Silent Witness

Warning: This story might be considered a dark one and contains some graphic scenes and foul language that may be offensive to some readers.

He was floating somewhere . . . just beyond the excruciating pain that hammered relentlessly into his skull; somewhere above the soft murmuring of voices that came and went from his room. He subconsciously perceived that he was once again in a hospital, for he could feel the firm bed beneath his heavy body and hear the soft beeps from the monitor that kept track of his heart and brain activity. Although his mind registered the sharp prodding and poking that caused blinding pulses of pain to stab into the side of his head, he remained still and senseless, choosing instead to float, and passively hover in peaceful oblivion. And yet, despite the tranquil serenity that engulfed his being, it seemed like there was something . . . or someone in the darkness with him . . . quietly waiting . . . watching . . . a presence that willed him to remain . . . and just float . . .


(Memorial Hospital, ICU Ward)

Hutch walked quickly through the ICU ward, to room 11, and quietly let himself in to the dimly lit room. His curly haired friend was there, lying still and silent in the same position on the bed, the monitors still humming their monotonous tune, as they kept time to the beating of his partner’s heart. The blond sighed deeply and dragged a chair over to the side of the brunet’s bed.

Other than the bandage, that stood out stark and white against his partner’s dark and riotous curls, Starsky looked absolutely fine. His long, dark lashes curled against his pale cheeks, hiding the dark, blue expressiveness of his partner’s soul. The peaceful expression on his face was almost a parody to the usual ball of energy that abounded in the bouncing brunet. To see Starsky so pale and motionless made the blond’s heart accelerate with anguish and trepidation.

“Hey buddy . . . I’m back. You need to wake up now . . . stop goofing off Gordo.” Hutch snorted quietly to himself, using the soft, gentle voice he reserved solely for this man who meant more to him than life itself. The tall blond waited quietly for a reaction . . . any type of response from the brunet that would indicate his partner was still with him. Nothing. Not even a twitch. Hutch pulled the chair closer to the bed and sat heavily in it.

It had been almost six days since the night his partner was brought here to Memorial Hospital. Hutch dragged his fingers through his soft blond locks and thought back to the evening they had both raced down the darkened alley behind Soong’s market.

It was nearing the end of their shift and they had responded to a 211 call from dispatch, of an armed robbery in progress. The perps, a couple of teenage boys, ran down the alley behind the store they had just held up and Starsky had given chase, with Hutch at his heels. One of the teens, unbeknownst to the detectives, had ducked behind some crates that were stacked on one side and had fired at the brunet, who had been whipped completely around from the force of the bullet’s impact, and had slammed, head first, into a large, dirty, metal garbage bin.

Hutch ducked behind some large cardboard boxes and fired in the direction of the crates; the sound of his magnum sounding like a cannon in the dark, stillness of the alley. “Starsk?” Hutch shouted out, unable to discern his partner’s shape, which blended against the dark color of the metal receptacle. “Starsky?”

The blond immediately crouched lower as a barrage of bullets pinged near the box he hid behind. He knew that the boxes were inadequate cover and would offer only meager protection against the fiery slugs.

Hutch’s mind raced as wildly as his heart for he knew his partner had taken a hit, however it was too dark to know where, or how badly Starsky was hurt. The fact that his partner did not call out to him, made the blond worry even more. Hutch knew that the dark haired detective would do anything to ease the anxiety he felt, and his friend would have struggled to answer, even if it was with his last dying breath. The need to be with his partner, to see him and to take care of him, drove all caution to the wind.

The blond rose and fired several more shots in the direction of the crates; feeling relieved as he heard police sirens approaching in the distance. Hutch quickly dashed out from behind the box and dove for cover behind the large, metal garbage bin as more bullets slammed into the steel receptacle. Hutch dragged his unconscious partner behind the heavy bin, putting his gun on the concrete beside him to quickly examine his fallen friend.

“Hey buddy,” Hutch said worriedly, feeling immensely thankful to see that his partner was still breathing. The tall blond looked over his friend’s face, head and neck, checking his partner’s upper torso and abdomen, as he quickly scanned his partner’s limbs in the meager light from the adjoining street. By this time, the sirens were deafening, and Hutch heard the sound of feet hitting the pavement, as the teenaged hoodlums ran by to escape being caught. The blond gave them no heed; his only concern was for the brunet who lay still and motionless in the dark alley.

Hutch gently rolled his limp partner to one side to check if the bullet had pierced the brunet’s back; hearing a soft groan coming from the wounded man’s lips. The space between the blond’s brow furrowed with concern; knowing he was taking a risk in moving his partner, but unable to see where he needed to render aid. “Hey, take it easy buddy . . . I’ve got you,” Hutch soothed, relieved to hear any sound at all from his dark haired partner. Nothing.

It was hard to see in the dim light behind the bin, but there didn’t appear to be any blood at all. The blond was perplexed. He knew his partner was hurt; Starsky and energy were synonymous and went hand in hand. The brunet wouldn’t be able to lie this still if he wasn’t hurt, not even if his life depended on it and yet, there was no sign of injury anywhere.

“Starsk . . . where do you hurt? Huh pal?” Hutch whispered breathlessly as he crouched over his injured friend. He gently massaged through the dark, curly tangle of his partner’s hair and heard a sharp hiss of pain from the brunet, while simultaneously registering the warm, sticky wetness that flowed under his palm near the left side of his partner’s head, just above his ear.

“Oh god, Starsk,” Hutch whispered as he held his hand up towards the insubstantial light, seeing the dark rivulets of blood that ran down to his wrist. “Oh god . . .”


(Memorial Hospital, ICU Ward)

Hutch sighed and gently rubbed his silent partner’s cold, limp arm. Comatose. Just the sound of that word caused the blond to tremble in fear. It had been almost six days since his partner sustained the head injury that had put him in this state, and Hutch knew that the longer it took for Starsky to become conscious, the likelihood of him remaining in the coma increased.

As it neared the end of the week with no improvement from the brunet, the blond could feel his heart grow heavy with despair. Though the three teenage boys had been found and rounded up by the patrolmen who had also responded to the 211; and they were now locked up in the juvenile boys detention home, it brought no joy . . . no sense of justice to Hutch.

“Starsk,” the blond sadly whispered, “I-I need you to open your eyes now buddy.” Hutch’s pale, blue eyes softened as it skimmed over the familiar features of his partner’s face. The long, dark lashes remained closed. He brushed back the unruly, chocolate brown curls from his friend’s forehead and smiled as one tendril wrapped possessively around his pinkie. Hutch snorted softly and gently enticed, “C’mon pal, I know you’re in there . . . vacation time is over . . . I-I miss you buddy . . .” the blond said brokenly. His pale, blue eyes searched the brunet’s face for any movement or reaction and then he sighed softly, wrapping his long arm around the sheet covered torso of his friend, while leaning his blond head on the edge of the bed in which his partner lay . . .

“The bullet only grazed his scalp, but compounded upon this same injury, was the impact to the side of his skull when his head collided into the metal trash receptacle. Apparently the head injury caused Detective Starsky to lose consciousness at the site and as of yet, he still hasn’t regained his senses . . .” Dr. Bradford, a neurological surgeon that was called onto the case, calmly said. He was a rather short, bespectacled man, who gazed up into the weary light blue eyes of the tall blond detective.

“But he will be okay, right doc?” Hutch queried anxiously, “I mean . . . the bullet just grazed him . . . he will regain consciousness soon right?”

“The CT scan we did on Detective Starsky proved to be very positive. There was no sign of TBI . . .”

“TBI . . . please doctor,” Hutch interjected curtly, “Can you explain this to me in layman’s terms.” The blond looked up at the wall clock in the ER waiting room. It was already 2:18 in the morning and he hadn’t been able to see Starsky since they brought him in at 11:10 pm.

Hutch was exhausted, his back aching from the uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room. Dobey had left shortly after midnight and the tall blond’s patience was wearing thin. The need to see his partner became his foremost thought and the delays were beginning to wrack his nerves. Hutch impatiently rubbed the grit from the corners of his eyes with his index finger and thumb as he wearily listened to the doctor.

“TBI simply means traumatic brain injury. The scan we performed showed no sign of any damage to your partner’s brain, his skull was not fractured in any way, there was no cerebral contusions or bruising of the brain, no signs of epidural or subdural hematoma, or bleeding between the dura matter and the skull. Other than the laceration on the surface of his scalp from the passing bullet, which we have cleaned and stitched, your partner, should at the most, be suffering from a mild concussion. There is no medical reason as to why Detective Starsky has lapsed into a comatose state . . .”

“W-Wait a minute doc . . . a comatose state . . . you’re telling me that my p-partner’s in a coma?” Hutch stammered; disbelief and sudden fear evident in his tone of voice.

The doctor sighed softly, “Yes, Detective Hutchinson, unfortunately, that is what I’m saying. A coma is a profound state of unconsciousness and a comatose patient cannot be awakened. Your partner is not responding to pain or light, does not have sleep-wake cycles and is not taking voluntary actions. Brian traumas are the most common causes of coma and accounts for 60 of all cases, however all of our tests show that Detective Starsky had no indication of any trauma to his brain . . .”

The diminutive doctor took his thick glasses off the bridge of his nose and rubbed the red indentation there, “We cannot medically explain the reason why your partner has lapsed into a coma at this time, Detective Hutchinson, and hopefully, he will awaken soon. The longer he stays under, in a comatose state, the chances for recovery become slimmer . . . I’m sorry Detective, we can only wait and see.”

The smaller man looked up at the tall blond who looked shocked and pale by the information he had just divulged, and it pained the doctor greatly. He looked up at the worried detective, “Would you like to see him? He’s been set up in the ICU ward, monitors are keeping watch over his vitals and his brain activity . . . you can sit with him for a while. Your partner is in great physical condition and that in itself, is a plus for him . . . only time will tell . . . I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you, Detective Hutchinson . . .”

Hutch lifted his weary head to once again look over his partner. “Look buddy, if you’re gonna just lie there like that, the least you could do is move over . . . this chair is damn uncomfortable . . .” Hutch snorted softly at his own joke and stared at his sleeping friend. Starsky looked so peaceful lying there . . . so still . . . it was like the vibrant life force that was such a part of his partner’s nature was gone.

It brought back unpleasant memories of the time Starsky lay in another bed like this, right after Gunther’s attack in the police garage almost two and a half years ago. Thinking about that awful time made the blond feel even lower than he was already feeling.

It was hard to remain optimistic and hopeful as the days drifted by, and his partner remained lifeless and inert. Hutch sighed, and like a movie projector that was suddenly turned on in his mind, the blond played over all the times that he and Starsky had shared together, times of laughter, as well as sorrow, and a great empty sadness filled his heart at the possibility of losing his curly haired friend. Hutch willfully pushed that despairing thought aside, as he gently entwined his fingers with the cold limp hand that was closest to him and squeezed slightly. No response.

Hutch wrapped his other arm tighter around his partner, and lowered his blond head to press against the brunet’s ribs. The fair haired detective squeezed his eyes shut, holding back the hot tears of abject fear and loneliness that wanted to silently flow out, “Please Starsk,” he whispered against the clean white sheet, “Please don’t leave me . . . I don’t know where you are, and I don’t know how to bring you back . . . but I’ll be here buddy. I’ll always be here . . . waiting . . . just me and thee. I’ve got your back Starsk, but you’ve got to turn around and come home to me ‘cause I can’t follow where you’re going . . .”


He was floating in tranquil darkness, and yet, he knew he needed to be somewhere else. He could feel the almost desperate ‘pull’ of something stronger than the presence he sensed there with him the darkness, an intense need to be somewhere . . . with . . . someone. A sudden, blinding flash of light and an intense pounding pain, disturbed the placid serenity of the ebony peace he dwelled in; and an image as clear as day, rose behind his closed eyes.

He could see a man with his face pressed into a white sheet that covered a body. The blond man’s shoulders shook gently as he grieved, and a feeling of profound sadness and loss pervaded and flooded the once quiet, peaceful, emptiness that he drifted in. His mind recollected that he knew the blond . . . he could ‘feel’ the hurt and the forlorn hopelessness that pulsed out of the fair-headed man and it flooded and fused into his own being.

It was Hutch. Hutch needed him and he had to be there. He struggled through the lethargic murkiness that clutched at him, that wanted to keep him floating in the dark abyss, away from the pain. A part of him wanted to stay in that tranquil nothingness; where no pain or anxiety could reach him, but it was Hutch . . . and nothing would keep him from his partner’s side. Nothing!


Hutch lifted his head and scrubbed at his burning eyes. He glanced down at their entwined fingers and once again, looked over at his partner’s placid features. Starsky looked at peace, motionless and serene, yet, Hutch was sure he felt the slight pressure of his partner’s fingers as they weakly pressed against his own. Was he imagining it? Was the need for his partner causing him to hallucinate? “S-Starsk?” The hopeful blond whispered, “Buddy?” Hutch gently shook the listless hand he still clutched with his own.

“Ungh” the brunet moaned softly, much to joy of the blond who quickly stood, pushing the uncomfortable chair back in his haste.

“Oh my god . . . Starsky,” Hutch whispered jubilantly, unable to keep the excitement and joy from his voice. This was the first sound that he had heard from his usually incessantly talkative partner, since that awful night in the alley when they crouched behind the garbage bin.

“C’mon buddy . . .you can do it . . . come back to me Starsk . . .” The blond squeezed his partner’s hand, and was once again overjoyed when he felt the brunet’s fingers press weakly into his own. “Oh my god . . .” Hutch smiled, unable to contain the joy that burst from his heart. Without letting go of Starsky’s hand, the blond reached over to press the call button to summon a nurse.

Hutch watched as the heavy, dark lashes slowly lifted to reveal dazed blue orbs that peeked out at half-mast. The blond smiled hugely, so joyously thrilled to see those wonderful eyes that he had missed so much, as they slowly roved around the room, taking in his surroundings.

The confusion in that familiar blue gaze slowly dissipated, as the bewildered look changed to one of recognition when Starsky gazed into the soft sky colored eyes of his friend. Hutch’s smile widened, as he saw the corners of the brunet’s mouth slowly lift into a lopsided grin and the blond instinctively knew that everything was going to be all right . . .


(Wednesday mid-morning, a week later - Starsky’s place)

Hutch stirred the chicken soup over the hot stove in Starsky’s apartment. It had been a busy, but exciting morning, for he finally got to bring his friend home from the hospital. Starsky appeared to be fine, but Hutch still wanted to fuss and coddle over him, much to the irritation of the brunet. The blond had finally talked his buddy into taking a nap and he kept one ear cocked towards the bedroom door, just in case his partner needed anything, while he whipped up some lunch for the both of them.

As Hutch took out the bread and smeared some mayonnaise over each slice, his mind absently drifted back over the last week when Starsky emerged from the coma and opened his eyes . . .

At first the doctors were very cautious about being too positive. They immediately began to run a barrage of tests on the brunet who apparently wasn’t exhibiting any of the delayed motor or speech skills that most people who woke from a coma did. It amazed the doctors that Starsky’s pupils were reactive and alert and that he could respond accurately to questions that were asked of him, and it further surprised them that the brunet could immediately recognize his partner.

Hutch watched the comings and goings of the hospital staff as they ran through their tests, hovering over his newly wakened partner, as he protectively watched over the curly haired brunet. It frustrated the blond and grated on his already frazzled nerves to see what his exhausted friend had to go through. The constant prodding and poking and questions tired Starsky out and though he struggled to stay awake, his dark heavy lashes eventually closed as he fell asleep. Although Starsky answered every question accurately, his soft voice sounded so tired and weak that it made the blond angry, and he had to control himself from pushing all of the hospital staff out of the room and barring the door. Hutch looked up as the door to his partner’s room opened once again, admitting Dr. Bradford who smiled up at the tall blond.

Is he okay doc?” Hutch asked anxiously, pushing down the frustration he felt, while lowering his voice so as to not disturb his slumbering friend. He watched as the doctor looked over the charts once more, and silently followed, when the smaller man beckoned him out into the hallway.

Your partner appears to be making tremendous progress Detective Hutchinson. It’s quite amazing actually . . .”

What do you mean doctor?” Hutch queried, his pale brows drawing together.

“I mean it’s amazing how fast he’s responding to everything. Usually waking from a coma is a slow process of what we call ‘emerging’. The patient who first wakes from a coma will usually open their eyes, but they have no control over their speech or movements until some time later. Many of these simple things that we take for granted, need to be relearned from someone who awakens from a coma. Often times, patients never relearn these things and they enter into a wakeful vegetative state. Emerging from a coma is rarely like it is portrayed in the movies or on television detective, where a patient opens their eyes, smiles and is discharged the next day . . . recovery from a brain injury takes time . . . and yet, the way your partner has emerged from his coma appears to be something straight from a movie on TV.” The doctor smiled and, shook his head in wonder.

You say recovery from a brain injury takes time, but in Starsky’s case, you told me he didn’t have traumatic injury to his brain, no swelling or bruising . . .”

Yes, and perhaps detective, that is why your partner has so far made remarkable progress since waking,” Dr. Bradford interjected, “However, I need to warn you that even in the event where a patient recovers quickly, there may be long term problems with concentration, memory, fatigue, dizziness, short temperedness etc. These problems may never be resolved and may require lifelong coping skills on the part of the patient.”

“Wait a minute doc,” Hutch said, blue eyes locking on the diminutive man standing before him, “Are you saying that Starsky may develop these types of difficulties and problems . . .”

“I guess what I’m saying detective, is that the brain is very complex and it takes time to fully understand the extent of any head injury. We couldn’t explain why your friend became comatose and likewise, his remarkable recovery astounds us all. I’ll be running more tests on him and will keep him here for another week or so; to make sure he is functioning normally. Once he’s home, I need you to watch over him and be aware of any subtle changes to his personality or to his physical or mental well-being . . .”

Hutch finished making the sandwiches and began cutting up carrot and celery sticks as he pondered over what the doctor had said. So far, his partner was absolutely fine, his quick wit and humorous banter was the same as always, and the injury to his head was all but healed. Hutch smiled as he ladled some of the steaming chicken soup into a bowl for the brunet. He glanced at the clock on the wall. Starsky had been resting now for almost an hour. If he didn’t get up in another 5 minutes, Hutch decided he would peek in on his buddy and wake him up.


He could still hear the high-pitched screams echoing in his mind as he bolted upright from his bed, his heart pounding painfully against his chest. He struggled to control his labored breathing and was surprised to see that his hands were trembling as he raised them to wipe the sheen of perspiration from his forehead. He clenched his fingers into fists as he took in a shuddering breath, his mind continuing to flash images from the nightmare, which had abruptly awakened him. He closed his eyes, still seeing the horrific scene as it played across his mind.

A school bus sliding on it’s side careened down the street at top speed. Screams could be heard from the children trapped inside as sparks from the bus scraping across the blacktop, ignited the bright yellow vehicle into a raging inferno . . .

Starsky shuddered and dragged his fingers through his damp curls. He could still see her little face, frozen in horror, her mouth opened in a silent scream, her brown eyes wide and filled with fear. He knew the little girl was already dead, probably killed instantly as her tiny body was crushed from the impact of the large semi which plowed into the yellow bus.

Help them.’ Starsky opened his eyes. It was the voice again. That calm, soft whisper that sent chills racing down his spine. The brunet gasped and squeezed his eyes shut, as the slight throbbing in his head began to pound painfully, and he pressed his fingers against his temple to help alleviate the building pressure in his skull. The stormy blue eyes of the brunet flashed to his bedroom door as it was quietly opened, the smiling blond peeking around its edges.

“Hey buddy . . .” Hutch said softly, giving his partner the once over. He saw Starsky quickly remove his hand from the side of his head, but the rapid, shallow breaths and the pale, glistening face of his friend gave him away. Hutch frowned, “You okay?” he asked, stepping into the semi-lit room with the bed tray in his hands.

Starsky sighed heavily, “Yeah . . . why wouldn’t I be . . . hmm?” The brunet slowly leaned his upper body back against the soft pillows, sticking his still trembling hands under the covers that were wrapped around his bare waist. His head throbbed mercilessly and Starsky wanted to press and rub against his temple to allay the pressure in his pounding skull and bring himself some relief from the intensity of the drilling pain.

“Oh, I don’t know . . . you just seem to be a little on edge, looks like you just came out of the shower and forgot to dry off . . .” Hutch smiled warmly, nodding slightly at the glistening sheen on the brunet’s chest, the faint scars from Gunther’s assassination attempt still evident through the dark chest hairs of the brunet. “Head hurting?”

“No . . . just my ears! Hutch, would you stop with the twenty questions already huh?” Starsky snapped irritably, “And you didn’t have’ta bring food in here. I coulda come out there. I didn’t hurt my legs in that alley.” The brunet turned away from the perceptive look in the light blue eyes of the blond.

“I know pal,” Hutch soothed, his voice warm and soft, as he lowered the tray over his partner’s lap. “Just thought I earned the right to mother hen you a bit . . . that’s all.” The blond detective knew his partner well enough to know that he was in pain. The doctor had warned him that Starsky might experience headaches now and then, but knowing that bit of information didn’t help to alleviate the worry Hutch felt as his grumpy, stoic friend continued to try and hide it from him.

Starsky glared at his partner’s smiling face then snorted softly, looking down at the steaming bowl of soup and the salami sandwich that Hutch made for him. The dark haired detective had the decency to blush, feeling like an ass for being so crabby with the softhearted blond.

Starsky sighed, knowing how much his partner hated the smell of salami and to know that he went out of his way to even pick up the oily meat touched the brunet deeply. “Sorry Hutch,” Starsky murmured, raising his eyes to sheepishly gaze into the sky blue ones, which immediately softened, “Dunno why I snapped at ya . . . jus’ tired and hungry s’all.”

“Or maybe it could be because you have a headache?” Hutch pushed gently, not wanting to raise the ire of the moody brunet who picked up the spoon listlessly with his left hand.

“Somethin’ like that . . .” Starsky said softly, at the blond’s concerned look, he added, “I jus’ had a dream . . . kinda shook me up a bit . . .”

Hutch sat carefully on the edge of the bed, not wanting to disturb the tray or jostle the bowl of hot soup onto his partner’s lap. He took his own turkey sandwich off the tray and took a bite out of it, chewing thoughtfully; wanting to ask the brunet about the dream he had, as he watched his subdued friend take a cautious sip from the spoon.

“Hey . . .’s good!” Starsky said, a slow grin spreading across his face. “You make chicken soup way better than my Aunt Rosie.”

“Is that supposed to be a compliment?” Hutch snorted, “Wasn’t she the one who made your stomach hurt with her soup?”

Starsky took a bite of his salami sandwich, relishing its wonderful flavor, “Yeah, but she made great wonton. Hey . . . when did I ever tell you about my Aunt Rosie?” the brunet said between swallows, his blue eyes twinkling playfully.

Hutch smiled again, noting how quickly the salami and the soothing warmth of the soup were drastically changing the brunet’s dour disposition. In all the years that they had been together, it always amazed the blond how sweetly childlike his partner could be at times, and yet, Hutch knew that there was also a darker side to David Michael Starsky; a side that he had only glimpsed once or twice in all the years that he’d known the man.

Though they rarely talked about it, Hutch had seen the devastation and retaliation that Starsky had wrought with a rifle, when he willfully blew up a car and the men inside of it, thinking they had just killed his blond partner during the Haymes abduction case. Anyone who threatened those Starsky loved were subject to his dark ire, and Hutch was glad those times were few and far between.

“You’ve told me about more relatives than I care to remember!” Hutch laughed, watching as his partner enthusiastically wolfed down his sandwich. “Hey . . . try chewing it before swallowing huh? You’ve just come out of a coma . . . don’t want you choking yourself to death!”

“Funny . . . very funny Blondie,” Starsky mumbled as he licked the mayonnaise from his fingers, smacking his lips loudly. The brunet proceeded to lift the bowl of soup to his oily mouth and began to noisily slurp it down.

“God, Starsk,” Hutch cringed, “No wonder they call cops pigs!”

The brunet lifted lowered eyes, and glared at his blond counterpart. He put the empty bowl back on the tray and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Hey. . . being a pig ain’t so bad. Did I ever tellya that them pigs can have orgasms that last for thirty minutes Hutch, huh? Man, that’s awesome ain’t it? A thirty minute orgasm!”

The tall blond rolled his pale blue eyes to the ceiling, “You’re the only guy I know who wouldn’t mind turning himself into a pig just for sex,” Hutch laughed when he heard his partner snort loudly, “Pretty disgusting buddy . . . and yes, you already told me that nauseating fact when you were so into that trivia book Dobey gave you to read.”

The blond’s smile turned to one of concern, as he saw the brunet wince and turn away, closing his eyes against the lancing pain that throbbed in his skull. Starsky suddenly pressed his fingers against his left temple, while Hutch steadied the tray, “You okay Starsk? Need an aspirin?” Hutch asked softly.

“Nah . . . ” Starsky said slowly, gasping as hot, burning spasms of pain stabbed repeatedly in his head and a bright light exploded behind his closed lids . . .

He could see her little face, mouth opened as she screamed her terror, her little hand pressed against the window of the school bus, as the huge semi-truck careened towards them. He felt helpless, knowing the truck driver was too drunk to notice what was happening. He could feel the little girl’s fear and ‘knew’ that she knew she was going to die. He could ‘hear’ her crying desperately for her mommy to save her and it tore his heart apart. “Help them.” The same calm voice whispered in his mind, “Save them.”

He shuddered, fighting down the bile that wanted to rise up as nausea made him want to throw up the meal he had just consumed. The piercing sound of children screaming filled his mind and he pressed his fingers against his temple, trying to ease the punishing ache in his head.

He could feel the heat from the raging fire as the flames consumed the school bus and its passengers. He crawled along the broken shards of glass and debris from of the shattered bus, which had finally slid to a stop, still on its side. He was horrified and sickened by the carnage that lay before him. Little bodies were thrown all about, sprawled in unnatural poses, while some children who were still alive, were screaming for help, beating against the windows which were jammed shut. He ignored the mayhem, his attention focused on the seat ahead of him where he knew the little girl lay crushed. He knelt next to her broken, bleeding body that was wedged between the twisted and broken seats. Her wide brown eyes stared vacantly at the ceiling of the bus and he knew that she was dead. It terrified him to see her little mouth open suddenly, watching in morbid fascination as her small head turned slowly towards him and her expressionless eyes focused in on his petrified face. “You’re too late,” she quietly whispered, “You’re too late . . .”

Starsky became aware of the shallow rapidness of his own panicked breathing, the pounding of his heart sounding loud in his ears. He felt chilled by the cold sweat that ran down his chest and neck, and eventually became aware of the soothing warmth that seeped into his sweat drenched back. The warm hand rubbing gentle circles into his back, continued to draw him from his stupor, as he became aware of the soft, low murmurings in his ear.

“Hey buddy . . . it’s okay, take it easy . . .deep breath,” Hutch continued to murmur softly, gently stroking his partner’s back, as he eased him into awareness. He watched the brunet’s bewildered eyes make contact with his own. “You okay pal?”

Starsky took in a shuddering breath, taking refuge in the soft, blue depths of his partner’s eyes and he quickly nodded, feeling everything, but okay. He lowered his eyes to his trembling hands, which were quickly covered by the blond’s.

Hutch gently squeezed his partner’s cold fingers, drawing the brunet’s cobalt gaze to lock with his own. His blue eyes were hesitant, but expressive once again, and the blond gave a silent sigh of relief.

Seeing those vibrant blue eyes staring vacantly off into the distance a minute ago scared the living daylights out of Hutch. He had tried shaking his partner to snap him out of it, waving his hands before his friend’s face, but Starsky just sat still in that trancelike state, his face frozen in horror. What disturbed Hutch the most though, was hearing his partner’s barely audible voice whispering, “It’s too late . . .” over and over again. Hearing the eerie sadness that clung to those three words sent a shiver of fear down the blond’s spine and he reached out his large hand to gently stroke his partner’s back, hoping that touch would bring some sort of comfort to his partner, in as much as it brought reassurance to him.

Looking at Starsky now, and seeing that vulnerable look of uncertainty in his eyes, brought out the protective streak in the blond and he gently squeezed his partner’s hand once again, “You wanna talk about it?” Hutch asked softly, feeling the slight tremor in the brunet’s hands. He wasn’t sure if it was Starsky’s or his hands that were trembling . . . seeing his partner transfixed that way had been terrifying to the blond. “What happened buddy?”

Starsky gazed into the warmth of his partner’s eyes, the gentle squeeze from his partner’s hand bringing comfort and support. The brunet let out a heavy sigh, lowering his eyes to their connected hands, “I-I don’t know . . . the dream . . .”

“The dream?” Hutch repeated softly, not wanting to distract his partner, “You mean the dream you had before you ate?” The blond wanted to kick himself. He knew he should have pursued that issue; instead, he had let his partner’s playful bantering change the subject from wonton soup to orgasmic pigs. Well, he wouldn’t let his friend off the hook this time.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you about that dream . . .” Hutch hedged, not wanting to push his partner, but knowing that they needed to talk about what had just happened. The cold knot of fear that still resided in the blond’s stomach grew larger, when he saw the color drain from his partner’s face.

“Look Hutch,” Starsky said softly, turning his gaze away from the worry in his partner’s eyes, “I-I don’t want to talk about it right now . . .’kay?” The dream was so real that the residual effects from it, clung to him like the black, tattered remnants of the Reaper’s robe, and it shook the dark haired detective to his core. The last thing he wanted to talk about was that . . .

“Hey . . . what if we go to Huggy’s tonight huh? I haven’t seen him since getting hit in the alley . . . wouldn’t mind having a beer too.” The brunet hoped his friend would start his long-winded spiel about not drinking alcoholic beverages on the day you get out of the hospital. For once, Starsky prayed for a lecture from his friend.

Good try pal,’ Hutch thought silently, ‘But I’m on to you.’ Hutch smiled reassuringly, knowing his partner was doing everything within his power to avoid the topic of his dream. Whatever it was about, Hutch knew it had shaken his street-wise partner, and that thought was disturbing.

Hutch knew that Starsky never ran from problems, usually choosing to address it head-on or to tough it out alone, silently bearing any pain or hurt, whether it was physical or emotional. Hutch respected his partner’s way of handling things. The blond knew, when his friend was good and ready, he would turn to him and articulate his feelings, allowing him to comfort and advise. For the most part, Hutch abstained from pushing his partner until he was ready to share, however, there had been times when he had been forced to assert dominance over the situation and force his partner to open up even though he wasn’t ready to, and now was such a time. The blond imperceptibly squared his shoulders; preparing himself for the battle ahead with his stubborn, closed-mouth partner.

“Well . . . actually, Huggy was going to make an appearance here before he opened his place tonight. I’m surprised he hasn’t arrived yet.” Hutch said, glancing at the clock on this partner’s nightstand. “I tell you what, why don’t you come out with me to the living room and I’ll make us a pot of hot coffee . . . then we can talk.” The tall blond said the last four words firmly, making sure the brunet knew from the tone of his voice that he would not stand for any argument concerning this matter.

The brunet sighed heavily, understanding that there would be no deviating from the subject and he raised weary eyes up at this partner, resignation swimming in a sea of blue. “Okay,” he said softly, “We’ll play it your way, Hutch.”

“Good!” Hutch smiled, taking the tray away to carry it back with him to the kitchen, “Always knew you were bright . . . now get dressed and meet me in the kitchen.”

“Yes mom!” Starsky grouched, much to the amusement of the blond who snorted loudly, a huge grin on his face as he left his disgruntled partner sitting on the edge of his bed.


Hutch walked out to the kitchen; surprised to hear the soft sound of knocking coming from the front door of Starsky’s apartment. He quickly put the tray down on the counter and walked over to the door to open it.

“Hey Hug,” the tall blond greeted, thumping the slender, black man on the back as he entered the house, “About time you got here . . .”

“Yeah,” Huggy drawled, looking around the living room, “Almost didn’t make it with all the traffic . . . hey . . . where is the man of steel. You’d think he’d be tired of sleepin’ after being in a coma for six days.” The black man snorted at his own joke. “Here, I brought some pastries for our little patient.”

“Thanks,” Hutch said, taking the little box from brightly dressed man, “Actually he’s up

. . . I was just gonna put on a pot of coffee for us.”

“Yeah? Then I’m just’n time. How’s our boy doin’ . . . inquiring minds wanna know . . .” Huggy’s grin soon faded as he saw the blond’s face grow serious.

“I don’t know Hug,” Hutch said softly, “He’s still having headaches and he’s been having nightmares as well . . . I want him to tell me about them, but you know how he gets . . .”

“Mmm-hmm . . .gettin’ Curly to talk when he don’ wanna, is like gettin my momma to lose some weight . . . it ain’t gonna happen.”

“Well this time it is,” Hutch insisted, pale blue eyes drifted to the bedroom door as it was yanked open. The brunet emerged; his dark curly hair was tousled and unruly. His glowering expression changed to one of surprise, as a lopsided grin broke out on his face.

“Hey Hug,” Starsky greeted, “Hutch said you’d be coming . . . thought he was lyin’ to me.” The brunet eyed his blond friend, hoping that the subject would be dropped, now that they had a guest.

“Uh-uh buddy,” Hutch said softly, shaking his head, reading his partner’s thoughts as if he had voiced them out loud, “You’re going to spill it, as soon as the coffee is made.”

“But Hut . . .” the whine was cut short from the brunet who stood with his mouth hanging open, as the blond raised his silent finger in warning.

“We’re talking pal,” Hutch said firmly, as he walked into the kitchen to start the coffee, “And anyway, Huggy knows about the nightmare . . . I just told him.”

“What?” Starsky huffed, turning his glare on skinny black man, who stood with his hands on his slender hips, his fluorescent lime-green pants made the brunet squint.

“There ain’t nuthin’ to be ashamed of m’man. . . even Superman had the spooks about kryptonite.” Huggy laughed.

“Yeah,” Starsky said gruffly, “Is that what you’re tryin’ to be . . . kryptonite? It ain’t Halloween yet Huggy . . . what’s with the green suit?”

“Mmm-mmm,” Huggy smiled, shaking his head, “Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning! You are lucky that I have a self-esteem that is as solid as a diamond!”

“Wouldn’t do that partner,” Hutch warned, returning with three steaming mugs of coffee, which he set carefully on the table. “First of all, it’s rude to insult your friends, and secondly, you’re liable to piss Huggy off with your inhospitable manners, and he just might leave with that box of doughnuts he brought for you.”

“Doughnuts?” the brunet looked to the black man who grinned widely, “You brought doughnuts for me Hug?” Starsky looked hopefully at the box next to the mugs.

“Just for you amigo . . . the way it looks, you’re in dire need of a sugar rush to sweetin’ your sour disposition.” Huggy nodded emphatically, sauntering past the brunet to take his place at the table next to the seated blond.

Starsky stood stubbornly in the middle of the room while the other two ignored him, chatting away and laughing as they chomped on the doughnuts meant for him, and drank from their coffee mugs. Sighing heavily, the brunet walked over to the remaining seat at the table, and sat down.

“Well . . . look who decided t’join us,” Huggy grinned, “Didn’t last as long as I thought it would,” the black man said to the blond.

“Yup, pretty amazing isn’t it?” Hutch said, licking the sweet sugary glaze from his finger.

“What?” Starsky said, raising a dark brow at his smiling friends. “What didn’t last long . . . huh?” the brunet questioned again when no one bothered to answer him the first time, “Hello?”

Hutch snorted, taking pity on his perplexed friend, after all, he’d just got out from the hospital this morning after being in a coma for six days, they could afford to cut him some slack. “Your pouting . . .”

“What?” Starsky said, brows drawn together as he stared at his blond counterpart.

“Your pouting . . . it didn’t last as long as we thought it would.” Hutch grinned as he saw his friend give him “the look”.

“You know . . .” Starsky drawled, “With friends like you two . . . who needs enemies?”

Hutch laughed and reached over to ruffle his partner’s tangled curls, “Here, have a doughnut dummy,” he said affectionately, handing him the box, which the brunet carefully perused over; finally selecting a chocolate glazed one, which he promptly took a big bite out of. Hutch handed his friend the cream. Starsky always added cream to his coffee and sometimes even went so far as to add teaspoon of sugar as well. ‘Well, today he needed as much sweetening as possible!’ the blond thought fondly, watching the brunet as he stirred his mug.

“Thanks Hug . . . for the doughnuts.” Starsky said, grinning at the proprietor of “The Pits,” a place they often frequented to unwind after work.

“Say not a word,” Huggy said with a flourish as he waved his slender hands in the air, just to press his fingers against his temple as he closed his eyes, “Your thoughts were heard!” The black man always found a way to make his two friends laugh.

After Starsky finished his doughnut and drank most of his coffee down, Hutch decided to carefully broach the subject. “How you doing? Ready to tell us about that dream of yours?” He watched as he partner’s bright eyes clouded over, and lowered to the coffee mug he held in his hands.

“’Kay,” the brunet said softly, making the blond almost regret having to bring the subject up.

Starsky looked so troubled and unsure, that Hutch gently put his hand on the brunet’s shoulder and squeezed it softly, “Hey buddy, it’s just a dream . . .”

“Yeah, but it seemed so real . . . almost like I was there, but I couldn’t do anything t’help . . . like I was a silent witness to this horrible mess . . . ya know?” The stormy blue eyes connected with the blond’s pale ones, as Hutch encouraged the brunet to continue with a slight nod of his head.

Starsky drew in a quivering breath and lowered his eyes once again, “In the dream, there’s a semi-truck,” he began slowly, “The driver’s drunk . . . I mean he’s so b-blasted that he doesn’t even know he’s lost control of the truck . . . isn’t even aware that it . . . that it’s headed towards a school bus.”

Starsky closed his eyes, hearing the screams, seeing the horrific scene playing once more behind his tightly shut lids, “There’s this little girl on the bus Hutch, sh-she sees the truck coming, knows it’ll hit . . . she’s terrified and she’s callin’ out for her ma. I think she . . . I think she knew she was gonna die. The kids are all screamin’, and the bus . . . it slides on its side from the impact.”

Starsky opened his eyes and took shelter in the soft blue of his friend’s compassionate gaze, “The bus bursts into flames . . . lotta the kids were dead or trapped inside the bus . . . and the screaming . . . they were pounding on the windows Hutch . . . a-and the dead girl . . . she looked at me and said that . . . that I was too late.” He shuddered as he remembered the little girl’s head turning slowly towards him to reveal her vacant, accusing stare.

Hutch once again squeezed the muscled shoulder of his partner, remembering Starsky whispering those same three words, ‘It’s too late,’ and it haunted the blond. He felt the slight trembling in his friend and he whispered, “Hey, it was just dream buddy . . . it was just a dream . . .”

“Okay . . . what kind of number ya’ll pullin’ on me huh?” Huggy snickered, “It’s pretty crass to be makin’ a joke about what went down, but I gotta say Starsky, that your actin’ ability has gott’n better! You almost had me snowed . . . almost got me believin’ in your story there for a minute.”

Both detectives turned to look at the slender black man, confusion evident in their gazes.

“Oh no . . .” Huggy joked, wagging a finger in their faces, “Don’tcha be lookin’ at me like that . . . all innocent and wide-eyed . . . you think I didn’t hear about it? Why do you think I was late in the first place? They’re re-routing everybody to get around the wreck, causing traffic everywhere . . .here let me show,” Huggy said, getting up to turn on the television set.

It was playing on all of the news stations, the terrible event that tugged on everyone’s heartstrings. Starsky stared in horror at the TV, barely listening to the drone of the news reporter at the scene, as the camera zoomed over the little broken bodies strewn about. The black charred bus, was barely recognizable and was still being sprayed with water by the fire department. The semi truck had broken through the guardrails and went over the embankment after plowing through the bus, the driver had yet to be removed from the twisted metal wreckage.

Starsky could feel his heart accelerate as his breathing grew shallow, his bright blue eyes riveted to the horrific scene on the tube. He stared in abject horror as the camera panned over the crying parents and the many little body bags that were being zippered up. As the camera panned over one bag, Starsky caught a glimpse of the little girl inside; her vacant brown eyes seemed to be staring straight at him. “It’s too late,” he heard her small voice in his head, as the bag was zipped up.

“Oh god Hutch,” Starsky gasped softly, feeling his head beginning to throb, “It’s her . . . the little girl . . . oh god, that was her . . .”


(Wednesday afternoon, Starsky’s apartment)

“C’mon . . . be open minded about all of this . . .” Huggy said, “If anyone would know what was goin’ on, Joe would! The great Collandra knows all . . .” Huggy finished dramatically, “C’mon Hutch, let’s take our curly haired friend down there to see him at the café.”

Hutch glanced over at his quiet partner who sat slumped against the pillows of the couch.

Since shutting off the TV, he hadn’t said more than a handful of words and it worried the blond. This whole situation was freaky, and though Hutch had tried to find a logical explanation that would link the tragic occurrence to his partner’s dream, he just wasn’t able to piece those two separate instances together. It just didn’t make any sense.

He had seen his partner in that frightening trance-like state, witnessed it with his very own eyes, so he knew Starsky couldn’t have made the story up . . . hell, they hadn’t even known about the horrific event until Huggy informed them about it.

“Look Hug,” Hutch said softly, seeing his partner press his fingertips into his temple and close his eyes against the throbbing in his skull, “I think ah . . . I think Starsky needs to get some rest. Let’s let him think about this for a while huh? Maybe visiting Joe is a good idea, but I think Starsky needs to make that decision.”

“Okay,” Huggy agreed reluctantly, “I can dig it,” The lanky black man sauntered to the front door, turning to look at the dark haired detective, “Don’ sweat it Starsky . . . this might have been a once in a lifetime freak of nature . . .you dig? When you feel better, come by my place and I’ll treat ya to a tall mug of beer . . . okay amigo?”

Starsky slowly stood and smiled at his long-time friend, “Yeah, I’ll hold ya to that promise Hug,” he said, grinning up at the tall black man as he opened the door, “Oh . . . and Hug,” the brunet added, “Thanks a lot pal for the visit and for the doughnuts.”

“Hey . . . the pleasure was all mine!” Huggy said with a grin, “Just hurry up and get better . . . your partner’s gonna be all alone out there on the streets . . . he’s gonna need ya to watch his back! Alright dudes, the Bear is off . . . I’ll catch ya’ll later.” Starsky sat back down as the door closed behind Huggy, and he turned his sapphire blue eyes upon the silent blond partner who stared quietly back.

Starsky sighed, “So whatta we do now?” He looked so lost and vulnerable that it tore at the blond’s heart.

“Well, for starters, I’m gonna fix some dinner. Why don’t you go take a shower and by the time you come out, it’ll be almost done and we can eat . . . okay?” Hutch said, making sure to keep his voice light.

When his dark haired partner didn’t move, the tall blond walked over to the couch and slumped his own tired body next to the brunet’s . . . his shoulder brushing against his partner’s, as he snagged a pillow against his chest.

Starsky snorted softly, wearily. “Why don’ we call out for a pizza instead huh? You’re as beat as me Hutch.” Although the brunet tried to be inconspicuous about it, Hutch saw his friend wince at the throbbing in his head, and compassion flared in the blond’s heart.

“C’mere mush brain,” he said affectionately as he tugged his partner by the arm and turned Starsky’s body so that his curly, dark head lay on the pillow in his lap. Hutch pressed his long fingers against both sides of the brunet’s temple and gently rubbed in a circular motion, easing the ache that had been plaguing his friend all day. “I don’t know why you’re being so stubborn about taking aspirins buddy . . . it just might help this headache of yours you know.”

“Nah,” the brunet sighed softly, “This feels better . . .is this what you do to the ladies on your dates . . . huh . . . golden boy? Get ‘em all warmed up and ready for action?”

Hutch snorted and looked fondly down at the brunet who had closed his eyes, feeling the tension draining from his friend’s body, as it grew lax and sagged wearily into his lap. Starsky’s long, dark lashes fanned out against his cheeks and the blond smiled, “Anyone ever tell you that you have womanly eyelashes buddy? From this angle, you could pass for a sweet little girl.”

Hutch smiled softly when he heard the snort that came from his partner, then chuckled when his curly haired friend said, “Yeah? Well, if you grew your soft, golden locks past your hips and shaved off that hairy caterpillar across your lip, you could be a gorgeous babe too, with your long legs, golden skin and baby blue eyes . . . quite a looker you’d be! I might even go after ya myself.”

Hutch laughed out loud at that, watching as the lopsided grin broke out on his partner’s face. “Are you trying to delicately tell me that you find my mustache repulsive Gordo . . . hmm?” Hutch smirked when one blue eye snapped opened to stare up at him, and he quickly wriggled his hairy lip.

Starsky opened both eyes at that and grinned, “Hutch . . . I ain’t trying to delicately tell ya nuthin’. . . I hate that mustache . . . looks like a giant hairy bug crawled across your lip and died there . . . been waitin’ years for ya to shave it off, but you were so fond of it, I didn’t have the heart t’tell ya to get rid of it.”

Hutch stopped the gentle massage into this partner’s temple and stared down into Starsky’s twinkling blue eyes. “You hate my mustache? Why didn’t you ever tell me this buddy?”

“Don’t know . . .” the brunet murmured, snuggling deeper into the cushion on his partner’s lap, “Seemed to be a good idea at the time . . . didn’t want t’hurt your feelings.”

“What about my feelings now . . . aren’t you afraid you’ve crushed my heart?” Hutch asked, amusement leaking into his soft voice.

“Nah,” Starsky said, closing his eyes again, his voice getting drowsy, “You’re fine now Hutch . . . you’re like the old you . . .before you grew the bug on your lip. Back when Gunther shot me though, things were different somehow between us . . . don’t know why, but I couldn’t tell ya I hated your mustache then . . . just wouldn’t seem right somehow.”

The brunet turned onto his side and adjusted the pillow under his head, tucking one hand under his chin as he curled his legs slightly to his chest and snuggled against the warmth of his partner’s thigh. He looked so boyishly innocent right then, so trusting and vulnerable, that it brought a lump to the big blond’s throat.

Starsky’s explanation and reasoning of that horrible year was so simplistic and non-judgmental. Like a child, his partner was so quick to forgive and forget, just happy with the way things were now. Hutch smiled and pulled the crocheted quilt off the back of the couch and spread it over the brunet. Unlike his partner, Hutch knew he could never forget that year, when self-pity and belligerence had almost destroyed the best relationship he’d ever had in his entire life.

Hutch kept still as his partner fell into a restful slumber, his mind drifting back to those days, just before Gunther’s attack had forever changed his life, and his perception on things. Hutch realized that he had been acting strangely cold at times, taking out his frustrations and aggressions on his one true friend, not realizing how hurt and wounded his partner had been during that trying year.

His curly haired partner had silently sucked it up and remained steadfast and loyal. ‘Even when I tried to take Kira from him,’ Hutch thought, even now, feeling disgusted and ashamed with his behavior back then. He didn’t really even understand himself, why he was so mean to Starsky during this time. Perhaps he had just grown bitter, his gentle poet’s soul corroding with all the darkness he had seen on the streets. Perhaps his failure with all of the ladies in his life had made him cynical inside and yet, Starsky too, had suffered his loses in that department. Terry had been shot in the head for Christ’s sake, and Hutch knew first hand how painful that had been for his buddy.

Still, Starsky had bounced back, compartmentalizing his pain and grief, not once taking it out on his blond counterpart. ‘Instead, he’s always remained the same, a true and loyal friend, even as I took my frustrations out on him!’ Hutch thought sadly. It had taken Gunther to show him how important Starsky was to him . . . life without his partner would now be meaningless as far as the blond was concerned.

He remembered making amends in his partner’s empty apartment when he went to get Starsky’s belongings for his stay in the hospital, after he was gunned down in the police garage. It was there in the silent emptiness of this very same house, that he realized what a priceless treasure he had in his friend, and what an ass he had been. Hutch had vowed that day to change and make it up to the brunet if he lived, and Hutch was a man of his word.

He had stayed right beside his partner during his recovery, during the painful rehabilitation and therapies. He had shared in Starsky’s frustrations and triumphs, and celebrated with him when he was cleared to come back to the force. And through it all, their special bond became tighter and their almost psychic link with one another became stronger. They could almost read each other’s minds at times, often finishing each other’s sentences. Their friendship was as solid as ever and they had found their old rhythm. Their two hearts were once again beating as one, and it made the blond feel whole and renewed. “Me and thee buddy,” Hutch whispered softly.

Hutch looked down at his sleeping partner and gently stroked back his curls. This past time in the alley had been too close. It shook the gentle blond up to realize that he could have lost his friend when he lay in that coma . . . his buddy had been so close and yet, so very far away. And today, with the tragic events from the school bus accident . . .Hutch knew that something very strange was happening, but he had no way of comprehending how to help his partner through it. He silently made the decision to go and see Dr. Bradford tomorrow; perhaps he could shed some light as to what was happening with his partner.

It worried the blond that Starsky was having headaches. The doctor had told them that this would probably happen and had assured them that it was a fairly common occurrence among surviving coma patients, and yet, Hutch sensed that these headaches his partner was having were something out of the ordinary. Were these headaches the triggers that somehow manifested some sort of psychic phenomenon to take place? Or maybe they were overreacting . . . this could have just been some kind of weird coincidence . . . this might just be a fluke like Huggy said . . . Starsky’s first and last ‘vision’. Hutch certainly hoped so.

Knowing Starsky the way he did, the blond knew that if his friend had anymore ‘visions,’ he would probably try to hide it . . . try to deal with it himself, hating to trouble others with his problems and tribulations. Hutch told himself that he would have to keep a close eye on his sometimes, secretive partner. “Bozo,” he whispered fondly.

Hutch jumped, startled by the sudden, loud ringing of the phone. He soothed his slumbering friend, while reaching behind him for the handset on the end table.

“Hello?” Hutch whispered, not wanting to wake Starsky, who murmured softly and snuggled closer against his leg.

“Hutch? It’s Dobey.” Hutch recognized the gruff voice of his captain, “How’s Starsky?”

“He’s sleeping right now Cap,” Hutch said softly, “Still having headaches though, but the doctor said that it’s common after waking from a coma.”

“I tell you . . . that boy has nine lives!” Hutch grinned, hearing the smile in his captain’s voice. “Did you hear about what happened today with the school bus?” Dobey asked.

“Yeah,” Hutch replied sadly, “It’s horrible . . . those kids and their parents . . .”

“Yeah,” Dobey sighed, “It’s mayhem down here at the station.”

“Did that drunk truck driver make it?” Hutch asked. There was a long pause on the other end of the line, “Hello . . . Cap?”

“How’d you know the driver of the semi was drunk Hutch? They finally pulled him from the wreck about an hour ago and we just got reports from the autopsy a few minutes ago . . . no one was privy to that information . . . so how did you know he was driving under the influence?”

Hutch could feel the fine hair rising on his neck as the cold finger of fear raced up his spine. He knew the driver was drunk because Starsky told him that information from his dream. The captain was right. There was no way anyone would have known that beforehand; especially since the driver had been trapped in the mangled cab of this truck.

“I ah . . .I didn’t know for certain Captain, I . . . I just assumed he’d have to be drunk to lose control that way . . .”

There was a shorter pause this time, and then Dobey said, “Yeah, it’s a shame this whole sick mess had to happen the way it did. We’re still trying to make a positive ID on the driver . . . got burnt up pretty bad in the wreck. When do you think your partner can come back to work?

“Well, I’m not too sure . . . I’m gonna talk to his doctor tomorrow and I’ll let you know.” Hutch said softly.

“Alright,” Dobey gruffed, “What about you? When are you returning?”

“Um . . . I ah . . . I think I’m gonna take another day or two, Captain . . . just to make sure he’s settled. His headaches should go away by that time and who knows, maybe he can start working at the end of the week. In any case, I’ll keep you posted on what Dr. Bradford has to say.”

“You do that.” Dobey said, “And tell that partner of yours . . . that it’s good to have him back!”

“Will do Cap, will do.” Hutch said smiling as he hung up the receiver. He turned back to gaze down at his partner and was surprised to find those sapphire, blue eyes fixed upon his face.

“That Dobey?” the brunet asked, letting out a huge yawn while rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“Yeah . . . sorry buddy, didn’t mean to wake you.” Hutch apologized softly, wishing his partner had slept a while longer.

“Nah . . m’fine,” the brunet said, slowly sitting up, “Needed to take a shower and your back’s gotta be hurtin’ by now . . . and anyway, I’m hungry!” The curly haired man grouched as he stood, absently lifting his shirt to scratch his firm hairy abdomen.

Hutch snorted, “Go take a shower Gordo, you look like a gorilla scratching like that. I’ll call in for some pizza to be delivered.” The blond chuckled, grabbing onto his partner’s outstretched hand, as Starsky pulled him into a standing position. The blond winced and reached his arm behind him to press against his spine.

“See? What’d I tell ya? Your back’s already messed up . . . maybe you should take that hot shower and I’ll call for the pizza.” Starsky said, blue eyes twinkling.

“Just get in there,” Hutch demanded, pointing his index finger in the direction of the bathroom, “Leave the cooking to me.”

Hutch chuckled as he watched the rambunctious brunet swagger into the bathroom, listening to him grumble the whole time . . . “Cookin’? You don’t cook pizza . . . you bake pizza and in our case, we call for pizza . . .”

“Dummy” the blond said under his breath, smiling, as he reached for the phone to call the local Pizzeria.


(Wednesday evening, Starsky’s place)

It felt good to feel the hot water pounding on the rigid muscles of his back. Starsky slowly rotated his neck, feeling the bunched cords loosening under the heated spray. He closed his eyes as he slid the slippery bar of soap against the skin of his chest, working it up into a rich, cleansing lather. He closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of the soap and the soothing heat from the water, while his mind drifted to this morning’s strange events.

The image of the little girl’s vacant eyes flashed in his mind’s eye and a feeling of sadness and a sense of loss pervaded his senses. “It’s too late . . .” he heard her sad, soft whisper in his ear.

Starsky’s eyes suddenly popped opened as a shiver ran down his spine. He quickly reached behind him to blast the hot water, hoping it would take away the chill that resided in his heart.

What happened today scared the dark haired detective shitless. This was the kind of stuff that belonged in those lousy B movies he loved watching. Starsky knew that he had always been a little on the superstitious side. Whereas Hutch was skeptical about things like voodoo and vampires, Starsky never doubted the possibility that things unknown did exist.

That’s why it surprised the brunet how open-minded his blond haired companion had been to that psychic they had met several years ago while trying to solve the Haymes abduction case. The blond had been more than receptive to Joe Collandra’s reluctant help in finding that kidnapped girl.

Joe, a psychic from Atlantic City, had moved to the Bay Area, intending to live out his life quietly as an obscure owner of an eatery called, J.C. Cafe. After the bad publicity he had gotten in Atlantic City for failing to find a ransomed boy in time, the once well-known psychic wanted to be blend in and remain anonymous, hiding himself and his ability away from the public’s condemning eye.

Hutch had been so ready to enlist the help of Collandra, despite the skepticism he received from Starsky; and much to Starsky surprise, they had found Haymes’ daughter just in the knick of time, from the hazy clues of Joe’s visions. Although that case had a happy ending, the way it was solved gave the brunet the heebie jeebies. Things like that, happened on TV or in books, but as far as Starsky knew, the BCPD had never enlisted the help of a psychic to aid in solving a case.

Starsky rinsed off the lather, washed his hair, and stepped out of the shower. He grabbed the fluffy towel off the rack and wiped off the excess water from his chest, face and arms. He vigorously scrubbed the towel through his curls as he stood before the basin. The steam from the shower had fogged up the mirror and the brunet used a corner of the towel to wipe away the mist from its smooth surface.

Starsky wrapped the towel around his lean hips and stared at himself for a minute in the mirror, noticing the tired lines under his weary, blue eyes. Hutch was right . . . he needed to sleep longer. The brunet chuckled at that thought. After all, he had just been asleep for six days straight!

The sudden gut-wrenching pain to the side of his head came out of nowhere. He could hear himself groaning softly as his hand immediately pressed against the throbbing ache to his skull. The fingers from his other hand dug into the porcelain basin as he tried to get a handle on the pounding pressure in his head.

The steam in the room appeared to be thickening and the brunet gasped and struggled to take air into his burning lungs. He held the side of his lowered head, his breathing shallow and rapid; gasping softly as pain once again stabbed viciously into the area just above his left ear. He scrunched his eyes shut against the pain, biting his lip to keep from crying out and alerting Hutch. A bright flash of light blinded him behind his closed lids, and he sensed it coming . . .

She was walking home from the bus shelter; her blond curls looked almost silver under the dim glow from the streetlights. She hated to walk alone at night like this, but the friend that she usually walked with, was at home with the flu. The click of her heels against the pavement sounded loud and hollow to her ears as she peered warily into the shadows ahead of her, while silently cursing the slight drizzle that was ruining the curls in her hair.

Something inside her made her aware that she was not alone out there in the dark and she quickened her steps, feeling the cold hand of fear as it grabbed her heart. She started running, though she didn’t know why, her breathing ragged as her fear began to overwhelm her. She could hear her shallow breaths and she suddenly screamed, as unseen hands dragged her into the bushes that lined the sidewalk.

Starsky could hear himself gasping, holding the side of his head as he sank slowly to the tiled floor in his bathroom . . .

He could hear her muffled screams and see the whites of her eyes as she focused on the blade that flashed from the dim lights of the streets. She could barely breathe, the metallic taste of blood coating her tongue, as the pressure from his hand brutally grated her tender lip against her teeth. Her frightened mind shorted out, trying to comprehend why this was happening to her . . . she had always tried to be a good girl . . . to be obedient. She watched in horror as the large butcher knife sliced through the air, the downward thrust of the flashing blade sinking deeply into her abdomen, as she let out a blood-curdling scream . . .

“Ungh,” Starsky groaned, curling himself into a ball on the tile, his hands clutching his stomach, folding into himself with each thrust of the blade, as it entered the young, dying girl. He could feel his own flesh tearing as the large knife was thrust repeatedly, forcefully. He groaned again in agony, rolling on the tile, curling into the pain as he grasped tightly to his abdomen, feeling his life’s blood spilling through his fingers, struggling to take in more air and ride out the punishing stabs to his mid-section. He could still hear the girl’s soft cries growing weaker and weaker as her attacker wiped the blade against her dress and got to his feet.

She was dying, as the drizzling rain became larger drops and fell on her upturned face; she was dying . . . and she knew it. She could vaguely hear the retreating footsteps of her assailant, her mind becoming foggy and dark. She wondered briefly if she would be missed by anyone and closed her eyes as the pain became dull to the point of numbness. She felt so alone, never would she have thought that she would die like this . . . her last fragmented awareness, was of how cold she felt, and how she wished she had brought her sweater . . .

Save her.” The calm voice rang clearly in his ears as Starsky lay gasping on the floor, the punishing pain in his mid-section beginning to diminish. He took in shallow breaths and laid there, still curled, feeling the throbbing in his skull lessening with each labored breath that he took.

He had to get up. Hutch was out there. It wouldn’t do to be caught on the floor like this. The blond would probably drag him straight to the hospital with only a wet towel around his hips. Starsky slowly uncurled his damp body from the tight fetal position he was in and sat up. Every muscle in his body screamed in agony with that movement. The brunet looked to his abdomen, almost expecting to see blood. Nothing.

God, was he losing his mind?


Hutch thanked the delivery boy and paid him, exchanging the cash for the pizza. The tall blond could feel his empty stomach grumbling as he gently kicked the door closed behind him. He set the large cardboard box on the table as the delectable mouth-watering aroma wafted throughout the room.

Hutch was vaguely aware that the sound of running water from the shower had been turned off a while ago, and he quickly took out some plates and silverware and brought them to the table. He went back and took out two bottles of beer from the ‘fridge, but on a second thought, he returned one bottle and took out the carton of orange juice for Starsky. It wouldn’t do to have the brunet drinking alcohol on the first night back from the hospital. The blond smiled as he remembered how his devious friend had tried to con him this morning into giving him a lecture, just to escape their inevitable discussion about the dream he’d had. Hutch sat at the table and looked to the bathroom door, which was still shut. What was taking Starsky so long? The blond thrummed his fingers impatiently against the table.

The shower had been shut off for a while now, and his partner had yet to make an appearance. ‘What if he got dizzy and fell and hit his head,’ Hutch thought, a sickening image of his partner lying on the tiled floor came to mind. The blond quickly stood in indecision. If he knocked on the door to see if his partner was okay, it would probably piss Starsky off . . . his friend hated to be mothered over. And yet, if the brunet were hurt, then he’d have been be a fool to not have checked on his partner and render aid. Making his mind up, Hutch strode quickly across the room, raising his fist to knock, when the door was yanked open.

Starsky’s stormy blue eyes widened in surprise and he took a step back, as Hutch’s fist came within inches of connecting with his face.

“What?” Starsky asked, as Hutch slowly lowered his hand, “The pizza come yet?”

“Ah . . . yeah,” Hutch stammered, quickly lifting his finger to point at the table, “Over there . . .” Hutch smiled guiltily, as he withered under the his partner’s perceptive glare.

“Just ah . . . just checking to see if you ah . . . if you were okay?” Hutch finished quickly, seeing Starsky’s dark brows drawing together in irritation.

“I bet!” Starsky huffed, his hair still damp, “Excuse me . . .” he said gruffly.

“Huh?” Hutch said.

“Hutch, would you mind getting’ outta the way so I that I could put some pants on . . . huh?” Starsky snapped. His stomach hurt, and though he had wiped himself dry from the cold sweat that had broken out all over his body as he lay gasping on the floor, it had left him feeling chilled to the bone. All he wanted to do was to crawl into bed and pull the covers over his head. The thought of forcing himself to eat pizza made him feel nauseous, and yet, if he didn’t eat, Hutch would figure out that something was wrong.

Hutch watched as his partner stomped off to the bedroom with the towel around his hips. The blond rolled his eyes. Sometimes his partner could be so moody! Hutch slowly followed the brunet back to the bedroom and peeked around the door. Starsky’s bare back was turned to him and Hutch could tell that his partner was zipping and buttoning up his jeans. Starsky suddenly turned towards the door, sensing his partner’s presence.

Hutch’s eyes fell to the discolored and bruised mid-section of the brunet. From the look of it, some blunt object had been jabbed into his partner’s stomach over and over again. There were about eight thinly, elongated bruised areas that seem to overlap each other, and his partner’s abdomen looked tender and sore. Hutch could have sworn those bruises weren’t there when the brunet came out from bathroom just a minute ago. He wouldn’t have missed seeing that! Starsky quickly pulled his tee shirt over his head and yanked the material down, covering the shocking damage to his mid-section.

The brunet looked away, as Hutch raised his icy glare to his partner’s face. “What the hell happened in there?” Hutch’s soft voice seemed to echo across the room.

“Nuthin’” Starsky said softly, eyes downcast. He sighed heavily and raised his eyes to look into the cold stare of his best friend. “Let’s eat huh?” he finished lamely. Starsky walked across the room to the door, but was stopped by the big blond.

“Talk to me buddy,” Hutch said gently, pushing down the burning hot rage that tore into him when he saw the way his partner had been hurt. He put his hand on the brunet’s rigid shoulder as he attempted to pass through the door, “Tell me what happened Starsk,” he whispered, gently squeezing the muscled joint beneath his fingers.

The brunet sighed once again, eyes to the floor, as his arm moved inconspicuously across his mid-section. He took in a shuddering breath, “Dunno.” Starsky whispered.

There was such a sense of vulnerability in that whispered word, that Hutch just wanted to take his wounded partner in his arms and hug him, shielding him from whatever was happening, but he moved his hand down to the brunet’s back instead, rubbing soothing circles into the tight muscles there. “Hey . . . it’s okay pal. We’ll figure it out together after we eat . . . okay?” Hutch had never seen his partner so distraught before and though he wanted to drill his partner right then and there on the spot, he knew he had to ‘ease’ into it, or his partner would stubbornly retreat into his dark, moody cave.

Starsky nodded stiffly and followed his partner out to the table. He watched his partner put a slice of pizza on a plate. The smell of the pizza made the brunet’s stomach churn. He just couldn’t bring himself to eat anything, not after silently witnessing the murder of that young girl. “I-I don’ feel too good Hutch,” Starsky said queasily, laying his hand against his stomach, “I think I’m gonna lie down for a bit.”

Hutch looked up quickly, a slice of pizza in hand, which he put back down in the cardboard box. His partner looked ill, and the fact that he was holding his mid-section, concerned the blond. ‘What if there was some internal damage from those bruises?’ he thought silently.

“Okay, go lie down buddy,” Hutch said gently, “But I need to check you out . . . those bruises look pretty bad.”

“M’fine Hutch,” Starsky said, shifting his eyes away once again, “Don’ need ya t’ check me out . . . jus’ gonna sleep s’all.”

“Look Starsk . . . I know you don’t want me to look at those bruises, but it’s either that or you’re going to the hospital again and have it checked out there. I don’t know what happened, or how you got those, but I’m not taking the chance of you having any kind of internal injuries . . . you hear me?”

Starsky nodded again and silently slunk back into his bedroom, closing the door behind him, feeling his partner’s eyes on him the whole time. He dreaded having to tell Hutch about seeing that girl; his mind was already rationalizing the whole incident away. Maybe he was going crazy . . . or maybe it was some kind of residual effect from the coma . . . it just couldn’t be what his heart was telling him . . . he was no Joe Collandra.

The weary brunet climbed into bed, wincing from the pain in his abdomen. He carefully rubbed the injured area, waiting for his partner to come in and play doctor. Starsky looked up as the door was quietly opened, admitting his blond friend carrying a steaming mug.

“Brought you some hot tea buddy,” Hutch said smiling, “It might be soothing for your stomach.” The blond put the cup on the nightstand and sat on the edge of the bed. “How you doing . . . huh?” Hutch’s pale blue eyes looked over his partner’s face with concern, noting the dark circles that were starting to form under his eyes.

Starsky took in a deep breath, “’M’fine . . . told ya that already . . . just not very hungry right now . . . the thought of food makes my gut feel weird.”

“Mind showing me your stomach, buddy?” Hutch said gently, waiting for his partner to allow him into his personal space.

With a heavy sigh, the brunet pulled up his tee shirt and looked away, not wanting to see the blond’s reaction. The slight gasp he heard from Hutch caused the muscle in the side of his jaw to tense suddenly.

The darkening blue-black area on Starsky’s abdomen sickened and angered the gentle blond. He reached out a hand to gently examine the tender area, carefully pressing against organs to make sure they were not distended. Though he knew he was causing his partner some discomfort, there was no visible swelling of the abdomen and his partner’s skin wasn’t cool and clammy or pale. “Do you feel nauseous right now if I press here?” the blond asked softly, gently pushing down on his partner’s lower abdomen.

Starsky stiffly shook his head in the negative and then winced as Hutch’s gentle fingers probed another bruised area, but he refused to look at his partner. He hated this, but hated the discussion that was bound to follow even more.

Hutch stopped his prodding, sure that there was no internal bleeding or damage. He looked at his partner who continued to look away. The blond sighed and dragged his fingers through his golden hair, wanting to respect his partner’s distance, but needing to comprehend what was going on so that he could help the stubborn brunet, who quickly lowered his shirt back into place. “Look . . . I know you don’t want to talk about this Starsk, but I need to know what happened to you.” The blond waited a while for a response and was about to push the issue once more, when Starsky let out another heavy sigh and looked him in the eye.

“How can I tell ya what happened, when I can’t even explain it myself?” the brunet said quietly. “I-I don’ know what happened . . . I was jus’ takin’ a shower.”

“Did you fall?” Hutch questioned, “Other than your abdomen, do you hurt anywhere else . . . like your head maybe?” the blond asked perceptively, handing the hot cup of tea to his partner.

Starsky lowered his eyes and took a few sips from the mug, feeling its soothing warmth beginning to take the edge off of the pounding pain in his head, calming his frazzled nerves. “I didn’t fall and I’m not hurt anywhere else Hutch.” The brunet took another sip of tea while the blond waited patiently for him to continue, “You’re gonna think I’m crazy, but I saw something Hutch . . . I-I saw a young girl get murdered.” Starsky hesitantly peeped up at his partner under his long, dark lashes, to see the blond’s reaction. All that he saw in his friend’s pale, blue eyes were only compassion and a willingness to try and understand whatever it was that was troubling his partner.

“You had another vision?” Hutch asked gently, seeing the skeptical look that crossed over his friend’s face.

Starsky snorted softly, “Don’ know if I’d call ‘em visions . . . I ain’t no psychic,” the brunet scoffed.

“Didn’t say you were pal,” Hutch said gently, his soft voice calming the uncomfortable brunet. “So you ‘saw’ this girl get murdered . . .”

“She was walkin’ in the dark by herself and was dragged into some bushes . . .” Starsky began, his voice growing softer as his eyes drifted off into the distance as he remembered the horrific event, “Her assailant had a knife . . . sh-she was stabbed repeatedly in the gut and was left there t’die . . . all alone.” The brunet took in a shuddering breath, sickened by the image of her dying there in the rain, so cold and alone, regretfully wishing she’d had her sweater.

Starsky felt his partner’s hand on his wrist, silently urging him to continue, “Every time that bastard stuck that blade in her belly, I . . . I felt it Hutch,” the brunet raised stormy blue eyes to his partner’s face, his soft voice was sad and forlorn, “I felt everythin’ that she did . . . her fear, her pain, her loneliness as she lay dyin’ . . . it was raining Hutch . . . and she was so cold . . .” The brunet shivered as he raised the trembling cup to his lips.

Hutch felt his skin rise in bumps as his partner’s soft voice painted a picture in his mind. “You felt the knife as it entered her body?” Hutch could picture the bruises on his partner’s abdomen . . .

“Yeah . . . only it was like it was happenin’ to me too,” Starsky said softly, “Now I know what it feels like to be stabbed . . . to death . . .” he finished morbidly.

Hutch felt physically sick as he thought of the agony his partner had just experienced. An image of his friend curled up on the cold tiled floor came to mind. What was going on here? Why was this happening? Hutch rested a comforting hand on his partner’s shoulder, not really knowing what to say, when the brunet’s soft voice interrupted his thoughts.

“I um . . . I didn’t tell ya this before, but there’s somethin’ more Hutch . . .” Starsky whispered softly, feeling the blond’s large hand as it squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. “Every time these weird images come . . . I . . . ah . . . I hear a voice.”

“A voice?” Hutch repeated softly, his eyes narrowing slightly, “What kind of voice?”

“Jus’ a voice . . . it’s always calm and soft . . . I always hear it right after I see those sick pictures in my head.” The brunet said, lowering his eyes once again to the mug he held in his hands.

“W-What does this voice say to you?” Hutch queried, “I mean you said you hear it whenever you get these visions . . . do you remember what it says?”

Starsky hated to hear that word ‘visions’ . . . like he was something weird . . . like a prophet or a seer. He wished Hutch would stop using it. It gave him the creeps! The brunet sighed, “This last time, the voice said, ‘Save her,’” Starsky whispered, “The other time . . . with the school bus . . . it said, ‘Help them.”

“Is it a male or female voice that you’re hearing?” Hutch asked. The brunet looked up to see if his partner was serious. Noting the solemn expression on the blond’s face, he slowly continued.

“I dunno . . . never really paid much attention to that . . . I-I think it’s a guy’s voice,” Starsky shrugged lamely, “Didn’t think that would matter . . .” The dark blue eyes looked down once again.

“I’m not saying it does matter, buddy,” Hutch replied, “Just wondering . . . that’s all.”

Starsky drew in a shuddering breath and raised his eyes to the blond, “I’m scared Hutch,” the brunet said softly, his voice quivering slightly. Gone was the tough street cop, replaced in its stead, by the little boy persona that never failed to melt the blond’s heart.

“Hey . . .” Hutch said gently, putting his arm around the brunet’s shoulders and dragging his partner closer to him, “I don’t know what’s happening buddy . . . but I’m right here . . . and we’ll deal with this like we deal with everything else . . . together . . .okay?”

The brunet nodded wearily, “’Kay.”

“Look, we’ll attack it from both ends,” Hutch said, attempting to keep his voice bright and positive, “I’ll go and see Dr. Bradford tomorrow about those headaches of yours, and maybe you can call Joe Collandra . . .”

“Collandra?” Starsky whined, “Why him? I never trusted the guy.”

“We got nothing to lose . . .” Hutch smiled, “We’ll just take this one step at a time buddy . . . maybe Collandra can give us some advice in an area where we have no knowledge about, just as the doc can help us on a medical level.”

“Yeah . . . t’rrific” Starsky grouched good-naturedly, stifling a big yawn. Hutch smiled and ruffled his partner’s unruly curls. With all that had happened, it was hard to believe that his partner had only been released from the hospital this morning.

“You look like shit, buddy.” Hutch grinned, “Go to bed already . . . get some rest.”

“You stayin’?” Dark blue eyes expressed everything that his words did not. Hutch knew his partner was jumpy . . . this whole paranormal experience was freaking the brunet out . . . hell; it was freaking him out too! Nothing in their lives had ever prepared them for something like this and Hutch knew Starsky wanted him to stay close.

Hutch snorted, “Where else would I go dummy?” He smiled as he saw the corners of his partner’s mouth lift into a lopsided grin.

“You can have my bed . . .” the brunet offered generously, grateful that his big blond friend would be watching his back like always.

Hutch snorted, “Just go to sleep Gordo, I’ll be right outside on your ‘comfortable’ couch!”


(Thursday, early morning hours)

He bolted upright in bed, as he drew in another ragged breath, his breathing rapid and shallow. He shivered as the cold sweat ran down his back and he clenched his fists tightly, to force the trembling from his hands. His detective’s mind tried to piece together what it was that had made him wake in such a manner and he shuddered as he remembered the muffled screams from the girl and the flashing, downward thrust from the sharp blade.

His bedroom was dark and quiet, but he could still hear the echo of that soft voice in his head, “Save her . . .” Starsky dragged his fingers through his damp curls and glanced at the digital clock on his nightstand. 4:36 am. He willfully tried to slow down this breathing, his arms and chest glistening from the fine sheen of perspiration that coated his skin.

Starsky glanced down at his mid-section, not surprised to see that the bruising and discoloration from last night had vanished, even though his insides still felt raw and tender. He untangled the beddings from his legs and slowly turned to sit on the edge of his bed, resting his elbows on his knees, as he held his throbbing head in his hands. A part of him wanted to wake his partner, to seek comfort and reassurance in that warm voice of reason, and yet, he hated to burden Hutch with his troubles.

After all, the blond had suffered right alongside him the whole time he was in a comatose state. Though Hutch had never voiced his feelings about watching his best friend slipping away, Starsky knew that the whole experience had rattled the blond.

The brunet snorted in the dark. ‘Maybe that’s why I put up with his mother hen antics,’ Starsky thought, a slow grin tipping the corners of his mouth. It was all part of the same healing dance they always participated in, when either of them had been gravely hurt or wounded . . . the need to comfort and touch helped to heal both men at the same time.

Starsky silently pondered over Hutch’s words of advice . . . maybe his friend was right . . . maybe he needed to go and speak with Collandra. Yet, the thought of seeing that man gave the brunet pause. Joe was a nice guy and all, but a part of Starsky wanted to stay clear of that man. There was something about Joe Collandra that gave the brunet the willies. How did he know where to find that girl in time?

The way that man held onto his head, gasping and almost screaming as he shared his ‘visions’, had seemed bizarre and staged to the brunet, almost comical to say the least, and Starsky wanted no part of that.

And yet, what if Collandra was legit? Perhaps Joe could shed some light into this whole dark mess he had suddenly found himself in the middle of. He rubbed the ache in his temples as his eyes slid to the door, watching as it quietly opened to his darkened room. A small grin tipped his mouth, as the dim glow from the streetlights outside caught the golden locks of his partner, when he poked his head through the doorway.

“Hey . . .” Starsky called out softly in the dark, “What’cha doin’ up?”

“Thought I heard something . . . just wanted to see if you were okay.” The blond walked to the bed and sat beside the brunet, “Head still hurting?”

“A little.” Starsky said stoically, “Go back to bed Hutch . . . ‘m fine.”

“Yeah, that why you’re sitting up in the dark, rubbing your temples . . . sweating all over the place?” the blond asked sarcastically, “ I don’t have to be a psychic to know that you’re not fine buddy.” Hutch said softly.

Starsky’s glared at his friend, “If that’s your idea of a joke, then I don’t see the humor in it!” the brunet grumbled in reference to his partner’s use of that dreaded “P” word.

Hutch snorted softly, then said more seriously, “Had another dream?” The blond watched as his dark haired partner sighed and shifted his gaze to his lap. “Pretty bad huh?”

“Yeah,” Starsky whispered, “Heard that voice again . . . tellin’ me to save that girl.” Starksy turned his head to look at his partner, “I made a decision . . . gonna call that nutcase Collandra tomorrow, when you go to see the doctor.”

Hutch smiled and put his arm around the brunet’s shoulders. He knew his friend didn’t want to see Joe, but maybe talking to the psychic would help to ease his mind. “I think it’s a great idea Starsk.”

“Yeah? You would. It was your idea dummy!” Starsky grinned, scooting over on the bed to make room for the big blond, who immediately lay down on the firm mattress. It felt wonderful to his aching back after lying for hours on Starsky’s unbearably soft couch. There were many times the partners shared a bed in the past, for one reason or another, and Hutch knew Starsky needed him now without him having to ask for it. “Goodnight buddy. Get some sleep huh?” the blond whispered softly in the dark.

“Yeah,” Starsky whispered back, his tense body slowly unwinding, feeling safe, now that his partner’s warm solid form lay next to him, “Thanks Hutch . . .” he said softly.

Hutch snorted softly, pressing his cheek into the pillow, as he turned to his partner in the dark, smelling the soft scent of sandalwood in the pillowcase his partner had just been laying on, “I should be thanking you . . . you’re doing my back a favor . . . now go to sleep, Gordo!”

“Yes ma!” the brunet said obediently, giving a mock salute in the dark; long dark lashes closing contentedly, to the soft chuckling of the blond.


(Thursday afternoon, Starsky’s place)

Starsky carefully rinsed the mug and put it in the rack to dry. Hutch had left over an hour ago and the brunet had reluctantly called Joe Collandra, after giving his partner his word to do so. The dark haired detective pondered over the strange phone call as he absently soaped up another dish . . .

Hello?” the owner of the JC Café spoke brusquely into the receiver.

Uh . . . is ah . . . Joe Collandra there?” Starsky asked hesitantly, wanting to kick Hutch for making him promise to call, already feeling uncomfortable and stupid, wondering what he would say to a man whom he hadn’t seen, or spoken to, in years.

Well it’s about time you called,” Joe said loudly, “And yes, I know who you are . . . been waiting for you to call, Starsky.”

W-What?” Starsky stammered, “How did ya kn . . .”

How did I know that you’d call? Gee, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out . . . I’m a psychic . . . remember?” Collandra said sarcastically, “Whether you want to believe it or not, that’s up to you. You can remain skeptical all you like, but I know the reason you’re calling me . . .”

The dark haired detective was speechless, his mind still trying to comprehend what Joe had just said. It floored the brunet that Collandra already knew that he’d be calling beforehand, and that he knew who he was before he even identified himself.

Well? I’m waiting for an answer here . . .” Joe said impatiently. “Is it a yes or a no?”

Wha’?” the bewildered brunet questioned, knowing he had missed Collandra’s one-sided conversation, his mind still stuck on trying to figure out how the man knew who he was. “Sorry I musta missed your question . . .”

I said, do you want me to come over or not . . . can you drive yet after your coma?” Joe asked abruptly. “If you haven’t been cleared to drive that striped tomato of yours, then I’ll come over.”

Starsky hadn’t been cleared to drive and though he had tried to beg out of it, not wanting to talk to Collandra without Hutch there with him for some reason; Joe insisted that it was no problem and that he was coming over. Before they hung up, Collandra had his address and was ready to head out to his place . . .

The brunet wiped down his counters and looked into the refrigerator seeing the untouched pizza from last night. At least he had something to serve his unwelcome guest when he arrived. Starsky quickly fixed up the couch that Hutch had tossed and turned on, and folded up the crocheted quilt, a gift from his ma. It was only after the blond had climbed into bed with him last night, that Starsky could finally close his eyes and get some much-needed rest.

Starsky snorted softly to himself. If anyone had seen them sprawled out on the same bed this morning, limbs entwined, unconsciously seeking each other’s body heat during the night, they would have immediately jumped to conclusions, and would have made assumptions as to the detectives sexual preferences. Starsky grinned at that.

They were just two normal men with healthy appetites for female companionship; who also shared an incredible bond of love and friendship with each other that many people just didn’t understand. Everyone was so quick to want to label their relationship, presuming the worse, which made the brunet chuckle out loud, ‘Well . . . if that ever happened,’ Starsky silently thought, ‘Then I better be the one on the top!’ He snorted loudly, grossed out by the image that popped in his mind, when two quick knocks were heard at the door.

The brunet sauntered over to the entrance, opened it and eyed the older man warily. They stood there for a minute giving each other the once over.

“So what? You gonna leave me standing out here or invite me in?” Joe Collandra asked curtly.

“Oh, sorry . . .” the brunet said, opening the door wider in a silent invitation for the man to enter his apartment. Joe Collandra walked in slowly, taking a look around the neat living room.

Starsky cleared his throat, uncomfortable with the awkward silence that permeated the room. “Ah . . . can I um, get you somethin’ to drink . . . or eat? I got pizza . . . I can warm it up for ya . . .”

Joe’s brown eyes fixed knowingly at the dark haired detective. “Last night’s dinner?”

“Somethin’ like that,” Starsky murmured, “Want some beer?”

“Nah, I never drink while the sun is up,” Collandra said, sitting down on the couch. “Your partner around?”

“Left about an hour ago. Had to do some errands.” Starsky said vaguely, sitting in the armchair across from the couch. They sat there for a minute or so, the silence stretching out uncomfortably. Starsky didn’t know what to say or where to start . . .

“Just start from when you came out of the coma . . .” Collandra said softly, to the surprise of the brunet.

“Hey, just how did ya know I was in a coma?” Starsky asked, his brow rose slightly, as he stared at the older man who sat calmly on the couch.

“A couple of weeks ago, Huggy came by the café to visit me . . . I must of ‘picked up’ on you, from him.” Collandra said, “Since then, you’ve been making guest appearances in my head . . . popping in and out every now and then . . . knew you’d be calling me . . . just didn’t know when.”

Starsky’s nod was barely perceptible as he eyed the man across from him. It gave him the creeps to hear Collandra saying those things . . . ‘knowing’ he was in a coma and that he’d been starring in some of Collandra’s visions just blew his mind!

Joe looked at the silent detective and grinned, “Hey, it weren’t no picnic for me either! Never thought I’d see you again . . . especially in my head.” Collandra chuckled out loud, then stopped, when he heard the brunet softly sigh. “Hey, lighten up! So you’re seeing stuff in your head . . . get used to it. It’ll come whether you want it to or not . . . take it from me.”

“But my question is, how the hell did this happen and why is it happening now?” Starsky said, his voice rising slightly in frustration.

“Probably from that knock you took to your head. Must’ve juggled that brain of yours into working on a different level,” Collandra answered calmly, “I was eight when I started getting visions. Fell off my grandpa’s roof and put a hole in my head. I woke up, after sleeping for 2 weeks, and I could see things. Freaked me out at first, but you learn to live with it.”

Starsky stared wide-eyed at the café owner, surprised by his nonchalant attitude towards the whole thing. To the brunet, this whole sudden “awareness” was an ordeal that he wanted no part of! “I don’ wanna live with it, how do I get rid of it?” Starsky said gruffly.

“Well at least you’re not in denial anymore,” Joe laughed, while the brunet’s frown grew deeper. “Okay, okay . . . no need to get upset. You’re going through something that, believe it or not, every single one of us innately has . . . psychic ability. It’s just that some of us are more developed at using it, than others.”

“No wait a minute . . .” Collandra said quickly, raising his hand to the curly haired detective when he knew he was about to object, “Just think about it for a minute, would you?” The older man waited until he had the full attention of the detective.

“Take you and that partner of yours . . . you have a close relationship, in and outside of work . . .” Collandra continued.

Starsky refrained from blushing, silently wondering if Joe ‘knew’ that they had slept in the same bed together just last night. ‘If he knew that, then he would also know that it was purely innocent,’ the brunet silently thought.

“Hello? Are you even paying attention here?” Although Collandra said this sarcastically, there was a slight smile to his lips that unnerved the brunet. “Like I was saying, you and your partner have a special chemistry that flows between you like a . . . like a current . . . like a psychic cord that binds the two of you together. I feel it whenever the both of you are with me.” Joe spoke softly, “It’s probably what keeps you two alive on the streets . . . you’re able to sense what your partner is going to do, without him even telling you and visa versa . . . am I right?” Joe looked expectantly at the silent detective.

Starsky nodded silently. He had always known that he and Hutch shared this special link, hell the whole department knew of it . . . how they were almost able to read each other’s minds at times with just a look, finishing each other’s sentences without thinking about it, able to sense each other’s moods and empathize with each other’s feelings. As corny as it sounded, Starsky knew that Hutch was the other half to his soul. “So . . . what of it?” the brunet asked, “Lots of people have hunches now and then.”

“That’s right! That’s what I mean when I say that we all have the ability to sense things. What you and your partner have together might be considered “psychic” to many people, and now with what’s happening to you, your ability has just gone to a higher, more enhanced level, above the level of intuition, so to speak.”

“So you never answered my question . . . how do I get rid of it?” Starsky queried.

Collandra sighed, “For most people, their newfound abilities will stay with them for their whole lives. I’ve only known two people who lost their acquired “sight” . . . one of them because of a head injury, the other because of a high fever that caused some damage to her brain.” After a moment’s pause, the older man said, “So, you want to tell me about some of the things you’re seeing?”

Starsky stared at Joe, not quite sure if he trusted the man enough to be open with him about his recent disturbing experiences into this strange and surreal realm. The brunet lowered his eyes to his hands, “Saw that school bus accident that happened yesterday.” Starsky said softly, hesitantly, lifting his stormy blue cobalt eyes to the psychic.

Joe stared solemnly back at the dark haired detective, then heaved a heavy sigh. “You know any of those kids on the bus? Sometimes when we are close to someone, the visions become more vivid . . .”

The brunet shook his head, “Nah, didn’t know any kid on that bus . . . but there was this little girl . . . I could tell that sh-she was dead, but she looked at me and said that I was too late.” Starsky shuddered slightly, remembering her vacant, cold stare, once again feeling the guilt of not being able to stop the little girl from being killed.

The psychic stared strangely into the detective’s ocean blue depths, “Gave you the spooks huh? In the beginning, when I first started to “see”, these images would make me want to pee in my pants!” the older man empathized, “So you said she spoke to you huh? Well, we now know that vision happened for sure. Did you see anything else?”

Starsky looked at Joe, and read the compassion in his eyes, although his words seemed almost nonchalant. And yet, for Collandra, these kinds of things were probably an everyday occurrence. If Joe’s visions were as bad or as graphic as the ones he was getting, it was no wonder why the man seemed almost removed from the whole issue.

Starsky guessed that it was like being a cop; you sort of remove yourself mentally and emotionally from the horrific things that you saw on the streets to keep yourself sane and balanced. Both he and Hutch knew many cops who would often crack jokes about the corpses they found, but everyone knew that it was just ‘black humor’, and it was just their way of coping with the tragedy.

Starsky drew in a deep breath, “Yeah . . . I saw something else last night after takin’ a shower,” the brunet looked at Joe, then looked away. “I saw a young girl being murdered. She was walking home and was dragged into the bushes. She was so scared . . . he had a knife, and she was feelin’ so lonely and cold as she lay there dying after he was through with her . . .”

Collandra stared at the curly haired detective, straining to hear his words, as the brunet’s voice got softer and softer towards the end of his telling. For a minute silence ensued, then the psychic said, “Do you think this murder has already happened?”

Starsky looked Collandra in the eye, “Dunno,” he said quietly, “Don’t seem to know nuthin’ anymore . . . I mean, what the hell is happenin’ here Joe?” the brunet’s voice rose again in frustration. The detective stood up and began to pace, “I feel helpless . . . like I’m just a silent witness to these horrible things, I-I can’t even warn them about what’s comin’ and it’s driving me crazy!”

“Sit down Starsky,” Joe said calmly, “And you’re not helpless . . . because I’m gonna teach you!”


(Thursday late afternoon, Parker Center)

“Well, what did the doctor say?” Dobey gruffly asked the blond detective, who sat in the chair across from his cluttered desk.

“Well, he wanted to keep an eye on Starsky this week, and if he stays on track and continues to improve he’ll let him start driving and will allow him back to work . . . starting with light duty of course.”

“Of course.” Dobey smiled, “That partner of yours has tons of paperwork on his desk just waiting for him to return. Hey, maybe later you can take some to his place so he can get a jump start on it.”

Hutch grinned, “Yeah, I’m sure he’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness Cap.”

The rotund man smirked, “Serves him right to go chasing after those punks down a dark alley like that . . . don’t know what that boy was thinking . . .” the captain said, the smile slowly fading from his face as he thought of the repercussions that could have happened, not only to the stubborn, strong-willed brunet, but to his blond counterpart as well. A Hutch without a Starsky, was like a hand without a thumb.

“Did the doctor seem concerned about the headaches that he’s still having?” Dobey inquired, his bloodshot, brown eyes connecting with the pale blue ones of the blond.

Hutch’s mind drifted to the conversation he had with Dr. Bradford just before he came down to the station to check in with Dobey . . .

And you said having these headaches are a common side effect from a person who just emerged from a coma . . . right?” Hutch asked again, sitting with the doctor in his office.

Is Detective Starsky having headaches?” Dr Bradford asked, “How intense are they?”

He’s had several since he’s come home, some are worse than others,” Hutch said vaguely.

But, do they go away or is he suffering continuous pain?” the doctor asked, “Does aspirin bring any relief from the pain?

No, they go away for a while and come back.” Hutch said. “And my pig-headed friend refuses to take any kind of pain relief medication for his headaches.”

Well, if his headaches are ebbing without any medication, then I’m not too concerned,” Dr. Bradford said. “In answer to your previous question, yes . . . headaches are a common occurrence and may last anywhere from a day to hourly attacks for the duration of the patient’s life. Its intensity may be as mild as a slight ache, or as blinding as a migraine. I guess what I’m trying to say detective, is that everyone is unique, and likewise, the lingering effects from a coma differ from patient to patient.”

I see.” Hutch said softly. The blond detective silently wondered if he should tell the doctor about Starsky’s strange dreams. To Hutch, it seemed like the headaches were the triggers to the visions his partner was getting. He knew he had to be cautious about how he divulged this information, making sure his partner’s credibility remained intact, but if there was a medical reason as to why his partner was experiencing these strange impressions, then perhaps the doctor would be able to tell him.

Tell me doc,” Hutch began slowly, “In all the years that you’ve been a practicing neurological surgeon, have you ever had a patient who . . . “saw” things after waking from a comatose state?”

“Saw things? You mean like someone who’s had a hallucination?” the doctor asked curiously, taking off his glasses to rub the lenses against his white coat, squinting across his desk at the tall blond.

No . . . not hallucinations doctor,” Hutch said slowly, “More like images or like . . .”

Visions?” the doctor interjected, “Like psychic impressions?” Hutch stared at the doctor across from him, trying to read his expression for any sign of judgment or scorn.

The doctor smiled at the detective, his face warm and open. “Don’t be alarmed detective,” Dr. Bradford said calmly, “I may be a doctor, and I know that the medical and scientific field for the most part, do not hold the metaphysical or the paranormal field in high regards, but there are those of us who have witnessed things that are . . . shall we say . . . unexplainable at times, and it certainly gives one pause to wonder . . .”

H-have any of your patients ever experienced things of this nature doc?” Hutch asked hesitantly.

The doctor pinched the bridge of his nose, before putting his glasses back on, to stare candidly at the blond. “My field of expertise is neurology, Detective Hutchinson, the study of the nervous system, which of course includes the brain. The human brain is a vast storehouse of information, which many of us still know so little about. It has been said that the average human being uses only 10 percent of their brain, which by the way, I truly believe is hogwash. It is difficult to say what percentage of the brain the average human uses, because our brains are functioning at so many different levels at any given time, and to accurately access exactly what parts and how much of the brain is being used is not feasible. And yet, it is precisely because of this, that one cannot disregard the claims of those who have experienced things outside of what we understand in the field of science.”

“So you’re saying that things like this have happened to patients that you’ve had . . .”

“What I’m saying detective, is that I am not above the believe that there are things outside of our sphere of knowledge that can affect people’s lives. I’ve seen patients, who by right should be six feet under the ground, and they’re walking about, well and healed because of prayers of loved ones or because someone laid their hands on them and apparently healed them. I’ve seen some recoveries as a doctor, that I can’t rightly explain to you . . . miracles . . . people have called them . . .so I do not scoff at things just because I am not versed in them.”

The doctor leaned his elbows on the desk to steeple his fingers together, as he stared intently at the tall blond, “Apparently you have some need to know about these issues and how they tie into an individual waking from a coma . . . I cannot help you in this area detective, as I have never experienced them firsthand myself, but I do know of several doctors who have. Before a coma, their patients were average everyday people with normal talents and abilities, but after waking from a coma due to a head injury, these people find themselves suddenly equipped with special psychic abilities. This phenomenon, although rare, has been known to happen detective . . . we, in the medical field, just don’t like to openly discuss such things . . .

“Well?” Dobey said impatiently, “I asked you a question . . .”

Hutch stammered, startled into the here and now, “What’s that Cap? I’m sorry I . . .”

“You okay Hutch?” Dobey asked, noting the tired lines etched under the pale blue eyes, concern for the blond was evident in the large man’s voice, “You need to take care of yourself too, you know . . . these past couple of weeks have been hell for you.”

“I’m fine Captain, just glad he’s home.” Hutch said smiling. A part of him wanted to tell Dobey about the bus incident and about Starsky’s vision of a girl being murdered, but the blond wanted to get permission from his curly haired partner first, and besides; this strange step into the metaphysical world would be in direct conflict with the captain’s strong Christian faith. Hutch knew that Starsky wouldn’t want to offend his captain with any of this, when they themselves were unsure about what was happening. Hopefully Collandra would be a bigger help to them than the doctor was.

“I’m going to head on home Captain, to check on Starsky.” Hutch said rising from the chair and stretching his back.

Dobey smiled, realizing his blond detective didn’t even realize he had called Starsky’s home, “his” home. Those two were like peas in a pod, always stuck together like Siamese twins, especially since Gunther’s attempted hit almost two and a half years ago.

Thinking back on those dark times brought a frown to the round face of the captain. For a while, it had been touch and go as they wondered if Starsky would survive the four bullets from an automatic that had raked across his chest, causing severe damage to the brunet. It was almost miraculous the way his stubborn, curly haired detective clung tenaciously to life, fighting his way back to normalcy; never giving up even during those grueling, painful therapies. Although Starsky had regained 98 percent of his former health and stamina, the brunet had suffered a compromised lung, which even now, plagued him off and on, especially when he was under the weather with a cold.

“Okay, tell that partner of yours I said to rest and get better . . . oh, and don’t forget to grab that stack of files on his desk for him to look over.” Dobey grinned.

Hutch grinned back, “You know you aren’t doing me a favor here, by making me take these to him . . . I can just imagine the whining all ready!” Both men chuckled as the blond turned to leave, softly closing the door behind him.


“You need to train yourself to take in clues while you’re in that altered state . . . you’re a detective, so I know you can do it. You just need to learn to combine your trainings . . .” Collandra said, sipping the cold beer, after swallowing down the huge bite of pizza that he took.

“Yeah . . . easier said than done,” Starsky grumbled, between a mouthful of pizza. All this talking made him ravenous, but it was almost comforting to be with someone who understood and simply accepted what he was going through.

Joe stopped the pizza he was raising to his mouth in mid-air, and eyed the curly haired man sitting across the small wooden table, “I never said it was easy . . . it sucks at times, but it’ll get easier if you learn to develop it. Take the girl getting stabbed for instance, you said you didn’t know if it was something that had happened already, or if it was still going to happen . . .sometime in the future. My advice to you would be to tell you that the next time you have a vision, focus on other things around the girl . . . you already know she’s going to be stabbed, get clues as to her whereabouts, and then maybe you can help her if it hasn’t happened yet. You get it?” Collandra said, finally taking a bite out of the pizza he had held for so long.

Starsky stared at the older man suddenly losing his appetite. He hated his whole thing. The brunet pushed his plate away and rose to his feet, dragging his fingers through his dark curls.

“Whassamatta?” the psychic mumbled, as he chewed contentedly on the pizza in his mouth.

“Nuthin’. Not hungry s’all.” Starsky said sourly.

“Sit down and get a grip.” Collandra said calmly. “I know you’re not too happy right now with all that’s been going on, but acceptance is the first step. From what you’ve told me it seems like you have several ‘gifts’ going on at the same time.”

“Gifts? What’re ya talkin’ about?” Starsky grumbled, as he swiveled the seat around and sat with his arms crossed over the spine of the chair, unconsciously complying with what the older man suggested.

“Each psychic ability has a name. For instance, I tend to “see” things when I touch objects or pictures . . . remember?” Collandra asked.

Starsky did remember. They had shown Joe a picture of the Haymes girl and had given him a scarf that she’d worn. From those objects alone, Joe was able to tell them where they could find the abducted girl.

“Yeah . . . I ‘member . . .” Starsky said softly.

“Well what I have is something called psychometry . . . where you can perceive things about the owner by touching objects that belong to them. The fancy name for this gift is called Clairtangency, which means clear sensation or feeling. Most of the psychic abilities have names that begin with the prefix, “Clair.” It’s French for the word “clear.”

At Starsky’s silence, the psychic continued, “From what you’ve shared you have several things happening at once . . . Clairempathy, Clairvoyance and Clairaudience . . .”

“Wait a minute . . . slow down,” Starsky said gruffly, “All this mumbo jumbo . . . you’re freakin’ me out here Joe . . .”

Collandra chuckled softly, “Sorry . . . well, it seems to me that you are able to “see” into another dimension without using your physical eyes . . . like you can visually perceive something happening in that realm . . . like that girl you saw being murdered. That’s what clairvoyance, or “clear vision”. You also said you could “feel” what that girl was feeling . . . her pain, her fear, her loneliness and how cold she was . . . all of that is what we call clairempathy or “clear” feeling . . . where you’re able to sense or “feel” within your own self, the attitude or emotions of another person.”

“What about the last one . . .” Starsky asked, becoming more intrigued with everything Collandra divulged.

Joe smiled, “It seems you can also “hear” things like the screaming from the kids on the bus and the girl being stabbed. You said you heard the little girl on the bus say that you were too late . . . to be able to “hear” sounds or words from this other dimension is called clairaudience, or “clear” audio/hearing. Looks to me pal that you have a lot of stuff going on at the same time . . .”

“No shit Sherlock,” Starsky grouched, “And I didn’t even tell you about the voice that lurks behind all of these visions, the one that tells me to do things like ‘help them’ or ‘save her’ . . .”

Collandra looked perplexed, “Wait a minute . . . you “hear” another voice in your head . . . I mean, other than the people in your visions?”

“Yeah . . . it always whispers to me just after the vision goes away . . . and I never see the face to this voice . . . just hear it whispering softly to me.”

There was a moment of intense silence as Collandra processed that information. “What does the voice sound like?”

Starsky snorted, “Did ya know that Hutch asked me that same question last night? Maybe you guys have some telepathy goin’ on that I don’ know about huh?” the brunet joked, but settled down after seeing Joe’s serious expression. Starsky drew in a deep breath, “Okay . . .like I told Hutch, I think it might be a guy’s voice, never gave it much thought as I was rolling on the bathroom floor last night, since my head was pounding and my gut felt like it was being ripped out!” Starsky said sarcastically.

“The next time you get a vision, pay close attention to that voice. If it is someone projecting his voice into your head, then this person must be very developed psychically

. . . someone very strong mentally . . . do you know anyone like that?”

“Nope . . . all I know is that it can’t be Huggy Bear!” Starsky laughed at his own joke, visualizing his tall, lanky friend, a scowl on his dark face, eyes closed with his fingers pressed against his temple.

The soft chuckle from the brunet was cut short as a sudden lancing pain stabbed into the side of his skull and a blinding light flashed behind his tightly scrunched eyes. The pain was excruciating, pounding . . . he could vaguely hear Collandra talking to him from a distance, but his words were indiscernible.

She was going home, feeling tired as she rode the bus, wishing her friend was there with her to occupy the time. They usually chatted during the long ride home and tonight, her absence was greatly felt.

Starsky gripped the side of the table, while his other hand pushed against the throbbing pain in his head. “Focus,” he heard Joe’s voice, as if coming from a great distance, vaguely registering the warmth of Collandra’s hand on his shoulder, his own body suddenly cold and rigid. He struggled to breathe through the pain, to ride it out, gasping under its punishing blows . . .

The bus came to the stop she got off at and she rose from her seat, disheartened to see the light drizzle of rain that began to fall. She walked down the steps of the bus to the sidewalk and looked at the darkened street. “Look around for clues . . . any street signs?” the vague voice of Collandra broke into the vision. She glanced down the street, her eyes warily sweeping for any movement as she continued walking, her steps growing quicker by the minute as she sensed that she was not alone.

Starsky gasped, fingers pressed deeply into his left temple to alleviate the building pressure in his head, hearing the ghostly clicks of the girl’s heels in his head, tapping hollowly against sidewalk, as she began to run in fear of the presence lurking in the shadows.

“Sh-she’s lookin’ ‘round . . . I saw the signs . . .” the brunet gasped, as rivulets of sweat ran down his sides of his face. “She’s on . . Fourth and M-maple . . .”

“Good . . . take it easy, just breathe and stay focused . . . you know she’ll be attacked from the bushes . . . try to see the face of her assailant . . .” Joe’s voice whispered, floating softly through the scene being played in his mind.

She could sense someone out there in the dark, feeling the overwhelming, suffocating hand of fear clutching at her throat, as she ran blindly past the dark hedges that lined the sidewalk. A large arm reached through the shrubs, dragging her unwillingly through the hedge, the sharp branches scraping along the tender flesh of her arms and legs. She screamed as the other hand covered her mouth, grinding her soft lips against her teeth, the warm metallic taste of blood filling her mouth. “Look to his face . . . see his face . . .” It was dark, the dim lights from the streets flashing silver along the flat side of the large blade as it began its downward swoop, cutting through the cold night air.

“It’s t-too dark,” Starsky gasped, “C-can’t see anything . . . the blade . . .Ungh” the brunet moaned, feeling the blade as it sank into the girl’s abdomen. Starsky curled into the pain, vaguely feeling himself falling from the chair as Collandra struggled to ease his convulsing form to the carpet. “Take it easy . . . look to his face . . . what does he look like?”

Starsky groaned again in agony, curling into the pain, feeling the savage thrusts of the knife himself, as it was buried repeatedly into the young girl. He couldn’t “see” anything . . . too dark . . . a tall silouette crouched over her, his face in shadows . . .long strands of hair hanging down, swaying violently with each vicious stab of the knife. The brunet grasped his mid-section, groaning softly in agony, his body contorting and folding into himself to ward off the ghostly stabs, the gut-wrenching pain seeming to never stop . . .


(Starsky’s place, late afternoon)

Hutch stood outside Starsky’s front door, hearing the muted groans coming from within. He quickly reached for his magnum from his holster, his street-wise survival sense kicked into high gear, as he pushed down the fear he felt for his partner. The blond detective quietly opened the door and crouched, his gun aimed and ready. What he saw made him momentarily freeze where he stood, his mind trying to comprehend what was happening.

Starsky lay curled on the floor, his arms wrapped tightly around his abdomen, gasping in pain, rigidly jolting as if he were being pummeled by something unseen. Joe Collandra was there, crouched above him, murmuring to him calmly, his hand on his partner’s shoulder.

Hutch rushed to his partner’s side and knelt next to the hurting man. It pained the blond greatly to see his partner in such distress, and he gently held onto the gasping brunet who lay curled in a fetal position, his rigid body violently shuddering in pain every few seconds. The way his partner had his arm wrapped protectively against his mid-section, it was obvious that that was the source of his agony.

“Ungh,” Starsky groaned softly again, his body curling tighter into the pain as he clutched his stomach.

“Take it easy buddy . . . I’m here now . . . just try and take it easy . . .” Hutch softly soothed, holding his partner’s rigid form against his own body, rubbing gently against the cold and clammy skin of the brunet. His partner’s breathing was too shallow and rapid, and Hutch feared for the brunet’s compromised lung, but he smiled encouragingly when Starsky grasped onto the sleeve of his jacket. “Shh, just hang on buddy, I’ve got you . . .”

“He’s here . . .” Hutch heard an eerie whisper next to him.

The blond looked to Collandra who was crouched beside him, his hand still on Starsky’s shoulder, his eyes closed as beads of sweat popped out on his forehead. Hutch could feel the hairs rise on his neck as the psychic’s voice was heard, growing louder as he spoke, “He’s h-here . . . with Starsky . . . darkness, no good, no good . . . EVIL!” Joe shuddered and convulsed, his hand breaking the connection he had with the brunet’s shoulder, as Starsky groaned softly once more, and then his breathing started to slowly even out, though his clenched fist still pressed down against his abdomen.

Hutch gently stroked back the dark curls from his partner’s forehead. He glanced quickly at Collandra who slowly rose and quietly sat back down at the table.

“Hey buddy,” Hutch murmured softly, seeing the long, dark lashes fluttering open to reveal dazed blue orbs, “I’ve got you . . . everything’s gonna be alright . . . just take it easy Starsk . . . take it easy.”

The dark haired detective took in a shuddering breath. Every joint in his body ached and the pain in his gut was excruciating. “Hutch?” he gasped weakly, trying to focus on the golden blur swaying above him, “That you?” he said, squinting to bring his partner’s face into view.

“Yeah it’s me,” the blond smiled gently, “You don’t look too great though buddy . . .” He briskly rubbed the chill from his partner’s arms, as the brunet closed his eyes wearily.

“What the hell happened here?” Hutch demanded, looking at the older man who sat holding his head in his hand, carefully keeping his voice soft, not wanting to aggravate the wounded man who lay in his arms.

“He had another vision,” the psychic said softly, lifting his eyes to the blond’s, “I tried to help him through it . . .”

“You tried to help him?” Hutch said interjected quickly. Though his voice remained soft, one didn’t need to be a psychic to know the blond was angry. “You call this helping Joe?”

“Look,” Collandra said defensively, “I don’t know . . .I don’t know what happened here. I gotta go . . . it was a mistake to come . . .”

“No . . .don’t,” the brunet gasped, struggling to sit up. Hutch gently supported his partner into a seated position, his arm never leaving Starsky’s shoulder. “I need you Joe . . . I know where she’s gonna be attacked . . . it hasn’t happened yet, and we need to stop it.”

“You can’t stop it,” Joe said softly, “It’s already happening as we speak . . . she might be already on the bus . . . and we don’t know what bus . . .”

“Yeah, but we know . . . where she’ll be getting’ off” Starsky said weakly, “We can intercept her . . . before anything goes down. In my head, it was already dark when she gets pulled into the bushes . . . the light from the streetlights reflect against the blade . . .”

The brunet shuddered imperceptibly, but Hutch felt it and gently squeezed his partner’s shoulder.

The brunet turned slowly to look at wall clock, “It’s 4:25 right now . . . that gives us a couple of more hours before it gets dark.”

“Where does she get off Starsk?” Hutch gently asked, concerned about his partner’s pale complexion and clammy skin. These were all signs of shock, but he knew the brunet well enough to know that Starsky wasn’t going into shock, although his breathing still seemed a bit rapid and shallow.

“On Fourth and Maple,” Starsky said softly, his bright blue gaze seemed almost vacant, seeing something no one else could, “I saw the street signs through her eyes, when she was lookin’ around, sensing danger . . .” The blond watched as his partner’s blank stare turned stormy and determined; the cobalt spheres shifted and connected with the pale blue of the Nordic, the dark blue gaze almost pleading as the brunet said, “Hutch . . . we gotta help her . . . the voice said to save her . . .”

“That’s another thing . . .” Both detectives turned at the sound of the soft, despairing voice of Collandra, “That voice . . . I-I thought that maybe it came from a benevolent source, but it’s . . . it’s not . . . good . . . it’s evil . . . and it wants you Starsky . . . it’s after you.”

“What?” Hutch said, feeling a chill race up his spine at the psychic’s foreboding words, his natural instincts to shield and protect his vulnerable partner, rose to the forefront, “What voice? You mean that calm voice you always hear at the end of your visions?” The blond questioned quietly, turning to look down into his partner’s eyes, “The voice you were telling me about last night?” Hutch asked, the furrow between his brows deepening with the worry he felt for the brunet.

“Yeah . . . hey, help me up, would ya?” Starsky asked trying to change the subject, wincing as his partner moved to gently tug him up under his arms. Starsky wound one arm tightly against his mid-section, gasping softly as Hutch helped him stand. The brunet gritted his teeth and struggled to stand straight, when he instinctively wanted to fold over, the pain in this stomach intensified by the pulling movement. Starsky knew that Hutch wouldn’t allow him to tag along on their “rescue” if his partner knew how much pain he was in, and damn if he wasn’t going to be there. The dark haired detective knew his mid-section was probably covered with bruises again and he hoped his partner wouldn’t demand to see it, especially not in front of Joe Collandra.

“How do you know this voice is from someone evil?” Hutch asked Joe, not willing to drop the issue just yet, even though he knew his partner wanted to lead him away from the subject, “I mean how do you know this person is after Starsky?”

“I don’t know,” Joe said, “It was just a feeling . . . this entity had a negative force about it . . . I felt physically sick when I heard him whisper to . . .”

“You could hear him whisper to Starsky?” Hutch said; pale blue eyes shifted to his partner who sat carefully down on the sofa, his hand still across his stomach. Hutch knew his friend was hurting, although he acted like everything was just hunky-dory. ‘The man should win an award!’ Hutch thought sarcastically.

“Not really “hear” like how your friend does,” Collandra said, nodding to the silent brunet, “More like I “sensed” the negative energy flooding into Starsky. Your partner says the voice is soft and calm, but I tell you this . . . I have felt nothing that dark in a long, long time.”

Starsky heaved a heavy sigh, “In any case, let’s try to solve something we can physically see . . . the girl . . .”

“Right,” Hutch said, his mind still focused on what Collandra had just said about “the voice.” It unnerved the blond that something so vile and negative had access to his partner. How do you fight something you cannot see? Hutch looked over at his partner who still looked pale and drawn, weary lines of exhaustion were evident in that familiar face and it pulled at Hutch’s heart.

“Okay, you said she was at Fourth and Maple right?” Hutch said brightly, trying to bring the twinkle back into his partner’s eye, “That’s clear across town. If we’re gonna be there by sundown, we better get a move on it.”

“Shouldn’t you call the police department to send some squad cars over right now?” Collandra asked.

“Based on what?” Starsky said softly, “ Our hunches? I don’t think they would send cars over just on that, and anyway, if the killer sees those black and whites, he’ll run for sure. If we miss him this time, he’ll just go out and kill again.”

“We have to be there first, staked out somewhere near the bus stop so we can see her get off the bus, watch her to make sure that she stays safe the whole time, then we nab the guy and book him once he grabs her.” Hutch said explained, still eyeing his partner. The blond could hear the weariness in Starsky’s voice and he silently debated if he should let the brunet come with him.

Starsky looked up at Hutch right at that point, as if he could read the thoughts in his partner’s mind. The weariness in the brunet’s eyes was suddenly replaced with blue steel, “Let’s go.” he said quietly, emphasizing the first word, staring his partner down until the blond begrudgingly nodded his assent.


Thursday (early evening)

It had already been drizzling for a while and Starsky had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He stared out of the dirty windshield of Hutch’s rambling LTD, as the wipers moved back and forth almost hypnotically. Hutch had insisted that they take his car for the stake out . . . pointing out the fact that it would be more inconspicuous than the outlandishly red and white Torino.

They were late; held back by the traffic on the freeway, due to several minor accidents and curious drivers, who slowed down to crane their necks and gawk at the misfortune of others. They had finally taken the off exit that would bring them shortly up to Maple Street.

“How much longer?” Collandra asked from the backseat of the car. The psychic had insisted on coming and had ridden silently in the back, mirroring the mood of the dark haired detective in the front.

“We should be there in another five minutes,” Hutch said, keeping one eye on the passing street signs, the other on his dark haired friend.

Hutch glanced over at his unusually quiet partner. Since leaving the apartment, the brunet had hardly spoken two words, brooding silently, as he slouched in the front passenger seat, seemingly staring out at nothing, the shadow from the blades of the wipers intermittently darkened his features, as the LTD continuously passed under the lights from the streets. “You okay buddy?” Hutch asked softly, “How’s your stomach? Still hurting?”

Starsky immediately slid his hand off of his mid-section. He did hurt, in fact, he hurt all over . . . from the slight drumming in his head, to the aching nausea he felt in his gut, but hell if he was going to tell Hutch that. The curly haired man silently shook his head, not even bothering to answer.

The fact that it was already drizzling worried the brunet immensely. He thought of the young girl in his vision. She couldn’t have been older than nineteen or twenty at the most. He remembered how her long platinum tresses curled becomingly around her petite face and how she had worried about what the rain would do to her curls. He closed his eyes, as the throbbing pain in his head suddenly began to pound, he could feel his heart begin to accelerate. “Hutch,” Starsky said softly, “Speed up . . . we gotta step on it . . .” The dark haired detective lifted his left hand to press against his aching temple.

Hurry!” He heard the “voice” whisper quietly in his head as a blinding glare flashed behind his tightly closed lids. By now, he knew the telltale signs . . . another vision was coming . . .

Starsky doubled over suddenly, his arms wrapped around his abdomen as the excruciating pain stabbed into his gut, “Uungh,” he moaned, cold sweat beading his face, “Oh god Hutch,” the dark haired detective gasped in agony, his face pale; blue eyes staring vacantly, focused inward on some horrible thing only he could “see,” until his eyes scrunched shut again as another wave of pain pummeled into him. “Hurry . . .” Starsky gasped, his breathing rapid and shallow, “He’s g-got her . . .”

Hutch steered with his left hand; his right arm reached over, trying to support his partner as the brunet curled his body into the pain, “Starsk . . .” the blond said, desperation and concern evident in that one uttered word, his foot automatically lifting off the accelerator, slowing the vehicle down, so that he could pull over to the side to render aid to his friend. It killed Hutch to see his partner in so much pain.

“No!” Collandra said sharply, “Don’t slow down, there’s nothing you can do to help him, until you’ve helped her. Keep going Hutch . . .look for some hedges along the street . . . the killer pulled her into the bushes . . .”

Hutch knew Joe was right, hearing the psychic’s voice as if from a distance, his ears filled only with the labored breathing of his friend, as Starsky’s rigid body jolted once more, a soft moan escaping from his lips. It tore at the blond’s heart to see the brunet suffering like that and he reached over and snagged his partner to his side, feeling the tremors that wracked his friend’s body as Starsky leaned heavily against him. Hutch put his free arm around his partner’s shoulder and rubbed soothingly, trying to comfort his dark haired companion, even as he increased the speed of the car.

“Over there!” Collandra said sharply, pointing to the dark bushes that lined the sidewalk, “She’s behind that hedge . . .”

Hutch swerved the car to the edge of the sidewalk and slammed the vehicle into park, whipping his door open at the same time. “Stay here Starsk!” the blond demanded, gently untangling himself from his partner and pushing his hurting friend back against the seat.

Starsky opened his eyes to see Hutch running out into the rain filled night, his blond head seemed to glow hazily, a beacon in the darkness, as the dim lights from the streets highlighted his golden locks. “H-Hutch,” Starsky gasped, slowly scrambling over the seat towards the open door, determined to watch his partner’s back. The pain in his abdomen was unbearable, and he gritted his teeth to get a handle on it, even as he fell to the cold, wet sidewalk. He felt a strong grip grab him and pull him up to his feet, sending sharp stabs of pain into his gut.

“Here . . . hang on to me . . .let’s go,” Collandra said, supporting the weight of the hurting detective, as they hurried after the blond, as fast as they could.


Hutch drew his gun and ran through the pelting rain, squinting as the water blurred his vision. He could see something crouched in the shadow from the hedges, a dark mass that quickly rose and started running away, leaving a smaller shape behind.

The blond raced over and slid to his knees next to the girl, who lay gasping, her eyes closed, as her blood covered fingers clutched at her torn and shredded mid-section, her pale, blond hair was matted with leaves and dirt, and splatters of blood dotted her face, while a thin, red trail leaked from the corner of her mouth.

“Oh god,” Hutch whispered, sickened by all the blood. A part of him wanted to give chase and catch the bastard that did this, and yet, he couldn’t bring himself to leave her. He lifted his hands helplessly, not knowing where to touch, as the girl groaned, twisting into the pain that ripped into her battered body. “Take it easy,” Hutch murmured, stroking back the wet strands of hair from her face. He looked up, as Starsky and Collandra knelt beside him. Hutch looked to his friend who still had an arm wrapped around his stomach, his dark blue eyes were glued on the girl, a look of anguish on his face.

Hutch stood quickly, “Stay here, he’s probably long gone by now, but I’m gonna check around and then . . . I-I gotta call for an ambulance.”

Starsky vaguely heard what his partner said; his only focus was for the young girl, lying in a pool of her own blood . . . the same girl he saw in his vision. She was dying . . . he could “feel” it and it tore a sob from the brunet’s throat. She cried out in pain, her body growing rigid, as her watery blue eyes opened and stared, her vacant gaze was glassy and distant.

Starsky hovered over her trembling form, shielding her as best he could from the cold, falling splashes of rain. “Shh . . it’s okay . . . it’s gonna be okay,” he whispered sadly, knowing it would never be okay, not for this young girl who would never see another sun rise.

The young woman shifted her gaze to the brunet, her dazed eyes focusing gradually upon his face. “C-Cold . . .” she gasped, shivering as a rivulet of water ran from the corner of her eye.

Starsky took off his old, brown leather jacket and gently lifted her against the warmth of his chest, spreading the jacket that was still toasty from his own body heat, over her trembling form so that she lay sandwiched in warmth. He remembered from his vision, how she regretted not bringing her sweater and he held her tighter, “I got’cha honey,” he murmured softly, his long dark lashes were spiked with moisture, his soul crying out silently in agony and remorse, knowing he had failed her . . . she was dying because of him, and that knowledge tore him up inside. He should’ve figured it out sooner . . . they should’ve left his apartment the minute he got the vision . . .

“I got’cha,” he sadly repeated as he watched her close her eyes, “I’m here honey . . . you’re not alone . . . you were never alone . . .” he soothed brokenly. The curly haired brunet tucked his head against her hair and clutched her close, as she took in her last breath, her small body going limp in his arms, as her head lolled towards his chest.

You’re too late . . . again.” the voice whispered, it’s calm intonation was almost a mockery to the burning, piercing arrow of regret the brunet felt in his heart. “No . . .” Starsky whispered, rocking her still body as Hutch dropped to kneel next to him.

The blond detective looked up at Joe who sadly shook his head. Pale, blue eyes shifted back to the brunet, who continued to rock the dead girl, his face hidden as he bowed his dark head over the sweet, still face that was pressed against his chest, his shoulders shaking silently, as the rain continued to fall from the sky, like tears from heaven.


Thursday, late evening, (nearing midnight)

Dobey looked to the silent brunet who sat on the front passenger seat of Hutch’s battered car, huddled under the warm blanket from the paramedics. The flashing lights from the ambulance and police cars eerily lit up the night. A crowd of onlookers stood on the other side of the street, whispering softly amongst themselves as the forensic team worked behind the hedge to gather any evidence they could. The coroner’s wagon had already left with the body of the murdered girl, and the stout black man scrubbed his short, wiry hair, looking around until he saw the tall blond walking over to his partner with a paper cup. The police captain made his way over to the car.

“Hey buddy,” Hutch said gently, concern for his partner evident in the soft blue of his eyes, “How you holding up huh?” The blond offered the cup to the dark haired detective, who waved his hand slightly, silently declining the proffered cup.

“I was doin’ better,” he sighed, “So what’re we gonna tell him?” Starsky nodded towards their rapidly approaching captain.

Hutch looked over his shoulder, and then turned back to his quiet partner. Starsky looked so worn and ragged. So much had happened, since his partner had come out of the hospital just yesterday morning. By right, the brunet shouldn’t have been out here in the cold night air, still damp and shivering from the downpour they had been caught in.

His mind flashed back to his partner holding the murdered girl against his chest, weeping silent tears of remorse, as the guilt ate away at his soul. The blond sighed heavily, his heart aching for his friend, both of them knowing and dreading the drill their captain would be putting them through before the night was over.

Hutch dragged his fingers through his damp hair, pushing it back from his forehead as he thought about what to do. Looking at his partner, the blond knew that Starsky wasn’t able to deal with all of this just yet. The brunet looked almost “fragile” sitting there, huddled under the blanket, and Hutch had to resist the urge to bundle his curly haired partner up and race for home, barring the doors against the world so that his friend could heal and recuperate from all the horrific things that had been recently bombarding him. “Don’t worry buddy, just leave Dobey to me.” Hutch said gently, protectively laying his large, warm hand on his partner’s shoulder.

Starsky drew in a shaky breath and sighed deeply, his body trembling slightly, “’Kay,” he said softly, his eyes lowering to his bloodstained hands that he clenched in his lap. There was so much weariness and vulnerability in that one whispered word, and yet, there was also so much trust, as the brunet willingly allowed his blond counterpart to shoulder the burden of responsibility, that Hutch felt a lump grow in this throat; and he reassuringly squeezed his partner’s shoulder and turned to face his captain.

The large man huffed as he finally reached the car. He eyed his silent detectives with a frown, “Well? Somebody want to tell me what’s going on here . . . and how the hell you two got wind of this before anyone else?” The black man looked from the blond to the tired brunet, as he waited impatiently for an answer. Dobey frowned when he gave the curly haired detective the once over. Starsky looked like crap!

“What the hell are you doing here Starsky?” Dobey gruffed, “And dispatch said that you called this in Hutchinson . . . what are the two of you doing here clear across town? I want some answers, and I want them NOW!” the captain demanded brusquely.

“Alright Captain,” Hutch soothed, holding his hands up in surrender, attempting to unruffle his captain’s ire, especially after seeing his partner slightly jump at Dobey’s loud voice, “There’s no need to shout, we’re right here . . .”

Hutch glanced at his partner, who still had his eyes lowered to his hands. He could feel the exhausted waves of despair and defeat rolling off of his friend and his first instinct was to protect his partner. The blond knew Starsky wasn’t ready to talk about this . . . especially with Dobey. How could he, when he could barely deal with it himself? And if Hutch gave his statement tonight, then everything would be written down in a file, and soon everyone in the department would know about Starsky’s newfound “talent.” Hutch could just picture it now . . . the gossipmongers by the water fountain, the whispers, the stares, the jokes about his curly haired friend being the next ‘Harry Houdini.’

No,’ the blond thought determinedly, putting Starsky through all of that was not an option, and yet, falsifying records was something Hutch had never considered doing in all of the years he had served as an officer of the law. It was certainly a quandary they were in! The blond looked back at his captain, feeling those bloodshot eyes digging into him, “W-Well Captain, it’s like this . . .”

“They were trying to help me.” All heads turned as the new voice quickly interjected. Joe Collandra stepped quietly into the tight circle, “I um . . . I had another one of my visions and I told Starsky and Hutch about it. Since they were home, they indulged me, and we followed up on one of my “hunches.” When we found her, it was already too late and the guy who attacked her got away.” Joe said calmly, sticking out his hand to the large black man, “Joe Collandra.”

Dobey’s eyes widened as he recognized Collandra, the psychic from the Haymes abduction case years ago. The captain knew that his boys had found that young girl in time because of this man’s valid visions and he could suddenly understand why his detectives would be open to looking into one of Joe’s visions, especially when they were off duty. Dobey shook the psychic’s hand, “Yes I remember you Mr. Collandra, I’m Captain Dobey and I’d like to thank you for all of your help in solving the Haymes case a while back.”

“Not at all Captain,” Joe said cordially, “I hope I haven’t gotten Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson into any kind of trouble here tonight . . . I’m sorry we were too late to help the girl.”

“Me too . . . me too . . .” Dobey said sadly. The captain looked over at Starsky, concern for the weary brunet made the black man frown, “Well, it’s late, and your partner looks beat,” Dobey said to Hutch, “Why don’t you take him home and get some sleep yourself. You can come by the station tomorrow to fill in the report.”

“Yeah,” Hutch said softly, eyeing his silent partner, “I’ll do that . . . thanks Cap.” The blond quickly walked around to the other side of the car, not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, thankful for Joe’s quick intervention that saved him an explanation, and Starsky, his reputation.


Hutch looked over at his partner who stared quietly out of his side window. They had just dropped Collandra off at home, and the brunet had crept back into his silent “cave”, miserably huddled against the door, vacantly staring at the darkness outside, his mind already a million miles away . . .

The blond looked again to the road, wondering what he could say to make his friend feel better. Hutch knew Starsky was probably blaming himself, shouldering the guilt of that young girl’s death, seeing in his mind’s eye; the brunet’s anguished face as he glimpsed the girl from his vision, for the very first time, bleeding out and dying in the here and now. Hutch glanced over again at his partner who still hadn’t moved from his slouched position.

“Hey buddy,” Hutch said gently, using his voice to comfort and soothe, “Wanna get a bite to eat? You hungry?”

“Nah,” the brunet whispered, never bothering to look at the blond, his gaze riveted to the darkness outside his window, “Jus’ tired . . . take me home huh?”

Hutch snorted softly, feeling his partner’s sadness, his almost overwhelming sense of defeat, “Sure buddy, we’ll go home together . . . okay?”

At this, the brunet slowly turned to look over at his blond counterpart, “Hutch . . . ah . . . if you don’ mind . . . I think I kinda wanna be alone tonight . . . jus’ need some time to think . . . ya know?”

Hutch glanced over at Starsky, seeing his cobalt eyes fixed expectantly on his face, looking deeper into those blue depths, to see the sadness and pain that lay beneath its surface. The blond intuitively knew his friend shouldn’t be left alone, not after everything that had happened, and yet, Hutch had been partners with the brunet long enough to understand his friend’s way of thinking and dealing with problems.

Starsky was someone who sometimes needed his space, especially when he was hurting or troubled about something. For the most part, Hutch respected that and never pushed his own expectations on his partner; he knew that Starsky would eventually come to him when he had first reached some resolution and understanding on his own. Starsky just needed time to deal with all of this . . . time to reflect, to resolve and make peace with the anguish in his heart. Although the blond didn’t necessarily agree with the brunet’s methods of coming to terms with issues, he usually honored it.

But this time though, the circumstances were so strangely unusual, that Hutch wasn’t sure if leaving Starsky was the right thing to do. Indecision and confusion must have been evident on his face because the brunet suddenly grew rigid.

“Please Hutch . . .” Starsky whispered, almost begging with his eyes before looking away again, waiting for his partner’s decision. Wanting . . . no, needing Hutch to understand his need to be by himself. He could still see in his mind, the tear running down from the corner of the dying girl’s eye and it tore him up inside . . . if only he had acted sooner . . . they might have caught that bastard who did this. Starsky braced himself, waiting for an argument from his blond companion and was surprised when none came.

For a while they drove in silence until Hutch pulled up in front of Starsky’s apartment and cut the engine. The street was quiet and with the exception of the dim streetlights, everything was dark and shadowed. The blond detective turned quietly in the seat to face his silent partner. Hutch waited for the brunet to say something, but when Starsky just quietly sighed and opened the door, Hutch leaned over and grabbed on to his partner’s wrist. “Hey buddy, just remember I’m here . . . you don’t ever have to do this on your own . . .”

Starsky turned to look over at his partner, the softness in the pale blue eyes nearly doing him in. The brunet swallowed, fighting back the tears that wanted to come, his dark blue eyes shimmering from the glow of the streetlights, “I know Hutch . . . I know . . .” Starsky said softly, “I’m jus’. . . I’m jus’ tired I guess . . . jus’ gonna take a shower and get some sleep.”

They both knew that what he had just said was bullshit, but Hutch nodded anyway, and slowly released the gentle grip he had on his partner’s wrist, “Call me . . . if you need to talk . . . or if you need . . . anything.” Hutch said, leaning over even more, as the brunet stood on the pavement outside his place.

Starsky stooped over to look his partner in the eye, a slow lopsided grin appearing, “I’ll call ya . . . first thing in the morning after I get up.”

“Yeah, you make sure to do that pal,” Hutch grinned back.

“And you make sure to haul your ass over to the station to fill in that report or Dobey’ll have your hide.” Starsky warned.

“Our hides, buddy . . . our hides.” Hutch corrected, and he smiled when he heard the soft snort from the brunet, as he shut the door of the car. The blond watched as the dark haired detective wearily climbed the stairs to his place and let himself in, waving as he closed the front door. Hutch shifted the car into gear and slowly drove away, unaware of the dark figure who also watched the brunet’s ascent, making sure he kept to the shadows, as he watched the light go on in Starsky’s apartment.

“You’re too late . . . again Starsky, too late . . . again!” he hissed into the shadows, as the chilly night air dissipated his soft, sibilant voice.


Friday, early morning hours (Starsky’s apartment)

Wake up . . .” He vaguely registered that it was the voice again, so calm, so removed . . . so cold, “Wake up pilgrim . . . the journey is just beginning . . .”

He struggled to open his heavy lids, knowing that he had to warn him; knowing that he needed to be aware, but his mind and body were so heavy; feeling somehow like it did not belong to him anymore. Every muscle, every joint screamed in pain at the slightest intake of breath and he was so exhausted . . . so incredibly weary.

But he was here . . . he was sure of it . . . somewhere in the darkness . . . he could “feel” it . . . he could feel the incredible bond they had always shared, the healing energy of love and friendship that never failed to comfort and reassure, as it pressed protectively against his aching soul. It wrapped its nurturing warmth around his cold, frozen heart, melting the frigid iciness that had ensnared it, and held it captive for so long. He was here . . . somewhere . . . hiding in this parody of all that was hallowed and revered. He ‘knew’ it; as sure as he knew the sun would rise tomorrow, and it caused him to raise his weary head, feeling the frozen talons that pierced into his soul beginning to dissolve under the golden light of love.

His dark, heavy lashes lifted, as sweat stung his eyes, burning and blurring his vision for a moment, before he blinked away the salty moisture as he tried to focus. It was so dark, the candles casting eerie shadows all around. He closed his eyes again; his breathing shallow and rapid, as he tried to ride out the wave of pain that suddenly engulfed his battered body.

Wake up,” the voice hissed once more, urgently bidding him to do what was asked, “Wake up and behold the tarnished knight . . .”

“Starsk?” That voice, so soft with concern, echoing in the hollow cathedrals . . . made him struggle to open his eyes again. He could see it floating in the darkness . . . a golden halo of light that crouched down near the wooden pews of the desecrated church. He blinked again, trying to clear his vision . . . squinting until the pale formless blob became a familiar and welcomed face . . . it was him . . . it was Hutch!

The northern star begins to fade . . . it is too late to shine your light Polaris . . . too late for you and for your brave, but foolish knight . . .” the voice echoed eerily in his head.

He tried to move, seeing his partner cautiously rising to his feet, his gun stretched out before him as he made his way to the front of the altar. ‘No’ he screamed silently in his head unable to vocalize his thoughts, watching as his partner drew nearer as if in a dream, knowing it was a mistake . . . a fatal mistake . . . seeing a dark figure rising from the balconies, aiming the bow and letting fly the arrow . . . the arrow that pierced Hutch through his back . . .

“NO!” he cried out loudly, bolting upright in his bed, gasping, his heart beating with the painful tempo in his head, his bare chest and arms gleaming with perspiration as he struggled to control the sudden trembling that overtook his body, while hearing the quiet remnants of the voice still whispering in his head, “Welcome to my dream . . .”

Starsky shivered uncontrollably, feeling bile rise to his throat when he remembered the look of surprise and pain that was etched on his partner’s face in his dream, as the arrow tip broke through his chest, the blood quickly spreading across his shirt.

He suddenly ‘felt’ it, a difference in his room, something not right . . . a presence. The dark blue eyes darted around his bedroom, noting each familiar shape in the dim light, until it rested upon the dark mass by the window . . .

“Simone dreamed you would one day know . . .” Luke whispered softly in the darkness, his eyes glowing with an unnatural light, his mouth lifting into a wide smile, revealing yellow stained, feral teeth that gleamed in the darkness. “I am the keeper of the flame,” the bearded man hissed eerily, “And now the flame resides in us both.”

Starsky dove for the side drawer of his nightstand, attempting to get to his gun, as he heard the soft, muted ‘swoosh’ of air being displaced; feeling a sharp sudden sting in the place right above his heart, that took his breath away. The dark haired detective grunted softly and fell onto the bed, knocking over the phone on the nightstand in his attempt to reach the drawer. The brunet gasped as he quickly yanked the needle from his glistening bare chest, already feeling disoriented and woozy from the tranquilizer, as he tried desperately to untangle himself from the sheets that wrapped cloyingly around his sweat drenched body.

Starsky felt suddenly nauseous, as the drug coursed rapidly throughout his body, numbing his limbs, while at the same time, slowing down his heart rate. He was unable to defend himself, unable to even focus on anything, his body lethargically betraying him in its sudden heaviness, his movements slow and sluggish. He gasped, struggling to take air in as Luke grabbed a handful of his dark curls and yanked his head back . . . his assailant’s voice, a sibilant whisper in his ear that echoed throughout his mind . . . even as the darkness swiftly overtook him.

“Your journey begins Polaris . . . Simone welcomes you to his dream . . .”


Friday morning, (Parker Center)

Hutch smiled as he stepped into the squad room, feeling refreshed after his morning run. He had gotten up extra early to water his thirsty plants, made himself one of his delicious, healthy shakes and had gone out for his usual 10 minute jog. It had been quite some time since he’d been able to do that for himself and he had relished every moment of it.

Since Starsky went down in the alley, Hutch had been with the brunet constantly, never wanting to leave his friend’s side, reveling in the fact that his partner had once again, made it out of harm’s way, emerging virtually unscathed from a coma. And then all of these strange dreams and visions started happening, throwing the blond for a loop. Hell, if he was thrown for a loop, he couldn’t even begin to imagine what this was doing to his partner.

Leaving Starsky last night was one of the hardest things that Hutch had ever had to do, especially when he knew his partner was hurting and blaming himself for the death of the young girl. Yet, Starsky had requested that he go, stubbornly trying to deal with everything alone, and though Hutch didn’t agree with it, he knew the brunet was indirectly asking him to trust in his judgment.

As far as Hutch was concerned, he had no choice but to agree in the matter, after all, trust was the basis for their whole relationship and it had carried them through all the difficult moments in the past . . . it had even gotten them through that whole horrible mess with Kira.

Hutch had betrayed his partner’s trust once before, and he had vowed to never do it again. If Starsky wanted him to trust that he could deal with this, then so be it. And yet, Hutch caught himself time and time again, looking at the clock on the wall, wanting so badly to call his partner and see for himself that the brunet was fine.

The blond dragged his hand through his hair, eyes drifting to the clock again. Only 8:30 in the morning. He quickly stood up and walked over to the coffee maker, pouring himself some of that nasty, bitter brew. Hutch wished he had never promised to wait for the brunet to call, wanting to pick up the phone and dial Starsky’s number right then and there . . . to hell if he woke his friend up!

He snorted softly, mentally kicking himself for being such a mother hen. ‘God Hutchinson, you need to get a grip!’ the blond silently berated himself, smirking as he silently gave himself the proverbial kick in the ass!

Hutch looked up, as the door to Dobey’s office was yanked open, “Get in here,” Dobey snapped, obviously irritated by something. His tone surprised the blond, who quickly put his mug down and followed his captain into his office without a word. Hutch sat in the chair facing Dobey’s desk and waited for whatever his captain needed to say.

The big black man ruffled through some files and pulled some sheets out. He eyed the blond who sat across from him with his bloodshot eyes. “I don’t think you’re going to like what I have to tell you.” The captain began.

“What’s going on?” Hutch asked, his pale brows drew together causing a deep furrow to appear, “What have you got?”

Dobey handed a sheet over to his blond detective. “They’ve made a positive ID on that truck driver who hit the bus. His name is Ralph Watkins.”

Hutch looked at the picture clipped to the corner of the report. A blond man with hooded eyes stared back at him, but it wasn’t the eyes that got to Hutch, it was what lay just above the middle of his eyes that drew the cop’s immediate attention. Hutch’s pale blue eyes snapped to his captain’s.

“Yup, you’re seeing what you think you’re seeing,” Dobey said gravely, “It’s an upside crucifix that’s been burned into his forehead . . . a sign of Marcus’ cult. He was burned beyond recognition from the wreck and we had to use his dental records to ID him.”

Hutch put the paper down, willing the sudden panic away that rose within him at seeing the mark of that madman. Hutch took in a deep, cleansing breath and exhaled it slowly, “Well I suppose some of those low-lifes are still running around after all these years.”

“Well this ‘lowlife’ was one of those we arrested at the old zoo when they took Starsky, almost five years ago. He used to go by the name of Peter when he ran with the cult. He, as well as some of the other cult members were released from Cabrillo Penitentiary a few months ago for good behavior.” Dobey growled.

Hutch eyed the other sheets of paper the captain held in his hands, “What’re those?”

Dobey took the top sheet off and handed it to the blond. “We just got this back. It’s the autopsy report of the murdered stab victim you found last night. Needless to say, she died from her injuries. The multiple wounds to her abdomen caused a lot of internal damage . . . ruptured too many organs . . . and she bled to death.”

Hutch closed his eyes, his pale lashes blending in with his complexion, mentally ‘seeing’ all the bruises on Starsky’s abdomen after the brunet “witnessed” the murder of this girl.

“We still don’t know who she is . . . but I’m sure someone will soon be calling in with a missing person’s report” Dobey said gruffly, “And then we have this . . .” He handed Hutch the last sheet of paper.

Hutch looked at the snapshot of an angry young teen, his long red hair was stringy and his bangs almost hid his face. He looked liked any other teenaged punk that Hutch saw on the streets, except for the eyes on this kid . . . almost light green in color; his eyes had a strange glow about them, although his gaze remained blank and vacant. It sent shivers down the seasoned cop’s spine, and the detective raised his pale, blue eyes to his captain’s, “Who is this?”

Dobey heaved a sigh, “That’s the kid that shot your partner in that alley. His name is Ricky Jones. We have him locked up right now, but you need to listen to this . . . we just found out that his mother used to be a part of Marcus’ cult. He was just about nine when she was actively following Simone. I thought you might want to know that.”

Hutch could see the concerned look on his captain’s face, and he frowned, his mind racing as fast as his heart, “You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” he asked the large, black man.

“I’m thinking that it’s a bit coincidental to suddenly have Marcus’ cult members popping up all over the place.” Dobey said sarcastically, “So I made a call to Cabrillo early this morning. Simon Marcus is still an inmate there, but most of the his followers that were brought in have been paroled over the years. They recently let Lucas Taylor, Simon’s first disciple, free a few weeks ago. He was known as Luke in the cult, and they called him, “The Keeper of the Flame,” whatever the hell that means.” Dobey let out another sigh, “Do you think any of this has to do with that young woman being murdered last night?”

“I don’t know Cap,” Hutch said slowly, thinking about his partner’s strange visions and the dark, evil presence that Collandra said he felt. He shivered as he remembered the ominous words Joe said, “ . . . and it wants you Starsky . . . it’s after you.” Hutch stood up suddenly, causing his captain to startle,“Look Cap, I’m gonna go call Starsky and see how he’s doing.”

“Yeah, you do that. Your partner looked like crap last night. What were you thinking . . . dragging him around in the rain when he just got out of the hospital?” Dobey question, frowning as he glared at his blond detective. “Here, use this phone,” the large man offered, pushing his phone across his desk to the tall blond.

“Thanks Captain,” Hutch said hastily, rapidly dialing the number he knew by heart, only to hear a busy signal on the other end. Hutch listened to the beeping for a few seconds, and then slowly hung up his end. He raised his eyes to his captain’s, “It’s busy . . .”

“Yeah?” Dobey chuckled, “He’s probably trying to hook up with some broad . . . been out of action for too long . . .”

Hutch nodded distractedly, suddenly feeling a sense of urgency in the pit of his stomach. He looked quickly to the large black man and said, “Captain, would you mind if I take a quick spin up to Starsky’s . . . just to check on him, then I’ll come back and do that report.”

Dobey eyed his detective, noting the worried look on his pale face, “What’s the matter?”

“I-I don’t know,” Hutch said truthfully, “Just got a weird feeling in my gut. Maybe knowing Simon’s scums are out there is getting to me. I went home last night, and left Starsky at his place alone . . . I’d just feel better if I knew that Starsky was okay.”

“Alright,” Dobey said, “Just be back before noon, and tell that partner of yours to stop running around in the rain.”

“Yeah, I will Cap,” Hutch said, walking swiftly to the door, “I will . . .”


Hutch grinned to himself, as he pulled up in front of Starsky’s place. Seeing the shiny, red Torino parked it its usual place, somehow made the blond unconsciously relax. Hutch shifted his LTD into park and chuckled as he got out of the car. Maybe Dobey was right, maybe his partner was on the phone making some calls to the many ladies who frequented his life, or maybe he could have been putting in an early call to his mother in New York, after all, it was Friday, and Starsky always reserved that day to call his mom.

Hutch took a deep breath in before opening the front door of the apartment, trying to still his rapidly beating heart. He didn’t know why he felt so uneasy, and he was surprised to see the slight trembling of his hand as it grasped the doorknob. The fact that his partner had left the door unlocked was nothing unusual. ‘Probably expected me to drop by,’ Hutch thought smiling. Knowing that some of Simon’s disciples were free again, made the blond jittery, but maybe he was overreacting, letting his fear and imagination get the best of him. The nightmare that was Simon Marcus, was still safely tucked away behind bars, and there he would stay for a long, long time.

“Starsk,” Hutch called, making sure his voice was light, stepping into the kitchen to look casually into the ‘fridge, not wanting to appear nervous or worried in case his partner walked into the room. “You up yet?”

The blond stopped his perusal of the disgusting leftovers in his friend’s refrigerator when no response came. “Starsk?” He closed the ‘fridge door and walked into the brunet’s bedroom, grabbing his gun from his holster the minute he saw the toppled phone on the ground.

He immediately crouched low, his senses taking in information at once, the rumpled bedding, the phone that fell from the nightstand where he knew Starsky kept his gun in the top drawer, the deafening silence of the room. Hutch knew without looking around that his partner was gone, the place just felt empty . . . and violated.

The sick feeling of uneasiness that lay in the pit of his gut, blossomed and grew into a burning, nauseous knot of anguish as his eyes saw the tranquilizer dart, half hidden by the dark blue sheets on his partner’s bed. “No!” Hutch whispered to no one, the silence of the empty room seeming to simultaneously accuse and mock him, filling his heart with panic and despair, while wide, pale, blue eyes remained riveted on the telltale dart, “Oh god, Starsk, where are you?”


Friday, afternoon (Old Canyon Road, an abandoned church)

He lay on his side, his awareness and sensibilities slowly intruding into the murky and unnatural sleep that was forced upon him. Dark, heavy lashes gradually lifted, revealing dazed and bewildered eyes that immediately closed when the room began to spin.

Starsky took in shallow breaths as he forced the nausea down, swallowing hard to keep the bile from rising, as the spasm in his queasy stomach roiled uncomfortably, forcefully trying to expel the remaining drug that coursed throughout his system.

He breathed through the dizzy spell, realizing that his hands were tightly tied behind his bare back. His mind tried to piece together what had happened, slowly remembering bits and pieces of the living nightmare in which he found himself. His dark blue eyes widened as he remembered Simon’s voice whispering in his mind, and the shock of seeing the madman’s disciple in his own bedroom.

He groaned softly as he sat up slowly, glancing at the red mark on his chest where the dart had punctured, remembering the whispered words of Luke as he hissed in his ear, “Your journey begins Polaris . . . Simone welcomes you to his dream . . .” Starsky involuntarily shuddered, shaking his head to clear out the cobwebs so that he could allow his mind to think like a detective.

Just knowing that the voice belonged to Marcus, and that he somehow had access to his mind, drove the dark haired detective to the brink of insanity. ‘How the hell could all of this be happening?’ He breathed heavily, feeling sickened and violated with the thought of that murderer traipsing around in his subconscious mind, remembering the dark warning from Collandra about the voice wanting to get him. He pushed down the panic he felt and chose instead to focus on his surroundings, mentally calming himself down . . . perhaps if he searched hard enough, he would be able to find a means of escape.

His cobalt blue eyes slowly lifted and tracked the ceiling of the room he was in, taking note of the balcony and the seats along that upper area. The place seemed spacious with a high cathedral-like ceiling. One could tell by looking, that at one time this place was ornately beautiful, and now its former glory had been ravished by time and hardship. The passing years had not been kind to this place and he could tell that this building had fallen into bad disrepair and was probably abandoned. A large part of the room was charred and blackened, telltale signs of a fire that had its way with the structure years before. His gaze drifted lower and took in the wooden pews that sat in rows, facing the altar he was leaning up against.

Starsky’s eyes rose once again to look at the balcony area which seemed somehow familiar to him, his mind flashed to the dream he had of Hutch hiding behind a pew, like those before him, and of the dark silhouette of a man, aiming his bow with deadly precision, shooting the arrow into his partner’s back from the exact same balcony that he was now staring at.

The same sense of alarm returned full force and Starsky struggled to sit up straighter, worriedly looking around for his partner, hoping he hadn’t slept through his chance of warning Hutch. He breathed rapidly trying to get a handle on his distress, his arms straining against his bonds, his chest muscles rippling with the movement, as perspiration glistened on his upper body. He looked desperately around the darkened room, immediately sensing that his partner was not there, not yet anyway, while simultaneously realizing that he was in some kind of dilapidated church, the few candles that were lit glowed dimly throughout the darkened chamber.

“Simone dreamed of this day,” a voice echoed in the stillness of the room, reverberating eerily against the altar on which he leaned. Starsky quickly looked to the source of that sound, seeing four men walking towards him, garbed in those familiar hooded black robes that Starsky had never thought he would ever see again. The inverted red crucifix made the brunet involuntarily shiver as images of his capture, so many years ago, came hauntingly to the forefront of his mind.

He heard it again, the soft chanting that got progressively louder as they neared him, “Simone, Simone, Simone, Simone . . ..” The sound of their monotonous droning sent shivers down Starsky’s spine, and he worked furiously at the cords that bound his wrists, tearing his tender flesh in the process. He could feel the warm trickle of blood, as it flowed down into the palms of his hands and yet, the ropes still held fast.

Starsky leaned forward in an attempt to get his legs under him so that he could stand. He barely made it to his feet, wobbly and unstable, before he was grabbed by two cult members who forced him back down to his knees. The chanting now engulfed his whole being, his vision blocked by a swirl of black robes that encircled him, “Simone, Simone, Simone, Simone . . .” the droning increased in volume to an almost fevered pitch.

Suddenly, the intonations stopped and the dark haired detective was yanked to his feet to face the cult’s stand in leader. “I am the Keeper of the Flame,” Luke said softly, his voice thrumming with suppressed emotion, “And the Flame now lives within me . . .”

“Yeah? You’re nuthin’!” Starsky drawled, his blues smoldering, his whole demeanor radiating disrespectful cockiness. Though it chilled the brunet to the bone, to once again be in the presence of these demented worshippers, no one would have been able to tell by the self-assuredness and confidence portrayed by the cop, who stood in the midst of the blacked garbed figures, alone and defenseless. The dark haired detective glared defiantly at the cult members as they encircled him; with the exception of Luke, their faces remained hidden, deep within the pocket of their hoods as they swayed hypnotically, chanting the name of Simone.

The blow came from nowhere and doubled the bound man over. Blinding, burning pain scourged his bare back and shoulders, and the brunet gasped as he fell to his knees once again, hearing the rattle of the thick metal chain was it whistled once again through the air and wrapped with punishing accuracy around his ribcage.

“Uungh,” the brunet groaned softly, gasping, feeling the white-hot burn, racing up the conduit to his brain as it registered the fiery pain that ignited his whole left side. Starsky gritted his teeth, refusing to make any more unwanted sounds, curling his body into the agony, as another blow rained down upon him, the thick, metal links catching the side of his bound arm and shoulder, leaving thick red welts in its wake. Starsky gasped again, refusing to cry out loud as the agonizing pain lanced throughout his body.

“Simone dreamed you would be disobedient,” Luke hissed, “And like a child, you must be beaten into submission . . .”


Friday, afternoon (Starsky’s apartment)

Hutch sat in the quiet stillness of his partner’s empty apartment, making sure not to disturb anything. With the exception of the phone, everything remained as he had found it when he entered the brunet’s place and realized that Starsky had been abducted. The blond had used his own handkerchief to right the phone and pick up the receiver, returning it to its cradle, so that he could make a quick call to dispatch and then one to Dobey. He had also used the same handkerchief to open the top drawer of the nightstand only to see that his partner’s gun was also missing.

His mind raced while he waited for back up and for the lab team to go over Starsky’s bedroom with a fine-toothed comb, hopefully, they could get at least one good print somewhere that would lead him to find his missing partner.

Starsky. Hutch closed his eyes, pale lashes pressed against his cheeks. He could still picture his partner huddled against the door of the car as they drove home in silence last night, despair and remorse radiating off the dark haired detective in waves. The tall blond sighed, feeling the heavy mantle of guilt settle over his own shoulders, ‘How could I have left him like that?’

He had known his friend was in a vulnerable state and yet, he had still left him on his own to deal with things that Starsky was obviously unable to deal with. ‘Shit, how could he deal with anything? He only got out of the hospital a few days ago, emerging from a coma, only to have to cope with these strange and bizarre dreams and paranormal experiences. And I left him . . . all alone knowing all the while that I shouldn’t have!’ Hutch mentally berated himself, feeling lower than dirt. And now, knowing that Simon Marcus’ loonies were out and about, it filled the blond’s heart with dread. In his heart, he knew somehow that Marcus was involved in his partner’s disappearing act.

Hutch’s heart grew heavy with frustration and fear. “Hang on Starsk,” he whispered softly to the empty room, clenching his fists with helpless despair. “Just hang on buddy.”

He jumped, startled by the ringing of the phone. Taking his handkerchief, he quickly picked up the receiver and settled it against his ear, “Hello?”

“Starsky?” a man’s voice on the other end said, “You okay over there?”

“Who is this?” Hutch demanded, as silence briefly ensued.

“Hutch? That you? It’s me, Joe.” Collandra’s usually strong voice sounded weary and quiet to the blond’s ear.

“Yeah, it’s me, Hutch,” the tall blond said, silently wondering why the psychic was calling his partner.

“Um . . . look, is you partner there?” Joe asked hesitantly, “I ah . . . I gotta speak with him ‘bout somethin’.”

Hutch sighed deeply, the loss of his partner weighing heavily on his heart, fear and frustration causing his stomach to clench in knots.

Joe’s voice rose in agitation, “Hutch? Oh god, am I too late? D-did they get him already? Am I too late?” Tell me I’m not too late . . .”


Friday, early evening (Old Canyon Road, an abandoned church)

It hurt to move, as every muscle, every inch of his skin on his upper back and chest screamed out in agony; pain tearing relentlessly throughout his torn and lacerated body. He could hear his breathing, the shallow intakes sounded ragged, and he willfully tried to slow down his rapid breaths. God, it hurt to breathe!

His arms ached, tied the way it was behind his back. He once again, twisted his torn and bleeding wrists, to test the strength of his bonds. Although the ropes gave a little, it was still too tight for him to free himself. He could feel the warm, rivulets of blood as they ran down his back and his sides, the lacerations from the chain links stinging from his own perspiration. The concrete floor felt cool against his hot face and he slowly opened his eyes, wondering how long he had been out. He was lying on his side and gasped sharply as he tried to sit up, his body protesting any movement, and yet, he knew he couldn’t just lie there. He had to get up, and get up now!

Starsky groaned softly, scrunching his eyes closed as he forced his stomach muscles to tighten, pulling his body into an upright position. He leaned his weary head back against the wall of the altar, feeling the burn from his many cuts as they pressed into the cool and smoothed wood. It appeared that Simon’s goons had left him after he had passed out from the beating he took. ‘Hell, it would take more than a chain to beat me into submission,’ the brunet thought stubbornly to himself, forcing himself to get a handle on the burning pain that ripped through his upper body, breathing heavily with the effort it took. He gasped softly as a spike of pain lanced through his side and he closed his eyes and tried to remember everything that happened before he blacked out.

The whole time they had worked him over, they had chanted insanely, the volume of their monotonous intonations increasing as more blood was let from the straining, gasping detective. The sight of the blood and the bruising on the detective’s upper body caused excitement in the black robed figures, as they swayed to the maniacal repetition and rhythm of their leader’s name.

As the heavy chain fell again and again on the dark haired detective, Luke stood in the forefront, above the bound man, eyes closed, hands raised high in apparent supplication, mumbling words to himself, as if in communication with some invisible being. “Enough” Luke finally hissed, opening his dark eyes to glare with self-righteous indignation at the groveling man.

Starsky grunted as the blows rained down mercilessly, gritting his teeth to keep from crying out, refusing to give those sickos the satisfaction of hearing his pain filled screams, when suddenly the searing lashes from the metal chain stopped. The brunet vaguely registered that the chanting had abruptly come to an end as he breathed heavily through the pain, his bruised sides, back and chest heaving, He tried to take advantage of the respite given him, desperately trying to get a handle on the pain, his rigid body shuddering, as he struggled to control the agony ripping throughout his gasping, battered form.

Luke knelt next to the bound detective who lay on his side, his eyes closed, dark lashes spiked from the perspiration that ran freely down his face. The bearded man, pushed back his greasy long hair from his shoulders, and gently ran a finger along Starsky’s heaving ribs, tracing the black and blue circular marks from the chain links, smiling as he watched the sweat drenched man flinch, his heated skin quaking at the cold and evil touch.

Simone dreamed of your stubborn willfulness, but you will accept our master as we all have, Starsky. Simone wants you . . . has wanted you all this time. His power grows ever stronger, each day as he sits, locked in his cell, cloistered away like a monk in forced seclusion; he has honed his abilities and can reach out with his mind . . . and he has ever dreamed of you.” Luke hissed, leaning over the wounded man to whisper in his ear, his long, dirty strands of hair sweeping across the side of the detective’s damp face.

Starsky could feel himself floating on a wave of darkness, on the verge of blacking out, and he struggled to stay conscious, vaguely hearing the sibilant voice of Luke, fighting to make sense of what he was saying. He trembled as he felt something pass repeatedly across his face and fought to open his weary eyes, straining to make meaning, as the voice continued to whisper into his ear.

Luke reached out and gently stroked the dark, curls that were almost plastered down with sweat, his voice soft with puzzlement, “I’ve often wondered why Simone dreamed of you . . . wondered why you were the ‘heavenly star’ and I was just the ‘keeper of the flame’ . . . Now I see why my master seeks to ‘know’ you, why he pursued you through the darkness of your sleep and stayed with you there the whole time you were in your coma . . . Simone now knows the way you think, the way you ‘feel’ and yet, you still resist his power. Your feeble attempts at ‘blocking’ my master from entering your mind amuses him. You should be honored that Simone has chosen you!”

Starsky flinched as the stroking hand became harder, rougher, as it matched the tempo and volume of Luke’s voice. He could hear the disciple breathing harder, his cloaked body trembling to control the jealous rage that overtook his almost distant and removed stance that he had just minutes ago. Luke continued to hiss, as his cold hand passed down the nape of Starky’s neck . . .

There is a power . . . and a light the shines brightly in you. ‘Heavenly Polaris’, is what my master calls you . . . he has always sensed the intensity of your energy . . . even as you hunted us down years before, and persecuted us all. Simone always dreamed that you would come into his hands, where he could learn the workings of your mind and control the light of the heavens that burns within your warrior’s heart. My master’s flame burns as bright as the sun and in the end, the sun outshines all heavenly bodies . . . even those that burn as bright as you . . . the North Star, Polaris. And I . . . I am the right hand of our Lord and what my master wills, I am bound to carry through, for I am the Keeper of the Flame and now the Flame burns within me too!”

As Luke uttered those last words, his voice reached a fevered pitch. The brunet groaned, his body tense and trembling in pain, arching suddenly as Luke angrily dug his fingers into the many cuts and bruises that marked the detective’s back, his voice raising in fury . . . “Behold, the star grows dim and we will once again rise in triumph and victory . . .” Starksy moaned softly, his breathing ragged and weak as he faded slowly into nothingness, the dark wave of unconsciousness mercifully washing over his battered and bruised body . . .

Starsky looked up, startled from his thoughts as he heard footsteps approaching. He gasped softly, feeling his body tensing as the robed figures drew nearer. His head began to suddenly throb and he longed to press his fingers into his temple where the ache always originated. He closed his eyes against the pain, and concentrated on listening to the footsteps, until he knew that they were standing, but a few feet away from him. He could hear the soft swish of the robes rustling against the concrete flooring, imagining the blood-red inverted cross against a backdrop of ebony, as the cult members began swaying to their soft chants of “Simone.”

“Hiding the windows to your soul will not make us go away, Simone dreamed you would be difficult.” Luke’s whispered voice rose above the others. “You have had the privilege of merging with my master, sharing in his dreams, as he sacrificed the lives of those children and that women for your pleasure and his . . .”

Starsky wearily lifted his long dark lashes, exposing the ocean blue depths that grew stormy as he glared at the greasy, bearded man. It sickened Starsky to know that Marcus was the man behind all of those deaths, that he had taken the lives of all of those innocent people just to get to him, but he hid his horror behind a mask of indifference, “Yeah?” Starsky breathed, “Well did Marcus dream of metal bars . . . huh? ‘Cause you’ll be behind them as soon as my partner figures out what happened to me . . .”

The brunet groaned at the sharp pain that lanced into his side, as one of the chanting cult members gave a brutal kick to his ribs. The dark haired detective closed his eyes against the pain and breathed heavily to ride out the radiating waves of agony that tore through his ribcage.

‘Hutch.’ Speaking about his partner brought his familiar, golden visage to the mind’s eye of the brunet, and his heart ached to see his friend. Even now, he ‘knew’ his partner had probably figured out that he had been abducted and the pain of their separation weighed heavily on his mind. Hutch was probably going crazy trying to locate his whereabouts, not even knowing that Marcus was once again behind all of these horrific happenings.

Starsky could ‘hear’ the little girl on the bus crying out for her mother, could ‘see’ the dying young woman as the tear ran down from the corner of her eye and these images haunted him; it tore away at his soul, as guilt and remorse filled his being. These innocents had been sacrificed on account of him, thrown out like yesterday’s garbage so that Simone could play games with his mind.

The brunet swallowed the lump that stuck in his throat, forcing it down. Now was not the time to grieve for these innocents . . . to grieve for their unfulfilled futures . . . there would be time enough for that if he got out of here in one piece.

Starsky’s head pounded in agony, as the voice of Marcus filled his mind, “You failed them Polaris . . . too late to help them . . . as it will be too late to help the knight who comes for you . . .”

Starsky couldn’t prevent the groan that escaped his lips as he mentally ‘pushed’ the voice from his head, feeling the resistance in the form of pain, as Marcus mentally pushed back. The brunet slammed his mind shut, stubbornly refusing access to that manipulative murderer. Just thinking of that madman hurting his partner filled the brunet’s heart with anger that fueled his strength and kept his adrenalin pumping.

Although it caused his head to pound with agony, Starsky once again gave a tremendous ‘push’ with his mind and was surprised to see Luke suddenly grab his own greasy head and moan, as he sank to his knees before the bruised and bound detective.

The bone weary detective watched in amazement as the disciple raised accusing, glaring eyes at him, his nostrils flaring as he breathed heavily. “You dare to defy Simone? You insignificant bastard!”

Two of the black-garbed figures quickly went to help Luke up from his knees. The bearded man glared at the hooded figures, “Bring the bowl . . . now!” he demanded with a snarl, “Simone’s will must be done!”

Starsky wearily watched as one of the robed men went to do Luke’s bidding. The dark haired detective felt suddenly drained, weakened by the amount of energy it took to force Marcus from his mind, breathing heavily as he blinked the perspiration from his eyes, his head pounding ceaselessly. His chest heaved with each burning breath, as he watched the hooded freak return with a wooden bowl, which he carefully handed over to Luke.

The longhaired man looked from the bowl to the battered brunet. “No one strikes or defies Simone, and what should have been freely given, will now be taken . . .” Luke nodded quickly to two cult members who quickly reached over and brutally dragged the wounded detective to his feet.

Starsky groaned in agony as he was dragged up, his body screaming in pain as they forced him to his wobbly feet. His arms were numb and heavy, from being tied up for so long. He raised his sweat-drenched head, and wearily focused his gaze on the bowl that was filled with some type of dark liquid that glimmered dimly from the glow of the candles. He panted heavily, feeling the burn in his left lung as it strained to draw more air in, watching Luke take a step nearer, as some of the liquid sloshed over the brim of the bowl, leaving a splash of dark red on the hard concrete floor. Blood.

The dark haired detective raised horror filled eyes to the dark disciple as an eerie smile snaked across his face, “The fluid of life, must be partaken by you Polaris, and through this sharing will my master’s will be done . . . hold him!” Luke commanded.

Starsky struggled against the hooded men as they dug their fingers painfully into his shoulders and pressed the detective down to keep him steady. Another follower stood ready as the chanting began again, growing louder by the minute, “Simone, Simone, Simone . . .”

Luke grinned, his eyes glimmered as he watched the struggles of the ‘favored’ one, his heart burned with a jealous rage, “Open his mouth” he demanded to a follower who quickly grabbed onto the jaw of the detective, forcing it open.

Starsky gagged as the warm, thick liquid was pored into his mouth, feeling his jaw being slammed shut, while his nostrils were squeezed tight. He struggled futilely, feeling the liquid spilling down his bare chest, holding the horrid, thick gore in his mouth, refusing to swallow, even as his oxygen was cut off.

The brunet felt his legs give in as he sank to his knees, the chanting of Marcus’ name filling his mind, his eyesight grew dim and he saw the blurry face of Luke as if from a dark tunnel. His body cried out for air, his lungs burning as they screamed for oxygen. He felt his nose quickly being released when he had no choice, but to swallow down the warm, revolting liquid, feeling the freaks releasing their hold on him as he fell to the ground, gagging and spitting up as much of the thick liquid as he could. He closed his eyes in agony, seeing the room spinning wildly, as he finally gave into the darkness, his curly dark head laying in the spatter of some of the dark liquid he had just spit up.


Friday, early evening (Starsky’s apartment)

“Tell me again.” Hutch said, sitting on the edge of his partner’s too soft couch, his head held in his hands, as he listened to the weary voice of the psychic from Atlantic City.

It had been a long and frustrating day for the blond as he waited for the lab team to do their thing, recognizing that he was racing against the clock, intuitively knowing that the brunet was suffering as every second ticked slowly by. The blond shuddered as he thought of what was being done to Starsky.

“Okay . . . for the last time . . .” Joe said, irritation making his voice rise, “I was sleepin’ . . . and I . . . I get this dream, only it wasn’t a dream . . . and ah . . . it was d-dark and the shadows came alive . . . and I saw your partner . . . he was ah . . . he was all sweating and scared.” Collandra looked at the blond, who lifted his head from his hands, the muscle in his jaw tightening at that last word.

“And then?” Hutch asked abruptly, fear and anxiety for his partner rolling off of him in waves.

“And then . . . he gets shot with a tranquilizer gun and they take him.” Collandra said softly.

“Who takes him?” Hutch said desperately, “Who were “they” Joe?”

“I told you . . . I don’t know . . . the shadows . . . they just came alive . . .”the psychic panted, eyes wild as they looked all around.

“Damn!” Hutch said angrily, rising up from the couch, “Time is running out Joe . . . and I need some answers now!” the blond said, pacing back and forth in agitation.

“Okay . . . okay . . .”Collandra whispered softly, “Just . . . just gimme something of his . . . something he always wears . . . or touches all the time . . .”

“Okay . . . wait here.” Hutch quickly got up and went to get Starsky’s old, brown leather jacket, which he had seen crumpled on the floor. Apparently the brunet had thrown it next to his hamper in the corner of his bedroom, when he had come home to bathe the other night.

Hutch lifted the leather article, which was still damp from the downpour they had been caught in. His mind flashed back to the image of his partner cradling the dying girl in his arms, ‘How could I have left him here alone?’ Hutch grilled himself again, mentally pummeling himself for the poor decision he had made. Perhaps if he were here last night, Collandra’s “they,” would have thought twice before breaking and entering into a cop’s residence.

Hutch lifted the jacket by the shoulders and shook it out. The blond frowned when he saw the dried blood of the girl against the white fleece that lined the inside of the worn leather. His partner had covered the young dying girl with his own jacket, attempting to shield her from the cold.

Hutch sighed. This jacket had been such a part of his friend’s life. He turned the leather jacket around and saw the four bullet holes in the back that had never been patched . . . a gift from Gunther that had nearly stolen Starsky’s life. Hutch clutched the jacket, scrunching the leather in his hands, lifting it near his mustache as he smelled the moldy dampness and metallic odor of dried blood from their harrowing experience the night before, and yet, above those strong scents, the blond could still smell the faint essence of sandalwood that made him miss his partner even more. “Hang on buddy . . .” Hutch said softly, “I’m coming . . . just hang on . . .”

Hutch quickly walked out of the bedroom and tossed Collandra the jacket. “It’s Starsky’s . . . he always wears it,” the blond said softly.

“Yeah, I know. He had it on last night remember?” Joe said, rubbing his hands against the worn leather, scrunching it as Hutch had just done. The psychic closed his eyes, his breathing growing rapid and shallow as he opened his mind, while his fingers played with the old, brown leather.

The psychic’s breathing increased as the visions came. Collandra could see images of Starsky’s life as they flashed across the screen in his mind. Pictures of the brunet laughing, his blue eyes twinkling mischievously as he played some practical joke on the blond. An image suddenly flashed of the brunet on the ground, gasping, as his hands clenched his mid-section, hanging onto Hutch for dear life, as the blond crouched over him in an alley. Still another picture of the brunet crying over a woman lying in a hospital bed entered his mind. Joe instinctively knew these were not the images he needed, but there was such a feeling of profound sadness and loss to that last vision of the woman, that he let the jacket go, breaking the “connection”. He opened his eyes and looked to Hutch, seeing the blond detective’s intense stare; his pale blue eyes were almost the color of ice.

“Well?” Hutch said, a permanent frown creased the space between his brows, “D-Did you see anything?”

Joe took a deep breath to steady himself, his head already pounding, “Yeah . . . I saw a lot of things. . . but nothing about last night.”

“Please Joe,” Hutch whispered, “Please try again. It’ll take some time before the lab can tell us anything and I don’t think my partner has much time left. If anyone can help Starsky, it’s you! I believe in you Joe, I always have,” the blond detective said earnestly.

Joe sighed wearily, massaging his aching forehead. He closed his eyes, pressing his fingers into his temples. “Sometimes I see stuff about the person’s life.” Collandra said softly, “Stuff that left some kind of an impact on the person you know?”

Hutch nodded silently waiting for the psychic to continue, “I ah . . . I just “saw” your partner crying over a lady in the hospital . . . I think she had just died or somethin’ . . . felt his sadness, his loss.”

Hutch closed his eyes, pale lashes pressed against his cheeks. “Yeah, that was his girl. Her name was Terry . . . she was a teacher of special children and she was killed by one of the scums we had put away before.”

Joe nodded, still feeling the residual effects from that last image, as he sighed and reached again for the worn leather jacket, “You know what?” Collandra said seriously, “It sucks being a cop!”

Hutch snorted softly as he watched the older man close his eyes again, feeling grateful that Joe was there to help him.

Collandra took a few deep breaths, opening himself again, feeling the soft, broken leather between his fingers as the images started coming in. A picture came to the forefront of his mind’s eye; Starsky stood turning, reaching for his gun, as an automatic raked bullets across his torso, pinning him against the red and white Torino that he so loved.

Hutch watched intently as Collandra started moaning, one hand grabbing onto his head, as the other choked the leather. “Oh God . . . oh God!” the psychic gasped. Hutch stopped himself from reaching out to touch the psychic, not wanting to disturb him, watching as the older man calmed down a bit, though his breathing still remained shallow and fast.

The horrible vision of the shooting passed and Joe could now “see” Starsky holding the dying girl in the rain, feeling the shroud of guilt that hung over the despairing detective. Then, another image rose before his closed lids, an image of a man with long, greasy hair, dressed in a black hooded robe with an upside down red crucifix upon it, holding a wooden bowl filled with dark liquid. And still another picture of the brunet flashed before the psychic . . .

Hutch watched as Collandra dropped the jacket from of his hands, as he raised both of them to his head, his fingers digging into his scalp, groaning as if in pain, the leather jacket falling limply into his lap, “Joe?” the blond whispered softly, reaching out to squeeze his shoulder lightly, feeling the fine hairs rising on the back of his neck, “Joe . . . Joe, what do you ‘see’?”

“Ungh,” Collandra groaned, feeling each blow of the chain as it fell upon the brunet’s sweat covered back, seeing the agony of the dark haired detective behind his closed lids,
”Ungh . . . oh god . . . they’re t-toturing him . . .” the psychic moaned, gasping in pain, “It hurts so bad . . . so bad . . . tearing him up . . .”

“Starsky?” Hutch said, his voice rising to match the anxiety and dread that filled his heart, “What are they doing to him?” the blond snarled in helpless frustration, listening to the painful pants from the older man who continued to clutch his head in agony, almost wailing as he said, “They’re whipping him with something . . . it’s ah . . . oh god, it’s a metal chain . . . a thick metal chain!” The psychic gasped loudly, grabbing his throat with one hand, making soft gurgling sounds before he abruptly opened his eyes, staring dazedly at the blond, his rapid, labored breathing already beginning to slow down.

Hutch stood up, red-hot anger boiling up in him as he thought of his partner suffering. “Shit!” the blond swore in helpless rage, as he paced to keep himself from tearing up the room. He breathed through the blood red anger that he felt, willing his heart to slow down it’s rapid beat. Turning on his heel, he knelt before Collandra, who sat slumped on the couch, exhaustion evident on the older man’s sweat drenched face.

“Joe,” Hutch said softly, taking one of Collandra’s hands in his, “Joe please . . . you gotta tell me what you saw . . . t-tell me everything you remember . . .” the tall blond begged. Hutch watched as the psychic wearily opened his eyes to stare vacantly at him. “Joe.” Hutch said more urgently, gently shaking the wasted man, “Please Joe . . . my partner needs help . . .y-you gotta help me!”

Joe shook his head groggily, and then focused his gaze on the anxious blond. “He’s being hurt . . . I saw it . . . whipped by a chain, his hands are bound behind him . . .oh God . . . the lashes . . . the chain keeps cutting into him . . .he has bruises and welts all over his body . . .”

It killed Hutch to hear those graphic descriptions of what his partner was enduring; his heart ached for the brunet, as once again, he seethed in helpless frustration and rage. Hutch stood abruptly, clenching his fists to his sides, “Okay . . . okay . . .” the blond snarled, taking in deep breaths to get a handle on the anger that filled his being, willing himself to calm down for his partner’s sake, “Okay . . . Joe . . . please . . . what else did you see . . . huh? Did you . . . did you see any faces? Tell me something Joe, something I can work with, so that I can find Starsky!”

“Yeah,” Collandra whispered softly, “I saw a man . . . ah . . . he had long, brown stringy hair and a beard and ah . . . he was holdin’ a bowl . . . a wooden bowl filled with some dark liquid . . .” the psychic said, his hand going to this throat, “Oh God, I remember . . . they were forcing him to drink it . . . he was tryin’ to fight ‘em . . . too weak . . . hurt . . . it was warm and thick . . . and he couldn’t breathe . . . oh God, he couldn’t breathe . . . gagging him . . .”

Hutch gently shook the older man, snapping him out of that trancelike state, “What else Joe huh?” the blond pleaded desperately, “What else did you see?” It sickened the blond detective to think that they were forcing Starsky to drink something foreign and unknown. What if it was poison? His mind drifted back to his partner doubled over in pain from the Jennings unknown compound. Hutch forced that thought from his mind, “What else Joe?”

“The man . . . he was wearing somethin’ funny . . . weird.” Joe said, closing his eyes wearily, “Something long like a . . . like a robe . . . a black robe with a red cross on it . . . only . . . only the cross was upside down . . .”

Hutch’s eyes widened in horror as the dawning realization entered into his mind, “Oh God . . . it’s Marcus!”


Friday, late evening, nearing midnight (Old Canyon Road, an abandoned church)

The rough tugging on the ropes that bound his hands woke him from the darkness of his troubled sleep. He groaned as his arms were loosened and released from behind his back, the pain and tingling radiating all the way up to his aching shoulders, as his blood began circulating once more throughout his numbed extremities. He could feel the hard concrete beneath him; its soothing coolness against the side of his hot face drew him further towards consciousness. He felt disoriented and confused, feeling the sudden painful cramping in his mid-section as he swallowed down the nausea that wanted to spew forth.

“Wake up Polaris,” the voice sneered in his mind, Simon’s voice. The brunet’s long, dark lashes wearily lifted, as bewildered blue eyes blinked several times to clear away the residual grogginess that made his head spin. He felt so weak, his body heavy and lethargic, refusing to respond to his brain, even as he commanded it to sit up. He could hear his ragged breathing, sounding loud to his own ears, as did the beating of his heart.

He gritted his teeth, as pain seared into his stomach once more. He dragged his arm across his gut and curled his aching body into a fetal position, as he tried to ride out the brutal cramping. “We are now one, Polaris, the triangle is now complete.” Marcus’ voice reached out across the distance, calmly worming its way into the weary detective’s mind.

Starsky lay still, his body tightly curled as pain racked his insides. He felt nauseous and weary, while a part of him tried to resist and mentally ‘push’ Simon from his head. He could hear the snickers of Marcus in his mind, even as he heard the chuckling from Luke who stood above him. Unable to rid Simon from his head, the dark haired detective gave up the struggle for now; his mind began to drift.

Luke knelt down next to the hurting man, and stroked back the damp curls from his face, “Still defiant, though broken you may be . . . such courage.” There was a sense of admiration in the disciple’s tone and his voice grew softer, “Give up your willful disobedience and open yourself, Polaris, to my master’s will, for we are now the ‘Trinity’ and our journey together has started,” Luke whispered softly, his touch almost gentle, as Starsky closed his eyes, breathing heavily, his dark lashes looking like smudges against his pale, clammy face.

He could hear both voices at the same time as they bombarded his senses. He felt overwhelmed and dizzy, unable to focus as the voices continued to coax him into submission, his gut clenched once more and he gasped, feeling despair fill his soul, he mentally drifted away, as Marcus continued to rape and violate his mind, while Luke continued to stroke him, his flesh trembling at that vile touch.

He drifted . . . reaching out to the one person who could make him feel better . . . the one person who held the other half to his soul. He could ‘feel’ him now, the golden warmth of his partner’s love ensconced his violated self, and he took refuge in that nurturing golden light, his mind vaguely registering the frustrated anger and dark rage of both Marcus and Luke for they sensed his “escape” as he once again mentally eluded their dark and loathsome grasps. A slow smile tipped the corners of the weary brunet’s mouth, as he imagined the soft blue of his partner’s eyes. “Hu-Hutch.” Starsky whispered, his airy voice lost amid the chanting that started up once again . . .


Cabrillo State Penitentiary, lock down ward (nearing midnight)

Hutch waited in the interrogation room at the prison, a dingy room with a long table and several chairs, a sickly yellow bulb dimly illuminated the room and reflected against the dark window. Hutch looked at his image reflected against the shiny darkness of the window glass, noting his haggard appearance, and he slowly dry washed his face.

Dobey had to pull some strings to get him into the prison at this hour, but when the captain called Starsky’s place to inform his detective that the lab findings were inconclusive; Hutch had told him about Collandra’s vision of Marcus’s involvement with the brunet’s abduction. The rotund captain had promised to do everything within his power to grant Hutch an audience with that madman tonight.

Hutch sat quietly as he waited, his mind drifting to his partner, as worry and anxiety filled his heart once again. He remembered what Collandra had said about Starsky being beaten and forced to drink some unknown liquid, and that thought filled him with helpless rage. The blond detective lowered his head into his hands as despair filled his heart.

“Hu-Hutch . . .” the pain-filled voice whispered brokenly, almost eerily into the quiet stillness that permeated this place. Hutch suddenly lifted his head and looked around the small room. He would know that voice anywhere. It was Starsky’s.

He could feel his heart begin to beat rapidly with anxiety. He could “feel” his partner needed him now and it tore Hutch apart knowing he couldn’t get to his friend. ‘Oh God Starsk, hang on buddy, please just hang on.’ Hutch prayed silently, wanting to comfort and hold his partner, “knowing” his partner was reaching out to him.

The blond looked at the dark window, seeing his own reflection staring back at him, the dim light causing his golden locks to shimmer and glow, almost like a halo of some sorts. ‘Like a lousy, guardian angel,’ ‘the blond scoffed silently, feeling lost without his partner, feeling angry with himself because he was unable to protect Starsky when he knew the brunet needed him desperately. Hutch startled and looked behind him, as the door to the room was suddenly yanked open.

Two guards escorted Simon Marcus into the small room, and pushed him roughly into the chair facing the blond detective. Hutch clenched his fists under the table to refrain from tearing into the bearded man, who stared at the blond with a smirk on his face. Hutch took a breath in, to control the rage and frustration that rose up in him, masking his turbulent feelings behind a mask of calm indifference.

The blond looked up at the guards, “You can wait outside. I just have a few questions for him.” Hutch waited until he heard the door close behind him, never taking his glaring, ice blue eyes from the man who sat calmly across from him.

To Hutch, Simon Marcus looked virtually the same as when they busted him almost five years ago. His hair was longer, his beard bushier with streaks of white running throughout that tangled mess, but his eyes had that same vacant stare, like he could see straight into someone’s soul. It was unnerving. The blond detective was about to speak, when Marcus spoke first.

“I dreamed we would meet again,” the cult leader spoke calmly, “Dreamed you would start another quest, as you searched for your completer and that you would die, as your partner even now is dying.”

Hutch took a deep breath to still the trembling in his limbs at the words from the madman. He closed his eyes briefly, seeing Starsky huddled on the garage floor, his head near the wheel well of the Torino, as his life’s blood poured out from the four holes in his back. ‘If Starsky should die . . .’ Hutch fixed his ice-cold stare on Simon Marcus, steeling himself against the mental games that Marcus was so proficient at, angry with himself for betraying Starsky with his morbid thoughts. “Where is my partner?” the blond softly demanded.

Simon snorted gently, a smile breaking out over his face, “As with all heavenly bodies, he lives in the House of God. Worry not, gentle knight, he is with the faithful . . .” Marcus tilted his head and looked carefully at the blond detective, “And you, though white you once were, tarnished now you be . . .and the power of love is not as pure, as once it was. Yet . . . cupid’s arrow may still fly and pierce the heart of those we cherish

. . . proving once again that love exists, and is the supreme power over all.”

Hutch lowered his eyes guiltily to the table top, seeing the hurt look on his partner’s face in his mind’s eye, when he walked in on Kira and himself that day so long ago. ‘How could I have done that? How could I have trampled on his feelings when he told me that he loved her?’ Hutch quickly looked back at Simon who smiled knowingly, and the blond sat up straighter, knowing he had to bolster his confidence and fortify his spirit if he wanted to deal successfully with this lunatic.

“Simone knows everything . . . and Simone never lies . . . never lies . . .” Marcus whispered across the table, causing Hutch to shiver imperceptibly, as he flashbacked to the conversation they had years ago . . . a conversation that almost mimicked what was going on in the here and now . . . tonight . . .at this very moment.

Hutch dragged his fingers through his hair and sighed heavily, “Tell me where Starsky is.”

There was a long, heavy pause as Marcus stared calmly into the angry, pale blue orbs. “He is everywhere. In a desert of scorching heat, on a mountaintop where the cold winds blow, in a canyon of old, where the flame of the sun burns down upon the Lord’s house where the faithful once worshipped, only to leave, abandoned forevermore . . .”

Hutch could feel himself losing it, as hot rage boiled to the top. He was tired, sick of games, frustrated with worry, and he had reached the point where he wouldn’t be playing “Simon Says” any longer. Simon’s calm voice as he spoke in riddles, ignited the spark of anger that Hutch had been trying hard to suppress. The blond quickly reached across the table and grabbed Marcus from the front of his shirt, dragging the cult leader across the table, kicking the chair out of the way as he pinned the madman against the tabletop, seeing an image of himself in the window from his peripheral vision.

“Now you tell me,” Hutch growled, closing his eyes to his angry reflection, as he tried to calm his racing heart, he raised his pale lashes to stare directly into Simon’s bearded face, “You tell me . . .” he repeated in a calmer voice, “what your bastards have done to my partner!”

Simone raised a finger to the cop, though his body remained pliant and nonresistant, “You must never strike Simone . . . never strike Simone,” he repeated calmly as if speaking to a young child. Hutch took a deep, calming breath, although his eyes were shone like frozen ice.

“If you don’t want me to beat the fuck out of you and kick you down like the dog that you are, I suggest you tell me where your freaks are keeping my partner!” Hutch demanded, roughly shaking the cult leader for good measure.

Simone Marcus smiled, his eyes gleamed with mirth, “That is all I have to say. Start on your quest brave knight, before your friend partakes of his last sip for even now, he lies dying as we speak . . . that is all I have to say.” The madman grinned eerily.


Saturday, early morning hours (Old Canyon Road, an abandoned church)

He looked to the sun, its merciless rays reached down to scorch his bruised body, burning him, as it set his skin on fire. His bare feet trudged along in the blistering sand, kicking up granules of red-hot heat that seared into him wherever they touched his body. His dry, thirsty throat screamed for water, as he continued to drag himself over the scorching sand dunes, hand over hand, his stomach scratched and burning with pain, until he saw it, the cool waters of an oasis that sparkled in the distance. He hurriedly scrambled towards it, nestled away under some shady palm trees. He could feel his adrenalin pumping as hope began to lift his spirits and he made his way towards the water, as quickly as his weary body could go. Excitement filled his heart, as he felt the coolness of the shade, the leaves of the palm tree shielding his body from the punishing sun. He cupped his hands, getting ready to immerse them into the cool liquid, his throat already tasting the sweetness of the water to come, when a man rose from behind one of the palms. He held a wooden bowl in his hands as he said, “Drink from this Polaris, let me help you . . . accept this gift and accept us . . .” The brunet quickly looked back to the pool of sparkling water that his cupped hands quivered above, watching in horror was the clear liquid turned into dark, red blood.

Starsky startled awake, his dark lashes lifting as he groggily tried to look around him, the strange dreamlike quality following him into the conscious world as everything blurred in and out of focus. Everything was dark around the edges and he gasped, as the pain in his gut repeatedly stabbed into him, drawing his legs in tighter, his arms wrapped protectively around his mid-section as he curled into the pain, all the while feeling the vile strokes against his sweat-drenched curls. He closed his eyes once more, too weary to pull away from the hand that caressed his head.

“Shh . . .,” a voice comforted, yet he knew it was not Hutch, the touch repulsed him and made him shudder with revulsion, “Let me help you Polaris, join with us and the trinity will be complete. Release your stubborn willfulness and cease your futile struggles. Accept the flame that burns within us . . . for we are the chosen ones, you and I.” Luke whispered to the shivering man, “You are so cold . . . stop fighting the flame of Simone, and feel his warmth and strength flow into your soul.”

It was so cold, the snowdrifts were high and the wind blew fiercely from the mountaintop where he suddenly found himself. The evergreens were buffeted by the howling wind and he shivered in frozen despair, his lips and skin turning blue and numb with the freezing cold. He squinted, trying to see through the swirling snow, his legs sinking deep into the soft whiteness as he peered through the darkness. ‘How could this be happening’ his mind reasoned silently, ‘Where was he? Where was Hutch?’ He looked around, barely able to make his frozen body obey the commands of his mind when he saw it . . . a tiny cottage almost hidden away in the snowy white banks. Warm, golden light blinked from its shiny windowpanes and a wispy vapor of smoke rose from its stone chimney. He felt his spirits lifting, hope once again filling his heart as he trudged his way through the deep snow, painfully making his way closer to the quaint cottage until he stood exhausted upon its stone steps. He raised his a fist to wearily pound on the wooden door, when it was suddenly yanked open by a man, who quickly beckoned him in, closing the door behind him. He could feel his weary body wanting to give in, wanting to stop the pain that ripped into his gut, exhaustion and fear weakening his strong resolve, as the man offered him a wooden bowl of steaming liquid. “Here drink this Polaris . . . it’ll warm you . . . let us help you become strong.”

Starsky gasped and bolted upright, sitting up dazedly, groaning in pain at the jolting movement, his breathing was rapid and shallow as he tried to get a handle on the fiery pain that tore through his mid section. Sweat ran profusely down his face and he felt so weak, everything was spinning, as he swallowed down the nausea that crept up his throat. He could feel rough hands grab onto him, and he briefly struggled, his mind imagining dark monsters lurking in the dim shadows, and he groaned again as pain radiated through his gut, feeling suddenly drained and exhausted as he allowed Luke to pull him down once again to the hard concrete floor.

“Shh . . .” Luke whispered, stroking back the damp curls, “Simone is here . . . just say his name and peace and comfort shall be yours . . . say it with me Polaris . . . Simone, Simone, Simone, Simone . . .”

“Ungh,” the brunet moaned, curling into himself again, as the chanting grew louder, adding to his disorientation, black and red, ebony and blood, floated past his vision, his bewildered mind unable to grasp what it was he was seeing . . . there was no reality, just this illusion, this horrible dream of Simone’s.

‘Open yourself and accept me as your Father, as your savior, as your God!’ Starsky heard the sibilant whispering in his mind, and he struggled once more as Luke held him down. The sound of the chanting was confusing him and the voice in his head grew louder and louder as both Marcus and Luke began chanting with the others, “Simone, Simone, Simone, Simone . . .”

“H-Hutch . . . help,” the dark haired detective whispered, unable to fathom the spinning vortex of sound and colors, falling in the darkness of blessed unconsciousness once more.


Saturday, early morning hours

“No Captain . . . I didn’t understand nothing that raving lunatic said, he just kept rambling on in riddles the way he usually does,” Hutch said frustrated beyond words, as he spoke into the mic, driving with one hand, while he sped to Collandra’s café. “I taped our whole conversation like I did before, but I need time to listen to it again, to see if I can figure out any type of clues . . . you know how Simon loves mind games.”

“Well, are you going down to the station? I can meet you there.” Dobey whispered as he walked with the phone out into his living room, not wanting to disturb his sleeping wife. “We can figure it out together . . . maybe you can call that two bit bean pole friend of yours . . . he was pretty helpful the last time.”

Hutch smiled tiredly as he heard Dobey’s soft snort, remembering how Huggy had joined them, as they tried to figure out the baffling riddles of Marcus the last time Starsky had been abducted by that madman and his goons. Although his captain enjoyed ragging on the tall, skinny black man who ran “The Pits,” the Bear took it all in good stride, never holding grudges against the larger man. In a way, it was like how he and Starsky bantered back and forth with one another. Starsky. Just thinking about his dark haired partner made Hutch step on the gas pedal.

“Actually Captain, I’m on my way now to see Joe Collandra. He took Starsky’s jacket home with him to see if he could get any more “hunches” that would lead us to him. I want to check in with him first.”

“Okay,” Dobey said gruffly, “In any case, keep me posted.”

“You bet Cap’n, I’ll call you back as soon as I talk to Joe.” Hutch placed the mic in its cradle and focused on the road. He glanced quickly at his watch; if the lab was right, Starsky had been taken sometime in the early morning hours on Friday. His partner was now missing approximately twenty-four hours.

Hutch squeezed the living daylights out of the steering wheel. Twenty-four hours with those maniacal, sadistic followers of Simon Marcus. Who knew what they were doing to Starsky now. The blond’s vivid imagination made him groan in anguish. Where could they be keeping him?

“H-Hutch . . . help.” The barest of whispers, yet Hutch knew the sound of that voice immediately. It was Starsky’s. His mind quickly flashed to that night, so long ago, when he got a phone call in the early morning hours and heard his partner’s weak voice over the phone, the night that Starsky was shot with a poison-filled hypo. The same words were spoken in both incidences and Hutch’s gut clenched in despair. “Oh God, please help him, please keep him safe,” the blond whispered softly in the dark stillness of the car, as it sped through the pre-dawn streets, “Please hang in there, stay strong Starsk, I’m coming!” Hutch shouted aloud, hoping in some strange way that his partner would be able to ‘hear’ or ‘sense’ him. Tears of frustration and anxiety filled the blond’s eyes as he silently prayed, beseeching the aid of a higher power, as he willfully broke the speed limit to make it to Collandra’s.


J.C. Café was lit up when Hutch arrived and he quickly threw the car into park. The blond headed towards the entranceway of the eatery. Joe met him at the door, locking them behind the detective.

“Anything?” Hutch asked, placing the small tape recorder on one of the tables. The blond looked up at the psychic who immediately sat down on one of the chairs that surrounded the table they were using.

“Just weird stuff . . . don’t know what to make of it.” Joe said softly. “I know he’s still alive, if that’s what you’re asking . . . I can still “feel” him.”

“Yeah, me too,” Hutch said just as softly, his pale, blue eyes connecting with the weary eyes of the psychic. “I thought I heard him call for me twice tonight.”

“Probably did . . . the way you two are ‘connected’.” Collandra said abruptly. Noting the sadness that touched the blond’s eyes, the psychic focused is attention elsewhere. “What is that?” Joe asked, nodding towards the recorder.

“I taped my conversation with Simon Marcus. The last time this happened, we got some clues to where they were keeping Starsky from his asinine riddles.”

“Can I listen to it?” Joe asked curiously, “Maybe I can help you piece together something that will help us find the kid.”

Hutch smiled at that last word. There was something almost ‘kid-like’ about his partner, but Hutch was sure that Starsky would have never shown that side of his personality to Joe. Usually only the blond, and a few close acquaintances, had been privy to that part of his partner’s persona. Maybe Collandra could help him with his special way of “knowing” things. “Okay,” Hutch said, pressing the play button after he had rewound the tape. They both listened intently as Marcus’ calm, but distinctive voice was heard.

“I dreamed we would meet again. Dreamed you would start another quest, as you searched for your completer and that you would die, as your partner even now is dying.”

“Where is my partner?” Hutch was surprised to hear is voice sounding like that . . . so empty, so weary . . . so lost.

“As with all heavenly bodies, he lives in the House of God, Worry not gentle knight, he is with the faithful . . .” There was a moment’s pause and Simon’s voice continued, “And you, though white you once were, tarnished now you be . . . and the power of love is not as pure, as once it was. Yet . . . cupid’s arrow may still fly and pierce the heart of those we cherish . . . proving once again, that love still exists and is the supreme power over all. Simone knows everything . . . Simone never lies . . . never lies.”

Hutch snuck a guilty peek at Collandra, wondering if he had “picked up” on the horrible mess they had with Kira and how he had willingly hurt his friend, but the psychic remained focused on the recording as Hutch’s voice was once again heard . . .

“Tell me where Starsky is.” They both listened to the long pause, the tape running silently, and then Simon’s voice, as he calmly spoke . . .

“He’s everywhere. In a desert of scorching heat, on a mountaintop where the cold winds blow, in a canyon of old, where the flame of the sun burns down upon the Lord’s house where the faithful once worshipped, only to leave, abandoned forevermore . . .”

“Wait,” Joe said suddenly, “Rewind that part.” They listened quietly to the part they had just heard, and Collandra pressed the stop button.

“Okay . . . okay . . . I ah . . . I don’t know if this makes sense to you, but I “saw” Starsky in a desert and ah . . . it was so hot, he was burning and he was so thirsty just like what Marcus says on the tape, then all of a sudden, I “see” your partner in the snow on a mountain, the evergreen trees are blowing and he’s freezing . . . it’s so cold there.”

“What else Joe,” Hutch asked anxiously, “Did you recognize any landmarks in your vision?”

“Nah . . . no landmarks . . . it was like the guy said on the tape . . . in a scorching desert and on the mountaintop where the cold winds blow.” Joe said thoughtfully, “That’s why I remembered it . . . everything was hazy and blurry sort of, like . . . like . . . Starsky was dreaming, but not really . . . it was weird like and distorted you know?” Collandra looked into the blond’s pale, blue eyes.

Hutch thought for a moment, “You mean like a hallucination?”

“Yeah . . . it was all fuzzy around the edges and he was jumping from one dream to another, but the only thing that was similar was the man in both dreams.”

Hutch sat up straighter at that, “What man?”

“This man with long hair and a bushy beard. Looked like an older guy . . . he had white streaks in his beard and he kept trying to get Starsky to drink from this bowl he held in his hands.”

“Drink? Drink what? Did you . . . did you “see” what was in the bowl?” Hutch asked quickly, something about the word “drink” made the hairs on his neck rise.

“Nah, couldn’t see what was in the bowl . . . too fuzzy . . . why?” Joe asked nonchalantly.

Hutch thought a moment and fast-forwarded the tape to almost the end of the conversation he had with Simon. They listened as the detective’s angry voice was heard.

“If you don’t want me to beat the fuck out of you and kick you down like the dog that you are, I suggest you tell me where your freaks are keeping my partner!”

Simon voice sounded so calm after Hutch’s tirade, “That is all I have to say. Start on your quest brave knight, before your friend partakes of his last sip, for even now he lies dying as we speak . . . that is all I have to say.” Hutch pressed the stop button.

“Simon likes to play head games. He uses synonyms a lot in his riddles. The word “sip” that he used is basically the same as the word “drink.” Hutch thought for a moment, “Before your friend partakes of his last sip . . . for even now he lies dying as we speak.” The blond murmured, repeating the words of the madman. “Damn! He talked about the desert and the cold mountaintop and you saw those things Joe, and you saw Marcus trying to get Starsky to drink something from that wooden bowl. Was it the same thing that they forced him to drink from your last vision?”

Collandra shook his head, “I don’t know . . . it was too fuzzy, and wherever they’re keeping him, it’s dark.” Joe sighed then looked up at Hutch with worried eyes, “The kid’s getting weaker . . . I can “feel” it . . . they’re wearing him down and he’s fading fast . . . do you think that’s what Marcus means when he says he’s dying as we speak?”

Hutch dragged his fingers through his hair, frustration and worry evident in his agitation.

To hear Collandra speaking of Starsky weakening made the blond want to hit something in helpless rage. It killed him to hear that, killed him to know that with each minute gone by, his partner was suffering and growing closer to death. “Dammit!” he blond swore, “I don’t know what that means . . .”

Hutch took a deep breath, trying to calm his anxious heart so that he could think like a detective. “Okay . . . okay . . . we know he was in a desert, and on a mountain somewhere in a hallucinogenic type of dream right?” At Collandra’s silent nod, he continued, “Okay . . . Marcus also mentions a canyon of old in that same sentence . . . did you see Starsky in some sort of canyon?”

“Nah, only in the desert and on the mountaintop . . . let’s rewind that part and listen to it again.” Joe suggested. They rewound the tape and listened to that section once again . . .

“He is everywhere. In a desert of scorching heat, on a mountaintop where the cold winds blow, in a canyon of old, where the flame of the sun burns down upon the Lord’s house where the faithful once worshipped, only to leave, abandoned forevermore . . .”

For a while they sat quietly, each man lost in his own thought. Finally, the psychic looked up, “I can try again . . . I mean with the jacket . . . it’s getting harder though to pick up on him . . . he’s weak and hurting . . . from what I get, it’s like they’re trying to take him over or convert him or something, you know? That’s what it ‘feels’ like on my end. Maybe that’s what Marcus means when he says Starsky’s dying . . . it’s like they want the kid to accept them into his mind and heart and he needs to die to self, to become one of them.”

Hutch nodded, his mind racing as he tried to piece the puzzle together, “In a canyon of old, where the flame of the sun burns down upon the Lord’s house where the faithful once worshipped . . .”

“Well, a church is a house of the Lord,” Collandra said brightly, trying to help, and the only old canyon we have around here is that road that leads up to the hills . . .”

“Yes!” Hutch said snapping his fingers, “The Old Canyon Road!” Hutch thought for a moment, “You know . . . there used to be a beautiful Catholic Church that stood at the top of that hill for years.” The blond’s eyes widened, his pale, blue orbs locked onto the psychic’s, “Joe, that church was destroyed in an arson’s fire six years ago, they never rebuilt it, and the structure’s been abandoned . . . oh my god Joe, that’s where they have Starsky!”


Saturday morning (Old Canyon Road, an abandoned church)

He could feel the gentle strokes along the side of his face, brushing back the damp curls from his forehead, enticing him to follow the soft, soothing caresses, as he slowly swam up towards consciousness and pain.

Starsky struggled to lift his heavy lashes, revealing dark dilated blue depths that opened at half-mast. His labored breathing sounded harsh and foreign to his ears, as he tried to make out the dark forms that gathered around him. There was a buzzing drone that soon cleared, becoming the monotonous chants of the assembled followers. “Simone, Simone, Simone . . .

‘Awww shit!’ Starsky groaned silently, awareness coming to the forefront of his mind, as he realized his precarious state. He had thought he’d dreamt all of this, but the nightmare he thought he had, was in actuality, really happening! He struggled to stay focused, still feeling tangled in the dark webs of his drug-induced sleep. He knew they had given him some kind of drug, a drug that gave him hallucinations and opened his mind to be receptive to the callings of Marcus. It was probably some type of acid, probably some type of psychedelic drug related to LSD.

The weary brunet shuddered as he remembered how they forced him to drink from that bloody bowl. The thought of that was too much too bear and Starsky quickly focused his thoughts elsewhere. He could still feel the residual wooziness from the drug’s lingering effects, yet the intense cramping in his gut had now been reduced to just sharp twinges that were at the least, bearable.

“He’s awake now,” he heard a soft whisper, a gentle voice that was obviously female. “His eyes are beginning to open.” He was lying on her lap, as she continued her gentle stroking, easing the tenseness from his aching body.

Starsky focused on the yellow blur above him, wishing it were Hutch, but knowing it was not! He blinked his eyes several times, trying to clear the grogginess from his head and vision, as the blur slowly became the face of a young woman with hair, the color of white gold. She too, was garbed in black and red, but her hood had fallen back, revealing a sweet, angelic face. She looked familiar and Starsky squinted as he tried to place her. She was young, couldn’t have been a day over twenty-one. He struggled to recognize her familiar face, but the throbbing in his head and the dryness in his throat made him give up the battle for now. He swallowed convulsively, the adam’s apple in his throat bobbing spasmodically. God he was so thirsty.

“He thirsts,” she whispered, looking away at something that stood out of his line of sight, “Give him something to drink.”

Starsky’s blue eyes widened as the face of Luke came into view. “Welcome back from your pilgrimage Polaris, my master grows weary of your illusiveness, you must learn to die to self, and accept my master as your Lord and savior, as we all have. Simone dreamed that you would, and Simone’s dreams always come true.”

Starsky gasped as he tried to sit up, avoiding the delicate hands of the young girl, who tried to assist him. He could feel the nausea roiling in his gut and he breathed deeply, struggling to maintain his control over his cramping stomach that wanted to spew forth the drug that remained and burned in his system. The brunet closed his eyes; his lashes lay like dark smudges against his clammy, pale cheeks and he concentrated on not losing his cookies in front of these freaks.

“Yeah?” the dark haired detective panted, his voice sounding hoarse and dry, “Simon Marcus is a murderer of kids . . . a slayer of innocents . . . I will never . . .belong to him. I would die before I accept him!” From the corner of his eye, he caught the young girl staring at him.

“Enough!” Luke snarled, “Bring the bowl.” The disciple watched as several followers stepped forward, one of them brought forth the wooden bowl.

The weakened detective struggled feebly as two of the cloaked figures grabbed his arms.

The sight of the wooden bowl brought back memories of the bloody gore he had been forced to drink and Starsky renewed his efforts at freeing himself, refusing to go through that again, only to earn him a steel toe boot that kicked violently into his ribs and stomach. The dark haired detective involuntarily cried out, as pain exploded in his side and gut, the air was knocked out of him, and he gasped, futilely attempting to suck more air into his burning lungs.

“It is foolish to struggle Polaris, when will you learn of my master’s might? Simone’s will be done . . . pig!” Luke raised his fist and struck the side of the sweat-drenched face of the detective, whose head snapped backwards from the force of the blow.

“No . . .” the wounded cop gasped, pain lancing throughout his mid-section, wanting to fold into the hurt that speared into his ribs and stomach, but he was restrained by the freaks who held on tightly to his arms, twisting it roughly behind him as they pulled him to his knees.

Starsky gasped weakly, struggling feebly to free himself, spurned on by the sickening thought of drinking more of that blood. His ears rang from the blow to the side of his head and he would have collapsed had they not been holding him up. His vision began to blur in and out, as he groggily looked up at Luke, his breathing harsh and ragged, as the bearded man angrily raised his fist once more.

“Please . . .” Starsky heard the young girl beg softly, as she knelt submissively in front of Luke, “Please let me try . . .”

At the disciple’s nod, the young platinum blonde quickly reached out her slender hand and laid it on the dark sweat-drenched curls of the weary detective who had bowed his head in the brief respite. “Please,” she entreated once again to the men who held the cop. She turned to look at Luke again who nodded to the followers. They abruptly let the dark haired detective go, pushing him hard as they did, so that the brunet sprawled face first on the unforgiving hardness of the cold, concrete floor.

“We must hurry Sara . . .” Luke said softly, “The knight comes.”

Sara nodded solemnly out of respect for the ‘Keeper of the Flame’, although she found it strange that he would that he would be worried about the night, since it was obviously still morning, and nightfall was many hours away. She slowly turned the brunet over onto his side, his bare, glistening chest and back were cut and bruised, and she watched as his ribcage labored to lift as he struggled to breathe. His eyes were closed, hiding those brilliant blue orbs that she had found so amazing. When they had first brought him here, those eyes sparkled with defiance, and in those ocean blue depths, Sara could see the “light” that the others so feared. It was no wonder Simone wanted that power for himself.

Their mother had been a part of this cult for as long as she could remember, a harlot for Marcus and his disciples, and she and her sister had worked for the group, cooking and cleaning, as all the older children did for the cult. Eventually she and her sister Sienna would have been trained by their mother to “serve” in other ways, but that day had never come.

Sara remembered seeing this same man when they camped at the old zoo. They had captured this detective in retribution for taking the master away. She remembered that early morning, right after sunrise, when the caves and dens in which they lived, were swarmed with police officers, and Polaris had been rescued. Most of the cult members had been captured or had dispersed; and their mother had been taken to prison, where she had later died of lymphoma. Her twin sister had been adopted by an aunt soon after, an aunt who only wanted the responsibility of raising one child, separating the twins forever.

For Sara, life had been hard, and for a while she lived as a ward of the state until she became old enough to fend for herself, eventually linking up with former cult members whom she remembered as “family”. The family she had thought she had acquired soon turned into a dark living nightmare. The drugs and the immoral sex that she had been forced to have with different followers soon played havoc with her mind, and she got lost in the dream of Simone, a dream in which his former glory would once again rise and triumph over those who wanted to harm them.

Yet, there had always been goodness in Sara that the darkness of her life had been unable to spoil, and she soon longed to escape from the clutches of the cult, knowing that if she ever did, her life would be forfeited if she were caught. As punishment to one of her failed attempts of escaping, she had to watch from the shadows, as Luke murdered her sister.

They had gagged her and made her watch the whole horrific ordeal, and she watched, crying silent tears of despair, as this same man, this detective, who now lay before her, had comforted and shielded her dying sister as best as he could. For that, she would do anything to help him. To her, he was the light in the dark insanity of her life. The compassion and grief that he had shown for her sister’s death had touched Sara deeply. No one, for as long as she could remember, had ever cried for her or her sister. She would do whatever it took to save this officer’s life.

“Make him drink from the bowl,” Luke ordered softly, his angry gaze gleaming maniacally, and yet his voice remained calmed and controlled.

Sara nodded once again as she lifted her hand to receive the bowl, all the while stroking the soft, damp curls. She knew what they were trying to do . . .the drug allowed their master into their minds, allowed him to take over their souls. This brave man had endured so much already and it saddened her to see him weakening. He was after all, her only hope. Yet he was in so much pain, his body bruised and battered. Sara knew the beatings would just continue if he did not agree to partake of the ‘drink of life’, knew that he wouldn’t be able to live through another tortuous session with the chain. She needed to buy him time, needed to keep him alive until they could escape together.

She gently lifted his head onto her lap and stroked it gently. “You thirst Polaris, drink of this and quench the dryness of your throat.”

Her soft voice was like a whisper of music, as it floated above him, soothing the tenseness and pain from his body. He licked his dry lips, God, he was so thirsty and he hurt so much. He could feel her lifting his head as she tilted the bowl to his lips, “Drink and be saved,” Sara said, peeking at Luke through her long lashes, knowing that was what the disciple wanted to hear.

“No . . . I . . .” Starsky struggled weakly against her gentle coaxing, “Don’t . . .” he gasped again.

“Shh, struggle not, it is just water . . . see?” She poured a few drops out so that he could see the clear liquid. It killed her to do that, knowing the drug had no color and was odorless and tasteless even in water, but if it would buy him some time, she would do it. “Just water . . . Polaris.” She lifted his head again and watched as he gave in, closing his eyes as he swallowed down the tasteless drug. She stopped him before he could guzzle too much and whispered softly, “Easy, just a little at a time . . .”

She watched, chewing her lip in trepidation, knowing the abdominal cramping would begin again in a few minutes, and yet, when the brunet jolted in her arms and gasped out loud, she still jumped, spilling the tainted water.

Starsky curled into the pain as once again his stomach muscles clenched tightly, punishing the weary man with each breath that he managed to take. “Ungh,” he groaned softly, suddenly turning in her lap, his arms winding around his mid-section.”

It hurt the young woman to see the detective in so much pain. She gently stroked his head, whispering softly, “Shh . . . our master’s name brings us peace in our dreams, say it with me please . . . Simone, Simone, Simone . . .” Sara began chanting softly. Her musical voice was gentle and pleasing to listen to, sending the detective into a semi-lucid state.

He could hear the repetitive chanting floating above him, and he closed his eyes as pain pummeled his stomach. He could feel his gut clenching as another cramp took hold, and yet, the sound her voice was almost hypnotic, making him float above the pain, enticing him to follow her lead. The detective scrunched his eyes tight, as the painful cramp made him shudder, stabbing unseen wounds into his gut, but the sweet sounds were soothing to his frayed nerves and he slowly, almost hypnotically began repeating the words of the beautiful voice, “S-simone, S-simone, Simone . . .” slowly at first, but keeping up with Sara’s until their voices became one.

Sara looked up and watched as a smile spread over Luke’s face. “Keep him still, while we prepare for what is to come.” She knew Luke was satisfied, knowing his master would have free access once again to the mind of the detective, and she prayed for a means to escape. She watched as the hooded figures silently followed Luke into the next chamber, and looked down at the hurting man in her arms, wondering what to do, as he quietly continued the soft intonations of her master’s name.


Saturday, mid morning (Old Canyon Road)

“We think he might be at that church up in the hills on Old Canyon Road,” Hutch said speaking loudly into the mic, as he pushed his battered car as fast as it would go. It was times like these, that Hutch wished he had a vehicle like Starsky’s, with the exception of the outlandish paint job, of course. “It’s that old Catholic Church that was damaged and abandoned from that fire a few years back, remember?” Hutch asked.

“What makes you think he’s there?” Dobey’s gruff voice came over the mic.

“Joe and I listened to the tape . . . it’s just a hunch we have, but it’s the only lead we got Cap.” Hutch said, “I should be there in a half an hour or so.”

“You think I should call for backup?” Dobey asked. “I don’t want you there alone Hutch, who knows how many of Simon’s goons will be there.”

“Yeah, I’d need some help and an ambulance too. Collandra said Starsky was beaten pretty badly.” Hutch said softly, unconsciously flooring the gas pedal as he said this. “I don’t want to get you in trouble though Captain, you know how the department feels about sending a team out just based on hunches.”

“Well Joe Collandra is a very reliable source in my book,” Dobey snapped, “And if he sees it the way you do, then to hell with the department and their stipulations!” Hutch smiled, feeling thankful that he and Starsky had the trust and support of their captain.

“In any case, you’ll be there for some time alone, since you’ve had a jumpstart. Be careful Hutch. The backup and ambulance should arrive about a half hour or so after you get there.” Dobey cautioned, “I’ll call them as soon as we end here . . . just don’t do anything stupid. Wait for the backup to arrive.”

“Yeah . . .thanks Captain,” Hutch said, “I’ll be careful . . . I just hope we aren’t . . .” The tall blond refused to vocalize the two words he was thinking of. ‘You’re too late’ Starsky told him those were the exact words the dead little girl on the bus had said to him. Hutch felt the cold finger of fear run up his spine, leaving in its wake large goose bumps.

There was a long pause and a heavy sigh from Dobey, “Just keep the faith son . . . Starsky’s been in worse situations before and has pulled through . . . that boy must have an angel watching out for him or something.”

Hutch shuddered once, and then sighed softly, “Yeah, thanks Cap, I’ll keep you posted.” The blond cop replaced the mic and began rolling up his windows as billowing dust clouds arose, churned up from the spinning tires of his LTD. The old gravel road had now become nothing but dirt. ‘Hang on buddy, hang on, I’m almost there’ Hutch said silently in his mind, ‘Almost there . . .’


She watched as the dark haired detective moaned softly, every now and then whispering the name of her master, his bruised and glistening body twitched, as his long dark lashes rolled back and forth, dreaming a nightmare that he couldn’t escape from. She gently stroked the damp curls that lay on her lap, wishing she could see those deep blue eyes of his, eyes that comforted and grieved for her sister, eyes that she knew would reassure her if he could.

She watched as his sweat drenched face contorted in anguish, holding him down as he suddenly twisted in her arms; and her heart filled with despair, knowing that her master was working on his mind, slowly taking over the detective’s courageous and compassionate spirit. She listened to his erratic breathing and heard him softly moan, “No . . . no . . .” The light that shone from him was growing ever dimmer and Sara knew she had to do something before it was too late . . .

‘You will belong to me, you are almost mine,’ Simone’s voice filled his mind, ‘Let go of self Polaris and shine only for your creator, let my flame and your light become one.’ The calm voiced enticed, beckoning seductively to the weary man.

Starsky felt so weak, like his life force was being sucked out of him. He tried to escape the forceful intrusion into his mind, tried to run from the horror of Marcus, pillaging and raping his soul. He tried to focus on the one thing that would keep him grounded, that would hold him back from floating away with the voice that continuously intruded and coerced, and he tried to ‘see’ Hutch’s face, tried to call out to him; but he felt cold and frozen, unable to think, unable to fight, unable to care. He could “hear” Simone laughing in his mind.

‘Do not turn to him for comfort, turn to me . . . be warmed by the flame of my love. Your White Knight is now tarnished and useless. He has forsaken you Polaris, left you here among the ruins of a once devoted love. He used you, took advantage of your kindness and friendship, took from you that which was yours alone, and in the process, he ruined himself, defiled the pureness of something so worthy. Fear not, for retribution shall be ours Polaris . . . join with me and become ever powerful . . . lead my flock with your light and pay homage to only me. You need nothing, but the faithful.”

Sara became alarmed, as the hurting man grew restless in her arms. He continued to twist in agitation, his breathing rapid and shallow, moaning softly now and then, his mumbled words were distorted and inaudible, but she knew that he was being bombarded by the relentless call of her master. She knew they were wearing him down, eroding his resolve and determination to wake up and run from the dream.

Sara knew firsthand the sweet surrender of giving up, of losing self to the will of her master, of floating in the illusion of the peaceful nothingness that was Simone. She couldn’t allow this to happen to the dark haired detective who held her sister so gently in the rain, who shielded Sienna and comforted her in the last moments of her life. It was time that she stepped up to the plate and did something to help this man, did something to shield him like he shielded her dying sister.

Sara gently shook the man who groaned in response. “Wake up Polaris, you need to wake up now!” she said urgently, watching as his head lolled listlessly in her lap, his dark, heavy lashes rolling back and forth, struggling to escape from the clutches of Simone’s dream. “Wake up, you must fight it, we have to get out of here. Please wake up!”

Starsky groaned, feeling his aching body protesting the jarring movements. His weary mind began to vaguely discern another voice, a sweet change to the hypnotically overpowering voice of Marcus, and he struggled to make a conscious effort to focus on that new sound. He sensed the urgency in the musical lilt and he doubled the effort it took to raise his lashes and open his eyes. He could hear the angry shouts from Marcus in the depths of his mind, as he swam away from the murky confusion to the light of awareness, the gentle shakes and the sweet, musical voice guiding his way to consciousness.

Sara shook the detective again, sensing that he was on the verge of waking, trying desperately to be gentle, but knowing the others might come back at any moment. They had to get out now, while the others were detained in the back room. She could feel her heart racing, fear made her hand tremble as she gently stroked the side of the detective’s face, mesmerized by the sapphire blue that peeked out beneath the long, dark lashes.

She could tell he was confused by the bewildered look in his eyes, watching as they tracked the ceiling of the church, his mind trying to piece together clues to tell him of his whereabouts. Those blue orbs finally made contact with her own eyes, and she could feel herself being drawn into their ocean blue depths.

She was amazed when she saw his lips curl slightly into a lopsided grin, as he focused on her face. This man was so unlike any other she had ever met, and she could feel herself being drawn to him, like a moth to a flame, to the charismatic aura of this dark haired detective. It was no wonder her master coveted this man, watching and waiting, pursuing him over the years unbeknownst to the detective, wanting the power, the light that shone so evidently in David Starsky. Sara could feel herself smiling in response to the man’s grin; he was so damn cute!

“Hi,” the brunet rasped out weakly, “Y-you . . . live here . . .huh?” he joked lamely, feeling the worry emanating from the young girl who held him gently in her arms, the trembling in her slight body, alerting him to the fact that they were still in danger. He gazed at her, once again feeling that sense of familiarity . . . knowing he had seen her face somewhere before.

Sara was stunned by the man’s charm. She knew he was trying to calm her frayed nerves and she smiled once again, “We have to get out of here, you need to help me get you up okay?” She smiled again when the handsome man gave a slight nod and she gently moved out from under him to support him into a semi-sitting position. She could hear his soft grunts of pain and knew the effort it took for him to move. Her heart reached out in pity and she gently maneuvered him until his back rested against the front side of the wooden altar, as she listened to his labored breathing. “You okay?” she whispered.

Starsky slumped against the altar, grateful for the support. The muscles in his stomach and sides screamed out in protest as he tried to sit up. If not for the help of the girl, he wouldn’t have been able to bring himself to move at all. The room spun crazily and he closed his eyes once again to get a handle on the queasiness and sudden cramping in his gut. He breathed through the pain, feeling his head beginning to pound, hearing Simon’s voice whispering in the depths of his mind, drawing him back down to the murky confusion he floated in, hearing the eerily soothing drone of Simone’s name over and over in his head.

“Hey,” Sara said anxiously, shaking the brunet hard, “You got to fight it you hear? We’ve got to get out of here and you need to help me! I can’t carry you, you’re too heavy!” she begged desperately, “Please . . . if they know I’m trying to help you, they’ll kill me for sure.”

Starsky opened his brilliant blue eyes to stare directly into the orbs of the startled girl, “Run,” he gasped weakly, “Run away . . . they’re comin’ now, Marcus . . . told Luke ‘bout you . . . leave me . . . and go . . . now!”

“No! Not without you.” Sara said determinedly, “You tried to save Sienna. I saw you holding her in the rain while she lay dying. They killed her because they were punishing me for trying to escape.”

Starsky stared at the girl, his mind drifting back to the night of the rain, the night he had failed to save the girl, the beautiful young woman with the face of an angel, the same face that hovered anxiously now above his own. “You,” he gasped, gently cupping his hands around the sweet heart shaped face of the girl from his dreams, “You died that night . . .” He sat up straighter looking into her eyes, asking silently for forgiveness.

“No . . . not me,” Sara said softly, her heart melting as she saw the anguish in the shining blue eyes of the brunet. She gently touched the side of his face, “That wasn’t me . . . it was my sister . . . my twin sister. You were . . . you were so kind to her . . . it wasn’t your fault that she was killed; it was mine! They killed her to get to me; the blame is on my shoulders, not yours. Right now we have to get going and you need to help me okay? We’ll talk about everything once we’re safe.” She smiled as he solemnly nodded.

He could still hear Simon’s voice in his head and he shook it, trying to clear his mind, as Sara attempted to lift the detective under his shoulder, throwing her small frame under his arm in an attempt to get him into a standing position.

The jarring movement caused excruciating pain to flare and burn in the bowels of his gut, and his ribs, and the dark haired detective gritted his teeth to keep from crying out, trying desperately to get his legs under him, when Luke and the others came into the room and saw what was happening.

“Run!” Starsky said quickly, shoving her towards the exit door of the church, as one of the hooded men grabbed him and roughly pushed him down again, the brunet’s back brutally scraping against the wooden altar.

Starsky watched in dismay as Luke grabbed the young blonde just before she reached the door. He watched as the bearded man dragged her back to the raised platform where he sat slumped against the altar, dragged her back by her long blond hair, hearing her frightened sobs as they drew nearer.

The look of anger on Luke’s face, twisted his features into a mask of hate and jealousy.

Starsky could hear the disciple’s heavy breathing as he yanked on the roots of Sara’s beautiful golden hair. The young girl moaned, desperately hanging onto the disciple’s hand to alleviate some of the pressure on her scalp.

“Leave her alone!” Starsky snarled, struggling against the men who held him down, pressing him back against the altar.

“Simone knew of your treachery, warned me of your betrayal,” Luke hissed at the Sara, “And yet, I defended you, wanting to belief in your golden innocence, wanting you to turn to me . . . and here I find you turning to him, helping him to escape from our master! I loved you Sara, and you betrayed my love, when I have been ever faithful to you. You would have ruled beside me, helped me to lead the faithful flock, who even now look to us for leadership. Your beauty has blinded me. You harlot!” Luke suddenly released the handful of golden hair, only to strike his open palm hard against her pale and frightened face. Sara cried out as she fell from the force of the blow, striking her head, as she landed near the struggling detective.

“You fuckin’ bastard.” Starsky shouted; anger and adrenalin making him struggle even more, “Leave her alone!” One of the hooded men came over with the wooden bowl and stood in front of the detective. Another follower swiftly kicked the dark haired detective near his ribcage, while the others held him down.

Starsky felt the air leave his lungs, and he gasped as pain flared once again in his side. He scrunched his eyes shut and opened his mouth in an attempt to suck more air into his empty lungs.

The brunet winced, as he felt someone yank his head back by the roots of his hair, opening his eyes to see the distorted face of Luke who hissed into his ear, the inverted cross on his forehead blurring in and out of focus, “And you pig, you will know the pain of losing someone you love, like I have. Hate runs deep in my veins for you, yet I cannot change my master’s mind, he has chosen you to be the Shepard of our flock. I am, but a servant to my master’s will, and you will pledge yourself to Simone as he has dreamed this . . . for Simone never lies.” Luke nodded to the man who held the bowl, “Make sure you give him more than you did the last time, our master wills it!”

Without another word, Luke turned and grabbed Sara by the arm, dragging her limp body across the cold concrete as the rest of the worshippers gathered around the pinned detective, swaying and chanting slowly and hypnotically, already obeying Luke’s command, as they once again, brutally forced the cop to partake of the vile liquid.


Saturday afternoon (an old abandoned Church)

Wake up . . .” He vaguely registered that it was the voice again, so calm, so removed . . . so distant, “Wake up pilgrim . . . the journey is at end . . .”

He was so weary, so cold, unable to fight off the voice that wandered freely inside of his head, speaking vile things, planting horrific images in his mind’s eye, showing him things of the future that he wanted no part of. The spinning vortex of colors and sounds and images confused his cloudy mind and meshed reality with lucid dreams. Dreams of the innocent dying . . . dreams of Hutch’s death . . .

He struggled to open his heavy lids, knowing that he had to warn him; knowing that he needed to be aware, but his mind and body were so heavy; feeling somehow like it did not belong to him anymore. Every muscle, every joint screamed in pain at the slightest intake of breath and he was so exhausted . . . so incredibly weary. His stomach muscles clenched in agony, as the psychedelic enhanced, then distorted his vision, making him see things, only to have them suddenly disappear. Reality and illusion became so enmeshed that it was difficult to know what was substantial and what was imaginary.

But Hutch was here . . . he was sure of it . . . somewhere in the darkness . . . he could “feel” it . . . he could feel the incredible, intrinsic bond they had always shared, the healing energy of love and friendship that never failed to comfort and reassure, as it pressed protectively against his aching soul. It wrapped its nurturing warmth around his cold, frozen heart, melting the frigid iciness that had ensnared it, and held it captive for so long. He was here . . . somewhere . . . hiding in this parody of all that was hallowed and revered. He ‘knew’ it; as sure as he knew that the sun would rise tomorrow, and it caused him to raise his weary head, feeling the frozen talons that pierced into his soul beginning to dissolve under the golden light of love.

His dark, heavy lashes lifted, as sweat stung his eyes, burning and blurring his vision for a moment, before he blinked away the salty moisture as he tried to focus. It was so dark, the candles casting eerie shadows all around. He closed his eyes again; his breathing shallow and rapid, as he tried to ride out the wave of pain that suddenly engulfed his battered body. The cramping spasms in his gut were painful reminders of the violation he had endured. He could hear the soft chanting in his head and the voice of the master as it rose above the droning.

Wake up,” the voice hissed once more, urgently bidding him to do what was asked, “Wake up and behold the tarnished knight . . .”


Hutch crouched behind one of the wooden pews, rechecking the chamber of his fully loaded gun, while he quickly glanced around the darkened room. The room was illuminated with only a few sparsely lit candles, which made it difficult to see. He glanced up at the darkened balcony area; his pale blue eyes tracking the charred remains of a once ornately decorated church.

He had debated if he should wait for back up like Dobey had ordered, but knowing his partner was only a few yards away drove the blond crazy. He couldn’t wait for back up, not when his partner was hurt and needed help. Hutch had parked the car about a half a mile from the church, for he did not want to alert the cult and take away his element of surprise.

Getting into the structure was simple, as there was no one around. As far as he could tell, the place seemed deserted, and for a minute, Hutch thought that he had made a dreadful mistake, wasting precious time as he searched an area that was obviously barren, while his partner remained a victim to their sadistic rituals elsewhere. Yet, his “Starsky sense” was strong here. He could almost “feel” his partner’s need and pain . . . could almost “feel” their special bond growing stronger as the proximity between them increased.

Hutch dragged his eyes downward to the lower pews, noting several gilded portraits of saints that hung on the walls. He turned his head to the wall closest to him and shuddered to see that all the pictures were hung upside down. The peaceful visage of the painted saint, closest him, had a red inverted cross smeared upon her forehead, a mark that defiled the sanctity and holiness of this once revered house of the Lord.

Hutch scurried behind the back of the long pew until he was next to the middle aisle. He quickly peeked around the side of the bench, noting the raised platform and the wooden altar that stood at the front of the church.

He took a deep breath, holding his cannon out to the side of him, as he balanced on the balls of his feet. Although it was too dark to tell, it seemed like there was something or someone sitting slumped at the foot of the wooden altar. Hutch slid his long body under several rows of pews to bring him closer to the front of the church so that he could get a better look.

The tall blonde crept once again to the middle aisle of the second row to peek around the side of pew. From this distance, he could hear the labored breathing of the dark haired man who sat slumped against the altar. It was Starsky. He could see the dark bruises that littered his partner’s upper chest and sides and he suppressed the urge to run over to his friend, whose curls lay plastered by sweat against the crown of his head.

Hutch quickly looked around the darkened room. The stillness of the chamber gave him a feeling of disquietude, his detective sense screaming out a warning, but he could see absolutely nothing. A soft moan from the front of the room quickly drew his attention back to his partner, “Starsk?” the blond whispered softly.

“Starsk?” That voice, so soft with concern, echoing in the hollow cathedrals . . . made the brunet struggle to open his eyes again, as he slowly lifted his heavy head. He labored to draw more air into his lungs, seeing the darkened room spinning in and out of focus. There! He could see it floating in the darkness . . . a golden halo of light, crouched down behind one of the wooden pews of the desecrated church. He blinked again, trying to clear his vision . . . squinting until the pale formless blob became a familiar and welcomed face . . . it was him . . . it was Hutch!

The northern star begins to fade . . . it is too late to shine your light Polaris . . . too late for you and for your brave, but foolish knight . . .” the voice echoed eerily in his head.

“No . . .” Starsky thought, as he tried to move, seeing his partner cautiously rising to his feet, his gun stretched out before him as he made his way cautiously to the front of the altar. ‘No’ the brunet screamed silently in his head unable to vocalize his thoughts, watching as his partner drew nearer as if in a dream, knowing it was a mistake . . . a fatal mistake . . . Starsky’s weary head dropped once again to his chest, unable to move, unable to call out a warning, unable to watch as Simon’s horrific dream became a reality

. . . he was surprised by the gentle touch to the side of his face, a familiar touch that filled him with warmth and slowly began to melt the ice cold fear that had ensnared his heart for so long.

“Oh God, Starsk,” Hutch whispered gently, as he crouched beside his wounded partner, reaching out a hand to gently lift his partner’s bowed head. He watched as the long, dark lashes slowly lifted to reveal dark blue eyes, which looked almost black, as the large, dilated pupils overshadowed the familiar blue of his partner’s eyes. ‘Drugged, but with what?’ Hutch thought silently, barely controlling the anger that wanted to burst out. The blond watched as the brunet’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, “Hey buddy,” Hutch whispered urgently, gently slapping the sides of his partner’s face, “C’mon pal, stay with me huh?” The blond looked around to make sure they were still alone.

Starsky could feel the warmth of his partner’s touch, as it drew him further from the frozen, dreamlike quality of his existence. The brunet raised his eyes once more to the face he loved so very much, his deep blue eyes silently conveying the depths of his feelings for the blond man who held him. Hutch. It was so hard to believe that he was here, that somehow, his partner had found him. He knew he had to warn Hutch about his dream and his throat worked convulsively to form his frantic thoughts into words.

Hutch could feel a lump forming in his throat as he read the profound love and relief in his partner’s eyes, as the brunet grasped weakly onto the sleeve of his jacket. He could feel Starsky trembling, could see his friend wanting to say something, struggling, as he worked the muscles in his throat.

“Hey . . . hey, babe it’s okay,” Hutch said gently, soothingly, maneuvering himself in front of his curly haired friend to help lift him up, “We gotta get you out of here buddy . . . you can tell me all about it later okay?” The blond knew it would hurt the brunet to move him, but there really was no choice in the matter and he steeled himself against stopping, when he heard the soft groan that came from this partner’s lips.

Starsky gritted his teeth, refusing to make any more unwanted sounds. He felt the slight hesitation from the blond, as he began to gently lift him, grasping the wounded man under his cut and bruised arms.

As if in a dream, Starsky looked over his partner’s shoulder, his blue eyes widening in horror as he saw a dark figure rising from the balcony, aiming the bow and letting fly the arrow . . . the arrow that would pierce Hutch through his back . . . the same scenario he had witnessed in his nightmare. Fear and the sudden rush of adrenalin made him a silent witness no longer.

To Hutch, everything happened in a blur of action. He heard Starsky, as he cried out his name, “Huuuutch!” He felt the sudden shove from his partner, as Hutch grabbed his gun and turned his shoulder into a roll, firing towards the dark silhouette that stood on the balcony, barely discerning the displacement of air, as something whizzed by his ear.

Hutch watched as the man fell, as if in slow motion, to the pews below. “Stay here Starsk,” the blond called over his shoulder as he cautiously made his way to the back of the room to check on the fallen man. It was Luke; a bullet hole lay between his opened eyes . . . dark, glaring eyes that seemed to hauntingly accuse the blond of taking his life. Hutch could feel the suppressed anger and anxiety for his partner rise to the top, “Fuck you!” Hutch said softly, as a last rite over the still and broken body of Simon’s disciple.

He turned and hurried back to his partner’s side only to stop in mid-stride, his pale, blue eyes opened wide in horror, “No,” he whispered, breaking into a run, sliding to kneel next to his partner’s side, “Oh God . . . easy buddy,” the blond detective panted, “Just . . . just stay still, d-don’t move okay?” Hutch lifted his hands in helpless despair, his eyes locked on the protruding shaft of an arrow that stuck obscenely out of his partner’s right shoulder, the metal arrowhead gouged into the wood, pinning the brunet firmly to the altar behind him.

Starsky nod was barely perceptible, his breathing was erratic and shallow, his dark long lashes twitched against his pale coloring, as he fought to control the trembling in his body, trying to get a handle on the pain that ripped through his shoulder and radiated down his arm and through his chest. And yet, despite the pain that ravaged his body, he realized that his mind felt clearer, the dull pressure in his temple that had been with him since he emerged from his coma, was suddenly gone.

It sickened Hutch to see his partner sitting propped up so still, knowing that the arrow had been meant for him. He shouldn’t have turned his back to that balcony; it should have been him sitting here with the arrow in his shoulder. Hutch looked quickly at his watch, the back up and the ambulance would be here in another ten minutes or so.

He listened to this partner’s labored breathing and laid his large hand gently on Starsky’s knee, “You didn’t have to do that buddy,” the blond said softly. He felt the heavy hand of guilt and despair, as it ravaged his soul. “You didn’t have to take that arrow for me . . .”

For a minute, there was only the sound of Starsky’s ragged breathing and then his voice softly rasped out, “Thought . . . it was a good idea . . . at the time,” he gasped, trying to still the trembling in his body. Both men silently thought back to that night, so long ago, on a rooftop, where Starsky shot Bellamy full of lead, knowingly killing himself in the process, to save his partner.

They worked that way, each of them willing to give up their own life, for the life of the other. Hutch knew that Starsky didn’t think twice about shoving him out of the way of the arrow’s path, knowing in his weakened condition that he might take the hit, and Hutch would have done the same, if their places had been reversed. God, he loved this man . . . and the love they shared, their special bond had saved their lives countless of times in the past. To Hutch, nothing in life truly mattered except having his best friend by his side. Their relationship from day one had been about love. It was their greatest gift to each other.

“Yet . . . cupid’s arrow may still fly and pierce the heart of those we cherish . . . proving once again that love exists and is the supreme power over all.” The words of Simon Marcus suddenly popped into Hutch’s mind and he stared in awe at his dark haired partner who suddenly tensed as a spasm of pain shook his weary body.

“Easy buddy,” Hutch soothed, wincing along with his partner, knowing the excruciating pain his friend was in, “Hang in there Starsk, the Calvary’s on its way.”

The brunet scrunched his eyes and jolted against the searing pain, as it lanced through his shoulder. Starsky groaned softly with the sudden movement, his body rigid and tense, gasping as he reached for the protruding arrow shaft with his left hand.

“No Starsk, I can’t let you do that buddy,” Hutch said, grabbing onto the roving hand, “You can’t pull it out, you’ll bleed to death.” The tenseness of the brunet’s body made the blond feel ill, he felt so useless sitting there, unable to hold and comfort his partner like he wanted to. “We’ll just sit tight until the paramedics come okay? Just take it easy buddy.”

The brunet shook with a sudden spasm of pain, “Oh Hu-Hutch . . . oh jeez,” he gasped, his left hand dug into his partner’s palm, “Pull it out . . . please . . .” Starsky begged, wanting to twist his body, as it arched in pain, but the arrow remained firmly embedded in the wooden altar, barely allowing the dark haired detective to move at all. The brunet gasped, his breathing harsh and ragged.

It killed Hutch to see his partner in so much pain, but the sudden pinging of bullets drew his immediate attention away. Several cult members had wormed their way silently between the pews, firing randomly at the detectives who had no cover.

Starsky panted, moaning as he grabbed onto the shaft of the arrow, “R-run Hutch . . . get behind this thing!” He knew Hutch was in the line of open fire and the last thing he wanted to see was his partner being blown away on account of him being pinned where he was.

“Fuck!” Hutch swore, his eyes wild with desperation, knowing they were sitting ducks. He fired his magnum; the roar of his cannon was the voice of his anger. One of the followers peeping over the pew screamed in pain, surprise and agony written on his face as the bullet ripped into the hooded man’s shoulder.

Starsky groaned out loud, as he struggled to break the shaft of the arrow with his left hand, while Hutch fired another shot. The pain tore through brunet, just the slightest vibration in the shaft wanted to make him pass out. He fought against the nausea that roiled in his gut, the unbearable agony wanting to make him puke. Try as he might, he was unable to break the shaft with only one hand. He heard Hutch fire two more shots, the sound was as comforting as it was familiar, and suddenly, Hutch was by his side.

“Okay Starsky, you hang onto my shoulder okay? I gotta dislodge you from this shaft . . . it’s gonna hurt like hell, but we gotta find cover for ourselves,” Hutch said, ducking as a bullet pinged near his head, “Okay I gotta break this shaft in two,” he panted desperately.

“’Kay,” Starsky gasped, fighting to stay conscious, “Gimme . . . your gun.” Starsky grasped the gun with this left hand, feeling its comforting weight, keeping his eyes trained on the stealthy shadows that hid behind the wooden pews. “Jus’ break . . . the fuckin’ . . . thing!”

Starsky fired another round, taking down another follower, while Hutch took the shaft in both of his hands, feeling his partner’s body tensing with pain, “Uungh,” Starsky grunted in pain, feeling the blond hesitate, “Jus’ . . . do it!”

Hutch quickly snapped the shaft in two, breaking the wooden rod as close to his partner’s body as possible; his stomach clenched as he heard his partner suddenly cry out in pain. Hutch quickly glanced over at his curly haired friend, who sat with his eyes scrunched, taking in rapid, shallow breaths to get a handle on the fiery pain that tore right through him. “You okay?” Hutch asked anxiously.

Starsky eyes remained tightly shut, as he spoke through gritted teeth, “Yeah . . . jus’. . . gimme a minute.” Hutch watched with anxiety filled eyes as his partner surfed through the pain, breathing rapidly as he tried to get a handle on it.

Starsky trembled as he opened his blue eyes, eyes that were filled with pain, “Now . . . what?” he gasped. They both ducked as another bullet came close and Starsky fired back immediately, hitting the dark hooded shape squarely in the chest. The brunet groaned softly, the magnum’s powerful kick caused his body to jolt around the arrow shaft each time he fired. He knew he wouldn’t be able to last much longer. Already his vision was growing dark around the edges. He looked to his partner, his pain filled, cobalt eyes speaking volumes.

“Okay, hang on buddy,” Hutch said calmly, although he wanted to scream and shout with the anxiety he felt, he purposely made his voice as soothing as possible, “We’re going to have to slide your shoulder off of this shaft okay? So on the count of three, you need to help me by leaning towards me, alright Starsk?”

“’Kay, jus’ . . . jus’ hurry,” Starsky gasped, raising the heavy gun to fire randomly into the pews. As far as he knew, they had hit or wounded several of Simon’s goons and the hooded men were reluctant to stick their heads over the benches that shielded them. The deadly precision of the brunet’s shots, were taking them rapidly down.

“Alright, stay with me,” Hutch whispered, looking his partner in the eye, dreading what he was about to do, “One . . . two . . . three,” As gently as he could, Hutch pulled his partner’s rigid body towards him, feeling the wooden shaft sliding through Starsky’s shoulder, the rough wood scraping his partner’s insides, as his body pulled free from the arrow. He could see Starsky’s sweat drenched face, scrunched in pain, heard his painful cry as he slid free and collapsed unconscious into Hutch’s arms. Suddenly a shot went off and Hutch turned in time to see a young blond girl shoot another one of Simon’s men.

“Hurry,” she snapped, “Get him behind this altar!” She fired once again, splintering the bench that one of the worshippers hid behind.

Hutch quickly dragged his unconscious partner behind the wooden altar and propped him up as gently as possible, making sure his body was in line with the object so that no stray bullet could hit him. He could hear the intermittent sound of gunshots and knew by its proximity, that the woman who was helping them was firing the shots.

The tall blond cop was shocked and concerned by the amount of blood that flowed freely from both the entrance, and exit wounds in his partner’s shoulder. Hutch quickly removed his jacket, holster and shirt, stripping the latter into pieces so that he could stem the flow of blood. The way Starsky was bleeding out, he would be dead before the ambulance got here.

“How is he?” Sara gasped, handing Hutch his gun. “Will he make it?” She crouched near the wounded man, and Hutch could clearly see the concern she had for his dark haired partner. He watched as she gently stroked back the damp curls from his face, raising distress filled eyes up at the blond.

“We gotta stop the bleeding. Here, you need to help me,” the blond detective said, handing her some of the makeshift bandages, “Direct pressure will stem the flow of blood and hopefully keep him from bleeding out.” He watched as she put her weapon down and was surprised to see that it was Starsky’s missing gun.

At his silent question, Sara smiled hesitantly, “I-I took it from his place,” she said shrugging, looking at Starsky, “Thought I might need it when I made my escape from Luke.” she said softly, “I’m really sorry for stealing it.” That last statement surprised Hutch, who was busy wadding the material into thick layers; he stopped and stared at her. There was a gentle sweetness to this young girl and a familiarity about her that Hutch couldn’t place.

“Uungh,” Starsky groaned softly, drawing the attention of the two helping him. They watched as he slowly came to, the sharp pain from his wound dredging him up from the dark refuge he had momentarily escaped to.

“Hey buddy,” Hutch said soothingly, his voice soft and mellow, “How you doing huh?” He watched as his partner opened his weary eyes, the drug that coursed through his friend’s system still evident by the show of dilated pupils that swallowed the usual blue.

“Been . . .better,” the curly haired detective rasped. He looked at his tall blond partner, seeing the stress lines of worry and fear etched upon his face. “Y-you okay? You l-look . . . terrible!” His dark blue eyes softened as he looked fondly at his blond friend, and he grinned slightly when he heard Hutch’s soft snort.

“Hang on buddy, I’m gonna get you out of here,” Hutch said softly, his partner’s rapid and shallow breathing were beginning to worry him, as did his pale and clammy skin. He needed to prevent his partner from going into shock. The tall blond gently used his leather jacket to cover his partner and keep him warm, and then he leaned Starsky slightly forward and pressed the wadded cloth against the wound in the back of his shoulder. Hutch winced when he felt Starsky jolt and gasp, “Easy buddy, I know it hurts, but we gotta stop the bleeding.” He looked up and nodded to the girl who came closer to apply pressure to Starsky’s front.

The soothing warmth of Hutch’s jacket made the dark haired detective want to slip into unconsciousness, but he smiled weakly when he caught sight of Sara, “Hey . . .” he said softly, reaching his left hand to finger her long golden tresses, as she pressed the wadded cloth firmly to the wound in his chest, “Was w-worried . . . about you . . . you okay?” he winced, feeling sick as they continued to push against his ravaged openings to impede the flow of his blood.

There was a moment’s hesitation and a deep sadness to her voice that Starsky could only speculate about, but she bravely smiled, tears shimmering in her eyes as she softly said, “Yeah . . .I’m okay . . . been better.” She laughed quietly when Starsky’s eyes widened at the use of his own words, then smiled as the detective grinned and winked up at her, his blue eyes, though weary and pain filled, were beautiful, almost sparkling as it caught the dim reflection of light from the glowing candles.

Hutch was just about to say something when the wails of police sirens could be heard in the near distance, feeling suddenly weak with relief that help was finally on the way. He applied more pressure on the wound to the back of Starsky’s shoulder, feeling his partner tensing in pain. “Easy buddy . . . we got help on the way, you stay with me you hear?”

“They’re running,” Sara whispered, as she peeked around the side of the altar. “The sirens are scaring them off . . .”

She had no sooner said this, when Hutch caught sight of a movement from the corner of his eye. One of Marcus’ followers had crept unbeknownst to any of them, to the side of the raised platform, his gun pointed straight at Starsky. “Die Polaris,” he snarled, firing his gun at the same time that Hutch fired his magnum. The hooded man fell, the bullet from Hutch’s gun piercing his neck.

Hutch could hear the black and whites pulling up outside and he quickly looked back at his partner to make sure that he was fine, only to find Starsky’s wide blue eyes riveted on his own pale blue ones. The dark haired detective slowly shook his head, his eyes filling with tears, as he stroked the pale head and slender body that lay sprawled over his lap.

“Sh-she’s dead Hutch,” Starsky whispered brokenly, “She threw . . . herself in front . . . of me!” Starsky looked down at the diminutive body, lying so still . . . so peaceful. “It should’a been me Hutch . . .it should’a been me . . .”

The tall blond detective made his way back to his wounded friend, feeling saddened and yet eternally grateful for the young girl’s sacrifice. He checked for a pulse on her slim pale neck, finding none, noticing quickly that the bullet had penetrated her back and had probably pierced her heart, killing her on the spot.

He sat next to his partner and pulled him close, hugging him to his chest, while applying pressure to his wounds once more. Silent tears spilled down the brunet’s face, as Hutch listened to his partner softly repeating over and over, “It should’a been me . . .”


Sunday evening (Two months later- Starsky’s apartment)

“You want me to play something for you buddy?” Hutch asked, sitting on a stool, as he deftly tuned his guitar.

His soft voice was a soothing balm to the brunet who lay on his bed, his back pressed against stacked pillows, with one hand tucked under his head, staring moodily at his bedroom ceiling. Starsky had just taken a hot shower and was cooling off, shirtless, wearing his ragged denim cutoffs; the window to his bedroom was open, allowing a soft summer breeze to blow gently into the room.

Hutch snorted softly as he waited for his partner’s reply. This singing ritual had become a nightly habit since before he had brought his dark haired partner home, just about a week ago. Hutch always knew that Starsky enjoyed listening to him sing and play, but since his abduction, this nightly serenading had become almost a need for his curly haired partner. There were times in the hospital that the brunet couldn’t fall asleep until he heard the gentle strumming and soothing voice of the blond, and eventually, Hutch’s guitar had become a permanent fixture to Starsky’s hospital room, soothing the dark haired man to sleep, even when sedatives failed.

The psychologist had warned Hutch about the nightmares his friend was undoubtedly going to have, and Hutch had witnessed them countless times himself, reaching out to hold his trembling, sweat drenched friend in the middle of the night, whenever he bolted awake, gasping, from the horrible visions that still haunted his dreams. It troubled the blond, when his partner would eventually pull away and quietly evade the questions that Hutch asked, as he tried to coax his partner into talking about his fears.

Hutch gave his partner the once over, his pale, blue eyes running over his friend’s muscled chest. The cuts and bruises on his upper torso from the beating he took with the chain had faded long ago. The fractured ribs had knitted nicely; the only physical evidence of the ordeal he had suffered at the hands of Marcus and his goons, were the scars he had on the front and the back of his upper right shoulder. Scars that still looked red and abraded, as compared to the old faded scars across his abdomen and chest, the scars he’d gotten from Gunther’s failed assassination attempt. Hutch looked back to his guitar and picked a few chords, his agile fingers gliding across the strings.

Starsky had come a long way in his rehabilitation, the biweekly therapy sessions, though painful and grueling, helped keep the mobility of his healing shoulder. Although the physical wounds were nearly healed, the blond detective knew the emotional wounds were still very much there . . . raw and festering. Sometimes, those types of scars were the hardest to heal.

Hutch strummed a soothing melody, as he waited for his partner to answer. Nothing. The blond lifted his eyes from the strings and stopped playing. He waited for a while, hoping the brunet would notice the quiet stillness of the room.

Hutch frowned knowing that Starsky wasn’t even aware that he had stopped playing. His curly haired friend had that far away, absent look again in his eyes that unnerved the tall blond; he hated that sad, haunted expression that would creep out every now and then, when Starsky thought no one was looking, and he wanted to erase it permanently from his partner’s visage. The only thing was, he didn’t know how.

At the hospital, when his wounds were well on the way to mending nicely and he could sit up with visitors, Starsky seemed his usual rambunctious self, animatedly chattering and bantering with people like Joe Collandra, Dobey and Huggy when they came by to visit the dark haired detective. No one except Hutch knew how the brunet suffered from the memories and nightmares of the trauma he lived through, although once in a while, the blond would catch Joe staring at Starsky intently, as if knowing the brunet’s hidden pain, but to his credit, Collandra said nothing.

Although Hutch constantly tried to get his partner to talk about his feelings and share about the ordeal he underwent, Starsky remained stubbornly quiet, hoarding his feelings and only revealing a bit at a time. With Starsky holding everything in, it was hard for Hutch to help him through all of this. Hutch glanced at his friend over the top of the guitar, which he held pressed against his chest on his lap, wondering again, where it was that his partner mentally wandered to.

“Hey pal . . . you okay?” Hutch asked gently.

“Hmm?” Starsky said absently, turning his bright blue gaze to his friend. “What?”

Hutch snorted softly, light blue eyes softening with affection, when he saw his friend grin, his cheeks turning red, as he sat up a little straighter.

“Did it again, didn’t I?” Starsky said sheepishly, “’M sorry Hutch,” the brunet sighed, “Don’ know why I keep phasing out like that.” Starsky nervously bit on the bottom of his lip and shifted his eyes away from the compassion he saw in his friend’s face.

Starsky had been going to see the department psychologist for about three weeks now, much to his displeasure, and though the doctor felt the detective had made vast improvements in so short a time, Hutch knew that his partner had just snowballed the shrink like he did everyone else. There was no way, however, that Starsky could do the same to his partner. They knew each other too well, and it was only a matter of time before the brunet would have to come clean with his blond friend.

Hutch got off the stool and slowly leaned the neck of the guitar against the wall. The blond ambled over to the bed and sat at its edge. “Hey buddy,” Hutch said softly, feeling his partner tense up as he placed his warm hand on his shoulder, “It’s okay . . . we all space out from time to time, sometimes . . .”

“No! It’s not okay . . . I’m not . . . o-kay . . .” Starsky said suddenly, to the surprise of the blond. Hutch gently squeezed his partner’s left shoulder reassuringly. He could feel his heart accelerating, hoping that this might be the moment where Starsky was ready to let him in.

Hutch knew he had to be careful about what he said next; like a wild animal, it was easier for his dark haired partner to retreat and hide when he was hurting and wounded, rather than deal with something when he was not ready to. If backed into a corner, Hutch knew his partner would come out fighting tooth and nail, and this was not the time or place for something like that. Hutch wanted to comfort and soothe, not aggravate the ire of his friend by putting the brunet on the defensive. In no way, did the blond want to exacerbate the problem when it might appear that Starsky was finally ready to discuss it.

“You know Starsk, whenever you’re ready to talk about . . . about anything, I’m here for you . . . I’m right here . . .” Hutch said softly, keeping the tone of his voice gentle and calm. He could feel the rigidity leaving his partner’s body and he smiled to himself, knowing he had said the right thing.

Hutch watched as Starsky heaved a heavy sigh and turned pain filled eyes to him. It physically hurt the blond to see his best friend distressed this way, and he gently squeezed his partner’s shoulder again, using touch to express his loving support.

“Sometimes . . .” Starsky began so softly that the blond had to lean in just to hear him, “Sometimes at night . . . I can still hear ‘im . . . in my head.” There was such apprehension and despair in the brunet’s soft voice that it tugged on the blond’s heart, “I um . . . I guess that’s why I like you singin’ t’me . . . your voice makes the other voices stay away.”

Hutch could see his friend’s blue eyes peeking out from under his dark lashes, knowing the brunet was feeling uncomfortable disclosing that bit of information, wondering if his friend would think he was falling apart. He looked so lost and unsure, like a little boy who was afraid of monsters under his bed. And Hutch knew for a fact now, that monsters truly existed.

“He wanted me Hutch . . .for some strange reason.” Starsky continued softly, “Luke said that Simon had honed his abilities enough to reach out with his mind and force his dreams on others . . .that freak Luke said that Marcus was with me the whole time I was in a coma . . . studying me, like I was some piece of meat or somethin’. I guess that’s how he was able to “connect” with me so easily . . . like he knew how my brain worked or somethin’.” The brunet couldn’t suppress the shudder that quaked his body at that thought.

“He instigated the whole thing from the start,” Hutch said gently, “That kid who shot you in the alley was part of Simon’s cult.”

“Yeah . . . Dobey told me somethin’ like that on one of his visits to the hospital.” Starsky said, closing his eyes, his long lashes looked like dark crescents against his cheeks, as he continued hesitantly, his voice growing even softer, “I mean . . . I know he’s gone . . . my head feels lighter . . . the pressure in here . . .” the brunet said tapping his temple, “Is gone. When he was in my head, it hurt . . . and it doesn’t anymore . . . and yet, sometimes those nightmares I get seem so real . . .like he’s still with me . . . ”

The blond sat quietly for a moment, waiting to see if his partner would continue. When nothing else was said, Hutch softly spoke, “Well, we know Simon Marcus can never hurt us again buddy . . . he’s dead . . . they found him the very next day, lying in his bunk, with a bullet hole between his eyes. They still haven’t figured out who snuffed him . . . and the strange thing is, they couldn’t even locate a bullet when they autopsied him.”

“They were joined . . .” Starsky whispered, his voice barely audible, his eyes dropping to the folded hands he held in his lap.

“Joined?” Hutch said, titling his head slightly as he tried to make sense of what was just said, “What does that mean buddy?” he asked gently, careful not to push too much, too fast.

“Simon and Luke had . . . had some kind of . . . some kind of mental connection.” Starsky began slowly, “They were joined somehow . . . Luke kept tellin’ me that the flame of Marcus lived inside of ‘im . . . that they wanted the flame to live in me too . . . and when Luke died, so did Marcus . . . they were one.”

Hutch looked down at Starsky’s hands that were twisting the bed sheets, and he gently covered his hand over the brunet’s, knowing his touch would reassure and encourage his partner to go on. Hutch closed his eyes, remembering the angry, accusing glare of Luke as he lay dead; the blood oozing slowly from the bullet wound between his eyes . . . the same location as the wound they found on Marcus in his cell. He shuddered to think what they had planned for his friend and was thankful that the visions plaguing Starsky had stopped, since he found him in the church. He quickly opened his eyes as his partner’s hesitant voice began again.

“They forced me to drink that thing I thought was blood,” the brunet whispered softly, recalling the horror of swallowing that gore. Starsky shuddered, remembering the nauseating feeling as that thick, warm substance went down his throat, making him want to gag even now.

They had later learned from the lab that the wooden bowl found in the adjoining chamber of the church contained a water-based mixture of red food coloring and cornstarch, which was then heated and mixed together to resemble blood. A tasteless, odorless, psychedelic drug was then added into that mixture to induce hallucinations and abdominal cramping.

“That drug opened me up to Marcus somehow . . . I could . . . I could clearly hear him in my head, Hutch . . .” Starsky said softly, a tremor in his usually strong voice made the blond bleed inside for the trauma his friend had endured.

Hutch pushed down the rising anger he felt at Marcus and his flakes, knowing how they had broken his partner down bit by bit, wishing that he could have been the one to pull the trigger as Marcus lay helpless in his bed; a fitting retribution for hurting his partner the way they did.

It suddenly dawned on Hutch, that if what Starsky had said was true, and Luke and Marcus was somehow “joined,” then he did actually pull the trigger, ending both of their lives with one well aimed bullet. Hutch struggled to get a hold of his emotions, intuitively knowing that if he showed any signs of being upset by all of this, his partner would withdraw back into his silent cave. Tonight was not about anger or retribution or hate; tonight was reserved solely for healing, for Starsky’s restoration.

Starsky looked up at his blond counterpart then, stormy cobalt locked onto soft sky blue, “I tried to fight ‘im Hutch, I tried to push ‘im outta my head, but I . . . I was givin’ in at the end . . . I was so tired . . . and I . . . and I gave into them . . .” The brunet turned away in shame, from the love and acceptance that shone so freely in the blond’s eyes. “I gave up Hutch,” the dark haired man continued softly, remembering the hazy peacefulness of chanting that madman’s name, “I let that bastard have his way with me.” he finished abruptly, angry with himself for surrendering his resolve to Marcus.

“Starsky . . . hey,” Hutch said gently, waiting until he had eye contact once more with this partner, but the brunet shifted his gaze away at the last minute, “They beat you, drugged you, played their sick mind games with you . . . I’m surprised you lasted as long as you did. They wore you down, a bit at a time, stripping away your hope and your self esteem until there was nothing left . . . there’s no reason to be ashamed of anything . . . and you didn’t give in to them Starsky.” At that last statement, Starsky turned to look his partner in his eye.

“You didn’t give in to them,” Hutch firmly reiterated, “I know this for a fact buddy, because if you did, you wouldn’t be here talking with me . . . you would be dead like Marcus and Luke.” Starsky’s eyes widened, his mind digesting everything his partner had just said.

For a minute they sat in silence, both men deeply lost in their own thoughts until Starsky softly said, “All those kids on the bus . . . and Sara and her sister . . . all those innocents lives were taken ‘cause of me . . .”

“Hey buddy,” Hutch said, reaching out to tug his partner into his embrace, feeling the overwhelming guilt and remorse that radiated out from the brunet, as he slumped wearily into the warmth and safety of his chest, “That wasn’t your fault Starsk . . . you were as much a victim as they were.”

Hutch gently pulled Starsky closer, feeling his partner’s soft curls tickling his nose, the clean smell of sandalwood, soap and shampoo, mixing together with his partner’s unique scent that he would know anywhere. “You took care of Sara’s funeral expenses and had her buried next to her sister. You did all that you could buddy.”

“She had nobody,” Starsky said sadly, “I couldn’t even be at her funeral because I was laid up in the hospital . . .”

“I know pal . . . but I went for the both of us, and the eulogy and flowers were beautiful. She would have liked that Starsk.” Hutch said softly, unable to keep himself from stroking his partner’s curls, “Tell you what . . . you and I can bring some flowers to her grave whenever you’re ready to visit her okay?”

Hutch loosened his hold on his partner when he felt the brunet slightly pull away, looking down into the deep blue depths of Starsky’s upturned eyes that shimmered with unshed tears, “She took that bullet for me Hutch . . . she was just a kid . . . she didn’t have to do it . . . she had her whole life ahead of her . . .it should’a been me.”

“She did that because she cared about you buddy. I could see that in her eyes. You were probably the first person who ever showed any sort of kindness to her and maybe in a way, she loved you for it.” Hutch said, his voice velvety soft and soothing, his heart aching for the pain and guilt his friend had been carrying around all this time. If anyone understood the burden of guilt, it was Hutch. “I know how much you’re hurting, how you feel ridden with guilt . . . I know exactly how you feel Starsky, because you see . . . you took that arrow for me and you didn’t have to.”

Starsky pulled back to look his partner in the eye, the look of shocked surprise on his face, “You would have done the same for me Hutch . . . we always watch each other’s backs on the streets . . .”

Hutch snorted softly, looking away from the intense blue gaze of the brunet, stopping his partner’s flow of thoughts with that soft sound.

“What?” Starsky questioned, his dark brows drawing together as he frowned, trying to read the changing expressions that crossed his partner’s features. “What’s going on in that mind of yours Blondie . . . huh?”

Hutch sighed heavily, “What we have . . . it’s more than that Starsk . . . more than just some cop’s code of ethics about watching your partner’s back . . . what I feel for you, and what you did for me, means so much more . . . I would die for you Starsky and I know you would do the same for me! You’re the best friend I’ve got in the whole world and if something happened to you . . . if you died . . . I would die inside too, because we’re two pieces that make a whole. You make me a better person because you’re in my life. I-I guess I’ve always known that, but in the past, I took that for granted. I did, and said things to you, that I’m rather not proud of buddy, and when I almost lost you to Gunther . . . it shook me up . . . it made me see how empty and meaningless my life would be, if you weren’t in it . . .”

The anguish on the blond’s face and his heartfelt outpouring brought a lump to Starsky’s throat, and for a moment, all he could do was stare at his partner with wide blue eyes in the palpable silence that ensued.

“Hutch,” Starsky said softly, reaching out to squeeze the blond’s shoulder, wanting to say something that would convey what it meant to hear those words from his friend, but he stopped when Hutch held up a hand, silently indicating that he was not done.

The blond took a deep breath and looked his friend in the eye. “When I went to see Marcus in prison, he said some things to me that really made me think.”

“Yeah? Like what?” Starsky asked softly. He knew Hutch went to talk to Simon Marcus, but they had never discussed it; although Hutch had promised to one day let Starsky hear the tape he made of their conversation.

“He said something that I remembered right after you took that arrow for me,” Hutch said, his eyes softened as he remembered the pain his partner suffered, “He said . . . ‘Yet . . . cupid’s arrow may still fly and pierce the heart of those we cherish . . . proving once again that love exists and is the supreme power over all.’” It amazed Hutch even now, that he remembered Simon’s strange words and he knew that somewhere along the line, he had committed that strange sentence to memory.

Hutch smiled at the blank look on Starsky’s face, “It’s okay buddy,” he chuckled, squeezing his partner’s knee, “I had no clue as to what he was talking about either. Nothing made sense until you got hit, then it was like this light went on and something clicked and I finally understood.”

“Yeah? Well, ya mind clueing me in?” Starsky grinned, “’Cause I’m still in the dark over here . . . the light bulb’s dead on this end.”

Hutch snorted softly, clearly seeing the love and affection in the bright blue eyes of the brunet, “Well, it was like Marcus ‘knew’ we had had some challenges in the past, he said that although I once was white, I was now tarnished, and that love was not as pure as it used to be. It didn’t make any sense to me, but now I know he was talking about us . . . about you and me!” Starsky just stared, trying to make heads or tales of his friend’s rambling.

“Don’t you get it Starsk? When we first worked together, it was always “me and thee” all the way, the love and care we had for each other was “pure,” but as the years went on and I became disgruntled about being on the force, well, I-I guess I took it all out on you Starsk, and I hurt you so badly with that whole Kira mess . . .” Hutch said sadly, feeling ashamed all over again for the way he took advantage of his partner’s trusting, innocent nature.

“Hutch,” Starsky said, knowing his sensitive partner was hurting, understanding how difficult this was for him to disclose, wanting to comfort his friend and reassure him that all of that was water under the bridge, “Hey . . . that’s over . . . it happened a long time ago . . .”

“No . . . let me finish,” Hutch said, gently laying his hand on his partner’s shoulder, “Marcus spoke of cupid’s arrow and of supreme love. Cupid was a Roman god equated with love. That arrow you took for me proved your willingness to die for me . . . that you would love me enough to give up your own life, that the love we had for each other still was there, would always be there . . . and love is the greatest power over all things. That girl taking the bullet for you was also a demonstration of this unfailing love . . . it’s like that scripture in the bible . . .”

“Yeah . . . wait a minute . . . I have a bible,” Starsky said, leaning over to the drawer in his nightstand.

“You keep your gun on your bible?” Hutch chuckled, as Starsky flipped through the sheer golden leafed pages. “I thought Jewish people usually don’t read the bible?”

“Hey . . . don’t knock it Blondie . . .they both can save lives ya know.” Starsky grinned, “Here it is . . .John 15:13 . . . Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends . . .” Starsky raised dark blue eyes to his friend.

Hutch’s sky blue eyes softened with the fondness and affection he felt for his partner. The tall blond swallowed and gently said, “That’s what defeated Marcus . . . it was love buddy . . . pure love. You see Starsk, there will never be a “me” without a “thee”. The blond gently squeezed his partner’s shoulder, his pale eyes focused on the red scar on his friend’s shoulder from the arrow wound. When Hutch looked back to the brunet, his sky blue eyes were wet with unshed tears.

Starsky tried to swallow the lump in his throat, seeing the soft glow in his partner’s shimmering eyes. It choked Starsky up, to see the undisguised love shining in those gentle blue depths, the unconditional love, that he too, felt for his blonde soulmate. They may have had their ups and downs in the past, but Starsky always knew that what they had between them was special, and at that moment he felt so blessed and fortunate to have Hutch in his life.

The brunet snorted, and then gave his friend one of his best lopsided grins, feeling suddenly self-conscious by their sentimental outpouring, making a show of clearing his throat to change the subject to a topic less emotive, something like food.

“Yeah . . . well, I’m hungry . . . wanna go get a bite to eat huh?” Starsky said, already rolling off the edge of the bed, “C’mon Hutch . . . you can treat this time . . . and if you really loved me like you say you do, then you’ll shave off that hairy caterpillar you got growing on your lip!” the brunet said playfully, tugging off his cutoffs to replace them with one of his old, worn jeans.

Hutch snorted softly, knowing how his friend hated soapy scenes. It made the blond happy to see the old exuberance and bounce back in his partner’s stride and though it would take some time, he intuitively knew that everything was going to be all right. Marcus hadn’t won after all. “Okay buddy, since you hate my mustache that much, I’ll shave it off tomorrow . . . I promise, but you’re buying tonight! C’mon, let’s go . . . maybe we can stop off at Joe’s . . . I think he just might be expecting us!” The blond wagged his eyebrows eerily at his partner.

Starsky threw his partner a weird look, as Hutch walked out and clicked off the light to the bedroom, leaving Starsky standing alone in the dark. The brunet quickly tossed on a shirt feeling suddenly alarmed, as he heard Hutch chuckling evilly from the other room.

“Hey Hutch . . . wait up . . .” Starsky pleaded, rapidly zipping up his jeans, pinching his finger in the process, startling when he heard the front door slam loudly, “Hutch? Hey . . . Hutch? HUUUTCH!”


Maple Gardens Cemetery (four days later)

A strong breeze disturbed the pile of foliage that was raked together and left by the hedge. The dry leaves, playfully racing and tagging each other, whirled along as they skittered across the feet of the two men who stood beside the gravestones, floating joyfully and rejoicing in their newfound freedom.

For a moment, the brunet watched the blowing leaves, as they suddenly dropped still to the ground, left bereft by the whimsical gust of wind that even now, sought new playmates. ‘Thank God, Hutch wasn’t like the wind,’ the dark haired man silently thought, turning to glance up at his clean-shaven blond companion.

Unlike the wind, Hutch had stood next to him through thick and thin, had taken care of him when he was unable to care for himself, had comforted and listened to him when he thought he was losing it, and had guided him back from the edge of a dark abyss with the light and warmth of his friendship and love.

With his golden hair cut short once again, and minus that hairy bug from his upper lip, Hutch looked younger, happier . . . like the years of dismay and disillusionment that had hardened his features had somehow faded . . . since the night of their talk. There was a peace now to the blond’s visage that Starsky hadn’t seen in a long time and that filled the brunet’s heart with such joy.

Starsky thought back to that talk they had three nights ago in his bedroom. Only his partner could have gotten him to spill his guts that way, allowing him to shed the guilt he had been carrying around for a long time. Yet, it seemed that the talk did his blond partner some good too. Hutch seemed lighter somehow, like figuring out Simon Marcus’s riddle had helped him figure something out about himself. Marcus had called Hutch tarnished, but now it seemed that the luster was back, the radiant white knight of yore had once again returned.

Good to his word, Hutch had shaved off his mustache the very next morning, after a night filled with good food and good company at Huggy’s, and before they went to bed that night, they had made plans to come and visit Sara’s grave.

They had laughed and bantered the whole way over, as they drove across town, stopping only to get some flowers, and now that they stood in front of her grave, they were quiet and introspective, each lost in their own thoughts.

Starsky knelt on one knee, as he carefully split the bunch of daisies in two, one for Sienna’s grave and the other for Sara’s. He said a quiet prayer over them, silently apologizing to both girls for not being able to save them. He closed his eyes, remembering Sienna’s face as she lay in his arms dying, and Sara’s kind musical voice, as she stroked back his hair while he lay hurting in her arms. Two beautiful, young girls with the same face, the same gentle heart; and the same horrible fate; the brunet sighed heavily as he rose to his feet, dusting the knee of his jeans.

“You okay?” Hutch asked gently, laying his large warm hand on his partner’s shoulder, knowing the pain his friend was feeling.

“Yeah . . .” Starsky replied softly, “Sara said she saw me holdin’ her sister in the rain. She said they killed Sienna because they wanted to punish her for tryin’ to run away. She said it wasn’t my fault.” The brunet said sadly.

“It’s not your fault. They’re sick bastards, every one of them.” Hutch said, anger fueling the harshness in his words, as its red heat flared up in the blond again. Hearing the soft snort from his dark haired partner immediately extinguished the fire raging in his blood.

“Yeah,” the brunet said simply, “I wonder though . . . how many kids like Sara are out there, needin’ help and love, after what they’ve been through, livin’ everyday with the stench of Simon’s cult branded on their souls.” There was another moment of silence, as each man gave thought to what was just said.

Hutch watched as another gust of wind picked up the forgotten leaves and raced them along to continue their journey. “C’mon buddy . . . let’s get some lunch huh?” Hutch said gently, smiling as his partner’s arm reached across his shoulders.

“Yeah . . . it’s your turn to treat.” Starsky said smiling, hearing the blond chuckling softly, as they made their way to the Torino parked on the curb.

The two men, one light and one dark, laughed together and walked back to the red car with the flashy white stripe that shone brightly in the afternoon sun, never knowing that they were being watched the whole time that they stood by the gravestones.

The hand that held the hedges slightly apart gently withdrew, the parted leaves that allowed clear visual access to the two detectives, closed up without a sound, as the roar of the Torino’s engine came to life, and pulled away from the curb.

The wind blew gently, rustling the leaves from the trees above as the figure walked around the thick hedges and stood silently before the graves, gently tracing the names of the twins that were etched into the stone. “One day . . . we shall return . . . I promise!” the vow, whispered quietly, was taken away with the wind, as the leaves skittered across the peaceful cemetery, the resting place for the dead.

-.-.-.-. finis .-.-.-.-

Author’s note: Although this story appears to be left open for a sequel, there is none in the making, as it was never my intention to even write an epilogue. So why was the epilogue written this way you are wondering? My answer to you dear reader is: I have no idea . . . I guess because Simone just dreamed it would end this way . . .