It was so easy, it was almost disappointing.
The big blond pig went down with the knife in his leg, and the game was over, just like that.
Of course, one of things he’d learned
was that the end of one diversion really only means the beginning of another. And Reg promised himself he’d make sure
this one lasted longer. Some things are meant to be savored.
see that? The pig was trying to bring up that little gun of his. Probably thought he was going to shoot him. Reg quickly put an end to that foolish notion, slamming
the heel of his boot down on the pig’s hand and giving it that extra little twist to make him release the gun.
He liked the sound the pig made when he did
clawed at the edges of Hutch’s mind, the pain in his leg tearing at his consciousness with sharp nails, threatening
to sever his awareness. He struggled to regain his equilibrium in the maelstrom.
His right hand was pinned under Reg’s
boot. He yanked at it, throwing his head back, the effort lifting his shoulders and hips up off the ground. But he could not
find enough traction in the sand and the struggle jostled the knife in his thigh.
He could not tell whether it was the sudden
flaring pain or the sound of the metal blade scraping against bone that sent that sickening wave of nausea through him, but
he immediately began coughing, gagging on the bitter bile in his throat. Giving up on extricating himself from under Reg’s
boot, he instead groped for the knife, his free hand closing over the handle. It was warm and sticky with blood.
The pressure suddenly eased off of his right
hand, but his relief was short lived. Almost simultaneously, a crushing weight landed on him, driving the air out of his lungs.
He lost his tenuous grip on the knife as his heel slipped and his legs straightened involuntarily. The handle hit the sand,
driving the blade further into his thigh. He gasped, choking as the back of his head hit the coarse ground.
When he opened his eyes, he found himself
looking directly into Reg’s face, locked as they were in a hideous parody of a lover’s embrace. The man was lying
on top of him with his full weight on Hutch’s chest, his hand gripping his wrist, immobilizing him. Suddenly unwilling
to keep staring at that leering grin, Hutch twisted his head to the side. Starsky’s gun was lying on the sand. It was
only a few feet away, but it might as well have been in the next county for all the good it could do him now.
Reg’s breath was hot on the side of
his face. He smelled foul, a combination of sweat and desire that made Hutch’s stomach knot.
“Not so tough now, are you, piggy?” Reg thrust his hips forward, grinding himself against his prisoner.
Hutch silently bucked, grimly trying to bring
his legs up under himself. His heels dug into the sand, small shells cracking under his dress shoes. Reaching down with his
free hand, he once more found the hilt of the knife and grasped it. It was slippery now, fresh blood running down over his
hand. He squeezed it firmly, determined not to lose his grip this time, and felt the hot liquid ooze between his fingers.
Before he could pull it out, before he could
even consider using it on the man above him, a large meaty fist closed over his hand. Despite his earlier determination not
to look, Hutch’s head turned back. As their eyes met, the corners of Reg’s eyes crinkled with amusement and he
deliberately forced the blade deeper into Hutch’s thigh.
Hutch gasped and shuddered, his eyes tearing.
“Don’t move,” whispered
Reg. “You’ll only make it hurt more.”
His voice was soothing, even affectionate.
“You really should have left Freddy
alone, you know. If you’d just minded your own business and not chased him out of that shop, I wouldn’t have had
to try to kill you. You and I would have gone on our separate ways.” He paused thoughtfully, and then added, “But
of course, if you hadn’t then we wouldn’t be having this special moment right now. And that would be a shame,
Hutch did not answer. He was breathing in
short quick pants, trying to bring the pain under control so that he could assess the situation a little more logically. He
was nearly as tall as Reg, but the other man was much heavier and far more muscular. He could hear himself telling Starsky,
I used to wrestle in college, but that skill was of little use in this situation.
His hands were pinned, he had no strength in his left leg, and he couldn’t get any traction on the unstable ground with
Starsk. I’m sorry…
“You’re pussy-whipped, you know,”
continued Reg. “That’s the problem with all of you. You let women run your lives.
You think that they love you, but really all they’re doing is using you. They’ll take your money, and your
manhood, and when you’ve got nothing left, they’ll move right on to the next sucker on their list.”
Reg was enjoying himself immensely. Whether
the tears rimming the cop’s eyes were from pain or fear, he didn’t know and he didn’t care. It was enough
that they were there in the first place. Reg wondered why he had restricted himself to women in the first place. They always
submitted much too soon. They pleaded and blubbered and let the snot run over their faces. It was disgusting. This was different.
Breaking this one’s pride was going to be one of the most satisfying projects he’d ever undertaken.
There was a whole world of pleasure opening
up to Reg that he had never before suspected existed. He felt a warm rush of gratitude toward the man pinned beneath him. Gratitude, and desire so intense he wasn’t sure he’d last until the cop
weakened enough to allow him to take what he needed.
Generously, he said, “I’ll let
them give you a proper funeral before I go after your wife. She didn’t look like she was quite ready to pop anyway,
so I figure I got me a couple weeks to get my hands on the two for one special. I wonder, if I cut her breasts, will I get
blood or milk?”
He finally seemed to have hit a nerve. Reg
felt the man under him jerk, trying again to unseat him. He jammed his foot down on the man’s ankle, forcing the leg
straight and eliciting another pained grunt from his victim.
He decided to pursue this topic of conversation,
since it seemed to be a fruitful one.
“Then there’s that little girl.
She seems so sweet, doesn’t she? Like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. I like her kind. Trainable. With a little
encouragement, they’ll do anything you ask and they’ll even thank you for it. Not like that foul-mouthed roommate
of hers.” Reg grimaced, slight annoyance crossing his features. Anna had been less than satisfying. He’d only
intended to silence her cursing, not break her neck, and she had died much too soon to give him the release he needed.
“As for your partner…? I think
I’ll leave him for last. He needs to learn some humility, don’t you agree?”
It occurred to Reg that breaking the darker half of the partnership might be an even sweeter project than this one. He’d seen something in his eyes earlier that suggested a certain vulnerability,
ripe to be exploited.
The answer to his question was ground out
between clenched teeth. “Fuck… you.”
Hutch tensed as he saw Reg’s eyes narrow,
a thin amused grin stretching across his face. He had a wretched feeling that
by rising to the bait, he’d just played right into the man’s hands. Reg’s
fist suddenly tightened over his and his wrist rotated, forcing the blade to twist in the wound.
Hutch’s nerves shrieked as they were
scraped raw. It was an electric sensation that threw all of his muscles into contraction at once. He convulsed, unaware that
he was very nearly succeeding in throwing Reg off after all, as a hoarse scream ripped itself from his throat.
head shot up, his ears angling forward. He stood absolutely still for a moment and then his head and tail dropped and his
ears flattened back against his skull.
Starsky killed the engine of the car as the
dog suddenly jumped over the short concrete retaining wall and took off down the beach toward the waterfront. He was running
low to the ground, silent, with an appearance of intent concentration.
“Damn!” Starsky fumbled with
the car door, intending to follow on foot. Then common sense returned, he thought better of that plan, and he reached for
the ignition, restarting the car.
For the last several minutes, he’d
been creeping down the road toward the docks at less than five miles an hour as Monster scouted up and down, snuffling at
the gravel, doubling back and generally looking utterly lost. It had been one of the most frustrating exercises of Starsky’s
entire career, and before Monster took off, he had just finished promising himself that he would never, ever, under any circumstances,
ever volunteer for a K-9 unit.
And now it seemed that Monster finally had
a grip on some sort of a lead but, whatever it was, it was taking him off the road and into the dunes where the Torino couldn’t follow.
On the other hand, based on the angle at
which the dog was running, it looked as if he might be headed down under the piers. Starsky could certainly drive onto the
dock. From there it would be much easier to climb over the retaining wall and drop down underneath, than it would be to cross
Soft, sandy dunes, on a leg that was untrustworthy
on its best day. Hell, it’d probably take me all week if I tried following the
dog. Far better indeed, to simply cut him off at the pass.
Starsky gunned the Torino and pulled forward as quickly as he could. Workable plan or not, it still
bothered him that he’d lost sight of Monster. I should have tied a rope to that
He desperately hoped that Monster actually
had a lead on Hutch, and wasn’t just taking off after some seagull, or dead fish, or something.
Though Starsky had no way of knowing it,
Monster had been a terrible disappointment to his original owner. He was the last in a succession of dogs purchased by the
old man for the purpose of sport hunting. He was a mutt, certainly, but he was strong, intelligent, had a good disposition
and came from a mother who’d been a decent hunter herself. All of these traits should have boded well for his future
career. Yet despite all of his master’s efforts, he could not be incited to give voice when on the trail of his prey.
When Monster went after something he went
after it with the low silent speed of a killer. His soul was not that of a loyal and obedient hunter, it was closer to that
of his wolfish ancestors. He could be set on an antelope, but by the time his human companion tracked him down, the antelope
would have been reduced to its component parts, meat and hide utterly ruined.
His first owner might have found another
home for him then, and purchased a different dog, except for the fact that Monster had already proved to be a charming, lovable,
and entirely endearing companion. And a series of illnesses put an end to the old man’s hunting days shortly thereafter,
rendering the entire debate moot.
perfect for each other, aren’t we, buddy? thought Starsky, ruefully, as he stopped the car at the first pier. Me with
no gun and no balance, and you with arthritis and half your teeth gone. ‘Course, you got all the important ones…
he added, silently, thinking of the dog’s long yellow fangs. I don’t
know what the hell we can do to help Hutch, but I know we’ve gotta try.
“Had enough?” asked Reg, his
voice a crooning whisper in Hutch’s ear.
Yes, Hutch’d had entirely enough. He’d
had enough of pain, and of anguish, and of frustration. He’d had enough of Reg’s lunatic excuses and pathetic
rationalizations for his sick behavior. Hutch’s disgust with the entire situation had reached nearly unbearable intensity,
when Reg, drunk on his own dominance and power, foolishly leaned in as close as a lover.
In that moment, Hutch suddenly realized that
he still had one weapon left.
Bucking forward with all the strength he
had, Hutch bit deeply into the side of Reg’s neck. He felt tendons slide sickeningly as his teeth tore through the skin,
and a sour salt taste flooded his mouth.
Reg yelled and jerked backward, his grip
on Hutch’s hands loosening in his shock at the unexpected attack. Hutch yanked on the knife in his leg, and felt it
As the blade came free, Reg, ever interested
in his own self-preservation, rolled off of his now re-armed victim, and scrambled backwards. The agony in Hutch’s leg
seemed to be sending off lightning sparks, blinding him utterly, but he couldn’t afford to waste time lying on the sand,
hurting. He threw himself over onto his hands and tried to push himself upright, dragging a dead leg. Sensing Reg nearby,
he struck out with the knife, overbalanced, and landed on his face on the sand. But he’d felt the blade connect, however
superficially, and he grinned with a fierce sense of victory.
Distantly, through the roaring in his head,
he could hear the man cursing.
There was a sharp shell digging into his
cheek. He had to move. Once more he levered himself up onto his feet. His left leg refused to support him, and he stumbled.
His shoulders hit something he identified as wire mesh fencing, and he pushed himself along it until he came to a solid concrete
pillar. Unable to continue, he sank down onto the sand, one knee bent, the wounded leg extended straight before him, trying
to make himself as small a target as he could.
“Don’t think you’re so
clever, Hutchinson!” yelled Reg, his voice hoarse with anger.
“I’ve still got the gun!”
Hutch’s senses cleared and he discovered
that he’d squeezed himself into a small space between a pier and the fence. He could feel a pulsing, throbbing sensation
in his leg, and his strength seemed to be draining away with each passing moment. He knew he was losing too much blood, too
quickly. Placing the knife down on the sand, he began struggling with his belt. His fingers were clumsy, numb with fatigue
“I’ll have you know, that was
disgusting!” said Reg from somewhere behind him. Not too close, though.
Hutch quietly spat, trying to clear the foul
taste from his mouth, as he wrapped the belt above the wound in his leg. He agreed completely. It was disgusting. He hesitated slightly, and then tightened the belt as much as he could. It hurt just as much as
he’d anticipated. More actually.
Reg heard the whimper he was unable to suppress
and laughed. “Are you in much pain?”
From the strength of his voice, he was doing
all right himself. Hutch resigned himself to the knowledge that he’d done very little real damage with either his teeth
or the knife.
The coarse sand crunched under Reg’s
boots. He was moving closer. Hutch concentrated on pulling off his shirt, trying to move quickly. For once he was grateful
Reg liked to take his time, talking, taunting, and tormenting his victims.
“I don’t have to shoot, you know.
You got such a big hole in your leg, I figure all I got to do is wait awhile. You lose enough blood and you won’t have
any more fight in you than a rag doll. Or a piglet.” He paused and Hutch could almost hear the laughter in his voice
as he said, “Now I wonder what it would do to your partner, and your lovely wife, if they were to find you nailed up
somewhere without your skin? I wonder if I could do it without killing you right away?”
He was only a few feet away now. Hutch tied
a final knot into the arms of the shirt he’d used to bandage his leg. He tried not to think of how much sand and crud
there had to have been on the makeshift dressing. Infection was the least of his worries at the moment. It hurts so damn much!
As he picked up the knife again, he dragged
his forearm across his stinging eyes, trying to remove at least some of the sweat and tears. He sensed Reg standing silently
on the other side of the pillar, as he wearily pushed himself up onto his feet.
guess it all comes down to this. If I’m going to die, I have to take him with me. I can’t let him hurt anyone
Starsky moved towards the concrete retaining
wall, listening intently. He’d heard voices under the dock, he was sure of it. Finding a place where the wall had crumbled,
the sand and debris piling up against it, he lowered himself over and let himself drop down.
He didn’t land on his feet, but it
didn’t matter. The ground was soft enough. The ankle wasn’t broken, just wrenched a little. He stayed where he’d fallen, crouched low, his eyes searching the area around him.
It was dark. The shadows were long and the
light slanting in over the water cast strange reflections on the underside of the pier.
He had never missed his gun so much as he
did in that moment.
It was Hutch’s blond head that he spotted
first, as always. He used to tease him about it, asking him how he could sneak up on anything with hair like that. It was
like something out of one of those nature shows, a white-tailed deer or a cotton-tailed rabbit. A flash of something so startlingly
out of place that you couldn’t help seeing it.
Hutch was huddled against a concrete pillar,
crammed between it and some wire fencing. Starsky spotted Reg a moment later, and staggered up onto his feet to take cover
behind his own pillar. The large man did not seem to have noticed him. He was talking to Hutch.
Hutch was hurt. It had to be bad, from the
noises he was making. He was hurt and he thought he was alone, and Reg was saying things to him that would be enough to drive
most people right out of their heads. When he got to the part about seeing how long a man could live if you skinned him…
Starsky crossed his arms over his chest,
trying to hold the shattered pieces of his heart and soul together. Hard as this was to listen to, there was no way he could
just go charging in. He had no gun, he was about as fast as a three legged tortoise, and Reg could kick his rear without even
blinking. He wouldn’t be helping Hutch at all by turning himself into a hostage.
All he could do was wait for an opening,
and hope for an opportunity.
order had been to find Hutch, but Monster had long ago dismissed that from his mind. He had a new target.
He knew this man. This was the one who had
burned his nose and thrown him out of his own home. He’d scared his mistress and made the man she lived with bleed.
He’d nailed a dead thing to the door of Monster’s house. And now he stood there with a hateful, threatening sound
in his voice, and the other, a friend, was hurting.
It was all coming back to him now, all the
rules of the hunt imprinted in his genetic memory, a gift of his vulpine ancestry. Stay low, move swift and come up on the
prey from behind. The wind should have been at his muzzle, not his tail, but there was little he could do about that with
the breeze blowing directly off the sea.
The other man, the one he’d begun to
think of as his master, was standing very still in the shadows. Monster glanced at him once, wondering if he would call him
off, as had so often happened on other hunts when he was younger. To his joy, the man simply nodded at him approvingly. He
Monster skirted the edge of the fence, gathered
his haunches under himself and leapt.
took a moment for Hutch to identify what he was seeing. For a moment, in the darkness, it seemed that Monster was truly living
up to his name. He slunk across the sands like a creature out of a nightmare, something predatory and dangerous. Then the
shadows coalesced and Hutch realized that he was looking at Becky’s dog.
And behind him, his hand on the fence, was
If Reg had been any less cocksure and self-centered,
he would have noticed that Hutch’s gaze had shifted to something behind him. He might have even noticed relief in his
victim’s eyes. However, after so many deaths and so little resistance, he had become bloated with his own perception
of his power. He only saw what he expected to see, which was a man, alone, wounded and helpless.
Monster charged and Hutch moved in the same
instant. Monster barreled into Reg just as Hutch came up inside of his reach. He
knocked Reg’s gun arm into the air the same instant he fired. Grabbing Reg’s wrist, Hutch dug his fingers into
the nerve cluster, forcing him to release the pistol.
He tried to remember if there were one or
two rounds left in the clip. Somewhere along the line, he’d lost count, and it seemed very important all of a sudden
that he know.
Monster’s initial leap had been overly
optimistic considering his age and agility. Instead of impacting high on Reg’s shoulders, forcing him to the ground,
and ripping into his spinal column, he had instead, rather disappointingly, sunk his teeth into the seat of his pants. Reg
spun, trying to dislodge the snarling animal.
Finally managing to grab hold of Monster’s
collar, Reg ripped the animal free and flung it away from himself. The dog landed heavily on his side and struggled to regain
his feet, only to find himself restrained by familiar hands. If he had been younger, he would have pulled away and insisted
on continuing the fight, but he was old now and not as hot-blooded as he’d once been. Reluctantly, he obeyed the implicit
command to wait.
“Give it up, Reg,” said Starsky,
coldly. “We’ve got you covered.”
Reg stopped, realizing his predicament. On
the one side of him, with the glittering ocean at his back, stood Starsky with a firm grip on the large dog’s collar.
The animal was making a continuous rumbling snarl that sounded as if it was coming from somewhere deep in his chest. On the
other side, in the shadows, stood Hutch, the gun trained on him, looking surprisingly steady on his feet, considering the
hole he’d had gouged into his leg.
Reg shrugged, and smiled. He held his hands
up, palms out in the universal symbol of surrender. “All right. You got
me. I give up.”
He was disappointed, but philosophical. There
would be other times, and other opportunities. Let the cops arrest him. Let them believe they’d won. He could probably
get Hutchinson on some sort of assault charge for biting him. And
eventually there would have to be a psych evaluation.
Reg was planning what he would tell the psychologist,
debating with himself whether having voices in his head would be too hackneyed a line to run on them, when he suddenly noticed
that Starsky was no longer looking at him. He had his head down, and he was rubbing the dog’s neck, calming him. He
looked nothing at all like a man holding a dangerous criminal at bay. Instead, he looked very much as if he was trying to
pretend that he was utterly unaware of Reg’s existence.
Confused, Reg glanced back at Hutch. The
blonde man had moved closer, angling himself slightly to the side so that Starsky and the dog were out of the line of fire.
Something about the cop’s eyes, and the utter lack of expression in his face, unnerved Reg. For the first time in his
life, he felt genuine fear.
As Reg stared at him, Hutch moved the pistol
up to aim at a spot right between his eyes. He found himself looking directly down into the barrel of the gun, blacker than
a pit and absolutely endless.
“What are you doing?” he asked,
his voice rising frantically. “You’re a cop! You’ve got to arrest me! You can’t…”
Starsky closed his eyes, his fingers tightening
in Monster’s ruff, as the gunshot cracked and the echoes shattered in pieces down around them.
It was the loudest sound he’d ever
heard in his life.