A Prayer in the Dark

For Brook – my best friend.

A Prayer in the Dark – by Kirsty Welsh

Disclaimer – I don’t own them and I don’t make any money from them, but sometimes they like to come out to play.


The spark glowed red in the early morning heat. It was a cheery colour that belied the devastating effect it would soon have on the surroundings. For the past week, the Californian sun and hot Santa Anna winds of over 50 miles per hour had fanned the flames of the wildfires around Bay City, giving the heroic fire fighters more than a small job to do. Day and night, the fire tenders, helicopters and every rescue vehicle available rushed to and from the edge of the fires, battling, cajoling, sometimes winning and sometimes losing another few hundred yards to the all consuming flames.

The newscaster said there was nothing to worry about. The man sitting in his comfortable air conditioned television studio, said that the worst of the fire was over and that pretty soon, things in the city would be back to normal. The nice newscaster said that hundreds were left homeless but that there had been minimum fatalities.

Until that moment. That moment when the cheery red ember found its way onto the shingles of the apartment.

A fluke, they’d said afterwards. A one in a million chance of the ember flying so far from the seat of the fire. Such bad luck that it was still hot enough when it landed that it had immediately ignited the dust dry shingles. Amazing bad fortune that the fire took such a ferocious hold in so short a time. And who could believe just how long the Speedwagons had taken to get to Ridgeway to begin to fight the inferno.

Hutch was roused from his sleep by the insistent ringing of his telephone. With a groan, he made a mad, uncoordinated grab for his bedside clock and stared angrily at the numbers. 4:48! Who the hell?

By the side of him, his girlfriend of almost three months snuggled further into his side. Sue was a sweet girl. She was just what Hutch needed after his long term relationship with Abby came to an end and she was like balm to his soul. At 5’5” tall, with long blond hair and sparkling blue eyes, she was almost a carbon copy of Abby, but where Abby had been quick to argue and equally quick to back down, Sue was calm, cerebral and cute. Three weeks ago she’d moved in with him and had made herself right at home. Unlike other girls Hutch had dated, Sue was happy with his job, didn’t snipe when he couldn’t make dinner and had no problem sharing her man with one David Michael Starsky, Hutch’s partner of over ten years. It was refreshing for the blond not to have to explain his every move to a girl and the couple relaxed into the relationship as though they’d been married for years.

Very carefully, Hutch eased his arm from underneath the sleeping woman, sat up and swung his legs out of the bed as he reached for the telephone. Jamming it to his ear, he snapped into the receiver.

‘Starsk, so help me if this is….’


Hutch stopped mid sentence as his Captain’s voice sounded down the telephone. Now with his nerves on high alert, the blond calmed himself to listen. Dobey never rang during the night unless there was an emergency, that was a known fact. Sure over the past couple of days with the wild fires getting steadily closer to the city limits, there had been crisis talks about what they would do if the Bay City Jail had to be evacuated, but the fires were dying down, weren’t they?

‘What is it Cap’n?’

‘Hutch…..son. Um, you should probably get over to Starsky’s apartment, right now.’

Fear clutched at Hutch’s heart as his mind jumped through hoops trying to envisage why his Captain should be calling to tell him about his partner.


‘Just do it Hutch. And um… hurry, huh?’

‘Hurry? Why? What’s happened? What are ya tellin’ me?’ Hutch said a little louder into the phone. His heart was racing now and beside him, Sue stirred and rolled over on the bed.

‘It’s um…. There’s been an outbreak of fire. No-one knows why it hit his house and none of the others – just bad luck they’re sayin’ but….it um…. Just get over to Ridgeway quick. I’ll meet you there.’

Dobey put the phone down and Hutch was left staring at the receiver. He’d never known his boss sound quite so rattled and it sent a chill of fear down his spine. Sue reached up and put her hand on his shoulder.

‘What’s the matter honey?’ she asked.

‘It’s…it's. That was Dobey. He says there’s been a fire on Starsky’s street. He says I should….. should get there now.’

‘Oh my God, Hutch! Can I help? What can I do?’

Hutch shook himself, running his fingers through his sleep mussed hair. ‘I dunno. He didn’t say if Starsk was ok or not. He didn’t say anythin’, he just…. I have to go Hon.’

‘Yes, of course you do. Oh my God, poor Starsky. I should go down to the emergency shelters. I might be needed there’ Sue said, getting herself out of bed.

Hutch had been amazed at his girl’s stamina. During the holocaust of the past weeks, Sue had worked tirelessly at her day job of photographer at a local magazine, and in the evening at the emergency shelters put up for those unfortunates who had been made homeless by the fire. Sometimes it would be two or three o’clock in the morning before she was coming home to catch a few hours sleep, before getting up to go to the studio again in the morning.

The woman started to get dressed as she watched her man mechanically shouldering into his tee shirt. ‘Just go, Hutch. Go see to Dave huh? He might need you.’

‘Um…. Yeah, thanks Hon. I’ll um…. I’ll be back soon, I promise. Don’t work too hard, ya hear? You do too much. You’re too caring, that’s your problem.’

Sue smiled at her man as the flaxen haired cop pulled on his holster, checked his gun and added a light jacket to conceal his weapon. Hutch never went anywhere without his Colt.

‘Just go’ she said, coming around the end of the bed to take his face in her hands. She kissed him lightly on his lips. ‘Be careful, Hutch. I hate these fires. They do so much damage, and hide so many dangers.’

‘I’ll be fine’ he assured her. ‘I just need to find out what the deal is with Starsk.’

‘I know he’ll be ok. He’ll be safe’ Sue murmured.

‘Yeah, he’s probably got nothin’ more than a blister’ Hutch agreed, but without any conviction in his voice. ‘See ya later.’

Closing the door behind him, Hutch raced for his car, got in and slammed the mars light onto the roof. With his sirens blaring, he snickered to himself, thinking what his partner would say when he arrived in record time and with lights and two tones proclaiming his arrival. He drove smoothly and automatically, rerunning Dobey’s words in his head as he went, looking for any further clues that might tell him whether his curly haired buddy was ok or not. The sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach told him that he was right to worry. Starsky was not the luckiest guy in the world when it came to keeping safe. He seemed to be a bullet catcher extraordinaire and more than one flake they’d arrested over the years had heaped retribution of the most painful kind onto the brunet. No, if anything was going to happen to anyone, Hutch could bet his bottom dollar that it would happen to Starsky. He set up a little prayer in his head. Please not this time, please not this time. Please let him be ok, as if the mantra, chanted for long enough, would somehow protect the sable curled cop.

As Hutch rounded the corner of Ridgeway, however, he realised that all his hopes had been in vain.

He drove down the street of houses that seemed untouched by fire, until he slammed his breaks on at the end of the road, brought up short by two fire tenders and a host of fire fighters.

Starsky’s apartment was decimated. It stood a burning, soot blackened wreck, drenched by the water from the hoses aimed still in its direction. Smoke billowed up into the early morning air and there was a smell of charred wood and acrid steam lying heavily on the morning breeze.

Hutch flung open the door of his car, almost falling over himself in his rush to get to his partner. He ran towards the smoking wreck and would have charged up what was left of the steps had a soot blackened fire fighter not stopped him. The blond felt a strong arm round his waist and tried to shrug it off.

‘STARSKYYYYY’ he yelled at the smouldering building. ‘STARSK….Starsky!’

‘You can’t go in there Sir. It’s unsafe’ the fire-fighter told him, still struggling to hold onto the desperate blond.

‘No, you don’t understand. My partner….my friend he’s….. this is his house’ Hutch pleaded.

‘I’m sorry’ the man said quietly.

‘What? Sorry?... you got him out, right? He got out ok? He’s…..’

A solid black figure walked towards him and took over holding him as the fire-fighter went back to his task. Hutch looked down into the face of his Captain. ‘Hutch, you better come with me’ the black man said softly.

‘No, I need to get to Starsk….. I need to…. Where is he? Where’s the meat wagon? Is he hurt? Is he in the hospital? Oh my God, I have to get there. I have to…. ‘ Hutch clamped his mouth closed as he saw the pain on Dobey’s face.

‘Son, just come over here an’ sit down for a while huh?’

‘I have to be with Starsk…. he hates fire, almost as much as he hates snakes. Where’s he gone? Where did they take him? Ya know he hates the hospital too. Is he at Memorial? Is he a….’ Hutch looked around him wildly, babbling nonsense in his fear. There were still eight or nine hoses trained on the house and as he watched, the first floor crumbled and sagged and then toppled as if in slow motion towards the ground. The blond let out a strangled sob. ‘He’s not….’

Dobey steered Hutch to his car, opened the door and waited while the flaxen haired cop collapsed onto the seat.

‘Someone raised the alarm as soon as they saw it, but by the time the firemen got here, it was too late. The fire had already gotten a hold and they couldn’t do anything. Hutch, son. I’m sorry’ Dobey said, his voice breaking with emotion.

Slowly, Hutch looked up, his face white and his hands shaking uncontrollably. ‘They got him out, right?’ he asked, bracing himself for the answer,

They found his body, still in the bed. They battled through the flames to get to him Hutch, but he must have died from the smoke. By the time they got there it was….. Well, he was unrecognisable’ the captain said gently.

The tall blond cop crumpled against the seat of the car, his hands up to his face to block out the world – a world devoid of a curly haired partner. ‘Starsk…. oh my God, Starsky, nooooo.’


‘What the fuck? Oh my god! Noooo, Oh Jesuuuuuuus’ the raw voice called out into the blackness.

Starsky braced himself for the next pain, unsure why he was being punished, or by whom. The only thing the brunet knew for sure was that it hurt. And it had been hurting for almost as long as he could remember.

He’d been happily tucked up in bed when this started. He’d dropped Hutch off at his house, had joked about the blond’s domestic life and how he was beginning to behave like an old married man, and then had returned home for supper and an early night. They had a hectic couple of weeks, the looting on the streets becoming more prevalent as the fires consumed parts of the surrounding countryside. At 10:30, he’d decided he’d had enough of The Three Stooges as he could handle for one night, had turned off the television and had headed for bed.

Starsky prided himself on being able to sleep anytime and anywhere and he’d been in the land of nod almost before his head touched the pillow. A little too readily, he thought now, realising that either the Cola or maybe even the pizza ad been drugged somehow.

So sound asleep was he that he didn’t hear the three men come into his room. He didn’t hear two of them huffing and puffing as they carried the third and he didn’t hear them as they pounced on him in his bed, stuffing a gag into his mouth and binding his wrists and ankles together. For added measure, they then bent his knees up behind him and secured wrists to ankles so that he was hogtied and unable to put up any fight at all.

He tried to yell at them through the gag in his mouth, his nostrils flaring as he sucked in breath and he had just enough time to see them put another, seemingly unconscious body into his bed before they pulled a blindfold over his eyes and he smelled the smell of gasoline heavy in the air. Starsky felt himself being carried out and dumped into the truck of a car. From then on, things had gone steadily down hill.

Chapter 2 - and a major warning here. The chapter deals with sexual torture. If this ofends, please read no further and skip to chapter 3

The blindfold was still tied tightly in place, keeping the hurting brunet well and truly in the dark both physically and metaphorically. The darkness scared him almost as much as all his other discomforts put together. In the darkness he couldn’t tell where the next pain would come from or why, or who was making him hurt. Starsky was upright, he knew that for sure. From the feeling of the air moving on his body he realised her was also almost naked, but could remember neither arriving at this place, wherever it was, or being untied from the hogtie and repositioned thus. He could still feel the elastic of his boxers around his hips, but his feet were cold, braced almost on tiptoe on the bare floor and the cool air tickled against his chest, legs, arms and back.

His arms were stretched out at shoulder height, pulled sharply away from his body by what felt like ropes bound tightly round his wrists. The ropes cut into the flesh of his forearms and he could feel the tickling, annoying sensation of blood trickling down his from wrists towards his elbows. His shoulders burned with a fierce ache from the time he’d been held upright like this. With no clock and no sight to guide him, he could only estimate that it was around an hour, maybe more, maybe less. His ankles were similarly tied, again his legs being stretched uncomfortable wide apart and secured to something. His hips, knees and ankles also ached and the insides of his feet had gone to sleep from keeping his weight balanced on them.

Trickles of sweat ran down his arms and legs and coursed through the brown curly hair decorating his chest. Starsky remembered clearly the moment he started sweating. It was at exactly the same time that the first stinging pain had landed right on the very core of his body, catching not only his cock, but his balls too.

That first pain had been electric in its intensity, made even more painful because of course he’d never seen it coming. He’d heard something that sounded like stiletto heels walking towards him across the stone floor. The quality of the sound told him he was inside, and that wherever he was seemed empty. The sounds echoed around him and played their own part in making him feel dizzy. He could feel it was a stone or concrete room because of the warmth being leeched from the soles of his bare feet. The foot falls had stopped very close to him and for a moment he felt hot breath on his neck as though someone were breathing in his essence. It creeped him out and turned blindly in the direction of the breath.

‘Where am I? Lemme go ya fuckers’ he yelled into the blackness.

That was Starsky’s first mistake. The hot breath left him alone for a moment and he stared into the blackness of the blindfold as he heard the person take one step backwards and then… The brunet’s whole world turned a bright agonising scarlet as the tip of what felt like a whip hit at his groin. His genitals were immediately on fire as he screamed out in shock and pain, his left knee folding reflexively inwards to try to guard his core from further abuse. He breathed heavily leaning forwards as far as his stretched shoulders would allow and his head fell to his chest.

Another blow followed immediately afterwards and the shock and pain intensified so that another scream was wrung from the cop’s throat and his arms shook in their bonds, his hands balling into fists. He danced on the end of his ropes, trying to dodge further invisible blows. The whip caught him again and again, always in the same place, always targeting the family jewels until Starsky felt that they might rip in two. Another blow landed and he threw back his head

‘What the fuck? Oh my God! Noooo, Oh Jesuuuuuuus, stop, please, please, enough’ he pleaded to his unseen tormentor. As the whip stopped, the brunet let out a strangled sob. The entire centre of his body was on fire. He could feel the pull of the abused skin as his balls swelled from the torture and something that felt ominously like blood started to trickle down the inside of his leg. He moaned, his chin resting on his chest because he had no strength to lift his head up any more and he hung in his bonds, the extraordinary strain placed on his shoulder joints making them creak and tremble.

Starsky could feel that someone was once again by his side. He could feel the cool of their body next to his overheated skin and he flinched away with a hiss as he felt a delicate finger wipe away a sweat droplet from his chest.

‘Leave me ‘lone’ he whispered. ‘Just lemme go. Where am I?

He pulled his head back with a groan as he felt something close to his ear and a feminine voice whispered in his ear. ‘You’re in hell.’

‘Sure, an’ you’re the devil himself huh?’ Starsky gasped.

‘You don’t know the half of it Davey.’

‘Why don’t ya show yourself? Are ya too chicken to face a bound man? What’re ya hidin’ for? Scared I’ll come after ya? I will, ya know. I’ll hunt ya down an’….’

‘But you’re dead.’

The words were said so coldly that it stopped Starsky in his tracks.

‘Huh? What did ya just say?’

‘I said, you’re dead.’

The woman’s voice nagged at the brunet. There was just something about it that he thought he knew, or at least he ought to know. She’d called him by his name, so it was obviously someone who knew him, but what was all this crap about him being dead? Where did that come from?

‘Don’t feel dead’ he grunted. ‘Dead men don’t have their balls on fire.’

‘Aint that a fact?’ the female’s voice snickered. ‘How do they feel Davey? Like there’s the fires of damnation an’ hell coming from them?’

Starsky stiffened and hissed softly as he felt her pull down his boxers and put her hands on his cock. Her fingers wrapped around it and pumped it once or twice, but Little Davey had most definitely had better days and wasn’t for playing out right then.

‘What’s the matter honey? Can’t get it up for me? What I want I usually get. Let’s see if we can’t persuade him to pay attention, shall we?’

The bound cop heard the stiletto heels take a couple of steps back and then the dreaded whip fizzed through the air again, this time landing over his buttocks. He heard the woman cry out in delight as she watched his butt tense at the pain and then the tip of the whip landed again, in exactly the same spot. Twice more she struck at him and twice more Starsky managed to do little more than hiss at the pains, his body tensing and his toes curling against the cold stone floor.

The female stopped again and a moment later, Starsky felt her hands on his overheated skin as she ran her nails along the bright red welts decorating his behind. The sensation was one of fire ants consuming his body and he jangled on the end of his ropes as she traced each wound with her finger, delicately forcing another hiss of pain from him.

‘Nice’ she said. ‘Very nice, and oh so stoical. That’s cute Davey, but it isn’t clever.’

Starsky stared into the blackness of the blindfold, determined not to scream as her fingers continued their insidious work. They moved lower, kneading at his flesh and separating his buttocks. His body stiffened but he said nothing and then the fingers continued their exploration, moving between his spread-eagled legs to find his cock again. Disappointed that her treatment had not elicited the desired effect, the woman took a hold of Starsky’s package and yanked it down playfully. The brunet turned in his bonds, trying to dislodge her hands but clamped his lips tightly closed.

‘Don’t you like my methods of persuasion?’

‘Had better’ the curly haired cop gasped.

‘Better than me?’

‘Who are you?’

‘Aww Davey. I’m upset that you don’t know me when I know you sooo well. We go back a long way, you an’ me’ she said stroking down his flank as she started to circle his hanging body.

Starsky gritted his teeth, turning his head in the general direction of her footfalls.

‘Ok, I got a bad memory. Take off the blindfold an’ maybe I’ll remember your pretty face huh?’

‘Oh, so you know it’s pretty’ the voice responded.

‘Would it persuade ya to take the blindfold off if I told ya you were butt ugly?’

‘See that’s what I always liked about you Davey. Such a cute sense of humour. And so…..so brave. The hero cop till the bitter end huh?’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. Look, just lemme go huh? I never saw ya, I can’t identify ya. Just let me down an’ we can both walk away from this.’

‘But I don’t want to. Its fun to play.’ Her whip flicked again and caught Starsky on his chest, just below the surgical scar from his most recent surgery to correct the slight heart defect he still had as a result of Gunther’s men’s attack those few years ago.

The brunet yelped but then closed his mouth.

‘Hutch is gonna find ya. He’s gonna find me an’ then he’ll come after you an’ he’s gonna fuckin’ kill ya’ the famous Starsky temper boiled over and the brunet yelled into the blackness. The whip returned, this time playing over his chest, thighs and shoulders. The assault went on for long minutes until the woman could see that Starsky’s body was reacting less and less to the painful stimulus. Breathlessly she dropped the whip onto the floor and took a hold of a handful of sweat soaked curls, pulling Starsky’s head back savagely until the tendons in his neck stood out like cords.

‘Now tell me what’s going to happen’ she snapped into his blinded face.

‘Utch….. get ya……bitch’ the brunet managed to pant out.

‘You think so? You really think so?’ the woman asked, wiping away a thin trickle of blood that was wending its way down her prisoner’s chest.

‘Never let ya….. get ‘way with this’ Starsky gasped.

‘I think he will, you know.’

‘How d’ya make that out?’

‘Because my dear curly haired cop, your wonderful, kind, brave blond partner thinks you’re dead.’

Starsky felt a band constrict round his chest. ‘What?’ he whispered.

‘Hutch thinks you’re dead. Your house burned down and they found a body. He’s mourning you as we speak. He looked such a broken man when they led him away from Ridgeway. He had tears on his face. It was so touching.’

‘You fuckin’ bitch. Lemme go. Lemme go right now’ Starsky yelled, his hands pulling savagely at his bonds until his wrists and ankles started to bleed.

The woman put her and on the cop’s neck. ‘Don’t struggle honey, you’ll hurt yourself.’

‘Let me go. I’ll kill the fuckin’ lot of ya’ the brunet continued to yell as the woman stood back and watched him work himself into a frenzy. Calmly, she took a long length of rough twine and approached hr prisoner again.

Starsky felt her come close and was about to launch himself into another tirade when suddenly he stopped. Her hands were on the centre of his body again. What was it with this woman? Did she have a ball fetish or something? For a moment he wondered what she was doing and then he felt something rough circle the top of his package, pulling tight, but not too tight. From then on things started to get a whole lot worse as he felt the twine pull down, pulling his family jewels with it so that it felt like they were being pulled out of his body.

The woman secured the twine and then pulled it straight down and without a second thought, tied it to a ring bolt embedded in the floor between Starsky’s outspread legs, securing his genitals to the ground. Calmly she stood and whispered in his ear.

‘Don’t move too much honey. We don’t want you singing falsetto, do we?’

‘I don’t…I…what the hell? You’re sick. You’re one sick son of a bitch!’

‘Oh now that’s not the right thing to say to a lady is it?’ the woman said as she picked up the whip again and set about her task with vigour.

At the end of ten minutes, Starsky was hanging limp and sweating from his bonds and the woman was red faced and panting with exertion. She stopped the blows, and checked on the unconscious cop, twisting her fingers into his hair savagely to see if there was any response. Satisfied that the brunet was well and truly out of it, she walked from the room and stopped by the two heavies she employed to take care of things.

Cut him down, but leave him tied and blindfolded. I’ll be back tomorrow’ she said with disdain and walked off.

The two big men grinned at each other and walked into the room. As one watched, the other cut through the bonds holding Starsky’s arms and legs apart, stepping back to let the sweat soaked body thud to the floor. Quickly, he bound the brunet’s arms behind his back, leaving his legs free, but still with his genitals tied to the ring in the floor. With one last look at the unconscious cop, the two men left, closing the door behind them.

Chapter 3

‘He can’t be. It’s not him. I know it isn’t him. Starsk… Oh my God Starsky.’ Captain Dobey stood quietly by the open door of his car as Hutch sat with his head in his hands, moaning softly and seemingly unaware of what was going on around him. The big Captain had almost carried his officer to his car, Hutch’s legs seeming to have turned to rubber as he looked at the devastation that had been his partner’s house. The final blow came as two of the fire fighters walked past, carrying a black plastic zippered body bag and Hutch had groaned and fallen to his knees.

Dobey looked around, wondering what he should do next. This was the sort of thing he’d never planned for. It was the sort of thing he hoped he’d never have to deal with. Men shot down in the line of work. That was what Police Captains had to deal with and the black man had had more than his fair share of sitting in a living room, hands in his lap as a wife, or mother, or sister broke down and cried at the bad news. That was how cops were meant to die – gunned down in the line of duty, or living to a ripe old age and moving to Miami to hit the happy cop retirement grounds. They were not supposed to die in a fire, in their beds. Especially not cops as full of life as David Starsky had been. For a moment, the vision of the tall, lithe figure, the head of riotous chocolate curls and the piercing indigo blue eyes floated into Dobey’s head and he swallowed hard.

OK Harold. Get with the plan. Deal with the living coz there aint anythin’ ya can do for the dead right now.

The scene around Ridgeway was still organised chaos with fire fighters, hoses, tenders and emergency vehicles still milling around. There were also two black and whites on the scene and the four officers were still standing looking at the soot-blackened wreck in shock. Starsky was such a popular officer that the loss would be felt right around the metro.

Dobey bent down until he could take Hutch’s hands gently away from his face.

‘How’re ya doin’ he asked

Slowly Hutch looked up, his eyes unfocused and far away. ‘I can’t believe it’ he whispered. ‘I was only talkin’ to him a few hours ago. He said he’d see me in the mornin’. He was fine.’

‘No-one could have foreseen his’ Dobey said gently. ‘It was just a cruel twist of fate. I need to get you home son.’

‘Home? Um…. No, I wanna stay here. Maybe there was a mistake. Maybe there’s…’ the flaxen haired cop’s voice faltered. ‘I don’t want to leave.’

‘There’s nothing you can do son. You need to go home and get some rest. It’s been a huge shock. Just let’s get you home huh?’ Dobey gently grabbed Hutch’s legs and swung them round into the car, closing the door and walking around to the driver’s side. ‘I’ll get one of the uniforms to bring your car back, you’re in no fit state to drive.’ The Captain turned on the engine and turned his car in the direction of Venice Place.

Hutch sat back, his head resting on the headrest and his eyes closed, unable and unwilling to take in what had happened. It was unthinkable. Life without Starsky at his side. It sounded too sappy when he said it like that, but the thought of not having the curly haired brunet at his side, telling crazy jokes, smiling his goofy smile and talking a mile a minute about the most random subjects was too raw for him to contemplate. Starsky was the night to Hutch's day; the Spring to the blond’s Fall and the yin to the blond cop’s yang. Without Starsky in his life Hutch felt he’d have no reason to continue and the thought of cruising the streets with some other partner left him cold and vaguely nauseous.

The two men drove in silence. Dobey didn’t have the words to express his sorrow and anything he did think off sounded too hollow and crass to say out loud. What could he say? What solace could he give to the hurting blond? What could he do to ease Hutch’s suffering when such a vital part of his life had suddenly and needlessly been snuffed out? The streets swept by, the early morning sun rising up over the horizon as eager joggers and the like started to pound the streets. Ordinary people doing ordinary things and oblivious of how much the two men were hurting, oblivious that a young and vital life had been snuffed out.

Eventually, they drew up outside Venice Place, although Hutch didn’t seem to notice even that the car had stopped. Dobey switched off the engine and sat for a moment, looking at the broken blond. Hutch’s eyes were still closed and small tremors ran through his body.

‘Is there anyone home to stay with ya? he asked.

Hutch seemed to jerk back to reality and he grunted. ‘Huh?’

‘At home? Is Sue at home? I don’t want you to be on your own’ Dobey pressed.

‘Oh…um. No, she we…she went down to the shelters.’

‘OK. C’mon. Let’s get ya inside and I’ll wait with you till she gets back.’

The blond turned. ‘S’ok. You don’t have to. I’m fine.’

Dobey snorted. ‘Uh huh? You’re in shock son, and who wouldn’t be? You need someone to stay with you, even if it’s only to make you drinks and provide an ear if ya want to talk.’

‘I can make a drink an’ I don’t wanna talk.’

‘Well, I’m coming up anyway’ the Captain said, getting out of the car. Secretly, he wanted to stay just in case the blond cop was to do anything crazy. There had been such a connection between Hutch and his brunet partner that he’d always thought that if something happened to one of them, the other would go into a decline and he didn’t want to put the theory to the test. He waited for Hutch to open the door and when the big blond made no move, Dobey sighed and opened the passenger door. ‘Hutch, c’mon son.’

Stiffly, Hutch got out, following meekly as Dobey led the way up the stairs and reached for the key above the lintel. They walked into the apartment and as Dobey went into the kitchen, Hutch sagged down onto the sofa, his world a grim black and white parody now that his partner had gone.

‘Tea or coffee?’ Dobey asked from the kitchen.


‘You need something. Tea or coffee?’

‘Tea’ the tall man said with a sigh. One decision down, lots still to go. He stared at the coffee table and at the photography magazine Starsky had left a week ago. He picked it up and without thinking, buried his face in the sleek, glossy pages. There was the merest whiff of Sandalwood soap and the Pierre Cardin aftershave that Starsky habitually wore and suddenly the damn of Hutch’s emotions broke and the tears started to flow. He sobbed as though the world were ending, which for Hutch it was. A life with Starsky; a world without the brunet; a lifetime of hurting and missing his best friend.

Harold Dobey heard the strangled sob and looked up from his mindless domesticity. Hutch had crumpled on the sofa, seeming to have shrunk to half his height by the weight of his sorrow. Tears flowed freely and the blond’s shoulder shook as each wracking sob took a hold of his body. The black man rushed to Hutch’s side, sitting down on the sofa beside him and hesitantly he put his arm around the tall man’s shoulders feeling the heat radiate from the blond and the shudders flow through his body.

‘Aww c’mon Hutch, let it out son….just let it out huh? Dobey said softly as he held onto Hutch’s shoulders. The big blond leaned against him, his hands up to his face, shutting out the misery of the world and cried out his heart. The sorrow was deep and it was minutes before finally he pushed himself away from the comforting bulk and sighed deeply, angrily wiping away the tears with the back of his hands.

‘I’m sorry….. I just….I can’t believe it’ he whispered.

‘You an’ me alike. Can I call anyone for ya? Can I get anyone?’

‘Starsky…… I want Starsk’ Hutch said in a voice so raw that Dobey had to swallow hard to keep down the lump in his own throat.

‘I know son. I know you do. Is there anyone else?’


‘Do you know the shelter’s telephone number? Can I ring Sue?’

‘No, I just wanna be alone. I feel so…..empty.’

Dobey stood and reached for the telephone as Hutch looked up. ‘What’re ya doin’?’ the blond asked. ‘I said I didn’t need no-one.’

‘I’m ringing the doctor. You’re in shock. You’re as white as a sheet an’ ya haven’t stopped trembling since ya came home.’

‘I don’t need a doctor. What’s he gonna do?’

Dobey snorted. ‘If I knew that, I wouldn’t need to call a doctor, would I? I dunno, it’s what they always do on TV, an’ I feel like we need help.’

Hutch watched as the black man dialled a number, gave instructions to the police surgeon and put down the phone. ‘He’ll be here in 15 minutes’ he said.

‘Who? Who’ll be here in 15 minutes?’ Sue asked as she pushed the door open. ‘What’s the matter? Ken? Are you ok? Oh my God, what’s happened?’ she asked as she crossed to the sofa and enveloped Hutch in a tight embrace. She kissed his matted hair and drew away from him. 'Ken, tell me? Has something happened? Are you hurt? Is it…?’

‘Starsk. It’s Starsky’ Hutch croaked, his voice dry and raw.

‘Starsky? What’s happened? Is he ok? Is he hurt?’ she asked, stumbling over her words. Sue looked into her man’s pain filled eyes and immediately knew the terrible answer.

‘He’s dead’ Hutch whispered and the words somehow made it suddenly real. The words hit him like a blunt trauma and the enormity of the situation finally hit him so that he grabbed for Sue’s arm as the room dipped drunkenly to the side.

‘Ken? Hutch?’ Oh my God! Captain help me’ Sue yelped as Hutch’s unconscious body toppled forward so that it was half resting on her knees.

Dobey rushed across the room, and between them they managed to get the blond to his bedroom and onto the bed. Sue looked up, tears swimming in her eyes. ‘Is it true? Is he really….’

‘Dead, yeah. The fire at his place was so intense, the fire fighters said he would have died of the smoke before the flames ever actually got to him. They found his body on the bed.’

The woman’s face crumpled. ‘Oh poor Ken….poor Davey, this is terrible. What can I do?’

Dobey shrugged his shoulders. ‘Dunno. I sent for the Doc. He’s on his way.’

Sue bent over the blond’s body, gently brushing away a bang of flaxen hair from his forehead. She leaned in and dotted a kiss on his eyelids, smelling the acrid blast of smoke fumes still clinging to the blond’s body. ‘My poor man. I’m so sorry’ she whispered and sat down, taking a hold of Hutch’s hand as she waited.

Minutes later, the doctor arrived at the door and pushed his way into the bedroom. Sue listened as Dobey gave the medic a brief outline of what had happened and how Hutch had reacted to the devastating news about his partner and then the doctor set about examining his patient. Half way through, Hutch’s eyes fluttered open and before he was fully awake, he licked his dry lips and moaned ‘Starsk?’

Sue shushed him gently. ‘Starsky isn’t here’ she said softly. ‘The doctor’s here. He’s gonna give you something to make you rest.’

The medic reached into his bag and withdrew the pad he used for prescriptions. He scribbled words onto it and tore the sheet off, handing it to Sue. ‘Make sure he takes two a day. I’ve given him enough to keep him going’ he said as she escorted him to the door.

Sue took the script. ‘What is it?’

‘Valium. It’ll help keep him calm and make sure he gets some rest.’

‘Oh, I’ll make sure he gets his medication’ the woman said with a smile. ‘Thank you doctor.’

Dobey followed the doctor out and Sue kissed the black man on his cheek. ‘Look after him. You know where I am if you need me’ the Captain said.

‘Of course I will, and we’ll be fine. Just go ok?’

Dobey smiled. ‘You’re a good woman Sue. He’s lucky to have you. Especially right now.’

Sue closed the door behind them and walked thoughtfully back into the bedroom, looking at the prescription. 10 Valium tablets. Taking a pen from the bundle by the telephone, she quickly marked the script and then went back to sit by Hutch, soothing his forehead as he continued to toss on the pillow and moan from his dead partner.

Chapter 4

‘Come on honey. You need to take these. Ken…..Hutch honey. I need you to wake up.’ Sue looked down at the sleeping man sorrowfully. Hutch had been semi awake for some time now, but he refused to open his eyes and acknowledge that she was there. Instead his lips worked as though he were speaking although no sound came out other than occasionally he’d rasp “Starsky” softly, as though to himself.

Sue smoothed her hand over the cop’s golden toned forehead and was rewarded briefly with a flash of crystal blue eyes from beneath snowy lashes. She smiled down. ‘The doctor gave you these, honey. He said you should take them for a while. They’ll make you feel easier.’ She handed him three small white tablets and reluctantly but obediently, the blond took them and swallowed them down with the glass of water she held out for him.

‘What time is it?’ Hutch asked, trying to peer at his bedside clock.

‘Time you got some rest. Sleep, that’s what you need. I’ll be right here’ Sue said gently. ‘You’ve had a big shock and soon you need to start making decisions, but rest for now huh?’

Hutch rested his head on the pillow with a sigh. ‘I still can’t believe it. He’s gone. We never even got to say goodbye properly. We were just gonna see each other at work like always. Oh God! Starsk….’ Hutch closed his eyes, his forehead creasing in pain as he remembered his partner. Life would never be the same again and right now, if someone had offered him a way out, Hutch would have taken it, because he didn’t feel that life was worth continuing, even with his wonderful girlfriend at his side.

The blond had been daydreaming about his partner. In his dreams, Starsky was alive and well. They were at the beach, swimming in the surf. The power of the waves testing each man’s strength to the limit as they dived through each cresting breaker, swimming strongly through to the other side to emerge with a shake of their head as water droplets sprayed from chocolate curls and flaxen bangs. The daydream was a recurrent one, but it always ended the same way. At the end of each perfect wave, Starsky would turn to his partner with an intense look on his face and reach out a hand, whispering ‘Hutch, come get me Hutch’ as the tide pulled him away. And each time, Hutch would watch from the shallows as the smaller man was swept out to sea.

The blond closed his eyes, feeling the effects of the three Valium tablets start to pull at his consciousness. On the one hand, he wanted to embrace the oblivion he knew the medication would bring. But on the other hand, he felt he should experience every tiny little bit of hurt. Guilt washed over him. He was alive and Starsky was dead. Starsky had left him to struggle on in the world.

As he closed his eyes, he started to dream again of the beach. It was a hot day, the sand sun-warmed underfoot and the sunlight sparkling off the water. The beach was deserted, their tartan rug being the only oasis of colour in the acres of golden sand. They’d had lunch and a beer and had dozed through the heat of the day and now, hot and sticky, the water called to them, tempting them to take that first refreshing step. Starsky, in his usual ebullient fashion ran into the waves, straightening out his lithe body into a shallow dive through the breaker as it started to foam against the shore. Hutch hung back, watching the power of his partner’s body forging through the white water, but as the wave died down, hissing towards the shore, the brunet seemed unable to regain his feet. Starsky turned back to Hutch, his hand outstretched, beseeching his buddy to save him, but another wave crested, obscuring Hutch’s view for a few seconds and when it died down, Starsky was further out, shouting his name. ‘Hutch, come get me Hutch’.

The blond tried to swim out to save his partner, but the waves turned instantly and infuriatingly from sparkling blue water to molasses. It clung to him, impeding his movements and snatching at his arms and legs so that he couldn’t move. As he forced his head up, he saw Starsky’s body being swept out to sea. ‘Hutch, come get me Hutch…..’ the cry floated to him on the air and he let out a sob as he plunged once again into the black depths, his strength leaving him as his buddy was swept away from him.

Hutch’s head tossed restlessly on the pillow. ‘Starsk….. Starsky, wait……Staaaarsk’ he moaned.

Beside him, Sue tried to soothe him, but the flaxen haired cop was lost in his own world of pain and memories and drugs and eventually, the woman gave up her struggle to quieten her man and gently got up from the side of the bed. Knowing that he would be asleep for some time, Sue went into the kitchen, made a drink of herbal tea, adding to it one or two ingredients from her purse. She left a cupful of it on Hutch’s bedside and with a final check on the blond, slowly slipped out, back to her job down town.


Starsky too was dreaming, although his dreams were mostly painful. After the woman had left him alone on the floor, he’d come to slowly and had tried to shuffle his way to a corner of the room, somehow feeling that he would be safer with a wall at his back. With his arms tied behind him, he managed to snake his way across the floor, being brought up painfully short by the twine still tied around the centre of his body. Starsky had given a small whimper of helplessness before sucking in a deep breath and trying to occupy his mind with other matters to stop the tide of panic welling up from his toes.

The brunet was confused, He had no idea who had taken him, or why, or indeed, where he was. All he knew for sure was that the minute he’d been plucked from his bed, his world had been a miasma of pain and he dearly wanted it to stop. Things had been so ordinary the night before. He’d had a reasonably good day at work, he and Hutch had celebrated getting a major lead on a guy supplying dope to college kids, but nothing out of the ordinary.

In his periods of consciousness, Starsky went over in his mind who he and Hutch had come into contact with, of later, but no-one of any note came to mind. Homicide had been quiet and they’d been helping out the narcotics guys with some old cases that needed closing. There was no-one of any influence that they’d put away and no syndicates that would pay to have one of Bay City’s cops taken out of the way.

His mind came up blank and as the pains continued to argue with him and his arms ached from their enforced position behind his back, the brunet drifted back into an uncomfortable and restless sleep. In the cool of his prison room, his naked body shivered, goose bumps rising over the olive toned flesh.

The one thing he felt more than anxious about was that she’d said that Hutch thought he was dead. The woman actually crowed about it, seeming to know the connection that he and Hutch shared; the uncommon bond they had between them. The snippet of information hit Starsky on two levels. First, he could only imagine how Hutch must have been feeling. Did the blond have any idea how his partner was meant to have “died”? How would he react and…..oh my God. Hutch would tell Starsky’s Mom and Nicky and…. Shit!

On another level, Starsky also panicked because if he was hurt, or injured, in trouble or missing, it was always the flaxen haired cop who could be relied upon to find him. Starsky went back in his mind over the times when he’d woken to find Hutch’s concerned face smiling down at him and he moaned softly. ‘Hutch….god damn the woman….Hutch! Hutch, come get me huh?’

The brunet must have drifted off into sleep again because he didn’t hear the door to his cell open. The woman no longer wore the shoes that click clicked across the floor and Starsky’s first indication that anyone was with him was when a bucket of ice water was thrown over his semi naked body. The shock brought him instantly awake causing him to jerk against the twine anchoring him to the floor and he gasped, the cold water soaking into the blindfold still tied round his eyes and setting up instant neuralgia.

‘Wakey wakey’ the woman’s voice said. ‘Did you have a nice sleep Davey?’

Starsky shook his head to get rid of the excess water and gasped at the unexpected deluge.

‘Yeah, sure. Dreamin’ of you sweetheart’ Starsky grunted, trying to use his elbow to lever himself into a sitting position. He managed, panting with his exertions. He’d been captive for almost 20 hours and so far he’d had neither food nor drink. His mouth felt dry, his tongue a lump of sandpaper in his mouth and he licked appreciatively at the cold water running down the sides of his face. He felt something between his legs and flinched away as the woman nudged at his still naked cock with the toe of her shoe.

‘Still not pleased to see me?’ she taunted. ‘And your reputation as a bit of a stallion falls at the first hurdle.’

‘I don’t get off on bein’ trussed up like a Thanksgivin’ turkey’ Starsky snapped. ‘I told ya. Let me up, let me outa here an’ we can discuss terms. Hutch….’ The word was out of his mouth before he’d had time to think and it was rewarded with a small, feminine giggle.

‘Hutch won’t be doing anything. Hutch thinks you’re dead remember? It was so emotional reading about it in the newspaper today.’

There was the sound of paper rattling and then the woman cleared her throat.

The Bay City Police Department today mourns the loss of one of their finest. Sergeant David Starsky was the latest victim of the wildfires sweeping the area when his body was found inside the wreckage of his burnt out house. The apartment at 2000 Ridgeway was the only house on that street consumed by the flames before fire fighters managed to bring the blaze under control.

Sergeant Starsky is survived by his Mother Rachel and Brother Nicholas who live in New York State. His partner, Sergeant Kenneth Hutchinson was unavailable for comment and is being comforted by friends.

The funeral has been postponed until an inquest takes place.’

Starsky struggled against his bonds, trying manfully to get to his feet despite his restraints as the anger welled up inside him. ‘Noooo, For Gods sake, let me up. Let me up. I’ll fuckin’ kill ya, you evil bitch. What’s this all about? Huh? Tell me that. Why can’t I see ya? Why won’t ya take this fuckin’ blindfold off so that I can look ya in the eyes, so that I know who you are, coz ya know I’m gonna get outa this an’ track ya down for as long as ya live. Why don’t ya let me see who you are? Huh?’

‘But you do know me Davey. I’m the woman who’s gonna put an end to the great Starsky and Hutch partnership once and for all.’

The admission brought the brunet up short. There was something familiar about her voice, but the broad Alabama accent was unfamiliar. He didn’t know anyone from that part of the country, although the tone of the woman’s voice nagged at him and her name seemed to be on the tip of his tongue.

‘Why?’ he asked.

‘Because you ruined my life, that’s why. Because you ruined everything I could have had.’

‘I don’t understand. Take the blindfold off an’ let me see ya. Explain it to me. Explain to me why you’re doin’ this.’

Starsky hissed as he felt fingers trailing down the side of his face. He pulled his head back, trying to peer under the margin of his blindfold to get a glimpse of her. The woman saw his attempt and pushed his head sideways with the same fingers that a moment ago had caressed his skin so gently.

‘Naughty! No peeking, otherwise you’ll spoil the surprise.’

‘I don’t want a surprise. I just wanna see you eye to eye’ the brunet gasped. ‘Or are ya scared I’ll think you’re butt ugly or sumthin’ he taunted.

‘I don’t care what you think I look like. But you aren’t gonna see me till I’m good and ready. And then I want to see the horror on your face when you realise.’

Fingers worked on the centre of his body now and Starsky could feel her untying the twine that still circled his core and he hissed softly as the returning circulation set up a fierce burning. He felt her stand, although he didn’t hear any footsteps, but as the door closed softly behind the woman, leaving Starsky alone in his room again he yelled after her.

‘For God’s sake….let me out!’

Chapter 5

Starsky stayed very still for a while after the woman had left him, not wanting to instigate any more attacks on him. Finally he admitted to himself that he’d been scared to move in case she was still there and she was going to hurt him again. In his time, the brunet had suffered a lot of abuse at the hands of a lot of Bay City’s flakes, but none of them scared him quite so much as this one female. In his sightless state, he conjured up images of an ugly woman built like a sumo wrestler and with muscles to rival Mohammed Ali’s.

Eventually, after a long while with no further noises in the room, the brunet relaxed marginally and started to snake himself slowly across the ground. He managed to get himself into a corner of his cell and lever himself upright. With the cold stone at his back, he felt marginally safer. Now the only way for her to get to him was from the front and somehow, that made him feel better.

The curly haired cop must have dozed for a while, his dreams being of Hutch and the good times they’d had together. It made him feel warmer and more comfortable to think about his partner and he vowed that he’d get back to Hutch if it was the last thing he did. Starsky’s wet and naked body cooled in the frigid air of the place, his boxers still being tangled around his ankles. With his arms still bound behind his back, however, he had no way to pull them up and cover himself and so he took his mind away, considering all his options. Thinking was good. Thinking stopped him from panicking and maybe he’d come up with a way to escape. But thinking also posed problems. Thinking made him face his current position head on, and each time, the same questions arose. Who was the woman? Why was she keeping him here? She said he should know her, but try as he might, Starsky’s dehydrated mind couldn’t place her voice.

Eventually, a small noise shook him awake from his doze. He heard movements outside the door, and braced himself as the door opened. There was the incongruous sound of wheels squeaking along the floor of his prison and then footsteps coming towards him. Starsky braced himself and he felt hands on him, pulling him up to his feet and holding his arms down by the side of him. His blindfolded head quested this way and that and he grunted as the hands grabbed a hold of him and kept him still with bruising efficiency.

‘What the fuck are ya doin’ now?’ he spat as he felt his hands untied. The circulation returned in a fiery tide and he immediately tried to reach for his blindfold. The brunet’s hands were slapped down, making him jump and amazingly he felt someone hand him his jeans, slapping the soft material into his hands.

‘For God’s sake, get dressed. I'm tired of laughing at your pathetic body’ the woman’s voice said as the hands at his back allowed him sufficient movement to pull up his boxers and step blindly into his pants.

‘What’s up sweetheart? Can’t bear to look at what you’ll never have?’ Starsky snapped. With the snug material once more covering his body, the brunet felt emotionally better and he stood waiting, knowing that more was to come but feeling more in control now that he was semi dressed.

As he stood up, the unseen hands took a hold of his arms again and Starsky heard a snap of toggles accompanied by a bright light from the spotlight they’d wheeled into the room shining even through the material of his blindfold. He hissed softly and turned his head away from the light as one of the woman’s heavies whipped his blindfold off. The brunet stood placidly, blinking in the bright light knowing now was not the time to make his move. Instead he conserved his energy and waited. The light shone straight into his face and nothing in front of him was clear, the beams piercing painfully into his eyes.

‘Clever….and cocky. But don’t get too cocky Davey. I can bring you down with one finger if I have to.’

‘Yeah? By tellin’ me how my partner is doin’? Hutch’ll work this out. He’ll still find me’ Starsky snarled, although it sounded as though he was convincing himself as much as his captors.

‘Oh, you want to talk about Hutch some more? How touching. He’s in a bad way, you know. He sleeps a lot and in his dreams he calls for you. His friends are scared that he’s hurting so much that he’ll try to do something crazy…..maybe even kill himself, if he’s left alone too long.’

Starsky kicked out at the black shape embedded in the bright light. ‘You’re lyin. ’Hutch would never do that. He’s too strong for that.’

‘Are you sure?’ she asked

‘Yeah, I’m sure. You don’t know him like I do’ the brunet yelled.

‘Funny that. I thought I knew him pretty well’ the woman’s voice said smugly. ‘He seems to like me, when he sees me. He’s so cute when he’s hurtin’. All that lovely blond hair mussed…..and the hurt, pained look in those puppy dog eyes as he…’

‘Shuddup…. just shut the fuck up and let me go, ya crazy bitch’ Starsky yelled as she kept up her relentless description of how Hutch was dealing with the news of his partner'’ "death"’

The woman stood back and watched the brunet’s misery for a couple of minutes. Starsky was beside himself, pulling and struggling in the grip of her two henchmen, yelling and almost sobbing in frustration but finally she tired of the show. She picked up the blindfold from the floor and holding it up at the height of Starsky’s eyes, she insinuated herself between him and the light. For a split second, the brunet had a view of blue eyes and a feminine, sweet face before the cloth came towards him.

‘I think you’ve had enough light for a while’ she smirked as her arms reached round behind his head. Starsky saw her arms coming towards him. He couldn’t make out her features properly but as she started to tie the blindfold over his eyes and behind his head, he saw his chance and snapped his head sideways. Like a rattler striking, the brunet sunk his teeth into the flesh of the woman’s arm and held on.

She screamed loudly, trying to pull her arm away from him, but Starsky wouldn't let go and desperately she slapped at his face with her other hand. The brunet grunted but his teeth remained firmly embedded in her arm and she screamed for the two men with her to get him.

The man still holding Starsky’s arms behind his back took a firmer hold while the second man produced, as if from nowhere, a bat. As the woman continued to scream he started beating at Starsky with the hard wood, settling into the blows as they connected. The brunet’s teeth remained fastened to the woman as the bat hit again and again down the length of his side, across his legs and finally one blow landed on his collar bone. With a sickening crack, the bone broke and Starsky’s mouth opened as his breath caught in his throat and then he screamed.

He let go of the woman’s arm and she slapped his face again as she stepped back and saw the bruises appearing over her captives body. As the man with the bat stopped for a moment, she grabbed a handful of soaking chocolate curls and pulled Starsky’s head back.

‘You’re going to so regret that you ever did that, you no good piece of shit cop’ she snarled. She gazed into his face for a moment as pained indigo eyes blazed back and Starsky’s face registered shock.

‘You’ he gasped.

‘Hey honey’ she grinned and dug her fingers into the broken bone by the brunet’s neck. Starsky screamed again and he collapsed to the ground where he remained as the woman stepped over him.

‘Have some fun’ she told the two heavies ‘but leave him alive, and make sure he drinks the water. There’s more enjoyment to be had yet.’

As the woman walked calmly out of the room, holding her bleeding arm, she heard the sounds of fists and feet hitting into soft flesh and grinned. This was so perfect! Her father would be so proud.


‘Starsk…. Starsky….. STARSKYYYYYYY’ Hutch shook himself awake from his recurrent nightmare yelling his dead partner’s name into the dimness of his bedroom. He sat bolt upright in his bed, sweat trickling down the sides of his face as he shook, his hands unsteady as they brushed through his mussed hair. Panting heavily, he looked around and reached for the cup of herbal tea that Sue had left. It was cold, marking the fact that he’d been on his own for some time, but the drink had a pleasant aniseed flavour with a tang of fennel and it soothed his parched throat.

Laying himself back down, the blond stared at the ceiling disconsolately. The pills the doctor had given him were still in a bottle by the side of his bed and he reached for them to read the name on the small white label.

Patient: Kenneth Hutchinson. Valium 100 tabs. Dosage 1BD

With a tremulous breath, Hutch swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat upright, making a grab for the bedside cabinet as the room took a dip to his left. He felt odd – spacey and dizzy and he had a feeling of heaviness in his stomach that left him nauseous and with a bad taste in his mouth. Hutch finished the rest of the herbal drink and sighed. He could hardly raise his head and had the gut feeling that something was most definitely wrong. He shouldn’t feel like this surely. OK he’d had the most horrible shock and he felt raw and empty, but he’d never expected it to make him feel so sick.

As the room started to take another dip, the blond forced himself up and staggered to the door of his bedroom, leaning heavily on the sill until he could get his stomach under control. Hutch’s vision seemed to have altered somehow and he appeared to be looking at everything through a haze and down a tunnel. Desperately, he put his hand up to his face, but his fingers seemed fat and stubby and grotesquely misshapen. For a moment he studied them intently as though he’d never seen them before and a tiny voice at the back of his mind sounded an alarm. This wasn’t just grief, he was sick and he needed help.

‘Sue’ he croaked through a dry throat. ‘Sue, honey….’

Hutch collapsed onto the chair by the door, head hanging as he tried to make some sense of what was going on. Sue was obviously working again, and being realistic, he couldn’t expect his girlfriend to drop everything to be with him just because Starsky had died.

Starsky had died; Starsky had died; Starsky had died. The words echoed round and round in his head, hollow and without meaning. Starsky had died. With a strangled sob, Hutch made an uncoordinated grab for the telephone and snagged the receiver on the second attempt. Peering myopically at the buttons, he jabbed at them, successfully completing the dialing sequence as he jammed the phone to his ear. A moment later, a familiar male voice answered.

‘If the venue fits, then you’re at the Pits. Here’s Huggy Bear so don’t be square.’

‘Hug?’ Hutch could hardly form the words as he breathed into the telephone.

‘Hutch? Is that you my man? I just read the newspaper an’ I was comin’ right over.’

‘Hug…..help’ the blond managed to force himself to say.

‘Hutch? Yo, Blondie. Wassup?’

‘Don’t feel s’good…..need help.’ The words were no sooner out than the effort of holding the receiver to his ear became too great and Hutch's hand dropped to his lap as his chin sunk to his chest. From a distance, he heard a tinny voice yelling down the phone and then the line went dead.

For the next however long it took, Hutch remained where he was. He had neither the strength nor the inclination to move from the chair, all his concentration going on breathing and trying to keep his eyes open. Colours flowed before him, coalescing into vague shapes before floating away to be replaced by other shapes. In the distance he heard the siren of some emergency vehicle, and the noise set off a red blaze of colour swirling across his field of vision to be chased moments later by violet and blue splodges. As though disconnected from the world, the blond watched their progression without any attempt to stop them and it was only when he heard the door to his apartment open that he made some effort to raise his head.

Huggy rushed over to the flaxen haired cop, dismayed at what he saw. The bartender was surprised how bad Hutch was. The tall blond seemed to be having difficulty in keeping awake and as he forced his head up he managed to slur ‘Huuuug’ once, before his eyes closed again.

Suspicious at what was happening, Huggy sniffed, testing for the smell of alcohol on Hutch’s breath, but there was nothing there and he put his fingers under the golden chin and raised up his friend’s face until he could see the clouded, befuddled crystal blue eyes.

‘Hey Hutch. Tell me what’s up my man.’

‘Huuug. Don’t….feel so good. Ssssick’ the blond managed to gasp. ‘Colours….pretty colours an’……an’……help me.’

‘Sure thing Pal. C’mon, lets get you back to bed huh?’ Huggy put his arms around Hutch’s waist and hauled the tall man to his feet. Staggering slightly under the weight, he managed to steer them into the bedroom and gently placed the blond on the bed. Looking around, he saw the bottle of pills from the doctor and scrutinised the label.

‘When was the last time you took any of these?’

Hutch squinted at the bottle. ‘Huh? Dunno…..what …what time is it?’

‘Its time for some more honey’ Sue said brightly as she walked into the room. She smiled at Huggy and came to sit on the edge of the bed. Gently she smoothed her hand over her man’s forehead, feeling the residual tremors running through his body.

‘You shouldn’t be out of bed honey. What were you thinking?’

‘Felt funny…..sick…..needed someone’ Hutch gasped. ‘M’sorry.’

‘That’s ok honey. Here, let me get you something to make you feel better.’ Swiftly she got up, took the Valium and headed for the kitchen, ignoring the black man in the bedroom. Huggy could hear her humming to herself in the kitchen and he took her place by the blond’s side.

Hutch’s eyes seemed a little clearer and he rested his hand on Huggy’s as though the contact grounded him some way.

‘She’s a good woman. She’ll look after you’ Huggy heard himself say.

‘I can’t believe ….. he’s ggone. It’s …..not right’ Hutch whispered. ‘Hug I can…can feel him. Like he’s still here.’

The bar tender smiled sadly. ‘We all miss him. You’re gonna feel like that for a while. It’s a tough thing to deal with.’

‘No….no….don’t understand. It’s like….I dream about him all the time. He’s always shoutin’ for me to come get him, but it’s …..Jeez, I dunno Hug….I…’

‘Hey, Hutch my man! You need to rest an’ let things take their course huh? You two were so close…..’

‘He’s not dddead till someone proves it to me.’

Huggy sighed. ‘You know how it was. The body was so…’ he swallowed hard, not able to say the words as they conjured up nightmare images.

‘But it’s not him…..I know it isn’t him’ Hutch said desperately. ‘I know ….ya think I’m cccrazy but….’

Huggy smiled. ‘I know you aint crazy, an’ I can dig how you’re hurtin’ but Hutch, ya have to accept it sooner or later.’

‘I will…..when they show me his watch….his rings. They’d still bbbe on the bbbody. Check for me Hug. Tell Dobey huh? Tell him to ask…. to ask the coroner to check?’

At the door to the bedroom, Sue paused with a mug of more herbal tea in her hand. She frowned, seeing the flush on her boyfriend’s face. ‘I think you should go’ she told Huggy angrily. ‘He needs rest, not excitement like this. You can call again in a week or so, we can handle this.’ She rushed to Hutch’s bedside, raising the blond’s head as she deposited three white tablets on his tongue and held the cup to his lips for him to drink.

Huggy walked to the door. ‘Okay’ he said uncertainly. ‘I’ll….um….I’ll be back later. If ya want anythin’….’

‘We’re fine’ Sue snapped.

But Hutch raised his head again and with a final show of defiance locked eyes with his buddy. ‘Ask Dobey huh?…..Just ask.’

Chapter 6

Sue sat on the bed by the side of her man on the bed and watched as Hutch’s blond head tossed and turned feverishly on the pillow. She was amazed just how badly the death of his partner had affected him and that Starsky’s name was never far from his lips despite the Vallium and her herbal teas. The golden face shone with a fine patina of sweat now as a deep V marred the otherwise smooth forehead. Occasionally, as he slept his drugged sleep, Hutch’s crystal blue eyes would flash open, showing crescents of cerulean blue from beneath blond lashes that lay like a summer fall of snow across his lightly tanned cheeks.

It had been 12 hours since Huggy Bear had been to visit him and Sue had been angered that the black man had put in an appearance. Hutch had been calm before the visit, but since she had shoed Huggy out of the house with a flea in his ear, her boyfriend had done nothing but sleep and dream and moan Starsky’s name again and again.

As she watched, he seemed to have another of the dreams and Hutch’s body stiffened on the bed, his lips working to frame his partner’s name and his arm reaching out to grab wildly for a body that was no longer there. Sue took the hand that flapped uselessly by her side and hung onto it, using her other to wipe away the small trickle of sweat that meandered it’s way down the blond’s pained face. He refused to quiet and she reluctantly disengaged herself from his grip and got up. Walking into the kitchen, Sue grabbed a glass and filled it with cold water, adding the contents of a paper wrap from her purse. The golden powder dissolved instantly in the water but for good measure, she stirred it round with a teaspoon. Taking three Vallium tablets from the bottle, she placed them on a spoon, using the back of a second spoon to crush and grind the pills into a fine white powder. This too she added to the water and swirled it around before heading back to the bedroom.

Sitting down on the side of the bed, Sue shook Hutch’s shoulder gently.

‘Ken, wake up honey.’ There was no answer, and she tried again, shaking a little harder. The drugs certainly did their trick in knocking the blond out and she had to raise her voice before the sound penetrated the blond’s sleep.

‘Hutch….Ken…..wake up honey. You were having a nightmare. Wake up and have a drink huh? Come one honey, I need you to wake up for me.’

This time, Sue was rewarded with the sight of clouded crystal blue eyes peeping from under heavy lids.


‘Hey, there you are. I needed you to wake up, you were having a nightmare.’

‘Starsk…..always Starsky.’ Hutch tried to haul himself up the bed a little. He managed to gain an inch or two of elevation before sagging back onto the pillow, his arms refusing to take much of his weight. He groaned and rubbed his hands over his face and then through his hair. ‘I see him every time I close my eyes’ he muttered.

Sue’s face was a picture of compassion. ‘I know you do honey. It’s only natural. Of course you’ll think about him. And it’s probably a good thing that you do. Kind of to keep his memory alive.’

‘I couldn’t ever forget him’ Hutch snorted softly. ‘Did I tell ya about the time we….’

‘Are you thirsty?’ Sue interrupted, seemingly unaware of her man’s need to talk about his partner.

‘Huh? Oh….um….no, not really.’

‘Well you should drink anyway. It’s good for you to keep your fluid levels up. We wouldn’t want you to get sick, would we?’

Hutch took the glass with a shaky hand and sipped at the cold water. ‘I feel like shit already. I guess I should look after myself, but…. Sue, I’m sorry honey. I’m ignorin’ you. I should be helping you out, you must miss him too. An’ here I am, sick an’ sorry for myself. It’s just….. Every time I close my eyes, he’s there. Almost like he’s callin’ to me. Does that sound wrong?’

The woman smiled. ‘No, not wrong honey. But maybe it’s time to start moving on. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about what to do next.’

‘Like what? All I really wanna do is sleep. I feel so damned weary.’ And it was true. The blond could feel the tiredness sweeping over him in waves again and his hand holding the glass dropped to the bed, his finger refusing to hold onto the slippery surface of the glass any more. ‘Damn’ he cursed quietly. ‘That’s not normal. I hate to say this, cos I hate ‘em, but maybe I should see the Doc again?’

Sue shook her head. ‘You’ll be fine honey. Everything’s as it should be. Don’t worry. I’m gonna make sure everything works out.’

It was Hutch’s turn to smile up at her as she patted his shoulder gently. ‘What would I do without ya? You’re so good for me.’

‘Oh now don’t go getting all soapy on me’ she muttered and then stopped, seeing the fleeting expression of pain flit across Hutch’s features. ‘What? What did I say?’

‘S’nothin’. It’s just….Starsk always used to use that word. Soapy. He once told me he hated soapy scenes. It was just…. It sounded odd comin’ from you.’

Sue sighed. ‘Maybe we should start trying to work this out. I think the first thing, if you’re up to it, is trying to make some sense of it all. We need to do some calling, organise the um…..funeral. And what about the car?’

Hutch’s mouth went dry. ‘The fire was only 36 hours ago honey. And Dobey said they couldn’t have a funeral until the autopsy.’

‘Autopsy? Why would they need an autopsy?’ Sue asked sharply. ‘He didn’t die under suspicious circumstances. It was just a random fire.’

Hutch could feel his heart rate hike up a notch as he started to think rationally for the first time about Starsky’s death and the ramifications and he licked at lips gone inexplicably dry. ‘They have to do one coz he was….his body….his bbody was so badly burned that it couldn’t be identified. They need to establish that he was who he was.’

There was something of a brittle edge to the sound as Sue laughed. ‘But that’s silly. He was Jewish; he should have been buried by sundown should he? Or something like that. Why wait? Isn’t it cruel to put everyone through an autopsy when it was patently obvious who was in the bed?’

‘I guess you could look at it that way honey. But that’s the law and we have to abide by it. It’s just…. I should phone his Mom. Do you know if Dobey phoned Rachel yet?’

‘No, I have no idea. At this autopsy….what do they do?’ Sue asked

‘Do? I….. I don’t wanna talk about it. It’s just……they make sure it is who they say it is, go figure.’

The woman looked pensive. ‘And they look for distinguishing features?’

‘Sue, don’t. Please. It’s too….I don’t wanna talk about it’ Hutch said wearily.

‘Do you want to talk to Rachel?’ she asked

The blond drew in a breath. Did he want to talk to the small firebrand of a woman? No, it wouldn’t be his first choice, but he felt he needed to have some sort of contact with the Starsky family, if only to salve his own conscience. ‘Um…..I guess so.’

Sue rose and placed the telephone down on the bed beside the big blond, patting his hand encouragingly. ‘You’ll feel better when you start to get it together’ she said.

Waves of weariness washed over Hutch. His hand shook as he reached for the phone and his vision started to waver around the edges. Swallowing hard, he blinked, squeezing his eyelids together and shaking his head. Hutch’s throat was dry, although whether it was from the sickness that had overtaken him or the thoughts of speaking to Rachel he didn’t know. Concentrating hard, he jabbed at the buttons on the telephone and waited, resting his head back on the pillow with the receiver resting against his ear.

As he waited, Hutch remembered the good times he’d had with Starsky back in New York. Thanksgiving dinners when they’d all met round the cramped table in Rachel’s dining room. New Year spent in Times Square watching the fireworks. With Starsky at his side, the world took on more definition, more colour and more magic. The phone at the other end picked up and with an effort, the blond managed to form the words.

‘Rachel, its Hutch.’

‘How are you doing?’ the woman’s voice sounded tired and drained.

‘How are you Rachel? I’m so sorry….so sorry’ Hutch mumbled.

‘I know…..Hutch? Are you alright? How are you doing? Captain Dobey telephoned me to let me know before anything hit the television or newspapers. He said you’d taken it badly.’

‘M’ok, I guess.’

‘You don’t sound it my love. How are you really doing Hutch? You and my Davey were always so close.’

Hutch swallowed down the lump that threatened to stop him speaking. ‘I’ve been better. I feel so…… so wasted.’

‘You don’t sound good. Hutch, they won’t let me bury him. They won’t let me bury my Davey. They won’t even let me see him. Captain Dobey said there was no point in me coming down there until after they’d done all the investigations.’

‘I know it’s tough Rachel, but we can’t do anything until after the aut……after the autopsy.’

'Hutch my love. When they do the...when they've finished with him, do you want his rings? He'd want you to have them I know, but I'd like to give his watch to Nicky.' There was a strangled sob down the telephone. ‘It’s not real Hutch. I can’t believe it’s real. I can still feel him near me. My Davey. He’s…..it’s like I know he isn’t dead, even though they say he is. I didn’t feel like this when Michael was killed. That was so cut and dried. I don’t know how to describe this. Its like he’s still here, with me.’

‘I know what you mean Rachel. I feel the same way. I guess someone as alive as Starsky leaves a huge hole when he di….when he isn’t there any more.’

‘Hutch, look after yourself. I’ll see you soon my love. Be well, and don’t forget him.’

The blond smiled to himself at the woman’s caring words. Just like her son, Rachel was hurting so much and yet cared about others rather than herself. ‘Be careful and look after yourself Ma’ he said as he put down the phone.

Hutch’s eyes slid closed. Tired. More tired than he’d ever felt before and yet he shouldn’t be that way. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t natural. He ought to pull himself together and get with the plan. Starsky wouldn’t want him to be like this. His partner’s voice sounded in his head.

It’s always worse on the ones left behind….’

I’ll believe that when I hear it from someone who went first’.

They’d joked about it in the weeks after Bellamy had shot the brunet full of poison, but now….. Now the words had a hollow ring to them.

A moment later, Sue came back into the room, a bright smile on her face. She tucked the covers around Hutch’s body again, snugging them up to his chest as she sat down by the side of the bed, a pencil and paper in hand.

‘I was thinking about Starsky’s car’ she said brightly. ‘I think now would be a good time to think about what to do with the few possessions he left behind. I think you should sell the car, so maybe we should think about the wording for the advert?’

‘Sue, no. I can’t. It’s too early’ Hutch protested. The woman was probably only trying to help, but still, he felt that it was far too early to think about practical stuff like cars and personal effects.

‘We need to move on’ Sue said firmly. ‘The sooner we can start to do this, the easier I’ll be for you to get well. Now….’ Sue twirled the pencil in her fingers and dropped it onto the floor. Muttering, she reached down to retrieve it, the sleeve of her blouse riding up her arm, and as she sat back up again, Hutch’s eyebrows creased into a furrow of worry.

Surrounding his girlfriend’s arm was a white bandage, a spot of red at its middle. Gently he reached out and traced it with his fingers.

‘Sue…..what did you do at your arm?

Chapter 7

The fists continued to fall for some time after the woman had departed. Her heavies seemed to enjoy their job and between the blows and the kicks, Starsky felt as though he were some kind of punchbag down at Mo’s Gym. He tried to curl himself round so that they wouldn’t be able to do too much damage to the soft, sensitive parts of his anatomy, and his hands flew instinctively to his head. Or at least the right hand did. Any movement he tried to make with his left arm brought on knife edged scarlet pains from his broken collar bone. He held on for a few minutes more, but the two men seemed to have boundless energy and as he felt another bone on his left forearm crack his body gave up its unequal struggle and allowed him to slip down into blessed oblivion.

The men immediately stopped their fun and stood panting above the injured brunet. Bruising and swellings marred the olive toned, tanned skin of Starsky’s chest, sides and back and there was a wet patch on the front of his jeans where a particularly savage kick had caught him between the legs. The pain had been so intense on his already over sensitive core that he screamed, convulsing on the ground and had lost control of his bladder. The stream was tainted with blood and even the two men winced as Starsky shuddered on the ground between the, panting and moaning to himself.

‘So, what now? Ya wanna tie him again?’ the first voice asked.

‘Does he look like he needs restrainin’? Jeez, he looks like he’ll never move again! Boss lady sure knows how to draw out the pain some.’

‘That she does’ the first man said with a grin. ‘Hey, we got cold beer in the fridge, and I think the Sox are playin’ the Cubs tonight. We can just about catch the start on the TV.’

Without a backwards glance at the broken body of the cop, the two men left the room, fiddled with something on the door handle on the other side and calmly walked back to their small room to start their evening’s enjoyment.

However long it was later he didn’t know but the pains brought Starsky slowly back to the land of the living. His body hadn’t moved since Mutt and Jeff - the names he’d given the two heavies – had left him alone. As he moved his head from the sanctuary he’d tried to create between his upstretched arms and his chest, he groaned pitifully, his eyes blinking open as he looked around. The room was deserted and amazingly he wasn’t tied or blindfolded. Thankful for small mercies, he tried to get himself into a sitting position. His left arm was useless and instinctively he held it wrapped around the front of his body as his collar bone and radius vied with each other for which could cause him the most pain.

A wave of agony washed over him and Starskys stomach flipped over, threatening to deposit its contents right there on the floor. Panting heavily, the brunet swallowed down and managed to raise his head. A little way away from him he saw a tall metal container in the shape of a glass. His throat was parched and raw from screaming and the thought of cool, refreshing water trickling down his neck spurred the brunet on to make even greater efforts to get to the drinking container. Painfully, he managed to get himself to his knees, balancing on his good right arm. Shuffling forwards a few feet, he flopped down next to the container and reached for it. Condensation pebbled the sides of the metal and as he reached for it, small trickles ran down the sides. Starsky picked it up and sniffed at the contents. It looked and smelled like water and as he took a cautious sip, it tasted like water too. Greedily he drank it down, aware that he hadn’t been given anything to eat or drink since he’d been captured and he had no idea when he’d get chance to slake his thirst again.

Starsky wiped a shaking hand over his mouth as he swallowed down the last of the fluid. It had felt good on his dry mouth and throat and seemed like liquid velvet as it trickled down into his guts.

Feeling a little more alive now that he’d managed to drink, Starsky forced himself to his feet and stood swaying in the middle of the room. Straightening up was impossible because of the pains in his stomach and back and from the swelling over the right hand side of his abdomen, the brunet wondered if maybe he was bleeding internally. Ignoring the fearsome thought, Starsky looked around him. The room was bare. No furniture of any kind and just one window set high up on the wall and a door to interrupt the tedium of the four plain, grey undecorated walls. The room was like any newly built apartment block he’d ever been in. A shoebox waiting for a tenant to make it a home.

Starsky breathed out deeply through his nose, the sound harsh and loud in the confines of the room. Ok, so, no restraints, no Mutt and Jeff to beat up on him again and no blindfold. Standing rock still for a moment he listened carefully. Far off, and muffled as though through many walls, he could hear a television and what sounded like a match commentary, the commentator’s voice sounding loud and excited. If his guards were maybe enjoying the game, this might be his chance at escape. Would they be foolhardy enough to leave his door unlocked, he wondered.

Starsky sucked in a lungful of air, straightened as much as he could and limped over to the door. It seemed all too simple and an irrational fear clawed at his chest. No ties, no chains….. What the hell?...

Cautiously, the brunet reached for the fancy metal door handle. It gleamed yellow and shiny in the dim light of the room and as his hands closed around the cold metal……

Starsky screamed as the electric shock from the wired handle blew him across the room. He landed in a heap on the floor at the opposite side, thrown against the wall by the force of the charge. For a moment, he lay stunned…..too stunned to feel the pain until he looked down at his hand. The right hand was blackened and across the palm the bright scarlet smear of an open burn in the shape of the door handle gleamed wetly.

The brunet let out a sob of frustration which turned into a hiss of pain as he tried to sit up straighter. The short sharp journey across the room had done nothing to improve his shoulder or broken arm and indeed seemed to have added even more injuries to the mental list that Starsky was making. His head swam and he could feel wet stickiness on the back of it, seeping through the chocolate coloured curls. His spine felt as though it was protruding through the top of his skull and several teeth seemed to have shaken loose. All in all, he thought grimly, on the scale of failed escape attempts, he seemed to have scored pretty highly.

The blast must also have alerted Mutt and Jeff to his attempt, mostly because the electrical shock had shorted out the power to their room. Deprived now of their game on the TV, the two men were not in the best of moods and as Starsky looked up, the door burst open and they stood together in the doorway, surveying the injured brunet.

‘Not the cleverest move ya made, was it pig?’ Mutt asked as the two men advanced on the curly haired cop.

‘Heard the game……wanted t’watch’ Starsky grunted through gritted teeth.

‘Aww , aint that just somethin’? He wanted to watch’ Jeff crowed. ‘Well now you’ve gone an’ shorted the TV an me an’ my friend here, we aint pleased. Not pleased at all.’

‘Sorry to stop your fun’ the brunet gasped quietly.

‘Oh, ya haven’t stopped it. Now we get a different sort of fun. Boss lady’s comin’ back. She said to get you ready.’

The cop screamed once again as Mutt and Jeff took a hold of him and hauled him to his feet. The pain from the grip they had on him and the movement of the ends of the bones in his shoulder rubbing together set off fireworks inside Starsky’s skull and finally he lost all control of his stomach. At the same time as he vomited onto Mutt’s shoes, his stomach started to cramp violently, and Starsky brought his knee up to try to ease the tension in his guts. He groaned, trying to breathe past the tongues of fire licking at his stomach, but the two guards held on and once again he felt his arms being pulled behind his back.

The broken bones in his left arm yelled at him, his whole left side a blaze of pain and fire as his arms were tied behind him. Starsky tried to lean forwards to ease the pressure on his broken collar bone and also on his stomach but Jeff held him upright as Mutt took a hold of his hair, pulling his head back until he could hold another glass of water to the brunet’s lips.

‘Lady says you should drink the water. She says she wants to see how it makes ya sing.’

It was only at that point that the brunet realised that it was tainted with some kind of poison. He recognised the signs and for a moment was back in a different sort of jail, tall stone walls incarcerating him and a man in a black robe holding him prisoner. He clamped his lips shut as the glass was wedged against his mouth and Mutt dug his fingers into his shoulder to make him open his mouth.

Starsky gasped and the heavies took the opportunity to pour more of the water down his throat. Gasping, he managed to spit out most of it, but some trickled down his throat and he coughed, setting off more pains.

As he panted on the ground, the woman appeared at the door and the men desisted for a moment.

The hands holding Starsky down disappeared from his body and he managed to raise his head as the woman came to kneel down in front of him.

Recognition bloomed in the indigo eyes. ‘Sue……why?’ Starsky whispered.

Hutch’s girlfriend grinned at him. ‘You ruined my life. Both of you. Now I’m going to ruin yours. An eye for an eye and all that hogwash.’

‘Don’t…..understand……don’t even know ya.’

‘Well why would you? You’re just two ignorant cops who carry out other men’s orders. You haven’t an original thought between you. Want to know how Hutch is today?’

‘Leave him ‘lone……ya got me.’

‘It’s so cute – how he calls for you in his sleep. He’s feverish you know. Weak. The doctor gave him a few Vallium pills so I kinda changed the script. He’s overdosing on them as we speak. Coupled with the poison I’m feeding him, he’ll be sick for some time before he dies. I want him to suffer you see? He knows you’re dead, but there’s a lot of mileage in milking that.’

Starsky tried to get up. He so wanted to wipe that complacent smile right off of her face, but the bonds and his pain were too much for him and instead he snarled at her. ‘You evil little bitch!’

Sue drew back her hand and slapped Starsky across his face. He grunted, licking at the trickle of blood that started to run down the corner of his lip. Rapidly, his right eye started to swell closed.

‘That’s no way to speak to a lady’ Sue said quietly. ‘And I was just about to read this to you.’ She took a small piece of paper from out of her pocket and started to read.

1970 Ford Gran Torino. Viper red with a white stripe over roof and along both sides. Full service history. One careful owner.’

Sue folded the paper carefully. ‘Hutch smiled when I added “one careful owner” to the advert. He’s forgetting you, you know. He told me he couldn’t handle having all your things around him. He’s selling everything. He wants to erase your memory. It’s too painful for him. He’s really hurting you know.’

Starsky shook his head slowly. ‘You’re lying. Hutch’d never forget. He knows I’m not dead’ Starsky hissed.

‘You’re wrong. He telephoned your Mom. She was so sad. First her cop husband and then her cop son. Even Nicky will be at your funeral, you know. It’s all being arranged. Hutch should survive you by a couple of months before the poison finishes him. Just enough time for him to really suffer. It’ll be so tragic. Two of Bay City’s finest, one dead in a fire, the other dead because he pined for his best friend. Kinda cute, don’t you think?’

Starsky glared at her. ‘Ma? He phoned Ma? Why? For fuck’s sake why?’ he asked.

The woman didn’t answer. Instead she reached out and took a hold of the coin on the leather thong round the brunet’s neck and yanked it, breaking the cord and jerking Starsky’s head forward. He cried out, despite himself and panted heavily.

‘Something I didn’t take into consideration. They have to hold an autopsy on the body we planted in your bed. They need to find your jewellery, don’t they?’

‘Hutch’ll work this out. He’ll find out what’s happenin’ Starsky tried to reason with her. He could feel Sue trying to get the pinkie rings off his finger but without success. His arm and hand had swelled so much that she couldn’t remove them, they were so deeply embedded in the flesh of his digit.

She sighed in frustration. ‘By the time he works it out, it’ll be too late’ Sue said as she stowed the coin away in her purse. ‘You’ll be dead and your body won’t be found for weeks. By that time, he’ll be dead too and I’ll have gone away.’

Starsky tried one last time, although with so many pains coursing through his body he was rapidly losing his hold on consciousness.

‘Just ‘xplain t’me…..why?’

The woman glared into his eyes, her gaze as intense as Starsky’s own. She traced her finger down the long surgical scar on his chest and grinned into his face.

‘Revenge’ she snapped.

Chapter 8

Huggy Bear stood leaning on the corner of his bar and surveyed the crowd in the Pits that night. It was Thursday and it was ladies night and it seemed odd to the lanky black bar keeper that after all these years, his two friends weren’t in town for the usual trawl of Bay City’s talent. In all the years he’d owned and run the Pits, there had been very few Thursdays that Dave Starsky and Ken Hutchinson had missed. Sometimes one or other would be sick and unable to make it, but sure as eggs were eggs they’d be there the following week, and when they weren’t there, Huggy missed them keenly.

Reading about Starsky’s death in the newspaper had been like a pail of ice water being suddenly thrown over him. The brunet and Huggy had been friends since Starsky had first started to patrol the central city almost 15 years ago, even before Hutch joined him on the scene. Then he’d been a uniformed officer, eager, intelligent and with just enough street cred about him to have him able to straddle the line between establishment and the criminal element. Never one to take rules too seriously if he couldn’t see a damned good reason for them, Starsky flaunted them just enough for the shadier characters to Bay City to have a belief that on occasions, the curly haired cop could be trusted with some titbit of information.

The chocolate curled cop was fast, straight as a die, trustworthy and just the right type of man to have at your side in a crisis, and on more than one occasion, Huggy had had to put those credentials to the test. He sorely missed Starsky, but that wasn’t the only thing that was troubling the black man’s head this evening.

Huggy went over his visit with Hutch in his mind. It was almost a standing joke in the inner circles of Bay City that Starsky and Hutch were joined at the hip. They were twins in every sense of the word, even though they couldn’t have looked any different if they’d tried. They were the perfect foil to each other. Blond and dark; olive toned and golden; streetwise and cerebral. But the similarities were even more striking. Both men had a love of life, both men upheld the law with a fierce determination, both had a sense of humour to die for and both would die for the other if the need arose.

That was the problem. That strong, unshakable and intense bond was the issue taxing Huggy’s mind now. With Starsky gone in such a needless fashion, Hutch had nothing to cling on to. If the brunet had been gunned down again, as he had been four years ago in the police garage, Hutch would have cloaked himself once again in his “avenging angel” persona and channelled his grief and energy into finding Starsky’s killer. But this time, there was no masked gunman, or stocking masked poisoner. This time, Mother Nature had done her job well and there was one less Brooklyn born cop on the streets of Bay City. And this time, Hutch had nothing to pit himself against; nothing to channel his energies into fighting. This time, Hutch seemed to be curling up in readiness to follow his partner into the great unknown.

Huggy had never seen the big blond so hurt, or unfocused. Seeing Hutch yesterday afternoon had been a slap in the face for him. Hutch’s eyes were clouded, his hair flat, dull and lifeless, his eyes circled with black and red rimmed. The usually erudite flaxen haired cop could barely string two words together to make a sentence and it was almost as though he’d been drugged with something other than the doctor’s tranquilizers. The barkeep’s mind went back a thousand years to the two cops upstairs in his rented room, the blond, sweating and hurting man enfolded in the caring embrace of his partner as Hutch pleaded for his medicine. Steadfastly, Starsky had held on, suffering the verbal and sometimes physical abuse stoically and without a word as Hutch battled through the withdrawal from the heroin he’d been forced to take. The blond’s eyes had been pained and unfocused then too, locking onto Starsky’s deep indigo eyes for comfort and support before closing as another gigantic shudder forced its way through his body.

The more he thought about it, the more convinced Huggy became that there was something more at work here than merely grief and Vallium. Having spent all his formative years vacationing with his aunt in the Caribbean, Huggy had always been comfortable around occult, black magic and voodoo. To the black man, the connection that he’d witnessed between Hutch and Starsky was nothing unusual. Sure, he’d never seen two men so inherently “together” but the idea of being connected on some other level didn’t phase him, and the more he thought about it, the more Huggy couldn’t help thinking that maybe there was something other worldly going on with his blond friend. He didn’t for one minute that Hutch was going to go all “Houdini” and start talking to the other side, but Hutch’s insistence that Starsky wasn’t dead; the blond’s sheer strength of conviction was too much for Huggy to ignore. And by God he’d tried to ignore it, knowing that if he voiced that opinion, he very likely be laughed out of the room.

As the evening wore on, however, the feeling that he really ought to do something for the hurting blond became too much and as he set about closing the Pits down for the night, he resolved that the next morning, he’d have the courage of his convictions and go to see Dobey.


‘I aint got time for your hocus pocus Huggy. I’ve seen what ya do, sellin’ pet stones, supplyin’ garlic pouches to ward off evil spirits. Can’t ya just leave the poor guy alone to grieve in peace?’ Dobey snapped as Huggy sat across the desk from him, twiddling uncomfortably with the hem of his bright pink shirt.

‘Captain, do you think I’d come here to joke about somethin’ as serious as my friend’s death?’

Dobey’s head snapped up. The absence of the pseudo black banter, the colourful language Huggy liked to employ made him pay attention like nothing else could. This time Huggy Bear Brown was deadly serious and that made the captain curious.

‘So tell me again. Why are ya concerned?’

Huggy sighed, trying to get his thoughts into order. ‘Like I said, I went to see the blond one yesterday. He’s really hurting’ Cap’n.’

‘I know that! And you’d hurt too if your best friend was killed in a fire’ Dobey grunted.

‘He was one of my best friends’ Huggy said quietly. ‘And I miss him just as much as anyone, so for once, Captain, don’t try treatin’ me like somethin that just crawled out of the primordial ooze.’

Dobey looked mollified and dipped his head, his eyes suddenly focused on a terribly interesting doodle on his blotter pad as he fought the tear springing to the corner of his eye. He cleared his throat gruffly. ‘M’sorry. Go on.’

‘I went to see Hutch yesterday. He’s hurtin’…… a lot. But that’s not what got me. Yeah, anyone would be upset, angry…..any one of those emotions, and yeah, to some extent they’d be in denial. I was listenin’ to him. He could hardly string two words together Cap’n, but he kept tellin’ me that Starsky wasn’t dead….that he felt him.’

‘Hugg…..you know what…’

The barkeep held up his hand, silencing the Captain’s doubts. ‘Hey, no-one wants to help Blondie more than I do. And no-one would want to hurt him less. I just got to thinkin’. Hutch said he wanted proof that it was Starsky’s body, an’ maybe, while they still have him at the morgue, we could kinda take his rings, or his necklace or watch an’ give them to Hutch. Ya know? Just to…..well, just so that he has somethin’ physical he can hang on to. It’s not a big deal Cap’n. Just something he can keep that was Starsky’s.’ Huggy stopped, looking hopefully at the big man across the desk. ‘What’s the harm huh? An’ it might help….’

Dobey sighed deeply. He’d been worried for the blond cop too, knowing just how deeply Hutch’s pain would run. The two detectives had spent almost ten years of their lives together, off duty as well as on. During those years, they had some pretty close shaves, but they’d come through, each one providing support to the other when needed. The Captain remembered the fierce determination written on Starsky’s handsome face when tracking down Thomas Calendar as Hutch lay dying of the plague in Memorial Hospital. Only the brunet’s iron will had kept Hutch going far longer than he should have.

And when James Gunther had sent his heavies to gun down the brunet in the garage of the metro, it was Hutch who remained at his partner’s side through the crises, the pneumonias, the infections, the physiotherapies and the drive to get back to full fitness. In both instances, each had driven the other on to achieve miraculous recoveries. Now, with only half the partnership there, Dobey felt that it was only fitting that Hutch’s friends should step in and try to fill Starsky’s shoes in helping the blond recover from the devastating news. If that help meant retrieving personal effects before the autopsy had been carried out, he’d do everything in his power to make it happen.

Pulling the phone towards him, he checked on his list of telephone numbers and punched the relevant sequence into the phone, waiting while it rang down to the morgue. The phone picked up on the fourth ring and a voice answered.

‘Rodriguez? Is that you?’ Dobey asked, hoping the easy going Spaniard would be on duty. The city morgue was one of the places Dobey hated visiting, but if he had to, he hoped he’d have a friendly face there. Fortunately, he was in luck.

‘Si, what can I do for you Captain Dobey?’ the familiar, heavily accented voice replied.

‘It’s um… the body of one of my officers was brought in three days ago. Waiting for an autopsy. He was a fire victim.’ Dobey found it hard to speak about his officer like this – like a piece of meat rather than the fun loving, intense and affable cop that David Starsky had been.

‘Ah, you mean Senior Starsky. I’m so sorry. Si, we have him here. I’m looking after him’ the Spaniard said with no hint of irony or humour in his voice. Rodriguez took his job seriously, and just because the customers he dealt with were dead, to him that still meant they should be treated with as much respect and dignity as if they were still alive.

‘Rodriguez, I need you to do something for me, if you can’ Dobey asked.

‘But of course, if I can.’

‘I wonder if you can check the body for me. You know Starsky’s partner, Ken Hutchinson. He’s um…..well he isn’t taking Starsky’s death too well and he um… Well I wonder. Starsky wore two rings on the little finger of his left hand, and a necklace…..some kind of coin. Could you take them off the body? I could um…..well I think that Hutch may feel better if he….’

‘I know. Yes, I understand. It’s irregular an’ maybe you shouldn’t until after the autopsy, but…. Give me a minute and I’ll go and check.’

There was a sound of the telephone receiver being placed on a table and the footsteps echoing away. Dobey looked at Huggy, who stared back, his face blank.

‘He’s gone to check’ the Captain explained unnecessarily. The situation was uncomfortable for both men as they thought about the blackened, charred remains that had once been their friend. The silence was interminable and it was with relief that Dobey heard the footsteps returning. The phone picked up again and Rodriguez’ voice sounded down the line.

‘Are you sure about the jewellery? Did he ever take it off?’

‘No. The rings belonged to his Father. He never took them off. Why?’ Dobey asked, his heart beating a little faster.

‘There is no jewellery on the body Senior. Nothing at all. No rings, no necklace, no watch.’

‘Could they have been destroyed in the fire?’

There was a quiet snort down the phone. ‘Although the fire was devastating Senior, it would never have been hot enough to melt metal until nothing remained.’

Dobey’s voice showed shock and his throat went dry. ’So what are you saying Rodriguez?’

‘I’m saying that either he removed all his jewellery, or the body we have here is not Senior Starsky.’

Chapter 9

They left Starsky alone for protracted periods of time now, although they left the water there in the room with him, to tempt him and to add more discomfort to his already miserable existence. After Sue had left him alone with the two heavies, they’d taken delight in once again using him as a human punchbag until he’d collapsed, unconscious to the floor. He was revived when he felt one of them hold his head in a vice like grip while the other poured the tainted water down his throat. He’d tried to spit it back out, but they once again pinched his nose and held his mouth shut until he had no option but to swallow. And then the pains in his gut had started in earnest.

They’d left the brunet unbound. There was really no need to restrain him any more. With his left collarbone and forearm broken and with the open smear of the burn across his right hand, he could barely hold a cup…. or a door handle. He was too injured to try to escape any more. Starsky’s condition had deteriorated so that he was barely able to sit propped up against the wall of his prison. Bruises dappled his chest, back and limbs so that there were only small patches of olive toned flesh remaining in their normal colour. The brunet’s left arm was swollen and black, the shoulder markedly deformed and he held his head to the left to try to ease the bone crushing pains from it.

Starsky’s stomach too was a cause for concern. He hadn’t been out of the room in days – ever since Sue had kidnapped him, but in order to allow him to relieve himself, they’d been kind enough to provide a plastic pail which the emptied once per day. After the initial brutal beating, when they’d caught the brunet with a vicious kick between his legs, he’d seen blood in his urine. At first, Starsky thought it was maybe trauma from the blow, but now, with the pains in his back making him groan and writhe on the ground, he felt that the blood indicated something more serious, maybe a bruised kidney, or an infection. Whatever it signified, the curly haired cop knew it hurt like hell and that he needed treatment.

Thirst argued with him over whether it was worse to have the dry rasping feeling in his mouth and throat, or whether he should drink from the water and suffer the pains that roiled around his guts and threatened to have him throwing up on the floor. The thoughts of the cool water trickling down the back of his sandpaper lined throat was almost too much to bear and twice now he’d reached for the cup, withdrawing his hand at the last moment as he thought about the poison that was working insidiously in his body.

Starsky’s vision was also beginning to fade now and he was finding it increasingly difficult to breathe, to co-ordinate his body and to think. He didn’t know whether those were the effects of the poison in the water or whether he was suffering from the after effects of the beatings he’d endured. Blood crusted the side of his face and his left eye had swollen shut some time ago so that his depth perception was faulty. He felt nauseous, exhausted. The only thing keeping him going at the moment was the burning desire to get out and to get back to Hutch.

Sue had taken great delight in explaining to him in detail how much his blond partner was suffering. Starsky couldn’t bear the thought that the big flaxen haired cop thought he was dead. And it wasn’t just his partner he worried about. From what Sue had said, everyone else, including his family thought he’d perished in the fire too. Thinking about how his Mom would take the news brought a lump to the brunet’s throat. She’d always been so proud of the fact that he’d been first a soldier and then after that had followed his Dad’s footsteps into the police force. Rachel Starsky had had the simplistic view that maybe the Californian police would have a slightly easier job than the men in New York had, and she’d at first harboured an idea that her eldest son would be safer in the south. Over the years, the tough little woman had come to realise that, if anything, her Davey was more at risk in Bay City and sometimes, when the telephone rang late at night, she’d brace herself for the bad news that would surely follow.

Starsky wondered how she’d taken the news and tried not to think about her packing her black outfit and booking her ticket for the journey down to LAX. By the sounds of it, Hutch wouldn’t be there to meet her this time. By the sounds of it, Sue was going to make damned sure that Hutch wasn’t around to do anything.

Starsky tried to shift himself a little against the wall. It hurt – badly and he rested his head back with a sigh, looking heavenward. The cup of water taunted him, the innocent looking drink beckoning to him. He was so thirsty. So damned thirsty that finally he reached out for the cup and put it to his lips. Taking a deep breath he drank deeply, not stopping until there was nothing left. Fatalistically he put down the cup and waited. Maybe if everyone thought he was dead, he should just go ahead and do it. Maybe he should just drink his fill and be hanged with it. Maybe this was how it was meant to be.

As the pains started in his stomach again, sending flames roiling through his guts, Starsky groaned loudly and clutched with his right hand at his stomach. Bringing his knees up to his chest, he panted through the pain.

Dimly he thought about Hutch, and how the comforting presence of the blond had always helped him before when he’d been sick, injured or frightened. Without realising he was doing it, he started to call weakly for his partner, his voice raw and husky with pain.

‘Utch…..help me. Please. Just….I’m ready. Don’t wanna die, but it’s too much. I’m ready. Hutch….come get me huh? Please buddy? Hutch?’

Whether it was through weakening, or whether it was because the poison had a cumulative effect he didn’t know, but the pains were worse now. Much worse and despite his resolve to keep quiet and just live through this, eventually he could take the agony no longer and he threw his head back and screamed into the silence until his throat was raw and he’d collapsed sideways to lie convulsing on the floor.

Outside the door, Mutt and Jeff heard the scream and grinned. Mutt looked through the peephole into the room and as he saw the brunet topple sideways, he opened the door and silently refilled the glass. Why waste any more energy when the chemicals would do their work for them?


In another part of the city, Hutch lay panting through pains of his own on his own bed. Several times during the night he’d had to get up to go to the bathroom, feeling sick and dizzy. He’d thrown up so violently that eventually all he managed to get rid of was blood tainted froth and the pains in his stomach and head did nothing to persuade him that this was nothing more than grief.

Sue was by his side the whole time, running a cool sponge over his forehead, crooning comfort words to him and holding out cups of the herbal teas for him to sip. She encouraged him to drink plenty, she said it was so that the toxins would be flushed from his system. The tea had a pleasant warming taste of aniseed and fennel and it quenched his thirst nicely while the Valium left him feeling dry and spacey.

Towards morning, as he barely managed to get himself back to the bed, he collapsed onto his pillow and clutched at his stomach.

‘Somethin’s wrong honey’ he gasped, bringing his knees up to try to relieve the pressure on his stomach. ‘I don’t fffeel good.’

Sue rested her hand on his shoulder and looked into his pained eyes. The almost week of not eating was beginning to tell on the blond’s body and his ribs were beginning to stand out as his chest heaved for each breath.

‘S’ok Ken. You’re fine. It’s just the reaction to the shock. Try to rest honey’ Sue said gently.

Hutch rolled his head on the pillow. ‘It’s more’n that. It’s like….God I felt like this once bbbbefore. Stupid bet I had with Ssssstarsk. I said I could hide from him an’ then I ate some contaminated soup. Hurts Sue…..Jeez, this hurts.’

Sue smiled sadly. ‘I know it does honey. But it’ll be over soon. The hurting will go away, I promise. And I’ll be with you all the way. I won’t leave you to suffer alone. I’ll be right here with you.’

The blond groaned again as another wave of pain washed over him and he buried his head into the woman’s lap as she gently brushed her fingers through his dull, lifeless hair.

‘I love you’ he whispered. ‘Don’t know what I’d do without ya.’

Above him, Sue smiled to herself. Her plan was going so beautifully. With the curly haired one safely kept away and she hoped fatally injured, she could concentrate on killing Hutch with her kindness. Soon, the revenge would be complete.

Eventually, after another dose of the tranquillising pills, Hutch managed to drift into a troubled sleep. The dream was back with him again, although there were subtle differences now. Starsky was still ahead of him in the surf as the waves crashed onto the beach behind him. Each time the brunet reached out to him, Hutch would try to struggle through the turbulent water towards his partner while Starsky was carried further out to sea.

‘Hutch….come get me Hutch’ the terrified voice sounded in his ears time and again as the big blond tried to force his arms and legs to swim towards him. All the time, the body of his friends kept going further away, but this time, Hutch could feel himself starting to follow. Although he never truly caught up with the curly haired man, he could feel his own body being sucked out to sea too and he was torn between striking out for the shore and following his buddy out into the wild blue yonder.

Hutch tossed and turned on his pillow through the rest of the early morning and about 10:00am, Sue got herself dressed and got ready to go out. She had a couple of errands she had to do, the main one being to go down to the Chinese herbalists she usually used to buy more of the herbs she used to spike the herbal tea with. The herbalist had been very careful to tell her how toxic they were if used in large quantities, but the woman had assured him that she knew what she was doing. Which was no lie. Sue knew exactly how much of the stuff could be used to effect a slow and intensely painful death.

As she brewed the tea and left another cup of it on the bedside table for Hutch to find, she checked on the sleeping blond. It seemed almost wrong to kill him like this. He looked so innocent and alone on the bed with the sweat pebbling his forehead and pooling in the hollow of his neck. But in the revenge game, it didn’t serve to have higher feelings and so she took a grasp of herself and silently walked out of the bedroom, closing the door to the apartment behind her.

An hour or so later, Hutch awoke. As he opened his eyes he groaned again at the heavy lead weight still present in his stomach. For the moment, he had little pain, but he had a raging thirst and automatically he looked around and saw the cup Sue had left for him. With a sigh, he managed to sit up in his bed and reach for the cup. What had he done to deserve such a fantastic woman as Sue? She anticipated his every need and although she could never replace Starsky in the blond’ life, Hutch felt that life may be just about bearable with his girlfriend around.

Drinking the cool tea brought on the pains again, and the flaxen haired man looked around desperately for the pain meds he usually kept in his bedside drawer. Finding none in there, Hutch dragged himself out of the bed and stood swaying for a moment as he got his balance. He staggered out of the bedroom and into the living room, but couldn’t quite make it to the kitchen. His legs were like rubber and each time he moved his eyes, the room swam around him. Sinking down onto the sofa, he buried his head in his hands. His head hurt, his stomach hurt, dammit, even his eyelids hurt and he desperately wanted something to make the hurting stop. It had been getting increasingly worse for days and he had the thought to ring the doctor to try to get a visit.

As he tried to stand, however, another wave of dizziness took him and shook him so that he fell back onto the sofa, his hand coming to rest on Sue’s purse. It was unusual that she hadn’t taken it with her, but maybe all she needed was her money. Hoping that he might find a couple of aspirin in the depths he started to rummage through the contents of the bag, knowing that Sue, like all the other women he’d ever met kept everything plus the kitchen sink in there. His hand fumbled through the contents, rejecting powder compact, mirror, spare keys and a lipstick before his fingers closed on something round and hard. The object had the cold feel of metal and had a hole at its centre and as he pulled it out to examine it, his eyes widened in shock.

Lying in his hand, precious as life itself, was the Chinese coin that Starsky always wore around his neck! What the hell was Sue doing with it in her bag?

Chapter 10

Captain Dobey put down the telephone with a shaky hand and looked into Huggy’s deep brown eyes. ‘There was no jewellery on the body’ he said quietly.

Huggy’s face registered shock and a small flicker of hope lit up behind the soulful eyes. ‘What? Nothing? Not even his rings?’

‘Nothin’. Rodriguez said he’d looked over the whole body and there was definitely no jewellery of any description on it.’

‘Could anyone else have taken them?’ Huggy asked.

‘No, they took the body straight from his house to the morgue. No one but Rodriguez has seen it.’

‘But Starsk never took his rings off. His Dad gave them to him an’ he always wore ‘em. Even in the shower. And what about that crummy necklace he wore? And his watch….. Well, maybe not his watch. Maybe he took that off in bed, but he never took the necklace or his rings off. Dammit he even wore them in the hospital, even though the nurses kept tryin’ to take it off of him because they said it was an infection hazard.’ Huggy started to pace the small office.

‘Well hold your horses. This don’t mean anythin’ does it? I mean there could be all sorts of explanations as to why he didn’t have his rings on’ Dobey said, refusing to let the glimmer of hope flare into a flame in his heart.

‘Yeah? Lots of reasons huh? Can you think of one?’ the bar tender asked softly.

‘Well he might have…. He could have…..’ Dobey stammered over the words. ‘….no. I can’t think of any reason, but this still don’t prove anythin’.

‘It proves to me that there’s somethin’ not right Captain’ Huggy urged. ‘It proves to me that maybe Hutch aint quite so nutso as we think he is.’

‘What? You think he’s somehow in touch with Starsky? You’re crazy!’

The lanky black man sighed heavily. ‘No, I don’t think he’s on the ‘phone to him or anythin’. An’ I don’t think he’s getting’ messages from “the other side”. But you know what they’re both like. You’ve seen ‘em. If Starsk is alive….if for some crazy reason that body wasn’t him, then Hutch above all people would know.’

Dobey nodded slightly but still looked dubious. ‘But Hutch aint firin’ with all thrusters. You were the one who told me that he could hardly string two words together. What do you want me to do? I don’t wanna go startin’ a full scale enquiry over a feelin’ that some barkeep has, an’ the feverish dreams of an injured cop.’

‘Well that’s the thing. My man Hutch aint injured is he? You’ve seen him when he’s been hurtin’, or worried about Starsky. An’ he aint never acted like this before.’ Huggy looked pleadingly at his Captain.

‘What are ya sayin’?’

‘I’m askin’ ya to think about this. When Starsk was in the hospital after he’d been shot, Hutch was like…..well he was numb to begin with an’ there was a period when it was like he’d given up on Starsky survivin’ but then he got his head together an’ he was like a whirlwind. He aint never been like this before. I think something’s wrong.’

‘Wrong like he’s sick?’ Dobey asked.

‘Maybe. Or wrong like there’s somethin’ wrong. Forgive me for sayin’ this oh great one, but for a police Captain you aint exactly getting’ with the plan here.’

‘Huggy!’ Dobey’s voice rose in line with his temper.

‘Just hear me out, ya dig? Think on it. Starsky’s body….or what we thought was Starsky’s body was found in a fire which everyone was sayin’ was a wildfire. But his is the only house on the street that’s burned. And it aint just singed around the edges, it’s burned down to the ground. Then we find that the body didn’t have none of Starsky’s jewellery on it an’ was so badly burned that it can’t be identified until they do an autopsy.’

‘And right at that time, Hutch falls suspiciously sick?’ Dobey asked, his eyebrows raising higher up his head.

‘Now you’re getting’ with it!’ Huggy said appreciatively.

‘I’m not getting’ with nothin’, I’m just listenin’ the Captain grunted.

‘Aww c’mon Cap’n. What other explanation is there? That body – for whatever reason – aint Starsky.’

‘And if it isn’t. What then? An’ who the hell was it? And, how did it get into Starsky’s bed’

Huggy sighed. ‘If it isn’t, then more to the point, where is Starsky, an’ what the hell is the matter with Hutch?’

The lanky black man watched as Dobey got up from behind his desk and shouldered into his jacket. He picked up his gun from his desk drawer and checked the clip, checked he had his shield in the breast pocket of his jacket and straightened up.

‘All good questions Huggy. It seems to me that the only one who might be able to answer ‘em would be Hutchinson. Wanna come for a ride?’


Hutch sat on the sofa with the Chinese coin still clutched in his hand as though it were some kind of lifeline back to his partner. Feeling stupidly sentimental, he rubbed his fingers softly over the shiny surface, the leather thong that usually tied it round Starsky’s neck now broken and frayed at the ends. He closed his eyes and rested his head back on the sofa, for a few moments resisting the pains that still roiled around his guts.

Never had the blond felt so exhausted, or so lost, or so much in pain. And never, in all his life had he felt so confused. The Valium in his system stopped him thinking clearly. Even a normal dose would have left him feeling woolly and spacey, but with the double and sometimes triple doses that Sue had been feeding him without his knowledge, it was a wonder that the blond could remain upright.

The flaxen haired cop tried to get his thoughts together. It was so tough to think past the pains in his guts and the fuzziness in his head and he banged his knuckles against his forehead in frustration. Why would his girlfriend have his partner’s jewellery in her purse? Was it Starsky’s? Could it be another coin just like his? Hutch brought the coin up to his eyes again, the leather thong hanging limply from his fingers and there it was….. the smallest whiff of Starsky’s aftershave still clinging to the leather. The blond swallowed down the lump in his throat, trying hard to think of a reason why something so personal should be in Sue’s possession. He held it to his cheek as he closed his eyes and thought about his partner.

‘Starsk…..what happened buddy? Why did ya leave me?’ he whispered. Very slowly his eyes closed and the drugs and the poison in his system took over. Hutch fell asleep still holding onto the necklace and remained like that until the door to his apartment opened and Sue walked in.

She tutted to herself as she saw the blond on the sofa. He was stubborn, and as strong as an ox. It was inconvenient, but the woman liked a challenge and she’d bought more than enough supplies at the store. If the overdoses of the Valium didn’t see the blond off, then surely her herbs would do the trick. Slowly Sue crossed the room and looked down at the sleeping man.

Over the past week, she’d seen a marked deterioration in the blond. He’d lost weight for sure, partly because she’d told him that it wasn’t good for him to eat and had fed him only the herbal teas and soup. His cheeks had hollowed and his hair was dull and lifeless. The blond had had barely enough strength to wash and his personal grooming had been low on Sue’s agenda. Hutch’s face in sleep still showed signs of pain. Lines had formed around eyes that were circled with black rings. Even fast asleep, occasionally his eyes would narrow as another pain assailed his stomach and he shifted uncomfortably on the sofa. Sue smiled. Her plan was going well. While the curly haired cop was safely secreted away and the body of the street bum had been placed on the bed in Ridgeway, she could concentrate on giving Hutch a protracted and painful death. As she’d observed more than once in the past couple of years, it was only what the duo deserved after wrecking her life and all her plans.

The woman bent to check on Hutch and as she reached out to pat his shoulder to wake him, she saw the coin clutched in his hand. She stared at it for a second, hardly believing that Hutch had found his partner’s necklace that she’d carefully taken to place somewhere either in the wreckage of Ridgeway or on the body at the morgue before the autopsy.

Temper flared. Sue let out a curse. No! This couldn’t be happening. Not after all the planning. Not after grasping the opportunity to put her plans into practice when the wildfires struck. It had been perfect timing and she’d been ready with the place to take Starsky and the drugs to subdue Hutch. Looking around her, Sue looked for something she could use. Anything. It would be a shame not to let this scenario play out longer, but she couldn’t risk Hutch finding out her plan and maybe blabbing to someone else. No, she’d have to finish it now. The only question was how.

The woman looked around. Hutch’s gun had been taken back to the precinct when he’d been taken sick. The Captain had said it was protocol, but Sue had the sneaking suspicion that it was to stop Hutch doing anything stupid in his grief. She’d welcomed the move at the time because it meant that her plan to prolong the blond’s death had a better chance of succeeding. Now that she needed it however, Sue wished it were still here. A gunshot and a quick getaway would be the order of the day, but now she’s have to think of something else.

Desperately looking around, she grabbed one of the soft, feather filled cushions on Hutch’s sofa. She hefted it in her hand. It was solid and heavy and it would serve her purpose so long as Hutch was well and truly out of it. Carefully she walked around behind the sofa knowing that if she approached from the front the cop would be able to struggle with her. Poising herself over the sleeping man, she took a deep breath, hoisted the cushion above her head and brought it down over the flaxen haired cop’s face.

As it approached something must have alerted Hutch to the danger and for one brief moment cloudy crystal blue eyes flashed open and Hutch opened his mouth to say something. Automatically his arms came up to ward off the cushion, but he was too weak and too slow and Sue pressed home her advantage, ignoring the pleading, trusting look in Hutch’s eyes.

When Hutch had felt the movement behind him, he looked up into Sue’s face, expecting her to bend down to kiss him. He opened his mouth to smile at her and ask her if she was ok, but he could hardly believe it when she pushed the soft cloth down on his face.

‘This is it bozo’ she hissed into his ear. ‘I’ve waited so long for this. You’re partner’s gonna die just like you, although he’ll probably survive you by a couple of days. He’s hurting you know, he’s badly injured, or at least he was last time I saw him. He’s crying out for you. He moans your name in his sleep. And he yells out for you to come and help him when my friends give him a little attention.’

Hutch heard her words. They stabbed at him like a knife. He gave a strangled moan of frustration and sorrow with the last of his breath. As Sue pushed down on the cushion, she felt the man struggle beneath her. Had Hutch been in the prime of health; had he not been drugged, poisoned and exhausted with grief, the woman would never have been able to hang on. If the blond had even been half way ok, she wouldn’t have stood a chance. But Hutch wasn’t well. He was so far away from being well that as he tried to push the cushion away from his face, his arms felt like lead and his mind refused to work fast enough to anticipate what Sue would do.

Starsky! Hutch’s last thoughts were for the brunet. His partner. His buddy. His soulmate. Starsky was still alive, he knew it!

As the world started to close down around Hutch and his burning lungs tried to draw in sufficient air for one more moment of life, his final thoughts were that he wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to his partner, even now.

Sue pressed down harder on the suffocating cushion, feeling the blond’s struggles slow. Maybe another minute and she’d be able to avenge her family once and for all. Safe in the knowledge that the two cops would very soon be dead, the woman permitted herself a small giggle as she watched Hutch’s death throes.

Chapter 11

‘Be home in time for dinner Kiko. It’s pizza, your favorite.’ The voice sounded from the kitchen accompanied by the sounds of pans and the smell of cooking.

The young man smiled and nodded at his Mom and then waved his hand as he set off from his house to go see the man who’d once been his “Big Brother”. Now almost 19, Kiko had no need of the scheme any more and in fact was a “Big Brother” himself, but his friendship with the big flaxen haired cop who’d befriended him as a young boy had endured over the years and had developed into something even deeper and more meaningful. Kiko had been on the best of terms with Starsky too and had taken the news of the curly haired cop’s death as badly as anyone, and he knew just how sad Hutch would be, and that how right now, the blond would need a friend. He’d tried once or twice to phone Venice Place and each time a woman’s voice had answered and had coldly told him that Hutch wasn’t receiving visitors. Never one to take no for an answer, and needing some consolation himself, Kiko had finally decided that if he couldn’t speak to his friend on the telephone, then he’d go around to see him in person.

He lived not too far from the blond cop’s house and as the weather was reasonably changeable, he decided to take his motor cycle. He’d been so proud when he’d got permission from his Mom to get one and Hutch and Starsky had both helped him pick it out going to the sales place with him and helping him test them out. Now he clipped the chinstrap of the helmet in place threw his leg over the machine and started the engine. As he set off, he thought of the motorbike lessons Starsky had given him and the times Hutch had followed behind in his beater of a car as Kiko had wobbled around the streets getting used to his new machine. Now proficient in his riding, he took the route to Hutch’s easily and slowly, enjoying the feel of the machine between his legs. He looked forward to telling Hutch how much he enjoyed the riding, thinking it might brighten the cop’s day but as he pulled up outside his buddy’s address his face creased into a frown. Damn, the woman’s car was still parked outside.

Despite not really wanting to come into contact with the waspish woman, the young man parked his cycle neatly by the curb, secured his bike and set off up the steps to Hutch’s apartment. His primary reason for coming here was to visit Hutch and if he had to, he’d chance being rude and ignore the woman who’d moved in with his friend.

As he reached the top of the steps, Kiko paused, his hand outstretched as he thought he heard a noise from inside the apartment. Cautiously he knocked on the door. He didn’t want to burst in on an argument, or something altogether more embarrassing, but the door was on the latch and as he knocked, the door cracked open. Feeling a little like a burglar, he pushed the door open wider and gasped as he saw the woman, bending over the sofa, her back to him. At first he couldn’t quite make out what she was doing and was about to back quietly out of the room, but he heard the same indistinct muffled noise again and as he looked closer, Kiko realised that the woman was holding something over Hutch’s face. It was quite obvious to the young man that what she was doing didn’t amount to kissing the blond and then he heard her hiss something into Hutch’s ear and the blond made a muffled moan.

Throwing caution to the wind, he took two huge strides across the room and grabbed a hold of the woman around her waist, pulling her away from the sofa, not caring if he was interrupting something untoward. To Kiko’s dismay, as he dragged Sue away, he saw Hutch slump down onto the sofa, his eyes closed and it was immediately apparent that the blond was unconscious. With no time to check on his friend, Kiko had his hands full in holding onto the struggling woman.

As Sue felt the hands snake around her waist and strong arms grab a hold of her, she yelled out in frustration and fury, flailing her arms wildly. She tried to spin round to see who had caught a hold of her but Kiko had her in his iron grip and she screamed out at him.

‘What the hell? Leave me alone…..get your damned dirty little hands off of me.’

‘What were ya doing to him?’ Kiko grunted, holding tightly to her.

‘None of your damned business. Let me go…..LET ME GOOOO’ she yelled.

Kiko continued to hold on but Sue was strong, her revenge fuelling her strength so that her struggles were difficult to control.

‘Hutch?’ Kiko yelled at the limp form on the sofa. ‘HUTCH!’

Sue laughed. ‘You’re too late. You’re too damned late to save him. He had it coming to him. It was all his fault. He made me. He drove me to it’ she babbled, her voice holding an edge of hysteria to it.

‘Calm down lady. For God’s sake calm down’ the young man gasped. ‘Just hang fire an’ tell me what this is all about. What have ya done at him?’

‘Oh my God! You’re as bad as he is – all talk an’ “let me understand”. He deserved this. And then he gets his goody two shoes little friends to come along and….’

Kiko’s temper snapped. Up until then he’d thought that, while the woman was obviously out of her mind, he’d be able to reason with her. But what she was saying about Hutch was so horrible, so vitriolic!

‘Lady, will ya shut the hell up’ he yelled at her. The room was warm and he could feel himself sweating with exertion. His hands were beginning to slip and he couldn’t let go to get a better grip because Sue seemed hell bent on getting back to Hutch and doing even more damage. Kiko tried again to get the blond’s attention.

‘HUUUUTCH’ he shouted.

‘It’s too late. He’s gone’ Sue snapped with obvious, relish. ‘You’re too damned late to save him.’

‘Nooo, Hutch. Hutch!’ the young man cried out, torn between checking on the blond cop and holding onto the woman who wanted to murder him. Eventually, Sue took the law into her own hands. As Kiko bent over to talk into her ear and try to reason with her, she snapped her head back, the back of it connecting with force against the young man’s nose. Kiko’s eyes teared at the smarting pain and he could feel the blood starting to flow from his nostrils as the coppery tang of his own blood filled the back of his throat. He coughed and spluttered but still held on tight to Sue’s waist and she tried a different attack, this time bringing the pointed heel of her shoe down on his sneaker clad foot. Kiko let out a howl of pain and finally his grasp on her broke. He let out a cry of frustration, flinging himself at her again, his finger tips just grazing her arm as Sue seized her chance and made a run for the door.

As she put her hand on the door handle, she yanked open the door, her attention still on Kiko and virtually fell into Captain Dobey’s arms.

‘Grab her’ Kiko yelled from the floor. Dobey took one look at the young man on the floor and caught the note of panic in his voice. Without pausing to ask questions he caught a hold of the woman’s fleeing body. The impetus of her flight caused the both of them to overbalance and with a yelp of surprise, Dobey felt himself fall backwards and down the steps. Over and over they tumbled own the wooden steps until finally the two intertwined bodies came to a rest in the small atrium by the front door with a grunt.

Huggy Bear, who had been following the Captain into the apartment skipped back down the steps three at a time. The female whirlwind had dashed past him at such a speed that he’d hardly registered what was happening and he’d been amazed at the shear speed of Dobey’s reactions. Now, he skidded to a halt by the side of the bodies and fell to his knees by the side of the black cop. Hardly bearing to touch, Huggy put out his hand and gently prodded Dobey’s shoulder and was rewarded by a deep, guttural groan and deep brown eyes that fluttered open. Beneath him, Sue seemed to be unconscious but miraculously there was no blood.

‘Cap’n? Are you ok? That was one hell of a tumble ya took’ Huggy asked as Dobey struggled to try to sit up.

‘Hmmm….yeah. I’m good. Bruised. My pride’s hurt.’

‘Nothing more?’

The Captain snorted and patted himself down. ‘Don’t think so, no. What about her?’

‘Out for the count, but she seems ok. Don’t look like nothin’s broken.’

The Captain shuffled round until he could get to his feet. Although shaken, he seemed to be none the worse for wear and he fumbled the handcuffs from the back of his pocket and bent down to snap them on the woman’s wrists.

‘Hug, watch her while I go and call for the meat wagon and some back up. And then I need to talk to Kiko and find out what all this is about.’

‘Sure thing Cap’n Huggy said and squatted down on the steps by the side of Sue’s body.

Dobey staggered up the stairs. Now that the initial surge of adrenaline was leaving his body he could feel the bruises starting to blossom down his arm, side and leg, but he ignored the soreness and stiffness, aware that nothing was broken. Thanking God for Edith’s home cooking that provided a layer of padding over his frame, he pushed open the door to the apartment and walked in. He was immediately aware of frantic sounds coming from the sofa and crossed over the room.

Kiko had picked himself up from the floor and, ignoring the blood still seeping from his nose, he’d immediately gone to Hutch and was now kneeling by the side of the sofa, his hands on Hutch’s neck as he sought out the cop’s pulse. He looked up as Dobey came to stand by him.

‘I can’t find his pulse….I think he’s dead…..she killed him’ the young man whispered.

The Captain gently pulled Kiko away and knelt down by the side of the flaxen haired cop.

‘Hutch? Hutch, open your eyes’ he said as he checked pulse and breathing. Although the beat was there, very weak and thready, the blond was having difficulty breathing and the black man looked up.

‘Kiko, you did good son. Ring for an ambulance and then ring the Metro and ask them to send a black and white. Tell ‘em Captain Dobey needs it huh? Go on…..quick.’

As the young man hurried to his task, Dobey looked down at Hutch’s unconscious body with alarm. The once healthy, vital man seemed to have shrunk to half his normal size. His ribs stuck out from his chest, the golden skin looking dry and wasted as it pulled tight across them. The blond’s eyes were closed and his face seemed sunken cheeked and hollow eyed. He was the picture of ill health and again Dobey checked the cop’s pulse. It was still there and the Captain started talking, more for his own comfort than for Hutch’s benefit.

‘C’mon son. Wake up for me huh? You can fight this. We can do it together. I know it’s bad and I know you’re hurting, but we have news. I was comin’ to tell you, we have news. We wanted to get somethin’ of Starsky’s for ya and we….’ Dobey reached for Hutch’s hand and as he lifted it, something small, round and shiny fell onto the cushion of the sofa. He picked it up and studied the coin and leather thong carefully, recognising it instantly. The necklace! Where in hell had Hutch got that? ‘I guess you already know son. Where’d ya get this huh? Where’d ya get the necklace from? You were right. It wasn’t him in the fire, was it?’

From the sofa, Hutch’s breath quickened, his eyes moving rapidly beneath the pale, almost translucent eyelids and the blond’s lips parted.

‘Starsk….’ He whispered.

‘Yeah, we’re gonna find him son, but ya gotta get well. We need ya. Starsky needs ya. Ya hear that Hutch? Starsky's alive and he needs ya.’

Chapter 12

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?’ Dobey asked.

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 said sullenly.

‘SUE. S.U.E.’ Mutt spelled the name as though that would help.

‘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?’ Jeff asked

‘If I knew that, d’ya think I’d be so fuckin’ angry?’

‘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. Paid.’

‘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’ nowhere.’

‘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’ Jeff said.

‘Can’t say I’m sorry’ the cop grunted hoarsely.

‘Aww, an’ I though we got on so well together.’

‘Yeah, sure. Best buddies huh?’ Starsky snickered.

‘Sure thing.’


‘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 fate.

Only the shadow watched what had happened and very slowly and stealthily, it approached the man on the ground.

Chapter 13

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 be eliminated.’

‘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 room.

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 the ground.

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 and 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.

Chapter 14

‘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?’

‘Uh huh…..’urts.’

‘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 help ya?’

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 unforgiving concrete.

‘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.

Chapter 15

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 it.

‘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 son.’

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 her “boyfriend”.

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 death.

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 been sick.

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 asked.

‘News travels fast, yeah, that’s her’ Dobey grunted.

‘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 Starsky.’

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.

‘Captain Dobey?’

‘Michaelson, tell me what you’ve got.’

‘Nothing Sir. Nada. Zip. Sue Gardener is as clean as a whistle.’

‘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, isn’t he?’


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 asked.

‘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.’

Chapter 16

‘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 weakly.

‘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 much effort.

‘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 a sigh.

‘Don’t you want any more?’ the little girl asked.

‘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.

Chapter 17

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 Sue Gardener.’

‘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 it. I….’

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’ Sue gasped.

‘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 gonna die.’

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.

Chapter 18

'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 what?'

'So ya go back an' make her tell you where the fuck my partner is.'

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?'

'But Cap...'

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 huh?'

'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.

'Hutch? Dobey.'

'And? What did ya get? Did she tell you where he is?' the blond asked.

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 somethin'.'

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 scary.

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.

Chapter 19

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 him.

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 girl.’

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.

‘Hello Miss.’

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.

‘At school?’

‘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 think so!

‘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 stop that.’

‘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 leg.

‘Who was your friend honey?’ she asked gently but urgently.

‘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 mouth.

‘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 quietly.

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 softly.

‘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. ‘Why?’

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 words.


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 I doin’……’

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 black friend.

‘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?’

‘Yeah, but….’

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.

Chapter 20

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 with it.

‘Hey man, you know I don’t touch these things’ he protested.

‘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 corridor.

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.

‘Uuuut….sh…..what……kept ya?’ the barely audible voice breathed as Hutch let out a moan of relief and fell backwards to collapse onto the floor next to his buddy.

Chapter 21

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 hardly breathe.

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 here.’

‘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 a grin.

‘You’re magnificent when you’re angry’ he said.

‘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 you?’

‘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 try…..’

‘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 up buddy?’

‘I um…. I can’t go.’

‘Oh. Have you tried relaxin’?’ Hutch asked helpfully.

‘Oh yeah. I always relax when I have the prospect of having a hose pipe reinsterted into little Davey.’

‘Well whistle.’


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 know why?’


‘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 the other?’

‘Jeez, you live up to the reputation sometimes buddy’ Starsky snickered softly.

‘Which is?’

‘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.’

‘Starsk, I….’

‘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 in plaster.

‘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.’

‘Yeah, but….’

‘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.