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Starsky & Hutch Fanfic Site by Cristina Pereira
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The Riddle

Thanks to my Beta reader Donna Engle
 
This story was written purely for entertainment and is not for profit, and is not meant to trespass in any way on the holders of the rights to Starsky and Hutch.
same disclaimer is applicable to E.A.Poe poems
 
Spirits of the Dead

by Edgar Allan Poe (This poem is also called "Visit of the Dead." )

Thy soul shall find itself alone

'Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;

Not one, of all the crowd, to pry

Into thine hour of secrecy.

 

Be silent in that solitude,

Which is not loneliness- for then

The spirits of the dead, who stood

In life before thee, are again

In death around thee, and their will

Shall overshadow thee; be still.

 

The night, though clear, shall frown,

And the stars shall not look down

From their high thrones in the Heaven

With light like hope to mortals given,

But their red orbs, without beam,

To thy weariness shall seem

As a burning and a fever

Which would cling to thee for ever.

 

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,

Now are visions ne'er to vanish;

From thy spirit shall they pass

No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

 

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,

And the mist upon the hill

Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,

Is a symbol and a token.

How it hangs upon the trees,

A mystery of mysteries!

 

Part 1

Jonathan Dexter sat on his comfortable couch, in the silence of his house where you could only hear the sweet heartbeat of the sea waves outside the window. Silence now accompanied the painful memories and feelings of revenge. Married to sweet Annabel, his life was populated with characters from his beloved books and his routine in his academic life in Bay City University. Professor Dexter came from Minessota where he taught American Literature a long time ago. But in a few months, his life changed in such a way that here sitting on his couch, he didn't recognize himself. Annabel, his companion and passion since high school, isn't with him any more. His nights now are very lonely and even the inspiration from his books are not good company. It seemed his life had become a novel in the last chapter and, to close this chapter, Jonathan Dexter would have to have the creativity of a writer and the cold bloodedness of a murderer.

***

Starsky and Hutch had been working on a case with little success.Tthe death of a young assistant of a well- known doctor, who had been involved in a case of murder through euthanasia. The woman apparently didn't have enemies. She was very talented and had a bright career ahead. But on a rainy night, she lost control of her car and ended falling over a clift; her car caught on fire and she died immediately. The search was of little help as her body was almost burnt completely. In fact, they only found her briefcase , her uniform, and traces of her hair, but almost everything else was destroyed by the fire. There were no witnesses. But there was a fact that made the police go on investigating. Sally Wilson, few days before her death, contacted the Bay City PD to make an official complaint.

**************

"Hello. I want to file a report. Who could help me?" she said in a low voice that was full of fear. The operator patched the call to the squad room and Hutch answered.

"Det. Hutchinson."

"Detective, I have an official complaint to make. And I have documents to prove it."

"Ehh, lady, what kind of accusation and what documents do you have?" he asked as Starsky raised his head looking at him frowning.

"Someone is gonna be killed and I have the notes from the murderer."

"Hmm. Madam, what's your name?"

"Sally. Sally Wilson."

"OK, Sally, when and where could we get together to talk about this?"

"At the park near the station where you workat noon."

"OK. Me and my partner, Det. David Starsky, will be waiting. How are we gonna know who you are?"

"I'll wear a yellow coat."

"OK," Hutch said and hung up the phone.

"What's the matter?" asked Starsky, a little upset. "Just another fool that's gonna make us waste our time? I don't know why you pay attention to those kind of things."

"We're cops, Starsk. We have to be ready for all kind of information. Besides, at this park, they have terrific hot-dogs. We could have lunch your way."

"Hmmmthat sounds like a good idea to me," Starsky replied, grinning now.

At noon, Starsky and Hutch were at the square near the station. They found a woman with long blonde hair wearing a yellow coat sitting on one of the benches. Apparently, she was just having a hot-dog for lunch as many people at the park were doing at this moment. The detectives got near her but were not feeling very confident.

"Sally?" Hutch waited for the girl to answer but she just nodded.

"I'm Det. Ken Hutchinson and this is my partner, Det. David Starsky."

"Oh, thank God, you're here. I don't have much time to talk. Please have a seat so we don't attract people's attention," she said with anguish in her voice.

"OK. On the phone you told my partner about making an official claim about a murder and that you had evidence about it. What are you exactly talking about, Sally?" asked Starsky sharply.

"I'm an assistant for an important comunity doctor. We've worked together for some years now, but lately, I've seen thingsconversationsand I can't agree with."

"What is it that you can't agree with, Sally?" asked Hutch.

"Murder," she replied thoughfully.

"Who wants to kill whom, Sally?" inquired Starsky looking at Hutch, doubting what they're hearing.

"Dr. Chelstz. Oh, God. I owe him everything I know, but I can't accept that"

"Sally, you need to calm down and speak quietly. Otherwise, we won't be able to understand what's the matter and help you, do you understand?" asked Hutch.

"Dr. Raymong Cheltz is the best Oncologist at Memorial Hospital."

The mere mention of the hospital made Starsky shiver. He made an unconscious move, but Hutch noticed and looked at him kindly. It'd been only one year since he returned to active duty on the streets and yet the painful memories felt so fresh in his mind, though he pretended they didn't matter any more.

Sally continued and they got back to reality. "He saved many lives, but lately he's changed his mind about how to treat people that have no hope of improving their health situation. He now thinks that the best thing for them is to end their pain permanently."

" You're talking about euthanasia, aren't you?" asked Hutch.

"Yesand I don't have the same opinion. You can't act like God!"

"How can you be so sure that Dr. Cheltz really does that?" asked Starsky.

Sally took out a diary from her purse and gave it to Hutch. "Here you have all his notes about his patients and specially Annabel Lee Dexter. She's a terminal patient with brain cancer and in terrible pain. There's no hope for recovery and the medications are not enough to make her feel better. Mrs. Dexter's husband, Prof. Dexter, has been talking about a way to end his wife's pain for a long time now. They're a lovely couple and they love each other very much. I understand his worries, but nothing is worth something like that!"

While Sally was speaking, Starsky took the diary from Hutch and he read some pages.

"DexterProf. Jonathan Dexter?" asked Hutch.

"Yes, do you know him?"

"Yes, if he's the same person I think he is." He turned to his partner and said, "Starsky, he was my professor in American Literature in high school. I didn't know he lived here in Bay City."

"Yes, he's been a teacher in Bay City University for a long time now, I think," added Sally thoughtfully.

"Sally, do you understand how serious this accusation is?" asked Hutch.

"Yes, and that's why I'm giving you the proof of what I'm saying and then I'm leaving town, leaving my job that's my passion. But my conscience is the most important thing. Gentlemen, with this diary you'll have all you'll need to make an official claim and arrest Dr. Cheltz before he commits this crime. In this diary, you have my address and telephone number, `cause as his assistant I have to be always at hand for Dr. Cheltz to contact me. But I'm telling you both that I'm not staying in this city for a long time. I'm leaving Bay City."

After that, she stood up, but Hutch took her by the arm and said, "Sally, you know you'll have to testify in case everything is true, don't you? You can't leave the city that easily."

"All right, but I won't stay too long, detective. And that's for sure. For the investigation, I'll leave my number. My life here has ended. I have to go ontry to find another hospital and go on with my career. Good-bye."

Both detectives watched Sally walk away. They looked at each other and they went back to the precinct. Starsky was the one to break the silence first, "What do you think? Do you think it can be true?"

"We'll have to study this diary. I think this girl has too much to lose just to be playing."

"Yes."

"Hutch?"

"Yeah, Starsk.."

"The hot-dogs. You said that we can have lunch on my way, remember?"

"Oh, yeah, .the hot-dogs." And rolled his eyes..

Part 2

Dr. Cheltz's agenda was really a very detailed and extensive log relating to his ideas about euthanasia as a way to end the futile suffering of terminal patients. There were names of the patients, their complete treatment, and the names of the closest relatives of the patients, too. In the specific case of Annabel Lee Dexter, there were lots of notes concerning the tests of the medication to be used.

The same day Sally gave the diary to the police, Dr. Cheltz noticed it was missing. He felt desperate. All his notes from years of study and, most important, his ideas about euthanasia. His professional career was in serious risk

************

Trying to get to the truth, Starsky & Hutch spent the whole afternoon reading the notes in the diary and, by night time, they had a plan to present to their captain. Next morning, they went to the hospital. And confronted with his notebook, Dr. Cheltz couldn't deny his ideas, but he refused to admit to an intention to concrete his thoughts. "It's only medical research. Nothing else." He suddenly thought about his assistant, Sally. She was the only one with access to his notes.

When everything seemed to be heading towards the case turning difficult to solve, a move by Sally twisted everything. The night she'd talked to the police, Sally attended a party and she started talking to a reporter from a scandalous journal. She was feeling very nervous. That fact didn't pass unnoticed by the reporter and, between drinks, Sally started telling him about her going to the police and making an accusation about the possibility of a murder and Dr. Cheltz's ideas referring to euthanasia. The journalist obviously realized he could have a chance at something great and talked to his editor. The story was published the next day and, in few minutes, Dr. Cheltz's telephone was the most occupied in the whole city.

That morning Starsky and Hutch were drinking their coffee when the anxious voice of their captain woke them up.

"Starsky, Hutchinson, my office now."

"Hey, seems our cap didn't sleep well last night," groaned Starsky.

"Who knows? Maybe all the reports that you haven't done are making him crazy," Hutch teased Starsky.

"Yeah, cap," asked Starsky, closing the door hard with his foot.

"Don't shut the door so hard! How many times I have to tell you that!"

"Sorry, cap, " as he gave a quick look to his partner with a grin.

"Did you read the headlines in today's paper?"

"Nope. Starsky was late and we came in without having breakfast and without reading the papers."

"Hey! That's not true!" said Starsky, annoyed.

"Ok. That doesn't matter!" Dobey replied very upset.

"Read this." Starsky and Hutch were handed three newspapers, all of them with the same article.

"Shit! How could these sleazy papers have access to this information?" At the same time he was asking the question, Hutch looked at Starsky and the obvious answer was

"Sally!" they said in one voice.

"What a fool! Now we have a circus started by the press," said Starsky, disappointed with what had happened.

"Who knows? Maybe this could help us, Starsk. Maybe this could gain us some time in the investigation or perhaps the pressure will make the doctor confess," replied Hutch.

"The circus has already started and the police are involved, too. Didn't you see your names in the reports?" asked a very upset Cap. Dobey.

"Shit!" said Starsky, playing with the paper over Dobey's desk.

"Now, we're involved in all this and we can't do our job," stated Starsky.

"What we know for sure is that Dr. Cheltz's career is seriously and probably forever compromised, Starsky. In a way, Sally got what she wanted. "

Starsky and Hutch were told by their captain that they didn't have to give any comment to the press about the case.

At night, before they went home, the news reached the precinct. Dr. Cheltz's assistant, Sally Wilson, was in a fatal car accident near her house. The investigation showed an accident due to the rain. Sally's car was destroyed by fire. A few pieces of Sally's documents, burnt pieces of her clothes, and her hair were the only things found in the search.

There was a legal prosecution by Memorial Hospital. Its reputation was seriously compromised by the facts. Relieved of his duties at the hospital and constantly questioned by reporters and his colleagues, Dr. Cheltz decided to defend his statements and reveal his ideas about euthanasia. That definitely ended his career. But he always stated that this had nothing to do with Mrs. Annabel Dexter's case. The case was closed with his total departure from the hospital medical team and finding that this hadn't been the first act of euthanasia by Dr. Cheltz. He had put his ideas to work with another patient. Dr. Cheltz was now in prison with his career ruined and waiting for trial.

Three months after Dr. Cheltz was imprisoned and all the investigations ended, Annabel Lee Dexter died in her beloved husband's arms after a long, terrible period of suffering from her illness. The service was held in a small cemetery, near the sea as she wanted. Jonathan Dexter was with the only relative of Annabel, her brother, Robert, who had been one of the best athletes at the University of Duluth. Now he was a common lawyer. Berenice, their housekeeper for a long time, was also there. Dexter read a poem from Edgar Allan Poe, one of his favorite authors. The name of Annabel had always been a tease between Jonathan and his wife and that's the reason he read the poem as a gift to his Annabel...

 

It was many and many years ago,

In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden there lived whom you may know

By the name of Annabel Lee;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,

In this kingdom by the sea;

But we loved with a love that was more than love-

I and my Annabel Lee;

With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven

Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,

In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her highborn kinsman came

And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,

Went envying her and me-

Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,

In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of the cloud by night,

Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we-

Of many far wiser than we-

And neither the angels in heaven above,

Nor the demons down under the sea,

Can ever disseve my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side

Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,

In the sepulchre there by the sea,

In her tomb by the sounding sea.

 

*************

A month went by after Annabel's death, and the police re-opened Sally Wilson's case. Starsky and Hutch were the detectives assigned to the case. One cold morning, the Torino entered the beautiful road that led to the luxurious residence belonging to the Dexter family. The sea was bright with a deep blue color. In the distance, you could hear the waves breaking on the rocks. Starsky and Hutch got out of the Torino in silence, each one with their own thoughts of the great love that once inhabited that house and that ended in that abrupt and painful way. They didn't expect to be greeted very kindly by Prof. Dexter. During the whole process of the accusations and the arrest in Dr. Cheltz's case, the Dexters' behavior towards the officers responsible for the apprehension of the diary could be referred to as uncaring and cold. Dexter always denied having talked to the doctor concerning ending the pain and hurt in his wife's life. They couldn't make any connection between them more than being the husband of the patient and the family doctor.

The detectives were greeted by the housekeeper, Berenice, and escorted to the study room. The house was opulent and aged. On their way, they went by some doors and, one in particular, drew their attention. It was a room filled with medical equipment and it seemed to be kept mostly as a sanctuary.

Dexter offered them something to drink, but they declined. Hutch sat in a comfortable couch by the library. Starsky, on the other hand, remained standing: looking at the impressive amount of books, mostly the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. There were all kind of books, many classics in American Literature.

"Well, since the first time we met, officer" Dextex asked in the direction of Hutch.

"Hutchinson, sir Det. Kenneth Hutchinson. He's Det. David Starsky."

"Your name, Hutchinson, and your face are familiar to me."

"Duluth. Sir, I was one of your students in American Literature."

"Oh, yes, I remember. The Hutchinsons. A well known family in the city. You're very far from home, detective. As in my case, life in the country isn't as pleasant as the big city, is it?"

"Not really. I just came looking for a life being a cop."

"Very impressive collection of books, professor. I see you like Edgar Allan Poe." Starsky interrupted the conversation with Hutch that was turning too personal.

"Yes, I like him very much," he said dryly.

"Prof. Dexter, we're here in reference to the Sally Wilson case . She was Dr. Cheltz's assistant. The case was re-opened and the investigation resumed," explained Hutch.

"Yes, Hutchinson, very upsetting accident. I knew Sally. She was a very talented doctor with a wonderful future. But I don't understand what you want. It's been months. I thought I could get away from the nightmare my life was during those months. I thought I had specified in the investigation that I didn't have anything to do with Dr. Cheltz, his ideas, or his assistant's." he said seeming a little out of control this time.

"During the questioning by Memorial Hospital, you made it very clear that you and the doctor had a very close relationship and, in the inquiries, it was also clear that Sally found the evidence against Cheltz. That made Sally responsible for Dr. Cheltz's downfall and his career ending and, with it, the treatments he was giving. For example, your wife's," stated Starsky.

"What do you mean exactly by that, detective?"

"Starsky, sir."

"After Dr. Cheltz left medicine, you and your wife were apart from everybody. Your wife died a month ago, right?" continued Starsky, pressing him.

"Yes. Annabel is gone. Now she rests near the sea that she loved so much," Dexter said thoughfully.

"The treatment was interrupted or another doctor continued with it? If Sally wouldn't have given us Dr. Cheltz's diary, nothing would have happen. Dr. Cheltz would be still working, following his ideas," pressed Starsky.

"What ideas, detective? Are you referring to euthanasia? Ending the suffering of a beloved one? Only one who was through something like that can understand what you're talking about." Dexter began to lose control and his voice wasn't that confident any more. He looked at Starsky with hatred in his eyes. "You have no idea what it's like to lose the love of your life, do you? Do you know what it is to live everyday watching the pain and the sadness on the face of the most important and beloved person in your life? You don't know what it's like, Det. Starsky!" Dexter was completely out of control and his eyes were full of hate and anger.

Hutch noticed that Dexter's words were more than rough. Starsky didn't say a word and went to the window where he remained silent, looking outside. Hutch knew what was on his friend's mind at that precise moment. Memories of Teri and her last days.

"Prof. Dexter," Hutch tried to change the way things have turned, "you can be sure we understand pretty well your pain. But you must understand, too, that it's our job to try to find out what happened to Sally Wilson. And we're talking to everybody that used to know her."

"You're wasting your time with me, gentlemen. I don't have anything else to say. I'm not feeling well and I'd like to rest for a while," he said and went to the door ending the conversation. Realizing things weren't right and that Starsky was in no condition to continue with the questioning, Hutch decided they should leave.

"Prof. Dexter, we're very sorry about your wife. If necessary, we'll get in touch with you again," and he extended his hand. The professor accepted his hand and he extended his to Starsky, too. Forcing a smile and trying to get a hold of himself, Dexter said calmly, "Excuse me if I was a little rough on you, Det. Starsky. I'm grieving terribly as to what happened to my sweet Annabel."

Starsky extended his hand. "Don't worry."

###

Both detectives left the house and, when they were inside the Torino, Hutch broke the silence. "What's the matter, buddy?"

"Dexter's words brought back memories...bad memories," said Starsky in a low voice as he grinned, embarrassed.

"Terry?" asked Hutch, caring about and respectful of his friend's pain.

Starsky looked at him and with a sad sigh, he said, "Yes. I always think that it's all over, but...". He now turned in his seat and looked directly into his partner's eyes. "When'll everything be over? When'll it stop hurting so much?"

"It's easier for some people but not for others, Starsk.We can't use an eraser on our heart. We just learn to live with the sad memories. You didn't learn yet," he added and grined sweetly, placing one hand on Starsky's shoulder.

Starsky sighed deeply and said, "Yeah. As always, you're right about my thoughts and feelings. And your sad memories? Have you learned to live with them, Hutch?"

"No, you know I haven't. Like you, I'm trying. Maybe one day," he said thoughtfully.

"Well, now that I messed up everything with Dexter, what're we gonna do?"

"We'll report everything to the captain and then we'll see. Dexter is just the first point in this case. We can take another way in the investigation and leave Dexter for a while, ok? We have Dexter's brother-in-law and Sally's friends."

"OK. Hutch, ehh, did you look at the room on the way to the study-room?"

"Yeah."

"Maybe that was where Annabel was. But I don't understand. It's been a month since her death and the room is still equipped with all the installation smedical stuff, you know. Wouldn't it be normal that Dexter would have sold or given back, or whatever, everything? He seems to me a little obsessed in his way of talking about his love for his wife."

"Well, for some people, it takes more time to do those practical things after a beloved one is gone. Maybe that's the case with Dexter. They both lived for each other, so it's natural that he misses her that much."

"I don't know, but there's something in that house that makes me shiver. That Dexter, he's very strange. I don't think he's very steady."

"I feel a little uncomfortable here, too. You know, Proffesor Dexter has always been a very strange person: he resented the fact that he didn't have any success in his career as a writer."

"Oh, yeah?" said Starsky with a naughty gaze.

"No, no, Starsky, I'm serious. I didn't like his classes. The topic was interesting, Literature, but sometimes" Hutch turned in his seat to look better at his friend and began talking about his past time in high school. "One time Dexter made us work on one of his ideas. Starsk, it was very sinister and I didn't like it. It was about burying people alive. We had to write a report about his book on that topic and I got the best grade!" He grined in a strange way.

"My God, Blondie! I know you like books, but this? That's why he seemed to like you, or at least, he recognized you as one of his students. Did anyone publish that?" asked Starky.

"No, to Prof. Dexter's misfortune, the editors didn't like the topic. It was very similar to Edgar Allan Poe's "Premature Burial." It was a story about people being buried still alive. It was a very strange book. More than a novel, it seemed a kind of sinister manual of instructions. Dexter was trying to prove that you can kill somebody and nobody will find the corpse, unless the murderer wanted it to be found, but editors didn't want to publish it."

"Don't blame them." Not wanting to go on with the topic, Starsky suggested, "We could go to the University and interview some of Sally's colleagues. Maybe one of them can give us another clue. Sally also worked at the University, didn't she? Or was she only the doctor's assistant at the hospital?"

"By the data we have, she worked in the hospital," Hutch confirmed, looking at his notebook. "We'll talk to Dobey later, ok?"

"Then, should we go now?"

"Yeah."

Part 3

Back from the hospital, they returned to the precinct, directly to Dobey's office. Hutch gave a short briefing about the events at Dr. Dexter's and the conversations with Sally's co-workers. Nothing very promising, but they still believed that the crime was related to the Dexter family.

When they were leaving the office, Starsky went first and, as Hutch was going to close the door, the captain stopped him. "Hutchinson, just a minute and shut the door!" Starsky continued to his desk.

"What's the matter with your partner?" asked Dobey, concerned. "He entered the office without kicking the door, he didn't play with the things on my desk, no silly jokes, and he was quiet the whole time. Is he sick?"

"No, Cap, he's tired. You know Starsky gets tired more easily now after the shooting," Hutch explained with a sad smile on his face. "Nothing that a good night of sleep won't solve."

"Then, take him home and make sure he rests. I want both of you back early tomorrow, got it?"

"Yes, sir. See you tomorrow." Hutch nodded and got out of the office.

He found Starsky sitting at his desk, thinking. "So, seems we can leave, partner. How about a beer at Huggy's and afterwards a good night sleep?" he said with a loving gaze.

"Sounds good to me. So let's go," Starsky agreed and both friends left.

#####

After Starsky and Hutch left, Robert, Dexter's brother-in-law, met him in Annabel's bedroom.

"Jonathan, are you alright?"

"No, but I will be."

"What did the police want?"

"I'll need your help with those cops that were here. They've resumed the investigation into Sally Wilson's case. One of them, the dark haired one, will be very useful to help us prove what I wrote some time ago and nobody believed. And, when they come to look for him, it'll be too late. And then I'll be able to be with my sweet Annabel forever."

"Dexter, what do you have in mind? I don't want any kind of problem with the cops. It's bad enough what we did with that chick. Everything I did, I did for my sister. I don't want my hands dirty with blood again."

"What are you complaining about? Same as the other time, I just want your physical strength. You won't have to use your brain, if you happen to have one."

"You go on treating me like that and you'll find my strength is useful for other things, got it?"

"Calm down. There's no need for threats. We're together in everything. There's no way out. You help me with my plan and then you can leave. Where I'll be, I won't need you any more."

"It took time for them to get back to me, Robert, and that gave me time to plan everything: to learn about their lives. We're following this cop every night till he goes to the bar he likes and you're going to take advantage of your relationship with the girl there to use the susbstance I gave you. If you don't fail, we'll bring this pig here and then I'll give him what he deserves."

"Dexter, sometimes you scare me."

####

The night was very busy at The Pits. Huggy couldn't pay any attention to his friends. Starsky was still a little sad and thoughtful. Hutch challenged him to a game of Snokker. While they were playing, they had some beers.

Robert, for some weeks now, had been at the bar every night. One of the waitresses was more interested in talking to him than her work. Taking advantage of the girl's distraction, Robert slipped some of the drug he carried in his glass into Starsky's glass every time he ordered another beer. After the second game, Starsky began to feel funny and, trying not to worry Hutch, he told him he was going to the john. Robert stood near the door of the rest-room: in case another customer wanted to use it, he'd play as another employee and would stop the person, saying it was out of order.

Starsky washed his face with cold water in order to feel better, but the dizziness got worse and his eyes got heavy. He started getting a little scared so he decided to call Hutch. When he tried to go out, Robert got in and pretended to push him accidentally, making Starsky fall against the sink. Starsky recognized Robert as part of the investigation of the Dexters and tried to react, but using his athlete strength and the fact Starsky was very weak, Robert overpowered Starsky and knocked him on the head with a gun. Starsky passed out. Robert carried him to the back door and got out to the alley where Dexter was waiting in his car. He threw Starsky in the back seat, got in the car, and off they went.

Hutch began to worry about Starsky , so he decided to go look for him. He entered the bathroom and realized it was empty, except for an envelope over the sink addressed to Hutch. A shiver ran down his spine: there was something very wrong. The message was made with cut letters from magazines and papers and it had a terrible and enigmatic ring to it:

The night, though clear, shall frown,

And the stars shall not look down

From their high thrones in the Heaven

With light like hope to mortals given,

But their red orbs, without beam,

To thy weariness shall seem

As a burning and a fever

Which would cling to thee for ever.

Hutch, with his heart pounding hard, didn't recognize the situation as something that had already happened some time ago on another level. Hutch returned to the bar and then left without a word to Huggy who didn't notice both of his friends had left.

Hutch drove the Torino like a madman through the streets till he arrived at Dobey's.

"Sorry, Edith, I know it's late, but I need to talk to the captain.Is very important"

"Hutch? What's the matter? You're pale as a ghost. Come in and have a seat. I'll call Harold."

"What's wrong, Edith?" asked Dobey, coming down the stairs.

"Captain, somebody kidnapped Starsky!"

"What are you talking about, Hutchinson? Are you drunk? I thought I gave you an order for both of you to rest!"

"No, Cap, look. I was with Starsky at Huggy's and we were almost leaving. Starsky went to the bathroom and, as it was taking him too much time, I went to check on him. He wasn't there any more, instead I found this envelope near the sink addressed to me."

"And what is it?"

"I don't know exactly. I have to read it and decipher it. But one thing is sure, somebody is making a very bad joke. Here, it says:

The night, though clear, shall frown,

And the stars shall not look down

From their high thrones in the Heaven

With light like hope to mortals given,

But their red orbs, without beam,

To thy weariness shall seem

As a burning and a fever

Which would cling to thee for ever.

"God, what's this all about?" asked Edith, frightened.

"Darling, Hutch and I are going to the precinct. We have to put an APB for a missing officer and check this out. Hutch, wait a minute, I'll go get dressed."

"Okay," replied Hutch. His eyes remained on the sheet of paper. His hands shook and the image of Starsky and Simon came to his mindNoit can't beSimon is in jailStarskwhat's the matter, buddyWhere are you??? his mind rambled.

####

The precinct was full of activity. The news reached the streets and every cop available joined in the search for the kidnapped officer. Dobey and Hutch stayed in the captain's office to read and re-read the note trying to make some connections that could help them find out what's going on.

"Hutch, do you have any clue? Somebody threatening Starsky or something like that?"

"No, all of our last cases were ordinary ones, murders with nothing exceptional, if we accept the fact of killing someone as something normal," explained Hutch sarcastically.

"This letterseems to me it's clear they're with Starsky. But what's the connection between `dark cave''severe solitude''anguish''fever,'" asked Dobey.

"It's a message, but from who? This last investigation we're working on, Sally Wilson's case. There's no link with this message."

The phone rang, startling both of them.

"Yes!" answered the captain. He listened for some seconds and then hung up the phone. He looked at Hutch with sadness in his voice and said, "As we expected, the result on the search show only your prints on the envelope. Whoever did this, is being very careful. He's not an amateur. He knows all the steps for a perfect crime.The police are at The Pits talking with everyone and I told them to check out everything thoroughly till they find something. Did you talk to Huggy?"

"No, I left and didn't say anything. The bar was full of people. Huggy was so busy himself he didn't even wait on us, as he always does."

Part 4

Robert took Starsky's body out of the car and Dexter led him toward a little tomb in an abandoned cemetery, in the middle of a forest. Robert entered the grave and placed Starsky's limp body inside.

"Take off his shirt, shoes, and secure him with that," ordered Dexter, pointing to some chains on the floor.

Robert tied Starsky's arms and his feet, too. He exited the grave and watched it with a scared look on his face. "Dexter, he'll wake up. What do you really want with this cop?"

"Don't worry. Nobody's going to hear him here, and he can't get out. He'll only be the evidence that what I wrote isn't a mirage. My creativity never was accepted by editors. If we work it right, tomorrow we'll come back to take another pic and our brave officer will receive the second message. And then I'll go on with the next part of the plan. Kenneth Hutchinson. I'll see if he remembers well his time in high school. He was an excellent student," he smiled with a devilish and insane smile.

"Dexter, what are you going to do? Killing a cop isn't something very intelligent, you know that, don't you? In this tomb, with no food or water, the coldthe air will be depleted soon. He's gonna soffocate alive. You're planning to make your book come true? This is insane! I thought you were only going to scare this dumb detective."

"I know very well what I'm doing. But this cop's death isn't the most important thing of all."

Robert remained quiet and he just watched Dexter's next steps. In his greatest intent of something morbid, Dexter took two photos with the camera he was carrying. One of Starsky and the other after he shut the tomb with Robert's help.

"Tomorrow we'll be back and will take the last photo. And then we'll send it to its recipient: Officer Hutchinson."

Both men left in the direction of his car.

#####

In the middle of the morning, the third day after the kidnapping, tired due to the sleepless nights after days of vain investigations, and Starsky's kidnapping tormenting his thoughts and his heart, Hutch headed to the cafeteria. He was interrupted by Minnie who tells him there's some mail addressed to him. The envelope is at Dobey's office.

"Read, then the lab will do its job, though I think we won't get anything out of it. Whoever's doing this knows what he's doing." Hutch with trembling hands, read out loud:

Be silent in that solitude,

Which is not loneliness- for then

The spirits of the dead, who stood

In life before thee, are again In death around thee, and their will

Shall overshadow thee; be still.

Jesus Christ!" Hutch's voice was just a whisper.

####

....Darkness, solitude and anguish. Starsky woke up but he had difficulty opening his eyes. His whole body seemed in pain. His headpain. Something held him and was squeezing. His mouth was dry. A very scary feeling caught his mind. He tried to straighten uphe had to defend himselfbut his body was so heavy. Chains, yeah, they're chains. He sensed something crawling over his body but he didn't know what it was. He tried to get rid of them but he had no strength. Everything weighed so heavycoldhumidityunder those sensations, his weak body, tired, and his mind blurred due to the medication, he fell asleep again.

####

The day went by. All officers tried to find Det. Starsky. No other contact was made after the last message. No phone calls, either. Time flew by and, as it passed, the chances of finding Starsky alive diminished. The news reached the press and TV. Hutch, not knowing where to begin, what to do, remained sitting at his desk watching the messages again and again. Words wicked, words threatening...Why??? Who??? His agony was just beginning.

####

The fourth day of the kidnapping dawned and Hutch was dozing at his desk, the messages near his hands. The movement of cops going in and out the precinct woke him up just for another day full of agony. Dobey, carrying a bag with doughnuts in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, neared one of his favorite officers.

"Hutch, it's time to eat something, son. You can't go on like this, you've barely eaten anything during the last few days," and he extended the bag to him.

"I'm not hungry, maybe the coffee," Hutch stood up and it seemed he looked ten years older than yesterday.

"Captain, no news, yet?" he asked with hope in his eyes.

"No, nothing."

The phone rang and Hutch answered anxiously, "Hutchinson!"

"Hutch, it's Huggy. I've just got mail for you. Seems like photos to me."

"Did you open it yet?"

"No, Blondie. I know how this works for the police. I have good teachers. I have the envelope just waiting for you and the search."

"I'm on my way." He hung up, grabbed his jacket, and headed for the door. "Captain, another envelope. This time at The Pits and it has pics!"

"Call me as soon as you have it and bring it immediately back for the investigation. Don't make any stupid mistakes, you got it?" Hutch was already far away when the last sound of Dobey's rough voice could still be heard in the corridor.

####

When he arrived at The Pits, the place was silent and empty. Huggy was sitting at the last table, quietly staring at the envelope. "Ah, finally, I was getting nervous having this in my hands. Open it, Hutch."

Hutch opened the envelope very carefully, using a napkin to prevent erasing possible prints. When he saw what was inside the envelope, all the color in his face faded away. Huggy watched over Hutch's shoulder and one could say he's never been that close to having the same light color skin as his blonde friend.

"Starsk." Hutch's eyes couldn't believe what he was looking at. There were 3 photos: in the first one his partner ?, a line of dry blood falling down his face, probably a result of the beating to his head against the floor in The Pits' bathroom. Covered with earth and inside a dark and deep hole. Apparently unconscious or dead?

The second one, some contusions and scratches over his body, probably due to the insects in that old grave that one could see walking over his body. But the true terrifying fact in this second pic were the eyes of his best friend. Fear, horror, panic, and anguish shown in his eyes. Like he didn't know what was happening. He seemed to be in shock. And the third photo, took a little farther away, showed clearly that it was an abandoned grave, surrounded by a forest, humid and obscure. The tomb was closed. And, with the photos, there was another letter:

"Man," was the only word that Huggy could say after a few minutes of terrifying silence.

Hutch raised his gaze to Huggy and his eyes were the reflection of agony and desperation. "Huggy, StarskWhat did they do to him? Where's this tomb?"

"Hey, Blondie, you better have a seat," Huggy said, holding him by the arm. "We have to take this to the captain, right? I'm going with you. I'm closing the place. Seems The Pits isn't working today."

Hutch sat as Huggy asked him to and he waited in silence, staring with panic in his eyes at the photos and the message again. When he turned one of the pics, Hutch found a message that was like a bullet right into his heart.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,

Now are visions ne'er to vanish;

From thy spirit shall they pass

No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,

And the mist upon the hill

Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken, Is a symbol and a token.

How it hangs upon the trees,

A mystery of mysteries!

"A mystery of mysteries,...A mystery of misteries" Hutch repeated in a whisper. "Huggy!"

"Yeah, man, I'm ready. Let's go. Hutch?" Huggy searched for Hutch as he heard the engine of the Torino roaring. He ran outside and found Hutch already at the wheel. He entered the car and Hutch took off like a madman in the direction of the precinct.

#####

Dobey was in his office with a big map of Bay City hanging on the wall. The map had marks on the site of the abduction, the location where the second mail was delivered, but there seemed to be no connection. The letters used in the messages were from different patrons, different magazines and newspapers; which left the police without any detail in common . At The Pits, there were no clues about the kidnapping, either. No prints.

"Damn it, we got nothing!" groaned Dobey to the walls.

"Captain!" Hutch entered the office like a flash. "I know who has Starsky! I know!" Hutch showed Dobey the photos, who looked at them with panic in his eyes.

"Hutchinson, what's this? How can you be sure who's the kidnapper?"

"Prof. Dexter! He was my prpff...professor in hig...high shool and..." Hutch stuttered with excitement. "This sentence, A Mystery of Mysteries' was the na...name of his book." Hutch stopped to take a deep breath before he went on. "We had to write an essay about it. This bastard is using me and his damn book to torture Starsky. And, Captain, the main character diesburied alive!"

"Son, you have to understand that, at this moment, maybe it's too late for Starsky," he said looking sadly at the pic.

"NO, he's alive! I know he is! But we have to find him." There was so much hope in Hutch's voice that Dobey did not have the courage to argue with him.

"But, how are we gonna find out where this is? Where's this place in the photos?"

"Captain, if Starsky's there ever since his abduction, we have to find him. He could die of cold, hunger, thirst, or from the wounds. He intends to bury Starsky alive! And leave him to die alone in that grave."

"What do you suggest?" Dobey asked. "If it's Dexter, he certainly must be far away now."

"I swear to God that I'll find him, Captain." As he said those words, the phone rang. Dobey answered and, after looking at Hutch, he handed it to him.

"It's Dexter," he said and Hutch wrenched the receiver from Dobey's hand.

"Murderer, what do you want with my partner?" Hutch couldn't stop his anger.

"Soon all the world will know that my story was good Hutchinson . You were the only one who understood my book. You remembered, didn't you? `A Mystery of Mysteries'. Now, it'll be in every journal and TV news. I'll get the acknowledgment the editors didn't want to give me, and then I'll be able to rest with my sweet Annabel."

"You're crazy, Dexter. Kill somebody only to prove your book is valuable. You're crazy! It's a human being that you have in your hands. What did my partner do in order for you to choose him as your living prey?"

"Nothing. He did nothing at all. He only showed me that I can't go on without my beloved Annabel, and that I can't leave this world without the appreciation I deserve. You think it was enough for me to live just as a professor? Wind takes the words away. Teenagers now don't understand anything of a good book or author. I'm going to gather some reporters and I'll kill myself in front of them. All of them need to meet John Dexter. And after all of them know all about me, they'll be able to watch me die."

"You couldn't have done everything alone. You had a partner in this," Hutch expressed his thoughts out loud.

"That's not important. You want to find your friend?" asked Dexter.

"Say when and where."

"The forest in White Chapel," he said and hung up.

"Well," asked Dobey anxiously.

Hutch headed straight to the wall with the map. He searched the forest. "White Chapel. It's a forest. I know there was a little chapel in a cemetery over there. It's from the 18th century. I read that some place. Here!" said Hutch, finding the forest and the road to get there.

"Hutch, I'm calling a task force with dogs," Dobey said and took the phone to give out his orders. "Do you have some of Starsky's clothes? The dogs will need them," asked Dobey at the same time Hutch was checking his gun to get ready to leave.

"Yeah, in the Torino. We always have some for emergencies. But, Captain, Dexter says he's calling the reporters. He's going to make a circus of this moment. And we don't know the state my partner'll be in when we find him. We have to protect his familyhis mother."

"I'll do my best to keep the press away, Hutch, but you know we don't have that much control over it. And, besides, newspapers and the TV are already covering the kidnapping.

"Now go get Starsky's clothes while I inform the task force," Dobey said sternly.

When he left the office, Hutch watched Huggy who was silently sitting at Starsky's desk.

"Hutch."

"Yeah, Huggy?"

"I'll be at the restaurant. I'm not working today. I'll be waiting for news of our curly brother."

"Thanks, Huggy, for everything."

Part 5

In minutes, the police garage was filled with officers and four searching dogs. A T-shirt of Starsky's was given to the dog trainer. The plan of action was revised again and everybody left to save Det. David Starsky.

####

Starsky woke up and realized he was in a place very dark, cold, humid, and small. There was a terrible odor and all his body ached. He couldn't get up or turn around. He understood then that he had been captured and being held in some place. But where? Why? By whom? He didn't remember anything. The last thing he remembered was the bathroom at The Pits, the dizziness he felt, and that he was going to call Hutch to leave. How did he get to this place? The airthere's no air. Hunger. Thirst. He began to cough. His body was cold and trembling, but he felt hot. Fever. I have a temperature. His head hurt and he felt wounds on his body. He tried to change his position in order to alleviate his headache, but it was difficult to move with the heavy chains. His arms, hands, and legs began to fall asleep because of his position. Oh, God! I need help. I can't see anything, everything is so dark...so dark He tried to scream, but his voice was weak. His throat hurt. The air there wasn't enough  and he started having difficulty breathing. God, I'm gonna die here under the earth, alone for ever...No air, dark...So dark. Dad, help me! Mom, I love you...Nick...Hutch where are you, Hutch? Help me, help me.

####

Dexter was getting ready to go to his final destination, when Robert entered the library.

"Dexter, where are you going?"

"I'm going to my sweet Annabel. My final destination in proving that my book is a work of art and not a fraud."

Roberts grined with disdain. "How stupid you are, Dexter. You know nothing. If what you want is to be with your Annabel, I could help you. You already ruined our plans."

"Our?" asked Dexter, confused.

"Yes, our plans, Professor." Sally appeared just behind Robert with a new look. Her hair short.

"Sally, this can't be true. You're dead. Robert killed you."

"No," laughed Sally. "I'm alivereally alive. You tried to finish me fearing I could connect your name with Cheltz. Robert pretended he was going to do what you asked him to. No connection could've been made because Cheltz was so stupid. He carried all the guilt for his ideas of euthanasia. And so he mixed up our plan. We wanted you both out of our lives. Cheltz was only a tool for our means. At this time, you and Cheltz should've been in prison. No judge would've given you your part of her inheritance. Now we have to make this little change in our plan," she said with an enigmatic voice.

"Inheritance? I'm the only heir of Annabel's," Dexter said, annoyed.

"Yes, you fool! As long as you're alive, but I'm thinking that won't be the case for too long. Dead people don't inherit. We've waited too long," said Robert.

"For God's sake, what about you, Sally? Are you with him in all this? The accident was a set-up. What you both wanted was to be together and have all the money?"

"You're very wise, Prof. Dexter," Robert said sarcastically. "Oh, come on, Dexter, you wanted to stop her pain. That was why you were involved with that crazy and sinister doctor. And I wanted the same. Though you won't believe me, it made my heart ache to watch Annabel suffering like that, after all, she was my sister. And her only shortcoming was to fall for a loser like you. This way, Sally and I only do her a favorthe last one. I just waited a little time in order not to appear suspicious." While talking, he approached Dexter. "But now it's your time. We're doing you a favor. You should've died with Annabel. She's waiting for you. And now you're joining your sweet love and Sally and I are going to live our lives as we want from now on. Isn't it perfect? Everyone'll be happy," he smiled maliciously.

Dexter, scared, walked backward but he got blocked between Robert and the table in the library. Robert held him tight with his arms as Sally put a gun with a silencer against Dexter's head. "No one will doubt you commited suicide. Isn't it what you always said: that you wanted to join your sweet Annabel? Well, now it's time." Just a single shot was heard in the quiet library. Robert let the body fall to the floor and he put the gun in Dexter's hand.

"Let's go, honey. We have nothing else to do here."

Part 6

When they arrived at the forest, it was almost night. It was cold and a heavy and persistent rain made it difficult to see. The place was hard to reach and even the dogs could barely walk to it. Hutch searched the White Chapel or what had been left of the small chapel at sector 18. After walking for almost an hour, they found some ruins. They could clearly see a cross. Dobey stayed by the opening of the forest near the ambulance waiting to get Starsky quickly to the hospital to save his life. Along with the policemen arrived some reporters. Dobey stopped them from going through.

"Captain, you can't obstruct the press. There's an officer kidnapped and we got some calls telling us that the abducter would be here with you. The people in Bay City have the right to be informed about what's happening. We have the right to do our job."

The confusion was immense; everybody was shouting and Dobey realized there's no way he can keep the reporters away.

"Gentlemen, it's a very dangerous situation for the officers involved in the search and for you, too. And, right now, the most important thing is to get to Officer Starsky alive. You can't get near the group with the dogs." Dobey continued arguing with the reporters while Hutch and the task force walked carefully, looking for Dexter.

The weather got worse and the rain turned heavier still. Lots of lightning flashes and falling tree branches were making the dogs nervous.

Hutch looked for Dexter and the tomb, having to contend with the difficulties of insufficient light and heavy rain. The cops and the dogs got more nervous with every moment.

They walked for some time, but everything seemed destroyed. Suddenly, Hutch discovered a tomb in an almost perfect state. He called out to the officers with the dogs and, yes, even the animals seemed to perceive something different. They rounded the grave. Hutch tried to move the cover but it was too heavy. The dogs got more anxious, barking constantly.

"Help me! I can't do it alone!" shouted Hutch, anguished.

With the help of two uniform cops, they moved the heavy rock just a little, but enough to see a terrifying image. Starsky, trembling uncontrollably and all wet due to the rain that licked inside because of the wind. His body had wounds all over and they could hear a soft cry. Hutch jumped inside the tomb and touched his friend's face. He was burning up, he coughed heavily, and moaned, calling for his friend, Hutchhis fatherhis mother and God.

Not knowing where to touch, Hutch caressed his face and he whispered in his ear, "Starsk, it's me, buddy. I'm right heredon't be afraid. It's all over."

Listening to someone talking and sensing someone touching him, Starsky got jumpy and scared. He was begging for Hutch to get away from him, but he was too weak. "No, leave me alonedon't touch medon'ttouch me. Don't hurt me any more. Don't touch me."

Hutch realized Starsky was in shock and that he didn't know what was happening around him. Hutch called out for the paramedics to come with the gurney. Dobey was already near them as the paramedics finally got to the place. Two of them went down to the grave to see what shape the patient was in. The reporters were right behind them and they began taking photos of the grave. Hutch stepped out furious and shouted, "Get out of here! This man needs medical attention or he's gonna die! Please get out!" he asked, almost pleading.

With Hutch's help, the paramedics finally got Starsky free of his chains. They took off his pants and covered him with some blankets to warm him up. IV started, they got him on the gurney. Once Hutch was in the ambulance, too, the paramedics gave him a description of how bad Starsky's condition was.

"He's hypothermic, low blood pressure, and his heartbeats are very weak, unsteady," the paramedic informed the hospital and the waiting doctor so that they would know Starsky's condition when they finally got to the emergency room.

Dobey ordered some officers to spread around the place to find Dexter. The journalists, not happy with what they'd gotten, followed the ambulance.

Arriving at Memorial Hospital, the gurney was headed to the ER. Starsky was very agitated, his eyes, not used to the light, stayed closed. Hutch held his hand trying to calm him down, but it seemed he didn't realize what was happening around him. He went on talking nonsense and there was not an inch on his upper body that didn't have a wound. His wrists and ankles were very hurt because of the chains. The doctor in the ER examined him immediately, checking his vitals.

"Sir, we need to take care of your friend in the ER. Please stay outside. He needs immediate care."

"Can't I be with him? He seems to be scared. He doesn't seem to know he's been rescued and that now everything's gonna be alright," Hutch said, almost pleading to the doctor.

"No, I'm sorry, there's no time to waste." And with that, they took Starsky into the room.

Part 7

Dobey was heading back to the precinct feeling slightly at ease that they found his detective alive. At the same time, he was unhappy with the failed operation to catch Dexter. In the middle of his thoughts and worry about Starsky, the radio crackled to life and the dispatcher relayed a message that a lady saying she was the housekeeper in the Dexters' house had called the police to inform them she'd found the body of her boss. Apparently, he had commited suicide. Dobey ordered that some units were sent to the Dexters'. Knowing this new fact wouldn't allow him go to the hospital and not wanting Hutch to be alone, he asked the dispatcher to patch him through to The Pits. He asked Huggy to go to the hospital and stay with Hutch and explained what had happened. Also, he told Huggy to bring some dry clothes for the blond detective and, then after hanging the mic, he went on to Dexter's house.

When he got to the house, he met the housekeeper, Berenice, who seemed very nervous with what had happened. Dobey started the search immediately. Berenice told them all the details about how and when she'd found the body and she assured them she didn't hear the shot. But she did say the place is so big and she was in the back of the house. Yet, there was an important detail in what Berenice said. She remembered passing by Mr. Robert who was with a lady who had blond, short hair. The girl wasn't a complete stranger to her. She reminded her of Sally Wilson, and Berenice noticed she didn't look her in the eyes. In fact, she kept her face almost covered by her coat. At first, she didn't think it was important, but when she found her boss dead, she thought back over their behavior. Robert and the woman exited the house and got into Robert's car quickly as they left almost without saying a word to Berenice. That wasn't usual for Robert. It was obvious that the housekeeper didn't like the guy very much. Berenice described the car and Dobey immediately put an APB on Robert Watkins and his partner. Both'll have a lot to explain to the police.

Before going to the hospital to see his detective and while he waited for some news on Dexter's brother-in-law, Dobey headed to his house to change his clothes.

#####

It had been two hours since Starsky was brought to the hospital. There was still no news. . Doctors and nurses went in and out of the ER in a frantic pace to try and save his life. Hutch stayed put, sitting in an uncomfortable couch, lost in his thoughts, when a voice brought him back.

"Hutch, hey, bro."

"Huggy!"

"Hey, any news on our friend?"

"No, nothing yet. But he wasn't looking good, Huggy. No way"

"Hutch, I brought some dry clothes for you so you don't get pneumonia. Our Curly's gonna need both of us healthy in order to help him. Why don't you go change? You look like a ghost just getting out from the cemetery you were at."

"Thanks, Huggy. Only you would remember such details." He grinned thankfully.

"Anytime, now go," he said pointing to the men's room.

While he was washing and changing his clothes, Hutch was wondering how Huggy had known he and Starsky were at the hospital. With his clean clothes on and finally clean himself, Hutch realized he was feeling better.

"Huggy, how did you know we were here ?"

"Dobey called me and asked me to come here while he finished things at Dexter's house."

"What?" Hutch had completely forgotten that Dexter hadn't showed up and that Dobey had stayed in White Chapel. "What happened? Where's the captain? And Dexter?" he asked concerned.

"Calm down, my man. One thing at a time. Your captain called some minutes ago from this crazy man's house. He told me the housekeeper found Dexter's body. Apparently he commited suicide."

"Suicide?" Hutch said surprised.

"That's what it seems. But your captain doesn't seem very fond of that idea, if you know what I mean. They're investigating further. Dobey went to his house to change clothes and he'll be here, too, in no time," Huggy said finally.

"This is really weird. I don't think Dexter would kill himself at home. He wanted to do that in front of the press. He was obsessed with getting famous with what he did to Starsky. Turn to reality what he'd written in his book. Why kill himself in his house alone, then?"

"Could be he'd changed his mind?" asked Huggy.

"No, he was out of it. His ideas were completely controlling him."

"Also, there are lots of reporters at the entrance of the hospital. It was difficult to get in."

"Shit! I forgot about that. Huggy, can you believe that those bastards took pics of Starsky! They have no respect for anything," he said very upset.

"Do you think they're gonna publish those photos? We have to be careful with Starsky's mother. You talked to her yet?"

"No, but I'm going to talk to her today. I can't let her find out what happened through the photos or the TV."

At that moment, the doctor came out of the ER. Hutch hurried to catch him and get some news about his partner and best friend.

"Are you for David Starsky?" asked the doctor.

"Yeah, I'm his partner, Ken Hutchinson. This is our friend, Huggy. How is my partner? Can I talk to him now? Is he awake?"

"Officer Hutchinson, calm down, please. We have to talk. Let's sit here," the doctor said and headed to the chairs.

"My name is Dr. Richard Wymann. There are some things I need to explain about Officer Starsky. His state is not the best in anyway. The case itself is a very special one. It's a nightmare what Officer Starsky went through. Physically, we know he has some oversensitivity to light due to the time he was captive. The hypothermia is under control. He's had no food for a long time so his body's very weak, which isn't good for his recovery. But we can't do anything about it other than wait for him to start eating and getting stronger. He has bruises all over his body, but that'll be treated with creams and antibiotics. It's going to bother him physically for some time and leave some scars. The worse thing is the dehydration. We're fighting that with an IV and, when he is able, he'll get some fluids by mouth. His temperature is high because of the pneumonia that he caught due to the place he was at during all these days, the cold weather and the rain he faced during that time, and because of his latest medical problems. His past shooting left some residual effects."

"Pneumonia." Hutch knew this wasn't good news. Since the shooting, Starsky's lungs seemed to be his weakest point.

"Yes, Officer Starsky has a very high fever because of his pneumonia. He was imagining things, but that's almost under control now. I'm sure in a few hours the fever will be down completely and his body will react to the medication. We're using the antibiotics in the necessary doses for someone that's in as bad a shape as David is. Naturally, He's agitated . That's why it took us so long to do our job. It was necessary to restrain him to the bed so the nurses and I could do our job. Now, he's under the effect of a sedative and resting. That's part of the traumatic situation he went through. And that's something we'll have to consider in the near future, with the help of a psychologist, if necessary. Each person reacts in his own way. I repeat that controlling the pneumonia is the most important thing now. His medical records show it's more dangerous in relation to the damage his lungs suffered almost a year ago. Any questions?"

"You're going to transfer him to a private room, aren't you?" asked Hutch.

"Oh, yes. And, when he's settled, you'll be able to see him. I think you must be the person he's calling for, Hutch?" asked Dr. Wymann.

"Yeah," Hutch nodded and grinned.

" Your partner called your name several times. But I'm asking you not to get him too tired. He really needs all the rest he can get to get well soon, ok?" The doctor smiled in a friendly manner.

"Yes, of course. Thank you very much for everything," said Hutch shaking hands with the doctor.

"Now, you wait here till the nurse comes and takes you to David's room. Good night, gentlemen."

Hutch and Huggy remained quiet, each in his own thoughts, trying to absorb all the information they've just heard.

After some minutes that seemed like hours, a nice nurse came out and told them finally that Det. Starsky was in room 329 and that they can go see him, but they shouldn't wake him up: Dr. Wymann's orders. Huggy let Hutch go in by himself so that he could have some alone time with Starsky.

Hutch entered the dim lit room. His partner looked very pale and was breathing with difficulty and with the help of a machine. Hutch sat on the chair near the bed. He took his friend's hand in his and he felt it was too hot. His chest was covered with bandages as well as his wrists. Oh, Starsky, why did all this happen to you?Hutch thought, feeling very upset with the silence in the room and the memories of the long night's vigil after the shooting. He had to go out and try to compose himself. When he's in the hallway, he saw Dobey talking to Huggy.

"Hutchinson, how's Starsky doing?" Dobey asked, concerned.

"Not very wellhis lungs. He has pneumonia," Hutch explained, his eyes filling with worry and anguish. "The rest time will help to heal."

"Pneumonia. That's not good, son. But Starsky is tough. He's surely gonna get well. I'm going to talk to his doctor later," Dobey told him trying to ease some of the worry visible in Hutch's eyes.

"Huggy already told me the news. Dexter commited suicide?" asked Hutch.

"According to the investigation, he didn't," he answered with an enigmatic look.

"He didn't?" Hutch didn't understand.

"Whomever the killer was, he or she didn't consider all the details. The position of the body and there was no gunpowder on Dexter's hands. Someone set this up. Our first suspect is Robert, the brother-in-law. The housekeeper said that a little before she found the body of her boss, Dexter's brother-in-law was with a girl and they were in a hurry to leave the house."

"Captain, this brother-in-law, Starsky and I were going to interrogate him, but we didn't get to it."

"He's missing, which isn't a surprise at all. And the girl, the housekeeper told us she looked a lot like Sally Wilson. Had short hair, but that couldn't be right since Sally is dead."

"Or she's not," said Hutch in disbelief.

"I got an investigation going on Robert and we found out that he'd be the second beneficiary in Annabel Lee Dexter's will, his sister. So he had all the motive to kill his brother-in-law. But the girl, that's another mystery to solve. If it's really Sally, then we have a little family conspiracy, don't you think so?"

"Yes, Captain. Anything related to this is important to me. We almost lost Starsky because of a crazy man and now this man appears dead mysteriously, staging a suicide. What's really happening here?" Hutch said, pacing the floor from wall to wall.

"Hey, Hutch, my man, why don't you try to sleep for a while at home? You listened to the doctor, Starsky won't wake up soon," suggested Huggy.

"No! I'm staying here till he wakes up. You listened to the doctor, too. With everything that happened, Starsky is scared and very agitated. He needs me to be here, with him at every moment. For God's sake, he almost died buried alive, don't you understand!"

"Ok, we understand, we understand. Then I'll go to my curly friend's room and then to my restaurant. I left everything up to my waitresses and came here when the captain called me. If I don't go back, I won't have any bar tomorrow and the city'll lose a lot with that, you know that, don't you?"

"Thanks, Huggy," said Dobey.

"Huggy, thanks for the clothes and for the company," Hutch told him with a weak smile trying to excuse himself for the way he treated him earlier.

"Hutch, I'm going back to the precinct. When Starsky wakes up, tell him I was here and that everybody's hoping he gets well soon. Before I leave, I'll go see him. And Edith is going to have him in her prayers till he gets well. Any news, I'll call you."

"Yes, Captain. Thanks for everything. I'll tell Starsky everything and he'll be pleased."

Part 8

The night wasn't very quiet. Starsky was very agitated despite the medication. Twice, Hutch had to wake up his partner in the middle of a nightmare. And there was also the problem with his fever. The nurses going in and out of the room all through the night was a sure sign that things weren't good. In the early morning, Hutch, who was now asleep in his chair worn out by the fatigue and the stress of the search, woke up when Dr. Wymann arrived.

"Good morning, Officer Hutchinson. I see you decided to sleep in the hospital," grinned the doctor.

"Yeah. I stayed because I was afraid my partner would wake up and need me. He really had a lot of nightmares. At dawn, he seemed to settle down for a rest and so did I," he smiled, embarrassed.

After reading the nurses' notes during the night shift and writing some new instructions on Starsky's medical chart, Dr. Wymann checked his vitals.

"He still has a fever, doesn't he?" asked Hutch, fearing the answer.

"Yes, it lowered a little, but not enough to be sufficient. We'll wait till the end of the day. If it doesn't go down more, we'll change his medication. I'll ask the nurse to change the bandages on his wounds. But the good news is I'm taking the respirator off. His breathing is stable now and he'll be more comfortable. It's enough with the injuries to his body and the memories of the ordeal."

"That's good," Hutch said pensively looking at his partner still sleeping.

"OK. I suggest you go have some breakfast while the nurse washes him and changes the bandages, alright?"

"Yes, I'm going to drink some coffee to try and stay awake." With that, Hutch left. He headed to the bathroom to freshen up and then to the cafeteria before going back to Starsky.

Marta, the nurse, had just finished her job. She was watching the handsome guy that was apparently sleeping calmly due to the medication. He didn't look much like the guy the night nurses told her had arrived. Lovingly caressing his curls. David StarskyI like your nameDavid she said to herself and then she left the room with a smile on her face. She ran into Hutch on her way out. "Good morning, Officer Hutchinson. Your friend is sleeping, so no noise, please. He needs his rest. You'll have plenty of time to talk afterwards, ok?" she said and grinned sweetly.

Starsky, now without the respirator and his face shaved, looked better with some color in his face. He still had a high temperature. Hutch lowerd his head, sighed, and whispered in his friend's ear, "Come on, buddy, you have to get that fever down. It's important! Fight, buddy, I know you can."

Hutch was looking at the screen for some time when he heard something that sounded like Starsky's voice. When he turned to the bed, his friend seemed to be fighting and trying to change his position in the bed. It seemed he was trying to get into a fetal position, like he was when they found him in the tomb. Hutch quickly pressed the button to call the nurses and then he tried to calm his partner's movements. Starsky's voice was very weak and his throat very dry, which didn't help Hutch at all to understand what he was trying to say. Starsky cried, very low, almost a whine. Apparently, in his dreams, Starsky thought he was still in the grave. Marta arrived and, while Hutch held Starsky's body, she prepared a sedative to give him.

"Nurse," Hutch moved to be able to read the name tag on her uniform. "Marta, why is he so nervous?" asked Hutch, worried.

"That's normal, don't worry. They're just dreams. When he wakes up and sees he's in the hospital with people that love him, he'll feel better. But the trauma in these cases causes nightmares. If it's necessary, Dr. Wymann will prescribe some therapy. This always helps the patient to recover quicker. Don't worry."

"Thanks, Marta." Hutch began to like her. Sweet and kind. All his temperamental friend will need.

Silence filled the room for some hours. Hutch was holding his friend's hands waiting for him to wake up, lost in thoughts, when he felt some weak pressure in his hand.

"Hey. Hi, buddy!" he said smiling sweetly.

Starsky barely nodded. His eyes were still very blurry in the light. He blinked several times and Hutch hurried to the window to close the blinds.

"Don't worry, Starsky, everything's alright now. Your eyes are sensitive to light yet, but that will get better. You still have a temperature. Want something? Are you thirsty? Do you have a headache?"

Starsky made a light move with his head. He looked at the IV a little frightened. Hutch grinned and rested his hand on his shoulder to calm him. "This is to rehydrate you. You went a long time without fluids. Don't worry, everything's gonna be fine."

Starsky seemed to drift off to sleep again but without releasing Hutch's hand. With nothing else to do, Hutch sat and stayed beside his friend. Finally, at night, the doctor ordered to take out the IV and to start giving him some light food.

Marta arrived with dinner. Starsky remained quiet all the time while the nurse took off the IV and offered him some juice, fruit, and jelly as his supper. He made no move indicating he was going to eat.

"Come on, David, you must be hungry. I know hospitals aren't well known for their food but this isn't too bad," said Marta smiling trying to convince her shy patient to eat.

"If your hand bothers you too much to use utensils, I could feed you myself. What do you think?"

Starsky stared at the girl with apprehension. All the time he was at Memorial Hospital during his recovery from the shooting, these situations were the most difficult. Someone had to feed him, bathe him, make him pee, etc. This embarrassed him, especially since almost always they were female nurses doing these tasks.

"I can eat by myself, lady," he said harshly.

"Great! Then I'll go see the other patients that can't feed themselves. When you finish, just call me," she replied kindly, ignoring his bad mood.

Upset or not, at least he ate everything in silence. Hutch didn't force him to talk. The shrink adviced him not to force anything. When Starsky felt ready and eager, he'd talk about his nightmares and everything that had happened. Actually, it was Hutch who was talking all the time. He told him about Huggy and Dobey, about Edith's prayers, about the phone call from Starsky's mother and all the fellow-officers in the precinct asking for him and waiting for him to get well soon. He told him that if the temperature got down completely, then he'd be released from the hospital and they'd go to his apartment and Hutch would stay with him till he was feeling alright. Sometimes Starsky would look out the window to the night and then at Hutch. He seemed very scared, as if a bad memory was bothering him.

"Hey, Starsk, I'm right here. What's wrong?" asked Hutch, concerned.

At last, Starsky spoke in a very low, raspy voice.

"Hutch, I thought I was going to die alone."

"I know but everything's alright now. It's alright."

"No. Darkness. I don't want to be in darkness." Starsky suddenly got restless in bed and took one of Hutch's hands tightly in both of his, as if it was his only safety rope. His breathing increased and he started sweating.

"Shhh, it's ok. I'll turn on all the lights in the room, alright? This way you'll have a lot of light. No darkness. Is that alright?" asked Hutch, concerned and very worried with his friend's attitude. Starky nodded though still restless and his eyes were anguished and looked frightened like a kid's.

"The airthere was no air. And it was cold, very cold. I couldn't move. Something on my hands and my legs didn't allow me to, Hutch," he said, staring at his covered wounds and all his bandages. "And the insects." Starsky closed his eyes trying in vain to forget those memories.

Hutch put his hands on the shoulders of his best friend wanting to calm him down and give him some assurance. "Shhh, everything's alright now. You're here. Everything's over. And I'll be with you all the time. You won't be alone, I promise," assured Hutch. "The person who did this to you is dead now. He will not hurt you anymore. Everything's alright now."

"Dead?" Starsky seemed confused.

"It was Dexter. He was a crazy man. Obssessed by his past and the pain of losing his love. But you don't have to worry about it now. Everything's over. Where he's at now he can't hurt you any more," he grinned lovingly.

"Starsky, do you remember anything? The kidnapping. Do you remember seeing anybody?" asked Hutch trying not to push him.

Starsky tried hard to remember something but finally he sighed. "No, I don't remember anything. The only thing I remember is I wasn't feeling well and I went to the bathroom in the bar, but then, nothing."

"You have to rest, ok?"

"OK." Starsky looked at Hutch in the eyes showing all the fear and anguish he felt. He then remained silent, holding tight to his friend's hand. Now and always his bond with safety and love.

Starsky looked tired after dinner, but he was fighting sleep. Marta took out the things from the table and gave Starsky his night medication.

"What's that you're giving me, Marta," asked Starsky, more friendly with the girl.

"Something for you to sleep peacefully. And thus, your friend," she smiled at both friends mischievously.

"David, I have to take care of your wounds. Then they won't bother you in your sleep." She showed him a pack of medication.

Starsky moaned as he didn't have any choice. He laid back and rested while Marta's skilled hands did the work. Starsky seemed a little uncomfortable with the scars on his chest and he remained looking at the ceiling. "Now turn a little so I can take care of your side," asked Marta. Hutch was by his side and helped him hoping his presence would make him feel some comfort and safety.

"Are you in pain, buddy?"

"Yes, a little," he replied sadly.

Marta's moves were precise and obviously careful. The nurse seemed to ignore the scars even when her fingers had to put the medication over some of them.

"OK, David, now you'll have a peaceful night and be more comfortable. It wasn't that bad, was it?" She winked while putting the bandages and his clothes back in place.

"Tomorrow you won't be here, Marta, right?" asked Starsky feeling melancholic, but with his always effective smile.

"No, but we'll see each other soon. And surely you'll be feeling better, a lot better. Good night, David," she said and smiled kindly.

Hutch didn't miss the fact that Marta blushed a little when answering Starsky's question.

"Seems one nurse of Memorial is surrendering to David Starsky's charm," said Hutch pretending to be bored. "What's that you have, Starsk? You're a mess and still all the nurses seem to melt in front of you. One day you'll have to tell me your secret."

"I can't help it. Some have the charm, but others just don't," he replied grinning broadly for the first time since this ordeal began.

During the rest of the night, they watched some TV and Hutch read the news in the paper but, on each channel and the newspaper, the same news appeared. Starsky didn't want to see the pictures in the papers and he seemed to be very upset being the center of the news in this way. After the few moments he talked to Marta and the teasing with Hutch, he remained silent.

"Starsk, don't you want to get some sleep? It's late, buddy, and you must be tired. If you don't rest, your temperature isn't going to go down. You don't have to fight the sedatives."

Very scared and fearing to be forced to do it, Starsky pleaded with Hutch. "No, I don't want to sleep. Don't you understand? Nobody understands. I don't wanna sleep. I can't sleep." Starsky turned his face the other way so Hutch couldn't see the tears in his eyes. "I don't wanna dream. When I close my eyes, I can see everything againthe darkness." Starsky felt frightened and embarrassed at being unable to control his emotions.

Hutch sat on the bed and opened his arms for his friend. Starsky accepted the embrace and rested his head against the chest of his friend, as it was the only safe place in the world. "OK, Starsky, I understand. There's no reason for you to be afraid. I'll be here with you all the time. You'll have a light on and I'll hold you, not letting the nightmares bother you. But now you have to close your eyes and rest. Tomorrow, Dr. Wymann will come very early in the morning and you'll have to be relaxed, ok?"

The answer wasn't immediate. It seemed Starsky didn't want to lose the safety of his friend's embrace , but eventually he laid back and in few minutes he was sound asleep. Hutch sighed at ease and, also tired, he laid down to sleep.

As expected, Starsky had a restless sleep. The wounds bothered him despite the medication Marta gave him. In the middle of his sleep, he moaned because of the pain he felt. Hutch woke him twice. During his nightmares, Starsky called out his mother's name, his father's, and Hutch's. Starsky woke up very tired. Dr. Wymann arrived early and wasn't happy with the continued high temperature. He decided to change the medication and told Hutch that Starsky's release will be delayed a little more than expected. He ordered that the respiratory therapy to help his lung to get back to its normal functioning would begin.

On his way out of the room, Dr. Wymann was stopped by Hutch who wanted to tell him about Starsky's fear of darkness and the memories. Wymann told him that that was expected as a result of everything he'd been through and only time and psychological help will ease the suffering of his friend.

"To be buried alive is the worst experience that a human being can go through. Of course, David will experience lots of after effects with this ordeal. He'll get all the psychological help he needs and wants. Friends and family are very important at this moment. But I read his medical records and, from what I learned in talking with David, he doesn't have any family here in Bay City. Friends will be extremely important."

"Thanks, Doctor. It's difficult to see my friend this way. I'd like to help him more."

"As I see it, Officer Hutchinson, you'll be very important in the recovery of your friend. It'll be a difficult road, but he'll be alright at the end." He smiled confidently. "Well, I have other patients to see now. See you later."

Hutch was just going into the room when he saw the captain arriving.

"Good morning, Cap."

"Good morning, son. How was the night with Starsky?" asked Dobey.

"Restless with a lot of dreams. There's a deep trauma there. He'll need a lot of help and time to get back to normal," Hutch said with sadness in his voice.

"That's understandable. He's gonna get the time and treatment he'll need. Can I see him now?"

"Oh, sure, Cap. He's not too talkative but he'll be happy to see you here."

"Starsky not talking...that's really upsetting," teased Dobey trying to ease the tense mood.

Starsky was happy indeed to see Dobey but mostly with the cookies Edith sent him. He enjoyed the colorful drawings Rosie asked her daddy to give her "Uncle Dave."

In the afternoon, Huggy stayed with Starsky while Hutch went to his apartment to take care of his plants and change clothes. Starsky didn't at any time talk to Huggy or the Captain about what had happened. As the shrink ordered, they didn't force anything from him either. When the time would come,. he'd talk to the person he wanted to.

Part 9

Robert and his partner were still missing. All the Bay City Police were looking for them and it'd be just a few hours till they found them.

In a rundown hotel, Sally and Robert were hiding since Dexter's murder. The mood between them both wasn't the best.

"It's all your fault, Robert. Why did we have to kill Dexter in his house? You knew that old woman is always there, taking care of everything. If you'd have done what I told you to, you could've kill Dexter any other place and faked a suicide."

"Don't try to blame me because our plans didn't work out alright! I couldn't imagine that stupid Berenice was going to show up at the precise moment we were leaving. She always used to sleep at that time of the day. She's getting older and there's not much to do in the house now that my sister's gone. We had back luck, that's all. But we have to calm down and everything'll work out as we want it to."

"For being a murderer, you're very na´ve, Robert. You think the police don't know who the beneficiary of Annabel is. Everybody already knows who and why Jonathan Dexter was killed!" said Sally nervous and with anger in her voice.

"You're as guilty as I am. We worked together in this, babe," he said sarcastically. "Or you've already forgotten that?" asked Robert threateningly. "You were the one who got the body of a street person from the hospital to leave in the car in your place; you left your things with the papers, your clothes, and even some of your hair for the police to find."

"Yes, and I don't like my hair this short. I can't wait till it's long again," Sally told him with a deep sigh looking at her image in the mirror. "And I'd like to eat something real good and not this trash we get here."

"Sally, it's enough that the old receptionist buys the food for us. I have to pay for that, you know. Plus, we're not sure of his silence. And we can't wander around the streets or you've already forgotten we're wanted? Berenice gave us up to the police!"

"I want to eat something better at least once. Why don't you go to the restaurant across the street and buy something worth eating?" said Sally in a rude tone.

"Sally, let's concentrate in finding a way to get out of here without the police catching us. We have to take it easy and make a plan. I'm going to buy something today. But I can't do it all the time, you got it?"

Sally gave him a happy look. "OK, at least for today I'll eat like a queen," she said and grinned happily.

#####

Ten days after being brought to the hospital, Starsky was finally being released. Dr. Wymann spent the last hour taking care of the papers and talking to both friends about the medication Starsky had to take, the schedule, the respiratory therapy he needed to continue at home, and the treatment some of the wounds still needed. Starsky didn't want to continue to take the sessions scheduled with the shrink at the hospital, and as Hutch expected, everything took place with a few visits during the stay in the hospital: just a general overview of the patient. To Starsky's relief, now the patient was rid of the sessions with the psychiatrist.

The good-byes to the nurses were as festive as always. Although David Starsky was a very moody patient, he was nevertheless a success among the nurses, especially the sweet Marta. There was a special kiss for her that left her blushing: the others looking at her a little jealously. This fact didn't get unnoticed by Hutch or the exchange of looks between them both.

When they were finally done, Hutch took ing him home, where Huggy and the Dobeys were waiting. Going toward the elevator, Hutch noticed his best friend getting a little restless and nervous in the wheelchair.

"Hey, buddy, what is it?" asked Hutch.

"Nothing," said Starsky trying to look normal.

When they got into the elevator, Starsky was sweating hard and his breathing was accelerated. Hutch then realized what the problem was.

"Starsk, is it the elevator? Calm down. There's no problem. We'll get down. Breathe deeply and calmly. We'll be down in no time," Hutch talked with a soothing voice.

"Yes," said Starsky, but he was feeling completely frightened.

When the doors of the elevator opened, Hutch got out as quickly as he could. When they were out of the hospital and at the car, Hutch helped his friend out of the chair. "OK, here we are, Starsk. How are you feeling? Better? I'm sorry, buddy, I didn't think about it," he said apologizing.

With his breathing still accelerated, Starsky grinned embarrassed. "I didn't even know I'd feel this way. You couldn't have guessed that. Sorry, buddy, I'm a big problem now. Sorry."

"No, it's OK. These things are gonna disappear with time. Let's go home, ok?"

The drive was almost in silence. Starsky had the window all the way down and he kept looking out, feeling the breeze almost all the time. This fact didn't go unnoticed to Hutch. Obviously, you need to feel the sensation of being able to breathe all the air of the world. I'm sorry, Starsky, I'd like to help you some more. thought Hutch.

When they got to his apartment, Huggy and the Dobeys were waiting with a chocolate cake. Rosie has insisted on putting up some colorful balloons. The apartment was very cheerful and Starsky felt happy and calm. After everybody left, Starsky helped Hutch to clean up everything.

"Starsk, it's time to rest, buddy. How about a bath and then a restful sleep in your own bed. I'll finish here, ok?"

"OK."

Starsky headed for the bathroom and, after some minutes, he was out again with his blue pajamas.

"Hutch, don't you want to read something? Or watch some TV? Or"

Hutch interrupted him. "Starsk, do you remember what we agreed on? That I was staying here till you feel better?" and he smiled with a naughty smile.

"Thanks, Hutch." Starsky grinned back and lowered his gaze a little embarrassed feeling like a frightened child when the night came.

"I'll get some blankets and get the couch ready and..."

"Starsk, I know where everything is. I spent more nights here than at my place. Everything's alright, you go to bed. You need to sleep. Early in the morning you'll have to do your exercises for your lungs. Don't even think I forgot." Hutch told him, pointing at him with his finger as if he were talking to a kid.

"Yeah, Mom," Starsky said a little upset and headed for his bedroom. After some minutes, Hutch heard a soft snoring.

"Sleep well, buddy."

In the middle of the night, a heavy storm was falling over Bay City. Starsky woke up scared by the thunders and lightnings that cut through the sky. It looked like the storm wanted to tear the house down. In the beginning, Starsky tried to control himself, but the memories of the rain, the smell of the wet ground, the thunders, began to make him lose control of his weak emotional system. Hutch, like in the hospital, didn't turn off all the lights. He left one in the kitchen that helped to keep the apartment illuminated in some way. After some minutes of the heavy rain, the light went out and the apartment was filled with a terrible darkness. Starsky lost complete control of himself and turned to a fetal position on his bed, starting to feel like he was in that terrible place again. Darkness, loneliness, fear Almost in a whisper, he decided to forget his pride and called out Hutch's name.

"Hutch...Hutch."

Hutch was so tired that even the storm didn't wake him. But when he heard the voice of his friend, something in his subconscious made him wake up.

"Starsk? Oh, God." he stood up immediately noticing the rain and, most of all, the darkness. In his way to the bedroom, Hutch turnd over the coffee table beside the couch. He turnd on the switch, forgetting there was no light. In few seconds, he was by Starsky's side. His friend was already lost in the memories that took him to another world.

"Starsk, take it easy, take it easy. Everything's alright. It's only the heavy rain and a problem with the light," he said soothingly. He searched in the darkness for his friend's hands. When he laid beside him, he felt Starsky was as cold as ice. Starsky jumped from the bed like a cat and ran to a corner of the room. Hutch rushed to him, but it was difficult to see in the darkness. Hutch sat on the floor and held his friend tightly, hugging him, and laying him against his own body. Starsky breathed quickly and he seemed to be sobbing, just like when Hutch rescued him.

"Shh, everything's alright, Starsk. Easy. It's alright." He rocked him gently like a child.

The light came back on and the room was bright again. Hutch turned Starsky's face to make him look at him. Starsky turned his gaze around the room. He realized where he was and he seemed to come back from his hell slowly. Both remained with their heads together for some time till Starsky's breathing went back to normal. Tired because of the effort, Starsky leaned his head against his friend's chest. Hutch took him back to bed, took out a clean T-shirt from the closet, and gave it to Starsky as his pajamas were wet with sweat. Starsky laid down and used a blanket to cover his body to protect him from the cold and the fear.

"Starsk, everything's alright now, everything's alright," assured Hutch.

"Hutch, I'm sorry. I thought I was in the Oh, God, I was there again," said Starsky with his eyes full of tears. "I'm sorry. I don't want to be such a mess. But I was so scared." Starsky closed his eyes and hid his face in the pillow. "When's all this gonna stop? I don't wanna dream any more."

"OK, it's ok. I understand. It's alright. You won't dream any more. Try to go to sleep again. I'll stay here with you till you fell asleep. The storm is almost over and the light's on again. Everything's alright now. It was the storm that brought back those memories." Hutch caressed his arm kindly and smiled lovingly. It didn't take too long for Starsky to doze off and Hutch quietly and slowly went back to the couch to sleep.

In the morning, Hutch and Starsky, tired due to the events of the night, slept late. Hutch woke up first and fixed something for Starsky to eat. Looking exhausted, Starsky walked into the kitchen.

"Hi, buddy," Starsky greeted him, forcing a smile.

"Hey yourself. We slept late today. It's almost lunch time!" Hutch said smiling sweetly.

"I feel as if a truck ran over me."

"It was the nightmare," explained Hutch simulating calmness over what had happened.

"Or maybe your arms. For God's sake, Hutch, you almost smashed me," claimed Starsky.

"Well, it was worth it." He winked an eye.

"And effective." He sighed. "It brought me back from my nightmare. Thanks, buddy, for everything!" he said staring at him lovingly.

"Anytime!"

"How about steaks and a lettuce salad?"

"Lettuce salad?" asked Starsky a little disgusted.

"Yeah, and the important thing is not thinking of throwing it." Hutch laughed about his friend being upset with the idea of eating some lettuce salad.

"I'm in your hands, buddy. Whatever you say. I'm not paying any attention to the food."

"After eating the lettuce salad you highly recommend, what are we gonna do?" asked Starsky while he helps set the table.

"I'm going to the precinct. I have to know how things are going. How's the investigation. Go back to the case. Dobey gave me some time off, but I don't want to be away too long. And you have your respiratory therapy. You remember nurse Marta's lessons, don't you?"

"How could I forget?" He sighed with a mischevious look in his eyes. "I've never seen a girl blow so beautifully."

"Starsky." Hutch looked at him like a reprimand.

"What?" asked Starsky being childish.

"I see you're really feeling better. The way you looked at that girl when we were leaving the hospital would embarrass any one. Couldn't you be a little more discrete?"

"I can't control my Paul Muni charm. It's something genetic."

"Genetic," Hutch repeated not much convinced.

The guys ate quietly for a while till Hutch broke the silence.

"Buddy..."

"Humm," said Starsky without taking his eyes away from the plate.

"Buddy, I'm sorry I didn't think about Dexter as the obvious answer to everything that was happening. I was focused on finding you and didn't see the clues : the kind of literature. Those were things very much like Dexter's book and"

"Hutch, don't, please. Don't do this. For me and for you. It's not your fault, alright?" Starsky talked seriously, not leaving any space for arguing.

"How many times have you saved my life before, Hutch? As for me, could it be possible that I was that quick when you needed me? Forget it! We're partners. It's our job to save the life of one another. And that we do alright. I'm here alive and so are you. That's what really matters," he added still serious.

"Thanks, Starsk," Hutch said, his eyes looking directly into his partner's until Starsky turned his gaze to the food again.

"Hutch, as I understand it, Dexter was trying to prove his ideas. The ideas he wrote in his book, right?" Hutch just nodded. "And I was his tool, right?" Hutch nodded again. "And now everybody is trying to get this guy, Robert. Why would Robert kill Dexter?"

"Money. According to the latest investigation, Dexter was the major beneficiary in the will and Robert was the second. But if Dexter died first, Annabel set everything to go to her brother. And that's a lot of money, Starsk. That's the line of thinking in the investigation."

"Humm." Starsky remained quiet, apparently satisfied with the answers.

Then he let out a sigh and said, "Hutch, I'm calling the shrink in the hospital. That bad dream last nightit's obvious I'll need somebody to talk to in order to feel well again. I don't wanna spend the rest of my life with nightmares. What do you think?" he asked and looked at Hutch intently.

"I think it's a very good decision, Starsk. I didn't want to force you to do anything, but I was also considering you'd have to do some therapy. Not too long, but just to have somebody to talk to besides me. Somebody specialized that can help you. When are you thinking of starting?"

"Today, if possible. I'll call her and try to set a date. I have the number and I can take advantage and have my respiratory therapy in person with my favorite nurse. It'll work out well," he said staring at Hutch mischeviously.

"OK," Hutch said grinning happily. "If you get an appointment now, you can take me home on the way. I left my car there. Then you'll have the Torino all to yourself."

"Hmm, that's nice." He rubbed his hands together thinking of nicer moments.

"Starsk, you're recovering, or did you forget? Not too much adventure, right?" Hutch said in a serious tone.

Starsky sighed bored. "You know, Hutch, you're worse than my mother when I wanted to go out to play with my friends on the streets. Do you always have to remind me of my limitations before fun?"

Hutch couldn't keep his look serious and laughed happily for the first time since the beginning of this nightmare.

Starsky finished his food and helped his friend with the dishes. While Hutch headed for the bathroom to take a shower before going to the precinct, Starsky called the psychiatrist in the hospital and made an appointment.

"Hutch! I got an appointment in two hours. I need the bathroom to take a shower. I'll leave you at your place to get your car as we said, ok?" asked Starsky at the bathroom door.

"OK, just give me a couple of minutes and the bathroom is all yours, Starsk."

Part 10

Starsky arrived at the hospital right on time for his appointment with the shrink, Dr. Jenifer Collins. Dr. Collins had already had some talks with Starsky while he was in the hospital, so everything was easier for Starsky. After an hour, Starsky got more at ease and felt more confident. He went to the nurses' station and asked for Marta. He didn't have to wait too long. Marta was coming out of one of the rooms when she noticed her favorite patient.

"David, what a surprise!" she greeted him, but then she got worried about the unexpected visit. "Are you alright?" She looked at him concerned.

"Yes, better now," he replied and smiled seductively. "I was with Dr. Collins. I decided I needed to talk to her. The nightmaresthey bother me a lot." he explained grinning shyly, admitting his weakness.

"It's good you thought it over. Really, David, you'll see that with time everything will turn out alright and the psychological help is a very important factor. When are you going back to work?"

"I'm on medical absence. When I'm feeling better, I have to take some exams in front of the medical board of the police department and then I'll be released. Hope it won't take too long."

"I'm sure you'll be released soon. You wait just a few more days and you'll feel better," she said and smiled lovingly.

Starsky couldn't stop thinking that this girl got to his feelings as no other had in a long time. So he decided to take a chance.

"I'm here for my respiratory therapy. Do you have some free time to help me?"

"Yes, sure," she grinned gladly.

After the therapy, Starsky remained quietly staring at Marta while she got the things in order. "Marta, how about having dinner with me tomorrow? I'd like to see you in some other place than this hospital."

"That'd be nice, David. Tomorrow is my day-off. It'll be perfect. I'd like to see you beyond these walls, too" and she smiled, completely pleased.

"Then I'll call you tomorrow to set the time I'll pick you up, ok? You have a telephone number, don't you?" he asked with his seductive charm.

"Oh, yeah, sure. Let's go to the nurses' station and I'll write it down for you," she told him extending her hand. Together they left the room and, after getting the number, Starsky left feeling happy and thinking of Marta's number in his pocket.

At night, Starsky was a little tired, but he decided he'd fix dinner so Hutch could rest a little after his day at work.

Hutch arrived a little late and, after a shower, he sat at the table and looked at the food that seemed great. He felt pleased seeing his partner was feeling better than in the morning.

"Hmm, Starsk, this is really good, buddy. And I'm very hungry."

"I'm glad you like it, Blondie. Tomorrow you'll have to have dinner alone." He gave him a suspicious look.

"Marta? Are you two going out?" He smiled gladly.

"Yes. I met her today in the hospital and she helped me with my therapy. She said I'm alright and that maybe it won't be necessary for me to have to have too much of it. She said my lungs must be made of steel!"

"Like your stomach?" Hutch added grinning. And Starsky looked at him acting bored with the comment.

"Where are you going?"

With a thoughtful look, "Some romantic place. She's a special girl and deserves a special place, don't you think so?" he said expecting Hutch to confirm his words.

"Yeah, she's a very special girl, Starsk, and I'm glad you'll finally get some relaxation after all that happened."

Until it was time to go to sleep, Hutch told Starsky how the investigation was going and the latest news at the precinct. Starsky spoke about his therapy and his talk with the psychologist. He told Hutch that she said it was normal to have bad dreams and that darkness would bother him, but as time goes by, everything would become normal again. But only time would be the answer. The night was calm, no nightmares. Hutch finally had a good night's sleep without interruptions.

The next day, Starsky stayed at home taking care of his beloved Torino for his date with Marta and doing things like laundry and some food shopping. The day went along well. But at night, when Hutch arrived, he found him very nervous.

"Starsk, I've been here for half an hour now and I'd like to take a shower, too, if it's alright with you," said Hutch teasingly but a little tired, too.

"For God's' sake, Hutch, can't you wait until I'm irresistible for my romantic dinner? What kind of friend are you?" Starsky said poking out from the bathroom.

"I'm your friend, but that doesn't mean I have to wait for you as if you were a bride on your wedding day. What's the problem? You've already chosen your clothes," he said pointing to the new jeans and a red shirt Hutch never saw before. "Starsk, I'll take a nap on the sofa till you're ready." Hutch laughed at Starsky's nervousness but, on the other hand, he was glad his friend finally had something nice and good to be anxious about.

"Hutch, I'm ready. Isn't this a work of art?" asked Starsky with a naughty look entering the living room.

"At last." He stood up and sighed pretending to be tired of the wait. He walked toward his friend and looked at him from head to toe very seriously and turned him around to see him from every angle. "Not badnot bad," he said and leaned over to smell Starsky's cologne.

"Hey, can't you just look?" said Starsky pretending to be bored with the examination and making a motion to get away.

"Don't worry, buddy, Marta will like you. You look real good. Have fun. Really," said Hutch, smiling lovingly.

"Thanks," replied Starsky, returning the smile with love and thankfulness.

Part 11

Starsky and Marta had a very good time together. Dinner was perfect, the restaurant very comfortable, the talk was fun, and so the hours went by quickly. During dinner, Starsky very kindly took Marta's hand in his and it seemed she liked it. It'd been a long time since Marta had a date with a guy this kind, funny, and charming. David was handsome and tonight he was above her expectancies. Marta was very pretty, too, with a black dress and a delicate pearl collar adorning her neck. When they left the restaurant, Starsky headed toward Marta's apartment. Neither one of them talked very much during the ride. The soft perfume Marta was wearing had Starsky more and more involved in the situation. They looked at each other and enjoyed the company. When they arrived at her apartment, Marta invited him to come in and Starsky accepted. The apartment was small but comfortable and charming.

"How about a coffee, David. I make a good cup." She winked her eye.

"Great." And he winked back. Starsky was starting to feel a little anxious and was looking around the apartment. Everything was neat and clean.

"David, it was a very special night. Everything was perfect. It's been too long since I had a date like this."

"Being with you makes any night and any place very special, Marta. You're a lovely lady," he told her and Marta felt her face blushing and turned back to take care of the coffee so Starsky wouldn't notice.

After some time in the kitchen, Marta gave him a delicious cup of coffee. "David, why don't you sit down and take off your jacket. Sit here on the couch. You don't have to pay," she said smiling cutely.

"Oh, sure," he smiled, a little embarrassed as Marta noticed his anxiety.

"So, when are you beginning medical school?" asked Starsky continuing the talk from the restaurant.

"Well, as I told you, it's just a dream. I don't have anything planned yet. I work a lot, you know. Being a nurse was part of my dream since I was a child. I love my job."

"I noticed. I felt at ease with you, Marta. Even when the situation wasehhha little unusualfor a guy and a girl." Both laughed.

"It was a pleasure to take care of you, David. You're a man, a cop, everybody respects you at the hospital since the shooting. Taking care of someone like you, even when you were in a bad mood, was a pleasure," she said, and they laughed again. "Well, I'm well trained with patients like that, and you needed attention, good care, love. It wasn't a very easy situation you went through."

At that moment, Starsky put his fingers on her lips and looked at her seductively. He leaned forward and kissed her. Marta felt her body tremble because of the touch of such a special man and she shut up. She relaxed and closed her eyes. The kiss was sweet, soft at the beginning. Starsky straightened a little just to watch her with her eyes closed. Before she could say or do anything, he kissed her again, passionately. Marta felt the heat from David's body getting near hers and the soft taste of coffee in his mouth. A sudden thought came to her mind. This guy surely knows how to please a girl

Suddenly, Marta seemed to remember something and she pulled back, breaking the kiss. Starsky looked at her lovingly and held her hand. "What's up? Is something bothering you?" he asked worried.

"Noit'sit's something silly." And she smiled shyly.

"What is it? Did I do something you don't like?"

"Noit's justit's been a while since I was with somebody and, maybe I'm not the right company for a night like this." Marta watched his eyes, waiting for a honest answer as it was her confession.

Starsky held both her hands in his and smiled lovingly. In a mischevious way, he asked, "Don't you think that this could be a good time to practice? Practice makes perfect, you know that, don't you?"

Marta laughed and felt that this man could surely turn a girl in any way he wants. She freed one of her hands and caressed his face. "You're right. All I need is a little practice." This time she leaned over and kissed Starsky passionately.

The rest of the night was filled with moans of pleasure from both of them. When Starsky opened the zipper of her dress, Marta felt a shiver of pleasure that she hadn't felt for so long. The strong but caring hands of David moved as quickly as necessary and with the tenderness her body wanted. In minutes, shoes, dress, shirt, jeans, and underwear were spread all over the floor marking the road of pleasure they followed to the bedroom. There, only the light coming from the living room illuminated them. Both moving quickly driven by desire. When they were laying down, Starsky watched her beauty. Marta couldn't take her eyes off of the well- shaped body David had. Starsky kissed her neck softly while absorbing the perfume Marta wore. This was making Marta go out of control. When they changed positions and Marta was pressing her body against his and putting her leg between his legs, his arousal was obvious and Marta grinned being the cause of that big effect on David. For almost all the night, they made love kindly, looking at each other and getting to know all the needs of each body. The last thought Marta had before going to sleep was "God, what kind of man is this?" And Starsky, "God, am I in paradise?"

It was late when Starsky woke and remained looking at Marta while she slept. He couldn't take his mind off the great moments of pleasure some time before. Knowing Marta had to be at the hospital early in the morning, Starsky sighed upset, but he woke her to say good- bye. He began kissing her all over her face and she awoke confused. When she looked at the beautiful face of her beloved David, she grinned pleased and cuddled against the warmth of his body.

"Ha, ha, don't do that, Marta. You know I have to go. If I stay, we'll have problems and have to explain to the patients and doctors what happened to the best nurse in Bay City," he said and went on kissing her. "The most beautifulsweetfoxycharmingand everything my mind can't process right now because I'm tired."

"David, it was the most wonderful night I had in all my life. You areHow could every girl before me not want to love you and be happy beside a man like you?"

"I could ask you the same question. How could any guy till now not want to love you and be happy beside a woman like you? Things aren't that easy, you know that, don't you?"

"Yes, I know. You're talking about your job." She began kissing him passionately.

"Marta, I have to go. It's late and you have to work tomorrow. I mean today."

"OK, David, talk to you later, then."

"Yeah. I'll call you later and arrange something for your next day off. How about a movie? You choose the film, OK?"

"A movie? I don't want you to remember bad things, but we could do something during the day, in an open place, like walking at the beach or something like that."

"Once a nurse, always a nurse. OK, something like that. We leave the movies for another time," he said and stared at her kindly as she cared so much for his health.

Starsky got up and went to the bathroom. Marta couldn't get her eyes off her beloved David. Some minutes later, ready to leave, Starsky leaned over her and kissed her passionately. "Sleep well, love," and he left.

Part 12

Robert was at the limit of his patience with Sally's claims. So many days confined in that cheap hotel in a neighborhood not very acceptable brought a lot of uneasiness between them both. Sally went over the edge and made Robert angry asking for a decent meal. Robert decided to go out at dawn covered with a coat and a hat to hide his face as much as possible, and go to a restaurant in front of the hotel and buy something. The restaurant was almost empty, ready to close. The guy recognized Robert from the TV and papers. He remained quiet and pretended as if nothing happened. As soon as Robert left, Bobby Joe, an old friend of Huggy's on the streets, called his friend.

"Huggy, it's Bobby Joe."

"Bobby Joe? What's up, bro? Are you in any trouble again? Calling at this time? When are you going to understand it's better to change your way of living?"

"No, it's not that. I'm straight, I swear. I have some hot news for you! The police will love it."

"If it's so hot, why don't you give it to them yourself?"

"Hey, man, you know I have some things pending with the cops. I just want them to leave me alone. But you have friends. Those detectives. I know you are close to them."

"Some things are better left unknown, Bobby Joe. Don't you ever learn?"

"I don't want anything. I wanna help, Huggy. Why don't you trust me?"

"Maybe you don't deserve it. Have you ever thought of that?"

"OK. I know I did some stupid things, but could you at least listen and then decide if you believe me or not? What do you have to lose?"

"The trust of my friends and a clean conscience. Isn't that enough?"

"For God's sake, Huggy, are you in a bad mood or what? Now, listen. I know where that rich guy is staying, the brother of the professor that died in a very strange way. The guy the police think killed that professor."

Huggy immediately was wide awake. It was something important for his friends, Starsky and Hutch. "How do you know where he is?" he asked, doubtfully.

"The guy came to the restaurant where I work. He came to buy some food. And then I saw him entering the hotel, if we could call it that, just across the street. He could be hiding there."

"Bobby Joe, if this is one of your schemes, bro, I swear"

"No, Huggy, I told you. I wanna be on the right side now. I'm tired of living in danger. I know you understand."

"Then are you in the same restaurant? I have the address."

"Yeah, the same. The place where the guy is is just across the street. It has fire-stairs outside."

"OK, I'll give you a chance."

"You won't be disappointed, Huggy."

"Take care, bro." They hung up quickly.

Huggy thought a little and then placed a call to Starsky's. There was no answer. He then called the precinct.

Knowing Starsky was on his date with his Marta and not wanting to bother him, Hutch decided to not go home early and to stay at the station getting up-to-date with the paperwork. But when Huggy called, Hutch wasn't there any more. He had just left. The operator patched him through to the radio. Hutch answered hoping it wasn't bad news, because he was very tired. Huggy explained everything and Hutch decided to go to the place, asking the operator to call the captain.

#####

Starsky was headed back home, daydreaming about his date with Marta, when he heard the call for Hutch over the radio. He then called the operator who told him what was going on and that she was calling Cap. Dobey. Starsky, instinctively changed his direction and headed to the same destination Hutch was going.

####

The night was a little cold and windy. The streets were empty at this time of night and also because this was a violent part of the city. Hutch parked his car a sufficient distance from the building where they thought the suspect in Dexter's death was. Taking out his gun, he headed in that direction.

Starsky drove his Torino as always and then he ran at a great speed.

Hutch entered the building and found an old man sleeping in the reception area with a bottle of cheap whisky by his side. Hutch woke him and asked him about a person with Robert's description. The guy acted nervious, yet a little confused because of the alcohol, then he said the number of the apartment was 202.

"You stay away from that phone. I'm serious."

Scared with the cold gaze from the cop, the old man only nodded. Hutch went up the stairs. The building was in bad shape just like the appearance of the guy taking care of it. Hutch couldn't avoid thinking how could Robert end up here. Used to live in a great house. How life could turn upside down.

#####

Robert and Sally had just finished with the food Sally wanted, when Hutch knocked at the door and announced he was the police. At that precise moment, more black and whites were parking in front of the building, as Dobey asked for back up.

Robert took the gun he had in the headboard of the bed and held Sally's hand. "Come on, the window in the back. We have to get out of here." He pushed Sally through the window and felt relieved not seeing any officer in the back of the building. Just for a few seconds, the cops didn't see them. Robert and Sally went from one window to another one and finally entered another apartment. In there was only a guy apparently drugged out who didn't realize he had unexpected visitors in his room.

At that moment, Hutch had already pushed the door down and noticing there was nobody there, he ran to the window. They could've gone anywhere. Watching his fellow workers going into the building and his captain giving orders to cover the back of the building, Hutch decided to go out through the window and look around the other rooms. He walked carefully, leaning against the wall till he got to the first window and peeked inside. Apparently there was nothing inside, only an old couple sleeping. He then went to the next window and noticed a guy who seemed to be drugged, but then he realized the door to the corridor was open. He entered the room and ran to the door. Sally was crying in the corridor. It seemed the couple had a little discussion about how to escape and Robert didn't think twice about leaving Sally while he ran away.

Hutch got near her quietly and she didn't resist. "Don't move. Don't try to make a move," he said and took the cuffs from his pocket. At that precise moment, another cop arrived and Hutch gave the cuffs to him to arrest Sally.

At the end of the corridor, there was an exit door, apparently for emergencies. It seemed Robert had left it open. Hutch went after him. The door led to the side of the building: an empty alley where there was only a door to an abandoned warehouse. Hutch took that direction. Before going inside, he found another cop and told him the suspect was there so they needed to surround the warehouse. At the same time Hutch entered, Starsky arrived at the place and Dobey explained the situation to him.

"Hutch went alone inside the warehouse?" Starsky asked, concerned.

"Yes. But we surrounded everything," said Dobey. Starsky didn't reply, he only headed to the building. Dobey stopped him, holding his arm. "Starsky, where do you think you're going?" he said upset.

"Hutch is in there. Alone. I'm going to back him up. We're trained to do that. Is there any problem?" he looked at him defiantly.

"Yes, of course, and you know it. You're on medical leave, you're not healed completely. You shouldn't be here. You shouldn't have your gun!"

"I don't care. I'm going to help my partner. And you know I always carry my gun," he replied as he rid his arm from the tight hold of his captain.

"Starsky, this is an order." Starsky ddidn't acknowledge him and went on toward the warehouse.

Once inside, Hutch realized things wouldn't be easy. The warehouse was completely dark. Lots of old boxes made it difficult to see and that also would help Robert to hide. Walking almost blindly, Hutch tried to get the protection of those boxes, too. But the way was difficult. There were lots of things all over the floor that made him stumble along the way.

"Robert, you're surrounded. Don't be a fool. End this now."

Silence. Robert was thinking how to get out. Surrounded and with an armed officer after him. Hutch heard some noise on the other side, not too far from where he was. There was a shot nearby and Hutch began to crawl.

Starsky entered the warehouse and realized it'd be difficult to even find Hutch. The place was small and the atmosphere was oppressive. The place was full of spider webs and Starsky felt very upset with all this, but he tried to concentrate on his mission. Back up his partner.

Robert listened to Starsky's moves and got nervous. Now there were two of them. And in different places. He began to panic. He shot in the direction of Starsky and he fell to the floor. Hutch noticed there was somebody else with him.

"Hutch!"

"Starsky!"

Robert looked to both sides and shot. Now he had four shots left. Starsky decided to get Robert's attention so Hutch could shoot him. But his breathing increased and turned difficult. Darkness began to bring bad memories and his hands started sweating. Trying to end his panic, Starsky kicked some boxes and some of the sun light of the early morning entered, illuminating the warehouse. He then noticed where Robert was. He remained quiet. Hutch tried to change his position to a safer place and where he could help Starsky, too. When he moved, Robert straightened up from where he was hiding and shot two times. Hutch fell to the floor. Starsky paniced. His breathingHutchDarknessHe waited a few seconds and not noticing any movement

"HUTCH!" His voice echoed in the empty warehouse.

Nothing. No answer.

At that precise moment, Dobey guided more cops into the warehouse. Many officers entered at the same time, ordering the suspect to surrender. Robert apparently was not going to accept his arrest. He ran to the side where Hutch's body was.

"I have nothing to lose. But I'm sure you must want Officer Hutchinson alive. I have to let you know that, unfortunately, the police has lost one of your men," he shouted and laughed like crazy.

"Hutch" Starsky was frightened when he heard Robert's words. Noit can't be possible Starsky made a big effort to breath and decided that Robert wouldn't have another chance to hurt anyone. "Robert, If you think you're gonna get out of here alive, you're wrong. You know what it means to kill a cop? You already tried to do it with me. But you couldn't. Just be wise and give up."

"Starsky, you just were lucky. But your partner here won't have the same chance. I don't care about anything else," he said and shot in the direction of Starsky's voice. "You want me? I'm right here. You can't see me, can you? It's dark like the grave you were in. Come on, try to shoot me," he teased and began running from one side to the other.

Starsky almost couldn't breathe, but he decided to make a move. He estimated where Robert was and headed in that direction. Robert was surrounded by other officers and, as he got closer, Robert panicked and became paralyzed. Starsky looked at Robert, who scared to death, shot his last bullet at the same time Starsky shot in self-defense. Starsky's shot was straight and Robert fell dead with a bullet in his head.

Starsky fell on his knees, exhausted by his phobia. But then he remembered Hutch and, leaning over some boxes, he reached his friend's body. Hutch had a wound in his head and he was unconscious.

"Oh, God. Hutch! An ambulance!" Starsky called out.

Dobey entered the warehouse. He watched his two detectives and yelled for an ambulance, too. "Starsky, how is he?" he asked, concerned.

"I don't know. He's unconscious. I think the shot just grazed his head, but" Starsky remained sitting, exhausted from the pursuit and the effects of the nightmare Dexter left him.

When they finally arrived at the hospital, the sun was rising. Marta, who had just begun her shift, greeted them in the emergency room as she helped the doctors with Hutch, who still remained unconscious. Starsky and Dobey sat in the waiting room. After almost an hour, Marta went out to them and smiled in a calming way.

"Officer Hutchinson is alright, now. He was unconscious because of the hard impact of the bullet and falling to the floor. The bullet just grazed him and he just needed a few stitches. Now he'll have to rest," she explained and smiled gently to Starsky who looked pale as a ghost.

"Are you alright, David?"

"Yes, I am now," he said and sat down again.

"David, you shouldn't have done what you did. You're too weak. You could've been hurt seriously," she said sternly but lovingly.

Dobey remained silent up to this moment. "Talking about what you did do. You know you disobeyed my orders, right? Considering your emotional state these last few days and the fact that the life of your partner was in danger, still, Starsky, I swear to you, next time"

Starsky interrupted him, "I'll be taking care of traffic in Bay City. I know, I know, Captain. Now, Marta, when can I see Hutch?"

"Patience is a virtue, David. I'll call you when he's in a room," she winked her eye going toward the ER.

"Patience," grumbled Starsky. And he closed his eyes for two reasons. One was to relax and the other was to avoid the serious expression of his captain.

Almost two hours past since Hutch was taken to a private room. He was still a little dizzy due to the shot, but relieved that everything was finally ended.

"Starsk, thanks, buddy," he grinned but then he moaned in pain.

"Anytime. Going inside old and dark warehouses is my favorite hobby," he told him winking his eye. "I thought you were dead, Hutch. You scared me."

"I'm sorry. But I don't know how you can get out of traffic control. Marta told me Dobey was very upset with you."

"I don't know, either. What I surely know is that nothing or no one could have stopped me from going in after you," he said seriously and then he got silent for a moment.

"Hutch, I think I fell for Marta," Starsky said after the silence. "And I wanted you to be the first one to know. I haven't felt this happy with a girl since Terri. She accepts my way of living, understands our problems with the shifts, and all this. I even feel fine physically. You know what I mean. Now I have these scars that bother me when I'm with a girl. You know that, don't you?" Starsky explained a little anxiously and embarrassed.

"Starsk, you know all I want is for you to be happy, buddy. But be careful. I don't want to see your heart broken by another girl. Not everyone is like you, with an open heart. I'm not saying Marta isn't the right girl and that she doesn't truly like you. I'm asking you to let things go by and time will tell, ok?" He smiled between serious and sweet.

Starsky grinned back and held his friend's hand tightly. "OK, you're right."

Hutch smiled and then his eyes felt heavy. He drifted off beside his partner and friend. Now, at last, thought Starsky, the nightmare was over.

 

EPILOGUE

A month went by after the rescue, medical treatment, his relationship with Marta, Robert's death, Sally being sent to prison and, finally, David Starsky was free to go back to work in two weeks. A sunny Sunday, Marta was working in the hospital, so both friends decided to go for a walk at the beach. It would be a light exercise for his lungs and a way to get rid of stress.

"Hutch, up to now, I didn't understand how you could say that book Dexter wrote was interesting. For me, something interesting is Peter Pan," he said in a naughty way.

"I never read Peter Pan."

"You never read Peter Pan?" Starsky interrupted him. Some people near them just watched them and laughed.

Hutch stared at him with an upset expression and said in a low voice, "No, my mother didn't think it was very useful reading at the time. She preferred others," he said, sighing. "And, besides, weren't you a little grown up to read Peter Pan when you were in high school?"

"Well, I didn't say it was educational. I had read it when I was a child, but I liked it so I used to read it some times. And, yes, I used to read other things. At that time, I used to read the magazines my older cousin had." He made an innocent face. "Things very educational. Those beautiful ladies with no clothes on." He gestured with his hands to illustrate what he was saying.

"Pervert. I'm sure your mother didn't know about it, did she?" asked Hutch, pretending to be surprised with the topic.

"Pervert. Why?" he asked out loud and the people around them glanced at them now with suspicious looks.

"Starsky! Be quiet, alright? Everyone doesn't need to listen about your readings in your childhood," Hutch said a little upset and whispering.

"How could a kid not like Peter Pan? All children all over the world like Peter Pan!"

"I didn't say I didn't like Peter Pan!" Hutch said a little louder than he had to and people turned around again.

Starsky went on. "You know, Hutch, you're very weird. I don't know why I wanted to be partnered with you when I became a cop."

"Maybe because I was the only person that wanted to work with a person that liked old terror movies. That's really weird," he told him in a teasing tone.

"That's not weird. Those films have charm. Actually, they help me to understand the way you are. That's why we work so well together," Starsky replied mischeviously.

Hutch stopped abruptly and this time Starky got what he wanted. "What? What do monsters and vampires have to do with me?" Hutch almost shouted and again people turned around to look at them suspiciously.

"Hutch, please, the people." Starsky pretended to have an embarrassed look.

"I, Starsky, I am the crazy one wanting to work with you." Hutch resumed his anxious walking , leaving Starsky alone.

Realizing he had won the battle, Starsky decided to calm down his best friend and walked toward him. "Ok, then you're the crazy one," and with a sweet voice, he added, "But I thank God everyday for your craziness and for being able to work with you, buddy." His eyes were now full of love and gratitude.

Realizing that once more Starsky had gotten what he wanted just teasing him, Hutch said, "What am I gonna do with you, Starsk?" He looked at him lovingly.

"Well, I don't know. I know that for a change I won't watch old terror movies on TV. I lived my own film, didn't I? And now I want something more quiet, like going after the bad guys on the street. What do you think?" He looked at him, grinning.

"Very wise of you, Starsk. No more horror movies for a change." And whispering, looking towards the other side, he added, "Thank God. At last I'll be able to watch something good."

The End

 

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