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ORCHIDS SPELL DEATH

From this day forth´s sequel

By Elisa Valero and Judith Goodger

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.

First the spring, then summer was over. Months slipped quickly by with everything slowly but surely coming back to normal, and September arrived. In a few days it would be the first anniversary of Vicky and Starsky meeting each other at her place and he was looking for something to give her as a special surprise to celebrate.

Hutch and Jenny were enjoying their new relationship, though they were still living in their own apartments as both wanted to keep their independence, Hutch was enjoying one of the happiest times of his life with Jenny and she knew that their decision to give their feelings a chance was the right decision.

In these last months too, the life of little Kathy was changing for the better. Jim Mitchell, and Suzie his wife, were doing all in their power to adopt her though, at the moment, that wasn’t possible. The father of the child would not even to think about the idea of giving up his daughter to a cop, though obviously he never took care of her so, for the moment, the only thing that the Mitchell’s had was temporary custody of the little girl.

She was really an affectionate, grateful and very intelligent child, so needing of love and attention. In the last weeks Jim gained permission for Kathy to go to the school where his son Alex was studying and she was doing fine there living, for the first time in her unlucky short life, as a child, being spoiled, and loved, and wishing to spend the rest of her life as part of her new family.

More than once she and Alex went to the Starskys with Suzie or Jim, and on each of those occasions, Kathy, the little boy and Starsky spent endless hours in the yard, playing ball games with Samson, or in the living room, playing his guitar and singing songs with the children, watching cartoons on the TV as a child himself, or driving with them in the Torino to the bakers to come back home a while later with his arms filled with cakes and ice cream as a great afternoon snack. In each of these moments Vicky watched the scene, her heart filled with gratitude toward the brave little girl who had saved Starskys life, and with an overwhelming feeling of tenderness and love towards her husband, her big child, her brave man, waiting for the day when he could give all this love to his own sons.

All through this time Vicky and Starsky had fought hard to leave bad memories behind and they had done it. Both were enjoying every minute of family life with all its little sweet moments and the company of their best friends as well. Vicky was still working, though soon she would finish, waiting for her babies to be born. Due to her condition every day was hard, stand in the surgery all of the time but her pregnancy was going well. despite the increasing suspicion from Starsky that something was wrong.

So, that midday, after her last medical appointment Starsky became serious and asked. "Vicky, can I ask you something?"

"Sure sweetheart. What’s the matter?"

"Vicky tell me why, whenever you speak of the baby, you make the same face as the cat that ate the canary? Just like now." In that moment Vicky couldn’t help but blush a bit, and, as most times, a mischievous smile was threatening to betray her and she had real trouble keeping her surprise hidden. "Vicky, are you hiding something from me?"

"Dave…Honey. Why do you think that I would do something like that?"

"´Cause I couldn’t have gone with you to any of your medical appointments. That’s why."

"Sorry Dave. I already said that I got the date wrong this last time." Vicky approached Starsky, embracing him and resting her head on his chest. "Dave, our baby is perfectly okay."

By then Vicky already knew that they were two boys. Luckily, before Starsky could ask any more questions, the phone rang. Vicky picked it up relieved, to find it was Jenny calling.

"Hello?"

"Vick, it’s me Jenny. Can we talk?"

"Hi, Jenn. Just give me a second." Vicky said, looking at Starsky from the corner of her eye.

"Saved by the bell" Starsky whispered in her ear, grabbing his jacket before leaving the house "I have to get back to work now but let me tell you something Mrs Starsky. This talk isn’t over." Starsky tried to appear angry, but a smile was showing in a corner of his mouth and, after kissing her lips, he headed towards the Torino

"Thank God Jenny! Dave is getting suspicious about the babies."

"Oh well. You are married to a cop remember? Besides…Sorry, but lately, you’re…how can I say it? You’re so…Immense maybe? Yeah. I think that’s the right word."

"Thanks Jenny. That’s just what I needed to hear. You’re always so nice"

"You’re welcome friend. Listen Vicky. Can I see you?"

"Sure Jenn. Something wrong?"

"I´ll be there in twenty minutes." And so saying Jenny hung up the receiver.

A short time later both women were sitting down on the couch drinking sodas. Jenny was looking pale and fatigued. In fact it was how she had looked for the last couple of weeks.

"Are you feeling good Jenn? You look like hell."

"And I feel like it too"

"Are you sick Jenny? If you want I can take you to the doctor. Or I can call Hutch and Dave."

"Oh no! Seeing Hutch is the last thing I need right now"

"Uh?"

"Vick. I´m pregnant. I don't know how it could have happened, because we take precautions, but I’m pregnant. No mistake."

"WHAT??...But how?"

"Well. I’m sure you know how already, I guess."

"Come on Jenn! What I mean is does Hutch know?"

"Not yet. I’ve only known for sure today. But I still have to tell him. Soon, I guess."

"What do you want to do about the baby Jenn?"

"To have it of course, you know that I always wanted to have a kid some day. Well, seems as that day is coming sooner than I thought. But I won’t marry Hutch. Him or any other man, for that matter."

"But, he’s the father. He has the right to"

"Of course he’s the father, and hell have the right to be with his baby if he wants, but I don't even want to hear of marriage. Were happy as we are. And neither of us likes the idea of getting married. Look Vick. This is something that I´ll not discuss. Okay?"

"Okay, okay Jenn. Listen. Tonight were all supposed to have dinner together. If you want I can think of some excuse for us not too."

"Oh, no. It's not necessary. I can speak with Hutch tomorrow, or any other day. Maybe I could even introduce him to the baby in eight and a half months…Kenneth Hutchinson; I want to introduce you to your son Kenneth Hutchinson Jr...Sounds great, uh?

"Sure, that would be the best way to do it." Vicky laughed.

"And you know what the funniest thing is Vicky? A couple of days ago Hutch was looking for a bulb in my storage room and he found the pram for your baby. He came in the living room, a little pale, carrying the pram and asking me. What’s this mean Jenny? Tell me that this is for the little Starsk…Jeez. What a mess!!"

"Know something Jenn? I wouldn't want be in your shoes right now. I only hope Hutch and you haven´t done as good a job as Dave and I." Vicky, indicating her enlarged abdomen, rose with some difficultly, and Jenny’s help, from the couch.

That evening, things were pretty calm in the precinct, in one of those hot end of summer days in which even the bad guys seemed to have a day off.

Giving him a coffee cup, Hutch was asking one visibly absent Starsky. "Hey Gordo. Something new about Vicky’s surprise?"

But Starsky was lost in his own thoughts.

"... Starsky? Hey, Starsk!" Hutch waved his hand in front of his partners face.

"Uh?...Oh, sorry Hutch."

"Where were you partner?"

"Well…I’m afraid I was a long way from here."

"Let me guess. You were at home, with Vicky. Right?"

Starsky smiled, drinking a sip of his coffee and looking at his friend´s eyes. "Yeah, you know? She’s looking more beautiful as her pregnancy is going on. She’s just glowing". Hutch smiled as Starsky kept talking. "During these last weeks I’ve been thinking of how many things have changed in our lives. Just a year ago Vicky and I hadn’t even met each other, and she was just moving from the other side of the city. Then, that day, I went to her house to call to the Phone Company, and well. Here we are. And, after everything that has happened, finally, now we are happy Blondie. I mean, truly happy. Vicky is the best woman that a man could find and now, inside her, my son is growing up, waiting for the moment to be with us. I´ll have a son and its simply the best thing I’ve ever had Can you picture him Hutch? He´ll be little, soft and beautiful, and he´ll have that special smell, so sweet, that new babies have. I can see him already, grabbing my finger with his little hand...and Vicky and I cuddling him at night to get him to sleep in his cot, beside his teddy." Emotion showed in Starsky´s features as he spoke.

"Yeah, Gordo. I can see the little Starsky too. His little head covered in brown curls and his dark blue eyes. I can picture you some years on, playing a ball game in the yard with him, or reading him some child’s tale before bed, or giving him a glass of water in the middle of the night. Really, he´ll be the luckiest, and the most spoiled, child in the whole world…Know something Starsk? A great time is coming to you, and for God sake, you deserve it!!" Overcome with tenderness Hutch briefly rubbed Starsky´s back before sitting down again behind his desk.

"And what about you Hutch? Wouldn’t you like to be a father some day too?"

"Yeah, Id like to I guess. You know. I wanted to have kids with Van…But fortunately we didn’t bring an innocent child to live in the middle of our chaotic relationship and now, with Jenny, well. It seems a pretty far thing to happen. We are happy. She’s a great girl, but I´ll never have a family with her I suppose"

During the time that Jenny and Vicky were fixing dinner, the blonde was picking some of the food from the fridge or the serving dishes placed on the kitchen table. A piece of tomato, some olives. But what Vicky was simply amazed by was when she saw her friend popping a thin slice of smoked meat into her mouth.

"What’s the matter Vick?" Asked Jenny "I´m vegetarian but seemingly this little Hutch isn’t like his mum, and right now I was dying for that piece of meat, though maybe later Ill be incapable of eating even a bite of food. Now I’m fine, even hungry, and the next minute I could be in the john, sick to death... It’s so strange!"

"Oh no, its not strange at all. In fact its pretty normal I went through the same thing at first. Its just that if Hutch and Dave see you eating meat, its possible that they call for some shrink this very night."

A couple of hours later Starsky and Hutch came back from the precinct. The dinner and the table were ready and, after kissing their respective ladies, and with an extra kiss from Starsky to Vicky’s big abdomen, they all sat down around the table.

Both couples spent an agreeable evening together. Nevertheless, the blonde girl was looking visibly pale and silent, worrying the other three who were looking discreetly at Jenny as she scarcely ate any food, wondering what’s wrong with her.

"Are you okay Jenn?" Hutch asked gently rubbing her shoulder.

"Oh, yeah. It's just a little stomach trouble…But I’m okay."

"I can fix some camomile tea for you if you want." Vicky spoke softly.

"No. it's okay Vick. Really, soon I´ll be fine"

All of them spent the whole dinner looking at the blonde one with concern, until a while later,

Jenny, visibly light headed, rose from her chair and headed towards the bathroom. Vicky, seeing her extreme pallor, got up as well to accompany her But they didn’t get too far. After just a couple of steps, the girl simply passed out falling into Vicky’s arms.

Both Starsky and Hutch reached them at the same time. Hutch gently lifted her up and, at Starskys insistence, he carried her through to the bedroom where he carefully laid her on the bed. A worried Vicky followed close behind as fast as her huge bulk would let her. Starsky disappeared into the bathroom and hurriedly returned with a damp flannel, which he handed to his wife. Hutch sat by Jenny’s side holding her hand as Vicky laid the cloth onto her forehead. Disappearing one more time Starsky headed for the medicine cabinet and, reaching inside, he pulled out the smelling salts Vicky kept at the back. Pausing long enough to collect some brandy he hurried back to his friends. Handing the small bottle of smelling salts to Vicky Starsky moved to stand behind Hutch and placed a calming hand on his shoulder. The pungent smell of ammonia filled the air as Vicky moved the bottle to and fro underneath Jenny’s nose. For a moment there was no reaction then, slowly, they could see her beginning to react. Finally her eyes opened and Hutch smiled lovingly at her.

"Hey there sleeping beauty. You had us a little worried there for a moment. That’s some finale you’ve got for an evening out." Starsky handed him the brandy and he held it to her lips. "Here, take a sip or two of this."

Jenny slowly sipped at the warm liquid, pulling a face as she did so. When Hutch was satisfied that her colour was more or less back to normal he finally allowed her to sit fully upright.

"Feeling a little better now?" His voice was soft and gentle and Jenny nodded. "Good then maybe you would like to tell me what’s going on with you." He looked directly at her and his eyes told her that he would take no messing around but still she tried.

"I told you Hutch. I’ve got a bit of a stomach bug that’s all."

"Yeah! And I’m the President! Come on Jen you can do better than that. You’ve been acting strange all night and you hardly touched your food. And for some weeks you haven’t been looking too well. Maybe you think I haven’t noticed it? The only person you’re kidding with that one is yourself!"

Hutch’s voice was firm and Jenny knew she could delay no longer. She glanced at Vicky her eyes pleading and Vicky rose from her seat on the bed next to her.

"Good luck." She whispered to her friend. "Come on Davy. I need some help in the kitchen." Taking a firm grip on Starskys arm she pulled him from the room leaving the two together. Starsky let her get to the table and start clearing it of dinner plates and crockery before he spoke.

"Vicky what the hell is going on? Jenny’s sick isn’t she?" Starskys voice was worried and demanding and Vicky took a deep breath before she answered.

"No Dave she’s not sick, not how you mean anyway. She needs to talk to Hutch though."

Vicky watched his face as different emotions ran across it. First there was confusion, then realisation and finally amazement. "Are you saying what I think you’re saying?"

"Hey, you’re the detective. You tell me." And she smiled softly at him.

For a moment Starsky was rooted to the spot. If what he thought he knew was right then this was a time for celebration, he hoped. Slowly he managed to make his paralysed limbs move and he walked towards his wife and held her tightly.

"How long have you known?"

"Jenny told me today. She only just had it confirmed. Dave, how do you think Hutch will take it? I mean, they were happy as they were no ties and all that. Will he be alright about this?"

"Hutch will be okay with it V. Sure he´ll be a little dumb struck but hell stand by her and hell make a great dad."

"But she wont marry him Dave. She’s adamant about that." Vicky’s worry showed in the way her voice wavered.

"I know. Hutch told me. Give them time V, maybe shell change her mind as time goes on. Either way Hutch is still the father and hell be there for her. I’m sure of that." Starsky kissed her gently and laid his hand on her abdomen. "Hey little one. You´re gonna have a little buddy of your own to play with."

Vicky placed her hand over Starskys and they both smiled tenderly as they felt the baby underneath turn over. "Come on Mrs Starsky. Lets get this dishwasher loaded and settle down in front of the tube." Together the two continued the task of clearing the debris of their meal and before long they were on the couch, Vicky’s head resting on Starskys chest and his arm protectively around her, as the sound of an old movie filled the room.

Inside the bedroom, lying on the bed Jenny took a deep breath and prepared herself for what was to come. Patting the place which Vicky had vacated she waited for Hutch to sit next to her before speaking.

"Ken. You know that pram you found the other day, the one you thought was mine and I was hiding from you?" Hutch nodded without speaking. "Well like I said at the time it isn’t and I wasn’t." Jenny stopped to draw breath realising that she was babbling. She tried again. "I’ve been feeling a little off colour these last couple of weeks so I went to the doctor. Oh damn it! Hutch I’m pregnant. I’m going to have a baby and I don’t know what to do!" Jenny held her breath as she watched Hutch’s face. His blue eyes seemed to turn a little darker and his face set. Jenny’s heart tightened. "Hutch say something…please."

"Marry me Jenny." His voice was cold and firm, almost demanding, and she shivered.

"No Hutch. We’ve been through all this before and nothings changed. I wont marry you just because Ive been careless. This baby may be a mistake but its not going to make me change everything I hold dear." Jenny stopped as Hutch rose from his place beside her and headed for the door.

"Hutch.”

Turning he looked directly at her, his face cold, his features set. "Then I guess there’s nothing left to say is there? Good luck Jenny."

With that he opened the door and slipped out closing it firmly but silently behind him. Starsky and Vicky watched in amazement as he walked across the room and out of their front door without so much as a backward glance. Running after his friend Starsky was just in time to see him race away from the kerb with a squeal of tyres.

Starsky and Vicky hurried into the bedroom to a see a crying Jenny curled up on the bed.

"Jenny…what the hell happened?" Starsky´s voice broke through her sobs as Vicky held her tightly.

"He…he asked me to…to marry him" Her voice was quiet through the sobs.

"And you said no!" It wasn’t a question.

Jenny nodded and looked at Starsky. "He was so cold Dave. I’ve never seen him like that before. I think I just hurt him badly."

"Stay with her honey. She looks like she needs you right now. About as much as Hutch needs me I guess if I can find him." Starsky headed for the door where he turned and blew a kiss to his wife. "Love you, and don’t worry, it’ll be okay. I promise." With that he left the room and hurried across to the front door pausing only long enough to collect his jacket and keys. As he climbed into his car he ran a mental check of all the places he thought Hutch might head for. Okay blintz. You’re upset and had a bit of a shock. Where you gonna run too? As an answer slowly crept into his mind he turned on the ignition and swung his car out of the drive heading for the beach. It was where he had found his friend the day that his divorce had finally been finalised and somehow he figured that was just how it felt to Hutch right now.

Already at the beach, Starsky saw Hutch’s battered LTD parked on the verge of the beach. He parked the Torino in a spot next to his friends car and headed on to the sand.

It wasn’t long before he could see Hutch’s figure sitting down next to the seashore, and throwing little rocks into the sea. In a few strides, he was close to Hutch.

"Mind if I sit down a while with you, buddy?"

Hutch answered with an almost imperceptible shrug of his shoulders and kept his eyes fixed on the sea. After some minutes of silence he spoke.

"Its funny huh?... This very afternoon you asked me if I would like to be a father some day, and now I´m going to be a father. Like you, but with one little difference. I´ll not be able to see my child growing up. I wont get to rock him in my arms to make him sleep, no child’s tales before bed time, no ball games in the yard at all, no…" Hutch’s voice broke because a lump was forming in his throat.

"Hey, wait! Wait a second partner, and try to think clearly. Jenny doesn’t want to get married. But perhaps she told to you that you can't to be with your child?"

"No, of course, but"

"But nothing Hutch. Listen to me. That girl and you are happy together. Right? But for some reason, she doesn’t want to get married. That’s okay too. Its her decision and I’m afraid there is little you can do to change her mind, but already you know Jenny. I can't picture her not allowing you to be with your child"

"Yeah. My child! A child who will have a mother living in one place and a father living in another. Great way to grow up!!"

Both friends remained silent for some minutes until Hutch fiercely threw another handful of pebbles into the sea "SHIT!! That girl is damned stubborn!! That’s what she is. And there’s not one thing I can do to change it."

"Okay, she is. But tell me something. If she wasn’t pregnant would you marry her?"

"BUT SHE IS PREGNANT STARSK!"

"I know, Blondie. I know ...same as I know that maybe right now she has more sense than you in your blond head."

"What do you mean, Starsky?"

"What I’m trying to say is that Jenny knows perfectly that marriage was something out of the question for you both until this moment. Yeah, sure. Everything has changed a lot with her pregnancy, but no sensible woman would marry a man for no other reason but the mutual wish to be married anyway."

"Are you trying to tell me that Jenny is a sensible woman?" Huch asked looking at Starsky with a questioning look.

"That’s right. Look Hutch. I don't know if she will marry you in the future or not, but one thing is sure. Married or not, you are going to be a father…Good Heavens! Well be truly busy in some months helping our ladies with the nappies, the babies bottles and all that stuff." Starsky joked in an attempt to ease Hutch’s worries a little.

"What do I do now Starsk?"

"Well, how about you get some sleep. Tomorrow Jenny and you will be able to work things out. I’m sure of it." Both men were already rising up from the sand and heading toward their cars.

"Do you want to come to my place? Or maybe I could to spend tonight at yours?"

"No Starsk. Thanks. You’ve already done enough for me today. Ill be okay. Go, be with your wife." Starsky gently squeezed Hutch’s arm as a good bye and both men drove in opposite directions toward their homes.

Once there, Starsky saw Jenny’s bag still hanging on the coat hook and the girl sleeping on the couch so, silently and without turn on the lights, he headed towards the bedroom, scratching Samson’s head in greeting as he passed. "Stay close to her tonight boy. She could do with a friend right now."

Quietly closing the bedroom door he turned to see Vicky looking at him.

"Hey lover…How’s Blondie doing?" she asked, already in bed.

"He’s pretty upset, but I think everything will be alright in the end. And Jenny?"

"Sad, worried and upset too, but determined. Hutch is the father of her baby and she loves him, but as for marriage…That’s a very different matter..."

A minute later, Starsky, already into his pyjamas, got into bed and embraced Vicky. "Well, lets leave the problems for tomorrow, Okay? Right now Im much too tired to think. Love you" Saying that he kissed Vicky, and lay down, asleep almost instantly.

Next morning the 9th precinct began the day with a nightmarish crime. A pregnant woman had been murdered in her own house roughly twenty-four hours earlier. The murderer killed his victim, suffocating her with a plastic bag, later cutting open her abdomen, getting out the seven months foetus, and leaving the woman’s corpse in her bed and the baby’s corpse in his cot, with a white orchid over his little body. Her mother discovered the awful scene the next morning.

"Kelly Miller, 31 years old, separated from her husband four months ago, blonde, blue eyes. Her ex husband has a good alibi. He’s a fireman and at the time of the crime he was on duty. Besides, the relationship wasn’t so bad, in spite of the circumstances. Mrs Miller found her husband and her best friend in the bed On the other hand the exterior phone wire was cut and the door wasn’t forced, so seemingly Mrs Miller opened the door to the killer. As for the victim, she owned a little boutique, and she had no known lover, boy friend nor enemy for that matter." While they were listening to Dobey´s explanations, Starsky and Hutch felt their stomachs turning at seeing the pictures taken by the forensic team. In spite of the large amount of horrors seen during their years as police officers, at times some crimes were too much hard to stand.

"Starsky, Hutch. We not got much to start with, but this murder can only be the handiwork of one very dangerous psycho. I just hope that you both find something good enough to catch the damned nutcase soon. Go hit the streets And for Gods love, don’t come back here without some clue about all this."

"Hey partner! You alright?" A concerned Hutch asked as they both headed to the Torino, seeing the deathly pallor of Starskys face.

"God Hutch…What a horror…That poor girl And the baby…there, dead in his cot. Who could do something like that Hutch?" A thin sheen of sweat was showing on Starskys forehead.

"I don’t know Starsk A true madman, that’s for sure. Look buddy. If you want, we can ask Dobey to assign other detectives to this case."

"No Hutch. We´ll do it. Don’t worry. I´ll be fine. It´s just that…"

"I know, Starsk. Believe me. I know." Hutch looked at Starsky with sympathetic eyes. "Come on. Let’s go to work"

The drive towards Mrs. Miller’s house was made in silence. Starsky kept his eyes fixed on the road. Hutch doing the same, but with occasional glances at his friend from the corner of his eye. When they arrived the coroners wagon was waiting to take the corpses from the scene but first the forensic team and the homicide detectives had work to do.

The female corpse and the little foetus were on the bed and the cot respectively, totally bloodstained. The real images were much worse than the pictures. The last horror reflected in Mrs. Millers features, the blue colour of her skin, the indescribable image of the little baby’s corpse, more alike to some kind of strange broken doll than a child, and, in bizarre contrast, the room in perfect order.

"What do we have Dan?"

"Not that much Hutch Only that the killer cut up the victims abdomen, not with an ordinary knife, but with a scalpel. No fingerprints, no signals of struggle, no blood in any of the rest of the house but in the bedroom. We´re working on some polyester particles found under the victims nails. By the way, Mrs. Miller’s mother says that the cot wasn’t here. It was still in the storage room. So the killer brought it from there, obviously after the crime. Im sorry. I know that’s not a lot to start, but its all that we have right now."

"No neighbours hear anything?" Starsky asked

"Nope. Not even a noise

"Thanks Dan. Well start by asking the phone company for any report from this address, and then well ask in all the florists shops for white orchids bought in the last 48 hours." Starsky and Hutch left the house.

Once outside Starsky breathed deeply before angrily saying "Great! A psycho kills a pregnant woman, and the only clue that we have to start with is a cut phone wire and a tour of the florists shops of the city."

"Come on Gordo. Once we have a list of clients that bought white orchids in the last 48 hours we can maybe work something out"

But, at the end of the day they still hadn’t one good lead to go on.

"Not one possible suspect, nobody called the phone company and as for buyers of white orchid An old man, blind, by the way, getting a gift for his wife, a young lady, and a child and his mother sending orchids to his grandma for her 90 birthday. Those are the only people that bought a fucking white orchid in the last couple of days. All colors of roses, camellias, yellow orchids, plants BUT JUST THREE DAMNED WHITE ORCHIDS IN THE WHOLE CITY!!" Starsky hit his desk in frustration

"Hey, partner. Take it easy, Okay? Well find the nutcase, but right now how about a break? The day is over. Go home and well follow up in the morning." Hutch said, holding out Starskys jacket. "Besides, if you remember I have to go to Jenny’s, and try to have a talk with her"

Meanwhile in a dark and big house in the middle of the wood a man, in a room lit only by a few candles, was gazing a picture of a young, smiling woman with a white orchid in her hair. Her favorite flower. The flower that Thomas put over her coffin her funerals day

"I told you Mother. You shouldn’t have left me that way. Ill kill you again and again. You and that little bastard of yours until the end of time"

When Starsky arrived home he wanted only to get some rest and forget the horror he had seen in that long day. His place was uncomfortably dark. Once inside he turned up the lights and locked the front door, resting his back against it for some seconds, breathing deeply as Samson greeted him, moving his tail and looking for some fuss.

"Hey Samson, friend. Everything okay here?...Vicky?...Vicky I’m home sweetheart" An irrational fear wrapped his heart for some seconds

"Vicky?" The awful image of that unfortunate woman and the little corpse of her baby returned to his memory as he headed towards the living room.

"VICKY?" His voice came out a little piercing.

"Uh?...Dave…Hi sweetheart, I’m sorry. After fixing the dinner I took a nap I was feeling a little tired" Vicky spoke, coming out from the bedroom and hiding a yawn with her hand. Then, the girl was surprised by the tight embrace of Starsky.

"Hey lover, what’s the matter? Something wrong?" Starsky spent some seconds silently holding Vicky before answering.

"Nothings wrong Honey. It's just that I’m glad to be home."

"A bad day huh?" They were still embraced as Vicky rubbed his back.

"Yeah! You could say so. But now everything’s fine."

"It’s that woman, right? The pregnant woman murdered"

"How do you know about it?..."

"I read it in the newspaper…What a horrible thing!..."

"Vicky"

She softly placed her forefinger over his mouth "Shhht. I know lover. You´re worried. But there’s nothing to be worried about. Come on Davy. Time for rest, okay?" Vicky finished her words, kissing his lips "I’m sure that Hutch and you will catch that killer, but now you’re home, and you must get some rest and eat a little. I fixed something for you. Im sure you’ll like it" Vicky released her hold and headed towards the kitchen, returning back to the dinner table with a warm casserole.

"Paul Muni special! Sit down before it gets cold."

Starsky felt loved and spoilt next to Vicky. In the morning he and Hutch would take up the search again. But now he was home. Nothing else mattered in that moment. Tomorrow would be another day.

As Starsky and Vicky were enjoying their meal Hutch was pulling to a halt outside of Jenny’s house. For a few moments he sat in the car and looked at the house, taking in again the small but well tended garden right outside the front door. Finally, deciding he could put it off no longer Hutch took a deep breath before getting out of the car and heading up the front path. Behind his back he held a deep red carnation, one of his favourite flowers. He had brought it earlier as he and Starsky had trailed unsuccessfully around the florists. Now for a brief second he looked at it hoping that Jenny too would appreciate the warm colour and accept it as the peace offering it was intended to be.

Knocking tentatively at the door Hutch felt like a kid on his first date. A lot rode on the next few minutes and he was nervous. As he waited for Jenny to open the door he rubbed his shoes on the back of his trouser legs, then laughed to himself.

When Jenny finally opened the door it was obvious that he had disturbed her sleep. She was standing in the doorway with a cream dressing gown held tightly around her waist. The light shone from behind her and it lit up her unkempt blond hair in such a way that it took his breath away. For a few seconds the two merely looked at one another then Hutch finally came to his senses and brought the carnation out from behind his back.

"Jenny, I´m sorry about earlier. I´ll understand if you tell me too go away but please, can we talk?" Hutch´s voice was soft and low as he spoke.

For a brief second Hutch thought she was going to close the door on him, the look in her eyes was so defensive. Then, taking the flower from his grasp, she moved from her position in the doorway, walking back along the hall into her kitchen, leaving the door open for Hutch to follow. He carefully closed the door and went to join her. When he got there she had already filled the kettle and was looking through her cupboards for coffee cups and a flower vase.

"This is beautiful Hutch thank you." Jenny’s voice was as defensive as her eyes as she placed the flower into a specimen vase and placed it in the centre of the table.

"They’re my favourite flower, my grandfather used to grow them when I was a kid." For a moment Hutch was somewhere in his distant past. "I hoped you might like it."

"It was a lovely thought, thanks." Jenny turned to make the coffee. Handing a cup to Hutch she pointed towards the table. "Want to sit down?"

Hutch sat before continuing, knowing they were both treading carefully, skating around the issue that now stood so solidly between them. "We have to talk Jenny. I’ve had time to think and Starsky told me a few home truths. I’m sorry for walking out on you like I did. It was the shock I guess but it was still inexcusable. Its not every day a girl tells me she’s having my baby."

"I should hope not!" Jenny’s voice broke in. "I think you’re a lot of things Ken Hutchinson but local Romeo isn’t one of them." She smiled and reached out her hand. "I’m the one who should be apologising Hutch. I was the one that got us into this mess, though I guess you did have a hand in it."

"How long have you known?" Hutch held her hand gently but firmly, not willing to let the contact go.

"I only found out for sure yesterday morning when I went back for the results but I’ve suspected it for a couple of weeks. Hutch, I know I said I wouldn’t marry you but this is still your baby, yours and mine. You can be there for him or her as much or as little as you want too. I could never even think of you not having a part in its life. When you asked me to marry you a part of me was grateful that you cared enough to do that"

"I love you Jenny." Hutch broke into her words as he tightened the grip on her hand for a second, squeezing gently. "I don’t know when I realised it or when you came to mean more than just a good friend to me but it happened."

"I know Hutch, and for what its worth, I love you too. Don’t you see though, if we were to marry just because of this it would be for all the wrong reasons and I don’t want to repeat past mistakes." Jenny stopped abruptly and pulled her hand away to place it in her lap as she looked down.

"Don’t stop Jenny. Tell me, while its just the two of us. I promise not to be judgemental." Hutch looked at her with pleading in his eyes, the need to understand her feelings showing clearly on his face.

"My parents married because of me. They were both at college when they found out I was on the way and her parents insisted that Dad stand by her, do the right thing by her. They had a simple civil ceremony with just both sets of parents and a couple of witnesses. Then they were left on their own. Dad tried hard to keep up his studies as well as hold down a job to support them but it didn’t work and he had to leave college. He never said as much but I always knew that somehow he blamed me for missing out on a career. Anyway, a year later and Mum was pregnant again with my brother. That totally finished off all the dreams they had both had and, slowly but surely, the marriage began to crack under the strain. It was just little disagreements at first over silly little things that didn’t matter. Then came the rows and they’d be screaming at each other while me and Michael would hide under the bedcovers with our hands over our ears trying to block it all out. Finally I guess Dad couldn’t face it any longer and he left. Mum cried for the whole night then picked herself up and carried on as though nothing had ever happened. The only outward sign she gave was to destroy any sign of Dad from around the house, every picture, item of clothing, personal things, she burnt the lot. Mike and I were never allowed to even mention his name. She changed towards us both from that day too. She shut her emotions away, locked them inside herself if you like. She never told us she loved us, never cuddled us or comforted us when we hurting. Oh, she did all the things that a parent is supposed to do, we were never neglected in that way, but she could never show us love. The nearest I ever saw her get to it was when I graduated. For one brief second she put her arms around me and told me she was proud of me. That tiny chink was the only one I ever saw appear in her armour. I promised myself that day that Id never let myself feel that way. Id be totally independent and never, ever rely on any man no matter what he came to mean to me." Jenny paused for a moment watching Hutch’s face, looking for understanding. "So you see Hutch. That’s the reason I can never marry you. I destroyed one marriage...I couldn’t destroy another, especially not just to give my baby a name that he will have anyway."

For a moment Hutch was quiet trying to understand all that he had heard. Then he rose from the table and moved to stand at Jenny’s side. "I think you’re wrong Jenny, blaming yourself for what was never, ever your fault in the first place, but I do understand where you’re coming from and I accept that I can’t change it. Know this though. I’m here, and I don’t intend to leave. Ill be here for as long and as much as you need me. That’s my baby growing inside of you and I want to be a proper father for it. I can start by making sure that its mum looks after herself and gets her rest. You look totally whacked out, come on, back to bed. I´ll let myself out when I know you’re settled."

Jenny rose from her chair and, cupping Hutch’s chin in her hands she gently kissed his lips.

"I love you Hutch. I think I must be the luckiest girl in the world right now."

Slowly she made her way towards her bedroom as Hutch watched with tenderness in his heart. He would never agree with Jenny’s idea about marriage but he would support her in every way possible and he would love her more than he thought he would ever love again.

The next morning when Starsky picked him up it was a much more settled Hutch who got in the car.

"Hey partner...how’d it go last night with Jenny. You two get things sorted out between you?"

Starsky sat sideways in his seat so as to get a good view of his friends eyes.

Hutch held his gaze as he nodded. "Yeah Starsk! Jenny and I had a long talk and we know where were going."

Starsky could see that things were back on an even keel again and he sent a silent prayer of thanks that his two friends had patched up their differences. "Okay Hutch. Let’s go catch us a killer." With that Starsky let off the break and floored the accelerator leaving a trail of tyre marks behind him.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, a man roughly in his 40s, was leaving the gynaecologic clinic where he worked as a cleaner. Thomas Harris had done the same work there, night after night, for ten years, but he never wanted to start any kind of relationship with the rest of the clinics personnel. He was a lonely, shy and pretty strange person, and the nurses and doctors looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and mistrust. If they had known him better then they would’ve known that Thomas had a serious mental disease from his youth, though he left psychiatric treatment some months before when his father died.. They would’ve known as well that Thomas lost his beloved mother, a gentle and kind woman, when he was just ten during the birth of his brother, in which both she and the premature baby died. His father was a very severe protestant priest unable to show the least tenderness towards Thomas. The time of his mother’s death his childhood years were spent between punishment, prayer, and loneliness. Thomas hated and blamed his mother and brother for his misfortune and he swore to kill them over and over until the end of the time. He already had killed them once, and he would do it many more times.

The next few days were time of changes and new projects for Hutch and Jenny’s life. They would not marry, Jenny was inflexible on this point, and they would not live together, not all the time at least. But Huch would be with the baby as much as he wanted, and he would give his surname to his son or daughter. So, in this way, they faced the new days to come. Hutch was hoping that Jenny would change her mind about getting married some day, but for now he was happy.

More than a week on from the murder of Mrs Miller, the search for some lead to find the killer was already totally unsuccessful. Both detectives were feeling angry and frustrated.

"But how is it possible, Hutch? Nobody’s heard anything about it, Huggy hasn’t found anything; nothing in the florists shops to start with, nor in the mental hospitals. How can somebody do something like this and not one of us can find the damned son of a bitch?"

"Starsk, this guy is clever…very clever."

"Okay. He’s very clever, and all of us are a bunch of idiots!"

Hutch rose from his chair breathing deeply. "Starsky, listen to me partner, there are no clues to work with. No fingerprints, no eyewitness, the ex-husband or still husband or whatever the hell he is was at work that night. The lady had no troubles with anyone, the polyester particles found under the victims nails are from a shirt bought in the sales at the mall five blocks away. There’s nothing to work on. Nothing really solid at all."

"Shit Hutch! Something’s wrong here. Some clue is in front our noses and we aren´t capable of seeing it. In Mrs Millers room, there were no signs of a struggle. Right?"

"That’s right."

"But maybe, just maybe there was a struggle Look Hutch. In the bed there wasn’t even one tiny wrinkle.  And that is almost impossible!"

"And?...Are you thinking that the killer smoothed the bed before leaving?"

"Exactly. He smoothed the bedcovers, and in the same way he probably put in order anything else that fell down to the floor. Like the nightstand lamp maybe, the book that was on the nightstand or something else."

"Where are you going with this Starsk?"

"With the way the whole thing is looking we know that he knew perfectly well what he was doing. Right? A ´normal killer´ doesn’t kill in this way, and not a pregnant woman who had no enemies anyway. Her house wasn’t burgled, and besides, there’s the orchid. Nobody bought white orchids in the hours previous, so the killer must have had the orchid in his house" "Starsky. Have you the least idea of how many people could have an orchid plant at home? We can't tell Dobey that we have to find all the orchid plant owners in the city!"

"Not the orchid plant owners, but the killer, Blondie. Don't ask me why, but this looks as though it could be the first of a serial killers work"

"Your cop instinct talking now?"

"Yeah´fraid so." Hutch knew from experience not to ignore the amazing ´cop instinct´ of his partner. He knew that Starsky was rarely wrong. They had to find the killer, and soon, before he killed again

They both left the precinct at 9.30 pm. Since the White orchid murder, as the press called the event, occurred Starsky and Huch were giving all their time and efforts to solve the case, and getting back to their places late in the night, where Vicky was waited patiently for Starsky, welcoming him with a smile, a kiss and some delicious dinner. No reproaches, no anger. Just a smile and lots of love. He loved her deeply for it.

In three days it would be the first anniversary of the day they met each other, and Starskys surprise was almost ready. Since Vicky’s second-hand car was already pretty old, and she had loved the shining colours of the Torino since the first day she saw it, Starsky had bought for her a little camper van which he had taken to Merle, who had painted it up in red with a white stripe, and added a special place for the baby’s pushchair on the back seat As Hutch said the van looked like some kind of fat and overfed Torino. The red and striped van was the cause of a lot of jokes from Hutch since the moment he knew about it and Starsky treated them all with the same contempt he treated those about his own car.

"I can't believe it Starsk. Vicky seemed like a girl with good taste Though, when she married you I began to change my mind about that. But this! Really, do you think that a normal mom could drive a vehicle that looks like a big tomato on wheels. And what about your baby, partner? Have you thought just for a moment of the little Starsky? Really do you think hell get into that thing without being scared out his mind?" With his jokes, Hutch was doing his best to ease a little the worry that had been eating Starsky up since the day the murder of that pregnant woman had been committed.

So it was that three days later, on a sunny Saturday morning, Starsky got out of bed early. Vicky was still sleeping, and once showered and dressed and without stopping to eat breakfast, he left his place to collect Hutch and together they headed to Merles. Starsky hadn’t seen the van for a week and he was like a child at Christmas as he kept wondering out loud as to the final product. Hutch was silently happy that, for the first time in a while, Starsky seemed to have put the case out of his mind and for once he was content to sit and listen as Starsky babbled on. By the time they arrived at Merles Hutch’s head was beginning to swim and he was secretly relieved when they could get out of the car and into some fresh air.

As usual Merles backside could be seen protruding from the bonnet of a car and Starsky walked towards it calling as he did so.

"Hey Merle! is she ready yet?"

Is the Pope a Catholic?" Merles face appeared from under the bonnet turning to look at Starsky with a frown. "The Earl gave his word didn’t he? Did you doubt it?"

Starsky grinned at the man in front of him who held a spanner in his right hand looking for all the world as though he wanted to plant it on Starsky´s head.

"Sorry Merle. You know Id never doubt your abilities. They’re world renowned by now. I’m just eager to see the final product that’s all."

"It’s all ready for you. Over there, in the corner, under the dust sheet."

Starsky ran across the yard followed more sedately by Hutch and Merle. As they watched he grabbed a corner of the sheet and threw it back over the top of the small camper van. Hutch likened it to Starsky opening his Christmas presents as a child, eyes sparkling and eager to see what was inside.

Seeing Hutch standing watching Starsky yelled over his shoulder at him. "Come on Hutch give me hand will ya?"

Striding across to stand on the opposite side of the van to his partner Hutch took a firm grip on the other corner and together they removed it completely. For a moment neither man spoke. Hutch simply stood amazed at the sight before him, hardly believing the transformation. Starsky lovingly touched the bodywork, following the white stripe along the length of the side. Then he carefully opened the door to look inside. The front seats had all been changed into something a lot more comfortable and the back had been fitted with a special harness to strap the pram inside it safely. Hanging down from the roof just above the seat was a tiny mobile and Starsky gently pushed it watching it spin and catch the sunlight. Looking in the rear of the van he saw that Merle had fixed up a holdall that was full with emergency baby supplies, a spare nappy, baby wipes, cream etc. Starsky knew that the whole job was far beyond what he had asked Merle to do and he felt a lump come to his throat. He climbed out of the van and turned to the man standing a few yards behind watching him.

"Merle I can’t afford this."

"Hey! You insult the master craftsman Starsky. You paid for the work you specified and I carried it out to the letter. As for the rest well They’re just a few extra touches, on the house. My present to that young wife of yours and the baby to be." The man stood staring hard at Starsky his hands crossed firmly in front of him.

For a brief moment Starsky stared back and had to bite his lip to stop a tear trickling down his cheek. "Thanks Merle. Its absolutely brilliant. Vicky will love it!" he felt a hand on his shoulder and knew that Hutch was there.

"Come on Starsk... Let’s get this junior tomato mobile home to that lovely wife of yours before she wakes up and finds you missing."

Starsky nodded and climbed inside the camper van. Hutch listened as he turned on the ignition revving the engine for a couple of seconds.

"Damn it Merle it even sounds like the Torino!" Hutch was incredulous.

"Merle the Earl only does the best work Hutchinson but then you wouldn’t appreciate it. Still driving that rust bucket on wheels?"

"Yeah Merle. I’m still driving it and I’m perfectly happy with it the way it is." Hutch headed towards Starskys car and opened the driver’s door. He looked over the hood at Merle still standing watching him. Indicating the van Hutch spoke just loud enough for him to hear. "Thanks Merle I owe you one."

With that Hutch got in the car and gunned the engine pulling out onto the highway with Starsky close behind.

Vicky woke with a start and she rolled slowly over in the bed, her hand feeling for her husband. When all it found was cold sheets she sat up and looked at the clock. It read eight fifteen and Vicky groaned softly to herself. She had been determined to be up first this morning to cook Starskys breakfast in recognition of their special day. She was confident that he had forgotten it and was determined to surprise him but now it was too late. Promising herself that she would find some way of doing something special before the day was over she slowly levered herself from the bed and headed for the bathroom. Half an hour later, showered and dressed, she felt ready to face the world. Slowly she made her way downstairs and into the living room listening for any sound of Starsky.

"Dave are you here?" No reply came and she sighed again, this time with more feeling as she decided that Starskys day off had been cancelled. She headed towards the telephone on the kitchen wall thinking that she would have to ring Jenny and let her know that their planned day at the beach would have to be postponed. As she passed the table she stopped and stared hard at it. Two places were laid out with a lit candle in the middle and on her plate was a small box tied with a red ribbon. Across the top was a red rose. Smiling she lifted the rose and sniffed it appreciatively as she realised that she was so wrong, Starsky had remembered! Placing the rose back on the table she lifted the box and shook it gently, listening as the contents rattled inside. Had she have looked over her shoulder at the time she would have seen two pairs of smiling eyes watching her through the window. Carefully she undid the ribbon and removed the lid to find a set of keys and a note written in Starskys hand.

Pick up the keys and go out the front door. Intrigued she did as the note said. As she opened the front door she was met with the sight of the camper van parked in their driveway, a big red ribbon tied onto the front bumper. Very slowly she made her way across to it and, placing the keys in the lock, she opened the door. On the steering wheel was a card edged with gold and in Starskys writing on were the words, Happy Anniversary to a very a special lady.

"Oh my God...Dave this is perfect…just perfect." Vicky’s voice was a mere whisper as she looked around for Starsky.

"Think so?" Starsky´s voice came from behind her and she turned to see him smiling at her, his face a picture of tenderness and love. "Last night I began to have doubts but..."

"But nothing Dave Starsky, this is the most wonderful present I’ve ever had. It’s terrific. It must have cost a fortune!"

"Hey! Don’t spoil it by talking about money. Lets just say I could do with a lot of overtime in the next few weeks but well be fine. I just needed to make sure that you and junior were safe and that old heap of yours was almost as bad as Hutch’s." Reaching forward he pulled her into his arms and kissed her long and lovingly. "Happy Anniversary Vicky."

From behind then both Hutch coughed loudly. "Sorry to interrupt you guys but I could do with a coffee. Starsky picked me up at dawn to go and collect this salad bowl on wheels."

Smiling Vicky broke free from Starsky´s embrace and poked Hutch hard in the chest. "Careful Hutchinson. That’s my car you’re talking about and, unlike my husband, I’m not so easy going on good looking blond males who insult it."

Starsky snorted and Hutch had the grace to look shame faced. "Sorry Vicky. You have to admit that it is a little bright though."

"Coffee’s on the table boys. I’m going to look over my new car. I´ll be there in a few minutes."

Starsky and Hutch disappeared inside the house leaving Vicky to discover for herself all the hidden extras Merle had added as a bonus. Starsky watched from the window, relaxed for the first time in a month, a smile on his face as his young but heavily pregnant wife slowly walked around and around the van. He had used every last penny of his savings on it and he hadn’t been joking when he had said about the overtime but he knew from the look on her face that it had all been well worth it. What he didn’t know was that Vicky was checking out the size of the interior trying to decide if two small prams would fit on the back seat or if she would have to get alterations done to the straps or if she would have to risk changing the pram she and Starsky had ordered earlier than she had planned and hope that he didn’t find out. In the end she decided to leave it until later when Dave was at work and she and Jenny could get the tape measures out.

Three hours later she, Starsky and Hutch were on their way to collect Jenny for their planned day on the beach. There was a special cake stowed under the back seat, her own surprise for Starsky. In the rear was a huge picnic hamper filled with something for everyone. Jenny was amazed when they pulled up outside of her door and was at a loss for words as she looked the vehicle over.

"Vicky this is going to make everything so much easier for you and the children." Jenny spoke without realising what she had said.

"Children?" Hutch had heard her. "Hey Starsky...Something you’re not telling me?"

Hurriedly Jenny tried to cover her slip. "I’m talking about the baby and Starsky Hutch. You know what he’s going to be like when the baby’s born. Vicky will have two children to look after!"

"Hey! I heard that. You sure know how to hurt a guy´s feelings Jen." Starsky looked at her with his puppy dog eyes and she burst out laughing.

"Sorry Dave. But you know it’s true same as the rest of us."

"She’s right partner. I’ve already ordered two baseball mitts. One for my nephew and one for you."

"Sorry to break up the fun here guys but would you two carry the basket for me?" Vicky broke in the conversation, a look of relief passing between her and Jenny.

Starsky and Hutch grabbed a handle each and together they made their way down on to the sand. It wasn’t long before they were settled down enjoying the scenery, Hutch and Starsky taking full use of the chance to relax and unwind and to forget, if only for today, the horror of the case in which they were both committed.

Later that night, as Vicky and Starsky lay in bed, he turned slowly on to her side, facing her husband.

"Thanks Dave. It was a lovely day today, I really enjoyed it. As for the car well what can I say? You really are the best Dave Starsky." With that she kissed him gently on the end of his nose before turning slowly back over. "Good night lover boy."

More than a month had passed since the murder of Kelly Miller, and the case investigation was still open but without results. Apparently the earth had swallowed the killer despite all the efforts of Starsky, Hutch and all the BCPD to catch him.

In a small shop across town a young pregnant woman was busy packing a bag with the tiny romper suit she had just purchased. She smiled secretively to herself as she placed her hand over the large bump, which tossed and turned underneath it.

"Hey junior steady on. I’m glad you like it but don’t get too excited or we might not make it back home in one piece!"

Paying for her purchase the young woman left the shop and began the walk home. So happy was she that she was totally unaware of the dark haired man following determinedly behind her. So it was that the last walk that this pretty young mum to be would ever take on this earth was a truly happy occasion as she planned for her baby’s future…a future that neither would ever live to see.

She sang quietly to herself as she removed the key to her front door from her handbag and let herself into her tiny flat. It was as she tried to close the door that the terror began A man's foot was preventing Martha Preston from doing it .

"Mrs Preston? Martha Preston?"

"Yeah. That’s me. How can I help you?"

The man, dressed in a phone company uniform and holding a small tool box in his hand, gently but firmly pushed the young lady inside the house, closing the door behind him. "I’ve come to fix your phone."

"My Phone?...Sorry, but I think you’re mistaken. My phone is fine." Martha Preston was scared but desperately trying to stay calm.

"No, its not!" The stranger headed towards the little table where the telephone was resting, picking up the receiver and holding it to the woman’s ear.

"But it was working earlier"

"Oh well, you know, my dear lady. Now things are working, later they aren’t working any more…Like the human body. Now you are alive, and in the next minute, maybe not!"

Alarm bells were ringing loudly inside Martha’s brain. The man looked like a real phone company worker, but something in his deep blue eyes was wrong, very wrong.

"Listen. Could you come back later? Right now, Im late for "

"No!"

"Sorry?"

"I said no Mother. And you heard me perfectly." Martha’s heart was racing in her chest. She tried to flee, running towards the door, but before that she was able to reach it, the man had reached her and, pulling a rope tightly around her neck he strangled her. A flower vase fell to floor during the brief struggle.

When the woman was dead, the killer took her body from the floor, carrying it towards the bedroom and placing it on the bed. Then he searched through his toolbox for a scalpel, with which he sectioned the woman’s abdomen, removing the eight months foetus. Calmly he sectioned the placenta and the umbilical cord as well, leaving the little body, still alive, on his dead mother’s abdomen. Then, in the same calm manner, he searched for a cot throughout the entire house, finding it still in the shop box and still dismantled. It took a while to assemble the little piece of furniture, but he did it patiently and, when the work was done, he put the little corpse inside and, taking a white orchid from a plastic box, he placed it on the baby’s body. Finally he cleared up all signs of a fight and his own fingerprints before leaving the house

"Martha Preston. 29 years old, brown hair, brown eyes. Seven months pregnant. Married for three years. Her husband, Charles Preston, is head waiter in a restaurant. It was him who found the corpses last night when he came home from work The victim was happily married, no enemies, no connection between her and the first victim, no one suspicious seen hanging around. The killer did a damn good job of clearing up any possible signs of a struggle In fact he apparently assembled the cot before placing the babys corpse in it, and he left a white orchid over the little body.

DAMN IT!! STARKY, HUTCHINSON!! The commissioner is beginning to wonder if we are doing any more than dragging our arses around the city looking in the wrong places for the wrong clues." A very angry Dobey was shouting out, hitting his table hard with his fist "What the hell are you both still doing here, get to the Preston’s place NOW!!"

Once there, the horror of the scene was the same as the first time. The corpses placed in the bed and cot, the terrified expression on the woman’s face, the bloodstained bodies. Hutch was watching Starsky who was pale and silent.

"The same manner of killing. But this time the bastard has gone even further. The cot was still in the box from the store, dismantled. He searched for it, found and assembled it before placing the baby’s corpse in it." One very discouraged forensic team member was filling Starsky and Hutch in with all the details. There’s almost nothing to go on. As the last time no fingerprints were found in the house, and talking with Rick Preston wasn’t much help at all.

The poor man in question was a living picture of desolation, and Starsky and Hutch scarcely got a coherent word from him.

"You know? Martha and I met each other when we were still in High School. She was the only girl for me. We came from a very little town close to Nebraska, looking for the best place for us and our son to live. Martha and I got married three years ago We worked hard to buy that house, and Mark would have been our first child…And now…" The young man was unable to end his sentence, bursting into tears like a child, making Starsky and Hutch feel deeply uncomfortable. At times like that it was really hard for them both to keep a safe emotional distance between them and the victims relatives.

"SHIT!!" A very upset Starsky sharply hit the Torino´s steering wheel "Where the hell is that damned madman hiding WHERE!! Where the hell are we supposed to search?" Hutch didn’t have too many words to offer as comfort to his friend as he was as distressed with these awful crimes as Starsky.

"I’m gonna send Vicky to New York to stay with my mother until this is over!"

"Starsk Have you thought that maybe shell not want to go?"

"It doesn’t matter. She´ll go anyway." Starsky´s eyes were showed his determination. Hutch wasn’t sure, but he was thinking that surely his friend’s wife wouldn't want to leave her husband, her work and her home, despite it being a good idea, especially for Starsky´s peace of mind.

*******

Thomas had killed. Twice. Two women. That was an inexplicable but delicious sensation. He had power. The power to end a human life. To take revenge on his mother and young brother for not being with him while he was growing up and being beaten by his father. For them not being there to help him while girls were ridiculing him when he was a shy and unsure teenager.

His pleasure was becoming more intense after each murder. an almost sexual pleasure, and as his madness grew more and more, he knew that he need to keep killing…Soon. Very soon.

After carefully checking out the whole place, Starsky and Hutch had just one small lead to go on. The exterior phone wire in the Preston’s had been cut, as at the first scene, and they suspected that the killer cut it before going in, presumably on the pretext of being an engineer since the phone company had no damage notification from that address, but as of that moment it was the only thing they had worked out.

Already afternoon and, after a discouraging day, one bad tempered and worried Starsky stopped at a travel agency to buy a plane ticket to NY before going back to the precinct. The flight was due four days later.

"You’re sure on this Starsk?...Don’t you think you should ask Vicky first before?"

"Before what Hutch? Before she and my son becomes the third victim of that nut ...No, Im sorry, but this is something that Ill not discuss. Neither with Vicky nor with you" Hutch kept silence while Starsky brought the ticket. Five minutes later, with the paper in his pocket, they both headed to the station in silence.

*******

Samson was sleeping on his mat in the kitchen as Vicky was in the living room ironing some clothes when somebody rang her door. Placing the iron onto the board, she headed towards the door, unlocking it

"Good afternoon. Mrs Starsky?"

"Yeah. Can I help you?”

"I´ve come to fix your phone"

*******

Back at the precinct Starsky sat down at his desk to dial his mother’s number. After three rings, Rachel Starsky picked up the receiver.

"Ma? Hey Ma, how’re you doing?...What?...Yeah, I’m okay Ma. Vicky’s okay too Yeah. In January, just after Christmas Listen Ma. Id like to ask you for a favour." Starsky filled Rachel on all that was worrying him and a few minutes later the matter was settled. After saying his goodbyes to his mother, Starsky hung up the receiver looking at Hutch slightly relieved.

"Great. Saturday, midday, Ma will meet Vicky at the airport."

*******

My phone?...Sorry, but I haven’t called to the phone company. I’m afraid you’ve the wrong address. The phone’s fine."

The tall, brown haired man, dressed in a phone company uniform, was already in Vicky’s hall closing the door behind him and walking towards the phone. Vicky felt a little uncomfortable.

"Sorry but I think that…"

"I´m sure about it, my dear lady. Your phone is not working. Check it yourself." Vicky picked up the receiver to verify that the man was right.

"That’s strange. It was working perfectly just a while ago"...

"Well, you know how things are. One minute things are working, the next they aren’t working any more…"

At that moment a deep noise interrupted the mans words. Samson had come out from the kitchen and was growling menacingly at the phone worker, placing himself between him and Vicky. The man, becoming pale, jumped back.

"SAMSON!...SAMSON Shut up!!" But the dog wasn’t about to obey Vicky’s command and the next moment he wasn’t growling any longer, but barking furiously.

"I’m sorry. he never usually does anything like this. I cant understand it" Vicky was speaking loudly over Samson’s barking. "SAMSON TO THE YARD!!" Vicky tried to take the dog by his collar but the strong animal seemed to be glued to the floor as he barked. The mans voice was shaking yet angry as he spoke. "T-take the dog out…p-please."

"I’m sorry sir, I’m so sorry…I’m trying But I’m afraid I can´t. He’s a good dog really…But I don't know what…"

Samson, increasingly furious, kept barking and running in circles, jumping around the man, with Vicky totally unable to control him. Finally, taking advantage of a couple of seconds during which the dog just kept growling motionless on the spot, the man slid towards the door, opened it, at the same time murmuring some unintelligible words, and escaped out, heading hurriedly towards the street. Once he was out, Samson, calmed down and headed towards his mat in the kitchen, while Vicky looked at him amazed at the surprising conduct of the dog.

This time Thomas Harris. "The white orchid killer" had failed in his objective

*******

Later that evening it was a very determined Starsky who arrived home with Hutch in tow.

"Hi Vicky." Hutch spoke first his eyes showing the unease he was feeling at Starskys actions.

" It’s good to see you Hutch. What’s wrong? You both look exhausted."

"We are V. We’ve been chasing our tails all day trying to get some handle on this nutcase and we keep coming up against blank walls at every turn." Starsky kissed his wife lovingly and held her close.

Vicky could feel the tension in him and she returned the hug offering what little comfort she could. She knew how much they both wanted to catch this killer and the pressure they were under until they had.

"Come on, both of you sit down. I´ll make you some fresh coffee." She walked into the kitchen and reached for the coffee pot, placing it on the stove. "Oh, by the way Hutch. Can you report the phone to the phone company for me? Its not working. They sent a guy to sort it out this afternoon but there was something about him. I don’t know what but he made me feel really uneasy and Samson didn’t like him either. He wouldn’t let him move. I’ve never seen him like it before" Vicky stopped in mid flow as she watched the colour drain from her husband’s face.

"Dave?...What’s wrong, don’t you feel well?"

Starsky grabbed the phone holding it to his ear before barking out one word to Hutch. "Dead!"

Together the two men raced from the room and around the side of the house to where the line came into the house. Starskys legs became weak and his whole body shook with anger as they stared at the neat cut separating the line in half. Feeling Hutch’s hand on his shoulder Starsky took a deep breath before daring to speak.

"Still have doubts about me sending her to New York, Hutch?"

Hutch shook his head and, side by side the two headed back around to the front of the house. At the front door Hutch turned away heading for the Torino to call out the forensic team and to report their suspicions to Captain Dobey. Starsky headed inside, a determined look in his eyes and his mind set.

Vicky was waiting where they had left her, a feeling of unease consuming her.

"Dave will you please tell me what the hell is going on?"

"We finally got a break in our investigations this afternoon. Both victims’ phone wires had been cut!" Starsky let the words hang in the air for a few moments as he watched his wife’s face register what he had said. "The pattern for our killer is simple V. He chooses, for whatever sick reason he might possibly have, women who are all about seven months pregnant. Somehow or other he finds out where they live and he goes there and cuts the phone line before going in, presumably on the pretext of being an engineer. When he’s killed them and carried out his sick desecration to kill the baby too he calmly looks around for a cot to put the tiny corpse into. Hell even put the damn thing together if he has too! When he’s finally finished he tidies everything up. The only sign of blood is on the woman and the baby. He leaves nothing else for us to go on, no blood, no fingerprints, NOTHING!" Starsky was shouting now, pacing up and down as he did so. Turning at last to face his frightened wife he grabbed her arms squeezing tightly. "Vicky don’t you see? You’re almost seven months gone...The phone line has been cut. DAMN IT V YOU WERE ALMOST VICTIM NUMBER THREE!

"Dave you’re hurting me." Vicky’s voice was low and hung in the air as she held her husbands gaze. She was unsure what scared her most, what she had just heard or the way Starsky was acting.

Just at that moment Hutch came back in and realising what was going on he walked up next to Vicky, placing his hands over those of his partner.

"Hey Starsky. Come on buddy, let the lady go huh! You’re hurting and frightening her and you know you don’t want to do that." Hutch forced eye contact and held it. Gradually he could feel the vice like grip that Starsky had on his wife begin to ease until he was able to release the hold. Gently taking Vicky by the shoulders he steered her to the couch and sat her down before returning to his partner. "Dobey’s on his way over Starsk, along with the forensics team. Come on,  Vicky needs you."

Clear blue eyes met deep ivory ones and locked together. Hutch could see the pain and anguish flooding through his friends whole being. Finally his eyebrows rose and he received a quick nod in answer. Starsky was back in control of his emotions, at least for the moment. Together they walked back to the couch.

"V I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…Are you okay?" Starskys fingers rested gently on the angry red marks they had left on her arms but she pulled back as though he´d been stung.

Vicky needed contact with the man she loved more than life itself. But a sudden fear prevented her from approaching him. "Its okay Dave. I’m fine. I understand…at least I think I do. You think…you both think that that guy was?..."

"Yes!" It was Hutch who broke in this time. "Yes Vicky we do. Thank God for Samson."

Hearing his name the big dog slowly made his way across the room and placed his head on Vickys lap.

Starsky hugged the animal fiercely. "Hey Samson. I owe you one pal."

Just then the door knocked and Hutch turned to open it letting Captain Dobey and the forensics team in. Half an hour later they had finished their work having dusted for prints and gotten none but having at least drawn up a pretty good likeness from Vicky’s description.

"Well at least now we have something more concrete to go on.” Dobey mopped his forehead with the ever present white handkerchief. "Ill get the boys back at the precinct to get these made up and handed around. Ill also arrange for a man to be at your door twenty four hours a day Vicky."

"Thanks Cap. But hell only be needed for three days. After that she wont be here. I’ve already spoken to Ma and she’s expecting Vicky Saturday midday. At least then I´ll know she’s definitely safe!"

Vicky rose as quickly as her condition allowed. "No…Dave, please Don’t force me to go.... I don’t want to." Starsky stood, barely holding his anger in check. "Sorry Vicky but you’re going and I don’t care what you say."

"No…Please...I think that with a policeman at the door until the case is solved will be enough. And I´ll be cautious, I promise...Dave, I need be here, with you...And I was thinking that you needed me too." Her voice was just a tremulous whisper.

Starskys anger boiled over. "Yeah! I need you ALIVE! I want to hold you in my arms a day, a week, a month from now. I want to hold our baby, ALIVE! I don’t want to come home and find you the same way those other poor husbands had to find their wives. I want to bring you flowers on our anniversary, not put them on your gravestone like I do in Terry’s! I want to see our child grow up, play baseball with him, or protect her and comfort her when she falls over…Don’t you get it Vicky, I NEED TO PROTECT YOU BOTH, and this is the only way I can do it. If I don’t have to worry about you then I can concentrate on catching this nutcase. But if you don’t go then I’m not working cos I´ll be terrified to let you out of my site. You’ll become a prisoner in your own home. Is that what you want?" Starsky reached out and gently held his wife’s face in his hands.  “Please V, go to Ma´s, for me. At least that way I´ll know that you’re safe even if I will miss you like hell."

"Starsky´s right Vicky. Believe me I know how you feel, but if you were to talk to Edith she´d tell you to go too." Dobey’s voice was gentle reminding her of her father and Vicky calmed down a little. Finally she nodded.

"Okay Dave. I´ll go, but only for a while." Saying this, the girl rose from the couch, heading towards the kitchen. She smiled at the others but her whole body was trembling while tears were fighting for fall from her eyes.

Later that night Starsky lay in bed staring at the ceiling with an ache in his heart and a gap that felt as wide as the Grand Canyon between himself and his wife. It was well past midnight but he was unable to sleep. As soon as Hutch had finally left that night Vicky plunged into a deep silence, refusing to talk, and Starsky was sure about that his wife was angry with him, but frightened as he was for her safety and having had his fears well and truly confirmed in the worst way possible, he was unable to see that the girl was not angry, but scared. All he wanted was for her to be well away from Bay City and any further chance of danger. Only when he knew that she was safe at his Mothers house would he relax and be able to give his all to the case.

All through that night Vicky’s thoughts and feelings were in turmoil, preventing her from get any sleep. Her heart kept telling her that Starsky was the same kind and gentle man she had married, but his previous conduct awoke deep traumas and fears within her. So it was that unusually, in their short marriage, they had gone to bed with an uncomfortable tension and silence hanging heavily between them.

It was a tired, short-tempered, hurt man who left for work early the next morning without so much as a backward glance at his wife lying with her back to him in the bed. Word quickly spread around the precinct not to upset Detective Starsky unless you wanted your head bitten well and truly off. Hutch spent a long had day treading on egg shells, desperately trying not to break them and he was as relieved as his fellow officers when their shift ended and Starsky left without him.

The next three days weren’t much better. Vicky keeps her demeanour towards Starsky even, feeling herself unfair and ashamed for that, but she was feeling irrationally scared while the memories of Billy were torturing her mind over and over Their first row was proving to be a major event that was threatening to drive a wedge between them.

Saturday morning found Hutch waiting in the departure lounge as Starsky saw his wife off. The journey to the airport had been made in silence and the atmosphere inside the Torino could be cut with a knife. As he waited he heard someone call his name and he turned to see Jenny running across the lounge towards him.

"Hi Hutch. Tell me I’m not too late. My alarm clock went off half an hour early and I went back to sleep. I just wanted to say goodbye to Vicky."

"No you’re not late. They haven’t called for boarding yet. Vicky and Starsky are over there and somehow I think Starsky wont mind you interrupting." They both looked across at Starsky and Vicky and could clearly see the distance between the couple.

"Okay! I’ve had it up to here with that chip on Vicky’s shoulder." Jenny’s hand was held high above her own head. "She’s being unfair on Dave and I’m damn well going to tell her so!" Before Hutch could stop her she had marched across the concourse towards Vicky her face a set mask of anger.

"Jenny!" Vicky’s face lit up at seeing her friend. "You made it, I hoped you would."

"Yeah! I made it." Jenny’s tone was sharp and her features were set in a determined way. "Dave, would you excuse us for a minute please? There’s something I´d like to say to this wife of yours before she goes."

"Okay. I´ll go check you in Vicky. I won’t be long." Starsky turned and headed for the check in desk. Jenny watched him go before turning to her friend.

"What the hell type of game are you playing Vicky?" her voice was harsh and her eyes blazed as she tore into the brunette before her. "How dare you treat Dave like this? He loves you and he’s trying to protect you the only way he knows how. Its breaking his heart sending you away and you know it, so why are you acting like this?"

Vicky stood open mouthed for a moment, surprised by the torrent coming from her best friend. Finally she found her voice. "It’s not a game Jenny and its none of your damn business!"

"No! Well I just made it my business. Someone has to talk some sense into you. So your feelings got a little bit hurt…so what? Dave is the best thing that ever happened to you Vicky Starsky and don’t you forget it. Or maybe you’ve already forgotten how things were before, when you were married with that beast of your first husband?"

"JENNY!"

"Sorry Vicky, but at times, its good to remember. You know what would’ve happened if you had dared to treat Billy as you’re treating Dave right now? Well. Ill tell you. He would’ve dragged you towards the nearest bathroom or elevator of this airport, and would’ve started to hit you, until you wouldn’t be taking any fucking plane to New York but an ambulance towards the hospital... And let me tell you that what you’re doing to Dave now, its nothing but another kind of mistreatment. Don't you see it?" Seeing tears falling down her friends cheeks Jenny eased a little of the pressure. "I'm sorry, but somebody has to talk straight to you. Look Vicky. There aren’t many men who would lay their life on the line for a woman but you got double lucky you found one that married you. Well right now you sure as hell don’t deserve him. And it would serve you damn well right if he walked away from this airport and forgot you!" Jenny paused for breath and she watched the face of her friend closely. "You don’t know what you’re talking about Jen!" Vicky’s voice was little more than a whisper.

"Don’t I? I’ve got eyes Vicky. Look at your husband. Where’s the spring gone from his step? He used to look so sure of himself. When he walked across a room all the women would stare at him and he oozed confidence. Now look at him. It’s like he wants the ground to open up and swallow him and its all your doing. I sure as hell hope you’re proud of yourself! I know how he’s behaving at work right now too and even Hutch is worried for him. Its tearing him apart that Dave won’t let him help, and you know what? That means its affecting me too! Congratulations Vicky your stupid hurt pride has managed to upset four lives! Well I’m not going to let it affect mine any longer. You´re gonna make it up with Dave here and now or were through being friends. You’re on your own as far as I’m concerned!"

Then, Vicky grabbed Jenny’s arm firmly, saying with a piercing voice.

"JENNY, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND!!...IM SCARED!! SCARED OF DAVE!!"

"What? What the hell are you saying Vicky?"

"He…he shouted me…he grabbed me So sharply…He was looking so angry! And he didn’t ask me about going to New York, he just took the decision for me. Like Billy used to do…I´m scared Jen"

"God, Vicky!" Suddenly Jenny understood. Embracing her friend tightly, she tried to talk while a wave of sympathy washed over her. After a few seconds Jenny pulled out of the embrace.

"Vicky…Vicky, listen to me. Dave’s not like Billy and he never will be! He loves you and he would never hurt you. You know that!"

"I know…but that day I began to feel afraid of him…And I can't help it!"

"Talk with him about this Vicky, and do it now. He’s having some pretty hard times thinking that You´re angry, and he deserves to know the truth."

"I…I can´t"

"Yeah, Vicky. You can.! Dave will understand, and he needs to hear what you have to say. Look at him Vicky. He’s looking shattered. Help him, Vicky Now. Before you leave." The colour left Vicky’s face and she turned away from Jenny to really look at Starsky. He was walking slowly over to Hutch and, as she watched, she could see that Jenny was right. His head was down and the dark circles under his eyes stood out on his white face. The jaunty sway that always went with her husband when he walked was missing. More than anything he looked incredibly tired.

"Oh God Dave…What have I done to you?" she spoke to herself.

"There’s no good telling yourself Vicky. It’s Dave who needs to hear it, not you." Jenny’s voice echoed around her head as she slowly waddled her way over to Starsky. Reaching up she gently touched his face with her fingertips wishing that she could make the dark circles disappear.

"Dave…I’m sorry…I’ve really hurt you haven´t I?"

Starsky looked down at her, surprise clearly visible on his face. Slowly he nodded his head. "More than you know Vicky."

"Dave I need to say something to you. Though I´m not sure how to do it" Vicky needed a lot of effort to keep talking with an almost failing voice "When some days ago you was got so angry...I...I know that is absurd but I was scared…Scared of you. I wasn’t angry Dave. Just scared…The years…Well. My life with Billy left a deep mark deep within me that still remains, I guess."

"Vicky...I can't believe it." Starsky spoke softly, realizing what he had just heard from his wife’s lips. "I thought that you trusted me…I’m sorry Vicky. I’m so sorry for all of this. I know that I can be a true idiot when I get angry, scared or worried, but I can't help it…And you know how worried I am for your safety right now. But I love you. And I would never hurt you. I thought you knew that was out of the question from the first day and what we had was strong, that it would see us through anything. How could I be so wrong? The first time that our love was tested it almost snapped in half." Starskys voice was a whisper and he kept a slight distance between them, unwilling to reach out and touch his wife back.

"Almost snapped Dave, but it never actually broke, and I’ve learnt a hard lesson. Pride always comes before a fall they say, well I just sure as hell took one heck of a tumble. I´d give anything, do anything, for all of this not to have happened and for you to take me in your arms and kiss me again." The tears were falling slowly down her cheeks as she spoke. "I love you Dave Starsky, more than I ever thought it possible to love, and if to prove it I have to get on that plane and go to New York then I go willingly, but I leave my heart here with you." She watched her husband anxiously, not realising she was holding her breath until she released it with a whoosh as Starsky reached out and pulled her close, his arms encircling her tightly.

As Jenny walked back over to Hutch he shook his head, smiling at her. "I don´t know what you said to her Jenny but I´m glad you said it. Maybe now Ill get my partner back and we can catch this son of a bitch!"

Jenny kissed Hutch’s cheek. "You’re welcome lover boy. Maybe now Ill get you back too!"

Two hours later Vicky was well on her way to New York, weeping silently throughout the entire flight, despite the anxious looks of the other passengers. Meanwhile Hutch and Starsky had dropped Jenny off at the hair salon and they were both on their way back to the precinct.

Hours later, the plane landed safely in NY where Rachel Starsky was already waiting for Vicky at the passenger gates, greeting her with an embrace and a smile. The girl could see in her, the same blue eyes as Starsky, the same gentle smile, the same determination and tenderness in each of her gestures. Seeing Rachel only served to increase her sadness.

Despite the efforts at conversation that Starskys mother tried to start more than once on the way to her home, Vicky remained silent, broken only by some polite answer or comment, and it wasn’t difficult for the older lady to guess that her daughter in law was deeply distressed, though she decided not to push Vicky into talking yet and instead to wait for the right moment

*******

Back in Bay City Thomas Harris was once again in the loneliness of his big and empty house. He was sitting down on the floor, rocking himself back and forth, feeling angry. Angrier than ever before He had almost made it. He was in the house, the door was closed, and that damned pregnant bitch was close, so close to him. He almost could see her blood, smell it, feel the last convulsed movements of her body fighting for breath. But that dog, so strong and furious, had scared the hell out of him... He had thought for a moment that he would not get out of the house alive….

Try to relax Tommy. Don’t get upset…Forget her. You can try again…There are a lot of them everywhere. Just wait a while. You can do it again…

*******

Meanwhile, in New York, Rachel Starsky watched worriedly the heartbreaking melancholy that her guest was feeling.

One morning, some days after her arrival in New York, when Vicky got out of bed, Rachel was already sitting down at the kitchen table looking distractedly at a book. The breakfast was almost ready, and Vicky sat down with sleep still tarnishing her eyes.

"Morning Rachel"

"Good morning child. Did you sleep well?"

"Yeah…Humm...What’s this?"

"Oh. Nothing important. Just some family pictures. At times I love to look at it again, an old woman habits I guess."

"Can I look?"

"Sure." Rachel held passed the photo album to Vicky while rising to get the coffee pot. The pictures told the whole story of one family’s life. A young Rachel, beautiful and smiling, heavily pregnant, holding the hand of a little Starsky. A thin kid who showed his special smile and his wild brown curls. A handsome uniformed cop, Starsky´s father, with the same nose, same chin, and same curled hair. A picture of a little Nick Starsky, smiling to the camera. The time was passing in each of the pictures and, some pages on, Vicky saw a very young Starsky and Hutch in their academy days, and later, proudly wearing their rookies uniform. Christmas, Hanukah, birthdays, all kind of family moments, were reflected in those pictures. The girl looked them with a sweet melancholy growing in her heart until, seeing one of the pictures, the wind flew from her lungs. She groaned low, placing a hand over her mouth.

"What’s wrong child?" Despite her question, Rachel had already guessed which picture Vicky was looking at.

"This…this picture..." In the image there were an extremely pale and thin Starsky sitting down on his couch with Hutch by his side. He was looking as thin as a prisoner from a concentration camp, his clothes hanging from his emaciated body. On his lips there was a weak smile, but pain was etched in his features. Nothing in common with the fit and attractive man she had met just over a year before. While Vicky was caressing lovingly the outlines of Starsky´s face in the picture, Rachel began to speak.

"That picture was taken the first day that Davey went home after the Gunther shooting. I know that it’s pretty painful to look at, but that was the first day of his new life, and looking at it helps me to give thanks to God for having Davy healthy and happy between us." Rachel was talking as Vicky remained mesmerized, looking at the picture, while a silent tear slid down her cheek.

"Hey, come on child. Don't cry. That’s the past. Davey´s okay now, and happier than ever thanks to you."

"NO!!...Right now Dave is anything but happy…He’s worried and sad. Thanks to me…I was cruel to him before coming here, and now I’m missing him more than I can bear I don’t even know when I can be with him again" Vicky’s tears fell even harder.

"It's alright. Calm down child. What’s the matter, huh? You´re in love with that son of mine but things got a little rough in the days before you left because Davy sent you here despite your wishes Right?" Vicky just nodded.

"Listen Vicky. Maybe you’ll think that its none of my business but, if you want to know my opinion, that boy can be a true pain in the ass when he wants and I can't promise you that he won't do anything similar in the future if he thinks that is the best for you. But I do know something. No other man could love you as Davy does Vicky, and I’m sure that if you were both angry because you didn’t want to leave your house to come here, hes already forgotten the whole thing...You can be totally sure of something. Davey´s doing the best he knows to protect you and your baby He already lost the woman he loved once, and if that happens again he would just die

Since Vicky’s departure Hutch and Jenny were doing their best to easy Starskys distress. He was becoming increasingly frustrated with the failure of their investigations and he was missing Vicky with all of his heart. He spent as much time as possible at Hutch’s, with Jenny and Samson joining them most of the time, and in those moments he didn’t feel so alone, but when he retuned home, the loneliness hit him again engulfing him with icy arms. The long phone calls to New York gave a little solace, and he was looking forward to getting a couple of days off, to fly to his wife.

The search for the white orchid killer was getting nowhere, though luckily he had not killed again, when Starsky and Hutch answered a call from a place where the neighbours had heard shouts and violent noises coming from a nearby house. With lights and sirens Starsky drove the Torino at full speed, arriving a couple of minutes after the call. On hearing a woman screaming from the inside they battered down the front door. Inside a man was holding a pregnant woman against the wall, with his hands around her neck, slowly suffocating her. On the coffee table lay a plastic box containing a white orchid. With a feline jump Starsky rushed towards the man grasping his collar while Hutch took the scared woman into his arms trying to offer her a moment of comfort before sitting her down on the couch. He strode towards the man, already cuffed by Starsky, to frisk him before reading him his rights. The white orchid killer was caught. The nightmare was over.

All through his interrogation, the suspect maintained that he wasn’t guilty of any pregnant woman’s murder. The attacked woman, Linda Wilson, a married woman had been his lover for two years, though the baby that she was expecting was her husbands. However, she kept firmly denying knowing the man. According to him the white orchid was just an unlucky coincidence. That morning he had gone to her house to give her the flower as a present. She told him of her wish to put an end to their relationship and, because his violent temper, what started just as a row, soon broke into true hell.

His criminal record, with two arrests, one for armed robbery with assault, the other for assaulting a woman, didn’t help him at all. After a long and tiring interrogation, during which he repeated the same story over and over, Starsky and Huch left the interrogation room. Some minutes later, as they were both drinking a coffee, a very thoughtful Starsky asked Hutch

"What’s if he’s telling the truth Blondie? What happens if he’s not the man were looking for?"

"Come on Starsk. HE IS. The victim is a pregnant woman who, by the way, keeps saying she doesn’t know him, the white orchid in the crime scene. He was trying to suffocate her. What more do you need?"

"The telephone wire…It wasn’t cut."

"Sure because he couldn’t do it. Mrs Wilson lives in an apartment building Starsk. The phone wires are too high to reach easily."

"He wasn’t wearing a phone workers uniform Hutch Besides he didn’t have a scalpel."

"But his description fits perfectly with the description that Vicky gave us on the guy who went to your house. Lets go partner. Try to relax. This case is over, and now you and I can ask Dobey for two or three days off, and you can go to New York to see your mom and to bring that beautiful wife of yours back home"

"Yeah…Sure,  you’re right, the case is over"

"STARSKY!! HUTCHINSON!!" Dobey’s shouts echoed around the whole squad room.

"You’re sure that asking him for a couple of days off will be a good idea?" Starsky asked as Hutch headed towards Dobey’s office. As an answer Hutch simply shrugged his shoulders as he knocked the door

"Come in Hutchinson."

"How the hell you’d know that was me, cap?" Hutch asked once inside the office.

"Easy Hutchinson. HE never knocks the door." A little more relaxed Dobey looked at Starsky with a shadow of a smile under his moustache "Well boys, I just wanted to congratulate you both. Good work. That nut was worrying me a lot. Me, the department and the whole city too. And now How about four days off huh? Dave, son. Go to New York, bring your wife home." "But you both be here Monday morning, seven o’clock sharp to finish up a good lot of paper work, right?"

"Sure thing Cap. Monday at seven o’clock."

"Well, and now what you both waiting for?...Go, go! I have still a lot of work to do."

"Thanks cap." Both men left the office heading toward their desks to collect their jackets before leaving the precinct.

That day in his daily phone call to New York, Starsky didn’t say give anything away but, early the next morning, a plane would take him, Jenny and Hutch to New York for a surprise reunion with Vicky and Rachel.

In New York uneventful days passed and, despite feeling spoilt, loved and comfortable with Rachel Vicky was longing for the day that she could return home and be with Starsky. That night, before going to bed, both women were sitting down on the couch watching the TV. and chatting, when Rachel looked at Vicky’s large abdomen and asked "Vicky. Can I ask you something?"

"Yeah, of course Rachel."

"When is your baby due?"

"Roughly January fifth. I thought you knew." The younger woman blushed almost

imperceptively "Why?"

"Well, I’m no doctor, but I think that something’s wrong here."

"Wrong? What do you mean?" Vicky was almost sure about the point that Rachel Starsky was making.

"I mean. Look at yourself. Seems as if at any moment you could go into labour. You’re sure about the date?...Or maybe you’re carrying twins?"

Vicky’s face grew redder than Starsky´s Torino, and the wise, older woman noticed it immediately.

"Wait…Wait a minute Vicky…Am I right? You’re expecting twins?"

"Ra…Rachel, I"

"Hey! That’s terrific!" Starskys mother reached for Vicky, holding her lovingly.

"But why didn’t Davy say something?"

"He…He doesn’t know Rachel"

"WHAT?...But, why?"

Shyly at first Vicky filled Rachel in about the surprise she wanted to give Starsky, relaxing as she saw that her Mother in Law wasn’t angry at all but very excited with the idea.

"Oh child! I cant wait to see my sons face when he finds not one but two babies to feed, change their nappies and rock in the middle of the night, when he just wants to sleep. But don’t you let him get his own way! Make him help you, Okay?" Both women burst into laughter.

From that moment Vicky had a new accomplice with her little prank. That night she went to bed with a warm feeling in her heart towards the gentle woman that already she loved as her own mother.

*******

Back in Bay City, a terrible explosion, cause unknown, destroyed a big part of the 9th precinct building, including the phone switchboard, leaving two detectives seriously wounded, and a man under arrest dead, though the press didn’t give the victims names. Starsky Hutch and Jenny didn’t know the news yet but, in New York, while they were eating their breakfast, Vicky and Rachel were hearing about it on the radio.

Breakfast forgotten the two women hurriedly crossed to the telephone. Picking up the receiver Rachel´s hand shook as she dialled the number held inside her heart. Allowing a dozen rings before giving up she turned to Vicky.

"There’s no answer from Davy. I’m going to try Ken." Again her hands shook as she dialled the second of three numbers that she knew so well. When there was no answer from there either she slammed the receiver into place. Taking a deep breath she dialled the number of Bay City 9th precinct. This time the number unobtainable sound filled her ears and she slowly let the phone drop onto the table.

"Let me have a go." Vicky picked up the receiver and dialled Jenny’s number. Everything inside her wanted to scream when there was no reply. Jabbing her finger on the cut off button she hurriedly redialled the only other number she could think of. Huggy Bear wasn’t answering his phone either and Vicky replaced the receiver with tears forming in her eyes.

Rachael managed to bury her fears to comfort the younger woman. "Hey...no news is good news. Im sure that Captain Dobey would have contacted me if there were anything to worry about. The boys are probably helping out at the precinct. Besides they’ve got a big case they’re working on. Chances are that they were nowhere near the explosion."

Vicky nodded knowing the older woman was right but unable to hide her fear. All she could think of was her husband and the chance that she might never see him again.

"Come on Vicky. Let’s sit down and wait half an hour. Then we can try all the numbers again and well keep on trying to get them every half an hour until we find out something."

Together the two women sat on the couch each lost in their own thoughts. Every half an hour they would reach for the phone and try unsuccessfully to get information. Each time their hopes fell a little further and by dusk the two were mentally exhausted. Suddenly their thoughts were interrupted by yet another report from the radio news stating that one of the two detectives had died and the second remained critical. The names were not being released until the next of kin had been informed. A small sob escaped from Vicky and Rachael reached out for her trying to take away a little of the anguish but feeling it just as much herself. As they held on to each other they both heard the sound of a key in the door and they both spun around in time to see the door open and a beaming Starsky poke his head around the door.

"Hey Ma, Vicky! Surprise!" He looked at the two women and his smile instantly disappeared.

"What is it?...What’s happened?" Throwing open the door he flew across the room and dropped to his knees in front of them. "I thought you’d be glad to see me but I guess I was wrong. Never thought I´d have quite this effect on the two women in my life." Starsky suddenly found himself embraced by arms that held him so tight he thought he would never breathe again.

A bemused Hutch and Jenny stood at the door, watching the scene in front of them in bewilderment.

"Now that’s what I call a welcome!" Jenny’s quiet voice whispered in Hutch’s ear as he smiled at her.

"Yeah! But it’s a little over the top even for Starsky´s mother." He whispered back. Both moved into the room at Starskys frantic hand waving.

"Ma...MA! Will you both please let me go and tell us what’s wrong?" Starsky´s voice rose as he spoke.

Both women looked at each other before turning to look over their shoulder.

"Ken!" Rachael let go of Starsky and hurried as fast as her legs could carry her towards Hutch, hugging him too. "You’re both alright Praise the Lord!”

"Jenny what are you doing here? It’s so good to see you." Vicky’s eyes were wet with tears and she held out her arms towards her friend who quickly took them and they both embraced.

"Err...Ma, Vicky. What the hell is all this about? We wanted to surprise you but you both look as though we were ghosts or something." Starsky had recovered himself from the unexpected greeting and had slipped back into police mode knowing something was wrong but not what as yet.

Suddenly the radio news once again broke into the music announcing that the second detective had also died of his injuries and early reports were that a gas leak had caused the explosion. Names were still not being released until next of kin could be informed.

Hutch and Starsky looked at each other in silence for a few minutes.

"You thought" Starsky had turned to Vicky who nodded quietly.

"We’ve been trying to contact you all day Davy. There was no answer from anywhere." Rachel’s hand rested on her sons arm. "Go son, be with your wife. I think she needs you more than I do right now."

Starsky briefly turned to his Mother and smiled his thanks before he took Vicky in his arms and led her out into the small back garden. Hutch, Jenny and Rachael watched them out of the window for a few seconds before Hutch turned away.

"Rachael I need to use your phone please."

"Of course you do Ken. Help yourself." Rachael pointed towards the corner where the phone rested on a small table. "Come on Jenny lets make us all some coffee and perhaps you can tell me what you are all doing here. I thought my boys were on a case."

Jenny smiled at the reference to her boys. Hutch had told her about Starskys mother and how she had extended her love to him. "Sure thing Mrs Starsky." She followed Rachael into the kitchen.

Once there Starskys mother busied herself gathering cups and plates and rattling through cupboards in search of something substantial to offer her guests. As she worked she talked.

"So what are you all doing here...not that I mind some young company and I always enjoy Davey´s company. It’s not often enough that I get to see him these days. Does this mean that their case is over and Vicky can go home to be where she belongs?"

Jenny nodded. "Yeah! They caught the killer and Captain Dobey gave them the weekend off to come and get Vicky. Dave’s been so miserable since she came here. He missed her so much. Hutch and I have tried to be with him as much as we could but its not the same as being with the one you love."

"That sounds like the voice of experience talking child. Would I be right in thinking that Hutch and you are just a little more than just good friends?"

Jenny nodded shyly. "I guess you could say that. I never thought I would ever feel for a man how I feel for Hutch."

"Then you should hang on to him child. A love like that is a very rare thing to find and should be treasured and nurtured." Rachael smiled knowingly at the younger woman and Jenny felt herself blush under the older womans gaze. Thankfully at that point Hutch came looking for them and she turned away, looking at Hutchs face.

"That bad Hutch?" Her voice was soft and gentle when it came.

"Fraid so!" Hutch took a breath before continuing. "The two detectives were Mason and Billings. Billings had a wife and two young children…DAMN!" Hutch thumped the back of a chair. "Sorry Rachael."

Rachael nodded her understanding, sympathy showing in her eyes. "Its always hard for a cop when a colleague is hurt or killed but when you cant do anything about it then its one hundred times worse. I remember it all so well."

From behind her Rachael felt a warm and comforting arm go around her shoulders and she turned to see Vicky and Starsky standing with her. He smiled softly to her before looking at Hutch, eyes locked.

"Dobey?" Starsky´s voice was questioning.

"He’s okay. A little bruised and very mad but other than that Edith said he was fine." Hutch passed on everything he had managed to glean from Edith Dobey and the two partners took their time to digest it all. Finally Starsky crossed to the phone and began to make arrangements for them all to return home earlier than planned. Both men knew that they couldn’t stay so far away when friends and colleagues needed there help. As he spoke on the phone he heard Hutch speaking to Vicky.

"One thing Vicky... this means that you wont have to face your attacker in court. He died in the explosion."

A wave of relief washed over Vicky’s face and Starsky turned away. He still couldn’t quiet shake the feeling that they had the wrong man.

Two months later and life was slowly returning the normal for everyone. Repairs had long since finished at the precinct. Colleagues had been mourned and buried and, apart from the immediate families of the two dead men, life went on. Christmas was fast approaching and Starsky and Vicky were busy making plans for their Christmas Day get together. Vicky was struggling with her size now and Starsky pampered her as much as he could get away with and his time allowed.

One thing he insisted on was that she was never left on her own. His pretence was that he was worried about her being on her own just in case but still he listened to that uneasy voice in his head that came to the fore late at night when everyone else was asleep telling him that the Orchid Killer was still out there somewhere looking and waiting for his next victim.

Christmas Day arrived and Starsky was up early, quietly tidying around and making Vicky breakfast in bed. Waking from her slumbers Vicky wondered why she felt different and it took her a little while to realise that her babies were unnaturally quiet. She placed her hand on her stomach as though to prove to herself that they were still there. Moving slowly from the bed her hand moved automatically to her back supporting her slow waddle to the bathroom. A slight twinge in her abdomen made her draw in her breath a little but she took little notice of it as she continued her slow progress. Today was going to be a busy day for hem both and she so wanted it to be perfect for them all since it would be the last time they would be just them. Next year there would be four in this little family and three in Jenny’s and her house would be a scene of confusion, and happiness.

An hour later she walked into the living room just in time to see a guilty looking Starsky moving rapidly away from the Christmas tree. Pretending not to notice she headed for the coffee pot wondering when she would get the chance to add her own small surprise for her husband to the one so obviously placed there a minute ago for her. In the kitchen she could smell the enticing aroma of turkey slowly cooking in the oven. Starsky rarely cooked these days if she had anything to do with it but when he did she knew that she was in for a treat as he conjured up appetizing meals from long buried memories of his relatives and their cooking skills. She could still conjurer up the smell and taste of the meals prepared for her by Rachael Starsky a few months ago. Glancing around her she could see that her husband had been busy while she had slept. Everything was prepared and in the pots ready to cook. Jenny would be here shortly to give her a hand and they would take over the work allowing Starsky and Hutch some time just to relax and unwind. This year they were both going to take an hour to head over to see Jim Mitchell and young Kathy hoping to hear some good news from them both. As she thought of her friends the door knocked.

"Its open Hutch, come on in." Starsky yelled from the other side of the room where he was fighting with a bright red Christmas garland that kept refusing to stay where he wanted it. Just as Hutch entered the whole thing fell down once more covering him from head to foot.

"Hey Starsk! Trust you to go over the top and decorated yourself too. What’s the matter...run out of room on the walls?" Hutch couldn’t contain the laughter at the sight of Starsky.

"Very funny Hutch. Make yourself useful, will ya and? get over here."

Together the two replaced the errant streamer and kissing their respective partners goodbye they headed for the Torino and the Mitchell’s home, a huge parcel held in front of them.

Fifteen minutes later they were standing in the lounge listening to Jim and Suzie Mitchell speaking.

"Turns out that guy wasn’t her father at all, and he was never legally made her legal guardian so the courts came down on our side and here it is." Jim held out a certificate for them both to see. "Kathy’s legal adoption papers. She ours know a part of this family properly at last."

Starsky beamed at them both. "Man, that’s the best Christmas present anyone could have... a kid! If there’s ever anything I can do for her let me know will ya Jim? I owe that girl more than I could possibly repay."

"Well there is one thing you can do Starsky. We’ve got a special party planned in a couple of weeks with a blessing from our Minister. Wed like for you and Vicky to be here as a special part of the service. Kind of like godparents if you like."

Oh Man. Jim! Wed be honoured. Just let us know the time and date and nothing will keep us away." Starskys voice broke a little as he spoke and he glanced at Hutch who answered him with a reassuring smile.

Suddenly the door was flung open and Kathy ran in throwing herself on Starsky with a huge hug. Starsky bent down and lifted her high in the air swinging her around as he did so.

"Hey button, you’ve grown. I won’t be able to do this much longer!"

The laughing girl slid down as he lowered his arms and as she reached his face level her arms wrapped themselves around his neck as she kissed his cheek.

"Happy Christmas Dave." Happiness shone in the child’s face as Starsky looked at her and he realised that through all the tragedy of that almost forgotten day something really good had emerged from it.

"Happy Christmas to you to Kathy. Look what we’ve got for you." He nodded his head to Hutch who picked up the huge parcel and handed it to the girl. Kneeling down he released her as she wriggled in his grip. Together the two men watched her face as she tore through the layers surrounding the huge bear they had found her tucked in a small toyshop across town. The bear was as big as she was.

"He’s gorgeous Dave. Thank you. Thank you Uncle Hutch." She hugged the huge bear as she spoke and her eyes glistened and sparkled.

"He’s a special friend Kathy for when you have a secret to share and there’s no-one else around. Or when you’re just feeling a little lonely or miserable and you need someone to talk to. Or when you want to share your happiest times." Starsky spoke quietly to the young girl his heart aching for all the times in her life when she must have needed just such a person.

"I´ll love him always Dave." Kathy kissed his cheek again before turning and walking slowly out of the room with her huge friend.

"And this is for Alex, Jim. Its a remote controlled car. We hope hell like it." Starsky said, holding out the other parcel.

"Hey thanks, I know hell like it! Ill give it to him when he comes back"

"Where is your kid anyway?" asked Hutch.

"He’s with Jake, his best friend at school, exchanging Christmas presents. They’ll be here anytime…Know something Dave You´re pretty good with kids. You ever get fed up with homicide then let me know. We could do with people like you in juvenile." Jim Mitchell looked at the dark haired detective.

"Sorry Jim. It´d take me much too long to break in a new partner after all this time. Besides he’s gonna have his own kid to look after pretty soon." Hutch placed his hand on Starskys arm. "Talking of which Starsk, we´d better getting back or our girls will be climbing the walls."

Making their excuses the duo left and headed for the car. As they got to it the front door of the Mitchell’s flew open and Suzie Mitchell ran down the path after them.

"Ken there’s a call for you." She paused for breath. "Jenny said to get the car moving fast. They’re on the way to the hospital right now and Starsky had better be there when they arrive or Vicky’s heading for the divorce court afterwards.

"WHAT!" Starskys yelled and froze.

"The baby Dave. It’s coming! Move yourself." Suzie pushed him firmly in the back and he fell onto the Torino.

"But…It can’t be… It’s not due for another ten days...it can’t…"

"Babies don’t take any notice of timetables Dave. They come when they’re ready and not until."

Hutch realised that Starsky wasn’t going to listen to sense. Striding around the car he grabbed his partner and shoved him inside and across to the passenger seat. Climbing into the driving seat he grabbed the Mars light and slapped it on the top at the same time demanding the keys for the ignition. A completely silent and terrified looking Starsky handled them over and Hutch quickly got the car moving. As they hit the main street so he hit the sirens and raced through the morning traffic towards the hospital. Twenty minutes later they screeched to a halt in front of the hospital and Hutch pushed Starsky from the car.

"Go on buddy. Your wife needs you. Get your arse in gear and RUN! I´ll be with you as soon as I’ve parked the tomato."

Starsky flew as fast as he could into the hospital towards the maternity wing his trainers slapping on the cold floor. As he raced into a bright open area he saw Jenny standing by a room looking in.

"Jenny" Where is she? What happened?" Starskys breath was coming in short gasps as he tried to fill his lungs.

"She’s in there Dave. The doctors with her now. Its a little early but they think everything is going to be fine. It’s just that she’s so big, her body can’t provide enough nutrition anymore." Jenny looked at Starsky. "Get your breath first Dave, then get in there. They’re expecting you."

"Yeah, okay... Hutch...tell Hutch. He´s on his way, just parking the car"

You let me worry about Hutch. You worry about Vicky!" Jenny’s voice was firm and she opened the door a little and pushed him through, watching at the window as he ran to Vicky’s side and hugged her before sitting by the bed and holding her hand firmly. Relaxing at last she turned from the window and moved to sit on a hard seat as Hutch came in.

"Jen! What’s going on? The baby isn’t due for another ten days. What happened? Where’s Starsky?" Hutch realised that he was beginning to sound like his friend earlier and sat down quickly trying to calm his thoughts.

"Nothings wrong Hutch, and its not early. Not really. Vicky’s doctor warned her that this might happen under the circumstances."

"Circumstances?...What circumstances? Starsky never said anything about"

"That’s because he doesn’t know anything Hutch. Vicky wanted to keep it a surprise." Looking at Hutch’s face Jenny realised that she would have to tell him. "The baby isn’t really early Hutch at least it is if it were one baby but Vicky’s having twins and she always knew they would probably arrive a little early. She didn’t quite expect them to be a Christmas delivery though." She stopped as she realised the colour had drained from Hutch’s face. "Hutch You okay? Say something."

"Twins!" How When..." Hutch stopped and drew a deep breath before starting again. "How long have you known?"

"Since she found out. Vicky wanted to keep it a secret as a surprise for Dave. She knew how excited and proud he´d be with one child and she wanted to see his face when there were two. She’s had the devil of a job stopping him from finding out, even arranging her clinic appointments when she knew that he´d be working, and hiding half of the stuff at my place. Remember the pram?" Hutch nodded. "Well that was hers but we sent it back. It wouldn’t go in her new car. We managed to trade it at the store for a double pram that does fit and that’s back in my loft out of our way."

"Why didn’t you tell me?"

"Come on Hutch. You and Starsky can never have secrets from each other. How long do you think you would have lasted before he found out? Tell you who does know though. Rachael. Vicky said she guessed. She thought it was great fun."

"I bet she did. She and Starsky have the same sense of humour." Hutch stopped and thought for a moment. "This will be us in a few months time Jenny. Doesn’t seem possible does it?

"No. It doesn´t." Jenny’s face changed and she became serious. "You still haven’t quite forgiven me have you Hutch for turning you down, for not marrying you?"

Hutch looked directly at her. "It took a while Jen. I have to be honest with you. That hurt a lot. But I’ve got a really good friend who made me realise that it didn’t really matter. I know how I feel about you and I never thought I would feel like that again. So I guess we make the best of it for the baby’s sake. I think you look beautiful right now." Hutch kissed her tenderly before removing a small box from his pocket. "Here, this is for you. It was my Grandmother’s and I want you to have it. She was a special lady too!"

Jenny looked at the small box in her hand. Slowly she lifted the lid to reveal a simple ring with a sapphire.

"Hutch I can’t take this."

"Yes you can. Here." He removed the ring from the box and slipped it on to her finger. "There, perfect fit!" Jenny’s eyes moistened and Hutch kissed her again before placing his arm around her shoulder and leaning back into the couch. "Guess all we can do now is wait so we may as well get comfortable." Pulling her backwards into him, her head rested on his shoulder, the two settled down to wait.

Inside the room Vicky was fighting to get the pain of the contractions under control, her eyes tightly closed, hand grasping her husbands.

"Funny way to spend Christmas...Aw!... It hurts Dave! Damn, it hurts!"

"I know honey, I know…You´re doing fine." Starsky was unsuccessfully trying to hide his nervousness. After a few seconds the contraction passed and Vicky features became relaxed again, while Starskys face was still a pale mask of restlessness and worry.

"Breathe Vicky, sweetheart. Breathe," Starsky was drying Vicky’s sweating forehead with his handkerchief while she breathed deeply with closed eyes.

"I am breathing Dave You’re the only one here who isn’t." Starsky was looking so upset that Vicky felt her own anxiety mixed with an unstoppable wish to laugh from the funniness of the whole situation.

A couple of hours later he was looking so exhausted and scared that Vicky felt for him, doubting that he could spend all the time until the end by her side. "Look sweetheart. The doc says that this will take a long while, so why don’t go get some fresh air huh? Jenny can spend a while with me."

"I don't want to leave you honey. And what if I’m not here when the baby comes?"

"The baby wont come for a while, Davy...I wish he would, but he won't come right now. Go out, eat something. You must be hungry." Vicky gently pushed Starsky towards the door.

During the next eighteen hours Starsky entered and left the room uncountable times, doing all in his power to calm himself for Vicky’s sake, while Hutch and Jenny spent all their time at the hospital supporting their friends, and Vicky was becoming more and more exhausted as the hours passed by. Finally, at dawn, and after checking Vicky one more time, the doctor said to her and Starsky.

"Well, Mrs Starsky. You’re almost ready. Now well take you up the delivery room."

"I can go with her?"

"Of course Mr. Starsky, but first you need to be dressed in sterile clothes." Vicky and Starsky entwined hands, and minutes later both were in the delivery room.

"Okay, Mrs Starsky, now I want you to push." The doctor said as the nurse helped Vicky to get into position. "This baby wants to know his parents."

Ten minutes later though the doctor, becoming serious, said. "Now relax Mrs Starsky. I don't want you to push for a moment."

"W-Why not Doctor? Something´s wrong?"

"We’ve a little trouble here. A baby is in bad position to get out, and we need to do a c-section or well have major problems. If we do it now everything will be okay." In the middle of their fear none of them paid any attention to the doctor’s phrase A baby. Exhausted Vicky seized weakly Starsky´s hand, looking terrified.

"Dave! I´m scared!"

"Shhht…It's okay honey, It's okay. Everything will be fine." Starskys voice sounded calm and confident but his heart was fighting against a paralyzing wave of terror.

"Mr Starsky, I must ask to you to leave."

"But..."

"Please detective. You must get out of here now."

So, minutes later, Starsky was pacing forward and backward in the waiting room, looking distressed as never before, with Hutch and Jenny by his side, waiting and praying silently from the bottom of their hearts, while Vicky was in surgery. For a moment Jenny and Hutch thought of telling Starsky about the twins, but since the doctor was sure that everything would be okay, they both decided that they didnt want to spoil Vickys surprise.

The silence could be cut with a knife until, roughly an hour later some soft steps came close to the waiting room.

"Detective Starsky?" The doctor approached Starsky.

"How are they doing?"

"They are perfectly okay and in a moment we´ll move Mrs. Starsky to her room and you can be with her." Then, a nurse came in, wheeling a transparent plastic cot with two babies inside, each of them wrapped in a white little blanket. Starsky Hutch and Jenny walked towards the cot, looking at the little babies.

"Here’s a boy who want to meet his daddy." She said smiling and holding out one of the babies to Starsky, who took the child carefully in his arms.

"He...He´s my son?" Jenny and Hutch were by Starskys side looking the scene silently with an overwhelming feeling of tenderness gripping their hearts.

"He’s your son detective. And he’s your other son!" She took the other baby, placing him in Starskys free arm.

"WHAT?...My…I...Do you mean that they?"

"Yeah. You and your wife are parents of twins. They are a little under weight, but they are fine. Congratulations. You have two beautiful children." After placing the babies in Starskys arms the nurse added. "Ill come back in a few minutes to take the babies to their mum, this way you can go with her." The doctor and nurse moved away smiling, leaving Starsky feeling bewildered and happier that ever before. Both babies looked identical, with the same dark hair, soft and beautiful faces and small, perfect hands but, while one of them slept deeply, the other one yawned, looking fixedly at Starsky with his deep blue eyes under long, dark eyelashes.

"Hutch..."

"I´m right here Starsk." Starsky noticed Hutch´s hand softly squeezing his shoulder

"I´ve got two kids Hutch"

"Two gorgeous kids, partner."

"And they seem to be very happy with their dad." It was Jenny who spoke.

"Do you think so Jenny?"

"I’m sure Dave. Look at them. Seems as though they could spend the whole day in your arms. You’ll make a great dad."

"They are the most beautiful children I’ve ever seen in the whole world." Starsky spoke to himself. "Hey, little boys. I’m your daddy. I love you both I love you both so much." Starsky tenderly kissed the two little children´s foreheads. At that moment the nurse came back "Detective Starsky. You can go to your wife now. She’s already in her room."

"But...The babies" Starsky seemed not to be ready to let his sons go until their first school day.

"I´ll take them with their mum and dad." The nurse gently took the tiny infants from Starskys arms, placing them in the cot.

Vicky was waking up from the anaesthesia, feeling a little light headed, thirsty and surprisingly light, like empty. An IV entered her arm and the room was silent and in semidarkness. Suddenly she remembered all that had happened earlier. The long hours of labour, the doctor’s words, the concerned look of Starsky, her fear of losing her sons. Later, nothing. And now, here she was, alone. Without her babies or her husband. A sudden terror gripped her

"Dave" Her voice was barely a whisper. She tried to reach the call button, when the door opened carefully and Vicky could hear the familiar steps of Starsky approaching her bed.

"Dave?"

"Hey my sweetheart…How are you feeling?" Starsky bent towards Vicky, kissing her forehead, and sat down in the bedside chair, taking her hand in his larger one.

"The…The babies. Where are the babies Dave?"

"A nurse is bringing them here now, Vicky. They’re both just fine."

"You’re not lying to me?"

"Of course not Vicky. They’re a little under their normal weight, but other than that, they are fine. And they are beautiful, so beautiful! Just like their Mother…Wait. Wait a minute. You knew, right? I mean. You knew that you were expecting twins?"

"Yeah Dave. I knew. Since the first echography. But I didn’t tell you because I wanted to give you a surprise…Are you angry?"

"Angry? No Vicky. This is the most wonderful Christmas present I ever got. Thanks sweetheart. I love you."

"I’m thirsty Dave. Can you get some water for me?"

"Sure, honey, but just a little sip. You know. The anaesthesia; you could get sick to your stomach" Starsky rose from his chair, to get some water, holding the glass to Vickys lips. At that moment the nurse came in to the room, bringing the cot close to the bed, smiling at Vicky and placing the babies one on each side of her.

"Just for a while Mrs. Starsky. Later I´ll put them in the cot again. You need to get some rest."

Tears of happiness fell from Vicky’s eyes, feeling the little warm bodies stirring next to her own. She surrounded one of the babies with her arm, fingering his soft hair, while Starsky, with a smile lighting up his entire face, took the other one in his arms, caressing his head and becoming lost in the beauty of those little blue eyes. "Hey...Vicky look at him. Little Kenny isn’t doing anything but looking at me. It’s incredible. I bet that soon well be playing baseball in the yard." The baby was seizing Starskys forefinger with his little hand, looking at him imperturbably.

"Yeah. Sure thing. Meanwhile little Paul will sleep with Samson under the shadow of the apple tree." Both smiled picturing the promising future in front of them.

"Know something Dave?" Vicky said reaching for Starskys hand. "I’ve got something great. The greatest thing that I ever could dream of. I have my own family, two sons, your love, peace and happiness. And I owe all of this to you. I guess Ill never be able to say how much I love you David Starsky." Starsky kissed softly Vicky’s lips. Minutes later, still dozy and weak, she fell back asleep looking at the babies. In that moment Starsky swore silently to himself to do anything to keep his family happy and safe. Even give his life if it was needed.

When, a couple days later, Starsky went back to the precinct after his sons birth everybody congratulated him and he returned to the hospital with his arms filled with lots of flowers, plants, some chocolates, little clothes and stuffed animals for Vicky and the babies from all his companions. Really after all his years in the 9th precinct he was a well-liked man. Though the most valuable present for Vicky and himself came from Hutch.

That evening he entered Vicky’s room and, after kissing her, and caressing the little sleeping babies, he held out a pink wrapper with a red ribbon towards Vicky.

"This is for the babies, Vicky. Its only one, and I’m afraid they will have to share it, but its filled with love, and…Well, I guess he’s coming back where he belongs." Vicky tore the paper off to see a white, soft teddy bear inside.

"It's…Ollie" Starsky managed to say, fighting with his emotions. Vicky knew about the little teddy bear, and her eyes were filled with tears as well.

"Yeah, partner. I’m sure that Terry would want Ollie to look after Kenny and Paul."

Starsky rose from his chair, and fiercely hugged his friend.

"Hutch" Vicky said in a faltering voice before hugging him too. "This means a lot to me. You know?" She knew that while her sons had so much love surrounding them, their life would be good and full.

*******

Over the next few days Vicky was permanently accompanied by Starsky, Jenny and Hutch. Starskys mum flew from NY for a couple of days, with Nick to meet her new grandsons, and of course, Vicky parents and brother, the Dobey’s and even Huggy went to the hospital to see the babies. Two days after their arrival at the hospital Vicky’s room was looking like a gift shop.

Meanwhile Starsky was looking to all his friends as the happiest and proudest father in the whole world.

Vicky recovered quickly from the childbirth and, five days later, the Starskys left the hospital and headed towards home.

It was December 31st and though they didn’t have time enough to prepare a true New Years Eve party, they wanted to have a quiet dinner at their place with Jenny and Hutch to say good bye to that bittersweet and intense year that had brought so much pain and happiness for all of them, and to welcome the new year in the company of their sons and their best friends. So Hutch and Jenny brought the food, already prepared, from Hutch’s place, and the four spent the night exchanging delayed Christmas presents and sharing their friendship, happiness, love and renewed hopes for the year to come.

The babies health was fine though they hadn’t reached their very best weight yet, and even being so little, the children were already showing their different tempers. Kenny was more energetic and moody, especially when he was getting hungry. In the other hand Paul was more calm and sleepy-head, though during that night it seemed that the two babies didn’t want to loose even a minute of the fun, and both began to cry with one voice whenever Vicky or Starsky were placing them in the cot, so they greeted the new year surrounded for their best friends and holding their babies while as they watched the firecrackers breaking up in the dark city sky and they toasted their happiness.

A week later the Mitchell’s were celebrating their little party, beginning it with a religious service in a Lutheran church that was packed out by relatives, friends, and the Dobey’s among other companions from 9th precinct. The Mitchell’s were good folk and the huge amount of people there attested to it.

Kathy was looking really beautiful with her white dress and her shinning brown hair tied in a plait. The little girl was looking a little overwhelmed by the solemnity of the moment but as the time passed she became more relaxed.

The Minister´s words were moving and full of wisdom. He spoke on the power of love. That the true feeling that can join people and to save the world is no other but love. The love that is stronger than the hate, the fear and even than the ties of blood. After that , he addressed some words especially to little Kathy. He told her that this was her day, and that she had given a valuable present to men and to God helping to save the life of a good man, allowing his wife and little sons to have him by their side until God wanted to call them with him. That she should keep the kindness and braveness into her heart along all her life. The minister advising her as well to respect and to love her new family, trying to learn as much as possible from them and taking every one of her new lifes days as a present from God. He asked her also not to hold any grudge against her past and the people that mistreated her before. The minister said that her new life was like a still unwritten book and she couldn’t blot it with hate, rancour or bad acts.

At the end of his words and while the people were leaving the church to go to the Mitchell’s place, many eyes were tarnished by tears. Starsky and Vicky excused themselves from going there since the babies were so little they needed go to home and feed them and put them to bed

"Jim, Suzie. It was a beautiful service, and we’ve felt very honoured being a part of it. Thank you so much."

"Come on David, you don't have to say this. You and your family are part of our family, you know that..." Both men, their wives, Kathy and Alex said their goodbyes and the Starskys headed towards home with a warm feeling in their hearts, to go on with a life that was possible thanks to little Kathy.

Part Two

Months slipped fast in the middle of busy days and, almost without noticing it, spring was coming. Kenny and Paul, already three months of age, were growing up healthy and happily. Vicky enjoyed taking care of them though it was exhausting work. But she enjoyed even more seeing Starsky bathing them patiently, changing their nappies, and loving and spoiling them. He was doing his best to help Vicky as much as his shift's work allowed him to do, and it wasn't unusual to find him curled up on the couch with the babies, talking to them, or tickling them to hear their laughter, or see him carrying both children in his arms to the yard, with Samson always by their side, to show them the spring flowers and butterflies. A year after her wedding her love for him was growing more and more with every passing day, and she always had a hard time trying to picture her loving husband as a tough street cop. At times she was joked with Jenny that maybe he was suffering some kind of double personality.

On the other hand Jenny and Hutch were enjoying their special relationship, loving each other deeply. In her second echography they found out that they were waiting for a girl, and for a couple of weeks they had everything almost ready for the baby's arrival. The whole world seemed to revolve around the happiness of both couples.

That was the first day that Thomas was going out on the street. In the last months he had left his work on long term sick leave totally unable to get out from the safety of his house. In fact he did his shopping by telephone and he hadn't put a foot in the street since that day. The day in which that huge dog almost finished his life. In any place that he was going he saw dogs. Black dogs, white dogs. All colours and sizes dogs, trying to eat him alive. The hardest was to try to escape of the sensation. The sensation of power and the sexual pleasure that he got from killing that damned pregnant women. He tried hard to overcome it, unsuccessfully, so now he couldn't do anything but to return to his work and look for a new victim!

Jenny waited impatiently by the telephone, willing it to ring. Glancing for the umpteenth time at her watch she knew that she would be late for hospital appointment. Hutch had promised to be with her but ten minutes after she should have left there was still no sign of him. Finally, knowing she could wait no longer, Jenny hurriedly scribbled a note on the telephone pad and stuck it on the receiver before picking up her bag and leaving. Hurrying as fast as her condition and size allowed she got into her car and turned it towards the hospital as, back in the house, the telephone began to ring.

"No answer!" Hutch slammed the receiver back down and turned exasperated eyes to Starsky.

"Well you did say her appointment was for two and it's half past one now. She would have left ages ago Hutch. Why don't you try ringing the hospital?" Starsky's voice was calm and reasoning knowing how frustrated his partner was feeling. They had been stuck on a stake out for the best part of the morning and nothing had come of it. Unable to reach a telephone booth Hutch had become increasingly agitated at the thought of being unable to go with Jenny on her last hospital appointment before the bay was due. Starsky cast a quick glance at his partner and could see the hanging of his head.

"Yeah ! You're right Starsk. I'll give her five minutes and then I'll ring again. How the hell I'm going to be able to make this up to her I'll never know."

"Hey! You'll think of something Hutch. Besides you're a cop. Sometimes you have to break a promise. It's something Jenny's gonna have to get used to if you two are gonna make a go of things!" Starsky opened the passenger seat of the Torino and gestured for Hutch to get in. "Tell you what buddy. We're about forty minutes from the hospital. I figure if I really try I can cut that down to thirty five. What say we forget the phone and head straight there. The reports can wait for a couple of hours."

Blue eyes met twinkling indigo ones and held for a split second before Hutch threw himself inside the car. Laughing quietly to himself Starsky trotted around to the drivers side and got in. At this rate Hutch would be a nervous wreck before his baby was born.

Jenny sat in the waiting room waiting to be called. She had arrived ten minutes late but thankfully the Doctor was running half an hour late due to an emergency so she had time to sit and collect her thoughts. Although a little angry with Hutch for not being there she knew that there would be a very good reason for his absence and tried hard not to be cross with the man but rather with his job. Sitting there she realised that this would probably be how it would always be. She loved Hutch, she knew that, but she couldn't bring herself to alter her feelings about marriage and times like this only helped to reinforce those feelings. Yet a part of her heart made her think about Vicky and Starsky and how successful their marriage was. She had seen Starsky with the twins, seen the care he took with Vicky; had witnessed first hand the price he was willing to pay for those he loved and she envied her best friend despite knowing deep in her heart that she too could be that safe and loved, if only she could open her heart enough to accept it. Her pain ran deep though, too deep and her mind refused to let her open herself to such pain again no matter what the cost.

As Jenny sat, lost deep in thought, the hospital cleaner began his work on the floor around her. As he approached her chair with his mop she lifted her feet slightly allowing him access to the floor beneath her chair and she smiled at him. The man smiled back briefly before continuing on his way along the corridor. At the end of the corridor he paused in his work and turned to watch the young woman. Her blond hair glistened as the sun coming in through the window landed on it and her smile had been warm and encouraging.

"So you're here again Mother, and carrying yet another bastard to take you away from me! Well we'll have to see about that. You never learn Mother. You never listen when I tell you that you're mine. No one will take you from me again!"

He watched as a nurse approached the young woman calling her name.

"Jennifer Summers, the doctor's ready for you now."

As Jenny disappeared into the surgery she cast a final glance in the vain hope of seeing Hutch but all she saw was the cleaner disappear around the corner.

"Summers. So that's the name you're using this time Mother! Well I'll find you, same as I always do and when I do, you'll suffer again and again!" The small man left his mop and bucket where it stood and walked quickly out of the hospital.

Starsky roared to a halt in front of the hospital and Hutch ran from the car. True to his word Starsky had made the journey in thirty five minutes and Hutch was once again grateful for the Torino and the skills of its driver even though he would never admit it. Starsky watched as Hutch hurried up the steps smiling to himself.

"I'll catch you up in a while Hutch." Stansky's voice was lost to Hutch as he disappeared inside the building, taking little notice of the small man hurrying the opposite way. His long legs took him along the corridor in seconds and he stopped in front of the nurse's station impatiently.

"I'm looking for a Jennifer Summers. She had an appointment here this morning."

The young nurse looked at the tall man in front of her and her heart gave a leap. Controlling her heartbeat she checked her patient list.

"You are?" Professionalism kicked in as she continued her assessment of the man in front of her.

"Hutchinson, Ken Hutchinson. Jenny Summers is my girlfriend. I was supposed to be with her today but I got held up." Hutch tried hard to control his impatience and for once was unaware of the effect he was having on the young nurse. "I need to know where she is!"

At that moment Starsky arrived having safely parked the Torino. He quickly assessed the situation and, placing a comforting hand on Hutch's shoulder, he reached inside his friend's jacket pocket.

"It's okay Nurse" Starsky peered at the name tag. "Williams. He's a cop and right now he's in trouble with his very pregnant girlfriend who he promised faithfully to accompany to this appointment. Would you mind checking your notes and telling us if she's still here?" Starsky smiled his best smile and waited.

"Jennifer Summers, wait a minute" The young woman glanced down at her notes to collect herself once again. "She's with the doctor right now. If you knock on that door over there you can join her."

"Thank you Nurse Williams." Starsky kissed the back of her hand before turning his partner around and guiding him to the door. Knocking three times he opened the door and pushed Hutch through before crossing to take a seat on the hard chairs in the waiting room. Quietly laughing to himself he knew that he would have a good tale to tell Vicky when he got home tonight.

Back in his small untidy home Thomas Harris was lifting an old, battered case from the back of a dark cupboard. Lying it on the floor he opened the case and lifted out a small metal box which he carried in front of him to the threadbare rug in front of the fire, By the light of the flames which flickered fiercely he opened the box and took out the shiny item inside. Holding it reverently he ran his finger along the sharp metal blade not flinching as it cut into his finger and the blood trickled down onto the rug. Twisting it in the firelight he smiled a cold smile as he twisted the blade of the scalpel in the air in front of him.

"Time for you to do your work again my friend. Mother will feel the pain as you cut off her life's energy."

Anyone watching the scene would have been shocked to see the madness in the eyes of the small man and the blood lust in the features of his contorted face.

Hutch had sat quietly listening to the doctor's words as he told Jenny that their baby was healthy and a good size. All the arrangements had been made for her arrival whenever the baby decided to put in an appearance and now all she had to do was go home, relax and get as much rest as possible while she had the chance. Tonight he would make sure that she did just that. He would cook to her a special meal to make up for being late and he would buy a bottle of good wine to go with it. As the two left the examination room Hutch placed his arm protectively around her waist and guided her towards Starsky who was sitting on a mat in the corner of the waiting room playing cars with a boy of about four years old as his mother, heavily pregnant and looking well overdue, watched on. Seeing his friends coming towards him Starsky hurriedly made his goodbyes to both child and Mother and scrambled to his feet meeting them half way across the room.

"Everything okay?" He spoke directly to Jenny but his eyes asked the same question with a different meaning to Hutch who quietly nodded in reply.

"Everything is fine Dave. Thanks for getting Ken here albeit a little late. Guess I'm going to have to get used to your work keeping you away from me." Jenny kissed Hutch on the tip of his nose smiling.

"I'm really sorry Jen. We looked for a phone to warn you but there were none around. I promise I'll make it up to you tonight with a special dinner."

"Sounds pretty good to me Ken. I'll expect you about 7.30." Turning to Starsky she winked at him. "Now kind sir, do you think I could please beg a lift home or do I need to grab a cab?"

"I'm at your service my lady. Our reports have waited this long I guess another half an hour isn't going to make a lot of difference. The trio walked out of the hospital together. As they walked down the steps, they passed a small man who seemed to be in a hurry. Starsky felt that there was something familiar about him but couldn't quite work out what. Shaking his head he carried on after Jenny and Hutch before turning and heading for the car park to retrieve the car.

Thomas Harris quickly and quietly returned to where he had left his mop. Outwardly he appeared calm, a man engrossed in doing a job to the very best of his ability. Inwardly his mind was racing. He knew the name she was using; now he had to find where she was staying this time. He had been unimpressed with the other places but realised that she would need somewhere quiet and uninspiring if she were to hope to hide from him. Harris was a patient man when he had to be and it was a simple thing for him to wait for the doctor to finish his morning appointments and leave the room. Taking his mop he walked into the room as the doctor left. It wasn't difficult for him to get into the filing cabinet where the patients records were kept. He always was very skilful for that kind of things. Flicking through the files he found the name he was looking for.

"Jennifer Summers. It won't be long now Mother. Soon, tonight, I'll have my revenge once more. Revenge is very, very sweet!" Harris quickly scribbled down the address and replaced the file, locking the cabinet behind him. `Too easy' he thought to himself.

It was approaching five thirty when Jenny made her way to the bathroom for a relaxing bath before Hutch arrived. Turning on the taps she headed for the bedroom to undress. It was as she was returning to the bathroom that there was a knock on the door. Silently cursing under her breath she turned and headed for the door. Opening it carefully she was greeted by a small, dark man in a telephone repairman outfit.

"Good afternoon madam. We've had a report of your telephone being out of order would you mind if I checked it?"

Something in the back of Jenny's mind made her uneasy and she kept her foot firmly against the door.

"I'm sorry but I think you've probably got the wrong address. I just finished using the phone not two minutes ago and it's fine. Now if you'll excuse me I was about to take a bath." Jenny's voice was firm and she made to close the door. Her efforts were in vain as it came up against something solid and, glancing down, she saw the man had his foot in her doorway. Alarm bells rang wildly and she slammed the door as hard as she could. She was rewarded with a loud yell of pain and she allowed herself a small smile as she hurried to the phone and dialled Hutch's number. Receiving no reply she quickly hit the cut off and redialled, this time Starsky's number. Vicky picked up the phone and was surprised to hear the frightened voice of her friend asking for Dave. Starsky took the receiver from his wife and listened.

"Dave please get over here fast! There's a man…something about a phone…he's…" the voice cut off and Starsky shouted down the line.

"JENNY! JENNY, GET OUT OF THERE! FOR GOD SAKE MOVE!" Starsky listened for a couple of seconds before slamming down the phone. Grabbing his gun and jacket he raced for the door giving orders as he moved.

"V, Call Hutch. Tell him to get over to Jenny's place NOW! Starsky was out of the door and heading for the Torino at a dead run, praying as he went that he would be in time.

Jenny hurriedly looked around the room for something to defend herself with. Grabbing the poker that lay by her grate she slowly began to head backwards towards her kitchen and the back door. As she did so she heard an almighty crash and spinning around she could see the panel of the door split and a hand reaching for the lock. Suppressing the urge to scream she changed her direction heading instead for the bedroom where she wildly looked around for somewhere to hide. She knew Starsky was on the way, which meant that Hutch probably was too. All she had to do was stay out of this maniacs' way until they got there. Trying to slow her breathing she listened to the sound of footsteps walking around her home. Her hands shook and her breathing sounded loud to her own ears.

"Really Mother. Did you think it would be that easy? Did you think I would give up just like that?" The voice that floated towards her was cold, hard and maniacal. "You have to pay Mother. You have to pay for leaving me alone with the devil. For choosing that Bastard child over me. There's no use trying to hide from me. I'll find you wherever you are and when I do I'll enjoy slitting your throat and cleansing your body of that foul creature you carry!"

Jenny shivered in fear and held on tightly to the poker. She could hear the footsteps coming ever nearer and her ears strained for any sound of sirens. She knew that it was at least twenty minutes from the Starsky's house to hers and five more to Ken´s. Somehow she had to buy them time to get there.

Suddenly her time had run out for standing in front of her with his back towards her was her intruder. Summoning all her strength she raised the poker and brought it down hard across his shoulders, missing her target by centimetres. Harris fell to the floor in pain and Jenny, grabbing her chance to flee, ran as fast as she could towards the door. She almost made it! As her hand reached for the handle she felt a vice like grip on her ankle and she fell to the ground with a crash. Twisting and kicking out she struggled to break the hold but to no avail. She could see the cold eyes staring at her and she desperately tried to pull her dressing gown around her.

"This is an added bonus. You've a beautiful body Mother despite that devil child inside of you. But that will soon be gone." Harris reached inside his pocket and removed a surgeon's scalpel from it. He held it up to the light for a few seconds allowing the terrified woman to take in the full implications of what he was about to do to her. Then he reached forward.

Jenny screamed and her hands reached for anything she could use. They clamped shut on a drawer and she pulled it forcibly towards her swinging it around her body as she did so. The wood splintered as it made contact with the face of the maniac holding her causing him to loose his grip on her ankle. Scrambling to her feet she once again headed for the door. Again she almost made it! A pressure around her throat stopped her in her tracks and she felt herself lifted from the ground and thrown onto the bed. Jenny kicked as hard as she could but was rapidly losing her battle with consciousness as her strength sapped away. She felt the blows as Harris pummelled her body and her arms instinctively tried to protect her unborn child. She felt the agonising pain as Harris slashed her arms with the scalpel and she used the last breath in her body to cry out in pain. The last thing she was aware of was the blade of the scalpel as it pressed into her throat. Her last thought was of Hutch.

Starsky raced up the front path and threw himself at the door as hard as he could. He was rewarded with the sound of the door shattering and he fell inside the house. From somewhere behind him he could just make out Hutch screeching to a halt and racing from his car. Quickly glancing around Starsky yelled for Jenny. As he listened he could here muffled sounds coming from upstairs and he headed for the staircase taking the steps three at a time. Hutch came in just in time to see Starsky reach the top stair and hurriedly follow him. Both men heard the weak cry of a woman and it added to their adrenalin rush. It was Starsky who got to the room first and he grabbed Harris by the shoulders, spinning him around and punching him hard in the face. Grabbing his wrist Starsky forced the scalpel from it before pushing it behind his back as hard as he could. Cuffing his attacker Starsky finally had time to turn to his partner.

Hutch was leaning over the still and bloodied form of Jenny, his hand gently brushing her hair away from her face. Starsky was beside them in an instant, reaching for her neck he felt for any sign of life praying that they had been in time. He was rewarded with a faint, weak pulse.

"She's still with us Hutch." He reached for his partners shoulders and forced him to look at him. "You hear me Hutch? She's fighting hard and we need to help her." Hutch nodded slightly and Starsky released his grip. "I'll call an ambulance. You take care of her. Okay?" Starsky waited for the returning nod before racing from the room and back down the stairs to his car. It only took a matter of seconds before he had organised an ambulance and a patrol car to pick up Harris and he was racing back up the stairs to Hutch.

"Helps on it's way Jenny. Hang on in there honey." Hutch was talking softly to her as Starsky fell through the door. "Just hold on for me. I love you and I'm not about to let you leave me so you better fight. You hear me Jenny? Fight hard."

"The devils whore and her bastard child deserve to die!" Harris's voice came cold and hard across the room and Hutch spun around. He was across the room in a stride and had Harris held up by the collar when Starsky reached his side.

"Easy Hutch, easy. You don't wanna do that buddy. Go back to Jenny. She needs to hear your voice. Starsky's grip on Hutch's wrist held firm until he could feel the other's begin to ease. "That's better Blintz. Go, sit with her until the ambulance gets here." Starsky pushed Hutch back towards the bed before turning to face Harris. "You better pray pal, because if she dies there'll be nowhere you can run too, nowhere you can hide that I won't find you. That's not a threat, it's a promise!" Starsky turned and walked slowly back to Hutch's side leaving a subdued Harris on the floor.

From the moment the ambulance arrived things started to happen fast, and before he knew where he was Hutch was back at the hospital, sitting, waiting for news of Jenny while Starsky shadowed him. The only time he had been alone was the five minutes Starsky had grabbed to phone Vicky. He had tried as gently as he could to tell her what had happened to Jenny and explain that he would be staying with Hutch as long as he needed him. Vicky had immediately understood and had begun to arrange a baby sitter so that she could join them. Vicky tried to remain calm, though Starsky knew perfectly well the distress that his wife was feeling.

"Vicky. Listen. I'd prefer that you took a cab. Please…you're too much upset to drive."

"Okay Dave. I will."

By the time she arrived at the hospital Starsky had managed to persuade Hutch to take a drink of coffee and the two were huddled together in a corner with Starsky shielding Hutch from prying eyes. She just had time to join them when a doctor came out asking for them. Hutch flew to his feet instantly recognising Dr Phillips from earlier in the day.

"How is she Doctor?" Hutch's voice was low and Starsky placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Jenny's in a coma Detective Hutchinson. Her body has closed down and, at the moment we have her on life support. She suffered some terrible internal injuries from the beating, and right now her pregnancy is an additional complication. We're really worried for her baby. If things don't improve in the next two hours or so then we may have to do an emergency caesarean."

"Damn the baby Doctor. I'm only interested in Jenny. Will she make it?" Hutch's voice was hard, cold and clipped and Starsky spun around to get a good look at him, amazed at what he had just heard.

"I understand your worry Detective Hutchinson but believe me. We're doing our best to help her, though right now, we can't assure you that she will live. The next 48 hours will be critical. If she lives only time will tell what kind of life she will have. A lot depends on how long she remains in a coma. Like I said, her body has gone into shock and closed down. Right now she's on life support but, if she is does well, we'll slowly start to withdraw that in the next days. Then it's up to her." The doctor spoke firmly but sympathetically. "I have to go now but if I can help you anymore then you know where to find me. Jenny has been moved to an ICU room so you can go and sit with her now if you want too. Talk to her, it helps coma patients to recover if they can hear those they love."

The doctor turned and left leaving Hutch staring at his back.

"Hutch, you okay?" Starsky placed his hand on Hutch's shoulder but he shrugged it off.

"No Starsky, I'm not okay. If I'd listened to you back when you had your doubts about our killer then this would never have happened. Jenny wouldn't be lying in a hospital bed. Why didn't I listen Starsk?"

"Hey, take it easy buddy. It's not your fault! Now's not the time to go on a guilt trip. Jenny and the baby need you."

Hutch spun around his eyes blazing. "It is my fault! No matter how you look at it Starsky, it's my fault. I should have been with her. So if I want to take a `guilt trip' as you put it then I think it's pretty justified. Damn it you've had enough of them in your time." The colour drained from Starsky's face and he turned away form his friend. "As for the baby, if she weren't pregnant then this wouldn't have happened would it? Who got her pregnant? Me! So you see, whichever way you look at it it's my fault."

Vicky had heard enough and she came in eyes blazing. "My God Ken Hutchinson, you've got one almighty big chip on your shoulder. How dare you? That girl lying in a hospital bed is my best friend. Closer than a sister to me, in case you forgot it!!...And don't forget either that could so easily have been me lying in that room, or anyone of a number of other women. If it were me I'd want the man who claims to love me by my side right now giving me a reason to hang on, to come back to this rotten world for. I wouldn't expect for him to be standing outside feeling sorry for himself and I certainly wouldn't expect him to be attacking those who loved him. Then maybe we were all wrong about you. Maybe you're not half the man we all thought you were." Vicky turned from Hutch. "Come on Dave. I think it's time we went and found a telephone. I need to call Jenny's parents." Vicky linked her arm through Starsky's and gently steered him away from Hutch. As soon as they were out of earshot she paused. "He doesn't know what he's saying Davy. You know he didn't mean what he said back there."

"Do I Vicky? I've never seen Hutch quite like that before." Starsky reached for his wife and she placed her arm around him pulling him close, offering comfort. Finally, with one last backward glance at Hutch, the two left the waiting room.

Hutch entered the ICU room. The only sound was the buzz coming from the life support machines. Jenny seemed asleep, except for all the tubes and wires that surrounded her body. Hutch sat down in a bedside chair, trying to find a little trace of life in the unmoving body next to him.

"Sorry…Sorry Jenn. I wasn't with you when you needed me most.  The worst thing is that Starsk knew. He knew that nut was still free and walking around. But me…I just kept telling him, `Oh come on Starsk. Try to relax, that guy is already dead.' GOD Jenny! How I could be so blind!" There, in the loneliness of that room, Hutch cried. Bitter tears. Unstoppable tears. Knowing how much he loved that beautiful, kind and brave woman, and wondering if he would have still time to show her all that love.

"Know something Jenn? When you can go out of here, I'll ask you again. I'll ask you to be my wife. I know. You don't want to get married…But I don't mind. I can be pretty stubborn and I'll ask you over and over. And you'll have to think seriously about it because you won't find a guy like my anywhere Jenny. Fight, please, fight...I need you, sweetheart…I really do."

In front of the hospital public phones Starsky waited as Vicky tried to get in touch with Jenny's parents in New York, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder as she was fought to find the right words to say to Jenny's mother about what had happened.

"Mrs Summers?... Lauren?...Yeah It's Vicky Starsky…I mean Vicky Walsh, Jenny's friend…Sorry? Yeah, I got married. David, yeah, He's police officer. Listen Lauren, I'm calling you because I'm afraid I have bad news, you must get here as soon as possible"

Vicky had a hard time trying to get the attention of Jenny's mother, who, when she finally let her talk, took the news with a pretended coolness that left Vicky even more upset.

"God! That woman must be made of concrete." Vicky said, holding Starsky and resting her head on his chest "Okay. I'll take a flight as soon as possible. Thanks for calling me Vicky. That's all. Can you picture it Dave?"

Starsky could do it perfectly. In fact Hutch parents weren't very much different in respect of feelings.

"Come on, honey. Give the lady a break. She must be pretty upset, but you know, for some people it's pretty hard to show their feelings. And what about Jenny's dad, huh?"

"ON A CRUISE! Sailing in the Caribbean Sea, with his second or third wife or whatever the hell she is, and unreachable at the moment. As for Mike, her brother, he's working in London…Sweet Jesus! These people drive me nuts!!" Starsky rubbed her back and she hugged more tightly to him as they both walked back towards the ICU area.

*******

Through the next hours, Hutch spent long hours in Jenny's room, going out only to allow Vicky to replace him, since the ICU regulations allowed just one person at a time to be with the patient. Starsky's wife looked calm, but her heart was trying to hide a wave of powerful rage, and a heartbreaking sadness. The woman, so important to her throughout all her life, the friend that helped her to keep alive, hopeful, and even in some way, to find the man of her life, was lying there, defenceless and weak, fighting for her life and her baby's life. With a soft smile on her lips, Vicky remembered that already far away night when Jenny invited Starsky to have dinner in her place. All their Christmas's together, and all the happy and sad times that they had both spent together.

"Jenny…Jenn. Don't you dare leave us. I still need you. Damnit! Now I have Dave and the children, but I'll need you always, and you know it, so come back Jenn."

While Vicky was in her friend's room, an uncomfortable silence took place between Starsky and Hutch. The blond one sat down in a chair, rising several times just to walk like a caged lion around the waiting room.

"Know something Starsk? She had good reason. Vicky is right. I hadn't any right to talk you like I was doing a while ago."

"Come on Blondie. Never mind. You're upset. We're all pretty worried."

"I wasn't even at the house when she called me asking for help. Jenn had to call you Starsk."

"Me, you, I don't really think that it has any importance at all Hutch."

"Maybe you don't see it Starsky? What would have happened if you hadn't been at home when she called you?"

"But I WAS Blondie, nothing else matters right now, Okay?"

Just then Doctor Phillips came into the room to check once more on Jenny's vital signs. After a glance at the blood pressure monitor, he turned to Vicky.

"Seems that we have a problem there. Please. Could you come with me?" A terrified Vicky followed Doctor Phillips into the corridor where Starsky and Hutch were waiting. She walked towards Starsky trembling visibly, sheltering in his arms.

On seeing the face of the doctor Hutch became pale.

"What's wrong Doctor?"

"Her blood pressure is rising dangerously. Her kidneys aren't working and this is dangerous for her and for the baby as well. A surgical operation is highly risky in her present condition, but if we want to give them a chance we haven't other choice but to do an urgent c-section, though I must warn you that your daughter is still pretty immature, and she may serious pulmonary problems, or even other permanent complications."

"Just help Jenny. That's all that's important." Vicky and Starsky exchanged a glance but neither made any comment.

Minutes later, Jenny was wheeled towards surgery and all they began their wait. In Hutch's mind floated another waiting time just some months before, when Vicky was in surgery and Kenny and Paul were born. Though that was a very different wait. Then, Vicky was okay, Starsky's children would be fine and he had Jenny by his side

The c-section didn't take much longer than normal, so roughly forty minutes later, Doctor Phillips approached Hutch, sill wearing his surgical scrubs.

"Well Detective Hutchinson, the c-section is done. She's in recovery, and soon we'll take her back to her room. Right now her kidneys aren't working and we we're inserting a catheter to start with the hemodialysis, though her kidneys condition might be reversible in the next few days. Other than that she's is pretty stabilized. As for the baby, she's pretty under the optimal weight, about four and a half pounds, and she has serious breathing troubles due to the immaturity of her lungs. She's in an incubator with oxygen support, but if you want you can go to the premature area to see her. It's on the tenth floor." One more time Hutch seemed not to hear anything related with his daughter. "When will I be able to be with Jenny Doctor?" Phillips and Starsky exchanged looks for a second. Hutch's behaviour was strange even for the doctor, though he only allowed his professional manner to show. "Hum…In a while she'll be in her ICU room. Then a nurse will tell you"

Telling them that he would be in the hospital until the next morning and that they could reach him at any moment, Doctor Phillips left the waiting room. Again a dense silence hung around Vicky, Starsky and Hutch.

Vicky was the first to talk "I'm going to the incubator area. Somebody must give a little love to that poor baby." With a firm step, she headed towards the lifts, leaving Hutch and Starsky alone.

"Hutch"

"No Starsky. I'm warning you. I don't want to hear any sermon right now" Hutch aimed his forefinger towards to Starsky.

Starsky answered talking with his most calm voice. "Not a sermon, just a question. You don't love your daughter Hutch?"

"NO DAMNIT!! I'm trying, but I can't Starsk! That fucking baby is the reason for Jenny's condition!..."

"If that is what you're thinking, there's very little that I can do to change your mind, but tell me something Hutch. What would Jenny think if she knew what you were doing?

Without answering Hutch left the waiting room.

Vicky entered the nursery area and, after getting dressed in green sterile clothes, gloves and a mask, she was lead in front of a transparent plastic incubator where a tiny baby was resting. Small electrodes were covering her tiny, thin body and a tiny nasal cannula entered in her little nose

"Hey little Louise…Welcome. Your mummy will be so happy when she sees you." Vicky caressed the little abdomen's baby with a gloved hand. "Mum can't be with you right now, but she's fighting hard to do it." Tears slipped down Vicky's face. "I'm Auntie Vicky, and soon you'll meet Uncle Dave...I'm sure that you both will have a lot of funny together. He's a terrific guy, like a big child. You'll meet Kenny and Paul, and Samson too." The little body stirred under Vicky's touch. "And I'm sure that your dad will come here very soon to meet you, and he'll be pleased seeing that you're such a beautiful baby"

Vicky spent a while talking and caressing the little baby, before going back to the ICU area to find Starsky in the corridor. On seeing her wet eyes he embraced her gently and she was grateful for his comfort. Meanwhile Hutch was keeping his watch over the unmoving form of Jenny.

"I'm going back home to be with the babies Dave. Stay here. He could use a good friend this night." Vicky's said pointing her head towards Hutch.

"But, Vicky"

"I'm okay Dave. Sure. I'll come back early in the morning. I love you." Kissing his lips, Vicky left the hospital.

The next day Jenny's mother came from New York, heading straight from the airport to the hospital. The woman showed her usual chilliness; though on see the pale and unconscious body of her daughter surrounded by wires, tubes and life support machines, something touched her heart.

"What's the doctor said Vicky?" Vicky filled Lauren in on Jenny's condition, adding that Doctor Phillips would come soon to check his patient.

Awhile later the doctor came back and after taking a glance at Jenny and all the life support system, affirmed that her condition hadn't suffer any substantial change, though that wasn't especially strange considering the circumstances.

Neither Vicky nor Starsky were able to convince Hutch to see his daughter. Every time that one of them tried, the only thing that they got from Hutch was indifference or angry words

In this way four days passed. After three, Jenny was able to breath on her own, and her kidneys slowly began to work again, though she was still in a coma. On the other hand, the baby was improving slightly, though she would still spend some weeks in the incubator. Starsky and Vicky were doing their best to spend as much time as possible in the hospital and Hutch even got some days off, spending all his time there. In this way, he got the chance to share a lot of time with Jenny's mother. She wasn't so disagreeable as in the first moment she had seemed to Hutch, but just a sad and tough woman who had to overcome a pretty hard life, losing hopes, illusions, and even the ability to show her feelings in the way. In fact, she was pleased knowing that a man like Hutch loved her daughter, and soon she began to leave her cold demeanour back, in the long hours they both spent together in the hospital, though when the armour of Mrs Summers seemed to break down even a little more was when she saw her little granddaughter.

That morning Hutch and Mrs. Summer were taking a break, drinking a coffee in the waiting room, while the nurses were making Jenny's bed, when she asked with a soft smile in her lips

"She's a beautiful baby, Ken. Don't you think so?"

"Oh, yeah. Sure Louise. She's lovely"

"What's wrong Ken?"

"What do you mean?"

"You haven't seen the baby yet, right?"

"Oh, well….I" Hutch's brain was racing trying to find the right thing to say, when a nurse ran from Jenny's room towards Doctor Phillips office.

"NURSE! What's happening nurse?" A very scared Hutch asked running after the nurse with Lauren behind him.

"Jenny is waking up!"

A second later, doctor and nurse ran towards Jenny's ICU room, with Hutch and Lauren behind them. As the door closed in his face Hutch paced. His whole being ached to push past the obstacle separating him from Jenny but his head told him to wait, let the Doctor do his job. `Funny, it's usually Starsky I'm waiting to get too'. The thought came unbidden into his head and he realised that for the first time in a very long time someone else had taken first place in his priorities.

Five frustrating minutes later Hutch was finally allowed inside and he flew to the bedside his eyes rapidly taking in the woman before him. Jenny was extremely pale and her eyes lacked their normal brightness. Faint bruising to her face still bore testament to the fight she had put up against her attacker. A drip flowed into her left arm and monitors still quietly bleeped in the background but to Hutch it was still the most beautiful sight in the world to have Jenny awake and looking back at him.

"Hi Sleeping Beauty." Hutch whispered quietly into her ear as he bent over and kissed her gently on the only gap he could see that had no bruising. "You had me a little worried there for a while."

Jenny reached up with her right hand and Hutch hurriedly took it, holding it firmly, allowing his love to flow through the simple touch.

"I'm sorry Ken". Jenny's words were a mere whisper.

"For what?" An incredulous Hutch asked.

"For this...what happened allowing it..." Jenny's voice broke with a small sob and Hutch squeezed the hand he was holding.

"That's enough Jen! None of this was your fault! You hear me?" Hutch spoke softly but firmly, his voice commanding her to listen. "If anyone's to blame for all this it's me. I wasn't there for you when you needed me, and I put you in that position in the first place!"

From somewhere in the back of her still foggy mind, Jenny tried hard to lock on to whatever Hutch had just said that made her uneasy but she was in no condition to grasp it. Instead, she asked the one question Hutch couldn't answer.

"The baby Hutch…How is she?"

This time she did lock on to the mask that dropped over his face and she struggled to focus.

"She's fine Jen. Nothing for you to worry about. I need you to concentrate on yourself and get better for me."

Now the alarm bells were beginning to ring very gently. Hutch had said get better for him, not for us. Too tired and drug induced Jenny was unable to think things through clearly enough and her eyelids began to droop.

"Go to sleep Jen. Rest and grow strong. I'll be here waiting for you, I promise." Hutch's voice sounded far off as she allowed her eyes to close. It was as she was in that calm and welcoming world when you are not quite asleep but not awake that her mind finally worked out what it was she had been trying to grasp. Her baby's father had rejected her child!

Four days more passed by and Jenny's condition did keep improving, up to allow the doctors to move her to a regular room. As Hutch and Lauren maintained their vigil at Jenny's bedside long into the night a solitary figure stood by the side of a cot in the premature baby unit. One finger was entwined by a tiny fist, and Starsky was quietly singing to the still form hooked up to so many instruments. His thoughts went to his own children lying safely at home in their cots with their mother not far away from them. Vicky was an excellent mother. She had changed, Starsky now realised, since their arrival. She had the kind of a glow that comes with motherhood and he loved her even more than he had ever thought possible. His world had finally gone full circle and he had all the things he had dreamed of but long since given up any hope of getting.

A faint twitch of tiny fingers brought his attention back to the tiny child in front of him and his anger began to grow. Anger like he had never felt before, against the one person he never thought it possible…Hutch!

"Hey Louise. Your Mummy's getting better. Soon she'll come and hold you in her arms and love you. In the meantime I'm afraid you'll have to make do with your Auntie Vicky and Uncle Dave. We love you too little one and you'll always be welcome with us. Gently Starsky leant forward and lifted the sleeping baby from her cot, one hand holding the oxygen cannula close to her nose. Louise fitted snugly in one arm and Starsky gently began to away from side to side, humming softly. As he did so the tiny eyes opened and looked straight at him. For a moment Starsky stopped his swaying. The eyes looking directly at him were the ones he knew so well. Little Louise, who's very presence her father seemed to deny, had his eyes and, right now, they seemed to be looking into Starsky's very soul. Very carefully he placed her back into her cot.

"This has gone on long enough my little one. Your father is going to have to get his act together and stop blaming you...and himself...for this whole damn mess."

Kissing his finger and placing it on Louise's head Starsky turned and headed determinedly out of the door.

At dawn, Hutch and Lauren were taking a break from their long vigil and were taking a coffee in the almost deserted canteen. The early hours of the morning gave them a quiet time to sit and gather their strength for the day ahead. Both knew that Jenny still had a way to go but both were experiencing the overwhelming relief of having her back with them and on the way to full recovery. For a while they sat in silence both lost in their own thoughts. Then Lauren broke the silence.

"Hutch, tell me to mind my own business if you like but why won't Jenny marry you?" Hutch's eyebrows rose and Lauren smiled. "You have asked her I take it?"

Hutch nodded in affirmation. "She's scared I think Lauren. Something about your marriage and blaming herself for it breaking up. It's like she thinks if it hadn't been for her untimely arrival then maybe you and her dad would have made it together." He paused for a moment as he saw the woman's face cloud over. "Sorry Lauren, I didn't mean it to sound "

"It's okay Ken. It's not your fault. I guess in a way it's mine for not talking to her more at the time. Trouble is it hurt so much I just closed it all away in a little box at the back of my mind. If I didn't think about it then it hadn't happened. Does that make sense to you?" Her eyes held Hutch's asking for his understanding.

For a moment he looked at the face in front of him and he had a brief glimpse of the pain she held inside her.

"Yeah! I think it does Lauren. Maybe though it's not too late for both of you. Talk to Jenny. Now is as good a chance as you might ever get to put the past well and truly behind you both once and for all."

Hutch's hand had reached across the table and found Laurens offering comfort and understanding through its touch. Usually she would have recoiled against it, her blanket of protection wrapping itself around her and locking out her emotions. This time though she forced herself to let it remain and accept the offering. She could feel the warmth running through it and burning itself into feelings she had long since thought extinguished. Hutch was right and she knew it. It was time to speak to her daughter, truthfully and honestly.

"Ken, I know you want to get back to Jenny but I want to ask you a favour. Give me some time with my daughter, just an hour maybe. We've a lot to talk through and maybe, if I get it right, maybe I can make her see that she's not to blame."

Hutch smiled and nodded. "I think I can last an hour now that I know she's okay. Good luck Lauren."

Lauren rose and made to leave. "Go and see your daughter Hutch. She needs you too and right know I think she feels a little neglected."

Lauren was dismayed to see the mask slip into place across the face of the man in front of her as he rose from his seat.

"Sure. Maybe I will." Hutch's voice was clipped when it came. Turning he strode out of the canteen. "I'll see you in an hour Lauren."

Disappointed Lauren headed off in the opposite direction towards her daughters room. She was almost at the door when she nearly ran straight into an angry looking Starsky creeping out of the room quietly closing the door behind him. He just managed to catch her as she lost her balance trying to avoid him.

"Sorry I was looking for Hutch. Figured he would be here but I was wrong."

"I just left him Dave. We were in the canteen having a coffee and a talk. Is my daughter awake? I need to talk to her."

Starsky shook his head and Lauren softly swore to herself under her breath. He laughed quietly as he released his hold on her arms.

"A lady's not supposed to know words like that Lauren."

She laughed back. "You'd be surprised at the words this one knows, Dave, besides. Who said I was a lady?

"I did! A special lady too! I've watched you these last few days. When you came I thought you were a cold fish who was here because she had to be but your not. You hide your feelings well Lauren, but not from someone who knows what they're looking at. You love your daughter and I think you'd do anything for her all she needs to do is ask. Go on, go talk to her, wake her up to do it if you have too. You both deserve a second chance. Good luck." Starsky kissed her forehead gently and for the second time that morning she stood her ground without recoiling at the touch.

"Thank you Dave. Keep your fingers crossed for me."

Starsky held up both hands, fingers on both firmly crossed, and grinned at her as she disappeared from view into the room. Once the door closed, his face reverted to the angry look it had held some five minutes earlier and he strode off on his quest to find his partner once more.

Hutch had fled the hospital, his thoughts in turmoil and the need for fresh air and daylight overwhelming. He sat on a bench in a small garden park opposite feeling the morning sunrise beginning to warm his face and he looked upwards at the sky as whispery clouds gently scuttled across the bright blue. He watched as a mother bird flew back and forth over and over pushing food into the wide-open beaks of its young and it focussed his thoughts on his reasons for being there.

Somewhere, in the cold brick building behind him, was a tiny cot surrounded by life giving equipment and inside it lay his child. A daughter, that he was sure of but what else did he know about her. Nothing he realised and for a second his heart contracted. Then the voice inside his head that had been talking to him ever since this whole nightmare had begun started up again and he clamped his feelings down tight. The only reason the woman he loved and wanted more than anything else in this world was in a hospital bed recovering from a horrific attack that would never have happened if it hadn't been for that baby! Harris would never have picked her out as his victim if she hadn't been pregnant with his child! They hadn't wanted a child, anyway she was a mistake! A total, one hundred percent, almost lethal mistake and he had almost lost Jenny because of her. No matter what nothing could take that away and because of that nothing would bring him to allow this child into his heart!

Slowly rising from the bench Hutch glanced at his watch before turning and walking back to the hospital. Lauren had had her hour, now he was going to be with Jenny.

Lauren and Jenny sat hand in hand. Jenny looked pale and there were glints of unshed tears in her eyes. Together the two women had opened up long locked away memories, had released the anger and bitterness. Neither woman blaming the other as Jenny had quietly listened to the real reasons her parents marriage had broken down. Her father, she now understood, was a selfish individual who had married too young without realising the full commitment of what he was taking on. As her mother had battled to bring up Jenny and her brother her father had continued to act like a single man. He spent money they hadn't got, stayed out all night with no thought for his family. Her arrival hadn't been the cause of the break up, merely the catalyst.

"I'm sorry Jenny. I should have seen what I was doing to you. I never dreamt that it was because of me you never married. At the time it was self preservation. If I didn't give love then it couldn't be rejected and believe me, there is nothing worse than rejection." Lauren tightened her grip a little on her daughters' hand. "Don't make the same mistake as I did Jenny. Hutch loves you! Don't turn him down because I failed you."

Behind them the door opened and the person they were speaking of walked quietly into the room. He leant over and kissed Jenny gently on the forehead.

"Sorry Lauren. I couldn't stay away any longer." He spoke to the mother but his eyes never left the daughter.

Lauren rose, releasing her hold on her daughters' hand. "It's okay Hutch, we were finished talking anyway. I'm going to see my granddaughter." Again she saw the stiffening of Hutch's back as she mentioned his child and she had to force herself to turn away and leave. This was between him and Jenny.

As she made her way up the stairs and along the corridor to the special care unit she suddenly became aware of nurses running towards Louise's room and she increased her pace. An alarm was sounding from the cot and a doctor was hurriedly checking the tiny figure out. She watched in horror as a tube was pushed down the tiny throat and attached to an oxygen supply. Suddenly she felt a hand on her arm and she spun around to see Starsky watching events over her shoulder.

"What happened?" his voice was soft yet strong and she allowed herself to lean back onto him, needing his support as her legs became like rubber.

"I..I don't know. I was just on my way to see her and" The woman's voice cracked and a single tear fell onto her cheek.

"Hey! It'll be okay. She's in good hands." Starsky placed his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his body.

For a few moments he allowed her to cry on his shoulder as he watched the action going on around the cot. Someone had turned off the alarm and the quiet was deafening as he uttered a silent prayer to whatever guardian angel watched over him to help Louise. Finally it looked as though his prayers had been answered as a smiling doctor headed from the room towards them both.

"How is she doc?" Starsky was demanding, knowing he had no right to be told but needing to know all the same. The tiny bundle had won his heart almost as much as his own children and he had to know she would be all right.

The young doctor looked at him for a moment before answering. All of the medical staff on the unit were aware of the circumstances surrounding Louise and he had seen with his own eyes the way this young man in front of him acted with her. He may not be family by blood but right know he was the best thing to a father to her. He addressed Lauren but spoke directly to Starsky.

"We had a little bit of a hiccup for a moment there but it's okay now. Her lungs, as you know, are still not fully developed and she was struggling to get enough oxygen. We've put a tube in and we're going to let the machine do her breathing for a while. You can go and sit with her for a while if you want. We'll be monitoring her every half an hour so if there's anything you want to know then just ask. I'll make sure that you're both kept informed."

Starsky´s eyebrows rose a little before he nodded his thanks to the doctor. Gently he steered Lauren to the chair beside the small cot before pulling another up beside her. His hand reached out to the tiny one lying on the sheets and the fingers instantly locked around them.

"It's okay Louise. You're not alone. Granny and Uncle Dave will stay right here. Sleep little one and grow strong for your Mother."

So it was that Lauren and Starsky spent the whole morning and most of the afternoon, neither willing to leave the tiny form as she fought for life. As he sat so Starsky's anger towards Hutch grew.

In Jenny's room Hutch sat by her bed holding her hand as she slept for a while, content just to be by her side. A nurse had hurried into the room and was about to say something but the look he gave her halted her in her tracks. She had been sent from the special care unit to tell them about Louise knowing that the only one who would care was the Mother. It was well known among the nurses that the father didn't want to know and they all hated him for it. Aware of her orders she tried again.

"Detective Hutchinson. Your daughter…" but she got no further.

"The child is in the best place and her mother is asleep! I don't want her disturbed. She needs to rest and get her strength back. I'm sure that whatever it is will keep and the nurses can deal with it." Hutch kept his voice low yet hard and his eyes were dark and unreadable.

Quietly the nurse left the room, her anger barely in check and her feelings for the man full of hatred.

As she left Jenny turned in the bed and slowly opened her eyes.

"Ken?"

"Yes Jen, it's me. How are you feeling?" His voice now was full of tenderness.

"I'm okay, I think. Sore, tired, but pretty good considering the circumstances I guess. Ken we need to talk...about our baby."

Hutch rose and walked to the window. "She's fine Jenny. I told you. The nurses are looking after her and your Mother sits with her when she's not with you. There's nothing to talk about and nothing for you to worry about either except getting better so I can take you home."

Too weak still to argue Jenny's heart sank and she turned her back on him, eyes closed. Now she was sure. Hutch had cut their baby out of his life. Until that moment she had been ready to take a chance and tell him she would accept his proposal. Now she knew that she couldn't. She had been responsible for bringing a life into the world and she would be responsible for bringing it up with or without its father, no matter what her feelings for him were.

"Jen is there anything you want?" Hutch was once again the man she knew and she had to steel herself to answer.

"I want you to leave Ken." Turning back she looked him face on. "Either take me to see my baby or leave. It's up to you." She turned her back knowing what he would do. Still she felt her heart contract as she heard the slow footsteps move across the floor to the door where they paused for a moment before continuing out and the door closing behind her. Only when she heard the door close did she allow the tears to fall.

It was early evening when a tired Starsky put his head around Jenny's door to find her sitting, quietly crying with Vicky by her side. His eyebrows rose questioningly as he kissed his wife before perching on the edge of the bed.

"Hutch has gone Dave!" Jenny managed to answer him before Vicky could open her mouth. "I told him that either he took me to see Louise or he could leave he left!"

Starsky's eyes flashed their anger but he wouldn't allow it to sound in his voice. "Vicky and I will take you to see her just as soon as I can get the okay from someone. Then I'll find Hutch!"

It was half an hour later that Jenny finally got to sit with her daughter and hold her hand. Starsky had managed to find the doctor who, once he heard the full story, agreed that she could go as long as she was with someone all the time and she went in a wheelchair. So it was that Starsky pushed the chair into her room and helped her carefully into it. The three of them then made their way to the Special care baby unit where Vicky and Starsky stood back and watched as Jenny got to know her baby.

"Stay with her Vicky. There's something I have to do, should have done a few days ago!" Kissing his wife tenderly he hurried from the hospital.

Hutch was in a booth at Huggy's. He had gone straight there when Jenny had told him to go. He had drunk little but Huggy had long since decided to leave well alone. He had tried to talk to his friend for about fifteen minutes to begin with but Hutch had told him in no uncertain terms that he didn't want his company and so he had given up and returned to the bar, keeping one eye on Hutch all the same. When Starsky walked in Huggy could see by the way he held himself that he was barley holding his anger in check. He watched as Starsky's eyes scanned the room before resting on Hutch in the corner. Disbelief filled him as he saw Starsky's fists clench and he realised that it was Hutch that Starsky was after. He watched as Starsky walked across to the corner booth and stood, feet slightly apart, effectively blocking the way out.

"Wondered where you were hiding yourself Hutch. Should have guessed it would be here. Come to drown your sorrows I guess!" Starsky spoke quietly, his voice clipped and Hutch looked up.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Full of self-pity Hutch failed, for the first time in a long time of knowing his friend, to read the signs.

"While you've been enjoying Huggy's hospitality guess where I've been partner." The last word was almost spat out and Hutch's eyebrows shot up as he finally began to pick up the signals.

"I've just spent the whole morning and most of the afternoon with your daughter. YOUR daughter Hutchinson, not mine. She was fighting her tiny heart out for her life and she needed you, but you let her down. I never thought I'd see the day when you'd let an innocent child down but you did it today! Jenny's with her now and she's gonna make it, they'll both make it together. You blew it Hutch. You had it all and you just let it all slip away in a second of self-indulgent pity. Well I hope it was worth it!" Starsky's fists clenched and unclenched as he spoke, not caring how much his words might hurt.

"Now wait a damn minute Starsky. For your information I never let anything slip away as you put it. Jenny told me to go, so I went. I love her, you know how much I love her but it seems she doesn't love me. As for her kid"

"YOUR kid Hutch! YOUR kid." Starsky shouted at him and the bar fell silent. "Man you are so wrong about Jenny. She loves you partner, it's written all over her face, in the way she acts, the way she looks at you. But she loves her baby too and she's responsible for Louise just as much as you are. Unlike you though she doesn't blame Louise for what happened."

"It wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for that child!" Hutch was shouting now too and he rose from his seat trying to use his height advantage to make Starsky back off. Starsky though was undeterred and stood his ground.

"MY GOD HUTCH" How can you say that? Louise is an innocent caught up in a dreadful mess and you're trying to make her to blame for it. Did she ask to be born Hutch, huh? NO! Did she ask to have to spend her first few days of her life fighting to live, abandoned by her Father? No! IF anyone is to blame for any of this mess it's the idiot doctor who let that maniac out of the nut house in the first place or maybe it's his father for being such a puritanical monster and making him like he is, or maybe it's the good Lord himself. I don't know but I sure as hell DO know who's fault it isn't and that's Louise's. Well that child needs someone to care about her, to hold her hand and let her know she isn't alone. You and I both know how important that is! I'm going back to the hospital and if you've got anything about you...if you're just a little bit of the man I thought I knew than you'll come with me." Starsky turned and made to leave. He was halted in his tracks by a hand on his shoulder.

"What's the matter Starsky? Two kids not enough for you that you've got to pick up another waif and stray?"

"And what exactly does that snide remark mean Hutch?" Starsky's eyes were flashing anger and Hutch was slowly drowning in their icy coldness.

"Well lets see shall we PAL! There was that pretty little model turned junkie that you took home with you. What was her name? now let me think…Sharman that's right Sharman. Enjoy getting off with her did you Starsk? Enjoy playing the hero? What about Nick? That no good brother of yours was a real loser"

Hutch never knew what hit him. Starsky had spun round on the spot and his fist had connected with Hutch's jaw quickly followed by another to the stomach which bent him double before the one on the chin which put him on the floor. Starsky towered over him, eyes coal black, face a mask of cold hatred.

"I'll look after your daughter if I have to Hutchinson. I'll be there for her whenever she needs me and I'll tell her about her father too a man who had to put the blame somewhere so put it all on a tiny new born child. A gutless, spineless man, who crawled away when the going got a little bit hard. A man who threw away everything. Including one of the best friendships a guy could ask for. Goodbye Hutchinson!" Starsky turned and walked out of the bar. Huggy watched through the window as he climbed angrily into his car and screeched away.

Starsky drove for a long while in no particular direction, ending up on the coast road. The moonshine filled the night and a fresh breeze was gently blowing his curls.

Pulling to a halt in a little promenade from where the clear night and the sea shone in all their splendour, Starsky got out his car. With his head pounding and his mind racing, he sat down on the Torino hood, plunged in gloomy thoughts

This couldn't be happening. His thoughts were out of control and Hutch's words were gnawing their way deep inside his heart. Starsky knew what it felt like to be rejected. His mind flew back to when he was thirteen and his mother had sent him away! To a lonely, mixed up teenager he was being cast away like yesterdays garbage and it had left a deep mark on his very soul. There was no way he was going to stand by and let Louise suffer the same thing.

I told you that our friendship was over Hutch and I meant every word. I've had enough. I won't waste any more time with somebody who leaves a poor child alone. Starsky's heart ached remembering Louise's blue eyes, so like Hutch's. The efforts of her little body to hold on to life, as Hutch kept rejecting and forgetting her again and again. Fortunately, Louise would have Jenny, but if she didn't get through her recovery, if something happened to her, then, what?... Hutch's daughter would become another little Kathy? Another lost child spending all her life looking for a little love, to end up sleeping in a old warehouse, while his father went on with his life as a respected police officer?... No, Louise...no matter what happens. You'll always have a place with Vicky, our sons and me. In our house and in our hearts!

Starsky spent a long while just thinking, staring unseeing at the sea. He felt tired and eaten up with so many things, feeling that all he had been through with Hutch over the last years was just a lie. Finally, near midnight he came to a decision.

It's time for a change. No more homicides blood and dirtiness, no more pimps, drug dealers and whores. No more days putting my life on the line with a partner who is turning into a hard, pitiless and cold man. I'm tired…Too tired of all that crap.

He would ask a transfer to juvenile, to try to help all the unhappy kids alone and wandering around the city. Children who were orphans, or even worse, victims of their parents' indifference or mistreatment. With the idea growing in his mind he got into the car and drove home.

After Starsky had left `The Pits' Hutch had stayed where he was, on the floor, thinking over everything that his partner had thrown at him and the paltry and inexcusable words that he given him in reply. It was only when Huggy had offered him his hand and he had risen to look in the washroom mirror that Hutch finally really looked at himself, hating what he saw.

"I asked for that didn't I Huggy?"

"Lets just say that you've had it coming for a little while bro!"

As Starsky opened the door, Samson met him looking for some fuss. From the bedroom came the sweet sound of a gently lullaby. Smiling, he went to the bedroom standing for some minutes just looking at the beautiful scene of his wife cuddling the sleeping twins, one in each arm.

Noticing his presence Vicky smiled at him as he approached and took his family in his arms. Vicky softly kissed his lips and Starsky took Kenny from her arms to place him in his cot, covering the little body with the covers. Once Vicky settled Paul in the cot beside his brother she and Starsky spent some minutes just watching the children's peaceful sleep before going back to the living room, still with their arms around each others waist.

"Thanks Vicky" Starsky held his wife in a tight embrace "Thanks for being here. For loving me and our sons so much" He was resting his tired head on her shoulder.

"What's wrong Dave? It's so late that I began to worry. Are you okay?...You don't look too well." Vicky was guiding Starsky to the couch looking at him concernedly.

"He...Hutch keeps rejecting Louise, and I...I hit him" Starsky placed his head in Vicky's lap, feeling exhausted, as she caressed his curls.

"In the Pits, awhile ago. I went there looking for him. We exchanged some pretty harsh words, I lost my temper, and punched him."

"Come on Dave. He knows you. Hutch knows that at times, you can be pretty hot-headed, and he won't hold any grudge against you. Especially because, sooner or later, he'll see that you're right." Vicky was dismayed to see the underlying pain in her husbands' eyes. She knew that there was more to this than Starsky was telling her and it made her uneasy.

"No Vicky. This time it's not so simple. He said that two kids weren't enough for me and that maybe I wanted pick up another waif and stray!"

Vicky sighed deeply "Wow. That comment wasn't very smart."

"He said some things that I...don't think...I can't work with Hutch any more Vicky. I'm going to ask for a transfer to juvenile, work with the street kids."

This was something she didn't expect. Now she knew just how serious the situation had become and she fought her emotions that were threatening to boil over, trying to be the calming voice in everything, to give Starsky time to really think about what he was saying. "Dave. Listen to me sweetheart. I can guess how you're feeling right now. Hutch is acting like a complete idiot. But he's your best friend. You've both been through a hell of a lot together over the last years. You've saved each others lives more times that you can recall. And that is important. Too important I think to give up on so easily. Maybe this is none of my business but..."

"Don't say that Vicky: You know your opinion means a lot to me. You're one of the most important people in my life. You, Kenny and Paul"

"And Hutch Dave. Don't forget Hutch. Listen honey. I don't want to see you making a wrong decision

"Not anymore Vicky. Not Hutch, not after tonight it's all gone and I'm not sure that I ever want it back!"

"Okay sweetheart." Vicky spoke soothingly. "You're tired. Try not to think anymore about it tonight. Do you want something to eat?"

"No honey, I'm not hungry, just exhausted I guess."

"Then, Go to bed and I'll bring you a glass of milk." She embraced Starsky, softly rubbing his back. "Try to get some sleep. In the morning you'll see things more clearly."

Starsky headed to bedroom with the certainty of being lucky and blessed to have so special lady by his side, loving him. At the same time his heart was aching to think how wrong things had turned with Hutch.

Some time later Vicky brought him a glass of milk. She got into bed and held him in her arms, as she did every time he was feeling, sick, worried or sad like this night.

Hours passed and Starsky kept turning and tossing in the bed unable to sleep as thoughts and memories came unchecked into his mind. Finally he gave up trying and threw back the covers. Carefully, so as not to wake up Vicky, he got out of bed to look in the semi-darkness of the room at the children's sleeping forms. Ollie Bear was looking at them from his spot at the foot of the cot. Ollie who was here because, just some months earlier, Hutch gave him back to Vicky and Starsky `To look after Kenny and Paul.'

Caressing the babies cheeks with a touch soft as a feather he thought one again how lucky he was. He had something special. A wonderful family and a promising future with a wonderful woman and two lovely kids, but he knew as well that he had lost something invaluable, and there was no second chance to retrieve it.

That day passed slowly for Starsky and the more he thought about things the more he knew that his decision was the right one. That afternoon he contacted the only person he knew who could cut through all the red tape and arrange for his transfer quickly. Starsky didn't want to delay any longer. If he were lucky then it would all be done and dusted before Hutch came back from compassionate leave. Starsky knew he was taking the coward's way out but he didn't care. He had no wish to see his partner anymore than necessary.

Jim Mitchell was amazed to receive the phone call from Starsky. He had talked long and hard with the younger man trying to make sure that Starsky was serious. Convinced that he was, but unsure why, Jim had collected all the paperwork together, filled it all out and then stopped, wondering if Harold Dobey was aware that he was about to steal one of his best detectives from under his nose. Loyalty to a friend finally made him pick up the phone and ask to speak to the Captain. The call came through just as Starsky was leaving the Captains office having handed in his official request for a transfer.

"What the hell is going on Harold?" Jim Mitchell was questioning. "Starsky does realise that once these papers go through that's it. No going back. If this is just because of some silly fall out"

"Not a silly fall out Jim. This is a major one. Starsky put Hutch on the floor of Huggy's place. From what Huggy has told me things got very heated between the two. Hutch virtually accused Starsky of wanting to take his daughter away. Seems some pretty hard things flew across between the two of them after that." Dobey paused to wipe his forehead with a huge handkerchief. "According to Huggy Starsky told Hutch that he never wanted to see him again. He's just left my office. His last words were either I okay the transfer or he'll hand in his notice. Catch 22 Jim."

"I'll tell you what Harold." Jim Mitchell thought for a moment before continuing. "I'll do all I can to make this last a while. Do what you can to get the two of them together and get this sorted out. I'd love Dave in juvenile you know that, I won't lie to you. But I want him there for the right reasons, not because he's running away from anything. I happen to believe that he and Hutch are too good a team to let them break apart without being absolutely sure about what they're doing."

Harold Dobey hung up the phone and thumped his desk hard. "Damn you both boys. You've gone through some pretty hard things in your years under me but this takes the biscuit. I never thought I'd see the day one of you would want to split from the other."

Starsky spent the rest of the day with his family. Together they went to the park to feed the ducks and then they just walked and talked together. Vicky did everything she could to make him change his mind, to at least talk to Hutch, but his mind was made up and she knew from previous experience that once that happened it was virtually impossible to change it. That night Starsky finally had his first full night of sleep for many nights.

Next day, at lunch time, Starsky popped into the hospital to see little Louise. Arriving at the door of Louise's room Starsky looked through the window inside the room. Jenny was there, as he expected, but this time she wasn't alone. Hutch was by her side too

Some time earlier, thinking that he would find everyone together, Hutch went to the hospital where he had found Jenny sitting with her daughter. He was a little surprised that Starsky wasn't there but for now he would have to make do with trying to make things up with Jenny. Once that was over he would try and find his partner and thank him for being such a good friend.

As Hutch had poured out his heart to Jenny she had finally understood the reasons behind his actions and she had quietened him with a simple kiss. Then gently she had lifted Louise from her cot and placed her in his arms telling as she did so that it was past time that he got to know his daughter. For a while Hutch had simply looked down on the sleeping child and sorrow filled him that he hadn't been there for her when she had needed him so much. `Something else I need to thank you for Starsk.' Quietly Hutch promised Louise that he would never again let her down when she needed him.

Starsky remained for some seconds with his hand on the doorknob, unsure about what to do. For the first time in a long time he was sure that he couldn't see Hutch. The last time they were together, he had. Correction they both had said a lot of things that had hurt each other deeply. Closing his eyes, he saw again the look on his friends face as he had stood over him having knocked him to the floor. He remembered the anger and hurt that had caused him to lash out and he remembered the physical pain as his fists had connected with his partner's body. He had only ever hit Hutch once before in anger and that had been caused through jealousy. This time though it had been caused by deep, personal hurt from the words his friend had chosen to attack him with. Never had he thought to hear such words and accusations from the person he regarded closer to him than a brother. They had hit hard and deep and Starsky had reacted violently, defending himself and the innocent child who had inadvertently been the cause of it all.

Releasing his hold on the handle Starsky moved instead to stand in front of the window again. His eyes took in the scene inside the room and his heart finally lifted. Louise would be okay, of that he was sure. Hutch sat by the cot, his huge hand gently holding the tiny one of his daughter. His other arm rested lightly around Jenny's shoulders and they sat, heads touching, smiling softly at the sleeping child. As Starsky watched he could just make out Hutch's mouth moving and he realised that Hutch was singing. The look on his partners face told him all he needed to know. Somehow Hutch had come to terms with his feelings and the little group on the opposite side of the window were a family at last. Starsky grinned to himself as he moved away, retracing his footsteps in search of a phone. He was happy for his friend and for Jenny and Louise but somewhere deep in his heart there remained a niggling ache for what he and Hutch had lost.

Inside the tiny room Hutch stopped singing and quickly glanced up, the hairs on his neck telling him that he was being watched. He knew who it was without ever having to see him and he quickly rose to chase after his friend. He reached the corridor just as Starsky's back disappeared thorough the door at the end. Torn between chasing after him and staying with Jenny and their daughter Hutch glanced over his shoulder at the woman he loved. Jenny was sitting, almost asleep, one hand gently holding her daughters tiny fingers. Hutch knew his place was with them and this time he wasn't going to let them down. He had turned his back on his child too often in her short life because he had needed someone to blame for what happened to Jenny. Unable to defend herself, Louise had become the object of all his anger and fear and he had allowed it to almost destroy his feelings for her. It had taken strong words and actions by Starsky to make him realise and come to terms with what he was doing.

Quietly Hutch retraced his steps and sat down next to the cot. Pulling Jenny into him he allowed her head to rest on his shoulder. For now he would stay where he was. Tomorrow he would find Starsky and ask for his forgiveness!

Next morning was his first day at work after his leave. Hutch walked into the office looking around expectantly. He had assumed that Starsky would be at his desk getting reports up to date, but his partner was nowhere to be seen. Stopping in front of their shared desk he stared hard at it for several seconds trying to make out what was wrong. Everything was neat and tidy, all in its place. The emptiness of the trays on Starsky's side of the desk unnerved him and he went round to that side. Gingerly he pulled open the top drawer where he knew Starsky kept a few personal bits and pieces. It's emptiness screamed at him and he fell down into his partners' chair. His hand reached out and opened the second drawer but that too was empty, as was the bottom one. For a few moments Hutch just sat looking in disbelief trying to make sense of it all. Slowly his mind allowed flashes of the row with Starsky to come into his mind. A man who threw away everything including the best friendship a man could ask for. Goodbye Hutchinson.' The words reverberated around his head and he sank even further into the chair. Starsky had brought him to his senses all right but at what cost? Hutch leapt from the chair he had to find Starsky. Heading for the door Hutch ran straight into Minnie coming in with some files in her hand.

"Hutch it's good to see you. What the heck is going on with Starsky?" Hutch looked confused and Minnie bit down on her lip. "Oh my God! You didn't know?"

"Know what Minnie?" Hutch's voice was soft and Minnie had to strain to hear it.

"He…he's asked for a transfer Hutch…to juvenile. Captain Dobey's trying to delay it but Starsky's told him either he gets it or he'll quit. I thought you knew…I'm sorry. What happened between you two?" Minnie could see the anguish her words were causing and she wished she hadn't been the one to break the news.

"Do you know where Starsky is now Minnie?"

He's on a job with the Captain. Some kind of hostage situation I think. Starsky and Captain Dobey were here and it was an emergency..."

Hutch's blood ran cold and he shivered. "Where Minnie?" his voice was demanding.

"Pharmacy shop on the corner of third and Maine. Be careful" Minnie shouted after the fleeing back of Hutch as he disappeared from view out of the precinct.

Starsky was wondering how in hell he had gotten himself into this situation. One minute he had been filling out reports and clearing his desk, the next he was in his car, with Captain Dobey at his side, on his way to a hostage situation. A young lad, spaced out on drugs, was holding a young mother and her baby at gunpoint demanding to pass through the cordon of police vehicles following an unsuccessful attempt at robbing the till. Starsky had managed to persuade the teenager to allow him inside the shop to talk and he now stood, arms slightly upwards, some three feet away from him. The young mother was distraught as the youth continued to hold the gun to her baby's head and Starsky was hoping and praying she wouldn't try anything silly. So far his calm, firm tone had kept everything under control but he knew that it wouldn't take much to push someone over the edge.

From outside Captain Dobey watched, barely breathing. He knew that Starsky understood all the risks but he had still hated the fact that his detective had moved in quite so quickly before they had a chance to sort out some kind of plan.

`Damn it Hutch. Where are you when you're needed? If ever Starsky needed your help then it's now!'

As if in answer to his prayers Dobey heard the screech of tyres as a car pulled to a stop, followed by the slap of running feet on the sidewalk. Without turning around he knew that it was Hutch and he relaxed just a little.

"What's happening Cap?" Hutch's voice was businesslike but his eyes showed the worry and fear that he was feeling.

Quickly Dobey ran through the situation being played out before them but he didn't have to say much since they could both clearly see Starsky's back thorough the glass door.

"Is there a back way in there?" Hutch's voice was clipped and demanding.

"Yeah but it's not that easy Hutch. There's no way you could get around there without being seen from inside."

Hutch looked around at the layout of buildings and alleyways in front of them.

"What about from the roof next door? No-one could see someone from up there."

Dobey looked at the roof  top Hutch was speaking of and silently whistled. At least twenty feet up there was a gap of some six feet between the two buildings.

"You get that jump wrong Hutch and we'll be scraping you off the floor!"

"I don't do it and we could be scraping Starsky off the walls of that building!" Hutch was firm, his whole tone not allowing for any argument. Before anyone had time to think of any reasons for not doing it, he was off at a run, heading for the doorway of the building next to the pharmacy.

Hang on Starsk. I'm coming. We need to have a long talk about going in without back up partner.'

*******

"Why don't you give the baby to her mum? You've got me here you don't need either of them." Starsky forced the youth to keep eye contact with him.

"No way cop! Once I let them go, your trigger-happy friends out there will take me down the first chance they get. I know how it works pal. Cops are dispensable once the public are safe." The youngster voice trembled with the effects of coming down from the high the drugs he had taken him too and Starsky could see the hand holding the gun shaking in sympathy.

"Then give it up. Now before you do something you'll regret. At the moment it's just robbery while under the influence. First offence?" The youth nodded. "Then you'll probably get off with probation. But you have to end this now, before someone gets hurt."

From their position behind the patrol cars, the watching police held their breath as Hutch took a flying leap across the gap between the two roofs. Slightly winded on landing it took him a few minutes to signal to them that he had made it safely and the sigh of relief was audible to all as the officers allowed themselves to breathe again. As Hutch once again disappeared from view all eyes returned to Starsky.

"Nice try cop, but it won't work! We're all going out of here together." The youth suddenly pointed the gun towards the mother who was standing slightly to one side of Starsky. Indicating with the gun he motioned for her to move. "Over there with the cop. NOW!"

Starsky held his hand out to the young woman encouraging her to do as she was told. "Come on, it's okay, your baby's okay and she's gonna stay that way. Come on over here." He breathed a quiet sigh of relief when the young mother did as he asked. "That's okay...here take my hand." Reaching out her took her hand in his and could feel the tenseness in it. He tried to convey a calming message through his touch and his eyes. Slowly he could feel her beginning to relax just a little.

"Okay son. You're in control, we know that. What exactly do you want us to do?"

"Don't call me son! I'm not your son!" The youth's eyes flashed angrily and the gun returned to the baby's head. Starsky both felt and heard the mother tense once again.

"Sorry I didn't mean anything by it. Take it easy." Starsky watched as the youth slowly began to calm down a little. "That's better. Now, like I said, you're in charge. What do you want us to do?"

From over the youth's shoulder Starsky saw Hutch slowly making his way towards them. For a moment he felt a flood of relief go through him and then he realised that if he could see Hutch then so could the young mother. All it would take would be for her to make some kind of sign that she had seen him and everything would get very nasty. Reaching out he gently pulled her behind him, turning slightly as he did so, trying to block her view. Hutch caught on to what he was trying to do and shifted his angle ever so slightly to delay the inevitable for as long as possible. It was as he made his final approach, a gap of some two paces that the young mother became aware of his presence and let out a gasp of surprise.

Everything happened in slow motion, or so it seemed to Hutch, as the youth spun around bringing the gun down to face him. Starsky seemed to fly through the air as he threw himself at the gunman, grabbing the baby from his grasp. Hitting the floor Starsky rolled and curled his body protectively around the tiny form in his arms. He was vaguely aware of a loud crack followed by a burning sensation in his thigh. Then came the sound he had long learnt to recognise as Hutch's magnum and he knew that the situation was over. He could hear sobs as he slowly unwound his body to reveal a crying but otherwise unhurt baby. Gently he held her out towards the young mother who took her and pulled her close to her chest as though she would never let her go again.

"Jess!...Oh Jess! Thank God... How can I ever thank you?" Tears flowed freely down her cheeks as the young mother looked at Starsky.

Starsky smiled at her, wiping a tear away with his finger. "Just look after her and love her!" He glanced at Hutch as he spoke.

Suddenly the room was full of people as officers rushed in. Starsky was vaguely aware of Dobey's voice demanding the paramedics get in then he felt gentle fingers probing the top of his leg. As the pain finally hit him in waves the world began to swim in front of him and the last thing he was fully aware of before blacking out was Hutch's hand on his shoulder.

*******

It was several hours later that Starsky's eyes finally opened to see Vicky sitting by his side.

"Hi lover!" Vicky's voice was soft and filled with love.

"Hi yourself." Starsky looked around taking in the whitewashed walls and the smell of antiseptic. Glancing to his left he could see the stand holding the drip that now flowed into his arm. "Man. I really should book a better room in this place. The amount of time one or the other of us has spent in here lately you'd think they'd have somewhere a little brighter than this." He grinned at Vicky and was relieved to see her grin back. "What'd I do this time?"

"You took a bullet in the thigh Dave! According to it's mother you rolled just in time or the baby would have been directly in the line of fire."

"How are they?"

"They're both fine. They're in a room down the corridor." Vicky rose and kissed his lips hard. "Don't keep frightening me like this Dave. I'll be grey before my time." Sitting back down she allowed a solitary tear to fall.

Starsky reached out and gently wiped it away with his thumb. "With a bit of luck Vicky this will be the last time. It's not usually quite so violent in juvenile, though they do have their moments. Have you heard from Jim?"

"He came round while you were still asleep. Said to tell you that all you have to do is sign on the dotted line and the transfer will be complete. Honey, are you really sure about this that it's really what you want?"

"Is it what I want? I'm not really sure V. Am I sure that it's the right thing to do? Yes! I don't see how Hutch and I can ever be what we once were after what happened at Huggy's. I don't think anyone has ever hurt me quite like that before. I never dreamt that it would be Hutch!"

Neither one were aware of there being someone else in the room until he spoke.

"I never dreamt that it would be me either Starsk, and if I could take it all back somehow make it never happen, then I would. All that I can do is to tell you how sorry I am and to ask for your forgiveness."

Vicky rose from her seat and leant over her husband. "I'll be just outside Dave. You and Hutch need to sort this out, once and for all, before it eats you both up inside." Kissing him she walked slowly to the door went out and firmly closed the door behind her.

Hutch moved to stand beside the bed and he took in his partners' tired features. "Mind if I sit down?" He pointed to the chair and waited, unsure for the first time of the answer.

Starsky stared hard at him for several moments, his eyes cold and almost black. It made Hutch shudder but he stood his ground. Finally Starsky nodded, very slightly and Hutch dropped into the vacant chair.

"Starsky, if you really want to go to juvenile then there's nothing I can do to stop you. but at least give me a chance to try and put things right between us, please." Hutch was unable to stop the slight hitch in his voice and Starsky felt his heart react to it.

"You hurt me Hutch and you turned your back on everything, your woman, your baby, and us. `Me and Thee' Hutch. It doesn't exist anymore! You held it in your hands and you broke it in two!" Starsky allowed the words to flow, allowing all the pain he was feeling to come through.

"Don't you think I don't know that? I was hurting too Starsk! I needed someone to blame for almost losing Jenny. You were there when she called I wasn't and I should have been. It was you that saved her life! If I'd listened to you weeks ago we'd have still been looking for that psycho instead of putting her in that position in the first place. I knew better though and I wouldn't listen, and Jenny paid for my mistake. Somewhere in all the worry and fear of almost losing her I convinced myself that it was all Louise's fault. If it hadn't have been for her then Jenny wouldn't be in the hospital. Don't you see Starsk? I NEEDED someone to blame Somehow I managed to shift the blame from me to Louise and I've got to live with the fact that I rejected her Starsk. I turned my back on my own child when she really needed me. You didn't though. You were there for her. AGAIN! It's like you were taking my place Starsk. Doing all the things I should have, but couldn't or wouldn't. I guess that I began to hate you because I hated myself. That's why I said what I did and I wished the minute that I said it that I could bite my tongue off." Hutch paused, anguish clearly visible on his face. "I could take not being your partner anymore Starsk, but I couldn't take losing your friendship!"

Starsky's heart contracted at the pain on his friends face and the anguish in his voice. Gently he lifted his hand to the now faint bruise where his fist had made contact.

"I really did a job on you didn't I?"

Hutch nodded. ""Nothing I didn't deserve according to Huggy. He reckons the look on your face when you came in to the pits I was lucky to get out alive."

Despite everything Starsky couldn't stop the giggle from escaping. "I was that bad huh?"

Again Hutch nodded.

"Sorry!"

"Nothing to be sorry for Starsk. Like I said, I deserved it."

"I wasn't trying to take your place Hutch...but Louise needed someone and you turned away from her. I couldn't understand that and you wouldn't talk to me."

"I couldn't talk to you Starsk. If I had I would have had to face up to the fact that there wasn't anyone to blame and I needed someone to be at fault, other than me that is."

"NO! You weren't to blame Hutch. Didn't we go through all this once before? Promise me something partner. Whatever happens in our lives after this, you'll talk to me. I never, EVER want to hit you like that again. You hear me. Huh?"

"I hear you Starsk I think" Hutch's voice was quiet as he realised that Starsky had forgiven him. "You still going to Juvenile?"

"Only if you don't shut up and get out of here. I'm tired and Jenny will be wondering where you are. You've got a family to worry about now Hutch, don't ever let them down again or I really will take your place." He grinned tiredly at Hutch and his eyes closed.

Hutch rose quietly and walked softly to the door.

"Hey Hutch." He spun around. "You have a beautiful daughter Blintz. She has your eyes!"

Starsky gave in to sleep and Hutch left the room smiling softly and feeling warm inside.

*******

Two weeks later both Jenny and Louise were finally allowed to go home. Only then Lauren came back to New York, not without the promise of a new visit to her daughter and grandchild very soon

Along those days, Vicky had spent a great deal of time helping Hutch prepare Venice Place for their arrival since Jenny was still not recovered enough to look after herself. Starsky was on sick leave and Edith Dobey had arrived with a casserole for them all so there was a full welcome home committee when Hutch finally came through the door with Jenny carrying Louise in his arms. Edith had stayed for a couple of hours to make sure that the food was hot and all okay before Vicky arrived with the Starsky children and she left for her own home with a promise to return in the morning.

The foursome enjoyed their meal as all three babies lay asleep in their respective cots and prams. They had just finished when a faint cry sounded from the pram and young Kenneth Starsky woke from his slumbers and demanded attention. It wasn't long before his crying roused both Paul and Louise. Vicky carried the twins over to Starsky and placed Paul in his lap along with a bottle before sitting down next to him with Kenny. Silence rained for a few moments as both boys began to feed. In the meantime Hutch carried Louise across to Jenny and placed her lovingly in her arms as he moved to the kitchen to retrieve her bottle. Hutch stood back and watched as the three babies were fed. Crossing to rummage in a drawer he pulled out a camera and quickly took a picture of the scene.

"KEN! How could you? I look awful." Still feeding Louise Jenny somehow managed to release one hand and threw a cushion at him. It hit him on the side of the head and he fell to the floor laughing before crawling over to her and kneeling in front of her.

"You look as beautiful as ever to me Jen. In fact I think motherhood suits you."

Hutch's eyes were soft and glowing an electric blue in the dim light. Jenny blushed and she allowed the feelings she had for Hutch to show all too clearly on her face. Hutch took a deep breath before he continued.

"Jenny I asked you once before and you said no. I respect why you said it but I'm asking you again. Will you marry me?"

The room fell quiet and for a moment and to Jenny it seemed as though she and Hutch were the only two people in the room.

"Yes Ken. Yes I will."

For a moment Hutch was unable to move. Then he felt a sharp stab in the thigh as Starsky poked him with his crutch.

"Hey Blintz Shut your mouth and kiss the girl before I take your place again!"

Reaching out Hutch took Louise from her mother's arms and handed her to Starsky who eagerly took her in his spare arm, well used to carrying two children. Very gently he pulled Jenny to her feet and pulling her into his arms he kissed her long and lovingly.

Getting to her feet Vicky placed Kenny into his pram before coming back for Paul. Then she pulled Louise's pram from the bedroom and gently paced her into it before going back to help her husband to his feet.

"Think you can manage one pram with only one good leg?"

Starsky nodded and the two quietly left the house leaving the two lovebirds together. Neither Hutch nor Jenny noticed them leave.

 

THE END...at least for a little while!

 

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