Leonard said nothing, but he didn't look away either.
"He who remains silent is understood to agree," Hutch quoted, with a nod to Starsky. "Let's go."
Starsky retrieved his and Hutch's bags, tucking one under his left arm and carrying one in his left hand. When he rejoined the cuffed pair, he grabbed Leonard's unrestrained left arm and the three walked in formation toward the platform and the waiting train--the Coast Starlight. By pre-arranged agreement, they were boarding before the other passengers. Starsky handed the tickets to the porter, who looked hard at all three before taking them from Starsky's hand.
"We're police officers transporting a prisoner," Starsky hurried to explain. "Your management and the engineer have all been notified."
"Yes, sir." The porter's stance was a little more relaxed as he spoke. "The staff has also been notified of your special circumstances. I'll take your bags and show you to your car now."
Starsky gratefully handed over the bags and tightened his grip on Leonard's arm. The aisle was too narrow for the three to walk abreast, so Hutch led the way behind the porter, followed by Leonard and Starsky. It was an awkward walk--with the detective and prisoner cuffed together--and a long one, but finally they reached their destination. The porter began storing the bags.
"Hey, what is this?" Leonard cried out, obstinately trying to avoid Hutch's hand guiding him to his seat. "You're not gonna tell me we're sitting up all night, I hope. This train has sleeping cars. All trains have sleeping cars. I know, because I take a lot of trains."
"Sit down!" Hutch shoved on the stiff shoulder forcibly, until Leonard dropped into the aisle seat. The angry man jerked his right arm harshly, painfully causing the wrist cuff attached to Hutch to wrench his arm until he regained control. "That's enough, punk! Now you sit there and watch yourself." Hutch caught Starsky's eye on the other side of the aisle, and gave him a quick headshake before positioning himself to take his seat. The porter finished shoving the bags in the storage compartment and hurried from the car.
"My lawyer is gonna hear about this, I can promise you that. You're not supposed to keep me sitting up all night. I've got rights, and one of those rights is to be able to get a decent night's sleep."
"Hey, Hutch, did you pack any tissues?" Starsky asked. "This sad story of our abuse is choking me right up."
"Let's see if you're still laughing when your back is ready to break from this chair after a few hours, Cop."
"Yeah, well, the way we figure it is we can thank you for that," Hutch said as he got settled. "If it weren't for your phobia, we'd already be in Seattle. You'd be in your nice cozy jail cell, and we'd be in our motel room. You changed the status quo, and at the eleventh hour, to boot."
Starsky was watching Leonard closely, trying to gauge the impact his partner's words were having. All he could ascertain was a notable smirk. "Are you listenin' to my partner? We really aren't interested in your whining."
"Whatever. I'll let my attorney have you for lunch over this, though." Leonard made another jerk on the cuffs, hard enough for Hutch to feel it through his shoulder, before he continued. "And I'll have you know that aviophobia is a condition that a lot of people suffer from. It's in all the textbooks, if you two clowns can read."
Neither detective chose to dignify that with a comment. Instead, Hutch pulled back on the cuffs with more force than was necessary. "Time for you to settle down and enjoy the ride."
"I want some dinner," Leonard shouted. "There's no way you can starve me on top of making me sit here like a statue."
"Mind waiting until the train pulls out?" Starsky asked disgustedly. "In case you haven't noticed, we're the only passengers on board, and the train isn't moving. When it does, we'll get you something to eat, 'kay?"
"I don't want any stinking sandwich; I want a real dinner."
Hutch used his free hand to rub his temples before responding. "You know, you may want to pace yourself on pissing us off. We've been together twenty minutes, and we have about thirty-six hours to go. Plenty of time for you to be a major pain in the ass."
The prisoner stared straight ahead, then grinned and leaned back against his seat. "You have no idea what pain even is."
Starsky rose from his chair, and in a few short steps was in front of Leonard. "Now, that wouldn't be a threat, would it, chump? Because making threats would be a really stupid thing for you to do."
"I was just commenting, not threatening you at all." Leonard raised his cuffed hand a little after he spoke. "What do you think I could do trussed up like this?"
"Not a damn thing," Starsky replied in a low tone. "I'm glad you realize that."
From the front of the car came the low murmur of voices and the sound of luggage being stored. "They're starting to board," Hutch pointed out. "Why don't you practice being really quiet, Leonard?" Another smirk was his only answer.
Starsky returned to his seat, and all three were silent as the car filled with about fifteen people. Not even close to its capacity, and none of the passengers were in any of the rows near them. After a few minutes, the train slowly pulled out of the station. The steady clicking of the wheels changed to a low hum as their speed increased with each passing mile. Soon, they were traveling at the maximum velocity.
"Gonna check things out," Starsky muttered. "I'll be right back."
Hutch nodded in agreement, knowing that Starsky wanted to map out the emergency exits, as well as look over the other cars and passengers. Both knew there was a possibility the train reservations made for all three earlier that day had been traced. It was easy enough to do by someone who wanted the information badly enough. Leonard was a low man on the totem pole as far as ranking in the crime syndicate he served, but he had a lot of information on those higher up the food chain. His testimony, if he cooperated, would bring about arrest warrants for men not anxious to go to jail, men who might try to stop Leonard from testifying. Hutch shifted restlessly, as he contemplated the feeling of vulnerability about the unknown that was now with him. "Ten?" he asked.
"Or less," Starsky answered, before sauntering down the aisle.
While his partner was gone, Hutch concentrated on tuning out Leonard's renewed stream of complaints, wishing it were both legal and permissible to gag a prisoner while transporting him. The concentration was bringing few results, however, and the droning voice was getting louder. "Give it a rest, Billy."
"I never gave you permission to call me by my nickname."
"Give it a rest, asshole," Hutch said clearly. "Do you like that nickname better than Billy?"
Hutch had no trouble discerning the venom in those two words. "Yeah, it's all our fault. If we'd just stayed out of your way, you could've had a happy life robbing, dealing, using… hurting innocent people. Yep, it's all our fault for misdirecting your lofty goals."
"Hey! I haven't been tried yet. You ain't supposed to talk to me that way. Makin' accusations."
Tiny flickers were presenting themselves behind Hutch's eyes, indicating the onset of a headache. The whole of his right palm traveled hard across his face before he composed himself and responded. "For the last time, and I do mean the last time, shut up."
Starsky moved casually through the cars, glancing over all the passengers in turn. Most were seated facing the front of the train, although some of the chairs did swivel. It would be easier to see the passengers when he walked back to his car from the front. He wasn't looking for anything in particular, just looking. The intent was to get a feel for the train's layout, as well as see if there were any recognizable or suspicious faces. He knew it was a remote possibility, but neither he nor Hutch would be comfortable until the check was made.
Once he was at the end of the first car, he waited a few moments before starting his slower walk back. This time he concentrated a little harder on the faces and the stances of the individuals he passed. The train was filled with men in business suits, already loosening ties and removing jackets, as well as families with children of all ages. No one struck him as suspicious or even slightly dubious, until he reached the third car from the rear. There, Starsky paused against the train's vibrating wall, far enough away to go unnoticed, but close enough to get a good look.
There were four men in one of the middle rows, two on each side. None were talking to each other, but all were sitting fairly close together. It was the man in the right aisle seat that Starsky was staring at the hardest. Now that's a familiar face. I've seen that guy before, but where? Mentally, Starsky flipped through recent booking sheets and FBI flyers, trying to match the faces running through his head with the one in front of him. Nothing was matching up, and unknowingly he narrowed his eyes a bit. Look at them. They may not be talking but they all know each other. This group is traveling together, no question. Now, where the hell did I see that guy before? Starsky continued to ponder to himself, until one of the men looked up and caught his eye. The man did not smile, and Starsky reluctantly continued on toward his own car.
When Starsky reached their seats, his brow was still lightly wrinkled in thought, but it was Hutch's forehead that caught his attention. Hutch was roughly attacking the furrow between his brows with two fingers. He's getting a headache. Leonard will probably give us both migraines before this trip is over.
"You're back," Hutch stated, raising his chin a little as he captured Starsky's eyes with his own. Starsky made a seesaw motion with his hand, answering Hutch's unspoken question.
"Yeah. Hey, after we feed our friend here, why don't we switch cuffs for a while so you can take a walk, too?"
Hutch nodded slowly and opened his mouth to speak. Before he could get a word out, though, Leonard began again. "Okay, we're moving. The dining car hasta be open, and you have to get my dinner now."
"Remind me to tell you William's nickname later, Starsk," Hutch muttered darkly.
"I've got some names I'd like to call him." Starsky planted both hands on the armrests of Leonard's seat and leaned in close. Opening his eyes wide, he began to speak very slowly. "I'm gonna hurry right off and get your dinner, now. Before I go, do you want to tell me if there's anything you hate to eat, because if I hear one complaint out of your mouth when I bring your food back, you'll be wearing your dinner."
Leonard's mouth opened and closed a few times, and his eyes flashed dangerously as Starsky continued to stare him down. After close to a minute of silence, he finally answered. "I'll eat anything but liver, and I don't want a sandwich. Bring me real food."
Starsky shook his head in disgust, slowly raising himself to his full height. "You want me to bring you back something? A snack?" he asked Hutch.
"Thanks, but I'll eat later, after we switch cuffs. You should get yourself something, though."
"I plan to." With a quick wink for his partner, Starsky headed off for the dining car. Thoughts of the man he couldn't place were mixing with thoughts of what he could find Leonard to eat. Hopefully, he'd find something appealing enough to keep him quiet and uncomplaining for at least a little while.
The dining car was only partially filled, Starsky noted as he entered. The selection of choices was decent, and he quickly filled a tray with slices of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, and a roll from the steam counter. For himself, he found two hot dogs and a bag of chips. The tray was getting heavy as he added three cans of soda and, as an afterthought, a container of yogurt for Hutch, just in case he changed his mind about a snack to tide him over.
At the register, the young woman ringing him up smiled pleasantly, as she waited for Starsky to retrieve his wallet. The snug jeans he was wearing precluded a quick removal. Once he had it out and opened, he handed her a ten-dollar bill.
"There ya go. Sorry to make you wait."
"No trouble, sir, just one thing, though. We just opened up and I don't have a lot of change. By any chance do you have fifty cents? That way I can give you a dollar bill back and keep my change for the next customer."
Starsky tossed his wallet on the tray, as he smiled winningly at the woman and started digging through his front pockets. His key ring, several pennies, a lint-covered breath mint, and a rubber band all joined the wallet on the tray, before he found two quarters and handed them over. "Your wish is my command."
The girl shook her head a little, as she felt her cheeks turning pink under the words of her charming and handsome customer. Without saying anything else, she handed him a one-dollar bill and waved him through.
Starsky had noticed the blush, and he couldn't resist adding a wink as he departed. He loved Hutch with all his heart, but it was fun to think he could still charm an occasional lady.
He quickened his pace, even under the burden of the heavy tray laden with food and the contents of his pockets, unwilling to deliver a cold meal to their hot-tempered prisoner. He had just entered the car before theirs, when a screeching whistle began blowing, and the train began to vibrate wildly. There was a bone-cracking jolt that caused both the tray to fly from his hands and the passengers around him to start screaming.
Starsky grabbed the back of the nearest seat, to try and steady himself from the frantic motion of the train that now seemed to be traveling in the air instead of on the tracks. Oh, God, this is gonna be bad, he thought, not knowing what was happening, just knowing this was not a normal malfunction. Ignoring the terrified wailing all around him, he tried to move quickly toward his car. The train had an almost suction-like action pulling against him as he tried to run. He didn't know how long it took him to cover the short distance, but it felt like minutes instead of seconds.
Two more terrifying jolts preceded his entrance, almost sharp enough to topple him over. Once inside, his eyes started scanning as fast as his legs were pumping, and he saw the top of Hutch's blond head at the back of the rows. Then another jolt and the blaring whistle began playing inside his head as he rolled over and over, bouncing against walls and windows with excruciating results to his body and stunned brain…and then everything went black.
The smell roused him before the sounds did, but both were frightening enough to almost make him slip back into the darkness from which he was awakening. Starsky recognized the smell--it was the metallic tang of blood. But for long moments, he couldn't make sense of what he was hearing--why there was moaning and crying; why every inch of his skin felt like it was on fire; why the car had an eerie, flickering light, appearing intermittently along with a battery whine. It added to the surreal sense of fear. And his face…why was his face wet? Slowly, he reached a tentative hand to investigate the dampness.
I'm bleeding. Oh, God, it's in my eye. It's in my nose. Where's it coming from? He worked his hand up farther and felt a deep gash at his hairline. Scalp wound. Okay, they bleed a lot. How, though? What happened? Gotta get up. Gotta see what happened.
He slowly raised himself to an elbow, then fought dizziness so intense he saw dark spots dancing in his eyes. His breathing became shallow as his heart raced, all at the same time he realized he couldn't move his legs.
No! I have to get up! What's wrong with my legs? He fell back down, panting, trying to concentrate on moving his limbs. Prickles coursed from his thighs to his knees, and Starsky knew intense relief. They tingle. They're there. They're there. I can feel them; I just can't move them.
With a huge heave, leaving a trail of sweat to mix with the blood covering his face, Starsky got himself to a sitting position. He was unaware of the ground glass falling from his hair in a gritty shower, for all he could see with eyes gone wide with shock, was the body lying across his legs heavily. The head atop the body was destroyed, and there was no doubt the man was dead. A sickening surge of bile rushed up Starsky's throat, and at once the fog cleared.
The train! The train crashed! We went over something, fell a long way. What happened to…? Where's…?
"Hutch!" he screamed, spewing bile and saliva and blood, as he frantically found his voice. "Hutch! Where are you?! Answer me!" No longer moving slowly, but fueled by manic fear, Starsky pushed at the corpse trapping him. He got one leg freed, and that allowed him enough mobility to move farther down and reach under the body's right arm. It took two tries, but he was finally able to roll the man off his other leg. Movement was slow to return to his lower body. The prickles were now hot needles, pricking his limbs as the circulation began to return. He did his best to ignore it and got up on both knees. Now he was able to see more of the carnage surrounding him, and again, Starsky fought down searing nausea.
My God, we tipped over. The car's on its side. Starsky looked around him as he got to his feet. Most of the windows had shattered, and he realized he'd been lying in broken glass. Some of the seats were still bolted to what had been the car's floor, but just as many more had been torn loose and were scattered everywhere. A cool evening breeze was blowing in from an opening at least five feet wide on the back wall.
And the people….
With horror, Starsky saw more than one twisted and broken body. A glance at several, and he didn't need to check for pulses to know they were dead. Tears stung his eyes, and he tried to blink them away. Oh, God, babe, where are you?
"Hutch!" he screamed again, unable to concentrate on the other passengers until he found his partner. He started moving around the wreckage, trying to make his way to the back of the car where Hutch and Leonard had been sitting.
The entire car was wobbling shakily as he progressed, making his way over and around fallen baggage and torn seats, plus the thick layer of glass spread everywhere. It was taking all his strength to ignore the powerful throbbing coming from his own injuries, mainly a steady pounding in his head and the sickening feel of blood prickling his back in spots where the glass must have cut him. It was causing its own itching torment along with the pain. Starsky's nerves were as sharp as the broken glass, so when he felt a wet palm grab his ankle, he yelped out loud.
"What the hell?" Starsky recoiled against the sudden grip, but it only tightened in response.
"Mister, can you help me? My mom and I are trapped."
Starsky looked down at the sound of the young, frightened voice. It was coming from a boy about thirteen years old. Lying next to him was a woman, barely conscious and bleeding from her shoulder. Lying on top of both of them, were two of the heavy car chairs.
Oh, shit. I gotta get 'em out from under there, he thought, still desperate to find Hutch, but the woman was bleeding heavily and he couldn't leave them trapped like that. Starsky quickly assessed the situation and started to tug on the closest seat. "Hold still," he cried out to the boy. "Let me see what I can do."
His back and legs were a misery to him, as he maneuvered the heavy pieces and loose debris. Again he tried to ignore it, focusing on speed. The sooner he could get these people free, the sooner he could get to Hutch. "What's your name," Starsky asked the teenager, trying to distract both of them as he worked.
"Robert…um, Bobby," the boy answered with chattering teeth. It was getting very cold in the car.
"Are you hurt, Bobby?" Starsky asked, having just freed one chair.
"No, no, I don't think so, but my mom…my mom's hurt. She was crying at first, but now she's not saying anything."
"She's alive, Bobby," Starsky spoke with authority, wanting to ease the boy's fears. "Don't you worry, I can see her just fine and she's awake, but I think she's in shock. You're gonna have to help me with some first aid for her, okay?"
The second chair was finally off, and Starsky pushed away the remaining debris before he dropped to his knees. He looked hard at both mother and son, noting that Bobby didn't appear to be suffering from anything more than cuts and bruises. "Can you move your arms and legs, okay? No pain? Wiggle your toes, even?"
The teenager nodded affirmatively and began to roll to his side in order to see his mother for himself.
"Go, slow," Starsky cautioned, already checking the mother's pulse. "What's your mom's name?"
"Dolores." Bobby was now sitting up without any signs of distress. He reached for his mother's hand. "How come her eyes are open but she's not saying anything? She's not even crying anymore," the boy appealed to Starsky.
"She's gonna be okay," Starsky said, again in as reassuring a tone as he could manage. He wasn't a doctor, but he couldn't find anything wrong with the woman except a heavy gash in her shoulder, causing the bleeding. He had a hand over the site, applying pressure. "Dolores, can you hear me?"
The woman nodded her head briefly and began to moan and move her legs.
"Easy, just stay still," Starsky murmured, before turning to Bobby and pointing at his chest with his free hand. "Are you wearing a shirt under that sweater?"
"Good. Now, I know it's gettin' cold in here, but I need you to take off your sweater and shirt and come up here by me. You can put your sweater right back on, but you have to use your shirt on your mom's shoulder." The boy complied quickly, and was soon holding both shirt and sweater. He clutched the garments and gave Starsky a look both terrified and confused. It went straight to Starsky's heart. "Put your sweater back on, Bobby," he directed softly. "Come up here by me. I'll show you what to do." Starsky waited until the boy had the sweater on and was at his side, then he demonstrated the first aid. "See how my hand is putting pressure on the cut?" Bobby nodded, white-lipped, and again holding his mother's still hand.
"Now, Bobby, we have to hurry because I need to get you set up so I can go look for a friend of mine." Starsky's chest constricted at his own words.
My friend…Oh, God, Hutch, please be okay.
With an effort, Starsky returned his attention to showing Bobby how to apply the pressure. Thoughts of his partner had him desperate to move. He had to find Hutch right now.
"Okay, you got it," Starsky encouraged while getting to his feet. "Just keep that pressure on, and try and use your body to block as much wind from your mom as you can. I have to go now."
"Are you coming back?"
Starsky was already trying to negotiate down the primitive, quasi-aisleway, but he stopped and turned his head when he heard the fear in the boy's voice. "I'll be back, but I don't know how long it'll be, so you stay put and take good care of your mom, you hear?"
"Okay, thank you, Mister."
Starsky tried to smile, but it was impossible. He settled for a brief nod before he started moving again.
Starsky stayed on his feet as long as he could, but a huge pile of wreckage was dangling precariously over one section where part of the train's wall was collapsing. He had no choice but to continue on his knees, since the wreckage was shoulder-high and blocking his route.
Damn it, more glass, Starsky moaned to himself, as he felt the knees of his jeans tear open and the jagged pieces both cutting and imbedding themselves in his flesh. He gritted his teeth and began shouting again.
"Hutch! I'm comin'! Hang on, Hutch!" he hurried forward, then added another cry. "Can you hear me Leonard? If you can hear me, shout. Let me know where you are!"
Starsky knew by now there was no hope that Hutch wasn't hurt. If he were able to, he would have answered Starsky's shouts, or been looking for him. The fact that he wasn't, convinced Starsky to be prepared to find his partner injured.
But not bad, babe. You can't be hurt bad. You just can't be. Starsky had to stop briefly to catch his breath and try to control the fear, making emotion mix wetly again with the streaked blood on his cheeks. You and me. We can handle an injury, right? We been down that road lotsa times and we always make it, so don't you be doing anything stupid. Don't you dare be dying on me, Hutch. Don't you dare. He rubbed his face hurriedly and continued on, shouting the whole time.
He was listening hard as he moved, and when he had to stop to clear another path, he almost sobbed in frustration. Angrily, he shoved suitcases--open with their contents spilled all over--aside, as well as more debris from the crumbling car.
My God, this thing is falling apart around us!
One last bundle still needed to be tossed, but something about it made Starsky pause. He pulled it close to his face, frustrated again by the flickering light that seemed to stay off longer and longer. Starsky waited until once again the dimness recurred, then he could read what the package said. It was an emergency kit, torn loose from its former berth on the wall. Gratefully, he hugged it to himself for a second before continuing on. Once he was done clearing a small path, Starsky was able to get to his feet again. His knees were wet with blood and stung horribly, but he limped forward. After two steps, he heard it. A weak cry, merely a shadow of the owner's normal voice.
"We're here! We're back here! Help me, I'm hurt!"
It was Leonard.
Starsky felt a surge of hope, as he approached the nearly destroyed rear of the car. "Keep shouting! Let me know where you are!"
"Here! I'm here!" The voice was weak but close. Starsky shoved another chair out of his way and rushed forward. At first, he couldn't see anything--the car was totally dark except for the brief sheen of moonlight trickling in and the occasional glimpse of the failing, battery-operated light. Again, he dropped to his knees, feeling with his hands as his eyes scanned frantically whenever the light appeared.
"Leonard, I'm here! It's Detective Starsky! Tell me where you are!"
He felt a weak kick against his sore knee, as once again Leonard spoke. "I'm here. Oh, fuck, I hurt all over. Ya gotta help me, please!"
Starsky felt another deep shudder from the wall beneath his knees, as he grabbed the lightly flailing ankle. "I've got you! Where's my partner?!"
"My partner, you son-of-a-bitch!" Starsky shook the ankle he held in frustration. "Where's Hutch?!"
"He's underneath me." Starsky could clearly hear Leonard's heavy gasps as he continued to cry out. "Get me out of here, now!"
"Is he moving? Has he said anything?" Frantically, Starsky eased himself farther along Leonard's calf until he reached a solid obstruction. He tried to reach underneath the small amount of exposed limb to feel for Hutch, but only felt more wreckage. "Tell me, goddamnit! Is he hurt bad?"
"I don't know, man, he hasn't moved." Leonard kicked his foot out weakly again. "Please. Please, get me out."
Starsky ignored the plea. "Can you find Hutch's arm?" Starsky was examining the obstruction with his hands as he spoke. It was cold and heavy steel. Must've torn loose from the wall. He maneuvered it a few inches while continuing to shout. "Find his wrist! Feel for a…feel how strong his pulse is and tell me."
"I can't move!"
"Do it, now!"
"Are you deaf?" Leonard's voice was weak and raspy. "I'm fuckin' tellin' you I can't move. I can't find his arm."
Starsky bent down lower in order to get a shoulder under the heavy sheet. He budged it a few more inches, panting with the exertion and never letting his verbal assault stop. "Leonard, listen to me. I know you're hurt. I know this thing on you is heavy, but you can breathe and you can move your legs. I'm workin' this metal off you right now, then I'll be able to start liftin' you, but you've got to help me."
"Use your legs. Feel for Hutch. Tell me if you're laying completely on top of him, or if there's some room next to you. Are both his legs trapped?" he fired off rapidly to no answer. "Tell me something!"
There was silence for a few minutes as Starsky continued to work the sheet. He could feel the effort Leonard was making to try and comply with his questions.
"I think--" A low moan followed Leonard's words.
"Oh, man, hurts so bad…I think only one of his legs is under me. I can feel his hips and one leg. Just one."
Starsky bit his lip and pressed on. "Tell me how he's positioned. Face up? Face down?"
"He's gotta be face up." More silence, then Leonard's legs began moving again. "Yeah, he's face up. I'm face down, though, and I hurt! Please, man!"
By using his strong thighs to brace against the weight of the sheet now lying across his back, Starsky was able to heave it to the side of Leonard's prone body. He was sucking air in quickly, trying to replace what had been lost in the endeavor. He grabbed Leonard's leg again and looked all around the dark area, praying for the low light to return.
Please, God. Need some help, here. Just a little light for now.
Starsky continued to work blindly, while he waited for his prayer to be answered. Using his hands, he felt around the perimeter of Leonard's body, trying to gauge how wedged in he was, and what was causing it.
Son-of-a-bitch. More steel. Not over him, though, it's just around him, plus… Using his forearms as well as his hands, Starsky was able to gauge more of the loose debris. Then a loud hum made him look around as the battery lights once again came on weakly. Now he could make out the scope of the metal pieces, the broken and whole chair seats scattered and on top of Leonard, and most importantly of all…what was underneath the man.
A flash of blond hair, streaked heavily in red. The left side of a pale, still face lying just next to Leonard's shoulder. Starsky's throat constricted to a tight and painful ball, making the word he uttered a whisper and not a scream. "Hutch."
That was all he could see, since Leonard's body was blanketing his partner everywhere else, but it galvanized Starsky. New resolve, fast burning and energized by pure terror, coursed through his pain-stricken limbs. He worked furiously to clear the wreckage one piece at a time, and then two and three, as he got deeper.
"Almost there, Leonard." Starsky was unaware that his voice was now little more than a husky croak. The heavy dust in the air was coating his throat. He coughed dryly for a few seconds before speaking again. "Try to move your arm; try and get some of your weight off Hutch."
"Can't move yet!" came the weak but forceful reply.
"Try!" Starsky croaked out, thinking of the large muscled frame lying on top of his partner. "You've gotta be crushing him!"
The unmistakable sound of sobs reached Starsky's ears, and he found himself feeling sympathy for the trapped prisoner in obvious pain, but he hardened his heart in order to continue ordering Leonard to try and get some weight off Hutch. "You can do it. Just raise up some on your knees. Your legs are free!" Slowly, Leonard complied, moving his knees up an inch at a time, raising his hips and thighs, but leaving his chest still on top of Hutch.
Starsky's fingertips were now bleeding as freely as his knees and back were. The rough edges of the metal he was clearing, plus the other wreckage, was tearing them up. Grimly, he went on until he had all the visible debris cleared off Leonard and around the area. He drew breath to tell Leonard he was going to help lift him now, but stopped before sound came out. He had no energy to waste, and instead, he flattened himself above the slight crevasse that was holding Hutch and the prisoner. Part of the wall they were all on top of had formed a depression.
With an effort, Starsky got one shaky arm under the trapped man and started to roll him a little at a time. His torn shirt-sleeve left bare exposed skin, and Starsky had to bite his lip and keep moving when he realized the coolness he was brushing against was Hutch's leather jacket.
Keep movin', keep movin'. Can't get to Hutch until I get this guy off him. Gotta stay focused. He tightened his grip and got Leonard almost to his side, when the man let out a piercing scream.
"SHIT! Oh, shit…my arm. Oh, fuck, you son-of-a-bitch, I think you just snapped my wrist."
Starsky's heart was jumping at the added tension, and his dry mouth and throat were barely able to croak out a response. "What are you talkin' about? I just rolled you. I never touched your wrist."
"The fucking cuffs, asshole! My arm was already bent funny, and then you moved me against the fucking cuffs!"
Jesus Christ, the cuffs. He and Hutch are cuffed together. How the hell did I forget that?
Starsky's stomach rolled dangerously with this forgotten fact, while Leonard continued to moan loudly. If Leonard's wrist snapped, what happened to Hutch's hand? He couldn't think, and the pain-filled shrieks were distracting him more. "Shut up! Jus' shut up a minute," he demanded mercilessly. "Let me think. Your wrist was probably broken in the crash. You're just feelin' it now, but I gotta move you a little more, so just hold on. There's no other choice."
Leonard didn't respond. Starsky only paused briefly, then continued as gently as possible, but also as fast as he could. He almost had the man moved to the side of his far too still partner.
Move, babe. Move, please. Make a noise…something…please.
Finally, he had Hutch as free as he could from this position, and he wasted no further time stretching to reach for Hutch's neck. His hand was shaking when it felt the damp stickiness of blood over the exposed throat, but Starsky kept moving his fingers, desperate to find it.
Left side. It's strongest on the left side. Where is it? Frantic fingers stretched and changed position, looking for the life beat that had to be there. Has to, I'm just missing it. He pressed more firmly and moved fractionally, terrified by the still and quiet form and the chilled skin. Then he found it. Faint and weak, but it was there. There it is! There it is! Oh, yeah, there's a pulse. Oh, thank you, God, thank you.
Starsky wanted to weep in relief. He held himself still for a few precious seconds to just acknowledge the miracle that Hutch was still alive. Then, needing even more reassurance, he curved his palm in order to catch as much of the tiny throb as possible.
You did it, Hutch. You did it. You stayed alive for me. Now, I'm going to get you out of this hole, and get us both the hell out of this mess. Gonna get you to a doctor in no time, and they'll fix you right up.
Starsky didn't let his thoughts go farther than that. He couldn't waste the energy wondering where they were, or how the car was positioned, or where the rescue crews could be. He started carefully inching himself around to try to get closer to Hutch.
Where are the rescue crews? How long has it been since we crashed? Where are the other passengers? The unbidden thoughts refused to be ignored and whirled in his head as loudly as Leonard's moans were assaulting his ears. Starsky didn't even know where they were geographically, or how precariously the car was positioned. All he knew was he was cold and scared and hurt. But Hutch was alive. Nothing else mattered but getting him to safety.
"Hutch! Can you hear me?" Starsky flattened himself again, cursing the darkness, but able to feel Hutch's head and upper body now. He strained to see anything, using his hands and fingers in place of eyes that could make out very little. Starsky ran gentle fingers over Hutch's head and shoulders, feeling for broken bones and identifiable injuries. He took longer with the left arm, the cuffed arm, and winced when he felt the broken bone. His fingers touched the cold steel of the cuff, and, wanting to make Hutch more comfortable, Starsky went to his pocket to get his keys. It would be a tough and awkward reach from this position, and with no light, but he didn't want the wrist to swell even further against the restraint. He had to try and get it off. Automatically, his hand traveled to the pocket in which he always kept his keys. He didn't even have to reach inside to know it was empty, as all at once he remembered the tray flying out of his hands--the tray that held his wallet and keys. The wallet meant nothing to him, but the loss of the keys carried with it a new wave of frustration.
Aw, shit. Of all the goddamned things to lose. I'm gonna have to try and find Hutch's ring, and I don't know what pocket he put them in, or if they're even there anymore.
He couldn't search Hutch in this position, so he pushed the missing keys out of his mind and felt his way back up to Hutch's face. He leaned over as far as he could, finding an ear covered by matted hair. "Babe, it's me," he whispered brokenly. "I'm here. Can you hear me? Can you wake up? Please, Hutch, wake up."
He listened closely for any sound, but none came from Hutch. Leonard's moans were increasing, though. "Oh, Jesus, it's so cold in here. I'm fucking gonna freeze to death."
"No, you're not," Starsky responded gruffly, both hands now blanketing Hutch's face. "No one's gonna freeze to death. You just gotta stay still and not bother me so goddamned much. You're not gonna die."
"Easy for you to say, man. You're not lying here cuffed to a corpse, with your arm--" He got no further.
Pure fury coursed through Starsky, causing his jaw to snap open and close several times before he raged. "You shut your fucking mouth unless you want me to break your other arm for you. My partner is alive, and if you'd just shut up I could figure out how bad he's hurt."
"You're dreamin', man. He ain't even groaned."
Starsky forgot his angry retort when the cold face under his hands began to move minutely. "Hutch?" he murmured, moving his hands to gently support the back of the blond head. The motion continued with more force, then came a croaky moan and a rush of breath. Starsky's heart was pounding hard in nameless relief. "That's it, babe, that's it. Come on back to me, Hutch, come on. Wake up."
"Starsk?" his voice was weak and gravelly, but he was talking. Unstoppable tears welled in Starsky's eyes and spilled over. "Starsk?" Hutch tried again, beginning to move his arms as well. This time his cry was loud and pain-filled. "Oh, God…"
"Easy, easy." The cry pierced through Starsky, as Hutch realized what had happened. "Just stay real still, you got banged up some." The tone he used for his partner was gentle and soothing.
"The train crashed," Starsky supplied simply. "I don't know what happened, but you're alive and that's all I care about." He twisted his fingers softly in Hutch's hair as a caress. "You had me a little nervous for a while there."
"Sorry…oh, it hurts."
"Tell me where," Starsky said quickly. "Where all does it hurt?"
"My arm." Hutch's voice was so weak it was almost unrecognizable. He tried to clear it and moved his head more forcefully, causing another moan. "And my head. Head hurts bad. Can't see."
"None of us can see," Starsky answered reassuringly. "Lights went out in the crash. The emergency ones have been comin' on and off, but they've been out a while now." He rested a palm against the damp, broad forehead. "Help will be here real soon. We just gotta hang on. How are your legs? Can you move your legs?"
Starsky listened to the noise of effort. Hearing a brief scraping, but feeling a shudder. "Hutch?"
"I can move them."
"Leonard?" Hutch almost panted the question out.
"He's--" Starsky was cut off by an angry voice.
"I'm here. Laying here dying while you two have this touching reunion."
"Our prisoner is fine, Hutch. Don't need to worry about him." Starsky wanted to punch the man, and he had to choke back a response, preferring to stay focused on Hutch and how to start getting them better positioned.
"I'm just fine," Starsky lied as smoothly as he could.
It was quiet then, but Starsky could feel Hutch nod his head slightly before speaking again. "Starsk?"
"I'm right here, Hutch, but you need to lay still and rest for me."
"I-I think I might be bleeding."
Starsky instantly moved his hand to Hutch's scalp where he had previously seen the bleeding coming from. The area was still sticky, but it didn't feel like blood was currently flowing. "You were. Must'a banged your head real good in the crash, but I think it's stopped now."
"No, not there," Hutch corrected softly. "I think my side is bleeding."
The matter-of-fact tone chilled Starsky, and, without saying a word, he ran his hands down Hutch's chest, under the parted jacket as far as he could reach. He felt sweat, but no blood.
"Left side," Hutch croaked out.
Starsky stretched desperately, trying to keep his weight off Hutch and to make his abused muscles cooperate. Then he felt it and drew in a sharp breath. There was a depression on Hutch's left side, and a large pool of blood. "Oh, no," he said under his breath, quickly moving back to Hutch's head where there was a little more room. He'd taken his jacket off right after they'd boarded the train, but he had a loose shirt worn over his t-shirt to conceal his holster. He quickly ripped it off and inched his way back down. "Hutch, give me your right hand. Slow and easy." Starsky was balling the shirt up as he spoke.
Hutch complied as best he could, but his arm flopped limply over his stomach. It was enough, though. Starsky was able to get the shirt near his hand. "Babe, I can't reach you real well. I need you to press my shirt over the wound."
Hutch didn't answer.
"Come on, Hutch, take the shirt," Starsky said loudly.
Still no answer, and Starsky felt his heart begin to drum painfully in his chest once more. He thought quickly, trying to reposition himself again, but before he could accomplish it, he was distracted by noises coming from the front of the car. Then the eerie glow of several flashlights.
Flashlights. A rescue crew. Thank God, help is here, he thought joyfully.
Starsky was about to shout, when he heard a loud, gruff voice. The voice was moving closer, but he could barely make out the words.
"You stay right where you are, kid. Don't move."
Kid? Starsky thought, then remembered the boy, Bobby, and his mother. Why's he shouting at Bobby and not helping him? Something's wrong.
All of Starsky's warning signs kicked in, and he tried to get his gun unholstered with a stiff and uncooperative hand. He was too slow, though, and before he could even try to stand, the light and the voice were in front of him. He felt the beam travel up his body until it stopped directly on his face, blinding him more than the darkness had. His eyes squeezed closed, as he fought to remain calm even as the fear grew. One hand clutched a handful of Hutch's jacket, as he swallowed a few times. The light didn't leave his face.
"Who are you?" Starsky demanded with as much authority as he could muster. "Who's there?"
There was no reply, but the harsh beam moved from his face, traveling over Hutch's prone body, and Starsky could see that his partner's eyes were closed and his mouth slightly open, as ragged breaths were dragged in and out. Starsky could hear the shuffling of feet--more than one pair--and then the light left Hutch and traveled just beyond him.
"Hello, Leonard." The voice was thick and gruff, and there was a hint of laughter in the tone. "We didn't expect to meet up with you quite this soon."
Starsky's eyes were drawn to the sharp light, now clearly revealing Leonard's terror-stricken features. The man was moaning again, but this time it wasn't in pain.
"M-Mikey?" Leonard's voice was pitched higher than before, nearly a squeak. "That you, Mikey?"
"Sure it's me, Billy, sure. Who else but your old friend, Mikey?" He spoke in the same slightly amused tone, chilling all his listeners. "I've got Charlie with me, too. You remember your old friend, Charlie, I'm sure."
A second voice, soft as a whisper came next. "Hiya, Billy. You ain't lookin' too comfortable down there. You uncomfortable, Billy?"
"Oh, man," Leonard said with another moan. "Oh, man…guys, listen to me, okay? I know what ya might'a heard, but you gotta believe me…"
"We gotta believe you, Billy?" Mikey echoed derisively. "Did you hear that, Charlie? Billy here says we gotta believe him. I wonder what he means by that?"
"Maybe we should ask him, huh?" Charlie responded. "After all, his version might be so much better than ours. At least it'll be entertaining."
"That's right, that's right, just listen to me a minute!" Leonard cried desperately. "I wasn't gonna serve anybody up in court! I swear I wasn't. You can ask my attorney. Ask the DA. You can!"
"Sure we could, Billy, but that isn't why we got on this train tonight."
Starsky sat quietly during the exchange, his mind working frantically as he kept a hand on Hutch's shoulder. Hutch had started to move again, and Starsky was trying to signal him to stay still, not sure how much, if any, of the exchange his partner was absorbing. The man named Mikey continued to talk.
"No, Billy, we got on this train tonight to kill you. See, we just don't like a lot of loose ends, and you're a loose end, pal. A real messy loose end."
"No! No!" Leonard started to cough and wheeze after the cries.
"We figured to do you in Portland after this formerly fine locomotive stopped, but the crash changed our plans considerably. It took some effort to get back to this car and find you, but Charlie and me…see we're luckier than you. We didn't get hurt in the crash at all." The flashlight left Leonard's face then, and traveled up and down Hutch's length, before moving to center on Starsky's face again. "Yeah, unlike you or your two pig friends here, we didn't get hurt at all."
Starsky's stomach turned over dangerously, and another sickening surge of bile tried to make its way up his throat. He swallowed hard and pressed a hand against Hutch's head.
They're gonna kill us all. Kill Hutch…I've gotta get to my gun. Gotta keep Hutch still. Maybe if they think he's already dead…
A rough hand under his elbow forcing him upward interrupted Starsky's thoughts, and he struggled not to fall over on the prone men trapped in the tiny cramped space. "Stand up, Cop," came an order. Starsky couldn't tell who owned the voice, only that the crumbling car was shaking under his feet. Unless he could reach his gun, he had almost no hope of gaining control of this nightmare.
Starsky spoke his first words, as he tried to make his shaky knees support his weight. "You better not move us around so roughly, or this car may come down around all our ears."
Brutal hands pawed at Starsky's tender sides, and his heart sank as they connected with his weapon. "We're not worried about that, Officer. Car feels steady enough for what we need to do." Starsky's gun disappeared and, in the dark, he had no way of seeing where it was.
"And just what do you need to do, besides kill my prisoner?" Starsky asked with as much false bravado to his voice as he could manage.
The hand on his elbow moved up to capture Starsky's upper arm in a tight clench. He didn't see the fist that flew before the man's words did, but he felt the massive connection to his lower belly with every nerve ending in his body, and couldn't even draw breath to scream. He would have sunk to the ground if it weren't for the unforgiving grip on his arm.
"Are you beginning to understand what we intend to do, Cop? Charlie and I figure this crash was a godsend just for us. See, this way, we don't have to bury any bullets in your heads. Bullets that might lead to questions we don't have to worry about anymore. You're all so banged up from this nasty little crash, that all we gotta do is use our hands to…add to your injuries. Whenever a rescue crew shows up, all they'll find is some battered bodies. Dead of course. Poor, unfortunate victims of the accident."
A heavy undercut cross to Starsky's chin straightened him miserably, and this time he did groan with the savagery of it, unable to even reach up and stop the blood now flooding his mouth. Then there was new terror, as he felt his airway cut off by the blood and sickness filling his throat.
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