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Disclaimer: This story is written for entertainment purposes only.  No profit is being made from it.  No infringement on anyone’s copyrights is intended.

 

Justice

Written by  Sue David and Valerie Wells

© May 2001

We thank our technical consultant Hutchrules3

~*~*~*~

Starsky and Hutch were arguing amiably as they entered the squad room that morning. Starsky, waving his hands for emphasis, insisted, "I'm tellin' ya, Hutch, it's the next big thing. And you can do it, I know you can."

"Starsky," Hutch said, more or less patiently, "I am not going to play punk rock. No WAY am I going to play punk rock."

"But the kinda music you like," Starsky went on, plopping his bottom on the table and propping his feet on a chair, "good as it is, it just don't sell, buddy. We could make a million bucks."

"We?" Hutch inquired, smothering a grin. "Where do you fit into all this?"

"I'll be your manager," Starsky said.

Dobey stood in his office doorway and listened, reluctant to interrupt. The paper he held in his hand was going to destroy those smiles and make their next few weeks miserable.

"I'm a cop, moron," Hutch said, pouring himself and Starsky cups of coffee. He held Starsky's out to him, and Starsky took it, took a sip and set it down. "I'm not a professional singer, so what does it matter what kind of music I sing?"

"You could be a professional," Starsky said. "You're good enough. You could start out slow, doin' gigs in the bars, until you built up a following, and then –"

Hutch rolled his eyes and Starsky paused.

"You could!" he said defensively.

"Sure, I could," Hutch said. "I can see the marquee now. 'Ken Hutchinson, The Singing Cop.'"

"That ain't bad," Starsky said approvingly. "You'll need a gimmick. That might do the trick."

Hutch grinned and sang the song Starsky had been humming for the last few weeks, "'Echo Valley 2-6809, I used to call that number all the time, but the last time that I called you, we hung up cryin'.'." He turned his eyes toward his captain to include him in the banter. "What d'you think, Cap? Maybe I'll even perform in uniform, give the girls a thrill."

Starsky snorted. "You ain't gonna sing Partridge Family songs, Hutch. Punk rock. I'm tellin' ya...."

Dobey drew a deep breath. "I need to see you two in my office."

The two detectives exchanged a look. And without a word, Starsky slid off the table, snagged his coffee on the way, and followed Hutch and Dobey into the office, closing the door behind him. He sat down in one chair and Hutch hitched his chair a little closer to Starsky's before sitting down. Both waited expectantly, all humor gone from their faces.

Dobey laid the paper in front of him on the desk and rubbed his hands over his head. "I've got some news."

"Lay it on us, Cap," Starsky said.

Dobey looked from one to the other for a moment first. These two liked it straight from the shoulder, no beating around the bush, no breaking it easy. "Prudholm's been certified fit for trial."

Starsky's face went a shade paler and Hutch reached out and laid a hand on his arm. There was short silence.

"Which case?" Hutch asked finally.

Dobey sighed. "Terry."

"Charge?"

"Murder one."

Starsky still had not spoken. He looked down into his coffee cup for several moments while Hutch gently stroked his arm.

"Dave," Dobey said very quietly, "I know this is going to be hard for you. Do you need a couple of days off?"

Starsky, eyes still down, shook his head.

"We'll need to pull the file," Hutch said to Dobey. "Track down the witnesses again, get the stories straight –"

"The D.A.'s doing that," Dobey said. "He'll be in touch with you. You'll have to testify."

"We know," Hutch answered for both of them.

"Hutch, can you make a list of people that won't be in the official file, for the D.A.?"

Hutch nodded without looking away from Starsky. "That'd be Dr. Quo, for one. Christine, maybe, you think, Starsk? We'll need a victim statement and she can testify to the effect on Terry and on you –"

Starsky wet his lips, nodded once, but still didn't speak. Hutch turned his eyes to Dobey with a mute plea in them.

"I need a cup of coffee," Dobey said, understanding. "I'll be back in a few minutes." He rose, picked up his half-full cup, and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Hutch waited.

It took several more moments, but finally Starsky said, softly and hoarsely, "I don't know if I can do it, partner."

"Yes, you can," Hutch said. "For Terry, you can do it."

"Gonna have to relive the whole thing."

"I know." Hutch moved his hand to Starsky's shoulder. "I'll be with you all the way."

Starsky nodded again, but did not look at Hutch.

Hutch stayed where he was, gently squeezing the shoulder under his hand and feeling the tension in the muscles there. The long dark lashes stayed down. Hutch knew there were tears in Starsky's eyes, tears Starsky didn't want him to see. It had been almost three years, but Starsky never spoke of Terry if he could help it, and when he did, there was always a tell-tale tremor in his voice. At last, Starsky drew a long, deep breath and raised his eyes, in tenuous control again. "Let's do it."

The day was long and mostly quiet. Starsky wasn't inclined to chit-chat and Hutch mostly left him to his own thoughts, taking over the driving with no argument from his partner. He knew Starsky's mind would not be on traffic.

Fortunately, it was a quiet shift, with few calls and none of them requiring much of them. The only one that caused any real adrenaline rush was a domestic disturbance, and by the time they arrived the combatants, a newly married couple, had made up. It had only been an argument, albeit a noisy one, and the neighbors had called the police as a precaution.

"We'll try to fight more quietly next time, Officer," the bride said, her eyes still a bit red from crying, but twinkling at the same time.

Hutch grinned in return. He'd answered enough domestic calls in his time to tell the difference between a real problem and a temporary disagreement. The groom, looking very much ashamed of himself, apologized profusely for "wasting" his and Starsky's time.

"It's okay," Hutch assured him. "Part of our job. We'd rather come when there's nothing wrong than miss helping out when there is."

As they drove away, the young man had his arm around his wife and was bent, whispering something that made her smile.

"Cute couple," Hutch remarked, not expecting an answer.

"Yeah," Starsky said, turning his head to watch them out of sight over his shoulder. "Makin' up's half the fun."

Hutch chuckled, but Starsky wasn't smiling, and he stopped. "You okay?"

"Yeah." And Starsky had held his peace for almost an hour after the call.

Starsky was very insistent that he didn't need Hutch to "baby-sit" him so, with many misgivings, Hutch left him at his doorstep and drove home. He let himself in with the key he now kept in his pocket – it had finally dawned on him that he shouldn't leave his key above the door – and tossed his jacket and holster into a chair. He opened the closet and reached into the back for a cardboard box with a lid. He took it to his bed and sat down, steeling himself mentally before opening it.

He reached for the slightly battered white teddy bear that lay inside. Ollie.

Three years – and he could still remember, word for word, the letter that Terry had left for him with the bear.

"Dearest Hutch,

To you I entrust Ollie and Dave. Please love them both, and don't let either one of them change."

He'd read that much aloud to his partner, through the thickness in his throat, as the words blurred in front of his tear-filled eyes. He'd looked at Starsky, whose eyes were filled with pain, and had seen the struggle as Starsky tried to be strong. And that's why he couldn't finish, couldn't read the last line to him. He'd simply stopped, and let Starsky think that was the end of the note. Someday, when Starsky could handle it, he'd told himself, he'd let him see the rest.

But that day had never come. And now, Hutch reached into the box again, and withdrew the note he'd kept. He looked down, and again tears filled his eyes as he read the last line:

"After all, what are best friends for?"

It was signed, "Love from Terry."

Starsky had never asked to see the note. Hutch knew there had also been something written inside the cover of the "1001 Ways to Win at Monopoly" book she'd left for Starsky, something Starsky had never shown him.

Hutch had tried to give Ollie to Starsky, assuming that he would want something that Terry had kept close to her, but Starsky had refused.

"No, Hutch. She wanted you to look out for him. Besides," Starsky had shaken his head, "I don't think I could stand havin' him around."

And now, even though Hutch fervently believed that Prudholm belonged in prison, not in a mental hospital, and this trial would see to it that he went to prison, he shuddered away from the thought of what the trial would put Starsky through.

Starsky sat cross-legged on his couch, with photographs scattered all around him. Through the photos he'd taken of Terry and the kids she taught, of Hutch and Christine and Terry, of Terry alone, he relived the months of falling in love with her, of their lives becoming entwined until life without her was unthinkable. Until she'd been shot, he'd never formally asked her to marry him. He hadn't had to. It was understood. Terry had refused to move in with him, insisting on keeping her own apartment – and her independence – "until it's legal," she'd said with that saucy grin. He'd grinned back and agreed.

It was so easy with Terry. She'd accepted Hutch and the two of them had become bosom buddies in no time flat. She fit into their partnership comfortably and never complained, except jokingly, when work kept Starsky out late or forced him to break a date. She had her own friends, her own life, her own career. She never tried to own Starsky or ask more of him than he was willing to give.

But he'd wanted to give her his life and his heart. And when she died, she left a hole that no one would ever fill again.

He reached for the little book that he still kept in his bedside table. It was an old joke between them, how badly he played Monopoly.

"You're just not cutthroat enough," Terry had complained with twinkling eyes. "You're too damned nice about it. You can't be nice in Monopoly." She'd sighed then, theatrically, and said, "Obviously, I'll have to handle the money when we're married. I can't trust you with it. We'd be living under a bridge in two weeks."

He'd been agreeable. "Your wish is my command," he'd said. Another old joke. He pretended she henpecked him, though theirs was the most equal give-and-take relationship he'd ever had, except the one with Hutch. In fact, Terry was a lot like Hutch in some ways. She saw through him, knew his weakness and his strength, and loved him anyway.

He opened the little book.

"Remember," she'd written, "I'll always be there. When you're alone, whenever you need me, I'll be there."

He'd never shown it to Hutch, though he'd told him, while he'd been numb and aching all at once in those first bleak moments after her death, what her last words had been. This was a message for his eyes only.

He closed his eyes, quieted his mind, and reached out. She'd been right. Whenever he needed her, when he woke up alone late at night with his heart still aching, even now, he could feel her love surrounding him, comforting him.

He was going to need that to lean on during the trial. That... and Hutch.

Hutch drove over to Starsky's apartment a little early the next morning. He wanted to make sure his partner was all right before they started their shift. The previous day was hard on both of them. Hutch knew all the pain and grief of Terry's death had just resurfaced. Not that Starsky kept it at bay all the time. Although he thought Hutch didn't know, Starsky often thought of Terry and the hole she had left in his life. Some days, he found it hard to believe he was ever going to meet another lady who would fit into his life and consume his heart as Terry had.

Hutch knocked on the door, but received no answer. He let himself in with his key and quietly stepped into the darkened living room. Starsky hadn't even opened the shutters yet.

Looking toward the sofa, he knew why. His partner was curled up on the sofa, restlessly sleeping, with "1001 Ways to Win Monopoly" held tightly against his chest. He hadn't even heard Hutch enter.

"Aw, buddy, you're still in your clothes from yesterday," Hutch quietly said as he knelt next to Starsky and gently shook his shoulder. "Come on, buddy, it's morning."

Starsky opened his eyes, completely without surprise at finding his partner in the middle of his living room. "Hutch, oh, I must have fallen asleep. I'm sorry." He sat up and rubbed his eyes, letting the book slide behind him onto the couch.

"You were supposed to be asleep, Gordo. You okay?"

"Yeah. Guess I'd better grab a quick shower."

"I'll make some coffee and breakfast. You got anything besides cold pizza?" Hutch hoped to at least get a smile out of that comment. He didn't.

"Nah, you go ahead. I've got some eggs in there. Sorry, no wheat germ or desiccated organ meats in there, though."

"Aren't you gonna eat?"

Starsky called over his shoulder as he closed the bathroom door, "Not hungry."

Hutch stared at the closed door for a minute thinking about how unfair it was that something always seemed to be knocking down his partner. How could so much happen to one person? Why did it keep happening to his best friend?

While he made the coffee, Hutch called Dobey. "Mornin', Cap."

"How's he doin'?"

"Not too good. He looks pretty bad."

"I knew this was gonna be tough on him. He okay to work?"

"Yeah, he needs to work. Otherwise he's just gonna sit around this apartment not sleeping and not eating."

"Where are you two gonna start?"

"I brought home the info on the witnesses from the staged hold up. Thought we'd run them down this morning. I don't want to bring him in for a while. He needs to be out moving around and working the witnesses."

"Okay. You probably should know jury selection is starting today. They think the trial will be under way by Thursday."

"They bringing Prudholm down to lock-up?"

"Yeah, tomorrow morning."

"Okay, I think I'd better keep him out of there, then, too."

"Good luck, Hutch. I know this isn't easy on you either."

"Thanks, Cap."

Next, Hutch placed a call to the hospital.

"This is Detective Ken Hutchinson, Bay City PD. I need to speak with Dr. Quo."

He reached into the refrigerator while he waited, getting out a cold Dr. Pepper for Starsky. His partner liked his caffeine cold most mornings. Seeing the bareness of Starsky's fridge made him shake his head. "Aw, Starsk. You ever gonna get back to eating right?"

"This is Dr. Quo."

"Detective Hutchinson, Dr. Quo. Do you remember me?"

"Yes, from the Terry Roberts case. Is David all right?"

He was touched both by her concern and the fact that she remembered them after so many years.

"He's fine, Doc."

"I followed the newspapers when he was shot. I also spoke with his doctor about David. He did a fine job."

"Yes, he did." Hutch smiled softly, thinking about all the people who cared about Starsky and he didn't even know it. "Dr. Quo, the man who shot Terry has been cleared to stand trial. We'd like to come over and speak with you this morning. Do you have a few minutes?"

"Certainly. I have some time around ten. Can you meet me in the cafeteria?"

"We'll see you then."

Starsky emerged from the bathroom and headed in to get dressed without a word. Hutch knew this was going to be a rough day and his primary job was going to be holding his partner together.

~*~*~*~

"Where're we goin'?" Starsky inquired, starting the car.

"To see the guy who runs the store where Terry was shot," Hutch said.

Starsky turned in his seat and studied Hutch for a moment. "We're not going to check in first?"

"I already did. From your place."

Starsky was silent, but his jaw was set in the tight line that meant it was taking everything he had not to blow.

Hutch glanced at him. "We don't have to do this, buddy. Dobey can assign someone else. The offer to take a couple of days off –"

"Is crap, and you know it," Starsky said, and his control slipped, just a little. Enough so that his voice shook, ever so slightly. Someone who didn't know him very, very well might not have even noticed it. "The last thing I need is nothin' to do. I gotta do this. I just – " His voice faltered and he turned his head away and looked out the window.

Hutch kept his eyes averted, allowing Starsky what privacy he could in the confines of the car.

After a moment, Starsky drew a deep breath, and Hutch could almost feel the effort it cost him. "I'm okay, Hutch," was all he said, but Hutch nodded.

When Starsky pulled the Torino up in front of the small store where Terry met her fate, he turned the car off and sat still for a few minutes. Hutch put his hand on Starsky's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "You okay, partner?"

"Yeah, I was just remembering. . . that night."

"Want me to go in alone?"

"I'll go with you." He looked up at Hutch with eyes full of painful memories. Hutch would ask the questions. Starsky wanted it that way.

Hutch showed his ID to the man behind the counter.

"I'm Detective Hutchinson, this is Detective Starsky."

"What can I do for you officers?"

"We need to speak with John Clark. Is he here?"

The man looked uncomfortable. "Uh, no. He got himself killed in a holdup here about a year ago."

Starsky's face showed his disappointment. The store owner had been one of the witnesses that night. Their first catch and the man was dead.

"How long have you worked here?"

"Dunno exactly. Probably five years."

"Were you here on the night a young woman was shot during a robbery attempt about three years ago?"

"Yeah, I was here. Crazy dude just hauled off and shot her. She didn't do nothin', he just shot her. Had nightmares about that for a long time."

"You and me both," Starsky said as he turned and walked outside.

"The man who did it is finally coming to trial. You may be called as a witness, will you testify?"

"Yeah, I'll testify. I hope they fry him."

Hutch got the man's contact information and thanked him."Someone from the District Attorney's office will be in touch." Walking back out into the bright sunlight, Hutch saw that Starsky was sitting on the hood of the Torino, staring into space. "Starsk?"

"It's been three years, Hutch. What if we can't find the right witnesses?"

"We will, Gordo. That guy said he'd testify. Everything will be all right."

"Will it?"

"I wish I could make this easier for you, buddy. It's just gonna be hard, but I'm here."

Starsky nodded his thanks and climbed back behind the wheel, waiting for Hutch to join him for the trip to meet with Dr. Quo.

She was waiting for them in the hospital cafeteria. She already had three cups of coffee at the table when they arrived. When they were seated at the table with her, she turned to Starsky. "David, how have you been?"

"I'm all right, Doc."

"You don't look all right today, David."

Dr. Quo was perceptive. Starsky was pale and the hand holding his coffee cup was shaking almost imperceptibly. Hutch had also noticed it and he was keeping a close eye on his partner.

"It's just a little hard, Doc. You know, remembering all this about Terry."

"I know. How can I help?"

"I'm sure the District Attorney will call you as a witness."

"Yes, they also contacted me this morning. They want Terry's medical records."

Starsky stared right through her, remembering the pain of the day Terry finally succumbed to the bullet Prudholm put in her head. He remembered his anguish when Dr. Quo told him there was nothing more she could do.

"Doc, Prudholm, the man who killed Terry, has been in a psychiatric hospital for three years. He has finally been judged sane enough to stand trial for her murder. Getting a conviction is important to us."

"Don't worry, I'm going to review her file and her X-Rays. I'll be ready."

Starsky's eyes were bright and Hutch could see what a hard time he was having being there. He hadn't said much, but he did need to tell Dr. Quo something.

"Doc, I know you did everything you could for Terry. Thank you for helping at least make her comfortable."

"You're welcome, David." She reached across the table and patted him on the arm. He was very close to tears. He nodded at her, excused himself and walked out of the cafeteria.

Dr. Quo looked at Hutch, her dark eyes filled with compassion for Starsky. "He doesn't look good. Please see that he gets some rest."

"I know, Doc. This is so hard on him. He needs to do this, though. Maybe when this is all over, he finally will be able to have some peace about Terry."

"I hope so. If you need me, if he does, please call me. I'd like to help."

"Thanks. I'd better go find out where he went now." Hutch shook her hand gratefully and left in search of his partner.

He caught up with Starsky, sitting outside on a bench in the sun. Maybe this was just going to be too much for his friend. He wondered how Starsky would handle it when they called him as a witness.

"Hey. How about we go back to your place for a while. Take a break from these interviews."

"I'm okay."

"Well, you haven't eaten anything yet. Want to go over to Huggy's for a bite?"

Starsky turned and looked at his best friend. He knew Hutch would do anything in his power to shield him from pain, but he could feel that Hutch was hurting, too.

"How are YOU doing, Blondie?"

"Hurts. Feels kinda good to be doing something about it, though."

"You're right. Let's keep moving. Okay?" Starsky slid off the bench and started for the car, and as he passed Hutch, he gave him a little pat on the arm. That gesture told Hutch "thanks for being here" more clearly than words would have. He bit his lower lip, swallowed, and followed Starsky to the car.

The next nearest place was the school where Terry had taught. Starsky turned the car that direction without even discussing it with Hutch. He pulled up at the curb and sat quietly for a moment, his eyes on the basketball court, but the expression in them was far away.

"I haven't been here for a long time," Starsky said, as if speaking to himself. He sighed and let his eyes wander over to the picnic tables that stood along the side of the asphalt. Hutch waited and watched his partner's face. He could almost hear the voices of the kids and the sound of sneakers on blacktop, though at this hour the playground was deserted. The two picnic tables were empty now, but still sat in roughly the same positions they had then...this was where Starsky had come after Terry died, to be alone, to try to come to grips with what had happened.

"You ready?" Starsky asked, opening his door.

"Yeah." Hutch followed him into the school.

Starsky walked straight to the administrator's office without pausing, while Hutch followed behind, and when they reached it, Starsky paused, straightened his shoulders, and walked in. He stopped at the counter and cleared his throat. The secretary looked up. "Yes, sir?"

Starsky produced his badge. "Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson. May we see Mrs. Rachman, please?"

"She retired last year," the secretary said. "Would you like to talk to Mr. Getty? He's her replacement."

Starsky glanced at Hutch and that hopeless look was back in his eyes, saying as clearly as words, "Another witness gone."

But Hutch's mind was working more clearly than his partner's. "Wasn't he a teacher before? Jack Getty?"

The secretary nodded. "He taught the high school children until he took over as administrator."

"You remember him, Starsk," Hutch prodded. "He was the P.E. teacher, too."

"May I tell him what this is about?" the secretary asked.

Starsky glanced at Hutch again.

"Terry Roberts," Hutch said. The secretary nodded and picked up the phone and Hutch leaned closer to Starsky and whispered, "We can still interview Mrs. Rachman. It doesn't matter if she's retired."

"I know," Starsky said. "Life goes on."

Hutch didn't have an answer to that, and was saved from having to think of one by Getty's appearance in his office door.

"Dave! Ken! Come in!" He smiled at both of them. "It's been too long."

Starsky and Hutch glanced at each other and obeyed Getty's gesture to enter his office. Taking a couple of chairs, they sat down and waited while Getty closed the door and seated himself. Then the smile disappeared from his face.

"I know why you're here," he said quietly. "The secretary's new. She wasn't here...when Terry was. How are you doing, Dave?"

"I'm okay," Starsky said in a tone that told he was anything but.

Getty nodded and flicked his eyes to Hutch. "We really miss Terry," he said. "She was so good with the shy kids especially. Sally blossomed in her class. You should see her now, Dave. She's started helping with the younger kids and she's wonderful with them."

Starsky smiled a little. "I'm glad to hear it."

"I'll bet Sally'd love to say hello," Getty went on.

Starsky's lashes fell and Hutch gave Getty a "back off" look.

Getty understood. "What can I do for you guys?"

"Prudholm – the guy who murdered Terry – is going to trial," Hutch said, taking over. "We need to line up our witnesses. We came to see Mrs. Rachman, since she was in charge when Terry was here, but we'll need you, too. You were here the day Terry – " He couldn't finish.

"Yes, I was," Getty said. "I remember how upset the kids were. They knew something was wrong, but they didn't know what until later. Thanks for breaking it to them, Ken."

Starsky turned and looked at Hutch. He hadn't known that.

Hutch returned the look. "Can you tell us how to reach Mrs. Rachman?"

"Sure. She's living in Ojai, near her daughter. I have her number somewhere." Getty poked through his desk until he found an address book and a piece of paper. He paged through the book for a few moments and copied a number onto the paper, leaning across the desk to hand it to Hutch. "What will you want from me, when the time comes?"

"The D.A. will go over that with you," Hutch said. "Mostly, I think, he'll want you to tell about Terry's work here and how she's missed and what kind of impact she had on the children. That kind of thing."

"I'll be glad to," Getty said.

Hutch glanced at Starsky again. He'd had all he could take, so Hutch touched his arm. "Come on, buddy. Let's go."

Starsky nodded and rose. He offered his hand to Getty, but didn't speak. Getty gripped it hard. "Take care, Dave."

Starsky nodded again and left the room.

"Ken," Getty said as Hutch turned to follow him. Hutch waited. "Is he really okay?"

Hutch shrugged. "I don't know, Jack. As okay as you can be when some thug has killed your lady to get back at you."

Getty winced. "Yeah."

They left the school and had started to cross the sidewalk when a young voice called out, "Mr. Dave! Mr. Dave, wait!"

Both men turned and saw Sally, looking much the same age, but with a new air of maturity about her. She was waving with her arm over her head and she trotted out of the school and down the sidewalk toward them.

"I just want to say I'm sorry," Sally said, stopping in front of Starsky and looking up at him. "About Miss Roberts. I never got to tell you before. I miss her a lot."

"So do I," Starsky said, his eyes suspiciously bright. He opened his arms and Sally, shy Sally who had hardly been able to look another person in the eye before Terry started working with her, gave him a hug. As they approached the Torino, Starsky wordlessly handed Hutch his keys. Hutch took them and walked around to the driver's side, peering at his partner over the roof of the car. Starsky looked completely drained. He knew the man needed to breathe a little.

Hutch slid in behind the wheel.

"Well, buddy, I don't know 'bout you, but I'm kinda hungry. Thirsty too."

Starsky just nodded.

"Let's head over to Huggy's. Well take a lunch break, and then go on into the precinct to check in with Dobey.

"I'm not hungry, Hutch."

"I know, partner, but you can at least get something to drink. You haven't had anything all day."

"All right."

Hutch pulled away from the curb and headed for The Pits.

When they walked into The Pits, Huggy looked up and gave them his usual cheerful greeting.

"Well, if it ain't my two favorite flat feet."

"Hi, Hug," Hutch said. Starsky just gave him a small jerk of his chin in greeting. Then he immediately excused himself to wash up before lunch, quickly walking toward the men's room.

"Man, what's up with Curly? Looked like he was gonna cry."

"It's about Terry, Hug. Prudholm is finally going to be tried for her murder."

Huggy whistled. "Heavy."

"Yeah. We've been interviewing witnesses all morning. I think he's about at the end of his rope."

"I bet he's refusin' to eat again, but the Bear is on it anyhow. I'll whip up a Starsky special. See if he'll give it try."

"Thanks, Huggy. I don't know what we'd do without you, man."

When Starsky returned, Hutch could tell he'd been crying and his heart nearly broke. His poor partner had suffered so much over Terry. He hoped this was going to help. Starsky wearily climbed onto a barstool next to Hutch.

"Where'd Huggy go?"

"He's in the kitchen whipping up a Starsky special."

"Oh, Hutch, I can't eat it."

"You should try. Wouldn't want to hurt Huggy's feelings would ya?"

"Huggy'll understand."

"Yeah, he will, but please try anyway."

"Okay."

Starsky managed to get in a few bites of his lunch. At least Huggy was successful in getting him to drink a couple of sodas. The extent of Starsky's contribution to their conversation was nods and an occasional "Uh-huh." He was becoming withdrawn and Hutch was worried.

As they got up to leave, Huggy put a hand on Starsky's arm and gave it a little squeeze.

"Hang in there, my man."

"Thanks, Hug. I will."

The two men walked back out into the afternoon sunlight, an excellent excuse for Starsky to pull on a pair of dark sunglasses. He thought maybe he could hide behind them for a while.

"Time to go in and report on these interviews, partner. You up for it?"

"Sure."

"You makin' it okay?"

"Yeah."

Hutch knew his best friend was in trouble. He hadn't heard anything more eloquent than single syllable words and grunts from Starsky in the past hour. After they filled out their reports and talked to Dobey, Hutch would take Starsky home and stay with him. No way was he going to leave his buddy alone tonight. Starsky hadn't looked this fragile or this close to the edge in a long time.

Street parking near the precinct was nonexistent in the afternoon and this day was no exception. They tried to avoid parking in the precinct garage whenever possible. Both men had too many bad memories of another day they had parked there. This time Hutch found a space he could back the Torino into, leaving neither side totally exposed. Starsky gave him a slight, but appreciative smile. The space was near the door to prisoner intake and a van was just pulling into the drive in front of that door. The side of the van said, "Caballo Point Psychiatric Hospital."

Hutch noticed it immediately.  Damn. I hope that's not Prudholm.  Dobey said he’d be here tomorrow.  Damn.  He tried to turn his gaze elsewhere, preventing Starsky from seeing what he had seen, but it was too late. Starsky had already seen the van.

They both watched as the door opened and George Prudholm was led from the van in shackles.

Hutch watched Starsky carefully, subconsciously positioning himself between his partner and Prudholm. He tried hard to keep in the line of sight, so Prudholm could not make eye contact with Starsky.

He watched as Starsky took off the sunglasses and stared in pained silence at the man who shattered his life. When he looked toward the van, he saw Prudholm stop abruptly and look their way. He was looking directly at Starsky. Only twenty feet separated the two men. Prudholm had a look of smug satisfaction on his face. The same one he had worn the last day Hutch saw him as they carted him out of court and back to the mental hospital.

Prudholm stopped and smiled his evil smile at Starsky. He spoke.

"Hello, Starsky. Still single?"

Hutch watched and heard Starsky snap. He started toward Prudholm, rage playing out across his face. Hutch quickly stepped closer and blocked him. He put his hands on either side of his friend and struggled to keep him from reaching his target. Hutch turned and yelled to a couple of uniforms standing in the doorway near Prudholm. "Get him inside. Now!"

"Let me go, Hutch."

"No, Starsk. Let it be."

Thankfully, the other officers quickly moved Prudholm inside and out of sight. Starsky stopped struggling against his partner. The adrenaline rush and his feelings of grief had nowhere to go. He started to shake uncontrollably and he dropped his sunglasses to the ground, ignoring them as they shattered into as many pieces as his psyche.

Hutch pulled his best friend into a hug.

"Let it go, babe. It'll be okay. I'm right here."

He was afraid Starsky was going to fall down, so Hutch kept one arm around his friend's shoulders as he led him inside the back door to the precinct where he could sit down in the air conditioned building and recover. He could not believe what Prudholm had said to Starsky. The man was evil. He may never have been insane, but he had always been evil.

Somehow Hutch got Starsky upstairs without encountering too many other officers. Starsky's face had gone a pasty gray color and Hutch was alarmed. As soon as the elevator doors opened, Starsky jerked his arm away from Hutch and dashed down the hall to the men's room. Hutch hurried after him and through the door just as Starsky went to his knees in front of the nearest toilet.

There was nothing Hutch could do for him until it was over, and by then he was waiting with a cool, wet handful of paper towel. Wordlessly, he used it to wipe Starsky's sweaty face, running it down the back of his neck, too.

Starsky sagged back into a sitting position, with his back against the stall, too weak and spent to even stand, and let Hutch take care of him.

Hutch tossed the towels toward the trash without bothering to see if they went in. His eyes were filling, too. "Can you stand up, buddy?" he asked gently.

Starsky mutely nodded, and Hutch held out his hands to help him. When Starsky was upright, Hutch slid an arm around his back. Starsky leaned against him as they went to the mercifully empty squad room. The only occupant was a young officer typing a report, and he never even raised his head as they came in and went to their own desk across the room. Hutch got Starsky into a chair.

"I'll be right back," he said, reaching into his pocket for change. He went back into the hall, to the soda machine, and brought back a 7-Up. "Here," he said, setting it down in front of Starsky. "Sip that, slowly. It'll settle you down."

Starsky obeyed, still without speaking. And that worried Hutch more than anything else. He sat down in the next chair, pulling it into a position that would allow his body to block the sight of Starsky from the other officer and from anyone who happened to come in. Starsky's face had regained a little color, but not enough, and his eyes were rimmed with exhausted dark circles. Hutch forced down the lump in his own throat and reached out with one hand to grasp his partner's hand. He slid the other around Starsky's shoulders and gently stroked the curls at his collar. Damn whoever might see them.

Starsky's hand wrapped around Hutch's tightly and they sat there in silence for several minutes.

"Hutch," Starsky said hoarsely at last, "I wanna go home."

"Sure, buddy. Let me tell Dobey, okay? Will you be okay for a minute?"

Starsky nodded.

Hutch tapped once on Dobey's door and opened it. Dobey was on the phone, but he waved Hutch in.

"What time are you doing the interrogation?" Dobey asked. He nodded a couple of times. "All right. I'll inform them...damned right they're going to be there! They're the arresting officers, as you'd know if you'd read the report!" He glared at the phone briefly, then relaxed. "No, that's probably a good idea. I doubt if Starsky wants to be in the same room with him, anyway. All right, Mark. See you tomorrow." He hung up and looked at Hutch. "They're questioning Prudholm tomorrow. He's already demanded his lawyer, so I doubt if he has much to say. I've arranged for you and Starsky to observe."

Hutch glanced over his shoulder and reached out to push the door closed. "Captain, I don't know if that's a good idea."

Dobey raised his eyebrows and glanced toward the door, too. "How bad is he?"

Hutch shook his head and wet his lips. "Pretty bad."

Dobey sighed. "I guess I thought after three years, it wouldn't hurt so much."

"He loved her, Captain."

"Yeah, I know," Dobey said. "Take him home, Hutch. The interrogation isn't until ten. Don't bother coming in until then. Let him sleep late and maybe he'll feel a little better."

Hutch doubted that, and he also doubted Starsky would get much sleep, but he nodded. "Thanks." He rose to go, but Dobey motioned to him.

"Hutch," he paused. "One of you has to be there tomorrow. Can you handle it?"

Hutch nodded. "I'll take care of it. But you know Starsky. He'll probably insist on being there, too." He considered for a moment. "Don't let on to Prudholm he's there, and maybe he won't say anything to hurt him." He repeated for Dobey what had happened outside.

Dobey visibly blanched at Prudholm's remark to Starsky. "God," he said and was silent for several beats. "I'll tell Mark," he said. "Prudholm won't know."

"Thanks." Hutch went back out to the squad room and found his partner in exactly the same position he'd left him. His heart twisted at Starsky's defeated posture. "Hey, buddy. Let's go home, huh?"

Starsky nodded and stood, swaying a little. Hutch put his arm around him again and led him through the double doors.

There was no question who would drive. Hutch loaded Starsky into the passenger side of the Torino and drove to Starsky's place. When they got there, he helped Starsky up the stairs and as far as the couch. Through it all, Starsky never uttered a word. The photographs he'd been looking at the night before were still scattered over the coffee table, and Hutch briefly considered picking them up and putting them away, but he saw Starsky's eyes feasting on them hungrily, even though he didn't reach for any of them, and he thought better of it. Instead, he tossed his jacket on a chair.

"Want something to drink?"

Starsky shook his head, so Hutch went into the kitchen and got a glass of ice water for himself, a big glass. Maybe Starsky would manage to keep a few swallows down. He came back, set the glass where Starsky could reach it, and sat beside him.

"What can I do, buddy?" he asked.

"Nothin'," Starsky said. "It's just gotta be got through is all." His eyes were too bright, and he slid out of his jacket. "I'm gonna take a shower."

"Okay," Hutch said, watching as Starsky rose, slowly and painfully, like a much older man, and went toward his bedroom. He kept his own composure long enough for the bathroom door to close behind his partner, then allowed his own tears to fall.

Starsky was in the bathroom a long time, long enough for Hutch to get his own sorrow back under control and to start worrying about him. But the water shut off at last and Hutch drew a deep breath. He had to be strong enough to support Starsky. It wasn't going to do either of them any good for Hutch to crumble. As hard as the last couple of days had been, the next days were going to be one hell of a lot worse.

He looked a little better after the shower. Still tired and sad, but a little more relaxed. No, not relaxed, more like drained.

"Hey, buddy. Feeling any better?"

Starsky just shrugged his shoulders as he sat down on the couch.

"Don't suppose you want anything to eat."

This time he only shook his head. Hutch was so worried. Seeing his best friend withdraw like this was not a good sign.

"I think I'll order some Chinese food. Maybe you'll feel like it later."

Starsky looked at him and sighed. As if preparing to say his next sentence was going to take every bit of remaining energy he had.

"Look, Hutch. I'm not gonna be very good company tonight. Why don't you just go on home, huh?"

"I think I'd rather just crash here tonight, Gordo."

"No need. I'll be okay."

"I know you will, buddy. Still, I'd rather stay."

Starsky looked at him with a mixture of profound sadness and gratitude, his eyes conveying the message of thanks.

"I'm sorry I lost it, Hutch."

"You don't have anything to be sorry about, Starsk. What he said to you . . . ."

"Don't."

"I'm sorry, Starsk. It just makes me so angry!" Hutch stood up and paced around the apartment attempting to disperse his rage over what Prudholm had said to Starsky.

"Seeing him like that, I just . . . lost it."

"You going to be able to do this?"

"Have to, Hutch. For Terry."

"For you, too, pal."

Starsky nodded. "What's next, Hutch? Why'd they bring him down today?"

Hutch was dreading telling his partner about the interrogation. He knew Starsky would want to be there and he was concerned about what it would do to him.

"Um, uh, interrogation t-tomorrow."

Starsky smiled just a little. Poor Hutch tended to stammer when he was upset about something, especially if it had to do with Starsky.

"When."

"You don't have to be there."

"Yes, I do."

"N-No, I can handle it."

"You're hurting, too, Hutch."

Starsky didn't miss much where Hutch was concerned. He didn't attempt to deny it.

"I know. Please, let me do it alone."

"Nope"

Resigned, Hutch answered his question. "Ten. Dobey said not to come in before then."

Starsky nodded his understanding and slowly stood. "Okay, partner. WE'LL be there."

"You going to bed?"

"Yeah. Night."

Hutch watched him walk dejectedly toward his bedroom. Please let him at least sleep well.

Several hours later, Hutch was jolted awake by the sound of Starsky yelling Terry's name in his sleep. Before he could get up off the couch and go in to wake Starsky up, he saw him come running out of his bedroom and into the bathroom. Hutch followed him in there and stood by helplessly while Starsky heaved again. He hadn't eaten anything, so there wasn't much for him to lose.

When he was finally back in control, Hutch sat next to him on the bathroom floor, handing him a glass of water and wiping his face just like he had done in the afternoon.

Starsky was breathing hard, almost hyperventilating.

"Oh, God, Hutch!"

"Sh, I'm here, buddy"

"How'm I gonna do this?"

"You can do it. I'll be there with you."

They had nothing left to say. Starsky sat on the floor, quiet tears streaming down his face. All Hutch could do was offer his shoulder in comfort. That was how they spent the rest of the night. Starsky was finally exhausted enough to sleep a little bit around dawn. Hutch let him sleep as long as he could, then woke him around nine to get ready for their trip into the precinct. He knew this part of the journey was going to be difficult.

Starsky was composed when they reached the precinct. Hutch still hadn't gotten him to eat anything, but at least he didn't seem sick anymore. Hutch was worried about the almost blank look on his face. He didn't like the thought that Starsky was checked out instead of feeling, even if those feelings would hurt like hell.

They paused at the observation room door, Hutch putting his hand on Starsky's shoulder and turning him around gently.

"You sure you want to do this?"

Starsky nodded the affirmative.

They walked into the room and closed the door behind them. Positioning himself in a chair in front of the observation mirror, Starsky steeled himself for whatever was about to happen. Captain Dobey walked in right after they did, stopping to pat Starsky reassuringly on the shoulder before he moved to a chair in the corner of the room.

Within a few minutes, the District Attorney walked into the room accompanied by James Olin, Prudholm's attorney. Olin shook hands with the D.A. and they took their seats.

"Any chance we can do a plea bargain, Johnson?"

Starsky stiffened in his chair and Hutch placed a hand on his forearm reassuringly.

"You must be joking, Olin. Murder one, all the way."

Starsky relaxed a little.

"You'll never get it. He was insane."

"You know, Olin, I doubt that. What he did was calculating and cold. He pursued that poor woman like a wolf after its prey. He lay in wait for her. That's a death penalty pop as far as my office is concerned."

Hutch was watching Starsky carefully, ready to intervene if necessary. So far, he looked all right, but Prudholm hadn't appeared yet.

As if on cue to Hutch's thoughts, George Prudholm was escorted into the room by two uniforms. He was seated in a chair. One of the uniforms stood in the corner of the interrogation room and the other left to stand outside the door.

Starsky leaned forward, his forearms on his knees and his hands clenched into tight fists. He was pale, and his focus was riveted on the man who killed the love of his life.

The D.A. began, "George Prudholm, you are about to go on trial for the murder of Terry Roberts. Do you understand the charges?"

"Yeah, I understand."

"You should know that the District Attorney's office also intends to prosecute you for the attempted murder of police detectives Starsky and Hutchinson, and for holding two innocent women hostage at gunpoint before you were apprehended. Those charges will be levied against you in a separate trial."

"I never tried to kill those two. If I had, they'd be dead!"

Olin turned to Prudholm and advised him to be quiet about that

"I was under the impression you had attempted to blow at least Detective Hutchinson away with a rigged shotgun."

"All right, Johnson, let's stick to the current charges."

Prudholm pasted an evil smile on his face. He said nothing else. Hutch looked at him and started to worry that the man might know he and his partner were watching. Prudholm was looking past his attorney, right at the mirror. Hutch looked back to Starsky. He was beginning to shake. Hutch quietly moved his chair closer to Starsky and put an arm around his shoulders. The trembling he felt scared him. He couldn't help wondering how much more Starsky could take.

Johnson continued. "You know if you plead guilty, you won't get the gas chamber."

"Go to hell. I'm not pleading guilty. For what? Wiping some stupid chick off the face of the Earth? Who cares."

Starsky was starting to sweat and the shaking was getting worse. Hutch was afraid he was going to get sick again.

Prudholm continued to look at the mirror with increasing intensity.

"Prudholm! You don't have to answer him. This isn't a courtroom."

"Shut up."

Johnson said, "Prudholm, I just want to know one thing from you. Why."

"Don't answer that!"

"I said shut up! I'll tell you why"

Prudholm paused and looked at the mirror directly at where Starsky sat. If Hutch didn't know better, he would have thought the man could see them.

"I wanted to hurt Starsky. He killed my son. I wanted to destroy his life just like he did mine. I only wish I'd succeeded in blowing away his precious partner. Right in front of him, that's what I wanted."

Olin jumped up and said, "That's it, this interview is over." Prudholm had one more thing to say, though.

"If I had to do it again, the only thing I'd change is making it more painful. I shoulda messed her up first. Starsky's little slut died too easy. I shoulda made him watch me do her, then killed both of 'em."

"Prudholm!" Starsky roared, coming out of his chair and throwing himself at the glass so quickly that Hutch couldn't move fast enough to stop him. He shot out of his chair right behind Starsky, however, and grabbed his partner's shoulders. The room was soundproof; there was no way Prudholm could have heard Starsky, but the way the man was staring fixedly at the mirror, with that cold glitter in his eyes and a self-satisfied grin on his face, Hutch could have sworn he HAD heard.

"Whatsa matter, Starsky?" Prudholm said clearly, his eyes boring right into Starsky's. "You want a piece of me? You had your chance in that grocery warehouse."

Starsky was trembling so violently that his shaking shook Hutch, too, and his fists were white-knuckled.

"Easy, buddy, easy," Hutch said desperately. "He's trying to get to you. He wants to make you crazy. Don't let him, Starsk. Don't let him!"

Starsky drew back his hand to strike the mirror, but Hutch grabbed it and braced himself. After several tense moments, Starsky relaxed, marginally. And Hutch gently pushed him until he backed away from the window.

"I thought we agreed Prudholm wouldn't know he was here!" Hutch barked at Dobey, who had watched the whole thing in stunned silence.

"We didn't tell him," Dobey said defensively.

"Nobody had to," Starsky said, his voice tight. "He just knew. Where else would I be?"

In the interrogation room, Olin was sweating. "George, come on. Don't say any more. Let's go."

"We'll see you in court," Johnson said coldly. "Get him out of here."

The uniformed officers escorted Prudholm away and Starsky sagged against Hutch. Hutch backed him into his chair and knelt beside it.

Starsky closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. His face had gone that pasty gray color again and Hutch could actually see the pulse pounding in his throat.

There was a knock on the door and Johnson poked his head through, took in the scene, and came the rest of the way in, closing the door behind him. "I'm sorry, Sergeant," he said to Starsky. "We didn't tell him you were here, but he must've guessed."

Starsky opened his eyes and though they glittered with emotion, he nodded. "'S okay, Counselor."

Johnson shifted his weight uncertainly. "I'll be in touch to go over your testimony. We go to trial on Thursday."

Starsky nodded, and Hutch squeezed his arm gently.

Johnson stood there another moment, then with a glance at Dobey, he said, "Uh, well, I'll give you a call." He left.

"Starsky," Dobey said quietly, "I'm giving the two of you the rest of the day off." He raised a hand when Starsky opened his mouth. "Don't argue with me. Go home. Go fishing. Go somewhere else. I don't want you here, and you don't need to be here. This trial is important. I want you to be able to handle it." His voice softened. "Please, Dave. You've been through enough."

Starsky dropped his eyes and nodded. "Okay, Cap. Thanks."

Dobey stood and patted his shoulder. He left the room.

"Didja hear that?" Starsky said, his voice shaking, but vainly attempting a light touch anyway. "He called me 'Dave.'"

Hutch smiled in spite of himself. "I heard. You always were his favorite."

Starsky tried to smile back, but his eyes were filling and he closed them again.

Aw, buddy. Hutch felt the lump rise in his throat and tried to choke it down. "Come on. I'm taking you to Waffle House and you're going to eat."

"No, please," Starsky said, reaching out to touch Hutch's hair. "Let's go home, huh? I got bacon and eggs and stuff. I can't – I don't want nobody to see me right now."

Hutch nodded.

When they got to Starsky's, Starsky started for the kitchen as soon as he'd taken his jacket off.

"I'll do it, buddy," Hutch said. "You sit down. You haven't eaten anything and you look like hell."

"I need to be doin' something," Starsky said. "I can't just sit."

Hutch bit his lip, but let him. He sat on the couch and listened to the sounds of Starsky cooking, and his eyes fell on the scattered photographs. He picked up a handful and went through them. Mostly they were just snapshots.

But one in particular made Hutch freeze when he found it. Terry was leaning against a tree, the sunlight dappled on her hair and shoulders as it fell through the leaves over her head. Starsky stood next to her, looking at her instead of the camera, one hand resting casually at her waist. Both were beaming. They looked so happy....

For some reason, it was just too much. The tension of the last couple of days, the strain of trying to be strong for Starsky when his own heart was aching, all spilled over and the photograph blurred before his eyes. He covered his face with one hand and tried to get a grip.

"Hey." The couch shifted as Starsky sat beside him and Hutch struggled for control. Starsky's arm went around his shoulders as Starsky pulled Hutch's head against his shoulder. "Let it out, boy," Starsky said hoarsely, his voice thick with emotion. "Get it over with. And quit tryin' to be so tough. I know you're hurtin', too."

Hutch sat and cried with his best friend. He cried for Terry, for Starsky, and for himself. "Starsk," he managed to squeak out, "I loved her, too."

"I know, buddy, I know. Just get it all out." Suddenly, Starsky was the strong one. Offering comfort to Hutch when his own reserves where empty. That was the way of their relationship. Give and take, comforting and comforted, Me and Thee. They sat together like that for long minutes, neither man saying anything. Finally, Hutch sat back from Starsky's shoulder and looked at him, his eyes red rimmed and still wet with tears.

"I know how much he hurt you. Nobody knows better than me." He sniffed and took a deep, shuddering breath before continuing. "I can't stand to hear that turkey say those things about Terry. Worse than what he says, Starsk, I hate what it's doing to you. Terry can't be hurt anymore, but you can. "

"I'm gonna make it through, Hutch. He ain't gonna get me, buddy. He's just a sicko."

Who was Starsky trying to kid? Himself? Hutch? Neither one of them was buying it.

"That's just it, Starsk. I'm not so sure. The man may not be a regular sicko. Buddy, I think he's just evil. He's evil and I don't want you anywhere near him."

"Ah, Hutch, you know I have to be at the trial."

"Yeah, as a witness. You don't have to sit there through the whole thing."

"Yes, I do."

Hutch took both of Starsky's hands in his and looked him in the eyes. He prayed his friend couldn't resist the look he was giving him. "Please, Starsk. Let me go alone. Don't be there every day."

Starsky looked away from Hutch knowing that another moment looking into Hutch's pleading eyes and he might waver. He couldn't do that, though. He closed his eyes and shook his head. "No, Hutch. Don't ask me that. You know I have to do it. For Terry and for me."

Hutch dropped his eyes to the floor and his shoulders slumped. He said almost too quietly for his partner to hear, "I know, Gordo. I just want to protect you any way I can."

Starsky needed to change the subject, "Hey, can I leave you alone for a minute? I'm supposed to be fixing you something to eat."

"You're supposed to be fixing US something to eat."

"You've got me there, partner." Starsky smiled, patted Hutch on the shoulder and headed for the kitchen.

Hutch did manage to coax Starsky into eating half of what was on his plate. Then he prayed his friend would be able to hold onto it. Having pulled himself back together, he had moved back into protective mode and was thinking about how he was going to keep Starsky's mind off of things for the rest of the day. Though he had to twist Starsky's arm, he talked him into going to the movies, then for a long walk on the beach. Hutch was hoping to tire him out a little so he could get a better night's sleep. Then they went over to Hutch's place to pick some things up for him. They both knew Hutch would be spending the night again.

Over at Hutch's apartment, Starsky had gone down to the corner market to pick up a six-pack for them while Hutch watered his plants. Captain Dobey called while Starsky was gone.

"I hoped I'd catch you there. Can you talk?"

"Yeah, he went to the store for a few minutes. You have something?"

"Yeah. Is he any better?"

"Better than this morning. He's a little less withdrawn. We went to the movies and the beach. I think he's getting tired."

"Good. He's going to need his strength. The jury is seated. D.A. Johnson wants to talk to both of you. I don't want Starsky down here again until Thursday at the trial. Can I tell Johnson to go to Starsky's house tomorrow to talk to you?"

"Yeah, Cap. Good thinking. I tried to talk him out of sitting in on the trial."

"Snowball's chance in hell, huh?"

"Uh-huh."

"Keep an eye on him, Hutch. I didn't like what I saw in his eyes this afternoon. Can't say I blame him, though. Prudholm really hurt him today."

"Yeah, he did."

"I'll tell Johnson to stop by Starsky's place at two tomorrow. Okay?"

"Great. If he has another rough night, maybe he can sleep through the morning."

Hutch heard Starsky approaching the front door. "He's back, Cap."

"Call me if you need me."

"Thanks."

Hutch hung up the phone just as Starsky was walking into the living room.

"Dobey?"

"Yeah. The D.A. is coming over to your place at two tomorrow. The jury is seated and they're ready to start day after tomorrow."

Starsky nodded. "You done watering your jungle?"

"Yep. Let's go on back over to your place. We can watch the game."

"Sounds good, Blondie. Lead the way."

Hutch was glad to hear a little lightness back in Starsky's voice. Maybe another day away from the case and all of its implications would give him the strength he needed.

Back at Starsky's, the evening passed uneventfully. They watched the game and finished that six-pack over the next few hours. Starsky was still pale, but he had kept the food down and seemed a little better. He disappeared for another long shower, worrying Hutch, but when he came out, he still looked all right.

Taking his turn in the bathroom, Hutch was upset to find a bottle of sleeping pills sitting on the counter. For a fleeting moment, he felt a sense of panic. He actually opened the bottle and started to count the pills before shaking his head. Geez, Hutchinson, get a grip already. Still....

He went into the kitchen where Starsky was drinking a glass of chocolate milk and said, "Starsk, what's with the sleeping pills?"

"Relax, buddy. You know I hate those things but I really need to be able to sleep tonight. I don't want to dream either, know what I mean?"

"You shouldn't take those when you've been drinking."

"I know, Mom. I only took one, so chill. I'm okay."

Starsky was both annoyed and touched by Hutch's concern. The man didn't miss a thing. Next time he wouldn't forget to put the bottle back in the medicine cabinet.

The sleeping pill worked. Starsky slept through the night and never stirred. Hutch was grateful he hadn't needed to help his friend through another nightmare. Starsky needed the sleep. On the other hand, Hutch had a rough night. His restless sleep was interrupted by a series of bad dreams. The dreams were about Terry's death, and worse than that, Starsky's. Adding to his restlessness, the couch was not comfortable. Two nights on it in a row had Hutch's back as stiff as it had been in a long time. He made himself a silent promise to save enough money to buy Starsky a sofa bed for his birthday.

Hutch got up early and peeked in on Starsky. He was still sound asleep, so Hutch went out for his run. He brought bagels back for breakfast, then took a shower. Starsky still wasn't awake by the time the coffee was made and Hutch had no intention of waking him. He slept until ten.

"Hey, Hutch! Why'd ya let me sleep so late?"

Hutch looked up from the newspaper he was reading. "If you slept late, you needed it."

He smiled. His friend was looking a little better.

Starsky shuffled into the kitchen to get some coffee. "Hey, bagels! Thanks, buddy. You already eat?"

"Nope. Waitin' for you. You hungry, partner?"

"A little. Thanks for the bagels. You make chicken soup, too?"

They ate their breakfast and puttered around the apartment for the next four hours waiting for the D.A. Starsky was looking stronger and Hutch was wishing he didn't have to go through the next several days. He'd take Starsky over to Huggy's for a good dinner in case it was the last one he got his partner to eat for the next few days.

Mark Johnson was on time. The three men sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and discussing the trial. Hutch kept a wary eye on his partner.

"First, let's talk about your testimony. You'll both be called to the stand. Hutch, you will testify as an arresting officer and a witness to what happened to Terry. Starsky, you will also testify as an arresting officer, as a witness, and as Terry's fiancé. I want you to talk about what he did to you."

Hutch intervened, "Is that necessary?"

"Only if you want a conviction."

Starsky's jaw was set. "I can do it."

"Good, I also want you to testify about any conversations you had with him and how he wanted to hurt you because of the death of his son."

Again, Starsky nodded.

"When are you going to call him?"

"Last thing on Thursday. I want the jury to have him in their minds when we close for the day. He will probably still be on the stand Friday morning, though."

Starsky got up to get some more coffee. Hutch knew he was trying to maintain his balance.

"I think you should know a few other things. Starsky, I want you in the courtroom every day. Whenever anyone is testifying, I want you right out front for the jury to see."

"Sounds like you're planning to use him for effect!" Hutch was angry.

"I am. I know that sounds terrible, but you want him to go down, don't you?"

"Yes."

The lawyer looked at him, knowing how hard this was going to be. "I'm sorry, Hutch. This is going to be difficult. Starsky, you need to keep your composure and it's not going to be easy."

"I know, I know." He was losing his patience.

"All right. We are going to show some home movies of Terry that were made at the school. Also, I want you to be prepared for their witnesses."

Starsky swallowed and looked distressed at the prospect of watching movies of Terry. Hutch put a hand on his arm and looked at him in support.

"They are going to call in a psychiatrist to show that Prudholm is sick. They have also subpoenaed Lonnie Craig's mother as a hostile witness."

"What!" Hutch was furious. "Why?" Starsky had killed Lonnie Craig in self-defense following a hold up and Prudholm had blamed him for it. He related Lonnie's death to his own son's death.

"They probably want to show what it feels like to love someone that Starsky has destroyed."

"That stinks! "

"I know, that's why she's a hostile witness. They are also going to call Prudholm's partner, Woody the Magic Man. Then there is a list of witnesses from Caballo Point. Finally, they will probably have Prudholm on the stand. I know Olin doesn't want him to testify, but he is insisting. Even though it's good for us, having him up there will give him the chance to say things you might not want to hear."

"Okay, enough. What time do I have to be there tomorrow?"

"I want you there first thing, that's at nine."

They spent the next two hours going over the questions and their testimony. Starsky was already looking edgy. Hutch knew he was going to have a hard time keeping his partner together through this trial. He had no more time to feel bad himself, he had to be strong for Starsky.

~*~*~*~

"How do I look?" Starsky asked as they climbed the courthouse steps.

"You look fine," Hutch said, patting his back. "Question is, how do you feel?"

"I'll make it," Starsky said with grim determination.

The courtroom was crowded. The story in yesterday's paper recapping the case and making a big point of Starsky's relationship with Terry had probably drawn out the ghouls. Starsky kept his eyes focused straight ahead as they walked in and went to the seats Johnson waved them to, behind the prosecution's table.

"How're you doing, Sergeant?"

"Fine," Starsky said shortly.

"Okay. Just checking." Johnson turned back to his notes.

A few minutes later, the guards brought Prudholm into the courtroom. They seated him next to his lawyer and Olin leaned over to confer with him, but Prudholm's eyes were fixed on Starsky and he impatiently waved his lawyer away.

"All rise."

The judge came through the chamber door and sat down. There was a rustle as the gallery seated themselves.

"Court is now in session. The honorable Judge Joseph Greanias presiding."

Greanias shuffled the papers in front of him and looked at Prudholm. "George Prudholm, you stand accused of the murder of Teresa Renee Roberts. You have pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Does that plea stand?"

"It does, your honor," Olin said, rising.

"Mr. Johnson, you may commence your opening statement."

Johnson rose and approached the jury box. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are here today because the State is confident we can prove this man," he indicated Prudholm, "murdered Miss Roberts in cold blood as an act of revenge against her fiancé, Detective Sergeant David Starsky. Miss Roberts was 28 years old at the time of her death. She taught developmentally disabled children. She was engaged to be married to Sergeant Starsky. And she was struck down in the prime of her life because this man," he turned toward Prudholm, "had a vendetta against her fiancé, one of Bay City's finest officers, who has earned several commendations for bravery and devotion to duty, and who almost lost his life last year in the line of duty."

Starsky flinched. He hadn't known Johnson was going to bring that up. Hutch put a hand on his arm but didn't dare do more.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you have the power to make this man pay for his crime. I have faith in your integrity." Johnson sat down.

"Mr. Olin, your opening statement?"

Olin rose and gave Johnson a look as he approached the jury in his turn. "My client is not guilty," he said to them. "Yes, he pulled the trigger. We do not dispute that fact. But my client suffers from a psychotic disorder for which he has been in residential treatment for the last three years, and in and out of treatment for many years prior to that. He cannot be held responsible for his crime."

After Olin sat down, Greanias told Johnson he could call his first witness.

He began with the clerk from the all-night store, who told about the robbery and how Prudholm and Woody the Magic Man had made a point of shooting Terry, and hadn't even been interested in stealing any money.

Olin objected several times, insisting that the man was relating his perception rather than facts, but the judge allowed the testimony. When Olin cross-examined, he made a point of the fact that Prudholm and Woody had taken what was in the register, though Woody had had to remind Prudholm to do it.

Then Johnson called Captain Dobey to the stand.

"Captain, how long have you been on the force?"

"Almost 30 years," Dobey said.

"You are Sergeant Starsky's superior officer, is that correct?"

"Yes," Dobey said. "I've been his captain for nine years."

"Tell us about the Lonnie Craig incident, please."

"Starsky and Hutchinson and several other officers answered a call on an armed robbery at a small liquor store. There was a lot of shooting and one of the uniformed officers was hit in the shoulder. When the suspects ran, Starsky and Hutchinson gave chase. Starsky fired two warning shots and shouted at Craig to halt, but Craig turned around and brought his gun down to fire. Starsky shot and killed him. Some of the witnesses believed Craig–”

"Objection!" Olin stood. "Was this witness present for this incident?"

"Your honor, there was a public hearing, broadcast on local television, in which all these facts were mentioned," Johnson said.

"I'll allow it," Greanias said. "But I must instruct the jury that the witness is repeating testimony from a prior legal proceeding, not facts he knows of his own knowledge."

"Continue, Captain."

"Some of the witnesses believed Craig was trying to surrender and accused Starsky of overstepping the bounds of reasonable force," Dobey said, with a glance at Starsky. "There was a hearing. The most vocal of these witnesses recanted at the hearing and admitted that he was mistaken, that he now believes Craig was going to shoot Starsky and that Starsky had no other option but to shoot first. I was present for this hearing," Dobey added.

"And then what?"

"During the hearing, George Prudholm called headquarters and threatened that if Starsky was found innocent of wrongdoing, he'd 'make us pay and pay bad,'" Dobey said. "We have recordings of all his calls."

"Did you know who he was then?"

"No," Dobey said. "But soon after the hearing ended, an officer was shot answering a false call, and a rifle was left behind with a note on it that said, 'For Starsky.' Then Prudholm called again and said if Starsky didn't resign, and release that fact to the press, he would kill another officer."

"And Starsky did not resign?"

"No." Dobey said. "I talked him out of it. He wanted to."

"Continue, please."

"The next day, another officer was killed by a bomb planted in a gas station restroom, again answering a false call that a baby had been left there. Prudholm called again and demanded Starsky's resignation again. We figured out who he was from some of the things he said on the phone, and Starsky and Hutchinson went to his apartment to attempt to apprehend him. He called them there and instructed Starsky to meet him at the old city zoo, alone, or he'd kill an officer's family next. Starsky agreed, but Hutchinson followed him there, against Prudholm's instructions, and Prudholm ambushed him. Starsky fired back and hit him in the shoulder, and he and Hutchinson arrested him."

"Prudholm clearly said on these tapes that he was killing officers in retaliation for Starsky shooting Lonnie Craig?"

"Yes."

"Nothing further, your honor."

Olin rose. "Wasn't my client prosecuted for these killings, Captain?"

"Yes, he was."

"And what was his sentence?"

Dobey was clearly angry. "He was sent to Caballo Point Psychiatric Hospital for an undetermined amount of time."

"In other words, the court found him to be incompetent to stand trial?"

"Yes," Dobey snapped.

"Nothing further, your honor."

Next, Johnson called Mrs. Rachman, who talked about how valuable Terry was to the school for exceptional children, how she was personally responsible for Sally's great improvement and how she had started the intramural basketball league that had done so much for the children's social and physical health.

Getty followed and repeated many of the same things. Olin refused to cross-examine either of them, and questioned the purpose of their testimony. Johnson retorted that he was showing that Prudholm could not possibly have known or had any reason to harm Terry.

Then it was time for the home movies of Terry and the kids.

Starsky paled visibly as the projector was brought out.

Hutch unobtrusively slid a hand under his arm and held on tight.

The movies showed Terry teaching, playing with the kids, patiently working over and over to get one small boy to learn to write his name...and some footage of one of the basketball games, which included shots of Starsky and Hutch playing with the children.

Hutch glanced anxiously at Starsky several times and Starsky remained composed, though the pallor of his face was alarming. By the time the basketball game footage was playing, there were tears standing in Starsky's eyes, though he managed not to let any of them fall. Hutch struggled to remain as composed as his partner was. If Starsky could do it, so could he.

The next witness was Dr. Quo.

"You are a neurosurgeon at Memorial Hospital, is that correct?" Johnson asked.

"Yes, it is," she answered.

"And you were Miss Roberts' doctor after she was shot?"

"Yes, I was."

"Please describe her injuries."

With a sympathetic look at Starsky, Dr. Quo said, "She suffered a bullet wound to the upper left quadrant of her brain. The bullet lodged in the frontal lobe in such a way that surgery would have meant certain death. Our only option was to leave the bullet in place, with the risk that if it moved, she would die. Her prognosis for survival was grim at best. If she had remained immobile, she might have survived for several months to a year. By getting up and moving around, she ran the risk of hastening her death. In any case, she couldn't have survived more than a year."

"Did she understand the risk of moving around?"

"Yes, she did. I explained it to her myself. We also sought a second opinion from one of the leading neurosurgeons in the country, a colleague of mine in New York City. He concurred with my opinion, and Terry was aware of his findings."

"How is it that this injury did not immediately kill Miss Roberts? Could that have been deliberate?"

"Objection!" Olin rose.

"I'll strike the second question, your honor," Johnson said. "Please answer only the first question, doctor."

"The bullet turned as it entered her brain," Dr. Quo said. "If it had gone straight in, it would have killed her instantly."

"Dr. Quo," Olin said in his cross-examination, "couldn't we say that Miss Roberts is in some way responsible for her own death? If she had taken your advice to remain immobile she would have lived longer?"

"Objection!" Johnson said. "Miss Roberts did not shoot herself. It was the bullet that killed her, not her own actions."

The judge considered, and Starsky, who had clenched his fists at Olin's question, visibly took himself under control. "I'll allow it," Greanias said at last. "But only if you rephrase the question, counselor."

Olin frowned, but nodded. "If Miss Roberts had taken your advice, would her life have reasonably been longer?"

Dr. Quo shook her head. "The bullet could have moved at any time," she said. "Remaining immobile would not necessarily have changed the ultimate outcome. Simply turning over in bed, or sneezing, could have caused it to move. And the slightest movement would be enough to kill her."

Hutch glanced at Starsky. That settled one question that he knew had eaten at Starsky ever since Terry's death. She had refused to remain in bed because she wanted to spend as much time as possible with him. He had, in a way, blamed himself that she hadn't stayed in the hospital. But Dr. Quo seemed quite definite. It wouldn't have mattered that much.

Johnson questioned the doctor on redirect once more before dismissing her. "How did Miss Roberts handle her condition, doctor?"

Dr. Quo smiled very gently. "Terry was a very strong young woman. She never shed a tear while I told her about her condition. And she made me promise to break it gently to David. That was the one thing she said she couldn't do herself."

Starsky swallowed hard.

"How did David react when you told him about Terry's condition?" Johnson asked.

"I had to tell him twice," Dr. Quo said. "He was quite naturally stunned and upset. It was as if he couldn't quite take it in." She glanced at Starsky again. "When it did sink in, he cried."

A tear slid out of Starsky's eye and started to fall, but he brushed it away hurriedly and composed himself again. Johnson also glanced at him. "How long was it after the shooting before her death?"

"About three weeks," Dr. Quo said.

"So for three weeks Miss Roberts, Sergeant Starsky and everyone who knew them had to live with the constant knowledge that she could die at any time?"

Dr. Quo nodded. "That is correct."

"Could you tell us about her death, doctor?"

Starsky reached over and grasped Hutch's hand in an almost-painful grip, but his eyes did not leave Dr. Quo's face and his expression didn't change.

"She lost her sight temporarily," Dr. Quo said. "That was the first sign that the end was near. David brought her to the hospital, and she slipped into unconsciousness for about three hours. At that point, it was quite possible that she would never awaken. She did, however, and her sight came and went after that. The bullet, you see, had moved so that it pressed against the optic nerve."

When she didn't continue, Johnson gently prodded her to go on.

Dr. Quo drew a breath. "She was very weak by then, but also insistent that I allow David to see her. I prepared him as best as I could, and he went into her room. About 20 minutes later, his partner arrived. About five minutes after that, David came out of her room and told us she was dead."

"Do you remember his exact words, doctor?"

She nodded and cast another glance at Starsky. "He said, 'Hutch, she's gone.'"

The judge called for a brief recess then, and the courtroom emptied. Starsky remained where he was until everyone else was gone, and Johnson turned to him.

"You're next, Sergeant."

Starsky nodded.

"You're doing fine so far," Johnson added, his voice softening. "I know this is hard for you. I'm going to have to ask you some painful questions. Are you sure you're up to it?"

He nodded again. "I'll be okay."

He didn't look "okay" to Hutch. As Johnson turned back to the table to go over his notes, Hutch nudged his partner. "Come on, buddy. Let's find you something to drink and stretch our legs a bit."

Starsky rose and followed him, right into a crowd of reporters with cameras and tape recorders, all shouting questions at him. The din was deafening.

But Hutch wrapped his arm around his partner and forced his way through the group, shouting, "No comment!" until he got Starsky past them and into the witnesses' room. Starsky sank into a chair, ashen-faced.

"I forgot about the reporters," he said bleakly.

"Me, too, buddy. I'm sorry. I'm gonna call Dobey and tell him we need some guards down here."

But Starsky shook his head. "No, don't. They're just doin' their jobs, Hutch. It ain't their fault."

Hutch regarded him soberly for a moment and finally nodded. "Okay. What do you want? Coke?"

"I don't know if I'd better drink anything at all."

"You have to, buddy. We've been in there for hours and you've got to testify next. I'll get you 7-Up." Hutch left and found a soda machine down the hall. He came back with a can of 7-Up and handed it to his partner.

Starsky looked at it without enthusiasm but took a couple of small sips. "I hate 7-Up," he said, with just a shadow of a grin.

Hutch smiled back. "Better for you than Coke, buddy. You don't need the caffeine." He picked up Starsky's left arm and looked at his watch. "It's almost time." He reached over to open the door.

"Hutch?"

"Yeah?" Hutch turned, his hand still on the knob.

"Stay where I can see ya, huh?"

Hutch nodded. "You know I will."

The courtroom was filling back up when they went in and took their seats. Johnson leaned over the barrier. "Sergeant, will you be able to maintain your composure?"

"Yes," Starsky said with that grim determination Hutch recognized.

Johnson studied him for a moment and seemed satisfied. "I know it sounds awful, but grave dignity tends to impress a jury more than outright emotion. I need for you to project that if you can."

"I can."

"Sure you're okay, buddy?" Hutch whispered before the judge came back.

Starsky patted his arm. "Yeah. The worst part is over, believe it or not. Dr. Quo, I mean. If I made it through that, I can handle this."

"Your honor, I call Sergeant David Starsky to the stand."

Starsky didn't have to "project" grave dignity. His own determination to maintain his composure, coupled with the strain of the last few days, did that for him. He put his hand on the Bible, took the oath, and sat down.

"Sergeant, I understand that you and your partner have dealt with Mr. Prudholm before."

"Objection! We can't drag my client's entire history out here!" Olin was definitely red around the ears.

"Your client's history, Mr. Olin, is what led to Miss Roberts' death," Greanias said. "Objection overruled. But counselor," he added to Johnson, "only the portions of the defendant's past that directly pertain to this case."

"Yes, your honor." Johnson turned back to Starsky. "When was the first time you and your partner encountered Mr. Prudholm?"

"We arrested his son," Starsky said. "And while Gary – that was his son – was in lockup, waiting for trial, he got stabbed in a prison fight and died. Then, about four years ago, Sergeant Hutchinson and I were involved in a shootout with a couple of armed robbery suspects and I shot and killed one of them, a 16-year-old boy named Lonnie Craig. Prudholm killed two of my fellow officers – men I didn't even know – in retaliation..."

"Objection!" Olin rose again.

"This does have direct pertinence to this case, your honor," Johnson said.

"Overruled."

"Continue, Sergeant."

"Prudholm told me himself that he killed the officers to get back at me for Lonnie's death," Starsky said with absolute calm. Only Hutch knew what that composure was costing him. "And he also told me that his intention was to kill my partner to punish me for Lonnie's death. Lonnie reminded him of Gary. He tried to kill my partner with a rigged shotgun after...he shot Terry."

"What effect did this vendetta have on you, Officer?"

"Objection! Pejorative language!"

"Sustained. Rephrase, Mr. Johnson."

"Certainly, your honor. What effect did these events have on you, Officer?"

"I considered resigning," Starsky said slowly. "My captain and my partner wouldn't hear of it. I felt responsible – even though I wasn't – for the deaths of the other officers. And I was treated like a pariah by many of the other officers in the department, who blamed me for the situation."

"Let the record show," Johnson said, going back to his table for a file, "that Mr. Prudholm was sent to Caballo Point State Psychiatric Hospital for treatment. After 14 months of treatment, he was sent to San Quentin. He escaped due to a clerical error and it is while he was free that Miss Roberts was shot." He slapped the folder down on the table and turned back to Starsky. "Please tell the court about the events leading up to Miss Roberts' death."

This would be the real test of Starsky's composure. Hutch clenched his hands together in his lap and kept his eyes on Starsky.

Starsky wet his lips and his eyes flicked to Hutch momentarily before he answered. "My partner and I work the inner city. There had been a string of liquor store robberies, so close together that we were barely able to keep up with the reports, much less make any headway with the investigation. The robberies all had the same method and several of the witness descriptions matched up, so we were convinced it was the same perpetrators in all the cases. Then – " He stopped. Hutch could see the effort Starsky was making. After a moment, he went on, "Then Terry was shot in one of those robberies. And as you heard earlier, she was shot deliberately in that robbery and Prudholm didn't even remember to take the money until his partner reminded him. But he left a thumbprint on the cash register and that was the evidence we needed to charge him."

Hutch shifted in his seat, knowing the worst part of Starsky's testimony was still to come. Come on, partner. Hang in there.

"The defendant and his partner also attacked a friend of mine. He told us he thought the attacker was George Prudholm and he had told him it wasn't healthy to be friends with me and my partner."

Olin jumped to his feet. "Objection, hearsay, move to strike."

The judge nodded. "Sustained. Sergeant, please limit your testimony to your own experiences and do not relay the conversations of others that were held outside your presence."

"Yes, your honor." Starsky looked at Johnson apologetically, but the D.A. was pleased. The jury heard it, even if the testimony was stricken. He would get the same information by putting Huggy Bear on the stand later in the trial.

Starsky paused to take a sip of water from a cup the D.A. had filled and placed there just before he took the stand. He shot Johnson a grateful look. Hutch watched his hand and noticed it shook a little when he picked up the glass.

Johnson continued, "Sergeant, did you help Terry make the decision to leave the hospital?"

Hutch winced at that question. He knew his partner was sensitive about that, but Starsky continued calmly. "No, Terry wanted to make that decision on her own, I just supported her in it."

"After she left the hospital, was Terry able to live her life fairly normally?"

"Yes, up until the last day. She wasn't able to do anything strenuous, but she chose to work and live her life like nothing was wrong. That's what she wanted."

"What did the defendant do after she died?"

Olin was on his feet again, "Objection, relevance!"

Johnson replied, "This testimony corroborates the witness' contention that the defendant's actions during this time were all part of a personal vendetta against him, including the shooting of his fianceé."

The judge considered for a moment. Hutch noticed Starsky was looking a little pale, but he seemed to be all right.

"I'll allow it, you may answer the question, Sergeant."

"The defendant took two women hostage in a warehouse and demanded I come or he would kill them."

"Were you worried about your own safety?"

"Yes, I thought he planned to blow my head off when I got there. I just wanted to get the hostages out of there so no one else would be hurt because of me."

"Did you successfully resolve the situation?"

Starsky shifted in his seat. "Yes, my partner and I got the hostages out of there and re-arrested Prudholm."

"Thank you, Sergeant Starsky. I know this is not easy for you. The prosecution is done with this witness at this time but we reserve the right to recall him for rebuttal if necessary."

"So noted. Mr. Olin, your witness."

Hutch watched tensely as Johnson sat back down and whispered something to his colleague from the D.A.'s office. She scribbled some notes on a legal pad. Olin let Starsky squirm on the stand for extra moments while he slowly stood and made his way in front of the witness box. Starsky took another sip of water while he waited. This was the part Hutch dreaded the most and he could see his partner struggle to maintain control. When Starsky looked up at him briefly, Hutch could tell he was somewhere else. To him, Starsky looked like he had removed himself from the past concentrating only on this moment in time.

The defense attorney attempted to appear concerned for Starsky. "Are you all right to continue, Sergeant?"

"I'm fine."

"We could ask for a recess?"

Hutch could see Starsky was getting angry. He tensed; hoping it would be the cold, cop anger that Starsky was capable of when necessary. Starsky could be intimidating in that mode. If he could hold onto that, he would be fine.

"I said I'm fine, counselor." Hutch nodded at him slightly. Hold onto that, Gordo.

"Sergeant Starsky, did you try to talk your fianceé out of leaving the hospital?"

"No. She had a right to make up her own mind."

"Do you think maybe if you had talked her out of it, she would have lived longer?"

"The outcome would have been the same. She'd still be dead." Hutch hoped his buddy wouldn't have to say that too many more times.

Olin swallowed and pulled on the knot of his tie. "Very well. Sergeant, are you aware that your police record shows you have killed 17 people during your service to the people of Bay City?"

"Objection!" Johnson shouted. "What possible relevance could that have here?"

Hutch watched the emotions play out on Starsky's face as only he would notice them, shock, hurt, sadness, disbelief, and finally anger. His eyes flashed with it. He sat on the stand and watched the interchange between the lawyers and the judge. Sitting on the stand with everyone watching while three people talked about him as if he were not present never sat well with Starsky. He was used to it from the many court appearances he had made throughout his career.

"Your honor, I'd like to establish this police officer's record of aggressive behavior as a mitigating factor to my client's obsession with him."

"That's ludicrous, your honor. This man is a police officer. No matter how many criminals he has killed, that doesn't excuse the defendant from the cold-blooded murder of an innocent young woman."

"I'll allow it."

"Sidebar, your honor."

"Approach the bench."

The look Starsky gave Hutch told him how much he wanted this to be over so he could stop being the center of attention. His grief and pain over Terry was palpable, but he was keeping everything in check. Hutch smiled at him a little and gave him a look back that said, "Hang in there. I'm proud of you, buddy." He did his best to tune out the bickering attorneys standing practically in front of him.

"Your honor," Johnson started, "Mr. Olin is trying to impugn this witness' character. The number of people he has killed in the line of duty has nothing to do with this case."

"I disagree, your honor. I have witnesses to call who will confirm that this officer's aggressive tactics drove my client to madness. I am just trying to establish his behavior as a pattern."

The judge looked from one attorney to the other, then over at Starsky. He was looking out at his partner and wouldn't make eye contact with the judge.

"Step back, gentlemen."

"I'm going to allow it, but be careful, Mr. Olin. This witness is a decorated officer with long and outstanding service to the people of this community. You are skating on thin ice and you'd better show some relevance to this line of questioning or I'll hold you in contempt."

"Yes, your honor. Do you need me to restate the question, officer?"

"No, I heard you. Yes, I did know."

"Does that number seem unusually high to you?"

"My partner and I work the inner city, counselor. I've been a cop for a long time. I would like it to be lower, but it is what it is. No, the number doesn't seem high."

Olin walked back to the defense table and retrieved a document.

"Your honor, I would like to enter this list as Defense Exhibit A and I would like it read into the record. This is a list of the names of the people this witness has killed."

"Objection!" Johnson was angry now. Starsky's jaw clenched tighter and he sat back in the chair, trying to maintain his composure while the attorneys fought over the list.

"Objection sustained. Mr. Olin, you are out of line. This line of questioning is over and the jury will disregard the testimony in this matter."

Hutch was seething. He clenched and unclenched his fists and looked at his partner, making sure he was all right. Starsky looked about as angry as he had ever seen him and he was completely still. This was not a normal state of being for Starsky and Hutch was concerned about what this entire ordeal was doing to his friend.

"But your honor . . ." Olin started.

The judge looked at him coolly and said, "Mr. Olin, one more word and you are in contempt. Move on now."

Olin looked disappointed as he returned the list to his brief case. Hutch watched him cautiously; certain he was not done tormenting Starsky.

"Sergeant, didn't you shoot my client in the old city zoo several years ago?"

"Yes, he was trying to blow my head off with a shotgun."

"Is it true that after you had him in your custody you tried to kill him?"

Starsky's eyes were dark with anger. His voice was tightly controlled, "No. If I had tried to kill him, he'd be dead."

"Isn't it true that you had your gun pointed at Mr. Prudholm's head and your partner prevented you from pulling the trigger?"

"I didn't try to kill him, but I did point my gun at him." Starsky glared at the defense attorney, obviously making him squirm. Then he looked over at Prudholm who was smiling that evil smile. Olin let Starsky's last remark hang in the air for a few moments, pretending he was considering the next question.

"Nothing further, your honor."

Starsky stood and stepped out of the witness box, staring Prudholm down as he passed back into the witness area of the courtroom.

"The State calls Sergeant Kenneth Hutchinson."

The two detectives touched arms briefly as they passed, each one giving the other a reassuring look of solidarity. As Hutch turned to be sworn in, he glanced toward Prudholm. Incredibly, the look of hatred the man was wearing seemed more intense toward Hutch than it had toward his partner.

"Sergeant Hutchinson, you and Sergeant Starsky have been partners for some time, isn't that correct?"

"Yes, many years." Hutch looked away from Prudholm and concentrated on Mark Johnson.

"Were you partners when Sergeant Starsky arrested Gary Prudholm?"

"Yes, that was our first undercover assignment. We were under in a high school trying to bust drug dealers."

"Was Gary Prudholm dealing drugs?"

"Yes, he was. My partner made the collar."

"Did either you or Sergeant Starsky harm Gary Prudholm?"

"No, it was a clean bust, easy. He didn't even resist arrest."

"Did Gary Prudholm have a previous record?"

"He had been arrested a number of times as a juvenile, but this was his first offense as an adult."

"Sergeant Starsky testified that Gary Prudholm was killed in jail within days of his arrest. Is that accurate?"

"Yes, I think it was less than two days."

"You and your partner had nothing to do with his death?"

Olin was on his feet. "Objection, your honor, relevance to this case?"

"I'm trying to establish that neither of these officers had any malice for Gary Prudholm, nor were they directly involved in his death."

"Overruled."

"Sergeant Hutchinson, did you or your partner have anything to do with his death?"

"No."

Johnson walked toward the jury, his back to Hutch for a moment, then he asked, "Did you know Terry Roberts?"

"Yes, she was a friend."

"By nature of her relationship with your partner?"

"Yes, at first, but then in her own right. Terry was a wonderful person and a good friend." Hutch looked at Starsky. He still had the fire of anger in his eyes, but they were bright and Hutch knew he would not be able to maintain his composure through this line of questioning if he didn't break eye contact.

"Your partner has described the events leading up to Terry's death. How did this situation affect the two of them?"

Hutch blinked back the tears that were starting to form in his eyes, then he drank some water too, stalling long enough to get a grip on his emotions. He kept telling himself that if Starsky could sit there and maintain control, he could too. He took a deep breath before answering.

"Terry was brave. She was frightened, but she kept living every day like she had before the shooting. My partner was devastated. We both were." He swallowed and took another breath before adding, "I loved her too."

Hutch knew he didn't dare look at Starsky, but he did look over at Prudholm. The hatred, anger, and pure evil on the man's face angered Hutch. The man had taken Starsky's future as a husband and probably a father away from him. Who knew if Starsky would ever meet another woman who could replace Terry? Hutch's anger helped him to focus and he put on his best, steely Nordic face.

"In your opinion, Sergeant, does your partner blame himself for the deaths of those two policemen and for Terry's death?"

"Objection!" Olin shouted. "This man can't speak for his partner in that way!"

The judge looked to Johnson for some plausible justification to allow the question.

"Your honor, this man and Sergeant Starsky have been partners for years. They know each other well and they spend a lot of time together. I think it is fair to state the Sergeant Hutchinson is an expert on the subject of his partner. I'd like the jury to hear the answer."

The judge thought about it, looking first at Hutch, then at Starsky. He could see the blond was purposely avoiding eye contact with his partner. He and Starsky had maintained that contact throughout much of Starsky's testimony and the judge could see the pain and grief on both men's faces. "I agree, Mr. Johnson, I'll allow it."

Hutch looked Prudholm in the eye when he answered. "Yes, I do. I think my partner carries that pain every day of his life."

"Thank you, Sergeant Hutchinson. I have no further questions at this time, but the State reserves the right to recall you as a rebuttal witness if necessary."

Johnson returned to the prosecution table, giving Starsky a reassuring glance before he sat down again. He was satisfied with Hutch's testimony.

Olin sat at the table for a moment, studying Hutch, before he rose and walked toward the witness box. "Sergeant," he said very conversationally, "you remarked a moment ago that you loved Miss Roberts, too. Are we to understand that was a romantic love? Were you involved with her sexually?"

Hutch stared at him, unable to find his voice for a moment. "Of-of course not!" he said at last. "She was engaged to my b-best friend!"

"I see," Olin said in a tone implying he didn't believe it for a moment. "So this 'love' you had for Miss Roberts was purely platonic? You loved her as a friend?"

Now Hutch was angry. "Yes, counselor, I believe I said that earlier."

"Were you at all jealous of her relationship with your partner?"

"Objection!" Johnson shot out of his chair. "Your honor, I fail to see the point of this line of questioning!"

"I agree. Sustained. Counselor, please confine yourself to the case."

"Your honor," Olin said, spreading his hands, "I am trying to establish this witness' character."

"This witness is not on trial here, counselor. Confine yourself to the case."

"Of course," Olin said. "Sergeant, how often do you draw your gun in the line of duty?"

Hutch wet his lips and took another sip of water. "A couple of times a week, I guess."

"And how often do you fire it?"

"Only when absolutely necessary."

"How often have you fired it in the last month?" Olin persisted.

Hutch glanced at Starsky. His partner was glaring at Olin's back as if he wanted to strangle him with his bare hands and Hutch tried to convey to him to stop it. Starsky's eyes drifted to Hutch and Hutch could see him consciously smooth his face. He looked back to Olin. "Twice," he said.

"Did you shoot a person?"

"No," Hutch said. "One shot was fired into the air as a warning. The second missed, deliberately."

"Sergeant, isn't it true that you and your partner are known for rather unorthodox methods?"

"We get results," Hutch said.

"I see," Olin said. "So you consistently ignore rules and procedure, but that's all right as long as you get results?"

"Objection!" Johnson was livid. "Your honor, this has no bearing on this case!"

"If my client believed that these two officers were reckless in their use of deadly force, your honor," Olin said, "it would help explain why he behaved as he did."

The judge considered that. "I'll allow it, with reservations, counselor."

"We do not 'ignore' procedure, counselor," Hutch said with icy calm.

Olin returned to his table and picked up a file. "I would like to place into evidence," he said, "these official records of Sergeants Starsky and Hutchinson. This," he added, "is a warrant issued for the arrest of Sergeant Hutchinson in the murder of his former wife, Vanessa Hutchinson, in 1978."

"I was exonerated," Hutch said in a level voice, though his heart was thudding in his chest.

"And these," Olin went on as though Hutch had not spoken, "are federal warrants issued for both Sergeant Starsky and Sergeant Hutchinson in 1977 for the murder of federally protected witness Joe Durniak."

"Objection!" Johnson was on his feet again. "Both those cases were extensively covered in the newspapers, your honor, and in both cases these two officers were framed by the real perpetrators."

"Counselor?" Greanias said to Olin. "Can you justify bringing this up?"

"I can, your honor. My point is that these two officers would not have been suspected if they had not proven themselves to be loose cannons."

"Loose cannons!" Hutch spluttered, but a look from Johnson made him choke back the rest.

Greanias considered and finally shook his head. "I concur with the prosecution, Mr. Olin. It has nothing to do with the case at hand."

Olin's face looked disappointed, but Hutch was close enough to see his eyes, and he saw a self-satisfied glitter there. Olin had made his point to the jury and was quite willing to abandon that line of questioning.

"Sergeant," Olin went on as if there had been no interruption, "have you ever lost a loved one to a criminal's actions?"

Hutch's heartbeat sped up another notch and he looked down. And did not answer immediately.

"Sergeant?" Olin repeated pleasantly. "Please answer the question."

"Yes," Hutch said very softly.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you. Please raise your voice."

"Yes!" Hutch said, and felt his eyes sting again. He took a deep breath and tried to control his face.

"And who was that?"

"My girlfriend."

"Yes, her name was Gillian Ingram, wasn't it? A prostitute and porn movie actress, murdered by her employer," Olin said. "How did her death affect you, Sergeant?"

"Objection! Relevance!" Johnson demanded.

"The relevance is the witness' sympathy with Sergeant Starsky's situation and his attitude toward my client as a result," Olin said.

"The defense is badgering the witness!" Johnson insisted.

"Approach the bench," Greanias said.

Both attorneys came to the bench and Greanias leaned forward. "We are trying Mr. Prudholm for murder," he said. "We are not trying either one of these officers. Their attitudes do not change the fact that a young woman is dead and would not be dead if someone had not fired a bullet into her brain. Our purpose here is to establish whether Mr. Prudholm did, in fact, fire that bullet into her brain and whether he is to be held responsible for that act. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Olin?"

"Yes, your honor."

"Can you convince me that Sergeant Hutchinson's loss is material to this trial?"

"Yes, your honor," Olin said. "A pattern of recklessness and unorthodoxy in the course of their work contributed to the breakdown of my client's mental health to the point that he is not responsible for his actions in the death of Miss Roberts."

Greanias nodded. "All right. But keep it relevant, understand?"

"Yes, your honor." Olin gave Johnson a sidelong look and turned back to Hutch. "Sergeant, please describe the scene the day Lonnie Craig died."

Hutch forced himself to stay calm. He knew quite well why Olin had left the question of Gillian where he had. The jury would remember that Hutch's girlfriend had been a prostitute, but would not know that he hadn't been aware of that fact. It made him look dirty.

There was nothing he could do about it now. "My partner and I answered a call to assist at a robbery. When we arrived, uniformed officers were already on the scene. Shots were fired and the two suspects ran. My partner was ahead of me, and pursued them into the alley. One suspect got away, and as my partner came around the corner, he fired a warning shot and ordered the second suspect, Lonnie Craig, to stop. Lonnie turned and started to bring his gun down into firing position and my partner, knowing there were innocent bystanders behind him, shot him."

"And Lonnie died?"

Hutch nodded. "Yes."

"How old was Lonnie Craig, Sergeant?"

"16."

"Did you partner realize this at the time?"

"No, he did not!"

"What was your partner's reaction to the knowledge that he had killed a 16-year-old boy?"

Hutch gave Starsky an apologetic look. "He was understandably upset. No police officer enjoys using deadly force, counselor. But in this case, my partner had no choice. Lonnie was going to shoot. He might have killed my partner or one of the people behind him. Starsky had no choice but to shoot."

"Did he have to shoot to kill?" Olin inquired.

"We are trained to shoot to kill if our lives or the lives of innocent people are in danger, Mr. Olin. Starsky believed his life and the lives of those innocent people were in danger. He reacted according to his training. He was exonerated for it."

"Yes, he was," Olin said, turning as if to rest his hand on the witness box, but the movement made him face the jury. "It seems you and your partner often find yourselves in the position of having to be 'exonerated' for your actions, Sergeant."

"Objection!" Johnson all but shouted.

"Nothing further, your honor." Olin went back to his seat.

Greanias glared after him. "This court will recess until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning."

The detectives pushed past the throng of reporters and cameras on their way out to the car, putting their hands up in front of their faces and muttering a string of "no comment" statements. After the emotional wringer they had just been through, neither one of them wanted to face the blaring lights or obnoxious questions.

Starsky pulled out of the courthouse parking lot with a squeal of rubber without even being sure where he was going. He drove in silence for several miles, his hands clutching the steering wheel, making his knuckles white. Hutch looked over at him every few minutes, concerned about the rage his partner was holding. When Starsky turned the Torino onto the streets headed for the beach, he knew where they were going and he held his silence.

The car stopped along the boardwalk. Starsky took off his tie with shaking hands, and then his jacket, throwing them in the back seat. Then, without a word to Hutch he shut the door and took off running down the boardwalk. Hutch wasn't ready for that. Starsky had worn his Adidas to court, but Hutch was in dress shoes. Even though his legs were longer, when Starsky had a head of steam up, Hutch didn't stand a chance of being able to catch him until he wound down on his own. Instead, he sat in the car and composed himself, allowing the tears he had kept in check at the trial to flow. Starsky had been gone about ten minutes when the radio signaled.

"Zebra 3 from Control, come in please."

Hutch took a deep breath before answering. "This is Zebra 3, go ahead."

"Patch through from Captain Dobey."

He waited a few seconds, then heard the concerned voice come through the speaker. "Hutch, how's he doing?"

"He's hurting, Cap." That was an understatement.

"You keep an eye on him and call me if you need anything."

"Roger that, Cap." Hutch hung up the mike. He would wait a few more minutes before starting out in the direction Starsky had taken. An hour later he spotted his partner sitting on a swing in the sand, watching the setting sun.

Hutch walked out onto the sand and took a seat in the swing next to Starsky's. He could see his friend had been crying and now he was shivering from the cool late afternoon breeze.

Hutch sat quietly for a few minutes, then said, "I'm sorry, partner."

Starsky didn't respond and they both stared out at the beautiful colors in the sky. After a few minutes, Starsky said, "You know, Hutch, I was just sittin' here thinking about all the sunsets Terry won't ever see and how that scum Prudholm is still walking around alive."

"I know. We're gonna get him though, Gordo. All that crap the lawyer pulled today doesn't mean a thing. Won't do him any good, he's goin' down this time."

Starsky sighed deeply. "You ever think about it, Hutch? How many people we've killed?"

Hutch knew that was going to weigh heavily on his friend's conscience. "Buddy, I think if we spend too much time thinking about that kind of thing it might not be possible to stay on the job. We do what we have to do. You know that."

The dark-haired man was pensive. After a few more minutes he said, "You were right, Hutch."

"Right about what, buddy?"

Starsky swallowed hard, blinking back more tears. "I do still blame myself. I do, 'cause it's my fault."

"No it isn't, Starsk." This wasn't the first time they had gone over this subject. Hutch knew the best he could ever hope for was that Starsky might put it out of his mind for a while. He knew his best friend would never really forgive himself for Terry's death, or the deaths of those two policemen.

"Hutch?" Starsky's voice sounded far away.

"Yeah?"

"Why do defense lawyers do it? Can that guy really think it's good what he's doin'? Tryin' to make us look bad and save that creep from the gas chamber?"

Hutch had no answer for that. Starsky wasn't finished. "I'm sorry, Hutch. Sorry you had to go through that. The stuff he asked you today, Gillian, and about your relationship with Terry. That was just wrong. I'm sorry you had to be a witness."

"I'll get over it, Starsk."

"You know the judge didn't dismiss you. You've got to be back up there again first thing tomorrow."

Hutch hadn't thought of that. "Well, at least that jerk Olin is done with me. Any other questions will be rebuttal ones from our guy. Piece of cake."

They sat that way until the sun slowly slid beneath the waves.

"You ready to go back, partner?" Hutch asked.

Starsky nodded. "Yep, I'm freezin' now. Let's go over to Huggy's and catch him up on the trial. Maybe he's got some chili going tonight."

The walk back to the car was long and punctuated by strained silence. They were both too tired to talk about it anymore and they were preparing themselves for Huggy's. He would want all the details.

~*~*~*~

The two men were back in the courtroom the following morning. Both of them were grateful that Hutch's part would soon be over and they could sit back and watch the rest of the trial having surpassed the hurdle of their individual testimonies. The D.A. recalled Hutch to the stand for redirect.

"I remind you, Sergeant Hutchinson, you are still under oath."

Hutch nodded that he understood.

"Sergeant, you were asked about Gillian Ingram yesterday. Is it true that she was a prostitute?"

"Yes." Hutch already disliked the direction this was taking.

"Did you know what she did for a living when you were dating her?"

A little flash of relief crept into Hutch's eyes. Johnson was giving him a chance to recover from this situation in the eyes of the jury.

"No. She told me she was a writer."

"When did you find out about it?"

"After she was dead."

"Tell me about how you found out what she did for a living."

"Objection! What difference does that make, your honor?" Olin asked.

"You opened this line of questioning, Mr. Olin, and I'm allowing it. Please answer the question, Sergeant."

"Yes, sir. My partner told me. He had just found out that day and was giving Gillian a chance to tell me herself. She was killed before she could tell me."

"Thank you, Sergeant."

He paced back to the table and withdrew a stack of papers from his briefcase.

"Did you know that the defendant has been writing letters to you threatening your life since his transfer back to San Quentin?"

Olin was on his feet instantly. "I object! Move to suppress those letters."

Hutch looked stunned. He found Starsky's eyes and received the message that his partner was also unaware of any threatening letters.

Suddenly, Starsky's danger sense was on full alert. The idea that crazy George Prudholm still harbored fantasies of hurting Hutch unnerved him.

Greanias looked at both attorneys and called them up to the bench. "Gentlemen?"

Olin looked furious. "Your honor, these letters were not disclosed to me."

Johnson responded that he had just been made aware of them the previous evening when they were delivered from the prison. He asked the judge to admit them into evidence and refuse the defense attorney's motion to suppress.

"Step back, gentlemen."

Hutch sat on the stand, quietly waiting for what he should do next. The judge turned to address the jury. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm going to ask you to step outside for a few moments while I hear the Motion to Suppress. Please do not discuss the case at this time."

The jury having received its instructions, the bailiff approached them to escort the group into a waiting room. The bailiff was a heavyset, sixty-year-old man who had been in court service for many years. He didn't react fast enough to what happened next.

The bailiff was standing next to the defense table with his back to Prudholm. Before anyone knew what was happening, Prudholm jumped to his feet and grabbed the bailiff's gun right out of its holster. Starsky saw it happening and he yelled for Hutch to get down, but it was too late. Hutch was just starting to move when Prudholm swung the gun up, aimed, and fired at the unprepared detective before the other guard accompanying Prudholm could tackle him and wrestle the gun out of his grasp.

Starsky watched in horror as Hutch grabbed the side of his head and crumpled to the floor of the witness box. He vaulted over the barrier in front of the witness gallery, calling his partner's name and hearing Prudholm's rantings in the background. As he was manhandled out of the courtroom, Prudholm was hurling obscenities at Starsky and yelling about how he'd finally gotten Hutch.

Hutch lay unconscious, blood running through the fingers he held up to his temple. Starsky was terrified.

"Hutch? Oh, God.  Hutch?" He knelt beside Hutch; afraid of what he would see when he moved his partner's hand away from the wound. His heart was racing, remembering how Terry had looked lying on the stretcher in the liquor store with a bullet hole in her forehead. He heard someone yell for an ambulance over the pandemonium in the courtroom.

When he moved Hutch's hand, he was relieved to see the bullet had not gone into his head, but had clipped him in the temple and was now lodged in the wall behind the witness box. Starsky was still scared. The wound was bleeding profusely and Hutch was unconscious, but he didn't have a bullet in his brain. This wasn't going to be like Terry.

Starsky pulled Hutch's head onto his lap and ran his fingers through his blood-matted hair. "I'm here, Hutch. Paramedics will be here soon. Don't go away now, you're gonna be fine." He sat like that with Hutch, not caring that his clothes were being soaked with his partner's blood, until the paramedics came and made him let them take Hutch away.

That bastard! That slime!   Starsky paced in the emergency waiting area, fuming, terrified, his heart pounding and his hands sweaty and his light tan dress pants stiffening with Hutch's blood. It had been over two hours and there was still no word about Hutch.

Huggy sat on a bench a few feet away, nursing a cold cup of coffee and watching the swinging doors, but Starsky couldn't sit still. Dobey was still at the jail, pressing further charges against Prudholm, but what good would that do? If he copped insanity for Terry again, he'd get off for hurting Hutch, too....

"David?"

Starsky froze and turned. It was Dr. Quo and he remembered that tone of voice all too well. His heart stopped thudding. It might have stopped altogether.

"I've seen your partner," she said, coming closer.

"How is he?"

She reached out and took his hand. "He's going to be fine."

"Thank God," Huggy said fervently, but Starsky's eyes overflowed for a moment before he could control the tears and he couldn't speak.

"We're keeping him overnight," Dr. Quo went on. "He lost a lot of blood and we're giving him a transfusion. We also want to make sure there are no after-effects."

"After-effects?"

"A concussion, or convulsions from the trauma to his brain," she said gently.

"What do you mean?"

Hearing Starsky's panicked tone of voice, Dr. Quo squeezed his hand. "Nothing lasting, David. But the shock, the impact as the bullet struck, could have caused the same kind of injury as if he'd hit his head. It's nothing to worry about, I promise. You can pick him up in the morning, and I'll want him to be quiet for a couple of days."

"I wanna see him."

"Of course."

Starsky entered the room slowly, Huggy behind him. Hutch's room was darkened, with only a small light over the bed. He had a white bandage wound around his head, and his eyes were closed. An IV with a bag of blood on it stood next to the bed, with a tube running down to his left arm. Starsky crept over to the bed, while Huggy hung back, and reached down to touch Hutch's hand.

Hutch opened his eyes. He was groggy, but he recognized his partner.

"How ya doin', Hutch?"

"I've got one hell of a headache," Hutch said, and tried to smile. The lost, haunted look on Starsky's face almost broke his heart. "Other than that, I'm fine." Starsky smiled back. It was a little forced, but he hoped in the dimness Hutch wouldn't be able to tell. "You gotta spend the night here. Dr. Quo likes your face."

Hutch gave a little snort of laughter. "The lady has taste."

"I'll be back for ya in the morning and then you get to be lazy for a couple of days," Starsky said. "Your place or mine?"

"Mine," Hutch said. He noticed Huggy standing near the door. "And maybe Hug'd be willing to bring me one of Angie's vegetarian omelettes."

Starsky made a face, but Huggy grinned. "You bet, Blondie. It'll be waitin' when you get there tomorrow."

~*~*~*~

The next morning, the whole side of Hutch's face was bruised and his left eye was black, but his headache had eased, and Dr. Quo prescribed some painkillers to keep it away. Starsky fussed over him, held onto his arm as he loaded him into the car, insisted on helping him walk up the stairs to Venice Place, and bedded him down on the couch with an afghan and a pillow for both his head and his feet. Huggy had left the omelette, as promised, and Starsky warmed it up and brought it to him with a cup of coffee, then sat down on the coffee table to watch him eat it.

Hutch stood it as long as he could, but finally had to say, "Starsk, buddy, I appreciate the nursemaid routine, but I'm okay. Really."

Starsky didn't speak right away, but he dropped his eyes and Hutch saw the movement as he drew and let out a very deep breath.

"Starsk?"

"I was so scared," Starsky said in a low voice, as if he was picking up an earlier conversation that had been interrupted. "When I saw you layin' there, with blood all over ya, in your hair and on your face, I –"

"Hey," Hutch sat up and put the plate aside. "I understand, but look. I'm fine."

"It's my fault. Again," Starsky said.

"No, it's not!" Hutch instantly regretted raising his voice. It made his head throb. But he didn't let on. "Starsky, that's just nuts. It's not your fault. Prudholm has wanted to kill us both for years. He's never succeeded yet. And it is not," he reached out and laid a hand on his partner's, "your fault!"

"Why's he keep doing this, Hutch?" Starsky asked plaintively. "I don't get it."

"He's evil, I keep telling you." Hutch didn't have the strength to sit up any longer. He lay back down and squashed the moan that almost escaped.

But Starsky knew. He always knew. "Ah, buddy, I'm sorry. You finish your omelette and try to get some sleep, huh? I know you don't sleep good in hospitals."

"I am kind of tired," Hutch admitted.

Hutch was still sleeping a couple of hours later when the phone rang. Starsky pounced on the bedroom extension before it could wake Hutch. It was Johnson.

"How is he?"

"Sleeping. He'll be okay."

"Will he be able to be in court Monday?"

"Does he have to be?" Starsky leaned out so he could check on Hutch. Still sleeping.

"I'd like for both of you to be there."

"Still usin' us for effect?" Starsky asked, unable to keep the note of bitterness out of his voice.

"Sergeant," Johnson gave a sigh and gentled his voice. "I know how you feel. Or at least, I'm trying to understand. But you need to understand, too, that if we want to put this guy away, we have to put on a good show for the jury. We have to convince them he's not crazy. And frankly, Sergeant, the sight of your partner, wounded by this man but still brave enough to sit in the same courtroom with him, will go a long way toward engendering sympathy for you and him and antagonism toward Prudholm."

"My partner and I are not chess pieces!" Starsky hissed, trying to keep his voice down. "And that worthless bastard Prudholm damn near killed him in a courtroom full of people yesterday! What kind of a circus are you running here, Johnson?"

"That was completely unforeseen," Johnson said.

"Why the hell wasn't he shackled?" Starsky demanded.

"I don't know," Johnson said. "You can rest assured he will be for the rest of the trial."

"I should hope so!"

~*~*~*~

There was a great deal of murmuring among the spectators when Starsky and Hutch entered the courtroom on Monday morning. Hutch was pale, and the angry bruise around his left eye was worse than ever, but some of the swelling had gone down. Starsky's arm was around his partner and he helped him to his seat behind the prosecution's table before he seated himself.

When Prudholm was brought in, he was shackled hand and foot, and the deputy who was guarding him stood right behind him, with one hand on his gun. Starsky couldn't help giving Prudholm a look of hatred, but he managed to smooth his face when Hutch put a hand on his arm and whispered, "Choke it down, partner."

The first thing the defense did when court reconvened was file a motion for a mistrial. Instantly, Starsky was enraged. Hutch looked at him with concern, knowing how much this trial had already cost them both. Going through it again might be too much for his partner.

Olin had prepared his statement. "Your honor, in light of what happened here on Friday," he said as he turned to indicate the wounded blond detective sitting in the witness gallery, "the defense believes that the jury will no longer be able to be impartial in this case."

Johnson was ready for him. "Your honor, the people strenuously object. The state and the witnesses in this matter have been through enough. I request that this motion be denied."

The judge sat and considered the motion. He decided to poll the jury. "Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I will ask each one of you to stand and state for the record if you believe you can remain impartial in the matter before you. Mr. Foreman, please begin."

The court sat breathless, watching as the jurors stood and declared their ability to be impartial one after the other. All twelve jurors and the three alternates responded that they could be impartial.

The judge faced the attorneys. "I am not about to reward this man for his behavior of the other day by granting him a mistrial. The jurors have stated under oath that they can still judge this case on its merits, regardless of the shooting here on Friday. The motion is denied. I have also considered the matter of the threatening letters mentioned just before the defendant's attack on Sergeant Hutchinson. Does the defense still move to have them suppressed?"

"Yes, your honor."

"Please step into my chambers and I will hear your motion." The judge did not want to take the time to file the jury out again and then return them to the courtroom.

While they were out of the room, Starsky noticed all eyes seemed to be on him and Hutch. He felt uncomfortable and he could see how Hutch felt about it. "You doin' okay?"

"I'm all right, Starsk." Hutch's head was pounding and he wished he could have taken one of the pain pills Dr. Quo had prescribed. Technically, he had not been excused from the stand so he decided not to take anything in case he was called back up there. Starsky patted his pocket and Hutch heard something rattle. "You hang in there, partner. Soon as you're excused and we get to take a recess, I've got your pain pills right here." Hutch smiled at him and nodded his thanks. His partner didn't miss much.

Within a few minutes, the judge and the attorneys returned to the court. Olin looked disappointed and the two detectives smiled at each other.

"The motion to suppress the threatening letters is denied."

The judge looked at Hutch. "Sergeant Hutchinson, you are still on the stand. Are you able to testify?"

"Yes, your honor."

Starsky watched him stand and walk slowly back to the witness stand. Hutch looked terrible and it gave Starsky no pleasure to know that Johnson was getting exactly what he wanted – Hutch on the stand, wounded and on display.

Johnson played it up as much as he could. "Sergeant Hutchinson, you are still under oath. Are you sure you feel up to this?"

Starsky rolled his eyes. Twelve pairs of eyes in the jury box were trained on Hutch's face. Starsky could see them looking at his bruised partner and knew it would affect them.

"Yes, go ahead." Hutch sounded tired and his voice was quiet.

"Were you aware that the defendant had been writing letters threatening your life?"

"No."

"These letters were addressed to Sergeant Starsky and they were held by the prison. They never notified you?"

Olin stood. "Objection, your honor, asked and answered. The witness did not know about them."

"Sustained."

"I will enter these letters into evidence as People's Exhibit A. I have nothing further for this witness. Sergeant Hutchinson, you may step down."

Hutch made his way back to his seat next to Starsky, who wished that his obvious pain and slow pace were just an act for the jury. He glared at Prudholm, who was looking satisfied that he had hurt Hutch, even if he didn't kill him.

Johnson's next witness was Huggy.

"Please tell the court about the incident where you were assaulted, Mr. Brown."

"I was with a female acquaintance," Huggy said, "when three men broke in and dragged me out of bed and beat me up. They told me I should choose my friends more carefully."

"Did you recognize any of the men?"

Huggy nodded. "Yeah. I wasn't supposed to. They were wearing masks. But I knew their voices. One of them was George Prudholm. The second one was Woody the Magic Man. I didn't know the third one."

"You're sure it was George Prudholm?"

"Yeah. I'm sure."

"Did they say anything else?"

"Prudholm said if I didn't quit hanging around with Starsky and Hutch, next time they'd kill me, just like they'd killed Terry."

"Was Terry alive or dead at this point?"

"She was still alive," Huggy said. "But I guess they didn't know that. Prudholm's exact words were, 'I'll come back and kill you like I killed Starsky's lady.'"

Starsky flinched at that.

"Your witness, Mr. Olin."

"How can you be so sure it was my client who assaulted you, Mr. Brown?"

"I knew his voice. I also recognized that tattoo on his arm."

Olin blanched a bit. The tattoo was old and faded and most people didn't notice it. "You were acquainted with my client, then?"

"Everybody on the streets knows Crazy George Prudholm," Huggy said coolly.

"Your honor! Move to strike!"

"You asked the question, Mr. Olin," Greanias said. "Overruled."

"Nothing further," Olin said sullenly.

Johnson called the psychiatrist from Caballo Point who had been treating Prudholm, and the doctor testified that Prudholm had often bragged to other patients about "getting over on the system" by convincing the evaluator he was crazy. Though he had convinced the psychiatrist who had been at Caballo Point when he was committed, when this doctor, Evan Duncan, had joined the staff, he had realized the man could be faking it and had reported that to the district attorney, who had called in an expert to do a new evaluation. That new evaluation had resulted in Prudholm's being found competent to stand trial.

Olin waived his cross-examination.

"Your next witness, Mr. Johnson?"

"The state calls Dr. Lloyd Hill."

Hill had written several books on criminal psychology. After Johnson had questioned him as to his credentials and it had been established that he was a specialist in the field, Hill testified that Prudholm was obsessive and antisocial, but he was not legally "insane."

"This man is calculating," Hill said. "He is fully aware of the implications of his actions and chooses to carry them out anyway."

"Did you administer any psychological tests, Doctor?" Johnson asked.

"I did. I administered a battery of widely accepted psychological tests, two weeks ago."

"Is it your professional opinion that Mr. Prudholm is competent to understand these proceedings and assist in his own defense?"

"It is."

"And is it your professional opinion that the defendant was not suffering from a mental illness at the time of Miss Roberts' shooting?"

"That is correct. Mr. Prudholm was and is fully cognizant of the nature, extent, and wrongfulness of the crime at the time he committed it. His judgment is poor, and he externalized the blame for his son's death, from the person who actually stabbed his son to Detective Starsky. And he chose an extremely aggressive way to express his own fear and grief. Since he couldn't tolerate the loss of his son, he chose to make someone else pay. This also demonstrates a very immature level of moral development."

"Thank you, Doctor. Your witness."

Olin's cross-examination was brief. "How long have you spent talking to my client, Doctor?"

"I held a two-hour interview with Mr. Prudholm after I had reviewed his case files, and spent another two hours with him after administering the tests."

"Why did it take so long to certify him competent to stand trial, if he's not insane? It's been three years since Miss Roberts' death."

"Paperwork, counselor," Hill said. "The bane of modern existence. I began reviewing his files only three months ago, and I wanted to be sure. I'm sure."

Olin looked grim. "Nothing further, your honor."

"Mr. Johnson?" Greanias said when Olin had sat down.

"Your honor, the county medical examiner has been called away on a family emergency," Johnson said, referring to a note in his hand that the bailiff handed to him while Olin was questioning Dr.Hill. "Request the court's indulgence to call him as a witness later in the trial. He'll be back tomorrow, and he's my last witness. Otherwise, the prosecution rests."

"Very well. The court grants the motion. Mr. Olin, you may call your first witness."

"The defense calls Dr. Henry Mosier."

A man of about fifty was sworn in as the next witness. His salt and pepper hair, glasses, and dark suit gave him an air of professionalism.

"Dr. Mosier, you are a psychiatrist, is that correct?"

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other, each realizing why Olin had asked the other doctor so few questions. They had their own "expert" witness.

"Yes."

"How long have you practiced psychiatry?"

"Thirty years. Twenty of them in state institutions and the past ten in private practice."

"Do you have a specialty in the field of psychiatry?"

"Yes, I specialize in severe psychotic disorders like schizophrenia and the criminally insane."

"Isn't it true that you have examined, diagnosed, and treated serial killers?"

"Yes, that's true."

Olin crossed in front of the jury with his back to the man on the witness stand. "So, is it accurate to state that you are an expert in your field?"

"Yes."

Olin smiled a little and turned back to face the witness stand. "Is George Prudholm sane?"

"Objection! That statement is too broad and therefore the answer could be misleading."

"Overruled."

"No, he is not. I believe Mr. Prudholm is now, and may always be, insane. He is a dangerous psychotic."

"In your expert opinion, Dr. Mosier, is George Prudholm responsible for his actions?"

"No."

Starsky was squirming in his seat. He was jiggling one leg constantly, using it as a tactic to keep his anger and anxiety in check. His eyes were never still, continually scanning from Hutch, to the witness, to the defense attorney, to Prudholm, and back to Hutch. He was worried about his partner and on alert for anything else that might happen.

Hutch's head was pounding and the room wasn't all that steady for him so his partner's twitchy movements were making him nauseous. He put a steadying hand on Starsky's knee and shook his head slightly. His friend settled down and tried to sit still.

"Nothing further." Olin walked back to the defense table and sat next to his shackled client with a smug look on his face.

Mark Johnson approached the stand. "Dr. Mosier, have you been treating the defendant?"

"No, I have not. I have evaluated him."

"How much time have you spent with George Prudholm?"

"We met for about thirty minutes yesterday." Johnson was pleased, seeing a chink in the good doctor's testimony.

"Your entire exposure to this man boils down to thirty minutes just yesterday?"

"Well, I did also carefully review Mr. Prudholm's files and psychiatric history."

"How do you explain the discrepancy between your opinion and Dr. Hill's?"

"I can only speak for myself. In my assessment, the man is not responsible for his actions."

"Were you paid to be here today?"

"Objection! That is irrelevant." Olin was outraged by the question.

"I disagree, your honor. I wish to establish that the doctor's opinion may be tarnished by the fact that he was paid to give it specifically for this trial."

"I'll allow it, but tread softly here, counselor."

"Yes, I was paid."

"You were 'hired' then to testify on this man's behalf?"

"I was hired to determine Prudholm's sanity. That is what I did."

"Dr. Mosier, do you have regular patients at this time?"

Olin was agitated. He did not expect the D.A. to know anything about his expert witness. Prudholm's brother had paid to fly the man in from another state in the hopes that the D.A. would not know him.

"No, I do not."

"Isn't it true, Doctor, that you are a professional paid witness?"

"Objection!"

"Overruled."

"I have devoted my time in the past few years to helping defendants in matters such as these."

"Answer the question, Doctor, are you a professional paid witness?"

The doctor was angry, Olin was furious, and Starsky was on the edge of his seat with Hutch's hand on his arm to remind him to keep his emotions in check.

"Yes."

"Thank you, Doctor. Nothing further." Johnson sat back down at the prosecution table, but not before he gave a reassuring nod to Starsky and his battered partner.

Olin sat at the table for several moments, finally forcing Greanias to say, "Mr. Olin, have you any more witnesses?"

Olin gave himself a little shake. "Yes, your honor, I do. The defense calls Woodrow Klein to the stand."

Klein, better known to Starsky and Hutch as "Woody the Magic Man," was brought in from the anteroom by another deputy, who removed his cuffs just before allowing him to be sworn in. Klein was still serving his own sentence from Terry's death and the robberies that preceded it.

"Mr. Klein, are you acquainted with my client?"

Woody nodded. "Yeah. We, uh, we used to hang out."

"How well do you know him, sir?"

"Pretty good," Woody said. "I went to school with Gary."

"Please tell the court about the incidents in question."

"Huh?"

Olin wet his lips and tried to hide his impatience. "The robberies and Miss Roberts' death, Mr. Klein."

"Oh. Yeah. Well, George looked me up about three years ago, when I got out of the joint the last time, and he said he had a job for us. He wanted me to follow those two," he indicated Starsky and Hutch, "around and tell him where they went all day. So I did. I followed 'em for a coupla weeks and got their schedule all wrote down for George. Then he told me he was gonna make Starsky pay for what happened to Gary."

"And did he ask you to help him?"

"Yeah. I said I would, 'cause I needed some bread, just gettin' outta the joint, ya know, and he said we'd rob some liquor stores and I could keep most of the loot since he was mostly interested in gettin' to Starsky."

Olin glanced at Starsky, who had relaxed somewhat after the doctor's testimony. "Was there anything strange about my client's behavior during this time, Mr. Klein?"

"Well, yeah. He kept callin' me 'Gary.' I mean, once in a while he'd call me 'Woody,' but mostly he'd call me 'Gary.' I kept tellin' him my name's Woody, but it didn't seem to make no difference to him. He's a crazy bastard."

"Objection!" Johnson stood. "Your honor, this man, besides being an incarcerated felon, is not qualified to make such statements about the defendant's mental health."

"This witness," Olin countered, "is well-acquainted with the defendant and I am not asking him for an expert opinion, but for his impressions. I think that's valid."

Greanias nodded. "I'll allow the statement to stand."

Johnson sat down, but he wasn't happy.

"Why did Prudholm call you by his son's name?"

"He thought I was Gary," Woody said. "He'd say stuff like 'when you were stabbed in jail, Gary' and I'd say 'I'm not Gary, Gary's dead' and he'd go on talking like I hadn't said nothin'. It was weird."

"Thank you. Nothing further."

Johnson stood and walked toward Woody. "Mr. Klein, tell us what happened the night Miss Roberts was shot."

"I'd been followin' her around, too," Woody said. "George saw her with Starsky and wanted to know who she was. When I figured out she went to that store every night about supper time to get some milk and a newspaper, I told him and we made that our next stop."

"And what happened when you robbed that store?"

Woody looked over at George nervously and didn't answer immediately.

"Answer the question," the judge instructed him.

"It's kinda hard, with him starin' at me like that," Woody said. Starsky looked over at Prudholm, who was glaring at Woody with absolute hatred.

Johnson moved so that he was between Woody and Prudholm. "Your answer, Mr. Klein."

Woody took a long drink from his glass of water. "Well, we waited outside till we saw her go in and then we followed her. George told me he was gonna pop her –"

"Pop her?"

"Shoot her," Woody said. "Kill her. I was supposed to make like it was a real robbery, you know, but he said don't make it too good, 'cause he wanted everybody in there to see that he was just after her. That way they'd tell Starsky and Hutch."

"How did Mr. Prudholm know Starsky and Hutchinson would answer the call?" Johnson asked.

"It was their beat. And Starsky knew she went in there every night as well as I did," Woody said. "He went with her a couple of times while I was followin' her, and I heard him tease her about it."

Starsky went white to the lips at that. Hutch had a hand on his arm and could feel the tension there. Starsky swallowed hard and glanced at his partner. The look in his eyes told Hutch what he was thinking – if he hadn't teased Terry about her regular habits, Woody might not have known she went into that store every night. And how had he missed seeing Woody, whom they both knew on sight?

"Go on, please."

"Well, we went in there, and I stuck up the clerk while George looked around for Terry. She was at the back, by the cooler where they keep the milk. He hollered at her and she turned around and he shot her."

"What did he say to her?"

Starsky went very still.

"He said, 'Hey, Terry, aren't you Starsky's slut?' and she whirled around and opened her mouth, to answer him, I guess, and that's when he shot her. She fell backward against the cooler and kind of slid down it to the floor. Me and the guy behind the counter just watched with our mouths open, and then George turned around to me and said, 'She's dead, let's go.' And I said, 'But what about the money?' and George came over to the register and opened it and grabbed some of the money and handed it to me, and we left."

Hutch slid an arm around his partner's back. Starsky was so pale and his eyes so wide that Hutch was worried he might pass out.

Johnson glanced at Starsky, then back to Woody. "Thank you." He sat down and whispered to Starsky, "Sergeant, do we need to ask for a recess?"

Starsky was trembling, but he shook his head. Johnson regarded him thoughtfully for several moments before turning away.

The judge had seen the look on Starsky's face also. "Mr. Johnson, would you like a recess?"

Johnson glanced back and Hutch shook his head slightly. "No, your honor."

Greanias considered calling a recess anyway, but decided against it. He had lost his own wife the same year Terry died. The judge knew what that loss felt like and still carried the pain of it. He wanted this trial to keep moving so the torment would be over for the man in the witness gallery.

"Mr. Olin, call your next witness."

"The defense calls Eunice Craig."

Johnson had told the two detectives that Mrs. Craig had been subpoenaed as a witness for George Prudholm. They couldn't understand it, but she was now walking up to take the oath and sit on the witness stand. She looked at Starsky, sadness in her eyes. He wished he knew what she was thinking.

"Your honor, I will be treating Mrs. Craig as a hostile witness."

"Very well, Mr. Olin, but stick to the case."

"Yes, your honor."

"Mrs. Craig, can you tell me what happened to your son Lonnie Craig?"

"He was shot and killed during a hold up."

"How old was he at the time?"

"Lonnie was sixteen-years-old." Eunice Craig kept glancing back and forth from the D.A. to Starsky. He gave her a small smile, trying to reassure her. He knew how uncomfortable it was to be on the stand.

"Who killed your son, Mrs. Craig?"

"Detective Starsky."

"How did you feel when that happened?"

"Objection! Mrs. Craig's feelings about the death of her son have no relevance to these proceedings." Johnson said.

Olin countered with, "Mrs. Craig's son died at the hands of the same man responsible for Gary Prudholm's death. I merely want to establish what it feels like to have a loved one taken away from you by Sergeant Starsky."

The courtroom buzzed in quiet murmuring. Starsky's ears started ringing and he felt hot suddenly. Hutch reached for him, seeing the color drain from his face and whispered, "Breathe, buddy, it's okay." The judge banged his gavel. "This court will come to order." The D.A. was about to voice his objections to Olin's comments when the judge put up a hand to silence him.

The murmuring settled down as the judge turned a cold eye toward the defense attorney.

"Mr. Olin, you are dangerously close to contempt. I warned you early on that Sergeant Starsky is not on trial here and I will not tolerate any further pejorative comments about him from you. Is that clearly understood?"

Olin swallowed and nervously adjusted his tie. "Yes, your honor."

"The objection is sustained."

The defense attorney regrouped. "Mrs. Craig, when Lonnie died, were you angry with Sergeant Starsky?"

Johnson sat back and decided to let this line of questioning run for a while, hoping Olin was about to fall into his own trap.

"I was upset."

"But were you angry?"

Mrs. Craig was quiet. She looked at Starsky apologetically. "At first, yes."

"Did you blame him?"

"At first."

Olin seemed satisfied and he didn't want to push the judge. "Nothing further, your witness."

Johnson turned for a moment to look at the pale man behind him. He was concerned about how much more Starsky could take and his banged up partner wasn't looking much better. He approached the witness stand.

"Mrs. Craig, do you still blame Sergeant Starsky for your son's death?"

"No. Lonnie was trying to shoot Detective Starsky. He had no choice."

"Have you ever discussed your son with Sergeant Starsky?

"Yes. He came to see me the day of Lonnie's funeral."

Johnson paused and looked at the jury. Pointing to Starsky, he said, "Mrs. Craig, based on that conversation, what was your impression of how Sergeant Starsky felt about having to shoot Lonnie in the line of duty?"

Eunice Craig looked at Starsky, her face soft. "I believe Sergeant Starsky was deeply affected by the shooting. He only wanted to catch the person responsible for turning Lonnie bad. I'd say he felt terrible about the whole thing."

Starsky sighed deeply and closed his eyes. The incident with Lonnie Craig had taken a lot out of him. Hearing Eunice Craig say that she didn't blame him gave him some peace of mind. He nodded at her as she passed him on her way out of the court. Mrs. Craig had no desire to hear any more of the ugliness being brought forth in this trial. She smiled at Starsky when she saw him nod, hoping he would be all right. She barely knew him and she could see that he was not doing well.

The judge banged his gavel and declared the court would be in recess until one o'clock. Prudholm was led away, but not before he turned to sneer at Starsky. He was about to say something when his guard roughly turned him back away from Starsky's gaze and shoved him through the door leading to the holding area.

"You gentlemen doing okay?" Johnson asked Starsky and Hutch,

"Don't we look okay?" Hutch quipped.

"Frankly, no."

Starsky had made no move to get up from his seat. He was leaning on the banister between the two men and Johnson. Hutch said, "Uh, why don't you hit it, Johnson. My partner and I are gonna wait here for a bit."

Johnson knew when he was being dismissed. He gathered his things and left the courtroom.

"Starsk?"

"I'm okay. I just need to sit here for a minute."

Hutch nodded and winced a little from the sudden sharp pain in his head.

Starsky stood up and said, "I'm sorry, Hutch. I forgot your pills." He walked to the prosecution table and poured Hutch some water. Handing the glass to Hutch, he fished in his pocket for the pain pills.

"Thanks, Starsk."

Hutch noticed Starsky's color was a little better. "Let's go get some lunch. You name the place."

"You planning to eat?"

"Nah, my head hurts. I'll just watch."

"You've gotta eat, Hutch."

"Maybe when I'm sure the room won't start spinning again."

Starsky was concerned. "You feelin' dizzy still?"

"A little. Nothing to worry about, Gordo. Let just get out of here. Slowly, okay?"

Each of them was keeping a wary eye on the other as they left the courtroom. Starsky stopped at the doors to peek out before they left just to be sure they were not going to be bombarded by reporters again. The hallway was empty. They quietly walked down it and slipped out the back door, just to be sure.

"It's almost over, buddy," Hutch said when they were seated at Huggy's. It's where Starsky had wanted to go, and though Hutch suspected that was so they'd be safe from prying eyes – the trial was front-page news, complete with photos of both of them, God knows where the press had found the photos in question – he also knew that Starsky probably figured Huggy would find some way to tempt Hutch to eat.

"Prudholm's gotta be next," Starsky said.

"Surely even Olin isn't stupid enough to let him testify, even if he wants to," Hutch objected.

"I'll bet he does testify," Starsky said. "He's dyin' to get up there and tell us all how much he enjoyed – " he stopped.

Hutch put a hand on his arm and they sat in silence until Huggy could get away from his other customers and come over to them.

"You two look like hell," he said without preamble. "Pretty ugly, huh?"

Hutch nodded.

Huggy studied them for a moment. "Well, my friends, you came to the right place." He drew a Dr. Pepper out of the cooler for Starsky and set a small bottle of orange juice in front of Hutch. "Be right back," he said, vanishing through the door to the kitchen.

He came back in a few minutes and placed a chef salad in front of Hutch and a pastrami sandwich in front of Starsky. "Eat," he said. "I'll stand here and make ya if I have to."

Hutch grinned a little wanly. "Thanks, Mom."

Huggy snorted. "If I was your mama, I'd send you both home to bed for a good long nap. Since I ain't, I'll just make sure you eat. You ain't eatin'," he added pointedly.

Though neither of them had much appetite, they did manage to force some of it down while Huggy watched approvingly. And they did feel a bit better afterwards.

"Now," Huggy said, "when you get done at that courthouse this afternoon, both of you come back here and Huggy'll have you a coupla steaks on the grill. I ain't gonna stand here and watch my two favorite cops waste away over some scum like Crazy George."

Starsky opened his mouth, but Huggy raised one hand.

"Don't argue with me, Curly. I got a club in the back."

Even Starsky grinned at that. And surrendered. "Okay, Hug. Don't get violent. We'll be here about 5."

"Good. Now scat. I got other customers, you know."

~*~*~*~

The moment Starsky and Hutch had most been dreading had arrived. George Prudholm was about to take the stand. Olin had tried unsuccessfully throughout the trial to convince Prudholm that testifying in his own behalf was a bad idea. His decision had opened the door for his prior history being brought into the court. The man was adamant. Olin was worried that Prudholm would say or do something that would prejudice the jury against him even more than the previous days in court had.

Olin went to the judge during recess and asked that he have the two police officers barred from the rest of the proceedings. He stated they were disrupting the flow of the trial and diverting focus away from the facts. Especially Hutchinson, with his battered face a constant reminder to the jury of what Prudholm had done – too close to what had happened to the victim in this case. When Hutchinson was shot, Olin was not too distracted to notice the look of anguish and sheer terror on Starsky's face as he raced to the fallen man's side. Olin prayed the jury had not seen it. That look might be enough to get his client convicted. The judge refused his request.

The judge was seated and the court called to order. "Mr. Olin, call your next witness."

"The defense calls George Prudholm."

Hutch had a hand on Starsky's arm and he felt him tense beneath it. They watched as Prudholm was assisted to the stand by the guard who was now never farther from the man than two feet. He shuffled from the defense table to the witness box. The guard assisted him in climbing the steps and sitting in the witness chair. The jury watched with fascination.

Hutch couldn't help marveling at the irony of making a guy like Prudholm swear to anything with his hand on the Bible. He was convinced Prudholm was a sadistic, evil man. A man who commits cold-blooded murder out of unadulterated hatred for another would probably have little difficulty lying under any circumstances.

Olin began his questioning, first saying a silent prayer that his client would remain focused. "Mr. Prudholm, did you shoot Teresa Roberts?"

Prudholm looked past the attorney and made eye contact with Starsky. His own eyes were filled with icy hatred. "Yeah. I did."

"Why did you do it, Mr. Prudholm?" Olin had his fingers crossed and he hoped his client would give him the right answer.

"Starsky had to pay. Pay for Gary. The voices told me that he had to pay."

"What voices?"

"The ones that tell me how to punish Starsky."

Hutch watched Prudholm's face closely. He could tell the man was putting on an act. He didn't hear any voices.

"Tell me what kinds of things the voices tell you." Olin continued.

"Oh, they know all about Starsky. He's evil. They want him dead more than I do." Prudholm's malevolent smile leeched into Hutch's psyche. The man still had his eyes locked with Starsky's.

Hutch didn't like it. He wanted Starsky to look away, avert his eyes from this man as if his evil could somehow harm Starsky from across the room. Hutch gave his best friend's arm a slight shake, trying to distract him without success. His partner gave him no sign of a reaction. Starsky felt like he was standing at one end of a long tunnel. Staring into the darkness, he could see Prudholm in the distance at the other end. Everyone and everything else was blurry on the periphery of Starsky's vision. The only thing anchoring him in reality was the warm presence of Hutch's hand on his arm.

"Mr. Prudholm, when did you start hearing these voices?" Olin was pleased. Prudholm was sounding pretty crazy, but not too overdone.

"When Gary died. They started telling me about how Starsky killed my son."

"What else do the voices say, Mr. Prudholm?"

"Starsky has to suffer. Then he can die and go to hell where he belongs."

Olin took a deep breath. He wanted to push for a little more. "At the time of the shooting, did you understand that you were committing a murder?"

"I didn't see it that way. She was just another little tramp who could be eliminated to make Starsky pay."

Hutch felt a shiver go up his back. He hated the thought of his partner being the object of Prudholm's sick obsession. He looked at Starsky. Once again his face was ashen and sweaty, his eyes wide, and his body trembling. Hutch saw the seething anger in his partner's eyes. He squeezed Starsky's arm and willed him to look away from Prudholm. Look at me, buddy. Don't look at him.  His message was not getting through to Starsky.

Olin was concerned Prudholm would go too far. He decided to rest on that note and bring him back for the finale on redirect if necessary.

"Nothing further for this witness at this time, your honor." He turned toward Johnson. "Your witness."

"Mr. Prudholm," Johnson said with exaggerated politeness, "isn't it true that you told Detective Starsky that you were confident the courts would find you insane when it came time to answer for the murder of Miss Roberts?"

"Sure, I told him that," Prudholm said with a shrug. "I was right, too."

Johnson checked to make sure the jury had heard that. They had. So had Olin, whose face had gone a dull red. Keeping his face impassive, Johnson asked, "Why do you blame Detective Starsky for the murder of your son, when he was nowhere near your son at the time of his death?"

"He arrested him, didn't he? He's the one put him in jail. If he hadn't, Gary wouldn't be dead."

"But if Gary hadn't broken the law, he wouldn't have been arrested, Mr. Prudholm. Did you consider that?"

"It was a frame," Prudholm said. "They were at that high school on purpose to bust somebody and they picked Gary."

"They did catch him with a pocket full of LSD, sir."

Prudholm shrugged again. "Docs used to prescribe that. Wasn't illegal not that long ago. Stupid law."

"So, do you believe that if a law is 'stupid,' you don't have to obey it?"

"Too damn many laws, anyway," Prudholm muttered, but loud enough to be heard.

"Your honor, I fail to see the purpose of this line of questioning!" Olin was on his feet, and even from across the room, the sweat at his hairline was visible.

"I am trying to establish whether the defendant understands that when one commits a crime, one is punished," Johnson said.

"Overruled," Greanias said to Olin.

"Sir, do you understand that whether you like a law or not, if you break it, the police might arrest you and the courts might punish you?"

"Not if you're crazy," Prudholm said.

"I believe you have served time in prison before, sir? Is that correct?"

"Yeah, and I didn't wanna go back," Prudholm said.

"So did you intentionally attempt to appear mentally impaired so as to avoid going back?"

Prudholm narrowed his eyes and finally looked away from Starsky to look at Johnson. "I told ya. The voices told me Starsky had to pay. And the best way to make him pay was to take everyone and everything he loved away from him, like he took Gary from me!"

"And so you deliberately set out to kill the people Detective Starsky loved?"

"Yeah." Prudholm gave an evil sneer and locked eyes with Starsky again. "I only got to his slut, though. Missed when I tried to get his blond partner. Missed twice. I won't miss next time."

"Objection, your honor!"

"Sit down, Mr. Olin. Overruled."

"Why did you feel you had to kill Miss Roberts, whom you didn't even know?"

"Starsky loved her," Prudholm said, still staring at Starsky. "Tell ya somethin', though. I kinda hated to do it."

"Why?"

Prudholm grinned. "She was real pretty. Coulda had more fun with her, if we'd'a pinned her somewhere private. Soft skin, she had, and a real nice pair of – "

Starsky shot to his feet, his eyes wild, and Hutch grabbed his arm and tried to force him to sit down, though his own stomach roiled at what Prudholm had said.

The judge banged his gavel. "Order in the court! Sit down, Detective, or I'll have to find you in contempt!"

"Starsk, sit down. He's lying, he never touched her, you heard Woody's testimony," Hutch hissed.

Starsky was trembling violently, but he forced himself to look away from Prudholm and, at last, sat down.

Johnson was watching and decided he'd better quit before Starsky blew. He had been perilously close to it for days, already.

"Nothing further, your honor."

After Prudholm was returned to the defense table Olin addressed the court. "The defense rests, your honor."

The judge nodded. "This court is in recess until nine o'clock tomorrow for the medical examiner's testimony, followed by closing arguments." He banged the gavel.

As everyone else started to move in the direction they needed to take, Starsky sat in his chair, perfectly still. His hands were gripping the railing in front of him. Hutch looked at him with deep concern. Starsky's face was gray and he was still shaking. Thankfully, he was oblivious to everyone's stares as they left. Hutch hoped he was also oblivious to the things Prudholm was saying to him as they hauled him out of the courtroom.

Captain Dobey had been sitting near the back and he was making his way toward his detectives through the exiting crowd.

"You like that, cop? She was sure pretty!" Prudholm shouted.

The guards shoved him roughly, "Shut up and move it!" They were trying their best to get him out quickly, but his ankles were in chains and he couldn't move very fast.

"Too bad I didn't get to know her better! Hurts, don't it?"

The two guards picked Prudholm up under the arms and hustled him out the door, still screaming over his shoulder at Starsky, "I hope the pain kills you, pig!"

Hutch was trying to get his partner's attention. He had one hand on Starsky's back and the other on his arm as he spoke to him gently.

"Starsk?"

No reaction.

"Buddy, you all right?"

This time the reaction was that Starsky started to shake even worse. He stood up suddenly and took a couple of steps into the aisle. Then, before Hutch could react he stopped and went down to the floor as if his legs wouldn't hold him. He was sitting on the floor now with his head down, shaking violently.

Dobey had reached out for him, but he wasn't close enough either. He knelt beside him and said, "Dave, you okay?"

Hutch looked at Dobey with pain and worry in his eyes. He silently hoped there was a special corner in hell just for George Prudholm. He knelt on the other side of his partner, putting an arm around his shoulders.

"Starsky, breathe, okay, buddy? Just sit there a minute."

Hutch was afraid his friend would pass out and he was ready for it. Starsky just sat there, his eyes tightly shut, saying nothing. Hutch could tell he was struggling to get his breathing under control before he hyperventilated.

A couple of uniformed officers had also been in the back of the courtroom and they were approaching the three men slowly. Dobey stood up and barked at them, "You two get outside those doors and keep everybody out of here!" They instantly obeyed him, making it to the doors just as the first of the reporters was trying to get into the courtroom. They shoved him back outside before his cameraman had a chance to focus on Starsky.

Dobey looked down at Hutch. "He gonna be okay, Hutch?"

Hutch nodded. "I think it's the adrenaline, Cap. He'll be okay in a few minutes."

"I'm going to go call for some more uniforms to hustle those reporters out of here. Give me the keys to the Torino. I'll bring it around back so you can take him out that way."

Hutch tossed his keys to the captain, nodding his thanks, then he sat next to Starsky on the floor. They were the only two people left in the courtroom.

"Starsk? Talk to me, buddy."

Starsky felt like Hutch was talking to him from far away. He heard Hutch's voice over the buzzing in his ears and he reached out a hand for him. He felt Hutch take his hand and allowed it to anchor him. When he finally spoke, Hutch was worried about how weak his voice sounded.

"Why, Hutch?"

Hutch's heart twisted. He hated to see Starsky suffer any more at the hands of George Prudholm. "I don't know, Gordo. Hey, try to relax, huh?"

Starsky nodded. He opened his eyes, unhappy with the dark fuzziness around the edges of his vision. He couldn't remember the last time he had been so angry and he had nowhere for that anger to go.

"Hutch?" he said weakly as he started to slump against his partner.

"Stay with me, Starsk. You're okay!" Hutch gave him a gentle shake and supported his weight, willing him to stay conscious. He was afraid for his partner. Prudholm was evil and he prayed his words didn't have enough power to push his friend over the edge.

The next thing Starsky said chilled him. "I want him to die, Hutch."

"I know, Starsk. I do too."

They sat together until Starsky's rapid breathing and pulse slowed. Finally, Dobey came back in and said, "Hutch, the car's around back and the uniforms have the hallways cleared. We'd better get him out of here while we can."

Hutch was pretty sure Starsky would be okay to move. The shaking was much better . "Buddy, we've got to get out of here now. Can you get up?"

Starsky nodded. Dobey and Hutch helped him to unsteady feet and slowly walked him out of the courtroom. They were grateful to see that the reporters were not waiting for them at the back entrance. The uniforms had done their job well. One of them opened the back door for the three men and watched Hutch deposit his shaky partner into the passenger seat of the Torino.

"Thanks, Cap. I'm taking him to my place. Maybe the reporters won't think to go there. I'll call you later."

Hutch was glad he had been right. No reporters greeted them when he pulled the Torino up at Venice Place. Starsky seemed a little better. Hutch took him up the stairs and tried to walk him into the bedroom, but Starsky put his arm out to stop him.

"No, I don't want to sleep, Hutch."

"You should, buddy. Let that adrenaline rush wear off a bit."

Starsky shook his head and moved toward the couch. After he was settled, Hutch went and got him a glass of ice water.

"If you want, I'll send Huggy over to your place to get you one of those sleeping pills."

"No, thanks. I just want to sit here with you. Oh, God, Hutch, why do I let him get to me like that?"

Hutch could tell his friend was feeling weak and embarrassed. "You're being really strong, Starsk. He could get to anyone."

"I don't want to feel like this. Just hurts so much."

Starsky looked up at Hutch, just noticing how tired he looked. "Hey, why don't you go lie down for a while?"

"Nope. I think I'll stay in here with you."

"How's your head?"

"Better, thanks. Don't worry about me. I'm okay."

Starsky smiled at him. That's funny. Don't worry about him. "Aren't we a pair today?"

"Yeah, but a pair of what?" Hutch smiled, glad to see Starsky was getting better.

"This'll all be over soon. You know he's gonna get the death penalty."

"God, I hope so. What if that insanity thing works, Hutch?"

Hutch tried to sound confident. "It won't. No way. He knew exactly what he was doing.  The jury could see that."

Starsky nodded wearily and put his head back, closing his eyes. Hutch waited quietly for a few minutes to see if his friend would drop off to sleep. Despite his best intentions, Starsky did fall asleep quickly. Hutch could tell he was really out of it, so he picked Starsky's feet up and laid his legs out on the couch. Then he quietly slipped into his room to lie down for a while himself. He set his alarm to be sure he woke up in time to take Starsky to dinner at Huggy's, even though he knew his friend would probably be unable to eat anything.

Huggy had made them the steaks, as promised, but neither of them felt much like eating, and only tried because Huggy stood over them and insisted. Neither of them slept much that night, either. Every time Starsky woke up, usually due to a nightmare, he could hear Hutch tossing and turning on the sofa. And every time Hutch woke from one his infrequent, restless dozes, he could hear Starsky doing the same thing.

Both were hollow-eyed by the time they reached the courthouse the next morning. Johnson looked them over with concern.

"We're almost finished," Johnson said softly. "Hang on for a couple more hours."

Starsky nodded. "We've made it this far, counselor. We'll be okay."

The medical examiner was in the courtroom and Johnson rose as soon as the judge had called the proceedings to order. "Your honor, my last witness is here now."

"You may call him," Greanias said.

After he'd been sworn in, Johnson asked, "Dr. Lynch, did you personally perform the autopsy on Terry Roberts?"

"Yes, I did."

"Please tell the court what your findings were."

Hutch reached over to squeeze Starsky's hand. This wasn't going to be easy.

"Miss Roberts had a .45 caliber bullet lodged in the frontal lobe," Lynch said. "The bullet entered through her forehead at the hairline and turned as it entered, stopping just inside the skull, according to her medical records. When I examined her body, the bullet had worked its way deeper into her brain and interrupted the involuntary functions such as sight and sense of touch, and eventually, heartbeat."

Starsky's eyes were full of tears. Hutch squeezed his hand again, but Starsky didn't look at him.

"Did Miss Roberts suffer, Doctor?"

Lynch, who knew both Starsky and Hutch, hesitated. Finally, he said, "It's difficult to be certain. The brain is an organ science has yet to fully understand. But based on what we do know, I would say her pain at the time the injury was inflicted was quite severe. From that point, it would come and go. At the end, the original severity of the pain probably returned, but only for the last few moments of life."

"Do you concur with Dr. Quo and her colleagues that nothing could have been done to save Miss Roberts' life?"

Lynch nodded. "Yes, I do. Frankly, I'm surprised she lived as long as she did, and apparently she lived with every appearance of normality during much of that time."

"Thank you, Doctor. Your witness, Mr. Olin."

"No questions," Olin said, surprising both Starsky and Hutch.

"Very well," Greanias said. "Then we are ready to hear closing arguments. Mr. Johnson?"

Johnson rose and walked to the jury box. He stopped in front of it and leaned against the rail on his hands, making eye contact with every person in it before speaking. "Ladies and gentlemen, you have seen for yourselves the damage the defendant has inflicted. With cold, calculating malice, this man set out to seek revenge against Detective David Starsky for an act that Detective Starsky did not commit – the death of Gary Prudholm.

"During this man's vendetta against Detective Starsky, he murdered two police officers: Dan Tinker, who had a wife and two small children; Steve Kelton, who graduated at the top of his class in the police academy and had only been on the force nine months.

"He assaulted Mr. Brown, a close friend of both Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson, simply because he is their friend. He attempted to murder Detective Hutchinson, once with a rigged shotgun and the second time right here in front of this entire courtroom. He attempted to murder Detective Starsky by ambushing him in the old city zoo.

"And he murdered Teresa Renee Roberts in cold blood in front of witnesses.

"And all because he blames Detective Starsky for the death of Gary Prudholm, who was killed in a fight which he himself started in the county jail! Ladies and gentlemen, I appeal to your integrity. This man has destroyed the lives of Officer Tinker's family, Officer Kelton's family, Detective Starsky and Teresa Roberts' family! He is a cold-blooded, heartless and unrepentant killer. You cannot let him go free. You cannot believe for one moment that this man is mentally impaired beyond the ability to know right from wrong. He knew exactly what he was doing and he did it anyway. He admitted, in fact, he bragged to Detective Starsky that he had no fear of punishment because he was confident the courts would find him insane! A man who is truly insane does not realize that fact. This man is not insane, ladies and gentlemen! He is a murderer, as sane as you or I, and he murdered Teresa Roberts as a malevolent act of revenge.

"You must find him guilty. You have no choice. Look at Detective Starsky. Look at Detective Hutchinson."

All twelve members of the jury obeyed. Starsky had endured so much already and had managed to maintain his composure during court so far, but when Johnson appealed to the jury in this manner, and they were all looking at him, it was just too much. A tear streaked down his cheek, and Hutch instinctively put an arm around his shoulders for support. Starsky looked down and covered his face with one hand.

Johnson looked back at the jury and saw empathy on every face. He went on, "These men, and the other people who have suffered at the hands of George Prudholm, deserve no less than the peace of mind you can offer them by putting this man where he can do no more harm. It is in your hands."

Johnson sat down.

Olin strolled over to the jury box and gave Johnson a pitying smile as he passed. He put his hands in his pockets and gazed at the jury. "Very appealing arguments my esteemed colleague has offered you," Olin said. "I applaud him. Really, I do. But, ladies and gentlemen, my colleague is appealing to your emotions, not your reason. I appeal to your reason. Yes, Detectives Starsky and Hutchinson have suffered. I sympathize. But my client is not a sane man. A sane man would not blame a police officer for the death of his son to the point that he would plan and execute systematic revenge such as my client has. If my client was sane, he might be angry that Detective Starsky arrested his son and that that arrest was the reason Gary Prudholm was in jail to be killed in a fight. But a sane man would not accuse the officer of murder, which my client has done repeatedly.

"George Prudholm is sick, ladies and gentlemen. He is sick the same as if he had cancer or kidney disease or diabetes. He needs treatment for that illness, not prison. In prison, he will be punished, it is true. And yes, sending him to prison will no doubt give the people he has harmed a measure of peace.

"But you cannot punish a man for being ill. That would fly in the face of the principles this country was founded upon. Would you send a cancer patient to prison for having cancer? Of course not! He cannot help having this illness any more than a cancer patient can help having his illness. And he is not legally responsible for his actions."

Johnson stood again to offer his parting comments.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, my colleague is correct, sick men cannot be held legally responsible for their actions. However, as you have heard from the testimony of an expert, and based on the observations of the witnesses, George Prudholm is just as sane as you are. His calculating plans to harm Detective David Starsky, his friends, and his loved ones are a perfect example of this. Mr. Prudholm murdered Teresa Roberts with malice aforethought, lying in wait for her. He knew exactly what he was doing and he executed elaborate schemes to get his way. He nearly killed Detective Kenneth Hutchinson right here in this room before your eyes. This unremorseful man deserves to be punished for his crimes and thereby kept from inflicting more harm on anyone else. I trust you will see that and find in the State's favor." Johnson was quiet and he returned to his seat.

The courtroom was hushed as the judge waited a few moments to let the prosecutor's words hang in the air. Then he turned to the jury and gave them their instructions. They were escorted out and court was recessed for the duration of jury deliberation. One of Prudholm's guards looked back to where Starsky and Hutch were sitting, seeing the pain on Starsky's face. Hutch was leaning close to him, talking quietly.

The guard stepped closer to Prudholm and leaned down to whisper to him before helping him to his feet. "I swear to God, Prudholm, you say one word and I'll put you out, you got that?"

Prudholm looked ready to give him a smart answer as he tried to lean back and catch Starsky's gaze. The other guard blocked his view and nodded at him, the intent clearly etched on his face. Both guards had moved their hands to their nightsticks. George Prudholm smiled wryly and let the two guards help him to his feet. Turning around one more time in the hope of making eye contact with Starsky, he found Captain Dobey blocking his view this time. Dejectedly thinking that these men were all taking the fun out of his day he wisely kept his mouth shut and was escorted out of the courtroom without incident.

Hutch had been speaking to Starsky soothingly. He was worried about his friend, knowing that he was near the end of his rope. Starsky was quiet again. So quiet even Captain Dobey was afraid for him.

Johnson had walked up to the three men and put his hand on Captain Dobey's arm to get his attention. "He going to be all right, Captain?"

He wasn't sure what he was reading in Captain Dobey's eyes – anger, defiance, or frustration. Dobey looked at him and said, "You know, Johnson, I understand why you did what you just did, but was it necessary to try and win at his expense?" The captain jerked his head back toward Starsky and Johnson was certain the look was anger.

"I'm sorry, Captain. I certainly don't want to do anything to harm Detective Starsky. You're right, though. I would have said anything to convince that jury that Prudholm has to be found guilty. I'm sorry if that hurt him, but he'll get over it. He'll feel much better when he knows Prudholm is on death row."

Hearing that, Hutch's head snapped up and he stood, towering menacingly over the shorter attorney. He put one finger on Johnson's chest and said, "Well, I hope you're satisfied. You used him to elicit sympathy from the jury without any thought for what it would do to him. You've done that throughout this trial. All I can say for you is you'd better win. I hope it was worth it."

Johnson swallowed hard. He wasn't easily intimidated, but the tall blond's look of cold fury was enough to intimidate almost anyone.

"I'm sorry, Detective Hutchinson. I never wanted to hurt him, but you're right. Sometimes we have to play dirty to win against this scum. You live your life to take them off the streets. I live mine to make sure they get justice. It's what I do."

Dobey put his hand on Hutch's arm and gently pushed him back from his hostile stance. "Take care of your partner, Hutch," he said quietly. Hutch looked at his captain and nodded, sitting back down with Starsky. After Captain Dobey instructed him to call the instant the jury was back, Johnson finished gathering his papers and walked out of the courtroom.

Starsky didn't make eye contact with Hutch. He knew he would lose it if he did, so he stared straight ahead when he asked, "How long?"

Hutch looked up at Dobey who shrugged and he said, "No way to tell, partner. Come on, let's get you out of here."

Starsky shook his head. "No, I want to stay until they're done."

Dobey said, "Dave, they could be deliberating for hours, maybe even overnight. Let Hutch take you home."

Starsky didn't argue or resist them as they helped him to his feet. Hutch asked, "Cap, what about the reporters?"

"It's taken care of, Hutch. We'll take him out the back like we did yesterday." He offered Hutch his keys. "Give me your keys and take my car. You take off out of here in the Torino and every reporter in the city is going to follow you. They fell for that yesterday, but they won't two days in a row. My car's at the back door."

"Thanks, Cap."

"You going to your place?"

Hutch thought about it for a minute, stealing a look at his trembling partner. "No, Cap. I have a better idea. I'll call you. Page me if they come back before then, okay?"

Dobey nodded and watched as Hutch led Starsky away down the hall toward the back entrance to the court.

Starsky didn't notice he was being put into Dobey's car instead of his own and that worried Hutch. He expected at least to be questioned about how the Torino was going to make it out of the courthouse parking lot on its own.

"Hey, buddy, aren't you worried about your car?" He asked, trying to put a hint of humor in his strained voice.

Starsky shook his head and quietly said, "Sure you took care of it."

Oh boy, this is not good. Hutch put his hand on Starsky's shoulder reassuringly. Starsky felt the warmth of his touch and took some comfort in it. He was so tired and he wanted it to be finished. He looked out the window and noticed they were not headed toward either of their homes and Huggy's was in the opposite direction.

"Hey, Blintz. Where are we goin'?" he asked.

"Oh, you'll see. I have an idea." Hutch replied.

"Oh, an idea. Well, let's have it."

"You'll see, just sit back and relax, Gordo."

A few minutes later they pulled into the parking lot of the miniature golf course the two of them had taken their girlfriends to so many times when Terry was still alive. Starsky looked around incredulously and said, "Hutch, this isn't such a good idea."

"Trust me a minute, okay?"

"Just a minute? Like I don't always." Starsky shook his head, wondering what was going on inside his partner's mind.

Hutch walked him in and led him to a bench. "Wait here, I'll be right back."

When Hutch walked up to the young lady running the concessions, she took one look at his bruised face, complete with black eye and whistled. After he explained what he wanted she shook her head, pointed at his battered face, and said, "Mister, you didn't get that here did you?"

"What?" As soon as he said it he realized she meant his injuries. He laughed and said, "No, sweetheart, you wouldn't believe me if I told you how I got this. Don't worry, I'm not goin' in there, my friend is."

She took his money, handing him the equipment and a cup full of tokens, and gave him a sly smile. "Bet you're pretty cute when you don't look like you ran face first into a wall."

"Thanks."

Hutch walked back to his best friend who looked up at him in disbelief. He was standing there holding a baseball bat and helmet. Hutch said, "Batting cages, buddy."

"You've got to be kidding, Hutch. I don't have the energy. Just take me home, huh?"

"Nope. Batting cages first."

"What if the jury comes back while we're here?" Starsky asked.

Hutch patted his pocket, "I have a pager, Dobey will let us know."

Hutch grabbed Starsky under the elbow and led him to the cages. He wanted to give his friend the chance to work off some of his frustration, hoping it would snap him out of the depression that was starting to scare Hutch. He tried to steer Starsky toward the slow-pitch softball cage, but Starsky stopped.

"Oh, no you don't. If I'm gonna do this, that one." Starsky pointed to the fastest speed cage. The one that said you had to be at least a college level ballplayer to go into it.

"Starsk . . . ."

Starsky's look told him he would brook no argument. Hutch handed him the equipment and stepped aside, taking Starsky's jacket and tie from him. When Starsky was in position and set, Hutch put in the tokens to start the pitching machine. Then he stood back to watch and hoped this was a good idea.

The pitches were fast, at least 80 mph. Starsky couldn't get his bat around fast enough and pitch after pitch sailed past him. He was too close to the center of the plate.

"Starsk, you're crowding the plate." Hutch called through the fence.

The next pitch was a little wider for some reason. Starsky was leaning into it and the ball hit him squarely on the helmet, spinning it off his head as he fell to the ground.

"Starsky!" Hutch shouted. He had no way to stop the pitching machine and he stood back a moment, waiting for the interval between pitches to open the door and go check on Starsky. By the time he got inside the batting cage, Starsky was sitting up, swearing in both English and some other language Hutch thought must be Russian or Polish, and shaking his head.

He pulled Starsky back a little farther away from the pitches and looked him in the eyes. "You okay?" He said, the fear in his voice clearly conveyed.

Starsky shook him off saying, "Yeah, I'm all right." The pitches had stopped. "Go put some more tokens in that thing."

Hutch shook his head, "Oh, no, this was a bad idea. Come on, let's get out of here."

Starsky was angry. "Hutch, I said put some more tokens in that thing."

His buddy didn't seem to be hurt, just mad. Hutch reluctantly agreed. He gave Starsky the Hutchinson finger and said, "All right, but you put that helmet back on and quit crowding the plate."

Starsky did as he was told. This time, his anger helped him to hit his stride. He connected with pitch after pitch. Each hit seemed to drain away some of the anger he had bottled up inside him. Hutch kept feeding the machine tokens as long as Starsky looked like he needed it. Finally, Starsky stepped back, sweaty and exhausted. He put his hand up to convey the message that he was done.

He stepped out of the batting cage and grinned at his partner. "Thanks, buddy. How'd you know that would make me feel better?"

Hutch shrugged. "Just a hunch."

They walked out to return the equipment, Starsky feeling better, and Hutch a lot less worried. His mind was racing as he tried to figure out what to do next to occupy his partner until the jury returned.

"Are you hungry?"

"As a matter of fact," Starsky said with some surprise, "I am. Where's the nearest butterfly bones store?"

Hutch chuckled. "I was thinking more along the lines of burritos, pal. What d'you say to that?"

Starsky narrowed his eyes. "Are you sick?"

"No," Hutch said, holding his hands up in surrender. "I can eat a burrito once in a while, you know."

There was a little Mexican drive-through place on their beat that Hutch knew Starsky was fond of, so they went there. Hutch watched, pleased, as Starsky devoured two beef-and-bean burritos, a taco and a large Dr. Pepper. He could see his partner's color improve even as he watched. He ate a taco salad himself, and felt much better afterwards.

"Okay, Hutch," Starsky said as he gathered up their trash and wadded it into a ball. "What are we going to do now?"

"What do you mean?"

Starsky shook his head. "How many years've we known each other? And you think I can't read ya like a book? You're keepin' me busy so I won't think about what the jury's talkin' about back there."

Hutch had no answer for that, and Starsky's eyes crinkled in the first real grin he'd produced since the trial started.

"I was right."

"Well, there isn't anything we can do to hurry things along," Hutch began, but Starsky waved a hand.

"I know. So how about a movie? We could catch the cheapo matinee," he added, looking down at his watch.

"Not porn," Hutch said.

"No, a real movie."

The jury still hadn't come back by the time the movie was over, and it was getting dark out.

"I have a bad feeling they may be in there all night," Starsky said with a sigh, looking at his watch again.

"It's a serious thing, sentencing a man to die," Hutch said gently. "I'd want to think about it a while, too."

"Yeah, I guess." Starsky said. "Now what? I thought of the movie."

Hutch grinned. "So it's my turn again. Huggy's?"

But Starsky shook his head. "I'm kinda wiped, buddy. Let's just go home, huh? Play chess or watch a late movie or something."

"Okay."

They went to Starsky's this time, because Hutch was afraid the reporters might have staked out his own place by now. It was deserted except for a marked car parked outside with two officers inside. Both men approached it.

"Evening, fellas," Starsky said.

"Hi, Starsky, Hutch. You guys doing okay?" The driver was Matt Becker, with his partner Joe Briggs, both from their precinct.

"Yeah," Hutch said, "but what are you doing here?"

"Dobey's orders," Briggs said. "'Keep the media away or die trying' were his exact words if memory serves." He grinned.

Starsky and Hutch glanced at each other. And both smiled.

Three chess games and an hour and a half with Johnny Carson later, the pager still had not gone off. Hutch was trying to stifle his yawns when Starsky stretched and said, "Face it, buddy, they ain't coming back tonight. We might as well crash."

"Sure, Starsk."

Both were so exhausted by the strain they'd been under, that they slept through the night without any more bad dreams. When Hutch woke at last, it was the middle of the morning. Starsky was still sacked out, snoring. Hutch gave an affectionate smile at the sight and padded into the kitchen to start breakfast. He had just dished it up and was on his way to wake Starsky when the pager beeped.

Hutch froze mid-step, looked down at the pager, then took a deep breath. He went into Starsky's bedroom and touched his partner's shoulder. "Jury's back."

The two men quickly dressed in their court clothes and rushed downtown to be there for the reading of the verdict. The court was set to convene at eleven. As they walked into the courtroom and took their seats next to Captain Dobey they both noticed the hushed atmosphere in the room and that all eyes were on them as they entered. When both men were seated, Captain Dobey gave them a reassuring smile. He noted to himself that the dark-haired detective had lost his habit of going to the men's room just before the reading of a verdict. He wondered whether that was his idea, or Hutchinson's.

Johnson turned around to greet them, hoping they were not still angry about his closing remarks. "You two up for this?" he asked.

Both detectives nodded. Starsky added, "Johnson, whatever goes down, I know you did your best."

"Thanks, Starsky."

The defendant was brought into the courtroom in his shackles. Everyone turned to watch as the jury filed in from the side door. Hutch was desperately trying to get a read on them, but he had no idea. The bailiff stepped forward and said, "All rise. Court is now in session. The honorable Judge Joseph Greanias presiding."

When the judge and everyone else was seated, the judge turned to the jury. "Have you reached a verdict in the matter before you?"

The foreman stood. "We have, your honor."

"Please hand the verdict to the bailiff."

The bailiff took the piece of paper and walked it over to the judge. Starsky was holding his breath, sweat starting to bead on his upper lip. Hutch could feel his nervousness and he put his hand on Starsky's arm, trying to give him a little calming energy. Tick, tick – time seemed to stand still for Starsky. The judge held in his hands the decision as to whether the man who had taken away the love of his life would pay for that crime, or whether he would be allowed to live.

Greanias handed the paper back to the bailiff to be returned to the jury foreman. He said, "The defendant will rise and face the jury."

The jury foreman took a deep breath and started to read from the paper. "On case docket 80-843584, People vs. George Prudholm in the matter of the murder of Teresa Renee Roberts. We the jury, in the above entitled action, on the charge of Murder in the First Degree with Special Circumstances do hereby find the defendant guilty as charged."

A gasp went up from the courtroom and several observers dashed out the door to announce the verdict to the media. The judge banged his gavel, calling for order in the courtroom.

Starsky was tightly holding onto the railing between his chair and the prosecution table. Hutch looked at him, but couldn't read a reaction from his best friend. Then he realized that Starsky was waiting to hear the judge's ruling.

"George Prudholm, you have been found guilty of Murder in the First Degree with Special Circumstances. The finding of Special Circumstances is in recognition to the cold, calculating way you committed this crime. In the state of California, this finding bears with it a mandatory death sentence. No penalty phase is necessary in this matter. I hereby remand you to the custody of San Quentin State Prison. There you will await the carrying out of your sentence, which will be conducted in the gas chamber in accordance with state law, and may God have mercy on your soul. The jury is dismissed with the thanks of this court. You have been an exemplary jury. Court is now dismissed." The judge banged his gavel, and it was finally over –  George Prudholm would pay for Terry's death.

Starsky's head suddenly dropped between his arms and Hutch was afraid he might pass out on them. "Starsk?" he said, supporting his friend with an arm around the waist. Starsky shook his head slightly, to let him know he was all right. After a few minutes he looked up with both a smile and tears streaming down his face. "Oh, God, Hutch, we won. Terry can rest in peace now." He turned and grabbed onto Hutch with a tight embrace. Hutch patted him on the back saying, "That's right, buddy. It's over and we won." Starsky felt Captain Dobey put a supportive hand on his arm as he held onto Hutch. When he looked up, the captain was smiling at him.

They all turned to Johnson, who until now had just been watching the group. While they were savoring the moment, Prudholm had been led out of the courtroom, too shocked by the verdict to say anything else.

"Congratulations, Detective Starsky. Was it worth it?" Johnson asked.

Starsky nodded, shook his hand, and thanked him.

"You know he'll appeal it."

Starsky smiled. "That don't matter. He's gone. He's never going to hurt anyone again."

Hutch couldn't help thinking that was right, especially not his partner.

Captain Dobey asked, "What are you gonna do now, boys? You don't have to be at work until Monday. I'm giving you the rest of the week off."

"Cap, I just want to go home and get a real shower. We rushed out of the house this morning when we heard the jury was done." Starsky looked relieved and happy. Hutch was glad to see the tension begin to fade from his face and his body.

Hutch agreed to take Starsky back to his apartment. He would go home too, clean up, and they would meet Dobey and Johnson at Huggy's for a celebratory lunch at around two.

Dobey and Johnson preceded Starsky and Hutch out of the courtroom and smack into the arms of representatives of what looked like every TV and print media outlet in Bay City.

"Sergeant Starsky! Sergeant Starsky!" The voices and microphones and tape recorders assaulted him from every side.

"How do you feel about the verdict, Sergeant?"

"Do you think your fiancée’s death has been avenged?"

"Will George Prudholm be charged for the assault on Sergeant Hutchinson?"

Hutch, Dobey and Johnson tried to surround Starsky and protect him from the barrage, but Starsky stood his ground.

"I think we owe 'em a couple of good quotes, don't you, Hutch?" He appealed to his partner as the one person who would understand.

"Whatever you want to do, Starsk."

Johnson glanced at them and nodded. "Ladies and gentlemen!" he said, raising his voice. Instantly, the cameras and microphones pointed at him. "I will make a brief statement, and then Sergeant Starsky will speak."

Starsky waited.

Johnson didn't need notes. He was used to speaking to the media. "Mr. Prudholm has been found guilty of murder in the first degree with special circumstances. In California, that means automatic death penalty. My office is satisfied that justice has been served in this case. We presented our case, and the good citizens of Bay City did the right thing." He stepped aside.

Dobey put a hand on Starsky's arm to forestall him. "Captain Harold Dobey," he said, and spelled it for them. "Too often, the police in this city and every city put their lives on the line to protect the people and have to watch as the criminals they arrest are set free. This time, that didn't happen. I'm proud of my officers – both these officers," he added, indicating Starsky and Hutch. "They've been through a stressful experience and they maintained their professionalism throughout."

Now all the attention was focused on Starsky, who stepped forward and simply stood there for a moment, gathering his thoughts. The reporters waited quietly. Finally, he looked up at them and that "grave dignity" that Johnson had spoken of was in evidence again. "I loved Terry Roberts," he said. "Her death was just wrong. She helped people. She was a beautiful human being, inside, where it counts. She didn't deserve to die at the hands of a man like George Prudholm. I can't say I'm 'happy' about the verdict because, as my partner told me yesterday, it's a serious thing to sentence a man to die, even a man like Prudholm. But I can say I feel that Terry can rest in peace now. George Prudholm will pay for his crime."

Johnson watched Starsky and when Starsky gave him a little nod to indicate he was through, Johnson said, "That's all. Let Sergeant Starsky go home and rest now. Any further questions can be directed to the D.A.'s office."

Amazingly, the throng of reporters parted and let them through.

TAG

At around one o'clock, Hutch pulled up to the cemetery and saw Starsky's car there. He smiled at how they both wound up here without discussing it first. He was on his way to The Pits and he wanted to stop by and pay his respects to Terry first. He picked up the flowers he had brought and started out to find his partner.

Walking across the neatly manicured lawn, Hutch could see that his partner was sitting on the grass, talking to Terry's grave. He didn't want to intrude and he almost turned to walk away when Starsky looked up and saw him. His partner smiled and waved, signaling for Hutch to come over to sit with him.

"Hi, Starsk. Been here a while?"

"A little while. I just wanted to come and tell her what happened. Wanted her to know she could rest easier now. What are you doing here?"

"Same thing as you. I wanted to tell her and thought this would be the best place to come. You okay, Gordo?"

Starsky smiled at him. "Yep, I'm fine, Hutch. Really fine for the first time in a long while. I don't know why, Terry is still gone. Somehow, knowing Prudholm is going to pay for it makes me feel better."

Starsky gently touched the grave marker. He lovingly touched her name and read the passage from the Bible Terry's mother had put on the marker.

Teresa Renee Roberts

January 22, 1949 March 5, 1977

Beloved Daughter

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me." Psalms 23, 4

Starsky thought about how often he felt Terry's presence with him, just like she said she would be. "Rest easy, sweetheart. It's all over now. Justice was served." Starsky's heart was lighter than it had been in many years.

Looking at Hutch, he noticed the flowers in his hand for the first time. "Roses, partner? You hate roses."

Hutch smiled. "Yeah, I know, but Terry loved them." He laid the flowers on her grave and sent her a silent thank you for still being there for Starsky. He knew she would never fail him.

Hutch stood up and offered his hand to Starsky. "Come on, Gordo. We have some celebrating to do." Starsky allowed Hutch to pull him to his feet and they walked out of the cemetery together.

The End

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