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Bloodbath: Missing Scene

Written by Valerie Wells

Hutch could tell from the shaking of Starsky's shoulders that his partner's relief at being found and pent-up fear from coming too close for comfort were finding release in tears. He just held him, stroking his back through the black robe, until Starsky's death grip on his jacket lapel eased and the shaking stopped. He heard the other officers arriving and dimly realized they were rounding up the cult members having to practically peel Gail off Starsky's leg in order to cuff her and take her away but he had no attention to spare for these activities. No one disturbed them until the cult had been loaded into the waiting cars and Dobey came up to lay a gentle hand on Hutch's shoulder and another on Starsky's.

"You okay, Starsky?" the captain asked gruffly.

Starsky sat up, a little shaky, a little red-eyed, but back in control. "Yeah, Captain. I think so."

It wasn't until then that Hutch noticed the burn on his face and the cuts and abrasions. And his hands...swollen from being hung up by them for God only knew how long. He reached over and took Starsky's hands in his, examining them. He also noticed Starsky's wince as he touched them.

"He's not okay, Captain," Hutch said, putting one hand under his partner's chin to tip his face up and examine the burn more closely. It wasn't serious enough to leave lasting scars, but it was certainly painful-looking and needed medical attention. "Look at him. He needs a doctor."

"Hey, don't talk about me like I'm not here," Starsky protested weakly, but Dobey intervened.

"Don't argue, Starsky. Get him to the hospital," Dobey added to Hutch, "but try to get to the courthouse by 10. We're going to have a few charges to add to Simon Marcus' record."

Hutch glanced at his watch. It was barely after 7 a.m. though it felt like it ought to be late afternoon by now which should leave plenty of time to get Starsky taken care of and still make it to court. He stood, holding out a hand to assist Starsky.

"I ain't goin' anywhere dressed like this," Starsky said firmly, though he accepted the hand and got to his feet swaying, but upright.

God, buddy, what the hell did they do to you? Hutch put an arm around Starsky and Starsky gratefully put one around him, holding on tight enough that Hutch knew it was the contact he needed as much as the support. "We'll run by your place and let you get some clothes," Hutch promised, moving toward the Torino slowly enough to allow Starsky the dignity of walking without needing too much help.

"And after court," Dobey called after them, "take Starsky home. I'm taking both of you off the roster for a couple of days."

"Thanks, Captain," Hutch said over his shoulder. Starsky opened his mouth to protest, but Hutch propelled him onward. "Forget it, pal," he said, pretending to be gruff. "I've just put in two solid days without so much as a lunch break, and I'm taking the time off. You can just keep me company while I do it. Okay?"

Starsky gave a wan grin. "Okay. I could stand a nap and something to eat myself." He got into the passenger side of the Torino without suggesting that he ought to drive his own car himself, and slumped down in the seat wearily. Hutch drove in silence, and other than occasionally glancing at Starsky, who stared out the window, left him alone. When he pulled up in front of Starsky's place, Starsky seemed to come out of the funk he'd been in. He watched as Starsky's blue eyes lifted and looked up at his own front door as if he'd never seen it before. Starsky glanced over at him, a little apologetically.

"There were times," Starsky said, "in these last coupla days, when I thought I'd never see this place again." He was quiet for a moment, glancing toward the apartment again. And added, "Or you."

"Aw, buddy." Hutch reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently.

Starsky gave another pale imitation of a smile. "Thanks. For finding me."

"You're welcome," Hutch said, biting back the joking remark he'd have made if he hadn't seen the moisture in Starsky's eyes that threatened to break free at any moment.

Starsky took a breath and opened his door, and Hutch dove out of his side and around the car to be there to help his still-shaky partner negotiate the steep stairs. Once they were inside, Starsky yanked off the black robe and wadded it up almost savagely, in spite of his sore hands, and threw it to the floor.

"Want me to get rid of that for you?" Hutch asked.

"I never want to see the fuckin' thing again," Starsky said shortly, heading for the shower.

While Starsky was showering, Hutch took the robe, stuffed it into the bottom of a garbage bag, and carried it outside to the Dumpster. When he came back, Starsky had come out and was drying his dripping curls with a towel. Hutch sat down on the couch in silence and watched as Starsky pawed through drawers for underwear, socks and a shirt, finally reaching into the closet for a pair of jeans. He had to settle for boots, since his Adidas were still back at the cult compound somewhere. His belt was gone, too. Hutch made a mental note to get both those items back for his friend, knowing the lab guys would go over the old zoo with a fine-tooth comb and retrieve every item that could be used as evidence.

"I'm ready," Starsky said at last. "Let's go to court and hang Simon Marcus."

"Not yet, buddy," Hutch said. "We gotta take you to the doctor first, have him look at that burn."

Starsky shook his head and lifted imploring eyes to Hutch. "Please, Hutch. I don't want nobody doin' things to me. You do it, huh?"

Buddy, if you wanted the moon right now I'd sprout wings and go get it for you. "Okay," Hutch said, rising and taking Starsky's arm to propel him back into the bathroom. "It doesn't look that bad, anyway. Bet it hurts, though."

In the bathroom's bright lights, the skin around Starsky's right eye looked scorched and puckered. Hutch winced in sympathy. "Damn, Starsk, what the hell happened?"

"One of those freaks stuck a torch in my face," Starsky said.

"And barely missed your eye," Hutch added angrily. He looked through the medicine cabinet, finally finding an almost-empty tube of A&D Ointment. Gently, he applied it to Starsky's face, while Starsky closed his eyes and bit his bottom lip, but didn't utter a sound. "I'd feel better if you'd let a doctor look at you," Hutch said.

"I wouldn't," Starsky said.

"Okay, okay." Hutch pushed Starsky's hair back and examined the cuts and abrasions on his forehead and cheek. They looked clean and superficial. Hutch decided to let nature take its course with those. Next he closely examined Starsky's hands. They were swollen and bruised, and the wrists were chafed from the rope. Hutch applied the last of the ointment to the abrasions on Starsky's wrists and found some gauze to wind around them to protect them from being rubbed by Starsky's shirt cuffs. "We need to get you some more of this," he said, dropping the tube in the wastebasket. "That's all I can do for you, buddy. It's gonna hurt a while, I'm afraid."

"That's okay," Starsky said. "Thanks."

Hutch looked down at Starsky sitting there on the toilet lid, whole and alive even if he was a little worse for wear, and felt a lump come to his throat. He dropped his cheek onto the top of Starsky's head and wrapped his arms around his shoulders. "God, babe," he said softly, "that was a little too close."

Starsky didn't answer in words, but he put his arms around Hutch and held tight for a moment before letting go and pulling back. He looked up. "We gotta get to court, Hutch."

"Okay." Hutch backed off, but he'd be damned if he was going to let Starsky out of his sight this time.

~*~*~*~

The news media was all over the courthouse steps again, but no cult members this time. The same smarmy reporter ran toward Starsky and Hutch as soon as they started up the steps, shoving his microphone into their faces. "Detective Starsky! Tell us about being kidnapped by the cult!"

Starsky plodded grimly on, refusing to acknowledge the man even long enough to say, "No comment."

But Hutch put a protective arm around his partner's shoulders and glared the reporter down. "Leave him alone," he said in a low, deadly voice that penetrated even the reporter's armor. "You want a statement, you get it from the department's media rep. You got that?"

The reporter backed off, but Hutch could hear him saying, "And Detective Starsky seems to have survived captivity by the cult with few, if any, scars...."

"That son of a bitch," Starsky said fervently, but Hutch didn't know if he meant the reporter, Simon Marcus or the cultie who had burned him.

Dobey had already been in contact with the D.A. and had filed formal charges against Marcus for conspiracy to kidnap a police officer and attempted murder. The cult leader's followers were safely locked up, with the ringleaders charged with enough crimes to insure their bail would be too high to meet.

Once again, Starsky and Hutch entered the nearly-empty courtroom, only this time Starsky showed no inclination to visit the men's room. Instead, he sat down next to Dobey, and Hutch sat down on his other side, keeping close.

The bailiff led Marcus in. Marcus glanced at Starsky and Hutch, but looked considerably more subdued than he had the day before.

"Simon Marcus," the judge said, "you are here to be sentenced for nine counts of murder in the first degree. In a few weeks, you're going to be back here to be sentenced for what you tried to do to this police officer behind you. But you needn't worry about ever getting out of prison again. I hereby sentence you to 100 years for each count of murder, to be served consecutively. That's 900 years, Mr. Marcus. No matter how you slice it, you're going to die in prison. Bailiff, take him away."

Marcus didn't speak, but he turned and looked at Starsky and Hutch as the bailiff led him out, and the look in his eyes was so cold with hatred that Starsky actually recoiled. Hutch reached out and took his hand to hell with who might be watching and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Starsky's hand was as cold as ice, and shaking.

"Well, that's that," Dobey said, rising and stretching the kinks out of his back. "Starsky, you look like hell. Get outta here. I don't want to see you back on duty until Monday. And Hutch, I think you've put in your 40 hours for the week, too."

"Thanks, Captain," Hutch said, putting an arm around Starsky and steering him toward the door.

Dobey waved a hand in dismissal, but Hutch caught the concerned look in his eyes and the two of them exchanged a look behind Starsky's back before Hutch took his partner out and home.

Starsky was very quiet the rest of the day, spending much of it sleeping. Hutch stayed nearby, getting a little sleep himself to make up for the stress of the search. It was after dark before Starsky stirred, and by then Hutch had ordered a pizza to quiet the growling in his stomach. He didn't imagine Starsky had had much to eat the last couple of days, either.

"About time you came out of it," Hutch greeted his rumpled partner when Starsky finally emerged.

Starsky gave a grin and promptly plopped down on the couch to devour his share of the pizza, but there was still some spark missing.

"You feeling better now?" Hutch asked when several minutes had passed, with no sound but their eating.

Starsky nodded. "Yeah. 'd you hang around here all day while I was sacked out?"

Hutch reddened. "Yeah. Just in case."

"Thanks."

"So, you want to tell me about it?"

Starsky looked up. "Should I start with the bear or skip right to the poisoned water?"

"A bear? As in, Gentle Ben?" Hutch's eyebrows rose.

"Yes, a bear, and no, not Gentle Ben." Starsky's eyes twinkled a little, just a little, but sobered almost immediately. "I still can't figure out what the idea was in that. He didn't attack me or nothin'. Guess they just wanted to scare the shit outta me. Worked, too."

"And the poisoned water?"

Starsky shrugged. "Don't know what was in it. Gave me stomach cramps, but that was about it. And this morning, I guess I was supposed to be some kinda human sacrifice or somethin'. They had me all strung up out there and Gail said they were gonna take turns at me till I was dead." He suppressed a shudder. "Somehow I got through to her, though. She cut the ropes instead o' me." He frowned suddenly. "Hey, she ain't gonna get charged the same as the other freaks, is she? I mean, she didn't really do nothin'."

"I'll talk to Dobey about it tomorrow. I think, except for the guys who snatched you and the freak with the torch, everybody else is just getting charged with conspiracy."

"I think she was there against her will," Starsk persisted stubbornly. "She didn't hurt me none, Hutch. She tried to be kind...."

"We'll talk to Dobey. We'll do the best we can for her, okay?"

"Okay." Starsky went back to his pizza.

Finally, Hutch burst out, "Were they just torturing you for the hell of it? What the fuck was the idea?"

"Hutch, Marcus is nuts. You know that. And his freaks are crazier than he is. It's over now. Let it go."

You mean you just want to forget the whole thing. Okay, buddy. Anything you say.

"One thing I don't understand, though," Starsky went on.

"What's that?"

"How the hell Marcus got all those freaks to follow him like that. Couldn't they see he's nuts? I mean, they had to have been normal people at some point in their lives."

"I asked Marcus a similar question," Hutch said. "I asked him if he couldn't try to remember what it had been like to be like other people, and to place some value on human life. You know what he said? That even when he was a little kid, the other kids were afraid of him, because of his 'dreams.'"

"So he was born nuts?" Starsky made a face. "Terrific."

"Some people are," Hutch said. "They used to call them 'changelings.' I think the idea was that a demon had switched the family's real baby with a lookalike or replaced the baby's spirit with a demon spirit or something. And those kids were evil from day one. Did you ever see that old movie 'Bad Seed'? It was about a little girl with an angelic face who was wicked to the bone and went around murdering people she didn't like. She had no conscience at all, and couldn't even understand why murder was wrong."

"Terrific," Starsky said again. "So that explains Marcus. How do you explain the rest of them?"

"I don't know." Hutch frowned and thought about it. "Cults are funny things, Starsk. Some people want to be told what to do and what to think. They need somebody to follow. So some lunatic like Marcus comes along and bang! They've got their guru."

"There are plenty of real religions to choose from," Starsky pointed out. "Why hook up with a made-up one?"

"Real religion leaves you your free will," Hutch said. "You can still think and choose for yourself. I guess that's not what they think they need."

"I guess," Starsky said. Then he yawned.

Hutch grinned. "Still not rested up, huh? Want me to split so you can go back to bed?"

"No." Starsky reddened a little, but he didn't look away. "Would you stay here tonight? It's stupid, but I'm"

"You don't want to stay here alone?" Hutch finished for him. "That's not stupid, Starsk. I don't blame you for that. I'd be a basket case if all that shit had happened to me. You're holding up pretty well. Sure, I'll stay. You go to bed. I'll clean up."

Starsky rose and headed for the bedroom, but stopped and turned as Hutch was reaching for the pizza box to throw it away. "Hutch."

"Yeah, buddy?" Hutch looked up at him. Starsky's eyes were still missing that spark. In fact, he looked scared to death. Hutch slowly straightened. "What is it, Starsk?"

"Stay close, will ya?"

Hutch's heart actually hurt at the plea in Starsky's voice. "Sure, buddy," he said gently. "I'll be right here."

Starsky gave a half-hearted smile. "One more thing, Hutch."

"What?"

"Thanks."

Hutch smiled back. "You're welcome."

Starsky disappeared into the bedroom and Hutch straightened up the mess from their meal. Once or twice he had to wipe his eyes. When the place was clean again, he turned off the lights in the kitchen and entryway, found a couple of extra blankets, and started to make up the couch. But before he did, he peered into the bedroom to see if Starsky was sleeping.

Starsky lay on his back, the covers tangled around him. The curls on his forehead were damp with sweat and the bruises and marks on his face stood out like beacons in Hutch's eyes. There was only a moment of indecision. Then Hutch put the extra blankets away, turned off the light in the living area, stripped to his briefs and T-shirt and got into bed with his partner.

"Stay close, will ya?"

"I'm right here, babe," Hutch whispered, stroking the damp hair away from Starsky's forehead.

Starsky mumbled something in his sleep and turned onto his side. The worry lines around his eyes smoothed out. Hutch put an arm around him and closed his own eyes.

The End

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