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The Friend

By Cristina Pereira And Elisa Valero
 
This story was written purely for entertainment and is not for profit, and is not meant to trespass in any way on the holders of the rights to Starsky and Hutch.

 

Thanks to  Wuemsel for all her help and friendship

 

Summer of 1960. Some place in the Californian woods.

"Come on Davey. Get Up!"

"What time is it?" the young boy asked, burying his head deeper in his pillow.

"Seven o clock. And the sun is already shinning. Come on, sleepy head. Don't tell me that you came here to spent all morning sleeping."

"One thing is sure. I didn´t come here to get out of bed when the bats and owls are still awake and flying around. I´m sure that the sun will still be shinning in some hours."

"Come with us Davey. Mark and I want to go to a place where there's a terrific cliff! We´ll have a lot of fun climbing it."

"Hmmm. It sounds very exciting, Pete, but if you don't mind, I'll stay here a little longer, and later I'll fix some breakfast to eat when you both come back. Okay?" The sleepy voice of the boy was coming from under his pillow.

"Okay, Davey. You win. Keep loafing a little more, but we want fried eggs, bacon, sausages and coffee when we're coming back."

Pete left the tent and Davey fell asleep again as his friends were going away.

***

Davey awoke a couple of hours later, and after looking at his watch he got out his sleeping bag and out of the tent. A hot summer day was showing in front his eyes in all its splendour, as birds were cheeping in the trees and the river roared in the distance. He stretched his body and after getting cleaned up and dressed, he began to fix the breakfast.

When he was about to turn on the little stove, he heard a strange sound, like a shout. He kept listening, but the noise didn't sound again. He turned back to his work, when he heard it again, this time more clearly. It was a shout Somebody was asking for help.

"Daveeeeeyyyy! Heeeeelp!" Davey´s heart lurched as he ran towards the direction of the voice, with the adrenalin running through his body

"Heeelp! Daveeeey! Pleaseeee, hereeee!!"

Running as fast as his legs allowed him to do and scared out his mind, the boy came to the edge of a deep cliff. At the bottom he could see his friends. Pete's body was lying unmoving, and at his side, Mark, who despite looking wounded, was able to see him.

"Davey! Pete and I fell down. There was a rock loosening. Help me, Davey."

"Calm down Mark. I'll help you. How's Pete doing?"

"He's badly hurt Davey! And I can't move! My leg is broken. And my hand is trapped under a rock. I can't reach him. Help me Davey. It hurts!"

Davey was already trying to find a safe way to get down, but there wasn't any rope or something useful to use, and when he put his foot over a rock chink, a little rain of pebbles slid down, and he almost lose his balance.

"I can't get there, Mark! And even if I could, I wouldn´t be able to help you both to climb up here. I must go for help!"

"No Davy! Don't leave us!"

"I´m sorry Mark, but I must do it. There is no other choice if you want to get out of there. I'll come back as soon as possible. Don't worry, Mark. Help is on the way!" Davey ran to his car to drive to the nearest town as his friend´s shouts begging him to stay resounded in his ears ...

 

Winter of 1981. Bay City.

"Really, Hutch, I can't understand at all, what fun somebody can get out of climbing a mountain as some kind of wild goat."

"Sport, Starsky. That's a sport and a challenge. And though you only enjoy playing monopoly marathons, people feel good doing those kind of things."

"Yeah? So let me say something to you. Just to look at them gives me the creeps, so if you don't mind, I'll change the channel. The revenge of the mummy is about to start." Starsky and Hutch were drinking some beers, sprawled on Starsky´s couch, after a hard week of work filled with long stakeouts, watching the tube and enjoying one of their quiet evenings. The TV was showing the images of a climber's expedition reaching the peak of a mountain. In that moment somebody rang the doorbell.

"Aha! Our pizza is here! I´m hungry."

"Dave Starsky is hungry. What else is new?" Hutch joked as Starsky got to his feet and headed to the door, rubbing his hands in anticipation. But when he opened the door, there was not a boy with their pizza, but a dark-haired and tall man, with a pale face and an elegant outer appearance, about Starsky´s age, wearing a suit, a necktie and a wool coat, all in black.

"Hi Davey. Do you remember me?"

"Ma-Mark?"

"Yeah, Davy. Your old friend Mark is coming back home, to solve some pending affairs. Can I come in?"

"Oh ... Yes, of course."

Starsky stepped aside to let the man into his apartment. Hutch rose to meet the visitor, smiling politely at him, but from out of the corner of his eye, he looked at Starsky who had become as pale as a ghost.

The man named Mark looked at Starsky from top to toe with his piercing black eyes, and Hutch was sure that his partner was feeling pretty uncomfortable. Hutch noticed another detail about the stranger. Though he was looking like a healthy and fit man, his right hand was crippled and he was unable to move his fingers.

The silence hung between them for a few seconds, until Starsky broke it.

"Mark ... I want to introduce you to my partner Hutch ... Kenneth Hutchinson. Hutch, this is Mark Zuckerman."

Both men shook hands, exchanging the usual polite words

"Sit down Mark, please. Can I offer you something to drink? A beer maybe?"

Hutch kept staring at that look in Starsky´s eyes. The same look of a deer trapped in front of the headlights of a car. A look of discomfort, shyness. Fear?

"Do you have brandy?"

"Brandy ... Oh, sure ... I mean, I guess." Starsky headed to the kitchen, coming back some seconds later with a brandy bottle still unopened and a glass in his hands.

"And tell me, what are you doing for a living, and why did you come back here? Are you still living in San Francisco?" Starsky asked while filling the glass with an almost imperceptible trembling of his hands, as Mark smiled coolly at him

"One question at the time Davey, one question at the time. Yes, I´m still living in San Francisco, and I'll stay here for some days. I´m a psychiatrist, though maybe I should say scientific investigator, and I´m here as I told you to solve some pending affairs, related to my latest investigations, and to participate in a psychiatrists´ Christmas supper."

Starsky didn't dare to ask anything about Mark´s work, but Huch did.

"What kind of investigations are you working at, Mark?"

"Oh, well. I doubt you can understand a single word about it. I´m trying to figure out the effects of some drugs under particular conditions, well, in fact the matter is a little complicated to explain in just a few words. And you? What are you doing for a living, Davey? You're still catching bad guys, I guess."

The tone of scorn of that unknown man bothered Hutch immensely.

"Well, in fact we're protecting the civilians against crime, and Davey and I are putting our lives in the line every day to protect people like you. Maybe that is what you call catching bad guys."

In Starsky´s living room, a silent crossfire between the blue eyes of Hutch, and the black look of Mark was beginning, and Starsky had not the least desire to see how that could end. Fortunately, the ringing of his doorbell broke the tension of the moment.

"It must be the pizza."

In two strides, Starsky reached the door and opened it to take the box with the pizza and pay the boy. When he came back to the living room, Hutch and Mark were already standing.

"Do you wanna stay to have dinner with us, Mark?" Starsky tried to sound as confident as possible.

"No, thanks Davey. I don't eat precooked food. Now I must leave, but we'll see us again. It was nice to meet you, Kenneth."

After shaking Hutch's hand again with his left one, Mark left the apartment.

"No thanks Davey. I don't eat precooked food," Hutch mocked. "And what will that guy eat? Living children ? For Christ's sake, Starsk. Who is he? Count Dracula?"

Starsky was plopping on the sofa, staring at the Christmas tree placed in a corner of the living room, apparently unaware of anything but his own thoughts.

"Starsky? Hey partner! What's the matter, huh? Are you okay? It´s that guy's visit, right? Who is he, Starsky?"

"He...Mark is a friend A friend of my youth," Starsky answered in a whisper looking upset into Hutch's eyes.

"Well, for somebody who was just visited by a friend of his youth, you don't seem too happy. Actually, I´d say that you're looking pretty disturbed. And you are still as pale as a ghost. What's bothering you, Starsk?"

"Nothing. I'm okay. I'm just surprised by his visit that's all."

"Oh, that's for sure, buddy. You were almost speechless. And you know that is something very unusual, if you get my drift " Hutch was unsuccessfully trying to lighten somewhat the strange distress that his friend was suddenly feeling.

"Starsky the pizza is getting cold. You were hungry. So how about eating a little huh?"

"Oh, yeah the pizza. Let's eat it."

Starsky did his best to eat, but more than one piece was impossible. He was lost in his thoughts. Hutch ate the pizza in silence, while in his mind a question kept flooding. Mark Zuckerman, huh? Who is that guy, and what does he mean for you to get you so upset, Starsk?

"Bad memories, buddy?"

"What?"

"What you're thinking about? Bad memories? Wanna talk about it?"

A couple of baby blue eyes filled with concern were staring at Starsky.

"No, there's nothing to talk about. I'm okay, Hutch." Starsky was in his `I don't wanna talk' mode, and Hutch knew that he couldn't do a thing about finding out what the hidden secret behind Mark Zuckerman was, until Starsky was feeling ready to talk about it.

***

The next morning, Hutch was already in the precinct when Starsky arrived, looking restless.

"You got any sleep last night, Starsk?"

"Not much. In fact it was a hell of a night. Can I get some passable coffee here?"

"Yeah Minnie has just prepared a pot. Pretty good. I'll get you a cup." Hutch headed to the coffee maker to pour a cup for Starsky.

"Thanks," Starsky smiled tiredly at Hutch. It will be a tough day you'll push me until I talk to you, isn't it buddy?

Both men were at their desks, finishing off some paper work, when Starsky´s phone rang, startling him. He exchanged a quick look with his partner, assuring him that it had been noticed by Hutch.

"Detective Starsky."

"Good morning, Davey. How was your night?"

"Mark?" Starsky voice was just a whisper.

"Yes, it's me."

Starsky felt strangely uncomfortable talking to Mark again.

"Look Davey, I will be pretty busy the next days, but today I have some time to spend with you and talk about the old times. Could I invite you to have lunch with me?"

"I'd like to, Mark, but these days I´m pretty busy too..."

"Oh come on, Davy! After twenty-one years you can´t reject an invitation to spend a couple of hours with your old friend Mark. That's not fair. Yesterday, we couldn't speak calmly." The allusion to spend a while without Hutch was obvious.

"Mark really I'd like to, but... "

"Davey, in some days I'll have to go back to San Francisco, and we won't have the chance to see each other for a long time, I guess."

Starsky´s mind raced to find an excuse good enough to refuse Mark's invitation, but finally he accepted.

"Okay Mark, but if you don't mind, I'd prefer go out for dinner. I never know how much time I will have to get lunch."

"Dinner will be okay. I will pick you up at your apartment. And I'll take you to a good restaurant. Would seven be okay?"

My phone, my address, damn it! He knows everything "Seven is okay. See you, Mark." Starsky hang up, casting a quickly look at Hutch, who was apparently typing a report.

"The friend of your youth again? He really seems to miss you, buddy. Since when have you known each other?"

"When I was living with Aunt Rosie, we were living in the same neighbourhood. We were always hanging around, you know."

"Until he went to San Francisco?"

"Yeah after his accident"

"Accident?"

"The accident in which he got his hand crippled. Some months later his parents decided to move to San Francisco. Mark was very depressed. He refused to see any of his friends, and one day, they simply moved out of LA. Later I joined the Police Academy and we lost contact."

"Apparently, he didn't. For someone who stayed far from here almost 20 yearshe knows a lot about you, don't you think?"

"Yeah ... I noticed."

"Were you two very close friends? I don´t remember you talking to me about him."

"It was a teenager's friendship. In fact, Pete was a closer friend to me than Mark was. We didn´t have much in common."

I bet, partner Hutch thought. "What sort of accident did he have?"

"He fell down climbing a pretty deep cliff, and his hand was trapped under a rock."

"Oh, Jesus! That's awful He could have died."

"Mark got out of there alive, but Pete died. We were spending a weekend together in the forest, Pete, Mark and me. Well, we were not together the whole time. When Pete and Mark fell down that cliff, I wasn't with them..."

"I'm sorry, Starsk."

Starsky just nodded. Hutch was listening, concerned by the sadness he saw in his partner's eyes.

In that moment, Dobey entered the squad room, noticing the melancholic mood of his best detectives.

"What are you still doing here? Everything okay?"

"Sure cap. Everything's fine," Hutch answered.

"So there's a lot of work waiting for you out there. Or do you think that the bad guys are waiting for you two to move? It's Christmas time, but that doesn´t mean that all the turkeys in this town are gonna stay calm in their houses. Get out of here. NOW!"

This time Starsky was relieved at his captain's command. Remembering those painful moments wasn't in his plans.

Not here. Not anymore. Not with Hutch.

Both men headed to the Torino to start their day, looking for some lead about a murder that had been committed a couple of days ago in a massage saloon. The whole day long Starsky´s mood was gloomy and silent, while Hutch was worrying. At lunch time they stopped at the Pits.

"Hey brothers! Welcome to the Pits, where Chef Huggy will offer you an extensive list of delicacies appropriate even for the most demanding tastes."

"A burger with cheese, onion, mustard, ketchup and French fries and a cool beer please Huggy." Starsky said.

"A chef salad and an ice tea for me, Huggy."

"Okay bro. Right away!" Huggy noticed that his friends were not in a talkative mood, so, wondering what the problem could be, he headed to the kitchen.

After some seconds just waiting for their meals, Starsky finally spoke. "You want to know what the matter is, right?"

"Well, in fact I think that talking about it could help."

"It's just that Mark ... His return after all these years ... It makes me feel..."

"Uncomfortable maybe?" Hutch finished Starsky´s sentence.

"I think so. And now he wants to see me. Just he and me ... and I don't think that there's a damned thing that we could talk about!"

"Oh, well, I think that the effects of the serotonin-blockers on the brain can be a very interesting subject," Hutch teased. "Listen Starsk, why don´t you call that guy and tell him that you can't go to that dinner?"

"I can't do that, Hutch. He´ll go back soon to San Francisco, and he really seems to want to talk to me. I don't wanna hurt him."

"Then give him a chance, Starsk. He doesn't seem to be a very funny guy, but after all you two have a lot of memories to share." And I guess that this is the problem partner.

"Yeah Terrific memories," Starsky said ironically, biting into his burger. "Well, let's see what will happen tonight."

***

After an uneventful day, Starsky went to his apartment to get a shower and change his clothes to go to the dinner with Mark. Punctually at seven o´ clock, his doorbell rang.

"Hi Davey."

Mark was standing in Starsky´s door, wearing another one of his elegant suits and coat.

Davey. As if I´m still seventeen! "Hi Mark, come in"

"No, thanks, if you don't mind, I think that we should go. I reserved a table at 7´30. By the way Davey, maybe you should change into something more ... suitable."

"Suitable?" Starsky took a glance at his casual attire. "What's the matter with my clothes? I´m not looking like a bum, I guess."

"Come on, Davey. I didn´t mean it like  that, it´s just that in the restaurant where I'll take you, suit and necktie are required."

Starsky sighed "Okay Mark, give me a minute. Sit down and wait. It won't take long."

He headed to his bedroom to change his clothes, while Mark sat down in his couch, just for some seconds, before going to the kitchen, where, after slightly opening the fridge door, he slipped some white pills in the milk, water and juice bottles that were placed there. Your old habit of dressing shabbily was useful, very useful this time, my little Davey

***

A while later, both men were sitting down at a table in a luxurious and apparently expensive restaurant, where men wearing suits and women in evening dresses were dinning while soft jazz music filled the surroundings.

They ordered their meals at a little haughty waiter, and later Starsky broke the ice.

"You know, Mark, your visit was a hell of a surprise for me."

"I guess so. In fact I'd wanted to come here to see you before, but I already told you how things are. Time goes by very fast, but finally, taking advantage of the fact that I have to go to a psychiatry congress in LA, I´m here."

"Where are you lodging along your stay here?"

"I´m in the L.A Inn."

"And tell me, how are things going for you?"

"Do you mean after the accident and having to forget about my dream about being a neurosurgeon? Well, I had to change my plans about that, of course. And after my depression, I more than ever wanted to know what goes on in the mind of a person who has some mental illness or disorder, so I studied to be psychiatrist. A shrink as some people call us but, right now I enjoy my profession. So everything worked out at last."

"Mark I think that I hadn't had the chance to say to you how sorry I am for ... what happened in that forest."

"Maybe you have some remorse, Davey?" In Mark´s eyes a spark of satisfaction shone.

"I didn´t mean that. I didn´t do anything to regret, Mark, and you know it." If I hadn't kept on sleeping that morning ...

"Sure, Davey. Nothing at all." Just that you left Pete and me alone like a true coward...But now you´ll pay for your cowardness.

"And now, tell me, life was good for you all this years?"

"I think so. In fact, I don´t have anything to complain about."

"Really? I think that you have more than one reason to complain."

"What do you mean, Mark?"

"You were kidnapped by that bunch of weirdoes, your girlfriend was murdered ... Terry was her name, right? The time you were poisoned, or that shooting that happened about two years ago. You almost died then, didn't you?"

God! He knows EVERYTHING about me. An alarm bell went out in the back of the Starsky´s mind

"Yeah, that was a close call. But how do you know about all that?"

"I´m living in San Francisco, Davey, not at the end of the world. The news about the Gunther thing were published in some newspapers, and about the rest ... I know it, because Pete's mother and your aunt Rosy are still getting in touch with each other at times. You know, your mother talks with your aunt Rosie, she talks with Pete's mother, and when I visited her yesterday, she filled me on your life in ten minutes Women´s nature, I guess. And tell me, what happened really? You got three shoots in your chest and abdomen as your Aunt Rosie said to Pete's mother?"

"Humm Yeah. You're well informed." Starsky was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the unexpected twist that the conversation was taking.

"And you really suffered a cardiac arrest? Your recovery should have been simply awful."

Starsky´s fork slid from his hand, falling over his lap as a thin layer of perspiration shone on his forehead. Mark was really enjoying the moment.

"Oh! I´m sorry, Davey, I think that I've been asking you too many questions. We won't speak about sad things anymore, about the past. We have a lot of sad things to remember if we want, but I prefer talking about the present."

Starsky smiled weakly, mumbling his excuses before going to the men's room to refresh his face with some cool water.

Perfect, Davey This is working out just perfectly

With a sinister smile on his lips, Mark produced a white pill from the pocket of his jacket, slipping it into Starsky´s glass.

***

The rest of the evening, Mark and Starsky spoke about some trivial matters, until a while later Starsky began to feel strangely.

He felt his arms so heavy that even to raise his glass was almost impossible for him as he had to fight with big effort to keep his eyes open. In the middle of his stupor, Starsky noticed that Mark helped him to leave the restaurant and to get into his car. All of what happened after that was a big blur in his memory. The next thing that he could remember was Hutch stepping into his apartment while he was in the shower, trying to get free from the worst hangover of his life

"Starsk? Hey partner, I'm here. Hurry up, we're late!" Hutch knocked at the bathroom door, and though Hutch clearly heard the water running, Starsky didn't answer. Stepping inside, he was met by a very confused Starsky, wearing only a towel around his waist and looking around as if he was in an unknown surrounding, while water was dripping down from his curls.

"Starsk, are you okay? You look as if a truck hit you and you're still looking for it. You are wetting the floor Starsk. What are you looking for?" Hutch helped Starsky to sit down on the bath stool

"Clothes."

"Try the closet," Hutch said, trying to look nonchalantly, but he was a little worried by his friend condition. Starsky, completely unaware of Hutch's presence or apparently not caring over his privacy, took off the towel as his gaze was filled with a empty expression, heading with unstable steps to his bedroom while Hutch´s eyes followed worriedly his way. Minutes later, already dressed, he plopped onto the sofa.

"Starskare you all right?" Hutch said, looking into Starsky´s inexpressive eyes and gently touching his arm. "Starsky, do you need a doctor? Are you feeling sick? If you want, I can call Dobey and ask him for a day off."

"No, I'm okay. Just a little tired. I didn´t have a good night and ... I probably drank more than I can remember last night. It's just a headache." Starsky smiled weakly.

"You ate some breakfast?" Hutch was already opening the fridge and pouring orange juice in a glass.

"I don't think I could eat anything right now."

"Okay, but I´m sure that you could use some juice." Starsky took the glass that Hutch was holding out for him, drinking the juice eagerly.

"Hutch, could you please drive to the precinct? I think that I'll need a lot of strong coffee before I'll start to feel awake"

"Sure. A ride with an alert Starsky is already dangerous. I don't want to know what it would be like with a sleeping Starsky ... A suicide mission, I guess," Hutch smiled, taking the keys out of Starsky´s hand and heading for the Torino.

On their way to the precinct, Starsky was leaning his head tiredly against the window as Hutch was looking at him from the corner of his eye.

"So tell me Starsk, how was your dinner with Mark? It seems that you two had a good time."

"I don't know Hutch. I don't remember a damned thing about it," Starsky answered moodily

"What? Do you mean that you can't remember what happened just some hours ago? Starsky, partner, honest, I think you should go to the hospital."

"No, Hutch. Don't start with your mother hen routine. I won't go to a damned hospital. I drank too much last night, and now I´m having  a fucking big hangover. That's all. Okay?"

"Okay, Starsky. As you want it. I would like to see how your friend his feeling right now "

"He must be sleeping it off, I guess."

"In fact, if he spoke to you about his plans for today, that information will be totally safe. Right?"

"I think so," Starsky whispered tiredly, unable to follow the banter with Hutch. "By the way, Hutch, tonight you have a date, right?"

"Yeah, with Martha. But if you aren't feeling better then, I can cancel it."

"Oh no. That won't be necessary. After two or three pots of coffee, I'll be fine, sure," Starsky joked weakly.

The rest of the way to the precinct was made in silence. Hutch looked worriedly at Starsky, while Starsky just tried his best to stay awake.

***

The hours passed slowly for Starsky. Fortunately, the day on the streets and at the precinct was pretty calm in those pre-Christmas days. He was unable to eat all day long and at times even had to get hurriedly to the bathroom, feeling sick to his stomach. As more hours were passing by, he was feeling increasingly drowsy and unable to concentrate on anything, until in the afternoon he asked Hutch to check his reports that were filled with mistakes and blurs.

"Look, Starsk, Dobey will be away for the rest of the day with the major. And I don't think that you´ll be very useful here today. How about you go home and try to get some sleep? Tomorrow will be another day."

"Yeah. And maybe I will be another man."

Starsky headed to the door with slow steps. "Could you take me home, buddy? I'm not feeling like driving."

"Sure. Reports can wait. At least until you can sign it in the right place. You even did it on Dobey's section."

"Shit! I'll correct it tomorrow, okay?"

"Sure thing Starsk. Come on. I'll take you home."

"Thanks Hutch."

***

Twenty minutes later, Starsky was already lying in his bed.

"You haven´t eaten anything for the whole day, Starsky. I could fix some soup for you if you want."

"No, thanks Hutch, but I´m afraid that my stomach is too revolted to eat something."

"Starsk, I know that you don't want to hear it, but I´m seriously thinking about getting you to a hospital."

By then, Hutch was really worried. Starsky had had some hangovers before, but not one had ever been like that.

"That's not necessary Hutch, I´m sure I´m just getting some bug, combined with that damned hangover, but tonight I'll rest, and tomorrow I'll feel fine."

"Starsk, I'll spend the night here, I'll cancel my date with Martha and ..."

"No, Hutch, thanks. Go to your date. I´m already a big kid. I just need to get some sleep."

"I'll go, but I want you to drink this glass of milk before." Hutch held out a glass of warm milk to his friend.

"Okay, mom. I'll drink my milk." Starsky drank most of the milk and lay down as his eyes began to close.

"I´ll call you later, Starsk." Hutch was about to leave Starsky´s apartment, when the phone rang. Hutch picked up the receiver

"Hello?"

"Kenneth? It's Mark Zuckerman. Can I talk to Davey, please?"

"Hold on a second, please."

Starsky looked questioningly at Hutch who mouthed Mark, reaching out the receiver.

"Hi Mark. How're you doing?"

"Davey, are you ok? You sound pretty tired."

"I´m okay, Mark. Just suffering the aftermath of an awful hangover, I guess. It seems that I drank too much last night," Starsky answered in a blurry voice.

"I´m sorry, Davey. Our evening was so good that we didn't notice the time went by, and I think that you really drank too much."

"How did I get here last night? I can't remember a thing."

"Oh. I brought you home and got you to bed. Then I went back to my hotel. You don't remember it?"

"No." Starsky was very confused.

"Well, anyway, I'm calling you because my plans have changed. I'm going back to San Francisco. The psychiatric supper that I had to go to tomorrow in LA was cancelled, and since I have a lot of work in my surgery, I´m already at the airport to take the flight that will go there in one hour. I'm just calling you to say goodbye. It was a pleasure to see you again Davey. Yesterday was a great night. We share a lot of good memories."

"Oh. It was nice to see you again, Mark. Have a good trip." Good memories.

"I hope to see you again soon. Bye, Davey."

Starsky hang up. "Mark is going back home today It seems that that the psychiatrics supper that he had to go tomorrow was cancelled."

"Great! So bon voyage!" Hutch said, strangely angry with that unknown man "And now no more talk. Just sleep. I'll call you in a couple of hours."

"Don't do it Hutch. I'll be okay. Just I want to sleep."

"Okay, partner. So see you tomorrow."

Hutch left the apartment as Starsky was already falling asleep, when a thought crossed his mind.

How did he know I'd be here right now?

Too tired to keep thinking about it, he fell into a deep sleep.

Outside, on the street, a man dressed in a suit and necktie was watching Starsky´s apartment, hidden into a nearby phone cabin. We'll see each other soon, coward. Sleep and dream while you can, Davey. Your time is coming. We will have a lot of fun. And this time you will be the one who will lose your dreams

***

Starsky was deeply asleep for some hours when, at midnight, somebody unlocked his front door. He didn't hear the man who entered his house using a copy of his key.

Mark picked up the key to the Torino, went to the bedroom and holding Starsky by his waist and with one of Starsky´s arms over his shoulders, dragged him to the street, settling him into the car, and getting into the driver's seat, he left the place.

***

Hutch was already in bed after his date with Martha, trying to read a book, but he was too worried to understand a single word.

Starsky hadn't been looking well, and a bothering voice in his mind kept saying him that he should not have left his partner alone.

Hutch tried to forget his mother hen mode, but it was impossible.

I´m sorry buddy, but I need to know that you're okay. Without a second thought, Hutch dialled Starsky´s number. The phone rang over and over, but Starsky didn't answer.

"Come on Starsk ... You can't still be sleeping after ten phone rings." Too worried to get some sleep, Hutch got out of bed and dressed, then headed for his car with an uncomfortable feeling of danger resounding in his head.

Once there, the first thing that he noticed was that the Torino wasn't parked in its usual spot. Hutch climbed the stairs, and after ringing the bell a couple of times, stepped into the apartment, using his key copy.

"Starsky? Starsk, partner. Are you sleeping?"

No answer. He was already in the bedroom, when he saw that the bed was empty. Already truly scared, he looked for his friend in the whole apartment, but didn´t find him anywhere.

Then Hutch picked up the phone to ask Huggy if Starsky was in The Pits.

"No Blondie, your best part isn't here. Why? Some problem?"

"No probably not, but he wasn't feeling too well some hours earlier. I left him sleeping, and now he´s not here."

"I understand bro. Try not to be worried. If our curly friend show up here, I will tell him to call you."

"Thanks Huggy." Hutch, uneasy about what to do and with a very bad feeling in his guts, closed the door and ran to his own apartment.

                          ***

Mark parked the Torino in front of an old and derelict building in a suburb of the city. He dragged Starsky´s unconscious body to a room with an old bed and a dirty mattress. Mark left Starsky on the bed, gasping and rubbing his arms, aching by the effort.

For a man who almost died, you are healthy and too heavy for me. Let's see how healthy you will be in some days

Mark tied Starsky´s wrists on his back, before he left the room, and then he drove the Torino to the Angeles National Forest, leaving it parked in the Jackson Lake shore and took his rental car that was there to get back to Bay City and finish his plan.

***

Starsky woke up. His arms, tied on his back, were numb. A headache was pounding in his temples.

What happened to me? Where am I?...

He was in a dark, dirty and stinking room. He tried to move, but his body felt heavy and uncooperative. He pushed his legs off the bed, loosing his balance and falling to the cold floor. In the room there wasn't a window and the silence was absolute. Eventually, he fell asleep again.

Mark opened the door and stared at Starsky for some seconds.

"Wake up Davey!!! You already sleep enough, damned lazy pig!!!"

Starsky woke up, startled by Mark's shouts. He was almost unable to see the man´s form in the middle of the shadows.

"I said wake up, Davey! You're still the same fucking lazy! Don't you think that you slept enough? You let your friends down!! Pete died because of you! You didn´t even stay with us! You ran like a scared baby. Letting Pete there, helpless, dying! And me what did you do to me? You let me there, trapped under that damned rock! Coward!!"

"Mark ?" Starsky forced his eyes to find the man in the semi-darkness of the room.

"Yes, Davey, it's me. "

"Mark. I went for help. You know it. I didn´t leave you." Starsky´s head was pounding and his mouth was dry.

"SHUT UP!" Mark kicked Starsky´s back hard. With his wrist tied to his back, the detective was unable to defend himself.

"What are you doing, Mark? Kidnapping a police officer is a very serious crime. Are you crazy?"

"DON'T CALL ME CRAZY! DOYOU HEAR ME? DON'T DARE TO DO THAT AGAIN!!"

Starsky understood that he was in the hands of a true madman and that his only chance to get out of there alive, was trying to keep him calm.

"What do you want from me, Mark? Was this the only reason for you visit? Kidnap me?"

"You're a very smart boy, Davey. That's the whole point. I have a special mission here. Make you pay for what you did to me and Pete! Oh! I´m afraid that I´m being a lousy host Are you in pain? Hungry? Thirsty maybe?"

"You wanna kill me, right, Mark?"

"Not exactly, Davey. In fact I have other plans ready for you. You´ll be very useful for me. You owe me, and now you can pay your debt! You will be here, waiting for help, like Pete and I were at the bottom of that cliff. And like then, when the help will come, it will be too late. Too late for you, because meanwhile I...Oh, well, everything at the right moment. I don't wanna spoil the surprise! But one thing is sure. It will be funny, very funny!"

He laughed sinisterly and totally out of control, going out and locking the door.

Starsky was tired and sick. Trying again to get to his feet, he lost his balance one more time, falling heavily on the floor and hitting his head against a little nightstand close to the bed.

***

Hutch was frantic by now. He had phoned Starsky´s apartment a lot of times all night long. And at dawn he talked with Dobey. His captain listened, concerned about the situation, asking him to look one more time in Starsky´s apartment, while he was putting on an APB.

Hutch checked the apartment again unsuccessfully.

"Something's very wrong, Captain. I left him sleeping in his bed. He wasn't feeling too well last evening, but when I called him, he wasn't there anymore."

"Are you sure that he is not with a girl or something like that?"

"No, Cap. I´m sure. He wasn't feeling well yesterday. He just wanted to stay at home and sleep."

"Okay, son. Try to calm down. Let's think. I´d put on an APB on Starsky some minutes ago. His car is missing too, right?"

"Yeah at least, it wasn't at his apartment."

"You can leave your other cases and only work on Starsky´s disappearance. Keep me posted."

"Thanks, Cap." Hutch left his superior's office, relieved by Dobey's help, but not knowing what to do.

***

Starsky woke up on the floor, freezing and with a horrible headache, not having a clue about how long he´d been sleeping and needing some water desperately. He needed to pee too. He remembered having fallen off the bed a while ago, unable to stay on it with his arms tied on his back, though now his arms weren´t tied anymore. Slowly and carefully he climbed to the bed, sitting down. The room was still in semi-darkness, though once his eyes became used to it, he could make out a water bottle standing on the little nightstand.

Starsky drank most of the liquid eagerly, despite noticing its slightly sweet taste, lying back again when Mark came into the room.

"Sleeping again ... It seems that´s your favorite sport. Get up!" He shouted again, grasping Starsky´s faint body ruthlessly.

"Mark I don't know what you want from me, but whatever it is, killing a cop is not a smart thing to do. We can talk and... "

"We don´t have a damned thing to talk about, Davey!"

"Mark I need to go to the bathroom. I..."

"Shut up!!! Don´t you understand that you're not here to get or say anything? Do you want to pee or whatever? Just do it. This is not a hotel! I´m only here to tell you that the party is just beginning "

Starsky tried to give a punch to Mark´s face, but his reflexes were too slow by the sedative effects, and Mark didn´t have any difficulty to dodge the blow, laughing sinisterly as Starsky fell down again due to the momentum.

"Good try, Davey. It's a shame that you're weaker than a kitten right now. And that I have a good friend here to help me."

Mark dragged a little silver gun out of the pocket of his jacket.

"Well, and now no more small talk. Listen to me attentively, because I have something to say to you that I´m sure you will like."

Mark sat down on the edge of the bed, aiming at Starsky´s unmoving form with the gun.

"You know what hallucinogenic drugs are, I guess. Though I also guess that you never tried them. No, of course not. A man of the law doesn't do that kind of things. At least not until now."

In the middle of the fog that covered his thoughts, Starsky looked at the bottle of water, understanding immediately.

"Exactly, my dear Davey, that's the whole point. The only water that you´ll get will be slightly spiced water. Spiced with something discovered by me. Every hallucinogenic drug that has been discovered until today is just a soft stimulant compared with it, but I only had the chance to test it with some unlucky stray dogs until now. You have the honour of being the first human to taste it. Congratulations, Davey. Have a good time!"

Mark headed out of the room, closing the door with a slam.

Alone again, Starsky´s first thought was . Pee. I need to pee.

Feeling degraded and divested of any human dignity, he got to his feet, heading to a corner of the room, where, as angry tears fought to fall from his eyes, Mark´s words resounded in his mind. "Do you want to pee or whatever? Just do it"

So, he did what he needed to do, then returned to the bed, trying to find some refuge in the sleep.

First day. The subject of the investigation is a 38-year-old white man, healthy though with an extensive medical case due to, among other several injuries suffered over the last years in his work as a police officer, three bullet wounds in his chest and abdomen two years ago. Back then, he suffered massive damage, and his wounds were life threatening, but now at the beginning of the experiment, he's totally recovered.

He received the first dose of 150 micrograms orally and diluted in water 15 minutes ago and at the moment he's not showing any symptom of its effects.

Mark was writing in a small notebook as he kept watching Starsky frequently through a small hole in the wall.

Now, I´m going to add an external stimulus to the experiment...

Starsky was plunged in an unsettled drowsiness, when Mark slid silently into the dark room, carrying a wood box in his hand. He approached Starsky´s bed, placing the box on it and watching with a diabolic smile on his face as two thin green snakes were coming out the box

***

Dobey called Hutch to his office. He had the laboratory results from the investigation at Starsky´s place.

"Hutch The lab boys found traces of flunitrazepam, a depressant, mostly known by its trade name, Rohypnol, that has effects similar to Valium, but approximately ten times more potent in the water, juice and milk in Starsky´s fridge."

Dobey held the report out for Hutch, who read it as his face became pale.

"I know what it is, but That drug is neither manufactured nor approved for medical use in the United States. It´s just produced and sold legally by medical prescription in Europe and Latin America. It´s smuggled here by mail or delivery services."

"Exactly Hutch. Somebody planned Starsky´s kidnapping carefully."

"Jesus Cap So Starsky was drinking that without knowing it?"

Dobey nodded.

"That's why he was feeling so dozy."

"Who would want to hurt your partner? And how did that person get access to his apartment? The door wasn't opened forcefully."

"And even I gave him more of that crap last night "

"What?"

"The juice and the milk. I gave Starsky more of it before I left him sleeping."

"You had no way of knowing it, Hutch."

"Yes, I know that, but I did it. Still I helped whoever wanted to hurt Starsky! Captain, there's someone who keeps him kidnapped out there, someone who wants to hurt him, or even kill him!"

"Did he or you receive any kind of threat lately?"

"No. We are not working on any special case. But you never know. The streets are filled with weirdos. I will look for the files of our cases of the last months and check them."

Hutch ran out of Dobey's office, while he kept staring at the report in his hands with distress.

***

Starsky awoke startled, feeling something cold and viscous on his abdomen. He opened his eyes. The room wasn't in shadows any longer, but filled with a green glow as the front wall was melting like butter in front his eyes. He rubbed his eyes, looking down to see two huge green snakes sliding towards his chest .

"NOOOOOO!!! HEEEEELP!!! SOMEBODY HELP MEEEEEE!!! PLEAAAAASEEE!!!"

Starsky jumped out of the bed, trying to find safety by pinning his back into a corner of the room, while the green snakes were growing up in front of his eyes, reaching an impossible size. Then the walls began to move as their colours were changing from green to scarlet and some deformed and frightening faces, half human, half snake, were coming through them.

He jumped again, trying to get free from the threatening walls, stumbling and falling face down to the floor, as Mark was enjoying the sight through the little hole in one of the walls, watching Starsky screaming in terror and struggling to free himself from the monsters created in his mind by the drug.

40 minutes after the first dose and with the addition of an especially displeasing stimulus for him, the object of the experiment is suffering a panic crisis. The snakes aren't venomous, or even big, anyway they are inducing a deep fear on him exacerbated undoubtedly by the drug effects.

Mark left his pen and notebook on the table, lighting a cigarette and turning on a radio cassette while he was listening to the shouts of his unfortunate victim.

"Well Davey, it seems that your first encounter with the results of my investigations is more interesting than I expected. Maybe you had some previous problem with snakes. Interesting very interesting "

***

Over the next two days, Mark gave Starsky higher doses of the drug, though the next step in his sickly investigation was to test the rapidity and length of the effects by injection.

Third day. The pulse and blood pressure of the subject are slightly under the normal rates, and his breath is fast and shallow.

By just seeing the external stimulus once, the object of the experiment had enough to keep hallucinating about it more than 72 hours later. Visions of snakes seem to be a constant in his hallucinations now. On the other hand, the effects of the 150 micrograms given orally took about 40 minutes to start, but the same dose given by injection has practically instantaneous and much more powerful effects. The last dose was 170 micrograms. The next step in the investigation will be to increase the dose up to 190 micrograms.

Mark took advantage of the moments in which Starsky´s body was giving up and he was falling into an unsettled sleep, to get into the little room where he held him prisoner and give him more drugs.

In a matter of minutes, Starsky would wake up again as more frightening creatures and sensations were invading his senses, and though at first, he was still lucid enough to know that they all were hallucinations created by the drug, he had lost any feeling of time or reality many hours ago, and kept shouting out and pounding at the door while a music that sounded too high for his ears was coming from the other side of the door.

Early that morning, after endless and nightmarish hours, his exhausted body suddenly gave up and he passed out.

Noticing the sudden silence, Mark entered the room, finding Starsky curled up under the bed in a foetal position with his eyes rolled back, apparently dead.

"Aha. Here you are, huh?" Mark kneeled down, dragging Starsky´s form from his refuge as his body kept unresponsive.

Mark took Starsky´s wrist, looking for a pulse, but not finding one. "Davey? Hey Davey!"

Shit! The damned guy is dead!

"Don't dare doing this to me. I need you to continue my investigations! YOU ARE ALWAYS LEAVING ME when I need you most! DAVEY!!!"

***

After 3 days of useless searching, there weren't any suspects or leads to follow.

Hutch had worked all day, and he was exhausted. He left the precinct in the middle of the night. He was lost. No place to go.

Every window, every building or house was glowing with the lights of a tree. Christmas tree It was Christmas night. But Starsky wasn't there.

Hutch drove for an hour and suddenly he noticed that he´d parked in front of Starsky´s place.

How did I get here?

He didn't know.

He used his spare key to open Starsky´s door. The entire apartment was cold, dark and silent. There was no joy no laughs

He turned on the lights and looked at the messed up apartment.

The lab guys left one hell of a mess here. You would be pissed off if you could see your apartment right now, buddy. You are such a neat guy

Hutch absent-mindedly picked up glasses, bottles, clothes, books, magazines, records, and began to clean the room up a bit. He opened the refrigerator to throw away the old food.

After an hour, he was tired, but the apartment was looking like Starsky´s place again. He sat down tiredly on the couch and looked at the little Christmas tree standing in a corner of the room.

If you were here, this tree would be bright with all the colors that someone could picture. You would have put your gifts under this tree, buddy, and you would be whistling and singing all the Christmas carols that you know.

Hutch could almost hear it. A single tear made its way slowly down his cheek and he tried to fight the sadness, but it was impossible.

Christmas had never meant anything to Hutch. But since he´d met Starsky, his partner had made him seeing that season with different eyes.

The eyes of a child.

He knew that for Starsky, the most important thing about that night weren´t the gifts, although his eyes were bright when he opened them, but the chance to feel alive and to be with the people he loved the most. And for a cop, to be alive after a year of working on the streets, catching the bad guys, wasn't an easy task.

A Jewish man that loved Christmas. That was his partner. And because of him, he loved Christmas too.

And now How much he needed to be with Starsky!

It should be forbidden by law that anyone in the whole world has to be alone or has to spend this night far away from his friends and relatives, Hutch!

Remembering Starsky´s words, almost hearing his voice, Hutch rose from the couch and turned on the lights on the Christmas tree. The little tree was bright and waiting for the gifts. Waiting for Starsky. Just like him.

Hutch sobbed more and more and looked around as if it willing it to be possible to find his friend in some corner of this apartment. He let the tears wash his grief away and fell asleep on the sofa.

Early on Christmas Morning, Hutch was about to leave Starsky´s place to hit the streets, to start another day of his restless search of his partner, when somebody rang the doorbell.

Seeing his superior officer, the blood froze in Hutch´s veins.

"Cap ...?"

"Hutch, thank God I found you. Listen, son. Two officers on a routine patrol found the corpse of an unidentified man in an alley. And his description fits Starsky."

"Whe-where is he, Cap?"

"The coroner took him to the morgue. Hutch! Hutch, wait! I`ll go with you!"

Dobey hurried to follow Hutch to his battered LTD, drying his sweated forehead with his white handkerchief.

The aseptic surroundings, the smell of disinfectants and the white tiled walls were making Hutch sick to his stomach, while he was through the long corridor of the morgue by a silent and boring orderly, with Dobey following his steps.

Flashbacks of all the moments he´d spent with Starsky flowed through his mind. Their days at the police academy, the day of their graduation, their first cases as partners, lots of happy and sad moments, always being together.

I can't believe that I´m doing this, partner. Maybe I´m about to recognize your corpse. NO! Damned, no! It´s Christmas, your favorite season! I need you here with me, singing those silly carols, asking me if I brought you a Christmas present, driving me mad but here, alive, by my side. That body can't be your corpse, Starsky!

The orderly approached a stretcher, giving a brief description of the cause of death in a monotone voice, and the coolness of who is used to live beside death.

"The preliminary forensic report said that the cause of death were two cold steel wounds in the victim abdomen."

The next thing that Hutch saw was a corpse on a stretcher covered by a white sheet. Sticking out from under it, some brown curls were visible.

Taking in a deep breath, he nodded to the orderly, who uncovered the corpse. The same brown curled hair, similar age, the same physical built, but it wasn't Starsky. Dobey shook his head and the orderly covered the corpse of the unlucky man again.

Once on the street Hutch released his tension, sliding his back against the wall until he sat down on the floor with his arms around his legs and his forehead resting on his knees, while Dobey stood at his side, looking silently at him.

"Starsky´s alive, Cap. He´s somewhere and I´m going to find him."

With renewed strength, Hutch got into his car with Dobey on cue, and drove back to the precinct.

***

Mark checked Starsky´s vital signs. His pulse was weak and slow, his blood pressure and corporal temperature dangerously low.

"Great, Davey! So you're still here. Now I'll tell you what we'll do. I'll give you a break, and later we'll have a little more fun."

Mark had placed Starsky´s limp body on the bed tiding him down with straps over his wrists and ankles as he began to wake up.

"Hu-Hutch Help ..."

"Don't waste your strength asking for help that will not come, Davey."

"Mark Let me go."

"Look at yourself, Davey, begging for mercy. Like a scared kid. Like the coward that you always were."

"You you're making a big mistake killing me," Starsky was using all his willpower to keep talking weakly.

"Killing you? Who said that I wanna kill you, my dear boy? No, Davey. Your death is no part of my plan. I have something much better ready for you."

Mark produced a little metallic box from the pocket of his jacket, opening it in front of Starsky´s eyes. Inside, a shiny scalpel was resting.

"Would you like to know what I'll do with this scalpel, Davey? Don't worry. I'll tell you right now."

Starsky looked at the scalpel terrified, while trying unsuccessfully to get free from the straps that kept him tied to the bed.

"I'll do the same thing to you that you did to me. I'll cut the sinews of your left hand. That way, you won´t be able to hold a gun, in fact not even a pen. And your career as a police officer will be over."

"You're crazy, Mark You can't do it!"

"Oh, poor Davey. The one that everybody loves the smart and funny guy, the brave kid the perfect cop the best son and friend I'm tired of hearing this bullshit! You're nothing. You will suffer like I did, and when someone will find you, you will not be the best, anymore. You´ll just be a pathetic heap of waste. Ugly. Stinking. Starving. Thirsty. And crazy. YOU WIL BE THE ONLY ONE CRAZY HERE, do you hear me? You know ... an eye for an eye, a hand for a hand But before you're going to have some more trips, though I guess that it will not be too much fun." Mark turned, leaving the room among guffaws.

***

Looking endlessly for his partner´s whereabouts and lost in his thoughts, Hutch drove to the Pits. Since it was Christmas day, the bar was closed to customers and Huggy was alone, washing the dishes.

Hutch sat down at the bottom of the bar until Huggy approached him.

"Hey man. Something new about Starsky´s whereabouts?"

"No, Huggy. Didn´t find him anywhere. But nobody called me or the precinct to ask for ransom or anything."

"Any idea about who would like to do something to hurt our curly brother?"

"That's the problem. Whoever did it had to have easy access to his apartment to be able to put the drugs in the drinks in his fridge and kidnap him later on. But whoever it is, he is not showing himself at the moment."

"When was the last time you saw him?"

"Three nights ago. In his own apartment. He wasn't feeling okay, and I wanted to stay with him, but he didn´t want me to. We thought that he was having a hangover. He had dinner with an old friend the night before, and Starsky spent all day feeling dozy and bad to his stomach, until at the afternoon I took him home. Some hours later, near midnight, I called him, but he didn't answer the phone. I went there to find that he and his car were missing. Dobey put on an APB, and the lab group found Rohypnol in the drinks in Starsky´s fridge."

"Rohypnol? But that substance ... ?"

"Exactly, Huggy. It´s not legal here in the States."

"So what Starsky suffered wasn't a simple hangover."

"No, Huggy. It wasn't. And I didn't see it."

"Hutch. You had no way of knowing it. You said that he had dinner with an old friend? And he drank a lot at that dinner, right?"

"No. I don't know. It was the most strange he didn't remember if he´d been drinking a lot or not. In fact, he didn't remember anything "

"How odd, my man! And who's that friend?"

"Someone from his youth. Mark Zuckerman. He lives in San Francisco and came here to join a National psychiatrics Christmas´ meeting. Starsky didn't seem too happy about his visit and that guy wasn't what I'd call a nice man. It seems that they both shared a painful experience, an accident. Another friend of them died in that accident. Starsky never really talked to me about that. But I could feel the tension between them."

"And what about this guy? Maybe he could help you."

"He returned to San Francisco. I was with Starsky when he called and Wait a minute ... How did this guy know that Starsky was there?"

"What?" Huggy asked.

Hutch's eyes were shinning as a new realization came to his mind.

"This guy, Huggy Starsky and me arrived at Starsky `s place in the afternoon! How did he know that Starsky would be there and not at the precinct?"

"Called at the precinct and someone told him, maybe?

"Maybe, but he didn't say anything about having called at the precinct."

Huggy pointed with his head towards the phone. "Call him, Hutch. Call that man. Maybe he can help you."

"I already did, a lot of times in fact, but no one answered the phone. Starsky´s friend had come here to go to that shrinks´ supper in LA, but later, he said that the meeting had been cancelled, so I don´t have a clue about where to find him."

"You're sure that the meeting was cancelled, Hutch?"

"Are you thinking that maybe ?" Huch didn't finish his question.

"Exactly, Hutch. Let's see. You won´t find anybody in some psychiatry association today, but I have a cousin " Huggy noticed the inquisitive glance from Hutch, waiting for some useful help.

"He works at the LA Sheraton Hotel as a gardener. And his wife is a cleaning lady there. Maybe they know something about that shrinks´ reunion. All the hotels would be packed out, right?"

"Huggy, please, could you ask them about it?"

"You don't need to ask, bro. Just wait a minute."

Huggy went to the phone and after a brief chat, he hang up the receiver, looking straight into Hutch´s eyes.

"That psychiatrists´ meeting wasn't cancelled, Hutch. All the hotel rooms were booked."

Hutch was already heading for the door. "Thanks, Huggy!"

His next stop would be Aunt Rosie's place.

***

Hutch had been there a lot of times, so it was easy for him to find the simple but beautiful white and blue house. Hutch didn't need to wait long for Aunt Rosie.

She opened the door and immediately looked over Hutch´s shoulder, obviously looking for her nephew, while happy voices were coming from the living-room.

"Hi, Rosie. Merry Christmas. I´m coming alone, Starsky´s not here." Hutch tried to look calm.

"Merry Christmas to you too, Ken. But come into the living room! I have a terrific Christmas cake and "

"Thanks, Rosie, but I can't."

The worried expression on Hutch's face didn´t go unnoticed by the shrewd woman. "Is everything okay? Are you all right? And David? Is he all right?" Aunty Rosie began to feel scared.

"Why isn't he here? He said that you two wouldn't have to work this Christmas! Everybody here is waiting for him! Rachel will call and he knows that she's expecting him to talk with her "

"Rosie. I need your help. In fact Starsky needs it. Please sit down and listen to me." Hutch accompanied Aunt Rosie to a chair in the hall, far from her relatives´ fuss. At that moment she was already sure that something awful had happened.

"What's happened to Davie? Why does he need my help?"

"I know that you have the address of an old friend of Starsky´s mother. She had a boy called Pete."

Rosie thought about it for some seconds. She took Hutch's hand, asking worriedly: "Why do you need the Mary's address? I don't understand Pete died a long time ago. You know that, don't you?"

"Yeah Rosie, I know. But that day the day of the accident there was another guy "

She finished Hutch´s words. "Mark Mark was there too. But I don´t understand Where's David? What happened to him? Tell me, please, son." The old lady´s whole body began to tremble.

"Rosie Starsky has been missing for three days. And I have reason to think that Mark kidnapped him." Hutch held Rosie´s hand firmly.

"Oh my God! My poor Davie! Rachel mustn't know anything about that! She is a little depressed lately."

"I know. Starsky told me. I wish I wouldn´t have had to tell this to you, but I need to know the address of Pete´s mother. I guess that she gave Mark a lot of details about Starsky´s life with her best intentions, and that she could also know where Mark is. She was his contact here in Bay City. If someone knows anything about this guy, that person is Pete's mother. "

Rosie got to her feet to take the phone book with trembling hands. She opened the agenda pointing with her forefinger at the address and phone number of Pete´s mother for Hutch who copied both in his notebook.

"Thanks Rosie. I have to go now."

"Ken, please, call me as soon as you find Davie," the old lady begged anxiously, holding Hutch's hand firmly.

"Of course, Rosie. I'll call you. Please, don't worry. I'm sure that Starsky will be okay."

He kissed her gently and then hurried to his car. Despite the calming words addressed to Aunt Rosie he was sure that Starsky´s life was in danger.

His next stop would be the place of Pete´s mother.

The address wasn't very far from there, but this time the house that Hutch found was pretty neglected. He waited impatiently for some minutes until an old lady with sad eyes opened the door.

"Merry Christmas, young man. How I can help you?" Mrs Rodman was obviously spending the Christmas day alone, and the sadness in that old house was almost palpable.

She seemed a little scared, and Hutch decided to introduce himself as a friend of Mark and Starsky.

"Mrs. Rodman? Merry Christmas. My name is Ken Hutchinson. I'm David Starsky´s friend."

"David Starsky? Oh, yes! The little Davey. Well, he must be a man by now, I guess. He's a good boy, very gentle and But why are you here?" She asked distrustfully.

"Mrs. Rodman, I'm David's friend and partner at the Bay City Police Department. I'm here, because I need to know what you know about Mark Zuckerman."

"Oh yeah, of course Your lovely face looked familiar to me. David is a police officer. Of course, I even came to his graduation and I remember you from there too. You were at David´s side all the time. It was a wonderful day for Rosie and the whole Starsky family. A police officer like his father " Mary seemed to be lost in her memories.

"It was the first party that I went to after my son's death. Pete liked David very much. He would have been there if he could, so I went in honor of his memory."

Mrs. Rodman, like all lonely people needed to talk when she got the chance to do it, but Hutch was growing impatient.

"Sorry, Mrs. Rodman ... Mark came here asking questions about David, right?"

"Mark? Oh, yes. Another nice guy, but Mark wasn't the same after the accident. You know about the accident, don't you? I'm sure that David talked to you about that. Mark never accepted what happened. Pete's death and what happened to his hand, that was all too much for him. He suffered a lot, he never could forget his dream of becoming a surgeon. He even had problems to accept the truth, that David did everything in his power to save my son's life, to save them both! And Mark was alive because David had acted bravely. A very brave kid. He even risked his life helping the rescue team. But it was too late. David suffered a lot too."

"Mrs Rodman, please. This is very important. What questions did Mark ask about David?"

"Mark He came here last week. He wanted to see David again, though he was afraid of his reaction. What nonsense! David is the sweetest person I know. He´s like my son used to be, always ready to help people. And I know that he would welcome Mark warmly. But tell me, Ken, why are you asking me about Mark? He´s okay, isn't he?" Finally, Mrs Rodman noticed the serious expression on Hutch's face.

"I need to find him, Mrs Rodman. It is very important. Starsky David is missing, and maybe Mark could help me to find him. What kind of information did Mark give to you? Did he talk about where he was, or just mentioned some place, anything? Try to remember, please. Sometimes even a small detail can be very important. I need to find him."

"He didn´t talk much about himself. He asked about David's life all the time. I told him everything I knew. Everything Rosie told me. I'm sorry, son, maybe I talked too much? Did Mark do something wrong?"

"Don't worry, Mrs Rodman. Just tell me as much as you remember about your conversation with him."

"He said me that he came here to go to a psychiatrists´ meeting or something like that. And not much moreWait. Wait a moment. At some point we were talking about Pete, and Mark was getting a little nervous. He talked about an old place where the boys used to play. It´s a deserted building. He said that he wanted to go there, but I tried to convince him to forget the idea. Forget all about the past and go on with his life, as David did. That's the only thing that I can remember. He didn´t talked much about himself. As I said, he just talked about David, the accident and the old times."

"Mrs Rodman, where's that place? "

"In a suburb of the city, about a couple of miles south from here, at the old interstate road. The boys used to go there by bike. It was a chemical laboratory called Wilsons & Elliot. The big letters are still on the façade."

"Thanks, Mrs. Rodman."

Hutch ran to his car and drove with full speed to the Wilsons & Elliot building, when a call from the precinct crackled in the radio.

"Central to Zebra three. Central to Zebra three."

"Here Zebra three."

Dobey´s voice came through the radio.

"Hutch. We found Starsky´s car near Jackson Lake in Angeles National Forest. The car was empty, but a diver team is on their way to dredge the lake. Just in case ..." Dobey didn't finish his sentence, though the meaning of it was clear enough to Hutch.

Just in case Starsky´s body is in there. Turning back, Hutch drove to Angeles National Forest with his heart aching. In 24 hours this is the second time that somebody tells me that you could be dead. No Starsky, please don't do this to me!

When Hutch arrived at Jackson Lake's shore, Dobey, 2 patrol cars and the diver's team were already there. Hutch went slowly over to the Torino. He carefully touched the roof of the car, trying to swallow a lump in his throat.

"The Divers´ team is already looking for a corpse, Hutch. But it could take days. That lake is very large."

"THEY WON`T FIND A CORPSE THERE, CAP! STARSKY IS ALIVE AND I´M GOING TO FIND HIM!"

Dobey just stared at Hutch for a moment before turning back to where the police officers were waiting for new commands, as Hutch got into his car, started the engine and drove off until he was on the dusty path leading to the Wilsons & Elliot building.

***

Starsky woke to the smell of food. At first he thought that he was just dreaming, but turning to the nightstand, he saw two turkey sandwiches there. Two sandwiches and a note:

MERRY CHRISTMAS.

MARK.

Just for a moment a flashback of some memories rushed to his mind. Memories that seemed to have been lost for a long time.

His apartment. A Christmas tree shinning in a corner.

Hutch.

In that moment, he pushed himself to come back into reality. His reality made only out of frightening images and sensations, out of fear, cold, loneliness, pain.

And out of a dark and pestilent room that would surely be his last home and his tomb.

Starsky wasn't hungry at all, but he knew that maybe he wouldn't have another chance to eat something soon, so trying to keep down the wave of nausea that was shaking his stomach, he sat up on the bed, taking the plate with the sandwiches and sadly bit into the first one.

***

On his way towards the derelict building, Hutch called the precinct to ask for an ambulance and a patrol car.

Along his way, Hutch's mind was racing.

This bastard is playing jokes with us. But it is time to put an end to his madness. Hold on, Starsk. I´m coming.

***

At first it was just a slight movement under his hands, though strong enough to be noticed.

Starsky stopped eating to stare at the sandwich. Under the sliced loaf, something was stirring. With a shaking hand he lifted the slice of bread, and there weren't roasted slices of turkey on it, but the bloody half of a little green snake shaking violently.

Starsky had almost no time to jump out of the bed to fall to his knees in a corner of the room and to throw up the scarce contents of his stomach. When he was done, he started to fiercely punch the wall, until his knuckles hurt, and ended up curled up on the floor, crying desperately.

***

Like Mrs. Rodman had told Hutch, the place was easy to find. Despite its neglected condition, the worn-out Wilsons & Elliot's letters were still visible on the façade. Hutch parked his car out of sight, approaching to the building cautiously and trying to look through a couple of windows, but they were so dirty that was it impossible. The front door was open, and, holding his gun, Hutch entered.

All kind of cans and empty box were spread on the floor.

This place must have been home for a lot of bums along the last years. Hutch could picture how attractive that building would have been for a bunch of teenagers. A true adventure. He pictured for a moment a young Starsky playing around with his friends.

A great place to play that you were a cop who caught the bad guys, right Starsky? But now that was the reality. And Starsky was a real cop too.

Where are you, Starsky? Kidnapped by that friend of yours?

Hutch found a door. He opened it slowly. There, on a table, lay some sandwiches, a cassette recorder and a little bottle containing a white powder.

Probably some drug, but who is using it? Mark or maybe just an unhappy junkie? Then, Hutch could see a notebook with a script on the cover.

"P.A.S Investigations results in a human subject".

That moment, a horrible scream, coming from the room next door echoed in the emptiness of the surroundings.

It was Starsky´s voice. Starsky´s screams.

Hutch ran to that door, when suddenly, coming from out of the shadows, Mark rushed unexpectedly over to him, making him losing his balance and the grip on his gun.

Both men got involved in a violent and brief fight, while Starsky´s shouts filled the place.

Mark punched Hutch´s face, sending him stumbling backwards and onto the floor, rolling over himself in a rapid movement to get to his gun.

"Freeze! Don´t move, or I'll shoot you!!"

Mark didn´t stop, but ran towards the corridor to took his silver gun, when Hutch reached him, punching his stomach, pulling him to his feet and dragging his handcuffs out of his pocket to cuff Mark´s wrists to a nearby pipe, running towards the room from where Starsky´s screams were coming.

"STARSKY!!" Hutch got near Starsky, who lay on a crummy bed, yelling in terror. In the semi-darkness of the room Hutch was unable to see the two green snakes coiled under the nightstand.

Noticing Hutch, Starsky jumped out of the bed, curling up in a corner of the fetid and dark room.

"Take it easy, Starsk. It's me, Hutch. It´s all over." Hutch keep talking in a soothe voice, approaching him slowly.

With a feline jump, Starsky ran to hide himself under the bed, murmuring some unintelligible words about snakes and walls.

"Heeelp! The snakes They are everywhere! Somebody help me! They are coming through the walls! NOOOOO!!"

Relieved, Hutch heard the police officers climbing the build stairs.

"THE PARAMEDICS OVER HERE!! HURRY UP!"

Two officers took Mark to a patrol car, as Hutch crawled under the bed, trying to calm Starsky down, talking to him in a low voice.

Starsky´s eyes were open, but he seemed to be lost in another nightmarish universe, unable to see Hutch or to hear his words.

"Starsky. Starsk come here. I´ve got you, it´s all over, buddy. Starsky?" Hutch tried to reach his friend under the bed, but he struggled fiercely, getting out of Hutch's grip, running out of the room, loosing his balance and falling to the floor.

Hutch, with the paramedics´ help, reached him again, as he kept fighting to flee, plunged in some kind of trance.

"NOOO!!! PLEASE HEEEEELP!!!"

"Take it easy, buddy. It's me, Hutch. You're safe now."

Just for a moment, Starsky got calm, grabbing Hutch's legs as he rubbed his back softly, cuddling him and whispering soothing words in his ear.

Starsky´s whole body smelt as bad as the room in which he´d been held, and despite his sweat-covered body, Starsky was cold and trembling. Then, shouting again he tried unsuccessfully to get free from Hutch's grip. By then, his voice was just a hoarse whisper.

"Starsk. Starsky, look at me, partner. Everything's alright." Despite Hutch´s efforts to get any sign of awareness from him, Starsky seemed too scared to open his eyes. The paramedics settled him on the stretcher, while he was fighting wildly. They tied him down with difficulties, as he kept shouting, asking desperately for help. Once he was safely tied down, one of the paramedics checked Starsky´s vitals that were completely out of control.

"He seems be under the effects of some powerful drug. He needs urgent medical care."

"But there must be something that you can give him to get him calm," Hutch asked, increasingly scared

"Unfortunately, right now the best way to help that man is to keep him tied down to prevent him from hurting himself or us. We can't give him any sedatives, because we don't know what substance he has in is in his blood-stream."

Hutch followed the paramedics into the ambulance as his heart was breaking seeing Starsky fighting against the restrains and shouting out like a madman, but knowing that the paramedics were right.

On the way to the Memorial hospital, Starsky kept yelling out, asking for help, talking about snakes growing up and trying to eat him, despite all of Hutch's efforts to get him back into the reality.

Near the hospital entrance, he finally succumbed to the exhaustion, falling in a deep sleep.

Second part

Starsky stayed in an ER cubicle for about an hour. Meanwhile, Hutch called Aunt Rosie keeping parts of the truth about her nephew's condition from the old lady, before he began to wait with Dobey and Huggy at his side.

"Capitan, I don't know what that bastard did to him. I've never before seen Starsky like that. He was completely out of control. Terrified. Nothing that I said or did helped him to calm down."

"I think that only the doctors will know what that goon did to him. But I'm sure that our curly friend will be ok." Huggy was trying to help Hutch though he wasn't getting it.

A while later, a tall and too young looking doctor emerged from the ER.

"Someone here for David Starsky?"

The three almost jumped from their seats

"Somebody of you is relative of the patient?"

"Yes, I mean, his family is living in NY, but I'm Detective Hutchinson, his partner and best friend, and this is our captain. How's Starsky doing?"

"I´m doctor Michael Blake. Let's sit down. We need to have a talk."

Doctor Blake sat down in a waiting room chair to talk about Starsky´s condition

"The patient was drugged with high doses of some unknown substance over the last days. That's the cause of his agitation. It´s some hallucinogen, that's for sure, but we are still working on identifying all its components. The police gave us the notebook, where the kidnapper noted his actions and observations, but it is not useful to us, since there's no reference to the substance that was used. We just know the methodology and the amount of the substance, but that's not enough information. It could be some new synthetic drug in an experimental stage, but the only thing that we know by now is that it has mescaline as part of its composition.

On the other hand, physically, the patient is suffering low body temperature, slow pulse-rate, low blood pressure and some slight bruises and cuts. He's slightly dehydrated and malnourished as well, but he´s getting all the necessary care, and within the next hours we'll see how his condition is progressing."

Hutch, overwhelmed by the last two days tension, asked tiredly: "What will happen to him from now on, doctor?"

"Well. The drug´s effects are pretty unpredictable, since we still don't know its whole composition. Obviously, his agitation is caused by hallucinations, surely due to something known as a "bad trip". The patient sees, hears and feels things, terrifying things, creations of his mind, even reaching the point of forgetting that he was drugged. Unfortunately we're talking about an unknown substance, so there's no way of telling how long the effects can last. Maybe hours, maybe days, depending on a lot of factors as the exact composition, dose and hour of the last administration. I´m sorry but that's all I can tell you right now, though we're running more tests on him."

Hutch plopped defeatedly in the nearest chair as doctor Blake kept on talking.

"I´m afraid we´ll have to keep him here for some time, since we don´t know what will happen to him. The patient must be under constant observation. He could be a danger for himself, for you or for the others."

"THE PATIENT HAS A NAME!!" Hutch barked, getting to his foots. "He´s Detective David Starsky, and he would never do anything to hurt me or anybody!"

Dobey put a calming hand on his shoulder as Doctor Blake answered shyly. "I´m sorry, Detective Hutchinson. I'm sure that under normal circumstances you would be right, but right now we're not talking about your old friend and partner, but about a man who went through a horrible experience. The pa Detective Starsky could lose any control over himself."

"Are you saying that he is crazy or something like that?" Hutch looked defiantly into Doctor Blake´s eyes, taking his words as some kind of personal offence.

"Detective Hutchinson, what I´m trying to say is that though until now your partner was a normal man, the drug could have unpredictable long term mental effects. That's just a possibility, but we can't ignore it."

"He must stay in the hospital?"

Blake nodded. "At least for a week, detective. Until we know as much as possible about his condition. Then he´ll can come back home. But he must be kept under observation for a while. Now I have to go back there. As soon as he will be settled in his room, you can see him though he's under heavy sedation and he´ll be sleeping for the next ten hours or so."

"Thanks, doctor." Dobey and the doctor shook hands and he left, heading for the ER.

"Since I suppose that you want to be with Starsky, I'll give you some days off until we know more about how he's doing, but I can't be without your services too long, Hutch."

"Thanks, Cap. By the way, if this situation is getting worse than we thought, what kind of problems could Starsky get with IA? He fought so hard to get back to work after the shooting and now ..."

"Don't worry about that, okay? He´s receiving medical treatment now. You don't need to be worried with IA. Maybe that drug´s effects will pass soon. Now I will go back to the precinct and tomorrow I'll be here to see him. Do you want a ride, Huggy?"

"Thanks, Cap. Hutch, if you need my help, just call me. In the morning I will be here to see how my curly friend is doing, and I'll bring some breakfast for you."

"Thanks, Huggy."

Both men left the hospital and Hutch began waiting until he could be with Starsky

***

Starsky slept all night long. A peaceful sleep induced by the sedatives. Hutch looked sadly at his friend, who was once more connected to a bunch of machines and IV's. At least, now he was shaved and clean. A human being again and not the animal that Mark had wanted to turn him into. Hutch took quick naps during the night, but every time that a nurse came into Starsky´s room to check his vitals, he woke up startled.

Early in the morning, Huggy brought him a thermos flask with steaming coffee and sandwiches like he had promised last night.

Hutch ate, although not hungry at all. Huggy brought him clean clothes too, and Hutch took a quick shower before changing into a clean jeans and shirt.

Meanwhile Capitan Dobey called from his house asking for Starsky´s condition. Huggy informed him Starsky was still sleeping.

"Okay, Huggy, thanks. At lunch time I'll pop over the hospital."

"Capitan called. He´ll come at lunch time."

"Ok. Thanks for everything Huggy. The clothes and the food."

"Anytime my man. Well, Curly is sleeping. It seems that he is resting well. I will come back at night. Maybe it will be better if you´re the only one near him when he wakes up. See you, bro."

Huggy headed for the door, leaving Hutch again staring at the motionless body of Starsky.

A while later, Starsky whimpered, turning slightly in the bed. Hutch approached him, gently squeezing his shoulder.

Starsky opened his eyes slowly, feeling his eyelids as heavy as rocks. After some minutes, he seems to recognize the person who was by his side.

"Hutch ..."

"Hey sleepy head. Welcome to the living people's world."

Starsky looked around confusedly; trying to know where he was and how he'd gotten there, but his memory wasn't helping him.

"You're at the hospital. Everything is fine. I got you. Dou don't have to be scared of me."

"Scared? Why I should be scared of you?" Starsky´s voice was weak, and his eyes began to close again. He was confused and too tired to remember anything, and Hutch decided to not push him.

"How're you feeling, Starsk?"

"Bad. My head is aching. I'm sick, tired and cold " After his last words, he fell asleep again.

Hutch covered Starsky with another blanket and went to tell Doctor Blake that Starsky had been awake for a little while.

"Any sign of confusion or aggressiveness?" Doctor Blake asked in a low voice, near Starsky´s bed.

"At first he seemed a little confused, but soon he recognized me. He doesn´t remember what happened, though."

"Well, one of the drugs that we found in his blood-stream could be the cause of the partial amnesia."

Hutch and Blake spent some minutes talking, when a nurse informed Hutch that there was a call from the precinct for him. Saying his excuses to Doctor Blake, Hutch headed to the phone.

"I´m sorry, Hutch , but you should come here."

"Look, Cap. I don't wanna leave Starsky alone."

"I know Hutch, but it will be just for a while. Mark Zuckerman doesn't want to talk. He´s in the interrogation room, but keeps saying that he will only talk to you."

Hutch rubbed his face tiredly. "Okay, Cap. I'll be there in fifteen minutes."

He hang up the phone, heading to Starsky´s room to say to the still sleeping form of his friend: "That bastard of Mark doesn't want to talk to with anybody but me, Starsk. Now I'll go to the precinct, but I'll come back here as soon as possible."

Hutch drove to the precinct in record time. Once in the interrogation room, he had to do his best to keep his anger at bay in front of Mark.

"Before you ask, I'll tell you, Hutchinson. Yes. I did it. I drugged Davey. I just let him have a little bit of what he did to me!" Mark was looking at Hutch, obviously proud and satisfied.

"Why Zuckerman? WHY?"

"He left Pete dying, and ruined my life. He didn´t help us, but ran like a scared baby. Like the coward that he is. But now he got what he deserved. The award for his cowardness."

The triumphant smile on Mark lips was too much for Hutch, who seized his front shirt, dragging him to his foots.

"What drug is it? What type of chemical substances has that drug?"

"How about an accusation for police's mistreatment, Detective Hutchinson?" Mark stared defiantly into Hutch´s eyes.

"The drug, Zuckerman! What drug was it? We found your notebook, but there's no information about the name of the drug, or its chemical composition."

"No way Hutchinson. I won´t tell you! Let the doctors find it out. I´ll assure you of only one thing. The effects will last for a very long time, and it will be frightening! He will see all the horrifying things that he had in his subconscious! All the fears that I induced him to see along this funny days that he´d been my guest. Things that he didn´t even know he had in his mind. It will bring up everything and he will act like a madman. Finally he´ll lose any control over his mind. Maybe the best thing that you could do for our little Davey would be to put him out of his misery. Like you would do with a limp horse."

Finally Hutch lost his temper, giving to Mark a blow directly to his jaw, throwing him to the floor.

"Davey´s career as a police officer is definitively over, Hutchinson. Maybe you haven´t noticed it yet, but our friend is already is as crazy as a hatter!" Mark laughed from the floor, rubbing his jaw.

***

About an hour later an angry and tired Hutch left the precinct without having gotten any useful word from Mark.

When he arrived at the hospital, he saw that Starsky´s room was empty. Hutch turned back to the corridor with alarm reflected in his eyes.

"Nurse! NURSE! Where's my partner? Where's Detective Starsky?"

A young nurse looked embarrassedly at Hutch. "I-I don't know."

Without missing a beat, Hutch headed to the nurses station to ask the head nurse.

"Detective Starsky, nurse. I left him sleeping in his room about an hour ago, but now he's not there. Where's my partner?"

"Look, detective "

Hutch stared sternly into the nurse´s eyes, making her feeling uncomfortable.

"Detective Starsky was moved to the psychiatric floor. He suffered a pretty serious attack a while ago, and Doctor Blake ordered his transfer there. I´m sorry, detective."

"What kind of attack?"

"It will better if you ask Doctor Blake about it. I´m not the right one to "

"Okay, okay. Where's the psychiatric floor?"

"Ninth floor."

Hutch was already climbing the stairs two at a time.

At the ninth floor, and gasping for air, he approached another nurse, asking for Starsky.

"93rd room." The nurse looked at Starsky´s chart before to adding: "Though right now he's under sedation." Before she had finished the sentence, Hutch was already running through the corridor to Starsky´s room.

"Starsky!" Hutch hurried to his friend's bedside.

Starsky was tied down with straps, and stared at him with empty and inexpressive eyes that began to fall closed.

"Starsky. Can you hear me? Take it easy, buddy. What happened? Starsk? Starsk, partner ... I'll come back here in a minute."

Seeing that Starsky was unable to answer him or most probably to understand any of his words, Hutch hurried out of the room with a feeling of fear battering his stomach, almost running into a doctor that was coming in, walking with resolute steps and followed by Doctor Blake.

"Doctor! What happened?"

"Sorry. Right now we can't attend you. Can you please wait for me in the corridor?" The doctor, a woman in her mid-60es, with grey hair neatly gathered up in a bun, and piercing blue eyes, looked briefly at Hutch before turning all her attention back to Starsky.

"I suggest electroshock therapy "

"Electroshock therapy! For God´s sake, Michael! What are you talking about?! By the way, how much Valium did you give him?"

"35 milligrams, Doctor Thomson."

"Sorry, I " Hutch tried to get the doctor's attention again.

"I TOLD YOU, NOW NOT! I´M BUSY!!" Doctor Thomson snapped at him, before looking at Blake again, who was looking like a child getting a rebuke from his teacher in front of the authoritarian woman.

"35 milligrams, and you've tied him down?" Doctor Thomson rolled her eyes, shaking her head and bending towards Starsky´s unconscious form to carefully undo the straps on his wrists and ankles.

"What are you doing, Doctor Thompson?"

"Untying him, of course! What else?"

"Don't do it! This man suffered a psychotic attack just ten minutes ago."

"Listen, Michael. I know perfectly well what happened to him, and a panic attack is not a psychotic attack. Mr. Starsky is not a beast that has to be tied down, and right now he's too sedated to be a danger for anybody. Besides, maybe you haven´t noticed it yet, but I am the chief of psychiatry in this hospital, and here, things will be done my way. And of course, I won´t discuss my work methods with you or anyone else for that matter." Her severity turned into tenderness when she looked back at Starsky maternally.

"Don't worry, son. Everything's okay."

"He can´t hear you."

Doctor Thompson, closing her eyes impatiently, sighed deeply before answering without looking at Doctor Blake.

"Doctor Blake, I know that you have a lot of things to do on your floor, so how about going back there to get some work done, huh? I think that our little meeting here is over." It was a clear command to leave the room, and, mumbling some words, Doctor Blake went out while Doctor Thompson turned her gaze back at Starsky. "Now, I'll untie you, so you can rest more comfortably. Don't worry, son. Here are a lot of people to look after you." The woman kept talking at the sleeping Starsky in a soothing voice.

"Doctor Thompson?" Hutch shyly asked the doctor, who was apparently unaware of his presence in the room.

"Oh, I´m sorry. Can I help you?" She answered, wrapping the covers around Starsky´s neck.

"I´m detective Ken Hutchinson. Detective Starsky´s partner and best friend. What happened?"

"Detective Starsky suffered a panic attack, and Doctor Blake ordered his transfer here."

"A panic attack? But, why?"

"I´m sorry. Really, I don't know all the details, but I know what Detective Starsky went through in the last days, and Michael, I mean, Doctor Blake told me that his crisis began when he noticed that he couldn't move his left hand.

"What?" Hutch grew pale and plopped on the nearest chair.

"Are you okay? Can I bring you some water?" She looked concernedly at Hutch.

"What ... what happened to his hand?"

Doctor Thomson took Starsky´s limp hand between hers, clenching and unclenching it softly. "Apparently his hand is perfectly fine. However we´re going to make some x rays of it to be sure."

The woman put back Starsky´s hand on the bed carefully. "By the way. I´m doctor Paula Thompson, chef of the psychiatry unit." The woman and Hutch shook hands.

"Look, Detective Hutchinson. Excuse my previous rudeness, but when I ´m attending a patient, nothing else matters to me. Neither relatives, nor friends, just the patient."

"Never mind. In fact, I´m very grateful to see that you're taking care of him in this way." Hutch really meant each one of his words.

"Doctor Thompson, I was at the police station a while ago. Interrogating the man who did this to my partner. He said to me that the effects of that drug will last a very long time, and that he´ll have hallucinations about all the things that he has in his subconscious, his fears. He also told me that in the end, Starsky would lose his mind." Doctor Thompson remained silent for some seconds, taking in all that Hutch said.

"Well, obviously, the drug that he has in his blood-stream is a hallucinogen, but maybe that man used hypnosis techniques on Mr. Starsky too."

What will happen to him from now on, Doctor Thompson? Will he be able to return to work?" Hutch asked, looking defeatly.

"Listen to me, detective. First, detective Starsky will came back to the floor where he was earlier. I don't think that the psychiatry unit is the right place for him to stay. Unfortunately, most of the patients who are staying here are people who suffer pretty serious mental disorders, and I think that your friend will feel more comfortable in a different environment. And about his recovery, well, let's see how he'll be doing in the next days. On step at the time, okay? Now I'll call two orderlies to move him back to the fourth floor." Doctor Thomson was already going out of the room, when Hutch called her back.

"Doctor Thompson?"

The woman turned back to look at Hutch questioningly.

"Will you ... I mean, who will be his doctor?"

"Don't worry about that. He´ll get the best doctors and treatment, and I'll be his psychiatrist. Don´t lose hope, Detective Hutchinson. Not yet." She squeezed Hutch´s arm gently, before heading to the corridor, while Hutch stayed at Starsky´s bedside, watching the doctor leave, with a little hope growing in his heart.

"She´ll help you, partner. I´m sure. Everything's gonna be okay."

***

The x-rays didn´t show any injury on Starsky´s left hand. Doctor Thompson told Hutch next day that she would start the therapy sessions with Starsky, and that she was confident that he would talk about his reasons to believe that something had happened to his hand.

Due to the heavy medications, Starsky slept for hours.

Capitan Dobey spent a while with him, while Hutch went to the cafeteria to eat something. Once back on the fourth floor, Hutch talked to Dobey about the panic attack and that Doctor Thompson would take charge of his detective´s treatment.

"Is he still sleeping?"

"Yeah. He mumbled some intelligible words, but he's still sleeping. He's calm now."

"You should have seen him tied down onto this bed, Captain. That doctor, Blake, treated him like he was a dangerous madman. He even suggested electroshock therapy!" Hutch said, shuddering at the memory.

"I'm sorry, Hutchinson. But now it seems that this doctor has a different method, and I'm sure that Starsky´s condition will improve. We´ll just have to be patient."

"Yeah." Hutch stared at Starsky with concerned eyes, looking forward to the day when his partner would be alright again.

"Well, I must go back to the precinct. Edith sends kisses and those cookies for Starsky." Capitan Dobey held out a little package for Hutch. "Starsky´s favorite chocolate cookies."

"Thanks, Cap. I'm sure that as soon as he can he´ll eat all of them. I won´t even have the chance to taste them."

"Good night, Hutch." Dobey went out and through the corridor with tired steps.

"Night, Cap."

The room was silent. Only Starsky´s breathing could be heard. He was sleeping peacefully, and Hutch had some time to be alone with his own thoughts.

It's Christmas. Your favorite season, partner. The season when you are turning into a kid.

Hutch's eyes were full of unshed tears, looking at Starsky lying in the hospital bed. He was looking like a kid indeed. But in that dirty room where he'd been held at ... He was looking like an animal, a terrified and maddened animal. How could that man do such a terrible thing to such a gentle and caring human being?! And that drug what was that drug bringing to your mind, partner? Why were you suffering a panic attack?

Hutch took a good look at Starsky´s left hand. It seemed totally normal. Butwhy can't you move it?

He held carefully onto his friend´s limp hand, when he began to wake up. After some moans, Starsky looked around the room, ending up staring at Hutch before talking.

"Hey ... Are you ok?".

"Me? I thought you were the one lying in a hospital bed."

"Yeah. But you look like hell, Blondie. Have you been crying?"

"I´m okay, Starsk. Although I began to feel very alone and bored here."

"Well, I guess that I was very tired," Starsky yawned, stretching his body, but not his left hand. Hutch noticed it, but decided not to ask anything about it.

"Are you hungry?"

"No. I'm a little sick to my stomach." Starsky suddenly became quiet, staring unseeingly ahead with sad expression.

"What's the matter, Starsk?"

"Nothing. I'm just thinking. Mark is arrested?" he asked, almost in a whisper.

Hutch hadn't expected Starsky to talk about Mark, but obviously, he remembered everything or at least parts of what had happened.

"Of course he's arrested!" Hutch's voice became a little higher than he wanted, but his hate of that man was almost impossible to hide.

"I'm sorry for him. He is a sick man very unhappy " Starsky´s thoughts seemed to be lost in another place. Probably in his past.

"Sorry? He almost killed you, buddy! Don´t you remember what he did to you?"

"Not much. But I recall that he hates me. He blames me."

"What do you mean Starsk? You're talking as if you did something wrong to him."

"I couldn't help him or Pete, Hutch. You know about the accident, right?"

"Yeah, and I know what Pete's mother told me. And she told me that you tried everything in your power to save them. You even put your life at risk trying to help the rescue team. And you were just a kid. You could have died too, trying to help them! That's the truth, and this guy is sick. Pete's mother is still respecting you and admiring your braveness. And she lost her son! Why does this guy hate you? Only because his hand was badly hurt in that accident and he lost the chance to get his dream of becoming a neurosurgeon? You saved his life, Starsk, for Christ´s sake!! "

"Sometimes I wonder ... If I hadn´t been sleeping ... If I´d woken up sooner ..."

"That's enough, Starsky!! That guy is crazy and a wicked sadist if you want my opinion." By then Hutch was already unable to hide his anger.

Starsky seemed a little scared, seeing Hutch's outburst and just looked at him silently. Once more, Hutch noticed that Starsky didn't move his left hand. So he held out the little package with Edith's cookies for him.

"Starsky, this is a Christmas present from the Dobey's. Edith made some chocolate cookies for you." Hutch waited, hoping to see Starsky raising his left hand to take the package, but he reached out with his right.

"What happened, Starsky?"

Starsky tried to open the package but doing it with his right hand wasn't easy for him, and the package fell down to the floor. He began to get upset, and Hutch quickly picked up the package, giving it back to Starsky.

Starsky tried to show any interest in the cookies, but he was feeling too upset and nervous. "Say my thanks to Edith, but I'm not hungry right now." He let the package lay on the right side of his bed and turned his head away from Hutch.

"Starsk, are you feeling ok? What happened?"

"Nothing. I'm okay."

"No partner, you are not okay. What's wrong with your left hand? Is it hurting?"

After a brief silence, Starsky looked at Hutch saying: "He hurt me. I can´t move my hand, can't you see that?" He's eyes were shinning with unshed tears.

"Why not? There's nothing wrong with your hand." Hutch tried to take Starsky´s hand, but he pulled it out.

"NO. I'm hurt. And I can't move my hand. He hurt me. Leave me alone Hutch." He turned his head, trying to hide a single tear rolling down his cheek. Not wanting to disturb his partner any further, Hutch put a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"Okay. Everything will be okay, Starsky. Just relax. I will be here and the doctor will take care of your hand, buddy, don't worry."

Starsky closed his eyes and when Hutch was about to leave to look for Doctor Thompson, Starsky said in sad voice: "Hutch. Yesterday was Christmas. Call my mom. Tell her that I'm okay. Anything to keep her calm."

"Don't worry, Starsk. I already talked to Rosie. She is taking care of it. Everything is okay."

Hutch left the room looking for Doctor Thompson. Now he knew that Starsky thought that his left hand was hurt. And Mark was the one responsible for this terrifying thought. What did you do to him, Mark?

Hutch went to Doctor Thompson´s office and knocked at the door.

"Come in."

"Doctor Thompson, I'm sorry I don't want to bother you but "

"Never mind. I was about to go home. But I like the silence of the night to read the reports and think about my patients´ treatments. Sit down please."

Hutch sat down in front of the doctor´s desk. She was a thin and tall woman of a natural and almost aristocratic elegance. Her expression was calm as usual, an air of authority and kindness surrounding her. Hutch couldn´t imagine her ever losing her patience, no matter what the situation would be.

"I was reading the medical history of your friend. That's impressive. I´m sure he went through a lot after the shooting. His recovery was amazing."

"Yeah, he's a fighter. He´s special"

"That will be important to him now. As important as your help and support. Well, how can I help you?"

"Starsky woke up and we are talking a little."

"Is he calm?"

"Yes. A little depressed and thoughtful, but calm."

"It's pretty usual under these circumstances." She smiled friendly

"He remembered the guy who kidnapped him. This is important isn't it?"

"Yes, it's important. But don't feel so anxious, Detective Hutchinson. Remember. One step at a time, okay?"

Hutch nodded. "Hutch, call me Hutch, doctor. That's what he calls me too."

"Ok, Hutch. It's a cute nickname. As I told you, don't feel so anxious about your friend. One day he´ll remember, and then, the next day he may forget again. We can't push him."

"About his left hand I gave him a gift that our captain brought and I noticed that he used his right hand to grab it. Starsky is left-handed. He never would grab the bag with his right hand. He managed to do other things, but he touches and holds things with his left hand."

"So?"

"He let the bag fall down and he was pretty upset about it. I asked him what happened, and he told me that Mark had hurt his left hand and that he couldn't move it. He´s absolutely sure that his hand was damaged. But it´s not!"

"Did you say him that his hand is ok?"

"Yes, I did. But he was getting so upset that I thought that it not to be a good idea to argue with him at that moment."

"You are a very sensitive man, Hutch. And you did well. It's important to know that his left hand is perfectly fine. He suffered some kind of induced threat. Something terribly frightening. This is still in his subconscious. Tomorrow I will talk to him and I will try to understand it better."

"Thanks, Doctor Thompson. I'm sure that you will help my partner. Good night."

"Good night, Hutch."

Hutch was leaving Doctor Thompson´s office, when Starsky´s screams filled the entire floor. Hutch and Thompson ran towards his room to find there two nurses bending towards Starsky who was curled up in a tight ball on the bath room floor with his arms covering his head and shouting terrifiedly.

"STARSKY!!" Hutch rushed to Starsky who was unaware of everything and caught in some terrifying hallucination.

"Let me try it," Doctor Thomson said to Hutch with a calm voice and knelt down. "David. David, calm down."

Noticing the doctor´s closeness, Starsky jumped forward towards a corner of the room, pinning his back against it and sliding to the floor.

Hutch was looking at the scenery, scared out of his mind but with total trust in the doctor´s skills to handle the situation. He didn´t dare to do anything that could make things worse.

Thomson approached Starsky´s side calmly, when two strong orderlies rushed into the room accompanied by Doctor Blake who was holding a syringe in his hand. Seeing them, Starsky got to his feet again, screaming in panic and trying to open the locket window to jump out of it.

"What the hell´s this supposed to mean? Don´t you have work to do somewhere else?!" Doctor Thompson asked angrily.

"They are here to restrain him," Doctor Blake answered.

"No! They are here just to bother! Get out of this room! Now!!"

One more time, the low and threatening tone used by Doctor Thompson was convincingly enough to make the orderlies and nurses leave the room, but not Doctor Blake who stayed stubbornly on his spot.

"What the hell are you waiting for, Doctor Blake? And what is in that syringe?" Thomson pointed at the syringe with her head

"Valium, Doctor Thompson. 35 milligrams."

"If there´s no other choice, we'll use 15."

"But "

"15 milligrams, Doctor Blake. Thanks."

"Doctor Thomson, this man might hurt you. He´s dangerous."

"For God´s sake, Michael! Stop telling me how to treat my patients!" Thompson said in low voice, not wanting to scare Starsky any further, and tried to calm him with soothing words.

"Come on, son. Come with me. There's no danger here." Then she turned back to face Doctor Blake again.

"Doctor Blake, this man is very scared, and all that fuss is not doing anything but scaring him further. And now would you bring me15 milligrams of Valium, please?"

Doctor Blake went out moodily, but with no reply, coming back a minute later sliding silently a syringe with 15 milligrams of Valium on the night stand and leaving the room again.

"David. David, son. Calm down."

Starsky kept trying to open the window, screaming and looking back in terror.

"KILL THEM! PLEASE KILL THE SNAKES! THEY WANT TO EAT ME!!" After his useless attempts at opening the window, Starsky was again in a fetal position shouting and crying out on the floor.

"David, there are no snakes here. This is a hospital. And you know that there are no snakes in hospitals."

"I´M SEEING THEM!!! THEY ARE HERE, GROWING UP AND APPROACHING ME. THEIR MOUTHS FILLED WITH BLOOD!!! HELP ME, PLEASE!!"

Starsky kept his eyes tightly closed in a vain attempt to get free of the horrifying images, as streams of sweat ran down his face and body.

"David, please, son." Always calm, Thompson reached out her hand, trying to place it on Starsky´s arm, but he pulled back sharply.

"Try to understand what I´m saying to you, David. You're having a hallucination. It's something frightening, but unreal."

"The The snakes aren't real?"

"No, David. They are not." This time, Thompson could put her hand on Starsky´s arm without him flinching at the touch.

"Now open your eyes, and you´ll see that there are no snakes in here."

"But "

"Trust me, David, please. Open your eyes. There are no snakes. Okay?" Starsky opened his eyes slowly.

"See? No snakes."

The reality of an ordinary hospital room showed in front Starsky´s eyes as his trembling body went limp.

"Breathe David. Slowly. Take it easy, son. Just breathe. Everything's okay."

Starsky obeyed Doctor Thompson, breathing slowly and deeply as she was checking his pulse and gently wiped over his sweated face with a tissue. "How are you feeling, David?"

"Ti-tired. Dizzy," Starsky mumbled.

"So, now, how about coming back to the bed, huh? Later you can take a shower and a nurse will bring you a clean pyjama."

Hutch held out his hand to help Doctor Thompson to stand and they both helped Starsky to get into bed. When she took the syringe that was lying on the night stand, a sparkle of fear shone in Starsky´s eyes.

"NoNo please. No more drugs."

"Take it easy, David. I won´t give you a shot. I'll throw it away. However, I think that you could use a sleeping pill. I'll bring it to you."

"Doctor?" Starsky asked, tugging weakly at the doctor's sleeve like a scared kid.

"Yeah?"

"Did I hurt you? Or anyone else?"

"No, David. Don't worry"

"Am I going mad, doctor?"

"No, son. Of course not," the woman answered confidently taking Starsky´s hand. "Now try to relax for a while. A nurse will help you to take a shower and to get into a clean pyjama in a minute."

"I can take a shower in my own. And Hutch can help me. I would never hurt him. He knows that."

"Okay. So I'll go to ask for that pyjama and the sleeping pill. Tomorrow morning I'll come back here and we'll have a talk." Thompson smiled at Starsky, patting his knee before leaving the room.

"Doctor Thompson?" This time it was Hutch who was speaking

"Yeah?"

"Uh ...nothing. Just ...Thanks."

"If you need something, I'll be at my house. Any nurse can call me. Any time. Good night."

***

The nurse brought the clean pyjama, giving it to Hutch. She left the pill on the nightstand and offered her help to Hutch, but he refused it gently. Starsky seemed to be sleeping, but as soon as the nurse left the room he asked, still looking scared: "Hutch ... Could you stay with me in the bathroom? I'm I'm afraid of I don't want to be alone again." His voice was shaking.

"Sure buddy. Let me help you. Come on." Hutch held Starsky by his shoulder, trying to protect him. While Hutch was turning on the water and put clean towels on the sink, Starsky was looking tired, confused and scared. He spent some seconds looking around the bathroom, as if waiting to see the snakes that terrified him just some minutes earlier any moment.

Hutch waited silently, sitting down on the toilet. He was scared too. How could Starsky get free of that nightmare? What would happen to his career at the Police Department? How much time would Starsky need to forget everything, and would he then still be the same man that he was before?

Starsky finished his shower, and Hutch asked him about going out to give him more privacy to get dressed. Starsky seemed unsure about the answer, but agreed.

"I will be just there. Waiting for you, ok?" Hutch smiled, trying to assure his partner that he wouldn't be alone.

After his shower, Starsky went directly from the bathroom to his bed. He stayed in silence, looking away from Hutch for some minutes, before saying in a very weak voice:

"Hutch, I'm sorry. I really was seeing that snakes. I'm not crazy! I saw them!"

Hutch approached Starsky´s bed and tried to make eye contact with him.

"Starsk, you heard Doctor Thompson. You saw all these weird things only in your imagination. They're not true. There are no snakes, no blood. They are just hallucinations. And of course you are not going mad. You need treatment, some rest and medications. You will be at home before you´ll know it. And I will be with you there too. You will be with me, at my place. "

Starsky stayed in silence, not looking at Hutch. He was ashamed of what had happened, but he couldn't help himself. He desperately needed to understand what was going on inside his mind and why he was acting like a madman.

"She That doctor didn´t say so, but I´m sure she thinks I´m a basket case."

"No, Starsk. Doctor Thompson doesn't think that. You just need help, and she's gonna help you. She seems a very good doctor, a doctor who truly cares about her patients." And maybe the she´s the only one who can help you in this rotten world, hutch thought bitterly.

Starsky was exhausted but afraid of closing his eyes to sleep. Scared and fearing that it would all start over again.

"Hutch, if I´m embarrassing you with what is happening to me ... It's okay if you don't want be here so often. I will understand ."

"No, Starsk! Don't say that! You will feel much better in no time. And you never embarrass me. I'm just worried. I don't want to be anywhere but here."

"Hutch and what will happen if I won´t be okay? If I can't come back to work?"

"That is not an option, buddy! You will feel better, trust me! Starsk Is your hand hurting? Now or while you were in the shower? You were moving your left hand a lot a while ago. Do you remember it?" Hutch was not sure if he was doing the right thing, but he needed to prove to Starsky that his hand was injured just in his imagination.

"My hand?" Starsky raised his left hand looking at it as if his hand was something strange and unknown.

"Yeah. Earlier, you were moving your hand."

"No. Mark hurt me. He told me that I will never be a cop anymore. That I will suffer like he suffered. And he was cutting up my sinews." He stared at his hand with a confused look.

"Starsk, look to your hand. It's perfectly fine, buddy. He didn't do anything. You are just confused. He didn't do anything to your hand. Press my hand, Starsk, please"

"I can't I can't do it."

"Please, Starsk. Try it."

Starsky seemed confused, but did as Hutch asked him, trying to move his hand unsuccessfully.

"I TOLD YOU, HUTCH! I CAN'T, DAMN IT!"

"Okay, Starsk. Don't worry. I´m sorry. I didn't want to push you." Hutch swore mentally, remembering Doctor Thompson´s advice not to push Starsky.

"I'm very tired, Hutch. I think that I'll be able to sleep all night without the pill. If you don't mind, I don't wanna talk any longer. Good night."

"Good night, buddy."

Hutch sat in the chair and spent most of the night staring in his partner. He loved and respected that man so much. How could that evil madman make him suffer like he´d done, trying to destroy the most precious thing that he had. His work as a cop. Starsky´s life consisted out of love for his work, pure joy of life and love for others. Unselfish love, unconditional love for his friends. And Hutch was so proud to know that he was the first one, the one on top of the list of David Starsky´s friends.

***

The next morning, Starsky woke up feeling pretty moody. He remained silent, eating only a little of his breakfast. He was still a little sick to his stomach. All the drugs mixed in his system weren't helping at all.

Hutch left him with Dobey while he went to the cafeteria. Their captain was informed about the crisis Starsky had suffered last night, but didn´t make any comment about it. He gave to Starsky a picture that Rosie had drawn and a message from her. Starsky read it silently and smiled. He loved that little girl. And he always was her favorite "uncle Dave".

Doctor Thompson arrived at Starsky´s room as Hutch was coming back from the cafeteria.

"Good morning, David! How was your night?"

"Good, I guess."

Dobey got to his feet to introduce himself to the woman. "Excuse me, Doctor ...?"

"Thompson. Paula Thompson," the woman said, staring directly into Dobey eyes.

"I'm Captain Dobey. Detective Hutchinson said that you will take care of Dave from now on."

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Dobey. Yes, I will take care of David." That moment a nurse came into Starsky´s room.

"I´m sorry, Doctor Thompson. You have a phone call. Mr. Forrester from F.H.C. Laboratories needs to talk with you."

"Tell him that I'll call him later. I´m about to start a therapy session."

"Sorry, but he did say that it´s very urgent and that he can´t wait. Mr. Forrester said that he´ll not give up until you talk to him." The young nurse was bracing herself for the storm that she knew was about to come.

"Damn it, nurse! What about "I'll call him later" did you not understand?! I´m about to attend to a patient, and until Mr. Starsky´s therapy is over, Mr. Forrester can get roots under his feet waiting for me on the phone! Would you please tell him that." Starsky and Hutch exchanged a quick look as the nurse was already sliding out of the room, when Doctor Thompson turned back to look at Dobey and Hutch.

"And now, gentlemen, if you don't mind, I must ask you both to leave the room. David and I will need some time alone to talk."

"Oh, sorry, of course. I'm going back to the precinct, Hutch. I'll call you. It was a pleasure, doctor". Dobey shook hands with the doctor and hurried out of the room, followed by Hutch.

Once outside, pointed his head to Starsky´s room.

"Wow! Who is she? A woman , a lion, or maybe a relative of Attila?"

"She seems to be a great doctor. Very protective about her patients. She really cares about Starsky. You should see the young doctor who tied him down. The poor devil tried to do it again last night, and she almost ate him alive," Hutch said smiling.

"Well, I don't need much effort to picture it. A woman like her would be very useful at the precinct. To deal with that asshole Simonetti for example."

Hutch wasn't feeling like laughing, but despite himself he did at his captain's comment.

***

Doctor Thompson sat in the chair near to Starsky´s bed. She looked silently at her patient. Starsky seemed to be nervous and defensive.

"Is this when you´ll ask me how I felt at my first school day? Or if my parents mistreated me, or if I enjoyed pulling out flies´ wings in the playground?" he asked sarcastically.

"I´m not the enemy here, David. I´m here to help you, okay? But to do it I'll need your co-operation."

"You can´t help me. And I'll end up in some nuthouse, doped up and dressed in a straitjacket, seeing snakes, dragons and only God know what else."

"And?"

"What do you mean, and!?"

"Oh, it´s just that I want to know more about what will happen to you in the future. And since apparently you have all the answers, I´m wondering if you would tell me more about."

Starsky sighed deeply. "Listen doctor ..."

"NO. You listen! You are a young and gentle man, a very valid member of this community, a true survivor who was the victim of a dreadful abuse, and now needs psychiatric help. I´m a damned good psychiatrist, surely one of the best in this country who was publishing her first book when you were still sleeping with a teddy bear in your arms, and besides, I´m the most stubborn woman that you´ll meet in all your life, AND I´LL HELP YOU!!! IT´S THAT CLEAR?"

A tensed silence filled the room as Starsky stared ashamedly at his hands.

"Okay, David. And now, no more small talk. Let's start. What exactly do you remember about your kidnapping?"

"Not much. He locked me into a dirty and dark place without food, or water No there's something in the water The drug that makes me to see things Then he said ..." Starsky swallowed. "He told me that he would cut up the sinews on my left hand ... I-I won´t be able to use my hand anymore."

"But he didn´t do it."

"Huch found me before Mark could do it, I guess."

"Can you move your hand, David?"

"No."

"But your hand is not wounded." Doctor Thompson took Starsky´s hand as he was studying it.

"My hand is not wounded. BUT I CAN'T MOVE IT! AND I DON'T KNOW WHY!!"

"But I know it. Look David, the human mind has very complicated ways to defend itself from external dangers, threats and fears, even to reaching the point of transforming an emotional trauma into a physical symptom. We call that a psychosomatic disease or symptom. It´s even possible to die due to a psychosomatic disease. It doesn´t have a physical cause, but that doesn´t mean that it´s not real. I don't want to bore you with "shrink jargon" but I want to tell you something: your hand is alright. We'll work on it and soon you´ll be able to move it again." Doctor Thompson got up to fill a glass with water, holding it out for Starsky. "I think that now you could use some water."

"Thanks." Starsky drank the water eagerly, while the doctor sat down again, observing silently how her patient was taking the glass with his right hand.

"Well, I can see you're remembering the important things that happened to you. The things that will make you understand. This man called Mark Zuckerman, you were friends when you were kids, right?"

"Right"

"And one thing is sure. He´s a very sick man. He suffers from a serious mental disorder. Nobody in his right mind would do something like that. And this is the whole point that I need you to understand. He did hurt you because he's sick, and not because you deserved it. When he was a teenager, he had an accident. In that accident another one of your friends, a boy called Pete, died. You were there with them, right?"

"Right."

"Mark´s big dream was to be surgeon, but the injuries to his hands took away his dream. It was a terrible and, as we can see now, an unacceptable loss in his life. He blamed you for it, right?"

Starsky nodded, beginning to feel increasingly uncomfortable. He stared at his hands crossed in his lap.

"He planed to kidnap you to get his revenge. And he almost got what he wanted. He used a drug. A hallucinogen. And regarding the lab results it was a mixture of some natural and some synthetic substances. They found in your blood-stream traces of Mescaline, Peyote and MDMA, but other unknown synthetic molecules as well." Starsky began to feel sick to his stomach again.

"As a police officer, what do you know about hallucinogen drugs?"

"Not much in fact. Bad trips and all that stuff."

"Well, David, maybe the effects of the drug that that man gave you will last for days, or even longer. It depends on its composition. That's why you are having hallucinations. But we're hoping that, given some time, eventually they will disappear, though unfortunately we don't have enough information to know when or if it will happen."

"Do you mean that at any moment, when I think that all is over th-the hallucinations could come back?"

Doctor Thompson nodded. "We must be ready to face that possibility."

Starsky was looking down defeatly, and behind her professional demeanour's mask, Doctor Thomson's heart reached out for him.

"Listen son. You're going to make this. Like all the other times that you made it. And I'll help you. Get as much rest as possible in the next days and I'll prescribe you some soft sedatives to help you rest."

"Doctor. Can can I be a danger for somebody? For Hutch?"

"Listen David, though you weren't thinking clearly during your attack, you weren't hurting anybody. You were scared, but not aggressive. You only wanted to flee the from danger, but you were never trying to hurt us. Is that resolving your doubts?

"I think so. When can I go home, Doctor Thompson?"

"Soon. But I can't tell you right now. Maybe Friday or Saturday. But even when you will be discharged from here, you could feel or see strange things. Your friend Hutch will be with you as much as possible. You will have more appointments with me. You must keep up your therapy. And for that, I need you to not forget the appointments, okay?"

Starsky just nodded.

"All right. Now that you are aware of everything, I just want that you get as much rest as possible, keeping away from any stressing situations. Don't be afraid to talk about anything to me. And you can be sure about that no one will tie you down again. That was a mistake. I'm your doctor now and I have another way to do my work, right?"

"Right."

"Funny, the personnel told me that you are a very talkative boy. Maybe they are wrong."

Starsky look a little surprisedly at Doctor Thompson, who, going again into doctor mode, asked to him: "Any questions, David?"

"No, thanks." He rose his head shyly and gave her a small smile.

"Oh, that's better. I read in your records, that you have a lovely smile too. Or maybe some nurse told me I´m not sure. I think that I´m getting a little distracted over the years ... " the elegant lady joked, rising from her chair and ready to leave the room, when, looking affectionately at Starsky, she added: "David, you were going through a hell after the shooting. Physically and mentally as well. If you had the strength to do that, you will do it now too."

She gently patted Starsky´s hair like a mother would do with her kid and headed to the corridor, leaving Starsky feeling scared of the unknown, though trusting Doctor Thompson. He liked this woman. Maybe, just maybe, with her help he would have a chance to be normal again.

***

As soon as Doctor Thompson left Starsky´s room she made a sign to Hutch, who was waiting in the corridor. Both went in silence to her office.

"Well, how is he?"

"Better than I was expecting. He´s a stubborn and defiant man, but sometimes it helps people in their recovery."

"Yeah, you can bet he is." Hutch smiled, thinking about his partner's behaviour.

"I told him about as many details as we know about the drug and the possible effects. It is important for him to know. He´s very worried about hurting people during his crisis. This is perfectly understandable. But I reassured him that during his crisis, he only tried to defend himself from the visions and that he wasn't trying to hurt anyone."

"So you don't think that he can become aggressive?"

"Really, I don't think so. The drug can´t change who he is. A gentle man, with a gentle heart. Somebody so generous that he even forgives his aggressor. Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is just a novel, Hutch. David isn't out of his mind. He still is David Starsky. Just that right now he's a scared and ill David Starsky. And of course he could hurt someone but just trying to release himself from a grip or something like that, but that would be done unintentionally. It's kind of an accident that could happen to everyone any time. Like when we help someone to not fall down from a stair and we fall down together or something like that. Sometimes, accidents happen. But he will never attack someone intentionally.

In the other hand, he believes that that man hurt his hand. The threat he received is still fixed in his subconscious. We will have to work on it.Oh! And he talked about going home. "

"Ever since the shooting he has such of a phobia when it comes to hospitals," Hutch smiled.

"That only proves that he is a very smart guy." She smiled back "I don't blame him. I read his medical history here on Memorial. It's frightening. Even I, being a doctor, can see that he suffered enough."

"Now, what will be the next steps?"

"Rest, rest and more rest. He will need to eat regularly. I know that his stomach isn't helping, but he needs to eat properly to get his strength back. I will give him some medications to ease his anxiety. But just low doses and I will stop with it as soon as possible. He needs to take back control over his life. A normal life is what he needs more than anything. I´m assuming that you will be with him for the first days once he´ll be discharged from the hospital, right?"

"Yeah, I will be. He will stay with me at my place. I had already told him."

"I told him that keeping up his therapy is very important. If he feels depressed, well, it will be pretty normal. In those moments, your help can be decisive. Talking will help him. I know that you are very important for David. He is very worried about hurting you during his crisis. He seems to care, trust and love you. So, I think that you will be able to talk with him any time he wants. Walk, listen to music, watch TV, whatever he likes and wants to do, with you at least for some days. I don't want him to be alone yet, though if everything is going as I´m hoping, soon he´ll be able to do things on his own. It will help him to feel good again and recover his self-confidence. I will be here or at my house anytime you want to see me or talk with me. But I'm sure that he will get through it. He's a very tough guy. With a strong spirit. That will be very important."

***

Days passed by as Starsky was getting better. Every day that went uneventfully and without hallucinations was some kind of gift for Hutch and him. He ate again and only his gloomy mood was a signal that something was upsetting him. His left hand. Despite all the efforts, Starsky was still unable to move it. Doctor Thompson kept looking after him in her singular way, with that mixture of tenderness and strength that he and Hutch liked so much. He had appointments with her on a daily basis in her office. Sometimes he was just listening to the doctor, though most of the times he talked about all the things that had happened in his life, and Doctor Thompson could hear all the pain that he had to go through with his father´s death, when he was just a kid, his new life in Auntie Rosie's house, and all the awful things that had happened over the years as a police detective, but he talked about a lot of happy moments as well, and specially about one of the most important things in his life: Hutch and their friendship.

When their conversations came to Mark, Pete and the unfortunate events that had ended in that accident in the forest, Doctor Thompson had a hard time trying to reach the feelings of the suddenly hermetic Starsky, though the guilt that was overwhelming her patient wasn't difficult for her to see.

"David. That was just an accident. It wasn't your fault."

"I know."

"No David, you don't know."

Starsky stared defiantly into Doctor Thompson´s eyes, but the woman didn't shrink away and kept pushing him.

"If you knew it, you would be able to move your hand."

"Come on, doctor. Stop that shrink crap!" Starsky rose sharply from his chair heading, to the corridor

"Our therapy is not over yet, David! Come back here, please."

"No, Doctor Thomson, you're totally wrong. For today, our therapy is over!" Starsky answered in low voice, and without looking back at the doctor, rushed out of her office.

In the next days of therapy, Doctor Thompson didn´t want to push her patient to talk about something he wasn't ready for yet, and she preferred to wait for the right moment that she knew would come sooner or later. To push David Starsky into talking when he wasn't feeling like it would be only a useless and stupid decision.

***

Finally, at the end of the week, he was discharged from the hospital. Hutch was very happy when that morning he arrived to the hospital to take Starsky home. He went there driving the Torino and he noticed that his friend was expressing his joy with a pinch of indifference, smiling sadly.

Once the discharge documents were ready, Doctor Thompson went to Starsky´s room to say her goodbyes to him.

"Well, David. So, in a while you´ll be at last at home. However, you know that you can call me or come here to see me any time."

"Thanks, Doctor Thompson. For everything."

The woman smiled affectively, reaching her arms out and wrapping Starsky in a warm embrace. She had already a soft spot for that gentle and stubborn young man, and was looking forward to the day he would feel confident and strong again.

"Don't forget our appointments, David. Get a lot of rest. Keep away from stress. And don't eat too much hot dogs. Take care, son."

Hutch also embraced Doctor Thompson, saying his thanks to her from the deepest of his heart, and they both headed to the hospital exit.

 

***

Hutch drove the car, and Starsky kept silent all the way. Hutch's home was a true bless to Starsky. He was very tired of his room in the hospital. He never could get any sleep in hospitals. So many nurses going around all the time to check on their patients.

"Well, this will be our place for a while, Starsk. So, welcome home buddy!"

"Thanks, Hutch. I'm so sorry that you will have to sleep on the couch and ..."

"Hey, you know how I love my couch. It's better than yours. And it will be only for some days." Hutch headed to the kitchen bringing a beer can and a soda, holding it out for Starsky. "I'm sorry, Starsk, you can't have any beer, Your medications, you know, but if you don't mind, I will drink one." Hutch was really happy.

"No problem, Hutch. It's okay." Starsky was looking unenthusiastically.

"I will unpack and then look for something interesting on the tube."

The TV was a distraction for him for the rest of the day. Hutch fixed his favorite Paul Muni Special, and Starsky ate a little more than at the hospital, but he seemed thoughtful, looking to the streets across the window.

"Penny for your thoughts, buddy."

"Oh, nothing. I'm thinking about IA. They talked to Dobey about me? About us?"

"No, Starsk. You are on sick leave. You don't need to be worried about it. No need to hurry. You are improving each day, and when you feel ready, we will be on the streets again."

"But ... if something happens, now that I'm not in the hospital? And my hand ..."

"Your hand will be okay. Sooner or later you´ll be able to move it again. You know that!! Soon, you will feel okay again. And you still have Doctor's Thompson appointments, or maybe do you think that I forgot that?"

"Soon but when Hutch? How long will you wait for me to be ready to come back to the streets? And the department? I stayed so long away from the streets after the shooting! Now again don´t you think that the department would like me to ask for my retirement?"

"Retirement? What are you talking about?"

"Retirement! For what the hell is a cop who can´t hold is gun? And the hallucinations, huh? What would happen if I´m having some damn bad trip in the middle of a chase on the streets? What will happen to you, with a nutcase as a back-up?"

"You can use your hand. Maybe now, you don't feel like that, but soon you will feel normal again. And the hallucinations haven´t come back for a few days now. Maybe it´s over and DAMN IT, STARSKY! YOU ARE NOT A NUTCASE! STOP THAT CRAP ABOUT RETIREMENT!" Hutch didn't like to shout in that way, but he couldn´t help it.

"Look Starsk, I'm sorry." He tried to get near his friend and hold his arm, but Starsky pulled back.

"Starsk, I didn´t mean shouting at you, partner. I´m sorry. I´m very sorry, Starsky."

"Never mind, Hutch. I know that all that mess is not too easy for you either. It´s okay. Forget it."

"It's time to sleep, Starsky. Let's call it a night, ok?"

"Ok. Good night." Starsky went to the bedroom with tired steps and looking sad.

"Good night buddy." What a good psychologist are you, Hutchinson.

***

Next morning, Hutch was in the kitchen fixing some pancakes and orange juice, when Starsky woke up, took his shower and, once dressed, came to the kitchen.

"Hi, Hutch. You slept well?"

"Yeah, fine. I'm fixing pancakes. Want some juice?"

"I'm sure that you and Doctor Thompson did a deal to overfeed me I´ll look like an elephant soon."

"Hm-hm. By the way. How about going to see your fellow elephants next weekend? Did Rosie talk to you?"

"Rosie? Elephants? I don't know anything about that. But she really likes the zoo. We could go with her? It will be fun!" Finally something did seem to get Starsky´s attention.

"Okay. I will talk with Dobey. Maybe next weekend. Starsky, give me that knife over there. I need it to do the orange juice."

Starsky turned around to reach for the knife that was under the sink. When he took it, something slid over the breakfast bar. Some green and viscous creatures were sliding in front of his eyes as other ones were climbing up his legs. Suddenly, Hutch's kitchen wasn't a kitchen anymore. It was a dark room filled with green snakes that were growing up in front of his eyes. Starsky looked down to his chest and all that he saw there was a snake sliding up

"NOOOO!!!" he shouted so loud that Hutch jumped on his feet and let the pancakes fall down to the floor. When he looked, Starsky was running to the bedroom desperately fleeing from someone or something. He run and sat on the floor. His eyes were staring at something that only he could see. The knife was in his right hand.

"Starsk. Calm down. It's me Hutch. Give me the knife, buddy." Hutch spoke almost in a whisper, trying not to startle one temporarily insane Starsky.

"NOOOOO!" Starsky curled up in a ball and shifted the knife to his left hand. Then he got to his feet again grabbing the knife with both hands, and waved it weakly. "Snakes! My body is covered by snakes! Don't touch me. They'll bite you! Don't touch me!" His eyes were pleading painfully. Starsky was in another place another world.

"Starsk, give me the knife, buddy. You are safe. There are no snakes. Give me that knife. Everything will be all right. It's just a hallucination. It's not true. It's just a dream, like the others you had at the hospital. Do you remember?"

Starsky kept unresponsive and immobile. And Hutch couldn't touch him or try to get the knife from his hands. It would be too dangerous.

He was still immobile on his spot, though apparently calm, looking at Hutch with confusion and fear reflected in his dark blue eyes. Hutch tried to hold his hands, but he jumped back.

"I TOLD YOU DON'T TOUCH ME!! They can bite you!"

Suddenly, everything happened fast. Starsky grabbed the knife with his right hand and in a fast movement he cut deep into his left forearm.

"STARSKYYYYY" Hutch jumped forward, pushing him to the wall. Both men fell down in a heap on the floor. Starsky´s arm was bleeding profusely and blood dropped to the floor.

Hutch took from his closet a shirt, wrapping it over Starsky´s forearm. He ran to the phone and called Doctor Thompson. Starsky was calm, apparently in shock. He rested his head on Hutch´s shoulder, whispering the same word over and over again.

"Snakes...Snakes"

"Starsky. Starsk. Look at me. I have to take you to the hospital, but you must help me. Can you walk, partner?" Hutch got Starsky to his feet, half carrying half dragging him to the back seat of the Torino and jumping onto the driver seat driving with light and siren towards the hospital.

***

Doctor Thompson was already waiting for them in the ER entrance. Starsky disappeared behind an ER cubicle and Hutch stayed waiting for the news, trying to hold the trembling of his body and looking at his own clothes stained with Starsky´s blood.

Forty minutes later, Doctor Thompson came to the waiting room. She looked tired and, removing some magazines, she sat down on a little table placed in a corner.

"You did a good job, Hutch. He lost blood but not an amount large enough to be worried about. If you had not wrapped his arm with that shirt, it could be much worse. He is calm now. But patching him up was quite a struggle. We had to sedate him. At first we thought the cut to be much deeper than it is and that the forearm muscles could be damaged, but luckily we were wrong. Doctor Ramirez gave him fifteen stitches and his arm will heal up nicely in a matter of days."

Hutch sighed deeply, and Thompson kept talking.

"What happened, Hutch?"

"Starsky was a little sad and worried about the job last night. But everything was okay, he slept well, waking up when I was fixing some breakfast for him. When I asked him to get the knife, he simply went mad and began to say that there were snakes all over his body and ran to the bedroom, holding the knife and waving it in front of him. I tried to get back the knife but he didn´t give it to me, and suddenly he cut himself."

"Did he say where he was or if there was someone with him in this hallucination?"

"No. He talked only about snakes." Hutch tiredly rubbed his face

"Snakes. Again," Doctor Thompson said thoughtfully

"He hates snakes, Doctor Thompson. Well in fact he's pretty scared of them. Especially since a few years ago a rattlesnake was about to bite him when we were spending some days off in a cabin in the forests."

"I understand. But why that obsession with the snakes? I´m sure that he knows many more dangerous things. Why aren´t his hallucinations related to getting shot, or poisoned, or any other thing that happened in his past?" Doctor Thompson was obviously thinking in loud voice.

"Listen Hutch. David saw a snake or more than one. I´m totally sure that along his days of captivity, that man scared David with snakes. Ask that guy, or ask somebody in the precinct to search for any snake in the building where David was held. Surely they must be still there."

"Okay, Doctor Thompson. I'll call the precinct to ask it right now. How's Starsky doing?"

"Pretty dozy by the sedative. I will talk with him in a while. And you can take him at home later. You can stay with him, if you want. He´s in a bed in ER. And I want him to get some sleep, at least for a couple of hours before talking with him."

"Will this worsen his recovery?"

"This was just an incident. He needs to know that. And it doesn't mean that he is worse. We were already expecting this kind of things." She gently touched Hutch´s hand and left.

Hutch almost didn't have the strength to rise from the chair, and walking slowly as an old man, he went to the phones, to ask for a search in the derelict building.

"What are we looking for, Hutch?" asked Dobey.

"Snakes, Cap."

"What?"

"Don't ask, please, Cap. Just send a couple of rookies to go there and search across the damned building for some snake." Hutch hang up the receiver, heading to the ER room and waited patiently until Starsky woke up. A nurse called Doctor Thompson as soon as he began to open his eyes.

"Hey, buddy. How are you feeling? "

"Hi. My head is empty. The medication, I guess " he looked at his forearm in silence for a second until he asked Hutch: "Badly hurt?"

"Not much. Soon it will be fine." Doctor Thompson entered in the room, approaching him and squeezing his shoulder gently. "How is my favorite patient doing?"

"Feeling pretty stupid."

"You mustn´t feel that way, David. I´m so sorry about what happened, but your arm is gonna be fine. We can't forget that something like this can happen. But the important is that this will not change our goals. You are free to go home with your friend. Normal life, okay? I will need to see you tomorrow in our therapy session. Then, we'll talk more about it and you will ask me anything you want to know. Now, Hutch, how about helping your friend here with his clothes? David, I managed to bring you another shirt. The one that you were wearing was too smashed, and the nurses took it away. Sorry for the pants. You will need to wash it later." She put a shirt in Hutch's hand and left the room, smiling sweetly at both.

"She's really something." Starsky rolled his eyes and tried to stand up.

"Calm down, partner. I will help you, you're probably dizzy. Hold on me, ok?"

"Ok, mom." Starsky looked at Hutch, who was still wearing his bloodstained clothes.

"I'm sorry. It seems that I made a hell of a mess."

"I would have had to wash it, anyway. Now, I won´t have any pretext," Hutch joked smiling.

***

The rest of the day was uneventful. Hutch took Starsky home, laying him on the couch to rest and hurried to the bedroom to clean up it. He didn´t want Starsky to see the bloodstains spread on the floor.

Later, Hutch called Dobey to fill him in on all the recent events.

"You were right, Hutch. Saunders and Kelley found two specimens of a snake called Smooth Green in the building. They aren't venomous and pretty small in fact. But how did you know that? Starsky told you?"

"No, Cap. His doctor worked it out. All of Starsky´s hallucinations are related to snakes and nothing else. She was guessing that that damned nut scared Starsky with real snakes."

"And she hit the nail on the head."

"Yeah, Cap. She did."

***

Life seemed to return slowly to normal. Starsky was still pretty moody and worried, though he wanted anxiously to believe in Doctor Thompson's encouraging words about his total recovery. He hadn't suffered any more hallucinations, but simply some nightmares and episodes of anxiety and lack of memory and concentration, and he didn't miss any appointments with Doctor Thompson. Their talks, and the fact that all his questions were well received and answered with sincerity, made him feel more confident. Each day was a challenge, but, as the doctor kept saying to him, he had to be patient.

Ten days later though, something was about to bring more pain and uncertainty to Starsky...

Hutch was required by Dobey to come back to work, because in the 9th precinct there was an important lack of detectives to work on the streets.

Hutch was eating in companionable silence with Starsky, trying to figure out the best way to tell him the news.

"Starsk ... Things at the precinct are getting rather difficult. You know, there's an awful lack of personnel and some cases aren't solved yet. A case of drug dealing and the last murder of an old lady. She's the third one in twenty days ..."

"What are you trying to say, Hutch? All this talk about problems at the precinct and the bad guys´ last feats. Go ahead, Hutch, talk to me. When will you return to work and hit the streets? And with whom?"

Of course. He knows. "Dobey asked me to work on this case with Anderson. The same guy who ..."

"I know who Anderson is! Your temporary partner when I was on sick leave after the shooting. You will work with him again?" Starsky was obviously annoyed at the new.

"Starsk, Dobey is under pressure by the commissioner. He can't keep any cops from the streets anymore, and Anderson is the perfect guy to work on this case. Come on, you know that he is a good cop!"

"Yeah, I know. And that's the problem." He rose from the table and walked to the living room, sitting down heavily on the couch. He closed his eyes resting his head on the headrest of the couch.

Hutch walked to the couch, standing in front of him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"He is a good cop. He worked with you for months before, and you two did an impressive amount of busts. He´s smart, athletic and he knows all the needed about the business. The department is just preparing you preparing me to the inevitable ..."

Hutch sat beside Starsky. Placing his hand on Starsky´s knee, he asked: "Are you trying to pull me away from you? Because if you are, stop it right now. You are my partner. You are just on sick leave. You are improving each day. And you will be on the streets before you notice it. With me. Anderson is just a temporary companion. Is that clear?"

Starsky opened his eyes and looked at his friend. "If you say soWhen will you start to work with him?"

"Tomorrow."

"Take care, Hutch. Please be careful."

"Starsk, some nights I will be out on a stakeout. But if you aren't feeling well then, you can call Doctor Thompson. I already told her about my new schedule."

"Yeah, I´m sure that she's looking forward to have a long midnight chat with me."

"Sure thing, partner. That lady is one of your greatest fans."

"You have everything figured out, Hutch, haven´t you?" Starsky smiled shyly.

"I´m trying to do my best."

"I will be fine. A little jealous as you can see, but fine..." Starsky joked, trying to lighten Hutch´s concern a little.

"I can live with that."

***

Next morning, while he and Starsky were eating their breakfast Hutch was doing his best to keep his own anxiety under control.

"Starsk, today I'll come home late. But if there is any problem at all or if you don´t feel well ..."

"Yeah, Hutch, I know. I must call you or Doctor Thompson."

"And if you... "

"Stop it, Hutch! If you're worrying about leaving a nutcase alone in your house, thinking that maybe I´ll set something on fire... "

"STARSKY!!"

"I´m sorry. I´m sorry, Hutch. That comment wasn't very smart...."

Hutch just sighed. "But I deserved it, I guess. I´m going into my mother hen routine, again, right?"

Starsky nodded. "Listen Hutch, I´m getting better. I haven´t had any hallucination for over a week. It seems that the therapy and medication are working."

"I know partner, but from today on, I won´t be here with you all day, and that is worrying me. I can't help myself."

"Everything will be fine here. I'll do some housework as dust the furniture, water your plants and all that stuff, easy to do with just one hand. I'll ask for some Chinese food to lunch, and later I'll spend the rest of the day watching old movies on the tube and getting stuffed eating cookies, ice cream and popcorn before I'll go to bed."

"That sounds really great, Starsk." Hutch rose from his chair, squeezing his friend's shoulder on his way to the door, grabbing his jacket and leaving the apartment.

"See you later, buddy."

***

Doctor Thompson was checking some of her cases´ reports in her hospital office and was about to start her daily check up, when somebody knocked at her door.

"Come in." Two men entered, approaching her table.

"Doctor Thompson?"

"Yeah. That´s me." One of them introduced them as Simonetti and Dryder from the Internal Affairs Department at the 9th precinct of the BCPD.

"How can I help you, gentlemen?" Doctor Thompsons face became imperceptively tensed, while she was mentioning for her two visitors to have a seat.

"If my information is correct, youre a psychiatrist, right?" asked Simonetti

"Yeah. Youre well informed. I´m the chief psychiatrist here in Memorial. What do you want, an appointment maybe?"

"Huh? Oh no...No, we´re not"

"So?" Simonetti unfolded his legs nervously as Thompson stared at him with her iciest look. "One of your patients is a police detective from our precinct called David Starsky, right?"

"I´m sorry, young man, but my patients´ names and their medical histories are classified information."

"Listen, Doctor Thompson, we know that Detective Starsky is one of your patients."

"And because of that, youre here, wasting your time and mine as well? So the people of this city are paying taxes to have policemen spending their time asking things that they already know."

"Doctor Thompson, I must warn you. Trying to hide information from the police is..."

"LISTEN TO ME, YOUNG MAN!" Doctor Thompson was already standing behind her desk. "Never in my life have I given out information about my patients, and I´m not going to start with it now! So if you don't mind, I´m very busy."

"You should be more reasonable, Doctor Thompson, or..."

"Are you threatening me, Mr. Simonetti? Because if thats the case, I guess that your superior officer would find the fact that two of his officers are pushing a doctor to reveal classified information very concerning," Paula Thompson said as she was dialling the number of the 9th precinct.

"You´re not going to give us any information, are you?" Simonetti asked, already getting to his feet.

"No, I´m not." She turned her attention back to the phone. "Good Morning. Could I speak to Captain Dobey please? Doctor Thompson. Yes, I´ll wait. Thanks." Simonetti and Dryder exchanged a look as both rose from their seats.

"Was a pleasure to meet you, Doctor Thompson. We´ll meet again soon."

"I´m sure. Good Morning."

The men left the office. Thompson remained where she was, waiting to speak to Dobey.

***

Two hours later, Doctor Thompson arrived at the 9th precinct.Dobey was with Hutch, telling him about her previous phone call. "Cap, Doctor Thompson said why she wanted talk with you?"

"No. She seemed pretty angry on the phone, but didn´t tell me what was going on. I only hope that nothing is wrong with Starsky."

A firm knock at the door interrupted their conversation.

"Come in," Capitan Dobey said, and Thompson entered.

"Doctor Thompson, have a seat, please."

"Thank you." She nodded to Hutch. "I wasn´t expecting to see you here, but maybe it will be good that you listen to what I have to say too."

Both men looked at each other. "What happened?" Hutch asked.

"Two hours ago I was in my office, when two men called Simonetti and Dryder from the IA Department came to talk to me."

"What did they want?" Hutch asked worriedly.

"They wanted to know things about David. I told them that any information regarding my patients was classified. They werent very happy about and even reached the point of threatening me, though very subtly."

"Simonetti´s and Dryden´s methods..." Hutch mumbled.

"Capitan Dobey, Im here to make it clear that I´m not about to allow anyone. And I mean anyone-from this police station or from anywhere else for that matter,  to talk to me that way. Is that clear?"

"Perfectly clear, Doctor Thompson. But, believe me, that wasnt my fault. Those people from the IA are..."

"The nature of those gentlemen is none of my business, Captain Dobey. Neither if they dislike David. Whatever it is, it must wait until after his total recovery. My business is only my patients´ welfare. I will not give out any information regarding David or any other patient except by a clear judicial order. He´s doing very well. Better than I expected. And I will not allow anything to hinder neither my work nor his recovery. If those men will bother me ever again Ill notify the hospital lawyers and my own as well about the matter. Have I made myself clear?" Hutch and Dobey exchanged a quick look, impressed by the firmness of Doctor Thompson´s voice.

"Clear enough, doctor. I will take care of this issue personally. I´m the first here in this department to pray for David´s  full recovery. He is one of the best detectives I have here, and a dear friend too."

"Remember, Captain Dobey. I don't want to see again any more hunt dogs in my door looking for information about my patients. Good Morning, gentlemen" With that, she left the room, and Dobey sat down heavily on his desk.

"These idiots can put the whole department in hot water. SHIT!" Dobey barked, hitting the table with his fist.

"Doctor Thompson described them perfectly, Cap. Those riffraffs are like hunt dogs. And Starsky is their prey. They would do anything to destroy his career," Hutch said thoughtfully.

"I´m going to talk with the commissioner Hutch. Try not to be worried. And maybe it will be better if Starsky doesn´t know about all this for now. I just hope that Doctor Thomson was convincingly enough."

"You can be sure of that, Captain."

Dobey grabbed his jacket, hurrying out of his office as Hutch was coming back to his desk, thinking how much alike Dobey and Thompson were. They both had a strong temper but a good heart.

And they both really cared about Starsky.

***

Starsky had a busy day doing housework and watering Hutch´s plants. Later, he lay down on the sofa with a coke and a bag of pretzels, turning on the tube and searching for any movie or ball game, but already at the evening, his restlessness thinking about Hutch going around with Anderson as a back-up was growing as the sky was covering with stormy clouds.

Damn it! Maybe that guy is a hell of a good cop, but he doesn't know Hutch and his way to work like I do!

Starsky kept thinking and pacing around the apartment, feeling like a caged lion until finally, without a second thought, he opened the door, going to the street without taking his jacket, keys or wallet, and walking without any direction, plunged in his thoughts, as rain began to fall.

Suddenly, some sparks of light showed in front of his eyes. He winked repeatedly, trying unsuccessfully to remove the minuscule stars from his sight. Beginning to feel scared, he stared at the pavement to see that the ground seemed to melt under his foots. The street was almost deserted, as the rain was falling more intensely by moments and it was getting dark.

Starsky ran with his heart pounding painfully to hide behind a dump in an alley gasping for breath. He spent some seconds with his eyes tightly closed, trying to get calm. When his heart was beating more slowly, he opened his eyes, seeing something like a shining green colour sliding under the dump. A soft hiss could be heard ...

"Hallucinations. They are just hallucinations. No need to be scared."

Then, an old man dressed in rags touched his shoulder. "Sorry, guy. Could you give me a couple of bucks to get something to eat?"

"NOOOOOO!!" Starsky ran away, scared, leaving the unhappy beggar with his hand still held out and wondering what he'd said to scare that man like that.

***

Paula Thompson parked her car and ran fastly to her front door. When she´d gone to her son's place to have dinner with him, her daughter-in-law and grandchildren, the sky had been totally cloudless, but now it was raining cats and dogs. When she had almost reached the door, she could see somebody curled up there among the night's shadows.

"Who's there? I'll call the police," she said stepping back scared.

"Doctor Thomson?" Starsky blindly reached out for her.

"MY GOD DAVID!!" Doctor Thompson hurried towards Starsky.

"What happened, son? Are you hurt?" The woman was already helping Starsky to his feet and unlocked her door. With Doctor Thompson's help, Starsky stepped into the house as she turned on the lights.

"Come with me, David, you're freezing." Carefully, the woman laid Starsky on her couch, heading to her bedroom to get a blanket to cover Starsky´s shaking body.

"What happened, David? Why were you out on the street in a night like this? And where's your jacket?"

"I... I don't know. I went out of Hutch´s apartment ... a-and I began to walk. Then I began to see ... strange things I was scared and ran. But I got lost I-I couldn't remember Hutch´s address, or even mine. I found your card in my pocket and "

"It´s okay, David, it´s okay. But, how long were you waiting for me? And how did you get here?"

"I´m not sure. I was here for a while. I-I walked ... I think. I didn´t take my wallet or my jacket with me when I left Hutch's place, and I didn´t have any money for a cab or a phone call."

"So you went for a hell of a long walk. You must be pretty tired. Okay, now I'll get you into some dry clothes. Fortunately I keep here some sweaters of Albert, my son. And later I'll fix something hot for you to drink or something to eat. Are you hungry, son? Did you have something for supper?" Paula Thompson asked concernedly, placing a hand on Starsky´s shoulder.

"I´m not hungry, doctor. Thanks."

"Are you sure, David?"

Starsky shook his head, feeling terribly embarrassed in front of the gentle woman.

"Okay, but you´ll drink a cup of hot chocolate. Doctor's orders."

Five minutes later, Starsky was already dressed in a warm wool sweater and drinking a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

"I´m sorry, Doctor Thompson. I didn´t mean to bother you."

"Don't mention it, David. I´m just glad you didn´t get hurt." Paula Thompson could see silent tears falling down Starsky´s cheeks.

"Come on, son, take it easy. Shhhh. Everything will be okay." The woman placed her arm over Starsky´s shoulders, speaking softly.

"NO! Nothing will be okay. I´m so scared! What's happening to me, doctor? I used to be a man capable of taking care of myself and the others. A good cop, a tough guy, and look at me now. Crying like a baby, unable to remember even my own address and going crazier by every passing day ..." Starsky was trying unsuccessfully to keep his tears at bay as Doctor Thompson cuddled him maternally.

"You're not crazy, David. You need time, just some time. Calm down, son. Things are going to get better. I promise. And now how about calling Hutch, huh?"

"He...He´s working With another partner."

"And that bothers you, right?"

Starsky kept silent for some seconds before answering: "I guess so."

"Look David, you're going through a lot, and your feelings can be a little mixed up at times, but one thing is sure: your friend loves you, and won't replace you for any other partner. And now, lets call Hutch." Doctor Thompson was already picking up the phone when Starsky spoke again.

"Doctor Thompson?"

"Yeah."

"It seems that I will spend the rest of my life saying thanks to you..."

Paula Thompson just smiled, patting Starsky´s hand and dialled the number of the 9th precinct.

 

 ***

 

 Hutch and Anderson had just returned from the streets, when Hutchs phone rang. "Hutchinson."

"It's Doctor Thompson, Hutch."

"Doctor? Is Starsky okay? What happened?" Hutchs voice was a little loud, and all the officers in the squad room raised their heads, knowing that something had to be wrong with Starsky again.

"Calm down. Hes here with me and hes fine. He just needs you to get here and take him home."

"But what happen? How?..." Hutch noticed the looks fixed on him, and Anderson made a slight movement with his head to make Hutch aware of that. Over the last weeks David Starsky´s problems had been a constant source of gossip at the precinct, despite Dobeys and Starsky´s friends´ attempts at keeping it discretely.   

"Okay. Im coming. Thanks.´" Hutch hang up the phone, running to the door. "Well talk tomorrow, Anderson. Thanks. Good night."

Anderson just nodded watching as Hutch leaved the squad room.

 

 

***

 

 

Hutch drove as fast as he could, parking his car in front of a beautiful house in an elegant neighbourhood. He rang the door, and Doctor Thompson opened it with a smile on her face.

"God. Speed limits don´t go for cops, huh?"

"Good night, Doctor Thompson. I came as fast as I could. How is he?"

She stepped backward to let Hutch into the house.

"Im here. Safe and sound´." Starsky smiled shyly and waved his right hand at Hutch.

Hutch went to the couch and sat down beside his partner. He looked worriedly at the blanket and noticed that Starsky´s hair was still wet.

"Sorry. I went out for a walk and I began to see some strange things, and I ran until a poor bum scared me. Then apparently I got confused, lost ... I couldn´t remember your address or even mine I´m sorry, Hutch. I´m so sorry..."

"Okay, okay, Starsk. You dont need to feel ashamed. We will have a lot of time to talk about it later. Now, I think that Doctor Thompson needs to get some rest. Come on, lets go home." Hutch helped Starsky to get to his feet and they both went to the door.

"Hutch, everything is under control. Now he needs to get some sleep. Tomorrow he can talk about all that happened today."

"Thanks doctor. I didnt know where to go. I just knew when I saw your card, that your name was meaning help to me. Thanks."

"You are welcome. Get some rest, David, you need it. Tomorrow, well talk."

 

 

***

 

Along the way home, Starsky remained silent. He sat with his head resting against the window and looking to the familiar streets as if it were unknown places to him. ...Wondering when you will be good enough to walk on the street by your own, buddy? Hutch thought sadly.

As soon as they arrived at home, Starsky went to the bathroom to get a shower, while Hutch fixed some coffee and waited for him. Starsky got dressed in his pyjama and went to the living room, turning on the TV.

"I think that I´ll get a shower too. Are you going to be okay?"

"Sure. Go ahead, Im okay. Just feeling dumb, I guess. Give me time, Hutch. Im so ashamed of my actions lately."

"Theres nothing to be ashamed of. You cant help yourself, partner." Hutch squeezed Starsky´s arm, heading to the bathroom leaving him alone with his own thoughts  

Dressed in his robe, Hutch went to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and dragged out a beer, joining Starsky on the couch. 

"Coffee was good, Hutch. Now Im warmed up again."

"Are you feeling good?"

"Yeah. How was your day with Anderson?"

"Nothing special, but Im pretty tired. Do you need something else? I wanna go to bed."

´"Oh, no thanks." Starsky rose from the sofa and turned off the TV.

"Dont be mad at me, Hutch, please. I just cant talk about it right now."

"No Starsk, Im not mad at you. I´m just tired. I understand."

Okay. Night, Hutch.

"Good night, Starsk."

 ***

 

 The next day, Hutch had to go to the precinct early. Anderson asked him about Starsky, and Hutch talked to Dobey about the last panic attack. Dobey told Hutch that the commissioner ordered IA to stop the Simonetti and Drydens actions, and that nobody would investigate Starsky´s condition until they could tell he could come back to work.

 

Meanwhile  Starsky went to his session with Doctor Thompson. He seemed especially nervous that day.

"How was your night, David? Any bad dream?"

"Not, actually I slept all night."

"But theres something boring you, right?"

"Listen doctor. Last night I was thinking that that maybe youre right. I mean...about Mark. About me feeling guilty. I just dont understand how feeling guilty has anything to do with not being able to move my hand."

"Im very happy that you finally are coming to terms with that. And it´s easy to explain. What happened when you were just a teenager, the accident, was a painful moment in your life. You got through it, but in your subconscious, the idea that Pete could still be alive and Marks hand not damaged was still there. When you saw Mark again, your subconscious brought it all back. Then, when Mark threatened to hurt your hand, ruining your career as a cop, the drug that Mark used on you worked on your subconscious. All that talk about guilt, that you are to blame for his unhappy life and for Petes death you started to develop a need to be punished for that.  And since Mark didnt get to hurting your hand, why not let you OWN mind punish you instead? The X-rays proved that your hand is perfectly okay, but your mind tells you that your hand must be hurt, because you caused pain and misery to Petes family and Mark. Denying it never helped your mind to get over this idea, but now that you are beginning to accept it, eventually you will feel able to accept the idea of an imaginary damage to your hand.´"

"The way you talk about it, it seems so easy, but How can I make my hand work again? Im a cop, my hands are my work instruments. What can I do? I can´t use my left hand." His eyes were full of anguish.

" Time. It just needs time, David. And start to do again the things that you used to do.  Even if you can´t use your left hand. You are eating with your right hand, arent you?" Starsky nodded.

"So, do everything you want. Use your right hand to accomplish things you normally would have done with the left. One day, your subconscious wont interfere anymore."

"I think that maybe I need some exercise. Im getting kind of lazy, and if I want to return to the streets I´ll need to get in shape for that. I thought about starting to walk on a regular basis."

"Perfect, David! It´s very important for you to keep having a goal in your life. Returning to the force is obviously your biggest goal. Do whatever you want to do! Anything.  If you are feeling comfortable about doing it, then just do it!!"

"About yesterdayI´m very ashamed doctor.  I guess I know that I was acting like a jerk in your house and I talked too much and I bothered you but I´m very scared of suffering another lack of memory or more hallucinations."

"You werent bothering me, David. I´m glad I was able to help you, son. Yesterday you were in a stressful situation. You were upset because of the news about Hutch´s temporary partner, and it was the first day that you were on your own in his apartment. Together, these things were powerful enough to cause the crisis. But the way I see it, now you are beginning to know how to deal with it. Remember, David, yesterday you were hallucinating, but you managed to take the control and came to my house. You couldnt remember your address or Hutch´s either, but you were able to think of somebody who could help you.  And that only proves that, finally, youre getting the control over your mind back."

"Are you sure of that, Doctor Thompson?"

"Totally sure, David."

"Thanks, doctor. For never treating me like I was ... nuts." Doctor Thompson smiled at Starsky.

"Hutch always said that I am a stubborn guy. Maybe this part of my personality could help me now. I will fight against all that crap that Mark was putting into my head."

"I´m sure that your personality will help you, David. You are a tough guy. See you tomorrow." Doctor Thompson hugged her patient warmly. She could already see some light at the bottom of that dark tunnel.

 

 

***

 

 The next weekend, Starsky and Hutch took Rosie Dobey to the zoo. The little girl loved the animals, and it also seemed to be a great way to distract Starsky from all his fears and problems.

They stopped in front of all the animals cages, and Hutch had a hard time trying to figured out who was more excited, Rosie or Starsky. The tough street cop was always turning into a little boy at a place like that. He loved it all like any other kid, and his joy was infectious.

The three of them spent a morning full of fun and laughter, and at noon Starsky went to get them all hot dogs and sodas, while Hutch and Rosie were waiting for him.

"Uncle Ken! Uncle Ken, come here!" The kid was looking at a huge box made of glass, containing a big and splendorous yellow snake sliding up a trunk behind the window. Hutch nervously tried to draw Rosie´s attention to something else, to get her away from the snake´s box, before Starsky´s return, but it was too late. Starsky was already coming back carrying  the food and sodas.

He froze in mid-step and  and paled visibly. Hutch took Rosies hand and tried to take the little girl to another cage, but she was very interested on the snake. Starsky started to breathe difficultly as his body began to shake. He let the food  fall down in the ground. Rosie, unaware of what the problem was, ran to help him.

 "Oh. Uncle Davie you let all the food fall down on the ground but you dont need to be worried, you dont need to buy everything again. Im not so hungry... dont be sad." The little girl said innocently.

"Rosie...Rosie honey. Please.  Wait over here on that bank. Uncle Dave is not feeling so well, I´ll just go and see if I can help him. Don´t go anywhere."  Rosie obediently sat down in a nearby bank as he was hearing straight to Starsky, unsure about how to prevent the kid of being  scared out of her mind if she witnessed her Uncle Dave suffering a panic attack.

"Hey buddy...Starsk Take it easy. Lets get out of here." He held Starsky´s arms and  pulled a little but the smaller man remained frozen on his spot.

"Uncle Ken.What´s happeninig to Uncle Dave?...he´s acting strange." Rosie noticed that something was wrong with Starsky.

"No sweetheart Uncle Dave is okay, just tired ."

"Oh...mummy told me that uncle Davie has been sick and that I must be careful to not exciting him. Did I do something wrong?... Is he mad at me?" With some effort, Starsky started to breathe deep and calm as his mind was trying to get the situation under control.

There´s nothing to be afraid for, its only a zoo snake safely locked in a  cage. Nothing will hurt you... Calm down Davey, calm down He was doing a great effort to get control over the powerful fear that was wrapping his brain.  Slowly he caught his breath as some colour was coming back to his face. Seeing that Rosie began to sob scaredly, he smiled weakly at the kid and without looking over the snake´s cage he kneeled down in front of her.

"I´m sorry Rosie. Looks like your Uncle David screw up our lunch..."

"Are you okay Uncle Dave?"

"Yeah, pumpkin. I´m fine. Just sorry about scaring you like this.  I will buy another lunch."

"No you already paid for that, and I´m not so hungry anyway.... Lets just see the animals."

"No honey. I´ll bring it again."

"Starsk, are you ok?  Do you want to sit down for awhile or go back home?"

"No Hutch I´m okay I was...a little scared but I´m ok now, its just a snake and it will not hurt me." He whispered to Hutch, not letting Rosie notice anything.

"Okay Rosie. How about lunch?" Hutch turned around and went with Rosie and Starsky to the hot dogs stand Inwardly, he was immensely relieved and proud to see that his partner, got control of his panic attack by himself.  Doctor Thompson was right and he also could see the light in the end of that terrifying tunnel in which Mark Zuckerman had thrown Starsky.  

 

In  the afternoon, Starsky and Hutch left Rosie with her parents, and Hutch drove back to his place. Starsky was silent and thoughtful along all the way.

"Starsk I thought that what happened today at the zoo was the most important proof that you are in the right way. You are healing."

"I froze Hutch. it was just a snake in a cage and I still froze. How can I even dream of being back to the streets'" Starsky asked sadly.

"Starsk you froze, okay but then you got your self control back.  That would have been impossible just some weeks ago."

"Yeah I know. But I wish I could forget all that shit about snakes. I´m a cop,not a little scared kid"

"What do you want to do now?"

"About what? What happened today at the zoo?" Hutch nodded.

"Talk to Doctor Thompson I guess."

"Good"

 

As soon as they entered the apartment, Starsky hurried to the phone, dialling Doctor Thompson´s number.

"Doctor Thompson...its me, David. Can we  talk?"

"Sure David. Everything´s okay?"

"Doctor. We were at the zoo with a little friend of us, Rosie, Cap´s Dobey daughter and I had another panic attack."

"What happened exactly, David?"

"It was pretty simple...I saw the snakes cage I froze and my head began to spin and I couldnt breathe and all that shit...."

"Then.?"

"Then I tried to regain my self-control."

"And what did you do David?"

"Everything that you´ve told me to do, control my breathing, tell myself that what I was seeing and feeling won´t hurt me."

"And you managed to calm down, didn´t you?"

"Yeah...how do you know?"

"Because I know all the process of this type of crisis and I know that you already passed the worst phases. Now, you are capable of controling yourself. Remember that even in the middle of the brief amnesia that you suffered some days ago, you managed to find my place and ask for help?"

"Yeah and I was terrified in that day. Today I froze, but I knew that I was safe and that all that I needed to do was breathe and everything would be okay."

"And every passing day it will get easier David."

 "I´m doing my best to believe in which youre saying Doctor Thompson. But I´m sorry. I cant.  Damn it! I can't believe it!"

"Because you are still very anguished. You need your old self confidence to come back. To feel the way you were feeling in the past, before all this happened. Besides, you are not the most patient person I know, either."

"Yeah I guess so.  I´m sorry I know that at times I can be pretty irritating."

"No,  you are just human son. And you are improving each day. That is totally clear to me.  Im proud of you David."

 

***

 

Starsky thought about Doctors Thompsons words for days, and finally following her tips, he started a program of regular exercises compatible with his paralysed hand. His legs needed some action, besides the long walks on the beach. If he wanted to be ready to return to the streets, his physical strength was important.

That morning, a cab parked in front of the precinct, and Starsky climbed the stairs to the building, feeling a strange tickle in his heart.

Soon, a lot of detectives and rookies who knew what he had had to go through over the last months, greeted him enthusiastically.

He felt really good. After some months out of action, there were people who still remembered him. After the greetings and encouraging words of the most of his companions, with a proud Hutch always by his side, Starsky headed for the gym. He spent about an hour doing press-up and pedalling on the exercise bike. When he was finished, he felt tired but relaxed and went to the showers, where he met a group of fellow cops.  They looked at him with a spark of sarcasm in their eyes.

"Oh ... The old Starsky is back!" a detective named Wilson said

"Hi Wilson." Starsky continued on his way, but the guys didn´t seem to be ready on giving it up just yet.

"Are you here to make some exercises? Maybe to lift some weights?" asked another detective named Brandon, staring shamelessly at Starsky´s left hand.

"Oh, come on Brandon, don´t be cruel. You know that the poor guy is now incapable to lift even a cup of water." Wilson reprimanded his colleague in mock concern. He was talking out loud and all the other cops in the gym stopped their exercises to watch the conversation.

"Oh, of course. How I could forget about that? Though it seems that the worst is not his hand, but his head. Since his kidnap our poor old Starsky keeps seeing strange things behind every corner. Im sorry, Starsky. I can't imagine how hard it must be for you. You who always thought that you were the best detective, the bravest cop in the entire city." Brandon stayed waiting for the outburst that was about to come from Starsky as his blue indigo eyes were turning almost black with fury. The silence hanged heavily over the scenery. 

Anderson, who was near there, could hear part of what was said, and stride to a phone to call Hutch.

Starsky kept some seconds looking directly into Brandon´s eyes with an icy look. More than anything else he wanted to teach that guy a hell of a lesson, but a fight with another cop at the precinct wouldnt be the smartest thing to do in his situation and Starsky knew that.

In that moment, Hutch arrived just in time to hear his partner answer:

"You´re right, Brandon. Maybe I´m not the bravest cop in the city. But I´m not the one who wet his pants some time ago when an owl brushed his head on a stake-out at a cemetery. Do you remember, Brandon? When you and Wilson were looking for that herd of nuts that were profaning tombs. We all enjoyed that little anecdote, but, hey! you mustn´t feel ashamed about it, my old friend. People can be very cruel at times. You know jealousy is such a bad thing ..."

Brandon face turned redder than the Torino as some hardly dissimulated giggles were coming from the group of his own friends, as Starsky left the gym, walking with firm steps and head up.

Hutch met Starsky in the middle of the corridor. They stepped into the elevator and burst out loud with laughs, until tears fell down their cheeks.

 

 

Hutchs shift was about to end, so Starsky waited for him. He chatted a while with Anderson and despite the first feeling of sadness that had overcome him when looking at his desk with Andersons stuff spread out on it, he knew that that guy was one of the good ones and truly caring about Hutch.  He felt jealous of anyone who worked with his partner in his place, and he couldnt help himself, but now he knew how to deal with these bad emotions and how to accept it.

That night, they went to the Pits, and they had a great time.

Laughing and talking with Huggy, Starsky seemed to have some fun for the first time in months,. By 10 pm, the guys called it a night since Hutch had to work early the next day.

There wasn´t much traffic on the streets, and the two friends were talking animatedly about the last gossips from the precinct and some dates, when suddenly a big truck came from an intersection, heading directly at the LTD in full speed.

In that moment, Hutch was looking at Starsky, laughing about something that he said. The truck was aiming directly at the driver´s side of the car, and Starsky saw it out of the corner of his eye. Instinctively, to save Hutchs life, he used his left hand to sharply turn the steering wheel to the right, and the car slipped fast, forcing Hutch to brake.

The car stopped on the sidewalk. The truck stopped just some inches away from Hutchs door. Some seconds of silence passed, until the truck driver ran towards the other car to see if the men in it were all right.

"Guys? Oh man! Im sorry! Are you alright? I dont know what happened there! The brakes werent working, and I couldnt stop the damned truck! If you hadn´t reacted so fast you would be dead ! God!!!"

"W-we're f-fine, sir ... You?" Hutch was doing his best to look calm.

"Man! If I didn't have a heart attack today, I'm sure that I´ll never! I completely lost control over this damned piece of junk!"

"Everything is fine. You better move your truck off the street, though, and call for a crane service." Hutch's heart was still pounding fast.

"Yeah. Thanks guys. And I'm sorry. These damn brakes were perfect just some minutes ago. I really don't know what happened here."

"Okay, friend. Don't worry."

Before getting into the car again to head for home, Hutch noticed that Starsky was looking at his left hand in silence.

"Starsky, are you all right, buddy?"

"Yeah Hutch. Did you see what I did?" His eyes were shinning.

"What you did? What do you mean, Starsky?" But suddenly, an image crossed his mind. Starsky grabbing the steering wheel with his ... LEFT hand.

"Starsk! You you used your left hand!You saved my life, our lives. And you used your left hand again." Hutch stopped to happily embrace his friend ignoring the cars behind them sounding their horns.

"Yeah, I did it Hutch, I did it!" Starsky pulled back from Hutch´s embrace to look at his left hand as if it was something unknown.

"Your hand is fine, buddy! Always was! You just needed a little pushing to see it."

"I need to talk to Doctor Thompson, Hutch. She needs to know ! I'm I'm okay, Blondie! My hand my hand its okay!" Starsky was looking like a kid whose most important wish in the world had just come true.

"Yeah, let's go home and call her. But now calm down or you will hyperventilate, okay?"

"Okay." Unaware of the horn symphony coming from behind them, Hutch got into the car.

On the way home a warm happiness filled his heart for first time in many weeks.

***

Once at Hutch's place, Starsky ran to the phone. He dialled the Doctor Thompson's number, and when the woman answered the call he began to tell her, spluttering about the accident and how he´d been able to move his left hand.

"You see, David? You just needed a very appealing reason to use your left hand. In order to save your partner´s life and yours too, you cut the connection with your subconscious, and when your reflexes were guiding your actions, your hand was simply working again."

"Does this mean that won´t have more problems? That I'll be able to move my hand normally again?" His voice was filled with hope and anguish, and on the other side of the connection, Paula Thompson smiled tenderly.

"Probably, son. The most important thing already happened. Your hand is fine. Your subconscious will not have power over it any longer. Now you know that your hand was not wounded."

After some silent seconds, Starsky simply answered: "Thanks, Doctor Thompson."

"Don't thank me, David. You did all the hard work! You had strength enough to do it. You fought against your fears and demons and you won!!"

"Yeah, but you showed me the way and held my hand. And you never treated me as if I was crazy." His voice was breaking with emotion.

"Maybe, but that isn't enough for a lot of people. Have a good night, David. Rest, and tomorrow we will talk."

"Good night and thanks again." Starsky hang up the phone and looked at Hutch. He was showing his 1000 watt smile and embraced him tightly, rubbing his back with his left hand. Starsky was marvelled at his until now paralyzed hand moving again. Hutch was as moved as his friend, and his eyes were full with tears. Starsky was finally getting back his life. His normal life. Now it was just matter of time that David Starsky would be back where the action was: At his side.

***

Starsky immediately started an exercise program for his left hand and arm. And this time no stupid cop in the gym dared to say a word. He was getting stronger each day.

Two months later, with his recovered strength, Starsky started doing some target practice too. He asked Dobey to get permission to use the installations at the precinct. To hold a gun again, after all those months, made him feel confident, stirred and happy. Dobey, went there too, to share, overwhelmed by his joy over the return of that man almost as close to his heart as his own son, and knowing that this was meaning that Starsky was climbing a new step in his long and painful recovery.

And four months after the day on which he´d been kidnapped, Starsky´s recovery was almost complete. He was living at his own apartment again. He was still going to some therapy sessions with Doctor Thompson, only a time at week. But she'd already told him that soon he wouldn't need those anymore, but of course was allowed to call her whenever he felt it necessary.

He regained his self-confidence and was getting visibly stronger each day. He was sleeping well and his infamous appetite was coming back. He even started to date again with a blond and beautiful nurse from the hospital.

Finally he was cleared to return to work, first at the precinct, glued to the desk, then if everything was going nicely, in two months, he would be on the streets again.

***

Life was well-deservedly smiling at Starsky again, though something was bothering him, and Hutch, as usual, noticed it perfectly.

That night, after his work, they both were at Venice Place sharing some beers, Chinese food and a ball game on the tube, though Starsky seemed absent-mindedly and didn´t show any interest in the game.

"Wanna talk, buddy?"

"Huh?"

"About what's bothering you."

"Nothing's bothering me, Hutch."

"Don't try to fool me, Starsk."

Starsky took a long drink from his beer before answering: "I'll go to see him, Hutch."

"Who?" Hutch asked, while an alarm bell rang at the bottom of his mind

"Mark. Mark Zuckerman. I already called the hospital where he´s at."

"No, Starsky. No way. You won't go there." Hutch was pointing at Starsky with his Hutchinson Finger, as Starsky got to his feet, looking defiantly at him.

"I´m gonna do it, Hutch. He's there, locked away. Alone. Sick."

"FOR GOD´S SAKE, STARSKY!! Have you forgotten everything that bastard did to you!?" Hutch was trying to keep his anger under control, knowing that when Starsky got something into that stubborn head of his, nobody could make him change his mind.

"No, Hutch. I didn´t. In fact some nights I still have nightmares, you know that. But still ... I want to do this. I want to visit Mark at the hospital."

"Doctor Thompson knows about this?"

"Yeah," Starsky sighed deeply. "And for your information, she doesn´t agree to it neither, but she understands that I need to do it, and why."

"So tell me, because I'd like to understand it too."

"To forgive him, to forgive myself, and to get the peace of mind that I´m still missing, Huch."

Suddenly seeing in his partner the wise and self-confident man that he'd become, Hutch finally understood. "I´m just scared, Starsk. Scared of what that visit might do to you ... to your recovery."

"I´ll be fine, Hutch. I promise."

***

So next morning, Starsky was quietly waiting for Mark in a visit room of the psychiatric hospital where he was getting treatment. It was a beautiful building in a beautiful neighbourhood. But still - it was a psychiatric hospital, filled with empty smiles, lost eyes, and people walking through the corridors without any direction and with unsteady steps. And seeing his former friend living there wasn't an agreeable sensation at all.

"Hi, Davey." Mark came into the room accompanied by a strong and tall orderly. His expression when he saw Starsky was unreadable. Could he be feeling genuine happiness about seeing Starsky? Or was there only plain vileness written in his eyes?

"Hi Mark. How are you doing?"

"Pretty good, thanks. Though not as good as you, as I can see. You're looking fine unfortunately." A mad laugh escaped Mark´s lips.

Starsky felt a shiver going through his spine, but stayed firmly standing in front of Mark and looking into his black eyes without even a blink.

"Mark, I'm not here to argue with you. I'm here to tell you that despite everything that happened between us, all the evil things that you did to me, I would like to say to you that I think that this people here, or wherever you will be, will treat you with dignity and care. That some day you will be and feel better that now. That after all those years I still really care about you, Mark. All these years I suffered a lot remembering all that happened in that damn cliff. My biggest wish was to change what happened there. If I could I would. But the truth is that things happen, people die. We get hurt, and we must go on living, despite everything. I did that more than once in my life. I was blessed. I had the strength to do that. I always had people close to me who helped me to go on. You will find that strength, and people who will help you too. Please, let them take care of you and you will be happy again."

"I don't want to know what you want for me or think of me, or wish for me! I want to forget you. Forget our youth. Just forget me, Davey, because I've forgotten you already!"

"Okay. I'll forget you. Now I can do it, because before that, finallyI forgave you. Goodbye, Mark."

Starsky left the hospital, breathing eagerly the clear morning air and walked to the Torino, where, as always, Hutch was waiting for his partner, that wise strong and compassionate man who one more time had taught him a lesson.

Seeing Starsky heading with firm steps and a warm smile to the car, Hutch learned the real meaning of forgiveness: the only way to live in peace.

THE END

 

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