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No Regrets

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This story was written purely for entertainment and is not for profit. It is not meant to trespass in any way on the holders to the rights of Starsky and Hutch.

Warning: “No Regrets” might be considered a dark tale and contains some scenes and foul language that may be offensive to some readers. If this is not your cup of tea, then please refrain from sipping. I would hate to spoil someone’s fun.

This story was written fondly for Brook; whose sense of humor and whose friendship are a never- ending source of encouragement and motivation for me. Thank you Brook, for helping me with the “research” for this story, and for staying with me as I navigated through uncharted territories; it was nice to have company, especially during those times when I was flying blind. A big mahalo also goes out to Starskysgal, for all of your help in the “researching” of this tale and for your words of advice. This story would never have been completed without you lovely ladies! I am truly blessed indeed!

 

This story was also written as a sort of culminating anniversary present to you dear reader. The end of January marks my one-year anniversary of writing fan fiction for this wonderful fandom. It has been a joyous ride for me, and I have been blessed by meeting so many of you awesome people along the way. Mahalo and hugs to you all! May 2007, be a year filled with joy, serenity, good health, prosperity and most of all, love . . . and may this be the year of fulfilled wishes and dreams that come true! Happy New Year to all . . . I hope that you enjoy my simple gift to you as a means of saying “Mahalo.” Thank you for your friendship. It means a lot to me! Love and aloha, Shawne.

 

Chapter One

It was dark when he quietly opened the door, making sure to put the key back on the ledge above the portal before he silently entered the place. Although he could barely see, he knew his way around his partner’s apartment, almost as well as he knew his way around his own. He was also cognizant of the fact that Hutch was sleeping; he could hear the blond’s slow and heavy breathing coming from the bedroom alcove, as his eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness within. Somehow the sound of Hutch’s soft snores were soothing and almost comforting to the weary, dark haired biker.

The brunet silently walked into the alcove where his partner slept, his slow, deliberate movements were cautious and almost predatory. There was a sort of animal grace to the swagger of the man who walked over to the side of the moonlit room, only to stand quietly in the shadowy corner; his dark blue eyes narrowed, as he watched the blond for a minute while he slept fitfully on the bed.

Starsky tilted his head slightly wondering what Hutch was dreaming about, as he tossed and turned on the sheets. The curly haired brunet pondered whether to wake the blond or not, when he suddenly saw his partner gently smile in his sleep, his lips lifting slightly at the corners of his mouth, his features softened in slumber.

The adam’s apple convulsed in the rugged biker’s throat and he swallowed down the lump that had formed there, watching as Hutch’s sleepy smile slowly faded away. For some reason, seeing his partner like that made his heart ache and the brunet turned his gaze away from Hutch’s face and focused on the ceiling above, blinking back the burning tears that suddenly brimmed his eyes.

Starsky scrubbed the back of his hand impatiently across his face and sighed softly, willfully composing himself before walking over to the window to cautiously peep out from behind his partner’s curtains, looking down at the quiet and deserted moonlit street fronting Venice Place. He didn’t think he was followed here, but it couldn’t hurt to be cautious.

Although everything was still and peaceful, the dark haired detective couldn’t shake the uneasy, agitated feeling that coursed through his body. He felt jumpy and apprehensive, his fingers twitching nervously, adrenalin pumping. After what happened tonight, he didn’t know how much longer he could last undercover as an outlaw biker. Six months of riding and carousing with his “Minion” brothers were starting to wear him thin.

Brothers?’ Starsky shook his head, that outlaw terminology came so easily nowadays, and the dark haired detective reminded himself that these ruthless men were not his brothers . . . they were the bad guys, and it was his job to turn them all in one day.

The curly haired detective gently pressed his forehead against the window glass, his long dark lashes pressed against his cheeks, as he clenched the curtain tightly in his fist. The faces of his outlaw ‘brothers’ flashed eerily behind his closed lids. The grinning visage of “Diesel” floated through his mind’s eye. They had become very tight these past few months, and the chapter president of “The Minions” had begun to trust Starsky, or “Snake” as they called him, with a lot of vital and incriminating club information that the detective had been secretly filtering out to the Feds.

He remembered how these burly, long-haired men; their arms, backs and chests tattooed and scarred, had accepted him into their world, thinking he was one of them, giving him solidarity and a place to hide, congratulating him from escaping the bonds of prison life, as they gave him hugs and slaps on the back. These men stood beside him, looked up to him and called him ‘brother’, yet they were so different from the one man who was closer to him than his own blood brother.

Hutch.

Starsky turned to look back at his partner who had one hand curled under his chin as he slept on his side. The moonlight that spilled through the curtains illuminated his golden locks, causing it to shine like a halo in the darkness around him. The almost innocent, boyishly look on his peaceful face brought a small smile to the lips of the brunet, softening the hard lines around his mouth. God, how he missed Hutch!

He missed everything about his partner . . . the way his sky blue eyes could turn icy blue when he was angry, and then melt to liquid softness when he was feeling sentimental. He missed the way Hutch stuttered when he was feeling awkward or unnerved by something, or the way he could turn his voice into warm, soothing honey. He missed the good- natured bantering they always shared, the way they could almost read each other’s minds when they were out on the streets, and the way Hutch would shyly sing along to the strumming of his guitar; but most of all, he missed the innate goodness that was Hutch, the way he would comfort and embrace frightened victims or little kids, the way he handed out dollars to drunks and drug addicts on the street when he thought his partner wasn’t looking, or the way he would lay his large, warm hand on a shoulder to comfort with his touch. All of those little quirks that endeared his tall blond friend to his heart was something Starsky sorely missed these many months, as he assumed the identity of “Snake,” an outlaw biker from New York.

Starsky let the curtain slowly slip out of his hand and turned to walk silently back to the dark corner, leaning his back against the wall as he tilted his head slightly to one side, his dark blue eyes glittering in the dark as it caught the silvery shimmer that shone through the window, studying his partner once more in his sleep.

In repose, the heavy crease between Hutch’s brow disappeared and his soft tousled hair added to the tall blond’s look of boyish innocence. Happy memories of times spent together with his best friend flashed through the brunet’s mind and it filled his heart with a lonesome longing.

Since the failed attempt on his life by Gunther’s hit men three years ago, Starsky had grown even closer to his partner whom he could thank for his miraculous return to the force. If it weren’t for Hutch’s steadfast belief and constant encouragement, Starsky knew he would never have been able to make it through those grueling therapy sessions and those moments where self doubt and unbearable pain made him want to throw in the towel and give up.

During that year of recovery, they had lived in each other’s back pocket and their bond grew even stronger, erasing all of those hurtful things they had done to one another before he was shot. As Starsky slowly healed and gained his weight back, Hutch too had slowly changed, reverting back to his old self, shaving off his mustache and shortening the length of his hair. He had dropped a few pounds and was now wearing those old corduroys he dug out from the back of his closet.

By the time Starsky returned on the force, his blond partner looked like the Hutch of yore and along with the metamorphosis, their already close relationship grew even stronger. If the truth were known, being away from Hutch’s warmth and friendship was killing him. Hutch was the yin to his yang, the balance to his darker side, the other half of his soul.

All these months alone and under, the things he’d seen and done to keep his cover intact had hardened him somehow, and seeing his partner lying there so vulnerable and peaceful made him feel almost dirty inside . . . unclean and filthy . . . especially now that he was standing so close to the golden light of Hutch. He knew he was sinking in the mire of despair and destruction, and no matter how much he tried to claw for solid ground, the undertow pulling him down was far stronger.

Starsky wearily hung his head, silently berating himself for coming here. The need to see Hutch tonight had been so strong, that he’d risked the whole operation just to be here, yet like a man who hadn’t seen the sun for weeks, being near Hutch made him hurt, made him want to shy away from the pure light and goodness that was his partner.

He clenched his fists, attempting to slow down his racing heartbeat, squelching down the jumpiness he felt jolting throughout his body, making him want to haul ass on his Harley or run somewhere . . . anywhere . . . needing to be on the move. Standing quietly like this was tearing him up inside, making him feel agitated and uneasy. He fought for control, knowing the reason his body was reacting this way, but he refused to think about it; pushing the guilt he felt down into the darkness of his soul where it festered and grew.

A slight murmur from the slumbering blond made the streetwise cop quickly lift his head, his dark blue eyes alighting on the familiar features of his partner’s face. ‘Would Hutch be able to understand and forgive him for what he’d been doing?’

Oh God, Hutch . . .’

The brunet felt the trembling in his limbs and he slowly slid his back down the wall, his jean clad bottom stopping his descent as it touched the floor. The weary detective pulled his knees up, laying his arms over it, stormy blue eyes leaving the blond’s peaceful face to stare off into the darkness as his mind wandered.

He had done things he wasn’t proud of to survive in the dark world of the one-percenters.

He’d done things he knew that Hutch would never have done, and it ate him up inside. He felt like he was being swept away on a dark, rushing tide and Hutch was his lifeline. He needed to feel his partner’s “goodness”, to feel the warmth of his embrace, to bask in Hutch’s strength, he needed to remember what it was like to be one of the good guys again, to feel . . . whole. He was losing himself under the guise of the outlaw biker named Snake. His mind rationalized that if he could spend just a few minutes with Hutch, he would be able to get it together and find himself. Hutch would be able to make everything right. If there was anyone he could depend on . . . it was Hutch.

And yet, it took all of his strength and courage just to come here tonight. A big part of him agonized over what his partner would think of him, once he learned about what he’d done to keep his cover. It unnerved him to be here, allowing himself to be judged, but he knew he couldn’t go on with this pretense if Hutch didn’t absolve the guilt and shame that burned within him.

The brunet sighed and buried his face into his arms, his mind drifting back over tonight’s events, hearing the pleas from the man named Brody ringing in his ears as he begged for forgiveness. Remembering how the club members ganged together like a pack of rabid wolves only to beat the man to a bloody pulp. He’d seen some violent outbreaks before, but this time, he was made to throw the first punch that sent the rest of the outlaws into the fanatic fray, and though he tried to inconspicuously help Brody by pushing some of the members away from the bloodied man, pretending to want to maim the man all by himself, Diesel had finally pulled him away from the mauling and had told him to go home. The brunet closed his eyes tightly, agonizing over what he did, yet he really had no choice in the matter, egged on the way he was to prove his loyalty to the club.

Starsky knew “Sniper”, the vice-president of the club, was watching him like a hawk. For some reason, Sniper, who was always paranoid and nervous, had singled out “Snake” as his personal scapegoat these last three months, probably because of his jealousy with the growing camaraderie and friendship Starsky was building with Diesel, the president of “The Minions”.

Starsky wearily dragged his hand through his long, unruly curls and stifled the sniffle, rubbing the back of his wrist against his nose. His mind drifted to his chapter’s leader. There was something that the detective truly liked about Diesel. His long, shaggy, sandy-colored hair and his light blue eyes, somehow reminded him of Hutch. Though he was a hardened biker who had come from the wrong side of the tracks, there was a charismatic toughness and a streetwise wisdom that made his men follow him loyally. He led his chapter with an iron fist and a keen mind, but he was also fair and discerning when it came to making decisions about disciplining any wayward member of the club. His followers respected him, and Starsky was no different. Diesel was someone who warranted respect.

Sniper on the other hand, was almost ruthless and vulgar in the way he treated people; from his women to the new prospects who wanted to join the outlaw motorcycle club, enraptured with the idea of “free living”. The lean, red headed, bearded vice president, reminded Starsky of a wily, hyped up weasel who wanted to make sure he intimidated all those beneath him just to keep his place in the pack’s hierarchy. It was obvious that he viewed Snake as a threat to himself, and the curly haired biker’s friendship with Diesel was a constant thorn to his side. Starsky could feel himself sneering in disdain as he pictured the creep in his mind’s eye. He relished the day that he could put Sniper behind bars where he truly belonged. The man was an asshole with a few loose screws rattling in his head, a true menace to society.

Starsky knew much of Sniper’s paranoia was caused by the amount of drugs that he ingested daily, making him wary and prone to violence, and thinking of the way Sniper used his women disgusted the dark haired detective. In the world of the outlaw motorcycle clubs, women were treated worse than dogs, and that was something that didn’t sit well with the brunet. It was difficult to watch the wild gang orgies and the manhandling of the ladies who hung out with the members of the club.

It never failed to amaze the undercover detective how women were attracted to some of these lowlifes. They came into the clubhouse, looking for fun and action and many of them chose to stay with the motorcycle members though they weren’t treated with the respect they deserved. Wives or girlfriends were labeled as ‘old ladies’ and many of them wore tattoos on the back of their shoulders that said “Property Of” followed with the name of their man. Other women, who did not belong to any one man, were kept in service to the whole club and were labeled as “Mamas” or “Sheep”. These women had sex with any member, or members, that wanted them. They were like the club’s whore. In the world of the outlaw bikers, women were considered nothing more than a slave to fulfill a man’s needs.

The weary brunet could feel his body stiffen suddenly, as he heard the rustling of bed sheets. He could almost ‘feel’ the warmth of his partner’s gaze coming from across the room.

“Starsk?”

The soft, familiar voice of Hutch nearly did him in. He heard the creak of the bed as the blond stirred.

“Starsky? Hey . . . I didn’t hear you come in . . .” Hutch said softly, worried that something might have gone wrong, his senses kicking in, as the residual fuzziness of deep sleep slowly released him. He didn’t know what made him wake up from a dead sleep, but he somehow “knew” that his partner was near and that he needed him. Perhaps it was years of working together on the streets, but his “Starsky sense” never failed him. The tall blond leaned over to turn on the small lamp sitting on the table beside his bed.

“Don’t.”

The clipped word, though whispered, had a hard edge to it and Hutch immediately pulled back his hand, choosing instead to sit up and peer in the direction of the huddled mass that sat across from his bed in the corner of the dark room.

The tall blond squinted in the dark, trying to make out his partner’s features that were obscured by the shadows, “Hey buddy . . . you okay? Are you hurt?” Hutch asked gently, making sure to keep his voice soft and soothing. He knew something was wrong by the sound of his friend’s voice. Hutch was worried that the brunet might’ve be hurt or wounded, but because he was unable to turn on the light, he couldn’t see how much damage his partner had sustained. “Let me turn on the . . .”

“No . . .jus’ . . . jus’ gimme a minute . . .” Starsky said, his raspy voice coming out from the darkness, “I . . . I shouldn’ta come here tonight . . .”

“Hey . . . it’s okay . . .” Hutch said slowly, trying to assess his partner’s mood, feeling the dark waves of despair that bombarded him from across the room. Hutch could feel the fine hairs rising on his neck, knowing something was dreadfully wrong. He made to get out of bed, but was stopped short by the cold warning of his partner.

“Stay put Hutch . . . you come any closer and I’m outta here . . .” Starsky whispered harshly, getting quickly to his feet, rubbing his finger under his nose as he sniffled in the dark.

Hutch cocked his head, light blue eyes narrowing as he eyed his partner. He could barely make out the features of his dark haired friend as he quickly stood, his back pressed defensively against the wall, the air almost crackling with the tenseness of the moment.

Hutch could feel his partner was ready to bolt and he attempted to calm him down, noticing that he was wearing the “colors” of the outlaw club, a sleeveless denim vest with different patches sewn on the front. He could make out the diamond shaped 1er patch that proclaimed the biker as an outlaw motorcycle member who considered himself above the law, and he knew that the back of the vest was decorated with the emblem of the “The Warriors,” the outlaw club from the Brooklyn chapter that Snake was a member of.

The tall blond remembered how the Feds gave them a brief lecture on outlaw bikers. They explained how the term “outlaw” came from the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) in the 1950’s, when they stated that 99 percent of all bikers were law-abiding. It was only 1 percent of bikers who were considered outlaws; their alleged involvement with criminal activity such as dealing with firearms, murder, rape, the sale and production of illegal drugs, stealing and trading motorcycles and their parts all added to general attitude of being outside of the law-abiding society. These “outlaw” motorcyclists embraced the term one-percenters and made patches that they proudly wore as part of their “colors.”

Hutch swallowed, giving his partner the once over; he could see how much these past few months had hardened Starsky. He knew he had to be cautious . . . that anything he said could be misconstrued, sending his partner out the door. He could hear the soft sniffles coming from the corner and he strained to see his partner’s face in the dark.

“You sick Gordo? You caught a cold?” the blond asked gently, unable to keep the worry and concern out of his voice. The short distance to his partner seemed like miles with the tangible ‘wall’ Starsky had put up between them, but Hutch was determined to knock it down.

At the brunet’s continued silence, Hutch softly said, “How about if I made us some coffee? We could talk some . . . if you want . . . I’ve missed you.” Hutch could see his partner stiffen at those last three words, his eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness, using what little light that came from the window to see his dark haired friend

Hutch waited in the almost electrically charged silence that ensued, hoping his partner would choose to stay. There was no way that Hutch would let him leave the premises in the condition that he was in, and if it took getting physical to make him stay, then Hutch would do it to keep his friend safe.

The tall blond was about to say something when Starsky softly whispered, “I’m sorry I woke you . . .I jus’ . . . I dunno why I . . .” The brunet’s voice quavered in the darkness and then faded into nothingness.

“Hey . . . I’m glad you’re here buddy,” Hutch said quickly, filling in the awkward silence, happy to see the hard shell around his partner softening a bit, if only he could see Starsky’s expression . . . “I’d really like to put this lamp on so that I can see you Starsk.” He could hear his partner’s breath quicken suddenly in the stillness of the room.

“No!” his partner’s voice rasped out, “It was a mistake to come here Hutch . . . I-I gotta get out. . . .” Starsky said, a choked sound escaping from this throat as he turned quickly to exit the room.

“Damn!” Hutch swore softly under his breath as he jumped out of bed to race after his dark haired partner.

Chapter Two

The tall blond overtook his partner just before he reached the front door, slamming his large palm against the wooden portal, as Starsky attempted to turn the doorknob.

“Get the fuck outta the way Hutch . . .” the dark haired detective warned, his lips curling in a snarl as his eyes glinted darkly, an almost feral look crossing his face. His long, unruly curls and his hostile face enhanced the intimidating biker get-up which would have unnerved any other man, but this was Hutch, and the blond knew that his partner would never intentionally hurt him.

“Take it easy buddy,” Hutch said softly, “I can’t let you leave, not yet . . . not like this . . . we need to . . . ”

Whatever the blond was about to say was cut short, as the brunet angrily snarled and turned on his friend. For a minute, a brief struggle ensued, as the dark haired biker tried to roughly push the blond out of his way, but Hutch grabbed his struggling partner and held on tight, clamping down firmly until frustration and fatigue finally made brunet give in.

Once the blond felt his friend wearily submit, he slowly loosened his hold, and Starsky, breathing hard, roughly pulled away and walked over to the kitchen where he stood rigidly by the sink.

Hutch watched as the angry and frustrated brunet walked away, concern deepening the crease between his brows, as he saw the slight trembles that racked Starsky’s body. He slowly made his way to the dining area, turning on a lamp by the side of the couch, noticing how Starsky turned his face away from the warm, soft glow that filled the living room.

For a minute, Hutch eyed his silent partner who looked wild and untamed in the dim light, reminding him of a creature caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck, not knowing whether to freeze or to bolt. He could tell that Starsky had lost some weight, the dark stubbles shadowed his jaw and accentuated the hollows in his cheekbones, yet his friend still made an impressive sight, decked out in his outlaw “colors”; leather and denim enhanced the dark good looks of his partner and the large henna tattooed cobra on his muscled bicep added to the ruggedly raw appeal of the wild savagery in his partner’s appearance. It was no wonder a lot of women were attracted to these types of men.

Starsky stood with his head lowered, his dark, long lashes brushing against his cheeks as he refused to make any eye contact with Hutch. He could hear his partner’s footsteps as Hutch drew nearer, and he turned his face away from his approaching friend, feeling his body growing rigid and tense with the awkwardness of the moment. He almost jumped out of his skin when his partner’s soft voice broke the silence.

“You want some coffee? Have you eaten anything?”

The soft, gentle voice of Hutch nearly broke him and he fought to hold it together. The thought of food made the brunet feel queasy and he quickly shook his head, “Nah . . . I ate already.” The dark haired detective was surprised at the quivering he heard in his own voice and how easily that lie came to his lips, and the sad part of it all, was that he knew Hutch heard it too; but to his credit, the blond said nothing.

Instead, Hutch just slowly stooped to open the lower cupboard, taking out the bottle of bourbon that he kept for occasions like these. Grabbing a shot glass, he filled it and handed it to Starsky.

The brunet finally made eye contact with his tall blond friend and snorted softly, remembering when he did the exact same thing for Hutch, the day they found Vanessa murdered in this very same apartment several years ago. The brunet reached out and took the glass, his fingers barely touching his partner’s. He lowered his eyes to the amber colored liquid.

“Drink it . . . it might help . . .” Hutch said softly, noticing his friend’s bruised and bloodied knuckles. The tall blond watched as his partner complied, downing it in one gulp, and he gently took the empty shot glass from the brunet’s hand. “You want another?”

Starsky shook his head and raised his hand slightly, silently declining, as he felt the warm burn of the alcohol slide down his throat and settle into the pit of his empty stomach. He could feel the tension in his body slowly unwinding, although he couldn’t tell if it was from the bourbon or Hutch’s presence. His bright, blue eyes darted nervously around his partner’s messy abode, unwilling to meet his friend’s sky blue eyes.

“Fired the maid?” the brunet joked awkwardly, his voice but a whisper, as his dark blue eyes took in the dirty clothes strewn all over the floor and the week’s worth of unwashed dishes in the sink where he stood.

Hutch snorted softly, feeling hope rising with his partner’s attempt at bantering, “Sorry buddy . . . been kinda busy lately.” The blond’s smile faded when he saw his partner inconspicuously flinch.

The brunet nodded slightly, his eyes shifting away, darting absently around the room. The curly haired detective knew that his partner had been busy watching his back whenever he had any spare time, and he had the decency to blush; knowing Hutch was probably as tired as he was. Feeling bad that he woke his partner at this ungodly hour, Starsky lowered his head once more; his dark lashes once again hiding his emotions from his perceptive friend who watched his every move.

“I paid your rent yesterday, watered your plants and vacuumed for a bit,” Hutch said, quickly changing the subject, hoping to break the uncomfortable silence that ensued, “I even drove your striped tomato around the block . . . I um . . . I try to start her up at least twice a week.” Although he kept his voice soft and soothing, Hutch didn’t miss a thing about his partner’s appearance. To anyone else, Starsky looked like a tough and rugged biker, able to hold his own in any backroom brawl, but to Hutch, knowing his partner as well as he did, he could see how haggard and weary the brunet really was.

There was an edge to Starsky that the blond could “sense”. On the outside, he looked dangerously wild, almost feral; but Hutch could see that his partner was barely holding it together on the inside. He looked almost . . . broken. To the tall blond, Starsky’s vulnerability and fragileness were transparent through the tough veneer that the brunet wore, and seeing his partner pretending to be so strong, made Hutch’s heart grow heavy, bringing out the protective nature in the fair-haired man.

Starsky closed his eyes and sighed softly, his shoulders seemed to droop slightly. To hear Hutch talking about ‘normal’ everyday things like vacuuming and watering plants seemed almost foreign now to him, and he could feel his heart twisting inside. “Thanks,” The brunet whispered softly, “For taking care of my place . . .”

“I’d like to take care of you too, buddy . . .” Hutch said gently, his sky blue eyes softening, as he caught the dark blue of his partner’s eyes peeping out at him from under his dark lashes. Hutch stepped closer to his friend, as he saw Starsky blink rapidly and look up at the ceiling as his words sunk in. The tall blond could feel his heart almost splinter in two when he gazed at his struggling friend, wanting to hold him, but intuitively knowing the brunet wasn’t ready to be touched just yet.

Starsky lowered his head, seeing the blur of his boots, as the warmth of his partner’s presence drew nearer. He took in deep breaths, angry with himself for being so weak, pushing down the urge to cry, burying it deep within, refusing to lose it in front of his partner.

The dark haired detective composed himself and looked up to glance at his partner, before looking away again, “I can take care of myself . . .” he whispered raggedly, “I’m jus’ fine,” he added softly, wanting to laugh hysterically at the outright lie he just told Hutch. Anyone looking at him would know he wasn’t, ‘jus’ fine,’ at all. He was ready to slip off the edge, and the only thing holding him from going over the precipice was Hutch.

“I know you’re fine buddy, and I know you can take care of yourself . . .” Hutch said, his soft familiar voice lulled and soothed the frayed nerves of the brunet, as he moved even closer until he stood just a hair’s breath away from his partner. “Didn’t mean to upset you or imply that you couldn’t . . . it’s just that I worry whenever you’re undercover, just like I know you worry about me when I’m under and alone . . .”

Hutch sent up a quiet ‘thanks’ to the Man upstairs. He could tell that what he said had eased his partner’s defenses somewhat. He could see Starsky visibly relax, his shoulders dropping another notch under the emotional burden that he’d been carrying. The blond swallowed down the lump that formed in his throat, hurting for his friend who looked like a lost little boy, “Whatever it is Starsk . . . you can tell me and we’ll deal with it like how we usually do . . . together . . . me and thee . . . okay?”

Hutch reached out a tentative hand and placed it on his partner’s trembling shoulder, only to pull his partner’s unresisting form against his chest, as the brunet made a strangled sound, moving in sync with Starsky, as he began to crumple to the kitchen floor.

Starsky could feel his legs give out as he sank slowly to the floor, yet the warmth of Hutch’s strong embrace, surrounded his being, making him feel safe for the first time in the six long months that he’d been on this assignment. He could finally let his guard down, and for a minute, Starsky allowed his partner to just hold him, drinking in the “goodness” that was Hutch, feeling his friend’s strength and compassion washing over him, cleansing his soul.

“I’m here buddy . . . right here,” Hutch whispered soothingly, feeling his partner struggling to control the emotions that raged internally, listening to the deep quivering breaths that his broken friend drew in, all the while stroking small circles on Starsky’s muscled back, feeling the tension slowing draining as the brunet fought to hold it together, “It’s okay Starsk . . . you’re safe now . . . I’m right here pal.”

The dark haired detective closed his eyes, leaning wearily into the blond’s embrace, letting the strain of suppressed emotions wash over him, as he truly relaxed for the first time . . . in a long time. He basked in the warmth and strength of his partner, feeling Hutch’s large, comforting hand rubbing circles on his back, feeling protected, safe and . . . and loved. Starsky sucked it all in, attempting to harness those warm feelings deep within, trying to bottle them up so that it could carry him through those long nights when he was immersed in the darkness of his cover, witnessing the heinous activities of the outlaw bikers.

For a while, the partners just sat, hunched together on the cold hard floor. It killed Hutch to see Starsky like this and he wondered silently if he should finally ask Dobey to pull his curly haired friend from this assignment. God knew how many times he’d almost done it before now! Hutch knew it would piss his partner off if he did that, but he would rather Starsky be pissed off and alive, than undercover and dead. The tall blond felt his friend suddenly stiffen in his arms and he reluctantly let go, as the brunet gently pulled away from him.

“No Hutch,” Starsky said softly shaking his head slowly, “Not yet . . .”

Hutch could see his partner’s blue eyes darken, looking almost black in the dim light from the living room. The blond sighed, not surprised at all that his partner had “sensed” his thoughts. They did that a lot . . . reading each other’s mind, communicating silently with a look or a nod . . . it’s what saved their lives so many times on the streets.

He reached over to gently dust some dirt from the vest Starsky wore, wanting to draw the brunet in again with his touch, but feeling suddenly sad when he saw his friend flinch once more. The blond gentled his voice, “You’ve been under for six months now buddy . . . we’ve got enough evidence to shut down “The Minions” and arrest members from other chapters as well . . . you’ve done enough and . . .”

“I said no!” the brunet growled, his eyes flashing angrily in the dim light, his lips curling in a snarl as he roughly pushed the blond away, getting quickly to his feet to stand over his partner with clenched fists, breathing heavily as his eyes darted about the room again, only to rest on the door.

“Starsky!” Hutch snapped, drawing his partner’s attention back down to him, knowing the brunet was thinking about making his escape again. The blond assessed the dark haired man, pale blue eyes never leaving his friend’s face, “It’s okay buddy . . . I heard you . . . we’ll play it your way . . . for now . . . alright?” Hutch said softly.

This seemed to appease Starsky who slowly unclenched his fists; his tense body slowly relaxing as a small, hesitant grin tipped the corners of his mouth. The brunet sheepishly stuck out his hand to help the blond to his feet. The warmth of his partner’s touch seemed to melt the residual anger that lingered in the dark haired biker and Starsky sighed remorsefully, “I’m sorry Hutch . . . don’t know why I reacted that way . . .”

“I do,” Hutch said slowly, “It’s your cover response, you reacted the way Snake would have and it’s okay.” The blond continued quickly, seeing the embarrassment that tinged his partner’s cheeks and neck, “I’m glad you did that . . . I feel better because I know you’re watching your back out there . . .”

Starsky sighed again and dragged his hand through his curly locks, obviously frustrated and distressed, “It’s not okay Hutch,” he said softly, briefly looking into the eyes of his best friend before glancing away, “I should be able to turn it off and on . . . and sometimes I feel like . . . I feel like I’m just . . .” The brunet’s gruff voice dwindled down to silence.

Hutch watched the emotions that played across his friend’s face, feeling the confusion and remorse that flooded his partner’s being. It was obvious that Starsky was walking a very thin line and it concerned the quiet blond, who knew exactly what the brunet was feeling. Sometimes it was too damn easy to get lost under a cover, especially if it was for an extended amount of time like this assignment was.

Hutch sighed and reached out tentatively to squeeze his partner’s shoulder. “Maybe we should . . .”

“It’s only for a little while more,” Starsky quickly interjected, “The big bust we’ve been waitin’ on is scheduled for this Thursday . . . at least that’s what they said the last time we went to “church” That’s just four days from now.

Hutch eyed his partner, noting how easily he spoke using the brash and almost irreverent terminology of the outlaw bikers. The blond knew that going to “church” was what the brash gang members called their meetings at the club’s warehouse. The fact that Starsky said this so nonchalantly concerned the fair headed detective even more.

“What?” The brunet queried softly, his dark blue eyes growing stormy as he read the doubt in the sky blue eyes of his friend, “I said I’m fine Hutch . . . I ain’t gonna crash and burn . . . s’just ‘til Thursday . . .” The brunet bristled with suppressed hostility.

A heavy silence filled the room until Hutch nodded slowly, his voice soft and soothing, “Okay . . . I said we’ll play it your way for now . . . but know this Starsk, if I think things are getting out of hand buddy, I’ll be the first to go to Dobey . . . you got that pal?”

The brunet sniffled, and then sighed as he heard his partner’s golden voice harden towards the end of his sentence and the curly haired detective acknowledged it with a slight nod, “’Kay, it’s a deal. Nuthin’s gonna go wrong Hutch . . . at the first sign of trouble, I’ll be the first to pull out . . . I promise . . .” Starsk held out his pinkie, his silver and gold rings flashed in the dim light.

Hutch snorted quietly, his light blue eyes softening with the fondness he felt for the brunet, as he reached out and entwined his own pinkie with that of his partners’, “Okay . . . it’s a deal!”

Starsky grinned as they shook on it, reluctantly letting go of Hutch’s baby finger, his smile suddenly fading as he heard his partner’s next question . . .

“So you wanna tell me about what happened tonight?” the tall blond’s voice was soft and filled with concern, and the worry Hutch felt came back ten fold, when he saw his partner’s smile abruptly disappear, “Starsk? What is it? What happened?”

The brunet sighed, his shoulders drooping again under the burden of guilt and remorse that he carried. He shrugged and sniffled, his dark brows raising slightly as his eyes drifted to the floor, “I . . . ah . . . I was in a fight tonight . . .”

“With who?” Hutch asked, his eyes locked on his friend who seemed to squirm under his gaze, “Are you hurt?” the blond asked softly, pointing with a slight nod of his chin, “I mean . . . besides your knuckles . . . did they hurt you anywhere else?”

“Nah . . .” Starsky said softly, “Was sent home before I got too bloody. Earlier this evening Sniper sent me and some other guys to pick up this stoolie named Brody who snitched on the Minions. The chapters don’t take kindly to anyone selling them out and . . . I had to be the one to met out his punishment.” Starsky closed his eyes, seeing the frightened man’s face behind his lids as his mind played back the evening’s events.

It was Sniper who suggested that Snake be the club’s emissary for revenge and he coerced Diesel into sanctioning the kidnapping of the snitch named Brody. Starsky and three other burly members hopped on their metal steeds, engines roaring, as they carried out the Vice President’s demands, ferreting out the squealer from his hiding place.

They found Brody at his chick’s apartment, which they viciously tore apart. Starsky was able to keep the others from beating the cowardly snitch right then and there, and they dragged the frightened man back to the clubhouse to receive his “sentence”.

As he sped through the night, racing his bike on the dark ribbon of highway, curls blowing in the wind, Starsky wracked his brains on how to save the life of the foolish informant. He knew it was death to any man who betrayed the outlaws. Finks and double-crossers didn’t last long once the club found out who they were.

Brody was the younger brother of one of their members who was killed a year ago in a brawl with another rival gang. Although he was not part of the Minions, Brody still kept close ties with its members, and it came as a shock to everyone when they found out that Brody was leaking information of the club’s illegal activities to the local police department.

Starsky knew that many of the women in the club were used for intelligence gathering. The ‘old ladies’ of club members often took jobs at city, county and state offices where they could have access to blank birth certificates, drivers licenses and other useful documentation that would help the club in their illegal dealings. Other areas of employment were prison institutions, telephone operators, welfare offices and even jobs in the police department. As Diesel once told him, “Keep you friends close Snake . . . but keep your enemies closer.”

Jasper, a hefty, tattooed-ridden man in his late 40’s had his old lady working as a police records clerk. It was she who found out about Brody’s betrayal and soon the whole outlaw pack was in an uproar, wanting to spill blood. To Starsky, it drove home once again how precarious his own position was in the club, and how important it was that only Hutch, his Captain and the few Feds involved knew of his cover.

“What do you mean by that?” Hutch said, almost afraid to ask, “How did you punish . . .” The blond’s voice stilled as he watched the guilt and remorse that passed quickly over his friend’s face.

Starsky lowered his eyes, his voice barely a whisper, “They made me throw the first coupl’a punches, made me be the one to incite the riot, get the others excited like a pack of rabid dogs . . . I-I had to draw first blood . . .” The brunet looked up then, his dark blue eyes beseeching his partner to understand, “I had to do it . . . Snake would’a jumped at the chance to be the “enforcer” and serve the club by dishin’ out beatings for violations against the chapter. I couldn’t say no to that and still keep my cover. I’m being watched closely . . . especially by that asshole Sniper . . . it would have blown my cover if I refused . . .”

Hutch stared at his partner, feeling his horror as the brunet continued, his voice quivering in the quiet stillness of the dimly lit room.

“They were all over him Hutch . . . he was screamin’ . . . bleedin’ all over . . . I –I tried to help him, tried to push the others back, pretending to be mad as hell because I wanted to be the one to finish him off . . . but they were jumpin’ all over me to get to him and . . . and Diesel finally grabbed me and told me to go on home . . .” Starsky closed his eyes, afraid to see the look on his partner’s face, as his confession rolled out his mouth. “I-I think they killed him Hutch . . . I think they killed him . . . and I-I just got on my bike and rode the hell out of there . . . I left him Hutch . . . I just . . . I just left and came here.”

Hutch swallowed the lump that formed in his throat, knowing his partner was seeking absolution from the evening’s horrific events, knowing it wasn’t Starsky fault and that he’d tried to do what he could under the boundaries of his cover, but the thought that someone was murdered and that a cop just left the scene . . .

The tall blond saw his partner peeking hesitantly up at him through the heavy dark line of his lashes. Starsky looked so vulnerable. . . so broken . . . tensely waiting to hear what his partner had to say, to hear his judgment, to pay penance for the part he played in Brody’s demise.

Without a word, Hutch got up and walked into the bathroom, then out again to the living room, the graphic descriptions of Brody . . . screaming pitifully in the night as he stood alone against the pack of burly outlaws painted a frightening picture in his mind, and the blond grimly dragged his hand through his golden hair as he sat on the edge of the worn couch.

Starsky watched his partner move to the couch, his heart growing heavy with dread. The dark haired detective lowered his eyes to his bloody hands feeling sick and ashamed. A part of him wanted to run, almost afraid of hearing what Hutch had to say. He silently berated himself, knowing that he broke what was most sacred . . . his honor and oath as a cop to serve and protect . . . if only he had done something differently, but what?

“C’mere Starsk . . .” the soft voice of his partner startled the brunet from his thoughts and Starsky looked to his friend, seeing the bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a small package of cotton balls and a roll of gauze that the blond had gotten from the bathroom cabinet. “Let me take a look at the back of your hands.”

Starsky hesitated, then slowly walked over to the couch and sat next his partner, when the blond tapped the cushion beside him. The brunet placed his hand into Hutch’s upturned palm, once again feeling the warmth and strength of his partner flowing into him.

“You did a number on these,” the blond said, indicating his friend’s knuckles, “They’ll probably be bruised and swollen tomorrow.” Hutch pressed gently on each knuckle, wincing when his dark haired counterpart flinched, “Make a fist buddy,” the blond said softly, feeling satisfied when the brunet complied, “Well . . . I don’t think anything’s broken in there . . .”

Starsky lifted his chin in a slight nod, feeling tense and worried at Hutch’s continued silence regarding the fight. He watched as his partner cleaned up the cuts and welts and washed away the dried blood, gently wrapping a length of gauze around his knuckles and taping it securely in place, doing the exact same thing for the other hand. The blond’s ministrations were methodical and comforting and Starsky knew his partner was thinking of the right thing to say.

“Y’ don’t need to say it nicely . . .” Starsky whispered, “I’m an ass and I fucked up tonight. I’m a cop first and I shirked my duties . . . I should’a stayed and . . .”

“And what? Expose your cover? Get yourself killed?” Hutch said just as softly, taping the gauze down, his eyes focused on what he was doing, “You did the right thing Starsk . . . it wasn’t your fault . . .” The blond lifted his gaze, as Starsky pulled his hand away.

“Hear me buddy,” Hutch whispered, his calm voice was soft and consoling, as he placed his hand on the brunet’s stiff shoulders, “You’re beating yourself up when you don’t even know the facts. First of all, you don’t know for sure that they killed him right? It’s not like you saw the body . . .”

“That’s what they do to all informants . . .”

“Yeah, but until we find Brody’s body, we’re just speculating here and assuming the worse . . .” Hutch said gently, squeezing his partner’s shoulder reassuringly.

The brunet sighed heavily, turning his dark gaze upon the golden visage of his friend, “I heard them say they were gonna throw Brody into the abyss . . .

“The abyss? What is that?” Hutch asked, a frown marring his face as his partner’s eyes shifted away.

“Dunno . . .” Starsky sighed, “That information is only privy to the higher ups. From what Jasper tells me, it’s where they dump the guys they’ve blown away. I’ve been trying to work my way into Diesel’s good graces and find out exactly where this place is . . . who knows how many bodies we might find there . . .”

Hutch gently squeezed his partner’s shoulder again, drawing that intense sapphire gaze back to his face, “Alright, but until we find this guy’s body Starsk, we’re not going to assume anything okay? If I know you, you tried everything you could to help this man without blowing your cover. I know you’ve had to make some quick decisions while you’ve been under buddy . . . you’re in a very dangerous situation Starsk, you’re all alone and in too deep, you’re dancing on the edge with murderers and hyped up creeps, men who are not afraid to break the law and hurt others. You’re playing it safe, and I wouldn’t have you do it any other way, not without me in there with you.” Sitting up close like this, Hutch could see the weary dark circles under the bright blue of his partner’s eyes, he could feel the fatigue coming off in waves from his friend’s almost depleted energy.

“When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep huh?” Hutch asked gently.

Starsky snorted softly, unable to remember when he was able to sleep without jumping at every noise or creak of the floorboards in his dingy cover apartment the Feds had set him up in. The outlaws often came over unannounced at any hour of the day, but the roar of their Harley’s often alerted him way before they arrived at his place. The dark haired detective shrugged, “I get a few winks in every now and then . . .”

The blond smiled at the stupid grin he saw plastered on the brunet’s face, “Why don’t you stay over tonight and get a few hours in . . . you look like shit buddy.”

“Yeah? Well you don’t look to hot yourself Blondie,” Starsky ribbed, stifling a yawn that wanted to escape, feeling the weariness that flooded his being. The thought of just being here with Hutch was so enticing . . . to be able to sleep without worrying was a novelty these days, but staying here too long would be a mistake. He needed to get back to his dump where Snake lived in case any of the members showed up unexpectedly like they usually did. “I don’ know Hutch . . . I gotta get goin’” Starsky said reluctantly, “I need to be back at the apartment . . . who knows who might come by and find me gone . . .”

Hutch could feel his partner wanting to stay and quietly pushed the issue, “It’s just for a few hours Starsk . . . the sun’ll be up in no time and you can leave at the crack of dawn . . . I’ll wake you . . . I promise!”

“You promise?” Starsky grinned, already giving in to Hutch’s idea. Giving in to the tall blond came second nature to Starsky and besides; it gave him an out to stay, fulfilling the need to be with his partner for a bit longer.

“Yeah dummy . . . I got an alarm clock y’know,” the blond snorted, affectionately tousling the unruly curls on his partner’s head, “You can take my bed buddy . . .” Hutch said, a gentle smile on his lips.

“Uh-uh” Starsky cut in, “Your back will hate you in the morning . . .”

“It’s just for one night and . . .”

“Nope . . . I need you out there to watch my back Hutch, can’t have a crippled partner doin’ that now, can I?” the brunet grinned impudently then yawned again and rested his head against the back cushions of the couch, “Now get off my ‘bed’ Blondie . . . I need to sleep.”

Though things were far from being resolved, the dark haired detective felt so much better by just being in close proximity to his partner. Hutch always had the knack of making things seem better and this time was no different. Feeling drained, the biker closed his eyes, exhaustion immediately washing over him, as his body grew limp with lethargic slumber.

Hutch snorted softly, feeling thankful his partner chose to stay, maybe now he could get some real sleep himself without worrying about his best friend alone on the streets, with cutthroats and lunatics surrounding him. This assignment was killing the both of them. Hutch leaned over and quietly picked up the phone, placing a quick call to “The Pits’, whispering softly into the receiver, so as to not wake the sleeping brunet.

Hanging up, Hutch turned to look at the slumbering man, unable to refrain from reaching out to gently smooth the unruly curls on the sleeping brunet’s head. He missed having Starsky beside him. Seeing his partner so messed up like this, shook the blond to the core. If he hadn’t stopped Starsky from leaving . . .

Hutch looked from the sleeping brunet to the front door. If Starsky slept out here, it would be easy for him to leave without Hutch knowing it, and the blond wanted to make sure that his partner got the rest that he needed. Even asleep, Hutch could see the weary lines and the strain of the last six months on the Starky’s face. He hated to wake him, but he wasn’t about to leave his slumbering partner sitting up like this anyway.

“Hey buddy,” Hutch whispered softly, moving closer to his partner to gently shake him awake, smelling the familiar scent of sandalwood, “Hey . . . wake up sleeping beauty.”

The blond watched as the long, dark lashes slowly rolled, then lifted.

“Huh?” the brunet mumbled, the confusion in his blue eyes made him look so young and vulnerable, like a little boy, and Hutch’s eyes softened with affection.

“Hey,” Hutch said gently, pulling the unresisting brunet to his feet, clicking off the lamp as they passed it by, “C’mon, let’s get you to bed okay?” The blond drew his staggering partner to his side and led him to the alcove, “Take this off,” Hutch said, helping Starsky to remove the dirty denim vest, dumping it to the floor of his bedroom.

“Hey watch it . . . those are my ‘colors’” Starsky protested, grinning widely as he kicked the offensive material away, fumbling with the belt that held up his jeans as Hutch turned to get out a clean tee-shirt and underwear for his friend. The brunet sleepily took off his boots, sitting wearily on the edge of the bed.

“Here put these on,” Hutch said, taking the dust covered jeans from Starsky, “You need to wash these Gordo . . . they’re disgusting.”

The blond smiled as he heard his partner snicker softly in the dark room, “Bikers are supposed to be filthy Blondie . . . not all golden clean like you.”

Hutch snorted, turning to leave, “Goodnight buddy . . . sleep well . . .” The tall blond walked to the doorway of the alcove.

“Hey . . . where ya goin’?”

The tall blond stopped in his tracks, a soft smile gracing his lips, hearing the creaking of the bedsprings as the brunet crawled over to one side of the bed. He turned to look back at his partner who grinned at him in the moonlit room.

“Get in here Blintz . . . I ain’t takin’ your bed and having you break your back on that lumpy couch of yours . . .”

Hutch chuckled and crossed over to the mattress. This wouldn’t be the first time the partners had shared a bed, and Hutch knew it wouldn’t be the last time either. It would feel wonderful to know that his friend was safe, sleeping beside him where he could monitor his rest. And the best part of it all would be that Hutch would immediately know if Starsky tried to sneak out again.

“Okay pal,” Hutch grinned, climbing onto the mattress, “But keep your hands to yourself!”

Starsky couldn’t stop himself from snickering, feeling happy and safe with the familiar bantering of his best friend in the whole world, “Yeah right . . . only if you stop hogging the blankets Blondie!” To feel the warmth of his partner’s long body pressed beside him filled the brunet with a peace that he’d missed so much. Being with Hutch made him whole again. “G’night Hutch . . . I’ve . . . I’ve missed ya buddy.”

Hutch felt a lump in his throat at the whispered words from his friend. He could almost hear the sad, lonely longing that tinged Starsky’s voice, though he couldn’t see the brunet’s expression from where he lay. Hutch reached across the mattress and squeezed his partner’s hand reassuringly, “I missed you too dummy . . . now get some rest . . . I’ll be right here . . .”

For a while, the blond lay quietly in the dark, listening to the deep and even breathing of his partner who lay beside him, until the comforting sound finally lulled him to sleep as well, his hand still holding the brunet’s.

Chapter 3

The bright morning sunlight filtered through the drawn curtains, inadvertently falling on the face of the dark haired man who threw his arm irritably across his closed lids. He could hear the sounds of the early morning; cars driving past, the birds twittering in the trees, and a part of him knew he had to get up now, but the warm, muscled body lying next to him made him feel like staying there forever. The brunet turned his face towards his partner and peeked out from under his arm, noticing the pale long lashes that hid his friend’s sky blue eyes.

Aww Hutch.

For a minute, the brunet stared at his partner, memorizing every detail of his familiar face. He wished he could stay, but Starsky knew the danger of giving in to his desires. If anyone followed him here last night, there would be hell to pay. The wayward bikers could stop off at his doorstep anytime now, and finding him gone would undoubtedly raise questions from the innately suspicious and paranoid outlaws.

The dark haired detective raised his head slightly, sniffled, and glanced at the alarm clock next to Hutch. It was 5:52 a.m. The alarm was set to ring in 8 minutes and it amazed the brunet that he had beat the clock, especially feeling the way he did. He lowered his head back to the soft pillow; his body protesting even that slight movement and Starsky stifled the groan that wanted to leak out. Though he had slept better than ever, Starsky could still feel the heavy residual tiredness that held his body captive and he pushed away the anger and guilt that surged through his heart. God, he hated himself right now, but having Hutch beside him helped to calm him down.

Hutch.

The dark haired biker sniffled again, as he thought about what Hutch had done for him last night. He was so messed up in the head when he came to Venice Place and Hutch’s gentleness and love took all of that pain and remorse away. Starsky remembered how Hutch had talked some sense into him, how he’d cleaned and bandaged his hands and then helped him to bed, their playful bantering easing the grief in his heart and mind. Starsky smiled softly, remembering that the last thing he felt before he drifted off to sleep was the warmth of Hutch’s hand holding his own, and his promise of being right there for him.

The brunet sniffled and rubbed his finger under his nose, turning his head on the soft pillow to look at his blond counterpart who slept undisturbed. The warm gush of liquid took Starsky by surprise and he quickly sat up, cupping his hand under his nose as bright, red blood leaked out from one nostril, dripping continuously into the palm of his hand.

“Shit!”

The loud ring of the alarm made the brunet swear softly under his breath as he startled, nearly jumping out of his skin, inadvertently jostling the blond awake from his slumber.

“Starsk?” Hutch murmured, turning his head and lifting one heavy pale lash to peek up at his partner, only to quickly open the other eye and sit up in bed, as Starsky dashed out of the room to make his way to the bathroom, one hand still cupped beneath his nose.

“Starsky?” Hutch called out, as he shook away the grogginess and slammed his fingers on the button to shut off the blaring alarm. The blond leapt to his feet to stumble after his partner, his forehead creasing in concern. The fair headed detective found the brunet slumped on the john, toilet paper speckled with spots of bright red, pressed against his nose.

“Wh-What happened? You’re b-bleeding . . .” the blond stuttered anxiously, as he watched his partner pinch his nose and look up towards the ceiling. “You okay pal?”

“Yeah . . . just a nose bleed,” the brunet gruffly mumbled, the wadded paper muffling his voice, as Hutch made his way over to kneel on one knee in the small space next to the toilet, his hand reaching up to cup the side of his partner’s jaw as he tried to assess the damage. “I said ‘m fine Hutch . . .” Starsky said curtly, feeling himself getting irritated by the whole incident, upset with himself for waking up his partner in the first place.

“Hey, hey, hey . . . look what the morning blew in . . . a black man bearing delectable gifts of dough . . . Shit . . . what the fuck happened?”

“Hey Hug . . .” Hutch said smiling, glancing over his shoulder at the black man who stood framed in the bathroom’s doorway, one dark slim hand on his hip while the other held up a small white package of bakery doughnuts at chest level. “Come in here . . . Starsky’s having a nose bleed.”

After Starsky had fallen asleep late last night, the blond had taken the liberty of calling Huggy to bring over some breakfast for the brunet, since Hutch’s refrigerator was virtually empty of anything edible. All those long hours on stake out, left little time for Hutch to visit the grocery store to stock up on food, and he’d been afraid to leave Starsky alone last night with him wanting to bolt at any minute.

The brunet eyed his tall, lanky black friend who stood at the door, a wide smile on his face. “This ain’t no side show . . . stop gawking over there,” Starsky growled, feeling his temper rising as irritation and impatience flooded his being, “And you too . . . I said I was fine Hutch. Stop making a big deal over this!” The brunet snarled; getting quickly to his feet, throwing the wadded paper into the trash can that sat on the other side of the toilet.

Hutch glanced back at Huggy who shrugged his thin shoulders in return, although he had no answers for Hutch’s silent question, his dark eyes followed every movement of the now angry brunet. The skinny black man watched as Starsky turned on the tap, washing away the residual blood under his nose, the whole time sniffling, as if his nose were constantly running.

“You feel tired man?” Huggy asked quietly, “Got you some doughnuts . . .” The dark man moved aside as Starsky made his way to the door, “Got some coffee too . . .”

“Yeah? Well thanks, but I ain’t hungry.” Starsky said gruffly, making his way to the bedroom while his friends followed in his wake.

“He always gets up like this?” Huggy whispered to Hutch as they watched the brunet gathering his belongings.

“Only after a nose bleed,” Hutch whispered back, winking to the owner of The Pits, as he turned his attention back to this irate partner.

“Where you going?” Hutch asked softly.

“Out . . . gotta get back . . . I already stayed too long . . . damn!” Starsky snapped, angry with himself for losing it with his friends, but unable to keep his frustration in check. He felt like shit boiled over, his heavy body begging to fall over back into bed. He felt out of control and his goddamn nose kept dripping. He knew his friends were confused by his erratic behavior and it made him even angrier. “Shit!” he growled, throwing his uncooperative sock against the wall of Hutch’s bedroom as he sat on the edge of the bed, his leg kicked out angrily at the chair that held his pants and vest, sending the chair flying as his clothes toppled in a messy heap.

Hutch calmly walked over and retrieved the sock, righted the chair, and picked up his partner’s dusty clothing, all the while listening to the rapid, shallow breathing and constant sniffling that came from his hot-tempered friend. “Here,” the blond said handing his friend his dirty sock, “Look, why don’t you take a quick shower. The hot water will make you feel better, especially if you’re coming down with a cold. You don’t look too good buddy.”

“I said I’m fine Hutch,” Starsky said, sniffling wearily as he rubbed his red nose once more, the sound of a hot shower sounded good to his aching muscles, “’Sides, I’m late already.”

Hutch smiled gently, knowing his partner would be giving in soon, “You said those bikers don’t get up ‘til noon sometimes, sleeping off all the alcohol and drugs they’ve consumed . . . you have time for a shower buddy, just make it a quick one.”

The soft, cajoling tone of blond, helped calm the irate brunet, soothing his frayed nerves until he finally nodded his head in agreement, anticipating the hot sprays of water on his aching back, “”Kay, a quick one . . .” Starsky glanced up sheepishly at his friends and grinned lopsidedly, “Sorry guys. Hey Hug . . . thanks for the breakfast . . .”

“De nada” Huggy said softly, reaching out his slim hand to squeeze the brunet’s shoulder, as he passed by on his way to take that much needed shower. “What happened to your hands?” the black man asked, nodding to Starsky’s bandaged knuckles.

“Nuthin’ . . . just scraped it up a bit,” Starsky said, looking at the gauze taped around his hand, “Hutch cleaned ‘em last night for me.” The brunet looked at his blond partner who winked and grinned back at him. The brunet sighed, then snorted softly, “Guess I’ll have to take these off before I take that shower . . . sorry Hutch.” The dark haired cop left, and the remaining two men listened to the bathroom door closing before their eyes met across the expanse of the bedroom.

“Sorry Hug . . . he’s not much of a morning person . . .” Hutch said lamely, as he folded his partner’s jeans and laid it on the back of the chair.

“Yeah . . .’specially if he’s hooked on snow.” The streetwise black man said softly, his dark eyes meeting light blue orbs that widened in surprise.

“What?” Hutch whispered, blue eyes narrowing in disbelief “Cocaine?”

At the slight nod of the tall slender man, Hutch shook his head. “No . . . no not Starsk . . . he wouldn’t . . .”

“You saw him just now . . .” Huggy continued, his soft voice, devoid of judgment, “He can’t control his temper, his face lookin’ so tired and drawn, his constant sniffling, the weight loss, his bleeding nose . . . he’s been snortin’ Hutch . . . for a while now it seems. I’ve seen this too many times before to not know the signs of a coke-head”

Hutch’s pale blue eyes narrowed and grew icy, “You’re wrong Hug. This time you’re wrong and out of line. Starsky’s been under for a long time now . . . he’s been under tremendous stress, hence the weight loss and his weariness. He’s been almost living with men who have little regard for the law and for what is right and that’s why he’s on edge, his temper flaring out of control now and then . . .”

“What about his sniffling and his bloody nose?” Huggy interjected softly, “And don’t say he’s coming down with a cold! Look, I know you don’t want to hear this Hutch, but he’s hooked on coke . . . probably been doing several lines a day to have his nose bleed like that.”

Hutch was about to object once more, when they heard the water shutting off. “Huggy, I think you’re wrong about this. Starsky would’ve told me if he had to take any kind of drug. Sometimes things like this happen to cops when they’re under, but Starsky knows the rules. If he had to do a line or two to save his cover, he needed to come out and detox at the safe house the Feds had set up in case of something like this.” Hutch whispered desperately, “He’s a damn good cop and he plays by the rules like I do.”

“I’m not saying he’s a bad cop Hutch,” Huggy said gently, “I’m just sayin’ he’s gotten himself hooked on snow and he’ll be needing some help.”

Both men stopped their whispering as they heard the door to the bathroom opening, and they waited until the brunet came into the bedroom, a large white towel wrapped around his lean hips, his hands vigorously scrubbing the residual dampness from his unruly curls with another smaller towel.

Hutch swallowed, seeing the faint scars left on his partner’s upper torso and abdomen by Gunther’s hitmen, a vision of his downed friend lying with his head in the Torino’s wheel well suddenly came to mind, and Hutch could see his still partner lying on the floor of the police parking lot, as his life’s blood spilled to the ground. The sudden image caused the blond to sit heavily on the edge of the bed, his mind reeling from what Huggy just told him.

“What?” Starsky said, his eyes connecting to his partner’s, reading the uncertainty and sadness in the light blue depths, “Whatsamatter?” The brunet turned to look at his black friend who quickly held out the package of doughnuts.

“Our blond friend is sad because I must depart,” Huggy said, handing the package over to the dark haired detective, “These are for you amigo . . . I gotta go get some Z’s.” The black man hugged Starsky tight, “You be careful out there y’hear? You need to be playing with a full deck at all times . . . those ‘gents’ are hardcore and paranoid y’dig? You get like that doin’ drugs all the time. . .” Huggy softly whispered into the shell of the brunet’s ear before releasing him, gently thumping his friend on the back, “Be smart Starsky and be well . . .” The dark man said knowingly, looking his friend straight in the eye.

Starsky nodded, stifling the need to sniffle, feeling his eyes drifting away uncomfortably from the discerning look on the black man’s face. He knew Huggy suspected something. The man was too street-smart not to see the signs of an addict.

“Yeah . . . thanks Hug.” Starsky said softly, feeling terribly ashamed inside, knowing he was keeping something from his friends, but if he was to come clean now, Starksy knew that Hutch would pull him from this case, faster than it took to snap his fingers. Yet lying to Huggy, much less to Hutch, was something the brunet had never done before, and like a child who was busted, he hung his dark head in abject misery, unable to look his friends in the eye.

Hutch met the knowing look in Huggy’s dark eyes over the bowed head of his friend, his heart twisting in despair.

“Call me . . . if you need me,” Huggy said softly before turning to make his way out of the now, quiet apartment.

The silence that ensued was uncomfortable and heavy, making the air difficult to breathe for Starsky. He just wanted out . . . needed to get out before Hutch said anything. The dark haired cop grabbed his pants, tugging the tight jeans on over his hips and the curve of his buttocks, yanking his tee shirt down as he donned on the dusty vest, which felt scratchy to his now clean and water-warmed skin. He refrained from looking at his partner, though he could feel the chill of the blond’s icy stare, as he pulled on his socks and boots.

“Thanks Hutch . . . for last night,” Starsky said softly, awkwardly; seeing his partner flinch out of the corner of his eye as he sniffled and rubbed his finger under his nose, knowing for sure now, that the blond suspected something.

‘He knows.’

Starsky could hear his conscience whispering condemningly in his head, making him feel so guilty inside, shredding his heart in two. He stood quickly, wanting to beat a hasty retreat only to crawl back into the dark and dingy apartment that the Feds had set up for him, to hide from the light of his golden partner.

“I ah . . . I gotta go Hutch . . .” Starsky whispered, not wanting to get into ‘it’ with his partner, not now, not when things were so close to being wrapped up. If he could just hang on a little longer . . . it would all be worth it. The brunet walked out into the living room, feeling the silent blond following behind him at his heels. The need to leave made Starsky almost want to run to the door, but to his credit, he kept up his cocky swagger, re-donning the persona of the outlaw biker named Snake.

“Starsky?” the whispered name, brought the brunet to a halt, his hand already on the doorknob, but he couldn’t bring himself to turn and face his partner’s knowing look, the thought of doing that, seeing Hutch’s sky blue eyes saddened with hurt and disbelief would kill him . . . he just couldn’t . . .

Hutch could see his friend’s back grow rigid and tense and he waited for his partner to turn and look him in the eye, but the brunet stayed in place, his hand frozen on the knob.

“Starsk,” Hutch began again, his quivering voice warm and gentle, “Talk to me . . . Whatever it is . . . you can tell me buddy . . .” The blond’s heart grew heavy as he saw his partner wearily press his forehead against the door, “Whatever it is Starsky, we’ll deal with it, but you need to tell me . . .” Hutch could hear the quickening of his partner’s breaths as he drew it rapidly in. ‘Like a man drowning’, the blond thought sadly, his heart reaching out to the brunet, hoping his friend would turn to him to let him help. Hutch took another step towards his friend, “Don’t shut me out Gordo . . .” the blond whispered softly, knowing his partner heard him all the same.

Starsky struggled to hold it together, taking in deep breaths so he wouldn’t fall apart, knowing his partner was reaching out to him, but he just couldn’t turn, his limbs almost frozen stiff with guilt and despair. He heard Hutch move closer and he knew he had to get out before Hutch touched him, the warmth of his touch would shatter him completely, “I . . . I gotta go Hutch . . .” It took all of his strength to turn the knob and walk into the hallway, his heart breaking as he gently closed the door behind him.

Hutch swallowed, his eyes blurring suddenly as the door clicked gently behind his retreating partner. For a minute, the tall blond stood there, staring at the closed door, his heart shattering as he thought of what his partner was going through. The sudden roar of the Harley’s engine brought the detective out of his stupor and Hutch raced to the window in time to see the brunet speeding away, his dark curls blowing in the wind.

“Aww buddy . . .” Hutch whispered to the empty room, “What have you done? What have you done?”

Chapter Four

All the way home, Starsky could feel his partner’s stare burning into his back. The farther he rode from Hutch’s inner light, the angrier he became, darkness and despair taking hold of his heart once more. ‘What have I done? What have I done?’ the brunet kept asking himself, the litany going ‘round and ‘round in his head, nearly driving himself insane with the guilt he felt, not only for leaving Hutch without talking to him, but for lying to him in the first place.

The dark haired biker revved his engine and picked up even more speed, attempting to outrun his demons with the power of the Harley. He could feel his nose running in the sharp wind and he rubbed at it impatiently, sniffling, as he weaved in and out between the fast moving cars on the highway. The speed and exhilaration of the ride, the power of the machine between his legs, soon pushed his dark thoughts to the back of his mind. He needed to get it together before making it ‘home.’ With his shitty luck, he might see Jasper or one of the other club members along this highway, and he needed his wits about him to deal with those outlaws.

Thoughts of Hutch, his golden visage creased in concern, the warmth of his hand in his, the soft gentleness of his voice, all of these precious memories were secreted away and buried deep within his heart, until he could later take them out, one by one, to remember and to carry him through the many dark and lonely nights of being under and alone. He was ready to break; he knew he couldn’t last much longer under this guise, but it consoled him to know that it would be all over in a couple of days. He could tough it out ‘til then.

He hoped.

After a while, Starsky mentally shifted gears and concentrated on the feel of the bike beneath him, the powerful engine churning beneath his thighs, the wind enfolding him on all sides, the oneness of the road, his mind clearing itself of its heavy thoughts. Although the brunet missed driving his flashy red and white striped Torino, there was nothing that could compare to the freedom of riding a huge Harley Davidson.

On a motorcycle like this, there were no metal constraints that boxed you in. On a bike, it was just you, the road and nature. Riding a motorcycle enabled you to free your mind and soul, you body becoming part of the machine beneath you as you hugged the road, leaning into the turns, your mind and the machine in balance and harmony. Once freed of the steel cage of a car, you experienced a broader sense of the world, your senses coming alive, the different smells, the feel of the wind and the raindrops, the warmth of the sun on your head and back, everything surrounding you becoming a part of you. That was the joy one had in riding a motorcycle and Starsky reveled in it.

By the time he exited off the freeway, drawing closer to his cover pad, his mind felt a lot clearer. He would have to call or find a way to see Hutch and come clean with his partner, as soon as he had the chance. In any case, Thursday would be here soon enough and by then Hutch would know for sure.

“Aw shit!” the brunet hissed under his breath, spying Diesel’s dark blue Harley parked in front of his apartment in the distance, “Fuck . . . that’s all I need right now.” Starsky swore under his breath, attempting to slow the beating of his heart as he pulled his bike behind his presidents’. All he wanted to do was to lie down and crash for a bit. He was so dead tired after his exhilarating ride, his body protesting even the slightest movement as he got off the bike. . Taking off his dark shades, the dark haired cop swaggered over to Diesel who was reclining on the seat of his Harley.

“Hey . . .” Starsky called out, nodding his head in the direction of the sandy, longhaired blond who slowly sat up with a grin on his face. Diesel got off his bike, and both men shook hands using their club handshake, slapping each other on the backs before giving each other a huge hug.

Starsky could feel himself settling down into his biker persona. The familiar hugs and handshakes were all part of the same song and dance the bikers did whenever they saw one another. There was a sense of ‘family’ and camaraderie that all bikers shared with each other, like an ‘us’ against the world attitude that drew these men close together, bonding the club with a perverse sense of loyalty and love.

It surprised the brunet to feel these same feelings of brotherhood when he looked at Diesel. Like Hutch, Diesel was all golden blond, but where Hutch was soft and gentle, Diesel was a rough and hardened biker who had seen too much shit in his life. If Diesel had been born under different circumstances, Starsky was certain that his man would have been like his partner. There was a decency that ran in the blood of the club’s president, an air of charisma that drew other men to follow his lead and Starsky could sense this. It was probably what drew them together in the first place, for both bikers shared these same traits.

“Where ya been Snake?” Diesel asked, his pale blue eyes twinkling merrily, “Been waitin’ hours for you buddy . . .”

“Yeah?” Starsky answered cockily, his own eyes reflecting amusement, “Why’d you stay out here? Y’know where I keep the spare key. You could’a gone in and crashed on the couch.”

“Nah . . . you know that ain’t my style. I don’t go into anyone’s house uninvited. Anyway, I knew you weren’t home . . . your bike was gone,” ” Diesel said grinning, “So where ya been? Was worried about ch’ya . . . after last night . . .” The president of the ‘Devil’s Minions’, or ‘Minions’ for short, carefully eyed the brunet, and then followed the curly haired biker into his dingy abode, snorting softly as Snake flopped down on the dilapidated couch.

“I was out . . . ridin’ ‘til dawn. Watched the sun come up at the beach, then got some grub and came on home.” Starsky drawled, amazed at how easily he could come up with spur of the moment lies.

“Yeah?” Diesel murmured, his sky blue eyes seemed to look into the brunet’s soul and Starsky suppressed a shiver, “You look like shit buddy,” the long haired biker said, as he moved Snake’s legs off the couch and sat down next to him, leaning his head back against the stained cushions and closing his eyes, “You did good to ride little brother, there’s nothing like seeing sunshine on chrome. Y’should’ve waited for me though, I’d’ve gone with ya . . . haven’t seen the beach or watched a sunrise in a long, long time.” Diesel said tiredly.

Starsky closed his eyes too, feeling so burnt and weary; his body on a downward slide from the drugs he had taken before he went out to hunt Brody down. Diesel had given him three or four lines of uncut ‘stuff’ and the pureness of the drug had ripped into the dark haired cop’s nasal passages, burning its way down to his throat. The brunet sniffled. Just thinking about the cocaine he took, made his body instantly react with a craving. He could feel himself wanting more of it and a part of him burned in humiliation and self-loathing. This was getting way out of hand and he knew it.

He opened one eye to peek out at Diesel who still sat with his eyes closed. It was the chapter’s president that usually shared his stash with Snake and he always had ‘good’, expensive stuff. Starsky had been snorting uncut coke for a couple of months now, and as his addiction to the drug grew stronger, so did the bond of Diesel’s friendship. The two bikers, one dark in coloring, the other light, grew closer as trust was instilled between the two men.

Starsky closed his eyes remembering back to the first time he’d been forced under his cover to snort some snow. A shipment of cocaine had arrived at the warehouse and Diesel and Sniper were there to supervise its distribution. ‘The Minions’ were known to be the transportation hub of illegal drugs in California. Many Columbian and Mexican dealers moved their drugs and illegal firearms through this outlaw club, who dispersed it out to other clubs in different states and cities. It was quite a profitable business. The brunet’s mind drifted back to that fateful day a little over two months ago . . .

It’s here . . . it’s arrived!” Jasper whooped excitedly, taking out his large bowie knife, cutting the cords that were tied tightly around the burlap-covered shipment. Starsky moved in to help other club members as they dug into the packing, pulling up brown paper packages stuffed with cocaine. Kilo after kilo was removed amid the gleeful whistles and cheering of the excited bikers who eagerly stacked the packages on a long wooden table.

Starsky stared at the accumulated stash. He’d never seen this much snow since that bust he and Hutch were on a few years back. It was no wonder that good cops like Burke and Corman would turn bad, thinking of all the money and profit that could be made, once the kilos of coke were cut and put out on the streets.

Pretty impressive huh Snake? I bet you didn’t think it ‘snowed’ here in Los Angeles like it does in New York?”

Starsky turned to see Diesel standing just behind him, his sky blue eyes were locked on the pile of brown paper packages, “That stuff is uncut right now . . . pure gold!” the blond biker said, his arms were crossed over the black leather vest that he wore with the a red patch of a leering devil’s face sewed on the back of it. Everyone in the club knew that cocaine was Diesel’s first choice of drugs . . . the man rarely did any other type and he always used coke that was uncut and pure.

Hey Jasper . . . toss a bag over here!” Diesel said to the burly older man who immediately complied. Diesel easily caught the bag with one hand; and Starsky watched as some white, pearlescent powder dusted the floor beneath him.

You gonna take that kilo for yourself man?” Sniper asked, as he came to stand next to Diesel, licking his lips at the thought of some of having some of that white candy.

I always take one for myself,” Diesel grinned, “You know that Snipe. Now see to it that everything goes smoothly this time, and make sure that this shipment gets dispersed correctly.”

Yeah, you got it,” Sniper said, eyeing the dark curly haired biker that stood to the left of Diesel, “You gonna share some of that snow with him?” The red headed man nodded in the direction of Starsky, his green eyes narrowing with jealousy.

Diesel turned to look at Snake, grinning widely, “I don’ know . . . you want some of this? It’s good stuff . . . just as good as the snow you’ve probably used in New York.”

Starsky’s mind raced as he tried to think up a plausible response to Diesel’s question. So far, whenever he was offered some weed, uppers or horse, by club members he was able to turn it down, claiming that he’d been off the stuff for a while since he was in prison and for the most part, the other members respected his wishes, awed by the fact that Snake was the one brother who escaped the evil clutches of the law and got out in one piece from behind bars.

The club members all held Snake in high esteem, awed by his courage and reputation as a tough street fighter and his steadfast loyalty to the outlaw clubs. It was rumored that Snake went to prison in the first place to protect his own chapter president, instead of selling him out to the cops. In the biker world, this showed an extreme sacrifice and loyalty . . . a man such as Snake was to be honored.

The Minions’ knew that Diesel was doing Snake a huge favor by hiding him out here, and they regarded the biker from Brooklyn as an almost a legendary figure, since his escape from a high security prison. Starsky knew that much of his survival in the dark world of the outlaw bikers was based on his reputation that preceded him here, and for that he was thankful. It made his job of infiltrating the ranks of the club that much easier, since he didn’t have to start at the bottom like some of the new prospects who hung out at the club, hoping to be “patched” in.

Some members took great joy in harassing the prospects, making them serve the bikers like servants, treating them like shit, making them degrade and humble themselves as the rowdy bikers howled with laughter. Men like Sniper, were especially hard on the new prospects and it was all Starsky could do to hold his tongue at the cruelty he witnessed.

Well?” Diesel said casually, “Want some nose candy? I have a lot to share,” the tall blond biker chuckled good-naturedly, gesturing with a wave of his hand to the wooden table stacked with kilos of pure cocaine.

Starsky could see Sniper eyeing him suspiciously as the dark haired cop hesitated.

I can’t figure you out Snake,” Sniper said slowly, bloodshot green eyes narrowing with distrust, “Everyone tells me that you don’t do stuff anymore. Now I find that hard to believe because we all heard you were the biggest coke-head in Brooklyn.”

Yeah?” Starsky said calmly, though his heart was racing, “You heard about my snorting days huh? Well . . . I got cleaned out in the joint. Don’t really care to start that shit again.”

What’s a few lines gonna do,” Sniper persisted, his eyes narrowing, “Using snow ain’t like doing horse . . . it’s easy to kick it and you’re our guest here . . . you wouldn’t want us to think you’re too good for us now . . . would you? I always found the idea of you escaping Riker’s Island really interesting . . . I mean . . . just how did you escape?”

Starsky could feel Diesel’s eyes on him, as well as the eyes of several other members who stood close enough to hear the conversation. The dark haired cop wracked his brain, knowing his excuses were growing thin as the paranoid bikers began to gather around.

Starsky hardened his expression, knowing that the bikers, like wolves, respected a show of strength. His dark blue eyes flashed a warning, as he stared the redheaded biker down, “If you heard I used’ta snort, then I’m sure you heard how I escaped. What’s it to you how I got here . . . I’m here . . . and if you don’t like it . . . then I’ll leave! It’s as simple as that . . . and if you want to make something more of it . . . then let’s go . . .” The dark haired biker nodded to the cleared floor in front of him, egging Sniper on for a fight.

Take it easy Snake,” Diesel said, his voice calm and wary, holding the curly haired man back, “Snipe still needs to learn when to keep his trap shut. He meant no harm . . . jus’ wanted you to join us for some lines . . . no harm in askin’. You remember how good it feels . . . the rush, flying high from the dust, the burn down your throat . . . you know . . .”

The tall blond biker whipped his butterfly knife around until it clicked in place only to stab it into the brown paper package, sliding some powder out on the knife’s tip, showing it to the dark haired man, “Ya see? Good stuff. Like Sniper said, a few lines ain’t gonna hurt ch’ya . . . hell, you know that . . .”

The whole time Diesel was speaking he was carefully using his knife to make twelve lines of cocaine on a large glass mirror. “Here ya go buddy, I made four lines for each of us. How ‘bout it? We’ll fly as high as a kite, then I’ll race ya on my Harley . . . there’s nothin’ like the speed of our bikes, the wind blowin’ us away, we’ll be flyin’ on the inside as well as the outside . . . true freedom man!” Diesel smiled, his light blue eyes were soft and dreamlike, his voice almost hypnotic. He held out a straw to Sniper and then one to Snake who reluctantly took it, feeling the eyes of the club members as they curiously watched him like a hawk.

The dark haired cop eyed Sniper as he greedily sucked up the white powder through the straw in his nose. Watching as his green eyes glazed over, seeing him tremble slightly as the rush took him over, Starsky realized that Diesel was waiting for him. The brunet turned to look at the tall blond biker.

After you buddy,” Diesel said, gesturing to the next four lines.

The dark haired cop swallowed the sense of panic that flooded his being, knowing he was trapped as the others carefully watched what he would do. The brunet knew that in any undercover operation there would be times when you had to fake it ‘til you make it. Starsky knew he had no choice, but as soon as he could, he would hightail it out of there and get some help to detox.

Starsky grinned, “Here’s to freedom. . .” he said cockily, stilling the slight trembling of his hands, sticking the straw into his left nostril, closing his eyes as he inhaled. He could feel the powder entering his nasal passage, and then the burn that ran down his throat. The brunet could feel the immediate euphoric rush that sent him flying, vaguely registering that Diesel had lowered his sandy blond head to snort up the remaining lines. He could hear the other members laughing, as Sniper loudly joked around, humiliating a young prospect named Rocky who wanted to join the Devil’s Minions.

The dark haired cop grinned as Diesel slapped him on the back, “You flyin’ man?” the blond’s warm voice chuckled, “You flyin’ as high as I am?”

Shit . . . this stuff is fuckin’ good . . . it kicks ass” Starsky laughed, not even caring if this statement made sense, since he’d never snorted before. There was nothing he cared about anymore, yet a part of him cautioned himself about being too talkative.

A commotion made the blond and brunet turn around to witness Sniper kicking about the young kid named Rocky. For awhile now, the vice president had been picking on this new prospect, but because he was feeling high, he was being especially vindictive to the young kid who couldn’t have been older than eighteen.

Over the past few weeks, Starsky had seen Sniper making the young boy polish his boots, had seen him kick the kid around making him lick up his spit, getting his jollies degrading the young man as the other bikers laughed and jeered him on. Seeing things like that pissed the detective off, and the brunet silently seethed inside.

Starsky watched as Sniper now stuck a cigarette into his mouth and snapped his fingers for the boy to light it. After taking a few puffs from the cigarette, the biker cruelly ground it out on the back of the young man’s hand, laughing as the boy cried out in pain.

Light it up again,” Sniper growled, jeering at the young man who shakily lit the match again and held it out to the red haired biker who puffed another cigarette to life. Sniper grinned evilly, “Hold out your other hand kid . . .”

N-No . . .” Rocky said softly, his voice quavering, holding his burnt hand tightly against his chest as he blew the match out.

What? Then I guess you can’t be a Minion . . . only the toughest get to be in our club . . . now hold out your other hand or walk out of here . . .” Sniper leered, taking a long drag on the cigarette, watching Rocky’s nervous eyes fixating on the glowing end.

Knock it off Sniper!” Starsky hissed, unable to stand the look of abject fear in the boy’s eyes, “Leave the kid alone . . . you hurt ‘im enough.” The brunet walked towards the young kid who stood shaking, his dark brown eyes beseeching the help of the curly haired biker who calmly maneuvered the boy behind him, as he faced the angry vice president.

Fuck off Snake!” Sniper sneered, “We do thing differently here than in New York.” The red-head grabbed Rocky’s hand, pulling him from behind the brunet, backhanding the boy as he struggled to get free.

I said leave the kid alone!” Starsky snarled, suddenly grabbing the hand of Sniper, twisting it as he shoved him away from the cowering boy, flipping the biker over and hearing the angry redhead curse as he fell to the ground, “If I were you kid,” Starsky said, turning to the frightened boy, “I’d find some other place to hang at.” Rocky nodded, his eyes wide with fear and pain, backing out slowly, only to turn and run out of the clubhouse.

Sniper got up quickly, pissing mad when he heard the snickers from some of the members, “And who the fuck do you think you are anyway huh? I’m the fuckin’ vice president of this fuckin’ club!” Sniper shouted, the drug making him feel bold and daring. He stormed over to Snake, his hands clenched in fists that itched to connect with the jaw of the dark haired biker that ticked with suppressed hostility.

Snipe!” The calm voice of Diesel rang out, “Fuck man . . . chill out . . . you’re ruining my high . . . this shit is expensive stuff and you’re fucking it up man! Now sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up! From now on, I don’t wanna see anybody manhandling the new prospects . . . you got that boys?”

Satisfied at the nods and murmurs of affirmation from his men, the blond biker turned his icy blue gaze to the dark haired man who stood rigidly in the circle of burly leather clad bikers, his sky blue eyes immediately softened with admiration for the man named Snake. There was something decent about the rough New Yorker that Diesel found appealing.

Snake . . . let’s ride outta here for a bit.” Diesel cajoled the brunet, wrapping a muscled arm around the shoulders of the curly haired man, leading him away from Sniper who glared angrily at the two departing men, feeling the ugly hand of jealousy choking him alive, fueling his anger and his hatred against the biker from New York . . .

“Hey, you awake Snake?” Diesel mumbled sleepily, gently thumping the legs of the brunet who lounged on the couch.

The dark haired man opened his eyes to stare into light blue ones, that reminded him of Hutch’s. His thoughts slowly drifted back to the present, as guilt once again filled his heart when he thought about his partner, and how he couldn’t bring himself to even look at his blond counterpart when he left this morning.

‘He knows.’

“Hey you okay?” Diesel’s soft voice intruded on his thoughts and Starsky forced himself to grin at the leader of “The Devil’s Minions”, who watched him with concerned eyes, “How ya feelin’ buddy?”

Starsky shrugged, “’Kay, I guess . . . kinda tired.”

“Yeah, you don’ look too good. You’re crashin’ man, but I got more stuff that’ll help ya through this. I’ll give you some more candy before I leave. Gotta have you up and at ‘em at ‘church’ tonight. It’s gonna rock . . . the Oakland chapter is givin’ us a gift and I want you right there beside me buddy to receive it.”

“Yeah? What kind of gift?” Starsky asked, closing his eyes once again, his dark lashes smudging his pale cheeks, his body feeling heavy and lethargic. The thought of Diesel cutting more lines filled his soul with an intense craving that sickened him. An image of Hutch’s face appeared behind his closed lids, making the brunet want to suddenly throw up, but he forced himself to concentrate on what Diesel was saying instead.

“Don’ know . . .” the blond biker continued, “But after what happened last night, anything’ll be good.”

Starsky opened his eyes, wishing he had turned on the ‘bug’ in his apartment that would tape their conversation for the Feds sitting somewhere in their van. Unfortunately, since the blond biker had been waiting for him when he rode up, it would be nearly impossible for him to turn the mechanism on without Diesel seeing him do it in the cramped quarters they were in.

“What happened after I left?” Starsky asked quietly, his heart aching, still hearing the pleas of the man named Brody ringing in his ears once more, “What happened to Brody?”

Diesel sighed heavily and then shrugged, “What do you think happened?” For a minute both bikers remained silent, sniffling every now and then in the stillness of the small apartment.

“I heard them mention the ‘abyss’. What is that?” Starsky asked softly, his dark eyes locked intently on Diesel’s.

“Nothing you need to know about, man.” The tall blond hedged, “Some things are better left unknown bro’ . . . you know that. It’s safer that way.”

“Why’d you tell me to go home last night? Starsky queried, his voice soft with hesitation, as he kept his gaze locked on the tall blond, “How come you pulled me outta that fight?”

“Did you want t’be there?” Diesel asked quietly, his pale blue eyes seemed to look into Starsky’s soul, “I could see it was tearing you up inside to draw first blood.”

Starsky looked down at his knuckles that were bruised and scabbed, feeling sick once more as he thought of the bloody man bombarded by the angry outlaws. He could feel his breath quickening at the thought, his heart accelerating.

“Take it easy little brother,” Diesel said calmly, laying a large hand on Starsky’s thigh, “Ain’t nothing you can do about it now. Just stay far away from Sniper . . . he hates you with a passion man.” The blond took out a pack of cigarettes and offered one of them to the brunet who took it, bending his dark curly head over the lit match that Diesel held out to him.

The blond lit his own cigarette, inhaling deeply as tendrils of smoke came out through his nostrils, “Yup nothing you can do. Everyone crashes on the road of life buddy, some get back up, some don’t, and some can’t.”

“Yeah? And which one is Brody?” Starsky whispered softly, his eyes growing stormy with suppressed anger. The brunet lowered his eyes to the lit cigarette in his hand and inhaled, feeling the smoke burning its way down to his lungs.

Diesel snorted softly, “Shit happens to everyone Snake. I’ve learned to just ride on . . . feel the wind in my face. Now that’s what joy feels like man . . . you see how them dogs hang their heads outta windows? They know how to feel joy.” The blond nodded slightly, his light blues eyes twinkling with mirth.

The blond biker stopped to take a long draw from his cigarette, blowing the smoke out slowly. He turned to look at Starsky, his eyes narrowing, as if pondering over something, “Ya know . . .there’s somethin’ different about you Snake . . . somethin’ the others don’t have. I sense it every time I’m with ya. You fought in ‘Nam didn’t you?”

At Starsky’s slight nod, Diesel smiled sadly, “Yeah . . . me too. Saw some pretty nasty things there, but also some beautiful things . . .like when the mist stood still over the rice fields in the quiet early mornings, or when the sun crept slowly over the hills, painting the clouds all gold and silver. I saw a lot of my friends die in ‘Nam . . . and I saw some others messed up in their heads when they came back to the States. Not me. I learned that to travel fast in life, you gotta travel light. You gotta leave the baggage behind man, learn from the past, but don’t live there. You can’t let shit like that, rent space in your head y’know?”

Diesel took another long drag from his cigarette, blowing the smoke out slowly as he softly continued, his eyes distant and focused on some inner thought, “You learn about life the hard way when you’re in ‘Nam. You learn that life is short, you can be snuffed out just like that!” Starsky watched as Diesel threw his cigarette down, grinding it with the toe of his leather boot on the dirty floor of his apartment.

“You see?” Diesel said, indicating the crushed tobacco, “Just like that . . . life’s gone. You and I know there ain’t no reverse gears on a bike Snake, and that’s why I live my life with no regrets. I live in the now, because there might not be a tomorrow, man. No regrets. That’s freedom baby . . . and freedom is the best ride anyone can have in life. That’s the motto you should adopt too, Snake. No regrets! You’ve been in ‘Nam . . . you know I’m right.” The tall blond gently squeezed the brunet’s shoulder, “I know you’re hurtin’ about what happened to Brody buddy, but dying is easy . . . it’s living that’s hard. So free yourself man, and just let it go. Sweet surrender baby.”

Starsky stared at the blond biker as his low, but gentle voice faded. It astounded the brunet to hear this man’s philosophy on life and living on the road, giving his biker credos and advice to another man that he barely knew. The further he got entangled with Diesel, the more bewildered Starsky became.

The dark haired cop hated to admit it, but it would hurt him to hand Diesel over to the Feds, to lock the blond biker up behind bars where he couldn’t see the sunshine on chrome, or feel the wind blowing on his face. The brunet felt torn and confused, for a part of him didn’t want to feel compassion for a criminal, he was the bad guy, and yet, the dark haired cop knew in his heart that he truly admired the blond biker. Starsky could hear his mind coming up with excuses, rationalizing that Diesel had served his country and his chapter as best as he could, he took Snake under his wing, giving him a place of refuge where he could start over, and he lived his life for the freedoms that he so craved. Though it all made sense in Starsky’s head, his cop’s heart wouldn’t let him get away with those justifications for long.

Diesel was an enigma to Starsky. The tall blond biker had a good heart, but he stood on the wrong side of the law, and that was something Starsky couldn’t let go of. Thinking these deep thoughts made the brunet feel even worse, and he closed his eyes, wanting only to sleep away his confusion and rest the clamoring in his head.

Diesel reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a small glass plate and a little bottle of white powder which he deftly spooned out onto the glass, cutting it into three lines, “Here, take this,” the long haired blond said, handing Starsky a clean straw, “It’ll help.”

Starsky opened his eyes, his body instantly hurting as the craving need took over. Without thinking of the consequences and shutting out the berating of his conscience, Starsky stuck the straw in his nostril and inhaled, his body jolting with the euphoric feeling of joyful release from the heavy bondage it was under. The brunet closed his eyes; dark long lashes hiding the intense rush he was feeling, his breathing accelerating.

“Freedom baby,” Diesel whispered, squeezing the brunet’s shoulder once more before he got to his feet, “Remember, be at church by six sharp. I don’t want you to miss out! Y’got that little brother?”

Starsky opened his eyes, the blue nearly swallowed by the black of his dilated pupils, “Yeah . . . I heard ya . . . I’ll be there.”

Diesel snorted softly, knowing the dark haired biker was riding the crest of a high that was making him feel so good. The tall blond stooped to tousle the unruly sable locks of his friend, “Good . . .I’ll see ya tonight then. Enjoy the ride Snake!”

“Yeah, see ya,” Starsky murmured, his heart beating rapidly as he leaned back into the dirty cushions of the broken down couch, closing his eyes as he rode out the euphoric wave that washed over him, “No regrets man . . . no regrets!” the brunet said softly to no one in the dingy room.

Chapter Five

“We need to get him out of there now!” the tall blond detective snapped, his usually soft, and soothing voice crackled with suppressed anger and worry, as he paced around his Captain’s office. “He’s been under, all alone for six months now, and it’s killing him Captain!” Hutch grated out, digging his fingers into the palm of his hands, clenching his fists tightly with the frustration that he felt. The blond turned to face the large man behind the desk, his icy blue eyes glaring angrily at the dark man, “He’s losing himself under his cover Cap, and I don’t know how to help him!”

Dobey let out a sigh, eyeing his irate detective across his paper strewn desk, “Don’t you think I know that?” the Captain said gruffly, scratching his head in exasperation, “No one twisted your partner’s arm to do this you know. He didn’t have to agree to help the Feds with this case. Working closely with the ATF and the DEA has never been a picnic for our department and we’re lucky that they even conceded to let you in on the operation to help cover Starsky’s back.”

Hutch remembered that day all to clearly and wished he had been more adamant in encouraging his partner to stay off the assignment. Yet, like Starsky, Hutch knew that this was an opportunity to crack into the dark world of the outlaw motorcycle clubs that had been forming throughout the States and in Canada over the years since the war ended. The Feds, as well as the police departments, all knew that these clubs were responsible and involved in a lot of illegal dealings, but since getting proof was difficult due to the closed-mouth brotherhood of the clubs, the only way to get evidence was to put a cop into the midst of them to infiltrate the dark society of these dangerous gangs.

Pale blue eyes narrowed and turned to liquid silver, “You know that was part of the agreement, Captain. Starsky wouldn’t have done it, if they didn’t concede to that stipulation and let me help in watching his back. He doesn’t trust those suits as much as you or I, so don’t act like those jerks are doing us any favors.” Hutch said angrily, trying to get a grip on his raging emotions, after all, he knew it wasn’t his Captain’s fault that Starsky was in this dangerous predicament, and yet, there was absolutely no one else he could vent to.

The “good” old boys at the Drug Enforcement Agency and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms didn’t give a rat’s ass about Starsky’s welfare, it wasn’t as if one of their own men were out there rubbing shoulders with those gun running, drugged out murderers . . . all they wanted was their information and enough evidence to put away the members of the outlaw clubs that had been a thorn to their sides, causing havoc and mayhem wherever they went.

Six months was a long haul, and the federal agents were there only on the nights that they thought something might go down, but it was Hutch, who was out there night after night, pulling nineteen hour shifts sometimes, heading out of the city to the adjacent town where Starsky had been set up, many times after working a full eight hours down at Metro, only to put in another seven hours crouched down in a cramped car parked inconspicuously near the clubhouse of the Minions.

No . . . the federal agents who staked out with him on the nights that Starsky was wired, had nothing to lose. To them, this was just another job, but it was life or death to Hutch. Losing his partner was not an option, and he would be there come hell or high water, to make sure nothing went awry. It was his best friend out there . . . placing his life on the proverbial line and Hutch was dammed sure he would be there to watch Starsky’s back as much as he could.

The Feds had had their eye on “The Devil’s Minions,” an outlaw motorcycle club that had been running rampant in a town they took over just outside of Bay City, for some time now. The ATF and DEA had been focusing on the comings and goings of this club and had been watching the dealings they had with other motorcycle clubs spreading across the Continental U.S. The Minions were situated in a place where a lot of transactions transpired between the clubs on both sides of the coast. The Feds knew they were linked to many gangland slayings and transportation of illegal weapons and firearms. The DEA also had reason to suspect that this particular outlaw club was affiliated with the production of drugs that were sold out on the streets, but they had no way in to prove it . . . until now.

Hutch thought back to that fateful morning, six months ago when he and Starsky had come into the squad room only to be called into Dobey’s office.The Captain had stiffly introduced them to Ted Slate, an agent for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms department, and to Steven Hillyard, who took care of the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The two Federal agents stood up when the detectives entered Dobey’s office, their eyes immediately locked on the shorter of the two cops, looking over his dark curly hair and bright blue eyes. Hutch remembered how the fine hairs stood out on his neck when he saw how the Feds had zeroed in on his partner. In hindsight, Hutch realized he should have listened to the warning bells his intuition was screaming out at him at the time.

The two detectives were quickly informed about the undercover assignment the Feds were preparing for, and were shown the mug shots of one Tony Larusso, a.k.a. “Snake,” an outlaw biker belonging to a club called “The Warriors”, which operated out of New York. The tall blond sighed, remembering how his eyes had locked onto the bright blue gaze of his partner when they saw the resemblance between Larusso and his dark haired counterpart. It became perfectly clear why the “suits” were there, seeking them out.

The similarity between the two men were uncanny . . . the same unruly dark curls, the bone structure of the face, the cocky grin, but it was the hardened intensity of those blue eyes that stared out from the photo, that really caught Hutch’s attention. He’d seen those same eyes on his partner when Starsky faced Prudholm at the zoo, those many years ago.

Larusso rode with ‘The Warriors’, a sister club that was affiliated with “The Devil’s Minions” in California, until he got caught with the possession of illegal drugs and was later linked to the murder of a store clerk when she foolishly pressed him to pay for a pack of cigarettes that he lifted from the shelf.

The Feds had reason to believe that it was the president of the club who pulled the trigger, but Snake took the raps for his leader and kept his mouth shut. Found guilty, “Snake” had been locked up in secured section of Riker’s Island, the largest penitentiary in New York, until the recent prison outbreak in which three guards were killed and four were seriously injured.

All of the escaped prisoners were captured and returned to Rikers’ with the exception of Tony Larusso. The Feds jumped at the chance to use Larusso’s failed escape as a means of getting into the heart of the outlaw clubs. Under the guise that Larusso had escaped, the Feds secreted him away to a safe house, with round the clock agents that kept Larusso firmly under lock and key.

Then the hunt began for a look-alike agent that could go under, assuming the identity of the escaped biker. If it weren’t for the fact that his partner looked almost exactly like Snake, Starsky wouldn’t even be involved in this dangerous undercover job.

“Starsky should’ve just stayed out of this one,” Dobey’s gruff voice, brought Hutch back to the present, “Hillyard and Slate spelled it all out for the both of you right here in my office and they gave Starsky every opportunity to say no.”

“Yeah they spelled it out alright,” Hutch snarled sarcastically, “Painting a picture of how Starsky would be helping out his country by going undercover . . . doing his duty to serve and protect the innocent, building up the moral bullshit of why he should take the assignment, and then they show him the shiny black Harley he’d be riding on and the fake tattoo of the large cobra they’d henna paint on his bicep . . . the mark of Larusso’s namesake. They made this job sound like an enticing piece of cake.”

Dobey sighed heavily, “Yeah . . . well your partner should have known better. It would be hard to pull him back now; the Feds invested a lot of time, money and effort in making sure that Starsky’s cover stuck. In any case, all of this should be over soon . . . the big bust they’ve been planning for will hopefully go down in a few days.”

“I don’t know if he can last that long,” Hutch said, his voice dropping down to a whisper, as he thought of his partner and how he looked last night.

Waking up to find his partner in his bedroom had come as quite a shock to the tall blond. For a minute, he’d thought he had imagined Starsky there, crouching in the dark, especially since Hutch had been dreaming about his partner all night. In his dream, the reverberation of motorcycle engines filled his ears and he had pictured his dark haired friend in trouble, surrounded by bikers out for his blood, causing the blond to toss and turn in his sleep. Then the dream had suddenly changed into a happier one, where he and Starsky were sitting down laughing as they sang together, the blond strumming his guitar in time to the boisterous voice of his partner who sang slightly off key causing Hutch to smile.

Stormy blue eyes filled with wariness and anxiety, flashed in the mind’s eye of the blond, taking away the joyful image of the dream, and the frustrated detective let out an exasperated sigh, folding his long frame into the seat across from his Captain’s desk.

Starsky.

These past few months, had been hell on his partner . . . shit, it had been hell on him too. The constant worry, the strain, the uncomfortable nights staked out in some van or car with other federal agents a few miles away from the “clubhouse” bar that the “Minions” hung out at. Cramped together in a stifled vehicle with a recorder running, “listening” for evidence from the wire strapped to his partner’s abdomen as Starsky fraternized with the rough and rowdy bikers, holding his breath at the many close calls his partner had with those ruthless and often paranoid, burly men who often held themselves above the law.

It was starting to take its toll on him, but it was what happened last night, that finally brought him here to Dobey’s office today, to demand Starsky’s release from this long-term case that they’d been enmeshed in these many months. For a brief moment, Hutch felt guilty, knowing he was betraying his partner’s trust by requesting that he be pulled from the case, but then he remembered that he’d made no promises whatsoever to his dark haired friend . . .

“Okay . . . I said we’ll play it your way for now . . . but know this Starsk, if I think things are getting out of hand buddy, I’ll be the first to go to Dobey . . . you got that pal?”

Hutch laid his golden head against the back of the chair, cold blue eyes glaring at the ceiling, ‘Well things are definitely out of hand buddy,’ the blond thought morosely, remembering how haggard his partner looked last night when he found him in his dark apartment, how his eyes darted nervously around the room. For Starsky to take the risk and break his cover, coming to Venice Place to seek out solace and safety, spoke volumes to Hutch. His partner was a damn good cop . . . things had to be pretty bad for Starsky to do that.

Yeah . . .’specially if he’s hooked on snow.” Hutch closed his eyes wearily, hearing Huggy’s streetwise voice whispering in his head.

No!’

No. There was no way that Starsky was hooked on cocaine. No way.’ But even as Hutch firmly reiterated those two words, troubled blue eyes swam against the darkness behind his lids. He could see his partner leaning his forehead on the wooden panel of the door, just before he left this morning; his shoulders slumped under the weight of the burden he was carrying . . .

“Fuck!” Hutch swore out loud, pounding his fist on the arm of the chair, startling the rotund black man.

“Take it easy Hutch,” Dobey said, his gruff voice softening with concern. The blond looked haggard and drained and Dobey knew how worried Hutch was for his partner, “If Starsky’s information is right, it’s only three more days from today . . . we’ll get him back.”

The blond swallowed the lump in his throat, unable to voice his ‘real’ concern to his captain. How could he tell Dobey that his partner was an addict? No! Starsky was solid. He was strong and resilient and there was no way in hell that his buddy, his friend, could be hooked on cocaine. If anyone knew the horrors of substance addiction it was Hutch.

Like a bad recurring nightmare, Hutch remembered the solid arms of his partner holding him tight as he shook with desperate need in Huggy’s spare room above the bar and grill those many years ago. Starsky had become his safety net, keeping him from being lured back to the seductive calling of the drug called heroin. Painful visions bombarded the gentle blond as voices from the past, haunted his present . . .

“Here you go cop . . . first mile on a long, long trip . . .”

“Look at ‘im, he took to that stuff, like a baby to a bottle!”

“My God, he’s a junkie . . .”

“Hold on to it Hutch, c’mon hold on to it . . .”

“I’m right here, right here . . .”

“You’re gonna make it huh . . . you big lummox . . .”

“I remember a man who hates candy . . .”

“Now that’s the Hutch I know . . .”

The tall blond sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose tightly, scrunching his lids shut as he rubbed at the corners of his eyes, remembering how Starsky had been there with him the whole time he was going through the painful withdrawals from heroin.

Through the hell and pain of kicking his habit, Starsky had held him, cajoled him, played checkers with him, encouraged him, been firm with him when he had to be, and the brunet had also cleaned him up whenever he soiled himself. His friend had never left his side, and Hutch knew that he would be there for Starsky too, to help him in whatever way he could to get through this whole ordeal. The tall blond silently swore to himself that no one except Starsky, Huggy, and himself would know about this, not even Dobey. Hutch would do whatever it took to protect and preserve his partner’s untarnished reputation within the department.

Captain Dobey cleared his throat uncomfortably, as he eyed his weary detective, “Well . . . why don’t you go on home Hutch, there’s nothing we can do until this whole thing blows over. You look awful. You’re pulling all-nighters, working two jobs,”

The heavy dark man stopped for a moment; taken aback, as icy blue eyes froze him to the spot, “Don’t look at me like that. I ain’t the enemy you know,” Dobey snapped, “Why don’t you let the Feds do their job for once, and you can concentrate on getting all that paperwork done that’s been accumulating on that desk of yours.”

Hutch stood slowly, leaning over his captain’s desk to look Dobey in the eye, his soft voice filled with frustration and contempt, “You don’t need to worry about the paperwork, it’ll get done today; and as long as I’m not fucking my job up over here Captain, I can do whatever I want to with my spare time. If I want to watch Starsky’s back on my time off, then there’s nothing you, or anyone else, can do about it!”

Dobey briefly glared at the blond, then sighed and lowered his bloodshot eyes, his voice growing soft and almost fatherly, “I know you’re worried Hutch . . . hell, I am too.” Dobey said softly, “We just need to keep the faith. From what Slate and Hillyard told me yesterday, it’ll all be over in a few days. From the tape recordings of the wire they had on Starsky, another huge drug shipment is scheduled to arrive at the Minions warehouse this Thursday. From what I understand, some other chapters will be there too. It’ll be like dropping a net on all of them. Hillyard and Slate are excited, and your partner will be getting some commendations for sure.”

“Yeah,” Hutch said softly, not giving a rat’s ass about the commendations, knowing his partner would need time to detox from his addiction to coke, “I just want Starsky to come out of this unscathed Captain. When this is all over, Starsky will need a week off for R and R and I’m gonna some take time off too . . . to be with him.”

Dobey nodded, noting the dark circles under the blond’s pale blue eyes, “You’ll both need to rest and recuperate after this one. You can have two weeks.” The large man said magnanimously.

The blond smiled gratefully, his sky blue eyes softening with affection for his gruff Captain, “Thanks sir . . . I think we’ll need it.” Hutch shifted his eyes to the desktop, debating with himself if he should tell Dobey about last night. Starsky was in, way too deep. That whole thing with Brody and the abyss sent shivers down the blond’s spine, yet Hutch could see that Starsky really had no choice in the matter and if truth were known, if he had to choose between the life of some stoolie or his partner, there really would be no choice at all. Starsky’s life mattered above all else.

“You okay Hutch?” Dobey asked; his dark brown eyes were filled with compassion for his tall blond detective. The heavy lines and dark circles on the blond’s face spoke of sleepless nights filled with worry and anxiety, and the rotund captain knew it was all for the safety of his absent partner. Dobey knew exactly what Hutch was going through, after all, he’d gone through the same emotions many times with Elmo, his partner and his best friend, whom he’d lost to this job.

Hutch sighed, knowing he needed to tell Dobey about his partner’s late night visit, but he vowed to himself that he would keep the possibility of Starsky’s addiction under lock and key. “No, I’m . . . I’m not okay . . . S-Starsky broke his cover and came over late last night.”

“What?” Dobey frowned, “He came over to your place? On that bike of his?” At Hutch’s silent nod, the dark man’s frown deepened, “What did he say? Things must be pretty bad for him to break cover like that . . .”

“Yeah,” Hutch sighed softly, “That’s why I wanted him pulled. There was a fight last night . . . a snitch named Brody was busted by the club, and they beat him up really bad. Starsky was pretty shaken, he doesn’t know if the guy made it out or not.”

“What do you mean he doesn’t know . . . he was there wasn’t he?” Dobey queried, his voice raising a notch.

Hutch looked his Captain in the eye, “They forced him to leave . . . and he did. He came over to my place and um . . . he didn’t . . . he didn’t look too good.” The tall blond closed his eyes, remembering the pain in those familiar cobalt blue eyes.

“Was he hurt?” Dobey asked, the concern he felt for his dark haired detective evident by the look on his face.

“His knuckles were pretty scraped up . . . I ah . . . I-I think the kind of hurt he had was the kind you couldn’t see.” At Dobey’s anxious look, Hutch continued softly, “They ah . . . they made him start the fight. He was pretty torn up about the whole thing. Starsk thinks they murdered him Cap, thinks they took this Brody to a place called the Abyss.”

“The Abyss? What is that?” Dobey asked, the furrows in his forehead deepening, “Where is this place?”

“He doesn’t know Captain; he just knows that it’s someplace where they must be dumping bodies that they’ve snuffed.”

Dobey sighed heavily, elbows on the top of his desk as he scratched his head again in frustration, “Hmm . . . the Abyss . . . I’ll tell Hillyard and Slate about this as soon as I can. Maybe they’ll have some leads to the whereabouts of this place and the snitch. They won’t be happy when they hear Starsky broke cover and went over to your place.”

“Yeah? Well they can go fuck themselves.” Hutch said softly, his voice so deathly quiet, and menacing that it made the hairs on the black man’s neck stand up. Dobey watched with concern as the tall blond straightened and stood, only to silently walk towards the door.

“Hutch?”

The tall blond stopped in his tracks, door held open, not even turning around as his deathly calm voice drifted back to the heavy man behind him, “I’ll have the paper work on your desk before I leave this afternoon.” The door clicked shut behind the detective, and for a moment Dobey just stared silently at the wooden portal, a feeling of dread making his dark skin break out suddenly in goose bumps.

 Chapter Six

 

The curly haired biker glanced at the watch strapped to his wrist, as he parked his bike next the big blue Harley that belonged to Diesel. It was ten to six. He had plenty of time to walk inside of the Minion warehouse where they held their ‘church’ meetings, remembering that this was the place where he first snorted coke. Starsky glanced at the upstairs window, knowing Diesel and Sniper were probably already there. The whole warehouse lot was packed with motorcycles of all different hues; several were unfamiliar bikes, probably belonging to some of the boys from the Oakland chapter.

 

Starsky rubbed the dark stubble on his chin and sniffled, feeling anxious as he wondered how the evening would go down. With outlaw bikers, anything unexpected could happen at any time, and Starsky mentally tried to prepare himself for that. He could feel the heavy weariness in his limbs and body, the shortness of his breath, and it irritated him because he could only blame himself for feeling like shit.

 

After snorting that first time, he should have made some excuse to get away and go to the safe house to detox, but thinking he could glean more information from Diesel, he had foolishly ridden off with the blond biker, dangerously weaving in and out of traffic, feeling exhilarated and free as the drug and the wind raced through his being. He had thought he could handle it, swearing to himself to never to do any more lines, only to give in each time to keep his cover, until it finally just became easier and easier to surrender to the need that tore through him.

 

‘Sweet surrender baby.’ The deep timbre of Diesel’s voice whispered softly in his mind.

 

There was nothing like the high that came with pure uncut cocaine and he could feel the craving need for more of it, even as he sat there just thinking about it.

 

 “Shit!” he swore softly under his breath, feeling so worn and ragged. A part of him wanted to just start his bike up and race off towards Bay City where he knew Hutch would be. He was tired, so sick and tired of all this crap. He felt like shit, his body dead tired; wanting . . . no needing, more of the white snowy powder just to keep him going.

 

He had to see Hutch, to tell him . . . to come clean. Diesel was right. He needed to be free from the baggage and burden of guilt that he’d been carrying around. The brunet lowered his head to look at his knuckles, which were still bruised and redden, the tiny cuts had scabbed over and were healing nicely thanks to Hutch.

 

Starsky sighed. God, how he missed Hutch. In a few days though, it would be all over, and he could leave all of this behind and go home to his blond partner. Yet even as he thought of their wonderful reunion, another blond came to mind, and the dark haired cop knew it would hurt to see them hauling some of his biker friends away, especially Diesel who had become more than just his president, but who was now his friend and his brother.

 

The thundering growl of a Harley pulling in made the brunet glance up. The dark haired cop took his shades off and grinned at Jasper, who waved and heaved his heavy bulk off the seat of his bike. His ‘old lady’ got off from behind the hulking biker and entered the warehouse, as Jasper lumbered over to where Snake still sat on his black metal steed.

 

“Hey Bro’ . . . how come you ain’t in there? Who you waitin’ for?” Jasper rasped, grinning widely, exposing some gaps where missing teeth used to be, as he gave the club’s handshake and thumped the brunet on the back before giving him a hug, “Somethin’ wrong man?”

 

“Nah,” Starsky said, “Nuthin’s wrong. Just sittin’ here, enjoyin’ the last rays of the sun before she goes to bed.”

 

Jasper laughed heartily, slapping Snake on the back, “Yeah, nothin’ like the California sun . . . I bet it’s different than the sun in New York huh? C’mon man, we better get our ass in there . . . Diesel ain’t gonna be thrilled if we come in late and miss the show.”

 

“Yeah? You know why the Oakland chapter’s gifting us tonight?” Starsky asked nonchalantly, lighting up a cigarette, as he eyed the larger man, dark blue eyes twinkling as he winked playfully at the large biker, smoke curling lazily overhead, only to be taken away by a passing breeze. The dark haired detective coughed then, spitting out phlegm to the side of him, sniffling, as he waited for Jasper’s response.

 

Starsky knew Hutch would kill him when he found out that he’d been smoking, as well as snorting coke; but Tony Larusso was a notorious chain smoker and coke-head. It would have been a dead giveaway if he didn’t smoke at all; unlike cocaine, cigarettes were easily attainable in prison.

 

What worried the dark haired cop though, was his increasing shortness of breath and the recent hacking cough that plagued him in the late night hours. Starsky knew he was very susceptible to lung ailments with his already compromised lung from the Gunther shooting three years ago, and his struggle with the several bouts of pneumonia that he’d incurred because of it, had weakened his left lung even more. Recovering from that hit had been a slow and arduous task filled with pain and often times despair, but Starsky’s health had gradually improved.

 

Since then, the doctors had warned him many times of the dangers of pneumonia, and had told him to take the necessary precautions needed to safeguard against this from ever occurring again. One of the many things on the long list of don’ts from his physicians was smoking. At that time though, smoking was one of those items that he had immediately scratched out, never giving it a second thought because he’d never smoked in his life, and he had no intention to starting that nasty habit . . .until now. If Hutch, mother-hen that he was, ever found out he’d been deliberately doing things that were jeopardizing his health . . .

 

“You heard what I said Snake?” Jasper laughed, elbowing the dark haired biker, startling him back into the here and now, “What’s wrong with ya bro’?” the older biker asked, his watery blue eyes fixed the brunet’s face.

 

“Ah sorry man,” Starsky said sheepishly, “Kinda draggin’ right now . . .”

 

“No worries man, you know Diesel will take care of you. He always has access to the good stuff.  Everyone can see you two guys are getting’ real tight man . . . and shit . . . it pisses the fuck out of Sniper!” Jasper laughed whole-heartedly, slapping his knee in the process, “Ah fuck . . . that’s too fuckin’ funny. Who knows . . . maybe we might just have to elect ourselves a fuckin’ new vice-president. I bet you could guess who I’d nominate! C’mon Snake buddy, guess who it is?”

 

Starsky grinned lopsidedly, his sapphire eyes twinkling mischievously, taking another long draw from the cigarette in his mouth only to throw it down to the ground, grinding it out with the toe of his boot, while tendrils of smoke came from his nostrils as he blew it out slowly, “I don’ know Jas, why don’t you tell me.”

 

The heavy biker guffawed, his blue beady eyes sparkling with mirth as he stroked his long prickly beard, “Shit man, it’s you! You and Diesel are a much better match and Sniper knows it too. That’s why he’s so hard on ya Snake . . . he’s threatened by ya. It’s so obvious even I can see that!” Jasper laughed again, as he slapped the brunet hard on the back.

 

The dark haired biker snorted and slowly got off his bike, tucking his shades in his jacket pocket, “Yeah? Well you forget that I already belong to another club Jas. The Warriors wouldn’t take kindly to me shaftin’ them and joinin’ up with you Minion dudes.” The brunet gave the burly man a wide smile that lit up his handsomely rugged face. “So what? You never answered my question bro’.”

 

“Huh?” Jasper frowned, “What question?”

 

Starsky chuckled, truly liking the burly, overweight biker, “The gift man . . . why is the Oakland chapter giving us a gift?”

 

“Oh yeah, shit . . . sorry man. My old lady gets so pissed when that happens at home. She always rags me about not listenin’. Shit! It’s not that I’m not listenin’ ya know? It’s just that I forget when other stuff come up and . . .”

 

“Jasper . . . the gift . . .” Starsky smiled, delaying the big man from going off in another tangent, “You were gonna tell me about the gift . . .” the dark haired man patiently prodded.

 

“Oh yeah,” Jasper said, once more redirected, “The Oakland guys were happy ‘cause Diesel had included them in the big shipment that’s comin’ in on Thursday . . .”

 

“Included them? Whatta ya mean?” Starsky asked, wishing he were wired right now, intuitively knowing that this might be something that the Feds could use to incriminate the Oakland chapter too.

 

“Well, you know that us Minions have exclusive rights to transporting goods right? Well, Diesel was thinkin’ ‘bout sharin’ the wealth man.” Jasper said amiably as he threw his heavy arm around the brunet’s shoulder, walking with him to the entrance of the warehouse, “Sniper ain’t too happy about it though, greedy pig that he is, but Diesel’s gonna let a few other chapters help with the distribution of guns and drugs that come in from now on. The Oakland Chapter was one of the clubs he selected along with some Canadian Chapter in Montreal. I think a few delegates from the east coast chapters might be comin’ down, but I ain’t too sure about that. Anyway, if there’s more clubs involved, it’ll take some of the heat and stress off of us for getting the stuff delivered on a timely basis. Diesel hates when we’re late . . . he says that keeping our word is a matter of honor!”

 

Starsky snorted softly, “Diesel would say that.” Despite his involvement with criminal activities, Diesel struck the brunet as a man of honor and that thought bewildered the dark haired detective even more. ‘How could anyone with honor be involved in all of this shit?’  It was getting harder and harder to define the invisible line between what was right and good, from what was right and bad, and it twisted at the brunet’s heart once more.

 

Starsky had heard that Diesel was going to open up shipment avenues with several different outlaw clubs in and out of the States, but as of yet, he’d had no names or details of the clubs involved. He just knew that deal would go down on Thursday, the day the shipment came in. At least now he had the names of two outlaw clubs that he could filter out to the Feds.

 

The big, burly biker rolled back the large metal door that led into the warehouse, sliding it shut behind them, as their eyes adjusted to the dimness within. The place was packed, loud music blaring, bikers watching as some of the mamas got up on tables to dance lewdly in front of the rowdy men while they sucked down the never ending flow from iced beer bottles that were tossed around the large room from the several large coolers.

 

“Hey Snake!” Mad Dog called out, tossing a chilled bottle to the tall brunet who caught it easily with one gloved palm, his long, lean fingers exposed from the cut gauntlet,  “C’mon bro’, where ya been? Diesel’s been askin’ about ya.”

 

Starsky glanced at his watch and sniffled. It was a minute to six. “I’m on time,” Snake drawled out cockily, as he opened the beer and drew back a long swig, feeling the cold liquid sliding down his burning, irritated throat. The dark haired cop handed his half drained bottle over to Jasper, who eagerly sucked down the rest. The curly haired biker wiped the back of his hand over his mouth, feeling the scrape of his whiskers against his knuckles.

 

“Snake, it’s about time you got here,” Diesel called out excitedly from the wooden platform overhead, “I’ve been waitin’ for ya man . . .”

 

“Hey,” Starsky looked up, lifting his chin in greeting to the blond biker, his dark blue eyes twinkling with fondness, “I told ya I’d be here on time . . . it’s six o’clock on the dot!”

 

“Yeah, I know,” Diesel laughed, “That’s why I like ya kid . . . you’re an honorable man. Now stay there and I’ll be right down. Got something to show ya!”

 

Starsky silently nodded, turning his immediate attention to the back of the room where a loud commotion was going on. He could make out some men excitedly waiting, rubbing their hands over their crotches, as they watched another biker humping one of the dancing girls he had pulled off from the tabletop. Wild orgies were a common occurrence in any outlaw motorcycle club; and though Starsky never participated in any of it, since being on coke, his sexual urges were definitely heightened. On cocaine, a man could go on for hours, pumping away until release finally took hold.

 

The brunet turned away disgusted with himself for growing hard, as he heard the moans from the woman and the grunts and lewd laughter from the bikers who waited for their turn to come. Starsky could feel his heart beating irregularly, palpitating in off rhythms that made him feel strange inside. It was difficult for him to catch his breath in the warm, enclosed space of the warehouse. His body felt so heavy and lethargic, craving more of the powdery drug. It was no wonder it was nicknamed ‘nose candy’.

 

“Hey you okay buddy?” Diesel asked, concern marring his face, as he placed a comforting arm around the dark haired biker, “You need a fix?”

 

“Nah,” Starsky said, though he could feel his body screaming for more, “I’m fine,” he said gruffly, pushing down the craving that tore his insides out, “Jus’ tryin’ t’catch my breath s’all. It’s hot in here.” The fact was, that Starsky felt like shit and he knew he was coming down fast from this morning’s high. The euphoric feeling that came from cocaine never lasted as long anymore, and that thought disturbed the brunet.

 

“You sure? I don’t want ch’ya crashin’ when the party jus’ beginning.” Diesel smiled warmly, “I just took some a while ago and I have it right here if you need it okay?” the blond biker said amiably, tapping his vest’s pocket.

 

Starsky nodded, feeling sick with himself, “Yeah . . . thanks,” the brunet said softly, as Diesel led him to another group of bikers wearing different “colors”. Starsky could see Sniper fraternizing with a tall black man and the cop could only assume that these men were from the Oakland Chapter.

 

“Hey Midnight,” Diesel greeted, “I want ch’ya t’meet someone from “The Warriors” our sister club in New York. This here is Snake . . . you might’a heard of ‘im. The legendary Snake Larusso who escaped from Riker’s prison.” Diesel proudly bragged, thumping Starsky on the back, “Snake, this here is Midnight, president of the Oakland Chapter.”

 

“What it is,” Midnight said smoothly, his dark sharp eyes keenly assessing the tall brunet, “Slip me some skin bro’. We heard through the grapevine that you got out man, but I didn’t know you were here with Diesel.”

 

Starsky complied, sliding his palm against the palm of the black man, “Yeah, I owe ‘The Minions’ a lot, especially this guy here,” Starsky grinned, thumping Diesel on the back.

 

“Yeah? Well, it looks like we both owe Diesel then. Main man over here is letting us get in on some of the action,” Midnight said, his streetwise toughness was clearly evident to the curly haired cop, “And in good faith, we brought him a gift.” The tall black man nodded to one of his bikers who went out back to bring it in.

 

Diesel turned and smiled at Snake; light blue eyes that were warm with affection for the brunet immediately darkened, as a frown marred his handsome features, “Jasper go get that stool over there and bring it here man.” The tall blond biker snapped, as he gently grabbed Snake by the upper arm, supporting him until the stool was brought over, then eased him back onto the chair. “Shit man, you need some now.”

 

“Nah man,” Starsky gasped, as he tried to catch his breath, “Jus’ gimme a minute huh?”

He felt suddenly weak, his heart palpitating irregularly, not used to the slower beating rhythms since it had been racing all morning, his heavy body felt dead to the world. If given a choice, Starsky would have crawled into bed at that exact moment, cocooning into himself by folding his body up into a tight fetal position, feeling like a train just ran over him.

 

Diesel took out the familiar paraphernalia, quickly cutting the pearlescent white powder into 4 lines on the glass mirror. “Here,” the blond biker said, handing a straw to the weary brunet, “Take this now, before you crash and burn man.”

 

Starsky held the quivering straw up to his nose, closing his eyes to inhale the powder, his long dark lashes hiding the shame he felt as he instantly eased the craving that overtook him, feeling the burn in his nasal passages, as well as down his throat, throwing his head back slightly as the euphoria took him away again. Breathing hard and rapidly, the brunet rubbed his nose and sniffled, opening his eyes slowly, only to have them widen with shocked surprise.

 

No!

 

His mind raced as he stared at her, his dark blue eyes going over the familiar features. No it couldn’t be . . . not here. .  . not now.

 

“Diesel man, here she is . . . our gift to you,” Midnight grinned, as he took her slender white hand in his, the contrast in skin colors stood out sharply, but Starsky could only stare with concealed horror and fear at her face ‘It can’t be . . .’

 

Diesel turned and smiled at the call of his name, missing the expression on his friend’s face, “Well, well, well . . .” the blond biker grinned, eyeing the petite blond woman who stood beside the tall black man, her long lashes were lowered demurely, “What’ve we got here?”

 

“This here is your new mama, or sheep, or old lady, or whatever you want her to be man,” the dark man said chuckling lewdly, “Tell the man your name, baby.”

 

“You can call me whatever you want sugar; but most people just call me Sweet Alice,” the blonde said softly, the quaint southern drawl that was still evident in her voice, lent her an old world charm and Diesel could feel himself growing hard just looking at her sweetly innocent face.

 

The woman lifted her long pale lashes revealing soft blue eyes that slowly drifted from the handsome blond’s face, to look over his shoulder at the curly haired brunet. Her eyes grew round as she gasped softly, recognition setting in as the dark haired biker quickly looked away.

 

Diesel turned to stare at Snake, following the gaze of the lovely woman who stood before him, “Hey . . . you okay buddy?”

 

“Yeah, she’s beautiful man,” Starsky said, putting envy in his voice, as he made himself look at Sweet Alice, knowing that she had recognized him despite his biker’s get up.

 

Alice looked him in the eye and winked, “Well . . .it looks like this place has a lot of handsome gentlemen right here at a lady’s fingertips.” Although her voice was sweet and playful, Starsky could sense an undercurrent coming from her and he quickly glanced at Diesel to see if he felt it too, but the tall blond had only eyes for the young woman.

 

“Sweet Alice . . . I like that.” Diesel said smiling, mulling her name over in his mind, “You like her Snake?” The tall blond called over his shoulder although his sky blue eyes never left the petite blonde’s alluring face.

 

“Yeah Diesel, this one’s a keeper for sure,” Starsky said gruffly, hoping Diesel would make Alice his ‘old lady,’ praying that she wouldn’t be labeled a ‘Mama’ or a ‘Sheep’ only to become the club’s whore, to service anyone that wanted her. As Diesel’s old lady, she’d only have to sleep with one man, protected from all others in the pack.

 

“C’mere and give Diesel a kiss, Alice,” The tall blond pulled the unresisting woman into his strong arms, bending his fair head to taste the soft lips of the blonde woman who in turn, wrapped her slender, pale arms gently around Diesel’s strong neck.

 

Starsky could feel his heart racing, accelerating rapidly as the euphoric wave washed over him, easing the residual heaviness until it was completely gone, leaving him feeling ansty and wanting to move. Watching them kiss, brought out hot sexual desires that the brunet struggled to suppress, his heated body over sensitized and aching with need for release. The dark haired cop quickly got to his feet, pushing the stool over behind him.

 

Diesel broke the kiss to turn his gaze on the brunet, “Hey easy there, little brother,” the blond said fondly, “I need ya t’do me a favor Snake.”

 

“Yeah? What?” Starsky asked gruffly, getting a hold over his emotions, feeling the cold hand of fear creep up his spine as he forced himself to briefly make eye contact with the woman, before quickly glancing up to look Diesel in the eye. “Anything you want man . . .jus’ say the word.”

 

Diesel snorted softly, eyes softening with affection for the New Yorker, “I gotta handle some business with Midnight back here,” the blond biker said softly, turning his attention back to the woman once more, reaching out to tenderly trace the fullness of her lips, “But I want you to watch my sweet, sweet Alice. Take her the clubhouse and watch over her until I meet up with you there.”

 

Starsky watched as Diesel gently traced Alice’s cheekbone with the pad of his thumb, “Stay with Snake baby,” the blond biker whispered into the woman’s ear, leaning in close, “I trust ‘im and he’ll take care of you until I get there.”

 

Starsky knew it was an honor that was being bestowed upon him. It was obvious that Diesel was interested in Alice and to be asked to protect his girl meant that the president of ‘The Minions’ held the brunet in high regard.

 

Diesel turned and smiled once more to the dark haired cop, “Fly little brother, but don’t crash . . . you got something precious of mine ridin’ behind you.” The tall blond chuckled, and slapped Snake on the back, pulling the brunet in, to hug him warmly. Diesel let go of the dark haired biker and passionately kissed Alice once more before walking away with Midnight, Sniper and another biker from the Oakland Chapter, which Starsky presumed was their vice-president.

 

The petite blonde woman looked to the curly haired biker, her eyes running up and down the length of the tall man who stood before her, “I can’t believe it,” she whispered softly, “What in the world are you doin’ he . . .”

 

“Not now . . . and not here,” Starsky hissed, grabbing her hand roughly as he led her outside to his black Harley, “We’ll talk later.”

 

Chapter Seven

 

Starsky could feel the slender arms of Alice wrapped around his chest, the warmth and feel of her breasts and body pressed snugly against his back, as they raced along the highway to “The Freebirds,” the bar and grill the members dubbed as their clubhouse.

 

The brunet gritted his teeth, angry with himself, as he felt the tightening in the crotch area of his jeans. “Fuck!” he swore softly under his breath, willing his hard-on to go away. Hating himself for being so weak, for letting the drug take a hold of him, for giving in so easily to Diesel’s offer of comfort whenever he found himself crashing from the clutches of the drug. He hated this! Hated every minute of this assignment! He hated how he had betrayed Hutch and Huggy, hated how he felt sorry for the bad guys whom he’d grown to care for, hated how his heart raced with excitement as he sped along in the dark, hated how he’d have to betray Diesel in a few short days, locking his big brother away behind bars for the better part of his life, but most of all, he just hated himself! He was spiraling down to hell and he didn’t know how to stop it.

 

“Fuck!” The brunet swore angrily again, his Harley picking up more speed, as he tried to race from the demons that haunted him, that followed and taunted him, stabbing into his already guilty conscience with barbs of shame and remorse.

 

“Hey,” Alice leaned even closer, trying to speak against the rushing wind, “Pull ovah . . . at that gas station over there,” the blonde woman drawled, pointing over his shoulder at the small Texaco that was lit up in the darkness ahead. The rugged biker nodded curtly, silently acknowledging that he’d heard the woman, leaning into the turn as he steered off the highway, skillfully pulling into the gas station. Starsky put the kickstand down, feeling the warmth of Alice’s arms releasing him. The dark haired cop stood from the Harley, and opened his gas tank. His felt his heart racing as he tried to catch his breath, coughing as he breathed in the cold night air.

 

An attendant hesitantly came out, obviously afraid of approaching the rugged curly haired biker, who stood rigidly by the pump. “Yes s-sir? C-can I help you?” the old attendant stammered.

Starsky turned, feeling sick inside at the fear he read on the man’s face, “Yeah,” the biker said gruffly, tossing a ten spot at the attendant, “I want some gas, but I’ll be the one filling it . . .y’got that?” The dark haired cop needed some private time to talk to the woman who still sat perched on the Harley.

 

The old man swallowed, “S-sure mister . . .uh . . . you just gotta watch the numbers comin’ up and s-stop when it hits the ten dollar mark and . . .”

 

“Yeah,” Starsky interjected impatiently, “I know how t’work this thing. Now get lost and don’t come out here again unless I call for ya!”

 

“Y-yes s-sir,” the old man stuttered, beating a hasty retreat into his garage, only to peek furtively out the window to watch the dark haired biker dragging the pump’s nozzle to his tank.

 

Starsky sighed heavily and dragged a hand through his wind-blown curls, feeling agitated and jumpy. He turned to look at the woman who sat quietly on the big, black Harley, watching him with concern in her eyes. He could see that she was cold, the sheer white blouse she wore was paper thin and he could tell she wore no bra underneath, her nipples were hard, tenting the diaphanous material, goosebumps dotting her arms from the cold night air.

 

Starsky cleared his throat uncomfortably, taking off his denim vest as he walked over to Sweet Alice, “Here,” he said awkwardly, helping her put the vest on, “You’re cold . . .” The brunet could feel a small grin tweak the corners of his mouth, as the young woman smiled up at him.

 

“Who said that bikers can’t be chivalrous?” Sweet Alice said softly, drawing the edges of the large vest together, the thick material still warm from the brunet’s own body heat. “I never thought I’d ever see you again Starsky . . . or my Handsome Hutch either for that matter.”

 

The petite blond looked wistfully down at her small hands clutching the material, “How is Handsome Hutch these days?” she said softly, “I ah . . .I still think about him a lot. Always wondered what would’ve happened if I just cleaned up my act a bit . . .”

 

The blonde woman lifted her lashes to peek up at the ruggedly handsome brunet, “I knew you never liked the idea of me flirtin’ with your partner and all, but I thank you for never voicing your disdain in front of me. I know you’ve never condoned my line of work. Hell,  . . . I never condoned it either, but a girl needs to make money now and then to survive in the world”

 

“Yeah? Well you should’ve gotten a job like everyone else,” Starsky snapped coldly, rubbing the back of his wrist against his nose as it continued to run, sniffling, feeling irritable and jumpy as he looked over his shoulder at the dark ribbon of highway, warily anticipating the sounds of motorcycles coming from the warehouse several miles away.

 

“That was my job. Sometimes that’s all a girl can do especially if . . . never mind, it don’t really matter no how anymore,” Alice said softly . . . almost sadly. She looked over her shoulder at the highway, following the brunet’s gaze, “There ain’t nobody comin’ Starsky. I can’t hear anythin’ at all . . .” she said reassuringly, eyeing the anxious brunet as he turned to look at her, gasping slightly as she saw his dilated eyes.

 

“You been doin’ coke, haven’t ya Starsky?” Sweet Alice said quietly, her eyes sad with the discovery she’d just made, “You been doin’ it to keep your cover . . .does Hutch know about this?”

 

“Shut up!” Starsky snarled, “And stop calling me Starsky. You’ll slip if you keep doin’ that,” The brunet said angrily, feeling the pricks of his conscience at the mention of his partner’s name. He could hear the shameful whisper echoing in his mind, ‘He knows.’ The dark haired cop lowered his head and clenched his fists; his long dark lashes hiding the anguish flaring in his heart.

 

“Hey,” Alice whispered sadly, lifting a slender hand to gently cup the side of his face, “It’s gonna be okay. Sure it is. There’s been many a time when I thought the world was a’comin’ to an end, but the next mornin’, I look out my window and the sun is still a’shinin’ and the world just goes on and things eventually balances itself right up. You’re a survivor Starsky, and so am I. We survivors have to do things sometimes, that ain’t quite right, but we do it anyway jus’ t’stay alive.”

 

The petite blonde woman pulled the dirty vest even closer, smiling as she saw the handsome biker lift his long, dark lashes to wretchedly look at her, “There now, it’s gonna be alright,” she consoled, feeling her heart break at the look of despair on the cop’s face, “You don’ have to worry ‘bout little old me, I’ve been around sugar, I know the score and I nevah, evah slip up . . . Snake,” Alice said, emphasizing the cop’s cover name.

 

The brunet snorted softly, a grin breaking out as he caught the beautiful blonde’s sly wink, “You gonna keep my cover?”

 

“Now what do you think honey?” Alice giggled, “My Handsome Hutch would just shoot me alive if ever I hurt you. He loves you so very much y’know? Why, if me and that tall handsome blond partner of yours ever hooked up, you’d be my number one competition!”

 

The brunet snorted softly again, his grin widening, as he heard the lilting sound of Alice’s sweet laughter ringing out into the stillness of the night. “Ah Alice,” Starsky said smiling, shaking his head, “Hurry up and get your act cleaned up . . . or else I just might marry Hutch before you do.”

 

Alice giggled once more before turning serious, a little frown marring her forehead, “Now tell me all about Diesel. What am I getting’ myself into?”

 

“Diesel?” Starsky began, “He’s a good guy . . . for a bad guy that is.” The brunet smiled and winked playfully at the blonde woman when she laughed out loud.

 

“Now that doesn’t tell me very much,” Alice said giggling, “Ya know sugar, he reminds me a lot of my Handsome Hutch . . .”

 

“Yeah,” Starsky sighed, feeling suddenly sad and torn, “Me too Alice . . . me too . . .”

 

Alice looked at the brunet who lowered his eyes once again, “Hey Sweetie-pie,” she whispered softly, “I know you’re feelin’ badly ‘bout havin’ t’turn him in . . . I can see it all over your face. You like him, don’t you?”

 

Alice reached out a slender finger to trace the outline of the coiled cobra tattooed on the lean muscular bicep of the brunet, her soft voice was filled with wisdom, “Can’t even tell it’s fake. Whoever painted this on, did a helluva good job . . . just like the one you’re doin’.” The blonde woman lifted her lashes and looked up, as the biker’s dark eyes connected with hers.

 

Starsky watched as Alice smiled and dragged her finger lightly across his chest to his heart, “You and my Handsome Hutch, you’re good cops because of this,” she said softly, tapping where his heart was rapidly beating, “You’re both rough and tough, but soft and tender where it counts. People like me and Diesel . . . well  . . . we might be good people on the inside, but even good people make stupid choices that get us in a whole heap o’trouble.”

 

Sweet Alice smiled sadly, tilting her head slightly to look at Starsky, a tendril of her long blond hair falling from her shoulder, “People like you and Hutch on the other hand . . . well . . . you try t’help people like us, but sugar . . . the sad part is, you can’t force us to make the right choices, or make us change, even though it breaks your heart inside to know that we’re goin’ down the wrong path.”

 

Starsky caught her wayward finger, sliding his hand down the length of it, only to hold her hand and press her open palm gently against his chest, his eyes growing soft as he listened to her gentle words.

 

 “I remembah my mama used t’tell me that’s how God feels. He watches down on all of His children here on earth, hopin’ and a’prayin’ that they’d make good and wise decisions ‘cause that’s the one thing He can’t control. He gave us all the free will to mess up, or make the most of our lives.” The slender blonde sighed, a sad smile gracing her soft lips, “I guess the good Lord ain’t been too happy with some of the choices I’ve made in my life.”

 

“You can change those choices at any time Sweet Alice . . .” Starsky said gently, squeezing her warm hand in his.
 

Alice laughed softly, “My mama used’ta tell me all the time, that there were three kinds of people in life . . . the wise man, the smart man and the fool. Allison, she’d say, a fool is someone who makes the same mistakes and nevah learns a thing from it, havin’ to go through the pain of his mistakes ovah and ovah again. The smart man, well . . . he makes mistakes too, like we all do, but he learns from the pain he goes through, and he nevah does it again . . .”

 

“And the wise man?” Starsky asked softly, gently tucking a tendril of golden hair behind her ear.

 

The slender woman laughed softly, “The wise man? Well, he looks at the other two and the pain that they went through and learns from their mistakes, vowing to nevah do the same thing ‘cause he don’t want no pain in his life.”

 

“And what does this all have to do with me?” the dark haired detective puzzled, entranced with the alluring southern drawl and the mesmerizing softness of the Alice’s voice.

 

Alice smiled, slowly shaking her golden head, her eyes softening with compassion,  “You can’t save the world Starsky . . . people like me and Diesel . . . well, I guess we’re the fools in life, and if prison is the pain we must go through . . . then so be it. We all make our own choices in life. Don’t you stop from doin’ what’s right, jus’ because others don’t stop from doin’ what’s wrong.”

 

Starsky stared at the small blonde woman, and the wisdom of her words, feeling a lump in his throat that he attempted to swallow down, “Yeah,” he said softly, cupping the side of her face, “Alice I . . .”

 

The blonde placed her index finger gently against his lips, stopping the flow of his words, “We better get goin’ Snake. Diesel will probably beat us to that clubhouse if’n we don’t get a move on it right now and quit all of this chatterin’.”

 

Starsky smiled softly, staring into the blue of her eyes, gently tipping her head down to place a kiss on her golden crown, “Okay . . . okay,” he said, pulling slowly away, “No more chatterin’, but know this Alice, at anytime, the fool can change into a smart person.”

 

Sweet Alice giggled softly, “Now hurry up and get your gorgeous tight ass back on this bike, Snake,” the blond woman said, her eyes twinkling mischievously, “Didn’t your mama evah teach you manners? It ain’t polite to keep a lady waitin’.”

 

Starsky laughed, replaced the nozzle, capped his gas tank and hopped on the bike, feeling Alice’s slender arms wrap once more around his chest, as the roar of the Harley’s engine came to life.

 

The old station attendant gave a sigh of relief, as the biker pulled his huge, black motorcycle out of the station and out onto the highway, speeding loudly away into the night. The gray haired man walked over to the pump to make sure the biker didn’t do damage to his property. Looking at the meter, the old man looked once more to the now barren highway, scratching his head, a look of puzzlement on his face as he turned once more to look at the gas pump that was never used.

 

 

Chapter Eight 

 

The blaring music drifted out to the street from the bar and grill that served as a clubhouse to ‘The Minions.’ Starsky pulled in and parked the large black bike, helping Sweet Alice to the ground. They walked into the noisy, dimly lighted club as other members greeted the curly haired biker.

 

“Hey Snake,” Jasper shouted across the room by the pool table, “How ‘bout we rack up some balls  . . . I think I can beat ya this time!”

 

“Nah Jas, not tonight,” Starsky said grinning, “I’m just here to deliver Sweet Alice to Diesel. Have you seen ‘im around yet?”

 

“Well, when I left the warehouse a while back, it looked like their meeting was ending, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they walk in soon enough.” The bulky biker said, turning to look over his shoulder at the loud commotion near the entrance, as greetings were called out. Turning to the brunet, the older biker hiked a thumb over his shoulder saying, “Speak of the devil. Look what the wind just brought in.”

 

Starsky looked over to the door and saw Diesel and Sniper walking over to them. He looked down at the small blond woman standing beside him, “You can change your mind anytime Alice, I’ll help you,” the brunet whispered.

 

Sweet Alice smiled, “Remembah what I said, you can’t save the world Starsky, and besides, I’d sure like to find out if Diesel is really like my Handsome Hutch.” The petite blond woman took off the denim vest and gave it back to the brunet, and then turned soft blue eyes to the tall blond biker coming her way, smiling warmly the whole time. “Ain’t he just so handsome?” she whispered to the brunet who snorted softly.

 

“Hey baby, I’m back,” Diesel said, grinning at his sweet Alice, “Snake, thanks little brother for watchin’ my lady,” Diesel acknowledged, doing the club handshake with the brunet, thumping him on the back and hugging the dark haired detective close, “I wouldn’t’a trusted her with any other man, buddy.”

 

“Hey, no big deal Diesel,” Starsky said smiling, as Sweet Alice snuggled close under the muscled arm of the blond biker, “It was my pleasure,” the curly haired biker said, looking down at Sweet Alice who smiled in return. ‘Maybe Diesel was someone who would finally be able to bring the lovely lady the happiness that she so richly deserved’ the brunet thought silently, hoping he was doing the right thing, but with the drug running through his veins, it was sometimes difficult to know what was right anymore.

 

“You stayin’?” Diesel asked, his sky blue eyes warm with affection for his dark haired friend, “Me and Alice . . . we’re gonna make a visit to the back room for a bit I think . . . what do you say honey?” Diesel asked good-naturedly, knowing he didn’t even have to ask her in the first place. From now on, Alice was his property to do with as he pleased.

 

“I think I’d love to see that back room of yours, sugar,” Alice laughed, winking up at the tall handsome blond. Diesel grinned and squeezed Alice even closer to his side.

 

“If you want Snake, there’s another room back there,” Diesel said smiling, “Lots’a pretty young things in here tonight jus’ lookin’ for some action. Help yourself buddy. I know how it gets when you’re flyin’ on coke man. You wanna fuck anything that moves,” Diesel laughed, “Shit . . . get some release man.”

 

Starsky snorted softly, feeling his dick hardening at the thought of getting rid of some of the almost painful sexual tension that ran throughout his over-wired body. The thought of a warm, wet and willing body surrounding his cock made him want to explode right then and there. “Yeah? I’ll have a look around and see what catches my eye . . . maybe go sit at the bar and have a beer.”

 

“Who cares about your eye,” Diesel laughed, slapping the brunet on the back, “Every chick has a hole man, and if she looks like a dog, all you gotta do is close your eyes and just ‘feel’! Ride your load off, then hop on your Harley to cool the sweat from your skin . . . now that’s freedom baby!” The tall blond winked at the dark haired man, and then turned to lead his lady to one of the two back rooms in the clubhouse, calling over his shoulder, “See ya Bro’.”

 

Starsky smiled and shook his head, as he made his way to the bar to sit on a stool. Diesel had such an uncomplicated way of looking at things, making things seem so simplistic when in actuality it was far from being simple. The dark haired detective ordered a bottle of beer intending to drink it down and go on home, before he started the downward spiral he had grown to dread from the drug leaving his system.

 

The brunet looked into the mirror behind the barkeep noticing a young girl who walked nervously into the establishment, curiously eyeing the rowdy bikers who were all over the place. Starsky shook his head disgustedly, having witnessed this time and time again since being undercover; young innocents looking for a thrill, acting on a dare, or just being too curious for their own damn good. ‘Fuck!’ Starsky swore softly under his breath.  The kid couldn’t have been more than eighteen years old and that thought drove the cop over the edge. ‘Why did they keep coming into places like these? Where were their parents?’

 

He swiveled around on his stool making eye contact with the young girl, who threw her long brown hair to one side of her shoulder, smiling hesitantly at the ruggedly handsome curly haired biker who was obviously interested in her. Her tentative smile widened when she saw his twinkling eye, wink playfully at her, and the charming grin that lighted his face. From where she stood, the young girl couldn’t tell what color his eyes were; they were so dark they almost looked black, but as she neared, she could see a trace of sapphire around the edges.

 

Starsky was trying to inconspicuously get the girl over to his side, not wanting to draw the attention of the other bikers who would jump at the chance of a rowdy gangbang. Hoping that he could walk out with her and send her safely home with a firm lecture on staying out of rowdy places like “The Freebirds,” he watched as she made her way across the room, smiling at her the whole time to encourage her progress.

 

“Here’s your beer Snake,” Jinx, the big bald bartender slid a frothy mug over the polished wood towards the dark haired biker. Jinx was the owner of the establishment and a good friend to Diesel, allowing the members of his club to hang out at his joint. Though he looked mean and gruff, Starsky had come to know that Jinx was a pretty decent and hardworking individual. The burly bald owner grinned behind the counter, “Good t’see ya bro’.”

 

“Hey . . . thanks Jinx,” Starsky said, turning to look at the bartender, glancing quickly into the mirror to see Sniper quickly making his way over to the bar. “Shit!” the brunet whispered under this breath, as he turned on the stool and mentally prepared himself for the confrontation at hand.

 

After Diesel had left for the back room, Sniper had slunk away to sit in a dark corner, slouching over a wooden chair as he watched the brunet who sat at the bar, away from the rest of the rowdy, boisterous crowd. There was something about Snake . . . something that just didn’t sit well with the red-headed vice president of  “The Minions”.

 

Watching the close bond the New Yorker had with Diesel and hearing his charismatic leader calling Snake, ‘Little brother’, made the green-eyed biker nearly choke on the jealous bile that rose from his envious gut. Sniper sulked, his tongue absently licking the rim of the now empty mug that he held in his hand, his eyes never leaving the brunet’s face since he’d come in.

 

Sniper’s weasel sharp eyes bore into the muscled back of the dark haired biker, wishing he could find some way to come between the growing friendship that the brunet had with Diesel. Those green-eyes narrowed with suspicion, as he saw Snake swivel around on the stool his gaze locked on a young chick who had just walked into the bar, seeing the smile he gave to the young girl as she made her way to him. He watched as Snake turned to snag the beer that Jinx slid over the bar, deciding at that moment what he was going to do.

 

The redhead smiled, his yellow stained teeth reflecting the swaying light from the overhead fixture, as he stood to make his way over to the young girl. If Snake was interested in her, then he definitely couldn’t have her, and Sniper would make sure of it. As chapter vice, Sniper was entitled to first pick and he hurried across the room to claim the girl before she got to Snake. Snagging the arm of the young woman just as Snake swiveled around on the stool again, Sniper sneered at the brunet who quickly stood, beer mug in hand.

 

“I don’t think so, Snake,” the redhead jeered, “This one’s mine, so sit the fuck down and drink that beer, you asshole.” Sniper snapped, dipping his head to taste the girl’s lips, his tongue slobbering all over the frightened girl’s face. The young girl struggled to get free, her eyes wide with fear. As he boldly molested the girl, the taunting green eyes of Sniper never left the face of the dark haired biker, even as he forced his tongue into the woman’s mouth. Starsky angrily slammed his beer mug on the counter behind him, the amber liquid sloshing over the lip of the glass.

 

“Leave her alone Snipe, she’s just a kid . . .” Starsky warned, feeling his barely suppressed anger rising to the forefront as the young girl started to cry, watching as Sniper cruelly squeezed her breast in his fist. “Let her go home . . .she made a mistake in comin’ here.”

 

 

“What is it with you and kids huh?” Sniper sneered, “First that new prospect, Rocky, and now her,” the redhead said, looking down at the struggling girl he held pressed against his chest, “What is it Snake . . . you like fuckin’ babies? You some sicko pedophile or something huh? I think that’s why you were so anxious to get out of the slammer . . . the big boys in there hate sick fucks like you who hurt babies . . .” Sniper laughed maniacally at his own joke.

 

“I said let her go now!” Starsky snarled softly, feeling the drug coursing through his veins, giving him an added edge, as he egged the redhead into a fight.

 

“Or what?” Sniper chuckled, looking around at his men, making sure they were all hearing this loud and clear. “Huh? Or what, man?” he screamed, intentionally trying to make himself be heard over the din of the place.

 

The brunet was conscious of the room growing suddenly quiet, feeling the burly bikers gathering around, although his eyes never left the green narrowed slits of Sniper. “Let her go now Snipe . . . or I’ll fuckin’ kill you man!” Starsky said, his voice soft and lethal.

 

The whispered threat, sent chills racing down Sniper’s spine and had he been alone, he might have just followed the brunet’s orders, but he had his men around and the redhead knew he needed to save face.

 

“You threatenin’ me Snake?” Sniper asked loudly, “You hear that boys, he’s threatenin’ me . . . your vice man . . .”

 

“Let her go Sniper, that’s the last time I’m askin’ ya,” Starsky said, his eyes fixed on the flustered face of the redhead, who kept looking around at his men, hoping that they would step in when the time was right.

 

“I don’t know if you’re up on current events Snake,” Sniper said sarcastically, “But you’re the only Warrior here in a sea of Minions. We’ll fuckin’ smear your ass all over this place . . .”

 

“Snake,” Jasper said softly, watery blue eyes wide and fearful,  “Hey man . . . why don’ you just ride some steam off . . . I’ll go with, if you want. We can find some other chicks to have some fun with . . .”

 

Starsky ignored the burly, older Minion, quickly moving into action to the surprise of the redhead who screamed in pain as Snake smashed his elbow into Sniper’s nose, yanking the girl from his arms the minute the creep let go.

 

The brunet quickly shoved the girl to the door, “Run,” he snapped, “Get the fuck outta here and don’t ever come back!” Starsky quickly turned hearing the familiar ‘click’ of a gun being cocked, blocking the way of the retreating girl with his own body as she dashed out into the night, her pitiful sobs growing softer and softer.

 

Raising his hands slowly in surrender, Starsky eyed the shaking tip of the .45 pointed at his gut, the dark blue orbs glittering dangerously as it drifted slowly from the gun to the glowering face of the redhead.

 

“Fuck man, you’re dead mother fucker!” Sniper screamed, one trembling hand holding the gun, while the other held his broken nose together, “I’ll kill you now, you prick!”

 

“Hey Sniper . . . take it easy man . . .” Japser said, his voice shaking as he looked to Snake who stood still, his hands calmly out to the side of him, “You blow him away right here and now, and everyone’ll see man, and ah . . . and Diesel’s just in the next room remember?” The big burly biker knew how unstable Sniper could be whenever he’d done too much drugs, and mixing it with alcohol, always made the redhead mean and ugly, making him unable to control his temper to think things through. Jasper knew his vice wouldn’t think twice about pulling the trigger and he needed to think of something, and think fast.

 

“We ah . . . me and Mad Dog and some of the others . . . we could ah . . . we could take him out back . . . rough him up a bit for insulting you Sniper, but Diesel will have your hide if you blow him away man!” Jasper said, his watery blue eyes darting back to the dark haired biker, feeling sick inside because he knew what was to come. The older man looked sadly at the New Yorker, hoping Snake would understand . . . he just couldn’t let Sniper kill his friend in cold blood.

 

The gun trembled in the angry redhead’s hand, the blood dripping from his nose made it difficult to breathe and think, but Sniper knew Jasper was right. Diesel would be livid if his little brother was blown away while he was fucking his brains out with that whore from the Oakland Chapter. “Okay,” Sniper gasped, “Okay t-take him out back . . . and  just  . . . just break something . . .”

 

“Break what?” Jasper asked, as Mad Dog and the others moved in to grab the brunet who didn’t struggle. The angry redhead watched as they dragged his nemesis out into the cold night air to the back of the clubhouse.

 

“Just go!” Sniper snapped angrily, “I’ll think of something to break,” the bleeding vice president said as he followed the big man out back.

 

Chapter Nine

 

Starsky felt himself being thrown up against the concrete wall, knocking the wind out from of his already laboring lungs, grunting as Mad Dog’s large body smashed up against his own to keep him from moving, his burly tattooed arm pressed against the brunet’s throat, making it even more difficult to breathe.

 

“Sorry Snake,” Mad Dog murmured into the biker’s ear, as the brunet struggled to draw in a breath, “Nothing personal man . . . just followin’ orders . . . ya know that.”

 

“Stop your fuckin’ whisperin’” Sniper growled, smearing blood on his arm as he tenderly wiped his nose on the back of his hand, “Jasper, I want you to hold that shit-head and Mad Dog you can have the honors of breaking a few of his ribs! The rest of you . . . get back inside . . . I think the three of us can handle this prick.” Sniper watched with satisfaction as the other bikers walked reluctantly back into the clubhouse, feeling confident again to see that his orders were being followed.

 

Jasper bit his lip nervously wishing he were anywhere else, but here. His watery blue eyes watched as Mad Dog grabbed Snake by both of arms, stretching them back as he got behind the struggling brunet, “Here Jasper, take him,” Mad Dog called out, as he attempted to hold the dark haired biker still.

 

“Move it man!” Sniper screamed, “It’s time we taught this New Yorker some manners!”

 

Jasper flinched, swallowing hard as he lumbered over to grab the brunet, only to fall back on his ass with a grunt, as Snake, using Mad Dog’s chest for leverage, lifted both of his legs to kick out at the older biker.

 

“Sorry Jas,” Snake hissed, breathing hard, feeling the burn in his arms and his lungs, as he tried to twist out of the hold Mad Dog had on him, “Three against one . . . ain’t what we New Yorkers call . . . polite.”

 

“Get off your fat ass and grab him,” Sniper snarled, quickly yanking the gun from his waistband where he had it tucked in “And you,” the redhead said, “If you don’t want a hole in your head right now, you best let Jasper get a hold of you.”

 

Still breathing hard, the brunet slowly ceased his struggling, eyeing the .45 once more, feeling Mad Dog slowly release his arms only to have it drawn back again by Jasper.

 

“Aw jeez, just stay still and get this over with Snake,” Jasper begged as he got behind the brunet, “It’s better than being dead ain’t it?” The older man stuck his huge arms under Starsky’s, lifting it high, only to lock it painfully behind the dark curls of Snake’s head.

 

The brunet grunted softly, feeling the burn in his arms and shoulders, breathing hard as he tried to catch his breath. Looking at Sniper who stood in front of him with his gun trembling slightly in his hand made the cop smirk cockily.  “Why don’ you do your own dirty work,” Starsky sneered at the cowardly redhead, gasping as Jasper suddenly tightened his hold, “What? Too scared to face me man to man, huh Snipe? You yellow piece of shit!”

 

“Shut up Snake . . . you’re gonna piss him off more man,” Jasper whispered, his voice almost whining in desperation.

 

“Here use this,” Sniper said, ignoring the brunet’s jibe, taking out something small that glinted as it caught the dull light coming from the street. The redhead tossed the brass knuckles to the burly biker, smiling widely as Mad Dog slipped the metal rings over his massive hand. “I ain’t a coward Snake, I just don’t wanna get my own hands dirty on white trash like you . . .”

 

“Where do you want me to start boss?” Mad Dog said, looking sadly at dark haired biker whom he considered his friend, knowing he was going to hurt him, but loyalty ran deep in all outlaw clubs, and this one was no different. If the vice president called for retribution, then it was his duty as a Minion to see it through.

 

“Since he’s a south paw,” Sniper said spitefully, “Break some of the ribs on his left side first . . . “

 

Jasper sighed and used his heavy weight and strength to twist the smaller man, lifting the brunet’s left arm high to expose his side to the biker with the brass, while holding the brunet as still as possible. “Don’t fight it Snake, you’re only gonna make it worse, man.”

 

Although Starsky struggled to free himself from the hold, Jasper was too strong, his tattooed arms rippling with muscles that flexed, all the while apologizing to the brunet, “I’m sorry man, just stay still and it’ll be all over in a few minutes . . .”

 

Before the curly haired cop had a chance to reply, Mad Dog drew his huge fist back and slammed it into the brunet’s side, throwing all of his strength and weight behind it; hoping to make a clean break with as few punches as necessary.

 

An explosion of pain burst in Starsky’s side, red-hot agony flared near the bottom of his heart, causing the dark haired detective to cry out in pain, his eyes scrunching in agony, as the sickening crunch of metal against bone could be heard in the stillness of the night. Gasping, the dark haired detective felt his rib give way, splintering under the shattering force of Mad Dog’s meaty fist, feeling his legs wanting to give out, his body sagging under the burden of blinding pain.

 

Sighing sadly, Mad Dog nodded at Jasper who dragged Starsky back up to his feet, twisting him once again, exposing his left side as Mad Dog drew back his fist again, ramming the brass knuckles once more into the ribcage of the dark haired biker, The brunet cried out sharply, groaning in pain as he felt another rib gave way. Starsky struggled to ride out the excruciating pain that ripped through his side, nearly passing out as his vision began to darken.

 

“Let him go . . . NOW!”

 

The curly haired cop vaguely registered the low angry voice as he fell, his hands immediately clutching his left side, as Jasper suddenly loosened his hold, gasping in pain as his body hit the cold concrete. “Uungh,” the brunet grunted softly, his body jolting sharply, pulling in his legs as he curled into the debilitating pain, his mind clouded and drenched in agony, as the hot waves of pain flared from his fractured ribcage and screamed up the conduit to his brain. 

 

Jinx held up the heavy shotgun, “Gimme your gun now Sniper,” the owner of “The Freebirds,” demanded harshly, “And the brass knucks Mad Dog . . .”

 

“This has nothin’ to do with you Jinx,” Sniper said angrily, his swollen and crooked nose still dripping blood, “Don’t get involved . . .”

 

“Shut your filthy trap Snipe,” the big bald man grated out, “ This has everything to do with me, especially since I own this place. I let you boys hang here as a favor to Diesel, but this place is still mine and there’ll be no killing here,” Jinx said, taking the brass knuckles that Mad Dog happily handed over to him.

 

The bartender cocked the shotgun, “I’m not a patient man Snipe, and I got a business to run, so make up your fuckin’ mind ‘cause either way, dead or alive, I’m takin’ your gun man.”

 

The redhead swore angrily as he threw the gun to the ground, “You don’t know what the fuck you’re doin’ Jinx!”

 

“I know exactly what I’m doing,” Jinx said evenly, “I’m kicking your sorry ass off my property and Diesel will hear about this. Now get on your bike Snipe and don’t come back here without an apology. And the next time you try something like this, you’ll be feeling the wind passing through the holes decorating your body from this here shotgun. Y’got that punk?”

 

“Fuck you man!” Sniper hissed, as he slowly backed away, turning to stomp away to his Harley parked out front.

 

Jasper crouched down and held the smaller man in his huge arms, his large stomach cushioning the brunet who gasped and gritted his teeth to keep from making any more unwanted sounds, as the roar from Sniper’s Harley filled the night, growing softer as the angry redhead raced away.

 

“Sorry Snake,” Jasper whined, “I’m sorry buddy . . .” the big man said, listening to the ragged breathing of the curly haired biker who held his side with his right hand, his long dark lashes hiding the pain he was in from the older biker, “I got ch’ya man. I got ch’ya” Jasper whispered softly.

 

“How you feelin’?” Jinx said, crouching down on one knee next to the brunet, his sharp eyes looking over the wounded biker, who slowly opened his own eyes, cobalt blue peeping out behind the dark of his pupils.

 

“T’rrific,” Starsky grunted out, “Help me up huh?” the brunet said to the big man cradling him, “’M fine Jas. . .”

 

“Like shit you are,” Jinx said crudely. The bald bartender gave his shotgun to Mad Dog to hold, and turned his attention to the curly haired biker, “Lie back and lemme see . . .” The bartender ran his meaty fingers along the side of the brunet, gingerly pressing each rib, stopping as the dark haired man tensed and gasped, his eyes closing again in pain.

 

“Well, you got at least two split ribs, lucky it ain’t pokin’ through,” Jinx said in a matter of fact voice, “I’ve seen worse . . . you’ll live. Jus’ go home and wrap ‘em, that’ll hold ‘em until they mend back together.”

 

“Yeah,” Starsky gasped, “Like I said . . . ‘m fine . . . now help me up.” The brunet held in his groan, as Jasper grasped him under the arms and lifted him to his feet. The dark haired detective pressed his arm against his side to support his broken ribs.

 

Pain was nothing new to Starsky, having lived through the horror of Gunther’s attack, the curly haired biker gritted his teeth and sucked it up, his breathing was rapid and shallow, the only give away to how much pain he was really in. “How’s the girl?” the brunet rasped as he looked to the big bald man.

 

“The stupid bitch got away,” Jinx said, “Don’ know why brats like that come into my place. Can’t they see the bikes parked out front?”

 

Starsky snorted softly, “Yeah, well one of these days, their curiosity’s gonna kill ‘em.” the dark haired cop said ominously, holding on to his side as he made his way slowly to the front where his bike was parked, “G’night guys,” he called over his shoulder, to the three large men who had followed him out to the Harley.

 

“You gonna make it, man?” Mad Dog asked guiltily, “I can follow ya home, if you want?”

 

“Nah, I’m fine I said,” Starsky weakly grinned, as he gingerly got on his bike, ignoring the pain screaming in his side as he stomped on the kick start and revved his engine, bringing the huge black beast to life. He was coming down fast from the cocaine and all he wanted to do was to crawl in bed and never get up. “See ya,” the brunet nodded cockily to the burly men who stood around him.

 

“Hey Snake . . . me and Mad Dog, we’re sorry, man . . .” Jasper said, his watery eyes looked so sad that Starsky chuckled softly.

 

“Hey . . . you’re Minions . . .you did the right thing, followin’ orders from your vice.  I know Diesel would be proud of ya, like I am. The club always comes first . . . before any friendship. That’s how we Warriors always did it too!” The three big men watched as the dark haired biker rode off into the night, the thundering growl of his engine growing softer and softer as the darkness swallowed him whole.

 

Starsky was bone tired and his mind drifted absently to his partner as he sped along in the dark. His side pulsed in pain; the strong vibrations coming from the Harley shook the brunet, causing the burning shards of pain stabbing in his side to intensify.

 

As the cold wind rushed by, Starsky glanced as his watch. It was late, or early, depending on how you looked at it . . . 3:47 a.m., and he knew Hutch would probably be asleep by now. The dark haired cop wondered if Hutch had been staking him out tonight. He was never exactly sure where Hutch hid out, but there were many times he could feel the watchful eyes of his partner lurking out there in the dark. God, he missed Hutch so much!

 

In the distance, he could see a phone booth along the side of the road and the brunet slowed down as he neared it, debating if he should give in to his desires and call his friend. Loneliness and despair welled up in his heart, the sharp barb in his side finally making him give in to his weakness. If he could just hear that golden voice, it would make everything better . . .

 

Starsky stopped and got off his bike, breathing hard, as he surfed through the pain lancing his side. The brunet coughed spasmodically, clutching his side in agony until the sharp spasms of pain dimmed. Breathing short rapid breaths, he fished out coins from the pocket of his jeans, making sure to leave the folding door of the booth slightly ajar, so that the light wouldn’t come on. Dialing the number he knew by heart, he listened anxiously to the ringing on his end.

 

“H’lo?” the sleepy voice murmured.

 

Starsky closed his eyes, letting the sound of his partner’s voice wash over him, his fingers clenching tightly to the receiver that he held pressed against his ear.

 

“H’lo?” the familiar voice said again, irritation and impatience now evident in its tone, a pause, and then a more softer and hopeful, “Starsk? That you?”

 

The dark haired cop swallowed the aching lump that suddenly formed in his throat, scrunching his closed eyelids even tighter. Hutch’s voice was throwing him, the pain in his side was nothing compared to the pain of not being with his partner. The brunet could feel the empty void in his heart expanding even more, and he longed to jump on his bike and make his way back to Bay City like he did last night, back into the nurturing light of goodness, that was Hutch. The need to see his partner was even stronger than the craving of coke, and the biker could feel the hard veneer of Snake fading, as he gave in to the warmth of his partner’s presence. Even though they were miles apart, Hutch had that kind of hold over the brunet, who willingly succumbed, embracing the gentleness of his partner’s love.

 

Hutch sat up in bed, his heart accelerating, knowing it was his partner as he listened to the ragged breathing on the other end. The blond gentled his voice, “Starsk . . . can you talk? Are you hurt? Where are you buddy?” The fair-haired detective paused for a second, hearing the harsh breathing that came over the phone, feeling dread take hold of his heart as he felt the pain of his partner’s loneliness come through the phone, “Babe . . . I’m here . . . right here. Talk to me  . . . please . . .”

 

Starsky suddenly clutched his side with his free hand as a spasm of pain made him gasp, his body bending slightly as he folded into the pain.

 

“Starsk? Starsky!” Hutch said, his voice growing sharper, “What’s going on? Where are you?” The blond reached over and turned on the light, squinting at the brightness that filled the room as he glanced at the clock on his bedside table, 3:56 a.m. Hutch stood up and grabbed his dark brown corduroys, tugging them on with one hand, “Where are you buddy . . .”

 

Starsky knew Hutch would come for him if he didn’t say anything. Knowing the blond as well as he did, the dark haired detective knew Hutch could sense he was hurt. The brunet took a deep breath, feeling the pain in his ribs and lungs, as he attempted to keep his voice from quavering, “’M fine Hutch . . .”

 

The blond stilled his frantic movements as the soft voice of his partner came through the line. He could hear the strain in Starsky’s voice and the labored breathing of the brunet, although he knew his friend was trying to hide it, “Tell me where you are buddy?” Hutch said, struggling to keep the fear from his voice as he once again gentled it, “I’ll come and get you . . . if you can  . . . if you c-can just tell me . . .”

 

Starsky opened his eyes and looked up at the star filled night, his heart near shattering for the warmth of his partner’s embrace, the brilliant tiny pinpoints of light suddenly blurring, as he struggled to get a hold of his emotions,  “Jus’ . . .jus’ gimme ‘til Thursday Hutch . . . and then . . . and then . . . I think I’m gonna need your help . . . I ah  . . . I’ve done somethin’ that I ain’t too proud of and . . .I . . . I . . .” Starsky could feel the world crashing in on him, the black despair of guilt pulling him under as he struggled to stay afloat, unable to voice to his partner just how low he’d sunken under the heavy guise of this cover. His dark lashes lowered, pressed tightly to his pale cheeks, feeling a solitary rivulet of warm water running down the side of his face, only to quickly dry in the cold night wind.

 

Hutch listened intently as his partner’s soft voice faded to silence, “Hey . . . hey, it’s okay buddy,” the blond said soothingly, “I’m right here . . . I’ve always been right here.”

 

The brunet nodded, not even realizing that his friend couldn’t see that small movement, his heart aching with loneliness, “Thanks Hutch . . . sorry man . . .”

 

Hutch could feel a small worried smile tweaking the corners of his mouth, “For what Gordo?” he said, keeping his voice soft and gentle, his heart heavy as he anguished over his friend, hearing the loneliness in his quiet voice.

 

“For getting’ ya up again . . . I jus’ . . . I guess I jus’ needed to hear your voice . . .”

 

Hutch closed his eyes as he pressed the phone closer to his ear, feeling his partner’s pain, “You’re hurt . . . aren’t you?” Hutch asked, dreading to hear the answer, knowing his partner would downplay anything that would cause him to worry.

 

Starsky, knowing he would have to lie again to his partner, hated himself even more as the lies got easier and easier to tell, “Nah . . .” the brunet whispered softly, “Jus’ . . . jus’ tired s’all.” Starsky closed his eyes once more and lowered his head, “I miss ya Hutch,” he said softly, “Seein’ ya last night . . .” The dark haired detective didn’t even try to finish his sentence, but sighed wearily instead, unable to put into words how much his friend meant to him, “I jus’. . . I jus’ miss ya  s’ all. . .” the brunet finished lamely.

 

Hutch could feel hot tears spring to his eyes at the abject loneliness and hurt he heard in his partner’s voice and he struggled to keep his voice even, wanting to be strong for his partner, “I miss you too buddy . . . I miss you too . . .”

 

Starsky looked up, peering into the darkness as a car rushed past. It was so easy to lose himself in the warmth of his partner’s voice, but it was stupid to be standing out here in the open where anyone could see him. If a Minion passed by now, it would look suspicious and would raise a lot of questions,  “Listen Hutch, I  . . . I gotta go . . .” the brunet said regretfully.

 

“Starsk?” Hutch called out, unable to keep the desperation from his voice at the thought of his partner hanging up. The blond smiled, as he heard his partner’s soft snort through the phone.

 

“I’m still here Blintz, but I gotta go . . . I’m out in the open where anyone could see me and I’d have’ta come up with a lot of excuses if I’m caught.” Starsky said, as he looked down the long strip of highway, the cold night breeze ruffling his dark curls.

 

“Okay . . .” the blond slowly nodded, the concern for his partner deepening the crease between his pale brows, “Okay, but Thursday is a long way off . . .you call me if you need anything . . .you hear me Starsk?” Hutch said, his hand clenching the receiver, hating to part with his friend, “Even if you just need to hear my voice.”

 

Starsky snorted softly once more, nodding his head again in the dark, “Yeah . . . I’ll ah . . . I’ll see ya Thursday and I’ll be expectin’ you t’buy me a beer at Huggy’s once all of this is wrapped up.”

 

“You bet!” Hutch said warmly, his pale blue eyes softening as he pictured his partner’s face in his mind’s eye,  “I’ll even buy you some of those crummy burritos you like.”

 

Starsky chuckled, missing his friend even more, looking up at the stars once again, as he took a deep, shaking breath, “Yeah . . . you do that partner.”

 

For a second they listened to the soft sound of each other’s breathing coming through the line, before Starsky gently whispered, “See ya,” and hung up his end

 

Hutch closed his eyes in anguish when he heard the soft ‘click’ that ended the call, picturing in his mind, the brunet climbing on his Harley as he sped off into the night. The blond tapped the phone receiver that he still clutched against his forehead in frustration, the furrow between his eyes deep with the worry that he felt for his partner,  “Be safe Starsk. Just be safe until Thursday,” he whispered softly in the stillness of his bedroom.

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

Starsky gingerly pulled off his vest and black tee shirt to look over the damage to his ribs. The bruise that radiated out from where Mad Dog’s brass fist connected to bone darkened his whole left side. The brunet winced as he tried to draw some air into his burning lungs, setting off a round of coughs that ripped into his battered body, causing the cop to groan out loud as he pressed his hand to his side, supporting his fractured ribs.

 

As the hacking coughs finally subsided, the gasping brunet slowly got to his feet, leaving his vest and shirt on the dilapidated couch behind him, wearily grabbing a cold bottle of beer from the ‘fridge as he passed by the apartment’s small kitchenette.

 

The brunet tilted his head back, the cold brew slipping down his hot burning throat, easing the perpetual ache that smoking cigarettes had caused. Starsky went to his bed and sat on its edge, putting the bottle on the wooden crate that served as a nightstand.

 

Hutch.

 

Talking to his partner tonight made the chasm of his loneliness grow even deeper and the brunet prayed that he could last ‘til Thursday’s bust. He could feel the overwhelming need for cocaine, as his broken body began its rapid withdrawal from the drug’s wicked hold. The dark haired cop closed his eyes, his long dark lashes hiding the internal struggle and agony that he was going through.

 

Starsky gritted his teeth when the pain in his side became almost unbearable as the cocaine left his body, the craving need raging throughout his system left his body heavy and sluggish, the drug’s departure unmasking the true level of pain that the brunet was really in, raising it to a level almost beyond tolerance.

 

The brunet reached a trembling hand for the bottle of beer and rubbed it against the side of his warm face feeling its cold, wet smoothness soothing the ache in his head. He scrunched his eyes tighter, wincing, as a sharp barb of pain stabbed into his side, stealing his breath away.

 

Gasping as he held onto his ribs, Starsky caught himself wishing for more cocaine to ease the pain and heaviness in his aching body. The detective opened his sapphire eyes, disgusted and angry with himself. He hated himself for his craving dependency of the stimulant and the heavy hand of guilt and shame bombarded his soul once again, adding fuel to the anger that flared within. The brunet whipped his bottle of beer against the concrete wall of his bedroom, shattering the brown glass as it flew in all directions, watching with perverse satisfaction as the amber liquid ran down in rivulets against the white paint of the wall.

 

“Fuck!” Starsky snarled, his heavy breathing the only sound in the still room, angry with himself as he felt his traitorous body trembling with want for the drug. He furiously snagged the small lamp that stood on the box, hurling it across the room, the plug yanking violently from the wall whipped around in flight, curling in a downward spiral, as the lamp crashed next to the brown shards of glass that littered the floor. The detective gasped, feeling the stabbing pain spike in his side at the sudden violent movement.

 

“Uungh,” the dark haired cop groaned softly, one hand pressing against his ribs, his rapid and shallow breaths filling the lonely, silence of his room as he slowly laid back onto the mattress, his right arm thrown over his aching, burning eyes.

 

“ . . .you call me if you need anything . . . you hear me Starsk?”

 

“Even if you just need to hear my voice.”

 

The sound of Hutch’s gentle words, echoed in his aching head, soothing the pain in his ribs, easing the desperate craving need for the drug. Trying to still the irregular palpitations of his heart, the brunet imagined Hutch’s face, his golden soft hair tousled in sleep. How was he going to tell his friend about snorting cocaine? And yet, a part of him already knew Hutch was aware of the problem and it shamed him immensely.

 

“Look, why don’t you take a quick shower. The hot water will make you feel better, especially if you’re coming down with a cold. You don’t look too good buddy.”

 

“Yeah? Well, I don’ feel too good either,” Starsky whispered sarcastically to himself, his lips quirking in a slight smile as he thought of Hutch sending him off, this morning, to take a hot shower.

 

Starsky lifted his arm a bit to peek at his watch again. 4:45 a.m. ‘Well, it was yesterday morning then’ he thought as he covered his eyes once more. God he was so tired! The days were blending into each other. So much had happened since leaving Venice Place. Seeing Sweet Alice tonight, just floored him! There were many times that he and Hutch had pondered over what had happened to the petite blonde prostitute with the sweet southern drawl. The last time they’d seen her, she was servicing a client.

 

‘And I was dyin,’’ Starsky thought morosely, remembering their frantic search for an antidote to Jenning’s poison that raced throughout his system. It killed the brunet to know that now a new substance was doing that same exact thing, but what made it worse, was knowing that he had willingly put it there.

 

“Fuck!” the brunet swore softly once more, getting angry with himself all over again, slamming his fist into the mattress as he opened his eyes, his stormy cobalt gaze fixed to the stained ceiling of his small cover apartment. He could hear the shortness of his breath and he attempted to draw in a longer, deeper one; only to end up in a fit of coughs that once more, seared into his side and lungs, red hot agony burned within, as his heart continued to palpitate in irregular rhythms that scared the shit out of him.

 

The brunet got up slowly; feeling winded, one hand pressing against his left side, as he ambled into the bathroom to spit what he hacked out into the sink. Rinsing it down, he cupped his hands together to catch the slow trickle of water only to bring it to his face, cooling the heat from his cheeks, his ribs protesting loudly as he bent his torso over the sink.

 

The dark haired detective lifted his head, meeting his reflection in the mirror above the scratched and chipped basin. ‘I look like shit,’ the brunet thought, ‘No wonder Huggy knew.’ It wouldn’t have taken a genius to realize that he was strung out on something and that thought ate away at him.

 

He remembered how he’d used to watch some of his friends doing various drugs on the streets of New York, before his mother shipped him off to his Uncle Al and Aunt Rosie’s place in California soon after his Pop was murdered.  He’d seen firsthand the damaging effects that drugs had on his friends who were foolish enough to experiment with them, and he had vowed at a young age to never do that to his own body.

 

He held true to his promise even in ‘Nam when his buddies were all doing psychedelics and weed to temporarily escape the horrors of war. What really solidified his resolution to staying clean though, was seeing Hutch go through the horrible withdrawal of heroin. Starsky remembered holding his partner who shook in pain with the abdominal cramping that tore through his guts, leaving him as weak as kitten.

 

“There is such a thing as a mercy killing you know . . .”

 

Though he had chuckled softly at Hutch’s words, Starsky realized even then, that it was no laughing matter. The agonizing and often brutal talons of any drug could do major damage to not only your body, but to your mind and soul as well, and Starsky always made sure to stay far away from that scene . . . until now.

 

The brunet sighed, staring at his blood shot eyes, and the weary lines that ran across his forehead and around his mouth. He could almost hear his partner’s soothing voice again, echoing in the stillness of the room . . .

 

“Look, why don’t you take a quick shower. The hot water will make you feel better, especially if you’re coming down with a cold. You don’t look too good buddy.”

 

The brunet stood up as straight as he could, walking over the small expanse of tile in the dingy bathroom, pulling the dirty curtain aside, as he quickly turned on the hot water and started the shower. Maybe Hutch was right . . . maybe a hot shower would help ease some of the pain and heaviness from his body. It had certainly helped him yesterday morning, until all hell broke loose after Huggy left.

 

The dark haired cop stripped his tight jeans off, gingerly sliding it over the curve of his buttocks, the movement causing sharp pain to flare once again, in his left side. Starsky clutched his ribs with his right hand, his arm stretching across his abdomen, breathing through the stabbing pain as it washed over him. Once it slowly subsided, the brunet stepped gingerly into the tub, yanking the curtain back in place as the hot, steaming water pounded on his back.

 

 Starsky pressed both palms against the wall of the shower stall, leaning his weight upon his hands, the water flattening the curls on the back of his head. The hot water felt wonderful on his back; the steaming droplets pelting his skin felt like massaging fingers, loosening muscles that were tight and rigid, easing the stress and worry that tore through him.

 

The brunet closed his eyes; dark long lashes spiking with moisture as he lowered his head between his arms. ‘Just three more days, just three more days,’ he whispered softly to himself, hearing the litany echoing in his mind, becoming a sort of mantra to get him through all of this. Starsky pressed the crown of head against the wall, a small smile coming to his lips as he remembered how Hutch had tried to teach him how to mediate once, and he had ended up cooking his partner’s brand new Buddy Holly record in the oven, instead of the pizza he’d brought over.

 

Aww Hutch.

 

The brunet suddenly lifted his head, listening intently, but the sound of water falling around him was all he heard. For a minute there, he imagined he had heard the sound of a Harley’s engine, but he shrugged it off. Since snorting cocaine, Starsky had come to realize that he’d become very paranoid and suspicious at times. The drug caused that to happen in its’ unsuspecting users, making them antsy and jumpy, unable to stay still, wanting to get up and move all the time, thinking the worse, making up scenarios that weren’t true. 

 

Starsky sighed and turned, his arm shielding his left side from the steady stream of water, sticking his face into the torrent that fell, his once unruly hair, was now tamed and beaten flat by the barrage of hot water. Grabbing the soap, he stretched his neck, feeling the cords tightening as the slippery bar made its journey down to his hairy chest and then even lower. It felt so good to wash away the dirt from the road, to feel fresh and clean again.

 

The dark haired cop rinsed the suds from his body, sighing wistfully, as he turned the water off. Stepping from the tub, Starsky wished it could have been as easy to clean his soul, as it was to clean his skin; yet he knew there was only one way to do that, and that was to tell his partner everything, something that was easier said than done.

 

“My God, he’s a junkie!”

 

He could hear Bernie’s accusing voice in his head. To come clean meant that people would find out about his addiction. Although it was supposed to be kept confidential whenever an undercover cop went to a safe house, almost everyone at the station automatically assumed that cop had succumbed to drugs on the assignment. The dark haired cop turned off the stream of hot water, watching as the residual water on the floor of the tub collected and spiraled slowly down the drain. ‘That’s how I feel . . . dirty . . . spiraling down into darkness . . .’ the brunet thought darkly as he got out of the tub.

 

Starsky wrapped one clean towel around his hips and scrubbed the dampness from his tousled curls with another.  Hutch knowing about his addiction was one thing, but it would kill him if others found out about it. The last thing he wanted to be was the latest topic for the water fountain gossipmongers. It would be so humiliating to see the sad, sympathetic eyes of his fellow officers as he walked into the squad room. Hell, he didn’t need anyone’s pity!

 

Clicking off the light, the brunet absently walked from the small bathroom that adjoined his even smaller bedroom only to stop suddenly, his dark blue eyes widening with surprise, the water-warmed muscles suddenly tensing again as he looked to the edge of his bed where Diesel sat nonchalantly, an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips.

 

The tall blond biker looked up as Starsky came out of the bathroom, his pale blue eyes locked on the towel clad, dark haired brunet, a frown suddenly marring his features as his hand quickly reached for something under his leather vest . . .

 

Chapter 11

 

Starsky tensed as he saw Diesel’s hand reach quickly under his vest, the detective’s breath catching silently, as he readied himself for whatever was brought out. He could feel his reflexes coiled for action and watched as the blond biker quickly withdrew his hand . . .

 

Nothing!

 

The brunet felt himself slightly relax, releasing the breath that he unconsciously held, watching intently as Diesel tapped his hands lightly along his hips and chest, looking up sheepishly at the dark haired cop, a grin tweaking the corners of his mouth as he pulled the unlit cigarette from his lips, “Hey little brother, y’got a light?”

 

Starsky gave the blond a lopsided grin and went to the small wooden shelf in his room He dug out some matches that he kept there, matches that Jinx had previously given him, and tossed them to the blond with his right hand. “Here,” the brunet said casually, trying to slow down the racing anxiety of his heart, “Keep ‘em.”

 

The dark haired cop turned his back and slowly tugged on a clean pair of jeans. He stooped down gingerly, holding onto his side, to get a white tee shirt from the stack of shirts on the bottom shelf when Diesel stopped him.

 

“C’mere Snake,” the blond said slowly, “Heard ‘bout what happened last night . . . lemme take a look at them ribs of yours . . . Jinx said they might need t’be wrapped.” Diesel pulled out an ace bandage from the back pocket of his jeans, and sat back down on the edge of the bed.

 

“You always keep one of those in your pocket?” the brunet chuckled, his dark blue eyes twinkling with the fondness he felt for the blond biker, who snorted in return.

 

“Shut up and get over here before I break the ribs on your other side, dummy,” Though Diesel said this good-naturedly, Starsky could hear a trace of irritation in his usually mellow voice. He could tell that leader of “The Minions” wasn’t very happy about what went down tonight.



“Jus’ toss it over here and I’ll wrap my own ribs,” Starsky said, adding a tinge of hostility into his own voice, the nagging pain in his side and the need for cocaine and sleep made him feel short tempered and irritable.

 

The blond eyes widened, and he stood up and walked over the brunet who held his tee shirt in his hand, “Shit man, what the fuck happened to you?” Diesel whispered.

 

Starsky followed his light blue gaze down to his abdomen where the tell tale signs of Gunther’s attack was still evident. Though the wounds had healed nicely thanks to Hutch’s diligent care, the horrible scars, though faint, were still there.

 

Diesel lifted his gaze to the cobalt colored eyes that remained fixed upon his face, “What happened man?” the blond asked softly, “Who plugged ya?” His pale blue followed the track the bullets made across the biker’s abdomen and upper torso, “Rapid fire . . . it was an automatic wasn’t it? Shit man . . . did it happen in New York or in ‘Nam?”

 

“It don’ matter . . .” Starsky said gruffly, as he attempted to put his shirt on, “It happened!”

 

“Wait a minute . . . jus’ hold on . . .” Diesel said, looking at the scars again, “Man, whoever did this meant to kill you many times over. How the hell did you survive this?” There’s was admiration in the voice of the blond as his rough calloused finger traced a scar that ran near the bottom of the cop’s left lung, “This musta been some painful shit to get over man. Heard about somethin’ like this happenin’ to a cop in Bay City, several years back. Some rich dude, name of Gunther, hired a coupl’a hitmen to nail this detective in the police garage of all places. That took some balls man!” Diesel grinned, shaking his head.

 

Starsky controlled the natural tendency to stiffen, taking in small breaths, as he remained passive and expressionless, “Yeah? What happened to the cop?” Starsky forced himself to grin back at the blond biker.

 

“Dunno,” Diesel said slowly, a frown crossing his face as he thought about it, “Jus’ figured he died. It would take a miracle to live through something like that,” the blond traced the brunet’s scars once more, pale blue eyes connecting to dark sapphire,  “But you lived . . . didn’t you? Shit how the hell you did that though, is beyond me . . . all of your major organs are right here.” The burly biker tapped several areas on the detective’s abdomen . . .

 

Starsky knocked the biker’s hand away, his voice harsh with derision, “Look, you gonna check my ribs or you gonna jus’ yak all day long . . . feelin’ me out  . . .huh?”

 

Diesel snorted softly, amused by Snake’s bad temper, knowing it was the coke leaving his system that was talking. The blond frowned as his large hand moved to the left ribcage of the brunet, pressing gently against the curly haired man’s side, “Easy buddy,” the blond said softly, when Starsky gasped and winced in pain, “Feels like Mad Dog fractured at least two of your ribs . . .”

 

“Yeah?” Starsky said, his breathing shallow and labored, “How d’you know?”

 

The flaxen haired biker smiled and looked down at the bandage as he got to work, holding one end of it pressed against the wounded man’s side as he slowly began to wrap the bandage tightly around Snake’s bruised torso, “Was a medic in ‘Nam,” Diesel said quietly, “Flew in choppers to pick up our wounded guys and held ‘em together until we could get the soldiers to a hospital. That’s how I met Jinx. I saved his life, he’s been my brother ever since.”

 

Starsky stared at the Minion leader; the shocked look on his face caused the blond biker to laugh out loud, “What? Why the look?”

 

“Shit . . . you were a medic?” Starsky said, “But how . . .” The dark haired cop caught himself and shut his mouth, knowing that bikers rarely asked questions about another’s past. He was amazed at the irony of seeing a man who’s sole profession in the war was saving lives, metamorphous into man who now had the power to take a life with a mere nod of his chin.

 

Diesel chuckled at the look of bewilderment on the brunet’s face, “Kinda hard to believe huh?” The tall blond used the metal pronged clip to hold the bandaged ribs tightly in place, “There you go little brother,” he said gently, “That should hold it. No rough-housing for a few weeks . . . it should mend on its’ own.”

 

Starsky looked at his bandaged side, the neat layers wrapped snugly to support his ribs, “Yeah . . . thanks,” the brunet said softly. Stormy sapphire eyes lifted and connected to soft sky blue, until the dark haired cop finally looked away, feeling uncomfortable for some reason. Maybe because he knew that in three days, he’d be the one responsible for sending Diesel to jail, locking him away for a long time. There was never a time in his whole career as a cop that he’d ever felt sorry for putting away the bad guys, but this time it was different, and it ate him up inside that he was feeling torn and confused like this.

 

The blond snorted softly and turned, sitting back on the edge of the bed, golden head nodding in the direction of the brown shards of glass, “What happened over here?” He leaned over to pick up the small lamp, winding the cord around the base of it as he waited for Snake to reply.

 

Starsky shrugged, “If you’re talkin’ about the bottle, I busted it, and if you’re talkin’ ‘bout my ribs . . . well, I busted that too.” The brunet said cockily, gingerly tugging on the white tee shirt over his bandaged ribs.

 

“Jinx told me about Sniper man, and the young chick you helped outta there . . .” The blond turned his pale blue gaze from the lamp he held, to the dark haired biker he’d just bandaged. I also talked to Sniper; it took me some time to find out where he was hidin’ or I would’a been here earlier. I knocked when I came over, but when no one answered, I took you up on that offer the other morning and let myself in.” After a moment’s pause, Diesel nodded his chin up at the brunet, “Care t’tell me your side?”

 

“What’s there t’tell?” Starsky said, “Looks like y’heard it all.”

 

Diesel shrugged, “Well, Sniper’s suspicious as hell about you . . . he says you don’t act like a biker. He can’t put his finger on it, but he’s afraid you might be a cop that’s under man  . . .” The blond eyed the brunet, his keen eyes watching every nuance on the dark haired biker’s face.

 

“Yeah? That what you think too?” Starsky asked, keeping his voice nonchalant, though his heart accelerated with fear, “I look like a cop to you?” The brunet forced himself to chuckle with derision.

 

“No, right now you look like shit to me,” Diesel grinned, “You’re on your way down huh? Crashin’ big time. You need more stuff man?”

 

Starsky sighed heavily, controlling the crushing need that leapt to the forefront at Diesel’s offer, “Me a cop? Yeah right . . .would a cop keep snortin’ as much as me?” he said with a lopsided grin, eagerly eyeing the paraphernalia that Diesel took out, allowing the craving need to show clearly in his ocean blue eyes, trying to catch his breath as his heart continued to pump erratically.

 

“Don’ sweat it man,” Diesel muttered; concentrating, as he cut the white powder into six lines, “Sniper is fucked up, if he could, he’d probably say I was a cop too. A lot of guys say that I don’t act like a biker either. It don’ bother me none. I like being different.” The blond handed a straw over to the brunet who took it with a trembling hand, his heart pumping erratically.

 

“Man . . .you got the shakes,” Diesel said, “Got here just in time little brother” the big blond said, his voice growing soft with the fondness he felt for the brunet, watching with satisfaction as Snake lowered his head and inhaled the pure uncut powder into his nostril.

 

Starsky lifted his head, feeling the burn going down his throat as the rush took him. He clenched his eyes shut, sniffling as he threw his head back slightly and let the euphoria just take him away . . . away from being here in this dingy apartment doing lines with another addict, away from the heavy burden of guilt that tore away at his conscience, away from the spearing pain that throbbed continuously in his side, away from thoughts of Hutch that kept him grounded to all that was good and clean and right, away from everything . . . but mostly . . . away from himself, whom he’d grown to hate and loathe above all others . . . even above Sniper.

 

Starsky stood, eyes still closed, dark lashes hiding the pleasure he felt as the drug coursed through his veins, his breath coming in short gasps, feeling the pain in his ribs slowly receding as the drug took over. He could feel Diesel bending low to snort the last three lines of coke he’d left on the glass plate. The brunet vaguely felt Diesel’s heavy hand on his shoulder and he reluctantly opened his eyes, the bright blue, now swallowed once more by his dark dilated pupils made him look wild and feral with his tousled unruly curls still damp from the shower he’d just taken.

 

“That’s good stuff huh?” Diesel smiled, “Yeah bro’, you can’t be no cop, you enjoy this stuff too damn much like me!” Diesel laughed, slapping the detective on his back, his own dilated eyes looked strange to the brunet, reminding him of how Hutch’s eyes looked after Forrest got a hold of him, and for a minute the thought sickened him, but the euphoric rush took even that away; and Starsky just rode the waves of pleasure, sinking down onto the mattress next to Diesel who sprawled out beside him, his mind numb to everything except the cocaine racing through his system.

 

“Man . . . this is the best ride of  ‘em all . . .” Diesel whispered, “Better than the rush you get after bein’ in a fight, better than the wind blowin’ past ya when you ride your bike over a 100 miles an hour, better than fuckin’ Sweet Alice all night long . . .” the blond sighed contentedly.

 

The dark haired cop opened his eyes, not even realizing that he had once again closed them, and he turned his head to stare at the blond who lay beside him, “Yeah? Better than fuckin’ Alice? She looked damn hot to me . . .”



“Yup, she certainly was that,” Diesel grinned, his pale lashes hid the emotion from his words, “She was damn hot  . . . and wet and tight too. Fuck! I can feel myself getting’ another boner just thinkin’ about Sweeeeet Alice!” The blond biker chuckled lewdly.

 

Starsky snorted, feeling the rising tightness in his jeans too, as Diesel’s words filled his mind with thoughts of hot sex and willing bodies. “Fuck . . . that’s what I want to do right now man . . . just fuck my brains out . . .”

 

“That’s why I don’ get it man,” Diesel said softly, opening his eyes and turning his flaxen colored head to look at the dark haired man, “I know that snortin’ makes any guy hornier than hell . . . so why’d you pick that kid, when you could’a had any chick in the whole goddamn place?

 

Starsky could feel the tic in his lower jaw and he turned his gaze away to look up at the ceiling once more, “She was young . . . she shouldn’ta been there in the first place . . .”


”She came on her own free will, man” Diesel said softly, “Sniper said that she wa. . .”

 

“Sniper wanted her because he thought I did . . .” Starsky angrily interjected, “He was just itchin’ at a chance to get back at me and he used her as an excuse to do it. I wasn’t about to let him rape a kid on account of me. She was an innocent.”

 

Diesel frowned, the crease between his blond brows furrowed, and Starsky was once again reminded of his partner, “Sniper’s a fuckin’ ass, but he’s still the chapter’s vice until he’s voted out. In the meantime he and I had a little talk, before I came here. He rants and raves a lot . . . his mind is fucked from the drugs he takes . . . he’s a hot-tempered son of a bitch that needs a good slap now and then to get him back on track. Don’t worry about him . . . I’ll handle Snipe.”

 

“Yeah? Well, I’ll fuckin’ kill him if he ever tries something like that again,” Starsky snarled, the drug making him want to get up and move, his adrenalin pumping as fast as his racing heart, “He’s a yellow coward . . . using the guys to do his dirty work like that.”

 

Diesel sighed, gently pushing his dark haired friend back to the mattress as he tried to get up, “Take it easy little brother . . . just stay down and rest. After everything goes down on Thursday, we’ll probably have another Church meeting and maybe we’ll just have to elect us a new vice. You feel like running for the position? We’d make a good team, me and you.”

 

Me and Thee.

 

Starsky turned to look at the blond. He was so much like Hutch and yet so different. The brunet swallowed the lump that came to his throat, “Yeah we would . . . only thing you’re forgettin’ there’s a difference in our ‘colors’ man. I’m a Warrior and you’re a Devil’s Minion. We’re from different chapters . . . with different ways of doing things.”

 

‘If only he knew how different we were,’ Starsky thought darkly.

 

Diesel grinned, “Not so different little brother. You just need to change your colors man. Be one of us. You’ve been ridin’ with us for half a year now . . . you can change over if you want to man . . . think on it okay?” The blond got up and stretched, leaning over to put his coke stash on the wooden crate next to the bed. “Here, I’ll leave ya the rest of this. Take some tonight and then again on Wednesday.” There’s enough there to tie you over until Thursday okay Snake?

 

The light blue eyes softened with fondness, as the tall blond stood and looked down at the brunet who lounged on the mattress, his long, dark lashes closed in ecstasy. Diesel snorted softly, turning to leave as he made his way to the door.

 

“Hey . . . where ya goin’?” Starsky called out softly, his dilated pupils hiding the cobalt blue of his eyes.

 

Grabbing the doorknob, Diesel called over his shoulder, “Gotta take care of some business. Tomorrow some other guys from different chapters will be comin’ down here in preparation for Thursday’s big event.” Take the day off tomorrow and get some rest man, let your ribs heal, but I want you there at the warehouse on Thursday afternoon . . . 4:00 pm? Ya got that Snake?”

 

Starsky snorted softly, his heart suddenly feeling heavy, “Yeah . . . Thursday at the warehouse . . . I’ll be there man . . . you can count on it!” The brunet closed his eyes wearily as he heard the soft click of the door closing behind the tall blond biker and the sudden roar of Diesel’s Harley speeding off into the morning’s first light.

 

“Yeah . . .I’ll be there . . . I’ll be there with the Feds and Hutch. . .” the brunet reiterated, his voice soft and sad, “You can count on it.”

 

Chapter Twelve

 

Hutch walked into Metro, his mind thinking back on the call he’d gotten in the wee morning hours. It was all he could think about since replacing the receiver back on its cradle, after his partner had hung up. Although Hutch had tried to calm his nerves, he finally gave up trying to sleep, plagued by nightmares of chrome and blood, the thundering growls of motorcycles, and the sad desperate voice of his friend screaming in agony, making him bolt upright in bed, his heart beating rapidly, listening to himself gasping as he tried to get it together, telling himself it was only a dream . . .only a dream that kept him from his much needed rest.

 

The blond detective had finally dragged his butt out of bed as the sun kissed the morning, dressing everything in its golden light. He had made himself some tea to calm his frayed nerves and still the worry in his heart. Starsky sounded so desolate, so ridden with guilt and pain. Hutch could still hear the sad voice of his partner echoing in his mind …

 

“Jus’ . . . jus’ gimme ‘til Thursday Hutch . . . and then . . . and then . . . I think I’m gonna need your help . . . I ah  . . . I’ve done somethin’ that I ain’t too proud of and . . . I . . . I . . .”

 

Hutch walked towards the squad room, not really registering anyone or anything, his feet taking him where he wanted to go automatically without any prodding from his preoccupied brain. He was so worried about his partner, his “Starsky sense” on red alert, screaming out a warning of impending doom for his curly haired friend. He intuitively knew his partner was hurt, he could hear it, sense it, and it tore him up inside. Without a doubt, Hutch knew now, that Huggy was probably right about the coke addiction He knew Starsky was spiraling down and he needed to be pulled out . . . now! Forget about waiting until Thursday’s big bust . . . the Feds could go fuck themselves. Nothing was more important than getting Starsky out safely and cleaned up before anyone found out about all of this.

 

‘Hang on buddy . . . just hang on!’ Hutch thought silently, sending out that encouragement, hoping that somehow Starsky would be able to sense or hear him.

 

He walked into the squad room, his eyes drawn to his partner’s desk. It had been so long since he’d seen his friend sitting there, talking about idiotic and annoying trivia as he tackled the paperwork piled up on the tabletop, his dark brows drawn together in concentration, his tongue touching his upper lip, pencil behind one ear, as he slowly typed out the report with one finger, only to curse softly under his breath as he attempted to erase the mistake he’d just made.

 

The thought of his partner brought a soft, wistful smile to the blond’s lips. God, he missed Starsky so much, feeling like a major part of him was gone, his heart beating out methodically, but without a purpose or passion. Starsky brought so much life and joy into his being and he was as vital to Hutch’s survival as breathing in life-giving oxygen.

 

‘If anything happened to Starsky, I would die too . . .’

 

“Hutch? Get in here!” Dobey’s gruff voice came from his office, startling the blond from his morose thoughts.

 

Hutch tore his eyes from his Starsky’s desk, and turned to walk into his Captain’s office, his pale blue eyes turning to ice as he glared at the two Federal Agents who lounged in the chairs facing Dobey’s desk, steaming Styrofoam coffee cups held in their hands.

 

“Just the . . . just the person we wanted to see,” Hillyard stammered, standing, as Hutch came slowly into the room, his glacial stare almost freezing the greeting on the agent’s tongue, “Um . . .we were just ah . . . just discussing with your Captain our concerns regarding Detective Starsky.” The DEA agent took a quick sip of hot coffee from his cup, his gaze darting away, feeling uncomfortable from the blond’s frozen glare.

 

“Yeah . . . I bet!” Hutch said sarcastically, as he eyed the agents with mistrust and disdain, “Just what kind of concerns are we talking about?” The blond detective turned his attention to the other man who remained seated as he spoke.

 

Ted Slate turned his lofty gaze up at the tall blond, unable to keep a sneer from turning his lips as he spoke with authority, “Well it appears that your partner might be withholding information from us and I . . .”

 

“Wait a minute . . . just . . . just wait a minute,” Hutch said softly, closing his eyes in irritation, pale lashes hiding the sudden anger that flared within, as he raised a large hand to stop Slate from spewing his mouth off. The tall blond took a deep breath, pushing the down the hostility he felt towards the two Federal agents who sat in his Captain’s office discussing his partner like he was some kind of an object, a pawn to be used in this whole sordid operation.

 

Who were they to talk about his partner when they could be sitting safely in an office sipping coffee, while Starsky was on the frontline with cutthroat bikers, many of them hooked on drugs, having to make split second decisions that could cost him the operation, or worse, his life.  No one saw how torn and confused Starsky had been when he had come to Venice place a few nights ago, no one had heard the quiet hurt and desperation in his partner’s voice last night as he sat in a phone booth in the middle of nowhere, cloaked in the dark of night, recklessly reaching out again for some semblance of sanity to hold him together until Thursday. The thought of his friend sitting alone in the dark brought a lump to the blond’s throat and he opened his eyes and turned his angry glare upon the gray haired agent named Slate.

 

Hutch’s voice, though soft, was menacing, his eyes flashing silver, burning the agent under its molten heat, “Just what the fuck are you accusing my partner of?” The blond detective saw with satisfaction that the older man seemed to shrivel a little in his seat.

 

Hutchinson! Take it easy,” Dobey chimed in, “No one is accusing Starsky of anything!”

 

“Take it easy detective,” Hillyard said calmly, “We were just telling your Captain here that we were concerned because we weren’t getting more tape recordings of the conversations going on in Starsky’s cover apartment. For some reason, he’s been neglecting to turn on the ‘bug’ we planted in there and since we know he’s had some of the bikers over on a regular basis, as well as Diesel, the Minion’s president, well . . . we can only assume that Starsky is either avoiding us, or he just hasn’t had the chance to turn the mechanism on, which we know can’t be the case all of the time.” Steve Hillyard cleared his throat uncomfortably, pulling at the collar of his shirt, slightly loosening the tie, as the blond turned his frigid glare on him.

 

“Hutch . . .” Dobey said soothingly, “These men are just concerned like you . . . if nothing has changed, the bust will go down two days from now. Did Starsky tell you if there were any changes to th . . .”

 

“That’s another thing,” Slate interjected, “Detective Starsky was foolish to risk the operation and seek you out . . . he could have blown the whole damn thing sky high when we’re so close to putting a lid on all of this. What the hell was he thinking?”

 

Hutch turned to glare at the gray haired agent, who calmly took a sip from his foam cup, his eyes haughtily locked on the angry countenance of the blond, “Maybe if your men had been doing their jobs correctly,” the blond detective said icily, “Starsky wouldn’t have had to seek me out! If your men were watching over him, like they are paid to do,” the blond’s tone reeked with contempt, “Then they would have seen the bikers bringing Brody in. They could have assembled a task force and prevented that brawl in the first place. Where were your men Slate?”

 

Hutch could feel his anger fueling as the older man looked away, suddenly interested in something floating in his coffee. The flaxen haired detective snorted with disdain, “Wait . . . let me guess . . . they were sleeping on the job like usual . . . meanwhile, my partner is out there, under and alone on Sunday night, surrounded by outlaw bikers with no one to watch his back, and all of this shit goes down on one of the few days that I wasn’t there for him. Fuck!” The irate blond snapped, his large hand whipping out to knock the coffee cup from Slate’s hand, spilling it hot contents all over the man’s dark suit.

 

Hutchinson!” Dobey growled, as Slate quickly stood, flicking the spilled coffee from his expensive suit, Hillyard quickly reached for the box of Kleenex on Dobey’s desk, handing a few tissues over to the other agent.

 

“Really, Detective Hutchinson,” Hillyard said quickly, “There’s no need for that kind behavior. I like to look at the positive side of things, and perhaps, this was Starsky’s way of getting more information to us. We’ve started searching for this Brody character and for this place called the Abyss, but as of yet we have gleaned no information regarding both subjects.”

 

“Well then, perhaps instead of sitting here sipping coffee,” Hutch sneered sarcastically, “Might I suggest you move your fat, lazy asses off of those seats, get back out on the streets, and do your fuckin’ jobs. It’s always easier to accuse someone who’s not here to defend himself!”

 

“That’s enough Hutchinson.” Dobey warned, his gruff voice barking out at the three men who crowded his office, “This is not the time, or the place, to be bickering like school kids. I have a man out there whose life is on the line right now as we speak . . . and I damn well better get Starsky back in one piece after all is said and done!” The dark man’s bellows snuffed out the heated feelings that permeated the room, focusing everyone’s attention back to the subject at hand.

 

“All right,” Slate said, “I’m sorry if you felt we were accusing your partner, but that was not the case. We know since Monday, Diesel has been seen at your partner’s apartment at least twice and yet, we couldn’t hear what was going on inside. We’ve spent a lot of time and money to properly equip that unit so that we could monitor what was going on in there, especially in case there was some kind of emergency, where Starsky might need us to move in and assist him in anyway. It is imperative that Starsky remember to turn on the mechanism so that we can tape any conversations that might help us incriminate these outlaw bikers.”

 

Hutch sighed and dry washed the length of his face. It disturbed him to know that Starsky had been with Diesel several times since he’d last seen his partner at his place. ‘And just why didn’t he turn on the bug?’Was Starsky purposely trying to avoid being taped? Was that when he was getting his fix?’

 

The tall blond pushed those dark thoughts from his mind, suddenly angry with himself for thinking of them in the first place. Here he was, ready to go off on these two suits for denouncing his partner, and now, not even five minutes later, he was silently accusing and slandering Starksy himself. ‘What the hell kind of friend am I?’

 

Hutch hung his head in shame, his pale blue eyes lowered to the floor as thoughts of his partner ran rampant in his mind. He could sense that his partner was fracturing; torn between his job and the relationships he had built to worm his way into the suspicious, and often paranoid society of the club. Starsky needed a lifeline thrown in, he needed to be drawn back, even if it were only for a day to get grounded again, to get him mentally ready for Thursday’s big bust, Hutch intuitively knew that this would be a difficult time for his partner, seeing all of his biker friends, men he’d ridden with for the past six months being cuffed and hauled out.

 

The tall blond knew he would be going against regulations if he contacted Starsky in anyway. He didn’t even know if Starsky’s phone was bugged. It would jeopardize everything if they were caught, but when did he and Starsky ever follow rules and regulations? They walked to the beat of their own drum, to the beat of their own hearts, and right now Hutch’s heart was telling him to call his partner.

 

“Am I done here?” Hutch asked impatiently, “I’ve got work to do”. Having made a quick decision to risk a call to his partner after his shift ended, the tall blond wanted to be out of there, hating the federal agents even more as they sat quietly and looked at him, sipping their coffee like they had all the time in the world.

 

Dobey sighed, “Yeah, you can go Hutch . . . but be ready for Thursday.” The three older men watched as the young blond cop stormed out of the room, the slamming of the door reverberating in the still aftermath of his departure.

 

~ Chapter Thirteen ~

 

He could hear himself gasping, his breathing rapid and shallow as he tossed and turned on the thin mattress, his pillow damp with his perspiration as he laid upon it, trying to surf through the constant pain that dug into his left side with each breath that he took in.

 

He was aching, his broken body protesting every movement, feeling heavy, lethargic, and uncomfortable, the sweet rush of the drug having left his body hours ago, only to leave him desperately craving for more. God, it felt like a bus had hit him; his heavy body dragging him wearily down, making him not want to move at all. He felt like shit boiled over . . .

 

‘Probably look worse than shit,’ the brunet thought, the small lopsided grin that feebly tweaked the corners of his mouth immediately vanished and was replaced by a grimace as he slowly turned his body towards the wooden box beside his bed, blinking the sweat from his dark blue eyes. He groggily tried to focus on the numbers of the small travel clock that sat next to the phone.

 

5:45 pm.

 

Damn! He’d been sleeping for over ten hours and his traitorous body still wanted to drag him down into the possessive arms of Morpheus, the Greek mythological god of dreams, who filled his sleeping hours with nightmares of Hutch being blown away in the police garage by burly men riding on Harleys. His eyes slowly drifted to the small container next to the clock . . .

 

“Oh shit,” Starsky gasped softly, spying the small bottle of cocaine and the paraphernalia that Diesel had left for him to use. Closing his eyes in agony, the outline of the small bottle burned in his mind’s eye, making him ache to reach over and grab it, knowing it would instantly take away the overwhelming feeling of weariness that bombarded him and ease the stabbing jolt of pain that burned in his side.

 

Starsky drew in a ragged breath, setting off another round of coughs that had been plaguing him for a while now. “Uungh,” the brunet groaned softly, clutching his side to support his ribs from the coughing spasms that shook his body, violently jostling his mending ribcage. Gasping, the dark haired cop scrunched his eyes closed, feeling the fluttering of his heart palpitating irregularly, as he rode out the pain that tore through his aching head and bruised ribs. The brunet wearily opened his eyes once more, trying to catch his breath, perspiration dripping down the side of his face, as his gaze locked painfully on the bottle . . . just an arm’s reach away, enticing and seductive . . .

 

All this time undercover, Starsky had taken the drug under the watchful eyes of the bikers. If he took it now, there would be one to blame but himself, no one was forcing his hand this time; Diesel wasn’t here offering it to him. There was no pretense anymore . . . the drug was calling, beckoning, and he could feel himself succumbing to her soft alluring whispers . . .

 

“No one will know . . . no one is here . . .”

 

“It’s okay . . . just one more time . . . just a little to ease the pain . . .”

 

“It’ll make you feel so much better . . . you want me . . . just reach over and take me . . .”

 

The brunet groaned softly again, closing his eyes from the temptation at hand, his body angrily protesting his resistance as a sharp pain stabbed once again into his side. Gasping, Starsky clutched his ribs, as the need for the drug pounded him mercilessly, and though he tried to fight it, he could feel himself weakening.

 

“It’s okay . . . no one will know . . . Hutch will never know . . . it’ll help get you through ‘til Thursday . . . no one is here to see . . .”

 

The dark haired cop tried to think, but his mind and body were screaming out for the tempting powder that lay at his fingertips. He painfully turned on his good side to look once more at the little bottle that stood innocently on the box. ‘If I don’t take anything, I’ll never make it through tomorrow, much less Thursday.’ Starsky could hear his mind rationalizing, ‘Diesel will wonder why I didn’t take what he left. It would just make him suspicious.’

 

The brunet blinked the sweat from eyes which were feverishly bright for want of the drug, knowing a few lines would send him into heaven once again, where pain and guilt and shame could not touch him anymore. The suffering cop reached out a trembling hand for the tiny bottle, his fingers shaking with need . . .

 

The sudden ringing of the phone startled the dark haired man from his trancelike state, and he quickly drew back his hand as if it were burned. For a second he stared at the phone, his mind still stuck on the temptation that sat within reach. Breathing heavily, the brunet closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to still the alluring call that whispered wantonly to him. Starsky reached out again, but this time, his hand grabbed the phone, lifting the receiver to his ear.

 

“Y-Yeah?” Starsky queried softly, surprised at the unsteadiness of his voice. What happened just now shook the dark haired detective to the core; he hadn’t realized how dependent on the drug he’d become and it filled him with anger and despair.

 

‘If Hutch could see me now . . .’

 

The brunet shuddered with that thought. Disgusted with himself he held the receiver closer to his lips,  “H’lo?” he said in stronger, harsher voice.

 

“Hey . . . that you buddy?” A soft familiar voice whispered on the other end, causing the brunet to close his eyes again in anguish, his long dark lashes hiding the shame he felt, as color and heat bloomed in his cheeks and neck.

 

Hutch could hear the quickening of his partner’s breathing and he held the receiver tighter against his own ear, his heart suddenly racing as he sensed something wrong. The tall blond detective took a cleansing breath in, calming himself down to gentle the worry in his voice, “You okay pal? Can you talk?”

 

Like a little boy who was caught with his fingers in the cookie jar, Starsky found himself nodding remorsefully. His partner’s silence on the other end of the line made the brunet remember that he needed to speak and he cleared his throat uncomfortably, swallowing down the lump that rose in his throat. “Yeah . . . no one’s here Hutch . . . jus’ me.”

 

The fair-haired detective could hear the almost sad desperation in his partner’s voice and he struggled to “hear” what was not being spoken, “You didn’t answer the first question Starsk . . . are you okay?” Hutch gently pushed, closing his eyes as he waited for his friend’s answer. The tall blond found himself smiling when he heard his partner’s soft snort on the other end.

 

Starsky smiled softly, shaking his head, “Can’t slip anythin’ by you . . . huh partner?”

The brunet winced and gritted his teeth as he moved himself into a sitting position on the bed, his back pressed against the concrete wall of his dingy room, “How come you callin’ here Hutch . . . ya ain’t playin’ by the rules ya know? You’re a bad boy Hutchinson . . . and Dobey always labels me as the instigator!”

 

Hutch snorted, knowing his partner was shying away from the subject at hand, trying to move the conversation away from himself. “Look Starsk,” the blond said softly, his gentle smile fading away as the furrow between his brows deepened, “I need to see you tonight.”

 

Starsky gritted his teeth and bit back the groan that wanted to slip out, holding onto his side as he sat up straighter, his senses on alert, “You okay Hutch? What’s wrong?”

 

‘Always putting me first . . .’ the blond thought sadly. It killed Hutch to hear the sudden concern in his partner’s voice, knowing Starsky would worry more about him than himself. “I-I just need to see you and I thought . . . I thought maybe I could come over there, or meet you somewhere . . .”

 

“Wha’? You can’t Hutch . . . not here . . .” the brunet whispered softly, wiping the sweat that dripped from his brow, trying to breath through the sharp pain that lanced his side, “Too dangerous . . . we might be seen . . .”

 

“Starsk? You okay?” The blond reiterated, hearing the long pauses and the way his partner took a breath between words, “You don’t sound too good . . .” Hutch felt a shudder rip through him as he heard Huggy’s voice whispering in his head again . . .

 

“Yeah . . .’specially if he’s hooked on snow.”

 

“Jus’ tired ‘s all,” Starsky said, his voice whisper thin, “I jus’ kinda woke up . . .” The wounded brunet looked once more to the small bottle that sat next near the base of the phone, his mind slipping away from the conversation as the aching need took over, the want for the drug stronger than the ache in his side, hearing the drone of his partner’s gentle voice, but not comprehending a word that was being said. All he could hear was the soft call of the tempter inside of his head, “No one will know . . . no one is here . . .”

 

“H’lo? You there?”

 

“Huh?” Starsky mumbled, shaking is head to clear his mind, “What?”

 

“Starsk . . .you okay? I asked you a question . . .”

 

“Yeah . . . ‘m sorry Hutch . . . shit . . . w-what the fuck was the question man?” Starsky stammered, his voice growing hard as it took on Snake’s persona, feeling frustrated and irritable as he closed his eyes to keep from seeing the bottle that stood within arms reach, focusing his whole attention on the voice that came through the line, the familiar voice that had the power to keep him from his demons.

 

Hutch frowned hearing his partner reverting back to his crude biker’s lingo, “I asked if maybe you could come over here instead. You could spend the night and all of Wednesday here at my place, then leave on Thursday and get back there before the bust goes down. What do you think? I really have some things I need to talk to you about at my place.”

 

Starsky could feel his heart speed up with trepidation. A few hours was one thing, but there was no way he could hide his addiction from Hutch for that long. Right now, not having the drug in his system was killing him . . . his mind and body pushing him for more; and having the drug within reach was driving him insane, spiking up the craving need that tore through him because it was so attainable.

 

“No one will know . . . no one is here . . .”

 

“It’ll make you feel so much better . . . you want me . . . just reach over and take me . . .”

 

The brunet struggled to catch his breath, his heart palpitating wildly, shaking his head to clear his mind, “Yeah? What kinda things Hutch? Why don’t ya just tell me now?”

 

“Look buddy, it wouldn’t be wise to do that over the phone. Come over tonight . . . it’ll only take 40 minutes or so to get here . . .” Hutch cajoled, his soft voice was a soothing balm to Starsky, calming the anxiety and frustration that raced throughout the brunet’s being.

 

“I-I don’ know Hutch . . . not feelin’ too good right now . . . don’ know if I should get on that bike . . .”

 

“Starsk? What’s wrong?” Hutch frowned, worry and concern flooding his soul, “Okay then, I’m coming over right now to pick you up . . .” Hutch said, when his partner refused to reply right away.

 

“No!” Starsky winced, clutching his side as he moved himself to the edge of the bed, “You can’t come here . . . too dangerous . . . the outlaws come over . . . whenever they feel like it  . . . if they see you Hutch . . . it’s all over . . . can’t risk that . . . the suits won’t be happy if they found out . . . found out you came here . . .”

 

Hutch could hear his partner’s heavy breathing on the other end of the line and the concern he felt for his partner’s welfare increased ten fold, “That’s the reason I need to see you tonight buddy, those clowns were in Dobey’s office this morning when I got there . . .”

 

Starsky closed his eyes, struggling to control his shortness of breath and the irregular fluttering of his heart. The sharp pain impaling his side prevented him from rising to his feet like he wanted to, and so he just sat there, feeling winded and sore as he tried to concentrate on what Hutch was telling him, “Yeah? What did they want?”

 

“Not here buddy . . . not on the phone,” Hutch reiterated, “Get ready . . . I’ll come over and pick you up and . . .”

 

“No . . . I’ll come over there.” Starsky said quickly, “Safer . . .” His body ached with fatigue and his left lung burned as it labored to draw in oxygen, making the detective have to suppress the cough that wanted to spasm out, “Anyway, Diesel gave me the day off tomorrow . . . just gotta be there for Thursday’s shipment . . . I’ll come over . . .”

 

Hutch frowned, “But you just said that you don’t feel good Starsk . . . that you can’t ride. I’m not about to let you jump on that Harley and risk you getting hurt buddy . . .”

 

“I said I’ll be there!” Starsky snapped, a hard edge suddenly creeping into his voice, as he gripped the receiver tightly in his hand. The brunet wiped the perspiration from his flushed face with the back of his other hand, and he took in a shallow breath to calm the sudden flare in his temper, “Jus’ . . . jus’ trust me Hutch . . . been riding for six months now, sometimes as drunk as a skunk! If I say I’ll be there, then I’ll be there . . .”

 

Starsky snorted softly at the silence on the other end, knowing his partner was probably pissed about the fact that he’d been riding drunk. If Hutch only knew that sometimes he’d ridden that roaring black monster flying higher than a kite, stoned out of his head on cocaine . . . he would have pulled him off this case a long time ago.

 

 

Hutch sputtered, feeling the hot anger flare up inside at his partner’s reckless stupidity; “Did you . . . d-d id you say you rode that bike drunk? Starsky . . . that’s plain stupid and you know it . . . how many times do I ha . . .”

 

“Take it easy Blintz . . . I don’t do it all the time . . .’sides I’m here talkin’ with ya ain’t I?” The brunet smiled, “Look . . . gonna pack up and get outta here . . .”

 

Hutch paused, the feeling of concern still hovering over him like a dark cloud, “Okay Starsk, but if you aren’t here in 45 minutes, then I’m coming to look for you . . . you got that?”

 

The dark haired detective grinned and saluted sarcastically in the stillness of his empty room, “Yes ma! I’ll be there in 50 minutes . . . I need some time to pack, dummy.”

 

Hutch snorted, imagining his partner flipping him off on the other side. The tall blond grinned, “Hurry up and get your ass over here pal . . . I miss ya!”

 

“Yeah?” Starsky drawled, feeling his near depleted heart suddenly filling up again with excitement and joy at being able to see his partner once more, “Well this ‘ass’ has missed ya too, you big lummox.” The brunet grinned lopsidedly as he heard his partner chuckle into the receiver that he pressed against his ear, the familiar sound spreading sudden warmth to his cold extremities. For a few seconds there was silence as both partners basked in each others company, until Starsky finally sighed, a small smile gracing his lips, “Well . . . I’ll see ya . . .”

 

“Yeah,” Hutch said warmly, his eyes softening with the fondness he felt for his partner, “I’ll be here buddy . . . waiting.” The tall blond smiled and gently hung up the phone. Though he could feel his heart beating with joy, the niggling fear and anxiety he felt all day was still there, and Hutch could only hope that somehow he’d be able to help his partner through whatever challenges lay ahead.

 

Starsky dropped his dark head as he heard the “click” on the other end of the line. Sighing heavily he gently lowered the receiver onto its cradle, feeling the heavy mantle of guilt and despair settling upon his shoulders once more. How the hell was he going to make it to Bay City when all he really wanted to do was to curl up and sleep, sinking into the darkness and fatigue that dragged his body down once more.

 

‘Shit!’ Starsky swore silently, his bright blue gaze once more returning to the magnetic pull of the white powder, it’s alluring voice still whispering in his ear . . .

 

“It’s okay . . . no one will know . . . Hutch will never know . . . it’ll help get you through ‘til Thursday . . . no one is here to see . . .”

 

The brunet clenched his eyes shut, hiding the desperate need that flared within a sea of anguishing blue. Groaning softly, the dark haired cop supported his ribs and managed to stand, his breathing labored and heavy. A sudden coughing jag left him winded and aching and Starsky looked once more to the small inconspicuous bottle that stood innocently beside the phone.

 

Holding out a trembling hand, the brunet reached for the little glass container, clenching on to it tightly, like how a drowning man would clench onto a life preserver. Making up his troubled mind, Starsky knew what he had to do. The defeated biker slowly unscrewed the cover of the bottle . . .

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

Hutch perused the apartment, satisfied with the tidiness of the room. The last time his partner had come over, the place was in shambles and the tall blond resolved himself to cleaning it, wanting to make sure that everything was in its place. He lit some candles and looked at his watch, hurrying to the oven to check on the roast he’d put in a while back, “The Paul Muni’s Special”. The wonderful rich aroma wafted through the air and filled the room with a warm homey feeling.

 

Hutch snorted softly remembering how that name came about for Starsky’s favorite recipe. Losing Helen that time had been difficult for his partner, but nothing had hit him harder than losing Terry. Looking back over the years, Hutch realized that life for he and his partner had been far from easy, but the thing that made the valleys in life bearable was having each other.

 

If not for his partner, Hutch knew he would have never survived those dark moments in his life; moments like when he lost Gillian, or when he had to overcome his addiction to heroin . . . moments like when he slept with Kira and almost severed the most important relationship he’d ever have.

 

Hutch shoved that dark thought from his mind. Relationships never came easy for the tall Nordic man, and he’d often wondered why God would bless him, Kenneth Hutchinson, with a partner who meant more to him than life itself. Good things like that rarely came his way and the blond counted his lucky stars that Starsky was still with him. His dark haired counterpart had taught him so much about what was important in life, about trying to see the positive in all things, about faith, about belief and childlike wonder and exuberance, about stamina and tenacity as he hung on and fought to stay alive, about acceptance, love and . . . and forgiveness.

 

Starsky had forgiven him for that incident years back, and yet, Hutch knew that as long as he lived, he’d never be able to forgive himself for being so selfish and stupid, for letting a conniving woman like Kira come between them, and he silently cursed himself again for being ten times a fool.

 

The sound of the Harley’s roar pulled him from his troubled thoughts and the blond went quickly to the window to look out below, seeing the familiar form of his partner on the huge bike, pulling in behind his dilapidated LTD. Hutch couldn’t suppress a smile of excitement that came to his lips as he watched his partner get off the bike and make his way to the door leading up to his place.

 

Rubbing his hands together in anticipation, Hutch hurried to the kitchen and checked on the roast once more, bending low to take out a bottle of red wine from the bottom cabinet and two wine glasses from the upper one.

 

The soft knock on the door surprised the blond, who had expected Starsky to just walk on in like he usually did. Hutch left the bottle and glasses on the counter and walked over to the door; a huge dopey smile plastered across his face. “Hey you, why so formal?” the tall blond greeted, his smile fading somewhat as he looked over his disheveled friend.

 

The intimidating biker garb lent an almost barbarous air to the brunet, who lifted his chin in greeting and said, “Ya gonna let me in, or should I just stand out here all night?”

 

Though it was said in jest, there was a hardness to that familiar voice that made Hutch quickly step back, opening the door wider in welcome, as the brunet sauntered in. Closing the door, Hutch realized belatedly that his partner hadn’t even made an attempt to connect with him, his dark blue eyes shifting away uneasily every time that Hutch tried to look directly at him.

 

“Hey buddy,” Hutch began, feeling the homey atmosphere in the room suddenly disappear, only to be replaced by quiet anxiousness, as his curly haired partner walked across the room. Hutch watched as the brunet looked uneasily around the place, his hooded eyes lighting upon the glowing candles, the table set for two, the bottle of wine and glasses on the counter where Hutch had left them to answer the door.

 

Starsky dragged his gaze back to his partner’s face, snorting softly as he shifted his eyes back to the table, “You expectin’ someone special?”

 

“Yeah dummy . . . you!” Hutch snorted, his sky blue eyes softening with fondness for his long-time friend, “Made your favorite dish . . .”

 

“Yeah, I can smell it . . . lemme guess . . .burritos?” the brunet joked, his eyes shifting around the room, unable to connect with his partner’s though his heart ached to do so. If Hutch looked at him directly, he’d know for sure, and that thought made Starsky cringe in guilt.

 

‘He knows.’

 

Hutch chuckled softly; although the bantering was a little stilted, the blond shrugged it off, rationalizing that Starsky was still deep in the biker persona that he’d been forced to wear for this long-term assignment. ‘Hell, even dancers who’d been partners for a long time, had to get the “feel” of one another before going out together on the floor once more,’ Hutch thought silently.

 

“Why don’t you sit down,” the tall blond said, indicating the table with a nod of his chin, “You can pour the wine and I’ll bring out the roast.”

 

Starsky nodded slowly, walking to the counter to grab the bottle and the wine glasses as Hutch went to the oven door, pulling out the roast with mitten-covered hands. The smell of the roast was so enticing, and the blond could feel his mouth watering, as he carried out the metal pan to the table where his partner stood removing the cork from the bottle.

 

“Hey!” Starsky said, feeling his stomach suddenly turn as the smell of cooked meat permeated the room, “The Paul Muni special!” For a minute his dark gaze connected to the blond’s, and then the brunet quickly looked away once more, the image of sky blue eyes, warmed with affection, ingrained upon his mind’s eye, making his heart race even faster than it already was.

 

“Just for you Gordo,” Hutch said softly, noticing how his friend’s gaze shifted away once more. The flaxen haired detective eyed his partner, noting the weight loss, the defensive stance to his posture,  “Eat up buddy, looks like you haven’t been taking care of yourself . . . you been eating?”

 

Starsky grinned, his eyes downcast, his gaze fixed on the wine he was pouring, “Yup . . . all the time!” the brunet said with mock cheerfulness, handing a wine glass to his partner who took it. At the brush of his Hutch’s warm fingers against his own, Starsky quickly dropped his eyes again and busied himself by pouring another glass of wine.

 

The dark haired biker could feel the anxiety building within, wanting to explode out, making him antsy and jumpy. What he really wanted to do was to pace around the room, instead of standing so still pouring wine from a bottle into a little glass that he just wanted to take and throw against the wall. The wine sloshed a little as the bottle trembled and shook in the brunet’s hand, the red liquid looking like splotches of blood against the white of the tablecloth.

 

“Hey . . .”

 

Starsky heard the soft, gentle whisper of his partner; and felt the warmth of Hutch’s hand suddenly resting upon his own to help steady the bottle, making a lump suddenly appear in his throat, the touch melting the distance he struggled to keep, nearly undoing him.

 

Hutch squeezed his partner’s cold hand, his eyes growing soft with concern, “Starsk . . .”

It felt good to touch his partner again, and the blond moved closer to rub his partner’s shoulder, surprised when his friend quickly pulled way once more . . .

 

“’M okay Hutch  . . . jus’ . . . just tired  . . .” Starsky said, sniffling as he walked slowly around the dining table to sit in his usual seat, “Let’s eat huh?”

 

The furrow between the blond’s brows deepened, but to his credit, Hutch remained silent, moving to sit across the dark haired biker, his pale blue eyes falling to the tattooed cobra on his friend’s bicep, “Nice lookin’ snake you got there . . .” the blond smiled as he nodded to the hennaed painting, wracking his mind of something to say that would bring back the intimacy of their friendship that they had shared over the phone. It seemed that every time they got together physically, there was some unspoken tension that permeated their relationship. Like a recurring nightmare, the haunting voice of Huggy whispered knowingly in his mind . . .

 

“You saw him just now . . . he can’t control his temper, his face lookin’ so tired and drawn, his constant sniffling, the weight loss, his bleeding nose . . . he’s been snortin’ Hutch . . . for a while now it seems. I’ve seen this too many times before to not know the signs of a coke-head”

 

The blond returned his gaze to his partner’s smirking face as Starsky drawled out, “Yeah? Well if you like this snake, then you should see the big one in my pants!” The brunet snickered softly to himself, knowing his joke was in part truth, since the drug always heightened his sexual senses.

 

Hutch chuckled at his partner’s crudeness, slicing the roast carefully as he served some on Starsky’s plate. “Yeah? Well I think this meat will taste better.” The blond’s smile widened as he heard his dark haired counterpart nearly choke on the morsel he had just stuck in his mouth, as he laughed out loud. “Here,” Hutch said graciously, handing the glass of wine over to his partner, “Try not to choke on that buddy.”

 

The dark haired biker snickered into his wine. Composing himself once more, the brunet tipped his head back and downed the whole glass. Starsky lifted the bottle to fill his glass once more and watched his blond partner, as he chewed and swallowed the roast he’d put into his mouth.

 

“Thanks Hutch,” Starsky murmured softly.

 

“For what buddy?” Hutch asked, his eyes growing soft, catching the glow from the candle’s light.

 

“For all of this,” the brunet whispered, indicating the spread before him, feeling himself getting soapy, Starsky said with a grin, “And for re-hiring the maid. I noticed the clean utensils.” Hutch laughed as his friend held up a shiny spoon and waved it to and fro.

 

 “Only for you buddy . . . only for you!” Hutch said grinning; watching as his partner slowly returned his attention to his plate.

 

For a moment, their special bond was back, and Hutch could feel himself relaxing a bit as he eyed his partner, noting the tired, drawn lines on Starsky’s face, the way he continued to avoid direct contact, his dark eyes shifting away uneasily whenever they lighted upon his face, but most of all, he noticed how Starsky listlessly pushed the roast and potatoes around on his plate, drinking more wine than anything else.

 

“You want another?” Starsky asked, lifting the bottle. At Hutch’s slight wave of decline, Starsky sniffled and quickly poured himself another, drinking it down like a shot.

 

“You think you could slow down a bit with that wine buddy?” Hutch asked, concern marring his face, “How ‘bout some more potatoes?”

 

“Nah . . . this is more than enough . . .’s good!” Starsky said, lifting another piece of meat from his plate, forcing himself to stick it into his mouth. Since being hooked on coke, the brunet noticed his appetite for food had waned dramatically.

 

Though the brunet slowly chewed, Hutch had seen the slight hesitation before his partner ate the small piece of beef, watching as the brunet swallowed it down with some difficulty, only to quickly pour himself another glass of wine and tank it down as if to wash away the residual taste of the meat.

 

“Something wrong with the roast buddy?” Hutch asked, his forehead creasing as he mentally checked if he’d missed any ingredients in the rush to prepare his friend’s favorite meal.

 

“No . . . nuthin’s wrong . . . I said it’s good.” Starsky reiterated, an edge hardening his voice once more, as he stabbed his fork into the roast, lifting his knife to cut another piece for himself.

 

“Well if you’d like to put some ketchup on that, I can get it for you and . . .”

 

“I said it’s fine!” the biker growled softly, his knuckles turning white as he clenched tightly to the knife and fork.

 

“But if you’d like, I can ge. . . “

 

“Hutch will you get off my back huh?” the brunet snapped suddenly, throwing down his utensils to roughly shove the plate away from him as he abruptly stood.

 

The table rocked slightly from the violent motion, and Hutch quickly reached over to grab the lit candles and the near empty wine bottle before they tipped over, righting them quickly, his eyes riveted on the retreating back of his partner who made a beeline towards the front door.


”Starsky wait!” Hutch called out, his long legs catching up with the brunet’s, grabbing his partner roughly by the shoulder to whip him around so that he could see his friend’s angry expression. The clatter of something falling out from the biker’s vest almost drew the blond’s attention away from his friend’s face, but now that he held his partner in close proximity, the fair haired cop finally had the chance to take a good look into Starsky’s angry gaze.

 

Hutch’s sky blue eyes widened as he saw the dilated pupils, ebony darkness surrounded by a tiny sea of blue. The blond gasped softly as Starsky angrily broke his hold and took a few steps back, his breathing rapid and irregular, the hostile glare taking Hutch aback, as the eyes of the fair haired detective dropped to track the small bottle that finally rolled to stop by the table leg that fronted the couch.

 

The pale blue eyes of the blond turned to frost, as he lifted his gaze to meet his partner’s, “Y-you talk to me now Starksy . . . t-tell me what’s going on right now!” Hutch stammered, his face reddening in anger, as he watched his partner pace angrily to and fro like a caged beast.

 

“Just what the fuck do you think is happening huh?” Starsky snapped, his voice low and menacing, breathing hard as he faced his best friend,  “You’re the fuckin’ college boy . . . the brains of the partnership. . . the know-it-all. Why don’t you tell me what the fuck is happening?”

 

For a minute they stood facing one another, both too upset beyond words, one angry with his partner, the other angry at himself. Struggling to get a hold of his rampant emotions, Hutch drew in a deep breath and slowly walked towards the couch, stooping to pick up the small clear bottle filled with the pearlescent white powder. The tall blond held it at eye level, knowing that the cocaine was uncut and pure by the color of the stuff. Hutch looked over to his partner, who in turn, closed his eyes, long dark lashes hiding his shame as he lowered his head, his chest lifting slightly with his labored breathing.

 

“Starsk . . .” Hutch said, gentling his voice, feeling sick inside as he heard Huggy’s haunting voice once more, ringing in his ears . . .

 

“Look, I know you don’t want to hear this Hutch, but he’s hooked on coke . . . probably been doing several lines a day to have his nose bleed like that.”

 

“Starsk,” Hutch began again, struggling to keep it together for the both of them, “Talk to me . . .” he whispered, his voice soft and calming, as he walked slowly towards the brunet, bottle in hand, “How much of this did you take?” Starsky looked up, his dilated eyes looked strange to the blond detective.

 

Although he had assumed that Hutch was aware of his addiction to the narcotic, for some reason, hearing the blond talking about it caught the dark haired cop completely off guard. Starsky struggled to catch his breath, the frantic racing of his heart slowing down a bit, as irregular palpitations began to beat out strange rhythms in his chest. He was going to start spiraling down soon and the brunet didn’t want to hit rock bottom, not here, not in front of Hutch whom he held in such high esteem. It would kill him if Hutch saw him going through withdrawals, especially after having lived through it himself. He had to get out . . . and get out now, before he was unable to do anything else except sleep.

 

Starsky shook his head slowly, his eyes shifted away from the love and concern that was evident on the blond’s face, “Not now Hutch,” he whispered, “We can have this talk of yours after Thursday . . . once it’s all over. I jus’ . . . I jus’ can’t right now . . . I gotta get outta here!”

 

Anticipating his partner’s next move, Hutch beat the brunet to the door once more, his large palm slamming against the wooden surface, turning quickly to grab onto his partner as he struggled to reach the knob.

 

 “Damn it Starsky, we’re gonna talk right here and right now.” You can’t run from this forever . . .” Hutch said, forcefully pushing his partner up against the door, holding his struggling form still by shoving his body into the brunet’s.

 

The blond’s pale blue eyes widened as he heard the painful gasp that came from his friend. Quickly stepping away from his partner, Hutch gently held onto the brunet as the dark haired detective folded over, his right arm reaching across his mid section to clutch his left side.

 

“Oh god Starsk,” Hutch whispered, hanging on to his partner tightly, feeling the brunet jolt in his arms, gasping, eyelids scrunched closed as he rode out the wave of pain that coursed through his side, “I-I’m sorry buddy, I didn’t m-mean to . . .” Hutch murmured, feeling sick inside that he might have unintentionally hurt his friend. Hutch could hear his partner trying to catch his breath, as he struggled to get a handle on the pain that coursed through his being, “You okay?”

 

A soft snort from the brunet allayed the blond’s fears. “It would take . . . more than that  . . . to hurt me,” Starsky said, wincing again from the sharp pain that lanced in his side as he tried to draw in a deep breath; sending him into a fit of coughing instead, hacking coughs that burned and pierced his left lung and ribs.

 

“Take it easy Starsk,” Hutch soothed as he rubbed his partner’s heaving back, knowing the coughs were tearing into his friend’s side by the painful gasps that came from the brunet. Once the round of coughs had subsided, Hutch helped his weakened partner to the couch, noting how Starsky gritted his teeth as he sat stiffly, his hand still wrapped to his ribs. Hutch turned worried eyes to his partner’s left side, “Let me take a look at that Starsky . . .”

 

“Nah . . .’m fine . . .” Starsky said breathing hard, feeling winded from all that coughing, his lungs burning within as he laid his head back against the couch and closed his eyes. The dark haired biker abruptly opened his eyes once more, as he felt his friend reaching for his vest. “I said ‘m fine Hutch . . .”

 

“Look . . .” Hutch said angrily, struggling for patience, “You and I both know you are not fine! Now I’m gonna take a look at your ribs whether you like it or not and while I’m doing that, you better spill it and tell me how your ribs got busted . . .” Hutch bolstered up his resolve as he stared his angry partner down, watching as the hostile glare slowly left his partner’s cobalt colored eyes, noticing the small grin that gradually tweaked the corners of Starsky’s mouth.

 

“Okay . . .okay . . . we’ll do this your way ‘cause I love it when you get all riled up like that Blondie,” Starsky snickered, playfully batting his long lashes up at his friend as Hutch carefully pulled his tucked tee shirt out from the waistband of his tight jeans. “How d’ya know . . . my ribs . . . are busted anyway?”

 

As careful as he was, Hutch knew he hurt his partner as Starsky winced and held his breath until his shirt and vest were removed. Gasping softly, the brunet lowered his muscled arms after Hutch pulled his shirt loose, his right hand once again moving in to support his side. The tall blond detective looked up to see his dark haired friend staring at him, more of the familiar blue could be seen around the dark pupils and Hutch knew the drug was slowly leaving Starsky’s system, “Who wrapped them?” the blond asked, indicating the bandages around the brunet’s ribcage.

 

“Pretty good huh?” At Hutch’s lack of a response, the biker quickly said, “Diesel . . . Diesel wrapped ‘em . . . he was a medic in ‘Nam . . . that’s why I told ya . . . ‘m fine Hutch.”

 

The dark haired biker sighed once more, as his partner ignored him and slowly unwrapped the bandages to check out the damage himself. Starsky knew that when Hutch was in his overprotective mother-hen mode, there was no stopping the blond; and the brunet closed his eyes and waited tensely for the explosion to come.

 

“Who the hell did this to you?” the blond snapped angrily, the pale blue of his eyes turning to molten silver as he eyed the horrible bruising that wrapped around his partner’s whole left side, “How the fuck did this happen Starsk?”

 

The brunet shrugged lamely, “I fell off the bike?” Seeing that his jokes were fueling his friend’s anger, Starsky struggled to sit up straighter, sucking his breath in at the jarring pain in his side; without the aid of the bandages, Starsky could feel the pain even more. “Okay,” the biker sighed, “I got jumped the other night at the “Freebirds.” I pissed Sniper off and they took me out back to teach me a lesson.”

 

“They?” Hutch queried, his pale brow rising in anger, “How many?”

 

“Three . . . one of ‘em had a set of brass knuckles, but he tried to be careful . . .” the brunet grinned weakly, “Sniper made them do it . . . ‘cause I let a kid escape from that creep’s clutches . . . he would’a raped her Hutch . . .”

 

“You helped a girl escape and they pulverized your ribs because of it?” Hutch could feel his temper rising, helpless frustration seared his heart as he thought of his partner facing those brutes, outnumbered and alone.

 

“Yeah, but then Jinx chased Sniper off, and then they let me go home and everything was cool.” Starsky said, tensing and gasping softly as Hutch probbed gently against his bruised side, examining each tender rib. Wincing as he listened to his partner’s painful breathing, the blond lowered his hand, “Maybe I should take you to see a doctor tomorrow,” the blond said softly, “It looks like at least two of your ribs might be fractured.”

 

“See?” Starsky said brightly, “That’s what Diesel and Jinx said. ‘M fine buddy . . . just gotta keep ‘em wrapped. That’s what they said. It’ll mend by itself.”

 

The blond closed his eyes, his pale lashes hiding the anger and anguish he felt after hearing what had been done to his friend, his partner’s apparent ‘cheerfulness’ didn’t help much either as he thought about Starsky’s call the other night,  “This happened that early morning when you called me from the pay phone didn’t it?” Hutch whispered, “I sensed you were hurt . . . you were sitting in the dark, talking to me with busted ribs . . . fuck!”

 

“Don’t. Don’t even go there . . .” Starsky whispered, holding up his arms as Hutch began to rewrap his ribs, “This ain’t about you watchin’ my back Hutch” the brunet winced, as the bandages cinched in his sides, seeing the guilt and remorse that quickly crossed his partner’s face once again.

 

“Hey . . .” Starsky said suddenly, laying his hand upon Hutch’s, stopping the blond’s ministrations, “Listen to me buddy . . .” Starsky whispered, his eyes softening with affection for his tall blond friend, “If it weren’t for you that night, I don’t think . . . I don’t think I could’a gone on. Jus’ hearing your voice helped . . . ya know? Listening to you made everythin’ all right again . . .you’re always with me Hutch . . . I mean . . . even when you’re not . . .”

 

The brunet swallowed down the lump that came to his throat as he saw the sky blue eyes of his friend, swim with unshed tears. Starsky struggled to keep his emotions in check, dragging his partner’s forehead to his own, his fingers lost in the soft, silky blond strands at the nape of Hutch’s neck. “Me and thee . . . always.” Starsky whispered, drinking in the goodness that was Hutch, feeling at peace somehow despite all of the challenges that still had to be overcome.

 

Hutch took in a quivering breath and nodded; his eyes closed, his head pressed against

Starsky’s, smelling the familiar scent of sandalwood and stale smoke, feeling his partner’s fingers as they played with his hair, intuitively knowing that somehow everything would be all right. Together they could overcome any obstacle . . . they somehow always did. With a heavy sigh, both men pulled apart and Hutch quickly re-wrapped his partner’s bruised and broken ribs and helped him get dressed again. The tall blond then stood, and went to get the wine glasses, filling his partner’s with more of the red liquid.

 

“You wanna tell me about the ‘suits’?” Starsky asked, taking the delicate glass from his partner’s hand, his eyes bluer now than they were a few minutes ago. He could feel the heaviness creeping into his limbs, his heart palpitating irregularly as he struggled to catch his breath, he was spiraling down and that thought shook him to the core.

 

Hutch watched his partner’s hand tremble, the wine rippling gently in the glass with the slight tremors that shook it. ‘He’s starting to crash’ the blond thought silently, knowing that the euphoria you got from taking coke, didn’t last as long as the high you got from heroin. The blond cleared his throat; “Yeah, Hillyard and Slate were in Dobey’s office this morning.”

 

“Yeah? Whatta they want?” Starsky said, grunting softly as he leaned over to put the glass on the table fronting the couch. The fatigued biker reclined once more, clasping his hands together, as a means of stilling the tremors that gave away his wanting need. He could feel himself craving more of the drug, needing it to keep away the debilitating weariness that its withdrawal brought on.

 

“They said they’re not getting anymore recordings from you cover pad, said you’re not turning on the ‘bug’.” Hutch replied softly, eyeing the sudden frown that marred the brunet’s face.

 

“What?” Starsky said irritably, gasping softly as he rose to his feet, his right arm pressed against his abdomen, his hand supporting his ribs, dark eyes glittering dangerously, “There hasn’t been any action in my cruddy apartment for weeks now . . . what the fuck are they talkin’ abou . . .”

 

“They said they saw Diesel at your place twice now, since Monday” Hutch interjected softly, “That true buddy?”

 

“Yeah it’s true,” Starsky snapped, “But so what . . . nuthin’ worth taping was said between us . . . jus’ what the hell are the Feds accusing me of?” Starsky snarled defensively.

 

“Take it easy buddy,” Hutch soothed, “That’s what I asked them, and they said they’re not accusing you of anything, but they just want you to always make sure you turn the mechanism on whenever any of those outlaws come into your place. Let them be the ones to decide what information they need or don’t need okay?”

 

“’Kay . . .” Starsky murmured, the golden, soft voice of his partner always had the ability to douse the rising anger within him, “Shit . . . I mean it was nuthin’ Hutch.”

 

“Yeah? So just what did Diesel want? I mean what did you guys do in your apartment?” Hutch inquired softly, pale blue eyes connecting to darker sapphire that suddenly sparkled with anger.

 

“What? Now you accusin’ me too . . . huh buddy?” Starsky snarled, his voice hardening on the last word.

 

“I’m not accusing you of anything pal,” Hutch said calmly, though Starsky could hear a slight edge to his velvet laced voice, “I’m just wanna know what Diesel wanted with you?” Hutch watched as partner began to pace, his movements were agitated and angry.

 

The brunet turned, his eyes flashing, “You know what he wanted? Huh? He wanted to see if I was okay after what happened that night to Brody. I tried to get him to tell me where the abyss was and he wouldn’t, saying it was safer for me not to know. Then he gave me his philosophy about living a life with no regrets . . .”

 

“And then?” Hutch calmly pushed, knowing he might set his partner’s explosive temper off, knowing that Starsky was barely holding it together as it was.

 

For a moment Starsky glared at the tall blond and then he sighed heavily, suddenly weary of all of this bullshit, his stamina almost drained as the effects of the cocaine left his body. The pain in his side continued to worsen, the drug’s leaving unmasking its brutal hold upon his ribs. Breathing heavily, the brunet closed his eyes, hiding the anguish he felt, not wanting to see his friend’s face as he said dejectedly, “Alright . . .you wanna know why he was there? He gave me more stuff okay? I was crashin’ and he gave me more coke before I hit bottom.”

 

Starsky felt sick inside, trembling with pain and humiliation as he finally admitted his addiction to cocaine. It killed him to have to say it to Hutch, but he couldn’t bring himself to lie about it anymore. Lying to his friends hurt worse. Starsky stiffened as he felt the warm touch of Hutch’s hand upon his shoulder. Immersed as he was in self-reproach, he hadn’t even heard the quiet footsteps of the tall blond until the warmth of the friend’s touch invaded his being.

 

“Hey . . . it’s okay Starsk,” Hutch murmured compassionately, “Take it easy buddy, its . gonna be o . . .”

 

“Don’t Hutch,” Starsky said stiffly, “Don’t tell me it’s gonna be okay ‘cause it ain’t . . . I fucked up! I snorted some lines to save my cover and now . . . now I can’t get enough of that stuff.” Hutch watched as dark sapphire eyes, filled with anguish and remorse, lifted to his own, “I’m hooked Hutch . . .” the brunet said, his voice quivering with shame, “I’m hooked on coke.”

 

The brunet’s soft admission echoed in the quiet heaviness of the room and it pained Hutch to see his partner so broken and defeated.

 

“I know . . . buddy I know . . .” Hutch said softly, pulling his friend into his warm embrace, “I’m here Starsk . . . right here and we’ll get through this too . . . together. I asked Dobey for a week off for the both of us when this job is over, and he’s giving us two . . .”

 

“He knows?” Starsky whispered sickly, pressing his forehead wearily against his partner’s shoulder.

 

Hutch lifted his hand to the nape of his partner’s neck, gently massaging away the tension he found there, “No . . . no one knows except me and Huggy . . . not even Dobey.”

 

Starsky sniffled, somehow feeling a little better with that knowledge. He felt like shit now, the coke gone from his system, his body aching with the beating he’d taken the other night, the pain in his ribs intensifying beyond tolerance. Starsky pulled away gently from Hutch’s embrace, attempting to catch his breath, as his heart pushed out strange rhythms, palpitating irregularly.

 

The brunet tried to draw in a breath, which sent him into another round of painful coughs that made the dark haired cop groan and clutch his side in agony. Shards of white-hot heat tore into his side and lungs, as the gasping brunet struggled to ride out the pain.

 

Hutch hung onto his partner as Starsky folded over, right arm across his mid-section, his hand supporting his heaving ribs under the onslaught of the hacking coughs that ripped through his upper body. Gently leading the brunet to the bedroom, Hutch helped his partner sit on the edge of the bed, as the winded biker tried to catch his breath once more.

 

“You want something to drink? Water?” Hutch asked, deep concern for his partner’s well being, marring his handsome features, “How long have you had this cough buddy?”

 

Starsky snorted wearily, knowing his partner was already worrying about his compromised lung, “Don’t start ma . . .tired . . . jus’ wanna sleep without worryin’ for once.” The brunet winced as he tried to take off the patched denim vest that declared him a “Warrior,” and Hutch immediately leaned in to help.

 

“I can do it Blintz,” the dark haired said, managing to take the vest off then gingerly pulling the tee shirt over his head; a small groan escaping his lips caused the blond to wince in sympathy. The brunet grinned wearily, throwing the tee-shirt to the ground, “Shit we should’a just kept the shirt off huh?” Hutch bit his lip to keep from offering his help, as the brunet struggled to get out of his tight jean.

 

“Here . . . let me help you with your boots at least, so you can take those off,” the blond said graciously nodding towards his friend’s tight jeans. Facing his back to the brunet, Hutch stepped over his Starsky’s right leg and pulled at the black leather boot, his mouth spreading into a grin, as he felt the bottom of the curly haired man’s other boot pushing against his rear. “Hey . . . watch where you stick that thing!” Hutch cautioned, chuckling as he heard the soft snort that came from his partner.

 

“That’s what happens when you wave your butt in my face Blondie,” Starsky chortled, groaning softly again as his ribs loudly protested the amusement. “Shit!” the brunet gasped, pressing against the bandages that wrapped his left side, “Feel like . . . I went twenty rounds  . . . with Muhammed Ali.”

 

Hutch got off the other boot without his partner’s help and made the curly haired detective lie back on his bed once his jeans were off. “I’ll be right back buddy,” Hutch said frowning, as he saw the brunet wince again in pain.

 

“Where ya goin’?” Starsky called out tiredly, his heavy body seemingly melting into the softness of the mattress, “C’mere Blintz . . .”

 

Hutch returned with a glass of water and a bottle of aspirin; shaking two pills onto the palm of his hand the tall blond gently said, “Here . . . drink this . . . it might help the pain some.” The tall blond watched as his partner swallowed back the pills and emptied the glass, taking it from him with a satisfied grin.

 

“What?” Starsky said, a small smile lifting the corner of his mouth as he looked up at his grinning friend.

 

“Nothing . . . just love it when you’re so obedient that’s all . . .” Hutch said, his eyes softening with affection for the brunet, who softly snorted, then carefully snuggled down into the blankets, his dark lashes fanning out against flushed cheeks resembling dark crescent moons. From this angle, Hutch thought his partner’s curled lashes could have passed for a little girl’s, especially against those rosy cheeks of his.

 

“You got a little wind burned today . . . huh buddy?” Hutch said softly, smiling as he brushed the pad of his thumb across Starsky’s cheek. The furrow between the tall blond’s pale brows deepened as he frowned, “You feel a little warm Starsk . . . you okay?”

 

“’M ‘kay . . .” Starsky mumbled, “Jus’ tired . . . would’ya just . . . turn off the lights . . . and get in here already?”

 

Hutch snorted softly and went to turn off the lights in the living room. Taking off his shirt and pants, the messy blond dumped them on his bedroom floor in a heap and clicked off the bedside lamp. Climbing carefully into the bed so that he wouldn’t jostle his wounded partner, Hutch laid his golden head back onto the soft pillow. He could tell by the soft snores coming from his partner that Starsky was already down for the count.

 

The blond detective smiled softly in the dark, turning his body to face his sleeping partner.  It made Hutch happy to see Starsky sleeping like that. Maybe his friend could finally get some much needed rest. They would have all day tomorrow to talk about what to do regarding Starsky’s addiction. Rest was the most important thing on the agenda right now, and Hutch closed his own weary eyes. It was wonderful to feel his partner lying beside him and for the first time, in a long time, Hutch could finally feel himself relaxing.

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen 

 

The thundering sounds of bikers on Harleys filled his ears, the dust from the motorcycles blinding him as the burly men circled around him, the wheels from their bikes digging into the loose dirt, making it difficult for him to see and breathe as he knelt in the dust.

 

Hacking coughs ripped through his side, his ribs painfully protesting the violent spasms that rocked his body, his burning lungs gasping for air, as he swam in a sea of perspiration. The mid-day sun continued to brutally bake him, and he looked desperately for Hutch amid the confusion of chrome and leather. Every so often, a soft breeze would blow and cool the heat from his cheeks, and he found himself waiting desperately for those gentle, brief intervals of respite.

 

One of the bikers got off of his dark blue Harley and the others slowed down to a stop, the huge cloud of dust gradually settling, as the motorcycles idled loudly. He could see the tall blond biker walking towards him, but he couldn’t get up, violently hacking up phlegm as he gasped for more air. The pain was an ever-burning fire that blossomed in his ribs and he longed for some water to cool his dry, cracked lips.

 

He sensed the biker towering over him, but he was too weary to lift his heavy head, scrunching his eyes tight as he struggled to ride out the sharp pain that brutally speared into him. The curly haired cop supported his left side, his other hand clenching a fistful of dirt, blinking away the perspiration that clung to the spiky tips of his lashes as he opened his eyes once more, seeing the black, dusty leather boots standing next to him. He forced himself to look up into icy blue eyes, eyes that glared down at him from a shadowed face, the sun haloing around a head of long golden locks.

 

“Thought you could betray us . . . huh little brother?” Diesel said, his voice whisper-soft and dangerous, “Did you think we were so stupid that we wouldn’t find out about you?”

 

Starsky struggled to speak, unable to draw enough air into his lungs to do so, his eyes tracking the biker’s hand as it lifted a gun to point directly at his head. The brunet squinted his eyes; the gun looked strangely familiar, and as the blurriness cleared he realized it was Hutch’s magnum.

 

Where was Hutch?

 

He looked around anxiously, then up again at the biker, praying for his partner’s safety, as he watched Diesel’s face slowly morph into Sniper’s.  “I told you asshole . . . it’s time to die mother fucker,” the redhead sneered, cocking the gun as he took aim and fired, the deafening sound of the cannon echoing off the desert canyons in his mind, as pain and blood oozed out from under his ribcage . . .

 

Starsky sat up abruptly, groaning softly as sharp pain dug into his side from the violent motion. His breathing was rapid and shallow, his dark blue eyes, feverishly wild and bright, gasping raggedly as he tried to still his rapidly beating heart.

 

It was just a dream  . . .  it was just a dream . . .

 

“Take it easy buddy,” Hutch soothed softly, gently nudging his partner into a reclining position once more, as he sponged the perspiration away from the brunet’s neck and face, “It was just a dream Starsk . . . I’m here buddy . . . everything’s okay . . . go back to sleep,” the tall blond whispered, soaking the washcloth into the cool basin of water, only to wring it out once more and apply it to his partner’s muscled chest.

 

“Hu-utch?” the brunet murmured wearily, closing his eyes once more, taking in a shuddering breath as the cool cloth brushed over his forehead, long dark lashes hiding the blue that the blond longed to see.

 

“Right here pal . . . been right here the whole time.” Hutch soothed softly, his forehead lined with worry and concern.

 

The tall blond had been wakened in the wee morning hours of a new day by his partner’s constant thrashing and soft moans of pain. He didn’t need to be a detective to know that his friend had been slightly feverish by the flushed color in his cheeks. It was a good thing that Starsky had taken those aspirins before falling asleep; the medicine and the application of a cool cloth soon broke through the fever that plagued him just hours before the sun arose.

 

The corners of the brunet’s lips lifted slightly, his voice raspy and hoarse, “Don’ feel  . . . too good . . .” A sharp pain made the dark haired cop gasp softly, his hand reaching once more for his side.

 

The handsome blond winced, feeling the pain of his friend as he reached for the brunet’s hand, “I want you to take more aspirins Starsk okay? I think you were starting on a fever, but the aspirins I gave you a couple of hours ago finally broke it.”

 

“Yeah? Don’ want no more . . .” the curly haired cop mumbled groggily, breathing shallowly,  “’M tired . . .” The brunet drew in a breath only to cough again, gritting his teeth against the pain that flared in his side once more. What he really wanted didn’t come in pill form, and Starsky closed his eyes once more to hide the craving need that tore through his system. His body was screaming out for more cocaine . . .

 

“Take it easy buddy,” Hutch soothed until the round of coughs subsided, “I’m not too sure I like the sounds of those coughs Starsk . . . here . . . take these okay?”

 

The brunet mumbled something indistinct under his breath, and Hutch smiled gently, knowing his friend was grumbling to himself.

 

“I know . . . I know . . .but I want you to do this for me anyway . . . okay?” Hutch cajoled, sliding his hand under the brunet’s neck to lift his head, as he slipped two white tablets between the brunet’s lips and tilted the glass of water to his mouth. The blond watched as Starsky drank the pills down and gently lowered his sweaty head to the pillow once more.

 

“Go back to sleep Gordo,” Hutch whispered, gently brushing back his partner’s damp curls, “You’re safe now . . . I got your back.”

 

“Kay,” the brunet said softly. The fatigue and pain he’d suffered had caused dark circles to form under eyes, which he now cracked open; a sliver of familiar blue for Hutch to lock upon.

 

The tall blond smiled and continued to gently stroke and soothe the dark haired detective, until his friend closed his weary eyes once more. Hutch snorted as an errant curl grabbed onto his pinkie and refused to let go. Sighing softly, Hutch gently untangled his baby finger from the sable locks, and slid carefully from the side of the bed, stooping to pick up his partner’s filthy jeans and denim vest. ‘When was the last time you washed these things buddy?’ the blond thought as he walked silently to the door, looking over his shoulder to take one last peek at his now sleeping partner.

 

Hutch quietly walked out to the living room carrying the water glass and the dirty articles of clothing. The early morning sun was streaming through the curtained window, filling the comfortable room with a soft radiance and the blond smiled as he saw his African violet bathing in its warm light.

 

Dumping the clothes on the couch, the flaxen haired detective lifted the pot that held the small plant to eye level, “Hey beautiful . . . you’re looking good today girl . . .” Sticking his finger in to check the dampness of the soil, the tall blond smiled to himself, satisfied that all was well with “Violet”.

 

Hutch put down the fragile plant and was about to take the water glass back to the kitchen sink, when he caught sight of something white on the floor near the couch. The flaxen haired detective walked over and crouched down to pick up a cigarette. Frowning, the blond sat on the edge of the couch and snatched the denim vest, quickly searching through the article, his eyes widening as he found a pack of cigarettes in one of the pockets.

 

“Damn!” Hutch swore softly, crushing the pack in his fist. Whenever Starsky was near, the blond could always smell the stale scent of cigarette smoke, but he had assumed it was from being in the smoke filled clubhouse. Not once had he thought his friend would be smoking, not with a compromised lung and the dangers of another bout of pneumonia hanging over his head. “Stupid ass!” the blond detective hissed, pushing down the anger that arose from his friend’s recklessness, as he thought of the restless night of coughing Starsky had just suffered through.

 

Hutch sighed and leaned his back against the couch, throwing his head back to rest his neck against the cushion, pale lashes hiding the despair he felt within. Not only was Starsky smoking, but he was snorting coke as well. He could almost hear the brunet’s voice, quivering with shame from the night before . . .

 

“I’m hooked Hutch . . . I’m hooked on coke.”

 

Hutch could feel the fear he’d kept under lock and key creep back into his throat. The blond swallowed it down. Last night he needed to comfort his partner, to reassure and protect, there was no time for fear last night. Yet, in the light of day, the blond could feel his own insecurities coming to the forefront. His partner was in way over his head, and Hutch dreaded the fact that he’d have to watch Starsky suffer through withdrawal. The blond thought back to that small room above Huggy’s. Voices from the past, haunted his present . . .

 

“Hold on to it Hutch, c’mon hold on to it . . .”

 

“I’m right here, right here . . .”

 

“You’re gonna make it huh . . . you big lummox . . .”

 

Starsky had never left him, and though he’d been drenched in sweat and wracked in pain, though he smelled of puke and urine, Starsky had held him; and even though the blond knew he’d given the brunet a hard time, Starsky had toughed it out. Hutch knew he would do nothing less for his friend. If it weren’t for Starsky and Huggy being there . . .

 

“Huggy!” Hutch whispered, leaning over to grab the phone . . . the words of the skinny black man’s ringing in his ears . . .

 

“Call me . . . if you need me,”

 

Hutch knew it was early, but Huggy was their friend and the blond knew he would come if they needed him . . . no matter what time it was. The detective quickly dialed the number to their flamboyant friend and waited impatiently as the phone rang incessantly, breathing a sigh of relief when he finally heard it pick up on the other end . . .

 

The tall blond detective smiled as the irritated voice of the proprietor snapped, “Whoever the hell is on the other end . . . it better be damn good . . .”

 

Hutch clenched the receiver, dragging his other hand through the fine hair on the top of his head, “Hug, it’s me, Hutch. I need you . . . he’s back . . .”

 

________________________________ -o-o-o-o- _______________________________

 

“He’s here Snipe. . .” Mad Dog said, as he opened the door to the upper office, sticking his head in to stare at the lean redhead who now sported a crooked nose and a large bruise on his left cheek, “Whatta’ya want me to do with ‘im?”

 

“What the fuck do ya think? Let the shit-head in .  . .” Sniper snapped, wincing as the door slammed in his face. “Fuckin’ ass . . .” the redhead swore under his breath, tenderly touching his nose once more as he glared at the door.

 

Sniper grinned menacingly; he’d been waiting all day for this prick to show. If anyone would know about Snake, it would be Burro, another biker from ‘The Warriors’ club in New York. Diesel had invited several reps from different chapters to view tomorrow’s shipment and the Warriors had sent the shrewd Mexican. From what he understood, Sniper knew that Burro had been one of Snake’s best buddies and the redhead gloated over that fact, maybe now he could prove that Snake was nothing but a pig in disguise.

 

Sniper gingerly touched his cheek, thinking back on how Diesel had laid into him, his large fist connecting with the redhead’s cheek in a rare show of temper. Needless to say, the blond had been pissed about how they rough-housed his ‘little brother’ and it irritated him to think that Diesel would choose to side with Snake over his own vice. It left the redhead feeling even more embittered, his heart filled with a black rage of hate against the curly haired biker from New York. Sniper impatiently drummed his fingers on the top of the desk, as his mind drifted back to the previous night . . .

 

“Just what the fuck did you think you were doing?” Diesel snapped angrily, turning to glare once more at the redhead who cowered in the small place between the filthy bed and the nightstand, totally ignoring the young whore who covered her head with the pillow, shaking violently, whether from fear or withdrawal from some addiction the tall blond couldn’t tell, and to be honest, he really didn’t give a damn. He’d already wasted enough time hunting for his cowardly vice-president as it was  . . .

 

“Why are ya pickin’ on me?” Sniper whined, his cheek burned and his head spun from the blow Diesel had just given him, “Fuck man . . . you always take that prick’s side.”

 

“I ain’t takin’ no sides,” Diesel snapped, “Whatever is eatin’ your ass about Snake, it better be dropped . . . right now! Y’hear me boy? I ain’t havin’ nothin’ go wrong on Thursday when the other chapter reps are there for the shipment. Whatever is between you and Snake ends right here. Y’got that? Jinx was pissed  . . . don’chya ever pull this kind of crap over there again.”

 

“H-he hit me . . . broke my fuckin’ nose tonight Diesel . . . that piss-ass gives me no respect and I w . . .”

 

“Respect is EARNED . . . not given! How many fuckin’ times do I have to tell you that Snipe?” the tall blond snarled, “And just why the fuck should he respect you? Three against one  . . . you make me sick! Jinx told me all of this came about over some kid . . . what the fuck were you thinkin’? You’re the vice president of the ‘Minions’ man, you need to think with the head on your neck and not the head on your dick, you asshole!”

 

“Yeah? Well y-you want to know what I’m really th-thinkin’ huh? I think Snake is a fuckin’ pig . . . a stinkin’ pig in a blanket . . . the guy reeks cop Diesel . . . can’t ya smell it man? Sniper whined, desperately wanting his president to sense the danger that he did. There was something about Snake that always made the internal warning bells in his head go off whenever he was near the brunet. How could Diesel not sense this?

 

The tall blond looked at the woman who started to moan softly into the pillow pressed against her face, his pale blue eyes drifted to the rubber tubing and the hypodermic that lay strewn across the bed, only to connect again with green eyes filled with fear. Diesel picked up the tubing and whipped it at the cowering redhead,  “Lay off the drugs Snipe,” Diesel said ominously, his voice low and filled with disdain, “You’re getting too fuckin’ paranoid man!”

 

The blond biker walked to the door, grabbing the knob as he turned to look once more at Sniper, “Snake is no more a cop, than you are a vice-president. Now clean up your fuckin’ act and be there on Thursday. We got work to do.”

 

Sniper winced as the door slammed abruptly behind the charismatic leader of the ‘Minions’. “Fuck you man . . .” the redhead whispered under his breath, “Just fuck off and die!”

 

A quick rap on the door brought Sniper from his thoughts, “Yeah?” the redhead snapped, as the door opened from the outside. Mad Dog poked his head in once more, “We got the rep from the Warriors. This here is Burro,” Mad Dog said, opening the door wider to reveal a small wiry Mexican wearing the familiar denim vest that Snake always wore.

 

“C’mon in,” Sniper greeted, “Sit down and relax for a bit.”

 

The redhead handed the shorter man a cigarette, lighting it from the same match that he lit his own with, “Did ya know we got a biker from your chapter hidin’ out with us?” Sniper asked casually, watching the darker man’s face intently.

 

“Yeah? Who?” Burro quiered softly, blowing out smoke as he eyed the redhead.

 

Sniper took a long drag from his own cigarette before answering slowly, “Larusso . . . Snake Larusso . . . and I heard he was a good friend of yours. . .”

 

“Snake? He’s here?” Burro said excitedly, “Shit! Heard he escaped from Riker’s, but we were never too sure what happened to him . . . he never showed up at our chapter.” The smaller man laughed boisterously, “Fuckin’ Snake . . . it would be him to pull something like this . . . a Warrior hidin’ out with the Minions! And none of us even fuckin’ knew about it . . . goddamn shit. I’m gonna kick his fuckin’ hairy ass when I see him!” The smaller laughed, shaking his head, his dark beady eyes shining with mirth.

 

Sniper forced himself to grin at the dark haired biker, “Yeah . . . he’s been with us for six months now . . . Diesel and him get along real good, but I bet you guys must’ve been real tight huh? I bet you guys go way back . . . why don’t you tell me about Snake . . .he’s one cool dude man. The boys all look up to him. Later on, I’ll take you over to the dump where he lives . . . I’m sure he’s gonna be shocked to see you Burro . . .real fuckin’ shocked!”

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

“Hey . . .” Hutch greeted softly, opening the door to the skinny black man, the afternoon sun, filling the hallway from the doorway on the bottom of the stairs, “Thanks for coming Hug.”

 

“No problema,” Huggy said, looking around the place, “Sorry I’m late. Had to find Anita to open and run the place ‘til I come back. So where is he?”

 

“He’s been sleeping since I called you.” Hutch said, “I just made him some chicken soup. He had a fever earlier this morning, but it’s broken now. He’s just been sleeping like a log.”

 

“Yeah . . . that’s to be expected when you’re strung out on coke.” Huggy said softly, noting how the blond’s pale blue gaze shifted to the floor, “You still don’t believe me?”

 

Hutch sighed wearily and walked over to the couch to sit down, nodding to the lanky black man to do the same, “He finally admitted it last night . . . told me he’s hooked on the stuff,” the blond said sadly, reaching into his pocket to remove the small bottle of cocaine, “This fell out of his pocket,” Hutch said, handing the bottle over to the proprietor of “The Pits,” a bar and grill that both he and Starsky often frequented.

 

Huggy reached out a long, slim hand to grasp the tiny bottle, raising it to eye-level. His shrewd gaze noticed the shimmering color of the powder, “Mmm-mmm, this here’s good stuff, pure and uncut, this gives you a high like nothin’ else in the world. The only drawback to doin’ coke is that it don’t last too long . . . that’s why coke-heads usually graduate to something stronger . . . like horse. The high you get from heroin lasts a lot longer . . . but you pay for it in the end.”

 

“They broke some of his ribs the other night,” Hutch said softly, changing the subject, “He’s hurting . . . in more ways than one . . .” Huggy’s ominous words made the blond remember his own addiction to heroin and the hell of withdrawal, and Hutch could once again feel the fear crawl back into his gut.

 

Huggy frowned, feeling sorry for his dark haired friend, “When was the last time he had his fix?”

 

Hutch cringed at that last word, “I-I don’t know . . . his pupils were dilated when he came over last night, but now they appear normal . . . I mean they looked okay when he woke up from a bad dream earlier this morning . . . he’s been sleeping ever since.”

 

“He’s going through withdrawal Hutch . . . coke addicts feel dead to the world once the drug starts leaving, they feel like shit. Man, if it’s been that long since his last fix, he must be on the edge . . .” Huggy shook his head sympathetically, “Starsky must feel ten times worse right now with those busted ribs of his . . . the coke masks the pain when they’re flyin’ high, but once it’s gone, all the hurt comes screaming back and then some. He’s gonna be one grouchy dude . . . moody as hell.”

 

“Yeah . . .well, why don’t you help me make some sandwiches Hug, and I’ll ladle the soup . . . we’ll bring the grouch a peace offering . . . huh? Hutch grinned, as he got up to make his way to the kitchen . . .

 

 ________________________________ -o-o-o-o- _______________________________

 

Starsky could hear the soft murmurings coming from the other room, as he sat on the edge of the bed. From the sound of the other voice, he knew Hutch was probably talking to Huggy. The dark haired cop wiped the sweat from his face and blinked the perspiration from his eyes, breathing harshly through his mouth, as he rode out the pain in his side. He was so tired, his body heavy and lethargic, not wanting to move at all and yet, the craving need for more cocaine wheedled its way into his consciousness even as he tried to retreat from it in sleep, waking him with a desperate want for more of the drug.

 

The curly haired biker slowly rose to his feet, and though his hand pressed against his side to stabilize his ribs, the brunet couldn’t contain the soft gasp that escaped his lips as red-hot barbs stabbed repeatedly into his side.  Starsky scrunched his eyes tight and breathed through the wave of pain that tore through him. “Fuck!” the brunet gasped, as he reached out a hand and pressed it against the wall to steady himself.

 

Breathing heavily, Starsky sniffled and opened his eyes once more, looking desperately around the room. His mind screamed out for more of the white powder that would take away the punishing pain in his side. It killed him to know that inhaling just a few lines of the stuff would end this awful misery. ‘God, I feet like shit!’  

 

‘Where the fuck did Hutch put that bottle?’ the dark haired detective thought, feeling his temper beginning to rise as he rummaged through Hutch’s stuff in his drawers, carelessly throwing out shirts and underwear on the ground in his desperation to find what he needed. His heart was beating strange rhythms that made the brunet feel drained and weary, yet the need for coke drove him relentlessly on. Starsky stumbled to the closet, searching through coat pockets and shoe-boxes, not even caring anymore about the mess he was making in Hutch’s room.

 

“Where the fuck is it?” the brunet snarled softly to himself, his head pounding incessantly as the driving want took precedence over everything else, ‘Just where the fuck did he hide it?’

 

In his haste to reach for another box that he saw on the closet’s top rack, Starsky intuitively made a grab for it with his left hand, crying out suddenly as pain battered into him once again, his fractured ribs stretching painfully to accommodate his reach.

 

The wounded cop doubled over, gasping softly, his right hand clutching his side, as waves of agony ripped into him. Though his body protested any more movement, his mind screamed out at him to continue the search . . . the sweet drug calling out to him to find it. Breathing heavily and drenched in sweat, the dark haired cop looked up as the bedroom door softly opened.

 

“Hey bud . . .” Hutch’s pale blue eyes widened with shocked surprise, looking from his partner to the mess around the room.

 

Starsky looked away as his partner’s eyes returned to his, feeling sick of himself, shame curdling in his stomach, making him want to throw up, as he looked around the room and saw how destructive the need was that tormented his soul. Knowing that he’d made this mess was humiliating; he was lost, his mind battling itself, as even now, he could hear the enticing call of the drug, whispering in his mind, beckoning him to continue the search to find it . . . knowing that just a few lines would take the burning edge off . . . he could hear the sweet call of the drug . . .

 

“It’ll make you feel so much better . . . you want me . . .”

 

“Starsk . . . Starsky!”

 

The brunet looked up sharply, his mind snapping back to the present, making eye contact with his friend who slowly walked towards him.

 

“It’s okay pal,” Hutch said softly, reaching out a tentative hand to his distraught partner, purposely softening his voice to soothe the brunet as he listened to the sniffles and the rapid, shallow breathing of his friend who was obviously in a lot of pain. “Take it easy, Starsk . . . let me help you,” the tall blond whispered gently, as he placed a warm hand on his partner’s shoulder.

 

Starsky stiffened and quickly pulled away, grunting softly as he forced himself to stand, wanting only to lie back down in bed and never get up. He hurt, his side aching from the beating he took, but more than that, his heart ached from having Hutch see him like this.

 

“Don’” the brunet rasped, “Get out Hutch . . . leave me alone!” Starsky could feel himself getting angry, wanting to lash out at the blond for taking his stash. He knew Hutch had it somewhere and it filled him with a desperate, anxiousness that made his hands tremble.

 

“Let me help you buddy,” Hutch said softly, dropping his hand as Starsky shrugged it off. The tall blond could see the craving need in the familiar sapphire eyes that sparked with suppressed anger and frustration. He knew what the brunet had been hunting for . . . it wasn’t so long ago that Hutch was in the very same place that his partner was, ready to sell his soul for another fix. “Starsk . . .”

 

“You wanna help me huh?” Starsky snarled, stumbling back to the bed, his head felt heavy and muddled, his judgment cloudy, his reactions slower than usual, as his body begged for more cocaine, “Jus’ give me . . . that bottle you took . . . from me . . . last night.”

 

The dark haired cop, climbed wearily back into bed, hating himself for voicing his dependency upon the drug, but a part of him didn’t give a fuck what Hutch thought of him anymore. He needed some stuff and he needed it now. Thoughts of Diesel crossed his mind. His brother would give it to him and not let him suffer like this. The brunet looked up as Huggy entered the room with a tray of sandwiches and a bowl of soup.

 

“Hey Starsky m’man . . . looky what we gots for ya . . . some homemade chicken soup!” Huggy grinned. Although the dark man kept his voice light, he was wise enough to know that the brunet was on the edge, craving for something more than just soup. He had told Hutch in the kitchen that Starsky would have no appetite, but the blond had insisted they try to get some food into their friend. The lanky, black man eyed the sullen cop who sniffled and nodded in his direction.

 

“Hey. . .” the biker greeted his friend stiltedly, the smell of the soup making his stomach turn, as Huggy laid the tray over his lap. Starsky sniffled, rubbing the back of his wrist against his nose, as he looked over his fare. Chicken soup and salami sandwiches! The sight made him feel ill, his only desire right now was for more coke. The sight of food sickened him. “I ah . . . I’m not very hungry right now . . .” the brunet mumbled.

 

“Try some buddy . . .” Hutch coaxed softly, his light blue eyes growing soft with concern, “You might feel a little better . . .”

 

Starsky sniffled again, feeling irritated at the blond’s gentle push, “I said I don’ want any soup . . . the only thing I want is . . .” The dark haired cop caught himself before he gave into the craving need, frustration tearing away at his soul as he glared at his partner, breathing heavily, his heart palpitating, “Jus’ . . .jus’ take this away before I throw it away!” the biker snapped angrily, his body heavy and tired, though his mind continued to scream out at him to find Diesel’s bottle. The thought of the white powder drove him to the brink of insanity, the desperate need tearing him inside out.

 

“It’ll make you feel so much better . . . you want me . . .”

 

Huggy quickly took away the tray, knowing the brunet was ready to blow. He’d seen this kind of thing once too many, and it pained him to know that Starsky was suffering inside. “Hutch . . . why don’t you help me take this to the kitchen,” The tall black man said softly, “I think Starsky needs to sleep, not eat.”

 

“Yeah . . .” the dark haired cop growled, “Jus’ get the fuck outta here . . . the both of ya!”

The brunet watched sullenly as the door closed softly behind his friends. “Fuck!” Starsky swore softly under his breath, hurting inside because of the way he’d treated his friends, but hurting more with the knowledge that somewhere in this apartment, was a little bottle of snow white powder that could end the pain and weariness he felt, if for just a little while . . .

 

Huggy put the tray down on the counter and turned to see Hutch staring at the closed door of the bedroom, “Hey amigo . . . come over here . . . he don’t want no company right now . . . and its best to just let him sweat it out for a bit.” The tall black man saw the blond nod dejectedly as he turned to face him.

 

“Yeah,” Hutch whispered brokenly, “He’s hurting Hug . . . and I don’t know how to help him . . .”

 

“You could give him a few lines to take the edge off . . .” Huggy suggested softly. At the blond’s sudden icy glare, the skinny, black man held up his hand as if to shield himself from the coldness in his friend’s pale blue eyes, “Listen to me Hutch,” Huggy began gently, “He’s been under for six months now . . . we don’t know for sure how long he’s been hooked right?

 

At the blond’s slight nod, Huggy cleared his throat and continued, “Well . . . one or two more nights on the stuff ain’t gonna kill him, in fact, it might help him.  If I remember right, everything gets wrapped at tomorrow’s big bust. Starsky’s gonna need more coke just to function, to get in and set things up. If you send him back tomorrow to his pad looking like shit boiled over, they’re gonna know something is up y’dig?”

 

Hutch sighed, “Huggy . . . I can’t just give him more cocaine! Starsky’s gonna have to try and . . .”

 

“He’s gonna have to kick the habit from tomorrow on anyway,” Huggy interjected, “Maybe you should think about giving him some coke tomorrow before he leaves . . . like I said before, the man is gonna need it to function . . . you seen him . . . he’s as weak as a kitten. He’s playing with some mean cats, and Starsky’s gonna need to have his reflexes

and mind sharp as ever.”

 

At the detective’s silence, Huggy nodded, his soft voice whispered ominously, “I know you don’t wanna do it Hutch, but if you don’t give him a fix, you might just be sending him to his grave . . .”

 

________________________________ -o-o-o-o- _______________________________

 

She smiled as large calloused hands ran over the smoothness of her bare shoulders, and then gently traced the curve of her hips; the lean, hard length of Diesel’s body pressed intimately against her spine as he nibbled seductively against the soft sensitive area behind her ear.

 

Alice giggled, feeling her heart growing soft with an emotion that was strange and foreign to her. The petite blonde woman turned in the strong arms that held her, her gaze connecting to the sky blue depths that rose above her, staring in fascination as those same eyes melted to an almost silver color, as she ran her painted nails lightly along his strong muscled forearms that held his body up.

 

She could feel his hard excitement jutting out, searching, as it pressed against her liquid heat and she smiled, her own eyes growing soft as she spread her thighs to welcome the handsome biker, to partner with him in the age-old dance of heated passion. Alice closed her eyes, her long pale lashes hiding the excitement of being with someone who actually meant something to her, feeling the rush of being filled and stretched, as the warmth of his lean muscled body pressed into hers.

 

Her eyes jolted open, startled at the sudden ringing of the phone beside the bed, feeling Diesel’s body suddenly tensing with frustration. She looked to the blond man above her, seeing a smile of apology gracing his lips.

 

“Shit babe,” Diesel whispered softly, gently lowering his head to kiss her lips once more, “Fuckin’ phone’s ringing and I gotta get that.”

 

“Stay with me sugar,” Alice whispered seductively, squeezing the hardness within her, smiling as she heard his soft groan above her, “I promise to take you to paradise . . .”

 

“Sweeeet Alice,” the tall blond whispered, his voice barely audible above the loud ringing that filled the room, “Where the hell have you been all of my life huh?” Diesel cupped her face with both hands and gently kissed her eyelids shut, pulling his body away from hers, “Be right back baby . . . and when I do, you and me both, we’ll go to paradise . . . together.” He smiled as he heard Alice giggle, the sweet sound of her laughter sounding like little bells chiming in the wind.

 

Sighing, Diesel sat on the edge of the bed, leaning over to peek out of his window at the quiet night, his back facing the enticing siren who lounged seductively, her beautiful ivory skin reflecting the shimmer of light that came through the curtains of the bedroom, reminding the distracted biker of a marble statue of a Greek nymph he’d once seen on one of his many travels since leaving the army. The tall biker ran his fingers through his blond hair and smiled wistfully. Turning his back on that bewitching woman was the only way he could concentrate fully on the voice that came from the other end of the line.

 

“Yeah?” Diesel said, his lips pressed close to the phone, “Whatta ya got?”

 

Alice closed her eyes, her body slightly aching from the past night’s lovemaking, feeling the cool sheets beneath her heated body made her want to stretch, as she languished in the feeling of being wanted. She turned her attention to the rigid back of her lover, as she heard the intonation of Diesel’s voice suddenly grow hard.

 

“Shit! You fuckin’ sure ‘bout that?” Diesel questioned, feeling his body winding even tighter as Jasper’s wife filled him in with the details of what he wanted, “So . . . was this the same cop that was gunned down in Bay City a few years back? Yeah . . . I saw the scars . . . yeah.” The tall blond sighed heavily, “Did you get to see what this cop looked like? Could he pass for Snake? Shit . . . mirror image huh? You got his name? Detective David Starsky . . . fuck!”

 

The blond biker could feel the angry tic in his jaw, as he listened to the details that Jasper’s old lady found out in records. He knew there was something so different about Snake, something that he couldn’t quite place a finger on, thinking it was because they both survived the horrors of ‘Nam.

 

It pissed Diesel off that he could be so fooled like that. Shit! Sniper was right all along and that thought angered the blond even more. ‘I’m a fuckin’ piss-ass fool’ he berated himself, as he gathered more information about the dark haired cop who had been in their midst for the last six months . . . listening intently as Jasper’s wife spewed out the facts on this cop, David Starsky, who’d snowed them all for so long.

 

Diesel listened intently as more facts came over the line, “Yeah? So they’re close? How long have they been partnered and what’s his name? Hutchinson huh? Ken Hutchinson . . . yeah, I’ll remember that.”

 

Alice had tensed when she heard Starsky’s name on Diesel’s lips, but hearing Hutch’s name made her heart beat erratically.  She bit her lip in trepidation, knowing the curly haired cop’s cover had been blown. She could feel fear crawl up her skin, but she quickly composed herself as Diesel hung up the line and turned to face her once more.

 

“You okay sugar?” Alice whispered, plastering a smile to her lips as she looked at the tall handsome blond who slid into bed beside her.

 

Diesel sighed heavily as he gathered Alice close to his side, feeling her slender arms wrap around his back as her breasts pressed against his chest. “Yeah baby . . . just some business I have to attend to.” There was a sad intonation to the big blond’s voice that tore at the petite woman’s heart.



Alice ran her finger down the tall bridge of Diesel’s nose, smiling as her man closed his long pale lashes, “My mama always tol’ me that when a man’s heart is heavy, you could hear it in his voice,” she whispered softly, her sweet southern drawl, soothing the ache in his heart.

 

“Yeah?” Diesel smiled gently, his lashes fanning out against his cheeks, “What else has your mama told ya?”

 

“Well . . .,” Alice whispered, moving her finger to softly trace the lips of the man who lay beside her, “My mama always said, that man was made to carry the burdens of the world upon his shoulders, but God gave woman to man to be a helpmate along the way. My mama said that sometimes, if a man was wise enough, he would tell his troubles to his woman and it would help to lift his burdens.”

 

Diesel chuckled in the dark; the sound of his laughter was warm and rich. ‘Like hot cocoa on a cold winter’s mornin’’ Alice thought dreamily, loving the feel of his large hand pressing against the small of her back.

 

“Your mama must’ve been a wise woman.” Diesel murmured, kissing the top of Alice’s head, breathing in the soft, sweet scent of jasmine, “Your daddy was one lucky man.”

 

Alice smiled as Diesel opened his eyes to stare into her beautiful, sweet face. “My daddy died when I was just a little thing. My mama sure did love him; she nevah did marry another livin’ soul and when I was only eleven, I think she decided to join my daddy in heaven. She always used’ta say, ‘Alison, I can hear your daddy a’callin’ me from afar.”

 

Alice smiled wistfully, “I always wanted to find a man that would love me, as much as my daddy did my mama.” The blond woman smiled even more as Diesel pulled her even closer, “Maybe . . . maybe now I have . . .”

 

Diesel felt a small, sharp twinge deep in his heart, as the soft, almost shy words from the woman he held in his arms, floated out into the stillness of the room. He could feel a lump form in his throat and he swallowed it down, smiling as he felt her small frame snuggle even closer to his. He listened intently to her sweet, southern drawl as she whispered softly in the dark.

 

“My mama used’ta say that when a woman loves her man, she can feel when he needs to talk. Somethin’ tells me that you’re sad. I can feel your sadness here in your arms,” she said softly, lightly tracing a finger over the muscled biceps of the tall blond biker, “And I can see it in the blue of your eyes, soft blue, like the summer sky over a field of ripening corn, and I can hear it here,” the woman continued, snuggling closer to lay her ear over his chest, “In the beating of your heart . . .” Alice rose up on an elbow, her long blond hair spilling back over her smooth shoulder, “It’s about Snake isn’t it? I like him Diesel . . . I really do  . . . and people always say that I’m a good judge of character!”

 

Diesel smiled, and gently pushed a strand of blond silk behind her ear, “Do they now? What else do people say about you?” The tall blond man felt himself enraptured as he stared at Alice’s lovely face, enjoying their talk as he got to know the bewitching woman lying beside him. “Tell me . . .”

 

“Well . . . people say that I’m a good listener too,” Alice whispered softly, “And if you need to talk Diesel, then I’m here for you . . . I’ll always be here for you, jus’ like my mama was for my daddy . . .”

 

The small blond woman snuggled closer as the handsome man beside her chuckled softly and began to talk, listening to the honey-sweet sound of his deep voice, feeling safe and loved in the comfortable sanctuary of their bed . . .

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

The dark haired biker sped back towards the hellhole that he lived in for the last six months of his life, hating to see that dilapidated hovel after being in the comfortable surroundings of Venice Place for more than a day. It pained him greatly to leave Hutch, but the bust was only an hour and a half away. Starsky knew he needed to get back “home”, before the dreaded event occurred.

 

Hutch.

 

The curly haired cop remembered the tortured coughs that had plagued him throughout most of the night, sending bolts of pain that burned into his laboring lungs, and viciously stabbed into his broken ribs; a slight fever revisiting him again in the wee hours of the morning had left him feeling shaken and weak. Hutch had had no sleep last night as well, waking up to check on his partner every so often, sponging him down and filling him up with aspirins to help numb the pain and lessen the fever and chills that wracked his body.

 

Starsky winced behind the darkness of his shades, feeling like shit. He was carefully paying attention to the road, knowing his reflexes were slower than usual, his body screaming out for more coke, feeling the tiny bottle burning a hole in his vest pocket as it pressed wantonly against his warm body.

 

“Here buddy, take it . . . u-use it if you need it okay? I mean . . . if it’s gonna h-help you get through today . . .”

 

It shocked the brunet that Hutch would give him back the cocaine, telling him to take some if he needed it to make it through the bust at the warehouse, especially after last night when he adamantly refused to reveal the whereabouts of the bottle no matter how much Starsky had ranted and raved, almost begging the tall blond for the relief that only the iridescent powder could bring.

 

Starsky could still see his partner’s worried expression in his mind’s eye, the soft, concerned blue of Hutch’s eyes, hearing the uncertainty in his stammering voice, knowing it was killing the blond to hand over the drug once more to his partner. He had wanted to take some so badly, his soul crying out for gratification right then and there, but he knew it would hurt Hutch to watch him inhaling the powder into his battered body and for the sake of his friend’s feelings, Starsky had forced himself to abstain the craving need that drove him to the brink of madness.

 

In a few hours it will be all over; Diesel and the others would be hauled off for good, everything was set and in motion, a half a year’s work was coming to an end. Starsky knew he should be feeling proud that all of his hard work was finally reaching fruition, but yet, he felt sick inside, torn between friendship and duty.

 

Friendship and duty . . .

 

To Starsky, duty had always been about serving and protecting, not only in law enforcement, but as a soldier in ‘Nam. And friendship? Well . . .friendship had always been about Hutch. Thoughts of his tall blond friend raced in his mind, as the Harley raced along the highway, quickly nearing the cutoff he had to take that would take him back to his cover pad.

 

Visions of Hutch filled his mind. Hutch bathing his brow, Hutch lifting the glass of water to his lips to force feed him aspirins, Hutch holding him as he shook and trembled with fever, Hutch trying to spoon feed him more of that loathsome chicken soup, Hutch putting up with his foul temper, biting down his own frustration as Starsky purposely tried to egg him on, dodging books and other things that the brunet threw in a fit of rage; but most of all, Starsky remembered the sad and hurt look on his partner’s face as he shut the door behind him. The dark haired biker leaned unsteadily into the turn, absently taking the highway cutoff, his mind absorbed with images of last night, playing back the details like a movie reel in his head . . .

 

He was hurting. The aching heaviness in his body made him feel weak and weary. It was hard to think, hard to listen to the soft droning of his partner’s voice, telling him it was gonna be okay. It would never be okay. Starsky knew the only avenue to feeling right again lay in a little bottle that Hutch had hid somewhere and that thought drove him crazy.

 

So many times he had dragged himself from the bedroom after Huggy had left, his body vehemently protesting the movement, but the craving in his mind drove him onward in his relentless search for the sweet release that the powder would give him, only to be forcefully taken back to bed by his partner who would then hold him and try to comfort him, ignoring his angry outbursts and rants of frustration.

 

The blond’s persistence was wearing him down. It was so much easier to sleep, drowning in the darkness, yet even there, the enticing call of the drug could be heard, beckoning him to arise and search for her once more. Dreams of Diesel cutting more lines invaded his sleep, nightmares of Hutch being hurt filled him with a sense of fear making him sit up in bed, gasping groggily with pain, only to have Hutch soothe him once more.

 

God . . . he needed it. He needed it so badly . . . why couldn’t Hutch understand that? Why couldn’t Hutch help him? Diesel always made sure he didn’t crash . . . Diesel was his friend, but Hutch was too, maybe he just didn’t understand . . .

 

“Shh . . . it’s okay buddy . . . just sleep”

 

Hutch’s soft voice grated on his nerves. He couldn’t sleep . . . fuck!  He needed more  . . . more  . . . and Hutch knew where it was . . .

 

“H-Hutch,” Starsky groaned, perspiration dripping off spiked lashes as he blinked away the grogginess, struggling to take more air into his burning lungs only to cough once more in agony. ‘Oh god . . . it hurts!’ He could feel the strong arms of his partner holding him as he folded into the pain, Hutch whispering as he hung on to his shuddering partner . . .

 

“Take it easy Starsk . . . I’m right here pal, right here . . .” The blond could sense it coming, could see it in the hurting blueness of his partner’s desperate gaze. Denying Starsky was always something the blond had difficulty with, but in this case, where his partner was hurting, craving something to take away the pain as his world crashed down around him, it was more than difficult, it was brutally cruel  . . . he could hear Huggy’s voice ringing in his head .  . .

 

“I know you don’t wanna do it Hutch, but if you don’t give him a fix, you might just be sending him to his grave . . .”

 

“Hu-Hutch . . .”

 

Starsky’s weak call brought the blond’s focus back to the tortured blue of his partner’s eyes, stormy blue ocean depths that were filled with anguish and need, “P-please . . . help me . . . I jus’ need . . . god, I jus’ . . . I jus’ need a little . . .” The brunet clamped his mouth shut and closed his eyes, his lashes pressed tightly against sweat drenched cheeks, as he lowered his head in despair, his body trembling with need and degradation

 

It tore Hutch apart to hear his strong partner reduced to begging like that, catching himself before he completely lost it. It made the tall blond remember how he had begged Starsky for more heroin in the room above “The Pits,” the suffering of his friend filling his gentle poet’s soul with quiet desperation. “Starsk . . . oh god buddy . . .” Hutch stood suddenly, drawing his hurting partner’s gaze to lock once more upon his own, “I can’t  . . . I know you’re hurting, but I . . . don’t ask me that Starsk . . . I-I just can’t!”

 

 Breathing heavily as he rode out the pain and the craving need that tore through his system, Starsky watched as Hutch slowly walked towards the door, turning at the last moment to pause, their eyes meeting briefly across the expanse of the room, pain filled cobalt to anguished sky blue, before the blond silently turned, closing the door softly behind him. 

 

The look of sad despair on the blond’s face spoke volumes and was something that Starsky would never forget. He swore that no matter how hard it would be to get over this addiction, he would never put Hutch in a position like that again. No matter how much he suffered, he would never make Hutch have to choose. The brunet knew that after today, he would have to endure more nights like the one he had barely made it through, but that look in Hutch’s eyes would be the focal point that would get him through hell and back. As long as Hutch stood beside him, Starsky knew he would make it.

 

The dark haired biker pulled up in front of his house and parked the bike, cutting the loud sound of the engine, as he fumbled for the key in his pocket, his fingers accidentally brushing against the small bottle of cocaine.

 

“Unngh” Starsky groaned wearily, the craving need spiking once more, as he quickly took the key out, fatigue dragging his body down once again as if in punishment for his resistance. Release from this agonizing bondage lay at his fingertips and it was all he could do to just stay focused and open the door, stepping into the cool darkness of his apartment, slamming the door closed behind him.

 

Starsky sank onto the worn couch, his mind battling against itself, haggling back and forth. The dark haired biker threw his arm over his clenched eyes, hating himself for his weakness. Even as he struggled desperately to stay strong, he could hear the alluring call of the drug . . .

 

“No one will know . . . no one is here . . .”

 

“It’s okay . . . just one more time . . . just a little to ease the pain . . .”

 

“It’ll make you feel so much better . . . you want me . . . just reach over and take me . . .  it will help you make it through the day . . .”

 

Gritting his teeth, left hand pressing tightly against his ribs, Starsky forced himself to sit up, taking out the bottle with a trembling hand. Sniffling as he tried to catch his breath, the brunet eyed the snow-white powder, the pounding need making him reach to unscrew the cover. Starsky turned his head towards the window facing the street.  The distant growl of an approaching Harley mad him suddenly stop. Remembering his conversation with Hutch about Hillyard and Slate’s visit to Dobey, the brunet stood unsteadily, his reflexes slow and unstable. “Shit!” he swore softly under his breath.

 

Gasping, Starsky stumbled into the kitchenette, crouching to the side of the small stove, pressing the side of his face against the cool smoothness of metal, his fingers reaching to click on the small device that would alert the Feds who were supposed to be ‘listening in’ as they taped the conversations going on in the tiny apartment. He could hear the Harley pulling up, the motor being cut, as silence ensued.

 

Standing once more, the brunet walked towards the door, intending to open it when the wooden portal slammed inward, nearly knocking him backwards, as his reflexes, slowed down by the drug’s departure from his system, made Starsky almost fall backwards.

 

“Whoa little brother,” Diesel called out smiling, grabbing onto the brunet’s hand to steady him, “You okay?”

 

Starsky grinned back, taking in a small breath to respond, but before he could even reply, Diesel suddenly kicked the door closed, yanking the brunet towards him, while simultaneously turning the dark haired biker to slam his back against the hard surface of wood, brutally shoving his own muscled body against the wounded cop.

 

Starsky cried out, his eyes clenched tightly in agony as the doorknob dug into his battered side. Red hot pain tore into him, stealing the breath away from the detective who gasped and coughed, wheezing, as he struggled to take a breath into his laboring lungs, the hard hand of Diesel pressed against his mouth, making it even more difficult to draw in air.

 

Starsky could feel the tall blond roughly searching him, intuitively knowing that Diesel was feeling for a wire, his large hand quickly slapping over the brunet’s torso, making him groan in pain as it smashed against his fractured ribs. Struggling to ride out the pain, gasping for oxygen, Starsky silently wondered how his cover had been blown, the pain in his side and lungs far outweighing his fear at being discovered.

 

“You thought you had us fooled . . . didn’t you Davey-boy?” the tall blond sneered as he used the cop’s given name, shoving his shoulder hard into the wounded man once more.

 

Diesel could hear the soft gasps of pain coming from Snake. He knew he was intentionally hurting the brunet and the blond steeled himself from feeling the remorse that somehow crept into his heart. Snake had been his brother, his friend, and though Diesel tried to view him as such, the curly haired biker didn’t feel like his enemy at all. The tall blond struggled to hold onto his anger against the wounded man, but hearing the hurtful gasps tore at him, causing the blond biker to angrily step back with frustration, watching as the brunet slid down the door, painfully sinking to the ground in a heap.

 

“Get the fuck up Detective Starsky!” Diesel snarled, his voice, though hard, was deceptively soft, “Get up ‘little brother!’” he sneered, a part of his heart tearing in half, as the familiar cobalt colored eyes, steeped with pain, struggled to focus on him.

 

Breathing heavily to get a handle on the pain that tore through him, Starsky struggled to his feet, his hand pressed against his side, perspiration making his face sheen, “Listen to me Diesel,” the wounded cop gasped, “It’s not too late . . . if ya turn yourself in . . . the judge might . . . give you a lighter sentence . . . I’ll help ya . . . you’re my friend.”

 

“You’re a fuckin’ cop man, you ain’t no friend of mine,” Diesel said softly, his voice riddled with sadness as he slowly pulled a Beretta from the pocket of his leather vest. “Now move the fuck away from the door.”

 

Starsky slowly complied, stumbling in pain as the blond biker pushed him roughly towards the couch. Both men turned at the same time towards the window, hearing the familiar thundering of several motorcycles roaring down the street.

 

“Shit!” Diesel swore softly, moving quickly to peep out the window, though one eye and the Beretta were still kept on the wounded cop who could barely stand on his feet, one hand pressed against his side, the other hand steadying himself by grasping onto the arm of the torn couch. “Aw fuck man!” the blond biker swore, “I don’t fuckin’ believe this . . . what the hell is he doin’ here?” The tall blond glanced at the dark haired cop, “Fuck! It’s Sniper.”

 

Chapter Eighteen

 

“Jus’ shut the fuck up and play it cool . . .y’got that?” Diesel whispered to the injured cop, “Sit the fuck down and lemme do the talkin’.”

 

Starsky watched as Diesel pocketed the gun, breathing heavily as he slowly eased himself onto the couch, slouching nonchalantly like they’d been sitting there the whole afternoon whiling away the hours. They could hear the ear-splitting rumble of the bikes, the engines turning off one by one, as they parked along the side of the road. The tall blond hurried to the ‘fridge taking out two bottles of beer, opening and pouring some of the amber liquid of each bottle into the sink, only to swiftly turn and put them on the small table fronting the couch, as he quickly sat down next to the brunet, raising up a foot to prop up on the table next to one of the bottles, “Jus’ lemme handle this, Snipe is a loose cannon right now.” Diesel whispered urgently.

 

The brunet nodded silently as the door suddenly opened and Sniper sauntered in, his swollen nose and bruised cheek made him look pathetically young, like a redhead punk kid who’d lost the schoolyard fight, “Well, well  . . .”Sniper grinned, nodding his chin at Diesel, “How come I wasn’t invited to this little party?” The redhead looked to Snake, not even hiding the hate he had in his heart for the dark haired biker, “We saw your Harleys outside . . . I thought you’d be at the warehouse it’s ah . . .” the vice glanced as the watch strapped on his wrist, “3:15 already . . . the shipment is scheduled to come in at 4:00 Diesel.”

 

“Yeah? Well then what the fuck are you doin’ here if your so conscious of the time Snipe? If I ain’t there, you know you’re in charge of things . . .” the tall blond casually took a sip from the cold brew, his long fingers wrapped loosely around the neck of the bottle, “Me and Snake were just about to mosey on up to the warehouse, after we finished our beer, ain’t that right little brother?”

 

Starsky glanced at Diesel, lifting his chin in a slight nod, “Yeah.” The curly haired cop said softly, playing along, eyeing the blond as he silently wondered what was up his sleeve, trying to read his expression like how he always read Hutch’s, but the biker was too good at masking his feelings. His poker face remained placid and composed, yet Starsky could sense the coiled tension within the tall blond.

 

“Really? Well good then, we can all fuckin’ leave together,” Sniper grinned, “Anyway the real reason I came was to bring him a present,” the redhead said, nodding his chin towards the dark haired biker,  “Thought you’d like a little surprise Snake . . .”

 

Starsky could feel himself tensing as Sniper turned towards the open door, “Hey Burro, c’mon in man . . . it’s fuckin’ Christmas time . . .” The vice president of the “Devil’s Minions” chuckled as the small Mexican, wearing the denim vest of  “The Warriors” entered the disheveled abode, his eyes locking on his curly haired friend, Jasper and Mad Dog tailing behind him.

 

The large grin on Burro’s face slowly faded as he eyed his “brother” from New York, heavy dark brows coming together in a frown of suspicion and anger, “Eh man . . . what the fuck kinda joke is this huh? Just what the fuck are you guys tryin’ t’pull here? This ain’t Larusso!” The angry Mexican quickly drew out a .45 and pointed it at the curly haired cop.

 

“Hey man,” Diesel said softly, slowly getting to his feet, “Take it easy . . .” the tall blond directed, turning his attention to the gloating redhead, “Sniper . . . jus’ who the fuck is this?”

 

“Name’s Burro,” the short Mexican interjected, “From the Warriors . . . they sent me as the rep for the fuckin’ shipment man. Sniper here tells me my amigo Snake has been hangin’ with you guys, but this ain’t Snake Larusso. I would know him anywhere, that’s how tight we were. This gringo is a good copy . . . but whoever he is, he ain’t no fuckin’ Snake.”

 

Diesel yanked his gun from his pocket and pointed the Beretta at the dark haired cop, who slowly rose from the couch, gritting his teeth to bite back the sharp pain that flared in his ribs as he raised his hands slightly, palms out to the side. The tall blond glared, his icy stare freezing the brunet to the spot, “What the fuck is going on here? Jus’ who the fuck are you little brother?”

 

“I told you Diesel,” Sniper chimed in, happy to see that his president might be finally seeing the light, “I told you he ain’t one of us and you wouldn’t believe me!” The redhead walked up to the dark haired biker a sneer on his face, “You’re a fuckin’ pig man . . . I can smell you stinkin’ cops a mile away.”

 

“If you ain’t Snake, just who the hell are you?” Diesel asked, a frown marring his handsome face as he turned his icy glare upon the dark haired biker.

 

“Who the fuck do you think I am?” Starsky said softly, his chest rising and falling as he struggled to control his labored breathing, his body fatigued and heavy, pounding him with the craving need for cocaine, “It don’ really matter who the hell I am, does it bro’? You’re gonna kill me anyway for pulling the wool over your eyes and for infiltrating your club for the last six months  . . .”

 

“That’s right asshole, we’re gonna waste ya . . . and I’m gonna take great pleasure in doin’ it too . . .” Sniper interjected.

 

“Yeah? You gonna do to me like how you did Brody?” Starsky baited, hoping that the Feds were hearing this and were calling Hutch and Dobey. “You gonna take me to the abyss too?”

 

“That’s right you piece of shit, and it’ll be me that’ll throw you down th . . .”

 

“That’s enough!” Diesel snapped, cutting Sniper off in mid-sentence much to the chagrin of Starsky, who had hoped to egg information about the abyss out of the hothead vice of  “The Minions.”

 

“You better check him out man,” Burro snarled, “If he is a cop, he might be fuckin’ wired man! Shit! We should call the fuckin’ meetin’ off, who knows . . . if this gringo is a cop, we might all be sitting ducks in that fuckin’ warehouse. If they’re settin’ us up man, the place will be crawling with pigs! God damn shit! He ruined it for all of us . . . I’m gonna fuckin’ blow this mother fucker away right now!”

 

“Get a fuckin’ grip,” Diesel snapped angrily, as the smaller man cocked and pointed his gun at the curly haired cop, “This is Minion business . . . Jasper check him for a wire . . .” the tall blond nodded towards Starsky, “And Sniper, take our guest back to the warehouse . . .”

 

I’ll check him for a wire,” Sniper cut in, deliberately ignoring his president’s orders as he launched himself at the brunet, shoving Starsky backwards to slam him up against the wall, before Diesel could intervene. Hearing the sharp gasp that came from the wounded cop brought a sneer of pleasure to the face of the redhead who roughly slapped his hands against the torso of the dark haired biker, making sure to brutally slam his fist against the left ribcage of the cop who cried out suddenly in pain. Sniper chuckled, leaning in close to whisper into the ear of his nemesis, “Gotta make sure you’re clean shit-head!”

 

Starsky scrunched his eyes closed, dark lashes spiked with perspiration as he gritted his teeth and rode out the debilitating pain that tore through his side, vaguely feeling the heavy pressure of Sniper’s body being suddenly yanked away by Diesel who shoved the redhead into Burro.

 

“I said to take our guest back to the fuckin’ warehouse. You ever disobey me again Snipe, I’ll fuckin’ kill you myself. Y’got that?” Diesel snarled, eyes turning the color of silver as they glared angrily at the redhead who slunk further away from the bristling blond.

 

“W-What about him?” Sniper asked, jerking his chin in the direction of the brunet,  “Who’s gonna take care of him?”

 

“Who else you fuckin’ idiot,” Diesel replied caustically, “I’ll deal with it . . . I’ll haul his ass out to the abyss and you go back to the warehouse and start the ball rollin’.  It shouldn’t take me long to do what I need to do . . . I’ll be back as soon as I finish him off.” The blond turned to look to the hurting brunet who barely stood, his back pressed against the wall, one hand clutching tightly to his side, as he labored to breathe and catch his breath, “Yeah . . . it shouldn’t take me that long at all . . .”

 

The tall blond looked over at his men and at Burro, “It’ll take you about 15 minutes to get back to the warehouse. When the shipment gets there, I want you guys to unpack everything and make sure only our club touches the merchandise. You can lay it all out, but wait for me to get back before we disperse anything out to the others, y’got that?

 

“Yeah.” Sniper said grudgingly, his face full of suppressed hostility, “We got ya! C’mon you shit-heads, what the fuck are you waitin’ for . . . you heard the man.”

 

Diesel watched until the burly bikers left with Burro, his pale blue eyes never leaving the opened door until the loud sounds of the Harleys faded into the distance. The tall blond walked over and silently shut the door, turning to look at the wounded cop who stood propped against the wall. The only sound in the quiet stillness of the room was the ragged breathing of the brunet who stared back at the blond, dark blue eyes filled with confusion and pain.

 

Gasping, the dark haired cop winced as he slowly pushed away from the wall and made his way over to Diesel, his cobalt colored eyes never leaving the face of the blond biker who stood rigidly by the door. “W-why?” Starsky whispered, struggling to understand what had just happened. Without warning, the flaxen haired biker backhanded the brunet as he came near, sending the cop flying into the back of the couch.

 

Grabbing the wounded man, Diesel held him up by the front of his denim vest, “Fuck you man! Don’t think I did that to spare your ass. Before the day is over, you’re a dead man. I can’t believe you’re a fuckin’ cop . . . and all this time I thought you were one of us . . . callin’ ya little brother, treatin’ ya like family when this whole fuckin’ time you were planning on betrayin’ all of us!” Breathing hard, the blond roughly pushed the brunet away, as he turned to pace the small room.

 

Starsky labored to take a breath in, setting off another round of coughs that ripped into his lungs and ribs, making the brunet wince in pain, gasping raggedly to catch his breath. Holding onto the back of the couch for support, the detective tracked the agitated blond, his voice raspy, “It ain’t too late Diesel, come with me . . . you can turn State Witness, give the Feds what they want to know . . . and maybe they can put you in the Witness Protection program, give you a new start . . . maybe you and Alice can have a new lif . . .”

 

“Shut the fuck up Snake . . . no, not Snake, Starsky . . . Detective David Starsky right? Fuck!” Diesel swore softly, running his fingers through his soft blond locks, breathing heavily to get control over his anger. Taking in a calming breath, Diesel softly snarled, “Now you and me, we’re gonna go on a little trip . . . out to the abyss.”

 

The blond biker looked at the dark haired cop, pale blue eyes flashing dangerously, “You look like shit . . . I don’t even think you can fuckin’ ride. I’m gonna put you behind me but if you struggle, or make us spin out or crash, there’ll be hell to pay. Understand this cop, I know who your partner is and I’m not above killin’ two cops in one day . . .”

 

At the brunet’s shocked silence, the blond grinned and continued, “Yeah, that’s right. I did my homework . . . you guys have been partnered for years now and I know how tight you are . . . tight like how we used t’be huh Snake? But then again, you were really never my friend like how I thought . . . you probably think you’re too good to rub shoulders with bikers like me huh little brother?”

 

The tall blond glared at the dark haired cop, his pale blue eyes flashing ice, yet Starsky could see the flicker of hurt that lay just beneath that frozen surface and it pierced his heart making it bleed within. The brunet swallowed down the lump that rose in this throat, feeling Diesel’s pain, hating himself for his betrayal. Knowing that he had led the blond to trust him just so that he could eventually take away his freedom tore him up inside,  “Diesel, listen to me . . . I  . . .”

 

“No you listen to me,” the tall blond snapped in return, “I know his name is Hutchinson . . . Ken Hutchinson; and right now, I got some guys tailin’ him. One word from me, and he’s a dead man.” 

 

Starsky could feel a shiver of fear run down his spine at the blond’s quiet words. Hutch. Feelings of despair for selling Diesel out; faded as thoughts of Hutch and his well being came to the forefront. There was no way Starsky would let them touch Hutch. It blew him away that the tall blond biker would know of his partner, but if Diesel knew he was a cop, it wouldn’t haven taken a genius to figure that out, and for the trail to eventually lead to Hutch. Having Hutch dragged into all of this was not an option and there was no way in hell that he would allow Hutch to go down with him. No way in hell!

 

The brunet could feel his mind racing as fast as his heart, “Tell me where the abyss is . . . you got nuthin’ to lose now . . . I’m a dead man anyway,” Starsky said softly, hoping he could get Diesel to spill the directions to that place so that the listening Feds could track them in time.

 

The weary brunet winced as the angry blond abruptly reached out to grab him by the bicep, roughly yanking him to a standing position, “You’ll see the abyss soon enough Davey-boy, now shut the hell up and when we get outside, you’re gonna get on my fuckin’ bike. You struggle or make a fuss, you can journey to hell and know that your partner won’t be too far behind!” Deisel shoved the dark haired biker towards the door and opened it to follow the brunet out, slamming the portal closed behind him.

 

________________________________ -o-o-o-o- _______________________________

 

“You got all of that?” the black man said, taking off the earphones, perspiration running down the sides of his dark face as he looked to the younger man who clicked off the recorder. It was sweltering in the stifling van, and the federal agent quickly loosened his tie and the button to his collar.

 

“Yeah, we got all of it right here,” Jason said, tapping the tape recorder, as he wiped the sweat that dripped from his brown sideburns, “We better call it in to Hillyard and Slate . . . inform them that it is still going down at 4:00 which is in 5 minutes. They better be ready . . .”

 

The tall black man took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his beaded brow,

“They will. They’re supposed to be staked out in the vicinity already, along with Hutchinson, Dobey and some cops from the BCPD. You better let them know about the glitch in the plans  . . . we need to let them know that Starsky’s cover has been blown . . .”

 

“Yeah . . . I’ll call it in right now . . .” Jason said, reaching over to grab the mic . . .

 

 

Chapter Nineteen

 

From where they were stationed, Hutch didn’t have a clear view of the warehouse, but he knew some of the other federal agents had the place in sight. They had inconspicuously watched as several motorcycles pulled up a few minutes ago, but according to Hillyard who radioed back, Starsky and Diesel wasn’t one of the men who entered the place.

 

Hutch could feel the cold hand of fear twisting his insides out as he worried about his partner. If everything went according to schedule, the bust would go down in approximately five minutes. He knew Starsky was feeling lousy when he left Venice Place and it tore him up to give his friend the bottle of cocaine, but if it would make it easier for the brunet and get him through this day, then Hutch resigned himself to do it.

 

 “Maybe you should think about giving him some coke tomorrow before he leaves . . . like I said before, the man is gonna need it to function . . . you seen him . . . he’s as weak as a kitten. He’s playing with some mean cats, and Starsky’s gonna need to have his reflexes

and mind sharp as ever.”

 

“I know you don’t wanna do it Hutch, but if you don’t give him a fix, you might just be sending him to his grave . . .”

 

“He’s gonna have to kick the habit from tomorrow on anyway,”

 

Hutch frowned, his mind drifting back to what the proprietor had told him. Huggy was right after all, one more day wouldn’t kill Starsky and he’d have to suffer through withdrawal soon enough. Thoughts of Starsky hurting, craving, searching frantically, desperately, through his bedroom for the small bottle of powder filled his mind with despair  . . .

 

“You okay Hutch?”

 

The tall blond turned to look at his captain who sat rigidly beside him, sweat pouring down the side of his dark face, “Yeah . . . j-just worried,” Hutch said, “Don’t know why Starsky wasn’t with the rest of the bikers who just showed up.”

 

Dobey frowned, “Well . . . maybe he’s already inside.”

 

“Maybe,” Hutch conceded, “But something just doesn’t sit well with me . . .I’m worried Captain . . .” Dobey opened his mouth to say something, but the static from the walkie that sat between them silenced the rotund captain, who watched as Hutch made a grab for it.

 

“Yeah?” Hutch said breathlessly, his heart skipping a beat, as the voice on the other came in loud and clear . . .

 

“This is Hillyard. The truck with the shipment just pulled in . . . bikers are letting the truck inside now . . . we will converge at the ware house in 5 minutes . . . got that?”

 

“Yeah . . . Starsky . . . do you see him?” Hutch asked anxiously, wishing he could see the warehouse from where he was.

 

There was a slight pause and Hutch wondered if they had lost connection, but then Hillyard’s voice came through once more, “That’s a negative .  . . no Starsky in sight . . . 5 minutes and we converge . . .”

 

“Yeah got that . . . 5 minutes.” Hutch put the walkie-talkie down and looked to his captain who still had that worried frown across his brow.

 

“Captain . . .” Hutch began . . .

 

“We’ll find out soon enough,” Dobey cut in, “You’re partner’s one hell of a cop, he’s gonna be okay Hutch. This will all be over in five minutes.” The large black man reached out a heavy hand and laid it on the blond’s shoulder, as if to soothe the frazzled detective. “It’s been a long haul for the both of you son, let’s keep the faith huh?”

 

“Yeah,” Hutch said softly, starting the engine as he glanced at his watch. The battered LTD took off to the warehouse meeting up with other federal agents, their cars, vans and wagons all converging in front of the warehouse at the same time. “This is the FBI . . . come out with your hands up.” The warning from the bullhorn caused havoc and mayhem to erupt.

 

Shots rang out as the task force entered the warehouse. Bikers from different chapters, their colors merging together, ran in all directions to try to escape the net that surrounded and eventually captured them red-handed with the huge shipment of cocaine that they were unpacking from the large wooden crate. In all, three bikers were killed, one of them was Mad Dog as he stood his ground and fired repeatedly at the enemies. The five other bikers that were wounded, and two agents who were shot, were quickly taken to the nearest hospital.

 

Amid the chaos of agents cuffing bikers and evidence being collected, Hutch quickly searched the warehouse from top to bottom, a sense of foreboding and panic filling his heart when he was unable to find his partner. The tall blond had just come out of the upstairs office when he heard the familiar bellowing of his captain.

 

“Hutch! Hutch come down here . . . dispatch has a patch through for you . . .” Dobey hollered, “Said it has to do with Starsky.”

 

The tall blond flew down the steps, jumping the remaining few in his haste to get to the car, his mind racing as fast as his feet, as thoughts of his partner flashed through his mind, “Yeah?” Hutch panted, quickly grabbing the mic from his captain, “Yeah patch it through,” he said abruptly, waiting impatiently until he heard the soft voice on the other end . . .

 

“Hello?”

 

“Yeah . . . This is Detective Hutchinson . . .”

 

“Hutch?” the gentle southern voice drawled softly, “It’s me Handsome Hutch . . . it’s Sweet Alice.”

 

“Sw . . Sweet Alice?” Hutch stammered, “Oh my god . . . what . . . where are you? Dispatch said you know something about Starsky?” The blond detective’s mind raced, ‘What was Sweet Alice calling him about? How did she tie into Starsky’s disappearance? If she were hanging out with the outlaws, then she would be able to blow Starsky’s cover . . . did she finger his partner?’ Hutch could feel sudden anger fill his heart at that thought.

 

“Listen Handsome Hutch, I’m not sure I’m doin’ the right thing, ain’t never been too sure about that one, but Starsky’s in a whole heap of trouble. They’re gonna take him out to a place called the abyss . . . they know he’s a cop Hutch . . . his cover’s been blown.”

 

The Abyss.

 

Hutch could feel a shiver of fear run up his spine. Starsky had mentioned this ‘abyss’ before, the night he came over and spilled his guts about Brody. He could feel his hand trembling and he clutched the mic tighter to still the tremors, “Where Alice? Wh-where’s is this abyss? You have to tell me . . . I’m at the warehouse now and . . . S-Starsky’s not here and neither is Deisel. Where did he take Starsky?”

 

Alice paused, thinking of Diesel, his gentle caresses and warm kisses, the way his eyes softened as they stared into hers. ‘What if Diesel got hurt because of this? Was she making the right decision? Yet Starsky would surely die if she didn’t .  .  .’ Her mind flashed back to that night where Starsky had put his vest around her cold shoulders, the way he grinned at her when he said he would marry Hutch before she did, the turmoil he’d been in that night and the words she’d spoken to encourage him . . .

 

 “You can’t save the world Starsky . . . people like me and Diesel . . . well, I guess we’re the fools in life, and if prison is the pain we must go through . . . then so be it. We all make our own choices in life. Don’t you stop from doin’ what’s right, jus’ because others don’t stop from doin’ what’s wrong.”

 

She thought of Diesel’s strong arms wrapped around her and how that made her feel safe and . . . and loved. If she were completely honest with herself, Alice knew that she was falling for the tall blond biker. ‘Hell, I’m already in love with ‘im,’ she corrected herself silently. There was something so special about Diesel, something that reminded her of the man she was talking to right now on the phone. Never in all of her born years had a man treated her as kindly as Diesel did and it tore at her heart to think that she might be betraying her man after getting him to trust and share his thoughts with her in the first place. Indecision made her pause a moment longer, but the sharp voice on the other line brought her back to the present . . .

 

Alice! Where is Starsky and where the hell is this abyss? You have to tell me Alice, please . . . Starsky’s life depends on this . . . I-I need you to tell me if you know . . . please Sweet Alice . . .”

 

Alice closed her eyes and clenched tightly to the receiver, as she heard the desperation in Hutch’s voice. Taking a deep breath, the petite blonde spoke quickly before she could change her mind, “Listen up Handsome Hutch . . . I got Diesel to tell me where that place was. The abyss is a deep well that the club has used to dispose of bodies. It’s been a secret place that only the chapter leaders have known about . . . the former president of “The Minions” owned some property that had this old dried up well on it. He used it to hide some rival outlaw biker that he had killed off. Since then, it’s been the club’s secret place where they ditch people they hit. That’s all I know Hutch . . . I think they’re gonna take Starsky there and dispose of him that way.”

 

Hutch closed his eyes, fear for his partner overtaking his senses as Alice’s quiet voice filled his mind, “T-Thanks Alice, thank you so much! When all of this over and done with, I’d like to see you again . . .”

 

Alice smiled, her heart breaking in two, torn between friendship and love, “H-Hutch?” she called out suddenly as she felt the detective about to hang up, “B-be careful Handsome Hutch, and please . . . please be kind to my Diesel . . . he’s been so nice to me and he’s the only man that’s ever come close to you . . .”

 

Hutch could hear the quiet desperation in the woman’s voice, and he knew that Alice had probably sacrificed her man to save Starsky. The tall blond could feel his heart well up with gratitude for Alice who he knew had so little in life to look forward to, “I will Sweet Alice . . . I have a feeling that Starsky cared a lot about him too.”

 

The tall blond detective hung up the microphone, his pale blue eyes tracking the van that just pulled up into the area fronting the warehouse. He recognized the surveillance van that taped the going-ons in Starsky’s apartment, after spending so many hours and weeks in it, trying to watch his partner’s back. “Hey Jason,” Hutch called out, recognizing the young agent who stepped out of the van, “Hey, have you seen Starsky?”

 

Jason turned at the calling of his name, “Starsky? Hutch, didn’t Hillyard or Slate inform you of the call I put in a while back, before the bust went down?”

 

Hutch could feel himself tensing, the anger in his eyes reflecting the quiet restraint he put on his volatile emotions, “No, what call? Fuck! God damn it, no they didn’t. Tell me Jason . . . where’s my partner?”

 

Jason cleared his throat, wondering if he wasn’t supposed to say anything. If Slate and Hillyard had kept this information from the BCPD and from Starsky’s partner, there might be an official reason for doing so. The young agent looked away from the desperate, angry gaze of the blond. He had worked with Hutch on several nights, staked out in the van with him and had gotten to know Hutch as a decent, hard-working detective. If the truth were known, he really liked the tall blond and he wracked his brains trying to figure out why his superiors had kept the information secret about Starsky’s abduction.

 

Hutch could see the indecision that crossed the young agent’s face, “Jason please,” Hutch whispered, reaching out a hand to place upon the agent’s shoulder, “Please . . . he’s my partner . . . t-tell me what you heard . . .”

 

“His cover was blown,” a tall black agent replied calmly. Hutch had no idea who this older man was, his eyes immediately dropping to the ID that was clipped to his dark brown jacket. Hutch looked up at the black man who leaned upon the hood of the van, wiping the sweat from his brow with a soiled handkerchief,  “Name’s Taylor . . . heard everything on the earphones . . . your partner was smart enough to turn on the bug. That’s how we knew exactly when the shipment was coming in. It sounded like they roughed him up a bit, and Starsky tried to get them to tell him where they were taking him, knew we were listening on the other end, but they wouldn’t divulge any information on the whereabouts of this place called ‘The Abyss”.

 

“The abyss . . .” Hutch murmured, dropping his eyes, his mind running rampant as he thought of his partner, remembering how weak and hurt he’d been as he rode away from Venice Place.

 

‘Starsky.’

 

Hutch looked up to see Slate and Hillyard talking to Dobey across the way. The tall blond could feel the pent up rage and frustration take hold of him and he hurried across to the trio, grabbing Slate by the lapels of his jacket, shoving him roughly against the sedan they were standing next to; hearing the older man grunts of pain brought a slight satisfaction to the angry blond and he shook him once again for good measure.

 

“Hutch! Hutch what the hell . . .” Dobey bellowed, trying to pull his man off of the older agent. “What the hell is going on?”

 

“Tell him!” Hutch snapped irately, his pale blue eyes flashed angrily, enraged beyond belief by the stupidity of the two agents heading this whole operation, “You tell my Captain how you set up my partner who even now, might be dead!” Saying those words out loud was like a dagger to his heart and Hutch shoved Slate away from him, backing up a few steps, seething as the older man stammered, “W-well, we n-needed to ensure the success of the operation f-first.”

 

“What the hell are you talking about?” Dobey demanded, “Where is Starsky?”

 

“Unfortunately, Detective’s Starsky’s cover has been blown,” Hillyard calmly, “Now there’s no reason for this kind of violent reaction, we have everything under control . . .”

 

“Their taking him to the abyss Captain,” Hutch said angrily, “He’s hurt and alone and these fuck ups have known about his capture since before the bust went down. They’ve had a head start . . .”

 

“Dammit!” Dobey swore, his dark face clouding over in rage, as he grabbed Hillyard by the lapels of his jacket and slammed his weight against the shocked agent, who gasped as the air was knocked out of him, “If my man dies because of your stupid call, I will personally hunt both your asses down and make sure you are never in a position to hurt another man again . . .” The seething black man turned a bloodshot eye to Slate, who shrank back even more.

 

Hutch glared the frightened agents and sneered, “That makes the two of us Captain . . . if Starsky’s dead,” the blond took in a breath, closing his eyes against the horrid image that filled his mind, “ . . . if they’ve killed my partner . . . I’ll be back . . . and you can count on it!”

 

Chapter Twenty

 

Starsky fell to the ground, choking on dust as he struggled to catch his breath, his side screaming out in pain as he landed on the packed earth from the shove that Diesel gave him, as the big blue Harley slowed to a stop.

 

“Get up ‘Little Brother’” the blond sneered, his blue eyes bright with rage as he turned off the engine, slowly getting off of his motorcycle, “Get up Davey-boy. It’s time I teach you a lesson about lyin’ to others.”

 

Gasping, Starsky struggled to his feet, staggering with pain and with the burning need for more cocaine, his heavy, fatigued body dragging him down once more as a fit of coughing tore through his side.

 

Diesel watched as the brunet attempted to rise, hearing him softly groan as he clutched his side, feeling a twinge of respect for the valiant efforts of the dark haired cop. The tall blond man steeled his heart against the pity that surged within for the detective, reminding himself that this man was his enemy, a betrayer, a deceiver, a Judas to the club.

 

Diesel dragged his fingers through his long blond hair, pushing it back from his sweaty face as he looked around the desolate place. It was quiet. His blue eyes searched the horizon, glancing upon the nearby shrubs and heavy bushes that hid the secret resting place of the enemies to “The Minions,” before finally lighting upon the hole in the ground a few feet away from them. The ‘abyss’, a name dubbed by the chapter, was an abandoned well that had dried up a decade or so ago, and was now the club’s undisclosed disposal bin.

 

This land was part of the two-acre spread that belonged to the family of “Diablo”, the former president of the Minions, who now was safely ensconced behind bars for the murder of his old lady. For years, this parcel of land was virtually uninhabited, except for the bugs and lesser forms of life that crawled over the unforgiving terrain. The bushes, shrubs and weeds that managed to scrape out an existence in the dry wasteland never failed to make the blond wonder at nature’s tough resilience and will to live . . . something that this cop would never have the chance to do. Today was the day that David Michael Starsky would breathe his last, and if Diesel were honest with himself, that thought saddened him.

 

The blond sighed, his heart heavy for what he needed to do, the responsibilities of his position, a huge weight upon his shoulders, but the club needed him to carry out the sentence upon Snake; a man they had embraced, a man they had learned to trust and respect, a man Diesel himself, had extended the hand of friendship to, a man he had cared about and called ‘Little Brother.’ Fueling his anger on that thought, Diesel quickly stomped over and grabbed the wounded man by his arm, dragging the brunet over to the deep, barren hole in the ground.

 

Starsky groaned softly, sharp rocks and thorny patches of weeds cut into his arms and back as he was dragged across the rocky terrain, gasping in pain as his stretched ribcage screamed in agony while Diesel continued to roughly yank on his left arm until they finally got to the gaping hole.

 

The tall blond stood, feet askance, letting Starsky’s arm drop limply back to the ground, watching as the dark haired cop rolled on his right side, his right arm wrapping around his left ribs once more, gasping as another coughing jag ripped through his being, his hurting form curling into the pain. Diesel looked down at the dark haired cop who struggled to breath through the hacking coughs, knowing how much pain his “friend” was in. The tall blond drew his gun from his pocket, and knelt down next to the suffering brunet, his voice though soft, was hardened, “Here little brother, why don’t you let me help ya . . . I can put you out of your misery right here and right now!”

 

Starsky attempted to draw in a breath, his strained breathing was rapid and shallow, the pain in his side brutally spearing him with each labored breath. He could see the dusty leather boots that stood beside him and the brunet wearily lifted sapphire-blue eyes to the blond who crouched beside him.

 

The coughing jag had left the detective feeling as weak, his lungs constricted and burning; Starsky squinted as he looked upon the shadowed face of the golden haired man, the brightness of the sun haloing around the head of the blond biker, like it did in his dream, the prominent icy glare seemingly glowing from the dark sunken angles on the biker’s face. Breathing heavily, Starsky dropped his eyes to the gun that Diesel held, then lifted them back to the angry face of the blond, “Diesel . . . listen to me . . . it’s not . . . not too late . . . you can help me . . . and I’ll try to help y . . .” the rasping voice of the brunet was cut short as Diesel interjected.

 

“You think I’d betray my chapter? You think I’d turn on them . . . on Jasper and the others . . . you think I would do what you did to us?” The tall blond shook his head, a look of disgust plainly written on his handsome face, “You have no honor man . . . you’d sell your own mother out just for the accolades you get from your job. You make me sick . . . and I thought you and me were cut from the same cloth, but I was wrong. You blind-sided me man . . . and to think that Sniper saw through your disguise the whole time . . . Fuck!”

 

“You’re wrong . . .” Starsky gasped, struggling to pull himself up, “We are cut . . . from the same cloth . . . but we just wear . . . different patches. You would’a made . . . a great cop Deis. . .”

 

“Fuck you man!” Diesel snapped, “You cops are all crooked . . . I know because I have some on my payroll right now! I’ve seen what you call “law enforcement!” I’ve seen how you uphold law and order with a stick and a gun, how you threaten people into submission, how you shoot first and ask questions later. You guys are nothin’ but a bunch of bikers wearin’ blue man . . . you think wearing a piece of tin makes it right to beat on others . . . makes it right to take someone down? You disgust me . . .”

 

“Yeah?” Starsky gasped, “I used to think the same way . . . ‘bout you filthy bikers . . . ‘til I met you . . . and Jasper . . . and the others . . . used’ta think you were all like Sniper . . . but I was wrong . . . like how you’re wrong about cops . . .”

 

“Just shut the fuck up!” Diesel drew back his boot and kicked at downed man in his anger, feeling sick as he heard the brunet gasp and softly groan in pain at the brutal contact. The tall blond struggled to get a hold of his temper, as bitter memories he had thought long buried rose to the forefront.

 

Taking in a deep breath, Diesel looked at the hurting cop, his pale blue eyes were filled with anguish as he softly whispered, “I ain’t wrong man . . . I saw that cop blow away my little brother right in front of my eyes. Jessie . . . he looked just like you man . . .curly dark hair, eyes the color of the ocean on a stormy night . . . we used’ta play cops and robbers when we were little, and he always wanted to be the cop . . . wanted to be the good guy . . . he said they stood for what was right.”

 

The tall blond felt the unshed tears that suddenly filled his eyes and he looked out to the horizon once again, blinking the salty moisture back, shaking his head slowly as the painful memories washed over him, “They killed him man . . . they just shot him down thinking he was part of the gang I hung out with . . . he’d come to get me, the night that all hell broke loose . . . tellin’ me to come home . . . and the cops . . . they came and surrounded us  . . . and they shot him . . .and he died . . . just like that. Jessie died right here in my arms man . . .lookin’ at me with those dark blue eyes of his . . . until they closed forever . . .”

 

Starsky felt a lump come to his throat as he watched the tall blond struggle to get a hold of his emotions, feeling sick inside about what happened to Diesel’s little brother, thoughts of Jackson being gunned down in an alley by a trigger hungry rookie came to mind.

 

“Hey . . .” the dark haired cop whispered, drawing the anguished filled gaze of the blond, “I’m sorry man . . . ‘bout Jessie . . . I lost my dad that way . . . he was gunned down when I was a kid . . . saw the whole thing . . . held his head in my lap as he took . . . his last breath . . .”

 

The tall blond eyed the wounded cop, feeling a twinge in his heart for the brunet’s loss, “We lost our pop too . . . he was killed in prison by a guard . . . was your pop killed by a cop too?”

 

Starsky shook his head, “My pop was a cop . . . guess in a way, that’s why I became one.”

 

Diesel snorted softly, the snicker sounding strangely like Hutch’s and it made the brunet long to see his partner once more. There were so many things he had wished he would’ve told Hutch, but now it was too late. For a moment, the two men stared at one another, the only thing they could hear was the soft rustle of dry leaves from the huge bush that stood nearby, the soft whispering of the dust as it blew across the hard terrain and the labored breathing of the dark haired cop. Starsky looked up when he heard the “click”, as Diesel armed the gun that was pointing at him.

 

“It’s too bad you had to get involved in all of this Davey-boy, you really had us goin’ . . . you really had me goin’ little brother . . .”

 

Starsky blinked the sweat from his eyes, listening to soft wheezing in his burning lungs as he drew in another small breath, “So ya gonna blow me away . . . like ya did to Brody . . . that night? Ya gonna dump . . . me in that hole? How many . . . how many bodies are in that well . . . huh?” The dark haired cop labored to draw another breath in, setting off another round of coughs that tore through his lungs and ribs. “Uungh” Starsky groaned softly, clutching his side as bolts of fiery pain flared in his ribs from the jolting his body took as he continued to cough relentlessly.

 

It killed the blond biker to see the cop struggling to catch his breath as the coughing jag made the brunet double over in pain. Diesel sighed and stooped down to help Starsky sit up, wincing in sympathy as the cop gasped in pain. Cupping his hands, Diesel lightly pounding on the upper back of the brunet to clear his airway, angrily scolding the dark haired biker, “You idiot . . .smoking and snorting when you have a fucked up lung . . . what the shit do you think you were doing huh? You fuckin’ cops . . . sacrificing yourself for your job. Fuck! I can hear you wheezing already man. You think you’re some kind of a god . . . immune to death or something just because you made it through that shooting in the police garage? It’s like you got a second chance at life little brother, and you’re blowing it away . . . what the fuck were you thinkin’ when you signed up for th . . .”

 

“What the hell do you care?” Starsky rasped, sucking in oxygen as the coughing finally ceased, the light pounding on the back of his lungs helped to ease the tightening of his airway, allowing the brunet to breathe a little easier. The dark haired cop turned to stare at the tall blond who suddenly stopped his ministrations, light and dark blue fusing together, eyes speaking volumes where words remained silent. For a minute, Starsky was reminded of another blond who took great joy in mother-henning him to death and that thought brought a small, sad smile to his lips.

 

Starsky snorted softly, almost sneering as he watched the blond picked up the gun once more. The wounded cop watched as Diesel pointed it once again in his direction and he lowered his eyes as he grabbed a handful of dirt, tossing it out a few feet in front of him, “You talk about valuing life . . . but you can blow people away . . . without a second thought . . . guess you’re gonnna do me now. . . like how ya did Brody?”

 

“Yeah, I’m gonna do you like how I did Brody,” Diesel said, quickly coming around to the front of the cop and crouching down beside him, “Now shut the fuck up and listen good,” the blond ordered, “I’m gonna let ch’ya go . . . just like how I let Brody go that night when I brought him out here.”

 

Starsky stared at the blond, his eyes widened with bewilderment, “Wh-What?” You let Brody go? But you said you killed him . . .you . . .”

 

“I never said I killed him little brother,” the blond smiled gently, “I just answered your question with a question . . . let you believe whatever the hell you wanted to.” The biker shook his head and chuckled with amusement as he looked into the dark blue eyes of the cop, “Shit man . . . you look so much like my Jessie . . . it’s like I’m fuckin’ lookin’ at him right now. If I killed you, it would be like killin’ Jessie all over again . . .’sides . . . if I killed you now, I’d probably live to regret it. You and I know that there ain’t no reverse gears on a bike little brother, so I guess I’m gonna have to let ch’ya go . . . don’t want no regrets . . . ” Diesel snorted, his pale blue eyes softening with affection as he reached out his large calloused hand and ruffled the dark curls, “C’mon Snake, I know you feel like shit, but you gotta get up . . . and I ain’t givin ya no more coke neither . . . not with that fucked up lung of yours . . .!”

 

The tall blond tucked his gun into the back of his jeans and gently pulled Starsky to his feet, helping to support the wounded cop who bent over in pain. Diesel squinted and looked around once more at the dry terrain saying gruffly, “Listen Snake, Jinx and some army buddies of mine should be here shortly. I wasn’t too sure what I would do with you, wasn’t sure I wanted to blow you away just yet, but they said they would come out anyway. Guess Jinx knew me well enough to know that I couldn’t kill ya. They’re gonna help me and take you away from here . . . drop ya off over the border like we did for Brody and his old lady . . . ya gotta stay low for a few years . . . the outlaws have their own way of dealing with snitches . . . their reach is far and wide . . . ya rode with us long enough t’know that by now. The word will be out now that you were a cover cop . . . hopefully they’ll think I blew ya off out here at the abyss, it’ll buy ya some time.

 

“I don’t think so prick! You’re time has fuckin’ run out right now . . .” Both men, one light and one dark, turned to look at the Sniper who calmly walked out from behind the bushes, a sawed off shotgun cocked and ready, pointing straight at the curly haired cop.

 

Sniper chuckled, a dangerous glint in his eye, “I knew you’d let him go Diesel, knew you wouldn’t have the balls to carry out the sentence for our chapter. You’re a fuckin’ wimp man . . . a humiliation to our club . . .and you call yourself honorable . . . what a fuckin’ joke!” the redhead snarled, his green eyes never leaving the wounded cop who struggled to remain standing, breathing rapid shallow breaths as he surfed through the pain that hammered away in his skull and at his side.

 

“Snipe . . . put that fuckin’ shotgun down before you shoot yourself in the ass!” Diesel snapped, his eyes turning the color of ice as he glared at the redhead who wisely remained a few feet away, “Gimme the gun Snipe,” Diesel said, lowering his voice until it was soothing and soft, seeing the redhead shaking like a leaf. The tall blond wasn’t sure if it was fear or withdrawal from drugs that gave Sniper the tremors, but he knew for sure that the redhead was a loose cannon. Diesel kept his voice low,  “Let me deal with all of this . . . ride on back to the warehouse Snipe . . . I’ll meet you there in . . .”

 

“Fuck you Diesel,” Sniper growled, the shotgun trembling in his unsteady hands, “Don’t try to trick me . . . I ain’t buying any of that president shit and I ain’t listenin’ to your fuckin’ orders no more . . . now move away from that stinkin’ cop . . . I wanna watch the sunset from that hole I’m gonna make through his belly!” The skinny redhead laughed insanely, priding himself on his clever speech, his green eyes glittering dangerously as he lowered the shotgun’s point to the brunet’s midsection. “Now step the fuck away from him Diesel before I fuckin’ shoot you too.”

 

Breathing heavily, Starksy tracked the movement of the gun as it lowered to his stomach. He could feel Diesel slowly loosening his hold on him as the biker made to move away. The dark haired biker could feel the trembling in his own limbs as he struggled to stay upright, the heavy tiredness from the withdrawal of the drug made the brunet want to sink to the dirt, but stubborn pride made him hold his ground as he blinked the perspiration from his cobalt colored eyes and glared back at the sneering redhead.

 

“Okay Snipe,” Diesel spoke calmly, drawing the redhead’s attention, as he slowly held his hands out to the side, “Take it easy man . . . I’m gonna step away from Snake okay?” The tall blond slowly moved away from the brunet, his eyes never leaving Sniper’s bruised and battered face, intuitively knowing that the curly haired cop was struggling to remain standing without his support.

 

Sniper laughed, loving the power he felt at that moment, seeing his president obeying his orders, “Fuck . . . I wish everyone could see this now! The great, fuckin’ almighty Diesel is listening to me. I bet you would fuckin’ think twice before slapping me around again huh asshole?” Sniper grinned, relishing the moment, feeling empowered by the heavy weight of the shotgun in hand, “I wish I had been there to see your brother Jessie eat that cop’s bullet . . . such a heartbreaking story Diesel, but you still have an obligation to the club to execute this cop. I never knew what a yellow chicken you really were! When we go back Diesel, I’m gonna be the new president once I tell everyone that you’ve been letting our enemies go, and you know what . . . I might not have been there to see your brother die, but at least today we both can watch this fuckin’ pig bite the dust . . . and I get the fuckin’ honor of plugging him for ya . . .” the redhead sneered as he aimed the gun at the dark haired cop and pulled the trigger.

 

Starsky scrunched his eyes, pain exploded in his being, flooding his quaking limbs as the air was suddenly knocked out of him when he hit the hard, dusty ground. Gasping, the brunet struggled to take in a breath, but the heavy form lying across his chest inhibited his lungs from expanding The loud blast from the shotgun reverberated in the stillness of the terrain and Starsky opened his eyes to see Diesel lying on top of him.

 

“No!” the brunet gasped, realizing sluggishly that the blond had jumped in front of the bullet meant for him, attempting to push the wounded cop out of the way, but slamming into him instead from the force of the bullet. Gasping, breathing heavily as he struggled to maneuver himself from beneath the tall blond, Starsky pulled himself into a sitting position, turning Diesel so that he could cradle the biker’s golden head onto his lap. “Diesel!” Starsky whispered, shaking his head in denial as he used both of his hands to cover the blond’s abdomen, trying to staunch the flow of bright red blood that rapidly seeped out.

 

“Uungh” the blond groaned softly, his own hands moving to cover Starsky’s, gasping as unbearable pain flared red-hot in his mid-section. Diesel opened his pale blue eyes and stared up into a stormy ocean of blue that locked and held his gaze. “J-Jessie?” the hurting blond whispered.

 

“Shhh, take it easy,” Starsky said softly, trying to hide the desperation in his voice as he attempted to soothe the tall blond, knowing in his heart that very few men survived the kind of wound that Diesel had, “It’s gonna be okay . . . you’re gonna be okay . . . y’hear me Diesel? You hang on . . .”

 

“Fuck man!” Sniper snapped angrily, seeing the blood rapidly spreading from the gaping hole on the blond’s abdomen. “You fuckin’ stupid jackass,” Sniper screamed, “Why’d you do that for? It wasn’t supposed to be you  . . . fuck!”

 

Though his senses and reflexes were sluggish from the drug’s withdrawal, the brunet could feel the Beretta digging into his leg from where Diesel had tucked it into the waistband of his jeans. Starsky slowly reached a trembling hand as inconspicuously as he could for the gun, his eyes never leaving the hostile green glare of the redhead.

 

Cussing more filthy words, Sniper cocked and lifted his shaky gun once more, taking aim at the brunet when the sudden loud blaring of a siren made both men turn to see the barrage of cars coming their way, mars lights flashing red and blue.

 

Hutch could see the punk holding the shotgun that was pointed at his partner, and he floored the accelerator, fear for his friend made the perspiration drip between his shoulder blades and run down his back.

 

It hadn’t been too hard to figure out where Diesel had taken Starsky. A quick call to the department of records and land utilization turned up the address and property that belonged to Harry Kern, a.k.a. Diablo, and soon the location of the well on his property was located. Securing that information, Hutch, the feds and squadron of police cars made a beeline to the former holdings of the prior president to the ‘Minions.’ To see his wounded partner in imminent danger brought the blond’s anger to the forefront as he raced ever closer the dark haired detective.

 

Starsky couldn’t believe his eyes. It was Hutch!  Hutch had found him! Starsky watched as a huge cloud of dust followed in his partner’s wake as other squad cars raced towards them. The brunet would have smiled at his good fortune, but he knew it wasn’t over yet, as the lunatic waving the shotgun started hollering.

 

“Fuck!” Sniper screamed, his eyes bugging out at the sight of the cops coming his way, “They ain’t fuckin’ takin’ me alive and they ain’t takin’ you either!” the redhead snarled, turning his green glare upon the brunet as he raised the shotgun up to eye level, taking aim, his finger compressing the trigger . . . only to gasp loudly, the heavy gun slowly falling from his hands, his eyes wide with bewilderment, as a trickle of red ran down the bridge of his broken nose from the tiny hole in his forehead.

 

Starsky groaned softly, the kick from the Beretta made his side ache and his left hand trembled unsteadily; the sound of the shot was still ringing in his ears, as he lowered the gun, watching Sniper slowly sink to the ground before him. The brunet closed his eyes, feeling sick from knowing that he had killed another human being; even realizing that he had no other choice in the matter didn’t take away the remorse he felt each time he pulled the trigger and took a life.

 

“H-hey”

 

The soft gasp made the brunet open his eyes once more, looking down into the pale blue eyes that had never left his face. Starsky gently pushed against his other hand once more to impede the flow of blood as the blond groaned softly, “Shh . . . take it easy buddy . . .” the brunet soothed, wincing as the blond biker gritted his teeth against the wave of pain that bombarded his gaping abdomen, vaguely registering the slamming of doors as Hutch and the others rushed over. “Jus’ breath man . . . jus’ breath . . .” Starsky gasped softly, wanting to throw up as he felt the hot gushing warmth between his bloody fingers.

 

“Ain’t . . . no use . . .” Diesel gasped, his blue eyes softening at the worried look of distress upon the brunet’s face, “Nothin’ . . . you can do . . . shit happens . . . to everyone . . . and just . . . like that . . . life’s gone.”

 

Starsky focused on the blond’s face which suddenly blurred as tears came to his sapphire eyes, remembering Diesel sharing those exact words in his cover apartment, “You shouldn’t’ve got in the way . . . why’d ya have’ta do that for?” The brunet lifted his arm slightly and wiped his eyes against his sleeve, his hands never leaving the biker’s oozing flesh, even as he felt Hutch kneeling beside him. “You’re gonna make it . . . ya hear me? Ya hang on!”

 

The dark haired cop looked at his best friend in the whole world, his haunted cobalt gaze speaking volumes as the blond detective’s eyes softened in understanding, reaching out to gently squeeze his partner’s shoulder in silent support, knowing that the brunet had truly cared about the outlaw leader to the Minions. “We called buddy . . . an ambulance is on its way,” Hutch said gently.

 

“Y-you Hutch-inson? Diesel gasped, his pale eyes drifting to the blond cop who knelt beside him. At the detective’s slight nod, the biker grinned only to grit his teeth again as another wave of pain pummeled him. Gasping hoarsely, Diesel clutched his abdomen tightly, feeling his life’s blood spilling out between his fingers, “T-take . . . c-care . . . of my little . . . br-brother . . .”

 

The biker’s voice was whisper soft and Hutch had to lean over just to hear him. Diesel slowly turned to look once more at the dark haired cop, his pale blue eyes grew distant, a grin slowly tweaking the corners of his lips, “F-freedom . . . n-no r-regrets . . .” Starsky watched as long pale lashes slowly lowered, hiding the sky blue depths from his sight forever as a soft, gentle sigh of surrender was heard from the blond biker, who grew suddenly limp in the arms of the brunet. 

 

The curly haired detective clutched the still and lifeless body tightly against his chest, ignoring the flare of pain that stabbed into his side, “No . . . NO!  You fuckin’ hang on d’ya hear me? Don’t ya fuckin’ die on me dammit!” Starsky snarled, roughly shaking Diesel in his desperation to make the blond hear him, “Get up! Get the fuck up! Don’ ya fuckin’ give up . . . don’ . . .”

 

The dark haired cop bowed his head, unable to finish his sentence, as he gently stroked back the golden locks of the biker he held pressed against his chest. Starsky looked up, his eyes were haunted and sad as they connected with his partner’s, “He . . . he . . . saved my life Hutch . . . he saved my life . . .”

 

Hutch swallowed the lump in his throat, knowing how close he’d come to losing his partner, feeling grateful to the blond biker and the ultimate sacrifice that he’d made. The golden haired detective moved in closer to pull Starsky into his embrace, feeling the tremors that shook his partner’s battered body as the brunet leaned heavily against him. The soft curls under his chin tickled his nose, as he breathed in the familiar, but faint smell of sandalwood. “It’s over buddy . . . it’s all over . . .” Hutch soothed gently, softly, “Let’s go home huh pal? It’s all over . . .”

 

 

Chapter Twenty-One

 

They silently watched as the coroner’s team efficiently bagged up the body of Sniper, his bright copper locks the last image Hutch saw before the bag was zipped closed and lifted up it into the wagon. As cops, agents and forensics crawled over the area with a fine tooth comb, Hutch gently squeezed Starsky’s shoulder, feeling him grow tense as the coroner’s team made their way over to them.

 

They had remained where they were, sitting in the dirt next to the hole in the ground, as Starsky continued to cradle the golden head of the lifeless biker in his lap, his hand gently stroking the side of Diesel’s face, as if to soothe the dead man. Hutch could see the heavy lines of fatigue and sadness etched in the brunet’s face and watching the gentle strokes as his friend touched the biker brought a lump to Hutch’s throat. It was obvious to the flaxen haired detective that Starsky had cared very much for the president of the Minions.

 

“Excuse me sir,” a young man said, his gloved hand reaching out to grab onto the dead man’s arm, “We need to take the body now . . .”

 

“He has a name,” Starsky whispered softly, “His name is Diesel . . .”

 

“Yes sir,” the coroner’s assistant said softly, knowing the cop was probably in shock, “We’ll take care of him now sir . . .” The young man raised compassionate brown eyes to look uncertainly at the blond detective when the dark haired biker refused to let go.

 

Hutch leaned in closer, putting his arm gently around his partner’s stiff shoulders, “Hey Starsk . . . it’s okay buddy, y-you can let go now. They need to take Diesel out of this dusty place . . . a-and you and I need to get home okay pal?” The tall blond gentled his voice to soothe his traumatized friend, knowing it was hurting the brunet to part with the body of the biker.

 

The tall blond detective let out a soft breath as he saw Starsky finally give a curt nod, unaware that he had been even holding it the whole time that he’d waited for Starsky acquiescence. He watched as Starsky slowly turned to look at the older man holding the body bag.

 

“Don’t put ‘im in that . . .” the curly haired detective murmured, his blue eyes flashing angrily, “He don’ belong in there!”

 

“It’s procedure sir . . .” the assistant reassured, “All bodies are transported this way . . . ” The young man looked to Hutch who shook his head imperceptibly, silently warning the coroner who quickly looked to the dark haired detective once again, clearing his throat uncomfortably before trying again, “Um . . . well . . . we’re gonna ah . . .we’ll put your friend in here to protect him, it’ll keep him safe and warm on the long ride back . . . okay sir? I promise you we’ll take good care of him.”  The young man smiled with relief as he saw the brunet reluctantly release his hold on the blond biker.

 

Starsky leaned heavily against Hutch’s chest, watching intently like a guard on duty, as they gently lifted Diesel’s large frame and placed him in the long black bag, feeling his partner squeezing his shoulder reassuringly as they began to zip the bag up. Starsky could feel his breath catch as he took a last look at Diesel, the proud, honorable man he had called his friend, the man who had taken the bullet with his name on it, shuddering as he heard the grating sound of the zipper as it neared the head of the blond biker.

 

The dark haired cop grunted softly as he pushed himself to sit up, feeling the warm support of Hutch as he moved in closer behind him, “Don’ . . . don’t!” Starsky rasped, hissing at the sudden pain in his ribs, “His face . . . don’t cover it . . .”

 

“Shh . . . take it easy Starsk . . .” Hutch gently soothed, “It’s okay . . .”

 

“No . . . he . . . he n-needs to feel . . . the wind . . . on his face.” Starsky said sadly, remembering Diesel’s words, knowing that it always brought the blond biker joy to feel the wind on his face.

 

At Hutch’s brief nod, the corner’s team left the bag partially open, carefully lifting it as they took it to the wagon.

 

“Hey buddy . . .”

 

Starsky wearily watched as they took Diesel away, his heart breaking at the thought of the blond’s sacrifice, turning his attention to his partner as Hutch’s soft words reached his ears.

 

Hutch swallowed, seeing the pain and emptiness in the fathomless blue depths of his partner’s eyes as they turned towards him, “Let’s go home huh?” Hutch said softly. At his partner’s nod, Hutch gently lifted Starsky under his arms into a standing position, moving in to support his wounded friend, as the brunet gritted his teeth against the pain that flared in his side.

 

“Good job Detective Starsky,” Hillyard congratulated, moving to stand beside the two detectives after checking the deep well behind them, quickly motioning for Slate to come over, who was standing over by the coroner’s wagon. “Everything went down as planned. We’ve captured several different reps at the warehouse which will indict their chapters in this drug bust and in their dealings with “The Minions”, the recordings we’ve gotten from you will help to prosecute and lock these derelicts behind bars where they belong and once we can ascertain how many bodies we’ll find in that hole back there  . . . we’ll have this whole operation in a bag! ”

 

“Was any . . . of the bikers hurt . . . in the bust?” Starsky asked quietly, his deep blue eyes wearily searched the face of the federal agent, anxious to hear about Jasper and the others, hoping that they had given up and that they had come out unharmed.

 

Slate came over and stood next to Hillyard, overhearing Starsky’s question, “Well what do you think detective? You think those idiots had the sense to give up?” The older man chuckled, shaking his head, “We killed a couple of them and plugged a few more, they were scurrying all over the place . . . like rats in a drain hole! We had a field day didn’t we Hillyard?” Slate laughed out loud, slapping his knee in remembered glee. Slate sneered at the wounded cop, nodding his head in the direction of the coroner’s wagon, “Don’t even know why you care for scums like that Diesel . . . he’s better off dead to the world than alive . . . we don’t need anymore white trash like that around now do we?”

 

Hutch could see the hostile glare that replaced the vulnerable look in his partner’s eyes and he quickly made a grab for his partner as the brunet lunged and struggled to slug the older man in his smug face, not caring about the pain that was tearing into his side at the violent motions as he fought to get at Slate who quickly stepped back, “You fuckin’ prick . . .you know nuthin’ about him . . .” Starsky snarled, “He was a medic in ‘Nam . . . fought for our country . . . while you sat safe  . . . behind a fuckin’ desk . . .pushing pap . . .” The winded brunet couldn’t even finish his sentence, as a round of coughs stole his remaining breath away, ripping mercilessly into his weakened body.

 

“Take it easy Starsk,” Hutch said, his voice gentled as he spoke to his gasping partner, gently rubbing his back as Starsky tried to catch his breath, “Let it go pal. . . don’t soil your hands on this slime,” the tall blond said soothingly, leaning his partner against a squad car that was parked next to them, “Don’t lower yourself to his standards; you’re above all of that buddy . . . but I’m not!”

 

The blond’s sky blue eyes hardened to the color of ice as he quickly turned and false-cracked the older man’s jaw, sending the agent to his knees. Breathing hard, Hutch glared down at the fallen man who groaned and held his tender jaw, working it back and forth as he scrunched his eyes in pain, “The next time you ever try to withhold information from me again when it concerns my partner’s safety,” the tall blond growled, pointing a long finger at the agents, “You’ll get more than just a clip on the jaw from me!” Hutch shifted his angry glare and his finger to the cowering Hillyard, “Now move the fuck out of our way . . .”

 

The blond turned and collected his dark haired partner, placing an arm around the biker’s waist as he helped Starsky over to the battered LTD.

 

“G-good thing Dobey . . . ain’t here to see . . . your bad temper . . . Hutchinson.” the dark haired cop rasped, too tired to even snort at the havoc Hutch had caused, gritting his teeth as they made their way to the vehicle.

 

A small grin came to the blond’s lips, “Yeah? Well you should’ve seen Dobey smash Hillyard back at the bust. He would’ve been here, but he had to stay back and wrap up things at the warehouse with the other agents.

 

“Yeah?” the weary cop gasped, “Guess . . . I missed . . . the show . . . huh?”

 

Hutch could hear the soft wheezing that came from the brunet’s lungs each time he took in a breath and it filled him with dread, “Easy buddy,” the blond said softly, as he gently helped Starsky into the vehicle. Hutch slammed the door once his partner was safely in, and then went around to the driver’s side, wincing as he heard the loud blaring of his horn before slamming his door to start up the ignition.

 

Hutch looked over at his silent partner who sat hugging his side of the door, worry lines creased the blond’s forehead as he realized that Starsky had no quick wise cracks about his door and his horn. The gentle bantering they had just shared was gone as the brunet just sat, slouched over, right arm wrapped snugly around his left ribs, the line of thick dark lashes hiding the expressive blue of his partner’s eyes.

 

“Hey pal, how you doing huh?” Hutch asked softly, watching as he partner eyes slitted open, revealing the sapphire he longed to see.

 

Starsky shrugged, closing his eyes once more, “Okay . . . I guess . . .”

 

“You hungry? Wanna get something to eat . . . like some tofu burgers maybe?” Hutch joked, trying to get at least a little snort from his fatigued partner, wanting to see that grin he’d missed so much.

 

“Nah . . .” Starsky whispered softly, drawing into himself as he huddled against the door. Hutch tried to engage his dark haired friend into conversation as they sped along the freeway, making their way to Venice Place, but Starsky refused to answer anything anymore, moodily withdrawing into silence, pressing his curls against the glass as he leaned his head wearily upon the rolled up window.

 

The tall blond kept his eyes on the road knowing his partner was hurting both physically as well as emotionally. He had seen the brief hesitation in his partner when the coroner’s team tried to pry Diesel loose from Starsky’s hold, feeling the sadness and loss radiating from his curly haired friend as he helped him towards the car.

 

Hutch glanced over at his partner who had his eyes closed, his long dark lashes looked like smudges against his pale cheeks, and Hutch knew his partner had fallen into an exhausted slumber. The brunet’s shallow breathing disturbed the blond who startled when the raspy voice next to him invaded his thoughts.

 

“He was gonna let me go . . . take me to the border . . . t’hide me from the chapters . . . said I reminded him . . . of Jessie.”

 

Hutch glanced once again at his slouched partner who still had his eyes closed; the tall blond could feel the weariness emanating from the brunet, who gritted his teeth suddenly as they ran over a pothole. Hutch quickly returned his eyes to the road, his voice soft and soothing, “Sorry pal . . . who’s Jessie? Another biker?”

 

Starsky sighed softly, hearing the soft wheezing sound in his lungs, wishing he could do some lines to forget how Diesel had died in his arms, unconsciously rubbing his left hand against his denim clad thigh that was still stained red from the biker’s blood. He could see Diesel’s pain filled eyes behind his closed lids, could hear his last whispered words, “F-freedom .  .  . n-no r-regrets . . .”, and he wished desperately for some of that white powder that would help him to forget, help him to feel pleasure again, to fly away from the remorse and guilt that swamped his heart. “Sweet surrender . . .” Starsky whispered under his breath, remembering the words the blond biker had often used.

 

“What buddy?” Hutch asked, looking to his friend again, concern making the crease deepen between his pale brows, “You say something?” The blond looked over to see his friend slowly open his bright blue eyes, feeling his heart quicken as Starsky turned to look at him. God how he missed his partner!

 

“I said Jessie . . . was Diesel’s kid brother.”  Starsky rasped, his breathing rapid and shallow, straining to take in a full breath, which set him off on another round of coughs once more. The wounded detective clutched his side, eyes scrunched tight, silently surfing through the pain that tore through his side and throat, feeling so weary, his heavy body screaming out for relief, begging him for more of the sweet powder that would take him away from this hellish nightmare and send him soaring into euphoric bliss . . . away from the pain, away from the hurt . . .away from . . . Hutch.

 

Starsky gasped and sucked in air as the coughing jag ceased, slouching wearily against the seat once more, feeling weak and exhausted, only to feel the strong arm of Hutch dragging him across the bench seat, pulling the brunet into the warmth of his embrace.

 

“Shh . . .take it easy Starsk,” Hutch soothed, coaxing the dark curls to rest upon his thigh, “Just try to rest okay buddy? We’re almost home . . .”

 

Starsky could feel the comforting strokes of his partner’s fingers through his hair, could feel the warmth of Hutch’s firm thigh under his cheek and it felt good to feel safe again, yet, in the dark recesses of his mind, he could still hear the soft whisper of the drug . . .

 

“It’s okay . . . just one more time . . . just a little to ease the pain . . .”

 

The hurting brunet shook his head, clearing his mind of the enticing call of the drug, feeling Hutch immediately rubbing his shoulder to soothe him. The gentle touch brought a small smile to the lips of the brunet who resolved himself to remember his vow, that no matter how hard it would be to dry out, he would never beg Hutch for more snow, he would never put Hutch in a position to choose again. He knew that the next two weeks were gonna tear them both up, and the big sensitive blond would be dying inside as he watched his friend suffering through withdrawal, wanting to help, wanting to ease his pain and Hutch didn’t deserve to suffer because of the wrong choices that he’d made in this assignment.

 

The dark haired cop forced himself to concentrate on the warm, gentle strokes on his shoulder, Hutch’s soothing touch and the hum and lull of the car, rocked him slowly to sleep, made him push away the craving as he slowly crashed and burned . . .

 

“Yup nothing you can do. Everyone crashes on the road of life buddy, some get back up, some don’t, and some can’t.”

 

 “Just like that  . . . life’s gone. You and I know there ain’t no reverse gears on a bike Snake, and that’s why I live my life with no regrets. I live in the now, because there might not be a tomorrow, man. No regrets. That’s freedom baby . . . and freedom is the best ride anyone can have in life. That’s the motto you should adopt too, Snake. No regrets!”

 

Starsky startled awake, hitting his head against the bottom of the steering wheel as he tried to abruptly sit up, the quiet voice of Diesel still reverberating in his mind

 

“Easy . . .take it easy Starsk,” Hutch soothed, gently pushing his exhausted friend down once more, “It was just a dream, I’m right here . . .right here buddy.” The tall blond detective smiled gently, feeling his partner snuggling down on his lap once more, the tense muscles relaxing as sleep once again overtook the fatigued brunet.

 

Hutch sighed softly, stroking his partner’s curls with one hand as he steered into the cut off that would take them home. He knew he was in for a long haul. The painful coughs and wheezing he had witnessed worried him immensely. Hutch battled with himself, wanting to take his partner straight to Memorial, but he knew that any blood test given would reveal the cocaine coursing through his partner’s system. He couldn’t put Starsky through that. He’d have two weeks to try and clean Starsky out. Two weeks of hell.

 

The tall blond sighed once more, chancing to take his eyes away from the road to briefly look down at his slumbering partner whose head he held on his lap. The blond smiled, returning his pale blue eyes to the road, his fingers gently teasing the soft sable curls, as his partner continued to sleep. No matter what happened, no matter how painful it was, Hutch knew that he would stay beside his partner, knew that he would do whatever it took to help Starsky dry out, even if it killed him.

 

“Me and Thee buddy,” Hutch whispered softly, “Me and Thee . . .”

 

Chapter Twenty-Two