The cold wind blown through the trees' branches, drawing ghostly shadows over the half-dark path only enlightened by the full moon.
Silently, without lights or siren on, the battered LTD pulled to a halt, with a patrol car in tow, in front the old and large Victorian style house, as the two detectives and two uniformed officers emerged from their vehicles, climbing up the stairs that leaded to a front door, taking positions
Finally, after having worked on the case that hopefully would find an end in the next few seconds, for over a month, the detectives from Metro had found themselves being led this dark, forgotten looking house, where the members of a new cult in town, "The Apostles of the Devil" were supposed to perform their sinister rituals.
A month ago-so much time, too much time-two children had been reported missing, both five-year-olds, both undoubtedly dead by now. Killed, that's how it looked like. Sacrificed by the very cultists that were hiding in their own self-confidence behind those doors Detective Ken Hutchinson was now pounding at, his stern voice barely carrying the words over the haul of the wind.
"Open up! Police!"
As expected, nothing happened, and after giving his partner a silent sign, Dave Starsky kicked the door, bursting into the house; the officers on his heels as well as Hutch.
What they saw was a huge, luxurious hall, enlightened only by lots of candles in gold candelabras, and excessively decorated with, dissected animals, oils paintings, ancient mahogany furniture and heavy black velvet curtains.
From across a long corridor, a cocktail of sounds reached the men's ears; a strange murmuring, accompanied by a monotonous chanting and the unmistakable weeping of a child.
"ZARIATNATMIX. JANNA. ETITNAMUS. See my signs. Hear my words that will open the door. Hear my orders. Come to me! See me unlocking the door. Come to me and walk on earth one more time!"
All four men hurried to where the sounds were coming from, an enormous room, brightly lit, like the hall, by dozens of candles. There, a circle of at least a dozen men, all of them dressed in maroon velvet tunics circled an oblong table that was covered by a golden silk cloth on which a little blond girl lay, naked, crying, shivering and screaming in a weak, yet terrified voice as she struggled helplessly against the strong hands holding her down, pinning her thin arms onto the table.
A huge knife hovered right above her little raising and falling chest, the man who hold it wasn´t looking at her, as if she wasn´t there, wasn´t even seeing, but stared ahead into blank, murmur-filled nothingness.
"Freeze!" Starsky, who´d been the first to regain his wits, yelled, taking aim at the dark crowd. "Police!"
It didn´t take the four policemen long to get the cultists under control, yet the man holding the knife didn´t react at all to Starsky's continuous warnings, in fact, he didn't even look at the detective, but reached up high above his head with the knife, ready to plunge the deadly blade into the young body wriggling underneath the weapon.
Not losing a second, Starsky shot, hit, stopped him. The man fell limply to the floor, the knife slipping from his hands, and instantly, Hutch was at the table, wrapping the trembling form of the shaken up child into his jacket as he ever so gently helped her to a sitting position, soothing her in his softest of voices.
Seeing that everything was under control-one of the patrol officers were putting handcuffs on the other suspects, while the other one had gone to call for backup and an ambulance-Starsky holstered his gun, kneeling down next to the apparently dead man, reaching out to search for a pulse, when he suddenly felt an icy cold hand grasping his wrist, sharp fingernails digging deep into his flesh, drawing blood. Blank, yet dark, seemingly sparkling eyes flew open, and the bluish mouth of the half-dead cultist moved, words spilling from his lips like venom.
"Ze-noxese, pioth, oxas zaegos, mavoc nigorsus, Bayar! It-It's too late f-for you. Y-you belong to him, y-your... beloved ones, they will... they will..." A thin thread of blood poured from the man´s mouth, red droplets trickling down his chin, as he wheezed out his last words.
"L-lost, you´re lost... No one will h-help y-you..."
As suddenly as it had been wrapping his wrist, the bony hand fell down again, and the startled detective jumped to his feet, losing his balance in the hasty movement and crashing down again just a few feet away from the body. Visibly shaking, Starsky lifted his wrist to inspect with wide eyes five thin threads of blood that were running down his flesh.
"Starsk?" Hutch asked, frowning, as he´d only witnessed the very last part of the scene. "Starsky?" Leaving the child in the care of one of the patrol officers, he quickly approached his partner, who´d manage to come to his feet again, and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Huh?" Starsky answered, absent-mindedly staring at his bleeding wrist.
"You okay?" Hutch repeated, then glanced down at the small injuries with his frown deepening. "Here, let me have a look at that." After a short examination, he carefully wrapped his handkerchief around Starsky´s wrist, relieved at the sound of sirens in the distance. Only a few more minutes and they´d be out of there.
"I-I need some fresh air, " Starsky´s weary voice tore Hutch away from his thoughts of finally calling it a night, and when he looked up, he found his partner´s face even paler than before.
"I-I can't breathe." With that, the still shaking man stumbled outside, leaving an anxious Hutch behind, who immediately turned to inform one of his colleagues about the situation.
"John, something´s wrong with Detective Starsky. Can you take over here for a second? Reinforcements are already on their way."
"Sure, Hutchinson. Go with him."
Nodding his thanks, Hutch hurried outside to find Starsky leaning against his car, trembling slightly and eagerly breathing in huge mouthfuls of the cold night air.
"Starsk?" Hutch asked softly, keeping his distance as he tried to check out just how much comfort his deathly pale partner needed right now.
Apparently none, was the answer, since Starsky almost instantly raised a violently shaking hand to indicate Hutch to stay away.
The blond one obeyed, though hesitantly.
"Starsk? You alright, buddy?"
"Y-yeah," Starsky breathed, his voice fading. "`M fine. Jus´ fine. Hutch?"
"Yes?" Hutch asked, the dread forcing the hairs on his neck upwards increasing with every passing second.
"Starsk!" Hutch called out, jumping forward to catch his suddenly limp friend before he could fall to the ground. Gently, he lowered the slack body down while he himself crouched down beside him, feeling for a pulse, which he found steady and strong to his relief.
"Starsky? Buddy, hey, wake up. Wake up, partner! Starsk! Star..."
Hutch´s words trailed off as his gaze fell upon Starsky´s hand that had fallen limply on his chest.
"Oh my..." the blond mumbled in utter shock, picking up the pale hand in disbelief.
The gash on Starsky´s wrist was gone. The handkerchief that Hutch had wrapped around it earlier was snow white.
He could have sworn he'd seen drops of blood on it before.
"What the hell...?" Starsky stirred slightly, a tiny whimper reached Hutch's ears, and he immediately looked at Starsky´s ashen face again. The eyes behind the closed lids moved rapidly as if the detective was caught in a terrifying dream.
"Starsk? Buddy, wake up. Starsky, wake…"
"Detective Hutchinson?" Hutch jumped, startled, and lost his balance at his crouched down position, falling to his side.
"Uh..." the rookie who'd spoken, stuttered. "Uhm, so...sorry. I didn´t...Uhm...th-the ambulance's here now, sir. I thought he might need one too," he added, pointing at Starsky who'd gone limp again, his stillness frightening in the dim moonlight.
Hutch, sitting up and panting, nodded and gave a small smile. "Y-yeah. Yes. Good thinking, uh, kid," he said, having forgotten the young man´s name for the moment.
"Send a paramedic out here, please, would you?" The rookie nodded briefly and re-entered the house, while Hutch scrambled to his feet, looking after him.
"Thanks," he muttered to no one in particular and jumped at least three feet high when he heard the strong and steady voice behind him.
"I don´t need an ambulance, Hutch. I´m fine."
Sure that his heart had missed a beat, Hutch whirled around to meet his partner´s gaze.
"Let´s go," Starsky cut him off as if he'd not heard the blond talking at all. "I´m hungry."
With that, he walked past Hutch sternly; ignoring his partner's confused stutters following him.
"Uh...Star-Starsky? Buddy, wait. Wait! Starsky!" Hutch yelled and grabbed his friend's arm to whirl him around to face him.
"Buddy, are you sure you're alright?" he asked softly.
Starsky´s reply was sharp, hoarse. "Let go off my arm, Hutch. Now."
"Uh...sorry," Hutch said and unclenched his fingers.
Starsky turned around instantly. "I´m hungry" he repeated and entered the house.
"Yeah," Hutch mumbled, following him after a second. "Hungry."
After a brief conversation with Dobey, Hutch had decided to take his partner home. The paperwork would still be there tomorrow, and the children were in no condition to be interrogated that night, anyway.
It had been a stressful month for everybody, and Dobey, after give them a couple of days off, advised them to go home finally and get a good night's sleep. Or rather: he ordered Hutch to take care of it. For both of them.
Starsky didn´t appear in Dobey´s office. He fell asleep on his desk in the office the second Hutch and he entered it, and Hutch didn´t have the heart to wake him. It was only when he left his superior's office that he gently shook Starsky awake and guided him out of the building into the LTD, where he placed him on the passenger seat.
"Mind if I crash at your place tonight?" the blond asked, but received no answer, like he'd expected it.
"Ooookay." He drove off without any further attempt at rousing Starsky.
He's almost arrived at Starsky's place, when he noticed the actions next to him, and when he glanced at his partner curled up there, he found Starsky mumbling something and moving his arms slightly.
"Starsk? Buddy, you..." For the second time that day, Hutch's voice trailed off.
Starsky's wrist that didn't have the handkerchief wrapped around it anymore, since it obviously wasn't injured, bled again. Profusely this time, and all over his lap.
Pulling over with squealing brakes, Hutch frantically tried to wake his by now thrashing partner up.
Ignoring the blood he got on his own hands, the blond grabbed his friend´s shaking shoulders, rattling him.
"Starsky, wake up! Wake up!" he yelled, feeling the cold fingers of panic starting to crawl their way up his spine. Starsky´s face had lost all its colour, and the bright strains of blood he left on it when brushing flailing hands over it, stood out horrifyingly.
"Starsk, please," Hutch begged, as he caught one of Starsky´s hands in an attempt to calm him down. "Please wake up, buddy. Y-you´re injured, we gotta..."
Frowning, he trailed off when to his utter surprise he felt a strong squeeze of Starsky´s hand. Frantic fingers scrambled to tight the hold on him even more, and now Starsky´s other hand weakly grasped at Hutch´s collar.
Capturing that one too, Hutch tried to get a closer look at the mysterious wounds on his partner´s wrists, but at a weak, almost inaudible whisper coming from Starsky, he froze.
Looking back up into his partner´s face again, Hutch found his eyes wide open, a fear he´d never before seen on Starsky´s features spreading in them like the thin bloody lines that quickly appeared out of nowhere flooded the white.
He felt his chin drop and heard more than felt himself choke on a startled cry.
Suddenly, he felt the hands he held grow cold, so cold it hurt to hold them, and he let go off them with a violent flinch, the cold seemingly seeping inside his own body, penetrating him as if he´d fallen into icy water. Again, he heard a loud gasp and knew it was him.
But it all seemed strangely distanced, his thoughts frozen in shock, unable to register what was going on.
He saw Starsky reach out for him with his too cold hands that dripped blood; he saw the bluish lips move to force yet another whisper out of a body that seemed to fall apart in front of Hutch´s eyes.
Yet no human sound could be heard, instead tiny crackening noises filled the car as suddenly a wave of tiny wrinkles, almost like cracks swept over Starsky´s skin, leaving it crumbling, ashen.
"S-Starsk?" Hutch croaked, feeling the colour draining from his own face, his heart beating so hard against his chest it felt as though it wanted to break free and run in sheer terror at the sight displaying itself in front of his eyes.
Blood cascaded Starsky´s face - it looked like tiny fingers consisting of blood clawed their way out of his skull and then became fluid, running in thin streams.
The eyes Hutch knew so well were no longer violet, but of a darkening red, almost black as the features of his partner seemingly froze in a mask of pain like a nuclear shadow of a man crying out in agony.
"Help... Hutch... Hutch... Hutch...
"Starsk! Oh my God!"
His eyes snapping open, Hutch jumped in his seat.
Loud hooting surrounded him, a truck appeared seemingly out of nowhere right in the middle of the road.
They weren´t parked anymore, they were driving. On the wrong side.
Tearing the steering wheel aside, Hutch maneuvered the LTD back on the right side again and pulled over with seeking brakes, panting from shock.
"D´you mind not including me in your suicidal plans?" a calm voice next to him made his head snap to his right side.
"U-uh... S-S-St-Starsk..." Hutch stammered, choking on the words that wanted to burst out of his too dry throat. He swallowed and coughed, a hint of panic he might suffocate etching its way forward in his mind. Feebly, he lifted a shaking hand to touch his partner´s face, but Starsky backed away, frowning in what Hutch thought looked like disgust.
"Hey Blondie, whatever it is you caught there, keep it, will ya?"
Hutch didn´t listen, he was busy trying to get control over his bone-creeping panic. "Y-y-you... you... I-I s-saw..."
"Yeah, I saw too - that you just tore us to the wrong side. Jezz, and people think drivin´ with me´s dangerous! What was that, Hutch?!"
"I-I saw..." Hutch started again, but as his heartbeat slowed a little and his breathing calmed, he closed his mouth, looked around the car as if he´d only then realized he´d snapped out of whatever nightmare he´d just been caught in.
"What the f..." he whispered, his voice still shaking badly. Wiping both hands over his face he found it damp with perspiration. "Man."
"Uh, Hutch," Starsky asked casually, his chin resting on his right hand, the elbow steadied in the car's window. Hutch couldn't help thinking his partner looked bored.
"Y´okay?" In the same tone of voice Starsky could have asked if Hutch generally preferred cats over dogs. It lacked every distinction of interest and more important it lacked even the slightest hint of the usual concern that would have driven the curly headed man to ask the question.
It wasn´t a Starsky-'you okay?', Hutch thought. It was a sound that made him shudder, the image he´d just, well, hallucinated creeping up in his mind again, so that he squeezed his eyes shut against it briefly.
"Y-yeah, I-I´m fine," he replied wearily, drawing in a deep, calming breath. It didn´t help much. "I´m... I just..." As his gaze wandered over to his partner again, he frowned, absorbed in the sight of Starsky studying him annoyed, that stood so contrary to how he felt himself.
The two behaviours didn´t match. Starsky would never look annoyed, when Hutch was shaking like this. Something was going on. Something scary.
"A-are you okay?" the blond inquired.
Starsky raised his brows, surprised. A sarcastic smile broke free on his lips as he pointed at himself with the index finger of his free hand.
"I´m not the one who just tried to play 'kiss the truck' here, buddy.
What´s with you, anyway? You look like you´ve seen a ghost or somethin´."
He laughed slightly, a somewhat mean noise, Hutch thought with a shudder.
"Whassamatter, Blondie? Boogieman back there scared ya?"
"Uh, n-no, I´m... It´s okay," Hutch mumbled and after another long glance at his friend started the engine to get them back into traffic again.
The rest of the way they drove in silence, Starsky looking out of his window, Hutch looking at Starsk every so often.
What the hell´s going on here?! You losin´ it, Hutchinson, or what?! Since when d´you get daydreams?! And like that?! And what the hell´s with him?!
Secretly studying his partner´s face through narrowed eyes, Hutch decided he didn´t look like he was still in shock at all. Nor confused or hurting or whatever had been there at the crime scene. He just looked-bored. Utterly, absolutely and irritatingly bored.
Maybe he's majorly pissed ´cause I almost wrecked the car. But... that´s not a majorly pissed Starsk! That´s a... Hell, that´s no Starsk I know!
At that thought, he shook his head as if too clear it, focusing on his driving again.
Come on, Hutch! 'No Starsk I know', what´s that supposed to mean, man, huh? Pull yourself together! He´s right, you´re just shaken up cause of the case. Those things always get to you, you know that.
Right. He was just over-reacting, that was it. Plain and simple. He needed some rest to straighten his thoughts, and tomorrow everything would be okay again. Yet... he couldn´t block out the tiny voice inside his head that just wouldn´t shut up.
Usually those things get to him too, you know that. Something´s wrong here, Hutch, something´s so wrong here!
"Hutch, you mind paying attention to where you´re driving?" Starsky´s voice once more tore him out of his deep thinking.
"Huh?" He asked, his gaze snapping up to meet his partner´s annoyed one. Out of Starsky´s window he saw he´d just passed the street his friend lived in.
"Oh, shit. Uh, sorry. I´m sorta-"
"Yeah," Hutch smiled as he checked the rear-view mirror to turn around. "Dreamin´."
"Uh huh. Why is it again they allow you to drive a car?" Starsky said sarcastically. "Jezz."
Hutch couldn´t help feeling a very real injury nudge at his heart at his partner´s words. Maybe it was once more the tone they had been said in that made Hutch feel actually hurt, not tempted to shoot back a fitting reply. It hadn´t sounded like an invitation to their usual banters, but just like a plain insult.
Mean, direct, sharp.
Not like anything Starsky would ever say to him at all.
"Sorry," Hutch muttered, but was ignored. Starsky was studying the outside again.
Despite his growing concern, the blond couldn´t help the anger rising…If this damn case´s bugging you, buddy, it´d be nice to just say so and not let it all out on me, y´know!
He pulled his car over at his friend´s place, coming to a halt that sent them both jerking forward and back again.
Starsky shot him a startled look, but didn´t utter any comment, just got out, smashing the door shut. Being the car it was, loyal to its owner, the LTD threw it open again, hitting Starsky´s thigh in the process.
Normally, the hot-headed detective would have at least kicked the 'garbage can' or barked his opinion about it at Hutch, but tonight he simply stared at the half open door, shrugged and turned to climb the steps to his apartment.
Hutch watched with his chin dropping. Carefully closing his own door, he turned around the LTD to push the other door closed too, not seeing Starsky open the door to his apartment.
"Hey, partner," Hutch called out from where he fought with the stubborn door, "you know, it´d be kinda nice to…"
The sound of the door to the apartment falling shut made him look over his shoulder, startled. "- uh, wait for me," he finished his sentence in a lower voice.
Slowly but steadily, the anger was starting to bubble. He threw the passenger door close with an angry shove, and-again, loyal-the LTD decided to keep it that way.
Storming after his partner then, Hutch opened the door with his own key, not bothering to knock. Inside the place, he banged the door shut, glaring at Starsky who emerged from the kitchen, beer in hand, seemingly surprised.
"What d´you want?"
"What d´I... I asked if I could crash here tonight and you... uh... Well, you didn´t exactly answer, but..." Hushing himself, when the expression on Starsky´s face clearly informed him that he was rambling, Hutch ran a hand through his hair, nervous.
"Starsk, what's wrong?"
Starsky looked at him blankly, then took a sip of his beer. "What d´you mean?"
"Oh, come on!" Hutch called out frustrated, taking a few steps towards him. "You´ve been acting really weird on the w-"
"Excuse me," Starsky interrupted him calmly and leaned against the kitchen counter, a somewhat despiteful smile arching his lips, "you sure you´re talking about me here and not yourself?"
Taken aback once more by his friend´s tone of voice, Hutch opened his mouth, but no words would come. He was truly and honestly hurt by his partner's behavior.
Starsky lifted his brows expectantly, tilting his head to one side, but when no more came, shrugged and pushed himself off the counter to stroll over to the couch, where he plopped down, completely ignoring Hutch, who watched him with widening eyes.
When the smaller man turned on the TV, though, Hutch´s patience reached its limits. With two large steps he was in front of the TV, blocking the view, and glared down on his partner.
"Talk to me, Starsk. Now."
Starsky blinked innocently, looked away as if thinking, then back. "Uh... Hi Hutch?" he tried mockingly, an expression like that of a stubborn teen appearing on his face.
Hutch fought the very real urge to grab and rattle him. He couldn´t help his concern being quickly flooded with fury, though.
"What the hell´s wrong, Starsk?! Is it this case or what? Tell me!"
"I don´t know what you want from me."
"Damn you, stop that!" Hutch yelled. Flinching, Starsky´s eyes darkened, and he slowly came to his feet, approaching Hutch, who´d continued yelling in the meantime.
"Don´t do your show on me, you know exactly what I m-"
He stopped abruptly, when Starsky´s left hand intertwined with his collar, gently at first as if the other man was seeking comfort, then with more force until a small cough escaped Hutch´s quickly tightening throat.
"S-Starsk..." he croaked, his hands reaching up to scramble at fingers that seemed cold like stone. And equally strong as they squeezed his throat, efficiently cutting off his air supply.
"Stars...ky..." But Starsky didn´t answer, his eyes fixed on Hutch´s that were beginning to glaze over with dizziness, his face growing a deep red from lack of air. He was struggling in earnest now, frantic fingers scratching Starsky´s hand, but with no effect whatsoever.
Somewhere in his quickly fogging, panicked mind, Hutch wondered when his partner had built up this strength. Normally, he would have been able to break free of the choking hold by now.
"Starsk," he whispered, the word painfully crawling its way out of his abused throat. "P-plea...se..."
"Don´t yell at me," Starsky said very calmly, squeezing Hutch´s throat unbearably tight for a split second, before he finally let go.
Gasping for air, Hutch sank to his knees, falling forward until his hands met the floor, his head hanging between his arms, wrenching, coughing.
Starsky watched mercilessly for a second, then grimaced and turned. "Don´t puke on my carpet, Blondie," he said, disgusted.
Turning off the TV, he then strolled into his bedroom, not looking at Hutch again, and closed the door behind himself.
Hutch knelt on the floor, panting, trying to get his breathing under control again, all the while fighting the panic clawing at his heart, the urge to just jump to his feet and get the hell out of there. But firstly, he wouldn´t make it to his feet-his vision was blurred, and he was shaking like a leaf-and secondly something deep inside him kept him from fleeing from Starsky.
When he felt that at least he could breathe again, though it hurt incredibly, he crawled over to the couch to drag himself on it. He´d just rested his head in his hands, when he heard the bedroom door open again.
Out of pure reflex, Hutch flinched in fear, drew up his legs and huddled in the corner of the couch, peeking over the headrest at Starsky who walked over to him, a blanket and a pillow in his hands.
Despite himself, Hutch visibly shrank back, when his partner reached over the headrest and dumped the stuff on the couch next to him.
"G´night, Blondie. Sweet dreams." he said, seemingly not noticing Hutch fearful stare, his shaking.
With that, he turned for his bedroom again, the door falling shut behind him once more.
After a moment, Hutch carefully stretched his neck to look over the headrest after his partner again, then at the blanket next to him.
His throat hurt. And his head throbbed. Lifting a trembling hand, he softly touched his neck and winced at the pain that shot through his body at the light touch. He surely was bound to have finger-shaped bruises there the next day.
Rubbing the sore area a little with one hand, he scrambled at the blanket with the other to drag it over his shaking body.
God, what happened? What did just happen? What...
He couldn´t seem to clear his mind, his thoughts racing in circles, repeating the same question over and over again.
Despite his efforts to stay awake, his body slowly tilted to his side, and he couldn´t help crashing to the floor, unconscious.
Hutch jerked awake and groaned a split second later. God, his back hurt! And he couldn´t take a single breath without sending a wave of tiny stabs down his entire throat.
Woah, shouldn´t breathe, uh?… he thought, as he rolled himself onto his back, rubbing his sore neck and throat, while blinking to clear his vision.
Starsky´s ceiling. Starsky´s place.
What... ? he wondered, frowning, and when the memory hit him, he jumped to his feet, swaying, so that he fell down onto the couch again, his head spinning.
Cradling it in his hands, he forced the tiny bright stars to emerge from his vision. Starsky had... Or had he? Had he dreamed it all? Dreamed? Like in the car?
No. He lifted his head, slowly looking over his shoulder at the closed bedroom door. No dream.
Slowly, instinctively, he rose to his feet and turned around the couch, suddenly wondering what had waked him. He was half way at the bedroom door, when he heard it.
Whimpering his name. Scared. So scared.
"S-Starsk?" Hutch whispered. He reaching out as if to touch the door, but froze in his tracks as if scared himself, his hand hovering above the doorknob.
"Hutch," the soft answer came, and for a moment Hutch had the irrational feeling he´d just heard it inside his head.
"Help. Please…Please, help."
"Starsky!" This time, he said it out loud and opened the door, the darkness of the room seemingly engulfing him after the bright light in the living room. He squinted his eyes to make out the form of his partner.
"Star…" Startled as he felt something under his foot he was about to place on the ground, he looked down.
"Oh my God!"
And fell to his knees next to his partner´s crumbled form immediately. "Starsk!"
Starsky was lying crumbled on his side, one arm stretched out above his head as if he´d tried to crawl to the door, but hadn´t made it.
Lifting the curly head gently, Hutch could see Starsky´s eyes were closed. There was blood on his face, trickling from his mouth and nose as if coming from deep within. Pain was evident on strained features, and his skin was so cold to the touch Hutch thought for a split second he was dead.
Yet, he was breathing evenly, undisturbed.
Sleeping, the blond thought in bewilderment, his own heart speeding up considerably. He´s asleep.
"Starsk," he whispered, his voice shaking, and patted a clammy cheek. "Buddy, wake up. What happened?"
But Starsky didn't answer. He was lying limp in Hutch´s embrace as he blond had dragged him up, so his head was resting in Hutch´s lap, blood seeping into the material of Hutch´s pants.
"Starsk," Hutch pleaded, fear seemingly choking him like his friend´s fingers had before. "Buddy, please!"
The faint whisper, more like a mere thought, came out of lips so slightly parted Hutch thought it to be impossible Starsky had actually said something.
"Yeah, I´ll help you," Hutch answered in a frantic whisper, his thumb wiping away some of the blood on Starsky´s chin. "I´m here, babe. I´m here, it´s okay. Open your eyes now, huh? Starsk? You awake?"
"H-hurt," Starsky whimpered, and gave the slightest sign that he´d uttered the word as he winced, one of his hands softly brushing against Hutch´s thigh. It fell back onto the floor immediately, though.
Hutch picked it up, and widened his eyes in shock as he saw the blood covering Starsky´s wrist.
"Oh my... What the?..."
It was the same injury he´d seen on it before. In the car. At the crime scene.
The sudden yell, so agonized it took Hutch´s breath away, was accompanied by Starsky arching his back in Hutch´s hold, his eyes snapping open, unfocused, wide with pain, glazed.
"Yeah, I´m here," Hutch soothed frantically, restraining Starsky in his hold. "I´m here, buddy. Right here. Wha-what´s-"
A tiny choking sound cut him off, as if Starsky was trying to draw in breath, but couldn´t. "D-don´t," he croaked weakly, his pain filled gaze finding Hutch's for a second, "don´t let him... Don´t... Ah!" The tiny scream cut off his words, and he fell back in Hutch's arms, limp, lifeless.
"Starsk?" Hutch asked in a high-pitched voice. "Starsky! Buddy, talk to me! Starsk! Starsk-"
He stopped, staring.
The blood was gone. Vanished. Not a single evidence of it once having been anywhere left. Not on Starsky´s face. Not on his wrist. Not on the ground.
Hutch shifted his friend´s body slightly and looked at his own legs. No blood on his pants.
He swallowed dryly. When he looked up again, cobalt blue eyes met his.
But, something was different. Something was wrong.
Starsky didn´t answer. Instead, he pushed himself out of Hutch´s hold, sending the blond sliding over the floor until he crashed into the door.
"S-Star-" Hutch stopped in panic, watching his partner swiftly getting to his feet and approaching him, no emotion whatsoever on the face that had just a second before held so much pain.
"Starsky, wha... Hey, what're you..." Hutch stammered, shrinking back against the door, when Starsky bent down to him and reached out for him. Despite Hutch´s attempts at getting away, he grasped a handful of the blond hair; his cold eyes locked with Hutch´s fear-filled ones.
"G-get a-away from m-" Hutch never came to finish the sentence as his partner smashed his head against the door with a sickening thud and the world went black.
Starsky stormed out, leaving Hutch in a heap in the floor.
A minute later the blond regained consciousness, seeing the room spinning, and feeling a wave of nausea shaking his stomach.
He got to his feet and stumbled to the front door, just to see that the red car wasn´t in its usual spot.
Instinctively, Hutch felt that he couldn´t leave Starsky alone, even though he couldn´t hide that he was scared, really scared; of a man that he thought he knew as well as himself. Right now, his partner was somebody totally unknown for him. But despite that fear, Hutch knew that he couldn't leave him alone.
With all his thoughts in turmoil, Hutch hurried to his car, without knowing what to do next. He just knew that something strange was happening to Starsky. Something strange and frightening. It seemed to him that his curly haired partner hadn´t even looked like himself anymore. The blue colour of his eyes had become more intense; his curls had seemed thicker and darker. Even his features had appeared more angular.
I saw it, damn it! I saw it! I´m not dreaming here! Hutch´s thoughts ran in frantic circles. I saw it!
Just a while earlier, he´d seen Starsky´s face wrinkling, cracking, becoming ashen. He´d seen the blood. The red eyes… The panic etched in his features… And later...Starsky hadn´t been the man he knew any longer, but some kind of stranger with the familiar appearance of his friend.
Same body. Same face. Same curled hair. But something was missing.
Starsky´s kindness wasn´t there, as if he´d lost his soul. As if it did left his body to leave just a terrifying copy of his best friend behind.
God... Listen to yourself! Are you going nuts? Starsky is Starsky! Stop that crap Hutch! Hutch kept driving plunged in his thoughts as an annoying headache pounded in his temples.
His next stop would be The Pits
The only sounds that could be heard in the bedroom of the dark and sordid apartment were the creaks of the bed and the moans of pleasure that were coming out from the two bodies that lay there, making love.
Ted Bronstein, "The Supplier" as he was called on the streets, was an usual aim of the police busts. He was a drug dealer responsible of an uncountable list of crimes and misdemeanours that had one of the largest criminal records in the whole city and that just two months earlier had been released from jail.
He was in bed with his last date when a loud pounding at his door startled them.
"Damn it! What the fuck...?"
"POLICE! OPEN THE DOOR!"
"Fucking pigs! CLEAR OFF! I DIDN´T DO ANYTHING THIS TIME!" Bronstein barked out, getting out of bed and wrapping the cover around his waist.
"BRONSTEIN! OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR!"
"I TOLD YOU TO LEA-" Bronstein couldn't end his sentence. In that moment, somebody battered down his door with a crash, striding towards him, up to pin him against the wall seizing viciously a handful of his hair.
"The dope Bronstein. Where's the dope?"
"DON¨T FUCK WITH ME!" Starsky yelled out producing his gun and aiming the barrel against the man's temple, hitting his head against the wall.
"The-there…In that drawer." Bronstein pointed a shaking finger towards a nearby table. Starsky released his grip of the terrified man's hair, striding to the table and dragging one of the drawers open, to pick one transparent little plastic bag filled with cocaine, yet aiming with his gun at the unarmed man.
"This stuff any good?"
"Y-You haven´t got a warrant…" Bronstein mumbled, getting back a sparkle of his braveness, but regretting to do it, as he saw Starsky approaching him and grabbing his neck with just a hand and lifting him until his toes were scarcely touching the floor.
"Listen to me, scumbag. And listen good, ´cause I don't like to say things twice. If this stuff is not good and pure, I´ll come back here and we´ll have a talk. A talk that you'll don't like at all. Got it?" Without waiting for an answer, Starsky went out of the apartment.
"Hey bro. What can the Bear do for you? Where's Curly by the way?"
"That´s what I'd like to know," Hutch sighed. "Didn't he come here, Huggy?"
"Nope Blondie, I haven't seen him. What´s the matter? You look like you've been chased by the devil."
"Pergaps I'm the one who's chasing him. When you see Starsk, call me, okay?"
Not even staying to explain his words, Hutch hurried back to his car, leaving a confused Huggy Bear behind.
Bending his head forward over the passenger seat, and with the help of a little pipe made of a ten dollar bill, Starsky snorted in deeply the white powder, raising his upper body and getting out the car rubbing his nose with the back of his hand.
"Okay. Now nothing will be able to make this fucking body sleep for a nice while, and I'll be able to get some real fun. A hell of a lot of fun!" Starsky lowered the stairs to The Pits with slow steps, heading straight to the bar, where Huggy welcomed him.
"Look what we have here. The missing friend! Blondie popped over here just a while ago looking for you, bro."
Starsky snorted. "Headline news. And what the hell did that jerk want?"
For the second time that day Huggy Bear stared speechless. That hadn't sounded like a joke...
Forcing himself to react, Huggy managed to ask, "Hey, what's the matter, Curly? Any problem with the other part of the dynamic duo?"
"I thought this den was a bar and not some kind of confessionary. Listen guy, mind giving me bourbon and cutting off the chat? Double please."
"Sure… Starsky. Double Bourbon, right away."
Not daring to utter any further comment and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that something was terribly wrong with Starsky, Huggy poured a large drink of bourbon holding out the glass to him, without a word, then headed back to the backroom to call Hutch.
Hutch went to Venice place and to the precinct, looking unsuccessfully for Starsky as a paralyzing fear was gnawing at his insides.
His friend remained unfound.
"Damn it! Starsk! Where the hell are you, buddy? WHERE?" Hutch hit the steering wheel in frustration.
In the little backroom of The Pits, Huggy was doing the same thing, slamming down the receiver furiously.
"Shit Blondie! Where are you when poor old Huggy needs you?" Huggy picked up the phone again, dialing the 9th precinct number.
"Errr… Please. Could you get me Detective Hutchinson, please? Yeah, Huggy Bear. It's an emergency. I´ll wait. Thanks Miss."
After waiting for some seconds, finally Hutch answered the call.
"Hey Blondie, thank God I found you. Starsky is in here. And he looks pretty pissed. I think you should come over."
"I'm on my way, Hug. Don´t let him leave."
"Okay," Huggy nodded, hang up and returned to the bar to find Starsky standing between a customer and a young woman near to the pool table.
He was standing with his back to the man, talking to the girl, his hands on her shoulders.
Huggy approached them slightly, just to hear what was going on, startled by the diabolic expression on Starsky's face.
"I know that we could spend a great while together, honey. I can be a very sweet guy with such a beautiful lady like you," Starsky said to the girl, cupping her chin with his hand, as she, feeling obviously annoyed, kept her sight down.
"Please, leave me alone, sir," she pleaded. "I´m waiting for my boyfriend"
"Oh, come on sweetheart," Starsky laughed. "Don't be so shy!"
"What's the matter, huh? I´m too coarse for a lady like you maybe?" Starsky´s fingers increased the pressure on the girl´s shoulders.
"The lady is asking you to leave her alone, pal. What're you, deaf?" The man behind Starsky said, placing a hand on his shoulder, unable to see how the curly haired man's eyes became dark with anger.
Slowly, Starsky turned to face the man, a cold smile on his lips. "This is none of your business, but something between this chick and me. Get lost, scum."
The man tried to punch Starsky´s stomach, but with faster reflexes, the detective caught his hand, squeezing it, slowly and pitilessly, not even noticing how his opponent reached his jaw with his free fist, while a sadistic smile of delight curled up the corner of his mouth. The unfortunate man fell to his knees, silencing with his own yells the crack of his hand's bones breaking.
"STARSKY! FOR CHRIST SAKE!" Huggy and other customer rushed towards Starsky, trying to get the abused man free from him.
"M-My hand! Son of a bitch! You broke my hand!" The man, still curled up on the floor, shouted out, hugging his injured hand against his chest as Starsky, pined by a strong and tall man stared fiercely at him and Huggy strode to the phone to call for an ambulance.
Just then Hutch entered, stopping in his tracks, taking in the scene in front of him: Starsky with just a hand and showing a superhuman strength was grabbing the man by his front's shirt, hurling him backwards until he crashed into a wall sliding unconscious to the floor,.
The other customers backed away in fear.
"But… W-what? STARSKY!" Hutch yelled, hurrying towards his friend. In that moment the brunet glanced for a second at the man who lay unconscious on the floor, before focusing on Hutch
A shudder swept over the blond at the look of pure madness in his friend´s eyes. Madness, fury and something else that strangely reminded Hutch of the expression of a trapped wild animal.
"G-Get away from me!" Starsky produced his gun, aiming at Hutch with shaking hands
"Starsk. Partner. Let me help you." Carefully, Hutch approached his friend.
"I…can't control it…Hutch…I can't…"
"Okay. Okay," Hutch soothed with his hands slowly rising as if to show he wasn't armed. Cautiously, he made one more step towards Starsky, who was still aiming at him.
"I TOLD YOU TO GET AWAY FROM ME, DAMN IT! I DON'T WANNA HURT YOU!" Forcing his way through Hutch and Huggy, Starsky stormed out to the street, got into the Torino and sped off as Hutch and Huggy chased after him.
"He… Starsky started the fight, Hutch," Huggy said shakily, his disbelief evident in his voice. "He hit on a girl, bothering her and that guy tried to help her and…"Huggy stopped for a second before to speaking again "What... What's going on with him, Hutch?"
"I don't know, Hug," Hutch sighed, running a shaking hand over his features. "Something is very wrong with Starsky. But I'll be damned if I know what."
Watching his friend's dismay, Huggy briefly squeezed Hutch shoulder. "I must go back in to help that poor guy."
"Okay Huggy. I´ll try to find Starsk."
Both men headed in opposite ways. Huggy disappeared into the bar. Hutch got into his car, resting his head briefly against the steering wheel before starting the engine.
Things weren't turning out the way he´d planed it. This miserable, pathetic little fuck of a soul just wouldn't let go. He could feel the constant struggles for control, and it took too much of his energy to fight them down.
Even after pumping some more of the drug inside the body, it wouldn't stop. The guy had somehow found a way to make his presence -as slight as it was- still known despite him being awake.
"Who d´you think you are, you creepy little fuck?!" he asked the face in the rear view mirror with an amused smile, though he knew the man who´s face he was looking at, would know he was trying to fool him.
Just like he knew that the other one was terrified. Scared witless.
What a pleasant feeling, though it pissed him off that it made the body tremble in fear.
"D´you really think you can keep this up any longer?" he continued, speeding up the Torino as he headed down a forlorn road leading out of town. He had to get away from the city, away from the annoying blond man who seemed to be the reason for his host´s constant fight. Maybe if he got Starsky out of the Hutchinson´s grasp, he´d give up and surrender.
"You're hurt," he grinned.
He got answers, but they were no thoughts, no words. Just feelings, body reactions. He felt the heart race, the hands shake. Felt fury, hate, but most of all sweet, pleasant fear running through the other one. He could smell it.
"You´re scared," he stated, once more glancing in the rear view mirror, coursing his lips as if in sympathy. "Poor baby. Where can you go? Hm? And what if I´d leave, huh? Ever stopped to think about that? If I´ll leave, you´re gonna die, you know that, don´t ya? Remember last night? That's how you really look, honeybunch. Sweet, huh? Care for another peel of tha-"
A sharp turn to the left cut him off, and he had to momentarily concentrate on getting the car back on the right side again. Panting with fury, he fought for control, then laughed.
"What was that, Davey? Revolution? What'd´ you wanna do, drive into a truck? Think that´d stop me? Want me to show you something?" Staring right into the suddenly very scared, very wide, very seeing cobalt blue eyes in the mirror, he lifted the body´s left hand, let it hover before the gaze in the mirror briefly-and smashed it into the driver´s window with a sickening thud.
Tilting his head to the right slightly, he listened to the now appearing faint screams inside him and grinned as he dragged the injured hand back onto the steering wheel.
"Didn´t feel a thing. You?"
The screaming died, but the emotions didn´t.
"Face it, Davey, you´re never gonna-"
Another jerk to the right this time, and the Torino came to a sudden halt, brakes squealing.
There was a short fight, a struggle, blood suddenly appeared on the Torino´s seats, but vanished a split second later.
"Okay," he panted, as he stared into the cobalt blues once more, red eyes burning with anger. "You know what, kid, you´re starting to piss me off here. I gave you the chance to just curl up in your little spot up there and die, but if you wanna learn it the hard way, you can get just that."
Furiously, he started the engine again and turned the car around, heading back into the city. "We´ll see who´ll last, boy, we´ll see," he muttered, knowing that his captured host could read his mind. Could see his plans.
This time, the scream was so loud it echoed in his ears.
"No! Don´t! Please! Not Hutch! No!"
A wide grin broke free, as he sped up.
"Keep on begging, kid. Music to my ears."
Despite the untimely of the hour, and after talk the guard in charge, showing him his ID and badge, assuring him how important was to talk with the prisoner, and almost begging, Hutch managed to see him…
The man in the dirty, crumbled black suit was muttering to himself. Constantly. No words were clearly audible, so that it sounded like a monotone, low humming.
It drove Hutch nuts.
For the hundred´s time in the last two minutes, the blond broke the silence he´d thought he´d use as a tactic.
A tactic that´d failed miserably five minutes after he´d started it.
"Please," he said, waited, listened, sighed. "Mr. Rodgers." A pause.
Nothing. No, not nothing -humming.
"Mr. Rodgers. George. Please. I need your help. Please." Hutch checked his watch. One hour. He´d been sitting across the seemingly delirious man over almost an hour now.
Gee, how time flies when you´re enjoying yourself...
The thought that from the bunch of cultists they´d arrested the day before he himself had picked George Rodgers for this, because the man had seemed the least deranged, almost made him laugh.
The urge died in his throat, though, when Rodgers lifted his head slightly to look at him.
"Sir?" Hutch tried, excited. "George? You with me?"
"Always with you," the man answered. His business like tone stood in eerie contrast to his glassy eyes, his calm, almost slack features. That this man used to be a lawyer seemed incredulous. Hutch shuddered.
"I-I don´t understand," he said gently and smiled. "Care to explain what you mean?"
Rodgers tilted his head to one side, as if listening to something, then folded his cuffed hands on the table before him. "I´m allowed to talk to you now, detective," he said clearly. It sounded like the beginning of a meeting.
"Uh... that´s nice," Hutch smiled and wanted to add a question, but the older man kept on talking in a calm, emotionless voice.
"Your questions are not needed. We know. We always know. We´re with you wherever you are. All of you. We know you."
Feeling frighteningly reminded of his conversations with Simon Marcus a year ago, the blond felt the hairs on his neck rising.
Just how many fruitcakes live in this city?!
"Okay," he said. "I understand."
"No, you don´t," Rodgers said and actually smiled, though even that gesture looked cold on his thin lips. As if he´d been ordered to do it. "But I´m here to explain it to you. You´re looking for your partner."
Hutch flinched. He hadn´t mentioned that yet. Frowning, he remained silent.
"You´re looking for Starsky, but you don´t have to. He´ll come to you."
The blond detective swallowed dryly. He heard his voice crack when he asked, "Y-you know where Starsky is?"
"He´s on his way to you. Almost here," he added after a pause, looking to his side as if he´d heard someone enter.
Hutch followed the gesture, confused, but didn´t hear anything. Rodger´s next words made his head snap forward again, though.
"He comes to kill you."
"Your partner is on his way to kill you. So he can die too. And we will have a body again. We need a body," the man explained, sadness tingeing the last sentence.
Hutch coughed in surprise, but quickly gathered his wits again. "Who do you mean with 'we'?"
Rodgers stared at him for a moment, then smiled. "Is that what you want to know, detective?"
The blond frowned. "What d´you mea-"
"Don´t you want to know why your partner wants your death?"
What's going on here? Hutch wondered, studying the man in front of him closely. The pale features looked eerily smooth, the eyes colourless, almost white against white.
Gee, get a grip, Hutch. Those guys are just creepy. Annoyed at himself, he briefly closed his eyes when he noticed he´d tried to see if the man´s chest was moving.
If he was breathing.
You´re seeing things here!
"No," he finally answered with a sweet smile. "I don´t have to ask that. You explained already. What I want to know is who are 'we'? Your cult?"
Though Rodgers seemed disappointed at Hutch´s answer to his question, he didn´t let on, and leaned back in his chair slightly. "No. We're no cult. We're him. He is us. We're all him."
"Lucifer… Satan… Beelzebub. The Lord of Darkness. Simply HIM."
A short pause occurred, Hutch looking around as if he´d expected the room to burst into flames now, or thunders and lightings appearing inside the cell.
"Who´s that?" he asked.
Sighing in frustration, Hutch rubbed his face briefly, then peeked over his fingers at the man.
"Okay," he decided, his voice stern, "George, let´s talk straight. Something's going on with my partner. I can´t offer any deals or something, but I want to kn-"
"He´s been chosen," Rodgers interrupted him quietly.
Hutch fell silent.
"He seemed a good choice, so kind, generous, so humane…A true challenge. But he wasn´t a good choice after all," Rodgers sighed. "Even we make mistakes."
"Oh really?" Hutch muttered sarcastically. "And for what or who was he chosen if I can know it?" …God! Here I am, following the ravings of this nutcase! I must be losing my mind…
"Your partner has been chosen to host Asmodai. The Lord of 72 Legions…And He´s inside him, but there is something in the way to complete control."
"What would that be?" Hutch asked, rising his brows questioningly.
I can´t believe I´m doing this. Do I really think Starsky´s... possessed by some fancy-named-
"Huh?" he asked, his gaze snapping back on Rodgers. "What?"
"You're in the way. That's why he´ll kill you." The blond stared into empty eyes for a while, then suddenly stood, turning towards the door.
"He´s already dying," Rodgers´ calm voice made him look back over his shoulder again.
"There´s nothing you can do. Hutch."
Though he didn´t turn again, Hutch felt all colour drain from his face. When the guard finally opened the door of the cell for him, he stormed out, trying to ignore the calls that followed him.
"He´s dead, Hutch. You both are. No more 'me & thee'!"
The Torino flew over the streets, heading for Venice Place.
Someone inside was terrified.
The other one was singing along loudly with the radio. As a sudden idea hit him, though, he turned the music down and contacted dispatch.
"This is Zebra Three to central."
"This is central," a female voice answered instantly. "What's up, Starsky? Hutch's been looking for you, you know that?"
"Oh?" he grinned. "What a coinciden-" For a moment, he had to fight for control over the steering wheel again, but managed quickly. "Tell Hutch I´ll meet him at his place, okay? It´s `bout this... case we... talked about."
"Understood. Central out."
"Thanks, sweetheart." Turning around a corner, he parked the Torino in front of Venice Place.
"Well, well, well, Davey-boy, what d´you wanna do while we wait, uhm? How `bout some TV?" Laughing at the frantic flood of emotions, the weak struggles, he emerged the car and hurried upstairs, where he let himself in with the key Hutch kept so very well hidden on his door-frame.
"Hmmmmnice," he grinned, throwing the door shut behind him. Rubbing his hands, he looked around. "Sooo... where's the fun stuff, Davey? Uhm? Any cool things around here?"
A swift examination of Hutch´s apartment, though, showed that he was the "most uncool person it ever had the pleasure to kill."
With a sigh, he poured himself another shot of the whisky he´d discovered in one of the drawers and stepped inside the green house.
"Green loving guy, your friend, huh?"
The glass slipped from his hand with a crash. Startled, though just briefly, he looked down at the mess, then grinned.
"Davey, tsk, tsk, tsk," he chided in mock despair, "what shall I do with you? You don´t really think you..."
Trailing off, he listened, frowning. A drip. Another one.
"What the... ?!" Looking down again, he found the small puddle of brownish liquid suddenly tinged with bright red
Brushing against his forehead, he found it bleeding.
His wrists too.
"Stop it, David!" Anger tinged his voice, but he knew the figure huddled in his mind could sense the growing fear too.
"Stubborn little..." Another crack appeared on his face. His knees started to buckle. "Stop... it... Dave," he panted against his losing grip. He felt himself being forced back inside the spot his captive had stayed in before. His vision faded, darkness engulfed him, and he could hear the other one´s voice now. Triumphant through the pain.
"I... won´t let... you hurt... Hutch..." Weak, but there. "N...o way..."
"Oh yeah?" he asked into the darkness, knowing his captive could see out of his body again, could move it again-but lay bleeding on the floor, helpless. Broken. "What d´you wanna do? Wait `til you died?"
"Y...you´d die with me."
"Hmmmmthink so?" he sang innocently, but of course Starsky could see the truth inside their shared mind.
"Yep." Damn, the guy is strong. "And you´d do that, wouldn't you? Kill yourself? Here? On your buddy's floor?"
Something was going on. They were moving. Crawling. Dragging. He could feel the other one pushing himself forward.
"Davey, what're you doing?" Starsky didn´t answer. He didn´t have to.
"Davey, kid... you don´t wanna do this. Do you? Huh? Remember what your mother told you `bout-"
"Shut up!" At the fierce answer, he chuckled.
"Cuddly memory you of. But so many locked doors. Mind if I open some?" He felt the body grab something. Sharp. He could see through Starsky´s mind.
"Scared?" Starsky asked, rolling onto his back, blinking against the stars dancing in front of him, blurring his vision. He had to stay awake, had to focus. Nervously, he fingered the item he´d dragged out of Hutch´s drawer. A large butcher knife.
Or was it…? Wearily, he lifted it to look at it. Yeah, it was.
"Think you´ll manage?" the voice inside his head asked in mock concern. "Need assistance?"
A sudden jerk of his arm almost sent the knife flying out of his grasp, but he clung to it with all his strength.
Shit, he´s really strong! "Davey, you want to... Uh, listen..."
They both listened. Footsteps outside the door. Frantic, panicked.
"Starsk?" Starsky blinked once more, lifted the knife. He tightened both hands around it, cut his hands.
Noises outside. A hand running over the door-frame, looking for the key. "Starsk, you in there?"
He laughed. "Hurry, Davey. You don´t want him to miss the show, do you?" His chances were rising. Rising indeed.
A tear slid down Starsky´s cheek, leaving a streak through the blood there. His gaze wandered to the opening door. "Hu... tch..."
His hands trembled, the knife hovered above his chest, but he knew he´d be too weak to manage. "Hu..." His vision blurred.
"Starsk!" Skidding to his knees next to his partner´s crumbled body, Hutch instantly grabbed the knife, not caring that he cut himself. "God…"
A strangled yelp escaped the injured man, and he flinched away from the blond, clinging to the knife. Fresh blood ran down his palms.
"N...o," he whimpered.
Tugging more, Hutch finally got the knife free from his partner´s grasp and threw it away, as far as possible, before he carefully lifted Starsky´s head to look into his wide open eyes.
"Starsk, buddy, talk to me. Starsk?"
"Hu..." It was a mere whisper, followed by a weak cough that sent blood running in a thin river from one corner of Starsky´s mouth.
"Oh God, buddy." Beside himself with panic, Hutch cradled the broken form of his friend, holding him close. "What were you doing? Huh? What..."
"N-need..." Starsky whispered and coughed.
"What? You need what? What's going on with you?" The blond was near tears now, rocking his friend slowly, feeling as if as long as he held him, Starsky would be safe from whatever that was trying to destroy him.
"You..." Starsky continued, tugging at Hutch´s collar. "To...do it."
Looking straight into pained, almost black eyes, understanding hit Hutch, and he looked away, shaking his head fiercely. "Shut up," he whispered, his voice quivery with tears.
"I´m gonna call an ambulance." Ever so gently, Hutch laid his burden back down, forcing himself to ignore the weak grasps at his sleeve.
"No... Hu...tch... Need you to... Need to die"
"Shhh," Hutch soothed, blinking away tears. "Shhht, calm down."
Scrambling to his feet, Hutch raced to the phone and called an ambulance.
He couldn´t hear the laughing inside Starsky´s head that grew to loud to endure. All he could hear was a whispered, "Get him... out," before his partner slipped into unconsciousness.
Waiting for the ambulance, Hutch cradled him again, stroking the blood-matted curls with frantic movements, all the time soothing his still friend.
"It´s gonna be okay, Starsk. Promise. It´s gonna be okay."
Starsky stayed unconscious on their way to the hospital, the ambulance racing through the streets of the city, while Hutch didn´t dare to so much as blink, his gaze focused on his still friend, as if him looking away would kill him instantly, like a life line that being cut, would take him from Hutch, leave him falling down to the dark abyss he was drawn to.
Once they´d arrived at the hospital, Starsky was wheeled into an ER cubicle, and Hutch left to wait in the already familiar waiting room.
Left to wait like all the times before: The shooting at the Italian restaurant, Bellamy, Marcus... Yet, still this was different. All the other times, Hutch had always known, what had happened, as frightening as it might have been, it had at least always have some air of reality on it, a concrete source of his worry.
This was like twilight, murky, greyish, unclear. Incredible and unexplainable. And definitely the most scaring thing Hutch had ever experienced. Not knowing what was going on, but feeling, deep down in his self that it was much bigger than they were, actually scared him more than anything ever had before.
Lost in his racing thoughts, Hutch suddenly jumped, when a woman's scream echoed through the halls of the hospital, followed by the unmistakable sounds of someone running down the corridor. Seconds later, a young nurse turned around a corner and was practically caught by a colleague, who wrapped her arms around the trembling girl, soothing her as best as she could.
"Hi-his eyes," came the nurse's muffled cries from where she hid her face in her friend´s shoulder. "His eyes, Mary! I´ve... I´ve never seen..."
"Shhht. It´s okay, Kathy," the other nurse muttered quietly over the wracking sobs that had started to shake the disturbed girl. "It's okay."
"They were re-red! Completely red! A-and his face..."
Hutch, eyes wide with almost overwhelming fear, watched the scene for a few moments longer—like everybody else in the room did-then couldn´t restrain himself anymore and got to his feet, approaching the still hugging women with an air of urgency.
"Ex-excuse me, Miss´, b-but... Uhm... C-can you tell me if you´re talking abou-"
"He´s not human," Kathy whispered against her colleague´s shoulder, not having noticed the detective, but cutting him off efficiently. Her trembling increased as if her fear-filled statement had just sent her over the edge, and with an apologizing glance, her friend quickly led her away from the watching crowd and Hutch, into an empty examination room nearby.
His own shock over the nurse´s words only half overcome, Hutch started to follow them, but was stopped by a deep voice calling out for him behind him. "Detective Hutchinson?"
Whirling around, Hutch shot off a question, before he´d even fully reached his new position, instantly scared of the answer. "What happened to Starsky?"
"I´m Doctor Roberts," the young man introduced himself instead of an answer, gently grabbing the blonds' arm to steer him inside yet another empty room, closing the door behind them. "Please. Have a seat," he said pointing at the table, but Hutch kept standing, impatience written all over the concern on his face.
"Your partner´s condition is," Roberts started, visibly uneasy, searching for words, "uhm... strange." He gave an apologetic smile that was lost on Hutch.
"Strange," the detective repeated tonelessly and was about to add something he might have regretted later, when the doctor quickly continued.
"We found enough cocaine and alcohol in his system to kill a horse, yet he´s stable. An athlete after a run has less red corpuscles than he has and his blood pressure..." Noticing his voice was getting high-pitched; Roberts stopped himself, running a quick hand over his face, before looking at Hutch again. "Nothing about Detective Starsky´s present condition is making any sense at all, medically speaking. That's what I meant with 'strange'."
Hutch stared, suddenly feeling light-headed, overwhelmed by the other man´s evident confusion. He swallowed dryly, slowly, and opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, Roberts quickly added, as if to make it up for the appal he´d caused. "Right now, we´re working on getting his vitals back to normal, and he´s under heavy sedation, but... I´m sorry I can´t tell you more, detective, but it´s all down to waiting from now on. I´m sorry."
"What happened to nurse Kathy?" Hutch asked out plainly, before he could stop himself.
"Sh-she said something about... a patient´s eyes...Doc?" The other man frowned, as if trying to find a way to explain the inexplicable, but Hutch saved him from the effort.
"Starsky´s eyes turned red, a-and his face... He started to bleed, didn´t he?"
"Detective..." Trailing off, Roberts quickly brushed over his suddenly strained features again, stating, "I´ve never ever seen something like that. Never. It was..." Unable to find the right words, he shook his head, peeking up at Hutch as if looking for an explanation that didn´t come.
Instead, Hutch asked "Can I see him now?" and ignored the unspoken question, avoiding to look into the other one´s eyes.
"Sure," Roberts replied curtly, and paused, as if wanting to give Hutch one last chance to explain the most scary thing he´d ever seen, but when finding the blond wouldn´t, he added, "He´s going to be out for quite a while though, but come with me, please. I'll take you to his room."
Hutch followed Doctor Roberts across the corridor up to Starsky´s room.
"We are monitoring his heart, breathing and blood pressure," Roberts informed the detective who didn´t really listen, but rushed through the door the younger man had just opened, only realizing Roberts wasn´t following him, when he heard the door falling shut softly. Through the large window at the side, he could see the doctor hurry away, clearly relieved like a child who´d just been spared a visit at the dentist.
Turning his attention to his friend, Hutch sighed sadly, the tension that´d grabbed his heart with such icy fingers before, falling from him just a little, by the relief of at least being with Starsky, seeing him. Seeing that, though surrounded by scary-looking hospital equipment, paler and seemingly lifeless, he was breathing.
Drawing a chair closer to the bed, Hutch sank into it heavily, hospital-routine taking over as if out of reflex.
"Starsky. Starsk. Buddy, are you here?" he asked in a whisper, taking Starsky´s hand in his. Of course he didn´t expect to get an answer, but just needed to talk, needed to at least pretend Starsky could hear him.
"Starsk, I don't know what's happening to you buddy, but I know you. I know that something has been driven you to do what you did, and I´ve got to find out what this something is. There must be somebody out there who can help us, a-and... Whatever it takes, buddy, I´m gonna find a way to help you. I promise." Tired, Hutch rubbed his face, repeating, "I promise, buddy. I promise."
He wasn't making sense, he knew that, but he was so exhausted, so shaken up. He really just needed to hear the words himself, feeling the sense they made for HIM.
"I´ve got to go now. You just hold on, okay? Hold on and..." Voice breaking, he stood up quickly, fearing he couldn´t leave his partner, knowing he had to. "Trust me..."
Without looking back, he dashed out of the room.
An idea had settled in Hutch´s mind over the last hours, now seemingly driving the car more than he himself did.
He´d seen, with his own eyes, that something strange, yes...inhuman, as frighteningly odd as that sounded, was going on with his friend, was eating him alive from the inside, was driving him to begging Hutch for release.
Release...What great a word for murder...Oh God, buddy, I know it´s crazy, but...But...
Come ON, Hutchinson, SAY it! He inwardly yelled at himself, hitting the steering wheel in frustration.
Rodgers said so, so you can do it! - But Rodger´s a LUNATIC, for Christ´s sake! You don´t really BELIEVE this, do you? That Starsk´s... that he´s...
There. He´d said it. Mumbled it, alright, but out loud, nevertheless.
"Possessed. He´s possessed."
Oh great! When you say it, it sounds SO much more convincing! Yet, despite the sarcasm of his inner voice, the detective found his energy suddenly renewed, as if stating the truth had set him free to finally deal with it too.
Speeding up considerably on his way, he'd listen Rodger´s words slowly but steadily drowning out his own.
He´s been chosen. He seemed a good choice, so kind, so humane. A true challenge. To host Asmodai. The Lord of 72 legions. And He´s inside him.
So lost in frantic memories Hutch was that he looked around almost surprised when suddenly noticing he´d stopped in front of a synagogue.
Beyond signs of doubt, he quickly emerged from the car, and dashed into the building, where he practically ran into a thin, elder man just preparing to leave.
"Whoa! Young man! Slow d-"
"I need to speak to the rabbi," Hutch interrupted him hastily, grabbing the man's arm urgently. "It´s an emergency. Are y-"
"Yes," the man answered, a frown settling on his wrinkled face. "I´m Rabbi Marek Rubanowitz. How can I help you? Maybe we ought to sit d-"
"No, there's no time for that!" Hutch cut him off in clear panic, but instantly dropped his gaze apologetically. "I´m sorry, I´m...My name´s Ken Hutchinson, I´m a police detective, but I-I´m not here as a cop, it´s..."
Rabbi Rubanowitz listened wordlessly to the confused man's stammering, soft curiosity evident in the eyes Hutch peeked down into, before swallowing hard, bracing himself for his next words.
"I-I think I need your help, rabbi. WE need it. Th-that´s...my friend and I. We..." Trailing off, Hutch gazed away, suddenly nervous, suddenly unsure. But that feeling didn't last long. The memories flooded his mind too quickly for that.
"We need help," he finished in a pleading whisper, gaze locking with the older man´s again.
A pause followed, the rabbi studying Hutch closely, before asking, "What kind of help?"
"I-I... Uhm..." A nervous laugh breaking through to the blond's strained face; he waved his hand in a helpless gesture. "I don't know how...It's..."
"Okay, Ken," the rabbi finally said with a soft smile, gently taking Hutch´s arm, "we better talk inside my office."
With that, he led Hutch further into the building, and into a small, stinky room, where he closed the door behind them, pointing at a chair across a large desk.
"Have a seat, please. I´ll make some coffee, and then you tell me more about it."
A couple of minutes later, Hutch was absent-mindedly nursing a steaming cup of coffee, while Rubanowitz asked.
"Okay. Let´s try this again. What exactly is your problem?"
"My best friend is possessed," Hutch blurted out, hesitated, as if listening to his own ludicrous statement, but then went on, looking directly into the man´s widening eyes, before quickly gazing down into his cup again, noticing for the first time since he´d left the car that his hands were shaking. "He´s possessed. By...I don´t know, something: By a demon, an evil spirit or whatever it is."
Glancing up, he found the older man watching him, a frown quickly vanishing from his forehead when he found the blond´s gaze upon him.
"I see. And what are you coming to me for?"
Sensing the rabbi´s thoughts like a smell, Hutch couldn´t help his voice raising a tad as he answered in clear despair, "I need help, rabbi! You´re a man of God, you-"
"Are you Jewish?" Rubanowitz cut off gently.
"My friend is. He's not attending the synagogue that often, but he is religious in his own... way," Hutch finished lamely, finding himself strangely unable to explain Starsky's special kind of faith. One thing, though, he could state convincingly. "He's a good man, rabbi. One of the best. He's kind and generous and…"
"Listen, Ken, " The rabbi interrupted him softly bending a little over his desk, his eyes never leaving Hutch, who felt a quick, but hot sting of hope at the generous interest he saw reflected in the old eyes.
"You seem to be a very intelligent man, so I'm going to be honest with you. Most of times people believes themselves to be, as you put it, possessed by a demon or...well, anything, it's actually a symptom for a mental disorder."
Returning the look, Hutch nodded slowly. "I see. What about the other times?"
Though giving him credit for the remark with a quickly arched brow, the rabbi sighed, softening his expression even more, when he quietly asked, "What exactly makes you think your friend's possessed by something?"
"A man we arrested a couple of days ago told me. We've been involved in a cultists case, and when we busted a few of them during one of their… well, rituals, Starsky shot one of them, and before he died, the man grabbed Starsky's wrists, mumbled some mumbo jumbo stuff, a-and..." Breaking of, Hutch drew in a deep, calming breath, running a trembling hand over his face, before adding from behind his fingers. "I know it sounds ludicrous." He drew his hand away, once more directly meeting the rabbi´s gaze. "But something happened that night, rabbi. Something happened to Starsky, and I don't know what it is. It's like h-he's not himself anymore, he's acting cruelly, heartlessly... I feel like I don't know my best friend anymore!"
Again, a pause occurred, then Rabbi Rubanowitz got to his feet, quickly, determined. Something, though, almost like a shadow of regret rushed over his features. "I can´t help you, detective, I´m sorry. I wish I could, but there´s nothing I can do for you."
Appalled, Hutch turned on the chair, looking after the rabbi, as if refusing to stand up and leave.
"Let me see if I got this straight, Ken," Rubanowitz cut him off, his voice suddenly stern enough to make the younger man flinch. "What you're asking me to do is no more and no less than an exorcism."
"Hum..." Hutch started, suddenly very, very cold. In his mind his plans hadn't had quite so... disturbing names.
"I-I guess... B-but-"
"Yes," Rubanowitz said and shook his head. "And that's something you can't ask me to do, Ken. Isn't that easy."
"Sorry, detective, but what you're asking of me is-"
"But you believe me," Hutch asked urgently, now rising to his feet too, turning to face the other man. "Right?"
"What I believe doesn't matter." Rubanowitz picked up the coffee cups and headed tiredly to the kitchen, Hutch on his heels.
"Why are you so scared, Rabbi? You saw something like that before, didn't you? You know I'm not lying, aren't yout?"
The only answer were the cups falling from the rabbi's hands onto the floor, as the old man sank into a chair, mumbling unintelligible words that were lost in Hutch´s frantic calling out for him. Concerned, the younger man lowered himself to his knees next to the chair, trying to look directly into the old face.
"Rabbi? Rabbi Rubanowitz. Are you okay? Sir?"
"They are powerful… too powerful," the old man whispered. "It doesn't matter if it's Belphegor, Moloch, Azazel or any else of them. All of them are shedim."
"They?" Hutch asked, confused.
"Yes. They." was the weak reply as the rabbi's narrowed eyes met Hutch's blue ones. "The demons. There are so many of them, and when they get a human soul..." The old man stopped in half sentence, apparently lost in thoughts, remembering.
"What? What were you saying, rabbi? How can I help my friend?"
"You can´t help him, Ken. Nobody can. Whoever of them captured your friend's self, he won't leave him. I've seen it all before," he added sadly, gaze wondering to a point at the far wall that for him turned into a path backwards in time, into a past Hutch couldn't see. "Oh yes, I´ve seen it." Looking back at the blond detective, Rabbi Rubanowitz sighed, reaching out wearily as if to touch the younger man's cheek, but let his fingers drop instead. "There´s nothing that will stop this thing, Ken, nothing but... death."
"D-death... What d´you-"
"The captured soul can only be freed by death," Rubanowitz interrupted him softly as if his tone of voice could take the sting out of the words. "It is the only way out for your friend"
"No!" Hutch almost yelled, biting his lower lip instantly, before casting the old man a pleading look.
"Rabbi, please. Please, there has to be another way. There has to be something we can do! Or... or someone who can save Starsky. Please."
"You're right, Kenneth. I've seen one of them." The old man said, staring in the front wall. "And I know that he didn´t leave him. They never do." He paused lost in thoughts, then kept talking.
"When I was a child, a lifetime ago, I saw one of his victims in the village where I was born, near Krakow. Henryk. He was a shepherd. See, his mistake had been to deny alms to an old witch, because he needed the money to feed his family. According to the people of the village, she put a spell on him." Rubanowitz swallowed hard before to continuing, even more subdued than before.
"The next morning, he had inexplicably lost his lambs. All of them. Over night. The poor animals turned up again later, in the stall. They´d been carved up, skinned… It was awful. When the men talked about it, the children... We wanted to see it. Oh God!"
His voice breaking, Rubanowitz rubbed his face, as if trying to grab right into his mind and remove the frightening images.
"But that was only the beginning. The very next day his oldest children..." A shuddering intake of breath cut off the by now merely whispered tale, but still the rabbi forced himself to continue, "They´d been killed, just like the animals. His kids, his wife, his mother..." Another deep sigh, a feeble attempt at regaining more than keeping control of his voice. "The only survivor was his five-year-old daughter, who came running into the village that morning to... to tell the people that it'd been her father, Henryk, who'd done all those horrible things. He'd killed almost his whole family and seventeen lambs in about twenty-four hours."
Hutch stared, dumbfounded, and only dragged his chin back up when he started to feel like a little child listening to a horror story at a camp fire.
Yet he couldn't help himself; he had to ask, "And what happened then?"
"The men headed for Henryk´s cabin to look for him. I guess, they went to lynch him. I wasn´t there, because as I told you, I was just a child, and I don't know too well what happened, but according to the survivors that man fought against armed people barehanded, killed most of them, and then all of a sudden…he started to bleed. His eyes became red and his face ashen, and it cracked. The men told us that shortly after it had started, he changed. As if all the evil had been drained from him, as if he´d woken up from a nightmare. He stared at his hands, they said, at his bloody hands, and before any of them could have stopped him, he stabbed himself with a knife that lay in the blood on his feet, begging them all for forgiveness, before he plunged the blade into his heart. He was dead instantly."
He started to bleed. His eyes became red and his face ashen and it cracked… The description of the unfortunate shepherd's transformation was all too familiar to Hutch, who suddenly found it very hard to keep his own voice steady as he explained,
"Rabbi, that's exactly what is happening to my friend ever since that bast...the, uh, cultist put a spell on him. Most of the time, he's acting awfully strange, but every once in a while he starts to bleed, his eyes are turning red, and his skin grows ashen and cracks. And th-then he...he seems to be himself again. "
The old man nodded gravely, though he appeared to be a bit exhausted by the memories he´d been forced to relive. "He´s fighting. But it will be fruitless. That thing is strong. Stronger than him, than you. Stronger than any of us. Look, Ken, I understand you. Believe me, son, I do, but I can't help you. Whatever keeps your friend's soul prisoner is too powerful for me."
It was the absolute honesty colouring the man´s words that seemingly buried all hope Hutch had been carrying around with him ever since he'd seriously started to believe.
"I´m scared. I can't. I´m sorry"
"I take it that is your last word?"
"Yes. I will try to find something or somebody willing to help your friend in some way. But I can't promise you anything. Just that I´ll try."
"Thanks rabbi," Hutch said with a tired smile, visibly resigning. "I'd appreciate that." He produced a notepad from his pants rear pocket, scribbled his number on one of the small sheets of paper and handed it out for the rabbi. "That´s my phone number."
The rabbi took the note with a nod. "I´ll pray for your friend, Ken. For both of you."
"Thanks," Hutch said and turned to left. "We can use all the help we can get."
Hutch sat in his car for a long time, thinking, feeling silly, drained and useless, unable to find a way to help Starsky. Unable even to fully understand what was really going on.
When he finally returned to the hospital, heading straight for his partner´s room, he was so lost in thoughts that at first he didn't notice Dr. Roberts and a nurse following him hastily the moment they saw him on the hallway.
"Detective! Detective Hutchinson!"
Snapping out of his thoughts, Hutch stopped at last, and turned to meet them. His tiny smile, however, faded quickly when he got a closer look at the approaching man´s expression.
"I´m so sorry, detective," Roberts said as he reached him, a little out of breath from the brisk walk.
"S-sorry?" Hutch repeated, an icy hand crawling up his spine. "Wh-what d´you mean, sorry? Is...Oh my...D-did something happen to Starsky"
"Your friend sort of... signed himself out," Roberts explained hesitantly, obviously not that eager to talk to the blond detective anymore.
"He sort of WHAT?!"
"Okay, let´s say he escaped. Fled. Left the building."
"Wait," Hutch cut the man off sharply, "Wait a second here. Escaped? Fled?! LEFT THE BUILDING?!"
Roberts flinched visibly when Hutch´s voice reached a totally new level of volume, but the detective quickly restrained himself from yelling some more at the seemingly shrinking man, and drew in a deep, calming breath, before continuing, "Wasn´t he supposed to be sedated and asleep for the next hours?!"
"Yes," Roberts nodded, as if he thought that admitting the mistake had calming effects. "I took care of that personally, and I don´t understand how in hell he could wake up and then find the strength to walk out of here."
"Oh yeah?!" Hutch shot back. "What I don´t understand is the walking-outta-here-part! Aren´t you looking out for you pa... Oh," waving an angry hand at the man, he shook his head, "never mind. D´you have any idea where he might have gone?"
The question sounded utterly frustrated, the question of a man who just knew what sort of answer he would get.
"I wasn´t there, but-"
"You weren´t..." Again, the blond cut himself off, briefly closing his eyes to regain control, his open palms held out in front of him as if he was holding himself back. "Okay," he said quietly, though the word was strained, "did anyone saw what happened?"
"Uhm, yes. A nurse saw him when he was running for the door, but..."
As the man trailed off, Hutch frowned. "But what?"
"Do you remember what we told you about what happened when we first checked your friend? In the examination room?"
All colour drained from the blond´s face as his eyes widened, "Oh my God, he looked like that?"
"No," Roberts quickly replied, "no, not... exactly. But...the nurse said he looked terrified."
"Aren´t we all?" Hutch muttered and turned with a curt nod.
"Well, well, well, Davey-Baby, here we are. Together, just like it has to be. You don't get it, do you? Running won´t help you shit, kiddo. As long as you´re around, I am. And as long as I´m around, I´ll see too your beloved friend's death. And then, you´ll be all mine." A dreamy sigh. "And I can stay here forever. Isn't that wonderful? I feel like partying just thinking about it! Don´t you feel like a little celebration, Davey?"
From the dark place where he was locked up, Starsky kept fighting, though he could feel himself weaken with every passing moment, as the strength of his soul was decreasing more and more, until it was merely a tiny whisper, just a tickling in the entrails of the evil
Hutch checked Starsky´s apartment, Venice place and finally The Pits, but Starsky remained out of sight.
"Listen Huggy," He said, leaning tiredly against the bar, but before he could continue, his friend raised his hands in an understanding manner, nodding,
"I know, I know, bro. If Curly shows up, I call you ipso facto."
Studying his blond friend´s exhausted features closely, Huggy reached out to gently and very briefly touch the man´s shoulder, earning a grateful little smile, before he asked,
"Hutch...D´you think Starsk´s in danger? I mean, REAL danger?"
Hutch blinked once, twice. "Suicidal danger?"
"That and..." The words trailed off. They could not be said.
"Oh," Hutch nodded, "you mean could he... Well, I never thought I´d said something like that about Starsky, Huggy, but yes. I think he is."
With that, he left, leaving terror behind, like every place else he´d went that day, thinking with the most sarcastic inner smile, that even now he and his partner seemed to share a bond of likeness, if it only was their effect on people.
"Where are you, Starsk? Where?"
Hutch felt as if he couldn´t even remember when this whole nightmare had started. It felt like years had passed since Starsky had left the hospital, years of doing nothing but looking for him, fearing for him.
He desperately needed to find him, he felt that like an illness creeping forward to which he needed the cure to survive.
How he longed for the seemingly long gone days of normality, when none of this had happened, when he wouldn't have dreamed of actually believing in demons, in evil itself even. When there'd just be him and Starsky, his normal all-American Starsky; the big child hungry for life, full of joy, warmth, love, compassion, and not the sinister and dark creature that would look at him with hate-filled eyes. Or, worse even, the tortured, broken man who´d begged him for death.
Maybe it was just a product of his almost feverish, fear-filled imagination, but suddenly, a whisper, soft like a breeze, reached Hutch´s ears; murmurs in an all too familiar voice, though weak. So weak.
And he knew where he would find Starsky.
Hutch drove along miles of coast road, stopping here and there, getting out of his car, walking along the sand, searching for Starsky, calling out his name, but hours went by, and his friend kept out of sight.
Damn! That thing is getting a great time playing the game of cat and mouse with us!
The blond one kept looking for Starsky, scared; more than this: Terrified. Unsure about which he would do if he'd found Starsky. Just knowing that he HAD to find him.
Finally and after hours of search, Hutch found his partner…
The ocean roared furiously as large clouds captured the last rays of sunshine.
Hutch emerged from his car, walking up to the seashore and suddenly saw the figure of his best friend standing out against the horizon.
Barely managing to maintain his footing on the slippery sand, Hutch hurried towards him, but froze in his spot, when he was close enough to see a little escort of six black cats circling Starsky, purring loud, too loud for Hutch's hears, and rubbing their furry bodies against the man's legs.
When they noticed the intruder's presence, the animals stopped to stare motionless, fixing their shinning eyes on his.
"Hi Hutch," Starsky suddenly said without looking at him "What took you so long?"
The familiar gag came off not far more disturbing than the hiss of a rattlesnake, and instantly, Hutch knew that it wasn´t Starsky who'd said the words.
Swallowing dryly and with a shiver of pure terror crawling up his spine, Hutch managed to answer almost sternly.
"Leave my friend alone Asmodai." Listening to the echo of his own words, he found that his voice had shaken less than he´d expected.
After a moment of hesitation, Starsky laughed, a somewhat high-pitched, cruel sound, like fingernails on a black board. Hutch winced, involuntarily taking a step back as if to flee the sound.
"Smart," his friend´s voice followed, though now he could hear the difference, as if he had gained the ability to look through the body at the thing inhabiting it. "Yes, sir. You're a clever man, Hutch. Though I like this guy better. More fun, you know. You should see how he's fighting. Like a stubborn mule."
At the amused words, Starsky´s lips curled up in a sinister smile, and he slowly approached the blond with his feline escort in tow. Hutch couldn´t help looking at the animals with a fear-filled look.
"Starsk," he started and cleared his throat, feebly trying to fill his voice with strength that he couldn´t seem to find somewhere in him. "Starsky. I know you're in there. Somewhere. Starsk, please…"
Looking for words, he stopped, his thoughts racing, and continued, "I love you, buddy, you know that. A-and I´m here. Right here," he repeated, using their old, familiar comfort-line, though he wasn´t entirely sure who needed it more right now. Yet, it helped…If just a little.
"Fight it, buddy! C´mon, you can do it. Fight it!" With every word that left his lips, Hutch´s voice grew stronger, his pleading changing into something that sounded more like orders.
"Only you can do it, Starsk. And you CAN do it, I know you do. C´mon, buddy, I need you to stand up and fight now!"
Another laugh, though-or maybe Hutch was just imagining it. It sounded less self-assured as before. And, Hutch suddenly realized, though restrained himself from letting his increasing hopes show on his face, he hadn´t moved an inch ever since the two steps he´d taken towards Hutch. It seemed almost as if he...couldn´t move? Could that be? Maybe fighting Starsky´s resistance took more energy than the demon would let on? Yet Hutch knew he couldn´t be too sure of that. He had to play along—for now.
"Oh, Hutchinson! How can you be so naïve?! Your beloved Starsk is cute. Really. But, believe me, he´s NOT strong enough. I know him a bit better than you, y´know." A casual wrinkle of his nose accompanied the cruel smile on Starsky´s features, sending a stabbing ache right through Hutch´s heart. It hurt enough already to know what hell his friend was in right now, but seeing his tormentor´s joy on the captive´s features...it was almost more than the blond man thought he could take.
"Nooo," Asmodai continued with a smirk, "He won´t beat me. He won´t even try. Because, see Kenny, he knows exactly what he has to do, but he´s too weak to do it. Your buddy is a coward, Ken. He´s scared witless, like a little puppy." To emphasize his words, the demon arched Starsky´s brows to the sick-puppy-dog-look Hutch had seen so often on his friend´s face.
He closed his eyes briefly, hearing Asmodai´s raw laughter.
"What he has to do," Starsky's voice broke through the darkness, and Hutch opened his eyes, "is to kill himself." A smile. "And he knows that. But as you can see," a giggle, "he doesn´t have the guts to do it. Your partner´s nothing but a-"
"Shut up!" Hutch cut him off, fury winning over fear. "I´m not talking to you here, fairytale creature thing!" With an almost content snort, he paused briefly, then started his intense pleading again.
"Starsk. Come on, Starsky. I´m here. Right here. Now c´mon, we don´t have all day. Get rid of that fu-"
"Hu-Hutch," the faintest of voices broke him off, just as Starsky´s body went limp, too fast for Hutch to react. Within a second, though, he was kneeling next to his fallen friend, the cats staring at them both with twinkling green eyes.
"Starsky," Hutch gasped breathlessly, holding onto his partner´s arms. "Are you with me?" To his relief, the smaller man´s face didn´t appear to go through the usual changes. Neither did he bleed nor did the colour of his eyes change. Yet he was there, Hutch could feel it.
"Hutch…Hurts." The tortured man´s murmurs were so weak Hutch thought he´d heard them in his head, but the hand feebly reaching out for him was very real.
"Take it easy, Starsk," he hurried to soothe, grasping the cold, trembling fingers, stroking the hand with his thumb in a soothing rhythm. "Everything is going to be okay. I´ll take you back to the hospital and-"
"No!" the weak voice of Starsky cut him off, a pleading look settling in pain-filled blue eyes as they locked with Hutch´s. "No, Hutch, please. I don't need..." He couldn´t go on, the pain taking his breath away, his grip on the blond´s hands tightening.
"Starsk, buddy, please," Hutch urged him desperately, reaching out with his free hand to gently drive it over his friend´s temple, smoothing away damp curls clinging to too cold skin. "Something's happening to you. You need help. We need-"
"No. Just...just hold me, Hutch. Please, just... I´ll be okay. We´ll be..." At the heartbreaking sound that cut off his friend´s shaky begging, a mixture of a sob and a choked cough, Hutch couldn´t restrain himself from wrapping the shivering form in a warm embrace, holding his partner as close as he dared, allowing himself to fall into a familiar, comforting routine of taking care, normal taking care, until suddenly...
"S-Stars-ky... Stars..." At the clawing hands around his neck, Hutch coughed weakly, trying to choke out more, but found his strength ebbing away as the iron grip only increased. As if in a far distance, he could hear the cats mewing, their loud purring like cheers.
"Just hold me, Hutch. Please," the intruder mocked "Oh hell, humans! You´re SO easy to fool, it´s actually boring. I mean," he sighed, his hands never leaving Hutch´s neck as the blond struggled uselessly against the still tightening grip, "a couple of soapy words, a few tears... And off you go." Another sigh, but Hutch never heard the words that followed as he faded out, slipping into thick, engulfing darkness.
"I it wasn´t so damn sad, I´d laugh. Well, Davey-boy, mission completed. Blondie´s out." Contentedly wiping his hands like a worker after an accomplished task, Asmodai came to "his" feet, looking down at the still form on the ground with mock eagerness.
"Now all we´ve to do is to get rid of the trash, and then we can go for a break, before the next adventure calls. You up to it?"
The weakest of whimpers answered, "N-No! Hutch no!"
Surprised, the demon lifted his brows, "Oh! Still there? Wow, that's sorta impressive!
Buuuut…unfortunately for you...uh, and him," he snickered, "I´m in charge here, and that means, You´re not. So, Robo-Dave, here we go." With that, the demon produced Hutch´s gun from the unconscious detective´s holster, making a big show out of every movement he forced Starsky´s body to perform for pure fun.
When he neatly aimed at the blond head, another, stronger whisper could be heard.
"No? Oh yes, Davey. Yeah, yeah, yeah!" Asmodai sang softly, releasing the safety catch of Hutch´s gun. "And nooooooow," he said like an over-excited show-master, "we pull the trigger. One, two-"
"No!" All of a sudden, Starsky, making a superhuman effort thrown the gun towards the sea, and his legs started to obey him, carrying him in a sprint to Hutch´s car.
At the sound of the engine roaring as the car sped off, the blond stirred, waking to a monster-headache and a burning throat greeting him in perfect unison.
"Starsk?" he asked groggily, and coughed painfully at the choking sensation in his throat. Once the fit of cough subsided, he got first to his knees, gulping air greedily, then to his feet.
"Starsky? Partner? Where are you?" Shaking his head slowly to clear it, Hutch walked some steps, looking around the lonely seashore dazedly, until the fog in front of his eyes faded, leaving him to see the frustrating, scaring truth.
Starsky was gone. The black cats were gone too
As gone was his car.
"Oh no! No, God, please. No!" Without losing a moment, Hutch turned, searching the beach frantically, and, spotting a grey Sedan that just turned around a corner, carelessly jumped practically in front of it, flashing his badge, before the man could even start to inform him about his stupidity in all the colors his language would supply him with.
"Police! I need your car. Now."
"Y-You'll don't get it. I won't kill him," Starsky said, grasping the steering wheel with shaking hands and blinking repeatedly to clear his vision.
"Yeah, yeah, bla, bla, heard all of that before, kiddo. Let's just wait and see, alright?" the other voice yawned in his mind as if bored, though it was him driving, him having the control-for the moment.
"There are things in the world you can't keep from happening Davey, you know that. And, oh yeah, I´m so impressed you managed-this. It´s actually very amusing, watching you speed off every time we´ll get close. I could go on with this forever, but... You know me, kid, I´m a gambling man. Well, uh, demon actually. So, tell me, Davey-Baby, are you willing to do what it takes to save your...uh, hey, I always wanted to ask you, what exactly is a Blintz?"
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Starsky cut him off, furious, and pulled to a sudden halt in front of his apartment. Within seconds, he was up the stairs, moving by sheer willpower, feeling inner eyes resting on him with mocking awe written in them. His own were red by now, and his wrists were bleeding profusely, his face a frightening mask of ashen grey.
As uncontrollable shivers shook his entire body, he dug into his pocket, looking for his key, picking it out and trying once and again to put it into the lock.
"You don't get it, Davey. Give up," the sinister voice said through his own. Ignoring it, Starsky struggled with the lock. Or rather, with his own trembling hands.
"Oh, please! Come on, Dave, don't be stupid. You can't even unlock your Goddamned door. How d´you figure you´ll manage to get your old man´s gun, aim correctly
and-" Just then, the sound of squealing brakes and Hutch´s shout cut the demon off.
"Uuuhhh," Asmodai giggled like an excited kid, "this is gonna be fuuuuun."
"G-go away, Hutch!" Starsky said over the demon´s voice, finally able to get into his apartment, bursting inside just as Hutch dashed up the stairs.
But before he could reach him, Starsky had already locked himself in the bathroom, the door almost connecting with the blond´s nose as it was shut.
"Starsk!" Pounding against the door frantically, Hutch yelled, "Starsky! Let me in, damn it! Open up!"
"S-sorry, Hutch," The shaky reply came followed by a choked sound that sounded a lot like a sob. "I´m so sorry, b-but I have no choice, I..."
"Starsk," Hutch pleaded, his palms flat against the door, his face close to it. "No. Please no. Don´t do it. Listen to me, buddy. Listen to-"
"I-it´s okay, Hutch." It was a whisper, yet Hutch could hear it as clearly as if Starsky had been standing next to him. "I´m ready. It´s okay. D-don't be sad, Blintz, y´hear?"
"I love you, partner." The sound of glass crashing almost drained his friend´s words.
"Starsky! No! No, don´t!"
A scream, horrible, only half-human, accompanied the sound of the lock breaking as Hutch threw himself against the door with all his weight, taking it down, just in time to see a huge, ice-grey blur of a figure whirling through the air, before it vanished in an explosion of wind, throwing him outside again, until he met a wall and slid down with a pain-filled grunt.
Dazed, he shook his head, already crawling forward to Starsky´s fallen form
What met his eyes made the blood in his veins turn to ice water. Starsky was lying limply in the floor, a puddle of dark red growing as life drained from his body, a large piece of glass producing from his chest, fatally near his heart. His face was deathly pale, his eyes blue again, but staring ahead, unseeing.
His chest didn´t move.
He was dead.
"B-buddy?" Hutch stammered in a tiny whisper, his hands hovering over his friend´s body, afraid to touch him. Afraid to see.
"Starsk? Wake up? Oh God, please, please wake up."
"No..." He was crying by now, quietly, small tears, more like rays then drops, cascading down his face. "No, babe, no. Please."
How long he just sat there and cried, he didn´t know. He never touched his friend, never closed the staring blue eyes. Eventually, his energy spent, he curled up next to the dead man, right there in the puddle of blood, his nose barely touching Starsky´s arm, and let unconsciousness to overtake him.
"Hutch. Hey, Hutch."
"Hutch!" Growing more urgent, the voice breaking through the darkness suddenly developed arms, fingers that gently yet firmly held his shoulders, shaking him slightly, carefully.
Yet he couldn´t seem to free himself from the grasps of darkness, sadness. Something terrible had happened. Something horrible had taken place. Something…
"Come on, Blintz, wake up!"
"St-Starsk?" Blinking his eyes open, Hutch groggily squinted his eyes closed, willing his vision to clear as all he saw was a blurry image hovering over him.
"Yeah," the familiar voice answered with an audible smile of relief, "it´s me. You coming out of it now?"
"Wh-what... ?" Hutch muttered, feeling horribly disoriented, struggling to sit up, but only to fall against his friend who was kneeling next to him, ready to catch him.
"Whoa there! Easy, Hutch, easy. I think you sorta hit your head. Knocked yourself out. You okay now?"
Since he could now clearly see the concern written in the eyes in front of him, Hutch slowly nodded and allowed Starsky to gently help him to lean against a wall. Only then did the blond take in his surroundings, frowning in confusion as he did so.
"What..." A wince. "What happened?"
"Don´t ask me," Starsky answered, gentle fingers running through Hutch´s hair, checking his head for injuries. "I found you here. Scared the hell outta me, Blintz! For a moment I thought you were... you know."
"Here?" Hutch repeated, still feeling dazed. "B-but... I don´t remember... How d´I got here?" Again, he let a confused gaze wander through Starsky´s bathroom, and winced once more, his forehead falling into his hands. "Awww, my head´s killing me."
"You sure?" Starsky asked concernedly. "Seems like you didn´t knocked yourself out after all."
"Yes," Hutch replied, unnerved, without looking up, "I´m absolutely positive that my head is fucking killing me, okay?"
"Okay," Starsky replied, raising his hands in front of his body. "Whatever you say. And you really can´t remember how you got here?"
"No," Hutch answered after a moment´s thought and then peeked up at his kneeling friend questioningly. "How?"
"Uh..." A shrug. "I don´t know. As I said, I found you here."
"And just where did you come from?"
Opening his mouth to reply, Starsky suddenly froze, closed his mouth again, visibly thinking. "Hum..."
"Well?" Hutch asked, as exasperatedly as he could with the pounding inside his skull.
"Come on," Starsky said instead of an answer, reaching out to help his friend to his feet, "we better get you off this cold floor and onto the couch. Maybe you had another one of your migraine things. I always tell you to-"
"Starsk, pleeeeaaaase, what did I tell you about lectures on migraine things?"
"Uh... 'not when they're just happening'?" Starsky repeated his friend´s words from the past, as he carefully guided him through the living-room and to the couch, one supporting arm around the blond´s shoulders.
"Right," Hutch nodded, exhausted, leaning back in the softness of the couch, eyes closing almost against his will.
He could literally feel his partner´s worried look upon him as Starsky stood next to the couch, not sure what to do. He could have told the precise moment of his friend´s next words.
"Are you really sure you´re alright? Maybe we oughta get you to a hospi-"
"Sure, Starsk, I´m fine. Probably just fainted or something."
"Yeah." The reply sounded as convincing as Hutch found the explanation. "Probably."
They sat in silence for a few seconds, before a sudden, soft purring from outside the window sent their eyes snapping open. Simultaneously, they slowly turned their heads to look at a small black cat balancing on the windowsill outside, its green gaze seemingly focused on the men inside.
Somehow the temperature in the room seemed to drop a few degrees.
"Hey Hutch, how... how `bout we, uh, go water your plants? You know over at...your place?" Starsky stammered, his mouth suddenly dry, the hairs on his neck rising.
"Great idea, buddy" Hutch replied hastily, jumping to his feet despite his headache. "W-water the plants. Yeah, let's do that, come on."
Not missing a beat, they were out of the place, neither of them looking back at the cat that, confused by the detective's sudden leaving, jumped from the windowsill and gracefully headed back down the street to its owner.