A Time to Hurt, A Time to Heal
by Lucy

SHSVS, Episode 502, Part 3

Back to Part 2

The sound of rain woke him, and he glanced at the open window in confusion at the bright sun pouring in, until he listened again more closely and realized the rain he'd heard was the shower running. He fell back and closed his eyes, not caring what time it was, just wishing he was still asleep and that his lover was curled up next to him instead of humming an old Beatles tune in the shower. He stretched, feeling the customary morning erection stretch to full length with him and he tapped it down lightly. "At ease, you got yours last night, but good," he remembered with a smile. His mind fixed on the gay porn video and he frowned slightly. "You gay, Major?" he wondered aloud. "Not exactly accepted by this man's army. And if you are, what's the deal with Lizzie? You're all over her. Smoke screen?" Maybe, he mused as he reluctantly rolled out of the big high bed and plodded toward the shower.

Starsky had just stopped the water as he entered and pushed back the curtain. Hutch handed him a towel and leaned in for a quick wet kiss, laughing as Starsky shook his hair at him like a dog, sending water droplets over Hutch's bare chest. "No, you keep getting it mixed up. I said I like the look of you wet. The way the drops shine on your hair, like your body's dusted in diamonds. Me wet? I look the same as me dry," Hutch said.

"How'd you sleep?" Starsky asked with a grin.

"Like a rock, I just would have liked another hour."

"Go back to bed then," Starsky said, muffled behind the towel as he dried his hair. "When do you have to be somewhere?"

"I have to get out of here before whoever they send for your therapy gets here. I've got a list of pawn shops and jewelry stores that take high-end estate stuff to follow up with," Hutch replied, sounding as bored as the assignment of the day would likely make him.

"Okay, let's see if we can find a coffeepot and a piece of toast before you go. I don't know what time the major got in last night, I never heard him."

"With the size of this place, I'm not surprised." Hutch moved past Starsky to get in the shower himself. Giving a glance at Starsky's back with the intent of drying the drops of water there, he saw faint areas of red with purple undertones in lines coming off his backbone and framing the puckered scars from the exit wounds. He locked his teeth together so tightly his jaw hurt. Hanson, you're a dead son-of-a-bitch.

Once dressed, Hutch followed the smell of coffee to the kitchen and found Starsky talking with Arturo on the deck. Pouring a cup he joined them. "Our host sleeping in?"

"No, he left a note on the table, he's playing golf and had a six-thirty tee-time," Arturo answered. "The physical therapist comes this morning, I've got a surveillance camera to put on a tripod in the hall closet. I can get a good view of the den and I've moved the furniture a little to make an empty space to set up a table. I've got the doors to the library open and a couple of the fake paintings set up on display easels to catch their eye. There's also a few expensive statues with some pretty impressive jewel inlay on the shelves in the den, so it will give them something to look at without even trying."

"Well, let there be some other things a little less obvious. I don't want them to smell a plant," Hutch cautioned, as he finished his coffee and grabbed a bagel off the plate on the table.

"I'd better get going. I've got a list that I'd like to make a dent in today and get it over with." He gave Starsky a wink while his back was to Flores, then turned to address his temporary partner. "Call me after the therapy session. Stay close enough to see that it isn't a repeat of yesterday, that son-of-a-bitch left bruises." Hutch's voice was breaking ice that was a match for the frosty look in his eyes aimed at Arturo.

"Right, I will."

"Actually, in spite of being sore, I feel pretty good, not so stiff when I got out of bed this morning. So even though it felt like he was killing me yesterday, it might have done some good. But if that's what he has in mind for tomorrow, I hope we can bust him today. I think I'd rather have you do it a little at a time." Starsky looked at Hutch with such trust it twisted his heart. They both knew they'd slacked off a little on those things that hurt Starsky, and deep muscle massage to break up the scar fibers on Starsky's back was the main one. It seemed easier and more positive to concentrate on the wind and stamina of the walks and easy runs they were doing instead.

"Maybe if you get in the jacuzzi tonight, we'll work on it a little before we turn in. You guys be careful. There's a black-and-white at the park two blocks over if you need backup quickly. I'll be checking in. Stay safe," Hutch offered sincerely as he left.

Arturo opened the door in answer to the chimes and nodded his greeting to the woman who towered over him by at least four inches. She smiled and extended her, hand holding a card in it with the embossed logo of the rehab center on it. "I'm Andrea Corbett, I believe we met yesterday when Captain Nussbaum was being evaluated."

"Yes, come in, please," Arturo said, sliding easily into the thick accent and submissive posture. "I have cleared a place for you to set up in the den, this way. Do you need any help?"

She smiled as she easily carried her table in its case through the door and followed to the den.

"How's the captain feeling this morning?" she asked.

"He spend yesterday in bed when we got home. He had much pain. Today is a little better, at least he got up to eat. Major Lotsoff was very mad. He went out this morning early, it may be good that he's not here, yes?" Andrea opened the case and began setting up the massage table and covering it with linens. "Sometimes in the process of making a patient better you have to hurt them to help. It isn't easy for family to accept that," Andrea said as she worked.

"The major can understand that, he just needs to see the help part soon. I tell the captain you're here. Hang up your jacket, please?" Arturo held out his hand to take the lab coat Andrea was wearing. When she shrugged out of it, he went to the hall closet and hung it on a hanger, turning on the camera and positioning the door slightly ajar.

He went into the kitchen where Starsky was waiting. "It's the lady Amazon from yesterday. Rumple your hair up a little, you look too good." Arturo said. "She's set up where we wanted her in the den, and I've got the camera going. I thought we'd give her a few minutes to nose around there. I already said the major was out, so I don't know how more open we can make it for her."

"Right, I'll give her a second. Where are you gonna be?" Starsky asked, thinking of the impressive woman who outclassed him easily in size and strength.

"I'll be puttering in the kitchen, I've got Enrique set up outside the den window doing the weeding of those flower beds and he'll have an eye out. If you get in trouble, start coughing. If he hears that, he knows to come get me right away."

"Well, don't let him be too obvious," Starsky warned and Arturo cut him off.

"Menial laborers are invisible to the wealthy, didn't you know that? She'll never notice him," Arturo said.

"I've never been wealthy," Starsky answered dryly, as he frowned his curiosity when Arturo moved to stand behind him and gently raised the hem of the loose t-shirt he wore, then let it fall again.

"I'm sorry I didn't stop him sooner. I thought you were still faking it, I didn't realize he was truly hurting you...."

"Hey forget it, you had no way of knowing. I should've set up some sort of signal for you to know, my fault. Don't go putting on that Hutchinson hair shirt; one of you is enough, believe me," Starsky said. Taking in a deep breath in preparation, he hunched over slightly and began moving slowly toward the den. "Let's get the show on the road."

He coughed a few times to give Andrea the warning of his approach and to set the stage if he needed the coughing fit later for help. Andrea was dutifully waiting next to her massage table and smiled as he entered. "Good morning. I was sorry to hear you were so uncomfortable after yesterday. I'm here to help that. I'd like to put some hot packs in some warm water, or a microwave if you have one, and these gel packs need to go in the freezer."

Starsky pointed toward the hall that led to the kitchen. "Go through those French doors and Arturo is in the kitchen, he'll take care of whatever you need. You want me on my back or my stomach on this thing?"

"On your stomach, please, to start. Do you need help getting up there?" she asked.

"No, I can do that much." Starsky sat on the table grimacing legitimately as he used his arms to scoot backward, shrug out of his shirt, then lower himself down to his stomach. As he turned over, he looked out the window to see the straw fedora of the yard man, Enrique, working outside the window as Arturo had requested. He made a mental note to thank him later for his support.

Andrea returned carrying her hot packs wrapped in towels, and she placed them on Starsky's back. "Let this warm up the tissue for a few moments, I'll go use the restroom if you don't mind and be right back. Is it down this hall?"

"Yes, the door to the right just past the library," Starsky answered hard pressed to keep the smile out of his voice.

The table under him was nicely padded and the warmth of the packs across his back felt so good he was tempted to tune out and just lie there and appreciate it; but he kept his attention tightly attuned to any movement he could hear in the other part of the house. In a matter of moments, Andrea was back and, after gently removing the packs, she began massaging the muscles of his back. She was good, he had to give her that. She eased at even the slightest tightening up as she passed over a particularly tender spot, working in from the edges until each area was less painful. She wiped off the excess oil from his skin and stepped back.

"Sit up, please, while I go to the kitchen and get the cold packs, then you can lie down on them while I take care of your chest," Andrea instructed as she quickly left the room. She returned almost immediately and rested a thin gel ice pack on the table and covered it with a towel. Then, holding her arm out to help support him, she lowered Starsky down to rest against it. She then rested another iced gel pack shaped like a sleep mask over his eyes. "Just relax, now. I'll go warm up the hot packs for your chest and I'll be right back."

She was gone much longer this time and Starsky strained to hear her footsteps on the plush carpet, but was never sure if they were real or imagined. I'll just have to trust that the camera gets something. He was actually startled slightly when he felt her hand touch his arm before placing the warm packs over his upper chest and shoulders. Moving his nose slightly he eschewed the gel mask enough to get a glimpse out from under the edge on one side, and could see Andrea take a small camera out of her purse. She moved in fluid silence around the room taking pictures of the statues and a few of the paintings on the walls. With a glance back at Starsky she stared for several seconds not moving, and he let a small snore escape his lips, then another. It seemed to be an opening she was willing to use, and she stepped quickly down the hall. In a matter of a few minutes she returned and removed the warm packs, still leaving the gel mask in place and repeated the massage process over his chest and shoulders.

When she was finished and had wiped off the oil, she excused herself to the kitchen once more to return with more lightweight cold pads for his chest and shoulders. "Just lie here and relax a few minutes, I'll pack up a few things and wash my hands." Starsky heard her walk down the hall once more.

I'm going to hate to put you in jail, lady. You give a great massage, he thought as he let his body relax in the spreading coolness of the gel packs. He counted silently to himself and estimated she was gone just under five minutes and judged she was taking more pictures in other areas of the house. She returned, again clearing her throat as she approached to announce her arrival.

"Feeling better?" she asked as she removed the gel packs and extended her arm to slide under Starsky's shoulders to help him sit up.

"Yes," he answered truthfully. "That did help a lot, yesterday damn near killed me. Is he always that rough?"

"Mr. Hanson is a very strong man, as I'm sure you noticed, but he didn't mean to hurt you unnecessarily. Breaking up adhesions in muscle is a painful process. If you've had any physicians or therapists that suggested anything differently, they weren't being honest. In your type of injury, like in the case of scarring after being burned, there just isn't any other way to deal with it. There isn't any surgery that can be done to go in and break up the scar tissue without creating more. It just takes exercise, deep muscle therapy, to actually pull the scarred-down muscle fibers loose from each other and more exercise to keep it loose. I wish I could tell you there was a shortcut in time or effort, but that just isn't so."

Starsky pulled his shirt back on and sat on the ledge in front of the fireplace as Andrea folded the linens off the table, then the table itself. "And how many treatments do you think it will take to break all the scar tissue loose?"

"I wouldn't make a guess, that would be Mr. Hanson's judgment. You'll be seeing him again tomorrow, right?" she asked.

"Yes. Is it going to be as bad then as it was yesterday?" Starsky asked not even trying to hide his dread.

"I wouldn't think so. Alternate the ice and heat the rest of today, and ice down immediately following the session tomorrow. If you like and you think today helped you, I can arrange to come back later in the evening tomorrow or first thing in the morning on Saturday and see if the combination of the therapy at the center and here at home makes it a bit more tolerable. I've got a lot of patients who have had very good results that way." Andrea snapped the lock on her table's case and stood, eyebrows raised in question.

"Well, today certainly helped; there's no question about that. Keep Saturday morning open. If tomorrow isn't as rough, I'll cancel the appointment. We'll see how it goes." Starsky stiffly stood. "Let me have someone help you out with that." Starsky turned toward the kitchen and called, "Arturo, come here, please."

Flores entered almost immediately, looking at Starsky and awaiting instructions. "Please get her coat and help Ms. Corbett to her car with the table."

Arturo took a step in her direction, but she waved him off. "I lug this around all the time, it's not a problem, if you'll just hold the door." She smiled back in Starsky's direction. "Be sure you keep on it with the ice and heat, drink plenty of water today, especially over the next hour or so. I left you an herbal tea bag in the kitchen. Put it in a cup of boiling water and drink it within the hour. It will help draw out the lactic acid in the muscles. It will help with the soreness a lot. It is a remedy we all used in training for the Olympics. Believe me, I know about sore muscles. It will help, honestly. Completely natural, rosehips and chamomile. I'll see you tomorrow at the center." She walked easily out the door, accepting her coat without comment and Arturo closed the door gently behind her.

"Me, help her with the table?" Arturo asked, wide-eyed. "Did you see the biceps on that chick? She could carry me out with the table and not break a sweat." Arturo, glanced covertly out the peephole on the front door. "How are you feeling, did it help?"

"Yeah, it really did, I feel great. I hate to lock her up, I could use those massages a couple of times a week."

"Well, we've got her on tape, the camera was aimed right at the table, maybe you can teach Hutch her technique," Arturo offered as he turned around. "I slipped Enrique my camera and he got some shots of her taking pictures of some of the stuff in the library," Arturo beamed at him.

"I saw her taking some shots of stuff in here, too, when she thought I was dozing. Let's get everything developed and see what we've got." Starsky stood, getting ready to slip into his shoes.

"Where do you think you're going?" Arturo asked.

"We're going down to get the film to the lab and—"

"No, we're not. I am," Arturo said firmly. "If they have someone staking out the place, they can't see you bopping out of here like nothing's wrong. They won't think anything about the hired help leaving, and the major should be home in a couple of hours, so they won't think it's strange that you're being left alone very long, either." Arturo went to the hall closet to get the camera. "Don't give me any of your hang-dog faces, that won't work on this partner. I've got a four-year-old at home who's a champ. You don't stand a chance." Arturo laughed easily. "I'll be back as soon as these are done and we'll have home movie night." He moved toward the garage exit off the kitchen. "Give Hutch a call, he'll be glad to know you're feeling better. I know how you felt after yesterday really ate at him," Arturo tossed back over his shoulder as Starsky watched him leave.

Starsky stretched his shoulders gingerly, relieved that today hadn't been a repeat of the agony of yesterday and briefly hoping, however unrealistically, that the case could get wrapped up before he went under Hanson's hands again tomorrow.

He sat at the bar stool in the kitchen and picked up the phone, dialing the main precinct number. "This is Detective Starsky, patch me through to Detective Hutchinson, please. Thank you." Starsky waited through a few clicks and some silence before he heard the voice that never failed to warm him.

"Hutchinson here."

"Starsky here. How ya doing? When you get a chance to stop for lunch, land-line me here and I'll fill you in on how this morning went."

"You're okay, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I'm great. I haven't felt this good in a long time. In fact, why not give a few of those leads on your list to Lizzie to check out and you come by. Arturo won't be back for a couple of hours, he went to get some film developed. The maid said the major always stays to eat lunch at the country club when he plays golf, so he won't be home for a while either," Starsky said.

"I'd love to, you know that, but I shouldn't be seen coming there in daylight wearing civilian clothes. I'll be there after I go home and shower and put on the army green. We'll keep up the pretence. It won't be much longer. Lizzie thought she'd be done giving her deposition in another case right after lunch, and she'll be by to keep you company. You sound bored."

"I am, but it ain't her company I want."

"Good thing...I'll see you soon."

"Bye." Starsky sighed as he hung up.

Starsky walked aimlessly around the kitchen and the deck outside, "Damn right I'm bored," Starsky muttered. He walked back into the house and found himself outside the library. He gave a brief glance to the planted paintings and hoped that Andrea had gotten her greedy appetite whetted. Then he went to the shelves of unmarked video boxes where he had gotten the video he and Hutch had watched last night. Choosing another, he took the box back to the guest room. "We'll see if you laugh at my research tonight, Blondie, when I get my hands on you," Starsky muttered to himself as he locked the door.

After an hour or so of research, a well deserved jack-off, and short nap, Starsky got up, took a quick shower and went in search of anyone else at home yet. There was a note on the refrigerator door addressed to the major from Maria, the maid, reminding him that tonight's dinner was on the bottom shelf and she would be visiting her mother as was her custom every Thursday. She would return in the morning. Enrique was with her and they had taken the truck to get the bags of fertilizer for the lower slope leading to the beach. While they were out, they would get new railroad ties to reinforce it, since the rains washed some of the sand away. It suddenly struck Starsky that he was alone in a house that they had deliberately set up to be robbed. He looked around feeling a quick prickling of the hair at the back of his neck. He discounted it with a snort, but went to the guest room and checked that his gun was still where he'd left it in his overnight case. Confirming that it was, he started to put it in his belt, but aborted the thought with a self-deprecating grunt and left it where it was. He returned to the kitchen and took in the spectacular view of the ocean, noting the morning marine layer had finished burning away and opened up the view. He walked out on the deck and picked his way carefully down the steep steps, intent on doing a walk in the sand for his exercise of the day.

"Playing the cripple has made me feel like one again. I don't intend to lose the ground I've gained," he said sternly and strode out picking up his pace. He hadn't gotten very far when he was breathing hard and the muscles around his ribs, both back and front, were burning. He sat down on a rock outcropping to catch his breath and rest, enjoying the breeze and the salt air.

Starsky's eyes followed the lazy glide of a pelican in the air, squinting against the sun until another sight caught his attention. He could see the driveway where it intersected the main road and noticed that the gate was open. He watched for a moment thinking the major was back and that the gate would shut as it usually did automatically. But it stayed open. He climbed a short distance up the rocks to get a glimpse of the curved driveway to see if there was a car parked in it by the front or side entrance, but saw nothing. Giving another check to see that the gate had still not closed, he slowly retraced his steps, wishing now he had followed his first instincts and palmed the gun.

He moved stealthily around the side of the rocks and looked up at the severe incline that bordered the side of the house farthest away from the visible section of the deck and garage. Given the abuse of yesterday, there was no way his arms would support him trying to climb that far, almost straight up. That left him with no choice but to retrace his steps back the way he'd come and hope if there really were someone in the house that they were occupied in rooms other than the kitchen where his approach from the beach would be totally observed.

"Maybe it's Liz and she forgot to close the gate," he mumbled, not buying it even as he heard the words. Doing his best to ignore the sharp cramp in his side, he pushed himself to hurry up the incline in the loose sand. Ducking under the stairs to catch his breath and see if he could hear anything in the house above him, Starsky waited.

He could hear isolated footfalls that created creaks at intervals. Whoever was up there was walking from room to room, and there was more than one. He waited until he heard the concentration of footfalls the greatest distance away and took his chances to dash up the stairs. He quickly crossed the surface of the deck, flattened himself against the wall of the house and listened. He could hear muffled voices, one male and one female. He did not recognize them other than he could say for sure it was not Hutch or Lizzie. He quietly edged along the house wall, hoping the French doors of the library were unlocked so he could slip in there and run down the hall to the guest room to get his gun.

He slowly reached out his hand to test the knob of the French doors to the library and was discouraged at how badly it shook. His spirits lifted immediately upon the feel of the knob turning in his hand and the door swung silently inward.

He stepped into the library and stopped briefly to listen. Hearing nothing, he glanced around. He noted that the artwork that had been standing on the display easels was gone, the easels barren skeletons in the early afternoon shadows. He quickly moved to lean against the doorjamb nearest the hall, faintly hearing voices near the den. He swung himself around and sprinted to the guest room. He rushed in and shut the door quietly, leaning against it for just a second to try and slow his frantically fast heartbeat. He grabbed his suitcase out of the closet and fumbled inside for his gun. Finding it and closing it securely in his hands brought a calming deep breath.

He then walked quietly over to the phone, picked it up and dialed the operator to get help on the way. Giving the address in a hurried whisper he identified himself and called in a 211 in progress.

Hutch took out the sheet as he finished typing the report and was preparing to sign it when he saw Arturo walk into the squadroom.

"Have you talked to Starsky recently?" Arturo asked sounding irritated.

"A while ago, why?"

"The line was busy before when I tried it, it's still busy. When exactly did you speak to him?"

Hutch looked at the clock on the wall, "A little after noon, why?" Hutch pressed.

"I just got these pictures developed at the lab." Arturo handed a stack of photos to Hutch, then leaned closer. "Look at this one, I had them blow it up. See what she's doing?"

"Messing with the property's perimeter alarm." Hutch recognized the hallway where Andrea was standing and the box on the wall in front of her.

"Look closely at what numbers she programmed. Can you tell? She's turned the alarm to disable for two o'clock this afternoon. It's after that now and the phone's busy at Lotsoff's. I radioed the black-and-white close by to check things. We'd better head over." Arturo picked up the photos as Hutch quickly stood and grabbed his jacket, as they hurried out of the room.

"Why would she try to hit the place so soon?" Hutch asked as Arturo drove toward the beach.

"Maybe they've watched all the houses in that area enough to establish a pattern on each of the people who live there. Didn't Maria say today was the major's golf day, and the day she visited her mother? If they know there won't be anyone home...." Arturo said.

"But Starsky's there, and he's home. She was there this morning, she knows he wasn't going anywhere," Hutch reasoned. "Would she think after the massage he'd be so relaxed he'd take a nap and sleep through it, why would they take that kind of chance? Why not wait until he's at the clinic?"

"Asleep—Oh, shit!" Arturo gunned the car to go faster.

"What?" Hutch asked feeling the color drain from his face.

"She left him a tea bag. Told Starsky to brew it and drink it within the hour as she was leaving. She said it would help with the soreness of his muscles. Told him it was something the athletes used when they trained for the Olympics. I'll bet you anything I've got that it wasn't rosehips and chamomile like she said."

Hutch reached across to grab the hand piece from the radio. "Central dispatch this is Zebra Three, I need an ambulance dispatched to 41317 Driftwood Lane, suspected poisoning. Thanks. Zebra Three out." Hutch let the mic fall from nearly numb fingers. He could feel the fast racing of his heartbeat in his ears, but inside...in that place in his chest where he had been hurting since Starsky's shooting...in that place gripped by that icy hand, he felt a deadly calm. If Starsky's dead, there isn't a power on Earth to save you, Hanson. I'll kill you and your girlfriend on the spot.

They noticed the open gate as they approached the house; there was no other activity. Arturo grabbed the radio. "This is Flores in Zebra Three. I asked for back-up here twenty minutes ago. There's supposed to be a black-and-white assigned here. Where the hell are they?"

The radio crackled a second before the dispatch voice responded. "Unit 624 was rerouted to a hit-and-run about three blocks over. They had driven past and said everything was clear at that current address. Nothing but a malfunction of the gate and the repairman was on site fixing it. Are you finding there to be a problem, Zebra Three?"

"Yes, there's a problem. Be sure the ambulance we called for doesn't get rerouted, and get that black-and-white back up here!" Hutch grabbed the mic and hissed his reply, then threw it down in disgust. Drawing his Magnum, he quietly got out of the car, gesturing with his chin that Arturo should pull his car up a bit to block the driveway exit.

Arturo joined him in the bushes off the front entrance and they watched as Hanson and Andrea loaded one of the larger pieces of art in the back of the van in the driveway. They walked nonchalantly back into the house, their posture unhurried and without a trace of anxiety.

"Sure of themselves, aren't they?" Arturo whispered.

Hutch ran silently to the far side of the van, glancing in as he passed, long enough to ascertain that there was no one sitting in it. He noted that it was indeed loaded down with the planted contraband and several others of Major Lotsoff's collectible pieces of art and sculpture. He nodded his readiness to Flores and the detectives swung around as one unit to enter the foyer of the house through the propped open door.

Arturo inched along, motioning that he was headed toward the library, Hutch nodded his understanding and indicated his direction toward the other end of the house that included the den and kitchen.

Hutch listened intently as he moved quietly along the wall. He heard the opening of a cabinet door and the lyric ping of crystal touching something, and judged whoever was in the den had opened the large display door in the German shrunk that covered most of one wall. It would mean the person standing there would have their back to Hutch as he approached. Praying they hadn't turned around, he quickened his pace. Reaching the end of the hall, he dodged slightly to the other side to be able to look in but still be partially obscured by the partition of the hallway. Andrea stood with her back fully to him reaching for some of the expensive items in the shrunk. She squatted to place them in a padded suitcase. Hutch took several fast steps and placed his gun none too gently at the back of her neck. "Don't drop it, that little baby is pretty pricey," Hutch whispered as he produced his handcuffs out of his back pocket. "Set it down carefully and put your hands on the glass. If you make a sound, I'll shoot the side of your face off. It won't kill you, but you won't be very attractive. Do you have any doubt at all that I'm serious as hell?" Hutch's question was punctuated by a tap of his gun barrel just behind her ear. She fractionally shook her head and slowly brought her hands around to rest on the glass as ordered. Hutch cuffed first the right one, then, using the open handcuff as a handle, pulled that arm down and pinned it to her lower back with his knee until he could use his other hand to drag her left one down and cuff it also. He turned her to face him and kept the gun ominously close to her face.

"Where's Starsky?" he asked.



"I don't know. I expected him to be sleeping when we got here, but the house was empty."

"What did you try to drug him with?" Hutch asked, his rage bubbling closer to the surface at the thought.

"A tea bag, laced with choral hydrate," she answered.

"How much?"

"I don't know, it's a liquid, we just pour on a little. You'd have to ask Derek, he gets it and makes them up."

"I'll do that. Sit down, and if you make a sound, my original offer still holds." Hutch warned as he pushed her into a side chair, then took her jacket and pulled it down her arms tying the ends behind her securing her tightly to the chair.

Hutch ran silently to the kitchen and saw nothing out of the ordinary until his eyes fell on a cup near the stove. It held a greenish liquid, was fairly full, and the tea bag still floated in it. A cautious sniff registered an herbal fragrance.

Hutch eased back into the hall and moved to where he heard muted voices at the other end of the house. The library was empty as he passed it and he moved further to the master suite. He rounded the corner, and his entrance attracted the attention of Starsky and Flores as they stood holding their weapons on Derek Hanson. It was the chance the man had waited for. He threw the heavy lead crystal ashtray in his hand at Arturo, hitting him in the side of the head. Flores went down like a poleaxed tree. Hanson spun a well-placed kick at Starsky's gun hand, sending the weapon flying. Hutch brought his own gun to bear on Hanson, but the big man grabbed Starsky to use as a shield. Anticipating the move, Starsky dropped to his knees so the physical therapist had to hold him awkwardly. Hanson crouched, never letting go of his dangerous grip on Starsky.

"Stay where you are and drop your gun, or I'll snap his neck," Hanson roared.

"You let him go and step away," Hutch's voice was calm and soothing, Starsky stared at him wide-eyed. "You are not leaving here, and you're not going to hurt him, either. It'll go a lot easier on you if you do as I say. If you kill him, I'll put a bullet in your throat and watch you drown in your own blood and not do a thing to help you. Considering this is a .357 I'm holding, the shot will make you a quad in the process." Hutch took a small step closer. "Even if you lived, would you want to? How many months on a Stryker frame before that great body of yours starts to atrophy away? Let's see...what else? The shot would take out your voice box. You couldn't talk. So there you'd be, a brain with eyes to see and ears to hear, but you couldn't move a muscle. Couldn't even call for help if you needed it. You'd just be spending the rest of your miserable life seeing other people walking around and hearing them talk about you as if you weren't even there. Isn't that how you guys do it? Huh?" Hutch moved a little closer. "No pain, no gain?" Hutch let all the months of pent-up rage surface. "Maybe there'd be some hotshot hard body assigned to take care of you...poetic justice, don't you think, after the torture you do and get paid for it." Hutch brought his gun up and cocked it. "What's it going to be?" Hutch let his face take on a calm smile and in his peripheral vision he could see Starsky's face, frowning. "Give me a reason, God, please, I don't even need much...." Hutch whispered.

Arturo groaned and stirred where he lay on the floor behind Hutch and Hanson's eyes darted fractionally toward the sound. "Starsky, now!" Hutch yelled, and Starsky rammed Hanson's groin with his elbow and rolled out of his grasp.

Hutch dove at Hanson who was holding his own genitals and knocked the big man the rest of the way to the floor. Straddling his stomach Hutch punched him repeatedly in the face. Hanson's hands were effectively pinned and useless where Hutch straddled him and he was no longer squirming to fight back. Hutch drew back and hit the already unconscious man again and drew back to deliver another blow when he felt a hand grab his arm. He tried to shake it loose but the fingers tightened, and he turned to see Starsky standing there.

"It's over, babe, we won. You did what you promised Mr. Zychowicz. You got him, now get off and let Arturo cuff him." Starsky pulled slightly and Arturo joined in lifting Hutch off Hanson's body.

Hutch felt a little dazed. He looked at Arturo with concern at the blood on the side of his head. He reached to check him but Arturo brushed the hand away. "It's okay, my head's the hardest part about me."

Hutch reached again to capture Arturo's chin to get a look at his eyes. Once he was satisfied that they focused and the pupils were equal, he let go and stepped away from Hanson's body. The room suddenly seemed stuffy and hot. Two officers and the crew from the ambulance had arrived and flooded into the room, also.

"There's another one handcuffed in the front part of the house," Hutch said to one of the patrol officers.

"Yeah, we got her, she's already in the car," he replied.

Hutch nodded his thanks and staggered out of the bedroom. He ducked into the bathroom off the hall and shut the door, leaning against the back of it. When he closed his eyes all he could see was the bloody face of Hanson as he had hit him again and again. He felt the bile rise up in his throat and he propelled himself away from the door to kneel in front of the toilet and empty the contents of his stomach. He wasn't aware of the door opening, only the draft as it closed again and the feel of Starsky's hands rubbing his back.

He shook his head and shuddered slightly at the bitter taste in his mouth, feeling it matched perfectly by the bitter taste in his soul. "I...wanted to...I would have...." He wretched again, but there was no more to bring up.

"Sshhh," Starsky soothed. "No, you wouldn't. Here, rinse your mouth out." Starsky offered Hutch a glass of water.

Hutch took the water gratefully, then poured the rest over his head, wetting his shorter than normal hair, and letting the drips fall mostly in the toilet.

Starsky handed him a damp washcloth and Hutch wiped his face and hair. He twisted off one knee to sit and rest his back against the vanity cabinet. "Better?" Starsky asked, still squatting next to him.

"I think so. Are you okay?" Hutch's hand trembled as he reached to touch his lover's face.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"You didn't drink any of that tea, did you?"

"Are you kidding? Did you smell that stuff? It's worse than that dedicated liver thing you used to make for breakfast," Starsky answered.

"Desiccated." Hutch corrected. Looking up into Starsky's face, the concern he saw there fractured him. "I'm sorry...I'm...I'm no better than they are. W- what have I become?" Hutch felt Starsky's arm snatch him forward and wrap tightly around him.

"Stop that. You aren't anything bad, you're just stressed. You've spent so much time helping me heal you haven't taken care of yourself. Well, I'm okay now, babe, so let me be the one to take care of you a little, okay?"

"I wanted to kill him." Hutch gripped the front of Starsky's shirt as if it were a lifeline. "His face kept changing, it was the guy in the garage that tried to kill us, then it was Gunther, then it was Soldier, then that goon in the hospital that hurt you so badly day after day and seemed to take pleasure in it." Hutch's voice broke. "It got all mixed up."

"I know, but it's over, now. We won, all the way around. I'm okay and you're okay. We solved this case and we're gonna ask Dobey for a week off. I'll see if I can get that beach place again, and we'll go and relax and talk and make love. We're okay. You can let it all go." Starsky kissed Hutch's face and neck as he held him and rubbed his shoulders and back.

There was a soft knock on the door and Arturo's voice sounded on the other side. "Everything okay in there?"

"Yeah, thanks," Starsky shouted back.

"We're okay," Hutch offered, pulling back to stand up.

Starsky handed Hutch the wet cloth again and he wiped over his face and hung it on the rack. When he turned back around he saw Starsky watching him. "We are, aren't we?" Starsky asked softly.

"Yeah," Hutch answered. "We are."

Arturo was seated at the desk when Starsky and Hutch walked in. He glanced up and smiled, the bruised area on the side of his face from Hanson's blow almost gone. "Well, well, look who decided to come back and work for a living," he teased.

"Yeah, so look out," Starsky fainted a couple of play punches in his direction, then patted his back.

Arturo glanced at Hutch with an exaggerated open-mouthed stare. "I never knew gringos could get so tan. Is there more to Huggy calling you ‘bro' than I thought?"

"Sshhh, deep family secret," Hutch teased back.

"Hey you look great. Really rested." Arturo glanced at Starsky. "I'm glad you got him to take off, he needed it."

"We both did," Starsky replied seriously. "So what's been going on? I ran into your new partner when we came in. You and Lizzie, huh? Good for you. You've got the experience as a detective and she knows the area from her time in Vice. Good match."

"Yeah, now I just have to convince my wife of that." Arturo rolled his eyes.

"Hey, I'll talk to her if you want, Lizzie is no home wrecker. Believe me, after the divorce she went through a couple of years ago, that is definitely a non-issue. She's the most straight shooting woman I've ever met," Hutch offered sincerely.

"Besides, she said she's still seeing the major, that should help," Starsky offered with a little laugh as he and Hutch exchanged private glances.

"Yeah, I told her that, too," Arturo answered. "She'll adjust, Lizzie's being great about it. Not so friendly that it looks artificial, it'll work out. I'm lucky to have her as a partner, I think we'll be fine."

"Me, too. Now get off my desk," Starsky rumbled. "I'm officially cleared and completely reinstated." Starsky put his hand on Hutch's shoulder and continued, "This is my partner and I don't share. You've got your own blonde." Starsky softened the words with a lopsided grin but nevertheless started helping Arturo clear his things away, moving everything over to Lizzie's desk.

Dobey stood in the opening of his office door and observed the latest exchange, whispering softly as he closed the door. "Thank God, and welcome back."

*What Do I See When I Look at You by Martha Bonds

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