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HILLPEAK HOTEL

 

 

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.

 

Thanks Tonya, for buying this story in the Paula Wilshe charity auction and for your trust in me. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing. Thousands of thanks as well to Kimberly and to my dear friend Judith for their help to correct and make better this story.

 

A moving red spot was the only note of colour in that deserted road. A thick snowfall and strong wind gusts shook the landscape as the night’s darkness began to cover the forest.

 

They both seemed the only creatures alive out there.

 

“We should look for some place to spend the night, Starsk. This is getting rough.” Hutch said.

 

Starsky was driving slowly and carefully, but the snowfall was growing more intense.

 

“Nah, Hutch. I don't wanna stop yet. We’ve gotta be at the precinct in two days. Dobey will kick our asses if we’re late.”

 

“Yeah. Two days. But alive, too.”

 

“We got tire chains... And I’m the best driver, you know that!” Starsky joked confidently.

 

“The best driver and the most modest too,” Hutch rolled his eyes, following their familiar banter.

 

“Besides, Blondie. Where we gonna stop? Here, in the middle of nowhere to spend the night in the car? Not very comfortable if you ask me.”

 

“No, it’s not…” Hutch answered, looking at the road map. They were coming back home after visiting Duluth. Hutch’s sister wanted him to meet his new nephew, a blond and lovely baby already two months old that delighted both men along their stay there.

 

“WATCH OUT!!!” Hutch shouted out as Starsky braked the Torino and both men were thrown forward. The car skidded out a few inches from a terrified deer.

 

“SHIT! Damned thing! Are you okay, Hutch?”

 

“Sure. I’m okay…You?”

 

Starsky nodded.

 

“Listen, Starsk. It’s getting dark here, and it’s snowing…Snowing a lot. We should stop in the nearest town and spend the night there. I mean it.”

 

“Okay, maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all. I’m hungry.”

 

Hutch smiled at his partner. “Hungry, huh? We’re about two miles out from a town named Snowmass Village. We’ll spend the night there.”

 

Starsky was starting the engine again when Hutch touched his arm. “Starsk…”

 

“Uh?”

 

Hutch nodded with his head to a hill on the left of the road “Look there…” Starsky did as Huch asked, seeing a lonely, big house with a flashing neon sign on the roof.

 

HILLPEAK HOTEL

 

“Looks like we don’t have to go to the nearest town,” Hutch said.

 

“A hotel here? Doesn’t seem like they’d get many customers. Think it’ll be open?”

 

“Let’s try,” Hutch answered. Starsky turned left, driving across a narrow road up to the house.

 

“This place…reminds me of some other place, but I don't know…” Starsky said.

 

“Bates Motel”

 

“What?”

 

“Norman Bates…Psycho, you know, the movie.”

 

“Yeah. That’s right. Hey, don't you think we could reach Snowmass Village in just awhile?” Starsky asked, making a face.

 

“Come on. Norman Bates didn’t kill cops.” Hutch answered as they got out of the car.

 

“Yeah he did. That older guy who went there looking for Janet Leigh…Remember?” Starsky pointed as they climbed the stairs up to the entrance. Hutch rang the bell. A moment later, a skinny young man answered the door.

 

“Good evening. What can I do for you?”

 

“Good evening. We need a room for the night,” Hutch said politely.

 

“I’m so sorry, sir. The hotel is closed until next month.”

 

“But, we thought…the neon sign…” Starsky said.

 

“Oh, well. We were just testing it.”

 

“Steve?” a woman’s voice sounded from inside the house. “Who’s there?”

 

“Nobody, mother.”

 

“Nice guy.” Starsky mumbled close Hutch’s ear as some soft steps and a walking stick sounded her entrance.”

 

“Good evening gentlemen. How can I help you?” A woman dressed completely in black, elegant and beautiful despite her age, stood looking at Hutch.

 

“Sorry, ma’am. We wanted a room for the night. But apparently you can't offer us one.”

 

“Oh, well. As my son told you, the hotel will be closed until next month. But I guess we can make an exception. The weather is getting worse out there. We can't be so impolite with our customers.” The woman glanced coldly at her son for a moment. “Besides, I don't think you could even reach the next town with this snowfall.” At that moment, as if echoing the woman’s words, the snow began falling even harder.

 

“But…Mother.” The young man tried to remonstrate, though the old woman didn’t pay any attention to him.

 

“Come in, gentlemen. Don't stay there. It’s getting too cold.” Starsky and Hutch stepped into a large and neat hall; the decoration showing the good taste of its owner.

 

“I’m Clarissa Reeves. Welcome to my home,” the woman introduced herself formally “Follow me, please” She headed towards a beautifully carved desk, producing a book from a drawer. Meanwhile, her son remained standing, arms crossed, at her side, as if in bodyguard mode.

 

“Do you mind showing me your ID´s, please Mr…?”

 

Hutchinson. Kenneth Hutchinson. And he’s David Starsky” Hutch said, as they took out their ID´s. Both detectives handed it to the lady, who took it without losing her charming smile; despite exchanging a brief look with Steven on see the police identifications.

 

“You’ll want one room or two?”

 

“One will be fine, thanks,” Starsky spoke, returning the smile to the hotel owner.

 

“Please, be so kind as to sign here,” the hotel owner said. They signed in the registration book, returning it to the woman. Once she informed them of the fees per night, and returned them their ID´s Clarissa Reeves got to her feet.

 

“Room 21. Second floor. The room includes complete bathroom. I hope you’ll like it.”

 

“We’re sure of it.” Starsky said.

 

“Now, I suggest you take your car to the car port we have in the back, before you go to your room.”

 

Starsky and Hutch went outside and quickly took the Torino to the wooden car port. They came back to the comfortable hall, rubbing their hands to get warm.

 

“Steve will take your baggage to your room,” the old lady said giving the key to her son.”

 

“Don’t bother yourself, we can…” Starsky tried to say.

 

“Steve, please. The gentlemen’s baggage.”  Her voice held a firmness that didn't allow for any objection.

 

“As I guess you must be hungry, and there’s no nearby restaurant, dinner will be ready at seven o clock.”

 

“Oh, well. We don’t want bother you,” Hutch said.

 

“Of course. We don't want to bother you, Mrs. Reeves. Just some sandwiches would be okay.” This time it was Starsky who spoke.

 

“It’s out of the question Mr. Starsky. You will both have a real dinner and breakfast, as well. Hillpeak Hotel wouldn’t let our customers be discontented with our services.” The lady said, smiling proudly before disappearing into the house. They quietly followed Steve upstairs to their room.

 

The young man unlocked the door without a word, holding out the key for Hutch with a sullen look, before turning back to go downstairs.

 

Once Steve was gone, Starsky and Hutch entered their room. It was a little suite, neat and comfortable, with a small couch and a fireplace warming the entire place.

 

They took their jackets off. Then, Starsky snapped.

 

“You told her that we could go to bed without having dinner? That’s what you said, or maybe I got it wrong?”

 

Here we go. Hutch thought.

 

“Come on Gordo. Stop the sniveling. I was just being polite. We’re two unexpected customers, and she was already nice enough allowing us to stay before opening the hotel.”

 

“Didn’t you know that I’m hungry, uh? Would you be so heartless as to leave me starving all night long? Luckily the lady is a little more thoughtful than you.”

 

“You’re pretty well fed Starsk. A night without any dinner wouldn't kill you.”

 

“No, uh? How about asking my stomach’s opinion?” As if Starsky’s stomach was some kind of trained pet, a little groan came from his belly.

 

“Gee, partner! As a showman you’d be priceless.” Hutch rolled his eyes and kneeled down in front the fire.

 

“Beautiful place.” He said, changing the subject.

 .

“Yep. But that guy…The owner’s son.” Starsky pointed

 

“Saw it, huh?” Hutch asked as Starsky joined him to start warming his hands.

 

“Yeah, I guess the guy isn’t too fond of cops.”

 

“The question is why?” Hutch asked, staring at the flames.

 

“Who knows! Too many traffic fines, maybe.” Starsky got to his feet, sinking onto the nearest bed. “Never mind, partner. It's none of our business. Tomorrow morning we’ll be out of here, anyway.”

 

“Hey! Can I ask what you are doing?” Hutch asked looking the beds

 

“Choosing my bed. Naturally”

 

“The nearest to the fireplace, of course.”

 

“Of course.” Starsky repeated. “I saw it first. Besides, you know how sensitive to cold I am. You don’t want your best friend to freeze to death in middle of the night do you?”

 

“Oh, no, Heaven forbid!” Hutch said heading to the bathroom. “I’m going to take a shower, Starsk. Don't fall asleep. Or you’ll miss your dinner.”

 

“Hmmm.” Starsky mumbled, already comfortably curled up on the bed with his eyes closed.”

 

“Starsk?”

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“Next time, remind me not to travel with a child.” Hutch closed the bathroom door just in time to dodge a cushion flying towards his head.

 

 

***

 

Awhile later, they were sitting down around a table in the empty and large dining room, waiting for their dinner. Outside, a fierce snowstorm shook the forest.

 

“This place looks a little frightening,” Starsky whispered, looking at his surroundings. “So much room just for us.”

 

“Well. I guess next month it’ll look very different.”

 

“But…what if the hotel is open, and Norman is a customer killer or something, huh? Brrrrr,” Starsky joked, pretending to shiver.

 

“Steve, Starsk, Steve. Not Norman. Besides, his mom is still alive. Right?”

 

“Or maybe she just seems alive…” Starsky answered in a whisper, seeing the old lady approaching.

 

“Dinner is ready,” Mrs. Reeves interrupted them “Unluckily, since the hotel is not open yet, we can't offer you our usual menu. However, I personally fixed some soup, a meatloaf, and a cheese pie that you might like.”

 

“I’m sure it’ll be delicious, Mrs. Reeves,” Hutch said.

 

At that moment, a teenager, almost a child of long brown hair and blue eyes, came out of the kitchen and placed a steaming chinaware soup tureen on the table. As both detectives looked, her thin face reflected a distressing sadness and the kid seemed nothing but sick. Besides, a bluish bruise showed on her cheekbone.

 

Without a word, and with her eyes down all the time, she began to pour the soup in Starsky’s bowl under the watching look of Mrs Reeves. Then, a tree branch hitting one window startled her. The girl flinched and a little of the ladle contents spilled over Starsky’s sleeve.

 

Clarissa Reeves was furious. “Damned girl! Look what you did! Bring a dishcloth here! NOW!”

 

“Sorry Mrs. Reeves,” the girl said in a thread of voice. She hurried to the kitchen and came back quickly with the cloth.

 

“I’m sorry, sir! I’m so sorry! My grandchild is a stupid…Did she burn you?” the oldest woman asked, cleaning Starsky’s sleeve with the cloth.

 

“Oh no, I’m okay. It's nothing,” Starsky said, staring at the young girl who seemed about to burst into tears.

 

“I guess that the least that you could do is apologize yourself, Meredith.” Mrs. Reeves said to the girl.

 

“No…Please, Mrs. Reeves. I’m okay.” Starsky said getting to his feet.

 

“The kid got startled by the noise, that’s all,” Hutch added, standing as well, and looking at the teenager sympathetically.

 

Starsky smiled sweetly, trying to take Meredith’s hand, but she jerked back shaking visibly.

 

“I’m okay, sweetheart. Don’t worry, you didn't hurt me.”

 

“Go to the kitchen, Meredith,” Mrs. Reeves ordered the girl firmly, who slid out of sight in a split second.

 

“You’re very nice, sir. But you don’t have to try to soothe her. Really, that little idiot doesn’t deserve so much kindness.”

 

“If you don't mind, I think I’m adult enough to decide by myself who deserves my kindness and who doesn’t, Mrs. Reeves,” Starsky said quietly.

 

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean...Sorry. I-I’ll let you both eat your dinner. Excuse me.” The old woman hurried out of the dinner room, suddenly embarrassed.

 

“What the hell is going on with that witch, huh? She seemed about to hit the poor girl with her stick! Did you see the bruise on her face?” Starsky asked, trying hard to hold on to his anger.

 

“Yeah, I saw it. But maybe she fell down or something.”

 

Starsky look at Hutch, raising his brows questioningly.

 

“Okay, Starsk. I know, I know…Actually the lady doesn’t look like the Grandma of the year,” Hutch said still in bewilderment.

 

“Mrs. Reeves,” Starsky said, distractedly stirring his soup bowl.

 

“What?” Hutch asked.

 

“The girl called her Mrs. Reeves, Hutch. Not grandmother or grandma. Pretty odd, uh?”

 

“Well, maybe…”

 

“Maybe she’s not her grandmother.” Starsky cut off. “Tell me something; doesn’t that kid’s face look familiar to you?”

 

Hutch shook his head. “No…should it?”

 

“I’ve seen her, Hutch. I don't know where or when, but I’ve seen that girl. I’m sure”

 

“Excuse me, gentleman.” Steve said, coming from the kitchen. “I’m so sorry, but it seems that you can't leave tomorrow. I’ve just heard on the radio that there was an avalanche in the road. Clearing it will have to wait for at least two days because a new snowstorm is expected for tomorrow.”

 

“Terrific!” Starsky exclaimed.

 

“Can we make a phone call, Mr. Reeves?” Hutch asked.

 

“I wish you could, sir, but the line is dead. Unluckily, those kinds of contingencies are pretty usual in this area.”

 

Starsky got to his feet, ignoring Steven’s presence, and suggested, “Let’s try the radio.”

 

“Good idea,” Hutch said as he joined his partner to go outside.

 

 

***

 

“My apologies, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry gentlemen…Bullshit! A bunch of wackos! That’s what that family is!” Starsky snapped, getting into the Torino “That and nothing else!”

 

He sighed before grabbing the mike. “Zebra Three to control…Zebra Three to control…”

 

The only answer coming from the radio was the crackle of static.

 

“Shit! No answer!” Starsky swore, slamming the mike back in its place.

 

“Take it easy, Starsk. Let me try.” Hutch took the mike, trying unsuccessfully to get some answer.

 

“Okay, here we are, without phone or radio, and unable to leave. Wonderful.!!” Starsky shouted.

 

“That’s the point, Starsk. We can't do anything but wait, at least for a couple of days, so how about coming back to the dining room and eating a little, uh? I’m freezing here”

 

“Sure, great idea. I guess Norman and his mommy have had time enough to spice our meal with some arsenic.”

 

See? Like I told you, going to bed without having dinner would have been the smartest thing to do” Hutch teased, patting Starsky’s back on their way to the house.

 

“Ha-ha. Funny…Very funny!”

 

They climbed up the stairs, heading to the dining room. Before entering, Starsky picked up the receiver of the hall phone to check if it was really out of service.

 

He shook his head, placing the receiver back on it’s hook.

 

“Okay, so apparently we don’t have any other choice but to wait for the storm to pass,” Hutch answered. Both detectives walked to the dining room as, in the kitchen, Steven shouted out angrily at his mother.

 

“Cops, mother! They are cops! And you allowed them to stay! And no less than on the second floor! How you can be so stupid! Besides, if you remember, we buried a corpse out there! FUCK!”

 

Mrs. Reeves slammed her son’s cheek hard. “Bad-mannered kid!! Don't dare to shout at me! Respect your mother Steve!...Once I allowed them to stay, I couldn´t do any other thing! You know that!”

 

“That’s right mother! Beat me! But do you know who will solve the mess you got us in? Huh?...I’ll tell you! ME! The poor, the useless, the dumb Steve as usual!” Steve stormed out of the kitchen almost running into Starsky, and going his way without looking back

 

 “Hey! Watch where you’re going!”

 

“Excuse my son, sir,” Mrs. Reeves said. “At times, he’s a little temperamental. I took your dinner back to the kitchen, so it’s still warm. If you want, Meredith will serve it again.”

 

“Thank you. That would be fine.” Hutch said looking from the corner of his eye to an increasingly moody Starsky.

 

When Mrs. Reeves had left, Hutch whispered, “Come on, partner! Cheer up!”

 

“Yeah, sure, cheer up! We’re about to be poisoned and I gotta feel glad!”

 

 “Starsk, the lady and her son are a little strange people, okay. But it doesn’t turn them into killers. Try to relax. We aren’t about to be poisoned but about to eat some warm soup and a surely terrific meatloaf. What’s the matter, you’re not hungry? Or maybe you’re missing one of those musty and cold pieces of pizza you keep in your fridge.”

 

“When in a while we’re curled up, pucking over the carpet and dying among our death rattles, talk to me again about my pizza.”

 

“Paranoid…” In that moment, Meredith came to serve the meal, looking flustered under Starsky’s penetrating look.

 

The food was really good, though along their dinner, both detectives were paying more attention to the silent girl and her sad appearance than to their meal.

 

Finally, when she was serving the pie, Starsky couldn’t take it any longer.

 

“Are you okay, Meredith? Did she hurt you?” The girl stared at Starsky, with her eyes wide open, for some seconds.

 

“Meredith, honey. What’s going on?” Starsky could reach her hand this time. That small gesture of tenderness was enough to upset the girl as she began to weep.

 

“N-no...I c-can't…You m-must go away. Get out of he-here! Now!” After those words, she hurried back to the kitchen, knocking over the pie dish in her haste.

 

“Meredith! Damned blockhead! What you did this time?” Mrs Reeves came out of the kitchen, scanning the table with eagle eyes.

 

“I knocked over the pie, Mrs. Reeves,” Starsky said, bending down to collect the mess of dish and pie pieces with Hutch´s help. “Sorry. I guess I’m the damned blockhead”

 

“Oh no, no please. Don't bother yourselves! Meredith will clean it up. I’ll bring you…”

 

“No, Mrs. Reeves. Thanks. We’ve had plenty,” Starsky cut off, after looking briefly at Hutch.

 

“We are too tired. If you don’t mind, we’ll go up to our room.  Good Night” The blond one added.

 

“Good night, gentlemen. Breakfast will be ready at eight o clock.”

 

Both men headed out of the dining room, taking one more look at Meredith, who had come back to clean up the mess. She mouthed her ´thanks´ to Starsky before to keep cleaning up the carpet.

 

They were climbing the steps, when suddenly the house went dark.

 

“Funny! So the haunted house performance is ´bout to start! Got any matches Hutch?” Starsky grumbled, standing on the suddenly pitch black stairs.

 

“Mr. Hutchinson?” Mrs. Reeves´ voice called out from downstairs. “Mr. Hutchinson, could you come here, please?”

 

“Sure, Mrs. Reeves.” Almost blindly Hutch went down where Mrs. Reeves was.

 

Mumbling her endless string of apologies, the old lady managed to find some candles and matches in the darkness. Holding it out for Hutch, she assured him one more time how sorry she was for the inconvenience.

 

*******

 

Once in their room, Starsky didn’t lose a second in getting to the heart of the matter.

 

“That girl is in trouble, Hutch. Serious trouble. Damn it, she’s terrified!” he said, going into cop mode. “At the very least we’ve got a child abuse case. But I have the feeling that there’s something else.”

 

“What do you think she meant?” Hutch asked.

 

“I don't know. And we can't go and ask grandma what’s happening,” Starsky said in frustration, heading to the bathroom

 

“Yeah. That just would just make it worse.” Hutch finished the sentence. “Here in Colorado we haven´t jurisdiction.”

 

A thump sounded in the darkness.

 

“SHIT!” Starsky swore.

 

“Are you okay, Starsk?”

 

“Yeah. Worried for that kid, pissed off, fed up over the psycho-grandma and all her apologies, and I can’t even see my teeth to brush them, BUT PERFECTLY OKAY! FUCK!”

 

“Calm down partner, tomorrow…”

 

“No, Hutch, not tomorrow. Right now!” Starsky broke into Hutch’s words “You coming with me?”

 

“Now? Where? Listen Starsky...”

 

“Did you believe what the guy told us? You know, about the avalanche?”

 

“Do you mean that the road could be…?”

 

“I don't know, Blondie. But I’m gonna find out.” Starsky was already opening the door.

 

“Hey! Wait, I’m coming!”

 

 

*******

 

 

“Oookay! End of the line.” Starsky said braking, in front of a huge mound of snow and mud that blocked the narrow road.

 

“So, Steven wasn’t lying.”

 

“Nope. We really are caught in a mousetrap.” In that moment, Starsky, despite the cold sleet, got out of the car to stare across the Torino hood.

 

“Starsk?...Starsky where are you going?” Hutch got out, too, shaking his head and raising hands in bewilderment. Starsky was squatting down in front of a spot lightened by the Torino’s headlights.

 

“Hutch?” Hutch didn’t answer. He stopped in his tracks in see what Starsky was looking at. Sticking out of the snow heap a man’s hand showed.

 

Both men looked at each other before starting to dig frantically with their bare hands, removing the snow piled over the corpse’s upper body.

 

“Dead,” Hutch said after touching the unfortunate man’s neck with the remote hope of finding a pulse there.

 

“The Reeves?” Starsky asked thoughtfully.

 

“I don't know Starsk. I don't know. One thing’s for sure. It doesn’t look like an accident. The poor guy didn’t wear the most suitable clothes to go off for an outing.” Hutch got to his feet, still staring at the dead man, half-buried in the snow, dressed only in pajamas.

 

“Okay. Let’s think. We find a corpse. And somebody killed him. The Reeves, or the Yeti for all that matters. And now, what the hell are we supposed to do?” 

 

“Go back there and fool them, Starsk. Don't say anything about this corpse, just in case, and be the perfect customers until we can leave. Then we’ll go to the nearest police station. That’s the only thing we can do right now. We don’t have any proof, or evidence, in fact were aren´t even cops here."

 

"And that poor guy?" Starsky felt shocked at the idea of leaving a corpse in the middle of the forest.

 

"We gotta leave him here, partner. You know that. We don’t have any other choice." Hutch talked softly, knowing how distressed his compassionate friend was feeling.

 

“Hutch...He’s a man, a human being, not an animal. Somebody must be missing him. Maybe a wife, parents, kids. He deserves to come back with them…To rest in peace,” Starsky complained. His distress-filled eyes talking more than his words about the sorrow and sympathy he felt for the unknown victim.

 

“And he’ll come back, Starsky. You know it. And his killer will pay for his death. But not yet. Right now we can't take the corpse anywhere. We can do only a thing. Remember where he´s buried, and tell the nearest police station about him as soon as possible”

 

Knowing that his friend was right, Starsky kneeled down and both detectives buried the body under a thick layer of snow.

 

“We’ll come back, friend. Promise,” The brunet murmured, placing a hand over the little snow hump before coming back to the car.

 

They drove the short distance up to the hotel in silence. Once there, the power still wasn’t restored, and the entrance, lightened only by a weak moonshine showing among the clouds, looked ghostly and unreal.

 

“It's not a good night to be out for a walk, gentlemen.” Steven’s voice came from the half-darkness, startling both men.

 

“Oh, well. We couldn’t get to sleep. And despite the weather, the landscape looks wonderful tonight.” Hutch tried to sound nonchalant.

 

“What about the power?” Starsky asked on their way to the stairs.

 

“I’m afraid that it won’t come back for a while…Watch the steps.”

 

 “Thanks Mr. Reeves. Good night.”

 

Back in their room Starsky shut the door a little harder than he wanted.

 

“If that fucking psycho thinks I’m willing to sleep even a minute tonight he can wait sitting down!” The curled haired man snapped, pacing around the room like a caged lion.

 

“Come on Starsk. I think that it would be a good idea try and get some sleep. He doesn’t suspect anything. Besides, we don't even know if these people are related with the crime.” Starsky opened his mouth ready to retort, but with a second thought he closed it again, just looking at Hutch before sinking into his bed.

 

Minutes later, Hutch came from the bathroom, already in his pajamas, and about to get under the covers, but Starsky was still dressed and lying on the bed with his hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling.

 

“Starsk? Hey!...Starsky?”

 

“I can’t remember where I saw her before, I mean, Meredith. But I saw her, Blondie. I did.”

 

“Take a break Starsk. In a couple of days, we’ll be able to leave this place, then the police will take charge of the murder, and we’ll ask juvenile to open a investigation about the kid. Now, could you get into bed and put out the candle, partner? I’m knackered.”

 

“And what if we take her out of here?”

 

“Oh yeah, that’s good idea, a hell of a good idea! And we can get married later and adopt her!” The smaller man was now propped up on one elbow and staring at Hutch.

 

“You don't have to be sarcastic with me Hutch.”

 

“And you don't have to think any more nonsense.” Hutch shot back “Things aren’t working thus Starsk. For all that we know these people are her family. Maybe you want to be pursued by the Colorado State Police and face charges of kidnapping an under age girl?”

 

“Okay, okay. That was a silly idea. Forget it.  It's just that I know that the child is in trouble and we have to help her.”

 

“And we will help her Starsky. But in the right way! If we aren’t careful, we’ll get her, and ourselves, into a lot of trouble here. We must be wary until we can leave. You know that, right?”

 

“I know Hutch…I know”

 

“Okay, Could we get some sleep now, please?”

 

“Sure, Blondie. Good night” Making sure that his gun was close enough in the nightstand drawer, Starsky put out the candle, undressing and getting into his pyjama bottoms and into bed in silence.

 

Soon the only sound in the room was the regular breathing of Hutch. That and the tossing and turning of Starsky in bed. He stayed awake, brooding and unable to get any sleep, just thinking, trying to remember.

 

New York?...Nah. I didn’t see her in New York, nor in Bay City either. Some juvenile report maybe? Nope. Usually we don’t see juvenile cases.

 

First it was a thump. Then a distant weeping sound…

 

Starsky sat up in bed, listening attentively, but there wasn’t any more sound.

 

Hey Davey…Calm down. Your imagination is playing tricks on you.

 

Starsky lay back; then the sound came again, from the upper floor. A little louder this time: A woman shouting, another thump, then some seconds of silence, and later an unidentifiable noise, a scream, or rather something like a guttural and loud growl…

 

The curled-haired detective was out of bed shaking Hutch’s shoulder.

 

“Hutch?…Hutch.”

 

“Yeah  sweetheart?”

 

“HUTCH!!”

 

“WHAT?” Hutch woke up, sitting up sharply in his bed.

 

“Damn it Starsk! You wanna give me a heart attack? What the hell is wrong now? I was dreaming…”

 

“Noises Hutch. Strange noises. Upstairs.” Starsky pointed at the ceiling with his forefinger.

 

“Noises? What kind of noises?”

 

“Screams, growls. Poundings.”

 

“Screams growls and poundings uh? Look partner…”

 

“No! Listen!” Hutch did as Starsky asked, listening silently for some seconds, but the only noise was the winds gusts.

 

“And?” Hutch asked scratching his head.

 

“Okay, okay, forget it, no sounds, I’m imagining things here. Go back to sleep.”

 

“Starsk, maybe it was…”

 

“Good night Hutch. Try to dream of your chick again.” Starsky said moodily, rolling over to his side on the bed.  “But I heard it.”

 

“Sure partner. Sure” Hutch yawned, sliding back under the covers.

 

For a long while nothing more could be heard, and finally Starsky, wrapping the covers up over his nose, was able to fall into a light sleep, until, as a dark and stormy day began to dawn, the woman’s voice, sounding loud enough in the quietness of the hotel, reached his ears.

 

No, please! No more…Noooo!!

 

Without a second thought, Starsky leaped out of bed pulling his dressing gown on, and grabbing his gun and a lighted candle, he went in to the silent and dark corridor, hurrying upstairs.

 

There weren’t rooms, only a door that presumably led to a loft, and from where the weeping was more audible. Starsky, placing the candle on the floor, drew his gun before turning the door handle and going in the room.

 

The first thing he noticed was an image that, among the fading candles light, froze the blood in his veins.

 

“But…What?” His voice hung in the air for a second. Then a superhuman force dragged him into the room and crashed his head against the wall. It was the last thing he felt before his surroundings went black…

 

 

*******

 

“Hmmmm…Let me sleep Starsk, pleaseehmmm.” Hutch mumbled, feeling somebody shaking his shoulder.

 

“No, my dear gentleman. I’m afraid I’m not your friend. Right now he asked me to give you his apologies, for not being able to be here.” On hearing Mrs. Reeves voice Hutch was wide awake and got out of bed, taking his gun and aiming at the woman.

 

“Whe-where´s Starsky?”

 

“Oh, well. Don't worry. We could say that he’s having a good time getting to know Bob, my oldest son,” Mrs. Reeves said, with eyes shining as two mirrors of her inner madness.

 

“Shoot me if you want. But if Steven hears the shot your friend will be dead before you can find him. And you can be sure that he’ll hear it.” The woman held out her hand to Hutch, showing total calm.

 

“Your gun please. Give me your gun.”

 

“How do I know that you’ve got Starsky?”

 

“You can't. But he’s not here. Right? So he must be in some place. Believe me Mr. Hutchinson. It would be better for his safety if you came with me right now. Steven has his instructions, and he can be pretty hot-headed dealing with meddlers.”

 

Hutch gave his gun to Mrs Reeves reluctantly. “What do you mean? Who is the meddler here?”

 

“You both naturally. But especially your friend. He tried to put his nose in our family matters. Nothing of a customer business, right? But he did it. And now he’ll get what he deserves. And you too. NOW COME ON!!” Hutch felt his gun’s barrel against his back as the woman pushed him towards the corridor.

 

“We are cops madam. I guess you already know that. You’re getting yourself into a hell of a trouble.” Hutch said climbing the stairs to the upper floor with his own gun aimed at him all the way.

 

“Oh no, my dear gentleman. You’re wrong. I’m not getting into any trouble here, but just amending a mistake. Steven was right. I shouldn’t have allowed you to stay: I’m getting too soft in my old age, I guess.” They were already in front of the loft door and still with the gun against Hutch’s back, she ordered him to open the door. As he did it, Meredith, tearful and wearing just a nightdress, slid out of the room, running to disappear downstairs.

 

“STARSKY!!” On seeing his partner, Hutch forgot the girl, and even the gun against his back. He rushed towards Starsky. He was tied down on a solid wooden chair with his head hanging on his chest and a thread of blood sliding down from his nose.

 

“I- I’m okay Hutch…” Starsky managed to say weakly.

 

“I don't want any fuss here! Is that clear? You’ll upset Bob.” The woman said firmly to Hutch.

 

“Tie him up Steven.” She added. Wrapped in the shadows, Steven stepped forward grabbing Hutch with unusual strength considering his thinness, and tied him up, as the old lady aimed the gun against his temple.

 

“What you did to my friend, bastard!”

 

“Hey, hey, wait a minute! I didn’t do anything. It was Bob. He’s not too fond of unexpected visitors.” Steven said getting Hutch securely tied to another chair before facing him, grabbing a handful of his hair and looking straight into his eyes “By the way. I wanna make something clear. This is the only place in this hotel where the customers haven’t any reason to be, so I suggest you keep your temper at bay, gentleman” The young man laughed loudly, pleased with his own joke.

 

Once Hutch was unable to move Mrs Reeves gave the gun to his son, before heading to a corner of the large and dark room. There was a bed where a man, hairy and fatter than a Sumo wrestler, lay down, naked, with an ankle secured by a long chain fixed to a metallic hook in the wall. In the half light of the room Hutch saw how the old woman bent towards him, wrapping him with the covers and kissing his forehead.

 

“Hi baby. Mom will bring you breakfast in a while. Was Meredith compliant with you?”

 

“Meeedediiiith…” The man in bed giggled with an empty expression on his face. Despite being unable to see him well, Hutch realized immediately that he was victim of some mental disease or impairment. The woman patted the man’s cheek gently before approaching Hutch.

 

“He’s Bob. My older son. My pride, my joy and the most important person in my life.” Mrs Reeves breathed deeply before continuing, “But something is wrong in his brain. His father and I found out early…I guess my Robert passed away so young out of sorrow.

 

“Mrs. Reeves.” Hutch said softly.

 

“Shut up!” She slapped Hutch’s face “Why must young people be so rude? I’m trying to tell you something meaningful and very important to me.”

 

“Mrs. Reeves What you’re doing is a mistake.” Starsky said, but the old lady kept talking looking absent-mindedly at the wall.

 

“We tried it all. Everything in our power to help my Bob, but you know; Thirty years back there wasn’t anything to help people like him. Doctors advised us to shut him in some institution, but we couldn’t. We simply couldn’t do it.” Despite her evident madness both detectives could feel the true pain of a mother in the woman’s voice.

 

“As Bob was growing up he got more uncontrollable. We couldn’t allow him to be in the hotel any longer, bothering the clients and scaring their children, so when his father died, Steven and I had no other choice but to keep him here.”

 

“Ma’am… Mrs. Reeves, staying here is not good for your son.” Starsky dared to speak.

 

“Shut up fucking smart ass. My mother is speaking!” Steven accompanied his words with a hard punch in Starsky´s stomach, who moaned, bending over himself as much as the ropes allowed him.

 

“DAMNED SON OF A BITCH! I´M GONNA KILL YOU!” Hutch shouted out, stirring fiercely in his chair.

 

“My mother is speaking. And when she speaks everybody listens. Without interruption. Got it?” Steven said aiming at Starsky’s head with Hutch’s gun.

 

“N-no…Please…Don't hurt him. We’ll listen. But don't hurt him.” Hutch begged staring in Steven’s face.

 

“You are both wrong gentlemen. This place is the best for my Bob.” Mrs. Reeves kept speaking as if this aberrant situation was nothing but a chat between friends. “He is in his house, with his family. We love him dearly. Steven and I are taking good care of him. No damned shrink will take my son away from his family. We are perfectly able to provide him with all he needs. He has food, a warm room, and a comfortable bed. He wanted a woman, and we brought one for him.

 

“Christ…” Hutch mumbled as a sudden realization shook his entire being.

 

“Why are you so shocked Mr Hutchinson? My son is a man. Still young. And he has his needs. As you and your friend must have I guess. But of course no girl would even look him. All those hookers just have eyes for men like you…Handsome, intelligent. For them my kid is just a waste. Nature’s mistake.” She looked at her prisoners with a frightening hate. “But mommy didn’t let my Bob be lonely and unhappy all his life.” This time she turned to look at the man in the bed.

 

“You…You kidnapped Meredith.” Hutch said. It wasn’t a question, but a straight assertion. “You turned her into a sexual slave…This is sickening!”

 

“If you wanna put it that way” Mrs. Reeves answered.

 

“For Christ sake. She’s just a child!”

 

“She is almost 15, and was the most available that Steven could get at that moment. Well, gentleman, I would be happy continuing this conversation, but now, we must leave. The hotel will open in a few weeks and there’s still a lot of work to do to get everything ready for our customers. Later we’ll take care of you both:” Mrs Reeves and Steven left the room, leaving Starsky and Hutch tied in the semidarkness.

 

Hutch felt shocked with the atrocity he had just heard, but right now his most urgent concern was Starsky.

 

“Starsk?...Starsk partner. Are you with me?”

 

“I’m sorry Hutch. I c-couldn’t help her. She begged me f-for help, but I couldn’t…I just couldn’t help her!” Starsky said upset. “He was hurting her…and I couldn’t do a damn thing!”

 

“It wasn’t your fault Starsk.” Hutch tried to soothe his shocked partner. In that moment a fit of cough shook painfully Starsky´s body.

 

“Starsk, Take it easy. Try to breathe partner.”

 

“The…The guy, Hutch. That guy lifted me, throwing me against the wall, as if I were a feather.” Starsky winced. His breathing was difficult and panting.

 

“Bob?”

 

“Yeah. I followed the noises up here. As I opened the door, he dragged me in. He b-beat me.” Starsky seemed to be about to pass out.

 

“Don't sleep Starsk. You must keep awake, okay?…STARSKY!!”

 

“I’m he-here Blondie. You d-don't need to shout at m-me.” Starsky said in slurred voice. Hutch smiled relieved just for a moment, though knowing that their situation was difficult enough.

 

“Tha-that guy is a t-true beast” Starsky said looking to the bed where the huge man snored loudly. The chain that tied his ankle was long enough to allow him to move around the room so, if he got mad they would be really in trouble.

 

“The girl is Alison.” Starsky said swallowing hard.

 

“Alison?...”

 

“Alison…I don't remember her surname though. But I know that her name is Alison, ´cause when she disappeared from her house I was dating that brunette, that girl named Alison too.” Hutch listened Starsky thoughtfully as the curly-haired man kept speaking “About six months ago Colorado Police Department put out an APB on her.”

 

Then, the memory of the case sunk sharply into Hutch mind. Suddenly he remembered perfectly the face of the girl, her then blond hair, her almost childlike features, printed in the APB picture, the newspapers and even the milk packs in all the grocery stores and supermarkets in the city.

 

“God! How could I forget her! You kept saying that her face was familiar to you!” Somebody unlocking the door pulled him out of his memories.

 

“Mered…Alison!” Hutch called the girl. She came into the room carrying a tray with Bob’s breakfast, staring like a robot at the men tied in a corner.

 

“Come here Alison. Please. Help us.” Hutch tried again.

 

“Mede-dith…Mededith” Bob, again awake, babbled with an empty smile on his face.

 

“Alison. You don’t need to do it. Come here. Help us baby.” On hearing Starsky’s voice she spoke, still looking at the man on the bed.

 

“You’re wrong sir. I must do it. Or they’ll kill you. Like they killed the man who tried to help me some weeks earlier.”

 

“NO ALISON!!” Starsky shouted out finding strength out of despair.

 

“They are planning kill us, no matter what you do.” Hutch said feeling useless as never before.

 

“MEDEEEDIIITH!...Mededith mine! MINEEEE! Mom gives her just for meeee!!” Bob shouted out kneeling down on the bed. The girl slowly approached closer to the man. He dragged her violently over the bed, dropping the breakfast tray. She just closed her eyes. Her personal hell was beginning again.

 

In that room, she wasn’t a human being, but just a thing. A broken toy…

 

Bob began to kiss furiously at her lips, her neck, her whole body, tearing off her nightdress, sucking her breasts and pawing rudely over her body with his huge and stocky hands. She stayed still, as a rag doll without life, just waiting for the end of the nightmare.

 

“Take your hands off of her! LET HER ALONE!” Starsky yelled out trying to get free from the ropes but, plunged in his sexual excitement, the man didn’t hear him. Starsky turned his face to Hutch, letting the tears roll freely down his cheeks, feeling useless as never before. He couldn’t do an only thing to help the girl and it was tearing apart his very soul.

 

“Bob…Bob, listen to me.” Hutch tried to attract his attention “She’s tired, and you too. How about taking a nap, huh? Isn’t that a good idea?” Hutch said with a pretend calm.

 

 “Noooo! Wanna Mededith….Mededith mine!! Mommy said Mededith mineee!” Bob shouted out letting the girl go for a moment.

 

“I know Bob. We both know. But you were with her earlier. Now you must be tired. And she is tired too. You don't want her to get sick, right?...If she gets too tired, she won't be able to be with you.” The man in bed relaxed his grasp on the girl just for a moment, and Hutch took advantage of his hesitation.

 

“It would be better if you let her get some rest Bob. You can be with her later…”

 

“Alison…come here baby. Everything’s gonna be okay, honey. Come here.” Starsky asked softly. She tried to leave the bed, but Bob was again holding her tightly, touching her breasts. Then, she pulled back seizing her nightdress and covering her nakedness with the ripped cloth, rushed off of the bed and sat down on the floor, curled up in a corner of the room.

 

“See? She’s tired. She needs some rest. Later you can be with her again.” Hutch talked quietly trying to calm the man who had begun to look upset.

 

Bob stared at the girl for a moment, about to get off the bed. Then, to Starsky and Alison’s amazement, Hutch began to quietly sing a lullaby with his harmonious and velvety voice. 

 

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are!

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark;
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

 

As if by magic, the huge man tilted his head, before laying down again. His eyes began to close as a beatific smile curled up his lips, falling asleep in a matter of minutes.

 

Meanwhile, Allison kept trembling, sobbing and looking at Hutch in bewilderment. He kept singing until be sure that the man was totally asleep 

 

“Wow Blondie! Good one” Starsky whispered before talking to the scared girl. “Okay sweetheart, he’s sleeping now. Try to calm down and help us with these ropes. He won’t hurt you anymore.”

 

“I...I can't…They can come back…” The young girl said in a whisper.

 

“No Allison. They won’t come. Hurry up, honey. Help us.” Hutch said smiling soothingly to the terrified girl.

 

“Allison?...” She said suddenly as though waking up from a nightmare “That’s my name…”

 

“Yeah, sweetheart. We know.” Starsky spoke in low voice so as not to awake the sleeping man in bed.

 

“Nobody called me that for a long time…Nobody treated me kindly, as you do…” Allison looked at both men with a smile empty of any expression.

 

“Alison. Listen baby.” Starsky said trying gently to take the child back to the here and now. “We are cops. And we’ll help you. We’ll take you back to your home. But now you must get us free from these ropes.” The girl frowned looking at both men before going behind Starsky and starting to untie him. He noticed relieved how the ropes began to get slack around his sore wrists when the door opened.

 

“What the hell are you doing, damned little whore? And what did you do with Bob’s breakfast?” Mrs. Reeves said in her low and menacing voice, standing in front of Allison who stepped back, pinning her back against the wall.

 

“He…I mean, I knocked it over…”

 

“Fucking child! You’d be more useful as dog food! Those dishes were much more valuable than you!”

 

“I…I’m sorry…” The kid apologized, about to burst into tears

”Stop the sniveling and bring something to clean up this mess. NOW! Later you’ll fix another breakfast for Bob, stupid!” The girl hurried to the corridor as the old lady glanced to her hostages with cold eyes.

 

“We didn’t forget you. Steven will come in a while to get rid of you both.” With those words, Mrs Reeves went out of the room locking the door and leaving both detectives momentarily alone again.

 

“Could she untie you Starsk?”

 

“She just had time to slacken the ropes a little.”

 

“Shit! Can you get free?”

 

“Sure Blondie, piece of cake.” Starsky said struggling against the ropes and the piercing pain in his ribcage.

 

He was still trying to slide his hands out of the tight ropes when Allison and Mrs Reeves returned. The girl, carrying a broom, a shovel and a mop, cleaned the floor silently under the watchful look of the old lady. In a moment of the process, she picked up a sharp and pretty big piece of a broken glass, staring meaningfully at Starsky and Hutch, who got the sign in a second.

 

“You old hag! You must be very proud of yourself, right?…Kidnapping and torturing a kid! What an exploit!” Hutch said, looking straight into the old lady’s eyes.

 

“What?” Mrs. Reeves asked in piercing voice:  then, looking at the sleeping form of her son, she lowered her tone to speak in a husky whisper.

 

“What the hell were you calling me?”

 

“He called you old hag.” Starsky said defiantly as from the corner of his eye he saw Allison silently hiding the piece of glass under Bob’s bed. Without a single word, the old lady raised her hand slamming both men cheeks with all her strength.

 

“Maybe this will teach you both to respect the old people, damned insolents! You’re lucky because I don't wanna wake Bob! Come on Meredith!” Mrs. Reeves held the girl by her nightdress collar, almost dragging her to the door “I’m sure you both won’t be so rude with Steven.” She added before locking the door.

 

Starsky sighed relieved, showing his already free hands to Hutch and peeling the ropes from around his body. “The child is smart huh?” He asked, already free and carefully approaching Bob’s bed, unable to hold a soft moan of pain when he kneel down to pick up the improvised weapon.

 

“Starsky…” Hutch said concernedly.

 

“I’m okay Hutch, I’m okay. It only hurts when I breathe.” He joked tiredly “We must be quick. I guess the fun is about to start here.” Starsky approached Hutch, cutting the ropes out with the sharp piece of glass.

 

Once the blond detective was free, he walked carefully to the door just to be sure of what they both already knew.

 

“Locked.”

 

Meanwhile, Starsky was trying to open Bob’s wardrobe to look for any heavy clothing.

 

“Fuck! It’s locked too!”

 

“I’m sorry pal. I guess mom will bring you another one” Hutch whispered carefully picking up the patchwork cover that covered the sleeping form of Bob and striding towards the window to open it. “Come on Starsk. For the window”

 

“Alison Hutch! We can't leave her here.” Again, those sorrow-filled eyes staring at Hutch, breaking his heart.

 

“Not now Partner. We can't”

 

“Hutch!”

 

“We’ll come back to save her Starsky! You know that. Right now we must get out of here! COME ON!”

 

Luckily, out of the window there was a cornice and a drainpipe that allowed them to slide down to the ground. Starsky, swallowing hard, looked at the height for a hesitant second. Hutch placed a supportive hand on his shoulder. He knew how much Starsky hated heights. As well as he knew that his friend was not in his best moment to deal with that fear.

 

“Come on Starsky. I´ll go first.” Hutch threw the cover to the outside before sliding out of the window, sitting down in the cornice, and reaching the frozen and slippery drainpipe, whistling when his body, dressed in just his pajamas contacted the cold surface.

 

As Hutch was dropping Starsky could hear some steps approaching across the corridor

 

“Okay, Davey. Time to go out for a walk!” He said trying to encourage himself; feeling achy and sick but knowing that he should go out of that room. So, putting the broken glass in his dressing gown pocket, he got out the window. Hutch was already down waiting for him.

 

“Come on Starsk! Hurry up!”

 

“I’m trying…” Starsky was already sliding down the drainpipe and falling over Hutch when Steven put his head out of the window.

 

“Damn! You can’t get out of here alive!” Steven aimed carefully at Starsky, and shot.

 

“Get down Starsk!” Hutch screamed. When Starsky stooped, the man in the window missed his target by mere inches. The detective lay on his stomach in the snow. The cold was painful, but there wasn’t time to feel or think, but just to flee.

 

Both men got to their feet, shaking violently and unable to stop the chatting of their teeth, and started running in a zigzag towards the thicket of the nearby forest, when a second shot hit Hutch’s arm.

 

“Aaaaaaggghhhh!!”

 

“HUUUTCH!!” The blond man fell to his knees as Starsky ran towards him.”

 

“GO AWAY STARSKYYY” in that moment, Starsky was already dragging Hutch to his feet as a red stain spread on his pyjama sleeve.

 

“Come on, buddy, Let’s go!”

 

“Damn, Starsk! I told you to go away!” Hutch mumbled wincing.

 

“Can you walk Hutch?” Starsk asked ignoring Hutch pleads to leave.

 

“He’ll kill both us…go, Starsk…Please.”

 

“THAT¨S ENOUGH HUTCH! I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE WITHOUT YOU, SO SHUT UP AND MOVE!!” Starsky shouted out. Then, lowering his voice, he added. “Whatever happens we face it together Blondie”

 

“So-Sorry Starsk…I know that you won't leave me…”Hutch stood up, helped by Starsky and, with difficultly, both men reached the forest.  Steven didn’t shoot again, but they knew that this only did mean a thing.  He was already out of the house and looking for them.

 

As if echoing their thoughts, Steven’s voice resounded in the silent landscape.

 

“HEY GUYS!!...I KNOW THAT YOU ARE BOTH CLOSE!! VERY CLOSE…AND THAT YOU CAN HEAR ME!” The words´ echo bounced ominously against the mountains

 

“BUT I’M NOT CHASING YOU!! NOT YET! YOU ARE WEAK! WOUNDED! ALMOST NAKED!! YOU CAN´T COME BACK TO GET YOUR CAR!! AND A STORM IS ABOUT TO START... KNOW SOMETHING?...I KNOW EVERY INCH OF THIS FUCKING FOREST…AND I KNOW THE ONLY PLACE WHERE YOU CAN FIND SHELTER! SO LET´S HAVE A LITTLE OF FUN!  YOU BOTH ARE DEAD MEN!”

 

Steven’s words were followed by his sinister guffaws. Later,nothing. Just silence.

 

 

*******

 

There they were: Walking in a snow-covered forest, wearing just their pyjamas dressing gowns and slippers, shaking, half-frozen and in an unknown place. Hutch wounded, Starsky beated, and moving just on willpower.

 

If at any time they needed a miracle this was the moment.

 

“Do y-you think we could reach the road and climb the snow mound?” Starsky asked hopeful.”

 

“I…I don't think s-so Starsk. There’s at l-least a ton of snow, mud and ro-rocks…Be-besides it’s a-about a mile far from h-here.” Both men’s teeth were chattering uncontrollably and Hutch’s head was throbbing. He seemed about to pass out any moment.

 

“Yeah. You’re right.” Starsky said wrapping the cover tighter around them both.

 

“Let’s think…T-the guy said that he knows the o-only place where we can find shelter. Let’s l-look for that place.” He added stubbornly, unwilling to give up.

 

“For what, uh? Whatever that place is he…he knows it.” Hutch answered

 

“DAMN IT HUTCH! TO NOT DIE HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FOREST LIKE TWO STRAY DOGS!! To die fighting if our time is over! And to send that son of a bitch to hell before we die.” Starsky took Hutch’s face between his hands staring into the depth of his eyes. His dark blue eyes burning with determination. With the pride of a soldier, a fighter. A winner. “To try and hit the odds once more, partner. Just for that. Now, let’s walk, okay?”

 

Both men walked to the deepest of the forest. It was so thick that the daylight almost didn’t reach it, and the cold was even worse there.

 

They walked lost, wrapped in the cover and holding on to each other to get some heat and comfort until, behind some huge firs, they saw a small and derelict wood cabin.

 

“Let’s go, Hutch.” They walked towards the cabin. It was totally empty and unfurnished. The entrance door was ajar and the lock was broken. Cold seemed to get inside from everywhere. However, there they could find some shelter from the snowstorm to come.

 

“Terrific! It's just the house of my dreams” Starsky joked plopping down in a corner with Hutch. “Let me take a glance at your arm, Blondie.”

 

I’m okay Starsk. It's just a flesh wound. No big deal…But I guess we won't find a first aid kit anywhere around.”

 

“Neither matches nor a lighter.” Starsky answered looking at some moist trunks piled in a corner.

 

“How’re your skills as boy scout, Blondie?” Hutch just smiled tiredly, closing his eyes and resting his head against the wall.

 

*******

 

“STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!! You let them flee? You really did that? Oh God! Why must I take charge of everything here! I FEEL ASHAMED OF YOU, DAMN KID!” Mrs Reeves shouted, raising her walking stick about to beat her younger son’s back.

 

“MOTHER!” Steven yelled out grabbing the stick before it could hit his body.

 

“They aren’t too far mother, I know it. They are in the old cabin. You can bet.”

 

“Shut up, Steven! Don’t answer me back! What if they were able to reach the road, uh?”

 

“Are you joking mother? There’s a pile of snow and rocks at least twenty feets high. They are hurt, wearing just their pajamas, and the storm is beginning again. Those jerks will freeze to death in that fucking cabin. Maybe they are already dead. Later I’ll go there and take their corpses out of sight."

 

“Listen to me Steven Reeves. I hope you’re right. But if you’re not, if they managed to get out of that forest alive, then, God help you, because I’ll kill you with my own hands. Got it?” Without waiting for an answer, Mrs Reeves stormed out of the living room slamming the door.

 

*******

 

Hours passed. The announced snowstorm beat hard on the small cabin most of the day, and despite being inside, the cold was harder to bear with every passing moment.

 

“How is your arm do-doing Blondie? Hurts too badly?” Starsky asked between chattering teeth.

 

“Don’t wo-worry Starsk. I’ve gone through worse things…though right n-now I can't remember one” Hutch couldn’t hide the trembling in his voice, and his arm was increasingly hurting and throbbing.

 

“Hutch?” A dry and frightening fit of coughing cut off Starsky´s words, leaving him gasping painfully for air.

 

“Easy partner, easy.” Hutch said forgetting his own pain and rubbing his friend’s back in an effort to try and soothe him.

 

“Re-remind me to move to any place in the Caribbean aft-after this Hutch.”

 

“Yeah. Hot beaches, s-sun, cute ladies in bikinis, Piña coladas.”

 

“If you don't mi-mind, right now, I think I’d change my piña colada for a cup of hot chocolate.” Starsky smiled tiredly. “W-what we are gonna do Hutch? Ho-how we getting out of this frozen hole of the world?” a new fit of coughing cut off his question.

 

“I do-don't know partner. Right now I haven’t the least idea. And I don't know how the hell we’re supposed to hit that nutcase with just some trunks and a broken glass either. And he’ll co-come. Once the storm is over he’ll come. You can bet.”

 

“T-to end his handiwork…” Starsky said as a chill shook his body.

 

“Therefore, as s-soon as the storm starts clearing up, we must get out of here.”

 

“Yeah. Sure. To be in the precinct Monday at eight o’clock.”

 

“Or Dobey’ll  kick our asses…”

 

During the next couple of hours, cuddled to each other, both men fell into a fever-filled drowsiness, waking up every now and then, startled by some gust of wind, to fall back again into their unsettled sleep.

 

At dusk they were still curled up in the same spot, snoozing and shaking. The silence was broken from time to time by Starsky’s painful coughs and Hutch touched the curly man’s forehead noticing that his friend’s temperature was rising. He wasn’t much better either. His arm throbbed and hurt like hell and he could feel the fever climbing in his own body as well. They hadn’t any heat, water or food. Surely Steven was right and they wouldn’t make it through the night. However to try and get out under the storm would be a kamikaze idea. They could only do one thing. Wait.

 

Finally the night covered the forest and the snowstorm decreased to become just a slight snowfall. The only light in the cabin came from the moonshine coming through the windows.

 

Then, Hutch heard a sound.

 

Steps cracking in the snow…

 

Somebody approaching…Getting closer.

 

“Starsk…Starsky, partner wake up.” Hutch shook the half-sleeping form of his friend.

 

“Uh?...wha-What?” more coughs stopped Starsky’s words.

 

“Steven’s coming. Get up, Starsk.” Dragging himself to his feet with Hutch’s help, and taking a piece of trunk that the blond held out for him, Starsky waited, covered by the darkness’ on one side of the door, as Hutch did the same thing on the other side; Starsky bending down, Hutch pinning his back against the wall as they used to do, to rush over the silent form that entered in the cabin as a flashlight and a bundle fell to the floor

 

“NOOOO!!...” They were about to hit the figure with their trunks, when they heard the piercing voice and saw the girl fallen on the floor, protecting her head with her arms. Both men stopped in their tracks.

 

“Alison!” Hutch bent over, to help the girl rise.

 

“We could have killed you! Are you okay baby?’” Starsky asked feeling dizzy and with the adrenaline still pumping in his body.

 

“I..I wanted help you earlier…But I couldn’t flee until now. Bo-Bob got sick to his stomach and they…”Alison stuttered with revulsion drawing in her childlike features “They had to take care of him. Though I guess soon they’ll notice that I’m missing.” She stopped for a moment before kneeling down and digging into a big travelling bag.

 

“I brought some stuff for you.” Starsky and Hutch looked at each other under the dim light of the flashlight as the girl picked up some familiar looking clothes.

 

“Here. Your clothes, some soup and…this.” The kid took an old and rusty revolver and a bullets box with her fingertips as if the gun could shoot on its own any moment.

 

“Thank you so much, sweetheart…” A fit of coughing stopped Starsky’s words “You’re our guardian angel” He wanted to hold the poor kid in his arms but he guessed that with such an awful experience like she was going through, to be embraced by an almost unknown man would make upset her even more.

 

“And now?” Hutch asked “What do we do now?

 

“Go and get that nut and his dear mom, of course.” Starsky answered feeling some of his strength coming back.

 

“That can be very dangerous sir.” Alison said shyly.

 

“No more than staying here or trying to run, honey. By the way. My name is Dave, and he’s Ken. Trust us Alison. Everything’s gonna be okay.” Alison hesitated for a moment before nodding as her soft locks of hair fell over her thin face.

 

“Now, I must go back before they miss me.”

 

“Alison...sweetheart. Be careful. And try to get as far as possible from Steven and his mother. Once we get there it don´t will be a picnic.” Starsky said to the girl. After a lingering and silent look at both men, the girl hurried out of the cabin

 

Moments later, both were dressed into their clothes and feeling back to the life after eating two bowls of steaming chicken soup. Hutch was loading the gun, as Starsky looked concernedly at him.

 

“Do you think that thing will work, partner.”

 

“Hope so.”

 

“It looks pretty old.”

 

“Sure. I know. However, Giovanni’s gun worked…And it wasn’t much better than this. I guess we haven’t any other choice but go and try.” Hutch said looking the gun in his hand.

 

“Hutch…”Starsky whispered trying hard to stop a new fit of coughing. Weeping and steps sounded over the snow. Before they knew it Steven was in the cabin, seizing Allison and aiming his gun at Starsky and Hutch.

 

“Where you were going, my dear gentlemen?” He asked, as his insane look, shone lightened by the flashlight.

 

“Leave the girl alone Steven.” Starsky asked as Hutch aimed to his head.

 

“This little fucking meddler! No Starsky. Not on your life!...The gun!” He said looking into Hutch´s eyes. “Throw the gun to the floor. Slowly” Hutch hesitated for a moment, still aiming at Steven.

 

“Throw the damn gun or I’ll blow her head out” The madman jerked Alison brusquely closer to his body aiming the gun against her head, making her moan. Then, the blond detective carefully placed the gun on the floor.

 

“Good guy! Now, if you don't mind, we’ll go out for a walk. And remember. If you try any tricks, I’ll kill her. Come on! With your hands over your head!” Steven pointed with his head to the snow covered forest outside the cabin and both detectives began to walk with him and Alison behind.

 

“Steven,” Hutch tried “Steven…What you wanna do? Kill us maybe?”

 

“You’re a very smart guy Hutchinson.”

 

“You’re about to make the worst mistake of your life Steven. The murder of two police officers is a very serious crime.”

 

“SHUT UP AND WALK!!” Steven shouted out at their backs. The four walked in silence for a little while, until Starsky spoke.

 

“Steven…You don't wanna kill us. You never killed anybody before.

 

“Oh, no. You’re wrong, my dear detective. I did. About a month before I killed another customer who tried to get his nose into our family matters. And now, I’ll do it again. ” At that moment, as the little group were about to reach the hotel entrance, a loud shout came from Steven’s throat. Startled, both detectives turned their heads back, to see under the moonlight that Steven had lost his hand on the gun and on Allison as well, and something metallic jutting out from the back of his hand. 

 

They needed just a split second to rush towardsthe man, and after a brief struggle, knock him too the floor, grabbing his gun before he had time to reach it.

 

“WHOOREEE!! I´M GONNA KILL YOU” The man yelled out stirring fiercely against the hands that pinned him face down against the snow, while Alison looked at him sobbing terrified, and half-hidden behind a fir’s trunk.

 

“My haaaand!! The damn hooker stuck something into my haaand!” There, showing in Steven hand, a little sewing scissors were buried almost to the handle into the bleeding flesh.

 

“Shut up, Steven!” Hutch ordered aiming the gun against Steven as Starsky headed towards where the scared girl was hiding.

 

“It's okay Alison. Everything’s over sweetheart. Now we’ll get Steven’s mother and soon, you can go back home.” Starsky approached the girl slowly smiling and holding a friendly hand out for her, but she seemed in shock, unaware of anything, just sobbing and shaking uncontrollably.

 

“Alison, honey. We must get into the house. It’s freezing here. We’ve got Steven´s gun. See? Hutch has his gun. Nobody will hurt you any more. Please, Alison. Come here.” The calm and confident voice of Starsky finally seemed to reach the child’s mind, as she rushed into his arms with a whoosh.

 

“Take it easy baby, take it easy. Now, we must go. Okay?” Starsky said holding her in his arms. A little calmer, the girl just nodded, sniffing and drying her tears with the back of her hand, as Starsky nodded briefly at his partner.

 

“Okay damn scum! Now we’ll pay a courtesy visit to your mom.” Hutch said, dragging Steven by his jacket collar to get him to his feet, and lead him to the hotel entrance with Starsky and Allison following them.

 

They walked across the hotel hall area up to get to the private part of the house.

 

“Open the door.” The blond detective ordered to Steven who remained stubbornly motionless.

 

“I told you to open the fucking door! Or maybe mom didn’t give you a key, uh? Hutch mocked pushing the gun tighter against Steven’s back, who finally obeyed producing a bunch of keys out from his pocket, and unlocking the solid door.

 

As they stepped inside, the sound of Mrs. Reeves footsteps and a walking stick approached from the bottom of the house.

 

“You did…” The old lady stopped in her tracks in see her son aimed by Hutch..

 

“No Ma’am. I’m afraid he did not” Starsky answered with Alison hiding behind his body.

 

“I KNEW IT, DAMN STUPID!” The woman raised her stick to hit an ashamed looking Steven, but Starsky seized the stick throwing it angrily to the opposite side of the room.

 

“That’s enough, Mrs. Reeves. Give it up” The curled haired detective spoke calmly, but the woman didn’t seem willing to do it. In a surprisingly fast movement, she picked up a heavy marble ashtray with both hands, throwing it at Starsky’s head who dodged it by just a few inches.

 

“Wow Ma´am! Good Try!" Starsky said grabbing her wrists and preventing her from any more movement.

 

“Alison, honey. Could you get some ropes for us?” Starsky asked the girl, who hurried upstairs to get the ropes, as Mrs Reeves looked at her with a poison-filled look.

 

“You won’t get rid of us you little tart…”

”SHUT UP! AND I MEAN SHUT UP!!” Hutch shouted out, even startling Starsky pointing to the old woman with the ´Hutchinson´ finger and looking at her with his eyes on fire

 

“YOU´RE REACHING THE END OF MY PATIENCE, MRS REEVES!!”  He paused for a second to pull himself together before continuing speaking in low and cold voice. “Your time is over Ma’am. And now we are in charge here, so I advise you not to try anything to make your situation worse. Or you will both wait for the police outside, tied up to a fir. Is that clear?”

 

Clarissa Reeves noticed that Hutch was angry enough even to mean his words, and Steven knew it too. Both knew that they couldn’t keep their awful secret any longer, and now they would face some major charges and pay the price of their madness.

 

“My…My son…Who’ll take care of Bob from now?” Mrs Reeves asked becoming oddly docile, as silent tears rolled freely down her face.

 

“Don't worry about that Mrs. Reeves. Your son isn’t guilty of anything. In fact he’s the biggest victim of your insanity. We’ll take charge of getting a good place for him to live. Honest.” Starsky said looking straight into Clarissa Reeves eyes, as Alison returned to the living room bringing the ropes.

 

 

Epilogue

 

The nightmare was over. During the night once the Reeves were securely tied up, with some breaks to let Mrs Reeves to take care of Bob, before coming back to her chair in the living room and being tied again, the detectives could get some food, rest and medicines for Hutch’s wounded arm and both of their fever. At last, in the warmness of the house they could finally get warm.

 

Next morning, snowploughs cleared up the snow in the road as a helicopter took both detectives and Allison to a hospital in Aspen, and the Police Department took charge of the Reeves.

 

The man buried in the snow, turned out to be Ralph Kellerman: A businessman who had stopped on his way home, to spend a night in the hotel. According to Alison’s testimony, he found out that something was wrong with the girl. He managed to speak with her, assuring Alison that he would talk with the police, but soon she found out that the Reeves had killed him.

 

During the next few days, Denver social services got a place for Bob in a nursing care home and Starsky and Hutch spent some days at the hospital. Hutch had an infection in his wounded arm and a bad cold. Starsky suffered pneumonia in early stage that needed antibiotic treatment, plus a cracked rib. However, ten days after their admission, they were ready to go back to Bay City.

 

The morning before their leaving, a slight knock sounded on their room door.

 

“Come in” Starsky said lying down on his bed and leafing through the newspaper while chewing idly on a candy bar. A smiling face showed through the half-open door.

 

“Alison! Come in babe!” The curled-haired detective spoke with visible joy. The girl stepped into the room accompanied by a couple in their early forties. The man face showed a friendly smile, the woman, was the living picture of the girl.

 

“Hey Alison! How are you doing? Asked Hutch approaching the newcomers.”

 

“Well…Everything is pretty difficult still, but fine. Yeah, just fine.” The girl smiled shyly before turning to her family. 

 

“Ken, Dave. I’d like to introduce you my parents. Karen and Charles Crawford.” The four adults shook hands politely; then they sat down, and Alison’s father cleared his throat before speaking.

 

“I...I mean, we…Shit! I knew perfectly all that I wanted to say to you both, detectives…Is just that right now…I can't…” The man’s eyes shone with unshed tears.

 

“What my husband is trying to say is that you both gave us back the most precious and valuable gift of our lives…The only important thing for us. You gave us back, safe and sound, our Ali. ” The woman spoke in choked voice.

 

“Oh, come on, Mrs Crawford! It's not important.” Starsky answered feeling a little embarrassed.

 

“We’re very happy to be able to help Alison. But she helped us too. Your daughter is a great girl.” Hutch added.

 

“No Ken. You’re wrong” Now it was Alison who spoke “I’m not a great girl at all but just a stupid and spoiled child. A child who paid a high price for her silliness.”  She spoke calmly with an unusual maturity tingeing her voice.

 

“I ran…That night I ran out of my house to go to a party. My parents didn’t want me to go. However, taking advantage of the fact that they were going out to have dinner, I did. Later, at the end of the party, my friend Charlotte took me home. But she left me some blocks away from my place. That way, my parents couldn´t hear the car pulling a halt in front our entrance. I walked just a few feets, then a man stopped in front of me to ask me for a street address. He was Steven...” Alison swallowed hard before to keep talking “He dragged me to his car, covering my mouth with his hand. Once there, he hit me, and I passed out, then he tied me in the backseat, driving back to the hotel. The rest of the story… well…you can guess it.” Alison got to her feet walking to the window.

 

“Alison, listen baby” Starsky got off of the bed heading to the window as well, feeling unsure about what to say. “I can't picture the nightmare you were going through. But I know that you’re strong. Brave. You can do it.

 

“I’ve got appointments...With a psychiatrist.” The girl said still staring at the window.

“Twice at week. But I don't think it’ll help me at all. He won't be able to help me to be a fourteen year old girl again. To not be scared out of my mind just to see a boy approaching to me…To hear steps at my back. ”

 

“Alison…” Mrs Crawford went close to her daughter, that just in that moment, seemed to wake up from her reverie

 

“I...I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean upset anybody.” Alison said as if suddenly aware of the other people’s presence in the room.

 

“Well. I think we should leave.” Alison’s father said. “Thank you so much, detectives. We’ll never be able to thank you enough for saving our daughter.”

 

“God bless you.” Mrs Crawford added before heading back to the door.

 

“Dave…Ken,” Alison said, turning back to face Starsky and Hutch, as her mother surrounded protectively her shoulders. “Thanks…I’ll never forget you.” The Crawford’s left the room leaving both men thoughtful and moved, until Starsky asked.

 

“Do you think that she’ll make it Blondie?”

 

“I don't know Starsk. Really. I don't know. At least now, she’s got a chance, though”

 

“Yeah” Starsky smiled as his usual optimism showed again. “Know something? At times we’re doing some good things partner. However, I think it would be great to have some calmness for a change!”

 

“Calmness? Who? Us?  Come on Starsk! I don't think you’d really like that. Mr. Looking-for-troubles would get too boring.” Starsky grabbed the newspaper walking towards Hutch as he stepped backward.

 

“Uh-uh. No Starsk” Starsky raised the newspaper over his head, still advancing and staring at Hutch as the blond kept going back. 

 

"STARSKY!!...Don't behave yourself like a five-year!...NO!!...Starsk! This is a hospital!” Starsky threw the newspaper towards Hutch, who bent down as it flew, missing him but crashing against the head of the huge and moody–looking nurse that at that moment came into the room carrying their pills…

 

                                                      

 

THE END

 

 

 

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