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Orchids spell death (Co-written by Judith Goodger)

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First spring, then summer were over. Months slipped quickly by with everything slowly but surely coming back to normal and September arrived. In a few days it would be the first anniversary of Vicky and Starsky meeting each other at her place and he was looking for something to give her as a special surprise to celebrate.

Hutch and Jenny were enjoying their new relationship, though they were still living in their own apartments as both wanted to keep their independence, Hutch was enjoying one of the happiest times of his life with Jenny and she knew that their decision to give their feelings a chance was the right one.

In these last months too, the life of little Kathy had changed for the better. Jim Mitchell, and Suzie his wife, were doing all in their power to adopt her though, at the moment, that wasn't possible. The father of the child wouldn't even think about the idea of giving up his daughter to a cop, though obviously he never took care of her so, for the moment, the only thing that the Mitchell's had was temporary custody of the little girl.

She was really an affectionate, grateful and very smart child, so needing of love and attention. In the last weeks Jim got permission from the school director for Kathy to go to the school where his son Alex was studying and she was doing fine there living, for the first time in her unlucky short life, as a child, being spoiled, and loved, and wishing to spend the rest of her life as part of her new family.

More than once she and Alex went to the Starsky's with Suzie or Jim, and on each of those occasions, Kathy, the little boy and Starsky spent endless hours in the yard, playing ball games with Samson, or in the living room, playing his guitar and singing songs with the children, watching cartoons on the TV as a child himself, or riding them in the Torino to the bakers to come back home a while later with his arms full of cakes and ice cream for an afternoon snack. In each of these moments Vicky watched the scene with her heart filled with gratitude towards the brave little girl who had saved Starsky's life, and with an overwhelming feeling of tenderness and love towards her husband, her big child, her brave man, waiting for the day when he could give all this love to his own sons.

All through this time Vicky and Starsky had fought hard to leave bad memories behind and they had made it. Both were enjoying every minute of family life with all its little sweet moments and the company of their best friends as well. Vicky was still working, though soon she would start her maternity leave, waiting for her babies’ birth. To spend long hours standing in the surgery was becoming harder as days went by, but her pregnancy was going well... Despite the increasing suspicion from Starsky that something was wrong.

So, that afternoon, after her last medical appointment Starsky went serious and asked. "Vicky, can I ask you something?"

"Sure sweetheart. What's the matter?"

"Vicky, tell me why, whenever you talk about the baby, you put in the same face as the cat that ate the canary? Just like now." In that moment Vicky couldn't help but blushed a bit, and, as most times, a mischievous smile was threatening to betray her and she had real trouble keeping her surprise hidden. "Vicky, are you hiding something from me?"

"Oh, come on, honey. Why do you think that I would do something like that?"

"´Cause I couldn't go with you to any of your medical appointments. That's why."

"Sorry Dave. I already told you that I got the date wrong this last time." Vicky came close to Starsky, holding him and resting her head on his chest. "Sweetie, our baby is doing fine."

By then Vicky already knew that they were two boys. Luckily, before Starsky could ask further questions, the phone rang. Vicky picked it up relieved. It was Jenny.

"Hello?"

"Vick, it's me Jenny. Can we talk?"

"Hi, Jenn. Just give me a second." Vicky said, looking at Starsky from the corner of her eye.

"Saved by the bell" Starsky whispered in her ear, grabbing his jacket before leaving the house "I have to get back to work now, but let me tell you something Mrs. Starsky. This talk isn't over." Starsky tried to look angry, but a smile was showing in a corner of his mouth and, after kissing her lips, he headed towards the Torino

"Thank God Jenny! Dave is starting to suspect about the babies."

"Oh well. You are married to a cop remember? Besides…Sorry, but lately, you're… how can I say it? You're so… enormous maybe? Yeah. I think that's the right word."

"Thanks Jenny. That's just what I needed to hear. You're a friend"

"You're welcome... Listen Vicky. Can I see you?"

"Sure Jenn. Something's wrong?"

"I´ll be there in twenty minutes." And saying so Jenny hung up the receiver.

A short time later both women were sitting down on the couch drinking sodas. Jenny was looking pale and fatigued. In fact it was how she had looked for the last couple of weeks.

"Are you ok Jenn? You look like hell."

"And I feel like it too"

"Are you sick Jenny? If you want I can take you to the doctor. Or I can call Hutch and Dave."

"Oh no! Seeing Hutch is the last thing I need right now"

"Uh?"

"Vick. I´m pregnant. Hutch and I we take precautions, but I'm pregnant. No mistake."

"WHAT?...But how?"

"Well. I'm sure you know how already, I guess."

"Come on Jenn! What I mean is does Hutch know?"

"Not yet. I've only known for sure today. But I still have to tell him. Soon, I guess."

"What do you want to do about the baby Jenn?"

"To have it of course, you know that I always wanted to have a kid some day. Well, seems as that day is coming sooner than I thought. But I won't marry Hutch. Him or any other man, for that matter."

"But, he's the father. He has the right to…"

"Of course he's the father” Jenny interrupted Vicky “Hutch will have the right to be with his baby as much as he wants, but I don't even want to hear of marriage. We're happy as we are. And neither of us likes the idea of getting married. Look Vick. This is something that I´ll not discuss. Okay?"

"Okay, okay Jenn. Listen. Tonight were all supposed to have dinner together. If you want I can think of some excuse to cancel it."

"Oh, no. It's not necessary. I can speak with Hutch tomorrow, or any other day. Maybe I could even introduce him to the baby in eight and a half months…Kenneth Hutchinson; I want to introduce you to your son Kenneth Hutchinson Jr... Sounds great, uh?

"Sure, that would be the best way to do it." Vicky laughed.

"And you know what the funniest thing is Vicky? A couple of days ago Hutch was looking for a bulb in my storage room and he found the pram for your baby. He came in the living room, a little pale, carrying the pram and asking me. What's does this mean Jenny? Tell me that it's for little Starsk…Jeez. What a mess!"

"Know something Jenn? I wouldn't want be in your shoes right now. I only hope Hutch and you haven´t done as good a job as Dave and I did." Vicky, pointing at her enlarged abdomen, rose with some difficultly, and Jenny's help, from the couch.

That evening, things were pretty quiet in the precinct; it was one of those hot end of summer days in which even the bad guys seemed to have taken the day off.

Giving him a coffee cup, Hutch was asking to one visibly absentminded Starsky. "Hey Gordo. Something new about Vicky's surprise?"

But Starsky was lost in his own thoughts.

"... Starsky? Hey, Starsk!" Hutch waved his hand in front of his partner's face.

"Uh?...Oh, sorry Hutch."

"Where were you partner?"

"Well… I'm afraid I was a long way from here."

"Let me guess. You were at home, with Vicky. Right?"

Starsky smiled, drinking a sip of his coffee and looking at his friend´s eyes. "Yeah, you know? She's looking more beautiful as her pregnancy progresses. She's just glowing". Hutch smiled as Starsky kept talking. "During these last weeks I've been thinking of how many things have changed in our lives. Just a year ago Vicky and I hadn't even met each other, and she was just moving from the other side of the city. Then, that day, I went to her place to call to the Phone Company, and well. The rest is story. And, after everything that happened, finally, now we are happy Blondie. I mean, truly happy. Vicky is the best woman a man could find and now, inside her, my son is growing up, waiting for the moment to be with us. I’ll have a son and it's simply the best thing I've ever had. Can you picture him Hutch? I can see him already, grabbing my finger with his little hand...and Vicky and I cuddling him at night to get him to sleep in his cot, beside his teddy." Emotion showed in Starsky´s features as he spoke.

"Yeah, Gordo. I can picture the little Starsky too. His little head covered in brown curls and his dark blue eyes. I can picture you some years on, playing a ball game in the yard with him, or reading him some child's tale before bed, or giving him a glass of water in the middle of the night. Really, he´ll be the luckiest, and the most spoiled, child in the whole world…Know something Starsk? A great time is coming to you, and for God sake, you deserve it!" Overcome with tenderness Hutch briefly rubbed Starsky´s back before sitting down again behind his desk.

"And what about you Hutch? Wouldn't you like to be a father someday too?"

"Yeah, I'd like to I guess. You know. I wanted to have kids with Van…But fortunately we didn't bring an innocent child to live in the middle of our chaotic relationship and now, with Jenny, well. It seems a pretty far thing to happen. We are happy. She's a great girl, but I´ll never have a family with her I suppose"

During the time that Jenny and Vicky were fixing dinner, the blonde one was picking some of the food from the fridge or the serving dishes placed on the kitchen table. A piece of tomato, some olives. But Vicky was simply dumbstruck when she saw her friend popping a thin slice of smoked meat into her mouth.

"What's the matter Vick?" Asked Jenny "I´m vegetarian but seemingly this little Hutch isn't like his mum, and right now I was dying for that piece of meat, though maybe later I'll be unable of eating even a bite of food. Now I'm fine, even hungry, and the next minute I may be in the john, sick to death... It's so weird!"

"Oh no, it's not weird at all. In fact it's pretty common. I went through the same at first. It's just that if Hutch and Dave see you eating meat, they might call for a shrink this very night."

A couple of hours later Starsky and Hutch came back from the precinct. The dinner and the table were ready and, after kissing their respective ladies, and with an extra kiss from Starsky to Vicky's big belly, they all sat down around the table.

Both couples spent a nice evening together. Nevertheless, Jenny was looking visibly pale and quiet, worrying the other three who were looking discreetly at her as she scarcely ate any food, wondering what was wrong with her.

"Are you okay Jenn?" Hutch asked gently rubbing her shoulder.

"Oh, yeah. It's just a little stomach bug…But I'm okay."

"I can fix some chamomile tea for you if you want." Vicky spoke softly.

"No. its okay Vick. Really; soon I´ll be fine"

All of them spent the whole dinner looking at the blonde one with concern, until a while later, Jenny, visibly light headed, rose from her chair and headed towards the bathroom. Vicky, seeing her extreme pallor, got up as well to go with her. But they didn't go too far. After just a couple of steps, Jenny passed out falling into Vicky's arms.

Both Starsky and Hutch bolted from their seats, reaching both women at the same time. Hutch gently lifted her up and, at Starsky's insistence, he carried her through to the bedroom where he carefully laid her on the bed. A worried Vicky followed close behind as fast as her huge bulk would let her. Starsky disappeared into the bathroom and hurriedly returned with a damp flannel, which he handed to his wife. Hutch sat by Jenny's side holding her hand as Vicky laid the cloth onto her forehead. Disappearing one more time Starsky headed for the medicine cabinet and, reaching inside, he pulled out the smelling salts Vicky kept at the back. Pausing long enough to collect some brandy he hurried back to his friends. Handing the small bottle of smelling salts to Vicky Starsky moved to stand behind Hutch and placed a calming hand on his shoulder. The pungent smell of ammonia filled the air as Vicky moved the bottle to and fro underneath Jenny's nose. For a moment there was no reaction then, slowly, they could see her beginning to react. Finally her eyes opened and Hutch smiled lovingly at her.

"Hey there sleeping beauty. You had us a little worried there for a moment. That's some finale you've got for an evening out." Starsky handed him the brandy and he held it to her lips. "Here, take a sip or two of this."

Jenny slowly sipped at the warm liquid, pulling a face as she did so. When Hutch was satisfied that her colour was more or less back to normal he finally allowed her to sit fully upright.

"Feeling a little better now?" His voice was soft and gentle and Jenny nodded. "Good then maybe you would like to tell me what's going on with you." He looked directly at her and his eyes told her that he would take no messing around but still she tried.

"I told you Hutch. I've got a bit of a stomach bug that's all."

"Yeah! And I'm the President! Come on Jenn you can do better than that. You've been acting strange all night and you hardly touched your food. And for some days you haven't been looking too well. Maybe you think I haven't noticed it? The only person you're kidding with that one is yourself!"

Hutch's voice was firm and Jenny knew she could delay no longer. She glanced at Vicky her eyes pleading and Vicky rose from her seat on the bed next to her.

"Good luck." She whispered to her friend. "Come on Davy. I need some help in the kitchen." Taking a firm grip on Starsky's arm she pulled him from the room leaving the two together. Starsky let her get to the table and start clearing it of dinner plates and crockery before he spoke.

"Vicky, what the hell is going on? Jenny's sick isn't she?" Starsky's voice was worried and demanding and Vicky took a deep breath before she answered.

"No Dave; she's not sick, not how you mean anyway. She needs to talk to Hutch though."

Vicky watched his face as different emotions ran across it. First there was confusion, then realization and finally amazement. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

"Hey, you're the detective. You tell me." She smiled softly at him.

For a moment Starsky was rooted to the spot. If what he thought he knew was right then this was a time for celebration, he hoped. Slowly he managed to make his paralyzed limbs move and he walked towards his wife and held her tightly.

"How long have you known?"

"Jenny told me today. She only just had it confirmed. Dave, how do you think Hutch will take it? I mean, they were happy as they were no ties and all that. Will he be alright about this?"

"Hutch will be okay with it V. Sure he´ll be a little dumbstruck but he'll stand by her and he'll make a great dad."

"But she won't marry him Dave. She's adamant about that." Vicky's worry showed in the way her voice wavered.

"I know. Hutch told me. Give them time V, maybe she'll change her mind as time goes on. Either way Hutch is still the father and he'll be there for her. I'm sure of that." Starsky kissed her gently and laid his hand on her abdomen. "Hey little one. You´re gonna have a little buddy of your own to play with."

Vicky placed her hand over Starsky's and they both smiled tenderly as they felt the baby underneath turn over. "Come on Mrs. Starsky. Let's get this dishwasher loaded and settle down in front of the tube." Together the two continued the task of clearing the debris of their meal and before long they were on the couch, Vicky's head resting on Starsky's chest and his arm protectively around her, as the sound of an old movie filled the room.

Inside the bedroom, lying on the bed Jenny took a deep breath and prepared herself for what was to come. Patting the place which Vicky had vacated she waited for Hutch to sit next to her before speaking.

"Ken. You know that pram you found the other day, the one you thought was mine and I was hiding from you?" Hutch nodded without speaking. "Well like I said at the time it isn't and I wasn't." Jenny stopped to draw a breath realising that she was babbling. She tried again. "I've been feeling a little off colour these last couple of weeks so I went to the doctor. Oh damn it! Hutch I'm pregnant. I'm going to have a baby and I don't know what to do!" Jenny held her breath as she watched Hutch's face. His blue eyes seemed to turn a little darker and his face set. Jenny's heart tightened. "Hutch, say something…please."

"Marry me Jenny." His voice was cold and firm, almost demanding, and she shivered.

"No Hutch. We've been through all this before and nothing's changed. I won't marry you just because I've been careless. This baby may be a mistake but it's not going to make me change everything I hold dear." Jenny stopped as Hutch rose from his place beside her and headed for the door.

"Hutch."

Turning he looked directly at her, his face cold, his features set. "Then I guess there's nothing left to say is there? Good luck Jenny."

With that he opened the door and slipped out closing it firmly but silently behind him. Starsky and Vicky watched in amazement as he walked across the room and out of their front door without so much as a backward glance. Running after his friend Starsky was just in time to see him race away from the curb with a squeal of tyres.

Starsky and Vicky hurried into the bedroom to a see a crying Jenny curled up on the bed.

"Jenny… what the hell happened?" Starsky´s voice broke through her sobs as Vicky held her tightly.

"He… he asked me to… to marry him" Her voice was quiet through the sobs.

"And you said no." It wasn't a question.

Jenny nodded and looked at Starsky. "He was so cold, Dave. I've never seen him like that before. I think I just hurt him badly."

"Stay with her honey. It looks like she needs you right now. About as much as Hutch needs me I guess, if I can find him." Starsky headed for the door where he turned and blew a kiss to his wife. "Love you, and don't worry, it'll be okay. I promise." With that he left the room and hurried across to the front door pausing only long enough to collect his jacket and keys. As he climbed into his car he ran a mental check of all the places he thought Hutch might head for. Okay blintz. You're upset and had a bit of a shock. Where you gonna run too? As an answer slowly crept into his mind he turned on the ignition and swung his car out of the drive heading for the beach. It was where he had found his friend the day that his divorce had finally been finalized and somehow he figured that was just how it felt to Hutch right now.

Already at the beach, Starsky saw Hutch's battered LTD parked on the verge of the beach. He parked the Torino in a spot next to his friend's car and headed on to the sand.

It wasn't long before he could see Hutch's figure sitting down next to the seashore, and throwing little pebbles into the sea. In a few strides, he was close to Hutch.

"Mind if I sit down a while with you, buddy?"

Hutch answered with an almost imperceptible shrug of his shoulders and kept his eyes fixed on the sea. After some minutes of silence he spoke.

"It's funny huh?... This very afternoon you asked me if I would like to be a dad some day, and now I´m going to be a dad. Like you, but with one little difference. I´ll not be able to see my child growing up. I won't get to rock him in my arms to make him sleep, no child's tales before bedtime, no ball games in the yard at all, no…" Hutch's voice broke because a lump was forming in his throat.

"Hey, wait! Wait a sec there, partner, and try to think clearly. Jenny doesn't want to get married; ok, we got it... But has she told you that she won't allow you to be with your child?"

"No, of course not, but…"

"But nothing Hutch. Listen to me. That girl and you are happy together, right? But for some reason, she doesn't want to get married. That's okay too. It's her decision and I'm afraid there is little you can do to change her mind, but already you know Jenny. I can't picture her not letting you being with your child"

"Yeah. My child! A child who will have a mom living in one place and a dad living in another one.  What a great way to grow up!"

Both friends kept quiet for some minutes until Hutch fiercely threw another handful of pebbles into the sea "SHIT! That girl is so fucking stubborn! That's what she is. And there's not one single thing I can do to change it!"

"Okay, she is. But tell me something. If she wasn't pregnant would you marry her?"Starsky asked staring at Hutch's eyes.

"BUT SHE IS PREGNANT, STARSK!"

"I know, Blondie. I know... same as I know that maybe right now she has more sense than you in your blond head."

"What do you mean, Starsky?"

"What I'm trying to say is that Jenny knows perfectly that marriage was something out of the question for you both until this moment. Yeah, sure, everything has changed a lot with her pregnancy, but no sensible woman would marry a man for no other reason but the mutual wish to marry anyway."

"Are you trying to tell me that Jenny is a sensible woman?" Huch asked looking at Starsky with a questioning look.

"That's right. Look Hutch. I don't know whether she'll marry you in the future or not, but one thing is sure. Married or not, you are going to be a dad… Good Heavens! We'll be truly busy in some months helping our ladies with the nappies, the babies bottles and all that stuff." Starsky joked in an attempt to ease a little Hutch's worries.

"What do I do now Starsk?"

"Well, how about getting some sleep. Tomorrow Jenny and you will be able to work things out. I'm sure of it." Both men were already getting to their feet and heading toward their cars.

"Do you want to come to my place? Or I can go to yours and crash on your sofa" Starsky offered.

"No Starsk. Thanks. You've already done enough for me today. I'll be okay. Go to be with your wife." Starsky gently squeezed Hutch's arm as a good bye and both men drove in opposite directions toward their homes.

Once there, Starsky saw Jenny's bag still hanging on the coat hook and the girl sleeping on the couch so, silently and without turning on the lights, he headed towards the bedroom, scratching Samson's head in greeting as he passed. "Stay close to her tonight, boy. She could do with a friend right now."

Quietly closing the bedroom door he turned to see Vicky looking at him.

"Hey lover… How's Blondie doing?" she asked, already in bed.

"He's pretty upset, but I think everything will be alright in the end. And Jenny?"

"Sad, worried and upset too, but determined. Hutch is the father of her baby and she loves him, but as for marriage… That's an entirely different matter."

A minute later, Starsky, already into his pajamas, got into bed and held Vicky. "Well, let's leave the problems for tomorrow, Okay? Right now I'm much too tired to think. Love you" Saying that he kissed Vicky, and lay down, asleep almost instantly.

-00000000-

Next morning the 9th precinct began the day with a nightmarish crime. A pregnant woman had been murdered in her own house roughly twenty-four hours earlier. The murderer killed his victim, suffocating her with a plastic bag, later cutting open her abdomen, getting out the seven months foetus, and leaving the woman's body in her bed and the baby's in his cot, with a white orchid over his little body. Her husband had found the awful scene when he came back home from work.

"Kelly Miller, 31 years old, Caucasian, blonde, blue eyes. Her husband isn't a suspect. He's a fireman and at the time of the crime he was on duty. On the other hand, the exterior phone wire was cut and the door wasn't forced, so seemingly Mrs. Miller opened the door to the killer. As for the victim, she had no known enemies." While they were listening Dobey´s explanations, Starsky and Hutch felt their stomachs churning in seeing the pictures taken by the forensic team. Despite of the large amount of horrors they had seen during their years in the Force, at times some crimes were too hard to stand.

"Starsky, Hutch. We haven't much to start with, but this murder can only be the handiwork of a very dangerous psycho. I just hope that you both find something good enough to catch the damned nutcase soon. Go hit the streets. And for Goodness sake, don't come back here empty handed."

"Hey partner! You alright?" A concerned Hutch asked as they both headed to the Torino, seeing the deadly pallor on Starsky's face.

"God Hutch…This so awful. That poor girl! And her baby, there, dead in his cot. Who could do something like that, Hutch?" A thin sheen of perspiration glistened on Starsky's forehead.

"I don't know Starsk. A true madman, that's for sure. Look buddy. If you want, we can ask Dobey to assign other detectives to this case."

"No Hutch. We´ll do it. Don't worry. I´ll be fine. It´s just that…"

"I know, Starsk. Believe me. I know." Hutch squeezed Starsky's arm, looking at him with sympathetic eyes. "Come on. Let's go to work"

The drive towards Mrs. Miller's house was made in silence. Starsky kept his eyes fixed on the road. Hutch did the same, but casting occasional glances at his friend from the corner of his eye. When they arrived the coroner's wagon was waiting to take the bodies from the scene but first the forensic team and the homicide detectives had some work to do.

The female body and the little foetus were on the bed and the cot respectively, totally bloodstained. The real images were much worse than the pictures. The last horror reflected in Mrs. Millers features, the bluish shade of her skin, the indescribable image of the little baby's corpse, more alike to some kind of strange broken doll than a child, and, in bizarre contrast, the perfectly tidied room.

"What do we have Dan?"

"Not that much Hutch. Only that the killer cut up the victim's abdomen, not with an ordinary knife, but with a scalpel. No fingerprints, no signals of struggle, no blood anywhere in the house but in the bedroom. We´re working on some polyester particles found under the victim's nails. By the way, Mrs. Miller's mother says that the cot wasn't here. It was still in the storage room. So the killer brought it from there, obviously after the crime. I'm sorry. I know that's not a lot to start, but it's all that we have right now."

"Neighbours didn't hear anything?" Starsky asked

"Nope. Not even a noise.

"Thanks Dan. We'll start by asking the phone company for any report from this address, and then we'll ask in all the florists shops for white orchids bought in the last 48 hours." Starsky and Hutch left the house.

Once outside Starsky breathed deeply before angrily saying "Great! A psycho kills a pregnant woman and her baby, and the only clue that we have to start with is a cut phone wire and a tour around the florists shops of the city."

"Come on Gordo. Once we have a list of clients that bought white orchids in the last 48 hours we can maybe work something out"

But, at the end of the day they still hadn't one good lead to go on.

"Not even a suspect, nobody called the phone company and as for buyers of white orchids, An older man, blind, by the way who was getting a gift for his wife, a young lady, and a child and his mother sending orchids to his grandma for her 90 birthday. Those are the only people that bought fucking white orchids in the last couple of days. All colours of roses, camellias, yellow orchids, plants BUT JUST THREE DAMNED WHITE ORCHIDS IN THE WHOLE CITY!" Starsky hit his desk in frustration

"Hey, partner. Take it easy, Okay? We'll find the nutcase, but right now how about a break? Let's call it a day. Go home and we'll keep on working in the morning." Hutch said, holding out Starsky's jacket. "Besides, if you remember I have to go to Jenny's, and try to have a talk with her"

Meanwhile in a dark and big house in the woods, and in a room lit only by a few candles, a man was staring at a picture of a young, smiling woman with a white orchid in her hair. Her favourite flower. The flower that Thomas put over her coffin the day she was buried.

"I told you Mother. You shouldn't have left me that way. I'll kill you over and over. I kill you and that little bastard of yours until the end of time"

-00000000-

When Starsky came home, he wanted only to unwind, get some rest and forget all the horror he had seen in that long day. When he stepped in, his place was uncomfortably dark. Once inside he turned on the lights and locked the front door, resting his back against it for some seconds, breathing deeply as Samson greeted him, moving his tail and looking for some fuss.

"Hey Samson, pal. Everything okay here?...Vicky?...Vicky I'm home sweetheart" But Vicky didn't answer. An irrational fear crept into his heart.

"Vicky?" The awful image of that unfortunate woman and the little corpse of her baby came back to Starsky's memory as he headed towards the living room.

"VICKY?" His voice came out more high-pitched that he'd intended.

"Uh?...Dave…Hi sweetheart, I'm sorry. After fixing dinner I took a nap. I was feeling a little tired" Vicky spoke, coming out from the bedroom and hiding a yawn with her hand. Then, the girl was surprised by the tight embrace of Starsky.

"Hey lover, are you ok? Something's wrong?" Starsky spent some seconds silently holding Vicky before answering.

"Nothing's wrong Honey. It's just that I'm glad to be home."

"A bad day, huh?" They were still into each other's arms as Vicky rubbed his back.

"Yeah! You could say so. But now everything's fine."

"It's that woman, right? The pregnant woman murdered"

"How do you know about it?..."

"I read it in the newspaper…It's so horrible!..."

"Vicky..."

She softly placed her forefinger over his mouth "Shhht. I know lover. You´re worried. But there's nothing to be worried about. Come on Davy. Time for rest, okay?" Vicky kissed his lips "I'm sure that Hutch and you will catch that killer, but now you're home, and you must get some rest and eat a little. I fixed something for you. I'm sure you'll like it" Vicky released her hold and headed towards the kitchen, returning back to the dinner table with a warm casserole.

"Paul Muni special! Sit down before it gets cold."

Starsky felt loved and spoilt next to Vicky. In the morning he and Hutch would take up the search again. But now he was home. Nothing else mattered in that moment. Tomorrow would be another day.

As Starsky and Vicky were enjoying their meal Hutch was pulling to a halt outside of Jenny's house. For a few moments he sat in the car and looked at the house, taking in again the small but well tended garden right outside the front door. Finally, deciding he could put it off no longer Hutch took a deep breath before getting out of the car and heading up the front path. Behind his back he held a deep red carnation, one of his favourite flowers. He had brought it earlier as he and Starsky had trailed unsuccessfully around the florists. Now for a brief second he looked at it hoping that Jenny too would appreciate the warm colour and accept it as the peace offering it was intended to be.

Knocking tentatively at the door Hutch felt like a kid on his first date. A lot rode on the next few minutes and he was nervous. As he waited for Jenny to open the door he rubbed his shoes on the back of his trouser legs, then laughed to himself.

When Jenny finally opened the door it was obvious that he had disturbed her sleep. She was standing in the doorway with a cream dressing gown held tightly around her waist. The light shone from behind her and it lit up her unkempt blond hair in such a way that it took his breath away. For a few seconds the two merely looked at one another then Hutch finally came to his senses and brought the carnation out from behind his back.

"Jenny, I´m sorry about earlier. I´ll understand if you tell me to go away but please, can we talk?" Hutch´s voice was soft and low as he spoke.

For a brief second Hutch thought she was going to close the door on him, the look in her eyes was so defensive. Then, taking the flower from his grasp, she moved from her position in the doorway, walking back along the hall into her kitchen, leaving the door open for Hutch to follow. He carefully closed the door and went to join her. When he got there she had already filled the kettle and was looking through her cupboards for coffee cups and a flower vase.

"This is beautiful Hutch, thank you." Jenny's voice was as defensive as her eyes as she placed the flower into a specimen vase and placed it in the centre of the table.

"They're my favourite flower, my grandfather used to grow them when I was a kid." For a moment Hutch was somewhere in his distant past. "I hoped you might like it."

"It was a lovely thought, thanks." Jenny turned to make the coffee. Handing a cup to Hutch she pointed towards the table. "Want to sit down?"

Hutch sat before continuing, knowing they were both treading carefully, skating around the issue that now stood so solidly between them. "We have to talk Jenny. I've had time to think and Starsky told me a few home truths. I'm sorry for walking out on you like I did. It was the shock I guess but it was still inexcusable. It's not every day a girl tells me she's having my baby."

"I should hope not!" Jenny's voice broke in. "I think you're a lot of things Ken Hutchinson but local Romeo isn't one of them." She smiled and reached out her hand. "I'm the one who should be apologising Hutch. I was the one that got us into this mess, though I guess you did have a hand in it."

"How long have you known?" Hutch held her hand gently but firmly, not willing to let the contact go.

"I only found out for sure yesterday morning when I went back for the results but I've suspected it for a couple of weeks. Hutch, I know I said I wouldn't marry you but this is still your baby, yours and mine. You can be there for him or her as much or as little as you want. I could never even think of you not having a part in its life. When you asked me to marry you a part of me was grateful that you cared enough to do that"

"I love you Jenny." Hutch broke into her words as he tightened the grip on her hand for a second, squeezing gently. "I don't know when I realised it or when you came to mean more than just a good friend to me but it happened."

"I know Hutch, and for what it's worth, I love you too. Don't you see though, if we were to marry just because of this it would be for all the wrong reasons and I don't want to repeat past mistakes." Jenny stopped abruptly and pulled her hand away to place it in her lap as she looked down.

"Don't stop Jenny. Tell me, while it's just the two of us. I promise not to be judgemental." Hutch looked at her with pleading in his eyes, the need to understand her feelings showing clearly on his face.

"My parents married because of me. They were both at college when they found out I that my mom was pregnant, and her parents insisted that Dad stand by her, do the right thing. They had a simple civil ceremony with just both sets of parents and a couple of witnesses. Then they were left on their own. Dad tried hard to keep up his studies as well as hold down a job to support them but it didn't work and he had to leave college. He never said as much but I always knew that somehow he blamed me for missing out on a career. Anyway, a year later and Mum was pregnant again with my brother. That totally finished off all the dreams they had both had and, slowly but surely, the marriage began to crack under the strain. It was just little disagreements at first over silly little things that didn't matter. Then came the rows and they'd be screaming at each other while me and Michael would hide under the bedcovers with our hands over our ears trying to block it all out. Finally I guess Dad couldn't face it any longer and he left. Mum cried for the whole night then picked herself up and carried on as though nothing had ever happened. The only outward sign she gave was to destroy any sign of Dad from around the house, every picture, item of clothing, personal stuff, she burnt the lot. Mike and I were never allowed to even mention his name. She changed towards us both from that day too. She shut her emotions away, locked them inside herself if you like. She never told us she loved us, never cuddled or comforted us when we were hurting. Oh, she did all the things that a parent is supposed to do, we were never neglected in that way, but she could never show us love. The nearest I ever saw her get to it was when I graduated. For one brief second she put her arms around me and told me she was proud of me. That tiny chink was the only one I ever saw appear in her armour. I promised myself that day that I'd never let myself feel that way. I'd be totally independent and never, ever rely on a man, no matter what he came to mean to me." Jenny paused for a moment watching Hutch's face, looking for understanding. "So you see Hutch. That's the reason I'll never marry you. I destroyed one marriage...I couldn't destroy another one, especially not just to give my baby a name that he will have anyway."

For a moment Hutch was quiet trying to understand all that he had heard. Then he rose from the table and moved to stand at Jenny's side. "I think you're wrong Jenny, blaming yourself for what was never, ever your fault in the first place, but I do understand where you're coming from and I accept that I can't change it. Know this though. I'm here, and I don't intend to leave. I'll be here for as long and as much as you need me. That's my baby growing inside of you and I want to be a proper father for it. I can start by making sure that its mum looks after herself and gets her rest. You look totally whacked out, come on, back to bed. I´ll let myself out when I know you're settled."

Jenny rose from her chair and, cupping Hutch's chin in her hands she gently kissed his lips.

"I love you Hutch. I think I must be the luckiest girl in the world right now."

Slowly she made her way towards her bedroom as Hutch watched with tenderness in his heart. He would never agree with Jenny's idea about marriage but he would support her in every way possible and he would love her more than he thought he would ever love again.

The next morning when Starsky picked him up it was a much more settled Hutch who got in the car.

"Hey partner...how'd it go last night with Jenny? You two got things sorted out between you?"

Starsky sat sideways in his seat so as to get a good view of his friend's eyes.

Hutch held his gaze as he nodded. "Yeah Starsk! Jenny and I had a long talk and we know where were going."

Starsky could see that things were back on an even keel again and he sent a silent prayer of thanks that his two friends had patched up their differences. "Okay Hutch. Let's go catch us a killer." With that Starsky let off the break and floored the accelerator leaving a trail of tyre marks behind him.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, a man roughly in his 40s, was leaving the gynecologic clinic where he worked as a cleaner. Thomas Harris had done the same work there, night after night, for ten years, but he never wanted to start any kind of relationship with the rest of the clinic's staff. He was a lonely, shy and pretty strange person, and the nurses and doctors looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and mistrust. If they had known him better then they would've known that Thomas had a serious mental disorder from his youth, though he left his psychiatric treatment some months before when his father died. They would've known as well that Thomas lost his beloved mother, a gentle and kind woman, when he was just ten during the birth of his brother, in which both she and the seven months premature baby died. His father was a very severe protestant priest unable to show the least tenderness towards Thomas. From the day his mother passed, his childhood years were spent between punishments, prayers, and loneliness. Thomas hated and blamed his mother and brother for his misfortune and he swore to kill them over and over until the end of times. He already had killed them once, and he would do it many more times.

The next few days were times of change and new projects for Hutch and Jenny. They would not marry, Jenny was adamant about that, and they wouldn't move in to live together, not all the time at least. But Huch would be with the baby as much as he wanted, and he would give his surname to his son or daughter. So, in this way, they faced the new days to come. Hutch was hoping that Jenny would change her mind about getting married some day, but for now he was content.

More than a week on from the murder of Mrs. Miller, the search for some leads to find the killer was still totally unsuccessful. Both detectives were feeling angry and frustrated.

"But how is it possible, Hutch? Nobody's heard anything about it, Huggy hasn't found anything; nothing in the florists shops to start with, nor in the mental hospitals. How can somebody do something like this and not one of us be able to find the damn son of a bitch?"

"Starsk, this guy is smart…very smart."

"Okay. He's very smart, and all of us are a bunch of idiots!" Starsky snapped.

Hutch rose from his chair breathing deeply. "Starsky, listen to me partner, there are no clues to work with. No fingerprints, no eyewitness, the husband was at work that night. The lady had no trouble with anyone, no enemies, the polyester particles found under her nails are from a shirt bought in the sales at the mall five blocks away. There's nothing to work on. Nothing really solid at all."

"Shit Hutch! Something's wrong here. Some clue is right in front our noses and we aren´t able to see it. In Mrs. Miller's room, there were no signs of a struggle. Right?"

"That's right."

"But most likely, there was a struggle anyway. Look Hutch. In the bed there wasn't even one tiny wrinkle. And that is almost impossible!"

"And?...Are you thinking that the killer smoothed the bed before leaving?"

"Exactly. He smoothed the bedcovers, and in the same way he probably tidied anything else that fell down to the floor. Like the nightstand lamp maybe, the book that was on the nightstand or something else."

"Where are you going with this, Starsk?"

"In the way the whole thing is looking, we know that he knew perfectly well what he was doing. Right? A ´regular killer´ doesn't kill this way, and not a pregnant woman who had no enemies anyway. Her house wasn't burgled, and besides, there's the orchid. Nobody bought white orchids in the hours previous, so the killer must have had the orchid plant in his house"

"Starsky. Have you the smallest idea about how many people could have an orchid plant at home? We can't tell Dobey that we have to find all the orchid plant owners in the city!"

"Not the orchid plant owners, but the killer, Blondie. Don't ask me why, but this looks as though it could be the first one of a serial killer's work"

"Your cop instinct talking now?"

"Yeah, ´fraid so." Hutch knew from experience not to ignore the outstanding ´cop instinct´ of his partner. He knew that Starsky was rarely wrong. They had to find the killer, and soon, before he killed again.

They both left the precinct at 9.30 pm. Since the White orchid murder, as the press called the killing,  Starsky and Hutch were giving all their time and efforts to solve the case, and getting back to their homes late at night, where Vicky waited patiently for Starsky, welcoming him with a smile, a kiss and some delicious dinner. No reproaches, no anger. Just a smile and lots of love. He loved her deeply for it.

In three days it would be the first anniversary of the day they met each other, and Starsky's surprise was almost ready. Since Vicky's second-hand car was already pretty old, and she had loved the shining colours of the Torino since the first day she saw it, Starsky had bought for her a little camper van which he had taken to Merle, who had painted it up in red with a white stripe, and added a special place for the baby's pushchair on the back seat As Hutch said the van looked like some kind of fat and overfed Torino. The red and striped van was the cause of a lot of jokes from Hutch since the moment he knew about it and Starsky treated them all with the same contempt he treated those about his own car.

"I can't believe it Starsk. Vicky seemed like a girl with good taste, though when she married you I began to change my mind about that. But this! Really, do you think that a normal mom could drive a vehicle that looks like a big tomato on wheels. And what about your baby, partner? Have you thought just for a moment of the little Starsk? Really do you think he'll get into that thing without being scared out his mind?" With his jokes, Hutch was doing his best to ease a little the worry that had been eating Starsky up since the day the murder of that pregnant woman had been committed.

So it was that three days later, on a sunny Saturday morning, Starsky got out of bed early. Vicky was still sleeping, and once showered and dressed and without stopping to eat breakfast, he left his place to collect Hutch and together they headed to Merles. Starsky hadn't seen the van for a week and he was like a child at Christmas as he kept wondering out loud as to the final product. Hutch was silently happy that, for the first time in a while, Starsky seemed to have put the case out of his mind and for once he was content to sit and listen as Starsky babbled on. By the time they arrived at Merle's Hutch's head was beginning to swim and he was secretly relieved when they could get out of the car and into some fresh air.

As usual Merle's backside could be seen protruding from the bonnet of a car and Starsky walked towards it calling as he did so.

"Hey Merle! is she ready yet?"

Is the Pope a Catholic?" Merles face appeared from under the bonnet turning to look at Starsky with a frown. "The Earl gave his word didn't he? Did you doubt it?"

Starsky grinned at the man in front of him who held a spanner in his right hand looking for all the world as though he wanted to plant it on Starsky´s head.

"Sorry Merle. You know I'd never doubt your abilities. They're world renowned by now. I'm just eager to see the final product that's all."

"It's all ready for you. Over there, in the corner, under the dust sheet."

Starsky ran across the yard followed more sedately by Hutch and Merle. As they watched he grabbed a corner of the sheet and threw it back over the top of the small camper van. Hutch likened it to Starsky opening his Christmas presents as a child, eyes sparkling and eager to see what was inside.

Seeing Hutch standing watching Starsky yelled over his shoulder at him. "Come on Hutch give me hand will ya?"

Striding across to stand on the opposite side of the van to his partner Hutch took a firm grip on the other corner and together they removed it completely. For a moment neither man spoke. Hutch simply stood amazed at the sight before him, hardly believing the transformation. Starsky lovingly touched the bodywork, following the white stripe along the length of the side. Then he carefully opened the door to look inside. The front seats had all been changed into something a lot more comfortable and the back had been fitted with a special harness to strap the pram inside it safely. Hanging down from the roof just above the seat was a tiny mobile and Starsky gently pushed it watching it spin and catch the sunlight. Looking in the rear of the van he saw that Merle had fixed up a holdall that was full with emergency baby supplies, a spare nappy, baby wipes, cream etc. Starsky knew that the whole job was far beyond what he had asked Merle to do and he felt a lump come to his throat. He climbed out of the van and turned to the man standing a few yards behind watching him.

"Merle I can't afford this."

"Hey! You insult the master craftsman Starsky. You paid for the work you specified and I carried it out to the letter. As for the rest well They're just a few extra touches, on the house. My present to that young wife of yours and the baby to be." The man stood staring hard at Starsky his hands crossed firmly in front of him.

For a brief moment Starsky stared back and had to bite his lip to stop a tear trickling down his cheek. "Thanks Merle. Its absolutely brilliant. Vicky will love it!" he felt a hand on his shoulder and knew that Hutch was there.

"Come on Starsk... Let's get this junior tomato mobile home to that lovely wife of yours before she wakes up and finds you missing."

Starsky nodded and climbed inside the camper van. Hutch listened as he turned on the ignition revving the engine for a couple of seconds.

"Damn it Merle it even sounds like the Torino!" Hutch was incredulous.

"Merle the Earl only does the best work Hutchinson but then you wouldn't appreciate it. Still driving that rust bucket on wheels?"

"Yeah Merle. I'm still driving it and I'm perfectly happy with it the way it is." Hutch headed towards Starskys car and opened the driver's door. He looked over the hood at Merle still standing watching him. Indicating the van Hutch spoke just loud enough for him to hear. "Thanks Merle I owe you one."

With that Hutch got in the car and gunned the engine pulling out onto the highway with Starsky close behind.

Vicky woke with a start and she rolled slowly over in the bed, her hand feeling for her husband. When all it found was cold sheets she sat up and looked at the clock. It read eight fifteen and Vicky groaned softly to herself. She had been determined to be up first this morning to cook Starsky's breakfast in recognition of their special day. She was confident that he had forgotten it and was determined to surprise him but now it was too late. Promising herself that she would find some way of doing something special before the day was over she slowly levered herself from the bed and headed for the bathroom. Half an hour later, showered and dressed, she felt ready to face the world. Slowly she made her way downstairs and into the living room listening for any sound of Starsky.

"Dave?... Are you here?" No reply came and she sighed again, this time with more feeling as she decided that Starsky's day off had been cancelled. She headed towards the phone on the kitchen wall thinking that she would have to ring Jenny and let her know that their planned day at the beach would have to be postponed. As she passed the table she stopped and stared hard at it. Two places were laid out with a lit candle in the middle and on her plate was a small box tied with a red ribbon. Across the top was a red rose. Smiling she lifted the rose and sniffed it appreciatively as she realised that she was so wrong, Starsky had remembered! Placing the rose back on the table she lifted the box and shook it gently, listening as the contents rattled inside. Had she have looked over her shoulder at the time she would have seen two pairs of smiling eyes watching her through the window. Carefully she undid the ribbon and removed the lid to find a set of keys and a note written in Starskys hand.

Pick up the keys and go out the front door. Intrigued she did as the note said. As she opened the front door she was met with the sight of the camper van parked in their driveway, a big red ribbon tied onto the front bumper. Very slowly she made her way across to it and, placing the keys in the lock, she opened the door. On the steering wheel was a card edged with gold and in Starsky's writing on were the words, Happy Anniversary to a very a special lady.

"Oh my God...Dave this is perfect…just perfect." Vicky's voice was a mere whisper as she looked around for Starsky.

"Think so?" Starsky´s voice came from behind her and she turned to see him smiling at her, his face a picture of tenderness and love. "Last night I began to have doubts but..."

"But nothing Dave Starsky, this is the most wonderful present I've ever had. It's terrific. It must have cost a fortune!"

"Hey! Don't spoil it by talking about money. Let's just say I could do with a lot of overtime in the next few weeks but we'll be fine. I just needed to make sure that you and junior were safe and that old heap of yours was almost as bad as Hutch's." Reaching forward he pulled her into his arms and kissed her long and lovingly. "Happy Anniversary Vicky."

From behind then both Hutch coughed loudly. "Sorry to interrupt you guys but I could do with a coffee. Starsky picked me up at dawn to go and collect this salad bowl on wheels."

Smiling Vicky broke free from Starsky´s embrace and poked Hutch hard in the chest. "Careful Hutchinson. That's my car you're talking about and, unlike my husband, I'm not so easy going on good looking blond males who insult it."

Starsky snorted and Hutch had the grace to look shame faced. "Sorry Vicky. You have to admit that it is a little bright though."

"Coffee's on the table boys. I'm going to look over my new car. I´ll be there in a few minutes."

Starsky and Hutch disappeared inside the house leaving Vicky to discover for herself all the hidden extras Merle had added as a bonus. Starsky watched from the window, relaxed for the first time in a month, a smile on his face as his young but heavily pregnant wife slowly walked around and around the van. He had used every last penny of his savings on it and he hadn't been joking when he had said about the overtime but he knew from the look on her face that it had all been well worth it. What he didn't know was that Vicky was checking out the size of the interior trying to decide if two small prams would fit on the back seat or if she would have to get alterations done to the straps or if she would have to risk changing the pram she and Starsky had ordered earlier than she had planned and hope that he didn't find out. In the end she decided to leave it until later when Dave was at work and she and Jenny could get the tape measures out.

Three hours later she, Starsky and Hutch were on their way to collect Jenny for their planned day on the beach. There was a special cake stowed under the back seat, her own surprise for Starsky. In the rear was a huge picnic hamper filled with something for everyone. Jenny was amazed when they pulled up outside of her door and was at a loss for words as she looked the vehicle over.

"Vicky this is going to make everything so much easier for you and the children." Jenny spoke without realising what she had said.

"Children?" Hutch had heard her. "Hey Starsky...Something you're not telling me?"

Hurriedly Jenny tried to cover her slip. "I'm talking about the baby and Starsky, Hutch. You know what he's going to be like when the baby's born. Vicky will have two children to look after!"

"Hey! I heard that. You sure know how to hurt a guy´s feelings, Jenn." Starsky looked at her with his puppy dog eyes and she burst out laughing.

"Sorry Dave. But you know it's true same as the rest of us."

"She's right partner. I've already ordered two baseball mitts. One for my nephew and one for you."

"Sorry to break up the fun here guys but would you two carry the basket for me?" Vicky broke in the conversation, a look of relief passing between her and Jenny.

Starsky and Hutch grabbed a handle each and together they made their way down on to the sand. It wasn't long before they were settled down enjoying the scenery, Hutch and Starsky taking full use of the chance to relax and unwind and to forget, if only for today, the horror of the case in which they were both committed.

Later that night, as Vicky and Starsky lay in bed, he turned slowly on to her side, facing her husband.

"Thanks Dave. It was a lovely day today, I really enjoyed it. As for the car well what can I say? You really are the best, Dave Starsky." With that she kissed him gently on the tip of his nose before turning slowly back over. "Good night lover boy."

More than a month had passed since the murder of Kelly Miller, and the case investigation was still open but without results. Apparently the earth had swallowed the killer despite all the efforts of Starsky, Hutch and all the Ninth Precinct to catch him.

In a small shop across town a young pregnant woman was busy packing a bag with the tiny romper suit she had just purchased. She smiled secretively to herself as she placed her hand over the large bump, which tossed and turned underneath it.

"Hey junior steady on. I'm glad you like it but don't get too excited or we might not make it back home in one piece!"

Paying for her purchase the young woman left the shop and began the walk home. So happy was she that she was totally unaware of the dark haired man following determinedly behind her. So it was that the last walk that this pretty young mum to be would ever take on this earth was a truly happy occasion as she planned for her baby's future…a future that neither would ever live to see.

She sang quietly to herself as she removed the key to her front door from her handbag and let herself into her tiny flat. It was as she tried to close the door that the terror began A man's foot was preventing Martha Preston from doing it .

"Mrs Preston? Martha Preston?"

"Yeah. That's me. How can I help you?"

The man, dressed in a phone company uniform and holding a small tool box in his hand, gently but firmly pushed the young lady inside the house, closing the door behind him. "I've come to fix your phone."

"My Phone?...Sorry, but I think you're mistaken. My phone's fine." Martha Preston was scared but desperately trying to stay calm.

"No, its not!" The stranger headed towards the little table where the telephone was resting, picking up the receiver and holding it to the woman's ear.

"But it was working earlier"

"Oh well, you know, my dear lady. Now things are working, later they aren't working any more…Like the human body. Now you are alive, and in the next minute, you're not."

Alarm bells rang loudly inside Martha's brain. The man looked like a real phone company worker, but something in his deep blue eyes was wrong, very wrong.

"Listen. Could you come back later? Right now, I'm late for- "

"No!"

"Sorry?"

"I said no Mother. And you heard me perfectly." Martha's heart was racing in her chest. She tried to flee, running towards the door, but before she was able to reach it, the man rushed towards her and, pulling a rope tightly around her neck, he strangled her. A flower vase fell to the floor during the brief struggle.

When the woman was dead, the killer took her body from the floor, carrying it towards the bedroom and placing it on the bed. Then he searched through his toolbox for a scalpel, with which he sectioned the woman's abdomen, removing the seven months foetus. Calmly he sectioned the placenta and the umbilical cord as well, leaving the little body, still alive, on his dead mother's abdomen. Then, in the same calm manner, he searched for a cot throughout the entire house, finding it still in the shop box and still dismantled. It took a while to assemble the little piece of furniture, but he did it patiently and, when the work was done, he put the little corpse inside and, taking a white orchid from a plastic box, he placed it on the baby's body. Finally he cleared up all signs of a fight and his own fingerprints before leaving the house.

-00000000-

"Martha Preston. 29 years old. Brown hair, hazel eyes. No physical trait in common with the first victim, however, both of them were seven months pregnant. She'd been married for three years. Her husband, Charles Preston, is head waiter at Marotti's an Italian restaurant uptown. It was him who found the corpses last night when he came home from work. The victim was happily married, no enemies, no connection between her and the first victim, no one suspicious seen hanging around. The killer did a damn good job of clearing up any possible signs of a struggle In fact he apparently assembled the cot before placing the baby's corpse in it, and he left a white orchid over the little body.

DAMN IT! STARKY, HUTCHINSON! The commissioner is beginning to wonder if we are doing anything else but dragging our arses around the city looking in the wrong places for the wrong clues." A very angry Dobey was shouting out, hitting his table hard with his fist "What the hell are you both still doing here, get to the Preston's place NOW!"

Once there, the horror of the scene was the same as the first time. The corpses placed in the bed and cot, the terrified expression on the woman's face, the bloodstained bodies. Hutch was watching Starsky who was pale and silent.

"The same way of killing. But this time the bastard has gone even further. The cot was still in the box from the store, dismantled. He searched for it, found and assembled it before placing the baby's corpse in it." One very discouraged forensic team member was filling Starsky and Hutch in with all the details. There's almost nothing to go on. Like the last time, no fingerprints were found in the house, and talking with Rick Preston wasn't much help at all.

The poor man in question was the living picture of desolation, and Starsky and Hutch barely got a coherent word from him.

"You know? Martha and I met each other when we were still in High School. She was the only girl for me. We came from a very little town close to Nebraska, looking for the best place for us and our son to have a better life. Martha and I got married three years ago. We worked hard to buy our house, and Mark would have been our first child…And now…" The young man was unable to keep talking. He burst into tears, making Starsky and Hutch feel deeply uncomfortable. At times like that it was really hard for them both to keep a safe emotional distance between them and the victims' relatives.

"SHIT!" A very upset Starsky sharply hit the Torino´s wheel "Where in hell does that fucking nutcase hide? WHERE! Where the hell are we supposed to search?" Hutch didn't have too many words to offer as comfort to his friend as he was as distressed with these awful crimes as Starsky.

"I'm gonna send Vicky to New York to stay with mom until we catch this fucking psycho!"Starsky said firmly.

"Starsk...listen partner. Have you thought that maybe she'll not want to go?"

"It doesn't matter. She´ll go anyway." Starsky´s eyes showed his determination. Hutch wasn't sure, but he thought that most likely his friend's wife wouldn't want to leave her husband, her work and her home, despite it being a good idea, especially for Starsky´s peace of mind.

-00000000-

Thomas had killed. Twice. Two women. It was an unexplainable but very powerful sensation. He had power. The power to end a human life. To take revenge on his mother and young brother for not being with him while he was growing up and being punished and beaten by his father. For not being there to help him while girls mocked him, back when he was a shy and clumsy teenager.

His pleasure was becoming more intense after each murder. An almost sexual pleasure, and as his madness grew more and more, he knew that he needed to kill again, and do it soon; very soon.

After carefully checking out the whole place, Starsky and Hutch had just one small lead to go on. The exterior phone wire in the Preston's had been cut, as at the first crime scene, and they suspected that the killer cut it before going in, presumably on the pretext of being an engineer since the phone company had no damage notification from that address, but as of that moment it was the only thing they had worked out.

Already afternoon and after a discouraging day, one bad tempered and worried Starsky stopped by a travel agency to buy a plane ticket to NY before going back to the precinct. The flight was due four days later.

"You're sure on this Starsk?...Don't you think you should ask Vicky first before...?"

"Before what Hutch? Before she and my baby becomes the next victims of that psycho? ...No, I'm sorry, but this is something that I'll not discuss. Neither with Vicky nor with you" Hutch kept quiet while Starsky purchased the plane ticket. Five minutes later, with the paper in his pocket, they both headed to the precinct in silence.

-00000000-

Samson was sleeping on his mat in the kitchen as Vicky was in the living room ironing some clothes when someone rang the door. Placing the iron onto the board, she headed towards the door, unlocking it.

"Good afternoon. Mrs. Starsky?"

"Yeah, it's me. May I help you?"

"I´ve come to fix your phone"

-00000000-

Back at the precinct Starsky sat down at his desk to dial his mother's number. After three rings, Rachel Starsky picked up the receiver.

"Ma? Hey Ma, how're you doing?... What?... Yeah, I'm okay Ma. Vicky's okay too Yeah. In January, just after Christmas Listen Ma. I'd like to ask you for a favour." Starsky filled Rachel on all that was worrying him and a few minutes later the matter was settled. After saying his goodbyes to his mother, Starsky hung up the receiver looking at Hutch slightly relieved.

"Great. Next Saturday Ma will meet Vicky at the airport."

-00000000-

My phone?...Sorry, but I haven't called the phone company. I'm afraid you've got the wrong address. The phone's fine."

The, stocky, brown haired man, dressed in a phone company uniform, was already in Vicky's hall closing the door behind him and walking towards the phone. Vicky felt a little uncomfortable.

"Sorry but I think that…" She tried to say

"I´m sure about it, my dear lady." The unknown man cut her off "Your phone isn't working. Check it yourself." Vicky picked up the receiver to verify that the man was right.

"That's weird. It was working perfectly just a while ago"...

"Well, you know how things are. One minute things are working, the next they aren't. Same happens with the human body, now you are alive, now-"

At that moment a deep, guttural growl interrupted the man's words. Samson had come from the kitchen and was growling menacingly at the phone worker, placing himself between him and Vicky. The man, becoming pale, stepped back.

"SAMSON!...SAMSON Shut up!" But the dog wasn't about to obey Vicky's command and the next moment he wasn't growling any longer, but barking furiously.

"I'm sorry. He never does anything like this. I just don't get it" Vicky was speaking loudly over Samson's barking. "SAMSON TO THE YARD!" Vicky tried to take the dog by his collar but the strong animal seemed to be glued to the floor as he barked. The man's voice was shaking yet angry as he spoke. "T-take the dog out…p-please...I'm...ve-very afraid of...of dogs"

"I'm sorry sir, I'm so sorry… I'm trying But I'm afraid I can't. He's a good dog really…But I don't know what…"

Samson, increasingly furious, kept barking and walking in circles around the man, jumping on him, as Vicky was totally unable to control the usually calm dog. Finally, taking advantage of a couple of seconds during which Samson just kept growling motionless on the spot, the man slid towards the front door, opened it, while murmuring some unintelligible words, and hurried out, running towards the street. Once he was out, Samson calmed down and headed towards his mat in the kitchen, while Vicky looked at him dumbfounded.

This time Thomas Harris. "The white orchid killer" had failed in his objective

-00000000-

Later that evening it was a very determined Starsky who came home with Hutch in tow.

"Hi Vicky." Hutch spoke first, his eyes showing the unease he was feeling at Starsky's actions.

"Hey, Hutch, good to see you!. What's wrong, guys? You both look exhausted."

"We are V. We've been chasing our tails all day trying to get some handle on this nutcase and we keep coming up against blank walls at every turn." Starsky kissed his wife lovingly and held her close.

Vicky could feel the tension in him and she returned the hug offering what little comfort she could. She knew how much they both wanted to catch this killer and the pressure they were under until they had.

"Come on, both of you, sit down. I´ll bring you a couple of beers." She walked into the kitchen and reached for the fridge picking two beer cans. "Oh, by the way, Hutch. Can you report the phone to the phone company later? It's not working. They sent a guy to sort it out this afternoon but there was something about him. I don't know what but he made me feel really uneasy and Samson didn't like him either. He wouldn't let him move. I've never seen him like this before" Vicky stopped in mid flow as she watched the color vanishing from her husband's face, and something that only could be described as fear reflected in his eyes.

"Dave?...What's wrong, love, don't you feel well?"

Starsky grabbed the phone holding it to his ear before barking out one word to Hutch. "Dead!"

Together the two men raced from the room and around the side of the house to where the line came into the house. Starsky's legs became weak and his whole body shook with anger as they stared at the neat cut separating the line in half. Feeling Hutch's hand on his shoulder Starsky took a deep breath before daring to speak.

"Still have doubts about me sending her to New York, Hutch?"

Hutch shook his head and, side by side the two headed back around to the front of the house. At the front door Hutch turned away heading for the Torino to call out the forensic team and to report their suspicions to Captain Dobey. Starsky headed inside, a determined look in his eyes and his mind set.

Vicky was waiting where they had left her, a feeling of unease consuming her.

"Dave will you please tell me what the hell is going on?"

"We finally got a break in our investigations this afternoon. Both victims' phone wires had been cut!" Starsky let the words hang in the air for a few moments as he watched his wife's face register what he'd said. "The pattern for our killer is simple V. He chooses, for whatever sick reason he might possibly have, women who are all around seven months pregnant. Somehow or other he finds out where they live and he goes there and cuts the phone line before going in, presumably on the pretext of being a tech. When he's killed them and carried out his sick desecration to kill the baby too he calmly looks around for a cot to put the tiny corpse into. He'll even put the damn thing together if he has too! When he's finally finished he puts a while orchid on the baby's body and tidies everything up. The only sign of blood is on the woman and the baby. He leaves nothing else for us to go on, no blood, no fingerprints, NOTHING!" Starsky was shouting now, pacing up and down as he did so. Turning at last to face his frightened wife he grabbed her arms squeezing tightly. "Vicky don't you see? You're almost seven months pregnant...The phone line has been cut. DAMN IT V, YOU WERE ALMOST VICTIM NUMBER THREE!

"Dave you're hurting me." Vicky's voice was low and hung in the air as she held her husband's gaze. She was unsure what scared her most, what she had just heard or the way Starsky was behaving.

Just at that moment Hutch came back in and realising what was going on he walked up next to Vicky, placing his hands over those of his partner.

"Hey Starsky. Come on buddy, let the lady go, ok? You're hurting and frightening her and you know you don't want to do that." Hutch forced eye contact and held it. Gradually he could feel the vice like grip that Starsky had on his wife begin to ease until he was able to release the hold. Gently taking Vicky by the shoulders he steered her to the couch and sat her down before returning to his partner. "Dobey's on his way over Starsk, along with the forensics team. Come on, Vicky needs you."

Clear blue eyes met deep indigo ones and locked together. Hutch could see the pain and anguish flooding through his friends whole being. Finally his eyebrows rose and he received a quick nod in answer. Starsky was back in control of his emotions, at least for the time being. Together they walked back to the couch.

"V I'm sorry…I didn't mean…Are you okay?" Starsky's fingers rested gently on the angry red marks they had left on her arms but she pulled back as though she had been stung.

Vicky needed contact with the man she loved more than life itself. But a sudden fear prevented her from approaching him. "It's okay Dave. I'm fine. I understand…at least I think I do. You think…you both think that that guy was?..."

"Yes!" It was Hutch who broke in this time. "Yes Vicky we do. Thank God for Samson."

Hearing his name the big dog slowly made his way across the room and placed his head on Vicky's lap.

Starsky hugged the animal fiercely. "Hey Samson; I owe you one; a big one, pal."

Just then the door knocked and Hutch turned to open it letting Captain Dobey and the forensics team in. Half an hour later they had finished their work having dusted for prints and gotten none but having at least drawn up a pretty good likeness from Vicky's description.

"Well at least now we have something more specific to go on." Dobey mopped his forehead with the ever present white handkerchief. "I'll get the boys back at the precinct to get these made up and handed around. I'll also arrange for a man to be at your door twenty four hours a day Vicky."

"Thanks Cap. But he'll only be needed for three days. After that she won't be here. I've already spoken to Ma and she's expecting Vicky Saturday midday. At least then I´ll know she's definitely safe!"

Vicky rose as quickly as her condition allowed. "No…Dave, please! Don't make me go... I don't want to." Starsky stood, barely holding his anger in check. "Sorry Vicky but you're going and that's final."

"No…Please...I think that with a cop at the door until the case is solved will be enough. And I´ll be cautious, I promise... Dave, I need to be here, with you... And I thought that you needed me too." Her voice was just a tremulous whisper.

Starsky's anger boiled over. "Yeah! I need you ALIVE! I want to hold you in my arms a day, a week, a month from now. I want to hold our baby, ALIVE! I don't want to come home and find you the same way those other poor husbands had to find their wives. I want to bring you flowers on our anniversary, not put them on your gravestone like I do in Terry's! I want to see our child grow up, play baseball with him…Don't you get it Vicky, I NEED TO PROTECT YOU BOTH, and this is the only way I can do it. If I don't have to worry about you then I can concentrate on catching this nutcase. But if you don't go then I'm not working 'cos I´ll be terrified to let you out of my sight. You'll become a prisoner in your own home. Is that what you want?" Starsky reached out and gently held his wife's face in his hands. "Please V, go to Ma´s, for me. At least that way I’ll be sure that you're safe even if I will miss you like hell."

"Starsky´s right Vicky. Believe me, I know how you feel, but if you were to talk to Edith she´d tell you to go too." Dobey's voice was gentle reminding her of her father and Vicky calmed down a little. Finally she nodded.

"Okay Dave. I'll go." Saying this, the girl rose from the couch, heading towards the kitchen. She smiled at the others but her whole body trembled while tears were welling up in her eyes.

Later that night Starsky lay in bed staring at the ceiling with an ache in his heart and a gap that felt as wide as the Grand Canyon between himself and his wife. It was well past midnight but he was unable to sleep. As soon as Hutch had finally left that night Vicky plunged into a deep silence, talking only if asked, and with short answers. Starsky was pretty sure that his wife was angry at him, but frightened as he was for her safety and having had his fears well and truly confirmed in the worst way possible, he was unable to see that the girl was not angry, but scared. All he wanted was for her to be well away from Bay City and any further chance of danger. Only when he knew that she was safe at his Mother's house would he relax and be able to give his while attention to the case.

All through that night Vicky's thoughts and feelings were in turmoil, preventing her from getting any sleep. Her heart kept telling her that Starsky was the same kind and gentle man she had married, but his previous behavior had triggered deep traumas and fears within her. So it was that unusually, in their short marriage, they had gone to bed with an uncomfortable tension and silence hanging heavily between them.

It was a tired, short-tempered, hurt man who left for work early the next morning without so much as a backward glance at his wife lying with her back to him in bed. Word quickly spread around the precinct not to upset Detective Starsky unless you wanted your head bitten well and truly off. Hutch spent a long hard day treading on egg shells, desperately trying not to break them and he was as relieved as his fellow officers when their shift ended and Starsky left without him.

The next three days weren't much better. Vicky kept her cold demeanour towards Starsky, even feeling herself unfair and ashamed for it, but she was feeling irrationally scared while the memories of Billy were torturing her mind over and over. Their first row was proving to be a major event that was threatening to drive a wedge between them.

Saturday morning found Hutch waiting in the departure lounge as Starsky saw his wife off. The journey to the airport had been made in silence and the atmosphere inside the Torino could be cut with a knife. As he waited he heard someone call his name and he turned to see Jenny running across the lounge towards him.

"Hi Hutch. Tell me I'm not too late. My alarm clock went off half an hour early and I went back to sleep. I just wanted to say goodbye to Vicky."

"No you're not late. They haven't called for boarding yet. Vicky and Starsky are over there and somehow I think Starsky won't mind you interrupting." They both looked across at Starsky and Vicky and could clearly see the distance between the couple.

"Okay! I've had it up to here with that chip on Vicky's shoulder." Jenny's hand was held high above her own head. "She's being unfair on Dave and I'm damn well going to tell her so!" Before Hutch could stop her she had marched across the concourse towards Vicky her face a set mask of anger.

"Jenny!" Vicky's face lit up at seeing her friend. "You made it, I hoped you would."

"Yeah! I made it." Jenny's tone was sharp and her features were set in a determined way. "Dave, would you excuse us for a minute please? There's something I´d like to say to this wife of yours before she goes."

"Okay. I´ll go check you in Vicky. I won't be long." Starsky turned and headed for the check in desk. Jenny watched him go before turning to her friend.

"What the hell kind of game are you playing Vicky?" her voice was harsh and her eyes blazed as she tore into the brunette before her. "How dare you treat Dave like this? He loves you and he's trying to protect you the only way he knows how. Its breaking his heart sending you away and you know it, so why are you treating him like shit?"

Vicky stood open mouthed for a moment, surprised by the torrent of words coming from her best friend. Finally she found her voice. "It's not a game Jenny and it's none of your damn business!"

"No? Well I just made it my business. Someone has to talk some sense into you. So your feelings got a little bit hurt…so what? Dave is the best thing that ever happened to you Vicky Starsky and don't you forget it. Or maybe you've already forgotten how things were before, when you were married with that beast of your first husband?"

"JENNY!"

"Sorry Vicky, but at times, it's good to remember. You know what would've happened if you had dared to treat Billy as you're treating Dave right now? Well. I'll tell you. He would've hauled you towards the nearest bathroom of this airport, and would've beaten you, until you wouldn't be taking any fucking plane to New York but an ambulance towards the nearest hospital... And let me tell you that what you're doing to David now it's nothing but another kind of mistreatment. Don't you see it?" Seeing tears falling down her friend's cheeks Jenny eased a little of the pressure. "I'm sorry, but somebody has to talk straight to you. Look Vicky. There aren't many men who would lay their life on the line for a woman, but you got double lucky; you found one that married you. Well right now you sure as hell don't deserve him. And it would serve you damn well if he walked away from this airport and forgot you!" Jenny paused for breath and she watched the face of her friend closely.

"You don't know what you're talking about Jen!" Vicky's voice was little more than a whisper.

"Don't I? I've got eyes Vicky. Look at your husband. Where's the spring gone from his step? He used to look so dam self confident. When he walked across a room all the women would stare at him and he oozed confidence. Now look at him. It's like he wants the ground to open up and swallow him and it's all your doing. I sure as hell hope you're proud of yourself! I know how he's behaving at work right now too and even Hutch is worried for him. It's tearing him apart that Dave won't let him help, and you know what? That means it's affecting me too! Congratulations Vicky your stupid hurt pride has managed to upset four lives! Well I'm not going to let it affect mine any longer. You´re gonna make it up with Dave here and now or were through being friends. You're on your own as far as I'm concerned!"

Then, Vicky grabbed Jenny's arm firmly, saying with a piercing voice.

"JENNY, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND!... I’M SCARED! SCARED OF DAVE!"

"What? What the hell are you saying Vicky?"

"He… he'd shout at me… he grabbed me so sharply… He seemed so angry! And he didn't ask me about going to New York, he just took the decision for me. Like Billy used to do… I'm scared Jen"

"God, Vicky!" Suddenly Jenny understood. Hugging her friend tightly, she tried to talk while a wave of sympathy washed over her. After a few seconds Jenny pulled out of the embrace.

"Vicky…Vicky, listen to me. Dave's not like Billy; he'll never be! He loves you and he would never hurt you. You know that!"

"I know… but that day I began feeling scared of him… And I can't help it!"

"Talk to him about this Vicky, and do it now. He's having a pretty hard time thinking that you're mad at him and he deserves to know the truth."

"I… I can't"

"Yeah, Vicky. You can. Dave will understand, and he needs to hear what you have to say. Look at him Vicky. He's looking shattered. Help him, Vicky; do it now, before you leave." The colour left Vicky's face and she turned away from Jenny to really look at Starsky. He was walking slowly over to Hutch and, as she watched, she could see that Jenny was right. His head was down and the dark circles under his eyes stood out on his face. The jaunty sway that always went with her husband when he walked was missing. More than anything he looked incredibly tired.

"Oh God, Dave… What I did to you?" she spoke to herself.

"There's no good telling yourself Vicky. It's Dave who needs to hear it, not you." Jenny's voice echoed around her head as she slowly waddled her way over to Starsky. Reaching up she gently touched his face with her fingertips wishing that she could make the dark circles disappear.

"Dave…I'm sorry…I've really hurt you haven't I?"

Starsky looked down at her, surprise clearly visible on his face. Slowly he nodded his head. "More than you know Vicky."

"Dave I need to tell you something. Though I'm not sure how to." Vicky needed a lot of effort to keep talking with an almost failing voice "When a few days ago you got so mad... I... I know that it's absurd but I was scared… Scared of you. I wasn't mad, Dave. Just scared…The years… Well, my life with Billy left a deep mark within me that still remains, I guess."

"Vicky... I can't believe it." Starsky spoke softly, realizing what he had just heard from his wife's lips. "I thought that you trusted me… I'm sorry Vicky. I'm so sorry for all of this. I know that I can be a true asshole when I get mad, scared or worried, but I can't help it… And you know how worried I am for your safety right now. But I love you. And I would never hurt you. I thought you knew it, that it was out of the question from the first day and what we had was strong, that it would see us through anything. How could I be so wrong? The first time that our love has been tested it has almost snapped in half." Starsky's voice was a whisper and he kept a slight distance between them, unwilling to reach out and touch his wife back.

"Almost snapped Dave, but it never actually broke, and I've learnt a hard lesson. Pride always comes before a fall they say; well I just sure as hell took one heck of a tumble. I'd give anything, do anything, for all of this not to have happened and for you to take me in your arms and kiss me again." The tears were falling slowly down her cheeks as she spoke. "I love you Dave Starsky, more than I ever thought it possible to love, and if to prove it I have to get on that plane and go to New York then I go willingly, but my heart stays here. With you." She watched her husband anxiously, not realizing she was holding her breath until she released it with a whoosh as Starsky reached out and pulled her close, his arms encircling her tightly.

As Jenny walked back over to Hutch he shook his head, smiling at her. "I don´t know what you said to her, Jenny but I´m glad you did it. Maybe now I'll get my partner back and we can catch this son of a bitch!"

Jenny kissed Hutch's cheek. "You're welcome lover boy. Maybe now I'll get you back too!"

Two hours later Vicky was well on her way to New York, weeping silently throughout the entire flight, despite the anxious looks of the other passengers. Meanwhile Hutch and Starsky had dropped Jenny off at the hair salon and they were both on their way back to the precinct.

Hours later, the plane landed safely in NY where Rachel Starsky was already waiting for Vicky at the passenger gates, greeting her with an embrace and a smile. The girl could see in her the same blue eyes of Starsky, the same gentle smile, the same determination and tenderness in each one of her gestures. Seeing Rachel only made her sadness increase.

Despite the efforts at conversation that Starsky's mother tried to start more than once on the way to her home, Vicky kept mostly silent, only speaking to utter some polite answer or comment, and it wasn't difficult for the older lady to guess that her daughter-in-law was deeply distressed, though she decided not to push Vicky into talking yet and instead wait for the right moment

-00000000-

Back in Bay City Thomas Harris was once again in the loneliness of his big and empty house. He was sitting down on the floor, rocking himself back and forth, feeling angry. Angrier than ever before He had almost made it. He was in the house, the door was closed, and that damned pregnant bitch was close, so close to him. He almost could see her blood, smell it, feel the last convulsed movements of her body fighting for breath. But that dog, so strong and furious, had scared the hell out of him... He had thought for a moment that he would not get out of the house alive….

Try to relax Tommy. Don't get upset…Forget her. You can try again…There are a lot of them everywhere. Just wait for a while. You can do it again…

-00000000-

Meanwhile, in New York, Rachel Starsky watched worriedly the heartbreaking melancholy that her daughter-in-law was feeling.

One morning, some days after her arrival to New York, when Vicky got out of bed, Rachel was already sitting down at the kitchen table looking distractedly at a book. The breakfast was almost ready, and Vicky sat down with sleep still lingering her eyes.

"Morning Rachel"

"Good morning child. Did you sleep well?"

"Yeah… Humm... What's this?"

"Oh. Nothing important; just some family pictures. At times I love to look at them again, old woman habits I guess."

"Can I take a look?"

"Sure." Rachel passed the photo album to Vicky while getting to her feet to get the coffee pot. The pictures told the whole story of one family's life. A young Rachel, beautiful and smiling, heavily pregnant, holding the hand of a little Starsky. A thin kid who showed his special smile and his wild brown curls. A handsome uniformed cop, Starsky´s father, with the same nose, same chin, and same curled hair as his oldest son. A picture of a little Nick Starsky, smiling to the camera. The time was passing in each of the pictures and, some pages on, Vicky saw a very young Starsky and Hutch in their academy days, both young men proudly wearing their rookies uniform. Christmas, Hanukah, birthdays, all kind of family moments, were reflected in those pictures. The girl looked them with a sweet melancholy growing in her heart until in seeing one of the pictures the wind flew from her lungs. She groaned low, placing a hand over her mouth.

"What's wrong child?" Despite her question, Rachel had already guessed which picture Vicky was looking at.

"This… this picture..." In the image there were an extremely pale and thin Starsky sitting down on a couch with Hutch by his side, perched in the armrest. The brunet was looking thin like a prisoner from a concentration camp, his clothes hung from his emaciated body. In that pic, Starsky was smiling feebly, but pain was etched in his features. That image had nothing to do with the fit and attractive man she had met just over a year before. While Vicky was caressing lovingly the outlines of Starsky´s face in the picture, Rachel began to speak.

"That picture was taken the first day Davey was discharged from the hospital after the assassination attempt. I know that it's pretty painful to look at, but that was the first day of his new life, and looking at it helps me thank God for having Davey healthy and happy between us." Rachel was talking as Vicky remained mesmerized, looking at the picture, while a silent tear slid down her cheek.

"Hey, come on child. Don't cry. That's the past. Davey´s fine now, and happier than ever thanks to you."

"NO!... Right now Dave is anything but happy… He's worried and upset. And it's my fault… I was mean to him before coming here, and now I'm missing him more than I can bear, and I don't even know when I'll be able to be with him again" Vicky's tears fell even harder.

"It's alright. Calm down child. What's the matter, huh? You´re in love with that son of mine but things got a little rough in the days before you left because Davy sent you here, while you didn't want to leave him, your home, your life back there in Bay City, right?" Vicky just nodded.

"Listen Vicky. Maybe you'll think that it's none of my business but, if you want to know my opinion, that boy can be a true pain in the ass at times, and I can't promise you that he won't do anything like this in the future if he thinks that is the best for you. But I do know something. No man would love you as Davy does, Vicky, and I'm sure that if you both were mad at each other, he's already forgotten the whole thing... You can be totally sure of something. Davey´s doing the best he knows to protect you and your baby He already lost the woman he loved once, and if that happens again he would just die.

-00000000-

Since Vicky's leave, Hutch and Jenny were doing their best to ease Starsky's distress. He was becoming increasingly frustrated with the failure of their investigations and he was missing Vicky with all of his heart. He spent as much time as possible at Hutch's, with Jenny and Samson joining them most of the times, and in those moments he didn't feel so alone, but every time he went back home, the loneliness hit him again wrapping him with icy arms. The long phone calls to New York gave a little solace, and he was looking forward to getting a couple of days off, to fly to his wife.

The search for the white orchid killer was getting nowhere, though luckily he had not killed again. Then, one day Starsky and Hutch answered a call from a place where the neighbors had heard shouts and violent noises coming from a nearby house. With lights and siren Starsky drove the Torino at full speed, coming there a couple of minutes after the call. On hearing a woman screaming from the inside they battered down the front door. Inside a man was holding a pregnant woman against the wall, with his hands around her neck, slowly suffocating her. On the coffee table lay a plastic box containing a white orchid. With a feline jump Starsky rushed towards the man grasping his collar while Hutch took the scared woman into his arms trying to offer her a moment of comfort before sitting her down on the couch. He strode towards the man, already cuffed by Starsky, to frisk him before reading him the Miranda rights.

The white orchid killer had been caught. The nightmare was over.

All through his interrogation, the suspect kept saying once and again that he wasn't guilty of any pregnant woman's murder. According his statement, the victim of his attack, Linda Wilson, a married woman had been his lover for over two years. However, she firmly denied knowing the man. According him, the white orchid had been just an unlucky coincidence. That morning he went to her house to give her the flower as a peace offering of sorts, in a try to reassume their relationship. However, she'd told him that they were over, and because his violent temper, what started just as an argument, soon become a violent fight.

His criminal record, with two arrests, one for armed robbery with assault, the other for assaulting a woman, didn't help him at all. After a long and tiring interrogation, during which he repeated the same story over and over, Starsky and Huch left the interrogation room. Some minutes later, as they were both drinking coffee, a very pensive Starsky asked Hutch.

"What's if he's telling the truth, Blondie? What if he's not the man we're looking for?"Starsky asked looking pensive

"Come on Starsk. HE IS. The victim is a pregnant woman who, by the way, keeps saying she doesn't know him, the white orchid in the crime scene. He was trying to suffocate her. What more do you need?"

"The telephone wire… It wasn't cut."

"Sure because he couldn't do it. Mrs. Wilson lives in an apartment building Starsk. The phone wires are too high to reach easily."

"He wasn't wearing a phone worker's uniform either. Besides he didn't have a scalpel, and also, the woman is not seven, but five months pregnant… Look Hutch, the MO isn’t the same; something’s wrong here"

"But his description fits perfectly with the description that Vicky gave us on the guy who went to your house. Come on, partner. Try to relax. This case is over, and now you and I can ask Dobey for a couple days off, and you can go to New York to see your mom and bring that beautiful wife of yours back home"

"Yep, most likely you're right; the case is over and I am just being a bit paranoid" Starsky conceded, though not being entirely convinced.

"STARSKY! HUTCHINSON!" Dobey's shouts echoed around the whole squad room.

"Are you sure that asking him for a couple of days off will be a good idea?" Starsky asked as Hutch headed towards Dobey's office. As an answer Hutch simply shrugged his shoulders as he knocked the door

"Come in Hutchinson."

"How in hell you'd know that it was me, cap?" Hutch asked once inside the office.

"Easy Hutchinson. Because Starsky never knocks at the door." A little more relaxed Dobey looked at Starsky with a hint of a smile under his moustache "Well boys, I just wanted to congratulate you both. Good work. That nutcase was worrying me a lot, me, the department and the whole city too. And now, how about four days off huh? Dave, son. Go to New York, bring your wife home. But I want you both here Monday morning, seven o'clock sharp to finish up a good lot of paperwork, ok?"

"Sure thing Cap. Monday at seven o'clock." Starsky said.

"Well, and now what are you both waiting for?... Go, go! I have still a lot of work to do."

"Thanks cap." Both men left the office heading toward their desks to pick their jackets before leaving the precinct.

That day in his daily phone call to New York, Starsky didn't give anything away but early the next morning, a plane would take him, Jenny and Hutch to New York for a surprise reunion with Vicky and Rachel.

In New York uneventful days went by and, despite feeling spoilt, loved and comfortable with Rachel, Vicky was longing for the day that she could go back home and be with Starsky. That night, before going to bed, both women were sitting down on the couch watching TV and chatting, when Rachel looked at Vicky's large abdomen and asked "Vicky. Can I ask you something?"

"Yeah, of course Rachel."

"When is your baby due?"

"Roughly January fifth. I thought you knew." The younger woman blushed almost imperceptively "Why?"

"Well, I'm no doctor, but I think that something's wrong here."

"Wrong? What do you mean?" Vicky was almost sure about the point that Rachel Starsky was about to make.

"I mean. Look at yourself. Seems as if you could go into labor at any moment. You're sure about the date?...Or perhaps you're expecting twins, Vicky?"

Vicky's face grew redder than Starsky´s Torino, and the wise, older woman noticed it immediately.

"Wait; wait a minute here, Vicky… I am right? You're expecting twins, aren’t you?"

"Ra…Rachel, I"

"Hey! That's terrific!" Starsky's mother reached for Vicky, holding her lovingly.

"But why didn't Davy say something?"

"He… He doesn't know, Rachel"

"WHAT?... But, why?"

Shyly at first Vicky filled Rachel in about the surprise she wanted to give Starsky, relaxing as she saw that her Mother in Law wasn't angry at all but very excited with the idea.

"Oh child! I can't wait to see my son's face when he sees not one but two babies to feed, change their nappies and rock in the middle of the night, when he just wants to sleep. But don't you let him get out of the hook! Make him help you, Okay?" Both women burst into laughter.

From that moment Vicky had a new accomplice for her little prank. That night she went to bed with a warm feeling in her heart towards the gentle woman that already she loved as her own mother.

-00000000-

Back in Bay City, a terrible explosion, cause unknown, destroyed a big part of the 9th precinct building, including the phone switchboard, leaving two detectives badly wounded, and a man under arrest dead, though the press didn't disclose the victims names. Starsky Hutch and Jenny didn't know the news yet, but in New York, while they were eating their breakfast, Vicky and Rachel were hearing about it on the radio.

Breakfast forgotten the two women hurriedly crossed to the telephone. Picking up the receiver Rachel´s hand shook as she dialled the number held inside her heart. Allowing a dozen rings before giving up she turned to Vicky.

“Davy doesn't answer the phone. I'm going to try Ken." Again her hands shook as she dialed the second of three numbers that she knew so well. When there was no answer from there either she slammed the receiver into place. Taking a deep breath she dialed the number of Bay City 9th precinct. This time the number unobtainable sound filled her ears and she slowly let the phone drop onto the table.

"Let me have a go." Vicky picked up the receiver and dialed Jenny's number. Everything inside her wanted to scream when there was no reply. Jabbing her finger on the cut off button she hurriedly redialed the only other number she could think of. Huggy Bear wasn't answering his phone either and Vicky replaced the receiver with tears forming in her eyes.

Rachael managed to bury her fears to comfort the younger woman. "Hey...no news is good news. I'm sure that Captain Dobey would have contacted me if there were anything to worry about. The boys are probably helping out at the precinct. Besides they've got a big case they're working on. Chances are that they were nowhere near the explosion."

Vicky nodded knowing the older woman was right but unable to hide her fear. All she could think of was her husband and the chance that she might never see him again.

"Come on Vicky. Let's sit down and wait half an hour. Then we can try all the numbers again and we'll keep on trying to get them every half an hour until we find out something."

Together the two women sat on the couch each lost in their own thoughts. Every half an hour they would reach for the phone and try unsuccessfully to get information. Each time their hopes fell a little further and by dusk the two were mentally exhausted. Suddenly their thoughts were interrupted by yet another report from the radio news stating that one of the two detectives had died and the other one remained critical. The names weren't being released yet, until the next of kin had been informed. Vicky sobbed quietly and Rachael reached out for her trying to take away a little of the angst but feeling it just as much herself. As they held on to each other they both heard the sound of a key turning and they both spun around in time to see the door open and a beaming Starsky poke in his head.

"Hey Ma, Vicky! Surprise!" He looked at the two women and his smile instantly faded.

"What is it?... What’s happened?" Throwing open the door he flew across the room and dropped to his knees in front of them. "I thought you’d be glad to see me but I guess I was wrong. Never thought I´d have quite this effect on the two women in my life." Starsky suddenly found himself embraced by arms that held him so tight he thought he would never breathe again.

A bemused Hutch and Jenny stood at the door, watching the scene in front of them in bewilderment.

"Now that's what I call a welcome!" Jenny's quiet voice whispered in Hutch's ear as he smiled at her.

"Yeah! But it's a little over the top even for Starsky´s mother." He whispered back. Both moved into the room at Starsky's frantic hand waving.

"Ma... Vick! Will you both please let me go and tell us what's wrong?" Starsky's voice rose as he spoke.

Both women looked at each other before turning to look over their shoulder.

"Ken!" Rachael let go of Starsky and hurried as fast as her legs could carry her towards Hutch, hugging him too. "You're both alright! Praise the Lord!"

"Jenny what are you doing here? It's so good to see you." Vicky's eyes were wet with tears and she held out her arms towards her friend who quickly took them and they both embraced.

"Err...Ma, Vicky. What the hell is all this about? We wanted to surprise you but you both look as though we were ghosts or something." Starsky had recovered himself from the unexpected greeting and had slipped back into cop mode knowing something was wrong but not what as yet.

Suddenly the radio newscast once again broke into the music announcing that the second detective had also died from his injuries and early reports were that a gas leak had caused the explosion.

Hutch and Starsky looked at each other in silence.

"You thought..." Starsky had turned to Vicky who nodded quietly.

"We've been trying to contact you all day, Davy. There was no answer from anywhere." Rachel's hand rested on her son's arm. "Go son, be with your wife. I think she needs you more than I do right now."

Starsky briefly turned to his Mother and smiled his thanks before he wrapped Vicky in his arms and led her out into the small backyard. Hutch, Jenny and Rachael watched them out of the window for a few seconds before Hutch turned away.

"Rachael I need to use your phone please."

"Of course you do Ken. Help yourself." Rachael pointed towards the corner where the phone rested on a small table. "Come on Jenny let's make us all some coffee and perhaps you can tell me what you are all doing here. I thought my boys were on a case."

Jenny smiled at the reference to her boys. Hutch had told her about Starsky's mother and how she had extended her love to him. "Sure thing Mrs. Starsky." She followed Rachael into the kitchen.

Once there Starsky's mother busied herself gathering cups and plates and rattling through cupboards in search of something substantial to offer to her guests. As she worked she talked.

"So what are you all doing here...not that I mind some young company and I always enjoy Davey´s company. It's not often enough that I get to see him these days. Does this mean that their case is solved and Vicky can go home where she belongs?"

Jenny nodded. "Yeah! They caught the killer and Captain Dobey gave them a few days off to come and get Vicky. Dave's been so miserable since she came here. He missed her so much. Hutch and I have tried to be with him as much as we could but it's not the same as being with the one you love."

"That sounds like the voice of experience talking, child. Would I be right in thinking that Hutch and you are just a little more than just good friends?"

Jenny nodded shyly. "I guess you could say that. I never thought I would ever feel for a man how I feel for Hutch."

"Then you should hang on to him, child. A love like that is a very rare thing to find and should be treasured and nurtured." Rachael smiled knowingly at the younger woman and Jenny felt herself blush under the older woman's gaze. Thankfully at that point Hutch came looking for them and she turned away, looking at Hutch's face.

"That bad Hutch?" Her voice was soft and gentle when it came.

"Fraid so," Hutch took a breath before continuing. "The two detectives were Mason and Billings. Billings had a wife and two young children… DAMN!" Hutch thumped the back of a chair. "Sorry Rachael."

Rachael nodded her understanding, sympathy showing in her eyes. "It's always hard for a cop when a fellow officer is hurt or killed but when you can't do anything about it then it's one hundred times worse. I remember it all so well."

From behind her Rachael felt a warm and comforting arm go around her shoulders and she turned to see Vicky and Starsky standing with her. He smiled softly to her before looking at Hutch, eyes locked.

"Dobey?" Starsky´s voice was questioning.

"He's okay. A little bruised and very upset but other than that Edith said he's fine." Hutch passed on everything he had managed to glean from Edith Dobey and the two partners took their time to digest it all. Finally Starsky crossed to the phone and began to make arrangements for them all to return home earlier than planned. Both men knew that they couldn't stay so far away when friends and colleagues needed their help. As he spoke on the phone he heard Hutch speaking to Vicky.

"One thing Vicky... this means that you won't have to face your attacker in court. He died in the explosion."

A wave of relief washed over Vicky's face and Starsky turned away. He still couldn't quite shake the feeling that they had the wrong man.

-00000000-

Two months later life was slowly coming back to normal for everyone. Repairs had long since finished at the precinct. The fallen policemen had been buried and mourned, and apart from the immediate families of the two dead men, life went on. Christmas was fast approaching and Starsky and Vicky were busy making plans for their Christmas Day get together. Vicky was struggling with her size now and Starsky pampered her as much as he could get away with and his time allowed.

One thing he insisted on was that she was never left on her own. His pretence was that he was worried about her being on her own just in case she went into labor earlier than expected, but still he listened to that uneasy voice in his head that came to the fore late at night when everyone else was asleep telling him that the White Orchid Killer was still out there somewhere looking and waiting for his next victim.

Christmas Day arrived and Starsky was up early, quietly tidying around and making Vicky breakfast in bed. Waking from her slumbers Vicky wondered why she felt different and it took her a little while to realize that her babies were unnaturally quiet. She placed her hand on her stomach as though to prove to herself that they were still there. Moving slowly from bed her hand went automatically to her back supporting her slow waddle to the bathroom. A slight twinge in her abdomen made her draw in her breath a little but she took little notice of it as she continued her slow progress. Today was going to be a busy day for hem both and she so wanted it to be perfect for them all since it would be the last time they would be just them. Next year there would be four in this little family and three in Jenny's and her house would be a scene of confusion, and happiness.

An hour later she walked into the living room just in time to see a guilty looking Starsky moving rapidly away from the Christmas tree. Pretending not to notice she headed for the coffee pot wondering when she would get the chance to add her own small surprise for her husband to the one so obviously placed there a minute ago for her. In the kitchen she could smell the enticing aroma of turkey slowly cooking in the oven. Starsky rarely cooked these days if she had anything to do with it but when he did she knew that she was in for a treat as he conjured up appetizing meals from long buried memories of his relatives and their cooking skills. She could still rememeber up the smell and taste of the meals prepared for her by Rachael Starsky a few months ago. Glancing around her she could see that her husband had been busy while she had slept. Everything was prepared and in the pots ready to cook. Jenny would be here shortly to give her a hand and they would take over the work allowing Starsky and Hutch some time just to relax and unwind. This year they were both going to take an hour to head over to see Jim Mitchell and young Kathy hoping to hear some good news from them both. As she thought of her friends the door knocked.

"It's open Hutch, come on in." Starsky yelled from the other side of the room where he was fighting with a bright red Christmas garland that kept refusing to stay where he wanted it. Just as Hutch entered the whole thing fell down once more covering him from head to foot.

"Hey Starsk! Trust you to go over the top and decorated yourself too. What's the matter...run out of room on the walls?" Hutch couldn't contain the laughter at the sight of Starsky.

"Very funny Hutch. Make yourself useful, will ya? Get over here."

Together the two replaced the errant streamer and kissing their respective partners goodbye they headed for the Torino and the Mitchell's home, a huge parcel held in front of them.

Fifteen minutes later they were standing in the lounge listening to Jim and Suzie Mitchell speaking.

"Turns out that guy wasn't her father at all, and he was never legally made her legal guardian so the courts came down on our side and here it is." Jim held out a certificate for them both to see. "Kathy's legal adoption papers. She's now a part of this family properly at last."

Starsky beamed at them both. "Man, that's the best Christmas present anyone could have... a kid! If there's ever anything I can do for her let me know will ya Jim? I owe that girl more than I could possibly repay."

"Well there is one thing you can do Starsky. We've got a special party planned in a couple of weeks with a blessing from our Minister. Wed like for you and Vicky to be here as a special part of the service. Kind of like godparents if you like."

Oh Man. Jim! We'd be honoured. Just let us know the time and date and nothing will keep us away." Starsky's voice broke a little as he spoke and he glanced at Hutch who answered him with a reassuring smile.

Suddenly the door was flung open and Kathy ran in throwing herself on Starsky with a huge hug. Starsky bent down and lifted her high in the air swinging her around as he did so.

"Hey button, you've grown. I won't be able to do this much longer!"

The laughing girl slid down as he lowered his arms and as she reached his face level her arms wrapped themselves around his neck as she kissed his cheek.

"Happy Christmas Dave." Happiness shone in the child's face as Starsky looked at her and he realised that through all the tragedy of that almost forgotten day something really good had emerged from it.

"Happy Christmas to you to Kathy. Look what we've got for you." He nodded his head to Hutch who picked up the huge parcel and handed it to the girl. Kneeling down he released her as she wriggled in his grip. Together the two men watched her face as she tore through the layers surrounding the huge bear they had found her tucked in a small toyshop across town. The bear was as big as she was.

"He's gorgeous Dave. Thank you. Thank you Uncle Hutch." She hugged the huge bear as she spoke and her eyes glistened and sparkled.

"He's a special friend Kathy for when you have a secret to share and there's no-one else around. Or when you're just feeling a little lonely or miserable and you need someone to talk to. Or when you want to share your happiest times." Starsky spoke quietly to the young girl his heart aching for all the times in her life when she must have needed just such a person.

"I´ll love him always Dave." Kathy kissed his cheek again before turning and walking slowly out of the room with her huge friend.

"And this is for Alex, Jim. Its a remote controlled car. We hope he’ll like it." Starsky said, holding out the other parcel.

"Hey thanks, I know he’ll like it! Ill give it to him when he comes back"

"Where is your kid anyway?" asked Hutch.

"He's with Jake, his best friend at school, exchanging Christmas presents. They'll be here anytime…Know something Dave You´re pretty good with kids. You ever get fed up with homicide then let me know. We could do with people like you in juvenile." Jim Mitchell looked at the dark haired detective.

"Sorry Jim. It´d take me much too long to break in a new partner after all this time. Besides he's gonna have his own kid to look after pretty soon." Hutch placed his hand on Starsky's arm. "Talking of which Starsk, we´d better getting back or our girls will be climbing the walls."

Making their excuses the duo left and headed for the car. As they got to it, the front door of the Mitchell's flew open and Suzie Mitchell ran down the path after them.

"Ken there’s a call for you." She paused for breath. "Jenny said to get the car moving fast. They’re on the way to the hospital right now and Starsky had better be there when they arrive or Vicky’s heading for the divorce court afterwards… She went into labour!

"WHAT!" Starsky yelled and froze.

"The baby, Dave. It's coming! Move yourself." Suzie pushed him firmly in the back and towards the Torino.

"But… It can't be… It's not due for another ten days...it can't…"

"Babies don't take any notice of timetables, Dave. They come when they're ready and not until."

Hutch realized that Starsky wasn't going to listen to sense. Striding around the car he grabbed his partner and shoved him inside and across to the passenger seat. Climbing into the driving seat he grabbed the Mars light and slapped it on the top at the same time demanding the keys for the ignition. A completely silent and terrified looking Starsky handled them over and Hutch quickly got the car moving. As they hit the main street so he hit the sirens and raced through the morning traffic towards the hospital. Twenty minutes later they screeched to a halt in front of the hospital and Hutch pushed Starsky from the car.

"Go on buddy. Your wife needs you. Get your arse in gear and RUN! I´ll be with you as soon as I've parked the tomato."

Starsky flew as fast as he could into the hospital towards the maternity wing, his trainers slapping on the cold floor. As he raced into a bright open area he saw Jenny standing by a room looking in.

"Jenny" Where is she? What happened?" Starsky's breath was coming in short gasps as he tried to fill his lungs.

"She's in there Dave. The doctors are with her now. It's a little early but they think everything is going to be fine. It's just that she's so big, her body can't provide enough nutrition anymore." Jenny looked at Starsky. "Get your breath first Dave, then get in there. They're waiting for you."

"Yeah, okay... Hutch... tell Hutch. He´s on his way, just parking the car"

You let me worry about Hutch. You worry about Vicky!" Jenny's voice was firm and she opened the door a little and pushed him through, watching at the window as he ran to Vicky's side and hugged her before sitting by the bed and holding her hand firmly. Relaxing at last she turned from the window and moved to sit on a hard seat as Hutch came in.

"Jen! What's going on? The baby isn't due for another ten days. What happened? Where's Starsky?" Hutch realised that he was beginning to sound like his friend earlier and sat down quickly trying to calm his thoughts.

"Nothing's wrong Hutch, and it's not early. Not really. Vicky's doctor warned her that this might happen under the circumstances."

"Circumstances?... What circumstances? Starsky never said anything about"

"That's because he doesn't know anything Hutch. Vicky wanted to keep it a surprise." Looking at Hutch's face Jenny realized that she would have to tell him. "The baby isn't really early, Hutch. It'd be if it was just one baby, but Vicky's having twins and she always knew they would probably arrive a little early. She didn't quite expect them to be a Christmas delivery though." She stopped as she realized the color had drained from Hutch's face. "Hutch? You okay? Say something."

"Twins!" How?... When?..." Hutch stopped and drew a deep breath before starting again. "How long have you know?"

"Since she found out. Vicky wanted to keep it a secret as a surprise for Dave. She knew how excited and proud he´d be with one child and she wanted to see his face when there were two. She's had the devil of a job stopping him from finding out, even arranging her clinic appointments when she knew that he´d be working, and hiding half of the stuff at my place. Remember the pram?" Hutch nodded. "Well that was hers but we sent it back. It wouldn't go in her new car. We managed to trade it at the store for a double pram that does fit and that's back in my loft out of our way."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Come on Hutch. You and Dave can never have secrets from each other. How long do you think you would have lasted before he found out? Tell you who does know though. Rachael. Vicky said she guessed. She thought it was great fun."

"I bet she did. She and Starsky have the same sense of humor." Hutch stopped and thought for a moment. "This will be us in a few months time Jenny. Doesn't seem possible does it?

"No. It doesn't." Jenny's face changed and she became serious. "You still haven't quite forgiven me for turning you down, for not marrying you, haven't you, Hutch?"

Hutch looked directly at her. "It took a while Jenn. I have to be honest with you. That hurt a lot. But I've got a really good friend who made me realise that it didn't really matter. I know how I feel about you and I never thought I would feel like that again. So I guess we make the best of it for the baby's sake. I think you look beautiful right now." Hutch kissed her tenderly before removing a small box from his pocket. "Here, this is for you. It was my Grandmother's and I want you to have it. She was a special lady too!"

Jenny looked at the small box in her hand. Slowly she lifted the lid to reveal a simple ring with a sapphire.

"Hutch I can't take this."

"Yes you can. Here." He removed the ring from the box and slipped it on to her finger. "There, perfect fit!" Jenny's eyes moistened and Hutch kissed her again before placing his arm around her shoulder and leaning back into the couch. "Guess all we can do now is wait so we may as well get comfortable." Pulling her backwards into him, her head rested on his shoulder, the two settled down to wait.

Inside the room Vicky was fighting to get the pain of the contractions under control, her eyes tightly closed, hand grasping her husband's.

"Funny way to spend Christmas...Aw!... It hurts Dave! Damn, it hurts!"

"I know honey, I know… You’re doing fine." Starsky was unsuccessfully trying to hide his nervousness. After a few seconds the contraction passed and Vicky features became relaxed again, while Starsky's face was still a pale mask of restlessness and worry.

"Breathe Vicky, sweetheart. Breathe," Starsky was drying Vicky's sweating forehead with his handkerchief while she breathed deeply with closed eyes.

"Calm down love, or you're going to have a stroke" Vicky said taking away a wayward curl from Starsky's forehead "I am breathing Dave; you're the only one here who isn't." Starsky was looking so upset that Vicky felt her own anxiety mixed with an unstoppable wish to laugh from the funniness of the whole situation.

A couple of hours later he was looking so exhausted and scared that Vicky felt for him, doubting that he could spend all the time until the end by her side. "Look sweetheart. The doc says that this will take a long while, so why don't go get some fresh air huh? Jenny can spend a while with me."

"I don't want to leave you Vicky. What if I'm not here when the baby comes?"

"The baby won't come for a while, Davy...I wish he would, but he won't come right now. Go out, get something to eat. You must be hungry." Vicky gently pushed Starsky towards the door.

During the next eighteen hours Starsky entered and left the room uncountable times, doing all in his power to calm himself for Vicky's sake, while Hutch and Jenny spent all their time at the hospital supporting their friends, and Vicky was becoming more and more exhausted as more hours went by. Finally, at dawn, and after checking Vicky one more time, the doctor said to her and Starsky.

"Well, Mrs. Starsky. You're almost ready. Now we’ll take you up the delivery room."

"I can go with her?"

"Of course Detective Starsky, but first you need to be dressed in sterile clothes." Vicky and Starsky entwined hands, and minutes later both were in the delivery room.

"Okay, Mrs. Starsky, now I want you to push." The doctor said as the nurse helped Vicky to get into position. "This baby wants to know his parents."

Ten minutes later though the doctor, becoming serious, said. "Now relax Mrs. Starsky. I don't want you to push for a moment."

"W-Why not Doctor? Something´s wrong?"

"We've a little trouble here. A baby is in bad position to get out, and we need to do a c-section or well have major problems. If we do it now everything will be okay." In the middle of their fear none of them paid any attention to the doctor's phrase A baby. Exhausted Vicky seized weakly Starsky´s hand, looking terrified.

"Dave! I´m scared!"

"Shhht… It's okay honey, It's okay. Everything will be fine." Starsky's voice sounded calm and confident but his heart was fighting against a paralyzing wave of terror.

"Detective Starsky, I must ask you to leave."

"But..."

"Please Detective. You must get out of here now."

So, minutes later, Starsky was pacing along the waiting room, looking distressed as never before, with Hutch and Jenny by his side, waiting and praying silently from the bottom of their hearts, while Vicky was in surgery. For a moment Jenny and Hutch thought of telling Starsky about the twins, but since the doctor was sure that everything would be okay, they both decided that they didn't want to spoil Vicky's surprise.

The silence hung dense, until, roughly an hour later some soft steps came close to the waiting room.

"Detective Starsky?" The doctor approached Starsky.

"How are they doing?"

"They are fine, and in a moment we´ll move Mrs. Starsky to her room and you can be with her." Then, a nurse came in, wheeling a transparent plastic cot with two babies inside, each of them wrapped in a white little blanket. Starsky Hutch and Jenny walked towards the cot, looking at the little babies.

"Here's a boy who wants to meet his daddy." She said smiling and holding out one of the babies to Starsky, who took the child carefully in his arms.

"He... He´s my son?" Jenny and Hutch were by Starsky's side looking the scene silently with an overwhelming feeling of tenderness gripping their hearts.

"He's your son detective. And he's your other son" She took the other baby, placing him in Starsky's free arm.

"WHAT?... My… I... Do you mean that they...?"

"Yeah. You and your wife are parents of twins. They are a little underweight, but they are fine. Congratulations. You have two beautiful children." After placing the babies in Starsky's arms the nurse added. "I'll come back in a few minutes to take the babies to their mum, this way you can go with her." The doctor and nurse moved away smiling, leaving Starsky feeling bewildered and happier than ever before. Both babies looked identical, with the same dark hair, soft and beautiful faces and small, perfect hands but, while one of them was deeply asleep, the other one yawned, looking fixedly at Starsky with his deep blue eyes under long, dark eyelashes.

"Hutch..."

"I´m right here, Starsk." Starsky noticed Hutch’s hand softly squeezing his shoulder

"I´ve got two kids, Hutch"

"Two gorgeous kids, partner."

"And they seem to be very happy with their dad." It was Jenny who spoke.

"Do you think so Jenny?"

"I'm sure Dave. Look at them. Seems as though they could spend the whole day in your arms. You'll make a great dad."

"They are the most beautiful children I've ever seen in the whole world." Starsky spoke to himself. "Hey, little boys. I'm your daddy. I love you both; I love you both so much." Starsky tenderly kissed the two little children´s foreheads. At that moment the nurse came back "Detective Starsky. You can go to your wife now. She's already in her room."

"But...The babies" Starsky seemed not to be ready to let his sons go until their first school day.

"I´ll take them with their mum and dad." The nurse gently took the tiny infants from Starsky's arms, placing them in the cot.

Vicky was waking up from the anesthesia, feeling a little light headed, thirsty and surprisingly light, like empty. An IV entered her arm and the room was silent and in semidarkness. Suddenly she remembered all that had happened earlier. The long hours of labour, the doctor's words, the concerned look of Starsky, her fear of losing her sons. Later, nothing. And now, here she was, alone. Without her babies or her husband. A sudden terror gripped her

"Dave" Her voice was barely a whisper. She tried to reach the call button, when the door opened carefully and Vicky could hear the familiar steps of Starsky approaching her bed.

"Dave?"

"Hey my sweetheart… How’re you feeling?" Starsky bent towards Vicky, kissing her forehead, and sat down in the bedside chair, taking her hand in his larger one.

"The…The babies. Where are the babies Dave?"

"A nurse is bringing them here now, Vicky. They're both just fine."

"You're not lying to me?"

"Of course not Vicky. They're a little underweight, but other than that, they are fine. And they are beautiful, so beautiful! Just like their Mom… Wait. Wait a minute. You knew, right? I mean. You knew that you were expecting twins?"

"Yeah Dave. I knew. Since the first ultrasound. But I didn't tell you because I wanted to give you a surprise… Are you mad at me?"

"Mad at you? No Vicky. This is the most wonderful Christmas present I ever got. Thanks sweetheart. I love you."

"I'm thirsty Dave. Can you get some water for me?"

"Sure, honey, but just a little sip. You know. The anesthesia; you could get sick to your stomach" Starsky rose from his chair to get some water, holding the glass to Vicky's lips. At that moment the nurse came in to the room, bringing the cot close to the bed, smiling at Vicky and placing the babies one on each side of her.

"Just for a while Mrs. Starsky. Later I´ll put them in the cot again. You need to get some rest."

Tears of happiness fell from Vicky's eyes, feeling the little warm bodies stirring next to her own. She surrounded one of the babies with her arm, fingering his soft hair, while Starsky, with a smile lighting up his entire face, took the other one in his arms, caressing his head and becoming lost in the beauty of those little blue eyes. "Hey...Vicky look at him. Little Kenny isn't doing anything but looking at me. It's incredible. I bet that soon we'll be playing baseball in the yard." The baby was seizing Starsky's forefinger with his little hand, looking at him imperturbably.

"Yeah... Meanwhile little Paul will sleep with Samson under the shadow of the apple tree." Both smiled picturing the promising future in front of them.

"Know something Dave?" Vicky said reaching for Starsky's hand. "I've got something great. The greatest thing that I ever could dream of. I have my own family, two sons, your love, peace and happiness. And I owe all of this to you. I guess I'll never be able to say how much I love you David Starsky." Starsky kissed softly Vicky's lips. Minutes later, still dozy and weak, she fell back asleep looking at the babies. In that moment Starsky swore silently to himself to do anything to keep his family happy and safe. Even giving his own life if needed.

When, a couple days later, Starsky went back to the precinct after his son's birth everybody congratulated him. Later, he went back to the hospital with his arms full with lots of flowers, plants, some chocolates, little clothes and stuffed animals for Vicky and the babies from all his companions. Really after all his years in the 9th precinct he was a well-liked man. Though the most valuable present for Vicky and himself came from Hutch.

That evening he entered Vicky's room and, after kissing her, and caressing the little sleeping babies, he held out a pink wrapper with a red ribbon towards Vicky.

"This is for the babies, Vicky. Its only one, and I'm afraid they will have to share it, but it's filled with love, and…Well, I guess he's coming back where he belongs." Vicky tore the paper off to see a white, soft teddy bear inside.

"It's…Ollie" Starsky managed to say, struggling with his emotions. Vicky knew about the little teddy bear, and her eyes filled with tears as well.

"Yeah, partner. I'm sure that Terry would want Ollie to look after Kenny and Paul."

Starsky rose from his chair, and fiercely hugged his friend.

"Hutch" Vicky said in a faltering voice before hugging him too. "This means a lot to me. You know?" She knew that while her sons had so much love around them, their life would be good and full.

Over the next few days Vicky was permanently accompanied by Starsky, Jenny and Hutch. Starsky's mum flew from NY for a couple of days, with Nick to meet her new grandsons, and of course, Vicky parents and brother, the Dobey's and even Huggy went to the hospital to see the babies. Two days after their arrival at the hospital Vicky's room was looking like a gift shop.

Meanwhile Starsky was looking to all his friends as the happiest and proudest dad in the whole world.

Vicky recovered quickly from the childbirth and, five days later, the Starsky's left the hospital and went home.

It was December 31st and though they didn't have time enough to prepare a true New Year's Eve party, they wanted to have a quiet dinner at their place with Jenny and Hutch to say good bye to that bittersweet and intense year that had brought so much pain and happiness for all of them, and to welcome the new year in the company of their sons and their best friends. So Hutch and Jenny brought the food, already prepared, from Hutch's place, and all they spent the night exchanging delayed Christmas presents and sharing their friendship, happiness, love and renewed hopes for the year to come.

The babies health was fine though they hadn't reached their very best weight yet, and even being so little, the children were already showing their different personalities. Kenny was more energetic and moody, especially when he was getting hungry. In the other hand Paul was calmer and sleepy-head, though during that night it seemed like the two babies didn't want to miss even a minute of the fun, and both began to cry with one voice whenever Vicky or Starsky placed them in their cots, so they greeted the new year surrounded for their best friends and holding their babies, as they watched the firecrackers breaking up in the dark city sky, toasting for their happiness.

A week later the Mitchell's were celebrating their little party, beginning it with a religious service in a Lutheran church that was packed out by relatives, friends, and the Dobey's among other companions from 9th precinct. The Mitchell's were good folk and the huge amount of people there attested to it.

Kathy was looking really beautiful with her white dress and her shinning brown hair tied in a plait. The little girl was looking a little overwhelmed by the solemnity of the moment but as the time passed she became more relaxed.

The Minister´s words were moving and full of wisdom. He spoke on the power of love. That the true feeling that can join people and to save the world is no other but love. The love that is stronger than the hate, the fear and even than the ties of blood. After that , he addressed some words especially to little Kathy. He told her that this was her day, and that she had given a valuable present to men and to God helping to save the life of a good man, allowing his wife and little sons to have him by their side until God wanted to call them with him. That she should keep the kindness and braveness into her heart along all her life. The minister advising her as well to respect and to love her new family, trying to learn as much as possible from them and taking every one of her new life's days as a present from God. He asked her also not to hold any grudge against her past and the people that mistreated her before. The minister said that her new life was like a still unwritten book and she couldn't blot it with hate, rancour or bad acts.

At the end of his words and while the people were leaving the church to go to the Mitchell's place, many eyes were tarnished by tears. Starsky and Vicky excused themselves from going there since the babies were so little they needed go to home and feed them and put them to bed

"Jim, Suzie. It was a beautiful service, and we've felt very honored being a part of it. Thank you so much."

"Come on David, you don't have to say this. You and your family are part of our family, you know that..." Both men, their wives, Kathy and Alex said their goodbyes and the Starsky's headed towards home with a warm feeling in their hearts, to go on with a life that was possible thanks to little Kathy.