Hutch moaned as he slowly came to. He was painfully aware of his throbbing head and delayed opening his eyes as long as he thought he could. He was lying on his side and rolled onto his back. He tried to rub the lump on the back of his head, but realized his hands were tied.
"Look, he's waking up," a man's deep voice said. There was a short pause then he added, "Can you tell me what he's going to do next, Eric?"
"You said these partners are not just partners but close friends, correct?"
"No. Don't think. Tell me what he is going to do."
The younger man took a deep breath and observed Hutch another minute. "He's going to yell for his partner before he tries to untie his hands isn't he, Stan?"
"Let's see if you're right." The two men turned their attention back to Hutch.
Hutch took a deep breath and hollered, "Starsky!" There was no answer.
"You were correct. Watch carefully now. This one is the thinker. He's going to remain calm at first."
Hutch wiggled his hands so they were now in front of him. He removed the blind fold then used his teeth to loosen the ropes that were binding his hands and stood up. He turned around slowly surveying the room. He was in a padded room and there was no sign of Starsky anywhere. There was a light in the ceiling but it was out of Hutch's reach. He saw a small door and turned the knob. "Well, it was worth a shot anyway." He looked at the wall opposite the door and sighed. He reached out his hand and touched the wall next to the door. He started knocking on the padded walls. He knew that there were no secret passages. He knew the only way out was the door. He glanced at the ceiling and yelled, "Hello? What do you want? Where's my partner? Where's Starsky?" His questions were met with silence. He continued to search every square inch of the room.
"Let's watch the other one now. This one will spend at least an hour methodically searching for a way out." Stan told Eric.
"I really want to see the dark haired one. What did you say his name is?" Eric asked.
"His name is Dave Starsky and his reactions will prove to be more to your liking." Stan pushed a button on the wall and a second monitor turned on.
"He's not awake yet, Stan?"
"I gave him a stronger dose. I wanted him to sleep longer but he should be waking any minute."
Starsky woke up and realized his hands were tied and he was blindfolded. "Hutch!" He yelled. He rolled from his left side to his right. He kicked his feet and yelled until he couldn't yell any more. He finally stopped kicking and rolled onto his back and positioned his hands in front of him. He pulled the blindfold off and sat up. "Hutch, where are you, Buddy?" His voice was just a whisper now. He repositioned himself so that he was on his knees as he turned slowly in circles. He looked at his hands and huffed. He tried to loosen the ropes by moving his hands back and forth. He only succeeded in irritating his wrists so badly they bled.
"I like this one."
"I thought you might, Eric."
Starsky used his teeth to get untied. He stood up and ran toward the door. He tried turning the knob but it was locked. He hit the door with the palm of his hand. "What do you want?" His voice had not fully returned and it sounded like a raspy whisper.
"Starsky isn't afraid to show his anger."
"I told you his reaction would be more your style."
"I'd like to go a couple of rounds with him." Eric made a fist with his right hand and hit the palm of his left hand.
"All things in good time, my young friend."
"Don't worry about me, I can wait til the time is right."
Stan smiled and patted Eric on the shoulder. "Yes you can. You proved that with our last subjects."
"We had them a week before we let it end," Erick chuckled. He glanced at the monitor again and saw Starsky punching one of the walls. "These two might prove to be worthy adversaries."
"It's time to put Starsky to sleep now."
"Already, but he just woke up?"
"It's late and we still have to set things up."
"Are you sure you want to go through with your plan? We've never tried anything like this before."
"Of course I'm sure. Like I told you before, I want to spice things up a bit."
"Yeah, but they're cops."
"I thought you learned by now life is dull and boring if you don't take risks."
"You're right, as always. I'll give Starsky his water."
Starsky's hands were throbbing from hitting the walls so hard. He was startled when he heard a voice. "Mr. Starsky, if you would please go to the far wall. Your door will be unlocked for a brief moment." The voice was distorted and Stan continued to watch Starsky and Hutch on the monitors as Eric exited the control room.
Starsky was being held in a secret room that was inside another room. Even if Starsky managed to get out of his room, there was a second room he would have to escape from and the chances of that happening were zero to none. It wasn't long before Stan saw Eric set the glass of water down in front of Starsky's door.
"Tell me what you want. Who are you? And where's my partner?" His questions were met with silence. The voice seemed to be coming from the light in the ceiling. He stared at the light and pleaded. "Please, tell me where my partner is."
"Move to the back wall," he heard the voice demand.
"I'm not doing nothin' until you answer me," Starsky's voice was still raspy but the volume was increasing, along with his anger. The light was turned off. Starsky was now standing in total darkness and he could have sworn that his heart skipped a beat. He stood completely still, ready for anything.
Stan turned the light in Starsky's room back on as soon as Eric was back in the control room. "Your door is unlocked. There is a glass of water for you."
"I'm not drinking anything you give me."
"You must be thirsty."
"No, I'm not," Starsky lied. He was very thirsty and hungry. He was also leery of eating or drinking anything he was given. He didn't know how long he could hold out.
"Stan, what if we bribe him? Let him see the other one if he drinks the water."
"No. He will know we are trying to drug him."
"We can't threaten him either, can we?"
"You're catching on."
"Then how are we going to get him to drink it?"
"How indeed? What would you do?" Stan asked Eric.
"I think we should play the tape."
"Do you think he will know it's not his partner's screams?"
There was a long silence before Eric understood what Stan meant. "Starsky is a cop, an officer. He would risk his life to save others not just his partner, right?"
"Do you want to test that theory?"
"Indeed, I do."
Starsky opened the door and saw the glass of water sitting on the floor. He was thirsty but he had been poisoned too many times to fall for this trick. He didn't touch the glass. He yelled as loud as his voice would allow, "I'm not drinking this." He went back into his room closing the door behind him. When he closed his door, he heard it automatically lock behind him. He put his head against the wall and sighed, "Just tell me what you want."
He heard a man screaming, "Help me. Please, somebody help me!"
Starsky jumped to his feet. He forgot the door had been locked and he tried to open it. "Damn it!" He said as he hit it.
"No. Please, don't. Please," the man said.
Starsky shut his eyes and tried to figure out where the man was. It sounded like it was coming from a room on the other side of the wall on his left. "What are you doing to him? Stop it. Stop it, you bastard." He felt totally helpless. He was locked inside this room and couldn't do anything to help. The screaming stopped and Starsky took a deep breath.
"That man has expired," Starsky heard the mechanical voice say.
"Let's play the next one."
"Give him a minute. Look."
Eric looked at the monitor and saw Starsky sitting against the wall. His knees were drawn up to his chest and his head was resting on them. It wasn't long before Starsky let his rage take over. He stood up and started hitting the walls again.
"Mr. Starsky, the door will be unlocked again and I would advise you to drink the water," the same voice said. Eric unlocked Starsky's door a second time.
Starsky froze. It was a full minute before he heard another man screaming. He took a deep breath and knew what he had to do. He slowly opened the door and picked up the glass of water. He hesitated as he put his lips on the rim of the glass. He smelled the water. "I can assure you, Mr. Starsky, it's only water." He heard the voice tell him.
He took a deep breath and chugged the entire glass. Only when he finished the last drop did the screams stop. It was replaced by the same voice repeating, "thank you, thank you," over and over again several times. Starsky stumbled a few feet before collapsing onto the floor.
Hutch was sitting on the floor with his long legs stretched out in front of him. He was staring at the light hanging from the ceiling when he heard the door being unlocked. He jumped to his feet and ran toward the door, opening it he saw another room no bigger than a small closet and it was dark. His eyes grew wide, his jaw dropped and his heart sank when he saw Starsky on a monitor through a window. "Starsky, no!" He yelled. He put his hands on the mirror. "No." Starsky was lying on the cold hard floor and he was covered in blood. Hutch began hitting the window hoping to break it. Tears were streaming down his face.
Hutch tossed and turned in his bed. His pillow was wet from his tears and sweat when he jolted upright. He took several deep breaths and wiped the sweat from his forehead. He threw the covers off and sat on the edge of the bed. He couldn't shake the fear the nightmare left him with. The vision of seeing Starsky lying on floor covered in blood was still fresh in his mind. He laughed at himself and shook his head. He put on his light blue jogging suit and went on his morning run.
"How long do you think it will take him realize that we have his partner?" Stan asked Eric. They watched as Hutch turned the corner.
"The vision of seeing his partner like that will haunt him. He's going to call Starsky after his run," Eric answered.
Eric was right. Hutch cut his run short when the visions from the previous night would not vacate his thoughts. "I know this is stupid," he mumbled as he opened the door. He picked up the phone, changed his mind about calling, and put it down before dialing. The vision of Starsky flashed in his mind again and he picked it up again and dialed Starsky's number. He was risking Starsky's wrath for calling him before noon on their day off, but Hutch just had to hear Starsky's voice. He had to make sure his partner was alright. The phone rang…and…rang…and rang. Hutch finally gave up and hung up after five minutes had passed. He didn't bother taking a shower or even to change clothes.
"I see you were right, Eric. He tried to call his partner and now he's going to Starsky's apartment to see if he is there." Stan and Eric were observing Hutch from across the street.
"He won't find the Torino, we have that well hidden. Will he think Starsky is enjoying his day off, or will he continue to look for him?" Eric asked. He watched Hutch put the tear drop light on the roof of his car and take off down the street. "He knows his partner is missing. It will be exciting to see how he goes about finding him."
"That is the point of the experiment, Eric."
"When are we going to leave him the clue?"
"I want to observe him a couple of days and see what he comes up with on his own. You need to get back to Starsky and I need to hurry if I'm going to see Hutchinson at Starsky's."
"When will you return?"
"I'll be back by five."
"I hope I have something interesting to report."
"I'm sure you will, as will I."
Eric turned the monitor on. Starsky was still lying on the floor in the same position he was when Hutch saw him. He was also still covered in red goo that resembled blood. It wasn't long before he saw Starsky moving his head. "That's good, wake up now we have work to do," he whispered. Starsky blinked his eyes a few times before they were fully opened. Eric picked up the mic and said, "Good morning, Mr. Starsky. You seem to be a bit messy."
Starsky sat up and looked at his hands then his clothes. He brought his hand up to his nose and smelled it. "Ketchup. Why would you cover me in ketchup?" He didn't really expect an answer and he didn't receive one. Starsky stood up and wiped the ketchup off his hands on his blue jeans. He looked at the light and held his hands out in front of him, palms up. "What now? What do you want me to do now?"
"What would you do to save your partner?"
"Hutch? What have you done to Hutch? Where is he? If you harmed one hair on his head…"
"You'll what? You are in no position do much of anything. I repeat, what would do to save your partner?"
"Anything. Just tell me what you want me to do."
"Would you die for him?"
"Yes," Starsky replied without hesitation.
"I want you to face the back corner."
Starsky walked to the back of the room. Just before he faced the corner he said, "So, you're going to shoot me in the back. You're nothing but a coward." He started to face the corner but stopped. "How do I know you haven't killed him already?"
"I can assure you, that he is very much alive. And if you do as I say, he will stay that way. I can also assure you that I have no intentions of shooting you in the back. Come on, Mr. Starsky, give me a little more credit than that."
"I want proof that Hutch is still alive before I do anything."
"Fair enough. I'm going to unlock your door and allow you to see him on a monitor that is set up in the next room. Face the corner and do not turn around until you are instructed. If you move, your partner will be executed."
Starsky bit his lower lip as he faced the corner. He was trembling on the inside but showed very little emotion. He would die for Hutch without thinking twice. What scared him the most was that whoever this lunatic was, he was telling Hutch the same thing. He stood in the corner like a school kid who was in trouble for throwing a spit wad at his teacher. His heart raced when he heard the door being unlocked. He wanted to take his chances and run for the door, but he knew that would be a death sentence for Hutch. So he stood perfectly still in the corner. He had to remind himself to breathe. It seemed like it took an eternity for the door to be unlocked when in all actuality, it was less than a minute. As soon as Eric gave the word, Starsky ran for the door and rushed into the other room. He saw a small window and when he looked through it he could see Hutch on a monitor that was sitting on a table in another room. He felt relieved to see that Hutch was very much alive. He was in a small room, much like his own. He was leaning against a wall with his legs stretched out in front of him. Starsky saw pieces of rope on the floor in front of Hutch. He also saw a small blue cloth that looked like the blindfold he took off himself. Starsky slowly reached his hand out and touched the window. "Hutch," he whispered. The monitor in the other room went dark and Starsky could no longer see Hutch. He yelled, "Hutch! Hutch!" He pounded his fists on the window.
"You saw him, you know he's still alive. I want you to look down. I left you a present." Starsky looked down and saw a gun lying on the floor. Thinking it was a trap, he resisted the urge to pick it up. "Go on, pick up the gun."
Starsky slowly bent down and picked the gun up with his left hand. "You know what I'd like to do with this?"
"I can imagine; but there are precautions in place to assure that you will not shoot me."
"What sort of precautions?" Starsky asked grateful for the conversation. He was hoping to keep his captor talking. The more he talked to Starsky, the greater the chances of humanizing himself and Hutch. And that would increase their chances of making it out alive.
"You have exactly five seconds to get back to your room or your friend will die."
Starsky ran through the door and into his room. He looked at the light again and asked, "Now what?"
"You saw your partner, you know he is still alive. Are you still willing to die so that he may live?"
"Yes, without a second thought."
"You have ten seconds to put the gun to your head and pull the trigger."
"You want me to shoot myself."
"I want you to choose. Nine…eight…"
"Choose. I have to choose between us." Starsky put the barrel of the gun against his temple. His hand quivered slightly and he looked at the light, "I choose Hutch to live." He sat down, took a deep breath and pulled the trigger with five seconds to spare.
Eric laughed. "You were really going to kill yourself for him, weren't you?"
Starsky looked totally surprised that he was still alive when he opened his eyes. "I told you I would die for him."
"I must say you are an interesting subject. I'm going to enjoy our time together."
"I'd like to have ten minutes alone with you."
"I bet you would."
"Why don't you open the door, step inside and we'll go a couple of rounds." Starsky was looking at the gun, wishing it had bullets in it. Eric didn't respond. "You know me, tell me about yourself. What's your name?" Again, there was no response. Starsky threw the gun across the room. It bounced on the floor and landed in the far corner. Starsky picked it up thinking he may be able to use it as a weapon to hit is captor, if the opportunity presented itself. He leaned against the wall and slid to the floor.
The door to the control room opened. "Stan, you were right. It was interesting."
"Did he pull the trigger?"
"By the time I counted to five."
"That is exciting. I wish I could have seen the look on his face when he realized the gun was completely empty."
"I will never forget that look. Totally surprised, relieved, and livid all at once."
"Did he ask to see his partner?"
"Yes. Before he would do anything I had to show him the tape on the monitor. He never knew it was just a tape."
"Good, good. Are you ready for tomorrow?"
"Yes, everything's in place. What about Hutchinson? What did he do?"
"Exactly as I suspected. He went to Starsky's place. He didn't waste any time in calling his captain and reporting Starsky's disappearance. I watched the whole thing from across the street. Hutchinson was already in Starsky's apartment by the time I arrived. I heard him calling for him. They put an APB on Starsky."
"His next move will be to go through their cases to see who might want Starsky or Hutchinson out of the way, right?" Eric asked Stan.
"When I left, he was on the way to the station to do just that. I'm afraid that Hutchinson has a long couple of days ahead of him."
"Starsky is not going to have a simple walk in the park himself. Tomorrow, I have more plans for him."
"Let's go feed Mr. Starsky now, shall we?"
"I doubt he will eat or drink anything tonight," Eric stated. He went into the kitchen and came back with a tray of food. He set it front of Starsky's door and left.
"Mr. Starsky, there is a tray of food on the other side of the door. I want you to go get it…"
"Are you kidding me? I'm not eating anything you bastards give me. I'll die in here first. I know you drugged the water yesterday," Starsky began his tirade.
"And do you remember the consequences of not drinking the water when you were first told to do so?"
Starsky started at the light where the voice was coming from. "You really killed a man because I wouldn't drink a glass of water, didn't you?" He didn't wait for a reply. He stood up and took a deep breath. "Just tell me what you want from me and where Hutch is. Is he still alive?"
"Right now, I want you to eat your dinner. It may be the last one you get for a while so I would eat every morsel."
Starsky opened the door and picked up the tray. The tray had a bowl of cold oatmeal and plain toast. There was a paper cup of water as well. He sat down on the floor and set the tray next to him.
"Go on, eat," he heard the mechanical voice say.
Starsky scowled at the voice coming from the light. He put the tray on his lap and swirled the oatmeal with his spoon. He hated oatmeal. It looked like something Hutch would devour without a second thought. After all, Hutch liked all that healthy stuff. He brought the spoon to his lips and forced himself to take a bite. His stomach was disappointed; it wanted a nice thick juicy steak or even a taco. Heck it would have settled for a large plate of spaghetti or a hundred other things; but oatmeal? It wondered what Starsky was thinking and protested by growling loudly. Starsky looked down at his stomach and said, "You'd better be glad you're getting something, my friend. So stop your complaining." He finished the oatmeal and drank some of the water. "I'm all done. What's next?"
"He's anxious," Eric stated.
"He's trapped and getting desperate," Stan replied.
Starsky yelled, "What about Hutch? What about my partner?" There was no answer. Starsky stood up and threw the empty tray across the room. He hit the wall a few more times and sat beside the door. He was tired, frustrated, angry and very worried about his partner. He drew his feet toward his chest, put his elbows on his knees and rested his head in his hands. He muttered, "Just tell me why? Why are you doing this to us?" His questions were met with silence. Starsky curled up and went to sleep.
Just as Stan predicted, Hutch drove to Starsky's place as fast as he could when Starsky didn't answer his phone. Part of him felt silly for being panicked just because Starsky didn't pick up the phone. Heck, it was their day off and it wasn't even noon yet. But when he pulled onto Starsky's street and didn't see the Torino, he knew something was wrong, terribly wrong. It was that moment he knew the nightmare wasn't a nightmare. His gut feeling was right. He knew it was real, all of it. He ran up the steps, took Starsky's spare key out from under the mat and opened the door. Starsky wasn't home and it didn't look like his bed had been slept in. He picked up the phone, called Captain Dobey and told him he had a strange nightmare and that Starsky wasn't home. Captain Dobey immediately put an APB out on Starsky and the Torino and drove himself to Starsky's.
When Captain Dobey arrived, he saw Hutch sitting at the kitchen table. "Hutch?" Captain Dobey sat in the chair next to Hutch. Hutch nodded. "Tell me…" He was interrupted by a uniformed officer. "Maxwell, tell everyone to wait downstairs. I'll be with them in a minute. And don't let anyone else in here."
"Yes, Sir," Officer Maxwell replied. He stopped the others from entering the room and stood guard so no one would disturb the captain and Hutch.
"Tell me what you remember, Hutch."
"Starsky drove me home. The next thing I remember, I woke up with my hands tied behind my back and I was blindfolded. I managed to get untied and removed the blindfold."
"Hutch, describe the room."
Hutch closed his eyes to help him remember. "It was small and cold. I saw a light hanging from the ceiling. I got up and tried to open the door but it was locked."
"What did you do then?"
"I started searching for another way out. A hidden door…something…anything that would help me. I yelled. I asked where Starsky was. I asked what they wanted but no one answered."
"What did you hear? What did you smell? Is there anything else you saw?"
Hutch shook his head. "No, no. I didn't smell anything. I didn't hear anything." Hutch stared off into space.
Hutch nodded as his memory struggled to return. He rubbed his knuckles. "I hit the walls. It was a small room. I saw one door that had a deadbolt lock."
"How long were you in there?"
"I don't know. I don't know. The next thing I remember is seeing Starsky on a monitor through a window. He was lying on the floor and covered in blood and then I woke up in my own bed. I thought it was a dream—a bad dream at first—but it wasn't a dream." Hutch sighed and added, "How am I going to find him, Captain?"
"We've got an APB on him and the Torino. Let the lab come in here and do their thing. We'll search your place too."
Hutch nodded. "When the lab boys finish, I guess I'll go back to the station and look at that list again."
"The list of people who want us out of their way."
"Oh, that list. Sounds like a good place to start. Anyone new on it?"
"No, not recently…well there is that Bennie character we busted a couple of weeks ago. He was pretty mad at us but I don't think he has the smarts to pull off something like this."
Captain Dobey insisted that Hutch go to the hospital to be checked out and he sent a uniformed officer with him to make sure he actually went. It was apparent that he had been drugged and the captain wanted to make sure Hutch was all right.
Hutch fidgeted as he sat in the hard plastic chairs waiting for the nurse to take a sample of his blood. He developed a fear of needles a few years ago and he was nervous. The uniformed officer that was with him had enough sense to keep an eye on Hutch from a distance. It wasn't long before the doctor came back with the results. He said that Hutch was definitely drugged and he would probably have a hard time concentrating for a couple of days but would not have any permanent effects. He said more, but Hutch tuned him out after he heard the words that he would be okay. He thanked the doctor and went to the station. He searched through a stack of files. Starsky and Hutch were good cops who had been on the streets a long time and in that time they had made a lot of enemies; enemies that wanted them both dead. Hutch was still at the station at 0200 when Huggy walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, Blondie?"
Hutch turned around. Dark circles were forming under his eyes from the lack of sleep and staring at the files for hours on end. "Hug, what are you doing here?"
"Captain Dobey called me just before closing time. He said you were still here and wanted me to make sure you…it's late, Hutch. You know you won't be doing Starsky any good like this. Let me drive you home."
Hutch shook his head. "I got to find him, Hug. Dea…" Hutch couldn't bring himself to think the worst. "I've got to find him."
Huggy sat down and picked up a stack of files. "What are we looking for?"
Hutch gave Huggy a half grin and said, "I don't know. Just look for something that will tell me who took my partner."
"Why did they let you go?"
"I don't know. Maybe they only wanted him."
"Maybe they wanted to make you pay for something."
"Me? If they wanted me, why did they let me go?"
"Think about it, Hutch. Hurting Starsky is the best way to…"
"Get back at me for something," Hutch finished Huggy's train of thought.
It was almost 0400 before Huggy convinced Hutch to go home. Huggy promised he would keep his ears and eyes open for any information. The lab boys had gone through every inch of both Starsky's and Hutch's apartment and couldn't find anything.
"He's still asleep, Stan." Eric said when he entered the control room and saw Starsky on the monitor.
"Are you ready for the next experiment?"
"Yes. I put the tape just outside the door with his morning tray."
"Good. We know he will follow orders to save someone else's life. Now let's see what it takes to break him. What color ball did you use?"
"I put the yellow one on the tray."
"I think it's time we drop their names and call them by their numbers, don't you?" Stan asked.
"I agree. I love that part. The subjects get so angry when we refer to them by just a number."
"It demoralizes them." Stan pushed the mic and said, "Time to wake up number ten."
Starsky had been in a deep sleep. He was dreaming that he was on a sailboat with Hutch and they each had a lovely lady in their arms. The warm rays of the sun felt good on his face. The spray from the ocean water was cool and refreshing. He was laughing at something Hutch said and felt happy. In the distance he heard a voice demanding that he do something but he couldn't quite make out what it was. Then he heard a loud ear-piercing sound. He grabbed his ears to quiet the noise. "I'm up, I'm up. Turn that down, will ya?"
Stan nodded at Eric who turned a knob on the panel in front of him. Starsky removed his hands from his ears. He looked at the light and said, "That's better. What's the big deal waking me up in the middle of a wonderful dream?"
"Number ten, you will open the door and retrieve your food tray," Starsky heard the mechanical voice tell him.
Starsky started to hesitate but the memory of the voice telling him that a man had been terminated because he didn't drink the water flashed through his mind. "I'm going. I'm going, don't kill anyone over it." He totally ignored being called number ten. He figured that was just a mind game his captor was playing to irritate him. He stood up and stretched. Sleeping on the floor left him sore. His back and neck ached. He opened the door and picked up the tray. He brought the tray back into his room and sat on the floor. "Oatmeal again." He looked at the light, "Thanks. How did you know oatmeal is one of my favorite foods?" He tried to sound genuinely sincere. He didn't succeed.
"Do you see the tape recorder?"
"Yeah, I saw it. And I saw the yellow ball too. What about them?"
"I want you to play the tape."
Starsky froze. Was Hutch's murder recorded on the tape? Would he hear Hutch being tortured by this lunatic? His hand shook slightly as he picked the small tape recorder up and pushed the play button. What he heard was a man yelling for help. He was begging for him to drink the water. "So, you didn't really kill anyone. You just used it so I would drink that poison for whatever reason."
"The results were exactly as predicted," the mechanical voice said.
"Results!" Starsky stood up and started pacing. "I get it, you locked me in here as part of some sort of test. I'm being used as a guinea pig for some sort of experiment, right? What about Hutch? Where's Hutch?"
"Number nine is not part of this phase of the experiment."
Starsky's whole body trembled. If Hutch wasn't part of this experiment, then where was he? What were they doing to him? "His name is Hutch. Ken Hutchinson. He's not a number."
"Interesting, Stan. He didn't mind us calling him number ten."
"You will have fun today. I'm going to follow his partner a while and see what he's doing. I believe I shall be out quite late. I won't return until I'm sure number nine is settled for the night."
Eric nodded. He pushed the mic and asked, "Tell me, what color ball is on the tray, number ten?"
"Yellow." Again, Starsky ignored be referred to as a number.
"I say it's blue," Eric said. He pushed the button that turned on the loud noise again. This time he turned the volume up two notches.
Starsky put his hands over his ears and curled up in the fetal position. The noise was so high pitched and loud his whole body vibrated. "Okay, you want it to be blue, it's blue."
"What color is it really? Be honest."
Starsky realized this was another mind game. He was done with games and decided not to play. He took a couple of deep breaths, removed his hands from his ears and clenched his teeth so tightly they hurt. He stood up and started jogging around the room. He tuned out most of the sound and instead concentrated on jogging. He was in the park jogging with Hutch beside him. He closed his eyes and it almost seemed real. Even when the noise became louder, Starsky did not respond to it.
Eric had not counted on Starsky's reaction and he didn't like it one bit. He was sure Starsky would insist the ball was yellow for a while then he would move to the next phase. But Starsky was no longer responding to any of his demands. No matter how loud he turned up the noise. This was both very frustrating and interesting to Eric. None of their other subjects had acted like this. He would have to change tactics and try something else. "Number ten?" Starsky didn't respond. He didn't even flinch. Starsky was used to jogging long distances. Hutch had him running quite often to keep in shape. He smiled as he remembered telling Hutch once that running in circles was dumb. He stopped after an hour long enough to take a sip of the water that was on his tray. He hadn't worked up a good sweat yet. He looked right at the camera in the light fixture and smirked before he went back to the park. To make it more realistic he even yelled, "Hutch, wait up."
Eric let this charade go on for hours. Starsky started jogging in different patterns. He would jog across the room then he would jog around the room. He even ran in place for at least an hour. Starsky had more stamina and determination than anyone Eric had ever seen before. It would be a shame to have to kill him when he was finished with him. Eric turned the loud noise off. "Number ten, you proved you can jog in circles, congratulations." Starsky didn't respond; he kept jogging as if he was enjoying it. "Let's see how you like the dark." Eric turned the light off.
Starsky stopped. The room was now completely dark. Starsky remembered the time he sat in the darkness for an hour and listened to the TV. He had temporarily blinded a young woman and wanted to feel what it was like to be blind. He didn't like it then and he didn't like it now. He did have an advantage though. He had been jogging in the small room for hours and knew it was six steps long in length and four steps in width. He slid his left foot forward then his right. He did that until he felt his foot tap the food tray. He sat down and fumbled around until he found the glass of water after almost knocking it over. He took a couple of sips of water and swished it around in his mouth. He wanted to make it last as long as he could. He wasn't sure when he'd get more, especially if he didn't cooperate with his captor. As much as he hated oatmeal, he found the bowl of the mush and tried to take a bite. The spoon hit the bottom of his chin and it went all over the front of his shirt. For the second bite he had one finger on the end of the spoon as he guided it to his lips. He knew his captor was probably watching him with some kind of night goggles or something so he pretended to be enjoying the darkness. After he finished his meal he leaned against the wall and started singing. He started with 'Black Bean Soup' just because it was a song that Hutch liked. He always liked Hutch's voice and wished he could hear it now. He wondered if he would ever hear it again. He continued to sing until his voice was hoarse. His back was against the wall and he fell asleep. Eric allowed Starsky to sleep. He wanted Starsky to lose track of time and letting him sleep in the middle of the day and keeping him awake at night would do just that.
Stan saw Hutch's car in front of Venice place. He drove past it, parked down the street and waited for Hutch to emerge. He was surprised that the detective was still home. He thought he would be at the station or at Starsky's looking for clues of his partner's whereabouts. He never imagined he'd still be home asleep with his partner still missing. He leaned his head on the headrest and watched the apartment. It was a full hour before Hutch materialized. He had his car keys in his hands and walked very quickly. He got in his car and drove off. Stan was careful not to follow too closely. He followed Hutch to The Pits. He parked on the other side of the street and watched as Hutch went inside.
Hutch sat in a booth and Huggy joined him. "Well?" Huggy asked.
"I'm pretty sure. I'll know more when Babcock gets here."
"Did you tell Captain Dobey yet?"
"Hell no. He'd never agree to it."
"Are you…scratch that. I know you're sure you want to do this."
"Hug, will you bring me an iced tea?"
"Yeah, sure." Huggy toddled to the back.
Babcock entered through the back door and looked around for Hutch. He nodded when he saw him. He sat across from Hutch in the booth. Huggy saw Babcock when he walked through the kitchen and brought him an ice tea too. Huggy sat next to Hutch. "You were right, Hutch. What do you want to do now?"
"The last thing I want to do is to let Dobey know anything. He'll never go for it." He took a sip of his tea. "If you and Simmons want to back out before you get in any deeper, I'll understand."
"Back out. Shit, Hutch, we didn't agree to help you to back out now. You know us better than that."
Hutch smiled and gave Babcock a friendly pat on the hand. "Thanks. I feel better knowing someone's got my back going into this."
"Don't you worry. We got your back, Hutch. I just hope Starsky's okay."
"You and me both," Hutch replied.
"How did you figure out what was going on anyway?"
"I had the feeling that I was being followed since it all began. And Huggy called me early this morning and remembered something his cousin told him.
"My cousin, Maurice, lives back east. I remembered a story he told me he read in the paper. It seems these two dudes were taking people off the streets. Not just anyone, mind you. They took people who had a bond like twins, a married couple, brothers and close friends. People like that, you know." Huggy took a deep breath and looked at Hutch.
"It's okay. Go on," Hutch said.
"The last pair they kidnapped managed to escape. They told the police that they never saw who had them but they used them for experiments."
"What kind of experiments?" Babcock asked.
"Weird psychological ones. They wanted to test the bond between them. Weird stuff. They tried to get them to hurt each other. They would give one food and told him if he shared it the other one would die."
"He's right. I made a call this morning and there were six bodies that turned up. They were found in pairs and were related or friends. The murders and kidnapping stopped about a month ago. I think Starsky and I are numbers nine and ten. The local police believe it's not someone working alone. It's at least two men involved."
"Why did they let you go?" Babcock asked.
"Maybe it's a new experiment they wanted to try. They want to watch me look for my partner. God only knows what they're doing to him."
"Yeah. I hope your plan works," Babcock said. He finished his tea and set the glass down in front of him.
"Let's get this show on the road, shall we?" Hutch said as he downed the last of his tea.
Just as Hutch was about to open the door and leave he heard Huggy call his name. "Yeah, Hug?"
"Be careful. I want you both back."
Hutch nodded, mumbled, "yeah" and left The Pits. He walked slowly to his car. He knew he was being followed. He was a damn good detective and could feel eyes on him a mile away. He knew it was the man in light blue four-door sedan parked across the street. He'd seen that car on his street less than an hour ago. He also noticed Simmons sitting in his own car waiting to follow the follower. Hutch unlocked his door and got inside. He wanted to avoid his captain and he didn't want to go back to his place so he drove to Starsky's. He prayed that whoever was conducting these experiments would kidnap him again and take him back to Starsky.
Stan followed Hutch back to Starsky's place. He parked four houses down the street. "No, number nine, he's still not home," he muttered as he turned the ignition switch off.
Simmons parked at the corner of Starsky's street and waited and watched. Babcock changed into sweat pants and jogged up and down the street a couple of times. He stayed on the other side of the street from the man that was following Hutch but managed to get a pretty good look at him. He jogged around the block and came through Starsky's back door. "I got a good look at him, Hutch. He's middle aged, I'd say about late fifty's early sixties. Gray hair and he's wearing a business suit."
"A business suit?"
"I know weird, isn't it?" He handed Hutch the license tag number.
"Are you sure he's going to kidnap you again?"
"No. But whoever they are, aren't about to just leave me alone. They're bound to know that I'll never stop looking for Starsky. I'm betting they will watch me look for Starsky a couple of days then take me again." He huffed and rubbed his hair. "Heck, they may let Starsky go and watch him look for me next."
"Hutch, stick to a routine, make it easier for him to catch you."
"He saw me today at The Pits, he saw me come here and he knows where I live. The way I figure it, if he wants me he won't risk anyone seeing him. He'll probably try something here or at my place. I'll spend the majority of my time here."
"And we'll be ready for him."
"Just make sure you let him take me to Starsky before you move in."
"You got it. Hutch, think about this. He's not going to be able to watch you twenty-four hours a day. If Simmons follows him, he may lead him to where they're holding Starsky. If he does, then we'll catch him before anything happens to you."
"Yeah, that's a good idea. Why didn't I think of that?"
"Because you haven't slept since this whole thing began and you may still be suffering some of the effects from whatever they drugged you with."
"I can't stand just waiting. I'm going to the station and see what I can dig up on that other case from back east."
"What about Dobey? I thought you wanted to avoid him."
"I do, but I've got to check this out. I can't avoid him forever. He doesn't have to know everything I'm up to. Besides, I want to run this tag."
"We'll keep our eyes on you, Hutch. Even if you can't see us, we won't be far away."
"Thanks, Babcock." Hutch headed to the station with Stan not too far behind him. Hutch wanted to stop the car. He wanted to get his hands on the man following him and demand to know where he was holding Starsky. But there was no telling what his partner would do to Starsky.
While Stan was watching Hutch search for Starsky, Eric was busy with his subject. Starsky fell asleep when he turned the light off. He left Starsky in complete darkness for several hours. What Eric didn't know, was that Starsky had a unique ability to sleep just about any time or any place. When Starsky woke up and noticed he was still in total darkness, he mumbled, "That's nice," and went back to sleep.
Eric was surprised by Starsky's reaction again. All of his other subjects were afraid of the darkness, but Starsky didn't seem to be bothered by it at all. Eric took that as a personal challenge to see what it would take to break Starsky. He was still intrigued by Starsky's reaction yesterday when asked about the color of the ball. Eric already knew that Starsky would do anything to save his partner and he decided to use that to his advantage for another little experiment. He turned the light back on. "Number ten, I want you to stand up now and move away from the door."
Starsky sat up and looked at the light. "Whatever happened to Mr. Starsky, uh?"
"You no longer have a name. Now stand away from the door."
Starsky didn't budge. "I made a decision last night."
"And what was that?" Eric asked.
"I decided that I am no longer going to play your games." He looked at the ball that was still on the tray. "It's still yellow." Starsky stood up and started jogging again. He decided instead of the park, he would go to the beach this time. He took a deep breath and shut his eyes as he visualized the salt air spraying on his face and the warm sand under his feet. He could even smell the food in the air from the street vendors. He forced himself to open his eyes and smile as he jogged. He was grateful that Hutch taught him a long time ago how to meditate and escape to places in his mind. He made a mental note to properly thank Hutch for that later. He never forgot he was being held captive in a very small room and he was worried about Hutch. Asking about Hutch was getting him nowhere. In fact his tormentor seemed to enjoy his concern.
Eric wondered how long Starsky could keep jogging in that small room. He had jogged a long time the day before. Eric did not give Starsky anything else to eat or drink. He watched Starsky jog a couple of hours. "You are a determined and very interesting subject, number ten," he muttered to himself.
Starsky knew he couldn't keep that pace up. Without knowing when or if he would be given water or food again, he would have to save his strength. He stopped jogging and sat next to the door. There was still a little water in the cup from the night before. At least he thought it was the night before and not longer. He was losing track of the days. He drank the last sip that was in the cup and looked at his stomach. "Well I hope you enjoyed that, you might not get anymore for a while." Starsky was worried about Hutch and he missed his company. No matter what trouble they got into, they always managed to get out of it together. He thought about all the mindless games he forced Hutch endure when they were on long stakeouts and chuckled aloud. "I wish you were here with me now, Buddy. I sure could use you," he whispered. He slammed his fist on the floor then looked at the ceiling and in a soft voice, "God, please, please let Hutch be okay."
Watching Starsky gave Eric an idea. "Number ten, you proved you are willing to die for your partner. I wonder…I wonder if you would kill for him." he said aloud to no one in particular. He grinned and turned the loud noise back on.
Starsky curled up in the fetal position and turned his back away from the light. He tore two small pieces of his shirt off and stuffed them in his ears hoping they would act like ear plugs. Hutch will be proud I thought of this, he thought to himself. It didn't completely block out all of the noise but he was surprised how much noise it did block out. He allowed himself to grin slightly at the accomplishment. He pretended to go back to sleep.
Eric set up the next experiment which was to be carried out in the room with the two-way mirror. It was 0100 and he was hoping Stan would return in time to see his latest experiment. He closed the door and smiled. "Don't worry, Stan. It will all be on the video."
Starsky was walking around in the room when Eric returned to the control room. Eric had left the loud noise on but Starsky didn't seem to be paying any attention to it. He turned the noise off and said, "Number ten. I have a task for you." Starsky ignored him. "This time it does involve your par…number nine."
Starsky stopped walking and looked at the light. "What is it this time?"
"Glad to see I have your attention again. I want you to go in the other room. There is a note on the table that will tell you exactly what to do."
"If I don't?"
"Then there will no longer be a number nine."
Starsky hated games and didn't want to participate in any more of them, but he would do anything to save Hutch's life. He wondered what was in store for him this time. "You have five seconds," the voice told him.
"I'm going. Don't get your panties in a bunch." He opened his door and stepped into the other room. He saw a note on a small round table. He picked it up and read it. "No. No way," he said as he put the note back down. Another light was turned on and Starsky saw a two-way mirror. Instead of a monitor, Starsky saw a man tied to a chair. His hands were tied behind his back and the man had a black hood over his head. The note said that he was supposed to stick the barrel of the gun through a small hole in the window and kill the man. If he didn't, then Hutch would expire. What lunatic would use the word expire for killing someone, Starsky thought. "So I have to kill someone who has done nothing or you will kill Hutch, is that it?"
"Exactly. I will give you some time to think about it."
"I don't suppose you'd like to sit in the chair?" Starsky asked. Eric chuckled to himself but did not reply.
Starsky stared at the man in the chair. He watched him for several seconds before picking up the gun. "Yes, number ten, the gun is loaded with a single bullet. But if you fire at anything other than your target, your friend will pay the price or if you miss, your friend will pay the price."
Starsky nodded that he understood his instructions. He slowly put the barrel of the gun through the small hole in the bottom corner of the glass.
Hutch didn't return home until midnight. He ran the tag number that Babcock gave him but it was a dead end. It belonged to a rental company and was stolen three days prior. He slowly pulled in front of his apartment fully aware that he was being followed. Hutch had been followed all day. But he knew that Simmons and Babcock were not far away. He walked up the stairs and unlocked his door. He opened the refrigerator and took out a beer. He popped the top and sat on the couch. It was going to be a long, long night. He put his feet on the coffee table and took a swig of the beer. Now, all he had to do was wait. He hated waiting—especially when Starsky's life was on the line. He was waiting for the man who had been following him all day to either try to kidnap him or to give up for the night and go back to whatever rock he climbed out from under. The plan was for Simmons to follow the man if he did leave. Babcock would get Hutch and keep in contact on the radio with Simmons.
Hutch finished the beer and turned the light off. Hoping if the man in the shadows thought he turned in for the night he would make his move. Finally, at 0130, Hutch heard a light knock on the door. "Hutch, it's me," Babcock called out.
Hutch jumped up and opened the door. "What's going on?"
"Just as we thought, he left. Simmons is following him now. With any luck, he'll lead us to Starsky."
Hutch grabbed his jacket off the couch, "I hope so." He followed Babcock down the stairs and got in the passenger side. Hutch grabbed the mic and said, "Zebra three to Zebra five switch to tac 2."
Simmons turned his radio to the private channel. "Zebra three, Hutch, I've got him in my sight. He just turned left onto Morris Avenue."
"Don't worry, Hutch, he doesn't know I'm following him."
"Sorry, I'm just wired."
"He just took a right on Greenview. Hutch, I think I know where he's headed."
"Padded room. I was in a padded room. He's going to the old mental institution on Grove Street. It closed years ago."
"Of course Bay City State Mental Institution," Babcock said.
"I should have thought of that before," Hutch yelled. He was mad at himself and hit the dash.
"Hutch, it's okay. We'll get him. I know a short cut," Babcock said and he took a sharp right turn. He took the mic, "Simmons, I'm taking a short cut. We'll be there by the time you are. Be careful."
"I hear ya, Partner. You be careful. Are you going to call for backup?"
Hutch nodded and keyed the mic, "Yeah. I'll call it in." He turned the radio back to the main channel. "Zebra three to dispatch."
"Dispatch, go ahead, Zebra three."
"Zebra three and Zebra five are requesting back up at the old Bay City Mental Institution. Tell everyone not to come in until I give the word. And call Captain Dobey and tell him I believe Starsky is there. Please."
"Ten-four, Zebra three."
Babcock turned his headlights off as pulled up and parked around back so he wouldn't be seen. Hutch drew his weapon and ran to the door. It was locked. Babcock took a small black case from his pocket and said, "I got this, Hutch." He opened the case and took out a small silver tool. It looked like something a dentist would use. He wiggled it inside the lock and the door opened. "Piece of cake," he told Hutch quietly closing the door behind him.
Hutch and Babcock started making their way through the first floor when they heard what sounded like a door being opened at the far end of the hall. They ducked into an open room. They heard footsteps approaching and held their breath as they saw a shadowy figure walk by. Babcock recognized it as Simmons and slowly opened the door. "Pssst, Simmons."
Simmons jumped and turned around, "Don't do that to me."
Babcock snickered. "Where is he?"
"You mean he didn't come by here?"
Hutch and Babcock shook their heads. "No," they said.
"Where the hell did he go? I followed him through that door there's no other doors. He had to come this way." Simmons said.
"He didn't," Babcock said.
"I don't know, but let's keep looking for Starsky. We'll worry about him later." Hutch said.
"Okay, Hutch. I think we should stick together," Babcock said.
"I do too," Simmons replied.
Hutch opened the door ajar and looked up and down the hallway. "We've covered most of this floor. Let's move upstairs."
They ran down the hall to the stairwell. They stopped at the door. Babcock opened it slowly and peeked inside. Not seeing anything, they ran up the steps to the second floor. They started opening every door. Some were unlocked some were locked. The locked doors were easy for Babcock to pick. They saw nothing; they heard nothing. The rooms were all plain white rooms with padded walls. Hutch opened his tenth door and this room was different. It had a door at the other end and it was not padded. There was a two-way mirror in it too. He looked in the mirror and saw what looked like someone tied up and slumped over in a chair. His heart skipped a beat. He took a deep breath and whispered, "Starsky's bigger. It's not him." He motioned for Babcock and Simmons to come in.
"Simmons, I think just one of us should go in there. We don't want someone to come along and lock us in there," Hutch said.
"Good idea," Simmons and Babcock responded. Simmons and Babcock both waited outside in the hall.
Hutch tried the door and finding it was locked, he picked the lock.
Starsky was surprised when he heard the door being opened. He jumped up and stood ready to jump his captor. When the door opened he yelled and took a swing at Hutch. Hutch threw his arm up and blocked the blow. "Starsk, it's me. It's me, Buddy."
Starsky put his arm down. "Hutch?"
Hutch embraced Starsky, "It's okay, Buddy. I'm here."
"Yeah, I'm fine. You?"
Starsky rubbed his hair and looked at his jeans that still had the ketchup smeared on them. "It's just ketchup. I could use a cold beer and nice big juicy steak, but yeah I'm okay."
"Let's get out of here."
"Starsk, who is that in the other room?"
"Oh, you mean the man slumped over in the chair?"
"Yeah, that one."
"I shot him."
"You shot him?"
"Well I was told that if I didn't shoot him, you would be killed."
"Oh, let me finish."
"It's a dummy, Hutch."
"Yeah, a mannequin."
"How'd you figure that out?"
"I watched him a minute before I shot him."
"He didn't breathe, Hutch. I knew he was either dead already, or it was a dummy. Besides, his legs are too skinny. It had to be a dummy."
"Do you know where they went?"
"They? You mean it's more than one of them?"
"As much as we can tell, there are at least two of them."
"We? Whose we? And where have you been? How did you escape?"
"Babcock and Simmons are with me. Starsk, let's talk about all this later. We gotta get you out of here."
"I found this at your place. Thought you might want it back," Hutch said as he removed Starsky's Beretta from his waistband.
Starsky took his weapon and tucked it at the small of his back. "Thanks."
They left the room and stepped into the hallway. "Starsky, I'm glad we found you," Simmons said.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for coming after me."
"Hey, no problem, Starsk," Simmons said.
"Let's get out of here. I want to go home," Starsky said.
"Where's Babcock?" Hutch enquired.
"When we heard you talking to Starsky, he went outside to radio for the other units to move in."
When they stepped, outside they the building was surrounded. Babcock was talking to Captain Dobey. "There they are, Captain." Babcock said as he pointed to the three men walking out of the front door. Uniformed officers were entering the building to search it for the suspects.
"Are you alright, Starsky?" The Captain asked.
Starsky nodded, "I'm fine, Cap'n."
"Babcock told me whoever was following you, Hutch, got away."
Hutch shook his head. "Yeah. I hope we find him and whoever had Starsky." He turned and looked at the building. "He's got to be in there somewhere."
"Did you ever see who…" Hutch started to ask.
Starsky shook his head. "I never saw anyone except you on a monitor in that other room. I heard a voice though."
"What did it sound like?" Captain Dobey asked.
"Mechanical," Starsky and Hutch replied at the same time.
Starsky looked at Hutch. "Would you mind telling me what exactly is going on? I thought you were in another room being tortured or something."
"Starsk, I was in there. I was taken the same night you were. I was hit on the head," Hutch rubbed the back of his head. "Then I was drugged."
"How did you escape?"
"What do you mean, you didn't."
"The door opened and I went into another room." Hutch looked at the ground and took a deep breath. He continued, "I saw you through a two-way mirror lying on the floor. I thought you were covered in blood. Next thing I knew, I woke up in my own bed. I thought I dreamed it. It didn't take me long to realize you were missing."
"I saw you on a monitor and…" Starsky looked at the captain and the other two detectives and then back at Hutch. "I'll tell you later. Let's just say, we were used at some sort of twisted experiments." Starsky gave Hutch a glance that told Hutch Starsky didn't want to go into details in front of an audience. Hutch's look back let Starsky know that it was okay and they would talk about it later.
"Hutch, why don't you take Starsky home? You both could use some rest. Come in tomorrow after you've had a good night's sleep," Captain Dobey said.
Starsky and Hutch looked at the building as more officers entered. "Starsk," Hutch said as he put his hand on Starsky's shoulder.
Starsky glanced at the captain then at Hutch. "I know, Buddy. They're not going to find them, are they?"
Hutch was in the kitchen getting salami out of the refrigerator when he heard screams coming from his partner's bedroom. He closed the refrigerator door and was in Starsky's room in an instant. He saw Starsky rolling from side-to-side in the bed fighting with the covers and he was yelling, "No, don't. I'll do it."
Hutch sat on the edge of the bed and said softly, "Starsk, it's okay. You're safe."
Starsky was still breathing heavily when he opened his eyes and stared at Hutch. Somehow looking at Hutch made everything all right. No matter what trouble they were in, Starsky knew if Hutch was there everything would work out. After all, they had gotten out of some pretty sticky situations. If Hutch was telling him he was safe, then he knew he was safe. He trusted Hutch with his life. He nodded his head to acknowledge he understood what Hutch was telling him. With the visions of the nightmare still fresh on his mind he couldn't speak. Breathe, Starsk. He kept telling himself. He took a couple more deep breaths and rubbed his face. "I'm okay, thanks."
"You sure?" Hutch asked as he patted Starsky's leg.
"Yeah." Starsky looked around his room. "What time is it anyway?"
"Almost noon." Hutch stood up.
Starsky quickly pulled the sheets back and put his feet on the floor. "Hey, take it easy there, Partner. What's your hurry?"
"They didn't find them, did they, Hutch?"
Hutch walked to the doorway and leaned against it. He sighed and said, "Captain Dobey called a few minutes ago."
"Just as we thought, they didn't find them."
"What do we do now, huh? I mean how do…"
"First, you and I are going to have a long talk over breakfast."
Hutch didn't answer. He turned around and went back into the kitchen.
Starsky didn't want to tell Hutch everything that he'd gone through. He also knew his tall blonde partner would nag him until he told him everything. It wasn't like he felt he couldn't talk to Hutch, heck they could talk to each other about anything. He just didn't want Hutch to feel guilty about anything. Hutch had a way of believing everything bad that happened was somehow his fault. He got out of bed and went into the bathroom. The hot water felt good. Starsky always felt like a nice long shower washed away a part of the bad visions and feelings working in the big city left him with. Each shower was like a new beginning, like going to sleep exhausted and waking up full of energy and fully rested. When he finally turned the water off, he was ready to talk to Hutch.
Hutch had breakfast ready and was just putting the plates on the table. "Bout time."
Starsky shrugged as he sat down. "Smells good, thanks."
"You're welcome. I thought you could use a good meal."
"Starsk, we don't have much time to dance around this so I'll start." Starsky nodded. "I saw you on a monitor. You were lying on the floor covered in blood. The next thing I knew, I woke up at my place." He took a sip of his coffee. "I thought it was a dream."
"Hutch it's not your fault."
"I went jogging, Starsk. I should have started looking for you!" Hutch was angry at himself for not realizing sooner that what he thought was a nightmare wasn't and it showed.
"I knew it."
"That you would blame yourself."
"I should have known."
Starsky poked the yellow yolk of the egg with his fork. "Hutch, I would have done the same thing. Like you said, we don't have much time if we're going to find whoever is behind all this so tell me what happened next."
Hutch told Starsky about going to his place when he didn't answer the phone. He explained how he knew he was being followed and he talked Simmons and Babcock into helping him.
"That must have sucked, Hutch. Not knowing where I was and being followed yourself. No wonder you looked like hell yourself when you found me this morning."
"I gotta tell you, Starsk, I was worried."
"I know you were. I was worried about you too. I thought they were telling you the same thing…" Starsky's words trailed off.
"Which was? It's your turn, Starsk. And don't leave anything out."
"I won't," Starsky replied. He drank the last of his coffee and got up and poured another cup. He refilled Hutch's cup and sat back down. He told Hutch about waking up with his hands tied. Starsky hesitated.
"Come on, Starsk. Out with it."
"I was given a gun."
"Yeah, and I…" Starsky took a deep breath. "I was given a choice."
"What kind of choice?"
"You're not going to like it?"
"I gathered that much. Just spill it, Starsk."
"I was told that if I didn't shoot myself, you would be killed."
"You pulled the trigger! What were you thinking?" Hutch yelled.
"I was counting on it being empty."
"Counting on it being empty. I think your brain is empty."
"Come on, Hutch. I couldn't let them kill you. Besides, I was pretty sure it was empty."
Hutch shook his head. "What happened next?"
Starsky told Hutch everything he could remember. He took his plate to the sink and turned on the water. "Hutch, where's my car?"
"Oh, your car. Well, about that."
"What about that?"
Hutch handed Starsky his plate and coffee cup. "Starsk, we don't know. Dobey put an APB on it but it hasn't turned up yet."
"You mean we gotta be in your car?"
"No. We could always walk."
"Ha, ha." Starsky said. Then mumbled, "I'd almost rather walk."
"There's nothing wrong with my car. We'll find it, Starsk. Just give it some time."
"Hey, Hutch, how do you suppose they were able to kidnap us in the first place, huh? I mean we're both pretty smart detectives. So how'd they get us? It wasn't just chance they grabbed us. They knew our names and they knew we're partners."
"I've been thinking about that, Starsk."
"And, maybe they read about us in the paper or something."
"And found out where we live and drugged us after went to sleep in our own place. That's not very comforting. Where do we start looking for them?"
"How about we return to the scene of the crime?"
"You mean that mental institution?"
"I'm telling you both, every inch of that place was searched. They're not there," Captain Dobey said in a gruff voice. He was just as frustrated as his detectives were.
"We know they're not there now. Captain, were hoping to find something that will tell us who they were and maybe where they went," Hutch said pacing in his superior's office.
"We gotta do something, Cap'n. And has anyone found my car yet?" The look on the captain's face let Starsky know that it had not been found.
"Don't worry, we'll find it, Buddy," Hutch whispered to him.
"And another thing," Captain Dobey pointed his finger at Hutch, "If you ever pull a stunt like that again, I'll see to it that you will be assigned to walking a beat again."
"What stunt?" Starsky asked.
Hutch stood up and started pulling out of the room. He whispered, "I'll tell you later." Starsky nodded. Hutch closed the door as they left.
Starsky and Hutch spent the next two weeks at the Bay City Mental Institution. They searched every inch of the entire building and found nothing that would tell them anything useful. Starsky was beginning to wonder if his car would ever be found. He was getting discouraged having to ride in Hutch's car every day. "Starsky?" Hutch said as he looked back at the building.
"I know, Hutch. It's been two weeks and we've come up empty handed. We haven't found anything here or on the streets. Huggy hasn't come up with anything either."
"Zebra three, zebra three switch to tac two for Captain Dobey," the dispatcher said.
"Wonder what he wants?" Hutch asked Starsky.
"There's only one way to find out." Starsky picked up the mic and turned the knob to tac two. "Zebra three go ahead, Cap'n."
"Huggy Bear called and said for you two to come by his place. He's got a lead on your car."
Starsky looked at Hutch and said, "Finally a break." He keyed the mic. "On our way. Thank you, Cap'n."
Starsky and Hutch walked into The Pits and leaned on the bar. "What do you got for us, Hug?" Starsky asked.
Huggy motioned for them to move to the end of the bar and whispered. "I got a tip from someone who wants to remain anonymous. They spotted your car at the old train station."
"What's it doing at the train station?" Starsky asked.
"Hey, I don't know. That's all they said."
"That's been closed for what, two years now?" Hutch asked.
"Thanks, Hug," Starsky said.
Starsky grinned when he saw his pride and joy. He jumped out of Hutch's moving car before it came to a complete stop. He opened the door using his jacket sleeve. He found the keys in the ignition. "Why'd you use your jacket?" Hutch asked when he caught up to his partner.
"Fingerprints, dummy. Maybe they left their prints on the door handle."
"Maybe you should let the lab boys do their thing before you touch anything else, huh?"
Starsky put his hands on his lap. "I guess you're right." He slid out of the car and Hutch called the police garage to have the Torino towed back.
A month later, Eric and Stan were leaning over a pier on a beach far away from Bay City. "I really wanted to carry that last one to the end, Stan."
"I know, Eric."
"I wanted to get to fight him."
"We had to leave. They almost caught us."
"Yeah. That was exciting, wasn't it?"
"Starsky and Hutchinson were the most fascinating subjects we ever had the pleasure of working with."
"Stan, look at that couple." Eric pointed to a young couple at the end of the pier who were fishing.
"They do look promising, don't they?"
"Very, and the new place is ready."
Stan and Eric watched the young couple from a safe distance for a long time. They watched as the couple made their way to their car after the sun had set over the ocean and followed them home.
The next evening, the woman found a bottle of wine on the kitchen table. Thinking it had been placed there by her husband, she poured two glasses of the wine and set them on the table along with the rest of the meal she had prepared.