This story is for entertainment only and its purpose is not to infringe on any rights to Starsky and Hutch (God knows, I wish I had the rights to them!)
Comments on this story (good or bad) can be sent to Anne at Lrs4147@AOL.com
Scared to death, lonely and running from my life,
God, I can't accept these lightning bolts that strike
That seem to intertwine through the pattern of my days,
And now I'm brought still nearer to the price that each man pays.
Little time is left to contemplate my sin
And my life is like a river, never flowing back again.
My friend's armor's bright and shining
And he rides the whitest horse,
He fights for truth and justice,
Never wavering from his course.
His loyalty is steadfast, his courage ever true,
His love is pure, his faith is solid,
He stands among the few.
I know that I'm a coward,
But I just can't watch him mourn,
I'm breaking all my promises
'Cause I'm leaving him alone.
It's cruel, the road I've chosen and harmful at its end,
But all I ask, if I've the right, is COMFORT for my friend...David M. Starsky
Riding to work with Dave Starsky was an adventure at any time. Riding with him the last two days was death-defying and Ken Hutchinson was going to put his foot down today. "What the heck's wrong with you, Starsk, you can hardly stay awake, you just nodded off and we almost crossed over into the other lane! Scoot over! I'm driving, you're sleeping! What're you doing at night anyway?" He looked at his partner and smirked. "Your nightlife getting the best of you, or what?"
Starsky got out of the car and slammed the door. "I was doing fine, but go for it if you don't like the way I handle things! And at least I have a nightlife!"
"Geez, Starsky, don't get riled. I'm just concerned about you and I don't want to get killed in this aberration on four wheels, or two, depending on who's driving it."
"Maybe what you always call concern feels more like having the life choked out of me, did you ever think of that?" Starsky growled.
That hurt, Starsk! Hutch thought to himself, but wasn't about to let the man know he'd sunk a crater in his partner's chest. "Sorry, pal, why don't you get some sleep while you have a chance?"
Now what? he thought. It had been his opinion that the two of them had gone through just about every harrowing and traumatic experience two people could share and were certainly due some quiet waters, but something was stirring them up again.
Starsky had been tense for a few weeks, gradually progressing to the point where no one said hello to him when he came in to the station, simply because they didn't want to get their heads bit off. Hutch hadn't been able to get through to him at all, which was a first. Starsky was a complex creature, in the many years they'd been together, Hutch still was baffled by him at times. His partner refused to ask for help, often making those closest to him suffer watching him agonize, rather than letting them in. The man was empathic and sharing to the extreme when it came to others, but closed off and brooding when he had problems. Hutch decided he was going to have to do some personal detective work if things didn't change soon.
The day went as slowly as the last few, Starsky lost in his own thoughts and Hutch worrying about his friend, but unable to help, locked out just as solidly as if there were a thick wood door between them. As he had the last few nights, he invited his partner to go get something to eat with him and, as the last few nights, was turned down.
As he got out of the car, though, he sensed a softening, a regret, even an apology in Starsky's words. "Guess my attitude's 'gone south', lately. Thing's'll be better soon, Blondie." And with his usual screeching of tires to annoy the neighbors, he left.
Hutch went slowly up the steps, his thoughts jumbled. In the ten years they'd been partners, there'd been many problems. The consensus of opinion at the station was that they either had the worst of luck or the best of luck. They'd been involved in car accidents, poisonings, severe illnesses. They were good at what they did and had made many dangerous enemies, who retaliated. Starsky, in particular, seemed to draw the bullets like a magnet, but Hutch had gotten his share, too. The woman Starsky wanted to marry had been shot by one of these enemies and he'd been a long time getting over that. They'd reached the point once where they'd decided there was no justice and given up their jobs for awhile, but came back because they realized they could make a difference, even if not to the degree they wanted.
Through all this history they had behind them, though, Hutch didn't remember a time when Starsky had been like this. It was as if he was dead and just waiting for himself to fall over. The only time he'd seen him anything like this was a couple years back when his partner had given up and, without thought, put a gun to his head. He's even survived that, but that was what worried Hutch now. It'd almost been like his friend was saying good-bye tonight, and he wasn't prepared to lose the one who meant the most to him. He decided the only way to stave off the growing panic he was feeling was to sit outside Starsky's apartment all night and make sure he was okay. Once that decision was made, he started gathering things from his place that he might need: a change of clothes, something to munch on, a pillow and blanket and a thermos of coffee to keep him awake. It dawned on him that this stakeout was going to be just a little unusual and he wouldn't have anyone to trade off with, but a cop's life was, if nothing, unusual..
After he got his things together, he drove his car back and found a place around the corner from Starsky's apartment where he could see the car. It was hard to miss and he knew if his friend were to come out and start it, it would wake him up even if he did drop off. He tried to get comfortable, but the back seat was being used as a storage area, full of trash and things he had no room for at home. His partner was always on him about that, comparing it to the pristine condition he kept his Torino in. Hutch didn't feel the same way about the LTD that Starsky did about his car, though. That was his baby. He spent almost as much time washing and waxing and tuning it up as he spent dating. To Hutch, a car was just transportation, he'd ridden in the finest since he could remember and it meant nothing to him now. Finally, he got his lanky frame curled up in a semi-comfortable position and nodded off in spite of his resolve to stay alert.
He woke up early and was happy to see that the Torino was still there. He was supposed to pick Starsky up, so thought he'd just plead a date where he stayed over and shower and change there, hoping he could entice his partner to have breakfast with him. He hurried up the steps and grabbed for the key Starsky always left on top of the doorframe. It wasn't there. He had a spare key, so he fished it out and went in.
The apartment was neat and clean as always, but had a "nobody's living here now" feeling. Hutch couldn't have said what made him think that, but maybe it was just a little too neat and too clean and the plants were all sitting on the counter and the windows were all shut and tightly locked. There was a note, of course, and Hutch knew it would be addressed to him, but he didn't want to read it. He looked through the rest of the apartment and saw that a satchel was missing and a fair amount of clothing, Starsky's leather jacket and some of his personal things that he kept in a box on his dresser. The pictures, one of the two of them and the one of Terry, were missing from his nightstand. The frames were still there. The most chilling thing, to Hutch, was to find Starsky's badge and gun, along with the holster, on the back of the closet door.
He flopped down on the bed, overwhelmed with pain. This was what he'd spent almost half his life in fear of. He couldn't make it without his best friend and it cut like a knife that Starsky evidently hadn't felt the same way. Why would he have left? Or had he? His car was still there. Maybe it wasn't as bad as he thought. He needed to read the letter.
It was addressed in typical Starsky scrawl to "Blondie." Hutch slid it open and found two pages of large writing.
"Hutch," it started out, "I'm sorry, first of all, I know you gotta be devastated. I said I'd never leave, but this is something I just never planned on. I didn't leave because I wanted to, I felt I had to, for me AND for you. You mean more to me than anything and if I stay I'm going to hurt you. I know, by leaving, I'm hurting you, too, but I think it'll be easier this way. Remember when we met at the academy, we were so different, but we looked into each other's eyes and saw the other half of our soul in there. We didn't really understand it at the time, but that's the way it was. I feel like a thief to rob you of half your soul. You don't deserve it, but there's been so many things neither of us have deserved. It's just what life hands out, buddy. But, with everything we've gone through, God's always brought us back together. I know there's been miracles done out there just for us. It could happen this time, too. Remember that time we played that stupid game of hide-and-seek and you almost died of botulism because of our arrogance?
"Don't get any ideas about coming after me, because you won't find me! I made this decision and it was mine to make. Just believe that I didn't want to go! I've made arrangements for Merle to pick up the car and keep it. If I don't come back, say, in six months, do what you want with it. The landlady's going to take the plants. The rent's paid up for six months, too. Tell Captain Dobey and Huggy and everybody at the station I'll be thinking about them. You know how I feel about 'soapy scenes,' but when you look up and see the stars, think about me seeing the same stars and I'll be thinking about you. I love you, babe. David Michael Starsky"
Hutch felt like someone had plunged a knife straight into his heart. He couldn't breathe, couldn't think, thought about Starsky's gun in there and wanted to do the cruelest thing he could think of, shoot himself with the man's own gun and then when Starsky came home, he'd feel like a worm. He was angry, he couldn't think of anything the bastard could be going through that Hutch couldn't have helped him with. Starsky had sworn over and over again that he'd never leave and it had taken Hutch many years to conquer his insecurities enough to believe him. Now he'd gone and done the unthinkable and there wasn't any way for Hutch to even punish him for it!
He went into the bathroom and stared at his reflection, tears shining in his eyes. He rinsed his face and dried it with one of Starsky's towels, bringing on the tears he was trying to hold back, as he smelled the familiar after-shave. Eventually, he got himself under control and decided the next course of action was to talk to Captain Dobey, since he still was having trouble thinking clearly.
Captain Dobey was appropriately stunned at the news and asked him all kinds of questions that made it clear why he was the Captain and Hutch still a Sergeant. If he'd been thinking like Dobey, he might have seen this coming sooner, but then, it's harder to see, the closer you are to someone. Hutch had always been thankful for his relationship with his partner, much more so with every near miss that they had, but maybe he hadn't shown him enough. Sure, here comes the guilt, Hutch thought.
"Do you think there's any chance that this might have been an abduction, Hutch?" Dobey asked. "Stranger things have happened."
"No, everything was just like Starsky would have left it A place for everything and everything in its place. He's said that to me a million times. Cap'n, I feel like I have to go after him. I can find him, I know I can! I don't know what I'll do to him when I find him, but I've got to try." Hutch begged.
"You may know each other like two parts of one body, Hutch, but you don't even know where to start, or why he's running or if he took a bus or rented a car, or whatever. I'll tell you what I'll do, if you can find out enough to give you a start, I'll let you have the time off to chase the maniac down. I have a few well-chosen words to say to him, too!" Dobey growled.
"We find people that don't want to be found, Cap'n, that's why we're called detectives. I know Starsky like nobody else. I CAN and I WILL find him and he'd better have a really good excuse for stabbing us all in the back like this," Hutch said in a dangerous tone.
Starsky was having a miserable day of his own. He'd taken money out of his savings to buy a used motorcycle and was having trouble keeping it running. He figured he'd have to stop for the day and get some parts to fix it. He'd wanted to put more distance between him and LA, in case Hutch did figure it out and come after him. He couldn't count his friend out, he knew how good he was at his job and he was aware of how well he knew his partner. Even if he did find out how Starsky got out of town, though, how would Hutch ever guess which way he'd gone?
He decided he might as well get a motel room and stay over, fix the cycle and get an early start tomorrow. He wondered how Hutch was feeling. He knew he'd be angry, hurt and scared, but in what order, he wasn't sure. He hoped if Hutch tracked him down, he'd be over the angry phase. He knew what he was doing was stupid, and didn't want to have to face one of his partner's tongue lashings. No, not his partner anymore, not even his friend. He'd left him behind and their relationship was severed now.
The first place Hutch went was Huggy's. He knew if anyone was aware of where Starsky had gone it would be their friend. Huggy was just as shocked as he'd been, claiming no knowledge of any of the dark-haired detective's plans. In fact, he said he hadn't seen him in at least two weeks.
"I'd have let ya know, man, he knows that, so he wouldn't be about to tell me if he was takin' off. You two belong together, Hutch, everybody with any sense knows that. I just wish you both wouldn't be so pig-headed when it comes to sharing the big problems with each other. You know I'll get the word out on the streets and find out anything I can. Maybe I can at least get a line on what he's drivin'. I can't believe he left the 'vegetable' behind."
"That would have made him too easy to find. That's what scares me, Huggy, he really wants to hide, I can't imagine from what."
He went back to Starsky's apartment to sit and think. He was a detective and he knew his partner so well it was uncanny at times. There had to be some clues there. The fridge had been meticulously cleaned out, the bathroom and bedroom spotlessly clean and the sheets changed on the bed, everything was neat and in its place. He sat down in the chair and looked over at the table under the phone. The phonebook was there, where it usually sat, but there was something in it. He opened the book to find a notepad stuck between two yellow pages. That excited him for a few minutes, until he scanned the pages and found nothing related to his search. He was about to put everything away when he saw that the top sheet had been written on and he used the old pencil lead trick to get a clear impression of what was on the paper. Big John's Motorcycle Sales-used and new cycles.
Got ya, Starsk, that's it, he said to himself. "That's the way you'd go."
His partner had always wanted to take a motorcycle trip and Hutch had been resistant, liking his comfort when he was driving. He looked around the apartment some more and saw that his friend hadn't taken any of his heavier clothes with him and it was late in the fall.
Clue number two, he thought. He ran out to his battered LTD and headed to Big John's, taking a recent picture of Starsky with him.
It took Starsky all afternoon to get the motorcycle running the way he wanted and he was tired and sore and wondering whatever made him think he wanted to ride any distance on one of the damn things. He wished he had his Torino right about now. He ate a lonely dinner in a nice, but uninspiring restaurant and went to his motel for the night.
Hutch found Big John's and had the man cornered, trying to get information out of him. It seems Starsky had paid him not to tell anyone that he'd bought a cycle and the man was trying to keep his side of the bargain. Hutch, however, pulled his badge and, after threatening the man with checking his record and closing his place down over some clear health and fire violations, Big John supplied him with everything he needed to know, including the color of the vehicle, which, of course, was red with white trim.
As he left, Big John's parting shot made him chuckle, "He ain't gonna get far with that cycle, man, it needed a lot of work."
The next order of business would be the toughest, trying to figure out where his friend would go. A lot of roads led out of LA, and Hutch had to choose the right one. This is where knowing Starsky so well would come in handy. He knew the detective wouldn't go north this time of year. He hated the cold and he hadn't taken any of his heavy clothes. He evidently wasn't going east, especially New York, for the same reason. Starsky had expressed his boredom with the Midwest and the Central states, didn't like the humidity in the Southeast. Hutch had traveled with his partner extensively, on several vacation excursions and also on extradition trips. There was a certain area of the Southwest that he knew drew Starsky's interest. He was fascinated with the Indians and their art. That would be his best bet. Cop instinct and Starsky radar both agreed, that's where he would head.
The phone rang as Hutch was getting packed. "Starsk?," he answered.
"Hutch, it's Captain Dobey. Could you come over to the station right away? I think we have a lead on why your partner did his 'disappearing act.'"
"Sure, Cap'n, I'll be there in a few minutes," Hutch said eagerly.
When he got to the station, the doctor who did their yearly physicals was waiting with Dobey. Hutch sensed the tension and knew that Dobey was unhappy with the man.
"What's up, Cap?"
The captain looked at the doctor with exasperation. "A few weeks ago, when you two had your physicals, Dr. Mercer here found a sizable tumor on your partner's liver. He wanted to do a biopsy, but Starsky kept dragging his feet. Dr. Mercer thought he'd push a little and he told him he was pretty sure it was malignant..."
Dr. Mercer evidently felt uncomfortable being talked about as if he wasn't in the room, and he interrupted, "I've never known a tumor of this type to be benign, so I was just being honest with the man."
"Anyway," Dobey continued, "he finally got Starsky to have a biopsy, but he didn't wait around for the prognosis. I guess he thought the information was going to show up in his records and we'd find out. The tumor turned out to be benign and now we have no Starsky. Evidently he didn't want to hang around and be a burden to his friends again."
Hutch was stunned. "Do you realize what you've done?" he asked the doctor. "I thought doctors were supposed to be sure before making a diagnosis! I can't believe this! Starsky's already gun-shy from all the things that have hit him lately, he's got it all figured out that he has some kind of monopoly on Murphy's law, and then you lay this trip on him?"
"I'm sorry, it was an honest mistake. I didn't know his history and I thought I was right. Doctors are not gods, gentlemen, all I can do is apologize." Dr. Mercer got up.
"Hey, don't play at being one next time, then, okay?" Hutch muttered darkly, as the man left the room.
"Well, I guess that explains it, Hutch. Now we can't even get in touch with him to tell him the news."
"No, that doesn't explain it, Cap. It doesn't explain why he feels he can't share with anybody, not even me, his best friend. It's like a damn elephant going off by itself to die. Where does he get off doin' this stuff? If it was me, I'd want to be around the people who care the most about me, wouldn't you?"
"I don't know, Hutch, that's just the way he is. Look at it his way. You took care of him through the whole Gunther mess, helping with some of the expenses out of your own pocket, taking time off, doing everything a person can do for another, then turned around and did it all over again when he shot himself. He's never gotten over the guilt of that one entirely. Starsky feels he was being selfish and you had to pay the consequences. In his mind, you've taken care of him enough times and he also doesn't want to cause us the pain of watching him die slowly. God knows, I hope you can find him and bring him back, but it's a big country!"
"Cap, when we played that miserable game of hide-and-seek, Starsky said he knew who I knew, what I knew and how I knew it. I know just as much about him, and I have a pretty good idea where he would have gone. I at least have to try. I know what he's using for transportation now, too. Have I got enough to go on?"
"Hutchinson, you go drag his sorry butt back here and don't make it easy on him, either. He's taking my best manpower away from me when I need 'm the most. I don't take that lightly," Dobey growled..
Starsky tossed and turned all night and felt worse when he got up in the morning. His aging back hurt from the jolting of the motorcycle and he wasn't looking forward to getting back on it today. He hoped he could make much better time, though. The more miles he put between him and his past, the better. He considered getting off the main highway just in case someone came looking for him, but knew he always managed to find himself lost when he got out into the countryside, lost or in trouble. Hutch had been far better as a navigator than he was. He didn't stop for breakfast, but tossed down some strong coffee and set out for his destination like the devil himself was after him.
Hutch left directly from Dobey's office, planning to get as many miles in that afternoon as he could, knowing Starsky probably had to stop early to work on the motorcycle. He couldn't remember ever being so angry with his partner. Sure, they'd had their quarrels, but they weren't important and they didn't last more than a day. Usually they were half-hearted at best and just a matter of hurt pride or injured feelings. Hutch had the idea this rage he felt was here to stay for awhile, at least until he could find the idiot and make him see what a complete moron he was.
He figured his partner would stick to the main roads, the man had a memory like a steel trap for familiar places, but got lost easily out of his element. He headed out the way he and Starsky had gone on their last vacation trip and went about 200 miles, pausing at every motorcycle repair and part shops that he saw on the way. He finally had to stop when he found himself getting sleepy, visited a convenience store and bought something to keep himself from starving, then curled up in the front seat of the car, cursing Starsky for his being out here.
When he woke up very early in the morning, his back was hurting so badly that he thought he'd never get himself liberated from around the steering wheel, but his anger at his friend spurred him on and he got himself going again. He stopped around eight o'clock at a motorcycle shop in a small town and showed Starsky's picture and was told that the man had indeed been in yesterday, worked on his motorcycle across the street in the park, asked directions to a motel and eaten at the diner next door. Hutch asked where the motel was and got over there as quickly as he could.
Once he found the room number, he thought of just beating the door down, but, he was out of his jurisdiction, and, technically, his partner was no criminal, just a jerk, so he pounded on it instead. "Starsky, you creep, I know you're in there! OPEN THIS DOOR SO I CAN KICK YOUR BUTT!"
One of the cleaning people stuck her head around the corner and yelled, "he's gone, Mister, left a couple hours ago! You're waking people up, man, tone it down!".
If ever Starsky regretted anything in his life, it was this impulsive, mad dash for the border. He'd panicked and now left himself without any support or (perish the thought) help. He knew he was loved, knew his partner cared for him well beyond what he deserved, but he'd needed way too much care in the last couple years. Hutch had wiped his butt and cleaned up his vomit, he felt he'd used up his quota and the thought of his partner yet again taking care of his needs was repellent to him. Put like that, it sounded silly, but he'd set out on this fool's journey and there was no turning back.
He topped a hill and saw his Shangri La looming in the distance. He was tired from the day before, so the first nice motel he found became his new home. He took time to unpack and put his things away in his room. He decided to walk around for awhile to get the stiffness out of his legs and back, and realized he needed to find a branch of his bank and cash some traveler's checks. He picked the nearest one from the phone book, jotted down the address and set out walking. When he got there, he entered and stood in line. The teller was a pretty brunette with jade green eyes and it was no accident that it was her line he chose, even though it was the longest one.
There was only an elderly woman in front of Starsky when the doors to the bank flew open and three men in dark clothing and ski masks burst in, holding guns and overpowering those people closest to the doors, pushing them back toward the others who were waiting in line.
Starsky's eyes met those of the brunette and he could see that she was wondering whether she should try to hit the silent alarm button. He took a quick look at the three men and saw that they were watching the tellers closely, so he shook his head very slightly. She seemed to get the message, put her hands in sight on the counter and waited to see what the next move would be.
Starsky gave her an encouraging smile and started to put his hands in the air like the men were demanding, but the lady in front of him was having trouble staying on her feet, so he tried to hold her up, which angered one of the men and centered the attention on him immediately.
"HANDS IN THE AIR, I SAID," the man growled at him.
"Sorry, I'm trying to help this lady. I think she's about to faint," Starsky tried to reason with the gunman.
All of a sudden, the man shot her point-blank in the forehead, spraying the detective with blood and tissue. "NOW YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT HER AND YOU CAN RAISE THOSE HANDS," he yelled.
Starsky did exactly what he was told.
"OKAY, EVERYBODY BUT THE TELLERS ON THE FLOOR!" was the next command.
Everyone fell flat, each competing to make the smallest target of themselves. Starsky risked a look at the teller in his line (her tag said her name was Melanie) and she looked pale and scared to death. He couldn't think of anything to do for her. He'd already instinctively made a move for his gun when the men first entered the bank and he knew it wasn't there. Without it, things looked pretty bleak.
Hutch had reached the town he felt was Starsky's choice and was considering just how to go about finding his friend. He found a motel and grabbed some food to take back and eat. He turned on the TV and was treated to a story about a local bank robbery with hostages. He shook his head , thinking LA didn't have a monopoly on crime after all. He finished eating and opening the phone book, started making a list of all the motels in the area.
One of the tellers had evidently pressed the silent alarm button, because the hostages heard sirens coming long before the hold-up men were ready to finish up their job. Most of the people around him seemed to feel relieved, but Starsky knew just how messed up this whole thing could get now that the police were on the scene.
The tellers finished loading the money into the bags the men had provided and were told to join the others on the floor. Melanie slipped in beside Starsky and he grabbed her hand to comfort her. She looked like she was going to pass out and he didn't want her to end up like the last lady he'd tried to help. He decided to take matters into his own hands and raised one hand in the air, asking to be heard.
One of the men noticed him and demanded what he wanted.
"Do you have any plans on how to make it out of here?" he asked.
"Who wants to know?" asked the man who'd already killed one hostage.
"My name's Starsky. I used to be a cop out of LA. Maybe I can help you negotiate a deal. If you'd let some of these people go, it'd be a sign of good will to the police and they might consider your demands in a better light." He held his breath, expecting to get slapped down momentarily.
"He's right, Charlie, we're surrounded, it's going to take some doing to get out of this one now," one of the other gunmen said.
"You idiot, no names, has your brain turned to mush? This is a cop, what makes you think he'll really help us?"
"I want to get some of these people to safety, that's all," Starsky explained. "And I'm not a cop anymore. I came down here because I'm dying. I don't have that much on the line, if I can help some people stay alive, it'll be worth a lot to me."
At that moment, the phone rang. Starsky pointed out that it probably was someone wanting to establish communications with them. After a little discussion between the three men, Charlie pointed the gun at Starsky and motioned for him to get up and answer the phone.
"Who's this?" he asked.
"This is Detective Sgt. Bill Murphy, who am I speaking to?"
"My name's Starsky, David Starsky. I'm one of the hostages," he replied.
"What's the situation in there, Mr. Starsky? How many gunmen are we dealing with?"
Starsky looked at Charlie. "They want to know how many of you there are. Do you want me to tell them?"
"I'll talk to them myself, you just stand by. Cover him," he motioned to one of the other men.
"Cop, this is one of the bad guys. We want a way out of here and there's going to be about twenty people who won't ever be going home again if we don't get it. Call me back in an hour and I'll give you a list of my demands." Charlie hung up the phone.
Hutch had been scouring the city without any results and it was getting dark. He was beginning to think he'd made a mistake in guessing the area Starsky was in, but something told him he was close and not to doubt himself. He went back to his motel and flopped on the bed to think. No one he'd shown his partner's picture to had recognized him. He'd tried motels, restaurants, bars, motorcycle shops, where else would Starsky have gone?
He turned the TV on and learned that the hostage situation at the bank was still going strong. A bank! He'd probably had to spend his available cash on the motorcycle repairs and needed money.
He looked in the phone book for the addresses of the branches of Starsky's bank and found there were three in town. He'd already covered all the motels and restaurants in two of those areas and the other one; he looked back at the screen; the hairs on the back of his neck prickling, the other one, he was seeing on TV, right now, surrounded by police. He got the address out of the phonebook and headed for the bank on the run, just to rule out that what he was feeling in his gut was only the bad food he'd had for lunch.
An hour later, the gunmen had compiled what they thought was a passable list of demands for their release and they were waiting for the police to call them back. Now that Starsky had established somewhat of a relationship with them, they were tolerant enough to let him sit in on what they were doing, and he made a few suggestions, trying to ingratiate himself to them. They were getting nervous and he knew that wasn't a good sign. Some of the hostages were restless and he tried to talk to them as much as he was allowed, encouraging them and letting them know that he was trying to get them released. There appeared to be nothing else he could do. He considered trying to overpower the leader, Charlie, because the other two seemed to be distracted, but had to wait for the right time.
Hutch still had his shield, so it wasn't difficult for him to get close to the bank. His "radar" was going crazy and he knew Starsky was close. How he knew, he didn't even want to speculate, but there had been a few times in their partnership when he and his friend had seemed to literally share one mind. Starsky talked a lot about ESP and sometimes Hutch just had to buy the "blue-seven-mystic" routine.
He forced his way up to the front lines and demanded to talk to whoever was in charge. He was referred to a Detective Sgt. Bill Murphy, who didn't look happy to be pulled away from his work. Hutch showed him his shield, but the man was unimpressed.
"So, what's a hot shot cop from LA doing in our neck of the woods and what's it got to do with this case, anyway?" he asked.
"I'm down here looking for my partner and I think he might be in that bank!"
"What makes you think that?" the detective questioned.
Hutch told the man the truth, that he and his partner had a fair amount of "mind-melding" going on most of the time and that it was simply a strong feeling he had.
"Well, it sounds pretty bizarre, but you are from LA. You can hang around if you want to. We can use all the experience we can get with this one, we're just a small town and this doesn't happen around here. As far as your friend's concerned, he's probably sitting over at Tom's Tavern enjoying a beer. At least I hope he is."
Hutch pressed the man. "Do you know the names of any of the hostages yet?"
The detective answered him. "We've made contact with one person who says he's a hostage, but who knows?" He looked at the notebook he was carrying around with him. "Let's see, his name's Starsky, David Starsky. Whoa, you all right?" he asked as Hutch's legs threatened to buckle. "Don't tell me that's your friend."
"I wish I didn't have to, Sgt., but he always seems to be right in the thick of things everywhere he goes."
"You mean we've got a cop in there? That could be a good thing. If he can manage to draw his gun on them, we might get out of this with no hostages killed."
"He left his gun and shield behind when he came down here. My partner'll do anything he can do to defuse this situation, but his resources are limited to say the least. There's another problem. He thinks he's going to die soon, so he'll resort to heroic measures, thinking he has nothing to lose. That's not true, but I can't tell him that because he may have already given them that information to get them to trust him."
Hutch sat down on the concrete steps of the bank and sighed heavily. "How're we going to get you out of this one, Starsk?"
Starsky had convinced the gunmen to send out at least ten of the hostages. He'd bargained for more, but they wanted to keep all the clout they could.
When the phone rang, Charlie picked it up and snarled, "You're late! You trying to get these people killed or do you want to work this out? We've already got one dead hostage and we're planning on killing one every fifteen minutes unless our demands are met. We want a pilot and a helicopter big enough for twenty people here as soon as possible and we want an escort to the border, where we'll release the last of the hostages. Have two men come in, no guns, no tricks, we'll be checking. We're releasing ten people, so get 'em out of here! Any funny business and a lot of good people die right now!"
Detective Murphy agreed to that and the connection was broken. Hutch was standing close enough to hear and his heart plunged when he heard that one of the hostages was dead. He begged Bill to let him be one of the two men who went in. Maybe he could catch sight of Starsky and at least assure him that he was there.
The Sgt. had no objection and sent one of his officers with him. Hutch was thankful to see that the dead hostage was an elderly woman. His relief made him feel crummy, but at least it wasn't Starsky. They sent mostly women and children out, although there were a couple of women left. Some of the hostages broke and begged to be let go, concerning Hutch for a few minutes until they could back out of there.
He finally located his partner, but it did no good. He was lying very still next to a young woman. She had his head in her lap and was holding a piece of cloth to the back of his skull. The rag was blood-soaked. Hutch figured his partner had tried something that had gone very wrong. Why they hadn't just killed him wasn't evident, but they had his wrists tied so he couldn't make another move on them. He evidently was out cold, so Hutch had to be happy with getting the few hostages they'd allowed them to safety. He and the deputy picked up the body of the dead hostage and backed out of the building.
The gunmen, with the exception of Charlie, had been milling around trying to chose which of the hostages to send out, when Starsky had decided to make his ill-fated move. He grabbed the gun of one of the men, startling him so badly that he let it go. Starsky quickly backed up and trained the gun on the two, unaware that Charlie had moved from his place and come around behind him. He saw a sudden burst of light and then everything faded to black. Charlie punched the gunman who'd been so careless and told him to tie the detective up so he couldn't cause anymore trouble.
"Why don't we just pop 'im, Charlie? We've got enough hostages. We don't need any troublemakers."
"This one's stickin' with us to the end, stupid, maybe they'll bargain better for one of their own. When we get over the border, we'll have fun with him before we put him out of his misery. I'm kinda partial to tall, dark and curly, myself."
Melanie pulled Starsky's head into a more comfortable position, tore another piece of the injured man's shirt and bunched it up to make a new compress. The wound was bleeding pretty badly and she didn't know if she could staunch the flow, but was damn well going to try. She was rather smitten with this guy, even though she hadn't had a chance to have a real conversation with him yet. She looked down at his face, pale and pasty now, remembering the color of his eyes, those beautiful eyes, the color of cerulean, sapphire, azure all rolled up into one. She stroked the scar on his temple that ran up into his hairline, admiring his dark lashes, wishing his eyes would open. He seemed to be the only one in the room who had any answers or the guts to try and get them out of here. She'd heard him say he'd been a cop, so maybe he still could do something to help them all.
Realistically, she knew the men had no plans to let them all go. There was no way they could. She'd seen enough movies to know the few that had just left were probably all that were going home. She had nothing to go home to anyway. If she had to be here, she'd take her chances with David. He'd whispered his name to her when he'd grabbed her hand earlier.
Arrangements were being made for a helicopter to be flown from a nearby army base. The gunmen were called and told when it could be expected. They weren't happy, but the small town had no airfield, so there wasn't much they could do. Hutch knew the only chance he had was to get Starsky before they got on the helicopter, but how and would he still be alive by then. He'd already made a foolish move, probably thinking he had nothing to lose, and was injured. Hutch could do nothing but wait and hope he'd get a break that would let him get his stubborn partner out of this so he could inflict some damage of his own on him.
Inside the bank, everyone was quiet. The victims were resigned to whatever was going to happen. Occasionally, one of the older hostages would moan a little from being restricted to lying on the hard floor.
Starsky was still unconscious, but the bleeding had subsided and he was making little groaning sounds that Melanie tried to stifle for fear of drawing unwanted attention. When his eyes came open, there was confusion as well as pain in them. He tried to put his hands up to his head, but was frustrated when he found that he couldn't move them.
Melanie put her hand over his mouth to keep him from complaining, hoping he'd become coherent in a few minutes. He stilled and another look in his eyes revealed that he now knew where he was and what was going down. She took her hand away and smiled an apology. He nodded his head, then winced as pain stabbed through the back of his skull.
The phone rang. Charlie grabbed it and grunted into it. Whatever he heard on the other end made him angry and he started yelling.
"We had a deal, you told me that helicopter would be here by now! I think you're just stalling. Now you've lost another one of your hostages!" He yanked the nearest person, who happened to be a middle-aged man, up from the floor. He dragged him back to the phone, said, "Listen, pig!" and shot the man in the head. "Are you ready for another one?" he asked. "We'll do a lady this time, a young, pretty one or how about your cop friend in here? You want to see him get wasted? You get that helicopter here in fifteen minutes or everybody's dead! Do you read me?" He slammed the phone down.
Starsky shut his eyes when the man went down. The threat against a young, pretty lady made him cringe, because Melanie was the only one left who fit that description and he was getting a little used to having her around. He looked into her jade-green eyes and tried to will her to be strong. She seemed to get the message. There was a connection there. If they got out of this one, he'd like to get to know her a whole lot better, but would that be fair, considering he didn't have a lot of time left?
The phone rang again, Charlie answered it and was assured the helicopter would be there and could they come in and get the other body. He assented, but told them again no tricks.
Starsky had been doing a good job of lulling the gunmen into false security, acting like he was drifting in and out of consciousness, but he was alert and waiting for any chance he could get to make another move. He looked up briefly to see the two men enter the bank and submit to being patted down for weapons. He saw that one of them had hair that corn-silk color that he associated with his partner, than was shocked to see that it WAS Hutch. The blond's eyes found him immediately and bored into him with a look that contained elements of anger, worry, pain and frustration. Starsky couldn't stand it and looked down at the floor. He knew he'd been stupid and now he was endangering his partner's life, too. This wasn't the way he'd wanted to go out.
The detective willed him to look back up. He did and Hutch hoped the ESP, or whatever it was that made them the best detectives on the BCPD force, was working. Starsky realized he needed to cause a distraction, so his partner could make some kind of move. While the two gunmen were watching Hutch and the deputy, Starsky whispered to Melanie to try and untie him. She was able to without being noticed, then he looked around for something close that he could make some noise with. There was a big, brass floor lamp right behind them, so he got his fingers under it and got ready to tip it over when Hutch got into position. He knew his partner couldn't have gotten in the door with his Magnum, so thought he must be wearing his ankle holster with the .38 in it, which meant he would have to bend down to lift the body, in order to reach the gun.
As both men started to bend over, Starsky gave the lamp a shove, sending it crashing through a glass partition. The gunmen immediately wheeled to see what the noise was and Hutch and the deputy both had weapons in their hands when they came back up.
Charlie recovered first and got off a shot, but it went wild and Hutch dropped him immediately. The other two let their guns fall without resistance. The men were cuffed and Charlie was loaded into an ambulance. Another ambulance was provided for Starsky, but he refused to go to the hospital, allowing the paramedics to clean, stitch and dress the wound on the site, however.
He kept waiting for Hutch to come over and see how he was, but it looked like the only one in his corner was Melanie. She was very concerned, hovering over him, thanking him for all he'd done. She seemed to be a really nice lady and he was enjoying all the attention, but couldn't help looking for his friend.
"Guess that hard head of yours took another knock and survived, huh, meathead?" finally came the voice he was waiting to hear.
"Yeah, I guess it's like my stomach, made out of cast iron. Uh, thanks, Hutch, for getting us out of this mess. This is my friend Melanie." He found he didn't know what to say to Hutch. The silence between them was very uncomfortable.
"Hi, Melanie, you really should watch who you hang out with, you know. This guy's always getting into trouble, wherever he goes. Starsky, OLD PAL, could I talk to you for a minute?" Without waiting for an answer, he grabbed Starsky's arm in a vice-grip and dragged him away.
"I guess you're pretty pissed off at me, huh, Hutch? How'd you find me? Not that I'm sorry you did, but I thought I covered my tracks pretty well. We did a good job in there, didn't we? Where're you staying, we'll get together for supper, maybe Melanie could come?" Realizing Hutch wasn't answering any of his questions and was staring at him like he'd landed in a flying saucer, Starsky decided to shut up and take the lecture he was sure was forthcoming.
"I just came to deliver a message, Stark. The doctor says your tumor's not malignant. I'm leaving to go back in the morning. I'm glad you're all right." Hutch turned his back and started to walk away.
"Geez, Hutch, don't do this to me! Deck me, kick me in the butt, beat the tar out of me, but don't just turn and walk away like I'm nothing."
The blond whirled around with his fists clenched. "Why not? That's what you did to me, PARTNER! Just left me like I didn't matter in the least, like you couldn't have talked to me about your fears. Just marched out of my life like you promised me you'd never do. How can I trust you to be there for me again? How can we go back to what we were? You might as well stay here, I don't need a partner I can't trust." Hutch walked the rest of the way to his car and took off.
Starsky leaned against the wall of the building and slid down. Somehow he'd always known that in the end he'd be the one who sabotaged the relationship and now he'd done a good job of it. Hindsight was better than foresight, now that he knew he wasn't dying, he felt like the biggest sucker on the face of the earth. There was no way he could face his friend, his pride wouldn't let him.
Melanie came over and sat next to him. She didn't know the whole story, but she felt bad for him.
Monday morning came and Hutch crawled into work after having consumed the contents of his liquor supply and more. Dobey didn't say a word to him, he could tell at a glance how bad he felt and assumed he'd had no success finding Starsky. He was starting to consider who he could partner the man with, when the detective in question sheepishly entered the squad room and sat down by Hutch.
"Buddy, I'm so sorry," he said in a quiet voice. "I didn't know what to do, either way I was going to hurt you. I made a major mistake. I took the coward's way out. I understand that you don't trust me and don't want me as a partner anymore and I don't blame you, but if I'm going to live, I don't want to live where I can never catch a glimpse of you or know how you're doing for the rest of my life. I just wanted you to have this. I wrote it when I was feeling really bad and I wanted you to know how I felt then."
He handed Hutch a folded-up piece of paper, then ducked out of there before Dobey could catch him.
Hutch carefully spread-out the limp, stained piece of paper and started reading. By the time he came to the end, "comfort for my friend," he was out the door and caught up with Starsky in the parking garage. It seemed a fitting place for a new start and they held each other and tried to say everything that needed to be said in a moment's time. Then they noticed they were getting stares and headed back to the squad room with arm's around each other's shoulders.
"Will you have me back as a partner, Hutch? I promise I won't make the same mistake again. I'll stick so close, you'll have to ditch me to get to the 'little boy's room.'"
"You've got my vote. The way I see it, there's only one problem." He pointed to the door of Dobey's office and the voice came right on cue...
"DETECTIVE SGT. STARSKY, GET YOUR SORRY BUTT IN HERE! NOW!"
Hutch had to laugh. He'd never seen his friend look terrified before.