This story is an amateur publication and does not intend to infringe upon copyrights held by any party. No reproductions without permission. Originally published in the Starsky & Hutch zine Ten Thirteen No. 2, in 1981/82. A longtime fan generously donated digital scanning, typing and proofreading for the archive. Enjoy!

Night Maze
by
Sandi

He returned from his world of velvet darkness like a drowning child emerging from a night-black pool, a skinny kid with rat-tailed brown hair and weary blue eyes. It was cold there. Cold and dark and painfully lonely.

Nervous and shaking with a kind of anticipation, he glanced from the meager shelter of the doorway, searching up and down the street, eyes straining to pierce the gloom. A blast of wind, hard and biting, forced him back, renewing the shivers that racked his body, scalding his face with its savagery.

Where am I?

Familiar places seemed threatening in the moonless night, apartment blocks loomed like menacing giants, taunting him. He remembered wandering through the dark city canyons, alone, friendless -- seemed like hours. Then the rain had come, and driving sleet that turned the snow in the gutters and alleyways to thick grey slush. His shoes were soaked, his clothes too, and the soft curls clung to his forehead in sodden tangles. He was cold and tired, so tired -- But he could not give up yet. Had to go on -- Had to find...

How long has it been?

He tried to turn his mind back, to recall when it had started. Was it minutes or hours -- or days? His senses reeled at the thought of days alone in the icy blackness with no one to help him, no one to care if he lived or -- He swallowed hard, afraid of the images conjured up, and tugging his jacket collar higher, he trudged out into the freezing night air.

Gotta go on... Gotta find -- What?

Another alley, darker than the rest, alongside the shell of an abandoned building. He shuddered, scared to continue, but driven by the feeling that something was hiding there and he must find it. The sour stench of rotting garbage stung the back of his throat, making his stomach heave, the bitter taste of bile rising to choke him. He coughed and spat into the mud.

Then he heard a shuffling, rasping sound. He paused, holding his breath, listening. Exhausted eyes caught movement, dark shapes growing from the shadows, threatening.

Well, well, if it ain't little Davey..." A man's voice, mocking, yet the words had a haunting, childish quality. Cold dread ran through him. Something in that voice frightened him, like the fragmented memory of a nightmare, but his tired mind could not place it -- refused to try.

"Where you going', Davey?" crooned another; softer, older, but no less menacing.

They were bearing down on him, full-grown men with hate in their eyes. Desperately he turned towards the street, his only escape route. But a dark bulk blocked his way, a tall figure in the flowing robes of a monk, his features concealed in the cowl's depths. A trio of powerful, angry adults against a twelve-year-old boy.

It ain't fair -- somebody's gotta help me...

"Yeah, you lookin' for somethin', Davey? What you lookin' for?" They laughed.

Terrified, Davey struck out, aiming a torrent of blows at the shrouded bulk barring his way and finding a na´ve satisfaction as his fists made contact. But the towering form was unyielding. Despite the cold and the slanting rain, the boy was sweating, trembling. He wanted to go home, to the comfort of his mother's arms and the warm security of their little apartment. There was something bad about these men, the way they kept their faces hidden in the shadows, and the threat of their soft voices.

But he didn't know where home was.

Bitter tears stung his eyes -- foretaste of the inevitable defeat?

"Leave me alone!" he yelled, trying to dodge round them. "Go 'way!" Somehow they were always before him.

"Aw, don't be a spoil-sport, Davey. Doncha wanna play?"

"'Course he don't -- he's a scaredy-cat." Hollow laughter like the slamming of a coffin lid, stained with the edge of insanity, surrounded him.

"Scaredy-cat...scaredy-cat..." a chant in unison; schoolyard bullies taunting the class weakling.

"Starsk! Hold on, I'm coming --"

The voice was magic inside his head, its silver bell clarity cutting through the fog of fear. He looked around, wondering where it had come from, but there was no one else in the alley.

Great, now I'm hearing things.

"Scaredy-cat..." The chant was continuing unbroken, and faces loomed over him, swimming in and out of focus. Malevolent, shadowy figures. He could smell them now, a sickly sweet odor that brought new terror; the rancid air of a tomb.

The scent of death.

Icy fingers stroked his spine, and despite his youthful courage, he was suddenly screaming for help, waking high clear echoes in the empty buildings. The cries seemed to summon another shade from the endless darkness, another ghost to haunt him, a scrawny man with vacant eyes and scruffy clothes.

"Why'd anybody wanna help you?" he drawled. "I trusted you with my life, and all it got me was Soldier's bullet."

"Lemme go home -- !" Davey shouted, and their amusement coiled about him.

"Naw..." The grim laughter increased, thrown back by the surrounding walls. "You're gonna play with us first."

"Yeah, Simon knows a good game, doncha, Simon?"

A low, ominous cackle rumbled from within the hood, then a silken hiss: "A very good game, my friend... For some."

There was a sharp click. Steel flashed in the faint light from the distant street lamps. Davey saw the blade lunge for his face in a shining arc and he tried to back away, eyes wide with horror. But chill iron fists locked onto him.

"Hold on, Starsk! Hold on -- "

That voice again, ringing in his head. Who was it? What was it?

I think I'm goin' crazy.

Yet there was something comforting about it, something reassuring, a promise that help was on the way and he was not alone. He swallowed hard, struggling to free himself from the pitiless grip of his assailants, his courage reinforced, for the moment.

"Hold him, Vic -- tighter - " urged the figure to his left.

Hands clamped on his arms, drawing them out, pressing him back against the wall and forcing him down until his shoulders burned for release and he thought his spine would crack. All the time his gaze remained fixed on the blade sweeping inches from his face.

"Slow...it's gotta be slow...twenty-four hours, Davey..."

"'S'right. Pay him back for murdering my boy. Lonnie didn't need to die... Nice an' slow, like that tramp girlfriend of his -"

Davey's mind was throbbing with the pain and the cold and the fear. Why did they want to kill him? What had he, a kid, ever done to hurt them? But their words had a frightening familiarity.

Twenty-four hours. He had been that close to death before, somewhere in his future. And who was the 'tramp girlfriend'? Did he mean Terry? He had never known a girl called Terry, she died a long time ago. One day he would give her red roses and ask her to marry him. But the only girl he cared about now was little Laura who lived next door, and she was only nine. But Laura was dead, too. She died when she was eleven. She went away and changed her name. He remembered how she had told him all about it the night of the Brahms concert --

It don't make sense!

Nothing about this mess made any sense. The world was spinning on its ear, lurching like crazy, and he was clinging to a precarious reality by his fingernails. Darkness and the unknown yawned ahead like a black maw ready to swallow him up. He prayed that this was all some hideous nightmare and he would wake any minute, safe in his own bed.

Davey did not see the stranger at first, but he was somehow aware of his presence. It filled his bruised senses with peace and stilled the frantic thunder of his heart.

"Don't be scared, Starsk. I'm here...
you're gonna make it -- you gotta --
make it -- "

He seemed taller then the others, his tanned face half in and half out of the shadows, thin light from the street a soft aura to the gilt of his hair.

"Drop the knife."

His calm voice had the resonance of distant surf and Davey felt the last of the terror ebb away.

The one called Simon swung round, eyes blazing, but the steel blade dropped into the mud, glittering briefly. Lamplight filtered into the recess of the hood, disclosing features twisted with the pain of defeat, and Davey gasped in recognition. How many people had gone to their graves too soon because of this man? The boy shuddered at the thought, reliving the searing pain of the ropes around his wrists and the fear that had gnawed at his gut.

Simon Marcos.

Davey looked to the right and left, registering the others. Their faces reflected the same obsessive hatred. He knew them too, though his child's memory could not fathom now.

Prudholm. Bellamy. Ritter.

Faces from his past. Or -- from his future?

"Come to me, Starsk."

Shattered remnants, of his courage gathered up, bound together by word and voice, he started the long walk.

"I see your White Knight found you again, Davey," Marcos sneered. But he ignored him, concentrating on the voice that meant safety, protection -- love.

Like an automaton he pushed between them, striving towards the stranger with laboring steps, as if wading through viscid mire, reaching for the outstretched hand.

The grins dissolved.

The faces dissolved, fading back into the shadows, formless clouds of evil.

Davey turned to look at his protector. There was something familiar there, something in the stance and the glistening hair that told him he knew this man. He absorbed the blue eyes that watched him so intently, the mouth that curved in a gentle smile beneath the pale moustache, and knew at once that he cared, deeply.

"Hutch?" he whispered, tentative, wondering how he knew the name. But the pain in his limbs and the numbing cold were dulling his mind.

All at once he seemed to be floating. His arms and legs were heavy, yet his head was light as a carnival balloon. He was drifting in a wine-dark velvet void, detached, until the loneliness of separation flooded through him. His legs buckled and he found himself sinking helplessly to the ground, the foul mud rushing to up to meet his face.

Then he was being lifted. Strong, comforting arms were around him, taking his small weight, carrying him along, and that sense of peace and security washed away his anxiety. He wanted to sleep, needed to sleep, and the arms that held him were warm... With a sigh he turned and nestled his face against the firm shoulder, the tang of leather tickling his nostrils.

"I've got you, Starsk. It's okay
now, babe... All okay."

And slowly he sank into a cushion of sleep.

* * * * * * *

Davey awoke with the sun in his eyes. He was back home, in his own bed in the apartment on Eighty-fourth Street, surrounded by his own familiar things and cocooned in a warm feeling of belonging.

He glanced across at the other bed, and smiled at the sight of the tousled brown head on the pillow. Nick, fast asleep, breathing quietly, the battered and saggy one-armed teddy bear clutched close to his cheek, and with the slight trace of jam at the corners of his mouth.

The room was bright with the new day, light falling in a broad shaft across the floor, staining the faded wallpaper with its golden glow and showing up the worn patch on the rug. He felt happy. It was good to be alive and safe again, the dark terrors of the alleyway a distant, diminishing memory as indistinct as a smudged painting.

A hand grasped his, firm, reassuring.

"Ma?"

His mother's gentle features swam into focus, smiling, her relief obvious. But a hint of concern still lingered behind the tired blue eyes.

"Shush, Davey," she murmured. "You must stay quiet. You've been very sick."

He frowned. He could not remember being sick. Surely it was only last night that he searched in the snow and rain for...What was I looking for? He shuddered as his mother's cool fingers smoothed his forehead, brushing back the tangled curls.

"What - what happened, Ma?" His voice sounded hollow in his ears.

"There was a car -- Davey, you were badly hurt."

He closed his eyes, trying to picture the stranger, seeming to feel the arms around him once more. Surely it hadn't all been a dream -- he had felt so real -- "There were men, Ma -- "

"I know, son. Two of them in a car... They shot you..."

"Sh-shot me?" Panic was blossoming inside him, and with his eyes squeezed shut he mentally examined his body. If he had been shot then he ought to have pain -- but there was nothing. He felt numb, all over. "I - I was in an alley -- someone found me...It was so -- c-cold, Ma."

"He wouldn't give us his name, but he said you knew him. He saved your life, Davey."

"What was he like?"

She thought for a moment, then whispered almost to herself, "That's funny. I can't remember. But it's been a long time."

How long'? How long since he had faced Prudholm, Bellamy and -- Marcos -- in the alley? A shiver ran through him. Those names again; feared memories from the future, they meant evil and death. They had wanted to hurt him -- kill him. Even Ritter, had refused to help. But he was alive, thanks to a stranger he might never see again.

That thought hurt more than any; the prospect of never knowing, never hearing that voice again...

"Rest now, son." His mother broke in, brisk, no nonsense. He was on the road to recovery now, no need for anymore molly-coddling. "I'll get you some soup. You have to eat something to make you strong..."

Then she was gone, and he lay still, staring at the patterns on the wall, watching the airborne specks of dust dancing in the beam of sunlight.

He tried to concentrate on the stranger, but all he could recall were the blue eyes, the halo of light around the gilt hair, and the strong comfort of the arms that had carried him to safety. The recollection made him restless, fidgety. Throwing back the covers, he sat up and swung his legs out of bed.

A wave of nausea swept over him as he straightened, and he caught hold of the chair to steady himself, waiting for the room to settle down. Then headed for the window. It: took a great effort, but at last he made it, and stood there, heart pounding, panting for breath, and looked out on the world. The sun was warm on his face, filling him with an inner peace. It sparkled on the windows and the chrome of the cars as they flashed by, shimmering on the mounds of slowly thawing snow, blinding him with its brilliance.

Far below he could see the people come end go, early risers on their way to work, cautiously picking their steps through the slushy puddles. Davey felt his body tingling. It was like the first day of Spring.

Suddenly the voice came to him again with its silver magic. But this time it seemed to be asking for his help, its clearness muffled by confused pain and a fearful desperation. As if the man was slowly losing his hold on something precious.

"I dunno what to do, Starsk...
I'm pushin' the odds -- dunno what
to do..."

Frantically, Davey began to search the faces in the street below. If his unknown friend was in trouble he must find him --

Is that what I've been looking for all along?

"I mean, what if... What if...
Ah, man, what am I talkin' about?"

Eyes squinted against the light, all his reasoning telling him that if he could hear him, then his friend had to be close by. A man in a grey suit passed across the street, talking conspiratorially with the young woman clinging to his arm. Another in black, crossed diagonally towards him, cupping his hand to light a cigarette.

He's gotta be here -- he's gotta -

Slowly, painfully slowly, his gaze traveled the length of the street as far as he could see, searching. Blood hammered in his head, keeping time with the lurching thunder of his heart, and he was aware of a throbbing ache deep inside.

Then the same strange wave of detachment that had washed over him in the alley returned, sweeping him away from this safe and comforting world.

And he saw him.

He was standing in a doorway across from the apartment, again half in shadow, watching the building, his gaze turned up towards the window. Davey felt a surge of remembered joy as he raised his hand to answer the wave, while around him the room began to dissolve, dropping away as the blue eyes met and locked with his own.

"Starsky?" Whispered astonishment drawing closer.

The familiar face sworn into view, but misted, kind of fuzzed out at the edges, bright hair shining in the stark glare of the hospital lighting.

Hutch! Heart screaming the name that his parched lips could not form.

"Starsky!" A shout of bemused exultation. "You-you're awake -- " Tears glistened on the tanned cheeks, eyes reflecting the turmoil of emotions. Then the grief and pain of the last few days were dashed away with brilliant triumphant smile, and he was gone, his exuberant yell resounding in the room.

Starsky was no longer afraid to be alone. The specters from his past were nothing more than a trick played on him by his floundering, drugged brain as it waded through dark waters, struggling to hold on to the thread of his existence. Hutch was here, a sparkling reality. His strength and love had reached into the cold, black pool to catch his partner and carry him back to the world of warmth and sunlight. The shadows had gone, and Bellamy, Prudholm, and Marcos were no more now than long-ago memories returned to the sheltered recesses of his mind. They had neither importance nor the power to hurt.

He smiled, a small twitch of his mouth. Hutch would have to buy that lobster dinner after all.

end