This is the first chapter of a multi chapter work. It is already complete, and I'll be posting two chapters at a time every few days until it's done.
This is a crossover with Kolchak: The Night Stalker (the original series from 1974), but I'm putting it in the Starsky and Hutch section because there's more readership here and because I think it's going to be of most interest to Starsky and Hutch fans. What you need to know about Kolchak is simply that he was a reporter for a news service based out of Chicago. Every week he ran into a different paranormal threat which he overcame. No one ever believed him.
I do not own Starsky or Hutch, Kolchak, or anything else.
"The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen.... Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again."
Abdul Alhazred, as quoted by H. P. Lovecraft in "The Dunwich Horror"
Chapter One-Guardians of the Threshold
David Starsky put down the file he was reading and looked around his office. Not that it really was an office, it was more like a glorified cubicle. It had room for a desk, two chairs (one for the desk, and one for a visitor), a file cabinet, and that was about all. But it had a door he could close, so that he could interview people in private, and a window, where he had set a plant provided by Hutch. On the desk he had a telephone with a private line, a typewriter, and the old piggybank that had once adorned his and Hutch's desks in the squad room.
He even had a secretary! Well, not personally, for him alone, but in the outer room that this row of small offices was attached to, there was a receptionist who would take his calls for him, and do all the things that a secretary normally did.
It wasn't what he had thought of his police career coming to. But it was considerably better than it could have been. He had to remind himself of that. He was alive, which he had almost not been after the shooting in the police parking lot, he was in relatively good condition, (though, with the loss of half a lung, his days of running after suspects were a thing of the past), and most importantly of all, he still had Hutch, not as his partner on the streets any more, but as his partner in life. If the cost of that was sitting in an office and working on cold cases all day, it was little enough. At least cold cases were a reasonable use of his detecting skills, unlike some of the things he could have been assigned to.
Of course he worried about Hutch being on the streets without him, but he had given Steve Barlow, Hutch's new partner, an intensive course in "working with the Blond Blintz" until he felt reasonably sure the kid knew what he was doing. And it was only a temporary situation anyway, until Hutch could take the lieutenant's examination and get a safer assignment. (Passing the exam was a forgone conclusion. The possibility that Hutch might have any difficulty with any intellectual activity was a thought that Starsky didn't even consider. Not that he'd admit as much to Hutch, no use in letting that blond head get swelled.)
Yes, all in all, life was good.
So why had he had this vague feeling of foreboding for the last few days? It had crept up on him slowly but inexorably, until he had the continual feeling that he should be looking over his shoulder. He hadn't felt anything this strong since... since the time he and Hutch had gone camping at Dobey's cabin.
The intercom on his desk buzzed. "Detective Starsky, there's a Mary Polanski to see you."
"Send her in, Margie." Mary Polanski? The name sounded familiar but Starsky couldn't place it. It wasn't one that was mentioned in any of the cases he was looking into.
As soon as he saw the short, plump, brightly bedecked form, however, the mystery was solved. Mary Polanski, aka Madam Yram, the so-called fortune-teller who had helped them a few years previously in the armored car robbery case. That left the bigger mystery, though, why was she here?
"Hiya' Mary," he said cheerfully. "Long time no see."
Her eyes grew wide and she gasped when she saw him. She raised one hand and reached towards his face.
"Detective Starsky," she said in awed tones. "You've been in high company, I see."
A small shiver crept down Starsky's spine. "What do you mean by that?" he asked suspiciously. Was she trying to pull some kind of scam on him?
Mary pointed to his forehead. "You have a mark, here. It glows. And your aura…" she trailed off. "You've been on the other side," she finished after a pause. "Haven't you?"
Starsky swallowed and remembered:
During the time when he was dead, the time after his heart stopped, he had stood on the shores of a green place, a shore he knew went on forever. He had asked, "What is this place?" and he had been answered, "You already know where you are. The shores of Heaven, or the Isles of the Blest, the Western Shore, Tir Nan Og, the Elysian Fields, the name doesn't matter. The other side of the sea."
Slowly he nodded. "Yeah, I guess so." But that didn't mean anything, he reminded himself. Lots of people knew his heart had stopped in the ICU; it didn't take much supernatural knowledge to guess he might have had some kind of experience during that time. "What did you mean, I've been 'in high company'"?
She reached again for his face, touched his forehead. Closed her eyes. "The flame of the burning bush, and the guardian of the tomb," she whispered. "Heaven's war leader." Her eyes snapped open. "You saw Michael," she stated flatly.
Starsky shivered at her certainty, remembering the tall figure of light:
"I've been known as many things. I'm Marduk, who killed Tiamat. I'm Hresvelgr, the eagle who sits on Yggdrasil, the tree of life, and defends it from the serpent Nidhogg, who gnaws its roots. I'm Thunderbird, who saved the Nootka from the monster in the sea. I'm Lord Indra, the killer of the serpent Vritra. I'm Papa Legba, I'm the River Nile, the Eldest Angel, the patron of policemen, the guider of souls, the conductor of the righteous, and captain of the hosts of heaven. To your people I'm the Prince of Israel, the flame of the burning bush through which the Lord spoke to Moses, and the guardian of his tomb. My name is the war cry of Heaven, and it means 'Who is like God.'" And Starsky had said "Michael", and the figure had nodded in affirmation.
Hutch knew who he had seen. No one else did. But other people did know he had seen something, it could still be a lucky guess.
"He kissed you. Here." She touched his forehead again. "Marked you as his."
"I've put my mark on you. Think of it as a decoration for valor. It won't stop anything physical, but it's there to see for those that can, and it may help you against things you can't see."
Starsky took a deep breath, starting to believe that she wasn't trying to put something over him. Because he hadn't told that part to anyone. Not even Hutch. In fact, he tried to forget it as much as possible, though there had been that strange dream when Hutch had pneumonia back in February.
"I thought you were a phony," he said cautiously.
She shrugged. "It doesn't take much of the real Talent to keep the crowds happy, Detective Starsky. Which is good, 'cause truthfully, I don't got a whole lot of it. But I have a little. Enough to see where you've been, and who you've seen. Enough to know I needed to come to see you."
Starsky motioned her to the chair. "Needed to see me, why?" he asked, trying to bring the conversation back to reality.
She sat down, still keeping her eyes on his forehead. "That's so pretty" she sighed dreamily.
"What does it look like?" he asked, in uneasy fascination.
Mary Polanski laughed happily. "All bright 'n sparkly."
"Nice. OK, Mary, what are you here for?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah." Mary visibly dragged her attention away form Starsky's head. "I'm sorry, lookin' at that is nicer than thinking about..." She swallowed and trailed off nervously, then started again. "I came to see you 'cause I remembered you from when you and that cutie-pie partner of yours came to see me a couple years back, remember? And of course from the news last year... I'm so glad you didn't die. I said prayers for you."
"And I'm sure they helped." Starsky gave her his best ingratiating smile. She really did seem upset. "But why are you here now?"
Mary took a deep breath. "Guess I gotta' tell you, I came all this way... OK here's the thing. Like I said, I'm mostly a fake. But I do have a little of the real Talent, that's why I started as a fortune-teller, figured I could use the little bit I do have to help myself along. I can see auras, like I did yours, and sometimes... Sometimes, I get visions." She trailed off again.
"Visions?" Starsky prompted. He wasn't sure what to make of this. But she had obviously seen something when she looked at him, and since meeting Joe Collandra he was a lot less skeptical about psychics than he had been.
"Yeah. In shiny surfaces sometimes. You know that's the whole idea behind a crystal ball, right? It just kind of focuses things. So, about a month ago, I started having this vision when I looked at shiny things. And I keep seeing it... more and more often now. Each time I see a little bit more, but I never see the whole thing. But... Oh, Detective Starsky." She looked at him earnestly, twisting her pudgy fingers. "It's bad, whatever it is, it's bad, 'n it's coming to Bay City."
"What's coming, Mary?"
"I don't know exactly. Something big, though."
Starsky sighed. "OK, let's take it from the top. What do you see in these visions?"
"Well, it's hard to explain." Mary looked up at Starsky's forehead again, as if for reassurance. "It starts with a city. Big, old, made of stone. Like in Egypt or Babylon or one of those old places, you know? Only bigger. It's too big for people, and all the angles are wrong somehow, too. It's all carved with shapes like fish, and octopuses, or something like that with tentacles. And it's wet, like it's been underwater, and dripping with green stuff. And it's bad. Evil and nasty. And all dead and quiet, but not really dead, I can feel it's just sleeping."
She shuddered. "And then this really strange chanting starts. It sounds sort of like this." She made a noise that sounded like she was clearing her throat and trying to cough up some phlegm. "C'thulchu"
"Anyway, after that, it switches to looking up into a night sky, only it doesn't look right, somehow... but I don't know enough about the sky to know what's wrong, I just know that it isn't right. And then we're going up into it."
"Yeah, you're there. And that cutie-pie partner of yours."
She shook her head. "And a third guy that I don't know."
"Is he a young guy?" Could it be Hutch's new partner?
Mary shook her head. "He's older than you guys. A little guy, in his late 40s or 50s I think. Maybe older. Reddish hair. Kinda' freckled. Big nose, brown eyes... oh, and this is really weird. His clothes... he wears a suit made out of that cloth, what is it, with the really thin pale blue and white stripes? All rumpled. And a straw hat, the kind I think they usta' call a skimmer. With white sneakers that are even nastier than yours."
"White and blue stripes? You mean seersucker? Who wears seersucker any more? I haven't seen a seersucker suit since my uncle left the garment business." He ignored the comment on his sneakers.
Mary shrugged. "What can I say? That's what he wears."
"OK, anyway, after the big city, then what?"
Mary swallowed nervously again. "Well, we go up into the stars, farther and farther, 'til the sun and earth and moon and the other planets are all behind us, all little 'n safe and warm, but we keep going out father and farther, and it's all... just nothingness. Bigger and bigger... black and cold, and just more and more nothing..." Mary's voice started to get a panicky edge. "Except then it isn't just nothing any more, it's... things. Ugly, horrible things, all flopping and oozing around. And colors, colors that don't have names. And this awful piping sound, like really bad, crazy music, thin and screeching, and pounding drums, all wild and crazy." She looked up at Starsky's forehead again, gulped, and took a deep breath as though what she saw there comforted her.
"Calm down, Mary" Starsky said as soothingly as he could, while a chill was running through his own belly. Little as he wanted to, he found himself believing in her obvious sincerity and terror. "Is that the end of the vision?"
She nodded. He reached out and took one of the plump hands in his, and squeezed it comfortingly. "It sounds pretty scary, but what does it have to do with Bay City?"
Mary shook her head. "I don't know. But I know it does. Something bad is coming, and you and Cutie-pie... I mean Detective Hutchinson, and the little guy in the funny suit, you're going to have to do something to stop it." She stared at him defiantly.
"OK, Mary, I'll see what I can come up with. You don't have any idea other than this what it's about?"
She shook her head. "But your partner's there too, remember, so maybe it's something he's working on."
Starsky shrugged. "I'll ask him. And if you see the other guy, bring him around, OK? And we'll see if we can figure it out." He patted her hand comfortingly. "Don't worry, Mary, I'm sure it's not as serious as you think it is."
"Well I don't know..." Mary smiled dubiously. "Whatever it is, it's pretty bad." Then she brightened. "But I know you can take care of it somehow. I just knew that I had to tell you about it, Detective Starsky. I've been so scared, and I didn't know what to do, but then once I recognized you and your partner, I knew I was supposed to tell you."
"So, are you OK now?" Starsky asked in some concern. She had seemed so upset.
Mary nodded. "Yeah. I feel a lot better about it all now." She smiled. "Now that I've talked to you. Just seeing you was a comfort."
Starsky smiled uneasily. "Uh, I'm glad I could help."
Mary gestured to his forehead again. "Yeah, it's really reassuring. You know the scenes in vampire movies where the hero holds up a cross and it starts to glow, and the vampire gets blown away?"
"Well, the way you're glowing... we wouldn't need the cross." She smiled brightly. "Look, I've got to get going now. I'll come back, though, if I see anything more." She waved good-bye, and was gone, leaving Starsky thinking uncomfortable thoughts.
He had known since his death and return that the world didn't work the way he'd always thought it did. But he'd been able to mostly ignore the knowledge. This visit was giving him notice that maybe he wouldn't be able to ignore it any longer. And that was frightening. Mary might think that being marked as Michael's gave him special protections, but he was more inclined to think that it simply made him a bigger target. He remembered far too clearly what Michael had told him:
It isn't the job of a policeman to be safe.
At last he had his life straightened out, finally he and Hutch had gotten it right, gotten out of the dangerous stuff, and had a chance to live happily ever after. He wanted that chance, wanted it desperately. But still:
It isn't the job of a policeman to be safe.