Mine to Lose
by Keri T.

SHSVS, Episode 6

Cops were used to phones ringing in the middle of the night. It was part of the job, and most grudgingly accepted it in the same way they accepted days off being canceled with little notice, or a longed-for vacation request denied due to lack of personnel, or a departmental crisis. The insistent ringing of the phone, pulling him from blissful slumber was the worst as far as Dave Starsky was concerned. Despite years of experience dealing with late night and early morning calls, they still pissed him off.

"Starsky," he mumbled harshly into the mouthpiece, once he'd located the phone.

"Dobey here. You awake?"

"Cap'n, it's the middle of the night. No, I'm not awake."

"It's 4:30 in the morning, and I know you were sleeping...but so was I before the commissioner called me and got my ass out of bed! Now I'm calling you. See how all good things roll downhill?"

The tone of his captain's voice had Starsky sitting up on an elbow and rubbing his bleary eyes. "Okay, Cap'n, I got the picture. What's up?"

"Levy."

"He's willing to talk?" Starsky fumbled for the lamp, blinking as the harsh light flooded the bed.

"That's what he told his lawyer about three hours ago. We get one hour with him, then he goes into solitary for his own safety until the trial is over, if we can really nail Edwards. Then they'll transfer him to some maximum-security prison back east. His lawyer is still working out the details, and he stressed that time is critical. If we want Levy to give up those names and dates--and I don't need to remind you that we do--we need to get his statement this morning." Starsky was listening quietly, willing his brain to become fully alert.

"Starsky?"

"I'm here, just thinkin'. Cap'n, Levy's in San Quentin. That's what, 500 miles away? Just how fast can we get there?"

"You and your partner have a flight at 6:30. That's in two hours, and I need you both in here ten minutes ago for a briefing." Dobey's loud voice forced Starsky to move the phone a little away from his ear. "Oh, and, Starsky, I tried to call Hutchinson first and there was no answer at his apartment. So if you know the number of whatever lady he's spending his nights with these days, you'd better call her now. I need you both in here right away, and I'm assuming that Hutchinson is letting you know his whereabouts as he's supposed to do, according to procedure? I know how all my men follow procedure."

Starsky ignored the sarcasm. "Actually, Cap'n, Hutch is here at my place. He crashed on my couch last night."

"Then wake him up, and I'll expect you both in my office in thirty minutes."

Starsky hung up the phone and rolled over. "Guess you heard all that?"

"I heard enough to know we're going in, and that Levy's gonna blab." Hutch's voice was still thick with sleep, but his smile was gentle as he touched Starsky's face. "How much time do we have?"

"Dobey said thirty minutes. We have to get briefed before the plane trip." Starsky rolled back over to his own side of the bed in order to rise. His chest muscles felt particularly stiff at this early hour, and he had to bite back a groan as he heaved himself from the bed.

"You okay, Starsk?"

"Oh, yeah, I'm fine, it's just that not all of me is awake yet." Once he was on his feet, a few stretches and some deep breaths helped to work some of the kinks out. He glanced at the pale face that was looking at him so hard. As always, it was difficult to ignore the look of concern in his partner's eyes. "I promise, okay? Now, are you gettin' out of bed or what?"

"I guess, 'or what' isn't an option?" Hutch tossed the covers back and swung his legs to the floor. "God, we didn't get much sleep last night."

"Don't remind me. If you'll find us some clothes, I'll take a two-minute shower and leave the water running for you. I gotta get my eyes open."

"Okay." Hutch got to his feet reluctantly. "Hey, Starsk, we don't have to pack, right? I mean we're in and out, today?"

"I guess so. Besides, we don't have time to pack so we'll have to wing it either way."

"Isn't this shaping up to be a fun day?" Hutch made his way to the dresser, shaking his head a little as he went.

"Really," Starsky agreed. He moved toward the bathroom. "I'll be quick."

"So will I."

Starsky left the bathroom door open, then started the shower and found both their toothbrushes. He left Hutch's on the counter as he scrubbed his own teeth, wondering what was in store for them at San Quentin.

"All right, you two, is everything clear?" Dobey asked for the third time.

"Cap'n...." Starsky spoke in a complaining tone, but Hutch cut him off before he could continue.

"Yeah, Captain, we're clear." Hutch raised his brows in Starsky's direction and received a quick nod in return. Starsky was standing close to the door, nearly hunched over the coffeepot, consuming the strong stuff as quickly as possible, and waiting for the caffeine to kick in. He watched his partner drain his own cup in one long gulp and get to his feet, then he listened as Hutch's smooth tones finished reassuring Dobey, "So, we'll report back in this afternoon."

"I'll expect you to come straight here from the airport," Dobey ordered. He picked up the thick manila folder from his desk and handed it to Hutch. "Everything's inside. Case notes, the Q&A list, and directions to the prison. Your tickets are waiting for you at the United counter, and there's a reservation at Hertz for a rental car."

"I'll bet it's for an economy car, right?" Starsky asked rhetorically, well aware of the department's strict budget guidelines.

Dobey gave him a sharp look. "That's right, and don't be thinking about upgrading when you get there. I'll be the one going over your expense reports, remember? Oh, and I'm so sorry, but first class was all sold out, so we had to book coach seats for your royal rears."

Hutch rubbed at his still tired eyes and motioned for his partner to grab both their jackets. "Not to worry, Captain. Our royal rears will be just fine in coach."

Starsky went to the door, holding it open as Hutch passed through. "See ya later, Cap. Oh, and, Cap? Maybe you should go home and get some more sleep. You're kinda grumpy."

"Get out of here, Starsky!" Dobey roared.

Starsky flashed a grin and a wink at the large man then slammed the door behind him. The sharp noise inflamed the small headache right behind the captain's eyes, and he reached for the aspirin in his desk drawer.

The United terminal was very crowded, even at the early hour of 6:00 a.m. Impatiently, Starsky and Hutch waited in the long check-in line, watching the minutes tick by.

"Hutch, what if the plane takes off and we're still in this line?" Starsky checked his watch against the large wall clock over the registration desk for the tenth time.

"I don't think that'll happen," Hutch answered calmly. "Look at all these people in line with us. Some of them have to be on our flight, and they're not going to take off and leave a lot of angry passengers on the ground."

"What about schedules? Remember that commercial with the two hot girls?"

"Can you be more specific?"

"Come on, you know the one. They both had great tits and were wearing really short skirts. I can't remember which airline it was for, but they were singing this song about how important my time was to them, so their airline would fly on schedule, always. The song didn't really rhyme or anything, but they sang it pretty well."

"I'm sure they did," Hutch's tone was dry and his hand firm as he pushed Starsky forward. "Move up, Starsk; it's almost our turn."

Finally, the two detectives were waved to an open agent, who hurried them through with a warning: "You only have eight minutes 'til take off, and you're leaving from Gate Fourteen. You'd better run."

Both men took off at a dash for the security post leading to the gates. The line there was depressingly long, and they had little choice but to push their way to the front. Starsky got his badge out first, waving it to catch the security guard's attention. "My partner and I are cops, and we're carrying our weapons. We need you to check us through as fast as possible because we have a plane that's about to leave, and we gotta be on it."

"Step to the side, Officer, I'll be with you in one minute," answered the burly guard.

"Mister," Hutch stepped forward, removing his own badge. "We don't have a minute. Now we're really sorry to cut in line like this. But this is official police business, and you need to check us through right now."

The man took one look at the four blue eyes staring him down, and instantly produced a tray. "Put your guns in there. I'll carry them to you once you're through the metal detector."

Once through, both men holstered their guns simultaneously. Starsky was glancing at the direction the gates sign were numbered in, as a final boarding call for their flight was announced. The dark-haired man started first, calling over his shoulder as he sprinted. "Run!"

The flight was fast and uneventful, though the cops spent the first few minutes trying to catch their breath. It was 7:25 a.m. when they arrived in San Francisco. They quickly located the Hertz desk, and by 7:45 were seated in a very small compact car. It took two tries for Starsky to start the engine, and he shook his head in disgust over the pathetically weak turnover. "Geez, Hutch, I expected small and economical, but this is a tin can."

"At least you can fit your legs all the way in," the taller detective complained. "I'm going to be shaped like a pretzel by the time we get to the prison."

"Speaking of which, ya wanna haul out those directions and tell me which way to go?"

"Yeah, okay, give me a second." Hutch fumbled in the folder he'd been holding since leaving Dobey's office, grimacing a little at the lack of legroom.

"Did you push the seat all the way back?" Starsky asked, noticing his pained expression.

"I don't see a lever. I think it's back as far as it'll go."

"Check under the seat."

"I can't reach under the seat, Starsk, I'm practically pinned here."

"I'll find it, you just look for the directions." Starsky reached between Hutch's legs until he located the lever under the seat. A few sharp pushes released the gear, and sent the chair back a few blessed inches. "There. That'll give you a little room."

"Thanks." Hutch stretched out his legs as far as possible. It helped, but his knees still remained uncomfortably high. Ignoring the slight discomfort, he peered again at the map. "Okay, we need to pick up 101 north and take it to the bridge."

"The Golden Gate?" Starsky was impressed.

"The very same."

"I haven't been over that bridge in years. In fact, I can't remember the last time I was in San Francisco." Starsky guided the little car out of the parking lot and headed for the airport exit. "How about you?"

Hutch looked up sharply, his face was shrouded for an instant in intense pain. It took him a second to recover his emotions and offer a small smile. The long months of Starsky's recovery had trained him well. "It hasn't been all that long for me."

Angry at his own casual words, Starsky shook his head. "Aw, Hutch...babe, I'm sorry. I didn't think. I just didn't think."

"Hey, it's okay," Hutch murmured, and used a strong palm to massage Starsky's knee. Neither spoke again until Starsky had made the turn onto the freeway, Hutch's hand still resting on his leg. "I still think about that day a lot, you know."

"I know," Starsky took his right hand off the wheel and covered Hutch's hand solidly. "What you did took a lot of balls. You went in there alone, and you nailed the bastard."

"I wasn't alone, Starsk."

"Huh?"

"I said I wasn't alone. I took you there with me, in here." Hutch took both their hands and placed them on his chest. "I wasn't alone for a second."

"My partner, the romantic," Starsky said gently, removing his hand from Hutch's to reach up and briefly cup his face. "I may not have ever said it enough, but I was damn proud of you."

"Starsk...."

"I was, and we don't have to talk about it right now, so don't get all tense. We're here, we're together, and we're about to get enough information to nail Edwards' ass to the wall. Everything's good."

"You want to talk about last night, then?" Hutch asked in a husky voice. Any mention of the man who'd almost succeeded in taking Starsky from him always tore open his own healing wounds. Starsky wore his scars on the outside. Hutch wore his on the inside.

"Last night? Now, last night was spectacular." Starsky grinned. "If only we could have gotten a little sleep this morning."

"Come on, Starsk, you know what I mean."

"You didn't think last night was spectacular? You sure looked like you were havin' a good time. Felt that way, too," Starsky teased.

"I was ready for more, that's all. I just wish you'd have believed me."

"No you weren't."

"You think I don't know what I want? That I don't want you that way?" The blond's voice held a hint of anger now.

"Of course not. I know you want me that way. I know you want me to fuck you, and I'm going to. And it's going to be spectacular, but you're not ready yet."

"And just how do you know that, hotshot?"

"Because I know you, okay? I know you better than anyone has ever known you, or ever will know you. You can't hide those kinds of secrets from me, Hutch. You want it, but you're not quite ready. I'll know when you are, and then I'll make it so good."

Hutch's belly quivered at the spoken promise. "I hope you'll tell me when you know."

"I won't be keepin' it to myself, I can promise you that," Starsky moved his free hand firmly up and down Hutch's thigh, feeling the rigid muscle beneath well worn jeans. "Your leg gettin' cramped up, or are you just tense about questioning Levy?"

"A little of both, I guess. I can't help wishing we were all done and on our way home. There's a hell of a lot riding on our getting this statement down rock solid."

"Piece o'cake, Hutch. Hey, Dobey sent his top team, didn't he? That should tell you something." Starsky moved his hand back to the steering wheel as he approached the turnoff to the bridge. "Look at that! Damn, is this thing beautiful."

Hutch responded with a brief nod, barely acknowledging the towering columns of the suspension bridge as they started across. Glistening moisture clung to the rust colored, painted steel.

Starsky admired the tiny dots of rainbow-like colors that bounced from the metal as the sun hit the condensation, but Hutch appeared not to notice. Starsky squeezed his thigh again. "Hey, just relax and enjoy the view. We'll be at the prison in no time, and we only have an hour with Levy, remember? We'll be back on this bridge before you know it, and headed for home."

"Okay, let's just get there and get this over with," Hutch replied in a clipped tone.

"Is something else bothering you?" Starsky asked, not liking the expression Hutch was wearing. The broad forehead was creased in the way it always was when the blond was troubled.

"Nothing...it's nothing. I just...nothing."

"We got time to talk if you want."

"It's probably lack of sleep, Starsk. I just feel a little tense."

Starsky studied his friend's face briefly and decided not to push any further. "Hey," he began, wanting to lighten Hutch's mood. "When we get home, you can nap and I'll cook. We'll have a steak dinner, some wine...and anything else your little heart can think of. How's that sound?"

Hutch smiled and the tension left his face. "That sounds like a date, buddy. I may even sleep over."

"That's the plan, Blondie, that's the plan."

"Then let's get there already. I'd like to start your plan as soon as possible."

San Quentin prison had opened in 1852, and since that first day had never lacked a steady stream of inmates. Nestled close to the bay, it was located on a beautiful strip of California real estate. These amenities added little joy to the lives of the convicted men imprisoned in its interiors. Most were serving hard time, and many were housed on the prison's death row. Life inside was ruled by a disciplined, unvarying routine. Meals, work details, and lights out occurred at the same time day after day. Both the inmates and the guards controlling them lived with boredom and unending stress.

Mike Andrews had been a correctional officer for twenty years and was well respected by the other guards. Today, he was working a new shift and fighting the remnants of the flu. He didn't normally pull "swing," and his body was feeling the effect of his disrupted sleep pattern. He walked the perimeter of the laundry, trying not to yawn, and felt ill at ease. All the prisoners were going about their tasks in a routine manner, and yet something had his nerves tingling. His co-worker was supervising the other side of the room. Soiled linens were removed from huge blue rolling baskets and stuffed inside washers by the inmates. Nothing was out of the ordinary, he finally decided, as he once again tried to stifle a yawn. He just had to hang on a little bit longer, until the day shift took over and he could finally go home and get some sleep.

"There it is," Hutch pointed, as the huge gray complex came into view. "The next right should take us to the gate house."

Starsky nodded and brought the car to the first barred entrance to the prison. Inside the glass booth, the armed guard opened a small window. "We're detectives, here to question an inmate," Starsky explained, handing over their badges and some paperwork Hutch passed to him. The guard reached for the lot silently and carefully inspected the paperwork and IDs, staring hard at the two men to be sure their faces matched the pictures in the leather folders. After a few minutes of perusal, he returned it all to Starsky and opened the gate. "You're clear."

"Thank you," Starsky mumbled, thinking a smile would probably break the guard's face. He drove to a small parking area near the administration entrance, and shut off the engine. Turning to Hutch, he offered a wink. "You ready to unfold those legs?

Hutch groaned as he fought with the door handle, which was located inconveniently just behind his elbow. "More than ready. I may walk back to the airport when we're done." He swung his cramped limbs from the car. "If I can regain the use of my legs, that is."

The sound of Starsky's laughter calmed Hutch's jittery nerves somewhat, as he followed his partner inside the building. Two uniformed corrections officers were standing behind an area enclosed with wire mesh. Hutch took the lead. "Detectives Hutchinson and Starsky, from the BCPD. We're here to question inmate Matthew Levy. I believe you've received a call from our captain, Harold Dobey." Hutch offered his badge, as did Starsky.

The taller of the two officers was holding a clipboard as he walked over to the detectives. Hutch glanced at his nametag, quickly registering the name Parkinson, as the man rifled through the papers he held. "Yes, Detectives, we have you scheduled. If you'll step over here," Parkinson indicated a table flanked by rows of lockers, "we'll get you processed in, and then escort you to the room where you'll be meeting Levy."

"Thanks," they uttered in unison as they moved to the table. Without being told, both men unholstered their weapons and handed them to Parkinson.

"Thank you, Officers. We'll tag these and lock them up for you. You'll be coming back out this way when you're done, so you can retrieve them then." Parkinson walked over to a nearby wall phone and dialed four numbers. "This is Administration, I need an escort to take two detectives to interrogation room thirteen, and I need prisoner Matthew Levy," he stopped to consult his clipboard again, "number 11044, to be taken from his cell to meet them." He hung up and turned back to the waiting pair. "It should only be a few minutes, and Levy's lawyer is already in the room."

The heels of Hutch's boots clicked loudly against the cement floor they were walking on. It was the only sound ricocheting off the barren walls, as the two partners followed their escort down a cool corridor, toward a set of interrogation rooms. They passed no cells, for they were still in the outskirts of the administration wing, which fed into the main part of the prison.

Their armed escort brought them to a halt at the second door on the left, and retrieved a large ring of keys from an attachment on his belt. He opened the large door quickly and waved the men inside. "Levy will be here shortly, and you'll have an hour with him. If you need anything, or have any trouble, just press this buzzer right here." The guard indicated a round black knob on the inside of the door. "If you ring it, I'll be right in. I'll leave the three of you now to introduce yourselves." The guard left, without acknowledging the small, balding man who sat at a wooden table in the middle of the room. The door closed with a loud snap, as it automatically locked. Starsky glanced over his shoulder at the noise.

"I hate that sound, Hutch."

"I know." Hutch strode to the edge of the table and extended his hand. "I'm Detective Hutchinson, and this is my partner, Detective Starsky. You must be Mr. Carlson, Levy's attorney?"

The small man remained seated as he grasped Hutch's hand in a weak grip, shaking it briefly. He had a pale, bland face, from which a pair of sharp brown eyes blinked a few times. "Yes, I am, and I'm pleased you could get here so quickly. As I explained to your commissioner, I've been working closely with my client to obtain his...cooperation, and in return, the best deal for him I could get. As you know, his sentence was life in prison. The details aren't finalized yet, but if his statement leads to a conviction for Edwards, he'll serve less time, and at a far more comfortable facility. Edwards is the one you've all really wanted to see put away."

"That's true, Counselor," Starsky said, stepping forward. "But make no mistake, we've got no regrets that your client is behind bars."

"Starsk," Hutch muttered warningly.

"It's okay, partner. I just want to make sure Mr. Carlson understands that while we're very grateful for his client's cooperation, we're not unhappy that he's no longer helping Edwards' syndicate distribute coke to half the high schools in the state."

Carlson remained motionless, but he blinked again, rapidly. "I appreciate your position, Detective. I do hope you're not planning on sharing it with Matthew, though."

"Nope, just wanted to get it out on the table before he joins us. During the years he stood at Edwards' right hand, he did his share of killing, and it didn't even muss up his pretty, handmade suits." Starsky pulled up a chair and sat down casually. He placed both hands on the rough table and continued, "So while we're grateful for his help in bagging Edwards, and we understand that you're doin' your job in getting him a good deal, we don't have to like the fact that he'll serve one day less than he's got comin' to him."

The attorney leaned forward and met Starsky's gaze. "He'll serve plenty of time, Officer, you needn't worry about that."

Hutch briefly laid a light hand on Starsky's shoulder, before pulling out his own chair and sitting next to his partner. "As my partner said, we're grateful for his cooperation." All three men looked up, as the door opened and a tall, heavyset man entered, followed closely by the guard who'd led the cops to the interrogation room.

"Matthew, hello." Carlson rose to his feet and indicated the empty chair beside him. "Sit down and I'll introduce you to the officers who'll be taking your statement."

"No need for that, Stuart. These two men were part of the welcoming committee that arrested me two years ago. I remember them." Levy joined the others at the table, glancing insolently at the partners as he sat down. "Starsky and Hutchinson, right?"

"That's right, Levy," Hutch began in a quiet voice. "We only have an hour, so why don't we get started?"

The guard spoke from the door. "That's right, one hour. I'll be right outside if you need me." The lock clicked back in place as the man exited the room.

Inside the laundry area, Mike Andrews rubbed his sweaty forehead and glanced at his watch again. He was very relieved to see that his shift was finally over. Any minute now, the day guards would be here, and they would take over the supervision of the stiflingly hot room. Over the roar of the heavy-duty washers, he noted the sound of movement outside the locked door, and vaguely registered a team of convicts being marched down the corridor to the outside yard. That meant some of the day shift was already on duty. He stifled annoyance at the fact that his own relief had not yet arrived.

That was his last thought as he felt something solid and heavy hit between his shoulder blades. Confusion washed over his face as he tried to understand why the floor was rushing up to meet him, then he sank into the blackness and was still.

From the far corner, the other officer saw his co-worker go down and reached for his walkie-talkie with one hand and his gun with the other. His hands moved quickly, but not fast enough to stop the large, grinning inmate who was suddenly at his side. The guard swallowed convulsively, willing his mind to remain calm, even as laundry baskets were overturned, and harshly grunting prisoners rooted through the scattered prison-issue items to retrieve handmade weapons. The taste of bile scalded his throat, at the same time another, shorter convict stepped behind him, removing the walkie-talkie from his grip. His right hand was clenched with punishing strength, forcing the gun from his hand as pandemonium broke out, and the locked laundry room doors swung open.

The convicts in the corridor quickly overtook the men who were leading them to the yard. The suddenness of the attack was its strength; the well-planned and well-timed actions of the jailed men resulted in two guards lying in bloody pools, while two others were disarmed and restrained. The men from the corridor joined the stream from the laundry, and their ranks were now twenty-two. A single shot rang out as they began their march toward Administration and the warden's office.

"Okay, Levy, let's go over June nineteenth one more time." Hutch concentrated on the notes he'd been jotting down while the taciturn Levy gave his statement. He wanted to be sure they'd covered everything before the hour was up, and Starsky had just signaled him with a tap to his wristwatch. "You said Edwards was there at the warehouse as the...."

A series of loud, intermittent horns began screeching through the loudspeaker, startling all four men in the interrogation room, and stilling Hutch's voice.

"What the hell?" Starsky was out of his chair and to the door in a few quick steps. It opened before he could ring the buzzer, and the guard who'd been standing watch was hurrying inside.

"Levy, stay seated, the rest of you, get out of here, now!" The guard gestured wildly with his hands.

"What's going on?" Hutch asked, joining Starsky at the door.

"Lockdown signal, we're going to lockdown, and the why I don't know. All I know is I have to get civilians out of here right now. Just leave, and head straight back to Administration."

Levy started to rise from his chair.

The guard unholstered his weapon and pointed it directly at the convict. "I said, stay down, Levy." The convict returned to his hard chair.

Carlson hurried to meet the two detectives at the door, casting a regretful glance at his client. "I'm sorry, Matthew. I'll contact you as soon as I can. Shall we leave, Officers?" The attorney started out of the room.

"Wait," Starsky cried, grabbing the man's thin arm. "Oh, my God, Hutch, look!"

Hutch followed Starsky's gaze and felt his jaw drop open. "Get back, get back!" He shoved Starsky behind him and reached for the attorney, trying to pull him quickly from the doorway. The sea of blue work shirts was advancing fast, and each running step seemed to mark a beat of his heart as he struggled to shut the heavy door, but the attorney still blocked part of it. "Get back, now!"

The rest happened before the blond could speak again. His arm was almost wrenched from its socket as he was pulled from the room and swung in a near arc, before he was released to slam head first against the opposing cement wall. He skidded almost seven feet along the slick concrete floor, feeling every inch of the rough block wall against his side. He lay dazed, trying to clear his vision against the darkness that threatened to claim him. Hutch struggled for awareness, hearing the horns blaring even more shrilly as pinpoints of pain soared along his skin. Only one thought was real. Starsky. Starsky.... Get back, please get back. You have to get down....

Starsky saw Hutch flung from the room, but nothing more as he was quickly engulfed by two of the rough-hewn men. Behind him, Carlson was shoved into a corner, and Starsky was vaguely aware of the attorney's whimpering and the sound of a gun being cocked. None of it mattered as he battered against the men holding him, keeping him from going to Hutch. The nightmare had been reduced to one single thought for the captured detective: Getting to his partner. "Let me go! Let me get my partner!" He roared, kicking and clawing to no avail.

Harsh hands drew him further back inside the room, even as he kicked forcefully, trying to stop the motion pulling him backwards. He felt the strain in his neck as he craned it as far as possible, trying to see what had happened to Hutch. "Hutch!" he screamed, "Hutch!"

Starsky slammed his hip hard against one of his captors and twisted with all his strength, desperate to get loose. From somewhere behind him another pair of arms grabbed him around the waist, effectively stopping his frantic attempts to free himself. From the corridor, he heard the sound of creaking steel and a loud crash. Starsky couldn't see what it meant and didn't know that a previously hidden set of bars had just fallen down in the hallway, one foot in front of where Hutch was lying semi conscious on the cold ground.

The sound of the horns faded to a whisper, then roared back to Hutch's ears as he tried again to clear his vision. Over it all, he could hear his own name and the panic with which it was called. Gotta get to Starsky, gotta get him out of there. Oh, please, God, please, don't let them hurt him. Please. Hutch got to a knee and reluctantly gave his body a moment to adjust to the change in position. Once he was able to get to his feet he turned back toward the direction of the interrogation room and was faced with the wall of bars. The sight shocked and confused him further as he staggered toward them. From somewhere behind him, he could hear the sound of many feet pounding at a run. It had all happened too fast, and Hutch was too stunned to do more than strain to hear his partner's voice among the chaotic noise coming from in and around the interrogation room. He clutched the cold steel and realized with a sickening jolt that Starsky was behind that barrier. That he was cut off from getting to his partner. His heart beat at an almost hurtful pace as he squeezed the bars. Before he could gather the breath he needed to shout his partner's name, he was grabbed from behind, turned around, and confronted by more correctional officers than he could count.

"Do you know what happened? Who are you? How many convicts did you see?" The man holding Hutch by his arms fired the questions without pausing for breath. Hutch wrenched out of his grip.

"Let me go. My name's Sergeant Hutchinson, and my partner's in there! I have to get to him."

"Sergeant, we don't know what we're dealing with yet. The security cameras captured part of the disturbance, and we know we have at least two wounded or dead guards, but we don't know how many others are being held hostage. We also know the disturbance began in the laundry room, and at least ten convicts are responsible."

"Disturbance?" Hutch asked incredulously. "Mister, that's no disturbance you have in there. It damn well looked like the makings of a riot, and there's more than ten convicts." He placed a hand at his temple to try and quell the stabbing pain he felt there. The warm stickiness on his hand surprised him, and he roughly wiped the blood on his pant leg. Again he strained to hear Starsky's voice, realizing with a start that now there was only silence under the roar of the sirens, where just seconds before there had been frenzied shouts. The calm was chilling. Hutch felt his controlled panic begin to turn to terror.

Why is it quiet now?

What are they doing?

How the hell did this happen?

"Hutchinson, I don't have time to argue with you. You need to step back right now, so my men can secure this gate. You're injured. Your head needs to be looked at, and we need to get a statement from you immediately." The officer motioned two of his men forward. "Please escort Sergeant Hutchinson to administration. Put him in the warden's secretary's alcove, get him some first aid, and take his statement. Report back here immediately."

"Wait just one goddamned minute!" Hutch was still feeling lightheaded, but anger was giving him strength. "Did you hear me before? I said my partner's in there. They've got my partner, and I'm not going anywhere until I know what the hell is going on, and what you're going to do to get him out of there!"

"Listen to me. Right now we have to secure this area. We need to know everything you know, and I don't want to hear it here! Those men are standing just out of our sight, but not out of hearing range, do you understand me?"

Hutch nodded, realizing the logic of the man's words. He didn't want to give the convicts any more ammunition than they already had. "I'll go and give my statement, but I'm coming back." He turned once more to look at the area where his partner was being held, just out of his reach. No one noticed the slight tremor in his upper lip, as he straightened to his full height and followed his escorts to Administration.

Starsky had stopped struggling when the blunt end of a gun was shoved under his chin. Though his body was still, his eyes flicked to the left, and his cop's brain registered the face of the man holding the gun. Large. Hispanic heritage. Eyes squeezed into almost slits, making the color impossible to note. Starsky winced as the gun moved slightly, pressing hard against his jawbone. "Easy, go easy with that thing," he managed to whisper.

The gun was lowered an inch, removing pressure that had become painful. The man shoved at Starsky's shoulder until the cop moved backwards. "No talking, not a word. Move back." The words were spoken with the hint of a native Mexican tongue and delivered in a calm, measured voice. "I'm in charge here, and I want quiet. Absolute quiet." The other convicts pressed closer into the room, crowding it almost unbearably, but they moved quietly, and no one said anything. In seconds, the only sound remaining was the noise of the frightened attorney as he drew in harsh, ragged breaths.

Starsky ended up behind the table where he and Hutch had been sitting, just moments before. Carlson and Levy were standing close together in the far corner. The interrogation room guard, who had tried to get the civilians out of danger, was now in the most immediate danger. His eyes were wild as his neck was surrounded in a tight grip by one of the jailed men. His gun had been appropriated; when and how Starsky didn't know. It had to have happened while he was trying to get to Hutch.

Hutch, he thought, in agony. Aw, babe, please be okay, please don't be hurt. He tried not to imagine all the things that could have happened to his partner after he was wrenched from the room, but it wasn't working. Focus Starsky. You have to focus, he told himself, taking deep breaths and feeling his Adam's apple bobbing in his throat like a rock, as he swallowed convulsively. Fear mixed with pure fury, and both went down bitterly to form a well of acid in his stomach. A final deep breath, and he was able to draw his eyes back to the guard.

"He's gonna black out," Starsky directed at the man who proclaimed himself in charge. "You better get your friend off him, or you're going to have a dead man on your hands."

"I said quiet," the prisoner replied, but he turned toward his fellow inmate and the guard he held and drew a finger across his throat. The man was released immediately and slumped to the floor, trying to breathe in air as fast as possible.

Knowing he couldn't go to his aid, and hearing the sounds of breathing begin to come at a smoother pace from the floor, Starsky turned his attention to the whole interrogation room. Inside the cramped quarters were nineteen inmates, he quickly counted, four who were armed with guns. There were three correctional officers, including the recovering guard on the floor, Levy, Carlson, and himself. Dimly, he thought of the small interrogation rooms at Metro, thinking they would never have been able to hold this many men. Nineteen cons, twenty if I count Levy, but nineteen with some kind of goddamned agenda. All armed with something, and five holding pieces. Six hostages. Again, if I count Levy; the bastard could fit on either side of this game board. Starsky concentrated his thoughts on both the count and the categorizing of the weapons he was able to see. Oh, God, what the hell do they think they're going to do? He waited in silence for the next card to be played.

The walk toward Administration seemed three times as long to Hutch as it had been just an hour ago. He knew that was impossible, he was traveling the same distance. But now his shoulder wasn't lightly touched by Starsky's shoulder. His boots weren't keeping time with a worn out pair of blue sneakers, and his nose wasn't filled with the scent of the man who was his heart.

The ache inside was physical.

Finally, Hutch was led to a small room, close to the area where he and Starsky had checked in. The sound of sirens continued to wail from outside, competing for dominance with the cacophony of sounds still blaring from the prison's speakers. County sheriffs, and probably SWAT, he thought, trying to find some relief in the knowledge that reinforcements were right outside. Another siren's roar, slightly different, caused his stomach to roll. Ambulances. For the wounded, or the dead. He rubbed again at his bloodied temple, barely noticing the hand on his elbow, guiding him to a swivel chair. He had to shut his eyes for a moment.

The desire to run back down that long hallway and tear the bars apart one by one, was so strong he could see it in his mind, see his own hands tearing the bars from their cement holds. Ripping them all down until he could get to Starsky.

"Sergeant?" The correctional officer lightly shook his arm. "Sergeant, do you want me to take you outside to the ambulances? Maybe we should have a paramedic look you over before I get your statement."

"Huh?" Hutch asked, confused by the question. He didn't know his face had gone to a near chalk color after the short walk, or that he'd missed the first questions asked of him.

"Sir, you're obviously not well. You didn't seem to hear me a moment ago." The guard's eyes scanned Hutch's face nervously. He knew nothing about head injuries, and his instructions had been to provide some basic first-aid and get Hutchinson's statement. He could wash a wound, and apply a bandage, but if the white face in front of him was any indication, the man needed more care than that.

"No, I don't need a paramedic. I heard you before; I was just thinking about something else," Hutch lied.

"You're sure?"

"I'm sure, and the first-aid can wait. I'll bandage my own head later." He saw the argument about to come forth from the guard and stopped it before the man could speak. "That's final. I'm here to give you my statement, then you can hand me a bandage, and watch me go back to where my--my partner is."

"Okay, let's start at the beginning," the guard spoke softly and pulled up his own swivel chair, after grabbing a notepad from the desk. Before Hutch could begin, the front area of the office was filled by the arrival of several men wearing dark suits and ties. The guard jumped to his feet. "Warden Hayes. You're here, sir."

"Of course, I'm here." The warden spoke sharply, all business. "Go find your superior officer, Riley, and bring him back with you. I want an immediate report of what we're dealing with."

Hutch looked with a mixture of hope and curiosity at the suited men. Other than the warden, he had no clue who the others were. He barely noticed that Riley was the name of the guard who'd been trying to talk him into seeing a paramedic. Everything that wasn't about getting Starsky released was extraneous information to the dazed blond. He watched Riley scurry off and then rose to his feet.

"Warden Hayes?"

"Yes, who are you?" The warden asked, although he was being signaled to join another suited man, this one holding a folder.

Hutch ignored the question. "Warden, they have hostages. They have my partner."

Sweat. The smell of sweat assaulted Starsky's nose. Not the clean sweat of a hard workout, but the stench of fear moistening the pores of the men being held captive. The convicts were also sweating profusely. The small room containing both captors and captives was stiflingly hot, encouraging the sticky, damp wetness. Starsky estimated that it had been at least five minutes since they'd been ordered to be silent.

The lockdown horns were still blaring.

Starsky watched the large Hispanic convict whisper something to the inmate closest to the door. The man nodded and left the room. The eerily calm voice of the inmate "in charge" broke the silence.

"My name is Sanchez. For the last five years it's been 10098, though. For as long as I've been incarcerated in this hellhole, that's what I've been identified by. A number. Now my friends and I have been planning this situation for a long, long time. Make no mistake. We know exactly what we're doing and exactly how we're going to accomplish it. If we have to kill any of you we will have no regrets. So, if you want to stay alive you'll do exactly as you're told." Sanchez nodded at Starsky and Carlson. "Our plan now includes you two as hostages. Who are you? You go first," he pointed at Carlson, "and speak very softly."

The attorney had been biting his lip and clenching his hands together while the convict spoke. His pale face was drenched with perspiration and his breaths were still loud. "I'm an attorney. I'm Mr. Levy's attorney. I-I was only here to conduct a statement. That's all, just a statement. Detective Starsky was here to take the statement, and Matthew was...I-I have a wife and children...please...please don't hurt me."

Starsky shut his eyes involuntarily as Carlson gave him up without even realizing it. The damage had been done.

"Detective Starsky? You're a cop?" The inmate's tone dripped with venom. "Well, well. That's an added bonus. A cop. Here to join our little party." The man leaned in close to Starsky, his breath hot and foul on his face. "That's very good to know, Officer. We'll be watching you extra close. You have special bargaining abilities. Special value. You'll be worth much more than a couple of screws and an abogado.

"You gonna let any of us in on what your plan is?" Starsky asked softly, trying to turn his face away from the sour stench.

Before Sanchez could speak, more men crowed inside. Starsky saw the inmate who had just left the room, now joined by three new men. They were carrying the limp and bloodied body of a guard.

"Andrews? Sanchez asked the group. "He's alive? What about Samson?"

"Samson's dead, we left him in the hall. Andrews is still breathing," the first convict answered.

"What about the gates?" Sanchez showed no emotion over the knowledge that one correctional officer was dead.

"They got us closed in, man. Gates are down just before the laundry and right outside this room."

Starsky listened to the exchange closely. Taking in the new men, trying to get a feel for the psychological makeup of the group holding them. They were racially mixed, which surprised the detective. Such an organized group who worked with such deadly precision had to have been working this attack out together for months or more. Starsky was educated enough on prison sociology to know that different races tended to stick together and not mix with others. That wasn't the case here. Blacks, whites and Hispanics were all represented. The ages of the men looked to be between twenty-five and forty. He pulled his attention back to the exchange.

"And the man you pulled out of here? Where was he?" Sanchez continued.

"We couldn't find him. He musta got away before the gate came down."

Hutch...thank God, he got away. He must be okay if he was able to run. Starsky was so relieved to know that Hutch wasn't lying hurt in the hallway, or captured in another part of the prison that he didn't stop to think that Hutch would never willingly leave him. He felt himself begin to breathe a little easier. Hutch was okay, he had to be, and wherever he was now, Starsky knew he was doing whatever he could to get them released.

Anyone observing Hutch closely would have found his eyes to be dilated. They would have noticed how he was standing much too stiffly, as if he had a board positioned against his spine. They would have also seen that his hands were clenched tightly and the set of his jaw was unnaturally still. They would have noticed all those things if anyone had been paying attention. No one was.

Hutch had been virtually pushed off to the corner right after the warden and the representatives from the FBI had arrived. His head was still unbandaged but the bleeding had stopped. His temple, forehead and part of one cheek were stained with the drying dark blood but Hutch didn't feel it. All he was doing was watching and waiting. The warden had nodded at him with a touch of compassion when Hutch had tried to explain what had happened. They were interrupted almost immediately, though, and the warden was pulled back into the tight circle of FBI agents. He called briefly over his shoulder. "Just be patient for a minute, Detective Hutchinson, we'll be able to speak soon."

The request for patience had nearly caused Hutch to crush the smooth lapels of the warden's suit. He'd run shaky hands through his hair, feeling some stickiness there as he fought to keep his panic under control. Two minutes, he promised himself. I'll give them two minutes, then I'm going back to the interrogation area and they can just try and find a way to stop me.

Hutch knew the procedures for a hostage situation. He knew that information had to be gathered and a strategy devised, he knew all of this intellectually and from his years of police experience, but the fact that it was Starsky being held captive was making it very difficult to remember his training now.

More men crowded inside the small office area. They came from outside the prison and the interior wing. All wore uniforms and were armed. One man went instantly to the warden, his posture erect and his facial expressions hard and drawn. Hutch recognized him. It was the man who had insisted he leave Starsky to give his statement. He moved quickly out of the corner and listened intently.

The warden spoke first, "Miller. What's the situation?"

The guard straightened further and squared his shoulders. His chin tilted upward before he answered. "They have at least seven hostages, sir. Five guards, and we think two civilians."

Hutch wanted to throw back his head and scream. When the hell would they listen?! "Excuse me. Please, listen!" Hutch was nearly shouting. "I know you've asked me to be patient but I can't do that one more second. If you'll listen to me I can tell you exactly who the civilians are."

Miller glanced over at the seething detective. "I was just about to explain that your partner is one of them, Officer."

"That's right, he is. He's also...it's been a.... Yes, he is." Hutch blinked hard against the moisture that was threatening to pool in his eyes before he continued. "There's also an attorney, Stuart Carlson, and another prisoner, the one my partner and I were questioning. His name is Matthew Levy."

Two of the FBI agents were scribbling in notebooks as Hutch gave his information. The warden came over to the distressed man and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you, Detective." He turned back to Miller. "Anything else on position?"

"Right now they're holed up in interrogation room thirteen, sir. We can hear some sounds but can't make out what they're saying. We know they're armed and they have at least five guns all from our staff. At least one of the hostages is badly injured, maybe dead." Miller spoke in a calm measured tone. All facts. His face remained expressionless.

Hutch felt his stomach flip over and threaten to empty itself. He had to swallow several times before he could speak. But what he spoke was really nothing more than a choked cry. He stumbled a little, then found his footing and strong-armed his way through the men standing in front of the guard.

"Which one? Which hostage?" Hutch cried out, his fear so strong it had a taste on his tongue. Bitter. Foul. He had to fight not to gag.

Hutch didn't notice the sympathetic look that crossed the guard's face. Or the gentle way he answered the question. "It's not your partner, Sergeant Hutchinson. We saw them carry the man into the interrogation room. It's one of my men."

Relief was so sweet it was almost dizzying. Not Starsky. Not him. Not him.

Hutch nodded his thanks and cleared his throat noisily. His voice was a little stronger when he spoke this time. "I'm sorry about your man."

"Thank you." The guard's expression returned to its hardened mask and he turned again to the warden. "That's all we know now, sir."

The warden nodded. "All right. Miller, keep your radio on and return to your post. The county police and SWAT are going to be positioning themselves in the corridor, the roof and the grounds. Until we know what the hell the bastards want, all we can do is wait and be ready."

"There's one other thing." Hutch glanced up at the new voice coming from one of the FBI agents. "I'm sending two of my men with you, Miller. The prisoners are going to show their hand soon enough. They're going to want to talk and tell us what they're bargaining for. When that happens, it'll be trained FBI agents who negotiate with them. Is that clear?"

Miller answered the agent but kept his eyes on the warden. "Yes, sir. Am I dismissed?"

"Dismissed. But, Miller, report any changes in status immediately," the warden ordered.

Two of the FBI agents moved to join the guard. He started to lead them toward the interior entrance when Hutch moved in front of them. Perhaps only Starsky would have noticed the glint in the pale blue eyes.

"I'm going back with you."

"That's out of the question, you're a civilian and this is a hostage situation." The FBI agent managed to speak without looking at Hutch at all. He started to brush by him, but Hutch caught his arm in a hard grip.

"Let's get something straight right now. I'm not a civilian and neither is my partner. We're cops. Detective Sergeants, First Class. This fact should concern you, because if those goons holding my partner find out he's a cop, you know as well as I do that he'll be in a lot more jeopardy than the other hostages."

The agent met Hutch's gaze but tried to wiggle his arm free. Hutch held on tighter. "Now, I am going with you. I'm a trained professional and I have no intention of getting in your way, but I have to be there. Please, don't try to stop me."

"Hutchinson, it's out of the question. You're too emotionally involved and, besides, you have an injury."

Hutch dropped the man's arm and turned pleading eyes on the warden. "Warden Hayes?"

Hutch felt the warden's eyes scanning his frame. He could feel his pulse racing while he waited for the man to speak, and tried to think of another solution besides brute force, which could get him thrown out of the building should the warden say no.

He didn't. "Let the detective go with you. And, Hutchinson?" Hutch released a pent-up breath and listened. "Don't make me regret this decision."

Hutch closed his eyes in gratitude. "I won't, sir."

The four men made their way quickly down the corridor to wait beside the steel bars. They hurried past a regiment of deputy sheriffs, prison guards, and SWAT, all lined against the walls and pressed close to the barred closure. Miller elbowed some of his own men aside to make room at the front. Quickly, but quietly, he issued orders. "I want a table and four chairs brought in immediately, along with extra radios and flak jackets. Four jackets. I also want one of you to wait for the report being compiled on whomever the hell we're dealing with. The warden's staff is working on that." Three of his men rushed off to comply with the order.

Hutch turned to one of the men at the gate and asked with a catch in his voice, "Has there been any word? Have you seen any of the hostages?"

Miller intervened, speaking in a voice barely above a whisper. "Detective, my men answer questions from me. Now, you're here under the warden's generosity but this is my turf and here are my rules. You keep quiet and you keep still. Just nod if we're clear."

The nod Hutch gave was brief and revealed none of the rage he was burying along with his terror. He barely heard the FBI agent who spoke next. "Miller, you're in charge of security, but remember that I'm in charge of negotiations."

Great, just great. Everyone wants to be in charge. Let's see one of these John Waynes actually do something, Hutch thought in frustration.

Inside the interrogation room, Sanchez was listening closely. He could make out enough of the conversation to know that the negotiators were beginning to set up. All was going exactly as they'd planned. He'd give the FBI some time to stew, then they'd know what they were dealing with, and they'd take them very, very seriously. A small smile crossed the convict's face as he turned to the group inside. He raised his gun slowly and trained it on the hostages, one by one.

Starsky stood ramrod straight as the gun passed by his face and lingered on Carlson. The attorney was limp with fear, alternately pressing himself against his client and the wall. Levy had remained stoic and completely quiet since the room had been invaded. He looked up and met Sanchez's eyes as the gun stopped on him.

Sanchez continued his quiet tones. "I don't know you, man. But you're a brother con. I may ask you what side you want to be on, but I haven't decided yet."

Levy said nothing and Sanchez's smile widened to a smirk. "That's good, man, that's good. Keeping your options open?"

"Something like that," Levy glanced at his attorney. "I'm a business man. In all things I want to negotiate the best possible deal."

"Well, business man, that's what we're here to do. Negotiate."

Starsky saw an opening, and he took it. "So, what's the game, Sanchez? Just what are you going to negotiate for?"

"Cops. Always going on with the questions. You're all just born nosy, aren't you?" The gun the inmate held was trained on Starsky again as he spoke. "Let me satisfy your curiosity, Detective. We're here to negotiate for the life of a great man. A true leader. We're all willing to sacrifice our own lives to save his."

Starsky's heart sank at the words. The situation was worse than he'd imagined or had been able to anticipate. Armed convicts willing to die, in whatever cause they were fighting, meant that they'd have even less regard for the lives of the hostages than he'd originally thought. He'd known all along that this group couldn't believe that the prison officials would just release them, but if they were after easier work conditions or a transfer to a minimum-security prison, they'd be more willing to try to not harm more of the hostages. I guess it was too much to hope that they just wanted meatloaf on Thursdays, Starsky thought with a bitter, internal laugh. I've got to keep him talking.

"So, whom is this great man you're willing to die for?"

"Shut up, Cop. You'll find out soon enough." Sanchez motioned to two of the inmates holding guns. Wordlessly, the men moved up to the door. Sanchez followed, walking backwards, his eyes and gun still level with Starsky. When he reached the exit to the room, he raised the gun high, arm straight and fired off one round. The noise was ear piercing in the small area and chunks of cement fell to the floor leaving a chalky dust in the air. He nodded in satisfaction and turned in the open doorway.

The sound of the shot caused the men closest to the bars to hit the ground at lightening speed. All but Hutch. He stayed on his feet, needing to see whatever he could, to hear whatever he could. The sound of his own heart pounding in his ears frustrated his desperate concentration. Someone was pulling on the cuff of his jeans, but he ignored it and stayed on his feet.

The SWAT officers moved up stealthily, ready for any command.

Miller was the first to raise his head from the ground when no other shots were issued. He was starting to rise when a voice rang out from the interrogation room.

"We're ready to give you our orders!" Sanchez shouted. "Are you listening?"

"We're listening." The shorter of the two FBI agents shouted back.

"I want to hear from Warden Hayes. We say nothing until he speaks."

"Get the warden. Fast," Miller hissed to his closest man.

The agent watched the guard scurry off before he continued. "The warden will be here in a minute. Why don't you tell us the condition of the hostages while we're waiting for him."

Hutch drew in his breath sharply. Please. Please.

"The warden first." The convict's voice was loud but his speech slow, nothing hurried, no trace of panic.

"How about your name? Can you tell us that?"

"The warden first. Don't piss me off, man," Sanchez replied, almost casually.

Nothing further was spoken on either side until Warden Hayes reached the area. The men carrying the requested table, chairs, radios and jackets followed him closely. Hutch turned his head as he heard the men approach and noted that the warden had removed his suit coat and was already wearing a bulletproof vest. All at once, Hutch longed for the familiarity of his own captain. If he could only anticipate what the warden or the FBI agents would do or say, like he could with Dobey on any day of the week, he'd at least have some of the unknown removed. All the men surrounding him were strangers, though, and he had no way to know how they'd react in any given circumstance.

And it's Starsky's life at stake.

The table and chairs were quickly placed in front of the bars, and a team of sheriff's deputies moved in front of it, creating a loosely formed human barrier. The flak jackets were handed out and put on by Hutch, Miller and the two agents. The warden moved to the bars and, with a signal from the chief negotiators, began to speak loudly. "This is Warden Hayes. What do you have to say?"

"I'm going to say it to your face, Warden." There was a collective stirring from the men listening as Sanchez spoke. "Tell your people to put down their guns, because I'll be coming out with a hostage and I'll have a gun to his head. My fellow inmates will have a gun pointed at his back. You shoot me, and he dies."

"My men can't disarm. I'll order them to not shoot, though. Will that satisfy you?" Hayes turned to the men behind him to make sure they understood his meaning.

"We'll be out in thirty seconds." Sanchez responded. "Remember, the hostage will die first and bloody if one shot is fired on me."

Hutch had been clenching his fists open and closed throughout the exchange and now blood tinged, crescent shapes laid across both palms where his nails had dug for purchase. There was no moisture in his mouth to let him speak, even if the words would form. All he could do was wait, while his partner's voice whispered in his head, and his partner's face appeared so clearly before his tightly closed eyes. Thoughts of the night before pounded away without invitation, but Hutch couldn't stop the memories of their last lovemaking. How sweet it had been, how hot. How he'd failed.

They'd undressed each other lazily, with long, slow kisses in between the unsnapping of each of Hutch's shirt buttons and the loosening of the hem of Starsky's t-shirt. Long moments were spent exploring the taste and texture of each other's chests and nipples. Then zippers were reached, and crotches rubbed hard over denim coverings. The two partners had knelt facing each other on the wide expanse of Starsky's bed, breathing fast, wanting more. Working together, they each drew the others jeans and underwear low, not off, but low, resting in a bunch against the bent knees. Then they'd pressed together so close. Dark and light colored pubic hair formed a nest in which the two hardened cocks dueled against each other. So good, so hot.... Then Starsky's hand had found the crevasse of Hutch's ass and it lingered and teased. One finger circling the opening to his body, while dark blue eyes searched his face for every reaction...and it was good, so good. He'd cried out when one finger pierced him, and he wanted more. Starsky gave it. Two fingers went in, but not far. Not nearly far enough, as his body tried to repel the invaders that his heart wanted so badly inside him. Starsky had to draw him forward when his treacherous body pulled away from the penetration. The hand that had been playing with him so sweetly moved up to cup his face and Hutch knew he'd failed.

There was a sharp tug on Hutch's arm, which ended his reverie. "Sergeant, move back. They're coming out." Miller spoke in a low tone, trying to drag Hutch backwards. Hutch threw him off and clung to the gate.

Starsky had listened to each word spoken between Sanchez and the men outside, with mounting trepidation. He knew what the FBI did not. That these men holding them held no value for their own lives let alone the lives they were threatening. He glanced behind him where the other hostages were clustered. The injured guard had still not regained consciousness. The convicts hadn't allowed anyone to go to his aid, so Starsky had no idea of the extent of the man's injuries. The other three guards had blank expressions on their faces. From training, or simple shock, Starsky didn't know. Carlson looked the worst of anyone. The man was convulsively shaking, and even his teeth were chattering intermittently. It wouldn't take much to reduce him to pure hysteria. Starsky was almost certain which hostage Sanchez would pick as his shield while he gave the warden his demands. He just hoped he was right.

Sanchez came back all the way into the room. Starsky watched as he nodded to the other inmates. Then he looked straight at Starsky and raised his gun again. "Come here, Cop. We're gonna go talk to the warden, just you and me."

I was right, Starsky thought as he slowly moved to where Sanchez stood. Instantly, a strong arm was around his throat, making it even harder to swallow and threatening his airway. A service revolver was shoved hard behind his left ear. He had to fight his instincts down. Fight the feeling of desperation, as he had to gasp in air from his mouth. Then they were moving. Starsky's feet half walking and half being dragged as the convict propelled them roughly from the room.

"Sergeant! Sergeant Hutchinson, get back away from those bars, or I'll have you escorted right the hell out of here!" Miller hissed angrily.

Hutch didn't spare him a glance, but the angry threat did penetrate his concentration. Reluctantly he stepped back a few feet, but remained close enough that his view of the hallway was unimpeded.

A skidding sound reached the men's ears before they saw anything and then the inmate was in front of them. Arrogant stature, no visible fear, and he held Starsky tightly around the neck.

Hutch bit his bottom lip hard, to prevent the moan lodged deep in his throat from reaching his lips. Frantically, he scanned Starsky's face but his partner hadn't seen him yet. To Hutch's view, it looked like Starsky was being held too tightly to move his head at all. Hutch heard a harsh gasp and recognized the sound. It was Starsky. The bastard was holding him so tightly that he was choking him.

Then Hutch saw the gun. The muzzle buried in the dark curls. The grip held firm by the convict who stood so still and silent.

At that moment, Hutch knew he could kill the inmate with his bare hands if he ever got the chance. He could feel the white-hot surge through his veins, making his blood run too fast. Making him hot and flushed and then cold and numb. Causing his breathing to accelerate until he was almost panting. His mind reeled with terror and helplessness.

The convict stood with Starsky two feet from the bars. Hutch watched with burning eyes as the man loosened his grip on Starsky's neck enough to allow the detective to turn his head and breathe freely, but the gun remained, pressing so deep that Hutch knew it had to be painful against Starsky's scalp.

Look up, babe. I'm here, I'm right here. I'll get you out, Starsk; I swear to God I'll have you back safe. Look at me, please.

He did. Hutch felt it before he saw it and, despite the gripping fear, his heart soared when once again his partner's eyes locked on his.

It's going to be okay, it is. It's going to be okay. Hutch whispered the words internally to both of them. He'd bargain with the devil himself to make it be true.

No one uttered a sound until, finally, the convict spoke. Looking directly at the warden, he began: "My name is Juan Sanchez. Myself--and many good men, brothers, have appropriated part of your prison and we are holding six men. We will shoot them all unless our demand is met."

Hutch turned to the motion between the FBI agent and the warden. The agent had just put a light hand on the warden's arm. Then he asked the first question. The only question. "What is your demand?"

Singular, Hutch thought. One demand? How can they only have one demand? He waited for the response.

With a chillingly calm delivery, Sanchez continued. "Locked away on this prison's death row is a great man. The true messiah. His name is King Jones, and this state has condemned him to death and this prison intends to carry out that order in two days. We want that sentence commuted from death to life. We demand his immediate release from this prison, and we want signed proof of that agreement delivered to us by six o'clock tonight. Signed proof from the governor of this murderous state. That's it. That's our only demand. Do that, and the hostages will be released. Fail to do that, and they will all be killed starting at 6:01."

Hutch shut his eyes in disbelief. He knew without any confirmation that it was an impossible demand. He also knew without a shadow of a doubt, that the man they were dealing with was insane.

Sanchez went on. "In case you're curious, the first hostage we'll execute will be this cop. At 6:01. Now, you have one hour to discuss this amongst yourselves. Then I'll want an update on when the governor's signed release will be arriving."

Without another word Sanchez backed away, dragging Starsky with him. Hutch saw a flash of desperate appeal coming from Starsky's eyes and parted lips. Appealing to him. Ignoring everyone else and saying everything with his eyes. Hutch heard every word.

The sound of the interrogation room door being slammed and locked, released the men from their frozen positions. The warden and the FBI agents headed back down the hall at a run. It only took Hutch a moment to follow them.

Once the four men were back in the administration alcove, Hutch waited impatiently for someone to speak, to explain what the hell they were going to do. The alcove now looked like a war zone, with controlled chaos reigning supreme. The FBI agents were hurriedly dumping files from the previously locked cabinets onto the long counter. Hayes was rifling through them silently when Hutch's patience snapped.

"Well? Now what? What're we going to do next?" He asked the group at large.

"What we're going to do, Detective, is find Sanchez's file and see if he was one of King Jones' puppets on the outside." The warden didn't look up as he spoke.

"Do you mind explaining to me how the hell that's going to help? Obviously this goon has some tie to Jones or why the hell would he be pulling this stunt?"

"Why don't you calm down, Hutchinson, and let us do our jobs?" The FBI agent's words enflamed Hutch further.

"I'll tell you why not," he said icily. "That man Sanchez just put a death sentence on is my partner! Did you hear what he said? They're going to execute Starsky in a matter of hours and you're looking at files!"

Hayes looked up, casting not unkind eyes on the frantic detective. "We understand how you feel, but you have to understand that they don't just have your partner. They have five other men as well. We have to understand what we're dealing with so we can form a plan to get them all rescued safely."

Hutch knew they were right and that if he were running the situation under different circumstances he'd probably do the same thing, but these weren't different circumstances and he wasn't running anything. All he wanted was his partner back unharmed and he could barely think of anything else.

"Do we call the governor's office at all?" the taller agent asked wonderingly. "I mean we know the policy."

Hutch's throat closed a little more.

"Yes," Hayes answered. "We'll call and inform him, and then we follow the sanctioned policy."

"Which is?" Hutch asked thickly.

"We don't release convicts. King Jones stays on death row."

"And what do you tell Sanchez? How come we can't get the governor to draw up a fake release order?" The questions were tumbling out of Hutch's mouth almost before he thought them up.

"Hutchinson, give us a little credit for understanding prisoner mentality. We don't believe the inmates have any intention of freeing the hostages no matter how many signed forms we stick in their faces. They'd want proof that Jones was free, and Jones will never be released." The warden pulled up a chair as he spoke. "Sit down before you fall down, Detective."

Hutch dropped down in the proffered seat and held his head for a moment, in order to try and quell the dizziness he felt. With an effort he resumed in a quieter voice. "So, let me understand this. You're saying that we're going to ignore the demand? That we're not even going to try and find out if the governor would go along with a release? We could tail Jones' every move and have him back in custody in no time. Maybe the governor would be willing to try that."

"Do you know anything about Jones, Hutchinson?"

"No, I-I mean not much. He's some kind of religious fanatic, right? He killed a couple of people up north?"

"He killed four ministers and one priest. He and his followers believe that he's the messiah. The answer to all their troubles and an end to society as we know it. They believe that all religious leaders are liars and working for evil. That's why the clergy were killed. And that's just the ones we were able to pin on Jones. God knows how many other murders have been committed all over this country in his name. He has a huge following of mainly sick scum. We knew there were many inmates who were his disciples, but not how many. And we didn't know they were organized." The warden paused for breath. "Believe me, the governor will never release Jones."

"Then please tell me, what do we do?" Even Hutch could hear the quaver in his own voice.

"We take them out," the lead agent answered for the warden. "Here, we have the blueprints." The agent motioned for his co-worker, and together they unrolled an unwieldy thickness of documents on a low table.

"Blueprints?" Hutch asked tiredly. Nothing was making sense now.

"Blueprints to the administration wing of this prison. We're going to find a way in that interrogation room, and put our best sharpshooters in charge of taking the key inmates, the ones with guns, out."

"Kill them," Hutch stated.

"Kill them," the agent confirmed, "or at least wound them badly enough to storm the room from the front."

"Jesus," Hutch moaned. "Jesus, do you know how many things can go wrong with that plan of yours?"

"It's our best chance to get most of the hostages out alive."

"Most?" Hutch got to his feet. "What do you mean, most?"

"How long have you been in law enforcement, Detective? Surely you know that in any hostage situation, the likelihood of casualties is high."

"Yes, I know that. Now I'm here to tell you that my partner will not be a casualty." Hutch moved to the spread-out prints. "Show me exactly what you're planning."

On to Part 2

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