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Disclaimer: This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being made from it. No infringement on anyone's copyrights is intended.

Production notes: My sincere thanks to Linda C and Kathy K for allowing me to borrow Linda's wonderful character, Dr. Kellerman, and for any references made to events that happened in their incomparable story Judgment Day.

Thanks to my faithful and patient pre-readers for this story-- ML, Cat, and Valerie Wells

Thanks to ML for providing the title.

Eye for an Eye
Sue David

Part I

Officers Dan Cable and Steve Kincaid were responding lights and siren to an alarm at a coin dealer in the heart of Bay City.

Carl Delaney and Brett Mathers were just heading out the back door of the coin dealer's offices when they heard the approaching sirens.

Delaney said, "Damn it! Musta had a silent alarm. Move, move!" He and his partner jumped into their car and pulled out of the alley well ahead of the patrol car.

"Baker 8 to control. We are in pursuit of a Black 280Z fleeing from the coin dealers at 910 Washington."

"Roger, Baker 8."

At midnight, few cars were out; giving the fleeing suspects an open road for their escape. They never saw the yellow Volkswagen bus lumbering toward the intersection they were approaching. They ran the red right in front of the VW and it continued into the intersection. The squad car had no time to stop.

Kincaid was riding shotgun in the squad car. He saw the VW a microsecond before his partner whose eyes were fixed on the black sports car. All he had time to yell before they reached the intersection was, "Dan, look out!" Cable slammed on the brakes and jerked the wheel to try and get around the other vehicle, but the squad plowed into the VW with a sickening bang, sending the microbus tumbling through the intersection to rest on its side.

Kincaid shook his head to clear it and looked over at his partner. Cable was wrapped around the steering wheel, unconscious, blood pouring down his face. Kincaid reached for the radio.

"Baker 8 to control, come in."

"Roger, Baker 8, go ahead."

"We need paramedics. We were chasing the suspects and we hit a VW bus. Cable's hurt bad."

"Roger, Baker 8, help's on the way."

The radio chattered with the next set of calls for other units to pursue the suspects, paramedics to respond, and units to assist with officers down.

Ignoring the radio, Kincaid took his partner's pulse and made sure he was breathing. "I'll be right back, Dan. Gotta go check on the people in the VW." He reluctantly stumbled away from his partner and what was left of the squad car. Reaching the VW, he peered inside to see a single occupant, a young girl who was crumpled up against the passenger side door. She was unconscious and bleeding profusely.

"Miss, you okay? Help is on the way." He could hear the approaching sirens. Since he could see the young lady was breathing, he didn't risk climbing in to pull her out of the VW.

Delaney and Mathers escaped into the night, completely unaware that Delaney's daughter had just been seriously injured by the squad car that was chasing them. Angela Delaney was on her way home from a party. Now she would be on her way to the Trauma Unit at Memorial Hospital.

Starsky and Hutch responded to the call for assistance to officers down on Washington Avenue. They recognized Dan Cable's name. He had gone through the Academy with them.

When they reached the scene, Kincaid was sitting dejectedly on the curb with a paramedic in attendance.

Starsky walked over to him while Hutch checked on Cable. "Hey, how you doin'?"

Kincaid looked at him, his eyes a little frantic. "I'm okay, but Cable's not. The kid in the VW's not so hot either." He shook his head in frustration.

"I'll go see how he's doin'. Be right back." Starsky walked toward Hutch who was approaching him, slowly shaking his head.

"Cable's dead. Nobody told his partner yet?"

"No." Starsky looked back at Kincaid, then at his own partner. He knew exactly how he'd feel if it were Hutch being cut out of that squad car. "I'll tell him."

A paramedic unit was screaming away carrying the young girl from the Volkswagen toward Memorial Hospital's Trauma Unit. Hutch walked back toward the wrecked squad car to talk to the paramedics.

He heard Kincaid shouting at Starsky, "No! He can't be dead. I checked him and he was breathing!" When he looked toward them, he saw both Starsky and the paramedic trying to hold Kincaid back from running to his partner.

Hutch dipped his head a little and said quietly, "Damn, I hate this." Kincaid was being led toward a paramedic van, looking over his shoulder past Starsky to see where they were working to cut his partner out of the patrol car.

Starsky called to him, "Hutch!"'

He jogged toward his partner, smoothly catching the tossed keys to the Torino. Starsky nodded at him, telling him with his eyes that he was riding into Memorial with Kincaid.

Hutch approached one of the paramedics, busily filling out some paperwork. "Detective Hutchinson," he said flashing his identification. "What killed Officer Cable?"

The paramedic looked at him, prepared to be short with the tall blond. After all, he wasn't a doctor. He took a deep breath though, knowing how it was for cops and their brethren. "Oh, you know it'll have to wait for an autopsy, but I'd say he probably bled to death. Maybe a torn aorta from the force of impact with the steering wheel. They're going to have to cut it to get it out of him."

Hutch nodded grimly. "Thanks. I know you don't like to do that, but his partner will want to know something."

Hutch stayed with the squad car throughout the agonizing time it took to cut it open and retrieve Cable. The car looked like a sardine tin by the time the firefighters finished. He watched in saddened silence as they got his fellow officer out of the car and onto a Coroner's gurney that had somehow appeared during the time he was there. As the senior officer on the scene, he felt obligated to stay with his comrade until they took him away.

He stood still in the middle of the street, two hours after the accident. The Coroner had just left with Cable, the vehicles were being hoisted onto tow trucks, and the fire department was cleaning up the scene. His duty done, he returned to the Torino for the short drive to Memorial.

Hutch was unable to suppress a chill as he walked in through the ambulance bay doors. He would never be able to come into Memorial's Emergency Room without having flashbacks to the day Starsky was nearly killed. This time though, his partner was fine.

He took a deep breath and walked toward Starsky who was standing near the admitting desk. He was trying to get some more information on the young girl brought in from the accident.

"Hey, Gordo. How's Kincaid?"

"About as good as one of us would be in the same situation."

Hutch shuddered at the thought. He wasn't a superstitious person, but he preferred not to think in those terms. Better not to tempt fate, especially at Memorial Hospital. "That bad, huh?"

"Yeah. I don't really know Kincaid, but I hear they were close."

"I heard that too. I stayed until they took Cable away."

Just then, the Trauma Unit door opened and a familiar man stepped through it--Dr. Kellerman, the man who had saved Starsky's life after Gunther's goons tried to end it. He looked around the waiting area and spotted his former patient and Hutch. They were the only people he recognized, so he approached them with a tight smile.

"David, Ken, it's good to see you. Are you here for the Delaney case?"

Hutch looked at his partner with a raised eyebrow.

Starsky nodded at him almost imperceptibly and said, "Yeah, doc. How is she?"

"She's headed up for emergency surgery. Doesn't look good. Excuse me, gentlemen, her mother has just been brought in and I have to go talk to her." He gave Starsky's arm a gentle squeeze as he brushed past him, glad to see his star patient still doing well.

Kincaid's wife had arrived at the hospital, the young woman was in surgery, and Starsky and Hutch had nothing left to do there. They glanced at each other in weary agreement and left to go home.

News of the accident had traveled quickly. Naturally, the local media were all over it by the morning. Carl Delaney was having his morning coffee and listening to the news on the radio when he heard his daughter's name.

"Last night around midnight, sixteen-year-old Angela Delaney was struck in her vehicle by a Bay City patrol car chasing the suspects from a robbery at Palmer's Coins and Jewelry. The police officer driving was dead at the scene. Delaney is listed in critical condition at Memorial Hospital. Up next, traffic and weather..." Carl snapped the radio off and sat at the table in disbelief. He hadn't seen Angie in a couple of months; she lived with her mother.

He and his partner had ditched the stolen 280Z the previous night. Delaney would have to take his Cadillac to the hospital. That would be all right, the cops didn't have a make on his car. He and Mathers always stole cars for their heists.

He picked up the phone and called his partner. "Brett, it's Carl."

"Yeah, what's up, man?"

"Those cops chasing us last night. We didn't just lose 'em. They hit Angie in her car. You go to the fence by yourself today. I'm headed over to the hospital."

"Are you crazy? The place'll be swarming with cops!"

"Ah, keep your shirt on, will ya. Nobody has my description and that's my kid they've got over there. Come over to my place around two." He hung up the phone and headed for the hospital.

Meanwhile, Hutch was puttering around Starsky's kitchen preparing to make his partner a huge omelet for breakfast. They didn't have to be at the precinct until ten so he had come over early to coax Starsky into eating a big breakfast.

Starsky had just turned off the shower when he heard his unannounced partner yelling from the kitchen. "Starsk, what'd you do with your spatula? I can't find it."

Spatula? He smiled to himself, knowing his partner was out there trying to make him a big breakfast. "You never give up, do ya, Blondie!"

"What's that s'posed to mean? Where's the spatula?"

"I threw it out yesterday. Left it on top of the pilot and melted it."

Hutch was already looking for a makeshift implement when Starsky came into the kitchen in his bathrobe. Looking around the countertop he could see his partner had been shopping. He had filled Starsky's fruit bowl, and the counters were covered with things that needed to go into his fairly empty refrigerator.

"Uh, Hutch, don't get too crazy, huh? I'm really not very hungry this morning."

Hutch knew Starsky was going to feel that way. He always lost his appetite for a few days when another cop was killed, especially if it was someone he knew. Hutch had worked too hard to get a few pounds back on his underweight partner to take a back track now.

"You sure, Gordo? I bought jalapeno cheese and chorizo to put in it."

Starsky reached out and put a hand on his partner's forehead, saying with mock concern, "You okay? YOU bought chorizo?" The Mexican sausage was definitely on Hutch's hit list of most evil foods Starsky loved. He laughed softly, knowing it was probably fattening.

"Very funny. Finish getting ready and I'll fix us some omelets."

"If you're planning to eat chorizo, I'm calling an ambulance. You must be sick," he said as he retreated, successfully dodging the dishtowel Hutch threw at him from the kitchen.


When Delaney arrived in Memorial's Emergency Room, he saw his ex-wife sitting with a doctor. He had come in a disguise, not wanting his ex to recognize him if she were there. Delaney hung back out of sight and listened to their conversation.

"I wish I could give you better news, Mrs. Delaney. Your daughter is still in critical condition."

"Is she going to make it, Dr. Kellerman?"

"I'm sorry, but I think there is little chance. Her brain is swelling and we are doing our best to stabilize her. You should probably contact her father."

"That bum don't care if she lives or dies. I don't want him here."

Ouch. That stung. Well, he really didn't have much contact with Angie. She was his daughter though and he wanted her to live. The doctor walked away from his ex. That's when Delaney noticed a young girl in a candy striper's uniform walking toward the doctor.

"Hi, Daddy," she said, kissing him lightly on the cheek. "Long night?"

He returned her kiss. "Hi, Rose. Yes, very long. You on this morning?"

"Yes, until noon." Rose Kellerman was a volunteer in the hospital every Saturday morning. She smiled at herself that her busy father never seemed to connect it as an every week event.

"Well, don't work too hard, honey. I have to go look in on a patient." He kissed her goodbye and continued down the hall.

Suddenly, Delaney had a brilliant idea. Kellerman had his daughter. Maybe if he grabbed Kellerman's kid, he could use her to motivate the man to work harder at saving Angie's life.

His ex-wife had left for another part of the hospital while Kellerman and his daughter were talking. Delaney stepped forward into the hallway and called to the teenager before she could leave. "Miss, can you help me?"

Rose walked toward him and said, "Yes sir, what can I do for you?"

"I brought my son in, he's out in the car. Fell off his bike this morning. Can you help me get him inside please?"

"Sure, mister. I'll just grab a wheelchair."

After the youngster had the wheelchair, Delaney led her out through sliding doors. "I parked in the garage over there." She walked out to the garage and over to the dark car he indicated as his.

After making sure no one was around, he hit her on the back of the head, then stuffed her into his trunk. Before slamming the trunk shut, he tied her hands behind her and used a handkerchief to gag her. Then he brushed his hands off and said to himself, "Easy. All too easy."

Ten minutes later, a page went out at Memorial Hospital. "Dr. Kellerman, Paging Dr. Kellerman. Please come to the Emergency Room Admitting desk."

When Kellerman responded to the page, he was told he had a phone call. Picking up the line, he said, "This is Dr. Kellerman."

"Kellerman? This is Carl Delaney, Angie Delaney's father. How's my girl?"

"Mr. Delaney, I'm glad you called. Your daughter is in critical condition. I'd be happy to meet with you if you'll come down to the hospital."

"I've got a better plan, Kellerman. I have your kid. You make my Angie well, you get your kid back nice and safe. If she dies, Rose dies."

Dr. Kellerman was shocked, "What? What do you mean? Who is this really?" The other Emergency Room personnel were looking up at the agitated trauma surgeon.

"Calm down, Doc. You better keep your mouth shut. If you tell anyone, or if you call the cops, I'll kill her. I swear it. You just make sure Angie don't die. I'll call you again in a few hours. Remember, shut up about this or Rose is dead."

"Wait!" Kellerman said, but the line was dead. He was shaking obviously and had turned pale.

One of the nurses said, "Doctor? Is everything all right?"

The kidnapper's threat was pounding in his brain. He didn't dare say anything. Instead, he tried to compose himself and said, "Yes, I'll be in my office for a few minutes."

When he reached his office, Dr. Kellerman stood with his back to the door for a few minutes, just short of hyperventilating. He was talking quietly to himself.

"Oh, God! Rose. What am I going to do?" Frantically, he tried to think of some way he could alert the authorities without endangering his daughter. An idea came to him and he crossed the room to his desk, dialing a familiar number.

"Please be home, please be home," he said over and over as the phone rang.

"Hello," came a familiar voice.

"Thank God you're home, David. This is Dr. Kellerman." He had Starsky's number memorized from his days recuperating from the assassination attempt. He and Hutch had kept in close contact throughout Starsky's convalescence and he knew both of their home numbers.

Hutch looked up from washing dishes when he heard his partner say, "Dr. K? What's wrong?"

"I can't tell you on the phone. Can you come down here to the hospital please."

"We were just heading off to work, doc, can it wait 'til this afternoon?"

"No!" came the surprisingly frantic reply. "I'm sorry, David. I really need to see you and Ken. Right now. Please?"

"All right, doc. Relax, we'll be there in fifteen minutes. Where do you want to meet?"

"My office in the Trauma Unit. Ken knows where it is."

Starsky hung up the phone.

"What was that all about, Starsk?"

"I don't know, but it sounds like trouble. We'd better go see him. He said you know where his office in Trauma is."

Hutch nodded, unpleasant memories flooding his mind. He sustained massive damage, Detective Hutchinson. The body can only withstand so much. I'm sorry, but he's dying. You'd better prepare yourself for the worst.

Starsky was halfway out the door when he realized Hutch was just standing next to the kitchen table, staring into space.

He snapped his fingers a few times and said, "Hey, Blondie, let's hit it."

Snapped out of his remembrance, Hutch grabbed his jacket and followed Starsky.

Part II

As they walked toward the hospital, Hutch said, "You know, Starsk, we've gotta quit coming in here. I've seen enough of this Emergency Room to last both of our lives."

Starsky was not oblivious to his partner's discomfort. He had been unconscious when they rushed him into the Trauma Unit that awful morning. He could only imagine the kinds of memories the place brought back for Hutch. He stopped Hutch with a hand on his arm before they entered.

"Hey, buddy, everything's okay now. It's just another building. 'Kay?"

Hutch smiled at him and nodded, but Starsky could see it still bothered him. He guessed it probably always would.

As they walked through the glass doors, hearing them whoosh shut behind them, Starsky added, "I'm just happy to be walking in here on my own steam for something that has nothin' to do with either one of us."

Hutch knocked on Dr. Kellerman's door and heard him call, "Come in," from the other side. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open and stood back for Starsky to go in first.

Starsky smiled to himself as he walked in, thinking about the irony that Hutch had hardly ever let him walk through a doorway first since the shooting. That was one of those things he was sure Hutch thought he didn't notice.

"Good morning, Doc," they both said. Starsky sat down on the leather sofa and Hutch sat on its arm, right next to his partner. They could both see the doctor was agitated about something.

"Thank you for coming. I'm sorry to bother you."

Hutch said, "Dr. Kellerman, what's going on? Is everything all right?"

"No, nothing is all right. Please close the door."

Hutch reached over and did that while Dr. Kellerman continued, "I received a phone call this morning, right before I called you. That Delaney girl, the one from the accident last night, the caller said he was her father."

"What did he want?" Starsky asked.

"For me to save his daughter's life. He wants it so badly, he has kidnapped my daughter to ensure it."

"Kidnapped?" Hutch said. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. He must have grabbed Rose this morning. She works here as a candy striper. He said if his daughter dies, Rose dies. He also said he'd kill her if I called in any cops."

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other trying to decide what to say next.

"You want us to help you unofficially?" Hutch said.

"I didn't know where else to turn. Ken, that girl's not going to make it."

A similar prognosis had been issued on his partner. He wondered if the Delaney girl might also manage to survive. "Doc, you know those predictions aren't always right." He shot a sideways glance at his partner.

Dr. Kellerman noticed the look, and for the first time also noticed the obvious apprehension in the blond man. He must have been uncomfortable sitting in this room where he had been given the word that his friend was under a deathwatch. Hutch sat with his hand on his partner's shoulder as if to tether them.

"Sometimes. This time though, the patient has a massive head trauma. The injury is certain to take her life within the next 24 hours. My God, what am I going to do?"

"Did you get any other information from him?"

"No, he hung up after he issued his threat."

Starsky looked at Hutch, wondering if he was really okay. His partner was as tense as an over-wound watch. That tension poured off Hutch like an electrical charge that Starsky could feel from the contact of Hutch's palm to his shoulder.

"Doc, we want to help you in any way we can. We're gonna have to tell Captain Dobey, though. We can trust him to keep it quiet."

Kellerman nodded his gratitude. "I'm really sorry to drag you two into this."

"Don't worry about it, Dr. K. Starsk and I both owe you at least one."

"Just make sure you don't go doing anything to mess up my handiwork." That was his way of telling them to be careful.

"Starsky and I will go in and talk to Captain Dobey. You let us know the instant anything changes with the Delaney girl. We'll be in touch within the hour."

"What should I do?"

"Nothing. Just sit tight and go about your normal routine. You can count on us."

As they left the meeting, both men were lost in thoughts of how much they owed Dr. Kellerman, and how little they might be able to do to help him in this situation.

Hutch's brow was furrowed as if he was trying to remember something, and Starsky asked, "What's on your mind?"

"Something about the name Delaney is bugging me." Hutch had a good memory, especially for names, criminals in particular. Starsky was intrigued.

"We can stop by R&I on the way to see Dobey. Maybe they'll turn somethin' on him."

After they did that, they went to Dobey's office and walked in to see him.

"Still don't know how to knock, Starsky?" he bellowed.

"Morning, Cap. Glad to see you're in such a good mood on this fine Saturday morning," Starsky replied, plopping down in the leather chair. Hutch remained standing with his back up against the door to the squad room.

Not wanting to waste any time, Hutch spoke up about Kellerman's problem. "Cap, we've just been down to see Dr. Kellerman at Memorial. We need to talk to you about what he said, off the record."

Dobey nodded. "All right. What's goin' on?"

Starsky continued, "His daughter's been grabbed by the father of the girl Cable hit last night."

Hutch continued as he went to get himself a cup of water from the cooler, "Says he'll kill her if Kellerman can't save his kid."

Dobey guessed what was next. "And that he'll kill her if Kellerman brings in the cops no doubt."

Starsky replied, "You got it."

The captain dropped his pencil on the desk, sat back and contemplated his two detectives. He knew they would want to help Kellerman; he did too. "Well, what do you two want to do about it?"

Hutch filled him in on the worst part, "Whatever it is, we'd better do it fast. Doc says the Delaney girl isn't going to live more than another 24 hours. After that, Rose Kellerman is as good as dead."

Starsky added, "We've got R&I checking on Delaney."

"All right. You've got 24 hours. I can't keep a kidnapping secret any longer than that. Make it work."

"Thanks, Cap."

Hutch heard his phone ringing as he walked out of Dobey's office.

"Hutchinson." He listened to the report from R&I. "Thanks." When he hung up the telephone, he said, "Well, I knew that name meant something. The guy's suspected in a string of gem and coin dealer robberies."

"They have a photo?"

"No, just a sketch. Guy's never been popped."

"You think he's the guy that's been hittin' the local shops?"

Hutch nodded. "Let's go see Huggy."

"Better call Dr. K first," Starsky said.

The doctor sounded strained and nervous. Angela Delaney was not getting any better. Her condition was still critical and he knew she would begin to go downhill in the next several hours.


Rose Kellerman awoke in the basement of a dank warehouse. Waking up blindfolded, bound, and gagged, the terrified girl began to cry. She tried to scream, but not enough sound came out from underneath the gag on her mouth to do any good. Her movements drew Delaney's attention from across the room.

"Awake? If you promise not to scream, I'll take the gag out of your mouth. Don't matter if you scream or not, nobody's gonna hear you from down here." He crossed to the frightened teenager and removed her gag.

She immediately began to plead with him. "Please, mister. Where am I? What do you want?"

"Relax, Rose. I have a question for you. Is your daddy a good doctor?" he asked menacingly.

At the mention of her father's name, Rose became more agitated. "He's the best. I want to talk to my dad."

"I bet you do. Well, Rose, if your dad is as good a doc as you think he is, everything's gonna be just fine. You just relax and sit tight. You'll be fine here until my daughter is better."

Realization hit the young girl; her dad was treating this maniac's daughter. She heard Delaney walking away from her and she panicked. "Please don't go, mister. I don't want to be alone. I want my dad!"

He laughed at her and said, "Then pray he does a good job."

Delaney climbed the wooden stairs out of the basement. When he reached the top, he applied some plastic explosive and a fuse to the top step and railing. If he had to kill her, he planned to blow up the basement and leave her to burn with the warehouse after the explosion.

When he was finished, he slammed the door behind him leaving the young girl sobbing and alone. He left the warehouse to call Memorial and check on his daughter. Not trusting Kellerman to give him an honest report, he called the ICU directly, identified himself as Angela's father, and was given the report that the patient was still in critical condition. Delaney headed home to wait for Mathers.


Huggy's place was busy for a Saturday afternoon. Starsky and Hutch motioned him to join them at a back table where they could talk in private.

"Huggy, we need some information," Hutch started.

"What can I do you for?"

"Ever hear of a guy named Carl Delaney?"

"Yeah, I've heard of him. Heard somethin' about him just yesterday."

"What'dya hear?"

"He's been hittin' coin and gem dealers. Doesn't think his partner is fast enough gettin' into the safes. He put the word out he's lookin' for a fast safe cracker who knows explosives."

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other, not believing their luck.

"Now, if you gentlemen don't need anything else, trade is heavy."

"Thanks, Hug."

By the time they were back in the car, Starsky had a plan. When they were sitting in the Torino again, Starsky said, "I think I know how to get to the girl."


"We have Huggy arrange a meet with Delaney. He's lookin' for a safe cracker and explosives man. I'm him."

"Aw, come on, Starsky. You can't go undercover as a safe cracker. What if he makes you audition? Your cover would be blown."

"Hutch, that wouldn't be a problem."

"Starsky, of course it's a problem! Your cover would be blown and..." Hutch stopped himself short. Looking at his grinning partner, he had a sinking feeling Starsky was trying to tell him something.

"Are you trying to tell me you really can crack open a safe?"

Starsky nodded.


"Calm down, partner. You know how that old Tony Curtis movie about Houdini is one of my favorite films? When I was a teenager, I used to hang around with this magician. He taught me how to do it."

Hutch was stunned. "Why haven't you ever said anything about this?"

"Well, it's not really the kinda skill I should be puttin' on my resume, if you get my drift."

Hutch smiled slyly. "Partner, you still surprise me. I'll go back in and ask Huggy to set it up for us."

As he got out of the Torino, Starsky called after him, "I can escape from a straight jacket, too."

Hutch shut the door behind him and said, "Thanks, I might need to know that someday, Dirtball."


Delaney was just hanging up the phone from making arrangements to meet a safe cracker when he heard a knock on his door.

"Hey," Mathers said as he stepped through the door.

"Good, you're on time. I just got a call about the safe cracker. He's gonna meet us at the warehouse at five."

"You sure you want to bring some stranger into our operation?"

"We've talked about this before, Mathers. Neither one of us is fast enough for the next job. That dealer over on Wall has $50,000 of rare gold coins in his safe. I want them."

"I can handle it, Delaney."

"No you can't. We need a heavy hitter. My street contact turned me onto a crackerjack guy. Name's Frank Westover."

"All right, all right. You're the boss."

Mathers was not happy about having to split the loot with a third man. He knew better than to cross Delaney though. The man had a reputation for violence and a short fuse to go along with it.

"Where've you been all day, Delaney? I called a couple of times. Were you at the hospital?"

"Let's just say I had a little family business to deal with today."

His partner in crime couldn't help laughing at that. "Family business?"

Delaney was instantly angry. He crossed the room in a flash, grabbing the hapless Mathers and pinning him against the wall, his arm shoved roughly against the man's neck. "You shut up, Mathers. You don't know nothin' about me."

"Take it easy, man. It was just a joke!" Mathers managed to croak out to his crazed partner.

Slowly, Delaney released his death grip on Mathers. The man took a step away from the wall, coughing and putting his hand up to his throat. Delaney decided not to tell Mathers about Rose Kellerman. That information was on a need to know basis and Mathers didn't need to know.

"You back off, Mathers. Just do your job and keep your mouth shut."


Captain Dobey was furious. "You set up WHAT!?"

Sitting in Dobey's office, trying to justify this sudden undercover operation, Starsky and Hutch were hoping to convince the captain it was the only way to find the Kellerman girl.

"Cap, we don't have any other options. Hutch is gonna be backin' me up right outside the meet. I've gotta get inside there."

"We know where he is now, Cap. He's got to have her there. We can't just go charging in, he'll kill her."

Captain Dobey's phone was ringing. "Dobey." He handed the phone to Hutch, "It's for you, Hutch."


Starsky watched his partner's face go a little pale. "How long can you keep this quiet? No, just sit tight. We have a good lead. Can you give us a few more hours?"

Starsky knew what this had to mean. He shot a concerned glance at Dobey.

"Thanks for letting us know, Doc. We'll get back to you as soon as we know anything."

He hung up the phone and looked at the other two men, his expression grim.

"Angela Delaney is brain dead. Her mom wants them to turn off life support."

"That's it, Cap. You gotta let us do it. That girl is dead unless we go."

Starsky was right. They were out of time and Dobey had to allow it, but only if they would accept backup.

"All right, I guess we don't have any choice. But you two are NOT goin' in there without proper backup."

"Cap, you said we'd have 24 hours. If he sees cops..."

"Starsky! You WILL have backup!"

"All right, Cap, but keep 'em back out of sight as long as you can."

"Who do you think you're talkin' to, Starsky!" Dobey bellowed as Starsky and Hutch left his office.

Dobey started making arrangements for backup units while the detectives went about preparing for Starsky's impromptu stint as a safe cracker. The captain knew that Starsky and Hutch would be in danger. If this didn't work, he would send in the backup units to arrest Delaney. Maybe they could get him to talk if they had him in custody.

"You see the look on the cap's face when I told him I could crack a safe?" Starsky laughed.

"Sure wish I'd had a camera for that!"

The detectives went through a painful interchange with Bigelow in supply over the equipment they needed. After some wheedling, they had everything they needed including a kit that could pass for safe cracker's gear, and the transmitter/receiver set so Starsky could be wired for the assignment.

Part III

Angela Delaney's mother was sitting alone in a family consultation room in Memorial Hospital's ICU. She had been given the worst kind of news. Her daughter was brain dead. She told Dr. Kellerman she wanted all life support disconnected, but that she wanted a few hours to sit with Angela before he did it. Now, the time had come, but Dr. Kellerman had asked to speak with her first.

He closed the door behind him as he said, "Thank you for meeting with me, Mrs. Delaney."

She shook his hand and nodded. "I'm not sure what more there is to say, Dr. Kellerman."

Dr. Kellerman was nervous. He hadn't planned to tell anyone about his situation. Now, he could not avoid it.

"Mrs. Delaney, I have to ask something of you. First, I need to explain though. This is going to be hard for me to say and hard for you to hear."

She looked at him expectantly. What could possibly make this situation worse? She had lost her daughter and she couldn't even donate Angela's organs. Her daughter had a heart condition and she was not suitable for donation.

Kellerman continued, "I have to confide this in you, but it is critical that you not tell anyone what I am about to tell you until the situation is resolved. Can I have your word?"

"Yes. Please go ahead. I just want this to be over, so I can make plans for Angela's funeral."

After taking a deep breath, he started telling a virtual stranger the most important secret of his life. "Early this morning, your ex-husband kidnapped my daughter, Rose. He told me if I wanted her back, I had better save Angela. I'm sorry, you know we did everything in our power to save her, but Angela's injuries were too severe."

Mrs. Delaney reached a hand out and placed it on Dr. Kellerman's hand. Tears were starting to trickle down her face.

"I know this is a lot to ask, but I have no other hope. I have no right to expect you to agree. Please, let me leave Angela on life support for a while longer. Some men are looking for Rose and I want to give them as much time as possible."

"Oh, my God. I'm so sorry. He's crazy, doctor. If he says he'll kill her, he will."

Dr. Kellerman's face was white. "Please, I'm begging you."

"Of course. Are the police looking for her?"

"Some friends."

She nodded, understanding he could tell her nothing else.

"Thank you, Mrs. Delaney. I know this is hard for you. Maybe Angela will be helping to save my daughter's life."

"I hope so. I'm going to stay with her. Please let me know if anything changes."

"Mrs. Delaney, is there anything you can tell me about your ex-husband that might help? Where he might be?"

"No, I'm sorry. We've been apart for a long time. My ex-husband is a criminal. He's dangerous and violent. I had to get Angela away from him."

Dr. Kellerman nodded and stood up to leave. As he opened the door, she said one last thing to him.

"Wait, I do remember one thing. He does his crimes with a partner. I think his name is Brett Mathers."


Hutch had parked his car a few streets away from the warehouse where Starsky was to meet Delaney. He and Starsky were going over the details of the plan.

"I'm going to try to look around, see if I can figure out if Rose is there."


"Not sure yet. I'm working on it."

"You know this is really dangerous?" Hutch was a little worried about Starsky's seemingly flippant behavior.

Starsky put his hand on Hutch's arm, giving him his most reassuring look. He knew it was dangerous and he had the good sense to be on edge.

"You ready?" Hutch asked.

"Ready as it gets, partner. Let's do it."

"Before you go, I need to know something."


"If you know how to escape from a straight jacket, why didn't you do that when we were undercover at the mental hospital?"

Starsky shrugged, "Wasn't part of my cover."

Hutch laughed softly, shaking his head at his irrepressible partner.

Starsky climbed out of Hutch's car.

"You give me the signal, and the cavalry will come running."

Starsky leaned on the open window and smiled. He nodded. "See ya."

Hutch watched him walk away down the street. He was worried, but they had no choice.


Captain Dobey was getting ready to leave to meet Hutch at the warehouse. As he got up from his desk, the phone rang. "Dobey."

"Captain Dobey, this is Dr. Kellerman. Delaney's ex-wife gave me some information you might find useful. His partner is a man named Brett Mathers."

"Mathers? Uh, thanks, Dr. Kellerman. I appreciate the call. You hang on now. My boys think they know where Rose is being held. They're going in after her."

"I don't know how to thank you, Captain Dobey."

"We'll call you when we know something."

Dobey hung up and immediately called for a patch through to Zebra 3.


"Hutch, has Starsky headed in there yet?"

"Yeah, he left about five minutes ago, why?"

"Well, Delaney may have never been popped, but his partner has. By you two."


"You remember arresting a weasel named Brett Mathers about two years ago? Jewelry store heist?"


"Mathers got off on that charge, you remember? He turned evidence on his partner in the heist and walked. Mathers is Delaney's partner now."

"Oh my God." Hutch put the mic down and headed after his partner.

"Hutch? Hutch? Damn it." Dobey left in a hurry, headed for the meeting location and worried about what he would find once he got there.


Starsky was already inside by the time Hutch got the call. As Hutch moved down the street toward the warehouse, he could hear his partner talking to Delaney over the wire.

"Frank Westover."

"Carl Delaney"

Hutch's heart beat faster as he turned the corner to face the warehouse. He frantically looked around for a place he could see inside without detection.

"My partner is not here yet."

"You want to wait?"

"No, he's not so keen on this idea anyway. We'll fill him in when he gets here."

Starsky nodded, looking around the room surreptitiously.

The dingy, dark warehouse was big and hadn't been used in a long time. He saw two doors at the end of the room and wondered if Rose could be behind one of them. He'd have to maneuver himself in there somehow, but how?

"You came highly recommended, Westover."

"I have a certain reputation. Whatever you've got, I can handle it."

Delaney nodded.

"The job is downtown. A big coin dealership. My partner is going to disable their alarm, but you never know when they might have a backup system. Are you fast?"

Starsky nodded, "I'm fast."

"You'd better be. We're talkin' about $50,000 here and I don't want any screwups."

"Keep your shirt on, I can handle it."

"We'll just see. Come with me."

Starsky followed the man into a room behind one of the doors. In the far corner stood a black safe, about five feet tall.

"Okay, hot shot, show me what you've got."

Starsky looked as confident as possible. He really hadn't done this in a long time. He just kept telling himself it was just like riding a bike.

Starsky placed his kit on a small table next to the safe and started to work. He was right, everything came back to him in a rush. He just had to be patient, listening through a stethoscope and hearing the tumblers clicking. Within a few minutes, the safe was open and he had a sly smile pasted on his face."

"Fast enough for ya, Delaney?"

"Excellent. That will do nicely."

Meanwhile, Hutch had snuck around the side of the building and found a grimy window to peer through in hopes of watching his partner. From the sounds of the conversation through the wire, things were going well. Hutch was hoping Mathers would not show, but just then, he could see the man walking toward the warehouse door.

Hutch knew Dobey must be close by now. Hoping he had his radio with him, Hutch quietly called into his, "Cap?"

"I'm here, Hutch."

Hutch crouched down behind a dumpster to keep out of sight, "Trouble. Mathers is headed into the warehouse."

"Backup is standing by, Hutch."

"I'm moving into position to go in after him."

"Roger that, be careful. Give us the signal."

When Hutch saw Mathers enter the warehouse, he slunk around the building and moved himself into position.

"Delaney," Mathers called.

"In here."

Mathers crossed the room to the back office. When he approached the door, he saw Starsky, who was turning away from him at the moment. He recognized him at once and stepped back from the office.

"Uh, Carl, can you come out here a minute?"

"Sorry, Westover, I'll be right back."

Starsky nodded. He didn't like it, but he had no reason to think anything was wrong yet.

Hutch couldn't hear the conversation between Delaney and Mathers, but the hairs on the back of his neck were already standing up so he knew it was not good. He couldn't risk another look through the windows, so he crouched down and carefully made his way toward the front of the building.


"What do you want, Mathers?"

"Delaney, that guy's a cop."


"Keep your voice down. His name's Starsky and if he's here, his partner can't be far."

"I'll go take care of him, you go deal with his partner."

They nodded at each other and Mathers headed back out the door to look for Hutch.

He carefully opened the door and peeked outside. Not seeing Hutch, he crept out and looked up and down the street for Hutch, or any other backup units. That's when he heard the noise of shoes on gravel coming from around the corner of the building. He pulled out his gun and quietly made his way in that direction.

Hutch was moving toward the front of the building, but he did not notice his shadow cast on the ground in front of him. Mathers did.

He had no time to react when Mathers swung around the building and kicked him in the head. Hutch landed on the ground in a heap, knocked cold.

Meanwhile, in the warehouse, Starsky had located a small flashlight in his safe cracker's kit. He stuffed it into his pocket. He was looking through the kit for anything else he might find that would be useful when heard the sound of a gun safety being clicked off and he froze.

"Well, well, well, so we have a cop."

Starsky looked up at him. "Hey, how many cop's you know can crack a safe, Delaney." He hoped Hutch was listening carefully as he had just given the "send in the cavalry" signal.

"Can it, Starsky."

Knowing he had been made, Starsky made no further attempt to wriggle out of it. He put his hands up while Delaney removed his gun, located the wire, and ripped it off of him.

After he smashed it, he ordered Starsky toward the door in the other room.

Starsky opened the door and said, "Delaney, you can still get out of this."

"If you're here, Starsky, that means either Kellerman called the cops, or Angela is really dead. I'm done playing games."

With that, he pushed Starsky down the stairs. He stood and watched with satisfaction as Starsky tried to break his fall without getting hurt. He did manage to protect his head, but he twisted his ankle and banged his arms up on the way to the bottom.

He sat up at the bottom of the stairs, feeling his ankle and wincing from the pain. "You'll never get away with this, Delaney. Just give up now."

"Sure I will. You're not going to be around long enough to do anything about it. Oh, by the way, what you are looking for is right behind you. She's not going to be around much longer either."

Starsky looked behind him and could just make out another person in the corner of the room. He got up and stumbled toward her. "Rose? Sweetheart?"

Delaney looked down at them and laughed an evil laugh. "Say goodbye, Starsky."

Starsky had his arm around the frightened girl. She looked at him with wild eyes, so terrified she couldn't speak. He saw Delaney aim his gun at them and he put himself between the madman and Rose.

"Very brave, officer. That would be much too quick though. I have something more painful planned. Angela suffered, so can you."

Delaney reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter. Starsky watched in horror as he bent down to light what had to be a fuse. Then Delaney ran back into the warehouse.

Starsky frantically looked around for something to get him and Rose behind for cover. Ignoring the pain, he scooped the shivering girl up and took her behind a stack of boxes in the far corner just as the staircase exploded.

Part IV

Outside, Captain Dobey was getting worried. Hutch still had not given him the signal, and now he couldn't be raised on the radio.

"All units, move in."

Then, he heard the explosion and saw two men running from the warehouse. As he came around the corner and headed for the now smoking warehouse, he saw Hutch lying on the side of the building. He was moving, looking like he was coming around from being knocked unconscious.

Dobey reached him and helped him to stand. Some uniformed officers had easily taken the two suspects. Hutch was shaking his head to clear the fog while Dobey led him away from the smoking building.

Suddenly realizing what was happening, Hutch said, "Cap! Starsky's in there!"

"Calm down, the fire department will get him out of there."

Hutch broke free from the larger man's grasp and stumbled into the warehouse before Dobey could stop him.

"Hutch! Get out of there!" He heard the sounds of sirens in the distance; the fire department was on its way.

Hutch ran forward through the smoke to where he could see flames licking around a doorway. "Starsky!" he called.

Starsky had maneuvered Rose back out from behind the boxes. The room was on fire and the staircase had been blown away. He was looking up at the windows high on the wall and trying to figure out if he could get Rose up there and through them when he heard his partner.

"Hutch! Down here!! Look out, the stairs are gone."

He saw Hutch hovering in the doorway above and called up to him. "Rose is here, I'm gonna hoist her up to you, 'kay?"

He led the girl toward the burning rubble that used to be a staircase. Hutch could see he was limping.

"Okay, sweetheart, I want you to put your foot in my hands. I'm gonna give you a lift up to my partner."

She nodded at him and put her foot in his cupped hands. Starsky stood and hoisted her up high enough for Hutch to grab her arms and pull her up to the doorway. They both knew that Hutch couldn't reach Starsky though.

"Hutch, get her out of here." Starsky was coughing from the smoke and needed to move away from the burning remains of the staircase.

"I can't leave you down there!"

"Get out of here! I'll find another way!"

Starsky wasn't sure he could get out of there, but he wanted his partner and Rose to get out of the burning building. His eyes locked with Hutch's for a moment, then Hutch was gone.

Hutch ran outside with Rose and took her across the street where a paramedic unit was pulling up next to a just-arrived fire truck. After passing her off to the paramedics, he turned and ran back toward the building trying to figure out how to get Starsky out of the basement. He only made it half way back to the warehouse when another explosion rocked the building, blowing out the glass and knocking Hutch back to the other side of the street.

He sat up, stunned again, feeling a sudden dread grabbing at him with the realization that he had failed to get Starsky out of that building.

Hutch staggered to his feet and started toward the inferno. This time though, Dobey was ready for him. He had assigned a young uniformed officer to watch Hutch and restrain him from returning to the building.

As the young cop tackled him, Hutch shouted, "What the hell are you doing!? Let me go."

"No way, Cap'n Dobey said to keep you here."

Hutch struggled to get up again, but was easily knocked back down by the younger, bigger policeman. Dobey headed over to them.

"Are you crazy!" Hutch screamed at him.

"Hutch, listen to me! The fire department is on it."

Hutch started to stand again. This time, Dobey stopped the younger cop from interfering.

"Thanks, I've got it now," Dobey said dismissively.

Hutch was looking as antsy as his partner could on a good day, pacing in tight circles and swearing. Then he stopped suddenly and looked at Dobey.

"The back, Cap! Starsky is downstairs in the back. Get some fire support back in the alley."

He took off for the side of the building, running past the firefighters and heading along toward the back of the burning structure.


As soon as Hutch disappeared from view, Starsky spun around and started looking for a way up to the windows. He grabbed a piece of wood from the former staircase and limped over to the stack of boxes he had taken cover behind moments earlier. As he painfully climbed up the boxes, he realized there would be a big drop on the outside. He'd worry about that when he got there.

Starsky's strength was fading as he choked on the black smoke rolling through the room. Reaching the top of the boxes, he was about chest level with the windows. He used the board to break out a window, and hoisted himself onto the edge. Ignoring the cuts to his hands, he looked down at the fifteen-foot drop.

Before he had much time to think about it, he lowered himself out the window to hang by his hands. He didn't have time to gracefully drop though; the building chose that moment to explode.

Starsky landed in the alley below the window. That twisted ankle cracked as he landed and he collapsed in a fit of coughing and pain, sliding into unconsciousness.


When he reached the back of the building, Hutch looked down and could see Starsky lying in the alley beneath the broken out windows of the basement. "Starsky!"

No response from Starsky.

"Starsky!!!" Hutch called more urgently. When Starsky didn't stir, he looked down, deciding he could scale the fifteen feet with no trouble.

Dropping to the ground, Hutch beat the fire truck to Starsky's side.

"Starsky! Give me a sign here, you okay?" He frantically felt for a pulse and was relieved to find one. Starsky's breathing was raspy, but he was breathing. "Starsk?" Hutch gently shook Starsky's shoulder trying to revive him. Hutch yelled at the fire fighters "Paramedics!"

Starsky was covered with grime and soot. Hutch was afraid to move him, but he continued his efforts to revive him and checked him over for injuries.

"Starsk! Wake up, buddy."

He was rewarded by a low moan and some coughing.

"That's it, Starsk. Come on back to me now."

A firefighter appeared with an oxygen bottle for Starsky.

Starsky's eyes peeked open just a crack. His voice was hoarse and he croaked out, "Hutch?"

A round of coughing followed this as Starsky attempted to sit up and said, "Rose!"

"Easy, buddy, easy. She's safe, we caught the bad guys, you just relax."

The paramedic unit was pulling up next to them.

"Help me up, Hutch."

Hutch started to refuse, but then decided maybe it would help the coughing. He offered Starsky his hand and gently pulled him up, putting his arm behind Starsky's back for support.

Starsky sat there coughing and holding onto the oxygen mask. He was grateful he had already sat up, denying the paramedic the pleasure of strapping him onto a backboard.

"Hey, you okay, buddy?"

"Yeah, yeah...cough...I'm okay...cough...Hutch...?" Starsky reached for Hutch's hand as the world began to tilt.

Starsky had gone very pale and looked like he might pass out, so the paramedic and his partner picked him up off the ground and laid him down on the gurney.

As soon as Starsky realized what was happening to him, he became frantic. Still coughing and struggling for breath he started calling for his partner. "Hutch!"

Instantly by his side, Hutch took his hand, "I'm right here."

"No hospital!"

Starsky hated the hospital after all he had been through. He never wanted to be admitted again.

"I'm sorry, buddy, but you have to go."


"No argument. You get checked out, they probably won't even keep you overnight."

Starsky just looked at him, his eyes pleading, yet resigned.

"I'm gonna be right there."

Starsky nodded, knowing Hutch had to make sure Rose Kellerman was all right first.

"Call the doc, let him know we found her."

"I will, Starsk."

One of the paramedics looked up at Hutch. "We're ready to transport."

"I'll be there in a flash, Gordo. I have to go see about Rose."

Starsky gave him a thumbs up as he was placed in the back of the paramedic unit.

Hutch looked down the alley and spotted a black-and-white unit. He jogged over to it and picked up the mic. "Control, this is Sergeant Hutchinson. I need a patch through to Dr. Kellerman at Memorial Hospital's Trauma Unit."

"Roger, stand by."

Hutch waited impatiently.

"This Dr. Kellerman. Ken, is that you?"

"Yeah, Doc, everything is okay."

"You found her?"

"Yes, she looks okay, Doc. I'm gonna ride in with her."

"Thank God!"

"Doc, Starsky is on his way to you. Look after him 'til I get there, huh?"

Dr. Kellerman sounded concerned. "How is he?"

"Not sure. Didn't look too bad."

"Okay, Ken. I'll see you shortly."

Hutch called up to Dobey and asked if Rose had been transported yet. She hadn't so he asked them to wait for him.


Dr. Kellerman was waiting for the paramedics when they arrived in the ambulance bay with Starsky. When they wheeled him out of the ambulance, Dr. Kellerman was glad to see he was conscious. He fell into step along with the stretcher as they took Starsky into the Emergency Room. "So, David, you didn't mess up all my hard work did you?"

Starsky smiled underneath the oxygen mask and said, "No, Doc. I think it's okay. Rose here yet?"

"Not yet, she's on her way with Ken."

He continued into the examining room with Starsky and helped the paramedics transfer him off the stretcher.

Dr. Kellerman was relieved to see that Starsky's eyes looked clear. He could see that Starsky had been in a fire and was trying hard to control his worry for Rose and concentrate on Starsky's injuries. Both of the partners had assured him Rose was all right.

After the paramedics read off what their exam had turned up on Starsky, Dr. Kellerman was confident his miracle patient wasn't in any serious danger.

"David, if you don't mind, I'm going to leave you with the nurses for a few minutes while I go check on Rose. She should be here any minute."

Starsky smiled at him and said, "Go, Doc. I ain't goin' anywhere."

Dr. Kellerman made it back out to the ambulance bay just as the second paramedic unit pulled up with his daughter.

As the paramedics and Hutch lowered the stretcher out of the ambulance, Rose reached up for her father. "Daddy!"

"Rose, honey, are you okay?" Dr. Kellerman was now in dad mode, not doctor mode.

Rose just cried and clung to his hand, but she nodded that she was okay. One of Dr. Kellerman's colleagues walked up to them and took over for Rose's care.

"I'll be back in a little while, honey. You go with Dr. Austin."

Standing there with nothing to do was not helping anyone, so he turned and walked back to finish treating Starsky, Hutch hot on his heels. Hutch knew he would let him in with Starsky so he didn't even ask.

Rose Kellerman had only mild physical injuries. She came away from the experience with a few bumps and bruises. Starsky had shielded her from the blast in the basement and Hutch had gotten her out before the smoke or the fire injured her. Her emotional wounds were worse, but she would be fine in time. She was released to her father's care.

As Hutch predicted, Starsky was also released in a few hours. A mild case of smoke inhalation, fifteen stitches, a bump on the head, and a broken ankle where not enough to keep him in as a patient. He insisted on going home.

"Ken, you make sure he stays off that ankle and gets some rest."

"You know I will, Doc."

The doctor suddenly turned serious. "I don't know what to say to you for all you did. Thank you both for saving my daughter's life. David, if you ever wonder if all the pain you went through when you were shot was worth it, please remember what you did for us today."

Starsky didn't know how to respond to that. He just smiled and nodded, not trusting his voice to say anything.

Hutch spoke for them both. "You're welcome, Doc."

"I want you both to come to my home next week for dinner. We can celebrate and it will give my wife and I a chance to thank you."

The two detectives smiled at him. "Sounds great," they said in unison.

After they left, Dr. Kellerman wearily made his way up to the ICU to perform his final duty for Angela Delaney.


Sitting at the dinner table in the Kellerman home, Starsky and Hutch were enjoying a wonderful meal prepared by Mrs. Kellerman.

Hutch said, "Doc, this may be a first. I think my partner here is actually full."

"Good, he could still stand to put on another ten pounds."

"Yeah, I know, but I can't make him eat enough. Maybe you can talk some sense into him."

"Nag, nag, nag. You're killin' me!" Starsky replied.

Mrs. Kellerman and Rose chose that moment to bring in dessert.

Starsky rolled his eyes and said, "Oh God, I don't know! More?"

"Yes, David, and you're going to eat it. I understand you still haven't gotten back to your full fighting weight," Mrs. Kellerman responded.

"Okay, I can see when I'm out numbered." Starsky shot a glare at his partner, but followed it by a smile.

Just then, something occurred to Hutch. "Oh my God, Starsk. Rose! Her name is Rose!"

Everyone looked at him as Starsky started to laugh uncontrollably.

Rose blushed and said, "What's funny about my name?"

"Oh, nothing, sweetheart. My partner here has been obsessed with flowers lately."

"Roses, Starsk. You've gotta admit, this is getting pretty spooky."

"Sure, Hutch. Everything will be okay." He patted his partner on the hand reassuringly, conveying to everyone in the room that Hutch was sliding a little close to the edge.

The small group ate their dessert and enjoyed the rest of the evening. Hutch spared an occasional thought for flowers. Maybe he was imagining it after all.

The End

Post Script: This story originally aired as a virtual season episode on one of the lists. The reference to roses is a tie in to other episodes previously produced.