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This is a sequel to A Dream to Live By.

How Much Can One Man Lose?

Hutch looked down at his watch and walked back to the table. It was set for four with candles and a small centerpiece of flowers. "Where the hell are you, Starsky? All you had to do was pick the girls up on your way here. I told you 6:00; it's after 7:30. I knew I should have picked Amanda up myself. The dinner's ruined and..." His mumbling was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Come on in, Starsk. Where the hell have you guys been?"

Hutch looked up to see Huggy standing in the doorway. Hutch could tell by the look on his face something bad went down. "What's wrong? Huggy, you look like your best friend died."

Huggy started talking very slowly, as if pulling the words out of his mouth. "Hutch, I came to give you a ride to the hospital. I didn't think you should drive yourself."

Hutch interrupted him loudly saying, "My God, what happened to Starsky?"

Huggy quickly responded, "It's not Starsky. Hutch, Amanda and Vicky were attacked in Amanda's apartment earlier today. Starsky found them and they are at Bay City General."

Hutch cut him off again. "Why didn't Starsk call me? What the hell do you mean, they were attacked?"

Huggy grabbed Hutch's arm and with teary eyes said, "Hutch, Amanda was raped. Vicky must have arrived as the scumball was leaving, and he beat her real bad. They don't think she's gonna make it. The only reason I know is because Jones was the cop who answered the call. He couldn't get Starsky to respond to him so he called me to get you. Hutch, we have to go now."

Hutch followed him out the door in a state of shock.

When they arrived at the hospital they were met by Captain Dobey and Sergeant Jones.

Dobey spoke softly, "Hutch, Amanda is Room 245. She is heavily sedated. They don't expect her to wake up for several hours. They just took Vicky up to the O.R. to stop some internal bleeding. She has six stab wounds in her stomach and chest. Her skull is fractured in two places and they are worried about brain swelling. They can't run the test on her skull until they get her internal bleeding under control. There was something about a ruptured spleen or kidney damage. They won't know until they get her into surgery. The doctor told Starsky, and it was like he just shut down. He hasn't responded to anything I've said."

Hutch looked like he was going to collapse trying to process all the information. He asked Jones, "What happened at the apartment?"

Jones tried to keep a calm voice. "Hutch, we're not sure yet. Starsky said he went to go pick the girls up for dinner at 5:30. He noticed the door was open and when the girls didn't answer, he went in. He found Amanda in the living room, and called for an ambulance. Then, when he checked the rest of the apartment, he found Vicky in the kitchen. When we arrived he was holding Vicky's hand, begging her not to leave him. Hutch, there was so much blood I didn't think she was still alive. Baker and I had to pull him away so the paramedics could work on her." Jones's eyes were filled with tears as he struggled to continue. "Hutch, in my 10 years on the force I've never seen anything so bad. I can't imagine how Starsky feels, knowing how much he loves her."

Captain Dobey put his hand on Jones's shoulder and finished. "Hutch, the crime lab lifted bloody prints off the knife and door; we'll get the bastard that did this."

Hutch managed to say, "Wh...where's Starsky?"

Dobey and Jones both pointed down the hall towards the O.R. waiting room.

When Hutch reached the waiting room he could not believe his eyes. His heart felt like it had dropped out of his chest. Starsky was sitting in a chair with blood covering the front of his shirt and arms. He was using a towel to wipe his hand and fingers over and over while staring into space.

Hutch approached him carefully, making sure not to startle him. He knelt down in front of Starsky. "Starsk, it's okay. I'm here for you, buddy."

There was no response.

"Starsky, I need you to look at me. Come on, Gordo, look at me! Listen to my voice! I need you to talk to me! Please, Starsk, you're really freaking me out!" Getting no response, Hutch grabbed Starsky's hands. "Starsk, it's me, Hutch."

He looked down at Hutch and tears began rolling down Starsky's face. "Hutch, I think she's gonna die just like Terry did. Why did I let her talk me into meeting at Amanda's? I told her it wasn't a safe neighborhood, but she kept saying I was being a mother hen. God, Hutch, I don't think I'll survive if she dies." He saw Hutch was crying and not even thinking, he said, "Hutch, Amanda's alright, don't cry. The doctor said she is going to be okay; she's in room two something. I haven't checked on her, but I will as soon as I know about Vicky. I should have gone to see her but..."

Hutch cut him off. "Starsk, listen to me! Don't go on one of your guilt trips! Vicky needs you to be strong for her. It's not your fault the girls were meeting at Amanda's. I heard Vicky tell Amanda that she needed to see the painting Amanda was working on for the restaurant so she could pick out a frame. And as for checking up on Amanda, she's out cold and with those clothes on you may have scared her if she woke up." \

Starsky looked down at his clothes to see what Hutch was talking about. "Oh my God, it's Vicky's blood. Hutch, she was bleeding so badly and I couldn't help her."

Hutch put his head against Starsky's. "I know, babe, I know. There wasn't anything you could do but let her know you were there, and I'm sure she knew." Hutch looked towards the door hearing Captain Dobey clear his throat. Hutch threw him a short smile and nodded, yes, letting him know it was okay to come in.

Dobey put his hand on Starsky's shoulder, gently squeezed it and said, "Dave, Emma and Billy are here. I put them in the waiting room down the hall. She's asking to see you, but I think you should get cleaned up first."

"Vicky's mom and brother are here. They must be worried sick. Hutch, I can't let her see this; she has a bad heart," Starsky replied, panicky, while fumbling through his pockets. "Hutch, I can't find my car keys. I'm not even sure where my car is. I drove it to Amanda's, but I can't remember how I got here. They wouldn't let me in the ambulance. I think a black and white brought me in."

Suddenly he could hear another voice calling him. It was Jones. "Starsky, I have your keys. Your car is out front. Do you need me to go get you some clothes?"

Starsky was confused, trying to remember how Jones got his keys and how he got to the hospital. Knowing his partner was stressed enough without worrying about his striped tomato, Hutch took the keys from Jones hand and placed them in Starsky's hand. "We keep extra clothes in the trunk in case we can't get back to the station to change. Starsky, I'll go get your clothes and find out where you can change," he said, taking back the keys. He signaled Jones to come with him.

Walking down the hallway, Hutch asked Jones to fill him in. Jones told Hutch that when the ambulance wouldn't let Starsky in, he headed for his car. Jones and Tim Baker had to fight him for the keys and they had a black and white unit bring him to the hospital. "Your buddy has a mean left hook. Tim is down in X-ray they think he may have a broken jaw. My side feels like it was hit by a car. We kind of had to knock Starsky out to get him in the police car. Don't worry, Hutch, none of this will be in the report. Tim told them he fell on a banana peel and hit his face on a railing. You have to love my partner's sense of humor."

Hutch just looked at him and smiled, thinking he and Starsky had some really great friends.

While Starsky was showering in the residence quarters, Hutch checked in on Amanda. He held her hand briefly, but being touched seemed to aggravate her even in her sleep. He had only met her a month ago when she moved here from Rhode Island. Vicky had introduced her to Hutch after she commissioned her to do three paintings for her family's restaurant. Vicky and Amanda became instant best friends. They both loved teasing Starsky and had both lost their dads while they were children. It was a bond they shared with Starsky that seemed to make them act like life long friends. Hutch wondered if she would regret ever moving out here. He knew he couldn't be gone long and headed back to the waiting room.

There was still no word on Vicky from the O.R. Emma and her 18-year-old son Bill were sitting with Captain Dobey and his wife Edith when Hutch entered. Bill approached Hutch, looking furious. "Where is Dave? How could he let this happen to Vicky? What the hell kind of cops are you? Your dates are both attacked and you're no where to be found."

"Stop it, Billy!" Emma called out. "This isn't helping Vicky. You know Dave and Ken would have stopped it if they could. I know you're upset, but they didn't hurt these girls, some sick pervert did, and he's the one that will have to pay for what he did."

Dobey looked at Emma, remembering the day her husband, his partner, was killed. She was pregnant with Billy at the time, but still seemed so strong.

Captain Dobey's wife Edith held her. "Vicky will be okay. My Godchild is one of the toughest people I know. If anyone can make it she will."

"From your lips to God's ears," Starsky said. No one even noticed he was in the room during the commotion.

"I'm sorry, Dave, I know it's not your fault. I know you love Vicky," Bill said.

"I'm gonna get the jerk who did this and put him away for the rest of his life." He looked over at Captain Dobey. "With or without help."

"Starsky, you know you can't be on this case. Hell, I can't be on the case, and I'm just her Godfather. The brass will have your badge if they even think you're involved. You and Hutch are to stay as far away from this case as possible."

"That just isn't possible, Captain! I can't just sit by waiting for this creep to hurt another woman. As soon as I hear Vicky is okay, I'm on it," Starsky said, then turned to Hutch expecting to get one of his partner's long lectures.

Instead, Hutch just smiled and said, "I'm with you, Starsk. Me and thee forever, no matter what the brass has to say."

Emma stood up and hugged Starsky, and then, taking his hand, she led him to an empty chair near hers. The room stayed mostly silent for the next four hours. Hutch had checked on Amanda several times, finding her still unconscious. He returned to the waiting room at 12:15 just in time to greet the surgeon. "My name is Doctor Yunis. Is Victoria's family here?"

Starsky sprang out of his chair. "Yes, we are. I'm David Starsky, this is her mother, Emma. How's Vicky? When can we see her?"

Doctor Yunis took Emma's hand. "We stopped the internal bleeding, but she lost a lot of blood. There was damage to her lung so she will have to be on a respiratory for now. We won't know if there is any brain damage until we run some more tests. We are watching her closely for any swelling of the brain. Is your daughter married?"

"No, Doctor, my daughter is single. Dave and she have been dating for almost a year, but she's not married. Why?"

"There are papers to be filled out by the next of kin. The nurse will take you to the office. You won't be able to see her for at least an hour. I'll have some one come take you to I.C.U. as soon as she is ready. They will only allow one person at a time to see her."

"What are her chances, Doc? Level with me; I need to know the truth," Starsky said, fearing the worst.

The doctor's face had no emotion as he spoke. "Her chances are better then when she came in, but they are still slim. Mr. Starsky, can I speak to you for a moment in private? We can use my office."

Starsky looked confused by the request, but followed the doctor and called to Hutch, "I'll be right back. Stay with Emma for me, okay?"

Hutch took Emma's hand and nodded.

The doctor's office was across the hospital and it seemed to take forever to get to. Doctor Yunis offered Starsky a chair, but when he politely declined the doctor told him, "Sit down," sounding more like an order this time.

Starsky sat down and braced himself. He knew whatever was coming was going to be horrible. "What's going on?" was all he could say.

"Did you know Victoria was pregnant?" He could tell by the look on Starsky's face that she hadn't told him yet.

"Vicky and I are going to have a baby?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Starsky, the baby didn't survive. She was only about three months along. The wounds were too severe, and with all the blood Victoria lost the baby had no chance. I felt it wasn't something her mother could handle right now. I thought you had the right to know."

Starsky turned white as a ghost and was having trouble catching his breath.

"Mr. Starsky, are you all right? Do you want me to get someone for you? Try putting your head down and breathe deep."

"Hutch! I need Hutch," Starsky said as his world was going black.

The doctor sent a nurse to the waiting room to ask if there was anyone named Hutch in there. She returned with Hutch several minutes later.

Hutch saw Starsky slumped over. The doctor was telling him to breathe long breaths. "Starsky, are you alright? Doctor, he hasn't eaten since noon and we've been putting in some long hours. He seemed to be in shock when I first got to the hospital, but after he showered he seemed okay. What happened in here? What the hell did you tell him?"

Starsky lifted his head and saw Hutch. He grabbed him, hugging as if he were holding on for dear life. He finally managed to get the words out of his mouth. "Hutch, she was pregnant. That scumbag killed the baby."

Hutch held him and they both broke down. "We'll get him, I swear we will," Hutch said, as he rocked his partner. God, how much more can he take? Hutch thought to himself.

Hutch and Starsky walked into the waiting room near I.C.U. about a half an hour later. It took Hutch all that time to calm his partner down. Starsky knew he needed to be there for Emma and Bill. He couldn't let her feel the pain he was feeling. Several times in the past she joked with him about what beautiful grandchildren Vicky and Dave could give her. Whenever they got around to getting married, she would add. It was now after 1:00 and everyone in the waiting room was showing signs of severe stress. Emma had taken several heart pills, causing Bill to ask a nurse to check her blood pressure.

Starsky just sat there holding Emma's hand. He was wondering if he would have made a good father, and if he and Vicky would have the chance to have another child. What would it be like to be married to Vicky and to come home to her and the baby? He thought how Vicky would make a great mom. She was such a beautiful person, he thought, then realized the doctor was back.

"Is she alright?" The room sounded like a chorus as everyone asked at the same time.

The doctor took Emma's hand. "I need to prepare you before I let you go see her. She is still on a respirator and she has tubes and wires covering most of her body. Her face is severely swollen. You may not even recognize her. I'm told you have a weak heart, so I want you to be prepared. I'll let you stay for a moment then, one at a time, your family and Mr. Starsky can go in for a visit. If you're still okay when they are done, you can go back in and stay as long as you need to." He led her into I.C.U.

Five minutes later she returned. She looked pale and could hardly stand. She held her son's hand and softly said, "What did that monster do to my baby? Bill, you are not to see her this way; I will not allow it. I do not want you to remember her like this if she dies."

The words cut through Starsky like a knife.

Bill tried to head into the I.C.U. but his mother held him. "For me, please, don't go in there."

Starsky walked over to Bill and said, "Why don't you wait until your mother's okay? She needs you right now, Billy, and you've never seen anyone after such an attack." Bill nodded and Starsky walked to the door.

He took a deep breath as if preparing to jump into cold water. Nothing he had seen before prepared him for this. Vicky's face was twice its normal size and her eyes were swollen shut. Some hair had been shaved off the left side of her head and in its place he could see large black stitches. She had a tube attached to her stomach, chest, and one down her throat. There were wires attached to her head, chest, and stomach. She had an I.V. in each arm. He could hear the monitors beeping. "Vicky, honey, I'm here. I love you, sweetheart. I know you can hear me, Vicky. I know you need to sleep right now, but I need you to fight, Vic. Please, don't give up. Vic, I need you to stay here with me. Heaven has enough angels; I need you here. I love you and I can't make it without you. Please, sweetheart, fight for me. I know it hurts, but keep fighting." He felt a nurse gently touch his shoulder to let him know it was time to go. "Honey, I have to leave. Your mom will be here, and I'll come back as quick as I can. I need to stop the creep who did this. I love you. I promise I'll get him." He walked slowly away from her, listening to the respirator and the beeping that registered her heart beat. The beeping sound somehow made him relaxed. He thought to himself, "There's hope as long as your heart's beating; there's hope." He suddenly had a calm feeling come over him as if he knew someone was watching over her. He felt safe. He couldn't understand it, but he felt she would be okay.

He walked back into the waiting room and gave Emma a big hug. He whispered into her ear, "When you're ready to go, have dispatch page me. I'll come right back so she won't be alone. Don't you over-do it 'cause she's going to need you to be healthy when she wakes up."

Emma felt somehow reassured, as if for the first time in hours her little girl had a chance. "David, you be very careful; she needs you, too."

Starsky turned to Captain Dobey and Edith and stated, "If there's any change at all, let me know. No matter how small, please, let me know."

Dobey could see Starsky was running on pure adrenalin, and when that happened there was no talking to him. Starsky was heading for the door, so he looked to Hutch for help, but he got a wave goodbye instead. "You two be careful and I want to know what you find out when you find it out, not in some report." He didn't realize how loudly he was speaking until a nurse stepped into the room and gave him a dirty look.

Hutch called to him, "Starsk, wait up! You can't go anywhere without me. I have your keys." Knowing Starsky, he knew where they were heading. "It'll be 3:00 by the time we get to the Pits! Huggy said he was going to check to see what could be heard on the street."

"Great minds do think alike. Hey, where did you park my car?"

"Jones parked it out front."

"You let the worst driver in the whole precinct drive my car! What the hell were you thinking?" Starsky yelled.

Hutch responded quickly. "I didn't let him drive your car; you did. Right after you tried to break Tim Baker's jaw and beat up old Jones."

Starsky stopped dead in his tracks. "What the hell are you talking about, Hutch?"

Hutch smiled at him and said, "You've had a bad night; I'll explain on the way."

They reached the Pits around 3:15. Huggy was inside on the phone and waved them over. "Sweet Alice has something for you, Hutch," he said, handing him the phone. Looking at Starsky, he said, "You look pale even for a white dude. You okay? Is there any news on Vicky?"

Starsky just shook his head no.

Huggy continued, "You want a drink and something to eat?"

Hutch answered, "Yeah, two beers and a couple of burgers while we wait for Sweet Alice to call back. Starsk, she thinks she knows who we are looking for. She wants to check out something and she'll let us know in about twenty minutes."

Twenty-five minutes later Sweet Alice called, interrupting Hutch and Starsky fighting over the fact that Starsky wasn't eating. Hutch came back to the table and signaled Starsky to leave. When they climbed back into the car Hutch called dispatch and asked for the crime lab. He asked if they had a match on the prints from Amanda's apartment. When he was told no, Hutch asked the tech to run them against Janos Martini.

Starsky looked confused and asked, "Janos is a porno freak. What makes you think it was him?"

Hutch shrugged his shoulders and said, "He once beat a girlfriend half to death in front of a camera; he nearly killed Sweet Alice, and she claims he raped two women last month. They didn't report it because they work with Alice and thought no one would believe them. Alice says he's back on the junk and it makes him crazy. Starsk, Alice said he told her he killed a woman who caught him in a rape he was filming."

"Control to Zebra 3. Come in, Zebra 3."

Hutch picked up the mike. "Zebra 3 here. What have you got?"

"It's a match, Zebra 3. The crime lab said it's a perfect match. Over."

Hutch's response was quick. "Put an A.P.B. out on Janos Martini, last seen at the Lions Club about 15 minutes ago. We are on route; our E.T.A. is 25 minutes."

Starsky started the Torino and peeled out, saying, "Fifteen minutes! Tell them we'll be there in 15 minutes."

Hutch put the mars light up and told them, "E.T.A. is 15 minutes. Dispatch, can you call Captain Dobey at Bay City General? Let him know we're going to get Janos."

"Roger, Zebra three"

It was 17 minutes before the Torino came to a screeching halt in front of the Lions Club. They were met at the door by Sweet Alice. "Starsky, he left five minutes ago. He knows it was your girl, and he's going to try to get out of town. I don't know how he's leaving, but he has four thousand dollars on him."

Starsky slammed his fist into the hood of his car. "Five damn minutes, Hutch! We missed the bastard by five damn minutes!"


The next four days were a giant blur. They spent all day following leads and trying to track down Janos. Starsky spent every night at the hospital. He would check on Amanda, than find himself stopping by the nursery, staring at the babies, wondering what if. He would then sit by Vicky's bed for the rest of the night, talking to her until occasionally nodding off. Twice he was abruptly woken by loud buzzing and nurses yelling Code Blue. Her heart had stopped and the paddles were used to restart it. Each time Starsky could feel a little hope slipping away.

Hutch checked in on Amanda daily. He was concerned about the fact she would not see a rape crisis counselor and refused to talk about or see Vicky. He wasn't at all surprised when her mom flew out to take her back to Rhode Island.

When Hutch picked him up on the fifth day he insisted they go to Starsky's so he could take a real shower while Hutch scrambled up some eggs. He had not been home since Friday, when he left to pick up the girls. It was now Wednesday. He stopped next door to pick up his mail and newspapers. His neighbor was good about collecting his things when he was on a stake-out or missing for more then a day. She teased him, saying he should get a discount on the rent because he was never home. He thanked her and let her know she may not see him for a while. She never asked questions, just collected the mail and papers.

He headed back to his apartment. He opened the door to a foul smell.

"Geez, Starsky, don't you ever clean this place?" Hutch said, while covering his nose with his shirt.

Walking over to the sink, Starsky picked up a filled glass containing rotten milk. "I guess I forgot to rinse it out before I left." He tossed it away, glass and all. He took the rubbish outside and notice a strange blue car parked down the street. Two men were seated inside; he could not see faces. He memorized the plate without being too obvious.

"Hutch, we have tail," he said, walking back into the house.

Hutch carefully looked out the window. "The blue sedan with the two creeps inside."

"Yup," Starsky said, dialing the phone. "This is Detective Starsky. I need you to run a plate for me: John Roger 35682. Yes, I'll hold... Hey, Hutch, who would be tailing us? ...Say that again... Thanks." Slamming the phone down Starsky bolted for the door. "I don't need this shit now. Not with everything else." He stopped when he felt Hutch grab his arm. "Hutch, the car belongs to that creep Rogers in I.A. and I'm not going to play nice with him." Breaking free of Hutch's grip, he stormed out to the car. Hutch was right behind him.

"You better have a damned good reason for staking out my house, Rogers, 'cause I don't need your cloak and dagger shit today," Starsky said, while opening the door.

"Hutchinson, get your partner under control," Rogers said, as he tried to close the door.

"I've never been able to control Starsky on a good day. Today, I wouldn't even try. You better tell him what the hell you're doing here, or I may just go back in the house for a nice cold glass of milk." Hutch chuckled.

Rogers smiled at Hutch. "We were told by the brass to make sure your psycho partner doesn't go vigilante on Martini. See, Hutch, your hot-headed partner has a bad reputation, and even though Jones and Baker say we're wrong, I'm pretty sure Baker didn't slip on a banana peel."

Hutch pulled open the passenger side door, reached over Laprade, Rogers partner, and grabbed Rogers by the shirt. "You ever call my partner a psycho or vigilante again, you'll wish he was the one who showed up instead of me."

"Down, Hutch," Starsky said, grinning at Rogers. "You'll have to excuse Hutch. You see, he hasn't had his breakfast yet and that makes him mean. I'd get a new partner if I were you, Rogers." Hutch pulled back out of the car while Starsky finished, "See, I know there's no way anyone is getting to me through Hutch, and I know damned well there's no way they're gonna reach over me to get Hutch. Come on, Hutch, for the first time in days, I'm hungry."

After taking a much-needed shower, Starsky suggested they go out for breakfast because of the lingering smell. They had just climbed back into the car when they heard, "Control to Zebra 3. Come in, Zebra 3."

Hutch picked up the mike and responded, "Zebra 3 here. What d'you have for us?"

"Urgent message from Captain Dobey. Starsky, they need you back at the hospital right away. Over."

"We are in route, control. Zebra 3 out."

Dobey was waiting for them outside the hospital entrance. Starsky ran past him, while Hutch stayed to exchange information. Billy grabbed Starsky as he ran down to I.C.U. "Dave, they took her back to surgery."

"What happened? What did they say?" Starsky was now running to the O.R.

"She had some kind of seizure. They may need to relieve some pressure in the brain before it causes some kind of permanent damage. Dave, I'm not sure, they were talking real fast. I don't think I heard right. They said the word vegetable or something."

Starsky stopped and grabbed Billy and started shaking him. "Did they say vegetative state? Billy, did they say she may be brain dead?" Starsky realized how hard he was shaking Billy and how scared he looked. He hugged him. "Billy, I'm sorry. I know how scared you are, but it will be okay. It has to be okay. She has to be okay. Let's go find your mom." They started running toward the O.R again.

Emma's hand was clutching a small crucifix while she rocked back and forth in her chair. "Please, Jesus, save my baby," was being repeated over and over again.

Billy knelt down in front of her and told her, "Dave is back."

She spoke softly. "David Starsky, you look terrible. What's my Vicky going to say when she wakes up and sees you looking like that? She'll have us both in... I just want her to wake up. She can lecture me all she wants if only she would wake up."

"She will, Emma, she just needs more time. What did the doctor say when they took her back in?"

Emma looked confused she started babbling. "She had some kind of seizure. If it was caused by brain swelling she could be in a vegetative state. He didn't think it was her brain swelling because that usually happens within three days. He said it could have been caused by all the shock her body has endured, or it could be something they missed in the brain scan. They think the seizure damaged some of their repair work, so they have to go in and stop the bleeding again. They will run some more tests as soon as they have her stable. Dave, they're worried about her heart because it's already stopped twice."

"As long as her heart keeps beating, there's still hope. You know what a tough cookie she is. All we can do is wait and pray."

Everyone was a little shocked and scared at how quickly the doctor returned. He took Emma's hand. "I have good news. The internal bleeding was not as bad as we thought. They started running a brain scan and it looks good. We still have a lot of tests to run, but I'd say her odds for survival went way up. We don't understand exactly what caused the seizure, but I don't believe there is any brain damage. The tests will take a while, but you will be able to see her when they are done."

There was suddenly a feeling in the room like someone had opened a window and let the sun in.

Starsky's happy mood didn't last long. Dobey and Hutch were standing in the doorway talking, and he could tell by the look on his partner's face there was bad news coming. He approached the two men. Dobey and Hutch stopped talking as soon as they realized he was there. "Hutch, talk to me, man. You know I'm going to hear it sooner or later. Just tell me what it is. I can handle it."

"Starsky, Amanda committed suicide last night. She left a note. She was awake when Janos attacked Vicky. She said in the note that she couldn't get the screams out of her head and she couldn't live with what Martini did to her. I'm sorry, man, I should have noticed when I talked to her how bad off she was. Maybe I could have done something."

"Hutch, this isn't your fault. Janos did this and I'm going to make him pay for it. I need a little time. Can you stay with Emma?" Starsky and Hutch stared at each other for a few seconds like they were speaking without words.

"Sure, buddy," was all Hutch said.

Hutch could feel Dobey staring at him the whole time Starsky was gone. It was the longest two hours of his life.

When Starsky walked back into the room Dobey was on him."Where have been? Do you realize we've been worried sick for two hours? Starsky, I want to know where you were."

"I can't tell you that, Cap. But it's so nice to know you care." Starsky flashed one of his smiles. He looked around for Emma.

"She's in with Vicky. Are you okay?" Hutch said, moving towards his partner. "The captain here has been giving me the evil eye since you left."

"Hutch, is there any word on Vicky? Do they have all the test results back?"

"Sorry, Starsk, no one's seen Doctor Yunis since you left. Emma should be coming out soon. Do you want to see Vicky before we hit the streets?"

"Yeah, I need to talk to Vicky before we go. I need to explain to her why I did it. She may be pretty mad, but I think she'll understand."

"Starsky, whatever you did, I know it's because you love her and I know she'll understand that. Hey, Emma's back. Why don't you go see Vicky?"

Starsky walked out the door as a nurse rushed in. "Captain Dobey, there is an urgent call for you at the nurse's station."

Dobey followed the nurse and returned a moment later. He called into the waiting room, "Hutch, we need to go now! Edith, you keep Starsky here. No matter what happens, don't let him leave."

Edith grabbed her husband's arm. "Harry, what's going on?"

Dobey kissed her and replied, "I'll explain when we get back. Whatever you do, don't let Dave leave."

Dobey didn't say one word to Hutch until they arrived at their destination. "Baker and Jones found Martini. He's dead. They haven't called it in yet." Dobey picked up the mike and told dispatch to send a coroner out as soon as possible. He returned the mike and headed inside.

"How did he die?" Hutch looked at Dobey "You don't think Starsky had anything to do with this? Captain, come on, you know him better then that."

Dobey didn't answer he just continued walking inside.

They quietly walked into the open hotel room. Jones and Baker were standing near Martini's dead body. Martini was laying face down. There was a small puddle of blood near his head. Rogers and his partner were standing with their backs to the door.

Not realizing Hutch and Dobey were in the room, Rogers said, "I'll bet Starsky offed him for beating on that floozy he's dating." Suddenly Rogers felt himself being turned around, his face felt a large amount of pain, then he was on the floor.

Hutch was trying to pull Dobey back. Dobey was yelling, "That's my Goddaughter and one of my best detectives you're talking about. You ever let me hear you talking that trash again I'll put your lights out."

Jones help Rogers up and with a big smile on this face said, "You shouldn't have tried to hit the Captain. Rogers, he could have you up on charges."

Baker chimed in, "Yes, especially when he has all these witness that will state you swung first. You need to clear out of here now."

Rogers looked at his partner but got no help.

Hutch smiled and quietly said, "Starsky told you to get a different partner. I know he would have never let that happen to me, and I definitely wouldn't let it happen to him."

Rogers got up and stormed out the door.

Laprade just looked at Hutch and said, "Would you defend the jerk if you were me?" then walked away.

Hutch looked at Dobey with a grin. "You should have let me hit him, Cap. I could use a few days off."

Dobey put back on his captain's face "Shut up, Hutchinson. Jones, what happened to Martini? How long has he been dead?"

Jones stopped smiling and very professionally said, "My guess is he's been dead about an hour. The coroner will tell for sure. It wasn't robbery because the case over there is full of money. The needle's empty and there some heroin in the bathroom. If it weren't for the bashed in skull, I'd say bad dope."

The police photographer and coroner entered the room. "Captain Dobey, I usually don't see you unless it's a special case. I should feel honored," the coroner joked.

Dobey replied, "Stan, could you be real careful with this one? Don't let anyone but you handle it. I need the best, and it has to be real thorough."

"Hell, for you, Harry, I'll open him head to toe. Nothing will get by."

"Thanks, Stan, I owe you big time. We have to get back to the hospital. Call me as soon as you have anything. Jones and Baker, you wrap this up tight. No loose ends. I don't want that creep from I.A. to have anything to use against either one of you--and thanks."

Baker replied, "No thanks needed, Captain. I would have paid good money to see someone deck that creep."

Jones replied, "You guys get going; we'll handle everything here."


Starsky stayed with Vicky for about half an hour and was asked to leave so they could change her dressing and do some more tests. The nurse promised she would get him as soon as they were done. Starsky walked into the waiting room and noticed his partner and the captain were missing. No one was talking, and he could tell Edith was upset. Edith kept him from leaving as long as she could.

He was just heading for the door when Hutch came back in. "Edith, Cap had to go to the office, but he said he'd be back as quickly as he can. He may be gone a while; he has a few things to straighten out. Starsky, we need to talk. Now, and in private."

Starsky followed him into the hallway and leaned up against the wall to support himself. The lack of sleep and food was taking a toll on him.

"Starsky, you look like shit. Have you eaten anything?"

"I got a candy bar out of the machine; I'm fine. What's going down?"

"Starsky, Janos is dead. Right now, it's listed as suspicious."

"Hutch, I'm glad. You know as well as I do he probably would have gotten off with drug rehab and a slap on the wrist."

"Starsk, I think Dobey believes you did it. I know Rogers does."

"Come on, Hutch, Dobey knows me better then that." He looked at Hutch strange. "You don't think I offed the guy, do you? Come on, Hutch, if you don't trust me--"

Hutch cut him off. "Knock it off. I know you didn't do it, but, Starsk, he died while you were missing. Dobey heard us talking and he put two and two together and came up with five. You may have to tell him what's gone down here."

"Hutch, I can't do that until Vicky is okay. The doctor says there is a chance she didn't know she was pregnant. She's got to deal with what happened to her. Amanda's a suicide; her mom's on the verge of a heart attack; this could kill her. How much shit can she handle when she wakes up? Hutch, I promise, as soon as I'm sure she knows, I'll tell Dobey. But if she doesn't know, I'm not going to tell her just so she can morn a child she'll never hold. Hutch, please promise me that you won't tell anyone until we know if she knew."

"You're right, Starsky. Dobey would never be able to keep this from Edith and Emma. I'm not sure Emma can take anymore bad news." Trying to lighten the mood, he added, "If Rogers starts anything, I'll just have to let Dobey hit him again."

"Whoa! Dobey hit Rogers?"

"Starsk, he laid him out on the floor! It was beautiful."

Starsky and Hutch started laughing. It was the first time in what seemed forever Hutch had heard that wonderful laugh.

The nurse had returned to tell him he could see Vicky again, but when she saw him, she paused for a moment, just watching them laugh. She finally tapped Starsky on the back. "Mr. Starsky, you can see Vicky now. Maybe you should let her hear that great laugh of yours. It may do her a world of good."

Hutch called out to him, "I'll be back in about an hour with something for you to eat. You really do look like shit, Starsk."

Starsky stopped by the waiting room and told Billy to take Emma home for some rest. He promised Emma he would not leave Vicky alone and would call if there was any change. She had been falling asleep in the chair and didn't have the strength to say no.

Edith insisted on staying to wait for her husband, but did agree to go to the cafeteria to eat something. She looked at Starsky before going and said, "You have to get some rest, David. I'll bring you back something and you will eat it, young man."

He winked and said, "Thanks Mom."

He was pleasantly surprised at how well Vicky looked. She was off the respirator and they had removed all the wires from her head. The stomach tube was also gone. The swelling in her face had been going down gradually, but since he had seen her only an half hour ago it had reduced a lot. Her face was still all black and blue, but her eyes looked human again. He pulled the chair as close to the bed as possible. Holding her hand, he listened to the beeping of her heart monitor. "Vicky, have I got a lot to tell you."

He kept talking until he fell asleep. The nurse covered him with a blanket when she checked Vicky's vitals. He started to wake up several hours later with the feeling he was being stared at. He opened his eyes to find Vicky smiling at him. A nurse was just coming over when he yelled, "Get Doctor Yunis! She's awake."

"Calm down, Mr. Starsky, or I'll have to ask you to leave," the nurse said.

"Vicky, can you hear me?"

She nodded yes.

"Do you know where you are?"

"Dave, stop playing detective," she whispered

"God, I love you, Vicky. Don't ever leave me again."

"I'm not going anywhere, promise," she said as she fell back to sleep.

The doctor came in and asked Starsky to wait outside so they could examine her.

He walked into the waiting room where he found Hutch, Dobey, and Edith. "Hutch, she woke up," he yelled, grabbing onto his partner.

Edith said she would call Emma and left to find a phone.

When Captain Dobey stood up, Starsky let go of Hutch and jumped onto Dobey with a big bear hug, almost knocking him down. "She knew who I was, and promised she wasn't leaving me. She's going to be okay, Cap." He suddenly got real dizzy stepped back and crumpled to the floor.

Hutch bolted to the door. "Nurse, we need some help in here."

A nurse ran in, took his vitals, and told Hutch to go to the nurses' station and have them page Dr. Anderson.

"What the hell is going on?" Hutch said.

The nurse screamed, "Go get Doctor Anderson, NOW."

Doctor Yunis and another nurse were just coming in to see Starsky about Vicky; they hurried over. "What are his vitals, Nancy?"

"His Bp is 60 over 40, pulse is faint and irregular, and respiration is shallow... He stopped breathing. I lost his pulse."

Doctor Yunis checked for a pulse and tore open Starsky's shirt. The gun startled him briefly; they started CPR. "Lisa get the crash cart ready, and get a stretcher in here stat. Why is this man armed and how in the hell did he get all these scars?"

Hutch took Starsky's gun from the holster. "We're detectives with the BCPD! He was shot up real bad about a year ago. He had lung damage and his heart stopped. His doctor is Robert Simmons! He was here for a month! He hasn't been sleeping or eating right. What's happening to him?"

Doctor Yunis was helping an orderly put Starsky on the stretcher and was heading for the door when he answered, "His heart stopped. Get him into I.C.U. stat. Nancy have Robert Simmons paged code blue, then find his medical records."

Hutch turned to Dobey. "Oh my God, I'm losing Starsky."

Inside I.C.U. Starsky was being hooked to a monitor while CPR was continued. Doctor Simmons entered as Yunis was preparing to use the paddles.

"Flat line," called the nurse.

"Hit him! All Clear!" Starsky's body jumped.

"Still flat line."

"Increase it! Hit him again! All Clear!" Again his body jumped.

"We have beep. No, flat lined again."

"Increase it again! Hit him again! All Clear!" His body jumped again.

"We have a steady rhythm," the nurse called out.

"Good job, Tim," Doctor Simmons said, smiling. "Start an I.V., Nurse, and I want his vitals every 15 minutes."

She nodded and began hooking up the I.V. to his hand.

"Special patient, Robert?"

"Have you seen his file?"

"Quick glimpse. It reads like a soap opera."

"Last year, his bills alone paid for my house in Malibu. He's been poisoned, stabbed, and shot more times then I can count. Last year he was gunned down with a machine gun. I have put in too much time and effort to let Detective Starsky die this way. I don't understand. I examined him two weeks ago and he was fine. He's lost weight and looks terrible."

"His girlfriend is the one I told you about. She was brutally attacked last Friday. The nurses told me he's been here every night."

"Well, he'll be here tonight. I'll have him moved near his girlfriend so he doesn't kill himself trying to check up on her. His partner won't be far away either. His file is just as crazy. I swear they take turns cheating death. When one is hurt the other one watches over him, sleeping in the chair on the side of him. Whatever it is they're doing works, because, medically speaking, neither one of them should be alive."

Doctor Simmons found Hutch in the waiting room. "Detective Hutchinson, your partner is a very lucky man. If this had happened outside the hospital we would have lost him. His heart stopped. Doctor Yunis had to use the paddles three times to get it started again. Dave let himself get run down and it could have cost him his life. He's not out of the woods yet, but we both know how stubborn he is. You can go in now. I'll have the nurse get you a pillow. It could be a long night."


Hutch pulled the chair up to the bed took Starsky's hand and began talking. "Starsk, you have to stop scaring me like this. You're killing me. When this is over, lets take a vacation. This time we'll go somewhere people don't shoot at us. Somewhere there are no wackos with needles full of poison, no drug dealers, and definitely no weird cults. Hell, who am I kidding? You get shot just going out to an Italian restaurant. You have to get better; you can't die on me. I can't do this job without you. I can't fight the scum without you. I'm scared, buddy. I'm scared, and I don't want to do this anymore. One of us is going to get killed, and for what? We put them away, and they let them back out. There's too many of them. I can't do it anymore. I think I want to quit. I don't want to be a cop anymore."

"We could rob banks in Bolivia, Blintz," Starsky said, just above a whisper.

"Starsk, you're awake!"

"I'm worried about you, Hutch."

"You're worried about me? I'm not the one hooked up to the wires."

"Hutch, you haven't slept in days. You live on seaweed and liver extract, and you are the best friend I ever had. I love you, man. Close your eyes and go to sleep, so I won't worry about you 'til morning."

"You're my best friend, too, buddy. I think we both need to get a little sleep. Just a little sleep..." He drifted off.


"Ken, wake up. Kenny, you need to wake up now!"

Hutch could hear someone calling him, but it sounded far away. "Mom?" Suddenly, he could feel a sharp pain in his back and neck, causing him to wake up. "Ohh, that hurts. What the heck did I do to my back?"

Edith Dobey was smiling at him. "Ken, you've been sleeping in the chair for ten hours. I think you should get up and move around before you ruin your back."

"I think it's too late. OWWW." He looked over to check on his partner. "Hey, where's Starsky?"

"They took him down for tests. They wanted to make sure he didn't permanently damage anything. He's been gone about an hour. You go take a walk, and I'll get you if he comes back."

Hutch looked over at the next bed and saw Vicky sleeping. "Edith, how is Vicky?"

"She's doing good. She woke up a few times, asking for Dave. Emma thought it was better not to tell her about Dave until she's stronger. Hutch, Harold needs you to call him about that man Martinis. He should be at the office by eight. I made him go home and get some sleep last night. He can be very grouchy when he's tired."

"Cap, in a bad mood? Never." Hutch chuckled.

Suddenly, he could hear Starsky's voice. He sounded exhausted. "Captain Dobey is one of the jolliest guys I know. Hey, Hutch, you okay? You had me worried last night."

Edith looked at Hutch, slightly confused. "Are you feeling okay, Ken? Do you want me to get you something to eat?"

"Hey, I could use some food, maybe a burrito supreme, or a peanut butter and bacon sandwich." Starsky was mumbling.

Hutch laughed. "Old iron gut must be feeling better."

"Seriously, Hutch, are you okay? Last night you sounded like..."

"Starsk, I was just really tired. You know I get cranky when I'm tired. I really didn't mean what I said. I have to get to the station and find out what's going on with the Martinis investigation."

"Well, I'll just hang out here for awhile and watch Vicky sleep. She looks so peaceful."

Hutch quickly looked around the room to make sure no one was watching. He walked to the other side of Starsky's bed took the railing down. He walked back, looked around again then pushed the bed over to Vicky. Starsky reached through the rail on Vicky's bed and took her hand.

"Thanks, pal. I think I'm going to take a nap with my favorite girl."

Edith laughed. "Harold's right; you two are crazy."


Hutch arrived at the precinct just after 8:00. Jones and Baker were in Dobey's office, discussing the coroner's report.

"Hutch, come in here, you'll want to hear this. Rogers is asking to have Starsky brought in for questioning. He requested the case be listed as a possible homicide. Until we can prove different, he's convinced the chief that Starsky is involved. Jones, what have you been able to find out so far?"

"The couple in the next room said that Martinis had a loud argument with someone just about an hour before we arrived. They never saw whoever it was, but they overheard part of it. Hutch, they heard the man tell Martinis he was going to pay for what he did to his girls."

"That's not the worst of it, Hutch," Baker added. "The desk clerk said the only man he saw leaving the hotel about that time was about 5'11, with dark curly hair. He never saw the man's face, but Rogers is convinced it was Starsky."

"Well, it wasn't, and I hope you know that. Captain, that slime Rogers has been trying to get Starsk and I off the force since we met. You can't let him railroad him."

"I'm aware of how much he hates you two. I'm also aware of why. No one is going to railroad any of my men. You three have to find out who was arguing with Martinis. Well, don't just stand there, get going."

Baker turned to Jones. "We need to find out who his dealer was. Maybe he fits the description, too. Hutch, you want to come along?"

"No! Sweet Alice told me Jonas had attacked two other girls. If she can help me find them, maybe they can give me a lead. Let me know if you turn up anything."

Hutch went to the Pits when he couldn't find Sweet Alice at the Lion's Den or her place. Huggy made a few calls and located her. "Hutch, you know Frankie Holcomb?"

"Johnny's brother. Yeah, we busted him for assault a while back. Johnny helped our witness fall off the face of the earth so little Frankie could walk."

"Well, Hutch, my man, Sweet Alice and her two friends work for Frankie. See, Johnny put him in charge of his stable so he could concentrate on the import business, if you get my drift. You're going to have to go through Johnnie to get to Frankie. I can get you in the door, but I can't guarantee we'll get back out in one piece."

"Huggy, you don't have to do this. It could get real hot real fast."

"Starsky is my bro', and a real man is always there for his bro'. Lets rock-n-roll, my brother."

"Huggy, you are too much."


Starsky was just waking up, and could feel someone gently squeezing his hand. He looked over and saw Vicky staring at him. "Dave, what did you do to yourself? You look like crap."

"If everybody keeps telling me that, I'm going to get a complex." In his Bogart voice he added, "You know, I'd do just about anything to get to sleep with you. I figured this way they couldn't throw me out, sweetheart."

"Dave, I need to ask you something, and I need you to be honest. The doctor keeps saying you and he will talk to me when I'm stronger. You know, don't you?"

He squeezed her hand and nodded yes.

"God, I was so happy I wanted to tell you the second I found out. I didn't know if you wanted that kind of change in your life. I didn't want you to feel trapped; I wanted you to be as happy as I was. My plan was to tell you after dinner, so Amanda and Hutch would be there to help celebrate or calm you down if you were mad about it."

Starsky squeezed her hand tightly, as his eyes filled with tears. "Don't you know how much I love you? I would have been the happiest man on earth."

"Dave, I lost the baby, didn't I?"

"I'm sorry...the baby...didn't make it. There was a lot of damage and he said the baby was gone before you got to the hospital. There was nothing they could do. God, I'm so sorry."

"Dave, is Amanda okay. They won't tell me about her, either."

"You need to get some rest. You're not supposed to get upset."

She knew Amanda was dead. "A stranger came into my life and took everything. Why? What kind of monster would do this?" She felt Dave squeezing her hand.

"Vicky, I'm still here, and we are going to get through this. I won't let what he did destroy you. I need you more then you will ever know, and I'm gonna be there for you because I love you. Don't let him win. Please, don't let him win."

"Dave, I love you. Don't leave me, too!" she said as she fell back to sleep.

"I'm not going anywhere for a long time, Vic. You get some rest."


Hutch and Huggy arrived at Johnny Holcomb's mansion and, after a brief chat at the gate, they were allowed in.

Johnny was a rather large man standing 6'3 and weighing about 230 pounds. He had jet-black hair and was dress in a suit designed for him by Ralph Lauren. He wore a large gold ring on each finger and three large gold chains around his neck. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, Detective Hutchinson. Huggy Bear, so glad you could come back so soon."

"What it is, Johnny?" Huggy said while taking a seat.

"Johnny, we need to talk about Frankie," Hutch replied.

"What has my over zealous little brother done now, Huggy?"

"Rumor has it he may have iced that weasel, Janos Martini, and my friend here needs to have a chat with him."

"If he iced Martini, which I know for a fact he didn't, I would think Detective Hutchinson would be glad after what happened to his partner's lady. I take it by his partner's lack of attendance, she is not doing very well."

Hutch was getting tired of being talked around. "Listen, Johnny, let's cut the crap. Your brother was seen leaving the hotel room after arguing with Janos. He told Janos he would pay for what he did to the two hookers he took free of charge. Word has it he did a real number on one of them."

"You have a witness?"

"No, I have two witnesses, both reliable, and both ready to talk."

Johnny bought the lie hook, line, and sinker. "Look, Hutchinson, he was there, and he did fight with Janos, but he didn't kill him. Janos paid him $500.00 for the damages to the ladies in question. He was with Liza; she'll tell you. Janos was shooting highballs like water. He told Frankie to hang around because he had more candy on the way."

"If I find out you're lying, Johnny, I'll put so much heat on you, you'll think you moved to the sun."

"Hutchinson, I'm on the level."

Huggy and Hutch headed for the door. Hutch waited until they were out the gate before saying anything. "Huggy, you think he was telling the truth?"

"I think so, Hutch. If he thought his brother did it, he'd have turned him over to avoid you and Starsky messing with his import business. Blood's blood, but with Johnny money talks."

"Great, so we're no better off then we were an hour ago."

"Hopefully, Jones and that white bread partner of his can find something we can use. What do you say we check up on Starsky and his lady?"

"Sounds like a plan, Huggy."


When they arrived at ICU the nurse told Hutch, "Starsky's been moved to room 218, but more likely you'll find him in room 222 visiting Vicky. Do you believe he was mad because they gave them separate rooms? Doctor Simmons had an orderly put him in a wheel chair so he could get around." Hutch and Huggy walked into Vicky's room.

"Hi, Vicky. I thought for sure Starsky would be here."

"He was, but he went back to his room a few minutes ago with a man named Rogers. I think he's on the force with you."

"I'll be right back. Huggy, wait here."

From the hallway he could hear Starsky say, "Get out of my face, Rogers."

And then heard Rogers yell back, "I'll pull both your medical records, and dig through her past until I find something. You could make it easy on her and just confess."

Hutch walked in the room just in time to see Starsky stand up and punch Rogers in the face. Rogers stumbled, but Starsky hit the floor.

Rogers said, "Try that again big shot..." as Hutch grabbed him by the shoulder and punched him on the other side of his face. Rogers was out cold.

Hutch went over to Starsky. "You okay, buddy? Can you get up?"

" minute... Hutch, I can't...breathe."

Hutch reached over and pressed the buzzer.

A voice came over the speaker. "Can I help you, Mr. Starsky?"

Hutch yelled, "I need help! Get in here; he can't breathe."

Two nurses ran into the room. When they saw Rogers lying on the floor they stopped. "What's going on in here? Who's that man?"

"He's a creep! He's fine! Help me with Starsky."

One nurse took Starsky's vitals, then both helped Hutch put him in the bed. The first nurse put an oxygen mask on Starsky and told the other to get Doctor Simmons and have an orderly bring a stretcher into the room. "Detective Starsky, are you experiencing any chest pain or discomfort?"

He shook his head no.

"Take deep breaths, Mr. Starsky. Do you know where you are?"

He nodded yes.

Dr. Simmons stepped over Rogers, pointed at Hutch and said, "Get Detective Hutchinson and his friend on the floor out of here."

The older nurse started giving Starsky's vitals to the doctor, while the younger nurse escorted Hutch to the door. Two orderlies took Rogers away on the stretcher, and the nurse shut the door.

Huggy approached Hutch. "What the hell is going on? Hutch, is Starsky all right?"

"Huggy, I don't know. Rogers was hassling Starsky, so he hit him, then collapsed. He was having trouble breathing, and they threw me out."

"Hutchinson!" They could hear Dobey yelling as he came in. "What the hell's going on? Rogers was getting on the elevator on a stretcher, saying he wants you up on charges for assault. What the hell did you do to him?"

"I thought you said Starsky hit Rogers. Why would the dude want to press charges on you?" Huggy questioned.

"I hit him after Starsky did, and if he comes back to bother Starsky, we'll hit him again."

Captain Dobey was fuming. "Are you telling me that you and Starsky took turns hitting the man? Where the hell is Starsky?"

Hutch leaned against the wall. "He collapsed. He was having trouble breathing. I'm not sure whether it was his heart. Doctor Simmons is in with him now."

Dobey calmed right down. "I'm sorry, Hutch, I didn't know. What the hell was Rogers doing in Starsky's room?"

"He was threatening him. For God sakes, Starsky just got out of ICU and that jerk was trying to trick him into confessing to a crime he didn't commit. Can't you keep him away from here? You must know..." Hutch saw two orderlies walk into Starsky's room with an empty stretcher. "Cap!" He stood up and headed for Starsky's room. Captain Dobey pulled him back "Hutch, don't panic. Let's talk to Simmons and find out exactly what's going on. If it is his heart, I'm going to call New York. Hutch, his mom has a right to know. You heard what the doctor said about the next time."

"You're right. If it is, I'll call his mom."

"You call my mom, I'll kill you, Hutch. You know how the woman worries."

Hutch grabbed Starsky's hand. "You alright, Starsky?"

"I'm going for a little ride to have some tests done." The orderlies continued down the hall with Starsky.

Hutch stopped Doctor Simmons. "How is he, Doctor? Was it his heart?"

"I don't believe so, but I need to run some tests to be sure. I'm going to make this as plain and as clear as I can. Your friend is very weak right now, and any added stress could cause a fatal heart attack. He needs to be in bed resting. I don't know who the man on the floor was, but keep him out of his room. I don't want him wandering the halls or playing cops and robbers. If I have to I will have him sedated for the next 48 hours. Is that clear enough for you, Detective Hutchinson?"

"I'll make sure he stays in bed and no one bothers him."

"Detective Hutchinson, get some sleep and eat something. I'm not looking for any new patients."

Captain Dobey stepped forward. "What did you find out from Sweet Alice?"

"Frankie Holcomb is the man who had the argument with Janos, but he claims he was very much alive when he left. He also claims Janos was doing a large amount of heroin and was waiting for a good size delivery."

"Maybe the dealer did him in?"

"I don't think so, Cap. Most dealers would not have left a case full of money behind. Something just doesn't add up. Who would kill him and leave over $3,000.00 behind?"

"Hutch, do you have anyone that will corroborate the story for I.A?"

"Nobody yet."

"Starsky needs an alibi, and we can't give it to him. Internal Affairs is having a field day, and there's not a damned thing I can do about it. You need to tell me where he was, so I can get I.A. off his back."

"Why is I.A. pushing so hard before the coroner's report is even in?"

"Rogers has been talking to everyone from the mayor on down. He has half the force thinking Starsky snapped and wasted Martinis. I never realized how much he hates you two. In Martinis' hotel room, he was out of control. He must have rushed right over after hearing about it."

"That's it, that's what doesn't fit. When we arrived at the hotel you said Jones hadn't called it in yet. How did Rogers know where Janos was?"

"Hutch, are you accusing Rogers of killing Martinis?"

"We don't even know if Martinis was murdered. He could have died from an overdose."

"Hutch, his skull was bashed in."

"That's the other thing. Usually, when people die of a head wound there's a lot of blood, but, Cap, there wasn't that much blood. What if Rogers found Janos first, and tried to frame Starsk?"

"I'll check with his partner and see what they were doing at the hotel. I don't think he'll cover for Rogers. I'll call Stan and see if the head wound was done before or after Martinis died. You may have just solved this one, Hutch. Why don't you wait with Vicky, while I go make some calls?"

Huggy looked at Hutch. "I've got to get back before the new bartender robs me blind. Call me when you hear how Starsky is."

"I owe you one, Huggy."

Hutch went into room 218. Vicky was alone and looked like she was trying to get out of the bed. "Hey, where you going?" Hutch called out as he put her legs back up on the bed. He put the head of the bed up so she could stay sitting.

"I was going to find out what happened with Dave."

"He's okay; they're just taking him down for some tests."

"Hutch, I'm scared."

"Vicky, he'll be fine, I promise."

"I know he'll be fine. I'm scared I love him too much to let go. I can't do it anymore."

Hutch sat on the side of the bed and took her hand. "I don't understand. If you love him as much as I think you do, why would you want to let him go?"

"Ken, Amanda's dead, and I lost my..." She couldn't finish.

Hutch hugged her. "I know. Starsk told me about the baby. I'm so sorry for both of you."

"I can't just sit around and wait for him to get himself killed. I've lost too much already. He's going to die because he is a cop. I knew that was a possibility going into this relationship, but I thought I could handle it. I don't want him to stop being a cop, because that's what makes him who he is. It's one of the things I love about him. God, I wish I didn't love him anymore. Then it wouldn't be so hard. I don't want to love a cop."

"Vicky, Starsky's being a cop had nothing to do with the attack. You and Amanda just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can't think his work caused it."

"I know that, but how long before I'm watching him or you get buried? You two take turns getting kidnapped, shot, stabbed, poisoned, and God only knows what else."

"Well, there was the time Starsky's driving almost did us in." Hutch smiled, trying to make her laugh. "After Terry died, Starsky promised himself he would never love anyone that much again. You have no idea how scared he was when he realized he was falling in love with you. He was worried he'd lose you because of the job, just like he lost Terry. He even tried to avoid seeing you by signing us up for extra duty. He'd spend the whole time talking about you and how much he missed you. When he found out about the baby, and then Amanda, he went to the cemetery to tell Terry how much he loves you and to ask her to watch over them."

Vicky started crying and lowered her head, hoping Hutch wouldn't notice.

He gently lifted her head and wiped her tears with his fingers. "Listen, Vicky, we do have a dangerous job, but we watch each other's back, and since he's been with you he hasn't taken that many chances with his life. Nobody lives forever, but if you live each day to the max, even a little time is worth having. I read that last part in the waiting room. Pretty good, huh?" He and Vicky stated laughing.

"No wonder Dave loves you so much," she said, scooting over in the bed. "Will you wait here until Dave comes back?"

Hutch climbed onto the bed, took her hand and said, "I hope you realize how much he loves you, Vicky. Hell, I think he loves you more then his striped tomato."

"Ken, you know that because it's a copy. He told me you and some guy named Nash got the original blown up. You know he kept the steering wheel. He has it in a box under his bed. Just how many times have you guys totaled the Tomato?"

"Well, its windows have been shot out at least twenty times, it's been set on fire, driven through a building, had a bomb put under it that we luckily found before starting the ignition, and Starsk calls my car a death trap!"

Hutch told Vicky story after story until she fell asleep with her head on his shoulder, holding his hand. Hutch closed his eyes to rest for a second. He woke up to find Edith and Emma standing with Starsky, who was sitting in a wheel chair smiling at him.

"Hey, Hutch, I know I let you drive my car, but get out of my girlfriend's bed."

Edith was laughing and added, "Don't they make a cute couple? Dave, you better start taking better care of yourself, or Ken may just move in on you."

Hutch blushed and hopped out of bed. "What did Simmons say about your tests?" Hutch said, while stretching.

"I'm fine, if I stay quiet, he'll let me out in a day or two." He carefully climbed into the bed with Vicky. "How you doing, sweetheart?"

"I have to stay in for another week or two. Something to do with the stitches inside and they want me to talk to a counselor who works with victims of brutal crimes. Hey, Hutch, you'd like her. She's a tall blonde named Christine Cote."

"I know Christine. We've, um, worked together before."

Starsky burst into laughter. "You call that working? I wish I got paid for doing that."

Captain Dobey walked in the room bellowing, "Starsky, get out of that bed. The nurse is complaining she walked in and saw you two sleeping together. This is a hospital, not a motel."

Edith, still giggling, took the captain's hand. "Don't yell at Dave; it was Ken who was sleeping with Vicky."

"Well, Hutchinson, if you're done fooling around here, you could go pull Rogers in for questioning. Your theory seems to be working out. Coroner's office says Martinis was struck after he was dead. Heroin overdose blow his heart out. Rogers' partner said they got a lead Martinis was there but he stayed in the car the first time Rogers went up. Rogers came back to the car, he threw his holster and gun in the trunk of the car. They saw Jones and Baker showed up and Rogers left. Rogers drove around for about ten minutes and then went back, this time taking Laprade inside. Martinis wasn't shot, so Laprade never mentioned it. Hutchinson, I want to be there when you put the cuffs on."

"Wouldn't have it any other way, Cap." Hutch headed for the door.

Starsky called out, "Hey, what are you talking about? What did Rogers do?"

"Cap will tell you."

Captain Dobey made Starsky get out of the bed before he would tell him anything. He filled Starsky in and left for the station.


Hutch called Jones and Baker for back up. He felt they deserved to be in on the bust and he knew Jones would enjoy it almost as much as he would.

Rogers wasn't hard to find. He was at the precinct trying to press charges on Hutch. Jones took his gun and had him put in an interrogation room. An hour later he was moved to a different room. Hutch, Jones, and Baker were all waiting when he was escorted into the room. The room was smaller and contained a table and four chairs.

He looked at the three men and said, "What the hell do you think you're doing? I'll have all your badges by morning; yours and that loser, Starsky, too!"

Hutch moved toward him, but Jones grabbed his arm. "Sorry, Hutchinson, but if anyone hits him now, it could cost us the case."

Rogers made a move for the door, but Baker blocked him. "You're not leaving so soon, are you? We wanted to have a friendly little chat."

"I've got nothing to say to any of you," he said as he sat down.

Hutch put both hands down on the table. "Good, because I have plenty to say and you'll want to hear this. I know you tried to frame my partner for murder. I know how you framed him. You found Janos in the hotel room dead, and instead of reporting it, you bushed his skull in. The crime lab found bloodstains on your gun butt and holster that just happens to match Janos. Good thing you don't take care of your gun the way my partner does. Laprade's already given a statement of how you went in the hotel alone and then went back ten minutes later with him."

Jones stepped forward. "What I can't figure out is why you didn't take the money."

Rogers sat up in the chair. "I'm a cop; it would have been wrong to steal that money."

Baker, Jones, and Hutch looked at each other, confused, and Hutch asked, "You think it's wrong to steal, but okay to frame an innocent man for murder? What the hell planet are you from?"

"Starsky is a vigilante who doesn't follow regulations. He dresses like a slob, he rides around in that flashy car like he owns the road. He makes us look bad and someone had to stop him. If you don't have order you have nothing. I was doing my job; besides, I didn't kill Martinis, he was already dead. You can't be charged with assaulting a dead body, so you got nothing." Rogers started to laugh.

The door opened and Captain Dobey walked in, followed by a well-dressed middle-aged man. "I assume you know the police commissioner, Officer Rogers. You are under arrest for tampering with evidence, filing a false police report, and in the State of California desecrating a corpse is illegal. Those are just for starters."

The police commissioner held out his hand. "I want your badge. You no longer have a job, and I hear prisoners love ex-cops. Internal Affairs was set up to go after bad cops and make sure the laws were followed. If anyone made us look bad or was acting like a vigilante, it was you. Somebody read this man his rights. I don't want him getting off on a technicality."

Baker handed Captain Dobey a pair of handcuffs.

Dobey smiled and handed them to Hutch. "Hutchinson, I think you deserve the honors." Dobey watched as Hutch cuffed Rogers and then read him his rights.

Baker and Jones took Rogers out of the room.

Hutch turned to Dobey. "You think he'll actually do time, Captain?"

"I doubt it. He'll claim temporary insanity and get a few months in the hospital. He may even get his pension on grounds of mental stress if his lawyer's good enough. He'll never work on the force again. You and Starsky may have to watch your backs when he gets out. The fact is, the system's not perfect; the bad guys have rights. Maybe some day the victims will have rights, too."


The following two weeks crawled by for everyone. Starsky had been released from the hospital, but put on light duty for two weeks. He hated paperwork almost as much as he hated not working with Hutch. Jones was on vacation so the Captain paired Hutch with Baker. Hutch liked Tim but he was no Starsky.

The only advantage Starsky could find in light duty was working 9 to 5 left him with plenty of time to visit Vicky in the hospital. He had no trouble that Friday getting time out to bring Vicky home from the hospital.

She was surprised when they stopped at Starsky's place. "Starsky, I thought I was staying with my mom until I was well enough to go to my apartment."

"I have the weekend off, so she said you should stay here until Monday morning."

"My mother is letting me sleep at your house for the weekend? What kind of medication did you slip her?" she said, as she sat on the couch.

Starsky knelt down on the floor beside her. "I just showed her this." He opened a ring box and showed her a beautiful diamond ring. "I love you more then I thought I could ever love anyone. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Vicky, will you marry me."

"Yes," she said, giving him her hand.

He placed the ring on her finger and kissed her. "I promise you we will grow old gracefully together."

"I promise you, too."

They kept their promise.