his tears, Freddy walked over and looked down at the cop. He was lying on his stomach with his eyes closed, breathing harshly.
He wasn’t unconscious - the tension in his body showed that clearly. His hands were in bad shape, swollen and discolored,
caked with blood, some of it dried, but a fair bit of it bright red and gleaming in the grey dawn light. The fishing line
Reg had used to tie them was embedded deeply in the abraded flesh, the individual strands bunched together from his struggles
until they formed a thick silver band.
“D - don’t we… don’t
we need him?” he managed to ask his brother. Sometimes Reg did things just because he was mad, and then he’d get
even angrier about it afterwards because Freddy hadn’t said anything to stop him.
“It’s all gone to hell,”
said Reg, calmly.
Freddy knew better than to take any comfort
from the even tone of his brother’s voice. He knew you never could tell what Reg was really feeling, not for sure. Sometimes
he acted mad when he wasn’t, and sometimes he acted as if nothing was wrong, when he was really just a word away from
“Hutchinson must have alerted the other pigs,” said Reg, sourly. He stepped forward a pace and nudged Starsky’s shoulder
with the shotgun. “I guess he’s not such a good friend after all, hey? He’d rather bust me than save your
life.” His voice had taken on a taunting quality.
There was no reaction from Starsky. To Freddy’s
eyes, it looked as if the prone man was waiting for something, and he assumed therefore that he must be waiting to die. That
was what most of Reg’s victims did eventually. They gave up. This one had just taken a bit longer than the rest of them.
“He… he said Daddy’s d
- dead.” Freddy wondered if his father had given up. Maybe everyone eventually gave up and stopped trying to live. He
wondered when his turn would come. As he was considering these things, he saw a car turn onto the end of the road, behind
Reg. He thought about pointing it out, but decided he wouldn’t. Not this time.
“The pigs killed him,” said Reg,
raising the shotgun to his shoulder. “I ought’a put them all out of their misery, just like this one.” He
smiled to himself, thinking this was almost, but not quite, as enjoyable as the girls.
This statement finally got a reaction from
the man lying belly down on the road.
“He killed himself!” grated Starsky,
turning his head painfully to the side to glare up at his tormentor. “His hand. His gun.”
“No!” barked Reg. “You
killed him! You and your cop buddies. You drove him to it!”
The pig at the barricade had destroyed his
car, but it wouldn’t be hard to steal another. He and Freddy would have to leave town for a few months, because there
was his other life to attend to, but eventually they would return. There was so much potential here for firsts. He’d
never killed anyone at Christmas time, but he was sure it would be sweet, especially considering that Hutchinson’s wife appeared to have a bun in the oven.
Freddy watched in fascination as his brother
aimed both barrels at the cop, his finger tightening on the trigger. He’d never seen anyone die by a shotgun before.
He wondered whether it would be easier or harder than strangling. Reg always said experiencing new things was what life was
slammed his hand into the wheel, as if he could somehow urge the battered car to more speed. As he skidded around the corner,
he saw clearly a downed officer in a pool of blood next to the black and white patrol car. Wrenching the wheel to the side,
he sent his Chevy into a sliding skid, the driver’s side door colliding with the nose of the black and white patrol
cruiser, the rear bumper toppling one of the barricades. Grabbing the roof one-handed, he pulled himself out of the window,
and scrambled over the top of the cruiser. He had already drawn his Magnum.
He gave no heed to the officers lying either
wounded or dead on either side of him. His focus was entirely on the scene a hundred yards down the road. Starsky, face down
and bound, with a shotgun pointed at the back of his head.
Afterward Hutch would write in his report
that he had identified himself as a police officer before shooting, and perhaps he actually did. He had no clear recollection
of the precise order of his actions. His only concern was to stop Reg from killing Starsky. He crouched, aimed, and fired
in one smooth motion.
Almost simultaneously to Hutch’s action,
Starsky was also making his last bid for survival. While Reg had been shouting, he’d drawn his right leg up, bracing
his toes against the cement. Pain had narrowed his awareness to little more than himself and the man holding the shotgun.
The moment Reg fell silent; he launched himself forward with desperate strength.
Starsky’s shoulders collided with Reg’s
knees, causing him to stumble. Hutch’s bullet, which would have otherwise buried itself in his back, instead grazed
his shoulder. Reg’s hands bounced up, and his shotgun discharged directly into Freddy’s chest.
Entirely focused on his own survival, Reg
dropped the shotgun and rolled to the side, pulling the pistol from his belt and unloading the last three rounds in Hutch’s
direction before darting for the shelter of the alley.
Starsky had landed on his side and was therefore
looking directly at Freddy when the shotgun blast hit him. He saw the boy’s eyes open wide in almost comically exaggerated
surprise as he was knocked off his feet, landing on his back in the road. Then the white-hot pain in his ribs grabbed Starsky,
and he curled forward with a choked sob.
Hutch ducked, still running. Two of the bullets
missed widely, the third ricocheted off the pavement by his ankle. He dropped down next to Starsky, one hand landing on his
shoulder. Before he could say anything, Starsky threw his head back and rasped, “Get Reg!”
A quick glance at Freddy told Hutch there
was no longer any threat to his partner from that direction. Patting Starsky’s shoulder once, he lunged to his feet
and threw himself across the street after Reg’s disappearing form.
Hutch put so much energy into speed that
he was nearly stumbling over his own feet. His elbows flew out from his sides as he leaned into the pursuit, his long legs
eating up the distance between himself and the far end of the alley.
Once there, however, he skidded to a halt
with a feeling of keen dismay. Reg was nowhere in sight. He ran a few steps forward, and threw open the nearest door, his
revolver at the ready. Nothing. He stopped and listened, but heard no sound of running feet.
Another door turned up no leads. Reg had
disappeared completely, and there were far too many places he could have gone. Up a fire escape, down to the next street,
through any of the several doors… Hutch had a sudden vision of the man sneaking back around and collecting one of the
downed officer’s service pistols. Starsky was helpless to defend himself. Swiveling on his heel, taking one last frustrated
look around, he ran back to where he had left his friend.
Having ridden out the worst of the pain for
the moment, Starsky rolled onto his back and opened his eyes again. He could see Freddy a few yards away, his face chalk white
as the blood drained from his shattered body. He still looked surprised.
Behind him, he could hear Hutch’s quick
steps returning. There was a brief hesitation, and then he heard him running for the cars. Starsky listened as Hutch called
dispatch, requesting an ambulance and a coroner’s wagon. “Armed and dangerous,” that would be Reg. He’d
obviously gotten away. “Officer down.” Singular. The other two were dead. He could hear the frustration and anger
in Hutch’s voice. His stutter was back, his words tripping over each other.
Hutch was coming back up the road now, and
Starsky knew he ought to say something to try to make it better. Some sort of joke, something like, ‘what took you so
long?’ or perhaps, ‘did you remember to bring me some pants?’ But he couldn’t. This time the good
guys didn’t win. Starsky stared at Freddy’s blankly uncomprehending face and wished he wasn’t too grown
up to cry.
Hutch knelt beside him, lightly touching
the back of his head. “Starsky…”
“He told me there were worse things
than dying,” said Starsky, his eyes still on Freddy.
The flat, weary sound of his voice scared
Hutch. Pulling his folding knife out of his pocket and laying it on the pavement, he leaned forward until he was nearly on
the ground beside his friend, his face a few inches from Starsky’s. He waited until the exhausted gaze focused on him
and then said, “Can you sit up?”
Having received a tired nod in response,
Hutch slid his arm under Starsky’s back and helped him up to a sitting position. He was somewhat heartened by the fact
that Starsky was able to assist a little in this maneuver. The way Starsky was holding himself, however, told him that at
the very least there were bruised ribs to consider. He hoped there were no more serious internal injuries.
Starsky’s head dropped forward and
his jaw clenched, but he stayed upright as Hutch moved around behind him to examine his hands.
“Let me get this stuff off of you,”
said Hutch, tightly. His tone utterly failed to conceal his anger at the sight of the abuse Starsky had suffered. He slid
the knife carefully between Starsky’s wrists. The fishing line had stretched, to a degree, making it fairly easy to
cut, but it had embedded itself far enough into the swollen flesh that simply severing it was not enough. It would have to
be pulled free.
Starsky didn’t notice his partner’s
distress. He was looking at the two dead patrolmen down the street. “Reg shot them, Hutch. I knew he was going to do
it, and I tried, but I couldn’t do anything to stop him.”
Hutch shook his head. He didn’t know
what to say. He didn’t know if there was anything he couldsay,
especially with Starsky still sounding so distracted. Maybe a change of topic would help. “What about Becky?
How did she escape?” He carefully grasped a clump of fishing line, peeling it back. He winced as fresh blood welled
up, but Starsky didn’t react. He didn’t seem to be able to feel anything in his hands, and Hutch didn’t
know if that was a good thing or not.
Hutch’s last question earned him a
hint of the old Starsky spirit.His chin came up slightly, and there was a flash
of pride in his voice as he said, “She hid. Reg never even knew she was in the house.” Starsky nodded his head
towards Freddy. “He knew where she was, but he didn’t tell. Poor, dumb kid; always trying to back up his brother
and in the end, the guy just ditches him like he’s nothing.”
The last of the fishing line had been removed.
Feeling the strain in his shoulders, Starsky brought his hands slowly around in front of him. He stared at them in some puzzlement,
seeing them for a moment as something belonging to a stranger. They were dark purple and puffy, the knuckles vanished into
The sudden pain took him completely by surprise.
It seared through his right hand and exploded behind his eyes, releasing itself from his throat with a scream. Blindly, he
threw himself backwards, trying frantically to escape from the agony.
Strong arms caught him and wrapped around
his shoulders. Distantly he heard Hutch’s worried voice pleading, “Starsk, Starsky, stay with me here, okay?”
Another one hit, in his left hand this time.
He kicked at the road, and felt the back of his head thump against Hutch’s chest. His ribs provided a counterpoint that
was barely noticeable against what was happening in his hands. He struggled for control, swallowed back a desire to shriek,
and managed to gasp, “I know. I’m good.” He rode out another attack on his left hand, but a surprise jab
in his right elicited a roar of anguish before he could brace himself.
He felt Hutch shift position, and his concerned
face moved into Starsky’s line of vision. Starsky tried to reassure him. “It’s gotta hurt, I know. Means
there’s no nerve damage.” This time when the pain hit it wasn’t quite so bad. He thought he could hear sirens
in the distance, and he told himself that everything was going to be okay. Hutch is here. Becky’s safe.
But he still didn’t know the names
of the cops who had died and, as he buried his face in Hutch’s flannel shirt, Starsky realized that he wasn’t
too grown up to cry, after all.
During the ambulance ride, Starsky
slid into that crimson haze that is one part exhaustion and three parts sedation. Whenever the drunken tilting of the earth
stopped, he descended into brutal blood-soaked dreams in which he struggled against a body that had failed him, helpless to
prevent a murder. Sometimes he was the one dying, and sometimes it was Hutch, though he always knew that at least that second
scenario couldn’t be true.Hutch was the one thing in his life that was
constant, no matter what the dreams told him.
On the few occasions that the waking world
came within his grasp, he listened intently for Hutch’s voice. He wanted to ask him what the two patrolmen’s names
had been, but all he heard were the too-familiar voices of professional strangers. They spoke of rapid, shallow respiration
and elevated blood pressure, possible indicators of pulmonary contusion and something about his liver. He wasn’t interested.
Hutch wasn’t here, so he let himself fall back into the cluttered darkness.
Time telescoped, and awareness became a series
of disconnected scenes.
The hissing sound and plastic smell of oxygen:
movement and conversation around him. A nurse smiled and said something that made no sense. He closed his eyes.
The next time he emerged from the nightmare,
the voices had gone. Consciousness came back in pieces. His mouth was dry, and his throat felt raw. He tried to lick his lips,
but his tongue didn’t seem to want to cooperate. He decided to sit up, thinking he would get himself some water, but
quickly abandoned that idea. He had hardly thought of moving before he was hit with a barrage of complaints from every part
of his body. Ribs, back, stomach… even his neck and head hurt.
It occurred to him finally that he was in
the hospital again. He was attempting to sort out recent memory from old, when he heard the voice he’d been waiting
for all along. Hutch. He tried to assemble the words necessary to ask him what he needed to know, but he couldn’t
seem to remember exactly what they were. He shut his eyes for a moment, gathering his thoughts.
“Hutch…” he said.
But Hutch was no longer in the room. There
was a doctor standing at the foot of his bed, giving instructions to an intern. A nurse told him Hutch had just stepped out
for a minute.
The next time he opened his eyes he found
Captain Dobey standing beside his bed, his broad face creased in a worried frown. He was carrying another one of those ridiculous
flower arrangements that they sold in the gift shop on the first floor of the hospital. “Hey, Cap,” Starsky said.
He thought he said it, anyway. It was hard to focus.
The lines in Dobey’s face deepened.
“When I extended your medical leave, I didn’t mean you should go and try to justify it.”
It occurred to Starsky that Dobey would probably
know the answer to his question.
He tried to ask, “Who were they?”
It didn’t seem to come out quite right. The words stuck in a throat too dry to allow them passage.
“What did you say, dear?” asked
a nurse. Dobey was gone and Starsky was beginning to feel vaguely frustrated with the way people kept moving around, changing
places and disappearing on him. Darkness ambushed him and he endured another series of unsettling nightmares. By the time
he had struggled back to consciousness, his room was quiet once more. He rolled his head to the side, carefully.
Hutch was slumped in the chair beside the
rail, his head back and his eyes closed. His face was drawn and exhausted. For some time Starsky watched him silently, thinking
that maybe he shouldn’t wake him up. But he really needed to know the answer to his question.
Hopefully the world wouldn’t shuffle
itself again, just yet.
“Hutch,” said Starsky.
Hutch sat up too quickly, and blinked several
times. A broad smile spread across his face. “Hey, you’re awake!”
Another nurse came in then and began taking
his blood pressure. Starsky knew this routine well. He kept his focus on Hutch and tried once more to ask, “Who…?”
“Wait a sec, buddy,” said Hutch,
and Starsky heard him asking the nurse for some ice.
Starsky accepted the ice chips gratefully.
It occurred to him that perhaps the reason no one was answering his questions was because his throat was too dry to speak
clearly. He liked that idea better than his earlier supposition, which was that they were all deliberately ignoring him.
He noticed that Dobey’s flowers had
been placed on a small table against the far wall. It was dark outside the window - evening, and the whole day gone.
Swallowing, he tried again. “Who were
A momentary look of confusion crossed Hutch’s
face, then comprehension dawned and he lost his smile. “They were officers Sean Boyle and Paul Levy, from the 18th precinct,
“Thanks,” he said, as the pieces
of the universe began rearranging themselves around him once more.
This time when Starsky slid into the darkness
there were no nightmares. He still mourned for Sean Boyle and Paul Levy, and even Freddy Malcolm, but his dreams were simply
sad, not terrifying. The dead had been named, and laid to rest.
normal circumstances, Dawn would have cleaned house. When her world was chaotic, when control over circumstances had been
lost, there was nothing she found quite as soothing as the simple routine of returning her home to order. It was therapy for
the mind, and a good way of killing time while waiting for that phone call.
Except this time, she wasn’t allowed.
No lifting, no exertion - nothing to do but sit on the couch, and stare at the TV. Ken’s call from the hospital would
have been the highlight of her day, except that he’d been terse and distracted, saying only that Starsky was all right,
and telling her not to wait up.
She learned more from the evening news than
she did from her own husband. Two officers killed, their names not yet released, and a manhunt on for someone named Reginald
Malcolm who was suspected of being the Bayside Strangler. She shivered, and wondered how on earth Dave had managed to end
up in the middle of this tragedy. He wasn’t even on active duty.
She brought coffee down to the cops parked
in the patrol car in front of her house, and from them she was able to confirm what she’d suspected. Reginald Malcolm
was the man who had been trying to kill Ken. He had intended to use Dave to get to Ken.
It was frightening and Dawn tried not to
dwell on what it might mean; that this guy was still on the loose out there. She couldn't sit around any longer. She had to
do something. She decided it wouldn’t be too much exertion to make a stew. Chopping vegetables wasn’t anything
at all like lifting. Women had been working while pregnant since the beginning of time, so surely she could make dinner.
Huggy Bear called shortly after eleven. “Just
to give you the head’s up. The powers that be have kicked the blond one out of the hospital, and he’s not exactly
thrilled about it. If he comes home, you should try to get him to eat something. And if by some unlikely miracle you can get
him to sleep, well, you’ll have earned yourself a special place in the Bear’s hall of fame.”
“I think I can handle my own husband,”
“Girl, you’ve never had to deal
with one half of the pair when the other one’s laid up.”
“Yes, I did…”
Huggy cut her off impatiently, “Starsky
was miles down Recovery
you ever met Hutch. You have no idea what you’re about to have dropped into your pretty little hands.”
He must be exaggerating, thought Dawn, as she hung up. She lifted the lid of the stew and gave it another
stir, adjusting the temperature down slightly.
Ken arrived home just before . He gave her a distracted hug, and let her sit him
down at the kitchen table. She decided Huggy had most definitely been overstating matters as she ladled some dinner into a
bowl for him. Her husband seemed perfectly co-operative, if a little overtired.
“How’s Dave?” she ventured
“They’ve got him sedated right
now. He’s out of it.” Ken rubbed his temples with the heels of his hands, the line between his eyebrows deepening.
“They said there was no reason for me to stay.”
Dawn placed the bowl in front of him, along
with a spoon and a napkin. Noting the clear signs of a tension headache, she decided to see if she could dig up some aspirin
for him as well. “And how are you doing?” she asked, as she examined the shelves at the end of the counter, trying
to remember where she had last left the medicine bottle.
“Me? I’m just peachy, thanks.”
The bitter edge of sarcasm in his voice caught her attention. “Starsky’s the one with cracked ribs, a bruised
liver and a lung contusion…” He stopped abruptly, and placed the spoon back down next to the untouched bowl. Pushing
his chair back from the table he stood up, saying, “I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”
Dawn frowned, her hands on her hips, watching
her husband as he stalked into the living room and turned on the TV. He stood for a moment in front of the set, as the announcer
said, “…was married only three months prior to last night’s shooting. Officer Levy was looking forward to
the birth of his first child…” Snapping the set off, Ken threw himself backwards onto the couch with a sound that
was halfway between a groan and a sob.
A moment later, he was up again, moving with
restless energy. He pulled a can of beer from the fridge and attempted to open it. The pull tab snapped off in his hand, and
he slammed it back onto the counter with a curse, foam leaking from the cracked seal.
He stood in the center of the kitchen, looking
lost, and then before Dawn could decide what to say, he’d grabbed his jacket off of the back of the chair and was heading
for the door. She had to scramble to intercept him.
“I’m going out,” he told
She moved in front of him, placing a hand
on his chest. “Stop.” She could feel anxiety vibrating through him, and pouring off him in waves. “You need
to eat something and get some rest,” she said. Her voice was sterner than she’d intended, as she unconsciously
echoed his tension.
He knocked her hand away, and glared at her.
“I needto find this guy before he hurts… before he hurts
Dawn was getting angry, caught up in his
emotional turmoil. “Half the city’s already out looking for him! How can you possibly help?”
He brought his finger up, emphatically. “You
don’t get to tell me what to do!” he snapped.
“At least eat something before you
go!” she shouted, as he pushed past her.
Hutch stopped and turned on his heel. He
placed his palms on either side of her face and stared intently into her eyes. With desperate intensity, as if these three
words were explanation and justification enough for everything, he said, “I love you.”
He hesitated briefly, as if he wanted to
say something more, but then abruptly he shook his head and pulled back.
He was gone.
Dawn leaned against the door jam and concluded
that Huggy hadn’t been exaggerating after all. I wish I’d handled that better, she thought, ruefully.
thought she was asleep. Upstairs, lying awake in her mother’s spare bedroom, Becky listened to the muffled sound of
their voices. If it weren’t for the soft sound of Monster’s breathing close at hand, she might have thought she
was a child again, banished upstairs while others decided her fate.
It wasn’t going to be like that this
time. Her choices were her own, even if none of them seemed to realize that yet. They still thought of her as the baby of
They had made that perfectly clear, earlier.Becky frowned as she thought back, recalling their words.She had been sitting in her mother’s kitchen, and had just hung up the phone, frustrated that the
hospital wouldn’t tell her anything about Dave’s condition, or even if he was there.
Her brother Ben got his two cents in first,
with characteristic insensitivity. “Whoa! So this guy you’ve been dating; he’s the cop who got himself shot
up in the police parking lot last year? That’s the guy? Man, he’s one unlucky SOB, ain’t he?”
Her sister, Judith, sternly shushed him,
but then decided to take Becky aside and lecture her in that infuriatingly motherly tone she always had.
Judith said, “I know you like this
person, and I’m sure you feel sorry for him right now, but are you really certain you want to go out with a police officer?
Now, I’m not saying break up with him right away, because that wouldn’t be kind. But you’ve got to think
about it, Beck. One of the cops who died last night had just married. Now his poor wife’s pregnant and a widow! You
don’t want that happening to you, do you?”
Becky rolled her eyes, “Judith, there
are lots of cops in this city who somehow manage every year not to get murdered.” No wonder her children never listen
Her mother paused from her work over the
stove, where she was making up food appropriate for convalescents. She appreciated how much she owed Dave Starsky for protecting
her daughter, and she meant to see that at the very least he didn’t have to eat the stuff that passed for nourishment
in those hospitals. Still, she couldn’t help saying, “I like him, Becky. He’s a good man. I think he’s
even good for you. But I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“Mom,” said Becky, “It’s
a little late for that, don’t you think?” Realizing she was on the verge of saying something she might regret,
she announced that she was tired and excused herself to bed.
Cosmopolitan, sophisticated Naomi caught
her on the way upstairs. “So, little sister,” she asked, “How serious is this relationship you’ve
got going here?” Naomi always acted as if she thought Becky ought to be able to tell her anything. “Are you just
seeing him, or are you sleeping with him?”
To her dismay, Becky felt a blush building
in her cheeks, betraying her. “That’s none of your business.”
Naomi gave her a pitying look. “Oh,
Beck, don’t tell me you’re stillon that ridiculous ‘no sex
before marriage’ kick! That’s so unenlightened. Haven’t I told you that a modern liberated woman doesn’t
need to be tied down by archaic convention?”
Too many times, thought Becky. Naomi was probably one of the biggest reasons she hadn’thad
sex yet. She’d been the one who’d decided that, at nine, Becky was old enough to know the facts of life, and had
enlightened her in excruciatingly horrifying detail, using her 10th grade Family Science book as a resource.
“Never mind, in this case it’s
probably for the best. The fewer emotional and physical entanglements there are, the easier it is to move on.” Naomi
Becky felt a headache building behind her
eyes. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.”
Monster followed her up the stairs, slowly
and painfully tackling each step, resolute despite his arthritis. Ever since the incident with Reg, he’d been sticking
close by. He clearly didn’t want to let her out of his sight, even to the point of refusing to do his business outside
unless she stood in the door where he could keep an eye on her.
He’d already peed on her brother’s
shoes once, something for which Becky had felt obligated to scold him. Monster had looked up at her with solemn brown eyes,
but no indication of shame in his posture. She strongly suspected that he could hear the lack of real censure in her voice.
She wondered if she was a very bad person for hoping he’d target Naomi’s designer heels next.
Lying on her mother’s guest bed in
the darkness, Becky unclipped the silver necklace from around her neck and looked at it, slowly spinning on its chain, reflecting
the streetlights through the window. Anna, what would you be telling me right now?
She wondered how it could be that just twenty-four
hours ago she’d been in her own bed, and her biggest problem had been whether or not she wanted to sleep with her boyfriend.
Now he was in the hospital, and she was stuck here, and all anyone would tell her was that he was stable and his injuries
were non-life-threatening. When had life become so complicated?