ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR

By: Karen B.

Summary: Vendetta on the rocks, with a twist, and a splash of 'The Fix'.

Note: Hutch pov. Why doesn't Hutch arrest Tommy right away?

Thank you, Dawn for your spirit of friendship, and all your help! Any mistakes are my own.

Disclaim: Non profit dreaming. As all my stories, I do not own the rights to Starsky and Hutch. Only own my dreams. Thank you for your time and care! Sunshine always, Karen

I seized Tommy roughly, slamming him around the room. There was a burning need inside of me to give him a taste of the beating he had given Abby. Feeling my blood pressure rise, I shoved the kid down to the mattress. It was easy to pin the scrawny body firmly under my weight. Having such a strong hold on him, I could almost feel his bones threatening to break, which only made me hold him tighter.

Urgently, Tommy reached over toward the nightstand and fumbled to get a hold of a picture frame, shoving it near my face. I recognized it right off. It was a picture from my apartment, of Abby and me. Suddenly the heat I felt dwindled to the size of a match flame flickering in the wind, and I swayed a little. As an officer of the law, I was trained to be more objective, even when it's up close and personal. Unfortunately, paying attention to detail is part of being a detective. I suddenly felt as if Tommy had pulled a gun on me, could almost feel the bullet of knowledge thudding through my chest, and I knew then, I couldn't hurt him.

My eyes were seeing the details, the truth, but I was confused. I wanted to hurt him badly. Everything about this boy screamed revenge. He was a dangerous criminal, he had hurt Abby. My twisting gut was interpreting what my eyes saw, but my heart wouldn't let me finish the job.

I caught sight of the gruesome details on the back of the teenager's hands and sides of his neck. Needle marks. Marks that were probably all over his body, using every injection site he could find. I was shocked by the evidence.

Tommy was a user.

Okay, let's get this straight, it isn't the biggest story in town. Being strung out is back page news, but for me--- for me, it was front page.

Breathing heavily, I glared down at him, and had a disturbing thought. Tommy was twenty years my minor, but I caught a glimpse of my past in his hauntingly dilated eyes.

It's easy to fall from grace.

To lose control.

To use your strength and power against someone else.

Damn it!

I wanted to break Tommy's back over my knee, but I couldn't.

I backed-off, finding a chair to slump in instead, letting my body go limp and curve against the shape of the wood. All I could hear was blood thundering in my ears and the whoosh of my breath. All I could smell was the musty bouquet of the cheap room, and the stench of Tommy's habit.

Suddenly my heart went quiet, and my breathing slowed.

Normally, I can slap the cuffs on a guy in a matter of minutes. This time -- I couldn't.

Something I wasn't sure, could be called 'pity' stuck to me like some sort of crazy adhesive. The boy wasn't just strung out, he was out of his mind. I leaned my head back against the wall, exhausted from the whole thing.

"Don't go away. Don't go away." Tommy's outcries rested like lead weights on my shoulders.

"I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."

"I didn't mean to make you mad," he whined. "I can bring the picture back--somehow."

"No, you keep it. It's all right."

Suddenly the door burst open and Starsky stepped through. Even in the dim shadows I could see the tension under his calm exterior. He was ready for a dangerous situation, but a hurried glance toward me told him things were secure. Starsky flicked on the lights. It was then I could tell he was shocked by what he saw, the lurid details coming into view.

Me, his partner, sitting in a chair going into meltdown mode. And a boy, lying in a bug infested, urine-soaked bed, his brain function shutting down. Tommy was at the lowest end of life that anyone can get.

"Artie?"

"What?"

"I'm scared. I can't see."

Starsky eyed me questioningly, and he seemed to read my mind. Tommy was more than just a user, he was an extreme user. Probably was adding citric acid, or vinegar to his spoonfuls of mercy. Starsky and I both knew; that could cause blindness.

Tommy might have been a hardcore sadistic killer, but he was also a victim. A victim of Artie Solkin. He had poisoned the boy, probably molested him, also. It was easy to do.

Solkin was aroused by young boys, had a fetish, an obsession for them, collected them. Like he collected coins. He was a criminal wannabe. Instead of doing the dirty work himself, he baited those who were sicker and weaker, and younger, befriended them, and got them to do his dirty work instead. He was a real-life monster, and I had spun him into a corner, exposing him for who he really was; a coward with a yellow streak running straight down his back. It was probably why he wanted to sentence me to death.

Things weren't all right. To put it straight, Tommy was a filthy degenerate, with no ethical obligation to anyone; except Artie Solkin. I loathed that man, his greasy smile went right along with his greasy black hair. He made me want to puke. How could a man so low look up high enough to even see someone as great as John Fitzgerald Kennedy? He obviously had another obsession, one for our thirty-fifth President judging by the picture hanging on his wall and the jar of coins sitting on the bureau.

I was in a really bad place right now. I wondered sometimes where I kept my heart? Locked in a box? Behind a steel plated, alarm coded door? The slight twitch of my fingers was a reminder, causing me to feel the ache of the boy's narcotic escape.

I felt sorry for Tommy. Something inside told me Solkin, the needle, and that light bulb were the only friends he had. Tommy was already imprisoned, long before I came along. It didn't make me feel victorious. Just sad. This case would haunt me for the rest of my life.

I wondered about myself. About that blond guy standing in front of me every morning, as he splashed on a bit of cologne after shaving. I like to think that I know that guy on the other side of the mirror. But the clincher was -- did I really?

Self pity grabbed a tight hold on my emotions. I become very aware of my own addiction. Forced or not. I hated thinking about the junk. Remembering about it could snap me like a twig. Sometimes when the thoughts would hit me, they would hit me hard, and I didn't know if I was done. If I'd really made it through? If I beat the junk? If I'd ever go that route again? There are countless reasons to head for that dark shore, but chemical warfare isn't the answer to the problems I face on the streets everyday.

I was a different person when I was wanting a fix. The shit was like being knee-capped; in both knees. I went down, and would have stayed down, if it weren't for Starsky. I began the journey, but my partner ended it for me. He gave me strength I didn't even know existed. He always has been, is, and will be my best friend, my light, always there for me.

Tommy's only light was a 60-watt bulb, that could be shut off by the flick of a switch.

I stood up and quietly walked over toward the bed, taking in the sights of the filthy room as I went.

It was a dusty dark box, the walls a flat lifeless color that I couldn't describe. I choked back the smell of ammonia. Tommy was so dependent and screwed up he couldn't even hit the john. Just pissed right where he lay. I looked into the mentally ill eyes of the pasty faced boy who'd murdered his family, and watched a dribble of saliva work out of his mouth and slip down into the shabby pillow. At only seventeen, he'd put his childhood dreams away; fifty years ago. Crossing the line separating sane from insane, good from evil. The boy's brain was so far gone he had no idea, no hint of recognition as to what he'd done or been doing. It was like his mind had leapt into a dark leafy jungle, forever lost in nighttime shadows.

"Hey," Starsky called to me with uneasiness in his voice.

I could feel his eyes on me. I stopped and straightened my hunched shoulders.

"Be careful," he warned.

"I got it." I let my partner know I was in control, but my voice sounded weak, even to me, as I took the last step to stand beside the bed.

I looked down at Tommy, easily picturing him as a freshmen in college. The typical honor student, the well dressed preppie. With his blue collared shirt tucked neatly into his belted khaki pants, eating a hamburger and drinking a chocolate malt on a Saturday night with his best girl. My chest tightened and I groaned inwardly. How could I imagine him that way? He'd injured Abby badly. At first I wanted to kill him with my bare hands. I've busted some horrible people. Some real twisted freaks. Most times I forget these people once had a heart before their innocence was shredded. No two year old dreams of growing up to rob a liquor store, slit a throat or slaughter his entire family. Something about Tommy made me remember that.

I took Tommy by the arm and rolled back his sleeve.

"Hutch."

Starsky sounded worried about what I might do. He knew how upset I was over Abby.

"It's okay," I told him, turning Tommy's arm over.

These were serious track marks. Clinically, the boy should be dead, I thought. Taking a firm hold of his other arm, it was just as bad. I raised his shirt. There was dried blood all along his belly where he'd slammed the needle. There probably wasn't a place on his body, he didn't try to penetrate. I knew you could easily grow accustom to the stuff. Needing more and more with each use. Tommy probably couldn't buy enough junk to get high, but he could always have enough to be in a stupor. He really was a spook.

Each pinhole was a cry for help. Each collapsed vein spoke of self-hate and loneliness. I wondered what brought a once bright kid like this to his knees? A forced addiction? A fraternity dare? Had he been taken against his will? Blind folded? Juiced up, running down the passageway of a dark cave. Lost and confused. Left without a friend in the world to help him kick it?

He probably had stolen hundreds of dollars from his family, pawning anything that wasn't nailed down before he finally decided to kill them all in the hopes of getting one more fix. The drug was more important than anything else in his life.

His only goal now, was to steal enough, to do whatever Solkin wanted. To not make him mad. So he could make enough money. To buy enough junk. To keep the pain and sickness of a life without the drug out of his system.

Withdrawal--it's worse than any flu you've ever come down with.

It all had happened in the blink of an eye. In the push of a needle. Sometimes I still could feel that edgy need. Like my heart was stained black, as hard as concrete sidewalks, and as dirty as trash riddled alleys. The bare truth out here in the real world is rough, giving a series of punches, square on the chin, punches that could cure a head cold; knock the snot right out of you. What if I had given in to the thrill of the drug? What if I didn't embrace my partner's help? I could have easily changed gears. Easily have ran over Starsky's guarded protection and complete trust in me. The drug had left me bent and broken. The devil on my left shoulder was once stronger than the angel on my right, telling me to run, telling me to go wandering the big city looking for the right people to hook me up. To help me get my hands on more junk. I hadn't been myself. I could have let the voice take me over. Could have set that fenced horse free, so it could continue on developing into one very bad habit. If I let myself go, if I lost control, like Tommy, what would I have done to get away from Starsky? Would I have lied? Stolen? Cheated --or even killed?

"What are you thinking?" Starsky's voice broke through the buzzing in my head.

"Sick stuff," I finally answered, my chest tightening again as I brought Tommy's shirt back down.

Looking at the boy was as if the moment I became addicted had never left me, and I understood Tommy more than a little.

The fact that Solkin would now be put into a jail cell and Tommy would probably go to a insane asylum wasn't very satisfying.

"You all right, partner?" Starsky stood at my back, his caring voice breaking the small silence.

"I'm good," I lied, easing Tommy into a sitting position, and keeping a hold of his forearm.

"Can you come with me? I'll help you," I softly requested. "Going to take you down to the car, and get you to a hospital." Starsky eyed me quizzically. "It will be faster if we just drive," I explained, looking at my partner, asking for non verbal permission.

Starsky's eyes expressed sorrow. I listened a moment, reading in his face his response.

Permission granted, I turned to Tommy, helping him off that ratty bed. He staggered to his feet, and slowly shuffled along by my side, allowing me to guide him, like I were some well- trained seeing eye dog.

"Hutch, aren't you going to cuff him?" Starsky sounded surprised. "You don't have to do that."

"I do, Starsk." I paused at the doorway, looking back over my shoulder "More than you know."

Starsky scrabbled to understand for a few seconds, but he seemed to quickly grasp what I needed to do, and he gave me the 'go ahead' nod. I turned and walked Tommy out the door.

It was a little thing, but it was an action that felt like it had plunked me back into the human race.

The End