into Starsky’s face. Although neither eye opened, cracked and broken lips worked hard and another sound was pushed out.
Chapter 22 – 2 weeks later
Starsky looked up from his chair as Hutch walked into the small
private room and cocked an eyebrow. ‘Well?’
‘Well nothin’. The pre hearin’ went pretty
much as we thought. Sue is tryin’ for an insanity plea. She sat in the witness box and played it for all it was worth.
Even dribbled at one point. I couldn’t believe it’ Hutch replied tightly.
Starsky sighed. Dobey had been to pay the duo a visit the previous
night and had warned them both about the way the Sue Gunther case was going. While Hutch had ranted and raved about the injustice
of it all, Starsky seemed more sanguine and had tried to calm down his blond partner.
‘Hey cool it Blondie.’
‘Cool it? How the hell am I meant to cool it? She deserves
to serve life in max security, not in some cushy mental facility.’
Starsky grinned lightly. ‘Nuthin cushy about Cabrillo
State. Maybe we could get Matwick reinstated – those two would get on so well together. C’mon Hutch, don’t
do this to yourself. Concentrate on getting’ well huh?’
While the brunet remained a patient at the hospital, Hutch
had attended the hearing on both their behalves and had come away feeling cheap, and somehow cheated and he was secretly scared
of what Starsky’s reaction would be.
In the past two weeks the brunet had once again amazed everyone
with his recuperative powers. For two days after his admission to the hospital he’d lain between life and death, battling
the pain and the recurrent fevers that were the legacy of the poisoned water he’d been forced to drink. By the third
day, he’d started to open his eyes and obey simple commands from the medics and it became clear that the poison had
done no lasting damage to either body or mind. By day six, the brunet declared himself fed up of drip feeds stating very clearly
his intention that he was gonna eat again, regardless of what the nurses thought. They’d refused to allow him anything
solid and so he stole a plate of Jell-o from Hutch’s dinner tray and wolfed down the lot.
Once he’d established that he could be in charge of his
own recuperation, Starsky started pushing himself to the limit, anxious that he should stop Hutch from his incessant worrying.
By day ten, and despite the physio telling him it was still too early, he got out of bed and sat for an hour in the chair.
By the end of that time, he was white and shaking, but happy to have proved to himself and everyone else that he was still
on top of things.
On day eleven, there was an even bigger breakthrough. Waking
up that morning, Starsky felt hands on the centre of his body and instinctively cringed away, giving an involuntary yelp.
The nurse who was tending to his catheter looked up in alarm, unaware of what Sue had done to the brunet, and Starsky had
blushed and looked away. Angry at himself for giving in to his nightmares, he told the girl he wanted the infuriating tube
removed and after a full scale argument during which Hutch had to physically hold him down on the bed, the doctor arrived
and tried to explain to Starsky that it was still too soon.
‘You aint the one with the Statue of Liberty rammed up
your old man’ Starsky snapped, his voice still husky and raw.
‘And you aren’t the one with seven years of medical
studies under your belt’ the doctor retorted.
‘No, wise guy, but I know my own body, an’ I know
I don’t need this thing any more.’
Hutch sighed, knowing it was pointless to argue with his partner
when he was in full “Starsky” mode. Instead he raised his eyebrows at the medic. ‘He’s had enough
of ‘em to know. Why don’t ya try? If it’s too early, ya get the satisfaction of rammin’ it back in
and watching his eyes tear’ he said helpfully.
The brunet glared at his partner. ‘Shudup’ he growled.
‘Who asked you?’
‘Just tryin’ to help out, Starsk old man’
Hutch said mildly and stood back as the doctor poked and prodded at his patient’s abdomen. There were several “hmms”
and “ahhs” and finally the medic looked up.
‘I still think it’s too early, but if you wanna
‘Uh huh. I do. You have no idea how much I wanna try’
Starsky said emphatically. He lay quietly as the nurse assembled her trolley and Hutch went out of the room while the procedure
was undertaken. He heard the small squeak from the brunet which signified that the tube had been removed and smiled to himself
as he went back into the room. The nurse’s face was flushed and there was a patina of perspiration across Starsky’s
brow, but there was also a smile on his lips.
‘Ok, help me up. I’m gonna go pee’ he said
as the nurse escaped the room and Starsky held his hand out to the blond. Carefully Hutch took a hold and held up the sweating
brunet as he tottered towards the small bathroom. At the door, he gave loose of Hutch’s arm and disappeared into the
small room while the flaxen haired man waited outside.
Two minutes later there was no sign of the brunet and Hutch
started to worry.
‘Starsk, are you ok?’ he called.
‘Fine’ the pained voice came back.
‘You’re takin’ a long time. What’s
‘I um…. I can’t go.’
‘Oh. Have you tried relaxin’?’ Hutch asked
‘Oh yeah. I always relax when I have the prospect of
having a hose pipe reinsterted into little Davey.’
Hutch sighed. ‘When I was little, Mom used to get me
to go by whistling. Try it.’
A few discordant notes and curse words later, the noise stopped
and Starsky’s angry voice sounded. ‘Any more great ideas Einstein?’
‘Well Mom always used to try singin’.’
‘Thought ya said she whistled.’
‘Well that never worked so she sang.’ Hutch cleared
his throat and self-consciously started to warble. ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above
the world so…’
‘Oh for fucks sake!’ the disembodied voice from
the smallest room sounded.
‘Did it work?’ Hutch asked.
‘Do I sound like it worked?’
‘Well ok, last resort time.’ Hutch strode into
the bathroom ignoring the blushing brunet and quickly turned on all the faucets until all that could be heard was the gushing
of water and Starsky’s pained gasps. The blond made a swift exit and stood once again by the door. There was silence
for over a minute and then one by one the faucets were turned off and Starsky staggered to the door of the bathroom looking
pale but inordinately proud of himself.
‘I did it’ he crowed. ‘I peed.’
Hutch grinned. ‘Well aint that somethin’. Hold
on, let me get to a phone. We should announce it on CNN. Here, let me help ya back to bed, you look all in.’
The chocolate curled cop grinned back. ‘Don’t care.
Once a man can pee under his own steam, the worlds his lobster.’
‘Um….isn’t that oyster buddy? – the
world’s his oyster?’
‘Uh uh. Oyster’s too small. This calls for a lobster
or nuthin’ Starsky said with a sigh as he eased himself back onto the bed. As he did so, the jacket of his pyjamas fell
open and he noticed the wince from his partner as Hutch looked away.
Well aware that Hutch felt he was somehow to blame for everything
that had gone on, Starsky realised it was time for some straight talking and as he settled himself back on the pillows, he
fixed his buddy with a stare.
‘Don’t do that Blondie.’
‘That look. Don’t do it. I know somewhere in that
muddled blond brain you’re thinkin’ you should’ve stopped all this, but how could ya? You were as much a
victim as I was.’
Hutch refused to meet his buddy’s gaze and instead studied
an interesting spot on the floor. ‘She was my girl’ he said defensively.
‘She wasn’t anyone’s girl Hutch. She was….she
is James Gunther’s daughter. If she hadn’t got us this way, she’d have found some other way. She hurt you
more coz I know you really thought she was the one.’
Hutch’s head snapped up. ‘How can you say that?
That she hurt me more? Dammit Starsk, you almost died…..you did die in the ambulance, twice.’
‘But I came back. I’m still here, an’ you
‘I’m still here for two reasons. First one is that
Gunther failed to kill me four years ago, and now he’s failed again. I’d never have given him the satisfaction
of dyin’ coz that way he’d have won.’
The blond listened, his head cocked slightly on one side. ‘And
the second reason?’
‘You said there were two reasons. Gunther was one. What’s
‘Jeez, you live up to the reputation sometimes buddy’
Starsky snickered softly.
‘Sometimes you’re a real dumb blond! The second
reason is you, ya moron. I couldn’t die an’ leave you alone, and I know that sounds soapy, but there it is.’
‘When Sue had me and she was…..well when she was
beatin’ the crap out of me, she told me that you thought I was dead and that you’d given up on me.’
Hutch paled in anger, his fists balling the sheets of the bed.
Starsky continued. ‘She read me the newspaper cutting
about my “death” and she read out an advert for my car. She told me you wanted to get rid of all my stuff, but
I knew that wasn’t right. I knew you’d never do that, an’ the thing that fuelled me….the thing that
allowed me to stick it out was the thought of her hurtin’ you more. I wanted so much to get back at her and if I died,
I wouldn’t be able to do that. You….thoughts of you, drove me on. You saved my life buddy.’
‘I’d never give up on ya. When she was trying to
suffocate me she kept tellin’ me how you were hurtin’….how she was hurtin’ ya and I couldn’t
do a damned thing abut it. When they wouldn’t let me out of the hospital, I couldn’t rest, so I kinda went on
the run. Me an’ Huggy got a call sayin’ where you were.’
‘You did? From who?’
‘Dunno, it was a female voice, but they didn’t
give a name. Why?’
‘You’re gonna think I’ve lost it, but after
Sue and her goons left, there was this girl. It’s all kinda fuzzy and I don’t even know if she was real or not.
I was kinda driftin’ in and out, but she seemed so real. She kept me company and she was so sweet. I thought…..
nah, it don’t matter.’
‘Go on. You thought what?’ Hutch asked.
Starsky grinned shyly. ‘I thought she was an angel.’
The blond nodded. ‘Maybe she was buddy, maybe she was.
Whatever or whoever she was, the docs say that if she hadn’t telephoned me when she did, you’d be dead by now.’
The sobering thought had them both quiet for a few moments.
Starsky flexed the fingers of his left hand, the only part of that limb he could move as his shoulder and forearm were encased
‘We need to get her into jail buddy. Gunther aint gonna
get either of us ever again.’
Hutch glanced up in surprise. ‘How can you think of that?
How the fuck can you think of goin’ back out on the streets? What’s it gonna take buddy? If it aint Gunther, it’ll
be Forest, or Diana Harman or any one of the hundreds of flakes we’ve put away over the years. How can you think of
getting’ back out there after two close calls like we’ve had?’
‘You don’t get it, do ya? Starsky said levelly.
‘No. Explain it to me.’
‘I want to get back out there because of Gunther
and Forest and all the others. That’s why I became a cop and I suspect that’s why you did too. Just so that we
can make sure flakes like them don’t do this to anyone else.’
‘Hutch, I didn’t like what Sue did to me, or what
she did to you. And I sure as hell don’t like hurtin’ or a machine breathin’ for me, or peein’ through
a tube. But better me than some other poor sod. I joined the force to stop this from happenin’ to the man on the street
and if that means that we get injured, well that’s just the way it is. I need to stop ‘em and I can’t do
that in hospital or from the comfort of my home. I don’t like the pain, but I’m sure as hell not gonna stop because
of it. If anythin’ this just makes me more determined to get back out there.’
Hutch sighed deeply. ‘I can’t watch this keep happenin’
to ya buddy. My nerves won’t stand it an’ I’m getting’ old before my years. No other job would ever
ask so much of anyone.’
‘And no other job means so much. C’mon Hutch, this
aint like you. We get well, we get out an’ we get back on the street.’
‘I don’t know if I can Starsk. Why do they always
get to us through women? Terry, Gillian and now Sue. God, this sucks!’
‘All the more reason to put a stop to it, but I can’t
do this without ya buddy’ Starsky put his bandaged right hand on Hutch’s and locked eyes with his partner. ‘Whatever
we do, we do together. If we stay, we stay as partners. If we go……God knows what we’ll do. What is there
out there for an ex soldier and a failed medical student?’
‘Hey, I did not fail. I merely changed course’
the blond replied huffily, then snickered as he realised he’d once again been suckered by his partner’s quick
wit. ‘Ok, ok. But we don’t get back out there until we’re both good an’ fit huh? Maybe we can get
a nice sun filled vacation out of this one. Does Huggy still have connections in the travel trade?’
Starsky smirked. ‘With our luck, we’d get the very
last tickets for the maiden voyage of the SS Titanic.’
Hutch’s face turned serious again. ‘Fine, we give
it one last try huh? We stick together and we watch each other’s backs. I’m not leavin’ ya alone again partner.
I’m not lettin’ you out of my sight,;
‘That’s good. In fact that’s great' Starsky
said as Hutch stared in surprise.
‘It is? I thought you’d argue against it –
I know what you’re like for needin’ your own space.’
‘And I still do, babe. Only thing is, my own space got
kinda burned down. So, for the time bein’ I think you just got yourself a lodger. Oh, an’ maybe I could borrow
some of your clothes an’ shoes…….and I can cook.’
Hutch’s face fell. ‘No problem buddy. of course
you have to stay at my place and you can borrow my clothes till the insurance pays out, but as for cookin’…..’
‘Hey, what’s the matter with my cookin’?’
‘Starsk, do you even know what a carrot is? Or broccoli?’
‘Oh my God. Are we getting’ a rabbit too?’
Starsky asked with a grin. He snuggled back on the bed, his riotous curls standing out darkly against the white pillow slip.
‘Starsk, you’re the limit, ya know that? You know
what I mean about….. Starsky? Starsk?’
Hutch smiled to himself as he watched his buddy sleeping. Gently
he straightened the sheet and padded back to the other bed in the small room to lie down. Whatever they did, they’d
still be together, the way they were meant to be. As sleep overtook the recovering blond too, a small smile played across
the golden face. Starsky was gonna be ok, he was gonna be ok. His Prayers in the dark, cold days of the past months had been
answered. They’d be back to being Me and Thee, just as it should be.