Dawn reacted instinctively, driving her elbow
into the stomach of the man who had grabbed her. She stomped on his foot and clawed for his eyes, all the while giving voice
to a scream that could have shattered glass, if not eardrums.
It should have been enough.
Every other time something like this had
happened, her shocked attackers couldn’t have released her quickly enough, backpedaling as fast as humanly possible,
anxious to put space between themselves and the madwoman. After all, this wasn’t the first time, or even the second,
that she’d been seized from behind, thick male fingers digging into her shoulders with bruising force. Dawn was a survivor,
and she’d learned her lessons well.
However, it seemed that there were no rules
that applied in this circumstance. He had come on her as she was standing by her husband’s car, transfixed by the gruesome
sight of the flayed pig. She was encumbered by the weight of her pregnancy. Her
elbow hit an abdomen as solid and unyielding as granite. He was taller than she expected and he anticipated the strike of
her nails, jerking his head back so that she merely scraped his cheek, missing his eye altogether. He used the fact that she
was slightly off balance to kick her feet out from under her and, simultaneous with this action, he released her shoulders
and allowed her to fall back against his chest.
She dropped, and was caught up short by a
thick, muscled forearm jammed roughly under her chin.
Dawn’s scream was choked off a moment
after it began.
And then she noticed the knife.
and training and lessons learned on the street were coming into play for Starsky and Hutch as well. At the sound of Dawn’s
shriek, Starsky half turned, using his body to shelter Becky as he reached for his gun.
His searching hand found only the small of
his back and belatedly he remembered that the gun was still in the glove compartment of his car, where Hutch had stashed it.
There were many ways to win an argument,
but this one was most definitely not on Starsky’s list of desirable methods to make Hutch eat crow. Becky was trying
to move from behind him, craning her neck to see what was happening. He tightened his grip on her and forced her behind his
back, ignoring her muffled protest.
Hutch for his part had smoothly drawn his
Magnum as he turned, so that it was in his hand and he was braced to fire before his mind even had time to register what he
was aiming at.
It was Reg. It was certainly Reg; there was
no doubt about that. But this was not the man described on the wanted sheets. He had the same lazy smile and expressionless
eyes, but his formerly reddish-brown hair had been dyed black and shorn close to his head. His skin was light brown. Every
cop in the city had been looking for a Caucasian and, with the help of nothing more sophisticated than a package of hair dye
and a bottle of tanning solution, Reg had quite effectively removed himself from that line-up.
It wasn’t a particularly effective
disguise, and it wouldn’t have stood up to close scrutiny, but it didn’t have to. The average patrolman would
look at him on the street and think either, ‘black man, potential drug dealer’ or ‘middle eastern man, possibly
a cab driver’. Either way, they would not see the wanted fugitive.
Dobey would joke about it sometimes. “We
all look alike to you.” He said it because he knew it wasn’t true where Starsky and Hutch were concerned. And
he also said it because of what they all knew, which was that it was true where
many of the other teams were concerned. They stayed in their cars, patrolled their beats, and never really saw any of the
people on the streets as anything other than the labels they wore. This one’s a hype, that one’s a hooker…
And the inevitable consequence of that blindness
was standing right there with his arm wrapped around a pregnant woman’s throat and the blade of a knife pressed to her
His wife’s throat. The frightened face
of the woman he loved.
Hutch could feel terror trying to claw its
way up from his belly into his chest and he imagined his heart stuttering under the assault. There was a bitter taste in his
mouth, but training and experience left no room for panic. He inched to the side, trying to find an angle that would give
him a clear shot at the man holding his wife, and all the while, the words spilled automatically from his mouth.
“Let her go, Reg. You don’t want
to do this. You’re just making things worse…”
“That’s the whole point, isn’t
it?” asked Reg, his voice silky smooth and layered with satisfaction. “I’m making things worse.” The
point of the knife was resting just below Dawn’s eye. He pressed the flat of the blade against her cheek, and whispered,
“Don’t move,” very quietly into her ear when she tried to pull her head away.
“What do you want?” asked Hutch.
He was still trying to flank Reg, but the man was turning with him. Starsky was on his left, but, unarmed and occupied with
protecting Becky, he wouldn’t be able to do much.
really wish I hadn’t taken his gun away, Hutch thought, ruefully.
“You know perfectly well what I want.
I want you to drop your weapon and kick it over to me.” Reg’s teeth flashed white as he grinned. “Hurry
up, or I might decide to start finding out if dark meat looks the same as white under the skin.” His wrist rotated slightly
and a small drop of blood beaded on the tip of the knife.
Hutch saw Dawn’s eyes widen, but the
arm across her throat ensured her continued silence. The color had drained from her face, and he could hear each shallow breath
as it rasped its way past the constriction in her throat.
“Okay, okay!” Hutch abruptly
released the handgrip of his Magnum, letting it dangle by the trigger guard from his forefinger as he brought his other hand
up into the air, palm out. “Just ease up on her. Your argument isn’t with her, it’s with me.” He wondered
how long it would be before someone else decided to drive down this road. They’d been fools not to include Becky’s
house in their plans when they put together the security for her wedding.
Then again, they hadn’t been expecting
to come back to the house until much later, after the reception.
“Drop the gun!” Reg’s voice
was commanding, and the droplet of blood on the tip of the knife grew larger.
Hutch glanced quickly to his left, his eyes
meeting Starsky’s. His partner’s head shook fractionally. Don’t give
him the gun.
“Drop it!” The droplet trembled,
and then broke, rolling down the blade of the knife as another took its place.
The message he sent back to Starsky was anguished.
I can’t stand here and watch her get carved up.
Starsky closed his eyes for a brief moment,
and then opened them again to look at his partner. Reg with a gun would be far worse than Reg with a knife, and Hutch had
to know that. On the other hand, it wasn’t fair to ask him to risk his wife and child’s lives. Whatever you decide to do, I trust you.
“Now!” barked Reg.
Hutch nodded once in acknowledgement of Starsky’s
support and slowly opened his hand, leaning forward as if about to place the gun on the ground. He hesitated for a fraction
of a second, and then, in one swift movement, he straightened and threw his arm out to the side, tossing the gun up into a
smooth arc behind him.
He never took his eyes from Reg, but he didn’t
need to be able to see the gun to know where it had landed. They all heard it clatter on the roof of the cottage, followed
by the long scraping sound of it sliding down over the tiles. He relaxed marginally as a final dull clunk told him that it
had come to rest in the plastic rain gutter where it couldn’t be used against any of them.
“You really shouldn’t have done
that,” said Reg, evenly.
Hutch froze, his hands still spread. He opened
his mouth, but it was several seconds before he could find the breath to speak. “Don’t.” Just one word,
as much a prayer as it was a threat.
The knife traveled down the side of Dawn’s
face, never quite piercing the skin, though that single droplet of red liquid followed the tip of the blade. He traced the
line of her jaw, down the side of her neck, until the whole length of steel rested against her shoulder.
“Do you know, I’d never skinned
anything before? I used to tell Freddy that in order to feel truly alive you have to constantly try new things. Poor Freddy…”
Despite his words, there was nothing in his voice that spoke of any real regret where his late brother was concerned.
“I was clumsy with the pig, but it
still lived a lot longer than I expected it to, and it was small.” His eyes settled on Starsky now, and a slow smile
stretched across his face. “I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer a real pig would hold out.” Now that
cold gaze traveled back to Hutch. “Or the wife of a pig.”
There was something almost hypnotic about
the measured cadence of his words, like the rhythmic swaying of a cobra with which it was said it mesmerized its prey.
And, analogous to that hooded serpent, his
strike when it came was swift and utterly unexpected. The knife flashed down the length of Dawn’s arm from the point
of her shoulder to the back of her elbow, slicing a long gouge. Blood welled to the surface immediately.
She gasped and staggered, more from shock
than from pain, though she knew that particular sensation would follow shortly. The arm across her throat tightened, pulling
her back against Reg’s body with bruising force.
Through watering eyes, she saw Ken lunge
forward, cursing. Dave released his grip on Becky and awkwardly followed his partner, both of them clearly intending to do
whatever it took to wrench her from the madman’s grasp.
“Stop!” barked Reg. As he spoke,
she felt the blade of his knife drop down from her arm, coming to rest against the heavy curve of her belly. The two men skidded
to a halt, horrified expressions on their faces. Dave stumbled, and she wondered vaguely what had happened to his cane.
always seems to be losing them, doesn’t he?
Reg backed away, dragging her with him. “Don’t
any of you move another foot, or you’ll all get to see just what Hutchinson’s half-breed maggot looks like. I’ll
spill it right here on the road, if you don’t do exactly what I say.”
Dawn could feel something warm trickling
down her arm and a stinging heat began to ignite in the skin. It’s always the
shallow cuts that hurt the most, she told herself, struggling to keep her composure.
Far worse than the wound was the intense
excitement and pleasure she felt thrumming through the body pressed against her back. He was breathing quickly, and she could
feel a barely restrained desire building in him. It wasn’t the cut of the knife that was making her feel so nauseous,
and it wasn’t fear of death that placed that cold lump of dread in her stomach. It was finding herself held so intimately
close to an evil far beyond any she had ever encountered before.
It was hard to see the pain in her husband’s
expression, but what grieved her most at that moment was her complete inability to protect the innocent life that rested unaware
within her womb.
Almost in response to her thoughts, she felt
a strange internal pressure in her lower stomach and thighs. It started low and then built to a height of pain that nearly
took her breath away before easing off.
No, she thought, desperately. No, baby, not now.
Becky stood alone, unmoving. They all seemed
to have forgotten her presence for the moment, as the scene played out between the men, with Dawn as the focus of their conflict.
It all felt unreal, somehow, like a play. Monster provided the background score, his barking unrelentingly steady, while the
pig stood in as stage dressing.
When Dave had released her, he’d done
so with a firm shove backwards and a command to, “Run!” But she couldn’t. She couldn’t tear her eyes
away from the unfolding story until she found out how it would end.
She saw despair and fury in Hutch’s
face, but it was Dave’s expression that broke her heart. His eyes were wide and dark with grief, and he looked as if
he couldn’t believe any of this was really happening.
A spark of an emotion almost unknown to Becky
ignited in her belly. It was so alien to her that it took her a moment to identify it as hatred. She really truly hated Reg,
as she’d never hated any other being in her life. To see him dead, to see him ground into dust, that wouldn’t
be enough. She wanted him to hurt for every thing he’d done to hurt anyone else, and then she wanted him to hurt some
How dare he kill the woman she’d once
considered her best friend? How dare he hurt the man she loved? How dare he sneak around and take pictures, and how dare he
hold a knife to the throat of a woman she was just learning to like very much? Every moment he existed, he was bringing pain
to the people she loved.
Staggered by the intensity of her rage, she
stumbled backwards. Her foot collided with something in the sparse scrub, and she looked down to see the twisted prism her
sister had given her, lying where she’d dropped it in her haste to get to the thing nailed on her front door.
wasn’t planning to do it this way,” said Reg, once more conversational. The dark blood was dripping steadily off
of Dawn’s elbow, staining his jeans. If he noticed, he didn’t care.
“What were you planning?” asked
Hutch, his voice dull. It was automatic, even routine. Keep the hostage taker talking, because so long as he was occupied
there was always the possibility of distracting him long enough to rescue the hostage.
The problem was that Reg clearly knew this
just as well as Hutch did, and he was perfectly willing to take advantage of his captive audience.
going to die, thought Hutch, barely
aware of Reg’s words. Baby, I’m so sorry. I only wanted you to be part
of my life. I never meant for you to get hurt.
There was clear enjoyment in Reg’s
voice as he said, “The original plan was to stay in Mountain Springs until Christmas and then come and spend the holidays
with all of you. Your partner messed that one up, of course.” He gave Starsky an acknowledging half-nod.
However, Starsky was also paying very little
attention to Reg’s speech. He was simply watching him, waiting for some chance, some miracle. There had to be a way
to get Dawn away from this guy without risking any further injury to her. He glanced sideways at Hutch, but he seemed to have
withdrawn into his own personal hell. The connection he usually felt between them had broken, severed by horror and guilt.
For once, Starsky had no idea what his partner
Studying Dawn, Starsky saw something subtle
cross her face. It was a tightly suppressed expression of pain that had nothing to do with Reg at all. He saw her hand tentatively
touch her stomach, and a sudden feeling of dread gripped him. This can’t be happening
now. Please, not now. It’s too soon.
Reg was still talking, oblivious to Dawn’s
mounting discomfort. “But actually I believe it’s worked out for the best. I have had a most entertaining month
here in Bay City. That little girl of yours is hot. I kept some copies
of those photos. I figure once I show her what a real man, a whole man, is capable of, she’ll be begging me for more…”
His voice cut off abruptly and he staggered
forward, his eyes rolling up into his head.
Neither Starsky nor Hutch wasted any time
trying to figure out what had just happened. They both moved the instant Reg began to fall. Hutch caught Dawn and pulled her
out of the man’s lax grasp, while Starsky flung himself forward onto his knees, grabbing the knife before it even hit
Reg collapsed into unconsciousness, his slack
face hitting the gravel, sending up a small cloud of dust. Starsky looked up to see Becky standing behind the downed man with
her sister’s present clutched in both hands, like a particularly bizarre sort of baseball bat. It was clear what she’d
done, even without the matted hair and blood that now decorated one of the points of the prism. She had brained Reg with that
heavy chunk of Plexiglas.
In the sudden silence that followed, she
did one more entirely unexpected thing. She dropped the object from her hands and cried, “I’m sorry!”
In the agony of the moment, Becky had acted
without thinking. Rage fueled her actions and gave her strength, but as soon as Reg fell, she suddenly realized that she’d
just struck down another human being.
“Did I hurt him?” she asked,
stepping forward, a distinct edge of hysteria in her voice.
“I sure hope so,” said Starsky,
grimly. There was a minor scalp wound in the back of Reg’s head. It was bleeding, but there was no indication that she’d
managed to crack his skull. Not that he’d have been sorry if she had. He rolled the man’s head to the side and
peeled one of his eyelids back, checking the pupil. It responded to the light, indicating that Reg might regain consciousness
at any time. “Hutch, gimme your cuffs!”
He shouldn’t have had to ask. At any
other time Hutch would have been right on top of things, but when Starsky looked over, he realized that his partner had checked
out. He had Dawn wrapped up in his arms and he was trying to put pressure on her wound, all the while frantically reassuring
her that everything was all right. In fact, the only time Starsky had ever seen Hutch this rattled had been when he himself
had been the wounded one.
lady? He does love you.
But Reg still had to be restrained somehow.
Giving up on Hutch for the moment, Starsky looked up at Becky. For some insane reason, she was now trying to apologize to
Reg. It took him several tries before she refocused enough to understand that he was asking her to retrieve his weapon.
“Your gun is in the glove compartment
of your car?” she asked, uncertain if she’d heard him correctly.
“Yes. Get it. Now!”
Watching her jump and then run for the car
in reaction to his sharp tone, he thought he finally understood why Dobey always sounded the way he did. That was definitely
a voice that got results.
His eyes were on Becky as she opened the
driver’s side door and disappeared into the Torino, searching
for the gun. He was therefore utterly unprepared for Reg’s abrupt return to consciousness. The first indication he had
of it was when the heavy fist smashed into his jaw, snapping his head back and sending him sprawling onto the rough ground.
He lost his grip on the knife and heard it clatter away from him.
For a moment Starsky couldn’t see anything
through the fireworks that had gone off in his head. He struggled to regain his footing, scrambling in the direction he’d
heard the knife fall. Before he could get his bearings back, something slammed heavily down onto his back and he was knocked
to the ground again. He fought, trying to kick himself free, until he heard a familiar grunt and realized that the weight
pinning him down was Hutch. Evidently he’d jumped into the fray too late, and had no more success at restraining Reg
than Starsky had.
was turning away from the car, the gun in her hand, when Reg surged to his feet, sending Hutch flying into Starsky. Both of
them were down, and she didn’t know what to do.
Except for the only thing she could do. Pointing the gun at Reg, she thumbed down the safety just as Dave had shown her. She thought she would
try to hold him at gunpoint, though she wasn’t sure how that would work if he took another hostage.
She honestly meant to say, “Freeze!”
Somehow, however, without any conscious intent on her part, the weapon went off. The explosion took her by surprise. She screamed
and shut her eyes, instinctively tightening her grip. Two more rounds quickly followed the first before she collected herself
enough to pull her finger away from the trigger.
When she opened her eyes again, Reg was bolting
down the road on foot, evidently having decided that the odds were no longer in his favor. Both Dave and Hutch were flattened
on the ground in defensive positions, their hands covering their heads.
As the final echoes died, and it became clear
that the shooting had stopped for the moment, they raised their heads cautiously.
Starsky’s eyes widened in alarm at
the sight of Reg’s rapidly vanishing form. “Hutch, he’s getting
Hutch lunged to his feet, covering the distance
between himself and Becky in a few ground-eating steps. He grabbed the pistol out of her hands without breaking his stride,
and took off after Reg.
He felt a fierce deadly joy igniting inside
of him, utterly erasing the cold terror that had gripped him earlier. The other man was bigger and stronger, but Hutch was
faster and he had the gun.
The predator had become prey.