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To our beta reader: THANK YOU!
Sue David and Valerie Wells
Friday, October 31, 1980
Have you ever had a moment of perfect clarity? The ultimate flash of inspiration that tells you when all of the pieces click into place? I had one of those this morning when I least expected it. Knowing what I had to do in my head, and in my heart, was the easy part. Now, I have to deal with the aftermath. The outcome doesn't change the inspiration though. That stands. I hope he understands that, if things don't go the way he hopes they will.
Thursday, October 23, 1980
Driving through the streets of their beat could be illuminating, exhilarating, or maddeningly boring. Today, the latter was annoying Detectives Dave Starsky and Ken Hutchinson. They knew it couldn't hold. With Halloween only a week away, things were bound to warm up on the streets. They always did. The only thing that could make it a bigger certainty would be the presence of a full moon in the week before trick-or-treat night. This year, that's just what they had.
One of the recreation centers on their beat was holding a Halloween carnival over the next few nights and Starsky wanted to check it out to break up the monotony. Hutch was not keen on the idea.
"Ah, come on, Hutch. It'll be fun," Starsky cajoled.
"Starsk, how come you never grew up? Halloween is for little kids." Hutch was stiff, bored, and in no mood for his partner's antics. Sitting in the car for hours on end was doing nothing to lighten his attitude.
"We've gotta stop for dinner anyway. Please?"
"What's the big deal? Isn't it just a kid's carnival?" Hutch was weakening and Starsky could hear it in his voice.
"Nope. This one has fortunetellers, rides, and a couple of psychics as guests. Huggy told me all about it. You like all that psychic mumbo-jumbo as much as I enjoy the rides." Starsky was hoping that would convince Hutch.
The blond sighed. "You know, Starsk. Don't you ever think it's odd that you believe in vampires, werewolves, and the Creature from the freakin' Black Lagoon, but you don't believe in most psychic phenomena?" Hutch found this facet of his partner's complex personality fascinating and it had often been the subject of discussion. With the sun setting and the full moon rising, Hutch thought now was the perfect time to bring it up again.
"You're changing the subject." Starsky was pouting.
"Okay, okay. I'll go to the carnival. Just answer my question."
Starsky rewarded him with a bright smile. "Thanks, buddy! You won't regret it. Now, to answer your question, yeah. That's weird. You know that though, we've talked about this before, remember?"
"Don't you ever think about how we do what we do?"
Starsky shot him a confused glance. "Huh? What'dya mean?"
"You know, mush brain. The way we communicate without saying anything. The way we work on the street. That's a kind of psychic connection, don't you think?"
Starsky pondered that for a minute. "I guess I just chalk it up to knowing each other so well."
Hutch chuckled. "You know it's more than that. Why do you have such a hard time accepting things like ESP? Remember trying to convince me that you had psychic powers that day before I got shot?"
Remembering days when Hutch was hurt really wasn't on Starsky's list of fun things to do, but he did remember. "Yeah, I remember. I was just messin' with you though. You really think we have ESP?"
Before Hutch could answer that question the radio interrupted them.
"Zebra 3, come in please."
Hutch picked up the mike. "This is Zebra 3, go ahead."
"We have a report of a man who's placed a vampire under citizen's arrest on your beat."
Hutch snickered as he replied, "You're joking, right?"
"Negative, Zebra 3. 1217 Laurel."
"We are responding."
Starsky turned the car around to head for the call and said, "A vampire? You think that's for real?"
Hutch slapped his partner on the knee and said, "There you go, buddy. The sun's down. Who knows, let's just check it out."
When they arrived on the scene, they found a fifty-year-old man sitting on the front steps of his home. Tied to the wrought iron front porch railing was a dark figure in a cape. That must be their vampire.
Hutch flashed his badge. "I'm Detective Hutchinson, and this is Detective Starsky. We were told you've made a citizen's arrest."
The man stood up and shook each of their hands. "That's right, officers. Name's Bill Pearson. That jackass tied up on my porch was trying to rip off my son's Moped. I caught him red-handed."
The jackass in question protested, "I wasn't doing nothin'. Just lookin' at it."
"Yeah, that's why you were rolling it up my driveway, punk," Pearson barked back at him.
"He pulled a gun on me, man. He can't do that!" The vampire continued his protests.
Starsky gave Pearson a steely glare. "That true? Where's the piece?"
"I put it down in the living room. Didn't want to have a loaded gun out here when you boys arrived. I held my gun on him while my son tied him up like that." He didn't seem flustered by Starsky's glare.
Hutch asked, "You have a permit for that gun?"
"Yes. Come inside. My son's in there if you want to talk to him."
Starsky walked over to the young thief. The boy looked like he was only about sixteen. He was dressed as a vampire. "You always do your crimes in costume?"
The punk spat on the ground. "Shove it."
"How old are you, Dracula?" Starsky was already tired of this collar perhaps the most ridiculous one he and Hutch had made in the past month.
"I'm fifteen. Hey, untie me, man. That nutcase cut off my circulation."
Starsky laughed at him. "You're out stealing Mopeds in the early evening in a vampire costume and you're callin' *him* a nutcase?"
Starsky reached around for his cuffs. He slapped one half around the boy's right wrist and latched the other tightly to the porch railing. Then he began untying the youngster. "Don't move. I'm going to call a unit to pick you up."
Back at the Torino, Starsky called for a black-and-white to pick the boy up and take him to Juvenile Hall. Not exactly the kind of case to make their night. After Hutch got a statement from Pearson and his son, they waited for the black-and-white. When the boy had been taken away, they logged themselves out for a meal break and headed for the carnival. Neither one of them cared enough to find out why he was in costume.
When they arrived at the rec center, Starsky dragged Hutch over to the hot dog stands to grab a quick dinner. A hot dog looked like the only thing available that was neither pizza nor fried so Hutch had one.
Walking around after they ate, Starsky spotted Huggy. He was playing the part of a carnival barker trying to get people to come into the psychic fair.
"Hey, Huggy," Starsky called. "Didn't you get enough of this with Collandra?"
"Starsky, you know Joe don't go in for this kind of thing. He just likes to stay in the shadows, dig? The Bear is lookin' for something more in the open."
Hutch laughed at him. "You're always on some kind of money making scheme, man. What is it this time? Tea leaves? Crystal Balls? Water Witches?"
"Water witches!? You read too much, Blondie. Actually, my cousin Cynthia is in there tonight. She's a for real psychic, too."
Starsky was increasingly amused. "Oh yeah? Since when do you have a psychic cousin?"
"You gotta ask? I've got just about every kinda cousin, Curly. Go on in and see her. You'll see." Huggy put out his hand. "Cross my palm with some silver, travelers."
The partners looked at each other and shrugged. Hutch pulled out his wallet and paid Huggy the five bucks it took to get them both into the psychic fair.
"My treat, skeptic," he said with a wink to his doubting friend.
"At least the money raised is going toward fixing up the playground here. Not a total waste of your green, Blintz." Starsky playfully socked Huggy on the arm as they passed him and entered the colorful, circus style tent.
The inside of the tent had booths around its perimeter. Almost any type of psychic service and ESP trickster was in evidence. First, they passed a tarot card reader with a turban on her head and the fakest Jamaican accent either of them had ever heard. Her sign said, "Come in now for your free reading." Next, a tea leaf reading booth, then a palmist and a phrenologist. Hutch explained that a phrenologist was someone who read the bumps on a person's head.
"She'd sure have a field day with your cranium, Blondie. You get clunked on your head more than anyone I've ever known," Starsky said with a snicker.
They didn't have much time for their break, so they wanted to be sure to spend it with Huggy's cousin. They bypassed spirit writers and Ouija board booths. Finally, near the back, they saw "Cynthia Angel, Aura Reader" painted in purple and gold on a large white sandwich sign. They waited outside her mostly enclosed booth until her current customer exited, then Hutch poked his head in and said, "Cynthia? Are you Huggy's cousin?"
"That's right, Blondie. Huggy said you two would come by and see me. I assume you have your other half with you out there." She had a warm smile and sparkly brown eyes, just like Huggy's.
"Yep, right behind me." Hutch motioned for Starsky to follow him into her partially darkened, incense charged booth. Hutch noticed she was burning the type of incense used in Tibetan monasteries for meditating. He laughed at himself thinking maybe Huggy was right about him reading too much and maybe Starsky's frequent complaint about his National Geographic Magazine subscription had merit.
They stepped into the booth and sat across from Cynthia. Starsky noticed there was a white sheet hanging behind them and he wondered if that was supposed to help her see their auras. She turned a wary eye first to Hutch, then to Starsky when they introduced themselves. She put a hand up to indicate she did not want to shake hands. Hutch guessed touching them might interfere with her reading.
Starsky asked, "So, how much has Huggy told you about us?"
"Not much really. He tells me you are both police officers, that you are best friends, and that you are dear friends of his. I don't know much else about you though."
That satisfied Starsky. He cracked his knuckles. "Do your worst, psychic. We're ready for ya!"
Hutch blushed. "I'm sorry, Cynthia. My partner's name should be Thomas instead of Dave where psychics are concerned. Now, give him a good mummy's curse and he's right there with you."
Starsky shot Hutch a malevolent glance.
"Settle down, you two. I have to concentrate."
Cynthia closed her eyes for a few moments. When she opened them she looked first at Hutch, then Starsky, then back again. Formulating her assessment carefully, she took a deep breath.
"The aura is composed of seven layers. I won't bore you with all the details, but the layers represent your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual selves in various ways. The colors tell me things about you. I'll start with you, Ken."
Hutch smiled and nodded at her. He was open and interested, while his partner was already looking bored.
"Your aura contains several different colors. I see indigo, indicating a strong psychic ability, the silvery gray some people get when they practice Yoga, bright pink, this indicates loyalty and commitment, and a strong presence of various greens tells me that you are a natural healer. I also see terracotta. That is the color of a person who challenges conventional thinking and values. Lastly, your aura has apricot in it, telling me you are a caring communicator."
Hutch was amazed and Starsky was starting to get interested. Cynthia turned her gaze toward the darker man.
"Dave, your aura also contains many different colors. I see the same indigo as in your partners aura. In fact, sitting this close together, I would guess the two of you are highly attuned to one another. Your auras interlink in places, telling me you have a strong connection between you. In your aura, I also see amber, indicating courage and personal strength. You have royal blue also which tells me you have found your chosen path in life. A rustic red color tells me you have a quick temper, but jade offsets that telling me you have a kind, charitable nature. The most interesting thing I see in your aura is lavender. I only see that in a person who has had a near death experience."
Starsky looked at Hutch with a "whoa, partner" glance. Hutch raised his eyebrows, silently answering, "Really."
Cynthia smiled at them. "See. You just did it. Message sent by one, received and answered by the other. Very indigo. How am I doing so far?"
"Terrific," Starsky answered for the both of them.
Hutch swallowed hard and said, "You sure Huggy hasn't told you a lot about us? Especially Starsky." He was intrigued and concerned by her comment about Starsky's near death experience.
"Not much, as I said. I just moved here from Chicago a week ago. We really haven't had much time together yet."
Hutch continued, "Huggy said you were a psychic. Is this what he meant?"
"Not exactly. I can sometimes tell what is going to happen to a person. Not always, but sometimes. I have to touch you for that. That's why I don't shake hands before an aura reading. Clouds my results with too many images. Ken, if you'll just step outside for a moment, I'll talk to Dave alone first. Then you. I find it helps if I only have one person present for a psychic reading."
Hutch rose and left the booth, patting his partner on the shoulder as he passed. Cynthia smiled and asked Starsky to scoot closer to her and she put out her hands to him. When he took her hands, she felt an electric current run through them. Closing her eyes, she tried to zero in on what she was reading.
Cynthia's thoughts were a jumble of images. She saw lots of danger in the future for the dark man before her. Closing her eyes tighter, and turning slightly away from him, she listened to the sounds of gunfire and squealing car tires in her head. The images she saw included one of a child on a bicycle heading out of control into the oncoming path of a streaking red car with a white stripe. She saw several other images she decided she was not going to share with Starsky. Finally, she sighed deeply and opened her eyes.
Dropping his hands, she said, "You lead a dangerous life, Dave. Your future is a jumble to me of gunfire and car chases."
Starsky laughed softly and said, "Story of my life."
She looked seriously at him. "I have one image that is important for me to share with you. I see a child on a bicycle, riding in front of a red car with a white stripe. The red car is chasing a green van through an intersection when it happens. First the green van hits a small car in the intersection, but it keeps going. I see a hill. That's where the child comes from when he rides in front of the car. I hope this will help you."
"That's awfully detailed. You sure?" Starsky was still skeptical of the whole process.
"I can never be positive, Dave. Do you drive a red car?"
"Yeah a red car with a white stripe. Thanks." He gulped and stood to let his partner have his turn getting a reading on the future.
When Hutch passed him, Starsky had a funny look on his face. She spoke so quietly, Hutch had not been able to hear what Cynthia told his partner.
Cynthia shook her head a couple of times when Hutch sat in front of her. Then she offered her hands to him. When he held them, she felt a similar electric current pass into her psyche. These two men were intense with psychic energy. She saw disturbing images of the blond holding his partner, sitting on the ground sobbing. Then she saw the blond being led away from his friend by a large black man. Someone was covering Starsky's face with a sheet. Cynthia gasped and opened her eyes, taking quick, shallow breaths.
Hutch was concerned. "Cynthia? Are you all right?"
She nodded and dropped his hands, wiping a tear from one eye as she gathered her composure. Then she said, "Ken, do you believe the future is solid or fluid?"
Hutch did not like the direction this was taking. "Fluid. I think things change constantly. Life is just too random at times to believe anything else. You were right about the Yoga. I've been studying for several years now. I believe in fluidity."
"I'm sorry, but there is no easy way to tell you this." She paused a moment to read his expression.
Hutch's heart sank. He wasn't prepared to hear anything heavy. Suddenly, he was concerned about his partner and curious about why that would be. This was his reading. // What did she say to Starsk? //
"I saw some images in both your future and Dave's. I believe in the fluidity of time also, and I know how much Huggy cares about you both. That's why I'm telling you these things. Please understand I may be wrong about any or all of it. The future is just not totally predictable. I see three men who are going to try to take Dave with them. Don't let them. If you do, he'll die."
Hutch's eyes grew wide. "What?" he hissed.
"I'm sorry, Ken. I saw it. Do you know a large black man? Someone who could deal with you in an emotional crisis?"
Hutch nodded slowly. "Are you sure? When?"
"Just be careful, please. I have no way of knowing when, or even if it will happen for certain. Fluidity, remember? I told Dave about something else, but I didn't share this with him. Something told me not to do that, but to tell you instead. I hope I did the right thing."
"You sure get some detailed images." Hutch's mind was racing with the information she had given him.
"Sometimes, especially from people with a high level of psychic intensity." She hated getting images like these, but felt strongly about trying to help these two men.
"Thanks, Cynthia." Hutch stood numbly and walked out of the booth. He practically collided with Starsky who was waiting just outside, straining unsuccessfully to hear what she told him without really feeling like he was eavesdropping. He took one look at his pale, trembling partner and instantly went into assess and protect mode.
"Hey? What'd she say to you?" He stopped Hutch's progress, holding onto his arms and trying to force his partner to meet his gaze.
"Uh, I'm sure it's nothing, Starsk." Hutch tried to evade the question.
"Nothing? You sure don't look like it's nothing. Come on, give." Starsky was insistent.
Hutch scrambled for something to tell Starsky. The hair on the back of his neck was standing up and he knew he shouldn't tell Starsky what she said to him, but he didn't like the idea of lying to him either.
"Oh, I think maybe that hot dog hit me funny, Starsk. I'm not feeling so hot." That wasn't quite a lie. He was feeling queasy after what Cynthia told him.
Starsky looked skeptical, but he seemed to accept that. "Come on, let's get out of here. This tent is pretty stuffy. Maybe some fresh air will help." He led Hutch by the elbow out of the tent and into the warm California evening. Hutch couldn't blow off what she said to him. Starsky's life might depend on it. He knew he had to watch out for these mysterious three men.
Huggy approached them as they left the tent. "Hey, amigos. You see Cynthia?" He noticed the pale look on the blond's face. "You okay, Hutch? You're looking kinda pasty faced, even for you."
Hutch shook his head and said, "Starsk, will you go get me a soda, please? Not a cola."
Starsky nodded and hustled toward the nearest concession stand.
Hutch grabbed Huggy by the elbows. "Huggy, is your cousin the real thing?"
"Yeah, man, I told ya. She tell you somethin' bad?"
"She said some men were going to kill Starsky!" Hutch tried not too successfully to calm himself before his partner returned.
"Does he know?"
"No!" Hutch replied, a little more sharply than he intended. "I'm sorry, Hug. If I tell him hell probably just blow it off. If he believes it, that kind of information could be dangerous. Might cause him to hesitate when he shouldn't and get himself killed for sure. God, Huggy. Maybe she's wrong." Starsky was walking back toward the other two men already. Quickly, he added, "Don't tell him, Huggy. I know what to look for. Promise me."
Huggy looked unsure, but he said, "Yeah, okay. You'd better know what you're doing though."
Starsky handed him the soda. "You feeling any better?" He put a hand up to Hutch's damp forehead feeling for fever.
Hutch took a long sip of the soda. "Yeah, thanks. We'd better get back out there and finish our shift."
"You wanna clock out sick?" Starsky still didn't like the look on his friend's face .
"Nah, let's just go. We've only got another four hours."
They said their goodbyes to Huggy and left the carnival. Huggy instantly spun on his heel and headed into the tent to talk to his cousin.
Riding around in the Torino over the next few hours, the detectives discussed their visit with Cynthia. Starsky told Hutch about her prediction regarding a kid on a bike and they agreed Hutch would keep an extra sharp eye out in the shotgun seat just in case, even though Starsky was having a tough time accepting it as anything but the product of a vivid imagination. He was ignoring the fact that Cynthia knew he drove a red and white car, choosing to think Huggy must have told her. Hutch remained elusive about what she said to him, implying she had seen the same sorts of images with him as she had with Starsky. He rationalized that it was not really a lie; she had told him that she saw the same images when she did Starsky's reading.
As the hours wore on, they got into a deep philosophical discussion about a wide range of topics with a focus on the metaphysical, supernatural, and extra sensory. Starsky had a keen mind with a skeptical nature on all such subjects.
"Starsky, you heard what Cynthia said about our being 'attuned' to each other. You know how we work. Why can't you accept that she could have some kind of line into the future?"
"I know you don't understand it. I'm not sure I do either. Have you ever read 'Interview with The Vampire'?"
Hutch gave him a withering glance that answered the question.
"You should read it. This vampire gives an interview about his experiences as an immortal. I don't know why, but I just have an easier time believing something could happen physically to change a person into a monster than I do believing some people have this 'mental' ability that others don't." Starsky's attempt to explain this contradiction in his thinking was beginning to make sense to Hutch.
Hutch countered, "But why is that any different from the physical abilities people have? For example, you're the best shot I've ever seen, but some people couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, as my grandpa would say. You're an artist with a model ship or a camera lens, but you have no gift for drawing at all. Me, I can draw and paint, but I can't take a decent picture on my best day. What's the difference?"
Starsky thought about that for a minute. "Thanks for the compliments, buddy, but I just think it's different. You know, I guess it's really Houdini's fault."
This was going to be a fine example of convoluted Starsky logic. "How'dya figure that?"
Starsky answered, "He believed psychics were fake. He didn't believe all that mumbo jumbo stuff and I guess maybe I never have either. I think that's something I picked up on way back when I was a kid watching that Tony Curtis movie. I don't know, Hutch. Seemed to make sense at the time. I'm trying to keep my mind open this time though. Cynthia did seem to have something."
Hutch realized that was an improvement. As the conversation drifted toward other areas, he asked Starsky another deep question. "Would you accept that some people have more control over their physical condition and state than others?"
"What do you mean? You talking about that biorhythm stuff again? If you're planning to tell me I'm in another triple zero phase, keep it to yourself."
Hutch laughed at him. "No, no, nothing like that. Did you know some people can slow their heart rate and breathing down so much, they go into a sort of suspended animation or stasis? If you didn't know better, you'd think they were dead."
"Get outta here. You mean like those swami guys you see on TV sometimes? That ain't real." Starsky smirked at him and shook his head.
"Yes, it is," Hutch disagreed.
"No, it ain't. Nobody could really fake it that good." Starsky was adamant.
Hutch looked down at his lap and quietly said, "I can do it."
Starsky wordlessly pulled over to the curb and stopped the car. He turned the engine off and then spun in his seat to have a better look at his partner. "What did you say?"
Hutch sighed and looked at him. "I said I can do it."
"No, you can't. Come on now." Starsky wasn't sure he liked this conversation anymore.
"Starsk, I'm not kidding. I can do it. You know I've been studying Yoga for a while now. My Yoga instructor taught me how to do it. I'm telling you, I can do it."
Starsky scrutinized Hutch's expression for any sign of a joke. He didn't want to take the bait and feel like a complete idiot. Nothing about his best friend's demeanor or body language revealed anything but honesty.
"Yeah? Can you do it now?" he asked, almost eager to watch Hutch try it.
"Not here, not now. I mean, I could, but nah. How about I prove it to you, though?" Hutch had gone this far and he figured he might as well finish it.
"When and where?"
Hutch reached over and grabbed Starsky's left wrist to look at his watch. "We're off shift in ten more minutes and we have the day off tomorrow. Tell you what. I'll get up in the morning and do my usual routine run, shower, breakfast. You go ahead and sleep in for a bit. Come over to my place around nine in the morning and I'll prove it. Okay?"
"You're not just messing with me?" Starsky wanted to be sure.
"I swear on my mother. You come over in the morning at nine and you'll see. What do I get if I can do it?" Hutch's eyes twinkled at the thought. He knew Starsky was going to lose.
"All right, hot shot. You do it and I'll take you out to dinner and a movie tomorrow night. They're still showing 'The Empire Strikes Back' over at that older movie theater on Wall. This all sounds kinda like Jedi stuff or the force, you know? We both liked that film and I think it seems appropriate, under the circumstances. If you lose, the movie and dinner are on you."
Hutch shook his hand. "That's a bet, partner. Hope you're looking forward to that new vegetarian restaurant near the theater. That's where we're going after you lose this bet."
"Only if we can go to Black Angus for a nice big steak after YOU lose this bet, smart guy."
The friendly banter about who was going to lose continued as they went through the remaining minutes of their shift. They decided not to go back to the precinct for paperwork. They were already so far behind Dobey probably wouldn't notice one more day in the big picture. Starsky dropped Hutch off at his place with a wave and pulled away from the curb content to know he was going to be treated to a great flick and dinner the next night. Cynthia's vision still had Hutch spooked, but he couldn't think of a reason to keep Starsky at his place and he had the inexplicable feeling it was going to come down when they were together anyway. He waved goodbye as Starsky pulled away and he headed up the stairs.
The next morning, after his regular routine, Hutch put on some sweats so he could be comfortable. He sat down and wrote a note to Starsky, letting him know how to pull him out of his self-induced trance. Hutch was planning to go deep into his subconscious level just like the Yoga instructor had taught him.
At about 8:30 he turned the radio on to a classical station to help him relax. Pushing the coffee table out of the way, he unrolled the mat he used for his Yoga exercises on the floor. After he put the note on the coffee table where Starsky would see it, he lay down on the mat and started to relax into the exercise. He chuckled as he thought about his poor partner finding him this way, convinced he was pulling his leg all along. Hutch felt a little guilty about how Starsky was going to feel, but he did warn him. // Man, he's gonna freak when he sees I can really do it. // In that moment, he decided not to make Starsky go to the vegetarian restaurant. If he was going to eat crow, the man ought to at least be allowed some meat while he did it.
Hutch slowed his breathing and pulse gradually, meditating and concentrating his way deeper and deeper into his trance. Within the next half hour, Hutch was completely still. Anyone coming upon him like this would not find a heartbeat or respiration without patience and medical equipment to detect them.
For once in his life, Starsky was punctual. He was anxious to get into Hutch's place and see what he would find. The competitive part of him hoped Hutch was unable to do it, but his usual pride in his partner led him to also hope he could do it.
Starsky opened the street door to Venice Place at nine o'clock sharp. As he walked up the stairs to Hutch's apartment, Starsky could hear classical music wafting down the stairwell. He opened the door quietly with his spare key, not wanting to risk breaking Hutch's concentration.
Starsky stood frozen in the open doorway for several heartbeats. "Hutch?"
Even though he knew what Hutch was planning to do, the sight of his partner lying on the floor so still was unnerving. His best friend looked dead, not at all like he was meditating or sleeping. He noticed the note on the coffee table above where Hutch was lying. Rushing to his side, he knelt down to feel for a pulse. Nothing. He watched for long, agonizing seconds for Hutch to breathe, but he didn't. He put his ear down on Hutch's chest to see if he could hear a heartbeat or the sounds of breathing and he couldn't. This was definitely not a joke. Starsky's heart clenched in his chest as he called his partner's name again, "Hutch?" With shaking hands, he opened and read the note.
I'll bet you're sitting there right now convinced of one of two things:
that I'm dead, or I'm right.
Starsky glanced over at Hutch again, waiting for a grin, a wink, any movement that would indicate Hutch was actually watching him and enjoying his reaction to this situation. Nothing. Even the normally fair skin was far more pale than usual.
It's not dangerous, what I've done here. I've been carefully trained by an expert. I can bring myself out of it by planting a self-hypnotic suggestion as I begin to go into the trance, and I did that, so I can bring myself out of it without your help, in case you can't do it. But I think you can. Here's what to do. Put one hand on my forehead and the other on my chest and press lightly while you say:
There was a Door to which I found no Key:
There was a Veil past which I could not see:
Some little Talk awhile of Me and Thee
There seem'd and then no more of Thee and Me.
After you've recited that, whisper my full name first into my left ear, then
into my right. It'll take a few minutes for me to come completely out of the trance, so don't worry.
Starsky read the note three or four times, then looked over at Hutch doubtfully. His heart was still thudding with fear in his chest and if he hadn't been warned about this "trance," he'd have called an ambulance long ago. He laid the note on Hutch's abdomen, where he could see it to read the poem, and followed the instructions. Feeling silly, he pressed gently and read the words. Nothing happened. Biting his bottom lip, he did it again, just for good measure, and then leaned over and whispered, "Kenneth Richard Hutchinson" into Hutch's left and right ears in turn. Then he sat back on his heels and watched for signs of life.
For several minutes which felt more like hours to Starsky there was no movement, no reaction. Hutch lay just as he had been before, absolutely still. Starsky bit his lip again and was just getting ready to repeat the whole process or call an ambulance when he thought he saw Hutch's chest move. He waited a little longer. At last he saw movement again as Hutch drew breath, so he took Hutch's wrist in his hand and felt for a pulse. It was faint, but steady. He put the hand down and waited again. Finally, the breathing became regular and Hutch's eyes opened.
"Morning," Hutch said, quite as if nothing at all had happened.
"You scared the shit outta me," Starsky scolded. "What the hell was THAT?"
Hutch grinned and sat up. The color had come back into his face and he seemed rested and relaxed. "I hate to say 'I told you so...'" he began.
"You do not," Starsky complained. "You get off on saying it."
Hutch's grin widened. "Maybe. Anyway, I did it, didn't I? Convincing or not?"
Starsky rolled his eyes, but he had to admit, "If I hadn't known what you were gonna do, you'd be in the emergency room now."
"And the doc might be declaring me dead," Hutch said. He glanced over at the clock on the wall. "No, maybe not. I was going to come out of it in a few more minutes anyway."
"So, you wanna tell me what's the purpose of playing possum like that? What's it good for, other than scaring your best friend half to death?"
"The purpose," Hutch said patiently, "is to become one with God. Yoga teaches you, in stages, to separate your self from your consciousness and to realize you're one with Creation."
"Are you kiddin'?"
Hutch shook his head. "Nope. It's called 'cosmic consciousness,' when you can reach that oneness."
Hutch shook his head again. "No, I haven't been at it long enough. But you have to be able to cease all awareness of the world, shut down your senses, in order to even try. That's what that trance is all about."
"So what was all that mumbo-jumbo you had me recitin' over you?"
"That's from the Rubaiyat."
"The what?" Starsky stared at him.
"The Rubaiyat, by Omar Khayyam. It's a long poem about Yoga and its teachings."
"Why would ya write a poem about Yoga? Why not just write a book about it?"
Hutch smothered another grin. "A poem's easier to remember, I guess."
Starsky rubbed his eyes and forehead as if he had a headache. "Okay, whatever. I guess I owe ya a movie and dinner at that seaweed place."
"I guess you do," Hutch said with a smirk, not letting on that he wasn't going to hold Starsky to the "seaweed" part of the bet.
Starsky had errands to run and Hutch had laundry to do, so they parted until dinner, with Starsky's puppy-dog-face promise to be on time for dinner at the "seaweed place." Hutch had just finished putting his clean clothes away when he heard the growl of the Torino as it pulled up in the street. In a few moments, Starsky was at the door. He was in his version of dressed up, which meant he'd traded the leather jacket for a sports coat, but underneath were the same faded jeans and Adidas he always wore.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Yeah." Hutch tossed a jacket on and held the door for his partner.
Both the Black Angus and the vegetarian restaurant were on the other side of town, and the late afternoon traffic was still thick. Starsky was humming tunelessly along with the radio and Hutch was planning how to tell him they could go to the Black Angus after all when they heard gunshots and a beat-up green van shot out of a side street, nearly hitting them, and squealed away down the street. The police radio was on, but on low volume, and Hutch turned it up and snatched the mike off the bracket as Starsky instinctively took off in pursuit.
"This is Zebra Three," Hutch said. "Shots fired vicinity of Marshall and Wall. We are in pursuit of a green cargo van, California license " He paused and glanced at Starsky.
"EDF 292," Starsky said, never taking his eyes off the van.
Hutch repeated the license number.
"Roger, Zebra Three," the dispatcher said. "We have a report of a robbery at the 7-11 store there. Same description of subject vehicle. Calling for back-up."
"Roger, Control." Hutch hung on with one hand and kept the mike in the other to make progress reports. He heard other units reporting in who were coming to assist, and the unit which had gone to the 7-11 reported the clerk was badly hurt with a gunshot wound to the chest.
This area of town was half residential and the other half was family-style and fine dining restaurants, motels, and shopping centers. Starsky wove in and out of traffic, barely missing some of the other vehicles in his haste. A black-and-white joined them but didn't have any better luck catching up with the van.
"He's heading for the highway," Hutch said.
"I know," Starsky answered. "Gotta catch him before then."
The light at the next intersection turned red just as the van reached it and shot through without slowing, clipping a small car. Starsky, slightly more prudent, slowed marginally as he approached, but with the black-and-white escort's siren and lights also going, the other cars waited and let them through.
To their left was a residential development, newer houses on quiet streets. Just as they cleared the intersection and almost had the van close enough to try ramming it, a child on a bicycle came down the hill of the cross street and rolled right out in front of them. At that moment, both partners made the connection with Cynthia's prediction. Hutch yelled, "Starsky, the green van!"
Starsky stood on the brakes, almost throwing Hutch through the windshield. The black-and-white squealed around them and continued. The sudden braking caused the Torino to fishtail and turn half around. If it hadn't been for the rear end swinging around, Starsky might have missed the child. As it was, the rear of the car struck the child and knocked him off the bicycle. He landed face down about 10 feet away.
"Oh, my God. Oh, my God," Starsky said, terrified. He slammed the car into Park and was gone, running toward the little body in the street.
Hutch called in that they were no longer in pursuit and then barreled out of the Torino right behind his partner. By the time they got to the child, he was sitting up and crying loudly. Starsky reached for him.
"Hey, kid, you okay?" The partners knelt down on either side of the child. They looked him in the eyes and felt his arms and legs to make sure he was all right. The only damage he appeared to have was a scraped chin, road rash in his palms, and a bloody nose. He was squalling in earnest when he looked over and saw the mangled mess that was once a bicycle.
"Look what you did to my bike, mister! You wrecked it!" He continued to sob and rub his eyes with his dirty fists.
Starsky closed his eyes and sighed his relief. He was shaking and he sat back heavily in the middle of the street. Hutch patted him on the arm and said, "I'm going to call an ambulance anyway."
The child started to scream. "No, no!!! I don't wanna go in an ambulance. I wanna go home."
Hutch smiled at Starsky. "Nothing wrong with his lungs. Okay, kid, what's your name?" Starsky shook his head numbly. He was not ready to see the humor in this situation yet.
The child stifled another sob and answered, "Timmy."
Hutch patiently asked, "Timmy what?"
"Timmy Parker. I live up there." He pointed up into the hills.
Starsky shakily said, "I'm sorry kid, but you just ran right in front of me. I coulda killed you."
The child was beginning to calm down a little. Hanging his head in embarrassment because he did something so stupid and because he yelled at two grownups, he said, "I'm sorry."
Hutch ruffled Timmy's hair a little and said, "We're cops. That's why the red light and siren, buddy. How old are you?"
"Ten. That's my sister's bike. She's gonna kill me. I couldn't make it stop."
Another black-and-white had arrived on the scene and the uniforms were directing traffic around the accident. Hutch stood up and offered one hand to Timmy and one to Starsky to pull them up on their feet. "Let's get your bike and we'll take you home. Your mom can decide if you have to go to the hospital, but I think you look okay."
"You said you were a cop. You a doctor too?" The boy looked at Hutch with wide eyes.
"Nah. My partner here gets hurt a lot. I'm getting good at figuring out when to go to the hospital," Hutch said with a wink to Starsky. As Timmy walked away toward the Torino, Starsky stuck his tongue out at his best friend.
Hutch helped Timmy into the center seat of the Torino while Starsky loaded the mangled thing that used to be a red bicycle into his trunk. Timmy's sister was going to be mad.
Hutch picked up the mike again. "Control, this is Zebra three. We are assisting with a minor traffic accident. Log us back out."
"Roger, Zebra 3."
Timmy directed Starsky up the steep streets to where he lived. His sister ran down the front steps when she saw her brother getting out of the car with two strangers.
"Timmy! You know you're not supposed to take rides from strangers!" she shouted at him. Hutch flashed his badge and she calmed down immediately. When Starsky started pulling her ex-bicycle out of the trunk, she screamed for her mother. "MOMMMMM!"
A woman appeared at the screen door, drying her hands on a dishtowel. "Kelly, what on Earth. . ." She stopped midsentence as her mind registered what she was seeing.
Running down the steps to her son, she said, "Are you okay, baby?"
Timmy's ears reddened and he said, "Don't call me that." He dug his toe into the soft grass in their front yard.
"I'm Jenny Parker. What happened?"
The two detectives introduced themselves and explained the situation. Mrs. Parker looked her son over and pronounced him undamaged but grounded. He was sent inside with a swat on the behind and the promise of a lecture about taking his sister's things without permission and riding out onto the busy streets. As he dejectedly passed his sister on the stairs, she pinched his arm and hissed, "You're dead. You're gonna wish those cops had killed you."
Starsky said, "I'm so sorry, ma'am. This could have been so much worse."
"I know, Detective Starsky. Everything is okay though. This would have been Timmy's fault, not yours. I'll make sure he never does anything like this again. He may be grounded until his senior prom." She smiled and patted Starsky on the hand reassuringly. She offered them some coffee and asked if they'd like to stay around and talk to her husband, but they declined.
As they headed down the hill in the car, Hutch said, "You all right?"
Starsky was still gripping the steering wheel like he was planning to pull it off and hand it to Hutch. "Yeah. I'm okay. God, Hutch. That was too close."
"Really." Hutch shook his head. Suddenly, he realized what the implications of the incident were. If Cynthia was right about the child on the bike, she might also be right about the other prediction. Without meaning to, he stole a concerned look at Starsky.
"I'm okay," Starsky said, noticing the look. Hutch couldn't help but hope Starsky stayed that way.
"You still up for dinner, buddy?" he asked Starsky.
"Not sure how hungry I am now, but I'll try. So, Future Foods it is then. I owe ya." He mustered a smile for Hutch.
"No way. I wasn't really going to make you go there. Let's just swing into Black Angus, huh? I can have a big salad and they have a bar. Future Foods only has fruit smoothies."
"I knew there was a good reason you're my best friend." Starsky smiled gratefully and headed for the Black Angus.
When they were seated at the restaurant enjoying their dinners, the conversation returned to Cynthia and her prediction. Starsky had to admit it was beyond any sort of coincidence. Hutch noted with satisfaction that a tiny chink in the armor of Starsky's resistance had been formed that day. In the back of his mind, he was worried about the other prediction. The one about the accident had only taken a day. They had narrowly averted disaster in that case. He promised himself he would be more alert about the other prediction.
"I need to talk to you about this trance thing you do," Starsky said, finishing the last of his beer.
"What about it?" Hutch wasn't sure where this was going.
"You sure it's okay? I mean, you won't get hurt doing it or anything, will ya?" Starsky still didn't like it. Despite Hutch's assurances, the whole process scared the dickens out of him.
"No way, buddy. I told you, don't worry, huh?" Hutch was starting to feel a little guilty about one thing though. "Um, Starsk, I do have one confession though."
"Uh-oh, I knew it. Spill it."
"Well, you know that poem thing. You didn't really have to do anything that elaborate to call me out of it. I just did that part for fun."
Starsky was not amused. His eyes narrowed and he said, "You mean you made me say that whole stupid poem and everything when I didn't need to?"
"Yeah. I would respond to your voice anyway, without the complicated procedure. Mad at me?" Hutch looked a little sheepish.
"Mad? You scared the crap out of me with that stunt," Starsky answered.
"But, Starsk, I . . ."
"I know, I know. You told me so. Yeah, you told me what was gonna happen, but you have no idea how scared I was and I KNEW what you were doing. Just make sure you never pull that on me without warning me, okay?"
Hutch looked a little shocked. "I would never do that to you, Gordo. I'd never joke around about something like that."
Starsky nodded his acceptance and they moved on to other topics. Hutch successfully lightened the conversation with a discussion about Luke Skywalker and Jedi training. By the time they left for the theater, Starsky was in a good mood, anxious to see the film. Hutch laughed a little to himself. How could the same man who got such enjoyment from science fiction films he could talk about them for hours, as if the people in them were real, also be such a dangerous person to reckon with in their work? He secretly hoped his partner would never outgrow his fun side. That was probably what kept him sane.
After another day off, Starsky and Hutch returned to duty. The following few days were full of routine calls. The homicide division had no new cases to work and the detectives found themselves responding to domestic disturbances, robberies, a jewelry store heist, several calls for narcotics, and even a purse snatching.
October 30th was supposed to be the last day of their week, but they had volunteered to take another day so some of the officers with young children could be off with them for Halloween. They would work Halloween night, but today they worked the day shift. The previous week had seen one of their collars convicted of first-degree murder. Today the sentence was to be set and they wanted to hear it. They were expecting the convicted man, Donald Hanover, to receive a life sentence and they hadn't been disappointed. He would be transferred to San Quentin the next day.
Enough days had passed from when they saw Cynthia to allow Hutch the luxury of relaxing a little. Maybe they were right about the fluid nature of time. Telling him about the three men who would kill his partner might have sent that future into oblivion.
Starsky was steering the Torino out toward the docks where they were expecting to interview some potential witnesses to a late night robbery from one of the cargo ships berthed at the pier. They had received a tip just as they were leaving for the courthouse and had waited until after the sentencing to follow up on the lead. He parked the car near the warehouse. The pier looked deserted and the door to this warehouse was in the back of the building. As they rounded the building, they noticed a delivery truck parked behind the loading dock. They walked toward the warehouse door and then they heard the unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked back and they both froze.
"Turn around," a menacing voice ordered. They slowly obeyed and wound up facing three tough looking thugs. Two of them were armed with guns and the third had a deadly looking hunting knife in his hands. The man with the knife was massive.
"Get their guns," the same voice ordered.
Starsky and Hutch stood quietly with their arms slightly extended while one of the men took their weapons.
"What do you want?" Starsky asked, anger evident in his basically calm tone.
"Not much, Detective Starsky. Oh yes, I know who you are. You and your partner here arrested my brother, Donald Hanover. They are planning to transfer him to San Quentin. I can't allow that."
Hutch looked furtively at the three men. His head was pounding and his ears were beginning to ring. This could be the moment. He started to plan how he could keep the men from taking Starsky with them. "There isn't anything left to do about it. Your brother's conviction is a done deal. He goes up the river tomorrow and that's it."
The man flashed Hutch an evil smile. "But there is something we can do, Hutchinson. One of you is coming with me. I'll trade you for my brother. It's that simple."
Starsky laughed. "That'll never fly. We're cops, man. You know, expendable." He hated to put it that way, but when it came to hostage situations, cops knew they couldn't expect to be rescued. If necessary, their lives would be forfeited before public safety would ever be compromised.
"We'll just see about that. I don't want both of you. You're too dangerous together. Decide which one of you is coming. The other one will be left here to deliver our demands." That said, the man dangled a pair of cuffs at them, his intent to abandon one of the detectives on the pier clearly communicated by the gesture.
Surrounded and unarmed, the two officers knew there was no hope of escaping at this moment. The best they could do would be for one of them to go along while the other did everything in his power to rescue him. The look they gave each other conveyed that information without a word spoken.
Starsky told Hutch, "I'm going."
"No, you're not," Hutch replied. "Why you and not me?"
"Because I called it first, sucker. I'm going. Besides, you're better at negotiating than I am. I'll need you on the outside to get me out of this mess." He attempted to give Hutch a reassuring nod.
As Starsky walked toward the three men, Hutch's mind desperately groped for a way to get him to stay behind so he could go in his place. He was terrified that the psychic was correct and this might be the last time he would see his best friend alive. Before Starsky got any farther from him, he reached a snap decision. Transmitting a silent message begging his partner for forgiveness, Hutch took a few steps toward Starsky's retreating frame, put his hands together and delivered a blow that he knew would put his friend out, but would not seriously injure him. Starsky fell to the ground unconscious. The other men had no time to react, but they advanced on Hutch. He shot a concerned look toward Starsky as he was immediately grabbed by the large goon with the knife.
One of the other men cuffed Starsky's limp arm to the railing at the bottom of a short flight of stairs while Hutch grappled with his attacker. As the other two criminals watched, the struggle ended when they heard a sickening squish followed by a quiet groan. The blond cop slowly crumpled to the ground, his hands still entangled in the big man's shirt. When his hands were pried away, he slumped onto his back, the hunting knife sticking out of his chest.
Hanover screamed at his accomplice, "That's just great, Charlie. Now we got one of 'em unconscious and you've probably killed this one."
Charlie grunted his disinterest as he bent down and pulled his knife out of Hutch's chest.
"Leave the blond," Hanover said.
The smaller of the other two assailants answered, "But I don't have a key to those cuffs. You said no chances. You said not to bring it!"
"Dammit! Fine, bring the blond."
The wound in his chest bled severely and Hutch was barely conscious. The big man picked Hutch up easily and tossed him into the back of the delivery truck. After Hanover's brother stuffed a cassette tape and note into Starsky's jacket pocket, he returned to the truck and the three men took off leaving Starsky behind them. A few miles down the road, as they entered the 405 freeway, they called in another anonymous tip as to where the BCPD might find one of its finest.
An inquisitive gull squawking on the nearby dock made him jerk his head around and then he remembered.
If he was here, that meant Hutch was with the three men. And since he'd been able to see all three men when he got hit on the head, that meant Hutch had been the one who'd knocked him out.
// So you'd be able to go with them instead of me, // Starsky thought, wincing from more than just the physical pain of a punk knot on his head.
He had no idea where to begin looking for Hutch. He sat there another moment, waiting for the dizziness and the headache to subside a bit. He made a move to stand and noticed he was cuffed to the railing. Looking at his ensnared wrist in disbelief, he muttered a few curses while he fished for his own handcuff key, hoping it would fit. After a brief struggle to insert the key with his non-dominant right hand, he was gratified to hear the lock trip and he pulled his hand free. Starsky rose to his feet and started for the Torino. He had to call in and get some help. A crackle inside his jacket made him stop and feel his pocket. There was a cassette tape with a note wrapped around it. He opened the note.
Donald Hanover goes free or the detective dies, the note said. We'll be in contact with you within the next 12 hours. At that time, we will give you further instructions.
Starsky stared blankly at the note. There was no way in hell the courts were going to let Hanover go. He didn't even stand a chance for parole anytime soon. He looked at the tape, shook his head in discouragement, and went to the Torino. He stuck the tape in the cassette deck. Hutch had teased him unmercifully about that tape deck, insisting that it would hardly get any use since they couldn't listen to music and the police radio at the same time. But Starsky had pointed out that he wasn't on duty all the time and he wanted to trade in the outdated eight-track player. He hadn't used it much, either.
The tape spun silently for several seconds before a voice came out of the speakers.
"You will prepare a plane which is capable of travel to Brazil. The plane will be in good physical repair and fueled up. You will not play any tricks on us or the detective will die and you'll never even know how or where to find the body. Once we have proof that the plane is ready, we will tell you where to deliver it. You will bring Donald Hanover to the airfield we name and he will be accompanied by one, and only one police officer. Unarmed. After we are safely out of the country, we will release the detective and inform you where you can pick him up."
The voice stopped, but Starsky hadn't yet ejected the tape when two black-and-whites screamed down the dock toward him. He stared at them, unaware of the anonymous call. He got out of the car and the nearest black-and-white screeched to a halt. He found himself looking down the barrels of both cops' guns.
"Hey, hang on!" he said angrily. "I'm Detective Starsky!" He reached for his badge, but the driver pulled the hammer back.
"Nice and slow. Left hand."
Starsky rolled his eyes. The badge was in his right hip pocket. He reached around, pulled it loose and dangled it in front of the officer. "Happy now?" he asked.
Both cops and the other two, who had caught up by then put away their guns. "Sorry, sir," the driver of the first car said. "We had a report of an officer down at this location."
"That'd be me," Starsky said, putting his badge away. "Three guys kidnapped my partner and. . ." he hesitated, mentally shrugged, and added, "and knocked me out." Dobey would understand when he told him it'd been Hutch who knocked him out. These four earnest young officers with the shiny new badges wouldn't get it and it would only make for long, involved explanations he didn't have time for right now.
"How long ago?"
Starsky looked down at his watch and guessed, "About half an hour."
"Get a description of the subject vehicle?"
In spite of the circumstances, Starsky couldn't help grinning. Cop lingo. For Pete's sake. "It's a truck, sonny. A panel truck. Nondescript step-van style in basic rust. And probably stolen to boot. And no, I didn't get the license plate on the 'subject vehicle.'"
The young cop called in the description and a report on Starsky's condition and the fact that Hutch had been taken by the men. He kept asking Starsky questions all the while, and relayed Starsky's simple answers in convoluted cop-speak until Starsky, as the ranking officer, simply took the mike away from him.
"Mildred, it's Starsk."
"Go ahead," she answered.
"One of the men is Hanover's brother and I'll bet he's in the files, too. I didn't know the other two but they're about the same age, stocky, ugly, and one of 'em has acne scars all over his face. He also has a crappy tattoo of a naked girl on his right forearm. They took off in a rusty step-van about ten years old. Got all that, honey?"
"Roger," Mildred said. "Hang on."
Starsky waited, and in a few moments she came back. "I've got a Dean Hanover,
age 36, red over green, past convictions for assault, agg battery and trafficking."
"Known associates include Ray Carmean, age 32, brown over brown, acne scars
and mermaid tattoo on right forearm. Similar record."
"That sounds like his buddy, all right. Put out an APB on them and the third guy."
"Roger, Zebra Three."
Starsky handed the mike back and said, "Wasn't that easier than 'suspect at large described as a Caucasian male'?"
The officer replaced the mike. His ears were turning a nice shade of red. Starsky shook his head and started for the Torino.
"Hey, uh, Starsky?"
He turned back.
"What about our report?"
"My partner is missing," Starsky said evenly, with a dangerous light in his eyes. "Fuck your report." He got in the car and left.
When Starsky reached the precinct, Dobey was in his office waiting for him. He'd already gotten the news that Hutch was missing and he had some information for Starsky.
Starsky burst into Dobey's office without knocking. "You heard, Cap?"
Dobey was expecting him. "Yeah, I heard. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, no thanks to my partner." Starsky fumed as he plopped down heavily into one of Dobey's chairs.
"What?! You want to explain that remark?" Dobey's voice went up several decibels.
Starsky shook his head in disbelief, putting it down in his hands. "Aw, Cap."
"Tell me what happened, Starsky."
After silently staring at the floor for a few more seconds, Starsky looked up at his captain with distressed eyes. "Everything happened so fast, Cap. We got a call to talk to an informant on the docks. When we got there, these goons were waiting for us. They said one of us had to go with them and we could choose which one. I said I would go." He stopped and looked away from Dobey.
"And Hutch decided that wasn't the way it was going down?" Dobey looked like he understood. Starsky just shook his head in the affirmative.
"He put me down, Cap. How could he do that to me?" Starsky was shaking with anger at his partner, and worry for him too. He knew Hutch had a good reason, but he was still angry.
"I can't wait to get a hold of him. If they don't hurt him, God willing, I'm gonna throttle him myself. Of all the stupid . . ."
Dobey interrupted. "Dave, that's not gonna help us find him. He must have had a good reason. Let's just find him so you can ask him." Starsky settled down a little. Captain Dobey continued, "Did you know they found blood at the scene? The uniforms said you split out of there pretty fast."
"No, I didn't know that. How much?" Starsky was suddenly even more worried. He didn't think that was possible. He popped back up out of his seat and started to pace around the office.
"Enough. We're having a lab team test it to see if it matches Hutch's type."
Starsky handed the note and the tape to Dobey. "This is all about Hanover. His brother wants to trade Hanover for Hutch."
Dobey read the note, and then he went to the other side of his office to play the tape. After he heard it, he looked up at the darker half of his dynamic duo. This was not going to be good. He knew they couldn't negotiate the release of a convicted murderer. Dobey feared that this time, his boys' luck had run out on them.
"Dave, you must know how bad this is. We can't . . ."
Starsky exploded, "You DON'T have to tell me, Cap. I know. What are we gonna do?"
He stopped in front of Dobey's desk, tapping his fist nervously on the surface.
"The APB on that van may turn something, but we both know it's probably already been ditched. I guess we have to wait for their call."
The phone rang, interrupting their conversation.
"Captain Dobey. What? When?" Dobey sat and listened for a few minutes, painfully aware of Starsky's mounting nervousness. "I see. Thanks." He hung up the phone with a shocked look Starsky didn't like at all.
"Was that about Hutch?" he asked anxiously.
"Not exactly. I'm not sure how to tell you this. That was about Hanover. He's dead."
Starsky suddenly went pale. His legs were so wobbly, he had to sit down again. "How?"
Dobey explained while Starsky stared at him in wide-eyed shock. "He got himself in a fight. He was waiting for his transfer to San Quentin with some other prisoners in a holding area. The man on the phone said he was bragging about how he was getting sprung today. Guess the other men didn't like his bragging. Another prisoner knifed him and he died before they could get him to the infirmary. I'm sorry, I know this makes it worse."
"Worse? Hutch is a dead man if we can't find him before the brother hears about this." Starsky stated that fact plainly. "Can we keep it away from the media?"
Dobey answered that question by grabbing the telephone.
After Hanover and his men dumped the rust bucket van they had stolen to make their grab, they transferred to another, similarly dilapidated van. Hutch was unconscious and still bleeding, but one of the thugs had managed to slow it down by applying pressure to the wound. Hanover kept looking back from the driver's seat, making sure his hostage was still alive. He was angry at the way this had turned out and frantic to keep Hutch alive long enough to make the exchange for his brother. His intent was so great, he was ignoring the obvious Hutch was a cop and the cops would not bargain for him as a hostage. Starsky had told him and he was right about that. Cops were expendable.
When they reached the house where they intended to hole up until they were ready for the transfer, Hutch was starting to come around a little. They pulled the van around the back and carried him into the house through a sliding glass door. Hanover didn't bother to tie him up since he was so incapacitated. Instead, his men just dumped him on the living room floor and left him there, shifting to the kitchen to talk about their next moves. Hutch was barely conscious, but he strained to hear their plans.
"Is Sherry ready?" one voice said.
Hanover answered, "Yeah, she was supposed to go over to the jail a little while ago. She should be here soon."
The idea was for Hanover's girlfriend to go to the jail and pass the word to his brother that they were moving forward with their plans. She was to be there for visiting hours, then report to this condemned house.
Hutch was exhausted and sick. His wound was bleeding and he was having trouble breathing. He lay on the floor, lost in his own thoughts as he tuned out the voices from the other room. Realizing he might bleed to death on that floor was unpleasant. He didn't want to die without being able to say goodbye to Starsky. If his last act had been what saved Starsky's life though, he was ready to accept that. // Aw, Starsk, I hope you can forgive me. I just knew what I had to do. If you can be safe, I can die in peace. //
As darkness threatened to claim him, a thought came unbidden to his mind. Trance. If he could get himself into a trance he might not bleed to death. He might survive this ordeal. Maybe his captors would think he was dead and abandon him there. At least he would stand a chance of surviving until his partner could find him. He didn't want Starsky to find him dead.
Hutch turned a little so he was lying on the side that was wounded. If nothing else, that might help prevent his chest filling with blood that would crush his lungs. Slowly and methodically he began to move closer to a trance. He stretched his mind into the calming thoughts he needed to go deeper than he ever had. He wanted to be so out of it, even if they moved him, he would not be roused. His thoughts of a cue to wake him from the trance went to his partner. Starsky's voice. Starsky would help him. Within a few minutes, he was successful. As he hoped, the bleeding was nearly stopped. His ragged breathing was no longer an issue. When his captors came to check on him next, they would think he was dead.
The back door slid open again as Sherry stormed into the house. "Dean!" she shouted.
The men looked up at the woman standing in the empty dining room her eyes adjusting to the dim light inside. "In here," Hanover answered her call.
The breathless woman came quickly to them. "Dean, he's dead."
Dean Hanover looked at her in disbelief. "What do you mean?"
"I said he's dead. When I tried to see him, they told me. He was killed in a knife fight while they waited to transfer him to Quentin."
He grabbed her roughly by the shoulders and shook her. "You're lying! We set this whole thing up to save him!"
She shook her head and sobbed. "I'm sorry. You can call them if you want, but it's all over now. He's dead."
Hanover released her and hung his head in despair. What was he going to do now? He had snatched a cop and the man's partner was expecting a ransom call. What in the hell was he going to do now?
He angrily strode into the living room to confront Hutch. Seeing him lying so still on the ground, he kicked him in the back, trying to wake him, but there was no response. The blond cop lay perfectly still in a circle of blood soaked and dirty shag carpeting. He reached down and shook Hutch roughly by the shoulder, but still nothing. Suddenly fearful, he reached a tentative hand down to search for a pulse.
"Oh, my God!" he gasped and sat down on the floor next to the body of one Ken Hutchinson.
The other men rushed into the room and saw Hanover's defeat. Not only was he never getting his brother out of jail, now he had killed a cop.
"He's dead, ain't he?" one of the men exclaimed in dismay.
"Yeah. We killed a cop."
Sherry started to back away from them. "No way, Dean. You said you weren't gonna hurt the guy. You said you were gonna let him go!"
"Well, plans change. What the hell are we gonna do with him?"
Sherry moved toward them now. Walking around Hutch, she bent down and touched his cool cheek. Even in the dim light of the boarded up room she could see how pale he was. She'd never looked at death like that and her heart went out to him. Although she knew of the general plan to snatch one of the two cops who had put Dean's brother away, Sherry hadn't known any of this was going to happen. The plan was never to hurt the cop, just to get Don free. She reached for Hutch's throat and felt for a pulse, just to be sure Hanover was right.
"I say we leave him here and get out of town," Carmean said.
"NO!" Sherry's forceful reply surprised the man and he snapped his head around to look at her in amazement.
"Take him back to his partner. You can't just leave him here to rot. It ain't his fault Don is dead." Her compassion for Hutch was even surprising her.
Hanover barked back at her, "That's too dangerous. We've gotta just split."
"If you don't, I'll figure out a way to do it myself. Please, Dean. We can just take him over to Starsky's house and drop him off there."
Sherry knew Dean Hanover had Starsky's address. He had bought both detectives' home addresses and phone numbers from an informant in case he had to snatch one of them from home. Whichever partner he wound up with, his plan had been to call the other one at home with his demands if he couldn't find him at the Metro phone number.
"All right. We wait until dark. Then we'll drop him in Starsky's driveway and head for the state line." Now they would wait. Carmean was restless with the idea and the other man had already snuck out the back door and taken off for parts unknown.
When hours went by with no word, Starsky was ready to explode. The other detectives had all scrambled out to look for Hutch. The van turned up with no clues in it other than Hutch's blood. No amount of pleading and bribery with every snitch the Metro detective corps could muster turned up any information on Hutch's captors. Starsky finally told Dobey he was going to his place, in case the call came there. Dobey would wait at Metro.
Captain Dobey had spent the rest of the afternoon working on a plan to fool the kidnappers into giving Hutch to them while Starsky had spent it desperately searching. Dobey had managed to find a uniformed officer who resembled Donald Hanover. The plan was to bring him to the airstrip. He hoped his men could get the drop on the three men holding Hutch before Hanover's brother figured out the man being walked toward him was not his brother. He had already made arrangements for cops to be on hand at all of the local municipal airfields.
Starsky had been home about an hour. The phone sat in stubborn refusal, mocking him. No call came to alert them what to do next. Now, he could do nothing but wait.
As the sun set, Hanover and Carmean loaded Hutch's body into the back of the stolen van. Sherry climbed in with him, sitting on the floor and quietly stroking the detective's flaxen hair. The two men got into the front of the van and they took off for Starsky's house.
The van wove in and out of traffic, taking the long route to stay away from the highway patrol and as many Bay City patrol cars as possible. The van had undoubtedly been reported stolen and even though they had put different plates on it, Hanover was taking no chances.
Sherry sat in the back, looking at Hutch's still face and she said, "Why'd you kill him? You promised me nobody was gonna get hurt."
"Are you really that stupid?" Hanover growled at her. "We were never gonna let him live. After Don was free, we were always gonna shoot him in the head and dump him somewhere."
"You promised me." She quietly sniffed as a tear rolled down her cheek. Sherry finally realized what she had gotten into with Hanover and she felt a crushing regret. A long list of petty thefts and occasional prostitution charges made up the entirety of her police record. Now, she felt like she had the death of a cop on her head and she wasn't at all sure how she was going to live with that.
"Shut up!" Hanover yelled back at her. "He's just a cop. What's gotten into you?"
Sherry decided she had better keep her mouth shut or Hanover might kill her too. She sat in silence for the rest of the trip to Starsky's home. While riding along with Hutch's head in her lap, she made a decision. When they pushed Hutch's body out of that van, she was going with him. She petted Hutch's silky hair and whispered, "I'm sorry."
A knock on the door broke the rhythm of Starsky's pacing. He rushed to it, but stood to one side. He had already checked out a replacement gun from the department. Drawing the weapon, he cautiously inquired through the closed door, "Who's there?"
"It's the Bear," Huggy answered.
Starsky relaxed a little and cracked the door to be sure Huggy was alone, not under some thug's gun, then he let his dark friend into the apartment.
"You're twitchier than an alley cat, man!" Huggy proclaimed as he walked in and sat on the couch.
"Sorry. You got something?" Starsky didn't want to dare hope Huggy would have anything to help him. He'd been disappointed at every turn so far since Hutch disappeared.
"Not much, but it's somethin'. A chick by the name of Sherry Bell came down to county jail to visit Hanover today. When they told her Hanover was dead, she shot out of there like a bat outta hell."
"How the hell do you get information like that, Hug? I've been tryin' to get something out of lockup all day." Starsky was both pleased to have the information and irritated that it came from Huggy and not one of his contacts at the county jail.
"Now you know I don't give up my sources, Starsky. Don't ask me that." Huggy was shaking his head, stating the obvious.
"I'm sorry, Hug, I'm just wired. I haven't heard anything. No phone call, not even a carrier pigeon. What the hell are they doing?"
"I know. Our blond brother's gonna be okay though. You'll see. He didn't hurt ya when he beaned ya on the back of the head, did he?" Huggy asked solicitously.
"Hurt me? Hutch would never hurt me. Damn him! I can't believe he did this to me. Should be ME they're looking for. When I'm through with him, he's gonna wish he'd never pulled this stunt!" Starsky was still pacing, clenching his fists and getting angrier by the minute.
Huggy put an arm out to stop him as he passed the couch. "Hang in there, man. I'm scared for him too." He knew Starsky didn't mean the things he was saying, but he understood why it made him angry. He said a silent prayer that Hutch hadn't sacrificed his life to save Starsky this time. Not this way. Huggy feared it would kill his dark-haired friend. Starsky nodded his appreciation for the support, then immediately resumed his pacing.
"So who's this chick, anyway? What's she got to do with Hanover?" Starsky asked.
"Just a two-bit thief and part time lady-of-the-evening. She's never been into anything heavy, according to my gonna-remain-anonymous informant." Huggy smiled wryly at his friend. "My informant says she's Dean Hanover's girlfriend."
When the van pulled onto Starsky's street, Hanover slowed it to make a quiet approach to the building. He pulled up behind the Torino, then got out to open the double back doors. Sherry readied herself to make a break for it. Carmean climbed through the two front seats and went toward the back to help Sherry shove the detective's body out onto the street. When the doors opened and Hanover stepped aside, she helped the large man roll the body out onto the driveway where it hit with a sickening thud. She pretended to lose her balance with the effort to push Hutch out of the van and followed him out of it, landing on her hands and knees on the concrete. Hanover reached for her, but she was too quick. Sherry stood and ran as fast as she could into the welcoming darkness.
The movement momentarily shocked Hanover, but it only took him a few seconds to pull out Hutch's Magnum, which he had stuffed into his jacket pocket. He fired a shot at the fleeing woman, but it went wild and the kick of the powerful weapon threw his arm back. He dropped the gun and massaged his hand.
"Sherry! Get back here, dammit!" he yelled after her, but she had turned into Starsky's apartment complex and was now out of sight.
"Come on, man, that cannon musta been heard all the way downtown. We ain't got time for this!" Carmean was pulling at the man, trying to get him back inside the van. "Get in, I'll drive!"
Meanwhile, up in Starsky's apartment, he heard the roar of the Magnum. Already tensed for action and near the door on this loop of his pacing, he had his weapon drawn and was bounding down the stairs in a flash. He rounded the building just as Hanover was reaching to close the doors to the van. Starsky took in the frightening sight of Hutch sprawled on the ground and unmoving. He heard Huggy running down the stairs from his apartment. Then he turned his concentration to Hanover.
"Police, freeze!" he yelled as he fired a warning shot into the air. Hanover briefly made eye contact with the angry detective, and then he attempted to pull the doors closed. The shot that followed that movement narrowly missed Hanover's shoulder and he dove to the floor of the van. Carmean squealed away from the scene with Starsky running after the van and firing at the tires. In the darkness of the street, he wasn't able to hit the moving target.
Spinning around, he ran back to the driveway to see Huggy kneeling next to Hutch. Huggy looked at him and held up a hand in warning. He stepped over Hutch's inert frame and put a hand on Starsky's shoulder to stop his progress.
"I'm sorry, man. He's gone." Huggy already had tears streaming down his face. This was one piece of information he hoped he'd never have to pass on to either of his two closest friends.
Starsky's eyes flew open with shock and instant grief. "No!" he screamed as he pushed past Huggy and knelt next to his friend. He touched Hutch gently on the face and said, "No, Hutch. Not like this." Gathering Hutch into his arms, his cheek resting on the top of Hutch's head, he held onto him and cried. Starsky reached for one of Hutch's wrists and felt for a pulse without success.
"I'm gonna go call somebody. You gonna be okay here for a few minutes?" Huggy needed to make the call for his friend, but he was torn by the need to stay next to Starsky, fearful of what his grief-stricken friend would do next.
A quiet female voice came from the dark corner of the building. "I'll call. You stay with them." Huggy looked up to see Sherry standing in the streetlight. "I'm sorry. Where can I go to call?"
"Up the stairs where the door is open. That's his place. Call the Metro Division of the Police Department and ask for Captain Dobey." Huggy wasn't sure why he was willing to trust this woman, but at least it left him to stand guard over Starsky until the cavalry arrived to help him.
Starsky was shaking uncontrollably. Clutching Hutch in his arms, but still holding his gun loosely in his left hand.
Huggy gently reached toward him and said, "Lemme have your gun, Starsk. You hold onto Hutch."
Starsky looked at him, eyes filled with despair. "What?"
"Your gun, man. Lemme have it." Huggy was terrified Starsky was going to turn it on himself in the crushing grief of this moment. He knew Starsky would feel responsible for Hutch's death and this was the darkest moment of his life.
"No." The answer was calm and determined. Huggy took a step toward him.
"Back off, Huggy. You don't know what you're asking. This is my fault. I should be dead. Not Hutch." Starsky sadly shook his head, tears falling onto Hutch's face. "Aw, Hutch. Me and Thee. What happened to that? How could you go without me?" When he closed his eyes, Huggy took another quiet and tentative step toward him. He wanted to be in position to tackle Starsky and get the gun if necessary.
Starsky gently laid Hutch on the ground and sat back on his heels. He could hear the sound of sirens in the distance and he knew where they were headed.
Huggy stepped a little closer and said, "Starsk." He held out his hand and his heart lurched when Starsky looked up at him, his next action etched clearly in his eyes.
Starsky hadn't noticed the subtle changes in Hutch's body. Hutch had heard Starsky's voice and was starting to respond to it, gradually climbing back to awareness. His pulse rate was increasing and his breathing began to be noticeable. He took an audible breath and moved his hand to rest on Starsky's leg.
Immediately, Starsky's focus switched to his best friend. "Hutch?" He grabbed Hutch's hand and felt for a pulse again. This time he felt one, thready but present. "Oh, my God! Trance. Huggy! He was in a trance."
Now that Hutch was coming back to a normal heart rate, his wound began to bleed profusely. The jostling around had worsened things and he now had a significant bump and gash on his head from being dumped onto the ground while unable to break his own fall. When the blood started to flow, Starsky realized what was happening. He feared there was no time to wait for an ambulance.
"Help me get him in the car, Huggy. I gotta get him to a hospital now!" Starsky rushed around and opened the passenger door to the Torino. Huggy helped him gently lay Hutch down in the front seat and Starsky scrambled over the hood to the driver's side.
"Stay here and wait for the cavalry!" Starsky said as he peeled out of the driveway.
Huggy saw the light go up a fraction of a moment before he heard the siren begin to howl as the Torino disappeared into the darkness. He leaned over and picked up the dropped Magnum and went up to Starsky's apartment to put it away while he waited for the rest of the emergency vehicles to arrive.
Starsky had Hutch's head on his lap. His friend's eyes were closed and his breathing was ragged. "Hutch! Can you go back under, buddy? Don't wake up all the way yet. You're bleedin' really bad. Please don't die on me."
Hutch heard Starsky's voice and tried to obey him. He worked at slowing his heart rate down as well as he could in the jostling of the Torino. He wasn't all the way out of his trance and he hoped he'd be able to slow things down again.
But between the howling siren and the pain and the panicked note in Starsky's
voice, he couldn't manage to calm himself enough. He had to settle for the
half-awake state he was in and even that was hard to maintain.
"Control, this is Zebra Three," Starsky said. "Notify Memorial I'm bringing Hutch in. Severe bleeding. Maybe a knife wound."
"Roger, Zebra Three. Will advise."
It only took a few minutes to reach the hospital at the speed Starsky was driving. He skidded to a stop outside the emergency entrance and laid on the horn, and in a moment a couple of orderlies appeared with a stretcher. Hutch was still only partially conscious, but the bleeding hadn't slowed. Starsky ran beside the stretcher as the orderlies took Hutch into a treatment room and a nurse gently pulled at Starsky's arm.
"We'll take care of him."
"No, you don't understand!" Starsky pulled away and started after the stretcher. "He won't respond to you. He needs me. He needs to hear my voice!"
"Officer," the nurse grabbed at his arm again, but Starsky dodged and pushed his way through the doors. He had to look in several curtained cubicles before he found Hutch. A couple of nurses were cutting off his clothes and a doctor was barking orders. Starsky slithered up and stationed himself behind Hutch, where he'd be out of the way but his partner could still hear him.
"What the hell is HE doing here?" the doctor demanded when he looked up and
spotted Starsky. "Get out of here! Wait outside!"
"No," Starsky said. "I'll explain later, when you're done with him. Just trust me. I gotta be where he can hear me."
"Orderly!" the doctor yelled. "Get this guy "
Starsky snaked out a hand and grabbed the doctor's coat. "Listen to me," he
said in the voice he normally reserved to scare the stuffing out of street punks. "I'll stay outta your way. But I ain't leavin'. Not till he's conscious and out of danger."
The doctor was clearly angry, but the glitter in Starsky's eyes convinced him. He pulled away. "Fine. But if you interfere, I'm calling security."
"I won't interfere." Starsky let go and put a hand on Hutch's hair. With the other, he gently stroked his cheek. "Stay under, buddy," he said softly. "I'll let you know when it's okay to come out."
The doctor lifted an eyebrow but ignored Starsky after that. When the nurses got Hutch's clothes off, and Starsky saw the gaping wound and how close it had come to Hutch's heart, his knees got a little shaky. But he regained control and stayed where he was.
The nearest nurse packed the wound with gauze and applied pressure while the
second nurse started an IV.
"Get him started on O negative while we type him," the doctor ordered.
"It's B negative," Starsky said.
The doctor ignored him. He listened to Hutch's heart and looked at his pupils and ordered one of the nurses to take his blood pressure. "We're losing him," he said tightly. "Respiration and pulse are almost nil."
"He's in a trance," Starsky said. "He's controlling his respiration and pulse to slow the bleeding."
The doctor glared at him. "I told you not to interfere."
"I'm not interferin'. I'm tellin' ya, that's why I gotta be here. It's my voice he's waiting for to tell him to come out of the trance." Starsky was deadly calm.
"I know distress when I see it!" the doctor snapped. "Nurse, bring the paddles, just in case."
Starsky leaned over. "Hutch. Hutch, come on, buddy. You gotta come out of it now. You're in the hospital, there's a doctor right here. You can come out of it now. Come on, Hutch."
"That's it, I'm through messing with you," the doctor snarled. "Get out of here. Now!"
But Hutch's respiration sped up, just a notch. His pulse rate, monitored by one of the nurses, increased marginally. As Starsky, the doctor and the two nurses watched, all but Starsky dumbfounded, Hutch's eyes fluttered open and he focused on Starsky's face.
"Sssh," Starsky said, patting his cheek. "Don't talk. Doctor'll take care of ya now. You all the way out?"
Hutch swallowed and nodded. "Yeah. It's. . .it's okay."
"Don't go back under, all right?"
"Won't. . . ."
Starsky stroked the pale cheek once more and looked up at the doctor. "Okay, I'll go now. If he needs me, or if he goes back under, you call me."
The doctor stared, first at Starsky, then at Hutch. "How. . .how did you. . . ?"
"I'll explain later. You take care of him now."
It took a couple of hours, hours in which Starsky was deeply regretting leaving Hutch to the doctor's care, before anyone came to tell him how his partner was doing. But finally the doctor did come.
"He'll be all right," the man said, still in his operating room scrubs. "We had to do some internal repairs, but it looked a lot worse than it was."
"Thank God." Starsky let out the breath he hadn't even realized he was holding since he saw the doctor walking toward him.
"The knife missed his heart by less than an inch," the doctor said. "He's a lucky man. Most of the damage was confined to muscle and blood vessels."
"How long's he have to stay?"
"At least overnight," the doctor said. "We'll see how he's doing in the morning. Now I want you to tell me what that was in the treatment room back there."
Starsky tried to explain, but he didn't completely understand how Hutch did the trance, and he was certain he was making a botch of his explanation. Finally, he shrugged and finished, "All I really know is, he had to hear my voice to come out of it. I was afraid you'd think he was dead or dying "
"We did," the doctor said dryly.
"So I had to be there, to call him out of it before you did something to hurt him," Starsky said.
"I see." The doctor stayed where he was, studying Starsky thoughtfully for several moments. He shook his head. "I suppose you want to see him. He's on the fifth floor. Room 505. Don't stay long. He's still groggy from the anesthetic and I want him to get some sleep."
"Okay. Thanks." Starsky headed for the elevator. When he opened the door, Hutch was struggling to sit up. "Hey, you're supposed to be asleep, Blintz," Starsky said with a grin. "Whattya need? I'll get it for ya."
"I'm...thirsty," Hutch said, slurring his words. His eyes wouldn't quite focus, either.
Starsky picked up the plastic tumbler of ice water on the bedside and bent the straw. "Here you go."
He had to put it in Hutch's mouth for him, because the blond was fading fast. Hutch took a couple of swallows and let his head fall back against the pillow. "Whad they gimme?" he mumbled.
Starsky grinned. "I don't know, but it seems to be working. Go to sleep, buddy. See ya in the morning."
But Hutch was already out cold.
Starsky left the room and went to find a pay phone. After he called and updated Captain Dobey and Huggy on Hutch's condition, he quietly slipped past the nurses' station while it was unoccupied and returned to Hutch's side. The doctor told him not to stay too long, but Starsky didn't care. He wasn't disturbing Hutch and he decided he might as well sleep there as at home. Starsky pulled a chair over close to Hutch's bed and made himself as comfortable as possible. The hours of worry and strain were crowding in on him now that the danger appeared to have passed. He slumped lower in the chair and fell asleep within minutes.
Two hours later, Starsky felt someone shaking his shoulder. "Sir." He heard a female voice. He shook his head a little and blinked groggily.
Looking up at a nurse who was looking down at him, he whispered, "Shhhh. Don't wanna wake up Blondie."
She smiled at him and whispered, "You're not supposed to be here. Visiting hours were over a long time ago."
He whispered back, "That's okay. I'm sleeping, not visiting."
She couldn't help but laugh at him. Nodding her willingness to allow him to stay, she left the room. In a few minutes, she returned with a pillow and a blanket for him. "If anybody asks you, these just appeared. I haven't seen you." She winked at him.
The nurse went around to the other side of Hutch's bed and took his vital signs. She jotted something down on Hutch's chart. Before she passed back out of the room, she touched Starsky on the shoulder and whispered, "Don't worry. He's fine. His temperature is up a little, but that's not unusual."
Starsky nodded at her and she left. He leaned over Hutch's bed and touched him on the forehead. He did feel a little warm. Starsky frowned slightly and slumped back in the chair to try and sleep.
In the morning, Hutch opened his eyes and looked around the hospital room, focusing slowly. He turned his head slightly and saw his partner sprawled in the chair next to the bed.
"Hey," he said softly.
Starsky stirred at the sound of Hutch's voice. He sat up in the chair, reached out and took Hutch's hand. "Hey back."
"How you feeling?"
"Groggy. Sore." Hutch closed his eyes again and relaxed his grip on Starsky's hand.
"Hey?" Starsky said again.
"I'm okay. Tired. My head hurts."
"You must have hit your head on the ground when they pitched you out of that van."
"Oh. Huh?" Hutch opened his eyes and looked at Starsky again with a confused expression. He moved to sit up, but winced from pain and sank back down immediately. "Not smart."
"Nope. Stay still, Blondie." Starsky was worried about him. Hutch was too pale and his hand felt too warm.
"Why am I here?" Hutch's voice was quiet.
"Don't you remember? Shhhh. We'll talk about it later when you're better. Sleep." Starsky touched his partner's hair lightly. He watched for a few minutes as Hutch's breathing evened out in sleep. He walked out into the hallway in time to see Huggy and Captain Dobey walking toward him.
"Morning, Cap. Huggy," Starsky said. Before they could ask, he offered, "He's sleeping."
Dobey said, "We need to talk a minute." Starsky nodded and they moved off toward the elevators, away from the patient rooms. Huggy passed quietly into Hutch's room to sit with his friend.
Captain Dobey looked like he hadn't slept. He pushed the down button and then asked, "How's he doing?"
"Doc says he was lucky. The knife missed his heart by less than an inch," Starsky answered, the worry clearly broadcasting in his tone.
"Is he out of danger?" Dobey didn't like the look on Starsky's face.
"Uh-huh. He has a fever this morning and he's still weak and groggy. The doc thought he might be able to go home today, but I don't see it."
When the elevator doors opened, Captain Dobey herded Starsky on board.
"Hey, where are we going? I want to be here when he wakes up again." Starsky was not happy at being led away from his partner.
"Huggy'll stay with him. We need to go down to lockup. While you were here looking out for Hutch, we picked up a witness who's willing to testify against Hanover and the other two men. She says she'll only talk to you though."
Starsky said, "Where'd you find her?"
"At your place. She found us. Her name's Sherry Bell. She was in the back of the van with Hutch. When they pushed him out, she jumped for it and ran."
Suddenly remembering the woman who appeared from nowhere and offered to call about Hutch, Starsky realized that must have been Sherry Bell. "Why so eager to help?"
Dobey sighed. "I think she's hoping for a deal. She thinks Hutch is dead and she really seems upset about it."
Starsky shivered at that last comment. "I thought he was dead too, Cap."
They walked through the lobby and out to the parking lot together. "I'll go on over there. Will you keep an eye on him for me?"
Dobey shook his head. "Sorry, I have to go meet with the DA as soon as he's in the office. Huggy said he'd stay and he'll call you if there's any change. Oh and, Starsky, what's this I hear about you interfering with Hutch's treatment in the ER? I got a call from a doctor screaming mad. He was ranting about Hutch being in a trance and you having to bring him out of it."
Starsky waved at him as he sprinted away toward the Torino. "No idea, Cap. Catch you later. Call me!"
Dobey bellowed, "Starsky!" His detective was purposely ignoring him.
The next time Hutch awoke, he was feeling better. The effects of anesthesia and pain medication had abated and he was left feeling sore and weak. Starsky's assessment was correct. The combination of weakness and fever was going to keep Hutch in the hospital for one or two more days until the doctor was more comfortable releasing him. The doctor told Hutch and Huggy that there was some infection setting in and Hutch would have to be on IV antibiotics.
Toward the middle of the morning, Hutch asked, "What's wrong, Hug? You okay?"
"Me? I'm just fine, Blondie. You, on the other hand, look like you went mano-a-mano with a tiger." Hutch laughed at the reply. He could tell there was something on Huggy's mind.
"Huggy. Please, I'm too tired to be a detective this morning. Just tell me what's wrong." In his muddled state, he had forgotten that Starsky was there earlier and now he wasn't. Suddenly, he was afraid something was really wrong. His eyes opened wider and he reached for Huggy. "Where's Starsky? Is he okay?"
Huggy responded to his frantic tone immediately. "Yeah, he's fine. He had to go down to the precinct."
Hutch sighed deeply and said, "You scared me, Hug. I thought something had happened to him." Relieved, but still not satisfied, Hutch added, "Then what? Is he okay or not?"
"I don't know if I should tell you this, man. You're not gonna like it much."
"Now you're really scaring me. Spill it." Hutch's blue eyes bored into Huggy and he knew he wouldn't be able to avoid the questions.
"Hutch, Curly gave me a real scare last night. We thought you were dead. He thought you were. He's blamin' himself for what happened to you."
"Not his fault. I chose. Now, how did he scare you?" Hutch already didn't like were this discussion was going. "Was he hurt?"
"No, nothing like that." Huggy pulled the chair closer to the bed and looked Hutch in the eyes. "When he thought you was dead, I thought, but I could be wrong. I thought for a minute he was gonna off himself."
Any color Hutch had in his face drained away. His voice was shaky as he said, "H-He tried to . . ."
Huggy shook his head. "No, he didn't. It's just that he was holding onto his gun and he had this funny vibe goin'. Don't ask me how I knew, but I knew. I asked him to gimme his gun a couple of times."
"What did he say?" Hutch was trembling slightly and his face was awash with worry.
"He just said 'No' and that I didn't know what I was askin'. He said he should be dead. Not you."
"Geez, Huggy. Do, do you think he'd really have . . . How'd you stop him?"
"I think he was real close. I didn't stop him. You did that. You started to move and he just snapped out of it."
"Oh, God, Starsk." Hutch closed his eyes. A tear slid down his face as he thought about how close his trance had been to causing his best friend to eat his gun. He never guessed that would happen.
Huggy patted him on the arm and said, "You okay, Hutch? I'm sorry. Maybe I shouldn't have told you, but I thought you should know. He scared me bad."
Hutch nodded. "Thanks, Hug. Thanks for being there for him when I couldn't be."
"What're you gonna do about it?" Huggy asked, hoping he had done the right thing.
"I don't know, but I'll think of something."
Interviewing Sherry Bell and getting the District Attorney to agree to a reduced sentence in return for her testimony took hours. Starsky and Dobey were hard at it well into the afternoon. By three o'clock, they finally had warrants for the arrest of Dean Hanover, Ray Carmean, and Beau Finch. Sherry was relieved to know that Hutch was alive and eager to offer any help she could to apprehend the men who orchestrated his abduction.
Starsky was on his way out of the squad room when the phone on his desk rang. He almost let it go, but he thought it might be Huggy, so he backtracked to answer it.
"Hey, bro," Huggy's voice sounded strained.
"Huggy? Something wrong with Hutch?"
As Starsky listened to Huggy and answered his questions, Detectives Simmons and Babcock were paying close attention. They were both worried about Hutch and it sounded to them like something must be wrong.
"How long ago? Are they giving him something? When he wakes up, tell him I hope I'll have this wrapped up in a while. I'll be there as soon as I can. Thanks, Hug." Starsky hung the phone up with a frown, rubbing his tired face with one hand, and thinking about what Huggy told him. Captain Dobey walked out into the squad room. He instantly took in the look on Starsky's face, and the looks Simmons and Babcock were giving each other.
"Something wrong?" Dobey asked.
"Nah, it's nothing. Huggy said something about Hutch having a nightmare about those three turkeys that grabbed him and me. He made Huggy call to warn me about it." Starsky was downplaying what he'd been told. Hutch had begged Huggy to call and tell his partner to stay away from those men.
Simmons piped up and said, "Starsky, why don't you give us those warrants. We'll take care of it and you can go see Hutch."
"No way. This is mine." Starsky wanted to be the one to arrest the men who had harmed his partner.
The other two detectives looked at each other intently. They knew how connected their friends were. If Hutch was that worried, he could be onto something. Starsky might be in danger.
Starsky turned to walk out the door, but Dobey put a hand on his arm. "Starsky, give them the warrants." The same thoughts were running through his mind.
"What? Why?" Starsky was angry. "You're not serious. Because of a dream?"
Dobey gave Starsky his most serious stare. The one that would accept no argument. Still holding Starsky's arm, he said in a low tone, "Dave, give them to Simmons and Babcock."
Starsky was dumbfounded, but he saw the look on Dobey's face. Combined with his tone of voice, no discussion was possible or necessary. He nodded, his jaw clenched and handed them to Simmons.
"We'll get 'em for you," Simmons said.
Babcock added, "For Hutch." They left the squad room in a rush.
Captain Dobey said, "Go sit with your partner."
"Thanks, Cap." Starsky headed for Memorial.
He expected to find Hutch asleep, so he was more than a little surprised to find him awake, and not only awake, but looking distinctly unhappy about something. Starsky assumed he had just received the news that he'd be confined in the hospital for a couple more days, or maybe a nurse had just given him a shot. Hutch hated shots. Either way, Starsky had something to say, and an annoyed White Knight was not going to stop him from saying it.
"Hi," he said, plopping down in the chair and propping his feet up on the bed. "Where's Huggy?"
"He went to find me a decent cup of coffee," Hutch said.
"Good luck." Starsky yawned and scooted down to get more comfortable. "Ain't no such thing in these places."
There was a moment of strained silence, and Starsky figured he might as well do it now if he was going to. "I got a bone to pick with you, partner."
Okay. Hutch wasn't going to make this easy. Maybe it shouldn't be. Starsky gave a mental shrug. "What was the idea of that little stunt you pulled?"
"Bonking me on the head and letting those creeps run off with ya!"
Hutch sighed and rolled his eyes, wincing a little from the pain it sent through his still-aching head. "I had to."
"Why did you have to?"
"Cynthia told me three men were going to abduct you, and if they did, they'd kill you!" Hutch turned on his side to glare at his partner. "I couldn't let that happen. Not after she hit the nail on the head with the van and the kid on the bicycle!"
"She didn't tell me that," Starsky said, finding it hard to get the right note of indignation into his voice in the face of how pale Hutch was and how dark the circles under his eyes were.
"She told me," Hutch said, lying back again. "I know you don't believe in that stuff "
"No, I don't," Starsky said. "But she did hit it twice in a row." He shook his head. "But what if she saw it wrong, huh? What if it was you they were gonna grab? What if they'd killed you?"
"It was a damned close call!" Starsky's voice trembled a bit, in spite of his best effort to keep it steady. "That knife missed your heart by an inch, Hutch. An inch!"
"It might've been a close call," Hutch said, "but that's no excuse for you damned near blowing your own head off."
Starsky froze. "Huh?"
"Don't give me that innocent act!" Hutch struggled to sit up. "Huggy told me about it. Said he damned near had a heart attack watching you contemplate eating your stinkin' gun!"
"What the hell are you talking about?" Starsky demanded. "I didn't do that."
"Bull. Huggy wouldn't lie to me about that. Don't you ever "
"Wait a minute," Starsky protested. "Honest, Hutch, I don't know what you're talking about."
Hutch studied his face. He didn't think Starsky was lying. "Come on," he said slowly. "Huggy told me " He shook his head as if to clear it. "When you and Huggy found me in the driveway and I was in the trance, Huggy said you were holding me and crying and you said it should've been you instead of me, and he said you "
But Starsky's face had changed and now there was a spark of something in his
eyes that frightened Hutch more than a little. He nodded soberly. "Okay. I know what he's talking about. I won't deny. . ." He took a deep breath. "It crossed my mind," he said. "I was scared, buddy. I was hurtin'. I thought you were dead. Maybe I wasn't no, I definitely wasn't thinkin' clearly. But I didn't do it. And I don't think I really would."
Hutch wet his lips and forced his breathing to slow. They simply looked at each other for a long moment, exchanging in silence what neither had words for. Finally, Hutch said, "You'd better not. Because if you did, when I found you up there," he gestured above them, "I'd kick your worthless ass."
Starsky grinned and the danger passed.
Simmons and Babcock came back while Hutch was pretending to eat his supper it was mystery meat covered in lumpy gravy and Starsky was actually eating more of it than Hutch was.
Both were obviously tired and discouraged. "We couldn't find Hanover," Babcock said, sinking down on the foot of Hutch's bed. "We must've torn this whole city apart and he just isn't anywhere."
"He's gotta be," Starsky said. "Dammit. I knew I shoulda been the one to go."
"We got Carmean and Finch. That girl was right about where they were holed
up. But Hanover wasn't there and they said they didn't know where he was."
"Sure, they didn't," Starsky said angrily.
"No, I think they were tellin' the truth, Starsk," Simmons said. "They sang like canaries, both of 'em, and told us a bunch of stuff that girl didn't even mention. They even told us where we could find your gun. We picked it up for you already and left it at the station. We've got an APB out on Hanover, but right now I guess all we can do is wait."
"That ain't all I can do," Starsky said, rising and reaching for his jacket.
"Hold on, Sundance," Hutch said. "You aren't going anywhere. Not alone, anyway."
"I thought I was Butch," Starsky said. "But if you think you're going with me, guess again, buddy boy. Your butt's stayin' right here."
"Listen to me," Hutch said. "That guy's got nothing to lose now. He's got every reason to want to take us out. Both of us. You sit down or I'll call that burly nurse and have her tie you to that other bed over there. Buddy."
"Kinky," Starsky said, grinning in spite of himself. "Okay, tell ya what. I'll take these two clowns with me."
"Who's a clown?" Simmons demanded. "And we're off duty now. Give it a rest till tomorrow at least, huh, Starsky? There's a guard outside and we're all in here and the guy can't do nothin' with all of us here anyway."
Starsky opened his mouth, but Hutch shook a finger at him. "Okay," Starsky said, grudgingly giving in, "but first thing tomorrow, I'm lookin' for him myself."
Hutch was much better in the morning, and the doctor said he could go home if
he promised to stay home quietly and rest for at least another few days. Simmons and Babcock had gone back to looking for Hanover, and the uniformed officer guarding Hutch helped Starsky get him outside to the Torino.
None of them considered the possibility that Hanover was waiting for them until they heard the first shot. It went wide, and the uniformed officer and Starsky both had their guns out before the second shot was fired. That one hit the car next to them and Starsky threw his own body over Hutch, still in the wheelchair, while the uniformed officer returned fire.
Hutch tried to push Starsky away from him, but he didn't have the strength to do it. Knowing his injured partner was unarmed, Starsky was an immovable object. He maintained his protective stance over Hutch while keeping his gun trained in the direction of the shots. Fortunately, the gunplay was brief. The uniform hit Hanover in the shoulder, ending the confrontation in an abrupt string of obscenities from the gunman.
Once Hanover was subdued and taken into the hospital for treatment, Starsky turned to check on Hutch. "You okay?" He touched his partner softly on the side of his face.
"How could I not be? Geez, Starsk. You think you're bulletproof suddenly?" Hutch's tone carried some anger in it.
"Hey, what'd you expect? You're unarmed and you aren't in any shape to defend yourself even if you had your gun." Starsky could see Hutch was upset with him, but he had done what he had to do.
Not wishing to get into an argument with Starsky, Hutch squelched his next comment and let it go with a charged glance. He accepted Starsky's help getting into the Torino. After Starsky returned the wheelchair, he drove Hutch home in silence. By the time they reached Venice Place, Hutch's anger was completely dissipated. As Starsky opened the driver's door to climb out, he heard Hutch quietly say, "Thanks." He turned toward Hutch and gave him a smile as if to say, "Anytime."
Having rested throughout the early afternoon, Hutch got up and wandered restlessly around the apartment. When Starsky couldn't take his pacing anymore he said, "You're supposed to be resting."
Hutch stopped his pacing abruptly. "I know." He paused as he turned toward Starsky, putting one hand absent-mindedly on his sore chest. Even the small activity of pacing had winded him. "I want to see Cynthia. You think Huggy would bring her over here?"
"Sure, but why?" Starsky had no idea where Hutch was going with this.
"Aren't you curious? I'd like to talk to her about everything that happened. I just want to try and understand, that's all. Don't you?"
"I supposed. All right, I'll call and ask him, but only if you go back to bed. I'll bring you some tea and make you something leafy to munch on, okay?"
Hutch smiled at him. "Okay, I'm going." He returned to his bed leaving Starsky in charge of phone calls and rabbit food preparation.
Huggy wasn't able to come that night. He had missed a lot of time from the bar while helping Starsky out by staying with Hutch at the hospital. Instead, the detectives agreed to go down to The Pits the next day for lunch with Huggy and his mysterious cousin. Hutch promised to take it easy.
When they were seated at the bar, waiting for the kitchen to finish their order, Hutch started questioning Cynthia. She had greeted the two men warmly, once again without touching either of them. Huggy had disappeared discreetly, giving the three some time alone.
"I just wanted to ask you some things, Cynthia. Thanks for agreeing to this," he started.
"You're welcome. I'm not sure how much help I'll be, but go ahead." She looked wary. Cynthia had been questioned many times by skeptics and believers alike. No ready answers ever seemed to satisfy the skeptics and no amount of logic ever seemed to take the edge off the fervor of the believers. She knew the partners were one of each and she was curious to see how the conversation would evolve.
"Both of your predictions for us were right on. Are you always that accurate?"
"No. I've found I can tap into people with a lot of psychic energy and you two have that. I also discovered years ago that what you might call 'watershed' events come through to me more easily than ordinary images."
Starsky piped in with, "So, what you're saying is that any major event about to come down might trigger these images faster than say knowing my partner is gonna spill a smoothie on my seats on the way back from lunch on Wednesday?"
Cynthia laughed at that. "You have a vivid imagination, Starsky."
Hutch replied, "That's one of my partner's special charms." He winked at Starsky.
"Hey, that just makes me more interesting. Can I help it if Blondie here is so ordinary in comparison to my brilliance?"
Hutch dropped an ice cube from his water glass down Starsky's back before he continued. Starsky squirmed and said, "Watch it."
"Why don't you do this for a living? Huggy tells me you're a radiology tech in your real job." Hutch couldn't understand why someone as gifted as Cynthia wouldn't try to incorporate that gift into her work.
"You have the wrong idea, Hutch. I may have picked up some strong signals in your case, but that's just not how it works. Most of what I get isn't very useful to people. I prefer to just enjoy exercising my psychic abilities at informal events like the one where we met. Besides, I believe it helps me maintain some sense of equilibrium. Being a psychic is a little like being left handed in a right-handed world. Everything is backward for me. Does that make any sense?"
Starsky laughed and said, "Oh, I think you just stole my partner's heart."
Hutch added, "My buddy here is a south paw."
"Oh!" Cynthia's laugh was quiet. Her soft voice and gentle laughter warmed the room. Even Starsky wondered how anyone could do anything other than believe her completely.
"Why did you tell your vision about me to Hutch, but you didn't mention it to me?" Starsky needed the answer to that question. He was still unsettled by all that had happened and he couldn't help but wonder what might have happened if not for Cynthia's prediction.
"I don't know. Something told me I should just tell him."
Hutch reached across the table to her, but she pulled her hand away.
"I'm sorry." He turned a little red; embarrassed that he had made her uncomfortable.
"No, I'm sorry. Just give me a minute." The images she had of events in these two men's lives were strong and she wanted to brace herself in case a similar intensity resulted from this meeting.
"I just want to thank you. First, for that little boy we almost wiped out in the tomato. Second, for my partner's life." Hutch felt awkward making such a heart felt statement without touching the recipient of his words.
"You're welcome." Cynthia took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She put both hands on the tabletop, palms up and said, "Each of you take one of my hands, please."
"I thought you needed to do this with just one of us at a time," Hutch said.
"Usually, thats true," Cynthia answered. "You two are so interlinked though, lets just see what happens."
Starsky looked warily at Hutch. "You sure? You don't have to do this. Come to think of it, you ain't the first psychic we've encountered. The other one didn't want to touch us either." He was remembering their last contact with psychic Joe Collandra. The man told them not to touch him because their intense energy was overwhelming him. They tried to stop and visit Joe occasionally, but they never touched him unless he initiated the contact.
Cynthia nodded, closing her fingers over her palms and opened them again a few times for emphasis and invitation. "Please, before I lose my nerve."
Each of them took a hand and she took in a sharp breath. They looked at each other in concern, but that quickly faded as her expression softened into a smile. She squeezed both of their hands and held on for several minutes. Starsky thought her faraway expression was haunting.
"Now let go, Starsky," she said. Cynthia sat quietly for another moment, then she reached for Starsky and asked Hutch to release her other hand.
Opening her eyes, Cynthia smiled brightly. She said, "I saw lots of things. Mostly for you together. You are stuck with each other. I didn't see any one event I feel compelled to share, so I think I will keep them to myself. I am a firm believer in maintaining some mystery in life. I'd tell you if I saw anything like I did the last time. The only thing I'm going to tell you is that your partnership will be growing ever stronger." She stopped talking and looked at each of them.
Hutch said, "I guess it would take all the mystery away to know everything that will happen to you."
Starsky said, "Like having someone tell you the end of a good book while you're still reading it."
"Exactly," Cynthia added.
Following their meeting with Cynthia, Starsky decided he should read some books on psychic phenomena and extra sensory perception. One of them gave him a great idea. On their next day off, Starsky asked Hutch to come to his place in the late afternoon. He said he had something to show him and then they were going to dinner and a club.
"Hey," he called as he poked his head in through the open door.
"Hey, yourself." Starsky was seated at the kitchen table, waiting for Hutch.
"What'd you want to show me?" He had been curious all day, but unwilling to fish for details.
"Well, based on our recent experiences with the psychic realm, I decided to look into this whole ESP thing. Come here and sit." Starsky had a small set of cards in his hand. "Take a look at these."
Starsky had picked up a set of ESP testing cards at a local bookstore that specialized in all things paranormal and supernatural. The deck contained just five cards. Each card had a single symbol on one side including a circle, a square, a set of three wavy lines, a plus sign, and a star.
"What's all this?" Hutch asked. He had seen ESP testing cards before, but he was interested in Starsky's explanation.
"You use these cards to test your ESP. One of us holds the cards and concentrates while the other one tries to figure out which card it is. Wanna try?" Starsky's eyes were full of anticipation. How could Hutch refuse?
"Yeah, okay. You gonna hold the cards, or guess?"
"I'll hold 'em. You know Cynthia said we had a strong connection. Who knows?"
"What do you want me to do?"
Starsky smiled. "Great. You go sit on the couch and close your eyes." He handed Hutch a pad of paper and a pencil. "I'll go through the deck one at a time. You write down what you pick up, okay?"
Hutch nodded and moved to the living room. Starsk shuffled the deck and turned over the first card. Looking at the card, he was inexplicably apprehensive. He picked up a quarter that was sitting on the table and nervously played with it in one hand. Concentrating as hard as he could, he stared at the card with the wavy lines on it.
In the living room, Hutch concentrated and then wrote down what he thought it was. After a couple of minutes he said, "Okay. Do the next one."
"Wait a minute," Starsky said. "Which card was it?"
Hutch shook his had and replied, "No, that'll mess it all up. I don't want to know if I'm right or wrong yet. Just do the next one and I'll tell you when we're finished."
"Good point. Okay." Starsky turned over the next card, still playing with the quarter. This time, the square was the symbol showing on the card.
After a few more minutes, Hutch said, "I think I got it. Move on."
Starsky raised his eyebrows and moved to turn over the next card when he was interrupted by the telephone ringing. "Hang on, Hutch." He moved to the phone. "Starsky."
"Starsky, this is Captain Dobey. I know this is your night off, but . . . ."
Hutch groaned when he heard Starsky say, "Aw, come on, Cap, don't tell me you need us tonight. We were just gonna go to dinner and a dance club."
"Sorry. Can't be helped. We've got a report of a homicide down at the Trade Center and I want you on it. You boys meet me down there in say, twenty minutes?"
"Yeah, all right." He hung up the phone with an annoyed sigh. "Sorry, partner. Cap'n's got one for us. A 187 at the Trade Center."
Hutch tossed the pad onto the couch and stood. "So much for dinner and the club."
As he passed the couch, Starsky picked up the pad and read what Hutch had written. "Hey, you know you got them both right! Maybe Cynthia had something there."
"Prob'ly just a coincidence." As they walked out the door Hutch added, "You know the weird thing is both times I kept picking up something flat and metallic. I know that's not on any of the cards."
Starsky's eyebrows went up as he remembered the quarter he had been worrying while they were doing the experiment. Clicking the door closed behind him, he said, "Yeah, maybe you're right. Just a coincidence."