THE EYES OF THE DEVIL

By: Karen B.

Summary: Short post-Bloodbath snippet. (Hutch pov. ) Hutch has found Starsky, safe. There is only one last thing he must do.

My deepest gratitude to Laura: For the beautiful way you shared your talent and heart with me! Thank you

"Hutch, I need to use the john. I'll meet you at the table; you go ahead and order."

I watched Starsky walk away, debating for a moment if I should follow.

"Don't forget the pineapple!" he called.

The request struck me as odd, but I waved in acknowledgement, moving to sit at an empty corner table.

Not long after, a waiter came over.

"What can I get for you?"

I ordered two beers, and a pizza with everything, including pineapple.

"Very good." The waiter laughed as he walked away.

What was so funny?

Something about the black beady eyes and the faint smile playing on the waiter's lips made me fumble nervously with the red checkered tablecloth.

I looked around the restaurant. A cool breeze floated in through an open window, but I could still feel the heat of what had happened not that long ago. I could still smell the sweat of their stinking bodies, still see the glint of their weapons, Starsky lost among an ocean of black robes.

I shrugged it off. He was safe now, a little worse for wear, but safe. Simon's freaks were locked up, and my partner was okay, with nothing more on his mind right now but food.

After a few minutes the beady-eyed waiter returned. There was something familiar about him. I noted the grease smudge on his forehead. It reminded me of the inked tattoo of that sinister cross imprinted on those robed freaks' foreheads, and it made me shiver. I felt sure I knew this guy from somewhere, but I couldn't put my finger on it so I let it go. He set the two mugs on the table and walked away again.

I looked at my beer, watching the stream of white foam slowly slip down the side of the frosted glass. I didn't take a sip although my dry tongue begged for it. I wanted to wait for Starsky. It was only polite. After all, he'd been through hell, and I wanted the first gulp to belong to him.

After awhile the foam disappeared, and the frosted glasses were no longer ice-covered. I glanced at my watch. Starsky had been gone too long.

Twelve minutes-- too long.

Something was all wrong here. I got up from the table and headed toward the bathroom to look for him. As I approached the john I could feel something building inside me, like a gathering storm.

I opened the door and walked into the men's room.

I called out to Starsky. No answer. I looked in each stall. Nothing.

I turned around and caught my reflection. Something was missing, and it wasn't just my partner. I stepped forward, pressing my hand to the mirror.

"Starsky?" I uttered, then ran out of the room.

Just as the door closed behind me, a hand reached out and grabbed my jacket. I whirled around. Thinking it was Starsky and ready to give him the lecture of his life, I was shocked to see it was the beady-eyed waiter.

"Where is Starsky?" he asked me, still wearing that same faint smile.

"Wh-what did you say?" I was stunned.

"You heard me," the waiter replied.

I jerked away, forcing him to let go. "Where's my partner?" I yelled, seething with anger.

The waiter said nothing.

"Didn't you hear me? Where is my partner?" I screamed.

"Shhh." The man placed an index finger to his lips. "I can't tell you."

"What! Where'd my partner go?"

"Do not yell at me," he whispered. "Nobody yells at me."

"This has something to do with Simon Marcos, doesn't it?" I questioned, but got no answer, only another smile. He would never tell, and somehow I knew that.

I grabbed the waiter by his straggly black hair and drove his face into the closest wall. Yanking him back, I then threw him to the floor, leaving behind a bloody mark on the wall and a few less teeth in his smiling mouth.

I bent down to grab the man again, but two black-robed figures came out of nowhere. I fumbled to pull out my gun, and when I pointed it at them, they stopped their advance.

"Where's my partner?"

"You'll never find him alive this time." The man on the floor laughed evilly.

I waved my gun at the two freaks blocking me from the exit. "Get out of my way!"

The waiter on the floor mumbled something to them, and the two stepped aside.

I ran as fast as I could out the door and into the street, not sure where I was heading. I couldn't seem to run fast enough. Soon the hard pavement beneath my feet turned to dirt, sticks and dried leaves. I felt dizzy and sick. I had to stop and rest. I propped myself up against a large tree trunk, pulse racing, breathing hard, and shaking uncontrollably.

Where the hell was Starsky?

Gone.

Again.

Right out from under my nose.

"Oh, God," I mumbled, staring into the sky.

I could hear sirens in the distance and I looked around the forest, but saw nothing. No backup. No birds. No men in black robes. No glint of steel, no partner, no nothing.

When I was done catching my breath, I holstered my gun. That's when I looked down. On the grassy ground lying near my shoe was something that made that gathering storm in my gut want to blow out my mouth. I knelt down and picked it up, holding it in the palm of my hand.

I stared open-mouthed at the silver rings wrapped around my partner's little finger. The appendage was drained of blood and a shard of glass stuck out of the flesh where it had been severed from the knuckle.

I looked up into the thickness of the trees and screamed, choking on my pain and bile.

"St-St-Starsky!"

Violently, I was jolted awake, my eyes darting left, then right, then left again. I wasn't in a forest holding my partner's severed finger. I was in my bed, in my apartment. Outside the sun was shining, and inside I could smell coffee brewing in the kitchen.

I rubbed my eyes to clear away the horrible vision, and took a few calming breaths. I missed my good old simple dreams. Dreams of long hot days. Of a relaxing cozy cabin, the sound of moving water, me sitting on a boulder with nothing more than a cooler of beer, my guitar and a trout line by my side. Those dreams seemed long gone.

Sighing, I tossed back the covers and swung out of bed, heading for the sounds in the kitchen.

"Hey, what are you doing up?" I worriedly asked Starsky, watching as he scrambled eggs in a frying pan. "Couldn't sleep, huh?" I moved to stand by his side, gently touching his shoulder.

Starsky turned toward me, blinking heavy, lidded eyes. "Neither could you."

He looked haggard. His face was unshaven, his hair unruly, and he moved sluggishly. I knew he was in physical and mental pain. I desperately wanted to know what was going on his head, but he wasn't ready to talk about it yet. Neither was I, and we weren't in the habit of dragging things out of each other. We'd talk. When we were ready.

"Let me help." I picked up the eggshells from the counter and tossed them in the trashcan, then came to stand near him again.

"I've got it, Hutch." Starsky took a deliberate sidestep away from me, and went back to scrambling.

I could tell I was too close, making him nervous. He needed to be doing something normal. Needed the space.

"Sit." He pointed the spatula toward a chair, and when he twisted back around, I caught him wincing.

I closed my eyes briefly, unable to bear watching him in pain, and thinking it was a good thing I got him the hell out of there when I did. Quickly I pulled myself together, and went to sit down. I steadied my shaking hand as I picked up the cup of coffee that was already sitting in front of me and lifted it to my lips.

"Don't burn the toast," I swallowed, downplaying things.

Starsky turned with two plates in his hand. I eyed his rings that were attached to his intact pinky finger, and I suppressed a shudder.

"Hey, buddy." Starsky frowned, setting the plate in front of me. "My cooking isn't all that bad is it?" His eyes softened, and his voice, too.

It was obvious we were both pretty shook up.

"No." I picked up my fork and halfheartedly began to dig in. "It's not."

Starsky sat down across from me, slowly picking at his own food and eyeing me with doubt.

My heart sank as I watched him struggle with pain and emotion. It didn't make me feel better to think of Simon and his freaks locked up in a cold cement box, where nobody would ever be allowed the key. I'm sure it didn't make my partner feel any better, either.

It suddenly hit me what I needed to do. I hurriedly took a few more bites and a couple sips of coffee, then stood, taking my dishes to the sink.

"Starsk, I have something I gotta take care of. Will you be okay by yourself for awhile?" I turned, meeting Starsky's eyes, as he now stood blocking my path.

Starsky looked puzzled. "You don't look so good, Hutch. Food really that bad?" He was worried. Worried about me. Worried about being alone. He needed space, but wasn't sure he needed that much.

I placed my hand on his tummy. "I'm fine, pal. Can you stay here until I get back?" I grinned weakly trying to show the reassurance I didn't have.

"What's wrong? he asked. "Does this have anything to do with the dream you had this morning?"

"Maybe--no!" I snapped. Damn him. I took in a deep sigh, reaching up to tousle his hair. "It won't take long, partner," I said, purposely making my voice softer.

Starsky stared at me a moment. Seemingly satisfied, he gave a small nod. "Just remember..." He lowered his voice. "Be sure you come back, okay?" He sounded so unsure, and averted his eyes away from me, his cheeks blushing. I could tell he was feeling a little embarrassed at his own fear.

"I'll try to remember."

"Hutch!" His gaze instantly came back to mine.

I suppressed a chuckle, letting my hand slip to the nape of his neck and gave a squeeze. We both knew we were being overprotective. Without another word between us I turned on my heel, nabbed my keys off the coffee table and opened the front door.

"Hey," Starsky called after me, and I froze. "I'll order us a pizza-- for later."

I pursed my lips and looked over my shoulder. My partner leaned heavily against the kitchen counter with his arms folded tightly across his bruised chest. He looked so weak, and I debated one last time if I should leave, but I had to. For him and for me.

"Just make sure you don't get the pineapple," I told him.

Starsky wrinkled his face, and said, "Why would I do that?"

"I'll tell you later," I said, relaxing a little as I stepped out into the hall and closing the door behind me.

I knew I had come full circle as I slammed open the holding cell's door. A blast of air hit me, the stench smelling like something coming from a garbage dump. It was making me feel sick.

The man at the table in the center of the room sat calmly, shaking his head with a faint smile playing on his lips.

For a moment I stared past the smile, to the gray flaky wall behind him, silently weighing my options. I wanted to stuff the two-bit punk's head into a jar. Instead, I decided two simple words would suffice. I reverted my eyes back, and shared a long stare with him, then moved with straight and clear intention over toward the table.

Kicking the chair I'd sat in some twenty-four hours ago out of my way, I listened as it slid across the floor, breaking apart when it hit the wall.

Slapping my hands flat to the tabletop, I leaned in, face to face with the beady-eyed prisoner.

He wasn't going to have the last word, not even in my dreams.

"Game over!" My voice was low and gravelly.

I glared into the eyes of the devil--and he looked away.

The end.