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FROM THIS DAY FORTH

 

 

(Starsky´s Neighbour sequel)

Co-written with Judith Goodger

 

NOTE  PLEASE:  This story contains scenes of sex, torture and violence.

 

This story was written purely for entertainment and is not for profit, and is not meant to trespass in any way on the holders of the rights to Starsky and Hutch. Except Starsky, Hutch,  Huggy Bear, Captain Dobey and James Gunther , the others characters are property of the authors.

 

 

Part One

Starsky and Vicky approached their new home arm in arm. For a few seconds he looked thoughtfully at both sides of the street.

In one was his recent past. A past that was full of both sweet and bitter memories. The nights spent with Hutch, eating pizza or Chinese food, and watching some ball game on the tube. Those first moments, in the safety of his own apartment, after his ordeal at the hands of the Simon Marcus cult. The long and painful recovery after Gunther´s shooting with Hutch at his side every step of the way. The unforgettable and sad night that he had shared with Hutch fifteen days after Terry´s death.

But on the other side was his future. A future still unwritten, but that was looking both promising and brilliant, together with the woman who, some months ago, was just his neighbour and today was his wife. The woman he loved.

"Hey, Mr Starsky...What are you thinking?" Vicky asked looking into his eyes.

"Oh, nothing important, just how odd life can be at times...Mrs. Starsky."

"Say it again, Dave...Please. It sounds so beautiful..."

"What?"

"Oh, come on! You know what!...Please..." she asked kissing his neck

"Mrs. Starsky...Vicky Starsky... Sounds great huh?"

"Yeah Dave. Sounds great" They kissed each other, long and deep. Afterward, Vicky searched in his jacket pocket to find the door key.

"Wait, wait a moment. What do you think are you doing" Starsky asked while she was opening the front door.

"Opening the door to go in...What else?"

"Oh, no. No way!" Saying this, he took Vicky in his arms raising her up.

"Tradition is tradition!" Starsky said carrying his wife into the apartment, closing the door with his foot.

"I like this Dave... What else does tradition say?" she asked mischievously. As an answer he laid her softly on to the bed, kissing her passionately and looking deep into her eyes.

"I love you Vicky...I love you in a way I never thought possible. I only want to make you happy and I promise you that I will do it."

*******

"Hey Jenny. Seems this is finished. How about a walk to the beach" Hutch asked a thoughtful Jenny, who was looking out of the window. She smiled and, without answering, entwined her arm in Hutch´s as they both headed out to the street. The night was warm and clear, and the dark sky was star-studded. They walked silently, with arms still entwined, for some minutes.

"You know something Hutch?...This is so strange. I mean beautiful, but a little sad too. I dont know how you feel, but me... I feel like a little orphan...Defenceless! I´ve spent so many years looking after Vicky, that probably, now, I won´t know what to do."

"You are talking like some kind of old maiden aunt, Jenny"

"Yeah...I´m old Aunt Jenny." Joked the girl "I don´t want to seem paltry Hutch, you don´t know how happy I am because Vicky and David got married... And because she hasn´t fallen in love with some asshole for once in her life."

Hutch laughed. "You know something Jenny? You really have a way with words...But I do understand...I feel something similar...For a long while it´s just been Starsky and me...Ough! This sounds pretty paltry too...Beautiful pair we are!"

"Its getting cold out here...How about some coffee at my place?" Jenny asked.

"Yeah, sure. Why not?"

********

In the semi-darkness of the bedroom, lit only by the moon shining in through the window, Starsky slid down the zipper of Vicky´s white dress, following the garment and underwear with his hands in its fall along Vicky´s silky skin, kissing her lips, her neck, her breasts, while she groaned with the pleasure of every kiss and caress, unbuttoning his shirt to start her own route over the muscular and virile body of her husband, when suddenly, she stopped, took his face between her hands and said,

"Dave...I want to say something to you. It doesn´t matter what is written on any paper...It doesn´t matter if I´ve been married before... You are for me, my first, my only, husband. The man that I love and I will love every minute of my life, now and forever."

After these words she kissed him and only their naked bodies spoke, all night long, searching for the pleasure in every inch of the other´s skin, creating a symphony with their rhythm, until they were both exhausted and fell asleep still embraced...The last sounds that Vicky heard before succumbing to sleep were Starskys breath and his heart beats...The most sweet sounds for her since the first time she heard it...

*******

Hutch drove to Jenny´s apartment. He and the blond girl were feeling the same sweet melancholy and both seemed to need the company of the only person that, this night, might understand their feelings. For Hutch, that person was Jenny. For Jenny, it was Hutch. They were becoming even closer friends in the last weeks, and Hutch had thought more than once how special Jenny was. But he felt that, with his previous failed relationships, what they had was enough, and Jenny in spite of her deep admiration towards Hutch, was afraid to spoil what began to be a beautiful friendship...But the fact was that the blond and handsome man became more attractive every day for her, and Hutch was feeling the same for the young woman

A while later, they arrived at Jenny´s place. She opened the door.

"Come in Hutch, sit down." She greeted Samson, who was spending the days in her house until the return of Vicky and Starsky from Hawaii, and then headed into the kitchen to bring a bottle and a couple of glasses.

"Coffee, or maybe you prefer this?" Jenny said, showing Hutch a whisky bottle.

" are you trying to make me drunk tonight, Jenny?" Hutch asked with a smile, scratching Samson’s ear

"Oh, no. I would never do something like that, but I thought that to do a toast to our friends with coffee is not very elegant." The girl said with feigned seriousness.

"Once again you´re right, Jenny."

Jenny sat down on the couch beside Hutch and poured the whisky into the glasses, giving one to him, saying. "Well, seems as if this story has had a happy ending... This toast is for them. So that they can keep alive the love that they feel now." Both lifted their glasses and drank silently.

After a while talking of their friends and drinking whisky, Hutch asked. "And you Jenny?... You´ve never thought of marrying?"

"Oh, no Marriage gives me the creeps!! The ideal wife is Vicky, not me. I want other things for my life. To travel, to do every moment what I want without anybody relying on me. Basically, to be free. You know? All these years looking after Vicky, in spite of being happy, at times I´ve missed some things. New York, to have more contact with my family, the other friends I left there...And now I want to get back all of it, but in spite of this, some day I´d like to have a kid...Sounds strange, uh?"

Hutch smiled. "Tel me something, Jenny. You don´t think that Starsky and Vicky can be happy forever?" He asked, after a brief silent pause, becoming serious.

"Oh, no. It´s not that. Just I think, that I couldn´t be happy forever being a married woman. Still I´ve not found the man who wanted to love me forever. And vice versa, of course...You know what the problem is?" Jenny asked, drinking a little of her whisky before answering her own question "The problem is that forever is too much time for me." After these words, a little silly from the effects of the whisky, both burst into laughter. Then, for a brief moment, their eyes locked on each other´s, and Jenny approached Hutch, kissing his lips.

Without knowing why, in that moment they both opened long locked doors, and the mixture of mutual attraction with the little feeling of abandonment that they were feeling  that night, resulted in both falling down in each other arms to make love.

Both forgot for a while their thoughts, giving themselves up to the passion of one tender and intense night.

Some hours later Hutch awoke in Jenny´s bed. He rose from the bed looking for his clothes in the darkness, when she spoke.

"Looks like we did a big mistake, uh?"

"Sorry Jenny. I didn´t want to wake you."

"Yeah, sure. You wanted to leave in silence, as some kind of married man maybe?" Jenny turned on the light and looked deeply into Hutch´s eyes.

"Jenny...I..." Hutch trailed off, unsure about what to say.

Its okay Hutch. We´d make love... And we are friends Really both things don´t make a very lucky combination.... But its what we´ve done...Look Hutch. I like you. You’re a great guy, but I want the same thing you want. To be your friend. I don’t wan´t a love relationship, you don’t want a love relationship, so, tell me. What is the problem?"

"Jenny...I..."

"You know? I was thinking that your vocabulary would have more words." She snapped, just to regret her words as soon as them went past her lips "Sorry Hutch. At times I can be pretty nasty. Is just that I hate the idea that this, what happened here this night, can makes us feel angry with each other. Believe me Hutch. Right now I neither want, nor need, a man in my life. A man who besides is like some kind of brother-in-law to me...Ough! Beautiful mess that would be!!" She said waving her hand "Besides, I never would have a relationship with a cop. Know something? Though it doesn´t seem like it at times, Vicky is braver than me. She knows the risks, but she loves Dave very much, and continues forward in spite of those risks... Well. In spite of what some day could happen.... You know what I´m talking about, don’t you?"

Hutch nodded slightly. Already dressed he sat down on the bed looking at Jenny.

"Are we still friends, Hutch?" She asked softly.

"Yeah, wer are still friends." answered Hutch, kissing her forehead, "I´ll pick you up at 8.00 to take Starsky and Vicky to the airport" Hutch said from the room door before leaving Jenny´s apartment.

*******

Delicious breakfast smells woke Vicky the next morning.

"Dave?" Vicky´s voice sounded a little dozy.

"Yeah, wait a minute sweetheart...Don´t move." Starsky answered, coming from the kitchen. ´

"Madam...Your breakfast." saying this Starsky, entered the bed room with a teacloth resting over his shoulder and carrying a tray filled with fresh orange juice, fried eggs, bacon, toast, butter, marmalade, coffee...and a beautiful red rose.

"Oh, my love...You didn´t have to take so much trouble." Vicky said, taking the rose and bringing it to her nose, sniffing it appreciatively.

"You are joking?...You can´t miss my famous Starsky´s special breakfast...Besides, I´m hungry..." Vicky kissed him lovingly, plunging her fingers into his soft curls.

Both shared the breakfast, sitting down on the bed. Later they shared the shower, and a little more love and pleasure, but finally, they were ready when Hutch arrived with Jenny to take the newly weds to the airport.

The drive to the airport was made in silence. For the first time for a long time Starsky and Hutch sat apart. Jenny sat in Starsky´s usual seat in the front next to Hutch while Starsky sat in the back with his arm around Vicky´s shoulders. Hutch felt decidedly uncomfortable with it and he was glad when they finally pulled up in the airport car park. He and Starsky carried the suitcases as the two girls walked side by side in front of them.

"Got your tickets Starsk?"

Starsky tapped his chest on the right hand side.

"Yep! Right here. Hutch are you okay? I mean you seem a little ... I don´t know, withdrawn I guess would be a good description."

"I´m fine Starsk, why wouldn´t I be? My best friend just got married to a beautiful lady, the sun is shining and for once the bad guys seem to be having a weekend off." Hutch forced a smile as he looked into the face of his partner.

Starsky removed his sunglasses and Hutch knew he had lost. Starsky could see right through him and now that he could see his eyes Hutch knew his friend knew how he was feeling. Quickly he turned away.

"Hey, Hutch!" Starsky almost barked out, forcing Hutch to turn back to him. "Something doesn´t quite feel right yet, does it Blondie?" Hutch started to shake his head as though to deny the statement but Starsky cut him off. "It´s okay Hutch, I feel it too. Its easier for me I guess since I´ve got Vicky but you, well...I know how you feel Hutch. It´s like things have been moved in the cupboard and not put back in quite the right place."

Hutch snorted, "you have a strange way of saying things sometimes Gordo but Yeah! I guess you´re right, that’s exactly how it feels."

Starsky grinned as his partner´s shoulder´s lifted and the dark look seemed to leave his face. "I´ll be gone ten days Hutch, and then it´s back to the streets for the both of us. Me and Thee partner, same as always. Seems to me that you´ll have someone to take your mind off of things while I´m gone." Starsky nodded his head over Hutch´s shoulder and he turned to see Jenny watching them.

"Don’t start looking for what´s not there Starsk. Just because you and Vicky jumped in head first,  doesn´t mean Jenny and I are going to follow. We´re friends, good friends that’s all!"

"Sure Hutch, friends, I believe you, even if thousands wouldn´t." Starsky laughed as he took the bag from Hutch and placed it onto the scales, checking Vicky and himself in. He turned and winked at his friend. "Just look after each other while we´re gone Hutch." Hutch began to laugh as the girls finally caught them up.” That´s better Hutch." Starsky became serious, "Watch your back while I´m gone pal." With that Starsky took his friend into his arms and hugged him. Then he did the same to Jenny. "Look after this great lug while I´m gone Jenny and make sure he looks after my car!"

The four friends walked into the departure lounge to sit down and wait until the flight was called. Hutch and Jenny went for coffee leaving the newly weds together. When they returned with four steaming hot cups Vicky was almost asleep with her head on Starsky´s shoulder. The four sat quietly together watching the people around them until the tanoy announced that their flight was boarding. Together Starsky and Vicky made their way through and onto their plane as Hutch and Jenny watched.

"Hutch...Hutch!" Jenny shook his arm and Hutch slowly looked down into her eyes.

"Where were you Hutch? I was just asking if you wanted to spend the day at the beach or somewhere?...Or maybe you prefer to be alone, or at least without me?"

"Oh No... Sorry Jenny I was...I´m not sure where I was Yeah! I´d like that. Lets call by your house and collect Samson, and then we can go for a long walk and forget everything."

"You´re sure Hutch? I mean...You’ll be comfortable with me, after last night?"

"Do you remember Jenny? We´re friends, right?...there´s no problem. I´d like to be with you."

"Okay, Hutch!! So come on, let’s go collect Samson."

As Jenny and Hutch walked back to his car they heard the sound of an airplane flying over their heads and they both looked up.

"Take care Starsk, and both of you have a wonderful time, you deserve it!" Hutch whispered silently to himself.

The newly weds walked into the Ilikae hotel giggling. Both were adorned with colourful leis given to them at the airport when they arrived. Starsky rang the bell with a flourish and a broad Hawaiian in an Aloha shirt answered it, almost immediately.

"Good afternoon sir, madam. Can I help you?"

"Mr and Mrs Starsky, We have a reservation for ten days." Starsky replied eyeing the shirt and thinking he really would have to take one like it back for Hutch.

"Ah yes! The honeymoon suite! Welcome both of you and may I offer you both my congratulations." The man rang the bell twice and a young boy appeared from nowhere. He picked up the bags that Starsky had lay at his feet and waited expectantly.

"The honeymoon suite, please Martin." The receptionist handed over the keys to the young lad who tucked them into his pocket and turned smiling to Starsky and Vicky.

"Follow me please." And with that he proceeded towards the elevators, pressing the call button as he got there. Vicky and Starsky trailed behind, arm in arm. The ride up in the elevator was made in silence. The doors opened on the top floor and they followed Martin along a bright corridor filled with the scent of fresh flowers.

"Jenny would love this, she loves her garden." Vicky said

"So would Hutch." Starsky´s arm tightened around her waist. "I wonder how they´re getting on..."

Before either had time to speculate Martin stopped in front of a door at the end of the corridor and he handed Starsky the key.

"Honeymoon suite sir." He indicated the door with his head.

Starsky unlocked the door then turning to Vicky he picked her up into his arms and carried her into the room. He stood holding her in the middle of the most magnificent room he had ever seen. It was brightly lit and the scent of flowers permeated the air as it had in the corridor. At the far end of the room was a huge balcony, which looked out over the Pacific Ocean. In the middle of the room stood a table, which was literally dripping with fresh fruit and in the middle of them all was a massive bottle of champagne cooling in an ice bucket. The walls were adorned with Hawaiian artefacts and on one wall was a picture of King Kamehameha. Slowly Starsky put Vicky down and they moved together to look out at the ocean.

"Dave this is so beautiful!...Thank you." Starsky could hear the catch in Vicky´s voice and he turned to her, kissing her tenderly.

"No Vicky, thank you. I never thought I would ever feel like this again. You´ve made a part of me come alive that I thought was long since dead, and I love you dearly." Starsky kissed her again, long and hard. The two were oblivious to anyone or anything until, finally, they heard a muffled cough coming from the room behind them.

"Enjoy your stay." Martin smiled at them before leaving the room, quietly closing the door behind him.

Starsky bent and picked Vicky up once again and, with what Hutch would have described as his 100 watt grin plastered across his face, he slowly made his way into the bedroom and laid her gently on the bed looking directly into her eyes in the way that she couldn´t resist.

"You know, Dave? Every time you are close to me looking at me in that way, I feel...I don’t know how to say it. As if you aren´t real. Just a dream. Too good to be real. You understand?"

"Maybe I´m not too good, but I´m real Vicky." Starsky smiled "And I´m here with you, for the rest of our lives." Then he kissed her lips to start, one more time, their love´s meeting.

Forgetting the time, with the Hawaiian sunset as their only witness, and mixing the sounds of love with the sounds of the sea waves, they crossed together one more time passions magic paths, to fall finally asleep, each in the others arms.

They spent a long while sleeping until the sound of music coming from the beach woke them. There was a typical Hawaiian party, and Vicky and Starsky joined it, dancing, eating, drinking and enjoying their happiness until, hours later, they returned exhausted to their suite.

Early next morning, before anyone else was around, Vicky and Starsky stood on the beach watching the sun slowly rise. It slowly shimmered ever upwards like a red balloon as it made its way into the vivid blue of the Hawaiian morning. They stood hand in hand, their shoes thrown carelessly around their shoulders, watching it change from deepest red, to orange then yellow and finally golden until it became too bright to look at and they both turned away to walk slowly along the sand.

"What are you thinking about V? You´re miles away." Starsky had stopped and turned her to face him. As always she felt that she was drowning in the deepness of his ivory blue eyes.

"I was thinking about us, about our future. It seems impossible to believe that just a few months ago I didn´t think I had a future at all, and now..." Vicky paused for a second as a dark cloud seemed to pass through her memory and a shiver ran down her spine. Seeing it Starsky took her into his arms and held her tight, waiting patiently for her to continue. "Now I see happiness and real love, the kind that comes from a kind and gentle man. And I see children, two, maybe three...you´d make a wonderful father Dave, and I mean to give you the chance to prove it as soon as possible." Vicky´s eyes shimmered with unshed tears and Starsky gently wiped them away with his thumb as he cupped her face in his hands.

"And you´ll make a wonderful Mother V. We´ll do it together, learn as we go along and always be there for each other. I made a vow yesterday, from this day forth, and I meant every word. I love you Vicky and I promise I´ll do everything I can to love and care for you, and our children if we are blessed with them, for always."

As he finished speaking Starsky gently bent her head forward and kissed her tenderly on the forehead. Then he took her arm and gently laid it in his own. The two continued their walk in silence, arm in arm, each lost in their own thoughts, Vicky´s were of gratitude for all that had conspired to bring such a good and loving man into her life changing it for ever. Starsky´s were a mixture of joy that at last fate had dealt the cards sweetly and worry that he could do all he had promised and keep Vicky safe from the evil he worked in and around every day. Neither knew how long they walked but when they returned to their hotel it was bustling with tourists and breakfast was in full swing in the dining room.

Later that morning found the newly weds eagerly shopping as Starsky searched for just the right shirt for Hutch. He finally settled on a light blue one with small guitars and cowboy boots running around the chest. Vicky meanwhile had brought a beautiful carved figure of a Hawaiian dancer for Jenny. They returned to the hotel to put their gifts away before once more venturing outside. The sun was even hotter now so, as one, they turned and headed back towards the beach where they managed to find a sheltered spot, up on the cliffs overlooking the sea, to relax and watch the world go by.

"Do you like volcanoes?" Vicky was surprised at the unexpected question and rose on one arm to look at Starsky.

"What kind of a question is that?"

Starsky too rose on one arm to face her. "A pretty straight forward one V. Do you or don’t you?"

"Well... I cant say I´ve ever really thought about it before but I suppose they must be pretty spectacular."

"Good that’s a relief I can tell Dobey he didn´t waste his money." And Starsky lay back down again.

Vicky hit Starsky with her sunhat. "Dave Starsky you can be pretty infuriating when you want to be. How the heck Hutch has put up with you for so long I´ll never know. What exactly are you going on about?"

Starsky smiled as he looked at her through one eye. "Great! we´ve only been married two days and you´re beating me up already." Starsky stopped as he saw the anguished look on Vicky´s face. Pulling himself upright he took her in his arms and held on tight. "I´m sorry Vicky, that was stupid of me. I didn´t think what I was saying, it just sort of came out. Forgive me?"

Vicky pulled away nodding her head. "On one condition. You tell me what exactly you are trying to say before. I´m completely lost."

Starsky let her go and lay back down again. "Tomorrow we´re going for a trip in a helicopter, courtesy of Captain and Mrs Dobey, to take a look at the volcanoes. It was a wedding present. Right now though I can feel my own volcano building up inside and I know just the way to handle the eruption. "

Vicky squirmed in his grasp, giggling as she did so. His firm strong mouth on hers stifled the giggling and she was lost, drowning slowly in ivory eyes that sparkled and became ever darker as they kissed. The last awareness of her surroundings that she could recall later was the gentle lapping of the surf on the rocks beneath them and the moon slowly going down over Starsky´s left shoulder as he took her in a passionate embrace.

And so the honeymoon continued in a rush of days spent sightseeing and nights spent making love. Over the ten days they had flown over all of the Hawaiian Islands, drunk in the beautiful sunsets, walked miles arm in arm, barefoot, along the beaches and managed, with the help of Martin from the hotel, to find secluded spots away from the tourists where they could both relax and learn more about each other. The nights had been spent exploring each others bodies until each knew every inch of the others and knew what the other enjoyed. Vicky learnt that to be loved by somebody so special like her husband meant nights of passion filled with consideration of her moods and needs. Dave Starsky never took, he only gave and she savoured every second of their special time.

Their last day was spent in a blur of last minute shopping for gifts and mementos of a time they both knew would never be repeated. To go with the Aloha shirt Starsky had found a small Hawaiian guitar that he knew Hutch would treasure. For Jenny they found a beautiful hand carved necklace, the deep colours in the wood shone like polished coal and Vicky declared that it would compliment Jenny´s blond looks totally. Their last meal together in the hotel was special. Martin had arranged a quiet corner for them and they sipped on champagne courtesy of the management. It was late as they took their final walk out to the sea and the moon glimmered on the calm surf. They stood hand in hand watching the waves gently lapping up on the shore trying to remember every tiny detail. Starsky took his camera from its bag and, walking a few paces away from Vicky, he took her picture. With her hair blowing gently in the breeze and the moonlight falling lightly on her shoulders he thought she looked more beautiful in that moment than at any time he had known her.

It was midnight when they finally walked back into their room and began the task of packing everything back into their suitcases. Starsky had brought a bottle of wine and the two worked their way through it as they packed and repacked the final case trying desperately to get everything in. In a huge fit of the giggles Starsky sat on the top as Vicky tried unsuccessfully to fasten it.

"Know what Mrs Starsky?" Starsky was swaying from side to side and trying to look Vicky in the eye.

"I know you´re drunk Dave Starsky!" Vicky continued to giggle as the catch eluded her efforts. "And I know you brought too much to get back home."

"Hey! Don´t you blame me. This is your case. Its not my fault its not big enough." At this Starsky leant just a little too far forward and fell off of the case slipping slowly onto the floor. He tried to get back up but the room was spinning too much and he decided to stay were he was. "I was gonna say that you are beautiful and I love you but if you´re gonna be rude then I´ll don´t say it!" Starsky stuck his tongue out and Vicky dissolved into laughter as she gave up with the case and joined her husband on the floor.

"I love you too David Starsky and don´t you take that tone with me or I´ll make you spend the night right where you are."

"I dont think I wanna get up anyhow. The room won´t stay still and right know I´m enjoying the ride." Starsky laughed too as his head came to rest on Vicky´s shoulder.

They stayed where they were for a while until Vicky began to get stiff from sitting in the same position.

"Hey." She gently nudged the now sleeping Starsky until he woke. "Come on Prince Charming, time to get up and go to bed. We´ve a plane to catch in a few hours and I need my sleep."

Vicky got to her feet and, bracing her feet against Starsky´s, she took both of his hands and pulled. It took her a while but finally she managed to get him standing. Positioning herself under his shoulder she half steered, half carried him to the bedroom and, standing him at the end of the bed, she let him go, giving him a gentle push as she did so. Starsky hit the bed face down, sound asleep. Too tired and influenced by the alcohol she left him where he lay and letting her clothes drop on the floor she crawled slowly up the bed and under the covers. She would tackle the case in the morning.

They were woken five hours later with the shrill ringing of the telephone. Starsky´s hand shot out to answer it and he forced his eyes to open.

"Damned alarm call!" Starsky lay on his back for a few moments hoping the hammering in his head would ease. Beside him Vicky still slept and he turned slightly to look at her. In the cool light of the morning she looked peaceful and though she wasn´t a stunning beauty she had a glow about her that had captured Starsky´s heart almost from the beginning. He loved her more than he thought possible. He leant over slowly and gently kissed the end of her nose. Vicky´s eyes slowly fluttered open and the first thing she saw was a smiling Starsky.

"Come on sleepy head, we´ve got a plane to catch and, if I remember rightly, a case to try and close."

"Go away, I´m not going home." Vicky´s muffled voice came from somewhere beneath the covers. Starsky climbed from the bed and grasping the covers in both hands gave an almighty pull. Vicky was left curled in a ball with the covers lying on the floor.

"Come on Princess, last one to the shower is a sissy!" Starsky turned to the bathroom looking back just in time to duck as a pillow came flying past his head. "Right that’s how you want to play it is it?" Starsky ran into the bathroom and turned the shower full on, then, returning to the bedside, he lifted an unsuspecting Vicky into his arms. Before she knew what was happening she was being dropped into the bath with the shower pouring over her.

"DAVE!!" Vicky screamed and grabbing at his arms she pulled. Unbalanced he landed in the bath on top of her.

"Good Morning lover." She whispered in his ear and slowly began to kiss his lips, then neck, her hands undoing the buttons of his shirt. Her mouth found his nipples and she gently nipped them as her hands continued down his firm, muscular body. It wasn´t long before Starsky began to respond to her urgings.

"Mrs Starsky you are insatiable. We´ve a plane to catch." But he quickly removed the rest of his clothes, dropping them in a wet puddle at the side of the bath. There, under the stream of warm water from the shower, he took Vicky in his arms and gently nuzzled her neck. Her hands meanwhile were reaching ever further downwards and he could feel her gently massaging his crotch. He was aware of becoming ever firm as she gently massaged. He meanwhile, rubbed his thumbs around her breasts while continuing to kiss at her weakest spot on her neck. He could feel her body beginning to arch under his and slowly, teasingly, he began manoeuvre into position. She smiled as his penis touched her vagina and she opened her legs further. Gently Starsky nudged at her, and he could feel the tremors running down her spine. Finally able to contain himself no longer he pushed forward and entered her. The rhythm he took was slow to begin but became faster as she responded with almost animal like groans of pleasure. They came together in a crescendo of emotion. After, the two lay as they were for a full ten minutes with the warm water pulsating down on them. It was only when Vicky moved very slightly to ease her back that Starsky became fully aware and lifted himself from her. Gently he leant for the soap and lovingly washed away the signs and smell of their joining. Then he reached for the warm towel and, pulling her gently to her feet, he lovingly wrapped her in it.

"Go Mrs Starsky while I can still let you. Get dressed and repack the case while I get a shower." He looked at her from beneath lowered eyelids, his voice no more than a gentle murmur in her ears.

By the time he emerged from the shower she had finally managed to persuade the errant case to lock. The two shared a last lingering look from the balcony before finally turning away and leaving the room. It didn´t take long to settle their account and the taxi sped them back to the airport. Two hours later and they were in the air on the way home. Vicky wondered how Samson had been and if he had missed her at all. Knowing Jenny the dog would have been spoilt rotten and would probably sulk for a while once she and Dave picked him up. Thinking of Jenny made her wonder how things had gone between her and Hutch. She and Dave had chatted about them, wondering if they would get together. Both hoped that maybe they would but she knew that Dave doubted it. He had no doubt that Hutch was really fond of Jenny but he also knew that Hutch had been badly hurt by one woman who he had trusted his heart with and that hurt had run deep. Now Hutch had an invisible screen that he used to shield his heart from ever getting broken again. Vicky though was a romantic and she secretly hoped that Jenny would manage to break down the shield the same way that Dave had broken through hers, though she knew too that Jenny had her own shield to break.

The flight home was uneventful and they landed on time. Clearing customs Starsky looked around for a sign of Hutch. Before they had left Hutch had double-checked on the time of their return so he knew what time to pick the both up. When he finally satisfied himself that Hutch was nowhere around a small niggle of worry began to form at the back of his mind. There was only one reason for Hutch’s absence and that was work. The two seldom worked apart and Dobey would only ask Hutch in if it was something extremely urgent. Suddenly Starsky was suffering split loyalties. He knew that he should take his new wife home but he was worried about Hutch and he desperately wanted to head straight for the precinct to find him and to make sure he was safe. Heading for the taxi rank he forcibly pushed her into the nearest one while his mind worked overtime. Vicky watched as he ran around to the opposite door and climbed in. She could see the anguish on his face and read the worry in his eyes.

Leaning forward she put her hand on the drivers shoulder. "9th Precinct please. As fast as you can!"

Starsky turned open mouthed at her and she gently pushed his jaw closed with her forefinger.

"Home can wait Dave. Hutch is important to you and that makes him important to me." She smiled softly.

Starsky swallowed the lump that suddenly appeared in his throat. "Thanks princess I promise I´ll make it up to you."

"I´ll hold you to that, lover boy, but for now lets go find where Blondie has got to."

15 minutes later the taxi stopped in front of the precinct, and Starsky jumped out the car.

"I´ll wait for you at home Dave. Take care please" Vicky said before he disappeared into the police station building.

Starsky raced up the stairs two at time, rushing into the squad room.

"HUTCH! WHERE´S HUTCH?"

"STARSKY!" A rookie named Collins rose from his chair on seeing Starsky

"Why wasn´t he at the airport? Where´s Dobey?...What happened?"

"Starsky, listen. A couple hours ago we received a call about a domestic violence matter. A man was holding his wife and four year old child with him in his own house. He told the officers that he would only speak with Hutch. And if he didn´t go there, he would blow up the whole apartment. Dobey´s there, trying to talk with him. He has a bomb, Starsky. A hand grenade"

*******

Vicky entered their house with an uncomfortable feeling of loneliness. This was not what she had been waiting for...Some hours before, she and Starsky were in a little piece of paradise, and now, she was alone, and Dave maybe was in danger.

"Welcome to real life." Vicky said sadly to herself carrying the baggage to the bedroom. Once there, she sat down on the bed, picking up the portrait that was resting on the nightstand, running her forefinger lovingly across the image of a smiling Starsky. She had taken that picture of him some weeks before on a funny beach day.

"Take care, my love, and bring Hutch safely home." She knew that she must get used to the life of a cops wife, but she knew also that it would not be easy. Then, Vicky picked up the phone to ring Jenny.

After three rings the soft voice of Jenny answered the call.

"Hello?"

"Hi Jenn, It’s me. We´re home.

"Hey Mrs. Starsky!... I’m glad to hear from you! Dave and you had a good honeymoon? You have a lot of things to tell me!"

"Sure, and not only about our honeymoon. Do you know where Hutch is?"

"Hutch?...No. Do I want to know it?..."

Vicky filled Jenny with all the details about what happened when she and Starsky got to the airport. On hearing the worry in her friend´s voice Jenny took Samson and drove over there, arriving a short time later.

*******

Starsky took a patrol car from the parking lot and drove towards where Hutch was. It was in one of the most degraded and poor neighbourhoods of the city. Five minutes later he was standing in front of captain Dobey. On the scene were two other police units.

"Listen Dave." A shiver crossed down Starskys spine. DAVE...It wouldn´t be anything good. "That guy is Ricardo Torres, 42 years old. A Mexican that Hutch sent to prison for robbery in a bakery during the days you were off after the Marcus kidnapping. He has his family and Hutch held there inside. He doesn´t want to speak with anybody and won´t allow us to enter. He says that he already has what he wanted and now he´s ready to blow up the building...Starsky! STARSKY! SON!" Dobey called out for him. But already Starsky was climbing the steps of the dark and ramshackle landing, heading towards the apartment.

The front door was half open. Starsky approached slowly towards the entrance, with his hand on his gun

"Torres!...Torres. Let me in. Lets talk." There in a corner of the dark and small living room was a woman, curled up and holding a little crying child in her arms, and a few steps behind, the man, aiming a gun towards them. Starsky spoke in a soft and calming tone. Then he saw the unconscious body of Hutch on the floor, with a thread of blood running down his forehead. Next to him, there were pieces of glass from a broken bottle.

"HUTCH!"

"Hey gringo! Don’t move or he is a dead man!" Torres aimed his gun against Hutch’s head. "Who carajo are you, uh? A cop?" The man asked Starsky, who at first didn’t answer.

"ANSWER ME!!"

"Yeah. I´m a cop, and he is my partner"

"I have a bomb, cop, and all the fucking building will blow up."

"Listen Torres. You don’t want to do it. Your wife and son are here. You don´t want to kill them, right?" Starsky, who was already kneeling down between Hutch and Torres to protect his friend, was trying to keep the situation under control, and while speaking with the man he was searching for any more injury to Hutch´s body. While doing it Starsky saw that his partner´s gun was not there.

"Don´t tell me what I want or don’t want to do gringo! Just give me your gun...NOW! Or Ill shot him!" Starsky gave his gun to the man. Then, Hutch began to wake up.

"Hey, Hutch, don´t move partner. It will all be okay, just don´t move," Starsky whispered to Hutch, resting a hand on his shoulder

"I will tell you something gringo. Your partner arrested me and ruined my life and my family. Your partner, you, and all this damned country are all the same thing...The Promised Land...Una mierda!! A big crap, that is what all of you are. All of you wanted to destroy my family and me...All right. So now, everybody will see how the Torres family left this lousy world." The man was looking at his family for a moment, and Starsky took advantage of his carelessness to rush towards him. Torres was a tall and strong man, and he and Starsky got involved in a violent fight. Suddenly the woman hit hard with a baseball bat in Starsky´s back. He fell, face down, on the floor, but Hutch, who was already again able to stand, subdued her, and finally after a brief struggle, they both brought Torres to the floor, immobilising his wrists with Hutch´s handcuffs.

"Thanks Hutch. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, sure. I´m fine, but I´m afraid I should ask that question to you. How´s your back?"

"Oh, fine…I suppose." Starsky said with a slight grimace of pain."

"Thanks Gordo. And welcome home!"

********

Meanwhile, as usual, Jenny was listening to her friend doing everything in her power to calm her restlessness. Later Vicky talked with Jenny about her happiness with Dave over these wonderful days.

"You know? Now I know it. I know the true meaning of happiness and love. Already I cant picture my life without him. I just hope nothing changes" Vicky said with a lost look. "Well, and now, tell me. Hutch and you had any dates while we were gone?"

Without answering Jenny blushed a little.

"Hey, Jenny! What happens? Something´s wrong between Hutch and you?"

"Oh, no. No problem. Hutch is a terrific guy"

"And?...Jenny. You know you cannot lie to me. Any trouble with Hutch?"

"Well, maybe trouble is not the right word. Vicky, the night of your wedding, Hutch...Hutch and me. Well. We were in my place, having some drinks and, well, you know…."

"Do you mean?..."

"Yes. I mean just what you are thinking...Ow!!" Jenny covered her face with a cushion.

"Wow! That’s great! So, you?"

"We nothing Vick. We are just friends. Only good friends. But that Blondie is a true bomb in the bed." Jenny added with a mischievous look.

"JENNY!!...Do you remember? I´m a married woman now. Married with another bomb by the way" Both girls laughed. After, Vicky breathed deeply

"Thanks Jenn...As usual, you get to make me feel better" Both friends embraced each other.

"Come on Vicky. They will be fine. I´m sure. That pair can handle anything."

Then the phone rang. Vicky picked up it quickly to hear Starsky´s voice telling her something of what had happened, that it was all over and Hutch and he soon would be home.

What Starsky didn´t tell Vicky is that at that moment he was calling her from the hospital, while a doctor was putting some stitches in Hutch’s head, after checking Starsky´s back.

"Hutch didn´t go to the airport because he had some trouble with an infuriated guy and a hand grenade, but they are okay. At least this time." Vicky said to Jenny after hanging up the receiver.

"What?...Hand grenade? Infuriated guy? Vicky. What the heck are you saying?"

"Oh, never mind Jenny...Cop´s wife things."

"Pretty hard, uh?...This of being a cop´s wife."

"Yeah. Pretty hard. But I would never ask Dave to leave his work. Being a cop with Hutch is his whole life, and after his murder attempt he fought very hard to recover it. I knew it from the first day and I don´t want to have a depressed clerk returning every night to home, so, from now on I will have to get used to this kind of thing...If I can."

"And you will also have to ask his guardian angel not to move too far away from him." Jenny joked.

*******

Leaving the hospital, both men, tired and aching, headed towards Starsky´s place. He was driving his much-missed Torino.

"Well, and now tell me. How did your honeymoon go, Starsk?"

"Simply great Blondie. A wonderful place and a wonderful wife. What else can a man ask?"

"I don’t know...A terrific welcome party, with a hand grenade and a maddened guy included in the plan for example?" They laughed together.

"You know Hutch? It’s good to be at home....Ouch! My back!! That lady was a true ace with the bat!"

Finally, around a half an hour later, Jenny and Vicky heard the front door being unlocked. Starsky and Hutch came in the house. The blond one was wearing a little bandage on the top of his head, and Starsky was walking like an 80 year old man, with careful steps, and with his hand resting over the lower part of his back, while a dark bruise began to show on his face. On seeing them, both girls raised hurriedly from the couch to help them to sit down.

"What happened?? Jenny exclaimed.

"Both of you are okay?" Vicky asked scared.

"Hey, hey...Wait a minute, girls. We´re okay." Starsky said. Then, Samson approached towards him "SAMSON, NO!!...I´m sorry boy, I´m glad to see you too, but today I couldn´t stand one of your greetings!...Vicky, Jenny. There is no reason to worry. We just need some rest."

"And a doctor too" Vicky answered touching carefully Starsky´s cheek.

"Oh, no! We´ve already been to the hospital."

"WHAT?" Both girls asked in one voice.

"Shhht...Please... My head hurts." Hutch said with a weak voice. "We´ve been to the hospital, and according to the doctors, we will both live. We just need one night of real rest and a couple of days off...Jenny, could you take me home?"

"Of course Hutch, and I´ll stay with you tonight to take care of you, okay?"

"I don´t need..."

"Uh-uh. No way. I´ll spend the night with you. It’s settled." Hutch looked at Jenny with a look of surrender.

"Would you prefer to stay here Blondie? You don’t mind Vicky?" Starsky asked.

"Yeah Hutch, stay here." Vicky offered.

"Thanks friends, but right now I only want a little peace, a couple of aspirins and to be in my own bed. I´ll be fine, sure." Hutch rose slowly from the couch, heading towards the door. Jenny winked an eye at Vicky and followed Hutch "I´ll call you later Vick"

Vicky accompanied the pair to the entrance then returned to the couch, sitting down next to an exhausted Starsky, her arm around his shoulders.

"Come on, sweetheart. Now your beloved wife will take a little care of you."

After a pain pill, a warm bath and a soft and careful massage on his aching back, Starsky fell deeply asleep, face down in the bed. Seeing him, Vicky felt a wave of tenderness, and after caressing his curls and softly kissing his back, she wrapped him up with the covers, and left the room.

At night Vicky fixed some soup and sandwiches for him, but seeing him sleeping so peacefully she felt she couldn´t wake him, and finally, after a call to Jenny to be sure that their favourite cops were resting peacefully, and more tired than she realised she went to bed too.

Meanwhile, in Hutch´s place, Jenny took charge of everything to make sure that Hutch also had a well-deserved night of rest.

Two days later, finally Starsky, Hutch, and Vicky as well returned to work. Their daily life wrapped them, and the wonderful days of their honeymoon stayed as a beautiful beginning of a beautiful life together.

*******

Meanwhile, In the L.A. State Jail, a new prisoner came from the penitentiary hospital. A man who had been a rich and powerful criminal lawyer, until his life suddenly suffered an unfortunate setback, because of his own guilt. Right now William Sherman was only a man, chained the rest of his life to a wheelchair, who also had to pay with a long stay in prison for the attempted murder of a police officer.

He was a haughty, pretentious and distant man who, since the first day, never wanted to establish any kind of relationship with any other prisoner of the jail except one. An old man, with whom seemingly he did not have anything in common, except the crime which had taken them both, from a position of power and wealth, to prison. The new friend of Billy was there, for, among other crimes, the attempted murder of a police officer too, and his name was...JAMES GUNTHER

Gunther and Sherman became inseparable whenever the two were out of their cells. A weak, old man, Gunther would lean on the back of the wheelchair as Sherman pushed himself around the exercise yard. No-one, not even the prison guards, came between the two. They would spend hour after hour talking quietly in the corner under the shade of a tree. No one cared much about either of them nor asked what they spent so many hours discussing. Maybe if someone had they would have been able to warn Starsky and Vicky that their happiness was soon to be interrupted, but as it was the two men were ignored and left to their own devices. As for Gunther and Sherman they were patient men, after all revenge would be even sweeter the longer they waited! So it was that, as each night Starsky and Vicky would lay in each others arms talking about their future, Billy Sherman would lie in his cell slowly planning a future of his own for them, one which didn’t include happiness nor, if he could help it, a long life for either of them. Starsky and Vicky would die of that he was certain, as certain as he was that he would make Vicky watch as he slowly killed the man who had stolen her from him. In the days when he wasn’t with James Gunther he was to be found in the prison gym lifting weights and the results were self satisfying as the muscles in his arms became ever stronger and his grip ever more powerful. Gunther on the other hand quietly began making contacts with his friends outside of the prison. He still had a lot of friends he could call on prepared to carry out his dirty work for him without question. Slowly but surely the plans were coming to fruition and both he and Billy Sherman would have their revenge on the people they hated most in the world Detective David Starsky and his partner Kenneth Hutchinson!

The first signs that all wasn´t well began with the phone calls...

For about a week at around midnight their phone would ring but whenever they answered the caller would hang up. At first Starsky thought it was because he was answering, but when he got Vicky to try the same thing happened. He was on the verge of contacting the telephone company when the calls stopped as suddenly as they had started. By the end of the week Vicky was a little unnerved by them, and a few nights without rest resulted in the girl looking pale, fatigued, and she began to feel sick, though she was trying to hide it in front of Starsky, who managed to persuade her that it was probably just kids messing around. The next morning though there was a small parcel waiting for them on their front step. Vicky found it when she went outside for the morning paper. Since it was Sunday and Starsky and Hutch both had the day free they had not risen early. Starsky had brought her breakfast in bed and then run her a hot bath, which she languished in while he took Samson for his morning walk. It was nearly midday when she came in with the strange package and gave it to Starsky. She watched over his shoulder as he carefully opened it. A small bundle of photographs fell from the wrapping and Starsky looked down at them where they fell. They were pictures of Starsky in the Torino with Hutch, others of him and Hutch in the Pits off duty, a couple of Starsky waiting outside Hutch’s apartment and one of the two of them coming down the steps at the precinct, Starskys hand on Hutch’s shoulder. The last piece of paper to flutter from the midst of the photos was a folded piece of notepaper. Staring back at them, in words cut from newspapers, were the words.

How well do you know your husband, Vicky?

Starsky´s whole body began to shake in anger. Hearing a small sob he lifted his eyes away from the words to see Vicky, her hand to her mouth, looking wide eyed at him. Immediately he pulled her into his arms.

"Shhht, its okay V, its okay! Its just someone with more time on his hands than is good for him trying to scare us. I´ll take it all to the lab boys and we´ll sort it, don’t worry."

"Dave. What it suggests these photos its...its horrible!" Vicky allowed the tears to flow onto his shoulder.

"Yeah! I know, but Hutch and I are pretty used to it by now." He gently pulled back from her until he could look into her eyes. "You know how much Hutch means to me Vicky. I´d do almost anything for him, including take a bullet if I had to. But that’s it! He´s my brother, nothing more, and I love him but not like that. Yeah, these photos are designed to look bad, but that’s exactly what whoever sent them is trying to do. Don’t let them put any doubts between us honey. I LOVE you, more now than when we first met." Starsky held her gaze desperately trying to see past the tears that were falling.

"I love you too Dave, so much that I never thought it possible." Vicky smiled a small smile through her tears. "Its not me that has any doubts, but what will others think?"

"Hey, I told you, Hutch and I are used to it by now and we can handle it. Besides, anyone that matters knows what happening here and knows us. Don’t worry Hutch and I will handle it!" Starsky gently kissed her forehead before once more hugging her tightly. Then, releasing his grip, he turned back to the table and carefully began to collect the photographs. When he had them all plus the note and the wrapping, he took them through to the kitchen and found a small plastic bag. As Vicky held it open for him he dropped the offending package into it.

"Come on honey, get your bag. Were going to the precinct to see Dobey. He can get the lab boys onto these quicker than I can."

The two headed out to the car, Starsky´s arm around Vicky´s shoulders. As he helped her into the passenger seat Starsky was looking all around. Whoever had taken those photos had been watching him for at least a fortnight, and it worried him that he hadn´t spotted anyone. Mentally making a note to call Huggy from the station Starsky got in the driver seat and pulled away. As he did so an innocuous looking man emerged from behind the trees outside Vicky and Starsky´s house. He watched as the Torino sped away with a satisfied grin on his face. Heading across the road he trotted to the nearest phone box. Stepping inside he dialled the number written on the back of his hand and waited impatiently for an answer. When at last he got one he spoke quietly.

"Message for Mr. Gunther. Tell him everything is going well. I´m about to start increasing the pressure a little!"

Hanging up the man retraced his steps to the house and walked to the front door. Knocking loudly at the door with one hand he carefully tried the door with the other. From somewhere inside he could hear the loud and angry barking of what sounded like a large dog. Softly he swore to himself and, turning away, he walked back down the path and away from the house. If he were to carry out the next part of his plan he would have to wait until that dog was out somewhere but that wouldn´t be so easy. He knew from his observations that the only time it wasn’t there was when it went out for a walk with one or the other Starsky, or when it went with Vicky to the surgery on the days that Starsky was on nights and trying to sleep through at least part of the day. Patience was going to have to come high on his agenda for a while and it was something John Peters was not good at, not good at all.

*******

Vicky and Starsky were sat in Captain Dobey´s office when Hutch finally got to the station. Starsky hadn´t wanted to bother him but Dobey had insisted on it. If someone was trying to implicate them it was only fair that both had the chance to see what they were up against, or so he told Starsky. What he really meant was if someone had been stalking Starsky, and that along with the phone calls was what it looked like, then Hutch would want to know straight away. He had seen the wrath of Hutchinson before where protecting his partner was concerned and he wasn´t about to have it repeated.

"Starsk?" Hutch looked questioningly at his partner. "You okay?"

"Yeah Hutch were both fine. Nothing for you to worry that blond head of yours over! I asked them not to bother you on your day off, but Cap insisted." Starsky looked apologetically at his partner.

"Hey!" The Hutchinson finger snapped up in front of Starsky who sighed. "Some nut case sends you photos and makes anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night and you don´t think I should worry? What kind of daft talk is that Starsk? You´re my friend, damn it,  of course I´ll worry!" Hutch´s eyes were blazing as he spoke.

"Calm down Hutch. Like I said, Vicky and I are fine and you don´t know that this ain´t just some kids playing some silly prank that they´re gonna regret when I get a hold of em." Starsky turned and filled a cup with dark brown liquid. "Here, have a coffee and sit down. The lab boys will be finished with the photos pretty soon and then you can have a look at them."

On cue there was a knock at the door, and on Dobey´s command it opened.

"I was asked to bring these straight back to you Captain, the results are in the wallet underneath."

The young lab technician walked back out of the office leaving the four occupants staring at the large brown envelope she had laid on the table. Finally Dobey picked it up and tipped the contents onto the table in front of Hutch. He watched as Hutch quickly scanned thought them then slowly sat down on the edge of the table. Hutch looked at Starsky who almost imperceptively shook his head.

"Lab boys say there are no finger prints other than yours Starsky, sorry."

Starsky nodded "I guessed there wouldn´t be, but guess there´s not a lot we can do except wait for his next move."

"There´s something I can do Starsky, right now. I can put a watch on your house. At least that way you wont have to worry about Vicky while you´re not there." Dobey picked up the phone and barked some orders into it.

"There should be a black and white outside your house when you get home. I can only keep it there for a short while but at least it´ll give the two of you some time to try and get a handle on this."

"Thanks Cap." It was Hutch who answered as he looked at his partner and his young wife. Vicky was sitting with her hands in her lap twisting her wedding ring round and round on her finger. Starsky sat on the edge of her chair with his arms protectively around her shoulders. "Any ideas Starsk?"

Starsky looked at him, knowing what he meant.

"Come on Hutch. You know as well as I do that it could be anyone of a number of psychos. The number of people that have made threats to the two of us would take us all day to count!"

"What about Vicky? Anyone ever threaten you?" Hutch looked at the frightened woman and his heart went out to her.

"The only person who ever threatened me was Billy and he’s in jail Hutch, you know that. Besides he’s in a wheelchair...Remember? I´d put him there!" Vicky´s voice was so quiet they could hardly hear her.

"Im taking you home sweetheart and you can lie down for a while. Hutch, do me a favour will you? Go see Huggy. I called him and asked him to start digging, see if he can find out anything for us. Let me know what he says, okay?" Starsky gently lifted Vicky from her chair and with his arms around her he led her to the door. Dobey opened the door and the couple passed through without looking back.

As he closed the door Dobey swore softly to himself.

"What’s up Cap?" Hutch asked quietly.

"What is it with you two Hutch? When Dave and Vicky got married I thought things would maybe calm down a little but it seems like bad fortune always seems to pick on you two. Damn it! That boy deserves a little happiness, why can’t misfortune choose someone else to pick on!"

Hutch shook his head. "Wish I knew Cap, I really do." Hutch rose and picking up the photos he handed them back to Dobey. "Put these away safe for us will you? I´ve got a man to see." With that Hutch left the office leaving an irate Dobey shaking his head behind him.

Two hours later Hutch was knocking on Starsky´s front door.

"Was the matter, forget your key Hutch?"

"No, it just doesn´t seem right Starsk. Walking into yours and Vicky´s home without knocking."

"Hey! That’s why we gave you and Jenny a key Hutch. So you could do exactly that. When will you get used to the idea that you´re both always welcome here, same as before?" Starsky shook his head smiling softly at his partner. "What did Huggy have to say?"

"Where´s Vicky?" Hutch looked around.

"In the bedroom, asleep. She´s not been feeling too well these last days, you know, worried over the phone calls I guess. She was a little sick. I called the doc and he gave her something to make her feel better, and sleep for a while." Reaching in to the refrigerator Starsky handed Hutch a beer before motioning him towards the couch.

"Well, you gonna tell me or do I have to drag it out of you?"

"According to Huggy, word on the street is that someone’s out for a little revenge Starsk. What he doesn´t know is who or what for." Hutch watched as Starsky digested his information.

"Okay, so we start looking through our old files, man what a way to spend a Sunday afternoon!...Anything else?"

"No, Huggy said he´d get back to us as soon as anything turns but its all a little tense out there."

Starsky lay, his head back on the couch and closed his eyes for a few moments. "It never stops, does it Hutch? Man, it was bad enough when it was just us, but now I´ve got Vicky to protect too. If anything happens to her"

"HEY!" Hutch´s voice broke in sharp and loud and Starsky turned to look at him. "Nothing is gonna happen to Vicky, Starsk. Were not gonna let it! You hear me pal!"

For a few seconds Starsky just looked at Hutch, then he slowly nodded his head once.

"Good. Now we´ve got work to do. I´ll give Jenny ring and get her over here to sit with Vicky while we go look at the files."

*******

John Peters watched quietly as Starsky and Hutch left for the precinct. He had seen Vicky and Starsky come home to be followed a little while later by the doctor. He had seen the black and white arrive and take up position across the street from the house and he had seen Jenny arrive. Peters smiled to himself.

"Things are going nicely Mr Gunther. You and your friend would be well pleased!" Turning the ignition of his small car, Peters slipped the car into drive and pulled away down the street in the opposite direction to Starsky and Hutch.

"Tomorrow we start again Starsky, enjoy your night while you can because tomorrow your worst nightmares start to come true."

*******

Next morning Vicky, feeling better after a good night of rest, insisted on going in to work. She had told Starsky that she wasn´t about to give whoever was doing this the pleasure of seeing it get to her. Along with Samson she was the first to arrive at her surgery. Opening the door she flicked on the light switch, too late smelling the faint waft of gas as it slowly reached her nostrils. The explosion threw her and the dog backwards onto the driveway as the whole building began to lit up with flames. The last thing she saw was the sun piercing through the acrid smoke...

*******

While Starsky was in the precinct his mind was far from there, trying to think how to put an end to the worrying situation they were in, when suddenly, on taking a folder from the pile in front of him, he saw over his desk table a white envelope with his name written on the front, made one more time with newspapers and letters cut from magazines.

"HUTCH!!" Starsky took the envelope, tearing it to read the succinct note, while Hutch was reading too, putting a soothing hand on his friend´s shoulder.

HOW DO YOU FEEL BEING A WIDOWER ALREADY?

Then the phone on Starsky´s desk rang, frightening both men. A police officer was calling from the place where the veterinary surgery had been, telling Starsky that there was a dreadful fire.

The next moments happened in a blur. Hutch, without knowing what to say to ease Starsky´s fear, drove the Torino with lights and siren towards the veterinary surgery, to find a nightmarish scene. A dense smoke invading the street, the building being consumed by fire, the firemen trying to extinguish the flames, some police officers moving onlookers from the scene, and two paramedics putting Vicky into an ambulance

Starsky jumped out the car, running towards the ambulance, with Hutch some steps behind him.

"VICKY!!" Vicky’s face and her clothes were stained with blood, smoke and debris, and some bandages were covering her right arm, her hands and her eyes.

"Sorry, officer. If you aren´t relative of this woman..." One of the paramedics began to say.

"SHE´S MY WIFE!!" Starsky barked. Vicky was trembling scared, and then she removed the bandage from her face so rapidly that the paramedics couldn´t prevent it

"My eyes!! I...I cant see...I CAN'T SEE ANYTHING!...Who are you?" Vicky´s eyes were very red, almost closed by her swollen eyelids and seemed seriously injured. Starsky glanced for a second at Hutch, his eyes filled with fear before answering Vicky. "I´m here sweetheart, take it easy."

"Who...Who are you? WHY CAN'T I SEE?"

"Shhht. Calm down, Vicky. It's me, Dave. I´m not going anywhere." A paramedic was placing another bandage over her eyes and another one was injecting a sedative into her IV. Starsky caressed her hair, as she seized, sobbing and terrified, the front of his shirt.

When minutes later the ambulance got to the hospital, Vicky was already dozing due to the sedative´s effect.

Hutch drove following the ambulance, and once in the hospital, as the ER doctors were working on Vicky, he tried to calm his friend so much as possible. Starsky was looking defeated and scared, and Hutch knew that there was not much that he could do to ease his distress during the endless wait.

"Why Hutch? Why we can't be happy?.. And what will happen if she cant see again?"

"I don't know Starsk, but I´m totally sure about one thing. You would continue loving her. Right? Listen partner. Now, we just can wait. Without thinking the worst. Okay?"

"I shouldn´t have married her Hutch..."

"Starsk!"

"No Hutch. Its the truth. And you know it. I loved my father. And my father died. I loved Terry, and she died too."

"Okay, so according to this stupid idea of yours, why aren´t I dead?"

"I don't know. But, know something Hutch? Many times in these last years I´ve thought that I´m some kind of jinx...And that you would be better off without me. You still have time."

"What? And lose all the fun I get having a jinx as a partner? You must be joking"

Hutch got a tired smile from Starsky, who becoming serious again said, "I made some vows to Vicky, Hutch. The day of our wedding, I promised to take care of her, to protect her... And I haven´t done it."

"That’s enough Starsk! You cant blame yourself for this. You’re a good husband, and I´m sure..." Hutch's words were interrupted with the arrival of the doctor

"Detective Starsky?" Starsky rose from his chair. The doctor could see the fear in his eyes.

"Your wife is resting, and in a few minutes you can be with her, but before that we need to have a talk. Sit down please." Both men seated down, then the doctor began his explanations

"Mrs Starsky suffered some physical injuries, but she will recover. She has some superficial burns to her face and hands, and a deep cut in her right arm. We had to give her thirteen stitches, but she will recover nicely and it will scarcely leave a scar. As for her eyes," the doctor paused for a second before continuing, "Her corneas are very irritated from the heat and the debris particles. Right now she can´t see, but this injury will heal up too. The worse problem though isn´t her physical condition."

"What do you mean?" Starsky asked looking fixedly into the doctor´s eyes.

"When the ambulance arrived your wife was unconscious, though she woke up a few minutes later. But she’s suffering from amnesia due to concussion. According to the tests, she got a hit to her head, and this is the probable cause."

"AMNESIA??...Do you mean she can't remember anything?"

"I´m sorry detective. Well do more tests in the next few days, and tomorrow Doctor Roberts, the chief of the psychiatric department will see her, but for now, we can´t do much more to help her. I will tell you that, most of the time, the amnesia is just a temporary situation that can last hours, days, maybe weeks, but with a little time, and with the right treatment, her memory should come back."

"SHOULD? So, you aren´t sure?"

Listen to me detective. Every patient is different, but this hospital has some of the best neuro-psychiatric staff in the whole country, and soon they will start to work on your wife´s case. On the other hand, her pregnancy hasn´t suffered any damage."

"Her...WHAT?...Pregnancy?" Starsky felt his legs turn to jelly, and if he didn´t fall down to the floor it was because Hutch held him firmly.

"Oh, I´m sorry. Wait a second." The doctor glanced at Vicky´s notes.

"I understand. Mrs. Starsky doesn´t know it yet, and of course you neither...She is pregnant, roughly three weeks...Now we just have to find the right moment to speak with her about it...Well. Calm down detective. Leave it in our hands."

After congratulating Starsky on his future paternity. and saying some more polite words that he didn´t even hear, the doctor left the waiting room. In fact, Starsky scarcely noticed the doctor leave. He plopped in the nearest chair, his gaze on the floor.

"Pregnant...Vicky is pregnant...Now I understand. She wasn’t feeling too well the last few days... I was trying to persuade her to see a doctor, but she kept telling me that it was just the worry...I’m going to be a father...HUTCH!!" Starsky got up sharply

"Yeah, partner. You´re going to be a father!"

Starsky didn´t say anything more, just hugged Hutch fiercely as laughter and tears were mixed on his face. Suddenly, he pulled back from Hutch.

"But...If she can't remember anything. Then...she won't know who I am" Starsky sat down again in the chair, covering his eyes with his hands.

"Starsk...Partner. Listen to me. Right now she can´t remember anything, but given time, and with treatment and our help..."

"And what if her memory doesn´t return...Ever?" Hutch felt for his best friend, but there was not much he could say to help him.

Suddenly, Starsky remembered something.

"THE DOG!! Samson, Hutch! Where is Samson? We forget him completely. Maybe Vicky will be able to remember something seeing the dog, Hutch. We must put an APB on him. Call the precinct, please!"

"Starsk! An APB on a dog...Partner really you are crazy. Dobey will put us directing traffic for years for this."

"Please, Hutch. This is very important" Then a nurse approached Starsky to tell him that he could be with Vicky.

"Mr Starsky?...You can be with your wife now, please, come with me."

"Okay, okay Gordo. Go, be with Vicky, and leave the dog to me. I´ll find Samson."

"Oh. And call Jenny too!" Starsky said following the nurse to Vicky´s room.

Hutch drove again to the surgery to ask people about the dog. He also called Huggy, and after filling him with all that had happened, without telling him yet about Vicky´s pregnancy, he asked for his help to find the dog."

"Look Hug. Finding that dog is important. He might help Vicky to remember. She´s very fond of him; besides, he´s an expensive dog. We don´t want him to end up in the wrong hands, if you get my drift"

"Sure bro. Leave it in Huggy´s hands."

Hanging up the receiver, Hutch come back to his car driving towards the High school where Jenny was doing her work as a teacher. He didn´t want to tell the girl what happened by phone.

There, he waited for Jenny some minutes, while a troublesome headache began to hammer inside his head.

*******

Meanwhile in the hospital room, Vicky was peacefully sleeping, with Starsky by her side, his hand over her unharmed arm. He felt a kind of strange anguish. The scene was much too similar to another scene lived some years before, beside Terry´s hospital bed.

Oh, come on Starsky. No more silliness! This is very different. Vicky will not die. She will live; her memory will come back, and she will be the most wonderful mum in the world. Starsky thought smiling silently, softly caressing her curled hair.

Vicky´s hands were bandaged as were her eyes and right arm, and her red face was covered by a thin film of cream to treat her burns. Starsky was very worried but happy as well. He and Hutch had to find the people who had done this. And fast. He had to protect Vicky... And the baby.

He spent a long time thinking of his future son or daughter, beginning to do things for this little person who would come in to their lives in nine months. Then Vicky began to wake up, trying to remove the bandage from her eyes.

"Vicky, sweetheart, its okay, I´m here. Don't do it. Your eyes must be bandaged for a few days, but soon they will heal up. Don't touch it." Starsky gently removed her bandaged hands from her face.

"Where am I?...Who are you?" The girl asked feeling confused and scared.

"You are in the hospital honey. And I´m Dave." Starsky´s heart contracted painfully.

"Dave?"

"Dave Starsky. Your husband. Take it easy sweetheart, right now you don't remember me, but the doctors say that your memory will come back."

"Hu-husband?...You are my husband?...Oh, My God. I don’t know who you are…Not even who I am...I DON'T REMEMBER ANYTHING!!" Vicky, extremely upset, began to cry and Starsky tried to ease her anguish without success. Finally he called the doctor who put a sedative into her IV.

*******

Once in the High School and in a little teachers room, Hutch was explaining to Jenny the happenings of the last few hours.

"My God...Amnesia? And she´s pregnant too! David will be so distressed! What will happen now Hutch?" Jenny´s eyes began to fill with tears, but quickly the brave girl recovered her self-control.

"Well. Now we must be with them. Give me a couple of minutes Hutch. You can take to me to the hospital? My car, its dead today."

"Sure Jenny, but first we must to go to Vicky and Starsky´s place to collect the medical insurance documents for Vicky. I’m afraid that Starsky is much too worried to think about this, and he´ll need it."

Jenny went to collect her coat and bag as Hutch spent some minutes waiting and thinking how loyal and brave she was. He didn´t want to admit it, but he liked the girl a little more every day

Some minutes later, Jenny got in the Torino to go to the hospital, stopping first at their friend´s house, to collect the documents.

When they got there they were surprised to see Samson lying on the entrance steps. Hutch and Jenny quickly checked out the dog verifying that, except for a deep cut in one of his legs, and some superficial cuts to his body, Samson was perfectly okay. Suddenly Hutch saw a little envelope tied to his collar. Tearing it, he read a paragraph, made with the now familiar cut up newspaper letters.

WHAT A SHAME!... SOON THIS DOG WILL NOT HAVE OWNERS!

Five minutes later Hutch hung up the phone as Jenny finished bathing Samson´s injuries. His fingers went to his temples and he rubbed at them as the hammering in his head continued unceasingly. Seeing him Jenny went to the kitchen and returned with a glass of water and some aspirin.

"Here, take these and sit down for a moment." She handed Hutch the pills and held out the glass. Hutch swallowed them both in one go, then downed the water. Slowly he sank into the chair behind him and closed his eyes.

"Huggy´s coming over. He´ll take Samson home with him for a while. He´s pushing all of his contacts as hard as he can but so far nothing´s showing up. Everyone’s too scared to talk! Captain Dobey has put a guard on Vicky´s door and I´ll stick to Starsky like glue. I don’t see what else we can do at the moment....DAMN!" Hutch hit the arm of the chair hard. "Why? Why cant bad luck go somewhere else for a change?"

Jenny took Hutch in her arms, comforting as a mother would do with a lonely child. "It´ll be okay Hutch. We´ll help them together and I´ll be here for you if you need me."

For a moment Hutch just held on needing a few moments of contact. Then he pulled back and, nodding his head slightly, got up from the seat.

"Come on. Wed better be getting back to the hospital."

"Okay, but I´ll drive. You try and rest. Dave will need you to be strong for him."

Hutch agreed and once again he realised just how much this young woman in front of him was beginning to mean to him. Pushing the realisation to the back of his priorities he made for the door as Huggy pulled up outside. Calling Samson he took the big dog out to meet him.

"Thanks Hug. We really appreciate this. Look after him for us."

"Hey bro. No problem! Tell Starsky I´m working on it."

"I´ll do Hug, and thanks again."

The big dog sat across the back seat of Huggy´s small sedan and the two pulled away. Hutch got into the Torino and waited for Jenny to join him. By the time she had locked the doors and double-checked that all was safe,  Hutch had fallen into a light sleep. Jenny opened the door as quietly as she could so as not to wake him. Her heart went out to this sensitive man at her side, and again she felt the small flutter of a strong emotion beginning to pull at her heart.

*******

When they arrived back at the hospital Starsky was sat in the waiting room. He was on the floor curled in a tight ball, his head on his knees. Despair seemed to emanate from his whole being and the nurses watched him with sympathetic eyes. Hutch knelt down in front of him and placed his hands on Starsky´s shoulders.

"Hey Gordo! Come on, you’ll stiffen up if you stay like that too long. Come on lets sit in the chair, huh?"

Gently Hutch pulled Starsky to his feet and looked directly onto his eyes. The despair shone from them and Hutch could see the tracks made by dried tears down his cheeks. Putting his arm around Starsky´s waist he half guided, half carried him to the chair, letting him gently fall into it. A nurse quietly came up behind to ask if she could help.

"Any chance you could get him some coffee?"

"Sure sir."

"Strong and sweet would be good. Thanks."

The nurse scurried away and returned a few minutes later with a large steaming cup, which she handed to Hutch who nodded his thanks.

"Here, drink this. It´ll help a little. You need to keep your strength up partner." Hutch helped Starsky to raise the cup to his mouth.

Taking a few sips Starsky turned his head away from the hot, sweet liquid "She doesn´t know me Hutch! She doesn´t remember a thing!" Starskys´ voice was quiet and shaky and Hutch felt the pain coming from it.

"What did the doctor say Starsk? Anything more since I was here?"

Starsky shook his head. "They sedated her so she would rest. She´ll be asleep for most of the night now. They´ve arranged for specialist help in the morning. Until then all we can do is wait and pray I guess. The baby is fine but she doesn´t even know about it yet. Oh GOD HUTCH!" Starsky´s voice broke. "This should be the happiest time of our lives. But right now I dont know what to do."

"You have to be strong Dave. That’s what you do. Vicky may have lost her memory but she´s no fool. She´ll see you mean something special to her by the way you act, the way you care. Be there for her and I KNOW it will all come back. No two people could have what you two had and it not leave some kind of mark she can latch on to." Jenny had knelt on the other side to Hutch and was looking earnestly at Starsky. "Besides, you´re going to be a dad. Hang on to that thought and be strong!"

Starsky looked from one to the other and for the first time in a while the ghost of a grin appeared on his face. "Damn it Hutch, she´s almost as good as you at the Mother Hen routine."

All three laughed softly and Starsky took the cup of coffee back to finish. "What about Samson Hutch. Did you find him?"

"Yeah, we found him on the door step of your house when we went to collect Vicky´s medical insurance documents Starsk. Whoever did this must have taken him there, though how he got past the guys watching I dont know. He had a message on his collar. Nothing for you to worry about. Now its at the lab. Huggy Bear has taken him in until you´re ready to have him back."

"Huggy managed to dig anything up yet?" Starsky asked glad to have something else to set his mind on.

"No, not yet. But he´s still pushing Starsk. Its proving a little difficult though, people are scared."

"Which means this is someone big and pretty powerful Hutch. That should narrow down our search a little. Who do you know that could hold a grudge so bad that they´d do something like this to us...correction. To me. It has to be someone who has money and good contacts plus one hell of a reason. If we could figure out what I did to get someone so riled, maybe we could figure out who"

Starsky stopped as he saw Hutch´s face change from sympathetic to realisation in slow motion.

"Oh GOD NO! It cant be, could it?" Hutch jumped to his feet and raced to the nurses station demanding a telephone.

"This is Hutchinson get me Captain Dobey. NO! I´ll hold."

Starsky was on his feet and at Hutch´s side within seconds. He started to ask Hutch what was going on,  but he held his hand up stopping him.

"Cap, its Hutch. I need you to do me a favour. Put out a call to L.A. County Jail. Find out if James Gunther is still their guest. Yes. I´ll wait."

"James Gunther!" The colour had drained from Starsky´s face. "Hutch you don’t think..?"

"Think about it Starsk. You said it yourself, this has to be someone rich, powerful and with the right contacts, who has one hell of a grudge against you. Well, who else can you think of that fits the bill? You´re alive, Starsky, when by all accounts you should be dead." Hutch turned back to the phone. "When? Thanks Cap. Well be in to see you as soon as we can."

Starsky was standing staring out of the window. Hutch moved to his side.

"James Gunther applied for and got parole a week ago Starsk. It has to be him! Dobey´s waiting for us."

Starsky looked at Jenny. "Stay with Vicky for me Jenn. Look after her. I´ll be back as soon as I can."

Jenny nodded and the two men ran from the room, along the corridors and out of the hospital.

*******

John Peters hung up the phone. He had just finished talking to Mr Gunther and now he was making final plans. First the capture of Detective David Starsky, that would be difficult but slightly easier than part two, the escape of Billy Sherman from prison. That would have to be thought through carefully. Hard enough to help an able bodied man escape but a paraplegic was a different matter. The two things would have to be in close sequence. Billy Sherman was eager to deal with the man who he blamed for his position and for stealing his wife away. Part three of his plan involved getting Vicky Starsky from the hospital to where he would hold her husband. Sherman had insisted that she be there to watch the man die slowly and painfully.

*******

The woman in question was slowly waking up from the drugs given to her earlier. She expected to hear the voice of the man who said he was her husband. Instead, she heard a woman´s voice coming from her side of the bed.

"Hi Vicky. Glad you decided to wake up." Jenny kept her voice low and soft.

"Do I know you?" Vicky´s voice was tremulous.

"I´m Jenny... your best friend. Dave had to go for a while. He asked me to stay with you." Jenny stopped for a moment unsure of what to say. "How do you feel?"

"Confused, scared, and blind!... How should I feel? I cant remember who I am, who you are, who anybody is. I cant even see you! You say that man who was here earlier is my husband but I don’t know him!" Vicky said feeling scared and furious against the whole world.

"Hey,  its okay. The doctors said it may take a little time. You had a pretty bad accident. You can´t expect it to be simple. Your name is Vicky Starsky, before that it was Vicky Walsh. Dave is your husband and you haven´t been married that long but he loves you and you love him. For now that’s all you need to know. The rest will come back, given time." Jenny held Vicky´s hand gently and it gave the other woman comfort.

"What happened to me?" Vicky asked in a soft voice.

"There was an explosion at the surgery where you work."

"Surgery? Am I a doctor?

"No You´re a vet Vicky, a good one. There was a gas leak and when you turned on the light, well you ended up here. Thankfully Samson was okay."

"Samson?"

"Your dog. A white and brown English Bulldog. Strong, big and stubborn like no other dog" Vicky smiled "You´ve had that dog since..." Jenny stopped for a second thinking that that wasn´t the right moment to tell Vicky much more than she might take. "Since a few years ago. I have a lot of pictures of him, and when the doctors remove the bandages from your eyes, I´ll show them to you.

Vicky turned her head, sobbing silently into the pillow.

"Hey, hey Vick! Don't cry. Everything will be okay. I promise"

"That is very easy for you to say...But I think I will go mad. Somebody has to explain to me what my work is, that I have a husband, a dog...A NAME!!...because my mind its absolutely empty!"

"Vicky. Listen to me. I won´t say that I know how you´re feeling; the truth is that I haven´t the least idea, but one thing is sure. You are surrounded by a lot of love to help you. Don't forget that...Ow! Sorry...Once again, I have a great way with words!!" In spite of her sadness, Vicky laughed weakly at Jenny´s joke.

Both women spent a while talking until Vicky, very tired, fell asleep again. She couldn´t remember this woman who was telling her she was her best friend, but seemingly, her heart did, because with Jenny, she was feeling safe and comfortable, in the middle of the chaos that her life was in that moment.

*******

Hutch drove to the precinct. He and Starsky were trying to think, about all the possible suspects besides Gunther.

"THE PICTURES HUTCH!!...Do you remember that damned detective...What was his name?" Starsky was thinking scratching his head. "Andrews, Peter Andrews. He took loads of pictures of Vicky and me on Sherman´s say so I´ll ask Dobey for those as well." Starsky said, taking the radio.

Already there, the two turned as Captain Dobey walked into his office and sat down behind his table.

"Starsky, Hutch. Lets see. William Sherman is in prison. This man, Peter Andrews died, stabbed during a fight in prison some weeks ago, nevertheless, around his death there are some strange circumstances. That guy never had any problems inside, until that day. He got involved in a fight and was killed. As simple as that.

Well, as for James Gunther, seems he was paroled a week ago. Good conduct and they took account of his age and state of health. He´s ill. Lung cancer. Incurable According to his parole officer he keeps the appointments set for him and has settled in to a normal life as much as is possible considering the down turn of his circumstances. He´s living in a small apartment across town. Here´s the address."

"Thanks Cap were on our way." Hutch got to the door and held it open for his partner.

"Starsky." Starsky turned to look at the older man. "Just so you know were all praying for you on this one. Give Vicky our love when you see her."

Starsky nodded faintly. "Thanks Cap. I will." And he left the room with Hutch on his heels.

The address was a quiet suburb across town and the duo made their journey in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Starskys concentrated wholly on Vicky, on her recovery and on all the things they had to look forward to. A ghost of a smile flitted across his face as he thought of them cuddling their baby by the fire on a cold night. He knew though that they still had a long, long way to go and he hoped that fate would make it easy on his lovely wife.

Hutch on the other hand was worried for Starsky. Although he knew they had to talk to Gunther, if only to eliminate him as a suspect, he was well aware of the implications for his partner. The memories of that day in the police garage were still, after all this time, way to clear to be ignored and he wished with all his heart that they didn´t have to stir the waters again. Pulling up outside of the address they looked for a moment at the small, unobtrusive house with its tiny garden.

"Starsky, you don’t have to do this. Let me go." Hutch threw a concerned look at his partner who met it full on.

"Uh-uh, Hutch. Sorry pal but this I DO have to do." Starsky´s voice was firm and determined.

"Why? I can tell you everything that he says. There´s no need..." Starsky´s eyes shut him off.

"You don’t get it, do you Hutch? There´s every need. My Father always taught me the best way to handle your nightmares is to face up to them, look them square in the face and they´ll couldn´t hurt you any longer. Well, in there is my worst nightmare Hutch. The one person who almost destroyed US, what we had. I have to put that nightmare to bed once and for all, and this is my chance. Do you understand Hutch?" For once Starsky wasn´t using any tricks to get his way with his partner. He had simply been honest and was asking for his support.

Hutch nodded. "Okay Starsk. If it means that much to you, okay. I guess we´ve both got nightmares that need putting to bed over this,  so lets do it together. But promise me if it gets too hard, you walk out of the door and wait for me in the car. Deal?"

"Deal. Come on, let´s get it over with." Starsky was out of the car and on his way to the door before Hutch could move. He hurried to catch him up and managed to put himself in front by the time they reached the door, an unconscious barrier for his partner. At the door, Hutch paused for a second and raised a questioning eyebrow to his partner.

"Last chance to change your mind Starsk."

"Hey, What’s the worst he could do? Kill me? He already did that once, pal and I´m still here, ain´t I?" Starsky grinned, his head on one side as he looked at his friend with understanding, knowing full well Hutch was only trying to protect him.

"Yes. Thank God." Hutch smiled back. "Okay buddy, here goes." And he knocked firmly on the door.

An elderly man, bent over and with thin greying hair, opened it. Hutch held his badge open for him to see.

"Well, well. Detective Hutchinson. Its been a long time though I can´t say that its a pleasure. What do you want?"

"To talk Gunther. That’s all." Hutch kept his voice calm.

The door was opened fully and the two watched as their reluctant host walked slowly down the hall, disappearing into a room at the end.

"Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly!" Starsky whispered in Hutch´s ear and the two slowly followed Gunther inside.

"Well Gentlemen. To what do I owe this unwelcome visit?" Gunther´s eyes fixed firmly on to Starsky and the hatred radiated from him. Starsky held the gaze firm and returned it in full. Hutch had the fleeting impression of two male lions standing up to one another before launching into a full-blown fight. Once again he manoeuvred himself in front of his friend breaking the contact. Placing his hand very quickly on Starsky´s arm his eyebrows questioned and Starsky´s eyes answered. Letting his hand drop Hutch turned to face their foe.

"My partner and his wife have been subjected to hate mail. I´m sure you know its an offence to send such mail through the postal service Mr. Gunther"

"Yes Detective Hutchinson. I do. I also know its against the law to jay walk and I don´t do that either!"

"Yesterday morning there was an explosion at the surgery where Mrs. Starsky works. She was badly injured and is currently in the hospital. I suppose you don´t know anything about that either?" Hutch´s voice was hard, cold and clipped.

"Yesterday morning Detective Hutchinson I was with my parole officer. Something I´m quite sure that you will check. Besides. Look at me gentlemen, I´m old and I´m dying. Why would I want to waste what little time I have left on some hate campaign?" Gunther played his part well, as Hutch thought.

"Simple Gunther I lived. You failed! And you don´t like failure from what I hear." Starsky´s voice came, softly and quietly, from behind Hutch as he once again moved into full view. They watched as a rush of emotions ran themselves across Gunther´s face and they knew that Starsky had hit the nail on the head. They had there the man, of that they were both sure. What they didn´t have was the proof.

"I don´t like failure Detective Starsky. I despise it." Gunther spat at them. "Failure is a waste of time and energy."

Suddenly, they were interrupted by someone walking in.

"Mr Gunther. Are you alright?" A woman´s voice broke through the tension in the room. A blue nurses uniform gave her an air of a quiet authority.

"Yes Sally, I´m fine thank you. These gentlemen were just leaving."

Together Starsky and Hutch retraced their steps to the front door and out into the fresh air. Starsky leant against the side of the Torino all is energy spent.

"You okay Starsk?" He could feel Hutch’s hand on his shoulder and was grateful for the contact and comfort it provided.

"That guy is evil Hutch. Pure evil. What the hell did I ever do to him to deserve that?"

"We did our job. Starsk. No more and no less. Come on lets get out of here and tell Dobey what we found. Besides you´ve got a wife to visit." Hutch was sympathetic.

The duo climbed wearily into the car and Starsky roared away eager to put as much distance between himself and Gunther as possible in as short a time as possible.

*******

The next days happened fast. The physical injuries of Vicky healed up nicely. The doctors removed the bandages from her eyes and finally, with her room in semidarkness, she could see Starsky, Jenny and Hutch. But her memory was as yet a deep and dark hole, filled only with questions. Starsky spent as much time as possible at her side, showing her all his love, and taking care of her tenderly, but Vicky´s demeanour towards him was very strange. The girl seemed afraid of him, and in spite all his efforts to win her trust again, a wall seemed to rise between them. Starsky became more sad and worried with every passing moment.

"What happening to her doctor? We got married one month ago, and we love each other deeply. Since we met we´ve never had problems between us... But now, she...I don’t know what’s happening. It’s as if she doesn´t want to be with me. My own wife is scared of me. Most of the time I´m close to her, she pretends to be sleeping. When I take her hand or caress her all of her body becomes tense I´ve even heard a relieved sigh when I leave the room." A very upset Starsky explained to Doctor Roberts, Vicky´s psychiatrist.

"Look. Detective Starsky. The human mind is a place still half-explored. Your wife has suffered a big trauma. To lose all of her memories suddenly is something pretty hard, and we can't hurry in giving all the steps of her treatment. Besides, according to what I have in my notes about her, your wife had pretty serious problems in her previous marriage. Undoubtedly, this could add too her confusion...At the moment she is very upset, and soon we will have to tell her about her pregnancy. She will probably feel yet more fear and distress with this new situation. But right now its important that you are with her"

No this meet with the doctor neither any other thing was useful, and Starsky saw as more days were going by, while Vicky kept showing silent, cold and visibly scared in front of him

*******

Some hours later, as Starsky was again in the precinct, Jenny was with Vicky in her room, trying to help her best friend to recover some of her memories.

"Look Vicky. I brought something for you. Its in here, wait a minute, I´ve got a photo somewhere in here." Jenny scrabbled through her bag to find the photo Starsky had taken of her, Vicky and Samson on the beach. She held it out for the other woman to see.

"Dave took this just before you two got married."

Vicky took the photo and looked at it for a few minutes. "He’s a good photographer. Does he do it for a living?"

"No, he’s a cop!"

"God! I´m married to a cop?"

"Yeah ´fraid so Vicky." Jenny smiled. "A good one, by the way." But under her smile, the girl was worried, wondering why Vicky hadn´t asked Starsky yet anything as simple as what his work was.

"The dog...There´s something about this picture...the collar. I brought it for him, didn´t I?"

Jenny smiled, hope beginning to rise in her heart. "Yes. You brought it for him a couple of years ago."

Vicky clung to the photo as though her life depended on it. "Can I keep this...please?"

"Sure thing." Jenny nodded smiling at the frightened woman lying in the bed. "Rest now, get some sleep. I´m going to phone Dave to let him know your okay. He´ll be back as soon as he can, but he and Hutch are trying to get a lead on who did this to you. I´ll be back in a few minutes and I´ll stay here all night so you can rest easy."

"Wait...Wait a minute Jenny." Vicky asked, seizing Jenny´s hand.

"What´s the matter Vicky? I talk to you about Dave, and you became pale."

After a deep breath, Vicky said looking directly into Jenny´s eyes.

"Jenny...I don't know how to say it, but, I´m scared...Scared  of Dave... I don´t know why. He seems a really kind man, and he takes care of me, but when he told me that he was my husband... I began to feel scared of him...Yet at the same time, I only want to hold him in my arms and love him...Oh, God. I´m going mad Jenny!!"

"Hey Vicky! That’s great...Your memory is coming back."

"So Dave?..."

"No. Oh No, NO! He loves you and would never hurt you. Dave is the best man you could ever meet...But he´s your second husband Vick. You were married previously"

Not sure if this was the right moment, but knowing that she hadn´t other choice but do it, Jenny explained to Vicky, with the least detail as possible, something about her past life with Billy. She didn´t mention her escape from NY, or what happened some months before in Mrs. Johnson´s cabin. Only that she was married to an evil man and that her marriage was a nightmare that had fortunately already ended.

"God!...And I was thinking that Dave..."

"Hey don't worry Vicky. He would understand. Dave is a special man, and he loves you dearly...Well. Now I´m going to call him out, so you will be able to get some sleep, Okay?"

Vicky nodded slightly, beginning to fall asleep.

Quietly Jenny left the room and headed for the phones. It didn´t take her long to get through to Starsky.

"Dave, she remembered Samson, just like you knew she would. And she... Well. Its not that she has remembered anything more Just the dog. But her memory is coming back, I know it. We´ll speak later." She could hear the sigh of relief as she spoke. "She´s asleep now but I´m staying all night if I need to, so you and Hutch can concentrate on your job." She paused for a moment before adding. "Get him Dave, whoever he is that did this to Vicky. Get him!" With that Jenny hung up the phone and returned to take up her vigil over her sleeping friend.

Starsky hung up the phone and turned to see a smiling Hutch.

"I guess from the way you gave such a relieved sigh just then that Jenny had a little good news." Hutch´s eyebrows rose and he waited.

"Yeah, A little bit. She remembered Samson. Dumb dog means so much to her." Starsky hit the table in frustration. "Thought I meant more to her than some dumb dog!"

"Hey!" Hutch was around the table in an instant. "You do Starsk, you know you do. It’s just that...well... you´re her recent past. Samson has been in her life a lot longer than you have buddy. He´s had time to make a lot more memories for her to dredge up from wherever it is they´re buried."

"Guess you´re right Blintz. Jenny also said something about her memory coming back, and the doctor said I would have to be patient, but patience was never one of my better subjects, you know?"

"Yeah! I know! But right now the best thing you can do is to keep busy." For a moment Hutch let his hand rest on Starsky´s shoulder offering comfort and Starsky was grateful for the contact.

********

In L.A. County Jail a fight had just broken out between two inmates. It was, to many eyes, an unfair fight since one of the combatants was in a wheelchair but he seemed to be holding his own as, with the great strength in his arms, he had managed to force his assailant into a corner and now had his hands firmly locked around the others throat. As the guards rushed to separate the two a sharp jagged edge flashed in the hands of the one whose life was slowly being throttled out of him. In an instant it smashed across the face of the other man who yelled and released his strangle hold, falling down from his wheelchair complaining of intense pain in his back and face as blood gushed from a gaping wound just above his eye. A dozen guards and the prison doctor later Billy Sherman was on his way to the County hospital for treatment.

Half way across town the ambulance swerved into a back alley throwing the paramedic in the rear across the floor. Pulling to an abrupt halt the driver leapt from his seat locking the door behind him. As the interior filled with gas the driver nonchalantly stood and watched the traffic pass the end of the alley. When he was sure the gas had done its job he unlocked the doors and pulled the unconscious man from the top of his patient who smiled a cold smile at him from behind the oxygen mask he was wearing. Reaching inside John Peters pulled the innocent paramedic from the ambulance, across the road and in to a battered, rusting LTD at the very rear of the alley. Without blinking an eyelid he pushed the man into it and poured petrol over the offending vehicle. Casually he lit a cigarette and paused for a moment before dropping the match onto the car. Turning and running now he just made it to the ambulance before the car exploded and was engulfed in a white ball of flame. As the ambulance pulled away from the scene thick, black smoke could be seen emanating from the alley.

"Gunther said you were good. He didn´t say how good though. I like it." Sherman still had the same cold smile fixed to his face. "Is everything else ready?"

"Almost Mr Sherman, almost. Tomorrow morning I get the cop, and meanwhile Mr Gunther will take Mrs Starsky from the hospital, and soon they will both be exactly where you want them. Don’t worry, by tomorrow night they will both be exactly where you want them."

*******

When Starsky returned to the hospital, he did so resigned to finding the same distant and scared Vicky of the last days. Instead of this, when he entered her room, Vicky smiled.

"Dave...´m sorry." Vicky said shyly.

"Why? Vicky. You have nothing to be sorry about"

"Yes Dave, I´m giving you so many troubles."

"No sweetheart. Soon you will be fine. That’s the only important thing." Starsky answered softly kissing her forehead.

"Dave...Jenny explained some things to me...Things about my previous husband. A husband that I don´t remember. But... Somehow I remember all the hurt that he did me...And I...Dave, forgive me! I was scared of you!! I was thinking that you..." Starsky sat down in the edge of Vicky´s bed, embracing her.

"Shhht. It's okay Vicky. It's okay." Vicky spent some silent minutes in the comfort of Starsky´s arms until she pulled back.

"Dave, please, talk to me about us, our time together...I need to know so many things!"

Starsky spent a while explaining to Vicky things about her recent past and their life together, He told her about the day they met each other, the months of their engagement, their wedding day, and their honeymoon in Hawaii, getting round all those things he knew about her hard relationship with Billy.

"I feel as if someone has stolen all these things from me. All these memories that I would have kept as a treasure, suddenly, are not mine... AND I WANT SO MUCH TO HAVE THEM DAVE!! I want to remember!" She said tearfully.

"Shhht. Take it easy, sweetheart. You´ll do it. You will remember them eventually. It may take a little time, but you´ll do it" Then, doctor Roberts, entered the room. Starsky got up wondering why the doctor had come in.

"Hi Mrs Starsky. How are you feeling?" Roberts asked with a friendly smile

"In the middle of people that I don't know who they are and trying to recover some of my life...Other than that everything else is fine, I suppose."

"I know how distressing this is for you, believe me, but give it time. Mrs. Starsky, we need to have a talk."

"What happens, doctor? Something wrong?" Vicky reached out for Starsky´s hand with fear reflected in her eyes.

"No, nothing like that. You are okay, in fact tomorrow you’ll be discharged from the hospital, but the fact is that you are pregnant. Roughly three weeks." The doctor´s voice was calm and confident.

"Oh my God!...Pregnant?" Vicky spoke with a quiet voice, as her eyes began to fill with tears. "But I´ll can't!...Right now, I just can't!" The girl said getting increasingly upset and looking to Starsky and the doctor.

"Listen Mrs Starsky. Your reaction over news like this is totally normal under the circumstances, but..."

"NO!!... Nobody can possibly understand it; I can't have a baby right now"

"Vicky..."Starsky said in a thread of voice

"No Dave! What kind of mother I would be? DAMN IT!...I DON'T WANNA BE A MOTHER NOW! I CAN´T!!...if I can´t even remember you, or anybody or anything! The only thing I can remember in this lousy world is one dog´s collar!!" Vicky burst into tears. The psychiatrist remained silently watching his patient and her husband. Starsky was trying to calm Vicky, but all his efforts were useless.

"Vicky...Vicky, honey. Listen..."

"Leave me alone Dave!... Please, only I want to be alone!!" Doctor Roberts signalled for Starsky to leave the room. "Vicky...I´ll be back later." Starsky said. The girl didn’t answer and, kissing her forehead, he and the doctor left the room.

"Doctor?" Roberts could see the pain in Starsky´s eyes, and putting a compassionate hand on his shoulder, began to speak with his usual calm tone.

"I know, I know. Look, detective Starsky. I know how distressed you are feeling right now. But let me say something. Though it may seem strange, your wife´s reaction is absolutely normal. She just needs some time to get used to the idea of being a mother, time to put some order in her mind, but despite if her memory comes back or not, soon she will begin to love her baby. Believe me. I know what I´m talking about. And now if you will excuse me, I´ll ask a nurse to look after your wife for a while"

When the doctor moved away across the corridor, Starsky spent some minutes staring out of the window as the tears began to fall, unstoppable, down his cheeks. Then he began to run, leaving the hospital without knowing where was going.

*******

Hutch had gone home that night a little worried, because Jenny and he expected that Starsky would be going to his place to have dinner but he hadn´t showed up.

"Don’t worry Hutch. Dave is exhausted, forgot it, let him sleep." Jenny told Hutch, who secretly agreed with the girl. Wiping the worry from his mind after she had left, a very tired Hutch went to bed also, falling asleep in a matter of seconds.

A couple of hours later, his phone rang. He was fast asleep, but on hearing the phone, he awoke completely.

"Hello?"

"It's Huggy, Hutch. You should come over here bro. Our mutual curly friend is here, totally drunk, and getting involved in some trouble with a couple of customers."

Hutch was dressed and out of his house in less time than it had taken Huggy to phone him.

Hang on Starsk, don’t get yourself into anything your in no condition to handle. Hutch thought while driving  towards the Pits with lights blazing and siren blaring out in the quietness of the night.

Screeching to a halt he leapt form the car and hurried inside worried at what he would find. He knew something serious must have happened for Starsky to allow himself to get into the kind of a state that Huggy was calling for reinforcements.

Hutch glanced quickly at the lean black man behind the bar who indicated the pool table with a swift nod of his head. Hutch moved across the room in time to hear his partners extremely slurred voice ring out.

"That’s twenty bucks you owe me pal and I´ll take it right now." Starsky´s eyes were coal black, anger flashing from them at the larger man in front of him.

"What say we go for double or quits?" Hutch heard the other man suggest.

He was setting Starsky up for a fall, something he would have spotted it within seconds had he been sober. But Hutch could see that Starsky was a long way from that. He knew though that when Starsky got drunk all his street skills came flying back with consummate ease. If he didn´t do something fast then this situation was about to get very nasty indeed. He could see Starsky´s grip on the pool cue tighten and his body become tense.

"Hey Starsk." Hutch stepped forward quickly his eyes directly on his partner´s. "Wondered where you’d got to. Jenny and I were expecting you for dinner nearly two hours ago."

"But out pal! Your curly haired friend here and me are enjoying a quiet game of pool. We don´t need no outside interference from the likes of you." Starsky´s opponent pushed Hutch in the back causing him to stumble into his partner. Hutch saw Starsky´s eyes flash ever darker and quickly turned to face his attacker.

"Believe me pal, you really don’t want to be doing that again." His voice was clipped, his mouth set. From the corner of his vision he could see a younger version of the guy he was staring at move quietly in to position.

"Wanna tell me why not Blondie?" This time Hutch sidestepped the arm that rose to push him and he grabbed the hand twisting it round. Holding on with one hand he used the other to pull his I D badge from his pocket. What he had lost track off as he had swung around was the position of gorilla junior. He quickly became aware of it when Starsky threw himself across the pool table and took him out just as he was about to hit Hutch with a discarded pool cue. Horrified Hutch hurried to cuff his opponent as Starsky used every ounce of spent up anger and torment on the youth. Hurrying across the floor he pulled Starsky from his unfortunate victim and held on.

"Easy buddy, take it easy. I´m okay." Hutch whispered softly for Starsky´s ears only. Slowly, painfully slowly, Hutch could see the fire beginning to die in his partner´s eyes.

"That’s better, come on, sit down a minute." Pulling a stool out from one of the small tables, he gently lowered Starsky onto it. Striding across to the man he had handcuffed he spun him around and released him. "Twenty Bucks he said you owed him I guess you could say you´re about even. Now I strongly suggest you pick your friend there up and leave before I change my mind and charge you both."

"Charge us with what?"

"Anyone of a number of offences beginning with out of hours drinking and finishing with assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer!" Hutch glared at the man his face inches from the other´s.

Turning round the gorilla, who earlier had been so confident, now quietly picked up his friend and helped him towards the door. As he got there he was stopped by a shout from behind.

"Hey Pal! Lesson for you. Don’t ever pick on a man´s partner!" Starsky´s smile was cold and nowhere reached his eyes, which were once again dark as coal. He watched as the two left before collapsing in a heap on the floor.

Huggy and Hutch picked him up and together they managed to get him safely into the back of Hutch´s sedan.

"Thanks Hug. Let me know what the damage is and I´ll see its paid for."

"No problem Hutch. Starsky´s hurting real bad to ever let this happen. Let’s just say its one you both owe me."

Hutch nodded before getting into the driving seat and gently heading home. Once back at Venice place he half carried Starsky inside and left him on the couch while he made some hot, strong coffee.

An hour and three pots of coffee later Starsky was at last beginning to shake the effects of the alcohol and was nursing a bad headache. Hutch turned off the main light leaving the side lights to send a soft glow around the room. Turning on the last one he came to a stop in front of his friend.

"Feeling a little better now partner?" Hutch smiled gently as Starsky nodded then winced. "Then mind telling just exactly what was worth almost getting yourself killed over?"

"She doesn´t want the baby Hutch, and there´s nothing I can say or do to make her change her mind." Starsky´s voice was almost a whisper and Hutch could feel the pain so intense was it.

"What makes you say that Starsk?" Hutch matched the level of his voice to that of his friend.

"She said so. Her exact words were, I don’t want to be a Mother. I don´t get it. Hutch. I honestly thought that when they told her she would be pleased, shed realise just how much we meant to each other, but instead..." Starsky´s voice petered out as silent tears began to fall once more.

"But instead she was terrified right?" Hutch looked at Starsky and his heart wept. He had seen his friend suffer many emotions in their time together but he never thought to see him so totally despondent as he did right now. It was as if all of the fight had gone with the pummelling he had given the youth back at Huggy´s and now all that was left was an empty shell.

"Answer me something Starsk, and be honest. If the positions were reversed and it was you lying in that hospital bed how would you feel if someone who was as good as a complete stranger to you told you she were your wife and you were about to become a Father. I know how I´d feel, scared out of my mind, that’s how. You told me yourself that she was still getting images of how Sherman treated her, and mistaking it for you. Until her memory comes back, at least a little, she only has our word for what´s the truth and what’s not. That´s an awful lot to ask anyone just to accept, Starsk."

"Yeah I guess, but to say what she did...I never thought I´d ever hear her say something like that. It´s not as if we hadn´t discussed kids."

"Think back Starsk and tell me again what exactly it was that she said." Hutch was sitting next to Starsky now, his hand on his friend´s knee trying to convey a sense of calm.

"I told you damn it! Maybe you want for me to spell it out for you?" Starsky´s voice rose and Hutch could feel him tense up under his touch.

"Humour me Starsky, tell me again and exactly what she said, not just what you think she said." Starsky looked hard at Hutch before getting up and going to gaze out of the window at the stars. He thought back to everything that had happened over the last hours at the hospital. He remembered how everything seemed to be going so well until the doctor had arrived to tell her about the baby. That’s when his world had shattered once again.

"She said, I cant. I don’t want to be a Mother now, when I can´t remember anyone or anything. I cant do it. Then she told me to leave." Starsky turned from the window to look at Hutch. "Whoever is behind all of this Hutch, he´s won. He´s got exactly what he wanted. I don’t care about the force, me or anything right now except for Vicky and our baby. I don´t think I could handle it if she did something to get rid of it."

"She won´t Gordo. Listen to what she said rationally instead of emotionally. She said I don’t want to be a Mother when I CANT REMEMBER ANYONE. You have to give her time Starsk, let her think this through by herself. I´ll bet you next months salary that she sees things differently when she´s got over the shock. When she knows that you´re not going to go away and abandon her, when she finally realises that she´s not alone she´ll start to get used to the idea. Nine months is a long time to learn to love someone Starsk and we both know that she´ll make a fabulous mum. All you have to do is convince her of that. But right now she just needs a little time, that’s all." Hutch had quietly closed the gap between himself and his friend and they now stood face to face. "Trust me Starsk."

"That’s below the belt Hutch, asking that. You know I can´t refuse." A faint glimmer of a smile appeared on Starsky´s face. "God…I´m so tired."

"Couch is waiting for you, pal. You know where the blankets are. Help yourself. I´ll see you in the morning." Hutch stepped back knowing he had played his ace and won. He headed for his bedroom but stopped at the door as he heard a soft voice calling.

"Thanks, Hutch. For everything...you know."

"You´re welcome Starsk. Anytime." With that Hutch closed the bedroom door.

Starsky settled himself onto the couch and was soon fast asleep.

*******

That night Vicky felt more lonely and helpless than ever, wondering if the man that supposedly was her husband would return. A nurse gave her a sleeping pill that she refused firmly. She didn´t want to sleep, didn´t want to be drugged. She needed to think clearly, though all her thoughts were in turmoil.

She was pregnant when she didn´t know if she could be a good mother, and regarding her husband, Dave. Well. He was undoubtedly a gentle and caring man. But she didn't have any memory of him...The father of her baby was a true stranger to her.

That was the longest, sleepless night of her life, and the dawn caught her crying silently on the pillow

*******

Starsky awoke early in the morning and when he opened his eyes Hutch´s living room seemed to spin incessantly and a furious headache beat in his temples. He remembered all that had happened the evening before. Later he would go to the hospital to take Vicky home, but before that he wanted to go with Hutch to the precinct.

Hutch and Starsky arrived there early just in case there was any fall out from the events of the night before, but there were none. It was a very relieved Starsky who sat at his desk working through all the notes they had put together so far. Hutch came in with a coffee and held it out for Starsky who accepted it readily. His head throbbed and the need for dark glasses wasn´t just from the sunlight.

"Just how many did you have last night Starsk?" A slightly amused Hutch asked. He was rewarded with a glare from above the glasses.

"Come on partner. We´ve got work to do. Seems a body had been found in a burnt out car down a back alley. Lovely way to start the day, huh?"

Starsky gulped down the coffee and together the two headed for the garage. Just as they reached the outside office the desk officer told Hutch there was a call for him. Hutch headed for the phones as Starsky carried on down to the garage. He reached ground floor level when a uniformed officer called for him to stop.

"Detective Starsky. I´ve a message for you from Detective Hutchinson. You´re to meet him out front. Seems someone has some information for you regarding your wife´s accident."

"Okay thanks." Starsky took off for the front entrance as fast as he could. Tearing through the door he looked quickly around expecting to see Hutch but there was no-one around. Suddenly the hair on the back of his neck began to prickle and Starsky knew he´d been suckered. Spinning on his heels he just had time to take in the tall figure of the uniformed officer as he felt a sharp stabbing pain in his neck and the world slowly closed in around him.

John Peters caught him before he hit the ground and, throwing him over his shoulder he quickly carried him to a delivery van waiting around the corner.

"Two down, one to go! You disappointed me a little though, Detective Starsky. I expected a little bit of resistance at least!"

Meanwhile a frustrated Hutch was arguing with the desk officer over his call.

"No detective Hutchinson I don’t have a name, he refused to give it. Said he wanted to talk to you and only you."

Hutch ran down the steps to the garage expecting to see an irate Starsky waiting for him. Instead all he could see was an empty car. Thinking Starsky must have decided to wait for him Hutch slowly made his way back up the stairs to the ground floor.

"Hey, any of you guys see Starsky?" Hutch called to a group of uniformed officers talking in the corridor. All but one shook their heads.

"Yeah, I saw him Hutch. He flew out the front door like the devil himself was chasing him."

Hutch frowned. "You sure Minnie?"

"Hutch, I´d know Starsky´s behind if I were blindfolded, if you get my drift. It was him alright."

"You better not let his wife hear you saying things like that Minnie. She might just get the wrong idea." Hutch called laughing to the departing figure.

Trotting to the front door Hutch looked around for some sign of his partner. Going down the steps he looked up and down before, frustrated, he climbed slowly back up.

"Starsky, where the hell are you buddy?" As he reached the top step Hutch´s blood ran cold. There, lying open on the step, was Starsky´s wallet, his badge glistening in the sunlight and lying next to it a used syringe...

*******

That same morning Jenny arrived at her friends hospital room, to find her out of bed, already dressed and with her little bag ready to go home. She was staring out of the window.

"Morning Vick!" The blond girl called out. Vicky turned towards her with a nod of her head as a reply. "I was expecting to see Dave here." The blond one added.

"Yeah?...Well, probably Dave will be a long while in coming back here. In fact some years maybe. And I can't blame him for it." Vicky answered bitterly sitting down on the bed.

"Hey, hey, Vicky. What happened?" Jenny sat down beside her friend surrounding her shoulders with her arm.

"Jenny...I’m pregnant And yesterday, when Doctor Roberts told me, I...I said to Dave that I don’t wan´t to have the baby...And I asked him to leave me alone...He hasn’t returned. Jenny!... I’m so scared! I didn´t want do hurt Dave...But I did it...Oh JENNY!! A baby. Right now...I don’t think I can handle all this, I JUST CAN'T !" Victim of her fragile emotional condition, Vicky grasped Jenny bursting again into tears.

"Shhht Vick, Come on. Dave knows that you are confused and pretty scared. He´s not angry with you Vick, I´m sure. Dave will come back in a while"

"Do you think so Jenn?"

"I´m sure Vicky. Your husband will be here with you in matter of minutes."

But more than an hour later Starsky still had not gone to the hospital. Vicky was more upset with every passing moment, and Jenny more furious.

"I told you Jenny...Dave won´t return. I can’t ask him for his pardon... I hurt him too much."

"Oh, Vicky! For God sake! Pick up the phone and call him! That way you´ll see that he´s not angry with you! He´ll have been delayed for some reason"

"NO! I won´t call him!.... I´ll can't. Not yet I´ll wait a little longer"

"Okay, okay so we´ll wait awhile more. Listen to me Vicky. Why don´t you lie down a while until Dave gets here, Okay? You seem pretty tired." Vicky was too much tired to argue after her long sleepless night, and obeying her friend, lay on the bed falling asleep quickly. Then Jenny headed towards the phones plunged in her own angry thoughts.

If Dave is not here cos he´s angry with Vick, then the guy has less brain than a gnat...But if this is the matter, that damned stubborn mule will have to hear what I think about him!! Jenny was much too furious to notice that the usual police officer wasn´t at the door of Vicky´s room.

When the girl called the precinct asking for Starsky they passed the call on to Hutch, who was out driving the Torino, searching frantically for some clue on his partner´s whereabouts.

"HUTCH! I want to talk with Starsky NOW!!! And don´t tell me that he´s not there or something like that...Right now I don't want hear any silliness."

"Jenny...Jenny, listens. Starsk isn´t here." A desperate Hutch was saying in low voice.

"HUTCH!" After a deep breath Jenny added in a more calm tone. "Look, Hutch. Vicky and Dave had some trouble yesterday... I just hoped he wasn´t stupid enough to be angry with her because of it. Besides, today he must take her home"

"No Jenny...You don´t understand I´ll cant find Starsky...These people kidnapped him! GOD JENNY!! I DONT KNOW WHERE STARSKY IS!!..."

*******

Jenny's brain was trying to find a way to tell Vicky what had happened

How can I tell her...HOW? Before going back to her friends room, she headed towards the hospital bathroom. There, Jenny  refreshed her face with water, resting her forehead against the mirror for some seconds trying to think clearly, without noticing that somebody was quietly locking the bathroom door

While Jenny was shut in, a man entered Vicky´s room, touching her arm softly to wake her.

"Come on child, wake up."

"Uh?" Vicky awoke seeing by her bedside an elderly man, with beard, moustache, glasses and thin greying hair.

"Vicky, child. Right now David can´t come here to take you home. He and his partner are very busy with a case, and he asked me to do it but he´ll see to you there later. Come on honey. Are you ready?"

"But...Jenny?"

"Oh, don't worry Vicky. I´ve told her that I would take you home... She´s going to work. She told me that she´ll see you tonight.

"Excuse me, but I can't remember. Who...who are you?"

"Oh. I’m sorry darling. I know, I know, your amnesia...I´m your Uncle JAMES..."

*******

Gunther remained silent in front of the lifts, keeping his back to the nurses and Vicky as some minutes later she was saying her good byes to them, before leaving the hospital. Finally a nurse wheeled Vicky in a wheelchair up the entrance, and after helping her to get up, headed again to the hospital building, leaving Vicky alone with Gunther

"Here darling. This is my car…"

*******

"DAMN IT! HURRY UP!! Open this fucking door!!" Jenny was shouting out, extremely angry, to an orderly who finally unlocked the door of the bathroom where she had spent almost ten minutes shut in.

"I´m sorry Miss. I don't understand how this could happen. This door is always open. Someone would have to close it on purpose" The young man said shyly when Jenny was released from her confinement.

"Thanks. Look boy. Tell me your excuses another day. Right now I haven´t too much time to waste" And saying so the girl raced towards her friend´s room, stopping sharply in the middle of the corridor.

GOD! I can't tell this to Vicky. I can´t say to her that Dave is missing....I just can´t. Not now...PLEASE!!...Someone can stop this nightmare?

Jenny didn´t know what to do, what she could say to Vicky. She just hoped that she was still sleeping, to give her some more minutes to think.

Breathing deeply, she entered the room, only to find that the bed was empty and Vicky´s bag was not there.

"Vicky?...Vicky are you okay?" The girl knocked the bathroom door without answer. Then Jenny went in to look, but there was nobody.

"Where is Vicky?" Jenny sharply asked a nurse in the corridor.

"Sorry?"

"Vicky...Mrs Starsky. Room 207. Damn it! I can't find her anywhere!"

"I´m sorry...I don't know."

"Mrs Starsky left the hospital some minutes ago. With her uncle, I think" Answered another nurse.

"HER WHAT??"

"She left the hospital with a man who she said was her Uncle James." Jenny slid her back down against the wall, finishing in a ball on the floor with her head resting on both hands. Without looking at the nurses she said in a whisper

"She doesn´t have any Uncle James!"

*******

Starsky slowly began to wake and tried unsuccessfully to move. He was lying on a hard, cold floor, his hands held securely behind his back with his own cuffs and his legs tied firmly at the knees and ankles. He became aware of feet moving slowly towards him.

"Well, well. Glad to see you´ve finally decided to join me Detective Starsky." The owner of the voice roughly grabbed the back of Starsky´s jacket and pulled him to a sitting position facing the door. "Just so you can see who else comes to join us."

Starsky turned his head to get a good look at his captor. "You´re at an advantage... Mind telling me who the hell you are and what this is all about?" Starskys head snapped backwards as a handful of hair was grabbed viciously and he was forced to look directly into cold, evil eyes. The man bent close and the foul breath repulsed Starsky as he spoke. "You´ll know soon enough, pig." John Peters slammed Starsky´s head backwards and he saw stars as it rebounded off of the wall.

"THATS ENOUGH!" Starsky, dazed, became aware of someone else entering the room. Two sets of footprints, one male one female. The female´s were unsteady as though she were being forced forward, the male´s firmer and with something Starsky couldn´t quite make out properly sounding in between them.

"Dave! Oh my God!...Dave, what have they done to you?" Starsky´s eyes forced themselves to snap open as he heard the very familiar and very scared voice of his wife.

"Vicky? How did...?" Starsky´s voice died in his throat as he looked past Vicky at the man standing behind her. "Gunther!" The word was spat out.

"Mr. Gunther Detective Starsky, Mr Gunther." He poked Starsky hard in the shoulder with the cane that assisted him to walk. "Well now, our reunion is almost complete, we have just one more guest to welcome,  but in the meantime...PETERS!" Gunther indicated the wall behind Starsky.

The man walked to a pulley system and let down a huge hook hanging from the ceiling. Grabbing Starsky roughly by the arms he quickly swung him face down on the floor and sat astride him before releasing one of the handcuffs. Pulling Starsky´s arms around and upwards he refastened them above his head. Grabbing the hook Starsky was forced to watch helplessly as it was pulled under the cuffs. Starsky heared the mechanism start up again and he tried to brace himself for the pain he knew was about to come. As the pulley went into reverse the hook rose back upwards to the ceiling taking the hapless Starsky with it until he was suspended some six inches from the ceiling. The pain in his shoulders was bad enough but the cuffs were so tight as to cut into his flesh and he thought his wrists would break. The blood slowly dripped from his wrists and down his arms. A thin sheen of sweat broke out on his forehead and Starsky bit back the groan of pain that was aching to come from his lips.

From the corner of the room Peters pulled a chair and roughly grabbing the distraught Vicky he forced her down into, tying her arms behind her back.

"Gunther, let Vicky go. This is between you and me, right? I´m the one you want, not her!" Starsky tried hard to sound in control but his body was screaming out in pain and it was all he could do to stay conscious.

"I’m sorry but you´re wrong Detective! This isn´t just between you and me, though I wish maybe that it were, since I would have killed you by now." The old man´s voice came firm and cruelly to Starsky´s ears.

"You tried, and failed, once Gunther. What makes you think this time will be any different?"

"Because this time its not just me, cop." Gunther gently pushed Starsky with his stick and the movement sent wracks of pain down his arms and through his hands. "This time I have a friend who hates you almost as much as I do, something I never thought possible."

As Gunther finished speaking the door opened once again and Starsky glanced down the room at the new occupant. Billy Sherman wheeled himself towards them stopping in front of Vicky.

"We meet again my sweetheart." And he smiled a cold, hard smile at the woman shaking before him.

"I...I don´t understand any of this. What have we ever done to any of you? Please... Don’t do this. Don´t hurt Dave anymore! Let him down from there, you´re breaking his arms!” Vicky´s voice trembled as she spoke.

Sherman´s hand shot out and he grabbed Vicky by the chin forcing her to look at him. "I´m disappointed my darling that you don´t remember me just a little bit. We had such wonderful times together until he came along and stole you from me!"

"Leave her alone Sherman!" Starsky shouted as his body twisted and turned on the handcuffs causing the blood to flow ever faster.

"I make the rules in this game Detective, and my rules say you need to learn some manners!"

Sherman nodded to Peters who turned and picked something from off the wall at the back of Starsky. A loud crack filled the air and Starsky´s body twisted and arched as the whip struck home across his back. This time he was unable to stop the cry of pain from escaping his lips. Vicky´s head dropped to her chest as she tried desperately to block out the scream that filled the room. Sherman again forced her head upwards making her look at him and as he did, so this time a wave of revulsion washed over Vicky. Pulling backwards she spat, with as much force as she could muster, into his face. For a moment she thought he was going to hit her, the look of hate in his eyes burned so strongly. Then suddenly, he burst out laughing.

"Well, well, the mouse finally turns. After all this time you at last have a little spirit inside of you." Sherman paused and stopped laughing. "Well, we shall have to see about that sweetheart. We shall see!" He wheeled away from the girl towards the door. "Lets leave them alone for a while to think shall we gentlemen. Well come back in one hour and the fun can begin properly." The three left the room leaving a trembling Vicky staring helplessly at her husband who hung from the roof like a piece of meat, the blood running down his body and dripping into a pool under his feet.

*******

Hutch was tearing the streets apart, calling every favour, leaning had on every snitch they had but nothing was forthcoming. It was as if Starsky had been spirited from the very face of the earth. Calling in at The Pits he desperately hoped that Huggy would have something to tell him. Walking in the front door he was met half way across the floor by Huggy and together they turned to a booth in the far corner, far out of earshot.

"Whatcha got Hug?" Hutch tried to keep the desperation from his voice but he was physically and emotionally drained.

"No much Hutch but the Bear finally growled in the right place, I think. You ever some across the name John Peters?" Hutch thought for a moment before shaking his head.

"Didn´t think so. Peters is a mechanic Hutch, but not your usual kind. The guy takes delight in torturing his victims before finally dispatching them if you get my drift. His last victim was found minus a few fingers and with severe burns to his person. They said he was electrocuted. He’s wanted in most states you can think of and probably a few you can´t."

"Wait a minute Hug! Are you trying to tell me you think this guy is the one responsible for what’s happened to Starsk!" Hutch was incredulous.

"Word out is that James Gunther is paying the bill for something special bro. Last time I counted two and two made four." Huggy paused before adding, "Hutch if it is this guy Peters, then you better find our curly haired friend sooner rather than later, you dig?"

"I dig Huggy thanks." Hutch raced from the building and into the car. Pulling out his mike he put a call through to dispatch.

"This is Detective Hutchinson. I need an APB on a John Peters, check the records for a description. Very dangerous and possibly armed. I want him in one piece he´s wanted in connection with the disappearance of Detective Starsky."

"10 4 Detective Hutchinson. Please stand by for a patch with Captain Dobey."

"Hutch."

"Yeah Cap. What ya got?"

"I think you better get back here Hutch. I´d rather tell you to our face and there´s someone here needs you."

Hutch raced the Torino back to the precinct and within ten minutes was making his way to Dobey´s office with a sense of foreboding. Not stopping to knock he strode though the door, aware of the sympathetic glances of the officers around him.

"Hutch!" Jenny threw herself at him sobbing. "Hutch they´ve got Vicky!"

His arms automatically closed around the girl´s shoulders as he looked questioningly at his Captain.

"How? I thought we had a guard with her."

"We did Hutch but I had to take him off to help look for your partner. We´re too damn short staffed. I’m sorry." Dobey was perched on the end of his desk, mopping his brow with his handkerchief.

"Well, do we know who took her?" Hutch´s voice was quiet.

"I do Hutch," Jenny spoke her hand on his arm. "It was James Gunther!" Before Hutch had time to react she quickly added, "He told Vicky he was her uncle and she could hardly say he wasn´t. According to the nurses he told her that Dave had sent him to take her home as he was caught up with a case. She just walked out with him Hutch!"

"Where were you while all this was going on? I thought..."

"He locked me in the bathroom. By the time I got out it was too late. They´d gone!"

"Before you say anything else Hutch I´ve already sent a couple of cars to his place. There´s no one there. According to the neighbours he hasn´t been around for the last couple of days. There´s something else you should know. The body you and Starsky were investigating... the one found in the burnt out car from the alley" Hutch waited for the next bombshell, which he knew was about to drop. "We got identification from dental records this morning. Turns out that he was a paramedic who´s been missing for the last couple of days. He was last seen on a run to the hospital with a prisoner from LA County. They never got there. I´ll give you one guess at who the prisoner was?"

Hutch waited Here it comes.

"William Sherman!" Dobey watched Hutch and Jenny anxiously as the news hit them.

"Billy! Oh my God Hutch, you don’t think?..."

"That Gunther and Sherman are in this together?" Hutch finished the sentence for her." Yeah! I do! Right at the start of this Starsky said it had to be someone with one hell of a grudge. Well I cant think of two people who must hate Starsky more than those two." Hutch thumped the table. "Damn it Gunther on his own was bad enough but Sherman! That guy´s a certifiable nutcase! Add that with what I just got from Huggy and we´d better find they both quick or well be looking for bodies and it won´t be an easy ending either."

*******

Back in the warehouse a little girl watched as the three men left through the small side door. She had been sleeping here for three weeks and knew every nook and cranny in which to hide. When the taller of the three had turned up at the beginning of the week she had managed to stay out of sight and watch with idle curiosity his movements in the back room. She had watched with idle boredom as he had oiled the pulley system, making sure it worked over and over again. She had been fascinated and a little frightened when she had seen him fix the huge whip on to the wall. What had frightened her a little was when she had watched him spend the day fixing the electrics and had tested them by wiring a stray cat to the circuit he had just made and switching it on. She still had nightmares at the way he had laughed as the poor cat had burnt to a crisp in front of him. Then the older man appeared a couple of days later and she could overhear them talking about being ready for their guests and only needing someone to join them. The next day the third man had appeared, the one in the wheelchair, and she had watched as the tall man had bandaged his wounds. From then on she had to be really careful in her movements in and out of the warehouse since the wheelchair man never went out. A room had been set up for him complete with a bed and a cooker and the older man would bring food in for him to cook. She had been asleep when she heard the van arrive and she had crawled from her hidey-hole just in time to see the tall man pull something roughly from the back. As it had landed with an almighty thump on the floor she had had to stifle a gasp of shock when she saw that it was a young man, hands and feet tied tightly behind him. She had watched in horror as Starsky had been dragged across the floor and into the room where the man had been working all week. From her hiding place she had seen the older man arrive, pushing a young woman in front of him. The woman also had her hands tied and she looked terrified. It wasn’t until the third man arrived and disappeared in to the room as well that she had finally picked up the courage to leave her hiding place and creep quietly to the door. She had heard the pulley begin to work and, pressing her eye to the keyhole, had seen Starsky being suspended from the floor as the blood slowly trickled down his arms. She had heard the interchange between them and understood the danger the young couple were in. Lastly she had run terrified, her hands pressed tightly over her ears as Peters had used the huge whip on Starskys back. Hiding once again she watched and waited as the three left the warehouse laughing.

Shaking herself into action the child moved across to the door of the room and gingerly tried the handle. Much to her surprise it turned and opened. Inside the young man hung unconscious from the ceiling. Blood poured from the wound to his back where the whip had landed. His hands looked almost black to the child as the handcuffs bit viciously into his wrists. The young woman sat pulling frantically at the ropes that bound her and the child ran to her side. Vicky stopped her useless struggle with the ropes to stare incredulously at the child.

"Where did you come from?" But the child gave no answer. She went instead to the table where a jug of water sat. Looking once again at Starsky she dragged a chair across the room and gently lifted his feet placing them on it. Racing across to the switch she dragged the fourth chair with her and stood on to it trying desperately to reach but she was too short. Dragging the chair behind her once again she placed it in front of Starsky before hurrying to the table for the water. Carefully she carried it, and climbing onto the chair, she dipped her fingers into the water and gently dabbed them on Starskys lips. The eyes slowly opened and she could see nothing but kindness and pain in them.

"Hi" Even to Starsky his voice sounded feeble. The girl smiled a shy smile and held the water jug so that he could drink. "Thanks." Starsky gulped at the water. When he had finished she dipped her hankie into it and gently she wiped his brow.

"Who are you?" Starsky´s voice though a little stronger was still quiet. Right now he needed this little girl to trust him if he and Vicky were to have any chance of getting away.

"Kathy." The little girl smiled again.

"Thank you Kathy, for helping me. Will you help my wife please? She could do with some of that water too." Kathy looked back at Vicky, then got down from her chair and walked slowly over to her. Gently she held the jug so that the woman could drink then, putting it back down on the table, she walked behind her and tried, in vain, to undo the ropes that were holding her.

She looked apologetically at Starsky. "Sorry."

"That’s ok. You tried. Listen. Can you get out of here without anyone seeing you?" The girl nodded and long brown curls jumped up and down. "Okay then I need you to help me before those bad men get back. Will you do that?" Again a nod and Starsky felt his heart lift a little. He silently vowed that if he ever got out of here he would do everything in his power to repay this child who, right now, was his only hope.

"I need you to find someone. His name is Detective Hutchinson and he’s at 9th  precinct. Think you can remember that?"

"Tective Hutchinson I´ll remember." The kid nodded furiously.

"Good girl. I need you to tell him where we are."

"Dave, what if they don’t believe her." Vicky´s voice broke in and Starsky thought for a moment. Glancing up at his hands he struggled with swollen fingers that had no feeling.

"Come here Kathy." The girl moved to stand in front of him. "Catch this, sweetheart and don’t loose it. When you find Detective Hutchinson give it to him. Promise me." Starsky dropped a silver ring into her hands.

"I promise Dave." And she tucked the ring into her top pocket.

Vicky glanced at the clock on the opposite wall. "It’s almost an hour, she has to go! They´ll be back any minute."

Kathy looked at Starsky one more time then back at Vicky. "I´ll find him. I promise." And with that she was gone back out of the room quietly closing the door behind her.

For a few moments here was silence then Vicky spoke.

"Do you think she´ll make it?"

"She has to sweetheart She has to!" They could hear footsteps coming towards the door. As much as Starsky was grateful for the chair beneath his feet he knew that it would instantly give away the fact that someone had found them. Bracing himself he eased his feet upwards. Locking his feet around the bar of the chair he picked it up and threw it across the room, the force of it causing his body to jerk and send agonising bolts of pain across his shoulders. He bit down hard on his lips as he heard his wrist crack under the force and a cold sweat broke out over is whole body. Refusing to let himself pass out he looked across at Vicky.

"Hold on darling. Hutch is coming. He´ll find us and everything will be okay." Vicky though was concentrating on hooking her foot underneath the chair Starsky had just thrown. It took an enormous effort but somehow she managed to right it and push it back in place under the table just in time as the door opened and Sherman wheeled himself inside, followed by Peters.

Sherman wheeled himself once more in front of Vicky. "Now for a little fun!" and his hand shot out grabbing Vicky by the throat.

"Damn you to hell Sherman!" Starsky screamed across the room.

"I´ll see you there cop." Sherman laughed as he gently applied pressure to Vicky´s neck. "You and your precious friend thought you´d got away from me. I told you I´d find you and I swore you’d pay. I found you, didn´t I Vicky? Hiding behind some broken down copper. You should have listened to me then, my sweetheart and come back with me, but instead you did this to me!" Sherman´s voice rose as he used his other hand to smack down hard on the wheelchair. Well now you both pay...You and that precious husband of yours."

"Let her be Sherman. She can´t hurt you. Dammit!  She doesn´t even know who you are thanks to your friend over here! There´s a turn up for you, your hired hand here, did such a good job with his gas explosion she can´t remember anything, not you, not me, anything..." Starsky kept his voice normal, willing for the maniac to let Vicky go and concentrate on him. "You blew it where she´s concerned Sherman, even if you kill me, it won´t mean a thing to her. I´m the one you and Gunther really want. Admit it. Both of you are failures in my eyes. I won with Vicky over you and I survived Gunther´s attempt to kill me once before. I can do it again!"

Finally the words hit home and Sherman released his hold on Vicky allowing her to gulp in huge mouthfuls of air.

"Brave words for a man in your position Starsky!" Sherman spun the chair round and wheeled it to face Starsky. "Lets see how much brave you really are, shall we?" This time Starsky saw the nod to Peters and was able to prepare himself for the blow to come. Even so, it still took his breath away as the whip once more bit hard into his back and side as it wrapped itself around him. The second blow was less of a shock but still as painful and by the fourth Starsky was struggling to remain conscious. His pride refused to let him cry out but inside his head he was screaming.

From across the room as she watched, Vicky continued to struggle with her bonds. Every time the whip struck she would close her eyes and every time she did so she could see Starskys face...Starsky holding her, Starsky kissing her, Starsky whispering in her ear and making love to her. Slowly and surely her memories of the man being beaten within an inch of his life were returning to her and it made the pain even harder to bear. Somehow she had to let him know!

"Dave!" Vicky´s voice reached him through the pain and he opened his eyes to look at her. For a brief moment their eyes locked, then Starsky jerked once more as the whip bit into his skin one last time and he lost the battle to stay fully conscious.

*******

At the same time across town Kathy went into the precinct building and made her way, unnoticed by those around her, up to the first floor. Standing before the front desk on her tiptoes her nose just came above the level of the desk.

"Excuse me." The quiet voice was lost in the general noise and hubbub that surrounded her. She tried again this time a little louder and the young female officer peered at her over her glasses. "I have to see someone. He said only to talk to him."

"Who did sweetie?" The officer asked softly, matching the girl´s voice. She took in the young urchin standing in front of her. Thin as a rake, she had probably not eaten for a few days, nor had she washed. The officer hated juvenile about as much as the other officers in the building but this was one child who looked like she needed them.

"The nice man with the curly hair He said only to talk to Tective Hutch." Kathy was beginning to feel uneasy in the presence of so many police and her voice wavered a little. "Is he here?"

"Well, tell you what honey. You go sit down over there and I´ll see if I can find him for you." The officer indicated a row of chairs against the far wall and Kathy ran to them sitting down in the corner as though trying to hide. Picking up the phone the woman called for someone from Juvenile to come to the front desk immediately. Five minutes later Sergeant Mitchell arrived from juvenile division. The female officer pointed to where the girl was sitting and watched as he walked slowly over.

"Hi honey. Mind if I sit down?" Kathy shook her head and continued to play with the ring she held in her hand. "What’s your name?"

"Kathy"." The girl answered wary of the huge man in front of her.

"Kathy what?" Sergeant Mitchell got up form the chair and knelt in front of her trying hard not to frighten her anymore than she already was.

"Don´t know." Kathy replied honestly.

"Where´s your mum and dad Kathy?"

Again the same honest reply, "Don´t know. Are you Tective Hutchinson?"

"No Kathy I´m not. My name is Sergeant Mitchell. Do you know Detective Hutchinson?"

Kathy shook her head. "No but he said to only talk to Tective Hutchinson."

"Who did Kathy?" Jim Mitchell leant closer.

"The nice curly man and the lady! He gave me something for him." Kathy held the ring out for the man to see and he looked at it sitting on her tiny hand.

Jim Mitchell turned slightly white and he leapt from his position as fast as he could.

"Jennie call Hutch! Get him down here fast!" The female officer looked astonished at him but seeing his face she did as she was asked.

The phone rang in Dobey´s office but it was Hutch who answered. He listened for a few seconds, then told the woman he would be right down. As he hung up the receiver Jenny and Dobey looked quizzically at him.

"Hutch, what´s wrong?" Jenny placed her hand on his arm.

"Jim Mitchell says there´s a ten year old kid downstairs with Starsky´s ring in her hand!"

"WHAT?" Dobey exploded to his feet. "Then what the hell are you still doing here?"

"I don’t now Cap." And with that Hutch was out of the door and on his way down the stairs before Jenny could react. She finally caught him up just as he reached the bottom. Together they ran the last few yards to the front desk where Jim Mitchell was waiting.

"I could be wrong Hutch, but it sure as hell looks like Starsky´s and she keeps saying she has to talk to you."

"Thanks Jim. Where is she?" Hutch followed the direction Mitchell pointed and saw the tiny child hiding in the corner blissfully playing with something shiny in her hand. Slowly he and Jenny walked towards her.

"Hello Kathy." Hutch kept his voice quiet, forcing himself to be calm.

"Hello." Kathy looked him over for a few seconds before asking him, "are you Tective Hutchinson?"

"Yes honey. I´m Detective Hutchinson. The officer over there said you wanted to talk to me."

Kathy took his hand and dropped the ring she had been playing with into it. "He said I had to give this to you. That way you would believe me."

Hutch turned the ring over and over in his hand, tears welling at the back of his eyes. Jenny looked questioningly at him and he nodded his head. "Its Starsky´s." Turning back to the child he gently pulled her onto his knee. "Where did you get this Kathy?"

"I told you. He gave it to me, the nice man with the curly hair. He said I was to give it only to you and you would believe me."

Pulling Starsky´s wallet from his back pocket Hutch held it for Kathy to see. "Is this the nice man with the curly hair?" He watched as Kathy squinted at the picture, holding his breath as she did so.

"He looks nicer in real life than he does in that picture but yes. That’s him. The lady called him Dave."

Hurriedly Jenny scrabbled through her bag pulling out another photograph for the girl to look at. It was one of Vicky and Dave taken just after they had got married. "Is this the lady Kathy?" Again they held their breath.

"Yes that’s her. She looks pretty there. Not like she does know. She’s been crying and the other man hurt her."

"Kathy. What did Dave say to you?"

"He said I was to come and get you. Tell you where he was. That’s why he gave me the ring so you´d believe me."

Captain Dobey, who up until now had been standing quietly listening, suddenly thought. "Kathy, if you could get out why couldn´t Dave and the lady?"

"They´re tied up. The lady is tied to a chair. I tried to undo her but I couldn´t, the knots were too tight. Dave...he´s..." Kathy stopped and closed her eyes not wanting to remember.

"Hutch´s heart sank. "Dave´s what honey?"

Kathy opened her eyes and looked straight at him. "Dave´s hurt. They hung him from the ceiling and I couldn´t get him down. Then they hit him with a whip." Kathy’s bottom lip began to tremble and Hutch pulled her close. His eyes met Dobey´s over the top of her head.

"Were gonna need some help Cap."

"You got it son. As soon as you’re ready." Dobey strode to the phone and within minutes a half a dozen cars were on standby.

"Kathy.." Hutch gently eased her away from his shoulder. "I want you to help me now honey. I want you to be very brave and take me where the bad men are holding my friend. Will you do that?"

The girl sniffed a couple of times and wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve. Then finally, as though she had made her decision, she nodded her head.

Ten minutes later the rescue party was underway. As they pulled away from the precinct Hutch allowed a mantra to softly play through his head.

...Please don’t let us be too late. Hang on Starsk, I´m coming as fast as I can.

*******

Gunther and Sherman were sat at the table quietly admiring the work of their colleague.

Vicky watched in horror as Peters began to attach small electric wires to Starsky´s body. He had ripped off what was left of the shirt and the bloody remnants lay on the ground beneath him.

"Billy...Please. This is madness. Stop it now before its too late. I´m begging of you PLEASE STOP IT!" Vicky pleaded with the man in front of her, but to no avail.

"I´ve waited so long for this. You have no idea." Gunther s voice reached her ears and she turned to look at him.

"Why? If you´re going to kill my husband then at least tell me what he did to you?"

"He destroyed me, child. That’s what he did. Him and his partner took away my business and my friends, took away my life. Then your husband took away the only thing I had left.. He took away my pride."

"HOW?" Vicky screamed at him.

"HE LIVED. He had so many bullets in him that he should have died. But somehow he lived. I´d failed, and I can´t take failure. I despise it!" Gunther sat back in his chair and watched as Peters finished his work. Walking towards the table, Peters placed a small black box in front of them.

"All set gentlemen. All you have to do is press this button." Peters touched a tiny red button on the box and a horrified Vicky saw Starsky´s body convulse, leaving it spinning slowly around from the hook. Fresh blood began to fall and it dripped down his arms and chest to be soaked up in the waistband of his jeans.

"Billy. I´ll go with you. Anywhere you want me too. I´ll do whatever you tell me too and I´ll never speak back to you if you´ll only stop this please!" Tears fell freely down Vicky´s face as she spoke.

Sherman laughed. "Sorry Vicky. You had your chance once before remember? You did this to me" He thumped his legs hard to emphasise the point. "Because of you I´m in this damn wheelchair while you and your wonderful cop husband walk around enjoying what we should have had. Sorry Vicky. The time for deals is over. The time for revenge is here. Peters, wake him up."

Peters picked up the water jug and threw it directly over Starsky. From the safe place where he had lost himself Starsky was dragged back to reality. The pain was increased a hundred fold and he wanted to be sick. Glancing upwards at his hands he could see they were both purple and had no feeling in at all. The right one was swollen and a small bone stuck out from it confirming what his ears had told him earlier. Looking around the room he could see all three of is tormentors watching him and he knew that the time had arrived. Hutch hadn´t made it! Vicky looked up at him tears falling freely down her cheeks. She mouthed the words I love you and he smiled softly at her.

Suddenly everything happened in a total blur. As if in slow motion Starsky registered the wires attached to his body and watched as both Sherman and Gunther reached for the red button pushing it down together. He felt the burning pain as the shock went pulsing through his body and the last thing he saw on this earth was Vicky´s face. Vicky screamed as the door broke down and Hutch, Dobey and a dozen officers poured into the room. Both Dobey and Hutch fired and Peters and Sherman lay dead. Gunther kept his finger on the button until Hutch grabbed it, twisting it up behind his back, hearing the tell tale click which told him he had gone too far and the arm had broken. Jenny raced in and knelt by Vicky´s side. Someone managed to make a knife appear and her ropes were quickly cut. Sobbing she fell into her best friend´s arms. Hutch and Dobey rushed to the now still form of Starsky in disbelief. One of the uniformed officers found the button for the pulley and he pressed it gently lowering Starsky to the floor. From somewhere they both heard the shout for a paramedic and suddenly the room was quiet as all eyes focused on Starsky.

All Hutch could recall whenever he was asked later on, was hearing the words. NO HEARTBEAT, NO PULSE! I THINK WE´VE LOST HIM!!

Part Two

Hutch’s heart sank like a broken elevator on its way to the ground floor. Vicky screamed and Jenny held her tightly, tears running down her face in torrents. Every officer in the room remained silent as they took in the scene around them in total disbelief.

"Wait, hold it a minute I´ve got something. Extremely weak and thready but I´ve got a pulse." The senior paramedic began to shout orders. "Adrenalin fast! Then get me an IV set up, we need to get some fluids back into him before his whole system closes down."

The paramedics worked in silent precision to stabilize the man lying on the floor in front of them. Dobey and Vicky prayed hard. Hutch felt as though he were watching the scene from a dream.

This couldn´t be happening...not again. Come on Starsk, hang on in there partner. Don´t you dare do this to me again!

"Okay, let´s get him to Memorial, double speed Jack." Together the paramedics loaded Starsky into the back of the ambulance. The elder one looked sympathetically at the people in front of him.

"We´ve got him and we aim to keep him, folks. Sorry but there´s no room for passengers on this trip. We need the room just in case." His unspoken words hung heavy in the air. "We´re taking him to memorial. You can follow us there." With that the man jumped into the back with his patient and slammed the doors. Within seconds the vehicle was racing against the clock.

"Move Hutch. I´ll deal with everything here." Dobey´s hand was on Hutch´s shoulder, squeezing gently.

Nodding his thanks Hutch grabbed Vicky and dragged her towards his car, Jenny following close behind. Opening the rear door he almost pushed the two inside before hurrying round to the drivers seat. In a matter of minutes they too were racing through the city streets on their way to Memorial hospital.

Throughout the journey, all the mornings events flashed repeatedly into Vicky´s brain and she wept silently on Jenny´s shoulder.

At the hospital Hutch paced, back and forth, while Vicky sat silently on a hard chair, her eyes burning holes in the floor in front of her.

"Come on Vick. Drink this." Jenny, placing an arm around her friend´s shoulders, gave her a steaming cup of coffee. Vicky shook her head, still staring at the floor.

"They almost killed him Jenny... They almost killed Dave in front my eyes."

"Come on Vicky Don't torture yourself this way!"

"Isn´t it funny? During the last days I couldn´t remember one thing of my life, but this memory, that I would forget more than any other memory in the whole world... I´m sure that this will remain engraved in my brain until the last day of my life..."

"No Vicky. Both of you will forget. Starsky and you...And all of us. I´m sure. Given time well do it." Hutch said.

"DAMNIT! Billy´s death has been too easy! He didn´t suffer... He and that other bastard deserved to rot in hell, suffering like they have made Dave suffer!" She shouted out  in a unexpected outburst

"THAT´S ENOUGH VICKY!!" Jenny interrupted her words "Billy deserves to rot in hell, and surely it’s what will be happening to him, but it´s not important right know. Listen to me Vick... Right now you must save your strength, and to think only of the most important thing. Dave. He´ll need you very much in the next few weeks. You´ll need to be strong for him, and for your baby. Nothing else matters any more."

"Jenny, maybe Dave...This time maybe he can´t do it! Just a couple of years ago he was so close to death already, and the doctors said that..."

"HE¨LL DO IT VICKY!! HE MUST DO IT!" Hutch stopped his pacing to stride over and grab her shoulders, roughly shaking them. Then he looked into her eyes before releasing his grip and allowing his hands to fall back to his side. "Sorry...Sorry Vicky. I´m worried and upset."

"It´s okay Hutch. I understand." Vicky whispered back.

Half an hour later Dobey came to the hospital. After asking about Starsky´s condition, a silence hovered over the little group, until Dobey rose from his chair.

"Listen Hutch. I have to leave because I have an appointment with the Attorney General, to talk with him about all of this. I, and the BCPD, we´ll have some heads for all of this. The head of Gunther´s parole officer, his lawyer, and even the head of that asshole Judge Collins for allowing Gunther back on the street. And as for that damned rat, Gunther. I want to kill him with my own hands! Luckily that nut Sherman is dead already!" The big man become flushed and began to lose his self-control.

"It's okay Cap, its okay. Try to calm down a little. Okay?" Hutch said softly placing a hand on Dobey shoulder, looking at Vicky from the corner of his eye.

"Sorry Hutch... I´ll return later." A little embarrassed Dobey nodded at Vicky and Jenny leaving the waiting room

Hutch, Vicky and Jenny spent the next hours without talking. Not one word would be useful to remove from their minds and hearts the worry, the fear and the sadness. They all were looking anxious and worried; especially Vicky who seemed that she could break down at any moment. Looking at the distraught girl sat down next him, Hutch rose from his chair, kneeling down in front of her and taking her hand quietly, he put Starsky´s silver ring in her palm, closing her little fist with his hands before heading towards the window.

*******

Almost four hours after they arrived at the hospital, Doctor Kellerman came out from the operating room. The doctor had a soft spot for Starsky, who he called His miracle patient, since Starsky´s long stay in the hospital two years ago, and right now he was truly worried for him. On seeing him all three rose from their chairs, and without preamble, just a brief greeting, a tired looking Kellerman sat down at a small table placed in a corner of the waiting room and began his explanations of Starsky´s condition.

"Well, Right now David is sleeping due to the analgesics, and over the next few days he´ll be pretty dozy. We will have to give him high doses of pain meds to help ease the pain. On the other hand, he’s being closely monitored. The good news is that he´s breathing on his own, just with a little help from the oxygen. His condition right now is reasonably stable, but his injuries are serious. I´ll not use medical terminology that´s difficult for you to understand. I´ll just tell you that electrical shock is something that can cause several complications like oedemas, septicaemia, renal or heart failure or even failure of several organs. All of these can unfortunately appear in the next few days. Mainly, we are very worried for his heart. After the considerable amount of blood lost today, and the cardio respiratory arrest that he suffered two years ago, right now we must be especially cautious of the risk of ventricular fibrillation.  As for the other injuries, he has several burns due to the electric current, his right wrist is broken, muscular strain in both shoulders, though luckily, the lack of circulation of his hands hasn´t caused any permanent damage. There are deep cuts on his back sides and wrists, and a broken rib, caused probably from a muscular contracture"

All of this was too much for Vicky, who began to see the room spinning around her and sat down sharply in the nearest chair.

"Vicky!" An anxious Hutch and Jenny spoke in one voice.

"Nurse, you can bring a glass of water?" Dr Kellerman looked at Vicky with sincere concern. "Mrs Starsky. Are you okay?"

"Y…yes just a little light headed."

"She´s pregnant, besides she suffered... well, an accident a week ago." Jenny said as the nurse gave the water glass to Vicky. She didn´t want tell Kellerman any more details.

"Oh, I understand. Mrs. Starsky, if you want we can find a room where you can get a little rest."

"No...No thanks, I´m fine...I just want to be with my husband."

"Mrs Starsky. When was the last time you had anything to eat?" Kellerman asked

"I... I don't know... But I can't ...."

"Take her to the canteen, get her something to eat. Later you can be with David. Okay?" The doctor asked looking at Jenny.

"No...I´m not..."Vicky tried to argue.

"Please, Mrs. Starsky. You´ll need all your strength...Humour me. Please."

"Come on Vick. let´s get something to eat." Jenny virtually carried Vicky to the canteen while Hutch kept speaking with Doctor Kellerman.

"What are the odds Doc?"

"Well. David is not out of the woods by a long way, but we are doing all in our power to help him. Besides, he is an extremely strong man. Look Ken, right now, we can only wait, look after him, and pray, I guess...Go on Ken. Go to him. But remember, he needs rest." On saying this, Doctor Kellerman left the waiting room.

A minute later Hutch went into Starsky´s ICU room and stood beside his bed, looking at the pale man lying on her side,  with two pillows  placed along his back, to prevent the pressure on the whip´s cuts, surrounded by leads, tubes and machines and hearing the familiar beep of the heart monitor.

"Hi Partner. Here we are. Again...I´m sorry, I´m so sorry Starsk. I couldn´t find you before... And thanks to this child, Kathy" Hutch´s hand went out to rest on his friend´s arm as the words stuck in his mouth. Only twice had he ever let Starsky down and both times had resulted in Starsky fighting for his life, hooked to so much life saving equipment. Dropping slowly into the chair at the side of the bed Hutch took a deep breath and swiped viciously with the back of his hand at the tears which were slowly falling down his cheeks.

"Vicky´s okay Starsk. Jenny took her to the canteen, Drs. orders, before she passed out on us, but she´s okay. She´s tired and she´s worried sick about you partner, so you have to hurry up and get out of here so she can stop thinking about you and start thinking about the baby." Hutch stopped talking for a moment as a small thin smile flickered across his face. "You´re gonna make the most wonderful Dad Starsk. Damn it you´re nothing short of a big kid yourself. You certainly won the heart of Kathy" Hutch paused again thinking of the small child who had helped him find Starsky. "Wonder what her parents were like, Starsk? What happened to them for her to be sleeping rough in that warehouse? Thank God she was though" Again Hutch stopped, his eyes on Starsky all the time. Had he felt something or was he just imagining it? "Starsky do that again, partner." Hutch´s voice became a little firmer. "Come on Gordo You can do it." Hutch watched Starsky´s fingers as they, almost imperceptively, closed around his own. Hutch´s smile grew to cover his whole face and he wished that Vicky would come in. "Well, glad to see your listening partner. Now how about opening those eyes for me and giving me a roasting for being too late" Hutch watched as Starsky frowned even though his eyes were closed and he appeared to be sleeping. Hutch knew the struggle that was going on behind the closed lids. He had been in the same position himself, too many times. Every fibre of your being ached to stay asleep while your unconscious mind battled to pull itself out of the fuzziness surrounding it and open your eyes knowing that your partner needed to see you. The pull of their friendship was so strong that Hutch knew it wouldn´t be long before those eyes opened.

"Want to know what happened to Kathy, Starsk?" Hutch paused silently putting his partners words in place.

You know I do Hutch and it better be good...

"Well, Sergeant Mitchell took her home for a couple of days. He doesn´t normally but, well, I guess he thought she looked like she needed a little loving. He´s trying to find out what happened to her parents but it doesn´t look good at the moment. His wife Suzie, she´s a good sort Starsk. The poor kid will have a lot of loving while she’s with them anyway." Again Hutch waited before continuing. "You certainly made an impact on her Starsky. Know what she kept calling you? The curly haired man with the nice smile. That´s a pretty good description if you ask me, partner." Hutch´s voice dropped again and his heart slowed a little.

"I´d give anything to see that smile right now Starsk! I promised her you´d give her a ride in that tomato of yours when you were out of here. Not gonna make me break a promise are you partner?" Hutch got up and walked across to the window, looking out with unseeing eyes.

"I´m sorry Starsk," his voice was nothing more than a whisper now, "I wasn´t fast enough. I fell for the oldest trick in the book when I was supposed to be looking after you, and then I couldn´t even find you in time. I´m so sorry!"

"N-nothing to be s-sorry for Hutch. You came in the end a-and that´s all that matters." The voice was soft and weary but none the less more welcome to hear. Hutch spun around to look at the bed. Starsky was looking at him through eyes that were barely open and his left hand was held out asking him to come back. Hutch was across the room in two strides and his hand clamped shut around that of his partner´s as though his very life depended on it. Tears once more began to fall down his cheeks but this time they were tears of joy.

"Hi Starsk. Had a good sleep?" Hutch whispered as though it was a dream and he was afraid to break the spell.

Starsky snorted, then spoke. "Hurts Hutch, e-everything hurts."

"I know Starsk. The doc says he can give you something for that."

"W-what happened To Gunther, Sherman and that other guy?" Starsky´s eyelids closed once more and his voice was a mere whisper. Hutch thought he had never heard his friend sound so defeated.

"Sherman and Peters are dead Starsk. Dobey and I shot them. Gunther´s back in prison, where he belongs. He thinks he won. Nothing is gonna give me more pleasure than to let him know he lost again!! Get some rest now Starsk. Vicky will be here in a minute. Then I´ve got an appointment at LA County Jail. I´ll be back as soon as I can."

Starsky nodded just once as he drifted back off in to a pain wracked sleep. The door opened slowly and Vicky and Jenny returned. Hutch rose from the seat and gave it to Vicky. "He´s been awake V, just for a few minutes. Right now he needs to sleep. Stay with him, huh? Talk to him. Tell him what´s in here." Hutch put his hand on Vicky´s heart for a brief moment. " I´ll be back in a couple of hours to take you home for a rest, but for now you can help him by loving him." Hutch looked directly into her eyes, his expression questioning.

"It´ll take me more than a couple of hours to tell him all that´s in here Hutch." Vicky´s eyes were on the bed and the still form of her husband. "Go Hutch, do what you have to do. I´m not going anywhere." She forced a smile to her face as she looked at Hutch. "You go too Jenny. I want to be alone with Dave." She saw the other woman start to argue. "Please Jenny. I need to be on my own. There are things I have to say that are for Dave´s ears only even if he doesn´t remember me saying them later on. Go home and rest. I´ll need your strength later." Jenny nodded and, slipping an arm through Hutch´s, the two left together.

*******

During all the time in which Hutch, Dobey and the other police officers spent inside the warehouse, Kathy had remained hidden behind a patrol car, looking scared at the entrance of the police, and minutes later at a couple of officers taking Gunther into a patrol car, the paramedics entering and coming out a few minutes later with the curly haired man on a stretcher, the lady, and another blond lady with her and Hutch. Finally a police officer named Evans approached towards the child.

"Come on honey. Come with me." Evans said bending towards Kathy, smiling friendly and stretching his hand towards the scared child.

"Whe...where we go? Am I under arrest?"

"Oh, no! No honey. You have nothing to be scared of. You´ve been a very brave girl, and now I must take you to the precinct again, but you´re not under arrest."

"How is the curly haired man doing?...And the lady?"

"Oh, well. They´ll both be fine, Kathy. Don't worry." Evans answered with a false optimism, taking the child towards his patrol car. During the ride to the precinct Kathy remained silent, answering Evans words and questions, with some a monosyllable or shaking and nodding her head. Obviously she wouldn´t be much help to discover why so young a girl was wandering around the streets instead of being in her own house or the school.

Meantime Jim Mitchell made some calls, trying to find some information on Kathy. The girl hadn´t fled from any orphanage and nobody had reported her disappearance. He made a call to his wife too, explaining briefly something of the situation.

"Alright, Jim. Bring the child home. Maybe here you´ll get some information from her."

"Thanks, Suzie. Really, Kathy needs some love...And a good meal too, by the way. Oh! Talk with Alex about this please. I love you Suzie." Mitchell hung up the receiver thinking with a shiver what would have happened to Starsky if Kathy had not been in the wrong place at the right time.

Kathy spent a while at the precinct, spoilt by Minnie, Jennie and Mitchell who gave the child a couple of candy bars and a can of coke.

A couple of hours later, when he finished his working day, Jim Mitchell and Kathy arrived at his house. Suzie was in the kitchen fixing a delicious dinner, and Alex, their nine year old son was in the living room watching cartoons on TV. On seeing his father he rushed towards him. Mitchell lifted the boy in his arms, kissing him.

"Hi son. Where´s mom?"

"In the kitchen." But at that moment Suzie came into the living room. The couple kissed briefly and Mitchell introduced Kathy to his family.

"Suzie, Alex. This is Kathy. She has been a very brave girl today helping us to find a kidnapped and wounded detective and, if you agree, she will spend a few days with us." Mitchell said looking at his son.

"Wow! You did that? Tell me how you did it? Who was the detective? Did you see the kidnappers? Were they armed?" Alex was asking all these questions, as Kathy remained in silence, half-hidden behind Jim.

"Hey...Hey Alex. Give Kathy a break okay? Both of you will have lots of time to talk later. First she will come with me to take a warm bath and dress in some warm pyjamas before dinner. Okay Kathy?" Suzie asked. The little girl nodded shyly, taking the hand that Mitchell´s wife held towards her.

After her bath the child simply seemed to be a different person. Her long brown hair was shining, and, dressed in a pair of Alex pyjamas, she seemed again the little girl that she really was.

During dinner, Kathy voraciously ate a big plate of roasted chicken, peas, carrots and mash potatoes, accompanied by a big glass of milk knowing scarcely how to use the cutlery. While Mitchell and his family still had food on their plates, the child had finished hers and was looking eagerly at the remaining food in the serving dish.

"Would you like to eat some more honey?" Suzie asked

"Y...Yes...Please."

"Sure Kathy. You can eat as much as you want."

After two full plates of food, two glasses of milk, and while the child was eating a generous portion of chocolate cake Jim Mitchell tried again to find out something more on the mysterious little girl.

"Kathy. Honey. I asked you before where your parents are, and though you told me that you don´t know I´d like you to try to remember."

"Why?"

"Well, because I'm sure that they must be very worried about you."

"Oh, not. I don't think so."

"Why  Kathy. Tell me why."

"You´ll take me to jail if I tell you?" Asked Kathy mistrustingly.

"No, honey. Of course not."

"My grandma says that I´m a bad girl and the police will take me to jail... And you are a cop. Right?"

"Yeah Kathy. I´m a cop. But you aren´t a bad girl. You helped Dave, and you´re a good, kind girl." The child showed a toothless smile and become serious again before answering

"My mom is dead. Dad killed her."

"WHAT??" Mitchell almost was choked on a sip of coffee.

"I didn´t want to tell you because I don’t want go to jail.... But you seem a good guy." Kathy paused some seconds before speaking again. "My dad killed my mom a long time ago, and since then, I live with my grandma...But she doesn´t love me. She spends all day drunk, and she...She and Joe...They beat me... I don't want to go back to them, please ... Please Jim... I don't want to go back there. I want to stay here!!" Kathy begged crying disconsolately, winding her thin arms around Mitchell´s neck.

*******

Sitting down besides Starsky´s bed, and caressing his silver ring placed now on one of her own fingers, Vicky felt the tears wanting to escape from her eyes and her mind was fighting to take away the images of the atrocious nightmare lived hours before. She had recovered the beautiful memories of her relationship with Dave and the young woman was seizing on them as only way to fight against the horror that was striking her soul over and over. The first time she met Starsky in her house, the first Thanksgiving Day together, the first Christmas, their wonderful wedding day, and honeymoon in Hawaii.

It was a physical effort to keep away the memories of the whip´s crack against  Starsky´s back, the sound of his shouts in pain, the vision of his blood pouring from his body convulsed in agony...And the only thing really useful to keep away all those awful images was to think of her baby...Starsky´s baby.

"Dave, sweetheart, we are here." Vicky took Starsky´s hand, caressing lovingly his hair. "Me and our baby, and we will be here with you until we can to return to our house together... Dave, I remembered, I remember you, I remember all our moments together...And there is something that I want you to know. Even when I couldn´t remember you, I loved you Dave. I love you and our baby too. Now I just need that you get better"

"Vicky" Starsky said in a weak whisper, with his eyes just half-open. She rose from the chair approaching him with her eyes tarnished by tears.

"Take it easy lover. I´m here Are you in much pain?"

"Vicky...Are you okay?"

"I´m fine, Dave. Don't worry.

Vicky, You need rest. Go home."

"No Dave. I´m not going anywhere. I just want to be here with you."

"I...I´m sorry Vicky. I´d never wanted you to see anything like that"

"Dave, my sweetheart, It wasn´t your fault... It´s all over. Now just rest. I´ll be here with you." Vicky moistened a tissue to ease the dryness of his lips and she kissed his forehead as he was falling again in a heavy stupor loaded with pain, while a nurse entered to put another dose of analgesic in his IV.

She spent a long while looking at the sleeping man lying on the bed and trying to escape the hard reality that was wrapping around them, looking for a little hope in the deepest regions of her heart.

*******

Before going to LA County Jail, Hutch took Jenny to her house. All the way there a deep silence invaded the car. Hutch kept his eyes fixed on the highway and Jenny was looking absently across the window, until low sobs broke the silence. Hutch stopped the car on the verge and put a comforting hand on Jenny´s shoulder.

"Come on Jenny. Don't break down now. You´re a brave woman, and now it's over."

Jenny turned, her body rushing into his arms.

"NO!! Its not all over Hutch, and you know it, the pain, the fear, the nightmares for Vicky and David, they have just begun...God in Heaven Hutch! They were so happy... And now"

"Now they will fight to be happy again and they will make it Jenny."

"You seem very sure of it Hutch."

"I don´t have any other choice. Besides, I know Starsky. He´s the strongest man I know, and right now he has two good reasons to look forward." Hutch said with the shadow of a smile on his lips.

"Sorry Hutch. I´m afraid I´m acting like a scared child, but what I saw today in that warehouse...So much horror...I know that you told me not to go in....but"

"Jenny. You have nothing to be sorry about." Jenny was still between Hutch´s warm arms. As he was taking a lock of her blond hair from her face, the girl approached her lips towards his and both were fused in a fierce kiss as if in each others arms was the only safe place to fly from all the anguish. Finally, both released their embrace.

"Sorry Hutch. But I needed it and you too... I guess."

"Never mind Jenny. Don't think anymore about it, okay?" Hutch started the car and the rest of the journey to Jenny´s place was made in silence. This was not the right moment to think about it, but in spite all of their ideas to be just good friends, obviously between Jenny and Hutch, a strong feeling was growing up. And both knew it.

*******

A while later Hutch entered the prison and soon he was in front of Gunther, looking coldly at the old man, who was in a bed of the prison’s sick bay, with his broken arm plastered.

"I am not going to waste more time with you than strictly necessary to give you some news Gunther."

"I know, I know Hutchinson...You want to tell me that your damned friend Starsky is dead, and that you´ll take revenge... Let me tell you something detective. There is no way that you can do me even the least hurt, and you know it... I only have a few months of life in front of me. Soon I´ll be dead... and you are too good a cop to kill me right now... No Hutchinson. I`ll die, but until that day comes I´ll fall asleep every night seeing in my mind over and over the delicious images of your friend, hanging as a piece of meat and squirming from the pain until he died." Hutch closed his eyes tightly for a second, fighting against the painful image drawn in his mind. Then he spoke again.

"No Gunther. Wrong answer...Starsky is alive. He´ll live to see his baby growing up until it becomes a good man or woman. An honest, loyal and good person like him, while you´ll lie under six feet of dirty ground with the worms devouring your rotten heart..." At that moment Gunther became pale and his evil smile disappeared from his lips.

"What´s the matter Gunther?...You didn´t know ? In a few months Starsky and his wife will have a baby. Though surely by then you´ll be dead already...YOU FAILED GUNTHER. AGAIN! AND THIS WAS YOUR LAST CHANCE BEFORE GOING TO HELL WITH YOUR DAMNED FRIENDS! BECAUSE YOU´LL BE HERE IN AN ISOLATION CELL WITH NO VISITORS OR PHONE CALLS, WITH NO CHANCE TO GO OUT OF HERE UNTIL YOUR DYING DAY!!" Hutch shouted out.

"The doctors say that you´ll die due to cancer, but they´re all wrong Gunther." Hutch added in a calmer tone, his face only a few inches in front Gunther´s face. "It´s not cancer that will devour your body to finish your life....What´s eating your entrails is hatred. Hatred and evilness!" After those words, the blond detective, feeling more tired than ever, simply left the jail heading back to the hospital.

*******

Vicky fell down asleep in an uncomfortable chair, overwhelmed by exhaustion, until Starsky, tossing and turning in his bed, woke her sharply. The line on the screen of the heart monitor was jumping erratically and under his eyelids his eyes were moving quickly, while from his lips, weak blurred words were escaping.

"No!...P...Please...No...Help...Help me".

"Dave!...OH GOD! Dave, wake up!!...Wake up honey." Vicky, very scared, managed to hold him in her arms as she pushed the button to call for a nurse.

"Shhht, sweetheart, wake up. Davy, wake up. It´s just a nightmare. PLEASE WAKE UP!!" Vicky said desperately plunging her face into his curls. But Starsky was prisoner in some kind of agonizing nightmare, upset and waving his arms, pulling the IV from his arm in spite of Vicky´s efforts to hold him. A thin thread of blood began to flow from his arm staining the sheets and Vicky´s hands.

Hutch was coming out from the lift when he saw two nurses and Doctor Kellerman running towards Starsky´s room. After what seemed hours but were just seconds, they rushed into the room followed by a scared Hutch

One of the nurses gently but firmly pulled Vicky away from the bedside and she fell into Hutch´s arms. They closed around her as though trying to protect her from the scene in front of them. Dr Kellerman was quickly but efficiently checking his patient from top to bottom, all the time giving orders to the two nurses with him, who busied themselves doing as they were asked. Both knew the history of this particular patient and they were determined to help in every possible way. Hutch and Vicky watched as different fluids were pumped in to the I.V and Dr Kellerman administered an injection. Slowly they could see Starsky begin to calm, until at last he was lying quite once more, his breathing slightly fast but not causing too much concern. Finally the Dr looked at them.

"Everything´s okay know Mrs.  Starsky. Some kind of reaction to the medicines he´s been given but we´ve sorted it out now and he should be fine. Let him sleep. It´s the best medicine of all. His mind needs time to heal almost as much as his body."

"What´s that supposed to mean Doc?" Hutch´s voice was tired and clipped from hours of no sleep and worry.

"What Dave went through no person should ever have to go through Hutch." The Doctor´s voice was gentle and calm, understanding the tone used to him. "The human mind has a way of protecting itself under such circumstances. You could compare it to Vietnam vets and those from Korea, WW1, WW2 or any other damn war this country has ever sent i´ts young men to fight in. It´s a survival instinct if you like. While were awake we shut out what we don´t want to see or remember in order to get from day to day and our bodies work almost as though programmed. Sometimes its the only way we can stop from going insane. At night though, or when were asleep sometimes those memories fight to return and you both saw the results with Dave. He was in Nam wasn´t he Hutch?" Hutch nodded " I bet he’s never really talked to you about it though. He´s had plenty of practise at shutting things out and this time is no different. Trouble is, if he´s ever going to move forward from what happened he´s going to have to face it sooner or later...preferably sooner." Kellerman paused for a moment before continuing in a soft voice. "Why don´t you both get some rest. Dave will sleep for the rest of the night and the both of you look like you need it. I´ll get the nurses to set you up a couple of beds in the next room just for tonight. That way you´ll both be close to Dave."

Hutch looked at Vicky. He could see how close to collapse she was.

"Okay Doc, thanks. Wed appreciate that. Come on Vicky,  lets give sleeping beauty here some peace and get some sleep." Vicky was about to object but Hutch cut her off. " If not for you, then for Kenneth junior in there." Hutch pointed to Vicky´s stomach and she quickly placed her hand on it. "Starsk would want you to do what was best for both of you."

Vicky allowed Hutch to lead her from the room, but not before she gently kissed Starsky´s forehead. "I won´t be far away Dave. Our baby needs his Mum to keep her strength up for both of you." She gently smoothed Starsky´s curls before returning to Hutch.

In the next room the nurses quickly made up the beds. "Its not the Ritz I´m afraid, but it should be comfortable enough. There´s a small kitchen behind the nurses station, you can make yourself some coffee if you want it. Canteen opens at seven for breakfast....I wouldn’t recommend the scrambled eggs though, stick to the grapefruit and cereals if you care about your stomachs." The nurse who had spoken smiled at them both before leaving them. Vicky waited until she and Hutch were alone before collapsing on the bed, tears streaming down her face. Hutch immediately went to her side and held her close.

"Hey come on. It´s gonna be okay. No more tears. Starsky wouldn´t want that...he hates soapy scenes." He fumbled in his pocket for a few seconds before finding a clean handkerchief, which he gave to the vulnerable woman.

Vicky wiped her face and swallowed the tears that were still threatening to fall.

"I...I thought... Oh God Hutch! When will this all end?"

"I know what you thought Vicky, but there´s something you should know about the man you married. Starsky is one of the most pigheaded men you´ll ever meet. He isn´t about to go anywhere he doesn´t want to go" Hutch paused. "Starsky loves you too much to just give up Vicky. He´ll fight with every ounce of fibre he has to come back whole... and he´ll succeed. Believe me I´ve seen it before. They gave him up once before and he proved them were wrong, he´ll do it again. No way is Starsk gonna let Gunther win. You just remember that, whatever happens and however long it takes, you remember that."

Hutch´s voice had become firm and strong and Vicky looked directly at him for the first time that evening.

"This must be hard for you Hutch. You’ve been here before haven´t you?" She watched as Hutch nodded slightly before dropping on to the second bed.

"How did you get through it Hutch? I want to believe it will all be okay but when I look at him lying there... I cant. What makes you both want to be cops when you have to lay your lives on the line all the time?"

Hutch looked at Vicky as he thought how to answer her questions.

"What makes us want to be cops? That’s a hard one Vicky. For me it was a need to do something that I felt was right. Something that I could be good at and hopefully do some good at the same time. For Starsky it was more. It was a dream. Had been since he was a kid. He saw his Dad killed in front of him and still it couldn´t alter his dream. He just wanted to be the best cop there could be for his Dad to be proud of. He would be too! I´m positive of that! And somewhere along the road, just occasionally, everything becomes worthwhile. What you do makes a difference in a way that matters. Little Kathy for instance. If this all had to happen, then at least that poor little kid is going to get a chance in life because of it." Hutch turned to look out of the small window at the city lights below. "And Yeah! I´ve been here before. A couple of times." Hutch heard the slight intake of breath and turned to look at Vicky again. "The first time we came this close, another guy with a grudge paid a low life name of Bellamy to poison Starsk. He gave us twenty-four hours and they were both the longest and shortest twenty-four hours I´ve ever lived. By the time we found out it was Bellamy Starsk was hurting so bad he could hardly stand but he insisted on coming with me. I carried him up three flights of stairs before leaving him in Bellamy´s apartment." Hutch´s eyes clouded over as he fought against the bad memories being dredged up. "Bellamy had run for the roof so I followed and that´s when I realised I was defenceless. I couldn´t do a damn thing without condemning Starsky to death. Bellamy had me bang to rights and I couldn´t do a thing! The next thing I heard was Starsky´s Beretta and Bellamy was dead. Somehow Starsky had dragged himself up the last flight of stairs and he used the last ounce of his strength to save me. When I asked him why, he just whispered seemed like a good idea at the time. Then he dropped to the floor in my arms." Hutch paused again and swallowed hard. "He fought like crazy that time too. By the time I figured it all out we had minutes to spare. but he hung on. As for the last time...well that was just too close. Starsky died, right there in the hospital, and I´ve never felt so lost or helpless in my life. God knows how they got him back, but they did and I thank God for it every day of my life. That was only the beginning of it all though Vicky. You should have seen how he had to fight to come back. Every time they told him to ease up, that he wouldn´t make it, that he wouldn´t be a cop any more he fought back harder than ever until he proved them all wrong. I watched him drag himself out of bed in the mornings and fall back in to it at night totally exhausted but just as totally determined. Every little bit of progress he made cost him so much in pain but still he kept on until he finally made it. It was a privilege to be there with him, watching it, being a part of it. This time it will be you to help him, Vicky. You’ll have to be firm, strong, thick skinned when he curses you but most of all you´ll have to just be there, loving him and giving him the strength to keep on. He´ll make it if he can rely on that, if he can use your strength and your loving." Hutch moved to sit beside her. "How about it Vicky? Do you think you´re strong enough? Do you love him that much? It will take every ounce of strength you have and more, but it will be worth it in the end. Starsky loves you and he doesn´t give his love lightly, it has to be earned. That’s what helps make it so special I guess because once you´ve got it its yours, for ever and ever."

Vicky turned her face to Hutch and finally he could see a spark of determination in her eyes. "I love him that much Hutch. I never though it was possible to feel about anyone like I do about Dave, but I do. I think I have the strength but if I falter a little, then you´ll be there for me. I know that much. Thank you for being here with me right now." She paused a second. "Dave will make it because this time he has both of us...Right?"

Hutch, tears in his eyes, nodded. "Right now let´s both get some rest. We´re gonna need it in the days to come". Hutch kissed Vicky softly on the cheek before returning to his bed and lying down on it.

Before falling into a long overdue and much needed sleep, he silently thanked whoever watched over his partner for bringing this young woman into his life.

Vicky lay on the bed listening to Hutch breathing softly and she thought of her husband lying in the bed in the next room. Putting her hand on her stomach she quietly whispered. "Hi little one. Your Daddy and I love you and we may not be the best parents in the world but we intend to have a damn good go at it. And somehow I think that if we make a mess of it, then you´ll have Uncle Hutch and Auntie Jenny to stick up for you. When you´re grown a little and old enough to understand, then I´m going to make sure that you know what a very special guy your daddy is." With that Vicky too slipped away in to a restful sleep.

Some hours later, still at night, Hutch woke to find that Vicky wasn´t there. Getting up from his bed he headed towards Starsky´s room to find his friend sleeping peacefully, while Vicky was covering him lovingly with another blanket. During this demonstration of tenderness towards his best friend, Hutch spent some seconds in the door simply listening to Vicky´s soothing words trying to swallow a lump in his throat.

"Now you´ll be more comfortable, and you´ll not feel cold...Sleep, my sweetheart. I´m here and no nightmare can scare you." Vicky sat down in her chair fingering Starsky´s hair. Then, she noticed Hutch´s presence in the room

"Sorry Hutch, I didn´t want to wake you. It's just that I couldn´t sleep. I wanted to be here; I don't want him to be alone when he wakes up...The nightmares might return."

"It´s okay Vicky. I couldn´t sleep either... And I wanted to be with Starsk too." Hutch answered with a tired smile. They spent some minutes in silence until Hutch, rising from his chair and heading towards the window, spoke.

"At last, its dawn"

"A pretty long night uh?" Vicky answered, rubbing the back of her neck tiredly. "Do you know what day it is today Hutch?"

He nodded "May 15th. Two years ago Gunther shot Starsky. My God! It seems a macabre joke!"

"But it’s real...Too real."

"Come on, Vicky. You´re doing fine." Hutch approached towards her, squeezing her shoulder gently. "And now I´ll take you home to have some rest. Okay?"

"No, Hutch. I want to be here when Dave wakes up." At that moment, Starsky, opening his eyes, began to move slightly on the bed with a low groan. Quickly Vicky bent towards him, taking his hand.

"Hey, lover. I´m here and Hutch is here too...How are you feeling?" Starsky´s unexpected answer surprised them both.

"I´ll feel much better if both of you leave me alone and you try to live a normal life!"

"Starsk..."

"Not Hutch. Don't say anything. You have to go to work. And you Vicky, you need rest."

"Dave..."

Starsky looked fixedly into Vicky´s eyes, with such a look that she had never seen before. "Vicky. Please leave me alone...Please. I need it." After these words he turned, carefully and painfully, in his bed, his back to both of them.

Vicky wanted to say something, but Hutch softly took her arm, shaking his head almost imperceptively. "We´ll return later Starsk."

Vicky gently kissed his cheek and both left the room

"Why Hutch Why does he wants us to leave?"

"Vicky try not to worry...I know Starsky, and I can picture what he’s thinking about right now...He hates hospitals, and hates to cause worry to people he loves. He knows, that this time, his way back to normality won´t be easy either. He´s scared, and at times he reacts like this under pressure...Come on Vicky. Go home and rest a little. Later we´ll come back to be with him. Maybe then he´ll feel a little better." Neither saw that, as both were leaving the room, a silent tear was slipping down the Starsky´s cheek onto the pillow.

*******

When Vicky returned to her house it seemed to her the most inhospitable and lonely place in the world. The last time she was there was the morning she went to work...awhile later the surgery had blown up and, since then, the last few days were an apparently interminable succession of horrors.

"Dad is scared and sad, and I don't know how I can help him. Or even if I´ll be able to do it. What can I do my child...What can I do?" Vicky lied exhausted on her bed, caressing her abdomen and talking to her baby, letting the tears run freely down her cheeks until she fell into an unsettled sleep filled with nightmares.

Some hours later Vicky was back at Starsky´s bedside.

"Hi Honey." she said, kissing him. Starsky was awake but simply greeted his wife with the mearest nod of his head.

He spent most of the day sleeping and, in the times he was awake, scarcely wanted to speak. He was obviously in pain, though he never mentioned it. At the same time he didn´t mention what the day was, and of course neither Vicky nor Hutch mentioned it either. Both supposed that Starsky remembered the date perfectly well.

Two days later Dr Kellerman removed the oxygen and the IV and Starsky was moved to a normal room. That day, as a first lunch, a nurse brought him a bowl of soup and another one of jelly. His bandaged hands prevented him from taking the spoon, and Vicky helped him to eat, but it only served to increase his bad temper and he scarcely ate any of his food.

The next days in the hospital were full of painful treatment to his injured back and wrists, and tests to his heart, while Starsky continued in stubborn silence showing the same strange demeanour towards Vicky and Hutch. She spent all her time taking care of him with a moving love, and every day became more exhausted, depressed and even visibly losing weight, without a minute for herself. In fact Jenny and Hutch were forcing her to eat and rest a little, and to keep the appointments with her doctors to check the possible effects of her amnesia, and her pregnancy.

At no time did Starsky speak about all the fears and memories that still were nesting in his mind, nor about the nightmares that were invading his nights, and all efforts to help him were useless.

Vicky refused firmly to leave the hospital at nights, and finally Kellerman had have a bed placed in Starsky´s room for her, so frequently was her sleep ending sharply whenever a nightmare woke Starsky in spite of the sleeping pills. Then Vicky too was abruptly woken up, to take him between her arms, whispering soft words, until he slept again.

The days though were very different. Then, the only thing that Vicky and Hutch got to see was an increasingly silent and bad tempered Starsky.

At the same time, outside the hospitals walls, life was going on

Jim Mitchell didn´t need a lot of time to find out some things about little Kathy. Her father was a drug dealer and addict called Mark Harris, who had killed her mother four years ago when Kathy was just six years old. When he entered prison the child went to live with her grandmother and her second husband, but neither of the two had sufficient patience and love to take care of Kathy. They only knew how to get drunk and do some dirty work to survive. Beatings were something usual in the life of the unhappy little girl. One day she fled, and her grandmother didn´t report her disappearance, and didn´t do anything to find her either. Kathy spent a couple of days wandering around the city until finding a fairly comfortable place to sleep in the warehouse where she found Vicky and Starsky.

Juvenile denounced her grandmother for negligence in the care of the child and knew if they were returned Kathy to her house they would be condemning her to a life of misery, delinquency and despair. Mitchell knew it too. So now he had to find a solution for the child´s future. She spent some days in the Mitchell´s place and, during this short time, the child was happier than ever before. At same time Jim and his family were becoming more fond of her, even thinking of the possibility of getting custody or maybe adoption at the right moment. But the way up to this would be hard and long.

As for Jenny and Hutch, one day, going out from the hospital they had no alternative but to face their feelings. One afternoon when Hutch took Jenny to her house, he finally went straight into the matter.

"We should talk Jenny. Can I come in?"

"Sure Hutch. What´s the matter?" Jenny asked opening her front door, and scratching Samson’s head, who was in her house again until Vicky and Starsky returned home.

"Jenny, I´m not sure how to tell this. I mean, how to speak on my...On our feelings."

"No, Hutch. Please. We´ve spoken about this before." She answered, staring into his eyes.

"I know Jenny. But something is happening between us, and you know it as well I do."

"We´re friends, Hutch. That was the deal"

"Jenny. In the last weeks I keep thinking of you. I know. I´m talking like some teenager here. But it´s the truth." Hutch surrounded Jenny with his arms. "Jenny, can you really say that you aren´t feeling the same thing?"

"No Hutch I can't. I wish I could, but I can't."

"Do you think that it will be a mistake?"

"Yes...And I´m scared."

"You! Scared! Come on Jenny. You are the bravest woman I know"

"But..."

"But at times we must take some risks Don't you think so Jenny?"

"Right now, I´m afraid I´m not capable of thinking anything Hutch..." Jenny kissed Hutch, shyly at first, then, passionately.

From that moment no more words were needed. Both had lived in the past through some disastrous relationships. Both were friends and both were scared of breaking a beautiful friendship but, simply, such strong feelings couldn´t remain hidden any longer

*******

The following days were a mass of confusion and anger for Starsky An uncontrollable anger against the fate, which was striking him and the people he loved without mercy over and over.

He was becoming more distant with Vicky and Hutch, knowing that it was hurting them, but not knowing know how to stop it. In those days, even he didn´t know himself any more. He was deeply sad, seeing what was normally a happy time for any other newly married couple, for them was just a time of pain, fear and confusion. His mind began to feed the idea that he couldn´t protect Vicky from the risk of possible future dangers, nor make her happy in spite of the love they were felt for each other. He began to think that maybe Vicky, that wonderful woman whom he loved with all of his heart, would be happier and safer without him.

Nevertheless, his physical injuries were healing nicely and, two weeks later after a hard recovery, finally Starsky was ready to leave the hospital.

The day before, Dr Kellerman, spoke with Vicky and Hutch about his condition.

"David will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow morning. Fortunately, he hasn’t suffered any complications that could have been very serious and the wounds in his back and wrists have recovered well. Nevertheless, his emotional condition worries me, though I suppose you they have noticed it already...David is not a fool and he knows that a return to work will be difficult. Besides, he has still nightmares, and fears. In short: He´s breaking down, and the worst thing is that he refuses over and over to see a psychologist...And in spite of all your good intentions, I´m afraid that maybe only a professional could help him."

*******

The next morning Starsky left the hospital. Vicky fervently wanted to believe that returning to the familiar and calm environment of their home, her love and care, would help him in his recovery, and that if they were together nothing would prevent  their life to becoming happy again. But she knew that the way would be very hard

*******

Silent days, cold monosyllabics as answer, lonely nights in which, though Vicky and Starsky were sleeping in the same bed, the embraces and tenderness they had disappeared. His shouts in the night, due to some frightful nightmare Attempts and more attempts to get through to him, his anguish, his fears... It was everything that was filling Vicky's life since the day Starsky returned home.

A week on and it was almost teatime when Jenny arrived at the house to find Vicky standing at the window staring out. She moved to stand at her friend´s side and looked out to see Starsky sitting cross-legged on the floor underneath the shade of an apple tree gently stroking Samson´s head as the big dog laid with its head on his knee.

"Dave is worse with every passing day... I thought that I could help him, but it seems I was totally wrong...I love him but I don´t know what to do...Its as if just my presence, or even Hutch´s, bothers him At times he’s so rude to me..."Vicky complained bitterly "I´ve even begun to think that maybe he doesn´t love me any more. Look at him. He´s been out there since this morning Jen. He refuses to eat, to come in or take his painkillers. I´ve tried everything I know but I can´t get through to him." Vicky´s voice was filled with emotion and she turned to look at her friend. "He’s barely spoken two words to me and if I try to help him he cuts me off cold. It’s like I´m married to a total stranger, I don´t know him anymore Jenny."

Gently the blond moved her friend away from the window to the couch and made her sit down. Moving to the kitchen she poured a cup of strong sweet coffee and put it into her friend´s hands.

"Drink it" Jenny watched as Vicky slowly sipped the liquid, forcing each mouthful down. "Vicky, you´re exhausted. You have to rest or you´ll make yourself ill and then you´ll be no good to Dave or your baby. I want you to go and lie down for a while, I´ll keep an eye on everything here."

Despite Vicky´s protests Jenny remained firm and eventually succeeded in getting her friend to go and lie down with a promise to call her if she were needed.

Once she had Vicky settled Jenny set about making some fresh coffee and warming up a pizza before taking both outside to Starsky. Without a word she sat down next to the still, silent figure and lay the tray between them. Picking up a piece of the pizza she began to eat, all the time watching Starsky without it being obvious. Swilling her food down with her coffee she then wrapped her arms around her knees

"The rest is for you. You don´t have to talk if you don’t want to Dave, but you do have to eat. It´s not fair on Vicky if you make yourself ill again. She´s got enough to worry about with the baby." For the first time Jenny looked directly at the man sitting next to her.

"Stop shutting us out Dave, all anyone wants to do is help. Surely you can see that."

For a moment Starsky just looked at the girl who had dared to invade his privacy. Then he picked up a piece of the pizza and broke it into pieces, which he fed to the dog.

"The only help I need is to be left alone, so why don´t you go away before I make you!"

Jenny finally lost her temper. "My, my, Starsky. Threatening me are you? And what do you think Hutch would have to say about that if he knew? You are unbelievable do you know that? Everyone has bent over backwards for you, we´ve made excuses for your appalling behaviour, we´ve even made allowances for your downright rudeness but I think you just went one step too far!" Jenny´s voice dropped a little as she took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. "Look Dave, were all worried about you but the only one who knows what you went through was Vicky. She could help you if only youd let her, but you keep shutting her out. Dammit Dave, she´s you wife!"

"Yeah! Well, maybe she´d be better off if she weren´t." Starsky´s voice broke in to Jenny´s words, stabbing her like a knife to the heart.

"You don´t mean that Dave. You and Vicky were meant for each other. Besides she´s pregnant if you recall. You were so happy when you found out, or have you forgotten that too? Vicky needs you, they both need you."

Starsky rose from his seat and quietly called the dog to him. "Listen Jenny, and pay attention, because I don't want to repeat it. Everything's just fine. Vicky is recovered from her amnesia, I'm home again, and the baby is okay...And everything will be even better if you stop your boring sermons and you keep your meddling nose out of our lives just for a change" Jenny felt a shiver at the look in Starsky´s cold eyes. "I´m taking Samson for a walk." He walked to the gate and out into the alley behind. "When I get back I don´t expect to see you, okay?" With that, he was gone. Jenny watched as they both jogged slowly up the alley and into the street behind.

"Nice one Jenny. What the hell do you tell Vicky when she wakes up and her husband has gone walk about?" Exasperated Jenny picked up the tray and returned inside the house. For a moment she was unsure of what to do, then, picking up the phone, she dialled the number she held close to her own heart.

"Hutchinson." The voice at the other end was tired and Jenny regretted having to call.

"Ken, it´s Jenny. Your partner just ran away."

"What the?...what happened?" Hutch became instantly alert.

"I tried to get him to eat something and he threatened me so I lost my temper. We had words. Well, at least I did. Mostly he just sat and stared into the distance. Hutch I´m worried about him. Some of the things he said there not Dave talking I know, but..."

"Okay Jenny calm down. I´ll find him and bring him home. How´s Vicky?"

"She´s asleep at the moment and I´d rather she stayed that way. Find him Ken, please."

Hutch ran to his car having paused just long enough to ring Huggy just in case their errant friend should turn up there. Over the next three hours Hutch searched everywhere he could possibly think of to find Starsky but nothing showed. Eventually he had exhausted every possibility and he headed for The Pits. A quick scan around the room told him what he already knew. Starsky was nowhere to be seen. Huggy saw him looking and shook his head.

"Sorry Bro" Ain´t been no sign of our curly haired friend. If there had I´d have called you."

"Yeh I know Hug, but I´ve run out of places to try and I need a coffee."

Huggy poured Hutch a cup of coffee and set it down in front of him. "What do you suppose is going on in that stubborn head of his Hutch?"

"I wish I knew Hug. All I´m sure of is he´s built a wall the like of which I´ve never seen before and I don´t know how to break it down. All any of us can do is to be there and wait for the dam to break. I just hope that it breaks sooner rather than later, for everybody’s sake. It´s like he´s a total stranger Huggy. He´s had some pretty black moods since I´ve known him, but nothing like this. I´ve never seen him like it before."

"I have." The words came out like a statement. "Don’t look so surprised Hutch. I´ve known Starsky longer than you have, remember? He was like this when he came back from Vietnam. Did you know he was a prisoner of war for a month before he managed to escape? No you wouldn´t. I only found out when he finally broke down after getting totally plastered and almost ending up behind bars after getting into a punch up with someone. Luckily I managed to calm the other guy down with the promise of free beer and a meal. I took Starsky home and left him on my couch to sober up and sometime in the night I woke up to him screaming. He was having one hell of a nightmare Hutch, but it seemed to serve as a release valve ´cause the next thing I knew it was all coming tumbling out. Everything he´d seen, everything he´d had to do just to survive, everything that they´d done to him in that camp, and it sure as hell wasn´t pretty. I remember being sick as a parrot when he was finished. That´s what gotta happen this time too. Whatever those maniacs did to him in that warehouse he´s locked it all away somewhere and until something or someone triggers it, then its gonna keep eating away at Starsky from the inside like a maggot on an apple." Huggy stopped, looking at Hutch who had gone very white and quiet. "You´re gonna need to be strong Hutch. It ain´t easy listening to it all but it has to happen. I just hope its soon."

Hutch got up and left the bar. For a few moments he just sat in his car trying to grasp what he had just heard. He and Starsky had been friends for eight years and he thought they knew all there was to know about each other. He knew that Starsky had been in Vietnam but he also knew that it was something Starsky didn´t talk about. News that he was a prisoner of war both shocked and saddened him.

"Control to Zebra three, I have a patch for you from Sergeant Mitchell."

Hutch picked up the mike. "Zebra three, patch him through." After a couple of minutes static Hutch heard the line clear. "Go ahead Jim, what can I do for you?"

"Just thought you’d like to know that Starskys here. He’s out in the back yard with Kathy and that dog of his. He´ll hardly speak to us but he’s laughing and joking with her."

"Thanks Jim, I´m on my way over. Try not to let him leave will you?"

"Sure thing Hutch."

Throwing the car into gear Hutch roared away from the kerb heading across town as fast as he could. When he arrived Jim Mitchell was waiting at the door. "He´s out the back still Hutch. Why don’t you just come and watch?"

Hutch followed Jim through the house and up the stairs to the back bedroom. From there they could watch the scene below and hear what was being said.

"Come on Kathy, catch it quick before he grabs it." Starsky laughed at the young girl and Hutch realised that it had been a long time since he had heard anything like it coming from his partner´s lips. He watched as the girl and the dog both raced after the ball Starsk had thrown. Kathy just managed to grab it before Samson could get his teeth to it and she quickly threw it back to the waiting Starsky.

"Hey partner, what say we see if Mrs. Mitchell has some cold lemonade in her fridge."

"I´m about pooped." Kathy nodded and headed for the kitchen. She let out a squeal as Starsky grabbed her from behind and lifted her high in to the air. Holding her close Starsky looked at her grinning. "Know something Kathy?" The youngster shook her head. "If I have a little girl. I just hope  she´ll be as pretty as you." Gently Starsky lowered her to the ground swallowing at the lump in his throat. As he did so the sleeve of his jacket pulled up revealing the scar around his wrist. He hurried to pull it back down but Kathy had seen it and gently she touched the angry blemish with her fingers before softly kissing it with her lips.

"There you go, all better now. Mum used to kiss my hurts better like that and it always helped."

For a moment Starsky just looked at the young girl in front of him. Then he quickly turned and, whistling Samson, he ran out through the house. Hurriedly Hutch tore down the stairs and out into the street behind him.

"Starsk!" Hutch yelled after the disappearing figure. "Starsk wait!" He tore down the street after his friend but Starsky seemed to be filled with super strength and Hutch was being left behind. Quickly he raced back to his car and, spinning it around on the handbrake, he tore off. As he chased after the fleeing figure he could see the big dog being left behind. Screeching to a halt Hutch opened the door and yelled for the animal to get in before once more tearing off after his partner. This time Hutch realised the direction in which Starsky was travelling. Taking as many risks as he could Hutch headed for the beach just in time to see Starsky racing along the cold sand towards the ocean.

Opening the door he looked at the dog. "Come on Samson. Go catch him, if you can."

The now rested dog tore out of the car after the human he considered his best friend. Catching him up just before the waters edge Samson ran in front of Starsky and, thinking it was a huge game, he proceeded to leap about around him. Unable to see clearly from the tears that were streaming down his face Starsky got his legs entangled with the dog´s and both ended up in a heap on the sand. Hutch, running after the pair, stopped some yards away and watched as Starsky grabbed the dog burying his head into the soft fur. As he watched Starsky´s shoulders began to shake and the pain finally came flooding out in an unrecognisable, guttural scream that emanated from somewhere deep within Starsky´s throat. For a few moments Hutch just stood and watched, allowing his friend to give vent to all of his emotions. When at last the shaking began to calm he stepped forward to place his hand on Starsky´s shoulder. His head snapped upwards and for a brief second Hutch could see total fear etched into the features. Then just as quickly he saw recognition replace it. Letting go of the dog Starsky reached out and grabbed Hutch´s coat, hanging on so tight that Hutch thought the seams would give way. Kneeling down beside Starsky he pulled him into a hug, gently rubbing his back as he whispered words of comfort in the same way a father would to a scared child.

"Shhht...Take it easy Starsk. I´m here. It's over partner. It's over"

"NO!!...It's not over. And it never will be...NEVER!!...For so many years I kept the memories shut in somewhere ...But after what they did to me in that warehouse..." Hutch knew that the floodgates of his friend´s mind were beginning to open and he rapidly realised that Starsky was speaking of his Nam memories. "I spent twenty-six days as his prisoner, Hutch. Twenty-six days in a dark cell, surrounded by rats, spiders, and snakes, eating only stale bread and dirty water. You know Hutch? ... In that cell...There... There was a rope. One day I wanted to hang myself with it... But I couldn´t. I´d wished I could but I couldn´t do it. Until, finally, a day arrived when they took me out of there, to hang me on a post in the middle of that camp. I spent days being beating for all of them, with his fists, with a whip, a cane Without sleep or food. Seeing how they were torturing and killing my division companions, my friends, in front of me. Hearing his shouts You know? Jake was only 20. He had a fiancée. Cindy, and he wanted get married...But they...those damned Charlies tortured him to death. Beating him, burning his body with cigarettes...depriving him of sleep. Over and over, until the day...the day when, in front of my eyes, they sprayed his body with gasoline and set fire to him. I can still hear the screams" A convulsed weeping interrupted Starsky´s words. Hutch wanted to put a stop to those awful memories, but he knew that his friend needed to continue speaking, to extract from his soul all the horror

And there were many more horrors that he listened to from Starsky´s lips that evening. Things he was thinking that nobody could see or suffer without losing his mind. Things he was thinking that no human being could do to another one. Hutch felt sick to his stomach and wished it would stop but he knew he was powerless to make it.

*******

After hours of nightmarish memories and tears, and without them realising, night had fallen on the beach.

"Come on Gordo...It´s getting cold here, and Vicky must be worried to death about you." Hutch said, helping Starsky to his feet.

"Vicky...You know Hutch? These past days I´ve been a true bastard to her. And to you too, I guess. I´m sorry. Maybe I´m going mad."

"Its okay Starsk. I understand it. And I´m sure Vicky does too. Your wife is a very special girl, partner. Don´t you know that?"

"I´m scared Hutch. Scared of not being able to protect her and the baby. I´ve thought...Hutch, I´ve thought about asking her for a divorce. All I would ask her for was to see the baby whenever I wanted... Of course I would help her in everything that..."

"STARSKY!!" Hutch cut him off shocked.  "You cant be serious partner. You love Vicky. And she loves you."

"Precisely because of this. I haven´t been capable of protecting her Hutch. And besides I´m making her unhappy..."

"Starsk. You went through something that no man should go through and now you can´t think clearly. I´ll say you what we are going to do right now. I´m taking you to home to your wife, and once there you´ll begin to show her all your love and you´ll both begin to get ready to be the best parents in the whole world."

"But, if I can´t protect them from... "

"No, Starsk...No more words on this. Okay?" Hutch said firmly pointing his forefinger in front of Starsky´s face before putting his arm around his shoulders and taking him to the car.

"Hutch?"

"Yeah"

"One more time...Thanks. I’m wondering how you and Vicky can stand me at times." Hutch answered simply with a smile and a kind squeeze to his friend’s knee.

*******

"Where´s Dave?" Vicky had got up from her bed after a long sleep, entering the kitchen where Jenny was fixing some dinner for her.

"Hey, Vick! You scared me."

"Where´s Dave Jenny?" Vicky repeated her question, looking around.

"Dave´s gone, Vicky."

"What do you mean Dave´s gone, Jenny?"

"Come here Vicky, sit down."

"JENNY!!...Where´s my husband?"

"He...He and me. Well, we had some words. He got angry... and went out for a walk with Samson...But Hutch is looking for him."

"How long?"

"Roughly four hours. I´m sorry Vicky." Jenny apologized shyly

"DAMNIT, DAMNIT, DAMNIT!" Vicky shouted out, beating with her hand on the table. "You didn´t have any right Jenny!!...Dave´s upset, sick, still weak. He needs his pain pills."

"I know Vicky, I know. But I spoke to him with my best intentions ... He couldn´t spend the whole day and night as well in that fucking yard like a Christmas tree."

"Beautiful! So, he´s not there any longer, but God know where he is now. Tell me something Jenny. When you were going to tell me?...Oh, never mind" Vicky said waving her hand.

"You don´t know how sorry I am Vick."

Vicky, with her eyes tarnished by tears, grabbed her car key and headed to the door.

"Where are you going, Vicky?"

"Where do you think I´m going? To search for Dave of course. AND ALONE!...You’ve done enough for today!"

At that moment the front door was unlocked and Hutch came in the house with his arm circling the waist of an exhausted Starsky, with Samson some steps behind them.

"DAVE!! Dave, my sweetheart, are you okay?" In answer Starsky released himself from Hutch arm, embracing Vicky tightly, silently placing his head on her shoulder, his eyes closed.

They spent some minutes in this way, not noticing even Jenny and Hutch leaving the house. Vicky cuddled Starsky offering comfort as she would do to a child, until finally, she took him to bed.

Once there she help him to get undressed and into his pyjamas. When he was lying in bed she fixed a warm glass of milk to give him his night pain pill. Starsky was feeling tired, as though he hadn´t slept in years, and after drinking just a couple of swallows, in a weak voice he managed to say

"Vicky...Vicky, I´m sorry."

"Dave...You haven´t to be sorry.”

"Yeah Vicky. I have to. I´ve been a true asshole these last days. But I love you Vicky, you know that."

"Yes, I know it Dave. And I love you too. More every day." Vicky had covered Starsky with the bedcovers and sitting down on the bed she placed his head in her lap, smoothing sweetly his hair.

"Dave. Don't ask me why but I know that from this day forth, everything will be alright You, our baby and I...and maybe more children in the future, we will be the happiest family in the world. Despite all the evilness that may surround us, well do it." Vicky remained for some minutes, speaking softly and caressing his curls, until seeing that Starsky was deeply sleeping, snoring softly and with a peaceful smile on his lips.

*******

Vicky scarcely got any sleep. She spent the most of the night watching Starsky sleep, free from nightmares for the first time in many nights. The next morning she had an appointment with her gynaecologist for her first echography. It was very early in the morning and seeing Starsky sleeping so peaceful she didn´t want to wake him, so, after leaving a note on the nightstand for him, at 6am she went out towards her car.

"Can I go with you to your appointment with the doc Vick?" Jenny was sitting down on the hood of Vicky´s car, eating an apple.

"Jenny...But. Do you know what time it is?"

"Yeah. 6 o’clock, if my watch is working." Jenny answered with a shy smile "But I heard that peace offerings are more effective early in the morning...Can you forgive me Vick?" Jenny waved her white hanky.

"Oh, Come here dummy girl!" Vicky said pulling Jenny into a hug "Have I never told you that I can´t spend too much time angry with you?" Both friends held each other in a comforting embrace before getting in the car to make their way to the surgery.

A while later Vicky was lying on the stretcher seizing Jenny´s hand, a little anxious and uncomfortable, while between "Ahas" and "hummms"  the doctor was watching the screen

"Whats the matter doctor?...Something´s wrong?"

"Oh. No, no. Calm down Mrs. Starsky. Everything´s fine. It’s just that we´ve something unexpected here."

"Un-unexpected?" Vicky asked in faltered voice

"It's too soon to know if they are girls, boys or both, but one thing is sure. You aren´t waiting just for a baby. But two. Twins...Congratulations Mrs Starsky."

*******

"Two babies!! God Jenny! How do you suppose we will be able to handle this?" Vicky asked a while later, heading with Jenny towards her car and still with amazement showing on her face.

"Easy. With the invaluable help from Uncle Hutch and Auntie Jenny. How else?" joked the blonde one before becoming serious again. "How do you think Dave will take the news Vick?"

"He´ll be happy Jenn. I´m sure. You know? I don't know what happened yesterday between Hutch and him, but I know something. The real Dave has returned home and from now all will be fine" Both girls got in the car and Vicky started driving towards the High School to leave Jenny before going home. After some minutes in silence, Vicky spoke with a mischievous smile showing in her face.

"Know something Jenn? I will do a gift to Dave... A surprise."

"A surprise?...What kind of surprise are you thinking of Vicky?"

"Well. These last weeks haven´t been very kind for us...You know. Everything has been uncertainty, pain, fear. How about a terrific surprise for a change."

"No! Are you thinking what I guess?"

"Exactly!...Look Jenny. Dave is really happy with the idea of being a dad. You know it as well as me. Can you picture how much happier he will feel when the day of our babies birth, some nurse gives him not one child but two. But I´ll need your help to keep our little secret. And Gods help as well"

Both girls spent the rest of the way thinking the right way to carry out Vicky´s plan. Jenny wouldn´t say anything to Hutch and Vicky would hide all the things needed for her other baby at Jenny's place. The most difficult thing would be, if her pregnancy went smoothly, thinking of something in order that Starsky didn´t accompany her to any of her medical appointments.

Deep in thoughts she opened the door of her house, going towards the bedroom to find Starsky still sleeping with Samson on his side snoring loudly. After pulling up the covers around his neck, and kissing the top of his head gently, the girl headed towards the kitchen to fix him some breakfast. While Vicky was making some fresh orange juice Starsky came in the kitchen wrapping  his arms around her waist and placing his head on her back.

"Morning, sleepy head," She turned smiling to face Starsky holding a juice glass towards him.

"Vicky...Today you´ve got a medical appointment. Right?" He asked sitting down in a chair.

"Yeah. The first echography. I was there earlier."

"I´m sorry. I´m so sorry. I forgot it totally Vicky. Lately it seems I´m a pretty useless husband uh? Why didn´t you wake me? I wanted to go with you."

"I know, but it was so early. And you were sleeping so pleasantly. I didn´t want to bother you."

"How are you? And the baby? Everything´s okay?"

"We are both perfectly okay. It's too early to know if we are waiting for a girl or boy still, but everything´s going fine and our baby will born roughly January 5. Is that not a great New Year present?" Vicky asked cheerily. But Starsky was sitting down in the chair staring sadly in the floor. Vicky knelt down cupping his face with her hands.

"Hey, Dave, don't feel guilty. I haven´t gone alone to the surgery. Jenny was with me."

"Oh, Jenny! I doubt she wants to speak to me again. Yesterday I said some pretty rough things to her." Starsky said, smiling bitterly.

"Jenny? Oh no. You don't know her. She´s temperamental, proud, stubborn like a true mule, but incapable of keeping any rancour. Don't worry about Jenn, Dave...Listen sweetheart. There´s something I want to say you. I don't know what happened yesterday, what Hutch and you talked about, but just I want you to know something. I won't ask you, because I guess you don't want to speak about it, but I´m here and I´ll always be here. To listen if you want to speak, and to respect your silence if you dont want to." Starsky, unable to speak  rose from his chair with eyes tarnished from emotion and gratitude, embracing Vicky and kissing her lips.

Minutes later they both were in bed exploring each other´s body, meeting each other´s skin, enjoying their love again after long weeks of despair and loneliness. Vicky felt a shiver on touching the still fresh whip scars on Starsky´s back, but after a brief and painful flash back, the sunshine reached her heart one more time between Starsky´s warm arms and she knew how much she had missed his body, his tenderness, his passion.

"Know something Vicky?" Still I can't believe it. Here, inside, is a little person. Our baby...That´s the most wonderful thing I have ever received." He talked awhile later, rubbing her abdomen lovingly.

"You can be sure Dave. Our baby is here. Waiting to know the best dad that any child could have." Starsky held Vicky in his arms, and both, still embraced  slided into a sweet sleep.

*******

From that day Starsky began to slowly make good progress until the day loomed when the Doctors finally declared him fit for duty. Neither he nor Hutch had spoken again about the day he had finally broken down but he had spent many hours in a quiet surgery with a trained psychiatrist allowing the memories to slowly surface and dealing with each of them one at a time. It had been many hours of exhausting and emotional trauma for Starsky since he had begun with his time in Vietnam before facing the hours of his torture at the hands of Gunther and Sherman. Each time Hutch had taken him to and from the appointments, ready to offer whatever support he could. Starsky had told him that he was helping simply by being there when he came out and that in itself was a good feeling after the days of abuse and being pushed away that he had endured from his friend. Vicky in the meantime always met him with a kiss when he returned, never asking questions he felt unable to answer. For that alone he loved her more than ever and he watched her grow ever larger as her pregnancy progressed with fondness, tenderness and admiration.

On the other hand as Vicky told Starsky, the first time he met Jenny after their argument in the yard, all was fine.

The occasion was during a dinner at Hutch’s place. He and Jenny wanted to have a meeting with their best friends to speak of something that, for Vicky and Starsky, was simply obvious for some time. When the Starskys arrived Jenny was already there and it wasn´t too long before she and Starsky got some minutes alone while Hutch was showing his new plants to Vicky. A pretext as good as any other to give some time to their friends to solve their troubles.

Starsky and Jenny were both feeling a little uncomfortable, being alone for the first time since that awful day until simultaneously, both broke the ice.

"Jenny. Listen..."

"Dave, I..." The girl smiled raising her hand to stop him "Ladies first, okay?... I just want to say that you mustn´t feel uncomfortable or guilty or anything like that with me. Seems like we can be a beautiful pair of idiots when we want uh?"

"I´m afraid I´m the only idiot here Jenny." Starsky said.

"Know something David Starsky? I think you are right. I agree absolutely with you." Jenny joked.

"HEY YOU, GIRL!!" Starsky exclaimed. "At least you could admit that you are pretty exasperating too!"

"Exasperating? Who? Me?" Jenny kept the bantering feeling much more relaxed than some minutes earlier

"Seriously Jenny. I want to ask you for your pardon...I was mad against the whole world, you pushed me a little and you paid with my rage. That´s all. But I love Vicky. I would never hurt her. And I feel very fond of you Jenny. You know that, right?"

"Yeah, of course I know it. Listen to me Dave. You are a great guy. Really. One of the best people I´ve ever known and you love Vicky. I know that. As for me. No problem. I can guess how you were feeling those days."

When Vicky and Hutch came in from the greenhouse, Starsky and Jenny were hugging each other, and all the tension had disappeared between them.

*******

Along the next hours all four enjoyed an evening filled with friendship and love. Then Hutch and Jenny spoke of their feelings to their friends. Or at least Hutch tried.

"We know that you both will be happy hearing this. Me and Jenny...Well, Jenny and me. Well, you know...we are friends, but during the last few weeks we aren´t...I mean we´ve become more than friends, she and I..."

Faced with the inability of Hutch to put his thoughts into words Jenny once again took the initiative approaching Hutch, sitting down on his knee and kissing him sweetly and deeply, as Vicky and Starsky laughed.

*******

Vicky´s plan to keep the news of twins from Starsky was made very difficult while he was home and she had to keep thinking of different excuses to leave him behind whenever she had an appointment with her doctor. So it was that a part of her was slightly relieved when he had told her that he would be returning to work in a week. A big part of her, though was dismayed that he would no longer be there every day. Although she knew that he had to return to his job she had become accustomed to having him around and spoiling her. She had long forgotten what it meant to get up to an empty house and to worry about what her husband might be caught up in.

For the first two weeks Starsky was on desk duty and despite worrying about Hutch he felt safe and capable of carrying out all that was asked of him. The third week he was given the all clear to resume active duty and the thought terrified him, although he couldn´t have said why if anyone had asked him.

He made a great effort not to show his fears when Hutch arrived to pick him up that morning. Sub-consciously he told himself that his fears were groundless and that once he was out on the streets with Hutch then they would disappear as quickly as they had arisen and he would be fine. During the drive to the precinct he caught Hutch glancing at him once or twice with a frown on his face and he kept expecting him to say something. It was a very relieved Starsky who climbed quickly from Hutch´s car and hurried inside the building to his desk. Hutch was convinced that his partner was bottling something up again and there was no way he was going to let that happen again if he could help it. He was unsure as to what it could be but it showed in his friend´s whole demeanour to someone who knew him as well as Hutch did. His walk wasn´t so jaunty and he looked as though he wanted to hide. Promising that he would get to the bottom of it before they set out Hutch followed Starsky up the stairs.

Starsky though was an expert on avoiding issues if the need arose and Hutch found that he was unable to get him on his own. If there wasn´t someone too close at hand then Starsky would disappear, like a rabbit down a hole, and Hutch would find him chatting to one of the desk officers or the secretaries. So it was that they spent the first hour of their morning barely having five minutes together. Hutch knew exactly what was happening but was powerless to stop it without physically hauling Starsky into the toilets and locking the door behind them. Sighing Hutch decided to leave it, for now at least.

A couple of hours later they hit the streets they both knew so well, and for a while, every thing seemed normal. Starsky was having his usual moan about Hutch´s car when a call came through on the radio about a silent alarm in the warehouse district of town.

"10-4 control, zebra 3 rolling." Hutch hung up the mike and pressed the accelerator to the floor, completing a hundred and eighty degree turn with just a glance over his shoulder.

"Light Starsk!" Starsky appeared to be lost somewhere and Hutch quickly nudged his elbow.

"What?" His voice came out as a whisper.

"The light Starsk, unless you want me to broadside a truck or something on the way!"

Starsky visibly shook as he slapped the light in position on the roof. Hutch stole a quick glance at him as he sped through the morning traffic. Starskys face had taken on a ghostly pallor and he sat rigid in his seat, staring straight out through the windscreen.

"Starsk! You okay?" Hutch’s mind began to work through the signs as they neared their objective and he mentally kicked his own backside hard. Sure the medics had listened for hours as Starsky had talked his memories through but this was the first time that Starsky had been back to the place of his fears since it had happened. Understanding and compassion washed over him as he saw a thin gleam of sweat on Starsky´s brow.

"Hey, partner. It´ll be okay. You don´t have to go inside. We´ll take care of things and hand it over to the uniforms as soon as possible. Then we´ll be out of here. Think you can handle that Starsk?" Hutch´s eyebrows rose as he glanced at the man beside him.

Starsky nodded, a short, tense nod that did little to convince Hutch. "I´m fine!"

Hutch killed the sirens as they neared their objective. Slowly they drove into the alleys, passing up and down until at last they spotted what they were looking for. Ahead of them a group of three youths were loading boxes from a warehouse into a small van. Hutch hit the brakes and together they jumped from the car, Hutch going left, Starsky right.

"HOLD IT! POLICE." Hutch´s voice echoed along the alley and the three spun around, dropping their packages. One dropped to his knee, a rifle in his hand firing aimlessly in the general direction of Starsky who dived behind a rubbish skip. He heard the echo of a magnum and knew that Hutch had met his target. Risking popping his head out he was met with the sight of the two remaining felons racing for the door of the warehouse they had just been robbing. Hutch tore after them but Starsky felt his feet turning to lead. Forcing himself to move he slowly made his way towards the entrance which loomed dark and foreboding in front of him. Breathing heavily and with beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead again he glanced inside looking for any sign of his partner. Suddenly he could hear gunfire and once again recognised the sound of the magnum. Unable to see but working on sound he willed himself forward into the darkness.

"HUTCH" Starsky yelled as loudly as he could.

"Over here!" Hutch yelled back and Starsky felt relief wash over him. Ricochets rained around his feet and he forced them to move, heading for cover. From his position behind a massive container he could just make out Hutch crouching behind a stack of boxes. As he watched he was horrified to see the two thieves were pulling Hutch into a trap as, in the darkness, they worked their way round behind him. Frozen in place Starsky was unable even to shout a warning. Squeezing his eyes shut he took a couple of deep breaths before forcing his eyes open again. He looked down at his hand and ordered it to stop shaking as he slowly pushed his feet forward from behind his container. Interminably slowly he closed the distance between him and the two felons as they closed their trap behind Hutch. Through eyes half closed in fear and sweat which freely dropped down his face Starsky watched in horror as they both raised their weapons.

"Bye cop!" One of the two called out and Hutch swung around in time to see two guns aimed straight at him. He had no time to react as he heard the gunfire and saw the flash in the darkness. He felt the burning sensation as a bullet found its mark in his shoulder and he slumped back against the boxes. Expecting any moment to feel another he looked forward and was met with the sight of the two pitching forward, a look of total disbelief on their faces as they hit the ground, eyes lifeless. Hutch forced himself to his feet and slowly made his way across the floor, blood pouring from his shoulder. Standing some four feet behind the two was a very pale and shaking Starsky, his gun still at full arms stretch, his fingers locked around the weapon.

"Starsk." Hutch closed the distance a quickly as he could, ignoring the pain that the effort cost him. As he reached Starsky he could see the thin sheen of sweat that covered his face. He could see also the look of fear in his friend’s eyes. Reaching out Hutch gently opened Starskys hands and took the gun from his hands. "Its okay buddy...Its over Take it easy."

Finally Starsky´s arms dropped to his side and he turned his head to look at his partner. Gently he raised his hand to touch the blood seeping from Hutch’s shoulder before abruptly turning and fleeing from the building. Slowly making his way after him Hutch reached his car to find Starsky sitting hunched in the back seat, his arms firmly locked around his knees and his head down.

From somewhere behind him a black and white patrol car pulled to a halt and one officer got out running quickly towards Hutch. Quickly taking in the blood and the pain etched on Hutch’s face he shouted to his partner to call for an ambulance.

"Make that a coroner’s wagon too. There’s one over there and two more inside." Hutch fell against the side of his car. The officer nodded and added the request to his earlier order.

"How bad are you hurt?" The officer came and eased Hutch too the floor, pulling his jacket away so that he could get a good look.

"It´s just a flesh wound thank goodness. Hurts like hell though." Hutch bit into his lip as the officer gently took off his jacket and ripped the sleeve of his shirt. From somewhere he produced a white handkerchief and pressed it firmly onto the wound.

"What´s your name?" Hutch looked at the young man in front of him.

"Wilson, John Wilson. You?"

"Ken Hutchinson. You know, for a cop you make a pretty good medic."

John Wilson snorted a little. "My Mum and sister are nurses. I grew up knowing how to take care of any and every injury I came up against. Comes in handy now and then." John Wilson glanced inside the car at Starsky. "Your partner okay?" The question hung in the air.

"He will be, once I can get him away from here. It´s thanks to him that you´re not dealing with something a lot more serious than this." Hutch pointed to his arm. "Do me a favour will you John? Don’t say anything about this to anyone." Hutch looked directly into the younger mans eyes, asking for understanding.

For a moment Wilson hesitated then nodded his head once. "Okay, I´ll cover for you but you’d better get him out of sight before my partner sees him."

Hutch thought for a moment. "Help me up, will you?" He rose slowly. "Starsk, I won´t be a moment and I´ll be back. It will be better if I go over to the patrol car. The ambulance will be here in a moment and as soon as they´ve patched me up I´ll get us both out of here. Stay put for me. Promise!" Hutch placed his hand on Starsky´s shoulder and gently gave it a squeeze. For a moment he thought he hadn´t been heard, then Starsky turned to look at him with glazed eyes. Nodding he turned back allowing his head to drop once more to his knees.

Satisfied Hutch allowed John Wilson to help him cross the short distance between cars. As he arrived so did the ambulance and Hutch was quickly manoeuvred into the back. The paramedics were quick and efficient and soon had the shoulder strapped up.

"Okay let´s get you too the hospital and get some stitches in that."

"No way!" Hutch was firm. "You´ve stopped the bleeding,  right?" The paramedic nodded his face terse. "Okay then I don´t need a hospital." Hutch could see the look of defiance in the other man´s eyes, knowing he was in for an argument he had neither the time nor the energy for. "Look...I promise that if it starts again then I´ll go straight to casualty,  but right now I´ve got something a lot more important to do." For a moment the two had a staring match but Hutch had more reason to win and the paramedic finally gave way.

"It´s on your head but if your adamant then there’s little I can do about it." Relenting a little he helped Hutch out of the ambulance. "It´s gonna hurt like hell once the analgesics we gave you wear off. Here, take a couple of these, just in case it gets too bad."

Nodding Hutch thanked him then began the trip back to his own car. John Wilson caught him and they finished the trip together. As they reached the vehicle Wilson put his hand on Hutch’s shoulder.

"It took me a while but I´ve just worked out where I heard your partner´s name before. He was held prisoner in a place like this,  wasn´t he?"

"Yes." Hutch was immediately defensive.

"I heard what they did to him and I guess it explains an awful lot. Good luck both of you, and don’t worry...I never saw him."

"Thanks. We owe you." Hutch held out his hand and the two men shook hands before getting into his car. Not for the first time he thanked god that his car wasn´t a manual gear shift as he slipped it into drive and pulled slowly away from the alley and the warehouse. Heading towards Venice Place he called them in as off duty.

Half an hour later they pulled to a stop outside of his canal side apartment. Easing himself out of the car he walked to the nearside passenger door and opened it.

"Come on Starsk. Let´s get you inside and we can work this through together." Reaching in, he half pulled Starsky to his feet and the two friends walked indoors, Hutch firmly closing the world outside as he shut the door.

Settling his friend on the couch Hutch headed for a cupboard and took out a bottle of brandy and a glass. Pouring a good measure he headed back to the couch and sat down next to Starsky.

"Here, drink this." He pressed the glass into Starsky´s hand and watched as he slowly lifted it too his lips sipping at the dark liquid inside. Hutch waited until the glass was half empty before he spoke.

"Come on buddy. Let’s have it. What the hell happened back there?" His voice was soft and encouraging.

For a moment Starsky simply stared at his feet and Hutch thought he wouldn’t answer.

"I almost got you killed Hutch. That´s what happened!" Starsky´s voice, when it finally came, was a mere whisper full of emotion.

"Rubbish! You saved my life Starsk. If you hadn´t have been there..."

"That´s the whole point Hutch. I nearly wasn´t and it almost cost you your life." Starsky rose abruptly from his seat and the glass spilt, its contents to the floor. "I froze Hutch. For the first time in my life I couldn´t do this damn job. I had to force myself to follow you when I should have been right there with you. If I had have been, then you wouldn´t have gotten into a position like you did, where those turkeys could take you out. "

"But they didn´t take me out pal. You stopped them! You were there when it mattered Starsk. Don’t you see that? If you hadn´t have come when you did I´d be dead and it would be me they were loading into that coroners wagon right now. But you did and they´re not. Give yourself a break Starsky. You only came back on full duty today. Besides, this is my fault."

Starsky swung to look at Hutch, eyes wide and questioning. "How the hell do you make that one out Blintz?"

"I knew this morning that something was wrong and knew you were avoiding it like the plague. I should have made you tell me."

"What makes you think I would´ve told you anything? I wasn´t even sure what was wrong myself, much less tell you." Starsky was angry that his partner could turn this around and somehow blame himself for getting shot. "Sorry partner but this time you cant take the blame. This one was down to me, totally, completely and one hundred percent." Starsky sank slowly back onto the couch his energies spent. "I messed up good and proper and look what happened." He pointed at Hutch’s shoulder. "When we get back to the precinct I´ll go and see Dobey, tell him what happened. Then I´ll hand in my resignation and you can get a new partner, someone who ain´t about to get you killed at the drop of a hat. Someone you can rely on." Defeat filled every inch of Starsky´s body.

"Okay...okay you do that. But you´d better tell him he needs two replacements while you´re at it. I don’t want a new partner Starsky. I´ve already got the best one there is, and I´m not about to let him give up without a fight." Hutch knelt down in front of his partner and shook his shoulders. "Listen to me Starsk. You just came back after going through hell. You´re entitled to freak out a little. So you didn´t follow me into that warehouse, so what? I don´t think in your shoes I´d have been able to either. What matters is that you came when you could and you saved my life because you overcame those fears that were holding you back. Starsky you´re the bravest man I know and today just served to prove it." Hutch paused for breath before continuing.

"When I was a kid there was a horse on my Dad´s ranch. It was mean, even the other horses stayed away from it. One day I had a huge row with my Dad and ran out to the barn. I was crying so hard I couldn´t see where I was going. Unbeknown to me Dad had moved the horse into the barn and the first I realised was when it had me pinned in the corner. I was only ten and this horse seemed huge in comparison to me, especially when it reared onto its hind legs. I yelled as loud as I could but no-one heard me. I was terrified Starsk. I thought it was going to kill me. Then my Grandfather came in and managed to grab its bridle. I scrambled out of there as fast as I could and ran to my bedroom. That’s where he found me a little later. We sat for hours just talking the whole thing through, then he took me back into the barn. He made me take a real good look at that horse Starsk. He made me face up to it, to face my fears and realise that neither they nor bad memories could ever hurt me again."

Hutch stopped and Starsky took his chance to interrupt.

"What’s this got to do with me almost getting you killed today?"

"Nothing and everything. Don’t you see buddy? You talked everything through with the specialists but you didn´t go back. You didn´t face the fears and look then in the eye. That´s what was wrong this morning, and it will be the same every morning until you do."

"You don´t now what your asking Hutch!" Starsky had paled visibly.

"I do Starsk. Believe me I do and I wouldn´t ask it if I thought there was any other way." Hutch´s voice was soft but firm and Starsky knew he wasn´t going to give way.

"I´m not sure that I can do what you´re asking. You´ve no idea what I went through in there."

"I know exactly what I´m asking you to do Starsky and I know that you can do it. The difference is this time I´ll be right there with you every step of the way."

A resigned Starsky looked at Hutch for a few minutes, holding his gaze and taking strength from him.

"Okay. I´ll try. When?"

"No time like the present, partner." Hutch was firm and supporting offering his love along with the strength.

*******

The journey back to the warehouse district was made in silence. As they neared there destination Hutch could almost feel Starsky tighten up. Pulling to a halt outside of a tall innocuous looking building Hutch got out and looked up and down at the front of the building. Slowly Starsky got out and stood beside him.

"Is this the place?"

Hutch nodded realising that this was the first time Starsky had seen the outside of the building where he had been tortured for so long. He turned to his friend.

"Ready?"

As an answer Starsky took a few hesitant steps forward before turning to look for Hutch who quickly moved to stand beside him. "Together buddy remember?"

"Thanks Hutch." A small grin flashed across Starsky´s face before being replaced with a look of defiance. "Come on. Let´s get this done with."

Together the two men pushed the door open and entered the inside of the building. Hutch shivered as he looked around remembering clearly the sounds of Starsky´s scream the last time he was here. Still Starsky recognised nothing. Then Hutch brought him to a halt outside of a door. For a moment his hand rested on the catch before, with a deep breath, he opened it. Stepping inside Starsky instantly felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise and his breath came in short bursts. His whole body began to tremble and he could feel his legs weakening. Instantly he felt Hutch´s hand under his arm giving him support. Standing in the middle of the room the two made a small circle. All signs of what had happened were long gone, removed by the police forensics team. However, in one corner the floor was darker than the rest and it drew Starsky towards it. Bending down he touched the floor where so much of his blood had been spilt and he glanced upwards to the ceiling from where he had hung in agony. Hutch let him be for a few moments before walking over and kneeling beside him.

"See Starsk. Nothing here to hurt you anymore. It´s over buddy and you won again. Gunther lost! From now on you can only go forward with Vicky and the baby while Gunther spends what´s left of his miserable existence locked away in solitary with no one to care whether he lives or when he dies."

For a few moments Starsky remained kneeling then, slowly pulling himself upwards he spoke softly.

"Thanks Hutch. For finding me when you did. For hanging on when I was so bloody awful to you and for today. You’re my pal Hutch." With that the two men hugged ferociously before parting both with tears in their eyes.

"Come on Starsk. You’ve got a wife waiting for you. Tomorrow we start over!"

The two friends turned and left the building and the bad memories and fears behind them. Starsky and Hutch were back!

 

THE END

 

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