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Part Thirteen

Temple of the Sinai


Kimberly Heggen

Part Fourteen


    Only darkness and silence greeted Starsky and Hannah as they crept toward the small shed that Starsky was sure held his imprisoned partner. With a gesture, he directed her to a few scrubby shrubs against the adjoining barn, motioning her to hide herself behind them. Heart pounding, and feeling terribly alone and exposed, he approached the shed and inspected the door as closely as he could in the starlight. To his relief, he could find no true lock, only the rustic latch mechanism that he remembered--adapted to be opened from the outside but not from the inside. Apparently, the cult's members had no fears that one of their own would ever break community taboos by freeing a prisoner. He pushed the door open and slipped inside.

    At first Starsky could see or hear nothing...then his ears caught a faint rustle against the far wall, and the sound of ragged breathing. Stepping carefully in the darkness, he moved toward the source of the sound, finally kneeling down when he had nearly reached the wall. He put out one hand tentatively...and encountered warm flesh: an arm, that started violently at his touch.

    "Hutch?" he whispered, as quietly as he could. "That you?"

    "'Arshky?" came the garbled response, relief audible even through the gag.

    Working by touch in the dark, Starsky quickly worked the gag out of his partner's mouth, then started on the ropes binding Hutch's wrists. "Hutch, you okay?"

    "Yeah," came the breathless response. "They haven't hurt me, yet. Starsk, they want to kill me at sunrise! We've got to get out of here!"

    Starsky smiled to himself. Having freed Hutch's arms, he moved to the tied ankles. "That's the general idea, buddy. Hannah's hiding outside; we'll grab a Jeep and go."

    "Thank God," breathed Hutch. He reached down to massage his legs, trying to rub some life back into them.

    Starsky hauled his partner to his feet. "Can you walk? Steady, now...I don't want to catch you, and you're gonna make an awful lot of noise if you fall, big guy."

    "Pins and needles...but I can make it."

    Together, they staggered to the doorway, and Starsky propped Hutch against the wall while he slowly opened the creaky old door. He was just reaching back inside for his partner when his ears were assaulted by a sound he had been dreading: Hannah's scream of fury. He froze, half inside the building as she ran toward him, an eerie greyish sprite in the starlight. Across the compound, two men with torches were approaching at a lope.

    Hannah reached Starsky and pounded on his chest with her little fists. "No! You're taking him away! You can't do that! He must be punished for what he did to me!" Almost, Starsky thought she really had cracked, gone back to the cult...then he saw the fear in her eyes. Fear, not anger. Behind him, he heard Hutch's startled grunt of surprise. Starsky took a deep breath, and pulled his revolver out of its holster, as the two cult members--one of whom was clearly Brother Benjamin--began to run faster.

    With a quick fluid move, he seized Hannah around her shoulders, spun her around, and held the gun to her head...with the safety on, but he hoped the cultists wouldn't notice that. "Stop!" he screamed at the approaching figures. "You get any closer, and I'll kill the girl!" He could feel Hannah trembling in his arms, and he just had time to lean close to her ear and breathe, "It's okay," before Brother Benjamin got close enough to see the tableau in detail.

    The threat had the desired effect. Brother Benjamin came to a halt and motioned his companion to do the same.

    "Wait!" he shouted. "Don't hurt her." Starsky was gratified to see that the men had gone deathly pale. "What do you want?" asked the elder, in a quavering voice.

    Hutch had now staggered through the doorway, covering his darkness-acclimated eyes against the glare of the torches. "Starsk! What the hell are you doing with her?"

    "Hutch, just shut up! I know what I'm doing. Just stay out of the way!" Starsky answered grimly, then shouted at the cultist again. "You were gonna kill him, weren't you? Well, we're gettin' out of here, and you, you son-of-a-bitch, are gonna stand there and let us go."

    The two cult members looked at each other and began to argue. Starsky couldn't hear what they were saying, but he took advantage of the momentary confusion to enlighten his partner, who now stood within earshot of a whisper. "Hutch, it's okay, she's playin' along, I'm not gonna hurt her, your gun is in my left coat pocket, please get it!" he said through clenched teeth. To his relief, a second later he felt Hutch retrieving the weapon in question.

    "All right!" shouted Starsky. "I'm gettin' real impatient, here! We'll be on our way now! We're both armed!"

    As Starsky had predicted to himself, the cult elder was no match for two armed men and an apparent hostage. With Hutch covering their backs, they made their careful way towards the Jeeps, with Hannah even beginning to add some token struggling to her act. Brother Benjamin and his henchman remained where they had been standing.

    Within the barn that housed the vehicles, Starsky led them towards the one functioning Jeep. "Get in, quick!" he yelled at Hannah. "In the back, with Hutch...and get down, Hannah!" Hannah and Hutch were barely in place before Starsky started the battered vehicle and plowed out the door. As they crossed the compound, they could see Brother Benjamin rousing the other cult members with frantic shouts.

    As they reached the road, Starsky let out a deep breath. "I think...I think we're okay, now. They won't be able to get any of those other Jeeps started."

    "Starsk, where are we going?"

    Starsky shuddered. "Anywhere, away from this crazy place."

Part 15