For Disclaimers, see Part One. Comments can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Temple of the Sinai
Hutch struggled with all his strength, trying to break the grip of the men holding his arms. "Let go of me!" he shouted uselessly.
"Calm yourself, Brother," said Brother Benjamin evenly. "Tell me what happened here. Has she entrapped you with her feminine wiles?" As he spoke, another of the brethren surged past Hutch to seize hold of Hannah's arm, dragging her back to the far side of the room. She winced, but said nothing. Hutch turned his attention back to Brother Benjamin, suddenly chilled by the fanaticism he could read in the older man's face.
He must hate her, though Hutch. I've only been here a few weeks, but he's willing to believe that this poor girl is seducing me...why? Against his will, the thought crossed his mind: all he had to do was agree that Hannah had tried to corrupt him, and he would most likely go free. Free, he probably stood a better chance of rescuing her. And she had initiated the embrace, after all...though Hutch knew, instinctively, that Hannah had sought his arms for simple human comfort, not passion...friendship, not sex. Even the kiss had been less for pleasure and more as a promise, an alliance.
Logically, he tried to argue himself into playing along...but then his mouth opened, and he heard himself speak, as from a distance. "It's not her fault. I forced her." He took a deep breath, trying to will his voice to sound steady, convincing, slightly contrite. "She's so beautiful, and we've been spending so much time together." That much, at least, was utterly true. "I ordered her to kiss me. I just couldn't help myself." Hutch's heart pounded. How long, he wondered, had the elder and his minions been watching? If they'd only seen the embrace, and the kiss, this might work...
Brother Benjamin turned to Hannah. "Is this true, Sister Hannah?"
She swallowed and looked at her feet. Hutch stared at her intently, trying to somehow wordlessly communicate with her. Say yes, Hannah, he thought at her. Please, trust me and say yes.
"Yes," came the almost inaudible response. Hutch suppressed a sigh of relief.
"Look at me, Sister," ordered the elder.
She raised her head and looked Brother Benjamin square in the eye. Fear filled her face, though...fear that looked real to Hutch. Either she's a good actress, thought Hutch, or she really believes that I forced her. He mentally shook his head, dismissing the thought as unworthy of Hannah's character.
"Yes," she repeated in a stronger voice. "We were just talking, but he became...passionate, and grabbed me. He's so much bigger than I; what could I do?"
"You should have screamed, Sister," stated the man who'd been holding her arm, reproachfully. He released her, though.
"I was frightened, I couldn't find my voice," she whispered. Brother Benjamin looked at her for a long moment, his face unreadable. Then he turned to Hutch and cleared his throat.
"Ken, you have confessed to molesting a virtuous wife, in front of witnesses. This is adultery. You will undergo correction."
Hutch's head spun. "Wife? Adultery? But...she's a widow!"
The elder's accusing scowl deepened. "We do not view marriage as something ended by death. Hannah and her husband are bound for eternity, and will meet again. How would he feel if his wife had dallied with others, instead of faithfully waiting for him?" He directed his gaze back to Hannah. "Sister, you may return to your own house, to pray and meditate on this. Do not consider yourself blameless in this matter, as you must have tempted him in some way...but you are free to go." He nodded to the men holding Hutch's arms. "Let's go."
Hutch had once last glimpse of Hannah's anguished face as he was pulled, stumbling, out of the building.
For what seemed like the twentieth time in as many minutes, Starsky checked his watch. Almost nine-thirty, now, and no sign of Hutch. He hadn't been at dinner, and neither had Hannah. At first, Starsky had been slightly amused. It was no secret to Starsky that his partner was developing an attachment to the young woman...maybe they were off somewhere sharing their life stories. But as the evening wore on, and he was unable to find either of them, he was beginning to grow seriously worried. It wasn't like Hutch to be fooling around when the situation was this serious, even if he was smitten with their chief witness.
Starsky had checked his partner's belongings, carefully packed and stowed under the bed, and nothing had been disturbed. He knew that Hutch had been planning to check in briefly with Hannah before dinner, but had no other clues to his friend's whereabouts. He ground his teeth in frustration, and decided to take one more walk around the compound to see if he could locate any sign of Hutch.
As he walked around the side of the dining hall, he spotted a man leaving a small shed. His stomach churned queasily when he realized that the man was Brother Benjamin...and the shed was the same one he had been kept in while awaiting his "correction". He changed his course slightly to intercept the man.
"Good evening, Brother," Starsky said with forced cheerfulness. "Say, you haven't seen my friend Ken anywhere, have you? I had some things I wanted to talk to him about, but he wasn't at dinner. Any idea where he might be?"
"No," answered the elder blandly. "I haven't seen him."
Liar, thought Starsky, searching the older man's face. I'll bet you know exactly where he is...and Hannah, too.
The elder continued. "If you are of an unquiet spirit, young man, and need someone to talk to, I'm sure we can find one of the brethren who will give you guidance." He stared unblinkingly at Starsky, reminding the detective of one of the many lizards that lived in the surrounding desert.
"Uh, thanks, but no...I'll just go and do a little thinking by myself. If you see Ken, let him know I'm looking for him." He nodded politely and headed off in the opposite direction, still feeling those lizard-eyes boring into his back, feeling his heart pound uncomfortably in his chest. They've got him, he thought to himself...ten to one they've got him tied up in that shed...how am I gonna get him out? He shook his head. What could Hutch have done to get himself into trouble with the elders? Had Hannah confessed the whole escape plan, somehow?
Starsky continued to walk aimlessly about the dark compound, sticking mainly to the shadows. As he came around to the back side of the dairy, he nearly collided with a slight, shadowy form standing against the dairy wall.
"Oh, sorry," muttered Starsky. "Excuse me." As he turned to go, however, a small hand snatched at his arm.
"David?" Hannah's voice. Starsky froze for a second, then whirled around to face her.
As his eyes adjusted to the near darkness, Starsky realized that it was indeed Hannah standing in front of him, flattening herself up against the wall. He could see tears on her face, glistening slightly in the starlight.
"Hannah," he breathed softly. Coming closer to her, he seized her arms gently. "Hannah, what's wrong? Where's Ken?"
She put her hands up over her face and moaned softly. "He's been taken...it's all my fault. Now they'll kill him."
Starsky gave her a little shake. "Stop that," he said softly. "Tell me what happened, Hannah. I need to know."
She took a deep breath, and, in a trembling voice, recounted the events for Starsky. "I'm supposed to be at my sister's house...but they all went to sleep early," she finished. "I came out to try to find you, but I was afraid the elders would see me."
"S'okay, Hannah. You found me, or I found you. Whatever." He released Hannah, thought for a moment. "Hannah, you said they'll kill him. Why do you say that? Won't they just beat him, like they did to me?"
She shook her head sorrowfully. "What happened today...David, my people take that sort of thing very seriously. They'll kill him for sure." She looked up at him. "Was there anything said at dinner tonight, about a scheduled correction?"
"No...nothing," he answered her.
She nodded. "That's because you were there, and they don't trust you...or me now, for that matter. But you can bet that Brother Benjamin has been going from house, telling all of the adult members when to be present for the sacrifice."
Chilled, Starsky could only stare at her for a few seconds. "Hannah, how much time do we have?"
A small sob escaped Hannah. "Sunrise. They killed my Caleb at sunrise." She wiped her eyes with a shaking hand. "David, we've got to do something!" she whispered fiercely."I won't let them kill him, I won't!"
He nodded slowly. "We'll do something, all right. Sunrise...that gives us a little time." The first ghostly beginnings of a plan began to form in Starsky's mind. "Hannah, I'll need your help...but it could be dangerous."
"Anything, David. I won't stand by and watch this happen again to someone I care about. Just tell me what to do."