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Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction written solely for the enjoyment of fellow fans. No infringement on anyone's copyright is intended. No profit is being made from this story.

Special thanks to Kathy Kellenberger for helping me with the medical information in this story.

Retail Therapy

Sue David

Prologue--March 1981

The new Bay City Mall was a monstrosity. Over the past two years, construction of the indoor shopping center had dominated a former wetlands area. A covert environmentalist group, Protect Our Wetlands (P.O.W.) was not happy about the structure. They had threatened a violent disruption at the opening.

At the grand opening, several P.O.W. members were ready to cause trouble. They had worked out good access and escape routes and they planned a shootout to accompany the opening day activities. Unfortunately for them, the mayor had called on the Metro division of the Bay City Police Department to help with security. Unsure who the plain-clothes cops were among the many mall-goers, the group had backed down on their plans. Their alternate plan was to cause trouble during spring break a few weeks in the future. As they sat around a table, the group planned their attack

Bob Lackland was the environmental activism group's leader. He had a long police record for taking part in violent protests and this was going to be his coup de grāce.

"The mall has roof access here and here," said Lackland as he pointed to a blueprint of the shopping center. We can climb down through the metal struts in the roof and position ourselves over the center entrance to the mall. From those positions, we should be able to pick off anyone we want, then escape through the roof when the time is right."

Lackland had some other valuable information. The mall was going to hold an auto show during spring break. He and another member of the group would hide out in the mall the night before and rig some of the cars with explosives. Lackland didn't care what the ultimate effect of their planned attack was. He and the other members of the group didn't even care if they died conducting it. Their main objective was to make Bay City and the mall's developers sorry they had ever built on the wetlands. Maybe their attack would serve as a warning to any other developers.

Part 1--Three Weeks Later

Early in the week they had a terrible argument. Both Starsky and Hutch were on edge, their usual friendly banter disintegrating first into angry barbs, then into uncomfortable silences. They were not often in a bad mood at the same time and the combination was volatile. The argument was a stupid altercation over how they were going to get to work since Hutch's car was in the shop and the Torino's clutch was broken. Of course, the argument really had nothing to do with transportation. The argument had everything to do with Starsky's problems and Hutch's headaches.

Hutch was typing out an arrest report while Starsky tried to wade through some files researching a possible connection between two of their cases. While they both appeared to be deep in concentration, they were really watching each other surreptitiously and thinking about how to break the ice. Starsky was feeling particularly ashamed of himself. Lately his typically good humor had escaped him. When Hutch was in a bad mood, Starsky was usually able to snap him out of it. This time though he had no energy for it so he had been snappy and sullen all week. In this one week, Starsky's mom had been sick, the clutch on the Torino had died, and Nick had called him to borrow some money.

Twice this week, Hutch had migraines and his mood was a reflection of how he was feeling. Hutch hadn't mentioned the migraines, but Starsky knew his partner and could tell when he had one. He knew Hutch must really be angry with him because he had said nothing about the headaches.

Hutch's migraines usually didn't come in clusters, but they had this week. He found it hard to get over his bad mood when the universe seemed too bright and too loud. Today had been a little better for him; the searing pain had been reduced to a dull throb. At least the tunnel vision was gone and he could feel all the fingers in his left hand again. He usually would have talked to Starsky about it, but his partner had been in about as foul a mood as he had ever seen him in all week. Hutch had kept quiet about the migraines, deluding himself into believing Starsky hadn't noticed.

The two men were both feeling a little sheepish. Hutch looked up from his typing, intending to invite Starsky out to lunch somewhere so he could apologize. He said "Starsk, " just as his partner was looking up at him and saying, "Uh, Hutch..."

The ringing of Hutch's phone interrupted them. Frustrated, Hutch picked up the offending instrument before the ringing drilled deeper into his brain.


Starsky watched him closely. He could tell by the look on his face that Hutch still wasn't over the pain and he really needed to tell him he was sorry he'd been so grumpy all week. He was worried about Hutch's headaches and he needed to say that too.

"What?" Hutch sounded irritated. "Ah, come on. Now? Yeah, yeah, okay. I'll be there in ten."

He hung up the phone and said, "I have to go over to the courthouse. The defense in the Wheeling case rested early and the DA is recalling me to the stand for a rebuttal right after lunch."

"Want a ride over there?" Starsky had picked his car up the previous afternoon complete with new clutch.

"No." Hutch's car was already downstairs. Merle the Earl had dropped it off that morning. For once the man had only made repairs, no fuzzy additions. He thought about his short response as he stood up to leave the squad room. Then he said, "Look, Starsk, why don't you meet me down at The Pits in a couple of hours, okay? I've got some things I need to say."

Starsky was glad he didn't leave it at that short "No," and he was glad his partner wanted to talk. He was also a little worried about what Hutch wanted to say to him. He thought about saying he was busy, but decided he'd better face the music. Hutch was angry with him and he couldn't avoid being told off about his crankiness forever. He simply replied, "Okay. Four o'clock." He knew that would give Hutch enough time to testify and make it to Huggy's bar. Hutch nodded and Starsky watched him walk away leaving him to his files.

At the courthouse, Hutch was the first person called after the lunch break. He was reminded he was still under oath. This case involved a drunk driving arrest. Hutch had been driving home from Starsky's one night when he came up behind and subsequently arrested a drunk driver. Unfortunately, the lab had lost the man's blood alcohol test results and the District Attorney needed Hutch to elaborate on how he knew the suspect was drunk that night.

The District Attorney began the questioning. "Detective Hutchinson, your previous testimony indicated that the defendant was drunk at the time of his arrest, is that correct?"

"Yes, he was drunk."

"The defense has tried to establish that you had no way of knowing the defendant was drunk because you could not give him a blood alcohol or breathalyzer test in the field. He also had a head injury from the crash you witnessed and you were unable to give him a field sobriety check. Are you certain he was drunk?"

"Yes, I'm certain."

"Why are you so certain, Detective Hutchinson?"

"I've been a cop for a long time and I've seen my share of drunks. Mr. Wheeling was drunk."

"Thank you, Detective. Please describe to the court how you came to the conclusion Mr. Wheeling was inebriated."

"As I stated before, I was driving behind Mr. Wheeling. He was weaving back and forth on the road, so I attempted to pull him over. When I turned on my siren, he jerked the wheel to the right and ran his car into a residential lot, running over a large, ornate fountain. He exited the vehicle and proceeded to the front of his car." Hutch paused at this point, attempting to keep a straight face.

"What did Mr. Wheeling do then, Detective Hutchinson?"

Hutch continued, "The fountain had a tall statue of woman in the top of it. He had knocked it to the ground with his car. As soon as he reached it, he attempted to give the statue CPR. He was so drunk, he believed he had hit a pedestrian."

Giggles could be heard throughout the courtroom. The defense attorney jumped to her feet, "I object your honor! This officer is making a mockery of this court and I move for an immediate mistrial."

The judge looked at her with disdain. "Overruled, Ms. Carroll. You opened this line of questioning earlier in the trial. The witness may continue."

"I called for a black-and-white unit and for the paramedics. Mr. Wheeling had a cut on his forehead. As you stated, he was injured in the crash and I did not administer a field sobriety check. After the uniformed officers arrived, I left the scene."

The DA thanked Hutch for his time and he was dismissed.

As Hutch walked out of the courtroom, he started to see flashes of light and swirling dots. Great, another migraine starting. This was getting ridiculous. He sat on a bench outside the courtroom for a while waiting for the vision disturbances to subside. While sitting there he decided his problem was at least partially related to his partner. He was feeling so guilty for being nasty to Starsky, the combination of guilt and a stressful week was keeping him from breaking out of this headache pattern. Hutch's sense of urgency to make things right with Starsky was mounting. Not only was it the right thing to do, if he didn't he was afraid these awful headaches might kill him.

Hutch decided he needed to get a peace offering for his beleaguered partner. A few weeks ago, he and Starsky had gone to the opening of a new indoor mall to help out with security. An environmentalist group had been making threats against the mall since the groundbreaking ceremonies and the mayor wanted Bay City's Finest to be well represented, just in case. He and Starsky had gone in plain clothes to mill about with the crowd.

Nothing troublesome happened and the two detectives had a lot of time to peruse the mall. One of the stops they made had been to a hobby store where his partner had admired a kit to build a ship in a bottle. That seemed like a good olive branch. As soon as he could see past the swirling dots, he headed over to the mall. Hutch guessed he had a little while before the pain hit and with luck he would be at Huggy's before that happened

Meanwhile, Starsky was finishing the last of his research. He had not found the connection he was hoping for between cases and he was disappointed. Starsky was also still wondering how he could make up to his partner for being such a pain all week.

I've got it! Starsky had a great idea. He decided he needed a peace offering. When he and Hutch had worked security for the new mall a few weeks back, Hutch had spent a lot of time in a music store looking over some sheet music he wanted. He didn't buy any because he didn't want to carry it around with him in case they needed to respond to any action. Starsky knew Hutch hadn't had time to go back to the mall and get it, so Starsky thought he'd go over there and pick it up for his partner before heading to Huggy's. He wanted to do something nice for his friend and he hoped the music would please him. The time was only 2:45 so he thought he should be able to get there and over to Huggy's by four o'clock.

Part 2

Hutch arrived at the mall at around 2:30. He entered and headed for the hobby store. The mall was holding a car show. Hutch thought it was too bad his partner wasn't with him. Starsky enjoyed going to car shows. Maybe they could come back on the weekend if they were speaking to each other again. He smiled at the thought. They never stayed mad at each other for long and he was sure tonight's dinner, the present, and a few games of pool with Huggy would take care of things.

The mall was crowded for a weekday. Hutch hadn't realized it, but it was spring break. Lots of out-of-school young people were wandering around shopping and just hanging out enjoying the novelty of an indoor mall.

The hobby store was up on the second level, near the middle. The man who owned it was friendly and helped Hutch pick out the perfect kit. Pleased with his purchase, Hutch headed back downstairs. He had just reached the ground floor when the pain from his newest migraine hit him. This was going to be a bad one and he was suddenly feeling nauseous. Thankfully, he spotted some benches near one of the cars and he made his way over to one to rest for a while. He sat on the bench and tucked his head down, using his right hand to rub a spot just above his right eye.

Hutch wasn't sitting for very long before something unexpected happened. He had his eyes closed and he was trying to get a handle on the pain in his head when he heard the sound of a rifle shot, followed by the sounds of glass breaking and people screaming.

His eyes snapped open, and he rolled off the bench as a second shot ended in a bullet lodging itself in the wooden back of the bench right where he had been sitting. Hutch rolled under the bench, drawing his Magnum and scanning the area for the source of the gunfire. That's when he saw two young women huddled next to the closest car. People were in a panic, running away from the open center of the mall and into the stores. The two women in front of him were frozen in terror. As the shots continued, a bullet broke out the window of the red Mustang they were huddled against

Hutch yelled at them, "Get down behind that car!" But the two women just stayed where they were, shaking in fear. Hutch's headache was no longer a consideration with two innocent bystanders in danger in front of him. Their position was directly in the line of fire, so with no other options, Hutch rolled out from under the bench and made a dash for the two women.

Placing himself between them and the shooter, he yelled as he crouched in front of them, "I'm a cop. Move!" The sight of the blond man rushing toward them broke them out of their stupor and the two women began to move.

Hutch was sure they'd never make it to the nearest store, so keeping the women behind him, he steered them toward a concrete planter with a built in bench. He pushed them to run up over the back of the bench and down inside the planter. Hutch didn't make it though. The next rifle shot found his left upper chest, spinning him to the ground. A few seconds after he hit the ground, the brand new Mustang he had just run away from exploded sending glass and debris flying in every direction. A piece of the debris hit him in the head and he immediately plunged into blackness. The two women now crouched in the planter screamed and coughed from the burning car smoke.

Starsky was just pulling into a parking space on the south side of the mall when a call came over the radio, "Report of shots fired inside the Bay City Mall. All available units, please respond."

He picked up the mic and answered, "Control, this is Zebra 3, I'm already on scene." He grabbed his mobile police radio out of the glove box and headed toward the mall. As he started to walk toward the entrance he heard an explosion. People were running out the south entrance into the parking lot. Starsky made his way along the row of parked cars to the entrance, being careful to avoid being trampled over by the frightened people running directly toward him.

He could see mall security standing at the doors, helping people as they exited. Walking up to the nearest security guard, he flashed his badge and asked what was happening.

"I don't know for sure. We have at least one shooter firing shots into the center of the mall. I just heard on my radio there was an explosion there a minute or two ago."

Starsky nodded, stepped inside the mall and called headquarters on his radio. "Dispatch, this is Starsky."

"Roger, Starsky, go ahead."

"I'm inside the Bay City Mall. We have an explosion here. Send over the bomb squad and see if you can raise Hutch on his radio." He was wishing his partner was at his back instead of at the courthouse or on his way to Huggy's.

Starsky continued to carefully make his way through the mall, gun drawn, hugging the glass windows of the stores on one side. This was a two-story mall and he kept his eye on the level above him as he made his way to the center courtyard.

His radio crackled, "Starsky, Detective Hutchinson doesn't answer. Bomb squad, SWAT, and Captain Dobey are all on the way."

He noticed the collection of cars from the auto show down the middle of the walkway. Looking above him, Starsky could see dozens of places for a sniper to hide. Terrific. The perfect design for a nutcase.

Hearing quickly approaching footsteps he glanced over his shoulder and saw some uniforms coming toward him. He heard more gunshots just ahead of him aimed at the courtyard. As he got closer, he could see the mangled Mustang and knew that must be what exploded. The car was still smoldering and thick black smoke filled the courtyard, drifting up to the second floor. Starsky was starting to get a bad feeling about the whole situation. More than just the danger he was probably in, something else was bugging him, tugging at his danger sense and he wasn't sure what it could be. If Hutch had been there, he might have been worried about his partner. He knew Hutch was either at the courthouse or on his way to Huggy's though.

Suddenly, a bullet hit the marble floor two feet in front of him. He was forced to backpedal, pushing the uniforms along with him. When they had retreated far enough to be out of rifle range, he turned to talk to the uniformed officers.

"I just got here and I don't know much. We've got at least one shooter up above that courtyard and what exploded used to be a Mustang. That's sitting right in the courtyard. That's all I could see before we had to fall back here. You guys have anything?"

One of the uniforms answered, "We have the entrances blocked and there's a team coming in from the North side."

They heard more gunfire and assumed it was a response to the other team. He told them to stay back until they were instructed to advance. While he was making his next move, he wanted them to search each store behind them to make sure everyone had made it out the south entrance.

The same officer asked him, "What are you gonna do next?"

"I'm gonna try to find a way up to the second level that won't get my head blown off." Then he used the radio to signal dispatch again. "Control, this is Starsky again. Tell the teams the shooters are somewhere above the first level near the center. I'm headed up to check it out now."

"Roger, Starsky."

He signaled for a couple of the uniforms to follow him for backup, then he headed up the nearest staircase. When he reached the second level, he repeated his previous activity of slinking along the windows of the stores on that side, trying to keep down and taking it slow. His reward after creeping down the walkway for a few minutes was getting the nearest shop window shot out right above him. This time as he backpedaled, he was also carefully brushing glass fragments out of his hair.

When he turned around, the officer behind him gasped, "Hey, you okay? You're bleeding!"

He had felt the stings of glass, but didn't notice the trails of blood running down the left side of his face from the cuts. "Yeah, I'm okay," he answered as he reached up with his sleeve to wipe the blood off his temple. His radio crackled and he heard Captain Dobey's voice calling for him to meet him in the mall's security office on the second floor by the south entrance.

When he reached the security office, he found the captain, Lieutenant Danes of the SWAT unit, some mall security guards, and the bomb squad's Sergeant Deshel already there. They were poring over an architectural drawing of the shopping center. The mall was shaped like a plus sign with four outside entrances and entrances in each of the anchor stores on both levels.

Dobey looked up at Starsky as he walked in, seeing the blood on his face and sleeve. "Starsky! You okay?"

"Yeah, Cap, I got hit by some flying glass."

Dobey nodded, handing him a handkerchief and said, "We're tryin' to figure out how we can get a good view of what's down in that courtyard without getting anyone killed."

Lieutenant Danes said, "Looks like at least two gunmen positioned on either side of the center, somewhere near here and here." He pointed on the drawing to the likely locations of the shooters.

Dobey continued, "The security guards tell us we have a few people down in the courtyard. One of them was hit by gunfire just before that car exploded. We can't get in there and we haven't been able to get close enough for a good look."

"I tried on both levels, Cap. As soon as I got close enough to see anything, the sniper took a pot shot at me both times."

"Same thing at the other three entrances. The gunmen have people pinned in some of the stores nearest the courtyard too."

"What about the security cameras? Can they get us a good look?" Starsky asked.

The security guard nearest him offered that the explosion had taken out several of the cameras, including the one with the best view of the courtyard.

"Those cameras connected to recording equipment?"

"Yeah, they snap a picture every ten seconds."

The group of men went to the back of the security office and set up the equipment for playback. The film was black and white and far enough away from the courtyard to make individual recognition difficult. The quality was about as good as what bank surveillance equipment produced.

They backed the film up to the timestamp just before the fireworks began. The timestamp read 2:55 p.m. The first frame showed the courtyard looking fairly normal. What looked like two women were standing next to the former Mustang. People were walking through the shot on the way to stores, packages in their hands. A man was sitting on a bench with his back to the camera, his head bent down toward the ground.

The next few frames proved more enlightening. The next shot showed the people by the Mustang crouching down, holding onto each other. The man on the bench was out of the shot. In the next shot, the man was back, running toward the people next to the car. The image quality was poor.

In the next frame, the two people were moving away from the car with the man from the bench in front of them. The camera now showed a side view of the man who looked like he had a gun in his hand pointed up toward the second level. Something about this image bothered Starsky. The image was too grainy to make out the man's face.

Before the security guard could advance to the next shot, Starsky said, "Hold it."

He stared at the image for long seconds when Captain Dobey said, "What is it Starsky? You see somethin'?"

"I hope not," he replied. "Go ahead."

The next shot showed the two people huddled in a planter. The man from the bench was gone. They could see what might be a gun laying on the marble floor, but the man was not in the snapshot. That camera had taken no other shots. The explosion had gotten it before its next picture could be taken.

"Back up a frame," Starsky said.

Dobey said, "Starsky, what is it you see?"

Starsky felt his heart beating faster as he replied, "Oh my God, Cap, I think that might be Hutch."

Dobey turned to the guard, "Are any other cameras in the courtyard working?"

The guard pointed to the right monitor. From this angle, they could not see into the planter, but they could see a pair of legs sticking out from underneath the planter's built in bench. They could make out what was probably a pool of blood on the marble floor. This camera was also capturing the debris scattered around the courtyard from the car explosion.

Starsky was shifting his weight from his left foot to his right, snapping his fingers nervously as he studied the frames repeatedly for a few moments. Dobey was looking closely at them too. The poor quality images made it impossible to be certain.

He turned to Dobey and said, "Cap, even if that's not Hutch down there, we have to get whoever it is to medical attention." The fact that the pool of blood appeared a little bigger every few minutes in the subsequent frames was not doing anything to calm the anxious detective. He was also concerned about the two women trapped in the planter.

"You got any ideas?"

"I need to get in closer so I can see what we have over there. How many people are trapped, how many hurt."

"Starsky, SWAT hasn't even been able to get in there yet. Look at yourself. You've already been cut by flying glass from having those maniacs shoot at you."

Starsky was frustrated, but he knew Dobey was right. Getting closer wasn't an option yet. His mind was racing when he noticed one of the monitors was showing a shot of what looked like a concrete tunnel with doors on both sides. He turned to the security guard and said, "Are there back doors into those stores down there?"

The man replied, "Yes, but they're locked from the inside and alarmed."

That could be negative. Alarms going off might startle the snipers into opening fire on the people still trapped and they didn't even know for certain how many people there were.

"Can you turn off the alarms?" Starsky asked.

The security guard smiled. "Yes!"

"Do that." Starsky said as he turned to Captain Dobey.

"Cap, with the alarms off, we can get the people who are still trapped out of the stores and I can get a better look at what's going on down there."

Dobey agreed and the team got to work making it happen. Starsky would go into the tunnel on the east side of the building. He was taking some SWAT officers with him. SWAT and uniformed officers would go through the other three tunnels, making sure they got everyone out of the stores.

Part 3

The two snipers were hiding up in the rafters of the mall. They had broken in through the ventilation shafts as planned. Slithering down along the walls on either side of the courtyard, they had each taken a position behind ornate metal hanging decorations. They could not be seen from below, but they had a perfect view of the courtyard and at least fifty feet in each direction down the mall's walkways.

Both men were armed with enough ammunition to keep the police busy for hours. They had worked out their plan ahead of time because they couldn't have any communication between them once they got started. The cops could pick up any walkie-talkie signals and they couldn't come out from behind their hiding places.

Their object in this alternate terrorist plan had not been body count, but Bob Lackland was pleased with what they had done so far. The plan called for them to shoot around the bystanders, terrorizing the crowd, but not necessarily hitting anyone. However, when that blond man had pulled out a gun and tried to shield those women while getting them out of the courtyard, he had been right in Lackland's line of fire. He couldn't resist shooting him. The man did have a gun pointed in his direction. Lackland could see the man lying below in a widening pool of blood. He looked through his binoculars, but couldn't tell for certain if the man was alive or dead. Debris from the car bomb was lying on the marble and it looked like some of it had hit the blond. He smiled to himself. If he moved again, Lackland could easily finish him off from his location.

Jimmy Waters was equally pleased. Sitting in his hiding place, he looked at his watch. Good, 3:30 already. Their outside cohorts should be calling the police with their demands right now.

The group had a man inside the mall, safely away from the blast area. Jimmy had watched him from his position above the courtyard. The insider had used a radio-controlled device to trigger the car bomb. After the explosion, he had run out of the mall undetected with the rest of the fleeing customers. He would be the one to place the phone call.

The group had planted bombs in half the cars in the auto show. Every other one down all sides of the shopping center was rigged with both timers and radio controlled ignition devices. Their plan was to terrorize the people in the mall until nightfall. Then, they would escape along a preplanned route through the ventilation system. The car bombs were rigged to explode at 8:00 p.m. Their hope was that the force of the simultaneous explosions would destroy a good portion of the offensive mall.

If the explosions didn't take care of the mall, perhaps the ensuing fire would. They had blown up the first car to test the fact that they had disconnected the fire suppression system the night before when they planted the bombs. The rent-a-cop security company the mall used had been totally ineffectual. Their team had easily accomplished its terrorist goals without interference or detection. That first car was just a test. They hadn't used much explosive material and the car had very little gas in it. They didn't want to start the fire prematurely. The other cars contained much larger payloads.

Now all they had to do was sit back and wait. Their gunfire would keep any bomb or SWAT personnel back away from the cars. Everything was going along smoothly. Lackland leaned back on his perch and kept the courtyard in his gun site.

Back up in the security office, the phone rang. Metro Dispatch was patching through a caller who demanded to speak with the senior police officer in charge. Dobey took the phone, signaling one of his men to put a trace on it.

"Captain Dobey here."

The sarcastic voice on the other end of the line said, "Good afternoon, Captain. Thanks for coming to our party."

"Who is this and what do you want?"

"Our group is called Preserve Our Wetlands. We told the developers we wouldn't let them have any peace if they built the mall. Today, we're keeping our word. You tell the developer we want this 'THING' torn down and the wetlands restored. If they agree, no one else needs to be hurt. Looks like we already killed one man. Let's not have that happen again. If the developer refuses, we have explosives planted throughout the mall to tear it down ourselves. Keep your people away from the courtyard or they'll go down with the building." After that comment, the line went dead.

The call was too short for a trace. Dobey picked up his radio and signaled the men already advancing through the tunnel system, "This is Dobey. Be careful, they have explosives planted down there."

The radio crackled with Starsky's response. "Terrific. Roger that, Cap."

Mall security had provided Starsky and the other teams with the master keys to open the doors along the tunnels. Starsky's team proceeded up their tunnel to the store closest to the courtyard. One of the SWAT officers carefully unlocked the door and pulled it open a few inches. Good, the security guard had successfully disabled the alarms. Starsky crouched down and followed the SWAT officer into the store. He was uncomfortable with the flak jacket and helmet Dobey had insisted he wear. Watching the SWAT officers, Starsky wondered how they ever managed to achieve stealth in the bulky, sight-reducing gear.

"This is the police, anyone still in here?" He called out from behind the cash counter. They were in a small bookstore. No one answered. Looking around the store, he realized suddenly just how bright it was. He wanted to kill the lights, but he also didn't want to draw unnecessary attention to himself or the other officers. Damn. Wish I'd thought of that before now. He instructed the other officers to stay back while he crept through the bookstore. Moving farther into the store, he noticed a victim lying on blood-soaked carpeting. Mindful that the sniper might be able to see him, he carefully inched toward her. When he reached her, he found she was still breathing and he signaled for some of the other officers to take her out to one of the many paramedic units standing by in the parking lot.

He took a deep breath and moved quickly between the bookshelves, making his way to the corner window farthest from the front door where he should have a good view of the courtyard. The window boasted some planters, which he hoped would obstruct the sniper's view of him. He also hoped the shooter wasn't looking his way.

When he reached the window, Starsky was glad to see he was right. This was a good vantage point for viewing the devastation in the courtyard. He hoped the man he was scanning for was not Hutch, but he was about to be disappointed.

Starsky had brought along a pair of field glasses so he could get the best look possible at the man on the ground. He pulled them out and brought them to his eyes, taking a moment to focus them. As soon as he brought them into focus he felt like the world had gone on tilt. His partner was lying on the ground in a distressingly large puddle of blood 20 feet from where Starsky was crouched. He held his own breath as he desperately tried to determine if Hutch was breathing. From this angle, and with the way Hutch had fallen it was impossible.

Hutch's face was almost as white as the marble flooring. He had a large, bloody gash on his forehead and he was bleeding a lot, but Starsky couldn't tell from where. Hutch was wearing a black shirt and his black leather jacket that day. The blood could have been coming from his chest or his shoulder. Damn it!

Starsky brought the radio up and grimly said, "Cap, it's him."

Part 4

Dobey could hear the strain in Starsky's voice. "Can you tell how he is?"

"Not good. I can't tell if he's breathing or not from here. I've got to get him out of there, Cap. He's lying in a lot of blood. Too much!"

He heard the report of another gunshot and the bookstore's front window shattering. The SWAT officers were yelling, "Fall back, fall back." When Starsky didn't move fast enough, the senior SWAT officer yelled at him, "Detective Starsky, move!"

Hearing more gunfire, Starsky knew he had no choice but to go back the way he had come, leaving Hutch lying hurt, unconscious, and alone. As he retreated through the back door of the bookstore, he was sure he heard the sound of women screaming coming from the direction of the courtyard. His mind was racing, furiously trying to think of a plan. Starsky was justifiably terrified that Hutch could bleed to death. He muttered quietly as he headed for the back door, "Hang on, Hutch, just hang on."

When they got back up to the security office, one of the other reconnaissance team members reported having spotted the women huddled in the planter. They looked scared but unhurt. The other stores had all been evacuated.

Starsky sat down and put his head in his hands. Gripping his thick curls in his fingers he tried to force himself to think of a rescue plan. He was having trouble focusing past the guilt and remorse he was feeling. All week his best friend had been hurting and Starsky had been nasty and uncooperative, letting a bad mood get the better of both of them. They had fought and even pretty much stopped speaking to each other. Now he was terrified his friend was dead and he'd never get a chance to apologize or tell him he was wrong.

Ah, buddy, please be alive! I'll get you out of there somehow. Starsky closed his eyes tightly and reached out with his feelings, trying to get a sense of his partner. He had always thought he'd know if Hutch were dead. They both could feel it when the other was in danger or hurt. That must have been the nagging something extra he was sensing as he slunk up the walkway when he first entered the mall.

Starsky was deep in thought when one of the security guards looked up from staring at the monitors and said, "Hey, your guy's moving down there!"

Feeling a spike of hope, Starsky rushed to the monitoring desk. The remaining functional camera had a view of Hutch's legs and they had moved a little. Starsky was relieved to discover his partner was alive, but that relief quickly turned to increased fear when he heard the muffled sounds of gunfire. He hadn't thought about the fact that as long as Hutch was lying still, the sniper probably thought he was dead. His movement would have drawn the gunman's attention and he might be trying to finish the job by killing him.

In the courtyard, Hutch was starting to come to, clawing his way up from the darkness into the light and blinding pain. He moved a little, weakly and opened his eyes. He couldn't remember why he would be lying on a cold marble floor. He felt sick and his focus was just good enough to register that he was lying in a pool of blood. Every breath he took felt like breathing fire, his left shoulder and arm were burning with pain, and his head felt like it was being chiseled open slowly. After what seemed like only one or two minutes, he heard a shot ring out right before a bullet struck the concrete benches. Then, another shot hit the ground near his legs. Using what little strength he had he pulled himself along the ground with his right arm and got completely up under the shelter of the benches. His last thought before succumbing to the darkness again was of his partner. Starsk, help.

Up in the sniper's nest, Lackland had noticed Hutch's movements. He knew the blond man had to be disoriented because he had been unconscious down there for over an hour. While he waited for the man to move enough for an accurate kill shot, Lackland could have some fun with him. This was going to be like shooting ducks in a barrel. He fired a shot at the bench above his unfortunate victim, then he fired another one onto the marble right next to the man's legs. Then, the unexpected happened. Instead of panicking and moving more out into the open, the man managed to pull himself up under the planter's benches and out of Lackland's sight line. The frustrated sniper smirked to himself and got back to the business of watching and waiting.

In the security office, Starsky was rapidly pacing back and forth in a tight pattern. He was relieved when he saw that Hutch had pulled himself under the cover of the concrete planter bench. Maybe that would buy him some time, if his partner didn't bleed out before he could get to him. Starsky was making Dobey dizzy when he stopped suddenly and called for the SWAT leader. "Danes!" The man stepped over to Starsky.

"Yeah, Starsky, you got something?"

"Maybe. They got those cars in here somehow. Is the mall entrance big enough to drive a SWAT van through?"

"No. We already checked that, the structure is too low. Just sit tight, we're trying to figure out how the snipers got in here. If we can find their entrance route, we might be able to flush them out by following it."

"We don't got anymore time, Danes! My partner is down there bleeding to death and I've got to get him and those two women out of there fast before that whacko finishes what he started with them!" His dark blue eyes flashed as he glared at the SWAT leader. "Don't forget they said there's more bombs down there too. Who's to say when they're gonna cut loose with those?"

"All right, Starsky, we're doing our best here," Danes replied, his voice loud in response.

Dobey stepped in between them, putting one hand on each of their shoulders, "Calm down, that's not gonna help anything."

The two men looked at each other, contrition on their faces. Starsky dipped his head a little and said, "Sorry, man. I'm just worried about my partner."

"I know. Too bad we can't fit a tank through those doors."

A tank? No, not a tank! Starsky suddenly had a flash of brilliance. He knew how he could get all three people out of there. He hurried over to the nearest security guard and asked for a phonebook. Dobey and Danes were both curious.

"Starsky?" Dobey asked, hoping the younger man would fill in the blanks for him.

Starsky didn't stop what he was doing, but he obliged his captain by trying to let him in on what he was thinking. "Cap, you remember that armored car heist and hostage situation Hutch and me handled about six years ago?" He had found the number he was looking for and started to dial. Dobey nodded, he remembered.

"The guy that owns the armored car service said he'd help us if we ever needed it. We need it now."

Dobey thought he knew where Starsky was going with this idea. "No, I don't like it. We can't put citizens in danger here."

The phone at Ames Armored Car Service must have been answered, because Starsky put his hand up to silence Dobey for just a minute while he conducted his business. "This is Detective David Starsky. I need to speak with Mr. Ames right away." Dobey was flabbergasted by what his detective was doing. "I don't care if he's in a meeting, get him to the phone now! This is urgent police business!"

The sufficiently intimidated receptionist put Starsky on hold while she went to find Mr. Ames. Starsky turned back to Dobey and said, "Trust me, Cap. I'm not gonna ask anyone to hop into the fire down there. I'm gonna do that myself."

Dobey bellowed, "You can't drive an armored car into the mall and pick all those people up yourself, Starsky!"

Starsky was about to argue with him when Danes chimed in, "I can drive, Captain Dobey. I think I know what he wants to do and it might just work."

Starsky turned his attention back to the phone. "Mr. Ames? Detective Starsky here. Fine thanks, listen I have a bit of a situation here and I hope you can help."

The conversation between Starsky and Ames continued for a few minutes. Dobey and Lieutenant Danes listened with admiration as Starsky negotiated the use of an armored truck. Mr. Ames was happy to help the man who had saved him from losing over a million dollars.

Starsky turned to the two other men. "He's got a truck on the way. They're gonna drive it over to the entrance closest to the courtyard on the West side. The sun is going down out there and it might help give us some advantage if it's shining through the glass doors. I'm thinkin' that truck will fit in through the mall entrance. We can drive it into the courtyard and put it between the snipers and Hutch. I'll get the women out of that planter and pick up my partner. Then we just drive them out of there." He looked at his captain hopefully.

Dobey was considering the plan. He knew a good idea when he saw one. "Well, I'm not sure I like it, but maybe it's all we've got." Somehow, Starsky knew he would see things his way. "Starsky, you're not goin' down there alone now. Danes, you drive and get some of your men to ride shotgun. He might need some cover fire. We do have two snipers down there."

Danes nodded and said to Starsky, "I'll get my men together and meet you down there. Starsky, what if the armored car is also too big?"

Starsky looked at him with intensity and said, "We're gonna make it fit."

Lieutenant Danes left to make his arrangements while Starsky looked at the shopping center architectural drawings again. He consulted with Dobey about the specifics of his plan, then he headed down to meet the armored car.

Part 5

Starsky arrived just as the silver truck pulled up in front of the mall entrance. He was pleasantly surprised when Tom Cole stepped down out of the driver's seat. Tom was the man who had been kidnapped while his pregnant wife was held hostage during the attempted heist. Starsky and Hutch had saved him and his wife, not just the money.

Tom walked toward him, his hand held out, "Detective Starsky," he said shaking Starsky's hand. "Been a long time. Hey, you all right?" He had noticed the blood on the other man's face and clothes and he pointed at it.

"Yeah, fine, Tom. What are you doin' here?"

"I was just going off shift when you called. Mr. Ames told me what was going on here and I offered to drive."

Starsky thanked him and introduced him to Lieutenant Danes. Tom Cole wanted to drive the truck in himself, but Starsky wouldn't allow it. "No, Tom. You must have at least a couple of babies at home to get back to by now. You just give me the keys and let us take it from here."

Tom nodded his agreement as he handed over the keys. "Yeah, I have three now. My wife probably would skin me alive if I pulled something like this."

Starsky asked him a few questions about the truck. He needed to know how tall and wide it was. Lieutenant Danes would be driving and he wanted to know how well it handled and how susceptible Tom thought it was to tipping.

The truck was just short enough to clear the structure, but it was too wide. They were going to have to crash through the glass doors to get inside, but that beat bringing the entrance and part of the courtyard down on the victims inside by crashing the larger SWAT van into the structural supports.

Danes climbed up into the driver's seat and one of the other SWAT officers took the shotgun position. Starsky and three other SWAT officers loaded into the back of the truck. They were all armed for bear with high-powered rifles provided by SWAT. The man riding shotgun was one of SWAT's best shots. He was hoping to pick off one of the snipers if he could get a bead on him.

Starsky called into the radio, "We're movin'."

The big truck lurched forward and lumbered up the sidewalk toward the entrance. The setting sun was at their backs and Starsky was fervently praying for a miracle. He was twitchy with anticipation, and he was worried about the truck getting into the right position. Beyond that, he was reaching out again for his partner, willing him to be alive when they got there.

Breaking glass flew in all directions as the silver truck careened through the mall entrance. The sniper opened fire on them immediately. Starsky and the other men held on in the back as the truck fishtailed on the slick marble floor, with Danes yanking the wheel hard while slamming on the brakes near Hutch. Too near for Starsky's taste. Danes managed to position the truck with the back doors facing Hutch and the planter. When he banged on the truck cab to signal them he was in position, Starsky and the other men flung the back door open and jumped out into the courtyard.

Two of the men headed over to the planter to get the petrified women and load them into the back of the truck. Starsky and the other man ran to get Hutch. On the way to him, Starsky saw the Magnum on the floor. He picked it up and stuffed it into his pocket.

As he bent down to reach for his friend, Starsky said, "Hutch! I'm here, buddy. We're gonna get ya outta here now."

When he got a close look at his partner as they pulled him out from under the bench, Starsky was terrified. Hutch had lost a lot of blood. They didn't even have time to assess his condition. They just scooped him up as carefully as they could and carried him back to the truck.

Starsky was oblivious to the sounds of the firefight going on around them. Then, just as they reached the truck, he heard an explosion. The sniper had set off another car bomb and this one was more potent than the first. The mall rocked as plaster, glass, and burning debris rained down on them. Starsky ignored a flaming piece of wood burning its way through his sleeve. Hutch was all he had on his mind. As they were laying his partner down in the back of the truck, the SWAT sharpshooter made his mark. He watched with satisfaction as Bob Lackland fell to the marble floor forty feet below his hiding place. One down, one to go!

Once everyone was back in the truck, one of the SWAT officers banged on the cab and yelled, "We're all in, go, go, go!" Starsky slammed the back door shut and turned back to his partner as the truck was flung into reverse and whipped around for the trip back out they way it had come. As the truck pulled out of the building, the sound of explosions roared through the early evening air. The remaining sniper had set off the rest of the car bombs. If the plan worked, not much would be left of the center section of the brand new mall within a short time.

Starsky got down next to his unconscious partner and held onto him as the truck pulled around the side of the building and came to a sudden stop. He reached to feel for a pulse and found it to be weak and rapid. He pleaded with his friend, "Hang on, Hutch. We're gonna get you some help. Just hang on a little longer! You're doin' great." As he checked Hutch over he found the bullet wound in the upper left side of his chest. Hutch was too still and the gash on his head looked deep. His breathing was rapid and raspy. Starsky thought he might be in shock. His skin was clammy and cold. Hutch was also still bleeding profusely from the bullet wound.

Captain Dobey opened the back door of the truck and helped the SWAT officers unload the hysterical women. Starsky hadn't even noticed them. He yelled out the door, "Get me some paramedics in here!"

Starsky was glad when the paramedic climbed into the truck and started working on his best friend. Captain Dobey pulled him out to give the paramedic room to work.

Much to Starsky's dismay, Dobey further distracted him by calling another paramedic over to check his cuts and the new, nasty looking burn on his forearm. He protested, "I'm all right, I need to stay with Hutch." He lost that argument though. Dobey turned to bark out some orders to the uniformed officers gathered around to see what was happening.

The shopping center parking lot was pure bedlam. Fire trucks continued to scream up to the building, SWAT, and Bomb Squad teams were swarming everywhere and the sound level was deafening. The scene was being filmed from helicopter news crews and reporters were circling the staging area like wolves waiting to pounce. In the midst of all that chaos, Starsky could hear nothing but what the paramedics were saying about his partner.

While one paramedic tended to Starsky's arm, he strained to hear the report going out to the trauma unit over the other paramedic's radio. "I've got a 35 to 40-year-old male with a single through-and-through large caliber GSW to the left upper chest and an open head injury. Pulse 130, BP 90 over 60, respiration 25 and shallow. Looks like he's lost a lot of blood. Possible collapsed lung..." Starsky's head was spinning. He impatiently asked his paramedic to finish up so he could go with his partner, but he received a refusal. Hearing his detective melting down on the unsuspecting paramedic, Captain Dobey strode over and told Starsky he'd have a black-and-white take him to the hospital right behind the paramedics.

Starsky never took his eyes off his partner as the paramedics worked on him. He was unnerved by the sight of Hutch being wheeled to the ambulance, completely limp with one hand hanging down off the stretcher.

Part 6

After the paramedic finished with Starsky, Dobey handed him over to a uniformed officer for the trip to the hospital. He instructed the other man to be sure that Starsky allowed the Emergency Room doctors to look at him. A bandaged and chastised Starsky climbed into the front seat of the black and white.

Although he hadn't looked at his watch Starsky believed the paramedics had taken Hutch away at least five minutes before he left in the cruiser, maybe closer to ten minutes. He was antsy and the officer driving was not going fast enough to suit him.

He snarled at the man, "If you don't go lights and siren in the next two seconds, I'm gonna push you out of this thing and drive it myself."

Starsky outranked the younger man who obeyed his edict. He kept a nervous eye on the wild-eyed detective all the way to Memorial though. The police cruiser hadn't come to a full stop in the ambulance bay when Starsky leaped out and darted into the hospital. The other officer sat there for a minute thinking about his own partner and wondering if they'd ever have the kind of connection Starsky and Hutch had. Then he went inside to ensure that Starsky followed orders and had the doctors look at him.

The trauma team was working on Hutch when Starsky raced into the Emergency Room through the ambulance entrance. He ignored everyone in his path, running back to the treatment area in search of his partner.

What he saw when he found Hutch stopped him in his tracks. The trauma team was moving in fast, fluid motions with Hutch at the center of their activity. They were hanging a second unit of blood, Hutch was intubated, and they were performing CPR. Hutch's blood was on the floor and on everyone working on him.

Watching the activity in the trauma room, Starsky felt himself drift into a universe that only consisted of him and that room. He stood there helplessly watching them try to save his partner's life, praying that the rescue hadn't come too late. He heard nothing going on around him and he didn't notice when a nurse took him by the arm and led him away to be examined. The image of his partner bleeding to death in the trauma room was burned into his mind. They laid him down on a gurney and a doctor was called over to check on him.

Starsky had a bad burn on his right forearm. He also needed several stitches on his scalp and forehead where he had been hit by flying glass. The adrenaline that had kept him hopping throughout the ordeal had nothing to do now and he was coming down hard from it. Exhausted, he lay on the gurney in a miserable state, almost overcome by grief and remorse for his behavior.

When he finally finished with him, the doctor instructed Starsky to stay put and rest for while. Starsky immediately ignored that advice and tried to get up to go back to his partner.

"Hold on there," the doctor said as he pushed him back down onto the gurney, "You need to rest and calm down before you start walking around again."

"No, way, doc, I gotta go back to my partner."

The doctor left his hand on Starsky's shoulder and watched the exhausted detective ineffectually struggle to get up again. "If you'll just behave yourself and stay here for a few minutes, I'll go find out about your partner. Hutchinson, right?"

Starsky nodded tiredly, closing his eyes to block the bright lights in the Emergency Room. He really didn't feel very good at the moment.

While he waited for the doctor to return from checking on Hutch, Starsky's thoughts drifted to the events of the past week. He remembered in painful detail every rotten thing he had said to Hutch. If Hutch died and he didn't have a chance to say he was sorry, Starsky knew he would never survive it. He was busy mentally kicking himself up one side and down the other when he heard his captain's familiar voice.


He struggled to open his eyes and said, "Hey, Cap."

When he arrived at the Emergency Room, Captain Dobey was surprised to hear they had Starsky lying down in a treatment room. He had insisted on being taken back to make sure that his other detective wasn't injured worse than he thought.

"You okay?"

"Terrific. Don't I look okay, Cap?"

"You look awful. What did the doctor say?"

The doctor walked up behind Dobey and answered the question, "He's okay, just exhausted and coming down from a serious adrenaline rush." He shook Captain Dobey's hand and said, "That's a nasty burn on his arm, he'll need to watch it and keep it clean. I also put eight stitches in the cuts to his head."

Starsky sat up and asked, "What about my partner?" He shouldn't have sat up so fast though, the room was now spinning. This time, Captain Dobey pushed him back down, noticing the color suddenly drain from Starsky's face.

"They took him up to surgery. Won't know anything for a few hours. You rest here for a while. Don't get up until you feel like you can do it without falling over and messing up my handiwork." The doctor left Starsky in the obviously capable hands of his superior officer.

"Try not to worry, Starsk. Hutch is strong, he'll make it."

Starsky looked up at his captain with pain filled eyes and said, "Cap, he has to make it. I can't do this without him. God, Cap, this wasn't one of our better weeks. We were mad at each other all week and it was mostly my fault. I have to tell him how sorry I am. Nothin's ever gonna be right if I can't do that."

"He knows, Dave." Captain Dobey rested his hand on Starsky's shoulder, attempting to give him some comfort in the place of his partner. "Rest now. We'll hear something soon."

Dobey wanted to tell Starsky about what had happened at the shopping center after Starsky and the rescue team got Hutch and the two women out of there. That would have to wait though because Starsky was slipping into a restless sleep. The captain watched him for a while, making sure he was going to stay out and then motioned for a nurse to come and speak with him.

"Would you please keep an eye on Detective Starsky while I tend to a few police matters?"

"Sure thing. I won't let him go anywhere." The sturdy woman looked like she could do it too. He smiled at her, then went out to check on the two women rescued from the planter and the woman Starsky found in the bookstore who had also been brought to Memorial.

One of the Emergency Room nurses explained that the woman from the bookstore had died shortly after they brought her to the trauma unit. The other two women were in a treatment room still so she led the captain to meet them. They seemed fine and were due to be released as soon as the police finished taking their statements.

Leslie and Colleen Murphy were sisters, both in their early twenties. They had each taken a day off from work to spend some time together at the new mall. Leslie explained to Captain Dobey what had happened to them and to Hutch.

"We were looking at the cars in the mall. Colleen liked the Mustang in the courtyard, so we were reading the sticker in the window when the shooting started. People were running in every direction. I can't believe we didn't run too, but we just froze." She paused for a moment and the captain could see both sisters were about to start crying. He reached out and patted her on the arm reassuringly, encouraging her to take her time. She nodded and managed a slight smile.

"Well, that's when we saw him. I think he had crawled under one of the wooden benches near the car when the shots started coming. He yelled at us to move, but we just couldn't."

Her sister sniffed and added, "We were just so scared. If we had moved when he said to, he wouldn't have run out from under the bench. He wouldn't be hurt now. It's all our fault!" Poor Colleen was sobbing and near hysteria again. Her sister put an arm around her gave and her a gentle squeeze.

Leslie continued, "When we didn't budge, he charged out with a gun drawn yelling at us that he was a cop and we should move. This time we listened. He put us behind him and rushed us over to climb into that planter. That's when they shot him. Then a few seconds later, the Mustang exploded."

Colleen shifted uncomfortably and added, "We thought he was dead. We called out to him, but never got any answer. So we just huddled in there until the other cops charged in and rescued us. Is he going to be okay?"

Captain Dobey replied, "I hope so. You two get some rest. It's all over now. Thank you for telling me what happened, I know that was hard for you."

Leslie smiled at him and said, "What's that blond cop's name? We should at least know the name of the man who saved our lives."

"Detective Sergeant Ken Hutchinson."

Colleen said, "I hope we have a chance to thank him. He was very brave."

"I hope you do too." He walked back to check on Starsky, praying that Hutch would make it. The long vigil was just beginning for him and he had been down these halls too many times with his best team. He hoped their luck hadn't run out today, especially when they had things left unsaid between them.

Starsky was still sleeping and the captain decided it was time to call Huggy. He would want to be there when Starsky woke up to wait for news about Hutch. The captain was guessing Huggy didn't have the television on at The Pits. If he had, he probably would already be at the hospital.

Huggy answered with his usual flamboyance, "The Pits. What it is?"

"Huggy, it's Captain Dobey."

"What can I do ya for, Marshal?"

"Can the jive, Huggy. I'm at Memorial."

After a two-heartbeat pause, Huggy asked, "Which one this time?"

"Mostly Hutch, but Starsky needs you. Huggy, it looks bad. When can you get down here?"

"I'm on my way."

Dobey was relieved that Huggy could come. Sometimes keeping an eye on his two detectives in these situations was a two-man job. One of them kept an eye on the situation with the one who was most hurt while the other one ran interference with his sure-to-be-agitated partner.

Part 7

Starsky slept for the first two hours Hutch was in surgery. The sleep was a restless one filled with bad dreams. In the worst dream, Starsky was standing at Hutch's grave, watching his casket being lowered into the ground. Huggy was standing next to him dressed all in black. Tears were streaming down his face and Starsky kept saying, "I'm sorry, Hutch. I'm so sorry."

Huggy spun him around to face him and said angrily, "Well, it's a little too late for that now. Too bad you didn't tell him that before he went off and got himself killed. Now he'll never know." That resulted in Starsky waking up in the Emergency Room yelling Hutch's name.

After he got Starsky somewhat calmed down from the terrible nightmare that woke him, Dobey got him released and took him to the waiting area. Huggy kept him company while the captain kept him supplied with coffee. He didn't tell Starsky, but he was feeding him decaf. All Starsky needed was some caffeine to push him closer to the edge.

Try as they might, neither man could break their friend free from the guilt he was feeling. Dobey even pointed out to Starsky that Hutch had not been himself either during the past week. He had also been moody and irritated. Starsky didn't have a corner on the bad behavior market.

When he failed to snap Starsky out of it, Dobey decided to talk about what went down at the mall after Starsky left for the hospital. The overwrought detective listened distractedly. He couldn't take his eyes off the door that led to Emergency Surgery.

The SWAT sharpshooter had spotted one of the snipers and shot him down from his nest. As the rescue team retreated from the courtyard, the other sniper set off the car bombs one by one. Then he had tried to escape through a ventilation shaft. The SWAT unit spotted him up on the roof and they tried to get him to drop his weapon. When he refused to do so, they were forced to shoot him. The second sniper was also dead.

As for the shopping center, the building was a wreck. Extensive damage to the courtyard was compounded by the bomb blast damage throughout the mall. While the fire department had saved the building, the developers where going to have a long repair job ahead of them. The mall would be closed for months. He didn't tell Starsky the woman from the bookstore was dead. Starsky could find that out later, after they knew Hutch was going to be all right. Instead Dobey tried to make Starsky feel good about the rescue of the Murphy sisters.

Starsky was on his feet pacing again. Suddenly, he had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Something ain't right. I got a bad feeling something ain't right."

Captain Dobey had heard both of his men in a guilt-ridden, inconsolable state before, but this just sounded too irrational even for the usually intuitive Starsky. He was about to say so when they heard an overhead page.

"Paging Dr. Kellerman. Please report to OR One, stat. Dr. Kellerman, report to OR One."

The color drained from Starsky's face when he heard the familiar name. Dr. Kellerman had saved his life that day he almost died in a hail of bullets from Gunther's would-be assassins. If they were paging him, that couldn't be a good sign. He started to shake and looked at his friends with haunted eyes, "Oh my God. Hutch is gonna die!"

Neither Dobey nor Huggy could stand seeing their friend in such a fatalistic mind set. Huggy offered, "Starsk, just 'cause they called him in, that don't mean Hutch is gonna die, now. Keep the faith, bro."

Dobey said, "Dave, Huggy is right. Now if he could save you with multiple bullet wounds, he's gonna be able to help Hutch with just one."

Starsky was becoming even more agitated, "Cap, I know that but I was brought here minutes after the shooting. Hutch was down in that courtyard for a long time, bleeding and in shock. What if he can't save him?"

Dr. Kellerman was the trauma chief and the physician with the most experience treating gunshot wounds. Starsky was right, if they were calling him, things must not be going well with Hutch's surgery. The shaking man leaned his back up against the wall. He slid down it to the floor and sat there with his head back, eyes closed. The other two men were worried about him, but they were both glad he was sitting.

"I feel like this is my fault. I don't know why he was at the mall, but I can't get away from the feeling it was because of me."

"What are you talkin' about? You don't know what he was doing there. I don't know either. He clocked himself out after he left court, that's all I know."

"We were gonna meet at Huggy's at four o'clock. He said he had stuff to say. I don't know what he wanted." Starsky had let all kinds of scenarios play out in his mind. Hutch wanted a new partner, Hutch wanted to quit the force, Hutch didn't think of him as his best friend anymore--nowhere in his mind did he consider that maybe Hutch just wanted to mend fences. He was far to deep in a guilty funk for that. Being as sullen and snipey as he had been all week was unusual for Starsky. Now he was convinced he was going to be punished by losing his best friend one way or another.

Anything Dobey or Huggy said seemed to result in more fatalistic, guilty commentary from the dark half of the Me and Thee Team. Neither man tried too hard to console him anymore. They just stayed with him and kept an eye on him.

Another two hours passed before the door Starsky was watching opened. Dr. Kellerman emerged and glanced around the room, his eyes landing on Starsky still sitting on the floor. He walked toward the group of waiting men and took a seat.

Captain Dobey helped Starsky up and into a seat next to Dr. Kellerman.

"David, how are you? You don't look so good." The doctor attempted to open a dialog with his former patient. Starsky was not having any of that though.

"Doc, how's Hutch? I'm glad you're here, but it scares me too."

The doctor sighed. He felt particularly protective of this man. After working so hard to bring him back to the living, he had hoped David Starsky would have an uneventful life after he left the hospital. He had already endured enough pain for two lifetimes.

"David, I'm afraid the news isn't all good. Not all bad either. First, Ken's head injury doesn't look too bad. The cut was deep, but the blow doesn't seem to have been too serious. We'll be monitoring him for signs of concussion or intracranial pressure. The gunshot wound was more concerning and that's why they called me. I'm sorry I wasn't here when they brought Ken into the ER. I was on trauma rounds at the time." He could see that Starsky was not taking this much better than his partner had two years ago when he was told that Starsky was under a death watch.

"The bullet did a lot of damage, traveling clear through his left upper chest with an exit wound out from his back. They found a lot of bleeders in his chest and they wanted my help to make sure we got all of the bullet and bone fragments. The bullet entered between two ribs, passed through his lung, tearing some of the pulmonary veins, and it fractured his shoulder blade on the way out through his back. I know that sounds awful, but it could have been much worse. If the bullet had hit an artery instead of those veins, he would have bled out in minutes."

Starsky was barely breathing. He sat looking at the doctor, hearing what was said, but lost in his pain. "Doc, he's gonna die, isn't he?" Starsky's eyes were bright with tears he could barely contain. The thought of losing his best friend was too much to bear. Hutch was his anchor, his strength, and his compass.

"Not if I can help it, David. He's going to have a long road ahead to recover from this. I think he's going to be okay though. I am worried about the blood loss. That was bad, David. If you hadn't gotten to him for even another fifteen minutes, he would probably never have made it here. The bullet punctured his lung and it collapsed. We've inserted chest tubes to reinflate it. His respiratory status was severely challenged and we're not sure how long he went without an adequate supply of oxygen. The brain can only go for so long before there is brain damage. That's what I'm most worried about now. When he wakes up, we'll know." He patted Starsky on the shoulder and added, "Don't give up hope, David. I believe he stands a good chance."

Dobey was glad that piece of news came from Dr. Kellerman. He knew Starsky trusted the man, which was more than he could say for most doctors. Hutch was in Recovery and would be transferred to the ICU in a few hours. Dr. Kellerman left to make arrangements for Starsky to be up there with his partner.

Starsky seemed to calm down when he was finally allowed to see Hutch in the ICU. Just being able to touch his partner, assuring himself he was still there probably helped. He settled in a chair next to Hutch's bed, waiting and watching, praying for his friend to be all right. As the hours ticked by and Starsky tired he alternated between dozing in the chair, Hutch's hand held in his, and sitting up talking to his unresponsive best friend. At around noon the next day, Dr. Kellerman walked into the room to check on his patient. He managed to check on Hutch and record some notes in his chart without waking his sleeping friend.

Dr. Kellerman patted Starsky on the shoulder to rouse him. Starsky blinked and looked up at the doctor, "Mornin', Doc." He rubbed his free hand down his face as if to wipe away his tiredness and winced from the pain caused by the burn on his arm.

"Good morning, David. Let me take a look at that arm now."

"Nah, just check on Hutch."

"I already did, he's fine. Quit arguing with me and let me take a look."

Starsky acquiesced. The burn really did hurt. Dr. Kellerman pronounced that it was getting infected. He told Starsky he'd have a nurse come in and change the dressing and he was also prescribing an antibiotic.

"Thanks, Doc."

Dr. Kellerman pulled up a chair and sat talking quietly with his former patient for a few minutes. Starsky had been in the hospital for nearly three months after his shooting and the doctor had gotten to know him, and his blond partner. The shooting was two years in the past and he was glad to see Starsky doing well.

"It's not easy being the one waiting is it, David?"

"No. In fact it stinks. When's he gonna wake up, Doc?"

Dr. Kellerman opened the chart and reviewed some things, then looked up at Starsky and said, "Could be anytime now. He's been showing signs of regaining consciousness for the past couple of hours while you were probably sleeping."

"God, I hope so, Doc. I need to talk to him. He was sick with migraines all week and I was in such a bad mood. I need to tell him how sorry I am for being such a jerk."

The doctor made a few more notes in Hutch's chart. Then he said, "Migraines, huh? Is he on any medication for that?"

"No. He hates to take anything. Guess he'd rather tough them out then take anything."

"I'll talk to him about that. Now, how are you doing?"

"Terrific. I'll be fine as soon as he wakes up, I can see he's gonna be okay, and he lets me apologize to him." Starsky hung his head a little dejectedly and Dr. Kellerman could see he wasn't getting anywhere. The only thing that could help was Starsky's partner being awake.

They had been looking at each other, not the patient, so they were both surprised to hear Hutch quietly say, "For what?"

Starsky picked his head up and turned back to his friend. "Hutch, you're awake!"

Hutch nodded slowly and repeated himself, "For what?"

Taking his partner's hand in his again, Starsky said, "Shh, buddy, just rest. Everything's gonna be okay. I'm right here."

Dr. Kellerman stepped in and said, "Welcome back, Ken. Do you know where you are?"

Hutch nodded, glancing around, "Hospital."

"Good, Ken. Do you remember what happened?"

Hutch shook his head. "No. I hurt though. What happened?"

Dr. Kellerman looked at Starsky with a smile and said, "Everything's okay. You can relax now. I'm going to go check on some other patients. Explain things to him and I'll check back later." He turned back toward the two relieved friends and said from the doorway, "Oh, and Ken, tell your partner here you're not mad at him." He left the room chuckling. He couldn't help thinking that the guardian angel that watched over those two must work lots of overtime.

Starsky smiled at him and said, "Thank God you're okay, buddy. You sure scared me."

"Sorry, Starsk. I don't remember much, what happened?"

"That can wait. First, I really gotta tell you how sorry I am for being such a jerk all week."

"What? Ah, don't worry about that, Starsk. I wasn't too nice to be around either."

They sat together, each apologizing and accepting most of the blame for their bad week until they were both assured that all was forgiven. Both of them thought it was funny that they had each headed to the new mall to buy a peace offering for the other. Hutch couldn't remember anything after buying the model kit at the hobby store so Starsky caught him up on everything that had happened at the mall.

"You must have been frantic when you figured out it was me lying down there, Gordo."

"Who me? I was perfectly calm, Blondie."

"I'm sure. Calm people ride into a war zone like the armor-clad cavalry. Yep, perfectly calm."

The two men spent the next several days engaging in their normal hospital behavior. Starsky refused to leave and snuck back in every time he was ejected. He, Huggy, and Dobey all brought contraband food into the hospital for their friend. They drove the staff crazy until Hutch was released a day earlier than they expected. The nursing staff sent Starsky packing with his partner and after-care instructions. When they got off the elevator in the lobby, they found Dr. Kellerman waiting for them. He had left instructions to be told when they were on their way.

The doctor smiled at both men and then offered them his serious advice. "Ken, David, I want you to listen to me very closely. You are both done now. I've brought each of you back from the edge and I think that's enough for your lifetimes. Stay out of trouble. I don't want to see you in my trauma unit again, okay?"

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other mischievously. Starsky started, "Wow, Hutch. Banned from Memorial's trauma unit. Does that mean we can't get hurt anymore?"

"Guess so," Hutch answered. "Don't worry, doc. We'll do our best not to bleed on you anymore."

As the two detectives breezed out the door, Starsky pushing Hutch along in the wheelchair, Dr. Kellerman shook his head a little. Though they couldn't hear him, he said, "I hope so, boys." Then he turned to go back to his duties and said a little prayer that their guardian angel would keep doing a good job.

The End